Category: Truth

Looking after your Feet with Yoga

The humble, lowly feet, at the very base of the whole body, like beasts of burden are expected to bear our weight and everything we carry day after day, year after year. They bear this weight while standing, walking, skipping, hopping or running, but are rarely thought about until something goes wrong. With a little yoga forethought we can prolong the health of our feet and hopefully they will see us through without complaining.

The Tripod

The way we stand on our feet has repercussions in the knees, hips, spine, shoulders and neck. For the health of the whole body we should stand evenly on our feet. In the feet there are three points to spread the weight amongst. They are the centre of the heel and two points on the broadness of the foot.  One in line with the big toe and one in line with the little toe. When our weight is evenly distributed in this way we have a solid and well grounded base to stand upon. People who tend to weigh down into the inside or outside of the foot not only lose the support of their arches and develop bunions, but also can develop problems in their knees, hips and spine because of the uneven support. Putting uneven weight into the front and back of the feet will have another set of problems for all those joints. When wearing high heels we cannot help but put the weight to the front of the foot which means to stand up straight we have to add more of a lumbar curve and potentially painfully compress the lumbar vertebrae.

After we have identified and activated these three points then we need to activate the arches between them. There are three arches in our feet: one across the broadness, one from the little toe side down to the heel and one on the big toe side down to the heel. When we activate these arches we create a lightness in the feet which sends messages up to the knees and hips to help bear some of the weight too. In other words by activating the tripod (pressing down into the three points and lifting the three arches) muscles around the knees and hips are activated. This brings the legs and feet into their ideal alignment.

Kirchashira Marma

A really effective way of drawing this energy upwards is with the help of kirchashira marma. A marma is very similar to an acupressure point. According to ayurveda, yoga’s sister science of health, there are invisible streams of energy (prana) flowing through the body in channels or nadis. At certain places along these nadis there are marma points through which we can access and influence our prana. One such point is kirchashira marma which lies in the centre of the sole of the foot just in front of the heel pad. Activating this point is great for improving our posture and relieving muscular tension especially in the feet. When we spread the weight out into the ball of the foot and create a lift from this marma point we are activating all three of our arches, our toes naturally spread  and we create the postural alignment necessary for the health of our joints. We should activate kirchashira marma whenever we are wanting to have great alignment whether sitting at our desk or standing.

One last point to mention in relation to the weight bearing in the feet is that both feet should take an even amount of weight and if possible we should also stand with our feet parallel to each other. For people with certain congenital conditions like bandiness or pigeon toes this may not be possible but this is the general rule.

Joint Activations

Joint activations of the feet release stagnant energy which can cause joint pain and swelling. Joint activations bring blood supply to the joint which not only nourishes it but also carries away waste products which if left can build up and trigger all sorts of arthritic type problems. Joint activations help to encourage the release a special joint lubrication known as synovial fluid which helps the joint to work smoothly.

Activations are very simple and include ankle rotations in both directions, ankle flex and extend, and toes curl and spread. Two fun activations are wiggle your toes as if you are playing the piano and lying on your back with your legs in the air shake your feet vigorously as if you have a crab biting your toes. Even though joint activations are so basic and simple they should not be looked down upon but adopted by even the most advanced asana practitioners. They are also recommended for those who travel long journeys, and those who spend a prolonged time in bed or seated. As they say, “look after your feet and they will look after you!” And that’s a big task isn’t it!

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Not The Body Train & First Aid

Today I met an elderly gentleman at the train station. I had been running for the train in my usual disorganized running late style and he commented on the huffing and puffing so our conversation started. Somehow we jumped to fairly personal matters. He told me how when he retired he had felt really down, and didn’t know what to do with his life and was beginning to question what it was all for. Then, 10 years to the day after his mother had died she visits him in his room and told him he should be writing. He said when he came downstairs his wife asked him if he was alright, because his face was pale, (as if he had seen a ghost, but those are my words).

train station

It didn’t make sense to him because he never wrote, never read (despite having been a bookbinder!) and his teachers at school would totally back up his idea that he could not write.

Some time later he went out to his back shed, for no particular purpose, and decided to go through boxes that had been there since his mother’s death. His mother had been a reader and there were boxes of books. He ended up taking just one book back to the house. It was a small book, very worn with many readings, and the title on the cover was practically worn off. The title of the book was “Let go and Let God.” From these two events his life turned around and he began to appreciate there was some guiding purpose to life. He told me how he had now become a writer and even been published, writing life stories. Though he didn’t say it directly I could tell he was including in these stories his appreciation of spiritual matters in the hope of passing that on to others. He felt he was not writing by his own ability, that his mother was helping him.
He had been told by Suzuki, at a seminar he went to, that he was a kin-aesthetic learner, and he kept emphasizing to me that whatever he understood was due to his own experiences, not because he was a scholar or a reader. He had concluded as he put it “we are not just human, we have a spiritual part.”

I stepped in here, saying I could tweak his understanding a little, that it is not that we are, or have, two parts, human and spiritual. Rather we have a body, which is like a house, or a vehicle, a temporary containers and when we leave it the body is dead. We are not human though we are in a human body, and that in fact all living entities are the same, a living being inside a body, and that, in fact he most probably has been inside an animal body, even a tree body or an insect body or a bacteria body, that in fact we are not human, not a dog, not a cow, not a tree, that we do have a form, which is defined or exists in relation to the Supreme Soul, but we don’t yet have the spiritual vision to see that form. I said I don’t want to push this on you, but perhaps you can just take this away and consider it. To understand this more vividly, check this enlightening page by enlightening preacher Jagad guru chris butler. He makes us go through practical examples that helps us to gain a better idea.

I had wondered if I was going to be too far, and I don’t know how much he took in, as his main interest was passing on what he had learned the best in his life, but he did say, “I think we are saying the same thing using different words”, and we talked about how different people looking at the same mountain from different viewpoints might see and describe different things, both correct, and not actually contradictory.

He then told me how he met an ambulance worker who told him an experience he had had at a bad car accident, with one man lying inside the car, another man who looked exactly the same who was standing outside the car, talking to him. I don’t know the exact details but later on the other ambos (as they apparently call themselves) asked him who he had been talking to. He was thrown, as he had not realized anything strange had been happening, but no one else had seen the man he was talking to, and he realized there was only one man, who had left his body, which was still in the car. He wondered if anyone else had had a similar experience, so he began asking around the ambulance world if anyone else had and similar experiences and apparently several had.

Well, I was heading off to do my First Aid refresher, which is required to be able to have my Yoga Asana Teacher’s Certificate so I thought I’d do a little ad-hoc research of my own. During a break I told this ambo’s story and asked if anyone had had any similar experiences. Most of the people there were a bit more reserved than myself, but a couple spoke up.

A young nurse from Nepal described how she had worked in a Nepalese hospital and one of her colleagues described how someone had come to the nurses and said there was someone sitting in the stairwell (perhaps injured, her English was a little difficult to follow), and the nurse went out to help, but there was no one there.

Then a cheerful young lady described how as a young child, 3 or 4 years old, she used to be regularly visited by someone before going to sleep. She told her parents about a “chocolate man” coming to see her. Her father suggested she was drinking too much milk before bed. But after some time her mother showed her a photo of her grandfather and she told them all, “That’s the man that comes and visits me.”   Her grandfather was Hawaiian, and had skin that as a child she thought of as chocolate. She’d never met him because he died the day she was born. When I asked if he kept visiting her after that, she admitted, a little more hesitantly perhaps not sure how we’d think of her, that she still had visits sometimes. But she did say it was OK for me to write about this.

I know I personally have stories, both those I have experienced firsthand and those heard from close friends, that fit this underlying theme, that we are not actually this physical body, that we exist both before and after the existence of this particular body, this particular vehicle that we are traveling in, that if we can leave it, either temporarily, or permanently, and still exist. There’s a lot of stuff pertaining to the matters of life, these are so beautifully explained in Jagad Guru’s spiritual web blog  I think most people have either had a similar experience or heard of one from someone they know.

Of course some of these stories might be coincidence or misunderstanding, but there are enough similar tales, including some famous and extremely well documented ones, (for instance James Leininger, who recalled his life as a World War II pilot) to clearly illustrate this basic principle from the yogic texts.. Aham Brahmasmi, I am life force, spirit, not the body – the very point I had been discussing in the train with the retired bookbinder, whatever words we were using.



Fulfilling Our Desire For Happiness

We all desire happiness. And not just temporary, superficial happiness, but happiness that lasts, that is so deeply fulfilling and all-encompassing that we can completely rest our hearts and minds in it. This desire of the living being for happiness is completely natural.

peace and happiness

So why our attempts to satisfy this desire for happiness & peace do seem to bring us so much distress and relatively little happiness? We are constantly searching for happiness in this thing and that thing, this place and that – in material activities, in enjoying the senses,  physical sensations, in thoughts and emotions, in accumulating wealth, beauty, power, fame, respect, admiration, and countless other material objects and situations. We are always trying to manipulate our physical and mental environments for happiness. And although we may experience temporary and superficial pleasure from all of our hard efforts, the state of deep and lasting peace and happiness that we long for remains aloof. All this searching and struggling for happiness does not generally result in increased happiness. Instead, it is our anxiety about happiness that tends to increase.

Realizing this, we might conclude that the only happiness is perhaps in trying to rid ourselves of the desire to be happy. But this is an erroneous conclusion. The problem is not with the desire for happiness, but rather the misguided ways in which we are trying to fulfill this desire.