Forgive

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday of last week the full moon occurred in Scorpio. Scorpio is watery, deep and intense. It belongs to Mars (planet of war) and is affiliated with aggression and getting things accomplished.

The debilitated full moon took place in the Nakshatra Anuradha which means “following Radha.” Anuradha means success and is affiliated with devotional practices and creativity. The divine feminine energy was strong. So instead of drawing inward and focusing on our own feelings we needed to practice outward compassion and understanding. Some conflicts and misunderstandings occurred last week because people turned inward and focused on their own personal emotional survival and deeply ingrained fears instead of pouring their compassion outward.

Well what now? We forgive. We learn. We move on.

In Hinduism forgiveness or tolerance of others is called kshama and is cultivated from being devoted to a higher entity. Once you devote yourself to that entity you are granted kripa. Kripa means divine grace, kindness, love or surrender. Kripa is the central tenant in the practice of Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of devotion. Kripa has the ability to remove unfavorable karmas (actions) that we have accrued so that we do not have to encounter its consequences.

The relationship between kripa and karma can be compared to a river. The flow of this river is caused by adharma or wrong actions that impede our path in life. The flow of adharma takes us further from the source of the river. However when we are able to see our misgivings (patterns created by the ego) we are able to experience kripa which brings us closer to the source of the river.

We have to realize that karma (choice in action), maya (illusion) and anava (our ignorance created by ego) are gifts from the universe. We are given these obstacles to help us decipher our egotistical survival patterns from what is the true happy you.

In life we have ingrained emotional patterns called samskaras. These are habitual emotional response mechanisms that we have accumulated over lifetimes. They cause us to behave in certain ways. What we must do to get closer embracing kripa is learn from our experiences by examining our patterned emotional responses. We need to see how we have reacted before and what the triggers were for those reactions. Finally we must find a solution that helps us break the pattern. Once we break away from the habitual patterns we have the power to make amends.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:33 states:

“When obstructive thoughts arise, practice the opposite thought.”

If our tendency is to lash out when we feel hurt or threatened, instead try to generate a positive thought about the person who has inflicted the pain. When I I was in Haridwar, India last year at Santosh Puri Ashram, Mataji gave an entire lecture about making your dislikes your likes. She explained that this is one of the central themes of the Bhagavad Gita. She said that surrendering (kripa) and letting go (aparigraha) of our conflicted emotions and spreading love (by means of liking pretty much everything) is the key to happiness in our lives.

This may seem like a farfetched task in this lifetime. But its something that we can gradually work toward. Its a practiced skill that needs dedication, discipline and time just like our physical yoga practice. If we can teach our bodies how to do surya namaskara, bakasana, or a handstand we certainly can teach the mind new ways of managing our emotions. In that way we can choose to be happier, healthier people instead of victims of our emotional ups and downs.

Science says that the limbic brain, the “old mammalian” brain, stores reactions to trauma, stress and pain. This is where deeply rooted emotional patterns tend to exist.

The front brain, the cortex, the seat of rational thought, has the ability to replace a negative thought pattern by making a willed choice. This is where grievance can be terminated and where the process of forgiveness begins.

What we need to remember is that we ultimately have the power over what we hold onto. We have to figure out if we want to live in the safe and familiar prison of our samskaras or the vast liberated essence of forgiveness and divine grace.

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse May 9-10th 2013

Solar eclipses generally occur twice a year at the time of the new moon (dark moon) when the earth enters into the moon’s shadow. The eclipse occurring tonight PWT is visible in the areas of the South Pacific and Australia.

Solar Eclipses mark the end of a 19 year cycle that connects to all events related to each astrological sign. This eclipse is occurring in the sign of earthy, grounded, Taurus. A Taurus solar eclipse makes us examine our self worth and values. We feel drawn to questioning old value systems that are no longer serving us in our lives. We need to ask ourselves if we honor our talents. This will serve as a tool to seeking out what values stand at the center of our lives.

In Vedic astrology, this eclipse takes place in the Nakshatra of Bharani. Bharani means “bearing the star” or “the star of restraint”. He teaches us restraint through consequences. Bharani has the gift of apabharani shakti, or the ability to carry things away and terminate. His animal is the elephant and his energy associated with all things we expend to live in this world. Bharani is ruled by Yama, the god of death, who is responsible for guiding souls once they have left their earthly bodies. Bharani can be quite destructive and is associated with the fiercest of all Hindu Goddesses, Kali, the black one, clearing the path for a new dawn.

Its a good time to clean out the clutter in your life on a mental, physical and spiritual level. Tie up loose ends and finish all things that need finishing so we can set foot on a new journey.

This eclipse is near the South Node of the moon, called Ketu. When an eclipse is next to Ketu which is associated with spiritual energy, it can give access to past life and occult knowledge. It intensifies our ability to discriminate between what holds us back from experiencing our own truth and our relationship with the divine.

During eclipses our protective energy barrier is lessened so there is potential for emotional contagion. We temporarily feel metaphorically “in the dark” and unable to connect with collective consciousness. Offer prayer to a loved one that has past. Take time to meditate and center yourself. This quiet contemplative time will help you release any negative things you have been hoarding so you can dive into who you truly are.

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A Blustery Full Moon

On April 25th the full moon occurs in the lunar mansion Swati. Swati is ruled by Vayu, the wind, and has the ability to move in all directions. Swati is based on changing form due to the power of pradhvamsa shakti, or the ability to scatter like the wind.

Swati is causing things to scatter and change. It is a good time to cleanse mentally and physically. Reorganization is key during this full moon so we can accommodate new ideas and developments in our lives.

During the full moon there will be a partial eclipse that will be visible in Western Africa, The Middle East and Western Asia. During eclipses our energy is vulnerable. Make sure you practice discernment in terms of the information you consume and the company you keep. The positive energy you take in during an eclipse will create long terms effects on your psyche.

This eclipse highlights the power of Jupiter and Mercury which are associated with learning and teaching. This gives us the ability to hold space for personal growth and wellbeing. We have the opportunity to see our difficulties as lessons that will make us more balanced, compassionate, and understanding beings in the universe.

Don’t be surprised if you are feeling like things have been turned upside down and thrown around. Change is good! Use this time to learn from the dishevelment so you can put the pieces back together into something stronger and more complete.

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Milky New Moon: Get Nourished

Garage Yogis! Greetings from Sri Lanka! I’m in a beautiful beachside town called Arugam Bay where the watery adaptable essence of this new moon seems to blend perfectly with my surroundings.
Today, April 10th, the new moon occurs in the Nakshatra Revati.
Revati means wealthy and is governed by Pushan, the nourishing form of Surya, the Sun God. Pushan is symbolized by milk (kshiradyapani shakti). It is said that this milky energy has the power to nourish the entire world.
Revati occurs at the tail end of Pisces making this an emotional watery time of new beginnings, and illumination. The important message of this new Moon is trust and surrender. We must be grateful for the simple nourishment that we receive daily through the life giving properties of the Earth and Sun, our families and greater community. Start your day by thanking mother earth. Dedicate your yoga practice to a loved one or simply give your friend a hug. Be grateful and trust in the unity and love that sustains the world.

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Happy Spring!

Happy Vernal Equinox! On this day the sun places itself directly over the equator creating perfect balance between hours of light and darkness. The earth and sun are in perfect equilibrium, as the sun centers itself between earth and sky. This creates a sacred cross of balancing energy that heals and harmonizes the planet and all living beings.

It is an excellent time for us to consider how to incorporate more balance in our lives.
As we move from celestial watery Pisces into fiery Aires the amount of light increases (in the Northern Hemisphere) and darkness falls into the background. It is a time of illumination. Symbolically we are shedding light on the higher chakras (the Northern Hemisphere of the body) or energy centers above the heart that emphasize unconditional love, compassion, acceptance, truth, intuition and unity.

This is a potentially fertile time in earth’s evolution. A time when beautifully healing changes can occur. So step into the light! Invite balance into your life and use it as the foundation to let your inner light grow. Happy Spring!

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Awaken! Aquarius New Moon and Maha Shivaratri

The Moon falls in conjunction with the Sun on March 11 creating its darkest state. The moon is symbolically draining itself into an empty vessel that can be filled again with the Sun’s energy. This new moon falls in Aquarius occurs in the lunar mansion of Purvabhadra.

Aquarius encourages us to align our individual selves with a higher purpose. This new moon is aligned with Mercury and Venus in retrograde. These planets facilitate the Aquarian theme and increase adaptability, creativity and tact.

Purvabhadra is ruled by the diety Aja Ekapada, the one footed serpent. The energy produced from this lunar mansion is Yajamana Udyamana Shakti which spiritually empowers beings to reach a higher level of consciousness. This energy is fierce. It brings a lightening bolt of divine inspiration. Take time to tap into your eccentric creative genius. It is a time to set intentions and await spiritual transformation as the lunar cycle builds again.

This particular new moon is the time of the one of the greatest Hindu celebrations, Maha Shivayatri. It falls on the 14th day of Phalgum (Vedic calender month that falls in February or March) on eve of the new moon. Ratri literally means night in Sanskrit. It is believed on this night that Shiva performed his tandava dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction called Tandava Nritya.

This festival dates back to the Puranas, ancient narratives that describe the creation of the universe, Hindu cosmology and philosophy, gods, sages, heroes and geography. In the Puranas there is an epic narrative in which the primordial ocean is being churned into Amrita (the immortal nectar of the gods). From this churning, called Samudra Manthan, a poison emerged from the sea and threatened the existence if the universe itself. All of the Gods and demons panicked. They called upon the only God capable of destroying the poison, Shiva. Shiva heroically drank the poison and held it in his throat. Parvati, his consort, strangled his muscular neck to prevent the poison from escaping. This is why Shiva is often depicted as blue and is called Nilkantha, the blue throated one. His blue hue is a constant reminder of how he saved the universe from destruction.

This evening worshippers pay homage to Shiva, the destroyer in the Indic trilogy of gods, so he will absolve them of all of their sins. It is said that anyone who says his name with pure devotion is freed from negative karma and liberated from the cycle of life and death (samsara).

Myths also mention this day as the supposed day of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage. This day is of special significance to unmarried women who pray for a husband with similar qualities to the God Shiva. Married women pray for Shiva to shower them with blessings for a peaceful and happy marriage.

Traditionally a three tiered platform is placed around a sacrificial fire (Shiva’s divine element). The three tiers represent the three worlds or lokas: earth, space and heaven. On the highest platform 11 urns are placed representing 11 forms of Rudra, Shiva’s most destructive personalities. The formless depiction of Shiva, Shiva Lingam, is bathed with the five sacred elements of the cow, called panchagavya (milk, sour milk, ghee, urine and dung) and the 5 foods of immortality (milk, ghee, sugar, honey and curd). After the Lingam is bathed, people offer milk, bael leaves, and cold water. Holy men or sadhus, offer cannibus to Shiva, his patron plant, to gain his blessings.

People fast strictly throughout the day and night. They give datura fruit and flower (supposedly Shiva loves this poisonous fruit and flower) offerings and chant vigils throughout the evening to connect and praise The Destroyer of Ignorance.

This holiday is celebrated throughout India and Nepal. In Kashmir it lasts 15 days. Many sadhus or holy men pilgrimage to Mount Amarnath, the holiest Hindu mountain, where they seek a deeper relationship with Shiva by offering and smoking vast amounts of cannibus, the sacred plant of Shiva.

So chant “Om Namah Shivayah” in honor of the Dispeller of Ignorance on Sunday evening. He will help you clear your negative karmic past and catalyze you into deeper spiritual awareness.

Happy New Moon! Bom Shiva!

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Lighten Up Your Practice: Mula Bandha In Simple Terms

What is Mula bandha?
Seriously though, what is Mula bandha? Does it really exist?
Yes it does.

However, this root lock is a very complicated concept to grasp in our asana practice. The problem is many teachers avoid explaining it because:
1. It’s difficult to explain and teach.
2. Truthfully they don’t really understand or use it themselves.

So what is Mula bandha? Why do we use it in practice?
Lets start at the beginning.
Bandhas are a series of internal energy gates within the subtle body, which control pranic flow. Bandha is connected to the English words to bind, lock or connect. Bandha connects movement, breath and awareness. There are 4 bandhas that are used in Hatha yoga:
Mula bandha (root lock), Uddiyana bandha (flying upward lock), Jalandhara bandha (throat lock) and Maha bandha (combining all 3 locks at the same time).

Mula in Sanskrit it is defined as “root.” It is a contraction of the Pubo-Coccygeal muscles; A refined lift of the pelvic floor. It is located somewhere in between the pubic bone, the coccyx and the 2 sitting bones (ischeal tuberosities). This area is slightly different in men and women due to our incongruent anatomy. In layman’s terms, in a yoga posture, mula bandha is a lift of lower belly toward the navel. I say this because hardly anyone’s knows what the hell you are talking about when you say “contract your pubo coccygeal muscles.” And also because it can be confused with a Keigal (in women, when in fact its higher up) or a mere contraction of the anal sphincter muscles (in men).
To become familiar with mula bandha sit in an upright position and send your inhalation all the way down to the pelvic floor. When it reaches the pelvic floor contract the lower belly region and feel an upward suction that creates an energetic lift through the torso. This is the essence of Mula bandha.

Why use Mula bandha? It creates stability and balance in asana practice. Mula bandha provides the foundation of stability and lightness in arm balances and gives us the ability to float in transitions instead of landing like an elephant.

On a physical level, Mula bandha is said to lower respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. It calms sympathetic nervous system arousal (fight or flight), improves digestion, and harmonizes urogenital issues. Mula bandha creates a sense of calm in the body and mind because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is generally referred to as “rest and restore”. This is where that feeling of balance, presence and inner peace comes from. It gives us the ability to reflect inwards creating a physical practice that envelops moving meditation (dhyana). In this way, this mysterious root lock controls, and over time, diminishes the fluctuations in the mind.

For yogis Mula bandha is of great importance because it lifts downward moving energy, called apana, located at the Muladhara chakra (root energy center) and unites it with the upward flowing energy (prana) at Anahata Chakra (the heart energy center). Earth energy, if left to its own accord, likes to stay put to linger in physical survival mode. It makes us feel stuck and fearful. By reversing the energetic flow and uniting apana and prana, Mula bandha helps us use the grounding earth energy as a gateway for spiritual exploration.

Two weeks ago, Sharath spoke about the three elements that are essential to one’s physical asana practice. These three elements make up what is called yoga tristana. The tristana assumes that asana practice must involve correct alignment (achieved through correct repetition) to bring stability to the body and mind; Rhythmic, even breathing that is synchronized with movement to remove toxins (ie vinyasa); And proper gaze or dristi (there are 9 of them) to bring concentration.

Momentarily I thought what about the bandhas?!? Well he immediately answered my question without me saying one word. He said, that bandha is always expected to be there no matter what. In order for the tristana to exist, bandhas must be present and engaged. Sharath said “Bandha is always there, just as God is the source of the 5 elements Mula Bandha is the source of controlling the mind.”
He also added if mula bandha is engaged properly then all of the bandhas will follow in the same manner.

So thats it: Mula bandha demystified in simple terms. Really the only way to get, it is to practice it. Once you begin to feel the upward suction from the pelvic floor through the torso in downward facing dog you will know you are on the right track. Do know that mastering Mula Bandha can take many life times. Have patience and slowly, slowly you will begin to feel it work it’s magic. So good luck and happy practicing.

For some inspiration, here is Mula bandha in action in my Gokulam apartment:

Open Your Mind: Virgo Full Moon

On February 25th the Virgo full moon illuminates a group of stars called Purva Phalguni. It is symbolized by a swimming hammock that harbors the seed of creation. This implies the destruction of old thought patterns and the ability to recreate and learn.
It is a wonderful time to open yourself up to wild creativity and be receptive to learning new concepts and theories. New teachings and methods of living are challenging our old ways of thinking. Virgo is constantly reminding us that we are part of an infinite whole. Try to access the right hemisphere of the brain. The side that sees everything as perfect, whole and one to retain this new cosmic knowledge. The influence of the Sun and watery Pisces helps us to spread new healing techniques and blessings to the world. Move beyond selfishness into unity through compassion so we can evolve spiritually. This will make our lives happier and the world a better place.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the year of the snake. It is a year of metamorphous. The snake encourages us to shed our dark outer layers (all of our fear-based habits that do not serve us). This allows us to emerge out of dormancy into a more fulfilling and abundant life. It seems like everything is pointing toward positive expansion. Jupiter, the guru, went direct on January 30th granting us good karma and is guiding us toward greater physical, mental and spiritual well being.
The new moon occurs on February 9th PWT in coordination with a group of stars called Danistha, known as “the wealthiest.” The new moon is in coordination with Capricorn so feminine power and energy is at a high point during this lunar cycle. It is a wonderful time to set goals that embrace and honor your intuition, adaptability and creativity.
Most new moons are excellent for meditative inner contemplation, however, this new moon ignites communication and telepathy. By engaging verbally with others we problem solve together to find new enriching ways to live our lives. Be highly present and listen. With the help of others, the answers will appear in front of you.
Embrace transformation and allow yourself to emerge into a life of fulfillment.

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The Thousand-Headed Snake

We must use asana to stabilize the body and mind to prepare ourselves for the more refined levels of yoga. Stability increases with consistent practice, determination and dedication. Once we reach stability on all levels, only ease and presence remains. Patanjali states, “posture is when effort ceases and meditation on infinity occurs.” (Sutra 2.47) What is this immersion into infinity? Infinity is the divine light, pure joy or spirit that lies deep within you; it is essentially who you truely are. Patanjali describes this infinity as Ananta. Ananta is universal consciousness.
Interestingly enough, Ananta is another name for the mythological, thousand headed serpent king, Adishesha. He guards all of earth’s divine treasures. His thousand heads symbolize Jnana (knowledge) and omnipresence. Adishesa also serves as Vishnu’s bed or couch according to Hindu mythology. This is of importance because he is often depicted sleeping. Vishnu is the preserver of the universe in the Indic trilogy of Gods. He restores moral order (dharma) and embodies vastness. Vishnu also represents our individual self (Atman). Ananta/Adishesha, his bed, is seen as the perfect yogi. He unites the opposing forces of sthira (strength) and sukham (ease). This perfect union of opposing qualities allows Ananta/Adishesha to always embody and practice true posture or asana.
The great Sage Patanjali is thought to have been an incarnation of Ananta/Adishesha, the thousand-headed serpent king. In Indian tradition, Patanjali is considered the author of the Yoga Sutras, Mahabashya (the treatise of Sanskrit grammar), Nidana-Sutras, a text of Vedic ritual literature, and medical texts that are associated with Ayurveda. (Historians claim that Patanjali is in fact many different persons who lived between 200bc-500bc)
Many yogis bow to the great Guru, Ananta/Adishesha/Patanjali before yoga practice. This is why we chant Vande Gurunam before practice in the Ashtanga yoga tradition. We thank our thousand headed serpent guru for giving us the tools (the practice) that brings stability, happiness and light into our lives.

Om
Vande Gurunam charanaravinde
Sandarshita svatmasukavabodhe
Nishreyase jangalikayamane
Samsara halahala mohashantyai

Abahu purushakaram
Shankhacakrsi dharinam
Sahasra sirasam svetam
Pranamami patanjalim
Om

Translation:
I pray to the Lotus feet of the Supreme Guru who teaches the good
knowledge, showing the way to knowing the self awakening great
happiness; who is the doctor of the jungle, able to remove the poison
of the ignorance of conditioned existence.

To Patanjali, an incarmation of Adishesha, white in color with 1000
radiant heads (in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta), human in
form below the shoulders holding a sword (discrimination), a wheel of
fire (discus of light, representing infinite time), and a conch
to him, I prostrate.

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