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The nature of consciousness

When it comes to understanding our mind and consciousness are we all looking the wrong way?

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave he explains that we are all trapped in the cave of our own consciousness. That is to say everything of which we are aware occurs inside of consciousness. Everything that is outside of consciousness, outside of the mind, is called by Kant “transcendental” because it transcends our ability to directly access it, as, we are forever trapped inside our cave (minds).

When I read Donald DeGracia’s discourse on the Yogic view of consciousness, a mammoth 12 part essay, which is going to have to be read and re-read as more and more of it sinks in, various things I had read in the past about the state of the Gunas, Jungs ‘The archetypes and the collective consciousness’ and even William Blakes Doors of Perception started to make more and more sense.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through the narrow chinks of his cavern

– An extract from Blakes Doors of Perception in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793).

Perhaps the most interesting realization is that most of us are looking at the movie screen, the shadows projected onto the wall of our cave, rather than looking back at the projectionist. You can look back though. Anytime you stop and think about why you are feeling a particular way, why you are attracted to something or someone, why you just said something in anger. Those moments of contemplation are glances at your real inner self.

So get a mirror out and start checking what’s behind you more often!

Check your mirrors
Check your mirrors

You might also like some of the other posts on the nature of consciousness that I’ve posted previously;

 

 

Eastbourne’s first Yoga Show

I was lucky enough to run two micro-workshops at Eastbourne’s first Yoga Show. We covered headstand, handstand and arm balances like Crow, Side Crow, Crane, shoulder press. Lots of fun with very courageous fellow yogi’s and yogini’s.

Thanks everyone for such an enjoyable day sharing my practice with you. Can’t wait to do it again.

The world is what you make it – make it awesome :)

This year I have been very lucky, very lucky indeed as I have spent nearly seven weeks in Dubai since the start of January. Initially I was sceptical largely thinking of the downsides. Concrete jungle, building site, too much money in one place, hookers, expat wankers, and all that jazz. So I made plans to mitigate the perceived downsides. It only took two items. First Skype so I could talk to my family easily and keep in-touch while I was away. Second, I found a fantastic Yoga studio (Urban Yoga in Business Bay) and went there almost every evening. The result? Happiness, amazing new friends, significant progression in Ashtanga, backbends, and arm strength and several epiphanies (more on those in two longer posts) about my yoga practice plus food on the table back at home and some epic business opportunities.

The world is what you make it. Don’t dwell on the past, on negative perceptions, and the draw backs of your situation. Set your intent, and get stuck in!

Namaste and heartfelt thanks to everyone I met at Urban Yoga. xxxx

Some of the amazing crew at Urban Yoga <3 you all
Some of the amazing crew at Urban Yoga

What is Yoga?

What is Yoga? Yesterday I overheard a conversation between a yogini and a yoga teacher. The teacher had just mentioned that there would be a lovely set of yoga workshops coming up in the near future. It really have me pause to think. Here’s how it went:

Yogini: “Is it all Yoga though?”

Teacher: “There might be come philosophy as well. You can ask at reception.”

Yogini: “Well I wouldn’t want to pay for a workshop if it wasn’t all Yoga!”

I will admit to being pretty shocked as for me the physical practice of asana is only a small component, although very enjoyable, part of the practice.

I find the philosophy, as detailed by Patanjali, and especially the Upanishads fascinating. Advaita Vedanta especially resonates with me.

What would that Yogini do if she was injured and couldn’t practice ‘yoga’ for six months? She could still practice pranayama and meditation.

My personal belief is that we should push our edges in everything we do, and do it deliberately with real focus. In our physical practice, spend more time doing the side that’s more difficult for us to get the bind or deeper stretch, don’t always do the side you’re ‘best’ on. If you never do pranayama, start. If you never meditate, start. If you’ve never read about the five Niyama’s of Yoga give yourself 20 minutes and have a read .

What do you have to lose? Why not experience something new? Don’t let your ego get in the way of your physical, mental and spiritual development it’s just trying to keep you under its control, bound by the senses and comfortably asleep in Maya.

Wake up and experience your true nature, even for a moment. Sat Chit Ananda.

The physical practice of asana, on their own, is not 'Yoga'
The physical practice of asana, on their own, is not ‘Yoga’

 

Voodoo Flossing

Voodoo Flossing is an amazing mobility secret that along with fascia release (by massaging the muscle fascia to free it’s movement and increase end-range mobility) can do wonders for your mobility.

Today I visited some of my best friends and I was asked if I could help with a knee problem. For a moment my mind blanked out as I was struggling to deal with the fact someone hadn’t asked me a ‘why does my computer do this?’ type question! Yesss… freedom is mine!

So my friend works with small children and spends an inordinate amount of time on her hands and knees picking their toys up, picking them up, and generally doing several miles of crawling a week. Recently when she places one of her knees on the floor she gets a very sharp intolerable pain that presents as if it’s on the surface of her patella (knee cap).

I’m thinking that either it’s a little flap of cartilage that’s causing the pain, in which case it’s most probably a case for the doctors and referral for a knee arthroscopy. She did say it feels ‘gravelly’ so perhaps it’s just a build up of detritus in the joint. By detritus I mean ‘hinge dust’ and that’s where ‘voodoo flossing’ comes in.

If you find a really OLD door with iron hinges you will notice a pile of dust and metal shavings under the hinge. This is the dust of years and years of door swings. That pretty much explains what goes on in your hinge joints. So, how can you clean all that junk out of your joints? Compression and then an inflow of blood to the compressed area. Here’s a video that explains how you can use yoga bands (or an old inner tube) to compress the joint and when you release the band ‘floss’ and clean all the junk out of your joint as the blood rushes back in.

Enjoy 🙂

 

Mayurasana (Peacock) pose

Mayurasana (Peacock) pose is a hand balance that’s quite fun to play with. You are meant to balance your body parallel to the ground but you can play with different levels of elevation with your feet and even fold the feet into full lotus (Padma Mayurasana).

Mayurasana (Peakcock Pose)
Mayurasana (Peakcock Pose)

Steps

Hands to the floor: Start in a kneeling position, then move your knees apart. Place your arms between your legs, bringing your elbows in close to your abdomen. Next, place your hands flat on the floor with your wrists together (in the picture above I think I had a slight gap between my hands). Your fingers are pointing back towards your body. Your arms are going to be your support with your elbows being key to the balance. They need to be firmly connected to your torso.

Extending: With your elbows and hands firmly in place stretch one leg and then the other straight out behind you. Your weight should now be resting on your hands, toes and forehead (all touching the ground).

Lift: Raise your head and shift your weight forward and with active legs lift your feet. If you perform the movements slowly, you will raise your legs without effort. Practice for 3-5 sets for 10-15 seconds until you really feel the balance. You can increase the lift duration to 30+ seconds with practice.

You can actually drop directly into Mayurasana from lying on the ground if you’re strong enough. Simply wriggle your hands under your body, position your elbows and lift. You can try doing that if you have trouble with the instructions above. Women can find this pose a little more tricky as their anatomy can get in the way and may need to position the elbows on the edge of their ribcage which can require more strength to hold.

Once you’re used to the balance play around with the elevation of your legs and see how high you can reach with your feet without face-plant-asana’ing your head into the floor 🙂

Namaste

Padma Mayurasana
Padma Mayurasana

 

Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow) Pose

Ah, how I love hand balances and head stands. Parsva Bakasana or Side Crow is actually surprisingly attainable as long as you can twist to your side and get your hands down to the ground while crouched. Practicing Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) will help with the twist (remember to lengthen your spine and exhale whenever you need to twist).

<img class="wp-image-110 size-medium" src="https://i0.wp.com/www.bodyandmind.training/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/10372547_1467865006785929_1548622312219819441_n-300×225.jpg?resize=300%2C225" alt="Side Crow Pose" srcset="https://i1.wp.com/www.suspiciousyogi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/10372547_1467865006785929_1548622312219819441_n.jpg?resize=300%2C225 300w, https://i1.wp.com/www.suspiciousyogi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/10372547_1467865006785929_1548622312219819441_n donde comprar viagra barcelona.jpg?w=960 960w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

Side Crow Pose

Steps

  • Start from Mountain
  • Fold forward so that your hands are touching the ground.
  • If you can’t reach, don’t stress, bend your knees until they do.
  • Now crouch down so your knees are bent and your hands are flat on the floor in front of you. Most probably keep on the front of your feet (on the pads).
  • So now your hands are almost as if you’re going to go into Crow.
  • This sets the width you’re looking for but, we are going to move them to one or the other side.
  • To do this you twist your body to move your hands to the side.
  • If you did your right side you would want your right arms hand in front of your left knee (so the upper part of your arm rests against the folded knee), and your left arms hand on the floor level with your hip. The upper part of your left arm rests against your hip.
  • The contact between the upper arms and the folded knee and hip are key for this pose to work. When you bend your arms to come into side crow it’s these parts that act as the pivot and lifting point for the rest of your body.
  • In the crouching position, ensure every finger has your weight spread across it and your hip and knee is in firm, solid, contact with your upper arms.
  • Ready for the air lift? Slowly shift your weight forward while keeping the left leg stacked on top of the right. Your feet should be flexed. As you bring your weight forward you fold your arms towards 90 degrees. Practice finding the balancing point.
  • Once you’ve lifted off and are balanced you can play with your top most leg by slowly sending it out behind you. Then you can unfold your lower leg and stick it out at 90 degrees of your torso.

Welcome to full side crow!

Here’s an example video

Kukkutasana – Cockerel/Rooster Pose

You should be comfortable with padmasana (lotus pose) before trying Kukkutasana – Cockerel/Rooster Pose. If you are not able to fit your hands between the legs do not force them, use utpluthi (uprooting) instead (hands to side of hips rather than threaded through between the thigh and calves) or I suppose you could use a little oil!

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Try to keep your back straighter than this. I was tilted forwards because of the base I was balanced on.

 

Steps

  • Start sitting in Dandasana (staff pose), with your legs extended in front of you, and your feet together. Keep your spine straight, and the abdominal engaged.
  • Inhale, bend your right knee and place your right foot on top of your left thigh. You can use your hands to help get your foot in this position. Then bring your left foot on top of your right thigh.
  • Now bring your arms through the space between your thighs and calves. and place your hands firmly on the floor beneath you, spreading your fingers out.
  • Exhale, press down into the ground and raise your body up using the core strength.
  • Gaze forwards, or to the third eye
  • Hold for a few breaths before sitting back down. With practice you can gradually increase up to a minute.
  • To exit, exhale, sit down and unfold you legs.

Other simply astounding variations exist in the advanced ashtanga series. Check out the amazing Jessica Walden‘s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqdCW00CmBk

You’ve got to love Yoga. There’s ALWAYS more to learn 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOSRsBegcTk

Yoga teacher certification, ethics, and the yamas and niyamas

yaay

Yoga teacher certification is a funny thing. In the case of Yoga we should be governed by the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (obligations) and not some arbitrary ethics requirement of our certification authority. Speaking of which… as a teacher accredited by Yoga Alliance UK, I agree to uphold the ethical goals set forth in the following Code of Conduct:

  1. To ensure that safe and effective teaching is available to the public, including ability to make a Health and Safety and Risk Assessment according to the current requirements.
  2. To provide the public with access to safe and effective yoga teachers.
  3. To maintain and uphold the traditions of Hatha Yoga. To teach yoga from the experience of these traditions and to disseminate these teachings to anyone, from any background, who earnestly desires to follow these traditions.
  4. To teach safely in alignment with the principle of asanas and meditation and avoid physical or psychological injury at all times.
  5. To determine any health issues for existing or new students in a sensitive and discrete manner, including recognising when to refer the student to their GP for permission to participate and to be able to maintain an understanding of the limits of the student’s competence.
  6. To uphold the integrity of my vocation by conducting myself in a professional and conscientious manner and by understanding the safety issues surrounding my approach to yoga teaching by including an on-going assessment of the safety of my own teaching, including ensuring the safe, clean and comfortable environment where I teach.
  7. To acknowledge the limitations of my skills and scope of practice and where appropriate, refer students to seek alternative instruction, advice, treatment, or direction.
  8. To appropriately deal with accidents or emergencies, including familiarising myself to the policy of my employer, or where this does not apply, an appropriate policy needs to be formulated and adhered to. As part of this policy I will need to maintain an Accident Register and ensure it is kept updated.
  9. To encourage diversity actively by respecting all students regardless of age, physical limitations, race, creed, gender, ethnicity, religion affiliation, or sexual orientation.
  10. To respect the rights, dignity, and privacy of all students.
  11. To treat information about students with strict confidence, which includes both verbal and written information.
  12. Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment.
  13. To follow all local government and national laws that pertain to my yoga teaching and business.
  14. To abide by The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
  15. To ensure compliance of Yoga Alliance UK requirements and uphold a strong moral obligation.
  16. To not engage in any conduct or activities on- or off-duty that reflect discredit on Yoga Alliance UK, or which tend to bring Yoga Alliance UK into disrepute, or impair its efficient and effective operation.

In addition I must also (and do) have certified and current first aid skills, public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance.

Somewhat shockingly there are NO requirements spelt out clearly that require me to follow the core principles of Yoga. It turns out someone else noticed this a long time ago. The author (Leslie Kaminoff) of the amazing Yoga Anatomy (get it!) wrote a post on this exact topic and why she no longer describes herself as a ‘Yoga therapist’ anymore. Interestingly she was involved in founding the pre-cursor to the International Yoga Alliance, Unity in Yoga. Here’s an extract from her article back in 2008 (fifteen years after certification in yoga became ‘a thing’):

It is not enough to say that you are supporting and establishing high standards for Yoga teacher training and certification. That’s the easy, obvious part. You must also state clearly, consistently, and defensibly what you are not supporting, on ethical grounds. Yoga ethics are very clear on this point. The teaching concerning what we should avoid (yama) is presented before the teachings about what we should pursue (niyama). Furthermore, the very first injunction is ahimsâ, the avoidance of doing harm. In the context of professional standards, what exactly must we avoid harming? The process of teaching Yoga. What is the vehicle for this process? The student-teacher relationship.

Therefore, the professional “yama” I adhere to is “I avoid engaging in any action that will lead to third-party interference in the student-teacher relationship.” My “niyama” is “I support and protect through my actions the sanctity, integrity, and freedom of the student-teacher relationship.”

Those statements are the core of my ethical and practical values as a practitioner, and it would be impossible for me to overstate their importance in my life. They reflect fundamental principles that tell me which actions to avoid, and which to pursue. Without consciously identifying those principles and validating their truth through my life’s experience, I could easily become lost and confused. My actions could proceed from fear and ignorance, and I could end up doing harm to myself, my students, and my profession.

Read more here

Tight shoulders in Yoga?

If you suffer from tight shoulders or shoulder pain when practicing Yoga here are some tips:

Keep these actions in mind in pretty much any yoga pose.

1. Plug your armbones into their sockets. Seems reasonable, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that in yoga poses, you almost always extend the arm out of the socket trying to get more reach. (Go ahead, try it. Reach your arms overhead and note where your shoulders are. Now, keeping your arms up, drop the shoulders back into their sockets. Ah.)

2. Clavicle squared. Another cue that seems minor until Ippoliti demonstrates the popular stance of reaching your shoulders way down, almost to sloping, so you have this huge extension in the neck. Instead, allow the shoulders to lift a bit toward the ears (bet you’ve never heard that in yoga class!) so that you have a little hollow in your armpits, and then, engaging the rhomboids, slide the scapula (not shoulders) back and down as the chest fills up bright.

3. Fill your waistline up. In many poses (standing poses and inversions, as examples) we often have extreme extension in the waistline that compromises the shoulders (try the arms overhead stretch you did a few seconds ago. Do you feel the subtle crunch of the shoulders?). Instead think of allowing the side waists to fill up (your low back will puff out ever so slightly), so any extension truly comes from the core of the body. You’ll create more space for natural movement of the shoulder girdle (as well as more natural space in your low back) as a result.’

http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2014/04/shoulder-tightness-pain-or-injury-heres-the-yoga-that-helps.html

Consciousness Deep Dive

Are you ready for a deep dive on consciousness? The more conscious happenings/moments the more your perception of time slows down.

Amazingly the Dalai Lama sent monks to a US university so that their brains could be monitored for moments of consciousness and they had significantly more ‘haps’ than other individuals. (I love this stuff because I always thought that consciousness was a function of the universe at a quantum level. My thinking was that it might be standing waves in the quantum foam).

Anyway it’s a fascinating discussion by two very bright people.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erSd5xep30w

Stuart Hameroff, MD is a physician, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In medical school, Hameroff became interested in intelligent behavior of microtubules, protein lattices within brain neurons and other living cells. Hameroff developed theories of microtubules as self-organizing molecular computers, and teamed with Sir Roger Penrose on the controversial Penrose-Hameroff “Orch OR” model of consciousness. Based on quantum computing in brain microtubules, Orch OR connects brain activities to the most basic level of the universe — fundamental spacetime geometry at the Planck scale. At that level, Penrose has proposed Platonic information guiding or influencing conscious choices and perceptions. Orch OR could be seen as providing a plausibility argument for non-locality and spirituality. Hameroff is also involved with clinical trials of transcranial ultrasound (TUS) for mood and cognitive dysfunction, and co-organizes the biennial interdisciplinary conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness.’

Deepak Chopra speaks and writes regularly about metaphysics, the study of consciousness and Vedanta philosophy. He is a philosophical idealist, arguing for the primacy of consciousness over matter and for purpose and intelligence in nature – that mind, or “dynamically active consciousness”, is a fundamental feature of the universe.

In this view, consciousness is both subject and object. It is consciousness, he writes, that creates reality; we are not “physical machines that have somehow learned to think…[but] thoughts that have learned to create a physical machine”. He argues that the evolution of species is the evolution of consciousness seeking to express itself as multiple observers; the universe experiences itself through our brains: “We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself”. He opposes reductionist thinking in science and medicine, arguing that we can trace the physical structure of the body down to the molecular level and still have no explanation for beliefs, desires, memory and creativity.

Wrist Pain in Yoga

Wrist pain in Yoga is fairly common when you first start to practice but also if you spend time in arm balances.

When I started doing yoga I noticed my wrist would hurt sometimes after doing down but over time my wrists became ‘stronger’. Even after two years practice I still notice they can be sore especially after doing arm balances on a yoga mat or carpet. When your palms are on a soft surface the ‘heel’ of your palm sinks into the material and that reduces the angle between the back of your hand and your arm and takes you into hyperextension. If you do the balance on a firm surface (wooden floor etc.) that doesn’t happen and helps your joint. Various nerves run through the hands as well and unless you retain the natural hollow of your palm you can also pinch the carpal tunnel and compress the nerves there.

So… be NICE to your hands! Here’s a short article on how to look after your wrists when practicing yoga:http://yoganonymous.com/floating-flying-and-balancing-a-guide-to-yoga-wrist-care-yoga-proper-alignment/

Namaste

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