“May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” ~translation of Sanskrit Mantra Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
This week, we will continue to explore the individual poses of yoga or the asanas by addressing the second energy center that is located at the level of the pelvis. It is called the svadhisthana chakra or the pelvic chakra. It also strongly relates to the planet Pluto. A practice for this chakra will be very fluid and energizing. Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Zest Things Up!”→
“Just being low down in a room tends to clear the mind. Maybe it’s because being on the floor is so foreign to us that it breaks up our habitual neurological patterning and invites us to enter into this moment through a sudden opening in what we might call the body door.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
This week, we will begin to explore the individual poses of yoga or the asanas. This is the 3rd limb of the yogic system. Although it is self-evident that a steady yoga practice will involve the postures themselves, in the vast scope of yoga the asanas have a specific role to play. The intention of asana is to bring attunement (or greater awareness) to our instinctual responses. For that reason, many of the poses derive from animals who, by nature, are strongly instinctive.
“In the beginning you have to make room for yoga in your daily life and give it the place it deserves. But after some time yoga itself will pull you up by the hair and make you do it.” – Vanda Scaravelli
The most important aspect of supporting a steady yoga practice is creating a daily habit at home. This is a difficult task when you lack motivation or don’t know where to begin.
Our final niyama, Ishvar-Pranidhana, is often defined as “centering on your Ideal.” It is a simple pledge to honor the indwelling teacher. Ishvar-Pranidhana is a practice of attunement that brings us to the apex of our study of the niyamas.
This week, make an effort to salute yourself, your teachers and all of those who have come before you. Practice chanting “Om Namah Shivaya” at the end of each meditation or asana practice.
In Sanskrit, the meaning of the chant is:
Om– Ever present, it is the pulse of the universe and the source of our whole being.
Namah– A word that means to bow.
Shivaya– Literally it means Shiva; but more than that, it represents the inner self.
For your reference, here is an audio link to the pronunciation of Om Namah Shivaya
When understood fully, the phrase translates to “I bow to the inner Self.’ In class, you may have heard me say, “bow to the teacher within”.
A wonderful set of words that expresses exactly how I feel as I end each and every practice. Bowing to the teacher within me is saluting all of my wisdom and where it stems from. It is how I respect my journey and honor all those who have made it possible.
“As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of flowers, seek teachings everywhere. Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze, seek seclusion to digest all that you have gathered. Like a mad one beyond all limits, go where you please and live like a lion completely free of fear.” – Dzogchen Tantra
I would like to propose that we all pledge to expand ourselves during the first week of 2018. This may sound like a great contradiction to all of the resolutions you will be hearing about today. But let me be specific, I am suggesting that you expand yourself mentally.
Broadening the horizon of your awareness requires experience and study. Svadhyaya is the sanskrit term for self-study. And, as we have learned, increased awareness brings you true happiness. This week, check out some of my recommendations for enhancing your practice and choose a prop, health aid, or reading to expand your yoga.
Please keep in mind that whatever you choose should grant you a deeper connection to Self. It should awaken you to your true nature. Only then will you be able to see things as they truly are and live in the present moment.
“The wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice to be able to remain easy in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom…” – Judith Lasater
The Sanskrit word tapas is the third niyama on our list. Tapas is often defined as heat. Yet it’s more ancient roots explain tapas has having the ability to remove impurities. In fact, the word tapas is used to define the process of heating alloyed gold until the debris is burnt off, revealing only the purest product.
Through the practice of yoga we can also use heat to burn away the nonsense and expose our true power. This does not just apply to intensive ashtanga, hot or vinyasa yoga forms. Any type of asana, pranayama or meditation can generate tapas.
This week choose a portion of your practice where you feel you need to apply more will power.
If you can’t sustain downward dog without stressing your shoulders, approach the posture through child’s pose and gradually build on the time you remain in downward dog until you feel stronger.
Maybe you can’t relax in savasana for more than 5 minutes. Use a timer to add one minute to each practice until you relish a full 10 or even 20 minute savasana.
As you bring more self-disipline into your practice, you will realize that you have more confidence. This “I can do it” attitude leads to greater contentment. Ultimately you will find that when you persevere in your practice (and your life), you feel more balanced, purposeful and joyful. A little work will release your attachments and free up your consciousness for higher realizations.
“Contentment comes as the infallible result of great acceptances, great humilities–of not trying to make ourselves this or that, but of surrendering ourselves to the fullness oflife–of letting life flow through us.” -David Grayson
This is an opportune time of year to consider contentment. Many people acquire things like beauty, fame or riches because they believe it will make them happy or content, especially around the holidays. But contentment can never be purchased. It cannot be accomplished by changing your hair color, getting cosmetic surgery or capturing that perfect Instagram. True contentment (or santosha as it is called in Sanskrit) is attained through altruism. It is felt in times of love and compassion. It appears when you eliminate superficialness, selfishness, and greed.
“If you want peace and purity, melt away your coverings…let a streaming beauty flow through you.” – Rumi
This week we continue our quest to support a steady yoga practice by looking at the second limb of the yoga system called niyamas or observances. There are five niyamas and the first is shaucha or purity.
By observing purity, we endeavor to lift ourselves to a higher, clearer and more peaceful state at all levels: intellectual, verbal and physical.
“In the entire path of yoga, there is really only one lesson. It is the one lesson we have to learn over and over again. Whenever we relinquish our craving, clinging and grasping, whenever we are totally present and undivided, we are immediately in union with our true nature.” – Stephen Cope
Through yoga, we can address our attachments, our extreme possessiveness, with the concept of non-attachment or aparigraha. Aparigraha is the 5th yama or abstinence in the 8 fold path of yoga. In Sanskrit, the word aparigraha is broken down into graha = to take/grab, pari=all sides & a=against. So, aparigraha means “against taking all” or non-greed. While we can certainly have attachments to physical things, we can also be possessive on an intellectual or verbal level.
Remember the most essential aspect of healthy yoga is going inward and growing more mindful with each breath. Let us not get distracted by “getting better” at yoga with our drive to achieve more. Instead, let us focus on deepening our relationship with our bodies in a way that is empowering and mindful.
One of the most difficult yamas (restraints) within the 8 limb-fold system of yoga to define is brahmacharya.
Literally, it means celibacy. However, it can also be defined as non-sensuality, which is the detachment from fulfilling the senses.