A mystery: Unwanted shaktipat? Boundary violation? Free-range potency?

Decades ago, I experienced something that stands out amongst all my human experiences.

I was alone at dusk, listening to beautiful singing and suddenly out of the corner of my eye, noticing a lightning storm in the distant mountains.

Everything in me wanted to pay complete attention to this experience, to be as present and attentive as possible.

And as soon as I set that intent and tuned in to the sounds and sights, something very unexpected and unusual happened.

I felt a strong energy enter my body, piercing me from the top of my head to the bottom of my torso. Crown to root.

The energy was forceful but not painful. I didn’t see it with my eyes but had a sense that it was white.

It was forceful like lightning, yet soft. It felt like it pushed things out of the way to make a bigger, clearer channel. It had a huge amount of what I now know is potency, or biodynamic life-force energy.

And as soon as it reached my root chakra, it left, leaving me in shock, wondering what the fuck just happened.

I didn’t know anyone at that time in my life to talk to about this experience who wouldn’t have thought I was crazy, so I kept it to myself. It seemed like a very freaky experience. I even wondered if I was crazy.

Is my focused attention really that powerful? Did I draw it to me somehow? Who needs an experience like that? Well, apparently I did.

I did save my ticket stub to the Santa Fe Opera where this experience had occurred, on a night with singers trying out for opera directors and hardly anyone in attendance.

I later came to consider it my energy awakening.

Years later, it occurred to me that it may have been related to me starting a practice of hatha yoga a year or so before the event.

I began to think of it as being zapped by Source, and I was feeling a little satisfied that even though I started learning hatha yoga from a book, rather than an in-person or even an on-TV teacher, I must have been doing something right for this to happen.

Even now, decades later, I am convinced that the purpose of doing asanas is to open the energy channels, a step on the way to samadhi.

Later, I wondered if what I had experienced was a spontaneous kundalini descending. I believe it was, although I’ve never practiced much kundalini yoga — been to a few classes but was never regular with it.

It seems that kundalini rising (from root to crown) is a goal in kundalini yoga. No one mentions kundalini descending. Same channel but opposite direction.

My crown chakra is often open, and I wonder if that zapping left me with a more open sahasra chakra.

Even later I learned about shaktipat, which as far as I understand is usually something a guru gives to initiate a student into his school of teachings — but only with the student’s agreement and consent.

As I understand it, shaktipat is more of a third-eye zapping. But I had no guru. What instigated that experience?

A little over a year ago, I experienced once again being pierced by energy, this time in my third-eye chakra. I actually saw the nearly-transparent energy coalescing in front of my face before it suddenly zapped my third eye/ajna chakra, going into the middle of my brain.

This time, I was with someone I’d just met that day. I don’t know if he gave me shaktipat without my consent or if it was spontaneous for both of us, or even if I somehow unintentionally gave myself or us both shaktipat!

I was simply too stunned to say anything, and I have no idea what his experience was.

If I knew how to give someone shaktipat, I would never do it without actually being a guru (not very likely), asking if they wanted to receive it, and only giving it if they gave their explicit consent to receive it.

It is shocking and invasive, not something to mess around with, although the benefit seems to be a clearing out of stagnant energy and strengthening the energy channel it penetrates.

It feels really fucked up to give it to someone without their consent. What kind of person would do that to someone they barely knew? Had he spent too much time in the nondual world to know how to interact responsibly and mindfully in the world of duality? I keep my feet in both worlds.

The experience was not sexual, but there was definitely an energetic penetration of personal boundaries.

Whatever amount of clearing out my ajna chakra may have occurred from that experience simply wasn’t worth it. My intuition was already pretty strong.

And then again, what if it was spontaneous for both of us? I’ve talked to a mentor who believes that free-range potency exists and that perhaps it was karmic. In a way, it reminded me of the proverbial romantic spark between two people, certainly igniting an interest, except much more powerful than I ever imagined it to be, and also not with someone who is available for a romantic relationship.

At this point, I sometimes wish it had never happened. I’ve observed this person being impulsive and presumptuous toward me since, and it raises my hackles. He is actually a pretty cool guy, someone I really want to like and trust, but I have set a boundary. Respect and mindfulness are important.

Trust can possibly be rebuilt, or actually, built in the first place, but only with accountability, respect, and honesty.

I am going to meditate on this: on this experience, on this person, and on myself.

I’d love to hear your input on this. Have you experienced anything like this? What would you do?

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Jittery about the election? Here are some simple things you can do to reduce stress

I recently completed a 4-hour continuing education class in Ethics, Communication, and Boundaries through the Lens of the Nervous System. The instructor based this course around applying polyvagal theory in a massage therapy practice.

I want to share some simple things that anyone can use to reduce stress, because many of us may be feeling jumpy and tense, especially with an election approaching. 

Experiment with these and find your favorites — and use them as needed when your stress response is activated! 

  • Making your exhalations longer than your inhalations for a couple of minutes.
  • Singing and humming. 
  • Orienting to the space you’re in by slowly gazing all around you. 
  • Lifting your gaze and imagining the sun shining on your face, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Finding something that’s pleasing and telling yourself “I am safe and happy”. 
  • Making micro movements, dancing, doing yoga. 
  • Listening to calming music. 

Do you find yourself doing any of these without a thought? My mother often hummed when she was washing dishes.

Music and dancing are important parts of my life. I created a playlist of happy music with the help of numerous friends on Facebook who made recommendations. I’m capping it at 100 songs and will post a link to it on Apple Music when I’ve finished listening to everything…a lot of it was new to me.

I have noticed already that some of the happiest-making songs are about dancing!

 

Sacroiliac joint pain returned after 3 years. Now what?

Nearly 3 years ago, I posted that my SI joint was healed. This injury was from a 1996 car wreck. I finally got the right help years later from a physical therapist who evaluated my pelvic alignment and said it was out of symmetry every way possible — tilted sideways, tilted forward, rotated more on one side than the other.

She put a Core Wrap (stretchy fabric with Velcro on the end) around my pelvis, pulling the bones together, and voila, instant stability.

None of the 3 chiropractors I’d seen, for more than a year each, had even suggested that. I’m sure not every chiropractor is like this, but it seemed to me that they wanted to keep treating me forever without fixing the problem, just providing a little relief.

If they understood that stretched out ligaments need bracing to shorten, they never let on. I had to go to massage school and take advanced classes to learn that. Rah for PTs!

I stopped wearing the Core Wrap in Dec. 2016 after 18 months of wearing it pretty much 24/7 because my pelvis finally felt stable without it. I could go for long walks, even hiking in the mountains, without pain.

The alignment still wasn’t perfect but the ligaments had tightened up from wearing the Core Wrap and I wasn’t in pain. I was able to resume doing a full yoga practice, complete with lunges and twists, backbends and splits, joyfully meeting many challenges, developing symmetry and strength, and improving my balance. My alignment improved.

Well………

In October 2020, I was house- and pet-sitting for my daughter and her wife, and I needed to move a 30-pound bag of dog food from the garage to the pantry.

It was too much weight for little old me. (I’m 5’0”.) Even though my arms and upper body are strong, I’m guessing that my pelvis may always be a weaker spot, particularly where L5 and S1 meet. The disc felt compressed. Not herniated, but compressed.

I felt a strain immediately in my low back.

Over the next few weeks, it got worse. I began to wake up with a familiar old discomfort, especially at the left SI joint, and also down the outside of my left leg. My fibula felt out of place, and my knee felt slightly unstable.

It was as if the old asymmetrical tension patterns had returned. The body has memories of the dysfunction as well as the function. My choices move me toward function. I had made a poor choice. (Next time: move the dog food bin to the garage and fill it there.)

Le sigh.

I’d discarded my well-used, stretched-out Core Wraps.

I’m going to try something new. I had some KT Tape stashed away. I went to their website to see how to tape for SI joint stability. It pulls the pelvis together in the back with extra support on the side that is problematic.

So today I’m trying that. The cotton version is supposed to last for 1-3 days. The best thing is that KT Tape doesn’t show under your clothing.

The velcro on the Core Wrap could be irritating to my skin, so I ordered a genuine sacroiliac belt.

I chose the Vriksasana Sacroiliac Belt. It has 4.3 stars from over 4,000 people, the most for any SI belt on Amazon. Their instructions say to wear it for two weeks, including while sleeping. It’s $26.

Vriksasana is tree pose in Sanskrit — one I’ve been working on to develop better balance standing on my left leg. The name is a good omen.

It looks like it would be bulky under clothing, so I will simply wear it outside my yoga pants, which have become my daily uniform. People who are curious enough to ask about it will learn something new that may help them or someone else.

Meanwhile, I am not lifting heavy things and being super careful of sleep posture and in yoga. I danced and did some gardening today, with a lot of attention to not straining anything.

Several people have found my previous posts about my SI joint healing journey because they are searching the web looking for help for their own SI joint issues. They’ve reached out.

This is why I write about it. I am a bodyworker myself, and I am fascinated by the healing journey, especially when it’s not a quick fix. I’ve had several long and meandering ones, and I know that when you find the right information or practitioner or aid, progress can be rapid. I like to help people make progress.

I’ll be back with a report before too long.

Small print: I have an affiliate account with Amazon and may receive a small percentage of sales made through clicking these links.

Distance energy healing sessions

I have been doing some distance energy healing sessions since it’s not safe to do hands-on bodywork during the quarantine, and I like working. I’m not sure when I will be going back to doing hands-on work in my office.

I did practice sessions on a couple of friends to gain experience and come up with a general process, and then I let my bodywork clients know I was offering them.

I’ve been getting good results!

Today was the first day I worked on someone I’ve never met. She was referred to me by a former client who moved away.

Sometimes it’s even more powerful to work at a distance than it is to work in person.

Image courtesy of Massage Magazine.

I work from my home, sitting on a meditation cushion next to a yoga mat on which I visualize the recipient. I encourage recipients to lie down comfortably in their homes and to set aside the 60- or 90-minute session time to be uninterrupted.

We use our phones (on Speaker mode) to communicate verbally.

It’s interesting that my hands are as full (or even more full) of energy in these distance sessions as they are working in person.

I have a big toolbox that I can draw on, as needed: empathy, compassion, curiosity; training and experience in craniosacral therapy, somatoemotional release, the healing process, Reiki, Zero Balancing, anatomy, physiology, psychology, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming; long-time practices in yoga and meditation; experience receiving distance sessions; and years of doing bodywork (of which energy work is always a part).

Each recipient and I create a shared field of intent focusing on healing. The body-mind system wants to heal! We stay in this field throughout the session. Although each recipient has their own issues, the process is similar: finding a focus, exploring, allowing change to occur.

If you should feel moved to experience this, these sessions are available on a sliding scale basis: $30-100 for 60 minutes, and $50-130 for 90 minutes. Pay using PayPal or Venmo.

If you are interested, you can schedule online by clicking one of these links: Book a 60-minute session or book a 90-minute session. My “office hours” are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 pm, Central time.

May we all be well.

Breath of fire strengthens your breathing muscles

Breath of fire is a yoga breathing technique that has many benefits, including strengthening the breathing muscles. This is timely, given that one of the early symptoms of COVID-19 may include shortness of breath, which after 5-10 days may turn into quite difficult breathing.

Even mild cases can last several weeks and require breathing exercises that physicians are prescribing. Pulmonary doctors in hospitals are working hard to figure out exactly what’s happening with the lungs and with oxygen intake when COVID turns serious, and whether (and how) the protocol for putting patients with difficulty breathing on ventilators (if even available) needs to be changed.

It makes sense to me, given that there’s no vaccine or immunity to this novel virus and they’re still figuring out how best to treat severe cases, to prepare for the worst, and strengthening breathing muscles is one way to do that.

My experience with breath of fire

I’ve written about breath of fire before, because it helped me reduce the discomfort of a hiatal hernia, which involves the opening in the diaphragm for the esophagus to pass through to the stomach.

I’d had occasional discomfort for a while. One day, after a group meditation in a biodynamics class, it suddenly came to my mind that this technique, which I’d learned in a yoga class years previously, could help.

I started practicing it, and it did help. It’s rare for me to feel any hiatal discomfort now after 2.5 years of regular practice.

The anatomy

The diaphragm Is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity (containing heart and lungs) and the abdominal cavity (containing liver, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, spleen, kidneys, adrenals, bladder, small and large intestines, and reproductive organs).

The muscle attaches to the bottom of the rib cage (higher in front, lower in back).

When we do diaphragmatic breathing on the inhalation, the dome of the diaphragm flattens and our rib cages and bellies expand. When we exhale, the dome of the diaphragm moves up and our rib cages and bellies narrow.

Other breathing muscles that breath of fire activates include the external intercostal muscles between the ribs. The major accessory breathing muscles include those surrounding the rib cage: the pectorals, trapezius, the lats, the serratus muscles, the spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum.

Because breath of fire uses forceful exhalations, the abs are also involved: rectus abdominis, the transverse and oblique abdominals, and the internal intercostals.

Other benefits

Doing breath of fire can help us to not feel so helpless when so much is beyond our control in regard to the pandemic.

It energizes the mind, fights depression, and may help with controlling diabetes, asthma, blood pressure, and obesity.

It provides your body with more oxygen. (I just took a pulse oximeter reading before doing 3 minutes of breath of fire — 96 — and after — 98.)

It may increase mental clarity and motivation, being associated with the solar plexus or power chakra, right below the diaphragm.

It massages your abdominal organs. People pay good money for this!

Because movement helps our lymph flow, doing breath of fire especially activates abdominal lymph, increasing the elimination of toxins. It’s said that 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut in the form of gut-associated lymph tissue, so breath of fire strengthens immunity.

The yoga connection

In Sanskrit, breath of fire is called kapalabhati, which translates as “forehead or skull shining”. This refers to the facial radiance of people who practice this technique regularly.

You want some of that, right?

Keep in mind: as with all yoga, you are the ultimate teacher. Listen to your body. Let it tell you when to stop. Let it tell you the pace that is right for you. Be kind.

And if you haven’t done yoga before, I recommend getting started. Yoga with Adriene is a YouTube channel with lots of classes of various lengths, including classes for beginners, and nearly 7 million followers.

Please don’t overdo it. It’s strong medicine and should not be done if you have epilepsy, have had recent surgery, or are pregnant. Kundalini yogis require that women not do it during the first three days of their menstrual periods.

To avoid muscle soreness, start with 30 seconds. It’s much kinder to build strength gradually.

Also, don’t practice it right after eating a meal!

Here’s Adriene teaching breath of fire: https://youtu.be/jbtLH-3DfLc

And go! (Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or results to relate.)

Checking in

Love in the time of coronavirus

Today is Day 2 of sheltering in place in Austin, Texas. We had 119 known cases as of last night (but no deaths so far), and we know the virus is being transmitted in the community. No one I know has it so far, that I’ve heard, but friends and relatives of friends do. The number of cases will almost certainly go up over the next two or three weeks. The hope is that then the number of cases will start declining because of first, social distancing, and now, sheltering in place.

For me, this means staying home, which I have been since Saturday, and for the week before, my outings were rare. I’ve ordered groceries online and picked them up. I have a wonderful daughter who can pick items up and bring them to me. I have groceries enough to last for at least a week, and I’m keeping a list on the fridge door of the items I run out of that I can get next time I shop (which will probably be online to be delivered or picked up curbside, but I do have a mask and gloves in case I need to venture inside a store). My fridge, freezer, and nonperishable shelves are full.

I feel pretty good about my chances of getting through this without getting sick, or of being mildly ill if I do get it. I had a cold in October that was mild and lasted two days, and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d previously had a cold. My immune system is robust.

However, it’s unpredictable. I’m in the 60+ population and therefore considered at risk. I do yoga and dance regularly (now doing these online), I eat healthy (organic unprocessed food mostly), and I meditate, which helps keep my nervous system more balanced rather than going into stress, which is hard on the immune system. I’m working on improving my sleep, getting more deep and REM sleep according to my Fitbit.

I take really high quality supplements from Premier Research Labs and Wellevate. (I have practitioner accounts with both that you can order through if you wish.) I have homeopathic remedies on hand too. I have health insurance should I need it, and I hope that if I do, the health care system isn’t overwhelmed and can tend to me. I’m very very fortunate and grateful.

Y’all, no one is immune. This virus targets humankind. It’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t respect fame, power, talent, or riches. Movie stars, professional athletes, famous artists, royalty, and politicians have come down with it. Because it’s novel, no one has immunity, except those who have completely recovered from it.

I’m hearing people say things like “What a year this past week has been” and “there are many days in a day.” We’re in a time of rapid change.

I believe when this pandemic is over, some aspects of our lives will not go back to the way they were. This will influence people living through it for the rest of our lives. We will not take our health for granted. We will better understand the relationship between lifestyle and health. We will require that our governments take actions that support our health over corporate profits.

Dead people don’t buy stuff.

I hope the biggest takeaway is that we humans are ALL connected through our humanity. We are all dependent on this planet for our lives. Maybe we will treat each other, and our home planet, much better.

Blessings for health, immunity, resiliency, resourcefulness, and connection. 💚🙏🏽

Staying grounded + phone sessions

Love in the time of coronavirus

Dear readers, I hope you are staying grounded during this time of uncertainty and fear. I recommend going outside in your bare feet and walking around on some grass, as often as you need.

Feel your feet sink slightly into the earth with each step. Enjoy the temperature, textures, and other sensations in your feet.

Imagine this connection with Mother Earth moving up your legs, into your torso, touching all of your tissues, permeating all of your cells, and leaving your body through the crown of your head.

You are connecting to earth and to heaven! This energetic experience is about being fully alive in the present moment. It’s a renewing and restorative antidote for upsetting news, conflict on social media, fears for ourselves and our loved ones, worry about our uncertain futures.

Texas bluebonnets blooming in my yard

Phone sessions

After checking with other craniosacral therapists, I’m changing the name of my new online service to Phone Sessions. Bear with me as I navigate this rapid change…

Quite a few CST practitioners are adamant that working remotely is not craniosacral therapy. (Plus the words “remote” and “distance” counter the connection we make, even when we’re not in each other’s physical presence. “Phone” connotes connecting with each other, but not physically. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing.)

This attitude is coming both from those who are Upledger-trained and those who are biodynamics trained.

I’ve trained in both, and I’ve trained in Reiki, which can be done at a distance.

In my ninth year of offering bodywork, I can only say that when I work, everything I’ve ever trained in and experienced while working informs my work. What I’m using at any given moment is what’s in the forefront of my awareness.

That could be what I’m sensing in my body, what I’m sensing in your body, what I’m sensing in our blended energy fields, where your body-mind system draws my attention and hands, changes I notice during a session. “The work” flows through me, and through you.

A few years ago, it became clear to me that I could not do bodywork without also being aware of my energy, your energy, the energy in the room, and the power of intent to influence energy.

This may sound woo-woo to some, but for me, energy is real and can be sensed, usually as subtle sensations, but sometimes not so subtle. It is described in the ancient traditions, yoga, meditation, Qi gong, shamanism, Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda.

We have energy centers and channels in our bodies. We have awareness. We have intent.

Anyway. Other practitioners are calling it energy work, remote healing, distance sessions, shamanic energetics, etc.

I prefer Phone Sessions. Clear and simple and not too woo-woo.

I stay on the phone with you during sessions, even though there will be some periods of silence during the call that allow “the work” to go deeper.

We can use speakerphone. I want you to feel free to share what’s coming up for you in real time, if you wish, and of course, you can also wait to share your experience for the end of the session.

I’m offering the first session for free: https://maryannreynolds.as.me/phonesessions

If you receive a benefit, schedule another session and pay what you can or what you wish via Venmo or PayPal.

Some people are unaffected financially by this slowdown, and others have quickly become destitute. I leave it to you to determine what is an honorable amount that you feel clear and good about. No need for guilt or shame, please!

I’ve run into this issue before: if you absolutely hate to hear “pay what you can or wish”, here are some numbers to make you happy. My regular rate is $100 an hour. If you can afford it, great. If not, sliding scale is $20 on up. If that’s not affordable, let’s talk about bartering or paying it forward.

Once you’ve received a session, you can gift sessions to others. I prefer that they know and consent to doing this and are open to quietly receiving at the given time, whether we connect on the phone or not if they are sick.

This is not a substitute for medical attention. It is not a cure for the coronavirus, nor will it make you immune. I believe it can give you more resilience, but you may not notice anything. That’s why I’m offering the first session for free, so you can find out.

What would that feel like in your body and in your mind, to be more resilient?

Please let me know if you have any questions. Call 512-507-4184 or schedule a phone consultation: https://maryannreynolds.as.me/15mphoneconsult

35 years after a spiritual awakening, nothing dramatic happened

On August 14, 1984, I experienced a dramatic spiritual awakening, but I didn’t know that it was at the time. It took years for me to find a context and to recognize it as spiritual.

Here’s the backstory. I, a single mom and full-time college student, employed part-time in a psychiatric hospital, took a much-needed vacation, leaving my beloved 3-year-old daughter with her grandparents for a week as I traveled from Norman, OK, to Santa Fe, NM, not that far in miles, but my first solo vacation.

In hindsight, this was a sobering period of my life. I was raising my delightful child by myself, with little help from her father at that time, which I hadn’t planned on. I was stressed from working and going to college without much money or support from anyone. My family was in another state, and I had few friends in Norman then, and no money for a babysitter so I could go out and meet people. I felt like it was all on me to make a future for myself and my child, one day at a time.

This vacation meant a lot to me — a break from constant single parenting so I could experience myself as an individual once again, which is such important self-care for mothers. I drove to Santa Fe, my first visit to that town. I believe I stayed at a bed and breakfast, but maybe I camped. I don’t remember what all I did as a visitor to the city that time, but while there, I learned that the Santa Fe Opera was holding auditions for opera companies. Singers from around the country went onstage, one at a time, and with no sets or costumes, sang famous arias for opera directors from around the world who were looking for new talent. Purchasing a ticket was affordable, and I thought going to opera try-outs would be a novel and entertaining experience.

On the appointed night, I wore my thrift store jeans, t-shirt, sandals, and backpack to the Santa Fe Opera — a magnificent structure with a roof cantilevered over the audience and wings open to the hills and distant mountains, an open-air experience in a beautiful setting.

There weren’t many people there, just a handful near the stage, presumably opera directors listening to the singers, deciding who to hire.

I arrived late and stood at the back, surveying the area in front of me, listening to the beautiful, almost unearthly sound of a talented soprano singing an aria. Might it have been something from Mozart? Verdi? Puccini? I don’t recall. To inspire you for the setting, though, here’s my favorite aria, so you can get a sense of the incredible beauty I was hearing.

Meanwhile, dusk segued into night. In the open-air wings on either side of the stage, lightning flashes outlined the hills and mountains in the distance.

Was it sensory overload from the sound and the view, the glorious aria surround-sounding me with the dramatic weather and terrain as backdrop? Was it that a poor struggling single mother stood and listened in this beautiful opera house built for the culturally and financially elite? Both and/or something else?

The next thing I knew, I felt an energy — it seemed to be white light and yet it was palpable — piercing the top of my head and going all the way through the center of my body down into the ground under my feet. There was a strength and an insistence to this energy. You WILL feel this. It WILL be clearly undeniable. It WILL penetrate your being from crown to feet. It WILL change your life.

I was transfixed.

Nailed.

Immobilized.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was long enough to make a deep impression. I had no conceptual context at the time to put this experience in. I knew nothing about the energy body, sometimes called the subtle body although at this time, it was anything but subtle. It was an undeniably enlivening, beneficent, mysterious experience.

Having no explanation, I shrugged it off as a one-off experience, and I tucked it away in my memories, wondering if someday I would understand it.

With hindsight, I can say that it gave me strength. Something unusual and special had happened to me. It marked me. Even though the physical sensations of being pierced by white light faded, I had this memory. In some way, I felt chosen, although why me, I can’t say.

At various times since then, I have had a sense that some higher power is looking out for me. It’s not that I never make mistakes or struggle with problems. I do. The real blessing is that I accept these as part of being human, not to be avoided but to learn from. I can change and grow.

Maybe this experience was fuel for getting through some hard years. My mother died unexpectedly two months later, and I grieved hard about losing her, having never imagined raising my child without her presence and advice. I had a bad experience with a psychotherapist. I felt a lot of sorrow and loneliness and struggle for years.

The experience let me know for sure that there’s more to life than just the material world, which was the mindset I grew up in. People I knew just didn’t talk about spiritual experiences. What is this energy that I can’t see (except sometimes I could — another story), that I can’t grasp (but I can now palpate and even feel it pouring out of me now)? Qi, prana, life force… It’s there all the time but mostly ignored, unless you seek it out through qi gong or yoga or energy work — or it makes itself known to you, like it did me.

Years later, I finally connected this experience to starting to practice yoga a couple of years earlier, in 1982, when my daughter was a year old — from the book Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan (amazingly still in print) — because that was all I could afford at the time.

I was so yoga-ignorant then, I thought asana was pronounced a-SAH-na. I of course didn’t have the good eye or experience that yoga teachers use to help students get the most out of each pose. I was on my own, and I was diligently doing some yoga that was making a difference. Luckily, I did not injure myself. Practicing every day, learning new poses, getting into my body, building what we now call somatic awareness, was a highlight of each evening. I didn’t own a mat. I used a blanket or a towel. I did the work in front of me, day by day, as the book prescribed.

I’d always been flexible as a child, able to do backbends, cartwheels, walkovers, headstands, and I enjoyed my daily yoga practice. Sometimes my toddler joined me for a short time — we liked downward facing dog a lot. I finished the Hittleman book and may have gone back through it a second or third time. Once I got a television set, I watched Lilias on PBS and learned to pronounce AH-sa-na correctly.

I got other yoga books. Sometime in the next few years, I learned about chakras, the energy vortices along the body’s midline. There’s a lot of lore about chakras — colors, number of lotus petals, sounds, stones, etc. I don’t remember anyone back then tying the chakras to the anatomy of human body, to the places where the spine curves or to the endocrine glands, but I wasn’t looking at the right sources.

Saharasra, Sanskrit for the crown chakra, is said to connect us to the cosmos and to divinity, just as the root chakra connects us to the earth. Saharasra’s color is white or violet. It’s said to be the chakra from which all other chakras originate. It is located where the anterior fontanelle is in infants, where the coronal and sagittal cranial sutures meet, and is considered to be related to the pineal gland, which we don’t fully understand, except that it regulates the sleep cycle, a foundation for healthy living. Some say it affects performance, decision-making, psychological health, spiritual awakening, and self-actualization.

Doing yoga asanas opens up the channels through which prana/energy flows. My crown chakra opening was the result of practicing yoga for a couple of years. I cleared my energy channels, which allowed this further clearing and energizing experience.

It’s interesting that I now practice craniosacral therapy, a bodywork modality that works with the body’s midline and chakras and uses energy awareness to facilitate the release of restrictions (aka, healing).

I was in Santa Fe earlier in August, and I stopped by the Santa Fe Opera one day in honor of this memory. It’s had improvements and an expansion since 1984. La Boheme and Cosi Fan Tutti were playing that week, and I seriously considered going. However, the tickets were quite expensive, and I didn’t have anyone to go with or the proper attire for the opera, given I’d been camping. It might have been loads of fun, given some advance planning.

Instead, I took a yoga class (Prajna) in a great studio (YogaSource) with a great teacher (Linda Spackman). I attended a dharma talk on community at Upaya Zen Center. I ate some great Indian food at Paper Dosa. I danced and connected with a few people and enjoyed my four days in Santa Fe.

And nothing dramatic happened. It was just life, which is mostly pretty good.

Breathing and being breathed

I have been breathing since shortly after I was born, but I never really gave much thought to it until I started doing yoga a few decades ago, and there wasn’t much instruction. In fact, I was a mindless smoker for part of my younger, ignorant, addicted life.

Pranayama (breath work) is the 4th limb of yoga, right after asana (postures). A few of my yoga teachers have included pranayama techniques at the end of asana class. Awareness of where I feel my breath, feeling it down to my pubic bone, feeling it on the sides and back of my rib cage and in my lumbar area and between my shoulder blades, keeping my shoulders down, letting my diaphragm really expand downwards, moving the heart/lungs and liver/gallbladder/pancreas/stomach/spleen on either side of the diaphragm, increasing the movement of detoxifying lymph with each breath, being present with the energizing inhalation and the relaxing exhalation, noticing the pauses, noticing what happens in my chakras and in my whole being…

Some of the yogic breathing techniques that have stuck with me through the years are kapalabhati (breath of fire), a rapid bellows breathing that floods the body with cleansing, nourishing oxygen as well as increases motivation — and also prevents discomfort from my hiatal hernia, and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), calming and believed to balance the hemispheres of the brain.

Were you aware that throughout the day, one of your nostrils is more open than the other, and that they periodically switch sides?

Source: https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2015/02/krishnamacharyas-own-asana-and.html

I practice these two techniques every day along with a more modern technique, 4-7-8 breathing, that was taught to Dr. Andrew Weil by his mentor, Dr. Robert Fulford, an American cranial osteopath/shaman (Wikipedia describes him as a pioneer in alternative and energetic medicine) who obviously had studied pranayam.

Dr. Weil recommends doing no more than four rounds of 4-7-8 breathing daily for a couple of months to train the nervous system to quickly move into a relaxed state. I notice that the main times I need to use it are when I’m driving and I narrowly avoid hitting something or being hit.

Another practice that’s not a technique (at least that I’ve ever heard of) is something that occurs in meditation. I call it “being breathed”. It occurs after settling the body and calming the mind, paradoxically by using the breath to relax by lengthening exhalations.

As relaxation/parasympathetic dominance increases, a gradual detachment from controlling the breath allows it to shift to operate on its own, automatically — as it does naturally when we’re not paying attention.

When you notice that your breath has become automatic — you aren’t doing anything to it or with it — you’re simply allowing it to do its thing — breathing becomes completely passive, occurring on its own, and observing it doesn’t change it — that’s what I call being breathed.

There’s a kind of awesomeness to this experience. I wonder if this is what Shri Krishnamacharya, founder of modern yoga, may have been referring to when he said pranayama could result in samadhi.

Am I experiencing samadhi? I don’t know. There’s a sense of oneness and a subtle sense of bliss that permeates. Namaste, my friends.

So that’s my current practice, doing three techniques daily that take 5 minutes, plus meditating (10 minutes with Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, and usually a few more in silence, breathing equally through nose and mouth with my tongue on my palate behind my upper teeth, a Kum Nye technique).

Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog. Now I’m sharing an index of these posts here on my “big blog”.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are the links.

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me. And I believe them!

Since nine times more women than men experience severe, chronic TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are so many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more. I’m working on designing programs to evaluate and treat specific TMJ-related issues. More later!

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.