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We started class this week with three “Aums” (aka Om) to awaken our throat chakra. This was revisited at the end of class to close the class and to check in again with the state of our throat chakra. For the most part, it was much easier to let the sound flow after having worked on unblocking our self-expression through yoga.

Aum is the primordial sound– the sound that started the universe, that which required no two objects to be struck together. To simply listen to this sound, to feel the vibrations though one’s body, to let the sound part our lips and leave: this is balancing, this reconnects mind and body, drawing us inwards and beyond, bathing us in vibration and healing.

We concentrated a lot on the shoulders and the neck today: an area of much tension in our world. Although posture and lifestyle plays a large role in the development of our tight muscles, it is also said that it is the constant intake of noise and sound around us in our modern world that creates stress within, not easily discharged to the same magnitude. We don’t often get to express this energy within as often as we take in the energy around us- creating blockages in our fifth chakra, and tension in the surrounding area.

We worked on gentle neck and shoulder stretches to begin this week’s class, to gently coax the muscles to soften and allow for more movement in the area. Once we got into sun salutations, we switched to greater openings: cracking our heart open in a low lunge, bringing our arms behind and over in warrior stance (see here for a beautiful demonstration), and revisiting¬†Salabhasana (from last week). Much heart opening ensued, as expression can only happen if one’s heart is open enough to let it flow!

We then added many Dolphin variations to start to come into a deeper opening in the shoulders, the heart, and the neck. Melting our heart towards the flow brings our shoulders on the back, the tension away from the trapezius muscles and the scalenes of the neck, and strengthens the rhomboids and all the muscles of the shoulder girdle. This brought us in a partner pose to further shape our bodies and prepare us for achieving Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose)… one day.

With these open shoulders, we explored a deeper lunge with a greater heart opening (either here or here) before we progressed to an ecstatic Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)… my most favorite pose for expressing all that creative energy that is buried deep within. Let it shine!

Each of us, at all times, is vibrating inside. We each have our own unique frequency, and, depending on the day and our state of mind, our vibratory waves can be strong and flowing or meek and scattered… or anywhere in between. The fifth chakra, Vissudha chakra (meaning “purification”) is in charge of the expression of our inner vibration. As we move into the higher chakras, we break away from structure and form and into the abstract. We move into the world of the mind.

“The symbol strikes its roots in the most secret depths of the soul; language skims over ths urface of the understanding like a soft breeze… Words make the infinite finite; symbols carry the mind beyond the finite world of becoming into the realm of infinite being.” ~ J.J. Bachofen

The Right to Speak and be Heard

A balanced fifth chakra allows the creativity and our inner self to get out into the world. Where the second chakra was focused on opening the sensory gates to let IN information, the fifth chakra opens the gates to the outside, leading to even further movement outside of ourselves and into the universe. Communication is the essential function of this chakra; sound is it’s element. If one has been quieted all their lives, they are forced to shut down at this chakra, or made to tell lies to cover truths that may not be accepted. As with all other chakras, trauma to this chakra can result in a deficiency or an excess. We may shut down the voice, only speaking when necessary and with over self-consciousness and irresolution. On the other hand, we may build up a defense in which we can talk excessively to discharge extra energy and avoid feelings with excessive verbiage.

Resonance

Anyone who has sung in a choir, played music in a band, or even just listened to their favorite tunes knows that there is something magic that happens when two or more voices/instruments strike chords at the same frequency. Resonance is a state of synchronization between vibrating patterns. Thus, if we are all vibrating, this means resonance can also apply to our lives. The upper chakras allow us into a world of symbols: words, images, and thoughts. Each symbol also has a vibration… and when a symbol really speaks to us, we can say we resonate with it. We all can identify that song that touches us deep within, that quote that we can strongly identify with, that one word that makes us smile from the heart. These packets of meaning were once stored in someone else’s mind– and then shared with others through the wonders of Visshudha chakra. The state of resonance within and without is a statement of our health and vitality. Opening to resonance requires grounding and flexibility, just as a guitar string needs to be both taut and flexible. This balance allows us to both listen and respond at the same time, and is what makes human life so unique.

“If it is true that you are what you eat, it may just as accurately be said that you are what you listen to.” ~ Steven Halpern

Visshudha Chakra Homework: We are all creative in our very own way. Whether you express it by talking to friends; through journalling; through a pen, paintbrush, or pencil; a guitar, a piano, or your voice; in your garden or through your yoga practice– this week, make sure you take time at least once to express yourself. Express yourself for no one but you– attach no goal to the outcome, evaluate nothing.

Wear bright blue.

We move upwards in the energetic body; thus, our practice also moves upwards in the body. This week, we endeavor to stretch and pry open our hearts, create space within for others, while holding onto the awareness of our lower chakras. With the security, passion, and motivation that we have already created in opening up chakras one, two, and three, we start to think beyond our primal needs and experiences. We started by bringing attention to our spine, trying to open up each vertebra and exaggerate our movements (especially that of sinking our hearts) with a cat-cow progression. Threading one arm underneath the other and coming to rest on our shoulder and cheek from all fours (“Threading the Needle“-asana), we start to stretch out the shoulder capsule and twist our spines.

In our sun salutations, we incorporate heart opening backbends through our thoracic spines by interlacing our hands behind our head in high lunge, or taking our arms back behind us in urdhva hastasana. Standing side bends also help lengthen out our tight muscles that hold our ribs together– creating more space for breath, expansion, and lightness of being.

On our bellies, we explored superman/superwoman pose as a salambhasana preparation, and full salambhasana (locust pose)– reaching our arms out behind us literally “cracks” our hearts open and brings more movement into our shoulders and rib cage. Ahhh! To breathe in deeply!

Finally, we ended up back in some low lunges to explore more heart opening at an even deeper level. Whether we stayed in anjaneyasana with arms up or down, or proceeded to a deeper opening into a lunge with thigh stretch, or fully cracked open into this, our practice ended with full integration or our first four chakras. Keep this spirit through the rest of the week!

We now come to our middle- the fourth chakra, Anahata chakra. We have spent 3 weeks setting the foundation for growth into a world that is more interactive, in which we are starting to reach out beyond ourselves. With security, desire, and action (Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus Chakras), we move outward into the world and past ourselves. The heart chakra is the middle ground between Heaven and Earth, between the necessary grounding in individualism built in the lower chakras and the expansion into a universal consciousness that the upper chakras promote. Thus, Anahata chakra is all about balance: taking and giving, loving and being loved, empathy and self-protection.

The Right to Love and Be Loved

As in our bodies, love holds the world together. We have all heard the songs… “Love makes the World go Round…” Without love, there is no integration; without the heart chakra, there is no connection between our roots pushing towards the earth and our beautiful green branches pushing up towards the heavens. The act of reaching out to others to share our life experiences requires a healthy, stable foundation in the first three chakras; yet, it also requires that extra compassion and consideration that comes with discovering relationships. To be loved by another increases our own self-worth and fuels an awakening that has inspired songwriters, artists, authors, poets throughout human history.

Balance

Love is certainly about balance- this is something we often forget when getting caught up in the drama, the ups and downs, and the occasional roller-coaster ride that we experience in relationships (of all kinds). Nature seeks balance. Yet, for a relationship to last, both involved must understand that balance is not static– it is a constantly fluctuating play between anima and animus (a more “gender neutral” masculine and feminine concept), reaching out and taking, self and other, attachment and freedom. When this is accepted and appreciated, a relationship becomes flexible, fun, and completely life-affirming. It is also important to remember that balance within a relationship can not be achieved without finding balance within too.

“Balance is the underlying foundation of longevity in all things.” ~ Anodea Judith

Compassion

Although different spiritual beliefs interpret the concept of compassion on a spectrum- from the complete non-harm of all beings including the smallest of insects, to the reaching out to our fellow human beings- compassion has the potential to support a peaceful existence on earth. If we all “had passion for” our fellow humans, our earth, and our ecosystems, we would be in a much better place. To reach beyond ourselves and try to understand another’s needs allows for an expansion of inner being that holds the space for change to occur. Compassion does not mean that we have to fix things– sometimes we simply cannot– but often understanding and empathy can mean the difference between peace and war.

“And the day came when the need to remain closed became more painful than the risk to open.” ~ Anonymous

Anahata Chakra Homework: Take some time this week to sit with yourself and create compassion and peace within. Start by contemplating the various parts of yourself- especially those that tend to argue or create turbulence within. Give them each an identity. For example, one might have a curious child, a free-spirited vagabond, a practical parent, an analytical worker, and any number of other people within. Write down each person and their desires, their wants. Begin to consider the relationships between your “inner family”. Who relates to who? Who creates the most conflict? How might they relate and converse in real life? And most importantly, how can they come to a peaceful co-existance? Can you create compassion for each to ensure that they each have a place within, that they are each having their needs met? How might this relate to your external relationships? remember, love always starts with love and compassion within. Start with self-love.

Wear Green.

In this week’s class, our goal was to stoke the fires in our bellies and feel its invigorating and motivating effects through the entire class. Starting with some abdominal activation exercises, we brought breath and blood flow into our bellies. Although our final goal is not six-pack abs, we engage our core to provide us with strength, confidence, and, in consequence, tone to help us through the practice!

Twists were again big players in our class, as there is nothing better to activate the core than a good wring-out at the middle! Utkatasana (fierce pose) with a twist was an essential addition to the asana flow, as well as Parivrtta Parsvakonasana.

Garudasana (Eagle pose) had us twisting our arms, our legs, and balancing… holding that middle line was necessary when we spread our wings to “fly away”! ¬†(See a very cool interpretation of the pose here.)

To balance out the twisting and folding throughout our class, we added some stretching and backbending. We started in Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose) to lengthen out our front bodies in preparation for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)– an exquisite expression of opening and confidence.

A final Navasana (Boat pose) to revisit our bellies one more time before Savasana let us reconnect one more time to that strength within, leaving us feeling confident and at peace with ourselves and our practice.

Just me…

2010 Journey

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