Welcome friends! OM Shanti!

People come together in all kinds of ways, what matters is that they get together.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Meditation with Saraswati and Chitra ~ Sunday 1/29/12
Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 4.18 - The modifications of the mind-stuff are always known to the changeless Purusha, who is its lord.

Tonight we are jumping ahead a little bit in the yoga sutras to book four. The final chapter is a summation of all that is been previously discussed in the sutras lived a particular emphasis on evolution, subconscious impressions, and Purusha. The Purusha is what we will be focusing on this evening.

The Purusha can be best understood as the divine Self which abides in all beings. We may also be familiar with it as the spirit or the soul. The most important elements of the Purisha is that it is unchanging, eternal and pure. As we will see in the next Sutra, it is also our ability to witness, which provides it with its other name "The Seer".

Sutra 4.18 reads, "The modifications of the mind-stuff are always known to the changeless Purusha, who is its lord." The mind stuff can be boiled down to our thoughts whether they be conscious, subconscious, superconscious, unconscious, etc. The term modifications just indicates that these thoughts are constantly changing. In book one sutra two, we learn that the object of yoga is to still the modifications or fluctuations of the mind-stuff, so that we may see clearly into our eternal divine self. In sutra 4.18 it becomes clear that in order to have mental modifications that are changeable, we need something permanent to contrast it with. This is the Purusha.

This sutra is here to prove to us maybe for the final time in this text is that if we agree that our thoughts change and we can experience them changing, then there must be some part of us that is doing the seeing, that is doing the witnessing. I think Rev. Carrera says it best in his commentary on this sutra: "We are aware that we are thinking-- that our mind is entertaining thoughts. How do we know? If every aspect of who we are were engaged in the thought process, there would be no one to witness it. There has to be some aspect or element that is not thinking, that is not involved in the thought process, but simply witnessing it all."

It is the Purusha that holds all the divinity, the glory, the joy, the peace, the contentment that we search for externally. This is why in meditation there is a strong emphasis to quiet the mind-stuff, and dispel ignorance so that we may eventually merge with the Purusha.

We are now going to do a short exercise which will help us have a better understanding of the. Purusha. This is an activity that was introduced to us during our yoga teacher training here at Starseed, and I found it very telling. We'll see what it does for you guys. I will hand out a sheet of paper that says who am I? We want everyone to write down as many or as few answers to that question about yourselves. No right answers or wrong answers, just whatever you would put if a stranger where to ask you, who are you?

Once you've put down several answers, review them, and begin to circle those that actually answer the question what do I do? one way to determine this is to look at each answer and ask yourself if I was not XYZ would I cease to be who I am. Any of the answers that are changeable typically will belong in the what do I do category. For instance I put that I am a yoga teacher, I am a daughter, I am a preschool teacher, I am compassionate...for me I would probably put the first three into the what do I do category. In my experience most of the answers I put under who I am were actually what I did. I conflated what was impermanent with what was permanent, the Prakriti with the Purusha.

The meditation we will do tonight builds off of the activity we did earlier. It's sometimes called the who am I meditation. After relaxing the body I will ask a series of questions to help give us a glimpse into the depth of the Purusha. Meditative inquiry is not about answering questions correctly. It is allowing the brain become focused on the riddles of life. Sometimes an answer will come to you quickly, but as in most things in meditation we let that go as well. Like a Zen koan, you may try to wrap your head around it and end up with nowhere to go. This is as important a place as any. After the questions there will be a short period for silent meditation of your choice, perhaps following your breath or repeating a mantra.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pratipaksha bhavana

Meditation with Saraswati and Chitra - Sunday 1/22/12
Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ
Sponsered by The Yoga Life Society

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.33 and 2.34 - Pratipaksha bhavana
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. 
This is pratipaksha bhavana.
When negative thoughts or acts such as violence and so on, are caused to be done, or even approved of, whether incited by greed, anger, or infatuation, whether indulged in with mild, medium, or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain.  Reflecting thus is also pratipaksha bhavana.
Everyday we are faced with negative stimuli that emerge from our internal being in the form of negative thoughts, as well as from external triggers (what people do or say, what people don't do or don't say, etc.) It can be difficult to combat these forces coming from within and without, especially when they often happen in a split second. Frequent meditation offers us a still mind that is fertile ground for deeper vision during these split seconds. We are then able to investigate what we think instead of just reacting.

With this deep awareness we are also offered the ability to change our thoughts. Sounds simple right? Often times it is not. Fortunately, knowing the mind as well as he did, Sri Patanjali prepared a strategy to remold our negative thoughts as presented in Book Two of the Yoga Sutras. This process is called pratipaksha bhavana.

Pratipaksha bhavana takes one to an "elevated" state of mind, as opposed to the state one might be in after a conflict or a bout of negative self talk. Instead of indulging in the misery of our thoughts we can change the channel and connect to something positive. If the negative thought is a withdrawal from our innate peace of mind, then the positive response is an instant deposit. For instance, I can replace feelings and thoughts of frustration with feelings and thoughts of gratitude. Or thoughts of anger with thoughts of peace. The idea is not to repress the initial feelings, but instead to override them. With practice you can zap the negative thought just as it surfaces, giving it little time to form into a feeling that them takes over. The highest practice, of course, is one of prevention, however pratipaksha bhavana adequately deals with the negative triggers as they are arising.

Often we have negative thoughts followed by negative feelings and emotions that accompany them (thought proceeds feeling). If we acknowledge our emotions directly, by saying "I'm feeling angry" or "I'm feeling disorganized," we can use pratipaksha bhavana to deal with the thoughts causing those feelings and we could do so in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, we often take the situation and construct a narrative to support it such as, "I'm feeling disorganized because I am a lazy, irresponsible, no good person. I've been like this since I was a teenager and I'll never grow out of it. Life stinks." It's no wonder how you could be stewing over the same event for months or years to come.

Pratipaksha bhavana requires that you take the more direct route to overcoming negativity by substituting positivity, even if it means "acting as if" in the beginning. You may not initially believe the positive thought you have just interjected, but with time and effort the mind believes and follows what it is told. I think it's quite empowering that we don't necessarily need a plate of food or a new shiny watch to placate our disturbed minds. We can utilize a practice that is internal, inexpensive, invaluable and in the moment.

The "negative thoughts" in the above sutra refer to acts that are in opposition to the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.  The  yamas are a code of ethics and moral precepts that are universal to all people (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-greed), and the niyamas are more pertinent for spiritual seekers who are preparing the mind for Self-realization (purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study, and surrender).  To eliminate negativity, Yoga offers us pratipaksha bhavana which provides two invaluable tools - a remedy and a preventative.  Additionally, the practice of the yamas and niyamas will help keep negative thoughts at bay. 

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.34 is used once the negativity has passed for self analysis to discover the motivations behind our acts.  The three main causes for negativity are greed, anger, and infatuation.  With greed, the craving to possess or achieve is not an excuse.  Anger harms the individual and ignores better motives.  The sanskrit word for infatuation is moha, or delusion, and causes us to forget the lessons of experience.  It is clear that these states of mind are not healthy for Self-realization, and with the help of Pratipaksha bhavana we become stronger with each lesson and practice.

The things we do, think, and say on a daily basis are ingrained acts which create grooves in the mind that deepen each time.  Imagine a block of clay and a needle passing through after each thought, word, or act we perform.  The things we do more frequently have deeper grooves.  The energy of the mind will always run into the deepest groove, which is perhaps why it is difficult to quit doing something we do habitually once we acknowledge it no longer serves us.  Yoga and meditation help create new grooves.  Each mantra repetition help deepen the mantra groove, instead of putting energy into a trait we wish to drop.  The resolve of daily Yoga practice is a great example.  In the beginning it may seem simple to  be enthusastic about starting a regular routine.  As a few days pass, the desire to be regular may begin to slip away as the desire to go back to old ways seems easier (as that is still the deepest groove).  Any energy to avoid, suppress, or repress an act is still sending energy into the old groove.  As new habits grow, they take the place of old habits naturally.  We can take the negativity out as we reflect and use "this is not necessary here," instead of "this is bad," which is a slip of the ego.  Use what is powerful for you, an image of peaceful Buddha or spiritual teacher or a mantra.  Cultivate what is pleasing for you and watch its' power grow with use.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


1-15-12 Evolution - Level One Hatha Yoga
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ
Chitra Jessica Sunshine

The force of evolution is innate to all beings and objects.  The very nature of Prakriti (mother nature, the material universe) is change, from birth to death, and then again to rebirth.  Consider the evolution of our species and the gradual progression of an individual.

"Natural selection and survival of the fittest (theory of evolution) provide an incomplete understanding though.  If competition for food, shelter, and reproduction ceased, evolution would still continue due to other influences.  The sun, rain, and soil help the seed unfold its hidden nature as a flower.  Likewise, our interactions with others, good or bad, help bring out our strengths and weaknesses.  Every climatic, political, spiritual, astronomical, biological, artistic, and commerical event is an "incidental event," an occurence that can remove obstacles to evolution."
- Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 206

Sequence:  Supta Baddha Konasana for opening breath awareness and reading on evolution.  Deergha Swaasam Pranayama (three part breath practice), evening the inhalation and exhalation for four counts each.  Surrender to the breath.  Sit up in Sukhasana for 3 OM's and introductions. 

Tadasana/Samasathiti (focus on foundation, feet together, heels digging down, rooting the feet as you lift the front body.  we root down to rise up.) Windmill arms into Urdhva Hastasana, up and down following the breah 3x - Uttanasana.  Urdhva Hastasana - Gomukasana 2x - Shoulder rolls.

Surya Namaskar with modifications:  tadasana - urdhva hastasana - uttanasana - ardha uttanasana - adho mukha svanasana - table - balasana 5 breaths - table - adho mukha svanasana 5 breaths - uttanasana - urdhva hastasana - tadasana.  2x

Surya Namaskar second version with modifications:  tadasana - urdhva hastasana - uttanasana - ardha uttanasana - adho mukha svanasana - plank - ashtangasana - bhujangasana - adho mukha svanasana - uttanasana - urdhva hastasana - tadasana.  2x

Adho Mukha Svanasana - plank 3x, Balasana, Balasana - table - Ashtangasana 3x. Adho Mukha Svanasana - plank - Ashtangasana - Bhujangasana.  Bhujangasana 3x (emphasis on foundation, especially feet), Bekasana prep and pose (pressing the thighs down into the earth), Dhanurasana, Setubandha Sarvangasana 3x (pelvic tilts prep).  Dandasana - Paschimottanasana.  Sucirandrasana, Supta Hasta Padagusthasana, Jathara Parvrittiasana (knees bent).  Savasana with guided relaxation.  :Played the Anja Chakra crystal singing bowl.  In fetal pose, relax, surrender to the breath. Following blessing:

May we awaken to the evolution of the planet.  May we awaken to the evolution of the human species. 
May we awaken to the evolution of us as individuals.  May we awaken to the evolution of our breath.  

Seated quietly with the eyes closed in Sukhasana, return to the breath.  Short silent meditation. 
A single OM to close.  Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu -
May All Beings Everywhere, Be Free and Happy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


1-8-12 Sunday Meditation based on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

Hari OM call/response chant lead by Saraswatiji.

With this time of year comes a landslide of resolutions that we make for the upcoming year. Some are small and well defined, while others are ambitious and grandiose. What so many have in common is their purpose: to change or alter some aspect of our lifestyles, relationships and our general image of ourselves. It has been said that many resolutions come from a place of lack, of not having enough, not believing we are good enough, a void needing to be filled. This need may be on the surface or it many subconscious. This is not the so with the yogic practice of sankalpa.

The Sanskrit word sankalpa may be translated as will, purpose or determination. It can also be thought of as a vow. In the latter interpretation you can see glimpses of the aforementioned New Year's resolution, but sankalpa comes from a very different place. With sankalpa comes the idea that we already have everything we need to be fulfilled, happy and peaceful. As opposed to missing something, we've got all of the ingredients for this kind of existence. What we are missing is the recipe. This is where sankalpa can be of supreme use.

At the root of yoga is integration with the Divine, your highest Self. Sankalpa is fueled by a desire to know and understand this most powerful Self. As described by a writer from the Himalayan Institute, it is a commitment to support our highest truth. With resolutions we are typically looking externally for answers. With sankalpa our work is internal. The only thing we need is to express our commitment to Self realization. With this recipe, so to speak, all of the attributes, the strengths and the answers we need begin to emerge from within.

One way to transform your resolution into sankalpa is to probe into the reasons you've made the resolution in the first place. If I resolve to get my finances in order for the new year, I can ask myself why this is so important. Perhaps my answer is that it will allow me to live responsibly and without the fear of financial turmoil. But why is that important? Because it feels good to be secure and it feels uncomfortable to live with anxiety. And why is that important...and so on. Eventually we come to a point where we just say, "It's because I want to be happy." The practice of sankalpa provides a direct route to this point underneath our desire for weight-loss or to stop smoking or to be a better friend/lover/mother/father.

With sankalpa we think of the things we want not the things that we don't want. We focus on the positive and build life-changing energy from that place. Then we let it go and offer it up to the Universe. Once set free, there's no element of failure that often accompanies a resolution we did not stick to. There's no taking two steps back and you continue to progress even in the most subtle ways.

It is helpful to choose a phrase or two that remind us of our commitment such as "I am one with the Divine", and we can use this phrase to inform our work life and home life, our meditation and hatha yoga practices, and anything that we do to guide us back to our selves.

Regularity is most important in following through in our commitments. According to Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.14, "Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and with enthusiasm."

In my experience we tend to focus on the major parts of this sutra that speak to duration, endurance and zeal. However, as I was recently reading an edition of the Integral Yoga magazine I came to an article that stressed the importance of a practice that is "well attended to." To be well attended to is to always engage with an eye towards the foundation of your practice. I believe it's similar to the zen concept of beginner's mind. We have to go back to the basics, see our practice through fresh eyes and then we can proceed with "a long time, without break and with enthusiasm." It matters little if our practice is firmly grounded by those three standards if we've forgotten our mantra or our alignment. When we attend to something well, we do so with care, and devoted attention to detail and to precision. We need this same attention when we practice yoga.

Another sutra that relates to this idea is the following.  Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.32 The concentration on a single subject (or the use of one technique) is the best way to prevent obstacles and their accompaniments.  The commitment we make is the preventative against future occurences of obstacles.  Sankalpa is a dogged resolution that centers the goal on an unattached journey to the Self in any form, all the while renunciating all gifts or benefits to the Divine.  My recent commitment to Ashtanga Yoga is an example of a sankalpa

While working at Asana House Juice Bar, the practice of Ashtanga Yoga was surely to be incorporated into my life.  Watching and serving the Yoga students as they come and go from practice was always intriging, especially as a yoga teacher.  The practicioners always seemed strong, inspired, passionate, regular, and happy.  I wanted that feeling so I tried Ashtanga Yoga in December.  In January of 2012, I decided to commit to a 30-Class Challenge with Ashtanga Yoga to further my own practice in order to serve others better.  With only one week completed, the practice and my commitment to it has become my number one priority.  Why?  Maybe because I know myself as a geminii who jumps into something appealing feet first, without speaking up or thinking twice.  Maybe because in one week I've been practicing Ashtanga Yoga, I've seen more changes in my mind and body than in the last year.  Maybe I am really ready to begin practicing Yoga, that all my previous experiences with yoga were only learning.  Don't get me wrong, we are always learning, its that the body has developed muscle memory for the poses and it is the breath that takes precidence.  Either way, the mood is stabilized, the motivation is up, the breath is deeper and the practice is regular.

The concentration on a single object is meditation.  If practiced with digilence, regularity, for a long time, and with enthusiasm we can be firmly grounded in Yoga and navigate through the obstacles more easily.  On the mornings I do not feel like practicing or if I get frustrated throughout the day, I am learning to tune into my breath, into my Self.  It knows what to do.  Just do it!  May we look to each other for inspiration along this journey and share our experiences with the world.  May the sankalpa we choose help us grow and serve our communities as best we can.  And, may the force be with you! 

Closing Peace Chants
Asaato Maa Sat Gamaya
Tasamo Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real
Lead us from darkness to the Light
Lead us from the fear of death, to the knowledge of Immortality
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light
May the Light of Truth overcome all darkness.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Unconditional love

1-8-12  Unconditional Love
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

Be Love Now, Ram Dass, Ch 1 ~ the path of the heart
"Imagine feeling more love from someone than you have known.  You're being loved even more than your mother loved you when you were an infant, more than you were ever loved by your father, your child, or most intimate lover - anyone.  This lover doesn't need anything from you, isn't looking for personal gratification, and only wants your complete fulfillment.
"You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing.  You don't have to do anything to earn it.  Your shortcomings, your lack of self esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic sucess - none of that matters.  No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.
"Imagine that being in this love is like relaxing endlessly into a warm bath that surrounds and supports your every movement, so that every thought and feeling is permeated by it.  You feel as though you are dissolving into love.
"This love is actually part of you; it is always flowing through you.  It's like the subatomic texture of the universe, the dark matter that connects everything.  When you tune into that flow, you will feel it in your own heart - not your physical heart or your emotional heart, but your spiritual heart, the place you point to in your chest when you say, "I am."
"This is your deeper heart, your intuitive heart.  It is the place where the higher mind, pure awareness, the subtler emotions, and your soul identity all come together and you connect to the universe, where presence and love are."
"Once you have experienced unconditional love, you have no where to go.  You can run, but you cannot hide.  The seed is planted and it will grow in its own time.  You can only grow into who you truly are."

Class began with Sukhasana for breath awareness, even the inhale and exhale and come into the present moment.  Supta Baddha Konasana with one belt, two blocks and one blanket - surrender, above reading shared.  Focus on the breath.  Sukhasana - 3 OM's, unconditional love discussion and class introductions of names and poses students want to work on (core, shoulders, hips, shoulderstand, bridge).  Shoulder rolls, root down to rise up.  Baddhangulyiasana, Gomukasana, tabletop, cat/cow, table balance, Balasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana.  Vinyasa Balasana > table > Adho Mukha Svanasana 3x, Uttanasana.  Surya Namaskar A 3x, Utthita Trikonasana 2x, Ardha Prasarita Padottanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana.  Vinyasa Adho Mukha Svanasana > Plank > Chataranga Dandasana > Bhujangasana > Adho Mukha Svanasana.  Sarvangasana > Halasana, Paschimottanasana.  Urdhva Dhanurasana and/or Setubandha Sarvangasana 3x, Baddha Konasana 2x for five breaths each, slow the breathing down but still engage the bandhas.  Lie back hug knees into chest for Apanasana and then Savasana with guided relaxation.  Breathing through the feet/hands and letting a cooling feeling expand upwards into the legs/arms.  Relax the core, throat, jaw, eyes, and whole body.  Played the anahata chakra crystal singing bowl.  Fetal pose, short reading, three minutes silent meditation and closing peace chants.

"Once you have experienced unconditional love, you have no where to go. You can run, but you cannot hide. The seed is planted and it will grow in its own time. You can only grow into who you truly are."

Closing Peace Chants
Asaato Maa Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real
Lead us from darkness to the Light
Lead us from the fear of death to the knowledge of Immortality
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Walking Sticks

11-6-11 Walking Sticks and Scented Soap
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

"The techniques are like nicely scented soaps.  Hatha Yoga, meditation, mantra repetition, pranayama, headstand, fasting - all are soaps.  Use them to wash away the old dirt.  Once you have washed away the old habits, you won't need the soap.  When the road is no longer slippery, will you need a walking stick?"
- Sri Swami Satchidananda To Know Your Self, ch 26 walking sticks, p. 158

The goal of Yoga is to experience unshakable peace within and without.  The paradox is that we are perfect already, believe it, we all are peaceful and blissful at our core.  The knowledge we seek lies within us as our True Nature.  There is a universal thread that connects all beings that lives within all of us.  Some call it the Universe, God, Tao, Light, Jah, Infinite Consciousness, Spirit or whatever term you like, it is all one and the same.  It is a concept that drives many to discover their own spiritual journey.  The questions, "who is God?" and "where do we come from?" and "why are we here?" begin this journey.  It is only by becoming a seeker that we look to understand (as best we can) these questions.  The finite mind cannot grasp the infinite, so once you think you have it figured out, forget it, it is so much more than that.  Remember, we are more than our changing minds and aging bodies, we are also Spirit.  It is all God.  It is through the practices of Yoga, that we calm the mind and purify the body to be able to experience this eternal truth.  The practices are like walking sticks, and once we have mastered the course we can continue upright, shining brightly, and the walking stick naturally falls away.

Sequence: Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) breath awareness, Sukhasana 3 OM's, tabletop, cat/cow, Utthita Dhanurasana (extended bow pose), Balasana (child's pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) - Plank 3x, child - table - dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana - Plank 3x, Adho Mukha Svanasana - Plank - Ashtangasana (eight pointed pose) - Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Tadasana (mountain pose)  At the rope wall - Adho Mukha Svanasana in two ropes to feel head of the thigh bone lifting with thighs in-back-and-apart, Uttanasana in two ropes.  Then with heels at the wall, Adho Mukha Svanasana - Plank 3x.  Surya Namaskara (sun salutations - tadasana, urdhva hastasana slight backbend, uttanasana, ardha uttanasana, plank, adho mukha svanasana, plank, ashtangasana, bhujangasana, adho mukha svanasana, uttanasana, urdhva hastasana, tadasana) 3x.  Utthita Hasta Padasana (extended hands and feet pose), Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (wide legged forward bend), Utthita Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose) at the wall, Utthita Trikonasana - Ardha Chandrasana on mat.  Bhujangasana, Shalabasana (locust pose), Apanasana (yogahug), Sucrindrasana (ankle to knee pose), Setubhandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) with a block under the sacrum all three levels (yogi choice), Apanasana, Jathara Parvrittanasana (revolved stomach - reclining twist), Savasana (final relaxation or corpse pose).  Played the Anja (third eye) chakra crystal singing bowl.

"The techniques are like nicely scented soaps. Hatha Yoga, meditation, mantra repetition, pranayama, headstand, fasting - all are soaps. Use them to wash away the old dirt. Once you have washed away the old habits, you won't need the soap. When the road is no longer slippery, will you need a walking stick?"
- Sri Swami Satchidananda To Know Your Self, ch 26 walking sticks, p. 158

Sitting up in Sukhasana with the eyes closed, feel the effects of today's Yoga.  Be still and quiet the breath and mind.  One OM to close.  The Light in me honors the Light in you.  Thank you for sharing your practice with me. Namaste

Saturday, November 5, 2011


10/30/11 ~ Backbends and Kleshas
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

Breath awareness and 3 OM's to open. 

Backbends are heart openers and for some may feel like opening pandora's box, unleasing confusion, attachment, aversion, and even fear.  The existential suffering we expereince in backbends is an undercurrent in our lives.  This discomfort is linked to the kleshas, or mental afflictions.  The five kleshas are... 

1. avidya - ignorance - lack of awareness of the Self, one identifies with only the body-mind
2. asmita - ego - controlling each situation because "I" know best, mind is restless                     
3. raga - attachment - seeking happiness through external objects/ideas
4. dvesha - aversion - avoiding things we believe bring pain/suffering
5. abhinivesha - fear of death, clinging to the body (the body is the medium through our mind experiences pleasure)

The five kleshas prevent us from making real progress on our spiritual journey.  They begin with ignorance and then act out in a chain reaction.  With attachments controlling our every move, "I need coffee to work better..." etc, we fail to realize the true peace and joy we already are.  You are perfect just the way you are.  All the joys and pains you have are there acting as your teachers and guides, all pointing you inwards.  You already have all the answers you are looking for.  The peace we seek is within us, in our hearts, which is the heart of all hearts. 

Sequence:  Restorative backbend over a bolster, Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (upwards bound hands), Gomukasana prep, tabletop, cat/cow, Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) - plank 3x, Balasana (child's pose) - Ashtangasana (eight-pointed pose) 3x, child - table - dog 3x, Adho Mukha Svanasana - plank - Ashtangasana - Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Uttanasana (standing foward bend), Tadasana (mountain pose), Surya Namaskara (sun salutations - tadasana, urdhva hastasana with a slight backbend, uttanasana, ardha utttanasana, plank, urdhva mukha svanasana, adho mukha svanasana, lunge, uttanasana, urdhva hastasana, tadasana), three legged dog - three legged plank - pigeon, Adho Mukha Svanasana - plank - Ashtangasana - Bhujangasana, Balasana.  Bhujangasana 3x, Bekasana (frog pose), Ardha Dhanurasana (halfway bow pose), Dhanurasana (bow pose), Apanasana (yogahug), Setubhandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow pose - full wheel), Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana (halfway hand-stand "L" shape at the wall).

Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) for....

Friends and Strangers - A Word Game, A Book of Games: a course in spiritual play, Hugh Prather, p.52

"How much of the world do you react to and how much do you see?  Whatever you react to is from your past and is not in the present situation.  Therefore, you do not see it, you only remember it.  Whatever you react to, you are controlled by, and to be controlled by anything is to not be free.  To react to everything is to be in pain continually.  To love is to free all you see from how you remember it. 
Now and love are the same." 

Friends and Strangers - A Word Game
"You are going to do something for your friends today that they will love.  You are going to see them as strangers.  Nor will strangers themselves be left out of your kindness, for they will become old friends.  Simply see every friend as a stranger and every stranger as a friend.
"Pretend that you have heard that this friend has undergone a complete personality transplant.  Or pretend that he has been possessed by an angel.  He looks familiar, but don't you be fooled.  See how many new things you can recognize about him.  Just click them off in your mind and notice your delight at each new discovery.  For, remember, he is totally different within.  This is a game, but what you are seeing is not self-delusion.
"And with each stranger you meet today, say to yourself, "There walks my lifelong friend.  I know everything there is to know about him."  Remember his birth, his childhood, the pains and disappointments he has had, and also the momentary highs and cresting victories.  And then recall that underlying all these turnings of fate has been the steady emergence of his lovely Self, a Mind precisely like your own.  This stranger has indeed gone through everything you have.  You do in fact know him.  All that is true of you is true of him.  You can love him without hesitation.
"By exercising your ability to remember this instant, you will see clearly that all there is real is now, and all that is now is new, and all that is new is forever aned forever."

Savasana (final relaxation pose) and practice of Sitali Pranayama (cooling breath).

Ending Peace Chants
Asaato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real.
Lead us from darkness to the Light.
Lead us from the fear of death to the knowledge of Immortality.
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light