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Yoga for Intuition
by Amy Weintraub, MFA ERYT-500
Author of Yoga for Depression

 

 


When I work one-on-one with clients on the mat, we find that we are aligned in more ways than the details of posture. We enter an intuitive field together as we harmonize our breathing (pranayama), align with intention (sankalpa), activate our inner knowing with sound vibration (mantra), and clear the space for vision (bhavana) to arise.  When Alice, a forty-eight year-old academic writer, wife and mother who suffers from chronic ill health, the result of years of living with anorexia and bulimia, opens her eyes after our centering, it is not unusual for me to already intuit her intention (sankalpa) as well as her vision for what she wishes to enhance in her life (bhavana).  Neither of us are surprised when I lead her into a heart-opening restorative pose because I already “know” she is feeling constricted around her heart, or when I have her roaring like a lion in a warrior pose to release the anger she feels at her ill health.  Nor are we surprised when she says that she feels the presence of one of my deceased teachers laughing at her, telling her that her anger is not about her health but about the unwritten novels waiting inside her.  

How is it that Alice and I align like this?  First, we are cultivating our intuition, actually activating the parts of the brain that enhance our inner knowing through our yoga practice, and second, we are doing so in the safe container of our loving connection, a connection where we both feel seen, acknowledged and understood.  The recently deceased former priest and poet, John O’Donohue said, “When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul.”  

In the mirroring that is occurring as I lead her through yogic practices, we are developing the seat of intuition in the middle of our brains.  We are vibrating the pineal gland and the pituitary gland, associated with what the yogis call the third eye, the seat of intuitive wisdom.  The visualization exercise (bhavana) we do in our centering meditation directs the energy toward the third eye.  We activate the glands with sound (mantra) and with breath (pranayama).  Later, after a gentle but active posture (asana) practice, I guide Alice to rest in child pose with her hips on her heels and her forehead on the mat, soothing her sixth chakra (ajna), her wisdom center.  In this position, I invite her to use a tone that the yogis believe vibrates at the brow point, or the third eye.  Then, we practice a simple inversion, so that energy is stimulated at the crown of her head, and again, we use sound (mantra) to vibrate from the seventh chakra (saraswara), her connection to the cosmos, down to the pineal gland, further activating her intuition.

Throughout Alice’s practice, we are also activating the second center of the brain associated with intuition, the middle of the right temporal lobe, often referred to as “the God center.”   This area of the right hemisphere is closely connected to the limbic system, considered to be the emotional brain, so it follows that the relational aspect of our loving connection creates fertile ground for intuition.  Alice often arrives feeling anxious and overwrought, so in addition to alternate nostril breathing, we may practice some left nostril breathing to activate the calmer, more intuitive right side of the brain.   At the end of our session, I guide Alice into a deeply relaxed state in corpse pose (savasana) with the practice of Yoga Nidra.  She emerges feeling calm, centered, clear, alert to her inner knowing and ready to write from this place.  In the two years that we’ve worked together, Alice has completed a draft of her first novel.

Practices

Bhavana and Pranayama (visualization and breath control)

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect.  Calm your mind with a few deep breaths into the bottom of your lungs, allowing your belly to expand on the inhalation and to soften on the exhalation.  Now bring into your mind an image for inner peace from which your intuition may flow—perhaps a still pond or a brilliant red rose or the yin/yang symbol.  If an image does not arise in your mind, then simply think the words, “inner peace.”

Since alternate nostril breathing is contra-lateral, try breathing through the left nostril to enhance the intuitive “God center” in the middle of the right temporal lobe, and then follow this with some balancing alternate nostril breathing.

Sit in a comfortable position with the spine erect.  Make a fist with your right hand then release your thumb and your fourth and fifth fingers.  This is a hand gesture called Vishnu mudra.  Place your thumb against your right nostril and inhale for the count of four through the left.  Close both nostrils, closing the left nostril with the fourth and fifth fingers.  Hold the breath for the count of sixteen (less if this is difficult), visualizing your image for inner peace.  Exhale through the right nostril for the count of eight.

You can repeat this twelve times, and then follow it by a round of six alternate nostril breaths.  For alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana), use the same hand gesture.  Closing off the right nostril, first exhale through the left nostril and then inhale through the left.  Then close the left nostril with the fourth and fifth fingers and exhale and then inhale through the right.  Close off both nostrils, then exhale through the left.  Continue for two more rounds.

Posture (asana) Seated Yoga Mudra with sound (mantra)

To bring a soothing energy to the third eye center, located behind the brow point at the center of brain, we’ll vibrate the pituitary and pineal glands with a simple inverted posture and tones called mantras.  Yoga Mudra is a pose that brings oxygenated blood to the brain.  Think of all those juicy neurotransmitters that you’ve stimulated with your bhavana and your pranayama flooding your synapses.  

To start, sit in a kneeling position and either interlace your fingers behind your back, or if your shoulders are tight, hold a strap with eight or ten inches between your hands.  Inhale and raise your arms.  Exhale, dive forward, and raise your arms as high as you comfortably can behind you, bowing to your own inner knowing.  Place your forehead on the mat with your arms above your head.  Bring your image for inner peace to your brow point and chant the low tone of Aum.  Let it vibrate through your cranium.  Do this several times.

Now roll up onto the crown of your head, fingers still interlaced (or holding the strap) behind you.  In this position, chant the tone of Aum with the lips closed, teeth gently touching.  Do this three times, and then slowly return to your forehead.  On an inhalation, rise to the starting position, keeping your fingers interlaced (or still holding the strap).  On an exhalation, release your hands letting them float back to rest open on your thighs.  Bask in the energy of the cosmos flowing through you now.

After releasing this pose, students often report the experience of feeling an open channel at the top of the head, all the way down to the root chakra at the perineum.  If that is your felt experience, too, imagine the healing wisdom of the cosmos flowing through you, and know that there is no separation between this wisdom and your own awakened intuition.

 

 

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About the Author


Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, is the author of Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books), founding director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, and a leader in the field of yoga and mental health.  She offers professional certification trainings in LifeForce Yoga® for Mood Management and speaks at medical and psychological conferences internationally.  Amy’s evidence-based Yoga protocol for managing mood is featured on the LifeForce Yoga® CD Series, and the first DVD home Yoga practice series for mood management, the award-winning LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues.  In addition to her frequent contributions to national magazines, she edits a free bi-monthly newsletter that includes current research, news and media reviews on Yoga and mental health.  

 

Please visit www.yogafordepression.com

 

 

 

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