The Basics

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Attunement

Before beginning, attune yourself by singing ONG NAMO GURUDEV NAMO three times. This means: 'I greet the cosmic energy and the exalted path that leads from the darkness into the light.' Hold each tone for a while, and although you have your mouth open, allow most of your breath, and most of the sound too, to flow out of your nostrils. This will make the roof of your mouth vibrate, positively influencing the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in your brain. (See Mantras below.)

Breath

Long, deep breathing. The breath begins by extending the abdominal wall (1), then the ribs widen (2). Lastly the upper chest, collarbones and breastbone get pulled forwards and outwards (3). On the first step of the exhale the upper chest relaxes (3), then the ribs sink (2), and finally the abdominal wall contracts (1). Long, deep breaths are both relaxing and centring.

The Breath of Fire is done purely using the abdomen. As you breathe in, quickly extend your belly forwards, and then as you breathe out bring it in again. The illustration shows you how the right hand stays still and the abdominal wall moves the left hand. The ideal Breath of Fire is fast, up to two per second; but start off slowly, you'll get there in your own time.

40 days, 90 days, 1000 days

Just practicing yoga as and when you can, you'll really notice the difference. But if you really want to change something about the way life is for you, then follow a series of exercises or do a meditation systematically, every day. The traditional length of time to do this is 40, 90, or 1000 days. In this way, the energies and transformative power that is awoken by the exercises will become ever more deeply anchored in your being.

Mantras

One of the important goals of practicing yoga is to bring to stillness the part of us that is often compared to a ridiculous monkey, because it is so hard to harness its energy. To do this, points of focus both inside and outside the body are used. Mantras (words and sounds to accompany meditation) are just that. The main mantra in Kundalini yoga is Sat Nam. This mantra accompanies every breath, even if no mantra is mentioned as being part of the exercise. Think Sat or Saaaaaaat while breathing in, and Nam or Naaaaaaam, while breathing out. Sat means truth, and Nam identity. Sat Nam means true identity or who you really are. You can hear the mantra being sung if you go to: www.satyasingh.com

Intensity and length of exercises

Generally do each exercise for 1-3 minutes, unless it says otherwise. Each one of us should determine the intensity with which we approach a particular exercise. Do it gently enough so as not to harm yourself, but strongly enough to grow beyond your present comfort zone.

Mudras

Mudras are special hand or finger positions that are connected with the reflex areas and meridians found in the hands, and have a powerful yet subtle effect. The most often used Mudra is Gyan Mudra, where the ends of the thumb and forefinger are held together, while the other fingers are gently stretched outwards.

The thumb is the "I", the ego, and the forefinger is the Jupiter finger, finger of growth and wisdom.

Points of Focus

Spiritual presence is elevated when two or more points of focus are used. This might be saying or singing the Mantra, Sat Nam, while focusing on the sense of gravity, or using your eyes to concentrate on a point on a tree, while at the same time focusing on your breath.

Bhandas

The Bhandas are known as the body's locks. They are made from muscle but are not used to help the body to move, rather playing a supportive role as well as having an opening and closing function. They are used in Yoga because they help to bring energy up the body. There are four of them and they are called:

Mulbhand, the root lock, is part of the pelvic floor musculature. To engage this lock you pull in the muscles around the anus, sexual organs and lower abdomen. For women the centre of this contraction is the mouth of the uterus. For men it is the perineum, between the anus and penis. In principle, Mulbhand can be engaged after every exercise, and especially at the end of each meditation. To do this, take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds while pulling up the Mulbhand, letting go as you breathe out. Do this once or twice, as you like. Mulbhand directs the energy in the abdominal cavity upwards, as well as having lots of other benefits, including on the blood pressure and lymph system. Any time that you are intensively bending your torso, it's a good idea to lightly engage the Mulbhand to support your spine.

Uddhyana Bhand, the diaphragm lock, is activated when you contract your abdomen and draw it upwards. Doing this transports the energy in the chest upwards.

Jalandhara Bhand, the neck lock, elevates the neck vertebra. Engage this lock by pulling in your chin, while at the same time pulling up the top of your head. Don't bend your head forwards at the same time. You will notice that your chest lifts slightly as you do this. This Bhand allows energy to flow into your head unhindered.

Maha Bhand, the great lock, is engaged by using all three of the others together, while at the same time bringing your tongue backwards and pressing it onto your soft pallet, and also closing your eyes and rolling your eyeballs upwards. This Bhanda is often used at the end of an exercise or meditation. To do it, first breathe out, and stop yourself from breathing in again for 10 seconds, while engaging the Maha Bhand. This means pulling up your pelvic floor, pulling in your abdomen and drawing it up, pulling in your chin, holding your tongue back and pressing it against the roof of your mouth and rolling your eyes to the ceiling.

Standing Postures

'You can learn from a tree to stand in ecstasy.'

Yogi Bhajan

Tree yoga is only made up of standing exercises. The different postures are:

• Hip-width: feet about 30 cm apart, parallel to one another.

• Shoulder-width: feet about 50 cm apart, again parallel to one another.

• Gentle stretch posture: feet about 70 cm apart, and turned slightly outwards.

• Strong stretch posture: feet about 90 cm apart and again turned slightly outwards.

• The Archer: one foot pointing forwards, the other about 75 cm back, turned outwards at a 45-degree angle.

Relaxation

With tree yoga you are quite free to choose your own form of relaxation. Choose for yourself whether and when you need to relax, and whether you do this standing, sitting, or lying down. A good rule of thumb is that if you are doing a series of, say, nine exercises, that you take a rest for one or two minutes after the third and sixth ones. Any longer and the energy wave that you have been building will drop off again. At the end of a series, relax for between ten and fifteen minutes. While relaxing, it's great just to let go of everything. Or, you can listen to the sounds around you, experience the pull of gravity, and acknowledge your breath.

Suitability

If health problems stop you from doing an exercise, like the crouching or crow postures, see if you can change the exercise in a way that makes it possible for you. For example, if doing the crow, turn it into more of a standing pose.

Meditation

The meditation that comes after each tree yoga exercise will deepen its effect. You can decide whether to meditate standing or sitting. As we have said before, sitting is preferable. Sitting is a more stable posture to meditate in, enabling you to go deeper and 'forget' about your body for a while. Of course it is really beautiful to sit with your back to the trunk of the tree, like the Buddha under the pipal or bodhi tree.

BIRCH

(Betula)

The birch tree is loved by all. Its light and graceful presence is uplifting and gives solace in the sometimes dark woodland of the northern hemisphere. The same goes for the homoeopathic remedy, Betula, which brings light where there is darkness.

Birches are pioneers, taking root on fallow land, and preparing the ground for other trees to create a forest. The laid-back stand of birches soon becomes populated and then supplanted by other trees. Birches don't stand their ground, neither geographically nor as individual trees. They very rarely live to be 100 years old and always appear young, never growing into a stiff old age. See the supple birch dancing in the wind and witness its unsurpassable lightness and grace.

In Russia and northern Europe, the traditional power of the birch is one of new beginnings, as told in legends. And this is just what the eternally youthful birch helps us to do, to start again. Look to the seed of its being and you will find the archetype of the great mother, that protects and nourishes everything that is young. With the unconditional love of a mother, the birch blesses all types of love, from the immature love of a teenager to romantic love, and also natural, unashamedly erotic love. Many traditional spring and fertility rites honour the birch (as well as the hawthorn).

At the same time, especially in shamanistic traditions, the birch is the gatekeeper of the spiritual world. After all, stepping into the unseen dimensions, be it through trance, astral-travelling, meditation and even death, is always a new beginning. Wherever it is we are travelling to, regardless of the new horizon we are meeting, the spirit of the birch is here to guide us.

The key words that attune us to the spiritual home of the birch tree are new beginnings, protection, innocence and the joy of living.

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Yoga for You

Yoga for You

Learn About The Healing Art Of Yoga. We need to give more importance to our health and the treatment of diseases. A big number of medicines treat only the symptoms of the disease, and not the base cause. As a matter of fact, the cause of a lot of chronic ailments is still being researched.

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