Thursday, January 3, 2008

Rishikesh Yoga in Somatic Body MInd Spirit Integration

The Rishishikesh Series

Everything is in a state of vibration; everything is energy waves. Your body also vibrates at a specific wavelength. You learn to tune to specific wavelengths to get specific energy for strength or power.

Swami Vishnu-devananda

HOUSTON, Late Spring 1993: The room was just large enough for the two of us to lie still, like corpses, on the floor. Black bookshelves holding a gargantuan library towered over us. Champa incense smoldered on the desk as James clanged pots and pans in the kitchen downstairs; my mouth watered with the aroma of dinner. Roy’s voice, sounding next to me, brought me back from my calm. “Wiggle your toes and stretch your body. Come back to the room when you’re ready.” I had just had my first private yoga session.

Roy Oakes was a man of contrasts. I met him in the early 1980s; at that time Roy was a computer whiz kid and a major-league party boy. My own party days were winding down, but Roy, like most of the boys in Montrose, was still riding high. I had offered to co-host the Grey Party, one of Houston’s biggest parties and AIDS fundraisers. Roy, James Stevenson, and their friend Stella hosted a planning meeting for the benefit at their posh high-rise apartment. My curiosity was piqued that night by the copy of the Tao Te Ching carefully placed on the coffee table. Following the meeting, we struck up a conversation about the book of Chinese wisdom and became friends.

Rich’s, the bar where I worked, was the swinging disco in those days. The threesome, as Roy, James and Stella were called, along with the “twinage”—Lynn and Julia, who are identical twins—started coming to the bar. That was quite a feat as my bar was situated at the top of a steep concrete stairwell, and Stella was permanently in a wheelchair. That didn’t stop Roy and James. They joyfully pulled her backward up the stairs, Stella waving all the while to the boys climbing behind her. Once at the top of the stairs, she sure could twirl in that wheelchair. We had fun.

Roy and James soon left for New York, where Roy worked for the investment house Goldman, Sachs and James for the designer Norma Kamali. After a few years of the fabulous fast life, rising debt, and weakening immune systems, they came home to Houston. They were determined to beat AIDS and the HIV virus using natural and alternative therapies. That meant low-stress (and low-paying) jobs. Roy went to work at A Moveable Feast, a health-food store and restaurant, and James did display windows at Neiman-Marcus. Thus I learned of Roy’s other life.

As a young man fresh out of high school Roy lived in Bremen, Germany. While there he answered an ad in the local paper for an ongoing yoga class that taught the Rishikesh series, named for the meditation ashram in Rishikesh, India. Over the year, members of the class reported much-improved health and flexibility and described dramatic changes, for the better, in their personal lives. The class attributed these benefits to their ongoing yoga practice.

Roy said the ten poses he learned really worked for him. I was intrigued. Roy had spent years living at an ashram in Denton, Texas, where he practiced meditation and yoga and experimented with some LSD and magic mushrooms (it was the ‘70s). When AIDS came knocking Roy had a full spiritual life to fall back on. He and James designed new and healthy lifestyles for themselves. Roy rekindled a nightly yoga and meditation program.

That first lesson in Roy’s study was an eye-opener. Doing yoga hurt me, or, I should say, stretching my body hurt me. My pathologically lazy life had repaid me with amazingly tight muscles and stiff joints. My body was rigid. I decided then and there that I didn’t have the time or the interest for yoga, and I did not try it again until my sojourn at the Lomi School.

But as my appreciation for yoga has grown over the years, I have returned, again and again, to the Rishikesh series Roy taught me. Looking for a good quote on yoga, I picked up The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, and as I thumbed through the pages I recognized most of the poses. Then I saw the word “Rishikesh”! Roy’s ten poses were abbreviated from the yoga taught by the Sivananda ashrams, located from Rishikesh, India, to London to San Francisco. I was pleased to see that most of the additions I had made to the original series of ten were found in the Sivinanda warm-up or extended series.

“How often do we stretch?” is a good question with a lot of different expert answers. “Nearly every day” is the best answer. At the very least stretch one day for every day you exercise: lift weights, run, swim, play volleyball or any sport. Sport activities tend to shorten the muscles during play. If the muscles are not stretched to counterbalance the shortening they habitually tighten, causing pain and possible injury.

A recent article on preventing sports injuries in The New York Times quoted Dr. Gloria Beim, an orthopedic surgeon in Crested Butte, Colorado. She is the team doctor for the U.S. track cycling team. Beim recommended aerobic movement to warm up the muscles followed by aggressive stretching before any sports activity. She also said, “I tell my patients, ‘Stretching right before you exercise three times a week isn’t going to do it. You need to stretch every day to get its benefit’.”

Roy taught me to begin each yoga session with the Sun Salutation. This is a famous series of exercises that flow through a dozen steps and are performed a dozen times. This flow of exercises, or vinyasa, warms up the body so that it is limber and prepared for the formal Rishikesh poses.

Over time I substituted the Five Tibetans for the Sun Salutations. I also have included the written instructions for some all-purpose light stretches to warm and loosen the body before one attempts the stronger Rishikesh poses—do what works for you.

Alan Davidson is the author of the free report "Body

Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your

Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a

Sensational Life" available at

Alan's also the author of Body Brilliance: Mastering Your

Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 Health and Wellness book

and Winner of Two 2007 Book-of-the-Year Awards.

Watch the Body Brilliance Movie

Dedicated to our healthy, happy, and prosperous world through the full enlightenment of every human being.

Through Your Body

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