Archives for posts with tag: mantra

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.

Advertisements

Music is sine qua non for me in yoga classes. Sometimes “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series performed with “mantra”s (sacred syllables uttered to free the mind) sometimes meditations with “aum” sounds and sometimes “yin” (female energy) yoga classes with classical music. I was so used to yoga classes with music that I had almost forgotten how to practice yoga without music until a day when I had a private and a group yoga class.

BEN_4569

I had forgotten the tablet I was using to play music in yoga classes at home that day. And I realized that I had forgotten the tablet when I arrived at my private yoga class. I planned to play music online from the cell phone however the service was unavailable there. There was nothing to do. That day we would not use music in yoga classes. We would only listen to the noice of our breath.

We would focus on a chest opening sequence in the private class. We would bend backward and try to love more and look at backward and the past. We would stretch hip flexor muscles, shoulders, chest and try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose) as the peak.

We stretched hip flexor muscles with “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “half saddle”, “supta virasana” (supine hero pose). In order to open the chest, we practiced “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and bend the spine backward in “tadasana” in each “surya namaskara”. We started to stretch the shoulders by interlacing fingers at the back and trying to keep them away from the upper body as much as we could in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). We went on stretching the shoulders with the arm positions of “garudasana” (eagle pose) and “gomukhasana” (cow face). Just before the peak pose, we opened up the chest with “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior) and “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose).

We neutralized the body with “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose). We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) which came immediately after “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We did not need any music when we were flowing. However, I felt a need for music during the opening meditation and “savasana”. It was not a problem for the student. It was a different kind of experience for her. Just listening to her own breath in silence and a meditation and “savasana” without occupying the mind with any other thing.

In the evening class, we focused on arm balancing poses. “Phalakasana” (plank pose), “phalakasana” variations, “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) variations, “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank)… “L” handstand on the wall or real “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) as the peak pose.

Forwardbends and twists after the peak pose. Then “savasana”. A long deep relaxation and resting pose without music. By just listening to breath. In full harmony and unity of the body, breath and mind. Students just living their own experience. Neither “aum” sounds nor “mantra”s or classical music. Just the noice of the breath.

Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I had forgotten the tablet at home that day so that the students could remember how to occupy their minds with just their breath instead of music. Maybe we were supposed to re-establish body-mind-soul integrity in a class without any music. Maybe it happened because the teacher who had forgotten how to teach a class without music should remember again how to teach without any music. Sine qua non is not a word we use in yoga classes. Either with music or without music. Always and everywhere. Yoga and meditation is possible under any circumstances. This was what I had learned that day.

I showed up a bit earlier than the usual time to my private class last week. I had some time on my own before the class began. I chose the music I would play during the class and I wanted to warm my body up. I was feeling a bit tired that day and therefore I wanted to revive myself. Listening to my favorite “mantra”s (the sacred syllables chanted to free the mind), I started “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows. I closed my eyes to feel the “mantra” in my mind and spirit more intensively. After all when we close our eyes, the mind stops talking. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to turn inside, silence my mind and revive. That day we would focus on balancing asanas. This was what we had decided long before. When I was practicing “surya namaskara” flows eyes closed, something interesting came into my mind. Could we do practice with eyes closed throughout the entire class? By feeling the mind and spirit more intensively, by listening to the breath and totally turning inside…

IMG_6821

I turned off the lights. During the opening meditation, I told the student that today’s class would be different than the usual balancing flows and we would keep the eyes closed throughout the entire class. Maybe we could not enable coordination at first as the eyes we closed and sometimes we might not find our coordinates correctly on the “mat” but we would get used to finding our coordinates with eyes closed as we progressed on flows.

It is easier to balance when eyes are open. However when eyes are closed, no data is sent to the brain and it is hard for the body to percieve its position and coordinates on the space. Therefore, it is really difficult to find balance when eyes are closed.

We can get information about the place of the body parts with the help of our eyes. This means that it is so easy to know where our arm is, whether we could lift the leg up to 90 degrees or the leg stayed in 45 degrees with open eyes. Our eyes are open, we can see and get information. However, when eyes are closed, it is not that easy to get this information. Therefore, it is more difficult to practice balancing asanas with eyes closed.

We began “surya namaskara” flows with Krishna Das’ “Baba Hanuman” mantra  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar7xwyvAvEM). I planned to just practice “surya namaskara A” as the eyes were closed. We began sun salutation series slowly just like the mantra. Keeping the pace of the mantra and feeling each “asana.” As the mantra speeded up, we speeded up the flow. In the third or fourth round, the student started to find her coordination more easily and better. In the first rounds, she was not so much oriented. Her hands were out of the mat or her hands were so close to each other. When we got to the third or the fourth round, she could find her balance and coordination more easily. She started to place her hands and legs to the same places as she did when her eyes were open. At first, the hands and feet were so close to each other but in the following rounds, there was enough distance between the hands and feet. All parts of the body were exactly in the place they should be. The mind had already understood that no data was coming and got used to it. The mind accepted that there were no more new data and therefore the body and mind were acting more comfortably. The student started to see with eyes closed.

Now I could start adding balancing poses in-between “surya namaskara” flows. We should progress slowly. At the end of one sun salutation flow, we stayed long in “tadasana” (mountain pose) with eyes closed. We felt the grounding beneath the soles of the feet. Then we grounded on one of the foot and then put the tips of the toes on the ground. If we managed to do this, we lifted the leg up to 90 degrees with the knee bent. We would begin with right or left leg, whichever we wanted to as one part of the body could be more balanced and strong and the other could be unbalanced and week. Therefore, I advised the student to begin with which part of the body she was feeling more balanced and stronger.

In the next flow, I asked the student to lift one of the legs to 90 degrees and extend it to the front. Then in the next flow, we extended the leg and then bent it in each inhale and exhale. In the next flow, we kept the hands in “anjali mudra” (prayer pose) and tried “vrksasana” (tree pose). Then we tried to lift the arms over the head in “vrksasana.” The other balancing poses we tried with eyes closed were “garudasana” (eagle pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).

I decided to cool the body with “surya namaskara” flows. As the pace of the mantra slowed down, the sun salutations with eyes closed also slowed down. We ended the class with “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Eyes closed all the time.

When we were cooling the student with “surya namaskara” flows, I also wanted to join the flow. I stayed just opposite the student and started to practice sun salutations with my eyes closed. At that moment, the student said, “are you also practicing?” “Yes, I am also practicing.” Seeing with eyes closed was something like this. Seeing with eyes closed… Realizing the place and coordination of our body, environment and those around us with eyes closed was something like this. Feeling the instincts and intuition, listening to the soul and understanding what the soul is telling us, acting with intiution, and realizing those around us. Maybe this way we could create a difference in the world.

 

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.
shared_photo
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.”
BEN_4569
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.”
2013-05-18 14.18.39
 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.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 678

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.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 674

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.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 006

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.

PhotoFunia-84ef86The most difficult thing for me once I started to give yoga lessons was to find an asana appropriate to the theme and goal of that lesson and to prepare the flow. During the one-year teacher training program, we focused on hatha and vinyasa classes. A class should have a theme and a goal. We should find an asana appropriate to that theme and goal, prepare our bodies for the peak pose in the first half of the class and neutralize and do the counter-pose after the peak pose and end the class with cooling asanas.
In fact, it was fairly difficult to prepare such a class. It was easier to prepare a circular type of class. In a circular type of class, you first call your students for an opening meditation and mentally prepare them for the rest of the class. You warm them up with sun salutations (surya namaskar). Then you do several standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, hip openers, arm balances and inversions. In the end, you make your students rest in the deep relaxation pose (savasana) and conclude the class with the closing meditation. There is no need to prepare a particular flow in a circular type of class as it has a certain flow.
After the training course ended and I started to give yoga classes, I prefered the peak-pose classes, which we called “apex” type classes. In these classes, we certainly have a peak pose and find an intention and theme for that pose. For instance, if the peak pose of the class is a backbend, then the theme can be “courage” and “freedom.” If the peak pose is a forward bend, we can set the theme as “serenity” and “surrender.” If the peak pose is an inversion, the theme can be “confidence” and “acceptance.” If the peak pose is an arm balancing pose, we can set the theme as “personal harmony” and “satisfaction.”
Once we pick up the theme, it is now time to set the intention. In a class with a backbend as the peak pose, our intention can be opening our hearts and spreading more energy of love to the universe. If the peak pose is a forward bend, our intention can be turning inside, accepting and loving ourselves and being happy. In a class we focus on an inversion, the intention can be looking at the world from a different perspective, whereas in a class we choose an arm balance as the apex pose, the intention can be to watch our balance that day and realize that the balance can change at any moment.
After picking up the theme and intention, we can choose music appropriate for that class. I wrote a post about yoga and music some time ago. (you can click https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/yoga-should-we-use-music-in-our-classes/  to read the post.) In short, we can choose calmer music in a class focusing on a forward bend and use nature sounds or flute or reed flute sounds. In a class focusing on backbends, we can pick more lively mantras or songs.
Surely, it is also one of most important duties to make our students understand the point of the class by a brief talk during the opening and closing meditation. Why? As we always say, the yoga mat is a part of our life. We live almost the same way as how we live on our mat. We give similar reactions in life to the ones we give on our mat. Therefore, we should make our teacher fully understand the point of the class. After the class, all students should understand what the lesson is all about and what the philosophy of the lesson was. On which issues we focused and what kind of similarities there is between what we experience in the class and what we live in our daily lives. We should light such a light in the minds of our students that they should start asking them these questions. Our duty is to awake the awareness of our students. Make them find a parallelism between the yoga class and their daily lives, absorb the theme, intention and philosophy of the class and make a difference in their live. To say that I am free and I can be free even though I sometimes lose courage at the end of class focusing on “courage” and “freedom.” Or to say that I can still be calm under difficult circumstances, surrender to current conditions and get adjusted to them at the end of a class based on “serenity” and “surrender.” To say that I can trust people, environment and myself and as I learn to trust, I can more easily accept, be happy and life is simpler at the end of a class with “confidence” and “acceptance” as the theme. To say that I am in harmony with myself, I have accepted myself and I am happy this way at the end of a class focusing on “personal harmony” and “confidence.”
Yoga classes are a part of our lives. They are actually the life itself. Therefore, as instructors, we should base our classes on effective themes and intentions and make our students live the life itself on their yoga mat. To be a mirror to them and make a difference in their perspectives and lives this way. Everybody looks but everybody does not see. No, everybody can see once somebody acts like a mirror to him/her and shows the reflections to him/her. This is it.