Your Energetic Anatomy

by Tonya Madia

According to yogic tradition, the subtle body or energy body is comprised of Prana. Prana is distributed through the body through the seven chakras (Sanskrit for wheel), and when these centers are healthy and functioning properly they spin in a clock-wise motion like a wheel.

On a physical level, each of the seven major chakras align with the body through nerve ganglia, correspond to glands and organs in the body, and are situated at various points along the spinal column. Each of the seven energy centers serves to connect the physical body to the emotional and spiritual realms and corresponds to patterns of behavior and specific “life themes.” Symbolically, each chakra is represented by a lotus, which is depicted by a specific color and number of petals. Each of the chakras, or energy centers, vibrates at different frequencies, corresponding to sound vibrations and the sound vibrations produced by each chakra correspond to seven notes on the musical scale and are associated with “seed sounds,” referred to as Bija Mantras.

When the chakras are functioning properly energy flows freely and the body is both physically and emotionally balanced. Factors such as our external environment and internal states can affect the vibrational flow of energy into and out of the chakras and when this occurs, one or more of these energy centers can become out of balance, resulting in the presence of either too much or too little energy. These imbalances can manifest physically as illness and disease, emotionally as depression, anger or mania and spiritually as patterns or themes that perpetually reoccur in our lives.

The seven major chakras from bottom to top are as follows:

The First Chakra: The Root, in Sanskrit: Muladara or “Root Support.”

The Muladhara chakra is located at the base of the spine near the coccygeal plexus and is represented by a four-petaled lotus. Physically this chakra relates to the base of the spine, the legs, the feet and the large intestine. Muladhara corresponds to the life themes of self-preservation and to basic needs such as food, water, shelter and safety. The first chakra also establishes our connection to familial and cultural traditions that form our sense of identity. Patriotism, societal belief systems and family traditions are all part of the energy circulating in the root chakra. This energy center literally represents our “roots” and is expressed when we share belief patterns with a large group of people. The Muladhara chakra is associated with the element of earth, its color is red, its musical note is “C” and its seed sound is “Lam.”

The Second Chakra: The Sacral, in Sanskrit: Svadhisthana or “Dwelling Place of the Self.”

Svadhisthana is located above the pubic bone and below the navel in the location of the sacral ganglia. It sits two finger-widths above the Muladhara and is represented by a six-petaled lotus. Physically this chakra relates to the ovaries in women, the testes in men and the adrenal glands, spleen, uterus, urinary and circulatory systems. Svadhisthana corresponds to the life themes of sexuality, fertility, creativity and one-on-one relationships. The seeds of self-identity and personal boundaries lie within this energy center, as does our ability to bring creative ideas to fruition. Imbalances in this energy center might manifest as addiction, excessive emotional attachment to others, codependency or excessive neediness in relationships. Water is the element of Svadhisthana, its color is orange, its musical note is “D” and its seed sound is “Vam.”

The Third Chakra: The Solar Plexus, in Sanskrit: Manipura or “Lustrous Gem.”

The ten-petaled Manipura is located in the middle of the abdomen behind the navel, near the lumbar ganglia and is also known as the navel center. Physically Manipura relates to the pancreas, stomach, liver, small intestine and the digestive and endocrine systems. This chakra corresponds to the life themes of self-esteem, personal power and identity. The energies in this chakra directly relate to self-respect, self-discipline and strength of character. Imbalances in this energy center can manifest as lack of confidence, inability to make decisions and giving our power over to others. Manipura’s element is fire, its color is yellow, its musical note is “E” and its seed sound is “Ram.”

The Fourth Chakra: The Heart, in Sanskrit: Anahata or “Unhurt, Unstruck, and Unbeaten.”

The twelve-petaled lotus of the Anahata chakra is located in the center of the chest at the cardiac plexus and is also referred to as the heart center for good reason; it is the center of the human energy system. Physically this chakra relates to the lungs, heart, pericardium, arms and hands. Corresponding life themes are compassion, love and healing. While the lower three chakras relate to our interactions with the physical world, the heart chakra is the bridge between the three lower chakras (physical) and the three higher (spiritual) chakras. The energies of the fourth chakra relate to our emotional development and our ability to express our emotions with ease. Imbalances may manifest as being overly critical of yourself and others, holding grudges and an inability to give or receive love freely. The element of Anahata is air, its color is green, its note is “F” and its corresponding seed sound is “Yam.”

The Fifth Chakra: The Throat, in Sanskrit: Visuddha or “Purification.”

The sixteen-petaled Visuddha chakra is located in the throat at the pharyngeal plexus and physically relates to the thyroid, parathyroid, voice box, ears, neck and shoulders. Known as the purification center, the Vishuddha chakra gives voice to our spirit. Corresponding life themes include self-expression and communication, the energies expressed through this chakra relate to keeping our word, speaking and hearing the truth and owning the consequences of our actions. When we lie to ourselves or to others we create imbalances in this center. Visuddha’s element is sound, its color is blue, its note is “G” and its corresponding seed sound is “Ham.”

The Sixth Chakra: The Third Eye, in Sanskrit: Ajna or “To Perceive.”

The third eye chakra is represented by a two-petaled lotus and is located just above the carotid plexus in the center of the forehead. Physically this chakra relates to the eyes, brain and pituitary gland. The Ajna chakra corresponds to the themes of higher perception, wisdom, inner awareness, self-reflection, imagination and intuition. Imbalances in this energy center manifest in the physical body as neurological disturbances, learning disabilities, coordination or balance issues and vision problems and emotionally as daydreaming and escapism. Its element is light, its color is indigo, its note is “A” and its seed sound is “OM.”

The Seventh Chakra: The Crown, in Sanskrit: Sahasrara or “Thousand Fold.”

The crown chakra is depicted as a thousand-petaled lotus located on the top of the head and represents our connection to the divine. Sahasrara governs the pineal gland and the central nervous system, and is the center of spirituality and enlightenment. It corresponds to learning how to experience the divine, and imbalances can manifest as feeling a lack of purpose, denying spirituality or as an addiction to spirituality. Sahasrara’s element is thought, its color is white and its sound is silence.

 

The Practice and Philosophy of Yoga

By Tonya Madia, RYT, RMT, LMBT

 “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Yoga is an ancient practice believed to have originated in India approximately 5,000 years ago. Developed originally as a practice for enhanced meditation through breath awareness, the focus on asanas, or physical postures, did not come about until much later.

Around 400 CE, Patanjali codified yoga in his work titled The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Divided into four chapters or books, the Yoga Sutra contains 196 aphorisms, and a clearly defined eight-limbed path having two parts: the Yamas (ethical standards) and Niyamas (observances or disciplines).

Through careful observance and application of the Yamas and Niyamas one can achieve Samadhi, a state of absorption, or oneness. The Yamas and Niyamas are intrinsic to any yoga practice, starting with Ahimsa, the objective of kindness and the intention of doing no harm. It is through the practice of Ahimsa that the student learns to honor his or her body.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means to yoke, or bind. It is the discipline of creating a union between body and mind in order to rediscover our true self. It is an ever-changing energy that flows through our consciousness. As we allow ourselves to arise, abide and dissolve into each pose, the patterning of consciousness subsides. In Sutra 1:41 Patanjali states: “As the patterning of consciousness subsides, a transparent way of seeing, called coalescence, saturates consciousness; like a jewel, it reflects equally what lies before it whether subject, object, or act of perceiving.”

While yoga began as a practice to enhance meditation, in the West what we refer to as yoga is actually Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on the third limb of the eight-limbed path, a set of physical exercises designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can freely flow.

Hatha is translated as ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon.” This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.

When starting a yoga practice, it is helpful if you can find a local class geared toward beginners. Time and time again I hear people say that their first experience with a yoga video did not hold a candle to the experience they had in an actual class. Often, attempts to begin a yoga practice with a video are quickly aborted, as a video cannot offer you feedback or assist you with finding your way in a particular pose. There is also a lot to be gained energetically from being in a room filled with yogis and yoginis that is lost with a video, so, while videos can be a great tool for those with some experience with the asanas, I find they are not always the best way to begin your yoga journey.

I frequently hear potential students express concern that they are not flexible enough to do yoga; rest assured, it is not necessary to be flexible to do yoga. Anyone can do yoga, and while there are some advanced poses in which the experienced yogi can bend themselves into unbelievable positions, this is not the case with a basic yoga practice. Also, any yoga pose can be modified to meet and accommodate specific ability levels.

Another common concern I hear is with regard to finding the right yoga class. With so many different types of yoga available, it can be difficult, even intimidating, to those just starting out. I always recommend starting with a gentle beginner’s class to learn the basic poses and become aware of your level of flexibility and endurance.

Since everyone is different, some people find that they enjoy remaining in a beginner’s class for many months, while other’s find they prefer more of a challenge. For those who prefer more of a challenge, I recommend trying an Ashtanga (Sanskrit for eight limbs) yoga class. In an Ashtanga class, the same series of poses are practiced in the same order, creating a dynamic, and physically demanding practice. Because the same poses are explored in the same order for each practice, core strength quickly develops and the student’s level of skill grows quickly.

Once you have started your practice and become familiar with the basic poses and breathing techniques, it is important to explore different classes, teachers, and teaching styles. Everyone is different and different practices appeal to different people. Try as many types of classes as you can, and most importantly, have fun and never judge your self; accept where you are in your practice with no attachment to outcome. Simply be present and continue to practice. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Yoga, was known for saying: “Do your practice and all is coming.”

I always recommend two books for those who are ready to begin their yoga journey, the first is Bringing Yoga to Life, by Donna Farhi and the other is Yoga Body, Buddha Mind, by Cyndi Lee; both authors provide wonderful insight for the reader into the practice of yoga.

I have heard it said that yoga is a journey that leads us home to ourselves. I wish you all the best on your journey!

Namaste

 

Pranayama

by Tonya Madia

The word prana is a Sanskrit word meaning “breath” or “life force”; ayama translates to “expansion” or “extension”; together the two words mean breath extension. Pranayama is breath work that connects the mind, body and spirit through the disciplined practice of controlling the breath.

The practice of pranayama directs the flow of energy in the body and is used to balance both emotions and the physical body. A daily practice of focused breath work is extremely beneficial for both the physical and energetic bodies.

There are many different techniques, ranging from simple to extremely challenging. However, the pranayama practice that I often recommend starting with is Alternate Nostril Breathing.

The practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, improves blood circulation, cleanses the nadis (energy channels), helps to balance the chakras (energy centers), and oxygenates the blood.

Alternate Nostril Breathing Practice

Sit in a comfortable seated position and allow the spine to lengthen and the shoulders to relax.

With the thumb of the right hand, close the right nostril and inhale from the left nostril for a count of eight; gently hold the breath in as you release the right nostril and close the left nostril with the pinky of your right hand.

Exhale from the right nostril for a count of eight, hold for one count, then inhale through the right nostril for a count of eight.

Release the left nostril and bring the thumb back to the right nostril as you inhale from the left nostril for a count of eight.

(Beginners to this practice often get confused, so it is helpful to keep in mind that you will always inhale through the nostril that you just exhaled through, before switching sides).

Each time you inhale and exhale through both nostrils is considered a round; continue the practice for several rounds, or as long as is comfortable. It is best not to overdo it when first starting this practice, and work your way up over time as your body becomes more accustomed to the increase in oxygen this practice provides.

Another simple pranayama technique is abdominal breathing. By the time we are adults, many of us have developed the habit of becoming chest breathers. This method of breathing does not allow for full, proper breaths and therefore inhibits the amount of oxygen our bodies receive.

If you have ever watched a baby sleep, you have observed abdominal breathing. With each inhalation a baby’s belly expands and rises, and it falls with each exhalation. Because we are so obsessed with sucking in our bellies, we develop the habit of breathing essentially backwards, drawing the abdomen in with each inhale and never allowing abdominal muscles to relax to make room for the expansion of the diaphragm.

Abdominal Breathing Practice

Lie down on your back and allow your body to relax. Allow your left arm to rest on the floor next to your body, and place your right hand on your belly.

With each inhale, allow your belly to rise and swell fully and feel your belly gently fall with each exhale.

Allow time for slow, deep breaths, inhaling for a count of ten and exhaling for a count of ten. If possible, try to inhale and exhale through the nose rather than the mouth.

If comfortable, increase the count of each inhale and exhale to achieve as full a breath as possible. Be sure the length of the exhalation matches the length of the inhalation.

Continue this practice for several minutes, or as long as it is comfortable for you to do so.

Abdominal breathing is an excellent method of reducing stress and inducing relaxation. One reason for this is the effect that deep breathing has on the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. Taking deep breaths causes the diaphragm to expand, stimulating the vagus nerve, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Finding time in each day to practice abdominal breathing will not only assist with stress reduction—it will provide you with quiet opportunities to explore the subtle messages your body might be trying to convey.

Meditation Series: Breath Meditation

By Tonya Madia

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 “Meditation means to be constantly extricating yourself from the clinging of mind.”.—Ram Dass

My students and clients frequently ask me for advice on creating a meditation practice, often complaining about their inability to quiet their minds, or to make the thoughts stop all together. Meditation is the process of allowing your thoughts to flow freely without attaching yourself to them, and in this seven-part series I will be exploring several types of meditation practices, beginning with the practice of breath meditation.

The physical benefits of meditation are many, and include lowered blood pressure, decreased tension-related pain, increased serotonin production, and a boost to the immune system. The mental and emotional benefits of meditation include increased mental focus and clarity, decreased anxiety, and increased creativity, to name a few.

With so many observable benefits, it’s easy to see why you might want to start a meditation practice, but perhaps not as easy is deciding how to begin your practice. I have found the most success with my meditation practice when I begin in the morning before I get out of bed.

After waking, I take a few moments to position myself in a comfortable seated position and bring my awareness to my breath, allowing the breath to move in and out through the nose. On the inhale, I allow my lungs to fill fully by relaxing my abdomen, making room for my lungs and ribs to fully expand; as I exhale, I allow the air to move freely from lungs without effort.

Breath meditation is the practice of quieting the mind by bringing awareness to the breath. Breath is the bridge between the body and the mind and it is said that the mind is the king of the body, but the breath is the king of the mind. If you have ever taken a moment to take a deep breath and count to ten, you have experienced the power of the breath to calm the mind. One reason for this is the affect that deep breathing has on the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. By taking a deep breath and expanding your diaphragm, the vagus nerve is stimulated, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Beginning a breath meditation practice can be as simple as finding a few quiet moments throughout your day in which you put everything else aside and bring your awareness to your breath. This practice can be initiated at any time and place, although I recommend setting aside a specific time and place each day, as beginning any new habit takes time and effort and by allocating a scheduled time and place you provide yourself with the best possible chance for success.

By spending a few minutes every morning cultivating this practice you can bring calmness and increased metal clarity to your day. If you are new to meditation, I suggest starting with two to three minutes each day, and adding a minute a day each day.

As you sit quietly with your awareness on your breath you will probably notice that thoughts begin to arise; this is to be expected—thoughts are the natural condition of the mind. Thinking is what the mind does, and meditation is not the process of stopping the thoughts but, rather, allowing the thoughts to flow without becoming attached to them. A wonderful visualization for this is to imagine your thoughts as leaves floating down a river; as the thoughts float by you simply acknowledge their presence and watch them as they pass by.

Another helpful tool is the practice of non-judgment. Judging is the trap that tangles us in our thoughts. It is common for judging thoughts to arise during meditation, thoughts about how our practice is going in relation to ideas we may have about how it should be going, etc. Once the judgments arise, the mind follows them like a lost dog, so when you notice thoughts of judgment or criticism arising, simply notice them, and then let them go.

The process of meditation is not about controlling our thoughts, but instead becoming the master of them so that when the lost dog begins to wander off we simply call it back to the present moment with our breath. To be fully present in each moment is the goal of meditation, and in my next article on meditation, we will explore the practice of Mindfulness.

Meditation, like any disciplined endeavor, takes time to cultivate, which is exactly why we call it a practice; when applied daily the process becomes less challenging and before long we can become the master our thoughts and not allow them to master us.

 

 

Essential Oils Basics

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Essential oils are making the news as a powerful way to take control over our own personal health and wellness especially for everyday concerns. Many people are reporting a host of benefits from less stress, better sleep, increase in positive moods, and happier and healthier children.  As a Massage Therapist, and Reiki practitionerI have used essential oils in my practice for years.

What exactly are essential oils?
Essential oils are naturally occurring, aromatic compounds found in plants that provide plants with protection against environmental threats, and play a role in plant pollination. Because of their intrinsic benefits, essential oils have long been used for beauty treatments, healing and medicinal practices, as well as for food preservation and preparation.

How do you use essential oils?
The therapeutic benefits can be experienced aromatically, meaning that the benefits of essential oils are experienced through inhalation, and through topical application in which the oil is applied directly to the skin. In some cases essential oils can also be taken internally; however, because there is currently no regulation for essential oils, it is important to buy essential oils from certified companies who provide only pure, therapeutic grade oils, and under the supervision of a knowledgeable practitioner.

Where can you buy essential oils?
There are currently only a few essential oil companies in the industry that hold growers to high standards and send the final product to laboratories to be tested for quality and impurities. Of the companies who test, doTERRA, in my opinion, has the most stringent quality protocols, and this is why I only use doTERRA’s Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG) essential oils, which can be purchased through me.

Uplifting, protective, calming, and regenerating, essential oils are a unique gift from nature. The very essence of a plant, they are aromatic liquids that have been used for thousands of years to calm, relax and uplift the spirit, detoxify the body, and heal wounds. Today science is discovering that essential oils can accelerate the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, kill bacteria, and battle free radicals.

If you would like to learn more about essential oils, please join me and Wellness Consultant Dawn Hoffmann, Wednesday, November 4th at 6:30pm at 107C Robin Ave. in Atlantic Beach for a relaxing & informational evening when we’ll be exploring some of the many uses of these amazing gifts from nature! We invite you to be here with us as we share valuable, first-hand knowledge of the remarkable effects of these amazing oils.

Refreshments & light fare. Bring a friend and receive a free gift!

Massage for Emotional Wellbeing

by Tonya Madia

You are probably already aware that getting a massage can be a wonderful way to treat yourself to some relaxing me-time, however studies continue to prove the physical, and emotional benefits of even a single massage therapy session.

Because of the many purported benefits of massage therapy, research has or is being conducted on a wide range of areas.

If you’ve ever received a therapeutic massage you know how relaxing and rejuvenating one can be. Many people already understand the variety benefits of massage therapy, and the role it can play in:

• Relieving stress
• Promoting relaxation
• Relieving muscle tension
• Improving range of motion and flexibility in muscles
• Reducing blood pressure.
• Strengthening the immune system

In addition, recent research has shown that massage can decrease cortisol levels in the body while increasing the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it is secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress. High and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to impair cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function and lower immunity and inflammatory responses.

A 2005 article in the International Journal of Neuroscience states:

“Massage therapy has been noted to significantly alter the biochemistry of humans both immediately following massage sessions and over the course of massage therapy treatment periods.”1

In the area of behavioral health treatments that include massage therapy are encouraging and studies have indicated that victims of PTSD show a significant decrease in physiological and physical symptoms, after massage and body-oriented therapy. Massage for clients with PTSD may help to restore feelings of safety, trust, control, self-worth and intimacy.

In addition studies on massage for chronic illnesses and emotional disturbance have shown a positive impact on anxiety level, depressed mood and biochemical imbalances.

Although research in the area of massage and emotional well being is very promising, it is important to remember that massage therapists do not diagnose illness, disease or any other physical or mental disorder. A massage is not a substitute for medical examination, diagnosis or treatment. Please talk with your physician or behavioral health care provider if you are interested in the benefits of massage.

1 Field, T. et al. (2005). Cortisol decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci., 115(10), 1397–1413.