Archives for posts with tag: chakra

I have not been writing for a long time. I do not know but I think this is a process. I have quit writing for some time, calmed my mind down and started writing again. Can I manage to go on writing without any intervals from this day on? I do not know that. I am not thinking about the future. I just wanted to write now and now I am in front of my computer,

Actually there are many things to write. Many experiences I gained in my classes. All physical, emotional and mental but I cannot make up my mind, relax and calm my mind down in order to write. Today is the right time and now I am writing.

A student who is interested in energy came to the class recently. Even though she wants to join every yoga class, she cannot since that class is taking place at an office during lunch time. Therefore sometimes some students can join and sometimes they cannot. When I woke up that morning, I was sure that this student would show up in class. It was the new moon time and I planned to do something related with the new moon. But in fact, I wanted this student who is dealing with healing and energy to do this. We had earlier talked about such plans but did not schedule any time. That morning I woke up and said, “this is the day.” I knew that the student was not always showing up in class but I had the instinct that she would that day. I was not wrong,

When I was about to enter the gym hall we were practicing, that student was getting out of the hall. She said, “teacher, I am coming today. I will join the class.” I said, “I had known that you were coming. I felt it because I would ask you to heal us if every one agrees. It is the new moon, new beginnings and for everything new.” The student could not object us and accepted the offer.

We began with meditation. Every one sat in a comfortable position. We wore socks and put on blankets in order not to be affected by the cold and the mind which could be affected by the cold. We began the healing with “Gayatri Mantra”, which has always been my favorite. I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, began watching my inhales and exhales and I relaxed my body. I leaned on a wall to feel more comfortable. I had been teaching yoga for so long time that I had forgotten to “take.” I was just giving energy but not receiving any. I reallly was in need of “taking” and “receiving.”

The new moon was happening in Taurus and its planet was Venus. So, we would work on “svadhisthana” (sacral) and “anahata” (heart) chakra, the student said. Listening to mantras and guided by the students, our bodies, minds and souls were flowing. My breath was calm and even stopped, I remember. I could not feel my body as if I had no body. There were colors and geometrical shapes in front of my minds. I thanked god, “my brain waves were moving from beta (stress mode) to alpha (meditation and savasana mode). This was the last thing I realized. Then I let myself totally be present with the mantras, the knowledge of my student and the flow. When mantras were following each other, the shapes and colors in front of my eyes changed. First two red lines came from right and left and hit each other in middle. Then colors softened and turned to parliament blue and just blue. I could not keep my head straight and still. It was dropping to right, left, front and back. Then there was no body. I was like flying. Some say that people rise from the floor when practicing yoga and meditation, which I have not witnessed myself, but if you ask if I had been off the floor, yes I would say I had that day. When my eyes were closed and my body was so light and listening to those mantras, I felt so light. As if I was a feet above the floor. That was really what I felt.

We laid down in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) at the end of the healing. When we were resting, the student came beside us. When she was with me, I felt energy spreading to my entire body from my crown chakra (sahasrara), from the top of my head up to the tips of my toes. I shrank and felt a vibration on my body as if my body was electrified. It was an unbelievable and amazing experience. I had not felt such an energy for a long time. Since I was a person who was always giving energy but forgetting to get, this healing was so fruitful and beneficial to me. I think energy givin people should sometimes remember themselves and join such practices.

I did not want to wake up after “savasana.” Unfortunately it was time to return to the real world and get away from that peaceful world. The student said,” actually it is not the right time to do this healing because the new moon has not been realized yet. It is about to happen one and a half hours and the effects will be better then. Normally I would not do this healing before the new moon happens because you cannot healed enough and benefit from it. But I felt that everybody needed this practice and therefore I did it. I had not thought that the outcome would bso good. Actually the moon has not entered the new moon phase and I could not be so giving and fruitful but I think that this is because you were so willing and in need of this energy and therefore we all benefitted. I am so glad.”

After that day, I made up my mind that I would start “taking” and “receiving” from time to time. In order for the cycle to operate well, we should sometimes take not always give. It was necessary to keep the give-take cycle equal. Neither giving more nor taking more. And one should always get healed, purified, refreshed, renewed and give time to herself/himself for peace and to try different practices.

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Are you a person living a safe life or a person taking risks? Do you prefer to be in a safe zone or choose the difficult, walk towards the unknown and take the risk in your daily life? I continued to practice flows on chakras in this week’s yoga classes. This week, it was “manipura chakra”s (navel chakra) turn. And we would practice a flow for our inner power and jewel. The theme of the session would be whether to stay in the safe zone and do a known flow in confidence or take chances and risk and walk towards the unknown?

We strengthened the core muscles with several “asana”s (pose) throughout the first half of the session and get ready for the peak pose. The peak pose would be something that would take the students from the safe haven. We should take risk when trying the peak pose.

I decided on two different peak poses for the morning and evening session that day because the students in the morning and evening classes could do some poses well but have difficulties in some other. The aim was to get out of the safe haven and take the risk so the groups should take the risk and activate their navel chakra. So one of the groups tried “bakasana” (crow pose) and the other “eka hasta bhujasana (leg over shoulder pose). Both asanas were poses that the students were not used to and that would be a challenge, taking them out of the safe haven and take the risk.

In the session we tried “bakasana”, some students got out of the safe haven, took the risk and tried the pose. Some of them only lifted one foot from the ground while some preferred to bring their knees on their back arms and keep their feet on the ground, staying in the safe haven.

In the session we tried “eka hasta bhujasana”, I observed the same thing. Some students only stretched their hips and brought their legs over their shoulders and stayed there some of them tried to lift their hips of the ground.

What I observed that day was that what we were doing on the “mat” was directly linked with our personalities. If we were people who liked to stand firm on our feet, we were having difficulties in balancing poses and taking risks. Or if we were not taking life so seriously and considering life a fun, such poses and sessions were just fun for us. The question was whether we should take life seriously, live in the safe haven and ground firmly on our feet or get out of the safe haven and take risk? Was life something that serious? Would it harm us if we take risk and mock with life a bit?

Every yoga class is an opportunity to observe and learn new things. I always say: “Sometimes I teach the students and sometimes they teach me.” When I am walking among the students during a yoga class, I can observe who can do which “asana” easier than others, whose right or left body is more flexible or strong, and which part of their bodies are more flexible or tense. I do not know why, but we generally think that women are more flexible and men are stronger. In time, you realize that every person should be taken one by one and there should not be any generalization in yoga. In last week’s group class, I had the opportunity to deeply observe whether women or men were more flexible.

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I wanted to focus on hip opening flows in my private and group classes lately. From time to time I find some asana groups more interesting and attractive than others and I want to experience them not only in my own yoga practice but also my classes for a couple of weeks.

When I went to group class that day, I had already decided on a “yin” (female energy/lunar energy/cold/winter/dark/passive) style yoga class, focus on hip external muscles, inner thighs and hip flexor muscles and try “padmasana” (lotus pose) at the end of this deep practice. We had tried “padmasana” before with the same group but at the end of “vinyasa” (flow) style classes. This time, we would stay long in some poses that were targeting at these parts of the body, stretch the body up to deep connective tissues and try to sit in “lotus” pose. Let’s see what we would come out.

Following a long meditation, we stretched the body to right and left (lateral stretch) in “sukhasana” (easy pose). We tried to keep the left hip on the ground when we laterally stretched to the right and the vice-versa. Thus, the hip joint stretched more deeply. We interlaced fingers and lifted the hands above the head, tilted the coccyx and bent the spine forward. Then we changed legs, i.e if the right was in the front we put the left in the front in “sukhasana” and repeated the same flow.

In order to stretch inner thighs and groins, we used “water bug”, “dragonfly”, “half frog”, “frog” and “dragon.” To stretch the muscles in the front and back part of the leg, we did “plantar flexion” and “dorsoflexion” and bent the body on the front leg. Thus we stretched “hamstrings.” In “dragonfly”, we turned the toes inward and outward and activated the hip joint and later we moved the hip to the front and back and opened inner thighs and groins more.

We stretched hip external muscles with “sleeping swan”, “square” and “shoelace”. In “sleeping swan”, we twisted the body to the opposite side of the front leg and in “square” we twisted to the opposite side of the upper leg and opened hip external muscles more. In “shoelace” we twisted to the opposite of the upper leg and continued to stretche the same muscles.

“Rock the baby” and “akarna dhanurasana” (archer pose) were the last preparatory poses before the peak pose. After swinging the leg to in and out in “rock the baby”, the toes were facing the ceiling and in this pose we lifted the leg to the forehead and brought it back to the level of chest. Assume that we began with the right leg, we drew circles with the hip joint inwardly and outwardly. Lastly, we put the right foot near the left groin and stretched the right hip. Then we placed the left leg under the right leg and got into “ardha padmasana” (half lotus). Those who were able, placed the left leg over the right leg and sat in “padmasana” (lotus).

Believe me, there were two male students in class that day and they could so easily sat in “padmasana.” We, the women, had difficulties in doing the pose. Except a few women, most female students stayed in “ardha padmasana.” At that moment, a question came into my mind: Are women or men more flexible? How come women, thanks to their flexible bodies, have difficulties in this pose which we assume they could do so easily but instead men do it so easily?

If we leave aside physical capabilities, we know that negative emotions are stuck in hips like anger, grief, disappointment and rage. All these negative emotions can negatively affect our creativity. In order to be creative, we should leave aside disappointment and anger. If we feel guilty, we should forgive ourselves. To share with others was related with the energy of the second chakra. Creativity can intermingle us with other people. Nobody can live alone. Everybody wants to be in a relationship with his/her environment and create something.

How come we, the women, have lost this creativity—naturally granted to us? In time, we have grown, got emotionally polluted and lost our flexibility and creativity. The emotional and physical stressed were accumulated in hips and prevented us from doing this pose. To sit in “padmasana” meant to be open to ourselves and environment. To accept our own creativity, to love and use our creativity. The name of the pose itself openly shows what it means. “Lotus flower”… Everyone sees only the flower of the “lotus” and thinks “lotus” is just a flower. However, the root of the “lotus flower” is muddy. If there were no mud, maybe “lotus” would not blossom. Our roots might be muddy as well but we cannot grow and blossom without that mud. Just like the “lotus flower,” we can shine, grow and blossom in every part of our lives with the “lotus pose.” And as we try “lotus pose” more and more, maybe in time we can purify from all negative emotions and energies, create our own flower and blossom in every part of our live. Yes, maybe this was the main problem with us, the women. Maybe we should accept our muddy roots and re-born from these roots. So, more and more often “padmasana” in classes.

Sometimes similar things happen in different times of our lives. Is this a coincidence or do we live similar things for we are friends with people of similar ideas and thoughts. Or is it possible to define this with the term “law of attraction”?

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Last week was a week full of coincidences for me. Not only my private students but also the students in my yoga group classes wanted exactly the same thing. To strengthen core muscles. Was it a coincidence or were they facing problems in the emotions triggered with abdominal area? Or could all the students feel the same and therefore were willing to strengthen their core?

What was the emotion behind the core? According to yoga philosophy, “manipura” (navel) chakra was located in the middle of the abdomen behind the navel. The word “manipura” literally means the place of pearl, jewel. This chakra is related with self-confidence, determination and willpower. This is the seat of our consciousness. The “manipura” chakra is also related with our psychological issues. When we feel psychological problems, we can have stomach problems. When we are afraid or stressed or nervous, we can have stomachache or other stomach problems.

When manipura chakra works well, the person is energetic and can fulfil his/her goals. S/he becomes a person who has the will to fulfil his/her goals. When this chakra is week, the person is unhappy, cannot take action and becomes disappointed. Also when manipura chakra is weak, the person can have physical, emotional and mental digestion problems.

So why did all people wanted a core-focused class? Had they lost their connection with their core and center, could not go on their lives with determination and will and were facing digestive problems.

We strengthened the core from the beginning to the end of the class. Before the “vinyasa”s (flow), we came on all-fours and warmed up the core muscles with balancing exercises. Once we stood up, we added “phalakasana” (plank pose) variations and “utkatasana” (chair) variations in order to go on strengthening core muscles in-between “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series.

After warming up the body well, we sat down and did “navasana” (boat pose) variations as well as “supta konasana” (seated angle pose) variations. As a preparatory pose for the peak pose, we waited for five breaths in “ardha purvottanasana” (tabletop/reverse table pose) and rested for some time. We once more got into “ardha purvottanasana” and first lifted the right leg parallel to the floor and moved it up to 90 degrees and back to the side of the other knee for five times and did the same on the other side. Then came the peak pose: “Purvottanasana” (reverse plank pose).

Following the peak pose, we ended the class with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “parivrtta janu sirsasana” (revolved head to knee pose) and “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist).

When the students were lying down in a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), I was thinking about the contributions of the class in my own life. I loved to strengthen the core. I always say: “The stronger the core is, the stronger the supine and the body are.” The stronger our core is the stronger our stance in life is. So was it all I felt at the end of the class? Was it a coincidence that all students wanted to strengthen core muscles throughout the entire week or was there another reason behind it? Had all the students lost their connection with their centers and were trying to re-establish that connection? Or had all the students lost the “jewel” in themselves, i.e. had they forgotten their own will and weren’t they aware of how strong they were?

What about self-confidence, will and determination? The feeling of confidence and trust? To see life and environment with confidence. To succeed in a project with determination and will. To go on with determination and to accomplish a project. Or most importantly, couldn’t we digest what we were experiencing? Maybe one of them or some of them or all of them. Whatever… The students had lost their connection with their center and needed to re-establish this connection. The stronger our core muscles were, the stronger our stance in life was. Therefore, we should always keep our connection with our “jewel” and our center strong. Yes, I think this was what I learned from the classes.

You know that I have been teaching classes on “vayu”s (currents of prana/life force or literally winds) for a few weeks. Since last week was June 21- the summer solstice – I taught classes with the solstice theme and therefore I suspended “vayu”-focused classes for a week. This week was the turn of the last “vayu”: “Vyana vayu” i.e. “outward moving air.

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We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“Vyana vayu”, i.e. outward moving air, is the opposite of “samana vayu” (balancing air). This “vayu” is an energy wind that balances all the other “vayu”s. It is an energy wind that circulates throughout the body and goes beyond the body. It is an energy wind called “aura” which is thought to be spread out of the body.
Responsible for all types of circulation in the body including food, water and oxygen, “vyana vayu” sends these stuff to necessary parts of the body, helps assimilation of them and then production of positive energy at the end of this assimilation.
Located in the heart and lungs, the healthy functioning of “vyana vayu” depends on healthy functioning of all the other “vayu”s. It is related with the “svadisthana” (sacral), “manipura” (navel), “anahata” (hearth), “vishuddha” (throat) and “ajna” (third eye) chakras and thus related with the elements water, fire, air and ether. It is responsible for the free circulation of thoughts and emotions in mind.
If “vyana vayu” is healthy, then we move in harmony and in balance. If it is unbalanced, the mind and body connection is lost and we are open to diseases. If “vyana vayu” is in balance, then we are physically, emotionally and mentally in balance.
So how could we stimulate “vyana vayu?” With standing asanas, balancing poses and backbends… We could use “nadi shodhana” (alternative nostril breathing) as a “pranayama” (breathing) technique.
We began the class with meditation. After meditation, we inhaled and put the hands on the heart and we exhaled and opened the hands on the knees as palms facing up to feel the “outward moving air.” In each exhale, we tried to feel the energy going out of arms and hands with eyes closed.
After the breathing exercise, we came on all-fours and warmed up the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). We stretched the chest with “uttanasa shishosana” (extended puppy pose) and we backbent the spine wit h”vyaghrasana” (tiger pose). We rested in “utthita balasana” and stoop up with a “vinyasa” (flow) and ended up in “tadasana” (mountain pose).
We tried to feel all five “vayu”s in “tadasana.” As we grounded beneath the feet we felt the “apana vayu” and as the spine extended up to the ceiling from the top of the head we felt the “udana vayu”. We stayed in the center with “samana vayu” and when we inhaled the chest moved forward and we felt the air entering the body and thus the “prana vayu.” Finally we felt the energy going out of the fingertips and thus the “vyana vayu.”
We warmed up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. We were trying to do each “asana” with full awareness. When we lifted the arms up (urdhva hastasana), we felt the energy going up and out from the hands, when we bent forward we felt the energy going down. When we opened the spine half-way and kept the spine straight, when we got into low plank (chaturanga dandasana) and the upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana), we felt the energy rising up and forward from the “sternum” (chest bone)… In downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), we felt the energy in the navel– the center. Because we could stimulate “vyana vayu” only if we stimulated the other four “vayu”s.
In-between sun salutation series, we added standing asanas like “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “utkatasana” (chair) and “trikonasana” (triangle) to stimulate “vyana vayu” more. The body had warmed up well. Now we could go on with balancing poses. In-between “surya namaskara” Series, we started to add balancing poses like “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose) and “navasana” (boat pose).
We could also activate “vyana vayu” with backbends. Therefore, we added some backbends in-between sun salutation series. Inhaling in “urdhva hastasana” we bent backward a bit and stayed there for five breaths. “Viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior), “camatkarasana” (wild thing), “udhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “bhujangasana” (cobra), “sphinx” and “salabhasana” (locust) were the other backbends.
We sat down in “dandasana” (staff pose) and lifted the arms up and then we neutralized the body with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). Before deep relaxation and resting pose, I aimed to clean the energy channels in the body with a “pranayama” (breathing) exercise: “Nadi shodhana:” We tried to equalized and balanced the right and left energies in the body, or the male and female energies, with this breathing exercise. In the most simple way, we sat in cross-legged position, used the index and little fingers of the right hand (or the left hand if we are left-handed) and opened closed the nostrils one by one. First we inhaled and exhaled from both nostils, then closed the right nostril and inhaled through the left nostril. As the exhale is over, we closed the left nostril and exhaled through the right nostril. After the exhale, we inhaled through the right nostril and closed it then exhaled through the left nostril and went on doing the same one by one. One from the right one from the left. To end the breathing exercise, we should exhale from the left nostril and place the hands on the knees to feel the effects of the breathing exercise on the body and mind.
Following “pranayama” exercise, we laid on our backs and felt the outward moving energy “vyana vayu” with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We brought the energy to the center with “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose) and spread the “prana” (life force) to the entire body with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
How could I end the class after “savasana”? We realized that “vyana vayu” was an outward moving energy and an energy that was spread from the body named “aura.” We knew that this “vayu” helped “prana” (life force) to move from the energy channels named “nadi.” We also realized that we could feel a pose more and more deeply if we felt the upward, downward, inward, outward and centered energies. Now all five “vayu”s were totally in our mindb. From now on, we would not only do an “asana” but try to feel the energetical aspects of that “asana.”
And “vyana vayu”? Do I have a balanced life or am I nervous and is my mind confused? Am I in harmony and balance? Is my mind and body a whole, in balance and harmony or is my mind disjointed? Am I in harmony with myself and environment? Am I physicall, emotionally and mentally in balanc? Am I moving in grace? Do my thoughts and emotions freely move in my mind? Is my entire body in harmony and balance? This was what we was left behind “vyana vayu”-focused classes.

I do not like just to focus on body in my yoga classes. As yoga literally means “to yoke” and “to join”, then we should focus on body, mind and soul in yoga classes and try to make body, mind and soul “a whole.” This is why I like to focus on philosophy in my classes instead of just physically-based classes. You might have noticed that I have been teaching classes on “vayu”s (currents of prana/life force or literally winds) for some time. This week’s “vayu” was “udana vayu” (upward moving energy).

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We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
Last week it was time for “udana vayu” i.e. “upward moving energy). This “vayu” governs the throat and the eyes, ears and nose. It also governs speech and the way we express ourselves as well as tyroid and paratyroid glands. And our growth and metabolism as well. “Udana vayu” is a “an energy wind” that helps us give out oxgyen during exhale and is related with speech. “Udana” is an upward moving energy and it helps “prana” to lift from lower to upper chakras. Moreover, this “vayu” controls the central nervous system, endocrine system and senses. It is related with “vishuddha” (throat) and “ajna” (third eye) chakras and the element space.
When this “vayu” is unbalanced, we can have problems when expressing ourselves, talk too much or talk negatively. Since the throat is a center related with the entrance and exit of energy, there may be imbalance in the things taken in and thrown out of the body when the “udana vayu” is unbalanced. When “udana vayu” is in balance, the mind and heart will be balanced and a whole. When unbalanced, we may be short of breath or face other respiratory problems. This may result from not expressing ourselves or suppressing ourselves emotionally. When “udana vayu” is in balance, we are happy and energetic.
To stimulate “udana vayu”, we first have to have a balanced “samana vayu” (balancing air). As you may remember, “samana vayu” is related with the healthy and balanced intermingling of “prana vayu” and “apana vayu” in the navel.
As “udana vayu” is an upward moving energy, we can stimulate it with a yoga flow focusing on neck, head and upper back and inversions. When “samana”, “prana” and “apana” vayus are in balance, this “vayu” works efficiently. Therefore, this vayu is mostly stimulated at the end of yoga classes after when all “vayu”s are awakened.
We began the class with meditation. After meditation, I wanted to stimulate “udana vayu” and the throat with “ujjayi pranayama” (victorious breath). The “ujjayi” breath can be performed by narrowing the back of the throat. If you haven’t tested so far, I can give you a clue. Imagine that you are at home in a cold winter night. You come near the window and you exhale to the window and make a vapor on the window. Or we may say that you are inhaling with the sound “saaa” and exhaling with the sound “haaa”. After testing this breath with open-mouth for some time, you may close your mouth and start inhaling and exhaling through the nose. When doing so, you narrow the back of your throat and work this breath. Some call it “ocean breath.” Maybe it’s because they compare it with the sound of waves of the ocean. Who knows?
When practicing this “pranayama”, we did “jalandhara bandha” (chin lock) to awake “udana vayu” more. We would do this lock in “sukhasana” (easy pose) or “virasana” (hero pose). After inhaling through the nose, we brought the chin to the chest and lifted the “sternum” (chest bone) up. We waited as long as we could hold our breath. When ending the lock, we lifted the chin up and inhaled through the nose. We waited for some time for our breath to normalize by taking slow and deep breaths. “Jalandhara bandha” regulates circulatory and respiratory systems and stimulates tyroid gland. Therefore it balances the metabolism.
I asked the students to use this breath throughout the class and we began the flow. We brought our attention to the throat in “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch) flow. We not only stretched the spine but also started to warm up the body. When flowing between “marjaryasana” and “bitilasana”, we dropped the chin to the chest as close as we could and squeezed the front part of the neck and then we threw the back of the neck to the upper back and stretched the front of the neck.
We stood up with a “vinyasa” and got into “tadasana” (mountain pose). We focused on breath in “tadasana.” We practiced “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows by bringing the awarenesss to inhales and exhales. In “tadasana” and “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), we moved the neck to right, left, front and back and drew circles with the neck.
In order to stimulate the neck and upper back in “vinyasa” flows, we opened the chest in “tadasana” and bent backward. We stretched the chest more in “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge). “Virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior), “trikonasana” (triangle) and “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose) were the other asanas we did to warm the body up and open and stretch the chest.
When we sat on the mat, we went on with “ustrasana” (camel pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) and “sphinx” to stimulate “udana vayu.” Particulary in “sphinx”, we rolled the neck to left, right, front and back.
Before ending the class, we practiced a few inversions to balance the “udana vayu.” “Sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose) and “matsyasana” (fish pose) were some of them. The last asana was “sirsasana” (headstand).
Just before “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), we sat in “simhasana” (lion pose) to open the blockage in throat. We sat on the knees by tucking the toes on the mat. Hands on the knees, eyes turned in-between the eyebrows. Exhaling through the mout, we roared like a lion. Following “pranayama”, we surrendered the body to the ground and rested.
So how did we end the class? “Udana vayu” was an upward moving energy. It was related with speech and self-expression. To correctly express oneself. To tell the truth and to tell what you are feeling and thinking… It was located between the heart and mind. The heart and mind thinking and speaking the same… What if the mind and heart do not speak the same? Then we may face problems in the throat. Then “udana vayu” gets unbalanced. It was a “vayu” related with the throat chakra. The throat chakra was the center of clean and correct expression and communication. It was related with expression of what we were thinking and feeling. Coordinating the mind and heart, making them speak the same and just letting good words to come out of our mouth was important. Shouting or arguing was not a right way of expression. Can I express myself in a good way? Am I understood correctly by others? Can I speak in a good way? Are my words and speech listened? Can I speak correctly and accurately? This was what “udana vayu” was.

How interesting is human mind, isn’t it? When we learn new things, we just curtain the old ones and start forgetting them. Actually all we learn is always in our minds. But they may be in the back of the mind. Sometimes something we see, sometimes something we hear, sometimes something we express bring forth the knowledge in the back of our minds. This was what happened to me in one of my flow yoga classes last week.

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We focused on stretching and strengthening back muscles that day. We knew that the body is not one-sided and we had to stretch the chest and the chest muscles in order to strengthen back muscles. Long hours in front of the computer and television, the bad postures we get into when driving and the tendency to “sit hunchbacked” instead of sitting with a straight spine lead to an increase in the thoracic spine and closure of the chest. That day we wanted not only to strengthen and stretch back muscles but also to stretch chest muscles. Breath was as important as the asanas. To move with the breath, to open and stretch the chest with the help of the breath…
After the opening meditation, we practiced “pranayama” (breathing) technique in order to widen thechest before a “vinyasa” (flow) yoga. I did not want the student to practice a deep breathing technique like “ujjayi” (victorious breath), “bhastrika” (bellows breath) or “kapalabhati” (skull shining breath). I just wanted to bring the student’s attention to inhales and exhales and her to be aware of the movement of her spine and diaphragm. Therefore, I started the breathing exercise by inhaling in five counts, breath retention after the inhale in three counts, exhaling in five counts and breath retention after the exhale in three counts. Since she was practicing yoga for years, this breath count was so easy for her and I increased the counts. “Inhale in seven counts, hold in five counts, exhale in seven and hold in five.” This was better. After a while, we increased the inhales and exhales to nine counts and breath retention to seven counts. In the meantime, I asked the student to realize that her spine was extending from her coccyx to the top of her head in each inhale and that she was grounded more from her sit bones in each exhale. Some time later, I told her to become awere of her expanding and narrowing chest in each inhale and exhale. Lastly, I drew her attention to her abdomen. An abdomen getting larger in each inhale and narrower in each exhale. Thus, her body and mind relaxed before the class.
As usual, we began with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series in order to warm the body up. This time, the target part of the body were shoulder girdle, back and chest. To this end, we were flowing for five times between “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend) and “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). When inhaling, we were rounding the shoulders back and pushing the scapula towards hip and when exhaling we were bending forward but paying attention to keep the shoulders away from the ears. At that moment, I flashbacked to a yoga workshop I joined years ago. It was a workshop on “vayu”s (currents of prana/life force or literally winds). We focused on a single “vayu” for five days. At that moment, the theme and focus of my class had changed. Now that we were working on back and chest, then we could work on “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind). Both philosophy and theory and practice. What I had learned and was staying in the back of my mind would be used that day. I had pushed that information to the back of my mind so far. Now it was time to remember it and teach it. Let’s see what happens.
We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
We would focus just on “prana vayu” that day. That is the inward and forward moving energy. “Prana vayu” is situated in the head and affects the chest. Prana vayu is the energy that receives things coming into the body in the form of food (eating), liquids (drinking) and air (breathing) as well as all sensory perceptions and mental experiences. Prana is propulsive by nature and is the driving force for all the other vayus. The “prana vayu” governs the region from the abdomen or diaphragm to the base of the throat or the vice-versa. In order to feel this energy, one has to extend the body from the “sternum” (the chest bone) forward. Inward and forward moving enegry. We tried to feel this extension in every asana throughout the class.
We began this inward and forward extension when inhaling in “tadasana” (mountain pose). In-between “surya namaskara” series, we rounded shoulders back and pushed the scapula towards the hips in “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend) and extended forward and inward from the “sternum” in order to feel this “vayu.” Moreover, focusing on breath in every asana and particularly trying to feel the energy moving from the abdomen to the upper body in each inhale and its moving out of the body from the third eye (between two eyebrows/ajna chakra) also helped us feel “prana vayu.”
As “prana vayu” was related with the element air, we could focus on “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) in this flow. As it was an inward and forward energy, we could feel optimistic and feel the life force. To this end, we could become aware of this “vayu” in lateral bends and backbends. When bending to the right and left, we could inhale and lift the body up from the “sternum” and we could exhale, preserving this extension of the body and bend to one side. Similarly, when backbending, we could inhale and move the body up from the “sternum”, feeling the energy moving up from the abdomen to the upper body, and then bend backward.
Since we focused on back and chest muscles that day, we could feel “prana vayu” in every asana. Particulary in “salabhasana” (locust pose), “ustrasana” (camel pose), “dhanurasana” (bow pose), we tried to realize the “inward and forward energy.” In-between “surya namaskara”, we tried to move forward from the “sternum” in “phalakasana” (plank pose) and “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and activated the “prana vayu.”
Before ending the class, I wanted to energy the “prana vayu” with a “pranayama” (breathing) technique. I aimed to practice “bhastrika pranayama” (bellows breath) to remove obstacles in respiration, strengthen nervous system, reinvigorate the body and mind, and purify the mind. “When taking a deep breath, widen the diaphragm with breath and let the diaphragm move inward when exhaling.” After working this breathing exercise for two to three minutes, we meditated for two-three minutes by keeping the hands in “prana mudra” (breath/life energy seal). “Touch the tips of your ring finger and little finger to your thumb. The index and middle finger should be pointed straight.” With this “mudra”, I wanted to energize and revive the body.
Following meditation, we rested in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting position) and it was time to end the class. I remembered how the class began as a physical yoga class focusing on chest and back muscles but then turned into a philosophical class. I realized how the information in the back of my mind come forth and how I taught the class simultaneously, not from any pre-prepared note. I saw that what we had learned could come from “back of the mind” when necessary and help us just in time.
“Prana vayu” was an inward and forward moving energy and governing “intake.” From eating to drinking, from ideas to impressions. Intaking and accepting. This “vayu” governed the energy, motivation and dynamism. This vayu gives heightened sensitivity both to the external senses and to inner awareness. It allows us to see the world in all its brightness and to anchor our inner focus in a resting place of contentment. If “prana vayu” is deranged, we suffer from cravings, fall prey to bad habits, and wrestle with a restless and dissipated mind. “Prana vayu” was a “move of energy” related with intake and acceptance. It was related with “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) and element air. As we began the flow that day, I remembered “prana vayu” and I “accepted” myself as I was. After I accepted myself, my mind cooperated with me and started to “give.” I realized that I could not take unless I gave and I could not give unless I took. As I gave, the student took. As she took, “prana vayu” came out. Everything was a cycle. A cycle of taking and giving. The more we gave, the more we could take.

I had decided to focus on chakra balancing meditations instead of asana workout in my private and group yoga classes last week. I had taught chakra balancing flows in my private classes before but this would be the first time I would teach such a flow in my group classes. It was easier to experience chakra balancing meditation with a few people. How would I practice such a flow in a yoga classes attended by at least 15 people? Moreover, we were used to “yang” (male energy) classes with challenges asanas in my group classes. We had once focused on “ajna chakra” (third eye chakra) , tried “trataka kriya” (gazing at candle in order to silence the mind) and meditated. This chakra balancing flow would be our second meditative class with the same group. Let’s see how it would progress.
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We began the class with meditation. I asked the participants to watch their breath. To feel their inhales and exhales and what the inhales and exhales were doing to their bodies. How the breath was flowing in the body and what parts of the spine was moving with each inhale and exhale… How the spine extended with each inhale and how it grounded to the earth through sit bones with each exhale. How the chest was expanding with the inhales and how it was narrowing with the exhales… I recommended that they realize their bodies and silence the mind by watching their breath. “Do not squeeze your teeth. You may half open your mouth. Let your cheeks be relaxed. Now turn your attention between your eyebrows. Are they relaxed? Now once more watch your spine. If you feel as if you have collapsed, extend your spine with the next inhale but do not lift your chin. Continue keeping the chin parallel to the ground.” Before the flow began, I wanted to relax the class totally. Therefore, I kept the opening meditation long.
The chakra balancing flow is an asana and meditation workout including all seven chakras from the “muladhara chakra” (root chakra) to the “sahasrara chakra” (crown chakra). With this practice, the body was getting purified and relaxed with several asanas and “mantra”s (sacred syllables uttered to free the mind).
We began with “muladhara” (root) chakra. As how we were aligning the asanas from the feet to the top of the head, we would also practice the chakra balancing flow from the root to the top. “Muladhara chakra” was situated below the coccyx and regulates blood, bones and cells. It affects adrenal glands. Its color is red and the lotus blossom of this chakra has four pedals. The main symbol of “muladhara” chakra is elephant with seven trunks. It symbolizes the hidden wisdom in ourselves. Like how the roots of the lotus is mud, this chakra is our “mud.” The karmas of our past lives rests in this chakra. From these karma arise the happiness or unhappiness in our current lives. We plant a seed in this chaka with every move we make in this life and sooner or later this seed determines our fate. The snake named “kundalini” symbolizes the “shakti” (male energy) believed to be dormant in this chakra. The aim in chakra balancing flows is to wake up the “shakti” energy or “kundalini”, raise it to the top of the body and reach higher consciousness at the crown chakra. This chakra is the place of unconsciousness. It is dark. There can be valuables or dangerous snakes and scorpions in this chakra. The muladhara chakra may seem harmless but in fact it is dangerous. It can be neutralized, regulated and cleaned by the mantra “lam”.
As the “muladhara” is the root chakra, we should feel the energy of the earth beneath our feet when balancing this chakra. The aim is to get rid of fears and bring stability and balance to our lives. Therefore, we use standing asanas to purify this chakra in order to feel the earth beneath our feet.
We began the flow with “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). In each exhale, we tried to get rid of fear and in each inhale we invited balance and stability to our lives. By watching the breath in this pose, we thought about our home and expressed our happiness and gratitude to have a home. We sang the mantra “lam” when doing all this flow. Then, we got into “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I) with the right foot in the front and expressed our love, gratitute and prayers to our father. Then came “trikonasana” (triangle) to express gratitude to our source of income. With the left foot in the front, “virabhadrasana I” and “trikonasana” to express gratitude to our mothers and to our occupation respectively. When doing all these, we chanted the mantra “lam.” Finally we stood in “tadasana” (mountain pose) to re-connect with the earth. We closed our eyes and tried to feel balanced, stable and confident. We tried to stay balanced and feel the earth beneath the feet by keeping the eyes closed. Grounding, roots and balance…
After a “vinyasa” (fulow) we jumped from “adho mukha svanasana” to “dandasana” (staff pose). Now it was “svadisthana” (sacral) chakra’s turn. This chakra was situated between the coccyx and sacrum. In ancient times, kundalini was believed to seat in this chakra. However in time, this energy regressed to “muladhara” (root) chakra, i.e. to “unconsciousness” due to materalism and egoist behaviors. Its color is orange and it symbolizes sweetness and creativity. When progressing from the root to the second chakra, we are progressing from unconsciousness to subconsciousness. The consciousness that lies between sleeping and waking. The kundalini has waken up and reached the second chakra. However, it is face to face with a danger here. The jealousy, anger, greed and desires accumulated in the sacral chakra prevents “shakti” energy from moving to upper chakras. The energy is blocked here and can return to the root. The element of this chakra is water and being soft and flowing like the water is among the characteristics of this chakra. The animal symbol is crocodile, which represents the karma lying dormant in the subconscious. The crocodile is lazy and lethargic, but once it becomes active it develops enormous power and speed and can be extremely dangerous. This chakra can be balanced with the mantra “vam” and  lotus blossom of this chakra has six pedals. The affected organs are liver, spleen, intestines, kidneys and urinary bladder and the chakra affects sexual glands. We can regulate the “svadisthana” chakra with hip opening asanas.
Sitting in “dandasana”, we imaged that we left behind sorrow and brought creativity in our lives. We closed the eyes with hands, chanted the mantra “vam” and tried to feel the vibration of the mantra in our bodies. After chanting the mantra for a few breaths in this pose, we exhaled and got into “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and thought of an ex-lover. Or just an old buddy with whom we still have some issues. This person could be an ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, an old business partner or an old loved one who has gone out of our lives. When staying in the pose, we cut all our ties with that person and expressed our gratitude to him/her chanting the mantra “vam.” A few breaths later, we got into “dandasana”, interlaced the fingers at the top of our heads and kept the hands like a gun. Inhaling we kept the spine straight and bent a little bit backward and exhaling we bent forward. In every exhale we chanted “vam.” The next pose was “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose). In this pose, we imagined that we purified from all negative emotions like anger, sorrow, jealously and rage and resolved all our relations. When inhaling, we thought of such people in our lives and we expressed our gratitude and love for them when exhaling. Again with the mantra “vam.” Finally we sat in “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose). We inhaled and sent the breath to hips, groins and our internal organs related with the element water (kidneys, urinary bladder and sexual organs) and wished them to be cleaned.
Now it was “manipura” (naval) chakra’s turn. The Manipūra Chakra is situated in the middle of the abdomen behind the navel. The word “manipura” literally means the place of pearl, jewel. This chakra is related with self-confidence, determination and willpower. This is the seat of our consciousness. The “manipura” chakra is also related with our psychological issues. When we feel psychological problems, we can have stomach problems. When we are afraid or stressed or nervous, we can have stomachache or other stomach problems. The lotus blossom of this chakra has ten pedals and it affects spleen, liver, gall bladder, nervous system and pancreas. The affected glands are pancreas. The animal symbol is a fiery and lively animal, “ram”. Its color is yellow, the color of energy and light. Its element is fire and mantra is “ram.” We can regulate the “manipura” chakra with twists.
We began to balance the third chakra with “gomukhasana” (cow face pose). We twisted to the right and left to avoid anger and to ensure self-confidence. When inhaling we thought of some people we upset and when exhaling we apologized and got rid of guilt. We could not be happy by making other people happy. We should not harm anybody and therefore we should apologize to people who we hurt. We went on with “marichyasana” (sage Marichy pose) and felt grateful to have the opportunity to apologize to people whom we had hurt. We tried to re-build self-confidence by feeling that we have moved from unconsciousness to subconsciousness and from subconsciousness to consciousness. We had the power in ourselves, not out of our bodies. We should feel the power and strength in ourselves and we should do everything with determination and ambition chanting the mantra “ram.”
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It was now the third chakra’s turn: The “anahata” (heart) chakra literally meaning “unlimited”. It affects the heart, lungs, blood circulation and timus glands. Its color is green, light blue and pink and the lotus blossom of this chakra has twelve pedals. Our real self lives here. Our heart and conscience. The animal symbol of this chakra is black antelope, which is fast and powerful but at the same time sensitive and delicate. It can see dangers in advance thanks to its refined senses. It is awake day and night. When we start to live from the heart, when we listened to our heart and made decisions from the heart not the mind, we could see that life was easier. When we started to live from the heart, we could feel that the divine power and the infinite consciousness were speaking to us. The mantra of this chakra is “yam” and its element is air. We would balance it with backbends.
We began to regulate the “anahata” chakra with “sphinx” pose. In every inhale we invited love to our bodies and in every exhale we threw away hatred. When balancing this chakra, we remembered a person who had hurt us and we forgave them to free ourselves. When there were negative emotions in our bodies, we could not set ourselves free. Forgiving did not mean that we had forgotten what had done to us. It meant that we had avoided the negative energy created by those people and set ourselves free. Only this way we could move on. We could not take a step forward by being connected to the past agonies and sorrow. Forgiving meant liberalization. Liberalization meant stretching the chest and opening the heart.
In the “sphinx” pose, we inhaled and invited love and compassion to the bodies and we exhaled, thought of people who had hurt us and forgave chanting the mantra “yam.” The next heart opening asana was “dhanurasana” (bow pose). With this pose, we aimed to repair our broken hearts. Lefting behind what we had experienced and getting rid of their negative emotions. Letting go and surrendering. Re-opening our hearts to new experiences, new loves and new relations.
Getting into “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) for another time we re-connected our bodies with the elements earth, water, fire and air and the chakras of these elements by chanting the mantras and taking the energy from the ground and sending to all these four chakras… “Lam, vam, ram, yam.”
We kneeled down for “ustrasana” (camel pose) and once more reviewed all people who had hurt us and forgave them in each exhale. With “setu bandhasana” (bridge) or “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), we cleaned the heart, avoided negative karma, guilt, sorrow and pain, forgave what we had hurt us, inhaled just to become happier chanting the mantra “yam.”
We laid supine, hugged the knees in “apanasana” and expressed gratitude that we were alive and healthy. We relieved, relaxed and stretched the heart and chanted “lam, vam, ram, yam” for seven times.
Now it was time for the fifth chakra, “vishuddha” (throat) chakra. With the element “ether”, “vishuddha” chakra is located in the larynx and related with physical and spiritual purification. It affects throat and neck and tyroid and paratyroid glands. With the color blue, the lotus blossom of this chakra has sixteen pedals. When we got to this chakra, we began to get more and more conscious. The animal symbol of “vishuddha” chakra is white elephant, which symbolizes luck, wealth, power, wisdom, purity and clarity. The mantra of this chakra is “ham”, its color is violet and it is a chakra between physical and astral dimensions and consciousness and higher consciousness. When we climb upper this chakra, the doors of wisdom and higher consciousness open. The throat chakra is the center of clean and accurate expression and communication. If what we think in our minds and what we feel in our hearts are not the same, we can have blockages in this chakra. When we do not express how we feel, this chakra can get blocked. Therefore, it is important for the mind and heart to think and speak the same and to bring out good words from our lips. Shouting or arguing are not accurate and clean expression. Can I express myself accurately? Am I being understood by everyone?
We got into “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand) to avoid bad expression and to bring accurate communication in our lives. When inhaling in this pose, we started to realize that we are a part of God and we are wise and divine people. Chanting the mantra “ham,”, we got into “halasana” (plow pose) and tried to avoid hazardous blockages in the throat. In order to erase all negative thoughts about ourselves and walk towards enlightenment, we exhaled and thought how divine and wes we were. With “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), we exhaled and got closer to the idea how divine and wise we were. With “matsyasana” (fish pose), we cleaned up the throat we had blocked with the previous three asanas and let the energy flow there. We cleaned, purified and healed the throat. Now we had started to see ourselves as wise people. As people who could help others, who could express accurately and whose words were listened.
Relieving the neck by turning from right to left in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting) pose came “ajna” (third eye) chakra cleansing. This chakra located between the eyebrows was related with senses and perception. It was affecting eyes and brain as well as pituitary glands. With the indigo blue color, the lotus in this chakra has two pedals. It does not have an animal symbol. When we come to this chakra, we are closer to higher consciousness. The mantra for this chakra is “aum”. Now we were turning into individuals with strong senses and a strong clairvoyance.
We worked this chakra with “balasana” (child pose). We invited humility in our bodies in each inhale and sent away doubts in each exhale. In child pose, we thanked all our teachers on our path to yoga and expressed our gratitude to them chanting the mantra “aum.”
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 Now it was the turn of the “sahasrara” (crown) chakra where “shiva” (male energy) meets with “shakti” (female energy) and we reach higher consciousness and “samadhi” (bliss). Located on the crown of the head, the lotus in this chakra has a thousand pedals. At this point, the lotus had grown up from its muddy roots and blossoming white flowers on the top of the head. Associated with the color white, this chakra affects brain, nervous system and pineal glands. Now we were becoming light and higher conscious. The “shakti” located in “muladhara” (root) chakra would meet “shiva” in the “sahasrara” (crown) chakra. We had defeated ignorance from the root to the crown and now it was time to reach higher consciousness. Now we would be one and whole with the divine power. The mantra of this chakra was “aum.”
We got into “sirsasana” (headstand) and we cleaned and purified our relationship with our divine force, whatever or whoever we believe each time we ihnaled and exhaled. There were no more dualities in our lives. Everything was one. We had been enlightened. We were a whole and connected. The breath, mind, body and soul were a whole. After this pose, we neutralized the body in “balasana” (child pose) and once more expressed gratitude to our teachers on the path of yoga. Then we ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
In “savasana”, we once more reviewed the body from the feet to the top of the head and visited all seven chakras. Eyes closed, the body surrendered and resting on the ground, we inhaled and visited all the chakras from the root to the crown. We stayed in each chakra for a while and cleaned them with our breath and with the mantras “lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, aum and aum.”
After the deep relaxation and resting pose, we sat in a cross-legged position and closed the ears with hands and chanted the mantra “aum” for three times. The mantra of existence and universe. Chanting all three letters one by one, feeling the vibration in our minds. To be awake, to be in a dreaming state, to be in a meditative state… The mental life, mind and intellect… Light, water and food… Word, life and mind… Future, past and present time… Preservation (Brahma), creation (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva)… Male, female and neutral… And chanted altogether, the Creator. The asana (pose), pranayama (breath regulation) and pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). Chanted altogether, “samadhi” (bliss and peace).
From mud in our coccyx, from the hidden and dark center in our bodies, to the flower, enlightenment… From unconsciousness, from the conciousness between animal and human, to the higher, universal and divince consciousness… Becoming aware of the power within ourselves and rising up with the help of that power… We have the power in ourselves… We just need to become aware of it…

 

Have you ever found yourself eager to sing out loud? Have you ever hummed the lyrics of your favorite song when you are taking a bath, driving or alone at home? Have you ever imagined yourself as a singer on the stage and sung your heart out? If you have such a will from time to time, just be aware that your “throat chakra” is talking and wants to be heard. Yes, your “throat chakra” wants to be cleaned, purified and be heard. It wants to express.

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As you may guess, the theme of last week’s private and group yoga classes was “vishuddha” (throat) chakra. “Vishudda” means “pure, purified, purification.” It is centered in the middle of the throat and affects the throat and back of the throat as well as tiroid and paratiroid glands. Besides all this theoratical information, “throat chakra” is a place of energy related with “honesty” and “expression.” It is a passage between the heart and head and we may cause a problem in this chakra when we cannot ensure a balance between our minds and hearts and burst out the right words from our throats. We block “vishuddha chakra” whenever we are made to shut up. We also poison this chakra when our hearts and minds do not think the same and when we cannot take it out from our mouths. Therefore, “being honest” and “expressing” are important. Can I express myself accurately?
We focused on meditation mostly to activate this chakra. The first practice was a “pranayama” (breathing technique) named “dog breath.” Siting in a meditative pose, you were sticking your tongue all the way out and keeping it out as you rapidly breathe in and out through your mouth as if a dog was inhaling and exhaling. The aim was to clean the toxins in the “throat chakra.” When inhaling and exhaling, the diaphragm was also moving in and out. This breathing technique helped us avoid all lies and fear and encourage us to tell the truth.
As I have mentioned at the beginning of the post, singing is one of the easiest ways to balance “throat chakra.” I think the best way to balance the “vishuddha chakra” in a yoga class was to sing “mantras” (sacred sounds sung to liberalize the mind). A book I was reading these days was saying, “when the throat chakra is opened and is connected with the heart chakra, you will manage to sing in a harmonious way.” (For further information, you may refer to “The Eight Human Talents”) Who wanted to sing in harmony and a perfect song? It was enough to only hear our own voices. I would get used to hearing my own voice and then I would love my voice. At this moment, my mind went back to years ago. When I was at the university, our teacher wanted us to record our voices in interpretation classes and then listen to the records. Only years later, I could understand what the intention of our teacher was. I could only understand it when I read this book. When I heard my voice, I would get used to it and then I would love my voice. Thus, my voice “would come out of my heart” and “be pure and clean.” If we return to the yoga class, we tried to purify and clean “throat chakra” by singing “ONG”. Before singing “ONG”, we lifted shoulders up to the ears and then lowered them. Then we closed eyes and drew circles with heads. Lastly, we circled the tongue and pressed the tip of the tongue on the back of the palate and sang “ONG.” Thus, we tried to feel the vibration at the back of the throat.
Next “mantra” was “Sat Nam” (True Name/Truth is My Name). Our aim was to review certain sounds and in the end burst out pure, clean and accurate words out of our mouths. Also, we aimed to accept ourselves as we were and find our real identities. According to the book, “when we were honest to ourselves, we could also be honest to others. We should not deny who we were and what our intention in this world was. We should not escape from ourselves but accept ourselves.”
The shadow feelings of “vishuddha chakra” was “denial” and “commitment.” “Commitment” happened when we could not live our reality. Drug addiction, alcohol, cigarette, food, coffee and desserts… All were same. When you needed one of them, we were in fact running away from a situation we could not deal with or talk about. We could only laugh, only inhale and exhale from the nose and meditate and thus increase “serotonin” and “endorphin” and overcome addictions.
In order to overcome all bad habits, we did another meditation. We sat in a cross-legged position, made fists but the thumbs were extended straight. The thumbs were put between the eyebrows, the eyes were closed and focused on the third chakra (between the eye brows). The lips were closed and the teeth were squeezed. Then the teeth were eased. In the mind, we sang “Sa-ta-na-ma” mantra which was the extended way of singing “Sat Nam” mantra. This meditation helped us get rid of bodily and mental addictions. The molar teeth were pressing a point in the middle of the brain and this point was correcting an imbalance.
After all the meditations were over, we tried to balace the “vishuddha chakra” by asanas. “Marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “balasana” (child), “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “salamba sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish) and “uttana padasana” (raised leg pose)  were the asanas that would activate this chakra. In order to affect throat chakra, we stretched the neck to the front, back, left and right in “tadasana” (mountain pose) in-between “vinyasa” flows. We especially moved the neck to the front and back to stimulate tiroid and paratiroid glands. We stretched the neck to the front and back in “bhujangasana” (cobra). We gave all our attention to the neck in “marjaryasana-bitilasana” flow and brought the neck closer to the chest and the shoulder during the flow. We wanted to totally purify “vishuddha chakra” this way. When doing this, students either coughed or expressed something they were feeling. Yes, throat chakra was being purified.

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How did I end the private and group classes in which we focused on “vishuddha chakra”? What was the lesson I derived? At the end of classes, I was informing students on philosophy but at the same time I was reaffirming the views in my mind. I was remembering them again. Therefore, philosophical approaches uttered at the end of the class were things that I really needed and wanted to hear. Same thing happened at the end of those classes, too.

As we could not express ourselves accurately, this chakra was blocked. Shouting and raising your voice did not mean expressing. According to another book I was reading, a person who could express himself/herself accurately could not deceive anybody and we should express “without accumulating feelings.” If we swallowed our words in order not to hurt anybody instead of expressing our thoughts on time and accurately, these swallowed words would start blocking the “throat chakra” in time. Maybe sometime later, we could voice our “accumalated thoughts and feelings” in the wrong time and be wrong even though we were right. Therefore, we should express our feelings “without accumulating” and on the right time because there is only one moment and it is the present moment. Do you want to say that you love? Say it. Are you angry with anyone? Say it also. Let yourheart and mind speak the same and you speak “that language” in the real sense. Only what your mind and heart are saying come out of your throat. Not anything else…

My favorite yoga classes were those on backbends before and after I became a yoga instructor. When the teacher said “we would practice wheel (urdhva dhanurasana) or bow (dhanurasana)” in the days I was joining yoga classes as a student , I think I was the happiest person in that class. When I backbended as I stretched my chest and shoulders, I would feel not only physical relief but also emotional and spiritual relief. I felt the same after I had become a yoga instructor. Whenever I picked a backbend as the peak pose of a class, I could never know how time flew. It seemed that I had a special connection with backbends. Maybe because backbends were reflecting the emotion of love and affection or maybe what attracted me was bending to the unknown. The physical benefits of the asanas were enough for me. Moreover their spiritual emotions were an extra benefit.

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In my previous posts, I have mentioned that I re-started to be interested in yoga philosophy recently. Unfortunately, I had been away from philosophy in daily routine and busy schedule. I have forgotten how indispensable philosophy is for yoga classes. I have started to brend philosophy into my classes in recent days. Focusing on chakras was one of the best ways to do that. It was “anahata chakra”s (heart chakra) turn in last week’s private and group classes.

According to a book I was reading, heart chakra was the place where “compassion” lived. If the chakra was not functioning well, we could easily feel afraid and anxious. We could transform from the concept of “I” to the concept of “we” through this chakra. Every emotion was coming out of heart chakra and we were the ones to decide on whether to show good or bad emotions. Therefore, “anahata chakra” was the most dangerous part of the body. If there was an imbalance in this chakra, that person could be overdependent to anything or anybody. If fear prevails a person instead of love due to an imbalance in heart chakra, that person could be afraid of losing the loved ones and thus start protecting him/her and regard his/her needs over hers/his. In order for this chakra to work well, a person should learn to love himself/herself. A person who loves himself/herself could also love others. Loving ourselves was so easy: “One can start loving himself/herself by just taking a deep breath.” Love was the opposite of fear and gratitude was a way to get rid of fear. When you really feel grateful, you could not fear anything. The most striking point of the book on “anahata chakra” was its pointing out that being worried was a choice. “How important was the thing you were feeling worried about? What’s the use of that worry for me?” When we stop for a while and think on these questions, we can see that the thing we are feeling worried about are not so important at all.

Let’s get back to my private and group classes on “heart chakra.” In my previous classses in which I focused on heart and backbends, I only talked about the physical benefits of asanas. After giving more importance to philosophy, I decided to talk about emotional benefits of backbends. Therefore, we began the class with a different meditation. We joined palms in the prayer pose (anjali mudra), lifted the hands between the eyebrows and put the thumbs in-between the eyebrows. Thus, we started meditating. We thought of something we were grateful for when inhaling and held the breath and when exhaling, we gave out the fear and worry. We tried to bring peace to our hearts with this meditation.
In the private class, we focused an a few more meditation. One of them was to inhale through the nose and exhale totally through the mouth. Then inhaling through the nose and exhaling totally through the nose. When exhaling through the nose, chanting “Sat Nam” (Truth is God’s name. Truth is my identity) in our minds. The aim was to overcome all hostile emotions and replace them with compassion. After practicing abdominal breath and focusing particularly on exhaling, we joined the hands straight in front and opened them to the sides in order to open heart chakra. Thus, the chest stretched. Last meditation was to chant “hummmm” (we) mantra and then we started “vinyasa” flows.
We should open the chest, shoulders and quadriceps muscles as the peak pose would be “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel).  We backbended in “tadasana” (mountain pose) and we stayed long in “bhujangasana” (cobra). Oıther preparatory poses were “ashva sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “uttan pristhasana” (lizard), “half saddle”, “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “camatkarasana” (wild thing) and “sphinx”. When it was time to try the peak pose, a good idea came into my mind. So that we had focused on philosophy and emotions through the class, why didn’t we do the pose in a new way we had not tried before? The theme of the class was to backbend, love more, overcome fear and increase compassion. So why didn’t we fall into “wheel” from “mountain pose” and try to overcome the fear of bending to the unknown? “Fear”, “overcome”, “backbend” and “urdhva dhanurasana.” What could I want more?
As it was a private class, I was standing beside the student. I placed my hands on her lower back. She took a deep breath, she straightened all her spinal curves and extended her spine (axial extension), she rolled her shoulders back and fell into wheel. When she got into wheel totally, I left her alone with her own experience and she enjoyed going to the unknown and stretching her chest in wheel. The end of the class was obvious. After neutralizing the spine with two forwardbends and twists, we ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
In the group class, we did the first meditation where we kept the hands in prayer pose and placed the thumbs between the eyebrows. Then we sat in a cross-legged position, stretched the “scapula” (shoulder blades) with “garudasana” (eagle) arms. In order to stretch the same part of the body and soften the shoulder girdle, we interlaced hands at the back of the body and bended forward as we distanced the arms from the bodies. Lastly, we stretched the shoulder girdle with “gomukhasana” (cow face) hands.
We warmed the bodies up on all-fours. We stretched the heart region with “vyaghrasana” (tiger) and activated the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). We warmed the bodies more with “vinyasa” flows and practiced “bhujangasana” (cobra), “ashva sanchalanasa” (high lunge), “uttan pristhasana” (lizard), “half saddle”, “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “camatkarasana” (wild thing) and “sphinx” in-between vinyasa flows in order to stretch the chest and quadriceps muscles. We bended back in “tadasana” (mountain pose) to stretch the chest more. In order to stretch shoulder muscles, we interlaced hands in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend) and tried to distance arms from the body. In order to open heart chakra more and more, we tried “salambhasana” (locust) variations. Only lifting the arms, only lifting the legs, lifting both legs and arms at the same time, swinging in locust pose.
“Dhanurasana” (bow) was the peak pose of the group class. The class had different alternatives for this pose also. Only lifting the legs, only lifting the chest, lifting both of them. Lifting both legs and chest and waiting in this pose for a few breaths, then swinging the body to the right and left (parsva dhanurasana–side bow pose).
After all these backbends and experiencing the emotions that came with opening the chest and opening the heart to love those around us more, we neutralized the bodies in “dandasana” (staff pose) and bend the spine forward with “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose). We twisted the spine with “marichyasana” (Sage Marichy twist). We laid supine, pulled the knees to the chest and rolled the spine to right and left (apanasana) and relaxed the body more with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). Now it was time for a long “savasana”.
Following “savasana”, we sat in a cross-legged position to once more practice the “gratitude” meditation we did at the beginning of class. Taking a deep breath and thinking of something we were grateful for, holding the breath, and when exhaling throwing a worry or fear out of our bodies. How did I end the private and group classes? We wished to replace fear and worry with compassion. To kill “I” and become “we” through “anahata chakra” and to get from individual consciousness to divine love by establishing a connection with the Supreme.