Time For Solitude

stadium-165406__340As the summer solstice approaches, now is the perfect time for seeking solitude for yourself. Periodically remaining quiet increases your awareness and lets your mind rest.

Your challenge this week will be to receive solitude by spending time alone each day. Walking in nature or watching the sunset or sunrise are good ways to soak up some solo time. Also, consider your speech and how much you talk. Curtail your urge to speak a bit this week to bring more reflection and centeredness into your life.

Or, you can choose to be in solitude with others by practicing the concept of mouna or silence.  A good time for this is just prior to or following a meal. Another effective time is the first thing in the morning or the last thing before sleeping. If you live with others, make this “silent time” a period for eliminating the television, computer, or any other device that produces sound. For 10-15 minutes (and ear buds plugged in do not count), try to keep the silence with reading, drawing or writing. Eventually, slowly phase out these activities and find a comfortable place to just be still together. During this time, consider your thoughts and observe what surfaces. This is a great prelude to meditation.

Performed on a regular basis, mouna becomes an important tool for generating increased awareness. The yama of asteya or non-stealing in the form of words, can also be a consideration for keeping the virtue of silence. When you practice silence, your thoughts become quieter, and, ultimately, you will find that you are able to pacify your emotions and soften your personality.

Enjoy the stillness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balancing the Body’s Basin

Today we address a more delicate subject. A part of our anatomy that is not discussed often but plays a huge role in our day to day lives. Commonly known as the pelvis, it’s the “basin” for many biological systems and the root of our support. Not only is the pelvis the foundation of our stability but it is home to our organs of elimination and reproduction – thus the sensitivity.

As a structure, the pelvis is more like an architectural feat rather than a mere bony skeleton.

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It shelters and provides entrances and exits for a vast number of muscles, ligaments and nerves that feed and bring movement to our upper and lower bodies.

Therefore, the pelvis needs to stay fluid. Not too tight yet not too loose. The stability of its frame and the musculature within is easily off balanced. Pelvic distortion can lead to chronic hip misalignment, lower back pain and scoliosis. Strain or misalignment at the spine base can also lead to pelvic floor abnormalities affecting both women and men. Muscle weakness or even tightness can bring about urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome and prostate problems.

Luckily, yoga can help stabilize the pelvis, engage, strengthen and relax pelvic bowl muscles. A study performed at the University of California San Francisco studied urinary incontinence and found that participants who practiced specific yoga postures experienced a 70% reduction in this abnormality. Some of the postures included in the study were baddha konasana (bound angle pose), salamba setu bandhasana (supported bridge pose) and utkatasana (chair pose).

In addition, the yogic practice of mūla bandha is helpful in generating awareness and encouraging blood flow into the hips and pelvic floor or perineum (the perineum can be thought of as a hammock of muscles between the sitting bones and the pubic bone). Although mūla bandha (along with the other bandhas) is considered an advanced yoga practice, it can be more simply characterized as a set of pelvic floor contractions much like Kegel exercises.

In Tias Little’s book Yoga of the Subtle Body, he describes one basic technique for engaging mūla bandha:

Sitting in a cross-legged position, “align the center of your skull over the center of your pelvis. Be sure to release your jaw and tongue…begin by relaxing the tissues in and around your pelvic floor. Take several long, slow breath strokes. Once your breath has settled, exhale deeply and, at the end of the exhalation, contract your perineum (or pelvic floor) rhythmically in a set of seven pulses, in what amounts to a catch and release action. Then take a long inhalation brushing your breath against your spine. Repeat 5-10 times.

A beautiful description for a delicate subject.

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YOLY Challenge #50: Open to Receptivity

For the month of June, which is traditionally the month of love, we will get to the “heart” of what matters, our Self.

But first we need to open the door to receptivity.
doorway-981803__340To be receptive is to accept a signal, an idea or even another person into your life. For receptivity to occur, it is imperative that your heart and mind be open. This ability to see things differently requires flexibility. Not everyone is amenable or disposed to receiving what others have to share. Therefore, in order to fully receive, you may have to give up something that you already possess.

This is especially fitting for yogis who want to prepare and purify themselves to receive the teachings of yoga. Releasing your subjectivity, blockages and negativity will give you space for a lifestyle that is happier, healthier and compassionate or love-filled.

At this point in our Year of Living Yogically, we know that there is more to the system of yoga than the postures themselves. Time and again, the posts refer back to the Eight Limb System of yoga which includes:

  1. Yamas (restraints)
  2. Niyamas (observances)
  3. Asanas (postures)
  4. Pranayama (breathing)
  5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (contemplation)

Maybe you have already incorporated some of these techniques into your own practice.

This week your challenge will be to review the eight steps and find the area(s) that you feel need enriching. Simply use the Topic bar on the right to click on the category you would like to read more about. Understanding each step in the eight-fold system will help you become more conscious of your true nature.

We have two weeks left in this journey. The next challenges will be the icing on the cake that will, hopefully, feed you for many years to come.

Namasté friends!

If you would like to start at the beginning of this year-long challenge please click here.

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YOLY Challenge #49: Amplify Your Awareness

For many years, the system of yoga was my “go to” method for health maintenance. After all, it is a terrific course for correcting imbalances in body, mind and spirit. Small episodes of pain and stress would come and go – there was always my practice to guide me through any discomfort.

Until this year. I experienced a rare facial nerve disorder (that I have still yet to diagnose). Although restorative yoga postures, breath work and meditation did help me to relax, the pain and other repercussions of this ailment forced me to search out a viable treatment.

So, I googled my options for healing. You could say that I went on a quest for healing.

And, along the way, I discovered acupuncture, aromatherapy and Jin Shin Jyutsu. Together with the modalities of massage and yoga, these therapies have paved the way toward my well-being.

Because my background is geared to yoga, I applied simple breathing and relaxation techniques to the acupuncture and Jin Shin Jyutsu sessions I received. At first, it merely helped me to stay calm with the uneasiness I felt in these new situations. However, as my comfort level increased, I realized that when I executed these yoga techniques within my treatments, I could awaken my body’s intelligence and amplify my level of awareness. butterfly-492536__340

After a relatively short span of time, not only did my symptoms resolve for longer and longer periods but, in the end, they nearly vanished.

Nowadays, I continue to receive massage and Jin Shin Jyutsu, utilize aromatherapy and am slowly incorporating a stronger yoga practice back into my daily routine. I feel like my body is finally in sync again, a sensation that I had been missing for nearly a year.

Each form of bodywork I experienced has taught me how important the awareness of the present moment is to overall health. I am so thankful that I was able to apply the yogic principles of relaxation and breath work to amplify each modality’s effectiveness.

In turn, I have reapplied this new heightened level of awareness back into my yoga practice. In general, I am staying even more open minded. My body feels a new alertness and there is a deeper level of harmony moving within.

I had discovered that the underlying meaning of each of these modalities is the present moment awareness. And, that, even in the midst of pain, you can lean in, stay attentive and surrender.

Your challenge this week is to locate your own method for generating increased awareness. You may wish to look into one of the modalities that I have mentioned or maybe you already have something simmering on the back burner.

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.

Best wishes!

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YOLY Challenge #48: Be Strong & Serene

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How do we keep ourselves physically challenged yet safe?

For yogis, this involves two key words – “sthira” and “sukha”.  In sanskrit, sthira means strong, stable, steady in focus for mind and body. The ideal counterweight is sukha or that feeling of ease, relaxation and serenity – no matter how strenuous the pose may be. Once you are able to keep the concepts of sthira and sukha in balance, your practice will be at its utmost and your risk for injury greatly reduced.

For this challenge, apply sthira to the gentle flow below:

  • Balasana with arms extended
  • Vrksasana
  • Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
  • Supine Revolved Belly Twist

On the following day, incorporate sukha into the more rigorous practice below:

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana 1 or 2 minute hold
  • Utkatasana to Utkatasana Twist
  • Virabhadrasana I to III flow
  • Sarvangasana

Repeat the practices as needed on subsequent days.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there…”. -Rumi

YOLY Challenge #47: Taming the Fire of Summer

As summer approaches and things begin to heat up, it’s a good time to return to the concept of Ayurveda and discover what the Pitta (fire) dosha has in store for us.

If you are new to the sister science of yoga called Ayurveda, please look back to my Warm Up to Ayurveda post for an introduction to its principles and the doshas called vata, pitta & kapha.

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Warmer temperatures tend to aggravate or even initiate a pitta constitution. In general, pitta types are fiery in nature and tend to exhibit the main characteristics of a strong metabolism, good appetite, oily skin and hair, irritability, intensity, and inflammation. Emotionally, when there is too much heat or passion in the system, pittas demonstrate anger and aggression. However, when balanced, the pitta constitution is capable of forming dynamic, focused and determined individuals.

Because pitta is the fiery or transformative force responsible for digestion, warmth and inflammation, the small intestine is its main site in the disease process. Therefore, pittas should watch their habits and attempt to balance their food choices (especially in the summer months).

Pittas tend to eat lots of food and get irritable if a meal is missed. They are drawn to hot, oily, and spicy foods which aggravate their already heated dispositions.

To balance the extreme inclinations in diet, pittas should take in more raw foods and salads (particularly in late spring and summer). In general, cooling, nutritive, lacto-vegetarian diets should be consumed. Sweeter oils such as sunflower, coconut and ghee oils are recommended. Spices that are balancing to pittas include: coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric.  Herbs such as aloe gel/juice, shatavari and licorice are also good items to incorporate into the pitta diet.

Yoga is effective for pacifying the heat of a pitta. Specific practices should include postures to cool the head, calm the heart and relieve tension. Pittas should not push too hard in practice because it only increases their irritability. Heat and tension can be alleviated if the body and mind are kept cool and relaxed with asanas that generate openness and surrender.

To reduce excess pitta, yogis should practice in an effortless, non-goal oriented way, working at about 75% of capacity. Rest assured that when a pitta person practices effortlessly they will still be working harder that everyone else!

Begin a pitta-balancing yoga practice with a slow and easy form of Sun Salutation. Use the breath to monitor the level of work involved. Continue to employ breath awareness in seated forward bends, gentle back bends (focusing on extending the spine) and twists (which are very effective in reducing excess pitta). Limit time in positions that invert the head. Supported shoulderstand is most effective. A longer savasana may irritate this dosha so end practice with a short 5 minute Savasana (you can gradually lengthen it over time).

Pittas need to realize that they can use their powerful will to maintain a soft and gentle approach. When a pitta constitution is balanced properly, one should feel a sense of coolness, calmness, openness, patience and tolerance.

Shanti!

 

This Explains A Lot

The interesting thing about sharing through blogging is discovering others who are on the same trail. Similar points of view can really clear the brush, making the path that you are on so much clearer.

I came across another blog post recently that describes the Scorpio energy of this month’s full moon and how it’s all about transformation. How exciting to learn that I literally gravitated to this concept when I chose to focus on transitions in May. My existential Scorpio sign must have sensed my need for this quest!

But, now I’m wondering if a transition can be synonymous with a transformation? To me transformation is a big word. And, can we ever really be transformed? You read about how a person can be significantly changed by a life altering experience. But a transformation sounds super human – like one of those Marvel characters.

A transition feels more subtle – like it happens gradually over time. Despite the fact that we can move through these phases fairly quickly when trauma occurs or when we experience abrupt changes. That’s why I look to balance in times of transition. It tends to soften the roughness associated with change.

Transformation, on the other hand, needs no interference. It’s magical. And when it occurs I would think that you would just want to ride the wave.

Lately,  I have sensed that there are big changes on the horizon for me. Although I am excited to see what’s ahead, I don’t expect to wake up with x-ray vision or wings.evening-959030__340Give in and merge with the flow!