A Woman's Book of Yoga: Embracing Our Natural Life Cyclesby Machelle M. Seibel, Hari Kaur Khalsa
The authors lead women of all ages through the health and life cycles specific to females by
Interest in yoga is at an all-time high, especially among women. Whether readers wish to begin the practice or are already involved in yoga, this innovative book will help them understand the unique benefits yoga provides for a woman's health and mental well-being.
The authors lead women of all ages through the health and life cycles specific to females by illustrating the spiritual and physical advantages of Kundalini yoga, as taught by yoga master Yogi Bhajan. Hari Khalsa applies ancient wisdom to explain how to determine and enhance one's own special relationship with the mind, body, and soul. Using his expertise on women's health issues, Dr. Siebel reveals the scientific basis for yoga's positive effects on the brain. Together, Dr. Siebel and Hari Khalsa create a dialogue of spiritualism and science, elucidating how every woman can reap the rewards of yoga for a lifetime.
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 7.53(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.79(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Yoga for You
"Kundalini Yoga will teach you the secret of how to be Healthy, Happy, and Holy. Kundalini Yoga will make out of you a complete, happy human being. It will develop your undeveloped corners. It will give you Grace at the weakest points of your life. It will give you what you have thought not to achieve. Kundalini Yoga is the science of living as a complete woman."
-- Yogi Bhajan
Yoga is for everyone. Yoga is for you. You can begin your yoga practice at any age, in any physical condition, and in any place where you can take a deep breath. For women, the benefits of yoga are vast, limited only by the degree of time and regularity that a person has to practice it. Even for the busiest women, a few minutes of yoga practice each day can bring benefits. Moreover, it can be easily integrated into your daily schedule. You can enroll in a yoga class and benefit from the power of group practice and the social aspect of classes; or, you can do yoga wherever you are at home, while the kids are napping, while nursing your baby, or in a hotel room on a business trip.
Most women who practice yoga do not have years of technical training or extraordinary flexibility. What women who practice yoga-"yoginis"-do have is the tools for accessing the depth and reality of their inner selves. Through the physical and mental practices of yoga, a woman can achieve deep relaxation that helps maintain inner peace and a positive self-image.
Yoga is especially helpful for the natural transitions of life. In this book, you will find many simple practices to help you stay healthy, calm, and strong, and to carry you forward in a natural progression towards wisdom, real beauty, and the strength of realized grace that belongs to all women.
This book is divided into sections so you can readily choose certain aspects of yoga practice that most apply to your individual situations and needs. Here is what you will find in the book:
ÇHow to use breathing, postural, and meditation exercises to optimize your health, and how to adapt them into busy schedules. (We will suggest both minimum and ideal amounts of time for the different exercises.)
ÇSpecific sections and activities for general female health, menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, perimenopause and menopause, natural beauty, and self-healing.
ÇExplanations of yoga exercises and meditations, accompanied by their benefits.
ÇThe science of stress, and how yoga can help relieve stress.
ÇThe scientific basis for the beneficial effects of yoga.
ÇHow to determine and enhance, according to ancient wisdom, your own unique female relationship with your body, mind, and soul, and the cycles you experience.
ÇHow to use yoga for improved sexuality and intimacy.
ÇHow, from the yoga perspective, to improve nutrition and digestion, both vital factors for good health.
This book's unique female orientation comes from the rich tradition of Kundalini yoga. Kundalini means "the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved," a metaphor to describe the presence of universal energy and consciousness within each one of us. The Kundalini energy is feminine in nature and is often referred to as Mata Shakti, the feminine Mother energy of creation. The practices described here enhance the process of merging our individual awareness with this universal Self within -- how we can uncoil and awaken that feminine energy and integrate it into our lives. While yoga is essentially a spiritual path, it is at the same time a process that contributes to better physical, mental, and emotional health. Some practitioners seek the spiritual benefits. Others seek the relaxation and stress relief it brings. Others practice it for specific health benefits. The choice is yours.
In the Indian tradition, the merging with of individual universal consciousness is said to create a "divine union." In ancient Sanskrit, the word for union is "yoga." In this sense, Kundalini Yoga is totally universal and nondenominational, and the students who practice it represent all religions, races, and ethnic groups.
In the chapters to follow, you will encounter much new information that, at first, may seem a bit overwhelming. Although the technical details of all aspects of yoga practice seem complex, it all comes together naturally and easily in an actual practice session. Assimilate the technical information in A Woman's Book of Yoga as best as you can but focus on developing a simple practice. Don't be concerned if all the subtleties and aspects of yoga are not clear to you at first. Yoga practice is in the experience, not in the intellectual knowledge gained along the way. Use the Yoga At Home guides at the end of each chapter to help you simplify your approach and take your time absorbing the depth of the Kundalini Yoga tradition.
Here, we will concentrate on some of the primary aspects that make up the rich tradition of Kundalini Yoga.
Yoga, Energy, and Your Subtle Anatomy
There are "invisible" parts of yourself which are called your Subtle Anatomy in yoga. Just as your physical body is made up of complex layers, so is your Subtle Anatomy, but because of it's elusive nature, it may be harder to understand and appreciate. The "invisible" parts of you can be defined in several ways: as your Chakras, the Ten Bodies, the meridians (channels through which your energy flows), your prana and apana (generating and eliminating energies), your Moon Centers, and the Kundalini energy.
For the purposes of this book, we are going to emphasize the essential concepts of Subtle Anatomy that form the basis of achieving the goal of yoga, synchronization, and the still point. We also devote an entire chapter of this book to the Moon Centers, which are unique to women. Knowledge of the Moon Centers can build awareness and effectiveness in a woman's life.
When we speak of "energy" in yoga, we are referring to the energy of your body and mind. Physically, energy is the movement you have in a particular physiological system-in your circulatory, nervous, or glandular systems. The energy of your Subtle self becomes evident when you put your awareness or attention toward a certain end, either to move a part of your body or to manifest a new idea. Energy and movement follow your intention or thought. Your thoughts, intentions, and the focus of your awareness are vital because they signal a chain of events that can ultimately end in an action or manifestation of word or deed. Kundalini Yoga is the art of stimulating, accessing, and directing your energy.
There are two major types of energy flows in your body: prana and apana. Prana is the generating energy located in the upper body, chest, heart and ribcage. Apana is the eliminative energy located below the diaphragm and has a natural downward flow. During your yoga practice, the exercises, breathing techniques, meditations, and especially the Root Lock (discussed in Chapter Two) all help you direct your energy.
Prana and apana mix together in the area of your belly, called your navel point. As these energies mix, the resulting downward pressure stimulates the upward flow of Kundalini energy. The Kundalini energy uncoils and then rises, and brings you a new level of increased sensitivity and awareness. The raising of Kundalini energy is a natural response to yoga practice and to events in life that deeply inspire you (like seeing the birth of your child, or reading a passage of text or scripture that you connect with). Kundalini energy is considered the energy of the soul. When you experience this energy you feel awakened, sensitive, and aware of your potential; when you directly experience your expansive nature and limitless mind, while still feeling grounded and relaxed, you are in touch with the Mother energy of Kundalini.
Your Subtle Anatomy can be vital, radiant, and effective, despite the physical condition of your body. Many elderly Masters can teach powerfully, despite illnesses and infirmities. This is because they can master the use of all their bodies, beyond the physical. They can perceive using their subtlety, and they know their minds. Their pranic body serves them through their breath and energizes all other bodies. They have the capability of communicating from their Chakras to your Chakras, beyond the intellect, so you understand them, and their words reach your heart.
This ability to live in both the physical and subtle realms is your capacity as a woman. As you increase your knowledge of both your physical and Subtle Anatomy, you can better understand aging, cope with physical challenges and pain, and project truth and light through the most chaotic situations. Navigating your life with an understanding of your subtlety brings grace, too. This grace can guide you through your transitions with a broader understanding of their deeper meaning.
The many detailed writings on the Subtle Anatomy, both ancient and modern, offer more information, if you choose to read further. However, the intellectual knowledge of this is less important than your experience, which is your best teacher. Through the process of practicing the yoga kriyas, meditations, and relaxation, you can realize the depth of subtle experience. You are already living through your Subtle Anatomy; yoga is simply naming what is already so.
Think of yourself as a many-faceted crystal sitting on the planet. When the light from the sun, the source of life, shines on you, you become like a prism. The light becomes refracted into a rainbow of colors that reflect the different qualities of your energy body. The light is most dense at the base of your spine, closest to the earth, and least dense at the top of your head, closest to the heavens. Where this light pools in specific densities is where your Chakras, or energy centers, are located.
Each Chakra has a specific quality that is associated with it. For instance, the first Chakra, closest to the earth relates to your ability to feel grounded and secure in your life. The Chakras tend to be associated with organs and glands but function independently of them as well. These pools of energy can, just as the systems in your physical body, be in balance or out of balance. The sequences of exercises in the Kundalini Yoga kriyas are designed to balance all the Chakras and uncoil the Kundalini energy in a gradual and balanced manner. This is one reason we do not change the order of the exercises in the kriyas, or do any techniques for longer than recommended. The yoga is working on a subtle level, as well as on the level of your physical body.
Chakras 1.The base of your spine and anus - stability, grounding, the element of earth
2.Between your hips including your sexual organs - creativity, sexuality, the element of water
3.Your belly or navel point including your solar plexus - will, discipline, the element of fire
4.Your chest area, including your heart and lungs - compassion and love, the element of air
5.Your throat area, including your thyroid gland - manifesting ideas and the power of your word, the element of ether
6.Your brow point, an area in your forehead between your eyes and above your nose, including your pituitary gland - intuitive wisdom, the element of light
7.The crown of your head at the fontanel including your pineal gland - union with cosmic energy, the element of sound
8.The area extending approximately 3-6 feet from your body called your aura or electromagnetic field, your shield of positive energy and your radiant presence
The Ten Bodies
In addition to your Chakras, you have Ten Bodies. The Ten Bodies are a further refinement of the way in which your energy manifests on the physical plane. Your Ten Bodies include your Soul Body, Three Minds (negative, positive, and neutral), Physical Body, Arc Line, Aura, Pranic Body, Subtle Body, and The Radiant Body. All of these energy bodies have qualities. Your Soul Body is timeless. Your mind is made up of three basic areas-Positive, Negative, and Neutral (or yogic) Mind. Your aura surrounds you as both a shield and a projection of energy. Your Subtle Body gives you the ability to perceive on a subtle level, and your Radiant Body is your non-local body, allowing you to sense beyond the limits of time and space.
The Arc Line is of special importance to women, as it is located as an arc of light from ear to ear, like the halo. Women have an additional Arc Line across the chest, from one breast nipple to the other, over the heart and rib cage. These two Arc Lines give women additional sensitivity and radiance. The Arc Line represents your integrity and holds the imprint of your destiny. The Pranic Body is the subtle circulatory system, or connector of all the other bodies, circulating energy throughout both your physical and Subtle Anatomy.
The Ten Bodies 1.Soul Body - everlasting and beyond time and space - your essence
2.Positive mind - collects information and analyzes how you can use it to move your projects forward, to accomplish and be optimistic
3.Negative Mind - helps you see what you need to avoid in order to move forward
4.Neutral Mind - the jewel of the mind, the yoga mind, that lives a "mutual life," that has relationship without attachment -- your mind working in a balanced way that sees reality and experiences win-win negotiations
5.Physical body -the temple of your spirit
6.Arc line - your integrity manifested in your energy, like your halo, that holds the imprint of your past actions -on which your destiny is said to be "written" and visible to those who can perceive it
7.Aura - your projection of light and energy, changing subtly with each thought vibration, action, feeling -- represents your consciousness
8.Pranic body -the circulatory system of your Ten Bodies and your Chakras, or your energy level - allows you to receive energy from the universe, transform it into more subtle vibrations, thoughts, actions, and creativity
9.Subtle body - surrounds your soul and gives you the experience of detail and perception in the subtlest realms
10.Radiant body - your non-local experience that gives you the capacity to sense what is happening far away, as well as within range of your hearing, sight, smell, and touch -- the expansiveness you feel when you have strong ability to travel in mind and sensation beyond time and space
--from A Woman's Book of Yoga: Embracing Our Natural Life Cycles by MacHelle M. Seibel and Hari Kaur Khalsa, Copyright © November 2002, Avery Books, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission."
Meet the Author
Machelle M. Siebel, M.D., is a reproductive endocrinologist at the Fertility Center of New England and a clinical professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Boston University School of Medicine. He is an expert in alternative and nutritional approaches to gynecology.
Hari Kaur Khalsa, one of the most respected Kundalini yoga and meditation teachers in the world, has created specialized programs for pregnant women, senior citizens, and youngsters. She is the Director of International Teacher Training in the United States and India.
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