pushpaputa mudra

Pushpaputa Mudra

Pushpaputa mudra is a gesture of offering a handful of flowers to the Divine. You are the offering – you are the flowers, when you are open to what the Divine lays before you.  A great time to try this mudra is after opening yourself up with back-bends. Combine it with pranatasana (child’s pose) and it can help to calm our emotions and bring us back into emotional balance. Note:child’s pose is called pranatasana because it restricts the flow of prana in the legs while increasing the flow of prana in the spine/chakras.

hand mudra

Kneel into pranatasana and open the palms of both hands in front of you. Place your face into the palms of the hands. If your head does not comfortably rest into your hands, then elevate your hands on a blanket or block. Rest. Consider what you would like to offer or release to the Divine. When you feel ready, come back to kneeling in an upright position.

This is a sneak peak into Mug’s book “Letters from the Yoga Masters.” 

00 LettersYogaMastersCover

 

About Mug’s Book: (order online or at your local bookstore)

Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.

Peace Pole

Yoga & Karate: is it such an unlikely blend?

by Dorothy Fizzell, SOYA, E-RYT500, IYTA

Many people wonder how I can practice both yoga and karate-do.  People say “Yoga represents harmony, peace and compassion, while karate represents violence, war and intimidation.” For me, the practice of yoga and karate are complimentary and compatible.  Both traditions are part of who I am, and both are integrated into every aspect of my life, every day. They are my way of life, my journey.

Do (doe), in Japanese, means “the Way”.   “Do” is derived from the Buddhist Sanskrit “manga” meaning path.

In “Sword and Brush” by Dave Lowry, he says, “The Way is a journey of the mind and the spirit and, ultimately, the soul.”

Yoga has eight limbs, of which asana is one.  In order to really “know” yoga, one needs to become proficient in the other seven limbs as well.  One aspect of karate is the perfection of techniques used for self-defence, and for strengthening the body.  However, there are other elements which must be incorporated if one is to become truly competent in karate.

In karate there are expectations and rituals to show respect and courtesy at all times, to serve each other, to take care of each other, to be humble, to persevere, to be diligent with the practice, and to practice moderation.  Despite common belief, true students of karate believe in non-violence.  This is Reigisaho and equates with the Yamas and Niyamas.

Breathing is critical to the practice of karate.  In yoga, kundalini rests in the abdomen and is raised by controlling prana and clearing the nadis. In karate, energy, (ki), is stored in the abdomen and is the seat of the body’s power (tanden).  Breathing gives life and power to posture and the movement of the body, whether one is doing yoga or karate. Proper movement will not happen without correct breathing.

In order to become skilled in karate, one needs to give much attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself.  “The essence of Budo karate can trace its origin to Bodhidarma, an Indian prince and Buddhist priest who travelled to the Shaolin temple in China in the early 6th Century.  He developed the “chan” philosophy (chan is zen in Japanese), saying enlightenment was sought through meditation, rather than practicing rituals or studying religious texts. He developed martial arts as a physical regiment to accompany the mental discipline of meditation.”

Karate means literally “empty hands”, usually taken to mean fighting with no other weapons other than the body.  However, looking deeper, students of karate are working towards “emptying the heart and mind of all earthly desire and vanity.”

The place of practice for karate is the “Dojo”, or Way place.  It is considered a sacred place, students bow before entering, never wear shoes in the Dojo, clean the floor (soji) to prepare the body and mind, and to show respect.  Before training, a few minutes are spent meditating to prepare for the physical practice. The body must remain relaxed to maintain the internal connection to the “universal energy” and to correctly execute techniques and have efficient flow of motion.

Awareness of the internal experience of connection to all beings, of energy flow and control, are all essential to the perfection of both karate and yoga.  Without this awareness, karate and yoga merely become the execution of physical techniques that are missing the “Truth” or meaning.

Samurai warriors used two sounds that were sacred in their practice – “Aa” and “Mm”, or Aum in Yoga.

Mmm

Mm

Aa

Aa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the entrance to Musashi’s cave near Kumamoto.  Musashi was a famous Samurai who wrote “The Book of Five Rings” (earth, water, fire, air, and ether).  These match with the elements of the first five chakras.

The mantra used in the Chito Ryu style of karate:

We who study Chito Ryu Karate Do,

Shall always remember the Spirit of the Samurai,

With Harmony, Dedication and Smart Work,

We shall reach our goals.

Similarly, in yoga we have a sacred mantra used by SOYA yoga and many other traditions:

Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu

May the whole world attain peace and harmony.

Two physical practices, two paths, and each of them moving towards the Truth or realizing the Self. Namaste

DDorothy-Fizzellorothy Fizzell is passionate about her yoga and karate. She has been practicing yoga since the late 1970’s and trained as a SOYA yoga teacher in 1995-1996. Dorothy is a lead trainer for the SOYA teacher training program in Vancouver (Surrey), which is held each fall from September to December.

meditation

What is Yoga Sadhana?

By Helen Mikuska, SOYA, E-RYT500, IYTA,

Yoga Sadhana means “spiritual practice.” The word “Sadhana” in Sanskrit means “an effort exercised towards the achievement of a purpose.” In this sense, every effort is some kind of Sadhana, because it leads to the achievement of some intended goal.

The value of a daily physical and spiritual yoga practice helps to keep us grounded.  For the majority of us, we find it difficult to maintain a daily yoga practice with the demands of work and family schedules.  Yoga Sadhana is the means to let go of the ego, personal agendas and attachments and is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal.  It can be used as a tool to help work on yourself, to re-discover the purpose of your life, to help open doors and to let you live your life as you desire.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Yoga Sadhana?

  • Commitment – You are putting yourself first and allowing yourself to grow further in your yoga practice.
  • Discipline – By practicing yoga regularly, it will help to build discipline (quieting down the mind and the ego) and will bring us inner peace.
  • Evolution – If you find yourself stagnating, this is your opportunity to commit to a daily practice as a means to make  sure that every single day is just a little bit better than the last one, no matter what else is going on in your life.
  • Foundation – Yoga Sadhana is like planting a tiny little seed in the garden. Every day you practice you water it and it

The first aspect of Yoga Sadhana is to choose to practice (how about a yoga retreat?) and the second aspect relates to regularity – doing something at periodic intervals.  This disciplined practice allows one to learn from it and enables one to make it a regular life habit.  In this one day retreat, we will practice Kriyas, Pranayamas, Asanas, Mantras, Meditations, Mudras and Yoga Nidra. 

KriyasKriyas – Are known as Shatkarmas which are body cleansing practices of the physical body.  Shatkarmas not only have a positive effect on our well-being but they also purify our mind helping us to develop an inner awareness.  Both body and the mind become lighter.  Shatkarmas aim at mental, moral and spiritual elevation.

Pranayamas – These breathing practices are also essential for cleansing and purifying the respiratory tract. They help to maintain the flow of blood (toning the nerves, brain, spinal cord and cardiac muscles) and protect the internal organs and cells.  They strengthen and free the mind, sharpen the intellect and illuminate the Self.   Sample pranayama below:

chairChair Pranayama for Chest Breathing – Place a pranayama bolster or vertical piece of foam against chair back.  Sit against it in the chair with it between shoulder blades.  Focus breath to the space between your shoulder blades.  Modification:  Place folded blanket on chair seat for comfort or blocks under feet if they do not rest on floor comfortably.

Asanas – The principle of movement can be seen in all the activities of the body (nervous system, muscles, joints, circulation, digestion, etc.) and with movement there is life. Where there is no movement or activity there is decay and death. We are somewhere in between these two states.

Mantras – The practice of Japa is a method of spiritual communion through the repetition of the Sanskrit mantra and practiced with the use of a mala.  By continued repetition you create certain vibrations in your system.  The recitation of the mantra fills the mind with spiritual vitality. An easy mantra to start with is So Ham, which means I am one with the Creator and all of creation.

Meditation – Meditation trains us in concentration. The practice of going inside is of fundamental importance in the process of evolving the aspects of personality through yoga.  When we develop the ability to relax our mind at will, it gives us a sense of mastery over the vagaries of the mind and allows us to maintain it in a positive state.

mudraMudras – Mudras are “closed energy circuits” and every part of the hand is linked to a specific part of the brain.  Bending, crossing, expanding and touching the fingers or particular portions of the hand, stimulating reflex zones and meridians has a direct effect on the body and mind.   Sample mudra below:

Creating Caliber-Living Life with Full Expression, Accomplishment & Success Mudra – This mudra will help you maintain your core identity under stress.  It stimulates your inner resources, giving you a sense of expansiveness & confidence to live from your destiny & inner truth instead of your fear.  In Sukhasana (easy crossed-leg sitting), with both elbows relaxed at sides of body, raise your right hand up to level of your face.  Hold fingers straight together & pointed straight up with thumb relaxed & palm facing left.  Bring the left hand up with the palm facing the body & fingers pointed to the right.  Hold fingers together with thumb pointing up. The tip of middle finger of the left hand touches your right palm.  Hold this mudra so that you first look right over the index finger, then slowly raise it & look into centre of the left palm.  No special breath.  Let your heart chant the mantra you love the most.  Concentrate on your palm.  Carefully gaze at palm & meditate on the lines on your palm.  Your vision will start enlarging.   Hold 11 minutes

Yoga Nidra – Yoga Nidra literally means “yoga sleep”, which facilities a deep state of relaxation which works at the subconscious level.  It refers to the state that one will experience that is between wakefulness and being sound. 

Helen Mikuska is a lead trainer for the SOYA 200 hour yoga teacher training in Calgary Alberta, held annually in July. She is holding a One Day Spring Yoga Retreat to Rejuvenate your Body and Mind on Sunday, May 29th 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Harmony Yoga Pilates Studio.  To register contact Helen at info@harmonyyogapilatesstudio.ca