Tag Archives: Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The Daily Dozen

11 Oct

The yoga teachers I admire most are also among the busiest people I know. They travel extensively, they write, they manage businesses, they’re socially and politically engaged and, in additional to all that, they somehow manage to maintain a daily practice that fuels their endeavours.

I’ve often wondered what their practices look like on their craziest days, when their schedules are erratic and jam packed from morning to night. What are the poses they do without fail? Inquiring minds want to know…

Enter Sharon Gannon’s Magic 10. This is a nifty 10 minute sequence of yoga asanas narrated by the co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga herself. I like the notion that one’s yoga practice can be distilled down to its essential elements like this—that I can be a devoted yogini without dragging my sleep deprived self out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to get in a 90 minute yoga practice before heading out for a day of go-go-go.

My own list of must-do practices is not much longer—let’s call it the Daily Dozen. It includes the following asanas, self-massage and cleansing techniques:

1. Sinus irrigation with my trusty neti pot, tongue scraping, and dry body brushing. These yogic detoxification techniques get the breath flowing, sweeten the breath and help out with lymphatic drainage, which is good for the immune system and overall health.

2. Kapalabhati. I always do this in the shower right after using the neti pot. This is a breath-based cleansing technique that clears the airways, stimulates mind and body, and tones the belly.

3. Uddiyana Bandha, Agni Saura and Nauli. Isolate the muscles of the core, kick-start the metabolism and overcome sluggish digestion and elimination with these practices. They also make for good parlour tricks!

4. Self-Massage with Yoga Tune-Up® Therapy Balls. I’m talking about deep tissue massage and myofascial release all in the comfort of your own home. This is a game changer, folks.

5. Reclining Twist Sequence: apanasana, twist (a.k.a. leg stretch #3), and a shoulder/chest opener. I’ll do a special podcast dedicated to this little gem. It’s the best way I know to restore mobility to the back, chest and shoulders. And it feels so good first thing in the morning.

6. Downward Facing Dog. Woof!

7. Bending Tree. A classic Jivamukti pose that improves your balance and offers a deep lateral stretch. Breathe deeply while doing this one and learn something profound about cultivating generosity and ease during unstable times.

8. Prasarita Padottanasana C. I like to do this one with a block between my hands at its widest width. Imagine you’re pulling the brick apart with the hands for an extra juicy shoulder opener.

9. Shalabhasana. A safe way to warm and strengthen the back. A shalabhasana a day keeps back pain at bay. You can quote me on that one.

10. Urdhva Danurasana. A big, bold backbend that’s akin to a shot of expresso for my nervous system when I’m feeling sleepy. Opens shoulders and hip flexors like nothing else. Don’t forget to dedicate this heart opener to someone you love.

11. Malasana Twist with Bind. This multi-tasking pose works the hips, ankles, spine and shoulders all at once.

12. Shoulderstand, Plow and Fish or Legs up the Wall. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says you can defeat aging and death if you practice these inversions regularly. I’m determined to experience this for myself.

As always, I’d love to hear from you about the poses you do without fail.

Nāda Yoga

21 Apr

Have you ever gone mushroom hunting in the woods? I always find the mushrooms you’re looking for are a little elusive, that is until someone who knows them better than you points them out. In an instant, you acquire the magical ability to see them too and, as it turns out, they’re absolutely everywhere. My introduction to nāda yoga, the yoga of sound and deep listening, was a little like that.

I first heard the word nāda yoga at my yoga teachers’ summer home in Woodstock. While waiting out the rain one day, I came upon a book in their rather extensive library called The World Is Sound: Nada Brahma: Music and the Landscape of Consciousness, and I made a point of asking about it. “Oh, that’s a very important book on nāda yoga,” said Sharon with a gleam in her eye. “Sting was so impressed by the copy we gave him, he went ahead and bought a whole box of them to gift to his friends.” Enough said, I was intrigued.

In the weeks that followed, nāda yoga was everywhere: I overheard conversations about it at yoga studios; I was surprised to see it while rereading the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient yoga manual that lives on my nightstand; and, most significantly, I was introduced to a bona fide nāda yoga master, Laraaji Venus Nadabrahmananda while out for dinner in New York’s East Village with a yoga teacher friend.

Every now and again, you meet people who are extra shiny. You know the ones: they seem cheerful and grounded and authentic to such an extent that it charges the very atmosphere around them. If I’ve learned anything in my spiritual life, it’s to seek out these special people and to stick to them like, well, something sticky. And so, having met one of the shiniest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to encounter, I immediately invited Laraaji to come meet my yoga tribe in Toronto.

That was five years ago and Laraaji has been visiting Toronto ever since. When he’s here next week he will hold a concert, give laughter workshops, play music for yoga classes, and offer therapeutic gong baths (ask me if you don’t know what this is yet).

So, what do yoga, music, laughter and healing have to do with one another other? Well that’s where the subject of nāda yoga comes in for those of us who are interested in learning more about what my teachers call the “fast track” to all you seek. And this is where I point knowingly to Shri Brahmananda Saraswati’s important booklet, Nāda Yoga, before falling silent.

Pay attention, listen deeply (both outside and in) and you’ll hear exactly what has always been there.