My yogic journey is a beautiful adventure into the Cave of The Heart.
When reclining, either in savasana or supine upon an angled bolster, I am most aware of relaxing and entering this sacred cave. My true home of holiness. The Silence within and without.
This is a most delicious time.
With the body completely supported and happy, I dis-attach from my physical self, the outer kosha called annanamaya kosha, and commence a journey inward. Though I have practiced for years, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the path is blocked, cluttered with Mind and Body chattering painfully, refusing to release my sweet Heart.
Ahhhh, but when it does happen, when I travel through Pranamaya (breath sheath), Manomaya (mind sheath), and Vijnanamaya (wisdom sheath), there is a synergy of Body Mind Heart Awareness opening and growing. I enter a deeper, wider place of no place and no time. I enter a lush cave of Anandamaya, the bliss sheath.
“Life is a journey to find ourselves, our God and our own wisdom. The beginning and end of our journey is the cave of the heart. The cave of the heart is the deepest psychological ground of one’s personality. It is the inner sanctuary where self-awareness goes beyond analytical reflection and opens out into metaphysical and theological confrontation with the Abyss of the unknown yet always present. This is the one who is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. In Romans 5 in the Christian Scriptures this is the heart where God’s love is poured forth by the Holy Spirit. In the Hindu tradition the Upanishads speak of the spirit of the One who created the universe as dwelling in our heart. The same spirit is described as the One who in silence is loving us all.”
I invite you to venture into this cave during your next yoga practice. There is nothing to do or even to try to do. Just give yourself permission to release into your deepest being. Invite your self to delve into the cave of bliss.
carolyn at Lake Erie State Park (David Kieber photo)
Wide Whacky Happy Relaxation
~Try to expand your idea of what relaxation is – get beyond what relaxation is – get beyond what you think should be doing.
~Bring that sense of your self back intoyour body - that precious body you have – let the twinges become a portal to your body
~Ask yourself: Am I now? – not needing to know – because the mind is not always the way to know…use the mindful questions in mini-relax sessions…Where Am I?
~Get out of your “comfort” rut – Be open to new ways of achieving relaxation e.g. read poetry instead of the newspaper or a novel
~Sometimes you need ACTIVE Relaxation like the KAlI face: Sound “ahhh” and cactus arms & stomp around to get the energy moving. You need to meet yourself where you’re at and move it to a place where you have more choice
If it’s uncomfortable/edgy, etc. – look beyond the story or specifics of the discomfort and come back to the mood behind it. Be with that feeling – just SIT with it. Don’t focus on WHY – focus on the FEELING.
The concept and practice of RETREAT goes back to the primate females separating form the tribe when they had menses, because the bleeding would attract other animals. Some say that’s when thinking began to bifurcate.
Nate relaxing in Guadalupe Mountains (Mark Knight photo)
Pema Chodron: “Things are always in transition.”
~Notice the transitions….What did my body ( my breath, mind, feelings) do when I am in a moment of change?
~This is often when the Shadowmonster . …the Time Monster takes over
~We forget that we have the right to CREATE OUR LIVES
~Pay attention to the small moment to moment transitions so we can prepare for the big ones (divorce, death, diagnosis)…WE continually practice paying attention to the small stuff. We practice LISTENING then.
~On retreat there is no pressure, so we can lean into the baby transitions and open ourselves to the invitation
~You can practice this uncertainty and apply it to other areas of your life
~Another way is to ask yourself mindful questions. Just spend a minute asking yourself…Replace the negative questions with POSITIVE ones. “Practice HONORING the right to choose your life.” What do I want. Be friendly about whatever comes up.
~Use the body and heart brain when you ask yourself mindful questions
~Just reminding yourself that you have a body is pretty monumental. The way IN is through the body. It can be simple, like massaging the ears. Then recall a positive emotion, a memory – maybe even look at beloved pics. & recall the feeling and the sensations of the time and breathe a little into those feelings. Then, from that space, you can drop the question, WHAT DO I WANT TO DO NEXT- just the next thing. What does my instinct, my feelings, my desire want to do next?
*Get audio at the life organizer.com
About deepening the retreat: the retreat usually brings up deep patterns! So it’s a time to welcome dark feelings. Write about them, draw them, observe them because you are in a safe place during retreat.
Here it is~Laughing Yogini’s inaugural podcast : centering.
You can use it as a stand-alone, short relaxation or you can use it as a prelude to yoga asana practice. It is meant for practicing, so shut the door, turn off your cell phone and begin to breathe mindfully with me. What fun! If you’ve never ever experienced guided relaxation, hang on Cowgirl— you’re in for a change.
Welcome to Elder Yoga, where relaxation is held in high esteem. It’s a time for folks to laugh about whatever ails them, while gently stretching and strengthening their bodies. Seniors come to learn techniques to bolster the healing process. Every student learns to work with and respect the unique body-mind-spirit that is their abode and their gift while on earth.
The classes meet at the Fredonia Pomfret Office for the Aging, Cushing Street, Fredonia (716-672-2891) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10:00-11:00 a.m. There’s no need to bring anything, just be sure to wear loose clothing. We practice in bare feet.
Students can choose to use a folding chair or to lay down on folded blankets at the beginning of class. The teacher laughs and says this is NOT a “No pain, no gain” class. Listening to the body is stressed. If something hurts, students ask for an adjustment and/or come out of the pose. One of the primary rewards of learning yoga is listening to the body and inner promptings. Having spent an entire lifetime working against the body and inner voice, making time to practice this deep listening over and over again rewards the student in myriad ways.
Regarding the anxiety that often increases with age: yoga has given us a great gift, breath work! The elders begin every class by watching the breath. It’s a simple but profound practice. By learning to control the breath, energy in the body becomes balanced, including the wild energy of anxiety. Simple meditation techniques build upon the breath work to develop a fuller and richer life.
After becoming relaxed and energized from the breath work, gentle stretching, balance, and strength training is introduced. Surprising things often happen in class. For instance, when a 65 year old rises into a modified handstand for the first time in her life. The entire class cheers!
Savasana with lower legs on chair (barefoot photos)
The class then transitions into what most consider the best part of class: legs up the wall. This is a classic healing and rejuvenating yogic pose. The students lay down on the floor and slide their legs up the wall. If they are not comfortable in that position,there is always the option of laying on the floor, draping their lower legs across a chair seat. This improves lymph drainage, venous return, and gives the heart a rest. It’s great for helping to lower blood pressure and alleviate varicose veins.
Finally, everyone stretches into the yoga pose that seems the easiest, but is actually the hardest: corpse pose, savasana. The students stretch out on mats, with a bolsters beneath their knees and folded blankets supporting their heads. The use of the eye bag or a covering blanket is optional. In this final pose for the day, the teacher gently guides with verbal promptings suggesting ways of dropping into stillness and peace. No matter what is happening in the world, there is always this place of quiet available, should anyone wish to access it.
After savasana, everyone sits again, and, while resting another few moments in stillness, practices gratitude.
The scariest part of yoga class is taking the first step through the door. Once there, students often grow blissful as they learn to let go of whatever is toxic to them, and enjoy a fuller, richer existence.
Who has time to relax anyway? I mean what with multitasking and all. Does anyone come to yoga class to just kick back? Hmmm, come on, you want a work out, right? You want to become buff and beautiful. And then get back to you ever-expanding To Do List. You have important work to accomplish in this lifetime. You are going to save the world–or at least some small part of it! So let’s run to yoga class to get in some exercise after work, before putting the kids to bed and cleaning the house and preparing tomorrow’s lesson and listening to Sis on the phone discuss her problematic in-laws. The first actual full breath of the day comes only after 5 minutes of sitting on a bolster in a room that is more serene than anywhere you’ve been all week.
When the teacher announces that tonight it’s going to be a relaxation class you don’t waste any time heading for the door, but then you realize that this class is so small and it’s going to be really obvious if you sneak away and how are you going to face the teacher who is beaming at the prospect of a class of students stretched across bolsters, brainwaves lengthening and slowing like the breath, their prana vayu descending, their organs stretching blissfully inside their bodies and their eyes softening with lavender-scented silk bags placed lightly upon closed orbs.
Squirming, without making eye contact, you obediently follow her prompts and find yourself, well, uhm, fairly comfortable. Wait a second, I thought this was yoga and it was SUPPOSED to hurt.
SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA: anytime you see the “supta” included in a pose name, it alerts you to the thought of lying down. This pose is sometimes referred to as Butterfly. When the soles of the feet are together, you can draw the knees up and down as if they were wings on a butterfly. Since this is a supported version, use a blanket rolled from the short end. Place it beneath the thigh and shin bones. Recline back onto a lengthwise bolster that has a blanket on the top for your head and neck support. Your chin should be at the same height or lower than your forehead. You may enjoy a blanket underneath each arm. Place the eyebag softly over your eyes.
Amazingly, you don’t fall asleep, at least not right away, and that is your first surprise since, in your current sleep-deprived state, any lack of motion usually induces immediate somnambulism. The chattering in your mind becomes very loud though and you begin a little inner agitation about being placed in such a silly position. After all, nothing is happening–you’re absolutely sure of that. Then the teacher suggests giving yourself permission to let go of all the “stuff” of our lives. “You can save the world AFTER class. Give yourself permission to become a human being for a little while; release your identity of a human doing. The spinning world with all of its problems and challenges will still be there after class.”
When she quietly announces that you can wiggle your fingers and breathe more deeply, you realize that even if you weren’t perfectly relaxed, you’d achieved some sort of state of quietude. As you move into the other poses–only 2 or 3 this evening– the quiet mode follows along with you like a friendly inner cat purring into your heart center, releasing stress with every mew. Each pose carries you a little further into quiescence and at some point you are not sure what state you’ve been in. Were you in fact, sleeping? But, you seemed to be aware. You’d definitely heard her voice prompting and you moved when she suggested.
After the final savasana (Corpse Pose), which was glorious, because for once the inner agitation slowed to the point you COULD actually follow your breath and release your chronically tight belly, you moved as if on a cloud-you felt that light. As you wriggle into a seated kneeling position with your hands in prayer position and your head bowed slightly, you realize that, at least for a few minutes, you could accept yourself, just as is. Nothing to do or change or become. And who you are is really AOK.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
today’s mantra: Just BE.
Spend a few minutes everyday relaxing, doing nothing in particular, just enjoying being with yourself.