MAPPING THE PATHWAYS
Through practice we need to bring the body and thus the spine back into alignment. This is done by removing tensions, engaging muscles that are not working and restoring an optimal rhythm to the breath. Our lifestyle practices also have to be reviewed so that they support the process of removing impurities from the nervous system. The nervous system is the physical foundation for the higher levels of consciousness only when it is strengthened and purified can we awaken our deepest consciousness. Hatha Yoga is the process through which this happens, the asana helps to balance the body and open the channels and Pranayama cleanses the energy pathways and the deeper information inherent in the chakras is received.
WHERE WE LIKE TO HANG OUT
Yoga is a process of moving inwards by way of removing the obstacles that prevent us from connecting with our lost essence, our wholeness. Itis all about raising our consciousness.
The chakras are a map of consciousness:
Lower levels of consciousness are linked with the lower three chakras and they are connected with our instinctual energies, our animal nature which is connected to the reptilian brain, the primitive brain stem.
The fourth chakra is a transition from our instinctual energies, safety, sex, food, or money, sex, power to the heart centre which differentiates us as being human and is connected with the mammalian brain.
The upper 3 chakras are higher centres of learning, inspiration and wisdom and are connected to a higher calling; this area of the brain is the neo-cortex.
To be able to receive the calling from the higher centres we have to:
1. be able to balance and integrate the lower three centres
2. be able to transition to the heart.
Unfortunately most of the human race is firmly planted in these lower centres; the centre of man is between the first and second chakras which is our needs and wants, the issues of getting our needs met and of the constant wanting for more than we have. There is also a traffic jam in the third chakra which will translate to the survival of the fittest. We feel the sense of separation and are centred in “I-am-ness” then the perception is of limited resources, so the more I get for myself the better. With this as a major thought form on the planet we are consequently polluting all our water supplies, our bodies and the environment. We are burning up resources and destroying the very thing that sustains us.
When we look at the tribal societies they always looked at the impact of their choices and only chose in directions that the earth could sustain and would positively impact future generations. These peoples knew that we’re part of one living organism. At this moment our planet is at the edge of destruction and Yoga and other spiritual traditions are important to help people move back to their centre so they feel safe, secure and grounded, have creative lives with balanced relationships and to have a strong sense of self. In this way we can move in greater numbers into the transition of the heart and connect back into what is most important – a life lived in harmony with spirit.
SHIVA (CONSCIOUSNESS) / SHAKTI (ENERGY)
“Only when Shiva is united with Shakti does he have the power to create” – Saundaryalahari
SHIVA AND SHAKTI
Tantra considers the universe to be a manifestation of pure consciousness. Through this process of manifesting, consciousness divides itself into two parts which, though seeming to be separate cannot exist without one another.
1. Shiva remains as a static, formless quality
2. Shakti is a dynamic, creative aspect.
In Yoga and from the map of consciousness that is the chakras, Shiva and Shakti are the equivalent of Purusha (pure consciousness) and Prakrati (energy matrix). In Yoga mythology Shakti (energy, the life giver) is Shiva’s (pure consciousness) consort and that are always striving for union.
Shiva without Shakti is unable to experience; He cannot create form or order.
Shakti without Shiva is unable to move; She is undirected, chaotic and dissipates.
On the physical plane, both are important. The higher our level of consciousness, the more accurately we perceive things as they are, and when we have a nervous system that can support a high level of energy we begin to manifest a world around us that supports our higher level of understanding. When we have obstacles or interruptions in the flow of our energy as shown in the Koshas and mapped in the chakras, these prevent us from reaching our highest potential. The role of Shiva is the destroyer – it destroys the habits (Samskaras) and structures carved out of space to reveal consciousness. The role of Shakti is the life giver. She is the energy/creator of the seen world and when our collective consciousness has been elevated then the seen world will reflect this.
BALANCING OUR FLOWS
YIN / YANG (DUALITY)
HATHA Yoga is comprised of the two seed syllables,HA & THA, sun & moon. The idea being to balance duality and bring us back to a centre where energy can move freely…meaning that we respond to life in the moment rather than react out of past experience. This is also represented in Yoga as Ida (moon) Pingala (sun) and Sushumna (centre). When we successfully balance Ida (Yin) & Pingala (Yang) energy moves up the central channel (Sushmna) and ends at the 6th chakra (3rd eye). This is where Hatha Yoga ends and Raja Yoga begins. Yin/Yang: Is most often easy to determine through our autonomic nervous system and its two branches – sympathetic (Yang) – fight/flight (active) parasympathetic (yin) – rest/digest (passive).
Yin-yang is an active concept: yin and yang are thought to arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle, and continues moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin-yang, thus, always has the following characteristics:
YIN-YANG ARE OPPOSING
Yin yang describes opposing qualities in phenomena. For instance, winter is yin to summer’s yang over the course of a year, and femininity is yin to masculinity’s yang in human relationships. It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite.
YIN-YANG ARE ROOTED TOGETHER
Since yin and yang are created together in a single movement, they are bound together as parts of a mutual whole. A race with only men or only women would disappear in a single generation, but men and women together create a new generation that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive.
YIN-YANG TRANSFORMS EACH OTHER
Like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky – an intrinsically yang movement. Then when it reaches its full height, it will begin to weaken, and eventually will fall back to the earth in decay – an intrinsically yin movement. Yin always contains the potential for yang, and yang for yin.
YIN-YANG ARE BALANCED
Yin-yang is a dynamic equilibrium. Because they arise together they are always equal: if one disappears, the other must disappear as well, leaving emptiness. Yin-yang is not an actual substance or force, the way it might be conceived of in western terms. Instead, it is a universal way of describing the interactions and interrelations of the natural forces that do occur in the world. It applies as well in social constructions – e.g. value judgements like good and evil, rich and poor, honour and dishonour – yet it is often used in those contexts as a warning, since by its principles extreme good will turn to evil, extreme wealth to poverty, extreme honour to dishonour. Immediately apparent, though, yang elements are clear and obvious while yin elements are hidden and subtle. – Wikipedia.com
HOW ARE YOU RESPONDING TO YOUR ENVIRONMENT?
In life we are always building momentum in the opposite direction, there is always the arising of the opposite of one thing to balance another. This is the constancy of change. In Yoga we seek to make the swings of the pendulum much smaller so that we can maintain a central axis.
The body/mind system is always trying to find a central position. We therefore use appropriate practises to bring our clients/students to this centre. Otherwise injury, illness, and difficult circumstances are the unfortunate alternative.
People are always trying to create a centre through wrong knowledge: drugs, sex, over exercise, food etc. but these are all transient. A true centre only comes through right knowledge, by stilling the mind and using Buddhi (intelligence).
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) (or visceral nervous system) is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system, maintaining homeostasis in the body. These activities are generally performed without conscious control or sensation. The ANS affects heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, and perspiration, diameter of the pupils, menstruation (urination), and sexual arousal. Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind. Its main components are its sensory system, motor system (comprised of the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system), and the enteric nervous system.
Sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions typically function in opposition to each other. But this opposition is better termed complementary in nature rather than antagonistic.
For an analogy, one may think of the sympathetic division as the accelerator and the parasympathetic division as the brake.
The sympathetic division typically functions in actions requiring quick responses. The parasympathetic division functions with actions that do not require immediate reaction. Consider sympathetic as “fight or flight” and paras ympathetic as “rest and digest”.
WHAT IS MY ENERGY ACCOUNT LIKE?
As teachers, our challenge is to get people to chill out and rest down with Yin-type practices. Do less than 60% effort, breathe through the nose, combine slow movement with the breath and do more repetitions. If not, people burn out and are forced into a Yin position, with injury and illness. This is something we can prevent from happening with education and the correct practises.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for:
- Hormones production
- Anabolic (growth/repair)
Vitality is our ability to assimilate and eliminate and it is reliant on complete mental and physical relaxation. All strong practice, to a large extent, creates a sympathetic response. This is not a bad thing in itself; it is how we respond to it that is important. It is healthy to push against our edges a little as this is how we grow, but we need to be able to adapt to the impulse with a positive response.
If constantly in a sympathetic state we will be in a catabolic state which is breaking down tissue and we will not be able to build muscle. When the body produces hormones the order is for:
- Stress (cortisol, glucortocoids)
- Growth hormones (DHEA)
- Sex hormones (testosterone, estrogens
When we are constantly in a sympathetic state then the hormones for growth and sex become diminished, these are sure signs that yin practises are urgently needed. Learn to be kind to yourself and rest. Notice that it is okay to do less and rest into it. Notice the agitation as we slow everything down. We spend most of our time busy including Yoga as a way not to notice. As the agitation arises, keep pulsing at the edges, allow prana to flow, be kind to yourself and rest.
This invitation may seem unacceptable because it feels uncomfortable but it only feels uncomfortable to the ego. If in the moment we accept the constant invitation to rest into the gaps, the ground state of being, the place prior to pattern then at that moment we sit in presence and notice that this is our primary state, a joy in itself. As my teacher Julies says: “Like a cat basking in the sun, completely surrender to warmth. Easy, easy, easy.”
We will notice this yang imbalance in our body when we come into alignment and too often we realise how tired we are, so naps, going to sleep, seems like the natural thing to do. When trying to give the body new information or trying to restructure, we have to be relaxed enough to allow it to be conscious.
It is perfectly ok to say, “I am never going to get up”.
YANG AND LOVE
Action in the world combined with love is the creative aspect of the universe that is responsible for all great works of art (music, painting, poetry etc) and altruistic endeavour. To reach a state of Yoga does not mean to have no goals in life and to sit around in bed all day but to lead a life of deep purpose guided by our inner knowing.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Ajuna that as a warrior he must carry out his duties in the world without doubt and with great skill. When we operate in the world from love we are greatly supported and much is possible.