• Yoga, Journaling, and the Healing Power of Self-Discovery

    The human experience on this Earth is one that often comes with discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering. Our job, as human beings, is to navigate our way through the challenges presented to us in life so that we can find healing. This is what it takes to make our way back to our own essential natures, which are peace, love, beauty, and bliss.

    Yoga, Journaling and the Healing Power of Self-Discovery

    My belief is that the key to healing is self-discovery. As we begin to know ourselves more and more, the truth of our own essential nature becomes more apparent – like sifting through mud to find natural treasures buried beneath. Unfortunately, we cannot simply decide to know ourselves, snap our fingers and make it so. Self-discovery is a process that we must be fully dedicated to for it to unfold.

    Up to this point in my life, yoga is one of the most powerful tools for self-discovery that I’ve come across yet; and journaling, I’ve found, can be a pivotal piece in our ability to process that which we discover. We can think of yoga as the lens we use to see and capture the most beautiful pieces of ourselves, and journaling as the mechanism for focusing and zooming in so that the image becomes clear.

    As we do the work of capturing the most beautiful parts of ourselves, often times, we have to sift through our own muck first. Remember the discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering I mentioned earlier? These things often build themselves onto our being like a thick muck that keeps us from tapping into our essential nature. Both yoga and journaling can also help us with chipping away at our muck.

    If you’re already a yoga practitioner, it’s possible that you’ve been able to encounter the beautiful pieces of yourself on more than one occasion. When you’re ready to begin the work of processing and further developing your understanding of those things, so that you can integrate them into your life effectively, journaling could be the next step.

    Develop a Journaling Practice

    One of the best things about journaling is that there are no rules and you can choose to develop your practice in whatever way suits you. Whether you’re the kind of person who likes to make lists, build out thoughtful essays, write through stream of consciousness or just sketch and doodle, you can develop a journal practice.

    One of my favorite ways to journal is through stream of consciousness. A good yoga practice can help us tap into that essential nature I was talking about – the part of each of us that is peace, beauty, love and bliss. So, whenever I practice yoga at home, I like to lay out my mat and keep my journal close by. Then, after I move through my practice and/or meditation, I’ll grab my journal and just write down whatever thoughts pop into my head. Trusting that the words I come up with are either helping me work through the muck that blocks me from my essential nature, or helping me to focus in on that essential nature is key.

    Stream of consciousness journaling isn’t always easy for everyone, however; especially those who are newer to the practice of journaling. That’s where journal prompts come in. Using prompts to guide your journaling practice can help you focus on certain aspects of your life and yourself. You can choose to pair these prompts and your journal time with your yoga practice or keep them separate. Ultimately, working with prompts will help you let the process of self-discovery unfold in specific ways.

    When you’re ready to deepen your connection with the truth of who you really are, Omstars will be here to support you with yoga practices, meditations AND journal prompts. A membership with Omstars will give you access to regular practices and meditations; following @omstarsofficial on Instagram will give you access to weekly journal prompts.

    Every Friday, Omstars will share a new journal prompt that will help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your yoga practice and the world around you. Each month’s journal prompts will focus on a different overarching theme and each individual prompt within that theme will build upon the other. Ultimately, these prompts are designed to help create an organic unfolding of self-discovery and movement towards healing that can be supported through the practice of yoga. Plus, there will even be downloadable worksheets that you can print out and use to put together your own journal as you go.

    The human experience always comes with discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering in some form or another. Begin the work that will help you transcend these elements of humanity when you join us in this journey of healing and self-discovery through yoga and journaling. Let this be the beginning of a path that leads you back to your own essential nature of peace, love, beauty, and bliss. Sign up for your Omstars membership to practice with us every day and follow us on Instagram to journal with us every week!

    Download the Free Flow Friday Journal Template

    By Alex Wilson

    Alex C. Wilson is a SWFL based Writer, Certified Yoga Instructor and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist who is dedicated to helping others establish a strong sense of mental and emotional well-being. After spending much of her life in a state of depletion as a result of being fully dedicated to others, Yoga taught Alex how to first, be dedicated to herself. Now she spends her time helping others create more space for their own healing and self-discovery without ever letting her own cup become empty in the process. See more from Alex by following her on Instagram or visiting her website at www.alexcwilson.com.

     

     

  • Maintaining Peace, Equanimity, and Authenticity

    I want to talk with you about what it means to maintain peace, equanimity, and authenticity in your walk in the world.

    As a yogi, it’s traditionally understood that you are held to a higher standard, which means that, as a yogi, you constantly have to tune back into yourself.  Maintaining an equanimeous mind and a compassionate open heart that simultaneously maintains the dual vows of what’s called in Sanskrit, Ahimsa, which means non-violence and truthfulness, or Satya.

    These two together will help you walk in the world, and truly live the yogi’s life. For it is not enough to only be truthful but you must also be compassionate.  And it is not enough only to be compassionate, for you must always be truthful. So, as a yogi in the world, it’s inevitable that you will come into contact with difficult situations, but you always have the benchmark of your daily practice.

    If you get on your mat everyday it will bring you back into your center, and if you don’t know how to act because you have interacted in the world or been stimulated by negativity, then the yogi’s teaching, or the yogi’s path, is to not act in anger. To not act out of jealously. To not act out of negativity, but instead, to remain calm, to redirect your mind back into the inner body until your mind maintains a calm and equanimous center.

    And only after the mind maintains a calm and equanimous center then compassionate, rightful action, that is simultaneously truthful and compassionate will be presented to you. And it will unfold almost like light shining on the path ahead.

    Continue this lesson with Kino on Omstars

     

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

     

  • Easing in to Chaturanga Dandasana

    In our last post we focused on the hip abductors and adductors and how they can be used to stabilize the pelvis and synergize flexing the hips in forward bends. In this post we zoom out and look at a technique that can be learned with Chaturanga Dandasana and then transported to other poses to improve benefits and safety. I call this technique “ease in, ease out” and it relates to how one approaches the end point of a pose.

    Figure 1

    For this cue, I take a yoga block and place it at the level of my sternum, then lower down to lightly touch it from plank position. I then straighten my arms to return to plank. The image that body weight practitioners use for this is “kissing the baby” because one touches the block as gently as kissing a baby on the forehead. Working in this manner teaches muscle control and sensitivity.

    Figure 2

    Those who avoid full Chaturanga due to weakness of the muscles involved can develop the strength for the full pose by starting at a wall as shown in figure 2. Here instead of the chest touching the block, bend the arms to lower towards the wall and gently touch the forehead, hold for a moment and then straighten the arms. Work in this manner until you can comfortably do ten repetitions. As strength builds, transition to a plank with the knees on the mat, lowering down to touch the block as in the final version. (Figure 3).

    Figure 3

    Visualizing the muscles involved is a powerful adjunct to this technique. Use a mental image of the triceps, pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles engaging to stabilize the arms, shoulders and chest as shown in figure 4. The triceps straightens the elbows and is a secondary stabilizer of the shoulder joint. The pectoralis major draws the upper arm towards the midline (adduction) and helps to expand the chest (when the shoulders are held in place). The serratus anterior extends from the upper nine ribs to inner (anterior) medial surface of the scapula. It acts in concert with the rhomboids to stabilize the shoulder blades and thus preventing “winging” of the scapula in this pose. (Figure 4).

    Take a moment to review our post on “co-activating the glutes and abs in Chaturanga” and integrate these muscles into this technique. Also, feel free to browse through the Yoga Mat Companion series. The illustrations in these books are designed to aid in visualizing the muscles in action in a variety of poses.  Slowing the movement as one approaches the endpoint of the pose also sets up a cadence or rhythm, especially when working with a Vinyasa Flow based practice. It can be applied to any pose and also to inhalation and exhalation, thus smoothing the breath. It also aids to protect the joints, which have smooth curved surfaces that adapt best to gradual transitions during movement.

    An excerpt from “Yoga Mat Companion 4 – Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions”.

     

    An excerpt from “Yoga Mat Companion 4 – Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions”.

    Check in next week for Part Three of this series on preventative strategies for lower back strains in yoga. Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook for your free Chakra poster and e-book.

    Namaste’

    By Ray & Chris of The Daily Bandha

    Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga.

    Chris Macivor is a 3D Graphic Dessigner and illustrator who has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years.

    This article was originally posted on www.dailybandha.com. If you would like more practice with Chaturanga Dandasana, check out the tutorials below on Omstars.com.

    Adrian Molina’s Chaturanga Tutorial on Omstars

    Laruga Glaser’s Chaturanga Tutorial on Omstars

  • Vichara: A key tool of self-study in yoga

    The systematic practice of raja yoga, the “royal” path, consists of three components: tapas (austerity, or going against the grain of our conditioning), svadyaya (self-study, or self-inquiry to understand the conditioning and overcome it), and ishvara pranidhana (the unshakeable faith in the ever-guiding and protecting power of a primordial inner guru, teacher, or guide).

    Vichara, or self-inquiry, is a Sanskrit term that is loosely translated as “discernment.” It is a systematic process that offers us a methodology for making the unconscious, conscious – a key tool offered by Vedanta which enables us to attain the ultimate goal of stilling the fluctuations of the mind and connecting with the Infinite, Pure Consciousness. As in Jungian psychology, which seeks to bring subconscious process and symbolic content to conscious awareness, a vichara process in yoga helps us to become more intimately aware of these subconscious patterns and tendencies so they can lose their power to seduce and entrap us.

    Ultimately, vichara is the ability to maintain a continuous awareness on the higher Self, the Paramatman or Ishvara, the untainted Purusha, or Supreme Soul. But in the initial stages, it helps bring us in touch with the higher aspects of our mind, the Buddhi, or wise, intuitive intellect – differentiating it from the lower functions  of the  mind, known as manas, the survival instincts, citta, the storehouse of all our memories, and ahamkara, the I-sense or ego identity. It is this Buddhi wise mind that gets us closer to that which is beyond the mind: Purusha, the Soul.

    The Yoga Vasishtha, one of the foremost Vedantic texts, is profusely illustrated with examples of vichara, recommending self-inquiry as the highest and most direct path to Self-Realization. So how do you do it? Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when you find yourself distressed or confused:

    • What situation or thought precipitated your thought or feeling?
    • What is the predominant emotion or feeling? (sadness, anger, fear…)
    • How did it manifest behaviorally? (yelling, withdrawing, judgment…)
    • What is the seed/root desire you need to uncover? We all live with these desires and they “color” our thoughts. They can be caused by samskaras, or past impressions; vasanas, the tendencies they engender; and vikalpas, the false beliefs that only live in our imagination and aren’t inherently real, separating us thus from Vidya. Through disentanglement from the thought forms, pure consciousness can begin to emerge.
    • Is the desire coming from our:
      • Higher Self, Soul, Purusha? How our Soul wants to express its purpose in this lifetime?
      • Or our lower self: manas, chitta, ahamkara, or Buddhi?
    • Can you trace it back the desire to when it took root in your life? While not necessary, this question can illuminate the origin of the unfulfilled desire to an event in early life that is still driving us.
    • Does it require adjustment (change something) or contentment (live with it) or both?

    How do you get rid of the desire that initiated the distress? Meditation uses fire of self-knowledge (jatavedas agni) to dissolve it. It increases our witness consciousness so we can dis-identify with the lower mind. Vyasa, in his commentary of the Yoga Sutras, recommends contemplating the Self/Purusha that is intransient so our awareness of it burns so brightly that it burns away avidya, the sense that the impermanent is real. We can then surrender to the divine, ishvara pranidhana, which connects us to something greater, thus allowing us to let go of outcomes (vairagya).

    Yoga Sutra 3.56 sattva purusayoh suddhi samye kaivalyam iti states that “with the attainment of equality between the purest aspect of sattvic buddhi and the pure consciousness of purusha, there comes absolute liberation, and that is the end.”

    Yoga Sutra 4.25 vishesa darshinah atma bhava bhavana vinivrittih completes the process, stating that “for one who has experienced this distinction between seer and this subtlest mind (cleared of all the colorings), the false identities and even the curiosity about the nature of one’s own self come to an end.”

    Complete liberation and the end of the search: This is the ultimate gift of vichara. May you be curious to begin the inquiry.
    [gery_box] By Inge Sengelmann[/grey_box]

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

     

  • Why Yoga

    Why do you practice yoga? A yogi is a seeker of the truth. Intention sets the tone for what kind of journey you‘ll have along the path of yoga. Align yourself with the deeper dimension of yoga, practice with a sincere heart, and cultivate an attitude of devotion. Set your intention to know the deepest, most subtle, truth about yourself and about the universe because this is the goal of yoga from time immemorial.

    The yogis of ancient times in India were human beings like you and me. They were on a quest to directly experience the truth about who we are and why we are here and how this crazy thing called life works. The answers they found are the methodology of yoga that we continue to practice today. We cannot divorce yoga from its spiritual roots. In fact, I think the whole reason so many people are drawn to yoga is that in an age of spiritual vacuousness, rampant materialism and cut-throat capitalism, we have reached a kind of inner boiling point.

    So many people are hurting and wounded in their bodies and in their hearts and mind. So many people desperately want to scream, but instead, stand silently in shock. So many people show up to the safe and sacred space of yoga to discover the unfelt parts of their own bodies, to finally heal, to learn how to listen and ultimately to directly and personally experience the highest and ultimate truth, the truth that sets you free.

    If you haven’t asked yourself why you practice, ask. Dig below the surface for the hidden answers and you will find your true self.

    I practice because practice is prayer, a holy space of worship where I lay down all my heart and all my soul to the temple of the Eternal. I practice because in the quiet space between breath and body, I am free, immersed in the Infinite, replenished, restored. I practice because the simple purity of the seeker’s path keeps me real, humble and raw, it breaks my heart open so that love shines through just that little bit more and makes my world a more peaceful place, one breath at a time.

    Why do you practice?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

    Practice Yoga With Kino On OMstars

    Try Meditation With Kino On OMstars

  • What Do You Really Want? Empowering Yourself to Manifest Your Desires

    The Vedas tell us that the Soul is born with four desires – Dharma (purpose), Artha (the means to fulfill our purpose), Kama (the desire for pleasure and enjoyment) and Moksha (liberation). It was desire, in fact, that initiated the creation of the universe itself. In his book, The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom, Yogarupa Rod Stryker writes that desire is the source of everything. The Yajur Veda, he writes, “tells us that divine desire, or kama, created the world. Without this desire, the world would not exist.”

    Tantra, defined as that which allows us to expand beyond our limitations, sees the world and everything in it as a manifestation of divinity, and therefore the material, when skillfully utilized, can be a means to spiritual fulfillment and liberation. And because desire is here to stay, we need to discern our Soul’s true desires from instinctual drives in order to be fulfilled and live in alignment with our greatest purpose and fulfillment. Otherwise, we are pulled by our drive for sensory pleasures, often in destructive or non-constructive ways.

    Through meditation and self-inquiry, you can learn to identify a sankalpa, a resolve or intention, that can move you closer to your overall purpose, or dharma. At any point in your life, one of the four desires will feature more prominently as a focus of resolve. For example, you may wish to have more freedom to enjoy your life (kama), but first you must regain your health after a chronic illness (artha). Lifestyle changes that will give you the stamina to engage in pleasurable activities would be the first step to achieving the desire of kama. Or you may need financial stability, and a secure home, which are also expressions of artha.

    In my video, Creating the Perfect Intention, you can engage in the process of identifying a desire from which your intention will emerge. Using stream of consciousness, you will identify the words that will give shape to your sankalpa, a desire or intention you wish to manifest within 6-18 months. This intention should be measurable and include steps that you will take to achieve it. It should also be written as if it has already been accomplished. As an example, I had a fear of videotaping a class for my yoga certification, so my intention to read: “My video is done, and I am a ParaYoga certified teacher!”

    But change is difficult, and resistance is to be expected. Even when we dare to dream of what we most desire to manifest, the force of our habits and patterns will conspire to hold us back. In today’s world, social media addiction is a perfect example. When we have a free moment, we often click on our devices rather than interact with others or engage in a productive activity to move us towards greater achievement. In my second video, Overcoming the Obstacles to Manifestation, you will learn about the “Creation Equation” and learn to maximize the power behind your intentions, so they can materialize, by agreeing to release an unhealthy habit.

    Finally, I offer you a tantric meditation to increase empowerment. Through this meditation practice, you can connect to the creative forces of will, power, and determination residing in your manipura or third chakra. Using breathing techniques, visualization, concentration, and mantra, you can create fertile internal conditions to give power to the seed of your intention.

    If you enjoy this process, and would like to engage in a formal Four Desires process, you can search for a certified Four Desires mentor/facilitator at https://www.parayoga.com/certified-teachers/

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

    Inge Sengelmann, parayoga certified teacher, intention setting, parayoga, the Four Desires

  • 3 Types of Procrastination: Which Do You Favor?

    Ever wonder why you spend so much time procrastinating, even when whatever you’re avoiding is something you actually want to do? Frances Cole Jones, author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation, has a few ideas about procrastination, and today, we’re sharing her thoughts here on the OmStars blog! Read on to see what Frances has to say about our procrastination habits.

    Hello, hello,

    I don’t know how you’ve been spending your day, but here, I’ve been procrastinating.

    That said, I can tell you that I’ve spent my procrastination time thinking about the different levels of procrastination (I’ve identified this behavior as “morally unimpeachable procrastination”—more on this below) 

    Yes, I spent this time making a list of the various ways a person can procrastinate. Below, my top three choices:

    The Eyelash Procrastination: Like an eyelash in your eye, this one is that very small thing that you’ve decided MUST be coped with before you can move on with your day. For example, you simply must brush the dog, pluck that weird hair out of your eyebrow, water the garden, empty the dishwasher….and then you will be able to move briskly along to the work you don’t happen to be doing… 

    The Broken Window Procrastination: This one is an extension of an idea put forward by Gretchen Rubin in her excellent blog piece entitled “What are Your Broken Windows?” Based on the police theory that broken windows in a community lead to more serious crimes, she maintains that broken windows are anything in your life that make you feel out of control. My Broken Window Procrastination Theory, takes this one step further: these are activities you engage in that you tell yourself are morally unimpeachable—they are keeping you from feeling out of control! — but they are really various ways of procrastinating. What kinds of things am I talking about? Well, balancing a checkbook, redesigning a website, or cleaning all the bathrooms come to mind…. 

    The Elephant-in-the Room Procrastination: These are the big ones we come up with so that we don’t have to do whatever it is that we feel we “should” be doing. The classic? “I can’t go to the gym until I lose 10 pounds.” (In my world this sounds like, “I can’t go to yoga until I get more flexible…” Um…no….) Other options? “I can’t break up with her until after her friend’s wedding.” “I can’t write my book proposal until I’ve finished doing all the research….in the world….” “I can’t start looking for a job until the fall– no one hires in the summer….” Like that…

    The trouble with procrastination is that it’s a confidence — and a joy — killer; because no matter how delightful the procrastination activity is that you’ve chosen, you won’t enjoy it as much knowing that you’ve told yourself a fairy story. 

    So, buckle up, dig deep, get it done. I promise you’ll feel better. 

    Now that I’ve written this, I do. 

    By Frances C. Jones

    Frances Cole Jones, Author

    Frances Cole Jones is the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation and Wow Your Way into the Job of Your Dreams.

     

    Find Teachers Like Frances On OmStars