Month: February 2017

Anahata Heart Chakra: balancing, meditations, mudras, mantras and more

Heart Chakra: meanings, meditation, balancing mantras and mudra

Anahata Heart Chakra: balancing, meditations, mudras, mantras and moreThe Heart Chakra (or Anahata Chakra in Sanskrit) is located in the center of your chest, level with your physical heart.  It is the middle of the 7 chakras, with more physical chakras below and more spiritual chakras above.  It is associated with the color green and the element of air.  The heart chakra is responsible for love, warmth, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, kindness and joy.  This chakra utilizes love as a healing force, also bringing unity to your body, mind and spirit.  It can help us to identify our personal truths.

Balance

A balanced anahata chakra promotes feelings of empathy and understanding, compassion and respect– both toward others and towards the self.  Also, a balanced heart chakra helps you feel connected to life.

An imbalanced heart chakra can lead to feelings of grief, possibly hanging onto old losses or emotional pains.  Fear and ignorance reign over love.  Imbalance can also manifest physically.  Because the heart chakra is associated with air and located in the chest, pain and illnesses can form in the lungs, chest and heart.

An overly open heart chakra can lead to excessive expectations of others socially or romantically.

MantraHridaya Mudra for the heart chakra, as well as meditation and ideas for balancing

To open the heart chakra, try to bij mantra or seed mantra sound, “Yam.”  You can chant it aloud or internally.

If you prefer English, you can embody an affirmation, “I am open to love” or “All love resides within me.”

Mudra

To access this chakra, try the Hridaya mudra.  Place the tip of the index finger at the root of the thumb.  Then bring the tips of the middle and ring fingers to meet the thumb.  Keep your pinkie straight. With both hands in the mudra, place them on your knees facing upward.  You can practice this mudra for up to 30 minutes, while focusing on the chest and heart chakra.  The middle and ring fingers are related to the energy channels (nadis) of the heart.  Closing the circuit with the thumb helps release pent-up emotions from the heart.

Meditations

Find a comfortable seat.  Take a couple of deep breaths to center yourself.  Meditation for balancing the heart chakra as well as other ideas for balancing the anahata chakraThen imagine the world sending you love.  Breath in that love on your inhalation, bringing love to your heart center.  On an exhalation, send that love around your body, letting it spread to every corner of your being, filling you with love.

If your heart chakra is already overly open, you can envision the opposite, pulling love from every corner of your being on your inhalation and on your exhalation, sending it out into the world, sharing it with those who need it most.  If you choose this version remember a candle doesn’t burn out if another candle is lit from it- you can share the love from every bit of your being without losing the love you need for a balanced anahata chakra.

As an alternative meditation, imagine a green light glowing in your heart center.  Let the light ebb and flow- follow it, however it may change, glow or grow.  Focus on it.

Asana

Heart-opening asanas help to open the heart chakra as well.  These are poses like camel, bow, dancer and cow-face pose.

GreenLocation of the Anahata chakra as well as balancing, meditations, mantras and mudras

Green foods like spinach, lettuce, kale, lime, and mint can help harness the energies of this chakra.

Green gems like emerald and jade are good for this chakra.

Finding greenery in plants and out in nature can also be a helpful cure for the heart chakra.

The Shanti (Peace) Women's Yoga Tank Top is a colorful reminder of the sanskrit mantra meaning peace
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The heart chakra is one of the most important chakras.  Love is so needed in our world, as are compassion and forgiveness.  Also on an individual level, this chakra is the centerpiece that connects the spiritual and physical.  A balanced anahata chakra is essential for your self and your interactions with the world.

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All about the Heart Chakra: mantra, meditation, mudra, asana, meanings, and balancing

Choose happiness; ideas, meditations and book recommendations for being happier moment to moment

Choosing Happiness as a Lifestyle

Choose happiness; ideas, meditations and book recommendations for being happier moment to momentI’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and choices that we make; how these things affect our demeanor, our mood, our opinion of the world, the way we interact with others and the way that they see us, and perhaps most importantly, how we see ourselves.  I think many of us can benefit from choosing happiness.

My friend Kelly just visited and I always feel like she’s bubbling over with positivity and fun and I think she actually sees me the same.  I sometimes forget to be that person though.  Seeing her was like the seven years we’ve been apart were the blink of an eye.  We went right back to our old joyous selves, only a little older and saner.  We still broke some rules and laughed more than we talked.  My world feels brighter when she’s in it.  Certain special other people also transform me in this way.  But it got me thinking- why aren’t I always this person?  Do I wait for someone to coax it out of me?  Can’t I choose it for myself more often?

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I’m reading a book called Everyday Joy, about choosing to see life as the biggest, best party anyone was every invited to, which is a pretty big fantastic idea, overflowing with fun.  But shouldn’t life be like that?  Isn’t it fun?  “In each and every moment, you have the ability to choose to enjoy yourself or not.”  Always, you can opt to be happy and joyful.  Sometimes, it feels like external factors like a long line or internal factors like a headache are in control, but in reality, it’s always you.  You can let something or someone get you down or you can choose not to let the interaction ruin your day, hour, or even minute.  You can observe rather than absorb the negativity.  It’s a choice.  It may take some practice not to let the moment crawl back into your mind later if you choose to ignore it now.  But what good does it really do to revisit the negative and unpleasant?  Why not choose to move on to this moment?  And enjoy it?

One of Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous meditations is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.”  Inhale the world exactly as it is right now and exhale your appreciation back out into it.  Simple.  Beautiful.

You can practice this same concept in your waking life as well- appreciating and showing gratitude for the beautiful and joyous in the world.

I’ve heard time and again that people are happiest when they are present in the moment– not doing one thing and thinking of another.

The other influential book I’m reading now is The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga.  I’m still on the introduction about Yin and Yang.  Yin is dark, passive, slow, female, night.  Yang is light, active, fast, male, day.  These descriptions seem so concrete and easy to identify.  However, every moment is relative- like the shadow of the sun moves slowly as the Earth rotates, changing what is dark and what is light.  Although yin and yang are opposites, they always contain a bit of each other.  Even in a fast-paced vinyasa class, you may still find a yin-style slowness and calm in your breath or mind.  Even in a sad or difficult moment, you can find some small joy if you look.  Even in a happy moment, there may be some small pain or hardship.  It’s all a matter of perspective and choosing to place your dao- your balance, your center- on the happy side.

Personally, I know I need more practice- more mental awareness of choosing to be happy, rather than continuing with my norm.  I want to honor the joy in myself and allow it to come out more.  In an effort to start to train my mind to find the happiness, I want to give it a head start for where we (my mind and I) can likely find joy and embrace it.  Starting with where it comes easily may help me remember to look when it’s harder.

  • laughing with my kindergarten students- they are hilarious!  I love them (even when they’re naughty)
  • talking or joking with my man
  • exploring this magical world, like different temples in town (even with the stares I get)
  • dancing and singing, especially to mantras
  • girl time with friends
  • giving in to certain impulses- grabbing a chocolate or smiling at a stranger
  • feeling the wind rush by on my motorbike
  • watching the sunset and/or the birds (even when it’s smoggy)
  • asking questions (even when it’s hard)- I enjoy digging a bit deeper sometimes
  • savoring each bite or sip
  • waiting and watching the world do what it does wherever I may be (even in line when I’m starting to get impatient)

You can try this too.

For a meditation, start with thinking about something that makes you happy.  Think of the details of that thing, person or situation.  Feel it fully.  Then go deep into the happiness it brings you, dwell on it.  Be so intensely taken by the happiness that you become it.  Let go of the impetus that brought you to this happiness and just be happy, be happiness.

Choosing happiness in each and every moment may be a difficult undertaking at first, but with practice and awareness, it can be done.  This world can be so beautiful and joyous if we choose it.


Restorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy #restorative

Restorative Yoga: 7 Soothing Poses to Try

Restorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy. #restorativeRestorative yoga is one of my new favorite ways to relax.  As your stretch, these poses help activate your nervous system.  It also increases your energy and helps release tension.  The organs also benefit from deep relaxation.  Restorative yoga can also help you find balance and focus as you release control and movement of your body and focus on your breath or simply one thought at a time.

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For most restorative poses you need a bolster, but before I sewed my official yoga bolster, I used a very full bed pillow (or you could try two smaller ones stacked on each other too).  Some poses also require a block, a strap, or a blanket.  In any of the supine poses (poses on your back), you can also use an eye pillow to block out light and add a little pressure to increase your relaxation.

As with any yoga poses, listen to your body- if it feels uncomfortable or painful, try a different pose instead.  I recommend you try these poses for 5-10 minutes, but you can hold them for up to an hour.  I recommend using a timer so you can relax your mind rather than wondering and checking how long it’s been.  In these poses, you can add additional soft props to hold up almost any part of your body that needs a little extra support (eg your arms if they are out to the side, under your knees if they’re uncomfortable on the mat, or under your head if your neck would benefit from a pillow in a reclining pose).  After each pose, I have also listed a counterpose, but if your body asks you to counter in another way, that’s fine too.  Here are a few restorative yoga poses for you to try.

Supported Child’s Pose

Restorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy. #restorativeTo come into this pose, bring your big toes to touch and sit back on your feet with your knees spread open (as you would for traditional balasana).  Bring the bolster in close between your legs.  Stretch your torso up tall and use your hands to walk your torso forward and fold over the bolster.  Once you’re laying on the bolster, hug the bolster with your arms.  You can turn your head to either side and switch half-way through your pose.

Afterward use your hands to help you sit back up.  From there, send your weight forward for table top or downward facing dog for a counterpose.

Supported child’s pose soothes the shoulders and lower back.  It’s also calming.

Spinal twist

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The Shanti (Peace) Women's Yoga Tank Top is a colorful reminder of the sanskrit mantra meaning peace
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For this pose, put your bolster in the center of the mat so both the mat and the bolster are the long way.  Sit sideways beside the short end of the bolster so your knees are bent with your legs tucked behind you (not under you).  One hip should be touching the end of the bolster.  Turn our torso so that you are facing the top of the mat.  Place your hands on either side of the bolster and lengthen upward before folding forward over the bolster.  For the pose, you will be laying on the bolster with one arm on the mat on either side of the bolster.  You can turn your head either way, depending on how deeply you wish to twist.  Afterward, walk your hands in, bringing your torso up.  Take a few rounds of cat/cow before doing the same pose on the second side.  Try to hold this pose for the same amount of time on each side.  After the second side, also do some cat/cow to help release the twist.

There is also a version where you lay on your back with your arms outstretched in line with your shoulders.  Bring your shins up parallel with the floor and place a blanket or small pillow between your knees.  Then let your legs come down to one side onto the mat as one if they were connected as one leg.

This pose is good for the back muscles, digestion, and breath.

Supported Virasana (Hero Pose)

Restorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy. #restorative

For this pose, begin with the legs in tradition virasana- with the knees bent so the lower legs are outside of the thighs, but both parts are touching the mat.  If this is uncomfortable for you, you can try sitting on a bolster (between your legs) to decrease the tension in your knees.  When your legs are in position, bring a bolster up behind you, next to your sacrum and slowly use your hands, then forearms to lower yourself back onto the bolster.  Once you’re laying on the bolster, bring your arms out to the side.

When you have finished this pose- due to time or discomfort/tension, slowly come up onto your forearms and sit up, leading with your chest.  Take a few rounds of cat/cow to release your back or downward facing dog to work into the legs as well.

Supported virasana helps clear the respiratory system.  It can also help sinus and head pains.  It also relieves the leg muscles and aids in digestion.

Supported Bridge Pose

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For this pose, you need a block instead of a bolster.  Lay on your back and bring your heels in close to your pelvis.  Press into your feet into the mat to lift your pelvis high enough to bring the block in under your sacrum (the bony area near the base of your spine) with your hands.  Rest your sacrum down onto the block and bring your arms down onto the mat at an angle from your body.

When you release from this pose, press into your feet just enough to lift yourself off of your block and remove it from underneath you.  Then roll onto your side for a few breaths with your legs bent and tucked toward the chest.

Supported bridge pose stretches out the spine and helps clear the mind.

Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose

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Sit at the lower end of your mat with the soles of your feet touching and your knees open down toward the mat (as you do for traditional Supta Baddha Konasana).  You have the option to wrap a yoga strap around your feet below the ankles, over your legs and around your sacrum in the back.  Fasten the strap along the side so you can adjust it if you would like.

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Bring your bolster in behind your back, all the way up so it’s touching your sacrum then slowly lean back, walking your hands back along the mat to help you recline smoothly.  You can keep your arms at your side, resting on the mat, or your can stack your hands over your head.  The arms overhead configuration is actually an inversion because your arms are above your heart so it changes the way your blood flows, which can be a nice shift.

When you are ready to come out of the pose, roll off of the bolster to the side, release your legs from their strap and rest on your side for a moment with your knees tucked up toward your chest.

Supported Supta baddha konasana helps relieve stress.  It is also good for the back and groin.  It can lessen menstrual pains.  It also helps with breath.

Legs Up the Wall

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Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillowFor this pose, set your bolster right up next to the wall.  Then crouch in a little ball, sitting on the bolster, with one side of your body touching the wall.  Using your hands to guide you, roll back and toward the center of the mat so your back comes down onto the floor and your hips are still on the bolster.  Now your rear should be touching the wall.  If this roll doesn’t work for you, you can sit on the bolster and lay back, then scoot yourself closer and closer to the wall.  Once your rear is touching the wall, extend your legs straight up it.  You shouldn’t have to engage your muscles much to hold them in place- they should be able to lean against the wall comfortably.  Your arms can either come out at an angle from your body, or you can stack your hands overhead with elbows bent.

To exit the pose, push yourself off of the bolster, then bring your legs down and roll onto your side.  Take a few breaths here.

Because the legs are inverted, the blood from your legs will be sent down toward the pelvis then chest.  With the arms overhead, the pose version changes the blood flow in your arms as well because they are above the heart.

This pose, also called viparita karani, relieves stress and improves the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Supported Savasana

Restorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy. #restorative

Some people find savasana to be very uncomfortable.  You can add a pillow under the knees to help support the legs and lower back or add a blanket under the head and shoulders to support the upper body.  The arms rest on the floor at an angle from the body.

When you are ready to exit the pose, roll onto one side, with the knees tucked up for stability.

Savasana is the tradition final pose in most yoga classes because this neutral position is a great way to let the body relax and rejuvenate from the more strenuous poses.  This pose helps relieve stress and fatigue.  It also improves posture and breath.

Restorative YogaRestorative yoga is a super yummy way to relax, de-stress and stretch at the same time. These 7 poses can help your nervous system and increase your energy. #restorative

Restorative Yoga is a fantastic way to work on calm, breath, peace of mind, and bodily functions all at once.  Treat yourself and give it a try.

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All About Ganesha: why he’s so popular, how Ganesh can help you, his story, and a mantra you can chant or sing to Ganapati

Ganesha: story, meaning, and mantra

All About Ganesha: why he’s so popular, how Ganesh can help you, his story, and a mantra you can chant or sing to GanapatiGanesha is one of the most popular Hindu deities.  He is also one of the most easily recognizable because he has the head of an elephant.  He is known as the Remover of Obstacles so many Ganesh devotees pray or chant to him when they are struggling but wish to succeed.  Ganesha has 4 arms and rides a mouse named Krauncha.  Ganesh is also the Lord of Beginnings, as obstacles are removed Ganesha helps guide believers down new paths.  He provides prosperity and success.  He is also the patron of arts and sciences.  Ganesha also guards the Muladhara Chakra (root chakra), where kundalini resides.

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Story of Ganesha’s Birth

Parvati created Ganesha to guard her door as she bathed.  When Shiva (Parvati’s husband) returned, he tried to enter Parvati’s chamber, but Ganesha wouldn’t allow it.  Shiva was not accustomed to being disobeyed so he was furious.  In his anger, he beheaded the boy.  When Parvati emerged, she was very upset to find Ganesha beheaded and explained to Shiva that this was their son.  Shiva realized his mistake and sent his men to find a replacement for the missing head– he instructed them to take the head of the first creature they found, which turned out to be an elephant.  He placed the head on the boy’s body and breathed life back into it.  He declared Ganesha to be his son and the leader of all groups of beings (ganas), so he is also called Ganapati.  Shiva also declared Ganesha would be honored first from then on and he is found in front of many temples, guarding the gates.

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Mantra

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha


Om means wake up! (it is also the sound of the universe)

Gam is Ganesh’s bij mantra or seed mantra

Ganapataye is one of Ganesh’s names

Namaha means “it’s not me” or “it’s not mine” meaning praise and credit for success or the outcome of the prayer should be given to Ganesha, rather than the person chanting the mantra

This mantra can be chanted aloud or within as you listen.  This mantra removes obstacles, awakens kundalini, and clears a path to success.

Here’s a Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha Song from a great podcast I subscribe to, “Mantra, Kirtan and Stotra: Sanskrit Chants.”

Mantra and Kirtan Podcast: Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha