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What Is Mantra? What Is Mudra?

May 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

I am still blissed out from co facilitating my first retreat with Leslie Rose in Sorrento, BC this past weekend. The willingness and openness of those in attendance was beautiful to witness. There really are no words to describe being in community with people as they allow themselves to listen and unconditionally and deeply open their hearts and minds to themselves. It was truly an honour to guide and hold space for all. My heart is forever changed.

We recorded a few mantras during the weekend and I am going to share them with you a little further on in this post. Some of you may be asking “what is Mantra?”. Let me explain.

Mantra is a sound, syllable or utterance repeated to aid in one pointed focus while meditating. A mantra can be as simple as a word “love,” “peace,” “something you are thankful for,” or a phrase such as Om Shanti Om which represents all encompassing peace. Mantra elevates or modifies consciousness through its sound, rhythm, tone and reflexology of the tongue against the palate of the mouth.

Today, science sees the whole of existence as reverberations of energy, different levels of vibrations. Where there is energy, there is vibration and where there is vibration there is bound to be sound. According to the Buddist Handbook, mantras are “highly compressed, power-packed formulas, usually of Sanskrit origin, which are charged with deep meaning and energetic potency.”

Mantra works on our energetic body  (Pranamaya Kosha) by vibrating the energy centres (Chakras) of the body, burning up Karma, both positive and negative and energizing Prana (our vital energy or life force, also known as Qi in Chinese Medicine). The repetition of mantra helps to quiet the anxious chatter of the mind (Chitta Vritti). All these things combined make mantra a powerful healing tool.

Om Shanti Om, means all encompassing peace. Listen to the sound, notice the subtle vibration in your body and join in aloud or repeat Om Shanti Om silently in your mind. Chant with sincerity and anytime you wonder away, notice and bring yourself back to focusing on the sound of the mantra.

Om Shanti Om

The second mantra is Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha, which can be loosely translated Yo! Wake up root chakra (Gum) energy of transformation so I can move through obstacles that are in my awareness and outside of my awareness currently. The seed sound Gum resides in the first chakra, called Muladhara, which means “base of support” and is located in the base of the pelvis in the area of the perineum located between the pubic bone and the sacrum and the sitting bones.

The muladhara chakra is the principle origin from which manifesting energy resides in us. When the first chakra is balanced, we sense ourselves fully supported in all moments, experience a strong sense of self, express Divine love and communicate clearly.

This particular mantra is important because chanting it represents our willingness to release and move past the perceived and unknown obstacles in our lives.

Om Gum Ganapateyei Namaha

I am offering something to go along with the above mantras – mudras. I’ll focus on two mudras which are gestures of the hands used to communicate our intention.

Hand mudras have been used for thousands of years as a vehicle for healing and awakening. A few examples of hand gesture you have likely seen are palms pressed together in  prayer position and taking an oath in a court of law, where one hand, palm down on the bible and the other hand is raised.

Our fingers contain a large number of sensory and motor nerve endings, making them a powerful vehicle for communicating directly with the brain and the rest of the body. Each finger is traditionally related to one of the five elements, and specific finger combinations offer a wide range of possibilities for balancing the elements and optimizing health. There are meridians,  energy channels throughout the fingers and palms. The hands are thought by some to be extensions of our heart too. So you see hands are super charged instruments of healing too.

Both these mudras act as support for Om Gum Ganapatayei Nahama mantra and can be used as you chant or on their own.

Chinmaya Mudra – For Balancing the First Chakra

  1. Curl your fingers into a fist, with thumbs outside.
  2. Touch tips of the index fingers to the tips of the thumbs, forming a circle.
  3. Rest hands with palms down onto your thighs, knees or at your sides if laying down.
  4. Relax shoulders back and down, with the spine naturally aligned.

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This gesture slows the breath, naturally lengthening the exhalation, instilling a sense of serenity, which allows us to meet our survival needs objectively. It calms the body and mind helping to reduce stress, fear and anxiety. As fear and anxiety are released, sensations of inner peace and harmony are awakened. This mudra helps to move energy downward so it is helpful on days when you feel as though you are spinning or in your head turning over thought after thought.

Ganesha Mudra – Protection for New Beginnings

  1. Interlace the fingers to the outside, with right thumb on top.
  2. Extend the middle fingers forward, and wrap the index fingers around them.
  3. Place the thumbs side by side, joined along their length, onto the middle fingers.
  4. Rest the wrists onto the solar plexus.
  5. Relax the shoulders down, with the elbows slightly away from the body and the spine naturally aligned.

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Ganesha mudra directs breath, awareness and energy into the base of the body, abdomen and solar plexus, creating a massaging effect that supports digestion and elimination. This gesture enhances our overall level of energy and vitality in order to manifest our plans and projects easily. Ganesha mudra instills a clear sense of direction, which helps us choose our projects carefully and implement them with a sense of unshakable confidence and absolute trust, wisdom and clarity.

Ganesha mudra is more energizing than Chinmaya mudra. Both mudras are grounding and centering.

Try one mudra for a period of time, a week or two weeks. Then try the other mudra and note what each offers you.

If you need support or have questions as you explore working with the above mantras or mudras email me at dawn@bitbybitbodyworks.com.

If working with these mantras and mudras has piqued your interest consider joining me

October 17- November 28, 2016 for an Online 7 Week course
Transitioning into Fall  – Breath, Movement, Mantra & Mudra practices for Balancing Energy
*Registration open August 1, 2016*

 

17 Sep

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“Butt Amnesia” No Laughing Matter

September 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

I heard the term recently  “Butt Amnesia.” Okay so I was more then a bit curious. What the heck is butt amnesia anyway?
The Signs and Symptoms:
 1. Chronic tight/cramping calf muscles. Regular stretching, massage and or rolling out of the calves provides short term relief but they simply get tight again.
2. Chronic tight/cramping hamstring muscles. Regular stretching, massage and or rolling out of the hamstrings provides short term relief but they simply get tight again.
3. Chronic hip/low back pain that chiropractic adjustments and massage treatments haven’t resolved. 
4. The Stand Up Shimmy: To come up to standing from the floor you have to walk your hands up your thighs to get completely upright.
5. No matter how many squats or lunges you do your butt is as flat as a pancake.
 
If you find yourself in one or more of the above scenarios, you may have a case of  “butt amnesia” otherwise referred to as inhibited gluteal muscles. When the gluteal muscles are inhibited (not functioning properly) for whatever reason, the brain finds a substitute muscle(s) to perform their function. If this pattern is allowed to remain in the motor control center, dysfunction and pain result.
 
Yoga Therapy, Specialized Movement Therapy, Massage, Chiropractic or Physiotherapy can correct the problem. More than 3-5 treatments without significant improvement of symptoms the pattern is likely deeply held in the motor control centre of the brain. Proper assessment and treatment is required to find out which muscles are working that shouldn’t be, quiet them so the gluteal muscles come back online to do the job they were designed to do.
 
Every person I see who’s had inhibited gluteal muscles presents differently, adopts a different dysfunctional motor control pattern and each experienced feeling the gluteal muscles come back online and their symptoms greatly improved in 1 hour. Change happens quick when the right stimulus is applied.  
This post was taken from my September Newsletter. If you found the content useful and aren’t currently receiving  my monthly newsletter click the Home page , scroll down, click sign up for the monthly newsletter to start receiving it.
Best,
Dawn
“With ease change is always possible and life changing.”
Certified Yoga Therapist  & ERYT 200 Yoga Instructor

Rhythmic Movement (™)/ Primitive Reflex Integration 
Certified AFLCA Land, Water and Mind/Body Instructor

 

16 Apr

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Principle #6 Breathe To Boost Your Core Stability

April 16, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

Pick up any gym or yoga schedule you’ll find a number of “core conditioning” specific classes. The focus on the core engagement and strengthening has been around for awhile. I recently attended one of these core classes and was saddened by the lack of understanding regarding how the body works as a whole.

It is important to have a strong core to do activities of our daily life and maintain suppleness in our spine and largest joints as we age. Much of what is being taught is not improving core strength or function. In fact, it is weakening the core and creating dysfunction in the body.

What you need to know:

The core is comprised of 3 groups of muscles (I haven’t named all the muscle I’ve simply touched on those that are more commonplace and well known):

1. Deep Inner Core – transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor

These muscles work together forming the central canister that connects our pelvis and our ribcage. They provide stability for smooth and fluid movement of the spine, hips, and shoulders. There is an organic grace and ease in movement when these are functioning well.  Easy natural breath is essential for these muscles to fire and recruit properly.

2. Global Stabilizers – quadratus lumborum, internal obliques, anterior psoas, hip abductors, hip adductors and hip external rotators

These muscles work together with the hamstrings, quadriceps and muscles of the feet for a balanced weight bearing pelvis in walking, running, and up right activities. The pelvis needs to be balanced to transfer weight from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa. If weight transfer is inadequate compensation will occur.

3. Power Muscles – rectus abdominis, external obliques, erector spinea, hamstrings, quadriceps and lattissimus dorsi

When someone is weak or has a recruitment  pattern issue with the deep inner core muscles what tends to happen is an over engagement of the power muscles. For example the lats brace or the external obliques grip during movement. When this happens they aren’t actually using the deeper core muscles. If the lats are being used to stabilize then there is all this inherent strength inside that isn’t being accessed because the power muscle group is being used inappropriately. When the lats are needed for power they are pooped from doing the work of the stabilizers.

How do you stop the power muscles from bracing or gripping? You come back to the previous 5 principles I’ve talked about on my blog and move in such a way that the power muscles don’t grip or brace giving the deep inner core and global stabilizer muscles a chance to organically wake up and fire. This is requires doing less not more and you can’t think your way to improving function it requires that you slow down and notice.

In order to get access to your core musculature you need to be gentle and easy initially. The effectiveness of  your core work is highly dependent on your breath.  Take a moment to consider the following image:

 

Transverse view of the thorax looking at the inferior side of the diaphragm.

Transverse view of the thorax looking at the inferior side of the diaphragm.

 

See how the fibers of the transversus abdominis interweave with the fibers of the diaphragm and the psoas and the quadratus lumborum pass behind the diaphragm and attach to the spinal vertebrea. If you are holding your breathe at all or exhaling too deeply it is going to impact the function and suppleness of these muscles as well as the pelvic floor.

I’ve given you lots to think about and consider. My May newsletter will have a couple simple things you can do to check for pelvic stability and movement to help improve it.  In June I’ll offer up some insights on gripping and bracing of the power muscles with ways to quiet them down and cultivate your deep inner core and stabilizers. If you currently aren’t receiving my monthly newsletter send me an email with “newsletter please” in the subject line.

Don’t want to wait for May and June contact me to schedule a one on one session we’ll assess which core muscles are working well, those that are over engaged and start to cultivate that which isn’t currently firing.

Best,
Dawn
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”  Bruce Lee

17 Mar

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Principle #5 Move Joints In Their Optimum Range Of Motion

March 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Each joint has an optimum range of motion, by design some have a wee bit of movement – intervertebral discs. Others have free and easy movement – shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Factors like lifestyle, medical conditions and past injury impact each joints optimum range of motion. Someone with healthy joints who hasn’t had an injury will likely have greater range of motion than someone who has broken an ankle or swollen/stiff joints due to a medical condition. The key, no matter what your situation, is to move each joint in its optimum range of motion.

How do you know you’re moving joints in their optimum range of motion?

  • You can breathe easy.
  • You are moving the joint in the direction it is designed to move in.
  • You feel no strain or pain.

 

The larger joints – hips and shoulders are designed to take more load. When the hips or shoulders become stuck, limited or lack stability the load gets pushed out to the smaller joints – elbows, wrists, knees, ankles and intervertebral discs. I have seen pain at these smaller joints reduce or go away by improving the function and accentuating movement in the hip and shoulder joints.

I offer workshops and classes under “Work With Me” that teach how to move joints in their optimum range of motion. Under “Grow Your Practice” you’ll find a collection of free 5 minute videos to support you in moving your joints optimally.

If you have pain there is a problem. Listen to your body’s “whispers” and you won’t have to hear it “scream”.

Namaste,

Dawn

02 Feb

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Principle #4. Connecting The Movement Of The Spine To The Largest Joints First

February 2, 2014 | By | No Comments

The past few months I’ve shared the movement principles I follow when teaching a workshop, group class or working one on one with a client.

So far we’ve looked at:

  1. Nourish Relaxation
  2. Move in your pain and tension free range or motion
  3. Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind 

 

This month let’s look at………..

#4 Connecting The Movement Of  The Spine To The Largest Joints First  

Once the body is relaxed and we feel the spine as the central place from which movement occurs it’s time to find free and easy movement of the arms and legs. This requires good functioning shoulder and hip joints. It also helps to understand a how the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle relate to the spine and our limbs.

Without getting bogged down by anatomical terms and illustrations (if you want the anatomical goods check out Susi Hately’s Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries book Fig 4-3) Let’s look at the connection between the psoas and the trapezius muscles. The upper body and shoulder girdle attach to the spine via the trapezius at T12 and the legs attach to the spine at T12 via the psoas by crossing the pelvis.

Trapezius Psoas_major

Each piece – spine, shoulder girdle, arms, pelvic girdle and legs impact the other pieces. There is a whole system of muscles, fascia, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue beyond these 2 muscles and the skeleton that make up the “web” of the body. By viewing the body as a web we understand no piece is separate from the other pieces.

The shoulder girdle provides the arms a large amount of support, mobility and stability. Think about all the ways we move the arms and ask them to support us:

  • Reaching overhead to put things in and out of a cupboard,
  • Carrying a baby or toddler,
  • Swinging a golf club, tennis racket or hockey stick,
  • Supporting the torso while riding a bike,
  • Pulling us through the water in swimming,
  • Moving and supporting us in our yoga practice.

 

If there’s tightness in the muscles of the chest, upper back or shoulders  it impacts the movement of the arms and the spine. The tightness/tension puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves through the shoulder girdle and down the arms into the hands. Carpel tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries have greater potential to occur. There are other areas of the web this ripple of tightness might be felt or noticed:

  • Breathing pattern(s),
  • The neck (cervical spine), or
  • The low back (lumbar spine).

 

The pelvic girdles primary purpose is to transfer weight from the spine to the leg(s) – load transfer.  It acts as a bridge transferring the weight and energy from the spine to the    leg(s) while affording the leg bone (femur) mobility, stability and strength/power.  The better the “bridge” connection is from the spine across the pelvis to the leg(s) the more effortless our movement becomes.

With low back pain I often see dysfunction in the hip joint. The bridge or connection from the spine to the leg bone(s) across the pelvis has become fuzzy. Similar to tuning in a radio signal the communication from the brain to the spine, pelvis and leg bone(s) is not as clear as it could be. Curious about how tuned in your signal is? Give this a try:

  • Lay on your back.
  • Place both feet on the wall so that your knees are stacked over  your hips (knees/hips are at 90 degree angles).
  • Take 5 breaths notice your body, your breath, your  spine.  With each breath is there a sense of settling in or softening in the body in this position? If not,  please stop this is not appropriate for you today. Doesn’t mean it won’t be another day just not today. Remember principle #2 Move in your pain and tension free range or motion:-).
  • Feel your feet on the wall, gently begin to press into the wall.
  • Remember the images from above of the trapezius and psoas muscles? Did you notice your pelvis move, your butt or legs grip or clench, your breath change, your shoulders, neck or jaw get tight or tense, did your belly or breath grip or brace? If you felt any of these press again with less effort.
  • Feel the hip creases soft as you press and only press into the wall to the point that you maintain the sensation of softness in the hip creases and don’t feel any of the compensations listed above. Feel the foot and whole leg as you press.
  • Press and release a few times and notice how the feeling of this press differs from the first press.
  • Come up to standing and notice.

 

As you play with the leg press the signal from the brain to the spine, pelvis and leg bone(s) will get more tuned in. The point is not to figure out what to engage but to move in a range that you aren’t encouraging the compensation patterns. Not even a teeny tiny bit. If you suffer from back pain it will likely go down as you take this new awareness into other movements and activities you participate in.

We start to see that like the interconnectedness or web of the body the principles of movement are also interconnected. The principles aren’t linear they ebb and flow working together.

This month’s movement moment provides a couple movements for you to explore the relationship between the arms, shoulder girdle and spine and leads nicely into next month’s principle #5 Move Joints in Their Optimal Range of Motion.

Have a good one,

Dawn

February Movement Moment