Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chandra Namaskar for a peaceful World Yoga Day!

The Chandra Namaskar or the Moon Salutation is representative of the Ida nadi which is the feminine energy force. On the other hand the Surya Namaskar as we all know dates back to the ancient vedic period and is representative of the Pingala nadi which is the masculine energy force. Surya Namaskar starts from the right and ends on the left warming up the entire body preparing us for the entire day, but through the course of the day ours bodies get extremely fatigued and over stimulated. That’s when the Chandra namaskar walks in.

 The Chandra Namaskar starts from the left and ends on the right, it should preferably be practiced at the end of the day to have a cooling effect on the body as it is only done 4 to 5 times at once .
Both Chandra and Surya Namakar are extremely important and compliment each other since both of them are representative of the two energy forces. Nadis's are subtle energy channels in the body. The  Pingala Nadi  is associated with the solar energy with sun-like nature and male energy force whereas Ida Nadi is associated with the lunar energy with moon-like nature or the female energy force. These energy forces are so powerful that they cannot exist in isolation and need each other to balance out the energy forces just as all the world is made in duality, day-night, hot-cool, high and low, similarly the two forces of energy have masculine and feminine characteristics.

What makes Chandra Namaskar different is the fact that it is feminine in nature. Shakti who symbolizes the feminine principles being power, energy, movement and change is a part of everything around us. Imagine a world without the feminine energy force, everything would stagnate. Where would life begin from?  Who would be sensitive to our problems? will there be emotions like  love, care, affection, warmth ,comfort  gentleness, empathy, patience ? Would anyone understand your  thoughts without you even having to say it? As we all know the only thing constant in life is change and Shakti manifests change. 

Practicing this Chandra Namaskar will bring out the best in best in you, leaving your body and mind relaxed  at the end of a long and stressful day . So remember, next time one wants to relax and have  a good time, a few Chandra Namaskars will do the trick .

Steps of Chandra Namaskar

1. Tadasana: 

Mountain pose-Stand with your feet together, toes, heels and inner   thighs touching each other. A long and deep breath in, taking the hands over the head, interlocking the fingers, index finger pointing up, stretching the hands and lengthening the spin . We will stay in this posture and align every movement with the breath.

         Benefits: Tadasana helps increase height. It stretches the arms, chest, abdomen,
                        spine and legs.

2. Chandrasana

Side stretch pose-Taking a long and deep breath in we will stretch towards the the left making sure the torso stretches to the side and doesn’t tilt forward or backward. There will be a contraction on the left hand side and expansion of the right hand side. Breathing out and coming back to the center the same will be repeated on the right hand side.

  Benefits: Stretching increases the flexibility of the spine, arms, rib- cage.Stimulates 
                  the liver, kidney and spleen function.

3. Uttkata Konasan

Goddess pose/Victory pose: Jumping into goddess pose with the feet 3 to 4 feet apart, the toes will be pointing outwards with thighs parallel to the floor, we will lower the thighs widen the legs keeping the forearms 90 degrees to the arms, back straight , hands firm ,palms facing you .

   Benefits: Strengthens your hips, groin and opens the chest. Strengthens the 
                   quadriceps, arms and upper back.

4. Utthita Tadasana: 

Five pointed star-Straightening the legs, hands parallel to the 
floor at shoulder height.

Benefits: Stretches the sides, improves digestion and strengthens the legs and inner thighs.                                                                                                                                                               
5. Trikonasana: 

Triangle pose- left ankle 90 degree to the left and right ankle 45 degree facing the left hand side, pushing the outer right soul  into the floor for better balance. We slide the left hand towards the left calf ankle or floor, and extending the right hand up towards the ceiling ,making sure that the right and left hand are properly aligned. 

   Benefits: Strengthens and stretches the hips, back, arms, thighs and leg.  It stimulates                     the function of the kidneys.       

  6. Parsvottanasana: 

 Hand to knee pose-Holding the calf or ankles with both our hands we will gradually push 
 the chest forward and touch our nose to the knees making sure we breathe in every 
 movement while doing the asana.

 Benefits: Lengthens the spine and stretches the shoulders,wrists(in the full pose)hips  and hamstrings. This posture improves posture and sense of balance  while stimulating  the digestive system.

7. Ashva Sanchalanasana: 

Equestrian pose-The right leg would stretch back remaining completely straight with left leg bending without changing the position of the legs. Arms will remain straight keeping the hands on the floor, the chest will remian forward, chin up, pushing the hips towards the floor for a deeper stretch in the hips.                                

Benefits: Develops confidence and courage, it massages the abdominal organs 
               and opens out the hip flexors.

8.  Lunge: 

Straightening the right leg, toes of the right foot pointing towards the ceiling with the left leg on the floor; hands in Namaskar Mudra, the body weight will shift from the left leg to the right leg straightening the left leg.      
Benefits: Better balance, Improves glute activation  and strengthens core.

9.    Ashva Sanchalanasana
10.  Parsvottanasana
11.  Trikonasana
12.  Utthita Tadasana
13.  Utkata Konasan
14.  Chandrasana
15.  Tadasana

As you see there is a repetition of the same postures in reverse order as we move up and back to the starting position.

Note: Since we had been sent a request to post a video and a basic understanding of the Chandrama Namaskar, we decided that there was no better day than World Yoga Day to begin a new and beautiful chapter in our Abhyasa.. 

This article has been written by KyogiNi a.k.a. Nikita Singh, who is a Calcutta based yoga professional and practitioner. As a student of Psychology and an avid lover of animals she has a keen understanding into the inner workings of the human mind and heart.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Meditation in Motion


“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.” 
Even Lewis Carroll, when writing Alice in Wonderland knew how complex and contradictory our world can be and sometimes it is impossible to find ourselves in this maze of madness, rushing deadlines and one where things aren’t what they seem to be. Light, it was discovered, is a wave and a particle, darkness is simply the absence of light, non- living objects are not as still as they seem but under the scanner they house  millions of living organisms and every stone itself has gazillion atoms vibrating and spinning around their elliptical orbits at the same time. Dualities and paradoxes exist as an intrinsic part of nature.
It is safe to say that movement in what is stationary can be proven but finding stillness in movement must be experiential. Movement and Stillness may seem contradictory ideas but Einstein himself believed that ‘contradictory values are complimentary’. A most wonderful experience I had recently, confirmed this very theory. A few days ago, I walked into a Tango workshop in the city. Having never ever done the style, I was overcome by apprehension at first, but the minute I firmed my intention to ‘drop’ my doubts, than the energy began to ‘rise’ (note the contradictory values complementing each other). Our bodies were soon in movement but each of us were centered, our minds focussed and calm.
The experience of dancing Tango was nothing short of an exquisite session of meditation which took us to a place where nothing existed and even time did not have a say. Over the next two hours our expert teacher Nicholas Sandez from Argentina, who was brought to Calcutta by the BTangoConscious group from Mumbai, guided each pair to do something truly unique- i.e. Strengthen our Intention. “Intention,” he said, “starts from within,” as he kept his hand on his heart, “but is transmitted through our bodies, our arms,” the arms being the point of connection with our partner in Tango. His words were ringing in my ears long after I floated out of his class with a body that felt incredibly light; and a mind that was as clean as a slate. I was IN the moment. We later heard that he had had a similar session with the children from the Welfare Society for the Blind in Alipore and not only did they enjoy the session but picked up the steps swiftly as, “feeling the movement,” came easily to them. They were glowing with happiness after the session.
The question then arose, how do we float into this exquisite place while dancing rising beyond all calculated steps learnt by rote? Could one really slip into Meditation even while in motion?

What is MIM?
The incredible power of Intention is central to Meditation in Motion or MIM as it is known. Meditation is not simply about sitting stationary with your eyes closed, it is about the core values of the practice which are possibly evoked even when in motion. MIM is a practice which has spanned centuries. To some, it may invoke an image of Shiva dancing on the Kailash Mountains or Krishna rejoicing with the Gopis in Vrindavan. It may point in the direction of the ancient Buddhist tradition of ‘Walking Meditation’ where one walks briskly focussing single pointedly on the breath or one may visualize it as the pristine white twirling Sufi saints over the strains of the rabab. The ancients have established a deep connection between Energy and Movement. Energy arises in the body as a result of thought or Intention and that same Intention drives energy or Prana, creating movement in space. When Energy or the Prana Shakti as it is called, awakens in the body, the body itself is guided deep into Asanas that it thought were beyond its capacity.
Meditation in Motion is simply allowing your external movements to guide you on the inward journey. Movement has been classified by human beings into numerous dance forms, Yogasanas or even martial arts, gymnastics, calisthenics and other practices but the underlying similarity lies in the fact that human beings by all means test their physical limits, their mental will and wish to rise beyond both ultimately. Movement cannot be put into pre conceived boxes and when one discovers that possibility of free flowing movement, we can channel our energies into subtle expressions and gestures, mudras and gestures that unite the mind and body while spilling into our everyday lives keeping us centered amidst the chaos.

How do we start MIM?
Invoking the energy, allowing the mind to move inwards.
1.      Prepare- Start moving Inwards
It is always preferable that one should practice MIM under supervision and under guidance as it allows us to ‘let go’ fully. Most often than not, it is asked of us to keep the eyes closed to avoid getting distracted by external stimuli. Patanjali spoke about Pratyahara in his eight fold path, which essentially means the withdrawal of senses. Thus closing our eyes and simply focussing our breath in MIM brings the mind into the act of Pratyahara, thus, preparing for the meditative state.

2.      Invoke the Energy and Go with the Flow
Once we have taken our awareness to the breath, one should breathe deep to invoke the energy inviting it to take over the body. Let the body respond to the energy from within. Keeping the mind aside, let the energy guide your ever evolving movement. Let there be no hesitation, no ego and an openness with the honest intention to give that movement EVERYTHING you have.  Dance Fitness Exponent Aditya of  Vive La Salsa believes, ‘That when there is a focus, on rhythm , it  allows us to un-focus as a natural flow takes over and then we are truly engrossed, flowing freely, and what we do is seemingly effortless.’ You rise above the movement.

What are the Important things to remember practicing MIM?
1.There are NO mistakes in MIM. Just flow wherever it leads you, steps mean nothing when you are moving towards a higher unified state of mind.
2.Perfection is NOT the goal. On finding inner strength and intuition, one automatically finds a steadiness and perfection in movement which should be the consequence not the ultimate aim.
3.Be free, spontaneous, without any pre-planning, no judgements and open to embracing every feeling or emotion that arises without shying away from it. Just like you dance with abandon when no one is watching, it is the aim of MIM to help you find that dynamic movement with a centered mind so that it would not matter even if a million watched.
4.Trust- Trusting your body to take you though even if there may be times when you feel that you cannot go any further, just let the body move.
5. Dis identification of the body and mind- There may be moments whilst in MIM, you see yourself as third person, neither just as the body nor as the mind or thoughts. MIM helps to dissolve false identity in the same way that deep meditation does. You realize that you are a part of a much larger scheme of things and its humbles you, overwhelms you in a way that makes you see yourself as a large expanse of nothingness and a tiny speck in the universe all at the same time, the seeming contradiction, just like light- you can be both- the wave and the particle.
MIM, some say, ‘is a power non-verbal expression of the sacred.’ This sacred space can be created anywhere, in your room with soft music or when you go running to “clear you head” in the park, or in a Yoga, meditation or dance class. Meditation in Motion allows you to live life, experience all of its challenges, and experience this chaotic, mind-boggling, frenzied world fully, where nothing is real but everything seems to be. We learn to accept the world’s ever-changing nature by find an unseen magic, a steadiness within our heart allowing Meditation in Motion to transform us but only if we let it.