Good morning beautiful mindful socially distanced ones!
We are starting week five of our transition to online practicing! It just illustrates that time and life continue to move forward. That’s happening. But we get to control how we think and process all that is happening around us and for us. Yes for us, not to us.
Many of us observe Easter as a religious holiday; others may approach it as more of a cultural experience for our kids. Either way, it was certainly an entire shift. Much like almost everything that’s unfolded over the past several weeks.
Through our yoga practice we learn to observe the inner dialogue and the inner self in relation to external circumstances.
Never before in history have we as an entire species had this opportunity for introspection and healing.
However we have experienced these new circumstances tell us so much about what’s going on internally. The quarantine and social distancing are the stimuli to surface our inner mechanisms of coping and to show us where we have been ‘stuck.’
Remember, dear soul, that it is not circumstances that cause stress, anxiety, fear, resistance, compassion, love, acceptance and gratitude. These qualities exist within each of us. It is how we choose to think about a situation that creates an emotional reaction.
One exactly identical situation will be processed differently by people based on their vibrational level.
Say you are driving in traffic and someone cuts you off. Your reaction to that situation will vary based on your current mood or vibrational energy.
One vibrating from fear or shame may immediately blame himself or herself for driving too slowly and being in the way. Someone in an angry or egoic space will flash with anger and self-righteousness. Someone in a stable space of courage and acceptance will acknowledge that this is a good example of the need for driving defensively. One in an elevated state of love, gratitude and hope will think this person needs to be somewhere important; I’ll create space for him and pray he gets where he needs to be safely.
And this is how it is with life. Like the rude driver, we cannot control much of external circumstances. The work and effort is internal: how do I want to feel? Do I want to feel happy and safe? Then let me seek out those thoughts and circumstances that allow me to feel this way.
Let me look around at all of the beauty: every positive social media post; every Zoom yoga class; every face mask donated. And look within yourself: how strong you are; how authentic you are; how kind and compassionate to yourself and to others you are learning to be.
And remember, your Yoga By Degrees teachers and community are HERE for you every day with classes, giggles, nuggets of wisdom and an overwhelming realization that we are all in this together. We are ONE!!!
Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule!
We are so grateful for this community! And overwhelmed with your generosity that allows us to continue to teach on this new platform!
I’ll begin one of our final mindful Mondays with the deepest expression of gratitude and appreciation for YOU, dearest friend and dedicated yogi, for your unbelievable generosity and support for our yoga community over the past few weeks with your heartfelt donations! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I am so confident I speak for our entire organization.
I’m also so grateful for our leader ship at YBD for quickly pivoting during our current situation and creating an opportunity to provide a much needed service with continuity and ingenuity.
I’ve always preached in class that we never know what we’re training for when we are on our mats. And as we strengthen our muscles and improve flexibility, we are also increasing our resiliency, toughening mental fortitude and mastering our fickle and temporary emotions.
Yoga teaches us that it’s how we choose to look at things that form our reality. As many of you know, being upside down is more natural for me than our more foundational grounding and stabilizing poses for some reason. It is through our inversion practice, we are forced to view things from a vastly different perspective.
And I always remind you in class that you never have to lift your feet off your mat to be inverted! Down dog, standing forward fold, plough pose, prasarita padottanasana and also child’s pose are a few opportunities to examine assumptions and to shift perspective!
Life is giving us a rare opportunity at this moment in time to do the same thing. Our yoga practice has been our training ground for this very moment in life. This gift of slowing down, examining our relationship to nature and Mother Earth, evaluating priorities and relationships, practicing self-care and spending more precious time doing the simpler invaluable things in life. Walking outdoors. More family time. More solitude.
Many of you who are “bored” may start to explore a constant need for stimulation and aversion to stillness and quiet contemplation. Many of us are using this opportunity to increase knowledge and learn new skills.
Some among us may find themselves busier than ever! Working in an industry considered essential or adjusting to working from home with a full house and an absence of child care and other resources.
Which ever end of the spectrum you may find yourself, it’s important to raise your perspective from yourself at a micro level and understand that the circumstances are largely outside of your control. But what you can control is how you choose to see things.
The biggest shift that can be the most helpful is realizing that life happens for us. It’s not happening against us. Life will constantly give us challenges in order for us to grow and evolve.
Whatever you are experiencing, you are bigger and stronger than this temporary situation.
And guess what, guys? Life by its very nature is a temporary situation.
We are grateful to continue to be here for you! Keep practicing online with us! and please keep your generous donations coming in so we may continue to provide you with yoga content!
Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule
First of all, I want to express to you how grateful all of us are for your continued support and participation in our online community classes! It certainly gives all of us something to look forward to. And it provides a sense of continuity and stability during this interesting time.
I’ve been reconnecting with the lovely yoga sutras during this time, which lends a larger and broader perspective and also provides a play book on how we might navigate life’s challenges.
One sutra is particularly resonating with me.
Sutra 2.33: vitarka-bādhane pratipakṣa-bhāvanam
It simply means: When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite -positive- ones should be thought of.
Super simple but extremely challenging, am I right?
Basically, this ancient text is reminding us that happiness is a choice that we have to power to make in every moment.
And with pratipaksa bhavanam, we are learning to stop negative thoughts in the moment and immediately balance the fearfulness with positive thoughts based in love and abundance.
We see how this is merely an extension of our eight limbed practice of yoga, which have been covered in depth in previous posts! I encourage you to go back and re-read from the beginning!
The practice is not a basic: “I want a donut” “I do not want a donut”
It is watching the craving (or other negative thought cycle of fear, anger, greed, jealousy, depression, etc) without judgement and then replacing with thoughts of higher level positivity.
In the donut example, the oppositional thought may be focused on how good your body will feel if you eat something more nourishing and satisfying over the long term.
This oppositional thought process is prevalent in all aspects of the practice. From the do’s and don’ts of yamas and niyamas to the juxtaposition of our bodies in inversions!
Our practice is designed to be vigilant of our minds at all times and train the mind like we train the body.
Please share your thoughts and questions with me! See you on your mat in a virtual class soon!
Good morning, mindful ones! As we begin week two of self quarantine, it is so serendipitous that we have reached the bliss kosha in our studies.
The final of the five koshas is anandamaya kosha—the bliss sheath. Anandamaya encompasses not the feeling of bliss, but rather, the experience of bliss.
At this innermost layer we feel bliss which in my fleeting experiences is simply feeling more alive as we are freed of blocks on a physical or energetic level. Each breath is in acute focus, everything around is experienced in Technicolor and surround sound audio.
When we are in a state of bliss we are feeling happy, full of purpose and able to experience unconditional love for self and for others. We are liberated from suffering.
The anandamaya kosha is referred to as the true self. Connection to this layer can be described as “coming home.” It is the state of samadhi. ￼
In contrast to vijnanamaya kosha, you do not witness the bliss sheath, you are the bliss. Bliss can be thought of not as an ecstatic happiness or even joy, but a steady state of being, no matter what circumstance arises.
It’s so important to note that it is a state of wholeness and completeness with the moment and it is completely independent of any external circumstances.
Anandamaya is still a sheath, or an illusion, a layer that can be peeled back. When anandamaya is peeled away, we reach atman—our very center. Atman is our direct connection with the divine, with the essence of all that is. It is our pure consciousness. The soul.
Striving to reach anandamaya kosha is a futile attempt, for it is only revealed when we release any form of mind control over it. Anandamaya is not of the mind. It is a deeper experience than that which can be contemplated. Even describing it in words is not completely accurate. The bliss of a child fully immersed in the moment—that is anandamaya.
Yet, even this bliss, however wonderful it is, is still a covering, a sheath, a lampshade covering the pure light of consciousness. It is the subtle most of the five koshas. In the silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, so as to experience the center.
Atman is the Self, the eternal center of consciousness, which was never born and never dies.
Atman, the Self, has been best described as indescribable. The realization of that, in direct experience, is the goal of Yoga. Both on and off our mats.
Have a great week, my mindful ones! Stay connected with us through our virtual classes! You can sign up online or on the app via our Elmhurst studio. All classes are streamed via the Zoom app.
I’m so proud of you for using this time as an opportunity for self-care and self-reflection. ❤️🙏🏾
Good morning dearest yogis! Our March 2020 POTM is Hanumanasa or full front splits.
We’ve intentionally curated this pose during this challenging and unprecedented time, because it embodies the spirit of trust, devotion, a belief in miracles and a willingness to do what needs to be done to serve others.
Hanuman was a half monkey avatar of Lord Shiva. Out of devotion, he leapt from India across the ocean to Sri Lanka to comfort Lord Shiva’s wife who had been kidnapped. He also delivered Shiva’s ring to let her know she would soon be rescued.
In another instance, Hanuman leapt to the mountain to obtain a special healing herb for Lakshmanan. Because he’s a monkey, he wasn’t sure which herb it was! To save precious time, he just carried the entire mountain back down to save his life.
So as you can see, this is a very beautiful pose representing valor and devotion.
1. From a kneeling lunge, start to straighten your front leg as you slide your back leg behind you.
2. You may use blocks on either side of your mat to help position yourself.
3. Lift the ball of your front foot up and slide you front leg as far as your hamstrings will allow. You might first want to stop at Ardha Hanumanasana, the Half Split Pose, take a few breaths there, and then continue.
4. As your front leg straightens, start pushing your back knee backwards so your back thigh is getting closer towards the floor. Make sure your back leg remains straight from the hip and is not extending towards either side.
5. Keep your hips square towards the front of the mat (warrior one hips) and focus on leveling your pelvis rather than reaching it to the ground. Press your inner thighs towards each other to help support your pelvis.
6. Once you become stable, recruit your core and adductors as you lift your arms to the sky. Hold for 5-20 breaths.
Good morning and happy Monday dearest mindful ones.
We are definitely in a situation right now. Remember that calm minds will always prevail! And the universe is always working directly on our behalf, but we may not always see the bigger picture immediately.
How interesting that the next kosha in our study is about the intellect and discernment part of our mind!
The fourth of the koshas is Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means knowing. It is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the processing, thinking, reactionary aspects of the mind or the Manomaya kosha, our third kosha.
Vijnanamaya is pure awareness. It encompasses intuition and intellect. It is that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. It serves as an impartial witness.
Have you ever experienced a moment in your yoga practice where you are much less distracted by random thoughts or occurrences and much less caught up in the anticipation of the next posture?
From this deeper practice, you find that you are more able to feel the pose. You know what is happening deeply within your body and your mind as you settle into the posture, noticing the subtle nuances. This awareness is achieved when vijnanamaya kosha is properly developed and activated.
As we discussed last week, the manomaya kosha can be either useful or detrimental, depending on how we train the mind. We use our yoga practice to become more aware of the auto pilot responses and knee-jerk reactions and judgments.
Vijnanamaya builds on the foundation of the previous, outer sheath—manomaya kosha. Manomaya lays the groundwork for reaching vijnanamaya. We must first navigate the seas of our turbulent and busy minds before we are able to rise above the waves of thoughts that pull us away from our center. With this practice, we develop a steady mind and are able to view ourselves from a distance. Vijnanamaya allows us to step back from our current situation and view it from a better perspective. This is where insight comes from.
The lessons on our mats can always be applied off of our mats! In fact that is truly the point of practice. We can apply this lesson to our current situation. How easy it is to react to all of the fear and uncertainty around us!
Vijnanamaya navigates through those thoughts and finds an island of stillness where we sit in our hearts and observe. From this vantage point, we clearly see how temporary the waves are.
So over the uncertainty of the next couple of weeks, observe your mind and notice when you let it take over with fear
Yogis: have a great week! Use this involuntary vacation as a time to study the deeper limbs of your yoga practice. To allow yourself to rest, relax and reset. What a gift of extra time we have to work on all of our organization and cleaning and purging projects that we’ve been putting off!
Make it a great week of self-love and self-care, yogis￼!
Today we are studying our third kosha: manomaya kosha.
To quickly review, the first kosha -Annamaya – is the outermost sheath, literally the physical body comprised of muscles and bones. The second kosha -Pranamaya -is the energetic layer.
The next of the koshas is Manamaya kosha. This sheath can be described as the mental layer. It is the connection point of the first two and last two koshas.
Manomaya encompasses the processing of thoughts and emotions. It involves the functions of the mind that relate to everyday living and our individual interpretation of life, our physical senses. The manomaya kosha can be either useful or detrimental, depending on how we train the mind. We use our yoga practice to become more aware of the auto pilot responses and knee-jerk reactions and judgments.
During your practice, your mind will come up with all sorts of thoughts about your practice—your ability, your strength, your balance, what your pose looks like. ￼It will also judge the postures of other people. It will comment on the teacher or the teaching. You will make assumptions, you will judge, and at times you may be overcome with emotion. Getting caught up the mind’s constant commentary is a sure way to end up frustrated or unhappy!
But it is all part of the process. This is how the mind works. Now we can see how important the concentration we place on the breath, postures, and gazing point during yoga all help to train the mind to stay present. Instead of being pulled into the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences, by keeping the attention on the breath, the asana, and the gaze, we become more able to simply notice the commentary as it arises, and to let it fall away as we remain steady.
The next time you find yourself getting caught up in the stories you tell yourself, notice that you’ve done so, and bring your attention back to the breath. This constant return of focus to the breath takes work, but eventually it will become an inherent practice that allows us to be more of a witness to our mind rather than held in the grips of our crazy, irrational thoughts.
If you have ever used your breath to help you calm your mind from an overwhelming experience or difficult emotion (on or off the mat), you have felt the two aspects of manomaya kosha.
The ability to rise out of thought patterns that do not serve us is perhaps the most valuable aspect of this practice we call yoga. The mind is a powerful force, and we have the ability to train the mind as a way to find ease in life. This is the potential of manomaya kosha.
Let’s continue our study of the koshas. Last week we discussed the first, outermost kosha: Annamaya which is the physical body.
The second kosha is Pranamaya kosha. Yes, you guessed it! Prana is our life energy.
Simply put, prana is what animates and brings life force to the physical body and the Annamaya kosha.
It allows the invisible indweller, our True Self to be able to manifest in the external, physical world. However, it is easy to misidentify the eternally still, silent center of consciousness as the moving, visible physical body.
The pranamaya kosha is said to be located at the third eye, head and chest. Because it is also related to the aura, it is not simply contained within the physical body – because our aura expands out beyond the body.
To add another layer on to this – the prana is then said to be subdivided into various forms called the vayus. They are: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana.
Yogic texts also tell us that prana moves via the nadis (energy pathways) to the chakras (spinning energy centres that collect, transform and distribute the energy). This might be harder to grasp because we can’t see the vayus, chakras or nadis, not even with an x-ray.
We’ve covered the main chakras in previous blogs. For purposes of this post, we will stick to the Pranamaya kosha.
Breath is paramount to our yoga practice. It is what grounds us into the present moment.
Noticing the breath automatically triggers us to not only lengthen the breath, but to make sure it is actually happening. Of course breath is automatic, but sometimes we hold the breath or allow it to become shallow.
We equalize it – inhale and notice the count – exhale and notice the count. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response), quieting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This also builds up our capacity of breath and the awareness of it. We can notice if the breath is slow and steady or choppy and quick.
This breath awareness prepares us for meditation as well as for conquering our daily life challenges!
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.