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Archive for February, 2013

Working with the seniors in Ridgewood, we try different movements determined by their needs. There are constant adaptations as the limitations and requirements change. Three upper body exercises from our repertoire have been added to www.mahasriyoga.com/asana/upperbody.html. They may be helpful to the readers of this blog and the website. Gentle movements, like these, can be excellent for warm-ups. These exercises could also be good for fibromyalgia.

Shoulder See-Saw

This movement can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. In addition to loosening the stiffness in shoulders, the neck muscles also get a gentle stretch. There is movement in the upper chest and upper back as well. All these areas are connected and pain in one part may cause residual pain in the others. So it is helpful to work gently on the entire area.

Arm Swings

These can be done sitting or standing. The movements continue to work more deeply in the areas of the body detailed above.

Rowing

This movement is best done sitting down. In addition to working on the entire upper body, it is also helpful to in toning or massaging the abdominal organs and for peristalsis.

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It is so difficult to let go of that which tortures us, to let go of our pain. Why do so many feed and nurture and grow the pain? Often, we do not even know the real cause of suffering in our lives as it is so deeply embedded. I see people clinging to the very things that drive them insane, unable to let it go, to free themselves. No space is allowed to live with joy, to live free. This is where numerous studies support meditation. There are so many meditation techniques and they all have varying effects so it is important to distinguish between methods instead of having the generic term “meditation” or “Yoga”.

One of the most effective practices is Satyananda Yoga Nidra–there are many who have “borrowed” this practice without giving the source due credit. We suggest going to the original source and reading Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. There are several transcripts in the book.

Satyananda Yoga Nidra is a the modern adaptation of the tantric practice of nyasa which works at five levels or bodies–physical, energy body, emotional, mind, and spirit. Repressed emotions manifest themselves at all levels as they are an intricate web and not distinct. The practice is ingeniously simple on the surface and safely allows emotions to surface. They are witnessed with awareness, not judgment or reaction. This process saps the emotion of energy and it is free to dissipate. The emotion no longer has the powerful grip over the mind and no longer consumes the person.

Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara (sense withdrawal) method in the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi--see What is Yoga). Disturbances from the mind, and by implication the unresolved issues of life, must be settled before dhyana can begin.

Experience beats theory and so readers are invited to try out the Yoga Nidras from Mahari Yoga–they are all free on-line tracks. Begin with the first one and then gradually work your way up. These are shared freely with all who seek peace within themselves.

Being a Witness

In this practice, we will learn to be a witness, a neutral spectator, without actively participating in the physical breathing or mental processes. Simply being, observing, has a significant effect in calming the body, mind, and emotions. You will feel it in this practice.

Who Am I?

This meditation reveals the perpetual and consequential programming, or the conditioning process, of the mind that began at birth. Think of the body and mind as hardware and software that are constantly growing, and being shaped and formed, by everything the body-mind is exposed to. This body-mind complex takes, absorbs, processes, and stores everything. As we witness it, is “I” the body-mind? Who is the silent witness? Who am “I”? Even if there is no burning desire to seek an answer, just being aware of the continuous, ongoing, cumulative process of conditioning can empower us to reprogram ourselves consciously in positive ways. Conscious thinking can lead to a deeper, compassionate understanding of relationships and less conflict. It does this by slowly breaking down identification of Self with the mind and the thinking process.

Up to the Summit

In this meditation, we begin shedding some of the conditioned programming. We learn to discard excess baggage that weighs us down and prevents us from getting where we need to go. The visualization of climbing to the summit, top of the mountain, and the inner guide part is based on a Yoga Nidra done 30 years ago during a course in Mumbai with Swami Buddhananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga. Over the course of the years, like an evolving recipe, our interpretation and wording of it has also evolved. This is our version, which too will change over the course of time.

Role of Purpose and Beyond

This fourth meditation is about looking at various roles each one of us plays. Some roles are easier and more comfortable than others. Do others see us the way we see ourselves? Who plays the roles? Who watches as the spectator? Exploring these questions is a critical step in self-transformation for a more peaceful life for ourselves and others.

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Did you know that there are three types of hypertension? Even though it seems obvious to some extent once you read this, there is no distinction made by many doctors or studies.

In The New York Times, “Keeping Blood Pressure Under Check” written by Jane E. Brody on January 28, 2013 we learn that there are three underlying causes or “mechanisms” for hypertension (which is another way of saying high blood pressure). No yoga research study that I have seen makes a distinction of underlying causes. Studies just state “hypertension” or “high blood pressure”. After learning this new information from the excellent Times article, it makes sense that yoga therapy may be more effective with one underlying cause more than with the others and it is important to know the cause, or the combination of causes, to determine the effectiveness.

According to the article there are 76 million people in the U.S. who suffer from hypertension. A normal blood pressure range is generally from 90 over 60 to 120 over 80. More than 50 percent of those who suffer from high blood pressure do not have it under control.

Of particular interest is what Dr. Samuel J. Mann, a hypertension specialist and professor of clinical medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College, has to say, ” Of the 71 percent of people with hypertension who are currently being treated, too many are taking the wrong drugs or the wrong dosages of the right ones.”

Dr. Mann, is the author of Hypertension and You: Old Drugs, New Drugs, and the Right Drugs for Your High Blood Pressure. 

Here is a direct passage from the article:

The trick to prescribing the best treatment for each patient is to first determine which of three mechanisms, or combination of mechanisms, is responsible for a patient’s hypertension, he said.

¶ Salt-sensitive hypertension, more common in older people and African-Americans, responds well to diuretics and calcium channel blockers.

¶ Hypertension driven by the kidney hormone renin responds best to ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, as well as direct renin inhibitors and beta-blockers.

¶ Neurogenic hypertension is a product of the sympathetic nervous system and is best treated with beta-blockers, alpha-blockers and drugs like clonidine.

According to Dr. Mann, neurogenic hypertension results from repressed emotions. He has found that many patients with it suffered trauma early in life or abuse. They seem calm and content on the surface but continually suppress their distress, he said.

It is the last one, neurogenic hypertension, that is the most likely to respond to yoga therapy. Yoga works directly on the sympathetic nervous system.

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