Dream yoga comes out of Tibetan Buddhism, in which it is thought that we are most asleep in our ordinary life, and most awake during the night, or when sleeping. When we don’t exercise it, the mind can keep us asleep and in a state of suffering; keeping us oblivious to the connection, and peace that is found in awakening to the present moment. Yoga means to unite or yoke, and that is where we stop masking over things with labels, labels like good, bad, like and dislike. With dream yoga you can learn how to wake up in your ordinary life to how illusory the world we live in really is.
Stretching your mind is how it becomes more flexible. It can help you to transform emotions and thoughts that stifle you, freeing you to experience your true potential. With dream yoga you will be learning how to become lucid while you dream. This lucidity is experienced when you are having a dream and you become aware that you are dreaming, then you start to control the dream. One dream yoga exercise is to transform an object in your dream. It could be anything like a tree or a flower, now you transform it, it could change colour or size. This is how the mind strengthens and stretches, finding out that it is capable of transforming what you perceive as real. Without the lucidity in your dream you did not see that the tree was an illusion, when you transformed it you now became aware of how powerful your mind is.
This can later be experienced in your waking life when you are confronted by an experience that arouses a negative feeling. Now you might remember that you have a powerful and flexible mind, and this can help you to transform the negative feeling into something less negative and possibly even something positive. Having lucidity in your waking life, allows you to see that your reactions to objects, events, and people are something that you can transform.
Dr. Madan Kateira, also known as the creator of laughter yoga, recommends laughing 15 minutes a day. Laughter is a potent medicine, and he knew that it must be spread quickly and to many people. That is why he chose to offer it for free. His vision was laughter clubs. People would get together in groups and spend time laughing together. He created exercises which would help people to laugh. Jokes used in laughter yoga are simple and innocent. Like one joke is to take out your imaginary empty wallet, and laugh.
In 2005 researchers at the University of Maryland found a link between healthy functioning blood vessels and laughter. Laughing releases endorphin like compounds which activate receptors to release nitric oxide; this dilates the blood vessels. Also, laughter reduces stress hormones, boosting the number of antibody producing cells, leading to a stronger immune system.
Laughing feels good. Laughter could potentially treat many diseases, when combined with other treatments. Spiritually you might start your journey into yoga with laughter yoga and then find yourself interested in meditation, chanting, and pranayama.
Ujjayi breath is also called ocean breath and victorious breath; there is a sound to it. It sounds like waves of the ocean. It is a form of pranayama, conscious breathing. It is commonly practiced while doing asana, the physical postures of yoga. This type of breathing is useful because when it is done correctly it helps you to assess the quality of your breath. You can hear if your breathing becomes jagged and laboured, or if the sound of your breath is steady. It supports slowing down your breathing, which allows you to breathe more deeply.
Prana is life force. Healthy life force is energetic and lively. When we think of where we get our energy, we habitually think of food. Sometimes we might think of water. When I started to take my yoga practice earnestly, I chose to practice hot yoga. This is mostly physical postures which we call asana practice and it is done in a sauna. It is physically challenging. In the primary stages I felt tired, I thought if I would eat more I would gain more strength. I ended up realizing my weakness was due to shallow breathing. As I concentrated more on my breath and started to practice ujjayi breath, I found I sustained the strength I needed to do the physical postures.
To practice ujjayi, you must become familiar with the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a piece of cartilage in your throat. You typically use your epiglottis when you sigh or breathe in a way that fogs up a mirror. Or you can find your epiglottis by breathing slowly and noticing where you feel the breath in your throat. Now try close off that area and breathe in and out. It is not a strong contraction, and you will not be making a very loud noise. Only loud enough that you can hear. You are using this breath as a tool for yourself, not to impress others with how loud you can breathe. The yoga teacher may perform this loudly, but they are only doing this to remind the class that they need to be breathing.
During final rest or savasana we allow our breathing to become relaxed, and we cease our ujjayi breath. While practicing asana, the physical postures of yoga, ujjayi breath is recommended. Ujjayi practiced while doing asana will faithfully deliver you more strength allowing you to carry out work. Ujjayi breath can help prevent injuries. Without the sustainable practice of ujjayi breath, you will not know when you are pushing yourself too far into a posture.
Namaste is a greeting, derived from Sanskrit and it means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.”
Anjali mudra is also sometimes called namaste mudra. A mudra is a seal; some mudras are done with the entire body, and many are done with only our hands.
How to do namaste mudra: bring your hands together, fingers pointing upwards and thumbs close to the sternum.
Anjali mudra is known to benefit you in the following ways:
promoting flexibility in the hands, wrists, fingers and arms
alleviating mental stress and anxiety
assisting the practitioner in achieving focus and coming into a meditative state
You may notice that your teacher will say namaste, hold their hands in anjali mudra, and bow to end a yoga class. Namaste is a salutation used when you may have come into a space where you are more balanced. As the class has ended, you may have discovered the peacefulness that is your True Self. The teacher honours that by closing with a word of respect from their True Self to yours.
As I explained in my last post, this year has led to my exploration of anger. Anger is a healthy emotion that provides clues about what is important to us.
In “Five Habits of Mind That Are Obstacles to Waking Up” an essay written by Toni Bernhard which is found in the book All the Rage:Buddhist Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance, the author explains the five hindrances: sensory desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. These hindrances are the obstacles that keep us in suffering. The Buddha says to overcome the hindrances we are more successful when we treat them as guests in our mind. Try saying to yourself “I see you” in a friendly way when you experience any of the hindrances. This helps because when we try to shut them out and are unsuccessful, it arouses one of the hindrances, our doubt in ourselves. This is how the hindrances can be become circular, one leading to another.
Another piece of advice that Toni writes about in the essay is to stop telling ourselves to “let it go,” instead we can say “let it be.” Doing this can help because we will not be disappointed in ourselves for not being able to let something go. Maybe we can work on both of these things. Sometimes we might find that we are able to let it go. But when we are not able to let it go, a new way might be letting go of “letting it go” by letting it be.
Following a conflict I had at a family dinner with a family member I realized I needed to apologize. I apologized through a text message. I found myself preparing in my mind for the outcome of my apology. What if my apology was not accepted? What if my text message was not given a reply? I told myself I would feel ok about that. And then I told myself that I would feel ok about just feeling however I felt. It would be ok for me to feel sad that my apology was not accepted. What I knew was this was one of those things that I would be better of with letting it be.
This past year, I have experienced some conflicts at work and in my personal life. My conflicts have inspired me to learn more about anger. Anger is natural, and in my case, it came about as a combination of self-preservation and as a reaction to my ego being attacked. This lesson has made me aware of how I want to protect myself in order to be of service to the greater whole. To do that, I need to be aware of when I become defensive in order to protect myself, as opposed to protecting my ego. My practice is to learn how to protect myself without having conflicts where I harm others. It is a new practice for me.
In the essay titled “Blame Everything on One Thing,” found in the book All the Rage: Buddhist Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance, B. Alan Wallace writes about a traditional Buddhist maxim that is part of a mind-training practice. He explains that we can blame everything that angers us on one thing. That thing is self-centredness. In many cases, this can help us to experience less anger, and less suffering as a result. He is talking about being less self-centred and selfish; he expands that it would be foolish to take it too far. We must continue to take care of the things that provide us with safety, like a roof over our head, and what we need for survival, like food and water. This, of course, means I must still try to keep my job and I cannot give everything that I possess away to charity– just like the mother on a plane that is crashing, she must save herself before she can save her baby.
One day while on the bus, I was almost at my bus stop, and I stood ready to push open the door. The door requires a soft push on the bar which activates an opening mechanism. A man stood behind me. At the stop, he put his hand over my head and pushed as I was pushing. In this moment I felt angry. It felt insulting to my ego. Either he did not think I had the strength to open the door or he was impatient. Either way, it felt insulting. But it really had nothing to do with preserving my safety and security, and in the end, I let it be. It would be a waste for me to let this truly upset me.
We may expect that with practicing over time we will become better at blaming our self-centredness. This practice helps us to feel more connected with people around us. Instead of being self-centred, our concern is for the welfare of others. This reduces the conflict in our lives. Now instead of trying to take everything for ourselves, we are more interested in giving to those around us.
During my yoga teacher training, I taught one class to the group I trained with. I was very nervous about teaching the class. After teaching this class, one of my teachers mentioned that I had mountain energy. That is how I decided that I would take that name for my business. I take a lot of time with things; is that like a mountain? You don’t see mountains moving around a lot; they move very slowly. That’s how I have interpreted mountain energy. Mountains are made of rock, and that means they are strong.
I know that people are easily injured. Asana practice is a great example of where we fall into the ego trap. We want to get into a physical posture because it looks amazing. I love this aspect of asana practice myself. But it is an attachment to something outside of ourselves — an image that we want to emulate. The goal of asana practice is to help us to find more stillness to better practice meditation. And becoming injured through asana practice will not help us with that goal.
I started Mountain Energy Yoga as a means to create momentum and to keep me working towards one day teaching. Slowly, like a mountain, I continue to learn about asana practice to find more confidence in teaching the physical side of yoga. Through writing this blog I am learning more about Yoga philosophy. Thanks for reading!