The Lotus Heart

One of the early ancient Vedic Sanskrit texts, the Yajurveda (1200-1000 BCE), puts forth the first suggestion that the essential self dwells eternally inside the heart.  It suggests that the union or merging of opposites (male and female, active and passive, the two sides of the body–the sun/surya channel on the right and the lunar/chandra channel on the left) is celebrated as “always dwelling in the lotus heart.”  When opposites are profoundly integrated, the heart takes the form of a lotus “imbued with devotional sentiment” and leads to “a spirit of unconditional acceptance.”

A well-balanced heart is a compassionate, empathic, and tender heart.  Hardness is tempered with softness.  Softening invites connection, openness, and reception.  We move from doing to being.

This month we play with balancing muscular strength and yielding softness, moving from effort to surrender.  We will also explore the body/breath/heart connection through pranayam practice.  The breath is central to unlocking the body and opening the realm of the heart.  Each inhale brings spaciousness and expansion to the body.  Each exhale invites softening and release.  What journey will your body and breath take you this month?  Come find out!  See you on the mat!  

**I am excited to be subbing this coming Thursday, 5/11, 7:30-8:45pm, Candlelight Flow at Breathe Together Yoga, Los Gatos!!**

Varanasi, India, March 2017.

Tied on a short lead, no water or feed available, I reached over and rubbed her head, scratched around her ears. Her eyes closed, and she pressed her head against my hand, asking for more touch, more contact.  So I gave more.  Love in its most simplest of forms.  Asked for, and given.  Along my trip it was tiny moments like these that broke my heart open the most.

Seeds of Change

Happy Holi to you!

For the past week, I have been alternating between moments of deep anxiety and sheer excitement.  In a few short days I will be landing in Delhi, India, for a two+ week pilgrimage with my teacher and a lovely group of fellow yogis.  My days have been filled with list checking and pre-packing.

This Monday, March 13th, marks the beginning of Holi in India, a three day Hindu festival celebrating fertility, and the arrival of spring.  It is a festival filled with color–colored powder and water is thrown with abandon!  While I will not be arriving in time for this particular festival, thoughts of spring, seeds, and flowering trees have been painting my inner world.  Now is the time to plant, water, and nurture opportunity and change in my life.  What new things are you planting in your garden of life?

In the spirit of Holi and springtime, I offer you a breath (pranayama) practice that reflects my current frame of mind.  Bhramari Pranayama, or Bee Breath, is a pranayam that sounds like the humming of bees (which totally makes me smile)!   This practice helps to instantly calm the mind, and is very helpful in releasing anxiety or frustration, anger and fear.

How to practice Bhramari Pranayama:  Sit comfortably erect, with eyes closed and a gentle smile at the corners of your mouth.  Place the tips of your index fingers on the cartilage between your cheeks and your ears.  Press gently, closing the ears.  Inhale, and as you breathe out make a loud humming sound.  Inhale, and repeat the sequence 6-7 times.  Then rest you hands in your lap, observing the sensations in your body and noticing the quiet within for as long as you like.  When you feel done, open your eyes and continue with your day.

One final note, during my absence (March 16-31st) a series of most excellent subs have been arranged for you.

I look forward to sharing my experiences in India with you when I return in April.

Namaste!

The Essential Breath

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outlines an eight limbed path to self-realization, or enlightenment, called ashtanga.  Ashtanga translates literally to eight (ashta) limb (anga).  Pranayama, or breath control, is the fourth limb, and one of the key components to both asana practice (the third limb) and meditation (dhyana, the seventh limb).  Breath both carries and sustains us during asana practice, and provides an anchor for meditation.  Pausing and paying attention to our breath is also very useful in everyday life, helping us to respond rather than react when encountering stressors.  Join me this week for dedicated pranayama practice, along with meditation, at our new time:  Breath & Meditation, 2:00pm, Fridays, Breathe Los Gatos.

P.S.  This video gives a beautiful explanation of the science behind breathing and its affect on the nervous system.

Watch ‘The Science of Breathing’

Breath Science

We do it every day, every moment of every hour in a day, and usually with very little thought devoted to it.  Breathing.  Inhaling and exhaling.  Simple and autonomous, and yet so much more.  B. K. S. Iyengar wrote that prāna is “breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy, or strength.”  Prānāyāma is essentially the science of breathing.  Body and mind, breath and mind, are inextricably linked together.  When we work with our breath, we directly affect and influence the physiology of the body.  Steady, even inhalations and exhalations help balance and regulate the nervous system.  Longer exhalations shift the body in to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and soothing to the body (think slowing down of the heartbeat).

As the body calms, desire diminishes and the mind settles.  This is why in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, prānāyāma is described as a precursor to concentration.  Concentration is one of the core precepts of meditation.  With a calm mind, meditation becomes effortless instead of a struggle.  Then we can begin the work of sifting through the layers of “stuff”–thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, boredom, the endless play of life–until we reach Source.

Beginning this week and continuing through the year, we will be learning and practicing a series of prānāyāma techniques as an integral part of our meditation practice.  Join me every Friday, 1:30-2:00pm, Breath & Meditation, Breathe Los Gatos. http://breathelosgatos.com