abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṁ tan nirodhah
“The cessation of all vrittis, of all thinking and modifications of the mindstuff, is brought about by persistent inner practice of Self-abidance, abiding in the ‘I-am’ beyond the body and mind, and by non attachment through discrimination”
– PYS I.12 Commentary by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati
During the month of June and July 2018 the Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month is The Magic 10 and Beyond. Those who have spent some time in Jivamukti studios will be familiar with the Magic 10. The Magic 10 is a 10 asana sequence that Sharon Ji crafted as a balanced 10 minute warm up sequence which includes a downward facing dog, standing forward bend, squat, seated twists, table top, supported handstand, chest expansion, side bends and a standing spinal roll, in that order.
Sharon’s latest work is a book called The Magic 10 and Beyond. What is beyond the Magic 10 that we know and love? Sharon writes: Magic happens when there is a shift in perception, perception of yourself, others and the world. For the yoga practitioner, that shift is a movement away from false identification with the temporary and towards that which is eternal. Every serious practitioner of any art or science knows that to become accomplished, to feel at ease with your art, both practice and humility are necessary. Ultimately Self-realization is a solitary journey inward and because of that we should develop independence—dependence inward. The journey within is the journey toward the eternal atman and so it is a timeless journey without end. The Magic Ten and Beyond is a practical book, offering guidance to the traveler of infinity. This is an abbreviated list of the ten practices that are outlined in the book:
- Giving Blessings
- Feeding the Birds
- The Magic 10 asana sequence (pictured above)
- Kriya: uddiyana bhandha and agni sara
- Kapalabhati and alternate nostril kapalabhati
- Samavritti pranayama
The Magic 10 and Beyond is a pretty special sequence for me as I have learnt about the utility of other yoga practices beyond asana during my recent teacher training. Indeed I was blessed to be in the first Magic 10 and Beyond class Sharon Ji has taught, during my teacher training. Sharon writes: Through repetition the magic is forced to rise. For a practice to yield sweet fruit it must be done regularly—daily is best. It should become a habit, a good habit like brushing your teeth. And like brushing your teeth, a daily yoga practice doesn’t have to take all day. Do it first thing in the morning and allow the benefits to unfold throughout the rest of the day. But if for some reason you are unable to do your practice first thing in the morning then do it later in the day or last thing before bed. The important thing is that you do it. Over time with consistent regular daily practice, along with a sense of detachment regarding specific results, the benefits will accumulate on their own accord. Abhyasa means to sit with something for a long time and vairaga means detachment. To practice, all the while being unconcerned with the results of the practice, is the way of the yogi who knows how to let go and let God. Transformation is always subtle and gradual, but non-the-less inevitable, if you’re willing to commit to consistency in your practice and sincerely surrender its fruits. Do your best and let God do the rest.
I can honestly confess that my primary motivation for training to be a Jivamukti teacher was to become established in a daily home practice. It’s kind of uncanny that during my teacher training I learnt of a sequence that suits my lifestyle. I was encouraged to practice the first four practices each morning before arriving at class each day. I love having ritual to my life and their is something so sacred about having your first practice start at soon as consciousness arrives each morning. The gratitude and giving blessings practices are some of the most important for me, especially in times of perceived business they ground me into changeless reality from the start of my day. I certainly have a busy life, but that’s because its full of opportunities and privileges that are nice to take the time acknowledge and appreciate. Sharon suggests that to give blessings, one can bring a person in their life to mind, inhale and silently say “blessings, thankfulness and love to…” and exhale silently say their name. To make this practice even more powerful, it can be helpful to visulise writing the persons name you wish to bless on an envelop and imaging posting them the blessings, thankfulness and love you are sending them. The third practice, feeding the birds, has highlighted how domesticated I have been in my urban lifestyle. I have aspirations of crafting a bird feeder and putting organic seeds in for the birds this month. It can be nice to water my plants mindfully first thing after I get out of bed, as a way on connecting with the natural world in some way. I am now in the habit of rolling out my mat each morning and practicing the Magic 10, even if I sleep in, and it is nice when I can share this practice with my partner who is otherwise uninterested in yoga practice.
Yoga means to remember your connection to the Supreme Source, eternal happiness itself—the kind of happiness that is not dependent on any thing or condition. Yoga teaches that within each living being there is an eternal soul, the atman. Yoga practices enable us to reconnect to the atman and to understand that our mortal bodies are not who we really are—they are dwelling places for our immortal soul. Over time the practices alchemically transform our perception of who we are from the doer to the participant. The realised yogi lives in the world as an instrument for the light of truth. There are many yoga practices that can guide a person along the way to that magical remembering of who he or she really is—some of those practices are explored in this book in the form of mantras, prayers, blessings, affirmations, visualisations, asanas, dance steps, kriyas, pranayama, meditation, deep relaxation and feeding the birds.
The fifth practice is dance, wait, what? Before she was a yoga teacher, Sharon Gannon was a dancer. I have always felt I am quite an uncoordinated person and for that reason have never danced as a hobby as many of my friends did. The three dance moves in the Magic 10 and beyond encourage co-ordination of movement across the body. The sixth practices are kriyas, which are cleansing practices including uddiyana bhandha and agni sara. Most people, even people who hang out in yoga studios, are unlikely to have heard of kriyas but they are powerful yogic practices intended to cleanse various parts of the body and mind. I would suggest reading more about kriyas and being taught the practices by a teacher you trust until you become more familiar. I was very pleased to see Kapalabhati and alternate nostril kapalabhati as the seventh practice and Samavritti pranayama as the eighth, both are pranayama or breathing practices. Personally, I like kapalabhati as I have the most experience with it of all pranayama and due to the forceful exhalation it can be vary invigorating – a yogic cup of coffee if you like. Samavritti translates to “same fluctuations”. I like to practice samavritti pranayama in the evening, opposed to katalabati, as it has a relaxing effect. Like kriyas, pranayama are complex practices, it is best to read about the practices and be shown by a teacher to learn the intricacies of the practices.
The ninth practice is meditation. My meditation practice has been a street fight for many years, only since my teacher training have I found surrender in this practice, well on more days than not at least – it is a practice after all. The Jivamukti meditation steps are very simple:
- Choose a seat, make it one that you can commit to, feel your sit bones grounding down and the crown of your head spiraling up to the heavens
- Be still; invite stillness into the body so that the mind might become still, part of the practice is detachement from bodily sentations try to demand our attention
- Use the mantra “let go;” bring your attention to your natural inhalation and exhalation, on the inhaltion silently say “let” and on the exhalation silently say “go”. The sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” or as in manas “mind” and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”. We bring our attention from our thoughts to our breath and hold this attention to our breath through the use of our mantra, or “instrument of thought”.
Finally, the tenth practice is shavasana, which literally translates as corpse. Shavasana is an opportunity to integrate the other yogic practices as well as practice dying. It is said that all fear stems from our fear of death. A yogi practices dying each day so that they relinquish the fear that they have in life and death.
The Sanskrit word sadhana means “conscious spiritual practice.” What distinguishes a yoga practice from a physical fitness exercise routine is the intention. When you engage in an activity with the conscious intention for it to bring you closer to enlightenment, then it is sadhana. Sadhana is never something you do for yourself. It is always about getting over yourself, your separate ego self, and awakening to how you are part of a higher Divine Self. But without the essential ingredient of bhakti, which means “devotion or love for God,” to help you relinquish doer-ship, your practices could keep you ego-centered and goal oriented, identified with your body and mind, tossed about by the ups and downs of life, bound in mundane reality and the pursuit of temporary happiness through material accumulation and forgetfulness of the real doer—the Supreme Self.
The Magic 10 and Beyond is now available to purchase from all good book stores: