I would like to offer you an opportunity to take advantage of my rich and diverse Yoga training. I have over 40 years practice in Classical Patanjali Yoga, 35 years of clinical Yoga therapy experience, taught hatha/raja/kundalini-siddha Yoga in 5 ashrams, author of four books and editor of 7 books on Ayurveda.
You can view the searchable archive of the questions students have raised over the past years on Yoga Therapy and Spiritual practices: www.yogaforums.com.
Below is a sampling of the questions and my responses to them
Questions and Answers #1 - 4/16/01
From Hamsa Stone:
Question: I remember you telling us at Level 1 that to warm up the neck, you move the head / neck in all its directions -- but that you do NOT do "head rolls" -- you don't roll the head in a circular movement. I remember someone saying "but it feels good" and you answering, "yes, and so does ice cream, but that doesn't mean it's good for you."
Answer: Now, so many months later, I wonder why you say not to roll the head from front-to-side-to-back-to-side-to-front. Can you please explain precisely why? I've looked at the bones ... but I'm still not sure why it's bad to do this. Something to do with how the skull sits on atlas? Or the atlas/axis connection? Or the facets? Please advise.
As to why. Rolling the head will tend to make the vertebrae sublux - slip out of position. Most especially this occurs upwards of C4. The axis of motion is most mobile at C3-4 hence these go out the most. C2 and C1 go out in the worst case scenarios, often when life is more than one can deal with, or due to chronic food allergens. Actually all vertebrae go out with specific allergens that have been mapped by the chiropractors. The spinous processes tend to get jammed especially when going into cervical extension. When they are misaligned to begin with the misalignment acts like a lever to wedge the adjacent vertebrae offline.
Misalignments are a vata that is prana imbalance. In the neck region this is mostly due to misdirected udana prana - read, "I don't know where I'm going". By prayer and meditation, which is directed to helping you be of service to others and to deepening your relationship with the Divine Self, udana moves in the proper direction. By doing Yoga and other spiritual practices without the proper attitude (bhav) udana is unhappy. Udana prana generates our spiritual experiences of peace, light, and love.
That's the short answer.
From Gen Ryder
Question: When drawing my left leg up to the chair for meditation, I feel a pull in the inner knee. When I am all settled, the discomfort goes away. Is this OK? I suspect the sartorius is balking at the stretch but know you always caution us about inner knee. When I finish and unfold, the discomfort is in the outer knee. Must be the decade!!
Answer: The sartorius muscle is contracted fully in sitting positions especially lotus. It is not a stretch! This is especially true the more erect you are and the closer your knees are. The inner knee (between the knee cap and the hamstring, sartorius, and gracilis tendons) is one of two areas I recommend to never have a reaction from Yoga postures (the other being the sacrum). A reaction in the outer knee following sitting poses indicates an imbalance between antagonists. In this case the strength of the Sartorius as contrasted with the stretch of the tensor fascia lata is not equal. As a result discomfort in the outer knee. Don't know which decade it is.
From Gen Ryder
Question: In reading Swami Muktananda Play of Consciousness, I am curious as to how a householder is to maintain renunciation.
Answer: I believe you are reading from book two, chapter four the secret of renunciation. In this section there are many stories Baba tells of examples of renunciation, true and false. The false is giving up that activity which cannot be done. Such as renouncing the body, or jobs. Every person has a role to fulfill to complete his or her destiny. That role must be played out even for a king or a monk or for a householder. Every action that we do creates another reaction. It is that activity we call karma. The karma for renunciation is to give up the idea that I am the doer. The one who identifies themselves with their activities will experience the mood of joy for proper action and depression for infractions. How to do this? Practice of chanting and mantra is the best means to come to an understanding of proper relationship between the sense of I and the activity one experiences.
For a householder, they exist in a partnership with their mate. All actions more closely are reflected in the state of your mate. When you feel good you prepare beauty all around you. When not so good, you may be like the walking cloud of doom. For there to be a healthy relationship there must be agreement and communication. A householder cannot renounce sex unless the partner is in agreement. It is natural for a married person to engage in sex relations and other forms of intimacy that are not shared with others. What is to be renounced is deeper than the activities, it is the tendency of the mind to attach importance and great significance to what we do and how we feel. The best form of purification for this false identity is immersion into mantra. Play a mantra chanting tape over and over, run the mantra through your mind as you go about your daily activity, and sit in silence letting the mantra do its work of "transforming your thinking process". That is the literal meaning of t he word mantra.
"Having realized with mind and heart, having become wise, you will no longer move on the path of death. Therefore, they call renunciation the ardor surpassing all others." Krishna Yajur Veda, Mahanarayana Upanishads 537
Q & A - 4/23 #2
From Karen in Boston
Question: I have a student (actually my sister) who comes to a class I teach weekly - she usually feels very good and relaxed after class - she has a lot of sinus congestion and also sees an acupuncturist at least once a month to help with her problem - during down dog her congestion releases - she always needs to blow her nose and sometimes needs to stop since the flow is so much - seems a few times on the day after Yoga class - she gets intense sinus build up and influenza-like symptoms. We both wondered if this could be a release of some sort - the ill symptoms knock her out of commission for a few days.
Answer: Sinus conditions improve dramatically with the regular practice of jala neti. This is done by Snuffing water into the nostril one side at a time either from the palm or from a neti pot. The head should be parallel to the floor during the entire snuff procedure. Water is to be taken up gently with as little force as possible. Then allow the water to irrigate the lower nostril and sinus passages until it is ready for expulsion through the mouth. This may take several repeats, do not do more than 3 the first time, until the cavities are clear. For those who have heavy mucous and/or allergies, a pinch of sea salt is added.
Sinus reflex is connected to working area of C6 - T3 that also opens the vault of the cranial cavity. If she wants to avoid the reaction in dog pose she could keep her head up and not try to press the chest in the direction of the feet. In the normal position especially when emphasis is placed on pressing the chest backward, the sinuses open.