As I sit down to plan the last installment of our Yoga & the Chakra series, I am looking for a way to explain how it is that the final chakra in this energy lineup isn’t really a chakra at all.
The crown chakra doesn’t have any true and specific characteristics like the other chakras below it. No exact color, element, sense organ, anatomical part or yoga pose can be assigned to it. Its petal count is 1000 which is defined in the ancient texts as infinity. Resting at the top, it isn’t a center of energy at all but instead a magnificent opening for receiving and transmitting.
As our universal connection, this last energy matrix is a place for all of the accumulated chakra qualities to converge and merge with the macrocosm. The crown receives its opulence when all of the other chakras below it are collaborating and supportive of one another.
So, how can I explain this in real life experience?
Last May, I began my monthly zoom class series called Yoga & the Chakras. I invited my dear friend Kayo Malik (Chinese doctor/acupuncturist) to join me and for the past six months we have been blending our healing systems to achieve one synergistic presentation of the chakra energy model.
It has been very educational to discover that, although the system of Yoga was practiced a continent away from China, each culture developed a subtle body concept that was identical at its core. Just goes to show you that when something is authentic, it is eventually known by all.
I have enjoyed our journey immensely. And, now that we will be culminating with the crown chakra this month, I have decided to give a synopsis of the progression we’ve made through the energetic body – highlighting our two perspectives.
This month we have been exploring all of the basic aspects of the heart: the feelings, emotions and connections that it provides as well as the subtle energies of the heart chakra. But, there are still lesser known and deeper layers of the heart that Ayurveda and Yoga describe to us. These “deep cuts” speak to the expansive quality of the heart chakra as it relates to its element – air.
“The wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice to be able to remain easy in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom…” – Judith Lasater
As we continue our discussion about the 3rd chakra – the solar plexus chakra, I would be remiss to not include the concept of tapas. Tapas is often defined as heat. Yet it’s more ancient Sanskrit roots explain tapas has having the ability to remove impurities. In fact, the word tapas is used to define the process of heating alloyed gold until the debris is burnt off, revealing only the purest product.
Through the practice of yoga we can also use heat to burn away the nonsense and expose our true power. This does not just apply to intensive ashtanga, hot or vinyasa yoga forms. Any type of asana, pranayama or meditation can generate tapas.
This week choose a portion of your practice where you feel you need to apply more will power.
If you can’t sustain downward dog without stressing your shoulders, approach the posture through child’s pose and gradually build on the time you remain in downward dog until you feel stronger.
Maybe you can’t relax in savasana for more than 5 minutes. Use a timer to add one minute to each practice until you relish a full 10 or even 20 minute savasana.
By bringing more self-disipline into your practice, you will receive more confidence. This “I can do it” attitude leads to greater contentment. Ultimately you will find that when you persevere in your practice (and your life), you feel more balanced, purposeful and joyful. A little work will release your attachments and free up your consciousness for higher realizations.
Yes, yoga does have eight limbs. One limb for each aspect in the yogic system. These eight different appendages are called: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana & samadhi.
I am going to, briefly, identify each limb one by one so that you can get a better understanding of the full system of yoga. Western teachings/classes normally only focus on 1, 2 or 3 parts of the eight-limb system, namely the postures, breathing and some stillness techniques.
While there is no true order for understanding, the limbs do build upon one another and lead us to the goal of yoga: peace, truth and unutterable joy.
My journey in yoga began over 30 years ago when I signed up for my first yoga class.
I began the practice of yoga out of curiosity. After graduating college and relocating, I was on the lookout for an exercise class. A friend told me about a teacher in town who was excellent in the field of yoga. Hmmm, yoga. Well, I’d been a modern dancer and appreciated all types of movement classes in the past…
Initially I remember being very skeptical about the class’s slow tempo and the teacher’s mellow voice. Mostly, I could not believe that I didn’t get off my back for one full hour. But, after my first session with Donna Barbaro in 1985, I knew that yoga was more than it appeared. For starters, I was sure that I had grown 6 inches taller when I walked out of class that day. And on my way home, I didn’t have a care in the world. I felt a true sense of peace and contentment. All that stretching and lengthening really had an effect. I was hooked!
Looking back, more than anything I probably benefitted from the grounding quality of yoga at that phase of my life. I was a young, newly married woman who had just left her family, school and friends behind to come to an unknown place.
This was the mid eighties. Aerobics was the trend. But yoga captured my heart and soul.
My journey with essential oils began in 2016 when I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia – an inflammation of the 5th cranial nerve which can cause intense facial pain.
In an attempt to get relief, I contacted friend and acupuncturist, Kayo Malik, who runs clinics in Sedona and Maui. I began a series of acupuncture treatments with Kayo and it was at the first session I was introduced to Young Living’s essential oil blend, Peace and Calming. Up until this point, I wasn’t too familiar with essential oils and what they had to offer but I wanted to give all of the natural avenues a try.
So, outside of the clinic, and periodically throughout each day, I breathed a drop of Peace and Calming from my cupped hands. In conjunction with the acupuncture, the oil blend was surprisingly effective in quieting my outbreaks.
I later discovered that one of Peace and Calming’s main components, tangerine oil, contains certain esters and aldehydes which can be tranquilizing to the nervous system.
Having had this success, I wondered what else the field of aromatherapy had to offer my condition. In researching, I ran across many oils with the ability to soothe the nervous system. However, since I didn’t know the cause of my disorder-whether it was viral, bacterial or merely stress related, I felt the need to explore all of the possible avenues that these jewels presented. So, I purchased a Young Living starter kit and the experience was truly an eye…or should I say, a nose…opener. Along with regular yoga practice and acupuncture, essential oils were able to tame my fiery nervous system and eventually eradicate my neuralgia.
Since then I have been enjoying the benefits of essential oils in dozens of ways for my health and well-being. As a yoga practitioner, it seemed only fitting that I would begin to explore how essential oils could influence my yoga practice.
Most of the essential oil/yoga classes I’ve researched have you flowing through the postures with specific oils for warming up, others for sun salutations, for balancing poses, inversions, final resting postures – the list goes on. A single yoga class could involve 7 separate oils in the span of an hour. While I understand the significance of choosing a specific oil for a specific type of pose, I was overwhelmed with the task of applying and experiencing so many oils at one session. To me, it wasn’t logistical either as oil placement is key to the process.
Instead, I have opted to use just one oil per practice session. First, I select an intention so that I can focus on one particular energetic state that I want to develop during my practice. I have explored various qualities such as grounding, stimulating, focus, compassion, strength, perception, etc. Then, I select an oil known to complement that practice element.
I feel great support when I use the oils for a particular intention in my practice. It really sets the stage and amplifies my process. I realize that, energetically, I am connecting with my yoga more intensely and purposefully each time I incorporate the oils.
I would like to revisit the energetic system of yoga in my next post. While I have touched upon this in previous writings, I have learned so much more lately and feel excited to share my experiences with you!
Over the last few weeks I have relaunched my yoga practice – choosing to begin as a new student and establish a fresh daily yoga routine. I have started simply with sitting with my breath first thing in the morning and reflecting on the true meaning of yoga.
As a word, yoga (or yuj) means to bind, join or yoke. I love this definition as it plainly specifies a very important concept – connection. The connection of our breath to our bodies and minds and the connection of our energies to the universe.
Now I am excited to begin each day and reconnect to my practice and the foundation of yoga. However, I have found that in order to acquire any new connections, I first have to clean my slate. I need to allow for a fresh perspective; one that isn’t influenced by a prior practice or of what I presume to know.
This week I have been reflecting on a quote from the poet/calligrapher Kohad:
I cast the brush aside
From here on
I’ll speak to the moon
Face to face.
By reflecting on these words, I can receive what it is I seek in this new phase of my yoga practice. Like the waning moon, I will slowly dissolve my old state so that I can begin anew.
For the past few weeks, I have been providing an assortment of Yoga Vitamins – sequences of yoga postures and breathing techniques to nourish your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, a daily yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.
This week I will give you the “prescription” for a healthy bone sequence. This is an enriching yoga vitamin – one that targets the joints and moves the spine in all directions to combat osteoporosis and arthritis.
Yoga Healthy Bones Vitamin
Centering & Breath Awareness: Start with a Supine Full Body Stretch to lengthen the muscles. Incorporate Bananasana to stretch the spine and breathing muscles.
Opening Poses: Down Dog and Plank (repeating this set of poses is a great for upper body strength and linking movement with breath). Then, proceed to Side Plank and Reverse Plank to focus on arm bones.
Props: This sequence of poses may benefit from the use of blocks to support a comfortable seat and assist with the standing postures.
Essential Oils: In general, any woodsy oil such as cedar, fir or pine will connect to the bones. Wintergreen, lemon and Rocky Mountain Oil’s Joint Support help to ease bone bruises or joint weaknesses.
Music: A great artist for grounding is Anugama.
If you want to check out another Daily Yoga Vitamin prescription, just click on last week’s post.
And if you have anything else to add, I’d love you hear your comments!
For the past few weeks, I have been providing an assortment of Yoga Vitamins – a sequence of yoga postures and breathing techniques to nourish your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, a daily yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.