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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

May 26, 2010


We have a lot going on here this week. On Sunday night we got back from State track meet in Boise. I spent the day on Monday prepping for the Advanced Immersion on Saturday as well as taking care of household and business. On Tuesday Chris' mother arrived from L.A. Yesterday we spent time with my mom and dad at the nursing home and went from there to an auditorium to celebrate the other end of life as Leo graduated from High School. Today is business and teaching. This afternoon I also have a study call with my AKM group - (Denise, Rainey, Jim and Ruthie) - so I have to get myself organized to have something useful and coherent to contribute to that as it probably would not be appreciated is I just showed up on the call to report that I'm anxious. Tomorrow will be full of more prepping for teaching all day Saturday. Sunday we will host a celebration here at the house for the "family at large" ( my side of the family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)

I'd been feeling a mounting anxiety, partly from some work related drama that came up last week (mostly my own reaction to the drama of course) and and also from everything going on this week. It really is BIG to have my youngest graduating and I was trying to ignore that - not feel it too sharply. And also there's just some "too-busy" anxiety coming up as there's just so dang much going on in one week.

Contemplating all of this, something has started to come together for me - an new understanding about Kidney Loop and Shoulder Loop and what it is that joins the two at the level of the heart focal point, which is also the the level of the diaphragm and the bottom of the Heart chakra.

In the Yoga Asana world you can see a lot of BIG shoulder loop in backbending postures, and not so much kidney loop. (I admit that this has begun to change as the Yoga asana world evolves and gets smarter). In the Pilates world, where I am a happy guest from time to time, there's tremendous integrity in the region of the Kidney loop (transverse abdominus, etc) and not much radiant, heart-opened shoulder loop to be seen. (I don't know if this is changing since I'm not a native of the Pilates world).

There is something that makes these two loops split - go their separate ways. The backbendy types go the way of shoulder loop. The core strength types go the way of kidney loop. I've been prepping to teach these two loops in conjunction with some in-depth study of the breath and pranayama. The deeper I've gotten into the prep, and with everything going on with work and home and family, the more anxiety has come up. At first I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to breath - which is supposed to be largely automatic - and was putting myself into an anxiety pattern. But I'm thinking now that I have been bringing so much attention to the split between the two loops that I've feeling the truth of that split more acutely - and it is a split that by its very nature creates anxiety, on a physical level as it relates to the breath, and on a mental- emotional level as it relates to an inability to find home.

The Heart spirit - in Chinese Medicine - is called shen - and is pictured as a bird. Shen must be able rest in the substance of the body. The rest is meant to happen at at night during sleep but also during any cycle of breath. The exhale is a resting of shen into the nest of the Kidney's essence, and the substance of the back body and kidney loop.

Sometimes - really quite often I'm beginning to see - the Heart - Kidney connection is weakened or broken. This happens for various reasons such as burn-out, etc. But a more intrinsic reason for this split is the root contraction - mala - that Yoga philosophy locates at the level of the heart focal point. It is called the anava mala and is a major forgetting of our intrinsic connection to Love. We begin to feel that we are truly going to be left behind. Shen forgets her way home and begins to rise in a spiral of fear and panic, unable to rest.

What does this look like in a person? Well, for one thing there will most likely be a deficiency of exhale. The diaphragm gets "stuck", the inhale is dominant and accompanied by tension and gripping in the upper shoulders, neck and the breath lifts up too much and does not get to nest down with each exhale.

On a mental emotional level there's a tendency to not trust oneself and to look outward - sometimes with obsessive compulsion - to find some sort of nest or "home" of validation and affirmation. The bird of the heart is trying to connect with someone else's nest since she can't find her own.

So - the theme of the week has been "finding home" - really knowing where home is. Locating that - That - at the bottom of the Heart. We've been working with Breath, Pranayama and gentle backbends. And exhaling all the nonsense and anxiety like a bird nesting into what's Real.

1 comment:

  1. karen, so interesting to read this today - I just wrote an email to my friend about this very discovery, only I don't call it shoulder loop or kidney loop... but even your pilates reference is totally in line to what I was feeling in my practice. there was a disconnect in my kidney region, and pain and tension there as well - I knew that my kidneys were over worked, but I couldn't figure it out. what it ended up looking like if you were to look at me probably walking around even, but definately during bbending, inversions and even a little in was lower ribs jutting forward. as soon as I realized this I knew that I needed to be able to stay connected with this area of the body, my diaphram in order to keep my heart open... I'm not explaining it well... but here is what I'm wondering,how does this connect to the knees? I think the answer is with the QL being over worked like the kidneys and not realeasing during asanas where lots of rotation is needed in femur - but is there more than that?