Tag Archive | KalijRayTriYoga

What is Prana?

What is Prana?

By Christine (Citrini) Ware, Ph.D., E-RYT

I was recently aske388834_10150469850622487_1847652528_nd this question by a long-time student. Prana is defined in different ways: energy, life energy, breath. It can also be thought of as qi or chi (concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine). In yoga philosophy, the two great aspects of existence are prana and cit (pronounced chit), energy and consciousness. Prana, as energy, exists everywhere and in everything. It is the energy of creation and the essence of matter and form in the universe. It flows through subtle energy channels called nadis. The breath is one of prana’s subtle material forms. The practices of yoga are designed to increase prana, by encouraging control of its flow and energy-enhancing (or “right”) actions. Prana Vidya is the knowledge of life energy; in other words, it is the knowledge and the application of this knowledge to control the flow of prana for greater health and awareness. Pranayama is defined as breathing practices that control and expand prana.

Prana needs to be experienced. It cannot be understood through explanation alone. This is the reason that yoga is an experiential practice in which self-experiment, self-inquiry, and self-realization are encouraged. The experience of energy, of breath flow, and of activity (prakrti) are ways to experience prana. We can experience prana and gain knowledge of it by tuning in to our experience of energy, breath, and activity, and more particularly, that which increases our energy, breath capacity and flow (svara), and ability to focus. The experience of prana can also be (and often is) quite subtle. For example, it may be possible to feel shifts in energy using hasta mudras (hand mudras) or subtle movements of the body in meditative states (prana kriyas). One may also be able to experience the subtle or energy body in relaxed and meditative states (as if experiencing an aura or energy field around one’s physical body). Kriyavati, the inspiration for the TriYoga Flows and Prana Vidya practices, is the manifestation of kundalini (universal life energy) via hatha yoga.

In class this week, I encouraged students to experiment with changing their breath pacing and the timing of their flows and movements, in order to experiment with and experience these shifts in prana. For example, it can be interesting to see how one’s focus, relaxation, breath, thoughts, and experience of energy change if one comes to Knees to Chest from Partial Recline (1) synchronizing breath and movements of legs and arms versus (2) when one breathes randomly and brings each arm and leg into the posture at a different time. The practices of TriYoga are designed to awaken, enhance, and control the flow of prana through encouraging positive lifestyle choices (including dietary choices), the TriYoga Flows, pranayama (breathing) practices, mudras, practices which focus the mind (pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses; dharana, concentration; and dhyana, meditation), the experience of expanded consciousness (Samadhi), and selfless service (Karma Yoga). Prana is experienced more easily when the body is relaxed, the breath is rhythmical, and the mind is calm; this also expands prana.

The mind and breath are interdependent. Pranayama practices are one of the most powerful ways to control and calm the mind. Thus, yogic teachings maintain that pranayama is one of the greatest yogic disciplines because it brings the breath – and therefore the mind – under control. The more one can increase prana through the breath practices and calm and focus the mind, the more one can balance and increase the flow of life energy.

For more information, please study Kali Ray’s Prana Vidya manual (2008). For this article, with the correct Sanskrit transliteration markings, please download the PDF version from our website. http://www.mindbodyservices.com

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OBSTACLES? How To Remove and Transform Them

OBSTACLES? HOW TO REMOVE AND TRANSFORM THEM

BY CHRISTINE (CITRINĪ) WARE, Ph.D., E-RYT

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~ Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha ~

I have been thinking a good deal about obstacles, our relationship to obstacles, and the “removal of” obstacles lately. I’ve also been considering some recent personal experiences with obstacles and I’ve been frequently chanting the name of Ganapati (also known as Govinda or Ganesha). The Indian/Hindu representation of Ganapati is one of a strong and powerful elephant. This image is designed to remind us that we have the power within to remove all obstacles. (At a later time, I will write more about deities and the various Indian/Hindu representations of the Ultimate). As a psychologist, I frequently work with clients who feel stuck, impeded, and mired in hindrances, obstructions, and difficulties, sometimes for years. I believe it to be “magical thinking” and overly simplistic to think that one could chant to a deity that embodies and represents the removal of obstacles in order to remove all obstacles.

And yet…Kaliji has said numerous times that thoughts follow energy and energy follows thoughts, thereby encouraging us to be mindful of our thought content and the effects of thoughts. The field of interpersonal neurobiology also supports the idea that the brain is in constant evolution, even after our formative childhoods, as our neural pathways continuously respond to and rewire themselves based on our experiences, thoughts, and relationships. Yogic perspective and practice further suggest that if we calm the chatter and reduce clutter, Truth is revealed. It makes sense, therefore, that if we calm our physical-psycho-emotional-spiritual-emotional-energetic self and align it with positive intentions (as well as calming and positively influencing our environment over time) that hindrances and difficulties will lessen (and we will also better deal with those that arise). Here is a simple example: I take a roundtrip 10-minute drive on a regular basis. Recently, I have had several interesting experiences with traffic obstacles on this route. On more than one occasion, I have had a regular radio station playing in one direction of the drive only to find that I encountered every red light and several construction zones where I had to wait for the flaggers to change their “stop” sign to “slow.” In the other direction of the drive (not always the same direction or in the same order), I have had a CD playing with chants to Ganapati/Ganesha, only to find that I had green lights and flaggers indicating “slow” immediately, thus a smooth obstacle-free drive. Again, I believe it to be overly simplistic to think that if we simply have our radios set to “remove obstacles,” we will not encounter any. Yet sound and music can alter our moods and our thinking. It is not inconceivable that the sound vibrations and intentions with which we approach situations make a difference… It also seems that something is an obstacle partially based on how we see it. For example, certain “significant” difficulties that I have faced in the past (for example,depression, self-image problems, negative body image, worry about failure) were truly challenging and seemed insurmountable at times. They have, however, ended up being great teachers and have made me who I am today (as a person, a therapist, and a yoga teacher). I feel grateful to have faced and moved into and through such difficulties.

I also watch how others’ encounter obstacles. During yoga practice, students move to the “edge” of a posture or face negative self-evaluations as they arise. I attempt to support my fellow practitioners in observing these challenges as non-judgmentally as possible, inquiring into “bigger picture” concerns. Is this challenge in the thighs who you are? How far into the thigh stretch is helpful and when does it become hurtful? Is the negative judgment accurate? What is helpful in it and what is worth letting go? Who are you really? Recently I had the chance to observe another yoga teacher’s nervousness when she found that I would be her student, as well as a number of other teachers and advanced yogis. She acknowledged her nervousness, moved into it, and did not let it stop her. By the end of the class, she had released it and she and all of her students thoroughly benefited from the class, relaxing deeply and releasing into yoga (as profound, transcendent union). The experience was transformative. It was also a representation of the way in which obstacles are our teachers. We all continuously learn from ourselves, others, experiences. Gurus (teachers) are everywhere.

Some obstacles and challenges are quite temporary (i.e., traffic), some endure for a time (i.e., a job loss or financial difficulties), and some are much less changeable, perhaps even permanent.  For example, our dear, departed TriYoga sister, Debbi Gardner, faced a major and eventually life-altering cancer diagnosis in the last few years. Even in the face of death, she transformed her own and our lives by demonstrating the ability to accept this final transition, prepare for it, and embody and express love. At her memorial, we were blessed by the gift of love as she had found amazing, beautiful, and deeply touching ways to express it from beyond the grave. Through her perspective and example, her “passing over” was no longer an obstacle or something to be feared, but another journey, a transition, a departing from this to the “other side.” (For more on Debbi’s transition, visit http://www.debsway.net). Since none of us live an obstacle-free life, it seems worth examining our relationship to challenges – large and small – including the final challenge of accepting our own mortality, acknowledging that the embodied life we lead is temporary.

“We are all one, no separation.”
– Debbi Gardner

Postscript:

I thought that I had completed this article last night, saving it for a final re-read this evening. But, of course, contemplation of obstacles has its hazards, particularly if we believe that thoughts follow energy and energy follows thoughts… Perhaps Krishna and Ganapati got together for a good laugh at me today; perhaps this was a cosmic test… Our child-caretaker, who is truly reliable, unexpectedly had a mandatory and important appointment that could not be rescheduled in New York City this morning. My husband, between night shifts and ill with a fever and chills for the last two days, could not be asked to take on the children. I scrambled to find an alternative arrangement for them and shifted my client schedule to make it work. As the day progressed, it became apparent that she would not make it home by midafternoon as I had hoped. In the last moments before yoga class, I thought to ask a regular Tuesday evening student, certified in TriYoga, to teach class for me (thank you, Marj!) so that I could return home and relieve the high school student who had already been caring for the children for 6 hours (thank goodness for his spring break!). As I prepared to leave the yoga studio, knowing my class was in good hands, a small pewter circle next to the figurine of a yogi on my office key chain fell to the ground. I had never paid much attention to this circle. It read “Balance.” I and the students still in the waiting room had a good laugh as I said that I had just lost my “Balance.” As I laughed my way out of the studio/office, I thought how comic it really was that, as I was writing about obstacles, I was encountering a number of them (albeit relatively innocuous ones, thankfully). I also thought to myself that I had handled the challenges of this day remarkably well (especially given how I might have reacted to them in the past): with relatively little stress, doing what needed to be done to manage the challenges as they arose.

Then… as if to truly tease and test me – to speak loudly from within “have you forgotten already?” – I took the children out for dinner. Our meal was going splendidly until, for no discernible reason, my littlest one started screaming. SCREAMING, inconsolable SCREAMING. Nothing I could think of to do would appease him – no soothing, no holding, no ignoring, nothing… (I always say that he must be teething when such incomprehensible crying arises). We finished eating as quickly as possible. Then the older one joined in the screaming and crying. We left the premises, my head hung low in embarrassment at the scene and noise that we were creating. In the car, it continued. SCREAMING. I tried to drive quickly, to get home. I tried music. I tried reaching back to pat them. Nothing, just SCREAMING. Then, not believing for a second that it would work or be any different than the other music I had on, I put on “Gam Gam Ganapataye Namaha.” And the screaming and crying ceased, almost immediately, and did not start up again. WOW! (Have you forgotten already? I guess sometimes we just need to be continuously reminded to truly learn and trust).

~ Jai Ganesha! Jai, Jai Ganesha! Jai! ~

On A Mat Near You: Meet Barb

We are pleased to introduce to you our lovely TriYoga teacher Barb “Bhavani” Knabb.  Here are a few Q&A’s to learn more about our fellow “flow-er”.BarbMeditationWoodsIMG_1530

How did you find TriYoga or did TriYoga find you? Were you practicing yoga before TY?

 
I found TriYoga in West Chester, summer 1996.  I was in physical discomfort from running and an aerobics with weights program.  I knew of yoga, and had wanted a practice for a long time.  I’d tried books, tapes and nothing connected with me.  I felt I needed a person, a teacher.  I knew I was hOMe with my first TriYoga class.  I asked what my homework was & returned the next week & all the weeks since then.
 

Where do you find your inspiration to roll out the mat regularly?

Daily practice is wonderful.  It doesn’t have to be long and involved, I just have to show up.  I felt benefits from practice after a few weeks in 1996, and never wanted to go backwards, towards pain.  I never regret spending time on the mat.
 
What is one of your favorite memories with your practice? with Kaliji?
 
I first met Kaliji in the Berkshires in October, 1999 when she offered a Prana Vidya weekend workshop.  I was dumbstruck when she approached me, and deeply impressed by her warmth & how comfortable and safe I felt in her presence & in the workshop.  That weekend I learned that Teacher Training would be offered to deepen one’s own practice.  I signed up.
 
How would you describe your teaching approach with TriYoga?
 
Hmmm, curious question.  I love Basics.  Follow the rhythm & flow of breath & energy.  Economy of motion and words.
 
What gets you excited about life? Favorite activities outside of TriYoga?
 
I love to walk.  Especially in the woods with my husband, with steady rhythmic breath & pace.  Listening & observing nature.  A walking meditation.
 
I love to cook whole food.  We make our breads & crackers as much as possible.  We grow many vegetables, and eat from the garden as much as we can.  Today’s salad was spinach & lettuce from the garden – in November!
 
This winter will mark 37 years my husband and I have been together.  We started out baking bread and hiking, and we’re still baking bread and hiking.  Living with my husband keeps me excited about life.
 
Interview by Rebecca Swinden