Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Light Your Fire

“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. sun-1106981__340This 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.

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of tapas, click on this previous post: “Tap Into Your Strength.”

Be the Light!

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Can You Accept Yourself?

“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 of life–of letting life flow through us.”  -David Grayson

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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.

So, how can we incorporate contentment into our asana practice? Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Can You Accept Yourself?”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Value Yourself

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzusay-yes-to-the-live-2121044__340

In the context of our next yama, non-stealing or asteya, this week we will value what we have. Therefore, find one attribute each day that you are thankful for and celebrate it on your mat. If you are confident in your downward dog, do a practice that salutes that posture. If you are a patient person, try holding your poses for a little longer than you normally would.  If you are good at standing up for yourself, work on those balancing postures a bit more. 
Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Value Yourself”

Establish A Steady Yoga Practice – Expect Nothing, Accept Everything

city-35002__340Remember, there is a natural ebb and flow to everyone’s practice. B.K.S. Iyengar said, “a yoga practice waxes and wanes like the moon. Sometimes our work is bright and shiny, like the full moon, while at other times it feels dark as when the moon is new. Realize that the cycle of yoga practice is not 24 hours, weekly or even monthly but spread out over a lifetime.”

As you plan your practice this week, give yourself permission to ride with the tide. You may have a pattern of energy and strength one day and then you may need to drift closer to the shore and rest on the beach for the next day or so. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you commit to this daily routine. Continue reading “Establish A Steady Yoga Practice – Expect Nothing, Accept Everything”

Daily Yoga Practice Week #4

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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”.

Week #4’s Breathing & Meditation Practice:

1.) Centering (Sacred Space, Invocation & Resurrection Breath).

I’ll be focusing on the niyama santosha (or contentment).

2.) Sipping Breath (we covered this on week #1).

3.) EEEE Mantra (we covered this on week #2).

4.) Neti Neti Neti (introduced last week).

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? 

Have a blessed week!

 

YOLY Challenge #20: Self-Reflection: How Happy Are You?

smiley-1041796__180We have to dig deep for this week’s challenge.  Although happiness is not a simple process, it is ours to generate. Yes, we can allow other people and things to affect us. But, we need to realize that it is our reaction and what we do in response to others and the situations that we are presented with that ultimately determines our happiness.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Aham Brahmasmi” which, through my yoga teachings, I was taught meant “I am the creative principle.” Without denying a higher existence, this phrase is intended for us to see ourselves as creators of our own destinies. Through my own attitudes and actions,  I believe that I am the one who develops my personality, healthiness, career, social life – all aspects of my self.  No one else can determine these characteristics. In the end, all of my karmas (deeds) are going to reflect upon me.

Although we have control over many of our choices, there are some things that we are obligated to and some situations which we face as a society that cannot be detached from or eliminated. Family, jobs, some health issues, even options for food, water and shelter may not be ours to regulate. But our attitude towards these seemingly unfortunate conditions is ours to control. We can cultivate contentment or santosha within despite any unpleasant situations that face us.

I would like to share a story that my teacher, Goswami Kriyananda, told his students over the years.  Kriyananda was drafted in the Vietnam War and chose to become a medic rather than fight in the field.  As a medic he experienced horrific events – as you can imagine.  One such occurrence involved a young soldier that he had to assist after an explosion.  As he approached the man, he saw that there was a gaping hole where once the man had a right arm.  As he ministered to the soldier, Kriyananda wept and told him how sorry he was that he had lost his limb.  The soldier, smiling, replied “That’s not a problem, I’m left handed!”

Our state of health is a large slice of the happiness pie.  As we strive to stay healthy, circumstances occur that are beyond our control.  This is most difficult as pain and impairment can be devastating. But there are other segments within our lives: mental abilities, friendships, belief systems, dreams, environments and work or career goals that can influence our quality and pleasure levels in life.

Your challenge is to reflect on all the aspects of yourself.  Determine which area(s) are lacking in contentment for you and strive to make those areas more fulfilling.

Each day choose one category to examine and write down a number between 1 and 10 to label your level of contentment.  Then think about how you can cultivate happiness through change – including your attitude.

Happiness Categories

  1. Physical/Mental
  2. Values/Possessions
  3. Environment
  4. Work/Career
  5. Relationships/Partnerships
  6. Spirit/Religion
  7. Dreams/Goals

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