by Kara-Leah Grant
This is the first in a six-part series of Yoga Explorations which takes you through a creative Mandala Surya Namaskar – or a circular sun salutation.
The focus on this series is in teaching you how to use the breath to explore and play within your home practice. It’s about giving you the confidence to step outside the usual linear flow of your practice and see what it is that your body needs moment to moment.
There is a huge difference between a home yoga practice and going to class. For one, it’s far more challenging to take yourself through a home practice. There’s no one there to tell you what to do, to offer alignment instructions, or to keep you on track.
And note, when I talk about a home yoga practice, I’m not talking about doing yoga at home to a DVD or online. That’s still going to class – even though you may be at home.
The key difference is a home practice is just you, your body and your breath. There is nothing to focus on externally, and it’s all about what’s going on inside of you internally.
This is when the fruits of yoga start to reveal themselves. For one, we have to deal with the mind far more in a home practice. The fact that we’re shown up to the mat means we’ve made some kind of commitment to ourselves and we’ve overcome whatever obstacles were stopping us from practicing at home.
However the difficulty lies in making that transition from classes to a home yoga practice. When you’ve always gone to class and had someone else tell you what to do, it can be hard to just show up on your mat. What happens next?
And that’s why I’ve created this six part series. Yes, you will be focused externally on the video I’ve made for you, but this video encourages you to focus completely on your internal experience. I’m not showing you postures to do, but giving you tools to explore your own body through the postures.
In this series, we’ll focus primarily on using the breath to open into postures. This helps to bring full awareness to our breath, and allows our breath to take over as our teacher.
In time, as you learn to “climb inside your breath”, it will guide you and you’ll find that yoga spontaneously arises. At least, this is my experience, and if it can happen for me, it can happen for you too!
Over the course of this six weeks, we’ll play with two pairs of breath. One pair is the ascending breath and the descending breath, and the other pair is the breath we do when we’re cultivating our core, and the breath we do when we’re radiating from our core.
Understanding and using these breaths in your yoga will open it up in all kinds of ways. After all, it’s through the breath that we connect to Prana or life force. When you breathe consciously, you’re bringing more prana into your body, and you’re making yourself more aware of prana.
Prana moves around our body through the nadis (channels), and there’s apparently 72,000 of them. This I haven’t yet verified in my own body, but I can feel some of them at play. Our yoga practice helps to open and strengthen the nadis so more prana can flow easily.
Your home practice is the ideal place to play with breath and learn to tune into prana so you can allow yoga postures to spontaneously arise from within your body. This is the shift from doing yoga to being yoga, and it happens with practice.
Each week, I’ll add a new article and video, which shows you two or three new postures and ways to play and explore within those postures. I’m not so concerned with how you do the postures – instead I want you to learn how to play and explore with the breath so those postures begin to spontaneously arise for you.
Your Om-Work for the week is to spend at least five minutes every day going through these two postures mindfully with the breath, exploring and playing and seeing what comes up for you.
Next week, I’ll add another two or three postures to the sequence, and your Om-Work will be slightly longer.
By the end of the six weeks, you’ll know a full creative Mandala Surya Namaskar (creative circular Sun Salutation) inside out.
You’ll be able to do the sequence on your own, and adapt it according to the needs of your own body. You’ll also know how to be present in that practice, exploring what comes up for you on a day to day basis and letting your breath led you into the postures.
This stops your yoga practice from becoming just one more thing to get done, another thing to tick off, something else to achieve.
Instead, your yoga practice becomes a time to step inside your breath and feel that deep connection to All that Is. This allows it to become a spontaneous, creative expression of life and of you.
This week’s video is free for anyone to watch, and so is Week 2. After that, Week 3 – 6 will be for Insiders only. So if you’re not a member of Inside the Box (starts at $29/yr) you may want to join up now.
Insiders also get access to the Forty Days of Yoga Facebook Support Group, where people can share their experience of the practice, what day they’re up to, and ask questions about the practice.
Video Exploration #1 with Kara-Leah Grant
Playing with the Ascending & Descending Breath
Now you’ve watched the video, here’s your Om-Work for the Week
Week #1 Om-Work: Each day, take time on your mat – at least seven minutes – to play with Tadasana and Uttanasana focusing on feeling hte ascending and descending breath. What you actually do is totally up to you. The key is to focus on being present and explore within your own body according to what it needs.
You may want to play this video again for inspiration and ideas, but don’t feel like you have to follow along with it – the key to a home practice is to focus on your internal process.
By the end of the week you will have done this practice seven times and it will be firmly embedded in your body.
If you find that you’re getting bored, or not feeling challenged enough, or not getting enough out of the practice… that gives you something to work with. Staying simple and subtle is the challenge here.
- What does it mean to “be bored”? We can only be bored if we’re in our mind – presence is never bored.
- What does it means to not feel challenged enough? If you’re feeling that… there is a challenge, in being present!
- What does it mean to not get enough out of the practice? Instead of worrying about what you’re getting out of this, focus instead of what you’re giving to it – can you give the practice total presence?
Get used to questioning your mind because this practice isn’t just about your body, it’s also about working with your mind.
Finally, this might be the only practice you do each day or it might simply be the jumping off point for a longer exploration. What ever it is – enjoy!
Any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll respond. It’s likely that if you have that question, other people do too.