Gosh! I have not written here for a long time.
The pandemic has reached a peak and now thankfully chilling as
we venture out and about and more people load up on their vaccinations.
In yoga for the month of May, the theme has been Equilibrium or Balance.
In the class last Saturday I used the word Equanimity.
As nouns the difference between equanimity and equilibrium is that equanimity is the state of being calm, stable and composed, especially under stress
while equilibrium is the condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced, resulting in no net change. (from Wikidiff.).
Steiner (as in Rudolf Steiner – think Waldorf school or Anthroposophy) developed a Calendar of the Soul - weekly verses that express how the changing seasons in the natural world and in our own inner lives are helping our consciousness evolve. He also wrote about a virtue for each month with the idea of meditating on the quality of that virtue and coming to an understanding of its reflection in one’s life.
How does this fit for yoga? May’s virtue is equilibrium and within the yoga system we hope to bring to balance the breath, body and spirit through our practice. The first week we began with an Immune System Booster using the breath to help unblock any stuck areas to harmonize and bring forward our strengths. The next week was a focus on the hips and in particular the pose Butterfly or Cobbler’s pose known as Bandakoasana. This particular asana helps digestion, and relieves stress which can unbalance us.
Returning to the theme of this blog, the last two Saturdays I brought forward the concept of equanimity into the picture and as we rotated through our flow or yin, we noticed what was going on whether it be a difficulty reaching for our toes or our mind pulling us out of the space. The idea was to cultivate a clam and clear mind and realize that we do not need to identify with our emotions.
Observation was the goal and not to become absorbed in the
thought or action.
What ultimately, we are after and reaching for is Progress.
Equilibrium becomes Progress.
Progress manifests in Yoga and in life and can be a constant awareness and inquiry if we so choose.
May your path be filled with Light.
Everyone is running scared and feels like their freedom has blown out the window never to return.
Logically, we know that is incorrect but the feeling body says otherwise as we sit nervously watching a video, reading, cleaning the house, pulling weeds and just about anything else to avoid the thoughts of wishing we could get in the car and head for our friends and family or just a store, hoping to restore sanity during this Covid 19 breakout.
Here is where yoga and meditation come through if you give them a chance.
Here is where your breath needs to slow down allowing peace and harmony to reign.
The parasympathetic system of the body needs to override the sympathetic system of fight or flight.
Yoga practices, including quiet asana, slow breathing, meditation, and guided imagery, increase activation of the PNS and lead to mental relaxation. (Yoga Journal)
Sitting quietly, close your eyes and allow your shoulders to relax, now begin to listen to your breathing. Is it ragged, fast, or slow and calm?
If you are sitting at a table or desk, take off your shoes and place your feet squarely on the floor or perhaps you are sitting on the floor on a cushion or blanket. Hands on your knees - Take 3 deep breaths.
After you breathe - Repeat in your mind or out loud – I am safe. I am safe. I am safe.
Check in again with your breath…better? Maybe but if not, repeat until it is slower, and you feel safe.
Anytime during the day, come back to this simple practice. Use it before going to bed at night.
Yoga balances the nervous system and is not to decreases the sympathetic stimulation but to increase the parasympathetic response.
Some Good Foods and Nutrients:
Calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, olives, celery, Yogi Tea (see recipe), bananas, flax seed oil and fish oil.
The Benefits of an Everyday Yoga Routine.
1. Peace of mind - Think stillness and calm waves of thought. The ability to cope with the unknown.
2. Balance - Imagine not falling as you trip and stumble over a chair or rock or tree limb or even getting up from the floor after yoga.
3. A movable and elastic spine - Being able to bend in all 4 directions. No pain and a feeling of freedom.
4. Spiritual gain - The best for last. Allow your soul to speak as you breathe in the quiet center.
Items for the Practice:
1. A space - If you have the room - make it a Yoga room of one's own. If not, somewhere you can lay the mat and feel comfy. (I would suggest not in the TV room or other high traffic area.)
2. Yoga mat or rug - Buy something nice. A beautiful rug can inspire you to come back again and again.
3. 15 - 60 minutes of uninterrupted time - This may be the toughest but try the beginning and ending of a day. It's the perfect time. The world is quiet between 4 and 6.
4. Altar(Optional) - If you choose this - have it fit you, but make it nice- a silk or cotton cloth draped over a small table, inspirational cards, a beautiful picture. Try to keep it uncluttered.
5. . Journal or calendar to mark your days - This is important especially if you are just starting out. There are many times that after meditating or during a yoga stretch - ideas come that you want to jot down. Marking the days, I think encourages repetition and commitment.
O, my soul
You come and you go
Through the paths
Of time and space
In useless play
You’ll not find the way
So set your course
You could interpret the path in this song as a lifetime (this one) and where have you landed in this time and space. What have you accomplished? Whom have you loved?
Or maybe Kabir (the poem's author) was thinking of past and future lifetimes.
Either way - these words reflect a sense of frivolity and aimlessness and running in circles with your life or finding and sticking to a way of life that benefits you and those in contact with you.
My choice has been yoga and meditating on that philosophy. Inwardly it just feels right to do so for me and helpful in so many ways by bringing me back each day with each breath to my present thoughts and actions.
The next verse is:
Sing such a song
With all your life
You'll never have
To sing again
Love such a one
With all your heart
You'll never need
To love again
I interpret these words to mean give it all you've got (love each other and love yourself) because the benefit is Huge. That action will ingrain in you. It will become you; a you that is shining your soul's True way of being. Sat Nam
Give Love and Receive Love.
Make that your everyday intention.
Half of life is lost in charming others.
The other half is lost in going through anxieties
caused by others. Leave this play, you have played enough!
It is possible to touch humanity everyday even if you see no one or talk to no one. It is called sadhana - praying and vibrating the Universe.
For the past 9 weeks, we have been studying the Yamas and Niyamas in yoga class, along with our yogic stretching; we discuss how best to incorporate these practices (restraints and disciplines) on the mat and off the mat.
Sending love and light and healing through non-violence, being truthful, letting go of the need for what others have that you don’t, sustaining our energy and being detached from outcomes are the Yamas in a practical sense. Yogi Bhajan taught that these and the niyamas master the negative mind.
And what is the negative mind?
Well in the most literal meaning – it is being depressed or pessimistic which does not bring out in a person light and joy or project that to the world.
In a yogic meaning, it is our protective or discerning mind. It can tell us the difference between what is good for us or not. If the negative mind is out of balance, we are out of balance, which may include anxiety and worry.
In come the Niyamas…
The Niyamas include: watching your thoughts and speech, acceptance of who you are, being present in your practice, reflection on the soul and finally faith or dedication to your Ishta (the one you call divine).
These are not easy to do or maintain but if you “keep up” and do your sadhana, attune to your thoughts and always project love and light, that’s Huge!
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
If you observe yourself and observe the way you speak to friends and family, the way you react when plans change, the way you hold yourself when walking or sitting, or even just the way in which you get dressed each morning… and then comply with the yamas and niyamas – you will indeed not only find peace within but reflect that peace to all.
You can vibrate peace; you can project peace.
Send Love – Calm Heart meditation
Send Light – Sing May the Long Time Sun Shine upon You
Send Healing – Chant Ra Ma Das Sa Sa Say So Hung
When I first took yoga classes in my 20s, I learned that you could help areas of the body relax and be free from stress by directing the breath with the mind. You could actually will the breath to move anywhere you wanted with a simple exhalation.
If you have a pain or discomfort in your lower back, for example, you inhale and exhale and direct the breath to the back, and almost immediately there is a difference. This proved to be true time and time again. I continue to teach this technique using the power of the breath.
We talk about breath and breathing, and we talk about prana within the breath. Are they the same? No, prana is different.
Prana is the energy of the breath.
It is the force of the breath. It is the spark and soul of the breath.
If we do alternate nostril breathing for high blood pressure, and our blood pressure drops, is it because we are regulating our breathing and slowing the blood circulation down, or is it that spark within the breath (the prana) that controls the flow?
I believe and have witnessed that it is both. Scientifically, we are changing the rate of the breath, and the life force mediates between the physical body and the vital body of the heart. This enables a better flow and in the case of blood pressure, drops it by redistribution.
“Prana is the motion and the coding of energy through the realms of the mind and body…Prana divides itself into different frequencies or different types of motion within the areas of the body. These are called the vayus.”
–Level 1 Aquarian Teacher Training manual
This means that the breath and prana move and flow through the body and into all the areas of the body to balance not only the body itself but also the mind and emotions.
Breathing is both a process that happens unconsciously or automatically, and a process that can be controlled consciously through the will of our minds.
We learn how prana works and how to free this energy by practicing pranayama (the formal practice of controlling the breath). We also study the science of pranayama to have an understanding of the prana and to bring ourselves to a neutral state and away from disease.
Managing our energies through pranayam allows us to maintain and improve our well-being, to provide the energy needed to meditate deeper into our existence, and to calm the inner winds that blow our minds from one thought to another. The key to controlling your mind is in controlling the breath, which frees the mind.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is the first and foremost to learn. The benefits are enormous. The left and right hemispheres of the brain are balanced. It purifies the nadis or energy channels within us and brings calmness to the spirit—a deep sense of well-being.
Using the rhythm and depth of the breath we can affect and manage different energy states of health, consciousness and emotion. The mind follows the breath.
Many yoga teachers, including myself, mention in class that your yoga practice is a warm up for what you do and how you act after you walk away from your mat and return to work or play. I encourage students and fellow yogis to breathe in moments of stress, to love more, and to see through the other person’s eyes and ears. I spout the wisdom of great teachers and encourage them to not gossip and to see God in all.
But, can we make an even deeper impression on our community – and the world?
“Tithe” is a word that many people do not know or use. It means to give up 10% of your personal income. I grew up in the Catholic religion and remember my parents putting money in the basket at church. Those funds were to help in whatever way the church deemed necessary and appropriate. My earnings today go to various community organizations in my neighborhood because I have been given a space to teach freely.
So, I return the favor. I have found that in giving, I receive.
Seva, or helping others, is another way to deliver the practices and integrate changes you experience in Sadhana into your life. Look around and see who needs help. Is it your neighbor next door, a local food co-op, a volunteer food pantry, a local library, hospice? There are many in need. You can also use the local library to offer a free class for children or adults. Libraries love free programs!
Last but not least, consider visiting a nearby women’s shelter or correctional facility. Supporting the change of a person’s thoughts and actions comes from within the individuals themselves, not through punishment. Whether you’re a child or an adult, reducing anxiety through breathing and awareness of the heartbeat often leads to peace and harmony.
First, commit to 40 days. Then, challenge yourself to take your practice off the mat every day for another 40 days, with attention to your every action. That’s a good place to start, and then broaden those steps to include any one or more of the above ideas.
Traveling the Spiritual Path
Change - but what I wanted?
No but what I needed
Landscape of the mind in peace
Clear the arcline – set me free
I chant, I speak, I move
Strong, clear and connected
Powerful breath sometimes brings pain
Found the issue loud and clear
3, 11, 31 minutes
Time brings focus and expertise
Keeping me centered as inner and outer worlds adjust
Set the intention and let it go
Ride the wave of transformation
Subtle and remarkable are possibilities
Yoga and Vacation
Your teacher has left town, it’s hot and you’re on vacation.
Good reasons to skip your practice?
Think again - do you want to remain youthful and if so , then your back has to stay flexible.
The body needs to move forward and backwards, sideways and around as in a twist as much as possible. Practice begets a routine and the routine becomes a habit – just like brushing your teeth. This routine of yoga keeps you connected to your breath which connects the dots in your mind and body in order to have calm in your life, less stress day to day.
“I would argue that a 20-something person who is in their prime of life and reasonably good shape needs less yoga to sustain their practice than someone in their 50s or 60s,” One study analyzing the effects of yoga on women over 50 found that practicing asanas (yoga postures) even once a week led to an increase in the mobility of spinal joints and flexibility of the hamstring muscles.”
How to find time while on vacation:
“Loren Fishman, M.D., a back pain specialist who studied yoga and uses it in his rehabilitative practice, believes that even one minute spent in practice can be enough to reset someone's outlook….”
The beginning of a new season is always a good time to detox the body.
Combining a cleanse using the tools of food and yoga poses - all the better!
This article will include both. Begin in bed in the morning by bringing your knees into your chest. Hold for a minute while breathing naturally. Next, extend the right leg and bring the left over your body to the right. This puts your body into a gentle twist wringing the organs for elimination. Breathe and and stay 30 seconds. Come back to your center and extend the left leg while drawing the right in and then over the body to the left. Hold here the same time. Back to the center.
Time to get up.
Hang gently beside the bed resting the head on the bed or next to it. Stay and breathe for about 30 seconds and then slowly come up vertebra by vertebra. Twists remove toxins and massage the organs so let's do another one. Step the feet apart about 3 feet and raise the arms from the sides to shoulder height. Inhale and twist to the left, exhale back to the center. Inhale and twist right, exhale back to center. Do 3 more times.
You can continue your routine with more poses - here is a good one to continue for a little bit longer or head into the kitchen where you can prepare some lemon juice to drink. Take the juice of a 1/2 lemon and pour into a 1/2 to 3/4 full glass of water and drink slowly or prepare a juice of 1/2 stalk celery, 1/2 an apple, 3-4 carrots and a small piece of ginger. This last part assumes that you have the juicer to do so.
You are set to go for the day and the detox routine took about 10-15 minutes of your time. Continue for as many days as you want - maybe 1X a week or 7 days or a month.
It's your body - your way!