Bio-Energetic Yoga & Meditation Workshop
Hosted by Deb Porte Bobier, E-RYT 500 and founder of YogaBound.com
When: Sunday, November 24th and Saturday, November 30th
Where: 1201 Harbor Hills Dr., Largo, Florida
Time: 9am – 1pm
Cost: $65.00 day of. Or, pre-pay now (payment button at the end of this page) and pay just $55.00 Bring a friend and pay $45.00 ea. Sign up for both, $40.00 ea.
This is a perfect time to take some time out for yourself before the Holidays. This workshop is designed for everyone. And ideal for new or experienced teacher’s that are looking for a tune-up. Or, wanting to take their practice to a deeper level.
This is a slow, yet powerful practice that will take you inward, to deeper and deep levels of your being. It is intense and energetic, yet will leave you feeling relaxed and blissed out.
We’ll work with all the Chakra’s (the bodies energy channels of consciousness), Pranayama (breathwork), Meditation, then Yoga Nidra, or final relaxtion. Throughout the practice will be powerful messages from the teachings of the 8 limbs. As well as from the Yoga Sutras.
We’ll begin with Sun Salutations chanting the 12 Vedic names for the Sun. Continue with warm up excercises to connect the mind and the body, by arousing the 5th and 6th chakras. Move into a Hatha Yoga practice designed to awaken, harmonize and develop each of the Chakras. Starting with the first Chakra, and working our way up.
We’ll incorporate several Pranayama techniques to open the Nadi’s. Perform several sound meditations to further activate and harmonize the higher Chakras. Then end with a wonderfully relaxing Yoga Nidra.
I hope you will join me. And look forward to seeing you soon. Deb Porte Bobier
If you have any questions please feel free to zip me an email.
Why Yoga At An Early Age
By Marsha Wenig
When presented in a child’s language, yoga can help counter the stress experienced by young people living in a hurry-up world.
Our children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, incessant lessons, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We usually don’t think of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. The bustling pace of our children’s lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—and usually not for the better.
I have found that yoga can help counter these pressures. When children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfillment, they can navigate life’s challenges with a little more ease. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive. Fostering cooperation and compassion—instead of opposition—is a great gift to give our children.
Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.
When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration—the sting of a scorpion, the grace of a swan, the grounded stature of a tree. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to get inside another being and imagine taking on its qualities.
When they assume the pose of the lion (Simhasana) for example, they experience not only the power and behavior of the lion, but also their own sense of power: when to be aggressive, when to retreat. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life.
A Child’s Way
Yoga with children offers many possibilities to exchange wisdom, share good times, and lay the foundation for a lifelong practice that will continue to deepen. All that’s needed is a little flexibility on the adult’s part because, as I quickly found out when I first started teaching the practice to preschoolers, yoga for children is quite different than yoga for adults.
Six years ago, I had my first experience teaching yoga to kids at a local Montessori school. I looked forward to the opportunity with confidence—after all, I’d been teaching yoga to adults for quite a while, had two young children of my own, and had taught creative writing for several years in various Los Angeles schools. But after two classes with a group of 3- to 6-year-olds, I had to seriously reevaluate my approach. I needed to learn to let go (the very practice I had been preaching for years) of my agenda and my expectations of what yoga is and is not.
When I began to honor the children’s innate intelligence and tune in to how they were instructing me to instruct them, we began to co-create our classes. We used the yoga asanas as a springboard for exploration of many other areas—animal adaptations and behavior, music and playing instruments, storytelling, drawing—and our time together became a truly interdisciplinary approach to learning. Together we wove stories with our bodies and minds in a flow that could only happen in child’s play.
The kids began to call me Mrs. Yoga, and I called them Yoga Kids. We continued to work and play together until our creations bloomed into a program and video called YogaKids. The program combines yogic techniques designed especially for children using Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
Gardner, an author and professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, describes eight intelligences innate in all of us—linguistic, logical, visual, musical, kinesthetic, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal—and emphasizes that children should be given the opportunity to develop and embody as many of these as possible.
In keeping with this theory, YogaKids integrates storytelling, games, music, language, and other arts into a complete curriculum that engages the “whole child.” We employ ecology, anatomy, nutrition, and life lessons that echo yogic principles of interdependence, oneness, and fun. Most of all, our program engages the entire mind, body, and spirit in a way that honors all the ways children learn.
Taking the Practice Home
If you’re planning to teach yoga to kids, there are a few general things to know that will enhance your experience. The greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of yoga: stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being. Luckily, most children love to talk, and they love to move—both of which can happen in yoga.
Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. Your role is to step back and allow them to bark in the dog pose, hiss in the cobra, and meow in cat stretch. They can also recite the ABCs or 123s as they are holding poses. Sound is a great release for children and adds an auditory dimension to the physical experience of yoga.
Children need to discover the world on their own. Telling them to think harder, do it better, or be a certain way because it’s good for them is not the optimal way. Instead, provide a loving, responsive, creative environment for them to uncover their own truths. As they perform the various animal and nature asanas, engage their minds to deepen their awareness.
When they’re snakes (Bhujangasana), invite them to really imagine that they’re just a long spine with no arms and legs. Could you still run or climb a tree? In Tree Pose (Vrksasana), ask them to imagine being a giant oak, with roots growing out of the bottoms of their feet. Could you stay in the same position for 100 years? If you were to be chopped down, would that be OK? Would it hurt?
When they stretch like a dog, balance like a flamingo, breathe like a bunny, or stand strong and tall like a tree, they are making a connection between the macrocosm of their environment and the microcosm of their bodies. The importance of reverence for all life and the principle of interdependence becomes apparent. Children begin to understand that we are all made of the same “stuff.” We’re just in different forms.
Think of yourself as a facilitator—the term we use in the YogaKids program—rather than a teacher. Guide your children while simultaneously opening your heart and letting them guide you. They’ll no doubt invite you into a boundless world of wonder and exploration. If you choose to join them, the teaching/learning process will be continually reciprocal and provide an opportunity for everyone to create, express themselves, and grow together.
Marsha Wenig is the creator of the YogaKids video and educational curriculum. Her YogaKids Facilitator Certification Program trains teachers to share their yogic wisdom with children.
For more information visit, www.yogakids.com
How Yoga Wrecks Your Body – Yogi Glenn Black Responds to controversy over
New York Times Article on Yoga
The recent New York Times magazine article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” (William Broad, Jan. 5, 2012) has stoked an international controversy, shaken the yoga world and focused the spotlight on my previously anonymous, reclusive yoga teacher, Glenn Black, who is liberally quoted within. A longtime, highly-regarded faculty member at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, Glenn is known for his gruff and demanding, yet deeply caring and precise teaching style. Joking, he told me that, among hundreds of emails, he was receiving death threats — the Times article doesn’t fully illuminate his uniquely wry sense of humor.
It is important to acknowledge the true damage on all levels that yoga can do when ego surpasses awareness and wisdom, when asana and goals trump deeply listening to the body, when yoga styles and methods are uncompromising, and when inexperienced or misguided yoga teachers lead bodies living modern lifestyles into places they are not prepared to go.
The Times piece cites numerous articles from medical journals detailing yoga injuries ranging from joint degeneration and disc injuries to peripheral neuropathy and stroke. I have observed in my own gynecological practice that classical or contemporary yoga can contribute to symptoms of chronic vulvar pain and sexual dysfunction via painful ligamentous instability, hip injuries or herniated discs, overstimulation of already-stressed sympathetic nervous systems, and pelvic floor muscle spasms.
Upon deeper inspection, however, the physical practice of yoga and the injuries that arise from it do not seem to be the point. As the recent HuffPost entry (Jan. 10, 2012) illuminates, true yoga emphasizes spiritual exercises, discussing the eight limbs of yoga: yama (restraints), niyama (observances), asana (posture), pranayama (mastery of breath), pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (higher levels of meditation).
Although Glenn has been barraged with interview requests and was just offered a book contract, he was kind enough to indulge me with some time to ask him questions of my own, punctuated in the background by soundbites from his Jan. 11, 2012 NBC News interview, in which an orthopedic surgeon detailed the hundreds of yoga injuries she sees in her practice alone. I recorded Glenn’s candid responses, which seem poised to generate yet more controversy and upheaval, as we wonder: What is yoga? And why are we doing it?
EF: What kind of injuries have you seen in the yoga practitioners who come to you for bodywork?
GGB: Pinched nerves in their neck, low back tightness, injuries to hips and knees. People often come to yoga classes with injuries that get accentuated, too.
EF: What about shoulder injuries?
GGB: Chaturangas are the worst things for shoulder problems and create repetitive use syndrome. Putting weight on a joint, one side is always stronger than the other, one side will eventually pay a price, one will compress more, one will stay open, some ligaments will tighten up, others will loosen.
EF: What is the best way to overcome injuries from yoga?
GGB: Remedial exercises that overcome the source of the injuries. And people need to get bodywork. Not just any bodywork. They need to look for people who work on really moving the joints and connective tissues.
EF: What yoga poses should people generally avoid?
GGB: Deep knee flexion with weight is not so good for anybody, especially Americans who don’t use their knees correctly. To put a knee in a rotational situation puts strain on ligaments and tendons. Sitting poses are hard on hips, where external rotation is limited. Tissues don’t want to do it. Never do headstand, shoulder stand, or plow.
EF: The New York Times article talked about neurological damage and strokes resulting from compression of the head and neck in those poses. What about arm balances?
GGB: With arm balances, lifting the head up is a problem and restricts blood flow. You should really hang the head, but most people lift it up, as a counterweight, I suppose. You have to be careful with the lower back and cervical spine. Any time you do flexion, extension, even rotation will deform those nerve plexuses. Even one nerve can have impingement and cause a problem.
EF: You now have a spinal fusion and screws in your lower lumbar spine to stabilize herniated discs and spondylolisthesis. How did your own yoga injuries come about?
GGB: Extreme backbends, and twisting coming up from my hands on my ankles. I overstretched my ligaments and destabilized my spine.
EF: What is your advice to the modern yoga student seeking to avoid injuries?
GGB: If a student is a total neophyte or even has some experience, the instruction is to be careful and listen to yourself.
EF: What do you think about the backlash that is coming from the statements you make in the New York Times article? It’s all over blogs, Facebook and the news. A lot of yoga teachers are saying now that they do in fact teach in a way that avoids injuries, and others are clearly feeling threatened that their livelihoods are in jeopardy, that it will discourage new students from trying yoga.
GGB: They are not teaching yoga. They are teaching physical exercise. They can do it in any gym. Yoga is an art and a science, and if you take just one small aspect, you never get to the higher end of it. Yoga is not taught correctly by many people.
EF: Your classes are known as rigorous and demanding on all levels, and you have often said that you demand your students to practice in a way that is not “mediocre.” What do you mean?
GGB: Most people have a limited view of yoga and approach it as a physical discipline, that’s what can make it mediocre. Awareness and consciousness are no longer emphasized, and yoga somehow became relegated to physical exercise. You need to do in-depth, serious practice in pranayama and yoga nidra, and hope for higher stages of yoga to happen. Now, everybody takes what they want, but it really gets back to the yamas and the niyamas. If someone’s an asshole, it doesn’t matter how he does the pose, he’s still gonna be an asshole.
EF: People have reacted very strongly to what you say in the New York Times article. They call you “angry” and an “asshole.”
GGB: I am not the most personable person on the planet, but I’m looking out for every person in that class.
EF: I have heard you speak about the “myth of asana.” What does that mean?
GGB: It is a myth that it’s safe to do asana without awareness and consciousness.
EF: I have long felt that doing more asana, like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), is not an effective way to get better at doing asana, and wonder if asana is even the point.
GGB: You don’t need to do specific poses to achieve awareness and consciousness. Elevating your consciousness comes from awareness and developing the ability to relax. This does not mean just having a drink and watching the news. It takes dedicated practice, such as pranayama and yoga nidra. You can use asana in a way, but it is not the best way. If one is an athlete and physically conditioned, physical practice could initiate some of that, and then the practitioner can feel the difference in savasana. But if you are in pain, you can’t do the practice, your mind will just focus on the pain.
EF: How does the ego get in the way of the safe practice of yoga?
GGB: Ego is the main obstacle to obtaining what I’ll call superconsciousness. Ego is a good thing because it gets you through life, but it also gets in the way of reaching perspectives we normally don’t have that were directly experienced by the yogis. The old sages had the capacity to reach these different perspectives. They noticed the unity rather than the separateness of everything. Things like technology and stressors that inundate us make it harder to attain this perspective in modern life and make it harder to access.
Yamas and niyamas come before everything, but if they are even mentioned nowadays, it’s a cursory intellectual thing about how to treat animals well and not pollute the earth. It comes down to your basic psychology, it comes down to the depth of training. I was asked if going one or two times a week to yoga class, is that okay? Yes, but it is not the goal of the eightfold path to keep yoga only as a physical exercise, and you still need to be careful and cautious.
EF: The New York Times article mentions B.K.S. Iyengar, and his classic book, “Light on Yoga.” Would you talk about your time studying in India with Mr. Iyengar?
GGB: I went to Pune in 1987. He had a way of doing things. He was brought up in the British education system and had a hard, mean, certain way of doing poses and people thought it was way it was supposed to be done. Once a girl came up to Mr. Iyengar saying she was having trouble in headstand. He gave her instructions in how she should do it, and it was overheard by some of his students, then before you know it, everyone in the world was doing headstand like this poor woman.
EF: Do you have any credentials for teaching yoga or doing bodywork, or is it all based on experience?
GGB: I have no credentials at all. I didn’t get certified in Iyengar yoga, because I wanted to be able to do human movement and animal movement and have it be fun.
EF: What do you think of all the yoga teacher trainings and licensing that’s going on now? There are so many 200 hour teacher trainings churning out yoga teachers. You once made an analogy to “locusts.”
GGB: Those certificates they get even for 500 hours are worthless, because like in bodywork, unless somebody has a gift or innate understanding or depth of experience, they will just regurgitate what they have learned and apply it to the situations they are presented with. True ability comes from actually doing the practice.
EF: It seems that many inexperienced yoga teachers spend a lot of time updating their websites to attract students, rather than spending the time gaining the experience they really need. There are even workshops and private coaching designed specifically to help yoga teachers market themselves.
GGB: Updating websites will not help you gain consciousness. Yoga is no longer taught as a direct experience that originated the whole process. There are myriad amounts of people teaching asana in myriad different ways. They are very dogmatic in their approach, in the way they want the pose to look and be done, and if a big name or Madonna came to their class, then they become so large that they turn it over to their assistants to do all the work, who don’t have the skill or genius. As yoga teachers, they don’t hear about the injuries because they are up on the pedestal. Yoga is said to be the end all, but how many people can even take a deep breath without a problem? Most pranayama lasts for 30 seconds, a small part of class. It is rare to see pranayama done for an entire hour and a half.
EF: Are there any great yoga teachers that you know of?
GGB: Kofi Busia is one of best asana teachers around. Whether his students get hurt, I have no idea. But he is holding headstands for a long time, and people don’t say anything.
EF: What is your opinion about trademarking yoga?
GGB: I think that trademarking is an abomination.
EF: How do you deal with it when your students trademark the material you teach?
GGB: I don’t deal with it.
EF: Many yoga teachers present what they teach as having come from ancient lineages that are hundreds if not thousands of years old, before trademarking it, of course. What do you think about that?
GGB: Asana was only developed 80 or 90 years ago. Patanjali (author of the ancient yoga sutras) was talking about sitting poses. Headstands weren’t done when Patanjali was alive. Asana came from Indian military exercises. Indians are small people next to the British, and they developed a series of calisthenics to make them strong. They were already flexible, and they also wanted to do sitting poses. They named it Ashtanga due to the eight limbs of yoga, and asana is one of them, but just why somebody called it that, who knows why? Those sequences have nothing to do with real Ashtanga yoga, the eight limbs of yoga.
EF: Do you believe that, as many texts and teachers say, that vegetarianism is an important aspect of the practice of yoga?
GGB: Vegetarianism being essential to doing yoga is a myth. Tibetan yogis are heavy meat eaters.
EF: What about veganism? For example, I understand that the more recently certified Jivamukti Yoga teachers are required to sign an agreement pledging to maintain a vegan diet. This is something that has long been emphasized to Jivamukti yoga students, including in prenatal yoga classes.
GGB: Some bodies can do it, like Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), some can’t do it, and shouldn’t or they’ll hurt themselves. Some people need concentrated protein, others don’t. If a serious practitioner dictates to themselves that it is totally immoral to eat an animal, I say, more power to you.
EF: What about in cases of illness?
GGB: Hatha yogis view the body as a vehicle for spirituality. You can’t do higher practices if you are ill, you must take care of the body first.
EF: What is the goal of yoga?
GGB: We have limited intellect, we have no idea what Samadhi is and if it’s same for everybody. To become more conscious and more aware and more able to deal with the stress that is constantly inundating us, I think that’s the best we can hope for in this day and age. The ancient sages had experiences beyond what the senses and the mind can contemplate. They realized that the body and mind are obstacles to awareness and spent a lot of time exploring that. It’s probably the basis of religion. But nowadays, after a yoga class, within seconds the students are looking in their pockets for their cell phones, so how long does it really last?
YogaBound Deb’s point of view. Glen Black knows the true meaning of yoga. Everything he is saying is right on. And this is the way we approach our yoga practice and our teachings. It is a path that has great wisdom. However, to do it doesn’t require rigidity. It must be appropriate for each individual. Thank you Glenn Black for your insight, understanding and realization that each of us are individuals.
Meditate to live your life to the fullest. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools there is to help us restore the harmony within, and to gain access to our bodies’ inner intelligence. In meditation we rediscover the silence in our mind, and make it part of our life. Silence is the birthplace of happiness. It is where we get our burst of inspiration, our tender feelings of compassion. Our sense of love.
Meditation is a journey to freedom, and self-knowledge. The mind is in a constant state of activity. From the moment we awaken, until we go to sleep at night, we are actively engaged in the mental processes of planning, analyzing, strategizing, plotting, judging, juggling, resolving conflicts, and matters such as these. We have things to do, people to see, places to be, goals to accomplish, bills to pay, children to feed……we are BUSY beings. This can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious, angry, agitated, and frustrated. Over time, it can reach a chronic level, leading to even more negative states of mind.
The Buddha taught that your true nature is obscured by the veils of wanting, fear, and delusion, (or ignorance). He urged that you look at the nature of your mind systematically, and observe how these three mind-states condition what you think, and value, and how you behave. He taught that it is the identification with these mind-states that causes suffering; for instance, you mistakenly believe that just because you feel the emotion of wanting, your true nature is the same as that wanting.
So, if you are not your thoughts, then what is your true nature, how do you find it, and how do you live so that it may flourish? These are the perennial questions for anyone who starts to develop an inner life. In Jesus’s teachings, love is at the center of all being. Love that is forgiving, unconditional, and not self-serving. Therefore, Meditation is a chance to connect to our inner being, and to put things in perspective. A chance to quiet, and still the inner turmoil that has become so much a part of our nature, we may no longer recognize the potential negative side affects.
Meditation is a a mirror to show us who we really are, not our conditioned selves, but our truest nature, at every level of our being; Physical, Emotional, Psychological, Social, Cultural, and Spiritual. Meditation is a path to Self discovery, self realization, and ultimately, Self acceptance. In order to release even one of these mind states takes time, and constant, consistent repetition.
Meditation invokes a shift in consciousness. When you are in the midst of your day, and your mind is restless, or disturbed, taking some time out for yourself can be a way to restore the equilibrium of the mind. This enables you to gain greater awareness, and to bring some peace into the world around you. To see what is truly important.
Through our actions, which are controlled by our thoughts, Meditation enables us to learn different methods for dealing with life with more creativity, and agility. We begin to see than any opportunity that comes to our life is of our own creation. It does not come of itself, by chance, nor by good luck. Opportunities are either created now, or have been created at some time in the close, or distant past, by our own rightly guided will.
If you see no opportunity now, create one during the times you spend in Meditation. Create them by your will, which is a divine instrument within you. Say, “I will do everything for myself with my own will, which is a reflection in me of Divine Will.” Act on this truth, and opportunity will come to you.
Because the mind is a very difficult thing to discipline, many people find meditation difficult. Thus, the reason Yoga, and meditation, and Pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) are fast becoming popular alternative to other exercise, and fitness programs. The principal being that the body is far easier to discipline than the mind. People have tried meditation for years, and not been able to achieve the same affects, as working it the other way around. As the mind, and the body are not two separate entities, when you work through the body, the mind, too, is affected.
Yoga alleviates the extraneous mind chatter that can turn every day burdens into misery, through relentless anxiety. Yoga encourages living within the limits imposed by the body. When we yoke the body, and the mind together, we train ourselves to find where we truly are, and to stay within that boundary.
During our yoga practice we become aware of our states of mind. Though we may find that through repetition of the poses (asanas) we are able through strength, or flexibility, determination, or relentlessness to attain the shape of the pose, this, like everything, has its price. You will never find the freedom that is that is so much a part of the yoga experience, if you are simply imposing new patterns of force, hardness, and tension on old.
It is essential that you work the other way, layer by layer, stripping away wall after wall that we have built up throughout our lives. Hatha Yoga then is not superficial relaxation. It is much deeper than that. It is not covering up, or avoiding uncomfortable feelings. That can best be done by having a glass of wine, a massage and/or a hot bath. Hatha Yoga challenges, reveals, and releases our embodied tension resulting in a release of our full potential.
Keeping body, and mind healthy may seem a difficult thing to achieve, but in actuality, it is possible if you believe. Once you believe, this belief sets into motion the desire within ourselves to move into this state of being. Then everything we think, and do begins to manifest this reality immediately! Our entire body/mind system is a connecting link to all levels of universal consciousness. Each one of us is interconnected, a holographic part of ‘All That Is’. As we open ourselves into greater expression of love, caring, wisdom, power, joy and other positive emotions, we give a wonderful gift to ourselves and to all of creation.
This is done in a precise, pragmatic, and systematic manner. It is not in anyway haphazard. Repeated, and accurate application of the techniques elicits specific, and predictable results. You experience a deep sense of relaxation, and freedom within your own being. The manifestation of this freedom is gratitude, appreciation, compassion, and enthusiasm for life, and living.
Breathing is the most important aspect of your Yoga and Meditation Practice. On a basic level, focusing on the breath gives the mind something to do. A place to rest, while it settles back down into its essential nature, which is of a deeper nature. In ‘The Science of Pranayama,’ Swami Sivananda writes, “There is an intimate connection between the breath, nerve currents, and control of the inner prana, or vital forces. Prana becomes visible on the physical plane as motion, and action, and on the mental plane as thought. Pranayama is the means by which a yogi tries to realize within his individual body, the whole cosmic nature, and attempts to attain perfection by attaining all the powers of the universe.”
The breath is intimately linked to all aspects of human experience. Most people breathe incorrectly, using only a small part of their lung capacity. The breathing is then generally shallow”, depriving the body of oxygen, and the prana essential to its good health. In addition, they help focus the awareness on the breathing process which is otherwise normally ignored. Practitioners develop sensitivity to the respiratory process, and retrain the muscles of the pulmonary cavity, enhancing their vital capacity, and preparing them for pranayama.
Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration sublimates, and is stimulated by calm, content, states of mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain, and leads to physical, emotional, and mental blocks. These in turn, lead to inner conflicts, imbalances, personality disorders, destructive lifestyles, and disease. Pranayama establishes regular breathing patterns, breaking this negative cycle, and reversing the process.
Deep breathing also increases the absorption of energy by the pranamaya kosha, enhancing dynamism, vitality and general wellbeing. Pranayama and the spiritual aspirant Pranayama practices, establish a healthy body by removing blockages in the pranamaya kosha, enabling an increased absorption of prana. The spiritual seeker, however. also requires tranquility of mind as an essential prelude to spiritual practice.
Yoga, meditation, and pranayama takes practice, and there may be a period of time before you are able to advance. Therefore, refrain from judging your practice, and from asking yourself questions like, ‘Am I meditating’, ‘Am I doing this right’, or ‘How do I know if I am in a state of mediation.’ There are countless ways to meditate. It’s important to find a technique that resonates with you. The most important thing is to not get hung up on a technique. Or, the attachment to feelings that arise.
Do not get caught up by your expectations. Release these, and any others in order to get the most from your practice. Use your meditation practice to move between states of storminess, and stillness. Relax, enjoy, and accept whatever comes your way. Move between your states of mind with awareness, and flexibility. Stay in the present moment. Thinking not of what has happened to you before this moment, or what it is to come.
Do not try to suppress any feeling. Witness, observe, be aware of the ever-present fluctuations of your moods, and mental states, and follow the breath. Allow all feelings to show themselves, as you watch them float by, as though you are watching clouds move across the sky. Don’t get emotionally caught up in them. Keep in mind that the mind is like a child demanding attention. The more you give it, the more it demands. Eventually it will stop. This could take years, so don’t approach your practice in a goal oriented way.
The inner spaciousness within is always there, with its clarity, love, and innate goodness. It is like the sky that suddenly appears over our heads when we step out of the kitchen door after a harried morning, and glance upward. The Self, like the sky, is ever present yet hidden by the ceiling, and walls of our minds. In approaching the Self, it helps to have a doorway we can comfortably walk through, rather than having to break through the wall of thoughts separating us from our inner space.
Meditation methods are portals. Entry points into the spaciousness that underlies the mind. Once we become aware of how we respond to different perceptual modes, we can often adjust a practice so it works for us. No technique is an end in itself, and no matter which one people use, it will eventually dissolve when their meditation deepens.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about any practice is to keep looking for its subtle essence. This release will happen more easily if we can allow ourselves to give up any feeling of separation from the technique. Nearly always, when people have difficulties going deeper into meditation, it is because they are keeping some sort of separation between themselves, their method, and between themselves, and the goal.
The antidote for nearly every problem that arises in meditation is to remember that the meditator, the technique of meditation, and the goal of meditation are one: that within the inner field of Awareness, everything is simply Awareness itself.
Ultimately no meditation practice is going to work unless you like doing it. This piece of wisdom comes from no less an authority than Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, a text so fundamental that every yogic tradition in India makes it the basis for meditation practice. After listing a string of practices for focusing the mind, Patanjali ended his chapter on concentration by saying, “Concentrate wherever the mind finds satisfaction.” So it’s essential to relax, and simply enjoy the experience.
Proceed with your pursuit of these paths with openness, putting aside your drive, and competitiveness, and your desire to have all the answers today. You are embarking on a life long journey, and all will come in time. It’s important to remember that usually all that is possible in daily life is to be present in the moment, to pay attention to how we react, to be alert to greed, fear, or confusion, and to respond with as much compassion, and wisdom as we are capable. Meditation enables us to gain a greater understanding, and acceptance to the fact that the only control we truly have is how we respond, not just react to what is happening around us. For more information on these two paths, visit the rest of this site.
Asana is the use of very specific physical postures. This is the foundation from which everything else is built. In fact, without the other techniques being applied, Hatha Yoga is little more than step or gymnastics. Only through the use of asana, vinyasa, bandha, pranayama, and drushti can the ultimate benefits of yoga be gained.
In yoga there are hundreds of postures. This is essential in order to penetrate the complex, and subtle depths of our neuromuscular system. Basic postures work more superficially. The more complex the posture, the more deeply you work. It is counter productive to try, and master the more complex ones before the basic tensions have been released by the more simple Asanas.
Sure, you might be able through strength, or flexibility, determination, or relentlessness to attain the shape of the pose. But this like everything, has its price. You will never obtain the freedom that is so much a part of the yoga experience. You are simply imposing new patterns of force, hardness and tension on old. It is essential that you work the other way: layer by layer, stripping away wall after wall that we have built up throughout our lives.
Every muscle, every organ, joint, and nerve is likely to be impregnated more, or less, with some kind of tension. Everyone has their own particular pattern. But, almost all of us suffer from some sort of restricted functioning of our bodies. Mentally this can manifest itself as anxiety, worry, obsessiveness, and the like.
On a physical level you can experience hardness in the muscles, tightness in the joints, dullness in the nerves, stagnation in the capillaries, and veins. All combine to limit our range of physical, perceptual, emotional, and intuitive responsiveness. It is imperative to dissolve the restricting tensions in order to make available responsiveness,
Asana will challenge the muscles, and joints to access their full potential. When that potential is realized, blood, and nerve impulses can flow freely. Each Asana challenges a different network of cells in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs. One by one they work systematically into every part of the body.
To master a specific Asana means to release a specific pattern of neuromuscular relationships from all tension. It also means to supply certain muscles, glands, and organs with oxygen, glucose, minerals, and energy through the blood flow.
To release even one of these patterns takes time, and constant, consistent repetition. Repetition of the actions of the Asana, including asana, vinyasa, bandha, pranayama, and drushti, over, and over again. It takes time to replace old habits with new. If there is discontinuity in this repetition the old pattern will reassert itself. Consistent means to activate the Asana always in the same manner, involving the correct, judicious use of asana, vinyasa, bandha, pranayama, and drushti.
As tension begins to leave us, we have an epiphany. Something of great magnitude is revealed. This is that the body, and mind cannot be functionally separated. What we find is that each area of physical resistance, (tension, stagnation, dullness, hardness, weakness, irritation) embodies an emotional pattern. When the habituated, physical pattern begins to be released, the emotional pattern begins to emerge. This means that Asana can, and inevitably will, bring about an emotional release.
If we do not apply all the techniques this very important process can also be hindered by our practice. If concerned only with alignment, developing heat, or powerful breathing, it is easy to override this process which forces the emotional pattern deeper. Approach the postures with the deliberation of asana (alignment), the fluidity of vinyasa, the subtlety of bandha, the rhythm of pranayama, and the attentiveness of drushti. Then the underlying emotional pattern will be challenged and released.
Yoga is a practical tool for untapping our hidden, and latent potential. It uses the five techniques of asana, vinyasa, bandha, pranayama, and drushti to bring about a state of profound relaxation.
This relaxed state is one of vibrant, and alert harmony, in which all of the different aspects of our being are integrated, and accessible. It emerges once we are completely free from any residual tension.
It becomes apparent as soon a we begin the process of releasing the residual tension we carry within us. Most of this tension is so deeply embedded that we are often unaware of its existence even though it hinders us. Generally it is because we never were, or cannot remember being without it.
Hatha Yoga is more than simply relieving us from tensions that disturb us. It can release us completely from all patterns of holding, and stagnation down to the deepest, unconscious levels of our being.
Did you know that most of us have restrictive patterns of habituated tension. These inhibitors are the result of past experience. Intrusive, threatening experiences evoke resistance. Generally we react to these intrusion by tightening, and hardening our bodies, and minds. It is our way of making the intrusion less painful. Though a protective mechanism, this is not healthy in the long run.
Unfortunately, the effect of the tightening, and resistance solidifies muscles, and other cells around the energetic impetus of the intrusion. This solidification buries the energy of the intrusion, and we do not have to face its pain.
But it remains inside us: locked in immobile muscle fibers, blocked veins, and capillaries, dammed nerve pathways, and dormant synapses. So our unprocessed past remains imposed upon the present. Where it serves only to restrict us, and limit our lives.
Yoga can release us from this process if we approach our practice from a balanced perspective. All the elements of asana, vinyasa, bandha, pranayama, and drushti must be present if we are to free ourselves of it. Approach your practice with sensitivity, and awareness. If done absentmindedly, or violently, it can reinforce this process further.
Hatha Yoga then is not superficial relaxation. No, it is much deeper than that. It is not covering up, or avoiding uncomfortable feelings. That can best be done by having a glass of wine, a massage and/or a hot bath. Hatha Yoga challenges, reveals, and releases our embodied tension resulting in a release of our full potential.
This is done in a precise, pragmatic, and systematic manner. It is not in anyway haphazard. Repeated, and accurate application of the techniques elicits specific and predictable results. You experience a deep sense of relaxation, and freedom within your own being. The manifestation of this freedom is gratitude, appreciation, compassion and enthusiasm for life, and living.
Moon Days are the days each month on which you “take rest” from your regular Yoga practice. With traditional Astanga Yoga, no practice is done on full, or new moon days. Or, on Saturdays.
Both full and new moon days are observed as yoga holidays in the Astanga Yoga tradition. The reasoning behind this is that like all things of a watery nature (human beings are about 70% water), we are affected by the phases of the moon. The phases of the moon are determined by the moon’s relative position to the sun. Full moons occur when they are in opposition and new moons when they are in conjunction.
Both sun and moon exert a gravitational pull on the earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle. The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana is greatest. This is an expansive, upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional, but not well grounded. The Upanishads state that the main prana lives in the head. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong. The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana is a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded, but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion.
The Farmers Almanac recommends planting seeds at the new moon when the rooting force is strongest and transplanting at the full moon when the flowering force is strongest. Practicing Ashtanga Yoga over time makes us more attuned to natural cycles. Observing moon days is one way to recognize and honor the rhythms of nature so we can live in greater harmony with it.
The following are based on USA Eastern Standard Times. If you wish, you may convert this to Standard Time in your specific area by using the World Time Zone map.
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Basic Guidelines for Beginning Hatha Yoga
All forms of Hatha Yoga, like many fitness programs, involves using your muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and mind. Some of postures are challenging, and move your body in ways it may not be accustomed to. While all of the movements are possible, and none of them is inherently harmful, you must be careful. Yoga is not about force. To avoid injury only move into a posture to that place you feel resistance, and use the breath to release the tension.
- Do arrive at least ten minutes before the class begins if you are new. Arrive on time, or earlier if you are a regular.
- Introduce yourself, and let your instructor know if you have any medical conditions or injuries. Your instructor will be discreet, and only wants to be helpful. Your yoga class is a place of safety where you can simply let go, and enjoy whatever it is your body is capable of at that moment.
- Always check with your physician before beginning any new form of exercise. Yoga is very therapeutic, and will help many medical conditions, but it is not a substitute for certain medical treatments.
- Pregnant women should also check with their physician before beginning any new exercise. In pregnancy there are two lives involved. Pregnant women should not practice inversions, deep twists, postures that involve lying on the stomach, or any abdominal tightening postures. It is imperative to let your instructor know if you are pregnant.
- Try and come to class well hydrated. Though you may drink in class at anytime you feel the need, it cools the body. Internal body heat is consistently being built from one asana to the next. This increases your metabolism, warms the muscles allowing you to enter into a pose more deeply, and without injury, and assists in detoxifying the body.
- Allow at least 1 ½- 2 hours after eating before practicing yoga.
- In class you will practice Pranayama, which is yogic breathing, asanas, which are postures, as well as relaxation and meditation techniques. Savasana, or corpse pose is the final relaxation pose, and is one of the most significant parts of the yoga practice.
- Yoga is NON-competitive. Try to relax, and focus not on how well you look in the postures, or what your neighbor may be doing, but on your breathing, how you feel in the postures, where your thoughts are, and the like. Do not be competitive with yourself, or others. Each person in a yoga class is doing their own yoga. It truly does not matter where anyone else is in their practice. Stay internal, focusing on your breath, and being mindful of your body, and any issues you are experiencing at the moment.
- You are never required to do anything in a yoga class except breath. You alone are responsible for your own body in a class, though your teacher will be watching to make sure you are doing the asanas with the proper alignment. If you are being adjusted, timely communication is critical. Always honor, and respect where your body is at the moment, not allowing the mind to lead you into territory that could cause injury.
- Acceptance is a big part of the practice of yoga. Accepting where you are today, knowing that what you are doing is good for you, and understanding that you cannot move on to the next level until that layer of tension is released, is a valuable tool for enjoying, and getting the most out of your practice.
- Everyone looks different in their yoga practice. None of us has the same bodies, or the same specific strengths, or limitations. Don’t compare yourself with others, it wastes energy, and distracts you from what you are doing. Know that each moment of every day you are different. Every time you practice you will be, and feel different.
- Cultivate patience. Challenge yourself in each asana, but not to the point of struggle. Find comfort in each posture and allow yourself to be nurtured in each.
- No two Yoga practices are the same. The same asana may even feel differently from side to side. Our body, and mind is never the same. Expect this, accept this and allow yourself to simply be in the present moment with that awareness. Refrain from judgment, criticism, or analysis. Simply observe.
- Yoga cultivates a union of the mind, body, and spirit. Over time you will get to know your body, gaining valuable insights into your strengths, and challenges. As the body becomes less restricted, you will find the mind does as well.
- Always err on the side of caution, and use good judgment when dealing with a body part that has been injured, or is prone to injury. It is much safer to be half way in a pose with correct alignment versus forcing for the sake of range, and risking injury. Force simply adds another layer of tension to the layer that is there. The aim is to release the tension layer by layer. This takes time.
- In yoga practice we approach each asana to the point we feel resistance. We refer to that as ‘The Edge’. When you stretch, or are in a strength posture, and force to the point that you lose your breath, this sends a signal from the body to the brain that you may be injured, and the body tightens up even more. Do not go beyond this point. Approach your ‘edge’ with an open mind, patiently, with deep breathing, and sensitivity. Be patient. Your strength, flexibility, balance and concentration will improve with time, patience, attention, and dedication.
- Yoga is practiced with bare feet as we want to keep our foundation strong, and flexible. Take care of your feet. They have the important job of supporting your whole body! Wear comfortable clothing that allows full range of movement, and that you feel comfortable in.
- And, most of all, breathe, move, relax and have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Allow your yoga to happen, and never force yourself beyond your limitations. You may be surprised at how wonderful you will feel after class!
- To Reiterate:The movements must be approached gradually. And with patience. You never rush, push, or force your body to do something it isn’t ready to do. There are times you may get away with it, especially if you are strong or flexible. But this is not the preferred way to approach your yoga practice. Muscles if strained will soon repair. However, ligaments, and tendons may not. Keep in mind that knees, and necks are especially vulnerable. You should inform your teacher of any injuries you may have.
Hatha Yoga is not just another form of exercise. It is an extremely potent agent of transformation which can precipitate the release of deeply embedded emotional blocks. The postures, the Bandhas, and the breathing, even when done partially, or with difficulty, bring about deep changes in your energetic equilibrium.
Take your practice to your edge, where you feel some resistance, but go no further than this. Your breathing should be easy, comfortable, and deep. Be conscious of this, and allow whatever is happening to resolve itself. At times it can have a disturbing effect on both mind, and body. Pay attention to what you are doing at all times, feeling the effect of each movement, and respond accordingly.
Pregnancy is an excitingly beautiful time in your life that brings about many physical, emotional, and mental changes. Pregnancy, labor, and birth, considered to be one of the most transformational times in a woman’s life, is thought by many cultures to be an expression of the divine in physical form.
Linking the postures to the breath, prenatal yoga leads to self-discovery, strengthens the uterus, and pelvic muscles, improves circulation, aids in digestion, and exercises the spine allowing you to dance through your pregnancy with greater comfort, and confidence.
Yoga will help alleviate many common discomforts of pregnancy such as nausea, swelling, constipation, backaches, sciatica, and varicose veins. You will be in better shape, more prepared to face the challenges, enjoy the miraculous beauty of labor, and delivery, and find recovery, and getting back to your pre-pregnancy size quicker, and easier.
The therapeutic aspect of Hatha Yoga is a blessing, and one that should not be taken for granted. For additional information check out these additional tips.
Deb Bobier – E-RYT500 – Founder, YogaBound.com
The Benefits of Yoga – “Health is Wealth, Peace of Mind Happiness, Yoga Shows the Way.” Swami Vishnu-devananda
Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual, Cultivate Your Own Garden with Yoga, by discovering the tools that can bring each of us in touch with our true nature through Yoga.
Yoga is one of the best stress busters you can find. In addition to greater strength, flexibility, and a re-sculpted body, Yoga ‘Relaxes’, ‘Calms’, ‘Centers’, and ‘Grounds’.
It leaves you with a feeling of peace and tranquility, throughout your whole being. One of the first things you will notice if you practice with care, attention, and intention, is a feeling of deep, but alert relaxation when you are finished.
Yoga offers a wide range of physical, and mental benefits. Though these are not the purpose, they are unavoidable. Yoga when used as intended, as a spiritual practice, encompasses and transcends, all of its partial possibilities.
Yoga uses the body to transform the mind, and the body is in turn, also transformed. Recalibrated. Revitalized. Harmonized. Brought to a functional peak unreachable by any amount of cross training.
Yoga improves health which in turn increases vitality, enthusiasm and appreciation of life. The increased circulation resulting from movement, and efficient muscle use, tones the whole body. The muscles, joints, internal organs, connective tissues, and skin are bathed in a continuous flow of fresh blood.
This not only brings nutrients to the cells, but helps to purify them of toxic wastes. The heat produced by the practice furthers this purification by opening the cellular tissues to enhance release of toxins.
This means the whole body is cleansed, and nourished more efficiently. This in turn optimizes not only the condition of the various parts of the body, but also their functioning.
One of the most striking signs of a seasoned hatha yogi is soft, smooth, shining skin. It is this, and the effect of overall body tone on posture, that often makes them look much younger than they are. The same vibrant quality conferred on the skin can also be seen in the eyes.
Yoga has as its practical aim, a deep self-acceptance which is based on self-knowledge, self-validation, and self-empowerment. This means that it acts as a mirror to reveal to us exactly what we are on every level of our being; Physical, Emotional, Psychological, Social, Cultural, and Spiritual.
We can then use this revelation to harmonize these different aspects of ourselves, and live our lives from the rich, integrated wholeness of our being. In short: self-love that spills out from itself into a genuine compassion for, and interest in all beings, and phenomena.
Yoga is not a religion. You are not required to believe in any God, or Gods. Nor in reincarnation, or karma. Yoga is a process that precludes the need for religion. It is a way of being. A means to clarify, and reveal the nature of reality, and human existence. Once this is underway, the need for religious guidance is unnecessary. All one needs is the practical advice of someone who knows the way.
Yoga is a philosophy which by design needs to be practiced continuously, throughout the day, week, year, and lifetime. The ability to be calm in the midst of action, and the ability to have a quiet mind in the midst of turmoil, is the mark of a true yogi.
A lotus (yogi) lives in the marsh (the material world) but is unaffected by it. But opens its beautiful petals (mind, heart, and soul) to the loving grace of the Sun (God). The lotus has petals which are unaffected by water (sense, desires) and marsh (evil) with its beautiful stem (good) indicating that both does co-exist in the material world, but without the Sun (God) the lotus (yogi) will die.
Looking for me! All our lives, we search for someone to love, someone who makes us complete. We dance to a song of heartbreak, and hope. All the time we wonder whether there is someone somewhere that is perfect. Who might be searching for us. All the while we forget to look within ourselves to rediscover the forgotten spirit, and the divine who is the embodiment of all love nature can ever provide us.