Ancestral Yoga

The yoga studio was filled with warm bodies clad in black yoga pants. The front door was strewn with abandoned fleeces and boots that were still melting on the hardwood floors. The cozy studio with lofted ceilings was a welcomed change from the crisp, snow crunch walk to the workshop space.

But we weren’t here to do Yoga in the conventional sense. Yoga is more than a series of postures designed to make the body more limber and healthy. As the Grandfather of Modern Yoga and great Ayurvedic Healer Sri T. Krishnamacharya said, “In the practice of Yoga one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless.” Our group had gathered together to release our bodily burdens and claim our deeper self using Bloodline Healing. Like yoga for cleansing our ancestry, Bloodline Healing starts with feeling our bodies and ends with recovering our peace of mind and sense of self.


The participants were filled with a visible anticipation as they prepared to step to the ornately adorned Ancestor’s Table at the front of the yoga studio. The table was covered in a rich tablecloth from Hawaii, topped with flowers, candles, and old photographs that participants brought to decorate the sacred space. It would be the place where they would feel the invisible burdens that their bodies carried in order to give them voice.

I don’t mean the every day burdens of paying bills, raising kids, and maintaining a productive life. The burdens we were addressing were inherited. They resided beneath the regular stress of routine life. We were preparing to release the unfinished stories of our ancestors.

One woman named Alice, a single mother, was preparing herself to do just that. Her compact body was a feminine powerhouse, holding the emotional and financial weight of her household when her boyfriend left. Her neck was tense, her back was braced, and her breathing was shallow. She was no stranger to yoga or body work, yet still, the emotional story of being abandoned kept her body coiled like a weight bearing pillar.

Alice was not the first good woman in her family to be abandoned by a man. In fact, it seemed to be a cyclic pattern. It traced back to the men on the paternal side of her family who tended to dump responsibilities on women before running off. I asked her to listen to her body so that she could speak those feelings out loud, directly to the deceased men who passed the burden of this pattern onto her. Placing my hands on her belly, I firmly patted the stuck tension in her lower body. The rhythmic pounding began to move the trapped emotions that were buried inside the physical tension to the surface. She could sense how her emotions were arising from deep in her belly. I asked her to ground her body firmly into a Mountain Stance, with her knees slightly bent in preparation for the emotions that had climbed up to her throat.

To her surprised, she screamed to the deceased abandoners, “It’s not fair! I can’t carry all the burdens on my own!” She was speaking her harbored truth to the men who fit the family pattern. Her face became visibly red, as she bent forward in a position that made her look like a crouched college wrestler. The scream propelled her forward in a spontaneous movement, thrusting the pain out of her torso. True to yoga, she listened to her body and instinctually moved to release what she was holding.

She stood up straight again. Her chest was tight, as if her body was cleaning itself out from the bottom up. The scream energy was coming up in course waves, like Kundalini, freeing the trapped tension that she struggled with on a daily basis. I asked her to open her arms to the sides like outspread wings, opening her heart, like the beginning of a Sun Salutation. The pose invited the once stuck vital fire in her hips to rise up to her heart. She laughed, giddy at the sheer liberation of screaming in such a supportive environment. Alice could never do that at home. She was always the quiet one that tried to stabilize the home life. The invigorating experience made her crack a smile that lit up the entire room, making the other participants giggle. Her glow was contagious.

I asked her to go around the room and share her fire with other members of the group. Each time she did, she grew more confident in her emerging fire. Each breath was a celebration, a chance to value the beauty of her fire. Her posture was more relaxed, exuding a calm confidence. Finally, she grasped my hands in appreciation. “Thank you,” she said. “Can we dance now?”

“We dance!” I declared. And just like that, the whole room of witnesses became bodies in motion, celebrating the emotional breakthrough and bathing in the inspiring display of empowerment. Playfulness filled the snowcapped yoga studio.

To close the Ancestral Dialogue, I asked Alice to honor the good things that she also received from her ancestors. She was grateful for the chance to be alive, and overjoyed by the birth of her son. She was learning to value her fire, regardless of whether or not the men in her life stayed. As she spoke her gratitude, her hands naturally came together in front of her chest, saying “Namaste” and sealing the unconventional yoga practice.

Countless yogis have come to experience this uncanny type of Ancestral Yoga called Bloodline Healing, because it guides them to a deeper sense of wisdom within. Few realize that such ancestral contact is part of the reason modern yogic knowledge is still around. After years of early yogic practice, Sri Krishnamacharya had a powerful dream with his ancestor, the legendary yogic saint Nathamuni, who directed him to journey to a sacred site where he received the Yoga Rahasya, a long-lost yogic scripture composed by Nathamuni. The Yoga Rahasya preserved how Yoga was a key tool for therapy/healing and the importance of adapting yoga to each individual’s need. For Alice, that need was to scream her truth from every cell of her body. But even more deeply, she needed to respect her vitality, in the true spirit of Yoga.

Join us on July 6th-10th, 2014 at Kriaplu Retreat Center for a wonderful 5 day intensive workshop:

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