Archives for January 2014 | Monthly InSpirations by Fiona

InSpire - January 2014

Since new-years-resolutions are mostly “bogus”(not genuine or true) and leave us with an expectation that consumes us, I decided, after the death of Nelson Mandela, to focus on what will offer me inspiration for the year ahead.
I decided to quote this amazing man, who brought liberation, in a very humble proud manner, to my birth country, South Africa. He is not just speaking about his own country, but the whole world, as well as our own internal world. Peace has to start within...

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

“The oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”

A lifetime of struggle taught him that “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love...Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
(Alex Perry - Time Magazine, 12/2013)

What are we observing and practicing on and off our mat this month?
Use your practice to discover what is oppressed in you, and what is the oppressor, retuning to this place of self-love through a disciplined steady practice. What inspires and liberates you?! Often our own thought-forms are our own oppressors, restricting us from moving forward in our lives. Once we feel inspired and loving, this changes. Commit to reigniting your flame of goodness through inspiring moments.

Pranayama: Kapalabhati (Skull radiant or Breath of fire).

“This rapid style of pranayama creates an internal rhythmic massage, stimulating the circulation of cerebral fluid and influencing the compression and decompression in the spine and brain. This stimulation pumps the diaphragm and lungs, improving the heart and blood circulation, which helps wash out waste gasses. It heats the nasal passages and sinuses, clearing away excess mucus, helping build up resistance to colds and respiratory disorders. It improves constipation and digestion, helps stimulate a sluggish system by accelerating the metabolic rate and strengthening the nervous system, and helps normalize the adrenals. This practice also accelerates pranic movement throughout the body and brain, increasing physical vitality and bestowing clarity of mind.” (Sarah Powers, Insight Yoga).

What to do:
Take three slow Ujjayi breaths, placing one hand on your belly to stay connected to the breath.
Take a full inhale (no Ujjayi breath now), and begin emphasizing the exhalation in quick, clear spurts similar to blowing your nose. Take short inhalations in order to keep going, but allowing the emphasis to be on the exhalation. The sound is quick and crisp on the exhalation, and silent on the inhalation.
Stay steady in your posture, while your belly moves in and out matching your breath. Your hand can check your breath (belly moving toward the spine on the exhalation).
The pace should feel consistent and repetitive; no straining the breath.
Start with thirty pumps on the first round (stop sooner if you lose rhythm or start straining). On your last exhalation, slow the air a bit to allow all the breath out and then take a slow, deep Ujjayi inhalation and pause (kumbhaka) at the top of the inhalation. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds using Mula Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha. Details below...
After holding the breath an appropriate amount of time, release the locks as you exhale, using Ujjayi in a slow and controlled manner. Take a full round of breaths. Repeat three rounds of Kapalabhati.
With consistent practice, you will strengthen your lungs and respiratory muscles, thus increasing the amount of pumps in each round (i.e. 50 to 100 pumps in one round).

Explanation on using the Bandhas...
While you are holding the breath, you can seal the prana/life force in the center of your body by applying your Bandhas (meaning “to bind or seal”). The Bandhas not only redistribute and improve the flow of prana, they also improve the health of the internal organs through the internal massage that occurs. They stimulate and regulate the nerves and remove stagnant blood, while releasing the energetic knots (granthis) that impede the flow of prana in the central region of the subtle body:

Mula Bandha or Root lock - subtly lifting and drawing your perineum in at the base of your pelvic floor, lifting it up toward the center of your navel.
This Bandha seals the energy in the lower part of the body and the energy pathways in the lower part of our spinal column. The perineum is the foundation for the organs, and if it becomes weak, energy will leak out, leaving you feeling ungrounded and unstable.

Jalandhara Bandha or Chin lock - capping the energy off at the throat by bringing your chin forward and down to meet the top of your sternum with a soft pressure.
This Bandha closes the trachea and compresses the nerves and glands of the throat, slowing the heartbeat, and sealing the top portion of the energy pathways in the spinal column. Jalandhara bandha improves the functioning of the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which have a direct influence on our metabolism.

By using these two bandhas together in the no-breath or kumbhaka, you create an internal pressure, like capping off a tube at both ends. When released, they create a geyser-like effect that pools chi into all the major meridians and acupuncture points, bathing your entire system in refined energy.
When it is time to exhale, release the seals/bandhas slowly and consciously so as not to force the breath out in one quick spurt.