manifestation

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.

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: 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: 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!

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: Asanas

Happy Monday, oh Mindful ones!

Let’s continue our study of Ashtanga or the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga as expressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the first two limbs: the Yamas or the guidelines for social behavior and the Niyamas which refer to how we discipline ourselves. So now we move on to our third limb: the asanas or the yoga poses that we practice together at YBD.

The first two limbs prepare us to more fully inhabit this human body through our asanas. The postures that we practice are designed to develop discipline, focus and concentration in order to prepare us, the yoga practitioner, to sit with ease in meditation. The root of the word asana is “as” which means to sit.

This is such an important point: the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third of eight limbs, which factors out to a mere 12.5 percent of our complete practice. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, and the proper caring of it is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation (and life!).

The eight limbs are not necessarily developed in a linear fashion. Indeed, I spent the first eight years of my yoga practice firmly mired in the pursuit of the third limb with the other limbs much less developed. This is a common dilemma that we may find ourselves in- which is ok! The entry point of our practice is just that – how we enter into this lifelong practice. Like life, it evolves and transforms with its own natural rhythm.

There is so much focus on the physical portion of our practice, mainly because it appears to be a tangible. But we really cannot actually SEE yoga – we FEEL it. The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for the Asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture should be steady and comfortable. The next time you are in class, observe yourself:  are you gritting your teeth and tensing in order to find a more advanced variation of a pose? What if you pulled back and focused on calm, steady breathing?

While the asanas are only a small percentage of our complete yoga practice, let’s not forget they are a really fun part of it as well! Have a great week, yogis! Breathe, sweat and smile, my friends!