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Svaroopa® Yoga’s “Core Opening”

 By Doreen Kleinschmidt

"Core Opening" is a term coined by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati who brought forth Svaroopa Yoga. Core opening is a concept and a consequence of the practice of Svaroopa Yoga. Svaroopa Yoga is defined by two immensely distinguishing characteristics.

First, deep inner immersion — every Svaroopa yoga class offers shavasana (yoga’s relaxation pose) at the beginning and at the end.  Shavasana is the pose which offers the greatest relaxation. Second, poses are done in sequence to reliably release the deep muscles of the spine – beginning, most importantly at the tailbone and continuing through the sacrum, waist and ribcage.

Swami's approach doing poses this way derived from her technology of the tailbone and the paradigm of release. This way of doing hatha yoga is dramatically different. Also, Svaroopa Yoga is physical and more than physical.

Svaroopa yoga relies on a number of primary principles that all serve in opening the spine. It is this opening of the core which actually leads students to experience the benefit of yoga in their lives by activating their own power of transformation, and it is an opportunity to understand the body in new and wonderful ways. Students learn “it all begins at the tailbone” — that the release of tightness first and foremost at the tailbone initiates a process that carries up through the whole spine. We all know the consequences of tight tailbone muscles — back and neck aches, TMJ, sore shoulders, tight hamstrings, and the inclination to worry, just to name a few. 

Support equals release. We use propping in the poses which along with other elements, actually elicits the reliable release of muscle and the opening into poses. When a yoga practice is done like this, there is true alignment in every asana.

Bones are for support. We learn to lean on our bones and use them for the support they are meant to provide.

A tight muscle is a weak muscle and a weak muscle is a tight muscle. We learn that every tight muscle is a weak muscle. These weak, tight muscles constrict blood flow (along with the proper nutrition and oxygen) as well as diminishing the flushing of toxins.

Perhaps the most important thing we learn is how to experience our inherent bliss. When Swami took Svaroopa's name from the yoga sutras. she reflected on this teaching, “tada drashtuh sva-rupé vasthananm." This means the moment the mind becomes quiet “the seer sees himself in his own true nature.” In other words, the moment the mind becomes quiet, we can then experience the inherent bliss of our own inner self.

So the core opening releases tight muscles and, even more interestingly, tight minds. The core opening also leads to a true core strengthening. By unraveling deep internal tightness, tissues replenish, joints align, breathing and digestion improve, all organs, nerves and glands are nourished, and the relaxation response kicks in. Svaroopa yoga inspires a cascade of openings that detoxify and restore the body. Along with these physical openings comes a feeling of pervading peace, a diving inward, a coming home.

Try this test when you go to bed some night. Reach down and press your thigh. Is it soft, supple and yielding to the touch or is it like a brick? Muscles at rest should be soft, not stuck in the engaged state. Our muscles are our soft tissue. When a muscle isn’t being used for work, it should feel soft. Often, we may not discern our tightness. The body is very forgiving, very accommodating. It won’t let us walk around tilted to one side, twisted, or bobbing up and down. Rather, if it has a tightness on the left buttock, for example, it might counterbalance that tightness with a complementary tightness on the right shoulder. This is a way for the body to maintain symmetry. However, arising out of tightness, this symmetry is an illusion, it is tightness bouncing off tightness. And to add to the illusion, tightness over time asserts "numbness" from the tourniquet effect the tightness imposes in muscle tissue.

Very often, traditional methods of working with the body and strengthening the body may, in reality, be layering tightness over tightness.

They say that yoga makes you flexible and healthy, keeps you young and connects you with your inner true happiness — this is a happiness not contingent upon outside circumstances. With yoga, you like yourself better and others are more attracted to you. You become more aware of your own vastness, spaciousness and bliss. You become more Open.

Your Body — Your Vehicle

 By Doreen Kleinschmidt, CSYT

Our bodies deserve at least the same care as our cars. We acquire our bodies immediately upon birth and keep them our whole lives and drop them off when we are done with them. With our cars, we make sure we do everything we can to keep them safe and smoothly running. We consult our manuals to find the guidelines for successful car ownership and then follow the suggestions.

Now don’t you wish someone would give you the manual for care and maintenance of your human body and its parts? Svaroopa Yoga offers just that, a “manual” for how to keep us in good running condition and how to get and keep what Svaroopa calls “core openings.” Svaroopa Yoga was stylized by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati some thirty years ago and is a rapidly growing styles of hatha yoga in practice today.

This style is earmarked by a very different approach to the practice of hatha yoga. All poses lead to the release of tension in the tightest muscles of the spine, beginning at the tailbone and continuing through the whole spine. This produces the deep essential openings which facilitate our doing the poses and provides a deeper experience of ourselves. We get a better body/mind both "outside and inside." We hear a lot about "outside and inside" in our Svaroopa class, as Svaroopa is a perfect bridge from outer distraction to internal continuity.

Tightness + Time = certain negative effects. First of all, the spine is the main conduit for all the body systems. Tightness in the muscles misaligns the spine. The misalignment, in turn, influences every organ, nerve and gland. We all know muscle tightness in our neck and shoulders, back, hips and hamstrings. Tightness isn’t a simple singular state. Syndromes arise from tightness, sciatica, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, scoliosis, sinusitis, to name a few. More seriously, impaired function of primary life support organs like the liver, kidneys and gall bladder may occur along with altered function of organ systems. Worse than that, sustained inflammation can cause heart disease and cancer. So tightness can be simplistic or tightness can be extreme.

Good posture isn’t just a matter of standing upright. Muscles are not designed to hold us up. That is the job of our bones. Structural integrity depends on proper alignment and muscles that flow through both contraction and relaxation. The tighter we are, the more we move away from our original ease. We become amnesiacs in a sense, we forget what is it was like when we were at ease. Through our dedicated practice we regain what was lost, we "come to our senses," so to speak. We find a true restoration of body, and a true peace of mind. Our vehicles run well, run happy.

Stress + Bodies + Minds are complex but the Svaroopa solution is simple. Keep your vehicle humming, do Svaroopa yoga! Your body will thank you and you will love the ride!

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