In general, as human beings, we have become extremely disconnected from the earth and the natural cycles of life. This brings up several questions for me:
- What are the natural cycles of the earth?
- What is the power behind the earth’s cycles?
- What is the intelligent life force of nature?
In Tantra, nature is inextricably linked to the Absolute, the great light of universal consciousness, that governs all things. You could say then that being disconnected from nature is the same as being disconnected from the universe. In yoga, we know that we are the microcosm of the macrocosmic universe. Therefore, the wisdom of the entire universe is hidden within our own hearts. Hence, practices like yoga are incredibly supportive in helping us penetrate deep levels of consciousness to find, know, and experience the truth of our existence.
Take the dragonfly insect, for instance. Every fall season, dragonflies follow the southerly wind currents to assist their migration to warmer climates. Raptors also migrate south in the fall and they too, use the southerly wind currents to assist their migration. However, they time it just right such that they fly into the swarms of dragonflies which become their dinner. Now dragonflies are fast flying insects and very difficult to catch when flying solo. But when dragonflies fly in large numbers, the raptors have no problem catching them and feeding on them throughout their migration south. In the early summer, the same pattern happens in reverse by catching the northerly winds to fly north to more temperate climates.
How do these insects and birds know how to do this? Instinct, which is connected and guided by the great intelligence of nature, the great universal wisdom of the Absolute.
However, the insects and birds have little or no awareness about what they are doing. They are just doing it guided by instinct. It’s important to understand that nature is always harmony-seeking. It can’t go against itself. It seeks balance, although sometimes in the most destructive ways as in the recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. But really isn’t this nature just trying to rebalance itself innocently? As earth becomes more and more out of balance, I believe the storms and shifts on the earth will increase proportionately to rebalance.
Instinct within the insects and raptors becomes their GPS which guides them. They don’t have much of a choice to go against nature because they are wholly intertwined, or one with the intelligence of the great universal. They can’t plug in their destination into Waze on their IPhone. Human beings on the other hand, have choice and free will. We can go with the current of nature or against it. With the current produces sukkah, Sanskrit for sweetness or ease. Against the current is the pathway of pain and suffering, or dukkha. We are so far removed from the intelligence that informs the dragonflies that we are disharmonious with nature and the earth. I believe the real climate crisis is an alignment crisis. We are not aligning ourselves very well with nature. But at one time, perhaps 1000’s of years ago, the aboriginal human beings, the Shamans, the Native American Indians, lived much more in harmony with nature.
The Ashaya Yoga path puts you in touch with the nature of your body. Through this practice, your body heals, your mind opens and becomes receptive, and your heart awakens to its inborn wisdom. Your life gets better and you begin to move in harmony with life. All aspects of your life – relationships, job, sense of purpose, family, service, and health begin to improve, and you begin living in harmony with the life force.
By living in harmony with the natural cycles of the earth, Ashaya Yoga supports you on all levels of body, mind, and heart to live your life-destiny path of happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
May you choose to listen to the intelligence of nature within you and act in harmony with the earth and all of life. For support in doing that, join me for a workshop or training near you or at Kripalu.
Below is a wonderful exercise to increase harmony of body, mind, breath, and heart with the great universal wisdom of nature.
Exercise: “Freeing the Prana.”
This is a way to free up your life force, prana, that lies concealed, stuck, or asleep within the tissues of your body. This technique is very simple and consists of longer holding times in a posture with deep breathing. Through longer holdings, the prana combined with oxygen, innervates your blood and all the cells of your body. This naturally and very gently releases large amounts of emotional stress and anxiety. You suddenly become “unstuck” both physically and emotionally, which allows the prana to infuse itself deeper into your tissues and organs. On a subtler level, freeing the prana opens up the nadis (channels of potent life force, similar to the acupuncture meridians) which stimulate the chakra system (centers of evolutionary power and consciousness). This entire process then serves your ability to fulfill the purpose for which you have come here.
- Begin your practice with any asanas that feel right for you. This could be Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), Standing Poses, Backbends, Hip Openers, Forward Bends, or Twists. Hand Balances and Inversions would be more difficult to hold and therefore are not suggested for this practice. Restorative Poses are also not recommended because this exercise requires more active participation in the pose. But always listen to your own body and don’t strain or force anything.
- Start out holding each posture for 3 medium breaths. Use Ujjayi Pranayama, breathing in and out through the nose in a calm and gentle way while hugging the base of the throat muscles to produce an aspirated, whispering, or hissing sound. Try not to force this breath, but at the same time, make the sound loud enough so you can hear it and perhaps the person next to you can hear it. But not so loud that it could be heard across the room. Keep your face relaxed as you breathe. Especially soften your jaw, cheeks, and eyes on the inhalation.
- During the holding, your body will begin to open, heat will flow, and your tissues will open. This is a sign that the prana is now moving. After several more asanas, the prana will begin to move into your tissues and organs. The prana accessed through Ujjayi is directly connected to the body’s fascial system. Fascia are tiny strands or fibers of connective tissue that run throughout the body giving the body its shape and structure. On a more esoteric, metaphysical level, fascia is like a “universal wrap of communication” that carries signals of intelligence from the universe, nature, and the brain. As connective tissue, it’s what connects us to the great power of universal consciousness in the body.
- For two-sided postures, hold for 3 breaths or more per side.
- Once you are comfortable holding each pose for 3 breaths, as you continue to stretch and open, experiment with occasionally holding for 4 or 5 breaths.
Now practice the 7 Step Prana Freeing Exercise: This consists of the 4 Ashaya Essentials, but with 3 preliminary steps to focus the mind.
- Pay attention
- Soften (Ashaya Essential 1)
- Engage (Ashaya Essential 2)
- Align (Ashaya Essential 3)
- Expand (Ashaya Essential 4)
At the end of your practice, be sure to lie down in Savasana for at least 5 minutes to receive, absorb, and integrate the flow of prana that is now freed up to nourish and heal your body.
Note: Learn more about the Ashaya Method in the Align Your Body. Awaken Your Heart. Order online here!
P.S. A shout out to my dear friend and fellow yogi Desiree Rumbaugh as she just completed this amazing and helpful book – Fearless After Fifty: How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga. Pick up a copy or two today!