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Yoga for EVERY Body.

Ever Feel Stuck?
A New Blog from Swami Atmarupa

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Upcoming Events

Yoga at the Museum
"In Like a Lion & Out Like a Lamb"
with Gita
Saturday, Mar 18, 11-12:30

Navaratri
with Swami Atmarupa
Mar 28 - Apr 5
Mon-Thu 7:45-8:45 PM
Fri-Sun 5-6
FREE-Open to All

Beginners' Workshop
with Atmadarshan
Apr 1 - no fooling - 2-4 PM

Yama & Niyama Monthly Study Group
with Swami Atmarupa
Sundays, 4-5:30 PM
Apr 2, May 21, Jun 18, Jul 16, Aug 13, Sep 10, Oct 8, Nov 5
Attend one or all!

Eye Love Yoga
with Atmadarshan
Saturday, Apr 8, 2-4 PM




 

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Atmarupa

Ever Feel Stuck?

Do you ever want to make changes in your life? You know on an intellectual level what needs to be done, but you just can’t seem to make it happen? What makes us feel so stuck?

In yoga philosophy, everything in the manifest world is composed of gunas, or “qualities” of existence. The gunas are only three in number – tamas (inertia), rajas (dynamism) and sattwa (purity).  

Their variation in different objects and different life forms results in varying patterns of behavior.  For example, even though a rock contains all three gunas it has a predominance of tamas. It is heavy, inert and stays where it is placed. On the other hand, a hummingbird can exemplify rajas. It is tiny, light and always moving.

The gunas are constantly in play within us. Sometimes one predominates but we are continually under the influence of all three. That influence can fluctuate and be mixed. We may feel physically tamasic due to the rajasic nature of our minds. Overthinking can exhaust us and immobilize us to the point we don’t want to move.

And not only do the gunas influence us from within, we come under the influence of the gunas and the energy they project through our relationships with others, our work, the environment and even the food we eat. Remember, everything that exists is comprised of the gunas and as a microcosm of the macrocosm we cannot escape this influence.

However, by better understanding the gunas we can begin to make the small changes in our lives that are necessary to create lasting change.

Join me on New Year’s Day to further explore the gunas and methods that will begin to change the quality of your life.

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Can You Manage This Super Power? (by Mark Johnson)

Saturday night we were hanging with friends and someone asked, if you could have a super power, what would it be? Someone said invisibility. Others talked of flying.

The Yoga Sutras, a kind of technical handbook for advanced yogis, covers just this sort of thing. Chapter three of this famous scripture lists the siddhis or super powers that great yoga masters may acquire. The list is long, starting with invisibility. It includes the ability to see the future, to know about things that are distant, levitate and similar powers that we read about in stories of spiritual masters. Some siddhis are surprising, like the ability to become as small as an atom. Think Antman. Or the ability to dissolve the material body and precipitate it somewhere else. Beam me up, Scotty.

As fun as these things are to think about, they are so strange and so difficult to attain that they are not relevant to our lives. Instead, I have been thinking about super powers that are truly important, and which we have a realistic chance of achieving though a disciplined practice of yoga.

I mean the super power to be happy. What good is invisibility if you are unhappy? How about the ability to control your anger? When that certain person presses your buttons, you could just smile. How about the ability to say the right thing spontaneously? I’ve witnessed spiritual teachers do just that during satsang, a Q&A with yoga students.

Once I had the unpleasant experience of telling bad news to a spiritual teacher. He had every right to be very angry with me. I watched him open his mouth as if to say something in anger and then suddenly close it and look at me blankly. It was astonishing to witness his self-control. Really, that is a super power.

Another time I was at a yoga center and walked around the corner to encounter the master. “Oh Swamiji,” I said, “what I can do for you?” He looked at me and said, “you want to know what you can do for me?” I nodded earnestly. “You want to know what you can do for me?” he repeated. I felt like I would burst. He said, “be happy; that’s what you can do for me.”

I was crestfallen. I was hoping he would say something like the bathrooms need cleaning. I could do that, scrub the toilets enthusiastically, but be happy? How the heck was I going to do that? I needed the super power.

As I practice yoga at the Atma Center and in my home practice, I am slowly getting better about feeling peaceful and grounded and aware. Yoga nidra, antar mouna, asana, mantra, pranayama… these tools help us manage the mind. I have a long way to go (I'm cussing with every typo) so I’m never going to fly, but if I can be a little happier, a little more patient, a little more compassionate, then I’ll be taking baby steps to acquiring the kinds of super powers that truly matter.

Mark Johnson is a long-time student of the Atma Center who recently completed Teacher Training.

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Atmarupa

Women of Substance

How many of you think you are beautiful? How many of you think that you could look better? What could you do to look better if you lost weight? If you are like millions of women, this is one of the first ways we believe that we can look better, whether we are a size 20 or a size 5.
  
In this Instagram and Facebook age, there can be a lot pressure to look beautiful, or guilt from how we look.  And the prevalence of eating disorders continues to rise.

It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men:
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
An article in the 2015 Bazaar magazine regarding our ‘Beauty Ideal’ states, “none of the body trends over the past few decades have felt as head-scratchingly inaccessible for the average woman lacking a trust fund-size budget for personal trainers, diet coaches and plastic surgeons as the current ideal: D-cup breasts, tiny waists, sculpted abs, big butts and thigh gaps inches-wide—all in one.”
            
But historically, women were admired if they were round bodied. In the 1890s, the sex symbol was ‘American Beauty’ Lillian Russell, who at her peak weighed just over 200 pounds! For most of history, fatness was the epitome of sexiness as well as representing fertility.

Think of some women that you have found "beautiful" in your personal lives. What do they look like? Are they thin? Do they have perfect features? How do they carry themselves?  What is their character? What makes them beautiful in your eyes?

The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 145 pounds. Over 50 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger.

But what about the health issues of fatness?  It is interesting to note, that in cultures where fat is considered beautiful--the health problems normally associated with fatness do not exist. Another interesting thing to note, is that moderately fat women can have fewer health problems.  They have a lower incidence of death from some forms of cancer. They are less likely to get emphysema than thin people. They have fewer menopausal symptoms because estrogen is stored in fat cells, have fewer wrinkles and more youthful skin. They also have less osteoporosis because carrying weight around strengthens the bones.

It's important to realize that self-acceptance and self-esteem are the keys to beauty, not an imaginary ideal of what you "should be." Have you ever avoided going after something you wanted because you did not feel you looked good enough? Have you ever postponed doing something because you were waiting to lose weight? These are sure signs that you are not satisfied with the way you look. They are also indicators of low self-esteem.

Having self-esteem and liking the way you look revolve around each other in a reinforcing circle. Women who are comfortable and satisfied with their looks radiate attractiveness.             
So, how do we learn to be self-accepting and believe in our own innate beauty? We need to learn to view our bodies in a more realistic and loving way. If we could lose our fear of fat . . . just think of the power we could gain! All that time and energy spent on trying to get or stay thin, or thinner, could then be ours to use as we wish. Instead of shrinking and constricting ourselves, we could expand our horizons, enlarge our expectations, amplify our power, and widen our impact.

Let's make friends with our bodies!  Love yourself. There's only one of you. Maintain a mental image of yourself as a uniquely beautiful soul. Promise yourself you will never again avoid anyone or anything because you think you are too fat! Accept yourself NOW!

And enjoy this little poem…

Homage To My Hips - by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in
they don't fit into little
pretty places. These hips
are free hips.
They don't like to be held back.
These hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
These hips are magic hips.
I have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Join Swami Atmarupa for the Women of Substance Workshop October 1, 2016 and fall in love with your body!



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What the Atma Center Means to One Student

I came to the Atma Center with perhaps more physical limitations than most and less than some. I was unable to practice yoga in a traditional manner on a mat. Nor could I master transitions of movement from standing to sitting to lying down. etc. It was very difficult to attend class where most had so much more muscle strength, flexibility and agility than I. I was fearful, anxious, scared and felt different from others. All these feelings caused me to give off vibrations of being pretty unapproachable. The staff had an extraordinary sensitivity and awareness to this and was very respectful of it. They always followed my lead and never pushed me. They started with me where I was at in my development, both on a feeling level and a physical level.

One day the student teacher who always helped me to physically get into position and secure my props, smiled at me and said, "You are most welcome here." His sensitive approach to me daily began my slow interaction with the staff. I felt very comfortable asking him questions and he would help by demonstrating physical movements that I was eventually able to master. He would do this with me before class. The barriers I had erected between me and the help that the staff could offer slowly began to evaporate. They sensed that I was becoming more available to their help and gently offered it. They were always respectful of my lead and my amount of readiness, never pushing me but slowly teaching me movements while accommodating my limitations without ever embarrassing me or making me feel less than.

I began to enjoy the modifications and was having fun with yoga. My confidence and comfort level began to increase to the point where I asked about the possibility of having a therapeutic session privately. My goal was to get down on the mat and low and behold my teacher had me doing that with a reasonable amount of physical comfort in one session. I also complained a lot of back and leg pain. She helped me enormously suggesting and practicing with me movements to strengthen my legs and back and worked on my posture with me, giving me much greater awareness of my posture which helped with the pain in more ways than I can outline here. I was now on my way. I asked for private lessons coupled with my regular classes. Now I am doing most of what all the other students in class can do. Perhaps not as well and what seems to come to them with ease, I have to work at very diligently and assiduously. My body does not cooperate easily with my mind because of my physical limitations and my lack of muscle memory. I am grateful that my teacher hangs in there with me and encourages and supports me. She helps enormously with the setting of realistic goals and paces my progress. Sometimes now I can even catch my own mistakes.

I would be very remiss if I did not share how sensitive the staff was and is to my accomplishments. They are always mine and never do I sense or feel an attitude of "look at what we have done for her." It is as if I have the keys to the car and am in the driver's seat and they in the passenger seat, gently noting that the light is green, or I need to yield here or change course/direction. It is like having my own human GPS. I now feel the freedom to raise my hand in class when I have a question or am stuck in a pose and above all I am enjoying my mastery of some of the yoga practices. The staff always takes me"back" a bit. They can have a class of 30 people in front of them and yet they relate to each person in the class individually as if there is a unique awareness what that person can handle and what style of relating will speak to that individual student. No student at the Atma center is a faceless number. All my teachers are different with unique personalities, but there is one common thread that runs among them and that is their investment in each student. We can rent their time, but we could never rent their investment in us, the depth of their knowledge/skill,
and sensitivity/compassion toward each of us.

There are days that are very difficult for me in terms of the sadness and grief I feel at the loss of the command of my body, especially when I look at the agility/flexibility of my fellow classmates. I wonder if I would ever advance to a B foundation. One day, as happens often, I lost my concentration dwelling on what I could not do and my feelings of loss. It was as if the teacher leading the class sensed what was happening with me and told a story, giving a delightful analogy. She said you know when you are training a puppy to stay and he moves away, you go get him and bring him back to you and you repeat the process several times with the puppy. When you lose concentration, bring the puppy back and stay in the present. At the end of that same class, she spoke about advancement and going into higher levels or foundations, noting that you could stay in A foundation for the rest of your life and make much progress because of the ability to refine and mature your movements and increase your level of awareness... She asked, "Does a musician ever stop practicing his scales?" I finally got what Yoga is really about.

I do not know how much progress I can make or how much I will regain. No one does. I will have to come to grips with that uncertainty or unknown. I am sure that there will be both regressions and progressions. One thing I do know is that the staff will be there for me every inch of the way. In the meantime, I am just going to keep on bringing that puppy back and practicing my scales.

~ Anonymous

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Atmarupa

Why Forgive?


Many people are angry and depressed.  We blame others for the condition of our lives.  If we are stressed, it’s because someone or something has “done us wrong” – one of our friends, someone in our family, or the situation at work or home.  We look outward to find a reason for the way we feel instead of looking within.

We may intellectually know that happiness can only be generated from within but we live in a culture where outward appearance and right to expression are highly prized and valued.  We “have a right” to say and do as we please and we are proud of that right.  Yet when our actions yield less than positive results, we are quick to disown those same actions and displace our internal distress upon outside influences.  Rather than admit that we chose to act in a certain way, we rationalize and justify our actions until we can believe that the consequences are not our responsibility.

Over time our sense of self is betrayed by this ongoing game of delusion.  We lose sight of our internal voice.  We spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating about the negativity in our lives.  This deepens feelings of anger, depression, self-doubt and fear, resulting in a sense of helplessness and lack of control.

One of the greatest and most difficult lessons in life is learning to forgive.  Forgiveness is an integral part of living a life filled with happiness.  First forgive yourself.  Each of us makes mistakes.  Forgive yourself.  And practice the yoga of making mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes.  They are blessings in disguise, but only if we can see them fully and let them go.  Forgive yourself and learn the lesson.

Forgiveness not only acknowledges the fallibility of our own actions, but can then be truly extended to the actions of others.  Until we can forgive ourselves and others we will continue to harbor a negative force that destroys our inner peace and creates imbalance in our lives.  Forgiveness allows us to move onward – to be in the present and not in the past.  In the present a sense of control over the negative influences in life can be gained.

We are responsible for our own actions and reactions to life’s events.  No one makes you angry or unhappy.  You do that to yourself.  In forgiveness comes the realization that all beings suffer and that all beings seek happiness.   Forgive yourself.  Forgive others.

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Atmarupa

Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards

A friend of mine once pointed out that the word ‘stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘desserts’.  Metaphorically, she may be right.  In an attempt to assuage our hunger for what’s missing in our lives, we crave more belongings, status and success, leaving us ‘stressed out’ and perhaps starving for a sense of balance, harmony and peace.  How often do we truly enjoy being who we are in the moment, stripped of the many masks and roles we play?  Indeed, we need to spend more time enjoying the sweet moments, the desserts of life that nourish our soul.

Culturally, our idea of relaxation involves flopping into an overstuffed chair and watching TV, or surfing the Internet, or going out for a drink.  Even when we try to stop and do nothing, our minds keep chattering, endlessly planning future events or mulling over the past. 

Stress-related illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, colitis, indigestion, insomnia and back pain are rampant.  But is stress, in and of itself, necessarily a bad thing?  In reality, it is how we view our stress, what mechanisms we use to deal with stress, that affects our physiological response.   A healthy response to stress brings energy, alertness and creativity.  It stimulates us. It challenges us.  It inspires us.  However, a negative response results in irritability, anxiety and fatigue.
 
For 25 years I was a nurse anesthetist.  I was very good at what I did but stress was taking its toll.  Clashing egos, 24 hour shifts on call, high risk patients and hospital ‘restructuring’ left me feeling stressed to the point of burn out.  To survive I turned to yoga.  And now after 20 years of teaching yoga and meditation, when I ask my students why they have come to class the most common answer is “to learn how to relax”.  At what point in our lives did we forget how to relax?

Why is relaxation important?  The stress response is part of our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism - our instinctual ability to quickly mobilize our body’s physical response to danger.  As hunters and gatherers the stress response allowed mankind to survive the rigors and dangers of daily life.  In our modern era, we seldom face the life or death situations our ancestors faced, but we continually face a myriad of disturbances which trigger a prolonged “fight or flight” response which over time increases the risk of significant disease.  It is not the stressors but our reaction to stressors that becomes the key to balanced health.      

The body and mind are intrinsically connected.  They are so connected a relatively new field of medicine is the specialty called psychoneuroimmunology, another way of saying that body and mind, or psyche, nervous system and immune system influence each other.  The yogis have known this for thousands of years! 

Our yoga classes are designed to optimize health.  Starting with asanas emphasis is placed on the moment, letting go of preconceptions and learning to accept yourself by stretching the body in coordination with the breath.  These movements are designed to internalize your awareness, to become conscious of individual strengths and weaknesses, to find and honor your limits, to teach flexibility of muscle and mind. 

Next, awareness of the breath is an important bridge between the physical and mental aspects of our being.  To practice something you do so automatically may seem like an unusual concept but the breathing, or pranayama practices, are meant to use the breath to change the dynamics of the body/mind interaction.  Some pranayama practices bring calmness and a relaxation response, while some energize, or stimulate, but all are meant to bring you into the here and now and balance our energy. 

The third component of yoga is the practice of meditation.  Meditation has been scientifically proven to be a phenomenal stressbuster, often lowering blood pressure more effectively than medication, and bringing balance and stillness into our frenetic lives.  Unfortunately, many people approach meditation as if it is something that must be learned and accomplished in a short time, saying “I can’t do it, because I can’t stop thinking”.  Meditation is awareness, pure awareness, of this one moment in time.  As such, it is an art and a practice that requires a non-judgmental approach and a willingness to sit and witness our thoughts day after day no matter what arises.  In our multi-tasking society, the idea of doing nothing may seem impossible - a waste of time, but to find a sense of balance it is essential.

So take your stress and place it in your yoga practice.  Practice consistently and you will taste the sweetness of better health and balance in life!  Yoga will be dessert!


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Atmarupa

Do You Really Want to Change?

As we approach the end of January, many New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside.  Yet when we set our goals on January 1 there was such solid determination and so much hope for change.  "This is the year I will finally .......(fill in the blank)."  But as the days have passed, we have come to realize that solid determination and hope are hard to maintain.  We slip back into the same old, same old.

Why is it so difficult to change the patterns of our personality, our behavior?  Why do we become impatient waiting for signs of progress?  Why do we develop resistance and give up, abandoning our resolutions or goals?

Yoga offers answers to all of these questions.  These answers are based on understanding the complex nature of who we are.  Each person’s personality arises from the different components of the mind, patterns of actions from the past, and the influence of subtle energy centers within the body.  These various forces combine not only to establish who we are, but continually exert their influences to perpetuate who we are.  Basically every cell and vibration of our being is programmed to recreate itself and will therefore resist the changes we are try to make.

We must face that change is never easy.  If it were simple we would all be perfect, enlightened beings by now.  It requires what yoga refers to as “drashta bhava” or the feeling of being the witness, the seer.  It is the ability to see our thoughts, our behaviors, all of our actions with a level of non-attached awareness that will help us manage the mind and life in a more proactive and positive way.  It requires special yoga practices to cultivate the ongoing level of awareness that facilitates change. 

It has been said, "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of awareness that created them - a new level of awareness must be developed."  The practice of yoga at the Atma Center is geared toward changing, developing and deepening awareness to help you change. 
 

If you would like to delve even deeper into awareness and transform your life, consider attending the Yogic Studies courses.  The next entry level course will be held in May.  For more information go to www.yogaacademyna.org.

 


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Atmadarshan

Deepening What We Know

When I was in India a few months ago, the head of our tradition, Swami Niranjanananda, announced that the focus of yoga needed to change. For the past 50 years, the motivating force has been expansion, and that has been achieved. Yoga is almost everywhere – in studios, gyms, schools, prisons, advertising. It has taken on an almost infinite variety of forms – Doga (yes, yoga for your dog), paddleboard yoga, yoga & chocolate, yoga & wine, PiYo etc. If the current rate of yoga expansion continues, then statistically everyone in the US will be practicing yoga by 2040.

Where do we go from here?  Swami Niranjanananda says that the goal for the next 50 years of yoga must be deepening what we already know. This applies to our personal practice as well as yoga in general. Instead of striving to add on new techniques, new styles and new variations, seek to truly master what you have already learned.  Sure, you have done natural breath awareness countless times, but have you perfected it? Can you stay awake and connected through an entire shavasana or are you still drifting?

Returning to the foundations of your practice can bring new and fresh insights, as you are not the same person now as you were when you started yoga. Reading about the theory behind the movements can make your poses even more meaningful. Keep digging deeper into what you already know, and you will tap into a wellspring of wisdom, peace and calm you never knew existed. Your yoga practice – and your life – will move to a higher level.


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Atmarupa

BEGIN AGAIN!

Our theme for January 2016 is “Begin Again.”  It may seem like a simple thing to do at the beginning of a new year, but trying to truly incorporate it into one’s life is not so simple.  How easy do you find it to let go of the past and begin again?

We make resolutions at the beginning of the year.  This year I will lose weight.  This year I will exercise daily.  This year I will refrain from getting angry.  This year I will……fill in the blank!  But as soon as we don’t quite manage to do what we say we are going to do, the negative self-talk starts.  We get stuck in self-doubt and resistance to moving forward arises.  This subconscious resistance consumes a lot of energy and with time we can no longer muster the will to try.

It’s time we look at our goals and start with small steps.  Take each new day as a fresh opportunity to step forward.  Today I will make healthy choices in my food.  Today I will park further from the entrance, or this week I will take 2 yoga classes instead of 1.  Today I will work on happiness and if I begin to get irritated, I will look for the anger that is being triggered inside me and own it as mine and not the result of something outside of me. 

Today I will take the opportunity to truly put the past where it belongs and begin again.  And if I fail, I will begin again tomorrow.


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Kundalini and the Chakras

by Swami Satyadharma Saraswati

In tantra and in yoga, Shiva and Shakti are considered to be the original principles, or causes, behind all existence, both manifest and unmanifest. Shiva is the supreme consciousness and Shakti the universal energy. These two principles co-exist eternally in the unchanging, unmanifest state. Neither can ever be depleted or exhausted, as they are both total and complete forever in themselves. So then, how did the creation come about? How did finite beings come into the picture? By a third agent called the Kundalini, who acts on behalf of Shiva and Shakti, as the universal creative force. In this sense, Kundalini is the Mother and the original creator, who brings forth the entire manifest creation from the unmanifest existence.

One may well ask, but how does she do this? How does the cosmic energy, which has no limitation, ideation, shape or form, transform itself into the multitude of galaxies, stars, planets, and beings, which comprise the creation? Let us take a closer look at this question, using ourselves as a model for the concept of creation, because we too are a product or progeny of the fabulous Kundalini force. For each level of existence and evolution, the process of transformation varies. However, in human beings, this process can be understood through the catalyst of the chakras, the psychic energy centers, which are situated in different regions alongside the spinal column. 

Kundalini, being appointed by Shakti for the purpose of creation, is also an aspect of Her eternal, cosmic force. For creation to take place, this subtle, infinite energy has to be confined and transformed into grosser levels, which can then become manifest. In our case, the Kundalini first manifests herself into the chakras, and this is the beginning of our individual being. Through the intermediary of the chakras, she makes the transition from pure spirit energy to psychic energy. Let us look at her journey through the chakras, for it is also our journey into creation; it is how we came into existence, how we came about.

So, in relation to you and me, Kundalini makes her first stop at the sahasrara chakra, the crown center. Here she stores the pure energy of consciousness. This is our highest individual consciousness, which remains unaltered throughout our life, as it is never associated with the physical identity. Her next stop is at bindu, the point at the top back of the head. Here she makes an entry into the manifest dimension. Bindu is not an active center, so to speak, but simply the point of entry into, and also the point of exit out of, the material dimension. Sahasrara and bindu are spiritual centers and have no physiological correlations. Together they form a bridge between the two worlds, the spiritual and the material, the unmanifest and the manifest.

From bindu, the Kundalini travels downward and deposits herself at ajna chakra, located at the mid-brain, at the top of the spinal cord. Here her energy is transformed into the individual mind and consciousness. Now, a vehicle for the mind and consciousness is needed, so the Kundalini resumes her journey to vishuddhi chakra, where she transforms and deposits herself as the energy of space, because the body must have a space in which to exist. From vishuddhi, she travels on to deposit herself at anahata chakra, behind the heart, where her energy is transmuted into the element of air. 

From anahata, she continues on to manipura chakra, behind the navel, where she transforms herself into the energy of fire. From manipura, she travels on to swadhishthana chakra, behind the pubic area, at the tailbone, where she deposits herself in the form of water. Finally, she descends to mooladhara, the root chakra at the pelvic floor, where she transforms herself into the energy of earth, and comes to rest. Having transmuted her unmanifest energy into the five manifest elements, which then combine and permutate into our physical form, she settles herself into the earth, which is the meaning of her name, kund - a deeper place, and remains there for as long as we live in the body.

This concept of the Kundalini and the chakras is the gift of yoga to the world, to help us understand our real nature and the source of our existence. Yoga not only offers this unique explanation of our creation, but also the practices, which allow us to attune with the subtle dimension of our existence. All the yogas evolved originally to help us realize our true nature. Practices such as asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, and meditation gradually lead us into an experience of our inner being, which is ruled by the chakras, and their evolutes, the mind and the prana. For those practitioners who wish to take the express highway, there are specific practices, which can be performed in order to have a direct experience of the kundalini and the chakras.

These are the advanced practices, which belong to the body of kundalini yoga, and were originally undertaken by yogis as a deeper and more dedicated form of sadhana. The practices of kriya yoga, for example, directly align the chakras and awaken the kundalini. The practices of chakra shuddhi are a preparation for kriya yoga and other higher yogas. They purify, rebalance and open the chakras, which has a positive influence on all the organs and systems of the body. Visualization of the chakra diagrams with repetition of their mantras helps to stabilize and awaken these energies. Initially the practices of kundalini yoga should be learned and performed in the yoga ashram, where the atmosphere and lifestyle are conducive to the awakening of the subtle, creative forces.

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