Reader Guides

  • Yoga, Fascia, and the Feeling of Being Me

    by Tias Little, author of Yoga of the Subtle Body
    Yoga of the Subtle Body

    What is Fascia?

    In the same way that a fish swims in water and a bird flies through the air, fascia is the way we move. Every time you practice triangle pose or the camel, you stretch an entire network of cellophane-like tissue (“cling-wrap” if you are in the UK) from your feet to the crown of your head.

    Fascia, or connective tissue, is everywhere in the body. It wraps around bone, encases all the organs, and enshrouds every muscle, nerve, and blood vessel. In some areas, the connective tissue is loose and delicate like the silky threads of a spider’s web. In other places, it is fibrous and dense having the resilience of a steel cable.

     

    Fascia and Movement

    All of the internal arts, including tai chi, qi gong, and yoga generate flow in the fascia. Like a baker kneading bread, we make the fascia elastic by alternately pulling, twisting, squeezing, and molding our connective tissue. When we apply heat and pressure, the “dough” of our connective tissue rises and expands. This provides a feeling of levity, joy, and well-being.

    Fascia is highly adaptable. Just in the course of a day, connective tissues are in flux—at times clenching and hardening and at other times softening and spreading. Connective tissue can change shape and consistency in the midst of seemingly simple daily events. For instance, if you are on an elevator and someone threatening stands next to you, the fascia around your hamstring and buttock may tighten and the visceral membranes around your kidney, stomach, and intestine may constrict. If you are lying in the grass at the park with close friends, then the connective tissues in your back and belly soften. At the end of the day, if you practice Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose), then the fascia around your diaphragm, jaw, and spine relax and melt backward toward the floor.

    Fascia, together with the musculature, is called myofascia and it is our primary mover. Along with enabling us to dance, swim, and shoot baskets, fascia also has a significant sensory component. The matrix of the fascia is supplied with sensory nerve receptors that help determine balance, spatial awareness, pressure, and pain. The bones cannot stand without the supportive webbing of the fascia and for this reason the fascia, quite literally, holds us together.

     

    The Feeling of Being “Me”

    As a result, fascia plays a central role in determining the feeling of being “me.” Body image is based on the shape, mobility, and responsiveness of fascia. This has important ramifications for yoga, because as we stretch and expand our fascia in practice, working our tissues in multiple directions, we “shape shift” and change the fascial mold we live in. The teachings of yoga suggest that the self is not a fixed thing, and the practice of yoga postures helps create a self identity that is fluid and changeable.

    This process of working the connective tissue is critical as we age; over time, fascia becomes pasty—muscles glue together, tendons stick to bone, and organs adhere. When fascia adheres it is like pasta that isn't cooked enough—the “linguine” of our connective tissue becomes rigid and clumps together. You may like your pasta al dente, but when fascia gets plastered together, the supply of blood and nerves is inhibited and it hurts.

    When fascia is healthy, tissues slide over one another like fresh fish in a basket. This is because the very nature of fascia is to permit flow and glide. When we move in a vinyasa practice from one pose to the other, the muscle bundles in the body should glide. Internal glide of the connective tissues brings about feelings of ease, effortlessness, and internal flow.

    Another key function of the fascia in the body is in establishing boundaries. For example, as fascia encapsulates the liver, it separates the liver from other adjoining organs, such as the stomach and small intestine. There is also a vertical sheath of fascia (called the falx cerebri) in the cranium that divides the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The fascial stocking around the latissimus dorsi muscle separates it from the underlying trapezius muscle.

    Because fascia establishes boundary on the the physical level, it in turn helps establish boundaries on the psychological level. By repeatedly delineating the fascia in yoga practice, mindfully defining its scope and limits, the “boundaries” of the psyche are clarified. This is particularly true when a yoga practice is guided by its founding principles of nonharming, nonstealing, and the nonappropriation of sexual energy. Just as fascia contains all the structures in the body, it helps provide a container for psychological states of being.

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    Tias Little synthesizes years of study in classical yoga, Sanskrit, Buddhism, anatomy, massage, and trauma healing in his dynamic, original style of teaching. Find out more about him here.

  • Book Club Discussion | Wave in the Mind

    Each month, the Shambhala employees gather to discuss a new book as part of our Shambhala Publications Book Club. After each meeting, we will be sharing the notes from our discussion with you to spark your own thoughts and conversations, which you can share in the comments below.

    Our January pick was The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Book Description

    The Wave in the Mind presents a collection of short writings by widely loved author, Ursula K. Le Guin. While Le Guin is most recognized for her fiction work, this anthology reveals that her wit and talent are not limited to that realm. Included are autobiographical reflections, literary criticism, performance art pieces, and essays exploring the roles of fiction and the imagination, the writer, and the reader. As publishers and ravenous readers, the Shambhala staff enjoyed exploring these topics in depth.

    Questions for Discussion

    • For those familiar with Le Guin’s fiction, is your perspective on her work influenced by reading her literary criticism and reflections?
    • In reading Le Guin’s analysis of the gender disparity in major literary award winners, are you surprised by what she found? Do you think that this disparity has improved or worsened over the fourteen years since this was published, or is it the same?
    • Do you agree with Le Guin’s assertion of the importance of the realm of fantasy? How has your experience of reading fantasy, fairytale, or science fiction differed from your experience of other forms of fiction?
    • How would you define “beauty”? How does your idea of beauty compare to Le Guin’s?
    • Do you think Le Guin’s observations of other species appreciating beauty are simply an act of anthropomorphizing, or do you think that beauty is a virtue enjoyed by more than just humans?

    Notable Quotes

    In the first section, “Personal Matters,” Le Guin presents a self-portrait primarily through describing major influences—libraries she practically lived in, family, her imagination, and how she sees others seeing her.

    On the universal quality of fantasy literature:

    “But the nameless being given life by Frankenstein’s or Mary Shelley’s arts and machineries is neither ghost nor fairy; science fictional he may be; stuff and nonsense he is not. He is a creature of fantasy, archetypal, deathless. Once raised he will not sleep again, for his pain will not let him sleep, the unanswered moral questions that woke with him will not let him rest in peace.” (pg. 41, “Things Not Actually Present”)

    “Fantasies are often set in ordinary life, but the material of fantasy is a more permanent, universal reality than the social customs realism deals with. The substance of fantasy is psychic stuff, human constants: situations and imageries we recognise without having to learn or know anything at all about New York now, or London in 1850, or China three thousand years ago.” (pg. 43, “Things Not Actually Present”)

    “That the accepted (male) notion of literary influence is appallingly simplistic is shown (first—not last, but first) by the fact that it overlooks, ignores, disdains the effect of ‘preliterature’—oral stories, folktales, fairy tales, picture books—on the tender mind of the prewriter.” (pg. 109, “The Wilderness Within: The Sleeping Beauty and ‘The Poacher’”)

    On the writer:

    “All their admirers can meet is the person—who has a lot in common with, but is not, the writer. Maybe nicer, maybe duller, maybe older, maybe meaner; but the main difference is, the person lives in this world, but writers live in their imagination, and/or in the public imagination, which creates a public figure that lives only in the public imagination. So the pen name, hiding the person behind the writer, may be essentially a protective and enabling device . . .” (pg. 58, “Thinking about Cordwainer Smith”)

    On beauty:

    “So: What is beauty? Beauty is small, shapely, shiny things, like silver buttons, which you can carry home and keep in your nest/box.” (pg. 174, “Collectors, Rhymesters, and Drummers”)

    On injustice:

    “The shift from denial of injustice to recognition of injustice can’t be unmade. What your eyes have seen they have seen. Once you see the injustice, you can never again in good faith deny the oppression and defend the oppressor. What was loyalty is now betrayal. From now on, if you don’t resist, you collude. But there is a middle ground between defense and attack, a ground of flexible resistance, a space opened for change. It is not an easy place to find or live in.” (pg. 216, “A War without End”)

    Book Recommendations

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  • Book Club Discussion | Single White Monk

    Single White Monk by Shozan Jack Haubner is a prescient book—not only for its teachings, which are deeply rooted in real-life stories and the humble wisdom that comes from making mistakes and learning to face them, but for its lack of pretension around issues involving sexual abuse and all the opinions, hurt, and life-changing consequences that can, and do, go on because of a scandal. As this is something that is highly relevant in our current socio-political climate, this book has a lot to offer.

    If you’re reading along, please comment at the bottom of this guide and let us know how you connected to Single White Monk.

    Questions for Discussion

    • Two main themes of the book: the coexisting of opposite forces—how good and bad can and do exist together in one world—and death as an integral part of life we can’t and shouldn’t ignore.
    • What is the meaning of truth? Can there be an objective truth? In the intro, he calls the book “personal mythology.” How does that filter your perception of the events in the book?
    • Is the author a likable character in his own book?
    • How do you understand the idea of True Love?
    • Which of the stories stood out to you or connected to you? Why?
    • The author mixes humor and absurdity with the serious. How did his writing style work for you?
    • The sexual harassment and abuse aspect is very socially relevant right now. Everyone seemed to have a different view of Roshi and his actions, some wanting to condemn him completely, some just wanting an apology, some saying that the apology made them feel invalidated.
      • Haubner thinks that Roshi’s actions were completely wrong, but he loves and respects his teacher. He takes in every part of Roshi as a person, a human, showing he may not be perfect and we might not like or agree with every part of him, but he can still be influential and worth listening to. Do you identify with the author’s view on this? Or have a different reading?

    Notable Quotes

    “Why is there something rather than nothing? Nothingness makes so much more sense.” (2)

    The concept of True Love: “a new self is being conceived, arising, and passing away every instant.” (2)

    “Zen practice however, teaches you to completely be yourself—if you don’t who will? Someone’s got to hold down your corner of the universe, and no one else is qualified.” (14)

    “Underneath all carnal desire is a wish to know the world, to claim it not for yourself, but as yourself. Sometimes, a bad mistake, consciously made, can teach you this better than a good rule unconsciously followed.” (64–65)

    “There’s a natural balance, a dance, between embracing and releasing: turning your surroundings into yourself, like the tree that absorbs carbon dioxide, and turning yourself into your surroundings, like the same tree releasing oxygen. This is what Buddhists call the Middle Way.” (69)

    “We are never more than a breath away from the home we share with the entire universe.” (70)

    “When there is no death (and there is nowhere where there is no death, except maybe vampire novels), there are no risks, and life is utterly meaningless.” (74)

    “But if something can be taken from you, was it ever truly yours to begin with? It occurred to me that the harder we search for something permanent in this world, the more ephemeral and disposable are the things we find, and the more we find ourselves simply searching for the sake of searching, moving for the sake of moving. We are a culture running away from death.” (103)

    “He taught me that you cannot be something other than yourself, no matter how enlightened you pretend to be, and so you must manifest yourself fully, each and every moment; you must bring all your subterranean selves, all your thoughts and feelings, no matter how grim and unbearable, to the surface, and to completion—dissolving them through your connection to the world around you so that a new pure self, and a new world along with it, can arise the next instant.” (111)

    “If no one talks about something that everyone knows is happening, then each and every person must bear the whole burden of the collective secret him- or herself. What began as a problem becomes nightmare that turns, without outside intervention, into a demon.” (143)

    “The inhale and the exhale are opposites working in harmony to complete each other—like man and woman, birth and death, darkness and light. Together they make up the breath of life.” (196)

    Afterword

    “You don’t need to be great. You need to be complete. You can be complete whether you are working a shitty job at Walmart or you are a world-famous writer. Just walk the path of True Love. When you grapple with life’s deepest problems openly and honestly, the ego melts. It dies. There is no such thing as a fixed state of happiness. We face challenges, and in order to pass through them we must die a little, or a lot, and be reborn.” (206)

    “Old age, sickness, and death. Our lot, as individuals and a species. If everyone will one day be no one, then we are only temporarily separated right now. Our true home is no home, together. The Zen master Rinzai said, ‘Before brightness is manifest, darkness is bright.’ Everything contains its opposite. Nothing exists apart from anything else.” (208)

    Book Recommendations

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  • Kalu Rinpoche and the Translation of The Treasury of Knowledge

    From Sarah Harding's preface to Book 8, Part 4.


    Khyabjé Kalu Rinpoché visited Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986 to consecrate the Bodhi Stupa that had been constructed at his dharma center. Many of his lamas and students were gathered for the occasion, as well as visiting teachers and the general public. It was a joyful reunion for many of us who were scattered in the ten directions and rarely had the opportunity to come together.

    Although in no position to represent anyone, I nevertheless found myself inspired by the auspicious occasion to off er “our” everlasting translation service in whatever way he saw fit. I felt that much of the talent that Kalu Rinpoché himself had fostered in his students was not being put to use, and that naturally they were looking elsewhere for ways to be of service. But, I said, “we” would rather work for him, even—or especially—after he was gone. He simply nodded. I thought, how easy it is to express my deep gratitude in this way. Later during that same tour, Rinpoché did a radio interview in San Francisco in which he announced that he had formed a committee to translate the entire Buddhist canon! When he returned to the dharma center his eyes were sparkling with mischief and he demanded, “Now how many people know?”

    That was how it began. Rinpoché bestowed the ambitious name of “The International Buddhist Translation Committee” (Dragyur Dzamling Kunkhyab) and sought to gather translators, scholars, and meditation masters of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions to work together. Luckily, he was talked down from the original idea of translating the Buddhist Canon, and chose instead the masterpiece by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, The Treasury of Knowledge.

    Hardly less daunting, it has taken many translators many years to begin to present an approximation of this great work. It started in Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, with three-month translation conferences in 1987 and again in 1988. After that, Rinpoché decided to have the work continue throughout the year at his monastery in Sonada, Darjeeling. There, people were to “translate during the day and meditate on the nature of mind at night.”

    After some years only the hardiest remained, eventually producing the first three books in the series. Kalu Rinpoché passed away in 1989 without seeing the fulfillment of his wish, just as he had warned on many, many occasions. Now the time frame seemed to stretch infi nitely into the future, and most of us had other lives to lead in order to survive. Then Kalu Rinpoché’s worthy lineage successor, Bokar Rinpoché, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodrö, took up the cause. He hesitated to change Kalu Rinpoché’s game plan in any way, but the urgency called for practicality.

    At a gathering in his monastery in Mirik, on the occasion of conferring the Shangpa Kagyu transmissions at the request of the young incarnation of Kalu Rinpoché, Bokar Rinpoché urged the translators to complete this work that had been so dear to his guru. He feared that at this rate it might not even be completed within the lifetimes of the very translators to whom it had been entrusted by Kalu Rinpoché.

    With the generous and timely support of the Tsadra Foundation, a new phase of work began, with individual translators working on individual sections of the Treasury in their own homes and with all the amenities (such as electricity). Now with new direction, the remaining sections have been adopted by able translators and are well under way.

    With Bokar Rinpoché all but insisting, and dear friends at Tsadra Foundation pointedly encouraging, I rejoined the Treasury project after many years of other work. Of the available sections, I chose the fourth part of Book Eight in the meditation section: the esoteric instructions of the eight (and counting) practice lineages of Tibet. For obvious reasons I thought this would be the most interesting and exciting. It serves me right, succumbing to the lure of the mystical. It might as well have been the Buddhist canon.

    It was too easy to underestimate how much information Jamgön Kongtrul could pack into 189 pages, and to underestimate the depth and breadth of these esoteric practices. In truth, each of the sections in this current book deserves a separate treatment by a scholar-practitioner specialized in the particular lineage, with years of practice and study behind her. To accurately portray all the practice traditions in a way that does justice to Kongtrul’s presentation of them has stretched my abilities to the limit, though being thus stretched, I feel tremendously enriched and further enraptured. In any case, it was with the help and support of many others that I can now off er this eff ort, with the hopes that it will at least be a glimpse into the awesome inner world of these ancient traditions.

  • A Readers Guide to the Sakya Master Chogyal Phakpa

    Chogyal Phagpa

    Drogon Chogyal Phagpa, better known to the world as Chogyal Phagpa (or Phakpa) is one of the five great founding masters from the Sakya tradition in Tibet. This 13th century master was the nephew of Sakya Pandita.

    Before going into the various resources in print and online, included below is his biography of Lama Migmar Tseten's Treasures of the Sakya Lineage.

    "Drogon Chogyal Phagpa was born amid excellent signs to Sakya Pandita’s younger brother, Zangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen (1184‒1239), and his wife, Machig Kunkyi, during the wood female sheep year, when his father was fifty-two years old. He recalled his past lives as Saton Riwa, Langriwa, and others.Chogyal Phagpa was taught the Saroruhavajra sadhana when he was three, and the Jatakas when he was eight; when he was nine, Sakya Pandita taught him the Hevajra-tantra. To everyone’s amazement, Phagpa gave an explanation of The Advice for Gathering Accumulations (Sambharaparikatha) by master Vasubandhu that same year, and the pride of scholars was diminished when they heard this explanation from a child. Thinking that an ordinary person could not have such wisdom, they considered him to be an Arya. Thus, he became known to all as Phagpa, which means “Arya.”

    At nine he traveled north to attend Sakya Pandita. While in Lhasa, Chogyal Phagpa received novice ordination in front of the Jowo statue, and in Kyormo Lung, he received the Getsul vow from Sherab Pal.

    He spent all his time attending Sakya Pandita during his travels and residence in China, until at seventeen Chogyal Phagpa left for Mongolia. Sakya Pandita was very pleased with him for having mastered the outer teachings and the inner Vajrayana teachings, and gave him a white conch to proclaim the Dharma and a begging bowl. Having entrusted his students to him, the master said, “The time has come for you to teach, to benefit many sentient beings, and to recall your promise.” Then Sakya Pandita passed away, having accomplished all he had intended to do.

    Having been invited by the Mongolian Khan, Phagpa established the Khan’s faith by performing miracles, such as showing each of the five Buddha families separately by cutting open the five limbs of his body with a sharp sword. Beginning with the Khan, Chogyal Phagpa bestowed the empowerment of Hevajra on twenty-five disciples and brought Vajrayana to the kingdom of Mongolia. The Khan gave Chogyal Phagpa the title of Tishri and thirteen surrounding regions of Tibet as his offering for the empowerment.

    At twenty-one, Chogyal Phagpa received full ordination on the border of China and Mongolia from the abbot of Nyethang, Dragpa Senge; the master of ceremonies was Jodan Sonam Gyaltsen. Phagpa received teachings on Abhisamayalankara and other texts from the abbot and on Vinaya from the master of ceremonies.

    Two years later, he accepted an invitation to the five-peaked mountain and received many teachings on Yamari from Tong Ton. After that, he returned to the Khan’s palace, and when a Dharma assembly was convened, he defeated twenty-three Chinese teachers in debates and showed them correct view.

    When he was thirty, he returned to the seat of Sakya, having been absent from Tibet since he was nine. He gave many teachings there; he also received many teachings on the outer and inner sciences and an ocean of transmissions and instructions from Nyan Wod Srung, the siddha Yontan Pal, Chim Namkhai Drag, Tsog Gom Kunga Pal, Lowo Lotsawa, Chiwo Lheypa Jowo Sey, and others.

    After this, he was again summoned to China by the Khan and arrived there when he was thirty-three. He appointed thirteen positions to manage different responsibilities and was offered the rest of the three provinces of Tibet as an offering for empowerments.

    At forty-two, having been in China the second time for nine years, he returned to Sakya. He taught a large Dharma festival and used all of his wealth for this event, holding nothing back. He established the basis for a Dharma college and built shrines for the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas. He gave donations to all the poor people of the region and demonstrated only positive activities toward sentient beings. He spread the Dharma to Tibet, China, and Mongolia; ordained 450,000 novices and fully ordained monks; and bestowed Vajrayana empowerments on people of fourteen different languages. Moreover, he established countless disciples in ripening and liberation through the blessings of transmission and instruction. He gave commentaries on sutras, treatises, and the stages of practice in Hinayana and Mahayana; answered questions; and wrote many texts that are easy to understand.

    In the early morning of the eleventh month of the iron male dragon year, when he was forty-six, having endeavored greatly to benefit others, Chogyal Phagpa sat cross-legged, holding his vajra and bell. He crossed his arms, and amid sounds, amazing scents, and a shower of flowers, he passed away.

    Chogyal Phagpa was the last of the five founding masters of the Sakya school. Thanks to his efforts, the school ruled Tibet for close to a century; expanded widely; and became the country’s dominant institution of learning for the next two hundred years, producing the most famous scholars in Tibetan history, such as Buton, Dolbuwa, Longchenpa, Rendawa, Tagtsang Lotsawa, Tsongkhapa and his two chief disciples, Rongton, Dagpo Tashi Namgyal, Gorampa, and Shakya Chogden.

    Of the five masters, Sachen was considered to be the emanation of Avalokiteshvara; Lopon Rinpoche, Jetsun Rinpoche, and Sapan were regarded as emanations of Manjushri; and Chogyal Phagpa was considered to be an emanation of Vajrapani."


    A shorter but complementary biography appears in Ringu Tulku's The Ri-Me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great.

    In addition to the main biography above, Treasures of the Sakya Lineage. contains a translation of his short piece of advice, The Gift of the Dharma to Kublai Khan. This text encapsulates all the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings of the Buddha. It begins with a discussion of civil law and then goes to a discussion of Dharma, covering all the topics of the four tenet systems, as well as the ground, path, and fruit, and ends with a brief discussion of the three kayas.

    In the Nyingma tradition he continues to be revered as a previous birth of Dudjom Rinpoche. The previous Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, includes him in the famous Pearl Necklace prayer, a supplication he was asked to compose to his thread of previous lives, that appear in Wisdom Nectar. This is also related, along with a shorty biography, in the Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom, the biography of Dudjom RInpoche by Khenpo Tswang Dongyal.

    Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in his masterpiece of the Teacher-Disciple relationship, The Guru Drinks Bourbon, recounts this story:

    "There is a folktale of a Chinese emperor who never managed to receive proper teachings from Sakya Pandita because he was testing Sakya Pandita again and again. Even though Sakya Pandita proved to be a great master, the emperor’s skeptical habit was ceaseless. Eventually the intended guru, Sakya Pandita, died, and they say that because of this, the people of the Yuan dynasty had to receive the teachings from Sakya Pandita’s nephew, Drogon Chogyal Phakpa.

    If you are genuinely seeking the truth, you have to come to a conclusion at some point. Otherwise, like the Chinese emperor, you’ll end up wasting your time. If you keep on analyzing somebody, you will always find faults."

    An example of the Nepalese influence on Chinese art that Chogyal Phagpa introduced to the court in China. From The Art of Buddhism.

    Chogyal Phagpa's legacy extends into the artistic realm as well. The Art of Buddhism tells how he invited the Nepalese artist Aniga along with a group of others to Beijing where they profoundly influenced Chinese Buddhist art from then on.

    There are a couple other excellent resources we should mention.

    The first is the biography on the Treasury of Lives site.

    The other is The Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism by Dhongtong RInpoche, published by Wisdom.

     

  • The Most Popular Posts from the Yoga for Healthy Aging Blog

    by Nina Zolotow, author of Yoga for Healthy Aging

    Because the sixth anniversary of the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog is coming up next week, I thought I’d check to see what our nine most popular—or at least most viewed—posts were over all time. (Nine seems like a random number but for some reason that’s the number the Blogger uses.) Here are the results!

    I don’t know about you but I’m always surprised when I look at this list. Some of it surely has to do with how people search for “yoga and xxxx” when they are surfing the web, but I think it also has to do with shares on Facebook.

    In case you’re interested in checking any of these posts out (some are quite old and you may have missed some), I'll tell you a bit about each one and provide a link to the post.

    1. In New Tricks for Old Dogs: Working with Bunions, Baxter shared both Donald Moyer’s and JJ Gormley’s techniques for working with bunions as well as giving some own advice. Fun photos taken by Nina include one of Baxter's feet with a can of beans and a rubber band.
    2. In How Yoga Helps with Pain, I provided an overview of the three different ways you can use yoga to help reduce pain and/or eliminate it entirely: asanas, breath work, and relaxation. If this is a topic that interests you, I also wrote Yoga for Pain Management: The Big Picture, which provides an overview of all the posts we have on pain on the blog.
    3. In Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis: Proof of the Benefits!, Ram provided background information about MS and then discussed several research studies that "discuss the benefits and potential role of yoga as an alternative treatment of symptom management for individuals with MS and describe how yoga can improve the patients’ quality of life."
    4. In Plank Pose vs. Sit-Ups for Core Strength, I wrote about how the US military are replacing sit-ups with Plank pose (the forearm version), even going so far as to say that sit-ups are “an antiquity of exercise best left in the dustbin of fitness history.”
    5. In Featured Pose: Legs Up the Wall Pose, Baxter provided detailed instructions for practicing four different versions of Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani). I'm pleased this is our most popular pose description because it’s absolutely invaluable for stress management as well as for improving your circulation.
    6. In Yoga Helps Both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis, I reported on a study that showed that eight weeks of yoga classes and home practice was associated with “clinically significant improvements in physical and mental health, fitness, psychological function, and HRQOL, with no adverse outcomes.” Although the study is not available to the public, I was able to get my hands on it, providing information about the type of yoga used for the study.
    7. In Two New Studies on Yoga and Parkinson’s Disease, I reported on two studies that concluded that yoga provided “an alternative method” both for treating reversible symptoms that affect physical functioning and for improving psychological well-being in people with PD.
    8. In Practice As Many As You Can: T. Krishnamacharya’s Yoga, I discussed the history of modern yoga and how in the 20th century T. Krishnamacharya developed many of the yoga poses we practice today. I wrote this in the hopes of encouraging people to practice at home without worrying too much about doing it “right” and recommended getting started by following Krishnamacharya’s advice to “Practice as many as you can.” 
    9. In Arthritis of the Hip Joint, Baxter and I described in detail exactly what arthritis of the hip joint is and provided recommendations for how to get started adding yoga to your healing regimen.

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    Nina Zolotow is editor-in-chief of the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog. She is a yoga writer, certified yoga teacher, and longtime yoga practitioner. Her special area of expertise is yoga for emotional well-being (including yoga for stress, insomnia, depression, and anxiety). She completed the three-year teacher training program at The Yoga Room in Berkeley, CA, has studied yoga therapy with Shari Ser and Bonnie Maeda, and is especially influenced by the teachings of Donald Moyer. She has studied extensively with Rodney Yee and is inspired by the teachings of Patricia Walden on yoga for emotional healing. She teaches workshops and series classes on yoga for emotional well-being, yoga for stress, yoga for better sleep, home practice, and cultivating equanimity. Nina is the coauthor, with Rodney Yee, of two books on yoga: Yoga: The Poetry of the Body and Moving toward Balance.

  • The Boy without a Name or The Boy Who Lives by Himself | An Unfinished Story by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

    The Boy without a Name or The Boy Who Lives by Himself is an unfinished story written by Chögyam Trungpa at an unknown date.

    We would like to invite you to read what Chögyam Trungpa wrote and write your own ending to the story. You can post your writing in the comments below.

    I am the boy who lives by himself. I don’t do anything in particular, I just live—that’s the way I am. I spend my life playing and I make up my own toys. I have no one to play with. The sort of things that interest me are stones and rivers and trees and clouds. Since long ago I have had no parents or brothers and sisters, so I just live alone. Sometimes I want to do like the grown-ups, but then I realize there’s no point in that. I have my own world to live in, and I’m known as “the boy who lives by himself.”

    When I was born, no one gave me a name. Perhaps my parents did give me a name, but somehow it never entered my mind. So I remain nameless. Grown-ups like giving each other names. And they like inventing names for objects as well, without stopping to consider whether the name really fits the thing or not. They learn these names by heart and write them down.

    Once a friend of mine was given a name by his father and a different name by his mother. His father’s friends called him by one name and his mother’s friends called him by the other, and this rather confused him. As a result, he wasn’t quite sure which was his real self. This bothered him for a long time, until one day I suggested to him that he should be nameless like me. At first he didn’t like the idea. He said, “If I didn’t have a name, how would I know who I am?”

    I found it difficult to explain to him in words, so I just said, “Well, why don’t you give it a try and see what it’s like?” So he did. But this upset his parents very much, because he no longer answered to the names they had given him.

    Now he was able to see what his nameless self was really like, and he became like a tiger who had broken his chain.

    I don’t really have a home, and I never spend more than ten days in one place. Originally, I came from East Tibet, then I traveled westward to the lands of Lho and Mon. Grown-ups tend to stay in the same place for a long time, and when they do travel, they’re so busy they never have time to look at the valleys and mountains around them. They don’t even notice the interesting stones on the road, or the flowers, but just trample over them. Of course they never have time to play and all they talk about is how many silver coins they’ve got and how many yaks their neighbour has. If you ask them to tell you about Lhasa, they only know about the big shops in the Barko Market and things like that. They don’t seem to know about the birds’ nests under the edge of the roofs and the millions of insects that live in the city—beside themselves. So the only way I can see them is by going there myself.

    Tibet is such a beautiful country and each part of it has its own particular quality. There are lots of mountains and lakes and trees and things. There are so many things to see that my journey may take me a hundred years. The grown-ups race and fight against time, but for me time is a friend, and I have no need to hurry.

    Today is the first day of my journey, so here I am, playing in the road. I’ve only traveled fifty yards or so, but it would take the grown-ups ten years to learn what I’ve learned in this one day. When I looked up and saw the snow-mountain on the other side of the river, I composed the following song:

    O pillar of the sky, you high-peaked mountain of Tibet,
    You’re surrounded by hills with flowering shrubs and many kinds of herbs,
    But your all-aloneness and your stillness still show through
    As you wrap your peaceful cloud around your neck.

    The peak of this mountain pierces the sky, and his snowcap glitters in the sun. The clouds move slowly across his shoulders, and when you see him, it’s as though you see the whole of Tibet in one glance. I spent the whole morning looking at the mountain, but it’s impossible to understand it all. Sometimes he seems to be smiling in the brilliant sunlight, and sometimes he stands solemn and aloof while snowstorms rage around him. Occasionally, he shows himself in all simplicity, without adornments, and at times like those one sees him directly and feels very close to him. His stillness and dignity are always there and remain untouched by the changing seasons. The days and months of the year don’t really affect him. This mountain seems to have a kind and compassionate nature, as he allows all kinds of birds and animals to live on him and to feed off his body. But I felt I should know more about him, so I stopped to ask a magpie who was perching on a rock.

    “Tashi delly,” I said. (That’s how we greet people in Tibet.)
    “Tashi delly,” said the magpie in a rather suspicious tone of voice.
    “I wonder if you’d be very kind,” said I, “and answer some questions for me.”
    “I haven’t time to waste on chattering with you,” said the magpie, I’m busy looking for food. And in any case you humans are usually full of trickery and you might be planning to kill me.”

    [The story ended here, clearly unfinished.]

  • Meditation on the Third Eye

    by Tias Little, author of Yoga of the Subtle Body

    Meditation on the third-eye center is one of the most classic of all techniques in subtle body training. I have been revisiting the potency of this practice and wanted to share a few thoughts.

    The bridge of the nose is called the Nasya Mula, or Root of the Nose. There is a marma point in Ayurveda associated with this location in the region between your eyebrows. Look at an anatomy book to get a better sense of this juncture. It is where the frontal bone and the nasal bones come together.

    The uppermost cheekbone (Zygoma) inserts into this same junction. Always keep cheekbones wide and spacious! There is movement at this cranial suture. See if you can sense this juncture in your sitting practice.

    The upper nostril and the third eye are closely linked. The Olfactory Nerve (Cranial Nerve Numero Uno) connects to the uppermost “ceiling” of the nostril area. So when doing pranayama, the upper nasal passage should be light and the breath should move back along the upper nasal passage.

    The Olfactory sense is the primary sensory organ. Think of the extended nasal bones of a deer or dog. The sense of smell is related to the element of earth and the muladhara chakra. Thus, there is a connection between the Root of the Nose and the Root of the Spine.

    Meditation on the third-eye center takes you straight into the central channel, Sushumna Nadi. In sitting practice, sense the way this area dilates. You might even sense a super subtle vibration—a pulse at the top of the bridge of your nose.

    Sense connection from this place on your forehead back to the center of your brain. Be sure to let your eyes soften and move them gently downward.

    Related Books

    Tias Little synthesizes years of study in classical yoga, Sanskrit, Buddhism, anatomy, massage, and trauma healing in his dynamic, original style of teaching. One of the foremost yoga instructors in North America, he offers intensives at all major yoga conferences and institutes, including the Yoga Journal conferences, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Esalen Institute, and Omega Institute. Tias began studying the work of B. K. S. Iyengar in 1984 and in 1989 moved to Mysore, India, where he studied Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

    A licensed massage therapist, Tias has in-depth training in craniosacral therapy. His practice and teaching is influenced by the work of Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Thomas Hanna. He earned a master’s degree in Eastern philosophy from St. John’s College in Santa Fe in 1998.

    In addition, Tias is the founder of the Prajna Yoga school in Santa Fe, where he hosts retreats, workshops, and teacher-training programs year-round with his wife, Surya. He also offers online classes through YogaGlo and teaches internationally.

  • Breathing Practice

    by Tias Little, author of Yoga of the Subtle Body

    More than anything it is important to come to know the quality of our own breath. In the beginning, I used to strive to expand my breath in the same way I actively stretched in a yoga posture. But I have learned that it is important, imperative really, not to “push the river of your breath.” Rather, it is best to follow the current of your breath—that is to sense its rhythm, texture, and nuance.

    Avoid trying to manipulate your breath like you would your hip joint in half moon pose! Sometimes we try to “colonize” our breath and become the master of it. I think it is better to watch, wait, and listen. I like to say, “let the breath breathe you.”

    I think the more we can observe the changes in our breath while inviting our breath to open, the more we can open without causing harm. Have the intention to come to know your breath intimately—that is, take great care.

    Deep internal breath work is like holding a small child. Visualize “cradling” your breath so that it will spontaneously soften and spread. Yogic breathing is a super delicate dance that involves actively moving your breath while passively receiving its flow.

    Related Books

    Tias Little synthesizes years of study in classical yoga, Sanskrit, Buddhism, anatomy, massage, and trauma healing in his dynamic, original style of teaching. One of the foremost yoga instructors in North America, he offers intensives at all major yoga conferences and institutes, including the Yoga Journal conferences, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Esalen Institute, and Omega Institute. Tias began studying the work of B. K. S. Iyengar in 1984 and in 1989 moved to Mysore, India, where he studied Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

    A licensed massage therapist, Tias has in-depth training in craniosacral therapy. His practice and teaching is influenced by the work of Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Thomas Hanna. He earned a master’s degree in Eastern philosophy from St. John’s College in Santa Fe in 1998.

    In addition, Tias is the founder of the Prajna Yoga school in Santa Fe, where he hosts retreats, workshops, and teacher-training programs year-round with his wife, Surya. He also offers online classes through YogaGlo and teaches internationally.

  • Readers’ Picks

    In thinking about year-end gifts, we want to share what YOU have to say.

    Below are some lovely quotations from readers on their favorite Shambhala books.

    Do you have one to add? Please comment at the bottom!

    “This book showed me a different way, a way to devote discipline of both my body and mind.”

    —Clint

    “As a therapist, I recommend this to anyone seeking permanent life change realistically.”

    —Paul

    “If there is one book in my collection that I could give away to everyone, it would be this book.”

    —Michael

    “This book changed my life as a writer, a teacher of writing, and as an individual!”

    —Laurie

    “This is a foundational book for anyone interested in delving deeper into the richness of martial arts philosophy.”

    —Shane

    “This book set me on a path of healing that has continued to the present day.”

    —Miv

    “This is, plain and simply, an astonishing book.”

    —Michael

    “Pure, melodic, poetic, this book should be one of the first ones on the list for every serious reader.”

    —Pawan

    “Every time I read Tao Te Ching, the book feels new again, fresh, as if only just discovered.”

    —Robin

    “Makes you really appreciate the ideas of strength and courage and the power of emotions and desire in overcoming any obstacle you face.”

    —Eman

    “There is playfulness and joy on every page of this book, with a unique tone that has a distinctive voice and is full of heart.”

    —Caspericus

    “You will smile, cry, and be moved by the writings of a master storyteller.”

    —Bruce

    “Filled with beautiful photos, delightful recipes, and creative picnic themes, each page gives inspiration to get outdoors!”

    —Carly

    “This one hits the sweet spot for our busy lives with wonderful recipes of vegetarian dinners!”

    —Alice

    “Kino will motivate you to stick to the practice and walk the yogi path.”

    —Julie

    “A remarkable vision and an inspiring perspective of the challenges and opportunities in the chaotic, divisive, and evolving global cultures.”

    —John

    “I think this is a great way for beginners to get started in mindfulness without feeling overwhelmed.”

    —D.

    “Brilliant. Life-changing. Psycho-active. Very enlightening.”

    —Mariëlle

    “Beautiful artwork that is cohesive and inspiring, high-quality construction, and an informative and well-written manual.”

    —Rachel

    “Beautiful blend of memoir, cookbook, and reflections on living a thoughtful, food-enhanced life.”

    —Kirsten

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