Meditation

I Want to Practice Meditation, but my Mind is Racing all the Time. What can I do about this? – by Brenda and Georg Feuerstein

Over 2,000 years ago, Prince Arjuna asked this same question of the enlightened master Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna assured him that the mind can in fact be controlled. In our own times, while it is quite likely that the mind is racing faster than in previous millennia, still, in principle, the truth abides – the mind can be controlled! We may, however, have to enlist some extra help to calm the mind, such as uncluttering and simplifying our lifestyle, by delegating or not taking on quite so many tasks and obligations.

It is in the nature of the mind to produce thoughts. Even a little bit of conscious relaxation or meditation can thin out our thoughts and create mental space. In the early stages of meditation practice, it is natural for thoughts to boil on and on, leaving us with the impression that we will never gain mastery over our mind. Wrong impression! As we sit in meditation regularly (daily), we find that the mind slows down, and maybe even slows down considerably sooner than we assumed.

As neurologists have discovered in recent years, the brain is surprisingly adaptable. Contrary to previous opinion, brain cells can in fact regenerate throughout our lifespan. Regular meditation will retrain the brain, so that gradually meditation will become easier and “successful.” The mind will stop racing and begin to settle down. Later, it will go beyond its assumed boundaries, and still later it will find itself in the sublime state of ecstasy.

From “The Matrix of Yoga”, by Dr. George and Brenda Feuerstein. Copyright Hohm Press. Used with permission.

Brenda L. Feuerstein is an author and a yoga scholar. Her books include The Yoga Sutras from a Woman’s PerspectiveYoga-Nidra/Yoga Sleep (audio recording) as well as co-authored works with her late husband and spiritual partner Dr. Georg Feuerstein include, The Matrix of Yoga; Green Yoga, Green Dharma; and The Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation. She lives in the quaint village of Eastend, Saskatchewan. Brenda is an internationally acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and yoga philosopher.

Spelt Scones

Autumn Warmth in Delicious Spelt Scones

By Jools Andrés

Spelt is an ancient grain, a wheat ancestor that was very popular in Europe in the Iron and Middle Ages. It has some really nice qualities that appeal to modern palates, however, including an easier to digest form of gluten along with a satisfying texture and high fibre content.

Be creative with the fruit you use. I have used fresh slices of strawberries, cut pears and peaches, and soaked goji – all quite yummy. Try some nuts – pecans are wonderful – or ribbon coconut. Blueberries are a given.

Please make a practice of using organic ingredients whenever possible – it’s better for you and the planet. For vegans: use your favourite egg and dairy substitutes.

Make a full batch of 15. They freeze well for a week or two, but don’t usually sit around uneaten for long, especially if you add an extra handful of chocolate chunks.

Whisk in small mixing bowl:

1 large egg

1/2 cup cereal cream

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together into medium-sized mixing bowl to mix well:

2 cups spelt flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Prepare and mix together, set aside

1 cup berries or chopped fruit, or mixture

1/2 cup (or more) semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1/2 cup (or more) nuts / coconut (optional)

Cut into 1 cm cubes 1/2 cup cold butter

Cut butter into dry ingredients quickly, reducing butter chunks to small pea size. Use a pastry cutter.

Mix wet ingredients into the flour and butter mixture, adding fruit, chocolate, and nuts partway through to incorporate evenly. Form into a ball. Do not over mix or handle.

Place a piece of waxed paper or parchment on the counter and dust thickly with more spelt flour – or use something interesting like quinoa flakes. Press dough onto the floured paper and pat into a circle about 1.5 cm thick. Dust the top lightly, then cut into rounds with a small glass or deep cookie cutter.

Place on ungreased foil on cookie sheet. Bake for 16 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 15 smallish scones.

Jools Andrés (E-RYT500, SOYA, IAYT) is a Lead Trainer for SOYA’s 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Pitt Meadows. She has devoted 17 years of dedicated practice along with abundant training in Ashtanga, Freedom Yoga, Restorative, and Yoga Therapy. She is an artist, writer, editor and graphic designer. If you want to get creative in your yoga, join Jools for  “Unshaping Your Yoga Practice-The Body Creative” Oct 27, in  Vancouver!

Trikonasana

Trikonasana

Trikonasana: Triangle Pose, by Kamala Wilkie

I was in my first yoga session ever and repeatedly experiencing the shock and “how did this happen?” inquiry of a stuck and limited body. At 24 I was scared and appalled at the Tin Man inner experience of my in-class Triangle Pose. So I took it on as my pet project. Everyday. And I watched it coax space, light and freedom into the musculature around my pelvis and hamstring.

If you too need a little lubrication in your hips, length in your hamstring and ease in your lower back, I invite you to try a regular Trikonasana Pose on for size.

Trikonasana

Here’s How:

1. From the front of your mat in Mountain Pose, take a giant step back with your right foot (aim for a leg’s length between your front and back foot.) Face your right toes to the long edge of the mat and keep your left toes face the front. Aim for intersecting your right arch with your left heel.
Your pelvis and shoulders ought to square to the long edge of the mat also.
2. Anchor through the left mound of the big toe and the outer corners of your right foot. Draw up from feet to sacrum so you feel energy gathering in the core of your pelvis.
3. Inhale, lengthen your spine and raise your arms to shoulder height.
4. Exhale, extend your upper body forward over your left leg (as though someone was pulling you forward by your left hand) and then place your left hand on your left thigh, shin or floor.
5. Take your inner thighs back and apart then scoop your tailbone towards your right foot (to keep length in the lower back).
6. Now root from your pelvis into the floor and lean back with your shoulder blades and head.
7. Look down at your left foot and assess if your head and shoulders look like they are forward of the foot and leg. If so, slide your left hand up higher on your left leg until you get a sense of being in a straight line or mildly behind the left leg. Rest your gaze upward according to neck comfort.
8. Stay for 5-20 breaths.
9. Inhale, press though your legs and rise to standing. Exhale, return both feet to the front of your mat in Mountain Pose. Repeat trikonasana on the other side.

Modifications:
Balance challenges-do your Trikonasana with your back against the wall. Also try placing your back foot out of alignment with your front foot.
Neck sensitivity- gaze forward or down.
Limited range of motion- narrow your stance

I still do Trikonasana everyday. It’s the equivalent of brushing my teeth for my adductors, hamstring and lower back. I do it because when those parts are free and moving optimally, the rest of my life is more enjoyable.

Kamala WilkieReady to take a teacher training? Or need a teaching skills refresher? Join Kamala Oct 14-29/18 in Naramata for an Immersion SOYA 200 hour training, or over 8 weekends Mar 1-Jun 9/19 in Penticton for an Extended SOYA 200hr training. Kamala is an E-RYT500 SOYA Lead Trainer, and Anusara Inspired™ Teacher who loves anatomy and life!

Yoga for Children

Yoga for Children

Cats, Trees, and Bridges: Yoga for Children

Yoga For Children

Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator best known for her philosophy of education, is quoted as saying, “The development of the mind comes through movement.”

Yoga is movement, yoga uses imagination, yoga is about playing with the body, the mind and the spirit, and yoga is about the union of these three.

Yoga for children offers this in a perfect way, as children love to move, love to copy, love to repeat, love to learn, love to use imagination and love to use all the senses.  With these qualities children and yoga fit together well if it is taught in a fun, active way. Bodies are meant to move and children inherently know this!  Studies show we need to continually move. In order to be healthy and work efficiently, our joints, muscles, circulation system, digestive system and all our other internal organs need to be moved and used.  This is especially important for growing and developing children.

Children learn best through play.  One definition of play from Eyre in 1984 states: “What joy is in the heart!  The joy of work, and of hard, purposeful effort, the joy of singing, the joy of sport and activity, the joy of tenderness and physical touch, the joy of controlling physical things!”  This could also be a definition of yoga for children.

Yoga for Children

There are three main aspects when teaching yoga to children:

  • Learning about the body – developing coordination, balance, strength, flexibility, breath; discovering how different parts of the body work together, how breath can change how the body works;
  • Caring for others – learning that others can do things the same or different from me; others have the same body as I do, though some have parts of the body that do not work the same way; we all feel warm when we touch each other; we all have feelings; developing a sense of empathy, compassion, caring for family and community;
  • Having fun while moving, breathing, helping each other, imagining, playing.

Yoga can be an extremely important aspect of a child’s life.  In our society today, even very young children can have incredibly structured, busy, competitive lives.  Many of the cultural ideals in our world today constantly tell us what is wrong with us and the way we do things, causing stress. In our technological world, children spend much of their time in front of a television, or other screen.  When they do exercise, it is often regulated, competitive, adult directed and often indoors.  Sometimes children are pushed beyond their physical limits in order to perform and win.

If yoga is practiced, a child’s life can become more balanced by reducing stress and anxiety disorders (which young children are susceptible to) by stretching and strengthening muscles without competition, by learning how to relax, by learning breathing and concentration techniques, and by having children go inward and begin to meditate.

All the asanas have names that stimulate the imagination of young children, and they have all the same benefits as adults when practiced.  When doing partner work, children learn about how others move and breathe, and they can learn to cooperate and help each other.  By using stories, songs and asana flows, children can really have fun while they become healthy in their bodies, minds and spirits.

Yoga for Children

 

Enjoy the moving body! (all photos are of family members)

Yoga for ChildrenDorothy Fizzell, E-RYT500, SOYA.  Dorothy has been teaching yoga for over 20 years and has specialized in yoga for children. Sheis co-leading the SOYA teacher training in Pitt Meadows this fall. Dorothy draws on years of experience working in Child Care Resources and leads workshops for Child Care workers in the lower mainland.

(all photos are of family members)

Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

A student recently asked some questions regarding the integrating yoga with martial arts. To answer these questions in the best way possible, we asked our SOYA Teacher Trainer in Pitt Meadows, who does just that! She has been practicing yoga for more than 40 years, and karate for 23 years. Here is how Dorothy Fizzell has responded to these questions.

Is anyone practicing both yoga and martial arts willing share their experiences on what is similar or different? 

I started yoga in about 1974 when I was at university and wanted a “cheap” form of exercise that I could do on my own. I started karate in 1995, after watching my then 9 year old son in his karate class. I had been looking for a form of aerobic exercise that had some “meaning”, rather than doing just aerobics or some other form of exercise.  Little did I know how both practises, yoga and karate, would play a huge role in developing who I am!

When I started karate, I kept yoga and karate completely separate as I thought they were two very different things.  I actually started karate training the same month that I began my SOYA 500 hour teacher training with Mugs.  This same month my mother passed away at a relatively young age.  These seemingly different experiences are so interrelated and have changed my life.

For me, I do not believe that I could have kept up the karate training at the beginning if I had not been practicing yoga.  Physically, both are similar in that you work at strengthening, flexibility, efficient movement, coordinating the breath with movement, body awareness etc. Karate is much more intense, fast and involves being able to disable or take down opponents who are attacking you.  But the intensity of holding poses, breath control, focus, body alignment in yoga helped immensely.

The style of karate I practice, Chito Ryu, also has a huge component of learning about the Self, by directing energy, meditating, and being able to defend yourself while at the same time remaining peaceful.  We have a Japanese word, reigisaho, which translated means “manners and etiquette”, but it also involves being aware of those around you, taking care of other’s needs (even before they know they have a need!), being humble, being kind, respectful and caring for the community.  We mediate twice – once before and once after every class – in order to bring together our learning, to connect with the energy of ourselves and the Universe, to prepare and to be at peace.

Has yoga influenced eastern martial arts?

Historically yoga has connections with Hinduism for sure, and yes, martial arts can be used for very violent purposes.  However, my understanding is that Indian martial arts as well as the concepts of Hinduism and yoga have influenced all other martial arts systems. There are monks who practice martial arts. Apparently one section of the Yajur Veda has references to martial arts, known as Dhanuraveda. Some classical Indian hand mudras have been incorporated into martial.

To me, the yamas and niyamas of yoga are equivalent to many aspects of reigisaho – that is, no violence, no stealing, having focus, having discipline, being open, not being greedy, constantly learning, and being selfless.  To me, practicing yoga and martial arts is about improving my physical, mental and spiritual health.  I have been very fortunate with my karate teachers or Senseis, and they remind me at times to “Bring your yoga into this Dorothy.” They have allowed me to teach yoga to karate students.

There are also many similarities in yoga asanas and karate positions. Here are some examples:

 

Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

Once in Penticton, my Sensei asked me to lead savasana at the end of the training. We trained in a noisy community centre gym under fluorescent lights, with people coming and going, and everyone’s adrenalin surging after an intense class.  As I guided them through the savasana, almost everyone in the class (35-40 students from 12 years up to older adults) became still, relaxed and open. Everyone’s energy synchronized and became at peace, and the group stayed for a good 10 minutes.  It was quite remarkable!  I had a couple of students who had no experience in yoga at all tell me it was an amazing experience.How are yoga students practicing martial arts viewed?

How do yoga gurus feel or respond to their philosophy being incorporated into martial arts?   

A few years ago we visited Kumamoto to practice with the head of our karate style and we visited the sacred location of Musashi. A very famous Samurai who lived to an old age – meaning he was an expert and violent fighter – lived at this location. He sat and meditated for years, and wrote a famous book called the “Book of Five Rings”.  In this book are techniques for being an excellent Samarai, and many of it is about meditation, being peaceful, caring for your community and making it beautiful (eg calligraphy). There are also two huge Samarai statues at this location; one with his mouth closed, and one with it open.  One of the senior Senseis explained to me that one was saying “AH” and the other was saying “MM”; in other words, AUM!

I believe we are all spiritual beings, who in different places have developed different ways to become more in touch with our spiritual side in this physical world, and over time, many of these ways have touched, mixed and become something new.  I am not sure we can draw a clear line between the lineages of yoga and those of martial arts – it is more like a tapestry of styles and ideas that come together in beautiful patterns and colours.

We have a ‘mantra’ which we say out loud in Japanese, every karate class:

We who study Chito Ryu karate shall never forget the spirit of the Samurai;

With peace (or harmony), perseverance (or dedication) and hard work (or smart work),

We shall reach our goals.

So, at times, yes, I hit a glitch that feels like a contradiction, but both yoga and karate are ways to become connected with your inner Self and with the Universal energy, God if you prefer.  There are those who say that yoga and/or karate is going against Christian beliefs, but again as one brought up in the United Church, I find it is parallel and there is no conflict. I do not believe anything I have done in either practice contradicts the Christian values I have and in fact they have clarified and emphasized them for me.  I don’t believe yoga and martial arts contradict each other and in fact they complement and enhance each other. I think each practice can assist with the other one – they are both about connection with the body, mind and spirit.  There are those who will say that yoga is about peace and karate is about violence, but my experience has not been that.

These are some random thoughts giving you my perspective of my practice.  I am passionate about both yoga and karate, and have integrated aspects of both into everything I do.  If you have other questions or comments please message me back.  Hope this helps with your inquiries!

Dorothy Fizzell, E-RYT500, IYTA, SOYA, is leading the SOYA 200 hour training with Jools Andres in Pitt Meadows this Aug-Dec, 2018. For more information on this training or to contact her, go to www.soyayoga.com .

Neti Pot

Neti pot

BRING OUT THE NETI POT! SPRING IS HERE!

As spring arrives and the plants come into flower, pollens can begin to play havoc with allergies and sinuses. Spring colds and flus start spreading around as well. The yogic cleansing practice of “Neti” is a perfect first defense.

Neti, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient practice done by Hatha yogis.  The sinuses often become blocked or congested, causing problems such as nasal congestion, headaches, ear infections, and sore throats.  Since yogis are always concerned with maintaining a healthy body, the cleaning of the sinuses through nasal irrigation has been adopted into their daily hygiene.

Dr. Thomas Schmidt, a Doctor of Internal Medicine, performed a research study on the benefits of Neti in reducing the affects of the common cold and other airborne viruses. Dr. Schmidt conducted research over 5 years on the effects of “Jal Neti, or nasal irrigation using water and a Neti pot.  He had 115 soldiers in the study. Some were a simply a control group who did not practice Neti at all, while the others practiced neti on an average of one time per day.  Some did it two times a day, and the time varied between am and pm.  The soldiers kept a diary on how they did Neti and how often.  Each soldier had a check-up at the beginning of the study, at the end of the 1st month, and at the end of the 3 month course. At the end of the study, research showed that days missed from work dropped by 70% for the group that practiced Jal Neti daily. [i]  Why? Here is how Dr. Schmidt explained it.

Nasal mucous membranes have one layer of cells with cilia.  On this is a film of liquid.  One phase of this liquid is like mucous, and the other is like water.  The cilia move like a whip in the water layer, moving a constant flow down to the throat.  The same action is occurring in the lungs, only going upwards.  The sinuses bring this liquid to the nose, where it can be drained.  This protects the body by moving germs away from the cells.

The cilia are sensitive to many effects.  They become less effective in removing germs when they become too cold, too hot, too dry, too moist, too dusty, etc.  Temperature change affects the cilia as well. Gardening and breathing in the dust can laden the cilia with dirt. The first thing a virus does is stop the cilia from working, so they can no longer make the whipping action. It only takes 6 hours for a virus to take hold, and then a virus can infect the cell.  If a cell loses its cilia it takes two weeks to regenerate it.  All this leaves us vulnerable to the common cold and flu.

By performing Neti regularly, it helps the normal flow of cilia, normal flushing and cleansing. Neti works as a defense to keep the cilia functioning when a virus is trying to disable them. This helps to reduce the frequency of colds as well as lower the secondary effects (flu, pneumonia, tonsillitis, ear infections, etc).  Neti can also reduce the length of a cold if it does take place.  If you are exposed to a virus, Dr. Schmidt suggests you do Neti three times a day so the virus doesn’t have 6 hours to infect your cells.  Otherwise, doing Neti once a day should keep the cilia healthy and functioning well.

Many allergy and respiratory clinics use “nasal irrigation” as a standard treatment for people suffering from chronic problems with the nose and ears, headaches, and blocked sinuses. They may not use a Neti pot, but there are nasal sprays, and also a technique to “slowly sniff from a bowl a small amount of mixture (warm water with baking soda and salt) through one nostril at a time, pulling the water in through the nose and out the mouth”.   They recommend this practice twice a day to start, and once the sinuses start to clear, reduce to once a day.  Not only that, one clinic says, “Once you get onto this technique, often it is the only treatment you need to keep your sinuses and upper airways clear.”

Dr. Schmidt recommends using a ¼ tsp of baking soda to ½ a tsp of sea salt to 2 cups of lukewarm water (body temperature). Ideally, you want the solution to match the salinity of your body, or to taste like your tears. The salt makes it so your body does not try to absorb the water, and the baking soda helps it to match the PH of your body. You may need to adjust the amounts of salt and baking soda up or down until you find the comfortable amount.

HOW TO DO NETI

Fill the Neti pot with the salt, baking soda and water solution. Mix well. Insert the spout into the right nostril and tip your head to the left.  The water will pour into your right nostril and come out the left nostril. Be sure to have your mouth slightly open to prevent an air lock. Let the water flow until about ½ the solution is gone, or less if it is too uncomfortable.  Blow your nose gently and repeat on the other side.

Any stinging sensations will disappear with regular practice.  You may also find discomfort being reduced by not doing Neti first thing in the morning – give the sinuses an hour or so to clear after waking.

Hints:

Neti Pots are available from most drug stores and yoga studios. Be sure to measure how much water your Neti pot holds in order to adjust the amount of baking soda and salt to match. Many Neti pots are small and hold less than 1 cup of water so you want to adjust accordingly.

Here is a little video to see how Neti is done. They only use salt in the water, but I do recommend the baking soda as it really makes it a smooth experience without stinging.  http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/product/neti_video.aspx

I do my Neti in the shower daily. It has become a regular part of my daily hygiene.

Caution:  It is advised that this practice be learned with a teacher.  One may need assistance with the position of the head in order to avoid water entering the wind pipe.  If you feel water going down the throat, drop the chin more forward and down.  If you feel water going into the ear, reduce the angle of your head.

MugsMugs McConnell will be leading a workshop in Calgary May 26th and 27th at Hillhurst United Church, and May 28th at Yoga MCC for the Yoga Association of Alberta. She will also lead the SOYA 200 hour yoga teacher training in Calgary this coming July.

[i] The participation in Dr. Schmidt’s research study is as follows.

39 soldiers performed neti……………27 completed the 3 month course

76 were a control group………………61 completed the 3 month course

TOTAL 115 BEGAN                                        TOTAL 88 COMPLETED

The following table shows the results of Dr. Schmidt’s research:

 Days of Disease (cold and flu symptoms) resulting in days off duty

First Month                                        Third Month                        Total at Completion

Neti group                            .51 per person                                     0 per person                         .51 per person

Control group                       .82 per person                                     .96 per person                       1.78 per person

 

Yoga for your Eyes

Yoga for your Eyes

Yoga for your eyes is important as we use our eyes throughout our days; for work and play.  Keeping them focused and fixed for long periods of time on a computer screen, a highway, the television or reading a book causes strain.  This also limits our peripheral vision; some of the muscles in the eyes become strong and others lose their integrity.  If there is tension, then even a short period of reading can strain the eyes.

There are a wide variety of “asanas” for the eyes. The asanas help to neutralize eyestrain and teach us the correct use of all our eye muscles. When we gently and regularly move the eyes in all directions giving them a gentle massage, the six muscles that hold and allow the eyes to move in specific directions are strengthened.  Even the effects of aging can be lessened with these simple movements.  It is one of the easy stress management techniques that can be done anywhere.  Below are a few examples of what you can practice.

Contraindications to Practicing Asanas for the Eyes:  These exercises are not recommended for those with eye diseases or disorders such as glaucoma, trachoma, cataract, retinal detachment, retinal artery or vein thrombosis, iritis, keratitis or conjunctivitis. If you have these you should only perform yoga practices after consulting their eye specialist.  When practicing, the eyes should be relaxed along with the facial muscles, eyebrows and eyelids.  After each exercise the eyes should be closed for 30 seconds. The practice of palming may be performed at this time. Glasses or contacts should NOT be worn.

  1. Experiential Exercise – Eyes on the Sides of your Head

Stand in Tadasana with arms at hips.  Balance effort with relaxation as you press your feet into the floor and lift your chest.  Keep your breath smooth and release any gripping in your shoulders and neck.  Look straight ahead.  After a few seconds, imagine that you have eyes on your temples that can see out to the sides.  As you breathe, try to perceive what those eyes would be seeing.  Don’t pull the images toward you; just let them passively seep in.  If you feel a wave of relaxation come over you with this exercise, it’s likely you are holding tension in your eyes and facial muscles all day long.

 

 

  1. Palming Benefits: Palming is a relaxing, alpha producing exercise in Yoga for your Eyeswhich heat produced is used to soothe the eyes. Palming relaxes and revitalizes the eye muscles and the entire nervous system. Benefits are enhanced if practiced in front of the rising or setting sun.  Never look directly at the sun except for a few initial moments when it is just rising or setting.

 

Usually this is done while seated. Your elbows should be supported (either on a table in front of you or on a thick cushion or two in your lap).  It is recommended to remove all rings and watches and wash hands before beginning.

  1. Briskly rub your palms together until you feel warmth, charging them with energy.
  2. Cup your hands over your eyes so that your palms directly cover your closed eyelids (with no pressure on eyes).
  3. Heels of hands rest lightly on the cheekbones and fingers on the forehead. All light is excluded.
  4. Concentrate on relaxing your eyelids and releasing all tension held in them.
  5. Relax any undue tension in the muscles of the face, neck, shoulders or the rest of body.
  6. Recommended to hold for 4-5 minutes. Repeat 3-5 times in succession. This can form a daily practice.
  7. When time does not permit a longer practice, this can be done at any time. Even a few moments can keep the eyes refreshed and the mind relaxed.
  8. Visualize darkness and blackness. Pay attention to your breath. Notice how the body expands on the inhalation and shrinks on the exhalation. Go through all body parts from head to toe as you continue palming.
  9. Front and Sideways Viewing Benefits: Improves coordination of medial and lateral muscles.

In Dandasana, raise the R arm out to the side at shoulder level, keeping it straight and point the thumb upward. The thumb should just be in peripheral vision if looking straight ahead. The L arm is relaxed with the hand on the L thigh, and the thumb up.  Without moving the head, focus the eyes on the following, one after the other.  Inhale neutral position; exhale and look down at the L thumb; inhale and look up at the right thumb.

  1. Left thumb.
  2. Right thumb.
  3. Left thumb.
  4. Repeat this cycle 15-20 times. Close and rest eyes.
  5. Repeat on other side, holding the L arm out to the side and resting the R arm on the thigh.
  6. Close and rest eyes. Perform palming here for several repetitions when finished.

Modification:  If the arm tires, rest on two stacked bolsters.

  1. Up and Down Viewing Benefits: Balances upper and lower eyeball muscles.

 In Dandasana, make tight fists with thumb extended of both hands.  Keeping the arms straight, slowing raise the R thumb while following the motion of the thumb with the eyes. When the thumb is raised to the maximum, slowly return it to the thigh, all the time focusing on the thumb without moving the head.  Repeat with L arm.  Inhale while raising eyes and exhale while lowering eyes.  Repeat 5 times each side.  Close and rest the eyes. Perform palming for several repetitions.

Helen Mikuska is a lead trainer for SOYA’s 200 hour yoga teacher training held in Calgary this July.

Please email info@harmonyyogapilatesstudio.ca

Temple Tour

A TEMPLE TOUR OF INDIA

Travelling to India for a temple tour alone at age 74!

My trip to India for a temple tour was a bit as I had imagined it, and quite a bit more. I had so many ideas and so much advice given to me before I left that it made my trip more secure, comfortable, and enjoyable.

I started my journey on my own. I arrived in the birth village of Krishna – Vrindavan. It could not have been a better choice. Right away I was steeped in the intense spirituality of the place.

Temple tourAnd there I met a couple of Krishna devotees that took me to Rishikesh and Haridwar. They were wonderful companions and guides. They arranged my plane tickets to Varanasi and Chennai. I stayed in “Home Stays” where I got to meet the families and made friends with them. I visited temples, walked the gats, and assisted in arati ceremonies along the Ganges.

The Ganges is so alive. I never felt her as unclean as people think she is. To me she was pure and crystalline… I did not drink her water though, just in case. Visiting a waterfall, I felt the water coming through Shiva’s hair, falling on my feet, and refreshing me.

Temple tourI arrived to Chennai where an Uber!!! taxi took me to the hotel to meet Helen and Bev. And there started our extensive tour of Tamil Nadu’s temples. Helen did an extraordinary job preparing a very rich itinerary. We did mantra practices to the gods and goddess for each temple, spending a little time at every stop. We visited big and small temples, and we all agreed we preferred the smaller, more intimate ones. I learned quite a bit about new forms of God, especially relating to the planets. This trip opened new avenues of fascinating studies, and many more ways to worship God in His infinite forms. I owe a debt of gratitude to Helen.

After I left the tour with Helen I headed to Pondicherry, where I got to meet with Dr. Ananda. He gave me a tour of his ashram and the following day he invited me to the teaching hospital where he is instituting a section of yoga therapy into the hospital. I even assisted in part of a yoga class given to patients and staff. I was so moved by his kind invitation and the time he dedicated to me. I would love to register for the yoga therapy course given there…may be one day!

And there I am brimming with emotion, flavors and colors of this extraordinary trip. Lots of love, Latika

Latika (Pierrette Claude) is a SOYA teacher (E-RYT500) who is passionate about the philosophy of yoga and what it offers us. She will be leading the philosophy studies at the SOYA 200 hour yoga teacher training in Mexico this November.

 

Viparita Dandasana: Supported Straight Rod Pose

Viparita Dandasana: Supported Straight Rod Pose. Feeling a bit tired after a long day of activity? Viparita Dandasana creates mobility in spine and shoulders, releases tension in diaphragm, and increases circulation throughout adrenal and thyroid glands. As a side note, it counteracts depression and mood swings while it relieves fatigue.

Please note, if you are suffering from a migraine or undergoing chemotherapy, Viparita Dandasana is not recommended.

Required Props for Viparita Dandasana:

  1. Two Rectangular Bolsters (One Horizontal/One Vertical).
  2. Four Foam Blocks.
  3. Five Blankets.
  4. Two Chip Foam Blocks.
  5. Yoga Strap.
  6. Elastic to fit your feet.

PropsMethod for Viparita Dandasana:

  • Place two vertical foam blocks together at the wall.
  • Place one rectangular bolster horizontal across the middle of the mat.
  • Place a second bolster vertical on top of it with the widest and a foam block under each end of the vertical bolster for support.
  • In front of the vertical bolster (the end away from the wall) place two narrowly folded vertical blankets. Ahead of these stack 1-2 foam blocks with a folded blanket on top of them.
  • Have 2 folded blankets on each side of your mat for your hands to rest on. Now you are set up!
  • Apply a strap to your mid-thighs to hold thighs in place.
  • Apply a toe elastic to each big toe to hold your ankles in place
  • Recline into the pose as shown above, with your feet against the wall.
  • Make sure your shoulders fall off the bolster onto the blankets.

 Modification #1:  If you have back pain, then raise the height of your heels by stacking two more foam blocks under the heels. Still pain? Then add another two foam blocks to the stack.

Modification #2:  If you have neck pain, then place another folded blanket under your head. The spine should be effortlessly in a concave position thanks to the support of the bolster and blankets.

By Helen Mikuska, SOYA, E-RYT500

Contentment

Understanding Contentment

Dr Ananda offers insights into understanding contentment from a yogic point of view. Unexcelled ease and bliss awaits those who manifest the virtue of contentment.

Reprinted with permission.

Santoshdanuttamah sukhalabhah (Unexcelled ease and bliss awaits those who manifest the virtue of contentment)- Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras II:42

Santosha is contentment. When one achieves that “state” of contented oneness, unexcelled ease and bliss is the reward. Un‑ease and non‑bliss are the result of dichotomy, division, duality. Oneness is contentment.

If we are able to be content with whatever we havephysically, emotionally, mentally, spirituallywe will be at ease (sukha) with ourselves, wherever we are. This is not the contentment of a tamasica nature. Tamasica contentment is for those who do not do anything (or those clever enough to have someone else do it for them). The rajasica contentment is the quality of those who seek recognition. The sattwica contentment is of those who act without showing that they are doing. From the outside the sattwica sadhaka looks as though they are not doing anything at all. The extremes seem to the external, superficial view to be the same. Both the tamasica and the sattwica approach towards santosham may look the same (as they are not seen doing anything) but the sattwica are acting without seeming to act and thereby attain santosha. Contentment is not complacency or stagnation. Those stuck in a comfortable rut are not experiencing santosham. They are simply sleep‑walking through life. True santosham is vitally awake and alert.

Unexcelled joy comes when one is at peace with oneself and totally at ease. When we are content with whatever we get, we get everything we need. Dichotomy and duality disappear in contentment as one becomes the Universe. If we are united at the universal level, at one with the cosmos, then everything and everyone in the cosmos is “us” and we possess all. What is there to gain? What is there to lose in such a state? Hence, supreme contentment ensues. When the Divine knows that we are not after anything, it will give us everything.

Why do people want a degree, a job, a wife, children, a house, a car? Because they believe such things will bring happiness. But, they make a drastic mistake. These desires only feed discontent and fear. Discontent comes because the object does not bring the happiness we sought! Fear comes because we are afraid we may lose what we have gained. The moment we realize that we can have happiness with whatever we get, we get all. Interestingly in the Dravidian Tamil language, santosham also means happiness.

Discontent is a synonym for unhappiness.

As my beloved Swamiji said, “You do not have a problem, you are the problem!” When we help ourself by ourself, we no longer have problems and experience contentment.

Discontent is being cultivated by modern advertising media and the business interests. This is also true in the world of yoga. Instead of saying “Yoga will solve all your problems” one should say “Yoga can help you cope better with your condition”. This is more correct. Otherwise, one only feeds more and more discontent. In the world of yoga today the market is for gadgets: mats, straps, bricks, belts and trendy toys. What nonsense! If you do not have the right gadgets you cannot practice yoga! Isn’t that the most absurd thing you have ever heard? Contentment is being able to say with honest feeling, “I know I have got enough”.

Santosham is the inner attitude of being content with who we are, where we are and with every life situation we face. This is the key to tuning into anandamaya kosha, the universal blissful existence. Think about the concept of nishkama, as espoused by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: do not be attached to the fruits of the action but only concentrate on making the best effort. Let go of the results. Why do we do things? If it is in anticipation and expectation of the result, we will never be content. The curse of discontentment will follow us like a dark shadow until we wake up to the reality of love and life. The truth is that: everything we need will be given to us when we are ready for it.

When we live in contentment, we will be able to fulfill our dharma, as we will be able to live as ourselves.

Do things out of love. Do them out of profound and deep spiritual interest. Do not be motivated by limited and mundane material interest. One’s life will then be blessed every moment by santosha.

Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani is presenting at the SOYA Annual Retreat June 1-3, 2018 at Sorrento BC.  He is a Certified Yoga Therapist with IAYT, the Director of CYTER, and the Chairman of ICYER at Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India.