Why Is It Unique?
Lady Niguma’s yoga is unique in that she created a system of yoga predominantly for women. Historically, it is the only yoga series designed by a woman. Most practices start by initiating the right side first. The Lady Niguma series is unique in that all of the asanas start by moving with or to the left first. This practice utilizes feminine wisdom and female qualities and creativity, and is associated with the left side of the body.
Lady Niguma taught a special type of yoga to open the 6 chakras, (6 in this series), and its aim is to make us happier.
The series can be modified to fit into all of our lives, from a busy life as a career woman to a single mum; and can be done in 25 minutes or two hours. It is designed to be simple, easy and accessible. It is also accessible to men.
The Chakras are opened from the root chakra up to the crown chakra, i.e. beginning at the bottom and working up, through all six chakras.
Essentially the system works on the wind channels/nadis. The four steps of the system include the twist, the stretch, and then the gathering and then distribution of the prana as it is released; done at each chakra position. It is aimed at getting the prana moving into the central channel, the sushumna. When Prana flows through this central channel we experience happiness and ultimately pure bliss. We are in turn kinder to others and more compassionate.
If we do this practice in the morning it can set us up for the whole day. The channels are flowing freely and we can approach the day with more clarity of mind, less conflict of the mind, and feel energized and full of prana.
Lady Niguma • History & Background
Lady Niguma, a woman, lived 1000 years ago; (Around 1000AD). She was of high caste, in the ancient Indian caste system; was beautiful, compassionate, elegant, and intelligent. She became spiritual partners with Lord Naropa, a great sage and later a great monk. Not a lot is known about her. She grew up in a small village in north-east India and is famous for her devotion and kindness to others.
Lord Naropa was told by his parents that he had to marry. He did not really want to marry because he wanted to study and become a monk. He did not want to upset them and so to appease his parents he agreed to marry a woman; but wrote a list of qualities he required from that woman. The list included that she must be beautiful, aged 16, have high spiritual qualities, be a Hindu and a Buddhist, and that her name had to be Niguma! He was also born into royalty/of high caste and he sent his servants out to find this woman. After one year of searching they found a woman who was drawing up water from a well using what seemed to be magical powers, a beautiful woman. On asking her name she confirmed that her name was “Niguma”. They explained that Lord Naropa wanted to marry her and she agreed and they were married.
Lady Niguma realized that Lord Naropa wished to be a monk, and had not really wanted to marry and so she confirmed that she was happy for him to divorce her so that he could become a monk and scholar. However, that was on the proviso that she could follow him and study wherever he went. He become a great monk and scholar and Abbott. They studied and practiced yoga in India together, and later she started her own yoga school for women in India on the island of Sosa, in the middle of the Ganges River.
She became famous for her teaching of women, and “taught in the sky”. News of her fame travelled to Tibet; whereupon a monk called Kyunpo Neljor [978-1127 AD] heard her name and knew that she was his heart teacher. He said; “I must go and study with her”. He sold all of his possessions which he dissolved into a bag of gold and travelled to the island of Sosa. When he arrived at the island it was dead, and no one appeared to be living there. There were dead bodies and he felt frustrated that he had come all this way. He started to pray. Suddenly he heard singing above his head and when he looked up he saw women flying in the sky doing yoga.
He prayed aloud to Lady Niguma. Out of a cloud came a demon with fangs to scare him. He emphasized that he wanted to study with Lady Niguma, and held up the gold, offering it to the demon. The demon took his worldly possessions and threw them across the island and the island was covered with gold dust. The demon said that it did not need his gold. He begged to meet his heart teacher and the demon (who was actually Lady Niguma,) saw his pure heart and devotion and saw that he was pure and humble and changed from her demon state into a goddess; and agreed to teach him.
She flew him away to the Himalayas. He was not conscious on the journey but she taught him in his dreams. On waking, and when advised that he had been taught, he said he could not recall the teachings and begged her to again teach him in his waking state. She taught him only once more in his waking state, and told him he could only transmit the teachings to one person per generation. The person that he could communicate the teachings to had to be worthy.
Six or seven generations passed by, and 400 years later Gendun Gyatso [1475-1542AD] was privileged enough to be taught the series. He became a Dalai Lama, but not until after his death. He became the head of three great ministries in India. He was an Abbott and a great scholar of Lady Niguma. For the interest of all beings, he decided to teach what he had learnt to many people at the same time because he viewed the teachings to be too precious to keep secret.
100 years later the teachings reached Jetsun Taranatha [1575-1634 AD]; he wrote the history of Lord Budha, and became a great scholar and writer. He travelled to Mongolia and became the Dalai Lama of Mongolia. He was the first person to write the practices down, whilst also teaching the practice.
This was a sacred text and was lost. Later it was found by the Asian Classics Input Project in Mongolia and translated by Geshe Michael Roach, who now teaches the series throughout the world.
The Inner Body and Chakras In Lady Niguma’s Yoga Series
What tradition of the inner body are we studying? How many chakras are there in this system of yoga? What are The Sanskrit and English names for each of these chakras and where are they located in the body?
The Lady Niguma chakra series is within the Kalachakra tradition. “Kala” means time and “chakra” means wheel. Essentially this system is attempting to stop the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It is aimed at the inner and outer body.
There are six chakras in this system of yoga, (It does not include Ajna, the third eye at the eyebrow centre). All the charkas reside along the sushumna, the central channel, which runs about an inch inside the body from the perineum, then along approximately an inch in front of the spine and then along the back of the skull.
The chakras are like wheels with spokes. They are points where the channels are choked, and so we need to open them to realize happiness. If we are able to unchoke the nadis, we become kinder, more open, patient with others and happy. Our happiness and compassion in turn is reflected in those around us becoming happier in response.
The table below confirms where the chakras are found in the body, the Sanskrit name:
|Chakra/Sanskrit||Position in the body|
|Sahasrara||Crown of the head|
|Manipura||The Solar Plexus/ Abdomen|
|Svadishtana||The Sacral spine/ sacrum|
|Muladhara||The Perineum /root chakra|
What are the three main channels that we are interested in working with when doing our yoga?
There are 72,000 nadis or channels in the body. The main three we work with when we practice yoga are shown in the table below:
Avadhuti -Meaning to shake off
|Central channel||When prana or life force moves through this channel we are happy, we are kind to others, put others first and our body “sings,” and has an inner song; we are able to think more clearly and do not need to waste prana on making decisions. We are calm, and clear of mind.|
Surya or sun
“Ha” as in Hatha
|Right channel, sun||We misunderstand reality and objects, become angry and irritable, have the instinct to run away, and avoid people, situations and problems; it relates to misunderstanding of our objective world/the objects in our world.|
Chandra or moon
“Tha” as in Hatha
|Left channel, moon||We become grasping in the wrong way and only for ourselves, whether we hurt ourselves or others to get it. It involves and relates to misunderstanding ourselves/ our subject selves.|
When prana flows in the left or right channels we are acting in ignorance and thinking about ourselves only. “Me, me, me”. The aim of this series is to reposition the Prana into the sushumna. When that happens the Pingala and Ida will fall away.
What Are The Koshas?
Why are the koshas like the layers of an onion? What are their Sanskrit and English names and how do they interact?
There of five (Pancha) Koshas or layers to our physical and nonphysical being.
The five layers or sheaths are:
Annamaya Kosha — the food body, Anna means food and Maya means that which consists of or illusion. It is the physical body.
Pranamaya Kosha — ana means to be/breathe and prana means energy light, life force. It is our pranic body, containing 72,000 nadis; the illusionary body; if we stripped of the flesh and bones, then this would be this layer, the layer of wind and prana.
Manomaya kosha, relates to sense powers, all that our senses do is pick up colours and shapes and touch; the senses themselves do not see, hear, smell, or taste. Mano means mind and this layer relates to our ability to connect with the outside world.
Vijnanamaya kosha, is connected with awareness. It is the thing that allows information in/the senses has taken in and calls it something, slaps a label on an object. It is where the body and mind crossover.
Anandamaya kosha, is a state of mind and the amount of bliss the mind is experiencing for example the experience after a yoga class; peace, blissfulness. It is the last physical layer of being, yet it is very subtle.
In the centre of the onion is empty space, and all the layers of the onion wrap around this. The space enables the seeds to ripen. The other layers rest on this emptiness. It is the centre of potential.
If there is crookedness or a defect in the inner body it will be reflected in the outer body and manifests itself in us, such as by ageing, sickness and death. If we open the chakras the body can change outwardly to radiant light.
The Four Things That Lady Niguma Tells Us We Need To Do To Open Our Chakras
Name the four things that Lady Niguma tells us we need to do to open our chakras? Name the corresponding poses for each of these steps for two of the chakras.
The four things we need to do to open our chakras include:
1. T- wist
Lady Niguma tells us we need to: Twist, stretch, gather and distribute, in order to open our chakras; it is a four step system, starting at the bottom chakra and working up through all 6 chakras to the crown chakra. This system helps to unravel the pingala and ida that are wrapped around the sushumna, by twisting; then stretching in order to straighten the channels. Then we gather the prana into the core and then distribute it into the sushuma, and hopefully retain it there.
Examples of this technique at the following chakras include:
Mulhadhara chakra, at the perineum: Head to knee pose, Janu Shirshasana to twist/pressure on the groin; bound angle pose, baddha konasana to stretch, perineum contractions, Ashuini Mudra, to gather, and three small drops, Bepchung Sum, to distribute.
Svadhisthana chakra at the tailbone: Twist: Jathara Parivartana, reclining twist left and right; seated forward bend Paschimottanasana, to stretch; boat pose, Navasana to gather; and Jathara Parivartana variation, windscreen wiper pose, to distribute.
What Does Lung Sem Jukpa Chikpa Mean?
What does lung sem jukpa chikpa mean? How does understanding this important Tibetan term help us to understand how mind and body are connected and how yoga and meditation together (as outer and inner methods) can help us reach deeper happiness and clarity more quickly?
“Lung” means wind/prana, “Sem” means mind, “Jukpa chikpa” means, ride together. So in essence: The thoughts and wind ride together. It is clear that if our channels are free flowing and predominantly in the sushumna our thoughts will be purer, we will be happier and more generous to others. The wind will dictate our thoughts, and they ride in tandem.
Vice versa, our thoughts can have an effect on our winds. Thoughts about “me” will begin to choke the Sushumna and affect the way we think in the present and in the future. It will plant a seed.
Our mind and our prana/wind is connected. That is why it is valuable to practice the series in the morning to untie knots and to redistribute prana into the Sushumna, so that we can avoid conflict and suffering during the day.
Asana is important. But when we add a meditation to our practice it allows us to give ourselves space for the seeds to grow. We become our own inner teacher and affect the outer and inner being.