Guided Breathing Meditation for a Radiant Life

 

girl in sun

 

I recorded this 8 minute guided breathing exercise in response to a dear yoga student of mine who is experiencing chronic back pain. The benefits of this yogic breathing technique are numerous and far reaching, from insomnia and anxiety to basic stress reduction.  A few minutes of conscious breathing done daily will transform your life.  I hope you practice and enjoy! (the first 90 seconds is an intro to the practice) 

For more breathing resources:

The Little Book of Yoga Breathing – Pranayama Made Easy, by Scott Shaw

Yoga Breathing audio CD by Rich Freeman

Namaste and Shalom,
Kendra

Miracle of the Body -Meditation

 

sitting silohuette yoga

Asher Yatzar is a Jewish prayer that offers gratitude and awe for the miracle and function of the human body. I have offered a brief reflection on part of the blessing, followed by a guided meditation/embodied experience of the prayer.

Although it is short in linear time, (about 5 mins) I hope you will feel as if you have visited the sacred temple of your body, returning deeply nourished from a long rest.

Asher Yatzar Embodied Experience

Namaste and Shalom,

Kendra

Sanctify Your Speech in 2016/5776

holy temple

According to Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (1180-1263), when you are careful about what words you speak, you sanctify yourself like a holy vessel used in the temple service. A holy vessel is suitable only for the highest purpose, and so it is with our mouths.  If all your words are for an elevated purpose, then your mouth is as a holy as the temple vessels.”

 (With Heart in Mind, Mussar Teachings to Transform Your Life)

 I often start with the body, in order to bring lofty concepts and ideals into my life in practical way.  I hope you will try this, as well as pondering the thoughts offered below.

Physical Purification of the Mouth

Tongue Scraping

The tongue scraper, an inexpensive yet transformative utensil, is a simple, thin, u-shaped piece of stainless steel or plastic.  It can be found in virtually every store in the dental hygiene department.  It consists of a blunted edge that removes plaque and build-up from the surface of the tongue. Dentists in America are recommending the tongue scraper more and more because it helps to fight cavities by removing bacteria from the mouth. The tongue scraper also prevents bad breath, especially for people who eat a lot of dairy and build up mucus in the mouth, nose, and throat.

The tongue scraper comes from the tradition of Ayurveda, (a sister science of the practice of Yoga) which asserts that people who use a scraper are better at public speaking, express themselves more thoughtfully, and speak more sincerely and authoritatively. Some people ask if the same effect can be gained by brushing the tongue with a stiff toothbrush. Brushing the tongue moves stuff around and is helpful, but a tongue scraper is more effective as it clears out the deep deposits and generally keeps the area cleaner, stimulated and alive.

Cravings can be reduced by cleaning the tongue of leftover food. When the mouth can still taste the food, you may experience cravings for previously eaten foods. A tongue scraper reverses the process of desensitizing your taste buds, which has happened to everyone to a greater or lesser extent. It allows you to taste subtle flavors in food so that you can eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains with greater joy and mindfulness.  When old residue is removed from the tongue, you will be better able to taste your food and won’t need to eat as much since you will have gained greater satisfaction from your meal.

Directions:

  • apply a few quick strokes, 2-3 times a day
  • use the rounded cleaning edge to scrape gently down the tongue several times while applying slight pressure
  • rinse under running water and gently scrape again until no white residue is left
  • there should be no pain or gagging involved whatsoever—if you feel any discomfort, you are probably scraping too hard or starting too far back on the tongue.

 Mental/Spiritual Purification Tips – Remind Yourself:

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  • Does what I am about to say improve upon the silence?
  • “What we speak becomes the house we live in.” (Hafiz)
  • Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

 

Namaste v’Shalom!

 

 

A Vessel for Hidden Light

black-outline-halo

Yes, this is you.  A beautiful work of art, always in the making. A vessel through which Creation gets to keep being reborn, re-discovered, and reinvented.  You are a container and a channel for good in the world. A vessel of hidden light. How can you expand this vessel, make it bigger, stronger, more available, to all the good that is ready to dwell within you, ready to pour forth from you? How can you begin to reveal your own inner, hidden light to the world?

In the book Torah Yoga, written by one of my teachers Diane Bloomfield, she states “In the Jewish High Holiday liturgy, God is described as a potter who fashions his creations.  Pottery is a very old craft for vessel making.  Yoga is also a craft for vessel making.  With  yoga, you become a pottery partner with God and participate in making the vessel of yourself.”

I hold this to be true, in my own yoga and movement practice, and I invite you to explore this idea in your own body and soul.

Here is a basic outline of some ideas I have been bringing to the yoga classes I have taught recently:

  • Start with seated mindful breathing. (or on back, knees supported)
  • Notice the vessel of your lungs – how much air moves in and out? How much can  you contain before the ribs, chest, belly, offer resistance?  Just notice. Exhale every breath completely.
  • Notice the vessel of the body, areas of constriction, areas of relaxation – without trying to change anything, just notice.
  • Tap into the vessel of your mind, both the sense of your physical brain, and the concept of “mind.”  How flexible or rigid does it feel in this very moment?
  • If you are a visual person, you may explore creatively what your vessel currently looks like- a vase, a bowl, colors, size, texture, etc.
  • After this awareness exercise, bring hands to heart and belly and offer a prayer or sacred intention.  You might say something like, ” I dedicate my practice today to co-creating a vessel of ______________ (peace, healing, generosity, etc) and allowing my hidden light to reveal itself to the world.”

Diane Bloomfield goes on to say “as you work with the clay of your whole self (body, mind, spirit) you become both a soft and a strong vessel – capable of both receiving and revealing to the world the mysterious hidden light of the first day of creation.”

I’d like to offer the idea that you let the focus of your practice today be strength AND softness.  (this could be likened to what is called sthira and sukha in the yoga sutras; a balance of steadiness and ease).

As you move through a yoga, dance, or other mindful movement session, pay very close attention to the following:

  • What is strong and working right now? (revealing)
  • What is soft and relaxed? (receiving)
  • How do my strength and softness work together to mold me into a balanced and beautiful vessel?

Feel yourself coming into a sacred dance of revealing and receiving light…

When you do more active, effort filled movements, imagine light emanating from your body, radiating outward.
As you embrace slower, less active poses and movements, (like child’s pose, or stillness, for example), let this be a time to receive light into your self. With every breath, feel yourself being molded, shaped, and fashioned into a vessel for sacred life. You are a partner with creation, expanding awareness and well-being, revealing the hidden light within.

May your practice reveal your radiance.

Namaste and L’Shalom.

Hand Mudra for New Year and More!

pushan mudra right handpushan mudra left hand

So I’m pretty excited about this new book I’ve just discovered – It’s called Yoga in Your Hands.  I won’t try to explain the process by which mudra works, for the author does that succinctly and eloquently.  I will however, share with you one of the mudras I have been using for a recent health challenge.   I also think it is perfect for the New Year – a way to let go  and bless the old, and invite in the new.  It would be perfect to use with a cleanse.

I believe mudras are effective because there is a combination of powerful forces at work.  One, you are bringing mindfulness to your body/mind while breathing.  Two, these hand positions stimulate specific meridians based on Chinese medicine that are scientifically known to create results.  And three, if you use an affirmation with the mudra, you are training your very malleable brain (its called plasticity), to create new pathways for positive thought and a chemical release that aids  healing of the whole organism.  So without further ado, let us begin.

Its called the Pushan Mudra, dedicated to nourishment.  Here is an overview of how to do this:

Place your hands as you see them in the photos above, resting on your lap. You can sit in meditation or lie down to do this, or perhaps make good use of time while you are in a waiting room…

During the inhalation, take in energy in the form of light.  Pause, and give time and space to imagine the light spreading within you.  During exhalation, let the expended light flow back out of you.  Pause after the exhale. With every breath, there is more light and clarity in your physical and mental/emotional realms.  (In the beginning, you may envision the exhale to contain darkness or smoke, something that encompasses what you are releasing, and then you may sense it becoming clearer).

You can also say the following affirmation, either as written here or in words that resonate with you.

” I thankfully accept everything that is good for me, let it have its effect within me, and release everything that is spent.”

As the author states, “This mudra symbolizes accepting and receiving with the gesture of one hand, and letting things flow, giving, and letting go with the other.  It influences the energy currents that are responsible for absorbing and utilizing food, as well as helping with elimination.  It intensifies breathing and therefore the absorption of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide in the lungs.  It has a relaxing effect on the solar plexus (area of the stomach, liver, spleen, and gallbladder) and regulates energies in the autonomic nervous system.  It mobilizes energies of elimination, and detoxifies.  It has an excellent effect on general or acute nausea, motion sickness, flatulence, and the sensation of being overly full.”

It works on the physical level, but I believe it works on the psycho-spiritual level as well, when you practice  it with intention. I think its also a wonderful way to incorporate the healing of yogic practices for those who are bed bound or unable to do much physically because it’s accessible and simple.

I hope you will try it for yourself and notice the benefits.  I highly recommend this book for those who want to dive deeper into background and continue exploring the other mudras.  Yoga in Your Hands, by Gertrude Hirschi

Namaste!
Kendra

30 minutes of Bliss for the Soul…

girl in sun

Guided Meditation to Support Your Heart’s Deepest Longings

This deliciously relaxing meditation is actually a “yoga nidra” meditation.  It is an ancient and brilliant practice that literally means “yoga sleep.”  It is used to support healing and transformation in any area of life you wish to focus.

If you happen to fall asleep during the session, it’s all good!  Your subconscious will retain what it needs to, and you will still reap the benefits.  Expect to feel rested and refreshed when your done.