Recently, we began to reread two amazing books, "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya" by Satyananda Saraswati and another book titled, “Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond" by Nancy Bardacke.
I believe that it's time for us to delve a little deeper now into the actual yoga asanas (poses) found within these sacred pages. Especially since the first program concerns pre-meditation exercises and our other book is all about mindfulness meditation (& birthing). Lucky us :) So, here is how our first asana program begins:
"Most people today are physically very stiff. You can test this for yourself: from a standing position, keep your legs straight and bending forwards try to touch your toes with your hands. If you can't (please do not force or strain), then this shows that your body is stiff. Because of this stiffness most people cannot sit in one position for a very long time, as is necessary in higher yogic practices, without feeling the urge to move their limbs in response to discomfort. The following simple exercises are designed to generally loosen up your body and prepare you for eventual mastery of meditation asanas. There are many possible loosening up exercises, far too many for daily practice. The following exercises are selected ones which we feel give optimum results, especially when performed systematically in the order that we have described them" (19).
Alright. Noted. Let's begin then shall we? Below you will find a presentation which includes:
1. Practice in a well ventilated, unobstructed room. Do not practice in outdoors and in poor weather conditions.
2. Use a folded blanket or rug placed on the floor.
3. Wear comfortable clothing which doesn't obstruct free movement. Use common sense in this respect.
4. Please do not use unnecessary strain or force in any of the exercises. Though you may find that your muscles are a little stiff to begin with, they will begin to stretch even after a dew days of regular practice. (I'll write about this in more detail in a later post)
5. If you haven't already, consider reviewingJala Neti and Your Reasons for Wanting to Practice Yoga
If you are subscribed to my blog and if the presentation doesn't automatically load in your email box, it's because MailChimp (my blog distributor) isn't compatible with this file type. Please feel free to click the link "View Presentation" found above or simply visit my blog and read it from there. This includes the survey below, which most likely won't load properly in email. Sorry about that and thank you!
Perhaps Next Time...
Maybe I'll try to put together a video for you of myself leading a yoga class which includes these poses? What do you think? Would you like that? Let me know ;)
In my last entry, I wrote about how I am rereading two books, "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya" by Satyananda Saraswati and another book titled, “Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond" by Nancy Bardacke. I also talked about my desire to share this re-journey through these books because they are inspiring and accessible. Just like mindfulness and yoga ;) And so, in regards to the Mindfulness Book:
[It's] an invitation to use the life-changing process you are living right now as an opportunity for self-discovery, inner growth, and transformation. After all, you are living through the most transformative period in the adult life cycle, and your life – and the life of your partner – will never again be the same. So why not learn as much as you can from the process. (5)
What I like most about a Mindfulness Practice as described in the book "Mindful Birthing," is that its benefits apply to all people, not just individuals preparing for and/or experiencing labor. In fact, we could technically apply the benefits of this book to every single situation in our daily lives .
So how do we go about using this book? I think that, for the most part, I’ll share information about how the mind directly affects the physiology of labor and how the capacity to be in the present moment can be a critical skill for giving birth. We’ll learn ways to work with pain during labor, for most women in the process of giving birth, whether they intend to use pain medication or not, will experience some powerfully intense physical sensations we usually call pain. We’ll also explore helpful positions for laboring and birthing, partner skills for supporting the pregnant woman through the birth process, breastfeeding basics, and how to manage the physical and emotional needs of the postpartum family. Partners may be coming to understand that they themselves need these mindfulness skills, for they too will be having a birth experience and becoming a parent
[And so what if you’re not a woman or not having a baby.] It’s just that now, the present moment is where your life actually takes place; it’s the only time you have to learn, to grow, and to be fully alive. If you are constantly rehearsing for the future or rehashing the past, you’re missing this moment of your life, which is the only moment you ever really have. (11)
Learning to be fully present is a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice. Sometimes the present moment isn’t an easy place to be – like when you’re laboring to birth a baby. And so we practice meditation to learn how to be present with things as they are, however they are, even when they are challenging. And what we discover is that when we spend more time in the present, life becomes richer, more interesting, and certainly less stressful.
The Foundational Attitudes of a Mindfulness Practice
In the following presentation, I have chosen to read portions from a chapter in "Mindful Birthing" about the foundational attitudes necessary for cultivating mindfulness in our daily life. It's like an Audible recording, but of me reading... and sometimes Isabella babbling in the background. ;) And, as I said before, whether or not you're pregnant or your partner is... whether you practice yoga or you don't.... it doesn't matter. The benefits of a mindfulness practice are for everyone, right now.
I think we should take a look at our Kriya Book and the exercises listed there for our first Asana Program regarding pre-meditation exercises. If you've forgotten what I am referring to, read the previous blog or take a look at this photo. In the meantime, consider reading up on Jala Neti or the reasons why you might want to practice yoga :)
I have been rereading two books. One is regarding birthing with mindfulness, and the other is the most fantastic yoga handbook ever. Let’s talk about the first book first, though. The birthing book is called “Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond.” Noooo, I am not having another baby, but I am rereading this book so that I can be of better service to a pregnant yoga student of mine. (Let’s call this student Nancy, like Nancy Bardacke, the author of the book we are talking about.) Nancy is seven months pregnant with her first child and is new to yoga. I, on the other hand, gave birth to my only child (Isabella) one year and 4.5 months ago and I have been a yoga teacher since 2005. Here is Isa being awesome today.
So, to help "Nancy" prepare for the birth of her baby girl, I decided to build classes around the Mindful Birthing book so that she could start practicing Mindfulness now (in Yoga and Meditation), and so that she will be better able to use the practices during her birth and beyond. So far, the experience has been great! Not only do I feel like she is benefiting right now, but I suspect she will continue to benefit from the lessons even after she gives birth. In fact, I now recall how the mindfulness practices taught in this book also helped me after I gave birth to Isabella. Birthing is kind of a big deal. It's a transformational sort of thing. Hard to explain, but take my word for it - any tool you have handy in your proverbial tool bag during and after you give birth is priceless. The lessons found in this book should be one of those tools - for everyone.
However, while rereading the book, it suddenly felt like it had been a very long time since I was indeed “mindful.” That happens. ***Shaking it off *** Here’s how I rediscovered my lack of mindfulness whilst in my self-contained, social distancing experiment I call:
"Hermiting with Yoga and My Loves in Order to Avoid Catching the Plague Known as the Coronavirus -- A Journey & Experiment"
A week ago, after having led "Nancy" through a mindful yoga flow (pregnancy) practice, I went back to my mat and flowed for myself. Having only recently reread the first part of the book concerning The Foundational Attitudes of a Mindfulness Practice, I intentionally started practicing them. Beginner’s Mind. Non-judging. Patience. Non-striving. Trust (as Self-Reliance). Acknowledgment (Moving Toward Acceptance). Letting Be. Kindness. It felt like fresh, coronavirus-free air on my face after having spent much too long in a musty basement. The principles and foundations, to this day, have proven beneficial to me regardless of my being pregnant or not. I thought to myself; perhaps this could also be beneficial to others? I thought that perhaps I would start teaching some of the foundational principles of "Mindful Birthing" with all of my private and small group yoga students.
But then BAM. Coronavirus got even more serious and now I'm having to host our private yoga classes online via Facetime. As a result though, I had all this extra time, so I kept on reading.
My Yoga Handbook
“A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya.” That’s a mouth full. But it’s incredible.
“It is a complete work on yoga – a complete course in the practices of integral yoga. It presents a synthesis of the various paths of yoga in a scientific and systematic manner to ensure the harmonious development and unfoldment of every aspect of the individual… [They] have tried to present the book in such a way as to lead one gradually and progressively through the practices as if learning directly from a devoted teacher. If your approach is sincere and you follow your program regularly, the benefits will unfold themselves into all the different aspects of your life” (1).
So, here is what I am thinking. I’d like to not only share with my current students what I am reading about but you guys as well. The book says:
“There are three main parts, divided into thirty-six lessons, containing various topics on both the theoretical and practical aspects of yoga, and eventually a full exposition of the ancient system of yoga. The first book of practices for beginners is intended to systematically prepare the mind and body for the more advanced practices in Book II and eventually to the higher practices of kriya yoga in Book III. The ultimate aim is to progressively lead you step by step through the different techniques so that by the end of this sadhana course, you will have an integrated approach and a full theoretical understanding of kriya yoga, as well as many other facets of yoga” (1).
Okay, so let’s do this. I don’t have much time to write (witnessing Isabella’s life comes first in my world), but as I go along, as I have a moment here or there, I’ll share something here (blog, video, quote) about this re-journey into “Mindful Birthing” and my deep dive into all things Ancient Yoga. And whether you have a child or not, whether you are pregnant or not doesn’t matter. I suspect that there is something in my perusing of these books that will prove beneficial to you. I suspect that mindfulness cultivated through meditation or yoga will help you to develop skills to navigate the uncharted waters that lie ahead with more joy, kindness, awareness, calm, and wisdom than you might have otherwise.
So…. Little by little, let’s build that yoga program together. Hold each other accountable. Learn a little here and a little there.
I wish you joy in your reflections and your journey.
These are the daily practice programs for Lesson One in the Ancient Kriya book. I suspect I'll make a video for you regarding the Yoga practices. Like, explanations of how to do the poses listed and their benefits. I'll basically lead a class. As you can see, there are three programs. You choose the program you'd like to do based on the amount of time you have to spare. The first program takes 53 minutes to complete. The last program takes 15 minutes. This should be fun ;)
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
More on this next time, too.
 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses (New York: Hyperion, 2005), 108.
For Further Reading Preparation...
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley