Put Some Fire into Your Yoga Practice

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“The wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice to be able to remain easy in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom…” – Judith Lasater

As we continue our discussion about the 3rd chakra – the solar plexus chakra, I would be remiss to not include the concept of tapas. Tapas is often defined as heat. Yet it’s more ancient Sanskrit roots explain tapas has having the ability to remove impurities. In fact, the word tapas is used to define the process of heating alloyed gold until the debris is burnt off, revealing only the purest product.

Through the practice of yoga we can also use heat to burn away the nonsense and expose our true power. This does not just apply to intensive ashtanga, hot or vinyasa yoga forms. Any type of asana, pranayama or meditation can generate tapas.

This week choose a portion of your practice where you feel you need to apply more will power.

If you can’t sustain downward dog without stressing your shoulders, approach the posture through child’s pose and gradually build on the time you remain in downward dog until you feel stronger.

Maybe you can’t relax in savasana for more than 5 minutes. Use a timer to add one minute to each practice until you relish a full 10 or even 20 minute savasana.

By bringing more self-disipline into your practice, you will receive more confidence. This “I can do it” attitude leads to greater contentment. Ultimately you will find that when you persevere in your practice (and your life), you feel more balanced, purposeful and joyful. A little work will release your attachments and free up your consciousness for higher realizations.

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of tapas, click on this previous post: “Tap Into Your Strength.”

Be the Light!

Namasté, Kim 🕉

Balancing the Fire of Ayurveda

The term ayurveda means the “science of life.” Its practice utilizes diet, herbs, bodywork, breathing and meditation in a holistic fashion for healing the body. Ayurveda teaches us how to harmonize ourselves with sunrise and sunset, the seasons of the year and the stages of life. Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences that grew up from the same root in ancient India.

Ayurveda recognizes that we all possess individual constitutional types or doshas in mind and body. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the specific doshas and the categories by which the science of ayurveda is designated. Someone’s dosha can be determined by their body type, their temperament or even by the kind of food, exercise and lifestyle they gravitate toward. Ayurveda can give us a better understanding of our unique nature.

As summer approaches and things begin to heat up, it’s a good time to consider the concept of Ayurveda and discover what the Pitta (fire) dosha has in store for us. The practice of ayurveda can help to alleviate any excess heat that we experience in these months because we all gravitate toward a specific dosha in certain seasons despite our natural inclination.

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What has 8 limbs, is 5,000 years old and generates happiness and peace wherever it goes?

Well, yoga of course! 

Yes, yoga does have eight limbs. One limb for each aspect in the yogic system. These eight different appendages are called: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana & samadhi. 

I am going to, briefly, identify each limb one by one so that you can get a better understanding of the full system of yoga. Western teachings/classes normally only focus on 1, 2 or 3 parts of the eight-limb system, namely the postures, breathing and some stillness techniques.

While there is no true order for understanding, the limbs do build upon one another and lead us to the goal of yoga: peace, truth and unutterable joy.

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Taking the Middle Road

During this past week, I have been considering the concept of moderation. It is so easy to fall into habits and extremes – mostly when it comes to diet, sleep and work. Many of us choose to see things as black or white, yes or no, never or always, right or wrong, too much or not enough…the correlations are virtually endless with this idiom which makes it understandable and relatable in many situations. Deep awareness and dedication are required to keep steering ourselves toward that middle road.

I have taken my yoga practice in moderation this week by applying the principles of yin yoga. When doing my initial research for teaching many years ago, I stumbled across the term “Goldilocks principle” or “position” as defined by Bernie Clark. It means just as the storybook explains, not doing too much, nor doing too little, but doing what is just right. Yin yoga is a very good practice to hone the concept of moderation. It permits you to judge for yourself how deeply you would like to descend into a posture. It is good preparation for knowing the difference between “stressing” the body and “pushing” the body – keep in mind that stressing the connective tissue is the intention behind yin yoga.

In general, yoga has taught me that too much flexibility is just as damaging as too much strengthening – one can lead to instability and the other, rigidity. You need to practice with both principles in your sights in order to be healthy and balanced.

If you have never heard of yin yoga or are unfamiliar with the asanas of yoga in general, then consider the concept of moderation with other activities that you do on a regular basis. An interesting examination would be to measure how much you overload the senses with screen time. This is a very common way that we tend to unconsciously overdose ourselves.

The remedy to balance and get back on the middle road is to generate awareness. I find spending time walking outdoors to be the best treatment for avoiding extreme routines. Communing with nature is equalizing, centering and definitely gives me a wiser perspective. It allows me to think more openly – in technicolor, rather than merely black or white.

As promised, I am now using this blog to supplement my new book, Yoga Posts: Building a Steady Yoga Practice One Day at a Time. This week’s post refers back to Chapter #11: A Modicum of Moderation. If you wish to start at the beginning of our journey, please look to my first post.

The Simple Things in Life

What is your object of desire? What do wish you had that would make things so much better for you? More importantly, what do you already possess that you can learn to appreciate more?

Moving is always a good time for reevaluating your possessions. Do you really need #$@&%*! pairs of shoes? And, is it worth packing and unpacking all of those dishes and glasses and coffee mugs?

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Keep it Real

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Looking into someone’s eyes is as real as it gets. If you’ve ever been in deep love, staring into your partner’s eyes can be one of the most profound and genuine experiences. Likewise, a teacher or guru’s gleaming eye contact has the potential to communicate heartfelt devotion from across a room.

There are many examples of sayings and proverbs that refer to the eyes as the seat of sincerity:

The eyes have it.

The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Seeing eye to eye.

The eyes don’t lie.

So it seems that our eyes mirror our truth. On the contrary, what happens when we find it hard to be honest? Don’t we tend to avert our gaze? Or, how about those times when we try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes? Or, turn a blind eye?

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Using the Eight Limb System of Yoga to Construct a Personal Practice

As you build a personal yoga practice, it’s wise to start with a strong foundation. For this we can turn to the original structure of yoga. Its 8-limb system is arranged to give us a sturdy base upon which to build a dedicated practice.

For those of you who are unfamiliar or need a refresher, the original system of yoga is comprised of 8 different sections or parts: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. They translate from Sanskrit as: restraints, observances, postures, breathing, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation and contemplation.

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You Are What You Eat

This phrase is a simple way to state that what you put into your body truly creates the individual you will become. What you eat (and drink) not only affects your physique but your outlook, your productivity and how you relate to those around you. It is especially significant when you are trying to establish a steady yoga practice.

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Using Essential Oils for Yoga Practice – Part I: Ground

Lately I have been enjoying the benefits of essential oils in dozens of ways for my health and well-being. It seems only natural that I would start to incorporate the oils into my yoga routine. Today, I will begin a series based on the use of essential oils in yoga practice. I’d like to connect this usage to the more subtle aspects of yoga, specifically the chakras or energy centers.

In the past, I have posted frequently on the concept of the chakric system. Many books and articles explain how each chakra can be balanced or pacified. There are seven chakra centers that follow the body from its base to its crown. If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of the chakras, click here.

We will begin this series with the muladhara or root chakra. It’s the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It literally gives us our foundation and grounds us to the earth. Within yoga there are many poses that can help an individual to feel more grounded like tadasana (mountain pose), balasana (child’s pose) and various other seated and standing postures.

Chakras can also be influenced by the use of essential oils. When combined with the yoga postures, the benefit for this subtle energy system can be incredible.

In discussing the particular oils associated with a specific yogic quality, I will refer to the Young Living essential oils that are found in the Premium Starter Kit (see below). For the purposes of grounding, I suggest the blend Valor.

This is one of my favorite oils. Valor is composed of a mixture of oils, namely black spruce, camphor wood, blue tansy, frankincense and geranium. Interestingly, as an oil chosen for rooting, three out of four of its ingredients comes from trees! This may explain why this oil blend supports my “wobbly” personality so effectively.

Valor is also known as the “chiropractor in a bottle” for its effect on the bones and alignment. I’ve heard stories of how worthwhile it is for those who experience chronic back pain or scoliosis.

In addition, Valor can promote positivity and encourage confidence. Qualities that are definitely required if you want to feel more connected or grounded. Therefore, Valor may be helpful in cases of attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity since it is able to generate a considerable sense of peace and gentleness.

I would begin by placing a couple of drops of the oil on a damp, warm washcloth that you can apply to the bottoms of your feet. If you just use 2-3 drops you should not experience any oiliness on the practice mat.

Once applied, try a few grounding postures like those mentioned in my post Getting to Your Root.

If you are new to essential oils and want to get started incorporating them into your yoga practice, you can register with Young Living here and get your Premium Starter Kit. In the month of October, YL is offering free shipping for these kits. Once you are enrolled, I will be connecting with you directly to provide reference sources and helpful advice.

Namasté my friends!