Turn Off & Tune In

pratyahara“See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”

This phrase is often associated with the image of three monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouth. Confucius, who is credited as the message’s originator, defined it as a warning to avoid all things evil or distracting that can hinder a person’s development.

Similarly, The Yoga Sutras, as organized by Patanjali, describe the fifth limb of its eight-limb system that is yoga. Through the sutras, we learn that pratyahara means to withdraw your senses. Like a turtle that retracts inside of its shell, pratyahara will teach you to go inside yourself and retreat from the external “noises” that exist around you: the opinions, the interruptions, the distractions, the associations, the influences. Once you detach from this commotion, you can be free to choose the sensations that you wish to introduce into your field of awareness.

Your challenge this week is to practice these techniques of pratyahara or sense withdrawal: Continue reading “Turn Off & Tune In”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Bow to the Teacher Within

Om Namah Shivaya

Our final niyama, Ishvar-Pranidhana, is often defined as “centering on your Ideal.” It is a simple pledge to honor the indwelling teacher. Ishvar-Pranidhana is a practice of attunement that brings us to the apex of our study of the niyamas.

This week, make an effort to salute yourself, your teachers and all of those who have come before you. Practice chanting “Om Namah Shivaya” at the end of each meditation or asana practice.  aware-1353780__180

In Sanskrit, the meaning of the chant is:

Om– Ever present, it is the pulse of the universe and the source of our whole being.

Namah–  A word that means to bow.

Shivaya– Literally it means Shiva; but more than that, it represents the inner self.

For your reference, here is an audio link to the pronunciation of Om Namah Shivaya

When understood fully, the phrase translates to “I bow to the inner Self.’ In class, you may have heard me say, “bow to the teacher within”.

A wonderful set of words that expresses exactly how I feel as I end each and every practice. Bowing to the teacher within me is saluting all of my wisdom and where it stems from. It is how I respect my journey and honor all those who have made it possible.

My deepest gratitude!

Stay in the Center of the Circle

rays-656583__340It feels as though everything is in a state of flux lately. For me, it started with the solar eclipse last month. I found that particular occasion to be the point when the proverbial line was drawn in the sand. Since then, I have had a perspective change in a precise direction, one which I hope will lead me to a positive transformation. 

For thousands of people, the natural disasters that have occurred over the past few weeks have drastically changed their lives; in ways unfathomable for the rest of us. Loss and devastation to property and whole communities has many people turning away from the places they once called home. 

Yoga teaches it is not what happens to us in life, but what we choose to do about it, that reveals our true nature. On the mat, we use our breath to confront any barriers so that we may flow with ease and comfort. Off the mat, the same is true. We must find coping measures to face our limitations and move onward with grace.

In these changing, and, for some, violent times, we can all persevere by connecting with our centers. Here we will find the heart to move through our challenges and the fortitude to proceed with our lives. Our centeredness will become the anchor that weathers the storms.

When complications arise, I turn to this simple quote by Lao-Tzu:

“Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course.”

Although we will still be in action, clearing the debris, rearranging our homes, taking care of loved ones and other inevitable duties, it is the act of acceptance, of surrendering into what “is” that allows us to know that we are exactly in the center of our circle – right where we are supposed to be. This is the place where we can locate our peace.

I would like to pass onto you a portion of Yogananda’s text Inner Peace. As you meditate on it, may it help you to find moments of comfort and clarity in these times of disruption and transformation.

Fix your mind inwardly between the eyebrows on the shoreless lake of peace. Watch the eternal circle of rippling peace around you. The more you watch intently, the more you will feel the wavelets of peace spreading from the eyebrows to the forehead, from the forehead to the heart, and on to every cell in your body. Now the waters of peace are overflowing the banks of your body and inundating the vast territory of your mind. The flood of peace flows over the boundaries of your mind and moves on in infinite directions.

May peace bring balance to your existence and vibrate out to those who would benefit.

 

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!

YOLY Challenge #45: Honoring Transition

Happy May Day!

In ancient times, this day celebrated the season of fruitfulness and the coming of summer for many northern hemisphere cultures. The festivities may have included a maypole –padstow-736149__340 thought to be the symbol for a tree that represents new vegetation. More recently in the U.S., this type of celebration is usually only seen in schools as it is taught as a tradition stemming from the European cultures. Nowadays, and by coincidence, May Day is associated with protests and marches promoting change for the rights of workers and immigrants.

Symbolically, the month of May is connected with movement, balance and change or transition.

A big part of life is experienced through transition. Our bodies and minds go through many phases as a result of maturation, education, connections and societies’ conventions. And, as we “go across” these passages, we attempt to keep a steady footing on the other side. Some of the transitions we encounter can be smooth when we learn to adapt and accommodate. But many times, the shifts we undergo create havoc and can be harmful.

The same is true for our yoga practice.  While we may master specific poses, or at least feel confident and comfortable practicing them, the transitions into and out of these poses may not be as composed. Knees, hips and feet can easily move out of alignment and, with repetition, be injurious to a yoga practice. This is especially true when we do vinyasa yoga, a form defined by linking postures in a flowing routine.

So, our challenge this week is to be more aware of our transitions; since this is the season for transformation.  Let’s break down the elements of our practice and tune into the spaces between the poses.

  • Find a resting place to digest your experience as you practice. As you progress through your daily practice, return to Tadasana (mountain pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) or Balasana (child’s pose) to realign with your breath and get back in touch with your intention.
  • Work on your balance.  Repeatedly insert Vrksasana (tree pose) between other standing postures to hone your alignment and your perception.
  • Try linking one posture with another.  Start with a downward dog/plank combination or try to move from warrior I to warrior II.  Study the principles of alignment for these various poses, as instructed in Iyengar yoga for example, to make certain the transitions are healthy ones for your joints.
  • Practice Nadi Shodhana This breathing technique will balance and clarify your mind so that you can transition well off your mat. Use caution as any form of pranayama can be a powerful force.
  • Transition to the ground. When you complete your standing poses, find a posture for converting to the floor such as Uttanasana (forward bend) or Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle forward bend).
  • Allow yourself time for transitioning at the start and end of your practice.  Initiate your practice with seated breath awareness and/or an invocation. Before jumping up to start your day, give yourself permission to close the practice with a quiet acknowledgement in a simple seated posture.

Hopefully, these tools will not only enhance your practice but make you more aware of the metamorphosis that is yoga.

Namasté.