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Mindful Monday: Annamaya Kosha

Greetings, mindful ones! Happy Monday.

We are moving into our more deeper and subtler practice of yoga. It’s such an interesting and exciting journey, isn’t it?

The more we start to learn and discover, our realization is that we have just scratched the surface of this deep and ancient practice.

Today we go into more depth of the outermost kosha: the Annamaya. Kosha translates to sheaths or different bodies that cover our true nature/Self. In our ancient texts, “Maya” means illusion. So these sheaths or covers are illusions, skewing our awareness of ultimate self.

An example of maya is if you are looking in the darkness and can just make out the shape of a man standing outside. You are convinced there is a person there because you can see it. Actually, it was the just post of the old fence.

This outer sheath is the literally the body layer—muscles, bones, skin, organs. Anna means food, which is what sustains this level. Asana keeps this kosha healthy and can be used to treat problems that arise in the body.

We exercise this outermost aspect of ourselves, take care of it, nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.

When life is out of balance, we must identify the kosha that is troubled and take on practices to help it come back into harmony with the others. Exploring and integrating each layer brings us closer to a state of bliss.

The Koshas can be imagined as nesting dolls. Each sheath or doll covers the innermost doll which is Atman or Self.

February 2020 Pose of the Month: Utthita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star Pose

Happy February, oh dearest ones!

Do you want to feel like a superstar? Then this pose is for you!

Five pointed star pose or utthita tadasana is a heart opening and very grounding asana.

The five pointed star yoga pose facilitates deep breathing, improves posture and encourages joy. And when we do it in a squad, we feel both confident and connected to the earth and one another.

Here’s how:

1. From a standing position, step your feet out wide with feet either parallel or toes pointing slightly outward.

2. Extend your arms out wide at shoulder-height or slightly higher with your palms facing forward. Your feet and wrists should be about the same distance apart; adjust your stance if needed.

3. Drive down through your heels and straighten your legs fully, but do not lock or hyperextend your knees. Ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.

4. Draw the tops of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your buttocks.

5. Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up. Instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly.

6. As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.

7. Spread your fingers and reach out energetically through your fingertips as you broaden across your collarbones. 

8. Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm. Allow your inner arms to rotate slightly outward.

9. Lengthen your neck. Your ears, shoulders, and hips should all be in one line.

10. Keep your breath smooth and even. With each exhalation, feel your body elongating in all directions: Up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. Softly gaze forward toward the horizon.

This is one of those poses you can do whenever you need a boost of energy or a shot of confidence!

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!

December 2019 Pose of the Month: Malasana or Garland Pose

Hey, yogis!

This is our final POTM not only for 2019, but for the entire decade!

Our December 2019 pose is Malasana or Garland Pose, sometimes simply called a yogi squat.

I love closing the year with such a grounding and stabilizing pose!

Let’s do it!

1. Start in a standing position with feet mat with distance apart and hips externally rotated with heels in and toes turning outward.

2. Draw your hands to heart center as you bend your knees and lower your hips toward the earth.

3. Rock your weight back and forward a few times until you find stability and balance.

4. Drive your feet into the earth, wrap your core around your spinal cord, slurp your belly off your upper thighs and lift out of your waistline.

5. You’ll feel Apana vayu, the downward and outward flow of energy stabilizing as you experience Prana vayu through the upforce of energy lifting through your spine.

6. Placed your palms together at heart center and use your elbows to pry your hips open even wider.

7. Other variations include expanding chest by grounding one hand and reaching in opposition with the other hand.

Enjoy, 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: 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!

Mindful Monday: Dharana

Good morning, mindful ones!

We have swiftly come to our sixth yogic limb: dharana.

As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or immovable concentration of the mind. The root of the word is “dhar” which means to hold, maintain or keep.

As the sixth limb of yoga, dharana is the practice of holding one’s mind onto a particular inner state or topic. We fix the mind on a single pointed focus, such as breath, the small space above the upper lip, or navel, without allowing the mind to  wander through memories, reflective thoughts, bodily sensations.

Through the disciplines of the previous limbs, we’ve definitely begun to develop our powers of concentration. Through yamas and niyamas, we’ve begun directing our attention.

Through asanas, we have begun to temper the body and focus on specific and more subtle sensations. Through pranayama, we begin the task of refining our minds. Through pratyahara, we bring our senses under control and are still enough to become more observant of the mind. In dharana, concentration on a single point becomes effortless. You know the mind is concentrating when there is no sense of time passing. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation or dhyana, which is the seventh limb of yoga.

Now we truly begin to unleash the great potential for inner healing.

Namaste, sweet yogis. Here’s to a beautiful, mindful week filled with awareness and intention.

Mindful Monday: Pratyahara

Happy Mindful, snowy Monday, darling ones!

We’ve swiftly arrived at our fifth yogic limb: pratyahara.

Our conscious breathing -pranayama- sets the stage for Pratayhara, where we transcend sensory stimulation and draw focus inward. We stay fully aware of the five senses, but we observe objectively and therefore the mind can rest. We stop living off the things that stimulate; we dispassionately observe the cycle of stimulation and reaction and are no longer a slave to the senses. No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp.

This is a stage of yoga practice just beyond the physical where internal yoga practice begins.  Practicing pratyahara takes place when your individual consciousness is turned inward so you can master the flow of prana, or energy, in your body.  Specifically, pratyahara is the withdrawing yourself away from anything unwholesome, excessive, or distracting for the mind. 

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the ability to withdraw into seclusion in the mountains to meditate without distractions. It is so much easier to harmonize with prana when you can renounce the distractions of the world to focus on controlling the senses!

However, in our reality, we have temptations of money, sex, fame, gossip, overindulgence in food, shopping, alcohol, etc. If you can overcome the temptations here and now then you have really mastered your senses.

Concentration, in the yoga room or the boardroom, begins as a battle with the distracting senses. In mastering pratyahara, you no longer unnecessarily respond to the itch on your nose or hear the baby crying in the restaurant. You are able to fix your focus on your main objective.

According to Patanjali, the eight limbs work together: The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of building the foundation for  a spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain. The last three, which we will cover in subsequent posts,  are concerned with reconditioning the mind.

So it becomes clearer that yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the habits of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

Yoga provides an opportunity to ultimately attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit.

Have a great week, friends!!!

Mindful Monday: Pranayama

Happy Mindful Monday, YBD friends! November has arrived! As we are slowly winding down this decade, it’s a great time to remember to mindfully BREATHE!

We’ve begun a deeper look into Ashtanga or the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga as expressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the first three limbs: the Yamas or the guidelines for social behavior, the Niyamas which refer to how we discipline ourselves, and the Asanas or the yoga poses that we practice together at YBD.

This brings us to Pranayama, the fourth limb, which means breath restraint. The word prana means “life energy” or “life force,” which is the very essence that keeps us alive. And yama means “restraint,” as we discussed in a previous post in more detail. Our breath literally is our life energy, as we animate the mind and body with it.

According to Patanajali, the goal of pranayama is to regulate the breath to make it slow and subtle to facilitate the steady flow of energy throughout the body. It is believed that through control of the breath, life can be prolonged.

Aside from that, breathing techniques and breath control can also be employed to help us to deepen our physical poses as well as calm us down and keep us centered during chaotic, busy or stressful situations. This is something I’m sure we can all use this holiday season!

We’re halfway through our preliminary study of the eight limbs of our yoga practice. The first four limbs refer to the external practice of yoga. Next week, we’ll discuss the internal yoga practice and the remaining four limbs.

Have a great week, yogis! BREATHE. Sweat. Smile!