Saturday, February 07, 2009

Muladhara Affirmations

I have several resources that recommend various affirmations for the muladhara chakra. Using these affirmations, I used a red pen to write out the affirmations, slowly and very aware of each stroke of the pen. I repeated the affirmation after I finished writing it and repeated the statements ten times. According to several books I’ve read it is also helpful to write affirmations with your non-dominant hand. I am right handed so I tried to write a few of these affirmations with my left hand. By writing, speaking aloud, and moving the pen very slowly and consciously, you are weaving together various kinetic forms at once—visual (color of the ink, the words themselves), tactile (the pen, the movement of the strokes), and audio/oral (speaking the words aloud, listening to the words as they are spoken). Do this with ease and patience, as if you were writing a prayer. Do this as a form of meditation. Make it a lovely experience. (I also recommend, because the muladhara is connected with the sense of smell, that you light some incense or a scented candle—preferably a red candle.) Here are the affirmations I used:
I am grounded and balanced.
I am safe and secure. I have the strength to endure the upheavals of life.
I embody courage.
I draw sustenance from the world around me.

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Muladhara Meditation Practices

In addition to the chanting (about which I previously blogged), I am doing a pranayama practice, alternate nostril breathing. This practice is said to clear the channels. Watch the short video below to get an idea of the basics of this practice.

In addition to the above, a do a mula bandha lock on the breath retention. In other words, when both nostrils are closed. To do the mula bandha lock, you simply tighten the muscles in the groin area as though you were trying to stop urine from passing. For women, this should be somewhat familiar as it is similar to Kiegel exercises. (Even if you are not comfortable with the pranayama practice, you should try to learn and practice this lock as it has many health benefits!) Another useful form of meditation practice is a walking meditation. When doing a walking meditation, first stand in Mountain Pose and allow yourself to feel deeply rooted, your breath to slow down, and your body to feel light, elevated, yet grounded. Then, when you are ready, on the inhale slowly step your right foot forward. (Energy rises up the right side and down the left.) Shift the weight from your left to your right foot and then exhale as you lift your left foot. Place your hands gently folded over the lower abdomen or, if you prefer, in anjali mudra, palms together at the heart, thumbs touching the breast bone. This is a very slow movement. You will feel the very subtle shifts in your balance, how your foot embraces and connects with the ground. For this reason, it is best to do this practice barefoot, if possible. Close the practice as you would any meditation. Here is a video of Thich Nhat Hanh describing the walking meditation. Notice how slowly he moves from foot to foot. Listen to your breath. Move more slowly or less as your natural breath defines for your body.

And last but not least, although not technically a meditation, I suggest giving yourself a foot massage. Because the muladhara is connected with the sense of smell, use a scented oil or lotion if possible. (The following essential oils/aromas are associated with this chakra: cinnamon, cedar, bergamot, sandalwood, vetiver. When using essential oils be sure to blend a few drops with a carrier oil as they are highly concentrated and most need to be "diluted" to be safely used.) Although this is not a meditation practice, try to do the massage mindfully. Think of Mary Magdalene annointing the feet of Jesus and in a similar manner bless your own feet.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Muladhara Yoga Series II

All images are taken from yogajournal.com. I am using the English translation for the names of the asanas/poses. Remember that throughout the series, the focus should be on the muladhara/root chakra. Holding each asana, focus your breathing and energy on the chakra. Move from one asana to the next slowly and mindfully. This series of asanas should be done with deep awareness and focus. Pay attention to your breathing and make adjustments as needed. Begin in Mountain Pose, pointing the fingers downward. In spite of the seeming ease of this pose it should be quite active with the crown of the head reach up and away while the feet do the same rooting deeply into the ground. Allow the breath to deepen and slow down. On an inhale, raise the arms and sink into Chair Pose. You can leave the arms parallel to the floor or raise them alongside the head. You can make this a dynamic pose, raising the body and lowering the arms on the inhale and lowering again on the exhale. Repeat through a series of slow, deep breaths. Then hold the pose static for the same number of breaths. Spread the feet about four feet apart. On an inhale, place hands on the hips, elbows pointing back behind you. On the exhale, lower the torso in Wide Angle Forward Bend. If you want, after you have held this static pose, walk the hands forward into a Wide Angle Downward Dog and hold. Inhale and slowly roll back to a wide stance. Turn the left foot in at a 45 degree angle and the right foot out towards the head of your mat. Bend the right knee and raise your arms to the sides perpendicular to the floor. On the exhale, bend the knee and move into Extended Side Angle Pose. You can choose to now move through all of the following exercises on one side of the body or repeat the above on the other side. With your left foot turned in and your right foot pointed to the head of the mat, on an inhale raise arms perpendicular to the floor. Hinging from the waist, exhale and lower the right hand to the floor (or block/shin) into Triangle Pose. Don't forget to breathe deeply, focusing your inhalation toward the muladhara chakra. On an inhale, come out of Triangle Pose and turn your left foot to face the the head of the mat, still keeping the legs wide apart. Place your hands on your hips and on the exhale bend your right knee until your thigh is perpendicular to the floor (without the knee extending beyond your ankle!) and on the next inhale raise your arms above the head. (You can also choose to keep your arms on your hips.) Hold Warrior I for the same number of breaths as before. Lower the arms as you turn your torso and shift the left foot to 45 degrees into Warrior II. Sink into this powerful pose, focusing your breath on the muladhara and rooting deeply and solidly through your feet. On an exhale, circle the arms and torso to face your right foot and turn the left foot to face the front of the mat into High Lunge Pose. You may choose to keep your hands on the floor or place them on your thigh, elevating the torso. On an exhale, lower your left knee and sink into a Low Lunge. Again, you may choose to keep your hands on either side of the right foot/leg (as pictured above), resting your torso on the thigh, or you may, on the inhale, raise your torso, resting your hands on your thigh or even raise them above the head (as pictured to the right). Lower the left leg completely to the floor as you fold the right leg into King Pigeon Pose. This is a deep stretch and you may need to modify. If this is too uncomfortable, skip to the next asana. I was taught to do this with the forward foot much closer to the groin and I recommend that if you do this pose you do it that way. As pictured to the right, this asana can put a great deal of strain on your hip, knee, and ankle. Before moving out of King Pigeon Pose, lower the torso over your forward leg. This is a lovely stretch and should feel easy. If there is any strain, back off your limit until the stretch feels comfortable. Unfold from King Pigeon Pose and shift your legs into Staff Pose. Hold this pose for a full cycle of deep, slow breaths. If you have worked through only one side of your body you will want to now slowly rise, pause in Mountain Pose to recenter and root yourself before beginning where you left off with Extended Side Angle Pose. I recommend you even return to Wide Angle Forward Bend before continuing with the left side. The Muladhara Yoga Practice I ended with Bound Angle Pose. This practice concludes with the more traditional Corpse Pose. The photograph shows one of several possible modifications. You may not want or need to do any modification. Breathe deeply and, when you have finished the full cycle of breaths, turn over onto your right side and breathe a few more times before sitting up. Namaste!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Muladhara Meditation/Chant

This is a picture of Easy Pose. The woman is meditating with her hands in the traditional yoga (Jnana) Mudra--palms up, forefinger and thumb touching. If you can do a Full- or even Half-Lotus, all the better. If all you can do is sit in a chair, that will suffice.
Sitting comfortably, turn the palms down rather than up with the middle/ring/little finger pointing downward. Root through your fingers and your sit bones. The emphasis is on feeling grounded.
The seed sound for muladhara is LAM and you can hear it at this website. Repeat this seed sound, extending the consonants as you feel led or simply hum on the same key (C).
I hold a mala necklace and count off the number of repetitions as I chant. You may choose to do something similar or just chant for however long you like.
Close the meditation by raising your hands in the prayer mudra (Anjali).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Muladhara Yoga Series I

All images are taken from yogajournal.com. My daughter drew me some wonderful images of various asanas. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to break them into individual drawings and it's confusing trying to use them when there are two per page. *pout* 'Tis a shame because they are quite good! I am using the English translation for the names of the asanas/poses. Remember that throughout the series, the focus should be on the muladhara/root chakra. Holding each asana, focus your breathing and energy on the chakra. Move from one asana to the next slowly and mindfully. This series of asanas should be done with deep awareness and focus. Pay attention to your breathing and make adjustments as needed. Beginning in Mountain Pose, focus on being grounded. Even your fingertips should focus on downward rooting. Breathe slowly and down into the muladhara chakra. I do this for nine deep slow breaths. Raise arms and sink back into Chair Pose. You can leave the arms parallel to the floor or raise them above the head. Focus on the feeling of groundedness, even as your ribs lift from the hips. This can be dynamic, lowering into Chair Pose on the exhale and returning to Mountain Pose on the inhale. I did this for a cycle of nine breaths and then held Chair Pose for nine more breaths. Return to Mountain Pose and then shift into Tree Pose. Raise the elevated foot only as high as you can without compromising your balance. If you can, raise the arms above the head and truly feel yourself rooted like a tree your arms reaching up like branches. Due to the vertigo, I need to rest one hand on a wall or chair to stabilize myself and my elevated foot is lower on my leg. Again, I hold this on each side for a series of nine slow breaths. Again, return to Mountain Pose and slowly squat down into Garland Pose. Remember to always focus on the Muladhara as you move from one asana to the next. I hold each pose for a series of nine breaths and will not note that for the rest of this series. If you have tight hamstrings, you may need to use a rolled up blanket to hold the pose. There are modifications for all of these asanas and I will not make note of them going forward. If you need advice on modification for a specific asana, please leave a comment, email me, or, better yet, go to yogajournal.com for expert advice. From Garland Pose move into Staff Pose. Feel yourself rooted from the crown of your head through your sit bones and into your heels. From Staff Pose, fold forward, extending from the sit bones, into Seated Forward Bend. You can do this dynamically, lowering on the exhale and returning to Staff Pose on the inhale. I did this first dynamically and then held the Extended Forward Bend for a cycle of nine breaths each. From Staff Pose, bend your right foot up to your inner thigh and fold forward into Head to Knee Forward Bend. As before, you can choose to do this dynamically and then hold it static. Extend your bent right leg back into Staff Pose and hold for at least one breath before bending your left leg and repeating the series on the other side. Return to Staff Pose and then spread the legs. Inhale and on the exhale, bend forward, lengthening through the spine from the sit bones, and lean foward into Wide Angle Forward Bend. Again, you may do this dynamically. Sit up and on the exhale, pull the feet together, bending at the knees, into Cobbler Pose. Hold Cobbler Pose and then fold forward. When done doing this either statically (holding for a cycle of breaths) or dynamically, return to Cobbler Pose and hold. Gently lower yourself into Bound Angle Pose. Allow this to be the final asana, resting in this for as long as you choose. When coming out of the pose, first shift into Corpse Pose and then turn over onto your right side, resting for at least three slow deep breaths before rising. Namaste

Monday, February 02, 2009

January 2009 in Summary

January 2009 in Summary I lost 3.4 pounds. Not as much as I had hoped but better than nothing. Rei and I figured out that there’s a reason she hasn’t been getting any driving lessons from Rob—she’s been updating the calendar but she never made it viewable to the public (ie. me and/or Rob) so we didn’t know she was updating. From where we were sitting, she didn’t really want lessons because she wasn’t updating the calendar and from where she was sitting we were blowing her off because she was updating her calendar. Sheesh! Joe came by the house twice, for different reasons. Or was that three times? I forget. It definitely surprised me to see him at all so soon after the holidays. He’s very happy and looking for work. Marc is doing great although there are rumors his store will be closing down. He just transferred stores last year because the one where he was working before closed down and now another one is closing. So much for having a Starbucks on every corner. The one closest to us already closed down and now the next two closest are in danger of following suit. Rob realized that he is lactose intolerant which has thrown our diet into a bit of turmoil. He loves ice cream and would have a large bowl daily. Then he wondered why he was losing weight. He has lost so much weight it is alarming. But now that he’s accepted what I’ve long suspected, he is at least able to eat well. We’re still learning as we go along, however. For instance, he’ll have to buy kosher hot dogs to ensure there is no dairy in the meat whatsoever. We’re both learning how to make this new revelation a part of our daily lives. New Years Eve was typically quiet what with Rob having a gig and my being home mostly alone. I was still sick with that seemingly endless head cold that started at the beginning of December and simply would not quit. I was up at midnight and got a kissy text message from Rob. We watched Barack Obama being sworn in as President of the United States. The whole experience was awe inspiring and I had tears in my eyes throughout. Marc broke the lid of my coffee maker. Specifically the button that makes it possible to pour the coffee once you’ve made it. You can’t brew the coffee without the lid on so I need to replace the lid. Thankfully, he bought me some Chocolate Éclair flavored coffee creamer which almost makes up for the broken coffee pot. Better yet, I have a French press coffee maker. I am not yet accustomed to how much grounds I should put into the French press so at this point most of the cups I make are dreadful but soon I’ll get it right and all will be right in my coffee world. I wrote a short story and a few starter poems (meaning they need more work). The short story definitely has potential but I was too sick to finish it. So really, I only wrote the first few scenes of a short story. Books Read Identical by Ellen Hopkins Burning Down the House various poets Big Towns, Big Talk by Patricia Smith Writing Great Characters by Michael Halperin, Ph.D. Your Truest Self by Janice Lynne Lundy At the Breakers by Mary Ann Hall I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed by Kyria Abrahams Lost Paradise by Kathy Marks Of the above listed, I especially liked Identical and Lost Paradise. I almost want to say that I also liked Big Towns, Big Talk because I adore Patricia Smith so very much. However, it wasn’t my favorite of her books and, as a result, I am not listing it as one of the best for the month. On the don’t bother reading list are At the Breakers and Burning Down the House. DVDs Watched (for the first time) Big Fish Pi Both of these movies are good for entirely different reasons. Pi is strange and the type of movie many people wouldn’t enjoy. I thought it was great. Surprising. And even deeply spiritual. Big Fish is more lyrical and watching it is like watching a fable. It is charming without being gothic grotesque which is how most of Timothy Burton’s movies turn out. So I would recommend both but caution people that Pi is not an easy movie by any means.