Krama Energy Flow
Let it be, let it go, let it flow… all great tropes for living well. And yet, what do they really mean in light of our Yoga practice ?
With the onset of Spring, we welcome the energetic wind and showers of April with the hope and promise of May flowers. Spring is less of a definitive season and more or less a period of transition resulting in broad swells of winter snow to summer-like sunshine. It’s a season of transitions and as such, prana, once again invites us into her teachings and our relationship to prana’s ever-flowing presence.
As you now, it’s ALL yoga to me (#itsallyoga). And as such, I make sense of this potentially chaotic season of births and rebirths, of wind and rain, or fresh starts and heavy hearts as an invitation to shift as a progression of kramas (stages).
Krama is a Sanskrit term meaning “succession.” This can denote a step-by-step progression or a sequence of events. In yoga, this word typically refers to vinyasa krama, the asana practice that flows with the breath and takes a sequential approach to achieve a specific goal or intention. Typically, this goal is a more advanced or complex asana. Often, this type of yoga is referred to simply as “vinyasa”, or “flow yoga”.
When broken down, the two words, vinyasa krama in the Sanskrit define the nature of practice:
- Vinyasa comes from two root words:
- vi, meaning “order”
- nyasa, meaning “placement”
- Together, “vinyasa” refers to the practice of synchronizing breath with intentional placement of the body in movement. An inhale or an exhale link each movement in the vinyasa krama sequence.
- Krama denotes the stages or steps within the sequence and incorporates the principle of progression over time.
Linking the breath and movement or even simply cultivating awareness of breath in the body is the foundation of the yoga practice. Breath as a tangible expression of prana energy is the fuel for the effort and action of “stepping” into each posture, pose or moment. Where there is breath, there is life. Where there is life, there is progression and within that progression, potential for growth. Progression does not always mean growth, but the potential is inherent within the effort and the practice! Additionally,
If Spring Season is a Krama stage, then the question to ask is:
Where are we going? What is Spring an intentional stepping toward?
As a yoga practice, Spring (and all shifts for that matter) is a stepping toward ease and enlightenment. It’s a stage on the journey of Yoga Living, to live authentically in alignment with connection. Be warned, however, unlike the seasons, the Yoga Journey is not always a linear and predictable progression. Yoga is often more like a dance, three steps forward and two steps back, than a straightforward path of progression.
Three Kramas of Enlightenment:
Inspired by the teachings of Ayurveda (Yoga’s sister science of living well), I define three seasons of krama shift on the path to alignment. The three kramas are:
- Let it be.
- Let it go.
- Let it flow.
For simplicity sake, we’ll look at these three stages as a krama progression like the cycle of seasons. However, life isn’t linear. You might observe an alternative arrangement, or even notice mini cycles within the annual sequence of stages.
Let it be
I define the Winter season as a krama toward alignment and enlightenment because it invites me to just be. Let it be is a mantra to embrace non-doing, to pause and notice what is, and to befriend life and life’s circumstances just as it is.
Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga) defines the winter season as our mature years, our Crone years of wisdom and insight. I think Wisdom is available to all of us, at an age and any season, but Winter makes it especially accessible because of the nature of darkness, shorter days, and harsh outdoor temperatures. Ayurveda calls this season the Vata season referring to the energy of air and ether, movement and impulse, creativity and connection. This dosha governs breathing, the pulsation of the heart, muscle movement in general, nerve impulses, sensory perception, communication, and our capacity to experience flexibility, joy, and expansive consciousness.
Depicted as a season for hibernation, Winter also invites introspection and quiet reflection. The heaviness of snow and shorter days invites us inward for contemplation and rest. For me, this season begins at Thanksgiving and often lingers as late as April. I use this season for getting clear and setting intentions. In November, I begin again my practice of Gratitude and set aside a full day to review my Life’sWork Plan before the end of the year. Then as the new year begins, I reflect on the accomplishments, challenges and stories of the past year and celebrate all that life has offered with friends and family. Before fully releasing the season of Winter and introspection, I craft a new Vision Board to depict my values and intentions for the coming year in a single, creative expression of my intention for living well and sharing my dharma.
If this is a new idea to you, it’s not too late 😊 You can still embrace the teachings of Winter as Spring swings in… after all, Spring is really the transition between winter and summer.
Ideas for Let it be practice:
- Assess your Inspiration levels (maybe book a FREE Check-up with me!) and commit to an intentional self-care practice.
- Create a Vision Board for 2022 (here’s an at-home DIY guided retreat)
- Create a mantra for the year as a summation of your intention or dharma. Recite it every morning and evening before bed.
Let it go
Years ago while working as an Administrative professional in Higher Education Student Services, a colleague shared his stress-coping strategy. He encourage me to embrace my inner duck. The metaphor was intended to encourage me to let stressors roll off my back like water rolls off the waterproofed feathers of a duck’s back. The deeper meaning of his “like a duck” mantra gave full recognition to the activity and effort of staying afloat (the swimming feet happening under water), with the steady and protected exterior of the feathers and wings above the water. On more than one occasion, my friend sat across the conference table from me at a stressful, heated meeting and subtly lifted his head toward me in a gesture that said, “let it go, let it roll off your back.” Sometimes I could let it roll, and sometimes I took off in flight, grateful that I could fly 🙂
I still use this gesture today, over 20 years later, to make tangible my intention of letting go. I’m better at letting go, but truth be told, sometimes I still want to fly away. I guess it’s still a practice 🙂
Spring and Fall embody the chaos and turmoil of transition and shift. Sometimes it’s simply an endurance test of holding on while other times it shows up like a test of balance and agility while surfing a wave. Riding the wave of energy shift in these transitional seasons is a balance of holding on and letting go. Spring and Fall are opportunities to cultivate Attention, to observe and comment without judgment. It begins with a pause to notice and define the shift (Let it be). In that tenuous fragility of known and unknown, we have a choice … a choice to hold on or let go. Before choosing, we first need to recognize the opportunity. Let it be provides that pause to affirm the Intention. After the pause is released, Intention provides what Stephen Cope calls the “calm abiding space” within the busyness of normal life. When we root into our “calm abiding space”, with a clear Intention, we are rewarded with an opportunity to dive into the ocean of life to explore. The result of such exploration without judgment is clearer seeing.
As Winter transitions into Spring, I breathe and take another look at my circumstances from the Witness perspective of non-judgment and wisdom. Breath fuels my efforts as I consciously choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Rituals and practice are key in this season. By committing to consistent practice (i.e. bed time, diet, self-care etc.), we can weather the winds and storms common in these seasons of Spring & Fall. Establishing seasonal routines is a great tool for cultivating inner balance and enjoying the gifts of shift. For me this practice often results in small shifts in my diet and details of my daily yoga but it could also result in larger shifts in my habits if I find I am way off track from my intention. As I reflect on my Yoga journey, now well into its 2nd decade, I am reminded that I cannot pay full attention to more than one thing (i.e. multi-tasking is a myth!). Likewise, I cannot simultaneously be full and open, in order to receive new experience, knowledge or understanding, something else must be let go to allow for the new idea and the space and time for digestion and integration.
Whereas I typically love to bear witness to transition and shift. Bearing witness to another’s shift is very different than enduring the process first hand. In fact, observing and experiencing the turmoil of shift is a BIG difference! I have learned that if I am unable to access my inner Witness, to observe without judgment, I turn to my Circle for support and encouragement. I might even “fly away” for a bit until I can show up authentically and willingly let go of what no longer serves or is no longer mine to hold.
Ideas for Let it go practice:
1. Write a list of 3-5 things that you love just as they are in your life right now. Then in gratitude and celebration of growth, change and transformation, release the expectation of permanence of these loves by burning the list.
2. Identify 3-5 relationships or opportunities in your life that were only possible by letting go of something else. For example, let go of childhood to embrace autonomy and independence; Let go of single-hood to embrace partnership; Let go of being broke to embrace abundance; Let go of anger to embrace forgiveness.
3. Identify your TOP 5-6 values. Define what they mean and how they show up in your life as tangible actions on your calendar. Consider my OnPurpose Living program or personal coaching to support your exploration of values in action of living your best life.
Let it flow
Summer is considered the busy season of doing. I liken it the Action stage of Inspired Living, the doing and non-doing, implementing, and trying new things. Truth be told, I LOVE an adventure and Summer is just such an opportunity for me! Summer is when I do my best creative thinking and I’m convinced its related to getting out and exploring, tho I try to avoid the heat of the mid day for my adventures!
A few years ago I had the opportunity to take a surfing lesson in the Pacific Ocean off the Coast or Peru. Although a rewarding experience, it was one of the most challenging experiences of my adult life and the scene of my last (and most recent!) anxiety attack! Suffice it to say, my Surf Coach proclaimed I had swam too far out, “half way to the Galapgos Islands.” Recognizing how far away I was from land, safety, and competency, I panicked. Tears streamed down my already ocean-salt encrusted face, and I gasped for breath from the effort of the swim and the rising fear in my body. I wasn’t actually anywhere close to the Galapagos as they are 1150 kilometers (718 miles) from the coast of Mancora, Peru where I was paddling my rented surf board. But in the moment, logic wasn’t available to my overheated, anxious brain.
According to Ayurveda, Summer is depicted as our productive adult years, our years of work and contribution to our families, communities and the world. Specifically, Ayurveda defines the ages between 16-50 as the Pitta years. Personally, I’m not done with my productive years (I’m just getting started!), as I finally feel like I know what I’m here to do. On the surface this may seem contradictory to the Ayurvedic calendar, but it might just be proof of its ancient wisdom. As newly 50, I can see myself embracing the idea for less heat of my pitta fire and settling more comfortably into doing less. That less is the Crone years of 50 and beyond, and reflective of a return to the Vata season of Winter.
Ideas for Let it flow practice:
2. Celebrate an achievement or accomplishment, even just a baby step toward some larger goal. Pausing to celebrate is a way of recognizing progress in the process of learning and growing. Maybe you celebrate by hosting a party or treating yourself to a special self-care gift or sharing your accomplishment with a trusted friend or teacher.
3. Brainstorm ways to implement your values in ACTION (doing, non-doing, un-doing and re-doing). Perhaps using a mind map technique or a free flow journaling technique to explore ALL THE WAYS one could live the value you’ve prioritized. If you need support in this brainstorm exercise, consider working with a Coach. I might be a good fit. Schedule your FREE Inspiration Check-up to see. Then consider which of the numerous options you’d like to explore in the coming months.
Ayurveda and any philosophy or perspective used to make sense of our world and experience is only as useful as we can connect it’s teachings to our lived experience. That said, each passing year, I see more and more connections between real life and the teachings of Ayurveda and Yoga.
No matter what season of life you are currently walking, there is great benefit in cultivating pause to observe and reflect (Let it be) on where you are (Let it go) AND where you are going (Let it flow). This is the journey of Yoga Living and the practices of Breathing (pranayam), Moving (asana) and Resting (meditation) are key rituals to support living well and embracing the opportunities life presents for learning, growing, and becoming.
May we all find our way to inspiration and connection through the committed practice of yoga.