“If you want peace and purity, melt away your coverings…let a streaming beauty flow through you.” – Rumi
This week we continue our quest to support a steady yoga practice by looking at the second limb of the yoga system called niyamas or observances. There are five niyamas and the first is shaucha or purity.
By observing purity, we endeavor to lift ourselves to a higher, clearer and more peaceful state at all levels: intellectual, verbal and physical.
Another week and the habit of a daily yoga practice is setting in – with pleasure! I am enjoying getting reacquainted with myself through meditation and pranayama. Doing it first thing each morning truly sets the tone. And, if I don’t do my asana practice until later, it still provides the commitment I need to keep on track. My attitude is brighter and I have more incentive to make it a great day.
This week, I’m bringing back the Chandra Dhauti Shat Kriya or Tongue Cleansing. Shat Kriyas are important purification techniques that keep the subtle energy levels flowing. When implemented, the absorption of oxygen is increased so that a deeper awareness can be generated. The tongue cleansing is a simple and productive first step towards subtle body purification. If you would like to discover more about this process, click here.
Ultimately, purifying the body is dependent on the amount and type of food you consume. In general, I try to eat moderately. A little of everything is my motto.
When shopping, I look for foods without pesticides, herbicides, hormones, additives, or preservatives and select locally grown or organic produce whenever possible. Personally, I find that when I limit the amount of alcohol, sugar and caffeine in my diet, I have a clearer perspective and a more satisfying yoga practice.
Week #3 of the meditation/pranayama practice is a continuation of last week with the addition of a new technique. Here’s the plan:
Close your eyes, focus on something meaningful & be still.
When your mental focus shifts to other streams of thought, chant silently: Neti, Neti, Neti (or “I am not that thought”).
Maintain the technique for 2 minutes.
Tip:Practicing Neti, Neti, Neti over time will lead you to a more meditative state – if you stay diligent. Keep bringing yourself back to the object of your meditation and, eventually, the mind will find that it is easier to stay focused than it is to continually migrate back to thinking other thoughts.
For the month of June, which is traditionally the month of love, we will get to the “heart” of what matters, our Self.
But first we need to open the door to receptivity.
To be receptive is to accept a signal, an idea or even another person into your life. For receptivity to occur, it is imperative that your heart and mind be open. This ability to see things differently requires flexibility. Not everyone is amenable or disposed to receiving what others have to share. Therefore, in order to fully receive, you may have to give up something that you already possess.
This is especially fitting for yogis who want to prepare and purify themselves to receive the teachings of yoga. Releasing your subjectivity, blockages and negativity will give you space for a lifestyle that is happier, healthier and compassionate or love-filled.
At this point in our Year of Living Yogically, we know that there is more to the system of yoga than the postures themselves. Time and again, the posts refer back to the Eight Limb System of yoga which includes:
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
Maybe you have already incorporated some of these techniques into your own practice.
This week your challenge will be to review the eight steps and find the area(s) that you feel need enriching. Simply use the Topic bar on the right to click on the category you would like to read more about. Understanding each step in the eight-fold system will help you become more conscious of your true nature.
We have two weeks left in this journey. The next challenges will be the icing on the cake that will, hopefully, feed you for many years to come.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this year-long challenge please click here.
On this the new moon, I would like to introduce you to a process for going within, for moving from your outer world to your inner world.
It is the ultimate quieting technique called the Ritual of the Moon. And it goes hand in hand with our quest for clarity. This technique will release your mind and your body thoroughly so that you can move into the lunar world. Begin the process an hour or so before you would like to go to bed.
Ritual of the Moon
Sit somewhere quiet and reflect on your day. Rethink what has occurred and release any emotional tensions that may have been created. Apply wisdom and compassion as you see yourself as you truly are. Without harming thoughts, re-balance yourself.
Prepare your body for sleeping: take a bath, practice restorative yoga, listen to meditative music or just sit & breathe.
Fall asleep as slowly as possible. This sounds tricky, I know. But the idea is to maintain your self-awareness as you descend into sleep. This won’t happen if you stay up too late and fall into bed exhausted.
As you perform the ritual each night this week, journal your thoughts and feelings. You are learning to form a more meditative mind. One that will cultivate great self-awareness and much health and happiness.
I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster As you might try a jewel in your hair. I’ve tried it fine with little breadth of luster, Alone, or in one ornament combining With one first-water start almost shining.
I put it shining anywhere I please. By walking slowly on some evening later, I’ve pulled it from a crate of crooked trees, And brought it over glossy water, greater, And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow, The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.
To finish off this month of purification, our classes for the week were geared toward clearing out the old to make space for the new – in a compassionate manner.
From this intention, the Compassionate Vinyasa was created. A twist on last week’s flow, this sequence focuses on the region of the heart to remind us to move with kindness in our pursuit of revitalization. Just in time for spring!
Again, be sure to do a little warming up first with Cat/Cow, Side Stretching &/or Child’s Pose before transitioning to the flow below:
Anjali Mudra to Standing Cactus to Uttanasana to 1/2 Uttanasana to High Lunge to Crescent Lunge to Virabhadrasana II to Wide Angle Urdhva Hastasana
Pivot to the left and reverse the sequence:
Virabhadrasana II to Crescent Lunge to High Lunge to 1/2 Uttanasana to Uttanasana to Standing Cactus to Anjali Mudra
Once again, I have included a visual diagram (by popular demand) here.
As you glide through your sequence, keep in mind this beautiful quote by Wyatt Townley:
“Take this opportunity to begin to shed your outer layers, your coverings…Find the way back to center, flesh, muscle, bone, to the river that underlies us, solid and fluid…”
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.
When I chose to focus on purification as a theme for my classes and the blog this month, I really had no idea that the word February (in Latin februare) meant “to make pure.”
Now, what do I mean by purification?
In general, I view purification as a method for letting go of the old and unnecessary to allow space for nourishing breath, clean food, and new energy. Purification is a way to rid the body of irritation, congestion and toxins so that you can regenerate.
We have transitioned from our month of restoring, resting and reflecting in January. Now is the time for replenishing and energizing.
Here is your challenge this week. Get started on the road to freshening up with these daily practices:
Clean up your diet
Try to eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol and any extreme aspect of food intake. Drink clean water, green tea and take in more vegetables and fruit in your diet. This is not a cleanse but an awareness exercise. Try this for one week if you can and evaluate your energy level on day 7.
In my experience with caffeine withdrawal, it only takes a few days to transition. I went to an organic water processed decaf and feel that I have more energy than ever before! I hope to use this opportunity to transfer my morning cup to tea – the cleansing qualities of tea would be much more beneficial.
Clear the Mind
Start a Meditation Practice. Keep it simple and find a technique that invites you to your mat each day. Meditation can be done at any time so choose a segment of your day when you will have no interruptions. Last week, I posted the Hong-Sau technique. Its simplicity will be enlightening.
Filter Your Toxins
Incorporate a twist into each yoga practice this week. The Supine Revolved Belly Pose will serve to squeeze out the unwanted toxins and provide room for fresh nutrients and oxygen to enter the body.
If you are looking for additional ways to purify this month, the Shat Kriyas or yogic purification techniques might be appropriate. You may have heard of Jala Neti (nasal cleansing) and Chandra Dhauti (tongue cleansing). These are important methods for vanquishing toxins and clearing energy channels.
And finally, some purifying food for thought on the practice of yoga from this translation of an ancient Sutra of Patanjali:
“Effective practice of yoga produces physical purity so that attachments to toxins and corruptive forces disappear naturally…allowing both internal and external purity (saucha) of the body, psychic environment… through the removal of the occlusions of consciousness, there is achieved balance, cheerfulness, one-pointedness, harmony of the senses, and yogic vision. Here one is no longer attracted by corruptive influences because one has established (and is happily rooted within) an inner energetic freedom.” Save