The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


4 Comments

Focus on Eighth Chakra, the Aura –Protect and Project!

Most discussions on the chakra system include chakras 1-7, but in Kundalini yogic philosophy the aura is considered part of this system, as the eighth chakra. What is an aura? It is an electromagnetic field, surrounding the body of a person, animal or object. The aura combines the effects of all other chakras. It acts as a filter, filtering out negative influences –thus protection; and it establishes your sense of domain, your being –thus projection.

Notes on the eighth chakra: “When the [aura] is strong, and the other chakras are aligned and functioning well, your presence alone seems to work and direct many of the forces in the universe to effortlessly fulfill your desires and needs (The Aquarian Teacher).” When strong, your aura can fill a room!

Physically, it is associated with the skin. Since it acts as a protection or filter, working on the eighth chakra protects against illness. Strengthening the aura taps into our natural healing powers for ourselves and others. It connects us spiritually with the Infinite.

Yoga for the eighth chakra: Strengthening the Aura (found here). This quick kriya works on expanding the aura. It is good for digestion, and really works the arms and upper body. The times of each of the 3 exercises can be gradually built up. imagesThis kriya contains a fun and challenging exercise called “triangle push-ups,” as pictured here, but don’t worry they are easier than they look. Remember to keep your head down, looking out past your feet so you don’t strain your neck.

Meditation for the eighth chakra: Healing Meditation (found here). The mantra is “Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung.” In class we sang to Snatam Kaur’s beautiful version of this mantra (listen to it here). This song is found on her album “Grace,” an amazingly beautiful collection of songs and mantras.

While chanting this mantra you can think of someone in your life that could use some healing (this can be yourself) and visualize them in white light, while sending them the healing energy of this mantra.

“Ra” means sun energy; “Ma” is moon’s energy; and “Da” is earth. “Sa” is the energy of the cosmos, or the Infinite. And the last part, “Say So Hung,” connects you to the energy of the Infinite  -“I am Thou.” End by sending this prayer to the person you would like to give healing to.

image: Satsang Live

image: Satsang Live

Well, we have come to the end of our journey through the chakras. I have really enjoyed teaching and deepening my own experience of them. Thank you!

Is anybody trying out any of the kriyas or meditations? Did anyone discover, as I did, a particular chakra that could use a little tuning up?

Resources: Art and Yoga: Kundalini Awakening in Everyday Life, by Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa; The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD; Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth


2 Comments

Fifth Chakra Revisited – or My Struggles with Truth and Dharma

I wanted to share with you the article I wrote for elephant journal that was published yesterday: Rumi, Dharma & Passion.

I have been thinking a lot about dharma and passion lately, and as I was also thinking about the chakras, a pattern was beginning to emerge. The following post is sort of a Part 2 to the above article.

This blog has been such a blessing to my own practice. They say to really understand something teach it. For me, writing it is one step even further – I have experienced that to really understand something I must write it. I have always known this to be true, but too often I forget it. I have gone to the solace of a journal since I was a very young writer. Often when I have a problem I need to figure out, or even just to figure out what it is I am feeling, I go to my journal for clarity.

In writing this blog, I am able to go a little deeper into my understanding of yoga and the workings of it. This, of course, leads me deeper and deeper down a path where more questions arise, popping up like spring flowers. And I realize that I am still just skimming the surface of this beautiful practice.

For instance, writing these pieces on the chakras. In researching to write them and prepare to teach my weekly class, I am discovering more about my own chakra balances (and imbalances). Like a few weeks ago, fifth chakra. For some reason, that week I had needed a bit of a break from deep focus –so I told myself. I hadn’t prepared for my class as in-depth as usual, but it was a kriya I was quite familiar with, having done it for 40 days a few years ago, and I know about the fifth chakra — communication, easy, right?

I hadn’t been feeling particularly inspired that week, so I had put off writing the post. But then at 2 a.m. on a Friday night, writing called me out of bed. I didn’t even think I would end up writing that post, since it’s not what I initially started doing, but it’s where I needed to be. So, I started writing, and realized to write the kind of post I wanted I did need to do a little more reading to refresh my memory. Then all these things started popping out at me while I read.

Woops, now I see why I hadn’t felt inspired and “needed a bit of a break from deep focus” –I was avoiding. As I read I wondered, “Do I think maybe I need to work on these fifth chakra issues in myself?”

Yup, I do.

So what does my communication look like? Well, in my yoga classes recently I have been feeling like I’ve been having trouble articulating, explaining the poses, conveying what I want to convey. I often let the visual speak for itself, demonstrating the pose, without a lot of explanation. Most of us are more visual any way, but that verbal explanation often adds clarity and depth to the physical demonstration.

What really struck me, though, when I was reading about the fifth chakra, was the piece about speaking the truth. I have been struggling a bit with my dharma lately. Sure I have a really rewarding job, but quite often it doesn’t seem like the right fit, and I’m not sure why –is this job my dharma? And pretending to like it, pretending it’s what I want to be doing is not really speaking my truth. And that blocks energy, blocks us from healing ourselves and using that energy for its highest purpose.

image by: me

image by: me

Dharma is leading your true path, living your truth. And in order to live it, you need to first speak it. Here’s a great quote from Meditation as Medicine that ties together my recent thoughts on dharma, my long-standing belief that we are what we tell ourselves, and speaking truth:

Despite the power of fate, we are all ultimately what we will ourselves to be. Therefore, the throat chakra is also often perceived as the primary site of the will. After all, a great deal of willpower is needed to honestly and outwardly express the truth that lies within. While this truth is still inside, we are safe from backlash and criticism. But when we assert ourselves, and express our innermost feelings, we become vulnerable.

This vulnerability points once again to the importance of truthfulness. If our self-expression is based on truth, we will be ultimately aligned with the power of the universe, even if we do face worldly attack from our detractors. But if our self-expression is a lie, we will be ultimately aligned against the power of the universe. Only the truth survives. Only the truth endures.

Reframing My Truth:

Later this weekend, my boyfriend, always a wealth of subtle wisdom, helped me see something. Well, he says he has been saying this all along. So today I had actually come to the place where I could really hear what he was saying (another fifth chakra issue). He helped me see that life isn’t always as black and white as I make it out to be. Couldn’t I still find joy in this present job, on my present path, and that this path would lead me, maybe more gently, to another?

This is very Buddhist, the idea of being happy with where you are, finding happiness in any situation. And I tend to almost, sometimes, agree with this. Yet there is that part of me that feels like I need this unhappiness or dissatisfaction with my present state in order to propel me to move on. But his idea was just simply, move on, be happy where you are, and then, when you get to somewhere else be happy there too. Totally pouring water all over my black and white painting of my life I’d just constructed, graying it all up. But life happens in the gray matter, in that space between the certainty.

Also dharma may not equal paycheck. This is an important one to remember!

I don’t know; I’m still exploring these ideas, which are bringing up many more questions, so unfortunately this post can’t be wrapped up all nice and neatly. So I’ll just leave you with the references to the two books that inspired it:

Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD and Cameron Stauth;

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, by Stephen Cope

021

What are your thoughts on dharma?


9 Comments

Focus on Seventh Chakra –Opening up to the Infinite

Chakra

“The seventh chakra is associated with cosmic sound. There, the awakening of perception is like the shattering crash of a thousand simultaneous thunderstrokes (Yogi Bhajan).” Wow, that’s pretty intense! The seventh chakra is your direct line to the infinite. When open, it allows for the union of you and God, Infinity, whatever you choose to call it. With this comes surrender and humility.

Notes on the Seventh Chakra: The seventh is also called the crown chakra, Sahasrara, or tenth gate. It is located at the top of the head, where the soft spot was when you were a baby. Physically, it is associated with the pineal gland, and the brain, specifically the cerebral cortex, or the part of the brain that controls our cognitive functions. The pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep and seasonal cycles.

Seventh characteristics are intuition, cognition, and spirituality. Ailments of the seventh chakra include psychological and cognitive problems, chronic fatigue, and hypersensitivity.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Metaphysically, it is associated with our connection with our soul, with enlightenment. Imbalances in this chakra are associated with grief, fear of death, a feeling of separateness from the world. When balanced, you are connected with all.

Yoga for the Seventh Chakra: Foundation for Infinity kriya. This is another fun and invigorating kriya that I have really enjoyed practicing. You can find it here. Don’t forget to tune in with the Adi Mantra, “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” before beginning any Kundalini yoga set and meditation.

Meditation for the Seventh Chakra: In class we did the meditation at the end of Foundation for Infinity kriya, and relaxed while listening to the gong. All meditation is good for the seventh chakra, especially to the sound of the gong (think of that shattering crash of a thousand simultaneous thunderstrokes”).

Meditating to the sound of a gong can be an intense experience, but also a very healing and cleansing one. “Under the pressure of that sound, you have the choice: to let go and surrender or to contract and pull out of the experience (Yogi Bhajan).” During a gong meditation, a lot of subconscious crap you don’t need can be released if you can allow and surrender.

Resources: Art and Yoga: Kundalini Awakening in Everyday Life, by Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa; The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD; Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth; Wikipedia

The seventh chakra is often represented as a rainbow 1,000-petaled lotus. (image credit: iantonana on photobucket.com)

The seventh chakra is often represented as a rainbow 1,000-petaled lotus. (image credit: iantonana on photobucket.com)


8 Comments

Focus on Sixth Chakra -Fight Brain Drain

Pituitary and pineal glands

The brain is such an amazing structure! And within it are so many more even smaller amazing structures. Take the pituitary gland, the size of a pea (actually not a part of the brain, but hanging from the base of it), it controls growth, blood pressure, metabolism, functioning of sex organs, thyroid and adrenals, water balance in the body, temperature regulation and pain relief. And the sixth chakra is connected to this little guy, so working on the sixth chakra is beneficial to basically all body systems, not to mention cognitive function, and intuition –some good stuff!

Notes on the sixth chakra: The sixth chakra, also known as the third eye, is located just behind the forehead at the brow point. When we close our eyes and focus at our third eye in meditation we are focusing on the sixth chakra, as well as stimulating the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is known as the “master gland” and controls all other glands and hormone production. This chakra is also associated with the brain and eyes. Health problems related to the sixth chakra include migraines, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, brain cancer, depression, and anxiety.

The third eye is the eye that sees beyond this world, the house of intuition. We can act with confidence from this place of decision.

Yoga for the sixth chakra: Pituitary Gland Series is a great sixth chakra kriya. It is a fairly short and energizing kriya that can really clear your head. It is a great preparation for meditation. See how to do it here.

Meditation for the sixth chakra: Meditating to the sound of “Ong” is good for the sixth chakra. “Ong,” meaning Creator, is the sound out of which creativity flows. When we chant this sound it vibrates in the nasal passage, stimulating the pituitary. This chant is used in the following simple and powerful meditation found in Meditation as Medicine. I have been practicing this before bed the last couple nights, then falling quickly into a deep easy sleep.

Meditation for Mental Fatigue

Posture: Sit in easy pose (cross-legged) or in a chair with a straight spine.

Focus: Eyes are closed and focused at the third-eye point.

Breath: The breath comes automatically as you chant.

Mantra: A long Ong, drawing out each sound in the syllable, chanted monotone, with your mouth open but the air flowing through your nose as you chant. The sound is far back and up in the soft palate, giving it a nasal quality.

mudra for Meditation for Mental Fatigue

mudra for Meditation for Mental Fatigue

Mudra: Place your ring fingers together and interlace all the other fingers, right thumb on top of the left. Hold your hands several inches out from your diaphragm with the ring fingers pointed upward at a 60 degree angle.

Time: 3 minutes

End: Inhale deeply, hold your breath for 10-20 seconds, exhale, and relax.

Comments: This Medical Meditation should only be done when you can relax afterward. Done correctly, it is very effective against brain drain. It also imparts a balanced mental state, and can give you absolutely powerful energy.

Me again: When we can release the mental fatigue that we build up through our over-busy lives, we create room for the energy we need.

Don’t forget to tune in with “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” before yoga and meditating, and to relax afterwards!

And enjoy your new-found energy! Chakra

Resources: Art and Yoga: Kundalini Awakening in Everyday Life, by Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa; The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD; Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth; Wikipedia


1 Comment

Focus on Fifth Chakra -the art of communication, self-expression & speaking your truth

Chakra

This week we focused on the fifth chakra, also called the throat chakra, important for communication (both speaking and listening), creative expression, and the expression of your personality/self expression.

Some notes on the fifth chakra: Located behind the throat, the fifth chakra is associated with the throat, mouth and thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulate metabolism, and hypothalamus, which controls metabolism, the autonomic nervous system, and regulates hunger, thirst, sleep, and circadian rhythms. Thus, maladies of the fifth chakra include hyper- or hypothyroidism, low energy or fatigue, laryngitis, laryngeal and esophageal cancer, and TMJ pain. Some other associations with this chakra include: anger, truthfulness, decisiveness, and willpower.

Its governing element is ether, or ethereal energy. This is where the fifth chakra gets it subtlety from. We can think of ether as that invisible matter that makes up the universe, or what the world emerged from. This concept is closely associated with sound vibration –think “In the beginning was the word (John 1:1).” Yes, kind of; in the beginning, there was vibration. In humans, the fifth chakra is the house for our vibrations –our voice box, or larynx.

Here’s a great quote from Meditation as Medicine that speaks to the more ethereal qualities of the fifth chakra: “your tongue, and your voice, must speak the truth. This is simply another way of saying that your words must clearly state what is inside you, since your core being is truth. Thus, not only does the fifth chakra empower your ability to speak the truth, but truth empowers the fifth chakra.”

So speaking your truth both comes from and strengthens the fifth chakra. And of course the opposite is true as well, speaking lies, being dishonest with yourself and others blocks that energy in the fifth chakra, preventing it from rising up to the higher chakras, where it is most useful to us.

It’s associated with creativity, primarily the expression of our creativity. So creativity starts in the second chakra, kind of that raw creativity, the passion, but in order to bring it to fruition, or full expression, we need the fifth chakra.

Yoga for the fifth chakra: Wahe Guru Kriya. This is a unique and fun kriya; while in each pose or exercise we also use our voice in chanting. For most of the kriya we chant Wahe Guru, which is an exclamation that can be translated to “God is great!” or “Yay, the universe is awesome!” During the last two exercises, “Sa Ta Na Ma” is either whispered (that subtlety again) or chanted aloud. Sa=birth, Ta=life, Na=death, Ma=rebirth; the fundamental process of our life cycles, the universe, and life itself, but also a process we continually go through throughout our life and in the creative process, in major and minor ways. You can find illustrations and a full description of this kriya here.

Meditations for the fifth chakra: Any meditation with mantra. Chanting “Sat Nam,” truth is my identity, is a great one for the fifth chakra. This can be done by inhaling then extending the “Sat” (Saaaaaaat) for most of the breath, and the “Nam” is shorter. We typically end class with 1-3 of these, but you can chant it in meditation for as long as you’d like.

Conversely to chanting, silence is also a good practice for the fifth chakra, particularly if you are finding it difficult to speak your truth or are full of negative thoughts or self-talk. Experiment with silence, play with it, meditate in it, take a break from speaking and see what comes up.

Resources: Art and Yoga: Kundalini Awakening in Everyday Life, by Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa; The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD; Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth


4 Comments

Focus on Fourth Chakra –Opening the Heart

I find myself focusing a lot on this chakra, both in my own practice and while teaching. I guess I feel like you can’t go wrong with opening your heart, and no matter how open you think it is, there is always more room for expansion.
Anahata chakra symbolizes the consciousness of...
Notes on the fourth chakra: Also known as the heart chakra, located behind your heart, this chakra is associated with, you guessed it, the heart, also the lungs and thymus, which controls our immune system. So, physical ailments associated with this chakra include heart and lung problems, breast cancer, and impaired immunity.

The color it is associated with is green. When you are meditating on the heart chakra, you can visualize yourself surrounded by and radiating green light. This chakra is associated with compassion, love, grief, forgiveness, trust, and pride. Its element is air, which makes sense since the lungs are in this area, but also in the fourth chakra we begin to move up the chain, out of the lower and more concrete chakras into the ethereal. It is a subtle point of balance between the energies of the Heavens and the lower energies of the Earth.

This is the first chakra where we begin to feel awareness, more than just self-focus for survival, but self-awareness and awareness of others –our sense of Self with a capital S, the Self that is the same in all of us. When it is balanced we have a great sense of compassion, and can speak truth from the heart. When it is imbalanced we may be too sympathetic (if it is overactive), or too dependent on others (if it is underactive). It is strongly associated with the neutral mind (click here for a discussion on the neutral mind).

Yoga for the fourth chakra: Since the fourth chakra is associated with lungs and air, any pranayama, or breath work, is beneficial for it. We began class with Pranayam Energizer Series, which is a series that begins with breath of fire, then long deep breathing, whistle breath (inhaling through puckered lips, exhaling through nose), more breath of fire, and breath awareness (meditating on the flow of breath as it settles back into its natural rhythm). Find the full description and times here.

The kriya we did, another favorite of mine, was The Essence of Self (click here for a full description with pictures), found in Kundalini Yoga: Unlock Your Inner Potential Through Life-Changing Exercise, by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (by the way, a great introductory book if you are looking for one, with some nice kriyas and meditations for both beginners and intermediate students). It is a nice fairly short kriya that I think is pretty fun, and appropriate for beginners (Just another aside, all of the kriyas and meditations I post, unless otherwise specified, are appropriate for beginners).

I’ll just share the comments that go with this kriya with you: “This series of exercises guides the pranic life force through the body to the heart center, ‘opening’ the heart so that you can give and receive love without fear, anger, or resentment. This state of compassion is the essence of self. When feeling weighted down by the scars and disappointments of life, this kriya will help you sense the broader reality of which you are a part. All possibilities open to you when you live from the essence of self. Physically, this kriya releases tension, strengthens digestion, and opens the lungs.”

This kriya has a “built-in” meditation at the end, but here is another favorite fourth chakra meditation of mine I’d like to share (you can also read about it here):

Meditation to Open the Heart:

Posture: Sit in easy pose (cross-legged) with a nice straight spine.

Eye Gaze: Closed eyes focused at the brow point.

Mantra: “Sat Kartaar.” Chant each syllable of this mantra as you move to each position of the hands. “Sat,” hands are together at your chest, in prayer pose. “Kar,” hands are facing forward in front of your shoulders. “Taar,” arms are out, parallel to the ground, palms facing outward in opposite directions. Continue chanting this mantra aloud with each hand position, moving fluidly. (click here to see pictures of hand positions)

Time: No specific time. 3-11 minutes is a good start.

End: No specified end, but a nice way to end any meditation is with a deep breath as you raise the hands overhead. Briefly hold the breath and exhale. Inhale continuing to hold your arms overhead, hold, exhale and shake out your hands and arms. Repeat once more. Relax.

Comments: If you feel your heart is closed and there is no flow of love, and you want to open your heart, do this meditation.

As always, you’ll want to tune in before practicing with “Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo.” Also, don’t leave out the relaxation at the end, either between the kriya and meditation or after meditation. Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides, palms facing skyward, and just relax –let go. Relaxation, or savasana, is just as important as the other exercises in your yoga. It helps you relax more deeply, but also helps your body assimilate the exercises you just did. To get the full benefits of every other pose don’t skip corpse pose!

Enjoy this lovely practice and discover what vast capacity we have to love –love ourselves, love each other, love all. Isn’t that really all we need?

source: Google images

source: Google images

Next week we will continue our journey through the chakras, entering the upper triangle.

Resources: The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD; Kundalini Yoga: Unlock Your Inner Potential Through Life-Changing Exercise, by Shakta Kaur Khalsa; Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth


1 Comment

Focus on Third Chakra –Strengthening Sense of Self and Will Power

Chakra

This week we worked on the third chakra in my Kundalini Yoga class with one of my favorite kriyas and a really calming meditation.

Notes on the third chakra: The third chakra, or solar plexus is located behind the navel (picture a mini sun).  The physical systems and organs it affects are the adrenals, kidneys, pancreas, liver, upper intestines, and stomach. Fire is the element it is associated with, so we can think of that fire fueling the rest of our being, just as this area converts nutrients into energy for our body. The third chakra is where we hold our sense of self, and self-esteem. This chakra is where we draw our power and strength from, our will power.

Physical ailments of the third chakra include ulcers, stomach, intestinal or liver problems. Greed is a negative association of the third chakra; as well, different internal organs can hold different negative emotions. The kidneys are associated with fear, and the liver with anger, so if these organs are not in balance, these emotions may be prevalent. When there is an imbalance in the third chakra we may either have a controling personality, or feel as if we have no control. When the third chakra is balanced we don’t just make plans, but we have the will and energy to act upon and execute them.

Kriyas for the third chakra: Lots of ab work! This includes Nabhi Kriya (click here for link to instructions), and the one we did in class, which is a little less ab intense –Nabhi Kriya for Prana/Apana (found here).  Nabhi means a focus on the navel. Prana is breath, or the energy of inhalation, and apana is its opposite force, or the energy of exhalation, elimination. So, good to have a balance between the two. This is a favorite kriya of mine. I just love the last sequence that focuses on healing energy of the hands. It is really beautiful.

And if you only have 1-3 minutes to work on your third chakra you can just do stretch pose (find instructions and description here). This is a great Kundalini exercise, especially to do when you first wake up. A quick little way to get your energy up, and feel your inner power.

Don’t forget to tune-in before meditation and yoga with “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” (listen to the mantra here).

Special Meditation for the Third Chakra (from Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD and Cameron Stauth)

Posture: Sit with legs crossed, or in a chair with a straight spine

Focus: Eyes are gazing at the tip of your nose.

Mantra: Hummee Hum, Brahm Hum.” The chanting is done with the tip of the tongue. Meaning: “We are we, and we are one.” On a higher spiritual level, it means we are already everything we need to be.

Mudra: prayer pose. All parts of the palms are touching and pressing together with equal force. Every time you chant “Hummee Hum, Brahm Hum,” press your hands together, pull the navel in, and then release. Make sure you chant each word with the tip of the tongue. The hand press is a compression like the beat of the heart.

Time: 11 minutes

End: Inhale and hold the breath, pull in your navel and press the tip our your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Hold for 15 seconds and exhale. Repeat this sequence two more times.

chakra_figure

image by Gina Rose Halpern, found on Google

Next week, one of my favorite chakras to work on –the heart chakra.

Resources: Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, and Cameron Stauth; and The Aquarian Teacher: Level One Instructor Textbook, Yogi Bhajan, PhD.