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Take It Off the Mat

People say that practicing yoga is walking on the path. Well, it’s definitely not driving on a highway. Sometimes the path runs through a forest with logs and tree branches blocking it, sometimes through marshes and you have to be really careful where you step, sometimes through fields where sweet scented flowers blossom.


Walking the path you need to know where you are to make sure you are not lost. So don’t forget to take time to check your inner compass, consult a spiritual map (Yoga Sutras, for example) or ask locals for directions (someone you respect and trust).

Navigating the spiritual practice gets tricky at times but you’ve got all the equipment to keep you on track if your asana practice is alive. If you are a practitioner, you hear this in most of the classes, if you are a teacher you are giving these instructions everyday. Just take these principles off the mat to your everyday life and practice what you preach.

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We start a class with cleansing Kapalabhati breathing to remove impurities and make space for fresh air and fresh energy to come in. When you are facing a problem or just feel low without realizing the reason, start with simply cleaning around your space, throw away (or donate) things you no longer need. Think if there is something or somebody in your life that is a little bit too much to handle. If there is, may be it’s time to take a break. Make space for wonders to come.

Next thing is respecting your limitations, keeping in mind they change day by day. So maybe today (or this week or this year) you are a little stiff and just can’t cope with as much work (or socializing) as usual. In this case an extra hour of sleep or just relaxing and doing something you enjoy may help.

We build an asana from the foundation. Decide what your priority is and concentrate on it. Arrange everything else around it. Find grounding and stability in the most important and valuable things for you, may it be the family, education, or health.

Safe asana practice emphasizes correct alignment and encourages not to compromise it for some doubtful achievement. So if you have some goal in mind, make sure the methods you are using are not in conflict with your moral principles. Otherwise your peace of mind is at risk, So take good care of yourself and remember that the result is not all that important; the way is.

And of course, the key to the practice is the breath. No matter how hard it gets, you can breathe through it. Your breath is always there for you, honest and welcoming. It is a safe place to come back to.

Take it off the mat! Balance is never stillness, it’s constant adjustment to the change. Keep balancing, keep practicing.

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Yoga found Kate on her short (as she thought) visit to India for His Holiness Dalai Lama’s teachings. Soon after she arrived and took her first ever Yoga class, she enrolled in 200-Hours TTC and has been practicing and teaching Yoga ever since.

Learning Compassion Through Yoga

As humans we all experience judgment. There are many times where we can be incredibly quick to come to a conclusion about a person, a place, or a thing – often based off of a first glance – and while we are so quick to judge others, we are even quicker to judge ourselves, making judgment seem like one of the hardest habits to break.

But lucky for us… we have this thing called yoga.

The more we step onto our mats the more we delve deeper into these judgments about ourselves and others. Through 5-14our practice of movement, breathing, and mindfulness we allow ourselves to become observers: observers of our thoughts, observers of our feelings, and observers of how we choose to react to those thoughts and feelings. Do we allow ourselves to get distracted, fall out in frustration, and feel shame for the lack of integrity? Or can we move through the experience with presence and mindfulness and compassion?

When I first started practicing yoga it was purely for the physical workout. I was recovering from a knee injury, I wanted to become more flexible, and I wanted to get strong – drop some pounds and get myself in better shape. While the dedication to a consistent, Vinyasa practice did help me to strengthen and tone and create more fluidity within my body, I started to noticed a bigger shift beginning to happen. Instead of rolling out my mat for a workout, I found myself rolling out my mat for a “work in.” My practice was allowing me to slowly break down the walls I had built up – the harsh judgments, the limiting beliefs, and the self doubt that I had been carrying around with me for so long. The doors of compassion were beginning to open.

It wasn’t until my 200-hour teacher training that I really began to understand what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. Thanks to self-inquiry and a consistent journaling practice I began to bring more awareness to my judgments and when and why they were showing up. During a practice, I would try to be mindful of when that harshFORGIVE2 voice would get loud, criticizing myself, another student, or the teacher. After the practice I would write in my journal, noting what judgments came up for me and reflecting on what I was feeling at that moment and why I was feeling that way. I began to see a pattern. I was way too hard on myself and in return, I was way too hard on others. I expected myself to be perfect and I expected others to maintain the same type of perfection. And many times I began to notice that the things I found to be annoying or frustrating about someone or something else were usually qualities that I seemed to hold as well…oof! That’s always a tough pill to swallow.

But one of the most beautiful things I’ve come to understand about compassion is that it can mold and move with us as we continue to grow. Now that I am teaching, I’ve begun to look at compassion through a completely different set of eyes. Because when you take on that role as teacher, you automatically begin to hold a space for others who are breaking through their own judgments and doubts and limiting beliefs. I wasn’t able to fully grasp what it meant to be compassionate towards others until I truly learned what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. And we’re not talking about the pity kind of compassion, but a much deeper kind of compassion, coming from a place that we are all one. As a teacher you quickly learn that everyone shows up on their mats for different reasons – some as light as physical exercise and some as heavy as to deal with death, depression, or addiction. It’s a reminder that we are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve been given and no matter how different we may appear on the surface, we all experience the same types feelings, insecurities, and judgments on the inside.

I now understand that compassion is the key to community and harmony. The more we practice bringing compassion onto our mats, the more we will see compassion showing up for us off of our mats. As we begin to loosen the shackles of perfection, we forgive ourselves for all of the too-quick conclusions that we have made. In understanding and appreciating both our positive attributes and our quirky flaws (because we all have them) we learn to understand and appreciate those qualities in others. In releasing our judgments and limiting beliefs we inspire others to do the same. So the next time you roll out your mat, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Where can I show myself more compassion?” Then allow the doors to open.

 

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Cait Lawson is a RYT-200 and Living Yoga Ambassador currently located in Rincon, Puerto Rico where she teaches yoga, SUP yoga/fitness, and offers surf lessons and eco-tours around the island. Follow more of her adventures at www.sunburntandsalty.com.

Where is Your Energy Going?

We have 24 hours a day to accomplish all our tasks, tend to our needs, interact with others, AND stop and smell the roses–if we’re lucky. Generally, in this part of the developed world the most dedicated and drained multitaskers and workaholics are practically given medals by their superiors, friends and family for their killer ‘work ethic.’

Who cares? We all should. In a time where, generally, our collective energy output is far greater than our energy input, we’re at risk of burning out and losing our connection to each other. I, for one, think that’s terrifying.

I am just as driven and hard-working as some of those superhero employees–heck I’m writing this at 7:00 AM before I head into work for a 10 hour day. I bet you are just as busy, too. Maybe you break up your work hours in a different way, but most of us are juggling two or more jobs and commitments all at once.

Whether we feel forced or inspired to spend our 24 hours a day working and moving, we DSC4840are draining ourselves of energy. Many of us continue to putter away at household chores and to-do lists, forgetting to turn-off our worker switch when we’re home and done for the day, too. While these items might feel like they need to be done today or every day, they aren’t going anywhere. Your chores are always waiting for you.

What’s not waiting for you is life. While you drain your energy on working in a variety of ways you deplete your resources, often losing touch with your lighter self- the one who laughs, who is truly present for their friends, family and other human beings, who takes warm baths and sees the odd movie. When you pour so much out of yourself you have to take some energy back in.

If ‘work ethic’ can be defined as the, “belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character,” as per Dictionary Reference, then a working definition for what I call ‘energy equilibrium’ could be, “conscious effort by an individual to balance energy input and output, for the sake of mental, physical and emotional health.”

So, how do you receive energy? You start by looking at self-love. Are you practicing it? If not, avoid judging yourself, just make a commitment in this moment to take better care of the unique and powerful vessel you’ve been given. Think of your body and brain as a vehicle and when that vehicle runs out of gas it breaks down and leaves you stranded.

Energy input starts with taking care of numero uno.

What do you naturally enjoy to do? What helps you to relax? What makes you laugh? What naturally soothes your sorrows? Ask yourself these questions and then listenphoto.PNG-2 closely to what your heart says in return. When you’re feeling depleted, refill your energy resources with activities, thoughts and movements that bring a smile to your face.
If all you need to do to bring your energy levels back into balance or find that ‘energy equilibrium’ is a walk around the park after work each day, or a massage a couple of times a month, then do it. A fundamental part of my self-care routine is meditating and practicing yoga every day, no matter what. Throw a bubble bath and a rooftop patio glass of wine on top and I’m feeling full of positive energy after a beautiful, but energetically draining day.

A key part of finding energetic balance is including positive interaction with other human beings in your everyday life. If you’re constantly surrounding yourself with people who take and take from you without giving, or who suck the life out of you with their negativity, you’re losing energy, too. Choose to surround yourself with people who fill you up, challenge you to grow and who take care of themselves—because that way you’re more likely to as well. Make your health and happiness just as important as your success and you’ll find balance in your life!

Namaste

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Eryl McCaffrey is a Yoga Teacher/ Studio Manager from Toronto. She’s also a Freelance Writer, who’s passionate about health and wellness. Eryl believes in the power of love to heal and advance the world. Her blog: twofeetheartbeat.wordpress.com

Strengthen your Core with Power Yoga

To me, yoga isn’t about looking a certain way, getting a better body or being a pose master. Yoga is about reconnecting with your mind, body and soul–and if physical changes accompany that, it’s a bonus. One of those sweet extras is a stronger core. I teach power yoga and practice it religiously. While all yoga practices increase your overall strength, I find power yoga to be especially effective at targeting your middle.

Besides some light ab exercises done during the practice, most of your core-strength building comes from holding poses. Doing isometric exercises is one of the best ways to strengthen your abdominals. Isometricsphoto-3-2 are static exercises or a type of strength training that isolates muscles without movement. Basically, the muscle length and joint angle do not change during contraction. An example of an isometric exercise in power yoga is holding plank for 5 or 10 breaths, while you engage your triceps, core and quads. Conversely, concentric and eccentric exercises involve dynamic movements with a range of motion. Sun Salutations would fall under the dynamic movement category. Power yoga uses isometrics in many postures, especially those that target your core and back. Your flexibility and balance comes from your core, so it’s crucial to condition this part of the body in yoga. To add in a little more try out a hot power yoga class for extra warmth, which helps relax your muscles while releasing toxins from your body.

Sometimes I like to start off my practice with some ab exercises, if my body isn’t already warmed up. Otherwise I’ll teach abs after the igniting, or back bends series. My favourite is to do 100 bicycle crunches or hold Navasana (Boat Pose) for several counts a few times. I’ll also make sure I do some abdominal work if I get the urge to do an inversion like a handstand or headstand. The core is a crucial part of keeping you up in the air, so it’s important to warm it up before you go there. However, the best time to work on your core in yoga is ALL THE TIME! Work on hugging in your lower belly and sucking in your core whether you’re standing in Mountain Pose, lowering down to Chatarunga or lifting up into Wheel. Put your focus on your core, send your breath there and that’s where you’ll build strength and flexibility. Forget the six-yoga-hairpack and go for core strength, full-body flexibility, mental power and spiritual health. That’s a combo yoga has to offer!

Eryl McCaffrey is a Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher from Toronto, Ontario. She’s also a Freelance Writer, who’s passionate about health and wellness. Eryl believes in the power of love to heal and advance the world. Visit her Blog at: twofeetheartbeat.wordpress.com

Kshama

Kshama.

Be here. Be now. Be present. Be patient.

Release time from your thoughts, this moment only exists now. Have patience when you eat, talk and most of all, listen. Be patient and tolerant towards others. Be tolerant with yourself and your body. Don’t expect the entire world to adjust to your ideas; every person has a different character and habits, corresponding to the ways they were influenced in childhood and in life. Let others behave according to their nature, without adjusting to you. Be still and breathe. Don’t control but be aware. Listen.

dsc_17901It is important to be compassionate and patient with everyone you meet on the way. Who knows how we come across to them and what influence they may have in your life? Try to understand others, even if you don’t share their opinion, put yourself into their skin. Be patient with the family and children, with the neighbors and co-workers. With the elderly and unknown.

 

Danae Borsani a German/ Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate blogger (soulseekergirl.com) about what she does best; The Art of Food, Fashion, Travel, and Health. She inspires her readers towards a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

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