EP 18 – Danni Pomplun

Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 18 – Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga. Currently residing in San Francisco, Danni will be the lead-off yoga teacher at the Festival of Yoga in San Diego on June 17th. in conjunction with the third annual United Nations International Day of Yoga.

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These Are The Best Methods of Self-Care.

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care…

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By Breanne Fleat

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care.

There are many ways to practice self-care. It can be as simple as making time for relaxation or hobbies, or we can take a more active approach by incorporating exercise into our daily routines. Personally, I enjoy using spirituality as a method of self-care. I don’t mean this in the religious sense; for me, spirituality is something that connects me with my center, or the core of my being.

If that sounds vague or farfetched, it actually has a strong basis in reality! What I’m actually doing is building a strong foundation of support, so that I’m able to replenish my energy and keep a strong baseline of happiness throughout my days. My three favorite activities for this type of self-care are yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Yoga

Yoga doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, especially when it comes to self-care. Whether it’s a full-length class or a few poses sprinkled here and there throughout the day, yoga has a way of awakening the body, addressing postural issues and reminding ourselves to take a deep breath when we need it.

I’m a big fan of Restorative Yoga, which focuses on healing and re-energizing the body. Some of my favorite practices incorporate downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana), child’s pose (Balasana), standing forward fold (Uttanasana), and cobra (Bhujangasana).

Yoga teaches participants to relax and let things go, which is usually what first comes to mind about this practice. But it also does so much more. Yoga taught me to listen to my body and respect its limits, which in turn reminded me to be kind to myself. Yoga also showed me that I’m much stronger than I think I am – you’ll be amazed, too, when you pull off that handstand! Yoga works so well that it’s been proven to be of great use in the workplace to deal with stress and heal the aches and pains from sitting all day!

Yoga’s list of benefits is long. The regular practice of body postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama), coupled with meditation, has an almost too-long list of physiological, psychological, and biochemical effects, even when compared to normal exercise. You can check out the full list of the plus points of these practices here.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of training the mind to notice its conditioned patterns and belief systems. Surely, this is a big task, but it’s really as simple as sitting down and being quiet for five minutes. There are hundreds of meditation exercises, from silent sitting to repeating mantras to counting the breath.

As an example, a simple exercise would be to sit down in a quiet spot and close your eyes. Don’t control your breath in any way – only focus on how it moves your ribs, your chest, your shoulders, and the rest of your body. Start with just trying this for a minute, then gradually increase the time you spend on it. I find that meditation is especially helpful in managing stress and helping me relax and forget my worries.

On a broader scale, studies have proven that meditation is great for treating and helping anxiety, even after years of practicing it. In the long run, meditation also has tons of physiological benefits, including improving brain function and powering the immune system. It works so well that it’s an effective method for treating chronic pain.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings as they arise. This has a host of benefits, not the least of which is that it clears up personal confusion about our needs, beliefs and desires. Mindfulness is similar to meditation, but is meant to be practiced during the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, as opposed to being a formal scheduled practice.

We can even practice mindfulness in groups! In group settings (like a work environment), mindfulness is incredibly useful as it encourages communication, empathy, and innovation. That’s probably why it’s so good for business –mindfulness and social awareness are important for modern organizations and businesses.

Mindfulness is often considered the key to self-care, as it involves being completely present in the moment and promotes mind-body resilience. It’s great for grounding or preventing dissociation, and two separate studies have shown that it can prevent depression relapse (check them out here and here!). In addition, multiple studies have proven that mindfulness works, whether it’s by being an aid to mental health or to reduce stress and promote physical health.

It can be slow starting, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easier to keep the ball rolling and see positive effects in your life. I like to focus on maintaining a positive outlook on life and taking each day one moment at a time. It can do wonders for mental health and productivity!

There’s always time for self-care

These are three practices I do to make self-care a priority in my life.

At first it may seem like there isn’t even time in the day to fit it all in, but these practices are actually designed to increase productivity, energy level and overall health and happiness, meaning we’ll get things done faster and more efficiently. It may take a period of adjustment, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

Ultimately, I find that there’s always time for self-care.

 

BreanneBreanne Fleat is chief editor at ProteinPromo.com . Created in 2016, ProteinPromo is keen on providing readers with nutrition and wellness hints and tips to lead a happier, healthier, fitter life. Find her on:

Twitter @Protein_Promo

Instagram: @ProteinPromo

& Facebook: ProteinPromo

 

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Interviews Podcast E17: David Gandelman

David Gandelman shares his long history with meditation and inspires all to start the practice…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 17: David Gandelman shares his long history with meditation and inspires all to start the practice.

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Interviews Podcast E16: Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang

Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang shares her experience as a full time nurse and yogini.

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 16: Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang shares her experience as a full time nurse and yogini. Find her on Instagram @monkeymix and on Facebook at Dawn Sora Moore. Enjoy!

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Interviews Podcast E15: Sarah Platt-Finger

Sarah delves into Yoga, Tantra, Ishta, New York and Yoga to heal domestic violence…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 15: Sarah delves into Yoga, Tantra, Ishta, New York and Yoga to heal domestic violence.

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Interviews Podcast E14: Layla Halterman

Live your wildest dreams by making good choices…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 14: Live your wildest dreams by making good choices. A fun and inspiring interview with teen-age yoga teacher Layla Halterman

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Who am I?

I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story…

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I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story… But deep down, when I slow down, I find that I have this other ‘me’ that I can’t really touch. I know it’s there. It’s very clear and yet, indefinable… ineffable, if you will. So I ask, “What is this?:” And, “Who am I?”

If you are currently practicing yoga, you have probably already come across this dilemma. In many respects, the recognition of this inner being is central to the practice of yoga. It’s called, “discovering your ‘true’ self.” In other words, we connect with the inner, indefinable, ineffable, untouchable part that we ‘discover’ is there, nebulously, veiled, secret, dormant. Who am I?

And then amazing and numerous Self-discoveries will be made.

Star Bud

Self-discovery

All of philosophy, spiritualism and religion have within the idea of Self-discovery. In fact, each considers Self-discovery to be primus, the principle purpose of life. Some doctrines would have you attain realization vicariously by devotion to a person, other doctrines, a concept. The grand idea, however, even if it is underlying, is that YOU must do the work. It is called ‘Self’-discovery, after all.

I like to think of my inner Self as being a spark of the universal. I consider how small my vessel is compared to the cosmos. And yet, I am a part of the vast cosmos. I am within it. I am not separate from it. And I was a part of the spark, the bang, if you will, that brought the cosmos into being. Every part of what is today was contained in that first spark.

Before time, I awaited…

Since time, I have unfolded…

When time ends, I will await again. ~the Author

Man and Nature

Science Breaks Down

It’s tough to swallow an idea that can’t be explained. Our intelligence only can take us so far… then intelligence breaks down. Science breaks down. What we have left is a miracle to be recognized, and to KNOW that the entirety is a miracle. It is a ‘knowing.’ It’s faith. It’s complete confidence. It’s something you feel and experience!

The imagery of the statue of Ganesha contains a beautiful example of our ineffable, inner being and how to reconcile with our physical knowledge. Ganesha is usually depicted with one broken tusk. Symbolically, the broken tusk represents the failure of intelligence on the physical plane to explain the ineffable nature of our origin and being; we have this inner Self that we can’t explain or touch. The unbroken tusk symbolizes that only faith can transcend the gap between the physical and the inner Self. In the end our intelligence fails to explain us… but we can ‘know.’ And that ’knowing’ is the basis for realization. It’s more than belief… It’s knowing! It can bring us peace; ‘the peace which passeth all understanding.’

The following quote points to this separateness thinking that confounds our efforts to find ourselves:

“There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled `Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature,” but beavers and their dams are.”

From Starship Troopers: ~Robert Heinlein

Peace

Children of the Universe

When we recognize that we are children of the universe, when we know that we are miracles, when we know that we are not separate, we are well on our way in the discovery of our true nature, our true Self.

Because I am a part of the universe, by the definition of Unity, I always have been and I always will be… Shanti, peace.

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Interviews Podcast E13 – Leslie Kaminoff

Leslie Kaminoff discusses anatomy, yoga teaching and the future of yoga…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 13 – Author, yoga anatomy specialist, founder of The Breathing Project, Vice President of Unity in Yoga and voted into the top 100 most influential persons in yoga, Leslie Kaminoff discusses anatomy, yoga teaching and the future of yoga.

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The Yoga Poses That Relieved My Back Pain

Are you experiencing consistent pain in your lower back?…

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Are you experiencing consistent pain in your lower back? What about in your upper back? Maybe even both? Trust me, you are not alone. I was one of those people. I had a bulging disc in my lower back. Which is when one of your intervertebral discs has weakened and lost its shape. It caused me tremendous pain. I tried many treatments, but the only one that offered extended relief was yoga.

These are the poses that made the biggest impact in my recovery:

Child’s Pose

Start on all fours, with your arms reaching out in-front of you with your head down. Then, slowly sit back so your glutes are resting above your heels, but not touching your heels. Hold this position for up to 10 breaths. Repeat for a good soothing stretch.

Cat and Cow Pose 

Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Then, slowly press up your spine, arching your back into the cat pose. After 2-3 breaths in this position, slowly scoop your spine in, pressing your shoulder blades back and lifting your head into the cow pose. Hold this position for 2-3 breaths. Then, repeat this process 5-7 times. 

Legs up the Wall

Start by laying on the ground with your glutes near the wall. Slowly, start sliding your feet up the wall until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. This pose is best saved for your final pose and you will hold this pose for 5-10 minutes.

I hope these poses help you as much as they helped me. But remember, to start slowly and if you are experiencing pain stop immediately.

Jayson Goetzby Jayson Goetz

Jayson believes there are many solutions to your back pain. Having personally suffered from back pain he has tried them all. He started writing in hope of sharing his experiences with those who are looking for help.

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Removing the Cloud of Doubt

Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe…

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Conscious Breathing

Yoga teaches us that mind, body, emotion and breath are all intertwined. Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe. The good news is that it’s a two-way street. The way we breathe affects our emotional, mental and physical condition as well, so we can positively influence all three by conscious breathing. Being conscious is the key. Without conscious self-awareness, we’re powerless and at the mercy of internal and external conditions.

Of course, there are times when we gladly limit our self-awareness. Sometimes we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to turn our self-awareness off so we can mindlessly enjoy intense sensations; but we do this at great risk. Willfully subverting or disregarding our awareness can become a dangerous habit. Surprisingly, we often deal with suffering and pleasure in the same way. We willfully limit our awareness. Many use intoxicants or drugs, not only for physical and emotional pain, but for entertainment as well. We accept very limiting states of mind for the sake of intensifying or blocking sensations.

Flower Petals

We invoke mental and emotional states in much the same way, with or without the use of drugs. Self-pity, for instance, can be seen as an attempt to minimize or ‘normalize’ pain by rejecting hope and adopting a numbing concept of ‘fate.’ As an outside observer, it is easy to see how futile this approach is. It is more difficult when the process is internalized and we are observing ourselves; but the ability to be self-observant is our best defense against a host of dangers… if we know how to employ this skill.

Breathing is an autonomic function of the body. We breathe unconsciously but by becoming conscious of our breath and consciously practicing breath techniques, we can realize the great healing power of breath. The beauty of yoga is that through regular practice we grow, by a very natural and pleasant process, into greater states of self-awareness. Becoming aware of and learning to control the breath is one of the principal teachings of yoga. If you would like to explore the yogic science of conscious breath, you can follow this link to an introductory talk and some simple breath exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrAEr8EiK64#t=18. With practice, you will be able to invoke positive mental and emotional states to replace negative ones, increase your enjoyment of life and alleviate much discomfort and suffering through conscious breathing.

Building Self-Confidence

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy once wrote this about the mind, “The function of the mind (in one’s spiritual practice) is to remove the cloud of doubt.” He went on to say “We all know that the mind plays an important role in our outer life as well as in our spiritual life. Therefore, we must not disregard the mind, rather what we should do is be always conscious of the mind.” So, we need to be conscious of our own thoughts and feelings, of our habits of thinking and a variety of other personal influences as well. This is self-awareness.

Sky 2

A critical practice for the development of self-awareness is meditation. When you’re sitting quietly and breathing calmly, you become aware of your mind’s movements and the factors that influence it. But don’t try to control your thoughts or stop thinking, just put a little distance between yourself and your thought processes. Being able to look at your thoughts objectively is a big first step toward deeper self-awareness. Regular meditation and conscious breathing will enable you to remove what Sri Chinmoy calls, “the cloud of doubt” from your life.

What is doubt? If we examine the word, we see that the word ‘doubt,’ like ‘darkness,’ refers to an absence of something rather than to a thing in itself. Darkness is the absence of light. Doubt is the absence of self-confidence or faith. Sri Chinmoy used to say faith in God and faith in oneself is the same faith. You cannot have faith in God if you lack confidence in yourself. To have faith in the meaning of your life is to have faith in God, regardless of how your mind defines or denies, perceives or fails to perceive, ‘God.’

Our life problem is not to discern between systems of belief, but to establish a deep and abiding confidence in ourselves. Faith-confidence nourishes and empowers; doubt starves and debilitates. Thus, Sri Chinmoy says the true purpose of the mind (like every other organ) is to strengthen and support the life force within us. The mind does this by removing self-doubt from our life.

One of the best health practices for the mind is allow it to relax and become quiet for brief periods of time. Hours of sleep do not provide all the rest the brain needs. The brain never attains a deep state of quietude in sleep. In skilled practitioners, a few minutes of meditation can do what hours of sleep cannot – deeply relax and refresh the mind. Unlike sleep, meditation requires practice but once this discipline has been established, we will realize the many benefits that come from regular meditation. One benefit will be the growth of self-knowledge and self-confidence as the ‘cloud of doubt’ is gradually removed from our lives.

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How to Deal with Irritability

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness…

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“True happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body.” — Sri Aurobindo

Harmony for the Whole Being

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness, a psyche or heart consciousness, a mind consciousness and a soul consciousness. Recognizing these components of oneself can be very useful in our spiritual journey. One such time is when we feel the need to manage our inner life. By ‘managing’ I mean moderating or controlling thoughts, emotions and habitual behavior. A good way to approach the problem of negative habits is to ask ourselves from what consciousness does it arise? We may discover more than one consciousness is involved. For instance, irritability may arise in the physical consciousness due to discomfort of the body, in the vital consciousness due to repressed or over used energies, in the heart due to emotional failings or disappointments, or in the mind because of mental confusion. In the case of irritability, one place we can be sure it does not arise is in the soul consciousness, for the soul is that clear and flawless perception that is beyond human disturbances. It is the soul that recognizes a disturbance as something that needs correcting.

Floral Still

The Body

If we can identify the source of our irritability we can begin to effectively deal with it. Let us begin with the body consciousness. A common cause of irritability in the body is lethargy. The body is naturally lethargic, and when our lethargy is disturbed irritation arises. The way to control this common problem is to keep the body energized by regular exercise and a variety of different activities. That will minimize stagnation and lethargy in the body consciousness. A regular yoga practice can stabilize and bring a very peaceful and harmonious energy to the body consciousness.

The Vital

Exercise also keeps the vital consciousness fresh and flowing in a positive manner. The vital has a profound influence on both our physical and mental health. Recent research has shown that vigorous exercise may be the most effective medicine known to man, as it prevents or corrects a host of health issues. Exercise neutralizes anger, depression, and other negative energies that send the vital into a downward spiral, where frustration and irritability will be the inevitable result. It is important to understand that irritability is not always the result of outer causes. Vital stagnation and irritation can easily be caused by negative thoughts and emotions or by any unhealthy practice that has become habitual. 

Abstract

The Heart

As our vital energy goes, so goes our heart and mind, for they are closely tied to vital influences. The heart may faire a bit better than the mind under a negative influence, for the heart consciousness is more closely connected to the soul. It has an all-important counter-balance to disturbances arising in the lower nature. Still, the heart is not immune to negative influences. To be happy and in communion with others are fundamental desires of the heart. Self-giving is the essence of the heart consciousness. When we give of ourselves to others for the benefit of others, without expectation for self-gain, the heart is both gladdened and strengthened. The heart requires no elaborate medications or procedures, the simplest every day acts are what matter most to the heart.

The Mind

Sri Aurobindo referred to ‘vital-mind’ as the prevailing consciousness of our age. If we look at modern culture, we see ambition and desire gratification framed as the reward for being ‘smart.’ ‘Wisdom’ rarely enters the conversation, as the heart has been bypassed and almost forgotten in the ethic of our age. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, is a tragic mistake that could become fatal for the human race. Wisdom is a function of heart and mind in balance and working together. Ambition and desire are to the mind like sugar to a child. Unfortunately a heartless intelligence lacks both balance and wisdom. The vital-mind consciousness does not want to believe that true life satisfaction requires the mind to be in the service of the heart. To use ones intelligence in the service of selfless love and compassion is the best medicine for the mind. Another is to learn meditation. Meditation puts the vital-mind connection on hold and gives relief from the constant demands and expectations of the vital-mind consciousness. It brings a deeper and wiser perspective to our life.

The Soul

The soul consciousness is pervasive throughout the body, vital, mind and heart, but ironically it is imperceptible to physical awareness. So intangible is the soul, it is sometimes thought of as a ‘witness’ rather than a participant in our life. Spiritual masters, however, have assured us the soul can be realized and that it is the true and proper guide for our being. Even if soul awareness is for the moment beyond our ability, we can increase our awareness of the other four levels of consciousness and we can cultivate health and happiness through that awareness. Proper maintenance of body, vital, heart and mind are as essential to our happiness as happiness is to knowledge of the soul.

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Invocation: Call it Forth

Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world…

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Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world, our lives, we must become what we want.

What is an invocation? What does it mean: to invoke? All spiritual traditions have invocation in their practices. How can the act of invocation deepen our spiritual practice and bring more joy and happiness into our lives?

As a Kirtan practitioner we recite, invoke the divine names, set to music. Through this invocation practice we replace the clutter of random mind chatter with a singular thought, a divine thought. We bring our attention and concentration to that thought. Yet at this level of invocation there is still a sense of separation between us and that which we are invoking. The next step is an actual merging with that divinity. We become that. Like a drop of rain falling into the ocean of singularity, we are our invocation. This type of becoming is central to deepening our practices and also in actually manifesting what we want in our lives.

If we want more love… practical applications:

If we want more love in our lives, we must first become more loving. We must manifest that desired quality from within. We must show more love to ourselves… first. If we want more peace in our lives, we must first find more peace in ourselves. If we want more affection, we must become more affectionate… first. It really doesn’t work the other way around. It can’t be demanded. These divine ‘heart qualities’ do not come from outside of us. We can’t buy them. They are within our hearts and are longing to come forth. Invoke them.

“…In My Name.”

In the Bible, Jesus uses the expression, “…in My Name,” many times. Pray in My Name. Gather in My Name, etc. What does He mean by that expression? I believe He means for us to invoke His spirit and become as He became.

The dictionary defines invocation as a calling upon of some agent for assistance. We can expand that definition more spiritually by saying that an invocation is to seek greater connection to the divine: to become One, to merge.

tom_08

What would Jesus do?

(This phrase has been used rather commercially by Christian variants but the underlying essence of the question is sound.)

I often ask myself this contemplative, self-reflective question. It helps me to deepen my awareness.

How would Jesus pray or meditate if He were I, in my given situation? Consider this! What would be his thoughts were my immediate circumstances His? I challenge myself to pray as if I am Jesus. I try to meditate with His knowledge, His understanding, His discernment, His compassion and love, His closeness… I pray as I feel He would pray. I try to absorb His perspective. This is what I believe is meant by His expression, “…in My Name.” I invoke the spirit of Jesus to guide me in my meditation of becoming. I try to become Christ-like.

So, when we invoke, the ideal is to become that which we invoke. We can invoke the Supreme or an aspect thereof. We become a divine trait.

Wikipedia categorizes invocation with ‘Self-identification,’ “…the taking on of the qualities being invoked.” Webster’s defines it like empathy; “The feeling that you share and understand the problems or experiences of someone else,” in our case, the Divine. Self-realization might be a more familiar term.

Invocation is also described as a form of possession, where (perhaps) psychologically one’s personality is replaced with that which is invoked. I like to think of this more as a merging, a union, rather than a replacing. Nothing can be replaced, where one thing no longer exists. We transform into our invocation. We reunite with the Whole.

Invocation calls up from within ones-self that which is already there, veiled as it were, the subject of our invocation. Our meditations are designed to thin or strip away the veils of maya, forgetfulness, our delusions so that we can develop a rapport with our invocation, or perhaps ultimately an oneness, a lasting Oneness… we become One in the Name.

We can take our meditations another leap forward by becoming the nature of our invocations.

Happy meditating!

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Devotion and our Existence

When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion…

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When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion to our Creator. Devotion might be the supreme aspect of our meditation practice. There’s a longing. We want to experience our existence fully. We work towards a Oneness. We strive devotedly, lovingly, longingly to be nearer to our Creator.

Creator is an ineffable concept. So each of us will consider the concept in our own way. But just like a parent/child relationship, we have a child relationship to that Creator. And we want that relationship, even if we don’t realize it. We want that love. We long for it.

Devote yourself to your practice

As I have said before, I practice (meditate) first thing in the morning. In my first waking moments my thoughts are of my practice. I’m drawn to it. I want that closeness; I build and nurture that relationship out of love for my life, my experience and my place in the grander scheme. I devote my practice to my loving Parent. I give thanks. I grow love.

Life is a miracle!

Devotion to this concept is perhaps only possible when we set aside our limited physical selves and recognize our relationship in the bigger picture. We are a part of Creation. We are able to view the past and see into the future more precisely than at any time in recorded history. And yet we often feel an emptiness with this greater knowledge. It seems that the deeper we explore our physicality, the further we move away from our true source.

Tom

Consider sitting quietly with your beloved, just holding each other. No other intentions or activities; just BEING together, becoming as one. Consider wanting that closeness daily, being fully in love, without reservation, without expectation, without condition, completely absorbed in the devotion. Now, consider that relationship experience with your beloved Creator. We have to make this happen. We must sit together, wrapped in each-others arms… Our separateness conditioning continually turns our attentions away from our true oneness-self. Devotion, love takes resolve. It requires practice. It’s easy to be separate…

Uncertainty?

Consider the very nature of the universe.

There is a concept in physics called the ‘uncertainty principle.’ Simply put, it means that when you observe something in motion (everything is in motion), the more closely you observe the objects position, the less you will know about the objects speed and visa versa. But you can never know exactly both.

The science behind the concept is deep and permeates the entirety of physics. Philosophically speaking, the idea can relate to our concept of duality. Despite the advance of our instruments and our ability to closely observe, we still have no cut and dry explanation of the nature of our universe or why we are in it. There is an uncertainty. It might be said that the universe both is and isn’t. It seems to me that the more closely we observe the universe, rather than disproving Creator, Creator simply gets bigger. Love grows!

Uniting the dual qualities is a fantastic spiritual (and mental) challenge. On a physical science basis I will never understand the math. But I can relate to the concept. We are separate from AND also connected to our Creator. Devote yourself to the recognition of this miracle-Oneness. Devote yourself to your practice. Develop certainty.

Check the schedule for Meditation, Kirtan, Mindfulness and Pranayama classes offered each week at Pilgrimage of the Heart.

Join me at Kirtan on Thursday’s at 8:30pm

Tom

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The Master Key

It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact…

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It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact, ninety-nine times out of a hundred it might be regarded as a fool’s statement, akin to claiming enlightenment. It seems ridiculous that someone might have the Master Key to the ineffable.

I found such a claim to The Master Key

It comes from what I consider to be a reliable and well-considered source, Manly P. Hall.

Our task as yogis, as humans, is to put effort into mindful consideration. We meditate. We slow our busy, frantic activities in our outer world and delve into our inner world. We seek our place in the universe. As we progress, we recognize the concepts of Unity and diversity of Principles and particulars, of Generals and personalities. And this is key: we begin to realize that men come and go, live and die… but Man, the Principle continue in the universe and even beyond, by evidence of Man’s presence here and now as a part of eternity. Eternity is wholeness. We always were and we always will be.

Mistaking particulars as Principles

We have great tendency to equate or elevate particulars to the status of Principles, a fallacy. Religion is an obvious example. Each claims supremacy over the others and yet each teaches the same thing. St. Paul understood it perfectly: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect (Unity) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Cor. XIII: 9-10) The Christian church would have that ultimate unification of mankind under it’s own banner, unmindful that it is itself a particular, and can only be sustained until “that which is perfect is come.” Unity, Wholeness is without parts.

Manly P. Hall

What is the Master Key, then?

The key is the aligning of our consciousness, by establishing our mind in wholes, in unities, rather than particulars. This is The Master Key!

“…the establishment of the mind in wholes (unities) is essential to right thinking, and is the master key to the rational cognizance of the order and sequence of parts…” — Manly P. Hall

As long as man considers himself an individual, he is mortal. The key is the mindful consideration of Unity.

Excerpted quotations from the volume, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, Chapter 12, by Manly P. Hall.

I highly recommend the above book and also Hall’s marvelous volume, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, published by The Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles.

Check the schedule for times and locations of meditation, philosophy, mindfulness, pranayama and Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.

 

 

 

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Taking Risks: How A Good Support System Allowed Me To Open My Own Yoga Business

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)…

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by Brentan Schellenbach

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)

From the moment I walked in the doors I always felt at home. I quickly fell in love with every yoga class and every teacher. I absorbed with fascination everything my teacher training mentors brought me. I started meditating with Sujantra, going to philosophy class and joined the kirtan band (aka yoga music) on Thursday nights. It was yoga studio heaven for me.

The Big Move

But alas, I was 22 and adventure was calling—it was time for me to go beyond my comfort zone and move to Chicago.

When I moved, I was eager to explore the yoga studios and find what I expected to be POTH equivalents in the Midwest.

By my third year living in the city, I was working as a yoga teacher full time—teaching 25 weekly classes at nine different locations around the city. Some studios had massive infrastructure and were well-oiled machines, others were smaller boutique studios run by a one-man-band owner-manager-lead teacher.

But there was still no Pilgrimage. Now I’m sure many students have found their yoga home in Chicago—their cherished studio that claims all their love and loyalty and affection—but it just wasn’t there for me.

But what was I to do? I had already invested three years in Chicago building relationships with students and studios, and I was finally paying my bills with money I earned teaching yoga.

Additionally, I had a wonderful musical partner named Oli, who I met as a surrogate for Sujantra’s kirtan band that I was missing in San Diego. Not only had he and I written and recorded our own kirtan album, but we had also fallen in love—a love that was founded on self-inquiry, creative expression and philosophical pondering.

Me and Oli

Me and Oli, one of our many dinner-time toasts after a long day of one of our many projects.

Shortly after Oli and I started our romantic relationship, he started coming with me to my evening classes. Sometimes we would stay after class with students deep in conversation about yoga and life and God. But there was still a sense that something was missing—a community, a home, a family. We wanted something more than the fragmented moments before and after yoga class—we wanted friends and teachers who infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

Fermata Yoga Center

This is why we opened our own yoga studio in Chicago.

As first-time business owners, we had a lot to learn. We recruited all the help we could find, including Sujantra, who helped us remotely establish our metrics for evaluation and success. We learned the simplest of things, like what it means to rent space commercially, or develop a relationship as a business entity with other businesses. We learned about balancing our creative ambitions with the needs of the market, how to advertise, how to represent the business publicly.

In a lot of ways, Fermata Yoga Center was a success. After two years we were on a steady upward sales trajectory (and en-route to make a profit in our third year), our word-of-mouth had kicked in and was yielding new students every day, and our operational processes were running smoothly.

But there were still a few problems. Neither of us had really grown to love the city—we had tried even to the point of opening our own business, but it still didn’t feel like home. We were also meeting many traveling yoga students at the studio from all over the country who confided, “If only your studio was in my town, I would come everyday.”

Saturday morning live-music class

Saturday morning live-music class at the studio. Oli played ambient guitar and his looping machine while I taught a slow flow class. Our most popular class on the schedule by far!

We felt so silly owning a business in a place we didn’t really want to live and only be able to offer our services to those who magically lived in a four-mile radius from the studio.

We had some big decisions to make.

After two years, we decided to close the studio. The heartbreak was palpable for everyone involved, but we wanted to move back to California (closer to what I still consider my home). We also wanted to move our business online so that budget, time and distance was no longer a factor in whether people could practice with us.

And that’s where we are now.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We just launched the new leg of our business, called Yoga In Your Living Room, which is an online yoga platform that brings high-quality yoga into students’ homes. The site features a Free Videos section, updated regularly, which is full of diverse content. It also features an annual membership that unlocks what we call Premium Videos, which are specialized classes filmed on location that target more specific body and mind goals. And because we know how important it is for students to feel listened to and connected to their yoga teachers and each other, we’ve incorporated multiple communication platforms in the site (blog, commenting, social media) for friendships to emerge and flourish.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We are excited to offer this to our Chicago students as an extension of the yoga studio they fell in love with and to grow our client base all over the world. We’re looking forward to offering more diverse products like teacher trainings; retreats; clinical yoga programs for depression, anxiety, PTSD; and meditational therapies.

Most of all we are excited to be home in California, to settle our roots and be present for the ever-changing Now.

I am so thankful for my unparalleled education at Pilgrimage of the Heart, which inspires me to keep practicing, learning and growing as a yoga teacher and student. And I’m also thankful for the community—for Sujantra, Nikole, Linda and all the staff and students—this is the support that makes me feel comfortable taking risks, becoming independent and walking my own sometimes terrifying path in life.

I am blessed and I am home.

Brentan

 

 

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Soften and Enjoy

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for…

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by Courtney Yezzi

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for the benefit of all beings. The effort, thought and energy we put into our practice first creates a positive impact on our life force and then goes out into the universe to create a positive impact on the world around us. Isn’t that amazing concept!?

Up the Vibration

If this is the case wouldn’t we want to practice next to the most positive, fluid thinking, relaxed, intelligent yogis in the room to catch that vibe first? Wouldn’t we want to be those yogis who exude life force energy and a peacefulness that UP’s the vibration in the room? Sure we all would and we all do want that for ourselves and want that for others. So how? Simply, let go and receive.

Relax and Receive

One thing I emphasis in my classes to help get into that flow state of UPing the vibe and generating positive life force is to soften. So many students come into the yoga room with very serious faces or rigid bodies ready for a good workout or to beat their overactive minds into submission for an hour. That tension and mindset can be palpable to others in the room and for sure is palpable to the formless spirit inside. When students are taking themselves too seriously in class I will ask that we all take a satisfying breath in and soften the outer form so the formlessness inside can start to move and enjoy itself. To allow the magical and medicinal properties of the asana practice to take over and move through us all. To allow the over tight, overworked and unnecessary tensors to relax and receive the potency of the practice.

Let Go

Many more of the magical benefits of asana will show up for us when we let go stop taking ourselves so seriously and soften ourselves to happiness and even silliness at times so energy can flow through us with ease. As much as asana is about concentration and meditation it is about enjoying to the fullest capacity the time you have set aside to befriend yourself and learn yourself anew. This is one way we can up our vibration and send it out into the world.

 

Courtney YezziCourtney Yezzi has taught at Pilgrimage since 2008. She teaches the full array of classes from our power classes to our gentle classes. She understands yoga as a tool on the great journey to self-awakening. Courtney is an inspired yogi who is constantly focusing on sharing her highest with her students.

“To my shining spirit and the shining spirits of others who I will meet on this path. May our hearts beat joyfully together as we journey forward.”

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Simple Living, Through Simple Wakefulness

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing…

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by Greg Steorts

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing. Those among us who find it to be a generally easy thing to bounce out of bed like an energized toddler on Christmas morning, might be in the minority. But the form of ‘wakefulness’ this essay is about, is not actually the sort I reference above, though the above example serves as a fitting metaphor for the brand of wakefulness I’ll address here. ‘Wakefulness’ as I intend to mean it here, is being defined as a product or result of employing one’s own capacity for calm critical thinking, mindful observation and one’s own capacity to simply feel. While these may at first sound like simple things, a great many of us have allowed these capacities to atrophy in ourselves, to one degree or another, and I propose that modern culture in the developed world has become a key factor in the facilitating of our inability these days to simply stop and take occasional conscious notice of the otherwise unbroken chain of moments of which our lives are comprised.

Little Room for Individual Interpretation

We have become, in a very real sense, products of the culture in which we live; where dominant social and environmental prompts shape our general responses to the stimuli around us. The official definitions of things and how we’re ‘supposed’ to relate to them, is so often laid out for us in bold type and prominent voice, leaving little room for individual interpretation; at least the sort that might be granted mainstream credibility. Media input offers itself as a prime example of this. It masterfully short-circuits the individual’s own inclination to draw their own conclusions, both boldly and subtly laying-out the parameters within which the subject, article or position is being slickly sold to us. Culture’s architects, (e.g. Madison Avenue, all facets of mainstream media; peddlers of information, social memes and pop entertainments, et al), are best served by a populace that unquestioningly partakes of, and assimilates its manufactured concepts and wares with little to no consideration as to both the overtly and passively inferred philosophies or positions within which they are framed. Culture’s main thrust, after all, is to encourage us to climb onboard the ‘ride du jour,’ whatever it may be, for this is what keeps the wheels of industry rolling.

Disdain of Culture’s Offered Trends

The space of wakefulness I refer to here, and the appreciation for the simplicity it can ultimately spawn, is not one that requires any disdain of culture’s offered trends, products or promoted philosophies, but rather only the presence of mind to simply allow one’s conscious awareness in relationship to them, to reside within the deepest recesses of their own moment-to-moment space of feeling, independent of culture’s peddled stimuli, medications, and all manner of distractions and ‘anesthesias’ (figurative and literal) which serve to pull us away from our own sense of self within the hive society. The ‘simplicity through wakefulness’ I’m speaking of here, is one achieved by the act of simply being willing to unplug occasionally (or better yet, regularly) from culture’s ceaseless flow of stimulus, long enough to allow oneself to truly feel whatever it is that may lie beneath the stratums of content culture so eagerly fills our minds and heart space with. For many of us, even the notion of a ‘heart space’ may ring as something too esoteric to be meaningful, so long have we been disconnected from it by our longstanding immersions into the sensory stimulations to which I refer. The ceaseless and torrential flow of input has become a boisterous child that will not be ignored, we its negligent and enabling parents. Living in the ‘information age,’ as we now do, with technology and its devices serving as the virtual hub upon which our day-to-day lives spin, it has effectively served to dislocate us from a more visceral, human-to-human connection, from our own sense of individualism, as well as a lack of connection to oneself.

Meditators

Sitting Quietly with Do Distractions

No doubt about it, it is not fun to feel uncomfortable emotions, and it is always an easy thing to bury a low-current hum of discomfort with the distraction of a movie, a phone call, a video game, or to check-in with our online social network of choice to see how many people ‘like’ us. Sitting quietly with no distractions has become an alien concept for us, and the notion of simplicity too has become a thing of virtually no relevance. The rapid-fire images of TV programming, commercials and film content, have entrained our minds to overlook, even shun, the simple and uncomplicated, in favor of that which grabs attention with authority. It has become all too easy to look right past open spaces and the relevance of calm reflection. Take notice of how every television commercial and program utilizes an almost universal presentational format; a rapid-fire-flow of incessantly-shifting images. Gone is the camera’s lingering gaze upon the talking head or scenery. Instead we are confronted with flash-fire images that linger for no more than a second or two, and then make way for the next, and the next,… this is nothing less than mental entrainment, teaching us to expect and tolerate only quick sound bytes and millisecond images, to forego focused and prolonged attention on anything or anyone.

Instant Gratification and Perpetual Stimulus Now

We seek instant gratification and perpetual stimulus now, and if we have to spend even a few moments with ourselves and our deeper undercurrent of emotions in a space of quiet, it is considered a nearly intolerable thing, though few bother to articulate this, for to do so would require the lost mindfulness I here refer to. What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have our phone screens to gaze into while standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, or wandering a shopping mall, or riding an elevator? We’ve allowed ourselves to become trained to loathe a calm space of mind. I can palpably feel the cashier’s frustration in the air, as he or she is forced to stall their own motion and wait for me to count out my change, preferring instead to simply add more to my already burdening collection of coinage and have me move on so that they may serve the next in line.

Mind you, I don’t speak as one completely liberated from a state of impatience, for I feel it on the road when I am driving; too frequently hostile to the notion of simply being patient with the person ahead of me who I deem ‘too slow’ in the executing of their turn. I know what it’s like to feel in a hurry for no good reason, to feel those uncomfortable feelings of an unspecified nature and want to cover them over with a moment’s distraction. But I have grown even more uncomfortable with the frenetic vibration our culture imposes upon us as a fact of life now, and I clearly recognize the dissonance this flood of sensory stimuli is causing us in our ability to simple be, without doing, to actually listen to the person who is talking to us, rather than merely prepping our next words in our minds as they speak.

Plant Light

The Regular Practice of Meditation

I’ve taken to the regular practice of meditation over the last few months, and in so doing have gained a stark awareness of the connection between an endlessly whirring mind and the emotional state of dis-ease to which it gives birth. I have come to appreciate the spaces in between the stimuli, the capacity to become present to the silence in which all noise resides; that universal context within which all of life unfolds.
Take a moment and truly listen to it, deeply. You might have to search at first, but it is there. Can you hear it? You will recognize it because it has its own sound; not dissimilar to the super ultra-high-pitched tonal frequency heard in those hearing tests we’ve taken. Now become aware of your breathing, allowing yourself as you do, to get in touch with the feeling within your own body; it’s aches and pains, its fatigue and weight, its pockets of stress or muscular constriction and where they reside in your physicality. Keep breathing as you explore it; deeply, slowly. Just observe the incessant flow of random thoughts parading through your mind as you do this, but just let them all pass by, without clinging to any of them. Now feel your emotional space. If you had to articulate where in your body its epicenter resides, where would you point to? Are you feeling relaxed, or is there a current of anxiety there? Breathe as you feel this. Allow yourself to truly feel your inner space of being. Let whatever is there move through you with your every breathe, taking conscious note of what it is like to feel. I promise, it won’t destroy you. In fact, it will relax you, and it will release you from the grip of stress if you do allow yourself to feel it. Practice this regularly, and you will notice your points of focus and priorities start to shift, in both subtle and profound ways. You will become aware of how certain stimulus informs your emotional state, and if you remain committed to exploring those inner spaces of thought, feeling and emotion, you will regain your appreciation of calm space and simplicity again, and you will learn to appreciate your own individual sense of self that’s likely been buried beneath the vibratory resonance of the ‘bee hive’ – that virtually incessant voice of modern culture. What I am inviting you to here, is a process of exploration, not a singular event. So be patient with it, and remember; none of culture’s stimulus is going with you when you depart this world, but it’s possible that your sense of self just might.

G.

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It…

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It. Bhakti is one of the four major aspects of the yoga path, the others being Jhana spiritual self-study, Karma, the yoga of (selfless) service, and Raja or Royal Yoga the mystical reunion with the Creator thru meditation practices and lifestyle. All are paths to enlightenment (see the Bhagavad Gita (I personally recommend the Arnold translation). These four traditions have each their own chapters. Any or all of these paths are available to the practitioner.

Pilgrimage Audience

Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Kirtan is a legitimate and valid part of the Bhakti tradition. It is a chanting, devotional practice centered around the singing of the Names of the Creator. As a practice it reminds us of our origin and ‘Maker.’ The distractions of our lives often will veer us away from higher truth and firmly root us in a purely physical mindset. Kirtan elevates us to the more spiritual realm as we sing and chant devotions to our Creator. It reminds and motivates us to look more frequently at the subtleties of our existence. It’s truly an avenue to a higher mindset.

I’ve looked at the demographic of our Kirtan practice. I find it interesting that most of our participants do not practice yoga (Hatha, Asana, etc.) nor are they members of the Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio. We have attracted a large following from outside, some of who have been attending regularly for years, which to me is fantastic. I am inspired by the high level of awareness of our participants and I am committed to bringing relevance and meaning to our practice for them.

But I also find it interesting that we draw less that 1% of the members of our studio to our Kirtan practice on any given week. That’s a little troubling. Not that I am complaining… our Kirtan is in the top 10% of all classes attended at Pilgrimage and has been for years! I just wonder why our members don’t take greater advantage of this incredible offering.

A few years ago an anonymous, lovely soul posted this comment about her first Kirtan experience. It brings a tear of joy to my eyes that we can bring such a joyous and meaningful experience to someone from our humble practice. Truly, my hope is to have Kirtan generate this type of experience for all who attend, every week. So I repost this in hopes that I might motivate our members to join with us. We want you. We need you. We are here for you! Kirtan is a heart-opening experience… and an eye-opener, too. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts!

Join us on Thursdays at 8:30pm in the East Room.

“I will never forget my first week at Pilgrimage of the Heart. I was immersing myself in yoga – I took a week off work and had a “stay-cation”. . . practiced 2-3 times a day, meditated, hiked; basically created my own little yoga retreat on the cheap. Of course I had to try out the Thursday night yoga philosophy class and musical meditation double header. What I learned that night has been a foundation for many of the decisions I have made over the past two years.

I couldn’t even tell you exactly what ancient text we were reading from in the philosophy discussion. However, the main point being made was this . . . Life (or the universe, or God — put in your entity of choice) will ALWAYS give you what you ask for. However, many times it will be presented to you in a way you don’t recognize at first, and often in a form which is scary. So, do you run away from what you want because it scares you, or do you accept what life/the universe/God is offering?

This idea stuck with me as I shuffled my way into the east room for music meditation. I was expecting an hour of gentle music as I breathed in inner silence. Ha! Instead, I got an hour of chanting. Drums, harmoniums, a guitar? It was fantastic. And kind of weird. A whole room full of people shaking noisemakers and chanting “Hare Krishna!” This was pretty far outside my comfort zone. I mean, come on. . . what would all the non-yoga people in my life think if they saw me now? And then it hit me. I had been looking for a place to sing for a long time. I love to sing. I mean, this is a love the runs deep to the core of my being. It’s a visceral love that I’ve felt my whole life. For a while I had toyed with the idea of joining a church choir, even though I don’t follow any particular religion, just to sing with a group. And there I was. Singing with a group. I felt a joy I hadn’t experienced in years. And it was scary.

I almost cried when I realized how immediately this lesson was being presented to me. It was a big moment. I decided then and there that I would keep going to music meditation. I have to keep singing, and I also have to investigate why I was so scared of such an amazing group of people. Why was I so concerned with what others thought? Where had I picked up all of these judgments, and why the heck would I keep holding on to them?

That lesson has come back to me many times, guiding me to make decisions that have clearly changed my life. Each time I actively choose to take what life has to offer, no matter what it looks like, I find myself deeply grateful for the way things unfold. It’s funny how sometimes we think life just isn’t working out the way we want it to, but it always seems to end up exactly how it should be.”

— Author unknown

 

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The Diaphragm: A Link the Conscious and the Subconscious

Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness…

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Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness and control of this subtle correspondence. This exercise can be utilized during a variety of meditation practices.

Here is another link in the chain.

 Consider the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a muscle and a membrane, which separates the lower abdominal region of our bodies (intestines, kidneys, liver, etc.) from the upper thoracic region, the area with our heart and lungs. The diaphragm is the main motor mechanism of the breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

Simply, when we inhale the diaphragm moves downward, decreasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside air pressure. It creates a vacuum: air rushes in.

When we exhale the diaphragm moves upward, putting pressure on the lungs; increasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside. Air rushes out.

And so, as you know, our subconscious, autonomics control the diaphragm… mostly. When we control our breathing through our practices we are consciously taking control of our subconscious diaphragm. The idea is to be able to recognize and feel the diaphragm as the mechanism you are controlling.

yoga_breath_lg

 

Everything you do with your breath centers around the diaphragm.

And to me, here’s the cool part: When we consciously recognize the diaphragm as we meditate and control it, the diaphragm becomes a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious: a very powerful meditation! It’s like having one foot in each world.

Sit and breathe. Feel your heartbeat. Then add the diaphragm link. Connect your conscious and subconscious. This creates an atmosphere of mindfulness which permeates into your overall life experience. And that’s what we want: More mindful, more of the time.

Sit down. Be still. Take a deep breath and feel your diaphragm descend!

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happy breath, one and all!

Tom

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Interviews Podcast E12: Amy Rollo

Amy Rollo talks about her adventures in Southeast Asia and explores the role of social media in yoga…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 12: Amy Rollo talks about her adventures in Southeast Asia and explores the role of social media in yoga.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 3

Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well…

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The Yoga Dana Foundation

Sujantra: Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well.

Let’s talk about your foundation. We’ve graduated about 150 yoga teachers from our studio here in San Diego and for me, it’s so inspiring to see people excited and inspired to teach in studios or to take their teaching out into the world. We have a recent graduate who has MS and she teaches yoga to MS patients. You have the Dana Foundation. Can you tell us about that?

Yoga Dana

Richard: We started out as the California Yoga Teachers Association, a non-profit organization that owned Yoga Journal. The Board of Directors had a hand in running the magazine. Eventually Yoga Journal got into a little bit of financial trouble so we sold it to a man named John Abbott, who was the white knight in shining armor that came in and saved Yoga Journal. He’s done quite a nice job over the years to build it up while keeping it true to the yoga tradition. Then he sold it. The California Yoga Teachers Association had kept a percentage of Yoga Journal so when John sold it we would get some money as well. We invested that money and we now have money to give away every year. The IRS tells us we have to give this money away. We have an application on our website for towns in the Bay Area. We’ve given money to cerebral palsy center and the Piedmont yoga community, the organization that supports teaching to disabled students and cancer survivors, we’re giving money to a gentleman that works at San Quentin prison to teach yoga there, and a Parkinson’s yoga class that I used to teach but have since turned it over to a friend. We’re supporting teachers who teach in prisons, jails, low-income, homeless, disabled, abused teenagers, you name it and we’ve given money to these organizations.

PYO

Sujantra: Wow, that sounds like fantastic work and you’re touching thousands of people a year.

Richard: I don’t know about thousands, but certainly hundreds! The teachers go out and work with a number of community health centers, elementary schools. We have a program that is teaching yoga in San Francisco high schools.

Sujantra: Congratulations, that’s amazing.

Richard: We’ve been doing this for over ten years and we’ve given away over $1 million.

Sujantra: That’s what the world needs more of.

Richard: We were talking in our last meeting about trying to find ways to promote this movement and make it more nationwide. Modern yoga, which is very different than old yoga, is very inclusive. Old yoga was very exclusive. Our goal is to bring in as many people as we can no matter their physical state or financial situation.

Happy Yogis

They All Go Home a Little Happier

Sujantra: You mention the whole range of underserved populations, yet they are all benefitting from the practice of yoga. How can yoga help someone who is homeless, imprisoned?

Richard: It’s different benefits for different groups, I’d say. For instance, people with Parkinson’s, yoga helps alleviate the symptoms. It’s not a cure-all for Parkinson’s but they all go home a little happier than when they came in. People in prisons or juvenile hall they learn to deal with their emotions a little bit better. Some of the people in health centers do benefit from some of the health benefits of yoga so it really depends on what the population is.

Sujantra: One of the things I notice here at our studio is watching the students who have been coming for a month or two and you can observe their breathing is calmer, their posture is better and that just flows into any problems they’re dealing with. It sounds like you were right there at the ground floor when Yoga Journal was happening.

The Potential of Yoga

Richard: Yoga Journal was started in 1975 by my friend, Judith Lasater. I came on the board of California Yoga Teachers Association in 1990 so I wasn’t exactly on the ground floor.

Sujantra: Okay. But you’ve seen the growth of yoga and I’m wondering what you see happening in yoga over the next ten or fifteen or twenty years. What do you think the potential is?

Richard: The potential is enormous but it depends on how the people of this country direct it. I think there are two streams. There’s an exercise stream which is perfectly fine, I have no objection to that. It just makes people healthier physically which has a precedent in traditional yoga. There’s a text saying that if you do this practice your hair will be black again, your belly will be flat, you’ll…

Sujantra: Be as strong as an elephant.

Elephant

By Mister-E (Angry elephant ears) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard: Right. I don’t remember which book it’s in but it states that if you look like Kama and you’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex. (Laughs.) That didn’t work with me, but…(laughs). Hopefully there’s another stream that I see with people becoming more. The yoga in this country is in its early stages. We usually credit Vivekananda for bringing yoga to this country in 1893 but that’s just not really true. He brought a form of meditation. Hatha Yoga didn’t really come and get established until the late 1940s when Indra Devi came and opened a studio in Hollywood. So basically, we’ve had yoga in this country for 60-70 years which in relation to the 2500 years in India, it’s a blink of an eye.   We are the yoga babies right now lying in our crib wiggling our fingers and toes. The people who are teachers now, and the students who are coming through these yoga trainings, have a huge responsibility and will to a large extent help determine the course of yoga in this country and in the West. We will have to see what they do. Hatha Yoga is incomplete right now. It had to be altered in certain ways to make it more accessible to a mass audience and I think there are some things that are missing in the practice that need to be added to it to make it a more transformative practice. What those things are, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s something that everybody that’s becoming a teacher right now needs to think about.

Sujantra: One thing I see in our teachers is how they incorporate meditation, pranayama, the yamas and the niyamas in their own classes. Even when people are just coming for the purely physical. The student body is becoming more aware of the other dimensions.

Richard: I hope to say one thing that the yoga sutras is such a widely read book that there is a misconception that there are only five yamas. There are actually thirty or forty yamas, including compassion and bravery and things like that. I think there should be a greater awareness of those other yamas more than just truthfulness and non-harming.

Yoga FAQs

Sujantra: You’re working on a new book, “Yoga FAQs.” Is that something you’re going to touch on?

Richard: I’m really feeling bad about taking so long to complete this book. (Chuckles.) I’ve given Shambhala every opportunity to dump me. (Laughs.)

Sujantra: How long have you been at it?

Richard: I’m not quite sure, but more than a year that’s for sure. It feels like a long time. They’ve given me several extensions. They’ve been very generous. They really want this book written. I’m plugging away. I’m sitting here at the computer right now and was working on it this morning before you called. This is a book of questions about yoga. There’s a chapter in there about the sutras, hatha yoga, Sanskrit, modern yoga and more. I’m plugging away, let’s just say that.

Sujantra: On behalf of all the other yogis out there, I want to say thank you for everything you do to spread yoga, share it with others and help to keep yoga on track in America.

Richard: Thank you. It’s been very nice to talk with you.

Sujantra: Thank you so much for joining us. To all our listeners out there, I encourage you to read Richard’s books and if you want more information on the Yoga Dana Foundation you can find it at www.yogadanafoundation.com and also on our website www.pyo.yoga in the resources section. Thank you again, Richard, I really appreciate your time.

Richard: Thank you very much.

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Interviews Podcast E11: Jodi Komitor

Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 11: Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio.

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Interviews Podcast E10: Alexa Hatt

Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 10: Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media.

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Interviews Podcast E09: Nina Camille

Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 09: Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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Interviews Podcast E08: Cat Walker

Cat Walker and Sujantra explore the spiritual heart, deepening your practice, the role of Instagram and reincarnation. Join us…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 08: Cat Walker and Sujantra explore the spiritual heart, deepening your practice, the role of Instagram and reincarnation.  Join us!

Read about Cat’s interview experience on her blog. You can also connect with her on IG, FB and/or Twitter.

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Interviews Podcast E07: Yoga Instructor Emily Taylor

Sujantra interviews 32 year old yoga teacher Emily Taylor. They discuss yoga, turning inward, the role of social media in yoga, and much more…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 07: Sujantra interviews 32 year old yoga teacher Emily Taylor. They discuss yoga, turning inward, the role of social media in yoga, and much more…

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Interview with Brain Leaf (Part 3): The Perfect Parent

One of our managers here at the studio has two young children and she really enjoyed chapter 17 called ‘The Perfect Parent’…

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The Perfect Parent

 

Sujantra: One of our managers here at the studio has two young children and she really enjoyed chapter 17 called ‘The Perfect Parent.’ I was wondering if you could read to us a little bit from that and then I just want to talk a little bit about that last paragraph you’re going to read.

Brian: Sure. It’s chapter 17, ‘The Perfect Parent.’ The twentieth century philosopher Fred Rogers said, ‘My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to our children and our care, we will in someway inspire cartwheels in their hearts.’ Then he put on his sweater and changed into sneakers. Maybe I can come clean to Noah and the world and tell him that this parenting thing is pretty darn challenging. I have no idea what to do quite a bit of the time. Another modern philosopher, Louis C.K., albeit from a different school of philosophy from Mr. Rogers [so the Fred Rogers quote before was really from Mr. Rogers], has his own take on this. ‘It’s hard having kids because it’s boring. They read Clifford the Big Red Dog to you at the rate of fifty minutes a page and you have to sit there and be horribly proud and bored at the same time.’ Louis C.K. certainly speaks his mind; he’s a funny comedian. We are not superhuman or infallible and our kids will wear us down and find us out and when we’ve got nothing left, they’ll ask us for one more story. When we are having sex for the first time in seven weeks, they’ll wake up and call for a glass of water and they will call us on our hypocrisies. So I’d like to stop trying to be perfect. I’d like to try to be a model being human, to learn from our mistakes, to apologize when I mess up. My plan, to forgive myself and move on. Kids are so incredibly dynamic; today I start being the parent I want to be and if today doesn’t go quite right, I can forgive myself again and start fresh tomorrow.

PYO

Sujantra: That’s a really beautiful statement about self-acceptance and accepting the journey. I am wondering did this come to you early on in the parenting or is this a long-term lesson that you’ve come to realize?

Bubble Children

By Ernst Moeksis, license.

The Long Twenty-year Meditation of Parenting

Brian: I would say it’s like exactly both. It’s something I’ve always been aware of and something I have to continually remind myself of. I have to say, just hearing myself read this right now, I don’t know if I’ve read this page out loud in a reading before, I can’t remember. Just reading it now for you, no, for us and for you, it made me realize truly it’s the same as a meditation practice, right? It’s like we try to focus on our mantra or our breath or whatever we’re focusing on and constantly go off and think about things and get lost in ego or whatever, and then try as much as we can to gently notice and bring ourselves back without beating ourselves up. It’s sort of the same process, like the long twenty-year meditation of parenting I guess. Also, to see the effects of it are manifold even just logistically. Beating ourselves up and not being present with something that’s gone wrong isn’t going to serve anybody. Dropping it, moving on, is going to allow us to learn from it – to be present in the next moment which is really all our kids want. They don’t need us to be perfect; they just want us to be present. That’s what we all want from anybody but certainly our kids want it probably the most. They want our presence.

Sujantra: Well Brian I think your book is incredibly insightful and honest and I really encourage everyone either who is having kids or in the midst of children or thinking about it to read it and enjoy your book because it’s full of sincere and deep insights.

Brian: Thank you!

Sujantra: We’ve really enjoyed having you on our show. I am looking forward to your next book. I think that’s going to touch a lot of hearts in the world.

Brian: Thank you.

Thank_You!

Art via Wikipedia.

Sujantra: I want to really thank you for being with us today.

Brian: Thanks for having me on the show. It’s been a pleasure being here.

Sujantra: Thank you for joining us today. This is Sujantra and we’ve been speaking with Brian Leaf, author, parent and educator and discussing specifically his newest book, “Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi.” It’s highly recommended reading. The subtitle “Cloth Diapers, Co-Sleeping, and My Sometimes Successful Quest for Conscious Parenting.”

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

Brian LeafBrian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome Misadventures of a Parenting Yogistandardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.

Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.

Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E05

Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvalya…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 05: Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvaiya.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E05

Desi Bartlett M.S., CPT E-RYT, has been teaching health and wellness for over 20 years…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 05: Desi Bartlett M.S., CPT E-RYT, has been teaching health and wellness for over 20 years. She is a dynamic motivator and widely sought after international presenter and spokesperson. Her innovative approach to teaching yoga is to tap into one’s inner joy and let movement be an outer expression of that state. Enjoy her insights on meditation, yoga and the modern world.

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Interview with Brian Leaf: Self-Medicating with Yoga

Brian Leaf is the author of 11 books including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and his most recent book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi…

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Sujantra: This is Sujantra and today I have the pleasure of interviewing author, parent and yogi, Brian Leaf, who is joining us from Massachusetts. Hi Brian, how are you?

Brian: Good!

Sujantra: It’s so great to have you on the program. Brian Leaf is the author of 11 books including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and his most recent book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi. Some of his other books include: Name That Movie!, Defining Twilight and he also writes educational books on improving your SAT score, math skills and multiple tests, so a wide variety of topics.

Brian: A strange mix.

PYO

Sujantra: A strange mix, indeed. (Laughs.) Our show goes out to yogis all over the world, we have listeners in 38 countries, so I first wanted to touch base with you as a yogi, Brian, because I notice in your most recent book that I was fortunate enough to read, the Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi you dedicate the book to Swami Kripalu. Could you tell us a little bit about how your yogic journey began?

In the Beginning

Brian: In 1989, I started going to college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and I was a super high achieving New Jersey kid. I was actually a first place debater in New Jersey. I don’t know if you know New Jersey out there, but if you’re the first place debater in New Jersey, it’s pretty intense I think. People argue a little bit. I was really intense and I developed ulcerative colitis which is an ulcer of the colon and it’s kind of rare at that age, I think, and it was pretty awful and debilitating. The first round I had it in high school and my mom took me to a bunch of doctors and it eventually got better. When I was at Georgetown I started taking yoga as sort of a goof, and from the first class it really captured me. It was like I found my place. I think a lot of yogis have this experience. You know it was like day one and class one and it was the first time I felt like I found my church or somewhere I belonged and I felt relaxed for pretty much the first time in my life. From there I got really into it and when the colitis came back, I made the link that when I did yoga it felt better. So I wondered if I did a ton of yoga if I’d feel a ton better. I started doing yoga 5 times a day, a sun salutation and a guided meditation, five times a day.

upward_dog_in_studio

A Healing Practice

Sujantra: A quick question for you, Brian. You’re saying a ton of yoga five times a day. Would you say 5-10 minutes five times a day? How long were you actually practicing?

Brian: Yes, of course, it wasn’t hours at a time. I called it self-medicating because it felt like taking a dose of medicine. I had this epiphany that maybe it would help and I was in college so I had the ability and the time to do it, so five times a day I would do about fifteen minutes of sun salutations and ten to fifteen minutes of relaxation. The style I was studying in college, the lineage the teacher who came to the gym every day to teach, I came to realize it was sort of an integral or Sivananda style so the sun salutations were a big part of it. Not as big a part as Ashtanga yoga, but just as a warm up and it really spoke to me. So I did that five times a day and after three days, it’s like a miracle, the symptoms went away in a way that the meds weren’t helping. It’s like I avoided my doctor after that because I was afraid he was going to tell me I was crazy, you know it was going to make it come back. So on the purely physical level that got me really zealous about it and then over a period of about 25 years it changed my life. I could handle stress better and I learned how to show my emotions, and I opened up my heart and I just sort of was more exposed and open to the spiritual aspect seeking union and freedom and love. Initially the classes I took at Georgetown were Sivananda or Integral inspired, and like anybody in the early 1990s, I did a bunch of Iyengar Yoga and then I found Kripalu. Kripalu for me, and everybody has their own style, it’s like dating there’s no right person to love it’s just who you love, and I dated a bunch of different styles and they all spoke to me in different ways but when I found Kripalu yoga, which is a style based upon something developed at the Kripalu Yoga Ashram in Pennsylvania and then in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts by the folks surrounding Yogi Amrit Desai and his guru Swami Kripalu, and when I found that style it just really woke me up in a whole other way. For me it was the style that brought me past simply the physical, the physical postures and discipline and into something deeper into spirit and heart. That’s the part that really captured me and I’ve been a student of that style ever since.

Feeling at Home

Sujantra: And is there something specific about that style that brought that depth to you or that made it so different?

Brian: Yeah, I think I can answer that question in two ways. It’s the same way any of us could answer the question, “Why do you love your wife” or “Why did you marry your partner or husband? Or why do you love your kids?” There’s, you know, I could say certain reasons , but Kripalu spoke to me. It’s like it mirrored who I am and who I want to be. The values that it has. I think Kripalu really values tuning in and looking inside and finding truth and meaning deep inside not just from academic study and not seeking perfection in the physical postures but going inside and looking for your own inner wisdom or inner guru and living and practicing yoga from that place. I also think Kripalu spoke to me, especially in those days, because I was a perfectionist, a New Jersey debater and was overworked and overstressed. I felt like some styles said to me “You don’t have it quite right. Rotate your hips thirty degrees,” whereas Kripalu whispered in my ear, “You’re good enough. Relax.” (Laughs.) That’s what I needed. That’s a simplification and could be said for any style, both things I said, but that’s what got me in. The deeper answer goes along with “Why do you love your partner?” it just spoke to me and I fell in love. It matched me and made sense to me. It completed me to quote Jerry McGuire.

Twisted_Dog_in_studio

Sujantra: The ancient scriptures say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. For each of us, there is no right or wrong path, but there is definitely a path that each of us is going to accelerate on the most.

Brian: Yeah, and like in the Ayurvedic and Yogic texts we learn that there are different parts to one’s evolution. We need different things at different times in our evolution, no hierarchy just different things at different times. Just like a different posture might be one’s edge at different times in one’s practice. Maybe for a year, forward bend is the most challenging. You know it brings up tension and emotions and who knows what, and then for five years it’s shoulderstand, and then suddenly it’s a forward bend again. I think it’s like that; there are different things we need to be pushed physically, to be pushed emotionally or spiritually or to do more breath work at different times in our practice.

Sujantra: Has your practice moved to a home practice where you do primarily a lot of asana or do you do meditation and pranayama? What does your personal practice look like?

Brian: It’s true that it mostly did go to a home practice. For years and years I would go to classes many times a week, I even lived at Kripalu for a while. At some point, I guess when I found what I particularly wanted, and maybe a lot of yogis have this experience, it did turn to a home practice because I could do exactly what I wanted and what felt right to me. For a while, when I first had kids, it was hard to do yoga and at that point meditation had become more the priority. At first, yoga was a pure pleasure for me. I never had to try to do it and never had to work to fit it in, I just loved it. I looked forward to it all the time and at some point it did shift a little bit where meditation was my joy and what I loved and looked forward to. The postures were more like getting my homework done. Then after I had kids and there was less time and my boys were little, that was something that actually did kind of go a little bit which was a shame because now I was older and sitting all the time writing and more stressed and I needed it more than ever and then my back started hurting which got me back into it. It had gone to the wayside a little bit. Meditation had always been a priority at that phase and now I am back into doing postures at home and having a pretty strong home practice.

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

Brian LeafBrian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome Misadventures of a Parenting Yogistandardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.

Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.

Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E04

Beryl and Sujantra discuss reincarnation, giving back, meditation, Sri Chinmoy and more!…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians,teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 04: Beryl Bender Birch is the director and founder of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She is also a founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which provides yoga to underserved communities and offers developmental grants to yoga teachers for community service projects.

A spiritual teacher and yoga therapist, Beryl is the best-selling author of Power Yoga, the classic training manual for asana practice for Ashtanga Yoga; Beyond Power Yoga, which theorizes a relationship between the eight limbs of yoga and the chakras; Boomer Yoga,which illustrates how to create a yoga plan that works for maturing adults; and Yoga for Warriors, which provides yoga practices for veterans.

Beryl and Sujantra discuss reincarnation, giving back, meditation, Sri Chinmoy and more!

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E03

Sujantra interviews meditation teacher and author Sally Kempton. Listen as they discuss mystical awareness meditation, the spiritual heart and brahmacharya: celibacy…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians,teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 03: Sujantra interviews meditation teacher and author Sally Kempton. Listen as they discuss mystical awareness meditation, the spiritual heart and brahmacharya: celibacy.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E02

Sujantra interviews yogi and author Richard Rosen. This 30 minute interview explores yoga, pranayama, meditation and more!..

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians,teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 02: Sujantra interviews yogi and author Richard Rosen. This 30 minute interview explores yoga, pranayama, meditation and more!

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E01

In this episode Sujantra interviews the author Brian Leaf who has written 11 books including “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi” and “Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi”…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 01: In this episode Sujantra interviews the author Brian Leaf who has written 11 books including “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi” and “Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi“.

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Kirtan as Meditation

Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface…

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Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface that it is an entertainment, the reality is that Kirtan is a profound meditation practice.

Meditation is often thought of as the elimination of thought from the consciousness. True enough, if not an oversimplification, but a difficult task. Sometimes it’s easier to replace the random, spontaneous thoughts with a single, repetitive thought that has meaning and loft, and to concentrate and focus on that, assisting stillness, resting on a single thought.

 Tablas
 

The Mantra:  Mantra means ‘Mind Tool’

Kirtan uses mantra, simple (not always), repetitive devotional phrases which the practitioner swaps with the random spontaneous thoughts streaming from the mind. The mind takes up the mantra and its meaning, or at least its implication and becomes a center of Self-awareness. We work on that divine inner place that we know is there but that we cannot touch. The mantra is repeated over and over until it becomes something like a background object, there reminding you of your particular quest. A single syllable or phrase, a long, involved invocation; to chant is enough. This is the basics, except for one thing. One should cultivate a supreme purity about this practice. It is nothing less than a celebration of life, creation, existence and a personal expression of heart-centered gratitude for your existence.

Kirtan turns what would ordinarily be a solitary, personal offering into a musical celebration among friends. People gather and chant together. Musical instruments are played. A Kirtan leader sings the chant and the participating audience sings it back in response, over and over… It creates a sort of rapture. It entrains vibrational energies. It becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. You realize that your participation was essential to that event. It couldn’t have happened the way it did without your (and everyone else’s) being there… Being present. It really can be extraordinarily profound.

 Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band
 

A solitary, personal offering:

To chant is the object. Our personal, heart offering is the object. The mantra guides, focuses your inner path, either by meaning or by melody/rhythm. It keeps us attuned, sharp, aware. It is a drishti, a center, which holds us to our path. It’s a technique that enables us to explore by choice. The moment you start to chant, your practice begins. One begets the other. It requires no one but you.

And yet, we gather for Kirtan with like-minded (and the curious) folks with the intention to participate in each other’s experience. Our personal experience both radiates and absorbs energy. It becomes a oneness of individual AND a oneness of multitude. As your practice grows it becomes a part of your makeup. You look forward to the mantra, the Kirtan. You realize that your voice has meaning and that it’s worth sharing. You become part of a community. Kirtan is a place of being. It becomes a group home.

 Kirtan Collage

A Universal offering:

Kirtan comes from the east, from India. But it was never intended to be exclusively Hindu or Buddhist. All faith-based systems have both singing and invocation in their traditions. Singing, music and devotion to creation are universal expressions. They span all traditions.

Pilgrimage of the Heart hosts Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in the East Room. No experience necessary. Free and open to all.

 

* For further reading about Bhakti see Sir Edwin Arnold’s Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8. This is the most beautiful translation of the Gita I know of. It is said that Ghandi carried this translation with him for the majority of his life. Read this book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Nudge towards Vegetarian

If you have been on the fence about adopting a vegetarian diet only watch Forks over Knives if you want to take the plunge…

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Forks Over Knives

If you have been on the fence about adopting a vegetarian diet watch Forks over Knives if you want to take the plunge.

I was looking for a documentary recently on Netflix and came across the 2011 film and was captivated. I like science and the film is built around the lifetime work of two pioneering doctors, who both discovered the significance link between nutrition and health. Another way to phrase it was they both discovered the significance between certain diets and heart disease and cancer.

Bottom line: they both live and teach the importance, both personal and planetary for a plant-based diet.

Forks Over Knives

A Plant Based Diet

Forks Over Knives presents a strongly persuasive, scientifically backed argument for the health and life benefits of a plant based diet. That is defined as a diet of fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes. Yes, you could say that is a vegan diet, though that word rarely comes up in the film, as there are subtle differences. To get a sense of those nuances I suggest watching the interview with Teekhnata Metzler, who has a Ph.D. in Holistic Health and is one of the senior instructors at Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove, CA.

Forks Over Knives centers around a group of doctors and their success in treating a wide range of diseases through a plant based diet. The movie also draws on a number of significant studies that have been done in the United States, India and China. The studies are conclusive and compelling.

PYO

Awareness through Yoga

Yoga teaches us to look at ourselves and our actions with a clear mind. In that clarity arises which can then be the fuel for change. Every breath is precious and the yogi does all she can to sustain and nourish the life force. Diet affects our body, mind and emotions.

Cancer and Diabetes

The movie is well made and has a series of story threads running simultaneously which keeps the learning curve high throughout the film. From studies in China involving 65,000 people to 24 patients given less than a year to live, their story is our story as we all share the human body.

Give the film a watch and see what it does for you!

 

 

 

 

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Finding Peace

So much of our time is spent being distracted from peace. We are constantly bombarded by input. We have ‘busy’ lives, or so we say, and our minds are constantly…

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We need to find peace!

So much of our time is spent being distracted from peace. We are constantly bombarded by input. We have ‘busy’ lives, or so we say, and our minds are constantly in flux. Sometimes our minds are so in flux that we mistake busy for simple, mental chaos. And let’s not forget our relationships. Our relations demand our attention. Our relations demand our time. We really find little time for ourselves. Then there’s sleep. We fall into bed dog tired without even a simple moment of prayer. The link above lists ten ways to discover inner peace. Good words.

There’s no time for peace?

 

Make the time!

I’ve written several essays about creating a meditation space. Meditation requires your presence. It requires you to be somewhere. Unless you have been meditating for years and have established a ‘perpetual,’ meditation mindset, then it’s best to have a personal space where you can peacefully seclude yourself and remain undistracted. It’s so important to be able to disconnect from the outer, ever changing mind/world. Your meditation space will become a desired place of peace, stillness and refuge (as your practice deepens). You will want to be there.

Finding Peace

 

I Need Motivation!

Make setting up your meditation space a mini-project. Enjoy it. Anticipate it. Go on a quest. Find meaningful artifacts to populate your meditation space. Consider the work you will be doing in your space while you are setting it up. Begin to think of the sacredness of this endeavor. Start the growth process. Make creating your space personal and meaningful.

 

New to Meditation?

Make meditation an adventure. Forget about the mystic behind meditation. It’s just a tool. What’s important is that you slowly build a simple, evolving, poignant practice. Think about peace. Think about calm. Think about centeredness. Think about your internal qualities. These are desired results. Consider them and their impact on your future (we still haven’t started meditation yet).

 

Make your meditation practice simple.

Your practice should be an easy event. It should not be tedious or inconvenient. It need not take too much time. Ten minutes every day is much more effective that one hour a week. In fact, a one-hour per week practice likely won’t work. You’ll quit, because it’s too long and is not routine. I’ve found (through years of personal experience) that ten minutes, first thing in the morning works very well. You are there. You are ready to begin the blessings of a new day. And the rigors of sensory input hasn’t reared its head yet.

Finding Peace

 

Time to practice:

Sit down. Get comfortable. Take some comfortable, deep breaths. Focus your awareness on your breath. Breath awareness is initially challenging because we are not used to it. Our bodies breathe themselves. So, focus your awareness. Controlled, slow breathing is the center of your practice. As your focus shifts from external input to internal breath awareness your mind becomes calm and tranquil, peace starts to manifest. Slow the breath. Notice how the breath slows in response.

 

More breathe work. Feel your Heart:

Try this. Take a fairly deep inhale and hold your breath. Feel your heart beating. It may take two or three attempts. Once you feel your heart beating, gently return to your slow, steady breathing while keeping the awareness of your heart beating. Then, expand your heart awareness so you can feel your heart pulse radiating outwards to your arms and hands, your tummy, your legs and feet… even to every cell and corpuscle. Make heart awareness your priority. Become inspired by your heart.

These two techniques are the start of something magnificent!

These two simple awarenesses are the beginning of a meditation practice centered around peace. Peace is already there within you. Your practice is about rediscovery! It’s about awakening. Turn your attention from external mental noise to the calm, internal peace of breath/heart awareness. It’s that simple. If your mind wanders, take a peaceful breath and return to your heart. This is the beginning.

A few minutes each day is all it takes. In a short amount of time you will find ease in your growing practice and a new peace that has been trapped within by a chaotic mind/world.

Peace is not an external object that we can possess. It is already within us, waiting to be rediscovered.

“Begin where you are.” —B.K.S. Iyengar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Ways to Eat Your Water

Our bodies need water to survive. Water makes up more than half of our body weight. Every cell, tissue, and organ in our body needs water to…

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Our bodies need water to survive. Water makes up more than half of our body weight. Every cell, tissue, and organ in our body needs water to function effectively. Water also helps the body maintain temperature, remove waste, and lubricate joints.  That’s why experts recommend drinking 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of water each day

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How do we lose water

We lose water each day when we practice yoga, go to the bathroom, sweat, and breathe. Hot weather and being physically active accelerate water loss. If we don’t replace the water we lose, we can become dehydrated.

Snack on Water Rich Fruits and Veggies

Snacking on fruit and vegetables that are largely made of water is a great way to hydrate. We like 21 Ways to Eat Your Water from Skinny Ms.

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Photo courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Meditation – Building Your Home Practice

The importance of a home meditation practice and how to successfully establish one for yourSelf. Practicing meditation might just be…

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The importance of a home meditation practice and how to successfully establish one for yourSelf.

Practicing meditation might just be the best thing you can do for yourself! We’re so busy every moment of every day that we spend no time on Self-realization. Meditation is a practice where we consider the nature of our existence. Through this exercise we take stock of our life. It’s a practice of Self-awareness and Self-growth. We discover that there is more to life that just existing. We discover how to live. We discover Truth… inner Truth, outer Truth. We improve ourSelves.

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Let’s face it. When we’re by ourselves it’s easy to be lazy. We can rationalize any excuse to avoid and procrastinate (substituting low-priority endeavors for high-priority endeavors.)…  no ‘task’ is too big or small that it can’t wait until tomorrow.  And that’s part of the problem; we tend to look at meditation as a TASK. And avoiding tasks can easily become habitual.

It’s important that we reassess our perception of meditation early on. How we establish our practice initially is vital to its longevity. We want to create an anticipation about our practice so we are drawn to it. It’s important to look forward to your meditation practice! It can’t be tedious. If it becomes tedious you’ll skip it. So it’s important to establish a TIME during the day that works within your schedule. That time is set aside for your meditation practice every day.

Buddha

I recommend that you keep your regular, daily meditation short. Ten minutes is a good DAILY practice. If you want to go on a marathon meditation adventure once in a while, go for it. But your regular, daily practice should be short and sweet, an easy routine.

I practice in the morning, first thing. I get out of bed, take care of my body, make a cup and go sit down for ten minutes. It’s entirely routine. I look forward to it. It’s easy. It’s a good way for me to start my day, centering, aligning, grounding, sharpening my focus, building greater awareness. And from a practical point of view, I’m not so busy and engaged in my day yet that I can willfully avoid my practice.

Make sure your family or roommates understand that for your 10 minutes or so you are UNAVAILABLE! If you want to meditate as a family, that’s fine. But otherwise, this is your private time. Do not disturb! No kids, no spouse, no phone, no doorbell…

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Create a Mediation Space

Create a meditation space. Establish a comfortable seat. Set up a little altar or shrine. Populate it with meaningful reminders that resonate with you. Pictures, plants, candles, statuary… it doesn’t matter what it is, necessarily. What matters is that they remind you of what you are doing there. Meditation. Devotion. Outpouring. Contemplation… And then keep your space pure. Keep it tidy. Don’t leave your coffee cup on your shrine. Straighten it up once in a while. Add new things. Let it grow with your practice. Keep it sacred.

Lastly, understand that change is inevitable. Our shrines are just tools, like meditation itself. Avoid becoming too attached to the tool. We may move, so a new shrine is in order. A while back I moved six times in three years. I reestablished a new shrine at each new location. Every shrine was different depending on space and environment. What was enduring was that I immediately created a space where I could continue my practice. It might be all too easy to have just let it slide. The first thing I do is establish a meditation space.

It doesn’t take long to establish a routine. You just have to DO IT. Once you are established you will look forward to it. SELF discovery is exciting! Practice Self-discovery daily.

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You’ll be amazed what you will find!

One last thing: If you are brand new to mediation, find a guided meditation class offered at a local yoga studio or spiritual center. Participating in a few of these offerings will help you develop a meditation routine for yourself. You’ll learn the philosophy of meditation and gain some insights about basic meditation techniques that might work for you. Then, ‘cut and paste’ to create a routine for yourself. And remember, your practice will change and evolve as you grow.

Be open to change. It’s inevitable.

 

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Yoga: A Remedy for Sleepless Nights?

Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently…

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Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently for eight weeks slept better and longer compared than those who did not practice.

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Helpful to Relax the Bodypic

Legs-Up-The-Wall(Viparita Karani) can be practiced at night before getting into bed or in the middle of the night, if you’re having trouble sleeping and waking up.  Try Nikole Fortier’s 7 minute class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online.  It’s ideal for beginners and advanced yogis.

Hope Knosher, founder of Hope’s Yoga, suggests: “Sit sideways with your right side against the wall. Exhale and gently swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Coming into this pose may take some practice. Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, depending on the tightness of your hamstrings. Experiment with the position until you find the placement that works for you.

This pose is not intended to stretch the backs of the legs, so if you feel pulling in the hamstrings move farther away from the wall. Keep the lower back grounded to the floor. Make a small roll with a hand towel to place under your neck if the cervical spine at the base of your neck feels too flat. Open your shoulder blades away from your spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. If you struggle to keep your legs upright, take a yoga strap or something similar and place it around your legs just below the knees and gently tighten to hold the legs up right, allowing you to further relax into the pose. Gently close and soften your eyes, then scan the body. Soften into any tightness you find along the way.” *

Calm, Steady Breathing

Practice for 5-20 minutes. Focus on calm and steady breathing.

When you are ready to come out, bend your knees halfway toward your chest and roll to one side. Use your arms to help you sit up, moving slowly and mindfully.

Raising your legs vertically, higher than the heart, can also help with blood circulation.

Hope cautions, “those who are pregnant or that have been diagnosed with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or any serious problems with the neck or spine, should consult their doctor first.”

If sleepless nights are on your mind, consider adding a meditation and relaxation class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online to your morning.

How do you deal with sleepless nights?

* Thanks to MindBodyGreen.com for permission to share this excerpt.

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The Gayatri Mantra – An Ancient Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most ancient and revered mantras in existence…

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The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most ancient and revered mantras in existence.

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

 

I lead a weekly Kirtan practice at Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio in San Diego. We’ve been practicing as a community for over five years and the Gayatri Mantra has become one of our staple chants.

As a Kirtan leader I enjoy exploring the deep meanings of the chants, which allows me to enter more deeply into the spirit and intent behind these beautiful utterances.

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The Gayatri Mantra first appeared in the Rig Veda, which was written in Sanskrit about 2500 to 3500 years ago. It is said that the sage Vishwamitra was given the Gayatri Mantra by the Supreme Being for his many years of reverence and meditation, to be shared with all humanity, so there is considered no earthly author.

It has also been said that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha himself recited this mantra. (See The Light of Asia – Arnold, Book the First, page 7, Routledge)

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Chanted through the Ages…

The Gayatri Mantra has been chanted by trillions of people over the course of eons. Quite literally it is likely sung by a billion people every day, even today.

There is a wealth of commentary and opinion as to good translations of the chant. Googling Gayatri Mantra will generate numerous interpretations. The basic gist follows:

The word Gayatri refers to the meter of the verse. The mantra consists of three lines of eight syllables each. But wait. There are four lines! That’s because the first line isn’t actually a part of the mantra itself. Its a prefix.

The Great Utterance.

The first line is a mantra unto itself and is known as, “The Great (spiritual) Utterance” (mahāvyāhṛti).

It precedes many other mantras, is used universally or can be recited by itself. It is a great aligning and centering phrase and can be interpreted as aligning oneself to the earth, heavens and what lies beyond… Or, aligning with the material world, the world of mind and with the supreme spirit… The important idea is the alignment of one’s Self with the purest Unity.

The meaning…

The mantra itself begins with the word, ‘Tat’ which means ‘That’ and refers to the Supreme that defies any earthly description…

Savitur means Sun, but not the physical sun. More like the divine light of knowledge and discernment, the animating impetus for everything.

Varen(i)yam means adoration.

Next line: Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi means contemplation of the Divine, Illuminated Grace.

Last Line: Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat means loosely, whose divine intellect/illumination our prayers/meditations are for/about…

As a leader of a kirtan practice, I found the original meter (three lines of eight syllables) to be somewhat cumbersome to arrange musically/lyrically for western interpretation. So, I broke from the original meter and formed lines as follows:

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya

Dhimahi dhiyo yo

Nah prachodayat

 

This arrangement allows for a chant that musically simple and beautiful, and easy to play and sing.

Here’s our version and a link to another version with the classic meter:

Our arrangement: Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan band

Classic arrangement: This is a beautiful version by Deva Premal.

It actually maintains the classic meter while running each ‘measure’

as 5 – 6 – 6 – 7 beats per line. Beautiful, but challenging for most to follow and sing with.

 

A must have…

What is important is that the mantra be chanted with the utmost of pure intentions and an appreciation for the profound implications of the scope of this chant. It is an outpouring of one’s heart to the Supreme and a recognition of the Divine Grace bestowed upon all creation and beyond.

If you have a chanting practice, The Gayatri Mantra is a ‘must have’ in your repertories.

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The dance of the cobra ~ Bhujangasana   

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills…

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by Teresa Austin

Childhood Snakes

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills with the raw anticipation of what I might encounter in my daily adventures. In the fraction of a second, though, my childhood glee would be halted and my breath stopped. A snake and I would meet. My spine would tingle in fear and anticipation as to what this mysterious creature would do. Would it see me? Would it strike? Not only was I suspended in fear, but truly hypnotized by its powerful energy.

Little did I know that years later, I would come back to my childhood snakes, but this time in the form of yoga, in the great pose bhujangasana – cobra pose, and that my spine would be awakened once again in wonder.

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It is no wonder that snakes have had an important role in India for thousands of years. From the magical snake charmer seducing the venomous cobra out of its basket, to the mythical 1,000 headed serpent, Shesha Naga, India has long held serpents to be sacred. The mysterious animals were thought to be relatives to the Naga people, the ancient warrior tribe, which is believed to have dispersed throughout India around the time of the epic Mahabharata.

Cobra

The Celebration of the Snake, Nag Panchami

Animal worship has played an important role in India’s national culture for thousands of years. The celebration of the snake, Nag Panchami, is a festival that celebrates the snake, and all it represents: death, rebirth, and immortality. Devotees sprinkle turmeric, vermillion and flowers on snakes to honor their role in nature.

Some Hindu gods like Shiva, the god of destruction and transformation, and Vishnu, the god of preservation, are pictured with the cobra enfolded around them. Even Buddha is often represented cradled within the great snake. Vishnu is often seen reclining on one of the folds of the great serpent Shesha, who weaves throughout the celestial waters of the Milky Ocean. With the symbolic role that snakes have played in Indian culture, it is no surprise, that Patanjali, the great compiler of the yoga sutras and the forefather of modern yoga, is believed to have been an avatar of Shesha.

Kundalini energy is believed to reside in the realm of the great sleeping serpent who is coiled along the base of the spine, and once awakened through devout meditation, slithers up the spine toward the pineal gland and through the crown chakra ultimately moving one into divine Selfhood.

 

Cosmic God

 

The Practice

Like the snake that sheds its skin over and over again, we too shed our skin, over and over again, each time we come to our yoga practice. In each shedding, an energetic rebirth has the potential to take place.

Of course it is important to keep our spines supple and strong like the great serpent. For it is our beloved spine that holds us up and allows us to continue to move throughout life.

In elegant bhujangasana, or cobra pose, we get to know our spine. It is along the lines of the spine that we channel our inner cobra. Cobra not only provides back strength, but also massages our precious digestive organs, stimulating the swadhisthana and manipura chakras

In its full fruition, before it is ready to dance into attack, the cobra raises its great hood, just as we do, as we inhale our hearts forward. The snake also moves between the light of day and the darkness of the underground. Inhaling, we lift our cobra-hoods towards the light (joy); exhaling, we drop our hearts back down towards the earth into darkness (contemplation).

Cobra Pose

Snakes also teach us that we too should we be more in tune with our “gut instincts” as snakes are aware of their surroundings through their bellies as they feel the reverberations of the earth around them.

Let our breath then, our mystical snake charmer, seduce the energy of our snake spines to emerge vibrant and alive! And just like the mystical snake charmers who were thought to have strong ties to the gods due to their magical ways with cobras, we too can energetically tap into that divine space that resides along the lines of our beloved spine through the power of the ever graceful and strong bhujangasana.

 

Teresa AustinTeresa Austin is the creator of Myth Asana®, a progressive yoga practice that infuses mythology and symbolism within the beauty and strength of yoga. She has been a practitioner of yoga for over 20 years and a teacher for 10 years. Teresa was a world mythology teacher for many years and currently is finishing up her 1000 hour yoga therapy certification specializing in the power of symbolism and storytelling in a therapeutic setting. Her dvd is available at www.mythasana.com .

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10 Ways to Sleep Soundly

Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise,…

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Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise, nutrition and yoga practice, are ideal ways to balance stress and sleep soundly.

In Sleep the Mind Taps into Higher Consciousness

Sleep is a magical time when our mind taps into higher consciousness and the soul comes to the fore, says spiritual yogi Paramahansa Yogananda.  “In sleep, the astral life forces are withdrawn not only from the muscles but also from the sensory instruments. Every night each man accomplishes a physical withdrawal of the life force, albeit in an unconscious way; the energy and consciousness in the body retire to the region of the heart, spine, and brain, giving man the rejuvenating peace of subconscious contact with the divine dynamo of all his powers, the soul. Why does man feel joy in sleep? Because when he is in the stage of deep, dreamless sleep, unconscious of the body, physical limitations are forgotten and the mind momentarily taps a higher consciousness.”

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Here are some sleep suggestions for those suffering from sleepless nights.

1. End use of computers, TV, and handheld devices an hour prior to sleep time

The blue light from your electronic devices shuts down the production of melatonin, a major sleep hormone that we produce at night.

2. Reduce Caffeine

It takes 4-6 hours or more to metabolize caffeine, which prevents a helpful sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine from working. Several hours before sleep avoid wine, alcohol, red bull, coffee, chocolate, chicken and soda.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise regularly and you’ll sleep easier and more soundly. Whether you’re jogging, swimming, playing tennis or working out at the gym, exercise is a great way to feel and look your best, and you’ll also promote a great night’s sleep.

4. Watch your diet

Foods helpful for sleep include cherries, which contain melatonin, a chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock, says Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet. Bananas are helpful because they contain natural muscle-relaxers magnesium and potassium. Sweet potatoes provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and contain muscle-relaxant potassium. When combined with complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat toast or crackers, cheese and dairy products can help bring about the onset of sleep. Carbohydrates release insulin which promotes the movement of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan then converts to serotonin and melatonin, which are sleep-promoting neurotransmitters.

5. Cool the Room

At night our core body temperature drops and this tells the brain it’s time for sleep. Sleep with a room temperature of between 62 and 70 degrees.

6. Meditate

Right before sleep try a guided conscious relaxation tour and relax to beautiful images of nature and the comforting sound of guitar music. If you enjoy the relaxing sound of the flute combined with nature scenes, this short meditation video may help. Or listen to music like “Edge of Eternal” and find a peaceful calm.

7. Yoga

Make Halasana the last thing you do before sleep. It’s a pose done while lying on your back. Set yourself up to create a strong base in the back of your shoulders and arms, just as you would in Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand). Kick your legs overhead and press your toes into the floor behind you. Stay in the pose for up to 5 minutes and slowly draw the legs back over head and return them to the floor. This pose is therapeutic as it calms the mind. A calm mind reduces stress and anxiety.

8. Alarm clocks should be heard, but not seen

Avoid visually bright-screened alarm clocks and ticking wall clocks. Keep your wakeup devices out of mind and sight and let them do their jobs at the appointed times.

9. Pristine quiet

If it’s too noisy where you sleep, try wearing earplugs. If your spouse’s snoring is keeping you awake, there are medical solutions you can try. If snoring is an issue, you might try a “bedroom divorce”.

10. A comfy mattress

Find a mattress that is firm or soft enough for you. You’re going to be sleeping on a mattress for an average of 7 years. So find a one that is comfortable and supportive.

How are you dealing with sleepless nights?

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Best Stretches for Tight Hips

If you’re working at a desk all day at an office or in a school classroom, stretching your hips is probably the last thing on your mind…

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If you’re working at a desk all day at an office or in a school classroom, stretching your hips is probably the last thing on your mind. Most people haven’t stretched their hips for years and decades.

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Stretching Releases Tension in the Hips

The less you use your hips, the tighter they get. Hip stretches are helpful for counteracting our often sedentary lifestyles. Stretching releases all the tensions that we store in the hips. Stretching can also help avoid pains in the back and hip that occur in the course of aging.

Feel your best with these hip stretching suggestions from PopSugar.

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How are you keeping flexible?

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Meditation: How to Stay Inspired

Having trouble finding inspiration to meditate as part of your yoga practice at home or destress at work?…

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It’s common to momentarily lose the inspiration to continue a daily meditation practice especially in today’s non-stop, notification-driven world. Like any life activity, meditation needs to become a priority.

Say Yes to Activities that Add Value to Our Lives

Writing in Harvard Business Review, author and speaker Tony Schwartz suggests we need to say “yes” to activities that add value to our lives and learn to say “no” to the rest. ‘Saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times. In a world of relentless demands and infinite options, [we need] to prioritize the tasks that add the most value. That also means deciding what to do less of, or to stop doing altogether.”

One day I was feeling ‘unsatisfied’ after a very busy day and I asked myself why. It turned out I was occupied with activities that brought little true value to my life. I decided to prioritize meditation and other tasks and activities that added value: exercise, yoga, healthy eating, and music.

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If you’re ready to prioritize regular meditation practice in your life, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda shares inspiration on the importance of preparing for your meditation:

“The yogi begins with proper deep breathing, inhaling and tensing the whole body, exhaling and relaxing, several times. With each exhalation all muscular tension and motion should be cast away, until a state of bodily stillness is attained.  Then, by concentration techniques, restless motion is removed from the mind. In perfect stillness of body and mind, the yogi enjoys the ineffable peace of the presence of the soul.”

Spiritual Books Help

Your meditation practice can also benefit from reading spiritual books, says spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy.

“If you are an absolute beginner, then you can start by reading a few spiritual books or scriptures. These will give you inspiration. You should read books by spiritual Masters in whom you have implicit faith. There are Masters who have attained the highest consciousness, and if you read their books, you are bound to get inspiration. It is better not to read books written by professors or scholars or aspirants who are still on the path and have not yet attained illumination. Only those who have realised the Truth will have the capacity to offer the Truth. Otherwise, it is like the blind leading the blind.”

Power of Imagination

What happens if you’re uninspired to meditate on a particular day? Sri Chinmoy suggests: “Think of a time when you had a most sublime meditation, and consciously dive deep into that experience. Think of its essence-how you were thrilled, how you were jumping with delight. At first you will just be imagining the experience, because you are not actually having that meditation. But if you enter into the world of imagination and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, power will automatically enter into your meditation and it will bear fruit. Then it will not be imagination at all; you will actually be deep in the world of meditation.”

How do you stay inspired to meditate?

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Yoga at Home Is Key to Healthier Lifestyle

A research report titled “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners” suggests that home yoga practice is key to a healthier diet…

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A research report titled “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners” suggests that home yoga practice is key to a healthier diet, exercise and improved mental health. Home practice of yoga is also a better predictor of health than years of class practice or class frequency.

Tosca Braun, a 200-hour Kripalu Yoga instructor and 500-hour Integrative Yoga Therapist notes, “In my own experience, home practice is sweetly satisfying. It can also become stale and rigid without continued inspiration from teachers or attendance at classes or retreats. Hitting the mat can sometimes become another box to check off, with my mind racing through the day’s events as I lose the anchors of body and breath. At other times, the strength or motivation to practice may desert me, due to life’s emotional upheavals. It is then that I am most likely to attend class or seek community, where I find the support, inspiration and belonging I have longed for in my home practice. When I return to my home yoga mat, it is that much sweeter for having been touched by sangha and a skillful teacher’s reminder to inhabit my body and breath with compassionate presence.”

Yoga Promises Healthier Life

According to the report, Yoga shows promise as an intervention targeting a number of outcomes associated with lifestyle-related health conditions including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cancer. While aerobic exercise long has been a valuable tool in combating these health conditions, a review of clinical trials comparing exercise to yoga found yoga to be equal or superior to aerobic exercise in improving a number of outcomes associated with chronic health conditions.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

Home Practice is Key

The frequency of home practice appears to be very important— more important than how long an individual has been practicing or how many classes one takes. It’s not enough simply to learn how to do healthy behaviors. Rather, healthy behaviors must be incorporated into one’s daily life. While these findings suggest that individuals will only glean benefits from yoga practice that are proportional to the energy they are willing to invest in making it a part of their lives, the findings also suggest that they do not have to practice for years in order to reap the rewards.

What one practices, be it the different types of physical poses, breath work, or meditation, is important because the different aspects of yoga practice may well have different health benefits.

From: Alyson Ross, Erika Friedmann, Margaret Bevans, and Sue Thomas, “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 983258, 10 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/983258

 

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OM – A Mantra for Every Moment

A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents…

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A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents an aspect of the Highest, and each mantra has a special significance and inner power.

Vibrational Harmony

OM (AUM)  is said to be the soundless sound of the universe. Chanting OM helps us get into a vibrational harmony with the universe so it’s the ideal way to start and finish one’s yoga practice or meditation session. Om is also the perfect antidote to finding calm inside any stressful situation at home or work.

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Repeat A Mantra Every Day

“If you want quick results in your inner spiritual life, you should repeat a mantra every day without fail, for a least half an hour: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening,” says spiritual yogi Sri Chinmoy.  “There can be no mantra more powerful than the mother of all mantras, AUM.”

If you want to get the best results, repeat OM every day. To learn more about the power of mantras, watch our De-Stress with Mantra video.

Chant: “Ommmmmmmmmm”.

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Why I Practice Yoga

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore…

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Finding Home

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore. Maybe it never did. Is it in San Diego, where I’ve lived for the past decade? Is it where I go for the holidays? Is it wherever my mom is? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Life gets topsy turvy sometimes and anxiety :: worry :: doubt :: fear :: loneliness often become my regular, unwanted companions. Sigh. But when I practice yoga asana I feel “home” wherever I may be: an airport waiting area, a beach somewhere, the yoga studio down the street. Lately I’ve been intentionally cultivating that home feeling within myself as I move through the world; making it a goal to find that feeling of wholeness :: safety :: okay-ness.

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Being Grounded

And each time I get on my mat, I remember: Oh, right, this is what it feels like to be grounded :: to have my feet on the earth :: to be supported :: to take risks and fall :: to try again :: to get back up :: to breath deeply :: to take flight :: to exhibit courage :: to have my own back :: to challenge myself :: to be enough as I am today :: to rest.

 

Here’s what I’ve found helps me most:

Start with Sun Salutations.

*  The moving, repetitive flow of the sun salutations is a mindless meditation that gets me out of my head, into my body, and connected with my breath.

Sun Salutations

 

Move with breath:

*  As I take deeper breaths my body relaxes, my thoughts quiet, and I find myself more connected with what’s actually happening in the present moment.

Yoga Pose on the Beach

Photo by Mario Covic

Practice outside:

*  When I get on my mat (or on the grass :: sand :: dirt) out in nature I breathe in fresh air and remember that I’m part of this universe :: earth :: world :: community. (Try it. It’s magical. And maybe you’ll inspire someone else to take a breath :: slow down :: and remember their own wholeness.)

 

Set an intention:

* Sometimes I dedicate each sun salute to a friend or choose an affirming word for each breath. It helps me feel purposeful :: connected :: home.

 

 

Lena Schmidt

 

by Lena Schmidt

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Yoga at Home – Music Playlist 1

What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the…

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What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the Pilgrimage Yoga studios in San Diego are created by our yoga teachers to reflect their moods, and to inspire your practice with uplifting music.  Here’s a playlist from Yoga Tribe of songs, both sublime and energizing, that will enhance your yoga practice at home.  Use the Spotify player below to hear the tracks.

What’s on your yoga music playlist?

Ommmmm…… 35 songs – 2 hours and 25 minutes

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Falling Into Practice

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class…

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by Keith Macpherson

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class. I remember walking into the studio and feeling like I stepped into another planet. The culture was so different compared to what I had known outside the walls of that building. A calm came over me as I placed my mat down in the sweaty hot room and waited for class to begin. I remember feeling very self conscious as the instructor entered the room and started referencing words I had never heard of. “Savassana this and Udyana that”. My mind raced into overdrive as I didn’t want anyone to look over and see me in the corner trying to keep up with the next to impossible stretches the people around me seemed to be so easily doing and yet somehow after the experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good I felt. I left the studio that day feeling so light, open and completely present. Everything seemed clearer and made more sense.

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Words Can’t Explain It

To this day, I can’t completely explain it in words. I continued to make my way back to the studio every week and the practice became a regular routine for me. It was then that my life began to change. I started absorbing more of the information being instructed to me in class; from physical cues to specific intentions and inspirations spoken to relate to the postures I was doing in my body. The yoga world became a magical place for me. It made me feel alive and free. I graduated my practice into teaching yoga and have been for several years. Although I am now in the role of a yoga instructor, I have come to see that we never stop growing. Everytime I step foot in the studio as a student or instructor, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow on so many levels. Such is life. Yoga is a remembrance of what life is really all about. It reminds us to take things one moment at a time, to breath, to stay present, to surrender our tension and holding patterns, to love and be grateful. At first, at least in my experience, it all appears to be kind of impossible. How can something so basic like stretching lead to such deep insights? I have come to see that yoga is so much more then just people stretching their bodies. It is a reflection of life. I am a big believer that we are all on a journey back to oneness. In sanskrit, (the language associated with the yoga practice), the word “yoga” means “union”. Underneath all that appears to separate us on the surface, whether it be our body size or shape, the way we look, the way we think, the choices we make, there is a deep connection that we all share. Think about it. We are all sharing this planet, we are all breathing the same air, we are all able to be present in this body because we all have beating hearts.

#Fallintopractice

30 Day Yoga Challenge Ahead!

This practice of Union deepens us and will eventually lead to a realization that we truly are all connected in a way much deeper then the physical reality that we think we are. I am passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone. It is a game changer worth trying. Over time it will improve the quality of your life. For that reason, I am launching a 30-Day yoga challenge on Instagram with my good friend Rachelle Taylor (Editor of Prairie Yogi Magazine). Together for 30 days we will be posting a picture of a yoga posture once a day for you to try and then post up a photo version of you doing the pose at the hashtag #fallintopractice. We purposely decided to put postures in this challenge that could be accessible to as many people as possible. So this is your chance! If you haven’t attempted this practice before but have been curious- try out a few postures and take that extra step to share your journey with us. Even if you have been practicing yoga for a long time- even better to encourage others to fall into their practice. There are some great incentives attached to this challenge that you can win simply by posting your photos to the hashtag including spa certificates from Thermea, NHL Jets Gear, Yoga Studio Passes at Moksha Yoga Winnipeg Lianne Gail Jewelry and some great swag from Prairie Yogi not to mention a few copies of my new yoga dvd that just got released. I hope you will take the risk and dive into to meet our invitation for you to try yoga. After all- this is the perfect time to try something new. Life is here waiting for you to expand and grow! I look forward to seeing what you come up with and hearing what you think of the practice!

Join the Instagram Challenge at http://www.instagram.com/keithmmac .

Subscribe to Keith’s daily email intentions and updates here.

 

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3 Ways To Feel Your Best

We spend our time doing many things each day. But how many of our activities actually contribute to our own well-being…

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We spend our time doing many things each day. But how many of our activities actually contribute to our own well-being or make the world a better place?

Do Worthwhile Things

Feeling good results when we do things that are worthwhile for ourselves and those around us. Practicing yoga, working out regularly, eating healthy foods, and living harmoniously with nature – all can contribute to a personal sense of well-being.

Motivation guru Earl Nightingale wrote, “We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”

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Think Positive

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become,” says Buddha.

Lets say life is great, but your job feels like it’s going nowhere. Be patient. Avoid saying self-defeating and/or negative things to yourself. Try replacing them with positive thoughts.

Author Normal Vincent Peale advises an approach to positive thinking, “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.”

Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are things you can say to yourself either out loud or quietly to help enable positive outcomes. Try affirming to yourself whatever it is that you want to occur. Let’s say you’re recovering from a broken arm, you can repeat to yourself, “I have a strong and healthy arm.”

Holistic Health writer Liz Parry, suggests several positive affirmations that you can use to influence your life:

  • I have a healthy body and a happy mind.
  • I have plenty of energy.
  • My mind is calm and relaxed.
  • I have an enjoyable and fulfilling job.
  • Money flows easily and naturally into my life.
  • I radiate love and happiness.
  • I have a happy, loving relationship with my partner.
  • I am successful in all that I do.

What do you do each day to feel good?

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Tonight: Kirtan Band Streaming Live!

Join us online for an evening of music, community and joyful fun! Every Thursday night Pilgrimage Yoga Online…

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Join us online for an evening of KIRTAN: music, community and joyful fun!

Every Thursday night the Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band streams Kirtan music live.  WATCH LIVE at 8:15pm (Pacific) using the FREE Stre.am app for iOS and Android. Download the app, sign in and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us. Become part of our world-wide Kirtan community.

Kirtan is a music and chanting meditation practice with its origin in the bhakti tradition of yoga; the practice of devotion to the creator. By singing and chanting we vibrate our bodies and resonate with good energy.  And by occupying our minds with a ‘Mantra,” a meaningful devotional phrase, we are better able to focus our attention on devotion to our creator, creation and our place in it. At its very best kirtan is a deeply profound and moving meditation practice. At its least its a fun, entertaining hour.

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Pilgrimage Yoga Online Kirtan features chants from the major faith based systems, ancient, contemporary and original mantra and song.

Join us streaming live Thursday nights at 8:15-9:15pm (pacific)!

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Setting up a Regular Place for Meditation

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench…

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by Sujantra McKeever

 

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench, or any place where we can go and be free of distractions.

Be Free of Distractions

The reason for this is twofold: by consistently meditating there, having this sacred spot for our practice, we create a meditative vibration in that area. Every time we sit down to meditate that energy becomes stronger. Secondly, just as we have various rooms in our house—when we go into the breakfast room, we know we ill eat breakfast; when we go into our bedroom, we will sleep—so, too, when we go into our meditation area we know exactly what will take place in that room: meditation. We want to make that place free from distractions: ringing telephone, other people, television, and other common distractions.

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Create an Altar or Shrine

In the place where you practice your daily meditation it is essential to create an altar or shrine towards which you can focus your attention when practicing your meditation. On your shrine you can place objects which will inspire you, remind you of your own spiritual journey and be practical aids in your practice. I suggest: candles, flowers, incense, photographs (either of people or places that offer you spiritual inspiration), uplifting music and books. In essence you are creating your own church or sacred, holy ground where you can commune with the spirit and potential within and around you. Freed from the pull of the mundane, your consciousness can dance with the limitless aspect of existence. You can then infuse this new energy and feeling into your daily activities. I know a number of individuals who use the daily practice of meditation as an oasis amidst the intensity of their business careers. They enjoy the focus and concentration needed in their careers. They also find it essential to meditate and infuse the intensity with joy and gratitude which they derive from their meditation.

By creating this sacred spot you are also saying to yourself and those you know you: “The spiritual quest is a reality for me and this is the sacred area where I sit to seek and know the vastness of all that is.”

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

(Candle photo credit Shawn Carpenter)
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Yoga and Weight Loss: Find Balance

The practice of even the gentlest style of yoga helps make everything in life a little easier — including weight loss. Overweight people who practiced yoga…

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The practice of even the gentlest style of yoga helps make everything in life a little easier — including weight loss.

Alan Kristal, lead researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, studied 15,000 adults in their 50s. His study showed that overweight people who practiced yoga at least once a week for 4 or more years lost an average of 5 pounds, while those who failed to practice packed on an average of 13.5 pounds. That’s a difference of almost 20 pounds.  And folks who practiced yoga regularly maintained their weight more effectively than those who did not.

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Stress Affects Weight Loss

Still, stress is a factor in weight loss. According to Harvard’s Medical Health Letter, “Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. And an American Psychological Association survey indicated that about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.”

Balance Playlist

If you’re stressed out more than you want to be or if you’re trying to get your diet under control, here’s a great 30 minute Pilgrimage Yoga Online playlist for getting into balance that you can practice in the morning, evening or over lunch at work. Yoga a great way to balance the stress of your day.

  1. Sun Salutations (10 min)

Surya Namaskar. Connect your breath to your movement as you flow through one of yoga’s most popular series of asanas, also known as sun salutations.

  1. Crow Pose (5 min)

Bakasana. Balance the weight of your body on bent arms.  Strengthen your arms and wrists and improve focus and balance.

  1. Tripod Headstand (5 min)

Sirsasana. Rest the crown of the head lightly on the floor as the body is completely inverted and held upright, supported by the forearms.

  1. Savasana (10 min)

Savasana. Savasana is consciously letting go, actively surrendering to gravity; being pulled into back into earth. Allowing ourselves to melt into harmony with all.

How are you using yoga for weight loss?

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Review: Kori Linae Carothers: Fire in the Rainstorm

Fire in the Rainstorm is Kori Linae Carothers’ second project with Will Ackerman producing, and her first solo piano album. It is her fourth album to date and contains twelve original…

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by Kathy Parsons

Fire in the Rainstorm is Kori Linae Carothers’ second project with Will Ackerman producing, and her first solo piano album. It is her fourth album to date and contains twelve original pieces. With one of the more dramatic album covers of the year, the music is both eloquent and beautiful, fueled by grace and passionate emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed Kori’s first recording with Ackerman, Trillium, but it is amazing the depth and honesty that is often revealed when an artist goes it alone with just the piano. Such is the case here. It is interesting to note from her bio, that Kori is deaf in one ear and was told as a child that she would never be a musician. She continued her music studies through high school and college, proving the naysayers to be completely wrong. In a way, she has come full circle and is now donating a percentage of the sales from Fire in the Rainstorm to Hearing Health Foundation.

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Poignant and Tender

The album opens with “A Day Like No Other,” a dreamy and slightly melancholy piece that also expresses determination and hope – a lovely way to begin. Flowing and lyrical, it grabbed my attention right away! “Nunu’s Sunrise” was composed as a loving tribute with warmth and strong emotions. It’s really interesting how the piece starts to slow near the end and then just fades out, unresolved – kind of like life does sometimes. “Meadow” is a favorite with its relaxed, carefree mood and easy grace. “Tidal Rift” is a beautiful, heartfelt piece inspired by the ups and downs in relationships – another favorite. The title track is a passionate piece written for a friend whose life has been full of turbulence. The piece begins calmly, gradually building in intensity and drama – very powerful! “The Day” is a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. Originally recorded as an electronic piece on Kori’s first album, The Road Less Traveled,it’s a poignant and tender piano solo – another favorite. “The Kindly Beast” is especially touching, knowing that Marvin, Kori’s beloved dog, died recently. He followed her everywhere and liked to get in the way of her hands when she was playing the piano (I’ve had the same problem with my cats!). Marvin’s playful antics will live forever in this song. “Whispers of the Heart” is a stirring tribute to friends and family who stand by through life’s trials and joys. Buoyant yet deeply emotional, it’s a beauty! “When the Trees Fell” mourns the loss of a giant tree with five trunks that was taken down by a huge storm. Grief and loss flow throughout this gorgeous piece, ending the album with a sigh and a tear.

Kori Linae Carothers has really come into her own with Fire in the Rainstorm. I hope it brings her the fans and recognition she so deserves! It is available from www.KoriTunes.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kori’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Mario Covic – Yoga Photographer

Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana? We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to talk about photography and yoga.

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Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana?  We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to explore photography and yoga.  Mario has captured the exquisite beauty of yoga and nature as the official photographer for Bhakti Fest, Wanderlust, and Lightning in a Bottle.

PYO: What are you looking for inside the viewfinder when you’re composing a yoga image?

Mario: My aesthetic is one that I like to call ‘clean’. When I’m working with people I compose an image that’s clean and focuses on the individual where the background isn’t going to distract from what the individual is doing.

Often I shoot in Nature and I use Nature to compliment the human and what they’re doing. The whole point is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana and the beauty of Nature is a reflection of the expansion at that peak moment. Nature is brilliant but you can clearly see what humans are doing. The beauty of Nature adds to the brilliance of what’s being captured — it does not distract from it.

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PYO: Why do you mix nature and yoga?

Mario: When I’m shooting yoga photography outside, the whole point of it is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana. The beauty of nature is a reflection of the expansion that’s happening in the peak moment of that asana. That’s what the whole point of asana is – centering ourselves, rooting ourselves, grounding ourselves so we can expand out. A beautiful tree is rooted and grounded equally and can expand out into its brilliance above ground.


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PYO: Why do you love yoga?

Mario: Yoga is about a balance between body, spirit and our minds. When we go into nature we’re usually being active which brings us into our bodies. When we’re in the body we’re not so in the mind. Nature brings us into the present moment. That’s the goal of yoga and asana. Spending time in Nature that is Yoga. Doing Asana reminds us of our own brilliant nature which is easier to do outside in Nature.


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Arriving late to a career in photography, Mario Covic earned a degree in biology and environmental sciences and grew to love the outdoors, adventure and yoga – all of which influence his startlingly beautiful imagery. His clients have included major athletic brands REI, Prana, and Lululemon.  Mario Covic is based in Oceanside, CA.  Connect with him on Facebook.

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10 Ways to Increase Your Imagination

Imagination is a uniquely human ability to form ideas — new images and sensations in the mind that are not in our present perception…

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Imagination is a uniquely human ability to form ideas — new images and sensations in the mind that are not in our present perception through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses.  Imagining is helpful if you’re practicing yoga or meditating at home or work. Just imagine yourself centered in the morning starting your day feeling calm and energized.

When I compose and improvise music, I am imagining sounds and then giving them physical form through my guitar, sounds on a recording and notes on a page.  When I’m writing a blog post, I’m reflecting on a subject and then an idea (hopefully) emerges in my minds eye.

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Imagination is helpful for envisioning our own success says Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who described imagination as “a portal through which you can transcend the imposed limitations of this world. With wisdom and will, whatever you can imagine, and continue to imagine, can become real.”

We like these 10 ways to increase imagination for better creative thinking by Operation Meditation:

Open your mind to unexplored paths

Creativity is often tagged together with originality. To come up with new ideas may be challenging and even oftentimes daunting, as unexplored paths may pose unexpected threats. It is also an avenue where one can find genuine ideas that can result to a successful endeavor.

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Creativity and imagination is sparked by learning. One’s willingness to learn new things gauges one’s ability to accept and adapt to change. It improves one’s adaptability to imaginative reasoning and creative thinking.

Tell stories

People love to listen to stories and each person has a story to tell. Practice imaginative and creative thinking by telling as many stories as you can. Let it be descriptive. Let it allow you and your listener to visualize what is being told. Visualization is an important part of increasing imagination. Visualization is often perceived as one’s ability to create a clear and vivid picture in the mind. Yet this concept entails various senses as well. Visualization also involves one’s sense of touch, smell, taste, and other senses. Visualization enables you to imagine the story being told or the object being described. The more imaginative and creative the mind becomes, the more elaborate one’s visualizations can be.

Be curious

Learning new things sparks creativity and increases imagination. A part of learning new things is being curious. Children tend to be more imaginative because of their curious nature. Our inherent nature to seek answers or to learn new things does not disappear over age. Feed curiosity by learning and experiencing new things and notice how your imagination improves. Feed your curiosity by asking questions and build your ideas with the help of insight from others.

Don’t be afraid to try something new

It is often said that if you keep on doing the same things, then you will keep on receiving the same things. Challenge yourself to experience new things or embark on new adventures and endeavors.

Expand your interests

Creativity is fueled by passion. Expand your interests by shifting your focus to include other interests that you may be passionate about.

Develop your talents

Everyone has a set of skills or talents. Focus on developing and honing these talents to express your creativity and imagination in areas that you excel in or in things that you know how to do best.

Spend time with creative people

Synergize your energies by spending time with people who share the same interest as yours. Brainstorming, planning, or simply talking to people will keep creative juices running, giving new and fresh ideas.

Look at things differently

At the points when you feel tired or bored, and, and you feel that your creativity is running low, look at things in a new perspective. This will give you a fresh approach to things that may even trigger new ideas that you once thought were not possible.

Condition your mind to relax through meditation techniques

A well-rested mind has a higher potential to learn new things and come up with more creative ideas. There are various meditation methods that you can do to help increase imagination.

How are you increasing your imagination?

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Top 10 Yoga Mats

Whether you’re practicing yoga at home or at work, a yoga mat is essential for your practice…

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Whether you’re practicing yoga at home or at work, a yoga mat is essential for your practice.

Hover your mouse on the image below to explore Top 10 Yoga Mats.  What’s your favorite?

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Recipe: Refreshing Hibiscus and Berry Smoothie

Refreshing Hibiscus and Berry Smoothie is a light and refreshing smoothie that’s perfect on a warm day. It’s made with…

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by Casey Jade

A light and refreshing smoothie that’s perfect on a warm day. It’s made with a base of fresh hibiscus tea, and blended with berries and mint. As the weather starts to get warmer and you find your body craving light food, this is a perfect option.

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A Burst of Energy

Smoothies are wonderful because they’re quick to make and give you a burst of energy. This smoothie is great for a light breakfast or a refreshing afternoon tea.

Hibiscus Berry Smoothie Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 8 dried hibiscus flowers or 2 hibiscus tea bags
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 banana
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • 10 fresh mint leaves

Preparation

1. Add hibiscus flowers or tea bags to a bowl with boiling water. Leave to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside until cool.

2. Add hibiscus tea, strawberries, raspberries, banana, dates and mint to a blender and mix until smooth.

3. Pour into glass and drink while cold. Add ice for an extra refreshing drink.

Casey is a yoga teacher and author of a popular food blog where she shares healthy recipes to help you look and feel amazing. Photo courtesy of the author.

Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to reprint this excerpt. 


 

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How Yoga Can Improve Your Golf Game

As a TPI Level 3 Fitness Instructor and long time personal trainer and yoga instructor, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible…

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by Michael Brantl

As a TPI Level 3 Fitness Instructor and long time personal trainer and yoga instructor, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible fitness benefits that yoga provides for golfers of all levels. Golf conditioning yoga is one of the easiest ways to restore, improve, and maintain optimal functional movement patterns and maximize golf performance. Why? Because yoga or yoga asana (yoga for exercise) is ultimately about proper breathing patterns, and high levels of stability, internal strength, muscle endurance, and balance.

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Flexibility

Most yoga teachers and students mistakenly regard flexibility as the paramount goal of yoga. This is incorrect. When yoga conditioning for golf is practiced in a proper progression protocol, it creates natural improvements in functional flexibility. Functional Flexibility is a combination of Mobility – ROM (range of motion)  around a joint site, and Flexibility – Muscle Elasticity or Tensile Resilience of muscles or muscle groups being dynamically challenged to lengthen. I use the term functional flexibility because this is not about getting your leg behind your head. Yoga is not about extreme flexibility. In fact, that can be detrimental. I think this is one of the reasons so many male golfers avoid yoga/flexibility work. Lets take a look at how a golf conditioning yoga program can improve each component of fitness.

The following is an excerpt (Chapter 3) from my book, The Empowered Golfer – Yoga for Optimal Golf Performance

Chapter 3: The Components of Fitness (And Why Yoga Improves All of These)

Here are some of the generally agreed-upon or accepted ways to measure fitness in an individual. Golfers need all of these to perform at an optimal level. I will explain how yoga improves and increases all these various parameters of fitness.

Muscular Strength

Muscular Strength is the ability to exert force with the muscles in a given exercise. This can
be measured by a certain number of reps for that particular exercise. For golfers, generally an 8 reps maximum is used.

Yoga poses require a high level of muscular strength. Many yoga poses utilize the weight of the body against gravity to exert force. This produces higher levels of muscular strength. Golfers need above average amounts of muscular strength to achieve a powerful golf swing.

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Muscular Endurance

Muscular Endurance is the ability to hold an isometric position (i.e. a wall squat) or to perform a certain number of repetitions of a certain exercise. Isometric refers to muscular effort involving stationary muscle endurance; in other words, effort without dynamic movement. The ability to hold isometric muscular contractions while performing a yoga pose for an extended time frame (30 secs. to several minutes) increases muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is very important for golfers. It gives golfers the ability to perform at a high level for a sustained period of time, such as in a round, tournament, season, career, or lifetime.

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Functional Flexibility/Mobility

Functional Flexibility/Mobility is the ability to move muscles and joints at different angles and ranges of motion (ROM) specific to the task or athletic movement at hand. In this instance, the athletic movement is the golf swing. Flexibility refers to the tensile elasticity of the muscles, mobility to the ROM at the joint sites. Yoga poses provide a vast array of shapes that both strengthen and stretch the body at many different angles in all ranges of motion.

A regular yoga practice will increase functional flexibility and therefore naturally improve mobility.
This may be the most important fitness component for a golfer to enhance and maintain. Speed in golf is determined by the ability to accelerate in a controlled fashion. Flexible muscles move faster and help enhance mobility in the joints. Increases in clubhead speed and better accuracy are easily achieved when a golfer has higher levels of functional flexibility/mobility.

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Balance

Balance is the ability to sustain our center of gravity when external forces are placed upon it. In sports, an opponent could throw you out of balance. In golf, the wind or an awkward, uneven lie can significantly challenge balance. Balance is also our ability to maintain grounding energy and our center of gravity while moving (golf, tennis, etc.).

Stability

Stability is the ability to sustain balance in different areas of the body and remain in balance while different body parts are moving, or when external forces are placed upon the body. The speed of the golf swing can take us out of balance if we are not stable.

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Yoga improves both balance and stability dramatically. Most of the standard standing poses in yoga require a tremendous amount of stability and balance. Any of the one-legged balancing poses or arm balancing postures requires even higher levels of balance and stability. Golfers obviously need high levels of balance and stability in order to create and maintain a powerful, reliable golf swing. Regular practice of yoga provides this.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular Endurance is the ability to sustain an increased level of aerobic exertion over an extended time frame. Any form of exercise has some effect on this. Yoga works directly on this because deep breathing is the primary focus of the yoga presented in this book. Yoga poses require sustained, powerful levels of isometric muscular contractions. When this is merged with deep and full yogic breathing, it increases the ability to utilize and access more lung tissue, which increases lung capacity.

This form of cardiovascular conditioning is actually more refined than aerobic exercise. Traditional cardio or aerobic exercise utilizes increases in heart rate to overload the cardiovascular system. Basic cardio work like a brisk walk is excellent for circulation, but it does not provide the access to the lung tissue that refined yogic breathing will stimulate. Both forms work well and should be used regularly to improve overall fitness. Golfers need above average cardiovascular endurance to achieve peak performance.

Body Composition

Body Composition is the ratio of lean tissue (muscle) to fat tissue (adipose) in the body. Yoga poses utilize dynamic isolated active stretching and strength routines that sculpt and shape the body. This changes the internal fabric of connective muscle tissue. Appearance also changes: as the ratio of lean tissue to fat is increased, the body naturally shifts things around. The more fit the golfer, the easier it is to maintain appropriate levels of body fat for their age group and gender. This is not about being skinny, and I don’t get too carried away with this one as a trainer and a yoga teacher. Life and golf are about the ability to function at an optimal level for a long period of time, not an unattainable perfect physical appearance.

The golf swing is a complex movement pattern, a blend of stability and mobility. In the golf swing, some joints are challenged to provide stability: feet, knees, pelvis, and shoulder blades. Other joints are required to be mobile: ankles, hips, spine, and shoulder joint. Proper kinematic sequencing is necessary to perform with both distance and accuracy. I like the model the Titleist Performance Institute uses of how the joints are stacked from bottom to top in terms of stability/mobility in the golf swing:

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As you can see, the pattern is stable, then mobile. Obviously, if something is askew at one of these
joint sites, then golf dysfunction of some kind is bound to occur. Yoga is a blend of strength/endurance (stability) and flexibility (mobility), and immediately provides the golfer with higher levels of both of these. Yoga will finely tune your body, and when the body is finely tuned, better golf is easily achievable.

Yoga and Fitness

If you are a golfer, you are an athlete. If you are an athlete, you need to be fit. There are many ways to get fit. Yoga is an excellent and important part of your fitness regimen for golf. The benefits of yoga and the yoga described in this book will immediately carry over to your golf game and your life. Obviously, the more time and energy spent on the discipline of yoga, the quicker the improvement. All components of your fitness will improve with regular yoga. As to what constitutes “regular” yoga, four or more sessions per week, with adequate rest or off days, is regular yoga.

Many people, especially men, think that yoga is all about flexibility. People say “Oh, I’m tight. I can’t do yoga.” That is exactly why they should do yoga! Ultimately, yoga requires strength, endurance, core power, stability, and mobility before it requires flexibility. That is why I use the words Functional Flexibility, which refers to joint mobility as well as muscle elasticity (flexibility).

The amount of flexibility we need and have is relative to many factors: skeletal design, space around the joint sites due to skeletal design (especially hips and shoulders), current levels of fitness, exercise history, injuries, and surgeries. Notice I did not mention age. Age can be a factor, but there is so much variability in what people can do at a certain age. Most of the variances are due to the amounts of activity people get at any time period in their lifespan. Besides, the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are. The golf ball knows physics and the laws of dynamic energy. The faster and more efficiently you swing, the straighter and farther the ball flies. Being fit highly increases your chances of playing better golf.

Exercise and Aging

The benefits of exercise exactly counteract what we think of as the results of aging. Increases in muscle strength, muscle endurance, bone density, levels of energy, lung capacity, and ranges of motion are
just some of the benefits of regular exercise, regular movement, and a more active lifestyle. Obviously, aging has some effect on overall fitness, but it is inactivity that causes the more dramatic decreases in all parameters of fitness and overall health than any other factor. I’ve had people say to me, when looking at a picture of themselves at a younger age, “Look at what happened to me.” Did it really happen to you, or were you just lazy and stopped moving, and that is what caused the dramatic shift? Do something now, right now! Go for a walk, lift some weights, do some yoga, walk the golf course, anything, please! It’s your life, and you can make the changes you need to by exercising on a regular basis. It is way harder to be sick than to exercise. You are never too old, and it is never too late.

Michael Brantl is co-owner of Jayani Yoga, Inc. in Pennington, New Jersey. Mike is a TPI Level 3 Certified Fitness Instructor, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Certified ACSM Health Fitness Specialist.

For more information about Mike and his book The Empowered Golfer – Yoga for Optimal Golf Performance, please visit his website: www.epgfitness.com.  

Photos courtesy: Michael Brantl.

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80 Years: Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk…

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On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet.  The teachings of the Buddha as practiced and taught in Tibet we call Tibetan Buddhism.  We celebrate his inspiration in his own words:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

Photo credit: Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

 

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How To Embrace and Enjoy Running

Whether you’re an experienced marathon runner or putting in the miles as part of your yoga practice to keep yourself in shape…

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Whether you’re an experienced marathon runner or putting in the miles as part of your yoga practice to keep yourself in shape, running requires a positive attitude. Yes, some days running is a chore, and other days it’s a personal joy.

Running is About Improving Yourself

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level,” wrote Haruki Murukami in “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. “But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday.”

Enjoying Each Mile

Here’s how runner Amanda C. Brooks learned to enjoy each mile and how you can, too.

  1. Embrace it.

I’ve never found a faster way to get through discomfort than to simply embrace every inch of it. The second I stop fighting, things begin falling in to place.

When we try to push through, everything feels hard. But the second you let go and just allow the run to be slower or harder, our brain seems to sigh and muscles relax, and suddenly you’ve gone further than you hoped.

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  1. Let it be a reminder.

Maybe embracing it didn’t help one bit, maybe the entire run sucked! What we all hate to acknowledge about a bad run is that it gives us an opportunity to truly appreciate those times where it feels like you could go for days without stopping and you can’t seem to wipe the grin from your face for hours after.

Thank your bad runs for being your best reminder. Allow them to wake you up to changes that need to happen with your nutrition or sleep or checking in with a doctor!

  1. It’s just running.

Non-runners tend to throw out this nugget when we’re feeling down, and in our moments of frustration it’s very hard to hear. Running is more than sweat and calories; it’s a chance to get to know ourselves. But at the end of the day, a good run or a bad run doesn’t say anything about you or your training. A bad run doesn’t mean you’re on your way to a bad race.

 

Amanda Brooks is an eight-time marathon finisher, running coach and ultra passionate runner. On her site, RunToTheFinish, she shares tips for every part of the running journey through group challenges, detailed training tips and of course delicious recovery meals!

 Thanks to MindBodyGreen.com for permission to share this excerpt.

 

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Review: Todd Boston: “Touched by the Sun”

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, following his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced…

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by Kathy Parsons

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, TB Face Smile CRfollowing his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced by Tom Eaton and Boston, the album features an impressive list of contributing musicians that include Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Snatam Kaur‘s vocals, Ramesh Kannan on tabla and cajon, and Michael Manring and Tony Levin on basses. Boston performs on guitars, dotar, flutes and bass and composed all twelve pieces, some of which were arranged by Ackerman.

A Very Positive, Uplifting Energy

With such a stellar group of collaborating artists, it is no wonder that both the music and the sound quality are truly exceptional. Boston has studied with the masters of a dizzying range of musical genres, and his compositions reflect an assimilation of many cultural styles. All of the music has a very positive, uplifting energy, and it’s fascinating how Boston shifts from Eastern stylings to Americana without missing a beat.

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Songs of Joy that Lift the Spirit

Touched By the Sun begins with a short prelude for dotar and cello that establishes the eclectic tone of the album. Hypnotic with a hint of mystery, it’s a great start! “Twilight,” features guitar, dotar (a simple Indian lute), flute, cello, tabla, cajon, and bass. The gentle finger-picking style on guitar gives the piece a very relaxed and contented feeling that is enhanced by Friesen’s soulful cello. “Celtic Heart” is a favorite. Guitar, cello, bass and percussion combine to create a folk feeling that overflows with emotion and passion. Darker than most of the other tracks, it really sings! “Sol Rising” goes in the other direction with a song of joy and new beginnings that lifts the spirit and lets it soar. “The Brightest Night” begins as a peaceful guitar solo and gradually evolves into a guitar/cello/violin trio with supporting percussion. I really like this one, too! “Under the Orion Sky” would be perfect in a film showing open fields or meadows or any kind of peaceful, serene setting. Love it! “Full Moon” picks up the tempo and energy level tempered with a haunting, mystical quality. Guitars, flutes, violin, tabla, cajon, and fretless bass cast a hypnotic spell. “Cascading” is just Boston and his guitar, with dotar adding occasional embellishments (also Boston). Peaceful serenity at its best! “Waves” was recorded on the day of the Japanese tsunami (3/11/11) after watching videos of the massive destruction. Intense yet very beautiful, this piece is dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges. The last track on this exceptional album is the title track. Guitars, bass, Snatam Kaur’s elegant voice, violin, and light percussion soothe and uplift, leaving the listener refreshed and with a sense of well-being.

A Wonderful Musical Journey

Todd Boston has created a wonderful musical journey for everyone who loves soulful guitar and world music styles with substance and beauty. Touched By the Sun is available from www.toddboston.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Todd’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Success Starts with an Idea

Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life…

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Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life in ways that others can share in them.  The late comic genius Robin Williams said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Often an idea stimulates a more complete vision about something on your mind: a new yoga posture, a song, a book, a poem, dance, a life shift, whatever. Sometimes an idea feels like a perfect solution. The right idea can bring one’s dreams closer to reality.

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Ideas are Gifts

They pop into our minds from nothingness. When I pick up my guitar at any given moment and start playing extemporaneously, like magic – music flows.  Music is coursing through my consciousness like a stream all the time.  A guitar in my hands is a soundboard for the flow of ideas, an aural reflection of my inner consciousness and what I am feeling inside a given moment.

Value and savor your ideas for they are far from trivial. Write them down in a creative journal or record them so you can return to them.  Even if they suck at the outset, they are instructive and evolutionary; they are build-able and often morph to power the successes to which one aspires.

Ideas are essence

Ideas are essence. They take time to grow into physical reality. “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else,” noted artist Pablo Picasso.  Give yourself time, patience and perseverance and allow unformed ideas to grow into their full potential.

Meditation and Contemplation

 I find that meditation really helps open my creative channels. Quietude helps me hear and see the flow of ideas.

Practice

Practice and perfecting your craft enables the flow of ideas. The time you devote to practice generates an inner momentum for your ideas to come through and your dreams to come true. So work hard.

Trusting Your Ideas

Contemplate an idea in a quiet place. Imagine life with the idea fully manifest. How does it feel to you?  Treat ideas as gifts and may they transform your life for the better.

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20 Affirmations for Achieving Happiness

Visualize Health and Success – Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter…

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Are you using the power of positive thinking in your life?

Visualize Health and Success

Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter side of life at every moment.  Always visualize health and success in your life and positive outcomes from your actions. And believe that you will eventually rise above any obstacles and difficulties on your life path.

Embrace the Brighter Side of Life

We like these affirmations by author Marc Chernoff that you can use to focus on the bright side of life and achieve positive results from all your actions.

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Exercise the Mind

“Just like every muscle in the body, the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength.  It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time.  If you haven’t pushed your mind in thousands of little ways over time, of course it’ll crumble on the one day that things get really challenging,” suggests Chernoff.

Repeat these affirmations aloud or silently until they are imprinted inside your subconscious mind.

  1. “I cannot control everything that happens to me; I can only control the way I respond to what happens.  In my response is my power.”
  2. “I will not get caught up in what could’ve been or should’ve been.  I will look instead at the power and possibility of what is, right now.”
  3. “I have to accept whatever comes my way, and the only important thing is that I meet it with the best I have to give.”
  4. “Making mistakes is always better than faking perfections.”
  5. “I will never be as good as everyone tells me when I win, and I will never be as bad as I think when I lose.”
  6. “I will think less about managing my problems and more about managing my mindset.  I will keep it positive.”
  7. “A challenge only becomes an obstacle if I bow to it.”
  8. “I will get back up.  Again, and again.  The faster I recover from setbacks, the faster I’ll get where I’m going in life.”
  9. “I will not try to hide from my fears, because I know they are not there to scare me.  They are there to let me know that something is worth it.”
  10. “There is a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion.  Life is too short.  I will invest in the activities that deeply move me.”
  11. “If I don’t have time for what matters, I will stop doing things that don’t.”
  12. “I cannot build a reputation and legacy for myself based on what I am going to (maybe) do someday.”
  13. “The future can be different than the present, and I have the power to make it so, right now.”
  14. “Happiness will come to me when it comes from me.”
  15. “Getting ahead is essential, and I will never get ahead of anyone (including my past self) as long as I try to get even with them.”
  16. “I will focus on making myself better, not on thinking that I am better.”
  17. “I will be too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener.”
  18. “I will eat like I love myself.  Move like I love myself.  Speak like I love myself.  Live like I love myself.  Today.:
  19. “My next step in the right direction doesn’t have to be a big one.”
  20. “All the small victories are worth celebrating, every step of the way.  It’s the small things done well that make a big, exciting life in the end.”

How are you using the positive thinking and affirmations in your life?

Thanks to Marc and Angel Chernoff, authors of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.

 

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5 Yoga Tips for Healthy Skin

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young…

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by Pritika Nair

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young and beautiful. Well, it’s not a far-fetched dream anymore! Now you too can flaunt healthy, radiant skin that draws attention. And the good news is: no chemicals and no pricey beauty packages. Just a simple four-letter word –yoga – and a glow on the face that lasts for long is yours to keep.

5 yoga tips

  1. Practice asanas (yoga postures) which help increase blood circulation to the head and face area. These postures also increase oxygenation to the system; as such are called chest openers. All inverted postures and forward bends, which increase blood supply to the head, can help achieve clean, glowing skin.

  2. Cooling pranayamas (breathing exercises) can help provide a cooling effect to the skin and retain its glow.

  3. To improve the digestive process, try doing Alternate Nostril Breathing on empty stomach.

  4. Meditate twice a day, every day. The more you do, the more you will radiate from within and without. Meditation will be your natural make-up that lasts long and makes you look beautiful!

  5. Practice at least 20 minutes of facial yoga exercises everyday at home. These will help tighten the face muscles. Massage your jaws to reduce stress, massage your eyebrows for a dose of instant relaxation, try the ‘kiss and smile technique’ (push out your lips as though to kiss a baby and then smile as broadly as you can) to exercise your face muscles.

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Other tips to keep your skin glowing

  • Drink lots of water: Lukewarm water with lemon and honey helps detoxify your system while keeping your skin clean and healthy.

  • Eat fresh: Make sure you include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C in your diet. Papaya can work wonders for your skin. You can either eat it or apply it on your face for a massage. Potato is also effective in reducing dark spots and scars, tan and sunburn. Also, try and avoid too much of fried or junk food and excessive spice or sweets. Substitute chips or fried rolls with dry fruits or some other healthy snacks. It’s also a good idea to check your body type – Vata, Pitta, or Kapha (an Ayurveda doctor can help you find this) – and know the kind of diet that is suitable to your unique body constitution.

  • Rest well: When your body is deeply rested, it automatically shows on the face. A minimum of eight hours of good sleep is ideal.

  • Apply natural stuff on your skin: Go for Ayurveda facial packages. These treatments are chemical-free, made from natural herbs and leave your skin fresh, rejuvenated and glowing. Use Ayurvedic face scrubs once a week and massage your face with an oil that is particularly suitable for your skin type. Vitamin E oil is recommended. Moisturize your face twice a day and make sure you wash your face after returning home from a long day. Also, splash water on your eyes at least 2-3 times a day. Give yourself a weekly body massage with an oil suitable to your body type. It cleanses the toxins away.

  • Smile: This is the best and the easiest make-up you can apply on your face. The more you smile, the more your face would naturally glow! Also, keep a positive attitude. How you look at yourself reflects on your face. Yoga practice can help you become positive about yourself and others around, and this positivity will make you glow!

Thanks to Art of Living for this contribution to Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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Review: Shambhu: “Dreaming of Now”

Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade…

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by Michael Debbage

Shambhu’s impressive 2010 debut took many by surprise however a follow up album especially after a strong debut is always a difficult position to be in. shambhu_Pilgrimage -SMALLNevertheless, Dreaming Of Now not only avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx but it will put to rest any doubt that Sacred Love was just a fleeting musical moment. In fact Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade you are about to embark on as the guitarist continues his boundless musical exploration yet creating a complete unified musical vision.

A Smorgasbord of Musical Dishes

Once again Shambhu teams up with Will Ackerman behind the production board along with several musical guests including the more obvious choices of Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello and Jeff Oster on flugelhorn. Add in the instruments such as the saxophone, flutes and various levels of percussion and combine that with Shambhu’s tasty guitar work on both acoustic and electric and you have all the ingredients for a smorgasbord of musical dishes all for your listening consumption.

Simply Heavenly

The album opens with the optimistic “Waterfall” that cascades and flows with the joy of George Brooks’s saxophone countering with Friesen’s cello all anchored around Shambhu’s melodic guitar work. It completely sets the tone of Dreaming Of Now that is simply heavenly. Followed immediately by the more moody “Windows Of Time” that then flings you into the toe tapping breezy “Starbucks Landing” will keep you keenly aware that this artist, much like his debut, refuses to pigeon hole himself into one specific musical style. “Starbucks Landing” focuses on the electric guitar and no it is not Carlos Santana but our very own Shambhu’s letting loose.

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Dreamy Moments

Dreaming Of Now is not without its dreamy moments that can be best found on the title track with Premik Russell Tubbs’ flute work floating effortlessly with Shambhu’s softly shaded acoustic work. This less complicated composition is utterly mesmerizing. The lighter musical hues can also be found on “Country Aire”, “Devodance” or even better yet the naked and stark yet gorgeous closer “Sanctuary” where Shambhu shows us he is capable of doing a superfine William Ackerman like performance but in his own musical tongue.

You Will Like from Start to Finish

Shambhu lost his element of surprise after his strong debut, however this does not take away from the absolute beauty found on Dreaming Of Now. With absolutely no filler, Shambhu’s follow up effort shows an artist that has not only blossomed but has also formally announced himself as a ready for prime time musician. The only question is in which genre? It does not matter as Shambhu takes elements of World, Smooth Jazz, New Age and Meditative qualities to create a musical experience that you will like from start to finish making it one of 2013’s finest releases.

Shambhu’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Celebrate International Day of Yoga – June 21st

The United Nations and the world are joining together on June 21st for an International Day of Yoga. This is a day…

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The United Nations and the world are joining together on June 21st for an International Day of Yoga. This is a day to recommit to a lifetime of health and wellness through yoga practice. It’s also a great time to share the wellness that yoga brings by inviting family and friends into the Pilgrimage Yoga Online community.

Why Do You Love Yoga?

When yoga students were asked why they love yoga practice, here are some of their answers:

“Yoga stretches my muscles and makes my back feel good.”

“Yoga helps me to bliss out.”

“Yoga brings me back into balance with my true nature.”

“Yoga gives me time for myself”

Transform Body and Mind

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and which aims to transform both body and mind.

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Discover A Sense of Oneness

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was instrumental in gaining the support of the United Nations for this day. noted: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. ”

The First Yogi

Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru noted the importance of this day in the yogic tradition: “On the day of the summer solstice, Adiyogi [the first yogi] turned south and first set his eyes on the Saptarishis or Seven Sages, who were his first disciples to carry the science of yoga to many parts of the world. It is wonderful that June 21 marks this momentous event in the history of humanity.”

We agree. So how are you celebrating International Yoga Day?

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A Beat You Can Breathe To: Yoga and Music

Music Affects Our Emotions – We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously…

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by JC Peters

Have you ever noticed the music yoga teachers play in class?

Music Affects Our Emotions

We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously,  elevating us, calling forth an old memory, or even causing us to squeeze on the gas pedal a little harder. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, explains that the parts of our brains that understand music are intertwined with our limbic (emotional) and motor (movement) systems. Sacks writes, “Rhythm in this sense, the integration of sound and movement, can play a great role in coordinating and invigorating basic locomotor movement.” No wonder we can’t help tapping our toes when a certain song comes on the radio.

Your Breath

In Vinyasa or Flow yoga, we intend very clearly to connect with the rhythm of the breath. We breathe Ujjayi, a slowed down, smoothed out breath that sounds a bit like a whisper, and link every transitional movement to either an inhale or an exhale. Your breath becomes a dance partner, and when you are really in the zone, your breath leads the dance.

Classically, Ujjayi breath is a four count inhale and exhale. Some teachers count the breath out loud, but a good song in 4/4 time with a steady tempo can get everyone in the room breathing together effortlessly. The yoga playlist is an unsung art: if we listen with our bodies, a good groove can help, while an irregular beat can throw us off. What we need is a beat we can breathe to.

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Yoga Playlist

The yoga playlist can also set musical moods, from calm and contemplative to fiery and intense. Since we hear music both physically and emotionally, we must be mindful about using it in a practice with such physical and emotional resonances. Whether it’s Tibetan monks chanting or Avril Lavigne, we must acknowledge that the music we choose creates an emotional flavor for our slow dance with the breath.

Many of my students love my yoga playlists, but I’m also aware that some of them must really, deeply hate them. Everyone has their preferences, and some people like their yoga in silence, with the steady beat of the heart as their only metronome. It’s good to acknowledge that you can’t please all the people all the time, but in the end, the music isn’t for my students. It’s for me.

Entrainment

If you put a few pendulums in a room together, swinging at different phases, they somehow hear or feel each other and sync up. This is called entrainment, and it also happens in a yoga class. As the teacher, I need to be the pendulum whose rhythm everyone else matches up with. No matter what’s going on in my life, and even if no one else notices the actual tunes, I know my playlist will get me in sync with the tempo and mood I am trying to share.

In your teaching or home practice, explore how music affects your movement. Some songs even make me want to do backbends or inversions, while others make me crave deep, seated forward folds. There’s a secret language in the music that can accompany our dance with breath. As the poet Mary Oliver has said, “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

This post was originally published on Spirituality & Health. To view the original post, click here.

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You only use 10% of your brain?

First of all, as stated above, it’s a bit misleading. The brain is a continuously active, living organ that is always functioning, always on…

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First of all, as stated above, it’s a bit misleading. The brain is a continuously active, living organ that is always functioning, always on and no area of the brain is ever off or unchanging. There may be heightened or lessened periods of regional activity, but the brain, in any event is always 100% on and in use.

In my opinion, the critical point that is being missed in this concept is that we only use about 10% of our brain’s functioning capacity for maintaining a state of consciousness.

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And that begs consideration, don’t you think?

The brain and its extensions controls everything about the body. Most functions are autonomic, operating in the background, constantly maintaining peak bodily operation. Other parts are used for our sub-conscious dealings, sensory inputs and sorting, habits, emotions, memory, plans; again, mostly automatic. These two make up over 90% of all brain activity.

The roughly 10% is the part that we use for our awareness, our perceptions, our mindfulness, our discernment. It’s the part that recognizes Itself. It’s the part that senses a bigger picture. It’s the part that remembers the spark within. And I am of the belief that we can, in fact, use more than 10% of our brain functioning for our consciousness.

This is what yoga teaches. This is what meditation teaches.

To become more aware!

We accomplish this by concentrating our will to direct more brain activity to our state of consciousness.

At some point, the barbarian recognizes that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

1%

Then they include someone else in their sphere, as a, ‘Second self’ (spouse, children).

2%

Then they bring the ’stranger at the gate’ into their inclusiveness. (friends)

3%…

The percentage of our brain activity used for Self-awareness grows and builds. Our brain wrangles functional capacity for consciousness and awareness. Our perception sphere expands. More and more brain activity is applied toward questioning, contemplation, introspection. And as consciousness enfolds, eventually, inevitably everything becomes our inclusion sphere. We expand our perception beyond everything… beyond the universe… to perhaps repose with the ‘Supreme.’

Yoga and meditation are tools that build awareness. Yoga and meditation help develop our ability to use more of our brain activity for consciousness more often and for longer periods of time. And when we exercise our consciousness, our awareness, we are building New Neural Pathways by which we are better able to perceive this new, heightened consciousness.

What does all this mean?

You have the ability to use your will to concentrate your consciousness, your Self-awareness. With practice you can move beyond 10% and use more of your brain functioning for continuous mindfulness. Slowly, steadily, with practice, your universe opens.

Let’s try for 20%.

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Writing a Home Yoga Journal? Tips for Yoga Lovers

Do you keep a yoga journal? Many of us practice yoga at home to achieve improved body tone. For some, the practice of yoga…

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Do you keep a yoga journal? Many of us practice yoga at home to achieve improved body tone. For some, the practice of yoga is a peaceful meditation at the beginning or end of a hectic day. Others practice Yoga at the Office, a range of yoga classes that can be done either seated in your chair or in the cubicle.

Record Your Daily Practice

Whether your practice at home or office, yoga is a journey and that’s why keeping a journal is a great way to record one’s daily practice.

During a yoga teacher training program, Morgan Turley’s instructors suggested that she keep a yoga journal. “I could see how it could improve my life, and yet it felt out of reach somehow. It was one of the hardest things for me to do. I would stare at a blank page and wonder what to write about.”

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Helpful Tips

If you’re thinking about what to write about in your home yoga journal, we found some helpful tips.

42Yogis suggests a journal entry might include:

• Date and time of practice

• Practice details: Did I go to a class? Did I do a home practice? Did I supplement my home practice with a yoga video? What style of class was it? How long did I practice? Who was the teacher?

• How did I feel before practice?

• What asanas did I have difficulty with?

• What asanas did I finally conquer?

• What do I want to work on next time?

• How do I feel after practice?

Anna Oldfield, Yoga London, added, “There are many different ways of keeping a journal, and everyone’s method will be slightly different. Some people just keep a note of when they practiced, for how long and the style of yoga, possibly with a few comments. Others may record lengthier descriptions of how they felt, their experiences surrounding the practice and the sequences used. Once you have found your journal style, filling it in regularly will provide you with great material for future reference and will help you to keep track of your personal development.”

What do you plan to write about in your yoga journal?

 

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Corporate Wellness Programs Pay for Themselves

Are you thinking about starting a yoga, meditation or wellness program at your company? Whether we like it or not, work can be stressful…

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by S. Neil Vineberg

Are you thinking about starting a yoga, meditation or wellness program at your company?

Whether we like it or not, work can be stressful. New York Times reporter David Gelles described his experience as a reporter at the Financial Times in his new book, Mindful Work. “The job, instantly, was overwhelming. For the first three months I had breakfast meetings, lunches, and after-work drinks on top of long days at the office. Anytime a deal broke, or was even rumored, I was expected to match the story or take it forward. It was exhausting, and I noticed my stress levels ratcheting up. Luckily, I knew what to do. Though mindfulness works best as a preventive medicine, it can also prove an effective remedy. And after a few intense weeks of M&A reporting, I sensed it was time to recommit to meditation.”

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Google, Apple, Target, and Aetna are among top companies engaging in corporate wellness programs that include yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices to reduce the cost of health care, increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and increase job satisfaction.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online has helped companies plan and offer corporate wellness programs that include in-office and online yoga, and wellness and meditation classes that are available to every employee.

The benefit of corporate wellness programs can be as high as $3 for every dollar invested, says Ron Goetzel, director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies (IHPS) at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Wellness Council of America suggests that a company needs an operating plan for creating and managing a wellness program, and they offer 7 essential steps you can take:

  • Write A Vision/Mission Statement For The Wellness Program That Incorporates The Organization’s Core Philosophies
  • Set Specific Program Goals and Measurable Objectives That Are Linked To The Company’s Strategic Priorities
  • Set a Timeline For Implementation
  • Establish Roles And Responsibilities for team members who are engaged
  • Create a Budget To Carry Out The Program
  • Market and Promote The Wellness Program In-House
  • Create Evaluation Procedures To Measure The Stated Goals And Objectives.

Interested in starting a wellness program at your company?

Contact the corporate wellness group at Pilgrimage Yoga Online for more information.

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Review: Paul Avgerinos: “Bhakti”

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting – Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist…

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Paul-Avgerinos

by Kathy Parsons

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting

Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos’ nineteenth album to date. Best-known for his ambient music, Avgerinos goes in a different direction with Bhakti (a Sanskrit word that means love and devotion). Avgerinos has practiced yoga, meditation, chanting and devotional singing all of his life and became a student of a Bhakti yoga guru from India when he was sixteen. He has been very active in a small Christian church for the past twenty years although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. Using a combination of Eastern and Western musical traditions and instruments as well as chanting and singing, Avgerinos has brought all of those influences together into a musical celebration of love and devotion. Calling it a “must have for energizing any yoga practice,” Bhakti is very calming, joyful, and uplifting. Avgerinos sings several of the tracks – a first in almost ten years – and also plays bass, a variety of guitars, keyboards, and did the sound design. Guest artists appear on sarod, EWI, “angelic” vocals, sitar, and violin. All of this is backed by “Bollywood” beats and Christian Sanskrit mantras. Warm and accessible, this is music that should appeal to a broad audience for both its spiritual and musical offerings. Six of the eleven tracks are primarily instrumental although most of those have wordless vocals. All have a strong Indian influence.

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Ambient and Meditative

Appropriately, Bhakti begins with “Invocation,” a very peaceful opening that sets the spiritual tone of the album. “Shanti Om” is more of a chant sung by beautiful, ethereal voices with a simple but very rhythmic background that becomes more complex as the piece evolves. “Love and Devotion” combines Sanskrit and English lyrics in an upbeat, joyful song with jazz flute passages and a catchy beat. “Om Namah Christaya” is a favorite. Voices are layered (including Avgerinos’) in a very peaceful chant/song backed with a strong rhythm that gives the song a quality that is very serene as well as invigorating. “A Path with Heart” is my favorite of the instrumentals. A bit more Western in its approach, Eastern instrumentation combines beautifully with ambient keyboard sounds – very soothing. “Hare Jesu” again puts Avergerinos’ voice in the forefront in a chant that is both Christian and Hindu – fascinating! Although angelic voices are utilized, “Joy of Being” is primarily an instrumental that is sometimes melodic and sometimes ambient. “Forgiveness and Healing” is a 9-minute track that goes even more ambient and meditative. The closing track, “Peaceful Contentment” provides well over ten minutes of tranquility – gentle and blissful throughout.

Enlightening Listening Experience

Bhakti is quite an unusual but very enlightening listening experience. Paul Avgerinos is likely to garner a great deal of attention and probably another round of awards with this one! It is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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3 Ways to Motivate Your Yoga Practice at Home

On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself…

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On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself into

doing some yoga. I had plans for later that evening and I wanted to be as conscious as possible to enjoy the evening’s activities.

I had already gotten in a cardio workout earlier in the day and knew that 20-30 minutes of yoga would get me feeling great but as I struggled to consciousness I knew the challenge ahead of me. My body only wanted more sleep and my mind was not interested in any discipline.

5 minutes of yoga works wonders!

The first thing I decided upon was that I would remove all pressure from myself by setting the goal at five minutes of yoga. Deep down I know that once I get going yoga feels to good to stop but in this case the challenge is getting going and so I set the five-minute goal. That worked.

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The next thing I did as I lay on the couch was think of something that I really enjoy that I could link to my minutes of yoga… music. I decided to put on one of my favorite groups for my five minute practice: Monk Party. It’s upbeat and dynamic yet soulful sound would make five minutes seem like nothing.

At this point I had turned the corner. This yoga practice was going to manifest. The trump card was fresh air. I realized that my sleeping had made the room a bit stale and the thought of fresh air motivated me to activity. I got up, opened the front door, air played from my iphone to my stereo system and started my very doable five-minute session.

Savasana

I know the way I am and my plan worked. Sure enough twenty-five minutes later was winding down a great yoga practice with a deep relaxation savasana that would carry me into a great evening!

Know thyself…and it’s easy to motivate!

Namaste!

Sujantra founded Pilgrimage Yoga Online designed to make yoga accessible to everyone in the comfort of their home. He is the author of 5 books and has taught meditation to over 25,000 people. He guides the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA and studied meditation for 27 years with Sri Chinmoy.

 

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Yoga Home Practice Room Ideas

Embrace Nature – Love doing your morning asanas surrounded by nature? Chant Om in an airy room that’s flooded with light…

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If you’re learning yoga and meditation online, then consider setting up a special place in your home or apartment where you can practice in a clutter free, calm atmosphere.

Go Minimalist

If you’re recreating a room for yoga, aim at a minimalist design free of distractions. A hardwood floor is ideal. You might need several yoga mats if you’re practicing on a concrete floor. If your room is carpeted, you might be able to practice without a mat.

Meg DePriest, a mother and yoga instructor in Denver, suggests you find a special place, “You don’t have to spend a ton of money or have a huge space. Just find a space in your house that makes you happy, chase the kids out every once in a while, and enjoy your practice.”

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Mediterranean Yoga Room

A peaceful, clutter-free atmosphere is ideal.  Most yoga spaces have bare floors, but adding a large rug can provide some extra cushioning.

 

Embrace Nature

Love doing your morning asanas surrounded by nature?  Chant Om in an airy room that’s flooded with light.

 

Yoga Heaven

Unsure what to do with the attic or basement in your home? Transform it into yoga gym. Add a yoga mat, some free weights, a stationary bike, and you’re ready.

 

Lighting is Key

Whether you’re transforming the corner of a room or an entire room, lighting is also important. Use dimmable lighting and shades so you can adjust the room for mood, style of practice and time of day.  “Traditionally, the lights are dimmed throughout the practice, and savasana, or the final pose, occurs in the dark,” added DePriest.

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Jerry Seinfeld goes Transcendental

Transcendental Meditation – Watching the recent interview of Jerry Seinfeld talking about the power and significance of meditation…

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Transcendental Meditation

Watching the recent interview of Jerry Seinfeld talking about the power and significance of meditation, specifically a technique called Transcendental Meditation was very inspiring for me. The ability to stay calm amidst the storms of life lies behind the success and creativity of many acclaimed men and women. It was great to hear him talk about the importance of meditation in his life.

David Lynch

I first found out about Transcendental Meditation, started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1978 when I was 17 years old. I went to an introductory seminar with my mother who was a neurologist and my cousin who was an airline pilot. The seminar’s validation of meditation was rooted in in medical studies and was very convincing. Meditation works! These days, 35 years later, they are using MRI machines to show the power of meditation. David Lynch, the famous movie director, is a strong and vocal proponent of the technique.

I ended up connecting with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and found in his teachings and meditation techniques a path that resonated with me, although I have drawn inspiration from the Maharishi’s efforts to spread meditation globally. I once gave Sri Chinmoy an article about all that their organization was doing.

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Japa and Mantra

Transcendental Meditation is rooted in a meditation technique called japa, which is the repetition of a mantra. A mantra can be anything from a seed sound such as “AUM” to a phrase such as: “Let Thy will be done.” The mantra can be repeated in one of three ways: out loud, silently (inside one’s mind and heart) with the lips moving; and silently with the lips and tongue motionless.

Aum” also spelled “Om” is the universal seed sound and is recommended in the ancient books of meditation as the mantra which can bring about the highest level of spiritual experiences. Mantras can also be created by various other seed sounds such as Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam and Ham . Sounds can also be combined. The benefits and science behind the repetition of seed sounds, and also the word “one,” has been methodically explained and explored in the book: The Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson is a must read if you are interested in this type of meditation.

PilgrimageYogaOnline

At PYO.yoga we have videos that explain more about meditation and videos that lead you through the experience of chanting Aum.

–Sujantra

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Recipe: Gluten-Free Nutella Granola with Cashew Milk

This granola is one of my favorite breakfasts to have on hand, with its perfect level of sweetness…

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This granola is one of my favorite breakfasts to have on hand, with its perfect level of sweetness and delightful pops of crunch from the toasted quinoa. When you eat this granola, the milk turns chocolaty and tastes exactly like the Cocoa Puffed milk of yore — so delicious! You have to try.

Gluten-Free Nutella Granola

NutellaGranolaCerealMylk-850x850Ingredients

  • 3 cups raw oats
  • 1 cup raw buckwheat
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, rough chopped
  • 1 cup toasted or puffed quinoa
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

 

 Preparation

1. Combine oats, buckwheat, hazelnuts, quinoa, chia and coconut sugar and mix well.

2. In a small saucepan, add coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla salt and cocoa powder; stirring constantly until coconut oil is melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Pour over dry ingredients and stir well, then spread in an even layer on parchment lined baking sheets.

4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and store in jars at room temp for 2 to 3 weeks.

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Cashew Milk

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for 2-3 hours, then drained
  • 1 cup shredded dried coconut, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
  • 4-5 cups water, based on desired thickness (4 cups makes more of a whole milk feel, and 5 is closer to skim)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preparation

Blend all ingredients on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very well combined, then strain out solids using a dish towel or nut milk bag, squeezing well to get all liquid out.

Milk keeps for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.

About the Author

Liz Moody is the woman behind the popular healthy food Instagram account @notcrazyhealthy, where she posts daily recipes and health tips. Named one of the best healthy Instagram’s to follow by Glamour.com, she’s also been featured on Redbook and Health Magazine. Having lived in Europe, South America, and the US, she’s passionate about making healthy choices accessible everywhere, and as such has recently launched EatWell Europe, the world’s first healthy food travel guide.

Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to reprint this excerpt.

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Recipes: Chickpea, Cucumber + Avocado Salad

Perfect for Summer Lunches and Dinner Parties – With the weather getting warmer, a delicious, cold, refreshing salad…

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by Abigail Keeso

Perfect for Summer Lunches and Dinner Parties

With the weather getting warmer, a delicious, cold, refreshing salad is sometimes just what the body needs. This delicious chickpea, cucumber and avocado salad does the trick. It only takes 10 minutes to throw together, and is perfect for summer lunches and dinner parties.

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Chickpea, Avocado + Feta Salad

Serves 4 – Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (19 oz.)
  • 1 cucumber (diced)
  • 4 green onions (diced)
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1 avocado (diced)
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

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Preparation

1. Combine chickpeas, cucumber, green onion, parsley, avocado, baby spinach and feta cheese together in a large salad bowl.

2. Drizzle with lime and lemon juice and add the extra virgin olive oil.

3. Toss well until evenly distributed. Divide into bowls and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

About the Author

Abigail Keeso is a Registered Nurse, Culinary Nutrition Expert and co-founder of That Clean Life, a platform that makes eating healthy simple and fun.

Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to reprint this excerpt.

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Review: Heidi Breyer: “Letters from Far Away”

Only another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer.

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Reviewed by Michael Debbage

heidibreyerOnly another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer. Last time around Breyer pushed the envelope with the addition of a few vocal performances. This time out she wanted to strip it down to create her first solo piano album however decided to make it a double album concept with the second disc presenting the same songs fleshed out with various instrumentation. The results are magical.

Velvety and Elegant

While the discs are not labeled as disc one and two clearly the initial concept was to go it alone and while the performances are velvety and elegant, when accompanied with varying instrumentation the emotional factor though still reserved is nevertheless moving. With Breyer co-producing with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton the performances themselves though not limited to Ackerman’s A Team session players include the usual suspects of Jill Haley on the English Horn, Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Noah Wilding on vocals and even Ackerman on guitar.

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Not One Weak Moment

Haley and Friesen are the first to appear on the slow rhythmically delicious opening track entitled “All The Good Things” as they combined effortless with Breyer’s simple but emotive piano work. Frankly, “All The Good Things” could easily have referred to the stellar compositions that follow as there is not one weak moment found as it appears Breyer has completely outdone herself. This review would get hideously long speaking about the high points that pictorially would look  like the Alps. So skipping forward just inhale the quiet moments of Breyer’s piano work as she brings the emotive factor up slowly but gradually in complete harmony with Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals on “First Impressions”. At one point there are two voices which would likely be Breyer herself harmonizing with Wilding. Another more than stellar moment can be found on “Touchstone” where Breyer’s playing is more vibrant and progressive than usual. With the album concept focused on the story of two lovers it is this song that strongly suggests the meeting of their heart, mind and soul. Equally as energetic is “Welton” with the album coming to a close with highly reflective “Starry Pond”.

Nothing Short of Astonishing

Breyer’s latest ambitious creation shy of the cardboard packaging is nothing short of astonishing and is without a doubt her most impressive recording to date. When you consider the fact that her discography to date is already a treasure chest, speaking this highly of Letters From Far Away only makes this her crown jewel until she outdoes herself again. Considering the bravado of Breyer’s track record there should never be a doubt.

Heidi’s Website    Amazon    iTunes    CD Baby    Heidi’s Artist Page

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com, a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga blog.

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The Wandering Yogis’ Article

Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article! “I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located…

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Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article!

“I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located in San Diego.  What captured my attention was the way these 2 studios have removed all barriers to accessing yoga classes.  No longer can we say ‘I can’t afford it, I don’t have transportation, I can’t make time during my day or I feel uncomfortable in a yoga class.’  Pilgrimage Of The Heart offers pay as you wish online yoga classes accessible to anyone with a computer….read more

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Gentle Flow Yoga – Take it Easy

“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up…

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“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up what gentle flow yoga is all about?

Not all yoga classes have to be preparation for the Olympics. In fact, gentle yoga is just that, “gentle”, while also being invigorating and helping keep your body toned and in shape. This video from Pilgrimage Yoga, “Gentle Flow with Jamie”, shows how you can benefit from “taking it easy”. And, as it turns out, taking it easy or gentle yoga actually helps to not let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy!

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What is Gentle Yoga?

Gentle yoga is not as strenuous or difficult as “regular” yoga. Movements in gentle yoga are slower and not as difficult to get in and out of. Some of the postures, or asanas, are the same as you would normally do. However, this is not a flow where you go from down dog to plank to upward dog and back to down dog in one breath. This is gentle, slow…..easy! That doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. As we will see, it’s quite the opposite.

Like a lot of yoga sessions, this one starts with setting an intention and a proper seat position. This forms a good base from which to do other postures. Jamie walks us through a seated stretch for the side body, a seated twist and finally a seated forward fold.

After sitting, we move to tabletop pose where we are led through a series that includes Cat/Cow, modified Warrior II on one knee and Child’s pose (balasana).

Also included in this session is some instruction on Pranayama breathing – specifically alternate nostril breathing.

Benefits of Gentle Yoga and Breath

By it’s nature, gentle yoga connects movement to breath – and that’s a great thing! Since each movement is linked with the breath, we enter the posture gradually. This preparation nurtures the joints, muscles and connective tissue. In addition, some other benefits of gentle yoga include:

• Increased flexibility
• A calmed mind
• Stress relief
• Enhanced range of motion
• Balanced digestion
• Improved sleep patterns

Pranayama, or alternate breathing techniques, further assists with feeling more calm and centered, reduces anxiety and has been known to improve sleep patterns.

The video demonstrates the proper way to hold your fingers and walks you through the process of inhaling and exhaling through one nostril by blocking off the other and then doing the same with the other nostril. Surprisingly, this technique, which has been around for a long time, has students reporting they feel more calm and centered and that it helps mitigate intense emotional feelings and helps them sleep better.

Gentle Yoga and Pranayama in Daily Life

Gentle yoga and pranayama can be practiced most anywhere at any time. Sitting at your desk at work is a perfect time for a break of alternate nostril breathing. Likewise chair yoga, which can also be performed at your desk, is a form of gentle yoga. You can also practice gentle yoga at home, even from your bed. Practically speaking, gentle yoga and pranayama are available to the yogi to practice anytime, anywhere.

The overall approach to gentle yoga, however, can be summed up by our friends The Eagles:

Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand (well, maybe try)
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy.

Who said yoga had to be difficult?

Namaste

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Bliss Flow Yoga – Online video review

Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for…

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Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for the correct alignment and maximum stretch each pose can provide.

In short, I have attempted to break down every pose I’ve learned and improve upon it during my practice.

Breaking down each pose and getting more in depth is definitely worth the effort, however, another level of challenge in yoga is putting several poses together in a series or what is called “flow”.

What is Flowing Yoga?

Flowing yoga is when a few or several poses are “put together” in a series where you “flow” or go from one pose to the other while utilizing your breath to guide you from pose to pose. An example of this is Sun Salutation A or B where one “flows” from a standing mountain pose, through a forward bend and then on to a warrior pose, plank and down dog/up dog or cobra.

In this particular video with Lena Schmidt, the flow pattern she has created provides a good workout with great variety and excellent instruction. The session starts off seated and gentle with the intensity increasing as the flow gathers steam, but it’s not strenuous. Lena walks you through poses such as pigeon, down dog variations, twists and reverse table top. There is an excellent blend of seated and standing poses along with twists.

Benefits and Application

One benefit of flowing yoga is that all muscle groups receive equal attention, creating balanced strength throughout the body. The continual flowing movements help stretch and elongate your muscles while they are being strengthened, allowing you greater mobility and range of motion.

Focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breath results in a positive, calming effect on the central nervous system. Physically, sweat expels toxins and re-energizes your body. Mentally, the synchronized breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout your body.

Knowing and practicing the individual asanas of yoga is extremely important in that they are the base for a flow sequence. You can’t do a good flow unless each pose has good form. That said, if you’re feeling confident about your individual poses, you might want to give a flow session a shot. It will take your practice to another level and offers enormous benefits. Should you decide to flow, I would highly recommend this video. Go…and flow!

Namaste

Watch this video now:

Lena Flow 30

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Aparigraha: Don’t be Beholden

Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious…

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Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious and grateful for being part of the unconditional joy and brilliance of existence.

Through our interactions with others we often ensnare ourselves in unnecessary and unsatisfying obligations and expectations. This does not free us – it binds us. One of the yamas: aparigraha directly speaks to this.

Expectation

One of the ways that we bind ourselves is by accepting things from others knowing that in their giving there are also expectations. They might expect certain reactions from us or expect specific things in return. Think of the politician who accepts donations knowing he will be called on to do the bidding of the donor.

At times, people do things for you with the expectation that you will do something for them. They come to your party and expect you to go to theirs. They feel a certain way and expect you to feel the same. Unconditional love and giving is a wonderful thing in life. It liberates us. Conditional love and giving ensnares us.

Vivekananda

For this reason aparigraha can be thought of as the “non-receiving of gifts.”* Isn’t the joy and beauty of life found in giving and receiving? Yes, but not when by receiving we enter the world of expectation. In those cases it is better not to take or give but to remain out of the situation. Won’t we just end up isolated and alone in life? Far from it! By identifying unhealthy situations and circumstances you also learn to identity healthy ones. Moving into realms of pure and unconditional emotion will lift you into the blissful freedom of yogic living.

*Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

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10 Ways to Practice Self-Love

Start with these 10 ways to practice self-love. Ten. Forgive yourself as easily as you forgive others. Nine. Go to bed at the same time…

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Start with these 10 ways to practice self-love.

Ten.

Forgive yourself as easily as you forgive others.

Nine.

Go to bed at the same time as often as you can and allow 7-8 hours of rest nightly.

Eight.

Eat real food. Eliminate anything that comes out of a package or box from your diet.

Seven.

Get 10 minutes of exercise daily: take a walk at lunch or after dinner.

Six.

Drink water throughout your day.

Five.

Spend 10 minutes of your day in silence. Close your eyes and rest your senses.

Four.

Consider letting go of the past, contemplate what a life free of resentment and regret would provide.

Three.

Once a week do an activity just for you, take yourself out on an adventure, it doesn’t have to cost a thing or take up much time. Schedule it and keep the appointment with yourself.

Two.

Journal. Journal your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Look back periodically at what you wrote and get to know yourself through the words on the pages.

One.

Share some of your time or fortune with someone who needs assistance.


How do you practice self-love? Let us know in the comments below!

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The Ahimsa (non-violence) Dilemma, #1

The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)

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The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)—, which create harmony and balance in ones actions and thoughts. By bringing these ethical principles into one’s own life we create the fertile soil for personal growth.

The Yamas

The first, and I think foundation of all the yamas is called ahimsa, which can be translated as non-violence (ultimately in thought, word and deed!) Bringing these principles into one’s life is a very personal and subjective act; hence we will be faced with challenges and dilemmas when it comes to applying these principles.

Dilemma #1: Non-violence and Yoga

If someone is about to strike me should I let him or her strike me (therefore I am not being violent) or should I strike him or her first to prevent him or her from striking me? For a visual reference, think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent marchers getting brutalized by police with fire hoses, batons and police dogs.

If I follow yogic non-violence literally I will not strike back (hence, I am not being violent) but I am allowing violence to occur (me being hit.) Is there a difference between performing the violent act and allowing it to happen? Also, if I allow another to be violent am I allowing more violence to occur in the universe than if I simply stayed home and meditated?

Well, what do you think?

–Sujantra

 

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Hips Don’t Lie

There’s a song by the pop singer Shakira that says, “hips don’t lie” – boy, did she get that right. I like to jog, (or should I say used…

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There’s a song by the pop singer Shakira that says, “hips don’t lie” – boy, did she get that right. I like to jog, (or should I say used to like to jog), but I haven’t done it in awhile. So, I thought it might be time to get into running shape. Since I had success with other videos, I thought I’d check out another one on Pilgrimage’s online studio called Hip Opening Flow – 20 minutes with Yesica. From sitting all day at my job and not exercising that much recently, I thought it would be good to get my hips more open, which in turn would help my running. I wasn’t disappointed.

Who needs open hips?

The short answer to that question is: everybody! If our hips are open, it creates more space in which we can use our legs and body to improve our range of motion. Whether you’re a dancer/performer like Shakira or a regular jogger like me, the more range of motion you have, the better you’re able to do more things. And, it feels good!

The video starts off peaceful and slow and doesn’t really increase in intensity, yet the hips are given a good opening from all angles – side-to-side and front-to-back. The teacher in the video, Yesica, had a calm yet knowledgeable approach as she clearly demonstrated all the various poses designed to open your hips.

She even showed a pose called “runner’s lunge” which I wasn’t familiar with, but it really worked well for expanding the hip flexors. Yesica also demonstrated a seated “head-to-knee” pose that worked the hamstring muscles. It felt tough, but good.

Benefits

I watched this video twice. The first time I just wanted to check it out and see if I could do all the poses. I could and felt so much better afterwards. The second time I tried it I decided to take my legs for a trial jog after and observe if I felt any differences. Big difference! It really felt like my legs could move better and faster. More specifically, it felt like my legs were lubricated so they could move easier. I am sure the hip exercises helped as I feel more mobile and flexible.

The thought did cross my mind that I could be making it all up, just because I wanted it to be so. My response – first, so what? Like the beer commercial says, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work”. My second thought was I’m listening to Shakira – hips don’t lie! I highly recommend this video and will use it anytime I need to open my hips.

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Savasana – A pose for everyone!

Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique…

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Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique chair I got from my grandmother, the apartment I was looking to rent got taken and then my car wouldn’t start. Late for work again!

I decided after work to make a healthy choice instead of going to the local pub, so I checked out another Pilgrimage online yoga class since it was so helpful before. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really feel like “working out”. Then I saw Heather Fenwick 10 minute Savasana pose and thought – now there’s something I can handle!

What is Savasana?

Savasana, or corpse pose, is a conscious letting go and allowing the body to melt into the ground. It is the final pose in most yoga classes and is a restorative pose, which means you just lay there and your body restores itself – That’s for me! I sometimes see people leaving a yoga class when it’s time for Savasana, but from what I’ve heard, it’s really important to finish your practice with Savasana so your body has a chance to restore itself.

Benefits

Heather’s video was like a guided relaxation. She “talked” to all her body parts and told them, (in a nice way), to relax. I found this very helpful because you can find out if there are any leftover tension spots and let them know to “chill out.”

After a while, I just listened to Heather’s voice as I released the tension from the day and let my mind and body rest. I thought, now this is a yoga pose I could get good at – then I didn’t have any more thoughts –just peace.

Savasana in everyday life

A lot of yoga poses can be done in a variety of settings, like the workplace. Savasana is a bit more tricky, since you should be lying down. I don’t know about your workplace, but there’s nowhere to lie down where I work. However, it’s a great pose to do at home or outside in a park or at the beach.

As I continue to do yoga, I realize the benefits of Savasana. For me, it is especially soothing after a class or after having done other poses. However, after watching this video I learned Savasana can be an important, relaxing pose unto itself.

Namaste.

(To watch Heather’s Savasana video, CLICK HERE).

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Remembering our Power

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours…

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The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
–William Wordsworth

Returning Inward

Each yoga class is an opportunity to pull our attention away from our phones, e-mail and ceaseless thinking and planning; and return our awareness to our bodies, our breath and our spiritual hearts.

Connecting with a Deeper Sense of Self

Yoga teaches that we have the power to both turn our awareness outward and inward. Most people have lost the ability to turn within. Yoga teachers guide us back to that within! We forget that we exist in this marvelous reality called life. We get lost in the day-to-day minutia and lose touch with our deeper sense of self.

Yoga Cultivates Awareness

One or two sessions of yoga each week with our wonderful teachers will allow you the space and time to remember that you are part and parcel of Nature and that deep in your awareness dwells the heart beat of the Universe.

What helps you get in touch with your deeper sense of self? Let us know in the comments below!

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Turn Your Work Seat Into a Yoga Chair

Got chair? – Chair yoga refers to the use of a chair to sit in or hold onto in order to do yoga poses. A yoga teacher of mine once told me…

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Got chair?

Chair yoga refers to the use of a chair to sit in or hold onto in order to do yoga poses. A yoga teacher of mine once told me he could do almost every yoga pose from a chair. That’s good news for me, because my job requires me to be in a chair working at a computer almost all day. Plus, my doctor said I’m showing early signs of arthritis in my wrists and hands and I’m only in my early 30’s! Rather than starting to take medication for the discomfort, my doctor recommended “some type of movement to keep the joints lubricated and or physical therapy.”

So, how am I supposed to do “some type of movement” when I am stuck in a chair all day? I found at least part of the solution actually in my chair after watching and practicing the techniques in this video (Chair Yoga – 10 Minutes with Lena Schmidt) from Pilgrimage Yoga.

My doctor said that most people, when they find out they have arthritis, tend to minimize movement of the joints when in fact proper movement can actually help the situation. This video was perfect for me because I learned various techniques I can do while at work on my break or even while working. The video focuses on breathing and coordinating the breath with movement, stretches for the shoulders and neck and techniques for lubricating the wrist and ankle joints. Plus, the instructor also demonstrates a gentle spinal twist and a technique for stretching the arms and fingers. All of which I need and I can do it from my chair in 10 minutes!

Benefits of Chair Yoga

The video instructor is very gentle in her approach and clearly the first benefit I found from watching this video was to focus on my breath and posture. Many times I find myself hunched over my computer, which is obviously bad for my posture as well as restricting for my breath. Since watching the video, I have been practicing sitting up straight and reminding myself to breathe and I do believe I feel more energetic because of this practice.

I also benefited greatly from the wrist and ankle rotations and the gentle spinal twists from side to side. Sometimes I feel a bit stiff before I practice, but in the end I always feel more “loose” and not as much discomfort.

Application: Chair Yoga in everyday life

The techniques taught in this video don’t require a mat or props. All you need is a chair – it can be a chair at home or work or in the park. You just have to be seated comfortably and you can begin. I often practice the techniques I’ve learned at my work during my break or at lunchtime. I’m sitting anyway. I just have to turn my chair around from under my desk and get started! I’ve used these techniques before starting work, during work and before going home. I also do them at home on the weekends or during the evening. That’s the beauty of chair yoga – it can be done anytime or anywhere – Got chair? Get started!

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A Stressful Day at Work

Most of my workday is spent in a seated position staring at a screen. It is NOT lotus position, but rather some distortion of what…

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Most of my workday is spent in a seated position staring at a screen. It is NOT lotus position, but rather some distortion of what a good posture should be. I try reminding myself to sit up straight as I look deep into the screen, but I don’t always catch myself. My back muscles are constantly sore and my eyes are blurry. Lately, I’ve also been noticing minor aches and pains in my joints, especially in the morning when I first wake up. Am I a complainer? Maybe, but I’m determined not to end up looking like a twisted tree trunk so I decided to look at some healthy alternatives.

Great timing, because I happened on this video from Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga’s online studio called: Gentle Yoga – 30 minutes with Danielle. I was drawn to the peaceful, relaxing nature of the video – from the soft background music to the soothing voice of the instructor, Danielle. There was also a “student” in the video demonstrating everything the instructor said that was very helpful in understanding what to do and how to do it correctly.

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Gentle Yoga in Practice

The video starts with a great example of proper sitting posture, which was timely for me. Next, they cover some simple but effective loosening of the hands, fingers, wrists and arms. This flows very nicely into other areas of the body – first with neck and shoulder stretches, followed by ankles, toes, legs, hips and spine. No part of the body is ignored!

Gentle Yoga in Everyday Life

The session ends with a gentle supportive spine twist, using 2 blankets as a “pillow”. This video was extremely helpful for my situation, not only because of the actual class, but also because I could use some of these stretches/movements at home and work and most don’t require a yoga mat. Since watching the video I find myself much more aware of my posture and practice moving my joints throughout the day. Now when I wake up, instead of complaining about my little aches and pains I have something positive to turn to. I would highly recommend this video for a gentle yet effective yoga class.

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Finding my Toes

Before today I couldn’t touch my toes. As a seventeen-year-old girl about to be a senior in high school this always seems…

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Before today I couldn’t touch my toes. As a seventeen-year-old girl about to be a senior in high school this always seems to strike people as odd, though it has been a reality for most of my life. The story starts a bit earlier though…

Investing in Fitness

About a month ago my Dad and I decided it was about time to start investing further in fitness, during the ever so lazy summer season, so we joined a gym close to our house. We try to work out 5 days a week incorporating cardio and weights in order to burn calories while building muscle as well as trying to eat as clean as possible as often as we can, and it’s been great so far.

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Reaching my Splits

I was a dancer for 9 years so stretching has always been a big part of my warm up and down from a workout but I didn’t always enjoy doing it as it was usually used as a starting block to reach my splits (which I was never able to do)! It was a constant frustration that though I may be only three inches from my splits I still was unable to touch my toes.

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The Importance of Yoga

Yoga and stretching has become more important to me since I joined my high school swim team my freshman year and sustained a shoulder injury from overuse. Doctors were unable to give any advice besides to take Aleve, to not work as hard in practices and to do proper stretching. As summer progressed without competitive swimming, this new, more consistent workout schedule has forced me to put more value into my time stretching and use it not just as a time to make sure my body is happy but that I am as well. After a hard day of cardio coupled with weights that seem to make my muscles scream, a long stretch often does the trick to calm down.

I can now proudly say that after many years of simply not being able to touch my toes, I can!

-Teenyogi

 

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Do It Yourself Yoga Props

When you’re in the studio, there are all sorts of useful yoga props to use during your practice: blankets, blocks, straps, bolsters…

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When you’re in the studio, there are all sorts of useful yoga props to use during your practice: blankets, blocks, straps, bolsters and eye pillows. If you’re practicing at home, perhaps with our online studio, you may want to create some of your own props.

Here are some DIY ideas on making props out of things you might already have.

Blankets

If you have a wool army blanket or Mexican woven blanket, fold it up into a rectangle or square and use that to prop you up as you sit on the floor. You can also use a blanket under your shoulders in shoulder stand or as a rest in savasana. If you don’t have a wool or woven blanket, try doubling or tripling up on beach towels, bath mats or even sitting on a dictionary to raise your hips higher than your knees as you sit with your shins crossed.

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Blocks

If you don’t own a yoga block, you can quickly repurpose a thick book or two books stacked or a couple reams of printer paper. If you’re using a book, secure it shut with some tape or rubber bands so that it won’t fly open on you when you move it.

Straps

If you have a cloth belt in your closet, that would make an ideal replacement for a yoga strap. You can also use another type of belt, a necktie or two tied together, some spare rope from the garage, or a long scarf (only use a scarf that you would not mind stretching out).

Bolsters

If you have a couple throw blankets or a thick towel, you can roll up the first tightly into a cylindrical shape, then roll that up into the second one. This should be a suitable replacement for a bolster. Make sure that it does not collapse underneath you, a bolster should support you and be resilient under your weight. If the one you make flattens out when you use it, find a more robust blanket or towel to use.

Eye Pillow

You can easily make an eye pillow at home by filling a clean sock with rice or beans (or both). Tie a knot at the end to seal it up or twist the end and fix a rubber band to close it up. If you have some essential oils at home, sprinkle a bit on the sock and enjoy aromatherapy while you eyes relax under the gentle weight of the pillow you made.

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4 Keys to a Home Yoga Practice

Developing a home yoga practice can be incredibly rewarding! Keep the following tips in mind as you move forward in your yogic journey.

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Developing a home yoga practice can be incredibly rewarding! Keep the following tips in mind as you move forward in your yogic journey:

1. Gratitude

For many practitioners, the spiritual and cognitive aspects of yoga can be overshadowed by the desire for fitness. And with any fitness regimen, repetition for the sake of fitness can feel like a chore and become stale. It’s important to keep your at-home practice in perspective. It’s a gift, so anytime it feels labored to step on your mat, remember that not everyone has the knowledge of or access to this sacred practice.  Even the days when stepping on the mat seems impossible, take a breath of gratitude, remembering you are endowed with this physical body, this intellectual mind and this gift of yoga.

2. Making Time

Regardless of how busy your life seems, you have time for a personal yoga practice. But the busier your schedule, the more you must manage expectations. Don’t hold the standard of your at-home practice to the experience you receive in a studio class. There’s a different energy involved with a group practice, as opposed to being solitude on your mat. Depending on your schedule, your home practice might just be a quick 15-minute jump start to your day. Master Yoga Teacher Mark Whitwell even suggests committing to just 7-minutes per day as a positive step in developing a private practice. However long you find time to come into your practice, give yourself the gift of being fully present on your mat, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

3. Centering and Creating Intention

The best way to remain present in your practice is to take a few moments to calm your mind with deep breathing. This could be your favorite style of pranayama, or just repeating long breath cycles. Centering through deep breathing is our very best tool for unclogging some of the mind clutter, and this isn’t just yogic speak. When you use deep breathing, you tap into the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. You can think of this as the opposite of the fight or flight response, a moment when your body tells you that everything is ok, there’s nothing to worry about. And it comes from your breathing.

 Centering is also a great opportunity for setting an intention or dedication for your practice. This is simply adding mindfulness to your physical practice and an intention can be anything you’d like to give or receive during your time on the mat. Drawing a blank for your intention? Try finding a quote relative to a theme or word you’d like to use as a focal point. Try BrainyQuote.com or ThinkExist.com as a starting point for inspiration.

4. Music

When it comes to motivation, music can play a major role in keeping you moving on your mat, especially when aspiring to a longer at-home practice. Move to your favorite playlist, or better yet, create yoga specific playlists to suit your mood with online platforms like Spotify. With these programs, you can create playlists that not only reflect your energy or tempo, but also the amount of time you’d like to spend on the mat that day. Try making a 20-minute playlist, a 40-minute playlist and a one-hour playlist, and use them when it’s appropriate. And as long as the music is still going, so are you. No time for making playlists? Turn on Pandora to your favorite artist and let them handle it for you.

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