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The 5 Prana Vayus – A Guest Post

Boston-area yoga teacher Erica Magliaro is writing in with a guest post!

She went down to Costa Rica awhile back at my suggestion to study with our teachers, Don and Amba Stapleton, and she came back a fabulous yoga teacher!

She’s offering classes in Brookline, and also Pranassage, which is yummy yoga massage. Check out her website for details.

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Ever find yourself in pigeon pose, jaw clenched, shoulders tense, unable to relax?
What about lying in savasana, trying to focus but instead mulling over your last conversation with your boss or your significant other?

My teacher has always said, ‘Where the mind goes, Prana flows’, but what happens when we get stuck?  Sometimes we find ourselves unable to release physically and/or mentally.    Even as a yoga teacher, I can be as guilty of this as the next person….so when I get stuck, I like to remind myself of Prana at work:

Prana is our life force, the energy that flows through our bodies.  It is broken down into five forces, called the Prana Vayus:

1)  Apana is the downward moving energy in our bodies, grounding us.  Gravity is a simple example of apana.

2)  The next force of Prana is prana (lower-case ‘p’), which is the upward moving energy, or buoyancy, that counter-acts apana.  For me, I can really feel apana and prana at work in Tree Pose…being grounded in the feet, roots growing through the earth…but the buoyancy and lift of the body skywards.

3)  Samana is the third force of Prana, spiraling at our belly center.  It represents the energy of absorption, the fire of digestion, either physical and emotional.  This could be undigested lunch, or a difficult conversation you can’t get out of your head!

4)  Udana is the next force of Prana, representing the energy of sound and communication, giving us the ability to express our experience.

5)  Last but not least is vyana.  Vyana corresponds to the energy pathways in our body, connecting us to ourselves and to others.

I’ve been fortunate enough to fully experience Prana through the giving and receiving of Pranassage, an amazing blend of assisted yoga and massage.  The whole idea is that through touch, pressure, and postures, Prana is made easier to feel, allowing us to truly let go into deep relaxation with awareness of our experience.

So the next time you find yourself clenching in a pose or being distracted, try to remind yourself that it’s okay to let go and focus on the present moment…..allowing Prana to flow.

Namaste,

Erica

The 5 Prana Vayus

The 5 Prana Vayus

To Speak or Not to Speak

 

It’s interesting – people ask me for advice a lot.   Pregnant women ask me about how to induce labor.  Yoga students ask me about how often to practice in the studio versus at home.   Friends ask me about the strange click that’s started happening in their knee. 

 

Sometimes I think of my teacher Don Stapleton, whom I often observed was really good at listening to someone but not telling them *what to do.*   In all of the above scenarios, I could easily just tick off a matter of fact answer – “Do this” or “Practice that”.   And I admit, sometimes that’s my answer.  But I don’t want to *be* that person, that know it all, who can’t just listen and really hear the person.   In all those scenarios, I could also ask them a question back, and that could really spark an interesting conversation where I am not the “expert” dispensing advice.  If we can have a dialogue as peers, maybe we’ll both learn something along the way. 

 

On the other hand, sometimes you have something to say!  Recently, I’ve had some of the above experiences, where I’ve noticed myself trying to listen and not dictate back.   And the flip side of the coin, is that sometimes in recent weeks I’ve really needed to stand up for myself and tell someone something that is important but difficult – “You didn’t treat me well in this situation.”   “I need this from you.”  “I’m sorry, I can’t do that – I’m too busy”.  

 

It’s a funny balancing act – being aware enough to not speak where you don’t need to, and to speak when you do.   To speak softly in certain situations, and to be willing to roar if needed in others.   

 

So what are the postures I use when I want to be clear in myself, and say what I need to say, but not say too much?   First and foremost, backbends help me tremendously in opening the Throat Chakra (Ajna Chakra).   I find that so key in making my way through emotions so that I can get to the other side and speak my mind in a clear voice.   One of the most helpful is actually a relatively simple backbend, Fish Pose (Matsyasana).  I also like the corresponding Bridge Pose (Setu Bhanda)  to help keep me grounded.   These are great preparations for deeper backbends, which I often want to practice for the amazing sense of strength they impart to me.   In general, practicing yoga has helped me build fortitude, and a sense of when it’s time to speak and when it’s not.

 

Also this Yoga Journal article is great, and gives a hint at Lion’s Pose (Simhasana), which is wonderful if you’re someone who needs to speak your truth more.  

 

Finally, my partner has been encouraging me to read Difficult Conversations for awhile (not because he thinks I need it!  Just because it’s been so helpful for him).  I’ll be on a plane for awhile this weekend, so I’m going to try to read it.  I’ll let you know how it goes, and what, if anything, I find yogic about it. 

 

Namaste, and look forward to listening to you speak your truth!

 

Barrett

Dismantling the Armor

 

A favorite teacher of mine has an article called “Dismantling the Armor” that I read once a year or so.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

“Like the armadillo, we are clad in a protective cloak of armor that clings to our bones and keeps the world at bay. In the human body, this cloak is the buildup of thickened muscular padding primarily around the shoulders, neck, buttocks, and legs. This armor protects against outside forces, both real and imaginary, warding off the unwanted and guarding our inner self.

The practice of yoga melts our armoring, increases our range of motion, and releases us from our physical and psychological burdens.”

–          Tias Little, from Yoga International November 2003

 

When you have a chunk of time, you may want to read the entire article here, because it’s very enlightening.  I think about this when I look around at people, especially because I teach yoga everyday.

 

I think about it in reference to myself, too.  We each have ways in which we’re protecting ourselves from the big bad world, right?   I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve read Lin-Ann’s guest posts over the past few months.  It takes a lot of courage to allow your armor to be dismantled – it’s there for a reason!  

 

In the end, though, all that defensiveness weighs us down.  In ways that feel appropriate and safe for us today, it’s a good idea to practice becoming undefended.  It will feel vulnerable, but it will also feel releasing.  Over time, with practice, the evolution continues and more of our armor will melt away.   I love that yoga is a process that continues for weeks, months, years, our whole life. 

 

You can find out more about Tias Little (a teacher I’ve studied with several times) at:  http://www.tiaslittle.com/

 

The magazine that originally published this is here:

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/yogaplus/

 

Enjoy your practice,

 

Barrett

 

The Yoga of Taxes

 

It’s tax season, and for some of us, this isn’t a big deal.  And for others, it’s a yearly purgatory. I’ve noticed some of my friends on Facebook posting in their status that they’re in “tax hell.”  Growing up in my family, tax time was full of tension as the business owners in my family struggled with accountants.  

 

This year, as I am personally working on my relationship with money management, tax time reminds me that we can use the valuable lessons we learn from yoga in this realm of our life as well.  Yoga Journal has this article about how the ethical principles of yoga, called the yamas and the niyamas, can help us create a healthy relationship with money.   Some of the yamas and niyamas mentioned include non-stealing, non-hoarding, truthfulness, moderation, and self-study.   

 

In the article, a financial advisor who uses yoga in his work says that money “can become a bell of awakening in your yoga practice just by watching how you react to it. Where am I holding tension in my body as I do this transaction, pay bills, watch my portfolio increasing or decreasing? All of these are just opportunities to be conscious.”

 

We all have our pitfalls.   We all have that yoga posture that makes us groan and protest when it comes up in class.   On the flip side, we all have parts of life (and parts of yoga) that are easy for us.  I find myself turning to yoga more and more to help me through those more difficult parts of my life.  

 

Thinking about this has inspired me to get one of the books mentioned in the Yoga Journal article out of the library. When I decided to work for myself and teach full-time 4 years ago, I read several books that really helped me gain perspective about creating a financially abundant practice.   

 

This year, I feel the fruits of that sustained yoga practice working in my financial life.   I am not in “tax hell,” though I have been in previous years.   I didn’t even complain too much about the project :) 

 

 

 

 

A Balancing Act

 

I read this interesting article a week or two ago, and it has me thinking. The author is a well-know Iyengar teacher named Aadil Palkhivala, and it’s about creating a yoga practice that works for you, not just one that seems good on paper.   He maintains that most of us are out of balance in some way, so the correct practice for us may “appear to be imbalanced to the untrained observer.”   But in reality, it’s perfect for what we need in that moment.   What we need to do is create a practice that balances *us.* 

 

How do you do that when you’re in a class being led by a teacher?  And for that matter, as a teacher, how does one teach so that each student can figure out for him/herself an individually balanced practice?

 

The rest of his article goes on to talk about ways to use the Ayurvedic doshas to help you figure out what you need in your yoga practice.   There are three doshas (types) in Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga).   The type is based on your physical characteristics as well as your personality.  In Ayurveda, it’s helpful to know what your dosha is, either Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, because that will help you learn how to keep yourself  in better balance.  I’ve been surprised over the years how accurate dosha balancing suggestions have been for me. 

 

To find out your dosha, take this quick quiz  There are several others online, but this one is short J

 

One thing to think about that this article did not mention is that we are a combination of all the doshas, and therefore we are out of balance in different ways at different times.   He mentions that each of us have a dominant constitution in Ayurveda.   That’s true, and that doesn’t really change over our lives, but often we’re a combination of 2 out of the 3 doshas when we’re given our “diagnosis” of our constitution.  For example, I’m Pitta-Vata.  I’m a pretty even mix of the two, and right now, Vata is more out of balance for me than Pitta (The quiz just told me that – and I concur!).  I know that I feel out of balance on all 3 at times, and have really different home practices throughout each month or season as a result. 

 

Now, if you’re thinking this is mumbo-jumbo, take a pause.  This is just a way to ascertain who you are and how you act in the world, and consequently, the ruts you sometimes get caught in.  And I guess this is why I love home practice so much.   The more you practice, the more you know yourself.  The more you know yourself, the more you know how to balance yourself out – and you’ll probably be surprised that it’s the same prescription over and over again as we fall into the same ruts :).  And the more you know all this, the more insight you can gain from any yoga you practice, whether in a class or on your own.

 

Enjoy your practice!

 

Barrett  

 

 

Get Curious

Finally, the Odyssey has started, and I can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to life!   Of course, I’m sending emails every day and keeping it all going, but that’s easier than all the preparations for it!

I thought I’d share our Day 1 email of the Odyssey, because it’s good for everyone to think about.   It’s about staying interested and curious in your practice.   Enjoy!

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To start us off, I want to invite you to get curious about your experience today, and everyday.  Often our tendency is to be judgmental, about our abilities, our commitment level, our space, etc.  Instead, my hope is that each of us can cultivate seeing our practice from a really interested, *curious* place of inquiry.
 
One of my teachers’ favorite things to say in their trainings is, “Isn’t that interesting?”   They say it all the time, with many different inflections.   For example, you might notice your left leg is a lot tighter than your right.   “Isn’t that interesting?”   You might notice that you feel really crabby 3 weeks into the training, when your body is sore and you haven’t seen your friends and family in a long time.   “Isn’t that interesting?”   
 
What they are teaching us is to stay open to receiving information.  When we judge ourselves – “I’m so inflexible”, “That injury will never heal”, “Why am I such a crybaby?” –  we stop the learning and the inquiry.   On the other hand, when we are curious to find out exactly what happens on our mats, a whole new way of learning about ourselves opens up.   We might even learn something about how we act in the world off our mats as well.
 
So, with that in mind, practice today noticing everything and finding it all interesting.  What are your feelings as you approach your practice? What are the actual sensations as you’re in the posture? What is it like to practice with the pictures, or the audio file, or from your own head?   Notice as much as you can, without judgment, and with a genuine curiosity to learn more!
 
Enjoy your practice,

Barrett

Yoga Stories

 

 

One thing I love to do in class is explain why postures are named the way they are, or what the story behind a posture is.  I’ve been reading other blogs as part of this foray into blogging, and I found a new and interesting yoga story in my reading.

 

Recently, the blog Grounding Through the Sit Bones talked about the 3 Warrior postures (Virabhadrasana).   It was an interesting post because we usually think about the legs in these postures, and she focused on the arm positioning.  She’s also writing very interesting posts on postures in general, which I find interesting as I explore what I want to write here.  Thus far, in this blog and in my online Yoga Odyssey program, I haven’t written a lot about techniques of asana, but it’s really good to see that someone else does!

 

In one of the comments on the Warrior post, someone referenced why the three warrior poses are linked together, and pointed everyone here.   A well-known yoga teacher from NYC, who I’ve studied with, wrote an article about the mythology around Virabhadra, the Warrior for whom the postures are named. Part of the article talks about the arm positioning, which brought it all back to what the yogi at Grounding Thru the Sit Bones was writing about.   It was a fascinating article to me and I practiced the postures yesterday thinking about it. 

 

Maybe you’ll practice Warriors today as well.   I hope so!

 

Namaste,

 

Barrett

NOW

 

 

The first Yoga Sutra is often overlooked because at first blush it sounds like it’s just simply the introduction to the real stuff to come.   

 

“Now, the practice (or discipline) of yoga.”

 

Utha Yoga Nusashanam

 

What I love about this is the first word.   NOW.  Not tomorrow, and not next month.  Now.  Whether you can get on the mat or not.  Now.  Begin it now. 

 

This helps me in so many ways!   Not even just with yoga practice, but with whatever task I have ahead of me.   I try to be present NOW, and it helps me know what I need and want to do.

 

This, for me, is another example of yoga helping me off the mat. That is one of the joys of yoga, seeing it help us live our lives more fully. 

 

Namaste,

 

Barrett

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