As we welcome the season of spring, many of us celebrate the awakening of the earth from the long restful sleep of winter. When we practice Yoga we invite an awakening in ourselves – perhaps many of us begin yoga with the intention of a clearer recognition or realization of the potential in our physical bodies, or perhaps our thoughts and emotions, but the yogic texts tell us that through Yoga we awaken to our true nature.
Yoga Sutras 1.2 – 1.3: “Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodah. Tada drastuhu svarupe avastanam. Translation – Complete mastery over the modifications of the mind is called yoga. Then the seer becomes established in its true nature.” (Translation of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from Yoga International.)
The practice of Yoga allows us to see the world as it is by training our bodies and minds to stay in the present moment – the only moment where the world exists. The past and future can only be perceived in our imagination. As we practice being in the present moment, we begin to fine-tune our perception of the present moment.
The term Chitta means the mind stuff – the conscious and subconscious – including memories, experiences, conditioned thoughts, habits, instincts, concentration, and inquiry. Essentially the lens through which we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
Vritti literally means whirlpool, and in yogic terms refers to the fluctuations of the mind or the thought waves.
In India, there is a lovely metaphor that is commonly used to illustrate the terms chitta, vritti, and Self: The metaphor is of a lake where the bottom is our true nature or self, the lake is the chitta, and state of the water at the surface is the vrittis. If the top of the lake is covered by ripples or the water is muddy one will not be able to see the bottom of the lake. However, if the water is still and clear, we can easily see the bottom.
So does this mean that we want the lake, or our mind, always to be calm, quiet, and still? No, not necessarily. Noticing and observing the fluctuations can give us valuable insights into ourselves and allow us to shift how we perceive what is. During asana (Yoga posture) and meditation practice, we develop the ability to choose where we place our attention and learn to bring this skill off of the mat and into our lives to find greater ease as we awaken to our own true nature.
“By changing your mind you change everything. If only we could understand this point, we would see that there is nothing wrong outside; it is all in the mind. By correcting our vision we correct things outside. If we can cure our jaundiced eye, nothing will look yellow. But without correcting the jaundice, however much we scrub the outside things, we are not going to make them white or blue or green; they will always be yellow. That’s why yoga is based on self-reformation, self-control, and self-adjustment.”~ Swami Satchidananda
By Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
Yin Yoga classes are offered with Niki at Posabilities on Fridays, 4:30 – 5:30 PM
It has frequently been asked what is Yin yoga and how is it different from regular yoga?
Yin yoga is sometimes referred to as “the other half of yoga” when considering our practice of yoga postures (also known as asana practice). That being said, the posture practice that many people are most familiar with can be considered yang yoga, which is a more active and heating style of yoga. Yang yoga targets the muscles, building strength, balance, and flexibility, and creating greater energy and vitality to the body, mind, and spirit. Yin yoga, equally important, is a more meditative form of yoga that targets the deeper tissues of the body including the connective tissues, bones, and joints. Connective tissues targeted are ligaments, tendons, fascia, and cartilage. Yin targets the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis and the lower spine. In addition to the physical benefits, Yin yoga provides an increased state of calm and ease for the body, mind, and spirit.
What’s the benefit of targeting these deeper tissues through Yin Yoga?
Did you know that roughly 47% of the resistance to flexibility occurs in our connective tissues while about 41% occurs in our muscles? Without getting too technical, our connective tissues work as a network to bind, support, connect, and protect all the other tissues throughout our body. As we age our connective tissues can become overly dense and compacted, trapping toxins within the cells, resulting in decreased flexibility and range of motion. The good news is that yoga, yin yoga, in particular, can help to lengthen, strengthen, rehydrate, and decompress these networks of tissue, creating spaciousness, releasing built up toxins, and bringing greater health and vitality to the connective tissues.
Due to differences in fluid content, connective tissue generally is not as flexible as muscle tissue. To lengthen and strengthen our connective tissues stretches need to be held for a longer period. Because of this Yin yoga poses are held anywhere from one minute on, with an average duration of three to four minutes. In Yin, it is not how deep you go in a pose but how long you hold the pose that creates the benefit. For younger people the practice of Yin Yoga can help maintain their youthful tissues and minimize, or reduce, any damage that has occurred due to injury. For the older person, Yin yoga can reverse and slow down the bodies aging process at a cellar level. But you don’t need to know all this to be convinced of the benefits of Yin, you need only to feel the results of a practice to know something good is going on inside.
So how do we practice Yin?
In a Yin yoga practice, you slowly relax into the poses, which are usually seated or lying down on your mat, allowing the muscles to be soft as you explore your individual edge, or stopping point. Each person’s stopping point will be different therefore each person’s pose will look different. Similar to the more yang practices we allow the breath to guide us and move the prana (vital energy) around the body. Through focus and attention to our individual edge, we develop a calm state and a sharpening of awareness at all levels of our being. Gradually, over time, as the body rejuvenates, the tissues lengthen and become more spacious and flexibility increases allowing a greater range of motion and ease of movement. I have had students tell me that the day after a yin class they experience, “a greater sense of well-being.”
I have experienced first hand the benefits of a consistent Yin practice and am so excited to share this practice with my students. Remember like all yoga practices if you have any physical limitations you should check with your doctor or you can contact us here at Posabilities. Together with a balanced practice of both yin and yang styles, I feel yoga is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. Yoga nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. I hope to see you all on your mat. Sending Love. Namaste – Niki Venter
Niki Venter MSW, RYT-200 has completed a number of advanced yoga training in both Yin Yoga and alignment based yoga and teaches Gentle and Yin Yoga classes at Posabilities. Niki enjoys sharing the practice of Yoga with her students and feels that Yoga prepares you for all of life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. She is eager to share this with all who attend her classes.
Shake Your Soul® – the Yoga of Dance – is a movement practice that relaxes your nervous system, energizes your body, and awakens your soul through a powerful, fluid dance repertoire set to world music.
When I first walked into a yoga dance class at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, I was curious and nervous. A friend had told me I had to try it; she said I’d have a blast and feel worked over and enlivened by the class. The instructor told us not to worry about “getting the moves right” but to focus on the bubbling up of our creative spirit. He talked about feeling the music in the body and moving spontaneously in response to the moves he would offer.
Slowly my nervousness dissolved as the music and repertoire moved from flowing and sweet, through playful and bouncy, to sensual and soulful. My whole body smiled – I was playing like a little girl again. Worries about how I looked, what others might think, that this was a silly activity with no tangible goal – began slipping away.
Lately, the research about the benefits of play has been getting some press. We’re discovering that not only is play necessary for children as they grow and develop, but that adults need unstructured, non-goal-oriented fun as well. Engaging in regular playful activities has been linked to stress relief, increased brain functioning, improved relationships and a deeper sense of joy in life.
Dan Leven, the creator of Shake Your Soul and founder of LIFE Movement, believes that connecting playfully to music and movement brings us closer to our creative spirit, opening up space in all aspects of our daily lives. “Whether you’re teaching a class, writing a business plan, talking with a friend, working with a client, writing an e-mail, being with your children—whatever the activity is, it can be infused with the spirit of creativity.” That spirit of creativity comes from letting go of the thinking, judging mind. It springs from those spaces between our thoughts when we are connecting directly with the present moment.
Shake Your Soul brings the present moment alive. Each class follows a dance repertoire based on the fluids within our bodies that awaken our natural dancer. Dynamic and organic class sequences feel great to the body and free the spirit. As an instructor, my goal is to create a sweaty, sacred space where you are supported to connect with your creative energy, moving between my movements and the impulse of your soul.
As I learned in my training with Leven, Shake Your Soul supports people back into the fullness of body connection. “As we lead people toward their embodied joy, their spirits are welcomed back into the cells of their muscles, organs, and body.”
Looking back at that first class at Kripalu, it’s easy to see how I fell in love with this practice, and I’m grateful to my friend for encouraging me. Those soulful songs gave way to Indian and African rhythms, and the class drew to a close with soft sounds of the flute. Hands on heart, eyes soft, I felt a deep peace. We were connected as a community of dancers, and I was home again – grounded in my body, and joyful in my bones.
Kathryn Gardner, RYT, LMT is a certified Yoga Dance teacher and loves teaching yoga and meditation and providing massage at Posabilities. Learn more about her in the About Us section, and click here to check the schedule for class times.
Fall is the season of transition from summer to winter. This transitional season can bring up a variety of thoughts and feelings including melancholy, abundance, gratitude, and turning inwards. Just as the seasons are constantly changing, life is also a series of frequent changes. The seasons can be metaphors for life transitions: Fall representing the end of one stage or phase, winter the pause or space between the end of one thing and the beginning of another, spring the beginning of something new, and summer the evolution of that change. The four sounds of the AUM that we frequently chant as part of our yoga practice can also be metaphors for life transitions. The sound “A” representing creation, “U” preservation, “M” transformation, and the silence at the end of the AUM the space that allows the opportunity for awakening to our bliss or true essence.
Just as the trees shedding their leaves signifies the end of summer and the beginning of fall, when we face life transitions we shed old patterns and routines to make space for transformation.
Here are some tips for transitioning with ease:
RITUAL – Experiment with rituals that resonate with you that can help you close the door on the past and open the door to your future. Rituals that you may consider for the fall transition may include celebrating the harvest, getting out and about to take in the foliage, or planting bulbs as you look forward to the next year.
LET GO – Once you have honored the passage from the past to the future through some form of ritual, complete any unfinished business that remains, and then allow yourself to move forward by letting go of the past. As fall arrives, you can embrace the concept of letting go by cleaning house, putting away your summer toys, tools, and clothes, and giving away what you no longer need.
SURRENDER – Give in to any feelings that arise from transitions. Rather than avoiding feelings that occur naturally (positive or negative) allow yourself to feel them completely. Through surrender, we can open up to rebirth. Fall can bring about many feelings. If you are feeling melancholy, ambivalent, or joyous about the transition of the season, don’t try to change or ignore these feelings, simply let them be, and observe them with a gentle curiosity.
YOGA – Through our yoga practice we prepare ourselves to transition with equanimity and ease. As we flow through postures, we practice smooth mindful transitions and use our breath to stay present with our current circumstance rather than residing in the past. We complete each practice with Savasana, or corpse pose, where we surrender to what is. Our chanting of AUM reminds us that life is cyclical and ever changing.
So, please join me in offering a fond adieu to summer, and offering fall a heartfelt welcome!
Flatulence, passing gas, tooting, farting. “It” happens to all of us. And, if you attend yoga class regularly it is sure to happen to you during class at some point. In fact, most individuals pass gas between 10-20 times a day. In a one hour practice, there is at least a 50% chance that you will fart during class. You can also be assured that you will not be the only one and that there will most likely be other folks that are silently suffering trying to hold theirs in. Seriously, how many times are you told to release, relax, let it go during a yoga class? It’s bound to happen!
Does Yoga promote tooting? It may, and some poses definitely do. Remember you are doing many forward folds, twists, and movements that massage the digestive tract that may help move things along. Also, many of us practice Yoga to relieve stress and tension in our lives and our bodies. When you are experiencing stress or tension your sympathetic system, or fight or flight system, becomes more active compromising the healthy function of the digestive system. When you practice Yoga, you bring the nervous system into better balance supporting the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system, supporting healthy functioning of the digestive tract and system.
Pavanmuktasana (Supine Knee-to-Chest Pose), also known as wind relieving or wind liberating pose, is a great pose to help relieve the build up of gas in the intestines. I do not remember a class where I have offered this pose and some one did not pass gas. In fact, when some one farts in class, as an instructor, I experience some sense of satisfaction, knowing that the yoga is doing what it’s supposed to do.
So what should you do if you pass gas during a yoga class? Simply remain calm, and carry on. It’s not a big deal. You may even want to revel in the fact that you have successfully relaxed, released, and let it go.
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
Do you ever feel like you just can’t find that sweet spot of optimal life balance? Like external influences just keep knocking you out of balance? While day to day life can make this challenging, with attention and mindfulness we can return to a state of peace, harmony, and balance. To experience and enjoy this state of greater balance, it is helpful to understand what balance is, where your balance point is, and how to go with the flow.
Some words used to describe balance are equilibrium, stability, and steadiness. From a Physical Therapist’s point of view, postural stability or balance is defined by the center of gravity being within the base of support (more on that below in Chikitsa Chat). The point is that balance is not static or rigid, it allows for some level of movement and fluidity. The Empire State Building sways, mountains move, and the earth wobbles. As Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Below are some steps to help you experience greater balance and ease in your life:
Find your center – Stop taking your cues from outside sources telling you what your center is or should be. You are unique, your center resides in your true essence. No one – not the experts, the gurus, the media, nor your closest loved ones can tell you where your center is. Only you know that. Quiet the distractions and take some time for quiet contemplation to discover your heart’s desire, your calling, and your bliss.
Expand your base of support – You can weather the outside influences that tend to push and pull you in many directions by broadening and strengthening your “base of support.” Instead of focusing on or excelling in, one area of your life, bring attention to all areas including your physical, energetic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. When you do this you will have a stronger and broader base to support yourself and your life purpose.
Stop being so rigid – As I mentioned, buildings sway, mountains move, the earth wobbles. When things or people become rigid or do not allow for movement, then there are only two options – perfect balance (Not sustainable) of being completely out of balance. By releasing rigid expectations, perceptions, and attachment to rules we allow greater fluidity and ease into our lives and experience greater balance.
Streamline, simplify – When we become overloaded or overwhelmed we become “top heavy” making it easier to fall out of balance and making it more difficult to move back to our center. Learn to say no – no to things, extra duties, excess baggage that do not enrich your life. As you lighten the load, you will experience greater ease, joy, and equanimity in all aspects of your life.
Step out of your comfort zone – Life is not comfortable. Throughout a lifetime, we will have many uncomfortable experiences. The more that we practice stepping out of our comfort zone, the more prepared we are to respond to these challenging times without totally losing our balance and having to struggle to get our feet back under us. Hang glide, strike up a conversation with a stranger, dance naked in your living room, sit in silent contemplation – anything to challenge yourself and embrace new experiences.
Lastly, if you fall out of balance, it’s OK. Simply learn from the experience, brush yourself off, and step back into your center.
“No person, no place, and nothing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives.” ~ Louise L. Hay
By Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
As a topic that I am passionate about, I am so glad you asked. Before I tell you the “formal” definition of yoga, and what I believe to be true about yoga, I’d like to share some comments that I have heard from people new to yoga:
I’m much calmer when I do yoga.
Yoga is really hard.
Yoga is so relaxing.
Since starting yoga, my clothes fit better.
I sleep much better since starting yoga.
Yoga makes me happy.
Yoga makes me taller!
I need more yoga!
I move and feel so much better when I do yoga.
Yoga reminds me how to breathe.
I wish I had found yoga years ago. Yoga makes me happy.
Yoga is so chill!
The formal translation of the word Yoga, a Sanskrit term, is to unite or yoke. This union, or yoking, can mean different things to different people. It may mean yoking your movement to your breath, unifying to return to your true essence, finding union with the divine. According to the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, one of the ancient texts of yoga, yoga is the stilling of the changing states of mind.
Yoga originated in India, and can be dated back to at least 3000 B.C. Yoga first became widely recognized in the US when Swami Vivekananda presented at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. Today, when most Americans think of Yoga they think of Hatha Yoga. However, there many different forms or systems of yoga including:
Hatha Yoga – a system of physical postures, or asanas, whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness and control over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.
Karma Yoga – selfless service to others as part of one’s larger Self, without attachment to the results.
Mantra Yoga – centering the consciousness within, through the repetition of certain universal root-word sounds representing a particular aspect of Spirit.
Bhakti Yoga – all-surrendering devotion through which one strives to see and love the divinity in every creature and in everything.
Jnana (Gyana) Yoga – the path of wisdom, which emphasizes the application of discriminative intelligence to achieve spiritual liberation.
Raja Yoga – is concerned principally with furthering one’s acquaintance with reality, achieving awakening, and eventually enlightenment using a succession of steps including meditation and contemplation. The principal text of Raja yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
While most of us recognize Yoga as a physical practice of Yoga postures, or asanas, this is just one aspect of yoga. Historically, the end goal of Yoga is to reach a state of universal consciousness. Pantanjali outlined a series of steps to attain this state of enlightenment. These steps are known as Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga. and is the practice of:
Yama (restraints): noninjury to others, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence, and noncovetousness
Niyama (observances): purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances, self-discipline, self-study (contemplation), and devotion to God and guru
Asana: right posture
Pranayama: control of prana, the subtle life currents in the body
Pratyahara: interiorization through withdrawal of the senses from external objects
Dharana: focused concentration; holding the mind to one thought or object
Dhyana: meditation, absorption in the vast perception of God in one of His infinite aspects — Bliss, Peace, Cosmic Light, Cosmic Sound, Love, Wisdom, etc. — all-pervading throughout the whole universe
Samadhi: superconscious experience of the oneness of the individualized soul with Cosmic Spirit.
Ok, so I’ve told you what other people say about yoga, what the scholars and texts say about yoga, and now it is time to share with you what I believe to be true regarding yoga.
I believe that yoga is a tool that can be used to bring greater balance in areas of your life that may be experiencing some level of imbalance, and help you deepen and enrich your life experience. If you hope to improve your physical health, then yoga can help you do that. If you are seeking greater emotional balance or stability, yoga is an excellent tool. If you are seeking greater energetic balance or improved breathing then look no further. Yoga is also a powerful tool to help focus or quiet the mind. And, finally, if you seek to deepen your spiritual experience, yoga can help you become more fully open to whatever it is that you hold true. However, please be forewarned that as you begin practicing yoga for one reason, you may find yourself opening up to and seeking growth in other unexpected areas. My personal experience has been one of coming to yoga as a physical outlet while I was laid up with an injury and then finding that, with regular practice, I began to experience a greater sense of peacefulness. I also became less scatter brained and open to other people’s life experiences and how they express themselves. I now feel the healthiest and strongest I have ever felt in my life!
In a nutshell, I like to compare yoga to compost. Whatever the imbalances in your soil, correctly used, compost can balance and improve your soil, making it healthier and more fertile. Yoga can help bring greater depth and balance to your life experience.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
The topic of last week’s “What is” blog was Physical Therapy. Most people are somewhat familiar with Physical Therapy, but Yoga Therapy is much less familiar. I have to admit, I didn’t even know that Yoga Therapy existed as a discipline until two years ago! Although Yoga Therapy is fairly new on the scene in the Western World, it is gaining more and more recognition in the medical community.
Yoga was first introduced to the US in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda. A little less than 100 years after that Yoga Therapy became recognized in the United States with Dr. Dean Ornish’s study that showed that therapeutic yoga, meditation, dietary changes, and other lifestyle changes could reverse the effects of heart disease. Dr. Ornish’s “Program for Reversing Heart Disease” got approved for health insurance coverage in 1990, and it opened the door for yoga therapy gradually to make its way into mainstream medicine.
So, what is Yoga Therapy? According to one of my Yoga Therapy teachers, Joseph LePage, M.A., “Yoga therapy is that facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.” (Integrative Yoga Therapy (U.S.A.), Joseph LePage, M.A.)
OK… So, what are the differences between Yoga, Yoga Therapy, and Physical Therapy?
This is not a simple question to answer, but I will try my best using the table below.
May address physical, psychological, and spiritual levels of the student.
Addresses the 5 Koshas – Physical body, energetic/breath body, emotional body, wisdom/ witness body, and bliss body or the essence of the individual.
Addresses primarily the physical body – with a focus on the musculoskeletal & neurological systems, may incorporate breath work in support of the physical systems.
In the US primarily Yoga postures/ Asanas, as well as breath work/pranayama, relaxation, & meditation.
Yoga postures/Asanas, somatics, breath work/ pranayama, techniques to direct energy including mudras, self inquiry with the support of yogic texts, relaxation, meditation, and yoga nidra.
Hands on manual techniques, physical agents to address pain and inflammation, education, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular retraining, functional retraining.
Classes or sessions that may be centered on a specific intention such as hip openers, strengthening the core, quieting the neurological system, etc.
Guided self inquiry – support of an inquiry of where imbalances may reside, and how to bring greater support to the self as whole to decrease pain and suffering.
Hands on techniques, modalities, education, and prescriptive home exercises/ activities to decrease pain and increase function
So, which is the right one for me?
This does not need to be an either/or proposition. Any of these approaches can stand alone, or complement the other. Additionally, I did not discuss the role of Yoga Therapy in addressing psycho emotional challenges. Yoga Therapy may also be beneficial in addressing depression and anxiety. If you are unsure of the appropriate approach for you, discuss this with a trusted health and well being professional.
If I am interested in Yoga Therapy, how do I find a Yoga Therapist?
Currently, there are no regulations around who can claim to be a Yoga Therapist, so buyer beware. This may soon be changing though. The International Association of Yoga therapists has passed requirements for Yoga Therapy training programs including an additional 600 hours of training beyond the initial 200 hours of teacher training. (www.iayt.org/Documents/IAYT_Educational%20Standards_final_7-1-2012.pdf) If you are considering a Yoga Therapist ask them where they received their training, and then check out that program. As in any profession, credentials don’t guarantee anything except that an individual has met minimum requirements of training and education. Beyond that, talk with the therapist that you are considering and look for reliable references to ensure they will be a good fit for you.
OK Katey, so what is your training?
After completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I completed one months worth of intense Yoga Therapy training through Integrative Yoga Therapy (www.iytyogatherapy.com/). I am preparing to begin my final stage to receive my initial 500 hour PYT (Professional Yoga Therapist Certification) and then will continue on to complete my 1,000 hours of training as a Yoga and Yoga Therapy professional. I know that to some of you Yoga Therapy may sound a bit fluffy, but I can assure you that after 20 years of practice as a Physical Therapy, I was amazed and impressed with the depth of knowledge and teaching that was provided in my training. I feel very strongly that my abilities as a Physical Therapist have been boosted by my Yoga Therapy training, just as much as I feel that my Physical Therapy background has supported and strengthened my abilities as a Yoga Therapist. I truly feel blessed by the lineage and professionalism in both of these fields.
“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” ~ Plato
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
I vividly remember the first time I was sitting in a yoga class and I heard the term “Moola (sometimes spelled Mula) Bandah”. I was feeling confused but I followed along as I did whenever I heard other unfamiliar Sanskrit names that I was learning about. However, I found the bandah terms rather elusive. At first I longed for something more tangible to hold onto; like the asana poses so that I could see it on the outside to make sure I was doing it right. I kept wondering if what I was feeling was correct or honestly if I was even feeling the bandahs when I was instructed to engage them. I wondered if I looked different on the outside, or if the teacher could tell if I was using them. Then after practicing and going through these motions something began to change and my practice began to shift.
As I practiced more, and learned more about the bandahs, I realized what I can now say to be true. First, the bandahs are elusive and hard to pin down and there are a lot of different views on what they can do for your yoga practice, your body, and your mind. There are also many different views about when and if they should be taught, to whom, and in what way. Second, after confirming my hunch around their subtle actions, I have also come to understand that although they are vague and somewhat mysterious, they are very real and worth exploring within your own body.
As I went through the motions of following the bandah activation instruction given by my teachers, what I began to notice were the times when I was not using them. It was in these moments of silence, or absence of the bandahs, that I began to understand the connection to this energy and the lightness that it brings to my own practice. So, the journey with the bandahs is like any yoga posture or class you find yourself in; it will be unique to you. Since each pose looks slightly different on the outside for all of us, I believe that our connection to the root lock of our energy may be somewhat similar in action but yet uniquely our own experience. I will do my best to explain the subtle concepts behind these terms. I hope that you will begin to explore your own experience of their meaning and connection to yourself, and your practice of yoga.
The term “Bandah” is a Sanskrit word that is often defined as a closing off, locking, or holding back of something. There are three most discussed bandahs; moolah (mula), uddiyana, and jalandara bandahs. Sometimes you may also hear about maha bandah, hasta bandah, and pada bandah.
For the purpose of this explanation I will focus on the bandahs that I am most familiar with and include in my own practice and teaching. Imagine that you have this pranic energy within your body that flows through you in a vertical channel. When you activate mula bandah you are, in essence, closing off or sealing the end of this channel to allow the flow of energy to move upward to support you and your practice. In doing this it begins to create a lightness of energy while simultaneously toning the deep muscles. Instead of letting our energy flow down and out of us we build up this energy force within us to help sustain us. This is what helps us float in and out of poses, hold poses longer, and increase our energy during a class.
Mula Bandah: To locate Mula Bandah we let our attention and breath come into the pelvic floor. We are trying to isolate the perineum area known as the “root lock.” To begin to find and isolate this location can be difficult at first, so we connect with Ashwini mudra (which is the contraction of the anal sphincter muscles), and Vajroli mudra (the contraction of the urogenital muscles). In contracting these muscles we begin to isolate the perineum. Another way to think about this is that you really have to go to the bathroom and there is not a restroom around. This action of engaging these muscles to avoid having an accident begins to help us find Mula Bandah. Remember to breathe in this situation to connect to increasing our pranic flow.
Uddiyana bandah: To locate Uddiyana bandah we let our attention draw to the navel. In Sanskrit, “uddiyana” is defined as to fly up or to rise up. So we take the energy from mula bandah and allow it to rise up further by drawing the navel back toward the back spine, lifting up underneath the lower rib band. Connecting Uddiyana from Mula Bandah can give us extra oomph in our Vinyasa flow which makes it more effortless.
Hasta Bandah: To locate Hasta bandah we get in touch with a suction feeling through the palms of our hands. Because most poses can place weight onto our hands and wrists we want to create a sense of grounding down, but lifting and lightness through our arms. We want to place weight into the hands through the fingers, and then imagine suction under the palm with little weight being born on the heel of the hand. Imagine the energy drawing up the arms.
Pada Bandah: To locate Pada Bandah we draw our attention down to our feet. Similarly with our hands, we want to create grounding-down and lifting-up action. Begin standing in Tadasana and feel rooted down into the earth. Lift and spread the toes and ground down the big toe, then the other toes slowly until you can feel all 4 corners of the feet. Feel behind the big toe mound where the arch begins; lift up, move your fingers or attention back to the middle of the arch to lift and then back to where the arch meets the sole of the foot and heel. Once activated, it is then lifted or sucked up the legs to eventually meet up with Mula Bandah.
When we activate these bandahs we are increasing blood flow to deep muscles and organs. In return, we are connecting to the corresponding chakras in the body. There are muscular, endocrine, nervous system, pranic, and mental health benefits. As we are redirecting our energy upward we can begin to see the body as a beautiful and complex matrix of energy. As we learn and practice the bandahs they are a vehicle for our own growth and development both on and off the mat. We begin to use them throughout our entire yoga class and create a sense of lightness, ease, and focus for our practice. We all may be drawn to the bandahs for different reasons; it may be to build fire within your belly, and to burn impurities, and get a great looking abdomen; or maybe it is to help calm your nervous system and create some lightness in your practice particularly during these hot summer months. Whatever the reason, I hope that you will begin to explore some of the many benefits that can come with adding some bandah action to your life.
(*As with all new practice one should consult their healthcare provider before beginning.)
“There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it.” ~Elizabeth A. Behnke
Julie discovered a love of dance and movement early in her life. This led to exploration of yoga asana and self inquiry. Julie followed a desire to understand the connection between the mind and body, and our universal interdependence. She has worked over 20 years in the mental health field, obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Miami University in Oxford, OH and a Masters of Social Work at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Julie completed her 200 hour teacher training in June 2009 through Elemental Yoga in Boston, Mass., with Bo Forbes. Yoga has been a vehicle for Julie’s own healing journey and she loves being able to assist people in finding the deep healing that yoga can bring to one’s mind, body and spirit.
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
On Friday, June 7, OH Yoga! at Posabilities Yoga Instructors offered a community yoga practice to an inspiring group of individuals who were willing to venture out on a rainy Friday evening. You may ask, “What made these folks so inspiring?” They were coming to a free community yoga class. What’s the big deal?
The majority of the people who came had never been to Posabilities before, had never practiced with the OH Yoga! instructors before, and in fact many had never practiced yoga, ever! Their willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zones is what was so inspiring. Everyone had different stories, different experiences, and different bodies that provided them challenges. For some people, the challenges were stretching in ways their bodies were not accustomed to, for some it was coordinating their breath with their movement, or using new muscles, and for some it was sitting quietly or settling in the final pose of savasana that asks you to “just let go.” As humans, we are creatures of habit, and generally avoid changing our habitual patterns of movement, of thought, of doing. Yoga frequently asks us to do just the opposite, to open up space or opportunity for transformation by stepping away from those comfortable habits. Despite the challenge, and sometimes the discomfort, of what they were being asked to do on Friday evening, everyone in the space received the practice with open minds and hearts. That is what makes them so inspiring!
The OH Yoga! instructors were equally inspiring. As Yoga Instructors, we also have our comfortable patterns or habits that we tend toward. When we offer practices we have favorite poses, cues that naturally flow out of mouths, and we get used to a fairly consistent following of students. A new student in a class is always exciting, but can add new challenges to leading a practice. Imagine a roomful of 15 people whom you have never led, many of whom are unfamiliar with the yoga poses being offered, and all with unique individual needs. This can be a little disorienting, but at the same time offers us challenges and opportunities for transformation and growth as yoga instructors. As OH Yoga! instructors each one of us was stretched in slightly different ways on Friday night that opened us up to continuing growth and transformation.
It was indeed an inspiring evening at Posabilities, and I am grateful to everyone that participated in an evening of exploration and transformation.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ~ Samuel Johnson
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.