Mindful Monday

Mindful Monday: Koshas

Good morning dearest mindful ones!

We have covered the eight limbed path of yoga in depth over the past several months. We learned how a complete yoga practice encompasses mind, body and spirit.

We then went on to the chakras, our energy wheels, to make the energetic connection of mind, body and spirit.

With this foundation of knowledge, we move onto the koshas and see where the chakras fit in to a higher perspective of this human experience.

The koshas give us a complete roadmap for the expression of consciousness in physical form. Developed thousands of years ago by the master swamis, rishis and sages of ancient Hindu culture and high thought, the koshas help us to understand the varied and unique aspects of consciousness that give rise to the human experience. The koshas encompass the mind, the body and the spiritual aspects of consciousness manifested in physical form.

Through our yoga practice, we are developing an understanding of health and the chakras. Learning to work with the koshas is the next logical step on the path of greater integration and operation of the mind, body and spirit triad on a practical and metaphysical level.

Koshas are literally translated to sheaths or layers of the body. Often these sheaths are understood as separate bodies. There are five koshas, which we will delve into a bit more deeply over the next five weeks.

Have a great week, mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: Meditation

Happy Monday, dearest mindful ones!

This week’s topic is one near and dear to my heart: meditation.

Did you know that the reason we practice our physical poses is to prepare mind and body to sit easily in meditation?

Yes! So interesting, right? Our asanas allow us to develop more awareness of reality; they discipline our mind and body for stillness; we learn not to react to sensations in the body; we learn to calm mind and body when the urge to run away is overpowering; we become mindful of how our thoughts can be mastered.

Physically, asanas prepare the body, especially hips and spine, to endure staying seated and upright without distractions from physical discomfort. Poses also identify and flush out energetic and muscular stress, tension and resistance. The physical practice paves the way for pranyama, breath awareness, which deepens the focus and slows the mind.

So the ideal opportunity to meditate is directly following asana and pranayama practice.

So what is meditation, exactly? Meditation is a habitual practice of training your mind to focus, redirect and eventually to still your thoughts altogether. Like all things worthwhile in life: it is hard work and it requires discipline and accountability.

“But I don’t have time!” This is not even an original excuse. We make time in our lives for things we prioritize. Wake up five minutes earlier. Cut into your social media time. Take just five minutes at the end of your day.

There are numerous studies and entire books, blogs and documentaries devoted to all of the benefits of a meditation practice. Here are some of the quick and dirty major benefits:

1. Stress release

2. Anxiety reduction

3. Increases focus

4. Decreases blood pressure

5. Promotes better sleep

Just like any new habit/discipline, start out slow and steady!

1. Try to get to yoga class a little early so you can sit and practice mindfulness! You’ll notice a definite shift in your vinyasa practice. This is exactly why we hold quiet space before and after classes.

2. Stay just a few minutes after class to sit quietly. If you’re on a tight timeline, forgo savasana for a seated meditation.

3. Wake up five minutes early and just sit (or lie in bed!) and notice sensations in your body and begin your day with a positive and clear mindset.

4. Take a few minutes right before bed to practice mindfulness. You can sit and observe or you can even do legs up the wall as you release your day and prepare for deep, healing sleep!

5. You can even practice mindfulness when you’re standing in line or sitting in traffic in your car! Or performing daily rituals and repetitive, habitual tasks, e.g.: vacuuming, doing dishes, cleaning bathtub.

Set yourself up for success. Have some short term goals and discipline yourself to stick to them! Not only will you get all the benefits of mindfulness practice, but you’ll get a boost to your self-esteem knowing you are supporting the development of your best and highest self.

Have a great, mindful week, dearest ones! I’d love to hear how your mindfulness practice is developing!

Mindful Monday: Crown Chakra

The Crown Chakra or Sahasrara has no element or thought association and its colors are WHITE and DEEP VIOLET.

Mantra: “I know” or “Aum/Om”

The Sahasrara is located at the crown or top of the head or slightly above the head.

It provides access to higher states of consciousness as we open to what is beyond our personal preoccupations and visions. The function of the crown chakra is driven by consciousness and gets us in touch with the universal.

When your crown chakra is open and balanced, you experience unity and the selfless realization that everything is connected at a fundamental level. The energy of this chakra allows us to experience mystical oneness with everyone and everything in nature.

There is no intellectual knowing at the level of seventh chakra, but there is serenity, joy, and deep peace about life.

You have a sense of knowing that there is a deeper meaning of life and that there is an order that underlies all of existence.

When it is blocked, you may experience feelings of isolation, a sense of alienation or disconnection from life, and a lack of empathy. You lack inspiration, connection to your creativity and may feel you have no purpose in life.

It is the result of being conditioned to believe that we are separate and isolated beings who are defined by the ego, which is fundamental to almost all human beings.

When it is overstimulated, one may be obsessed with spirituality and have a “god complex,” crave attention and sympathy, lack empathy, seem spacey or ungrounded.

To open this chakra, try headstand, rabbit pose (sasangasana) or fish pose. Meditation and pranayama are also very helpful.

Be divine, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Ajna Chakra

The Ajna Chakra or the Third Eye chakra is associated with the LIGHT element and the color INDIGO.

Mantra: “I see” or “Aum/Om”

The Ajna is located on the forehead between the eyebrows, just above and between the eye line.

It governs your vision, intuition, illumination, psychic abilities, perception of subtle dimensions and movements of energy, connection to insight, wisdom, inspiration and creativity.

When your Ajna chakra is open and balanced, you clearly see reality without the filters of your ego, expectations, past experiences and other social programming. The gift of your Ajna chakra is the ability to be mindful and live in the present moment. Your third eye chakra is the center of your intuition and wisdom, allowing you to open your mind to deeper understandings and expand your intuition.

When it is blocked, you may feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond your problems and set a guiding vision for yourself and have a lack of clarity.

When it is overstimulated and without support from the rest of the chakra system, you may indulge in fantasies that appear more real than reality, and experience psychic fantasies and other illusions.

To balance this chakra, try forward folds, shoulder stand and balasana, childs’ pose.

See clearly, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Throat Chakra

The Vishuddha Chakra is associated with the Ether element and the color BLUE .

Mantra: “I Speak” or “Ham”

The Vishuddha is located in your neck and throat.

It governs your feelings of being heard, self-expression, ability to advocate for yourself, emotional honesty, living an authentic life and how you manage conflict and confrontation.

When Vishuddha or throat chakra is in balance, you’ll be great at making yourself understood. You’ll be able to say what you really want to say tactfully and clearly. You’ll know what you need, and be able to state that out loud in a way that gets people to listen.

When it is blocked, throat chakra primarily manifests in an inability to say what you really want to say. You may feel like you’re stuck holding onto secrets, that people don’t want to hear your thoughts, or that you can’t find the right words for your feelings.

When it is overstimulated, you may find yourself speaking rudely, out of turn, or maliciously. Looking down on others, you become highly critical of small details. The slightest, most innocent comment from someone may strike you as intentionally rude. You may even speak negatively about yourself, or others, to the point it borders on verbal abuse. Gossiping, criticizing and judging and non-stop talking are telltale signs of over activity.

To balance this chakra, fish pose, ploughing or shoulder stand. Lion’s breath is also a great way to clear and balance Vishuddha!

Happy Monday, and be expressive, dearest yogis!

Mindful Monday: Manipura Chakra

The Manipura Chakra is associated with the Fire element and the color YELLOW.

Mantra: “I do or “Ram”

The Manipura is located between your naval and your solar plexus.

It governs your feelings of will, inner power, strength, ego, stamina and self-esteem.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel powerful, strong, confident, capable active and determined.

When it is blocked, you may experience feelings of unworthiness, lack of energy and determination, guilt and fatigue.

When it is overstimulated, you will experience control issues, stubbornness, be overly critical and tend toward perfectionism.

To balance this chakra, try Navasana (boat pose), dhanurasana (upward facing bow) or and standing twists like crescent lunge with prayer twist or revolved Trikonasana (trianglepose).

Be powerful, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Sacral Chakra

The Svadhistana or Sacral Chakra is associated with the Water element and the color ORANGE.

Mantra: “I feel” or “Vam”

The Svadhistana is located between your genitals and just below navel center.

It governs your feelings of creativity, sensuality, pleasure and fun.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel creative, a sense of overall wellness, abundance, joy and synced into the ease and flow of life. You are brimming with passion.

When it is blocked, you may experience emotional instability, fear of change, sexual dysfunction, depression, or addictions.

When it is overstimulated, you can experience a quick temper, rage and are argumentative. You may engage in self- destructive behaviors and feel jealousy, codependency and possessiveness in relationships.

To balance this chakra, try goddess pose, Supta baddha Konasana or reverse warrior.

Be passionate, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Muladhara or Root Chakra

Good morning, and Happy Monday, Mindful Ones!

To review last week’s blog post, a chakra is an energetic center within the auric and physical body of all human beings. Chakras can be thought of as vortexes that serve as a non-physical highway through which cosmic energy travels connecting this energy with the physical body. This cosmic energy is what we know as life force or “Prana.”

Today, we’ll cover the first of the seven main chakras.

The Muladhara or Root Chakra is associated with the Earth element and the color RED.

Mantra: “I am” or “Lam”

The Muladhara is located at the base of your spine, between your perineum and genitals.

It governs your feelings of survival, groundedness, belonging, and stability. Your earliest memories are stored here, including whether or not your basic needs were met.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel strong, confident and able to stand firmly on your own two feet. You are confident that your basic survival needs are met and that you can handle anything life throws your way. You feel secure, stable and full of health and vitality.

When it is blocked, you feel unstable financially and/or emotionally, fearful, anxious, unsure, ungrounded. You may be easily angered or feel yourself shut down totally. You may become needy.

When it is overstimulated, you feel aggressive, cynical, materialistic, and greedy. You may engage in self- destructive behaviors.

To balance this chakra, try Warrior II, Malasana, or Tree pose. Seated poses also help to provide stability and groundedness.

Be courageous, my dear yogis! Until next week …

Mindful Monday: Samadhi

Good morning and happy Monday! We begin the very last month of this decade! Time keeps marching along, doesn’t it?

Last week we covered the difference between Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).

Dharana sets the stage for Samadhi, which means harmony, “to bring together, to merge.”  

These final three limbs are generally studied together: dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These final three are at the most sublime and esoteric level of our study of yoga.

In Samadhi, subject and object merge as one. This eighth and final stage of yoga brings on super conscious awareness. One loses a sense of “I” and enters this Samadhi state where the meditator, the process of meditation and the object of meditation becomes one.

Samadhi is actually a series of states and experiences. Yoga Sutras describes various types of samadhis. One has to go through the different types of this Samadhi experience. Finally the practitioner reaches the highest stage of illumination called ‘Dharma Megha Samadhi’, which liberates the practitioner from all limitations of body and mind.

This identity without differences is a liberated soul that enjoys pure awareness. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of truth and unutterable joy. Which is the ultimate aim of our yoga practice.

Dear friends, wishing you a lovely week filled with mindfulness and increased awareness of all things.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Dhyana

Good morning, mindful ones! It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for!

Let’s move onward in our study of the eight limbs of yoga.

Last week, we covered dharana, our sixth limb of yoga. Dharana sets the stage for dhyana, the perfect contemplation of meditation.

Dhyana is total absorption into the object being focused on. This uninterrupted flow of concentration creates devotion. Dhyana distinctly differs from the one-pointed concentration of dharana in that it is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. In this quiet stillness the brain produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. In dhyana we dissolve separateness and experience the deep river of peace.

As you cultivate a consistent meditation practice, you will derive both mental and physical benefits in your life. Modern science and medicine are just now measuring the benefits of this ancient practice to explain how the body physiologically changes and how each of the trillions of body cells are charged with more prana (energy). Increased life force or prana results in joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Below I’ve listed a small percentage of the vast  benefits of mediation.

Physical Benefits

▪ Lowers high blood pressure

▪ Reduces anxiety

▪ Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems

▪ Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior

▪ Improves the immune system

▪ Increases energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy

▪ Can assist with weight loss and other physical goals

▪ Improved athletic performance

▪ Can provide significant relief from asthma and allergies

Mental Benefits of Meditation

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into a relaxed state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation:

▪ Emotional stability improves

▪ Creativity increases

▪ Happiness increases

▪ Intuition develops

▪ Increase in mental clarity

▪ Sharpens the mind by increasing focus

▪ Slows aging of your mind

▪ Can help with improving relationships

How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life. Try practicing meditation during a hectic day at work, shopping for groceries, attempting to return/exchange holiday gifts, or even waiting in a busy queue of traffic!

Start small; set your timer for five minutes each day and build from there. Imagine yourself at this time next year after a full year of meditating! You are 100 percent pure potential, my friend! Let’s talk more next year… On behalf of all of us at YBD, wishing you and your family a safe, healthy and prosperous new year filled with love, happiness, success,  yoga and meditation!