Good morning! All of us are trying to improve ourselves, right? For many people, this is the whole purpose of life. The purpose of practicing yoga is to evolve into someone better. There are many other options besides yoga available to us as well, and a lot of support when it comes to pursuing our goals. The Spartan Race is an event (a series of events, actually) designed to do just that. I hope you check it out and are inspired by its message. Maybe you’ll even try an upcoming event!
The Spartan Race, an obstacle race created for athletes and the average person alike, is something to check out if you want to push yourself and grow! Taking part in the race allows people to experience adventure, camaraderie and fun, while at the same time evolving as human beings. There are events for kids, a team-based game, and full support and training along the way.
Joe DeSena, founder of Spartan Race, Inc., has spoken with successful people all over the world trying to uncover what makes them winners. His efforts have culminated in a free podcast, which you can download on iTunes. I hope you enjoy it!
Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth come what may, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. The Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, says: “Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. That is the eternal law, the dharma.”
From: Desikachar, T.K.V. 1995. “The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice.” Inner Traditions International: Rochester, VT. 244p., p. 98-99.
I am repeating myself when I say that yoga is so much more than a physical exercise. The whole point of yoga is to evolve as a human being, to become a better person. Asanas (yoga poses) are an important part of this — by keeping the body healthy, it is easier to maintain a healthy mind. Being our best selves certainly includes being in our best physical health. That’s only a small part of the whole picture, though.
The Yamas and Niyamas are another essential part of yoga. Yamas are guidelines for how we interact with other people and the world around us. Niyamas involve how we behave toward ourselves. Satya, the yama described above, or “truthfulness” is one I sometimes struggle with and am focusing on now. I think satya and compassion are directly related, as Desikachar’s quote illustrates. Truthfulness is important, but one must consider the consequences of truthfulness before speaking.
I’ve been studying yoga for quite a while now and I’m still continually reminded that I have a lot of growing to do. At 37 years old, sometimes I’m amazed at how little I still know. Despite my desire to be the best person I can be, despite the fact that I strive to only spread love, I sometimes become selfish and do not act or speak with compassion.
The above quote struck me as an integral lesson I need to learn if I want my life to be peaceful and if I want to maintain healthy relationships with myself and others. I have always been a rather sensitive person. I tend to take things personally and I tend to overreact at times. I have been known to speak out of turn. I sometimes let my emotions take over and say things that I should not say, even if they are my true feelings in that moment. It can be easy to get emotional and express a thought or feeling in a way that hurts another person. Too easy. And once said, words cannot be taken back. Others are hurt and I subsequently struggle not to wallow in guilt, shame, and depression. Obviously not the way I want to live!
I’ve learned this the hard way too many times in my life (and maybe haven’t fully learned since I am still working on it)! I hope that by sharing this quote I can help someone else to think before speaking.
We all depend on each other and compassion is necessary. It’s great to read about it, meditate on it, and think about it, but practicing compassion is a whole other thing. I am humbled to acknowledge this publicly, but for me it can be difficult at times to show compassion toward the most important people in my life. When I feel attacked and under stress, I tend to lash out and say hurtful things. Once said, there is no way to take these things back and I’ve only hurt others and myself. I am working with satya and compassion. Sometimes silence is best. Stillness and patience are key. I intend to practice compassion in my speech, thoughts, and actions. I’d welcome any suggestions for working with this! Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a peaceful Sunday!
A yoga teacher friend once warned me to not use tented fingers in yoga. She said the likelihood of injury when this position is repeated is very high. Apparently, she learned at a conference that a common yoga injury is in the hands due to “tenting.” I had never really thought about injuring my hands this way in yoga. Tenting my fingers was sort of an afterthought, just a small and not even necessary part of certain asanas (i.e., I could do something else with my hands if I wanted to and not affect the pose). I’ve always focused more on injuries we are frequently warned of in yoga class: neck injuries, shoulder strain, lower back tension, knee tears, hamstring pulls, overextension of hips… After my friend made a big deal out of it, though, I began to notice.
I started noticing that I do this a lot with my hands when practicing yoga, repeated throughout my sun salutations as one example. When I come into lunge, I always tent my fingers, and having not been conscious of it before, I often probably pressed down into the mat with too much force (you can see the strain in the picture). In my sun salutations now, at times I feel the pressure between my thumb and index finger causing a little pain when I tent my fingers without awareness. I can see now that if I continue to do this, over the months and years I could easily hurt myself. I’ve managed to soften the tent, with my fingertips lightly touching the ground but not pushing into it. Or at times, I just flatten my hands on the floor or place them another safe way that makes sense in the pose. I’m grateful to my friend for sharing this information with me, and I want to pass it along in case you haven’t thought about it.
Small things like this really do make a difference, and part of yoga is noticing these things – and altering them if necessary, refining them, to their best end. The ultimate goal is to become very attentive, through yoga, in daily life. Beginning with not carelessly injuring yourself is a good start!
Are there any small refinements you’ve made in your behavior (whether yoga practice or somewhere else) that have enhanced your life?
Yoga has enabled me to truly love myself. Daily morning meditation is a necessity for me. Here’s a mudra I learned from one of my great teachers, Shiva Rea. This is an excerpt from her book, “Tending the Heart Fire.” Wonderful for both heart and mind.
Daily rituals help us maintain an inner peace, which seems imperative to happiness in our constantly fluctuating worlds. In our personal lives and in the world, change – whether expected, intended, or surprise, and whether perceived as positive or negative – is inevitable. In the midst of confusion and difficulty, we can remain stable and steady in our inner most selves. And in happier times we can realize deeper states of joy and gratitude, simply because we are truly present. Practicing daily rituals hones this ability to be present. They can be anything from a daily outdoor walk to keeping a daily journal; a morning and/or evening meditation; reminding ourselves of things we have gratitude for and dwelling in that feeling. Yoga (and through yoga, Ayurveda) has taught me to keep daily rituals that have resulted in the best health and happiness I’ve experienced yet. I’ll share mine with you. What are yours?
* waking up around the same time every day without an alarm clock
* tongue scraping
* oil pulling with coconut oil
* 20-minute meditation
* warm lemon water
* plant-based diet and taking time to appreciate each meal
* cooking with whole foods, lots of fresh seasonal vegetables from my garden and local farms
* preparing and drinking herbal teas (sometimes from a tea bag but it’s fun to experiment with mixing herbs & spices – see the picture above!)
* taking care of my plants, in the garden and indoors
* walking outdoors
* asana practice based on my energy level – sometimes very restorative/lunar, sometimes more solar flow and challenging
* listening, loving, and appreciating my partner and whoever I’m with (animal or person!) fully – paying attention
* being attentive to natural beauty and small pleasures
* doing art or playing music (always listening to music)
* going to bed around the same time each night
So much healing happens when we share our tools and stories. I hope to hear from some of you! What are some practices that have brought you peace? Thank you for reading. Love to you all!
Good morning! Hope you are living in peace and ease during this transition into fall (if you’re located in an area where that applies right now). It’s the hardest transition for me and I’m determined this year to really take it easy, live in tune with what my body and mind are telling me, and support my health with yoga, meditation, celebratory time with friends and family, and nourishing foods, herbs, and teas. More to come on those things! For now, the other day in the herbal medicine class I’m taking we did an awesome activity that I’d like to share. We chose partners, and then shared with each other what is going on for us in that moment and in our lives in general. Then based on the themes/feelings we were working with, we created herbal teas to help fortify us and give us what we needed in that moment. Afterwards, we shared our process with the larger group, discussed our teas and why we chose the specific herbs we did, and passed around the mugs for all to try. I’d like to translate this practice into a partner yoga exercise – though you could do just the mirroring part alone and receive a lot of benefit!
So, choose one or two partners and find a nice, comfortable place to relax and talk. Outdoors is great – we did our mirroring on the farm by the lavender and tulsi – but anywhere you can be unbothered is fine. Next, take turns sharing for 3 minutes. Have someone set a timer (you don’t want to be watching the clock). Now while one person is sharing, the other is to listen completely and intently to the words and feelings without judgment. Really be present with that person, allowing them space to be open and honest. Afterwards, you will repeat (mirror) back to that person, almost verbatim if possible, what he/she has said. Try not to let you own interpretations or experience get in the way. Just listen. For the person sharing, it can take some courage. There may be things you feel slightly uncomfortable sharing, but getting them out may be exactly what is needed. Go with your heart and just let the words arise. After each person has talked about what’s going on for them, sit in silence for a few moments. Let the feelings sink in. Notice any energetic shifts that have occurred. After the silence, mirror back to the person what you heard. Then allow more silence. Once everyone has shared (again, it’s really best to do this in groups of two or three at the most), decide what will support you as a team in terms of yoga asana, meditation, mantra japa, pranayama, and then practice together, offering hands-on assists if you know them.
In order to come up with a yoga practice, you need some familiarity with different asana groups (standing poses, backbends, forward bends, for example), pranayama (ujjayi, nadi shodana, breath of fire), chanting, and meditations. If you are just starting out, there are so many references it can be overwhelming. A good place to start may be the Yoga Journal website, where they have listed many yoga poses and their anatomical benefits and therapeutic applications. There are detailed step-by-step instructions on all the poses, as well as articles on pranayama, meditation, and other aspects of yoga and a healthy lifestyle. You Tube obviously has tons of information as well – you can find videos on almost anything! Use your discretion – I’m sure there’s a lot of bad information out there as well. Feel free to ask me for other references or check out the “resources” link on this blog. There are way too many excellent books and videos out there to list here.
So if you’ve been feeling depleted and run-down, a gentle, restorative practice is best. You might just sit in a heart-centered meditation; you might use lots of props like bolsters and blankets to relax into supported forward bends and take a long shavasana. On the other hand, if you feel tired but it’s not because you’re necessarily run-down or have been ill – you just feel stagnant maybe, you can do a more active practice with sun salutations, standing poses (warrior I, II, II; triangle; standing splits) and backbends (bridge; wheel; reclining hero pose). If you feel constricted with too much contraction physically or emotionally, you might try some heart-opening poses and meditations (like the Inner Smile Meditation). Hopefully you get the picture.
As I mentioned, even just doing the mirroring part of this exercise is extremely beneficial. How often do we get the chance to honestly speak our minds and be thoroughly 100% seen and heard? How often do we listen completely to someone who is speaking with us? How often are we truly present, not thinking about our own interpretations or what we will say in response? Sharing is powerful; being validated and heard is healing. Sometimes just speaking about something aloud allows it to transform and make more sense. Being on both sides of the process is very therapeutic – and this exercise allows intense PRESENCE to arise, which is the doorway to lasting peace and one of the main goals of yoga.
I’d love to hear your feelings on this practice if you try it! Enjoy!
Thursday is traditionally associated with the color yellow and the planet Jupiter. Ayurvedic teachers recommend various practices involving these aspects on the days they’re associated with as it’s said to attune our microcosmic selves to the macrocosm of the universe*
* Rea, Shiva. 2013. Tending the Heart Fire. Sounds True Inc.: Boulder, CO. p.179
Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs, and feet — in your abdomen, your chest? Can you feel the subtle energy field that pervades the entire body and gives vibrant life to every organ and every cell? Can you feel it simultaneously in all parts of the body as a single field of energy? Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it. The more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will feel as if every cell is becoming more alive, and if you have a strong visual sense, you may start to get an image of your body becoming luminous. Although such an image can help you temporarily, pay more attention to the feeling than to any image that may arise. An image, no matter how beautiful or powerful, is already defined in form, so there is less scope for penetrating more deeply.
The feeling of your inner body is formless, limitless, and unfathomable. You can always go into it more deeply. If you cannot feel very much at this stage, pay attention to whatever you can feel. Perhaps there is a slight tingling in your hands or feet. That’s good enough for the moment. Just focus on the feeling. Your body is coming alive.
From Tolle, E. 1999. The Power of Now. Namaste Publishing and New World Library: Novato, CA, 236p. (at p. 112)
Hi! I hope you are all doing well. I haven’t been posting as regularly because lots of changes are happening for me and I’m busy with the transition and just trying to stay grounded and focused! A few people have asked, though, and I truly appreciate your interest! I hope you always let me know what has been helpful or not as well, and if you have any specific topics you’d like me to explore.
I have been studying and practicing more Ayurveda lately, so I thought I’d share some of the techniques I’ve tried. I hope you enjoy them, too! Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old medical system that focuses on natural health and the individual’s power to establish and maintain good health. It is “the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature … to maintain the health of a healthy person and to heal the disease of an unhealthy person … Both prevention (maintenance of good health) and healing are carried out by entirely natural means” (Lad, 1998, p. 1). Ayurveda and Yoga go hand-in-hand.
Some of the daily morning practices I’ve espoused and found to be very effective are tongue scraping, oil pulling, drinking warm lemon water, meditating and/or doing yoga asana (usually sun salutations or variation) for about 20-30 minutes, and starting the day with a green smoothie. I also dry brush my skin before bathing and do self-massage with oils on a regular basis. Ayurveda recommends doing this before a shower, but I usually do it after. It’s important to find what works for your specific constitution. It gets easier as time goes on. Making many changes at once can be daunting, so I’d recommend starting out slowly and enjoying the process, not putting pressure on yourself. Try one or more of these practices and see if they make a difference in your life!
Here’s another one that feels pretty good (Lad, 1998, p. 252):
Lad, V. 1998. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.Three Rivers Press: New York, NY, 326p. Continue reading