Let me be sky

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Let the earth of my body, Be mixed with the earth you walk on

Let the fire of my body, Be the brightness shining in your eyes

Let me be sky and moving through me, That cloud-like one

Let me be sky and moving through me, That dark one, My love

Let the water of my body, Be the sweet pool that you bathe in

And let the breath of my body, Be the gentle wind caressing your soft soft skin

Let me be sky and moving through me, That cloud-like one

Let me be sky and moving through me, That dark dark one, My love

Let me be sky let me be sky, I see the heavens when look in your eyes

Let me be sky let me be sky, Just take my hand know we can fly.

 

Image of Sri Radharani

Lyrics from Let me be Sky by Jai Uttal from his album Thunder Love.

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Jai Uttal and his magical kirtan

Deep in pranayama, I can hear the soothing melody sung by Jai Uttal, world’s renown kirtan singer.  The deeper I go in my inhalation and for every exhalation, the melodious kirtan followed naturally, giving a sense of tranquility, spiraling in the heart with such incredible passion, tenderness, surrender that one is left transformed and sanctified.

kirtan001[1]Jai has been leading kirtans worldwide for over thirty years.  ‘These ancient chants,’ writes Jai, ‘contain a transformative power and healing energy.  By singing these prayers we join a stream of consciousness and devotion that has been flowing for centuries.

What is kirtan?

Kirtan is food for the spirit, a life raft of song.

Kirtan is the calling, the crying, the reaching across infinite space – digging into the heart’s deepest well to touch and be touched by the Divine Presence.

Kirtan is singing over and over the many names of God and the Goddess, the multi-colored rainbow manifestations of the One.  It is said that there is no difference between the name and that which is being named, and as the words roll off our lips in song, the Infinite is invoked, invited, made manifest in our hearts.

Kirtan is part of an ancient form of Yoga known as Bhakti, or the Yoga of Devotion.  But in Bhakti we redefine ‘devotion’ we expand the meaning to include every shade of color in the palette of human emotion, turned towards God through song, dance and worship.  These chants have been sung for millenium by sages, sinners, devotees, and the great primordial yogi alchemists of old.  And, as we sing, we touch the spirits of the millions of people across the centuries who have sung the same songs and cried the same tears.  As we sing, we immerse ourselve in an endless river of prayer that has been flowing since the birth of the first human beings, longing to know their creator.

Kirtan is for all people.  The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves.  Kirtan teaches itself by allowing us to enter into a mystery world, and we allow ourselves to expand into the mystery.

Some of Jai’s albums full of joyful Kirtan to celebrate your life with:

Shiva Station

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Nectar

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Treating indigestion from the ground up

Sometimes it is that second cup of coffee, other times it is too much of hot and spicy green curry, and more often than not, is is just plain-old stress.  When tension is to blame for your indigestion, the cure is only a couple of feet away.  Anxiety can block the body from breaking food down into fuel.  Learning to release that anxiety at its base, in the feet, will ease the pressure your body is under, while processing nutrients. 

There are points in the feet that go directly to the organs that aid digestion.  Two variations of thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana) will help to soothe stress and settle your stomach (not to mention pamper your paws).  As a warning, foot positions of these poses can be and should be painful for first-timers.  Stay with it for as many breaths as you can.

Deep toe bend

This pose realeases blocked energy in the feet, improving energy flow and balance throughout the body.  Rid your feet of knots and the ones in your stomach will stimulateously dissipate.

Sit on your knees.  Then bend your toes underneath you and sit back on your heels.  Only the bottom of your toes should touch the floor.  Begin to raise your knees off the floor and shift your body weight forward, applying wegiht to the pads of the toes. You may feel some discomfort in the toes.  High-heel wearers, consider yourself warned that this will not be a picnic for you.  Notice where the tenderness is and try to apply more body weight to that spot.  Stay in that position as long as possible.

Foot cross

The pose opens up the energy pathways that begin at the sole of the foot.

Sitting on your knees, with the tops of your feet on the floor, rise up slightly of your ankles so you can cross your right foot over the middle of your left foot.  Find the boniest part of the top of your right foot and place it in the very middle of the outer edge of your left foot.  Part of your right foot will hang-over your left.  When the right foot bone rests there and you sit back on your heel, you will feel a radiating sensation throughout the left foot and maybe even up the back of the body.  Use your body weight to apply pressure gently to the right heel, sending your body weight toward the floor while releasing the tensions in the feet that connect to the gut.  Feel free to experiment with the amount of pressure.  As long as you feel you are pressing on the left acupressure point, stay for as long as possible.  Switch sides.

Afterward sit in cross-legged seated position (Sukhasana) and notice where you feel the difference in your body.

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Standing pose: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

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Benefits:

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles
  • Stretches the groins, spine, chest and lungs, and shoulders
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Increases stamina
  • Improves digestion and aids elimination
  • Improves balance
  • Practice to prevent:  constipation, low backache, osteoporosis.

Yoga & Religion?

Excerpted from Yoga Journal Daily Insight dated 10th August 2009.

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Today, many yoga practitioners assert that yoga is not a religion in their minds.  This begs the question: If hatha yoga is not a religion, what is it? Is it a hobby, a sport, a fitness regimen, a recreational activity? Or is it a discipline, such as the study of law or the practice of medicine? The odd truth is taht there are ways in which the practice of yoga resembles all of those pursuits.

Perhaps it would be halpful to consider the difference between the word ‘religion’ and another word commonly associated with it, ‘spirituality’.  Spirituality, it could be said, has to do with one’s interior life, the ever-evolving understanding of one’s self and one’s place in the cosmos – humankind’s ‘search for meaning’.  Religion, on the otehr hand, can be seen as spirituality’s external counterpart, the organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual processes:  the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the congregations that come together to share them.

The fact that so many yogis report spiritual experiences in their practices indicates how we might best view the ancient art.  While many Westerners come to yoga primarily for its health benefits, it seems safe to say that most people who open to yoga will, in time, find its meditative qualities and more subtle effects on the mind and emotions equally  (if not more) beneficial.  They will, in other words, come to see yoga as spiritual practice.  But, without credos or congregations, it can’t properly be regarded as a religion – unless we say that each yogi and yogini comprises a religion of one.

Thou shall pass, too: Celebrating the life of Sri K.Pattabhi Jois

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The beloved founder of Ashtanga Yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois (known affectionately as Guruji by his students), died at his home in Mysore, India on May 19, 2009. He was 93.

Known for his warm yet authoritative personality, Jois consistently emphasized the importance of repetition and devotion – he was fond of saying, ‘Practice and all is coming,’  He also stressed the importance of linking breath to each movement.  ‘Today, much of the breath-based, fluid, rhythmic yoga that is practiced in vinyasa classes in the West has been influenced, both directly and indirectly, by Jois’s teachings.

Born on July 26, 1915, near Hassan, Karnataka, in South India, Jois was a Brahman, the son of a priest, and had the privilege of learning from the Vedas and other ancient Hindu texts.  He was first inspired to study yoga when he was 12 years old, after seeing a yoga demonstration by T.Krishnamacharya, Jois became a student of Krishnamacharya, with whom he was to study for 25 years.

At age 14, Jois left his village for Mysore, where he wanted to study.  A few years later he was reunited with Krishnamacharya there, and the two continued their relationship.  Krishnamacharya found a patron in the majarajah of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, who built a yoga shala (school).  Jois, who sometimes did yoga demonstrations for the majarajah, was invited to join the faculty at Maharaja Sanskrit College in 1937, where he taught and served as the head of the yoga department until 1973.

In 1948, Jois started the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, now the Ashtanga Yoga Institute, which he oversaw for 50 years.  The first Westerner to study with Jois was a Belgian named Andre Van Lysebeth.  In 1967, Van Lysebeth wrote J’apprends le Yoga (Yoga Self-Taught), and soon after, other Westerners began arriving in Mysore to study with the master.  In 1975, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff sponsored Jois’s first trip to U.S. Jois taught several people who are still leaders in the Ashtanga tradition in the West, such as Tim Miller and David Swenson.

Jois married at 21.  He and his wife, Savitramma, had three children, Saraswathi, Manju and Ramesh.  Saraswati is the mother of Sarath, co-director of the institute.

Jois’s Yoga Mala was published in 1962 and translated in English in 1999.  And he continued to transmit the teachings he learned from T.Krishnamacharya.  Many of today’s great American teachers, including Nicki Doane, Maty Ezraty, Richard Freeman, Kino MacGregor, Chuck Miller and Eddie Modestini traveled to Mysore to study with Jois.  His work will live on in the hearts and minds of the countless students and teachers whose lives he has touched.

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By Diane Anderson, Yoga Journal August, 2009.

For Strength and Stability: Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

 

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Benefits:

  • Strengthens the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine
  • Stretches the groins, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest and spine
  • Improves coordination and sense of balance
  • Helps relieve stress
  • Improves digestion.

Basic Pose: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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Benefits:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the shoulder, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands
  • Strengthen the arms and legs
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestions
  • Relieves headaches, insomnia, back pain and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sinuses and sciatica.

The Hidden Language of Hatha Yoga

If you think that yoga is only about our physical ability of entering and posing into a certain asana whether at beginner, intermediate or advance level, think again… and perhaps this book of Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language by Swami Sivananda Radha will help to guide through 22 or so classical Hatha asanas or poses. Radha explores the mythological meaning of each posture as she encourages the Hatha yogi to stretch beyond the physical.

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 As her student, Swami Lalitananda, author of Life of Asanas, mentioned that as we bring reflection into our Hatha Yoga practice, we learn to listen – not just to the body, but also to our thoughts, intuition and memories.  We observe and acknowledge images that may arise in our minds, connected with the symbol.  By being aware of the interactions between our body, our mind and the symbol, the pose deepens.  Yoga is suddenly more than a workout at a certain time of a day.  It becomes relevant off the mat.  The insights gathered in practice can be carried into action.  Life starts to change.  Yoga comes alive.  All of these, I am still learning very, very hard, while projecting that one day, I will be enlightened and all of the philosophy will fall into its relevant places.

 I have been reading this book since March 2009 and kept on repeating myself on a random basis for certain asana, especially for those which I will practice in my next day session.  At this stage, the symbol, such as mountain, tree, peacock, etc – will elicit a different response each time I practice.

 Here is an excerpt  of my favorites:

Mayurasana & Pincha Mayurasana

(The Peacock and Peacock Feather)

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 ‘As beginners our intellect is only in the brain.  You must have a million eyes, all over the body,’ – BKS Iyengar

 Pincha Mayurasana is the Peacock Feather pose.  The forearms and hands are placed firmly on the floor, the head raised.  The legs are lifted up so that torso and legs are perpendicular to the floor.  The pose resembles a peacock feather or a peacock with its tail raised.

 The peacock with its beautiful crown is the emblem of Saraswati, the Indian goddess of wisdom, music and poetry.  Even Laksmi, the goddess of wealth and plenty, avails herself of a peacock to ride.  This bird of kings and gods is a suitable symbol for the aspirant’s striving for the highest.

 Mayurasana demands great strength in the wrists and arms, and a tuning into the balance of the body so the hundred eyes of the peacock’s tail point to vigilance rather than to beauty.  There is little room for vanity when the weight of the whole body is carried on the small area of the hands. Facing downward, the eyes can only look at a small area on the ground.  

 The paradox of the symbolism of the peacock is evident in the postures.  They are difficult asanas for many people; one must overcome pride, bodily fear, fear of not completing the pose, fear of not being able to do the right thing, fear of showing weakness.  And yet the beauty in the spread of the tail holds out a promise.  Even a single feather represents the third eye of all knowledge and heavenly Light.  The spread of the tail of the peacock is an incomplete circle.  This shows that we can never see everything at once; we can see only the top, which is comparable to the first state of realization.  

 Observing the body

 These are difficult poses for many people.  In order to even attempt them, you must overcome pride, fear of not completing the pose, fear of not being able to do it right, fear of showing weakness, as well as bodily fear.  But remember, the peacock holds a promise of knowledge and beauty.  Observe your body in this posture.  Record your observations.

 Key words

 Reflect on the word ‘peacock’ or ‘peacock feather.’ What thoughts and images come to mind? Write your key words or main associations.  Do the asana, with one of your key words or ideas in mind.

 Questions and Reflections

 Focus on one of the following questions while in the Peacock or Peacock Feather.  Move in and out of the pose, letting thoughts, body awareness and insights arise.  Write about your experience.

a)     Can beauty be symbolic of your aspirations, of perfection beyond the world?

b)     Where will you find perfection?

c)      Ask yourself:  Does pride blind me to my ugly side? Or does it make me oversensitive to my imperfections?

d)     As you come up into the Peacock Feather, ask: What does it take for me to make a leap of faith?

Going further

Visualize yourself doing the pose – Visualization benefits the body and can also prepare the mind for the more challenging asanas.  During the visualization, you can work with any of the reflections and questions to gain deep psychological and spiritual benefits.

Start by taking a moment and agreeing to give your imagination the power to move fully into the pose.  Then see yourself preparing by placing your forearms on the floor.  Visualize yourself concentrated and aware, embodying the lightness and beauty symbolized in the peacock feather.  Feel awareness throughout your entire body as you walk your legs forward, experiencing the momentum as you naturally list off.  You can visualize yourself placing your feet against a wall, or you can find the point of balance free-standing.

Feel the concentration it takes to hold the pose:  the openness and freedom in the front of the body, the smooth curve in the back, and the wonderful lightness of suspension.  Now see yourself moving out of the pose, bringing your legs down with a sense of control, and uncurling the spine.  Feel your feet lightly touch the earth and allow yourself to rest deeply in the child’s pose.

 [This book was given to me by an old friend of mine, Linda Surya. Namaste.]

Stretcher: Intense side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)

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Benefits:

·        Chest opener

·        Calms the brain

·        Stretches the spine, shoulder, wrists, hips and hamstrings

·        Improve digestion and overall balance

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