My favourite yoga studio is in Berkeley, California – The Yoga Room.
It’s a purpose- built space designed by an architect in a rough-hewn style with an exposed beam ceiling, natural light on two sides and a dance bar along one wall. Not overly large, there’s still room for perhaps twenty students, with an ambience of friendly welcome.
The building is only two stories high, with a cafe on the ground level that offers the requisite wholesome menu for yogis.
Best of all is the main teacher at the Berkeley Yoga Room, Donald Moyer, who is highly skilled, hugely experienced, and consummately gracious.
Written by Eve Grzybowski
Yoga Therapy, also referred to in the industry as “Remedial Yoga” or “Special Needs Yoga”, describes a specialised area of teaching or practice that offers a holistic approach to treating chronic or acute ailments.
What sort of treatment is offered?
A range of approaches are available – asanas (physical postures), breath work, relaxation techniques to reduce stress and release blocked energy, meditation, Ayurvedic (diet and lifestyle) remedies – some or all of these may be used for the purpose of creating or re-establishing balance in the body and harmony in the mind. Here below is an example of a propped yoga pose.
With consistent practice in the hands of a capable Yoga Therapist, one’s symptoms and even the causes of illnesses may be alleviated.
What is a Yoga Therapist?
A yoga therapist is usually a very experienced yoga teacher who, through years of teaching experience or consistent work with a range of different individuals of varying injuries and medical conditions, has developed the skills, and cultivated the knowledge and intuition to confidently work responsively with different conditions and body-types.
In consultation with the student, the Yoga Therapist designs appropriate practices for the student’s age, condition, and stage of life — in many ways providing the individual with a yoga prescription for special needs. The student can then practice this personalised sequence or set of sequences at home.
Ideally, the student will be inspired to keep up the consistent practice and maintain mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health as a way of life, on an ongoing basis.
The Yoga Therapist and student work together. The student is empowered by doing the yoga practice, and the Yoga Therapist assesses and refines the practice to create an optimum healing situation.
I can say personally that Yoga has assisted me therapeutically over the years dealing with symptoms of hip osteoarthritis. Yoga therapy practice also sped my successful recovery from major surgery after a total hysterectomy. Regular practice of yoga therapy routines assisted me to improve my body’s condition and general sense of well-being.
If you are looking for a practice to provide relief from hip arthritis or recuperation after hysterectomy (or other abdominal surgery), try out my Hip-Arthritis Routine and my Hysterectomy Routine available online here on LYL. These are both short, easy-to-do routines which I have specifically designed.
For yoga teachers – If you are interested in developing your skills in yoga therapy, you can train in Yoga Therapy in Australia. There are schools that run a courses offering a graduate certificate in the subject. You can also become a member of The Australian Association of Yoga Therapists, if you meet the organisation’s standards.
Written by GuruJivan Goodman
Kundalini Yoga is a technology to awaken your awareness and bring you in touch with your original Self. It is a process that allows the natural unfolding of your inner-nature.
“Kundalini yoga classes are a dynamic blend of postures, pranayam, mantra, music and meditation, which teach you the art of relaxation, self-healing and elevation. Balancing body and mind enables you to experience the clarity and beauty of your soul. No previous experience in yoga is required for you to achieve results with your very first class.”
– Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher
The practice of Kundalini Yoga balances the glandular system, strengthens the nervous system and enables us to harness the energy of the mind and the emotions, so we can be in control of ourselves, rather than being controlled by our thoughts and feelings.
There is nothing more powerful than to awaken your consciousness, confront your ego and drop your fears. There is nothing more elegant than building the strength of your nervous system and character. There is nothing more effective than developing your capacity to be happy in the midst of challenges, grateful for each moment of your life. And there is nothing more profound than getting in touch with the core of your being – listening deeply and hearing the pulse of the creator in all people and all things.
The main difference between kundalini yoga and other forms is a matter of time. Kundalini yoga is yoga for householders, for people who have to cope with the daily challenges and stresses of holding jobs, raising families, managing businesses. It gives results in the shortest possible time. It does not require you to leave your home, become an ascetic or sit in a cave. Kundalini Yoga is for everyone who wants the skills to cope successfully with the challenges of living in this day and age.
Kundalini and the Breath
“The main problem in the world is stress. It is not going to decrease – it is going to increase. If through pranayam the shock can be harnessed, the entire stress and disease can be eliminated.”
– Yogi Bhajan
The breath is a fundamental tool to Kundalini yoga, it:
The quantity, quality and circulation of breath creates the foundation of a vital and creative life.
Most people do not breathe correctly. When we consciously lower the frequency of breaths per minute, we encourage great benefits. Normally we find that men breathe between 16-18 breaths per minute, women generally breathe 18-20 breaths per minute.
8 Breaths per minute
If we can consciously breathe 8 breaths per minute we begin to feel more relaxed. The parasympathetic nervous system begins to be influenced and the healing processes of the body are elevated we also get relief from stress and increased mental awareness.
4 Breaths per minute
At this rate the Pituitary & Pineal glands begin to coordinate at an enhanced level thereby producing a meditative state. Positive shifts in mental function begin; we tend to experience intense feelings of awareness, increased visual clarity and sometimes heightened body sensitivity.
1 Breath per minute (Not recommended for Beginners)
Advanced yogi’s who have had a lot of practice can achieve 1 breath per minute. They experience a stronger connection between brain hemispheres, relief from anxiety and fear, increased intuition and the presence of spirit.
The Natural Breath
Many people have learned to breathe backwards, they inhale pulling the belly in, which makes the space for the breath to enter less instead of more. People who are anxious or smoke tend to breathe in this manner.
A natural breath uses the nose, which filters, warms and humidifies the air. There are many different breathing techniques used in Kundalini Yoga and many of these techniques are incorporated into the Kriya and meditations used while practicing Kundalini yoga.
Kriyas (Asana / Posture) in Kundalini
The word Kriya means complete action, in kundalini yoga it is a sequence of postures, breath and sound that are integrated together to allow the manifestation of a particular state. i.e. to remove blocks, anger or fear, eliminate disease, and create elevation just to name a few.
Postures are used to isolate specific muscles to pressurize specific points or areas in the body that act as reflex triggers to enhance the functions of the glands, organs and to re-direct, flush or increase circulation.
In the beginning you may feel awkward or uncomfortable adjusting to a posture. As you hold it, it starts to feel better. It starts to find a natural place in you. Your body adjusts, your shoulders relax, together with tense muscle groups you didn’t need to use.
You will observe, at some point, a relationship building between you and yourself. There starts to be a bridge of communication between the conscious and the unconscious. This then starts to realign the body and the mind.
Kriya is the spontaneous fulfilment of action by using posture (Asana) that links the infinite Self of you to this finite moment. It tears away at your old attachments and starts to reform you gradually. Postures make you conscious of areas in the body. As you hold the posture you find yourself self-conscious initiall, then you become conscious of Yourself. And if you really put yourself into it you become a conscious self.
There are many Kriyas in Kundalini Yoga that support just about every area of life. Kundalini yoga has many manuals available that focus on Kriyas for a specific purpose, outcome or even, time of day. These manuals contain a wealth of information about the postures sequences, breathing exercises, and types of meditation in each particular kriya.
Kundalini and Relaxation
“Total harmonious relaxation cures the body. To achieve this there must be a coordination between the three facets of ourselves: body, mind and soul.”
– Yoga Bhajan
The ability to relax is essential for physical and mental wellbeing but it something surprisingly difficult for many people to do in today’s world.
After completing a Kriya, the student’s physiological and neural is elevated. At this point, it is then important to relax and allow the physiology of awakening and awareness to begin. During this relaxation phase the following benefits may occur:
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
Corpse Pose is the best position for deep relaxation, after a Kriya, a hard day or even a stressful situation. Lie on your back, arms by your sides with the palms facing up and the legs uncrossed and relaxed. The feet normally fall to the side for most people and the arms are usually approximately at a 45 degree angle from the body.
Kundalini and Meditation
Meditation is the process of controlling and transcending the waves of the mind. Meditation creates a communion between you and your mind and between your mind and your body. It is beneficial for everyone.
Some of the benefits that you may experience while practicing meditation are:
Meditation is a personal and private experience even when you are meditating in large groups.
When you sit quietly and focus your attention inwards you become very aware of what is going on in your mind and all the thoughts that you are thinking (or even thoughts you didn’t think you were thinking!).
By not reacting to or judging the thoughts, and processing them with mantra, breath or mudra you can create a stillness and calmness that will serve you through your daily life.
There are many types of meditation in Kundalini Yoga that can help you stay focused and quiet. There are actually hundreds of these meditations – ranging from group, healing, couples or children’s mediations through to meditations that work on addictions, increasing vitality, clearing chakras or simply just trying to improve mental clarity.
The term Sadhana means daily practice; it is a practice in self – discipline that enables one to express the infinite within one’s self. It is a self – discipline by which we energise and balance the body and clear the mind and the subconscious. It is generally practiced between the hours of 4am – 7am during the Ambrosial Hours. To exercise before sunrise is important because of the angle of the sun to the earth, which makes it very conducive to meditation.
Sadhana is a test of self – grit and refines and develops the characteristics of our consciousness as human beings.
Sadhana benefits us by:
You can choose a Sadhana that suits you or ask your teacher to choose one for you. Start small if you are just beginning or are new to yoga, even if you just do 3 minutes per day for 40 days. Commit to that, it is good a start and you can slowly increase the time as you feel you are ready.
Yoga Off the Mat Book Launch
Is yoga really more than stretching?
You may be able to tie yourself in knots, but does that really count as yoga? Perhaps not, at least according to Sydney-based author and yoga school director, Katie Spiers.
In her latest book, Yoga Off the Mat (published by Live Yoga Life, February 26), Manitsas conveys to the curious and the converted how to ensure their yoga practice is far more than simply stretching. The work is a follow up to her earlier book Spiritual Survival and the City (published by Hardie Grant as Katie Spiers).
Now that yoga has been embraced as a mainstream activity in Australia, Manitsas says it’s time practitioners realised the ancient practice is about far more than simply staying fit:
“Where yogic philosophy becomes really useful, and much more difficult to apply, is in everyday life – off the mat. Our everyday situations give us plenty of chances to apply this broader understanding of yoga; it can impact everything from how we relate to the planet through to our own self esteem,” she says.
As she explores how the full teachings of yoga, including its ethical and philosophical backgrounds, can help us Manitsas explains how yoga has much to offer the mind as a meditative art. It also helps us see ourselves in a more positive light:
“We may have grown up in a culture that tells us we can be whatever we want to be and a credit card can buy us anything we need, but this has left us embracing the message that who we are, how we see ourselves and how others see us is based on what we have and what we look like,” says Manitsas.
“Yoga teaches us that true self-confidence comes from within and that once we are grounded in knowing who we really are; a confidence will arise that is unshakable, regardless of our bank balance,” she says.
For those already practicing yoga ‘Yoga Off the Mat’ provides a valuable resource for learning more, particularly in the context of social ethics and ‘spiritual activation’. Newcomers to the practice will find Manitsas’ easy to read style offers a good starting point to the full yoga practice.
Author Katie Spiers (formerly Spiers) is Sydney-based Samadhi Yoga Studio Director and Certified Advanced Jivamukti Yoga teacher.
Available in both paperback and ebook (downloadable format) online through www.liveyogalife.com. Paperback also available at www.samadhiyoga.com.au.
Media materials including images are available from www.samadhiyoga.com.au and www.liveyogalife.com. Media contact for interviews contact Monica Redondo via our Contact Form.
We had an amazing time at our book launch for “Yoga Off the Mat” at Sydney’s Samadhi Yoga Studio last Friday.
Thank you to all who came!
Kuddos as well to Katie Spiers for such a powerful and inspiring dynamic practice at the workshop preceding the launch. The practice tested comfort-zones with three-point head-stands and many delightful and unique Jivamukti asanas – such as the one-legged-side-lift!
As requested, here’s the inspiring extract from Katie’s book, “Yoga Off the Mat”, which had us all inspired – a perfect ending to the beautiful asana practice:
“Our yoga asana practice can be an excellent mirror for this. On some days we may feel like we are making excellent progress and the body is light and free. On other days we are tired or grumpy and progress feels hindered. The lesson is to get on the mat and do the practice anyway. To set a goal, clearly defined and to do our very best to see that goal through to completion. The practice will have to be flexible to accommodate various factors such as our level of health or our age for example, but it should be done with a sense of willingness and belief in the positive benefits for ourselves and others even if they are not immediately obvious. This is difficult for us because we live in a time where we avoid uncertainty and expect instant results. It is a challenge to train ourselves not only to let go of instant outcomes but also to believe in results we can’t always see straight away.
Buddhist teacher Geshe Michael Roach, an extraordinary man and teacher who has authored several wonderful books and runs a school called ‘Diamond Mountain’ in the USA has a simple yet powerful analogy for this cultivation of intention and karma – gardening. He describes that just as a tomato seed will never grow into a mango tree, a mango stone will never become an oak tree. The seeds that we sow in our lives (through our karma – our actions) will ripen according to the type of seed planted. Good deeds will lead to further good karma and vice versa. In his book ‘How Yoga Works’ (co-authored by Christie McNally) he puts it like this,
“Nothing we ever do, nothing we ever say, nothing we ever think fails to plant a seed. And each of these seeds will wait patiently in line, for years and years if necessary, to ripen upon us. They never ever ‘forget’ … from now on, we need to be careful only to plant good new seeds and never negative ones.”
An important aspect of this teaching to keep in mind is that the intention behind an action can either heighten the positive karma accrued or lessen negative karma. Again from ‘How Yoga Works’,
“What we do to help or to hurt others is at the bottom of everything. Nothing works, not yoga or any other thing we ever do, unless we have been careful to plant the seeds in our mind to see it work.”
What this teaching means to me is that we have to believe in ourselves. We have to believe in our ability to change, to evolve as a human being, and ultimately to believe in the potential within each of us for enlightenment – before we can see that potential blossom we first have to imagine it, and believe in it.