Sunshine, the smell of the earth, the greening grass and milder temps...it must be SPRING! March 19th is the official start to the season, but can't you feel it already? Do you sense the restlessness, and feeling that something is trying to emerge?
The following yoga practice is a great way to release the dormant feelings of winter. Mind and body sluggishness accumulates during the cold and more inward-focused season. This Dancing Warrior Flow will help you let go of the shell we cover ourselves in and make space for light and inspiration for projects on the horizon. Make space to bloom!
SPRING YOGA PRACTICE
Begin by sitting comfortably for a few rounds of breath awareness. Set your intention to release stagnation and create space for inspiration and new light.
CAT/COW - Come to all fours for a few rounds of cat and cow, moving the spine in each direction with the breath. Exhale lift the navel center as you round the spine and chin lowers toward the chest. Inhale to open the front of the body, arching the back and your tailbone and gaze lift. Flow gently with the breath for about ten rounds.
CHILD POSE - Sit back on the heals and let your forehead come to the floor or a block with arms resting next to the feet. For a few rounds of breath see yourself as a seed under the earth; nourished, protected, and ready to emerge.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG - Come back to hands and knees and then lift the hips and come into an inverted V-shape supported by hands and feet. "Pedal the heals" by bending one knee and then the other, alternating sides and moving with the breath until you feel a sense of waking up the whole body.
MOUNTAIN POSE - Walk the feet forward from Downward Facing Dog and come through a forward bend to standing Mountain Pose. Stand tall with arms to the sides for a moment. Then begin to sweep arms out and up as you inhale, palms meeting overhead. On exhale, release arms downward to the sides. As you do this for 10 rounds of breath, imaging bringing light and new energy into the whole body as you raise arms upward and let go of stagnation on the exhale.
WARRIOR FLOW - Step the right foot back into a Warrior 2 position with chest and shoulders aligned with the right, long side of the mat and arms extended outward from the shoulders. Fingertips should reach toward the front (left hand) and back (right right) of your mat. Left toes stay pointing to the front of the mat and left knee is bent with shin bone vertical so the knee is positioned over the left ankle. The right leg is straight with foot angled so the toes are facing about a 2 or 3 o'clock position.
Keep the Warrior 2 leg position throughout the following flow:
From Warrior 2, bring the right hand to the back of the right leg and raise the left arm skyward, possibly even farther back for a deeper left-side bend. Come back to Warrior 2, then to Side Angle with left hand to the left knee and right arm skyward or even deeper with the right bicep over the right ear and fingers reach beyond the crown of the head while the left forearm rests on the left thigh.
Take a full breath in each pose and keep flowing from one pose to the next. Try moving through the sequence about five rounds. One full round is Warrior 2 - Reverse Warrior - Warrior 2 - Side Angle.
Step back to Mountain Pose. Pause. Notice how you feel. Notice the breath. Then step the left foot back for Warrior 2 and repeat the sequence on that side the same number of rounds.
MOUNTAIN TO FORWARD BEND - from Mountain Pose, float arms upward on the inhale and fold completely forward on the exhale. Inhale up / exhale down for three rounds and then keep the hands on the floor and step back to downward facing dog for a breath or two, then to hands and knees, then Child's Pose with arms extended forward to the front of the mat. Hold Child's Pose for at least five breaths.
SAVASANA - When you feel the breath has returned to normal come onto the back. Allow the limbs to stretch out in a way that feels expansive and comfortable. Imaging light shining on your whole body. Soak in the warmth, the comfort, the deep peace and inspiration. Rest for as long as you like.
Ah, the month of Giving Thanks. It's my favorite season! Thanksgiving is the best of all of them for several reasons. The food is delicious and time with family is more relaxed without the pressures of gift-buying in crowded shopping malls. It's easy to keep focused on the blessings, which is what it's all about.
Two recent articles, one from Harvard Health Publishing and another from Mindful Magazine discuss research on gratitude and both conclude what we all know--Gratitude is good for you!
The wide range of benefits from feeling grateful include a strengthened immune system, improved sleep, feeling optimistic and experiencing more joy, being more helpful and generous, feeling less lonely, isolated, and depressed. Gratitude helps us relish good experiences, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
There are many ways to feel gratitude. The key is that you should actually "feel" it and not simply utter the words out of habit. Genuine expression, genuine feeling of gratitude may take some practice. But what a payoff! The more you feel grateful, the more you notice things to feel grateful about!
Try this 30-Day Gratitude Challenge and see what difference it makes for you, and those close to you, because everyone benefits.
30 Days of Gratitude
Nov. 1 - Think of one thing you are grateful for and allow yourself time to “soak” it in. How do you feel that in your body?
Nov. 2 - Contemplate one of your unique gifts or abilities.
Nov. 3 - Consider a challenging situation that you have overcome and experience gratitude for the unexpected benefits.
Nov. 4 - Look outdoors. Acknowledge the beauty of what’s there.
Nov. 5 - Pick one convenience in your life and be grateful for it!
Nov. 6 - Think of a person who has waited on you and contemplate their effort.
Nov. 7 - Hold your heart’s attention on your family!
Nov. 8 - What makes you feel a sense of “awe”? Hold your attention there until you really feel it.
Nov. 9 - Look around you now. What are you grateful for?
Nov. 10 - Pamper yourself in some way and be grateful!
Nov. 11 - Set an intention to notice “Kindness” in others today.
Nov. 12 - Tell someone you appreciate them.
Nov. 13 - Think of all the ways you are thankful for your body.
Nov. 14 - Whatever the weather, step outdoors and feel it. Be grateful that you can be in it and experience it.
Nov. 15 - Set a timer for 10 minutes. Write down as many things as you can that you appreciate.
Nov. 16 - Before you fall asleep, think of 5 things that made you happy today.
Nov. 17 - Relish your health and well-being.
Nov. 18 - Be grateful for WATER and all the ways it appears in your day.
Nov. 19 - Be grateful for your 5 senses. And appreciate them during the day.
Nov. 20 - Do you take something for granted? Send appreciation for that person, place or thing.
Nov. 21 - Appreciate your abundance!
Nov. 22 - What traditions are you grateful for?
Nov. 23 - Before you eat, think of all the hands that made this meal possible.
Nov. 24 - What’s your favorite time of the day? Why?
Nov. 25 - Who are the people you can count on?
Nov. 26 - Consider all the loving ways you show up for YOURSELF!
Nov. 27 - Send a thank you note.
Nov. 28 - Who was kind to you today?
Nov. 29 - Intend to notice how good life is today.
Nov. 30 - Spend time in gratitude today. Embody the sensation.
Here is the downloadable calendar...
It's hard to believe that Autumn is here! As I bask in the 85 degree heat on my patio I need to remind myself that the drier, cooler time of year will soon blow in. With the change of seasons we will pull out our sweaters and fill our menus with root veggies and pumpkins. Our Yoga practice will shift, too. It's time create balance and enhance our sense of feeling grounded to the earth to counter the windy Vata elements. Here is a short practice that will help your body and mind make the transition to fall.
1. Begin seated in easy pose. Practice a few rounds of 1:1 ratio balanced breathing where the inhale is the same length as the exhale.
2. Come to all fours moving from Cat to Cow several times each direction to warm the spine. Be aware of the sense of connection to the earth as you breath slowly and deeply in each direction.
3. Come to a neutral spine on all fours (Tabletop position) and then extend the left legback and right arm forward. Hold for several breaths and then repeat the balance on the other side.
4. Lift into Downward Facing Dog Pose with hips high and hands and feet on the floor. You're trying to create an inverted "V" and hold the stretch for a few breaths before you walk your feet toward your hands in Standing Forward Fold. Focus on slow movements and holding the poses for several breaths. No rush. This will help you feel connected and grounded.
5. Step your left foot back a big step for a wide-legged stance in Warrior ll position with the right arm extending out the front and the left arm extending out the back. The left leg is long and straight and the right knee is bent. Lengthen the crown upward. Hold for 5-8 smooth, even breaths.
6. Come into Side Angle by keeping the right knee bend and bending sideways enough to placing the right hand on the floor next to the foot with the left fingers reaching up high. You could also modify this pose by placing the right forearm on the right thigh. Make sure you rotate the left ribs back to really open the front of the body as you lengthen the spine. Hold for 5-8 breaths,
7. Come back up. Straighten the right leg so both legs are long. Reach forward with the right hand, tipping the right side toward the right leg and then let the right hand come to rest on the right shin or floor or a block. Lift the left fingers toward the ceiling. Open the front of the body and back of the body to the walls on either side. Lengthen the spine. Watch your breath as you hold for 5-8 cycles.
8. Lift up and prepare for Half Moon Balance Pose. Reach the right hand to the floor about 1 or 2 feet in front of the little toe side of the right foot. Lift the left leg up and reach the mound of the big toe toward the wall behind you. Lift the left fingers to the sky and open your body and your gaze to the wall on your left. Hold. Breath. Release down into a Standing Forward Fold.
9. Repeat steps 5-8 on the other side with the left foot forward and right foot back.
10. Hold the Standing Forward Fold for 5 breaths while you lengthen the crown of the head toward the floor and lift the hips to release the legs. Be aware of the connection of the feet to the floor as you consciously press each corner of the feet into the mat.
11. Lower to a cross-legged seated position with a lifted spine. On an exhale twist in one direction. Hold for a few breaths, lengthening on the inhale, sensing the twist on the exhale. Repeat on the other side.
12. Extend the legs and lower to the floor, resting on your back. Hug the knees and rock a few times side-to-side before you come to complete rest in a long Savasana. Even better, support your head with a blanket underneath and place a rolled blanket or bolster under the knees. While you are preparing the body and mind for this peaceful time, become aware of the points of connection of the back of the body and the ground. Let those points expand, the connection becoming even stronger. With each exhale soften the body even more and then observe the natural rhythm of the breath. Allow your self to become even more relaxed as you become aware of layers of tension rising to the surface. Let it go. Let tension leave the body with the exhale.
Give yourself enough time for your final relaxation before coming back slowly.
We hold so much stress in the hips. This 30-minute practice will get you warmed up and release the hips—especially if you were in class tonight with our focus on this area. It’s a great all-over practice so save it and use it occasionally as an at- home routine.
Start with a few rounds of conscious breathing to center yourself and gauge how you’re feeling.
Come to all fours and take about 10 breaths flowing from Cat to Cow pose.
From standing and move through 3 to 5 rounds of Sun Salutations to warm up the whole body. (Hopefully you have the hand-out from class. If not, send me a message and I'll email you a copy!)
With the feet about a leg’s length distance apart and parallel, fold forward at the hip crease with hands to a block or the floor, as long as the back can comfortably lengthen. Slight bend in the knees is o.k. Hold for about 8-12 breaths.
With soft knees, heal-toe the feet in toward each other and hold forward fold with hands clasped behind the back, lifting the knuckles up to the sky. Hold for a about 5-8 breaths then come to Downward Facing Dog pose for at least 5 breaths.
Rest in Child’s Pose for as long as it feels beneficial.
Sitting on a folded blanket, extend the legs forward. Bend the right knee with the foot to the floor and hug that knee with the left arm, twisting to the right with the right hand behind the hips on the floor for support. Take at least five breaths then switch sides.
Come back to Staff Pose with the legs extended forward making sure you are on the front of the sitting bones and the low back is comfortable. Lift higher on the folded blanket if needed. Fold forward, leading with the belly button into a Posterior Stretch, belly, chest and forehead coming as close to the extended legs as you can. Make sure you aren't over-stretching. You should be able to hold this stretch for 50 breaths...but only hold for about 10 slow, deep, even inhales and exhales. Come back up to Staff Pose.
From seated Staff Pose with the legs extended forward, bring the soles of the feet together, heals coming as close to the body as you comfortably can, knees out wide, and either bring hands behind the hips to help guide the pelvis forward, or bring hands to the floor in front of you and lean forward over the toes. Hold for at least five breaths.
Bring the feet to the floor about hip’s width distance apart, knees bent, hands behind you on the floor for a few seated windshield-wipers.
Come onto your back for several breaths then lift the legs up to the belly and hug the knees with a small rock from side to side. Then reach for the arches of the feet, drawing the knees toward the shoulders, shins perpendicular to the floor. Rock from side to side if it feels good to your back. Then stretch the legs out wide, holding onto feet, toes, shins or knees for a wide leg straddle stretch on your back.
Bring the soles of the feet together and hold the feet with knees splaying out in a reclined Cobbler’s pose for several breaths. Allow the feet to come to the floor holding this Cobbler pose with the outside edges of the feet on the floor, soles together, knees out. It might help to sit on the hands with the palms down and the outer hips resting on the thumb side of the hands. Hold this for as many breaths as you like.
Take a few moments in windshield-wipers moving knees side to side with feet on the floor close together, then far apart.
Hug the knees to the belly for a couple of breaths, then spend at least a few minutes stretched out in Savasana.
Have a lovely weekend and I’ll see you next week, Tuesday and Thursday 5:30 p.m.
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Yoga class is supposed to be the place to unload stress and stay in the moment, right? One of the most common roadblocks to yoga bliss is sweaty hands and feet that can’t grip the yoga mat. If you are one of those frustrated yogis who slip and slide on your mat, making it nearly impossible to hold down dog, know that you’re not alone!
Let me offer a few suggestions that might help eliminate this problem. Remember, just as yoga honors the unique abilities and bodies of every practitioner, these suggestions are not a “one size fits all” solution. Hopefully, though, one of these might do the trick.
1. Try any number of no-slip gripper yoga socks or gloves. ToeSox is a popular brand but there are many more to choose from and you can find them anywhere from Kohl’s to Walmart or online.
2. Don’t put lotion on hands or feet for several hours before your class or consider trying a different brand. Lotions react differently on each of us; some absorb differently or “reconstitute” once your soles or palms warm up again. At the very least, the oils may re-activate and create a slippery surface. Usually the gentle or “for sensitive skin” lotions work best for me. I use Cetaphil which has made a big difference. My husband and I can’t use the same lotion. His hands get too slippery for his tennis racket so he uses another brand. It’s an individual thing so try a few different ones.
3. Wash your mat regularly. It’s easy to resort to just the spray provided by the studio--which is great--but you should give the mat a good scrub to break down the oils that may linger even after using a disinfectant cleaning spray. Here is my cleaning method that will keep it clean, fresh, and won't break down the fibers of the mat.
Fill the bottom of the bathtub with warm water. Use a squirt of Dawn dish soap to help break up the oils that might be on the mat, a tablespoon of vinegar which can freshen it up and kill some germs, and a tablespoon or two of baking soda which is a great cleaner. I like to use a drop or two of tea tree oil, too. This can kill viruses. Soak and scrub gently. Another product I’ve used is Dr. Bronner’s Soap with tea tree oil in it. Hang it to dry away from direct sunlight. It may take longer than you think to dry because some mats really hold the water! You don’t want to roll out your mat in class and step on a sponge.
4. Sometimes a microfiber cleaning towel at the top and bottom of your yoga mat is helpful and provides grip and stability for hands and feet. You can use a regular hand towel, sometimes pre-moistened, but make sure it’s not too thick. There are many yoga towels available made especially for hot yoga and many yoga blankets to choose from. Again, these aren’t for everybody but worth a try if other efforts fail. These tend to be somewhat expensive so try other towels before you buy the yoga towel. Occasionally the towel doesn’t work with your mat depending on the type you use. Yoga blankets are an option with or without your mat but again they aren’t for everybody.
5. Change your mat. But try flipping it over on the other side before you buy a new one. Some rubber mats are naturally more slippery so try a mat made specifically for hot yoga, even if you don’t do hot yoga. They are designed to maintain grip in hot and humid conditions. (I have many extra mats for you to try in the studio before you invest in a new mat). Mats are a personal thing. I’ve had many but I always go back to my 25-year-old mat! It’s been with me and stays in great shape-with care-after all these years. It wasn’t anything special, just a basic yoga mat with no brand name. More expensive or exotic brands do not guarantee a mat you’ll love. If you buy a new mat and it doesn’t grip like you’d hoped, try washing it using the recipe above.
6. I have used my yoga strap across my mat to hold my hands in place when I used a slippery rubber mat. This is a good emergency rescue strategy when you find yourself in a slippery situation on a borrowed mat.
7. Use kitchen cupboard non-adhesive rubber liners. You can cut two 12” thick strips and place them on either end of the mat for your hands and feet.
8. I’ve used pieces of an old mat cut in 12” strips across the mat. You can use it for extra padding for the knees as well. When a mat gets worn out in the middle, rather than throw it away, cut it several 12” strips to double up for extra padding and better grip.
These are a few suggestions. Hopefully one of these might be the perfect solution to keep you in your poses longer without sliding around on your mat. If you have any suggestions that have worked for you post in the comments.
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photo credit: FootMassagez <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/141735806@N08/27427071930">Yoga - Credit to https://costculator.com/</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
Are you brand new to yoga? Most likely you know someone who does yoga and by now you’ve certainly heard about some of the amazing benefits of this practice. But if you've never been to a class, you have very little idea of what to expect. Walking into your first class can feel intimidating. You may be anxious, not wanting to draw attention to yourself. Or, even worse, you might end up in the front row where everyone can see you! Don’t worry. Seriously. Here’s everything you need to know about stepping into the yoga studio for your first time. And remember: everyone was new at some point.
Hopefully these tips help you feel more comfortable getting started with the many amazing benefits of this practice. I look forward to seeing you in class! Find a class HERE
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Click here for a quick and effective yoga sequence to relieve anxiety.
The 5 Tibetan Rites are five ancient yoga exercises that are said to be "the fountain of youth". Practice the following sequence in the same order, working up to 21 repetitions each. Practice daily and notice how wonderful you feel!
1. Spinning: Stand with your arms outstretched, reaching out from the shoulders as if you could touch the walls on either side of you. Now, spin slowly towards the right (clockwise) until you become slightly dizzy. Usually 5 spins the first time is enough. Pause afterward for several breaths in a seated, kneeling or child pose before moving on to the next exercise.
2. Rest on Back to Leg Lifts: Lie on your back, hands next to your hips, palms down on the floor. Keeping the legs straight and feet slightly flexed, lift them up and, if possible, slightly beyond 90 degrees, toes about over the line of the eyes. At the same time, lift your head off the floor, chin towards the chest. Hold for a moment, then return legs and head to the floor. Repeat 5 times to start. Work your way up to 21 repetitions. Rest on your back for several moments before going to the next exercise.
3. Kneeling to Camel: Come to kneeling with the feet straight back from the knees. Use a folded blanket or pad under your knees if needed. Begin by leaning forward with the chin towards the chest and arms by your side. Then bring the hands to the hips for support, lift the chin high, and lean back as far as you can. That is one cycle. Return chin to chest and arms by your side to begin another cycle. Work up to 21 repetitions. Rest lying down on the floor or in child pose before moving on to the next exercise.
4. Sage to Crab: Sit upright on the floor with legs extended in front of you, palms on the floor next to the hips. Tip the head forward, chin towards chest. Next, keep the feet where they are, lift the chin up and lift the hips up so you are in a reverse table top pose with the hands and feet supporting you and belly lifts up to the ceiling. Continue to another cycle by sitting back down and bring chin to chest. Work up to 21 repetitions. Rest on your back or in child pose for a few moments and proceed to the last exercise.
5. Down Dog to Up Dog: Come to downward facing dog pose with the hands and feet on the floor and your tailbone lifted, creating an inverted V shape with your whole body. Next, move the body and legs down towards the floor with the head and chest lifting, supporting your upper body with your straight arms. (Upward facing dog pose.) Repeat the cycle by lifting the hips back up and the head down . Move from downward facing dog pose to upward facing dog pose up to 21 times. Rest on your back for several minutes after completing these exercises.
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I had the pleasure of interviewing Indu Arora for a blog post on the Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival website. I'm sharing my post with you and the link to the festival website. Plan to attend and learn from wonderfully knowledgeable teachers like Indu who love sharing what they've learned about this rich tradition and healing modality. The 2017 Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival opens for early bird registration on Juanuary 11. Learn more about the festival at www.dubuqueyogafestival.com.
"Meet Indu Arora"
by Karen Kramer, Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival Blogger
Indu Arora is an international Master Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist, an Ayurvedic healer, author of two books and Director of Yogsadhna. She has been teaching since the age of 19 when her Master/Yoga Guru gave her the name Yog Sadhna and directed her to open a school.
You will see Indu as a presenter at the 2017 Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival in April. She will speak as part of the opening ceremony, teach an intensive workshop, “Practical Components of Ayurveda”, and conduct sessions throughout the weekend addressing Mudra, Pranayama, and Yoga Nidra.
Recently I spoke to Indu about her philosophy and teaching. She has an uncanny ability to condense seemingly complex ideas and explain them in a way that is accessible, with many “aha” moments of understanding. As she said: “Truths are simple and basic, we just make it too complicated. We think that something we learn has to challenge the intellect but really truth is very simple.”
Thank you, Indu, for your genuine love of sharing what you've learned with other seekers on this yoga journey.
Q: What is your mission as a teacher?
A: My first purpose is to educate myself, to know myself, to work on myself. For only if I can take responsibility of my thoughts, actions and words can I have any capacity to be a teacher. My intention as a seeker on the same path as my fellow practitioners is to pass on this message to them. Don't run away from yourself. Don't run at all. Take one step at a time. After all, that is the realistic thing to do. Yoga is not a run, a chase, it is a state that we embody when we are ready. Nothing but you, nowhere but within, is where it all lies. Nothing has the greatest power to heal, but Self.
Q: You travel extensively and teach in many countries. Is the practice of yoga very different here in comparison? My thought is that we Westerners tend to focus more on asana.
A: No matter where you go in the world, the definition of Yoga is still samadhi. It still means union. It is still a state of mind-- of being free of it. Yoga is a work-in, it is never meant to be a work-out. You are right that in many parts of the world the work-out aspect has gained importance and priority and even has become the goal. However, there is no rush. We all start from where we are and we are guided to the next steps when we are ready. There is a certain readiness that comes from within. I would also like to add that just like we are picky about what we eat, for example that it to be organic, compatible and nourishing, we have to be careful with the teachers we choose.
Q: Do we need a guru?
A: A guide, a Guru, a teacher is a must in every field that one would like to master. When someone has taken the path, they can guide us where not to go and how smoothly one can reach a certain place. The most important work that a Guru does is to allow us to meet our inner Guru. Now, there is a difference in being simply independent and self-seekers and finding the inner light. When we are simply independent without a clear intention, without having worked on our emotions, our self-guided paths may lead to fake ego, unnecessary challenges and at times even leave us scattered. So an external Guru helps us to gather our scattered mind, breath and emotions. The external Guru helps us get in touch with our self, our inner light and our inner master, and also teaches us to listen to this inner guidance.
To find a Guru: Only when there is a deep yearning and a burning desire, one becomes a seeker and finds a true Master! Not from a poster or an advertisement. It is from one heart to the other heart. If you are ready so is the Master. From within the Guru arises. As pure as your desire! First, you need to seek in order to find. In order to seek we need to know what are we seeking and why we are seeking it, and know it with absolute clarity. Then Guru appears.
Q: When you spoke of your newest book Mudra: The Sacred Secret, you said that whatever we do, and whatever we do not do, we are practicing mudras. So it only makes sense to understand what it is that we are doing. If we learn what we are doing we could access so much more--That is the sacred secret! You will teach a session on mudra and the energetic and physiological response in us when hand gestures are performed. Is this a practical, everyday technique to well-being or is there more to that?
A: Yoga, in its ultimate stage, is nothing but a Mudra of mind, body, breath and emotion. Mind wise it is dhyana (mediation), body wise it is asana (firm, steady, meditative pose), breath wise it is pranayama (stilling of the turbulence of inhalation and exhalation) and emotions wise it is shanti (peace). Mudra is a practical, easy, approachable, therapeutic tool to achieve these above-mentioned states. It has been almost missing in the current Yoga practitioners’ community, trainings and programs. Once you learn it or start learning it, the eyes really open up to a different reality. You start watching yourself in a way you have not done before. I wish to offer practitioners a new pair of glasses to see their practice and the subject matter of Yoga.
Q: Is this the same for Pranayama--That we are always breathing so we might as well do it in a way that benefits us?
A: Yes and no. Pranayama is what happens when the body stills and relaxes. Pranayama is the expansion of prana. If by pranayama you mean techniques, then the answer is "no". It is not in the practice of alternating breath in nostrils or breathing through the mouth that pranayama is attained. It is when all these techniques remove the existing friction (vikruti and vikalpas) that one is naturally established in Pranayama. It is a consequence of the techniques and not the technique itself. Diluting or condensing everything into techniques is not the road map to Yoga. May we adopt the path of sadhana (daily spiritual practice) to understand the meaning of Yoga.
Some techniques can be used to bring about a specific therapeutic influence on the bodily doshas and mental gunas but application of those is not the goal of Yoga philosophy. Every step is practiced so that we may come closer to the Self and it peels off one more layer of illusion. At times the balance is not in creation but dissolution.
Q: You will teach a session on Yoga Nidra, another tool towards the path to union. Can you explain the benefits of Yoga Nidra, and some might also wonder how those benefits are different than those of regular practice of savasana at the end of yoga class?
A: Yoga Nidra is not Yogic sleep but rather yogic awakening. Yoga Nidra is an extremely powerful tool! Use it to replace negative tendencies and thoughts. Release habits and conditionings. Rewrite your story and use it to strengthen or know your Dharma! Shavasana is putting to rest the uneasiness of the body, mind and breath that were triggered with the practice, you may say it is like suturing the body after the surgery with the practice. Yoga Nidra on the other hands is like going deeper and opening ourselves to the core. Unveiling all that is veiled.
Most often people think of Yoga Nidra as rest, sleep and rejuvenation. Only sleep can substitute sleep. No medicine, relaxation, mantra, herb, oil or practice can do the job of sleep. Yoga Nidra can reduce the number of hours taken by the mind and body to be rejuvenated relaxed and refreshed. Yoga Nidra was not devised for combating sleep issues, however it can help a person to solve some of the issues that cause sleep problems. Why do you want to replace sleep at all? It is a blessing! Every single day it gives us the chance to forget all the pains, all the stories and brings the taste of freedom, the glimpse if at all of the lowest level of Samadhi. The outer and the inner both worlds dissolve and become one. The taste of nothingness is the nectar we drink every day to feel alive. Substitutions have led to supplements becoming food and electronics becoming relationships. Let us acknowledge that not everything can and should be substituted. Yoga Nidra is not a substitution for anything, it is introduction to our inner world or outer world howsoever you may wish to perceive it.
Q: Why are many of us resistance to “going inward” as we do in Yoga Nidra or forms of meditation?
A: Because we all need magic capsules, potions and formulas to become free from all physical, mental and emotion suffering. Who wants to change in order to become that? Change is hard, it requires courage, acknowledgement of our weakness, a shift in our attitude, a change in our lenses through which we see ourselves and others, and the ability to look into our own eyes with absolute readiness to see within. We are often taught about short cuts more than real paths. We are taught about the value of being fast, efficient, and multi- tasking instead of slow, steady and one step at a time. With such deep conditionings, it is difficult to question self and start a journey to re-vision. Change is inevitable, either we are changing for good or not, either we are moving towards growth or not. Once we know that, we can choose our paths with more “respons-ability” (responsibility) than resistance.
Q: Your Friday intensive will be “Practical Components of Ayurveda”. Can you give us a sneak-peek summary of what we will learn that day? Is it appropriate for all-levels?
A: Basic Ayurveda is for all and benefits everyone. It is one of the most important, practical tool that adds value, life and lightness to everyday life. The practical components of Ayurveda are tangible tools that can be used by everyone who seeks to bring balance and health to everyone’s life. Ayurveda is the wisdom of life itself. It is not just about food, herbs, massage and panchkarma. It is not a chase, a run, a fad. It is the need of the hour. It is bigger than any treatment. It lays down the principles of living and loving. It is through the study of Self and its relationship with the cosmic rhythms that we start to understand Ayurveda. Health is simply a starting point and not the goal itself. Through health we gain the potential to walk on the path of paurush-artha (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha). Ayurveda leads the pathway to a meaningful life. What one will learn from this session will be how to introduce some practice in your daily routine (especially morning and before bed) to be healthy and to stay healthy. This is a session not to miss for practical application of the philosophy of Ayurveda and Yoga.
Q: The festival changed its name to include “Oneness” the Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival. I would like to know your thoughts on the concept of oneness.
A: Oneness is beautiful because we all try to understand each other based on similarities and differences. When we see similarities, we feel connected. When we see differences, at times, we feel inspired, or, at times, we feel scared because we don’t understand these differences. When we speak in terms of Yoga, oneness is a different kind. When we add, one plus one, for example, it is an addition, it’s a form of union to become a new number, a completely new identity. But in yogic terms one plus one is equal to none. Which means there is no separation. It is about “dissolution” a complete fading of boundaries and everything becomes one, which means everything becomes none.
This is something I can relate to. For example, I come from India and travel and teach many different places. People ask me how things are different in India, or other comparisons. I focus on the commonalities not the differences. When I travel there may be differences; Different languages, different cultures. But if I peel off the different layers it is still the same human being that desires to connect to something genuine, to be loved, and feel love. That is the same everywhere.
Again, if we draw this into the aspect of yoga, no matter which tools we use, it draws us into the same state. The first step is connecting to yourself and then connecting to everything and everyone else by the noneness, not the state of oneness. So we have to see oneness in a different light.
Q: You will teach many of these tools during the festival. Any advice for people who come?
A: Bring your appetite. The various methods are different ways, different tools that need to be understood in a completely different light but it’s beautiful to see how it comes together, how one leads to another, one becomes the other. And it’s not that one tool is better than another, for example, that meditation is higher than asana or asana is better than kriya. Everything leads to the same state. We just need to understand it in a different light. So all we need is our readiness, our appetite, our sincerity and we learn. Maybe this prayer or affirmation may be helpful to seekers of yoga be it teachers or students, we all are ultimately students.
My practice is not one on the mat or off the mat
My practice is neither for few minutes or in the early morning hours
I free myself from the bonds of time and space
My practice is my whole life
From the first moment I became aware, to the last moment of awareness, it shall be
When life becomes clarity
Each moment becomes Dharana
The being becomes Sadhaka and the journey becomes Sadhana
Don’t miss the early bird registration which begins January 11th. Learn more about Indu Arora on her website at www.yogsadhna.com.
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“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
A loving yoga teacher once explained to me that achieving difficult poses or sitting in meditation for longer and longer periods shouldn’t be my goal in yoga. Yoga, she explained, is union of the self. It’s a gathering of our scattered parts and bringing them back to wholeness. Yoga poses, meditation, Nidra, breathing, all these things, are tools to get us closer to union with ourselves. But it may not always be about what I add in my practice such as achieving an impressive handstand. It just might be more about what I let go of, what I can dissolve in order to achieve wholeness. We need to discern which yoga tool is required in the moment to bring us to the state of union. That’s the simple and great philosophy of yoga.
I definitely feel scattered! My mind is off in many different directions: what I need to do, what I wish I could do, what I’m afraid to do, what I’m afraid I cannot do. I feel physically scattered with moments of anxiety, burdened with less sleep, a few extra pounds, and arthritis in my toe reminding me daily that I’m getting older. We all have energy drains and extra concerns. They may not be the same for all of us but they have the same effect. A scattered self.
My intentions for this year no longer focus on what I will do better in my yoga practice or what in need to add in my life to be happy and successful. I intend to dissolve the layers that keep me from wholeness. I intend to find my core, and live from that place that is my truest nature.
Right now, I’ve identified this layer. Fear. Fear leads me to anxiety, anger, assumptions and defensiveness that cause pain to myself and others. Not my best self for sure. Fear has been the root cause for strained relationships and for giving up on many opportunities that I wish I’d taken. It may take all year, or longer, but this is what will get me a step closer, or a layer closer, to union with myself.
Try asking your inner wisdom to help you peel away whatever keeps you from wholeness. Try resting comfortably in savasana or in meditation each day for a few minutes or longer. Maybe write in your journal if that’s your thing. Ask yourself the following questions, let them float around in your head and heart without labeling anything for a while, then trust your inner wisdom to show you either symbolically or through insight of some sort what the answers might be.
*What habit could you lose to feel closer to your authentic self? Not because you need to give it up, but because it brings you closer to union.
*What energetic drain to you hang onto that would make you lighter if you let it go?
*What do you need to let go of in order to draw you closer to your heart’s true calling?
*What are you ready to finally release?
Let’s all intend to release what doesn’t serve us any longer, release what keeps us from living our soul’s purpose, and release what keeps us from union with ourselves.
Wishing you a blessed year in 2017!
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Yoga and meditation teacher since 2003, I love discovering and sharing information about natural health and the mind-body-spirit connection through yoga and mindfulness. Join me and be changed for good!