This is changing the face of yoga. And this is episode one 10. My guest is Linda Lang and Linda was on, , earlier in the year, but she said something that really intrigued me. I have taught seniors, mature adults, , for over 10 years now. And the way she talked about it was very, very different from the way I taught. And I wanted to explore that a bit more. , I'm going to let Linda introduce herself and then we're going to start. So thank you Linda for coming on again. I appreciate that. And tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.
01:28 Thank you, Stephanie. I started practicing yoga in my late teens. I was part of a generation introduced to yoga when the Beatles brought their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to the United States. So my foray into eastern philosophy and yogic practices began in my late teens and early twenties. I will be 66 years old this s mer. I always wanted to be a yoga teacher, but did not become one until the late 1990's so now I am full 20 years into a teaching career. During that period of time for about 15 years, I taught as full time as I possibly could in studios, community centers, memory units in assisted living centers. I worked for eight years at the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University where I worked with patients in a clinical setting and taught medical students electives on yoga therapy so that they could learn how to embody the benefits of practice. And then take it into their medical practices, knowing that they would affect far more people in the course of their lives than I, than I ever might. So that's my work in a nutshell. I do my best to educate in the greater community in the Washington DC areas through the Smithsonian institution there, the Smithsonian associates educational programs, and I mentor other yoga therapists and train yoga teachers when I can.
03:18 You have the whole spectrum there. I appreciate the communication issue. I think we were talking earlier and we decided the first thing we're going to start with is what does it mean or when do you become old? What criteria would you be looking at, Linda, if, if you had to define it.
03:46 Yes. Well, if I had to define it, I would emphasize the, the experience of working with individuals in their late forties and fifties who, because of illness or debilitating conditions or the impact of medicines, chemotherapy or radiation, accidents, trauma might consider themselves old because they are no longer feeling vital and already feeling quite limited on many different levels. So I can tell you, I've met people in their forties and fifties who have the characteristics of people who reach into old age and began to experience frailty on many different levels.
I think of older students, quite frankly, as anyone over 60 years old is an older student, which doesn't mean that I have not taught headstands to people in their sixties. I have so you can approach older students and people with potentially severe limitations in some ways, but continue to teach them asana practice in ways that raises the bar in terms of what they believe they can do themselves. So, age is a huge factor, obviously and what makes a student old. But I just wanted to be clear that some people really do feel quite limited when they're younger than that.
05:38 And I think you brought up a really good point, which was self-limiting thoughts. That's it sometimes isn't so much what's actual as what you think it is. And I think that's an important topic that we might want to explore a little bit.
06:05 It is one of the greatest obstacles and because yogic philosophy focuses a great deal on obstacles and the deity of Ganesha is the remover of obstacles. It's nice to be able to literally bring these very profound images into the classroom, working with students, particularly older students and remind them that the stories that they tell you about themselves physically are meaningful to them. But when I hear people talk about what they cannot do or things they no longer do, I asked them to think about things in terms of realistically, is it because you're choosing not to do it anymore because you physically cannot do it anymore. Really important to differentiate on because you know, Stephanie as well as I do that you start to do something in a class and somebody will say, oh, I can't do that. And then you give them some modifications and 30 seconds later they're doing it. So, my suggestion to anyone who wants to know more about self-limiting thinking is to think of the things that you feel you cannot do or in the past did not think that you could do that you have already overcome. That's our job as teachers working with people who are feeling very limited because of age. Our responsibility is to eliminate possibilities for them to modify practices so that they can feel successful but still hold out hope that they actually will be able to achieve something beyond what they might expect for themselves.
07:58 You said in our earlier podcasts that you actually help them set goals.
08:04 I do.
08:06 And, and could you kind of explain that and give us an example of what you mean by that?
08:14 Yes, I'd like to differentiate intentionality from goal setting. If I come to the mat with an intention of quieting and calming my mind while stretching and relaxing my body. That's a very nice intention. But if my goal is to create strength, then I approached my practice with a different intention. I'm being very specific that there's an outcome. Goals have outcomes. So let's imagine well this just happened to me this morning. One of my students is 82 years old and she works with a physical trainer. She's got a lot of individual strengths in her body, but she has some inherent weaknesses in her feet and her hands. So if we don't pay attention to building strength from the tips of her fingers up into her knuckles, her palms, her wrists, all the way up to her elbows and shoulders, whatever strengths she has and her biceps and triceps and her trapezius muscles and whatever's going on in her neck and back. If she loses strength in her hands, she will become diminished with her strength in the rest of her body. Same thing is true with her feet. So we set a goal this morning of being able to literally to bear weight longer in her hands, doing a variety of different postures that we're not totally weight bearing, where she had a lot of control over her movement and she was ecstatic because she started off saying, oh, my arms are tired, my shoulders hurt already. We just went immediately to the modifications and she said, oh, this is great. Oh, Oh, if I just do it, isometrically, oh, I really can feel my strengths there. Oh, I really feel the weakness there, or I really feel the vulnerability in my neck. So by being clear about the goal, she started sensing things in her body and asking me questions and giving me feedback that I could use to illuminate her challenge and help her feel successful by building on existing strengths rather than saying, oh gosh, well, I guess that's just going to be a weak spot and going on to something else. Another goal, for instance, it's really important with older students is being able to walk longer distances to build endurance and resilience, able to hold certain poses longer. So let's say my goal with you, let's say that when we practice tree pose, you always hold onto the wall or the chair. My goal with you might to be, you're going to practice tree pose using my index fingertip. And then the ultimate goal is for you to be able to practice tree pose without using a support, having it close enough by, but to begin to play with the possibility of becoming stronger, more balanced, more grounded. Another goal might be to say, you know, normally we practice 15 minutes doing these specific asanas. Let's expand to half an hour. What is my expectation of you in your home? Practice your homework. I don't want you to just practice this for 10 minutes once a day. I'd like you to practice it for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. That kind of thing. Finite goals.
12:14 These are all more or less physical goals - balance and endurance and resilience. Do you also work with them on emotional or mental goals?
12:26 Yes. This same woman this morning has a lot of aches and pains and she said to me, Oh, you must be so tired of me complaining. And, I said, you know, for me to grow tired of your complaining isn't really part of the nature of my experience with you. You're complaining is your way of communicating to me your frustration. And my question to you is, is what are you really frustrated with? So the goal setting that she and I have has to do with acceptance. She's 82 years old. She's going to have aches and pains. What I did tell her was that given the nature of what she complains to me about, I would take every one of her complaints in the grand scheme of things, it's what she's complaining about is not so bad as I see it. And she wanted to know more about that. So I'm not afraid to open the door to inquiry through yogic lens, I'm not trained as a psychologist, but when someone says to me, asks me how I feel about, their complaining to me, it's an opportunity. Another example of this is when she's in Shavasana and another student that I work with, their hands start speaking. You know what I mean? They get a little impatient and all of a sudden I see the hands starting to move. And so it's an opportunity during the Shavasana or guided imagery to say, I notice that impatience is present. I see movement in your hands telling me that you're feeling restless. And then I'll give them some breathing cues. I might ask them to place their hands on their belly. So for instance the goal of my noticing, I will be very clear about it. I will ask them to put their hands on their belly and a specific mudra. I will tell them what the intention of that mudra is. And that for me it would be a goal, help them set the goal of calming and comforting themselves whenever impatience or restlessness is present.
15:18 You're basically giving them a tool to help manage that. Did you ever ask them or give them the invitation to kind of explore why they're restless during Shavasana?
15:35 You know, I have. And usually the answer has to do with the fact that people are challenged by stillness. They're happy to move at my instruction or invitation. They're happy to try the pranyam. Lying quietly in the presence of another person has a certain intimacy to it. And sometimes somebody will say, it just feels weird for me to be lying here quietly with my eyes closed or open in front of you while you're just talking to me and I'm not doing anything. So the answer to your question is yes, I will ask them, but not all the time. Sometimes I will simply notice and invite them into the opposite of what I'm noticing. So if I noticed restlessness, I invite them into patience by guiding them and giving them something else to think about. Yes, I think it's important to inquire as to where that might be coming from. I will do that. But it depends if it's during the course of class, but if it's already in Shavasana and I want to try to set a tone that they can remember, I might not, I might not do the inquiry then maybe if I'm doing yoga Nidra with them, it might be more appropriate to inquire, but sometimes I just will guide them to, to a state of mind that would be more, what shall I say, appropriate.
17:20 I understand. I'm just fascinated by this idea. I feel like I've really concentrated on the physical issues of people aging and that I haven't been as noticing or open to some of the mental issues. I have, as I'm sure you do, that insomnia can be a problem. I always do a Yoga Nidra at the end and that always went very well. But I know what you're talking about. That's the first thing I would do as I was talking, I was looking around and saying, is there anyone restless here? Is there anyone that's not really going into it? And yeah, I think that's something you do, but I never, addressed it.
18:15 You have permission, you have permission to do that. And I think that that's part of your voice. And I will tell you that I think it's one of the things that has made the biggest difference in my teaching when I ask someone to come into bridge pose, which I very rarely practice bridge unless it's at the end of a session because that's just the sequencing that I like to use. It could be an hour long session or it can be a 20 minute session, but bridge is always a transition from an active dynamic aspect of practice moving into quieter, more yinful mode. So I always talk about transition in bridge. Setu bandhu is a construction where your head and your shoulders are in one place, but your feet are in a very different place. And I might even invite them into a visual imagery of what that might be, but especially working well, people of all ages, but especially when you're working with older population transitions are profound and rarely discussed. So in bridge pose, I invite them into the idea of this is a transitional pose from one part of practice to the other. Just the way there are things in your life right now that are in transition. And I want you to savour this pose as a symbol of transition. And breathe softly, deeply, gently. And so I build the experience of being in bridge pose into something metaphorical. The other thing I want to tell you is that all of my poses, so imagine you're standing with people in there in mountain pose, they close mountain pose at the end of every post, I have people close the poses. You bring your hands in front of your heart and Anjali Mudra you close the pose and you keep your hands in front of your heart until you begin the next pose. Because every pose has a beginning, a middle and an end. So let's say you're practicing eagle pose and so your hands are together in front of heart and you get the guidance to float into Eagle and very frequently people fall out of eagle pose and then they step back in and then they step out. But when it's over, it's over. And in a yoga pose, if you're practicing eagle and you lose your balance or control, you step out, you close the pose. It's just a pose. So you close it and then we talk about control. And so over a short period of time the person in your class or the people in your class all begin to acknowledge that I use the control I have at the beginning, in the middle and then I learned to step out of my asana with control and I close the pose. But if I lose control I just close the pose anyway. So by teaching, people about transition and process and beginning, middle and end, you opened the door to deeper conversation.
22:02 Yes I can see that. That would be something that is very easy to take off your mat and think about how much control do I have? And walking, not walking away, but closing something down that really needs to be closed down. Because sometimes, at least I used to run into students who were really, well, the word you used was acceptance, which was, you know, no, I know I'm this age and yes, my body's changed, but I can still do all this stuff. Well, okay, but have you thought about doing it this way? I really loved that idea of closing the pose. I never have done that, but I just might take that one up. I just think it has real value.
23:01 People move through life with certain sets of expectations and believe that part of my responsibility as a teacher of yoga is to help people have realistic expectations. And sometimes that can be demoralizing. It's my responsibility to keep it uplifting and life-affirming. So I might have realistic expectations for one student who at the age of 72, retired and immediately fell into quicksand, emotional quicksand, psychological quicksand, physical quicksand. It manifest as a quick onset of arthritic conditions. Die hard, tough man who went through a series of falls, triggered by one very terrible fall and we have been in the process over the last two and a half years of reclaiming strength.
Now, something else I want to talk about teaching older students, and this is really important given our scope of practice as yoga teachers, it's really important that your students know the impact of side effects of the medications they're taking. It doesn't come up in yoga classes in the community, but it will come up when you start teaching older people because there is a tendency, unfortunately for people to be on more medicines. I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who have after hour classes sat down with their physicians and gone through the physical complaints that they have had once they realized that the onset was coincidental with taking these medicines.
25:17 So in our work it's critically important for us to be very clear with students that some of the things that they may talk about in terms of self-limiting or aches and pains that create something called kinesiophobia, which is fear of movement can really arise from side effects of medicine.
25:46 Yes. When I had my intro forms, I always asked how much medicine they were taking. And I was sometimes just appalled and 15, 18 different kinds of pills during the day. And I thought, how can anyone figure out how all of those side effects are acting and interacting? It's a very important thing to do because often it does affect balance rather badly. And so that's something you want to be aware of and I'm kind of anti-pills these days.
26:29 It's easy to be, but it's important for people to know that many cholesterol lowering drugs create extreme joint pain drugs and not sure what family Tamoxifen is in, in terms of, of the type of drug that some people will be put on a five year regimen after a cancer treatment. Those drugs can create inordinate joint pain that simply go away when the drug is discontinued at the end of those five years that people don't know it. There's this fearfulness and this is the other thing that's really important when we're working with older students is that there are legitimate fears. The fear, I mean, not that no fear is ever not legitimate, but if my short term memory seems to be fading and I'm taking Lipitor and I stopped taking Lipitor, the chances are very good that my short term memory will be better. And that's a side effect that's on the bottle. So we need to be aware as teachers that without coming across inappropriately, we want our students to be as well informed as they can possibly be about what they're experiencing in their bodies. And why and continue to try to build strengths where there seems to be weakness, but be really careful because if, if I have a lot of pain in my shoulders, I'm going to be afraid to move and that fear alone is going to trigger pain. So that's the other thing I would, I would say in this realm of working with people who are older and whose bodies may be becoming more compromised and more compromised because of the impact of medicines, we need to know more about what our students are experiencing and why and tailor our asana and pranayama practice with them. And whatever philosophical discussions we have to really try to help them cope with what can be quite overwhelming.
28:48 Well, you really wouldn't want to make a decision of taking something like, the cancer drug that supposedly keeps it from coming back as opposed to having all the side effects. I mean, that would be a horrible decision.
29:07 But my idea is not that I would, I would never, so this one woman, I, who used to be in my classes stopped coming because she developed terrible pain in her wrists.
29:16 And I suggested that she never had pain in her wrist before. And that my hunch was that it might, I'm not a diagnostician, I'm not a doctor, but it might be something to do with her medicine, but just to keep it in mind. But she was becoming so demoralized that she thought this was an arthritis. She thought it was another comorbidity. And in fact, at the end of those five years when she went off her medicine, she had no pain in her wrists.
29:50 So really it's more of an education; these kinds of things might be happening, but it might not be your body. It might be a side effect, which to me, if someone told me that, that would be a very positive piece of information for me because, it can turn around if you stop taking the medicine for whatever reason, it's no longer diagnosed or whatever. I think that's really important. I have someone who has Parkinson's and the mental fog of Parkinson's I sometimes think has much more to do with the medicine than the actual disease. And so it's important to know that yes, medicine is good, but there may be things that you also will be dealing with because of that. And I'm with you. I don't have that kind of background, so I can't say for sure, but I think it is something like that. Just in general, we as teachers of older people can say, you know, medications do have side effects. Just be really, really aware of what's happening.
31:21 Yes. And as you know, it, it, it can also get into sleep patterns. It affects diet. It, it affects so much cognitive functioning. One other thing I didn't want to forget to talk about is that especially with older students, when they present with a new ache or pain or if you, or if you haven't worked with them before and they've got anything going on in their hips and low backs, this is really fun ask them when they think these symptoms started and ask them if they've gotten a new car. Oh, the new car chassie's are a little bit higher than many of the old frames and so people have to step up a little bit higher and swing themselves into a seat that's a little bit higher. And I can't tell you how many times people look at me and their jaw drops open. Then they go, oh my God. And I literally go out to their cars with them and teach them how to get in and out of the car was less strain and, and so that's taking your yoga off the mat. If you think about balance lunges, twists, all of those things are required when you get into a larger car. And when you go to get out of your car and you swing your leg and you throw one leg out and the other leg is following the impact on people's knees is not to be underestimated. So I see my responsibility as a teacher, especially of older people, is to really think outside the box and think about where else is this person moving? What are they doing on a regular basis that might be exacerbating pre-existing conditions or creating new ones.
33:28 No, that's amazing. I'm glad I always have old cars. Linda, this has been great. I love the way that you approached this; it's really different from, from how I do it and I think I need to learn from you. But I want to thank you. Is there anything else? I know you've been really good about bringing out stuff that you thought the listeners might be interested in and, and need to know about, but is there anything else that you would like to finish the podcast with that you would really like to explore in more depth or just bring up a new topic?
34:12 Quite frankly, one thing that drives my teaching and I would discuss it with students is that and it can come up many times during any class. People are frequently wondering how long, when, they wonder if ,they wonder why. There's a lot of specific wondering and I invite them into wonderment so that when we're in an asana or we're practicing the cues, the invitations, the language, the vocabulary the cadence, the tone is to inspire a sense of wonderment so that when they step out of, let's say, a more challenging pose or move out of a longer yin hold that what they're left with is a quiet state of appreciation. So that's one thing. The other thing is that there are a great many things that we can know but more things that we cannot. And so being able to embrace the unknown and the unknowable is really fundamental when I'm working with older people because they want answers to questions that may not even be the right questions to be asking. So I try to create time in all of my classes for some type of dialogue driven by whatever's on the student's mind that I can then respond to through this yogic lens where we're looking to find the extraordinary and the ordinary and approach the unknown and the unknowable with a sense of wonderment.
36:15 Yes, I think that's a really critical in that perhaps as we age, we do lose our sense of wonderment in it's important to cultivate it.
36:40 Yes, yes. And what you do and what I do puts us in a position to shine a light on that path towards wonderment, just like any other piece of the landscape we want our students to dwell in.
36:57 Excellent. Okay. Well this is as usual been a fascinating podcasts. I love talking to you, Linda. I think you'll find that she's an incredible Yogi who has really taken the precepts of what we all do and applied them in very interesting and creative ways. Thank you so much, Linda. I appreciate it so much that you came on again. And I think this is a great podcast. Podcasts on yoga for older people have proven to be extremely popular and I think this has many new ways to think about it. So thank you so much.
38:38 You are so, so welcome. Thank you.
Email: Lindalang @Theopen-hyphen door.com.
Websites: www.therapeutic yogaDC.com and www.yogaaslifestylemedicine.com.
00:47 This is Stephanie Cunningham and Changing the Face of Yoga. And I have a great guest today. This is Kistine Kaoverri Weber. Christine has agreed to be part of the subtle aspects theme to talk about more of the subtle aspects of yoga. And Christine will be talking about Chakras and what chakras are, what system she uses and how you might use it when you're teaching. Welcome Christine and Cristine is committed to the widespread adoption of yoga as a population health strategy. She has been studying yoga and holistic healing for nearly 30 years advocating, speaking and teaching about yoga since 1995 and training educators since 2003. Her organization Subtle Yoga provides holistic mind and body trainings, education and clinical services with the mission of enhancing community health infrastructure. She is the director of the Subtle Yoga teacher training for behavioral health professionals program at Mahec at Asheville North Carolina, presents workshops and trains internationally and is frequently invited to talk about yoga at health conferences. And is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?
02:27 Oh, thank you. It's so nice to be here, Stephanie and no, I mean I've got a lot of stuff going on. One of the things that I'm doing right now is called, I call it the subtle yoga revolution. And I'm really trying to help empower teachers who love teaching slow mindful practices to feel really not like second class citizens because we don't necessarily want to do the sweaty fitness stuff, and are more kind of committed to the internal practices. And what I see is that there's a lot of science behind the validity of these practices that has begun to emerge in the past 10 years or so. And that's something that I'm really passionate about right now. So I have some online programs about the subtle yoga revolution. I'm happy to share some of that information if your listeners are interested later.
03:26 We'll be sure to get into the contact details so that people can explore that. So let's start really basic and to explain the Chakras, and I believe in an earlier conversation we talked about that there's the traditional look at Chakras. And there may be another version of it. So first of all, define and contrast those two things.
03:55 So first of all, I would request, my Sanskrit teacher would be very happy, if we would use the word Chuck Gra Not Chalk Gra. And that's a really common pronunciation issue. Just remember it's like chocolate chip cookies that'll help you remember. And also it's not French, it's Sanskrit. It's not like charkra^] it's a Sanskrit word. So the Sanskrit, the c sound is always the hard cha and if you spell it properly with the International Sanskrit spelling, it would be c, a, k, r a , believe it or not C h, but it has really become a western word really like over the past hundred, 100 years or so. Because it is the hundredth anniversary when Chakras, became known in the West which was 1919. So let's pronounce it Chuck Gra. And because we know we have sh sounds in Sanskrit? We have Shiva, Shakti, and Shavasana. And so we have a lot of sh sounds, but it's the ch sound is Chakra.
And then the second part of the question was like, define Chakras. Oh my gosh, that's going to take me a couple of days. So I'm going to give you a really simple; that Chakras are basically these energy centers that in the subtle body that have a physical ontological correlates. I would suggest, I know that there are certain people in this tradition who say they don't have ontological correlates. There are Buddhists who say that they do. What that means is like they really exist. That's all that means. Like they really are there. I believe they're really there. I think the tools of science are not quite subtle enough to measure them a yet, although there have been some attempts at measuring these centers by different people, I don't want to get into that too much, but there have been some sciencey , quasi-sciencey attempts at measuring these energy centers in the body. Even if you don't believe that, one of the things that I think almost every human being can agree upon is that on the midline of the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. And typically in the center of the chest, typically in the center of the belly, most of us experience some kind of emotional experiences there. Whether it's we say I have butterflies in my stomach, or I loved him with all of my heart, or I was so upset I was choked up or that really gives me a headache trying to think about it. So we have emotional reactions that often happen along the mid-line. And so if we can't agree on the models, and by the way, the Yogis tended to not agree on them either. They had many different systems. So if we can't agree on them, that's okay. But one thing we can agree on is that there are these emotional expressions and science hasn't necessarily explained them adequately yet. But the subtle body does give us a frame of reference that maybe is a little more subtle and more explicit. And the Yogis left us these beautiful maps of the system that I think are worth looking into more deeply.
07:54 So what are Chakras? There are energetic centers in the body where we tend to process some kind of mental, emotional tendencies. You know, we tend to have mental, emotional tendency processes happening in those centers. And the other piece is that many of the Hatha yoga practices that emerged within the past six to 800 years, many of them were actually originally intended to help create a better control over these centers. And that was the original purpose of Asana. So why not work with them? You know, why not continue with that tradition and see what we can do with Asana? You know, the other thing I always like to say is people come to yoga class a lot of times because we live in the 21st crazy century. People come to yoga class and they're like, I don't feel good and I'm going to go to yoga. And then at the end of Yoga class, pretty much, most of the time, people tend to feel more balanced. And often that's mental, emotional or mood shifts that happens. Why is that happening? You know, it's, yes, it's happening because of parasympathetic activation for sure. It's happening because of shifts that are made via the vagus nerve, of changes in Acetylcholine and all that stuff is happening. I would suggest that tha happens because of breathing and movement practices and these things I don't think are just random. I think that Asana is as they've been delivered to us and yes, some of them were developed very recently and others are much older. Asana is a way that we create more balance in the mental, emotional parts of ourselves or the mental, emotional body if you like, or the subtle body. Therefore we can be more intentional about how we use the practices to create better psychological balance.
10:05 Chakras, how many are you working with? There's seems to be different numbers of them.
10:20 Yes, there are different systems., I would call it the traditional seven chakras system, which comes from the Bengali tantrics. A lot of my teachers were from Bengali, so I work with that Bengali system. There are systems that predate that system. And of course there are systems that postdate that system because everything basically that happened after 1977 is a whole different ball of wax. I mean there was a whole movement, a new age Chakra movement that happened in the '70s. Largely from writers in California and other places that defined a whole new system. I don't want to say a whole new system, I would say a revamping of the system. So let me back up. I hope this is okay to go into the history because without it it's very difficult for me to talk about the system and what I do.
So a brief history of the Chakras. We have to look at texts in a scholarly way. What do the texts say? What were the texts showing us? And, and you do have mention of this system as far back as the Bhagavad Gita so it goes, it goes pretty far, 2,500 years or so. You have some mentions of these points in the body and the Charak Samhita, which is the original book of Ayurveda. You have some mentions of the system that go into antiquity but then you really don't have the definition of the system as we know it today, until a book that was written in 1544 called the such Ṣaṭ-chakra-nirūpaṇa . And that was a Bengali text. It's from the Shiva worshippers in that part of India, that northeast part of India. That text gets translated in 1919 into English. And really that's the introduction of the Chakra system to the west.
I always tell people that you have to go back a hundred years and think about what was happening socio-politically in India, what was happening in the world at that time. We're still in the middle of the occupation of India by the British, of the 300 plus year occupation. You still have a tremendous amount of both superiority complex of the west over the Indians, and then inferiority complex of the Indians towards the West because they'd been dominated, politically dominated, and there's all the racism and all that stuff that goes with it.
So what you have at this time in 1919 is sort of the revelation by Sir John Woodruff, who was very well regarded by both the Indians as well as by Westerners. He was a judge in Kolkata. And he started studying Tantra. And, and by the way, the Chakras come from the Tantric system of yoga. He's studying about the chakra system. He translates this text with the help of some Indian Sanskrit scholars, and then he presents the subtle body to the west. What happens from there is you have people like Alister Crawley and people like Charles Leadbeater from the theosophy society and many others who pick up on this notion of the Chakras and without immersing themselves in Indian culture and Indian history and Indian philosophy, which is as you know extremely complex and, and varied. It's an incredibly sophisticated system. So without immersing themselves in that they pluck the subtle body out of it and they plop it into their own worldview. This is going to necessarily render that system different than what the Indians understood and so Leadbeater comes out in 1927 with a book called the Chakras. And it remains to this day, one of the most widely read and the most widely sold book of the Theosophical Society by far. So that book, the Chakras, is the first place where someone suggests Oh, you can see somebody else's Chakras. You can manipulate somebody else's Chakras. There's colors in the Chakras. Leadbeater says anybody with a modicum of intuitive capacity can see somebody else's Chakras, so you get all this sort of new-agey, proto new-age stuff. That's not what the Indians were talking to.
John Woodruff writes his book, his second edition of his book, which was that first translation of the system. He says, as much in that book, and he says, look, there are people that are talking about Chakras but that's not really what the Indians were talking about. You have the west with its biases against the east and it's orientalism and it's racism plucking this very sublime system out and saying, I can interpret it better than the Indians can.
And from that, then we have to fast forward to the 70s and the Esalen Institute in California where they start putting together all these charts about Chakras and stuff. Again, very little reference to the Indian system. It's still kind of carrying forth this orientalism or this bias against the east. And then you get that in the 70s. And then the 80s is when all of the books come out. Like Anodea Judith, the Wheels of Life. And um, Hiroshima Motoyama's book comes out. If you go to Amazon, you will see hundreds of books about the Chakras based on an amalgamated system that's primarily from new age thinkers. That really doesn't go deep. It doesn't have any scholarly, deep or, experiential deep look into the yoga system. Anodea Judith, bless her heart, she did a service by bringing Chakras to the world, but she's not a yoga practitioner and wasn't writing as a yoga practitioner. She was writing as sort of an intuitive person or you know, a new age person. And that's the Chakra system that we get taught frequently in yoga teacher trainings. You get these laminated charts and that stuff comes from the Esalen Institute in California. It's not coming from the traditional system.
17:38 I didn't know that. And that's a bit scary, isn't it? Because we're learning something different. It's certainly not the Indian tradition. I think that bothers me.
17:52 Yes, definitely. I totally relate. And in my humble opinion, Carl Jung said it best. He said, we, we've done such a tremendous of violence against the East. He was talking about the world wars. You can also talk about colonialism. Tremendous violence has been done against the east and he said, we owe it to those cultures to look deeply into them and try to understand them. And I'm paraphrasing, but you know what I mean? l I'm so grateful for this tradition that has helped me so much personally and that I've dedicated my life to, and that I teach about. It's my life and, and I feel like it's a tremendous affront to not go deep into these topics. It's an affront to the system and it's a manifestation of that colonialist mentality and a basically a racist mentality to not look into it and to really see the deeper value beyond the color coded charts. I remember walking into Barnes and noble a bookstore here about, it was like 20 years ago. I walked in, I was like really getting into Chakras and I walked into Barnes and Nobel and I saw this little kit on the table and it said, Chakra Balancing Kit, $12.99 on sale. I've been studying the Chakras and I was like, really? So I could just get like a color card thing to meditate on and a little essential oil in a gemstone and I'm going to balance my chakras. That's a really good deal for $12.99 considering that from what I understood, it's really hard to balance your chakras. It's pretty much a life's journey to do this?
I think we have taken it too lightly and I think there's a lot more to it. And the other piece is that a lot of people won't listen to this podcast and the reason they won't is because they're going to see the word Chakra and go, oh yeah, that's that fluffy garbage. They're going to be like, yeah, whatever. There's no science behind it. It's not real. It's just a laugh, essential oils and some kind of a gemstone thing or, I swear a rainbow, that whole thing. The rainbow, by the way is not traditional. That just comes from the human tendency to want to see things in seven and put them all together. There's no reality in the rainbow according to the Indian system. Maybe some new age intuitive people have seen rainbows with the Chakras I don't know, but I'm a yoga teacher and I wanted to know what the yoga tradition said about the Chakras and that's where I operate from and that's what I teach from.
20:57 It's been trivialized.
21:01 I think so. I think it's been trivialised. It doesn't mean that we can't be creative . I'm not a rigid person and not a rigid yoga teacher. I'm all about innovation and creativity and I mean, that's what Tantra has always been about The Tantrics were really innovative. I think it's okay to be creative and innovative, but I also think it's really important to not just make stuff up, but to really situate it in the tradition and what the Indians were talking about and why it's important and how it's different. if I can do one thing that may be helpful here because I don't want to belittle the new age system, a lot of people benefit from it. That's not my point.
I've always thought this is so useful, is to look at western versus eastern worldviews. You know, so if you look at the West, the eastern Worldview, it tends to at least traditionally that worldview tends to be like inner technology. Like what is inside of me. Some of my history teachers have talked about how the ancient name for India is Mahabharata - the land that feeds everyone. Mahabharata. In India you have the development of civilization and lots of food and people had time to sort of contemplate the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe. And that's why you have this development of such a sublime philosophy, Such sublime philosophies emerging from the subcontinent. In the west, what we have really dominated and focused on is like mastering the external so in India there's this focus on mastering the internal, the internal technology, and the word technology in, in Sanskrit is Tantra, by the way. And then you have the west with the external technology you just go to yoga class and you're like, okay, so we're going to do some meditation. And most of you who are yoga teachers have heard this comment before. Like, I've got an APP for that.
23:21 There's an APP for that because that's our western worldview. We're focused on the external. So when the Chakras came west, what happened was they became the technology of personal development and self-actualization, like the transpersonal psychology stuff. They were about individual achievement in the external world. Then you get that whole thing of the first Chakra is about survival. The second Chakra is creativity and the third Chakra is about power. I'm not suggesting that that's completely erroneous. I think there's a lot of power in that map but the eastern map doesn't do that. The eastern map is, these are the powers of the elements. These are the powers of the universe, and you're going to internalize them and then you're going to become one with the universe? "Sanskrit saying" which means everything that exists outside of you exists within you. And you're going to discover that through this process of working with your Chakras, you're going to become the universe - a totally different goal than like self. It's a totally different goal. I think those worldviews are related and so my approach has been like I'm a westerner. I liked that self actualization stuff and I'm going to really give lots of value and lots of time to the study of the Indian system so that I can use the best of both of those paradigms in my personal work and also in my teaching. I do combine some things.
I think Carl Jung's teachings on the Chakras have been super helpful. Some people diminish them, but he was the one who helped me to understand what do the gods and goddesses and the traditional Chakras mean and how are they relevant to a western person. Carl Young said, don't practice yoga as a Westerner because you're going to fail. He's an interesting dude for sure. By the time he gets to the throat Chakra, he's just not interested anymore cause it's not psychology, It's not as psychological as the lower chakras.
That's something interesting that we can break down and is practical. I'm been talking about all this theory stuff, so maybe practical for your listeners. We kind of have to fight through some of our animal tendencies like tendencies to get distracted and our tendencies to be jealous and our tendencies to just kind of be lazy. All sorts of stuff that we move through on the way to the heart Chakra, where we start to become really a lot more human, we start to kind of have a sense of ourselves, our individualization and how we're different and what is important to us and what's not important to us. We start to get boundaries in the heart Chakra. The lower chakras are really useful for us in understanding where we've come from in terms of our evolutionary tendencies.
And then as we start moving into the upper Chakras, the heart, the throat, and then the third eye and the Crown Chakra, we really start to become more of our potential. Like the potential for being a spiritually connected and expanded human being; that's what those Chakras were used for. You meditate on your third eye or you meditate on the crown. Those are typical meditations or you meditate on the heart center. Those are typical meditation places. What that means is fixing your awareness interoceptively at those points. You're typically repeating some kind of mantra. Those are traditional practices that can be very valuable to modern people.
I had some clients going through really difficult surgery, heart surgery a few weeks ago and asked me for a meditation and they were Christian. I said meditate on Jesus with his hands, how he does that Mudra where he holds two fingers up and then he opens his heart, the sacred heart. So meditate on that image of Jesus, say your prayer in the heart Chakra and let that be a way to help you feel more centered before going in for the surgery. And they loved that. That kind of creativity with the practices I think is I think is super useful for people, particularly if you're basing them on the traditional tantra practices. I'm basing it on what I've learned from, from my teachers that can be really useful and that's a way to create balance in the heart. That's a way to really harness the power of the heart Chakra.
28:54 Let's talk a bit about, now you've got me very nervous, chakras and the individual ones that you're using. Like you said, the lower ones are kind of understanding where we came from. The upper ones are our potential, which is really nice way to think about it I think. How have you developed what you either train other teachers in or that you teach in your classes?
29:30 How have you developed it; which is a very eastern tradition that is not fitting well on top of the western tradition in our minds because we don't quite think that way. How do you use it so that it becomes very, you obviously like the example that you just gave about the heart Chakra. You've obviously worked it around so that it can fit into both systems.
30:01 I think it's fair to say that these tantric practices have always been adapted to the belief system. You have tantra that's showing up in Buddhism a couple thousand years ago and Tantra that comes in the form of Shivaism. It started really with Shivaism I would suggest. But history scholars may have some different opinions about that and then Tantra, by the way, gets adapted through the trade routes into alchemy. I mean, what do you think Harry Potter is? That's Tantra. That's external esoteric Tantra. So making things happen in the external world. Esoteric Tantra - alchemy came through the trade routes. So that's why you see so much similarities. You know, Hermione Granger with her wand saying Wingardium Leviosa you know, the mantra in Latin, but it's a mantra. The stick is the Donata, Gurus often had a stick and they would do stuff with it.
31:29 The stuff is deep and it was coming through the trade routes probably before the Middle Ages. It goes out into Persia and becomes Persian alchemy. It goes into China and becomes Chinese alchemy, you see roots of it in African shamanism, perhaps African shamanism is proto-tantra, becomes the Tantra in the south, south India. This is not exclusive to India. In fact, I would suggest that it's simply the Indians who really got into it and refined it. But we find it in all cultures. I do think these practices are largely universal.
When I'm working with a client one on one, which is a lot easier to help develop the Chakra practices, I will be using mantras and the mantras often are not just Indian or Sanskrit mantras. They may be something that's more appropriate for somebodys belief system. I'm going to use Asana because Asana we have four places that we get into with Asanas? So we get into the lower abdomen with forward bends, we get into the abdomen. And so the second Chakra with forward bends and then the third Chakra, which by the way the position is traditionally at the navel, not the solar plexus. A lot of people peg it at the solar plexus , which is the new age thing. And I don't think it's not the solar plexus, it's just that the root of it is typically the navel. So we get forward bends, we get twists that get into those Chakras and get the back bend. And that also will work those Chakras, but also really get into the heart center. And then we get inversions, like Shoulder Stand, but where we get some activation in the throat center.
And I do think that there is something happening regionally, like when you do an Asana and there's something like this, just say Cobra, there's something happening at the location of the Chakra, but there's also things that are happening globally in the autonomic nervous system that have to do with parasympathetic activation, That have to do with a vagal tone, that have to do with the release of neurochemicals. All sorts of things are going on that I think we're just beginning to understand. There are things that are not happening at the location. And there's also things that happen in the whole body that create a greater neuroendocrine, Neuro - immune response to the practice. And there's a body of research that's emerging that's validating that.
Now I'm not saying there's a body of research emerging, validating existence of the subtle body that is still really nascent. There's a couple of studies, but we still don't really have subtle enough tools, I don't think, to measure the subtle body. But I think when we do have those tools, I think we'll start to see a seven brain model emerge that there are seven sub brains. They're talking about the gut brain now and they're talking about the heart brain. But I think there probably will come up with something like five, six, seven areas that are remarkably similar to the subtle body. so I use Asana as focus on the area.
I also want to say one thing for your listeners because I think it's great to be creative and, and spend time on this, but don't get hung up on feelings of like, I have a second Chakra imbalance so I'm just going to focus all my time and energy on my second Chakra and do poses for the second Chakra. The yogis didn't prescribe that necessarily. I think it's great to spend time there, particularly if you've had sexual trauma or c-section or something where you're feeling cut off from that area. I think great to spend interoceptive time there and build the maps in your brain by spending time there. However, what the yogis would say is don't doubt the healing potential, the healing possibilities of the heart Chakra, that bringing your awareness to that center after whatever other work you're doing is a really simple and powerful way to bring a sense of peace to the nervous system and a sense of completion to whatever work you're doing. So I like to bring attention back to the heart. Not everybody practices like that. That was one of the things that I find tends to be really helpful. And you know, most of my students are women. I don't want to make any kind of generalizations, but there sometimes is this stereotype of the ascetic Yogi male focusing on the third eye. And third eye is . powerful stuff for sure. But it's not the whole of who we are as human beings. And I think coming back to the heart really can provide a very powerful healing center focus for many people, not just women, but for many people.
36:55 You would do probably asanas for all seven Chakras and then bring it back to the heart? Is that what you're saying?
37:09 Well, it kinda depends on what you're working on. Plenty of times I do classes that we're just going to get into the third Chakra today., Because so many Asanas are really great for your third Chakra. And the third Chakra is the place where so many of us have problems - digestive problems, but also the problems that the yogis outline. You know, the yogis actually gave a a whole map of the system. The word that the Yogis, the tantrics used is vritti. The Yogis gave a map of the subtle body and in that map what they did was they showed where different mental-emotional tendencies reside in the body. I think it's a fascinating thing to look at that somehow through these deep interoceptive practices where they were spending hours and hours and weeks and months focusing on these centers of the body for meditation They came up with a map essentially that said there are different emotions that are located in different parts of the system. You find this map in some of the Upanishads. It's sort of a later addition to the system.
Some of the tendencies in the Third Chakra are challenging. For example shame is in the third Chakra and jealousy and some depression. There's actually two different depressions one's in the heart Chakra, one's in the third Chakra. Irritability infatuation, fear, hatred. Those are all third Chakra Vritti according to the tradition. I think it's very useful to do Asana with the intent, holding that intention. I'm working through this jealousy vritti or whatever it is, and I'm working through this fear vritti and then to do a practice that's really third Chakra focused. And then as you said, maybe at the end of the practice, bring your awareness back to the heart with the idea of the heart is the center and I'm practicing for the highest good, and I let go of my whatever vritti, my jealousy vritti or whatever it is. Then spend some time doing that practice over some weeks and months and notice if there's a shift that happens for you. That can be really powerful. I've worked with many people like that in that way over the years. I think there's some beauty in looking at what the tradition offered and then working with the mental, emotional tendencies in a way that can create a better sense of self regulation and mental balance.
But just to finish up what I was talking about with the Chakras and the practice and stuff, I would suggest that if you're working with the Chakras, if you want to work with the Chakras, would want to know more about the Chakra. It's totally lovely to experiment because yoga is an experiential practice. Doing postures and noticing how that feels in your body and noticing, is there an effect on my mood? Is there a shift in certain tendencies when I do certain practices, like my original Indian teachers would say, you should be the scientist and be the experiment. Go for it in yourself. I think it's great. And I also think it's great to read and learn more about the traditional system. And as Carl Jung said: it's respect for the culture that's quite different than western culture. That the culture that this information comes from and, and making the attempt to understand a little more deeply.
41:30 So thank you so much for having me. It's been really nice to be here.
42:24 Thank you, Christine. That was a really interesting and cohesive description of what chakras are and how you use them. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate your expertise and time, so it was great to hear from you.
The Rainbow Body by Kurt Leland and it's a history of the western Chakra system. That's a really interesting read to kind of see the difference between the western and the eastern system. So I recommend that.
Chakra and Subtle Yoga Courses: I do have some online chakra courses where I talk more about the I talk more about the um, system from the Indian perspective and then some of the work of Carl Young and other psychologists I think have been helpful. And um, and I also have practices that go with them. So those are on yoga. U Subtle Yoga also has other courses about teaching Subtle yoga and other topics from Kristine.
FB and Insta: subtleyoga
00:46 This is the 108th episode of changing the face of yoga and I have a great guest today. Her name is Kelly Di Nardo. Kelly is part of my subtle yoga themed month and she's going to talk about yoga philosophy, which is something I've always had trouble getting into a class.
01:06 So let's learn about Kelly. Kelly is a freelance journalist and the author of several books, including Living the Sutras a guide to yoga wisdom beyond the mat. It gives readers a modern, accessible and personal look at ancient yoga philosophy and the wisdom found within, she is also the producer editor and cohost of the living at podcast and owner of past tense Yoga Studio in Washington DC. As a freelance journalist. She specializes in exploration, whether it is internally through yoga and meditation, physically through health and fitness, culturally and socially through profiles or the myriad other ways travel brings all that together. She has written for, Okay, the Oprah magazine, Martha Stewart, Living Health, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and others. So welcome Kelly. And is there anything else you would like to add to that introduction? No, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited about this
02:12 I've always found it really hard to integrate the yogic philosophy into classes. I read a bit about your book and I liked the fact that after you've explained the sutras, you actually give related writing prompts so people can really apply what they've learned. I thought that was a great idea. So why did you decide to actually write a book about this?
02:39 Well, honestly very similar to you, I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around the philosophical side of yoga. And I met this wonderful teacher, Amy Peers Hayden who ended up being my co-author on this project.
02:57 And she gave these beautiful Dharma talks before her classes that really made it very modern and accessible. I mean, I remember one time she gave a Dharma talk about, I think it was about discernment, but she related it to Tacos and I thought if someone can make yoga philosophy and tacos relevant. This is just amazing. I wanted to understand it more. I kind of had turned over this idea for a book that would make the sutras modern and accessible and relevant. And then when I brought it to Amy. We really talked about having it be a journal as well, so that people could make it personally relevant and very tangible to themselves and their lives. That's kind of how that came to be. I think you can read all the philosophy you want and all the interpretations, but you know, our hope is that with the writing prompts that people can really do the work and make this fascinating and very, very smart, relevant wisdom, really personal to them.
04:20 I noticed that you said this particular book is about the first two chapters , the Vrittis and the Yamas and Niyamas. And could we just have a little bit of definition of Vrittis and Yamas and Niyamas. I'm sure the listeners will understand, but there may be a few that would like a little refresher. Absolutely. So our book focuses on the first two padas or chapters of the Yoga Sutras. And those two are really about the practice of yoga. The system of yoga. They start by defining what yoga actually is, what gets in ,the way; and then it outlines the eight limb system which is the practice of yoga. And the second two books really in the original, in the yoga sutras, really talk about the results of what happens and when you, when you reach the state of Yoga, when you reach enlightenment.
05:36 And so Amy and I focused on the first two books for two reasons. One, they're the most tangible. It's the work. And second, we have not yet reached a state of enlightenment ourselves. We didn't really feel like we were capable of talking about that. So the vrittis, these are the fluctuations of the mind. The whole potentially defines yoga as the stilling of the sensations of our minds. So I love the phrase that Buddhists used, which is monkey mind, which is that idea that like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, our thoughts jump from one to the other. And so yoga according to the Patanjali is calming those fluctuations. The way that he describes how we do that is this eight limbs system. And one of the things I found really interesting, especially given our age today where we talk a lot about you do you and working on ourselves Patanjali actually says we should do the opposite. We should work from the outside in. And so the Yamas and Niyamas are often referred to as the 10 commandments of yoga they're the moral code of Yoga. And the first five are how we deal with the outside world, what our relationship with others is kind of the rules for how we interact with other people in the world around us. And then the second five or how we treat ourselves and how we behave towards ourselves. And then from there, once you've got your moral code, your foundation, then you move towards to Asana, which is the third limb. And I, what I found really interesting is that it's less than 2% of the entire yoga sutras. So I know our focus again is usually on downdog and pigeon pose, but potentially it says nothing about that. You move further inwards, you've got the physical body and then you move to the breath, which is really a gateway to the mind. And then the last four limbs really deal with our minds. So stilling the senses and or controlling the senses would be the better way of putting it. And then different depths and levels of meditation are the last three. That whole process is all to still the fluctuations of the Vrittis.
08:25 What's your best advice for a teacher who wants to introduce the yogic philosophy into her class? How would you advise her or him to go about it?
08:46 I think it's really important to make this advice modern and relevant. In our book, I'm pretty sure we're the only yoga book that references Fight Club for example, or Dr Seuss, , the talented Mr Ripley. We also talk about things like the power of habits, which is made famous by Charles Duhigg's book or we talk about the flow state. I think that we can find yoga everywhere in so many places off the mat. I think you can introduce this philosophy in ways, in surprising ways, in ways that you might find in, in books or television or in psychology or social research. And so maybe there's something in your newspaper or a magazine that you read and you think, oh my gosh, you know what, this story is actually really about ahimsa, or this thing happening now is really about discernment or the importance of a consistent and steady practice. There are really interesting ways to bring that into play. I have a 4 year old and one of his favorite books for a long time was this wonderful book called Penguin problems. And I, after I read it a few times to him, I realized that this book was really about the importance of being in the present moment and the here and now and this idea of abundance. And I brought the book in one of my classes and I read part of it and use that as a way into talking about abundance. And not wanting what we do not have. I think it takes a way of looking at the world with your yoga glasses always on, if that makes sense.
11:01 I think that does, cause sometimes to me the sutras almost sound like Nostradamus. You can take it almost any way you want to and I think it's really smart of you to anchor it in the current culture because what he has to say of course is, is timeless, but it can be kind of hard to understand sometimes. So I think that's a great idea. I love penguin problems. That's a great way to think about it. Has the book been published yet?
11:35 Yes, it came out in June of last year. It's done really well. It prompted us to take it to the next step with our podcasts so that we can talk to other people, not just yogis that we in our first season we did talk a lot to mostly yogis. But just how they do what we're talking about. How do you take this ancient philosophy and actually live. Because I think we as teachers have to be living it or at least trying to live it, before we can bring it to our students.
12:13 I think that's true. So let's your podcast, I have it here somewhere. Living it podcasts. that might be a great resource for all you listeners out there, so you could actually see how people are usually using it. We can just kind of skim over the surface on this podcast, but I think that would be very helpful to people because I do think it's hard to make that translation.
12:43 Yes, I think so. And, and I'll give you, I'll give you an exclusive here, our first season of the podcast, really looked at what yoga is, what gets in the way, and then how we can practice with ourselves and our ego and then in our relationships. And then how meditation and Yoga are kind of intertwined. Our second season is going to be 10 episodes just on the Yamas and Niyamas. So each episode will focus on one of them. Um, so that will hopefully be dropping in September.
13:22 For the listeners, that's just a really great resource for you and I'm really glad you told us about it because I do think it needs some serious contemplation before you can make it really work for you in the class. Can you give us a specific thing that you either wrote about, are you doing your own class? Although I did like penguin problems, I thought that was great. That people could use say about, about Vritti. I had a teacher that talked to me about Vritti and he, he said something I thought was very interesting cause I'd never heard this before, that Vritti is not exactly the state that you're trying to get to. It's just is that's kind of the, not quite monkey mind state, but it's, you're really trying to work beyond that, that you, you need to calm yourself even more. So how would you in your class talk about vritti?
14:34 Yeah, that's a great question. The way that we talked about it in the book, and I'm going to flip to that page, the way that we talked about it is that the Vrittis are like Instagram filters? Honestly, they're filters or lenses that color, how we see things and sometimes they can make the picture prettier or rosier and sometimes they distort it and like a fun house mirror almost. The trick then is to really see things clearly and without the filter. And I think that, um, I think that when we can do that, when we can see things clearly without any filter on it, then we can begin to understand who we really are. And when we can begin to understand who we really are, then we can understand our unique purpose or Dharma for being here on this planet and what we're supposed to do. And that, I mean, when you knew those things, that is incredibly expansive. That's how I would describe the Vrittis and in a way that I think students could really understand what they are. Because I mean, let's be honest, everyone seems to be on Instagram and knows how to doctor a photo. Right? Sure.
16:03 No, that's, that's really good as soon as you said that. I can understand that. Give me, if you feel comfortable doing so, a benefit for yourself for doing this study and working internally on this.
16:23 I mean, I think there are so many, the the way that Amy and I worked on the book as one example, it felt like I was getting my PhD in the, in the yoga sutras and I, we really had to dive into it in a deeper way and, and she has been studying them for much longer than I have. I'm not going to write something that I haven't done or that I don't really believe in. So for me, this was a really deep dive into this and I came away with some very, very tangible things and changes that I made to my own life. And probably one of my favorite takeaways is this idea of cultivating the opposite and Patanjali talks about the fact that you're never going to replace bad thoughts, negative thoughts with positive ones. Our brain just doesn't work that way. If I tell you, I mean this is a famous psychological study. If I tell you right now to not think about the white dog for 30 seconds, the only way you're going to not think about the white dog is if you replace it with something else like a green elephant. And it's the same. It's the same with our thoughts. And so the way that that feels really tangible to me is when I'm dealing with somebody who's difficult or maybe just challenging me in some way. I try and think instead about instead of how they're driving me crazy, what could the thing that they have brought to my life and if I can't think of a very good thing, at least thinking that all situations and everything is temporary, everything is always changing. That's enough to replace the negativity. And then I can see that person or sometimes myself in a much more positive way. I think some of it's fake it till you make it kind of things that, you know, it feels a little weird to think nice thoughts about someone who's driving you crazy. Or for some of us it's hard to think actively positive thoughts about ourselves. You work that muscle a little bit and it gets a lot easier. I think that is one way that for me is really important. I think these are little things that in total really make life better and that make us a little less crazy and a little calmer and more appreciative and aware of the abundance that does exist in our lives. And when we can do that, I think that starts to kind of clear the smudges off of the lens, so that we can see things more clearly. That, does that make sense?
19:23 It does. this particular book is the first two books of the Patanjali Sutras. Are you planning anymore?
19:37 We do have another project in the works. It will be more of the first two books and it really will be a great resource for teachers. So we have not signed our contract with Shimbala on it who is our wonderful publisher. I can't say more yet, but I promise as soon as I can I will email you
20:10 Is there anything that you would like to talk about that we haven't covered or we haven't covered in enough enough depth that you would like the listeners to know about this?
20:21 Oh, that's a great question. You know, I, I will say I was very intimidated by the sutras. I mean I studied them in a couple of early teacher trainings, way back in the day and then I didn't really do much with them. And, and I get that. I get how they can be intimidating and the ideas seem, you know, a little old. I think really the wisdom within is life changing truthfully. And I think one of the, one of the big things that I have remembered, I am somebody who came to my yoga practice very much just interested in the Asana and the physical. You know, I, I was not really interested in the other aspects of yoga and it's still really struggle with meditation. And for me it's a nice reminder that you can practice yoga and never do Asana ever in your life and you can do Asana and never practice yoga. And I would like to take credit for that. But it's actually something I learned from Rod Stryker and I think that as intimidating as the sutras can be, there are so many good, um, modern translations and approaches to it. Ours being one of them, that they're really worth the work, the study.
22:00 I think that's very wise that you can do asanas, but never do yoga. So, because so many people now think that yoga is Asana and, and that's a good way to start. You know, it's a nice gateway, but there is a great deal more if, if you choose to avail yourself of it.
22:24 And I say that with no judgment because I think, I know that this is a debate that happens often in the yoga community, my feeling is I don't care why someone comes to their mat. For me as a teacher, that's an opportunity. I'm not going to judge if they're there to lose five pounds or to get looser hamstrings or to destress or because they want to sleep better. Personally, I don't care. My job as the teacher then is to start to open up their idea of what yoga is and what it can be. And so that's just an opportunity for me. And I think that's really kind of a wonderful gift that we teachers have. It's really sort of amazing.
23:12 That's a great way to think about it. I really want to thank you for coming on the podcast. I think it was a really interesting one. And I do want to say again that the book is Living the Sutras: A guide to yoga wisdom beyond the mat. And I assume that people can get it at all of the regular outlets like Amazon and all of that.
23:42 Exactly. Absolutely.
23:44 I do think that the way that you put it together with writing prompts after you've read about it, is a really excellent way to go about learning My problem with the philosophy is that I learn it, I think, oh yeah, that makes sense. And then it just goes totally out of my mind. And with the writing prompts, I think it would stick hopefully a little better.
24:07 What I usually suggest to people as they read it once through before starting the writing prompts, because I think for some people the writing prompts can also be intimidating for people who think they're not journalers, but, um, you don't have to do them. No, nobody's checking.
24:25 Okay. You don't have to send in your answers. If you're interested in this for yourself, or to apply this to your classes, this sounds like an excellent resource. And don't forget that the podcast, Living it. Is going to be a, you even more in depth information and that starts, the second season starts in September. The first season is already gone, so you can probably even find it on Itunes, is that correct? Yes. Itunes, Google play. And we have a website called firstname.lastname@example.org so you can listen directly from there. That's great. Okay, so those are all available to you. I'll put all that in the contact details. hank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it and I thought it was really interesting because like I said, I'm kind of out of my depth when it comes to the philosophy and then giving it to my students. So I think you're doing a great service, so thank you.
Thank you so much for having me, Stephanie
Hello, this is changing the face of yoga. I have a great guest today. Her name is Beth Spindler. Beth has over four decades of experience in utilizing yoga as a healing modality plus the highest certification in her field. Her book -Yoga therapy for fear, treating anxiety, depression and rage with the Vegas nerve and other techniques - is recognized in the yoga therapy community as a text for those studying in the field. She is frequently a featured writer and presenter for Yoga International and leads retreats worldwide. And this is the thing I didn't know. Beth also has a long history of using sound as a healing modality and was a professional jazz vocalist for 35 years. Welcome Beth. And I'm very excited that you are a jazz vocalist. That sounds so interesting.
01:40 Thank you, Stephanie. I'm glad to be here. Yeah. I'm not performing a lot of late. I do get to jump back in occasionally now.
01:56 I think that's exciting. I'd love to hear that someday. This month is the more subtle aspects of yoga and as Beth is an expert in using the sounds, of her voice and other issues, she's going to talk to us about chanting and how that helps in the healing efforts of yoga. Do you actually use it in class or is it more just using the concepts of the sound to help in the healing of Yoga?
02:42 Yeah, when appropriate. I do incorporate chants and use techniques like Bhramari breath, humming the bumble bee breath a lot. That's a good way to introduce people to it. And certainly what I'm doing in groups that I sense there might be an allergy to things of a spiritual nature. I keep it pretty secular, you know, I'm not going to be introducing the names of theories and that kind of thing that might ruffle some feathers initially. But I find that people love the practice once they loosen up a little bit about it, but I'd like to start with just humming and sometimes I'll do that even when they're in Shavasana or lying down for Shavasana just to help them hum away any tension. It's a nice way for people to relax and they don't know that this is Nada Yoga. Nada Yoga is an ancient Indian metaphysical system and it's philosophical. It's a medicine and it's a form of yoga., Nada is its own own category. because of the powerful nature of using vibration, that helps ground and center people and helps them connect with sound energy that is individual and can heal issues. I think it's very important part of yoga that often we'll worry that we're going to put people off so we avoid it.
04:52 I think that's true. When you decide to do chanting do use the Indian chants or do you ever use one in, in English or something like that?
05:04 Generally I'll use Sanskrit because of the nature of Sanskrit. The words themselves are vibrational in nature. And for instance, when we're going through the sounds of the chakras, even names of the Chakras have the vibrational quality of, when we say Muladhara it reverberates at that point in the body of the root Chakra. People can really get a handle on how that feels, by taking the eyebrow Chakra, which is actually located more toward the center of the head and use the sound Ajna, Ajna, Ajna. Ajna. They'll repeat that. You're going to feel that vibration right above the soft palate, right in the center of the mind where that sound vibrates and I invite people listening to try repeating it in that way. Ajna, Ajna, Ajna and setting up that vibration because it's a good way tune in. Also we use sound in ways like Ujaii breath. Ujjai breath is another way to help set up that vibration there above the soft palate that impact areas of the brain that may need stimulation. I also work with a friend of mine is a sound therapist and the things that she can pick up from voice analysis, she uses computer and voice analysis. So I'll plug Andy Palmer. She uses voice analysis on the computer and she can pick up things in your voice, like hormone imbalances. She can tell you what medications you're on. Based on the sound of your speaking voice. She can, she can pick up osteoporosis. I mean, it's just remarkable what she's able to discern from the sound of the voice. But we become so disconnected from using the voice for healing. Historically, every culture has used singing and music as a healing modality. And we're disconnected.
08:12 We are all kind of with our I phones are really looking at that and typing with our thumbs, but that we don't speak as much as we used to. Do you start the class with some kind of vibration work or is that working through the whole entire class?
08:35 When I'm teaching workshops more often, I'll start with something like, the teachers student prayer and have the group join me in three ohms at the beginning and three ohms at the end. Most of the time they know the teacher student chant. I invite them to join. People often respond really well to it.
09:12 Do you find that you do have some pushback, shall we say in a general yoga class to chanting. Obviously yoga is kind of different for everyone and so it takes a while to get everything going. But do they like the chanting? I personally have absolutely no musical ability. So I hate chanting because I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just wondering if you're like me, if you have no musical ability, do you suggest just using the ohms and Ujaii breath.
09:56 Bhramari again is a really good way just giving people the cue that changing that the tone doesn't have to match the one I'm singing. Start with something in a comfortable register for you and and people find it very interesting an exercise I'll often do, especially in a workshop setting, but it amazes people. If groups are comfortable with a partnering situation, which not every group is. And certainly if I'm working in a trauma setting or whatever, we're not going to probably do partner anything. But if people are usually in with groups of teachers who were a little more open and I've done it with public groups and they loved it, especially if it was kind of a friends group that's been together for a long time. taking one partner and having placing fingers on either side of the chest and inviting them to find a tone that rumbles in their chest and then try to center that tone, bring it to the middle of the body Have the partner say to work toward the front, toward the back.
11:16 You're getting it and they can refine that tone until it vibrates in the center of the chest then And then move to the throat area and notch of the throat, in the back of the neck, and have them vibrate there or up in the head. Now the head tone often sounds like a mosquito and, but it doesn't have to be a perfect B flat. Each person can find that and see if they can set up that vibration in the head. And I was told, when I was doing teacher training I had a neurologist who would come to the class and all of her lectures, sometimes. Dr Sripada and he was an Alzheimer's specialist and he said, if I can get people, if I could get my patients to use vibration and find that vibration that moves up into the head that way. And he said they wouldn't need Aricept. He said you can break up plaques in the brain with that tone. Yesterday an article came out that details how they are eliminating Beta amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with a combination of sound and light.
13:10 How exciting.
13:10 We have this ability to heal and release those Beta amyloid plaques. I think it's pretty, pretty exciting, especially at my age and I have a family history of Alzheimer's. And so it's one of those working little fears there in the back. I do that. But you were asking about introducing sounds to the group. More often I'll use Bija Mantras or seed mantras. There are Bija mantras for the chakras like the lum bum brum yum hum sa Hum Hum Sa be. The Bija mantras for each of the major chakras. Of course there were more chakras than the seven. But those are the tones and I'll use those. Then there are also sounds like 'chants' Those are also connected to the Tantric mantras used for stimulating the chakras. People are not as afraid of those I'd say as they would be say 'chants' or 'chants' . People are less threatened by sounds that sound more like humming, more like just syllables. But what a Bija mantra does, it's like an amplifier, when you place them in a mantra. For instance, if you were chanting a sort of chant , you might use the bijas ohm and ihm like, chant. Ah, that kind of amplify. It's like push forward that , an intensifier. So Bijas themselves are said to contain a lot of the power in the universe. Bijas are very powerful in and of themselves.
16:38 Do you explain to the students or to your workshop participants about why or how powerful chanting vibrations are to healing?
17:21 I do. They want to know the science end of it. They'd want to hear Western medicine proof of what we're asking them to do. And I think it's incredibly important for teachers to keep up to date on current research and studies being done because there's everything is being proven, , that, I mean, we used to think , that you couldn't ever find the Nadi's - the Meridians in the body. We thought that those weren't actual things. And then we find out about the interstitium that this is a, an actual layer that runs through the Fascia of the body. And there's a little fluid filled compartments that they couldn't see because they were looking at dead tissue. And you could only see those in live tissue. So they had to use microscopy and endoscopy too. They had to move through the body with a scope in a live human body to find these, but they exist. Here we thought they were metaphysical things, they were just something that we talked about. We knew something was going on but the ancients knew and so a lot of what we are we're doing is gaining western understanding of the whys of why yoga does work. There is a lot of research going on about sound.
19:23 You're saying that your students or your participants are very open to something that has a bit more familiarity with Western medicine context.
19:36 Yeah If I encourage people with a way of saying, this is what we're doing and this is why we're doing it, here's what research has to say about it. You ready to give it a try? I rarely have an have someone just sit there and , not give it a go, people, people are interested. So, definitely the audience is where and when to use to use it; it takes a little discernment to know which group is gonna dig it. If you go into for instance, if I'm going into work in a recovery center or something like that, I am not as likely to start bellowing ohm the minute I walk in the door, but I might introduce humming to them at the end of the class. I might do that because it's not super threatening. It, particularly if they're not looking around at each other. They're lying down and starting to relax and, and they've already done some practice in their bodies feel better. They're more likely to enjoy playing with some, some vocalizing at that point. And as you know, and we say, no, my stay at the end and people that sound people resonate with it makes them feel more a part of what we're doing.
21:25 If I'm kind of iffy on ohms, maybe it's just the way people present it to me or something, but they, sometimes they are really very comfortable and you like doing it and sometimes you don't. Is that the vibrations or is that the context or, and I know I'm asking you to guess here, but what would be your best guess on that?
21:57 Yeah I mean, we all have moods where we're receptive and moods where we're not. And I think, it's okay if you don't, if you just want to listen, sometimes if you don't feel like, like opening up and doing that but you still get benefit even if you're not participating in things, they get the benefit. You mean as a teacher?
22:38 No, it's a student or a participant. Now, if I don't do ohms as a rule, of course I'm not teaching right now. But I just, I just feel like sometimes it feels really, really comfortable to do it and sometimes it feels really, really uncomfortable to do it. Now if it's just me, that's fine because I have this musical issue. I just wondered if sometimes the class really responds and sometimes they're do we have to do this ?
23:10 Yeah. There's, I think ebb and flow. Everybody has days when they're feeling really yogaful feeling in the Yoga groove and times when you're just kind of there to stretch. I think what they are, and I there are times I don't ohm at the beginning of the class, there are times that I just say here's what the class is about. We're going to lie down and, and, , constructive risk position, take a moment. And, I've often said and use the breath as mantra. Using the breath itself as mantra and internally because internally hearing the sound of the breath, which is so hum which is also the mantra for the Ajna Chakra, the one of the Bijas but hearing so on the inhale and hum on the exhale internally can be as powerful. That's, , what we call, the on the Anahata which means unstruck sound. It's the sound that reverberates inside of us. Whereas external music is Ahata Anahata is the heart chakra it is sound the unstruck sound that reverberates inside of us.
25:13 You obviously work with people in rehabilitation places or something like that. those people also, I'm sure not knowing anything about what that means about rehabilitation can also use this sound? Do they seem to feel like it's a good idea or are they more, cautious than say a just a general yoga class?
25:51 They'll often flat out laugh and I've learned, especially working in recovery anything can happen and they will, they often will ridicule poses. They'll laugh at whatever we're doing. So you have to be cautious. And a lot of it is because they've been through trauma and anybody in addiction has also also been through trauma. You can, you can be certain that they've experienced a lot of stuff. They'll want to pull away from weird parts of the practice especially, or they'll want to pull themselves out. It's that, this association that that will happen in that group. So same with vocal things. They kind of like Namaste because they've seen it in movies and they've heard it on commercials. Yoga all over the possible advertising world. If I get to work with a group for a long period of time, which is rare, usually you have sometimes two weeks sometimes, which is not enough time in recovery, but that's all Medicaid would cover often. I used to be able to be with them for a month at a time and, and then they start asking question. Do we get to do that? Are we going to do that Huffy puffy breath? Are we going to do this thing? And they become more interested. But when I have people for a short period of time, I'll keep it pretty western and pretty clinical in terms of we're going to do this this is specifically for this is something that can benefit sciatica. And I know some of you have have issues with that or we're going to do back care yoga today or we're going to do, and that perks interest. Can you help me with my pain? Later on if we want to refine it to things that are more subtle like breath practices and sound practices, then, they'll connect with them. But I want to give them in those groups especially, I want to give them something really tangible that they can see. I feel better. my neck doesn't hurt anymore. My jaw is more relaxed. Sometimes sound can help those things. Eventually I can get them to play.
29:21 Just take some patience. Do you ever, not in your recovery classes, but in your general classes, do you ever do a full chant?
29:31 Oh, sure. Yeah. And then I'll do workshops at studios on Nada Yoga on, on the yoga of sound because there are many who are very interested in learning more about Sanskrit, learning more about how to use I used to do a lot of kirtan. I don't do that a lot right now because I'm not working with musicians,. Occasionally people are really liking something. We'll do a little call and response in kirtan style. I don't have, I mean bring any instrumentation usually. I think it's wonderful when teachers do, right. Hmm. Come in with their harmonium or whatever. I think. Very cool.
30:39 So is there anything that you feel we haven't covered in enough depth or we didn't cover at all that you would like the listeners to know about? Chanting or sound therapy or, or in this area we've been talking about?
30:58 I think people need to note that this is I would like to reiterate that this is a science, that this is considered medicine as well as just a fun part of Yoga and that we can direct sound to really any area of the body that is needing vibration and vibration is the origin of the cosmos. which sounds a little woo, but its sound energy in motion rather than matter and particles that's the building blocks of the cosmos. And, it’s said that everything originated from sound. So when we connect to sound I can remember when I was a little girl and I loved to sing when I was a little girl and if I was down and I would get very depressed during school and I'd come home and if my mom saw I was really blue, she would go over to the piano and play something. And, if I could get over and sing, my mood would change. And she knew it helped me with dealing with depression and, and I can't tell and tell you how many times when I had gigs, when I'd be going out and I'm, maybe I'd have a horrible sore throat or, , I'd have an awful runny nose and I think I am just going to have to cancel. And as soon as I would get to the job and start singing by the end of the first set, I was, I wasn't sick.
33:16 I mean sometimes it was an exploration of whose voice is this rumbly voice with a cold. But I would feel well and it would help me heal. Even young like that, I recognized the healing qualities of vocalizing and, and not just vocalizing, listening to music. I mean, why are they playing those music tracks in every grocery store and every place we go? If they don't help people so, and attract people and help us relax and elicit a response, you know, that's the type of music they play may make us buy more stuff. But I think that we haven't even fully recognized the power of sound and music.
34:30 Thank you. Because that makes sense to me. I guess with my western science background where, yeah, the vibrations of it make it, I can understand that because to me, given my lack of any musical ability, it just was in a very embarrassing kind of thing. but I can understand that if it's that the vibrations could be very healing, have a friend who does healing and she talks about vibrations a lot. And I think that it's, that's a really important point here is that that is a healing modality along with much, much else of yoga if you use it correctly.
35:12 So I really want to thank you, Beth. I think you've really added considerably to my knowledge. I'm sure to the rest of the listeners
35:26 Contacts: if you want to get a hold of a bath and see maybe if she's going to have one of these workshops.
35:31 Her website is teach to inspire dot com
35:38 Its www.teachtoinspire.com otherwise it won't go there for some reason, Facebook is Beth Spindler yoga therapy and also teach to inspire yoga education. And I have something called at Yoga chant. Is that okay? Is that a net? Yeah, that's the Facebook. Okay. Teach to inspire Facebook.. So at Yoga Chant and Beth Spindler yoga therapy. Thank you so much for this. I think you've just done a great job of explaining this and, and I have a much better idea of why adding sound to our classes. It's a really good idea
36:41 Even if it's just spoken, spoken chant, it's helpful.
36:47 Or what was it on ahata where it's inside channel where you don't make a sound but you think about it. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
37:01 Thank you, Stephanie. I enjoyed it.
I have an incredible guest today, Indu Arora. She is an expert in many areas. She is an yoga and Ayurveda therapist and her philosophy is nothing has the greatest power to heal but self. She has written several books and we will talk about Mudras: The Sacred Secret. She has taught and been insprired by Kriya yoga, Himalayan yoga, Kashmiri yoga, Shivaism and Sivananda yoga. Welcome Indu and thank you for joining us on the podcast. Let's start at the basics: What is a Mudra?
01:32 Well, please accept my Namaste Stephanie to you as well as my greetings and Namaste to all the listeners. So yeah, what is Mudra? You know, when we talk about a subject, there are three basic ways to understand what it is. One is we can simply understand the meaning of the word. Second, if we go more on linguistics, we can understand what is the root of this word. And the third is actually left for exploration, which means your own experience and realization will help you unveil the meaning. So we can talk about the first two. When we say the word Mudra, it basically means a gesture, a lock, a seal, an impression, and even currency. But basically it's a nonverbal mode of communication. Now, there are so many different meanings to the same word, but where we use the word and in which context you're using it, the meaning of it changes, but what keeps it logged and anchored is the root. So that takes us to the second meaning of the word. And the root from which the word Mudra is derived is mud. Mud then comes a suffix - dru. Now mud means delight and dru means to draw forth. So if we combine these two things together, it basically means to draw forth from Vidan (sp?)a state of delight innate happiness, joy. So a practice, a tool that helps us unreal that innate state of happiness and delight that is mudra in context to yoga.
03:13 Excellent. How does that work? I mean, how do you draw forth that delight by using mudras?
03:22 So again, there are a couple of ways to look at it. One is to understand that there are different kinds of mudras depending upon from which group of texts we are refereeing and what kind of Mudra. Are there are Mudras that are used in classical Indian dances, there the entire story or legend as communicated merely with the movement of the eyes, face and neck, hand and so on and so forth. The second group of texts is you know the Mudras which are associated with mantra chanting and you know for example: Gyatri mantra there are 32 Mudras, hand Mudras that go along with the practice of Gyatri mantra and the third series of texts or group of texts mudras that are used at the time of specific rituals and worships or invocations and so on and so forth. When you talk about Yoga Mudras there are mudras which are used for meditation and then are mudras that are used for therapy. So then you asked the question of how does it actually work and unveil that inner state. It really depends. What kind of Mudras are we talking about. If we talk about spiritual Mudras, they are actually, those are the mudras that are actually unveiled in a state of meditative experiences to the Yogi's, to the Rishes, to the sages, which means that once they were in that state of Yoga, mentally, physically, emotionally, pranically their bodies, their eyes, you know, either logged up or roll down or close gently and their hands would go in different positions. In that case, we are simply mimicking the consequential body positions so that it slowly when you bring the fingertips together in different hand positions, it slowly kind of start relaying a signal, creating a specific loop of energy, creating a certain impression over and over and over again, almost like a domino effect. To slowly bring that affect just starts from physical, sensory, expedience, kinesthetic experience to changing of our biorhythm, our body temperature and our state of mind and of our state of emotions. Now, the second category of Mudra Therapeutic Mudras, they are totally based on the art and science of understanding and maintaining that ratio, proportion and harmony of the five elements. Earth, water, fire, air and ether. And the foundation of Yoga practices and Ayurvedic practices is that everything is made up of five elements. So whatever we are experiencing in the sense of imbalance, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, in whatever form it is. It is a result of the change in the ratio and proportion of these five elements and our hand represents the five elements. If you look at your palm palm facing up, your, let's start with the ring finger. The ring finger represents the earth, little finger - water, thumb - fire, index finger - air, and the middle finger - ether. Now how you combine the thumb and the fingers together, it will help in either increasing the element, reducing the element or purifying the element. And as a result of it, the different organs, organ systems receive a full or fresh supply of oxygen, blood circulation and also the intercellular and extracellular communication becomes more sharper and clearer and the metabolic wastes at released. So this is what I mean by you know, unveiling of happiness or delight, which here it means heath physical, mental, emotional health. So I know it was a short question and a little longer, but I wanted to go step by step a little bit because I know this subject is so new for a lot of us.
07:13 Yes. You said that in the Indian dance, that mudras also included not only the hands but the eyes, the neck and other parts. Is that true of mudras in general that is just not hand motion?
07:35 Absolutely correct. There are so many different kinds of Mudras. The most common ones are the hand mudras because they are the ones that were talked about or practice the most or shown the most. But basically there are Mudras. Let's take a journey from our head to toe. There are mudras of the eyes, you know that we use in prana. When you fix your eyes on a candle flame or something, or you roll the eyes and look at the tip of the nose and the center of the eyebrows or focus the eyes on the tip of the tongue. Those are the Eye Mudras then that are Mudras of the oral apparatus of your mouth. You know, when you round the lips and say ohm or when we roll the tongue, you know, vertically or horizontally for practicing the cooling breath, that is a mudra the tongue. Then there is mudras of the neck, you know, in certain postures like bridge pose and the shoulder stand, you tuck the Chin in Or in certain practices bandhas, you know, Jalandhara bandha , the Chin lock or the Mula Bandha or the abdominal lock or the root lock. In all these things we are practicing the Mudras in fact bandhas are types of mudras and then there are hand Mudras, which are the commonest ones then that are feet mudras. When you join the foot soles in Namaskar or in Tree pose, you press keep the foot sole by the inner thigh or by the knee or by the ankle depending upon where you can find most, balance or which one is most convenient and effortless for you. So, and then there are full body Mudras like the Gomughasana and I will not translate it as cow head face because it has such a deeper, I'm in seriously, I can talk about the name of an asana and it's actual real meaning versus you know, just the translated version. But I will just say Gomughasana, you know what I'm talking about? Or tree pose, they are actually all body mudras. Mudra is a state of the mind expressed through the body.. we have kind of a small slice of what mudras really are, It's a much deeper and and kind of fascinating idea that mudras are really expressing through the body certain things. As a yoga teacher or a yoga student, what would you do to find some good information and feel that it's really good for you as an individual?
10:23 Okay, so there are two ways. One is, you know how I shared in the beginning that that is this third meaning of the word or third way to understand the meaning of the word. And that is exploration in your own experience. So that is one thing I would urge the listeners, the practitioners, the teachers, is that experience what you are practicing. And that would mean maybe practicing, just opening up a mudra book and just whatever opens up or whatever aspect inspires you, practice that Mudra but while you're practicing, pay attention to what it does to you because otherwise it all sounds so magical. You know, you hold your hand like this and it will have this effect on kidney or liver or lungs. How does that actually happen? It happens because when you hold your hands in a certain way, it exerts a specific nerve ending tension. It exerts a certain self acupressure. It triggers reflexology. And if you talk in terms of Ayurveda, triggers marma points in our hands and through our hands in different parts of our body. And by doing so, it changes our biorhythm. It changes the structure of our breath, the length of inhalation, exhalation, the temperature of the body, the taste in the mouth, the kinesthetic experiences, the sensations, all of that changes by merely observing. So do not interfere, just observe when you're practicing. And slowly you will get a grip of it. That how is my body responding to it? If you feel calmer than before, clearer than before, restful than before, focused on how you are before you know it's working. And if it does not for you, the body will speak. Maybe you feel uncomfortably cold or uncomfortably hot or your mouth may start feeling parched and dry or you might feel a sense of nausea or headache. If you get these signs and symptoms from the body, then you know this is not working for you. So that is one path. Explore. Just open up the book and practice and give time for your body to respond and stay a witness. The second way I would say is let's say I want to explore the Mudras and in a certain way and therapeutic way, do it for myself or even kind of introduce it if you're teaching a class or leading a class or a group. So in that way I would say that let's go into the foundation of Yoga, Yoga therapy, and Ayurveda. Any kind of imbalance that we experience in the body is either as a result of agni or fire imbalanoce, which is metabolism imbalance or digestion imbalance or the vayu imbalance. When there is Vata disturbance, which means there is some discomfort or disharmony in the nervous system and and as a result of it that is either physical disturbance or mentally, emotionally there is a disharmony, so the root cause of all the conditions, anything that we experience in the sense of disease, disharmony lies in either agni which means fire, or vayu, which means air or vata. So one would be: practice the mudra related to vayu. Where you fold the index finger at the root of thumb and keep the other three fingers stretched out and press the index finger with the thumb over it. This is to calm down the vayu and if you're working to balance the agni that is just fire. For that you bring all the four fingers and the thumb together. These are the two basic mudras which anyone can practice. It will help in calming down the Vata and balancing the agni, not by increasing or decreasing. It may be harmonizing it. So that is one path that I would say that that is really good for yourself. The second is, you know, practice of the mudras of five elements. That is the foundational understanding of our body and the cost models that the microcosm and the macrocosm is made up of five elements and anything that's happening inside of our body at the physical, mental, emotional level, which is a disturbance, is a result of disharmony in the ratio and proportion of these five elements. So practice the mudras of these five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether holding them for minimum two to three minutes and practicing them two to three times a day. Now you can introduce that practice to the group, exploding one mudra each day, or exploring all five mudras depending upon the time and the readiness and the curiosity. . So these are the two ways I would suggest.
15:12 You said that some of these are therapeutic and it's not really a metaphor is it. I mean you're saying that by pressing certain ways with your hands and probably with the other areas that you talked about, you're actually giving a different nerve signal to certain areas, so it's actually a physical change done by this. Is that fair to say?
15:41 Absolutely. Absolutely. What is your body position? Tell me all these postures. Why do we have so many different postures? What is the benefit of all these different postures? Each posture triggers a specific response in our nervous system, creates or stores or awakens a specific chemical reaction in our body, awaken certain chemicals and changes of our biorhythm. That is why we try so many different postures apart from the fact that each one of them is working, twisting, turning , stretching, contracting a specific organ area, organ system or joint and so on and so forth. Apart from that, it has a tangible effect by changing our biorhythm. That's the same that goes with Mudras, that when you press the hands together by bringing the finger and the thumb close to each other, it is actually changing our bio rhythm. It is not a magic, you know, one part of it is just communication which is body language, but the other part of it is science and I have been, you know the first time I was introduced to Mudras I was 15 years and since then I have been practicing it and I've experience that results in my body and that is what I would urge the readers, the listeners to do that when you read something, when you listen to something, apply it and see what are the results for yourself. If this speak to you, if it is working for you, go ahead and do it. If it is not working for you, if it is not connecting, don't waste time, move on. But it does work if you do it sincerely. Every Mudra creates a rhythm in the body. It's like you know like a vibratory field, like a spiral effect. It creates a rhythm in the body that stays for four to six hours. Now when we go a nutritionist and prescribe a supplement or to a doctor and she prescribed some medicine, they say, okay, take twice in a day or once in a day and so on and so forth. They say that because the effect of that medication is going to stay in our system for that time and after that you need again, a second dose. The same goes for all these yoga practices. mudra creates a rhythm that kriya stays in the body for four to six hours. So if you are doing it as therapy, you must do it three times a day for that rhythm that you have generated to sustain and stay in the body. So if you're starting and doing a Mudra practice as therapy, practice it for many months, seven days, give one day for each tissue, you know, let it speak to all the seven level of your tissues and practice it for two minutes, three times a day. If you don't see any change in your sleep patterns and your appetite and your level of rest focus, then it is not for you. But I know it works. So you have to try it sincerely.
18:34 The key to this is to be really self observant about what this is doing to you. That it's just not something you do at they sitting in a particular way and when you're meditating or when you're just focusing. But really the cell phone awareness is the key to this.
18:55 Again, for two different practices, if it is a therapeutic Mudra, it was really important that you stay a witness to the effects of the practice so that you can modify and it's almost like a communication. You know, when you do a practice for your body, your body speaks and the practice should not be a monologue. It should be a dialogue. It should not be that this is what I'm going to do today. And I tick mark by the end and I did it and I did a great job. It is a dialogue when you are talking to someone. I'm sure no one enjoys it. When you're talking to someone with the idea of conversation and there is only one person speaking and the other person does not have any chance to speak. In this case with practices, you're speaking to yourself. You do the practice, you listen, you let the body communicate, the body communicates through temperature, through taste, through all the five sensory organs, through kindness tactic experiences, stay present to them when they are therapeutic. Melvin, there are spiritual, the language is different. The language is the state of your mind. So in that case you do not separate so much you because by separating you almost create interference with the practice. If you're so much hyper aware of what is my taste, what is my body temperature, then that meditation, which is one plus one is equal to none or numbness, we'll create a separate identity. So what kind of mudras you are practicing makes a difference to how you are going to interact with them or just to witness them or simply allow them? So in spiritual Mudras, let's take an example of the most common, spiritual Mudra, ca;;ed the Gyan mudra, where the word Gyan means wisdom. This is Gyan seal. When you join the index finger pad with the thumb pad and keep the rest of the three extended, you know which one I'm talking about? It's the most common mudra that anyone must have ever seen in any picture in the name of mudras or in the name of a Buddhist sculpture and so on and so forth. Now, this mudra is called wisdom seal for a reason. In this kind of mudra, you do not so much pay attention to your body contemplation and taste in the mouth and so on and so forth, but more the state of the mind. This Mudra has beautiful symbology. If you extend your palm forward and face up and joined the index finger with the town, the index finger represents the individuated mind and it represents the Shakti, the feminine energy. The thumbpresents a universal mind, the consciousness and the masculine principle. So then you bring the index finger pad with the thumb pad. It represents the union of the individuated mind, the matter, the feminine energy with the Universal Mind, consciousness and the masculine energy and that represents yoga and that is the wisdom we are talk about. I'm beyond the state of awake. I'm beyond the state of dream state. I'm beyond the dreamless sleep. I'm beyond these three states of mind. Then if we talk about the context of Ayurveda, I am beyond the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Those of us who might be familiar with the ayurvedic terminology or I am beyond the three Doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha and those of us who are practicing Tantra and yoga, I'm beyond the bondages of time: past, present, and future. So there is such a symbology in this Mudra that merely by holding it, I am communicating to myself that I am beyond these three: the bondages of time and place, states of mind and doshas. I am the union between the individuated mind and the universal mind and it is represented not by the coming together of this, but by the hollow that is held in the loop. We again get lost in because you know that yoga means plus means joining. It could mean one plus one is equal to two or one plus one is equal to 11 or one plus one is equal to infinity, but yoga is a different kind of union here at means one plus one is equal to none. So that hollow in the loop between the index finger and the thumb representing noneness, the void or even the everythingness, not noneness is everythingness also. So when you are practicing this Mudra, then pay attention initially to the point of contact between the index finger and thumb. And as you pay attention to it, you can hear or sense a pulsation like heartbeat, throbbing at the point of contact. Pay attention not to the throbbing, but the silence between the two throbs. Let them be connected like a string of beads. Silence to silence, to silence. That is the gateway into this loop into this void, into that nothingness that unveils the state of mind, which is not colored, which is not this or that. So see here we are not paying attention to the taste. Here we are paying attention to a different aspect.
24:53 I mean it's so complex. I mean you went through the whole thing and said, okay, all of this has meaning. And I can understand now why you might want to do this, but are all mudras like that, that they have layers and layers of meaning.
25:09 The meditative, spiritual mudras do. There are Mudras associated with Chakras, there are mudras associated with mantras. They do have layers and layers of meaning and symbology and almost they open a gateway to enter into a different state. And when we talk about therapeutic Mudras that is not so much about symbology, that is more about pressure and posture. So where are you putting the pressure? What is your body position? Are you allowing the channels in the Meridians to be open for communication so that the right messages can go in and the metabolic waste can move out?
25:46 Okay, so really I understand that they may not have been started with yoga, but they have so much to add our practice and to our teaching.
26:01 Everything which we call a yoga practice is a mudra. Whether it'd be practicing pranyam, a breathing practice, alternate nostril breathing, how you fold your fingers to press the nostril. That is a hand mudra now that has a deep symbology and maybe we have time or not have time to go into it. I will leave it for you to see if that question comes up. Everything even the practice of agnisar are you know, bramacharya, which is also known as the breath of fire. They're the place, the place where we place our hands over body position. That is a Mudra in the asanas that is mudras, in the meditation over body position why cross legged only. Why the spine has to be upright, why it cannot be leaning forward or backward, why the chin has to be parallel. Everything. It is basically coming from the Mudras, but I would also like to say I know I'm sharing a lot of different details which kind of explore its intensity and depth. I also want the listeners to know that each one of you, no matter how you're sitting right now, no matter if you're laying down and listening, you are in Mudra. Mudras are accessible to everyone and everyone knows about it. Even if we do not know the term, we are all practicing mudras,of our body language is mudras. How the expression in our eyes change and squinted them or make them broader or focus them. It is Mudra how we move over hands and at times interlace the fingers or keep the hand on the chin. These are, or how we say hello and how we say bye these are all Mudras so you know them. The only thing is now you're knowing them a little bit more. That's all.
27:42 So this is a lovely introduction to move drugs, but you've really done a wonderful job of kind of hinting at the complexity of them and if someone is really interested in that, how do you suggest that they explore it more? What's the most effective way shall we say?
28:05 I would say that in your meditation, explore it, you know, hold one of these bija mudras and see how does it change your meditative experience, which means that how easy or effortless it becomes for you to slip into the zone of talk freeness. I wouldn't say thoughts lessness because there could be freedom from thoughts but there could not be minus thought state because as long as we're alive there will be vibrations and that will be thought and so on. So one is you know in your meditation, introduce them with that. If you are not doing yet and choose any mudra. My favorite one is the Yang would rather that I just shared with all of you. Just use that with the palms facing up or palms facing down, whichever is more comfortable, like there'd be that space for you to experience and explore and if you are looking for practicing therapeutic Mudras, a good starting point would be the five elements or the five Pranam mudras:, the prana, vayu, udana, apana practicing those Mudras, taking a Sankalpa, making a resolve for doing it for seven days, two minutes, three times a day, and allowing the space to experience how is the mudra communicating to you. But if these teams do structured ways for you, a lot of my students, I know what they do is they just open up the book and see which mudra comes up. They believe in the power of you know that there are no coincidences and they practice at Mudra and see how it changes their breath and how does it make them feel. So you can choose the structured pathway or can choose to be absolutely free and see how it unveils to you.
29:45 I want to really thank you and Indu this is just been fascinating. I really had no idea that there was so much to mudras. If you would like to contact Indu. She is that Info@ I will spell this. It's y o g s a d h n a. dot. com. It's not yoga. It's Yog and website is www.yogsadhna.com. Her Book Mudra. The sacred secret is available in Europe. It's actually been translated into French and German. It's available on her website, which I just gave you and on Amazon. So it sounds like an excellent resource for those of you that have become interested in this. Her Facebook pages is InduAroraOfficial and Indu Arora and Official are all caps. Instagram is the same, but there are no caps. So it's into Aurora official. So this is how you might like to get a hold of Indu to find out how. I know I've looked at a small youtube video that she had about mudras, which was very fascinating. So I think there's a lot of resources that Indu has provided. Indu, Is there anything that you would like to cover that we maybe didn't cover in enough depth or didn't cover at all that you would like the listeners to know?
31:19 Well, I would say to the listeners is stay curious. Don't become stagnant in your practice. Let there be space for exploration. Keep moving and keep your eyes and your ears open when you are doing a practice. Don't become too compliant and passive and also don't become too structured and robotic. Let there be that space for communication conversation. Let your practice be a dialogue, not a monologue and there is beauty that is there in these practices and it opens up layers by layers, by layers. No matter where you start. We all are going to meet in the center at this one point called Yoga. No matter which lineage what style you're coming from, it is all going to end in just one place. called yoga. Mudras you already know them. You already are them. You're just becoming a little bit more curious, inspired and looking into it. So I really hope you enjoyed this journey, this pilgrimage of knowing the self and realizing the self. And thank you so much, Stephanie, for holding this podcast and creating this space. And I really sincerely
32:40 hope that our conversation is beneficial for everyone.
32:44 Oh, I'm sure it is. And do it. So it was very instructive and, and obviously something that you've studied for a long time. So I want to thank you so much for agreeing to be on the podcast and sharing your wonderful knowledge with us.
33:02 My pleasure. And if you don't mind, maybe I would like to chant a mantra if that's okay. And if we have time,
33:08 that's fine. Go ahead.
33:11 Indu chanting
34:47 Namaste. Thank you so much.
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