Where are you all at this week? Upon reflecting last week on ‘Why do you practice yoga?’, have you been witness to the ever-changing answer to that question, or have you stayed quite fixed on seeing its benefits to you in your life?
Answers on a postcard.
This week, I have been geeking out on some advanced Anatomy studies and thinking about ‘touch’ as a form of healing and communication.
I have noticed the healing power of it through the basic needs in myself and my family. I grew up in a very affectionate family, offering lots of hugs and kisses to one another and we are often still this way. It works for me, and I see that directly from that way of knowing, I offer that to the ones I love too, as a way of demonstrating that love, connection. I see that now I also like to give and receive that physical affection to ones that I don’t know or love. I notice the varying qualities that arise from that. I notice the associations with touch. I notice how it can feel in my body, to give and to receive. I have explored this with friends and with colleagues in suitable ways too, and it’s been incredibly nourishing for many reasons. It is important through touch to feel safe, it is also important through touch to welcome it. The way that we touch is so vast in its various ways and we don’t all receive it in the same way. We also can’t expect that someone wishes to be touched and/or will accept the offering as the way that you intended. So this is about building relationship. This is about developing a meeting place somewhere in-between, in term of the flow of energy that is the ‘coming together’.
We can consider the role of the yoga teacher to invite a ‘coming together of yogis’ and to facilitate a safe space, enable connection to occur in the student to the self and to aid students in accessing that place of alignment and centre, through the practice of yoga and of touch, sometimes, in many forms. We think about this mostly as physical touch. But is touch just physical? We walk in to the space of a yoga practice, bringing with us all of our past experiences. If I ask you for your consent to touch, it may trigger traumas, it may ignite passion, it may have no reaction at all, but the simple feeling of touch itself can sometimes have that ability to surprise us in being able to either awaken, show up in our bodies or to release, a feeling of relief and that ‘letting go’ that we also explored last week. We are often then left feeling alive!
“Send me in to space and cut me free.” - sings Maggie Rogers.
This week, again, so much is happening in the skies above us. Depending on where your rising sign is currently, will depend on how it translates for you. Mine is in Virgo, focused on aspirations and the fearlessness to meet these. It couldn’t resonate more loudly, as I am presented with all at once, being made to figure it all out. Like a fork in the road, which direction do you take… ?????? Scorpio has a lot to do with this. We need to stay connected to our centre to find the direction through groundedness, so it can all come together and meet how it is meant to.
This is where we can begin from a yogic perspective, to think about the Vayus, the directions of energy in the body, for which there are 5. The meeting place we can consider through the vayus is Samana Vayu. This is where you can unite the upward- and downward-flowing energies at the navel center to awaken and enhance samana (the prana of transformation).
prana vayu - a field of inward and upward moving energy.
apana vayu - a field of downward and outward moving energy.
The one in-between is Samana Vayu- the middle breath.
“Active at the navel center—midway between the realms of prana vayu in the chest and apana vayu in the pelvis—samana vayu is a concentrating, absorbing, and consolidating force. Its main function is assimilation of prana in all its forms—like a power station, samana collects energy absorbed through breath, food, sensory perception, and mental experiences and processes it to empower all aspects of life.” - Yoga International.
In our bodies, healthy Samana shows up as strong digestion, vitality, and balance at every level. Unhealthy Samana struggles with assimilating and digesting not only what we physically consume but also our mental and emotional experiences.
If we acknowledge the need and power of the energetic body for transformation, we put our focus for activating samana vayu, on our manipura chakra (naval centre). This is also related to the element of fire. The navel centre is essential to hatha yoga! It is the hub of pranic energy and vitality, which aims to increase prana and transform the patterns of pranic flow in the body.
Asana practice in particular is designed to draw downward-moving apana up to the navel center, and upward-moving prana vayu down to the navel center, uniting these two opposing energies to awaken samana. This integrating action strengthens the body, balances the mind, and stabilizes instinctive urges like hunger and sex so we can more easily regulate them. It gives us the clarity and courage to truly see ourselves, and the motivation and power to transform our habits and karmic tendencies.
When we unite prana and apana at the navel center we expand samana and awaken the sushumna nadi, the central energy channel. This channel of energy that runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head is where we focus energetically to achieve the state of yogic bliss: perfect absorption of the mind in the state of samadhi.
Today my practice with my senior teacher was pranayama focused, it was so refreshing. It is not only asana that is crucial for awakening the naval, but the use of the breath. Pranayama is breath control. My practice, that came directly from observing what was needed in the field of the room, was powerful. As we each entered the space, carrying our morning, evenings sleep and all those lifetimes of experiences on to the mat, we began in stillnesss and from one breath practice to another, we spent 2 hours in breath work. Bliss came, as through a form of tantric practice called Nyasa, i showed up and a woke up. This is a practice that involves welcoming the divine in to your body. It is using mantra and touch. This ‘touch’ however can be through the minds eye, inviting you to chant the mantra silence and through the mind with the focus on specific body parts.
So we return to touch… where we can think about those times where something really ‘touches us’?
Were all those times through an action of physical touch or were some of those times using the figure of speech and actually used to describe the sensation that remained after the experience that ‘touched you’ ‘was ‘touching’. We could say, that this action of touch can also be a profound action that occurs through us in ourself. We could say how beneficial it is to both touch our own skin, but to also show up in our practice of yoga, through the tools of breath, asana, meditation and sometimes the element of sangha coming to practice together, to literally touch the self from the inside.
As we awaken the self through the coming together of our pranic vayus, directions of prana flow, awakening our central channel, we invite it to awaken the self, the mind, the state of being in the world that ultimately leaves us feeling deeply and seductively intimate with the self and all manifestations of reality, without even being ‘touched’!
This is the stuff of magic, synchronicity, power, bliss, love, divine… it has it all in there. What it requires is the readiness to receive it. it requires some willpower, devotion, concentration, bhakti and commitment.
In class this week, we will move in to repeating some of our pranayamas and kriyas, and work within samana vayu intention, ending in a sweet yoga nidra. Yummy. In asana we can direct the flow of apana and prana to the navel center in standing poses, stoke samana with twisting poses, strengthen the structural support for this region in a backbend, and activate samana in a seated forward bend. Through a focused practice, using good alignment, breath and mental focus, as well as lower belly activation, drawing apana and prana together, can also be experienced as an inward feeling of the mind and a sense of integrated inner space extending from the pelvis to the head. You may experience sensations occur over the whole body, as you ignite touch points in the system. We will explore touch using the hands to move our body parts, feeling the invisible strings on our limbs, from our ribcage, as we breathe and open up our entire system from the inside out.
So lets touch. Touch our own midline. Our presence in the world. Touch where we are in truth and with kindness.
See you in class.
TUES PM 19:30-21:00 Matterwholefoods, bS5
WED AM 10:00-11:30 Yogasara, BS6
BOOK ON! Pregnancy Yoga 6 week Course starting in November! Details on the Birth Yoga i-D section of the website. http://yoga-id.co.uk/birth-yoga/ Also now available to Book on Move GB.