• 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

  • Who needs Yoga?

    The imagery of modern yoga has an ethereal edge.  Wherever we look, we see lissome bodies bending into improbable forms, and balancing elegantly on the precipice of medical disaster.  This imagery can lend the impression that yoga is for people who live an ethereal existence, people who may be missing bones, who drift through the atmosphere, and rarely touch ground with their feet.  But these images are incidental.  They do not reflect the profile of the ordinary yoga practitioner.  On the contrary, they do something more interesting.  They reflect our fascination with the contortive potential of the human body, and in doing so, they symbolize, however imperfectly, our inherent admiration for resilience.

    Yogic imagery is remarkably old.  It provides the earliest evidence we have for yoga in the ancient world.  One of the earliest pieces is the Pashupati seal from the Mohenjo-Daro excavation site in present day Pakistan.  It features a humanlike figure with long horns seated in what appears to be Mulabandhasana.  The seal predates the current era by more than two millennia, and represents a civilization about which we understand very little.  The meaning of the seal is veiled in obscurity, and this is usual for artifacts that pertain to the ancient origins of yoga.  Sometimes we can decode their symbology enough to tell a coherent story about what they might mean, but we can only imagine the consciousness in which they were composed.

    Throughout its long and complicated history, yoga has formed countless alliances with  diverse alchemical and soteriological traditions.  In light of the diversity, many scholars now argue that there is no single thing called “yoga” whose tradition we can trace.  And so that may be.  But if we look at examples of yogic imagery throughout the ages—from the ancient seals of the Indus River Valley, to the medieval temple carvings of Tamil Nadu, to the Kalighat paintings of colonial Bengal, and to the crystalline images that stream through our social media channels today—there is always that ethereal edge.  There is always that evident longing to elevate consciousness above our limitations, and so to enrich and expand the human experience.

    This ethereal edge is the common thread to what we recognize as yogic imagery.  And if we can follow that thread through the ages, weaving through countless social and ritual contexts, this is arguably because of the way that what we recognize as yoga practice answers an archetypal human need—the need to be resilient, to be malleable, and to meet the persistent pressures to adapt to the ever changing circumstance of life.  That need has been understood in diverse and often opposing ways, as demonstrated by the Vedic, Tantric, and Advaitic approaches to the problem.  Arguably no single one of these is definitive, but neither can any one of them be discounted.  What is pertinent is the way that each of them answers our felt need to break up our inveterate patterns of conditioning, open our minds and evolve.

    Modern yoga does not cohere around any particular philosophy.  It exists more simply as an open set of practices and techniques for helping us overcome our psychological limitations.  Whatever the promises of yoga practice might be, the most pertinent and most compelling is that yoga allows us to relate more openly to otherness.  The practice teaches us to hold an open space of compassionate awareness for our own thoughts, emotions and memories to unfold, no matter how excessive or threatening they might seem.  Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath, so that otherness can appear within our consciousness, and we can relate to it more openly, without being impeded by our fears and anxieties.  That is, we can receive otherness, and be impacted by otherness, adapting to its reality without having to reinforce any particular idea or image of ourselves in the process.

    The reception of otherness within ourselves helps break up our self images.  And in this sense, the practices of yoga are vehicles for psychical release.  They help us release ourselves from the tangles of thought, emotion and memory to which we so ardently cling.  They help us to let go of things, so that we do not congeal into the imprint of our experiences, but we can continue to change and adapt to our circumstances.  To put it simply, the techniques of yoga help us break ourselves up.  They help us break up the congestion of our delusions and conceits, piercing the armor by which we conceal and protect ourselves from the otherness of the world.  And in doing so, they help us liberate ourselves from the stagnation of our conditioning, so we can open ourselves to new relationships, and new possibilities of experience.

    The orphanage of modern yoga practices from the historical traditions from which they descend is often regarded as corrosive to their potency, but arguably the reverse is true.  However rich and compelling those traditions might be, it remains essential that we translate our experiences with yoga into our own living language, into words that bring those experiences home to us, and engage us as we are.  The elision of antiquated concepts from the language of yoga is therefore an essential and not entirely regrettable aspect of its adaptation to modern life.  Without imposing upon ourselves the arcane limitations of historically distant ideas, we can have a more authentic experience of ourselves through the practice.  The removal of those ideas means that we can give ourselves more room to breathe, more room to settle into ourselves, and more room to follow the currents of awakening that are already flowing through us.

    This is part of the intelligence of modern yoga.  As a global phenomenon, yoga is not bound too tightly to any particular philosophy, nor to any particular conception of the relationship between the human and the divine.  And for just that, it can focus on what is more compelling, namely, the process of breaking up the self, and creating more space for the natural processes of creativity to unfold.  There are, of course, people today who would argue endlessly about the relative credentials of dualism, non-dualism, monism and the like, but the modern yoga movement is largely agnostic on these speculative questions, and understandably so.  In these late modern times, we have no need for the kind of thinking that hangs so breathlessly on these delicate distinctions, and evidence abounds of the problems that arise when we allow that kind of thinking to congeal into certainty.  Moreover, the speculative questions that underlie these distinctions tend to lose their force under the softening influence of the yogic experience, and that experience is really the center of the attraction.

    What holds the attention of most modern yoga practitioners is not any particular view of reality that may or not be encouraged by the practice, but the immediate experience of psychical release that is so warmly invited by each and every breath.  The most intriguing thing about yoga practice is that it works—when we undertake the practice assiduously, without pause, for a reasonable amount of time, we find that we can break into ourselves, creating space within our minds to relate to otherness in a more open and authentic way.  And here is the point—it is only by relating openly and authentically to otherness that we can evolve, for it is precisely in relation to otherness that we express creativity, awareness, compassion, and resilience.

    So the process of breaking into ourselves, and creating space for otherness, is crucial for our psychological development.  And we all could use some kind of internal practice to help make that process unfold, for we all tend to stagnate into our own psychological patterns.  This is perhaps the fundamental problem that yoga practice has always been called upon to solve, the problem of pulling us from the mire of our own conditioning.  This problem is arguably more pressing now then ever.  Modern life, after all, draws us into extremes of isolation, where we shun our collective problems with dangerous apathy.  It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that an unprecedented collective effort is the only chance that we have to reverse our destructive patterns today and resolve the colossal problems of our time.  At this pivotal moment in history, when we have nuclear weapons pointed all over the globe, and our patterns of extraction and consumption are quickly destroying the conditions of human life on our planet, our survival depends on our ability to break our conditioned patterns of thinking and acting, to come out of ourselves, to recognize the stark reality of our crises, and then to join together, with the rest of humanity, to take radical and immediate measures to cope intelligently with our nearly apocalyptic problems.

    Today, we can no longer afford to limit yoga to spiritual purposes.  Yoga is perhaps the most powerful instrument that we have for breaking out of ourselves and overcoming the paralyzing effects of our psychological conditioning.  On the same account, we can no long afford to restrict access to yoga, or create divisions within yoga that reinforce that archaic and destructive “us-versus-them” mentality.  What we think of as “real” yoga might not be for everyone (or anyone living now for that matter) but everyone today needs the kind of provocation to openness and change that even the more popular forms of yoga can inspire.  The real yoga is not the one that comes down to us through this or that authority, but the one that rattles us out of our delusions, draws us out ourselves, and exposes us to the fact that we are not isolated from one another, but bound together inextricably, and tasked to find ways of living together that express our basic resilience, kindness and generosity.

    The popularization of yoga, whatever its drawbacks might be, can help to inspire this kind of realization, by giving us simple and compelling methods for breaking up our mental congestions and our practical stagnations, and dissolving the individual and collective delusions that obscure our deeper and more loving nature.  This is something that we can all support without reservation, if we can only set ourselves aside, and look at the bigger picture.  Instead of creating more divisive hierarchies, more elitist obscurations, or more structures of restricted access and protected privilege, we should work together to churn the collective mind, uncover the potent essence of yoga, and then allow it to flow, so we can share it with absolutely everyone.

    By Ty Landrum

    Have you tried Ty’s Ashtanga course on Omstars? He explores techniques and tips for jumping through and jumping back, the energies of prana and apana in practice and also teaches a full primary series practice as well! Stay tuned for more articles and courses from Ty on omstars, but in the meantime you can read more of Ty’s brilliant articles on his website tylandrum.com!

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • Blow your mind with Meditation

    To me, the popularity of the war-time phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ seems out of place in one of the most prosperous and war-free societies in the world. In our connected, fully wired 24-7 society, it can be hard to switch off.  Our normal rhythms are easily out of sync and ‘stress’ has become an everyday word.

    As a lawyer, I remember hearing stories about how – before email – documents took days, if not weeks, to be passed around by hand, typed and re-typed with corrections handwritten in different colours – now it takes seconds to ping an email to everyone and complex contracts can be marked up overnight with tracked changes. The pace of modern life is sometimes astounding. 

    It’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and pressures of modern life.  Meditation is an antidote; a route to perspective and calm, to navigating the hectic traffic we experience in all areas of our lives. Meditation can change how we work, it can improve our health, and it can affect how we relate both to ourselves and to others.  Beyond a mechanism for coping with stress, mediation can be a vehicle towards finding more meaning, purpose, depth and connection in our lives.

    The mind is a surprising instrument. So powerful that science has yet to understand more than the basics of how it fully functions. But then, trying to understand ourselves has always been a tough, yet valuable pursuit.

    Our minds (along with our bodies) have developed over millions of years of evolution to give us the best chances of survival in a sometimes hostile world. Our brain is rewarded with pleasure – with substances such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – when we do something that evolution would suggest is survival-enhancing. And, of course, the other side of the coin is pain when our survival is threatened.   When we sit in meditation and train our attention, we are acting against many of the reactionary tendencies that we have developed as a result of evolution.    

    Our evolutionary tendencies have helped us to survive so far, but some of them now lead us to overreact.  We have, for example, developed a bias towards negativity, giving far more weight and attention to negative events and emotions than positive ones.  And, particularly, under stress, we overestimate and ‘dial up’ the perceived ‘dangers’ around us. The evolutionary ‘down’ that we sometimes experience after the ‘high’ of being with a partner, is designed to draw us towards that person helping us to mate and procreate. But if that evolutionary tendency is too strong in us, our neediness may get activated and end up pushing the person away. Meditation helps us to temper the reactions that evolution has set in motion, so in that sense it is going against some of our evolutionary instincts.  But maybe, that’s what’s needed for us to evolve even further.

    Previously the purview of monks and lamas, meditation is now being used by the likes of Google, hedge fund managers  and MBA students to boost their performance. Scientific research supports many health benefits of meditation mainly associated with stress reduction, and ability to focus.  Cautiously promising research in its early stages even suggests that meditation may have some effect on a cellular level on patients in remission from cancer. Further evidence is needed to confirm that. So, maybe, in terms of health and focus, meditation is giving us an extra edge. 

    Meditation affects the quality of your attention and where you place it. And, as Stanford scholar and international meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace, PhD explains in his book The Attention Revolution, ‘Our perception of reality is tied closely to where we place our attention’. What we focus on shapes our experience and the things we ignore, pale into insignificance for us. In 2012, Usain Bolt says he won the 100 meters in 2012 by concentrating on his strength on “concentrating on his strengths” (execution) rather than his weaknesses (his poor start). Meditation allows us to choose where we place our attention.  That, in turn, gives us more control over how we shape our lives.

    Meditation also helps us to navigate our emotions. Neuroscientists debate whether regions of the brain perform specific functions or whether a more interconnected view is more accurate.  It is, however, established that the amygdala (emotional centres) play a huge role in the fear response. In order to deal with the fear-causing – at an evolutionary level read ‘life threatening’ – situation, we dissociate. We stop using the logical, decision-making functions of our brains. I interviewed Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of bestseller, The Female Brain. She described this to me beautifully, using the analogy of a car with the clutch being pushed in. When we are in a state of stress and fear, the gears are unable to engage with the decision-making functions of our brains.

    Of course, modern day stressful situations are not always related to mortal danger. And, in a non-life-threatening situation such as work, most of the decisions we make would probably benefit from some logical engagement! Awareness developed through meditation can help break the cycle and get you back there. 

    Meditation helps us to press ‘pause’ on our reactive patterns. It gives us perspective and choice. This allows us to be cool under fire.  In this sense, it helps to blow the patterns that have been deeply ingrained in our minds out of the water, leaving us clearer, calmer and more available for genuine meaningful connection.  Any takers?

    By Mia Forbes Pirie

    Watch Mia’s course, Intelligent Start, on Omstars

    Join Mia’s 5 day meditation challenge and see how meditating for as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference to your day https://intelligentchange.life/five-day-challenge/ or be part of Mia’s small Facebook “Not too Perfect”  Yoga & Meditation community https://www.facebook.com/groups/379578869076090/

  • Your body is not a car, it’s a living vehicle

    The key to unlocking flexibility is not just practice, it’s about understanding how to speak the language of the inner body. If you practice the wrong technique over and over, chances are that you will not get the desired result. Practicing a flawed method is like driving in the wrong direction. Hitting it faster and harder will only take you that much further away from the goal. Slowing down and checking the roadmap gives you time to recalibrate your course for the right target. In yoga it’s important to remember that the target is always about the inner state. The yoga of yoga is never the pose itself. The pose is the method of experience, but it’s not meant to be your final destination.

    Every pose requires you to embark on a journey to the innermost regions of your body, mind and soul. There are subtle cues to encourage you along the right path and warning signs to discourage you from making a wrong turn. Yoga is more about learning the language that your body’s own navigation provides than it is about forcing your body into a shape. The first step in yoga is more about listening than it is about telling. You have to “meet” your body and bring your full awareness into the quite space of user the surface of the skin. Only then will be able to really hear the messages that your body sends you. There is a natural intelligence in the body and yoga has the ability to tune you into that ancient and powerful wisdom. I like to think of the body like a car that has been designed by a master engineer. Your body has its own GPS and it comes equipped with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. It has been perfectly formed, but it requires care and the right type of sustenance. Flexibility is evidence of a well-oiled and cared-for machine. At the same time, the body is so much more than just a car. The vehicle of the body is alive itself, so it’s more like a partner on the journey than a static piece of machinery. In order to truly find freedom in the practice you and your body have to walk together in unity as friends and learn to speak the same language.

    So often we treat the body as an adversary and blame it for all our problems. We think our vehicle is flawed because of its size, shape or age. And truly, yoga poses can frustrating, sometimes painful and even lead to injury if performed wrong. The deeper work of the yoga practice is about finding a way to practice while avoiding all the damaging pitfalls of unnecessary pain and traumatic injury. But despite our best efforts it’s not always possible to travel the inner roads with absolute ease and flow. Sometimes you hit a traffic jam. Tightness and stiffness in the body feel like congestion. Everything is blocked and there’s no way forward. Sometimes you can find an alternate route, but most often you just have to sit there and be patient. Honking your horn is a fruitless endeavor only certain to annoy everyone around you, just like getting mad at your body for it’s lack of flexibility is a dead-end. Ramming your car into the car ahead of you is criminal and injurious, just like jamming your body into a pose that your body isn’t ready for is also a kind of assault that leads to pain and suffering. So, what can do you? Sit there. Observe. Practice patience, kindness and tolerance. Focus on the breath. Remain equanimous. Breathe. Surrender. Have faith. When the traffic jam is over it will be over. When body is ready to open it will. Sometimes there are good reasons for traffic just like sometimes there are good reasons that the body isn’t full released. All you can really do is make friends with your body and accept where you are on the journey today.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Join Kino for Heart centered meditations on Omstars

     

  • Omstars New Yoga Challenge Course! Pssst…it’s free!

    The Omstars #30dayyogaliving challenge course has been created to inspire, empower, and get you started on your yoga journey. After the holiday season busyness, returning to work, and family life can be challenging enough, let along to think about movement, practice or anything other than napping. That’s where we come in!

    Start your new year, not with a resolution that may or may not stick around, but by joining the Omstars yoga challenge community this January 2018 and you will kickstart the beginning of a yoga lifestyle. Throughout the #30dayyogaliving course you will be supported by your peers and your teachers, challenged to trust and know your inner strength and be motivated by each new day, each new class and each new experience.

    What you need to know:

    1.) For the entire month of January Omstars will be releasing a new video everyday featuring a variety of teachers, styles and approaches to the practice, which have all been curated by world-renown teacher Kino MacGregor. This course is designed for EVERYONE- there is no right body type, yoga pose, or style of practice, all you need to get started on this journey is the desire to do so.

    2.) To join, click here. No payment details are required, signing up allows you access to the Omstars January #30dayyogaliving challenge course. You’ll also receive a daily email letting you know about the latest video release!

    3.) Then, to win some awesome prizes share you journey on Instagram! Re-post the #30dayyogaliving collage on your instagram, tag @Omstarsofficial along with all of the sponsors and the hashtag #30dayyogaliving. Everyday there will be one new yoga posture that will be posted on Instagram taken from the corresponding day of the video challenge course. To help keep you on track participants will be required to post their own photo of that day’s posture to qualify for prizes. But you can also still do the challenge without sharing your journey on IG—just practice every day for the month of January with us!

    5.) Post for the whole month and you’ll have the chance to win one of 10 prize packs which include;  Liforme yoga mats, a variety of different gift cards and apparel from Sankalpa, Jala, Run & Relax, Liquido, Ohmme, a signed copy of Kino’s book “Yogi Assignment”, one of 50 limited edition Omstars January Challenge Tanks and much more!

    The #30dayyogaliving one month challenge course with Omstars is an opportunity to kickstart the new year by inspiring you to get on your mat and practice! You will create more peace, get established in healthy living, increase mindfulness, and embark on living the yogi life. Starting something new can be a time to let go of unhelpful habits, thought patterns and cycles. It doesn’t mean that the month will be easy, or that it won’t be challenging to continue on after January, but by committing to #30dayyogaliving  and joining Omstars you will firmly establish yourself in a routine of healthy, positive and transformative practices. You will become a part of not only a community but of a movement, inviting Yoga into your everyday life, bringing peace into your body, into your mind and into your spirit. 

    Get excited, get involved and join us for our January Challenge!

    By Anna Wechsel

    Join the Omstars January Yoga Challenge Today!

  • Asana as inner dialogue

    Many of us who practice yoga have heard the quote from the ancient text Bhagavad Gita that “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Yoga is a means of self discovery that is all. Simple, right? Maybe not at first.

    In another ancient text, The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali presents an eight-limbed path of yogic practices to guide us on that journey. The eight limbs include: how we interact with our world, how we treat ourselves, the physical practice of asana, breathing practices, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and finally, liberation. When we learn about the multi-faceted method of yoga from Patanjali we often come to a question: why is there so much attention on the body contorting, shape taking, third limb, asana?

    In this reality, we happen to exist in a physical form, the human body. This form dictates certain rules of our experience, based on our five senses. Through the senses we receive information about our world, our environment, and other humans. But how do we receive information about ourselves? We begin with our senses and then cultivate a way to turn further and further inward. The body is gross rather than subtle, easy to detect and observe. As we move it around, take shapes, hold positions, challenge it’s mobility, we are able to receive information, and then interpret it.

    As we turn our senses on ourselves, we begin to refine this method of communication, developing the vocabulary, establishing context for greater understanding. In attempting to create the shape of a posture, we look at our feet placement, use references of the room to adjust our alignment, refer to the parallel lines of our mats, and eventually depend only on our own bodies as visual reference. We use the focus of the gaze to align our attention and energy to the intention of the posture. Tuning in to the sounds of our breath helps to avoid distractions in our environment. Suddenly we no longer hear the breathing of another student, a door closing, or traffic on the street outside. Our breath becomes the only thing we hear. Like the act of an inhalation moves air from the space around us to the space inside of our lungs, so also do we move our attention from the spaces outside to the spaces within.

    In the beginning, we identify most physical sensation as pain. But over time and with experience, we begin to refine our understanding of the feedback coming from our bodies. We learn the difference between the feeling of stretch in the muscles and the burning of strength exertion. We begin to categorize our sensations as tolerable and beyond our limits, as safe and risky. As we take ourselves deeper into our bodies, we notice sensation in the joints and develop understanding of what they mean. A sensation that is new is often frightening, so we pause and pay attention.

    There is communication along the nervous system, linking the awareness of the mind with the sensations of the body. Each of us connect to ourselves in different ways. Like speaking different languages, down to the unique dialects, accents, slang. As we learn a new language, we often need to ask someone to speak slowly so that we can identify the subtleties of articulation, enunciation, and delivery. The same is true of the communication in our bodies. By moving slowly into the sensations we experience – by focusing our attention – we can gather more nuanced information. Over time we develop context from our previous experiences and we increase our vocabulary. We learn to not only identify the shouting sensations from deep stretches and long holds, but we learn to acknowledge the whispering sensations of the smallest movements in our deepest bodies. Where at first all we notice is our screaming hamstring, eventually we become aware of the sensation of the thigh bone rotating in the hip socket, or the gentle pull of the psoas drawing the inner thigh and low back towards each other, even the squeeze of our internal organs as we compress with a twist or a carefully placed foot.

    So what is doing the learning? We often think of the mind as the preferred mode of understanding. But the mind itself is a tricky beast. How do you know what you know? This is a topic for another ten pages of contemplation! With regards to the inner communications of the body, the mind can often get in the way. As we try to think our way into postures – into our body – we close ourselves off to any information that doesn’t fit the mind’s current understanding of things. The mind cannot lead the way. It too has to sit in observation, as witness. At most it is an interpreter in the conversation, gathering data, providing reference, mapping experiences, giving background, building bridges, and filling in gaps. If it remains a supportive player in the conversation, it limits influence, and understanding is allowed to be fluid – to alter, adjust, and develop according to experience rather than pre-established beliefs. There is a deeper aspect of self that is learning.

    If our internal communication system can be so refined as to receive the information coming from the body, it can also learn the subtler language of the mind, and emotions. As witness, we can observe the tendencies of our thinking mind and our emoting heart-space. As we struggle with the physical body, our mind also sends us feedback. It tells us we are not strong enough. It tells us our arms are too short. It tells us we will never be as good as that other practitioner over there. We turn judgment on ourselves, become angry or sad or frustrated. If we are using the same skills we developed with our physical self, we receive the information slowly, identify its source, its nature. Without surrendering to its shouting, we can soothe it to a whisper. Context develops around the communication: the sources of judgmental thoughts, the truth or untruth of our beliefs, whether or not the thoughts and emotional responses serve us, benefit us. Within the space of intentional, directed inner dialogue, we can make choices. We can identify who we really are and choose how we present that to the world.

    The body is a tool to develop our communication skills. Those skills are directed ever deeper and deeper into ourselves. We journey through the body, the mind, the emotions to the true nature of ourselves. The self that is beyond the fluctuations of our environment, beyond the fluctuations of our bodies, the tendencies of our minds, and our emotional reactions. We become intentionally responsive rather than impulsively reactive. We trust ourselves because we know ourselves. From that space we can learn to eventually exist in our truest, purest self, the self that yoga calls Atman.

    By Angelique Sandas

     

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  • The Discipline of Gratitude

    There is so much to be thankful for everyday. There is so much to celebrate about this very moment. It’s a discipline of the mind to train yourself in the attitude of gratitude.

    At any given time at any given moment you can choose to count your blessings or focus on all the things that haven’t gone or way. Life is usually sure to give you an equal mix. When everything works out, it’s important to stop and appreciate it. When nothing works out, your mettle as a human being is tester. You can either lie in the sewers of sadness and self-pity or you can let adversity make you stronger.

    Look for the small moments of joy and if you can, be the joy. Every day in the grand tally of all that happens every casual smile and act of goodwill makes a difference. No matter how much negativity you think is happening, the arc of humanity will always be towards goodness and hope. No matter what catastrophe strikes, whether personal, environmental or political, there is light shining even when we cannot see it. There are a stagger amount of unsung heroes are there in every day. Armies of do-gooders holding doors open for other people, returning lost property, saving lives, and spreading smiles. It might not be headline grabbing newsworthy action, but I guarantee you that in each day the good outweighs the bad.

    Sometimes I get a view of the whole world, all of humanity, and I get sense of how connected we all really are and how sensitive we all are to each other. Even if you don’t see it, you feel it. When you stand next to someone in pain, you sense their pain even if you don’t hear them crying. Maybe this is why we disconnect from our bodies so often? If you drop into your own body have to feel it all. Not only your happiness and pain, and the happiness and pain of everyone around you. Empathy lives in the heart, just around the corner from love and joy. As a yogi you have to learn to let is all in. Actively practice being grateful. Cherish each day. Celebrate every ray of sunshine. Be nice to everyone all the time (or as much of the time as you can). Be strong, not so you can bully people around or compete with anyone, but be strong so you lift others up with your rising tide. This is the yogi life. Live it with your whole heart and soul every moment of every day.

    By Kino MacGregor

    View our Insight channel for meditation and mindfulness courses

  • Yoga For All

    The practice of yoga means a great many things to a great many people. For some, yoga is just an exercise. For others, yoga is a path to greater spiritual understanding. For me, yoga means a practice of connection and liberation. A connection to myself through breath and movement and a larger connection to the world through consciousness-raising and activism. Yoga has taught me to see wholeness in both the external part of who I am and an internal part of who I want to be.

    A

    ccording to ancient yoga philosophy, Hatha yoga can be a complete journey to wholeness. We can develop a connection to physical well-being through asana (physical practice)  and pranayama (breath work), mental clarity through concentration, meditation and spiritual illumination.

    For a lot of us, the images of yoga have primarily focused on the body beautiful; yoga as a function of beauty and physical prowess instead of an act of spiritual awakening. But do only young, thin, hypermobile or super flexible bodies do yoga?  What about everyone else who are invited to be on the yoga mat? Although you may not always see it, everyone can do yoga. Yoga is for everyone. While not all of us practice in the same way or have the same access to the practice, at the core of this practice is simply a connection to our breath and each other. We all can do that regardless of our abilities, the size of our bodies or our socioeconomic backgrounds.

    Being able to do challenging or complicated poses is not what the practice of yoga is all about. It is about setting your soul free, making a connection to yourself and the world around you. Yoga can be a pause in your day to smell the flowers or take a walk in the park. Yoga can be a moment of quiet, compassionate self-reflection. Yoga can be a meal with friends or intense physical asana practice that gets you out of your head and feeling your body. Yoga can be stillness and quiet. Yoga can be anything that connects you to a deeper understanding of yourself and a feeling of connection to the world.

    Don’t let the images you see of yoga scare you. Know that this is only one way to see yoga, through a lens that values ability over spirituality and unity. Yoga happens everywhere.  Yes, you can do yoga. Find a class or teacher that understands what you want and need from your practice and jump in. You won’t regret it.

    By Dianne Bondy

    Click here to learn more about Dianne

    Omstars will be launching a course with Dianne in early 2018, in the meantime watch this space for more posts by her leading up to the release!

    Follow Dianne on Instagram

     

     

     

  • Do you do yoga?

    As a spiritual teacher and author, people sometimes ask me if I “do yoga.” I never know exactly how to answer that question. There’s so much I want to say and so little time to say it.

    So, I usually just say, “Yes! Yes, I do yoga. Sat nam!” And then I namaste and walk away. Ha ha!

    I’ve always found that question fascinating, though… and difficult to answer. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized just why it’s so fascinating… and difficult to answer: it’s a loaded question. It’s a question that exposes so many misconceptions – and truths! – about yoga… and Life, too.

    So, what follows is my list of the “Top 10 Myths About Real Yoga” – the pure essence of yoga – as I see it, and the “Top 10 Truths About Real Yoga,” accordingly.

    Of course, we could just as well call it, “Top Ten Reasons Why Rob Has That Funny Look on His Face Every Time Somebody Asks Him the Yoga Question,” but that’s just way too long and way too confusing a title. Ha ha!

    Drum roll, please…

    (Myth #10) Yoga is physical.

    Truth: Yoga isn’t physical – it’s non-physical. It’s not of the body – it’s seeing through (the illusion of) the body to your true Self.

    (Myth #9) Yoga is movement.

    Truth: Yoga is not movement – it’s Stillness itself. It’s not asanas or postures. The real posture and the real asana – Stillness – is inside you. (And there’s no inside or outside, but let’s save that for later…)

    (Myth #8a) Yoga is you doing something.

    Truth: Yoga is not you – or anybody else, for that matter – doing anything.

    Yoga not a doing – it’s a non-doing. In yoga, there is no doing and there is no do-er, either. There’s no-body who does anything.

    Yoga is the “I’m not the doer” consciousness or attitude, no matter what’s being done or not done… with or without the body.

    (Myth #8b) Yoga is effort.

    Truth: Yoga is not effort – it is non-effort. It is effortlessness.

    Yoga is surrender, total surrender. It’s resting and relaxing – resting and relaxing in Self, Soul, God. It’s eternal rest and infinite relaxation.

    (Myth #7) Yoga is mental.

    Truth: Yoga is not mental – it’s seeing through the veil of thoughts, opinions, judgments and beliefs to your real Self.

    Yoga is not thinking – it’s above thinking and beyond thinking. It’s non-thinking.

    (Myth #6) Yoga is knowing something or learning something new.

    Truth: Yoga is not knowing anything or learning something new – it’s UNlearning everything and UNknowing everything. It’s a Cloud of Forgetting, a Cloud of Unknowing.

    Yoga is not a class or course you take with other people, even if you’re in a class or course with other people. Yoga is an UNclass in Life itself; it is the ultimate UNcourse in Solitude itself. And it is a required UNcourse. Nobody can opt out of this UNcourse because it’s the only UNcourse/UNclass being taught. You can’t drop out, but you can, of course, sleep through it… and hence, repeat it over and over again until you wake up.

    (Myth #5) Yoga is mantras and chants.

    Truth: Yoga is not mantras, chants, or japa – It’s Silence itself. And that Silence speaks, that Silence shouts, that Silence sings!

    (Myth #4) Yoga has different forms.

    Truth: Yoga has nothing to do with form – not with your form or with anybody else’s form – it’s formless, Formlessness itself.

    (Myth #3a) Yoga is achieving, accomplishing, or acquiring something new.

    Truth: Yoga is not achieving, accomplishing, or acquiring anything at all – It’s Presence itself.

    (Myth #3b) Yoga is a way to achieve, accomplish, or attain peace, happiness, and love.

    Truth: Yoga is not even a way of attaining, achieving, or accomplishing peace, love, bliss, nirvana, samadhi, or enlightenment.

    Yoga is realizing, remembering, and recognizing that there’s nothing to attain, achieve, or accomplish whatsoever, not even “spiritual things.”

    Yoga is the non-striving, non-struggling, non-ambitious Awareness that’s always at home in the Self, always enthroned in the kingdom of God.

    Yoga is the “That which you seek, you already are” consciousness (without the thought as such).

    Yoga is Awareness itself – Christ-Consciousness, Buddha-Mind itself.

    Yoga is Peace, Love, Bliss, Nirvana, Samadhi, and Enlightenment itself.

    Yoga is total non-seeking, non-striving, non-struggling. It’s total surrender of all fear and all desire. And in that total surrender of all to All-That-Is (which you are), there is total fulfillment. In complete fulfillment, there is no fear and no desire whatsoever.

    (Myth #2) Yoga is self-improvement.

    Truth: Yoga is not self-improvement – it’s Self-love, Self-acceptance, and Self-abidance.

    And yet, yoga is not even Self-acceptance, Self-love or Self-abidance, because there’s not two; there’s just One. There’s no-body and no-thing to love, accept or abide and no-body and no-thing to be loved, accepted, or abided in.

    Yoga is practicing the presence of that One, of God, of your Self (God).

    There’s nobody and nothing to improve, nobody and nothing to do the improving, and no improvement at all.

    (Myth #1a) Yoga is about becoming more spiritual.

    Truth: Yoga is not about becoming more spiritual – it’s abiding as Spirit itself. You can’t become any more spiritual – you’re 100% Spirit itself, and you’re simply dreaming you’re not.

    (Myth #1b) Yoga is a way to God.

    Truth: Yoga is not a way or path to God – it is Oneness with God, your Self itself.

    Yoga is so sweet and simple:  It’s simply being – remaining as, abiding as – your Self. It’s remaining as you already are – at home, in the kingdom of God, as thoughtless awareness, as mindless consciousness – and letting the rest be added.

    It’s being what you already are: One with Source itself. You are – Consciousness itself is – the Source of everything.

    (Myth #1c) Yoga is union with God.

    Truth: Yoga is not union with God or anything else, for that matter, because there’s no-thing and no-body outside your Self to unite with. You are already One with All That Is.

    Yoga is simply Being, full-stop. It’s being Everything and No-Thing all at once without effort at all.

    Yoga is the experience-less experience, the state-less state, the pathless path of the Self. It is abiding as the formless, infinite, eternal, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient Self: God Self. And in God – Self, Atman, Brahman, Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Lao Tzu, whatever – you find that nothing is desired and nothing is lacking. It contains – is – All. There is nothing that is not included in it.

    Yoga is knowing, “You are not in the world; the world is in You.”

    So, back to the question…In one sense, then, no, I don’t “do yoga.” And neither do you. No-body does. I don’t “do yoga” – I AM yoga.” And so are you. And so is everyone. And in another sense, yes, I “do yoga,” and I’m always “doing yoga,” because I AM always abiding as the Self. There no-thing and no-body else to abide as or be… and there’s, quite simply, nothing else to do! It’s the only game in town.

    In the simplest terms, “practicing yoga” is practicing Presence itself: the Presence of God, the Presence of my Self, the One Self and Soul we all are. I’m always on the mat, as are you, because the mat is the world – our jobs, our relationships, our politics, our religions, our everything. We are always doing yoga; we are always practicing the Presence – the Presence of our Self, God, Awareness – no matter what else we’re doing.

    Sometimes we are consciously aware of this fact and sometimes we are not. Being aware of it – being aware of your Self, of Presence itself – IS yoga. And it IS meditation.

    You ARE yoga; you ARE meditation.

    Just stop and see. Just stop and be!

    Whatever you’re doing or not doing on the outside, on the “inside” just be.

    Just Be.

    “I AM that I AM” – that’s yoga.

    By Rob Mack

    Rob is the author of Happiness from the inside out. We’ll be releasing a new 8 episode course, ‘How to become a rich yogi’ with Rob next week, only on Omstars, so stay tuned!

    Learn more about Rob

    Follow him on Instagram

  • The Yogi Assignment Book Review: Bringing Our Yoga Practice to Life: The Challenge is Real

    It’s not always clear how the asana yoga practice makes us better people or our world any more peaceful. At least, not in a way that is easily put into words.

    Certainly, in looking back over the past decade plus I’ve been practicing, the changes are far more than just physical – still, it’s not so simple to explain that connection. Add social media in there, and now the whole idea that yoga asana is even remotely spiritual … well, it’s more than just confusing.

    For example, I made the mistake of watching the start of the first awful episode of Yoga Girls, a show that is not a parody (as much as I’d hoped) and rather, an attempted reality show, pitting the Instafamous yogis (as in, legends-in-their-own-lunchtime kind) with Traditionalists (the kind that apparently don’t mind reality T.V. shows). I only lasted 15 minutes, but it was really a terrible 15 minutes I can never get back.

    Anyway, then I pick up Kino MacGregor’s new book, The Yogi Assignment.

    Kino MacGregor

    THE TRUE-TO-LIFE YOGA GIRL.

    Kino happens to be one of the most celebrated Ashtanga yoga teachers on social media, with over a million followers on Instagram alone. In fact, the idea for the book actually came from Instagram and so accordingly, the cover plays like a post: Kino smiling, doing her signature backbendy handstand … in a bikini … on the beach.

    I won’t lie. Part of me sighed heavily. But that was before I cracked open the book …

    Of course, I should know better simply because I know Kino better. And sure, she is beautiful, charming, and physically talented – but also incredibly smart, disciplined, well studied, and dedicated to the Ashtanga yoga practice.

    Which is precisely why I have turned to her for advice in the past, during moments of unfocused weakness … and also why I invited her to contribute to the Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine as well as be a guest (twice now) on the Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast.

    Because the true brilliance of someone like Kino – she can lure us in with her winning Insta-package – but then also knows exactly how to draw that line, connecting the physical practice to something much deeper. And in language we all can understand.

    Kino is the original Yoga Girl. Only she understands that in today’s world, tradition and the various social mediums aren’t to be pitted, one against the other. They both have a place, so long as we know ours.

    ‘Each day is actually a journey in itself and should push you to question your emotional, physical and mental limitations. It is my hope that these thirty days of Yogi Assignments will elicit hope and change your life.’ Kino Macgregor

    The Yogi Assignment

    SIX DAYS OF CONNECTING THE YOGA PRACTICE TO EVERYDAY LIFE.

    The Yogi Assignment presents as a 30-day program, though it also doesn’t have to be read that way because every chapter is meaningful all by itself. So I took the liberty of jumping around, choosing the topics that personally resonated – creating my own mini-week of yogi assignments and learning:

    DAY 1: PRANA // THE BREATH BODY

    “There may be times when you will not be able to perform asanas, but there will never be a time while you’re alive when you are not breathing.”

    If you know me, you could already predict that this is where I’d start. I’m a bit obsessed these days. As someone who suffered from asthma most of her life, to hike without an inhaler now is a tremendous and meaningful connection between my yoga practice and life. Such a gift to be able to breathe!

    Interestingly enough, the asana is often what distracts us from our breath – but if we can stay stubbornly committed to it, it’s the breath that can also unlock the yoga’s magic.

    While I generally skipped the homework and asana portion of each day/chapter (and yes, I have always been that kind of student!) I made time for Kino’s Constructive Rest Pose. You lie on your back with your knees bent, hip-width apart, and belly breathe for ten. I did this every evening before bed. Crazy how something so basic can quickly calm and put me to sleep. Like I said, magic!

    DAY 2: TAPAS // HOLDING MY HAND TO THE FIRE

    “Only with consistent, sustained effort will the real work of yoga happen; that is, old negative thoughts are replaced with positive ones.”

    There isn’t a teacher or friend (including Kino) who hasn’t said this (or yelled it across the practice room – thank you, David Garrigues): Discipline! You need discipline. It’s the story of my life, though I’ve definitely gotten much better. Like most things, staying focused takes practice.

    abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṃ tan-nirodhaḥ   (YS 1.12)

    According to Patanjali, we need to practice (abhyāsa) not attaching (vairāgyā) to all the thought distractions. And through a sustained, devoted, and committed practice – over time, we might find the stillness to see my own true nature. Or at the very least in my case, I might muster up the determination to actually finish something I start.

    Ironically, Kino’s three example postures are perhaps the very three I like to come out of early: chaturanga dandasana (low push-up), urdhva dhanuarasana (wheel), and pinchamayurasana(fore-arm balance). And for the homework, Kino took on cursing. I think I better stick to chaturanga first.

    DAY 3: VIRA // A BRAVE HEART

    “Essentially we must become like Arjuna in our daily lives – filled simultaneously with the strength and magnificence of a warrior prince and the peace and sanctity of a spiritual aspirant.”

    More and more lately, I find myself turning to the Bhagavad Gita as a way to understand my place in the world today. The battle is real and it’s inside me. How do I stand up for what’s right without being consumed by the injustice? How do I maintain a righteous relationship with God all the while, staying humble and open?

    I have been in real life situations where I have been personally threatened – a victim of abuse. Part of changing this was in fact, learning to stand up and fight for myself. Not exactly the peaceful warrior extolled in typical vinyasa classes, you know? And yet, cultivating my own sense of power was vital – as was having the grace later to forgive (not forget).

    It’s all very complicated sometimes and Kino makes no attempt to simplify. Which I appreciate.

    DAY 4: PRATYAHARA // SENSIBLE TRAINING

    “While it may be tempting to think you can just turn of your senses, much like you would switch off a television, the yogic training of pratyahara is achieved through a conscious redirection of the faculties of the senses to the inner body.”

    My daughter, Meghan, was trying to withdraw her senses (as pratyahara is often defined) and concentrate on a black hole. It didn’t work – but did give us both a good laugh!

    Of course, the cool thing is, our practice is that yogic training by limiting the distractions that take us away from the real work at hand. The drishti gives a looking place … the breath, a sound to follow … the shapes and movements bring touch … and provided we showered and have empty stomachs, there is no smell or taste to distract. The method shows us how to shift our perspective from the outside world to within.

    DAY 5: SANTOSHA // I AM ENOUGH

    “Busyness is addictive … Most busyness operates from a sense of emptiness; there is a void that drives you to throw yourself into activities and achievements to prove you are ‘worthy.’”

    People who are truly busy never complain about being busy – because they are usually too exhausted to complain. You never hear a single mom, shuffling her kids from school to daycare, working two jobs trying to pay a stack of bills or put food on the table, complain about being busy.

    No. Our busy schedules are by choice. They make us feel important. I know, I do it too. Finding contentment where I am, as I am, is a full time practice. But at least it’s one I am privileged enough to enjoy.

    DAY 6: SHANTI // FINDING PEACE

    “Try to bend someone to your will, and it always goes wrong. Try to bend the world to your will, and it will fight back.”

    We can’t will or force peace. Not on ourselves and not in our world. It’s like trying to will yourself to sleep – the harder you try, the further sleep becomes. If you want to sleep, you have to simply let it come and trust it will.

    This is the piece (or peace) I’ve been missing. I keep thinking I have more control than I actually do. Of course, our actions hold meaning and make a difference but the outcome is something we need to allow, and not force. It’s like at the end of every practice, we take rest. Do what you need to do, then rest.

    Which on Day 7, I did.

    + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

    The universe is funny sometimes. Here I am, forever struggling with the whole social media scene that I’m also very much a part of – even going so far in making the decision to step away my personal Facebook  … and then just this past week, three students show up to their very first week of Mysore practice because they follow Kino.

    Seriously, one of them traveled all the way here to Montana from upstate New York. These are the kinds of students Kino inspires to practice Ashtanga through her posts, videos, and books.

    That’s pretty freaking amazing, right? And perhaps a bit ironic, don’t you think?

    Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
    And life has a funny way of helping you out.

    By Peg Mulqueen

    Click here for more Peg’s writing and her podcast on Ashtanga Dispatch

    Click here to get your copy of The Yogi Assignment