“A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges … a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Life Extension with Yoga

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When we are relaxed our breathing is slower – each breath is long and relaxed. When we are stressed, anxious, worried, fearful our breathing is faster – each breath is short and sharp. This is common knowledge. Consider this:

  • An average adult person breathes 16-20 breaths per minute – each breath is 3-4 seconds long.
  • With just a few yoga lessons most people can easily bring that  down to 8-10 breaths per minute – each breath is 6-8 seconds long.
  • With consistent practice (weekly lessons) many people can bring that even further down to 4-6 breaths per minute – each breath 10-15 seconds long.
  • With a personalized and consistent practice (~daily) practitioners can bring it down further to 2-3 breaths per minute – each breath 20-30 seconds.
  • Given time (years of practice) that number goes down to 1-1.5 breaths a minute – each breath 40-60 seconds.
  • … and this goes on

Now consider this:

“As per the traditional view, all human beings are endowed with a constant number of breaths. This is equivalent to living for one hundred years at the rate of fifteen breaths per minute. The total number of breaths per day is 21600. If one breathers more than 21600 times a day, his life span will obviously be lowered.

We all know that breathing becomes faster, when one is unwell or disturbed. This shows the importance of Yoga practice in regulating the breath and thus prolonging the life span.”
(Krishnamacharya commentary  from “Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya” 1.35)

Assuming this is true, we are, as a species, under-performing. Krishnamacharya lived to 101 years old. My teacher tells a story that on Krishnamacharya’s 100th birthday he was asked to say something – so he uttered “Om” for one full minute (that would be a 60 second exhale). When asked how he managed to do it he replied that when he was 60 years old he could do 5 minutes.

Posted in Breath, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Know Your Pulse

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“the pulse rate reflects whether  a person is calm or has mental illness. A pulse rate ranging from 65 to 72 represents a calm mind. A pulse rate of more than 72 implies physical illness. If the pulse rate is more than 90, then the person has a combination of physical and mental illness”
(Krishnamacharya commentary on Visnu Purana 6.5.6
from “Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya“)

Your pulse (the number of time your heart beats in a minute) will provide you an additional perspective on the state of your body & energy. It is useful to familiarize yourself with it. To do this you will need to take it at regular times and similar circumstances (such as first thing in the morning, before lunch, etc.). In addition to counting your pulse, you may discover changes in its quality – it can be throbbing, gentle sharp, soft, steady, erratic,etc. This will give you a general reference point.

Then, there are numerous points  in a Yoga practice in which you may want to measure your pulse:

  • At the beginning of a practice.
  • At the end of a practice.
  • At a mid-point of your practice.
  • After an intense sequence in your practice – before & after resting.

You may find that exercises that challenge your breath cause your pulse to rise, after which a short rest should bring it back down.  Generally, your pulse at the end of a well-balanced practice should be equal to or less then your pulse at the beginning. You may want to make a list or a chart to write down your findings – so that you can observe change over time.

How to feel your pulse:

  • Find a comfortable seated position where you can relax your arms.
  • Turn one palm facing up.
  • Use the index and middle finger of the other hand to feel the pulse.
  • Trace the fingers along a path from your thumb – following the bone structure towards your wrist – until you reach a soft area into which your fingers can sink deeper.
  • Use the tips of your finger (just before the fingernails) to feel your pulse.
  • If you can’t find it you can apply more pressure, and then when you find it, release to a more gentle touch.

Practice finding your pulse. You should be able to find it quickly and without applying too much pressure (which may affect the pulse itself and give you an imprecise measurement).

To measure your pulse you will need a clock or timer that clearly shows seconds:

  • Place your fingers in place and find your pulse.
  • Look at the watch/timer and choose a round starting point to count.
  • Count the beats of your pulse for 20 seconds.
  • Multiply that number by 3 (to get the number of beats in a minute).

I find that taking the pulse can be both informative and meditative.

Posted in Anatomy, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-08

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  • Ubuntu 9.10 finished downloading … now installing. #
  • "it's not that we're scared, it's just that it's delicate" ♫ http://blip.fm/~fpm7v #
  • there really is good in everything, but sometimes it's very well hidden #
  • contents of a yoga practice can change to match tendencies and needs in phases of life: http://bit.ly/2eWu0o #
  • RT brilliant @SirKenRobinson: Ricky Gervais probably is a genius, as he says himself. This is very funny:http://twurl.nl/aucihz #
  • tea anyone? #
  • great song for a winter-day :)http://blip.fm/~fqzlq #
  • Intent, Breath, Motion: http://twurl.nl/p8ydpa #yoga #asana #
  • OK… this is what I've been thinking about my eggs: http://bit.ly/rKC12 #
  • גלגלו לתחתית המסך וראו תמונה "טרנר מימין וימין משמאל" http://twurl.nl/qsu7f6 ענק #
  • liquids left over from cooking lentils – great as soup or even better for cooking rice! #
  • turned on the heating for the first time tonight #
  • What is there now? http://bit.ly/1td2LJ #
  • our order of wood for the winter arrived yesterday http://twurl.nl/t7xmj6 #
  • @ronenk קודם העץ… ואז נראה… וזו חתולה :) איזו יפה אההה? in reply to ronenk #
  • "What is wrong with me?" If u r asking – then the answer is "nothing", if you r not – then the answer is "something" #
  • my "low down" reflection, to date, on the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra: http://bit.ly/2lFgg6 #
  • the fruits of not pushing and the consequences of not paying attention: http://bit.ly/1At8KF #

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The Morning After

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The morning after I decided not to push myself began with a special quality of practice. Seated postures (forward bends) had a long and soft quality which I usually manage only in evening practices; so was the Pranayama – I was able to practice a soft and refined Nadi Sodhana (which is usually not available to me in the morning). It led into a morning with a pleasant pace. I, again, witnessed, how doing less can sometimes be more.

Then some surprise physical work came my way. I enjoyed the work greatly but I lost track of time and I failed to eat and drink properly. By the time I realized this it was too late. I spent the remainder of the evening with a painful headache and bad digestion. I had to force myself to eat and drink to quiet and replenish my energy, against the wishes of my digestion. I woke up the next morning feeling better but close to the edge. I spent the next day mostly cooking and eating, barely able to focus on anything else. It took until the next morning (a total of 36 hours) to bring my system back to health.

“Living in this hut, free of all anxieties,
one should earnestly practice Yoga as taught by one’s guru”
(Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.14 – translation by Brian Akers)

These past few days reminded me about a subtle, often overlooked, aspect of the relationship between Yoga and everyday life. People today often come to Yoga for relaxation, for relief from the stresses of life. But originally it was the other way around – a prerequisite for Yoga practice was a life free of anxieties. I spent 36 hours rejuvenating my system to a point where I could effectively practice again.

This  also sheds light on the ideas of practice “on-the-mat” and “off-the-mat”. Usually I touch on this subject in asking how on-the-mat practice can reach out and extend off-the-mat. Here it is encountered the other way around: how can off-the-mat practice effect on-the-mat practice. My relationship with Yoga (as I think is the case with most people) started on-the-mat. I now believe that beyond  a certain point, a practice on-the-mat cannot continue to evolve unless it resonates off-the-mat as well. At one point you will have to make changes in your life, to create conditions for your on-the-mat practice to continue evolving.

Posted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Low Down Yoga Sutra – Chapter1: Clarity

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What is Yoga?

  1. Now begins the teaching of how everything comes together
  2. It’s all about the ability to focus steadily on one thing without any distractions
  3. Then that thing appears for what it truly is
  4. Instead of what you want to make it out to be

Activities of the Mind

  1. There are five activities through which you relate to the world around you – each can support or obstruct you
  2. They are:
    • correct understanding (based on what is before you)
    • misunderstanding (based on what you think is before you)
    • imagination (based on what you think with little regard to what is actually there),
    • deep (dreamless) sleep
    • memory (recalling what was once before you)
  3. Correct understanding is based on:
    • what the senses report directly  to you
    • mental processes which you use to make sense of what the senses report
    • what other (trustworthy) people (sources) tell you

    Where you get your understanding is up to you – there are times when direct experience is best and there are times when asking or pausing to think are better.

  4. Misunderstanding is a temporary understanding that expires when it is replaced by a better understanding. You can live your entire life in a satisfying misunderstanding or you can stay open to new experiences in which cases misunderstanding may be a seed that grows into learning.
  5. Imagination is a mental process that sprouts from understanding and goes beyond it – it can stay imaginary and it can evolve into correct understanding – associated with reality. Imagination is a seed from which both  insanity and creativity can grow.
  6. Deep sleep is  a heaviness that overcomes the mind and brings it to rest. Heaviness is great when it helps you to sleep, it can be irritating when you are trying to focus.
  7. Memory is an impression left by experience – ideally it is a clear and true impression, but often it’s not. Memory is tricky because once its there – you have no way of telling where it came from – you can’t tell apart memories of understanding or imagination. Precise memory helps you move forward and build upon past experience – otherwise gaps between what you remember and what actually was, can get in your way.

Practice

  1. There are two things you can do to achieve steadiness and clear perception:
    • Practice, practice and then practice some more
    • Distance yourself from dogmatic opposites such as likes and dislikes, good and bad… this will come to you almost naturally if you practice.
  2. Practice should be something you can sustain consistently and over a long period of time. A teacher can help you find a correct practice.
  3. A practice will be effective if you can really get into, if you are passionate and eager about it.
  4. Such a practice will moderate cravings that lead you away from practice, it will pull you in.

Clarity & Focus

  1. Until eventually you will understand your true nature and will no longer get caught and distracted by it’s constant shifting and changing.
  2. Then when you focus on one thing – you totally get it, you will gain a new and deep perspective that goes beyond anything you’ve known before.  You will feel at one with the object – so much that nothing around you distracts you.
  3. But even then you carry with you your memories – beware,  they can arise and affect you at any time.

Faith & God

  1. Some people are born with the gift of clarity – they don’t need to practice for it.
  2. The rest of us need to have faith that this is possible – and though it may be against the odds it is possible. It takes time.
  3. Intense faith will propel you closer to clarity.
  4. Intensity of faith is different for people. It also changes over time – this change is in our nature. These variations and changes are reflected in the practice.
  5. If you don’t have faith – praying to God, if you are so inclined, may help.
  6. God is not some idealized religious symbol – it is simply that which never misunderstands, is not bound by suffering and therefore always acts based on clear & correct understanding.
  7. This concept of God represents something that is all knowing. Connecting with it is connecting with that knowledge.
  8. God is timeless – an eternal (past, present and future) source of spiritual guidance.
  9. Call God whatever works best for you, just make sure that you can relate to it with respect.
  10. When you do find this timeless, spiritual quality – try to connect with it as often as possible – spend time in its presence.
  11. This will be your practice, and eventually you will find clarity.

Handling Interruptions

  1. You may encounter 9 distracting interruptions on your path to clarity: sickness, lethargy (“stuckness”), doubt, careless action, fatigue, overindulgence, delusions, low motivation and regression.
  2. You can tell that you have been interrupted if you experience any of these symptoms:  disturbed thoughts, negative thoughts, disturbed body (can’t find ease and comfort), and difficult & unsteady breathing.
  3. Practice one thing, just one thing that supports you, practice it regularly.
  4. Practice calming social attitudes(instead of disturbing ones):
    • Be happy (instead of envious) when you encounter happiness in others.
    • Be compassionate (instead of gloating) when you encounter unhappiness in others
    • Be joyful (instead of critical) when you encounter virtue in others.
    • Be calm (instead of angered) when you encounter evil in others.
  5. Practice breathing with an emphasis on holding the breath and long exhalations.
  6. Inquire about the senses. They are your window to the world – control them so that they don’t control you.
  7. Inquire about the nature of life. Is there a bigger picture before me – something that goes beyond me and the things occupying my mind?
  8. Find inspiration. When you can’t find your own way, try to be in the presence of someone who has. Sometimes, just thinking of such an individual can help.
  9. Rest in sleep. Inquire into dreams that may occupy your sleep
  10. Meditate on something that shimmers for you – something you care about.

Clear Perception

  1. Infinity is revealed when clarity is attained – your will have mastery over the infinitesimally small and infinitely vast – everything will submit to your will.
  2. When there are no distractions, your mind can focus completely on one thing. Then gradually, as you sustain this thing in your mind you become totally immersed in it. Your mind becomes like a clear diamond – filled with nothing but reflections of this one thing. This is a gradual process – it doesn’t happen all at once.
  3. At first, your perception is clouded with echoes of past experiences. Their reflections mix together with the reflections of whatever it is you are trying to hold in your mind.
  4. As you sustain your focus, your past experiences will settle down and the mind will become clear. Then it is as if you are not there – there is only clear perception.
  5. This kind of perception can be achieved with anything you choose – gross or subtle.
  6. There is only one thing the mind cannot comprehend – and that is the source of perception. That is the one place the mind cannot go.
  7. Whatever you choose to focus on – that will be the seed – the starting point for this process of evolving perception. You have to have an object that interests you for this to happen. Your interest in it will help you get over any initial distractions you may encounter. Without interest you will not get past them.
  8. When you have experienced such total immersion and pure perception you will experience not only the object of your perception but yourself as well.
  9. Now your experience of knowledge is the absolute truth.
  10. It will be a spontaneous and immediate knowledge. This knowledge is different from anything you have been told or anything your reasoning may have uncovered.
  11. As you practice this kind of immediate and direct perception – it will become a natural experience. It will keep you from reverting to your old habits. It is like a one way train – once you get on, there’s no getting off or turning back.
  12. Eventually the mind reaches a state where there are no more distractions. It remains open, clear and transparent.

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