Tag Archives: yoga

Picture of a winding forest road

Sitting still

You may be wondering what that picture of a somewhat neglected, winding road, half gravel, half earth, through a forest, has to do with sitting still.
Well, life sometimes makes strange twists and turns.
I ended up in the middle of Norway in 2009 after a peculiar coincidence. At the invitation of an organic farmer who had emigrated from Belgium, I stayed and worked there for a week. In the afternoons I left for long walks in the rather wild forest landscape.

Beyond the border

This was also the case on that day in October. The season was on the border of autumn and winter, with the occasional wet snow shower. The road in the picture finally took me past the border of civilisation, somewhere on a high plateau.
There, sitting on a boulder amongst the vegetation tending to all possible shades and hues of colour, suddenly a silence fell.
But a silence like I had never experienced before. I was eating a sandwich I had brought with me and was awakened … by the sound of my grinding jaws. I had never heard that before. I was perplexed and stopped eating.
Then it dawned on me that there was nothing, absolutely nothing to be heard there.
It was the first time in that moment that I caught a glimpse of absolute silence.

Perhaps life would have led me there, in the run-up to the discovery, more than 10 years later, that I am actually hyper-sensitive to sound from an early age. My brain can only select between the many separate sound signals in a “soundscape” with the greatest difficulty and at the cost of a lot of energy.

Meditation

Yoga is a complete system conceived to prepare oneself for meditation.
Meditation has to do with crossing borders as well as confronting silence.
There are countless meditation traditions. All of them offer methods to “silence the mind”. To bring consciousness beyond the noise.
Because apart from the fact that our contemporary world with all its traffic, machines and other incessant human activity, must seem like a deafening hell for our ancestors until about two centuries ago, there is another sound that never seems to stop.
And that is the incessant “chat” of the thoughts that pass through our brain.

The current that controls us

Those thoughts make up for an automatic, endless flow. A mess, in which interesting ideas, ingenious insights or whisper-smooth intuitions drown in an excess of automatic, coarser chatter. The latter consists largely of fantasies about the past or the present. Most of these we are not even aware of.
But that flow does control us. And is responsible for our emotions and our state of mind, day in, day out.

In Indian philosophy the world was created by sound. That is a beautiful metaphor for what modern science has understood in the meantime. Because first there is vibration, or energy, and the matter of what we call the real world is no more or no less than coarse, “condensed” energy.
So you create your own world from the energetic vibration your thoughts constantly create.
All that exists in your world is the materialisation of your own thoughts. If there is chaos around you, then that is a projection of the chaos that probably exists within you and that you fuel by means of your thought stream.

Tips for a first step

Without attending a particular meditation school, you can already take a first step in meditation at home.
What do you need?

  • A place where you will likely not be disturbed
  • Use a chair or meditation cushion to sit on that allows you to relax with your back upright
  • A clock or meditation timer with an alarm function

How do you go about it?

  • Book 5 to 10 minutes at a fixed time in your day. Early in the morning or in the evening before bed are good moments
  • Set your clock or meditation timer
  • Sit with your back straight and eyes closed
  • Breathe in and out slowly and regularly
  • Stay quiet

And become aware of your own thoughts.
Observe them one by one. Every time a thought comes up, take note of it, and then let go of it. Bring your awareness back to your breathing.

Do you want more control over your daily life? Then start by listening to the sound of your inner thoughts and get to know them.
Start with five to ten minutes a day. And let it gradually become longer.

What we experience on a global scale this year 2020 can be nothing more or nothing less than a clear and compelling invitation from a higher consciousness to stop our insanely exaggerated outer activities. And to stay at home – at least for a good while – and learn to sit still with ourselves.

What does it mean to sit with a straight back?

Our backs are not straight by nature. The spine is clearly S-shaped.
Sitting with a straight back means: keep your spine in its natural, upright shape.
It means that you do not allow yourself to “sag”.

How do you bring your back into its natural curvature?

  • Go sit on a chair or on a meditation cushion on the floor
  • Tilt your pelvis forward, as if you were pushing your navel to the front
  • Mark how your lower back becomes slightly hollow at the back
  • Open your chest by bringing your sternum a little forward and relax your shoulders
  • Finally, place your head and neck straight and balanced rignt above your shoulder girdle.

How do I know if I hold my lower back in the right position ?

  • Put your hand behind your back and touch the middle of your lower back
  • If you feel a cleft, like a little valley between your lumbar muscles, that’s when you know you’re good
  • On the other hand, if you feel the protrusions of your lumbar vertebrae sticking out, you are sagging. Adjust your posture by tilting your pelvis forward until you no longer feel the protrusions.

Neti nose flush

The yoga path is a path of personal development, striving to experience what is called “the divine essence”.
This is a state in which all the superfluous, all illusions, all ballast, whether mental, emotional, physical or energetic, has been released.
So it presupposes a cleansing on all levels. This “cleansing”, and especially the maintenance of a state of purity, is a prerequisite for good meditation, in order to be able to perceive the most subtle movements of consciousness and energy in the body.
In fact, there is a lot of truth in that. An emotional layer that is torn by violent emotions, a mind that is misty or overly excited by inappropriate, or excessively stimulating nutrition, or a body that suffers from a high degree of obesity or too many toxins is not conducive to lucid concentration or serene meditation.

Purity

Old yoga texts therefore contain relatively many instructions on purity and hygiene. Purity of the body, purity of food, purity of one’s relationship to oneself, to others and to the world.
The sanskrit term for purity is saucha.
The purity of the body was taken very literally. The daily purification of all body orifices is part of this. The aim was to remove all kinds of unruly dirt that jhad gotten incrusted in the body.
Rinsing the large intestine (colon cleansing), or swallowing a long stretch of fabrie which is then slowly pulled out again. Or drinking a large quantity of lukewarm salted water and then vomiting up the entire contents of the stomach. It was all part of the process and sometimes looked more like self-flagellation.

Nasal rinse

However, some of these practices are easily achievable and of great benefit to modern people. One of them is the daily rinsing of the nose with lukewarm salted water.
I learned it in the days when I was still practising Kundalini yoga. In the meantime I have abandoned that particular type of yoga. But I am still into the neti-nose rinse almost on a daily basis.
Together with ditching milk products, the neti-nose rinse is also one of the key reasons why I have almost never suffered from nasal colds for more than 7 years now.
Picture of tools for netu nose flush

What do you need

Very little, in fact!

  • A little jug for nasal rinsing
  • A solution of sea salt or himalaya salt in water
  • A kettle or water heater
  • 5 minutes of discipline every morning

The saline solution

Sea salt and himalaya salt are closest to the salt found in nature. After all, in addition to the ordinary sodium chloride, they contain countless other salts and minerals.
How concentrated should it be?
When I first heard about neti-nose rinsing, there was no clarity or clear information at all about it in the Kundalini world. People just went along, and it sometimes seemed like a form of competition to show who was the toughest: the more salt, the better. The more it gave a burning sensation in the nose, the better.
But today we are going to use our common sense and above all, treat our body with love and respect. That is why it is good to have a look at the natural internal salt concentration of the body, and take that as a starting point for an efficient and pleasant mixture. In a ratio that purifies the nose well and only causes a slight, rather pleasant activation of the mucous membranes.
The natural salt concentration of our body is approximately 8.5 to 9 grams of salt per litre.

A bottle with stock solution

Preparing the salted water and storing it in a bottle is a very practical way of working. It provides you with good rinsing water at an appropriate temperature every day:

  • Take a 1 litre glass bottle, with a resealable ceramic stopper
  • Weigh about 20 to 25 grams of salt
  • Bring the salt into the bottle, and then fill the bottle almost completely with warm tap water
  • Shake the mixture until the salt is completely dissolved
  • Fill further with cold water until the bottle is full.

You now have a bottle with a saline solution of 20 to 25 grams per litre. That is twice as concentrated as what you need.

The daily rinse

Now proceed as follows in the morning:

  • Take a glass with about the same content as your neti jug
  • Fill half the glass with the salt solution from the storage bottle
  • Fill the other half with hot, boiled water
  • Pour the mixture into your neti jug
  • Go stand with your head tilted to one side above a washbasin or sink
  • Insert the spout of the jug into your upper nostril and pour the liquid into it
  • Let the water drain through your internal nasal cavity and through the lower nostril into the sink
  • You can, if so desired, breathe in the saline rinsing liquid a bit. Hold your head tilted slightly backwards in order to “gargle”
  • Repeat the cleansing procedure with your head the other way around until the jug is empty
  • Finally, snout forcefully to empty each nostril in order to remove any remaining impurities.

For maintenance, just rinse the jug with water after use.

Free breathing

By cleaning your nose in this way at the beginning of every day, you ensure a clean nasal cavity in which dirt does not get a chance to linger. After all, it is precisely in these waste products that bacteria and viruses can nestle in advance, after which they easily find their way up into the nasal cavity. They can be at the origin of colds or flu.

Moreover, after rinsing, you will experience the pleasant feeling of free and unhindered breathing, which also benefits your morning yoga practice.

The white porcelain neti jugs of German manufacture are available in the yoga studio.
They cost 22,00 euros a piece.
If you want to make a reservation for one, please send me an e-mail.