Tantra: A Guiding Star

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 18.56.36Where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world” ~ Joseph Campbell

When I set out on path of yoga many years ago I was totally unsuspecting of how it would turn my worldview on its head and open my heart in ways I didn’t yet comprehend. I had thought that yoga and meditation was about transcending the human experience in favour of some higher realm of freedom and bliss; whereas in fact my practices have guided me to a deeper and fuller appreciation of the earthly realm of experience in all its shades of light and dark.

Yoga invites you to live your experiences with great presence and celebration, to intricately explore the nature of your mind and to get to know your feelings and body deeply. The wisdom of Tantra offers a road map through which to engage in all of life whilst treading the path with courage, vulnerability and love.

Tantra asks us to engage in and say ‘yes’ to life and to see each moment as an opportunity to grow. The root ‘tan’, meaning to stretch or expand and ‘tra’, meaning a device or instrument.

Tantra ~ a vehicle through which to expand, to stretch and grow oneself.

YOGA & TANTRA

Yoga, as a set of practices intended to harmonise the body, mind and spirit, dates back to the time of the Buddha. Around 1000 years later Tantra enriched the system with layers of ritual worship, wisdom teachings, daily discipline and numerous complex techniques involving breathing practices (pranayama), visualisation practices, recitation (mantra), yoga postures (asana), hand gestures (mudra) and energy work (nadis & chakras). The intention was to truly step into life, to embody, feel and know all parts of ourselves and our experiences with the least resistance, and realise oneSelf as a perfect expression of the one Light of Consciousness. Ultimately you cannot be a human being without being connected to the source of Light. All of our cells, every single one, is replaced within 2.5 years, so if we are not our physical body, what are we but a unique expression of energy, vibrating in tune with the pulse (spanda) of the universe.

The Tantric tradition originated from northern India, peaking around 9th -12th centuries, and refers to a very detailed body of spiritual practices aimed at helping the Tantrika (Tantric practitioner) to experience Divinity in all things. Tantra teaches that two aspects create the Divine, Shiva and Shakti; Shiva is the divine masculine (God) and Shakti the divine feminine (Goddess). Shiva is auspicious, pure Consciousness, the Light of Awareness that is the still ground beneath everything that exists. Shakti is the living power that expresses Shiva, She is movement and energy. They are One, in constant play of expression towards one or the other aspect at any one time. A perfect balance of Shiva and Shakti is true spiritual liberation.

Tantra doesn’t like to use the word union, as it gives the idea we are going to unite with something we are not already. This ancient spiritual path, is a life-affirming non-dual (advaita) way of thinking which teaches that the wholeness which we seek is not in the future, but right here within the now. The vast detail of our experience, moment by moment, thoughts, smells, touch, sounds, feelings, make up an ever-present completeness, yet somehow we are always seeking it elsewhere. The Tantric philosophy teaches us to see all parts of ourselves and the universe around us a unique expression of pure Consciousness. Everything we see and know is a reflection of ourselves. A good metaphor is the rolling wave in the ocean that sees itself as separate and is searching for the ocean, yet it is and always was the ocean. We are what we seek!

Much of the intricacy of the work has been lost over the centuries, however what we now know as hatha yoga, the foundation of all modern schools of yoga can be traced back to the ancient roots of Saiva Tantra. If this ignites your curiosity please follow the sources listed at the bottom and allow the work of our modern day philosophers and scholars to take you deeper into this extraordinary mystical world.

For now I would like to draw out some of the teachings, ideas and misconceptions around Tantra and present them in a way that may inspire how we choose to attend to our lives, away from our mat, day to day.

TANTRA

The modern understanding of Tantra is very limited, often referring to new age sexual practices with little or no connection to the original teachings. These of course may be helpful to some, but they are not Tantra. Tantra teaches us to recognise and identify when energies arise within us, be it sexual or any other strong emotion, and to dissociate with the trigger or story behind it. With the breath as your ally and guide you harness the energy, however sweet or sharp, breathe into your heart and withdraw from the narrative pressing on the mind. In the midst of the experience of intense focused energy there may be a transmutation of this feeling state to heightened connection with source awareness. Additionally the practice of bearing witness to this flow helps to bring more space between thought or emotion and reaction and to accept the flow as a divine part of our human experience.

A key teaching of Tantra is that no experience, pleasurable or painful is more divine than any other, or as Christopher Wallis states so simply, ‘Shiva is the substance of every experience whatsoever‘ and ‘whatever is happening right now is as God as it gets’. This understanding is at the essence of freedom, accepting every piece of the journey, all the flavours and degrees of intensity. Freedom comes from showing up fully, moment by moment, rather than waiting for a situation to change. It teachesus not to separate from any part of life, but to know it deeply as an experience of divinity. This of course takes practice and discipline of the mind and body so that we learn to respond through acceptance and with compassion.

Here lies the primary difference between these teachings and those of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which teach a dual path. Patanjali is guiding the aspirants towards the light of awareness within, yet with the intention to retreat in this dwelling away from the outside world. A wonderful space to be in but then what happens when you are faced with everyday life and interactions? If you are still stuck in and acting through old conditioned patterns (samskaras) there is no liberation or service to the greater whole even if you have touched that magical space inside.

YES!

Tantra asks you to show up fully and to say yes to life. It is life affirming and calls for embodiment. This doesn’t make it easy as it requires us to not only breathe in love and pleasure but to face our fears and experience our pain, knowing the sweetness and the sharpness of it all equally. Remembering to look for the divinity in everything can help us to accept the circumstances and the rawness of life around us; every moment an opportunity for growth, an initiation into a fuller more profound experience of life. This journey began for me on my yoga mat but the teachings of Tantra planted a tiny seed that has rooted deep into my heart, bringing clarity to my path and inviting me to engage in all that life brings. It has given me an anchor from which to view the universe and to understand and accept myself, slowly piecing together all of my fragmented parts. It is a liberating force piercing through the stickiness and confusion, a knowing guide that takes me compassionately into all the dark spaces within. The depth of yoga is not the complexity of a posture, it’s being at one with the pulse, the spanda, the contraction and expansion that we exist as an intricate and constant part of. It is treading this path on earth with awareness and grace and working with sincerity and joy to realise a life that is not conditioned by the state of life conditions. Life doesn’t stop moving, we can’t control it but we can learn to ride it, to flow and drink in all that it brings.

We can say yes to life.

I invite you to explore this magical mystery with me, for upcoming workshops, events and retreats please visit www.mischavarmuza.com/workshops-retreats/

Sharing is caring: @mischavarmuza / facebook.com/mischayoga

Sources & Inspiration for this post:

Sianna Sherman http://www.siannasherman.com

Saivayoga.com, Christopher Tompkins

Tantra Illuminated, Christopher Wallis

What is non-duality, Jeff Foster

Countering World-Negation: The World Affirming and Integrative Dimension of Classical Yoga

Ian Whicher: http://www.infinityfoundation.com/indic_colloq/papers/paper_whicher2.pdf

Heart Power

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The start of the New year is a time for reflection, for looking back at the last year, at relationships, passions, loss, direction.  Whatever intentions you made during the transition of the new year, the end of January is a good to time to check in and see how your efforts are doing so I wanted to share a little of what we explored in my workshop last weekend, ‘Awaken Your Heart and Step Into Your Power’.  

By taking conscious time to see where you have embraced change, challenge and growth or perhaps where you still need to cultivate will power, discipline and strength, or perhaps soften and find acceptance and equanimity.  Whatever you discover in this inquiry, gratitude is the force that will transform your journey on the path by opening your heart and giving you power through the ability to be open, receptive and understanding.  I invite you to take time again to acknowledge everything that you have to be grateful for, including anything you may have recently let go of or that might still feel as it is bearing weight on your soul or heart.  Can you find gratitude for the lessons, growth and awareness that they are showing.  

Everything is constantly changing, moving, growing and decaying all around us and within each moment we have a choice as to how we act or react.  I have spoken before about sankalpa or intention. The essence and power of intention cannot be underestimated, however it has to be rooted in your deepest hearts desire towards growth and service in this life. Keeping your intention to 4 or 5 words means you can use it not only during your practice or sadhana (spiritual discipline) but throughout your day.  Like a mantra or sweet remembrance so it becomes embedded in your consciousness, within every cell and a part of your being.  The more you become rooted in your sankalpa the more steadiness you will find, whatever story is unfolding around you.  This is where you will realise your own inner power. This awakening of peaceful uplifting power is ‘shakti‘, David Frawley describes this as the the power of Shiva or peace, not born of aggression or violence, but in passivity, in silence of mind, the energy which comes forth from the void.  It is a power that works not against, but enlivens everything from within. It is the power of devotion and wisdom, the energy of delight, beauty and creativity.

So whatever our personal practices or sadhana may be, the effort should be helping us explore and reconnect to our inner world.  It should also be an effort to remember that everything that we think we are is false, it’s not wrong, it is not about right and wrong – that’s important – but its not true. ‘I am’ – this is what we are……when you experience the simplicity of this it can instigate the most liberating journey back to Self, harnessing our Divine power and severing false identities and attachments.  We can so easily over complicate our lives by getting stuck in the messy layers that accumulate. Strip it down and let your practice be one of love and simplicity; a joyful exploration.

Allow teachers to be all around you.

Yoga should offer us a safe space to be vulnerable, to see everything around and within us for what it is – where are we fooling ourselves, not showing up completely. The courage to be vulnerable, honest and authentic dissolves our fears and brings us back home. The courage to look inside and wash out the layers that we cling to guides us back to centre so that we may experience our truth and life more fully.  It is worth working hard to create and maintain a strong connection with the heart. This is the gateway.

‘Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all barriers within yourself that you have built against it” – Rumi

I AM meditation

Comfortable seat. Sit up tall and adjust your spine and head so that the skull feels as though it floats it lightly on the top of your neck. The crown aligned with the base of your spine. Visualise a golden thread up the length of your vertebrae, it travels through the pelvic floor, down into the earth beneath you, grounding and establishing your roots, that same thread travels through the centre of your skull out through the crown, lifting you tall.

Settle into breath and let the body relax deeply into space whilst staying alert and centred.

As you inhale see and feel the breath move down the length of your spine to the very base, as you inhale silently repeat I AM as you see and feel the breath move back up the spine to expand and penetrate into the heart centre. Repeat. 3 minutes.

Rest in stillness, presence, appreciation and gratitude.

Namaste and blessings.  

*Join me on retreat in Goa this March or Andalucia in April.. For details visit www.mischavarmuza.com/retreats*

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Yoga News: The Eternal Dance of Light and Dark

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This month, from new moon to new moon I’m exploring concepts and ideas around the play of light and dark. As practitioners of yoga, much of our efforts are towards expanding our awareness and learning to live with more presence and grace. As our practice unfolds I, and many of you will notice too, that you bring to surface a heightened sensitivity of both inner and external worlds.

Learning to see movement within and around with greater perception and understanding. It is luminous, beautiful and intriguing.  Yoga is peace, it is love, it is joy and sweetness, but as we watch the world go round and round, we see the shadows rise and fall as much. However we start to actively engage in all the layers of our Self and through regular Sadhana (spiritual practice) we grow stronger and more connected to our ever present, yet often lost, steady centre.  From this place we are able to be stronger in the darkness and recognise each challenge as an opportunity for growth, to stand up and rise above. We will still move through smiles, laughter, tears, broken hearts and hardship, but be brighter, stronger and more luminous the other side.

Yoga has the potential to provide a backbone to move fluidly and gracefully, with compassion and open hearts so that we may be our true luminous Self. Last week our focus was avidya, false understanding or misapprehension, and we looked at the 4 expressions of avidya (I am (identifying), attachment or desire, unreasonable dislikes and fear) and how we can use our practice on the mat to observe our own patterns as the first step to overcome them.

This week we will explode duhka, suffering and pain, much of which rises from avidya. Yoga is a practice of quietening the mind – “Yoga chitta vritti nirodah” – PYS 1:2.  Once we recognise that all suffering Is seated in the mind, we can realise that we do have potential to release ourselves from this cycle. Reconnect to our innate stillness.

“Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” – May all beings be happy and free.

I hope you will join me in this curious exploration…..

My timetable, including all covers, is kept up to date at www.mischavarmuza.com/class-timetable

I also have some exciting events in the near and slightly more distant future.

Black and Light Yoga (coincidentally in theme!) – Tues 11th November; the original yoga dance experience. I will lead a 90 minute vinyasa flow class after which we will lose our minds and burst open our hearts to dance and live music until the clock strikes savasana.

Tickets and info at: https://billetto.co.uk/en/events/black-and-light-yoga-rave / https://www.facebook.com/events/1604967026424360/

Exploring Vinyasa Krama – Sunday 9th August 10am – 12.30pm, Coate Studios, E2.

Vinyasa flow yoga workshop. Open level.

The art and spirit of the practice.

The art of vinyasa yoga is rooted in the teaching methodology of T Krishnmacharya.

Krishnamacharya, considered the father of mondern yoga, teacher to BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, developed an order or methodology by which to approach learning yoga. This methodology was called Siksana Krama.

I was fortunate enough to study this method in detail at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai. In this workshop we will learn some of the principles behind his method and explore careful sequencing towards specific asanas to find your deepest space and potential.  We will work with particular focus on a breath centered and easeful flow which will challenge and inspire. The workshop will include led meditation and pranayama.  As always the class will both challenge and restore.

Email me info@mischavarmuza.com for more details and to reserve a spot. £20 in advance to reserve a spot.

Fare Healthy – http://farehealthy.com/

I am over the moon to be collaborating with Secret Yoga Club again as the much awaited Fare Healthy event at Borough Market.

Gabrielle (SYC founder) and I will lead a heart opening vinyasa flow class with live music.

Autumn Yoga Retreat, 6-8 November 2015

Poundon House, Oxfordshire.

MV & PH yoga retreat

Please contact me for details of yoga or Alicia (as per flyer) for all other details and booking.

I hope to see you on a mat soon.

With love and gratitude,

Mischa x

Stay in touch:

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t&i: @mischavarmuza

UNFOLDING

I am often asked what it is love so much about being on my mat. It is hard to do it justice in words, for it is entirely in the personal and internal experience, this is just a tiny glimpse into what the physical practice offers me.  It is the residue, the glow that is the magic I take with me, but here is my humble offering.

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UNFOLDING

Each moment I exist in the push and pull of forces, ever transient, the music of my mind is dark, it is light, it is joyful, sad, punishing, encouraging, bound and free. My practice is with the intention of finding sustained freedom from the constant wrestle. When the stillness of my centre prevails, I am held by the light of my soul, steady as a rock amongst the turbulence. 

My practice is a space for self-inquiry, listening, questioning, truly feeling, of self-expression and allowing myself to exist just as I am. The possibilities of the practice are revealed to me when I move from a place of deep intention, with a pure heart and with no greater motivation than to just move, breathe and merge the layers of my self as one sweet great offering.

The rhythmic pulse of my breath and body, takes me into a deeply meditative space where each moment is an unfolding, an awakening. There appear to be no boundaries, I am untangled from all of my limitations and anything may be possible.

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On my mat I witness the transience of each state that rises and falls within me; I move through a dance of grace, fluidity, steadiness and strength; at any one moment this dissolves into darkness, unsteadiness, tumbling and resistance, wavering faith, which then lifts bringing rise to lightness, freedom. This continues, shifting, changing, never still, never certain.  A constant dance.

I feel the literal peeling back of layers, sheath by sheath they dissolve and for that short time I feel release from the bondage of my ego. 

Through movement comes stillness; from heaviness, lightness.  Last scattered thoughts drift away. I have just my breath, my body and a sense of peaceful bliss that rises deep from within. I am held, this is everything that is. There is no past or future, no here or there, no time, no should, woulds or could haves. Just stillness. 

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I return. The residue lingers as I move back through the external world. It fades, but I remember the glow, a guiding light of what is possible. This brings me back to my mat, again and again and again, through the sweetness and the dark.

I bow in deep gratitude. I offer all that I am.

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Namaste.

Mischa Yoga News: 2015

Kurmasana

Namaste,

This time of year is often one of both reflection and intention as we cross the threshold from one year to the next.  To move smoothly into the New Year it can help to bring awareness to those things we need to let go of and those we would like to manifest and open our hearts to. What is holding us back? Where can we make space? Many of us will enter January with resolutions and intentions, some of which we might not see through. Deprivation and resistance often bring the greater fall.

What is an alternative route? Self-knowledge is better than self-control any day (Claudia Gray) – so…. let 2015 be the year you take time to dive inward and realise your greatest potential. Through the process of self-inquiry we realise self-knowledge and from here rises clarity of vision and thoughtful action. Action rooted in good intention and a pure heart.

Join me on Saturday 10th January for a ‘New Year Yoga Workshop: Strength of Intention and New Beginnings’ at Frame, Shoreditch, 3.30-5.30 pm. We will practice hard with intention to create space for a bright New Year.

For more details visit my website.

My new 90 minute class starts on Wednesday 7th January at 6.45 pm – 8.15 pm at Coate Street Studios, E2 (just off Hackney rd).

Numbers are limited to so please email to reserve a place. Drop in/one-off £12. Class pass £40 for 4 classes.

My regular classes at Frame, Yotopia and Sweaty Betty are as last year and I will continue to regularly cover at all Triyoga studios, so please check my timetable for up to date listings.

I will be teaching 2 classes at Fare Healthy on 24th January, a day of health, food and fitness curated by Rose Lloyd Owen of Peardrop London at Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, in the heart of West London. The first release of tickets are sold out so watch out for wave two, available 1 January.

Looking forwards I am honoured to be teaching at the Yoga Connects Festival in July and hope to see some of you there. For more information and to buy tickets click here.

Please like my new facebook page where I will also be posting Mischa Yoga updates.

I wish you all a wonderful New Year and that whatever it brings you find opportunity for growth and happiness.  I am deeply grateful for all your continued support and look forward to seeing you on a mat very soon.

With love and light

Mischa x

Mischa Varmuza

info@mischavarmuza.com

+44 7899913136

Web: www.mischavarmuza.com

FB: www.facebook.com/mischayoga

Twitter: @mischavarmuza

Instagram: Mischa_yoga

www.beyondtheflow.org

Surrender The Heart To Joy

New Lunar Month – New Theme

anahata chakra

ANAHATA CHAKRA

Air

Love

Green

Lam

‘Love makes the mundane sacred’ – Anodea Judith

I give credit to the words in the title of this blog to my Iridology teacher, Peter Jackson Maine, they resonated and have stayed with me over the years.  When studying any ‘Naturopathic’ modality the approach is truly holistic. The mind-body link is inherent to realising true balance and peace throughout. Heart health is a leading cause of death in the West and a prominent topic when studying any health or healing system. From a holistic perspective we pay huge attention to the psychosomatic relationship, the body-mind, so what is the link? Sadness, fear, grief, guilt – they constrict our ability to feel love, compassion, joy and peace.  These emotions resonate on a physical level as one literally recoils and withdraws from the pleasure and joys of life.  Shoulders round, heads hang heavy and the space around our physical heart and our esoteric heart centre becomes depressed, constricted, tight.  The body has an innate wisdom that responds to all that settles in it.

We are conditioned by life experience, upbringing, socially accepted ideals, past habit patterns and so on. Our mind lives in a state of expectation based on this conditioning.  Our entire existence is a conditioned process which builds barriers not only between us and the external, but between us and our most basic essence – that of peaceful bliss.

‘Surrender’ brings us back to the power of letting go.  Consider the esoteric heart, that place at the centre of the chest which tightens when we feel emotional discomfort or pain, that bursts with sensation in heightened moments of ecstasy and joy. If we are able to pierce through the barriers of conditioning and misperception that create ‘our’ reality of what is or isn’t, of the past and expectation of the future, for a moment long enough to melt tension and allow a sense of expansion. That sense of expansion and openness may allow us to welcome light into all that seems dark, compassion for all those we judge and infinite gratitude and thanks for all that we are blessed to have.

Anahata translates as ‘unstruck‘, ‘unhurt‘, ‘fresh‘ and ‘clean‘ (Judith).  In balance or before life happens its pure state is that of innocence and peaceful joy.  It is this that we must work to return to.

“Surrender the heart to joy”

Take a few moments to be quiet and still.  Close your eyes and try to imagine what this might feel like. Consider for a moment the possibility that your purest, most basic state is that of peace, quiet and bliss. That any sadness, pain, discomfort or fear are not you.  That you are not consumed by them.  The mind searches for that which it knows, if life has shown you hard times, it may be that it ‘sees’ based on this. Let go of this, and imagine that joy is everything that you exist in, that you have no choice but to let it flow through you and with each breath it penetrates deeper into your state of being. You are released, your heart is free.

How does that feel.

Surrender your heart to joy

Working with the anahata chakra through yoga has the ability to create huge and profound shifts within.

The element of the anahata chakra is air and it is inherently tied to our respiratory system, quite simply our ability to breathe through life. Think of how your breath responds to your mindset and your emotions.   The connection to the breath gives this chakra the greatest power to deplete us of prana, of vital energy however the breath itself is also one of the greatest method by which to access this chakra.  Do not underestimate the power of a simple, conscious, deep breath. **

Through our yoga practice we create physical space in the lungs, the chest, the throat. We re-learn to breathe deeply and sincerely, to expand the breath throughout the whole body, dissolve tension and tightness and let energy flow.  The anahata chakra is the centre of our being.  If you draw a path from the sahasrara (crown) chakra through each chakra centre, the anahata sits at the epicentre; it has the potential to create the greatest change, this power can bring both captivity and freedom.  This is also the nature of love.  Love with condition brings as much fear and angst as it can joy and beauty.  How do we rest in a neutral state without this constant battle of duality?

With the concept of ‘surrender’ in mind it can be interesting to view the heart chakra as yin.  The purest essence of love is that which can simply be.  It is relaxed and accepting. Unconditional. Non-grasping, non-seeking. It just is.  Life teaches us to function within a feedback system, one of give and take, acceptance and rejection, approval and disapproval – more often than not, based on misperception.  This brings us back to each of our own ‘realities’ being a conditioned process, therefore to loosen the chains to this conditioning we must try to release our attachment to this pattern of good and bad, what we think is and isn’t, should or shouldn’t be – ‘allow “letting” to replace “doing” or making”” (Judith).

Think savasana. You rest at one with the space around you. You are just as is. For those few minutes there is no concept of time, space, no sense of identity, of here or there, of past or future. That is the essence of our heart. That is our most basic state of being. At one.  Through our yoga practice on the mat we can take ourselves to this little place within and then, perhaps, we may start to access it a little easier, on and off the mat.

“Love is the natural relationship between healthy living things. We need not only to believe that it is around us at all times and in all things to find it within ourselves” – Anodea Judith

**Breathing Practice 

Sit in comfortable crossed legged position, the seat slightly raised, spine tall and shoulders relaxed or lie in supta baddha konasana (soles of the feet together, knees fall out to the side).  Rest one palm on the navel, one palm at the sternum.

3 part breathing practice; break the breath into 3 – breathe one third of the way into the lower belly. Pause. Fill one third into the lungs, the chest, the heart. Pause. Fill one third into the shoulder, the throat to the top of the skull. Pause. Exhale the reverse order, pause between each third. A simple but potent practice.

Complete 12 rounds in total, then rest and be peaceful with a natural breath.

 

Recommended reading and inspiration:

Anodea Judith, ‘Chakras, Wheels of Life’, Jaico, 2004

 

 

Hormones and Chakras: What’s The Link?

Yoga helps keep hormones happy. Science even says so. Here’s a little bit of understanding around the topic in advance of my upcoming workshop, ‘Yoga for Happy Hormones’, this Sunday, where we will use the magical tools of yoga, asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation, in a full spectrum workshop to bring greater harmony to the body and mind.

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Understanding the connection

In the early 1980’s neuroscientist Candace Pert’s work was dedicated to exploring the biomolecular working of our bodies and her research revealed incredible scientific information as ‘to how the chemicals inside us form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body.’  Her work established a crucial link between the body and the mind and asserted a basis of understanding as to how the power of the mind deeply affects our health and wellbeing.  Her journey of discovery eventually led her to explore many alternative healing modalities – although her exposure to Eastern philosophy and traditions was limited the public awareness around her work brought many unexpected visitors to her path. One in particular being a yogi.  Through their conversation they discovered that the Eastern ‘chakra’ system when mapped against that of the chains of nerve bundles located by Pert alongside the main spinal column showed considerable overlap. The chakras were much less know to the West in the early 80’s and certainly had very little scientific basis to support them – their discovery and understanding was through internal sensitisation, experience and intuition rooted and often taught by Masters from the East. This remains the case to some degrees, as energy bodies it is not possible to ‘see’ the chakras – without clairvoyant ability at least. This correlation provided a level of support that could encourage the more sceptical of individuals whilst also delight those who already understood and intuitively used this ancient healing system with a scientific basis for their experience and practices.  Pert’s research was revolutionary.

“Her pioneering research has demonstrated how our internal chemicals, the neuropeptides and their receptors, are actually the underpinnings of our awareness, manifesting themselves as our emotions, beliefs, and expectations, and profoundly influencing how we respond to and experience our word.”

Deepak Chopra

Since the 1980’s knowledge and use of Eastern healing methods have become increasingly popular in the West, with practices such as Yoga now attracting millions and millions of people to their mats for the physical and health supporting benefits.  Albeit the ‘physical’ aspect of yoga is not the ultimate purpose, it is still an integral part of the larger system of yoga and will undoubtedly support a healthier state of being.  Yet if you are able to learn to practice with an awareness of the wider system of yoga beyond the asanas (the postures); so the pranayama (breathing techniques), even mantra and sounds, embracing the quiet, the stillness, a sensitivity to the internal effects, the effect will be much greater.  The system as a whole will start to work the nervous system, the brain, the endocrine system – all the systems – in a synchronised, balanced, harmonious and profound way.

Moving the focus towards the endocrine system; perhaps the most influential ‘physical’ part of the body affecting our overall health.  It consists of numerous glands which release substances called hormones which influence our health on every level, from every cell, every organ to every function of the body. Hormones sometimes just bring to mind the female side of things, but they are so so much more. These substances are responsible for homeostasis throughout the body; they control everything from cellular metabolism, reproduction, sexual development, sugar and mineral homeostasis to heart rate, digestion and moods.

Now unlike the muscles for instance we are not able to physically reach the glands yet it is through ‘stimulation’ that we may affect them. So by what method can we access them.

Enter yoga.

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One of the most profound effects of the practices of yoga is the access that it gives us to the subtle energy body – the chakras, as mentioned, being a main part of this esoteric (subtle) system.  With such a strong correlation between the glands and the chakras, perhaps it is through the chakras that we are able to create effect towards our endocrine system.

Moving, twisting, breathing, allowing the vibration of sound to resonate on a cellular level has indeed been shown to stimulate the chakras. There is a simple practice you can do to gauge a greater understanding of the chakras as explained by Anodea Judith, world leading expert on the system.

We have chakras throughout the body, although the focus is often towards the 7 main central chakra from root to crown. This exercise activates the one of the lesser know energy points, the hand chakras.

Extend both arms out, one palm down, one facing up. Tighten the hands strongly into fists 12 times. Invert the palms the other way, repeat the fist squeeze 12 more times. Repeat this twice more, so 48 fist squeezes in total. Release the fists, face the palms to each other and be attentive to any sensation.

We can’t access other parts of our body as easily as the palms, yet with the complete spectrum of tools that yoga offers us we can bring these wondrous spinning wheels of energy to life throughout the body, which in turn will energise and stimulate the corresponding glands.  As your practice deepens you may even notice this same sensation at the seat of one or many of seven main chakras, at the root, the heart or the third eye for instance. To be familiar with the sensation in the palm of the hand will allow you to know this wonderful experience when it happens.

This Sunday I will be leading a workshop with Kate Beatty, ‘Yoga for Happy Hormones‘. We will shed light on the relationship between the endocrine system and the energetic body and journey through the chakras with visualisation, meditation, pranayama (breath), mantra (sound) and plenty of movement.

Please come and join us for an afternoon of yoga as we journey through the chakras.  You will move plenty, be guided through meditation, breathe and work hard and end with deep relaxation.

When and where?

The Lab Spa in Muswell Hill.

2 -4 pm, Sunday 29th June, 2014

yoga for happy hormones

 

References:

Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion, Why You Feel The Way You Feel, 1997

Anodea Judith, Eastern Body Western Mind, Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, 1996

Anodea Judith, Chakras, Wheels of Life, Revised 2006

Flowing Towards Hanumanasana

The focus continues….’Surrender the mind, Expand from the Heart’.

For 2 weeks we’ve focused on surrendering the mind and diving deep into the hips, freeing up the energy around the sacral/svadisthana chakra… Learning to ‘go with the flow’, offering inquiry into the degree of movement, resistance and our ability to let go: are we able to surrender the mind to that which arises from our own conditioned processes. Can we rest as a neutral witness.

Resistance, restlessness, agitation, anger, impatience – feelings and responses that emerge when we feel discomfort or unease within our asana practice are all indications towards the way in which our body and mind may respond to life experiences. As I mentioned in my last post, the cells of our body map every single moment, emotion, experience, reaction that we encounter. The body, breath and mind are conditioned processes which have evolved around our basic essence of quiet and peace, they create our ‘identity’.  Take the breath for instance, it shortens when we are fearful or panicked or worried, it is slow, deep and easy when we are relaxed or restful in sleep, it responds to the behaviour of mind and the body;  the behaviour of the mind is directly due to past habit patterns and is also a reflection of the energy of the physical self;  the body is in constant dialogue with the mind, and both the internal and external environment.

Once we start to realise how much of our existence and being is conditioned and learn to witness the constant shifts, the transience of every emotion, feeling, sensation, thought….of every tiny aspect of every moment we can learn that we do not have to ride the wave.  Instead we can tap into our most basic essence, that of stillness. Everything we experience is surface chatter (chitta vritti), sensation, individual perception and maya (illusion).

Releasing attachment and this sense of identification clears tension, holding and creates space – it is with this new found freedom in mind that I bring a renewed focus to the mat this week  – learning to flow with ease, honour, devotion and an expansive heart towards the majestic and challenging posture that is Hanumanasana.

The tale of Hanuman reminds us that for a devoted soul nothing is impossible.

All yoga, whatever the ‘label’ it is represented by is bhakti yoga, devotional yoga – it is sacred and rooted in sacred rituals and practices, thousands of years old.  One practice a few months back as we began to move slowly and precisely through surya namaskar my teacher offered that every time we arrive on our mat we must fall in love, helplessly in love with being there, with the space we are blessed to be in, with every movement and breath.  We must absorb ourselves entirely and with devotion in each moment. Be just with our body and our breath.

hanuman

Hanumanasna is a challenging pose and requires plenty of carefully considered preparatory poses to enter it from a safe and quiet place. On a physical level it is an intense stretch in the hamstrings and hip flexors. Beyond this it is a deep back bend and even extension must be considered from the base of the spine to the top of the neck. Alignment as ever is the foundation for a safe and intelligent approach; the sacrum and hips should rest evenly and be supported by Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha to protect the delicate structure of the SI joints and lower spine.  The kneecaps and quadriceps must engage to protect the hamstrings, the back inner thigh spirals open to the sky and both sides of the waist lift up long to the groin can we soft, the space between the pubis and the sternum lengthens allowing the lower belly to gently contract back towards the spine, the heart is open, the neck remains long and spacious, the crown of the skull elevated.

The essence of the asana comes from an even expansion from deep within the centre which extends with softeness and respect to the surface of the skin, the tips of the fingers and toes.  The breath should remain long and steady and breathe the body as one pulsating being.  It requires active effort and engagement to reach the first place of Hanumanasana, this will likely not be your deepest expression of the pose; as with all asanas, the full depth is reached via the subtle adjustments and refinements that occur after the initial entry with each inhale and each exhale.

If there is pain, resistance, agitation in the muscles, the flesh or the mind, the mind must return the source of expansion and devotion, the heart centre. The focus must wrap around the breath, follow the pathway or each cycle of breath creating space with each breath in and release, surrender, let go with each breath out.  The magic is the journey and ultimately it is irrespective whether you settle into the full posture – more that you connect with a touch of joyfulness and work to find softness from the very core outwards, that is how the true expansion will occur. Force or stretch from the outer layers creates injury, tears hamstrings and dishonours the body.

Hanumanasana reflects the divine nature of the Monkey God Hanumana, loyal friend and devoted servant to Rama.  When Rama’s wife Sita was abducted by the Demon King Ravana he sent troops to attempt her rescue, however Rama’s brother Laksmana was badly injured and the only cure was a herb that grew faraway in the Himalayas.  The devoted Hanuman offered all of this efforts to the task and took one giant leap to reach the himalayas, unsure of which herb to pick he lifted the whole mountain and returned to Rama. The herb was found and Laksmana was saved. An act rooted in pure, heartfelt and fiery devotion enabled the seemingly impossible to be possible.

Infuse this essence into your practice, work on switching any sense of strained effort or pain to one of passion, devotion, love. Allow your body to explore its fullest potential through surrender, soft expansion, breathe deeply and allow a sense of release and letting go with a long smooth breath out to offer greater depth.

The full expression of both the posture and your heartfelt devotion comes from that place of softness and quiet.

This weeks classes are all about the magic of the journey towards reaching the majestic Hanumanasana.

Come play.

http://www.mischavarmuza.com/

 

Let go and Flow – The Svadisthana Chakra

svadisthana chakra

Svadisthana Chakra (Second Chakra)

Located in lower abdomen, sacral plexus

Water element

Orange

Vam

Working with my theme for this lunar month, ‘Surrender the Mind, Expand from the heart‘, I am focusing the first 2 weeks on deep fluid hip work and the second chakra, the svadisthana chakra, to offer some release of what we may be holding onto. To learn to surrender to resistance that arises when we work into areas of deep tension or discomfort and work to make space to open up, relax and expand to our greatest potential.

Why the hips?

The hips tend to be our ‘junk drawer’ – the part of our body where we store things.  Every moment, breath, experience and thought is mapped in our body and accumulates both physically and mentally and also on a deeper subtler level.  This is enhanced by reduced movement in our bodies, especially if we sit at desks all day long.  Static energy and our own personal life history manifests as physical tightness and deep ridden tension within the body; often we simply accept this as the way we feel or resist working with as it may bring discomfort and unease to the surface and is difficult to break through.

The essence of the second chakra is movement, it’s purpose as explained by Andoea Judith is to ‘to let go – to flow and move, to feel and to yield’ (Eastern Body Western Mind). In Wheels of Life she goes onto explain that emotions are inherently tied in with movement “we repress feelings by restricting movement, and conversely, movement can free the emotional holding that causes chronic tension……it takes energy to repress emotion, so releasing emotions releases tension (if done appropriately). Absence of tension creates a harmonic flow within the body/mind”.

So when we offer time, breath, intention and movement to the sacral area we aim to start shifting and moving around the junk, the ama (toxins, undigested materials) that have settled into our body allowing them to be released; this release creates space to breathe deeper, feel deeper and for energy to flow with greater ease.

Space and flow allows thing to connect energetically with one another which in turn creates movement, pleasure, change and growth. All attributes of the second chakra.

From a physical perspective we rise up from the foundation and root of the muladhara chakra and expand with the essence of the svadisthana chakra.  The expansion moves the blood and the fluids, stretches and lengthens the muscles, stimulates the nerves, awakens the body and the mind, enhances feeling, sensation and brings greater awareness and texture of experience to life.

A few words on pleasure; pleasure has a dual nature – it offers surrender and expansion, it teaches us to relax, release tension, to tune into our senses yet we are also taught to be aware, we are taught to deny ourselves pleasure as it may lure us away from our responsibilities.  So pleasure, this supposed sweet and blissful reward becomes guilty – from this guilt we go inwards; emotions, senses and movement become restricted.  Judith explains that when we deprive ourselves of healthy ‘primary’ pleasure it is more likely we will reach out to ‘secondary’ pleasure such as drink, drugs, sexual misconduct, irresponsible behaviour and so on.  This does not satisfy or create balance due to its destructive nature yet leaves a craving for more……and there you have a foundation for addiction.  Boundaries must be created around the second chakra.

Other issues of the second chakra include need, desire, nurturance, clairsentience and sexuality so you can likely see how these fall hand in hand with those already mentioned; flow, change, movement, pleasure, sensation, guilt, emotion…..

Judith explains that in balance the svadisthana chakra has the capacity for ‘sexual satisfaction, physical pleasure, general enjoyment of life, comfort of intimacy, and the ability to accept movements. There is steadiness and clarity of emotional states. One can feel deeply without excessive histrionics. Balance involves the ability to nurture self and others while still maintaining healthy sexual and emotional boundaries’.

So through this digging up of junk there may at first arise more discomfort as we unearth buried patterns and memories.  Repression or resistance only manifests with greater negative consequences – so take a deep breath in and a long, full, complete breath out, let go, surrender, release.  Allow the svadisthana chakra to spin and shine forth.

 

“You are what your deepest driving desire is.  As your desire is, so is your will.  As your will, so is your deed. As your deed, so is your destiny”.

Brihadaranyaka, Upanishad IV.4.5

For further inspirational reading on the chakras:

Eastern Body Western Mind, Psychology and the Chakra System as Path to the Self, Anodea Judith

Chakras, The Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith

 

 

 

 

New Classes and Upcoming Workshops

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 08.24.04

Namaste,

I hope you have all had a lovely bank holiday weekend.

I am happy to announce some new weekly classes at Frame, Shoreditch, starting today including a ‘Basics’ class and ‘Beginner/Intermediate’ class. So for those of you new to yoga, now is the time to come breathe, move and find some bliss time for your mind, body and soul. All levels are welcome to all classes.

Timetable

Mondays

7.30-8.30pm Open Vinyasa Flow Yoga

8.30-9.30pm Basics Yoga

Tuesday

6.15-7.15pm Beginner/Intermediate Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Thursday

8-9am Morning Flow Yoga

Friday

7.15-8.15am – Open Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Plus 2 One-Off complimentary classes at Lululemon:

Sunday 1 June

11am-noon – Lululemon Showroom, Chelsea

Saturday 7 June

1-2pm – Lululemon Showroom, Islington

This Wednesday 28th we see the new moon and therefore a new theme for the next lunar month; inspired by my advanced training intensive with the incredible Sianna Sherman last week and in honour of my continuing 40 day ‘Fearless Heart Sadhana’ my monthly theme from Wednesday will be ‘Surrender the mind, expand from the heart‘.

Following on beautifully from last months focus on Yoga Sutra 2:46 “sthira (stability, strength) sukham (ease, joyfulness) asanam (seat)” this focus will be explored through deep hip work; working to surrender through resistance to open and release the pelvic area, making space to elongate and strengthen the spine and open into beautiful, safe backbends. Through our practice we will work to centre ourselves and then expand with lightness and grace to find softness and space both physically and from the heart, towards ourselves and others, releasing tension in the mind and body.

I will be exploring this theme deeper in a ‘Hips to Heart Workshop‘ on Saturday 19th July 2014.

I am also co teaching a workshop ‘Yoga for Happy Hormones’ on 28th June at the Lab Spa in Muswell Hill.

Watch this space for a juicy “Chakra Flow Workshop” in August.

Please see my website www.mischavarmuza.com for further details of all the above.

I am also launching a new project called www.beyondtheflow.org so please check it out and I hope some of you may be interested to join the magic. Do sign up to receive the newsletter if you would like to be informed of upcoming events.

I have some availability for privates, small group, corporate and private classes during the week and on weekends. Please contact me for details.

Have a wonderful week and I hope to see you on a mat soon,

With love and light,

Mischa x

YOGA TEACHER

info@mischavarmuza.com

+44 7899913136

www.mischavarmuza.com

www.beyondtheflow.org