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Practice With Consistency

Patanjali tells us that practice becomes grounded when it is pursued consistently, with earnestness, over a long period of time. For many of us, we feel as if this is almost impossible. We may have a busy work and/or school schedule, or maybe kids, family and pets that demand attention. So how are we able to maintain our daily practice consistently despite our daily lives? Now this is where Sutra 1.12 comes in- abhyasa and vairagya. Effort and non-attachment.


In order to create or maintain a practice with consistency, we first must make sacrifices. We need to practice vairagya, non-attachment. Letting go of expectations. If you believe that your practice is only your practice if you have a full hour to move through a flow or have a lengthy warm up, cool down and 10 minute Savasana, this is one of the first sacrifices we need to make. This expectation needs to be released. Some days we may only have ten minutes of free time; so we step on our mat, do one round of Sun Salutations and we’re out the door. Or maybe we only have time after a long day at work when your energy seems to be spent, so it’s legs up the wall and supine twists before you’re off to bed.


If you have children or pets that want your attention, work them into your practice. Instead of disturbing your peace by shooing them away, let them be. Even try to include them if you can. For me, I know my home practice isn’t complete without a cat laying on me and joining my Savasana.


Or maybe distractions aren’t your problem, the only time you have free is after a long and grueling day at work. Is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day to jump onto your mat, flow through vinyasas or power through standing poses and inversions? Well, maybe. But for most people, that’s not the reality. You’re drained, unmotivated and tired. You just want to lay down. So what do you do? Work this into your practice! Take any last drop of abhyasa (effort) you have left. Practice vairagya (non-attachment) by letting go of the belief that a practice only counts if you flow through vinyasas and inversions. Sit your legs up the wall, stretch out the day, then head to Savasana. Is this any less “yoga” than going to class and breaking a sweat or handstands? Nope, it’s not. Sorry to break it to you, but Yoga isn’t simply a workout routine. Yoga isn’t something that fits into a box or category and it sure isn’t something that is the same for everyone. “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Sutra 1.2)

Yoga is simply taking the time to tend to your body, release that which no longer serves you and slow (if not stop) your racing thoughts. So whether to you this means flowing through a well rounded routine or taking ten minutes at the end of the day to surrender, any cultivation of mindfulness and release of “the mind-stuff” is Yoga. Any practice is still a practice no matter how small, and consistency is still achievable even with only ten minutes to spare. Remember that.


In conclusion, the biggest key to consistency is practicing with non-attachment. Letting go of the expectation that you need a full hour or rounded flow to practice. Let go of the expectation that you need complete silence or solitude to practice, and begin working with what you have; whether it be pets, kids, or a busy schedule. Adjust your practice to your own needs, and treat yourself gently when your energy is spent elsewhere. Approach your mat with an open mind, adjust your practice to your own needs, and peace will soon follow.

 

 

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After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor and shares her journey through YouTube: Sacred Synchronicities and on Instagram: @sacredsynchronicities.

Return To Center

Amidst a time of great change, it becomes easy to find yourself feeling lost. We have all been there. If not, you most likely will be at one time or another. But don’t worry or fear, for this is all but a part of the process. You know the saying “Not all who wander are lost.”? Well although this may be true, I sure am lost. Is “lost” necessarily a bad thing? No, of course not. The word “lost” simply has negative connotations attached to it from years of misunderstanding.


So what do you do when you’re lost? Well, you return to what is familiar to you. Sometimes this leads people to revert back to old habits. I, myself, am not ashamed to admit this is exactly what I have done. Quite recently, as well. When I am lost, I revert back to something I know all too well and something that comes quite naturally to me; my state of anxiety and depression. In this case, I have realized that it is because it gives me a sense of familiarity; a sense of security. We are often taught to react to situations in a certain way. For example, if there’s a conflict in the family or you lose a close friendship, it is often implied that you must feel sad. This situation was “bad”, so immediately you must grieve. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Of course, it is natural and can be a healthy coping mechanism. However, there may come a time when you rely on feelings of grief and depression as a crutch due to their sense of familiarity. Now this is what I’ve done.

Return to center. So, what does this mean to you? To me, returning to center means exactly that. Return to center. “Center” meaning the stillness and contentment of my inner Being; of our inner Being. We all have different ways of doing so. For me, yoga and meditation has helped me immensely. I am writing this right now as a result of a deep yoga session. Before that, I was constantly reflecting back on previous events. What “should” have been done or if things could have been handled differently in the past. I felt lost, and the first thing I needed to do was admit that to myself; so that’s exactly what I did.

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Once again, what do we do when we are lost? We return to what is familiar to us. Although at first I was subconsciously reverting back to the familiar state of depression, I decided to roll out my yoga mat. Through this, I was able to to cultivate mindfulness and slow (if not stop) those negative thoughts right in their tracks. Now I know that we all roll out our mats for different reasons, but I feel as if this is something that can connect us all. Whether you roll out your mat simply to gain flexibility, aid in anxiety relief, or to cultivate awareness, we are all returning to what we know; whether or not this was our sole intention. We return to our inner stillness; our true nature.

The point being, never be afraid to admit that you are lost. There is no shame in being lost, for tremendous growth may follow. The most important thing to remember is to never breed resistance. Accept whatever comes your way as neither good nor bad. If it is what you wanted, express gratitude and say thank you. If it is not what you wanted, say thank you for the lesson and grow. If you find yourself being sucked back into old destructive habits, do not shame yourself. Simply accept this fact and use this awareness to put you back on track. Look within. Roll out your mat. Return to center.

 

After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor in hopes of helping others that may be found in similar situations.

Svadhyaya: Understand Yourself, Understand Your World

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”  – Zen proverb

This quote is one that I often refer to. It’s one that I come back to again and again when I feel like I am too busy, too tired, too caught up in life to put aside those twenty minutes per day on my meditation cushion. But it also came to mind quite forcefully the other day, when I was encouraging a friend to at least consider the idea that regular yoga classes might be good for him and his bad back. With a laugh, he replied, “I don’t have time for navel gazing.”

Since when has taking care of ourselves, and getting to know ourselves, become “navel gazing?”

And, come to that, since when has “navel gazing” been such a bad thing?

In our Western culture, we’re taught to constantly look outside of ourselves for fulfillment, happiness, success. We are conditioned to believe that material things will bring us happiness, that money is one of the most important measures of success, and that other people – our friends, families, lovers – will fulfill us.

We forget our own responsibility to ourselves.

Taking time to know and care for ourselves – rather than our jobs, our bank balances and all the other people in our lives – is too often seen as selfish, indulgent, even immature. And yet how can we expect to be able to relate to the world around us, if we don’t know ourselves? How can we expect others to understand us and know how to treat us, if we don’t understand ourselves and treat ourselves well? How can we expect our bodies to keep functioning properly if we don’t take care of them?

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I’ve recently returned to the UK from two months at an ashram in the Bahamas, where I was participating in a Karma Yoga program. It was possibly the ultimate exercise in navel gazing. For sixty days, I meditated, practiced asanas, participated in twice-daily satsangs, journaled, and read. I served too, of course, and taught yoga classes. But along the way, the primary lesson was that yoga is the ultimate tool to learn about that elusive person called “me”.

When we first come to the mat, we are drawn into the wonderful world of our own bodies. We feel muscles that we never knew existed. We twist and bend and stretch in ways that we never thought were possible and, gradually, we develop a deep respect (and perhaps even love?) for the body that carries us and serves us and makes our life on this Earth possible. We breathe more deeply, we feel more energy and, in a wonderful circle, we start to feel that sense of being physically alive which brings us back to the mat for more.

Becoming more aware of our bodies naturally leads us into becoming more aware of our minds. If we stick with the practice for long enough, sooner or later we start to really feel our emotions. We cry in Savasana, and we don’t know why. Stretching out the hips in Pigeon Pose brings up all sorts of memories and feelings that we thought were dead and buried. We feel more conscious of when we are angry, sad, joyful, content and we want to learn more. We want to understand what it is that brings us to those places, so that we can either avoid the triggers or cultivate them and, as our understanding of ourselves increases, so does our understanding of those around us. Perhaps we become more compassionate, more kind, more open, more understanding. We recognize that we get angry when someone cuts in front in line, and so we get it when other people do the same. We’re able to recognize when we’re being unfair, or judgmental, or hypocritical, and we’re able to call ourselves on it – and we’re able to point it out to others too. And in this process of learning about ourselves – the process of Svadhyaya, or self-study, that is one of the observances of yoga – our way of dealing with the world and all its turmoil changes.

It’s not easy. But when we understand, care for, and love ourselves, we open the door not only for other people to be able to truly love us in return, but for us to truly love, care for and respect our world and other people. And that – rather than being selfish, immature, or indulgent – is one of the most selfless, courageous, and vital things we will ever do.

So go ahead and navel gaze, for twenty minutes a day. And if you feel like you don’t have time, do it for an hour. It will change your world.

 

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Ali Shevlin is a yoga instructor, freelance proofreader / editor, writer and traveller. She runs Natural Energy Yoga in North East England and, when not on the mat, can usually be found reading, writing, or planning the next adventure.

The Company We Keep

Do we ever know who we really are? What we really want? Or are we an accumulation of the ideas, values, ambitions and goals of the company we keep?

The 5th person syndrome, a concept I became recently aware of, which put simply, means -we become the company we keep. After all, if we lived in a house full of donut eating lay a bouts…wouldn’t we start eating donuts? Similarly, if we lived in a house full of green juice drinking athletes, wouldn’t we become more health conscious? Don’t we go to the gym so we can be in the positive vibration of focus and fitness? I remember reading somewhere that if you have you have overweight friends you are more likely to make bad food choices, eat larger portions and not surprisingly then, gain weight.

On a deeper level, can the company we keep impact upon our life decisions? Our values? The dreams we have? Our aspirations and ambitions?

When I was 14, I moved with my family to the Middle East. Since then I have lived in Spain, India and Thailand. Fourteen years later I find myself (geographically) back where I started. Rural, conservative England.

Traveling changes your perspective and your outlook. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and cownarrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” India was, for me, the place which transformed the way I look at life.

Most expats in India are not trying to replicate their western lifestyle in the sun. They are searching for something more. More meaning, more questions, more answers, more truth. It is through this seeking, that ideas are exchanged, questions are answered with more questions and evolution of the mind and spirit takes place.

I left India with a clarity, a clear sense of truth and a fresh outlook on the world, life on it and beyond. With certainty I felt I had rid myself of the shackles of the western “dream”. In the South Indian outback advertising is, currently, almost non existent. With this absence, you feel lighter, your mind is liberated from craving, comparison and dissatisfaction. You eat and drink local, you buy what you need, not what you “want”. “I can see everything for what it is” I naively proclaimed. Arriving back in England at Heathrow, the bombardment of signs, warnings, technology and over head automated announcements (even the people seemed automated) was overwhelming and bizarre.

Nine months on and this automated haze of signs, warnings and advertisements is my normal. I comply, I obey, I fear, I crave, I fret, I worry, I compare and complain. I want a house and a car and maybe a dog too…I want to be like rebecca2everyone else. I want that handbag I saw in Vogue and I know the intricate details of Kim Kardashian’s life. I do not talk about anything beyond the physical and mundane. I do not question or wonder. I want. I am surrounded by people who conform, who believe in the “western dream” and put value on things rather than experience. I am the 5th person.

This realization came to me on a day trip to Bristol- surrounded by “alternative” people, vegan sausage rolls and free meditation workshops, a light went off and I suddenly remembered all that I had lost. Whilst we may think that we are separate and individual, really we are not. We are all interconnected. Everything in the Universe is interconnected and interdependent and we are no exception. We vibrate on the frequency of our surroundings. And on my trip to Bristol I realized that I was vibrating on a frequency which did not honor my believes and values. Yet I had adopted them as my own?! This was a disturbing realization, as I realized how influenced we are by our surroundings and the company that we keep.

Whilst, perhaps we don’t lose our essence, we can be mislead and the core of us retreats to a place where, without a jolt, it can sleep for a life time. It is important that we honor who we really are, so that we can find people and places who fit us and we fit them. It is in this exchange that we grow, develop and blossom into fulfilled individuals. Bristol was the jolt I needed to re-establish my spiritual practice and connect with people who have similar believes to me, people who inspire me and whom I can grow with.

Maybe the next time you find yourself in a group of 4 people…ask…am I the 5th person? And if so…am I alright with that?

 

 

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Originally from the UK, Rebecca has spent time living in the Middle East, Spain, India and Thailand. Rebecca is passionate about healing health and yoga and believes in every persons unique potential.

https://yogainlifeblog.wordpress.com/

Yoga Travel: 5 Reasons To Take Your Practice On The Road

If a yoga practice is about growth, there may be some surprising things holding you back. While a dedicated home and studio practice is super important, there is always room for more. Perhaps you’ve ventured into the great outdoors to take a class in the park. Or even gone out on a limb on vacation and enjoyed a practice on the dock at the lake. But while those efforts are great ways to try something new, did you deepen your breath? Further your practice? See change in your life? What if the biggest thing holding you back was your routine?

If you’re really wanting to take your practice to the next level, a yoga retreat or yoga travel may be a great way to expand. Keep reading and you’ll be convinced.

 

Crash Out of Your Comfort Zone

Even if you are busting out stunning birds of paradise poses in your favorite studio, a new space will challenge you to think about your body in a new way. Maybe a mirror Young woman is practicing yogaisn’t available and you must focus on every. Physical. Feeling. Or perhaps the retreat takes place in a mostly open-air pavilion, with wind, bugs and new sounds creating a new environment. You’ll work hard to focus your energy and breath into a new way of practicing; a new perspective will draw you out of your yoga comfort zone and change the way you see your mind, body, breath and practice.

Plus, going on a retreat takes guts. Even if you desperately want to go, actually booking the ticket and making definitive plans takes some huevos. No matter where you are in your practice, a yoga retreat will do you good. Banish the doubts and take the leap!

Small Fish, HUGE Pond

It’s easy to think that our small lives are the most important things in the world. A yoga retreat in another part of the world will open your eyes to the way others live. This new view on how you fit into the world is a good reminder of how interconnected we all are, while allowing you to express yourself in the most unique way possible. Some yoga retreats have a service component, and this can give you yet another chance to learn more about yourself as you learn more about the world.

Appreciate Everything

Anytime you’re away from home, it’s easy to miss your favorite things. Sometimes the simple conveniences of living in our modern society become so ingrained in us that wegroup of young females practicing yoga on the seaside during the sunris can feel out of touch when removed from them. A yoga retreat will not only allow you to grow and realize that those conveniences are luxuries, but you’ll learn to appreciate them even more. Bringing awareness to the things you have and enjoy is not meant to make you feel guilty, but to allow you to experience profound gratitude.

 

Inspiration – For Yoga, For Life

When you visit a new place, especially if you’re on your own, you’ll meet all kinds of amazing people sprinkled throughout your journey. These people and their stories will teach you things you never even knew you didn’t know. You’ll be inspired by their lives and their yoga practices. As you’re challenged on your own mat, you’ll forge friendships that challenge your personal life to grow as well. Plus, when your new friend busts out a killer dragonfly pose, don’t you want them to help you get there, too?

Purpose

After such a life-changing experience, you’ll return with a renewed sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life. If you went to the retreat to discern whether you wanted to complete yoga teacher training, the answer will appear. If you attended to find more clarity in your life, you’ll find it. No matter what your intentions, the retreat will help you find what you were looking for – and some things you didn’t know were missing!

 

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Sara Sherman is a freelance writer, yogi and accidental island girl living on the island of St. Thomas. Learn more and contact Sara via her website at www.SaraMSherman.com, and read more about her island adventures at www.IslandersFromIowa.com.

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