“Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached”. – Yoga Sutras.
Learning to sit peacefully with the breath is founded on the postures of yoga. Yoga asana is performed so that the body is able to sit comfortably in stillness. Pranayama or breath control is the fuel that sustains us to stay steady in our bodies and minds.
In the practice of yoga it is important to find a restful seat. Using a wall, a chair or other props to keep your spine upright is suggested if your hips or back muscles are weak or tight. Another method for learning to sit on the floor is to gradually introduce the muscles to the practice.
“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.
Another week and the habit of a daily yoga practice is setting in – with pleasure! I am enjoying getting reacquainted with myself through meditation and pranayama. Doing it first thing each morning truly sets the tone. And, if I don’t do my asana practice until later, it still provides the commitment I need to keep on track. My attitude is brighter and I have more incentive to make it a great day.
This week, I’m bringing back the Chandra Dhauti Shat Kriya or Tongue Cleansing. Shat Kriyas are important purification techniques that keep the subtle energy levels flowing. When implemented, the absorption of oxygen is increased so that a deeper awareness can be generated. The tongue cleansing is a simple and productive first step towards subtle body purification. If you would like to discover more about this process, click here.
Ultimately, purifying the body is dependent on the amount and type of food you consume. In general, I try to eat moderately. A little of everything is my motto.
When shopping, I look for foods without pesticides, herbicides, hormones, additives, or preservatives and select locally grown or organic produce whenever possible. Personally, I find that when I limit the amount of alcohol, sugar and caffeine in my diet, I have a clearer perspective and a more satisfying yoga practice.
Week #3 of the meditation/pranayama practice is a continuation of last week with the addition of a new technique. Here’s the plan:
Close your eyes, focus on something meaningful & be still.
When your mental focus shifts to other streams of thought, chant silently: Neti, Neti, Neti (or “I am not that thought”).
Maintain the technique for 2 minutes.
Tip:Practicing Neti, Neti, Neti over time will lead you to a more meditative state – if you stay diligent. Keep bringing yourself back to the object of your meditation and, eventually, the mind will find that it is easier to stay focused than it is to continually migrate back to thinking other thoughts.
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:
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.
To 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:
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
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.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this year-long challenge please click here.
Strength building can be a frustrating process. But if you are looking to get stronger smoothly and safely, yoga is the ideal system for laying down muscle. There are three key factors to remember when building strength through yoga.
1.) Get Lean not Mean
Although it seems to be a contradiction that muscles can be both strong and slender, the basis of yoga is all about opposition. Yoga is different from weight lifting or other forms of strength training in that the actions connected to yoga alternate between lengthening and contracting muscle fibers. If you merely shorten muscle fibers through unopposed contraction, you will generate bulkier muscles. This brings to mind the typical muscle man who cannot lower his arms. These shortened fibers, although strong, are inflexible and unwilling to support the joints.
If you proceed in a yogic manner, building muscle strength through asana is safe. As you learn to support your body weight, you can adapt a challenging posture to make it more accessible. Use a chair or a bench to develop your plank or downward facing dog. Start on your knees when you begin side plank or use the wall to support more of your weight for any standing/balance pose.
Also, apply the “48 hour rule” as you progress through yoga. Take a more rigorous posture and gently work with it three times a week or every 48 hours. It takes approximately 24 hours to break down old muscles and another 24 to remodel new ones. With commitment, you will see a significant change in progress that leads to a strong, healthy and confident body.
3.) Play Dead
Every yoga session usually ends with corpse pose or Savasana. Although most of us love this pose for its relaxation factor, the posture is strategically placed at the end of practice for a reason. As the ultimate cool-down, Savasana gives the muscles the opportunity to completely relax so that blood can circulate more freely. When circulation increases, lactic acid can be released from the body alleviating future muscle soreness.