Saturday, August 16, 2014

Do you pandiculate?

Pandiculate? what is that?

Here are some examples:


I first learnt the word when I trained as a Hanna Somatic Movement Coach with Martha Peterson. 

At first sight you might think that you are looking at stretching in the photos above, However Stretching would be lengthening the muscles, and there is actually a lot of muscle contraction happening in what you see, and a contracting muscle is shortening, not lengthening. Pandiculation is to the body yawning.  It is resetting the muscle length and the brain. 

As I write I am also watching my cat sleeping. Every few minutes he contracts his toes and then lets them go, or rolls and brings his spine into extension and then relaxes into it. Animals pandiculate a lot and so should we.

Somatics uses pandiculation to retrain the body's held tensions to bring us into balance and alignment. Somatics is movement with awareness from the inside out. I think that is also what yoga is and have always enjoyed a somatic approach to yoga. When we release held tensions in the body, we are also releasing them in the mind, because our minds and bodies are not separate. So somatics and somatic yoga will bring body, mind and spirit into alignment and let joy bubble up from its natural state within us. 

Somatics is also amazing for relieving a lot of physical pain that we walk around with that is only there because of those held and habitual tensions in the body.

So enjoy pandicualting, its good for you.

Favourite Yoga Music: Kerala Dream

Kerala Dream: A Shaman's Dream Project by Craig Kohland

This CD is soulful and fluid, the opening features sounds of water lapping the shore, or perhaps the sides of your houseboat. Listen for the frogs and birds too. The music captures the ambiance of Kerala with Indian instruments and gentle rhythms and vocals. Great for your yoga practice, also for ambient music whenever a chill out atmosphere is called for. 

This review was first published in On the Mat, the newsletter of Yoga Spirit Studios.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shiva - Shakti

Everything manifests as a duality. Can you think of the idea of hot, if there were no cold?

In Indian philosophy, Shiva and Shakti are like this, the one does not exist without the other.

Shakti, from the Sanskrit "Shak" - "to be able", is the enabler, the dynamic force which manifests the Universe.

Shiva is the transcendent ground of being.

Without Shakti, the ground of being remains unmanifested and all that we call our physical reality would not exist.

Different cultures have intuited Shakti by different names, but most have a divine feminine, a Great Mother figure.

Have you ever moved amongst great, old trees and felt an undeniable force emanating, a force that evoked feelings of reverence, even though you may not have had a philosophical or spiritual framework to reference it? At such times we are sensing into Shakti.

In yoga we sensitise ourselves to flows of energy in our bodies. Any flow of energy is Shakti.

So although Shakti is characterised as feminine and Shiva as masculine, both are present within all of us, men and women.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The body is a temple

Over the eons people have intuited A Divine Presence, have told stories to bring that awareness to life, and have erected beautiful temples to celebrate it and to visit to bring them closer to its power and grace. Many rituals of purity also developed. It is understandable that if you had a temple that housed a powerful deity, you would want to keep it clean.

In yoga we come to understand that the Divine, or Universal Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call it, is accessible within ourselves.

This makes our body the temple. So it is worthwhile to consider what we can do to make it a pure and sacred space. The thoughts we think, the attitudes we embrace, the food we eat, the words we speak, are all to be considered in our quest for sauca (pronounced "sowcha"), purity.

In fact, sauca is the first Niyama, or personal practice, mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

The yogi sages also developed practices to purify the body, called shatkarma. One of these is neti or nasal cleansing. Jala neti, water cleansing, is an excellent daily practice to keep the nasal passages clean and healthy. It is recommended for anyone who has sinus conditions. It removes dirt, bacteria and mucus from the nasal cavities. The saline solution will toughen up the nasal membranes so they are less susceptible to infection and allergy. Some people even report that it helps in giving up smoking!

There are many different shaped neti pots besides the one pictured. The way to use them is to use a mildly saline solution of water. Use sea salt if available, and not iodised salt in the proportion of on teaspoon for half a litre of water, which is the same as human blood. The water should be around body temperature, slightly warmer is better than cooler. Test as for a baby's bottle. You turn your head one the side and insert the spout of your pot into the upper nostril and allow the water to drain through the nasal passages and out the other nostril until half the solution is gone. Gently blow out through both nostrils to clear and then repeat on the other side.

Now take a deep forward bend, uttanasana, and look towards the floor, breath in through the mouth and out through the nose. Then look towards your knees and again breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Some water may drain. Come up gently and do some rapid sniffing breaths, first through both nostrils, in and out, and then through each nostril individually. This will dry the nasal passages.

(First published in "On the Mat", the newsletter of Yoga Spirit Studios.)