Yoga for your feet

The feet are a delicate, perfectly engineered, high-performance piece of sophisticated walking, standing and running machinery. We should really make it a daily routine to show them our love. This is not a blog about foot fetishes by the way … it’s yoga for your feet. I’m going to give you four foot poses (asanas) that will have your feet serving you like happily indentured slaves. So with no further ado, let’s be nice to our foot soldiers.

The feet are the furthest appendage away from our heart, which is the prime source of oxygen, the fuel for our body and feet. So every foot asana (pose) we do will be held for the duration of 3 breaths to send oxygen and fuel from the nose to the toes.

Breathing: Breathe through your nose as you count to 3, then hold for a moment. Breathe out to a 3 count and hold empty for a moment. We will do this simple breathing technique 3 times for every pose.

First Foot Asana: Sit down and clench your feet like you are trying to make fists with your feet. Keep you feet like this for 3 deep breaths (see above), then release. If you get pain, back off … that goes for everything.

foot1

Second Foot Asana: Flex your feet like you’re trying to open them as wide as you can. You’re pulling your toes back in the direction of your shin. Stay like this for 3 breaths, the release.

foot2

Third Foot Asana: Grab your left foot with your right hand. The palm of your hand will be facing the sole of your foot. Put all of your fingers in between all of your toes. Now squeeze a little like your giving a firm handshake. Hold for 3 breaths, then do the other side. Left hand on the right foot, hold firm for 3 breaths. Don’t forget to count slowly to 3 as you breathe in and count slowly to 3 as you breathe out.

foot3

Fourth Foot Asana: You are going to have to get a golf ball. Maybe someone you know plays. It doesn’t matter what brand. You should sit in a chair for this one. It will be easier to do this on a carpeted floor, but you can do it almost anywhere. Put the golf ball on the carpet, then put the center of the sole of your right foot on the golf ball. Move your foot around like you are trying to touch every part of your foot directly on the golf ball. Use a little pressure. As you do this, take 3 deep breaths. Then do the left foot.

foot4

I would do these at least 3 times a week, more if you have the time. Make it a habit and try and do it at the same time every day … and don’t forget to breathe. I know in current society we are spending less time on our feet and more time on our asses. Maybe next time we’ll do some ass yoga. But for now, be cool to your feet and take them out for a walk once in a while.

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Ashtanga Vinyasa with BNS Iyengar – The lost Asana

I went to Mysore, India in 2010 to study with BNS Iyengar. I wanted to study with him because he was my teacher’s teacher (Sri V. Sheshadri), a direct student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois, and a local legend. He is also one of the few Indian teachers still teaching both the western and  Indian community. Plus, a few friends called him crusty and I found that appealing since so many Western teachers are like cheerleaders on ativan.

I was looking for roots and I was looking to learn. BNS teaches a little differently now than I had heard he taught previously. He taught Primary Series in a blazing 55 minutes as a led practice rather than the traditional silent practice I was familiar with. It was sometime brutal and primitive. The way I suspect it was taught 50 or 60 years ago, like I had heard  Sheshadri speak of in 2006.

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I liked that BNS’s  Primary Series was a little different. It was unexpected. When people think of Ashtanga they think of it in one way, never to be altered. I know a lot of people will scream that it IS only one way. I always found this attitude as surprising as I found the conservative and conformist attitude in the punk rock community disturbing. But remember that when Pattabhi Jois was asked by a student,  “you used to teach it this way and now you teach it different, which way is right?” he  said, “the way I teach it now is correct.”

Some differences I noticed with BNS:

On page 1 (above) you will see that the Namaskara A + B are shorter in repetitions than I had practiced with Sheshadri (I will post the Sheshadri cheat sheet from 06′ in the future) or Manju Pattahbi Jois.

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The differences I found on page 2  start with Janu Sirsasana B. It is replaced with what I have heard people call “Open Janu Sirsasana” or Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana nine were you stack the shoulders and open to the side like in Utthita Parsvakonasana. Most interesting was the first pose of column 5 listed as Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana were you lie down put you right arm behind your head – or as BNS would say “surround the head” – and grab your right big toe on the bent leg that is across your chest. I hadn’t see this pose ever before in the 8 years I had been practicing yoga. When I Googled Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana I got 18,000 results for the first pose you see on line 4 of page 2 (above)… not the pose I was looking for. When I couldn’t find it easily, I got very interested in this pose. After asking a couple of people who had studied with BNS longer than me and still getting no info, I found this pose listed as the last part of a three-part pose called Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” (BKS Iyengar is no relation to BNS, but both were students of Krishnamacharya). When I Googled Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in quotes to limit the search to only this pose, I got only ONE result. It is on a page that lists a bunch of asanas (poses) and little else. When I Googled it as Supta Padangusthasana 13, I got 7 results, one of which was Polish and another in  Chinese. According to “Light on Yoga,” Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen is of great benefit for people with sciatica and stiffness in hip joints.

I LOVE that BNS is teaching this pose that the rest of the world has nearly forgotten. This is why I went to study with him To get to the unfiltered, non-westernized, un-corporatized yoga.

I learned a lot in my time with BNS, some good, some bad, just like life.  Like the dark and the light, I see with clarity through my practice ever-shifting  glimpses of samadhi समाधि and the terror of the veil of Maya माया being lifted.   BNS showed me a man who could be gentle and fierce in one movement and one breath.

“Do good, be good. Be good, do good.” ~ BNS Iyengar

Ask a yoga teacher #2 (Surviving Divorce and Break-ups)

Daniel,

Things have not been going very well I’m sorry to say. I never expected to lose my home, my job and my spouse all at one time. I know you went through something similar. You seemed to do OK. Any advice would be welcome as I know you’ve been down this road.

your friend

M

There is no quick fix. Don’t bother looking for one.

Take the first job that is offered to you. Stay with friends then take the first apartment or room to rent that you feel safe in. None of this is permanent.

Stay busy. Say yes to every offer you get to hang out with friends or strangers. Call people if they don’t call you.

Watch comedies and read uplifting books.

Stay busy!

Do everything on that list in your head of things you couldn’t do before this happened.

Somewhere there is a voice inside of you giving you the best possible advice. It’s just hard to hear over the screaming.

If you can, let go and drift.

Float in the stream with your eyes closed.

You are headed in the right direction.

You are at the beginning of an incredible journey. Some of it’s going to suck terribly. But you are going to be so proud of yourself when you look back at this and see how well you fared the storm.

This is an e-mail I sent to a long-time friend. It is not meant to be a substitute for legal or therapeutic advice on the subject of divorce.


Ask a yoga teacher #1: My third eye hurts

Hey Daniel

I just (legitimately) meditated for the first time today. For a while–months, maybe longer–I don’t remember exactly when that I began to notice a slight pressure in the area of the location of the third eye chakra! so I wound up looking into the 7 chakras. Now I’ve been noticing an increase or I should say becoming more intuitively aware and having empath episodes more often. I just was curious to see what you thought of these things.

thanks for reading
cheers

Keith


Congratulations on making meditation a part of your life. When we meditate, we’re doing ourselves and the world a big favor.

I think it is very much human nature to want the unexplainable  explained. I think it is also very much a thing of the west to ask, “can you give me a list of the top ten side effects and experiences that will be coming my way now that I am here?” Which is very helpful in getting us to miss the point of being here. Now.

If you haven’t guessed by now I’m going to take a lot of time telling you I don’t know what it means for you.

Existence is a very personal experience. Our attempts at mediation and moving beyond the physical world will be difficult to explain. I have had other people mention the pressure on the third eye during meditation. When I was meditating under the supervision of Nagaraja S. Pande in Mysore, India, I experienced that same sensation. It was like a finger trying to push it’s way out of my skull. I mentioned this to N.S. Pande and he gave me no explanation. I should make it clear after this experience I still consider my self “Still not Enlightened” and didn’t feel much change in my day to day life besides the general calming from the meditation itself. My friend experienced the same thing and told the head of her Yoga teacher training group and her fellow students, who all told her with great joy that she had activated her third eye. (I think developing the third eye is a better way to describe it than opening or activating the third eye.) I remember Harjiwan http://harijiwan.com/ telling me that through meditation and Kundalini yoga, the opening of the third eye will become physical. The skull will actually open in that spot.

 

trepanation, trephination

 

Native Americans had skull opening rituals. People have used power tools to create these openings in modern times. I don’t advise this. Meditation and yoga sound more appealing. But an extra hole in the head seems to give people a sense of euphoria. Is it the extra oxygen now reaching the brain that is now producing these effects? That might explain the power of Pranayama.

Some people have said you may be experiencing the opening of some old, blocked-up energy and not the opening of the third eye itself… just a clearing out of the third eye energy path.  It’s so subjective.

The chakra in the third eye is an interesting place for us to be suddenly having some action. It is said that most of us are living in our first and second chakras and that by moving our kundalini energy up the spine, we activate each chakra until we reach the top (enlightenment?). But if we are reaching our third eye in meditation, how did our kundalini energy jump over the other chakra areas to reach the 6th chakra (called Ajna)? Can we just jump around from chakra to chakra? AND if we already reached the other 5 chakras wouldn’t we know?

Cymry Mongan of Color my Chakras http://www.colormychakras.com/ had this to say:

The Third Eye can only be properly activated when the lower five chakras are balanced and aligned.  If the Third Eye is not linked with the other chakras, we may become obsessed with the search for altered states of consciousness and psychic powers to satisfy our ego. This extinguishes our inner light, moving us further away from Enlightenment.

As far as becoming more intuitive through activation of the third eye/6th chakra, I don’t think it exactly relates to the third eye pressure but is  more an artifact of sitting in meditation daily.  In my opinion our intuition is 100% on, 24/7, but most of us are not listening or have not learned to listen. Which is the point of meditation. Learning to listen. Heightened intuition would be a good sign that your meditation practice is on the right path.

With meditation, we are trying to unlearn and clear the way so we can receive the information that is already available… information we can’t hear because we are already full of so much information. Meditation is not about trying to learn or acquire more. Meditation is a vehicle on a trip to the no mind, or the know mind.

Thanks for your question, Keith. Sorry I don’t have an answer. 😉

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Also from Cymry Mongan of Color my Chakras http://www.colormychakras.com/

The 3rd Eye Chakra is the sixth in the 7-Chakra system.  It is located between and just above the eyes. The Sanskrit word for this sixth chakra is “Anja,” meaning ‘command.’  Working with this chakra gives us a greater spiritual command of our lives.  The color is INDIGO, and the element is Light.  Physically, it is connected with the pituitary and pineal glands, eyes, ears, and nose.  It relates to vision, intuition, intellect, inner wisdom, perception, and mental clarity.