In order to develop a successful yoga practice, you can choose one of two paths: the formal way or the informal, natural, way. You might prefer the sitting way to the unseen, or the lived, way. Whichever you choose depends on the kind of person you are. You must discover what is better for you and what makes you feel more comfortable.
Some of us are sitters, while others are livers! There are those who need or want the formality of sitting, and there are others who want to just be. Some people practice in both ways, which is even better. By the grace of God and by the grace of our own desire, all things are possible. Both paths are rewarding and bring growth. Both ways are easier to follow when you keep your body in shape and learn to control your breath. These practices are your chance to discover the real you and to base your life on a perfect balance of harmony. You will be able to wake from this dream of unreality and walk a life of total reality. These paths are your chance to witness and experience life with new understandings, to know heights of joy and peace and bliss, to see infinity in the finite and oneness in the ten thousand things. It is, indeed, heaven in the now. You can say “Yes!” to your practice and to your priceless inheritance.
Remember that life is a dance. In the beginning, we must follow the steps of others. However, there should come a time when we no longer need to follow others. Living is not a repetitive things; it is ever changing. We too must learn to change. Change to dance your own steps, even learn to lead, if you wish.
By following a non-rigid course, one that is spontaneous to life, we learn to be more surefooted, lighter on our feet. We can even learn to kick our heels high in the air. In the dance of life, some of us will waltz along, some of us foxtrot, some of us jig and twist, some pirouette or do-si-do. Some of us might miss a step and stumble, and that’s okay. Each one of us will complete the dance of life at our own pace, with our own rhythm. We’ll all deserve applause at the end. The only ones who will miss the applause are those who sit on the sidelines; those who refuse to join in the dance of life.
Kneeling Side Kick. Take the same kneeling position as Cat pose, except that your fingers are facing forward. Shift all your weight to your left leg and left arm. Inhale and lift your right leg and right arm out to the side, at hip height. Exhale and lower your leg down. Repeat for the opposite side of your body.
Circle Earth/Gather Clouds (energy). This is the same posture as the relaxed variation of Circle Earth/Gather Clouds, but with a different purpose. This posture meant to relax your body, while this version is meant to energize your body and get your circulation moving. Instead of a gently swaying motion, in this version of the position, you will rock back and fourth and make your arm movements more vigorous.
Golden Tai Chi. Stand with your feet below your hips. Your hands are at about hip height at your sides. Inhale and slowly raise your arms to shoulder height in front of you with your fingers relaxed downward. Exhale by dropping your elbows, and draw your arms toward you so that your hands are at shoulder height. Resume regular breathing. Shift all your weight to your left leg. Step forward with your right foot, heel first, then drop your toes. As you begin the step, your right arm drops to a position slightly in front of your body and your right palm faces down. Your left arm circles up over your head with your palm facing down. Your arm movements should be completed at the same time as your right toe touches the floor. When the movement is complete, shift 70% of your weight to your right leg. Then, shift all your weight back to your left leg. Lift your right foot and return to the starting position, toe first, then drop your heel. As you begin the step, your arms return to the dropped elbow position with your hands in front of your shoulders. Your arm movements should be completed at the same time as your right heel touches the floor. Balance your weight, and lower your arms to your sides. Repeat this movement for the opposite side of your body. Once you have returned to the starting position, inhale and slowly raise your arms out to your sides and over the head with your fingers relaxed. Exhale and slowly lower your arms to your sides. As you bring your arms down, wiggle them as though they were raindrops. Inhale and raise your arms in front, again, with your fingers relaxed downward. Exhale and drop your elbows. Your hands are in front of your shoulders. Lower your arms to your sides, and relax your hands down.
Relaxation/Meditation: Reclaiming Your Inner Self
Anytime is a good time to connect with your inner self. Some of you might think that you are content and in touch with your inner self, that you’re not missing out on what brings you joy.
If this sounds like you, think about the following question. First you need to relax and center yourself. Lie down and release yourself to the floor. Center yourself comfortably, as you slowly lie down. Take a nice deep exhalation to release any the tightness and tension remaining in your body after your postures. Take another inhalation and a full exhalation to make sure that your body is loose and limp, released and relaxed. Softly close your eyes and give out a little sigh, if you wish. Your body likes to hear your sigh and will respond to it by letting go even further. Dwell on each question for a few seconds, then try to answer it as honestly as you can. Remember that the first answer that comes to mind is generally the right one. Your answer will tell you a lot about yourself and what you may be missing. Your honesty will bring your wholeness and happiness. If you are ready, we’ll begin with the questions.
Moving From The Center
In we hold ourselves too stiffly, our lungs do not function properly, and if we slouch not enough air reaches our lungs. When we are healthy, we do not have an upward, pulling tension nor a downward, dragging slackness. We are upright, but relaxed and centered. Our movement is controlled, balanced, even graceful. we can move effortlessly. In complete health, our disposition is also balanced, and we are a pleasure to be around. Outer balance creates inner balance. How many times have you made your body feel good by practicing yoga or by going for a walk? Didn’t you find that you also felt better mentally? Haven’t you found that when you slouched around at home, your mental attitude also became slouched? Finding the happy medium to these extremes of being means concentrating on being centered. you must learn how to move from your center, breathe from your center, and think from your center. This is called the dan tien, or hara. You can call it anything you wish. It all means that you are centered in the lower abdominal area, about two or three fingers below your navel. This is your energy center. Yoga calls the energy that flows through it prana, the Chinese call it chi, and the Japanese call it ki. It is our life energy center. When it is completely active, it allows a one hundred pound woman to left a three thousand pound car off a child which has happened. It is the concentrated energy that can be used to chop cement blocks with a bare hand. All martial arts focus on this area, whether it is Karate, Aikido, Kung-Fu, or Tai-Chi Chuan.
When you go for a walk, try to move from your hip area and from your center. You will find that your walk is more pleasurable and less strenuous. Our body is fairly erect, but as we walk, we tend to lean forward. Have you ever passed a store window and seen the reflection of a hunched over figure and realized it was you? Did you recognize yourself and straighten up right away? Spot check yourself during the day: “How an I standing? How am I moving? How am I breathing?” If you continue to practice this every so often throughout the day, you will soon notice a change in your life. You will become freer, more effortless, flexible, and supple.
When you are centered, you are between heaven and earth. As you move, stand, and think from your center, you unify your body/mind, instead of creating a separation between upper and lower levels. When you live only with the upper or lower part of your body, you’re off center. As you find your life’s balance, you will also find harmony, and harmony is peace.
In reality, we are always in the center, but we simply don’t realize it. Think about where you are sitting at this very moment. There is as much universe to the left of you as there is the right of you, to the top of you and to the foot of you. Even if you were to move across the room, you’d still be in the center of the universe. Do you see how natural it is to be centered? However, we must have an awareness to feel this centeredness. Stay centered and stay balanced. Change your life and set yourself free.
Moon Salutation. Stand with your feet spread as wide apart as it is comfortable for you and your toes turned slightly outward. You hands are in front of your abdomen facing upward.
Relaxation/Meditation: Energize and Release
Sit as you are for a few moments. Close your eyes and notice your breath. Is it short or is it controlled and relaxed? This is a noticing process so don’t try to change your breath, simply witness it, follow it, be aware of it. For the moment, let it follow its own pattern and its own rhythm. This is the spontaneous breath. (pause.)
Notice that as you become more aware of it, your breath lightness, slows, and relaxes itself into a more gentle and subtle flow. The longer you follow your breath, the more relaxed, restful, and sleepy you will become. This is one of the initial signs that you are entering meditation. However, if a flood of thoughts enter your mind, then, you have lost your awareness to your breathing. Try to let these thoughts simply pass through, but do not become disturbed by them and do not attach yourself to them. The more you ignore them, the more quickly they will depart.
Begin to concentrate on following your breath, until there is no separation, no breath, and you only breathe! Become it. (pause.)
Quietly and slowly lie down on the floor. However, instead of lying in a straight, centered, line open yourself up in a large X on the floor. Think of yourself as a large antenna, open and able to pull energy from all corners of the universe. Begin by making sure that your body is relaxed, open to receiving and accepting. Make yourself comfortable now. (pause.)
As you inhale, think of the word “energize,” and as you exhale, think of the word “release.” Try it now. (pause.)
Keep repeating to yourself: energize, release, energize, release. Experience the words taking place within your body with each breath. Feel the energy passing through every fiber of your being, and feel yourself become more and more alive. Then, feel the release take place as your body grows lighter and lighter, no longer weighted down – free.