Monday, October 28, 2019

Another Vagus Strengthener


Another Vagus strengthener

Here’s the gist of the exercise:

Inhale: Hold after Inhale : Exhale: Hold after Exhale

Here’s the exercise:

Begin with this ratio: 6:0:6:0 (inhale 6: no retention: exhale of 6: no retention.) Repeat the process 4 or 5 times until your lungs become accustomed o being under control.

Then try this ratio: 6:0:8:0 – (repeat until it becomes easy, or, 4 or 5 times.)

End with: 6:0:8:2 (which means you hold the breath for 2 seconds after the retention)

Then just sit with your eyes closed and feel whatever comes up for you.

Try not to overdo it. Remember: you have the rest of your life to get it under control.

Later on in the day, repeat the exercise, and, if you feel comfortable and want to go on,  can increase the time you retain the breath on empty lungs like this: 4. 6:0:8:4.

If that feels comfortable for you, continue for 4 or 5 minutes.  Stop and take a look at how you feel.

Repeat.

Finished!

Whenever you end any pranayama exercise, sit in silence for a few minutes until your normal breathing pattern returns.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lengthen the exhale




Breath is life. Without it, the body would disappear down the drain faster than a breakfast of muesli and coffee. It’s possible to live for weeks without food, less without water, but only minutes without your breath. (Unless you’re a yoga master, whereupon you probably won’t be reading this blog but eating muesli in the Himalayas.)


How you breathe is often a reflection of the way your life is running at any given moment.


A full and gracious inhale images our ability to open our arms to what life has to presents us.


A smooth and extended exhale mirrors, not just our ability to pass on the bountiful gifts life has given us, experiential proof that letting go is the secret to an effortless and bountiful existence.


As Sam’s Son has often told us: Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.


Same with the breath: Make the effort to completely clear yourself of all the air in your lungs and watch how effortless the inhale becomes. Visual proof: when you drop a rubber ball, it dribbles, rolls, and comes to a stop. On the other hand, smash it against the hard floor with all your might and it springs effortlessly in the other direction, proving a very valuable insight into the cosmic law of giving to receive.


Kid yourself not. There is a definite correlation between the way you breathe and the way you’re living your life. Both in a positive and a negative sense. Is it surprising to see that Paul Bunyan has a chest like a keg of beer, or that the cross-legged, nail-biting, conspiracy theoretic living in the cellar of his mother’s house smokes 300 cigarettes a day?


Short fast breathing bordering on hyperventilation (sympathetic response or the fight or flight reaction to a threatful situation) is a sure sign of stress, and you know where that leads. Deep relaxed breathing (parasympathetic activation: the rest response that occurs when we feel free of threat or danger) is the best way to out bodies and minds back into harmony. Both have their roots on opposite sides of the Vagus nerve.


Research has found that slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and increases healthy vagal tone.


That being said, I think it’s definitely time for us to start learning to breathe out; difficult in today’s society where everyone seems so intent on amassing great wealth, scared to give anything away less they be deemed a dupe. Time to recall it is truly better to give than receive because in the giving we open ourselves to effortless reception of what the Universe has to offer. 


I like to remind my yoga students that much of what happens on the yoga mat serves as splendid metaphors for what goes on in our lives off the mat. Our breathing patterns are the perfect example.

Beginners find it hard to focus on their breath for more than a couple of seconds. Not surprisingly in today’s society where most individuals have an attention span shorter than a goldfish. A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds today. (Probably why only 3 people have come this far in the article! :-))  In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.


Again, the secret to a life with less stress, less anxiety, depression, bought of feistiness in old age, etc., lies in our ability to let go which we can improve by learning to breathe out.


A simple yogic breathing exercise:

Lie or sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Watch your breath for a minute or so until it evens out. Then: inhale for three seconds and exhale for five or six until your out-breath is double so long as the in-breath. Continue for five to ten minutes. In time, up the ratio to 4/8, four in and 8 out, counting ever slower as your skill increases.
This has an incredibly calming effect on your parasympathetic nervous system.





Friday, October 18, 2019

Vagus


The Vagus Nerve


Hard to believe I’ve been rummaging around the body for so long and never busied myself with this fascinating nerve.



I’d heard about it, though, but the name turned me off, somehow. Vagus. How uninspiring. Although it is spelled the same in many different languages, it’s pronounced differently. The American side of my brain first thought it had to do with some gambling affliction, pronounced, as it is, like the word Vegas. After my move to Europe and saturated with a totally different way of pronouncing things, I thought it imagined it had something to do with a woman’s genitals. 
  

The fact is, it is a wandering nerve, (the name having the same root as the word, ‘vagabond’),  and has its origins in the heart.


My interest was piqued when I chanced upon an article that claimed that by stimulating the vagus nerve could drastically reduce inflammation in the entire body and allay the symptoms of arthritis.


Although I feel often enflamed, I have no telltale symptoms of arthritis. Nevertheless, I thought it might be a good read and supply some valuable info for the blog.


I was right!


After further research, I was astounded to find that by stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing its tone one is able to treat a wide variety of brain and mental health conditions, including: anxiety, Alzheimer's, migraines, depression, tinnitus, alcoholism, autism, anorexia, personality disorders, addictive behavior, failing memory, bouts of festiness in old age, MS, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Wow! Stimulating the Vagus could be the missing key to keeping the body forever young! I’m thrilled to inform you we are definitely into something wonderful here.


Studying a few of the techniques of how to get this particular nerve into working order, I was, alas, a bit disappointed as I realized I had been doing one of the most important exercises for the past 50 years in my yoga practice and probably won’t be up for any real changes. But who knows? Perhaps my myriad of personality disorders might disappear.


But not everyone has had the good fortune to have such an intimate relationship with Hatha Yoga so, for those who are interested in arresting or banishing any of the aforementioned symptoms, I will be describing the technique within the next few days, so, stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sam and Sam's Son


Hoorah! The decision has been made. Henceforth, I shall be referring to the Big Guy in the Sky as Sam, (pronounced: sahm), a simple joining of the Sanskrit words So Ham: which means I AM, but doesn't sound nearly so stalwart. (The alternative was Al, short for Almighty, All-encompassing, Almen, or Al Mundy, but the name Al conjures up too many pictures of a used car salesman.) (In my opinion, anyway).


I wanted to call Sam’s Son 'Prince Charming,' but too many women (and not just a few men) might want to meet Him for the wrong purpose if I used that name, therefore I am calling Him: Yeshua. I asked Him and that was the answer He gave.



And, just why is this ‘new name’ stuff so important to me?


First off, so I could get rid of all the clutter and shudder the old names have gathered over the years.


Another reason, (and a very important one), is because I need to remember I did not create my Self; my small self, yes, but not my big Self. Sam did; that Power which is over me and in me, but not of me.

Ever since the New Age mongers told me I created my own self, I’ve felt more than anxious. If I could create me, I asked myself, it followed that I could also destroy me. Not a nice thought for someone who has fucked up so many thing since the time he was born. Thus, the idea my eternal existence was in my own hands had me screaming and cursing at my friends and acquaintances every chance I got. Either that or caused me to revert to socially approved drugs. Both, not a good idea.

Sam’s Son cleared this up for me, telling me it was only my small, ego-self I could create, not my eternal, indestructible Self.


Another thing. Before the advent of Sam and Yeshua, I felt Jesus and God were always looking over my shoulder when I was engaged in some nasty activity, i.e., fantasizing about sex or surfing the porn channels on the internet. This is no longer the case. Au contraire. Sometimes I even feel Sam and Son are encouraging this shady behavior because They know: naughtiness is a byproduct of guilt and, as we all know, sex without guilt is boring. And boring doesn’t make happy. Sam and Sam’s Son know: the fastest way to break a bad habit is not by abstaining but by doing it until you O.D.; i.e. until it doesn’t bring you happiness anymore. Granted, with this line of reasoning it might take lifetimes to clean up your act, but that’s where reincarnation comes in handy. We’ve now have all the time in the world!


Another thing I have to remind myself about is, I don't have to find my way Home by myself. Sam knows, I’ve tried and failed miserably. I no know I am in the company of One who has already made the journey and knows the road better than I do and is all too willing to guide me. And, Yeshua is more up to date about my needs and purposes than JC of old who hung out with fishermen and tax collectors. With Yeshua, I feel like I have acquired a straight boyfriend, someone I can rely on when the going gets rough, someone who really loves me, who doesn't judge me, who would never think about sleeping with me.


Last but not least: Have you ever notices the older you get the lonelier you tend to feel? It makes sense. You spend your entire life honing your circle of friends down to the point where only two remain: you and your mother, who, incidentally, isn’t alive anymore. The circle has morphed into a dot... a very small dot... way outside of the circle. Not that we no longer feel ti be a part of the whole, we wither away with anxiety.


Being a pariah from birth, this realization came a bit earlier to me than to most. I learned at a very early age that isolation, the feeling that feeling of being separated from the tribe, is the base of almost every anxiety that goes boom in the night. Coming up now up against the last few laps of the Marathon of life, you realize: I'm born alone and Idie alone. How anxiety-ridden is that for a thought?
So, if for no other reason than one's own sanity, the idea there is a Higher Self is essential in this journey from womb to tomb.



At first, this name changing stuff felt a bit sacrilegious to me until I asked myself, ‘Is it the name that is holy of the thing it represents?” After all, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet. (Unless it’s one of those new hybrids that don’t have any smell at all.)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Still looking for a new name for God.


The task of finding a new name for the Almighty is more daunting than I first imagined. Added to that, I realized His image isn’t that much better.





Not only does the name God bring up all the bloody atrocities committed in His Name, it also has too many sharp edges and blunt sides when you say it. The name ‘God’ has been too saturated with blood, cruelty, and rough consonants to conjure up the images of Peace I need when I close my eyes and meditate. That soft-breeze flow across your agitated mind I expect to find when uttering the Name of the Most Divine is totally absent. 


After posting yesterday’s article, I reviewed, once again, alternatives. 


The name, ‘I AM,’ lost it, I’m sad to say. After all, it’s English, and just because it’s the preferred language throughout the world, doesn’t mean it’s the best sound for the Name of the Almighty. Also, before you know it, someone would contract it into “I’M” and started a whole new religion. And, a new belief system is not the purpose of this search. We already have too many of those.


So, once again, the names from yesterday and a few more to boot.


French: "Dieu" is poetic but toodifficult for a lot of people to get the tongues around. 


Spanish: "Dios," sounds kind of cheap, (but I think that has more to do with my programming, as I was raised on the border to Tijuana and was unmercifully bullied as a kid by the Mexican immigrants).  


The Italian "Dio!" starts out just as blunt as the previous two but it remained, nevertheless,  the name of choice a lot longer than the others. Then, I remembered how the Italians use the name of Dio in vain even more than the Americans. Bad enough to use the term, ‘Gawdammit,’ when the toilet overflows, but and often so abstract you can’t even understand the connotation. Two phrases come to mind: ‘Porco Dio!, (Pig-God) or ‘Dio Cane!’ (God-dog) when someone cuts you off in traffic? I just don’t get the connection.


So, I continued my search.


Back in the 90s, "Brahman," was my Name of choice. That stuck until the word ‘yoga’ began leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, when yoga mats started selling at over 100 dollars and yoga pants even more, no matter how pleasant the sound, I realized Brahman no longer served purpose.


I also considered using the word "Om," as a name to conjure up His glory. Then I realized that "Om" is sound, not a name for the Almighty. Same thing with "Peace, Love, and Bliss." Qualitative, but only symbols of the real McCoy. 


Other names for God and their denominations that went through my mind:


As I said earlier, "Yahweh," was a pretty good alternative for a time with it's open vowel sounds and lack of hard consonants. But then I remembered Yahweh was the name of the deity who killed all those first-born sons back in Egypt! That atrocity alone killed the image. 


‘Allah’ was a nice alternative to Yawah, sounding enough alike you’d think They were brothers.  It also has a lot of that "AH" sound, which really tends to open up the heart area. Alas: Allah has gotten such a bad rap ever since 9/11 that it's going to take years to get the dirt cleared off those syllables. Another thing about Allah: He’s never had his portrait done. The closest I’ve is an Arabic scribble that is just a little too abstract for my tastes. I understand the intention behind this, (graven images, etc.),  but, let's face it,  humans need something visual to bow down to. 


 ‘Baha’ from the Baha'I faith. Alas, my Southern California upbringing brought up too many images of Silver Stream trailers and cheap, fish tacos just south of the border.


El, from the Hebrew. Too, too macho, amigo.

Elohim  - Mormon. Too cute and cuddly, somehow. I need a father figure, not a little brother.


So, where does this leave me? 


I need a name, a sound the provokes an image full of love and beauty and no jewelry. This word should conjure up pictures of a clean-shaven, heavenly Father with a countenance that draws me back into His loving arms, not something that pushes me in the other direction. 


Pim? Alois?


I have to admit, I'm stuck. 


Next Week's Topic: We also need a new name for Jesus Christ! Again: it's the sound it makes when it comes out of your mouth,  made even harsher by the yogis who scream it out every time they fail at some new yoga pose.



    






Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I am


The Name of the most High




I think one of the main reasons for atheism in the western world at this time has to do with God’s name.

In my opinion, the word, “God,” is too hard, too short, and too butch.  

Americans bitch and moan at the guttural sounds of the Germanic languages, claim everyone sounds like they’re coughing up phlegm when they’re saying even the most tender of endearments like, “I love you!” “(Ich liebe dich,” (German), “ Ik hou van jou,” (Dutch). or “Jag √§lskar dig,” (Swedish). I agree. All those uvulars and pharyngeals should be saved for swearing, not for serenading.

And yet, we’ve reduced Infinite Spirit, Supreme Being, the Big Guy in the sky to Gott, God, Gud, have made the tone of His name sound like an ice-cold fist in the face when He’s invoked.

Brahman.

 Don’t you just love what your lips do when calling up the ultimate of Hindu gods? A two-syllable sigh filled with soft ‘ah’s, curvy and seductive B’s and M's.  

Allah.

Notice how the name opens your throat, softens your tongue, and quiets your mind.

Even the Hebrew name of God, “Yahweh,” or, “Elohim,” correctly pronounced, leads you through cool pastures and quickens your soul when you utter it.

But, “God?” A little too close to “Claude” to get me feeling religious when I say it in prayer.

And the romantic big three: “Dieu,” “Dio,” “Dios.” So much more romantic than God, even when you’re using His name in vain, which the French, Italian, and Spanish often do. Still, if I were the Almighty, I’d find it a lot easier to forgive them than their Northern cousins when they say it. Wouldn’t you?

Actually, I think the best way to invoke the Infinite Spirit is by heeding the sound of your breath, saying nothing at all. This is probably why the early Hebrews were forbidden to utter His name; not out of fear of getting a cold fist in their faces, but because they instinctively knew that giving Him a name would reduce what He is to something He is not.

My favorite name for the Divine Don, comes from the Bible, in the book of Exodus:

“And Moses said to the Almighty One, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The Creator of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

The most Holy of Holies said to Moses, 
I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.'"

I am.

Sounds nice in any language, right?

Except for German, Dutch, and Swedish.
"I am what I am and that's all that I am, I'm Popeye the sailor man!"



(Who'd have ever thought he knew it?)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Look up



Ever notice how looking down tends to dampen your spirits? Unless, of course, you’re looking at a head of hair between your legs. Otherwise, studies have shown that a hanging head is a harbinger for depression. ;-)


Look up and laugh and live.



I put this wisdom into practice last winter, determined to hold my head high during those dark months preceding the spring. As the days waned, my head hung lower. Every attempt to raise it lasted 30 seconds, after which my eyes fell again to the tip of my shoes, to the Icey gray pavement in front of me.


Et, Voil√†. The proof of the theory. A hanging head deepens depression. But questions remained. Were my eyes on the ground because depression was lurking in the shadows of my mind, or was I looking down because I’d already glimpsed the shadows?


The chicken and the egg dilemma.


Whatever. It proved my point. I made a note to start training my neck muscles at the gym in hopes of getting my gaze back up onto the horizon again. Either that or buy one of those plastic e-collars dogs wear to keep them from licking their balls. A definite help, but would probably make me even bluer because of the looks I would get while walking the streets. ;-)


The Bible says: I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help. Obviously, the Bible was onto this bit of news too.
Look up and laugh and live.


When you ‘look down’ on someone, you’re judging them, which is certainly not the proper practice if you want to remain in good spirits. Judgment taints the hem of even the purest garment


On the other hand, when you ‘look up’ to someone, you’re in awe of that person. And that feels a lot better. Unless that person is 20 years younger than you and looking very sexy. The sweetest fruit is so often forbidden.


It’s absolutely essential that, as we move into the winter of our lives, where there is less light, that we keep our gaze heaven-bound, metaphorically speaking. there are those determined to shiver when the sun is far beyond the solstice, others dwell in darkness in a room filled with light.


Look up and laugh and live, or look down long enough to find the Prozac lying on the table by your morning cup of coffee, and then laugh! ;-)

Twas the month before Christmas

I’m not a real fan of Christmas, especially now that I found out that Jesus was a Pisces and not a Capricorn. Yes, according to ...