• The Scar of Resentment

    Things are not as linear as they might seem. I wish at times they were.

    Sometimes I wish I could accumulate enough wisdom to be unharmed by life’s blows.

    But challenges do like to stop by for tea rather often.

    And they dress for the occasion.

    They know how to throw a party.

    And each unwanted and unexpected challenge can yield a lesson in the same way an oyster can yield a pearl from an uninvited grain of sand.

    Resentment is an interesting characteristic that can hold your leash very tightly.

    On the outside it makes you feel that you are protecting yourself by choosing between what’s right or wrong.

    Resentment is an uncalibrated scale of justice. It’s us playing God.

    A façade that masks your fear and pain momentarily and inefficiently.

    Resentment creates scars around your heart.

    It can potentially redefine the way you see things, making the world a less forgiving place.

    Unfortunately there is no immediate clap of the hands and, voilà, goodbye resentment.

    There is observation of our feelings. Our words. Our relationships. Our silences. Our thoughts.

    Resentment diminishes every time that we look at our lives through the magnifying glass of compassion and forgiveness instead of the laser beam of pride and righteousness.

    Why do I share this with you?

    Because I don’t want you (and me of course) to waste time being resentful about things over which we have no control.

    Because sometimes the person or situation that you feel has harmed you might no longer be there to dispute with you. And so the same song gets stuck on an eternal repeat.

    Because love is too precious to be traded for resentment.

    In a more forgiving world, our relationships nourish us because we are able to see through other’s scars to their underlying divinity.

    And that recognition heals us both.

    Easy? No.

    Doable? You can be sure.

    by Adrian Molina

    Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow.

     

     

     

  • Eight Simple Words

    This quote sticks in my head like one of those earworms that creeps into your head off the radio and keeps popping up to annoy you and everyone around you each time you catch yourself singing the song.

    “Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.” ~Pema Chödrön~

    Very few people have Pema’s ability to find the wisdom in everyday life with such clarity and intensity. Everyday life is not all unicorns and glittery angels but the nitty-gritty stuff that we go through each day.

    How can eight simple words convey so much meaning?

    Does that mean that all those times in my day where my behavior is less than perfect is the path to enlightenment? YES

    Does it mean that all the times where I am not loving, not compassionate, not nice, I am still in the game? YES

    Does it mean that all the times when I lose perspective, that’s also part of the path to enlightenment? YES

    Does it mean that all the times that I judge myself, thinking I’ve fallen off the wagon in my life, that is the path to enlightenment? YES

    Does it mean that on those days when I lose it and I want to quit everything and move to an undisclosed location in the Caribbean and change my name I am still on the path? YES

    I am taking a breath of relief.

    Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.

    None of our paths are made of smooth pavement only. Sometimes our paths are made of dirt and mud and rocks. And occasionally broken glass. But even in those cases the path is still the path.

    We can’t live our lives chopping out the parts that are not that pretty.

    We can’t delete scenes, crop here and there or change filters to get a brighter reality whenever it suits us.

    We tend to be master editors of whatever is happening. But in reality, we all know. A lot of the events in our lives might not be Facebook or Instagram material but they also serve a purpose. They are an important part of the path to enlightenment, part of the full spectrum of circumstances that is your life. They keep you real. They break you open and they keep you open.

    Observe everything. The big and the small. The shiny and the dark. The glamorous and the shameful. The victories and the defeats. Learn from every situation. Look at yourself. Your ups and downs in a single day.

    Using everything in our lives as fuel for growth is how we become more integrated human beings, and more loving. Because the more we understand and accept the roller coaster that our life is sometimes, the more prepared we are to understand someone else’s roller coaster — because we know that whatever arises in our experience is always the path to enlightenment.

    By Adrian Molina

    Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow.

    Practice with Adrian Molina on Omstars

     

  • Flowing Through Motherhood

    For the last several years of my life, I’ve followed the same morning routine: I wake before the sun, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, and then spend an hour and a half moving through the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series with the sound of my breath and a room full of other inspiring, sweaty yogis. I found Ashtanga (or maybe more accurately, Ashtanga found me) during a dark period of my young adult life, and it helped me not only see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it gave me the map that helped me get there. With every practice I was transforming for the better.

     
    The promises that the yoga practice gives us (a strong, healthy body; a calm, steady mind; a peaceful heart) kept me coming back for more every morning. It was easily the most important part of my life, and took priority over everything else. I decided to devote myself whole-heartedly to the practice of yoga. No distractions. Just sacred mornings with myself on the mat, simple days, and early nights.
     
    And then I had a baby and my whole world changed. 
     
    When you give birth to a child, you give birth to a new you at the same time. You go from maiden to mother within a matter of moments and no amount of reading, nannying, meditating, or yoga can truly prepare you for that enormous shift. It is it’s own beast. Nothing will dig deeper into your soul and ask more of you than motherhood. It is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate yoga practice. Suddenly, your life, personal time, and your body (even after pregnancy) are not merely your own. Your entire being revolves around this tiny, helpless, adorable human. Everything else comes second, including sleeping, eating, showering, peeing alone, and, yes, even morning Mysore practice. Being a mother is by far the most beautiful, empowering, and awakening experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, but it is in no way easy. 
     
    I’m going to be honest. I didn’t come to my mat every day after giving birth to Connor. I just didn’t have the physical or emotional capacity yet. In fact, most days, if I was lucky, I’d make coffee and actually drink it while it was still hot. I’d get a few sun salutations in, or maybe just a few moments of quiet introspective stillness, and call it good. 
     
    My mornings were still sacred in their own right, though. There is nothing more fulfilling than spending a few extra snuggly hours in a cozy bed, nursing your little baby. The truth is, even without my steady asana practice, my yoga took on a whole new depth and meaning when I became a mother. I had to become more flexible in my mind than ever before. Every diaper changed, every dish washed, every hour of sleep missed became another opportunity to breathe consciously and surrender to the present moment. Every day in every way was a practice of patience, mindfulness, and compassion. 
     
    But it is just that: a practice. In Ashtanga, we call it the Seventh Series, the hardest yoga series of them all. It’s the practice of engaging fully in family life, of maintaining and nurturing our relationships, and in my current state, the practice of being a good mother.
     
    Connor is 17 months old now, and it still doesn’t take much to throw me off balance some mornings. I get frustrated at him for just being a toddler. My mind spins around my own desires and stresses that I lose sight of what is truly important: simply staying present and patient with my son. But it is nearly impossible to dedicate yourself to an outside force if you neglect your own needs.
     
    As mothers, we are constantly giving all we can from the moment we wake up til we finally pass out at night, and we simply aren’t as productive or helpful if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, too. When we’re depleted mentally, physically, or spiritually, we cannot give our family everything they deserve. That’s why it’s so important that we ask for help and find ways to slow down, prioritize self care, and nourish our souls. We need breaks. We need support and validation. We need to soften our edges and be gentle with ourselves. 
     
    It doesn’t make you a bad yogi if you don’t do your full practice every single day. And, on the flip side, you’re not a selfish mom for taking time to yourself to get your yoga practice in. You’re human. And finding the balance between showing up for your children, your work, your family, and yourself is hard. 
     
    But it is possible.
     
    We just need to stay flexible. When I take the time to cultivate peace and kindness inside myself, I’m better able to give it to the world around me, so I still prioritize the practice. It is part of my self care ritual. Now I’m on my mat every day again, usually early morning while Connor is still sleeping, and it’s such a special time for me. I don’t always finish before he wakes up needing me, but that’s okay. Yoga is fluid and we must be too.
     
    Yoga allows me to flow through motherhood rather than fight against the current of my new life. It gives me the strength to play with my son, the patience to teach him, and the capacity to envelope him in deep love every day. By devoting ourselves to the discipline of a yoga practice, those little moments in life become deeper, richer, and sweeter. It strips us of the unnecessary layers and limits we’ve piled onto our identity and allows us to live in pure awareness. It brings forth the truth of who we are and we become stronger for it. 
     
    When I can remember that motherhood, the Seventh Series, is my yoga practice first and foremost, it is so much easier to react from my heart, to move and speak with joy, peace, and perhaps most of all, gratitude. Deep, unwavering gratitude for this amazing little human, for my beautiful and strong body which grew him, birthed him, and continues to nourish him with milk everyday. When I go through my days with this clarity, my world feels lighter. I’m able to extend more of myself in every area of life. I suddenly see that there is time for all the things that need to get done, and I am capable of doing it all with grace. 
     
    I’m still finding my way of course. I get in my own way and stumble along, but I put my best foot forward and love myself anyway. Right now, that is enough. Because morning Mysore practice will always be there, waiting for me to center my life around again. But Connor needs my devotion now. He deserves his fair share of that attention and energy. Because he will grow up and move out and go on with his own life, and so will I. This small phase of motherhood, with it’s exhaustion, it’s messes, slobbery kisses and milestones is fleeting. I want to embrace it now, while I can.
     
    So to all you mothers out there, I see you. I feel you. Prioritize your happiness, knowing that your family benefits most of all when you are well. Continue to do your yoga practice, but don’t beat yourself up about it for being different now. You are different now. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. You are seriously amazing and so, so appreciated. So keep going, mama. We need you.

    By Emily O’Brien

    Emily is a writer, mother, lover, and yogi. She enjoys the simple things in life and takes refuge in her loved ones, morning Ashtanga practice, and time outdoors. When she’s not teaching, writing, or playing with her son, there’s a high probability she’s hiding out in the bathtub with a good book and a cup of tea.
  • Lessons from 15 Years of Yoga Practice

    It has been almost 15 years since I took my first yoga certification. And it has been probably 14 years since I became a full-time yoga instructor. My life between the ages of 25 and 39 has centered around the practice and teaching and study and business of yoga.

    My practice has morphed so many times, like one of those beautiful cephalopods that change color based on the environment they are in. I could definitely say that my practice has always been a reflection of my life’s ups and downs. Many times my practice was the refuge to cope with life’s challenges; other times, the practice itself was the challenge. There were periods of love and hate. Closeness and distance and everything in between.

    I would like to share some of the things that I’ve learned over the years, things I’ve been reflecting upon lately. Hopefully this offers food for thought for those who are new to yoga; who knows, perhaps even for seasoned practitioners. This is based on my experience and it’s purely subjective.

    If 39-year old me could meet 25-year old me, this is the advice I would give him:

    You will learn a lot from your teachers. But the most important lessons will come from facing your own mind on the mat. Learn to listen to that voice, acknowledge it. And communicate with it.

    The postures are great. But the real gift is learning to treat your body with kindness and respect. At times you will use the practice and the postural aspect of it to satisfy your ego. Remember that this is a stage that many go through, look at the bigger picture, and remember the gifts of the practice are innumerable and they exceed the shape of a pose.

    Your teachers are human beings. They are real-estate brokers who became yoga teachers. Ex-lawyers. Moms who teach yoga. Sales executives who decided on a midlife change of career. Your teachers are not enlightened beings who descended to earth to spread enlightenment. The longer you hang around the yoga scene, the more you’ll notice that quite a few yoga teachers have a few missing screws. But others have genuine hearts and wisdom that shine through in every word and action.

    For the most part your teachers will want to share the teachings. When that is not the case, wish them well. They are teaching you a lesson. Even when their behavior doesn’t match your expectations or they fumble and embarrass themselves, they are showing you what kind of teacher you want to be (or don’t want to be) and for that we acknowledge their presence.

    Yoga is not a religion. Schools of yoga, and lineages, are often managed as corporations. Find out who are you studying with, and who they studied with and who that person studied with.

    Don’t drink any Kool-Aid. There are many Kool-Aids out there, and some of them are really toxic. But Yoga is Yoga. Learn all yogas that are wholesome and beneficial. Don’t push your style of yoga on anyone else. Everything has its own time.

    Be okay when the practice recedes to an old abandoned drawer. You might think that you’ve lost your love of yoga. That’s not true. It will change shapes, colors, intensity, rhythm, but the gifts of the practice will always belong to you.

    The greatest gift of learning Yoga will be sharing it with others. In being a teacher you will learn to communicate with others, to treat others with kindness, to empathize with others who are experiencing difficulty or pain, and in that process you will learn the meaning of forgiveness and tolerance. In the teachings of yoga you will find the strength to keep going when you feel defeated.

    Yoga will always be with you. You will practice yoga every moment of your life, whether or not you are standing on a mat. The practice and the teachings expand far beyond the studio walls. They encompass your ethical behaviors, your work choices, your way of speaking, who you associate with, what you eat and purchase. Ultimately they will be there with you in every breath, until the last one you take.

    By Adrian Molina

    Practice With Adrian on Omstars

    This blog post was originally featured on Warriorflow.com

     

  • Trauma, the Gunas and the Polyvagal Theory

    Trauma field luminaries such as Peter Levine, PhD and Bessel van der Kolk, MD, among others, concur that trauma is in the body, not in the event – or in the story of the event. Trauma, they propose, is locked in the physiology as incomplete survival responses perpetuating a dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system – long after the event has ended. These processes are operating at the non-cognitive level of the brain stem and limbic systems, encoded in implicit memory as autonomic neurobiological and behavioral responses.

    “Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the event itself. They arise when residual energy from the experience is not discharged from the body. This energy remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds.” Peter Levine, PhD, author of In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, published in 2010.

    “PTSD involves a fundamental dysregulation of arousal modulation at the brain stem level. PTSD patients suffer from baseline autonomic hyper-arousal and lower resting HRV (heart rate variability) compared to controls, suggesting that they have increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic tone.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, in remarks at the New York Academy of Sciences, 2006.

    Samkhya philosophy, from which Yoga emerges, divides reality into two categories: the knower, pure consciousness (Purusha) and the known, creation (Prakriti). The Gunas are the three forces that underlie all of creation; they are Tamas, or inertia/immobility; Rajas, or activity; Sattva, or essence/balance/clarity/consciousness. The interplay of these forces is the manifest universe, both physical and psychological. The Bhagavad Gita states: “There is nothing on the earth, in heaven, or even among the gods, that is free from these prakriti-born gunas.”

    The Polyvagal Theory (PVT) of the autonomic nervous system proposed by Dr. Stephen Porges, professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in North Carolina and leading psychophysiological researcher, can be conceptualized as a neurophysiological counterpart to the yogic concept of the gunas.

    Porges recognized that the autonomic nervous system responds in a highly sequenced, hierarchical response to environmental stimuli, based on a neural process he calls “neuroception” – an automatic function that evaluates risk and modulates vagal output, triggering or inhibiting defense strategies for survival. He proposed that, in addition to the sympathetic arousal system, there are two vagal motor systems – dorsal vagal (immobility) and ventral vagal (social engagement, emotion and communication) – and that primary emotions are related to autonomic function.

    Neuroception, as a process, determines whether specific features in the environment elicit specific physiological states that would support either a dorsal vagal immobilization response (tamas), a sympathetic fight-flight response (rajas), or a ventral-vagal or social engagement response (sattva). Any or all of these branches of the nervous system may become dysfunctional and/or “stuck,” as a result of overwhelming events, creating patterns of cognitive, emotional and behavioral dysregulation.

    Porges also re-conceptualized the autonomic nervous system to include target organ, afferent and efferent nerve pathways, and bidirectional communication between the heart and the central nervous system. The nerve fibers of the vagus nerve, which travels from the brainstem to the sacral area, are 80% afferent – meaning that they convey information from the body to the brain. Only 20% of the nerve fibers are efferent, downloading information from brain to body. This means that consciousness is in the body, as well as the brain. In yoga philosophy, consciousness resides even in the smallest atom, so why not in our cells and tissues?

    Brain physiology also lines up the brain with the yogic model of the mind. The brain contains evolutionary “layers” that develop as life required new modes of survival: a primordial/instinctual/primitive/”reptilian” brain equaling the yogic version of manas, our instinctual survival mind; the limbic system, primarily the amygdala and hippocampus, lines up with chitta, the storehouse of our memories; the sensory-motor cortex, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex, in their self-referencing functions, may equal asmita/ahamkara, our ego or self-sense of separate “I”; and the most evolved areas of the prefrontal cortex perhaps being the abode of Buddhi, the part of our mind capable of awareness, observation, discernment, attention and planning.

    A recent article in Frontiers of Neuroscience, authored by Dr. Porges and researchers in the field of yoga therapy, describe how these two different yet analogous frameworks—one based in neurophysiology and the other in an ancient wisdom tradition—highlight yoga therapy’s promotion of physical, mental and social wellbeing for self-regulation and resilience, creating a “translational framework” joining these two philosophical foundations.

    Why is all this important? To see the yoga, or union, between various theories for understanding human consciousness, and behavior, provides us more tools to help those students who come to us seeking to grow and heal mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By having a clearer understanding of the inter-relationship between the gunas and the autonomic nervous system presentations of trauma, one can combine the right set of practices (or therapies) for each unique individual. In such a way, we can maximize the desired effects: whether it is for greater emotional balance, optimal physical health, clearer mental focus, or reaching enlightenment.

    By Inge Sengelmann

    LEarn More From Inge On OMstars

    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. 

    Caplan, M. (2018). Yoga & psyche: integrating the paths of yoga and psychology for healing, transformation and joy. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

    Swami Rama, Ballentine, Ajaya (1976). Yoga & Psychotherapy: The Evolution of Consciousness. Honesdale, PA: Himalayan Institute Press.

    Porges, S.W. (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication and Self-Regulation. New York: W.W. Norton.

    Sullivan Marlysa B., Erb Matt, Schmalzl Laura, Moonaz Steffany, Noggle Taylor Jessica, Porges Stephen W. (2018). Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory: The Convergence of Traditional Wisdom and Contemporary Neuroscience for Self-Regulation and Resilience. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, Article 67. DOI=10.3389/fnhum.2018.00067  https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00067

  • Emotions: Help or Hindrance on the Spiritual Path?

    Once we engage on a spiritual path, and connect with the lofty ideal of enlightenment, it is easy to interpret our human emotions as representative of our lower mind and animalistic impulses. While, indeed, they are sourced in our desire to survive, reproduce and thrive, simply ignoring or suppressing our emotional nature can lead us to engage in what psychologist John Welwood termed “spiritual bypassing.” This can lead to disturbing, if not dangerous, rearrangements in our psyche that can lead to self-destructive, impulsive/compulsive behaviors, and even to psychosomatic disease and chronic illness.

    Emotions can be powerful in either positive or negative ways. When we try to avoid emotional experience, emotions morph into more complex bundles that are increasingly difficult to process. Each emotion has information and deserves individual attention.

    Swami Rama of the Himalayas said, “Avoiding the emotional issue is not going to help you. Instead of dealing with the conflict or issue, you look for answers outside yourself—and of course you don’t succeed. But if you remain careful with your emotions, and learn how to go through the ups and downs of life and still remain balanced, then you will not suffer from this kind of conflict.”

    “All your actions are controlled by your thoughts, and all your thoughts are controlled by your emotions. By comparison with your emotions, thought has little power; if you can use your emotional power constructively, you can channel it. Then your emotional power can be utilized in a creative way and lead you to a height that will give you real happiness,” he adds, in the book Creative Use of Emotion.

    Emotion regulation skills make it easier for you to live with the feelings that come up from day to day, and also any long-standing painful feelings that you have. Here are some tips:

      Observe your emotion. Stand back.

      Experience your emotion as a wave, coming and going.

      Don’t push away your emotion. Accept it.

      Don’t judge your emotion. It’s not good or bad

      Don’t hang on to your emotion.

      Try not to intensify your emotion. Let it be how it is.

      Remember that you are not your emotion.

      Remember that you don’t necessarily have to act on your emotion.

      Practice loving your emotions.

    Be Present to and Mindful of the Positive
    Focus your attention on the positives around you. Think of something good that has happened in recent days. Is there something going on right now, or about to happen today that is really good or fun? Focus on it. Be fully present. Notice everything about it. Stay in the here and now.

    Be Unmindful of Worries
    Don’t give attention and air time to worries or negative projections about the future, which is yet to come and may never realize in the scary or painful way you imagine. Distract yourself from thinking that you don’t deserve a nice time. You deserve to enjoy the present moment.

    The video course on emotions that I present on this platform will help you avoid the pitfalls of “spiritual bypassing” while helping you learn to healthily deal with this dimension of your human experience. In these videos, you will learn to harness the power of your wise mind, or Buddhi (which is our capacity for wisdom, discrimination, and discernment and that which connects us to our Soul/Atman/Purusha), to evaluate whether to act or not act on emotional impulses. The goal is to learn whether to move toward emotions for mindful processing and problem solving, or to move away and distract from them.

    Build your emotional intelligence quotient, EQ, by engaging with this course, choosing not to blame others for, or act on, destructive emotions as part of your tapas, studying your emotional experience as part of svadyaya – both worthy endeavors on the “royal path” of yoga.

    By Inge Sengelmann

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

    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. 

    Try Inge’s Meditation For Clearing Difficult Emotions

  • The Tristhana Training Ground: Breath, Gaze and Pose in Ashtanga Yoga

    Life feels like it’s been going through a slow-motion upheaval for some months now. Relationships tumbled out of the place I thought they belonged. Teaching opportunities I hadn’t even imagined pushed themselves to forefront. The political vibe of the world has felt erratic and powerful social justice movements have shaken me. The landscape of my life has been changed radically. Amid all this disturbance I have remained dedicated and devoted to my practice, thanks to the 3 stabilizers at its core.

    The Tristhana Method teaches us how to concentrate our attention using the breath, the gaze and both the outward (and deep internal) posture of the body. In Ashtanga yoga we always begin by lifting the arms over the head, drawing our navel in and up. This combination of internal and external movement shapes the pose through outward alignment and the inward bandha. We pair this alignment with a deep inhalation that matches up precisely to the duration of the arms rising. As the palms press together overhead, the drishti (gazing point) becomes fixed on the thumbs.

    This first vinyasa (a term signifying the matching of any one breath movement with any one body movement) of our practice sets us up to expand the mind/body/breath complex in new and intriguing ways. A slow rhythmic breath has a powerful effect on the nervous system. It’s a fact of our biology that as we exhale the heart rate decreases. So we breathe with sound, giving the breath texture, something we can hold on to and extend. The sound is like that of fogging a mirror, but through the nose. This breath control leads to a greater awareness of the inner spaces of the body. We see how the breath creates an openness where calm, dispassionate self-exploration is possible. There is a play of aliveness here that’s suitable for working to balance effort and ease.

    We settle into a gentle coercion around the breathing. We imbue it with just the right meter (even on inhale and exhale) and feeling tone (not too quiet, but not too forced).  When the dynamics of the breath are correct they fuel the practice with a sensation of harmonious propulsion.

    This vinyasa method of linking each movement with an inhale or an exhale allows us to make transitions with fluidity and drives us into the second stabilizer- the posture itself. In Sanskrit we call the pose Asana. Its made up of two parts, the external shape and the subtler internal engagement. The outward appearance of the pose is created by alignment via the measured arrangement of limbs, torso, pelvis, head, toes and fingers. The internal engagement is created by bandha, subtle physical and energetic controls centered deep in the body.

    If the breath gave the inner spaces shape, the then bandha gives them a sense of mass and makes them movable. Uddiyana Bandha feels a bit like drawing the low belly in and up. Moola Bandha activates the pelvic floor. Imagine you have to pee really bad, and there’s a line for the bathroom. Those muscles you squeeze to hold it are the ones you should contract for Moola Bandha. When these two work together they have the effect of suctioning the outer body in. Like a corset, they pull the more external body tissues towards the center, slimming the waist. In this way, the gravity of your core increases and the mass of your body is more easily controlled, pivots more freely around this newly awakened energetic center.

    Bandha brings a sense of lightness. As these deep muscles that were previously unused step up and take on responsibility for some of the body weight, our posture becomes steady and still. To the observer there may appear to be and effortless grace about the practitioner.

    Perhaps the most easily understood of these three tools is the drishti, or gazing point. If the breath and bandha have worked together to cultivate an expansion of the mind/body awareness, then the gaze has the effect of locking it all in place. When we reach the arms over the head in Utkatasana and hold for 5 long breaths, the arms naturally become fatigued. But if the gaze is focused on the thumbs and unwavering, there is a psychic push. Under the strength of the gaze the background blurs out and the fingertips reach up further than you thought possible.

    This three-pronged approach is the proven heart of the Ashtanga Yoga Method. When practiced daily and for a long time, it seems to increase sensitivity, provide clarity and perspective.

    Presidents come and go. Lovers become friends. We wake up to important social truths with a start. Change is always coming, sometimes more quickly than were prepared for. But these moments are prime opportunities for carrying our practice off the mat. When our pulse quickens at the thought of a border wall, take a deep breath and remember that the next President might pull it down. The sight of our old lover with his new one is a cue to focus our eyes and hearts somewhere else. When you’ve heard ‘me too’ just one too many times, or see another black life disregarded and your heart wants to burst? That’s the moment bring the posture of your behavior into alignment with your core conviction.

    The three stabilizers teach us to move in ways that are healing and mindful, to turn our senses inward on the mat. Many Ashtangi’s are finding, as we move through the world of distraction and disturbance, that same self-sure steadiness is coming up. Harmony. Grace. Focus. We’re connecting with a voice of knowing that leads us more adeptly than before. Tristhana has been a training ground.

    By Joseph Armstrong

  • Suffering, Transformation, & The New Reality

    Needless to say, there is suffering. Part of suffering is unavoidable. Small sufferings can wreak havoc momentarily as we attend educational programs, training, relocate, have a child or suffer the loss of a loved one. Often suffering is not the cause of something that was unforeseen though not desired. The word “change” means that something will be made different. It does not say how. We often hear the famous quote “Be the change you…” without taking into account that in order to be change, it is a position elected for one comfortably moving into that which is different, unknown, change itself.

    One of the first ways to seek out the imbalance in Ayurveda is by creating routine. Dinacharya, or a daily care, allows a reset to transpire. The regular, consistency is also crucial in a yoga practice. This daily practice, usually aimed at self-realization, is referred to as sadhana. At root of that work, we have ‘sadʼ to find truth. Seeking change is different than seeking truth. Change can come if we call it but truth is exploring that which is universal and simultaneously internally

    stationary.

    When we seek truth rather than transformation we create stability in our own light. The change can move around us rather than through us. This sets us up for what I refer to as a shift in our psycho-spiritual framework.

    What does this look like?

    Professor Narasimhan and Dr. M.A. Jayashree presented this concept of a metabolic state to me. Think of a coned, funnel standing on the tip. Easy to knock over. Now imagine it balanced on the mouth. Harder, however you can still push it over. If you leave the funnel on its side and push it, it spins in a complete circle. You see it moving but the center of it looks still. The change spins around the fixed point.

    Taking this concept into the framework I mention above it is not as simple as okay, Iʼve knocked the funnel over, I understand. The mind is often not prepared for this change. As Samkya philosophy and yoga introduce there are plenty of dualistic views; good and bad; hot and cold, etc., yet some are blurry to us: pain and pleasure; happiness and sadness. They become blurry as we usually seek to fulfill one that is appealing and avoid one that is potential suffering or painful.

    Patanjali, author of the “Yoga Sutras” spoke of this very concept as part of what is termed “avidya” which is not seeing clearly or with knowledge. This provides us with some word weaponry. One is that knowledge is not merely what you know. It is what you can access, experience and conceive within living. Further, sight is not limited by what you see but it can be limited by avoidance, fear, egoism and demands we place in the world. You can imagine that when the view, or our sight is reactive and operating from avidya that it is incredibly difficult to have a desired, long term outcome that creates stability. In turn, our ideals, mind, get caught up in the spinning of change and it appears as if this is happening to us. That we are in fact here to suffer in the world.

    I am not going to pretend to know anotherʼs suffering and will not ask you to understand that which I have suffered. Perspective, understanding brings about empathy and this is one of the beauties of being a sentient being. You can actually care for someone else. And you can feel for them. That is amazing in itself. Going into that amazing, intimacy, suffering, healing, feeling, each of us also possess a quality which is unique to us. Dharma, which has many definitions, but we will expand into individual purpose. I have noticed in mentoring and teaching and talking to people about life, that we most suffer and experience pain when we are missing or forgetting purpose. Not our occupation but our purpose.

    Another beauty with yoga is it is not for a select few with an unlimited clothing budget, but is readily available to all as it aims at self-identity and realization and part of that is purpose. Our own dharma is a guide. When we move with that, the mind is clear, steady and the movements around us are like a dance. We feel the vibration of the world, people, places and in height or downturn but constant and steady amongst the change.

    Transformation is experienced by feeling our way, growing in the shit and allowing our findings to push into the light. Change is the way in which we transform and it bring us from known to unknown. This can be made steady by dropping the identity in which we had before. Classically, when a siddha (master of yoga) would pierce these states, they would change their name. This is common in yoga by identity but classical is earned through initiation process and reflected purpose and not a cool name that you saw or heard. You lived by the name, reflected in sound and breath and an aspect of the energy that poured through you. That you danced that way, dreamed that way, held another that way and when the mind holds onto identity of that which was, this is when we have psycho-spiritual strife.

    Now what is amplified is not the suffering but the identity of the suffering as one moves from the center of the spinning funnel and into outer spaces of their mental, emotional understanding. Healing involves our own identity that we have with suffering. Transformation involves allowing the body, mind to change, dropping the skin of those results, cravings, desires and moving into the more visible light of our own purpose, over and over again until we no longer need to hold steadiness as we become it amongst change. Is that awesome, you, radiant one!

    Will Duprey

  • The Sacred Space Of Yoga

    There is no direct line to growth. It’s a curvy, twisted path through the heart. You might not think you can get any stronger, you might think you’re all alone, you might feel like you’re about to collapse but then you find it, the strength that was always there. Faith and hope lift you up. New friends appear where old wounds are still healing. The winding road is the spiritual path, the way towards the deepest truth of life.

    Practicing yoga doesn’t give you all the answers. Sometimes the practice gives you all the right questions.

    We all need sanctuary sometimes, a safe space where we are held and loved, where our bodies and most importantly our hearts have the chance to breathe and eventually heal.

    For over twenty years, yoga has been my sacred space, a place of worship and reverence. Every single person that continues to practice beyond the initial phase of fascination with the poses has tasted at least a drop of the elixir of true spiritual practice. Yoga is not a hobby, it’s lifestyle built on moral and ethical principles. But more than anything else yoga is a promise of deep and lasting peace — that promise is built on the principles of practice, not the size or shape of your body or perfect abs or the right clothes. As yogis we have the power to define what this community is all about. We can make it the true sanctuary that it’s meant to be or we can cede the moral compass of yoga to corporations that are yoga as a money-maker.

    Your voice as a yogi matters. I don’t believe that we should turn off our social media accounts or never buy another piece of yoga clothing. I also don’t believe we should drink the proverbial Kool-aid that is fed to us in sponsored posts. I don’t have the answers, but I believe we need to learn how to ask the right questions, how to dig deeply to find answers. Mindfulness isn’t a catch phrase to sell products. Mindfulness is a moral and ethical responsibility to do the research and be literally mindful of all your actions, personal, professional, emotional. Before you speak, be mindful of your words. Before you purchase anything, do the research and be sure that the companies you support with your dollars are ones that you truly support through and through. Before you give your attention to anything, including the algorithmicly induced social media feed, be mindful of where you are giving your attention and see if it’s worthy of your time and energy.

    The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention. It’s a discipline of the mind to carefully craft your point of focus. Life will throw you a series of curve balls that have the potential to take you off course. You have to choose to redirect your mind to your goals. Whether it’s a hater who just wont stop leaving annoying comments, a frenemy who puts up a show of love but truly burns with jealousy or a corporation that wants to cut you up and sell you like an object, there are so many distractions on the journey of life. Your heart wants to rant and rave about them. Your mind desperately wants to understand. You may find yourself spending time thinking, reflecting and even stalking the negativity. But you won’t gain any ground that way. You can’t talk reason to someone that doesn’t share the same basis of logic, respect and morality. You can’t play fair with someone who has been stacking the cards in their favor from day one. You just have to walk away. Turn your attention to your own path and leave the past where it belongs—in the past.

    There are an infinite amount of times during my daily yoga and meditation practice that my mind wanders. Whenever I notice it’s gone, I gently bring my mind back to the focal point of the breath and the body. In life, there is an endless onslaught of petty annoyances and big traps that can strand you in destructive way-stations along your journey. It’s up to you to constantly remind yourself of who you are and why you’re here.

    I know who I am and why I’m here: I am a keeper of the sacred fire of yoga, I am a torch-bearer of wisdom, I am here to walk the path that leads to the true light and every step I take lights the path a little bit for another. I am here to change the world and my gaze is set on the brilliance of the eternal, manifesting as light and love in every breath. I am here to burn with the holy vibration of love.

    Why are you here? What do you stand for?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice With Kino On OMstars

  • Conquering Pride: The Enemy Within.

    Life is full of obstacles. But most of them are external to us: Illness, death, divorce, job loss, and family troubles. You get the picture. But I want to examine an internal obstacle, one that is often difficult to see within us and very easy to see in others. Pride. But what is pride? Isn’t it a good thing? Let’s look a little closer.

    A lovely nearby school has a motto that has been bothering me.

    Their motto is: Friendship, Pride and Respect. It sounds innocent enough, but the use of the word “Pride” is what sits uneasy with me.

    We hear that it’s important to take pride in your work, and take pride in your appearance. Yet, pride is listed as one of the 7 deadly sins. Holy scriptures talk about how civilizations were lost and people fell because of pride. Prophets old and new warn of pride.

    “Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons.” ~ The Gita, XVI. 4

    So just what is pride? Why do some people aspire to cultivate more of it, while wise sages warn us to stamp it out?

    Clearly we have a conflict of definitions.

    Some people use pride in a positive way. And for our purposes let’s replace that positive version of the word with ‘self respect’, ‘dignity’ or being conscientious. All good things.

    And let’s define the sinful side of pride as Ego. That is, comparing yourself to others, putting your self above others. Being boastful, arrogant or conceited. With those definitions sorted, let’s continue. Why am I so bothered?

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic because of a book I read,

    Ego is the Enemy” By Ryan Holiday.

    He says that Ego is a conscious separation from everything. We pit ourselves against others.

    Isn’t that interesting! The very purpose of yoga is connection to everything. Yoga seeks to connect our body to our spirit, and our consciousness to other people, and to God.

    Ego seeks validation and status. Ego wants likes, and followers, recognition. Ego and pride can make us un-teachable. You can’t learn if you think you already know it all.

    We need to be humble in order to learn. Be an eternal student. The one, who learns the most, grows the most. And growth is the hallmark of a happy and productive life. You will not find answers to improve if you are too conceited to ask the questions.

    Ego is defensive and tells us we don’t need to improve.

    Ego makes us hostile to feedback.

    Pride tells us we shouldn’t have to put up with this.

    C.S. Lewis warns, ‘Beware of pride. The proud man is always looking down and cannot see what is above him.’

    The proud man cannot effectively commune with God. Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952

    Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “…seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.)

    The central feature of pride is enmity— Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.”

    Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, vain, puffed up, and easily offended. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.

    We can find warnings about Pride if we turn to the Bible.

    Proverbs 16:18-19

    “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

    Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:68.)

    The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.

    In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)

    We see enmity toward our fellowmen everywhere. We see it in the parking lot, the office and even in our families.

    We see people daily trying to elevate themselves above others and diminish them.

    Here’s the tricky part. Pride is easy to spot in others but rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us.

    There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.

    Any time you think you are better than someone else or you are judging someone, that is pride. It’s not always relegated to the man who has the shiny car and is hoping for admiring glances. The person who knowingly scratches the car is being prideful, because they are comparing themselves.

    Pride does not have to be boastful. We can be proud even when looking at someone who we perceive has more than us. That man you see getting out of his flashy sports car, and you smugly think to yourself, ‘I bet he never spends time with his family.’ Or the woman with the perfect body, ‘I bet she’s had some work done.’ Or ‘That outfit is a bit skimpy.’

    Sometimes we are the most ego driven when we feel we have a lot to prove. Those that feel confident with their accomplishments and who they are can usually control their egos more masterfully.

    The proud are easily offended and hold grudges.

    Have you ever witnessed someone in a queue say, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’

    Real people of importance and those in real positions of power don’t need to say things like that.

    The proud withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.

    The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. (See Prov. 15:10; Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. (See Matt. 3:9; John 6:3059.)

    The proud are not easily taught. They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.

    Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees. Pride is the universal vice. So how do we overcome this weakness?

    The first step is becoming aware of when we are having prideful thoughts. An excess of pride may cause you to think you don’t need a daily yoga practice. It may cause you to compare yourself to other people in your yoga class. It may even cause you to avoid your practice altogether because you feel you’re not good enough and don’t want to embarrass yourself. Let go of all that. Allow yoga to provide that process of stripping away the natural man and getting back to your true self, your divine self.

    When we say the words ‘Namaste’ we are saluting the divine in others and in ourselves. May we strive to more fully see this divinity, and let go of the struggle. Be one with all.

    Next, let us choose to be humble. The antidote for pride is humility. Rejoice in your talents and accomplishments, but in a way that is modest. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.

    “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.” (Alma 32:16.)

    We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, valuing them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement.

    We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us.

    D&C 64:10. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

    We choose to be humble when we see another person’s point of view. When we give someone the benefit of the doubt. When we allow people to make mistakes that are different to the ones we habitually make.

    There is a bumper sticker doing the rounds which says ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently to you.’ We each have failings, let’s be more gracious towards each other.

    Thomas S Monson has said

    “Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges, which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.

    Charity has been defined as the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, … and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”

    The upside is that when we let go of all this comparing, judging, and criticizing. We feel connected to other humans. And it is in the times of greatest connection that our greatest happiness is found.

    By Natalie Prigoone

    Natalie Prigoone, the great uncooking

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