Tag: yoga

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

Creating a Yoga and Meditation Space

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spaceOne key to establishing a great home yoga practice is having a good place for it.  You need to create a spot that feels comfortable, personal and enjoyable.  It’s your practice and your space so it should feel like you and be representative of your yoga interests and needs.  However, there are a few things that every yoga space needs, whether you have a whole yoga shala (room/studio) or only a corner.  To try to get to the essentials of your yoga space, think about all 5 senses so you can set the mood for your practice.  I have brainstormed some ideas and examples below to help inspire you with creating or perfecting your space.

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spaceSight

  • Decorate the walls!  Mantras, resources and diagrams you’re learning from or just things you think are pretty are all great visuals to add to your space.
  • Gods or goddesses that you believe in, wish to invoke, or are drawn to (there’s probably a reason you like that one!) are a great addition to your sacred space
  • Plants help make the space soothing and cozy.  They are great for de-stressing and purifying the air.
  • Find a way to store your props, resources and other things you might want that feels put together to you.  You don’t want clutter but you also don’t want to have to go fetch things.  Make it easy to get to everything you might need.
  • Nice light helps make the space warm and homey.

Sound

  • Music can energize and invigorate you or calm and soothe you.  Find your favorite songs for your practice or your different practices
  • Instruments can be a fun addition to your practice- like a bell, chimes or a singing bowl– something you can play along to mantras with or meditate with or to mark the beginning and end of your practice
  • Singing along to mantra can also be a fun part of a spiritual practice

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


SmellIdeas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

Smell can really help set the mood for your practice.  Aromatherapy can also energize or calm you.  Try candles, incense, and essential oils to help choose your mood.

Touch

  • Make sure you have ample space to move.  Some yoga poses stretch a bit past the mat.  Try to find enough space so you won’t be hitting a wall or furniture when you reach out
  • Be sure you have a good mat (or a few mats if you like to yoga with friends). Think about what features are important to you, like non-slip material or thick support.
  • Cozy props are the best!  Consider what props would best support your practice, such as
    • bolster
    • strap
    • eye pillowIdeas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space
    • pillows
    • yoga blanket
    • malas
Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beads
Also see our malas and yoga wear on Etsy 🙂
  • Comfy yoga clothes are a must.  You want to feel free to move in any way that calls to you.  Make sure you won’t have to be distracted by any discomfort.  (Check out our Yoga Shop for some great yoga pants, tops and accessories!)
This beautiful mantra, "Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu" is on one side of the mug, and its English translation is on the other: "May All Beings Be Happy and Free." Perfect for a cozy cup of tea or coffee. ($15-20)
Also see our yoga accessories and prints!

 

Taste

Something to sip, like teas or infused water, are nice for before and after yoga.  It’s also important to have plenty of water to stay hydrated during your session.

Your yoga space should be a spot that you feel drawn toward, a place where you want to be- just like your yoga practice.  Add whatever additional touches you feel you may need to make it absolutely yours.

 

 


Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

DIY Bolster: how to make a yoga pillow for super yummy poses

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

[Just so you know this post contains affiliate links]

Yoga bolsters are great props, especially for restorative and yin poses.  They’re also nice to sit on for meditation.  If you don’t have a shop to buy one in your area or if you want one on the cheap, you can make a bolster on your own.

 

Materials for your bolster

  • fabric
    • one large piece 28″ by 18″ plus seam allowance
    • two small pieces 6″ by 3″ plus seam allowance
  • stuffing
  • sewing supplies (thread, sewing machine or needle, scissors, etc)

 

How to sew your bolster

  1. The Shanti (Peace) Women's Yoga Tank Top is a colorful reminder of the sanskrit mantra meaning peace
    Also check out our yoga shop 🙂

    Cut your fabric to size, don’t forget to leave some extra room for seam allowance

  2. Pin then sew the long sides of the big piece of fabric together, with the right sides of the fabric together
  3. Pin one small pieces onto an open ends of the large piece (which is now a tube)– if the corners don’t match perfectly, it will be an ovular end, which will also work
  4. Sew the small end piece into place
  5. Repeat with the other end piece, but leave an opening for the stuffing rather than sewing all the way around
  6. Turn the pillow right-side out
  7. Stuff it FULL (you want a nice firm base to support your yoga poses)
  8. With a needle and thread, stitch up the opening you left for stuffing

For a pillow case

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beads
Also see our malas and yoga wear on Etsy

Follow the same steps as the pillow itself, except you will need slightly larger fabric (e.g. 30″ x 19″ and 7″x 4″) so the case can fit around the pillow.  Also, rather than sewing closed the long side, install a closure like a zipper or buttons.  Later, when you add the second end, you can seal it all the way up rather than leaving a hole for stuffing.

How to use the bolster

7 Restorative Poses to relax and rejuvenateCheck out some poses to try with your bolster in this post on restorative yoga by clicking the image on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructor

Yoga Teacher’s Eye: what a yoga instructor can learn at a yoga class

Things to think about in a yoga class to find your favorite class or style OR learn to be a better instructorThings to observe in a yoga class

Here are a few concepts you can keep an eye out for in class if you are learning about teaching yoga.  These aspects can also help you find your favorite teacher or style of yoga if you are trying different classes.

  • style– along with the style of yoga, how does this instructor interpret it?  e.g. Is it classic vinyasa or a little slower?  Is it heavy on lunges? Do they hold the poses for a long time or flow freely between asanas?  Did they bring in a few poses from another style of yoga?
  • personality– how does the teacher add their own flair to the class? What attributes do they bring to the class that make it different from another class in the same style of yoga?
  • voice– what is the quality of the instructor’s voice?  e.g. Are they loud enough? Is their voice gentle and soothing?  Is it firm and encouraging? Does it inspire you to add energy to your poses?
  • cues– how does the instructor describe the poses and transitions?  Does it give you a new way of thinking about the pose?  Is there an alignment tip you hadn’t heard before?  Is it clear what you need to do?
  • sequencing– how do the poses flow together?  Is there a connection between poses you hadn’t thought of before? Was the class leading to one particular pose?  Were there groups of types of poses (like standing then arm balances then abs?)
  • theme– how does the instructor bring it all together?  Did the class focus on one aspect of alignment? A concept, like propping vs. collapsing vs. yielding?  Was the class devoted to the idea of peace, balance, femininity? Or one of the Hindu gods? A full moon?
  • reflection– the last thing to think about is how the class affected you.  Did you like the style? Would you prefer to do things another way if it were your class?  What did you learn?  What take-aways can you find- about yoga, any of these concepts or yourself?

Putting it all into action- my experience at a retreat

A couple of weekends ago, 2 gal-pal yoginis and I headed down to the beach for a yoga retreat and some rest and relaxation in the sun.  Since I haven’t been to a yoga class in a couple of months, I was excited to listen and learn and of course move.  I practice and teach regularly, but it’s so nice to also receive some instruction and improve my own poses and practice.

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructorI think since yoga teacher training, though, I will likely never see a class in the same way.  I am forever filing away phrases for cues and noting things down about transitions and a teachers’ style and personality.  In ytt, our instructor warned us about this, saying, “you will never be the same again, but that’s probably a good thing.”

At the retreat, one of the most interesting things for me was the structure of the classes.  The teachers spent probably 75% of class in standing postures.  Especially in the early morning, that was hard for me.  I’m not exactly lazy, but I’ve never been the most energetic person either.  Also, it doesn’t go with the style yoga I’ve learned and embraced.  I know many people enjoy this active yang style of yoga, but I learned during that weekend that my style is a little calmer.

I think yoga is a sort of spectrum.  There are yogis who are there for the workout and yogis who are there for the spiritual practice and yogis who want some combination of the two.  The names of the yoga practices can help identify that sort of balance that a teacher offers or a practioner desires but there’s such a range within each style, so in a way the only way to know about any given class or style is to try it.

Something else I noticed at the retreat was the use of voice.  The main instructor had a very strong voice with clear, deliberate cues.  She was firm and energetic, like her class.  She used great imagery to describe the way the poses could be gracefully transitioned and practiced.

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructorThe instructor gave supportive guidance in the arm balance workshop- talking with each yogi individually about their struggles with gravity, strength, balance and fear.  She showed some humility in inversions as she modeled a pose that wasn’t her strongest, still giving valuable tips and demos.  I also noticed how incredibly important it is to be personable off of the mat with each of the students.  I admired these qualities in instructors.

At the retreat, we had early morning meditations.  The instructor encouraged us not to speak before mediation in the morning, which I really liked.  It made the practice more serene and organic. I noticed in the meditation, she didn’t give direction for our thoughts.  Some styles of meditation try for a mind completely free of thoughts, in which case no instruction is needed.  I found out I prefer a meditation where the mind is focused on one train of thought, like the breath or a mantra.  It is easier for me, but it also lends itself to a practice that feels more meaningful to me.

It’s interesting how seeing a style that was quite different from mine reinforced my understanding of my preferences and my yoga style.  I had a great time and learned a lot, but much of it was about myself and my yoga.

“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” -Judith Hansen Lasater


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
Also, check out our shop!

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.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission.]

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

Free Yoga Workshop in Mandalay Mindfulness and the Yoga Practice presented by katiayoga.com

Free yoga workshop in Mandalay

Free Yoga Workshop in Mandalay Mindfulness and the Yoga Practice presented by katiayoga.comHi Yogis, There will be a free yoga workshop in Mandalay this Sunday at 3.  Mihail Iordache will be presenting on “Mindfulness and the Yoga Practice- a profound exploration on the connection with oneself.”

Mihail is a Romanian yogi, traveling through Myanmar.  He is trained in VAK Yoga, Yoga Chikitsa, Kriya Yoga and Hatha Yoga. He is also a psychotherapist who specializes in body psychotherapy, dance and move psychotherapy, transactional analysis, and group psychotherapy. He has taught in more than 20 countries around the globe.

Mihail’s representative emailed me through this website and I have been working with them to set up the event.  I’m doing the local event planning side of things.  It’s been fun to connect with yogis and businesses in town.  Collaboration is fantastic!

Nay and May Paing have been kind enough to open their beautiful home to us for the workshop. Their home is located at the intersection of 26th and 90th streets, next to Elementary School number 17.

We will probably be on the roof (unless the group turns out to be fairly small) so bring hat/sunnies, water and whatever else you might need for some warm winter sun along with your mat.

I hope you can join us!

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu/ May All Beings Be Happy and Free. Kirtan mantra chant and personal story

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu Mantra chant

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu/ May All Being Be Happy and Freeeeee

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu/ May All Beings Be Happy and Free. Kirtan mantra chant and personal storyLonger Translation:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

My Experience with the Mantra:

You might not be able to tell, but I am singing this as I write.  This beautiful mantra has been stuck in my head for nearly a month now and I don’t mind at all.  It’s a lovely phrase to live by.  There have been a couple of times that I have been in a tough place emotionally (I’ll spare you the intimate details) and when this mantra came back into my mind, it softened my feelings a bit.  I’m not saying I was cured, but it helped me find perspective and a little more love to apply to the situation.

On New Year’s Day, I went to a kirtan/restorative class (what could be better) and we sang this mantra at the end of the session.  Everyone was so calm and so centered, the mantra just flowed through us, joining our hearts into one beautiful song.  I was honestly close to tears and others’ cheeks were streaked with that liquid love.  There’s such a sense of community and unity when a large group is singing together.  It’s really moving.  It’s hard to step back into the regular world untouched by such a moment or mantra, which is probably a good thing.

How you can use the mantra:

Withing you: Perhaps as a meditation or just in a spare moment, try to embody selflessly wanting happiness and freedom for all.  Not just the ones you love or agree with (of course them too), but really, truly, share with all.  All includes you as well so let happiness and freedom shine on you.  Imagine sharing that happiness and freedom with those who need it most.  Imagine others also spreading joy and freedom; know you are not alone.  Feel the happiness and freedom for yourself and let those feelings emanate from you.

Interacting with others in our world: As you move through your day, see if you can spread a little happiness or a little extra love.  It could be as simple as a sharing your smile with someone.  Or trying to see a situation from someone else’s point of view.  Even in your thoughts, you can wish someone well and maybe they will feel your positivity.

Sing it! Singing has a calming effect because you are exhaling more than you are inhaling.  It allows you to release tension, fear, anger and sadness along with your breath.  Chanting mantra is also a form of meditation.  It allows you to focus your mind on the mantra rather than your troubles, worries or to-do list even if it’s only for a moment.  You can sing along silently if you feel uncomfortable singing.  You will still receive the benefits of focusing in and the positive energy of the mantra.  Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the mantra.

Video in case you want to sing along:

I haven’t been able to find a video of the song that reflects the version that we sang at kirtan that day, but at the moment, I’m also fairly obsessed with the version in this video.  If you’re as taken with it as I am and you want to integrate the mantra into every aspect of your being, you’ll be singing along by the end.

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu women's tank, great for yoga or kirtan with translation on the back ($32)

This beautiful mantra, "Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu" is on one side of the mug, and its English translation is on the other: "May All Beings Be Happy and Free." Perfect for a cozy cup of tea or coffee. ($15-20)

 

I also designed this shirt and mug for days when I want an extra reminder of the mantra. Click through if you might want one too!

 

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.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

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.

 

How to get up into handstands: asana sequences and tutorial

Guide to Handstands: Asanas, Sequences and Tips for Getting Comfortable Upside Down

Being able to easily hang out upside down in a handstand is definitely one of my personal goals.  It’s something that I am still working on as I write this, but I have gained substantial progress.  My biggest obstacle now is confidence.  I need to get myself away from the wall and trust that my muscles know how to hold me up even without that wall a couple of feet away “just in case.”  In this post, I want to share the asanas and exercises that I’ve done to get myself to the verge of being able to successfully handstand.  I feel like I’m just about to push over into the place where I can DO handstands (Adho Mukha Vrksasana in sanskrit).

Building Strength

First, it’s important to have the strength to hold yourself up(side-down).  We don’t usually spend so much time upside down so this strength may be totally new.  The most important areas that I had to work were my core, my shoulders, my arms, and my wrists… so everything but the legs!

Arm Strength

For arm strength, I practiced a variation on chaturangas.  Starting from child’s pose, keeping the knees on the floor, press your body forward toward your hands (with fingers spread wide to make a solid base).  When your body is over your arms and your elbows are bent nearly to 90 degrees, drop your chest down and forward like a chaturanga.  Then press your body forward and up to cobra pose.  From there, back to child’s pose and repeat!  Again and again and again.

I also tried sitting on the counter or a bench and lifting myself up by pressing into the bench or seat (or whatever surface is available to you).  Try this with your hands on the outside of your legs and from in between your legs.

Dolphin Pose/Ardha Pincha Mayurasana

Shoulder Strength

For my shoulders, I worked on dolphin pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana in sanskrit).  Since you’re nearly upside down in this pose, I found it helpful for building the muscles that I would need to flip all the way upside down.

Core Strength

For core strength, I worked on lots of plank variations– side plank, forearm plank, holding plank, etc.

Also, I tried this sort of C-shape pose, lifting my legs and head from the ground.  I listened to a podcast from The Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood.

C shape poses to build core strength

He recommended this pose for training your body to be long and straight for handstands.  As you can see in my handstand, the body can bend in backwards, rather than being perfectly stick straight.  This C shaped pose aims to correct that.

Preparatory Poses: L Shape Pose

Another great training pose for handstand is L-shape pose.  To measure for this position, sit on the floor with your feet out straight in front of you touching the wall.  Where your hips and hands hit the ground is where you want your hands to be when you are upside down instead.  With your hands in that place on the floor, walk your feet up the wall until your legs are parallel with the floor/perpendicular with the wall.  You want your body to be a 90 degree angle.  When you feel comfortable and confident in this position, try extending one leg at a time over your body in line with your body, as if you will go into handstand from there.

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Lucas also says it’s better to practice your handstands facing the wall.  That way you can walk your hands into the wall, gaining strength.  If you need to fall out of the handstand from this pose, it’s easy to let your body to fall to one side, supported (physically or emotionally) by the wall.

In teacher training, however, we practiced with our backs to the wall.  We practiced from standing, exhaling as you bend over your front leg and reach your hands to the floor, then inhaling as your feet extend up to the wall.

Preparatory Poses: Kicking Up

We also tried kicking up, starting with both hands on the floor.  This is harder because you can’t use as much momentum.  However, it’s good for building strength, confidence, and understanding of what straight really feels like.  If you kick up with just one leg, it’s nearly impossible to topple over the back, but you can still get a good feel for what it will be like when you are ready to try both legs.

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A few more handstand tips:

Spread your fingers to make a solid base for handstands
  • Try looking a little bit in front of your hands instead of at them
  • Spread your fingers for a nice solid base to support yourself
  • Stretch and strengthen your wrists so they can handle the weight of your body.  If your wrists are not flexible, try putting a small board or a thin book/notebook under the heel of your hand when you practice handstands
  • Press into the ground with your hands to engage your arms more
  • Squeeze your legs together like you’re trying to hold an apple between them
  • Keep working at it every day!

 

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


Shiva Shambho Mantra- meaning and how to use this beautiful chant or song. Also, information about Lord Shiva and how he can help you #shiva #shivashambho

Shiva Shambho Mantra: meaning, how-to, music, and info on Lord Shiva

Shiva Shambho Mantra- meaning and how to use this beautiful chant or song.  Also, information about Lord Shiva and how he can help you #shiva #shivashambho

[Just so you know this post contains affiliate links]

One of my favorite take-aways from Yoga Teacher Training was mantra.  Mantra is the yoga of sound.  There are lots of ways to use it, but this particular post is about a sort of chanted song.  Singing is so healing for every part of your being.  I love focusing my mantra energy toward Shiva, especially in the chant, Shiva Shambho.  I like to sing it alone in my apartment even though I know the walls are thin and my neighbors can probably hear.  I also like to sing it on my motorbike with the wind rushing into my face, sweeping the words up into the universe (though I should be giving my full attention to either driving or Shiva).

About Shiva

Shiva is the transformer.  He is god of destruction and transition or transformation.  He destroys the present moment to make way for whatever is coming next.  He is also the god of yoga and is said to bring bliss.  Shiva is sometimes blue and sometimes has 4 arms.  He loves to dance.  He has a third eye on his forehead and a snake around his neck.  He wears a crescent moon on his head and the Ganga river flows from his hair.  He carries a trident and a 2-sided drum.  He rides a white bull called Nandi.  He often sits on a tiger-skin rug.

Mantra

Shiva Shambho Mantra- meaning and how to use this beautiful chant or song.  Also, information about Lord Shiva and how he can help you #shiva #shivashambhoMy favorite song goes like this:

Shiva shiva shiva shambho

Mahadeva shambo

Shiva shiva shiva shambho

Mahadeva shambo

Mahadeva shambo

Mahadeva shambo

Mahadeva shambo

Mahadeva shambo

Meaning

Shiva shambho means Shiva, “the auspicious one” and acknowledges Shiva as a greater being, beyond our dimension.  This title, Shiva Shambho calls him down to us.  Maha means great, deva means God, Shambho again means auspicious one; so this second line mahadeva shambho means Great God, the auspicious one.

This recording is from us singing at yoga teacher training. I hope you will enjoy mantra as much as we do!

 

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yoga

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaFor many years, I only did yoga asana in a group fitness class or with a video. I needed someone to follow, someone to tell me what to do next and guide me from one pose gracefully into another.

When I moved to Myanmar, I had two dreams: that I would be able to drive a motorbike around and that there would be a fabulous yoga studio for me to practice at. Only one of those wishes came true: I bought a motorbike on my first Saturday in the country.

So to make up for the other unanswered dream, I started doing videos online.  However the electrical power supply and the internet were both unreliable. I started doing 20 minute “Yoga Download” podcasts. I liked it, but the podcasts were definitely very complete sessions—straight through from warm up to cool down. So I never felt that itch to do just one more pose, though my muscles and joints longed for more.

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Intro: My Start Slow with Yoga Self Practice

One day, I didn’t have any new podcasts so I simply rolled out my mat. That’s always the first step: roll out the mat. At first, I just sort of stood on it awkwardly in mountain pose, thinking soooo wait what do I do again?

Then I remembered sun salutations. I struggled at first with small things, like wait, when do I raise up to the flat back again? Before or after the downward dog? Or both?

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaBut after a bit, my muscles started to engage and my mind started to connect with my body. I could feel my blood flowing and my lungs pumping. It all felt so right. I knew I needed the movement. After a few rounds, I sort of stopped again, stuck. Well. Then what?
Slowly poses started to come to mind and I threw a couple of vinyasas in here and there when I remembered. My transitions were clunky and disjointed.  As I remembered various poses, I did them. I was standing, balancing, then laying on the mat, then seated before standing again. I had a hard time remembering what I did on one side so I could also do it on the other. I just did everything I could think of! Then after a while, more and more poses were flooding my mind but I had to take savasana because I tired myself out!

The reason I’m sharing this story is to spread encouragement. It’s wonderful to start and to try asana on your own.

Starting your yoga self-practice

If you’ve been to a fair number of classes, you probably know more poses and more about them than you think. Trust yourself and your knowledge when you’re on the mat.

Get visual reminders

Look for some resources, like info-graphics from Pinterest with a whole collection of poses. Print them so you can glance at them for inspiration from time to time.  I recommend printing or buying an image or poster that’s how lots of poses at once for easy reference.  You won’t have to stop your practice to see what poses you can do next.  Alternatively, you could get a Yoga Sequencing Deck to help inspire and remember poses AND put them in order for your practice.  This particular deck corresponds with the book,Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes which helps break down poses by levels and gives many sample sequences.

Inspirational Books

Read some yoga books, like Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit. This book is very helpful for describing the process for getting into each pose and what to focus on once you’re in it. It was great for me as a reminder of the alignment and goals of the poses. If you’re worried about hurting yourself in self-practice, this book could be the reassurance you need to find yourself on the mat.

Another fantastic book is 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses.  It literally has 2100 different poses.  It’s a great book to grow with.  As you become more flexible and develop more strength, you can find new poses to challenge you every step of the way.

Draw it out

Drawing little sequences for yourself so you know which poses in particular you want to tackle. It is ok to stray from the plan if you find your body actually wants to do something else.

Listen to your body

As you became more and more comfortable with poses and sequences, you’ll start to hear from your body more and more. For example from my experience, I could feel tightness in the back of my leg and I knew from experience downward dog would elongate the muscle perfectly to soothe it. Or I would just get a sense that my body really, really wanted to drop down into malasana (garland pose). That was one of my most common distractions from standing poses: desire to do malasana. I almost always give in to whatever my asks.  I think it’s good to give your body what it wants in terms of asana.  It usually knows what it needs.  There’s a quote, something like, “I listen when my body whispers so I won’t have to hear it shout.”

Pain

On the topic of listening to your body, be aware of signs of pain. In yoga, it’s good to challenge yourself and push yourself. Try new poses, new binds, new variations. However, it’s also good to stop where you feel resistance. You never want to feel real pain in yoga. Injuries take a long time to recover from, physically and mentally.

Start slow when you need to

Sometimes my body would tell me it was too tired to start so I’d lay on the mat in supta badda konasana (reclining bound angle pose) and just wait to feel the pull to shift into a supine twist or happy baby (ananda balasana). Once I got going, I often found starting a few poses begged for more and I would be standing, balancing and striving for new limits before I knew it.  Usually, a little movement will coax you into wanting more.

Some days I practice for 10 minutes and some days I have to cut myself off after an hour and a half or so because I have other things I should do. You never know what may be waiting inside that will find you on the mat.

Creating a Yoga Space

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaOne of the other most important things about practicing is finding a good place to do it. Make sure you have enough room and set up a pleasant atmosphere for yourself. BKS Iyengar says you must find a place with good light and no insects, but I think it goes way beyond that. Make your space sing: light a Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spacecandle or incense, turn on some music that reflects your mood or your practice, de-clutter, add something nice to look at or inspire you. If you have props, like a bolster or block or strap that you use, bring them to your space. If you feel at peace and at home in your yoga space, you will be much more likely to feel drawn to it and want to practice.  Click the image at the right to learn more about creating your own yoga space.

Final words of Encouragement

I’m 100% sure you can do it!  Roll out your mat today.

“Yoga isn’t about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” Self-practice will teach you a lot about yourself inside and out; body, mind, and soul.

Self-practice Suggestions

• Roll out your mat and start
• Trust yourself and your knowledge
• Be present
• Listen to your body