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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Devotional Yoga Practice

Here's something for all of you yoga practitioners. This is a devotional yoga asana practice, based on the Five Gifts. I do this practice almost every day. It includes four Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) plus additional poses as you go along. The practice also includes several silent mantras, or prayer verses that I have learned from various sources and modified to fit the practice. Of course, you can create your own devotional practice. My hope is simply that this practice will be a joyful one for you.

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Since there are many forms of the sun salutation, let me describe the one I use in this practice, then I'll describe the practice. Here's the pose sequence:
Start in Tadasana (mountain pose)
             with hands in Anjali Mudra (palms together)
Inhale to Urdva Hastasana (arms over the head)
Exhale to Uttanasana (forward bend)
Step one leg back to Lunge
From the lunge, add other poses is you wish.  
I'll make some suggestions below.
Switch and do both sides of the lunge
Exhale to step into Adho Mukka Swanasana (downward facing dog pose)
Optional Vinyasana which includes:
Inhale to Palykasana (plank)
Exhale and lower into Chattarunga Dandasana (lowered plank)
Inhale into Bujangasana (cobra) or Urdva Mukha Swanasana (upward dog)
  Exhale and return to Adho Mukha Swanasana (downward facing dog)
Then, hop or step to Uttanasana (forward bend)
Inhale and lift the heart, then exhale and Pranam (bow)
Inhale and rise to Urdva Hastasana (arms over the head)
Exhale and return to Tadasana (mountain pose)
        with hands in Anjali Mudra
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Now for the devotional practice. Please modify as you wish and according to your needs.

Sun Salutation #1: Celebrating the Gift of the Physical Body

In Tadasana, with palms together, become aware of the physical body. Use your awareness to align the body, so you feel open and free to move. Moving through the first part of the practice slowly, be aware of the alignment of the physical structures of the body - bones, muscles, organs, etc. Feel how function flows from the underlying structure.

As you hold the lunge pose, say the following mantra to yourself
This physical body is a gift of divine love,
and I am grateful and honored to receive it.
I commit this day:
to strengthen and nurture this body-gift
to empower these structures with awareness
and to offer this body to divine service.
Switch to the second side lunge, and repeat the mantra.

Step back into the dog pose, saying to yourself
I surrender to the divine source of all that is.

If you do the optional plank-chattarunga-cobra vinyasana, here's a mantra to use as you are moving
divine spirit of life
make of me an open channel of love and grace
and use me this day
to create a sacred experience for all that I encounter.

Finish the sun salutation with this mantra reverberating in your awareness. On the last rising up from the forward bend, simply say
let divine grace flow through me into this world.

Sun Salutation #2: Celebrating the Gift of Life

In the mountain pose, palms together, become aware of the life energy that flows within you and around you. Feel the aliveness of your body. As you move through the first poses, flow with the breath, and enjoy the grace of the movements.

From the lunge pose, rise up into Virabadrasana I (warrior pose #1). Hold the pose and say the following
This life is a gift of divine love
and I am grateful and honored to receive it.
I commit this day
to strengthen and nurture this life gift
to empower these movements and emotions with awareness
and to offer this life to divine service.
Return to the lunge pose and do the second side warrior pose, repeating the mantra.

In the dog pose, say
I surrender to the divine spirit of life.

Finish the sun salutation with the vinyasana and a return to standing, saying the following:
Divine spirit of life
make of me an open channel of love and grace
and use me this day to create a sacred experience
for all I encounter.
Let divine grace flow through me into this world.

Sun Salutation #3: Celebrating the Gift of Thought

Repeat the same form of the sun salutation, except replace the warrior pose with parshvottanasana (the straight-leg stretch). Let your mind be open and be aware of the thoughts that enter the mind-space. Here's the mantra:

Thought is a gift of divine love, and I am grateful and honored to receive it.
I commit this day
to strengthen and nurture this thought-gift
to empower this mind-space with awareness
and to allow all thought that enters my mind to be inspired by a divine source.
I surrender to the divine intention of the universe.
Spirit of life, make of me an open channel of love and grace,
and use me this day to create a sacred experience for all I encounter.
Let divine grace flow through me into this world.

Sun Salutation #4: Celebrating the Gift of Pure Awareness

In this sun salutation, your focus is on awareness beyond thought and the words flow from this awareness. Use Uthitta Parsva Konasana variation (a deep stretch version of the side angle pose) or Ekka Padha Raja Kapotasana (the pigeon pose) in the center of your sun salutation. The mantra is:

Awareness is a gift of divine love, and I am grateful and honored to receive it.
I commit this day
to grow in awareness
to empower each moment, each thought, each action and 
        every experience with awareness
and I offer my entire being to divine service
I surrender to the divine consciousness of the universe - to God
Divine spirit, make of me an open channel of love and grace, and
use me this day to create a sacred experience for all I encounter.
Let divine grace flow through me into this world.

Celebrating the Gift of Divine Consciousness

Do a balance pose - Vrksasana (tree), Virabadrasana III (warrior #3), Natarajasana (dancer's pose), stork pose, or an arm balance or inversion - you choose. Let your pose be an expression of divine grace. Allow yourself to be "the wave that rises up on the ocean." No words, here - simply be your true self, which flows from the divine source.

Continue your practice, adding whatever poses you wish, or end here with svasana, or meditation.

Most important, as you practice, let the joy come into and through your practice. Modify the poses and the mantras to raise your spirit, and let your yoga lift you up with joy and grace.

I'd love to hear from you. Be well.

Namaste
Joe

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