What is ‘Retreat’?

For some, the idea of “going on retreat” is like the tastiest food on the tongue and words to be savoured with a smiling soul. For others, retreating from habits, patterns and “what you are used to being and doing” brings up fear, uncertainty and resistance – to the max. This little bit of writing is to entice both kinds of people, and everyone in between, to consider what ‘retreat’ can bring if you offer yourself to the possibilities with a full heart.

For me, being in Kundalini Yoga Retreat gifts my mind with the purity of awareness without the clutter of navigating relationships to family, work commitments, even leisure and vacation pursuits. It provides a beginning and ending to pursuit in the deep pool of blissful awakening into sensory fullness; listening with ears, heart, mind and body to both a world ‘inside’ of what we call ‘self’ and learning new perspectives on our participation in nature. Retreats can awaken your mind and heart/soul to a purpose –  energy that calls you forward into the next phase of living with more grace, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and mindfulness. The results? They can be beyond words…..

I have considered hosting my own retreat – offering a way for people to converge in space and time to employ the tools of Kundalini Yoga, awaken through interaction of mind, body and soul with the healing elements of the natural world on Salt Spring island, and conscious communication with what we call the “heart” or “soul” or “intuitive self”, including the ability to listen by quieting the influence of external factors like relationships, electronic technology, work commitments, etc. So far, it has not dropped into place, and I trust this is not yet quite the right offering for me. Partly, I feel I am still a student of retreats, even though I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga for 14 years. I also have a family whose commitments during May – September are varied and not routine in terms of timing, and the childcare falls mainly to me, making preparation and leading of a retreat (minimum 1 week of time full time work), difficult to manage with my other work & home duties.

Last year, in September 2013, I had the absolute blessing of arranging to attend a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Retreat to Awaken the Heart on Denman Island, B.C., and I was reminded of the immensity of transformation that is so easily and effortlessly available when we surrender ourselves to this practice for more than 2 days in a row. As Yogi Bhajan might say, the daily early morning practice of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, including the Aquarian Sadhana chanting practice, has the ability to cut through the muck and shine one’s inner diamond.

In lieu of hosting a Salt Spring Kundalini Retreat this spring, I am teaching a 10-week Women’s Kundalini Yoga series “To Live from the Heart” and a 9-week Kundalini Yoga for All Levels “Balancing the Physical” series (ages 11 and up). My main goal with these classes is to provide space to drop into weekly mini-retreats that offer to reverse the effects of stress and aging, to cleanse mind and body, to heal past thought patterns or ‘heart’ wounds, to strengthen and clarify one’s commitment to health and wellness, and to further skill development in the art and science of Kundalini Yoga – a technology that works – especially when it becomes a daily ‘conscious’ habit.

My classes are designed to meet you where you are mentally, emotionally and physically, to help you learn to confront yourself for those patterns that are not serving you and the life you want to live! One does not need any level of flexibility or mental practice to attend!

For deeper retreat effects with this powerful technology ~ consider joining in one of the local Kundalini Yoga Retreats this year:

Denman Island Retreats with Devmurti and Hari Amrit Khalsa.

Sooke Blackfish Inn Kundalini Retreats with Siri Amir.

White Tantric Yoga Retreat Summer Solstice in Espanola, New Mexico, USA.

 

 

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Synchronize Your Mind

Kundalini Yoga offers so many ways to integrate The Mind, The Body and The Spirit….this trinity of experience. Mind is, by and large, the “where” and “how” consciousness gets molded into living as pure consciousness interacts with matter. Humans are often living more in “the mind” than in the body. Another Trinity in this practice is the three “functional” aspects of the Mind –

Positive: the expansive sense of life, in the flow

Negative: safety and warning, drawing boundaries that serve you

Neutral: lucid and spacious – receptive and meditative (which we’ll explore in Thursday 9:30am class on March 6).

Through union of breath, sound, vibration, movement and energy flow, we have access to awareness of how the mind is working, and in this very awareness lies tremendous power and peace.

Here are two meditations we practiced the last two weeks in our Thursday Women’s classes for cultivating particular strengths of what we call “Mind”.

Yogi Bhajan taught us that, according to Kundalini Yoga Philosophy (originating more than 10,000 years ago), the mind contains 81 different facets. Universal Mind is acted on by many forces and elements; among others, it interacts with three functional minds 1) Positive, 2) Negative and 3) Neutral, 9 aspects and 27 projections.

Here is a meditation taught by Yogi Bhajan that helps one to deal with threats and balances the “Negative”. When out of balance, you may perceive that you are personally at risk when you are actually not. It can result in “stress and anxiety” beyond what is real. Too weak in this aspect of Mind and you are over-trusting and have a hard time discerning ill will and end up an unwitting victim. Too strong, and you doubt yourself constantly – even to the point of relentless inquisitions of others. You have difficulty cultivating trust in anyone or anything.

Synchronization Meditation for the Negative Mind: “How to Deal with A Threat”:

Sit with a straight spine. Relax arms at the sides with elbows against the ribs. Forearms are parallel to the ground and angled outward just as your thighs are angled as you sit cross-legged. Hands form “closed lotus” with your thumb tips touching all four finger tips at a single point facing upwards. Focus your eyes at the brow point. Inhale deeply and fully. Exhale completely. Lock out your breath and pull the navel point and mulabandha (root lock). As you hold the breath out, repeat mentally:

Sa Ta Na Ma X4 (16 beats total on one breath).

Then inhale deeply and slowly and repeat. Continue 7 minutes to start. Build this practice to 31 minutes. This meditation takes you beyond fear, and it lets the solder act direct and true.

Synchronization meditation #2:

If you are out of balance and overly in the Positive mind, without enough of the neutral and negative, then you leap into everything that crosses your path, and often are impatient and pushy. If this aspect is weak, however, then you may be satisfied with temporary success, not accept feedback, nor see the full impact of your actions. When balanced, you are strategic, successful and have an expanded sense of life – non-attachment makes life a dance with much creativity and gratitude.

Kundalini Laya Yoga Meditation: Positive Mind X Buddhi (discernment and intuition).

Sit straight and put the palms in prayer pose at the heart center. Focus eyes up to brow point (And through it). Chant:

Ek One Kar-A

Sat A Nam A

Sir-Ee Wah-Ha

Hay-G’rooo

Pull navel in on “Ek” and lift diaphragm firmly up at each “A” sound. Relax on the last line – Hay G-roooo.

Imagine the sound is energy spinning from the base of your spine, up through each chakra, and out the spinal cord in a right-handed helix.

Continue 31 minutes.

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Centering at the Heart

Finding our heart spaces and the way of listening from the heart instead of the head is the journey of our lifetime. Yogi Bhajan offered us countless opportunities to discover this for ourselves and to experience the distinction between centering at the heart and living in the head.

This week is a heart week for my five classes. If you feel disconnected from your emotions  – “What am I feeling right now??”, and if you want to increase patience and your capacity to give and be of service for enhanced feelings of fulfillment and joy, I offer one way to experience the tools to get us there. Breathe and move and resonate sacred sounds to open your heart!

Next week until December 12 we’ll have Women’s classes on Thursdays at the Gatehouse 9:30am and All levels classes on Thursdays at 5:15 at the Art Barn before Dance Temple. Come on out!

Sat Nam.

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Consciousness and Creativity

_MG_6238We wake up to ourselves by practising removal of all of the self-imposed barriers to conscious clarity.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras guide us to recognition and awareness of “I am”, rather than a brain filled with thoughts imposing itself on the mind-body-soul.

This week all of our group yoga (five classes on Salt Spring Island) gave us the opportunity to explore the connection between a balanced second chakra – Svadisthana – and the awakening to our inherent, Divine creative nature. We chanted to open the throat and to balance our endocrine systems. We re-set our nervous systems with the sacred sound of the Gong, and we deeply massaged our muscles, joints, organs and other physical components while bringing the mind to focussed concentration.

On our own journeys, we work with regular discipline (achievement of upliftment of Spirit and bringing the light of consciousness to our inner world and to others). It means taking our practice outside of yoga classes, to awaken each moment – in relationship to ourselves and others. Discipline is about being rigorous and giving up the ego’s momentary desire (sometimes to great perceived discomfort) in order to attain Mastery of the mind and desires that are transitory, so one can experience the blissful energy when the mind and soul knows itself as pure Love. Surrendering to discipline will reduce what Yogi Bhajan called the “Unconscious Burden”. He taught that most humans are desensitized to the present moment because they live in their heads; humans experience life from the past or the future, following the folly of each desire as it arises, without really knowing why it is there; most humans are asleep to who they are, and how they are, in the glorious present “is-ness” of this moment.

Let’s wake up, together!

Here is a video I made last spring, in which I offer you tools from the Kundalini Yoga technology that speak to your daily awakening, and may be the right practices for this time in your life.

Yogi Bhajan told his friends and beloved students that it does not matter how long you practice, or even exactly what Kriya or Meditation you choose. Just do the practice. Let the grace of these teachings show up in your life by giving yourself to your Self for some regular practice every day.

Ideally, practice before your thinking day begins.

Please share with us what practising Kundalini Yoga brings to your life!

See you in group classes next week! Sat nam.

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Mind Over Matter

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” – Pema Chodron

Is there a set personality that I’m destined to live out? Do I turn away from negative thoughts and emotions – hiding them in trying to make myself feel “better”, when I’m down? Can mind change brain, or are we pawns in the face of powerful emotions that come about as a result of genetics and/or situations? Am I building brain matter by choices I make, or are my neurons set in patterns of learning by about age 14, as science has suggested?

Flashback: I remember sitting in grade 9 science class beside another bright student who liked to share “facts” with me. On numerous occasions after a weekend of spending time with friends, we both would find ourselves comparing stories and talking about the effects of our new-found “teenage” behaviours on our athletic, academic and achievement-based lifestyles. “Kill any neurouns last weekend?”, he would ask with that knowing look. “Neurons don’t re-grow when you kill them at this age, and alcohol kills neurons! Forget getting into the University of your choice! Now, you’re growing dumber every day!” How’s that for positive affirmations and friendly tips?

Thankfully, I did not let his taunting affect my sense of self or my ever-growing curiousity about mental, intellectual, and physical body health. Today’s neuroscientists are reporting amazing feats of plasticity in the human and other mammalian brains. Functional regions can re-grow and re-allocate themselves. For example, the visual cortex can become active in humans born blind as they learn to “read” braille!

Scientists have also studied the impact of attention/focus and meditation on the health and plasticity of the human brain. Buddhist and Vedantic teachings about meditation creating anti-anxiety hormones, peaceful and less aggressive behaviours, and better sleep and relaxation to bring the body’s systems to higher states of health can all be verified by scientific evidence!

In humans who have developed obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), practicing regular meditation techniques can actually be shown to alter brain chemistry and effectively re-circuit the brain. One of the most common forms of meditation is watching and labeling any activity of the brain as “thinking”, so that thought becomes merely “thought” rather than stimulating a biophysical response similar to the stress response that some thoughts taken to be “facts” are known to create. Many other forms exist – including the use of sacred chants to direct the brain so that thinking does not stand a chance (for the time you are in meditation), thus bringing a deep relaxation state to the mind and body.

Mind is not matter, the teachings say, yet the two are co-arising (Buddhist). Vedantic teachings highlight the reality of a Universal Mind – a state of energy that is beyond the human brain, yet which is accessible to all living creatures, as a function of their “alive-ness”. Both Eastern belief systems teach that the benefits that relaxation from the “doing” or “Ego” mind are necessary for healthy lifestyles and survival of the human species.

Whether your beliefs and experiences give evidence to the Buddhist or the Vedantic viewpoint, scientific evidence now emphasizes that: thought changes brain functions, and brain functions are influenced deeply by environmental factors, and are not purely determined by genetic codes. These claims fit within the ancient Eastern teachings – which even the Dalai Lama has been known to find exciting! What we choose to do with our mental attention (mind) can impact the growth and development of patterns of brain function, even seemingly involuntary patterning.

So giving attention to our thinking, taking pauses in the “doing-ness” of life, can actually benefit our brain chemistry and subsequently the way we learn to experience emotions and choose behaviours. This takes practice. Rather than expecting wholesale changes as a result of brain-altering drugs or a weekend workshop on relationships, the Middle Path and the teachings of yoga point to practicing mindful living – cultivating a relationship with our own brains may offer “Mind over Matter” capabilities. Yoga or some form of mindfulness or awareness practice may point the way towards transformations and adaptations towards more conscious, health-ful living. And it is practice. Like all forms of practice, when we cease to regularly give attention to the practice, our skills get rusty!

“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” – Pema Chodron
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New Fall Series Starts Sep 24 (Free Classes Sep 17 and 19).

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Your Yogic Gaze is the Playground of Light: Cultivating Darshana

In the philosophy of Yoga, and in practice this week through Thursday and Monday classes, we explore the interplay –Darshana or Drishti, between the “Seeing energy” – Drashta, and the “Seen” –Drishya.
Sometimes the more spiritual or metaphysical aspects of a yoga class may go literally “over one’s head”! All those references to “connecting with cosmic consciousness”, or “opening to Spirit”, or “playing with your Divine spark” can be perceived with our human minds as directly opposed to the “body” that we are knowing through yoga practice – the sensual, sense-filled container for our minds. Isn’t my body and breath what we have to work with? Some of us may wonder about ‘cosmic consciousness’ as we breathe deeply, lengthen, lift, relax, sit, lie, melt, hold, glide, twist, drop, adjust and pump…_MG_6291

Yet – experience and human development relies on both the body and the mind for so much: capacity, action, information, storage and interpretation. Yoga practice shows us where both our bodies, and our mind-soul, hold tension, negativity and darkness. Yoga practice shines the light of awareness, and creates a healing field within us; practicing the tools of Yoga can open the doorway to a host of benefits .

In the Past, when great Yogis taught about the dual nature of each human, they described it as a mirror of the dual nature of the Universe itself. They described the “Matter” (ie. the Body or Drishya) and the “Intelligence” (ie. the Mind or Drashta). Note: I won’t go into the diversity of facets of the Mind in this post, but for our purposes in this writing, please consider both of these natures of “The Mind”: the Ego Mind and the Universal Mind, or the Field of Connected Consciousness.

Drashta means the “Seer” or the “Observer”. When activated, this facet of each human mind allows the light of Universal Intelligence, or Divine Love, to be engaged, and quiets the predominant component of most Western (human?) minds: the Ego. The use of Drashta awakens the very self-same organizing and generating and destroying energy of which the entire Universe itself is consistent. Om. Ong.

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When Drashta is activated to dance with Drishya (the body, matter), voila! We have Darshana! A practice of dancing the “Seer” with the “Seen”.

It is this dance we are embracing this week. I also see it consistent with the concept and experience of the Dependent Co-arising of consciousness in Buddhist teachings. Joanna Macy’s writings helped my thinking brain to consider the idea that consciousness alone cannot know itself, and that matter alone is not conscious. Yet, when consciousness and matter interact, it is in that moment/place that what we call “life” or “reality” arises. Both are necessary for living, and also, all living beings are thus connected. In Joanna’s words, “We already and indissolubly belong to each other, for this is the nature of life.”  Thank you, Joanna!

Can one see the light, if not for the dark?

Can one experience life, if not for death?

Can one experience sound, if not for silence?

Drashta (The Energy of Seeing) alone cannot know itself!

It needs a playground!

In our bodies, Drashta mingles and moves, rises and falls, bumps up against corners and edges – and thus, contributes to personal knowledge, and universal knowledge and experience.

Similarly, our Vedic ancestors told stories about how Drishya or the material world, without the spark of life from the supreme OM, lacks Truth (“Sat”), and feeds desire and the ego-mind: the separate, individualistic, memory-based aspect of the human brain that constantly fights for its identity in our consciousness.

If you want to dance Darshana, there are so many access points. And, I humbly report, I don’t/can’t know them all! I “think” that each and every one of you have learned some of your own. You gaze softly in wonder at a dewdrop, and experience a sense of bliss come over you, perhaps? Feeling the tingles and light inside when being kissed by someone? Floating somewhere, almost hovering around your body as it swiftly carries “you” over roots and soft mosses on a trail run, maybe? Stilling the mind and smiling with your whole being as you receive appreciation after a performance? And the list could be endless!!!

Well, now that I’ve enticed you to travel down memory lane and re-kindle your experiences and mentally categorize them as “Darshana” or “not Darshana”….let me offer one more tip:

Yoga is not in memory.

Yoga, union, is in this moment.

Now.

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I can offer you some access points to Darshana that I’ve come to know through the practice of Kundalini Yoga.

Come to class or practice with me using this video in your own time and space.

Sat Nam!

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40 Day Group Sadhana for Freedom

“40 Days of Freedom” Group Sadhana

(From The Negative Effects of Stress)!

 Watch the video here, and read below for text version of the instructions.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website and health claims made herein, in writing or in video, are not to be considered medical advice. If you engage with any of the suggestions promoted on this website, you do so at your own risk and assume all risk of injury. Before beginning any new practice of Yoga, please consult with your professional healthcare provider/medical practitioner. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, many Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations are safe, but it is essential to get the advice of a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher, or certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher before practicing.

Beginning on Sunday May 12, 2013 and ending on Thursday June 20th (the day before summer solstice), we will practice the following each day for 40 days.

Let us practice together the same meditation, at the same time each day, for the same length of time. This is called a Group Sadhana (sadhana means a spiritual practice).  For the highest effects, please commit to the exact same practice each day for the entire period. Do not cut your times to accommodate what you think is your schedule. Instead, if you really need to be doing something else at the time you normally meditate, then shift and do your full daily meditation at a time where you can complete the full length you have committed to do each day.

This Sadhana includes short warm ups, a breathing meditation and a chanting meditation. These meditations were not placed together in a practice order by Yogi Bhajan, but each portion as presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge from his accredited teachings. If you are considering the commitment, but cannot see where it will fit, you may shorten each of the meditation times by ¼, 1/3 or 1/2. Be consistent. The minimum length of time would be 3 minutes of Meditation A and 3 minutes of Meditation B for a total of six minutes after you have done the tuning in mantra.

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Tune In with Adi Mantra

Sit in easy cross-legged pose with a straight spine. Hands in prayer pose at the heart center. Eyes closed and looking at the third eye point.

Chant: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo 3 times.

End: Inhale and suspend the breath, pulling Mulabandha (root lock).

Warm Up the Body (3-5 minutes of physical kundalini yoga warm ups)

Here is an Example: I will be doing these three simple warmups each of my 40 days for my sadhana practice. (You can always do other asana practice after, if you wish, or trade these three for the three warmups your body needs that day.)

1. Spinal Flexes: In easy cross-legged pose, hold the ankles and inhale the navel point and solar plexus forward as you rock the pelvis and shoulders backward. Then, exhale the navel point back behind you, and let the tailbone roll under and the shoulders roll forward slightly. Keep the chin even with the Earth, do not include the neck in this spinal flex motion. Focus on full breathing throughout. 1-2 minutes.

2. V-sit Side Life Nerve Stretches: Sit with legs wide apart and sit bones directly under your spine. Lifting from the low back, inhale the right arm up. Exhale and tip to the left side, reaching past your foot and keeping the spine lengthened. Inhale back up reaching the left hand up to the sky. Exhale and tip to the right side, reaching that left hand past your foot and keeping the spine long. Repeat alternating sides for 1-2 minutes.

3.  On spine, bicycling the legs. Lie on your spine and let the palms rest face down just below your buttocks so you can lean your sit bones onto your hands as a ledge. Inhale and raise the feet 6 inches (higher for level ones) above the ground. Begin a bicycling motion, knees coming alternately into the chest and pointed toes extending out like you are pedaling the air. Inhale as one knee reaches the chest, and exhale the other knee into the chest. Continue 1-2 minutes with a vigorous, full breath.

Rest 1 minute on your spine. Tuck and rock to roll up sitting, or roll to the side to sit up.

Meditation A

“Tattva Balance: Beyond Stress and Duality”

Page 406 in 3HO Teacher Training Manual

TIME: Minimum 3 minutes – up to max 11 minutes. Continue the same # of minutes per day for the rest of the 40 day period once you commit to your time, please.

POSITION: Sit in easy pose with slight neck lock (Jalandhara Bandh). (see video)

Raise the arms with elbows bent until hands meet at level of the heart. Touch the fingertips and thumb tips of opposite hands together. Create enough pressure to join the first segments of each finger. Stretch the thumbs back to point toward the torso. Fingers will bend slightly due to pressure, just to the first knuckles.

TattvaBalanceMudra

EYES: Fix your eyes at the tip of the nose.

BREATH:  Inhale smoothly and deeply through the nose.

Exhale through the rounded lips in 8 equal emphatic strokes.

On each exhale, pull in the navel point slightly.

TO END: Inhale deeply, suspend the breath and posture for 10-30 secs. Exhale. Inhale again and shake the hands. Relax.

Comments:

The five elements (tattvas) are categories of quality that are based in the energetic flow of your life force. If all the elements are strong, in balance, and located in their proper areas of the body, then you can resist stress, trauma and illness. You also do not get confused in conflicts between the two hemispheres of the brain as they compete for the right to make and direct decisions.

This meditation uses the hand mudra to pressurize the 10 points in the fingers that correlate to the zones of the brain in the two hemispheres. The equal pressure causes a kind of communication and coordination between the two sides. The deep inhale gives endurance and calmness. The exhale through the mouth strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system from a control band of reflexes in the ring of the throat. This calms reaction to stress. The strokes of the exhale stimulate the pituitary gland to optimize your clarity, intuition and decision-making capacities. This meditation resolves many inner conflicts, especially when the conflicts areise from the competition between different levels of your functioning: eg. Spiritual vs. mental vs. physical or survival needs.

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Meditation B

Adi Shakti Mantra: Long Ek Ong Kars

CHANT:  EK ONG KAR SAT NAM SIRI WAHE GURU

sounds like: ick ong car sut naam siree wahay g’roo

TIME: 3 minutes – 7 minutes. Pick your time and stick with it daily, please.

This is the ashtang mantra for this Age. Ashtang means cycle of 8: it vibrates 8 different sounds. The “8” represents two wheels – the interconnectedness of all things. It is an effective way to direct the kundalini energy of awakening or awareness into the central channel, called the Shushmana.

POSITION: Sit with a very straight spine in easy pose with neck lock (tuck the chin down slightly, neck is straight and your crown points up to the sky). Use the edge of a pillow if you are new to sitting longer periods on the Earth. This helps to tip the sacrum so the low back is not arching or rounding behind you, pulling your spine out of alignment.

HANDS: Place the pointer finger tip against the thumb tip for each hand. Extend the other three fingers. Rest both hands on the knees. Arms should be straight.

EYES: are closed looking up to the center of the forehead at the “third eye point”. This is stimulating for the pituitary gland in our endocrine system and helps to balance the brain patterns and nervous system.

Here is how to chant it…. (see video) or read below

Take a very deep breath. Make the first sound “EK” as a short, sharp one, followed by two resonant long sounds (holding “ONG” and “KAR” for approximately 8-10 seconds each). Please use half remaining breath to sound ONG, then sound KAR for the same length of time.

Inhale quickly and fully.

Make the SAT sound short, but not as sharp as EK. Chant NAM for 12-20 seconds, then at the end of your breath when it is almost all exhaled, chant softly the two syllables Si-Ri almost as a whisper.

Inhale quickly and not as fully (like half the breath amount of the last two breaths)

Chant “WA” “HAY” “GU-ROOOO” less forcefully, and with the HAY and ROOO a little longer than the WA or the GU. Visualize this sound reaching up through your crown chakra, gently swirling upward.

Each repetition of this full mantra should take approximately 1 full minute.

TO END: Inhale deeply through the nostrils. Suspend the breath and squeeze mulabandha (or root lock) 8-10 seconds. Then, exhale and relax the lock.

If you want to commit to longer than 7 minutes of chanting this mantra, you may, but please work up to that longer length of time gradually. A very deeply cleansing practice includes chanting this mantra 2.5 hours/day in the 2.5 hours before sunrise.

Thanks for joining in this transformative practice! Sat Nam.

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