Om symbol

Pranava Dhvanyatmaka Pranayama

Chanting the Sound of Om

By Mugs McConnell, drawn from her book, Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda and Others. Available online and in bookstores everywhere.

In many yoga classes we open and end the class by chanting “Om,” but for many students they don’t really know much about this powerful, sacred mantra. I hope from this article the next time you chant it the Om sound will be rich and full with meaning for you.

Pranava is the sacred word Om. Dhvan refers to sound. Atma is the individual soul, or God within. This pranayama is about listening to the sacred Om, the movement of the prana, control of the breath and the quietening of the mind.

The Mandukya Upanishad refers to Om as “all”. “OM. This eternal Word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in eternity. All is OM.”[i]  Om is considered in yoga to be the first manifestation of God, the Creator, the Source of all.

In a letter to my teacher, Dr. Hari Dickman, Paramhansa Yogananda described the fullness of God so beautifully, it really touched my heart.  “God is cosmic sound, cosmic light, cosmic vibration, cosmic love, cosmic ever-new joy, cosmic peace, cosmic wisdom, and cosmic ever-new bliss. These are the different expressions of God felt by the Yogi during ecstasy. The Yogis say that when the ears are closed and one hears the cosmic sound… [and] concentrates deeply upon that sound, he begins to develop omnipresence.”[ii]

Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh explained to Hari, “Om is not only saying ‘Yes’; but Om being a Great Mantra that pervades the three states of Consciousness and passing beyond, too, enables the affirmations to sink into the Subconscious and the Karana Shareera, too. Great Will Power is developed.” [iii] (The karana shareera is the seed or “causal” body, which carries the seeds of your learnings from one life into the next.)

The Mandukya Upanishad speaks of the four conditions of Om. First we envision the Om spelled as A-U-M, representing all sound vibrations encompassed in the one sound of Om. The “A” represents the waking state of outward-moving consciousness. Through the senses we experience our manifested world. The “U” represents the dreaming state of inner-moving consciousness where we enjoy the subtle inner elements. The “M” represents the sleeping state of silent consciousness where we enjoy silent peace. Finally, the silence following the sounds of Om represents Atman, the awakened supreme consciousness.[iv]

Now, to the practice of Pranava Dhvanyatmaka pranayama. I first learned this pranayama without making any oral sound. Sit in vajrasana with hands in chin mudra (tip of the index finger touching the tip of the thumb, palms facing downwards). Breathe in, filling the lower, then middle, then upper lungs. Perform jalandhara and mula bandhas during kumbhaka (breath retention). Release the bandhas when ready to exhale. Hear the inner sound of “A” as you empty the lower lungs, “U” as you empty the middle lungs and “M” as you empty the upper lungs.

The “A” energizes the prana from the toes to the lower abdomen, the “U” from the mid-area to the heart, and the “M” is everything above the heart. Repeat as often as you like, and then savour the deliciousness in the silence of the Om in its fullness. The bliss is indescribable.

Hari and Swami Yogeshwaranand communicated back and forth about another method for this pranayama. Here is a summarized version of this lovely practice:

Sit in a comfortable seated position with a straight back. Very slowly, so as not to disturb the external air too much, breathe in through the nose and silently hear the sound of Om coming into you. Visualize the gross or physical form of the breath going into the lungs, while the subtle prana is being taken all the way down to the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine.

Now parting the lips slightly, make a soft Om sound during a slow, gradual and deep exhalation. Give the “M” a slight nasal sound with it. While exhaling imagine the prana is raising up the front of the spinal column, through the chakras from the base of the spine to the sacral area, navel, heart, throat and third eye.  During the exhalation try to imagine the gross/physical form of the breath going out through the nostrils, while the subtle prana goes into the sushumna (central canal within the spinal column) and rises through the chakras.

The “O” should be twice as long as the “M” during exhalation. To pace this you could say the “O” sound while you visualize the prana rising from the root chakra up to the heart, and the “M” sound while prana moves up from the throat to the third eye. Always inhale and exhale slowly, and let your mind be completely absorbed in the process.

This pranayama helps one to gain control over the breath, making it long and subtle. It draws the mind away from the senses. It quietens the mind and steadies the intellect, improving concentration. With continued practice, the “O” can be extended to 40 seconds, and the “M” for 20 seconds. Swami Satchidananda said that repeating “Om” attunes one to the cosmic vibration of God, like tuning the dial on your radio for the best channel reception. Over time, one may hear the delightful subtle sounds of the anahata chakra, such as bells, conches, music and thunder. May your Oms be forever beautiful!

[i] See The Upanishads, Commentary by Juan Mascaro, Penguin Books, 1965, p. 83.

[ii] Paramhansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles 31, California, USA, Letter to Mr. Harry Dikman in Germany, December 6, 1946.

[iii] Swami Sivananda Saraswati, Ananda Kutir, Rishikesh, Himalayas, India, Letter to Sri Harry Dikman, November 24, 1950.

[iv] See The Upanishads, Commentary by Juan Mascaro, Penguin Books, 1965, p. 83.

 

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.

Village Yan

Learning Forgiveness from First Nations

Bob and I have been travelling this month in some remote areas of Northern BC. Aside from wanting to get out on the lakes with our paddleboards, we feel a deep connection with First Nations people and wanted to learn more of their history and spirituality. What we got was so much more than we expected – a lesson in forgiveness. Forgiveness may not be listed specifically as a yama or niyama, but it comes as a result of practicing truthfulness, non-stealing, contentment, Svadyaya… it is an underlying benefit of practicing yoga ethics.

First we visited “the Hazeltons”, the Ksan Historical Village, and Kispiox. Learning to read the poles outside each longhouse bearing the family crests was an enlightening experience. Each pole records a bit of history and information about that family or village.

wolfWe headed north to the Nisga’a Nation in the Nass Valley, where three villages were buried under volcanic lava around 250 years ago. Four villages remain today: Gitlax̱t’aamiks (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Lax̱g̱alts’ap (Greenville), and Ging̱olx (Kincolith). Each of these villages has a different way of life, from coastal to inland, and the people were warm and eager to speak with us. At Lax̱g̱alts’ap there is the Nisga’a Museum where this young First Nations man was passionate to share the history of these villages, and filled us with stories and deeper understanding of the shamans, gatherings, clans, crests, and the impact of white civilization on their lives. The Lava Bed Park is worth spending some time at, as the lichens and lava tubes are quite beautiful.

YanFrom here we went over to Haida Gwaii.  We met Oliver, a Haida, who took us by boat to the ancient site of the village of Yan. He taught us more about the longhouse, the poles including memorial poles for recording events, mortuary poles that held those who died, house poles that told you who lived there, and even shame poles when a member of the village didn’t pay their debt (these poles were removed when the debt was paid).

There is a memorial pole currently being carved by four Haida carvers (designed by James Hart) to honour the Truth and Reconciliation report and movement forward. The pole records the progression from life before contact with European immigrants and missionaries, through the trauma of residential schools and the loss of their culture and languages, to acknowledgement and reconciliation, into the new future that lies ahead.  The pole will be raised at UBC around mid-October, and all are welcome to participate in this ceremony.

carving pole

This is where forgiveness comes in.  Every First Nations person has been gravely impacted by people misunderstanding their culture and trying to change them. And yet today they welcome our presence in their villages. Many embrace the church for what it continues to give them. The future of relationship is heralded. These people know that resentment, hatred, and anger all lead to illness and there is no possible growth from holding on to these. Without the desire to move forward from the hurt, we will miss the opportunity for growth into a bright future. I am reminded of the book “Oneness” by Jeffrey Moses, where he says:

The Chinese language has a word for “crisis” that is made up of two separate written symbols-one for “danger” and one for “opportunity . … Far too often, we become angry when confronted with something that blocks us from achieving a desire. Anger often flares up during the very moments when clarity and objectivity are needed most. In such instances, anger is the enemy of success…”

Life continuously throws obstacles in our path to success and happiness. How we respond to these challenges is what is important. We may feel angry and frustrated with those around us, however an objective mind can show us that every bit of growth and opportunity we experience comes out of the challenges we face. The manner with which we deal with these events is a choice. We can choose anger, discordance and suffering, which can be a dangerous path for the soul. Or, we can choose to do some soul searching and ask ourselves “What am I supposed to learn from this situation?” This practice is known as “svadhyaya” or self-study, which can lead us away from our resentment and anger. It provides the opportunity to discover new knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our strengths that can move us forward into our future. This practice takes us deeper into connecting with our True self, and guides us to a profound peace that pours over into our relationships.

Erich Schiffmann urges us to ask ourselves, “What is the Truth here, really?” This is a very deep and challenging question, with emphasis on the “really.” Ask it over and over as each answer arises. Meditate in search of the Truth. Really. Then act from a place of Love.

Our travels through First Nations’ lands are not over yet. As we continue, we are in awe of their capacity to be forgiving, welcoming and loving. We can learn so much from this. We are deeply touched by their spirit, creativity, and welcoming hearts. May we all be so blessed with these gifts.  Hawaa. Bob & Mugs

 

Yoga of Renovations

Yoga of Renovations

by Kamala Wilkie, SOYA lead trainer, E-RYT500

I received word late August that my Purple Lotus Yoga studio lease wouldn’t be renewed. After the initial hurricane of emotions, I rolled up my sleeves & got to work finding us a new location and team to make magic happen.

This will be my third studio creation in eight years. Through the uncertainty and creative process I’ve learned a few things.

  1. These yoga tools work. Deep breathing and holding fast to your reasons for creating the space are the difference between losing your mind when there are delays or unexpected expenses and adapting to the situation. Asana can keep your body ready to paint, haul, lift and squat for long periods and it’s what helps bring it back to balance after a long day of reno activities.
  2. Your vision can and hopefully will evolve. Sometimes, what you want versus what is in the budget are different things! Instead of staying attached to the original vision, allow it to morph as you gain information. It’s an awesome opportunity to refine your discernment around what is truly important to the flow of energy in your space (and life).
  3. Your team is what creates the magic. Your support network, contractor, friends, students, family. You literally cannot manifest this creation alone so be on the watch for awesome people who share your studio love or who just have a passion for the skill they bring to the table. Surround yourself with a team with all kinds of different personalities- the realist, the cheerleader, the devil’s advocate, the scientist, the poet the athlete. Invite them into parts of the decision making process. If renovations are not your strong suit (they definitely aren’t mine!) gather as much information from these people as possible and then make decisions based on how this information aligns with your vision.
  4. Open to Grace. Make skillful actions with a vision in mind while staying receptive to the flow of life. Intend for and trust the right space will present itself to you, the right people will come into your life to manifest it and that you will have all the resources you need.

The last one, in my experience, is the most important.  In fact never mind points 1-3. #4 is truly the yoga of renovation.

Blessings to you in any sacred space creation you are embarked upon. As with anything, the more intention you put behind it, the more vibrant it will become.

Kamala WilkieKamala Wilkie, SOYA E-RYT500 lead trainer, will be leading the SOYA extended 200 hour teacher training from March-June at Purple Lotus Yoga’s new location, #60 Calgary Ave, Penticton. She also leads the spring 200 hour immersion teacher training at Sorrento Centre in Feb/March 2017.

Pre-natal Yoga

Balanced Pre-natal Yoga Class

Creating a Balanced Pre-natal Yoga Class

by Natasha Scott, E-RYT500, RPYT, SOYA lead trainer

I never planned on teaching it,
Prenatal Yoga.
It found me.
And I questioned it.
Read books, watched videos, and taught a few classes feeling so intimidated by my lack of knowledge.
Who was I to teach Prenatal Yoga?
I decided to take a course; a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training.
It changed me.
It left me sitting in my car in Calgary AB bawling my eyes out about my own births.
If only I had known what was taught between those walls for my births.   I had honestly never realized how important to me my births were!
I never knew this wealth of information, tools, and beautiful empowerment existed!!
And so the fire began.
I have been sitting in circles of women and their babes in bellies for close to a decade.  I have laughed, cried, listened, and shared all of the sacred wisdom of pre and post-natal women. Women supporting women on the most sacred of journeys.
Even if in the moment you are not aware of how sacred the pre-natal journey is, I hope one day you will look back and feel support and love.
That you will know that you partook in wisdom between walls that somehow carried you. Carried you into the most amazing experience this life has ever offered me….
Motherhood.

Natasha ScottEnjoy Natasha Scott’s interview with Kenna Riplinger, and learn more on creating a balanced prenatal yoga class, here on Pranic Body youtube channel.

Natasha Scott, E-RYT500, RPYT, is a SOYA lead trainer for the 200 hour immersion in Sorrento this Feb/March. She is also a doula and offers prenatal yoga classes at her studio. Her next Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training is Nov. 2017. All info is at www.starlityoga.com

http://www.starlityoga.com/doula-services/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiX34a3feac