For the final installment in our Year of Living Yogically Challenge, let’s look to the next step on the path. Continuing your development and expanding, still further, the horizon of your awareness requires study. Svadhyaya is the sanskrit term for self-study. And, as we have learned, increased awareness brings you true happiness.
Your final Living Yogically Challenge is to set up a weekly session for paying attention to yourself. One day per week, journal your observations. Record your habits, your behaviors and your perceptions to tune into your self-awareness.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” -Lao Tzu
As the Yoga Posts’ facilitator, I am also looking to the future and what this blog will become. If you have any suggestions for yoga topics or information that you would like to see posted on a regular basis, please leave me your comment. If you are new to the blog or want to see where the Year of Living Yogically begins, click here to start.
For many years, the system of yoga was my “go to” method for health maintenance. After all, it is a terrific course for correcting imbalances in body, mind and spirit. Small episodes of pain and stress would come and go – there was always my practice to guide me through any discomfort.
Until this year. I experienced a rare facial nerve disorder (that I have still yet to diagnose). Although restorative yoga postures, breath work and meditation did help me to relax, the pain and other repercussions of this ailment forced me to search out a viable treatment.
So, I googled my options for healing. You could say that I went on a quest for healing.
And, along the way, I discovered acupuncture, aromatherapy and Jin Shin Jyutsu. Together with the modalities of massage and yoga, these therapies have paved the way toward my well-being.
Because my background is geared to yoga, I applied simple breathing and relaxation techniques to the acupuncture and Jin Shin Jyutsu sessions I received. At first, it merely helped me to stay calm with the uneasiness I felt in these new situations. However, as my comfort level increased, I realized that when I executed these yoga techniques within my treatments, I could awaken my body’s intelligence and amplify my level of awareness.
After a relatively short span of time, not only did my symptoms resolve for longer and longer periods but, in the end, they nearly vanished.
Nowadays, I continue to receive massage and Jin Shin Jyutsu, utilize aromatherapy and am slowly incorporating a stronger yoga practice back into my daily routine. I feel like my body is finally in sync again, a sensation that I had been missing for nearly a year.
Each form of bodywork I experienced has taught me how important the awareness of the present moment is to overall health. I am so thankful that I was able to apply the yogic principles of relaxation and breath work to amplify each modality’s effectiveness.
In turn, I have reapplied this new heightened level of awareness back into my yoga practice. In general, I am staying even more open minded. My body feels a new alertness and there is a deeper level of harmony moving within.
I had discovered that the underlying meaning of each of these modalities is the present moment awareness. And, that, even in the midst of pain, you can lean in, stay attentive and surrender.
Your challenge this week is to locate your own method for generating increased awareness. You may wish to look into one of the modalities that I have mentioned or maybe you already have something simmering on the back burner.
Please keep in mind that whatever you choose should grant you a deeper connection to Self. It should awaken you to your true nature. Only then will you be able to see things as they truly are and live in the present moment.
After a couple of months of restoring and purifying, we begin afresh as we enter the month of March and the start of spring. It is a clean slate for building our strength, our sturdiness.
The month of March was named after the Roman god Mars who was known for his strong, warrior like quality. Although warrior honors were bestowed on many ancient figures, Mars was known for achieving his strength through levelheadedness and discipline.
Acquiring strength in yoga is founded on discipline as well. In Sanskrit, we use the word “tapas” to define discipline but not in a severe or stern manner. For myself, yogic discipline or tapas can be explained by one word, passion – the heat within our hearts formed from exuberance. Good, disciplined action should lead to a sense of purpose or empowerment; it’s what we encounter in a really great yoga class – a feeling of soaring above all else.
So, our challenge for the week is to try and generate more tapas (heat) in our lives – on and off the mat.
Select a pose that you are avoiding or may find difficult, then practice it. Apply compassion, however, and don’t go beyond your comfort zone. Begin slowly or practice a variation of the pose first.
Strive for consistency. This can be in any area of your life that you feel is lacking. Maybe it is your regular yoga practice or even the time you lay down to sleep each night. Pick one thing that you feel is erratic and get it on a steady track.
What are you afraid of? Do the single thing that you most dread or feel that you just aren’t trusting yourself to achieve. Choosing this more challenging path is definitely fuel for the fire. Maybe it starts with a telephone call or visit that you have been putting off.
“As the trials increase, the errors become less. Then doubts become less, and when the doubts lessen, the effort also becomes less… direction will come, and when you go in the right direction, wisdom begins. When wise action comes, you no longer feel the effort as effort- you feel the effort as joy.” -B.K.S. Iyengar (The Tree of Yoga)
Click here if you’d like to start a Year of Living Yogically!
As we continue on our purification journey, it is important to remember that the mind requires cleansing as well as the body. In our quest to create a clear path, we should seek to avoid all things that are destructive and unhealthy. This is tremendously important for our state of mind.
Mind purification or saucha is a deep subject. In order to begin, we need to remove the congestion and false perceptions.
The first step in this challenge is to view things as they truly are through healthy detachment. As we move through life, negative emotions are all around us and inside of us. This way of thinking can become toxic to our minds. Therefore, we should attempt to detach from negative thoughts and feelings.
Quiet and focus the mind on a negative idea/feeling that you hold onto. Acknowledge this attachment. Then see it as a separate entity – this thought/feeling is not who you are. Place it to the side and see yourself without this burden in your life.
In this way, little by little, we can learn to put aside attachments such as greed, fear and any other unhealthy desires. A mental pathway free of negative emotions leads to keen self-awareness.
The next step is to create more compassion for your mind. As I have reiterated in class many times: “We are here to learn from one another, with one another and through one another…” – a valuable quote from Goswami Kriyananda that defines compassion in a nutshell.
Share the benefits of your practice with those around you – not by trying to get them to do yoga or insisting that they make changes to their lives – but by respecting, accepting and viewing others with non-judgement.
Removing obstacles and living with compassion for self and others provides a clear channel for your health, your joy, and your sense of purpose.
We made it! We have arrived at the summit – the uppermost chakra. This marks the end of a long journey that started on week 14 – the site where we laid down our roots for the climb to the top.
This shining star located at the apex is called the crown chakra. In sanskrit, it is known as sahasrara and translates as the “thousand-petaled lotus.” The number 1000 is the symbol for boundless, infinite and tremendous.
The yoga postures associated with the sahasrara or crown chakra are restorative and meditative in nature. They are the ones that enable you to tune into your inner mind – that divine spirit that is within you and create an infinite connection to the cosmic world.
To achieve this contemplative state, it is helpful to balance your chakra wheels from root to crown so that the energy can appropriately ascend.
Try this 30 minute sequence daily and be sure to leave plenty of time for the “prize” at the finish:
Muladhara (Root) Chakra: Easy Cross Leg Pose
Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra: Cat-Cow to Child’s Pose
Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra: Downward Dog to Plank
Anahata (Heart) Chakra: Sphinx
Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra: Bridge
Ajna (Third-Eye) Chakra: Seated Staff Pose to Supported Forward Bend
Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra: Modified Rabbit Pose – from child’s pose, lift your hips and roll onto the top of your head supporting your weight with your hands.
Savasana (well supported with props)
Spend about 1-3 minutes in each “chakra pose” and give yourself at least 10 minutes for Savasana.
We have to dig deep for this week’s challenge. Although happiness is not a simple process, it is ours to generate. Yes, we can allow other people and things to affect us. But, we need to realize that it is our reaction and what we do in response to others and the situations that we are presented with that ultimately determines our happiness.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Aham Brahmasmi” which, through my yoga teachings, I was taught meant “I am the creative principle.” Without denying a higher existence, this phrase is intended for us to see ourselves as creators of our own destinies. Through my own attitudes and actions, I believe that I am the one who develops my personality, healthiness, career, social life – all aspects of my self. No one else can determine these characteristics. In the end, all of my karmas (deeds) are going to reflect upon me.
Although we have control over many of our choices, there are some things that we are obligated to and some situations which we face as a society that cannot be detached from or eliminated. Family, jobs, some health issues, even options for food, water and shelter may not be ours to regulate. But our attitude towards these seemingly unfortunate conditions is ours to control. We can cultivate contentment or santosha within despite any unpleasant situations that face us.
I would like to share a story that my teacher, Goswami Kriyananda, told his students over the years. Kriyananda was drafted in the Vietnam War and chose to become a medic rather than fight in the field. As a medic he experienced horrific events – as you can imagine. One such occurrence involved a young soldier that he had to assist after an explosion. As he approached the man, he saw that there was a gaping hole where once the man had a right arm. As he ministered to the soldier, Kriyananda wept and told him how sorry he was that he had lost his limb. The soldier, smiling, replied “That’s not a problem, I’m left handed!”
Our state of health is a large slice of the happiness pie. As we strive to stay healthy, circumstances occur that are beyond our control. This is most difficult as pain and impairment can be devastating. But there are other segments within our lives: mental abilities, friendships, belief systems, dreams, environments and work or career goals that can influence our quality and pleasure levels in life.
Your challenge is to reflect on all the aspects of yourself. Determine which area(s) are lacking in contentment for you and strive to make those areas more fulfilling.
Each day choose one category to examine and write down a number between 1 and 10 to label your level of contentment. Then think about how you can cultivate happiness through change – including your attitude.
In Sanskrit, the meaning of the chant is relatively simple:
Om– Ever present, it is the pulse of the universe and the source of our whole being.
Namah– A word that means to bow.
Shivaya– Literally it means Shiva; but more than that, it represents the inner self.
When understood fully, the phrase translates to “I bow to the inner Self”. In class, you may have heard me say, “bow to the teacher within”.
A wonderful set of words that expresses exactly how I feel as I end each and every practice. Bowing to the teacher within me is saluting all of my wisdom and where it stems from. It is how I respect my journey and honor all those who have made it possible.
For your reference, here is an audio link to the pronunciation of Om Namah Shivaya