Taking the Middle Road

During this past week, I have been considering the concept of moderation. It is so easy to fall into habits and extremes – mostly when it comes to diet, sleep and work. Many of us choose to see things as black or white, yes or no, never or always, right or wrong, too much or not enough…the correlations are virtually endless with this idiom which makes it understandable and relatable in many situations. Deep awareness and dedication are required to keep steering ourselves toward that middle road.

I have taken my yoga practice in moderation this week by applying the principles of yin yoga. When doing my initial research for teaching many years ago, I stumbled across the term “Goldilocks principle” or “position” as defined by Bernie Clark. It means just as the storybook explains, not doing too much, nor doing too little, but doing what is just right. Yin yoga is a very good practice to hone the concept of moderation. It permits you to judge for yourself how deeply you would like to descend into a posture. It is good preparation for knowing the difference between “stressing” the body and “pushing” the body – keep in mind that stressing the connective tissue is the intention behind yin yoga. If you want to learn more about the theory behind the practice, click here.

In general, yoga has taught me that too much flexibility is just as damaging as too much strengthening – one can lead to instability and the other, rigidity. You need to practice with both principles in your sights in order to be healthy and balanced.

If you have never heard of yin yoga or are unfamiliar with the asanas of yoga in general, then consider the concept of moderation with other activities that you do on a regular basis. An interesting examination would be to measure how much you overload the senses with screen time. This is a very common way that we tend to unconsciously overdose ourselves.

The remedy to balance and get back on the middle road is to generate awareness. I find spending time walking outdoors to be the best treatment for avoiding extreme routines. Communing with nature is equalizing, centering and definitely gives me a wiser perspective. It allows me to think more openly – in technicolor, rather than merely black or white.

As promised, I am now using this blog to supplement my new book, Yoga Posts: Building a Steady Yoga Practice One Day at a Time. This week’s post refers back to Chapter #11: A Modicum of Moderation. If you wish to start at the beginning of our journey, please look to my first post.

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Hold Your Ground

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“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.

The other main purpose of the asana limb is to balance the energy or prana within our bodies. Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Hold Your Ground”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Is This Too Much?

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. 

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When we dwell over objects of the senses, we tend to develop attachments. And, attachments can cause us to become imbalanced. Excess is almost always harmful.  Ever hear of too much of a good thing?
Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Is This Too Much?”

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 #46: Balancing Energies

Balance is a deep subject. There are so many levels to consider. We may look to balance ourselves through yoga but in reality what we are actually striving to balance is our energies. The basic nature of ourselves. We want to be calm yet alert, active but stable, open and centered, lifted and grounded, receptive yet detached… the list can go on and on.

There is a sanskrit term that labels the idea of balance. It’s called Samana. Samana is defined as “equal”, “like”, “staying in the middle” or “straight”.

Samana also describes one of the five vayus or winds. A vayu is an energetic component with a distinct flow or function. The samana type of energy moves from the periphery to the core and unifies (or balances) the upward energy called prana and the downward energy named apana. cascade-1845987__340Since samana vayu is the meeting point between the upward and downward energies, it is called the “balancing air.”

The samana vayu also governs the digestive fire which burns brightly when prana and apana unite. Twists are the yoga postures that most relate to this blend of upward and downward energies. When we rotate the spine, we essentially energize our digestive systems.

Another connection to samana is the practice of samavritti or “same wave” breathing. It is a simple method of matching the length of the inhalations to the length of the exhalations. A nice time to practice samavritti is upon waking as it provides an energetic effect. It’s the perfect preparation for an early morning meditation!

This week, strive to cultivate your samana vayu by bringing your sense of alertness into balance with your ability to remain calm.  As you lengthen, ground and as you stabilize, find ease. Take in what you need and release what no longer serves you.  Incorporate twists and samavritti into your daily routine.

You can also apply this practice to the various segments of your “life wheel.” Look closely at the amount of energy you spend on your job, your health, your hobbies, your family or any other areas in your life. Reflect on how these energies can be more balanced.

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