Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Yoga is the path, and the chakras are the map.
- Anodea Judith
One of the best aspects of yogic philosophy for me is the integration of the head and the heart. Having spent so much of my early life “trapped in my head,” delving deeper into yoga both challenged me to get out of my head and into my body (or heart) and liberated me from experiencing the world in only one dimension.
By that I mean yoga is a pathway toward more heartfelt living but is grounded in real, physical experience. As westerners, we sometimes forget how much knowledge the western medical world has only learned relatively recently, has been passed down in eastern medicine for centuries.
It is always a big treat to talk shop with other eastern medicine practitioners, such as Chinese medicine, shiatsu, etc., because so many of the concepts overlap with the traditional Indian view of medicine and the body. I am always flabbergasted by how similar the energy channels in Chinese medicine are to their Ayurvedic representation.
Now, in western medicine, we are learning that there are subtle channels of communication in a living body that have been unobservable in cadavers. Only recently has western medicine started to realize the wisdom that comes from eastern traditions.
It is this way with the Chakras too. It would be understandable if a person thought that the Chakras were woo-woo. It’s true that some unscrupulous people pretend that simply placing the correct rock over the area of a chakra will act as a panacea. These people do eastern medicine a disservice by simplifying what should be the personal study of a lifetime to something you can pay someone else to unblock in a few hours.
So let’s demystify the Chakras a little bit this month. Because the Chakras are not mystical. Although they are a part of the subtle body, they correspond to physical locations in the body and are eminently practical.
Chakras have been described traditionally as wheels of energy in the body (chakra means wheel). They are associated with areas of the body where many nerves converge, which is called a nerve plexus. In this way, they are places where the body and the nervous system are in close contact.
If some trauma, such as a physical injury happens to the site of a nerve plexus (or to a nerve, which affects a nerve plexus), this may have an effect on the nervous system. Similarly, if a person’s nervous system experiences a trauma, this may affect specific nerves and/or nerve plexuses.
One example that is commonly used within yoga is the effect of stress on the vagus nerve. When well-balanced, the vagus nerve will downshift the nervous system when the body is under stress. If the vagus nerve is overstimulated we may faint. If it is understimulated, we may crack under pressure. The vagus nerve in turn regulates the functioning of many internal organs and their physiology, such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration.
Similarly, the nerve plexuses of the body that are related to various Chakras regulate a symphony of experience from the physical to the downright emotional. The four primary nerve plexuses in the body (sacral, lumbar, brachial, and cervical), along with the coccygeal plexus, the heart, and the brain, are all represented within the Chakra system.
This system goes beyond the physical explanation of these sites - that specific plexuses innervate specific areas of the body - and into the emotional. Again, combining the head and the heart. This idea may be where some think the Chakras devolve into woo-woo, because more subtle aspects of ourselves are at this point, unprovable.
But isn’t it true that we talk about feeling ungrounded when describing issues related to the coccygeal plexus? That sexual urges come from our loins? When we feel powerless, doesn’t it often feel like a punch in the gut? Or when we are in love, we feel our heart flutter? When we don’t know what to say, doesn’t our voice catch in our throat? And when we feel confused, our head feels cluttered?
So while I can’t say that practicing Ustrasana (camel pose) will resolve any and all issues related to our throat and heart chakras, doesn’t it make sense that if tight, opening this area may improve not only the physical manifestations of such a block but the emotional ones as well?
If that sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, I invite you to try a little experiment in your body. Laura is leading a seven week series on the Chakras starting January 23rd. We’d love to welcome you to one or all seven of these classes in order to explore the effect of yoga on these seats of innervation and inspiration, the Chakras.
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
- Lao Tzu
The question "why meditate?" has been answered by many. From Scientific American (we have this issue available for you to read in our studio) to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, scientific institutions are now recognizing the value of an established yoga and meditation practice.
Emerging research into a regular practice's benefits is now mainstream. Among the benefits suggested by this research are
On a personal level, "why meditate?" seems clearly answered to me as a decade-long, daily practitioner as well. Whereas at first, I dreaded sitting for meditation, I now crave it. It is the first thing I do in the morning and I rarely want to stop once I've started.
But how do you get to that point? Because I hear so many beginners telling me that meditation is not for them. That their mind is too busy or chaotic or uncontrollable for meditation to work. That they get bored.
I can only repeat what my own teacher has said to me many times. If you are bored sitting quietly with yourself, what does that say about you? Why would anyone else want to be with someone who is bored with themselves?
My instinct is that these would-be meditators are not actually bored but scared. I can relate. Stepping into the void of my own mind has been deeply uncomfortable at times.
Believe me, I did not begin with a calm and quiet mind. Meditation has developed that kind of mind.
And it can for you too. It won't always be easy but I promise that if you stick with it, you will see dividends. Probably larger than you could have ever imagined.
So now to the more important question: how to meditate? Well, there are many ways to meditate - walking meditation, mantra meditation, vipassana meditation, etc.
I always suggest a few principles for people asking me how to begin meditating.
For those eager to dive in, I offer a breath-centered meditation. I like breath-centered meditation for beginners for a number of reasons. It gives something very concrete for the mind to focus on. It is secular in nature. And the breath is always with us, so it's easy to use at any time.
I hope you find that glimmer of peace you're seeking.
A 15-Minute Beginner Meditation Practice
Want more guidance on how to meditate? Join Erin for a three-week Beginner Meditation Workshop in January. It's the perfect way to start the new year!
I am a part of all I have met.
- Lord Tennyson
Sometimes we think of yoga as a solitary activity. It is a way we can learn to tune in and connect with ourselves. This allows our body, breath, and mind to exist in better partnership.
Many yogic practices work to balance the partnered sympathetic and parasympathetic sides of our autonomic nervous system. In this way, we marry the dynamic and the peaceful.
However, yoga isn't for isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. Yoga is learning to condition ourselves so that we can be more compassionate and effective in whatever our dharma (life’s purpose) calls us to do.
As we learned from this pandemic, for many, yoga is a way to connect both with oneself and with like-minded people. This may be through their teacher or perhaps the community (sangha) they are involved in. A sangha lifts and strengthens all involved.
The trick is learning to live yogically with the needs of your sangha around you (and in a way, we are all part of our local, national, and worldwide sanghas). The Yamas and the Niyamas guide us to balance our own needs with the needs of those around us and the universe as a whole.
So partnership is actually a very important part of yoga. Because what I do has an effect on you and what you do has an effect on me, learning to live together is about as important as it gets! Especially now that we are confronting such divisiveness within our social bonds.
As we know, yoga is more than poses but has much to offer us in terms of how we relate to ourselves and the world around us. Together, we can create a much brighter future. I firmly believe that.
Since we also celebrate partnership through Valentine's Day, February is the perfect month to explore partnership within our yoga practice. Luckily, there are many yoga poses we can explore with a partner, whether that partner is familial, platonic, or romantic.
I invite you to try out this handy-dandy partner yoga sequence with your favorite yoga buddy. If you're looking for more, you and your buddy are welcome to join us on Valentine's Day for a special Partner Yoga class. Members get 50% off!
And now ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is the fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
- Khalil Gibron
When we dive deep, our yoga practice teaches us how to be of service. Swami Satchidananda taught us that service-surrender (or non-attachment to the result of your service) is the way to live a peaceful, easeful, and useful life.
Act in a way that benefits someone, harms no one, and is performed without attachment to the result.
A tall order, for sure, but that is what yogic philosophy regards as a perfect act. So we are always returning to this idea when providing classes or finding ways to welcome you to the studio, even if that visit is virtual.
How can we be of service to you? This includes how all of our teachers serve our students and also how Rita and I serve our teachers.
What can we provide that will allow you to connect more deeply with your practice of yoga? Not just poses, but your outlook on the world and yourself as well.
In the last year or so, I have been exploring yogic philosophy on this blog as a way to make connections for myself about how my yoga sadhana (daily routine) and the way I conduct the rest of my life interact.
I have tried to be open about how my own life has been transformed through my sadhana. In being vulnerable, I hope to give courage to anyone who might be struggling with the vulnerabilities that we are learning to face this year (and realistically, all the time).
I am not attached to this goal because just by writing, I have helped give courage to myself. The act of writing is done for its own sake.
Rita and I have been brainstorming in the background for several months now, trying to figure out ways to serve you even better next year. This has been greatly helped by the addition of our fantastic social media manager, Lauren, who has lots of fun tricks up her sleeves.
And of course, our teachers just continue to take our ideas and run with them! It's so fantastic to see their perspectives, toolkits, and styles getting richer and more specific, as we all work on this common goal of serving our lovely students.
Next year, I plan to re-calibrate the focus of this blog onto the practice of yoga, rather than the philosophy. After all, as our beloved teacher, Sonia Sumar says, "too much theory intoxicates."
In yoga, we have to practice to learn. With our whole heart, consistently, and for a long time, if we want to be firmly grounded in it (Yoga Sutras, I.14). Luckily, to those of us who are eager, the attainment of yoga comes faster (Yoga Sutras, I.21).
So as we commit to new visions for 2021, let's hold our yoga sadhana as one of our highest priorities, whether that looks like classes in the studio, outdoors, live-streamed, pre-recorded, or self-led.
But if you are looking for extra special ways to commit to your practice, do we have some goodies for you! Rita will lead a special Chakra themed Restorative Yoga class in honor of the Winter Solstice. I am leading a pajama party yoga class on the morning of Christmas Eve, and we'll team up with Kim to provide our third annual Reflect & Restore Workshop on New Year’s Eve, which is the perfect time to release the last year, create a vision for the next, and be guided toward bliss by the restorative yoga poses and heavenly essential oils. I will also teach a four-week Yoga for Beginners class on Saturdays in January, just in case you know anyone with yoga resolutions.
Whatever your plans this holiday season, we hope that they are filled with the ease and flow of giving and receiving freely. And may your yoga practice become even more firmly grounded in 2021.
I admit that I am not naturally gifted at patience. When I was a kid, my parents often had to remind me that I didn’t need to finish a big project in one day.
In our slowly reopening world, we are all being challenged to display a little more patience. I know that waiting for the studio to reopen fully has been testing the patience of our students and team alike.
I commend our community for being so careful during the stay at home order and as we progress through the pandemic’s phases. I have heard many heartening stories about how you are taking care of yourselves and others. I am really proud to be a part of such a compassionate and thoughtful group!
While we will gradually open up a bit more this month, 5KY's management team is very conscious of our duty to keep our community safe. We know that some of you will want to return to classes at the studio right away and others will prefer to keep streaming our online classes at home.
We want to honor both choices. We are taking this time to implement new systems to make sure the messy middle of this pandemic is as safe and smooth for you as possible.
Our aim is to open a couple of in-studio classes by mid-July to start. In the meantime, don't forget we are co-hosting a fundraiser with The FIT Institute for My Block, My Hood, My City with a Rooftop Yoga class on July 11th!
I think we are all realizing that (safely) reopening is going to take more time and effort than we initially envisioned early this spring. The phases may not proceed neatly. At times it may even feel like we are moving backward.
Even so, we are making progress little by little. Someday, things will come back to a sense of normalcy. But until then, our patience is being tested.
In this spirit, I’d like to offer some practical tips on developing patience I’ve gathered as I work to reform my own impatience.
Some of the ideas are tools we can use in our yoga and meditation practice. These are things we can work on every time we return to our mat or meditation cushion.
The rest are activities I turn to when strong feelings of impatience rear up every so often. These activities can be done with regularity on any schedule that suits you.
In the end, we should know the nature of impermanence and trust that the discomfort will pass as we continue to work on ourselves. I hope that we will all be able to channel this potent energy into positive changes that last well beyond the current moment.
Wondering what Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 is like? Who can take the program? What will participants be prepared for after taking YSC? Check out this video, which runs down the basics.
Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 starts Sunday! There's still time to register, but we're close to capacity. So better sign up, if you're planning to join us next week.
Also, join us July 19th at 7PM for a Satsang (community gathering) with Sonia Sumar, who created the Yoga for the Special Child method.
Hi, my name is Erin Haddock, I’m with Five Keys Yoga here in Chicago, Illinois. And this summer we’re hosting an unbelievable training with Sonia Sumar, who created the yoga for the special child method and wrote the book “Yoga for the Special Child”. She created this method for her daughter Roberta, who is born with down syndrome and now travels around the world, bringing this program to people who want to learn how to teach kids with special needs yoga.
So I thought I would make this video for our participants who are arriving in about a week as well as people who might still be on the fence about what to expect during the program. So this program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the 15th through the 20th. And at the completion of the program you’ll be given a certificate of completion for I believe is the 48 hours that you attend. After you attend this program, if you wish, you can attend Basic 2. And if you are a yoga teacher or become one, you can use these two trainings to become registered with yoga alliance as a certified children's yoga instructor.
However, the training isn’t open just for yoga teachers. In fact, we have many parents, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, special education teachers as well as yoga teachers and people who just want to learn how to teach kids yoga. In fact, that's how I started, I wasn't a therapist, I wasn't a parent or a teacher. I just had this desire to learn how to make yoga accessible for people with special needs.
When I took my first training with Sonia my entire perspective changed, not only about how I practice yoga but about what yoga really means, what it is. It completely changed the way that I look at the world. And I'm so excited for these people who are coming in next week for the first time meeting Sonia and learning about their own bodies and minds.
During the training you will be prepared to evaluate new students as well as specific techniques for working with children who might have limited mobility or limited attention span. And the absolute highlight of the program is the opportunity to see Sonia work with three students as demo students, it's a really special part of the program that all the participants love.
So we’re hosting the training here at Five Keys Yoga. I would love to see you here, either this year or another year, when we host the Yoga for the Special Child program again.
Thank you. Namaste.
For the first time ever we are able to offer classes for all our young yogis and yoginis - toddlers through teens! This has been a dream for a long time and we are so excited to offer a full range of classes for kids and young adults. Each class will be led by a certified Yoga for the Special Child practitioner. The 5-week sessions run November 4th - December 10th, with no classes during Thanksgiving weekend. Learn more here.
We are always looking for feedback on best class times and days. If you haven't already (or if things have changed) please fill out this short survey!
Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 program begins in Evanston in just over a month! This week-long training is taught by Sonia Sumar, creator of the Yoga for the Special Child® method. Sonia has been teaching this method to kids for over forty years and now brings her training to all corners of the world. We are so lucky to have her in our own backyard.
YSC Basic 1 is for anyone who has an interest in learning to teach yoga to kids with special needs. You do not have to be a yoga teacher. This program is especially useful for parents, teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, and yoga teachers. Participants will receive enough hours to become accredited as RCYT with Yoga Alliance (if already a yoga teacher), after completing Basic 1 & 2. But you can start teaching kids up to age 12 right after you finish the program.
Participants will learn from Sonia herself - how to engage and focus students through yoga chants, breathing exercises, yoga poses, and guided relaxation, as well as how to evaluate students and utilize appropriate exercises for their condition. A very special part of the program is the opportunity to see Sonia teach demo classes with children, which gives participants the chance to see the method in action. You will leave feeling prepared to apply yoga techniques to a wide variety of "limitations" and "needs". And best of all, you will have the chance to deepen your own yoga practice, under the guidance of this living yoga legend!
Register here (or below) to reserve your spot. Any questions can be directed to the program coordinator for Evanston, Erin. More info here.
I'm going to be honest, I'm not a natural at self-care. Oh sure, I'm pretty good about meditating, doing yoga regularly, and eating relatively healthfully; but all of those things I can easily justify as "business-care". I can't be a good teacher if I don't maintain my own practice. It's only recently that I've noticed how essential self-care is within my practice, as both a person and a business-owner.
As you'd probably expect, I'm a pretty bendy person. This has always been the case. But this flexibility comes with a dark side, as I easily injure my ligaments and tendons, and have a recurring thing where my knee cap pops over to one side. Once, a doctor even cautioned me to wear orthotics to prevent the collapse of the arches of
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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