Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Writing Meditation...Fail...?...

Lead another writing meditation.

We are well into week 7 of training now and with just under a month to go, my excitement over the prospect of teaching is growing exponentially each day. I'm confident that I will be a knowledgeable, caring and creative instructor, though I'm sure there will be some hiccups along the way. Speaking of hiccups, I lead a writing meditation this past Friday night that I'm not quite sure went over the way I'd hoped for.

During my MFA program at Lesley University, I was lucky enough to take a seminar with the wonderfully talented YA author Anita Riggio. Her seminar, entitled "Finding True North" is designed so the writer (or student as it were) is able to clear the mind in order to access a deeper, truer part of themselves which will strengthen and inform future pieces of writing. Anita does this by having the students close their eyes and practice breath awareness for a few minutes, deepening the breath with each inhale and exhale. Essentially, a Pranayama exercise. She then leads the students through a guided meditation, asking the student to envision themselves in particular, extremely detailed environments where people specific to each person are encountered. Towards the end of the guided portion, Anita offers a phrase to the writer that upon opening their eyes, they should begin writing with. For example, one of the writing exercises involves the writer considering the perspective of the most meaningful person in their life, the exercise then begins with the phrase "I always meant to tell you." The writer then spends an hour or so engaging in stream of consciousness writing. Is this making sense? You can download the actual seminar (Which I HIGHLY recommend, be you writer or meditator or both!) here. There are about five different exercises in the seminar.

Well, dear reader, I attempted to truncate this seminar and conduct it with my fellow trainees as the opening to a class. My intention was that the exercise would focus on Svadhyaya or study of the self/internal reflection, a Niyama we've been studying. And while I think I achieved that purpose, I also think I managed to totally bring everyone DOWN in the process. At Lesley, it was a fairly positive experience. People wrote from a wide range of emotions. But by the end of my attempt, everyone just sort of sat either stone faced, or dare I say even a little irritated. But hey, I took a chance. It didn't work out exactly the way I'd hoped but I went for it. Maybe this is a "know your audience" lesson learned. I'll keep it a bit lighter next time.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Thoughts On Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

See everyone? My Sanskrit is really coming along now. This past weekend we had an essay due based around a pose covered in the ever-so-in-depth Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. If life is a yoga sequence, (And lets face it, isn't it REALLY?) this book is a step by step manual for how to live. I chose Garudasana since I am in love with the pose. Hey now, it's also seasonally appropriate! (Get it? Thanksgiving, it's a bird!) Here are a few tidbids I gleaned from Iyengar and one or two other sources.

BKS Iyengar: So blissful, so fashionable.

In Light on Yoga, Iyengar states that Garudasana strengthens the ankles and releases tension in the shoulders. He states that the garuda, or eagle, is the king of all birds. According to Iyengar, “Garuda is represented as the vehicle of Vishnu and as having a white face, an aquiline beak, red wings and a golden body.” Garudasana is a very powerful pose. I feel strong and alive when I’m wrapped right arm under left and right leg over left. I feel rooted and confident. Until I read Iyengar’s description of Garudasana, I hadn’t thought much about what colors might be associated with an eagle. Red and golden are perfectly related to the Chakras I feel most connected with while in this pose.

            Manipura Chakra is located in the solar plexus or mid-spine, and its color corresponds with the image of the eagle’s golden body. Manipura Chakra is centered on power and ambition. Both of these qualities must be present in the yoga student to achieve this pose. Conversely, when a student achieves this pose, there comes a feeling of power and ambition. Though Iyengar’s eagle has red wings, the Muladhara Chakra associated with the color red is located in the tailbone. Considered the root Chakra, Muladhara is supportive and extends down from the base of the torso through to the legs and feet, all essential components of Garudasana. This pose requires a strong sense of balance. Visualizing the physical locations of the Muladhara and Manipura Chakras helps to focus on and maintain that balance. Lately I’ve been concentrating on engaging Mula and Uddiyana Bhanda while in this pose, and have found that very helpful in staying balanced. These Bhandas correlate with the Muladhara and Manipura Chakras as well.

            Establishing a steady drishti is something I find difficult in Garudasana. Since the arms are raised in front of the face, I find myself trying to find a point between my arms in front of me. When my arms obstruct this point, it is extremely tough to stay balanced. When I try to focus on a point on my forearms, I find that it is too close and my balance becomes compromised. Iyengar does not comment on drishti for Garudasana in Light on Yoga, though in his photo his arms are more tightly wound than mine generally are, so there is less obstruction in front of the eyes. Keeping an internal drishti is an option during any pose, though is difficult in the more intermediate balancing postures. 

Eagle. See how happy she is?
    Garudasana would be well placed in a class built around themes of strength, courage or cultivation of personal power. It is also an excellent choice for those that work while sitting at a desk. The arm placement in Garudasana helps to draw the shoulder blades away from each other, opening the upper back. The legs and ankles are also fired up in this pose. This posture is a welcomed relief for those that sit hunched over a keyboard and computer screen all day, though the effects of Garudasana are certainly beneficial to all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nadi Shodhana - Balance That Breath, Folks!

Last weekend (which was the half-way point of training, mind explode!!!) I lead a Pranayama, or breathing exercise focused on balancing the left and right sides of the brain and breath. Nadi Shodhana, or "Alternate Nostril Breath" involves breathing through each nostril separately, alternating the breath by covering the nostrils one by one. In the below video, this very nice lady on a beach in California does an excellent job of demonstrating Nadi Shodhana. Thankfully, there are no videos of me demonstrating this technique.