Live Your Yoga: Staying Calm In Turbulent Times

Bring Your Yoga to Life: Live Your Yoga!

The practice of yoga is a wonderful thing for many reasons. Yoga offers it’s practitioners physical, mental and cognitive benefits. Your yoga mat becomes your sanctuary. A safe haven for your mind, body and spirit to be freely expressed and explored. Yet, for many, their yogic practices and all the life tools yoga provides, gets rolled up into their mat and stored away until they create time to practice once again. However, this does not have to be the case! Instead, we invite you to live your yoga. Bringing it off the mat, and into your every day life!

The beauty of yoga is that can be performed anywhere, at any time, in any circumstance. All of the centering exercises, breathing techniques, meditation methods that you look forward to while on your mat DO NOT have to stay on the mat. This is especially important during times of extreme stress and tension. The past few weeks have been filled with destruction and violence. These are the times when it is most important for us to take a moment to stop and breathe.

Cultivate Calm and Presence

Unfortunately, the times that need your yoga practice the most, you may not have access to your ‘safety mat’. Times challenge your ego, your sense of Self, your faith, anything that may bring you unease. The good news is: you don’t need a yoga mat to do yoga and create peace! Channel your inner yogi and live your yoga at that moment in which you may be feeling those anxieties. It can be as simple as checking in with yourself by conducting a total body scan becoming aware of areas that hold tension, or performing the three-part breathing technique, anything that brings you into the present and clears the mind. Once you have cultivated a sense of internal calm, you will be able to more effectively react to what is causing such turmoil at that specific time.

Love and Kindness Meditation

During times of stress, struggle or anger, it is best to bring awareness to those emotions and  observe them as they are. Here is a meditation practice that may assist in the coping of a unpleasant feeling or situation you find yourself experiencing. Try this meditation in the morning soon after you wake to bring clarity to your day, or practice it at night to bring peace and serenity to your evening.  

 

  • Begin with yourself. Calm the mind/heart and find the center of your being. Generate warm, gentle, loving feelings for yourself:

May I be safe from harm.
May I be happy just as I am.
May I be peaceful with whatever is happening.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I care for myself in this ever-changing world graciously, joyously.

 

  • From yourself, move out spaciously into your immediate surroundings. Include every living being within this circle:
    May all beings in the air, on land, and in the water be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering.
  • Stay within your reach. As you feel your immediate surround fill with the power of loving kindness, move on, expanding the surround in concentric circles until you envelop the entire planet.
  • Expand your loving kindness until you are able to visualize Earth, spinning within the vast, mysterious universe. If you like, continue expanding the sense of your loving kindness, filling the endless emptiness of the universe:
    May all living beings everywhere, on all planes of existence, known and unknown, be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering.  

In these times of environmental unrest, political unease and global instability, and senseless violence, it is easy to fall into the mindset of fear and anxiety, or guilt in the sense you are not doing enough.

Remember, yoga starts with you, and what you receive in yoga you project to those around you. If you can live your yoga, and be the peaceful beacon for those who surround you, you may begin to see subtle changes for the better.

Live. Your. Yoga.

 

-Dannika

Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

I was recently listening to a podcast and this is the question that took root in my thoughts long after it had ended.  Funny, but I didn’t think of myself as judgmental.  I made observations.  I’d think, “She shouldn’t have done that.” Observation, right?   I’d think, “He’s squandering his money.”  Observation, right?  I’d think, “She’s so needy.  Well, she is!”  Observation, right? Then, why did the question attached itself to me unless I needed to make a shift in my thinking.  I genuinely did not want to be the judge!

So, I asked myself, “Who do I want to be?”  It’s a bit of a daunting question.  But three attributes came to mind without hesitation – I wanted to be kind; I wanted to be compassionate; and I wanted to be grateful.  So, where to begin?  The niyamas say, “pay attention…watch yourself…become self-aware.”  Svadhyaya (or self-study) creates the space that allows you to observe your own behavior and initiate appropriate changes. Isvara Pranidhana says it will provide what I need when I need it.  Armed with a team like this, how could I miss?

“Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind. “

I started by trying to monitor my thoughts – I was on the lookout for judgments.  When I recognized one, I acknowledged it and then reminded myself of who I wanted to be – kindness, compassion and gratitude.  This exercise paralleled my experiences with meditation.  A quiet mind is interrupted by random thoughts.  The meditator acknowledges the thought, thanks it for coming, and sends it on its way.  Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind.  Similarly, I acknowledged the judgment, appreciated that I recognized it and reminded myself that I was choosing kindness, compassion and gratitude.

How’s it going, you ask?  Am I ready to retire my flowing robes and gavel? Not yet.  I’d say I am a work in progress. The baby steps I have made were predicated upon a desire to find the balance between vigilantly being on the lookout for judgments (hard) and not beating myself up when they do occur (soft).  Over time I expect the judgments to diminish and kindness, compassion, and gratitude to expand because where the mind goes, prana goes!

 

Who do you want to be when you’re not a judge?

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Yamas and Niyamas integrating into Modern Life

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

Yamas – Restraints

Y: yes to difficult emotions, sensations, and resistance – that generates from
whatever happens in my direct experience.

A: awareness of my present moment and accepting what is as it comes my way.

M: morning meditation on a daily basis for acknowledgement, allowance, and
acceptance of what life holds for me.

A: asana – exploring into my further owning and acceptance of the postures and embracing their expansiveness as well as accepting my body’s limitations in practice.

S: silence as a gift for my body, mind, and spirit – enabling me to listen more
carefully and understand my pathway.

&

Niyamas – Observances

N: no control is letting go, letting be, accepting what is and being present to what is now.

I: introspection and listening to what is within me and how I relate it to what
surrounds me – externally.

Y: yoga sutras are integrated into my daily life as best that I am able given what the Universe provides me.
A: attention to the present moment to by choosing to let go of the past and not worry about the future.

M: mindful breath develops stability and deep rest for my body, mind, and spirit.

A: appreciation and gratitude for all that I have in my life – continuing to
appreciate all and keep myself opening to receiving.

S: smiles and laughter to relax the body, open the mind, and lighten the spirit.

 

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Recovery and the Yamas and Niyamas

From time to time we will be posting the monthly essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program. This is one student’s essay from Month Four of this 8 month program.


Growing up in an alcoholic/dysfunctional home is a gift that lasts a lifetime. A child in this type of home is always on full alert. For me life was like playing a series of games: charades, hide and seek, risk and monopoly all played with changing rules greed, cheating and lying. Children who grow up in these homes experience PTSD. One expert describes the symptoms as worse than others because the “enemy” is someone you love and have to live with and rely for nurturing and development. I swore I would not be like my parents and have spent over a decade in therapy and 12 step programs. Yoga has helped tremendously to connect the dots of my recovery and solidify the need to observe the yamas and niyamas in order to heal.

Growing up with all the opposite of the yamas caused me to develop character defenses. I was taught to lie to cover up for what was going on in the house, stolen items were constantly being brought in from job sites, and getting ahead of others regardless of their feelings was our way of life. We were a team, we had a code, we had each other’s backs. We learned to stuff our feelings down and we usually did with food while Dad drank, and we walked on eggshells and hoped it was not an angry and violent night. It has taken many years to relearn and begin to heal the wounds from childhood.

I began observing the yamas and niyamas without knowing. I sought self-help through books and workshops, studied the Bible and loved to exercise and burn off my pent up emotions. When I began yoga, I felt like I came home. What I did not realize is that I did, I came home to a divine presence inside myself. My recent practice and study has helped me understand that my internal desires have always been to live the yamas. In working to rid myself of the character defects I developed I have been working toward a nonviolent, truthful and compassionate life. Understanding them on a new level gives me more peace with my decision. I still struggle with my past and find pain in watching my family continue these traits but I am learning to just breath and get back on the mat.

 

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