We recommend that you do these exercises underneath or in sight of a beech tree. If that isn't possible then visualise a beech tree. The energy of the tree strengthens the effect of the exercises.
Concentration, Part 1
a) Stand upright and put your left hand under your right armpit. Your right arm hangs down straight by your side. As you breathe in, swing your left leg straight backwards, and breathe out as you swing it forwards. Sense that your swinging movement is coming from the middle of your body. Repeat this for 30 seconds, then change hand and leg before continuing for another 30 seconds.
This exercise brings spiritual clarity by stimulating the Nadis under the arm, which are connected to the brain. It also encourages the integration of the various body systems.
b) Stand upright and rotate your stretched-out arms backwards, making flowing circular movements. Your arms are following a straight line. As your right arm circles up, lift your right knee; and when your left arm is up, lift your left knee. Breathe long and deep, following the rhythm of the movement. 3 minutes.
This exercise harmonises the two hemispheres of the brain and gives alertness and clarity.
c) Stand upright with your feet together; bend your head forwards until your chin is touching the top of your chest, in-between your collar bones. Focus your attention on the upper part of your neck and do the Breath of Fire. 1-3 minutes. To finish, breathe in deeply and then gently bring your head level again to experience the after effects of the exercise.
This exercise works on the brain stem and the breath and sleep ^ jtfa centres.
Concentration, Part 2
a) Place your feet hip-width apart. Stretch up your arms about 60 degrees apart, turn your palms so they face forwards, and spread your fingers far apart. In this pose breathe in deeply, and then as you breathe out cross your arms over your head and in front of you. Then spread your arms again as you breathe in. With the next breath, cross your arms the other way around, and so on. Keep your arms straight and make these movements quickly. Fix your gaze on a point on the tree trunk or a nearby wall. 4 minutes.
This exercise stimulates the meridians in the arms and teaches you to maintain your focus.
b) Place your arms hip-width apart and bend forwards from your hips. Support your hands on your hips, fingers pointing backwards, thumbs pointing forwards. Hold your head so that your neck follows a straight line from your back. Stretch your legs and stay in this position as you breathe long and deep. 1-3 minutes.
This exercise strengthens the main back muscles.
c) Stand upright with your feet together. Fix your gaze on a point on the ground about 1.5 meters from your toes. Breathe long and fully. 1-3 minutes.
This exercise strengthens the memory.
Concentration, Part 3
a) Place your feet hip-width apart, stretch up your arms and as you breathe in clap them over your head. As you breathe out clap them in front of your chest. Keep your arms stretched and eyes shut. 52 times.
This exercise activates the brain. .,..„ J^jjm l9
b) Breathe in and roll your eyes in large circles in one direction, breathe out and roll them in the other direction. 1-3 minutes.
c) Look at an object and then move your eyes quickly around, each time coming back to look at the same object. Breathe long and slow. 1-3 minutes.
d) Move your eyes from looking top left to bottom right, and back again. After 10 times, change sides and look from bottom left to top right and back again. Breathe long and slow.
e) Stretch out your tongue and move your eyes in all directions. Breathe heavily through your mouth. 1-3 minutes.
The eye movements encourage the activity of the endocrine glands, while sticking out the tongue encourages spiritual clarity.
f) Shut one eye. Gently focus the other eye on an object. Breathe long and deep. 5 minutes per eye.
This exercise brings alignment and clarity.
(standing, sitting or lying) 1-11 minutes
Listen to the whispering of the leaves, and the stillness that surrounds everything.
Sit cross legged, with your spine straight. Hold up your left hand so that it is level with your ear, palm forwards. At the same time touch the tip of your thumb and ring finger together. Lay your right hand in your lap, touching the tip of your thumb and little finger together. If you are a man, hold up your right hand instead and lay your left hand in your lap.
Keep your eyes about 1/10 open, look at the tip of your nose and breathe peacefully, long and deep.
To finish: breathe in deeply, open your fingers, lift up your hands and shake them vigorously for a minute or so as you breathe deeply. Then relax.
Start with 11 minutes per day and increase gradually over 30 days to 31 minutes.
The Mudra that brings together the ring finger, related to the sun, and the thumb, related to the self or 'I', instils new energy. The Mudra that brings together the thumb and little finger, related to the planet mercury, calms the nervous system and strengthens the ability to communicate.
The pipal is the only non-Western tree in this book. Even though there are hardly any to be found in America or Europe that you could practice Yoga underneath (in Europe you'll generally only find a bodhi tree in a botanical garden), this wonderful being had to be included because of its great importance in Indian history and spirituality. Tree Yoga wouldn't be yoga without the pipal.
Together with the banyan (Ficus bengalensis) and the bel tree (Aegle marmelos), the pipal has the longest history of tree worship in India. And 'history' really means something in this context because on the Indian subcontinent tree worship goes back over thousands of years. The earliest archaeological finds that record this are the Harappa seals (circa 2000 bc) and the image from Mohenjo-Daro (circa 3000 bc), but we can safely presume much earlier activity to have taken place. Also, as neither Hinduism nor Buddhism waged war on earlier nature religions in the way that christianity has done throughout Europe and beyond, there are wonderfully complete records and handed-down teachings that include the worship of sacred trees. Examples are still to be found in some Indian village communities.*
* The sacred trees of India are explored in greater depth in Fred's book The Heritage of Trees.
Because of the scarcity of the pipal in Europe we have chosen exercises and meditations in this chapter that you can practice with any species of tree. Why? Because every tree can support us in the freeing of our spirit. You could look at this chapter as the joker in the pack, which can be used anywhere.
Since time immemorial the pipal has been a sacred tree. The soma vessel (soma is the life-giving sap of the World Tree) and the sacred fire stick were both fashioned from its wood. The Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is portrayed as the three trunks of the World Tree. The very essence of Brahma is said to have materialised as the holy pipal tree. Asvatha is the religious name of the pipal and means 'that which won't be the same tomorrow.'
The Bhagavad-Gita describes the pipal as an incarnation of Krishna. At sacred tree shrines throughout India, the energies of Brahma, Krishna and the pipal are passionately celebrated.
About 2,500 years ago, the rich prince Gautama Siddhartha (circa 563-483 bc) rejected his material inheritance and position, and went off in search of spiritual freedom. Eventually he came to a powerful Asvatha tree shrine in northern India. After he had found enlightenment there, the pipal became known as the bodhi tree or Tree of Enlightenment, bodhi meaning 'ultimate and unconditioned truth', and also 'the Great Awakener'. During the first few hundred years of Buddhism, the Buddha was portrayed as an empty throne at the base of the Tree of Enlightenment, meaning that the person meditating at the base of the tree had overcome his human limitations and had become one with the spirit of the universe, the world spirit, the all-encompassing Tree of Life.
The key word to attune ourselves to the spirit of the pipal is freedom.
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