The Heart as a Filter

The Heart as a Filter

We know that the heart chakra, Anahata, is the balance point of the lower and upper chakras, but have we contemplated its true placement in the emotional body?  When we consider that the heart chakra resides between the Manipura (3rd) chakra and the Vishuddha (5th) chakra we discover the power of the heart to act as a filter.  Consider that an imbalance in our Manipura chakra may result in violent outbursts, or the need to be right and have the final word and we can witness that natural jump for Manipura to Vishuddha.  We have a gut reaction and for some of us the instinct is to react and allow the vocal chords of the throat chakra to respond.  What would happen, if we realized the power of the heart as a filter?

Just as a cup of tea or coffee moves from compression of beans, through a slow filter, to ensure that the result is a smooth and tasteful beverage, we too can employ the filter of the heart to deliver a smooth result from a gut reaction.  If we use the heart as a filter, we are given an opportunity to gain connection with the self inside, to ruminate on our gut instinct and invite in the time necessary to offer a loving response that supports our optimal health and the health of others. 

February is National Heart Month – Cardiovascular disease knows no borders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year.  Consider the next time you feel an instinct to go from gut to voice the impact you may have to your heart.   Our practice is here to support you in soothing the heart, reducing stress and finding peace in your life.  Choose a new path for a healthy heart.

 

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is The Place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.  We are a private sanctuary located in the heart of Highlands Ranch that offers specialized private yoga therapy programs, classes, teacher training, workshops and retreats.  Our founder is Nancy Levenson, a certified yoga therapist with a focus on providing wellness to our community.  To inquire about any of our programs, reach us on our contact form, or call us directly at 303.725.1434.

 

 

Pushpanjali Mudra – Appreciate Life Just As It Is

Pushpa means “flower,” and anjali means “hands joined together in reverence.”Pushpanjali is therefore an offering of flowers. This gesture also instills a sense of openness that allows us to appreciate life exactly as it is, in the present moment, without reaching out to fulfill perceived needs endlessly.  When we hold this mudra, we notice the natural lengthening of the exhalation, cultivating a sense of relaxation and ease that supports us in releasing attachments more easily.

NamasteWorks Yoga Therapy

Pushpanjali mudra also instills a sense of generosity, which is the antidote to grasping. This gesture facilitates both physical and subtle digestion, instilling a sense of natural abundance, a knowing that we have all that we need, making it easier to release neediness and grasping.

Pushpanjali is one of the many mudras you will encounter in the new book, Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian Le Page.  May each of you find a way to instill a sense of generosity throughout the upcoming months and remind yourself of your present abundance 

Mudras are just one of the many therapeutic tools used in our practice.  Mudras are seals that allow the energy/prana of our being to be directed into a certain place within us to support our overall healing and wellbeing. 

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is The Place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.  We offer specialized private yoga therapy programs, classes, trainings, workshops and retreats – with healing at the focus.  We serve clients suffering with anxiety, depression, stress, structural issues and respiratory and digestive diseases that seek wellness.  We custom tailor each client’s wellness program based on a vision of health as a unity of body, mind and spirit.

Earthing and Prana Vidya

I am in praise of the new book, Earthing by Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Martin Zucker. A few months back I wrote an article entitled, “Lying Mindfully on the Earth.” In this article, I shared with you the importance of getting down and lying mindfully on the earth daily to connect with a convergence of two energies, the feminine, yin energy of the Earth and the masculine, yang, energy of the sky as a source of healing our bodies.

Earthing takes this exploration even further and explores the concept of reducing inflammation naturally by equalizing our body’s energy with that of the Earth’s. The subhead on the book reads “The most important health discovery ever?” I believe the authors have an important message to share, a message that many civilizations have known for centuries, known as grounding.

In my yoga therapy practice grounding a client is one of the first processes we discover together. Although the Earth serves as a major tool to ground and heal, many other tools are available to ground a client in yoga therapy. First, we may work to connect with the client’s Apana Vayu, the downward movement of prana through the body. Apana Vayu roots and grounds our energy, allowing us to feel anchored into the Earth. This downward current of energy nourishes the low abdomen, pelvis, eliminatory and reproductive systems of the body. Carefully choosing appropriate pranayama, asana and mudras allow the client to not only heal, but actually sense this downward current of energy throughout their physical body.

My theory is that energetically, prana holds the key to all healing. Utilize the knowledge to control your prana with the ability to equalize your body to the Earth and you have two very powerful tools to achieve optimal health. I highly recommend Earthing as a must-read for anyone considering a way to ground and heal their physical and energetic bodies.

© Namasteworks Yoga + Wellness, LLC. Founder, Nancy Levenson, Serving the Highlands Ranch and Littleton, CO communities. http://www.namasteworksyoga.com

Hasa – The Smiling Mudra

One of my favorite scenes in City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal, is when he returns from his yahoo adventure and greets his wife at the airport. He holds up his index finger to his mouth and says, “Look what I found” as he exuberantly displays a wide smile. If you saw the movie, you know he had just had a mid-life birthday, felt trapped in his career and seemed unhappy in his life. He sets out on an adventure in search of a magic elixir to curb his depression and what he finds is a smile.

Imagine that –something as simple as a smile can change one’s emotions and reignite joy inside the body. Physiologically, a smile helps to increase endorphins, a brain chemical sent through the nervous system. These endorphins act as a barrier to stress and pain and increase a state of euphoria.

In my therapeutic practice, I have many clients who come to me no longer smiling. Whether its bodily pain, physical stress or emotional drains, the loss of a smile can have a tremendous impact on one’s health. Read more

Hasa – The Smiling Mudra

One of my favorite scenes in City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal, is when he returns from his yahoo adventure and greets his wife at the airport. He holds up his index finger to his mouth and says, “Look what I found” as he exuberantly displays a wide smile. If you saw the movie, you know he had just had a mid-life birthday, felt trapped in his career and seemed unhappy in his life. He sets out on an adventure in search of a magic elixir to curb his depression and what he finds is a smile.

Imagine that –something as simple as a smile can change one’s emotions and reignite joy inside the body. Physiologically, a smile helps to increase endorphins, a brain chemical sent through the nervous system. These endorphins act as a barrier to stress and pain and increase a state of euphoria.

In my therapeutic practice, I have many clients who come to me no longer smiling. Whether its bodily pain, physical stress or emotional drains, the loss of a smile can have a tremendous impact on one’s health. Read more

Combining Prithivi Mudra and Pranayama

Combining a mudra, a hand gesture, with alternate nostril breathing can help senior yoga students restore and balance their subtle body in a safe and easy practice. Instead of the traditional fingers to the nose method, try using an approach that feels more accessible.

For this breath work, have your clients either seated in a chair or on the floor in simple seated pose, depending on their flexibility.

Start your clients out in Prithivi Mudra, also known as the Earth Mudra. Prithivi Mudra tends to be easier for seniors to manage, even with arthritic hands. Have your client place the tips of the thumb and the ring finger of each hand together. Then extend the remaining fingers straight out. Then guide them through a three part series of Anuloma (Alternate) Pranayama (Energy/Breathing); Chandra Anuloma Pranayama, Surya Anuloma Pranayama and Anuloma Viloma Pranayama.

Mudra

Part 1: Chandra Anuloma Pranayama connects the participant with the cooling side of their body, the left nostril, the feminine side. Have them then place their left hand under the right, palms facing upward and place the hands a few inches from the solar plexus. The elbows are naturally drawn outward to the sides of the body, creating a triangle from the crown of the head to the hands, which form the base. Ensure that the hands are not touching each other and that the fingers remain extended. Now encourage them to experience breathing through the left nostril only. Guide the process by having them Inhale and breathe in the left nostril, exhale and breathe out the left nostril. This is a slow and deep breath, not a face rapid breath. Repeat six to ten times on this one side. I’ve even had my students who are somewhat skeptical attempt to breathe in on the right side and notice how difficult if not impossible it is to do while holding the Prithivi Mudra.

Part 2: Surya Anuloma Pranayama connects the participant with the heating side of their body, the right nostril, the male dominant side. Simply have your students reverse the position of the hands, placing the left hand now above the right. Shift the awareness of the breathing in and out through the right nostril. Repeat six to ten times.

Part 3: Anuloma Viloma Pranayama connects the participant with balanced nostril breathing. In this phase you will be guiding them through a shifting of left and right nostril dominance. Start with the left hand under the right, breathing in to the left nostril. After completing one cycle of inhale, exhale; shift the hands and the instructions to breath in and out of the right nostril. Repeat six to ten times. Then release the breath exercise altogether and guide them back to natural breathing.

Many of my students find the practice an easy way to explore the boundaries of the right and left nostril and an enjoyable and easy way to connect with, restore and balance the flow of their breath.

©NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, LLC, http://www.namasteworksyoga.com, by: Nancy Levenson

Merudanda Mudra – A way to connect with the flow of breath

In yoga we sometimes encourage clients to connect with their breath through our cueing. “Bring awareness to the breath”, “feel the breath travelling through the body”, “guide your breath to your heart center.” While these may seem easy to understand, truly experiencing the awareness of the breath is much easier when adding a mudra or series of mudras.

A hand mudra is simply a gesture, symbol or seal used to circulate energy, activate an influence in a certain area of the body and help us to connect with our overall physical well-being.

Merudanda Mudra is an excellent mudra series that will enhance the awareness experience as the breath is directed to various parts of the body. As you guide your clients through this mudra sequence, invite them to notice the quality and characteristics of the breath. Encourage them to find the starting point of the breath; that place inside where they feel the breath originate in the body. As you move through the sequence encourage them to continually notice if the breath has arrived in a new place.

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Mudras Enhance Senior Coordination

One practice that is particularly wonderful for seniors is introducing hand mudras into class. Hand mudras are gestures or seals that can improve flexibility and coordination among older adults simply by touching finger to finger. As we age, the fingers of our hands often stiffen and lose flexibility. Mudras help to stretch the fingers and bring sensitivity back into the hands.

Using a mudra in coordination with breath is an excellent way to stimulate an opening to the lungs and heart, open the joints and relieve other tension that may exist in the head, neck or shoulders. Start simple, choose one or two mudras that will help your clients coordinate their fingers, hands, eyes, brain and breath.

One of my favorites, and usually an easy one for senior clients, is the symbol of yoga – the Lotus Mudra. Tied to the heart chakra, the Lotus Mudra is a symbol of purity and helps to open the heart center.

Lotus Mudra
Lotus Mudra

With the base of the palms together, touch the thumbs together and then the little fingers together. Invite the other three fingers to open as wide as possible, like a lotus flower opening. Place the hands in front of the heart with the thumbs facing toward the chest.

Start the breath practice with a floating lotus flower. Inhale and float the flower from the heart up to the third eye (forehead). As you exhale draw the palms closed into prayer hands, squeezing the hands together and taking the elbows out wide to the sides as the hands lower back to heart center. As you start your next inhale, push the heels of the hands together and open into Lotus Mudra. As the flower moves up with breath, imagine that it is rising from the depths of mud and muck, reaching for sunlight. And as you exhale imagine that the petals are drawing inward toward each other to close. Complete ten rounds, breathing in and out with movement. If you use affirmations in class, add “I open my heart to receive whatever comes my way today.”

Integrating mudras into your senior practice is an excellent way to balance mind and body with breath. For more information on mudras, I highly recommend you add Mudras, Yoga in your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi to your personal yoga library.

©NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, LLC, http://www.namasteworksyoga.com, by: Nancy Levenson