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Two Gentle Yoga Sets You Can Do At Home

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I selected these two sequences of postures for my friend Debra who has MS, after careful observation of her yoga practice at the ashram over the last two months.  These gentle yoga sets are excerpted and reformatted from Yoga For Wimps by Miriam Austin.  They focus on core strength and flexibility and stretching and lengthening the muscles in the back of the legs, and stretching out the feet.  These postures use simple props that can be found in anyone’s home, and are easily accessible to beginners, the elderly, and those who are working through illness.

 

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Yoga Blog 22/08/2013

 

Yoga Blog 22/08/2013
On yogibhajan.org they are inviting us to chant the Guru Ram Dass mantra these 11 days leading up to Yogi Bhajan’s birthday on the 26th of August, and to share our stories of chanting this mantra. Well, it was just today that we read the website and heard about this, however, on or about the 15th, we were compelled to play Bachan Kaur’s Ram Dass Lullaby over and over and over all day! Then later this week we named one of our kombucha flavors ‘Wahey Guru!’ It is amazing to feel that this mantra has so taken hold of us that we are automatically tuned to it!

 

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Yoga blog 8/20/2013

Yoga blog 8/20/2013

Okay, just laughed our asses off watching the worlds weirdest movie, Dinner for Schmuks. With all that hilarity pulsing through us, we did a Yogi Bajan meditation for prosperity and abundance, very simple, striking first the inside of the sides of both hands together, and flipping the hands to strike the outside of the sides of the hands together, while chanting HAR at each hit.

I felt so abundant already, the joy of the laughter clinging through the meditation, and now I feel it instilled within me, in my cells, infused in my aura. Very positive, very fun.

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Facebook Page!

Sometimes it’s hard to separate what will go on our blog and what will appear on our facebook page.  We  use the facebook page to stay in touch with our students and continue to give them thought provoking material that will keep them in the spirit of meditation, imagination, positivity and wonderment.

The blog is a testament to the unfolding of the Chaya Garden Yoga Ashram, and that’s because we tell our story in our own boundaries.

Many of the posts in facebook address topics that we have discussed at length with our students, so please feel free to ask questions about the posts we make there if we have failed to make the point of the post clear.

www.facebook.com/thechayagardenashram

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Yoga blog 06/08/2013

Yoga blog 06/08/2013

It is evening at the ashram. A dog barks down the road. Insects chirp and sing and hum in the night air all around in the stillness after the evening meditation.

From Yogi Bajan’s manual, Physical Wisdom, we did two companion meditations. The first was brief but intense. Entitled Ten Steps to Peace, this meditation is used to clear a specific memory and be relieved of emotional attachments associated with it. Fears, phobias and neuroses can be released through this meditation, as well as past thoughts that surface in the present.

My observation with this meditation is that we must also be truly willing to release the memory by freeing ourselves from identifying with it. We feel that our past experiences have shaped us, thus we drag them into the present to justify ourselves and who we are. We must learn to be who we are without justification, relieving ourselves of the burden of emotions from the past, allowing ourselves to be fully in the present where happiness and unity are attainable. Through this meditation we not only are released, but are willing to be released, forgiving ourselves and all other persons involved.

We next went into a meditation for clearing past emotions and releasing them to infinity. In the notes it says that this meditation is especially useful in clearing family issues. There is a five count breath pattern for this meditation, inhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds, and exhale for five seconds, The tips of the fingers are pressed together at the heart center,palms pressed away from each other, and the gaze directed at the tip of the nose. As I relaxed into the pattern of the breath, I began to notice an increasing pulsation at my fingertips which continued to intensify throughout the eleven minutes of the meditation. Afterwards, I felt a wonderfully encompassing sense of peace and well being, well rooted in the present moment.

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Wild Yam on Don Berto's medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

Jungle Medicine: In Pursuit of the Wild Yam

Wild Yam on Don Berto's medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

Wild Yam on Don Berto’s medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

The first time I encountered Wild Yam was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, receiving it through an order I placed with my “friends and neighbors organic food co-op”, an informal group of midwives and other turned-on ladies who initiated me into the alternative parenting style that would become the main thread of my life for the next 18 years.

I was looking for an alternative birth control method, as I had come to view “the pill” with suspicion. In my early twenties it was beginning to dawn on me that my fertility was big business with corporate interests, and that my personal health and well-being were not the main agenda.

I received the long awaited package, and opened it to find a half pound of woody little cubes. I had no idea what to do with it, and no source of information aside from a few vague references in books I’d read at the time. It seemed like the thing to do was powder it, and put it in capsules, as that was pretty much the format in which I encountered the herbal medicines I had tried to that point. I threw a handful in the blender. It made an incredible din, but did not affect the little cubes at all. Next I tried the coffee grinder, again to no avail. Mystified, and with no guidance, I eventually gave up on the idea.

Twenty years later, and with many years of wildcrafting North American herbs under my belt, I came to make a life for myself in Belize. I quickly realized that I would learn a whole new pharmacopeia here. Getting used to the climate, the heat, the water and the outdoor lifestyle was a huge but welcome adjustment. That was why I had come! In many ways my family and I became stronger and healthier, but we were also introduced to a whole new world of bacteria. I began to get urinary tract infections, an old teacher from my late teens and early twenties that firmly set my foot on the path of alternative medicine in my search for relief.

One day, at market in Belmopan, I was attracted from out of the bales of cheap American used clothing to a stall full of mystery and intrigue. A Creole lady with beautiful green eyes introduced herself as Janice. Other women were chatting about the benefits of various jungle medicines as I stepped forward to examine the wares. I explained my situation to Janice, and she pointed me toward a huge hardcover book, Natural Remedies Encyclopedia, and quickly flipped to the entry on Wild Yam.  Reading over the entry, I overheard Janice prescribe Wild Yam to another woman for her sore hip. I was surprised at the diversity of ailments helped by Wild Yam, and soon learned from the book that Wild Yam had many healing attributes aside from my complaint of UTI. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies, this jungle root affects muscles, joints, uterus, liver and gallbladder. It relaxes muscles spasms, any kind of cramps, balances the glands, reduces inflammation, and is beneficial in cases of gallbladder disorders, hypoglycemia, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, neuralgia, and rheumatism, as well as problems common to women, from PMS to prevention of miscarriage in pregnancy. In combination with other blood cleansers, Wild Yam aids in removing wastes from the system to relieve stiff and sore joints, and also improves the function of the liver and gallbladder. The Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies lists Wild Yam as one of the 126 most important herbs.

In a further entry, I learned that Wild Yam is good for both men and women. Wild Yam contains diosgenin, a chemical used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. The Wild Yam itself does not contain progesterone, but has a similar effect to progesterone on the human body. Diosgenins are used in pharmaceutical applications to treat asthma, arthritis and eczema. They regulate metabolism and control fertility. There are a staggering variety of synthetic products manufactured from diosgenin. These include contraceptives, drugs to treat menopause, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, testicular deficiency, impotency, prostate hypertrophy, high blood pressure, arterial spasms, migraines and other ailments. Wild Yam also contains cortisones and hydrocortisones used for allergies, bursitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, brown recluse spider bites, and insect stings. It is a common misconception that Wild Yam actually contains estrogen and progesterone, but these are exclusively human hormones.

I eagerly paid Janice for my little bag of dried wood chips. She said to boil them in a gallon of water for twenty minutes, and drink several cups a day. She told said I could use the chips up to seven times. What a value! I followed her prescription and felt a complete sense of well-being within a few days.

Laine prepares Wild Yam harvested during a moonlight nature hike

Laine prepares Wild Yam harvested during a moonlit nature hike.

I soon began to discover the plant during jungle hikes. Once identified it is easy to distinguish, having fairly unique characteristics even within the incredible diversity of Belize; it is a thorned twining vine with heart-shaped leaves, having conspicuous deep-set veins which run diagonally from stem to the tip of the leaf, with usually two to three vines sprouting from the top of a partially exposed root. The leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern, and the root itself is “tiled” with a mosaic of raised bark. Allow the root some time to dry out before use. It is difficult to chop, and I use both an axe to split the root into pieces, and a machete to split off the chips for use.

Last November I contracted some kind of incredibly tenacious bronchitis. I am generally accustomed to excellent health, and if I do get sick, it is never for more than a few days. Imagine my consternation and desperation at finding this condition developing into an asthmatic situation that was even worse by mid -February! After a completely useless round of antibiotics, (my first in over 13 years!), I turned to Rosita Arvigo’s now famous book, Rainforest Remedies. Turning to “coughs” in the Index of Traditional Medical Uses, I noticed my good friend Wild Yam listed among the remedies. Having some on hand, I immediately boiled up a big pot.

From the text of Rainforest Remedies I learned that not only is Wild Yam effective for bladder infection, but it is also effective in loosening mucous in the lungs due to coughs and colds, reducing fever, and relieving bilious colic. It can also be used to address internal hemorrhaging, not to mention the more popular uses in curing impotency in men, and infertility in women.

Also known as Dioscorea (D. belizensis), it is known to contain steroids. From reading the entry in Rainforest Remedies, I concluded that the Natural Remedies Encyclopedia seemed to be referring to what Rosita Arvigo describes as a closely related species, Mexican Yam (D. mexicana), a source of diosgenin, a steroid precursor as previously described. Yam is also known as White China Root, and Barba del Viejo or Cocolmeca blanca in Spanish.

Taking an interest in Gumbolimbo due to an outbreak of Poisonwood, I took a random flip to that entry in Rainforest Remedies, and was surprised to learn that this commonly found tree’s bark also is effective in treating internal infection, colds and flu, kidney ailments, and yes, it’s true,  for curing urinary tract infection.  I began to add Gumbolimbo to my Wild Yam tea, and started hacking up the last of the crazy lung infection for good!

It is interesting to note that Wild Yam and Gumbo Limbo both address the relationship between lungs and kidneys which is inherent in the practice of Chinese Traditional Medicine. This relationship involves the mixing and balancing of the energies of the upper and lower body around the navel point. In Yogic practice, this is known as the balancing of the Prana and Upana.

Chips of Wild Yam are ready to use in a tea.

Chips of Wild Yam are ready to use in a tea.

It seems that in Belize, we must look at the remedies that are close at hand, and we will discover that they most likely apply to whatever health problems arise. Often we only need to venture as far as our own backyard to find the relief we seek.

 

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Yoga blog 8/2/2013

Yoga blog 8/2/2013

Another beautiful day in Belize, at Chaya Garden Ashram.  Another beautiful yoga practice. Traversing the inner landscape with Yogi Evan and our student for the past several weeks, Debra.  It has been a new experience exploring the practice with Debra who is engaging in the daily yoga practice here at the ashram with the added challenge of Multiple Sclerosis. Since she arrived just over three weeks ago, Debra has received four acupuncture treatments, ongoing reflexology, and a Nimoe Code healing session with Evan. It seems that all who enter here are provided for according to their need. The acupuncture came to us completely out of the blue from previously unknown sources who prefer to remain anonymous.  An unlooked for blessing to all of us at the ashram dealing with various health challenges on the Path.  About ten days ago, Debra decided to abandon the use of her cane. Today, she made it down to the waterfall and sat under the falls for the first time.

She describes MS:

“It’s like an electric cord that has little bits of exposed wires. The wires short out, and the flow of electricity is interrupted. Whatever is plugged in to that cord momentarily stops working. This is my nervous system. MS has destroyed the myelin sheath around the nerves. Sometimes there is no signal. This is when I lose physical connectivity and fall down.”

Debra is absolutely committed to her yoga practice in spite of suffering at least three falls since arriving at the ashram, and refuses to be discouraged by the resulting bumps and bruises. Every time she walks unassisted across the yoga studio under the palapa, I admire her courage and determination. Every step is a risk. Every step is its own reward. Having Debra share time and yoga with us at the ashram has been an incredible learning curve for us all. Really studying the way the body works in detail of motion has been a great gift to me. Being able to see where my observations about movement, balance and momentum can improve her ability to stabilize and mobilize, I am constantly increasing my awareness of how to integrate that information in her physical movements. For instance, keeping the body centered over the pelvis, keeping the legs square under the body. Becoming aware of the tendency to lean for support, or lunge toward a wall or rail, and seeing how these actions instantly destabilise the balance. Since freeing herself from depending upon her cane, which caused her to lean forward, unbalancing herself by allowing the cane to bear her weight, her overall posture has improved, as has her ability to walk, keeping her weight centered and balanced over her legs. My mind has been expanded over and over by her presence as I begin to understand a thousand new details about how we move.

I am learning to create new modifications in the poses to enable her to constantly participate more fully, and I am amazed at her progress in the yoga practices as she gains strength and muscle tone in parts of the body that had become atrophied through disuse. Her positive attitude helps me realize that the challenges I face with my own health are pebbles on the path compared to the mountain that she climbs daily, not because her body is there for her, but through sheer will and devotion to the living of life as she experiences it day to day.

Today we practiced a face-down-on-the-mat set to strengthen the core of the body and the muscles in the back and legs,  and to cleanse and rejuvenate the organs through compression and release. This is a basic principal of yoga. As we compress the body within the context of the pose, we squeeze out toxins from organs, tissues and cells, and in releasing that compression, allow an inrush of fresh oxygenated blood to sweep away the expunged wastes and acids built up in the cells, and to renew and invigorate the tissues and organs as the cells are refreshed. The more oxygen in the blood, the more the muscles open and relax. That is why breath is so critical to the process of yoga.

We moved on from there to a set from Yogi Bajan’s manual, Physical Wisdom, entitled Transition Into the Aquarian Age. This meditative set kicks off with an incredible breath exercise, the object of which is to slow your breath to three breaths a minute. This simple yet profound meditation quickly brought a state of ecstasy and deep peace. For me the experience was intensely activating in the sixth chakra, and I was aware of a lot of indigo blue behind the eyes, filling the inner gaze as I lay in my post-practice savasana. Last night our meditation was on the fifth chakra, and Debra said she heard bells.

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