Monthly Archives: August 2012

Yoga Nidra and the Koshas

By Linda Oshins

Yoga nidra is an old, well established yoga practice that takes various forms as expressed by different
teachers. One really well articulated and researched approach is Richard Miller’s, and his is structured in part on the koshas.

Kosha is usually translated as “sheath, “which is defined differently in different branches of yoga
philosophy. Generally speaking koshas are aspects or layers of subjective experience. From gross to
subtle they are:

Annamaya kosha – the physical or “food” body
Pranayama kosha –the breath or energy body
Manomaya kosha – the emotional body
Vijnanamaya kosha – the cognitive body
Anandamaya kosha – the bliss body

They are all aspects of the individuated self that obscure the undivided “Self” or Pure Awareness. They
are all observed through the lens of the personality or ego.

The koshas have different attributes energetically. They each have their own sense of time and space for example. You know that’s true if you think about it. Your body moves at one speed; your thoughts are faster. Your feelings are even faster. As quickly as thoughts move, they move slowly enough for there to be a critical, discernible pause between one thought and the next—a pause during which you can change your course of action. Rather than automatically reacting to a thought, you could choose not to act or choose to act in a novel way. But the researchers cited in the book Destructive Emotions, edited by Daniel Goleman, can only hypothesize a discernible pause between feelings because they move so quickly. Perhaps only those experienced meditators who can actually suppress the primitive, brain stem startle reflex can perceive the dawn of one feeling and its dissolution, the dawn of the next, and so forth. But I digress.

Richard’s version of yoga nidra, iRest, takes you through each koshic level, focusing on sensations in the physical body, the breath body, sensations associated with emotions or thoughts, and the sensation of joy associated with the bliss body. iRest invites you to feel two opposing aspects of a kosha, and then feel the integration of the two. For example, you move back and forth between feeling physical sensations on the right side of the body and the left side of the body, and finally feeling the whole physical body. Or, you move back and forth between feeling the sensation an emotion arouses (fear, for example) and feeling the sensation its opposite arouses (compassion, perhaps), and feeling them both together. The trip through the koshas sensitizes you on every level and invites you to step beyond them, beyond constantly changing phenomenon and dual states of consciousness to the state of Pure Awareness.

Recently I’ve been focusing on the manomaya (emotional) kosha as I’ve been involved in a confusing
and heart wrenching conflict with another well meaning person. We can’t see eye to eye. So I’ve taken
the emotional churn into my yoga nidra practice. One day when I noticed the emotion upper most in my awareness I discovered dread. Dread of the next criticism, of the next failed attempt to make everyone
happy. It felt like a heavy lid on my chest protecting my heart. Inquiring as to its opposite, I discovered
trust. (My opposites may not be your opposites. And my opposites can change from day to day.) That
was like the clear tone of a struck bell. Just to know that deep trust was my opposite of dread gives
me insight into my inner workings and fear of conflict. Moving back and forth between the two, I had
some way to embrace the experience, to stay with it as it unfolded and not to run away. The practice of
moving into a feeling fully and honestly and moving into another feeling is a palpable practice of non-
attachment. I didn’t have to attach to being “right” or being “safe.” I didn’t spiral around and around
again in a repetitive thought pattern.

This is a phrase Richard uses when integrating two emotional states, “…see how simultaneously sensing both emotions acts on your body and mind.” It’s like a Koan; your mind can’t do it but it’s done. It’s a step out of ordinary consciousness.

In this description of working with an emotional state with iRest yoga nidra, I’m not talking
about “fixing” myself, making myself feel better or trading in a distressing experience for a pleasant,
comforting one. I am hoping to be able to stay with whatever arises without falling into daydreams of
a different past or an imagined future, usually in which I am vindicated but sometimes in which I am a
hopelessly flawed, unworthy person. So back to the mat, just like any other day.

Let It Go

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold; the holding of plans or dreams or expectations. Let
it go. Save your strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is here before you now will
only result in struggle, fear, and a desperate attempt to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go.
Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or
with all your quills raised to defend against invaders. Take this on faith: the mind may never find the
explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless. Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations. Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace, and certain transformation. Dana Faulds

If I have misrepresented or over simplified Richard Miller’s teachings, I apologize. Please visit his
website for information on iRest yoga nidra, www.irest.us .A training for teachers and mental health
professionals on leading iRest sessions is scheduled for this November at Yoga on High. The event is co-sponsored by Shiva Shakti Synthesis.

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Ahimsa—The state of the heart that is free of enemies.

By Marcia Miller

Ahimsa, often translated as nonviolence, is the first Yama (ethical guideline or precept) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is one of the foundations of yoga and something I have practiced and thought about for many years.
At a recent retreat a Nonviolent Communication trainer, Francois Beausoleil, translated ahimsa as “the state of the heart that is free of enemies.”. Somehow my whole body knew that this translation offered me some keys to deepening my practice of ahimsa. In his presentation Francois taught a skill called “Dissolving Enemy Images” that was simple, effective and very powerful. I immediately re-committed myself to this practice which I had learned previously but had let go. I felt absolutely buoyant and excited about the possibility of more peace in my own heart.
And as is so often the case when I commit to a new practice, within a day a situation arose in my life that gave me the opportunity to test my commitment and hone my skills. This was not a tiny misunderstanding but something that was extremely painful for each of us involved. When I looked at what was true for me in the situation I felt feelings of anger, confusion, disappointment, annoyance, concern and a very deep sadness. I was longing for connection, trust, consideration, respect and communication that might lead to a true understanding between us.
The funny thing is that when I tried to see the situation from her side I imagined that she shared these exact same feelings and longings with me! What I know for sure is that when I am in conflict with another and I have a sense of blame, my whole body, especially my heart, feels hard, tiny and cold. This is NOT a feeling I enjoy, even if there is the momentary thrill of feeling righteous. I want to use the skills that will help me feel more curious, open, accepting and compassionate. This is not easy and it requires a deep personal honesty and an attentiveness to all parties involved. I am invited to notice the moment my mind goes to a negative judgment about someone or I have the feeling of being “right.” But “being right” means having a heart that is hard instead of loving, so I’ll pick up my righteousness and trade it in for compassion as often as I can. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous to write this publicly because I fail at this so often. And yet, I am longing for a community of seekers who can support each other in a powerful commitment to ahimsa.
One of my absolute favorite feelings in the world is that moment when something shifts in my understanding that allows an “enemy” to become the “beloved.” It is such a relief and my cold heart floods with the warmth of compassion, love and gratitude. Ahhhh.
Some of you know my favorite yoga text these days is the Vijnana Bhairava translated by Lorin Roche as the Radiance Sutras. Because I couldn’t find a sutra that exactly talks about my experience I decided to write my own.
Your heart is stone and
Your mind is full of outrage.
Your whole body is ELECTRIC—buzzing with righteousness,
You have been wronged!
There is power in this righteous stance but also pain.
The hardness carries a price—
The pain of disconnection with another.
Right here
The moment of transformation.
Breathe, ahhhhh
Remember, all is not what it seems.
Now, see under the waves of distress
You have strong feelings and deep needs—
Go slowly, name them, pause, feel them, pause and rest here.
This is the gift of anger—to know what you most care about.
The other also has strong feelings and deep needs—
Name them, feel them, rest here. ahhh
The moment of softening the heart toward an “enemy”
is as sweet as a kiss on a baby’s fuzzy head.

Marcia has created a class for the fall to share some of the skills involved in practicing ahimsa. Please visit Ahimsa Yoga if you would like more details.

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The Alignment of Essence

By Martha Marcom

We capitalize the names of the asanas, even in their English translations. I’m speculating that is so not only to honor the power of asana, but because they are analogous to places, as in we’re going to visit Marichasana today, right after we depart from Janu Sirsasana. Just as in traveling to geographic destinations, when we go there it will not be quite the same as last time. Even visiting familiar locations, there’s always the possibility of discovering some new aspect of the place we’ve not noticed before.

Your relationship with your Triangle will change with repeated visits over time, as you come to know the sacred geometry of the pose. After a long-term, dedicated practice, the pose will become intimately familiar, and you’ll begin to embody Trikonasana as a native of the place. It becomes a destination you can go to reliably for specific aspects of awareness and awakenings, yet it retains some mystery.

Each of the asanas of hatha, the physical aspect of yoga, has endless depths. There is always the possibility to deepen a pose, and to plumb those depths. The breath alone in your postures could be a life-long journey, as could increasingly subtle aspects of alignment and presence.

In ashtanga, there is a map and a specific journey through the poses. In hatha classes as taught at Yoga on High, one pose could be explored throughout a class in many different ways, or you might travel to a destination pose, Sarvangasana for example, by means of many other poses that open the body in preparation for an in-depth experience of it.

Savasana, Corpse Pose, has been called the most difficult of all asanas. Access to the intricacies of the place requires time, intention and attention. Convention wisdom holds that the Ashtanga practice wrings you out so that, when you lie down, you drop into Savasana’s depths. Our YOHI hatha teachers really know how to create the conditions for a great Savasana and have taught us ashtangis about setting up for the pose with care. With an optimal set-up, we have a better chance to access that ultimate destination, the very essence of our being, delight, and unity.

Imagine if we all allowed ourselves time each day to completely relax the physical body and touch into our essential Selves, beyond the apparent duality of the world. And what a gift Savasana would be for children to have—a restful home base that could offer them an expanded experience of themselves. What sublime means for all of us to stay steady in a challenging world. Explore that realm that is Savasana for your Self! And ask me or your teacher to help you set up for it if this is a difficult pose for you.

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What I learned from Walt Disney

By Jasmine Grace

“To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” Walt Disney

I can personally attest to the fact that Disneyland was a source of inspiration and allowed me in youth and adulthood to face the challenge and promise of the future! This blog is a reflection of how Walt Disney’s ideals and dreams helped shape my life.

I have played “shop” since I was five. My mother owned an eclectic convenience and health food store in a sleepy beach town in New Zealand. I can remember making twenty-five and fifty cent candy bags or as we call them in New Zealand “lolly bags”. Sometimes I would invite a friend to help; one piece of candy for the bag, one piece of candy for us, one for the bag and one for us. What a way to learn math and thank goodness my mother didn’t inventory the candy by the piece! The memories of this time in my life are very vivid. I would stand behind the cash register on a stepping stool and greet guests. The locals all knew me by name and would always have something nice to say. This proficiency of being a entrepreneur established at a young age carried over to high school. At the age of 14 I was living in Australia and I was given a set of keys and the weekend 6 a.m. opening shift to a beach convenience store.  I would rock-up a few minutes early, pull in the daily newspapers. I always loved it when an impatient local had taken a paper and left fifty cents on the stack. These were fun years and the owner of Kings Beach Store, John Cauchi-Gera was one of my first mentors. It was a particularly hard time for my family financially and if I had not had this job I am sure times would have been even tougher for my mother and me. I was not an easy teenager. I had little regard for adult wisdom, I talked back, thought I knew everything and I had a strong point of view on how things should be done. In addition to going to school, I worked what seemed like 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday. My view was of the beach so I didn’t mind too much. When it wasn’t busy at the Kings Beach Store I would dream about what my life would be like when I got older – knowing that if I worked hard and smart enough anything is possible.

Kings Beach, Queensland, Australia.

Kings Beach, Queensland, Australia.

The belief that anything was possible (and the fact that I slept on a Mickey Mouse pillow case every night in my childhood) led to a scholarship with Walt Disney Corporation. Funny how this works isn’t it? When I applied for the scholarship I would visualize myself receiving it and the specific details of what this experience might be like. I would visualize my acceptance speech, what it might be like to be at Disneyland, and the opportunities that could come from this experience. I won the scholarship and when I turned 16 I left home for a year on an adventure. Full of wanderlust, that has never left me, I was fueled by the Disney philosophy and my entrepreneurial spirit.
When I first got to go to Disneyland in Florida, I can remember noticing the attention to detail at every level. I noticed the organization of the backstage and the backdoor of the enterprise; the professionalism of the employees, the care to cleanliness, the service, the smiles, and a concentration around the experience. I was in my element! Disney was quoted saying, “Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.” Perhaps not the most yogic of virtues but from a business sense it is something you have to do. In order to survive as a business these days you always have to .continue to assess, learn, grow and ask the question, how can we make this experience even better?

By the time I turned 21 I was a partner in my own business. This endeavor began with a dream, drive and notes on a paper plate on Sand Key Beach in Clearwater, Florida. And now as I turn to the next phase I find myself reflecting on Walt Disney again. So it is no doubt, although on a much, much smaller scale,

that I have the same dreams and aspirations (aligned with the founding partners, Marcia, Linda, and Martha) for Yoga on High. This brings me to one aspect of our studio -- our book and gift store. Have you seen the changes? Keep your eye out for new product, a new paint color in the reception area, online purchasing of Yoga on High product, a greater selection, and special ordering capabilities for bulk items. We hope you make us your resource for yoga products, cute clothing finds, and yogi gift giving. We are not done yet but we are expanding our selection of what we offer to include yoga mats, rugs and towels, yoga props, clothing, meditation supplies, jewelry & accessories, self-care products, home décor, books & journals, cards and gifts. This holiday we will offer a holiday gift giving service to include gift wrapping and shipping to your loved ones. Not to mention online gift certificates that can be emailed directly to the recipient.

We will also be giving the studio a bit of a facelift with a new paint color and a much needed upgrade to the outside of the building. Other changes you will see this fall and next year include more open class drop-in options on the schedule, new programs and formats to the Yoga on High Teacher Training curriculum, and the possibility of more locations. We have listened to the feedback you have provided and are making changes as requested by you and our staff. As Walt Disney said, “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make the dream a reality.” Thank you for making our corner of the world a reality. We hope to see you in the studio soon.

I am no Walt Disney but I thought I would write this for fun:

“To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Yoga on High is your yoga studio. Here we offer yoga for every body, and here stress relief, transformative personal growth and healing may occur so that you have the strength, flexibility and awareness to savor the challenge and promise of everyday life. Yoga on High is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the needs of the community ….with hope that with your practice of yoga you will find how brightly your own inner light shines.” Jasmine Grace

Love and Light,
Jasmine Astra-elle Grace


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