Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 6)

What is Aqua Yoga?

I have recently introduced Aqua Yoga to my students at G hotel. I decided to take my class to the pool to experience the invigorating pulse of prana.

From a very surface point of view, pun intended, when we bring our practice to the pool, we can work our flexibility and agility, but really, knowing me, that's not even the point why I chose to shift my student's focus from a 4 wall room to open waters. My students who know my style know that I encourage spontaneity in class, to be relaxed and open to new ideas.

Throughout our day, we are bombarded with social expectations and it's a constant struggle for a lot of us, unless you have reached enlightenment that is. So my sole objective of Aqua Yoga is for you to forget your day and immerse yourself in movement, to be in totality with the moment, feeling it's flow, feeling it's calming energies, to drop attachments of whatever was holding you back from being a productive, compassionate being. When we merge movement and breath, we have meditation, since we are moving through water, we have dynamic meditation. We bring our attention to the present, not in the past, not to the future, because the future is merely a projected idea of an idealistic past memory. To bring our focus to the now, is very difficult, I have seen, some amateur students may be in the pool with class, but their mind is thinking about another 1 million other things, in lay men's term, totally zoned out. What is yoga then? Why do it when you don't want to be here? To have your consciousness drift off occasionally is fine, but quickly, quickly bring it back to now, without a feeling of guilt that you drifted, because we are only human. If you ever watched "The Love Guru" movie, you would know that when you lose awareness, you are nowhere, but bring light to your breath, and you are now-here. Excellent play with words by the scriptwriters, nonetheless.

Diving deeper into the yogic point of view, there is another significant reason why we practice water yoga, merging graceful and dynamic movement with breath, a deeper connection happens. When we begin to let go of the expectations of our self and society's expectation of us, a whole new world opens up within you. A very child like, innocent mind is unearthed. It's not childish, it is child-like, note the difference, let me stress. Children view everything with such curiosity, lightness, and freshness. to them, everything is something they have never seen or experienced before. As we get older, we forget how to truly experience life, bogged down by earthly strains. So when you let yourself let go, when you allow it to happen(you cannot force it), a certain bliss is attained. We cannot force bliss to happen, we don't have to, it is something we are ALL born with. It is inside us, not something to be discovered or unleashed, you ARE bliss. Always have been, only that we have forgotten.

As we delve deeper, we find that our sacral chakra, the Swadhistana, energetically located at the level of the pubic bone, the frontal bone of the pelvis, the chakra translates itself as "self sustaining" and is connected to pleasure, creativity, and relationships. This chakra, housed in the sacrum, it is linked to sexuality and socialization, and organically related to the genitals, bladder and kidneys. What's this got to do with Aqua yoga? The Swadhistana chakra is of the water element, thus when we practice, we are inevitably brought closer to our water element energy. If you wanted to affirm your sacral chakra, one would chant "Pantha Rei", translating into "Flow like water". If you're familiar with deciphering dreams, when one dreams of water, or a pool, or the sea, it is often connected to sexuality, sensuality and passion. I have seen students who are so disconnected from their own sensuality, males and females alike. A perfect example I have is a male student I had who was rather androgynous, I grit my teeth and asked him(after getting to know him awhile that is), what colour underwear he wore, he told me black, I instantly recommended he switch his preference to orange, to balance his Swadhistana chakra, nowadays, he projects more male energies. Energies can be corrected through colour therapy which another branch of yoga. But what I'm trying to say is being in the water rebalances a very subtle yet monumental part of our energy, where the Swadhistana chakra is concerned. The feeling of being in the water brings us back to a very primal stage, and cleanses the body of bad vibes collected during the day, better effects in salt water though.

When we are practicing in the pool, proper breathing and spinal alignment becomes top priority of course, without sounding too cliche. The water pressure forces the body to work harder, especially the intercostal muscles to lift and drop the diaphragm, responsible for creating the internal pressure in order to take in sufficient oxygen into the body. We literally have to work harder, realising this fact of not. So those who rarely work the intercostal muscles will feel rather tense while in the pool. It is really important for students to maintain a lifted open chest, an energetically lifted sternum(breast bone) and strong quadriceps(thigh muscles, feel like you're hugging the thigh muscle to the bone). Do not collapse, or concave the spine. You would want energy moving up and down the spine freely.

Here are some reasons why students have problems expanding the chest cavity:
1. Lack of aerobic exercise
2. Smoking
3. Trauma to upper back, ribs, sternum
4. Scoliosis/malformations of spine
5. Weak abdominal muscles
6. Chronic constipation/abdominal bloating
7. History of chronic lung disease
8. Lack of confidence/power

Another few reasons why students have the inability to abdominal breath fully:
1. Habitual tension pattern of shallow breathing
2. Emotional holding pattern in the abdominal( due to fear, insecurity, and anxiety, etc)
3. History of lower back pain/disc problems creating guarding of abdominal wall
4. Excessive abdominal exercise, creating short strong muscles but no flexibility to expand
5. Respiratory problems such as wheezing/asthma

That's all for now,

Lots of light and love, Namaste.

Michelle Q