The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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My Slowing-Down-Take-it-Easy-Keep-Me-Sane Yoga Practice

I want to share what my yoga has looked like for the past two weeks.

My knee is not quite doing its healing thing as quickly as I’d hoped. One initial ER trip, one orthopedist visit, and one MRI later, we are still not sure what is going on. I only have one more day until my follow-up appointment, where we can actually look at the MRI with the orthopedic doctor, and hopefully find out some answers. Until then, I am on the couch, counting down the hours. This waiting game would be a lot more challenging without yoga. Yoga is what’s keeping this typically active girl sane right now!

Despite the frustration of my situation, there is a lot I can find to be grateful for. I am very grateful my injury wasn’t worse, and that, for the most part, I am pain-free. It is also a wonderful opportunity to be present with what is, and really explore patience (more about this topic later, I’m sure). Since this is the first significant injury I’ve ever had, I am given the chance to really understand what it is like to be less mobile and bendable in a way I never could before (a real benefit to me as a yoga teacher).

And also, to my surprise, my hurt knee has renewed and deepened my yoga practice. In the midst of my “off-season yoga,” I have all of a sudden found myself steeped in the practice once again.

First of all, since I am spending a lot more time sitting with my leg elevated and lying down than I’m used to, by the end of the night there is a pain in my lower back. This gets me up and out of bed quite early in the morning. So right there, one of my most difficult struggles, just getting out of bed, becomes moot. I welcome waking  up, moving my body.

Since I’m up early, I have plenty of time to stretch out my quiet morning. I start by making some warm water with lemon. I then take the mug over to my dining table to cool, while I start my standing practice. It’s funny how I have developed a new routine to my morning practice, and how quickly I have come to rely on its ritual.

I then take a few deep breaths and tune in while standing, since sitting on the ground is still a challenge. I could probably find a kriya or two that I could do with some slight modifications, but I have just been doing a series of warm-up poses instead, which has felt right.

If you’re looking for a gentle yoga practice, especially if you have any knee issues, or for a good warm-up, you may want to try this.

Here is what I do:

Standing Poses

  • Mountain pose –Standing tall, I take a few breaths to feel my body grounding through my toes, testing my weight to find an okay balance between and within each leg
  • 1 forward bend, remaining in the position for several breaths, fingers reaching to the floor, until the backs of my legs and lower back are feeling nice and stretched.
  • 4 more faster forward bends in rhythm with the breath (inhale arms up, exhale swan dive them down to the floor)
  • Downward dog –from my forward fold I am able to walk my hands out into a downward dog (triangle pose in Kundalini terminology). I was so relieved to discover, after a few days, I could comfortably do this stretch, one of my favorites.
  • Side bends -inhale right arm overhead, exhale bend to left side, inhale left arm up, exhale bend to right side

Chair Poses (but not “chair pose”)

forward fold

forward fold

  • Seated in a chair beside my dining table with my good leg planted on the ground, my other leg is elevated on another facing chair, or on a low box in front of me. My meditation pillow is now a cushion for my foot. I lean back against the chair and sip my lemon water between poses.
  • Sitting forward fold – with both legs up on the chair in front of me, I bend towards them. Sometimes I hold the pose, sometimes I inhale to half-way up, and exhale to the deeper bend, repeating this rapid movement, giving a more active stretch
  • Spinal twists, hands on my shoulders, fingers face forward, thumbs behind, inhale left, exhale right, 1 minute

    spinal twist

    spinal twist

  • Shoulder shrugs, inhale up, exhale down, 1 minute
  • Neck rolls, 5 on each side

And that’s the hatha portion. I can’t say I don’t miss a more vigorous practice, but that’s where I am. And that’s where that patience practice comes in.

Meditation

I’ve been doing a combination of different meditations that add up to a total of 31 minutes. (After 31 minutes of meditation all of the cells and rhythms of the body are affected. The endocrine system is balanced. The chakras are balanced.)

  • Sometimes I start with five minutes of breath of fire, if I’m feeling like I need a little more energy, otherwise I end with five minutes of silent meditation or bi-furcated kirtan kriya
  • Then, Meditation to be Rid of Internal Anger. This is my new 40 Day Meditation. Another choice made by my knee, since I was originally doing a 40 day kriya that I can no longer physically do. I was planning to do this one after that. The universe said, nope, let’s work on that anger now, not later.
  • I end with 11 minutes of Healing Meditation (Ra Ma Da Sa), and send that white healing light to my knee, as well as others around me that could use this healing energy.

More on Meditation to Be Rid of Internal Anger

This is a 15-minute long, two-part meditation. In the first part, you use strong arm movements with clenched fists, chanting “Har.” The second is a still and silent meditation with hands calmly folded at heart-center. Read the full description here.

I am only on Day 12, so I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. Some mornings I really feel like I’m going deep into the anger in the first half. Cracking into that space of neutrality in the second half has been a bit more challenging, but there are moments.

Now, you may wonder why I chose this meditation. (It’s probably something I’ll be writing more about as the 40 Days continues.) I wouldn’t say I’m a person with anger issues, but often, if there is a negative emotion to go to, anger is it for me. My gut reaction to many situations is anger. This typically mild-mannered gal may have a bit of the Irish temper in her, that is, of course, and unfortunately, most often reserved for those she loves most. I did notice yesterday, during an instance that I would have normally gotten angry at myself, I stopped mid-thought and changed course. Could it be working? I had the realization that the first and worst anger is towards myself, and that’s the anger I need to let go of first as well. I’m getting there.

Do you have a story to share about an event in your life that changed your yoga practice? I’d love to hear about it. Post in the comments below.

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Balance Head and Heart: Attempting to Let Go of Guilt and Worry

My cat has been missing for the last three days. I have been filled with worry, guilt, and fear –worry over his safety out there, guilt over letting him go outside, fear of the worst case scenario. It hasn’t been a pleasant week. So, on the third morning, I’m turning to yoga. 001

Last night as I laid in bed, I tried to rationalize these feelings away, tried to think myself right, as I often do. As a writer and very introspective personality, I often try to out-think my emotions. Even in meditation, I will find myself trying to think through a problem, rather than simply sitting in silence with it. When we sit in silence with problems or ucky emotions, I know, we have a better chance of working through them, letting our intuition, our heart, our soul, whatever you want to call it, do the “thinking.” But that is easier said than done.

So, this morning I am reminded of a kriya that was especially recommended for me when I did my numerology through 3HO. I’m not yet sure how much stock I put in this, but what I read did make sense to my personality, and I welcome any form of guidance like that (If you are interested in getting your numerology, you can do it here). It specifically recommended this kriya for me –Balancing the Head and Heart, which did instantly speak to me.

Balance Heart And Mind

image from shamaninthecity.com

Kriya for Balancing the Head and Heart

Find it here, or in Kundalini Yoga by Shakta Kaur Khalsa

I have been working with this kriya on and off (this time of year is my favorite time to go for a run in the morning, so I sometimes switch out kriya for run) for the past couple weeks. It is short, but it will make you sweat!

Don’t forget to tune in, and also, although I’m sure you won’t after this one, don’t forget savasana, or resting on your back afterwards. I started with the minimum suggested times and am working my way up slowly to full times.

Meditation

This morning, I finished my sadhana with a meditation for the neutral mind. I know I write about the neutral mind a lot, because it is something I struggle with finding in my own life, and really connect with and enjoy the meditations for it. This morning I did Shabd Kriya, which I wrote about last week (in Conquering Sleep, Naturally)

Other good meditations for the neutral mind:

Kirtan Kriya

Bi-furcated Kirtan Kriya

Meditation for the Neutral Mind

I’ll leave you with the comments written with the last meditation (found in Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD and Cameron Stauth)

“It is easy to hear a truth, but difficult to live it –-imbed it deeply into your heart and mind. The Neutral Mind opens the gate to that deep remembrance of the self and soul. The Neutral Mind lives for the touch of vastness. It lets other thoughts be, without disturbing your inner light. Call on your higher self and keep going steadily through all barriers. Let it go and let it flow. See how the universe provides.”

I’ve said it before –yoga doesn’t take away all the bad feelings and make life all happy and grand, but it does make it better. A sadness and underlying worry did continue to hang over me today, but I was able to let go of some of that guilt and fear, replacing it with positive thoughts of him coming back in time instead of worst case scenarios.

Blessings to you on your journey.


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Class of the Week: Quick Set for the Glands and “Grit”

This is one of my go-to kriyas that I incorporate regularly into my practice. It’s a really powerful and energizing set, plus it can be done quickly. I usually practice it on days I don’t have as much time in the morning. It’s also got a great “built-in” meditation at the end, just enough to set you right for the day.

A healthy glandular system is so fundamental to your overall health. It is really good to incorporate a kriya that works on it into your repertoire. This set also works on the inner organs and is a great boost to your metabolism.

The kriya is called Build Up the Glandular System and Inner Organs. You can find it in Owner’s Manual for the Human Bodyor here. I couldn’t find any images, so please let me know in the comments below if you need further descriptions of any of the poses.

Notes on the kriya: I wanted to note that the version on the linked web site includes a fourth pose before the meditation that isn’t in the manual, which is what I use, so I have not done that. In the first pose your head is lifted, but still looking down towards the ground, you don’t need to strain it to look forward. You’ll want to make sure your back and legs are warmed up with some warm-up exercises (here’s some examples of good warm-ups).

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

This set will give you true grit, not like the movie, but like real life! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A note on the meditation at the end: You are silently repeating “Har” on the inhale and “Haree” on the exhale. Both words are different aspects of God (remember God can mean G.O.D., here’s a post about it) or the divine. “Har” is joing the Infinite within you and without. “Haree” calls upon the creative energy.

The instructions say that you chant each “about 84 times.” I don’t count while I’m doing this, I just repeat it as quickly as I can to fit as many in as I can on a very slow inhale and exhale (about 12 seconds each). With challenging instructions such as these, I just try to get as close as possible to what they tell me!

This is the comment at the end of the kriya: “This entire set will make your mind fresh, you’ll have ‘grit.’ It takes away fear and you’ll experience yourself, you’ll ‘feel’ yourself. Mind will heal itself. Body will heal itself.”

Sounds good to me!


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Class of the Week –Become Like an Angel and Heal

Becoming Like Angels is a beautiful and calming kriya. For some reason, I forget about it until this time of year. I guess I like the idea of feeling as light as an angel in the summertime.

Although this kriya’s intent is more than light-hearted. In Open Your Heart with Kundalini Yoga, by Siri Datta, she writes, “This kriya is for those who experience the ‘longing’ to make a difference for the evolution of humankind and the planet…This kriya will put you in tune with your Angelic Essence, where you will be able to access your mission and your message.”

Angel 013

(Photo credit: Juliett-Foxtrott)

Find full instructions for the kriya, with photos in an excerpt from the book by clicking here (pg. 162). It can also be found in Kundalini Yoga: Unlock Your Inner Potential Through Life-Changing Exercise, by Shakta Kaur Khalsa.

Rather than move directly into meditation the last exercise directs you to stretch, walk around, and talk for 2 minutes in order to ground yourself. This is essential, easily done in a class, but if I am practicing by myself I talk to myself, my cat, my houseplants. It’s ok to just talk, about anything that pops into your head.

Then what better meditation to end with than Healing with the Siri Gaitri Mantra, or Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung, found in The Aquarian Teacher Level One Instructor Manual, I also write about it here, and the full instructions can be found here. This is a beautiful meditation that is especially nice to do with music. Find Snatam Kaur’s deeply calming and healing version of it on her album Grace.

May you enjoy this healing practice for yourself, and anyone else you are meant to touch.


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Class of the Week: Strengthening Lungs, Circulation & Neutral Mind

Mt.fuji from R469 in Yuno

Mt.fuji, hopefully no snow when we do it (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, this week I’d like to share my personal practice –what I’ve been working on in the mornings lately. We’re planning to hike Mt. Fuji on our trip to Japan. I’ve never done a mountain at quite that altitude before, so I thought “what kind of yoga can I do to prepare?” I decided to focus on kriyas that work on strengthening the lungs and circulation. (I’ll let you know the results when we finish!).

Kriyas

New Lungs & Circulation

This kriya rebuilds the lungs and improves circulation throughout the body. This is a pretty vigorous kriya, more on the lines of an intermediate. But you can always start by cutting the times in half, or starting with the lower end of the time guidelines.

It uses lots of breath of fire, which is, of course, great for the lungs and circulatory system. Really use that breath to help you keep the poses –continue to draw yourself back to the focus on the breath when you start to wander or get tired.

Goalfinder Blood-circulatory-system

circulatory system (Photo credit: gfinder)

Note: You always want to stick with the listed times. You’re supposed to do it for that long for a reason. When you’re learning a new kriya, it’s ok to take breaks (while you do, you can visualize your body still doing the exercise), and cut the times in half. If you do do half times, do it for all the exercises. Always do the full kriya, don’t skip exercises.

Click here for full instructions for New Lungs & Circulation. I like the instructions for this set, because it tells you exactly what each separate exercises is working on. I got it out of The Aquarian Teacher Level One Instructor Manual.

This is another great one for the lungs: Preperatory Exercises for the Lungs, Magnetic Field and Deep Meditation, found here, as well as in the above manual.

Meditation

I also wanted to deepen my meditation practice a little more, and while I was working on the fourth chakra any way, thought it a good time to also explore the neutral mind, which is associated with the heart chakra.

This is another version of one of my favorites –Kirtan Kriya, called Bifurcated Kirtan Kriya, or Silent Clearing. You really feel like you go deep with this meditation, even in a short amount of time. I did it for 31 minutes.

It uses the same mantra –Sa Ta Na Ma as Kirtan Kriya, chanted silently. But the syllables are broken in two: Sa-a Ta-a Na-a Ma-a. Visualize the sound coming down through your crown chakra (top of your head), then coming out your third eye (sixth chakra), forming an “L.” So the first part of the sound “Sa” (or Ta, Na, Ma) is the vertical of the L, and the second “a” is the horizontal base. This link between the pituitary and pineal glands is known as the golden chord.

Find full instructions for Bifurcated Kirtan Kriya here.


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Class of the Week -Set for the Kidneys

Kidney

Kidney (Photo credit: Joshua Schwimmer)

This set has a special place in my heart. It was my first 40-day kriya, during my teacher training, chosen for us to work through as a group.

The kidneys can be the seat of some of our emotions that get stuck in the body, especially fear, but also sometimes sadness and others. Sometimes working on these physical exercises can bring things up. This is a great opportunity to release emotions. When they surface during yoga, they are really ready to be let go of. You don’t need to process through them with your mind. Your body is processing them, and releasing.

You can find instructions for Exercise Set for the Kidneys here.

The meditation is actually a part of the set. It is done to the mantra “Wahe Guru Wahe Jio.” This is a bit of a physically challenging meditation, in a pretty subtle way, but by the end of it you’ll be feeling it! In the comments, it says this meditation is the equivalent of 48 straight hours of exercise. That’s pretty good for 10 minutes!

There is a nice version of this mantra on the album, Mirabai Mountain Sadhana. You can find the CD at Spirit Voyage. I also sometimes search in itunes and am able to find just the one track, rather than purchasing the whole CD.

Using music in your practice can be really uplifting, and keep you going. All of the music found at Spirit Voyage is great for Kundalini yoga. Typically, we want to use Kundalini mantras as our “background” music, to keep the same energetic frequency that we are working with, rather than other types of music.

Don’t forget savasana (or corpse pose), where you lie on your back and your only job is to relax. You really need that after any yoga set. Also, drinking plenty water throughout the set and afterwards is a good idea.

Snatam Kaur Concert | 121106-4849-jikatu

the beautiful Snatam Kaur (Photo credit: jikatu via flickr)

Along with tuning in at the beginning of class with the Adi Mantra, it is important to end class or your personal session intentionally. I don’t think I talked yet about how to end a class or session. We always end class with the Long Time Sun Song. Find a lovely version by Snatam Kaur here. This is from her Grace CD.

The Long Time Sun Song is a great way to end your own personal practice, sending this blessing to yourself and to anyone else in your life who could use a little bit of the energy you just created in your practice.

Then we end by chanting 3 long Sat Nams. (Sat Nam=Truth is my name). The Sat is drawn out, and the Nam is shorter.

Related Articles:

Kundalini Yoga for the Kidneys, Spirit Voyage


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Class of the Week –Perfect for Beginners or Recapturing that Beginner’s Mind

After Sunday’s post on how I got into Kundalini yoga, it seems fitting to do a beginner’s class for this week. This is my favorite beginner kriya because it is a great overall workout, and many of the poses and breath techniques are pretty fundamental Kundalini and used in a lot of other kriyas or warm-ups. It’s also a great warm-up for a deeper meditation practice, and a kriya I find myself coming to when my own practice has strayed or gotten a little stale. The meditation is another great one for beginners because it really teaches you how to watch the breath. But it’s also great for anyone because it is very relaxing and a powerful stress reliever.

Don’t forget to tune in with the Adi Mantra before beginning. I just came across this great quote from Yogi Bhajan on the importance of this when asked if there is any time you don’t need to tune in with the mantra: “Is there anytime when a pipe is not fitted with the gas tank and you can fill the car? This mantra is for tuning the flow of personal energy with universal energy. That’s a fact.” (See this post for more tips on starting a practice.)

Kriya for Elevation

This kriya works systematically through all the chakras, starting with the lower ones and works on bringing that energy up to the higher chakras, where it is most useful to us. If you are a beginner, start with 1 minute for each exercise. If you’ve been practicing for a while, 3 minutes for each exercise makes this a really great tune-up for the body, and a very uplifting practice.

The kriya uses Breath of Fire for some of the poses. You can find an explanation of how to do this breath here. It also uses mulbandh, or root lock after some poses. Read about mulbandh here.

Find instructions on Kriya for Elevation here.

Meditation for a Calm Heart

Heart Hands

Calm Heart (Photo credit: D-Gernz)

I start with 3 minutes in a beginner class, but you can do it much longer. It works on the heart and lungs, and works on finding that still point within the heart. This is a great one to do if you find yourself in conflict in a relationship, with others, or with yourself.

Find instructions for this beautiful meditation here.

If you try this or have done it before, I’d love to hear your experience of it in the comments below. And of course, any questions as well.

Sat Nam!