I used to be a bit ‘spartan’ doing yoga without music at home. But I’ve gone over to the other side now ūüėČ and see a lot of benefits. There’s the obvious mood setting, and increasingly I realize it is a useful signal to any others in the household that you’re doing yoga! One thing that put me off before was digging around for suitable music, trying out different new agey things and certain types of classical music. I don’t really like new age ‘synthesizer drone’ music and other music can set my mind off thinking about it, making connections (I’m a musician which might make that worse).

I go to an amazing local mindful meditation group led by a guy called Tod, we do conventional meditation but also walking meditation and various outdoor practices in the foothills of the beautiful San Gabriel mountain range we have here in northern Los Angeles. Tod is an expert flute player and plays a variety of flutes e.g. North American Indian flute and this serves well to initensify the mood act as a focal point for the group, especially useful outside. There aren’t many other instruments that could work like that – saxophone for instance, would be a non-starter.

So I’ve come to use flute music as a go-to for meditation, without having to thing about it. I don’t wear the clothes, but I do like to keep the Indian cultural association with yoga going – hence this site with its emphasis on Sanskrit. There is a long and beautiful heritage of meditative Indian music to draw upon – and websites like YouTube make it so easy to access. I practiced to this wonderful hour long meandering Indian-style flute solo, with a hint of synth drone, which works very well. You’re welcome to join me this week, in some kind of global ‘mind share’ listening to this piece this week!…

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We’ve generally been fixing and tweaking things on the site this week, changes made to speed up the site and to adapt more smoothly to changing screen sizes (desktop/smartphone/iPad etc), adding a help desk page and other mods to the design. We’ve recently also been testing an Amdroid app and hope to release it within 1 or 2 weeks. I looks pretty similar to the website, that’s by intention, we’re looking at the apps as a optional way of using the site. Some peoole, myself included, love the ‘ease of access’ of hitting an app icon and getting straight to business, so we’re working on bringing that to you, as an option.

I got a fascinating comment to the post I wrote about the idea of ‘Yoga in Space’. The comment was from Robert McCoy and referenced a piece Robert wrote, about the actual experience of doing Yoga in Space, you can read it here, on Reality Sandwich: http://www.realitysandwich.com/yoga_space It presents a very optimistic view of space travel, and given that no doubt the number of people visiting space will mushroom in the coming years, it’s an idea that might be worth hanging onto.

Facebook users who are into current Yoga philosophy should check out Bob Weisenberg’s facebook page ‘The Best of Yoga Philosopy’ at https://www.facebook.com/BestOfYogaPhilosophy He manages to find all the best written and inspiring pieces, such as this one, on Barry Gillespie’s essay on ‘equanimity’: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/equanimity-a-spacious-stillness-of-mind-barry-h-gillespie/

For no particular reason, just to pretty-up the post, a beautiful yantra, of the fascinating goddess Dhumavati, below,
Shanti, Peter

Dhumavati Yantra
Dhumavati Yantra

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Something a little different for this post, a quote from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the ‘Sage of Mumbai’. He often refers to Yoga, in a maybe slightly different way we use it at DippingBird. His book, ‘I am that’ is unique, a powerful and modern work on transcendence.

For a Westerner the right procedure is to adhere to the thought that he is the ground of all knowledge, the immutable and perennial awareness of all that happens to the senses and the mind. If he keeps it in mind all the time, aware and alert, he is bound to break the bounds of non-awareness and emerge into pure life, light and love. The idea “I am the witness only” will purify the body and the mind and open the eye of wisdom. Then man goes beyond illusion and his heart is free of all desires.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Maharaj

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I’ve been continuing the anatomy studies in respect of Yoga and some fascinating things have been uncovered, the latest being the challenges of doing Yoga in space, and in fact the challenges of just moving in space. Googling around I’m surprised I can’t find much material on the subject of how the body adapts to moving its muscles in space.

First a simple exercise – hold your arm straight out at 90 degrees. Now slowly bend at the elbow and bring your hand up until it is pointing upwards. During that move the main muscle doing the work should have been the biceps, contracting to bring the hand and lower arm upwards. Now bring the hand to the shoulder (while keeping the upper arm straight out). The muscle doing that work should have been the triceps – the muscle lengthening while ‘contracting’ i.e. ‘pulling’ against the force of gravity to slow and control the hand’s descent (the scientific/medical term for that is ‘eccentric contraction’ (ref: http://muscle.ucsd.edu/musintro/contractions.shtml).

So what happens if you do that movement in space? Everything is different, that’s what! It looks like there would certainly be no switch-over from the biceps to the triceps at the point where the hand is pointing straight upward. I imagine that the biceps would continue it’s ‘normal’ concentric contraction unti the hand was near the shoulder and then maybe the triceps steps in with eccentric contraction against the momentum of the upper arm coming in towards the shoulder to slow it down.

The whole practice of Yoga would have to be different in zero-G. Some asasas e.g. the shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana) would lose their meaning without gravity to work against, but I’m sure dedicated Yogis would come up with a host of zero-G friendly alternatives – what do you think?

Functional Anatomy Ad

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I’ve been studying anatomy recently, from a Yoga perspective and it’s been very interesting and rewarding, and not without points of controversy. Well, one main one so far – is the sacroiliac joint a real, moveable joint or not? I’ve had some sacroiliac experiences myself to relate, but first a splendidly simple picture to help show what it is and where it is located:

Sacroiliac Joint (pic from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sacroiliac_joint.svg)

As you can see looking at the picture (which is a frontal (anterior) view), the sacroiliac is located in the pelvis. I haven’t done an extensive survey but there seems to be a division in views on how much movement occurs with it, with Yoga experts and some osteopaths leaning on the ‘it moves’ side of the fence and regular ol’ orthopaedic surgeons on the other ‘it doesn’t move’ side. There’s an example of such a division in the quote below:

“…¬†in crisis mode due to what the naturopath and chiro said was a dislocated SI joint. Ouch. Took a few weeks off practice and then started up at ‚Äúhalf mast‚ÄĚ, avoiding deep forward bends and craving backbends. Almost back to normal now! It was fascinating to hear the orthopedist at Penn say that this wasn‚Äôt possible because the SI wasn‚Äôt a mobile joint, and when I asked about nutation/counternutation he claimed never to have heard of it.”

(above quote from: http://www.yoganatomy.com/2011/01/nutationcounter-nutation/)

Anyway, after reading about the debate I’m of course immediately trying to figure out whether I can tell if my sacroiliac joint is moving or not. Some years ago I went to a virtuoso osteopath in London who has since sadly retired, with a ‘one-sided’ hip pain which had seemingly begun in response to starting cycling for around 80 miles a week. He didn’t use any technical terms but explained that at the bottom of the spine is a ‘cup’ and there was a misalignment there – he asked if I’d had an accident and I explained that many YEARS ago I’d been in the back of a van in a car crash and had thumped my hip badly (but had no x-rays or anything at the time). He thought that the accident had caused the misalignment and that cycling had caused it to become painful…

He fixed it in 5 mins flat, with no repeat appointments!

Some months later an unfortunate hammock incident left with the same pain on the other side, the osteopath explained that it was the same kind of problem (but towards the other side) and again fixed it in 5 minutes.

So… my personal osteopath suggests that it is a moveable joint, but in my case at least, not very moveable.¬† Which brings me on to the sacrum…

From the Wikipedia article on the sacrum…

The Sacrum (from the Wikipedia article/Gray's Anatomy)

“In vertebrate anatomy the sacrum (plural: sacrums or sacra) is a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity, where it is inserted like a wedge between the two hip bones. Its upper part connects with the last lumbar vertebra, and bottom part with the coccyx (tailbone). It consists of usually five initially unfused vertebrae which begin to fuse between ages 16‚Äď18 and are usually completely fused into a single bone by age 34.”

Now the sacrum, apart from looking like something from Alien takes the whole fusing business further. I’m wondering, do everyone’s vertebrae fuse around about 34, or do some people go on vb’s all a-quiver. Not sure yet how I’ll find out, so if you have any tips, please comment below (and give me a break from my Sacroiliac Blues…)

Bye for now,

Peter

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I was talking to a noted¬†Los Angeles based bodyworker recently and asked her if she¬†did Yoga at all. ‘I don’t need to’ she replied ‘I’m very flexible’…

I was watching a¬†friend’s video¬†on Yoga¬†anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews’¬†excellent ‘Yoga¬† Anatomy’¬†and the¬†point was made:

“That’s a very big thing for people in yoga. When are you done? When have you acquired your last posture? When have you gotten flexible enough? Where does it end? When do you say oh, I’ve arrived?”

Both the idea that Yoga was just about becoming flexible or that you reach a point where you’ve ‘completed’ Yoga seemed very strange to me. There’s an argument I guess that if you become ‘enlightened’ then some kind of end-point has been reached, but in more everyday Hatha Yoga terms I don’t think you ever ‘arrive’ do you?

I’m British and snooker was a very popular sport on British TV some years ago (still is, but not so much).¬† I’ve always remembered something that a many-times world champion – Steve Davis¬†said, he was the dominant player at the time and still plays at a high level (but claims he’s now trying to keep his world ranking lower than his age!)

“To me it’s nature, you go up the rankings and then you down the rankings. The challenge is how long it takes.”

…source: http://www.worldsnooker.com/page/PlayersAlphabeticalArticle/0,,13165~2233683,00.html¬†¬† I first heard him say that when he was very much near the top – it seemed very Zen-like for a player who was sometimes derided for being a ‘boring technician’. He’s still there doing the stuff but at a lower competitive level.

So back to Yoga…¬† surely it isn’t about ‘completing’ anything but maintaining a practice which helps maintain physical and mental health and spiritual well-being. If a flexible 11 year old girl takes up Yoga enthusiastically I’m sure she’ll be hitting some pretty amazing shapes by the time she’s 15 or so.¬† I’d imagine¬†that if they did,¬† as mooted, add Yoga to the Olympics it would be teenage girls and boys picking up a lot of the medals in a similar way to gymnastics (assuming that such competitive Yoga would be marked on extremity of pose etc). I imagine also that most competitive gymnasts don’t continue to practice gymnastics to any high level after they’ve retired from competition (some no doubt going on to be coaches).

Surely Yoga is in part a contemplative practice along with its activity. We do it for the benefits we obtain directly for ourselves and thus it needs to be continuous and lifelong unless the Yogi opts out. This supports physical and mental health and wellbeing continuously throughout life. Surely any idea that Yoga is a course that you ‘complete’ is flawed?

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The idea of the DippingBird site came from my own need to supercharge my pose-learning (more on that later). Initially I made it so it was quite like an ‘App’. I’m not especially keen on the App idea, it seems to me a better idea to just make a website that works well on mobile platforms as well as PC’s and Macs (that being said – if it glitches up on your particular platforms, please let me know!).

Having thought about what might help me it was natural to think it might help you and the Yoga community at large, and thus, here we are.

I’ve practiced yoga, to greater and lesser extents for around 40 years (gulp!), originally learning in front of the TV in England from a series by Richard Hittleman, which, looking back was done very nicely and authentically. Props to RH! I combined it with Transcendental Meditation in the early 2000’s (Vedantic meditation basically) and took my Yoga more seriously from the late 90’s onward and have greatly benefited.

I’m now thinking of widening the scope of DippingBird a little and extending the gameplay/quiz format to do things like helping people recognise poses just by the look of them (i.e. just an image of the pose) and vice-versa. Hope it doesn’t seem too clinical – my thoughts are that if this knowledge is easily summoned up it just helps yoga classes and sessions run more smoothly and (not sure about this word..) – effortlessly.

If you’ve tried any of the lessons and have any views about how they can be improved, or have any feedback of any kind don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Shanti,

Peter

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