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Painted Brain | Minding The Body
kundalini yoga for beginners
yoga,meditation
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Minding the Body

The body is an amazing vessel, capable of renewing, healing, and recovery.  The body is our teacher, our tour guide, our only vehicle for experiencing life on this planet.  As long as there is breath in the body we have an opportunity to change, to grow, and to take steps to create the life we desire.

How many of us can say we embrace and love our bodies as they are in the present moment?  How about in all present moments?  Did you smile and say, “I do!” or did you snort in derision?

I snorted, then smiled.

How many of us can say we experience a feeling of body betrayal, that we sometimes see the body as the enemy?  At times the mind doesn’t behave as we want it to, the body doesn’t look like we want it to, we feel overwhelmed, lost, in despair. If this happens often enough and long enough, we begin to reject and deny the body we were given, possibly on a level that’s beyond our awareness.

In yogic tradition, the body is viewed as a temple, and we are encouraged to take care of it as such. I can assure you that this concept does not come naturally or easily for many people. It can be especially hard to connect with the impulse to make the effort to take care of a body that feels as though it is betraying us.  Whether it’s the size and shape, the rapidly beating heart of anxiety,  addiction, or unwanted thoughts that seem inescapable, betrayal can take on subtle forms.  Even with negative self-talk, and feeling a lack of acceptance, our body is still awesome at its job and pretty darn resilient as well.

From a Kundalini yoga perspective there are ways to gently and effectively support the body, self-acceptance, and growth in the present moment.

The present moment is a key concept.  In American culture it is estimated that human beings spend only 10% of their mental time in the present moment.  The other 90% of mental time is spent in the past or the future. So, first things first, allow yourself to be here now.  Yes, give yourself permission to be in the present moment.

All healing and all living takes place in the present.

So often the physical body is ignored while trying to deal with the mental body. When we’re not happy with our thoughts or the function of our brain, it is easy to forget about the beautiful body. We can’t think or reason our way out of situation that was created by our own thinking.  We can contemplate and wish, ruminate and replay, but change requires action.  And action implies motion. Moving the body helps to support mental function.  Physical exercise allows an access of higher realms of consciousness than the mind can access on its own.

Be in the present and move. As the mind is a full body phenomenon, the body communicates throughout, not just in the brain.  All of its cells are connected. It is important to work the physical body for mental health.

We are at a time in evolution where there is a tremendous pressure on the earth and the human psyche as we move into the Age of Aquarius. Yes, the song from the Seventies had it right. With increased technology and computerization, and the massive amount of information available at our fingertips, our bodies have literally not had time to process and catch up.  Humanity is in a squeeze which definitely affects mental health and our overall feelings of wellbeing.  It is imperative for mental health that the body be exercised and made to sweat every day.

In Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, exercise through different postures (or asanas) is used in addition to meditation as an intervention. The technology of yoga provides techniques to interrupt unhealthy, repetitive patterns and introduce instead new supportive thoughts and actions. The overall aim of yoga is to control the thought waves of the mind, and thus the whole body.  Before engaging in meditation, we work the entire body to strengthen the nervous system and elevate its vibrational frequency. Ultimately we want to be able to go with the flow rather than fight the tide. Ideally a full Kundalini yoga class is best, but here are a few gentle postures to try at home.

  1. Seated Forward Fold also known as “The Mental Standard” –   Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you, your feet slightly flexed with toes pointing up toward the sky,  sides of the feet may be touching or just slightly apart, whichever is more comfortable.  Elongate your legs as you start to lengthen your spine until you’re sitting up tall.  On an inhale, stretch your arms straight up over your head to obtain a little more length and space in the spine, then on the exhale fold forward hinging from the hips.  Let your belly come down first, then reach with your hands and rest them where you can – knees, shins, ankles, or toes. Your head and neck should be last to come down. Relax into this posture, take long deep breaths, feeling each breath as it moves up and down your spine, expanding and releasing. Hold the position for one-to-three minutes.  This position is called the mental standard because it can help you to maintain energy.  Whenever you have a long and busy day ahead of you, try doing this exercise every three-to-four hours to keep up your energy levels. The posture also increases flexibility of the spine while helping to circulate energy up into the torso.
  2. Pelvic Grind – Sit on the floor cross-legged, or on a chair with both feet flat on the floor. If you’re in a chair, you don’t want your back to rest against the back of the chair, so scoot forward just a bit. Bring your hands to your knees and begin rotating the torso in a clockwise circular motion on the pelvis.  Make grinding circles with your upper body, breathing in and out with each circular rotation.  This should not be a fast movement, but rather find the range of motion and velocity that works best for you. Close your eyes as move with the breath.  Use your arms for leverage, and don’t be afraid to bend and straighten your arms at the elbows as you rotate.  Maintain length in the spine throughout the grind.   This movement works to increase flexibility as it opens and releases energy stored at the base of the spine, massaging the internal organs and glands, and it’s especially good for the liver and lower digestive tract.  Two minutes of rotation in each direction is a complete meditation to cleanse the liver. 
  3. Triangle Pose or Downward Dog – Come on to your hands and knees on the floor.  With your hands directly beneath your shoulders,  spread your fingers wide like a starfish, then pull the thumbs back in just a bit.  Your middle fingers should be pointing straight out in front of you with your knees positioned directly beneath your hips.  The space between your knees should be about the width of two fists. From here, relax your head and shoulders and curl your toes under so that the bottom of your toes are griping the floor, then press up through the hands and feet, coming into the shape of a triangle.  Your tailbone is lifted, legs and spine fairly straight, head relaxed and hanging between your arms. Your body is now in the shape of a triangle.  Rotate your arms slightly inward, as if your underarms are trying to look at each other.   Triangle or Downward Dog is a restorative posture, so allow yourself to make minor corrections until you feel supported and balanced in the pose.  Your heels may or may not reach the ground.  The posture can be held from one-to-five minutes.  It strengthens the entire nervous system, and is also great for digestion.

Be here now, move, and listen. Listen to the innocence of your heart beat.  The heart has its own intelligence, and is a far better guide than the head.  Yoga helps to bring the heart and the head into alignment.

Listen to your breath.  The deeper the breath the better the emotional regulation it brings.  The slower the breath the better clarity it brings.

Listen to your body as you connect with the heart and the breath.  Relax into it.  Creative flow comes from a relaxed body and mind.  We need to work the body and the mind in order to move into a deeply relaxed state. Then we can listen, and find our own creative solution to navigating life on this planet with peace, happiness and health.  Keep sight of the true purpose of your body. Truth is your identity.

For more information on Kundalini Yoga, or to find a local class, please visit www.3HO.org.

Patty Wildasinn has been teaching Kundalini Yoga and meditation for many years. She shares her knowledge and experience freely with our readers here on the Painted Brain website.

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