The Yoga Transcendental Pose – Tanoti Asana

Yoga has really taken off in America and has become a huge industry in itself.  It is a mainstream exercise yet still maintains a little bit of a cult attitude.  There are those that practice yoga just for the physical exercise it provides and those that make a fervent daily ritual out of it.  American style yoga, though, is still devoid of much of the true meaning of the practice, which is a combination of philosophy, meditation, natural medicine as well as the physical discipline.  Ideally, the many stretches and poses are used to refine one’s purpose, and that is to unify mind, body, and spirit.  Or at least attain a realization that the three are already one.  Even more divine is the recognition that you, I, and the others are also one.  Eventually, the mind dissolves that individualist notion and there becomes no self and no other.  This awareness is the true goal of yoga.

There are many poses, or asanas. The asanas move the body, massage the internal organs, improve blood circulation, strengthen the muscles, and evoke the power of the mind.  This asana that I am to teach you is called Tanoti Asana and falls into the last category.  Tanoti, as many yoga practitioners know, means “expanding consciousness”.  Fittingly, tanoti asana helps clear the mind, enhance the vision, benefit the third eye, and as the name suggests, expands consciousness.

Tanoti asana is to be done at the end of a yogic practice.  In this way, it allows the prana, or circulating energy in the body, to perfuse throughout the head and neck area to balance the chakras.  The tanoti asana can also be done as a stand alone meditation to open the awareness and cultivate the third eye.  (It is recommended for persons well into their journey through yoga, meditation, and spirituality.  I do NOT recommend it for beginning practitioners.)

To perform the tanoti asana, you will need a small ball about the size of a tennis ball and a long tube sock.  A racketball, lacrosse ball, field hockey ball, etc. will do.  Put the ball inside of the sock.  Tie a knot at the top of the sock.  (An excellent alternative to the sock ball is the Sciaticare Ball by August Point Wellness.  It is perfect for this posture.)

  • Sit on the mat in a Baddha Konasana posture (Cobbler’s Pose)
  • Slowly recline until your back and head are  on the mat (Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Cobbler’s Pose)
  • Place the Sciaticare Ball (or your ball and sock) under the occiput with the ball in the depression just under the base of the skull.
  • The cord and handle of the Sciaticare Ball should be above the head.  (If you are using the sock method, the knot should be above the head.)
  • The hands should be placed in a modified Dhyana Mudra position with fingers extended and slightly rounded.  Now take the hands in that same position and put them over your head with the back of the palms facing the ground.  The hole that is made by the index fingers and thumbs will be where the cord (or sock) will go through.  You will close the hole to secure the handle and cord (or knot) between your hands.
  • With your hands around the cord (or knot), you will slightly pull against the handle to provide a little tension.  You will then tuck your chin towards chest while elongating your spine and extending your occiput away from the body.  The slight tension on the cord lines up the occiput and gives a little stretch to the cervical spine.

I hope the tanoti asana will invoke your third eye and strengthen your conscious and subconscious mind.  I hope that it will give you insight into yourself as well as your surroundings.  Awaken!

We are always open to comments, suggestions, and questions. Namaste.

You can also download this asana with pictures here:  http://www.augustpoint.com/Tanoti_Asana_pub.pdf

Please visit August Point Wellness to learn more about this asana as well as view pictures.

Interested in Improving Your Balance? Treat the Suboccipital Muscles.


Suboccipital triangle

Image via Wikipedia

There are two groups that I think are more interested in balancing on two feet than anyone else.  Athletes and the elderly.  The athlete is on one end of the spectrum, trying to push the limits of physical activity and improve center of gravity.  The other end of the spectrum are the elderly, who are usually just trying to keep that brain-body proprioceptive loop functioning enough to prevent possible fall or other injury. Both parties can benefit from gaining a more stable foundation to sustain and encourage movement.  Therefore, athletes and the elderly can benefit from “tuning up” the balance “sensors” of their bodies.

One important set of balance “sensors” are a group of muscles called the suboccipitals.  The suboccipitals are a group of 4 muscles (rectus capitis posterior minor, rectus capitis posterior major, obliquus capitis superior, and obliquus capitis inferior) located inferior to the base of the skull.  These suboccipital muscles are literally sensors for positioning and orienting the head in 3-dimensional space.  In fact, the muscles contain a much higher density of muscle spindles than most muscles in the body.  The inordinate amount of muscle spindles in the muscle tissue substantiate the idea that the primary function of the suboccipital group is to send spatial data to the brain and the secondary function of the suboccipital group is movement of the head.

Now, if we look at the suboccipital muscles as we would any other muscle group in the body, we can assume that fatigue, tension, and strain can occur from overuse and/or neglect.  Tightness and tension of the muscles can present with symptoms of dizziness, visual disturbances, and balance problems.  The above symptoms occur because the brain interacts with both the suboccipitals and the eyes in such a way that both organs work to help you focus on objects, track objects, and predict motion of objects relative to your body position.  (In a football example, what this means is that when your suboccipitals are functioning correctly, you can better “lock in” the football’s trajectory with your eyes and move your arms and feet towards catching it.)  Also, a group of nerves pass through the suboccipital area (suboccipital triangle) on their way back into the spinal column.  Compression of the nerves tend to compound the above said symptoms and, if severe enough, can cause occipital neuralgia.  Another interesting fact is that cervical vertebrae C2 and C3 are connected to the dura mater of the spinal cord in this location.  So, if the muscles attached to these vertebrae are pulling to one side or the other, the spinal cord is affected and could trigger headache and migraine symptoms.  Needless to say, the suboccipital muscles are important structures that contribute heavily to proper balance.

Recommendations for treating these muscles are stretching, manual therapy, and some form of alternative therapy, and some self-care tools.  Stretching will keep the musculature limber and promote good blood flow.  A manual therapy such as massage or trigger point therapy will usually result in reduction of headache and dizzy spells.  A trained massage therapist will be able to address these muscles very successfully as well as point out other issues with the surrounding musculature.  Craniosacral therapy is also a very beneficial technique that can release the suboccipital structure and realign the cervical vertebrae.  Acupuncture is a very effective alternative therapy that can assist in the treatment and prevention of proprioceptive and visual problems that may occur with tight suboccipital muscles.  Well-placed needles are able to access the muscular trigger points deep into the neck and results can be similar or more effective than that of massage.  Lastly, a self-care tool should always be in the home for when a recurrence of pain from strain or overuse arises.  We promote an August Point Wellness tool for this, the Sciaticare Ball.  It’s an intuitively simple tool with a wide variety of uses.  Releasing trigger points in the suboccipital area is just one of the uses for this physical therapy tool.  Please read our Sciaticare Ball technique for the Suboccipital Squeeze at http://www.augustpoint.com.

Proprioception – the awareness of the position and movement of the body in 3-dimensional space.

Suboccipital triangle – triangular pattern comprising 3 of the 4 suboccipital muscles.  Rectus capitis posterior major, obliquus capitis superior, obliquus capitis inferior comprise the triangular formation.