Breathing and lengthening in Bound Angle Pose

Return to Your Breath

A practice is activity we perform with intention.
Practices shape us over time, and each time we return to practice we reaffirm commitment to ourselves. Our reasons for practicing, guide all we do - these are our values, evolving, strengthening.

It is common to think we could do more - 
it is a cultural impulse to increase, improve, insist 
upon importance of that which we seem to have achieved. 
There is little more terrorizing to our evolution, however, 
than a judgement that we must be more or better - 
that we are not enough, right now. 

Instead, at these times, make your practice to breathe deeply.

Feel the temperature of the air on your nostrils as you inhale.
Relax your throat. Close your eyes - it's ok.
Exhale pulling the belly in.
Feel warm air through your nose as you push breath out.

Inhale, fill your chest with air, release the belly to bulge.
Just for this moment, feel air fill your body.

Visualize any empty balloon,
exhale any negative thoughts to fill the balloon.
Feel your breath pushing the balloon far away.
Let it float off, leaving you breathing your own breath.
Julie leading Half Moon Pose for Killer Yoga class.

Ardha Chandrasana - Half Moon Pose 

a. Foundation- Be sure your standing foot is parallel to the edge of your mat and place your right hand directly underneath the shoulder using a block if needed to create length in the side waist.
b. Viyana Vayu- Feel your solar energy radiating from your center through all your limbs.  Especially focus a beam of light outward through your top leg and foot.
c. Opening- Dial your heart and your top hip open without spinning the top thigh out of neutral alignment.  If balance is hard, look down, feel the earth and don’t lose heart;)
d. Exploration- Variations of deeper openings and twists abound.  no matter the modification, keep flying inthe expansive energy. - See more at: http://sonicyoga.com/news/pose-of-the-month-april-ardha-chandrasana/#sthash.MdYxbcx2.dpuf
From Sonicyoga.com
Foundation - standing foot toes straight out from heel, straight relative to knee, place right hand directly under shoulder on ground or prop so side waist remains long.
Vayu - Viyana Vayu "Feel your solar energy radiating from your center through all your limbs. Especially focus a beam of light outward through your top leg and foot."
Opening - "Dial your heart and your top hip open without spinning the top thigh out of neutral alignment. If balance is hard, look down, feel the earth" and raise your spine away from it like you are floating up to the sky. Energize your standing hip and lift the socket away from the head of the femur.
Exploration - Variations of deeper openings and twists abound. No matter the modification, keep flying in the expansive energy.
Foundation- Be sure your standing foot is parallel to the edge of your mat and place your right hand directly underneath the shoulder using a block if needed to create length in the side waist. - See more at: http://sonicyoga.com/news/pose-of-the-month-april-ardha-chandrasana/#sthash.MdYxbcx2.dpuf



This sect of Buddhist thought offers much perspective on recognizing reality, just the way it is, then leaving it behind as an illusion. The koan ("koh-ahn"), a question intended for Zen students to contemplate, and the answer to which enlightens the realizer, is one of my favorite tools for Zen meditation.

The saying that led me to develop my current path in yoga is a Zen saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, you must kill him." The meaning is, kill your illusions - there is no way you would just encounter true awakening (Buddha) on the journey, without some struggle. Zen is the path of harsh realization, acceptance and ego death. Kill your wish to be perfect and you are more on the way to awakening than ever.


Yoni - Divine Passage, Source of Life 

Yoni Mandala courtesy of Exotic India
Goddess of the Yoni courtesy of the Book of Born Free.

A yoni is a physical or metaphysical passage into life, through which we all travel to reach this world; an opening, gateway or enclosure that surrounds, invites, or restores us.

It can be anything which resembles the womb.
Courtesy of Erin Glasser-Devore Mindful Wellness

Wikipedia stuff:
Yoni (Sanskrit: योनि yoni) is a Sanskrit word with different meanings, most basically "vagina" or "womb". Its counterpart is the lingam. It is also the divine passage, or sacred temple (cf. lila). The word can cover a range of extended meanings, including: place of birth, source, origin, spring, fountain, place of rest, repository, receptacle, seat, abode, home, lair, nest, stable.
The relevance of this topic extends beyond the literal birth of bodies into the physical world, to include seeking wellness, restoration, longevity, and connection to a root source (such as the yoni located in the root chakra, the chakra of safety, comfort, home and connection to this planet. Vibrancy in this chakra correlates with a sense of security, belonging and self-worth.) A common yoga prescription for grounding the root chakra is to sit directly on the ground, on living earth if possible, or sit back on the heels and focus on the sensation of the ground supporting your body where it comes into contact with it. Inhaling, lengthen the spine upwards and feel the weight of the torso, lungs and above, moving away from the earth, stretching your crown higher. Exhaling, empty the lungs completely. Feel your weight firmly supported in your lower body, resting on the earth. Close the eyes to keep your focus inward and repeat.

Yoni work, prenatal:
As far as addressing the needs of mothers, I recently participated in a conversation between an expectant friend and a midwife & hypnobirthing advisor, Erin Glasser-Devore, of Mindful Wellness. The results were some powerful yoni medicine for expectant mothers whose babies have dropped into painful positions. I'll share here:

*If the cow pose in the above sequence is hard on the lower back, substitute camel pose done in this way

Glasser-Devore also recommends Spinningbabies.com, if the baby needs a more optimal position.


X Chromosome and Inborn Memory

 X chromosome courtesy of Broad Institute
The connection between genes, cellular memory, karma and embryonic development has been studied for thousands of years, with explorations in the Vedas and Gitas, and even an Upanishad, Garbha Upanishad, dedicated to details of embryonic development. As there is a plausible - some would say provable - process of gene replication inherently involving X chromosomes, the topic of heritable human consciousness at reproductive cellular levels comes to the forefront of "modern" science in any discussion of chromosomal selection.

This discussion is about how a fetus comes to having it's distinquishing physical, energetic, karmic and mental traits - not whether such transfer of abilities, tendencies and predispositions is possible.

This passage from a modern text, Care of the Unborn Child with Yoga, p97, frames the question of how we come to life, from the Vedic perspective.

Producing the physical matter that grows into a body and connecting it with a soul requires circumstances of larger consciousness (atman) and time (past) aligning. While the body is created of matter in the present, it is the past “prarabdha karma meaning 'actions begun; set in motion'… that is bearing fruit and shaping the events and conditions of the current life, including the nature of our bodies, personal tendencies and associations.” (See Understanding Karma)

These days yoga is common medicine for a variety of health, longevity, and reproductive issues. Many people, however, don't realize that the yogic practices go even beyond inviting souls to be born, extending as far physically generating combinations of chromosomes to determine the body’s characteristics. Some health organizations use yogic practices to select the physical and mental characteristics of a child -- in fact, this is quite similar to what age-old texts have recorded. Here one such organization, Adhiyoga, explains:
In male the 23rd set of chromosomes is like (XY). In female the 23rd set of chromosomes is like (XX). In these, when the X chromosome from male joins with the X chromosome of female, it leads to give birth to a baby girl (XX). When the Y chromosome from male joins with the X chromosome of female, it leads to give birth to a baby boy (XY). We make it happen as you like.
A connection between X chromosome selection and yogic practices has existed been used for thousands of years, and is discussed openly in the modern day. It is within the realm of dedicated practice that such profound controls over reality occur, yet these controls over oneself within this world are, properly cultivated, the tools that allow one to transcend it.



The warrior poses, a set of standing postures, approximate interim stances in attack sequences. The pose above, Warrior 2, in this instance demonstrated in a Tai Ji Chuan form called single whip, involves a lunge in the sagittal plane with Illiac Crest (top of pelvic bone) rotated laterally in the transverse plane.

Warrior 3
Warrior 1


Vrksasana - Tree Pose

The sole of the foot presses into the calf or thigh of the opposite leg, as the calf or thigh muscles press reciprocally into the foot. This creates contraction of all the muscles in the inner legs, which form the trunk of the tree. 

Avoid pressing on the knee, but you may wrap your heel slightly behind the knee, with toes coming to the inside front of the shin.

The top of the pelvic bone (Illiac crest) stays parallel with the ground, as normally in standing, so the spine rises straight up. Raise the arms to describe whatever angle of branches you wish. The hands too form leaves of your choice.

My hands form anjali mudra (angel hands) among a stand of dying trees. Alaska, 2013.
 Tree branches, by Abigail Allen Art, Gladwyne, PA.


Urdhvahastasana - Upward Hands Pose

Say it, "OORD-vah hah-STAH-sah-nah." 
Urdhva=Upward Hasta=Hands Asana=Pose. 
Inhale and raise the arms with palms facing each other. Keep the shoulders in their sockets. Enjoy breathing deeply into the growing space between your ribs as your sides elongate with the overhead stretch.


Tadasana - Mountain Pose

Tadasana, mountain pose, is essentially identical to what doctors term "the anatomical position" demonstrated in the medical poster above. It is also called "Samasthiti" (sah-mah-stuh-hee-tee) meaning equal standing pose. 

Essential steps for manifesting mountain / equal standing pose:
1) Ground the feet so that they press into the ground solidly. "Four corners" of the feet should press into the ground- base of the big toe, base of the pinky toe, left back edge of heel and right back edge of heel.
2) Contract the calves, quads and hamstrings; try to turn the shins in and thighs out as the same time. This gets the head of the femur (thigh bone) in socket.
3) Engage the glutes.
4) Contract the abdominal mucles.
5) Roll the shoulders up, back and down. Turn the thumbs to the sides pointing away from the body (back of the hand is toward the thighs) to align the scapulae, the shoulder blades, on the back.
6) Grow tall: Press the top middle of the head (not forehead, further back) up away from the feet.
7) Gaze forward with half-lidded eyes or close the eyes and feel your body standing equally balanced on left and right sides, front and back, and sensing equally the ground beneath you and the pressure of the air all around and above you.
A map of the chakras, with figure of human body in mountain pose.
As you can see, this position is often used to represent the human body for the purpose of mapping medical conditions of all sorts. 
Map of physical conditions associated with psychological conditions, with figure of human body in mountain pose.


Savasana - Corpse Pose - Final Rest

"The body is mortal. It is subject to death. Yet it is the resting place of the immortal, incorporeal Self." - Chandogya Upanishad

Lying prone on the floor is a traditional form of corpse pose, Savasana. It is such a common, innate, impulse to lie down this way after exertion, that it might not seem like a pose. The trick is to stay still. Yes, as still as death, knowing you will awaken.

The decreased demand on all physical systems of the body, while in this pose, facilitates accurate and efficient encoding of neuromuscular information registered during activity. In rest, the brain and body build and enhance neural networks recording the new length of muscles, position of connective tissue like fascia, and capacity of lungs, that occurred during activity just before. Hence yoga practices end with a final rest, crucial to nonconscious recall and learning - developing body clairvoyance for performance.

Lie flat on your back, or on your stomach with head turned to the side, on a floor, a bed, a couch or whatever is comfortable and check out this "sleep playlist" from 8tracks.

For corpse pose variations please visit Yoga Art and Science.
For a superior visualization for relaxing see Yogi Source's Ananda Savasana.


Rajakapotasana - King Pigeon Pose 

Puff out your chest and make like a royal city-rooster!




Much like prana, the east Asian expression Qi, ("Chee") or 气 means lifeforce and energy, and when combined with other specific terms denotes inborn lifeforce, acquired lifeforce, internal/external lifeforce or other related ideas.


Pranayama - Control of Breath, Lifeforce Energy

Prana: breath, respiration, wind, lifeforce, energy, vitality, strength
Yama: control (of an aspect of the self), discipline, a means to supreme union
Manifesting this yoga asana (pose) to imitate the form of the plant to the right, requires an exhalation and allows only gentle and partial inhalation - a breath control or pranayama that simulates the drooping/drained prana of the plant! Hence, asana, pranayama and prana are linked by process of manifestation. (Yours truly, Inca Trail, Peru, 2012)
For an introduction to the importance of breathing in yoga, see my earlier post on breath. That post also contains a simple pranayama you can do any time to clear your mind, stop a headache, or improve focus.

Pranayama, breath control, is a powerful means of regulating the mind's machinations and body's processes; it is essential to actually "doing yoga" - yoking / uniting the thoughts with the movement (even stillness) and thus communing with a reality beyond the ego. 

Each pranayama practice has a different aim; some balance the energy in the body (such as nadi shodana, for equally stimulating the two sides of the energy body, throughout the length of the spinal chord up into the brain, by activating two major left-right energy channels, or nadis that meet at the nostrils). Pranayama before asana practice may also increase or release heat in the body, and breath control alone can suffice for a physical practice for those who are ailing, recovering, or quite advanced in practice.


Om - the sound of origin; "all"

"All" in sanskrit. Refers to the unity of all things. Written Om or Aum (pronunciation notes below). It is the sound of life, the universe and everything.

To say it right, do these two things:
1) Pronounce three syllables that run into each other: "ah" "oh" "mm."
If repeating the sound of om over and over, each "mm" runs into an "ah", resulting in a transition syllable "mah." Blend the syllables fluidly for maximum continuous resonance in the chest, throat and nasal cavities.

2) Inhale to fill the lungs, then initiate the production of the "ah" ("mah" when sung continuously) by contracting the diaphragm, as if gently forcing the air and syllable up from the abdomen through the windpipe into the mouth. Roll the "ah" up your body from base to head, essentially.

To type the symbol, choose wingdings font and type a backslash ( \ ). 



A nadi is an energy pathway that conducts a pulse of lifeforce, prana, much as a vein conducts a flow of blood. In the yogic definition, nadis are organs in the subtle body (energy body). Like blood vessels too, nadis extend all throughout the body, and vary in size, with 14 major nadis, three of which are most important, running the length of the spine and weaving left and right sides together. The nodes where nadis meet are called chakras, energy centers in the areas of major organs and orifices of the body. The system is complex to represent visually.

 Map of nadis and chakras, from "Nadis, the Channels of Life force Energy"

I highly recommend reading the post that is the source of these graphics, "Nadis, the Channels of Life force Energy" as it synthesizes yogic, ayurvedic and Chinese medicine perspectives. There is much overlap in these systems' views of energy in the body, succinctly written, and shown in video and drawing.



An example of mindful processing, a form of meditation useful in everyday situations. Here I am sitting in yoga teacher training, using a personal mudra for perfecting neural pathways (learning).

Many people associate yoga with meditation. Some forms of yoga are said to have been developed to limber and strengthen the bodies of supplicants (monks) so they could sit for hours without moving - "sitting in meditation," it's called. Seated meditation is one form commonly known; other forms of meditation included ambulatory (walking) meditation, chanting/repeating a sound (sometimes combined with other forms) and moving meditations that involve repetitive motion, such as spinning (dervish yoga). In general the purpose of meditation is to achieve a state of being (some say state of mind) more integrated with the whole of reality, which is what some term "clarity" or "transcendence."

For guidance on how to meditate in a variety of ways check out these articles by my friend Dave Berman, a skilled medical hypnotist, at Manifest Positivity:

Trillions of Reasons to Look Within

Mapping Across: Moving the Meditation Mantras

Hardwiring Happiness into the Brain



Low Lunge 

Much like a runner's lunge, and the foundation of many standing poses.


Killer Yoga 

The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” - See more at: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/killing-the-buddha/#sthash.m62EZE7m.dpuf
The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” - See more at: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/killing-the-buddha/#sthash.m62EZE7m.dpuf

A Zen saying advises, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, you must kill him."
This is not about murder or brutality.

The lesson: when you think you've discovered ultimate enlightenment, you have been fooled. Cut through the ego that informs you thus.

How does this apply to yoga?

You know how the image of "YOGA" comes across in our culture - hyped, hyper, wanna-be-hip and hysterical in pursuit of a cute tush and eternal youth. "Bendy, "stretchy," maybe "sweaty" but get real - yoga is not a "cute," "little" "class" for lunch hour gym warriors. A parody of itself, without ever touching the real topic. Sad.

Kill that.

Killer Yoga is my signature class combining elements of hot, Ashtanga and Iyengar yogas with martial arts from China, Korea, Central Asia, and Brazil. To practice killer yoga we synthesize disparate styles and systems of movement gleaned from remote places and cultures. The result is a powerful form fusing many lineages’ teachings, bypassing the need for pedantry -- the incessant and inauthentic who's who and what's what of sycophants -- to cut right to the martial and spiritual applications of yoga, as practiced for millenia.

We work hard physically, generating all our heat internally or absorbing it from the surroundings, depending where we are practicing. We adopt fighting stances sometimes, and self-healing stances others.

Come follow the new Killer Yoga FB page. facebook.com/killyouryoga


Jathara Parivartanasana - Ab turn pose 

This supine abdominal twist is good for all ages, and popular for relaxation. Girl Scout class, 2014.
This pose is a deep twist for the spine, working with gravity to realign vertebrae and pressing gently on the abdominal organs to stimulate the intestines. Limbs and head rest on the ground, with shoulders evenly weighted and fully pressed into the floor, making it a relaxing pose and a mildly challenging stretch that is easily tailored for individual needs.

The twist tones lower back and abdominal muscles, and is commonly said to reduce excess belly fat by stretching into muscles typically surrounded by stored fat, mobilizing the deposits. Bloodflow increases to the abdominal organs including pancreas, spleen, liver and intestines, which helps with gastrointestinal concerns, and is recommended for aiding digestion.



Inversions are poses in which the heart is higher than the head. With the effect of gravity on the pulmonary system reversed in these poses, the heart valves experience different pressure than they would upright, which is both restful and toning for the organ and the vascular system. Here is a selection of inversions:
Headstand and crane poses, Killer Yoga. Anchorage, AK, 2012.
Crane pose, Killer Yoga. Anchorage, AK, 2012.

Dancer pose inversion, Wake Up Yoga Acroyoga seminar. Philadelphia, PA, 2014.
Freehanded plank inversion, Killer Yoga private aerial training. Napa, CA, 2012.
Inverted poses also include downward facing dog, standing forward bend, and others in which the legs are upright or partially upright, but the torso is inverted, making the head lower than the heart.
Standing forward bend - an excellent, simple inversion. Alaska, 2013.
I uncovered a clear, scientific explanation for the effect of inversions, courtesy of the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog post on baroreceptors
The reason these poses trigger the relaxation response turns to be related to the mechanisms that control your heart rate and blood pressure. The nerves that control your heart rate and blood pressure are regulated through pressure sensors called baroreceptors. Your baroreceptors are located in the wall of each internal carotid artery at your carotid sinus (the arteries on each side of your neck that carry blood from your heart to your brain) and in the wall of your aortic arch (just above your heart). These baroreceptors detect any changes in your blood pressure, stretching when blood pressure is high and shrinking when blood pressure is low.
If your baroreceptors detect a fall in your blood pressure, they send signals via your nerves to increase your heart rate, constrict your blood vessels to raise your blood pressure, and switch your nervous system to fight or flight mode. Likewise, if your baroreceptors detect abnormally elevated blood pressure, they send signals to slow your heart rate, relax your blood vessels to lower your blood pressure, and switch your nervous system to relaxation mode.
A bit more from this site, on inversions:
With your heart higher than your head, gravity causes more blood to flow in the direction of your head, creating more pressure than usual on your carotid sinus and aortic arch. As the arterial pressure is increased, your baroreceptors are stretched and signals are transmitted to your central nervous system as if your blood pressure was high throughout your body. Feedback signals are then sent back to your body to reduce the arterial pressure, slowing your heart rate, relaxing your blood vessels, and releasing hormones that decrease adrenaline production. This automatically switches your body to relaxation mode.

Because there are baroreceptors in your carotid sinus (the arteries on each side of your neck that carry blood from your heart to your brain) inverted or partially inverted poses where your neck is flexed (that is, your chin is pointing toward your chest), as in Shoulderstand, Plow pose, or Bridge pose, puts added stimulation on your baroreceptors, which may enhance the calming effects of the inversion.