Bio-Energetic Yoga & Meditation Workshop
Hosted by Deb Porte Bobier, E-RYT 500 and founder of YogaBound.com
When: Sunday, November 24th and Saturday, November 30th
Where: 1201 Harbor Hills Dr., Largo, Florida
Time: 9am – 1pm
Cost: $65.00 day of. Or, pre-pay now (payment button at the end of this page) and pay just $55.00 Bring a friend and pay $45.00 ea. Sign up for both, $40.00 ea.
This is a perfect time to take some time out for yourself before the Holidays. This workshop is designed for everyone. And ideal for new or experienced teacher’s that are looking for a tune-up. Or, wanting to take their practice to a deeper level.
This is a slow, yet powerful practice that will take you inward, to deeper and deep levels of your being. It is intense and energetic, yet will leave you feeling relaxed and blissed out.
We’ll work with all the Chakra’s (the bodies energy channels of consciousness), Pranayama (breathwork), Meditation, then Yoga Nidra, or final relaxtion. Throughout the practice will be powerful messages from the teachings of the 8 limbs. As well as from the Yoga Sutras.
We’ll begin with Sun Salutations chanting the 12 Vedic names for the Sun. Continue with warm up excercises to connect the mind and the body, by arousing the 5th and 6th chakras. Move into a Hatha Yoga practice designed to awaken, harmonize and develop each of the Chakras. Starting with the first Chakra, and working our way up.
We’ll incorporate several Pranayama techniques to open the Nadi’s. Perform several sound meditations to further activate and harmonize the higher Chakras. Then end with a wonderfully relaxing Yoga Nidra.
I hope you will join me. And look forward to seeing you soon. Deb Porte Bobier
If you have any questions please feel free to zip me an email.
The Three Gunas – Balancing Consciousness
The three gunas are the most subtle qualities of Nature that underlie matter, life and mind. They are the energies through which not only the surface mind, but our deeper consciousness functions. They are the powers of the soul which hold the karmas and desires that propel us from birth to birth. The gunas adhere in Nature herself as her core potentials for diversification.
All objects in the universe consist of various combinations of the three gunas. Cosmic evolution consists of their mutual interaction and transformation. The three gunas are one of the prime themes of Ayurvedic thought. They form a deeper level than the three biological humors and help us understand our mental and spiritual nature and how it functions.
Have you ever had a day when you have been hyperactive, on the go from morning till night, then finding it hard to stop? This is an excess of the energy called rajas, or activity.
Or a day when you can’t rouse yourself from sleep, feel unmotivated and drag yourself through the day? This is an excess of the energy called tamas, or inertia.
What about the day when tranquility prevails, when you feel calm and clear and do no more or less than is perfectly in the flow? This is the balance of the energy called sattva, or harmony.
The ancient scriptures of the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, Samkya Yoga, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, among others, all present these three energies, the gunas, as the basis of the material universe. From the word guna, meaning strand or rope, the three gunas are described as three intertwined strands that bind embodied beings to physical nature or the material world.
The great teacher of classical yoga, Patanjali, says (Yoga Sutras II.18), “The world of objects is composed of the three gunas—the principles of illumination (sattva), activity (rajas) and inertia (tamas). From these the whole universe has evolved, together with the instruments of knowledge—such as the mind, senses, etc.—and the objects perceived—such as the physical elements. The universe exists in order that the experiencer may experience it, and thus become liberated.”
On a spiritual level, understanding the gunas provides opportunities for spiritual inquiry and personal development. On a practical level, the gunas reflect states of mind that manifest as moods and behaviors. Through awareness and discrimination we have the possibility to become a master of their fluctuations.
From the Bhagavad Gita (14.7): “Rajas is marked by passion born of craving and attachment; it binds the embodied Self to never-ending activity.”
As positive energy: Rajas presents such qualities as enthusiasm, excitement, ambition, alertness, accomplishment, passion and an ability to get things done. Vitality encourages work and creativity.
In excess: Too much rajas heightens emotion and develops hyperactivity, anger, anxiety, aggression, agitation, struggle or fear. Thought processes turn off and obsessions arise from desire and an overactive mind and body.
In the physical world: In nature, rajas represents activity. The higher energies of heat and movement are known to be rajasic. Too much movement such as wind or heavy exercise, or higher heat can increase rajas and result in agitation. For example, you may have noticed that you or other people dislike windy days or feel particularly irritable in the heat, whereas others aren’t bothered. It’s helpful to simply notice if the weather affects you on any given day and in what way. If you know you are affected you can then seek balance. In general, calm and temperate weather reduces or helps balance rajas. As you no doubt have experienced, getting outdoors on a beautiful day helps you feel better if you have been agitated.
From the Bhagavad Gita (14.8): “Tamas, ignorance-born, deludes all embodied beings; it binds them by means of dullness, indolence and sleep.”
As positive energy: Tamas presents qualities such as ease, loyalty, patience, stability and being grounded. Shutting down or coming to rest brings forgetfulness and possibility of renewal.
In excess: Too much tamas leads to laziness, apathy, insensitivity, depression, and feelings of darkness, grief, helplessness or loneliness. Sluggishness overcomes the mind and a sense of avoidance prevails.
In the physical world: In nature, tamas represents stillness as well as darkness. Any damp weather, including the full range of light to heavy rain (cold or warm) can increase tamas or the feeling of inertia. You may have noticed that you or others are more bothered by humidity and dislike being in the rain. In general, clear, temperate and sunny weather can reduce or balance tamas. It’s especially healing to get outside in good weather if you are feeling tamasic.
Sattva: Knowledge, Luminosity
From the Bhagavad Gita (14.6): “Of these three, sattva, untainted, luminous, free from sorrow, binds by means of attachment to knowledge and joy.”
As positive energy: Sattva presents qualities such as goodness, clarity, illumination, appropriateness, being in the present and pure consciousness. Virtue brings wisdom and peace.
In excess: One pitfall of sattva is the delusion of the ego, which generates smugness, complacency and self-satisfaction. Another pitfall is attachment. The ancient yogic texts warn against settling into worldly happiness and urge you to wrest yourself away from the material and experience the spiritual nature of the universe.
In the physical world: In nature, light, clear and constant weather is sattvic. But the harmony of sattva can prevail regardless of external conditions.
Basic Characteristics of the Gunas
|Desire, wanting||Acceptance||Not wanting, pushing away, blocked|
|Staying in the same place||Upward||Downward|
Sometimes rajas predominates, sometimes tamas prevails, and sometimes you may enjoy the state of sattva. As in all of life, these energies rise or descend in a wide variety of combinations. The three strands of the gunas intertwine and affect each other. As long as the energies of the gunas stay in relative equilibrium, everyday life remains in balance. If you realize you have become out of balance, you can shift yourself into a more sattvic state of being.
Those with a preponderance of sattva are characterised by clarity, knowledge, sensitivity and grace in the material world. Many people are sattvic; they are not limited to the wisdom teachers and yogis. Think about any of your family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances who are conscientious and serve with open-heartedness and love.
You are sattvic when you experience heightened awareness or savor wellbeing. Through discrimination you can teach yourself to notice your moments of contentment so you can move towards them when you feel imbalanced. For example, you may be at an outdoor café with a friend, at a family gathering or seated in the stadium, watching your favourite sport. Now’s the time to take notice of how you feel—all’s right with the world. You feel harmony, connection, expansion, even love. If you can, take a moment to increase your awareness at this time. Make a mental note that this is what it feels like to be totally content and at one with the universe. Then at another time when you feel agitated, place that remembered state in your awareness and consciously move towards it.
Heinrich Zimmer, in his book Philosophies of India, says, “The intellect or wisdom-mind is compounded of the three gunas, but by means of yoga, sattva guna is made to prevail. Yogic training purges the wisdom-mind of its original inheritance of tamas and rajas. With the removal of tamas, darkness is removed and the subtle matter of the wisdom-mind becomes translucent, like the waters of a mountain lake. With the removal of rajas, agitation is removed and the rippling of the restless surface then is stilled, so that the waters, already cleared, become a steady mirror.”
- Overcoming rajas: The next time you feel hyper-busy, take a moment to notice that you have become rajasic. Even if you have many things to do or are in a momentum of getting a lot done, recognize you may have become unbalanced towards rajas. See if you can identify anxiety, irritation or a chattering mind. You only need a moment to become aware of yourself, focus on the centre of your being and become connected to your higher nature, or sattva. You can still continue doing things, but with more awareness.
- Overcoming tamas: It can be harder to pull yourself up from a tamasic low than to slow down from a rajasic high. Paramahansa Yogananda, the great 20th-century yogi, says, “A restless rajasic man bakes himself slowly in the oven of worries about himself and others. But a tamasic man, as though ossified, is not even roused even by the sizzling process of worries. He exists like an inert, lifeless stone.” By identifying that you have become tamasic, you can try to move yourself out of it. Whenever you recognize an imbalance of tamas, force yourself to get up and do something—anything.
- Burn it out: One approach to balance too much rajas or tamas is to move towards the condition. For example, you can burn out hyperactive rajas through sport or play. You can burn out tamas through indulgence, such as spending a day in bed.
- Change your behavior: The other approach is to move away from the condition. You may need to discipline restlessness with imposed stillness or lethargy with activity.
- Become the observer: You can also take a step back to observe your state and say to yourself, “I am under the influence of rajas. Tamas has me under its grip.” By distancing yourself as the observer you already have more power over the condition.
The challenge is to always move yourself towards sattva. Here are some suggestions to balance your energy. Over time you may develop favourites of your own.
To Decrease Rajas (Hyperactivity) or Tamas (Inertia)
|Antidotes to Rajas
||Antidotes to Tamas|
|Physically||Slow down, rest||Get up and do something|
|Mentally||Change your focus from the sensory experiences of the outer world or the chatter of your mind to the inner world of your heart||Look outward into the physical universe and participate in it|
|Emotionally||Stop dwelling on your highly charged emotional state; if you are talkative, be silent||Change your focus from negative emotions to activity|
|Food||Avoid spicy foods||Avoid heavy carbohydrates|
|Yoga postures||Hold yoga postures for a long time; do postures that get you out of your mind and into your body: lionpose, cobra, upward dog/downward dog||Increase energy by yoga sequences such as sun salutations: warrior pose, bow, triangle, also balancing poses, such as the tree|
|Breath||Practice alternate nostril breathing to burn out the excess of energy or take slow, deep breaths until you calm down||Energise yourself with bhastrika, deep quick breathing from the diaphragm; or slow, deep breaths to help you come into your body|
|Environment||Seek serenity, a place with calming music; or get outside into nature||Go anywhere else than your bed, couch or other favourite hideaway; seek the company of others|
|Meditation||Repeat the mantra or listen to recordings of the mantra; if you have an established practice, meditation is a brilliant method to slow down and become centred||Use recordings of guided meditations; if you can concentrate, read yoga philosophy or scriptures; use the mantra to energise your meditation|
In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Yogananada says, “Though a brilliant fetter, sattva is still a fetter. A gold wire can tie a man to a post just as securely as can a wire of silver or steel. Like tamas (ignorance) and rajas (selfish activity), sattva also binds the soul to the body and to the earth plane.”
He adds, “Just as a man understands that he sees a motion picture through the instrumentality of an electric beam of light and a variegated film, so a perfected yogi comprehends that the phenomenal worlds and their activities are merely a dance of shadows and lights—the relativities or expressions of the three gunas, animated by the Supreme light.”
When you take time to consider the gunas you will notice their binding nature. Human beings are entranced by sensory experiences. Creating, building, accomplishing and flourishing are attractive possibilities. At the end of busy-ness everyone longs for release, rest, sleep and sometimes even a bit of laziness. Sometimes we ride the passion of an excess of rajas; sometimes we’re seduced by the self-pity of tamas; and sometimes we’re attracted to the good feeling of sattva.
Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th-century sage, used the gunas in teaching his disciples about their binding nature. He would tell a story of a man travelling through a forest when three robbers fell upon him and took his possessions. One robber wanted to kill him but another recommended tying him up. The robbers bound his hands and feet and went away. After awhile the third robber returned and apologized. He released him from his bonds and took him to the road that would take him home.
Ramakrishna said, “This world itself is the forest. The three robbers prowling here are sattva, rajas and tamas. It is they that rob a man of the knowledge of truth. Tamas wants to destroy him. Rajas binds him to the world. But sattva rescues him from the clutches of rajas and tamas. Under the protection of sattva, man is rescued from anger, passion and the other effects of tamas. Further, sattva loosens the bonds of the world. But sattva also it a robber. It cannot give him the ultimate knowledge of truth, though it shows him the road leading to the supreme abode of knowledge. Setting him on the path, sattva tells him, look yonder. There is your home.”
Sattva, personified by the third robber, sets you free from the attachment of the other two gunas, excess and lack, but you have to apply additional effort to shake off the attachment of even good living to seek the spiritual nature of the universe.
Transcending the gunas
The great teaching text, the Yoga Vashishta (The Supreme Yoga) says, “They who are of a pure (sattvic) nature and they whose activities (rajas) are based on purity and light (sattva) do not live their life mechanically, but inquire into the origin and the nature of this world-appearance. When such inquiry is conducted with the help of the right study of scriptures and the company of holy ones, there arises a clear understanding within oneself in which the truth is seen, as in the light of a lamp.”
“What is my place in the universe? Who am I? Why am I here?” These are some of the questions of spiritual inquiry that lead to freedom from the binding energies of the gunas.
As an individual becomes more set in a sattvic life, a broader perspective arises. Sattva as an energy naturally leads upward to a higher state of being or towards knowledge and experience of the divine. Sattvic people tend to question their existence, their relation to the physical world and the spiritual foundation of the universe. The path of the yogi is to experience spirituality as well as serving the material world.
With a nature of stillness, the sattvic person is seated in the third eye, the chakra or energy centre within the body that represents being able to see inwards as well as outwards. By looking inwards, the spiritual context of the universe unfolds. In time even the fetters of goodness dissolve and the yogi experiences ultimate unity.
The philosophy of yoga says the universe exists to be experienced and the goal of human life is to become liberated from bondage. This bondage is the attachment of the gunas; once you can let go of too much, too little and even “just right”, you are well on your pathway home.
(c) copyright 2009 Swami Dayananda
Military Battle PTSD With Yoga
By: David Wood
(This is a subject close to my heart. Having a father that was a lifer in the Army, I witnessed first hand, the debilitating, and devastating impact of war on those that had to fight it. As well as their families. Thank you to my friend Annie, and all those that are working to make the transition for these amazing men and women more positive, healthy and manageable.)
For a decade, troops returning from war with mental and physical trauma have been dosed with cocktails of numbing drugs and corralled into talk-therapy sessions, often with civilian clinicians who have no experience in combat and its aftereffects.
But alarmingly high suicide rates among veterans, as well as domestic violence, substance abuse and unemployment, suggested to some military doctors, combat commanders and researchers that conventional treatments aren’t always enough.
Now, one proven, effective treatment is gaining wide acceptance within hard-core military circles: yoga.
Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors.
“It’s cleansing — I really feel refreshed,” Marine Sgt. Senio Martz said after finishing a recent yoga session.
A stocky 27-year-old, Martz was leading his nine-man squad on a foot patrol through the lush poppy fields and rock outcroppings of the Kajaki district of southern Afghanistan 20 months ago when a roadside bomb knocked him unconscious and killed or wounded the Marines under his command. The blast put an end to his plans for a career in the Marine Corps. It also left him hyper-vigilant, a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and carrying the joint burdens of guilt and shame: As a squad leader, it had been his responsibility to bring his nine Marines home safe.
“It’s a feeling of regret — failure — that really affects me now,” he said. “I didn’t see the signs that could have alerted me to warn them to get away.” He stared at the floor and then looked up with a tight smile. “I go on living where their lives have ended. I can’t help them now.”
Yoga gives him relief from the acute anxiety that forces him to listen to and sight-sweep everything around him, constantly checking the doors and windows, always on alert, poised for danger, with no break. It is hard for him to let go.
“I gotta push myself to try some of these techniques,” he admitted. “But last night after yoga, I had a good sleep. That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.”
Martz’s experience is backed up by reams of scientific studies, including research funded by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Researchers have demonstrated that trauma-sensitive yoga, which focuses on stretching, breathing techniques and meditation, can help patients regain their inner balance, calming that part of the brain that has become hyper-aroused under severe stress.
Trauma or prolonged stress can cause a malfunction of the parasympathetic nervous system, researchers say. That’s the part of the brain which enables the body to relax, easing pain and even helping unblock digestive systems — often a problem for wounded troops who get high doses of medication and not enough exercise.
In war zones, researchers have found, this parasympathetic nervous system often becomes “frozen” as the body gears up for danger by injecting adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing rapid breathing and pulse and hyper-vigilance — the “fight or flight” response.
That’s good and necessary self-preservation in times of peril that helps keep troops alert and alive. Back home, however, that hyper-vigilance is out of place and can cause insomnia, anxiety and outbursts of anger. Returning warriors with PTSD become dependent on drugs or alcohol “because they have no other way to calm themselves down,” said Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a clinician and researcher who has studied PTSD since the 1970s.
Not all yoga helps. Some forms of yoga are used by special forces, for instance, to build muscle power and flexibility. But yoga teachers working with wounded troops have developed trauma-sensitive forms of yoga, including a technique called iRest. This adaptation uses meditation techniques in a soft and secure setting to reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system by drawing the patient’s attention and consciousness inward, rather than focusing on stress and the terrors that dwell outside, said yoga teacher Robin Carnes.
For instance, Carnes has learned that when she is giving a class to troops with hyper-vigilance, like Martz, she should first open all the closet doors and drawers, so that her patients don’t spend all their time fretting about what might be inside.
In 2006 Carnes, a veteran yoga practitioner and teacher, began working with wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, now located outside Washington, D.C. There, she was an instructor in a Pentagon-funded program to examine the feasibility of using iRest yoga nidra as an adjunct treatment for PTSD symptoms. After the study was completed, she was hired as the yoga and iRest instructor for a Pentagon-funded multidisciplinary treatment program for patients with acute PTSD and TBI. She later established an organization called Warriors at Ease to train and certify teachers to use the techniques with the military.
Drawing from traditional yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga teaches patients to firmly plant their feet and activate their leg muscles in poses that drain energy and tension from the neck and shoulders, where they naturally gather, causing headaches and neck pain.
“The goal here is to move tension away from where it builds up when you are stressed, and focus it on the ground so you feel more balanced and connected,” Carnes said.
When she started at Walter Reed, she said, she was working with eight wounded troops with physical and mental health injuries. Some hadn’t slept for more than two hours at a time, for years, she said. “They were immediately like, ‘I can’t do this, it won’t work, you have no idea what’s going on in my brain.’ I’d say, ‘Just try it, it’s helped others.’ And probably because they were desperate — nothing else had worked, including drugs — they did try it. And I saw, sometimes within the first day, they started to relax. Snoring! They’d tell me, ‘I don’t know what happened, but I feel better.'”
One of her patients was struggling with outbursts of violent anger, a common effect of PTSD, and had gotten into raging arguments with his wife. Several weeks into regular yoga classes, he went home one day “and his wife lit into him and he could feel a confrontation coming on,” Carnes said. “He told me that he’d taken a deep breath and told his wife he was going upstairs to meditate. And that was the first time he’d been able to do that.”
Practices like iRest and other forms of yoga are so clearly effective that now they are taught and used at dozens of military bases and medical centers — even at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., home of the Navy SEALs, the branch of commandos who killed Osama bin Laden.
“I knew anecdotally that yoga helped — and now we have clinical proof of its impact on the brain, and on the heart,” said retired Rear Adm. Tom Steffens, a decorated Navy SEAL commander and yoga convert. Within the military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said, “I see it growing all the time.”
Steffens, an energetic man with a booming voice, first tried yoga to deal with his torn bicep, an injury that surgery and medication hadn’t helped. He quickly became a convert, practicing yoga daily. Visiting with wounded SEALs a decade ago, he noticed that “the type of rehab they were doing was wonderful, but there was no inward focus on themselves — it was all about power as opposed to stretching and breathing.”
Before long, Steffens had helped start a foundation, Exalted Warrior, that holds yoga classes for wounded troops and their families at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia, the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., and elsewhere.
The military’s embrace of yoga shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word meaning to “join” or “unite” — dates back to 3,000 B.C., and its basic techniques were used in the 12th century when Samurai warriors prepared for battle with Zen meditation. Still, some old-timers are shocked to find combat Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and amputees at James A. Haley VA Medical Center practicing their Downward Dog and deep breathing techniques.
One early skeptic: Thomas S. Jones, a wiry retired Marine major general who likes to mask his love for Marines with a staccato parade-ground bark and a jut-jawed, prove-it approach to life.
Some years ago Jones started inviting wounded Marines to an intense, six-day retreat at a camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania to help them figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, to set goals and start working toward them. He quickly found that the Marines, struggling with physical wounds and PTSD, had trouble focusing. Someone mentioned that yoga might help. “Well, we’ve tried some ideas that didn’t work out and we threw them away,” Jones said dismissively, “but we’ll try it.”
And? “It has helped,” Jones told The Huffington Post in a slightly disbelieving voice. Yoga has since become a centerpiece of the retreat, called Semper Fi Odyssey. “This whole idea of relaxation, there’s a lotta guys who can’t do hardly anything physical, can still do yoga. And there’s a lot of value in meditation.”
The results, Jones and others have discovered, are indisputable.
A study published earlier this year of 70 active-duty U.S. troops, then-based at Forward Operating Base Warrior, in Kirkuk, Iraq, found that daily yoga helped relieve anxiety, reduced irritability and improved sleep — even amid daily “gunfire and helicopter sounds.”
Progressive relaxation, calming breathing and relaxation techniques “reduce physical, emotional, mental and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD,” according to retired Air Force Maj. Nisha N. Money, a physician who recently served as chief of fitness policy for the Air Force.
“Guys with trauma — their center is out there,” said Annie Okerlin, flinging her arm outward. She’s a yoga expert who works with wounded warriors, families and staff therapists at the VA hospital in Tampa, Walter Reed and elsewhere. “What we do is gently and sweetly bring them back to their center, here,” she said, touching her chest.
Much of her work is with amputees. “I always tell the guys, ‘Your brain still thinks your leg is there, so we are going to speak to your brain as if your limb IS still there,”’ she said. “I tell them to flex the foot — spread your toes! — and the brain goes, ahhh, that feels good, I’m stretching — even though that limb is no longer there. It settles the brain down, because it’s doing its job, the blood flow increases, guys can feel their body again, the trauma fades. It’s beautiful!”
Working at Walter Reed, she once came across a double, above-the-knee amputee, who had been wounded by an IED. He was huddled in his hospital bed, his mother perched beside him on the edge of a chair, and for weeks he had refused to move, even for his physical therapy sessions. He admitted he was ashamed to be seen with his stumps twitching. Okerlin sat with him, leading him through some gentle breathing exercises. She could see him relax, and after a few minutes he fell asleep.
The next day he showed up for his physical therapy appointment to begin the healing.
With partially-paralyzed patients, Okerlin often has them lie on their back, put their hands on their rib cage and feel their breathing. One patient told her he was amazed to find he could feel a rush of energy toward his legs even though he still had no sensation in his legs.
Okerlin recently spent several days at a Semper Fi Odyssey retreat, teaching yoga and iRest to Marines with physical wounds, PTSD or traumatic brain injury. She has a warm and engaging style and works to establish a non-threatening environment in her sessions. “People who’ve been traumatized have lost their ability to feel secure,” she said.
As the wounded Marines settled onto floor mats, she told them, “You can close your eyes if that feels comfortable, but I will have my eyes open all the time watching,” emphasizing that they are safe and can relax. “There’s no wrong way to do this,” she said. “Are there any head injuries here?” she asked, and a wiseguy in the class called out, “We’re ALL head injuries!” to general chuckles.
At one point she had them on their backs, knees drawn up and held by their arms, a posture she tells them “massages the descending colon.” “This will help ensure you have that morning constitutional,” she told them cheerfully as they gently rocked back and forth.
Soon she had them focusing all their attention on their breathing, urging them to feel how each inward and outward breath lightly traces their spine. “Now I’m going to turn the lights out,” she said softly, “in three, two … one. If you fall asleep, that’s fine. If you’re snoring too loudly, I will come by and touch you on your right shoulder.”
On the mat next to Sgt. Martz were two Marines. One was Billy Wright, 49, who did two combat tours in Lebanon in 1983 and was later paralyzed from the chest down in a car wreck. He uses yoga breathing exercises to loosen up his muscles and joints that stiffen from long periods in his wheelchair. “Even lying on my back I can feel my hips flex,” he said. “Sitting in the chair, they get real tight and this loosens them up.”
The other was 24-year-old Joshua Boyd from Dry Fork, Va., a Marine lance corporal who did two combat tours in Iraq and came home wounded, with PTSD and mild TBI. He lost a good friend, a fellow Marine, who was killed by an IED. “They had stuck it inside a culvert,” Boyd said. “I had just gotten to Iraq and didn’t have IED training and I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t look where I should have. It was my fault.”
After the blast, he said, he and his platoon collected the body parts.
At night, Boyd often jackknifes awake, yelling and sweating, dreaming of an intense firefight he experienced in Iraq in 2007. During this recurring dream, his wife is there in the middle of the battle and his buddies have abandoned them both while insurgents are closing in on them. He can feel them sense his weakness.
“I do have trouble sleeping,” he said sheepishly. During the long nights, he is often either deep in his nightmare, or terrified he is about to have it again.
But yoga has helped change the way he sleeps and dreams. “Yesterday I did the iRest session. I fell asleep,” he said. “When I got done, I felt so much more energized. I haven’t felt like that for years.”
Clarification: Language has been added to indicate that Carnes was an instructor in a Pentagon-funded program to study iRest techniques and PTSD.
By: David Wood
David Wood writes about a tool increasingly used to help veterans confront the many challenges waiting for them when they return home from war zones: yoga. There’s a growing consensus among military doctors, researchers, and veterans themselves, that conventional treatments aren’t always enough to help vets navigate the consequences of PTSD — from unemployment and domestic violence to substance abuse, anxiety, and suicide. As Wood puts it, “Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors.”
The embrace of yoga — especially among onetime skeptics in “hard-core military circles” — is a step forward in our efforts to give veterans the care they need and deserve. It’s also in line with the latest research and thinking about the destructive force of stress in our lives. The adrenaline-fueled hyper-vigilance that’s so vital to our soldiers in combat zones becomes, for many, a nightmare of anxiety that makes it difficult to function when they come back home. That was the case for Sgt. Senio Martz, a 27-year-old Marine who was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb when leading his squad through southern Afghanistan in 2011. Today, yoga relieves him from the need to closely monitor his surroundings during the day — an obsession that was also keeping him up at night. “Last night after yoga, I had a good sleep,” he says. “That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.”
Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs researchers have found that yoga’s stretching, breathing techniques and meditation can help calm the part of the brain that the stresses of war kicks into a state of hyper-arousal. And more and more yoga teachers are bringing these practices to the vets who need them. Robin Carnes, who helped develop a program called iRest, found that meditation helps draw patients’ attention inward, away from outside stresses. She also founded “Warriors at Ease,” which trains and certifies yoga teachers to bring calming yoga practices to even more soldiers in need.
As Wood writes, using yoga to help returning veterans isn’t as surprising as it might seem. “After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word meaning to ‘join’ or ‘unite’ — dates back to 3,000 B.C., and its basic techniques were used in the 12th century when Samurai warriors prepared for battle with Zen meditation.” As more and more skeptics are convinced, and as yoga becomes further ingrained in our military hospitals, that means more veterans will be making deep breathing and Downward Dog part of their recovery regimens.
Health and Intimacy Benefits of Practicing Tantra Yoga, Tantric Sex and Tantric Orgasms
From Chandi Devi
Sexual Health can be improved naturally through the practices of Tantra Yoga and tantric sex. Besides having a strong body/mind/spirit connection, every loving couple should also enjoy multiple, powerful sexual orgasms, which stimulate and increase the secretion of the pineal and pituitary glands.
Tantric Sex Improves Sexual Health
Tantric sex has a rejuvenating effect, improving men and women’s sexual health. Frequent orgasms, as one of the brain wave stimulations, will alter body chemistry. Depression and stress disappear. Women’s sexual health is greatly improved. Headaches, menstrual cramps, urinary-tract problems, weak immune function, incontinence, etc. virtually become a thing of the past.
In tantric sex, the brain chemistry is affected by empowering the endocrine glands for more hGH, serotonin, DHEA, and testosterone. Scientific and medical studies prove that sexual health improves drastically… stimulating blood circulation, detoxifying the body through the breath, strengthening the cardiovascular, endocrine/immune and nervous functions, leading to improved sexual health, rejuvenation and longevity.
Orgasms Strengthen The Immune System
Orgasms that last at least 20 minutes can alleviate depression altogether. Take years off our face as depression is eliminated from our life. Prolong life span, strengthen the immune system and improve overall sexual health by freeing our body and mind through tantric sex.
Men can derive great benefits by increasing sexual quantity and sexual quality in a safe, healthy, natural way through tantric sex. Tantric sex focuses on the benefits of prolonging the sex act for more intimacy and health benefits.
Men are most concerned with:
- Having a soft erection
- Inability to maintain an erection
- Low intensity
- Premature ejaculation
- Prolonging ejaculation
- Performance skills
- Self confidence
- Satisfying his partner
- Male sexual health
While men’s sexual health concerns are more of a physical nature, women’s concerns seem to be a function of their minds.
Women want to enjoy sex, but their main problem usually stems from Western based religions or feelings of guilt and shame.
Women’s problems with sex generally fall in the following categories:
- Loss of interest in sex
- Loss of sensations
- Painful intercourse
- Inability to reach orgasm
- Having weak or mild orgasms
- Weak internal muscles due to childbirth etc.
- Sexual health concerns
- Sexual guilt and shame
- Fear of intimacy
- Need to be in control
Loss of interest can arise from being too busy, overworked, having an insensitive lover who doesn’t know how to make you happy. The guilt and shame factor is deeply imbedded in our Western culture mainly perpetuated through religion and “osmosis” …the Western mind-set. In the East, the body and all its functions are considered beautiful and natural.
Frequent Orgasms and Women’s Health
Frequent orgasms can benefit women’s sexual health tremendously. However, there is a vast difference in having an ordinary orgasm and having a tantric orgasm. Ordinary orgasms, which are the norm, are of short duration, isolated in the sex organs. Tantric sex orgasms involve the full body, mind and spirit, lasting for hours as well.
Benefits of Tantric Orgasm
To obtain the benefits of a tantric orgasm, the shakti, or energy, the rising kundalini, must pierce each of the chakras (vortexes of energy in the subtle body) as it ascends the spinal cord. It must reach the brain’s central nervous system and endocrine command center – the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which commands the changes that benefits our sexual health.
Benefits of Frequent Orgasms
Frequent and powerful orgasms increase the level of the orgasm hormone, oxytocin. The oxytocin level is linked to the personality, passion, social skills and emotional quotient (EQ), all of which affects career, marriage, emotions and social life. Orgasms are very beneficial for sexual health because they empower our pituitary (brain function).
We benefit from tantra practices on the physical, spiritual and emotional levels. Hari Om Tat Sat.
Everything she always wanted to know about sex toys and wasn’t afraid to ask.
By: Hilda Hutcherson, MD.
This month I’m giving readers a choice: We can either (a) discuss the possible privatization of Social Security and its impact on 21st-century macroeconomics or (b) go shopping for sex toys. May I see a show of hands? Okay, so that would be 2.4 million women ready to hit the stores, and one retired stockbroker from the suburbs of Detroit who’d be ever so grateful if I’d start writing for BusinessWeek. Sorry, Dad—the people have spoken.
With friends like Hilda Hutcherson, MD, my go-to sexpert and the author of Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need, and Deserve, who needs sales help? I call my fearless pal and offer to buy her lunch in exchange for a guided tour of the best sex toys currently on the market.
My education begins in the personal massagers section of a discreet midtown Manhattan shop called Eve’s Garden. I check out a shelf of architecturally unobtrusive little gadgets as Hilda heads straight for a periwinkle blue confection. “See how pretty,” she says, grouping it with the chartreuse and salmon ones. “They’re so sculptural, you could really have them on your coffee table without anybody realizing they’re vibrators.”
But before I can lay out what I feel is a rather cogent argument for not displaying an assortment of pastel sex toys in the middle of my living room, Hilda has moved on. “Ooh, look, Lisa—it’s the smoothie!” She picks up an ultrasleek tiger-stripe number and turns it to low. “Smoothies are a bit more phallic,” she says, as it dawns on me that Hilda’s idea of a bit more phallic is my definition of the Washington Monument. “These are terrific for women who are just trying to get their feet wet.”
As the smoothie buzzes away, I start to offer her a little free advice: “Technically, Doctor, it’s not the feet that need to get—” But before I can finish, Hilda is zeroing in on an odd contraption. “Here’s one based on a medical device for women with arousal disorder. This piece suctions the clitoris,” she says, holding up a rubbery thimble, “while this cylinder vibrates. I write lots of prescriptions for these,” she says matter-of-factly.
“But isn’t everything here over-the-counter?” I ask. “Aren’t sex toys more about leisure activity than medical need?” I can’t help picturing an operating room in which a dedicated young surgeon calls for his instruments: “Scalpel! Sutures! Box of remote-control panties!” Hilda puts down the sample of edible Kama Sutra Honey Dust she’s been enjoying. “When I write a prescription, I’m giving a woman permission from a doctor,” she says. ” And some of us need that.
Ten percent of the sexually active female population have never had an orgasm, and God knows how many women have trouble climaxing with a partner. I prescribe a vibrator for use during intercourse. Toys give you control and provide extra stimulation.”
Now, I’m aware that at this point certain readers (and you know who you are, cousin Myrna) would just as soon have me cut to waves crashing against the shore, but for my friends with a healthy curiosity—here goes nothing: “Hilda,” I say, pointing to a gigantic vibrating penis that looks and feels just like the real thing…and then some, “you don’t think most men would find this a touch daunting?” “Well, you can always start small. Here,” Hilda says, handing me the Fukuoku 9000. “This finger-puppet-y vibrator slips over any digit, looks totally nonthreatening, and still gets the job done.
How could this tiny toy make a man think he’s being replaced?”She pauses a beat, shifting into pleasure-activist mode. “But I’m telling you, Lisa, that other one is definitely worth a try. I mean, for one thing, it’s dishwasher safe!” And there you go. At exactly 12:39 Eastern standard time, life as I understand it officially ends. I note the sign that informs customers of a 10 percent discount on floor models, I see the make-your-own-dildo kit containing special molding powder, patented “liquid skin,” stir stick, vibrating unit, easy-to-follow instructions, and I suggest we break for lunch.
Over Cobb salads, I ask Hilda if there’s any truth to the rumor that vibrators are addictive. “That’s ridiculous,” she says. “Granted, if you’re using it five or six times a day, it’ll be hard to go back—”
“Or hold a job or raise a family or…walk,” I chime in.
“But,” Hilda goes on, “the thing most of us love junkies ache for can’t be found in a toy. They’ve yet to come up with a vibrator that whispers in your ear or holds you tight at 3 A.M.”
“They’ve yet to come up with a lot of men who do that.”
“True, but toys tend to put the oomph back into long-term relationships, so you start releasing those hormones that actually do keep couples close.” Hilda spears a cherry tomato. “And if you don’t have a steady partner, they help your body remember how to respond. Or if you’re menopausal—and not sexually active or taking estrogen—they keep the blood flowing through those vessels. You’ve got to prevent your vagina from shrinking and getting dry—a dildo is fantastic for that,” she says as I watch the busboy who’s refilling our iced teas go pale and back into a waiter.
If Eve’s Garden is demure, our next stop, Babeland, is big, bright, and in-your-face. “Taste this,” Hilda says as she squeezes a drop of “strawberry cheesecake lube” on the back of my hand. Before I can mention that this lubricant tastes an awful lot like Robitussin, my eyes light on the holy grail, the Rolls-Royce of sex toys. Drumroll, please: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Rabbit Habit, complete with strategically placed rotating pleasure pearls, fluttering ears, swiveling head, and varying speeds for both rotation and vibration. This bunny does it all!
“It’s a brave new world, my friend,” Hilda says as she gives me a hug, gathers her three shopping bags worth of erotica, and heads home to celebrate her husband’s 50th birthday. After checking out the vibrating bullet, the Pocket Rocket—which Hilda swears by—and the G-spot vibrator, I collect my purchases (yes, I managed to find a few things, but that’s between me, my boyfriend, and the nice woman in accounting who signs off on expense reports) and grab a cab.
With Johannes in Europe, it’ll be a girls’ night in—just me, my 3-year-old, Dora the Explorer, and Angelina Ballerina. Someday Julia will go through my drawers just the way I did my mother’s (and by the way, Mom, I’m onto you—a diaphragm is not a kitty cat’s bathing cap), and who knows what she’ll come across. Maybe I’ll take that moment to tell her how you have to work at relationships, and how you have to care for yourself, and how—unless you want to be surrounded by a SWAT team and two dozen bomb-sniffing beagles—you have to take the batteries out of toys when you travel. Or maybe I’ll just send her to lunch with Auntie Hilda.
8 Things You Need To Know About Orgasms
Orgasm – Women’s Sexuality
One of the yoga paths is Tantra. I am posting this article because I like, and agree with it. I believe that all women should enjoy the pleasure of orgasm. Tantra can help all women. And enhance any couples sexual relationship. There is no other way to open every Chakra than a mind blowing orgasm. Sign up for one of my Tantra workshops to share, discuss and learn how to make this happen for yourself.Sex researchers Masters and Johnson labeled “intense orgasms” (like the kind where Sally’s not faking it) as involving 8 to 12 vaginal contractions, each lasting 4.0 to 9.6 seconds. That adds up to over two minutes of continuous mind-bending bliss.
Not even scientists can agree on what percentage of women regularly climax, or how or even why. But it’s generally accepted that roughly a third of women are unable to have orgasm through any means, says Cindy M. Meston, PhD, who was the chair of the World Health Organization’s 2005 orgasm committee (yes, there was such a thing). Recent research has confirmed that anatomy plays a role: Some women are just born to orgasm—and some have to work at it.
A study published last year in the journal Hormones and Behavior confirmed that the shorter the distance between a woman’s clitoris and vagina (less than 2.5 centimeters is ideal), the easier it is for her partner to stimulate her super-sensitive areas (tools and toys can help bridge the gap). Regardless of how we’re built, almost every woman is aware of the other big challenge: Orgasms tend to require more constant attention—about 20 minutes, studies show—than most busy people have the time or concentration for.
Working out at the gym? Sleeping on an airplane? Giving birth? Women (perhaps even you!) have reported experiencing orgasms in all of these unconventional situations. This has nothing to do with subconscious fantasies: Spontaneous, non-sexual orgasms can be caused by increased blood flow to the genitals combined with vibration or contact with the clitoris (during labor, there are also massive surges of ecstasy-inducing hormones like prolactin, oxytocin and beta-endorphins).
Exercise-induced orgasms, in particular, seem to have been the gym addict’s best-kept secret, until a study late last year by human sexuality researchers at Indiana University revealed that about a quarter of the 530 women they interviewed had climaxed while working on their abdominals, riding a bike or lifting weights.
Research has shown that orgasms experienced during sex cause us to release 400 times more prolactin—which tends to make people feel sleepy and satiated—than from those from masturbation, writes Meston in Why Women Have Sex, a book she co-authored with psychologist David M. Buss. This is why women may still feel alert enough to write a status report or clean the bathroom mirrors after a self-induced pleasure session. It all makes evolutionary sense, say the authors, because post-sex sleepiness helps women lie still, which is the optimal position for conception.
The surge of oxytocin that occurs during orgasm triggers a release of feel-good endorphins that act as powerful pain relievers. Even better, Meston says, while medication can take more than a few minutes to kick in and then lose power after a few hours, orgasms relieve pain immediately and last for the rest of the day or night. She suggests this could be because orgasms offer a custom-made treatment prepared by your own body chemistry. Don’t have a problem with headaches? The orgasm cure can also work on arthritis, backaches and muscle pain.
You’re familiar with your cervix—the opening to the uterus at the far end of the vagina—but you probably haven’t thought of it as a sexual organ. Some women love the feeling of rhythmic pressure on their cervix (Meston has heard it described as an exciting intersection of pain and pleasure) and may depend upon that sensation to reach orgasm. But even if a woman has the flexibility of a champion pole dancer, she can’t do much to shorten the distance to her cervix—and that’s when a longer, um, instrument can come in handy.
When the uterus contracts during orgasm, it can help use up cramp-causing prostaglandins, flush out excess blood and even clear out some of the lining and debris that could flow backward and lead to endometriosis, Meston says. If having sex during your period makes you feel squeamish or just physically uncomfortable, Meston suggests going straight for the fix by taking matters into your own hands.
Research shows that women have more—not to mention more fulfilling—orgasms as they get older, says Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University. In an analysis of 3,990 adults ages 18 to 59, she and other sex researchers found that an impressive 70 percent of women in their 40s and 50s were sent into orbit the last time they had sex—which was higher than the number of happy postcoital customers in their early 20s. While the study didn’t delve into causes, it’s likely that older women are more comfortable with their bodies, their partners and their own desires. They’ve also had enough erotic experience to know what revs their engines as well as what causes them to really take off.
Which leads us to: Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex Toys
After the Laundry, the Laundry
By Judith Hanson Lasater
Impermanence is the truth of life. Embracing it in our most basic daily activities can be the key to everyday ease.
Living with a busy family, I often feel just like one of the Tibetan monks I once saw making an intricately designed sand mandala. For months, they bent over the ground, arranging the sand grain by grain, and once their beautiful creation was complete, they cheerfully destroyed it in the ultimate celebration of impermanence.
While I don’t create ceremonial mandalas, I do wash the dishes. And when I come back to the sink later, dirty dishes have appeared again. I fold and put away a basketful of laundry, and in no time, the basket is full again. Even my yoga mat is a reminder of impermanence. Just this morning, it was stretched out on the floor, filled up with my movements, and now it leans against the wall, empty and forlorn.
As the Buddha said, impermanence is the nature of the human condition. This is a truth we know in our minds but tend to resist in our hearts. Change happens all around us, all the time, yet we long for the predictable, the consistent. We want the reassurance that comes from things remaining the same. We find ourselves shocked when people die, even though death is the most predictable part of life.
We can even look to our yoga mat to watch this pattern play itself out. We often find ourselves attached to a never-ending process of “improvement” in our asanas. They do improve quickly at first—in the beginning, we are on a honeymoon of discovery; we grow by leaps and bounds in ability and understanding. After a couple of decades, however, our poses change much less. As our practice matures, it becomes more about consistency, deeper understanding, and smaller breakthroughs.
This is not to say we won’t continue to improve, but the improvement may be subtler. Oftentimes, we can no longer practice certain poses because of age or injury, yet we feel agitated because we assume that the poses of our youth should be the poses of our middle and old age. We are surprised when familiar asanas become difficult and formerly difficult ones become impossible.
What’s the lesson here? Experiencing remarkable improvement on a continual basis, it turns out, is a temporary stage. Realizing this puts us in touch with the truth of impermanence; remaining attached to the practice of our past creates suffering in us.
In India, the home of yoga, there is a traditional Hindu social model that underscores the change we continuously experience. Called the Ashramas, or Stages of Life, it defines four distinct periods in life, during which people can and should do certain things.
The first, brahmacharya (brahmic conduct), is the student stage, during which one learns about oneself and the world; the second, grihastha (householder), is the stage of family and societal obligations. The last two stages focus on renunciation. During the third, vanaprastha (forest dweller), one is freer to begin a contemplative life. And during stage four, samnyasa (renunciation), one goes deeper, surrendering all worldly things and living as a simple mendicant.
The beauty of this model is its inherent acknowledgement of the impermanence of each stage of life. There is wisdom in this awareness—not just because our lives do obviously and unavoidably change but, more important, because when we accept this fact as truth, we suffer so much less.
Without having an awareness of impermanence, we typically fall into one of two patterns: denial or depression. Although we cannot escape the impermanence of life and the fact that we are going to die, we desperately deny these truths; we cling to our youth or surround ourselves with material comforts. We color our hair, Botox our foreheads, and touch our toes. Or, if denial isn’t a good fit with our personality, we may unconsciously turn away from the truth by feeling depressed or withdrawn from life.
Yoga philosophy offers an alternative to these tendencies. It is to embrace the powerful truth spoken by all great teachers: the power of living in the unchanging eternal present. The first verse of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra states, “Atha yoga anushasanam,” which translates as, “Now is an exposition on yoga.”
The power of this verse is often lost on readers who interpret the words as an introduction of little value. But in my view, Patanjali does not use unnecessary words. That first word is the key. The verse is intended to underscore the importance of the study of yoga right now. It encourages us to focus on what is happening to the body, mind, breath, and emotions in this moment.
Now is a word that is powerful and sufficient enough by itself to be used as a life study, a sort of mantra. The ability to respond to now, to live in now, to enjoy each precious moment without clinging to it or pushing it away is the essence of spiritual practice.
Yoga philosophy as a whole is predicated on the notion that identification with the temporary, changing aspect of reality leads to suffering, while recognition of the eternal, changeless Self leads to peace. In day-to-day life, these concepts seem interesting at best and esoteric at worst. But remembering the eternal in daily conversations, tasks, and actions is really the key to transforming our lives.
Unless we are able to return to the “big picture” of our lives, we will be caught up in the minutiae of being late for an appointment or losing a favorite earring. What gives life its juice is the ability to mourn the lost earring fully and simultaneously know it doesn’t ultimately matter. In other words, we can live to the fullest when we recognize that our suffering is based not on the fact of impermanence but rather on our reaction to that impermanence.
When we forget the truth of impermanence, we forget the truth of life. Spiritual practice is about remembering that truth and then embracing it. In the past, I kept doing the laundry so it would finally be “done.” Of course, it never gets done. Now when I look into the laundry basket, whether it is full or empty, I try to see it as an expression of what life is all about: moving through the different stages, surrendering to impermanence, and remembering to embrace it all.
An Ancient Cure for Modern Life
By Alison Rose Levy
Everyday stress can lead to vata derangement, an excess of nervous energy. These Ayurvedic therapies can bring you back into balance.
Like most Americans, I’m an expert at multi-tasking. I eat at my desk, wash dishes while on the phone, go through bills on the bus, and drive while talking on my cell phone. Based on his knowledge of the Eastern wisdom of Ayurveda, the internationally recognized Ayurvedic physician and author Robert Svoboda has another name for this rushed, fragmented way of functioning. He calls it “vata-deranged.”
Modern life as we know it, with its excessive travel, late nights, and nonstop stimulation, often contributes to vata derangement, which can affect anyone. People like me—the tall, slender, fast-talking ones—are most at risk, however, because our native constitutions are vata dominant.
To comprehend vata derangement, we need to understand that vata is one of the three metabolic types, or doshas, described by the ancient health science of Ayurveda. Vata is the principle of movement, ruled by air and ether. The other two doshas are pitta, the principle of assimilation ruled by fire, and kapha, the stabilizing force, ruled by earth and air. Ayurvedic doctors say that we are each a unique combination of these three. For most of us, one type is predominant, another secondary. But whatever one’s native type, when a person goes out of balance, the vata principle destabilizes most easily, causing other kinds of health and emotional problems.
According to Ayurveda, this is the force that governs all movement in the body, including the in-and-out flow of the breath, the action of our limbs, the circulation of subtle energy in our organism, and the mind’s ceaseless flow of thoughts, words, and images. Unlike earthy kapha, solid and grounded and with a tendency to get stuck, or fiery pitta, sharp and focused and knowing just where it wants to go, vata, like the wind, wanders here and there, its direction ever-changing.
Performers like Michael Richards, who played Seinfeld’s Kramer, Lisa Kudrow acting ditzy and off-beat on Friends, and Woody Allen, with his anxious patter, have made us laugh at the off-centered, nervous spaciness typical of vata derangement. While these qualities may seem funny when we see them on film, it’s not fun to experience the jerky stops and starts of breath, thoughts, speech, nerves, and limbs that result from a vata imbalance. And the health consequences aren’t laughable either.
Vata’s Rise and Fall
The pressure and pace of modern life can tip anyone into vata imbalance. But even if you spent your life meditating in the woods, it’s not easily avoided. Ayurveda holds that sturdy kapha is dominant in childhood, ambitious pitta rules in the prime of life, and vata prevails in our senior years. Our senior years bring the vatic qualities of dryness, roughness, and irregularity, manifesting in such health complaints as arthritis, constipation, anxiety, insomnia, and stiffness.
Fortunately, we can look to ancient wisdom for answers: Ayurveda has evolved ways to remedy vata imbalance and its accompanying diseases, and throughout hundreds of years ancient Ayurvedic physicians and Yogis devised many techniques to prolong life—hoping to gain more time to attain self-realization.
Undoubtedly, the Westerner most knowledgeable about these Ayurvedic rejuvenative practices is Svoboda, who teaches at Albuquerque’s Ayurvedic Institute and is the author of Prakriti (Sadhana, 1999), an excellent introduction to Ayurveda. For the last 25 years, Svoboda has traveled toIndiato receive and learn traditional rejuvenative treatments and to study Indian culture, philosophy, and practices.
Last year he offered a small group of students a weeklong immersion in the health model and way of life he practices. Along with Iyengar Yoga teacher Ellen Leary ofNew Hope,Pennsylvania, Svoboda designed a retreat reflecting the Indian world view that Ayurveda, hatha yoga, and other spiritual practices like meditation and chanting are aspects of an integrated system of healing and spiritual evolution. As I flew to the Caribbean Island of Tortola, I wondered if, even with these gifted guides, it would be possible to alleviate some of my stress-building vatic habits in one week.
The Beauty of Routine
Vatas tend to be erratic—or as workshop participant Paul Busch, an Iyengar Yoga teacher from Minneapolis (and a vata), described himself, “addicted to variety.” While stalwart kaphas plod along, rising, eating, working, and sleeping punctually, vatas zigzag out of regularity, rising and going to bed at odd times, skipping meals, and not keeping to any regular pattern. Although this makes life interesting, it is also destabilizing. The cure: Establish a predictable routine.
The first evening of the retreat, Svoboda explained that they had carefully structured our schedule and practices to emphasize rejuvenation, particularly for balancing vata. Since dry, rough, airy, fast-moving, and irregular are the core qualities of vata, the Ayurvedic approach is to prescribe treatments, activities, and foods that provide the opposite qualities: oiliness, grounding, slowness, heaviness, consistency, and flow. Svoboda and Leary asked that we adhere to their schedule, even if it meant steering clear of the sun-drenched beach below. Instead of going after “fun,” we tasted a different kind of enjoyment: a restful night’s sleep.
This was the beginning of our routine: Every night we went to bed early, and every day began at6 a.m. We entered the day gently with an optional morning Meditation, followed by an hour long class in Pranayama at 6:30 a.m.This is very important for vata, whose flow can become disturbed by transitions, particularly abrupt ones, like dashing straight from the dream state to the computer upon arising.
“Vata is discontinuous, so if there’s a transfer of energy and direction, like at a juncture or at any transition, that’s where vata becomes agitated,” Svoboda said. No chance of that here. Unlike other classes I’d attended, where even beginners launched into advanced pranayama techniques like alternate nostril or bellows breathing, Leary, who recently returned from a month at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India, led us in a simple, restorative pranayama practice.
We used props in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), to ensure our bodies were in correct alignment and our diaphragms gently lifted. We supported our legs with homemade sandbags and a belt, allowing the groin area to deeply relax. Leary gently guided us in sensing the inner thoracic area, and after a time, without any forcing, we slowly lengthened and deepened our breath.
Expanding and steadying the breath helps pacify vata because it counters the constrained and shallow breathing—and attendant anxiety—that result from vata’s fast pace. Leary instructed us to allow this expansion to happen without forcing it, encouraging us to take a step back from the vatic and Western tendency to overdo it.
“Breath is essential to rejuvenation,” Svoboda explained later, when we gathered on the stone front porch for one of his three daily talks. The term prana, he told us, denotes consciousness and life force. Because prana is carried on the breath, increasing our breath capacity brings in more life force to nourish the physical tissues of the body. “As the organism becomes more confident there is ample prana, it relaxes,” explained Svoboda. While regulating the breath is necessary for vatas, inducing a calm state is healing to everyone’s cells, bodies, emotions, and thoughts.
But everything in its own time. Lest we fuel our spiritual evolution with ambition, Svoboda reminded us that we won’t get there any quicker by pressing the pedal to the floor. Even when it comes to spirituality, each of the doshas has its own way of overdoing or under doing it. Kaphas are most likely to be kicking back and smelling the flowers, finding no motivation to practice at all. Pittas may be driven to become spiritual overachievers, losing contact with compassion as they pile up attainments.
Vatas overdo because they are mentally stimulated by so many options but without doing one thing consistently. This tendency carries over into other life activities. “My eyes are bigger than my stomach,” commented Busch. “My mind wants a smorgasbord, staying up late, watching stimulating films, or engaging in late night conversations, while my body would prefer to get some rest. And like all vatas, I overrule my body.”
Under Doing It
The retreat schedule, routine yet relaxing, defeated all vatic temptations to overdo. There’s no point in overdoing a practice like pranayama, Svoboda told us, because we can’t take in more prana unless we have room for it. In minds crammed with thoughts, organs clogged with toxins, and bodies stiffened with neglect, there is just no space for anything else.
Wherever there are blockages, the flow throughout our system is obstructed, causing vata disorders. The practices we learned opened the space for that flow. To open the mind, there was meditation. To expel toxins encumbering our digestive tract, there were Ayurvedic herbs and diet. To release structural and muscular blockages impeding our movement, there was Hatha Yoga.
After our daily pranayama, we performed Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) to the rising sun on a deck overlooking the ocean. With their addiction to variety, vatas find it boring to do asanas slowly and repetitively. Of course, more than anyone else, they need to take the time to allow themselves to become steady in each pose.
“As a vata I love constant change, and it’s the worst thing for me,” noted Busch. Suryanamaskar is beneficial for vatas, who tend to have stiff joints, because the asanas move all the limbs and lubricate the joints. Suryanamaskar also regulates the flow of energy through the nadis, channels of subtle energy that run through our organism, like acupuncture meridians.
While pittas and kaphas do well with more strenuous exercise, repetitive, flowing movement balances vata, so it is best for vatas to do Suryanamaskar slowly. These poses can align vatas mentally and spiritually, Svoboda pointed out, if they face the sun, real or imagined, while doing them. Focusing gathers vata’s scattered energies, Svoboda said, and directs them toward “the sun, the source of light and consciousness in the world.”
Practice Is Perfection
Following a well-earned breakfast, we next performed abhyanga. This is an Ayurvedic oil massage and a classic prescription for healing vata that brings vata’s dry, rough, and irregular tendencies into balance with the oil’s smoothness and heaviness.
Ayurvedic clinics in Kerala,India, are renowned for treatments like pizhichil, in which as many as four people simultaneously oil massage a single client, or shirodhara, in which oil is slowly poured onto the top of the head. When oil is absorbed through the skin, it dislodges toxins, explained Svoboda, which otherwise impede the flow in our system, block the movement of prana, and aggravate vata.
Ayurvedic physicians also use food as medicine, considering the effect of every food and spice on each dosha. Cream of wheat, for example, while grounding for vatas, is too heavy for already grounded kaphas, who tend toward weight gain; on the other hand, a vata should probably pass on the chili because beans cause gas.
Although people associate Ayurvedic cuisine with Indian food, the two are not synonymous. A diet balancing to one’s dosha can consist entirely of Western or international dishes. The retreat offered gourmet spa cuisine, delicious and balancing to all three doshas.
Ayurveda views the digestive process as a metaphor for all we take in. Many people eat whatever is available, watch whatever is on the tube, and believe the common consensus on many subjects. But Ayurveda asks us to consider what we can handle, as vata’s delicate nerves and digestion are easily overwhelmed by a bad meal—or a bad movie, for that matter.
Svoboda and Leary urged us to use the retreat practices to refine our inner awareness, so we could begin to discern the effects of the foods, images, and ideas we take in. This is helpful for all doshas, but particularly for curious and experimental vatas, who want to try everything even though their powers of assimilation aren’t always up to it.
Anything taken in but not processed remains in our organism and becomes a toxin, Svoboda told us. That’s why it’s important to recognize what is beneficial and decline what isn’t, rather than leave the gate open to any and all forms of input. Vatas are great communicators and love chatter. But as much as they love it, it is jarring to their nerves. The solution? To practice limiting input—and output.
All chatter ceased on the day dedicated to silence, a traditional form of spiritual austerity practiced in India. Silence is believed to have a purifying effect on the sense of hearing and on the mind itself. In silence I noticed how much breath and energy I habitually waste on words.
At meals I never missed the conversation, which I now realize was often used to stave off fears or feelings of emptiness. In silence these feelings were given room to come into the light of awareness, where they could dissolve. Our silent afternoon asana class brought the entire group into a state of inner and outer focus, as we followed Leary in a strong series of standing poses, the ocean breezes and our own breath the only sounds we heard. Silence, I discovered, is a restorative posture as powerful as any physical one.
The retreat showed me what Savasana (Corpse Pose), the most basic restorative pose, was all about. With my busy work schedule, I frequently omitted this asana from my practice at home, dashing from other asanas directly to the phone or computer keyboard. The flip side of this kind of vatic overdoing is an energy crash, from which a judicious rest can protect you.
“Savasana brings you as close as possible to perfect physical alignment because it is easier to do correctly than any other pose. Being still while in alignment allows all levels of your being to move into alignment,” explained Svoboda. This is why Savasana feels so restful, physically, mentally, and spiritually. With enough rest and alignment, even restless vatic energy can stabilize.
At first, with its new terminology, Ayurveda can seem exotic, even to someone like me who has traveled to India and studied hatha yoga and meditation for 14 years. But in truth, resting deeply, eating healthful foods, following a regular schedule, moving at a gentle pace, stretching all my limbs, taking deep breaths, and limiting stimulation are all the basics of good health. There’s nothing exotic about these practices.
What is unusual is that we live in a society where we have to make an extra effort to practice them and resist the pressures that lead us to neglect self-care. Following the Ayurvedic and yogic techniques seemed unfamiliar at first, but when I practiced them, my body (or was it perhaps some subtler aspect of myself?) recognized them. As modern Americans, we may have forgotten how to care for the human being, but Ayurveda remembers and can remind us of what we once knew.
Five Reasons why Urban Farming is the Most Important Movement of our Time
Reposted from FB Truth Beckons – Good is
I love suburbia not for what it is, but for what it could be. While most other houses on my street have grass lawns, my yard sprouts zucchinis, tomatoes, pomegranates, kale, spinach, apples, figs, guavas, almonds, garlic, onion, strawberries, and more. Over 500 plant species all in all. We grow more than 3000 pounds of food per year on a plot of land the size of a basketball court—enough fruits and vegetables to feed my family of four year-round. Our house is part of a growing global movement of people involved in urban farming.
The simple act of planting a garden can shape issues like economics, health, and politics at the same time because food is an essential focal point of human activity. As the urban farming movement grows, here are five ways that it will transform our world:
1. Renewed local economies. Local neighbor-to-neighbor commerce generally doesn’t happen in our communities. Residential areas almost never include common spaces where community exchanges might happen. Likewise, because selling homemade bread to your neighbors is illegal in most areas, the law discourages community commerce, and instead encourages you to purchase from the supermarket chain.
In my own community, the urban farming movement has reinvigorated local commerce. Instead of buying oranges, I now trade pumpkin for oranges from my neighbor’s tree. If urban farming continued to grow, it would cause a massive and positive economic disruption by introducing local food production that would compete with the corporate mainstream on price, quality, convenience, and level of service.
2. Environmental stewardship. Industrial agriculture is a major source of fossil fuel pollution. Petrochemicals are used to fertilize, spray, and preserve food. Plastics made from oil are used to package the food, and gasoline is used to transport food worldwide. Urban farming unplugs us from oil by minimizing the transport footprint and using organic cultivation methods.
While industrial agriculture often maneuvers to avoid paying for environmental externalities, urban farmers directly bear the ecological costs of their actions. This makes urban farmers better stewards of their land because they draw their nutrition from it. Rather than using chemicals that destroy soil biology, urban farming culture stresses sustainable organic techniques that enrich the topsoil.
3. A focus on local politics. Urban farming makes it clearer and easier for people to be involved in local politics by bringing issues that directly affect neighborhoods to the fore. Local regulations become far more relevant to the day-to-day life of a person attempting to cultivate their own food than most issues normally discussed on CNN. The growth of urban farming has already resulted in large-scale legal pushes like the California Cottage Food Act, which will allow people to legally sell certain homemade goods like jams and breads. Other neighborhood issues such as the raising of chickens, beekeeping for the production of honey, or the chlorination of water are already in the sights of urban farmers and environmentalists alike.
4. A revolution of health and nutrition. Increased awareness about the negative health effects of food from the industrial food chain is itself a big reason why urban farmers grow their own food. When you feed your produce to your family, you’re less likely to douse it in poisons. Local food has more freshness, flavor, and nutrient retention because it goes through less transportation and processing. As the urban farming movement grows, it will mean more accessibility to nutritious local food and more time spent doing the healthy physical work of gardening. This could result in less obesity, less chronic disease, and decreased healthcare spending.
5. A flowering of community interaction. Urban farming is a lifestyle inherently centered on community. Growing food is, after all, a cooperative effort. In my own community, I see that the knowledge of how and what to grow is exchanged, seeds are swapped, labor is shared, and the harvest is traded. As urban farming grows, a stronger interdependence within communities is likely to result as local food systems bring more community interaction into people’s daily lives.
The most important movement of our time. Although there are many other notable initiatives today, the influence of urban farming is uniquely widespread because more people live in cities than rural areas and food is a central necessity that affects everything at once.
The seeds of change are already being planted in homes like mine across the world. For these seeds to grow and blossom, we need to demand more local food so that the market for urban-grown produce expands. We also need to put pressure on our legal system to allow easier local trade and more local food production.
Imagine if we grew food instead of grass. Every community is a local food economy waiting to come to life. The answer to climate change, the health crisis, and the recession economy is right outside your door. I’ll meet you at the garden fence.