It all begins at the tailbone is the first Svaroopa® Yoga Sutra. You ask what is a Sutra, it is a statement about the principles of yoga, the philosophy behind the yoga practice. Used in ancient times to pass down the wisdom of yoga philosophy to students. The most famous book of Sutras is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which gives the teachings of the ancient yogis. Today in Svaroopa® Yoga my teacher Swami Nirmalanda gives us Svaroopa Sutras to help us understand the underlying philosophy of why and how Svaroopa® Yoga works.
It all begins at the tailbone is also our first Sutra which means it is the most important one. We believe that all of the tensions in the spine first start at the tailbone and as those tensions climb the spine they create physical, mental and emotional health problems. The good news is that as you release those tensions the healing process climbs your spine also providing healing from chronic illness, pain and stress.
Part of what makes this Sutra so important is to understand the way we tighten our spinal muscles and how that effects our health. Unlike the ancient sages we are not monks living in a cave doing yoga and meditation all day long. We live out in the world and there are so many things that cause you to tighten your tailbone, even though you may not even feel it happening! Just think about driving, if you have a long commute it is not just the long time sat in the car (which can be very tightening and even painful) but someone cuts you off suddenly your temper flairs and your tailbone tightened! As I look out my window and see the last of the leaves falling from the trees I know what I will be doing this weekend, raking. How will my shoulders feel after that? If my shoulders hurt how much did I tighten the rest of my spine?
The good news is there is help, do a little more yoga! Do a little more Svaroopa® Yoga. Luckily the Magic 4 takes only about 20 minutes to do, or do any other spinal sequence to take the changes from the tailbone to the top of your spine. You have so many options, the Daily Practice theme we finished in September has hopefully helped empower you to do yoga at home on your own. Still not comfortable with doing yoga on your own? You can add an extra yoga class in one week, or better yet sign up for a private session to really get a deep opening in the tight muscles of your spine. You have so many options to carry over the blissful feeling you have at the end of class! Treat yourself to more – more yoga, more healing, more you!
® Svaroopa is a Registered Service Mark of Svaroopa Teachings Collection, Inc. used under license.
The other day I read an interesting blog on Facebook written by a Slow Flow Vinyasa teacher about slowing down his practice and his teaching. He commented that part of slowing down was due to the aging process and he needed to slow down his practice to accommodate his body. What he found out though was that as he slowed down he became more aware of the changes on the inside. This is exactly what the slower pace and longer holding of poses that Svaroopa(r) Yoga provides you with.
Every Svaroopa(R) Yoga class and practice begins with Shavasana during which the teacher takes you through a guided awareness. When teaching I start the guided awareness at your toes and work my way up to your head. Scanning through each part of the body and asking you to become aware of and notice each part both outside and inside. Always working our way from the outside to the inside.
The purpose of this is to bring your awareness inside so you can be aware of what is happening inside your body, not just the external changes that you can see. As you practice longer and take the practice deeper you can feel the muscles softening and the bones of your spine lengthening. To do this you have to become aware of the inside.
The best thing about Svaroopa(r) Yoga is that you will get these changes either way. Whether it is your first class and you are just following the instructions not really sure what is happening or you are a deeper student with the ability to track these changes on the outside and inside.
picture courtesy of Svaroopa(R) Vidya Ashram
On April 15th when I was listening to NPR and thinking about tax day, I heard that it was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, it was also the 2 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. Then this weekend was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I could hardly believe that 20 years has gone by. Sadness comes over me each time I am reminded of these terrible events.
So sitting here writing this on a grey and gloomy Patriots Day in Massachusetts thinking about this years marathoners, I can’t help thinking about these horrific events, and how sad it is that 70 years after the revelation of the genocide of the holocaust that the human race still commits such violent acts against one another.
Yoga says that Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the 5 laws of life. These are 5 practices to help us live a better life, and reach enlightenment. Practicing non-violence helps us to live as a better person, but there is more to non-violence then not physically harming someone. Most of us are not going out and committing acts of terrorism. So how do we cultivate non-violence in our lives.
The practice of Ahimsa to me is similar to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “love your neighbor as yourself”. If we treated everyone as we want to be treated the world just might become a better place to live in. We can practice Ahimsa towards others, so if you don’t want to be gossiped about don’t gossip, don’t want to be bullied or made fun of don’t bully others. We can practice Ahimsa towards ourselves, take a good look at how you speak to yourself. If we spoke to others like we talk to ourselves we wouldn’t have many friends. These are just a few ways we may be behaving violently without thinking of it as violence.
I maybe naive,these historic events are such major acts of violence how can they be changed by my individual shift in behavior and attitude. I say that we have to try, as individuals this is something we can do to help change the world. In yoga we call this a practice, I also like to think of it as cultivating non-violence. Your practice is like a garden it needs to be tended, watered, fertilized, weeded and finally harvested. You won’t be able to change all of your thoughts and actions overnight it takes time just like growing your garden. So start cultivating, big changes happen by small acts of individual people.
Friday strolling down my driveway after a morning walk I noticed that all of the snow had melted around the base of one of the trees in my front garden. There just poking up from the ground were the tips of daffodils rising up from their long winter sleep. Letting out a whoop of joy my mood lifted instantaneously. Seeing this tiny first sign of spring brought me so much joy.
Fast forward to Saturday morning waking up to snow showers coming down from a cold, steely grey sky. Oh the depths a mood so easily lifted can just as easily crash down. This brought me up short and made me think “is my yogic state so shallow”?
Yoga says that your joy or happiness should not be dependent on what is happening on the outside, the burst of spring or return of winter, but is always there arising from within. In Svaroopa® yoga we cultivate this yogic state in our practice and particularly with a guided awareness during Shavasana when the teacher guides you through a body scan so you can bring your awareness into your body to notice your state outside and inside.
You will often hear yogi’s refer to this yogic state as being detached, but that sounds like you don’t care. What yoga is really saying is that this yogic state you’ve cultivated is not attached to or influenced by external events. That you or I can be as joyful during the Saturday snow flurries as we are seeing the daffodils and other signs of spring.
It isn’t easy, it is a practice. This is why we refer to it as cultivating a yogic state. Some external events or people push you out of your yogic state more easily than others. So I am giving myself a break here, it has been a long, cold, snowy winter and this time the snow pulled me down. I hope to better maintain that yogic state the next time. Actually like everyone else I am hoping that was the last of the snow flurries for this winter that gives me all spring and summer to deepen my yogic state!