“Yield to the flow. It is the most intelligent, fulfilling thing to do. Surrender your best sense of what to do or not to do and trust in the flow of Being.” – E. Schiffmann
Your challenge this week is to take 5 minutes each day to go with the flow by practicing what speaks to you.
You can simply sit and breathe, do one or two yoga poses that are familiar to you, or, if it’s a “down day”, enjoy a relaxation pose like Savasana (corpse pose). The important thing is to go to your dedicated space and set your timer for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes – no more.
If you are a teacher, try this in class. Allow a few minutes for self-practice prior to the start of class.
After July’s Yoga Practice Challenge, I have fallen back into the meditation habit and it has done wonders! Once I complete my 6 minutes or so of daily breath work and meditation, I find that I have more energy and motivation to move onto whatever the day has in store. In addition, I have tried to incorporate one healthy observance into each week to enhance this vitality. If you haven’t been following along, check out the posts from last month to see what you have missed. To make things easy, I’ve provided audio recordings for you to follow along.
Since this monthly map for a daily meditation/pranyama practice was so successful for me, I plan to keep going. Each week this coming month, I will be introducing a new meditation or breathing technique. Our Monday Meditation series starts tomorrow!
Furthermore, and to expand the commitment, I will soon be introducing Friday Focus – my weekly objective for adding interest and freshness back into my own personal posture practice.
As a yoga teacher, I try to practice the postures daily but it doesn’t always work out that way. And why? Because I seldom have a set plan. Sometimes I will work with an audio recording, sometimes I will rehearse what I am teaching for the week, and sometimes I just resort to a standard sun salutation routine. What I truly need is creative, fresh motivation to get, joyfully, on my mat. If this is something you’ve been craving – join me. And, if you don’t have a personal yoga practice, that’s even better – this could be your start.
It’s amazing how just 6-8 minutes of breathing/meditating per day can change your entire system.
This week, I reviewed my average resting heart rate (this is why I purchased and wear a Fit Bit). It was no surprise that I found it to be significantly lower over these past two weeks. I am pretty certain that this can be attributed to my daily breathing/meditation routine and the fact that I am drinking more water. Taking in 6-8 glasses of water each day has been a difficult challenge. I have never been a big water drinker. But, the endeavor has had such dramatic and immediate effects on my overall health that I am sticking with it. My skin is less dry, I am digesting foods more easily and my mental state has been especially peaceful.
So now, I’m on to the final week of my July Challenge. This week’s plan will be similar to last week’s with the addition of a technique I am calling, “Enjoy the Stillness”.
5.) Enjoy the Stillness – merely remain in the moment and see what surfaces.
Starting this week, I will also be adding an evening ritual called tarka.
What’s tarka, you ask?
Tarka is the practice of self-reflection. It’s to be done at the end of each day.
Before sleeping, preform the resurrection breath (see above) and sit/lie quietly with your eyes closed. Take a few moments to review what has been meaningful, unusual, or challenging in your day. In general, consider what you have learned about yourself.
Tip: Formalize your tarka practice by setting up a spiritual journal. Record your observations each week – Sundays are good reflection days for me. Practicing with ahimsa and satya, be honest with yourself. What have been your greatest challenges and how have you handled them?
I started my journey back to a full yoga practice last week. It was a little difficult getting to my mat each morning before the traditional tea or coffee “kick start” but, as I stated in my last post, putting meditation/breathing as the first order of business is the best way for me to seal the habit.
So, it was wonderful. I spent about 6 minutes doing the prescribed practice before heading into my usual 20-30 minute asana session. I found that the breathing and meditation helped me to delve deeper into my hatha yoga. Overall, my practice felt stronger and more effective.
This week, my plan is to try to drink more water and get more sleep. 6-8 glasses and 6-8 hours should be a good goal.
If you are wanting to take the Daily Yoga challenge with me, here’s this week’s plan:
Exhale while chanting aloud a strong and persistent EEEEEE sound while smiling.
Keep the sound strong, try not to waver and end decisively.
Hold the breath as long as comfortable then rest.
Repeat 2 more times
4.) Be Still (2-3 minutes)
If you’d like a guide, here’s my audio version of the sequence:
Be sure to follow this practice with either a Hatha Yoga class/practice or some other form of exercise that you may be currently doing. Again, this segment doesn’t have to happen every day.
My Tip: If you are having trouble remembering the techniques/sequences, try recording the instructions on your phone (use the Voice Memos App) or computer like I have. Simply use my links to the directions and record the cues that will keep you on track.
It’s my summer’s quest to bring a daily yoga practice back into my life. With teaching, vacations and visitations, my schedule has been erratic to say the least.
For the times when I fall off the wagon, I look to my old Kriya Yoga training program to reset and return to a more disciplined practice. It is a superb resource that has all of the components I need to balance my yoga. I am a firm believer in implementing every branch of yoga into my practice: asana (poses), pranayama (breathing), meditation (and the modalities that preceed and follow meditation) as well as the ethical principles/disciplines associated with a yogic lifestyle. When you incorporate all of these various aspects of yoga into your life, you are practicing your sadhana.
Developing a full daily yoga practice routine or sadhana can be daunting. You really need to simplify each modality to get a practical pattern that you can keep on a daily basis. In order to succeed, I plan to take the month of July to set up a weekly guide that will allow me to gently slide back into the habit of a full yoga practice or sadhana. I would love to share this path with you.
If you have been reading my posts and learning the ways of living more yogically, you will have a better understanding to proceed. In general, this blog will be a good resource for you and I will try to reference back to specific topics as needed.
I hope to dedicate each Sunday to setting up the week’s agenda and providing a short outline for a daily schedule. Again, I will be starting out small in order to succeed.
Begin by establishing a dedicated practice space where you can just roll out your mat and proceed. Keep in mind that it is preferable to face east if you will be practicing in the morning.
You may need a small blanket or cushion to sit comfortably on the floor (you can even prop up against a wall or sit on the edge of a chair). You may also like to have a timer for the final step.
The sequence below should take approximately 5-10 minutes:
Pucker your lips & leave a small opening through which to sip air like a straw.
Inhale as long and slowly as you comfortably can.
Hold the breath without straining.
Open the mouth and forceibly exhale the breath.
Practice this in a round of 5-10 breaths if you feel comfortable.
5.) Remain Still for 2-3 minutes (use timer).
Immediately following the steps above, I will be flowing into my normal routine of hatha yoga practice (20-30 minutes) or brisk walking/hiking (30-60 minutes). You might elect to do a shorter yoga practice, join a class or proceed with any other physical routine you normally do. The duration and number of times per week you practice this section is up to you.
My Tip: I have found that my practice needs to be the first thing that I do in the morning for it to stick as a daily habit. You may choose to follow a different schedule based on your lifestyle or family responsibilities. The critical thing is to schedule your practice like an appointment so that you can honor it each day.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!
*****Update: I have discovered how to record this week’s meditation and breathing sequence on the Voice Memos App. Hopefully, you can click below to follow along:
Once you have begun learning the postures of yoga, your next quest may be to add more color to your practice.
Sadhana is the way one incorporates breathing techniques, meditation, cleansing rituals, lifestyle habits, and reflection methods into a yoga experience. In other words, Sadhana is the full path of yoga.
BKS Iyengar described sadhana as “a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal.”
Through Sadhana we aspire to evolve by making specific choices and commitments with keen intention.
The YOLY was created with this intention. Following the weekly challenges will, undoubtedly, bring more tints, shades and tones to your yoga experience. Be colorful!
Your YOLY challenge this week is to incorporate a simple form of pranayama or breath control into your daily practice. The technique is called Ujjayi Breathing.
On YOLY Week #1, I challenged you to take 5 minutes each day to just breathe. If you took this first step, you had the chance to follow your breath and become more aware of the quality of your breathing. In pranayama practice, it is important to get to know your breath before you start manipulating it.
Ujjayi Breathing can be described as a slight deepening of the normal breath. It is best done from a supine or seated position in which your body is nicely aligned. Allow your belly to remain soft and close your eyes.
As you inhale, visualize the stream of your breath entering the nose and moving along the upper palate to the back of the throat. It will feel as though you are drinking your breath. Allow the exhalations to return along the same path.
In the beginning, it may be helpful to open your mouth slightly. Ujjayi is sometimes characterized by a sound that is similar to that of a scuba diver or Darth Vader.
As with any form of pranayama, begin with a few rounds and rest in between. If, at anytime, you feel anxious or agitated, return to your normal breath. Take no more than 5 minutes per day to practice your ujjayi this week.
This week’s Year of Living Yogically Challenge is: Invite Yourself to Practice.
Each time you get on your mat, formally mark the start of your asana session with an awakening. Whether you are in class or alone, you can call on your heart, mind and body to stand open in order to receive all of the benefits yoga can bring to you.
An Invocation to Practice
Now is the time to be clear again. Put aside all tasks and concerns, relinquish your grip on any ideals or expectations you may have about your practice.