Monthly Archives: September 2012

Gomukhasana : cow face pose or light headed pose?

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Lancashire Yogi has been practicising an asana that tickles him (literally and metaphorically speaking). It’s an arm and leg twister, and is known by the name of Gomukhasana.  Most people refer to it as the ‘cow face’ pose typically because when you are in it’s final position, from the front it looks a bit like a cows face.  Lancashire Yogi has written elsewhere about his love for ‘animal yoga’ so he’s keen to add this one to the repertoire of animal postures. 

When he gets in position, Lancashire Yogi finds that it seems to clear his head or mind; and somehow he feels more energised.  He knows that the inner winds often get clogged up around the hips and the shoulders. So he thinks that this position probably helps to unblock the blockages and allow the inner winds to flow more. This in turn calms the mind and eases the cittas from vritting. 

 On a more mundane level, for most people who drive a great deal, sit daily at desks, spend their evening sitting on sofas watching TV, or  typing at computers, the hips and the shoulders are classic tension points. So this exercise even on the level of just loosening you up, has to be worth a go. 

Good old yoga journal has the exercise well described here: so you can explore it in some detail. All the usual yoga books have it too – it’s a classic yoga asana so you should be able to track it down.  Iyengar’s Light on Yoga provides a very good description.

Interestingly, the cow is sacred in the land of Yoga, and Lancashire Yogi can’t help thinking that there is more than a passing connection with the cow head name- perhaps like it’s namesake, the pose is fairly sacred.  And perhaps that is what the “light headed pose” name is all about.  Of course, the posture appears to work on loosening the sacrum (which is the triangular-like bone in the lower back between the two hipbones of the pelvis).  And the sacrum has been regarded itself, as a holy or sacred bone, because in history,  it apparantly could not be destroyed and was regarded as literally the seat of fertility, being situated in the loins. So that’s the sacram bit..what about the light headed bit. Well, the Druid, one of Lancashire Yogi’s good friends (you can read about him elsewhere on the blog), describes the pose as a a bit of nut cracker…for men…and that is why it can make you light headed. Laughing aside, Lancashire Yogi thinks that the term “light headed pose” is linked not to the light headedness of being twisted or straining, but rather the clarity of mind that happens when the inner winds flow and the energy is flowing through the body, from sacram to head. It’s definately one to explore further: so if you have any ideas please do write a comment to share.

The thing that Lancashire Yogi likes most about yoga is that it is only by practicising that you can experience the benefits of yoga: you can’t theorise, you have to practice – so why not have a go?  Try to observe the effect on limbs and mind, energy and thought.

Interestingly, Lancashire Yogi has never practised this asana in a field of cows. He wonders what their reaction would be.  Next time he’s on a walk and sees a field of cows he’ll investigate.. who knows where this will lead?!

zen and the art of me-tenance

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Lancashire Yogi has been re-reading a wonderful book which you may have read called ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintainance’.  Written by Robert Pirsig the book’s central thesis is that we, and the world as a whole are split between the rational, logical, scientific view of the world, and the other more irrational, intuitive and imagination based view of the world.  There is a constant struggle between the two, which is typified in the book between the differing views and attitudes of the narrator and his companions who are journeying through the states on motorbikes.  His companions are romantics, the narrator, more logical and scientific.  His cold logic frustrates them, their hopeless romanticism irritates him.  Ultimately through the journey, the narrator, comes to an understanding that both views have a place, and that the key to life, or quality in life is to embrace both the rational and the romantic. For Pirsig and us, this means encompassing “irrational” sources of wisdom and insight, as well as understanding science, logical reason and technology.  This means that while we pursue ‘truth’ and ‘quality’ , we should accept our bursts of creativity, insight and intuition, as much as our search for rational explanations.  The rationale and the intuitive can and should exist in a synergetic harmony.  Sort of ‘yin and yang’ type living Lancashire Yogi thinks….Ultimately, Lancashire Yogi, thinks that Pirsig is suggesting that a rich and accepted combination of the rational with the romantic can lead to a higher quality of life.

And that’s where yoga comes into the equation. Lancashire Yogi calls it ‘zen and the art of me-tenance’. The practices of yoga help you establish an open-ness and an equilibrium that enables you to accept both rational and irrational positions – the romantic and the scientific. At the same time the practice of the yamas and niyamas (the values and codes of living set out in yogic pratice), ensure that while being open and balanced you don’t fall into the trap of ego or hurtful living.

How can one accept these two positions? Lancashire Yogi knows quite a few people who seem to live this sort of dualism – the doctor who goes to church, the scientist who loves art, the mechanic who loves nature,  for example. How can they balance this seeming duality?  Who knows? But the key benefit of yoga practice – getting on the mat and doing asanas, meditating, and breathing all work to help you reach a point of acceptance. And that is what “me-tenance” is all about, accepting the duality of the rational and the romantic, being open to all the potential and possibilities that it brings, and as a result being happy, kinder and calmer.

Of course, this is just Lancashire Yogi’s interpretation of a great book – what do you think?

Namaste

Stretching is as much about unwinding at it is about stretching

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Lancashire Yogi has just returned from the brilliant Kit Hartley’s class. It’s always on a monday. It starts at 6pm at the Inn on the Wharf, in Burnley, Lancashire.  You can get to her class by just turning up.  If mondays don’t work for you, Kit does a class in Nelson on wednesdays at Marsden School from 7pm. Kit’s classes are a really good value session of yoga with one of the best yoga teachers Lancashire Yogi knows.  They are usually fun as well as hard work. It’s a pleasant mixture : and a good antidote to the bisy backsons and their world.

What Lancashire Yogi likes about Kit’s lessons is that she puts the students through their paces. She particularly likes to get the students stretching – upwards, outwards, opening up and reaching down. It’s all safe and careful, and my goodness, it certainly feels good.  

Lancashire Yogi thinks that stretching up or down, or outwards opens up the body, and somehow relaxes the body and the mind. So, stretching is as much about unwinding the mind as it is about unwinding the body. 

After a long busy day that’s a great way to end the day, for the body and the mind.

Namaste

Bisy Backson

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Lancashire Yogi has had a very busy summer.  He has been here, there and everywhere. Sometimes the world just seemed to have been pounding on his front door wanting attention. And LancashireYogi has of course, responded to the pounding door, by flinging it open and galloping off down the path to join the crazy business of the busy people and the busy world.  But now the summer is slowly coming to an end, and a hint of autumn is in the air Lancashire Yogi finds that things are quietening down to a degree.

In the Winnie the Pooh books,   Rabbit is the busy, busy character in the stories, and who is always rushing around, with little time for the hundred acre wood, nor for others who see him as a blur as he rushes by, to busy to stop and chat.  As a consequence of his busy-ness, Rabbit feels supremely important, and considers that the whole world revolves around him and his busy-ness.  However he is trumped by Christopher Robin who,  when Rabbit goes to visit him, finds that Christopher has gone out for the day and has left a note, written in school boy language that he is “Bisy” and will be “backson”. Translated into adult speak, Christopher Robin is busy, and will be back soon.  In Benjamin Hoff’s “The Tao of Pooh” – he describes the “bisy backson” as a character who is, like Rabbit, always busy, always rushing, seen in a blur, hard to keep up with, always in a rush.

The price we pay for busy-ness is often of a loss of ourselves and a skating over of the deep reality of life. We can miss so much when we are going at a hundred miles an hour.  Wordsworth summed it up :

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon”
 
So, it may have been busy this summer, but there have been a number of things that have helped Lancashire Yogi keep his feet firmly on the mat.
  • An asana yoga practice that has been regular, sure and steady
  • Use of breathing and yogic breathing – particularly the full yogic breath
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Resorting to the words of the great thinkers and seers (Patanjali’s yoga sutras, hatha yoga pradipika, bhagavad gita….)

Lancashire Yogi also found himself often in the garden, on the vegetable patch, in the forest and on the fells. Somehow, nature has been a great restorer:nature moves at its own pace, forcing patience and calm on those within it. There’s no time for schedules, timetables, project plans nor targets.

So, if you find yourself caught in the hurley burley of the mad, mad world, remember that a saving grace is yoga practice, and time spend in the natural world can replenish, rejunvenate and ground you.

Namaste