• Create a Soul Inspired Intention

    The first thing that we need to know is, that desire to fulfill our desires is part of the soul’s nature.

    In Sanskrit the word for intention, or resolve, is Sankalpa. We are going to be talking about Sankalpa Shakti, how to give power to our intentions. The first thing that we need to know is, that desire to fulfill our desires is part of the soul’s nature. According to the Vedic scriptures, your soul is born with four desires.

    Dharma
    The desire for dharma, or purpose. A destiny, to have a fulfilled life.

    Artha
    The desire for artha, or the means to fulfill your desires. And that doesn’t only include material wealth, but it also covers health and security of housing and everything that you need in order to fulfill your desires.

    Kama
    We also are born with the desire for kama, or pleasure in all of its forms, earthly and spiritual. And it’s for pleasure and enjoyment of everything that life has to offer.

    Moksha
    And then Moksha, the desire for liberation, to be free. And that includes freedom in the world and freedom from the world. The ultimate spiritual freedom.

    Let your heart tell you, which of these four desires will help me fulfill my purpose. Which of these four desires, in the next 6 to 12, or 18 months, move me closer toward the goal of who and what I am meant to be in this world. And without letting your daily functioning mind get in the way, just simply trust your heart. You might see that one of the four desires is shimmering, or brighter, or more attractive to you, and just trust that, that is the desire that needs to be focused on for the next 6 to 12, or 18 months.

    Continue this lesson with Inge on Omstars

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, LCSW, SEP, RYT-500 is an embodiment specialist and integrative psychotherapist licensed in Florida and Colorado (Florida Lic. # SW9606; Colorado Lic. # CSW09923364). She delights in helping people connect with their intrinsic self-regulation and inherent inner wisdom through meditation practices and somatic psychology. As a Somatic Experiencing® practitioner, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) specialist, and tantric hatha yoga teacher, she treats the effects of acute and chronic stress on psyche and body to restore the person’s innate capacity to heal. Weaving the latest developments in the field of neuroscience with the ancient wisdom of yoga, Inge develops skillful awareness practices that help people embody their lives in a more fulfilling way, renegotiating past trauma by reestablishing a strong relationship to safety in the present moment. http://www.embodyyourlife.org/

  • Maintaining Peace, Equanimity, and Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

    Continue this lesson with Kino on Omstars

     

    By Kino MacGregor

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

     

  • 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

     

  • 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

  • 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

  • Cut To The Feeling

    In those classic Hollywood silent films, the big climax was always some exciting chase scene. The hero had lost something, and a mad dash ensues to get it back. Filmmakers of the time knew that too much dialogue would bore the audience and they would lose interest in the movie. Instead, the director would cut straight to the fun excitement of the chase. 

     Believe it or not, there is a similar philosophy in Ashtanga Yoga! 

    The physical postures that we practice, Asana, are not the first or even the second focus of yoga. Classic Yoga texts outline eight principles, of which asana is the third. 

    Instead of exploring all 8 limbs right away, our Guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois guided his students towards a physical practice that would include all the branches in one method. He summed up this philosophy simply, by saying that yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory. He laid out a detailed yoga sequence requiring strength, flexibility and focus, leading to ever-growing self-awareness.  

    In the west yoga is often synonymous with a physical fitness routine. Given Jois’ ‘99% practice’ suggestion, that might be an understandable conclusion. But what initially could be perceived as a form of exercise, is in fact a spiritual path.  

    So, ask yourself: In the movie of your life, what have you lost? What are you in pursuit of? Do you wonder why you’re here and what your purpose is? What are you chasing? What do you seek? Do you have big questions? 

    As a teacher of yoga, I could point you towards ancient writings or challenging seated meditations that could potentially help you find true, personal answers to these questions. But instead, I follow the lead of my own teachers and advise you to start a simple, daily practice of yoga asana. You will discover that all the questions and answers come together there! 

    So, when in doubt get physical and cut straight to the feeling. Start with what you know – get in your body and get on your mat. See what happens when you come face to face with yourself. Keep showing up every day, for a long time. Practice with the three big Ds: Dedication, Determination and Devotion. Chase that inner life! 

    By Joseph Armstrong 

    Joseph Armstrong is a yoga teacher at Miami Life Center and the Tierra Santa Spa. Follow him on instagram @josepharmstrongyoga or explore other available Ashtanga style practices on Omstars!

    Explore Your Ashtanga Yoga Practice On OmStars

  • Yoga Sūtra 1.23 –  Īśvara  Pranidhānād Vā.

    The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are full of lessons rooted in ancient wisdom, all of which can be applied to your everyday life for more ease and peace of mind. Today, we’re breaking down one of Kino’s newest Yoga Sūtra lessons here on the blog – Yoga Sūtra 1.23 –  Īśvara  Pranidhānād Vā.

    To understand this Yoga Sūtra, you will first need a brief philosophical lesson from the Sānkhya school of thought, and a little background information about Patañjali’s approach to this philosophy. Sānkhya is a dualistic philosophy that is directed towards discovering and understanding the truth of life from a non-theistic point of view – one that is not rooted in devotion to the Divine. This dualism says that there are two fundamental natures of reality – the spirit, and the material – Pūruśa and Prakruti — and that these two remain eternally separate.

    What does this have to do with your yoga practice?

    First, the whole premise of yoga, according to Patañjali, seeks to remove the confusion between spirit and material. The root of suffering is the conflation of the spirit with the material. In other words when Pūruśa thinks it is Prakrti, it loses its true sense of self, which basically means, you don’t know who you really are.

    Yoga is also more than just a physical practice – it’s a lifestyle and it’s an act of devotion. As Patañjali spent time considering the philosophy of Sānkhya, he looked to the traditional teachings of the Vedas, and decided to re-integrate the concept of a Higher Power – Īśvara. Until that point in time, God was simply not something that was presented through Sānkhya. This is where yoga and devotion come together.

    As Patañjali developed his Yoga Sūtras, he used this approach to Sānkhya philosophy, which included his added representation of a Higher Power.

    And Patañjali says, Īśvara  Pranidhānād Vā – surrender to the Divine can lead to the same peace of mind that we strive for every day through the steady practice of yoga.

    Want to learn more? Kino has an entire series of videos devoted to studying the Yoga Sūtras available to all OmStars subscribers. Access the full lesson behind this Yoga Sūtra with Kino and check out her Yoga Sūtra Study course to learn more.

    By Alex Wilson

    Learn More About Yoga Sutra 1.23 On OmStars