Category: Mind

Yoga for your mind: mindfulness, meditation, perspective, outlook

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditate

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice

It can be overwhelming to think about sitting down to clear your mind, but the very point of meditation is to let your mind take a break from all that thinking!  With a little preparation, I think you’ll find meditation a relaxing and important part of your day.  Here are some practical tips that may help you start to meditate.

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Benefits

Regular meditation Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditatehelps with the immune system, lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress levels.  Your brain pattern changes with a consistent meditation practice.  After just a few weeks practicing 20 or 30 minutes a day, you can improve your cognitive functioning, self-awareness and empathy, along with other aspects of your humanity. (Source: In Search of Buddha’s Daughters: The Hidden Lives and Fearless Work of Buddhist Nuns)

 

When to Meditate

Probably the most important thing about starting your practice is finding a reliable time when you can realistically make the time to sit every day.  A sporadic schedule makes things difficult.  The easiest way to form a new habit is to tag your new task on to an existing responsibility you take on every day– like you could meditate every day before breakfast or you could meditate every night after you brush your teeth.  You will always have that original responsibility to remind you to meditate.  It takes 21-28 days to make a new habit so until meditation is one of your habits, it may help to attach it to an existing one.

 

Preparation

It’s also very important to set the stage for yourself.  You need a Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spacecomfortable clean environment that can become sacred for you.  You want a spot that’s as distraction-free as possible.  It helps if you have the time and space to make a meditation space– use a meditation cushion, candles, meaningful images, etc.  Click the image to the right to see more about creating your own yoga and meditation space.

Take a moment before you begin to set your body up for the practice as well.  Maybe take a couple of easy stretches.  Maybe bow to each direction, acknowledging the universal presence around you.  Definitely take a couple of calming breaths.  – allow yourself to slowly succumb to the mood of meditation.

You’ll definitely want a timer to start.  That way you won’t have to keep peeping through one creased eye to glance at the clock.  Start simple; I recommend 10 minutes.

 

 

Posture

It’s Don't Just Do Something Tank is a reminder of mindfulness and being present. #yogatank #yogatop #mindfulnesstank #mindfulness #meditationtanktypical to be seated on a small pillow during meditation.  If you elevate your hips above your legs it can help to keep your legs from falling asleep.  It’s ok if you want to set up next to a wall and use it to support your back.  It’s also ok if you prefer to sit in a chair.  It’s even ok if you want to lay down (though this is a potential sleep danger).  You can even stand to meditate or take a slow walking meditation.  There isn’t a right way; whatever position suits you best in the moment is the best one.  Meditation is about your mind not the shape you set your body in.  The only goal is to find a position that keeps you comfortable so you can give yourself the best possible chance at staying focused.

 

Inspiration

It’s super hard to sit down and just clear all of the thoughts out of your mind.  Many people find it easier instead of give the mind one specific thought or mood to focus on.  Here are some ideas.

  • Follow your breath- watch it go in and out of your body, feel it coming through your nose and going down into your lungs and your belly, feel each molecule coming back up through your body and exiting your nose again.  Try not to control your breath, but observe it.
  • Look for the spaces between your breath at the top of the inhale and exhale- focus on that eternal space.
  • Imagine a light at your heart center or your third eye.  Focus on watching it grow with each inhale and spread with each exhale.  Watch the light glow.
  • If you’re struggling with thoughts, let a cloud come and carry each one away in turn.  Watch the beautiful sky.
  • Also, you can attach your inhale and exhale to a phrase.
    • in (on your inhale) and out (on your exhale) that being the universal energy, everything at once
    • so hum- I am that- or that I am if you accidentally flip the phrase around
    • Thich Nhat Hanh style
      • calm/ease
      • smile/release
      • deep/slow
  • Alternatively these phrases can be attached to each bead of a mala necklace
  • Also, you can meditate on a poem, idea or feeling

My two favorite books for ideas to guide meditation are Moments of Mindfulness (right) and Meditation for the Love of It (left).  They were influential in creating my practice.

 

Challenges

All of these thoughts and suggestions are for giving you a good chance at making it work.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, especially at first.  Expect that at some point you’re going to wonder how long it’s been, or you’ll notice something about your position is becoming uncomfortable or you’ll start to make a to-do list or you’ll remember something very important and feel compelled to go do it immediately.  It’s normal.  All of it and more.  Some days will be easier than others, even for experienced practitioners.  The key is not to be upset at yourself- to acknowledge the thought or the pain or the idea and let it pass.  You can meditate with a notebook beside you to jot ideas down if you struggle too much at letting them go.

 

 

After your Meditation

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beadsBefore you rush off to your next task, Malas: choosing one, activating it, and using your mala for meditation and manifestationtake a moment to thank yourself for the gift you’ve given yourself.  Even if it was not your most successfully quiet-minded practice, it’s still a wonderful way to honor yourself.  Also, you can dedicate your practice- choose someone you know and love, a deity, eternal oneness, someone in need, a worldwide issue, whatever you like and send the good vibes of your meditation off to that cause.

Another really beneficial thing to do after meditation is to take a moment to journal about your experience.  It helps to see how far you’ve come and solidify your experience.

However you choose to seal off your practice, re-enter this world slowly and carefully.  You may be in a dreamy state and it make take worldly awareness a moment to return to you.

 

Continuing On

When you get to a point where the timer surprises you or after a few weeks, try increasing the length of your meditation.

Look for new ideas and inspirations for your meditative focus.  Try out new positions, try meditating outside, try everything!  See what works for you and what doesn’t and remember it may be different tomorrow.

Whatever you do,

Continue offering yourself the gift of meditation.

 

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditate

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama: breathing

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathPranayama means breath control or breath expansion.  It is the 4th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  Prana means life force or vital energy.  Yama means control or code of conduct.  Actually, pranayama is a combination of prana and ayama.  Ayama means expansion so pranayama is a way to expand your vital energy and vibrate on a higher frequency.

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Vital energy flows through your body’s 108 nadis or energy channels and through the 7 energy centers or chakras.  Through pranayama breathing techniques, you can direct life force into your body and choose how to use it.  Some pranayama techniques are meant to soothe the body, while others are aimed at energizing.  Pranayama can also help clear blockages in your energy channels.

Breath is composed for 4 parts:

  • pooraka (inhalation)
  • rechaka (exhalation)
  • antar kumbhaka (internal breath retention)
  • bahir kumbhaka (external breath retention)

Different pranayama practices involve different aspects of the breath.  All pranayama techniques require you to focus on the breath.  In this way, pranayama acts as a meditation, becoming the only necessary thought for that moment.  Below are a few pranayama techniques to try.

Position for Pranayama

Most of these breathing techniques are typically practiced in a comfortable, tall (upright) seated position, eg. on a chair, in easy pose (sukhasana- below), or in lotus position (padmasana).  Allow your preoccupations and worries to take a break so you can focus on your breath.  If you can’t do this from the start, don’t worry it will probably come later as you concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.

Chin mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Chin mudra
Jnana mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Jnana mudra

Mudras can also be used during pranayama to help direct the flow of energy.  Chin and jnana are classic mudras that are often used in conjunction with pranayama.

To begin,take a couple of deep breaths, emptying all of your breath out on each exhale, allowing your body to start with fresh new air and focus for your pranayama.

Natural breath

Natural breath can be the simplest pranayama, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Concentrating on your breath without controlling it is sometimes tough.  Allow yourself to simply observe your breath, feeling it come in and out of your nose.  Notice how it’s cool going into your body and warm going out.  Let go of everything else and just watch prana come and go.  Allow it to pump through your body and mind.

3-part breath

With this technique, you will start to harness and control your breath.  Empty all of the air out of your body, then inhale directly into your diaphragm, filling the lowest part of your belly first.  As more breath enters your body, send it into your lungs, expanding through the sides of your rib cage.  Finally, let the last bits of the inhale fill your chest and raise through your clavicles (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades).  Your body is absolutely full of breath and prana.

On your exhale, you will empty the breath with equal care and concentration.  Start by allowing the shoulders and the chest to drop back down toward the ribs as the breath underneath them empties.  Then let the lungs and the rib cage contract as the breath leaves them.  Finally, empty the breath from deep down in your diaphragm, the pit of your belly.  You should be totally empty now, full of potential for your next breath pouring in.

This breathing technique is great for developing awareness of your body and breath.  It also focuses the mind.

Samavrtti

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathSamavrtti is a practice of creating the same length inhale and exhale.  Start by trying to breath in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.  Try to stabilize and equalize the length of your inhales and exhales.  Once you are confident with this technique, try retaining the breath  for a count at the top of the inhale before continuing.  The third stage is retaining the breath at the bottom of the exhale instead.  As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can try lengthening your count.  When practicing sahita or retention, make the retention 1/3 as long as the count of the inhale and exhale (eg. inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 6)

Samavrtti focuses the mind and calms the body.

Ujjayi

Ujjayi is often practiced during yoga.  It is infamous for its soft oceanic sound, like waves rolling in and out.  Others describe it as a hiss.  Start with natural breath, breathing normally from your nose.  Then slowly shift your awareness  to your throat.  Imagine you are breathing from the back of your throat.  Pull the breath in and push it out, as if you are breathing from a small hole in your throat. Breath is directed to the back of the throat.  Try to contract the glottis (vocal cords).  There will be a slight sound almost like snoring.  It doesn’t need to be loud enough for others to hear, contrary to what many instructors may say.

Ujjayi tranquilizes and heats the body, soothing the nervous system and mind.

Nadi Shodhana

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and BenefitsNadi shodhana is my favorite pranayama technique.  In Nadi Shodhana, you breathes through one nostril and then the other.  Using the right hand, you can block the right nostril with the thumb and the left nostril with the ring finger (middle and pointer are folded down).  Inhale on the right with the left nostril closed, then change the hand positioning to open the left nostril and close the right nostril to exhale.  Inhale left and change over to exhale on the right.  Inhale right, then change your hand positioning and exhale left.

Nadi Shodhana is a great practice for reducing stress, removing toxins, and balancing energies.

To learn more and see pictures of the techniques, click the picture on the right.

Bhastrika

In Bhastrika, your diaphragm moves in and out like bellows stoking a fire. Take a deep breath in, drawing air into the diaphragm and expanding the belly.

The longyi yoga pants are inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Myanmar. Soft fabric with 4-way stretch made in the USA. High waist and inner pocket.
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Then breathe out forcefully through the nose, pushing the air out.  With the same force, pull the air in again.  Repeat this process ten times then take a break with normal breath.  Then take another 4 rounds of bhastrika breath.  This practice can be done with increasing speed as you become more familiar with it.  Also, once you are comfortable, try bhastrika through one nostril at a time.

Bhastrika removes toxins and strengthens the nervous system.  It increases the metabolism and clears out the airways.

Kapala Bhati

Kapala Bhati is similar to bhastrika, except the inhale is casual rather than forced.  Inhale naturally then exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles, pushing the air out.  The inhale will be a natural reaction to the forceful expulsion of breath.  Repeat 10 times then take a break with normal breathing before continuing on to another round.

Kapala Bhati energizes the mind and clears the airways.

Kali

Kaliasana: meaning, methodology, and breath-workKali breathing is great for bringing heat and energy into the body.  There are a few variations on this breath.  Click the photo to learn more about the goddess Kali and building energy like she does.

 

Much of this information can be found in the Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha book if you’re interested in further reading.

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

Malas: how to use, choose and activate your mala

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #malaMalas are a string of beads used for meditation.  They help with concentration by giving you something to focus on, but they also can have a more spiritual side.  A mala can help you to manifest some sort of wish or goal or help you find a new connection with a mantra, affirmation or even your breath.

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How to Choose a Mala

If you’re in a store with the malas, try holding them towards your heart or your third eye, ideally with both hands.  See which one speaks to you- makes you feel something.  Often, you will be drawn to the gem, crystal or theme that you need most. Some people say that the mala will be drawn to you!  If you’re shopping online, often you will still be drawn to one that will resonate with you the most.  Most malas also have a description of the beads that were used and how they can benefit you.  Many were made with an intention or wish the mala can help manifest.

How to activate your Mala

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala
See our malas on Etsy

To activate your mala, whether you made it, bought it, or received it as a gift, you can do a small ceremony before wearing it.  To start, light a candle or incense or make your space safe and sacred in whatever way you usually do.  Find a comfortable seat like you would for meditation- sit up tall, and straight in a calm, mindful way.  Start by getting in touch with your breath.  Focus on it and if thoughts come, allow them to pass.  Then starting from the guru bead (the biggest one that the tassel or decoration comes from) start to run the mala through your fingers, one bead for each breath.  However, this technique can be adapted to fit your needs- find your own way.  As you do this, think of an intention you wish to lock into your mala or something you would like to manifest with the energy of your mala.  Also, you can chant “Om Hrim Namah Shivaya Om” aloud or internally.  This mantra is traditional for activating and energizing a new mala.  This phrase salutes Shiva (God of creation and destruction), brings together masculine and feminine, and opens the mind to the divine.  When you finish your ceremony, hold your mala to your heart and your third eye.  You can sit for another moment if you wish.  Now, the mala is yours, bound to you spiritually through your ceremony.  It contains the power and energy you activated it with.  The mala still carries its same spiritual powers if you wear it as a bracelet or necklace.

How to use a Mala for Meditation

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

Before you begin, you can bow to each of the 4 directions to connect with the universe.  Or set an intention or devote your meditation to a God, Goddess, friend or cause.

Start by finding a comfortable seat.  Cross your legs or try to lotus position.  Also, you can sit in a chair, sit on a meditation cushion or bolster or lay down if you prefer.  It’s your meditation, so find what works for you.  Just be sure you can stay aware– you don’t want to be so comfortable that you may lose focus or fall asleep.  Hold your mala at the guru bead (the big one) between your thumb and middle or ring finger (the pointer finger is associated with the ego, which is undesirable).  As your meditation progresses, you will move the beads through your fingers one at a time.

Using the mala with your breath

You can associate the beads to your breath- inhale and exhale.  (Or try kumbhaka: add a pause in between your inhale and exhale by retaining your breath for a couple of counts. To start, try inhaling for 4 breaths, retaining for 2 and exhaling for 4).

Using your mala with a mantra

Alternatively, and perhaps more traditionally, you can use a mantra for your meditation.  In this case, you will say the mantra aloud or internally with each breath.  You can try traditional sanskrit mantras or mantras in English, like Thich Nhat Hanh’s inhale: calm/exhale: ease or inhale:present moment/exale: wonderful moment.  Also affirmative statements work as mantras, like “I am” for the root chakra.

Using your mala to manifest

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

If you would like to manifest a wish, you can ask the universe for help with each bead’s movement.

There is no limit to the mantras, breaths, and concepts you can attach to your beads for your meditation.

Sealing your practice

How to Make a Mala: knotting and making a tasselWhen you finish your meditation, bow forward to seal in your practice.  Re-enter this world slowly, taking time to bring your awareness back to your surroundings after your meditative state.

Also check out our article on how to make a mala (click the image below)

 

 

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

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.


Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana. Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy. #yogasana #asana

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana: history, theory and philosophy

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana.  Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy.  #yogasana #asana

The third and most well-known limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is asana.  This means all of those yoga poses—the physical practice of making all of those shapes with your body.  In the West, asana often is yoga.  We sometimes forget about the other 7 branches.

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When yoga first started, about 5000 years ago, it was all based around meditation, with the goal of gaining self-awareness.  As yoga progressed, different postures for meditation were created, at first only 16 poses.  Yoga asanas were created as a means of building discipline and concentration for meditation.  The body’s sole purpose was to house the spirit.  As time went on, the number of postures grew.  In early 1800’s there were just over 100 poses or asanas and now there are thousands.  In modern yoga, more and more poses are being created as people experiment with their bodies and transitions into new shapes.

Asanas are often grouped based on the orientation of the yogi or the goal of the pose, like standing postures, balancing postures, folds, back bends, seated poses, inversions, hips openers, twists, supine poses, etc.  Instructors often try to incorporate all of the types of postures or parts of the body in a class.  Other classes aim at a “peak pose,” opening the muscles needed for a final, specific posture.  Other classes are based on a theme and all of the poses relate to exploring the theme conceptually.  There are lots of different ways to sequence a yoga class, practice or flow.

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana.  Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy.  #yogasana #asanaIdeally, yoga poses (asana) should be combined with the other 7 limbs of yoga to create a fuller experience; body, mind and soul should unite in yoga.  The word “yoga” itself is translated as union or yoke.  The limbs of yoga must be connected to reach yoga’s full potential.

 

Moments of Mindfulness; great book recommendation for meditations Thich Nhat Hanh

Moments of Mindfulness: Must-Have Meditation Book by Thich Nhat Hanh

I have a couple of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but Moments of Mindfulness is my favorite.  It’s a set of 52 meditations, with the idea of having a new meditation to contemplate each week for a year.  Letting the words resonate within you for a full week leaves lots of room for insight and new understanding of the words and how they may apply to your life.  I’m going to share one of my favorite meditations from this book here

A flower
does not have to
do anything
to be of service,
it only has to be a flower.
That is enough.
A human being,
a true human being,
is enough
to make the whole world
rejoice

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The book also starts with a beautiful introduction on mindfulness; the true meaning and value of mindfulness, different ways to apply mindfulness to different aspects of your life, and miracles of mindfulness.  One of my favorite parts of the introduction is a breathing exercise.  I like to use parts of it in the warm-up for my yoga class, reminding yogis to relax and focus on their breathe and being present.

The book also has a nice spacious layout with soothing circular art accompanying each meditation.  It’s a nice size to hold too.

It’s a lovely little book!

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of Yoga

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Niyamas: how to incorporate them into your life

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaThe first of the 8 limbs of yoga, the Yamas, have to do with the way we behave in the world.  The second limb are the Niyamas, which deal with the way that we that we treat ourselves; how we behave in relationship to personal actions and outlooks.  There are 5 Niyamas.

  1. Saucha is translated as purification or cleanliness. This concept goes beyond keeping your body clean inside and out, it also means keeping a clean mind and a clean environment for living your life.  Try to take in pure foods, substances, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.  Some people interpret this niyama as one of the main goals of yoga as a whole.
  2. Santosha means contentment. This means being satisfied in the present moment; appreciating what you have at any time.  This also relates to not wishing for more or wishing for what someone else has.  Materialism doesn’t bring happiness.  Santosha means accepting and appreciating what you have, which leads to happiness and joy.  Remind yourself that you are enough.
  3. Tapas is said to mean austerity or self-discipline. This niyama refers to motivation to better yourself.  It is a focused energy and a desire to commit to self-practice.  Tapas creates an internal fire or heat that helps purify and solidify commitment.  This determination helps you reach your goals within yoga and in your daily life.
  4. Svadhyaya is translated as self-study. This means getting to know yourself- your needs, abilities, desires, faults, and nature.  It means wanting to know the deepest, most true form of yourself.  Self-study also gives you room to improve and become the self that you most want to be.  It also helps you recognize your divine nature or the divine within yourself.
  5. Ishvara is said to mean surrender or devotion to God. This doesn’t have to be interpreted as a particular god.  Ishvara means accepting that everything is related and connected.  It means trusting in the universe; surrendering to the greater good or higher power.  Devoting your practice or actions to this higher power allows you to let go of your attachment to your self.  It allows you to recognize something bigger which opens the mind to the concept of the interconnectedness of everything.

With the yamas and niyamas combined, yoga guides our ideal behaviors internally and externally.  Embodying the yamas and niyamas creates a strong foundation within each yogi for moving further into the 8 limbs of yoga.
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Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of Yoga

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Yamas: how to implement them in your life

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaIn modern Western Yoga, we tend to focus on the physical side of yoga, mostly practicing the yoga poses, or asanas.  But the asanas are actually fairly new to the practice of yoga AND they’re only one of the eight (ashta) limbs (anga).  In other words, there’s a lot more to think about when we talk about yoga, like the yamas.

The first limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is the yamas.  Yamas deal with how we yogis behave in the world; how we treat those around us.  There are 5 yamas to guide behavior.

  1. Ahimsa is translated as non-violence.  This goes beyond physical violence like being vegetarian or not hurting others’ bodies.  This principle extends to emotional pain.  It asks yogis not to harm others if it can be avoided.  Be careful with your words and others’ feelings.  On a positive note: treat others with compassion.
  2. Satya refers to truthfulness.  This means not lying of course, but also not intentionally omitting information.  Tell the whole truth.  Also be truthful in your actions; let your actions reflect your true intentions and feelings.
  3. Asteya means non-stealing.  This means not taking physical things, but also extends to the intangible, and possibly more valuable things, like time and energy.  Be sure others want to give before you take.  This yama also tells us to appreciate what we have inside of ourselves—be content with what we are, rather than trying to take from someone else.
  4. Brahmacharya is often translated as abstinence.  Not everyone can become a renunciate and give up all of their worldly goods.  This yama tells us to exercise restraint, rather than indulging too much.  Use what you need but not more- in terms of physical goods, energy, time, etc: don’t take too much.  On the other hand, don’t sell yourself short, giving yourself too little.
  5. Aparigraha is said to mean “non-grasping.”  This can mean not wanting.  This refers to new things and things you already have– this yama motivates de-cluttering.  Aparigraha is also physical and emotional.  Don’t reach for a connection, vibe, or love that isn’t there.  This yama asks us not to be greedy and reminds us of impermanence.

IDEA: The yamas are all great ideals to strive for.  You could try to focus on each one for a week at a time to try to incorporate it into your life.  Try to see how it could relate to you and affect your modern life.

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