Cobra Pose Modified for Low Back Pain

Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose Modified for Low Back Pain.

Do you have difficulty with prone spinal extensions? Does your lower back tend to jam when you practice them?  If so, try out this pose out.

In this variation of Cobra utilizing a blanket and strap, it can help to strengthen your back and facilitate fuller use of the legs to provide space in your sacroiliac area.

CobraAsana Instruction:

Bind a strap to make a large loop out of it. Fold or roll a blanket and place it horizontally on mat ahead of you.  Kneel and place the looped strap to encircle your lower legs, keeping them hip width apart. Make sure to place the strap to the thickest part of your calves.

Lower to the mat (prone) resting the pubis below the folded or rolled blanket.  Lift one leg up an inch and pull it back.  Repeat other leg. This is to keep good length in your back. Roll the legs slightly outward so that the heels, thighs and pelvis widen in back.

Push out strongly enough to feel the resistance of the strap. Pull tailbone toward heels and floor. This is to stabilize your low back, so you can stretch forward strongly and maintain that outward rotation down the legs.

Inhale and lift up onto your forearms briefly to pull your upper body away from your legs. Exhale and rest back down. Place your hands to sides of chest and lift shoulders away from floor, with your head still touching floor. Keep the shoulders square across. Contract the upper back muscles and move the scapulae in toward the spine.

To come into the full cobra pose, inhale and curl-up slowly with the head and chest, keeping the shoulders back and down.  Press through the arms to lift more, but keep the arms bent with elbows beside the ribs as you lift into a comfortable range of movement for you. Continue pushing the thighs apart into the resistance of the strap. Breathe. Stay in the pose for several breaths, then soften and exhale as you release down to the mat.

Repeat if you like. When done, rest in childs pose.

Contraindications:  Fused ankylosing spondylitis, Chiari malformations, bridging spondylitis, cervical spinal stenosis.

CobraHelen Mikuska, E-RYT500, is a lead trainer for the SOYA 200 hr and 300 hr Advanced Yoga Teacher Trainings in Calgary, AB during each summer. She has been teaching yoga for 15 years, with an extensive background in Pilates, Nutrition Management, Ayurveda and Mantra. For more information on the upcoming 200 hour Foundation training and the 300 hour Professional training, go to yoga-teacher-training/200hr-immersion-calgary-alberta



Many Sanskrit terms are used in yoga classes, from the names of yoga poses to the standard “Namaste” greeting to mantras. If you are confused, here are a few breakdowns for you…

Asana means ‘seat of consciousness’ and as described in Patanjali’s sutras 2.46 sthira-sukham asanam (seat/posture should be stable and comfortable), but nowadays it is more often used to mean ‘pose’. Therefore, Triangle Pose = Trikonasana. So in yoga classes, we are practicing poses to become more stable and at ease in body and mind for meditation practice.

OM is a mantra formed by combining the letters A, U, and M. When you chant OM or AUM – the whole mouth is used – the back of the throat, middle chamber and then the lips.

A – represents the physical plane, the waking state
U – represents the mental and the astral planes, and the dreaming state
M – represents the deep sleep state and all that is unknown and beyond the reach of the intellect.

So OM represents all. OM is the basis of your life, thought and intelligence, Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute. OM gives peace and tranquility.

Shanti means peace. Peace of body, mind and spirit. When you chant Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti – it is an invocation of peace.

When you bring your hands together at the heart, bow your head and say Namaste, you have an opportunity to make this more meaningful than just marking the beginning or end of the class. Western yogis have adopted this Indian custom of respectful greeting. In yoga, on the surface it is a way for teacher and student to thank each other for practice together, and also a way to close the sacred container of the practice.

Namaste represents the idea that we are all One. This is a big idea! That despite our individual outer trappings that make us appear different from one another, we are all made of the same stuff. We affirm to identify with Universal Consciousness rather than ego. When you say Namaste to others and mean it, you are really saying that you see others for who they are. That we are one and the same. You affirm to honor That in them and in you which is the most authentic – the truest, and allow their limitations (and yours) to dissolve. Namaste can be a practice in itself – to know its meaning not just conceptually, but also deep within that this is truth.

Common translations of Namaste are –
• The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.
• We are the same, we are one.
• I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
• I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
• I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
• My soul recognizes your soul.
Perhaps you might like to choose one of these meanings of this salutation or sacred greeting that speaks deeply to you. Plant that seed with each repetition and nourish it.


SanskritGail Thompson, E-RYT500, is a SOYA teacher trainer in Creston BC. She has been teaching yoga since 2003. Gail will be leading the SOYA 200 hour teacher training Feb-June 2020. To learn more about Gail and the upcoming training go to yoga-teacher-training/200hr-extended-creston-bc

SOYA Anniversary

SOYA 25th Anniversary

SOYA 25th Anniversary. Twenty-five Years of MemoriesDorothy Fizzell

Twenty-five years with S.O.Y.A., with Mugs and Bob McConnell, with this amazing yoga!!  And actually, the connection has been much longer for me.  After graduating from university, I moved back to Penticton wanting to find a yoga teacher, as I had purchased Richard Hittleman’s book, “Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Program” the year before.  So, in 1978, I found a class being taught by Mugs, who had recently graduated from the Sivananda Ashram.  But then she disappeared, and though I tried a couple other teachers, they didn’t feel right. I was thrilled when Mugs returned to Penticton in 1979, after studying with Dr. Hari Dickman, and I continued taking her classes until 1998.

In the mid-90s, Mugs and Bob took over the South Okanagan Yoga Association, changing it into the South Okanagan Yoga Academy, and Mugs and Dariel Vogel created a yoga teacher training program, based on the I.Y.T.A. program.  One day, Mugs asked me out to tea, and told me she wanted me to be one of the first students in the program.  Yikes!  I had never considered teaching yoga! But in September 1995, along with two other students, Meui and Rockne, we began.  It took two and a half years, meeting once a month, usually at Dariel’s home. (I remember having wine in the hot tub on occasion after a session!)  The three of us graduated in the Spring of 1998 with dinner and a celebration.   

SOYA AnniversaryMeui and myself, now yoga teachers! 

Below, Dariel, myself and Mugs

Though the teacher training program has evolved through many versions, the foundation, the philosophy, and the depth of yoga has remained the same. From that first training session, the program grew, and though held in Penticton initially, people from long distances away recognized the value and uniqueness. Many, many excellent teachers have graduated over the last 25 years from locations all over the world.  Some of the graduates took the training for their own personal growth, while many teachers went on to teach in the style of their choice, with the philosophical foundation and asana understanding from S.O.Y.A. to carry them forward.

S.O.Y.A. is about connection too, connections among teachers, and connections to community, with many of these connections continuing over the 25 years.  Even my son Thor, a teenager in the late 90s, was involved, as Mugs asked him to draw yoga asanas for our newsletter and for a couple of t-shirts. SOYA Anniversary

For 2001, a yoga calendar was created and sold, with S.O.Y.A. grads as models, along with lots of yoga philosophy.







Through S.O.Y.A. , many interesting activities and events have taken place. One I remember fondly was when Dariel and I facilitated a yoga/hike up at Cathedral Lakes. Our group took a vehicle to the park, we hiked up above the tree line and did yoga, meditated and learned about the flora and fauna of the area.  It was wonderful!!

And the S.O.Y.A. Annual Retreats have been amazing!  The first retreat, participants learned from the faculty of S.O.Y.A., and since then, Bob and Mugs have worked incredibly hard to bring in a wonderful variety of superb yogis from everywhere.  The organization, the hard work, and the quality of teaching skills year after year have been outstanding.

S.O.Y.A. has been extremely important in my life over the last 25 years!  My mother passed away the same month I started the teacher training, and the philosophy discussions helped me deal with my grief.  With other personal changes, S.O.Y.A., yoga teaching, and Mugs have always been there.  When I moved to Vancouver, hardly knowing anyone, I co-taught a two year 500 hour teacher training program and I started feeling connected.  When I hurt my back, it was asana, pranayama and meditation, along with teacher training that helped me become strong again. Even through dental surgery, focusing on slow dirga breath, plus chanting the Gayatri mantra to myself, helped me stay calm.

On a very personal note, it was Mugs who introduced me to my husband Del! He was taking the teacher training program in Fort MacMurray and she, along with Katherine LaBonte, the teacher trainer there at the time, thought we had lots in common so Mugs asked if she could share my email contact with Del.  We met a short time later, and have now been married 10 years!

I would be a completely different person if I had not met Mugs, had not taken the teacher training program, had not taught and practiced through the last 25 years.  And I know that S.O.Y.A, through Mugs and Bob, have influenced many, many people in similar yogic ways.  Connection, love, learning, moving, gratitude, sharing, Truth – that is S.O.Y.A.   Namaste, Om Shanti


Soul of Mantra

The Soul of Mantra: A meditation on yes from The Radiance Sutras by Dr. Lorin Roche.

Ask people, “What sounds do you make when you are feeling YES — when you taste or smell something utterly delicious, receive a perfect touch, or listen to music you love?” You’ll hear a chorus of sounds like “Mmmmmm,” “Aaaahhhh” and “Ooh.” These are the sounds of yes — Oh and MM and AHH and UUU — rising spontaneously in your heart. And this is where mantras come from.

The Chandogya Upanishad, which dates to perhaps 500 B.C., talks about OM as the sound of yes. The Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary describes OM as indicating “affirmation and assent, sometimes translated as Yes, verily, so be it. —OM consists of a, u, and m and is usually called pranava.” Pra = before, forward, + nava = sound, shout, exult.* Exult in turn is “to feel or show great happiness, lively and triumphant joy.” Modern equivalents to “Yes, verily,” would be OH YEAH!, YAY, and even, HELL YEAH! OM is a sound we can say, chant, and meditate on. If you’ve lost that OMMing feeling, return to your yes. What creates in you the spontaneous rising of pranava, your shout of exuberance?

The deeper OM, the real OM, is the sound of existence itself, joyously shouting, reverberating everywhere across the universe.

In the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva and Devi are discussing the relationship of outer practices, such as chanting mantras, and internal listening. Shiva sings to the Goddess:


When you enter into the Great Self
You realize all prayers are going on inside you
Spontaneously without cessation.

In reality all songs of exuberance
And ecstatic lovemaking are resonating in
Every particle of creation at every moment.
When you are established in this recitation,
You are listening, and you hear them.

bhūyo bhūyaḥ pare bhāve bhāvanā bhāvyate hi yā |
japaḥ so’tra svayaṁ nādo mantrātmā japya īdṛśaḥ || 145 ||

For some reason, I love the sound bhooyoh bhooyah. This whole verse sounds playful. There are layers and layers of meaning here, so understand, this glossary is just hints. A book could be written about each word.

Bhuyo-bhuyah – again and again (bhuyas – becoming, becoming in a greater degree, mightier, abounding in, abundantly furnished with, more, once more, again, anew.)
Para – in the transcendence, transcendental, beyond.
bhavana – feeling, creative contemplation, meditation.
Bhavyate – contemplate
japa – recitation of the divine sounds
svayam – self
Svayam nado – about this phrase, Swami Lakshmanjoo comments, “the mantra emanating from the heart center with each inhalation and exhalation, which is the soul or source of all mantras.” **
mantratma – the soul of the mantra, soul of sound
japa – recitation (of the divine sounds)
idrishah – like this

In the verse just before this one, Bhairava was talking about external rituals and practices that focus the mind on the outer world. Outer practices, such as chanting the names of God, tune us and train us to notice the sacred. Here he is inviting us into internal practices — follow the inward current, the inward motion of attention into a continual contemplation of the divine. “The soul of all mantras is right here, Beloved, within you. Your heartbeat is a continuous, pulsating japa; your every breath, a chant and prayer of gratitude to eternity. The sacred is already here, always. Learn to dive into the vibrating silence after the mantras fade away.”

Initiation through hearing Sanskrit in song seems to be powerful and lasting. The Beatles included the phrase Jai guru deva OM in their song “Across the Universe,” released in 1969. The Beatles were one of the most successful acts in the history of popular music, and the song was broadcast all over the world on radio stations from 1969 onward. For many, it was the first time they had ever heard a word of Sanskrit. Beatles fans listened to their records over and over with rapt attention, relishing every word and chord change, and so apparently, millions of people received a kind of Shaktipat, a transmission of spiritual energy, through the song. I started teaching meditation around this time, and many people came for instruction because of having heard “Across the Universe.” It was clear they had already meditated, deeply, many times, while listening to the song. It was an honor to sit in their presence, and it was as if they had been initiated by the song and I was just giving them some coaching on how to meditate. Since then, all over the world, I’ve met many people who started meditating because of “Across the Universe” and are still at it. What amazing impact that song created.

The Beatles learned to meditate in 1967 and went to India for a retreat, so they were writing from intimate experience with the practice. The backstory for the song was that Lennon was lying in bed with his wife, who was “going on and on” about something that really irritated him. He got up and went downstairs, and the words she had been saying kept resonating in his head, like lyrics, and over time “it turned into sort of a cosmic song rather than an irritated song.” Lennon said that the four words of Sanskrit, Jai guru deva OM, just dropped into his mind as the bridge to the chorus, and he felt that “Across the Universe” contained perhaps the best lyrics he had ever written. The sound of the human voice, even a complaining human voice, merged in John’s awareness into the eternal song of OM. This is one of the secrets of mantra and meditation – the gift of peace and delight right here in the midst of it all. If you dive deeply into any sound, external or within, it will take you into the hum of the universe.

*this etymology of pranava is from Christopher Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University, and can be found in his Yoga and the Luminous: Patañjali’s Spiritual Path to Freedom, State University of New York Press (2008).

** Vijnana Bhairava: The Manual for Self-Realization, revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, edited by John Hughes, Universal Shaiva Fellowship.

Lorin Roche began practicing with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra in 1968 and it has been a love affair ever since. He is the author of The Radiance SutrasMeditation Made Easy (Harper 1998), and Meditation Secrets for Women (Harper 2001) (written with his wild Shakti wife Camille Maurine). He has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in Social Science, where he studied the language yogis and meditators develop to describe their inner experiences. The Soul of Mantra: A meditation on yes from The Radiance Sutras, by Dr. Lorin Roche has been reprinted with permission from

Cuba Yoga Adventure

Cuba Yoga Adventure

New Year & New Intention, Cultural Cuba Yoga Adventure

Looking for a sacred way to begin 2020, spending some time with pranayama, meditation, and asana? Setting a new intention in a sacred space? Here is an opportunity to visit a country you may never have visited before, making time for yoga while learning about organic farming, eating farm to table food, and exploring the arts as you delve into your own beautiful existence.

Our newest SOYA faculty member, Terri McDermott, is leading a 6 day  Cuba Yoga cultural trip to bring in the New Year, featuring the highlights of Havana, Cuba’s historic capital city and a day trip to Vinales, known for incredible views and beautiful organic farms. Daily yoga will be offered based in and around Havana’s historical sites!

Travel to and from exciting locations is with comfortable private transportation, lodging is in “Casas Particulares” or Cuban style B & B’s, and meals are made in private Cuban restaurants.

Interested in this cultural yoga experience? Learn more here!

Radiance Sutras

Wildly Devoted

Be Wildly Devoted

Written by Dr. Lorin Roche. Used with permission from

A Meditation On Free-Flowing Love From The Radiance Sutras, A New Version Of The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

Love has many splendors and each one is a lot of trouble. Our English word love is related to the Sanskrit lubh, – “perplexed, disturbed, to desire greatly, to long for.” Whether we are loving a woman, man, wave, song, guru, baby, cat or soccer team, we are in for a ride. There are going to be ups and downs. The ride is worth it because each joy and sorrow stretches our hearts open. Love is a way of connecting to the deep forces of life, a yoga. Each of the loves in our life is a different asana flow that asks for our full attention and breath.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is a conversation between Devi, the Goddess Who Is the Creative Power of the Universe, and her lover Shiva, the Consciousness Who Permeates Everywhere. Devi dares Shiva to describe the practices for becoming at one with the sacred Reality. In reply, Shiva enumerates a hundred and twelve yogas. In Sutra 98 he gives a bhakti practice.

Be wildly devoted to someone
or something.
Cherish every perception.
At the same time, forget about control.Dr. Lorin Roche
Allow the Beloved to be itself
and to change.

Passion and compassion,
holding and letting go,
This ache in your heart is holy.
Accept it as the rise of intimacy
With life’s secret ways.

Devotion is the Divine streaming
through you
From that place in you before time.
Love’s energy flows through your body,
Toward a body, and into eternity again.
Surrender to this current of devotion
And become one with the Body of Love

bhaktyudrekād viraktasya yādṛśī jāyate matiḥ |
sā śaktiḥ śāṅkarī nityam bhavayet tāṃ tataḥ śivaḥ ||

Bhakti udrekaat viraktasya. Can you hear the way the sutra just rolls in and lays down the beat like a rock ‘n roll song? Bhakti, Shakti and nitya are chord sequences unto themselves, multidimensional, with layer upon layer of resonance. In a chanted tradition you are to say the words, whisper them, savor them; be carried away by their power. Sensing the words with full awareness is supposed to blow your mind and leave you speechless, in awe.

bhakti – attachment, devotion, fondness for, trust, homage, distribution, separation, that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, faith or love or devotion as a religious principle or means of salvation. udreka – abundance, excess. virakta – changed in color or disposition, indifferent, freedom from worldly attachment, impassioned, feeling excessive passion. yadrishe – just as, that which, the way by which. jayate – to take birth, emerge, arise. matih – devotion, prayer, worship, hymn, sacred utterance, thought, intention, wish, desire, to set the heart on, intuition. sa shakti – that shakti, divine energy, strength. shakti – power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, capability, exerting all one’s strength, faculty, skill, the energy or active power of a deity personified as his wife and worshipped by the Shakta. shankara – fortunate, blessing-bestower (sam, blessing, auspiciousness, good fortune, happiness + kara, making, bestower), a name of Shiva. nityam – innate, native, one’s own, continual, perpetual, eternal, constantly dwelling or engaged in, intent upon, devoted to, used to, the sea, the ocean. bhavayet – become that, meditate on and realize your identity with That. tam tatah – there. shiva – “in whom all things lie,” auspicious, propitious, gracious, favorable, kind, benevolent, friendly, tenderly, happy, fortunate, liberation, final emancipation, the “disintegrating or destroying and reproducing deity.” The Lord of Yogis. A symbol of cosmic consciousness, the experience of being at one with the universe.

Love is daring. When we love someone or something, we risk everything by being in the flow of passion, with mysterious and divine energy gushing through our bodies toward another body. Passionate love is a divine madness, really. We need Yoga, we need meditation, we need continual prayer, we need all the serenity we can muster, to handle the wildness. A function of Yoga is to give us a time, place and skill set to witness the energies of love flowing through our bodies as shakti, divine energy.

Love’s energies are juicy. This juicy quality is called rasa, a word with a wonderful range of meaning: “the sap or juice of plants or fruit, an elixir or potion or liquor, also the best or finest part of anything.” More subtly, rasa is “the taste or character of a work of art.” When we savor life as art, this is rasa, aesthetic rapture.

The nectar of love has many flavors. The erotic flavor of love is called shringara rasa. Sakhya rasa is friendship, an intimate relationship among equals. Vatsalya rasa is parental love. Dasya rasa is slavery in the positive sense, being a servant to the Beloved. Shanta rasa is the sense of peace we experience in the flow of love, in being attached to someone, belonging to the Beloved. Within these broad categories, each rasa is a universe of ever-changing flavors.

When you love someone, you carry them inside you and will think of them during pranayama, savasana and meditation, even if you try not to. You can’t help but be bothered by your love. Your awareness is sneaking off to practice Bhakti Yoga, and will do so no matter what style of class you are in, no matter what you call your meditation system. In the Bhakti Yoga stories, otherwise honorable and diligent women (the Gopis) are always getting up in the middle of the night and slipping away to worship Krishna down by the river. In daily life, attention steals moments of Bhakti here and there to muse about the lover, baby, cat, dog or creative project. Loving any one being is devotion to your local part of the infinite universe. This is a tangible thing you can do, an act of power and creativity.

Every form of love is love of God, every relationship, temporary as it may be, teaches us about eternity. Bhakti Yoga says that you can be in an erotic, passionate relationship with God, you can be friends and equals with God; you can even feel parental and protective of God. All rivers flow to the ocean.

Dr. Lorin Roche has practiced and taught from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra since 1968. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to describe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s website: Email comments and questions to Become a fan of The Radiance Sutras on Facebook. Dr. Roche coaches individuals wishing to evolve their daily meditation practice, and trains Yoga teachers in how to teach meditation. Call (310) 570 – 2803. Find Lorin presenting The Radiance Sutras at Bhakti Fest in September or come to Esalen for weekend and weeks of Yoga energy practices – with Dr. Lorin Roche and his wild Dakini wife, Camille Maurine. Reservations: (831) 667-3005, or visit

Kale Chips

Spicy Kale Chips

By Helen Mikuska

We are harvesting from the garden and enjoying the benefits and freshness of home grown veggies. Here is a wonderful nutritious snack you can create with Kale!


Two large bunches of kale (or as many as you’d like to make)

Red Cayenne pepper

Nutritional Yeast


  1. Wash kale, spin it dry or pat dry with paper towel. You can also let it sit in the sun to dry.  Must be dry!  Remove stem and break into two inch pieces.
  2. Place parchment paper on cookie trays.
  3. Place kale in bowl & pour olive oil lightly over them. Mix up with hands.
  4. Place on trays leaving space between each piece. Do not pile up.
  5. Lightly shake red cayenne pepper of them and nutritional yeast. This chips are spicy, so what I did was do this for one tray, then the second tray just nutritional yeast.  And I kept alternating like this.  Then when I put them into a container/bowl, I alternate each of them.
  6. Oven 325 degrees and cook 16-24 minutes until the edges are crispy. For me 18 minutes worked great. (Do not turn your convection oven on as it will burn the kale.)

They are light as feathers when you pop them in your mouth, they just melt – all that nutrition is so good for you! You can also crumble up the kale in your hands and add it to your salads – delicious!

Asana’s for Balancing the Body

The 6 Kinds of Yoga Asanas for Balancing the Body

By Mugs McConnell, SOYA, E-RYT500

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika tells us there are 8,400,000 different Yoga poses due to so many ways to modify and deepen the asanas. This wonderful science of Yoga, born from the forests and caves of the Himalayas, is rich with healthy benefits for the practitioner. Swami Sivananda says,

“We do not practice yoga asanas in order to gain big muscles. Muscles do not necessarily mean health. The practice of Yoga asanas is to achieve the healthy and harmonious functioning of the endocrine glands and the internal viscera, the nervous system and the mind. This is what the regular practice of Yoga Asanas and Pranayama will bestow upon you.”

Each style of hatha yoga has a system or methodical approach to the asanas. The masters have designed these systems with a purpose to succeed. A common denominator to the practice of hatha yoga is that there are six kinds of poses one should incorporate to achieve the balance and health of the body. These poses are:

Side bend, Forward bend, Backbend, Twist, Inverted, Balance

By incorporating these six kinds of poses into each yoga session one will ensure optimum stimulation of the endocrine glands, nervous system, muscular system, and respiratory system, while including weight-bearing exercise for healthy, strong bones.

The 8,400,000 different asanas provide variety and the opportunity to continuously advance in your ability. These asanas will all fall within these 6 kinds of poses. The order in which one should do these poses will vary throughout the different hatha yoga styles. Below is one example of how to sequence the asanas together.

Side Bends give a lateral stretch to the spine. They stretch the hips and waist and keep the spine supple and healthy. The muscles in the trunk of the body are contracted, relaxed and stretched. Arms and legs are stretched and the chest is expanded. Pelvic organs are toned. The spinal nerves are thoroughly toned. (The spine is of the greatest importance to a yogi, as it is connected with the spinal cord, the sympathetic nervous system, and kundalini energy.)

Forward Bends often follow side bends, giving a counter-stretch to the hips and the lateral muscles of the spine. The hamstrings are stretched, which is essential to accomplish many of the advanced yoga asanas. The spine and back muscles are stretched and extended. The abdominal muscles are contracted, while the pelvic organs are massaged. The forward fold in the body squeezes and cleanses the internal organs of the body. The liver and spleen are stimulated. Forward bends are generally poses that quieten the emotions, and are considered excellent for an introverted mood.

Back Bends offer a counter stretch to forward bends, to balance the lengthening of the opposite set of muscles. Muscles in the front of the torso are lengthened. Back bends tone the deep and superficial muscles of the back, giving them an effective massage. Often these poses can relieve back pain due to overwork. The ovaries and uterus are toned, while digestion is energized. Some back bends lengthen the quadriceps in the thighs, balancing the stretch to the hamstrings achieved in forward bends.

Depending on the system of yoga, some classes have forwards bends after backbends, and some have backbends before forward bends.

Twists offer relief to the back after backbends. Again, we achieve a lateral stretch to the spinal column, keeping it elastic and toning the spinal nerves. Stiffness of the back, neck and shoulders are relieved. The abdominal organs receive a good massage, while the waist is trimmed. Often spinal discrepancies are aided. The abdominal viscera are massaged. Twists squeeze and nourish the nerves and muscles along the spinal column. Constipation and dyspepsia are aided. The pancreas, spleen, liver and kidneys are affected.

Inverted poses are considered invaluable. Turning the body upside down, countering the force of gravity, can result in many benefits. The heart does not have to exert itself so it can pump more slowly. Memory is improved. Neck and lungs are flushed and cleansed. Tonsils and ears receive nourishment from the increased circulation. Varicose veins and tired, aching legs are relieved of pressure. Hemorrhoids and the abdominal organs are relieved of excess pressure. The facial tissues are nourished and cleansed. Shoulderstand massages the thyroid gland. Headstand nourishes the thyroid, parathyroid and pituitary glands. An even more subtle benefit is, we get a new perspective of things when we get upside down, which can help on get “unstuck” with their attitude.

Balance poses work with strength as well as our ability to focus the mind. One develops harmony, balance and poise. The breathing is slowed down, which gives relief from nervous tension. Equilibrium of mind automatically occurs as one deepens their focus. Balance poses can helpful near the beginning of an asana session to enhance the mind-body connection, assisting one to “let go” of outer concerns. They are also helpful at the end of a session, bringing one from a physical focus into the mind, preparing for the quiet of Savasana (relaxation) or meditation.

Beyond these six categories you have asanas, poses can be standing, kneeling, seated, and supine or prone laying down. These all give variety which strengthens and lengthens the body in numerous ways, so it is important to work with all these options. The next time you plan your asana class or your home practice, be sure to consider these six kinds of poses and include them all in every class, as well as the variations of standing, kneeling, etc.

Remember: Always work within your own capacity. Never move into pain. Enjoy the pose and listen to your body. This is your greatest protection for preventing injury.

Certain systems of yoga have a specific order in which to do poses. Since Yoga is a science, you can be sure there is good reason for the order of sequencing, so honour the work that the past masters have done and give their sequencing order a try for a while. As you develop an awareness of your body, you will soon find the most suitable system for you.

zucchini hummus

Zucchini Hummus

Spicy Zucchini Hummus

Submitted by Michelle Tsutsumi and slightly modified by Mugs

Makes: 3 cups hummus
What to do with all those zucchini coming up in the garden? This is a great dip for fresh veggies!

2 medium zucchini, chopped
3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive or hemp seed oil
2 cloves garlic
2 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper OR ½ tsp paprika

– In a food processor, fitted with an s blade, blend zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, hemp seed oil, garlic, sea salt, cumin and cayenne pepper or paprika until smooth and creamy.
– Store in a glass container in a fridge for up to 1 week.
– Serve with a variety of fresh veggies such as baby carrots, celery, snap peas and cucumber slices, or make a healthy collard wrap filled with hummus and sprouts.

Ballad to Garudasana

The Ballad to Garudasana

by Jenni G

Clear Vision, Clear Vision,

What is my Mission?

I see clearly now.

I say Thank you with a bow.

I have sat perched long enough

Captured in the mind games of all the fluff

The time has come to spread these wings and soar.

And life, will not be a bore.

My life has been enriched by the inclusion of animals and connecting with the flow of Mother Nature. My hope is you feel their blessings, connect with their wisdom and guidance using this yoga asana practice as a tool.

This story has been blessed with many “Tangled Troubles and Triumph” – as certified SOYA yoga Teacher/ life coach/Soul Sister Christina Lockhart named her first mantra coloring book. As I dive deeper into this asana practice the story continues, and the tangles and triumphs unfold. I do the best I can to embrace these and trust the flow of nature finding a balance within it. The dedication and intention of connecting with animals through yoga is what brings peace and harmony to my heart, and is what I desire to share with the world.

I am an Animal LOVER – I believe I am an animal empath actually, but that is still unfolding. With this love I try to draw animals in whenever I can. They inspire me. They motivate me to be a Better human, like my cat “Furry Fur”… well, I guess that is a whole other story!

The way that animals follow their instinct and know just what to do. The way that dogs have a whole BODY Language they use to speak to each other – tail in a certain way, ears back, etc…. The natural balance, harmony and peace of animals and Mother Nature. It’s brilliant! This is where the practice of yoga comes in for me, and these aspects are teaching me to trust in the natural flow of life. A flow obtained only when the mind or ego are quieted.

Which brings us to how the “Ballad of Garudasana” came to life! It really begins with the question: “What is my mission?”. My quest for purpose in this life has always been present. I never did feel like I “fit in” here. I was 30 years old when I discovered yoga and my path to my purpose began. Now, as I connect further with the animals, I am seeing more clearly why I didn’t always “fit in” here – I am meant to fly with the Eagles! Perch when patience is needed and Soar when life has become a bore! I hope you will join me for the ride – it has been wild, happy and liberating thus far!

My connection with the Eagle specifically started on July 1, 2019 in Grand Forks B.C. This connection started in the physical realm, as most things do for us humans. The eagle also showed up in a very captivating fashion just one week prior. Andy (my husband) and I were driving down Gilpin road in Grand Forks. From the passenger seat, I looked over Andy’s shoulder to the river and witnessed an Eagle taking off. Had Andy’s arm been riding the air waves out of the window, he may have been able to graze its graceful wing.

The size. The fact that it was a Bald Eagle within a long arms length away. Wow. The creator/God had my attention.

Oh the questions it brought up! I believe all things happen for a reason and so I began to ask why ‘The Eagle’ was showing up for me. Why do I keep having all these cool experiences?!

Yoga is teaching me that we are all one, and since I am a seeker of knowledge and wisdom I hit my yoga library with my questions: Why is the Eagle showing up for me? Why is the Eagle here physically, in the cards, and in my heart (via the dragons and Mr. T Lewis)? Why do I keep seeing them?

The answer was found in the book Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language by Swami Sivananda Radha. Her beautiful entry starting on page 181 brought me to Focus my attention, my practice, and my Intention for the month. Her words led me to understand that through practicing Garudasana, the Eagle Pose:

“The Eagle would bring Clear Vision” (this was on July 5).

This was Extraordinary timing for the Clear Vision of an Eagle to show up in my life. I have just moved to BC to find what is going to bring lasting happiness, Peace and Harmony to my heart. I have always wanted to do something with this life, something to invoke change for a better world, to be a “part of the Solution, not the Pollution”. My past problem was I never had a Clear Vision of how, and never believed I could. Without Clear Vision of what is in my heart – how could I be happy? How could I live the life of purpose I have so longed for? How could I know what I was meant to teach? With the inspiration of my location, a daily practice of Garudasana and dedication to expanding my vision, this is all becoming clear.

As I dive deeper into Dedication to the Ballad to Garudasana I am hoping my current yoga practice will strengthen this vision and bring acceptance to the natural flow of the animal way.  I invite you to join me. I will be doing this practice (pictured below) on Facebook throughout the month of August and would love a community to share it with.

Every winter Eagles all gather. Thousands upon thousands will migrate to one area – I think because they follow their instinct and know they are stronger in numbers, and winter is when their babies are just going off on their own and getting strong enough to fly solo. Do they find a mate there? I wonder? Either way – I believe nature knows best.

So let’s gather! Let’s “Gather” to support each other through EXPERIENCE, not just words and comments on Facebook. Let’s create a community based on Holistic Health. Oh wait… That is what SOYA has done! So, Thank you SO much for welcoming into this community of yogis, and I hope you like what I have to contribute. Looking forward to getting to know more of you via Facebook if you’d like to connect.

With Peace and harmony,


jenniG, Grand Forks, BC

To see the Yoga class dedicated to Garudasana, Click on the pdf Ballad to Garudasana.