najayama yoga

najayama yoga
artwork by michelle bellerose


I'm a novice yoga teacher (CYT200) involved in an on-going synthesis of structural anatomy, bodywork, spontaneous movement and shaking, posture strikes, and lone wolf exploration with qi (differentiated somatic energy) and reiki (undifferentiated universal energy).

The goal is not perfection, glory, or achievement, but long burn presence in the moment, ease in the body and the response-ability of mind which create the space and grace for growth, change, and understanding.

bhujangalika: not the usual music for yoga

michelle bellerose is a certified yoga and qiqong teacher and composer of original music for movement and restoration. advocating a slower, more mindful approach to mat work and the self-responsible harnessing of inner serpent force. the practice, principle and cultivation of this mindful harnessing she's called NAJAYAMA YOGA. she also writes a blog on holistic arts and sciences called MAVERICK MEDICINE BABE.

Friday, February 7, 2014

studying ourselves...

"Listening to talks about the dharma, or the teachings of Buddha, or practicing meditation is nothing other than studying ourselves. Whether we’re eating or working or meditating or listening or talking, the reason that we’re here in this world at all is to study ourselves. In fact, it has been said that studying ourselves provides all the books we need.

Maybe the reason there are dharma talks and books is just to encourage us to understand this simple teaching: all the wisdom about how we cause ourselves to suffer and all the wisdom about how joyful and vast and uncomplicated our minds are—these two things, the understanding of what we might call neurosis and the wisdom of unconditioned, unbiased truth—can only be found in our own experience." [Pema Chodron: When Things Fall Apart]

Thursday, February 6, 2014


"An infant gains its first healthy sense of self through the steady flow of care for its needs, receiving nutrition, loving contact, and physical stimulation. Without the reliable flow of energy in these forms directed personally to the child, mistrust, shame, and insecurity colour the child's life experiences and ability to develop autonomy and self-reliance.

"By bringing awareness to your belly center, you are facilitating greater communication between your mental, emotional, and physical needs. In developing a strong relationship with your energy center, you are establishing a home base that serves as a place of safety in an ever-changing world. Rather than being pulled in one direction in some activities and in another direction by other activities, you have the possibility of initiating all activities from the belly center, remaining in contact with your vital source of energy."

[Don Stapelton: Self-Awakening Yoga]

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

emotions in the body need to be invited to release...

"When you think about (or encounter) a terrifying situation, do your shoulders tense up around your ears? do you clench your jaw? does your breathing become shallow and all of your senses go on hyperalert? To this list of physiological responses to fear add the stress you might hold around speaking up for yourself or communicating your needs and you begin to get a picture of why the cervical curve holds so much tension. "Swallow my words," "bite my tongue," "running off at the mouth," "choking under pressure" - these are just a few of the ways we commonly describe the experience of a disruption in the free flow of energy through the neck and throat.

"Another first responder to stress is the low back. Physical responses to fear cause the belly to constrict, shifting the center of gravity high into the thoracic cavity to mobilize the organism for rapid flight. The fight or flight reaction to stress is biologically instinctual. In many dangerous situations we do not have to think about how to protect ourselves; the instinctual wisdom of the organism takes over. Yet in circumstances where a person has experienced repeated threats or brutal physical, sexual, or psychological traumas, that instinct for self-protection can become suppressed to the extent that immobilization becomes habitual even in the most life-threatening circumstances. While we are instinctively programmed to mobilize our defenses in response to acute stress, there is no equivalent relaxation response in the human body; your organism does not necessarily quit protecting itself after a danger has passed. In fact, relaxation is a learned response; muscles do not know when they no longer need to protect. It requires awareness to consciously release tension after the body has been quickened by a threat of imminent danger. Without recovering our awareness of the instinctual fight or flight mechanism and without conscious assessment of the accuracy of our preceptions of danger, the body holds on to unnecessary tension."

[Don Stapelton: Self-Awakening Yoga]

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

attuning to the pulse of being...

"Many different kinds of pulses occur simultaneously in the body. The most obvious one is the flow of the breath in and the flow of the breath out. That is a pulse. Another pulse is the rhythm of the heartbeat. Pulses convey the movements of digestion and peristalsis and the undulating movement of our intestines. Every sense organ has its unique means of excitation, the stimulus getting transmitted to the brain in impulses. The speed of our brain's activities create the rhythm of our thoughts and thinking. Alpha, beta, delta, and theta - these terms refer to the frequency of chemical and electromagnetic waves emitted by the brain in various states of awareness. The waves of our moods, emotions, and feelings - these are body rhythms made up of more pulses.

"Many Oriental forms of medicine are based upon pulses associated with the energetic processes in the body, but you do not need to know the details of the meridians or to be versed in a specific tradition to begin to enhance your bodily functions by attuning to your pulses. In fact, the discovery of the ancient healing modalities associated with acupuncture, auyurveda, shiatsu, and yoga emerged from this inquiry... how does the sense of inner wholeness arise from noticing polarities in experience?

"All shamanic and energetic systems of natural healing have come from practitioners who were fascinated with the miraculous pulse of their own beings. By following an inquiry into the pulse of being, early yogis entered deep states of awareness that allowed them to penetrate the subtler dimensions of their own physiology. As you go deeper into the meditative state, you will discover that your ability to know yourself at every level is limitless."
[Don Stapelton: Self-Awakening Yoga]

Microscopic algae arranged on microscope slides from the California Academy of Sciences Diatom Collection 1950s.

Monday, February 3, 2014

role of proprioception in mastectomy recovery...

i've been developing my own rhyme and reason when it comes to physio post-mastectomy. the first thing i was drawn to do got its inspiration from something i heard about courtesy dr. stephen sinatra, the famed cardiologist and gestalt therapist, who discussed the physical relationship between the arms and the heart, for they share a common ancestor at the level of embryologic tissue... in particular he suggested that the reason orchestra conductors feature at the top of many longevity lists is that they routinely make big, expressive, arcing movements with the arms which tonify the heart and express emotion. there's also a relationship between the body language of the arms and well-being... for its with the arms that we reach out, that we bring another in close for an embrace, or keep people away with self-protective crossing of arms or stay-away gesturing. we also use the arms and hands as expressive point and counterpoint to the things we say, so they seem an intuitive instrument of personal EQ potential.

as soon as i came to after surgery i felt the need to start moving my arms in circles... small, big and in between. obviously my range of moment was compromised on the affected side, but this has been short-lived... before the first month anniversary i had full range of movement back, albeit with sensation and some tightness.

over time i've found that working in open space, even with mirrors available, was really not giving me all that i needed in terms of feedback. i found my best experience on the ground. getting down onto my mat and assuming a neutral SI joint position on my back with feet on the ground just a short distance from the gluteus. turning my hands to face up so that the back of the hands could skirt along the floor i would begin with arms down by my side and slowly move them out and up to come to rest overhead as you would when making snow angels, but without letting the back of the hands, especially on the affected side, leave contact with the ground. this allowed me to see instantly where i was having difficultly and where i needed to slow down even more and wait for the tissues to softly open and resume their natural arc and movement potentials. gravity also was able to play a part when this opening could not be accomplished fully. simply lying there with arms outstretched as they were able, even when not at first in contact with the ground, was enormously satisfying as gravity is slow and gentle and persistent. now that i have more freedom of movement and the effect of gravity is less, i ask for a partner to put gentle pressure on the balls of my shoulders with their hands, pressing down and then slightly upward, in order to more effectively open the fascia across the collarbones and chest.

getting feedback from a fixed surface has become something i really love and find nourishing in a way i never thought i would. i've even started doing some asana work on the bare floor, really letting myself  sink down to the hard welcome beneath me as a tool of awareness. where i find pain, i wait for it to soften and soften more.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

self-awakening yoga...

"Self-Awakening Yoga (SAY) helps to develop discriminative wisdom by introducing yoga-movement inquiries that originate from internal sensory conversations. All systems of hatha yoga begin with attention to the body through the physical practices of postures and pranayama, but most do not provide transitional steps for turning to the wisdom of prana for entering into our creative, evolutionary capacities, which lie beyond the form of a rote practice. It is helpful to leave a few minutes at the end of a yoga practice to allow your body to be moved by prana, as a way to receive the benefits of the practice at a deeper level of self. But merely providing the time is not sufficient for bridging the modes of practice. I have repeatedly observed that yoga practitioners who are comfortable and familiar within a structured sequence of practices have a difficult time when asked to enter into a spontaneous flow of movement guided by inner promptings. Oftentimes the response is to simply repeat the same familiar routine.

The inquiries of SAY offer an experiential bridge designed to guide the practitioner through the developmental stages that are encoded within the body's memory from birth. While inquiring into the body's primal movement patterning and focusing awareness on the inherent sensations that arise in moving, the practitioner has the opportunity to access the flow of prana that animates the body.

SAY is based on the intention of opening channels of communication between the mind and body for the purpose of learning what the body has to teach us about the workings of prana, and to ultimately turn to the wisdom of prana as our trusted friend and inner guide."

from Self-Awakening Yoga by Don Stapleton

Sunday, January 19, 2014

yoga techniques in buddhism...

"The Yogacara school, which flourished after the fifth century, reaffirms the necessity for the yogic experience; to destroy the phenomenal (i.e. the "profane") world and regain the unconditioned, it is easier to "withdraw to the center of oneself" through meditation and ecstasy than to undertake to annihilate the world through analysis." [Mircea Eliade]

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

thought of day...

I don't need any condition, food or drink to be at peace and comfortable. I only need to be completely in my body, to move, to breathe, to make sound and be touch.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reacting With Anger

"When someone insults us, we usually dwell on it, asking ourselves, ‘Why did he say that to me?’ and on and on. It’s as if someone shoots an arrow at us, but it falls short. Focusing on the problem is like picking up the arrow and repeatedly stabbing ourselves with it, saying, ‘He hurt me so much. I can’t believe he did that.’ Instead, we can use the method of contemplation to think things through differently, to change our habit of reacting with anger. Imagine that someone insults you. Say to yourself, ‘This person makes me angry. But what is this anger?’ It is one of the poisons of the mind that creates negative karma, leading to intense suffering. Meeting anger with anger is like following a lunatic who jumps off a cliff. Do I have to go likewise? While it’s crazy for him to act the way he does, it’s even crazier for me to do the same."

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Utterly Visionary Quality Of Love ~ Chögyam Trungpa

Love is very noble, elegant, beautiful, resourceful and utterly visionary. Being utterly visionary has a touch of humor and a lot of fearlessness. It is the foundation of mahayana. You are willing to jump in, and you are entirely free from panic. You have long-lasting vision and effort. Bodhisattvas, mahayana practitioners committed to helping others, are known as warriors because they are visionary. They are not confused, and they do not shy away from others.

Chögyam Trungpa

from the book "The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion: The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, Volume Two"

on how to deal with difficult people...

Here is Rinpoche's response for dealing with difficult people:

"Do not think about things like that. There is no benefit in grasping and thinking about it. You have to let it go. Everything follows the law of karma naturally, there is nothing we can change about it by thinking about it much. If your family members treat you bad in this life, it is the result or karmic creditor of your own past actions. We are responsible for our own karma, we ourselves have created the causes for all our experiences. Enemies, obstructors, mischievous relatives, etc. are only conditions but not the cause. Moreover, the past is gone, it doesn't exist any longer, we cannot change the past, we have to let it go, so do not think about this. What is more important is that which is actually in your hands, the future. Thus you should rather give rise to love and compassion in order to ensure a happy future. If you think about others' faults you will only get angry and resentful. Think about their qualities and stop thinking about their faults, then love will arise. If you can't stop the thoughts, think of Tara and recite her mantra. The Buddha said, "Perfectly tame your own mind, this is the Buddha's teaching." The Buddha did not say, "Perfectly tame someone else's mind." You have to purify your own mind. If you cling to these thoughts of resentment and frustration again and again, you form a habit, and this habit will manifest before you in the Bardo in the form of a delusive perception which is the projection of your own mind, just like a TV show. This is what creates hell, it is the projections of one's own anger and resentment. Let go of it and make an effort to cultivate love. The only thing you should hold on to is love. Then you have no fear when you die, you will be born in the higher realms and slowly attain enlightenment. So do not worry about the faults of others, rather purify your own faults."

From Garchen Rinpoche

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gayatri Mantra:
Om bhur bhuvah svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

Praise to the source of all things.
It is due to you that we attain true happiness on all planes.
It is due to your transcendent nature that you are being worshipped and adored.
Ignite us with your all pervading light.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

new release from bhujangalika

new instrumental track for movement work released today from bhujangalika.
available for free download here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

indirect achievements

in yogic mat work, the heart of any given pose strike and the best way to unpack the genius of the subtle technology on offer lies in doing the apparent opposite of the outer aim. an important example of this is spinal elongation. the only way to achieve this is by constantly bringing vigilance to the scapulae. the shoulder blades want to rise up, especially in concert with the arms. the scaps are best drawn back down and in towards the spine throughout one's practice. by virtue of the kinesthetic circuit that goes down to go up, this permits the spinal bodies a vertical purchase and decongests the paraspinals; it also brings the breastplate out of its tendency to sink and trap the lungs in shallow breathing, and stretches the fascia along the collarbone in an area where we tend to constrict the upper lung tips.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

avoiding collapse in the groin

one of the most disadvantageous developments in yoga classes is the cult of competitive prowess and lust for achievement. it encourages too rapid movement from the introductory configurations of the postures into the more extended, deeper and advanced scorings. with the rapid expansion of the teaching pool, instructors now habituate in a climate of self-consciousness. encouraged by trend, spiritual pride, and the appetence of the times, a misdirected focus on one's stage presence and choreographic charisma at the front of the class has arisen. this apparent inability to focus attention on what students are doing, to offer clear direction and leadership rather than participate and befriend, and a disinclination to engage students who need to pull back to less spectacular but more structurally sound interpretations, has become the norm. the net result is a negligent reinforcement of sloppy execution, and an indulged lack of mindfulness and distraction that leads to chronic overstrain where the body appears 'strong' and a lack of sensitive engagement in zones of laxity or proprioceptive amnesia.

a good example of this occurs in the warrior, or virabdrasana series. too many of us expand our lunge before having developed adequate leg strength. this, in turn, creates an irresistible gravitational droop that causes the torso to collapse its weight down into the groin/hip hammock. this creates compression strain on the front hip joint, exaggerates the lordosis of the lower back, destabilizes the subtle sacro-iliac complex, causes a protrusion of the abdominal cavity into space that in turn constricts full respiration and contributes to an emphasis on shallow and anxious upper-lung work. the general energy of collapse can also extend to include the feet on the mat, as the arches loose vibrant engagement. the feet tend to look for ease by resting in a slight supination that stresses the connective tissue and tendinous sock of the outer ankle.

far better to resist the call to greater glory and shorten and widen the stance. this allows us to avoid sinking deeply into the groin and hip sockets, to maintain pointed consciousness about not carrying the lunge position of the knee forward of the ankle, and permits us to work gently and persistently toward the better goal of taking a longer draught in the pose from this more secured and stable vantage. finally, awareness should never be lost of the beautiful ascending articulation in the spine and rib basket that arises from a balanced tip of the pelvic bowl and the full and deep respiratory refulgence of an upper body no longer collapsing into the groin, searching for a way to take the edge off of overworked, unprepared legs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

be kind, rewind

one of the core ideas that i'm hoping to develop and explore in my own practice is self-reliance. in particular, i'm keen to unravel this notion that human beings need to be acted on, or passively engaged in some effort where another person, thought more expert or adept, takes control and responsibility for the whatever therapeutic intervention, the act of healing itself, and management of outcome. i strikes me as true and beautiful that one of the precepts of the coming age will be a reversal of these dynamics. i suspect we're on the cusp of a great transformation of roles, wherein instead of being the agents of healing, care, and cure, physicians, therapists, healers of all kinds, will come to be viewed as mid-wives to a process that is initiated, governed, and directed in full self-responsibility by the person seeking transformation and growth.

this came to a head for me yesterday while in a bikram yoga class. the teacher was a bit of a jerk to be frank. shrouded in soft-speak and read-aloud quotations of sages while evidencing the lack of self-examination alongside abundant blind dogmatism so rank in the scene today. i've been on the slow return to a fuller practice after a couple years of repeated SI joint agonies that gifted periods of functional disability made more pronounced by spots of depression, apathy, lack of care for the body and avoidance of self-care. in addition to ingraining the holding pattern that attempts to prevent further injury to the lower back, but in fact causes secondary symptoms that are now just as painful, i've lost considerable core strength and must take care, as i resume mat work, to protect myself from injury. its been a long haul, getting to this more moderate and self-caring approach. like many yogis i would push myself in almost religious zeal for the practice, incur injury, get sidelined, and face again the cycle of falling away from dialogue with biological ground, taking up habits that disembody and promote further alienation from this thing of flesh that just hurt and complained.

in class yesterday i modified tuladandasana to protect my lower back. this came after first attempting the full posture with arms outstretched before me. feeling an instant strain easily distinguished from good burn, my core instability and developmental needs required that i bring the arms back, airplane style, in patience while i journey to get my full powers back. the teacher saw fit to single me out for this, asserting that i must be coming from a rival school and attempting to impose their modifications on bikram's methodology. no, i replied, i'm just modifying the asana to protect my lower back. she challenged me on this, suggesting that i was being lazy (!).... ironic to me since all my injuries have come from my surfeit over-zealousness and harsh pushing. normally i would get pissed off at this kind of ignorance in a teacher and let it sabotage my commitment to a paid program. not anymore. i'm feeling newly able and willing to face my old patterns of sabotage. in fact i understood i was at the threshold of reprogramming neurotic contents since they were now no longer ideas and attitudes bubbling up from within, but projected quanta now being encountered in the world 'out there.' knowing this helped me understand just how important it was to hold my ground and not let the old attitudes get injected back inside me at the behest of outside actors and peer pressure. so i politely held my ground and my modification and took the teacher aside post-class, spoke my truth to power and watched the old demon melt away to nothing.

blind obedience to instruction is one of the reasons a whole subspeciality exists in the healing arts and in structural yoga therapy in particular for the address of injured yoga students. and while biomechanics and structural anatomy are often presented as master classes and complex subjects (and in a way they are), there are some common sense generalities that are never really shared that can empower students to make informed choices. even in the absence of biomechanic sense, there is our native intuition. reconnecting with that sixth sense is far more critical than studying biomechanics, for even the most expert anatomist will face idiosyncrasies in case studies and clients. yes there are maps and they are good to know, but even more important is respect for the living geography that often bucks expectations, convention and rules.

simply, knowledge is always by definition incomplete and on-going. complexly, our sixth sense, our native intuition, exists beyond the grid of factual limits to encompass the very seat of wisdom itself. therefore, far better to attune to this radio channel, a free source of biognosis, a university of molecules ever awaiting our questions and ability to sustain a silent theater wherein an answer can be offered and heard. how many times have we experienced alarm bells going off before embarking on some course, only to override or ignore it and find ourselves paying a consequence. gentle self-respect is key.

one man's garbage is another man's treasure

given the rapid expansion of commercial yoga venues, it goes without saying the marketplace's been flooded with novice instructors whose expertise may be limited to a gym-class-style talking thru of asana, sometimes poorly thought out in terms of flow and overall strategy, and absent key alignment cues. as disappointing as this is for the yoga consumer, its in many ways a far more forgivable offense than the hubris of adopting the posture of wise guruji in front of the crowds. if you look at the situation in context through history, you'll see the more wise and all-seeing your role, the more likely, in the long view and with the right situational stress, that you'll armour/resist the world when it delivers its inconvenient reversals.

when you're expert, there's no room to be wrong or in doubt. that's the trouble with a stance of power toward anything, but particularly information. power needs to be right most of the time to maintain its internal pecking orders. add to this that we know from history that power will twist information and circumstance to suit its need to be right or to live out a plan of action it thinks best. domination, even dressed up in a hari krishna kill-em-with-kindness patina, is still a violence done to free people.

the role play of power only ever creates temporary stability, as sustainable growth, learning or change don't tend to occur autocratically. growth, learning and change happen in crisis, which is, by definition, an encounter... the need to be right always walks hand in hand with the need for crisis. think nationstates (need to be right) and war (crisis) as a most obvious example...


in zen they speak of beginner's mind. it's the opposite of expert.

working in your underdeveloped functions

the Viking body – high myofibroblast counts in the tissue, high stability, low mobility – vs the acrobat – low MFB counts, high mobility, problematic stability – as two different body types – don’t send the Viking to yoga class, don’t assign the acrobat heavy weights. [Thomas Myers]

SNAPSHOT seeing things at the systems level where patterns also stand in for emotional quanta, instinctive intelligence... i myself prefer those analyses that lead to possibility, instead of those that limit and constrain. which is why in the case of the viking and the acrobat i would venture that yoga is the very thing the viking should be doing, only with the caveat that it be done excruciatingly _slowly_. this is exactly the sort of student that needs a very prolonged training path. vikings need time to work their shit out. for the teacher, refraining vikings from risktaking by insisting on a certain training incline is the most humane thing you can do. vikings are the impatient bullies, and most often this is constructive and called-for in their lives, but yoga teaches us how to be in our own opposite and still be at ease. therefore yoga is the very thing the viking needs to do... exactly because he's not built for it.

the acrobat would benefit to explore their mass-making, stabilizing, power-producing potential through gravity training, but not of the barbell variety. barbells are never a good idea when proprioception is asymmetrically developed into high areas of specialization and whopping zones of amnesia. a good practice is one that uses ones own body architecture as the counterweight or lever in training. yoga, tai chi, pilates, swimming. anything that challenges the perceptive center of gravity and doesn't let the acrobat work exclusively from the level of their laxity in joint to bone relationships.