The Yoga of Yawning

By Michelle Fajkus & Charles MacInerney

{Read the full, original post on Elephant Journal}

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Only we humans, conditioned to be polite, suppress our urge to yawn. Our suppression of a natural, healthy, physical urge is actually detrimental to our health.

Yawning is an ancient and vitally important reflex. Human fetuses begin to yawn and pandiculate (stretching and yawning at the same time) during the 12th week of pregnancy. All vertebrates yawn—humans, primates, mammals, marsupials, birds, reptiles.

There is a misconception that yawning implies boredom, disinterest, or tiredness. Yawning helps us transition from wakefulness to sleeping at night, and it also helps us transition from sleeping to wakefulness in the morning. Yawning increases circulation of cerebrospinal fluid and plays a role in arousal. Yawning also helps us relax and reduce our stress levels, which is why Olympic athletes are often seen yawning prior to competition.

I (Charles) began taking yoga classes in Oxford when I was 11. At the end of the practice, during savasana (corpse pose), I went into a state of deep relaxation. When my teacher closed the class with an Aum chant, I started to yawn. Not wanting to be disrespectful, I tried to suppress the urge and when it got away from me, I covered my mouth.

After class, my teacher advised, “Don’t suppress the urge to yawn. Let it out,” and yawned herself. After that, I indulged in yawn after yawn, until my eyes watered, and I felt alert, calm, and happy.

In a workshop he taught at the Texas Yoga Retreat last fall in Austin, I (Michelle) witnessed the humorous way in which Charles can yawn with his entire body—mouth, arms, legs, fingers, and toes! He encouraged all of us in the class to practice yawning and considers it the perfect yogic “complete breath” and an underutilized form of pranayama. (Charles is one of the main organizers of the annual weekend retreat and always offers a few fun, fascinating workshops.)

The scientific community is just beginning to realize how important yawning is to our overall health and well-being. Repetitive yawning increases the beneficial effects.

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What Color is Your Aura?

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Victoria Pendragon – Artspan

Even if we cannot see it, our aura is always with us, surrounding us. It consists of the sum of its parts. Here are some ways in which we can connect with each of our seven main chakra energy centers:

The Root Chakra

To connect with our root chakra, we can stand up directly on the earth, and feel the ground through the soles of our feet. We can breathe deeply and feel thankful to nature, the earth, sea, and sky. We are nature—and nature is us. Connect with breath. Breath is life. Breath is always there for us, as long as we live. Breathe deeply. Inhale gratitude. Inhale whatever it is you feel. There is no wrong answer. Just keep breathing. You are safe. You belong. This is your home.

The Sacral Chakra

Water and movement are the keys for the sacral chakra. Walking, practicing yoga or tai chi, hiking, or moving near a river, lake, or ocean is ideal. Jump right in and take a swim! If natural bodies of water are not nearby, we can connect with the sacred sacral chakra in a pool, bathtub, or shower. We need to remember to be more like water and just go with the flow, accepting our desires and emotions, not repressing them.

Move. Shake it up. Travel. Stretch. Hike. Walk instead of driving everywhere. Bicycle. Practice yoga asanas. Keep your body dynamic. Listen to your inner voice. Dance when it is time to dance. And then be still.

The Solar Plexus

Solar plexus energy is related to our will, power, and purpose. This is the center of action, effort, and intensity. Practice core strengthening exercises, a new skill, hone your self-discipline. Fire is the element here. Participate in a fire ceremony or create your own. Light candles. Practice challenging yoga, pushing yourself to your limit. Do standing meditations.

The Heart Chakra

The heart chakra is where it’s at. This is where we, as a global society, need to be. We’ve been stuck at the third chakra (solar plexus) for a long time now, obsessed with work, ambition, and power. A lot of people are awakening their hearts and this is helping evolve the collective consciousness of humanity.

Green is the color of the heart. Immerse yourself in green, whether it be wearing green clothing, or being in a green room or forest. I personally adore practicing metta (loving kindness or loving friendliness), both formally and informally. That is, sending good wishes to myself, my loved ones, and ultimately all beings.

The element of the heart is air, so more breath work is prescribed for opening and balancing heart energy. Keep reading!

How to get your groove back

Healing the 2nd Chakra

2ndchakraSwadhisthana chakra is the Sanskrit name for our second energy center and translates to “sweetness” or “sacred home of the self.”

Imagine your mind as still as water in a vast lake.

Breathe in a long, deep breath of inspiration, then let the exhalation go naturally, easily. Repeat this technique for a few moments. Notice how your breath sounds like the ocean waves that are forever crashing upon the seashore. Feel how your body moves. Let your energy take on the physical qualities of water, flowing to fill its container. Breathe in a sense of arriving totally, right where you are.

The element associated with this center is water. The sense is taste and the color is orange.

The key dynamics with the sacral chakra have to do with integration of male and female, sexuality, sensation and feeling, movement, change, balance, emotion, and pleasure. If the root chakra is unity and oneness and the groundedness of being, then the sacral chakra is duality, represented by the two-way street of attachment and aversion, desire and relationship.

Many of us on the planet could use some major balancing and healing of our essential second chakra energy. When our energy is out of balance here, it can show up as sexual repression and frigidity, or over-the-top promiscuity. Our sexuality, if not healed, can cause a range of problems in our physical, emotional, and mental bodies.

Continue Reading

7 Sacred Directions ~ Weekend Retreat

June 23 – 25, 2017

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.” ~ Pueblo Blessing

On this weekend retreat in the land of eternal spring, we’ll voyage through the seven major energy centers in the body: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown and the seven sacred directions: east, west, north, south, above, below and heart center.

The circle is open to all levels and all body types. Take time to unwind in our lakeside paradise… enjoy group practices, wholesome vegetarian cuisine and free time for reading in the hammock, spa treatments, swimming or simply being.

Schedule

Friday

3:00 arrival & settling in
5:00 opening circle
6:30 welcome dinner

Saturday

8:00 yoga & meditation
9:30 breakfast
11:30 chakra workshop
1:30 lunch
3:00 cacao ceremony
6:30 dinner

Sunday

7:30 breakfast
8:15 Mayan fire ceremony
10:30 closing circle
12:00 lunch & farewells

*Also being offered September 1-3

Learn more!

Location: Villa Sumaya

The Earth-plane: 6 Ways to Ground Your Root Chakra

Where on Earth are You?

Feel where your body connects to the planet. Feel how gravity is grounding you to Mother Earth. Breathe in a sense of belonging and of being completely right where you are.

Our chakras, according to Swami Saradananda‘s wonderful guidebook, Chakra Meditation, are “seven focal points of radiant power, or vital energy, within the subtle body.” Translated from Sanskrit as “wheel,” these seven energy centers can be visualized as gears, constantly shifting our subtle energy upward and downward.

Muladhara chakra is the Sanskrit name for our root center and literally translates to “root support.” The element associated with this center is earth; the sense is smell; and the color is red. The core issues are energy, identity/ego, safety and security, roots and ancestry. In other words, the root is our foundation and personal ground of being.

In a recent interview with Deepak Chopra, he explained how Donald Trump is stuck in his root chakra. When our energy stagnates here, we can become egomaniacal and extremely paranoid. Our insecurity, if not healed, can lead us to feeling incredibly uncertain, unsafe, and unsupported. The feelings, of course, become unhealthy, narcissistic behaviors and words that lash out in a fruitless effort to protect our little selves, by keeping others at a perceived safe distance.

Perhaps right now, most of us on the planet could use some grounding, balancing, and healing of this primal, primary chakra. May these be of benefit.

Six ways to connect with the root chakra.

1. Connect with the soles and the soul.

Practice a walking meditation. Walk in exaggerated slow motion, noticing the act of walking. Feel gratitude for the ability to move in this mundane and miraculous way. Focus on the soles of the feet. Notice the heel touching the ground, next the ball of the foot, then the toes. Walk more slowly than you’ve ever walked before. There is no destination. The act of walking is itself the practice. Simply walk and breathe, nothing more, nothing less.

2. Use aromatherapy and healing stones.

Aromatherapy is a fancy way to say smelling stuff. The essential oils that activate muladhara energy include patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, thyme, basil, and clary sage. We can burn or smudge cedar, sage, or patchouli, in the form of incense. Wearing gems and stones, such as hematite, smoky quartz, beryl, black tourmaline, and garnet, assist in healing and aligning root energy. It’s also useful to place these gems and stones on our meditation altars.

3. Eat earthy foods.

To counteract feeling too airy, spacey, or ungrounded, we can intentionally eat meals and snacks that root us and reconnect us with the earth element. These include veggies that grow in the ground (beets, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes), as well as beans, nuts, tofu/tempeh/soy, and pumpkin or sesame seeds. Eat these comfort foods in small portions, mindfully and slowly, savoring their density and deliciousness.

4. Give love to your knees, ankles, and feet.

Keep reading

Yoga, Heartfulness & Writing Retreat ~ January 21-28, 2017

What better time than now to recharge and rediscover balance, bliss and freedom in daily life? We’ll invite wisdom and love to guide our intention throughout the retreat in order to help expand our consciousness and center us in our hearts.

Join us for a special time of renewal as we practice awareness and moment-to-moment acceptance through yoga, mindfulness and writing sessions. Enjoy spa treatments, eat wholesome vegetarian cuisine and take time to unwind in a lakeside paradise.

The path of beauty weaves together the practices of awareness, wisdom, kindness and compassion. Take time for yourself in our beautiful, natural setting to walk this path.

What’s Included

  • 7 nights of accommodation at beautiful Villa Sumaya on picturesque Lake Atitlan
  • 3 daily delicious, home-cooked, well-balanced, vegetarian meals plus 24 hour tea/coffee and water
  • Tuition for daily group sessions, including mindfulness-based meditation, yoga asana, breath work, restorative and yin with essential oils (mat & props provided) — 12 sessions total
  • A one-hour treatment at our on-site Harmony Spa
  • Use of our solar hot tub (sun permitting)
  • All taxes

Not included: Transportation costs, optional extra activities and excursions (e.g. Trip to San Juan/Santiago/Chichi, Kayak/hike tour, Mayan Fire Ceremony), tips to Villa Sumaya staff.

Daily Schedule

Saturday, January 21st
3pm Settle in
5pm Opening circle
6:30pm Welcome dinner

Sunday, January 22nd
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
10:00 orientation
11:00 Root chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Sacral chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Monday, January 23rd
7:30 breakfast
Optional – Mayan Fire Ceremony 8:15 a.m. (Cost will depend on the number of participants)
12:00 Solar plexus yoga practice
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Solar plexus chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Tuesday, January 24th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Heart chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Heart-centered Yin Yoga
6:30 dinner

Wednesday, January 25th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Throat chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Kirtan and sound healing workshop
6:30 dinner

Thursday, January 26th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Third eye chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Crown chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Friday, January 27th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Kundalini Chakra Yoga Workshop
1:00 lunch
3:00 Cacao ceremony /Closing circle
6:30 dinner

Saturday, January 28th
7:30am yoga & meditation
9am breakfast
11am departures

Pricing & Registration

Singles: $995 USD

Bring a friend! Doubles: $730 per person

Bring two friends! Triples: $660 per person

*Special discounted rates for full-time residents of Lake Atitlan–please inquire!*

A $200 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your space. For more info or to sign up, please write Michelle (reservations@villasumaya.com).

November 2016 Offerings

Happy Autumn!

I’m excited to announce some yoga activities coming up soon:

1) Day of the Dead Yoga Classes

Inaugural group yoga sessions on my patio in Pasajcap (halfway between San Marcos La Laguna and Tzununa)

Monday, OCT 31 @4:30pm

Tuesday, NOV 1 @ 8:30am

Wednesday, NOV 2 @ 8:30am & 4:30pm

*RSVP to yogafreedom@gmail or 4970-4727

2) The Art of Healthy Living: Yoga, Cooking & Permaculture Weekend

November 11-13 @La K’zona, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala    Get more info here!

3) Thanksgiving Yoga Retreat

November 23-27, 2016 @EarthLodge / near Antigua      See details!
I hope to see and practice with you soon!
Namaste,
Michelle

July/August 2016 Retreats!

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I am super excited to be offering two yoga retreats this summer with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher Paola at Villa Sumaya… Join us!

Living from the Heart: Stress-Free Lifestyle
July 2-9, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Nutrition, Ayurveda, Hikes and Healing

Yoga, Mindfulness & the Transformation of Suffering
August 13-20, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Permaculture, Learning and Healing

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