Sacred Sound: Mantras & Chants

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Many years ago when I started a yoga practice, I had no idea what it would reveal to me. I was just hoping for a little extra strength and flexibility, and I did what I could to avoid all the spiritual trappings of the practice. But, somehow, as it does, the yoga did its job. Over the years it brought me through physical, psychological, and emotional revelations that I can’t imagine would have taken place otherwise.

One of the most powerful insights has come through the use of sound and mantra as a basis for the practice. I was born with a hearing impairment that gave me a unique relationship to sound. As a child, I would feel sound, vibration, tone, and intonation in order to more fully access my world. This was second nature to me, but through my studies of yoga (and physics!), I suddenly found a reason behind my special relationship to sound. Just as important, through yoga’s rich mythology, I also gained context and meaning to better understand how the inner and outer practices of yoga work. It is from this perspective that I have always practiced and taught, fueled by the belief that sound has the power to harmonize us and myth brings forth what is alive within us. It is in this spirit that I always end my lectures and workshops with these words: Don’t miss the vibrations.

Mantras and Chants

A mantra, as it relates to the yogic and Vedic traditions of India, is a Sanskrit phrase that encapsulates some higher idea or ideal within the cadence, vibration, and essence of its sound. A mantra can be as simple as a single sound — such as chanting the well-known sound — or as complicated as chanting a poem that tells a grand story or gives instruction. Whatever mantra is chanted, no matter how long or short, the purpose is the same: it is meant to act like a skeleton key to help you bypass the mundane matters and mental chatter of the day-to-day mind in order to reach a transcendent state of awareness and self-realization that is, quite frankly, indescribable. Every yogic practice provides the means for us to do this — such as äsana (postures), meditation, and präëäyäma (breath work) — but mantra practice and näda yoga are uniquely simple and universal. If you can form a thought, you can do a mantra practice. The simple act of thinking a mantra is a start to a genuine practice. The silent repetition of the sound while driving, for example, can be a starting point. Eventually, our practice might grow to include chanting while meditating, attending lively mantra-based musical performances (kirtan, or kértana), or perhaps even chanting a longer mantra 108 times aloud to celebrate the New Year. As I’ve said, there is no wrong way to use a mantra.

In the United States, mantra has gained popularity largely through the musical kirtan (kértana) tradition. Popular kirtan musicians such as Krishna Das, Deva Premal, and Dave Stringer have brought these Eastern chants to life by giving them some good old American rock-and-roll flair. While the kirtan tradition in India began around the ninth century, its look and feel hasn’t changed much even as it has evolved to incorporate Western musical proclivities. It has always had (and still has) a fairly simplistic call-and-response-type format, where the leader will chant a phrase that is repeated by the audience. This typically becomes more lively and fast as the chant continues. In India, various instruments are used — typically the harmonium (similar to an accordion in a box), the tabla (classical Indian drum set), and the cartals (tiny cymbals). Those instruments are still present in many kirtan settings today, yet the music is often Westernized through the incorporation of all sorts of instruments, like the guitar, bass, and even a proper Western drum kit (like how Chris Grosso and I perform!). What is wonderful about many of these yogic and Vedic traditions is that they are quite malleable. So long as the intention is still sealed within the practice, the practice — even if it is modernized and Westernized — does not lose its efficacy.

So while some choose to chant mantras in a kirtan setting, others have long used mantra in spiritual practice in accordance with daily rituals, meditation, or as a way to bind fellow students of a tradition. Many use a mantra during their morning worship practice to invoke an intention or particular deity. Many practitioners also stay focused in their meditation practice by silently or quietly chanting a mantra. And some traditions claim certain mantras as part of their tradition — almost like a secret handshake. In many Eastern spiritual traditions, it is common at the beginning and end of a spiritual practice to chant a mantra or . Mantras are also commonly used as prayers for peace, health, or well-being. Mantras can be used to focus the mind and empower whatever spiritual practice we embark on. Mantra is fuel for the inner spiritual fire.

I encourage you to simply begin a mantra practice in whatever way that feels right, using my book Sacred Sound. and/or the mantra library on my website (www.bit.ly/mantralibrary), as a guide . Start simple, such as with om, and incorporate other, longer, or more complex mantras as they resonate with you. Some mantras may appeal to you because of their sound, while others may become attractive as you understand their context, underlying mythology, and intention. Over time, as you use each mantra in your life and practice, it will become like a friend whom you come to know more and more deeply. The mantra may start out as a little gem that lightens your day, but after years of saying it, it may also become a bright light that guides you through the darkest of times. Through practice, we make these mantras our own so they help us on our spiritual journey.

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AlannaKaivalya2_cEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Alanna Kaivalya, author of some of my favorite yoga books, including her recently released Sacred Sound. She is the yoga world’s expert on Hindu mythology and mysticism. Her podcasts have been heard by more than one million people worldwide, and her Kaivalya Yoga Method melds mythology, philosophy, and yoga. Visit her online at http://www.alannak.com.

 Adapted from the book Sacred Sound © 2014 by Alanna Kaivalya. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com.

How Yoga Teaches Generosity

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If you have a candle, the light won’t glow any dimmer if I light yours off of mine. ~ Steven Tyler

Yoga has changed my view of generosity. I have learned to give without expectation and to always remain mindful of the quality of my generosity. After all, generosity in yoga is based partly on two of the five Yamas:

  1. Generosity is the opposite of taking (Asteya) whereby we share freely with a focused, quality effort.
  2. A generous person sees life through a prism of abundance instead of scarcity. In yoga this is known as Aparigraha: there is enough for everyone.

One of my favorite stories about the value of generosity is called Stone Soup.

There are many variations on the story of stone soup, but they all involve a traveler coming into a town beset by famine. The inhabitants try to discourage the traveler from staying, fearing he wants them to give him food. They tell him in no uncertain terms that there’s no food anywhere to be found. The traveler explains that he doesn’t need any food and that, in fact, he was planning to make a soup to share with all of them. The villagers watch suspiciously as he builds a fire and fills an enormous pot with water. With great ceremony, he pulls a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffs the brew extravagantly and exclaims how delicious stone soup is. As the villagers begin to show interest, he mentions how good the soup would be with just a little cabbage in it. A villager brings out a cabbage to share. This episode repeats itself until the soup has cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets, indeed, a substantial soup that feeds everyone in the village.

This story teaches us that sharing is especially important when we perceive a limitation. This is normally when we tend to constrict, hoard or withdraw. This principle can also apply to sharing energy, putting conditions on giving love, or holding back our ideas (perhaps because we are afraid that others will “copy” us).  The traveler represents the potential within each of us to inspire others to be more generous.

3 Ways to Be More Generous:

  1. The one thing that we all value is “time.” Take a moment to think of ways you can be more generous with your time.  Can you start by being generous with yourself? Can you give yourself the gift of a yoga class every week so you feel the goodness of your own heart? Then share your time by calling someone to listen, offer to walk a friend’s dog, babysit, go grocery shopping for a friend, volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  2. Consider the quality of your generosity. It’s one thing to give away things you don’t like or are bored with, but what about something more important? It is easy to get caught up with the idea of having or doing MORE for the sake of more. However, this more-is-better philosophy forsakes quality. Go beyond this by pulling a couple things from your closet that you love, and give that away.
  3. Be more open about sharing ideas.  One has to look no further than what happened to Encarta after Wikipedia opened the floodgates of information. I applaud other professionals, such as Chase Jarvis, who operates an open business model for budding photographers. For years I have shared class plans, yoga playlists, philosophical class themes, posted detailed yoga retreat itineraries online with the intention that they inspire others. I consult for free to help others cultivate new business ideas. I want students to build on what I do to create something even better. To me imitation is flattering. It is our responsibility as members of a human tribe to be as generous as possible in sharing our intellectual currency.

Philosopher Maimonides pictured giving on 8 spiritual levels. The first two get to the heart of yoga right away.

  • “The motivation for real giving finds its source in the internal self, not in the expectations of others.”
  • “Anonymous giving – happy people don’t expect a return. They give because it comes from the heart and they believe that joy and happiness are abundant. They aren’t going to run out.”

Let’s come together and open our hearts to all the ways we can be more generous with our spirit, our positive energy, our kind thoughts, our love, our time. And remember your personal understanding of the value of sharing is a reflection of who you are.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life,
Silvia

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
~ John Wesley

 

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

The Advanced Yoga Practice for When Things Fall Apart

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Crap happens. Things fall apart. Life gets hard.

This is about the advanced, accessible yoga practice that will help you when that happens. Read on…

We make life harder or easier depending on how we think about what’s happening. We can’t change what happened to us, but we can change how it impacts us. The shift from the toxin of “This is terrible” to the cleansing “This is what it is” is relief.

We go from fighting our reality to letting it be what it will be. It will be that, whether we fight it or not. We get to choose whether we have that experience in peace or in turmoil.

On our yoga mat, stuff happens. Our postures fall apart. We get asked to do something difficult. It gets hard.

We make it harder or easier depending on how we think about what’s happening. If we’ve chosen to listen deep, and taking our guidance on what and where to go next from the person at the front of the room, we’re not in charge of changing what happens to us. But we can change how it impacts us.

This shift from “I really don’t like this pose,” or “Why is she getting us to do this?” to the cleansing “This is what is” is relief. We go from fighting our reality to letting it be what it will be. It will be this posture, that flow, this arrangement of arms and legs—whether we fight it or not.

In turmoil, we create an endless loop of stress-inducing thoughts. Thoughts that take what’s happening and make it worse. Much worse. It’s possible to experience things that we’d like to call terrible or awful and just call them life.

Just as it’s possible to experience a yoga posture we’d like to call frustrating and too tough and just call it yoga.

Hang in. Breathe deep.

Don’t run from it. Our yoga practice gets challenging. Things fall apart. It’s what life does.

It changes. It grows. It surprises us. And so do we.

Joseph Campbell said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” We’re not meant to stay stagnant. Not meant to hang onto the ways we think life should be.

We’re meant to to unfold, to gently rise up from resistance and angst and into peace. A lotus arcing into bloom.

Lotuses grow in the muck. The messy, changing, layers of mud beneath a body of water. They root down and then steadily press upwards through the lake, rising into bloom when they reach the surface.

Butterflies strain and bite and press against their cocoon until they emerge–with strengthened wings. Ready to fly. Every seed cracks open before the new growth can come out.

This is what the tough things do for us. This is what life does for us. This is what our yoga practice can do for us.

It helps us to emerge from the cages we’ve created. By showing us where we’re holding the bars in front of our own faces. Every time a certainty dissolves–something we held to be true about life–we emerge into a new terrain.

Opening into your fullest self–strength, peace, power–means letting things fall apart.

So you can rise again.

xNamaste,
L

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Editor’s note: This was another awesome guest post from Lindsey Lewis–life coach and yoga teacher. Stay up to date with her latest at www.libreliving.comFacebook, and Twitter.  Sign up now to join Lindsey’s Power of Peace Challenge starting on May 1, 2014.

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Photo credit: Camillia Lee on Facebook

Is Your Yoga Earth-Friendly?

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In line with the principle of Ahimsa, which translates as “non-harming,” as yogis we’re continually looking for ways to live in a peaceful way on and off the mat. This includes seeking ways to minimize our impact on the environment.

Living green and remaining in balance with nature is not just something to practice at home. We have a responsibility to try to live it in all we do, all over the world—including how we do our yoga and where we go on vacation.  After all, why should we live at home one way, but lose our intentions while traveling or taking a yoga class?

What if we developed a personal Green Commitment for our lives and made a point to find the best green places and ways of life to support our mission.

As Yogis what can we do to celebrate Earth Day every day?

  • Seek out yoga products and clothing that are produced without using toxic chemicals, pesticides or nonrenewable resources.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to yoga class.
  • Walk, bike, bus or carpool to class.
  • Clean your mat with a non toxic spray.
  • Reuse rather than discard your old yoga mat.
    • Encourage your local studio to offer non-toxic yoga products and organic clothing (like bamboo or hemp).
    • Only take a hard copy of the schedule if necessary, otherwise use on-line resources.
    • Make earth-friendly choices in all you do related to your yoga.

Why not green your vacation as part of your eco-lifestyle? 

Ecotourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. There are 37 voluntary standards that make up the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, including employing local residents, minimizing disruption to natural ecosystems and protecting wildlife. These measures were adopted in 2008 by the World Conservation Congress as part of an initiative led by groups including the Rainforest Alliance, the U.N. Environment Program and the U.N. World Tourism Organization.

Ecotourism and greening your vacation automatically helps offset your carbon footprint and is a great way to discover new destinations.  It also ensures they’ll remain unchanged for future generations.  As Ayako Ezaki of The International Ecotourism Society puts it, “Ecotourism tries not only to minimize the negative impact of travel but to maximize the positive impact.  We all know travel experiences are rewarding for people who take the trips. At the same time we try to give back to the destinations and the people who make these experiences possible.”

Here are 6 Easy Tips To Stay Green On Vacation:

1. When offered less frequent Towel and Linen service, take it. 

Instead of having your bed linens changed everyday, consider reducing your request to 3 times/week.

2. Be conscious of creating less waste where you go visit. 

Bring a water bottle or travel coffee mug with you. Don’t take 10 paper napkins if you only need one.

3. Buy local and eat local. 

Contribute to the local economy by making sure you don’t purchase something that has been flown in from halfway around the world.

4. Walk! 

Instead of motorized transportation make a point to walk or ride a bike so you minimize your foot print.

As you look ahead to plan your next vacation, commit to supporting an eco-conscious way of travel. It’s good for you and the environment.

5. Show your appreciation.

Thank the hotel management for any green steps they take so they know you appreciate their efforts.

6. Research green hotels before you go.  

Research places where by purchasing carbon offsets they will reward you that amount for any spa service or excursion. Here are some useful links to get you started:

http://greenhotels.com/index.php

http://www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com/

http://www.ecohotelsoftheworld.com/homepage.html

As you look ahead to plan your next yoga class or vacation, commit to supporting an eco-conscious way of travel. It’s good for you and the environment. Together, let’s do all we can to minimize any negative impact on the health of our planet.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life (and love your planet)!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: Camillia Lee on Facebook

Is Your Head on Straight?

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Freeze! Don’t move and notice your posture.

Chances are–­­if you’re reading this on a computer, tablet or smart phone–­­your head and shoulders are hunched forward and your spine is rounded. Your neck, jaw and dominant arm may also be tense.

This common habit, known as “forward head posture,” can lead to a wide array of ailments–­­from headaches, neck and back pain, to problems with respiration, circulation and digestion. Even dedicated yoga practitioners, who have wonderful alignment on the mat, often fall into this slump when they’re out in the world—sitting at a desk, the dinner table or behind the wheel of a car.

That’s why I like to teach “Yoga Sparks” – quick, simple micro­practices designed to help people integrate powerful yogic teachings into daily life. In my work as a yoga therapist and in my own practice — over more than 30 years — I’ve found that interweaving brief practices into the day can be transformative, turning ordinary activities into sacred rituals and bringing awareness to the precious gifts of body and breath.

The most basic Yoga Spark is a quick “Freeze” practice, geared to becoming aware of your posture and shining a light on unhealthy habits. Consider setting a timer to ring every hour—then when it sounds, stop and notice your posture: In particular, observe the shape of your spine—does it have its natural “S” curve or is it hunched forward? Where is your head in relation to your shoulders? What’s happening in your jaw, face, shoulders, hands and feet? Are they tense or relaxed?

If your head isn’t on straight, be kind to your spine (and the rest of your body) by paying attention to these posture pointers:

  • Balance your head over your shoulder girdle, so that–­­if someone were looking at you from the side–­­the hole in your ear would line up directly over your shoulder.
  • Extend the top of your head up, as if you were trying to touch it to the ceiling. Be sure to keep your chin parallel to the floor as you do this­­–don’t tilt it up or tuck it in.
  • Imagine there’s a headlight shining out from the center of your chest. Make sure it shines forward, not down in your lap when you’re sitting or toward the floor when you’re standing.
  • Relax your shoulders, so they release down away from your ears.
  • Sit on your “sit bones”– those two knobs at the base of your pelvis — not on your sacrum.

Good posture has the added bonus of creating an “instant weight loss” effect. Slouching causes the belly to protrude, so when you learn how to stand and sit properly, it often looks as if you’ve suddenly lost five pounds.

In addition, good posture can give you an emotional lift, since the way you hold your body affects the way you feel, and vice versa. People who carry themselves with good alignment seem confident and graceful, while those whose posture reflects a physical slump often appear to be in a mental slump as well.

YogaSparksCFb-249x350This quick “Freeze!” practice is adapted from my book, Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less (New Harbinger, 2013). There are Sparks that focus on each of the four main aspects of yoga practice: breathing, postures, meditation, and principles. Some primarily impact muscles and bones, others address behaviors and breathing, and still others center on thoughts and attitudes.

It’s important to recognize that yoga isn’t just something you do while you’re on the mat, then leave behind. As a practice of awareness that connects you with your innermost self, yoga can be done at any time, in any place. If you have a minute, you can practice Yoga Sparks and gain significant and lasting benefits. No matter your age or fitness level, if you can breathe, you can do Yoga Sparks.

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Carol Krucoff HeadshotEditor’s note: This is a guest post by renowned yoga teacher and author, Carol Krucoff, E-RYT.  Carol is a Yoga Therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and an award-winning journalist. A frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, she is the author of several books including Yoga Sparks:  108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less and Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain.  Creator of the audio home practice CD, Healing Moves Yoga, and co-creator of the DVD Relax into Yoga, she is co-director of the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training, which helps yoga instructors safely and effectively adapt the practice to older bodies, minds and spirits.  For more information, please visit www.healingmoves.com.

Image credit: Camillia Lee Yoga

Lululemon Pledges a Perfect Fit for Your Next Yoga Pants

This is about as breaking as news gets in the yoga world, so we had to share.  Perhaps inspired by the infamous comments of lululemon’s founder, lulu’s latest product offering/innovation appears to be a yoga pant that fits any body, shape, or size…

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Here’s the specs on the pants in case you’re still wondering whether this is a good option for you:

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Goodbye pants, hello comfort…Have a nice weekend! :)

What I Learned About Life from a Prenatal Yoga Book…

tumblr_mcmejpBZwu1qceubuo1_500I completed my 200-hour teaching certification just over two years ago this past January. As in most general 200 Registered Yoga Teacher trainings, we spent a very brief section of our time learning how to teach to pregnant women. Perhaps because I am not a mother, and have never been pregnant, I didn’t retain much of the information that I learned during that module of training.

So, when I was inevitably faced with pregnant mamas in my general Hatha Flow classes I was terrified, honestly. Not OF the mamas themselves, of course – they are all radiant beings of strength and courage to me – but of teaching yoga to them. It’s scary enough to lead a room of 30 yogis up and down and on to their heads without anyone getting hurt. Adding in the women who need to take special care of themselves and their bodies during their sacred time of pregnancy comes with it’s own set of rules and regulations.

I am absolutely in awe and amazement at the power of the female body to grow a whole other soul inside of it – I mean whoa, right?? It is because of this that I decided it was time to take matters in to my own hands. So, I called upon the best person that I knew for the job – my friend and fellow Austin yoga teacher, Liz V. Liz is not only a mother herself, but also teaches some amazing prenatal and restorative yoga classes at SAY OM Yoga in Austin, TX. I knew I would be in good hands.

But besides going over the basic logistics, do’s and don’ts and sequencing strategies of teaching to the pregnant woman, she lent me a book called Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by LA teacher Gurmukh, to help me better understand where my pregnant mama yogis were coming from when they entered my general, all levels Hatha Flow class. Reading this book gave me a lot of insight into what the pregnancy and birthing experience can be like. But even more, it gave me so much insight about Yoga and the empowerment that it can bring to us, no matter who we are or where we are on our path.

1. Love is Power

Gurmukh begins her book with the Law of Love from Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga:

Love gives you power to merge,
from finite to infinity.
Love gives you power to trust,
from nothing to everything.

Love gives you power, the powerful prayer
between you and your creator.
Love gives you vastness,
As vast as there can be.

Love gives you the hold, the experience,
and the touch with your own infinity,
As beautiful, bountiful, and blissful
As there can be.

In our society we are often made to believe that love equals weakness. However, yoga has taught me that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but fear – fear of vulnerability, loss of control, and not getting what we think we want or need. But opening yourself up to love is more freeing and courageous than shutting out emotion for the sake of money and the possibility of power. Being honest with yourself and others is about as daring and powerful as it gets.

2. Yoga is self-acceptance

“Yoga is a practice of self-acceptance rather than an exercise program for self-improvement.” – Gurmukh

It stresses me out to see books about yoga in the self-improvement section at the bookstore. Yoga brings us to a state of receptivity where we can begin to learn about ourselves as we are connected to others and the Infinite. When we come to this understanding, this learning process will no doubt lead to lasting changes.

However, yoga doesn’t preach paying lots and lots of money to join an exclusive club where there are rules and regulations about everything from how we act to how we dress, despite what our current culture seems to make of it (but that’s a different story). When we come into unity with the Infinite, the same Light that resides in every living being and makes up the entire Universe, we no doubt begin to change the way we see the world around us and everyone in it, including ourselves. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali doesn’t just give us a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather the promise of what we have to look forward to when we realize the Unity and wholeness of our being.

3. Life is suffering

As beings of Light here on earth to live out the flawed experience of the human existence, there will no doubt be suffering. Some of us are all too familiar with this idea. But like the laboring mama ready to hold her newborn in her arms, Kahlil Gibran says “Work is love made visible.” Nothing worth having ever comes easily to us. Sometimes this work involves pain.

“How we think about pain actually influences how we feel it. If you say to yourself, ‘This is horrible, I can’t stand it,’ there’s a good chance that whatever you’re going through is going to feel a whole lot worse than if you believed the feeling wasn’t so dire. If our previous conditioning is to associate pain with danger, then we are more susceptible to suggestions that our pain is dangerous and requires external relief in the form of drugs…

How our culture at large views pain also influences our perception of it. If we get messages that all pain is to be avoided, well guess what? These cultural attitudes are translated into personal fears, doubts, and our ability to manage pain – manage our lives, for that matter. Our pharmaceutical companies are built around this idea.”
~Gurmukh

Just like in love, it can be difficult to open ourselves up to the possibility of pain and disappointment – but at what cost? Are you willing to numb everything to not feel pain? Do you know what else you’re missing out on? Life is suffering, according to the Buddha, but on the other side of that work and pain and suffering is great joy, excitement and surprise. Don’t let the suffering get you down. Be empowered by your own strength and ability to rise above all odds into the place of pure Light, joy, and gratitude.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.

540217_698781320137845_1802831051_nA quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient  to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Learning to Practice Yoga in Paris Without the Glamour

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I brought my yoga mat with me to Paris even though it cost me an extra forty bucks to take it on the plane. Sure, I could have just tossed the mat and gotten a new one in the city, but somehow that felt cruel. My mat had always supported me. Through work stresses, backaches, breakups, boredom and general life anxiety.

On the mat I’d allowed myself to really get present, to become more aware of my mind chatter and even silence it from time to time. I’d learned how to do headstands, build upper arm strength and salute the sun. I’d encountered fellow yogis and aspects of myself that were so inspiring, I had a tattoo artist imprint the sacred OM on my inner right wrist just so I’d never forget.

So what’s forty bucks?

When I arrived at the apartment near Gare du Nord, a place I would call home for as long as my visa (and savings) allowed me, I set my mat by the door and looked around. The room I had rented was modest, but so was the price. It contained a mattress on the floor, a small desk, a chair and a lamp. The windows overlooked the car park and dumpsters, clotheslines hung with laundry, and various kitchens and bedrooms in other apartments. It wasn’t what I’d imagined when I’d finally decided to check the “Live in Paris” box off my bucket list, but it was cozy nonetheless.

That first week I tried to find yoga classes by asking the locals. I was directed to a few studios, but after looking these up on the Internet, I realized they were all in French and my knowledge of the language was unfortunately slim. With the help of various expat websites, I located some that were instructed in English, but these were held during the day when I’d be glued to my computer working on ad copy for my job in New York. They’d been generous enough to let me work from afar when I explained my insatiable wanderlust to my boss and, once this arrangement was made, my obvious first new home would be Paris.

Weeks passed and my mat remained exactly where I’d placed it upon arrival. My yoga routine was quickly replaced with a work-and-play routine. I wrote in my room during the day and went out at night, indulging in food, wine and the occasional romance. On weekends, I went to the museums, shopped or pampered myself at spas. Financially, I knew I was a living a bit too luxuriously for my own good and that my credit card statements would haunt me later, but I also knew that living in Paris was a temporary thing. So I gorged myself.

But as good as the food was, as handsome the men, as moving the Seine, something was missing. My spirits were high and I was full of energy. But this energy too often turned into worry. My mind raced. How much time do I have left? What should I do next? What if I don’t see it all? When will I come back? I was so pleased with Paris and myself for being there that the thought of being without terrified me. I didn’t want to miss out on anything.

In attempting to taste and see and do it all, I soon found myself only halfway inside moments. I’d think about what I’d recommend to people back home when it came to steak-frites (le Relais de l’Entrecote). Or I’d pick out a new neighborhood to live in for “next time,” if I was lucky enough to have a next time in Paris (St. Germain des Pres).

When I returned home after my city jaunts, I’d be exhausted, but sleep was no friend. I could lay there for an hour, sometimes two or three, thinking about the day, or the day before, or the day after. Then I’d wake late the next day, drink far too much coffee and do it all again.

Months in, I was working on my laptop and downing coffee in my modest bedroom. My mind erratically hopped from one worry to the next. From my laundry to my shopping list to my finances to my plans after Paris. I shifted my gaze from the computer screen to the window and back again, finding it hard to concentrate on one thought. Let alone one self-serving thought. I then looked over at my mat, still there in its canvas bag by the door where I’d placed it. I thought: Why haven’t I found a yoga class by now? Could it really be so hard to follow in French? Have I not looked hard enough?

Taking a breath, I sat back in my chair. A moment passed before it occurred to me. The room was small, but not too small to practice. So I got up, unzipped the bag and rolled my mat out in front of the window. Sure enough there was just the right amount of space. And after years of classes, I knew the poses without instruction. My body led me through it.

From one downward-dog pose to the next, I quickly found myself calmer than I’d been in some time. My shoulders loosened, my heart opened, my mind quieted. And when I gazed out the window, I saw all those ordinary things. The car park with its dumpsters, the clotheslines hung with laundry, and various kitchens and bedrooms. As ordinary as it was, I realized there was something charming about the view just then. Perhaps the ordinariness itself.

Looking out, I knew it wasn’t what I’d pictured in all my previous longings for a life in Paris. But it wasn’t disappointing either. After all, the view was no longer imagined, but real, in front of me, and mine. And for that I was very grateful.

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Editor’s note:  This is a guest post by Erica Garza.  Erica is a writer living in San Diego, California. Her essays have been published by Salon, HelloGiggles and numerous literary magazines and journals. She is currently working on a memoir called Hairywoman and writes for the feminist website Luna Luna. Read more at www.ericagarza.com.

Photo credit: lululemon on Instagram 

Growth is Uneven by Design

uneven yoga growthThroughout my life the spiritual truth that has resonated with me was one of unevenness–the concept that we do not grow at the same rate in all areas of our lives. Our growth is uneven by design. Take your life and visually divide it into four major sectors: finances, work, health and relationships. Which piece dominates your daily existence?

I share Anais Nin’s belief that: “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present.”

In my experience, sometimes when we progress in our careers and our financial health improves, our relationships tend to remain stagnant. Conversely, when we tend to spend so much time on our relationships that they consume us, our health and work stagnate. We constantly face the choice of making decisions that impact all four of these areas.

Nischala Joy Devi, interpreting Chapter 1 Verse 1 of the Yoga Sutras, says, “Our present position has been determined by the past — all those crossroads where we made decisions, each path we’ve taken that brought us to our life as it is. We might be able to understand how we got where we are, but what would it have been like if other options had been followed? Another choice could have radically changed the present. Perhaps we took the tried-and-true course because it seemed easiest, or safest; perhaps at the time, it just didn’t seem like there was any alternative.”

This function isn’t exclusive to human beings; it’s organic to nature itself. If you were to do a case study on your garden, you would observe the same plants of the same origin, planted in the same soil, producing different and uneven growth results. Yet we don’t argue with nature or get upset with our tomato plants, so why expect something different of ourselves? If you chart the four life sectors (finances, work, health, relationships) on a graph and examine the past five years, the evidence will become clear. These four areas will display the ups and downs and will be far from even with one another.

If each day you strive and do your best, with the expectation that certain areas will be uneven, you’ll be able to stay the course and remain motivated no matter the circumstances. It’s only when we get stuck “waiting” for everything to be charted evenly to make us happy that we create our own misery. Allow for the unevenness in your evolution and it’ll bring peace, love, and happiness to you in your current state of being.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: vanisland_yoga on instagram

5 Key Benefits of Being Positive

sunshine-positive-lululemon-yogaOur hearts are like a safe in the energy bank of our bodies. We each have our own security personnel in the form of a personal energy field that protects us and determines how we feel, think and function. This energy field ensures the safety of our hearts. And since energy is everywhere and in everything we should learn how to make ongoing positive deposits into our happiness bank account.

I have studied the research on the beneficial effects of being positive and the negative affects of being negative. The research is clear. It really does pay to be positive and the benefits are numerous. The ancient yogis have been teaching this for thousands of years. Sutra 1.3 is translated as:

Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your True Joyful Self…

We have a choice in being positive. For every minute we are angry, we lose sixty seconds of happiness. We must recognize as John Lembo says “Every waking moment we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act.”  Therefore the first step is to be aware of your mental habits. So often we don’t even realize we habitually catastrophize and trigger the stress response as a result.

We have the power to consciously develop a habit of looking for the good. A habit where you can expect people to treat you in a positive way. Why? Because through the way we think and act we teach other people how to treat us in return.

Jen Gray Blackburn writes,  ‎”You will find life a whole lot easier if you can keep in mind that most people are just trying to do the best they can.”  As yogis, it is our responsibility to decrease suffering and instead promote positivity expressed as love and compassion. This in turn strengthens our personal experience of universal joy and happiness.

Here are 5 key benefits to inspire you to practice being positive.

5 Benefits of Being Positive:

  1. Stress Reduction: Positive thoughts counter the negative effects of stress. For example, you can’t be thankful and stressed at the same time. (Several Studies)
  2. Social Interaction: Positive people have more friends, which is a key factor of happiness. (Robert D. Putnam)
  3. Love: Marriages are much more likely to succeed when the couple experiences a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions whereas when the ratio approaches 1 to 1, marriages are more likely to end in divorce. (John Gottman)
  4. Performance at Work: Positive people are able to see the big picture, which helps them identify solutions, whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems. (Barbara Fredrickson) Positive work environments outperform negative work environments. (Daniel Goleman) In the workplace positive people are more likely to receive greater support from their colleagues and as result receive pay raises and promotions more frequently. (Several Studies)
  5. Life Expectancy: Positive people live longer. (A Primer in Positive Psychology, Christopher Petersen, PhD)

Keep it positive!

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: lululemon on instagram

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