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Challenges in Postures and in Life

    How do you approach challenging yoga poses?  For beginners often downward dog is challenging. For me back bending is challenging.  For years I disliked the standing pose, virabhadrasana (warrior) 1.  It felt so awkward to face front, lift my arms overhead, bend my front knee,  extend my back leg, and take my heel to the floor - or not.  My tight shoulders could not align the arms by the ears, my hips and low back argued back and forth about which was it going to be -a back bend, or hips level and facing forward.  It took me many years before I could find the proper alignment for my body with arms held a bit wider apart and my hips and low back found a comfortable relationship to stand steady without a fight. 

     How do we handle discomfort whether in a pose or with a circumstance in life?  I currently find myself squirming with a particular life situation.  It does not...

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Peace of Mind

     Yoga is a daily practice.  By practice I do not mean just the physical part of postures, but how I conduct myself on a daily basis.  How do I show up in the world?  How peaceful is my mind?  How close am I to living by the yamas and niyamas? (For further details about yamas and niyamas see Blog posts March 22, 2021 https://somalumina-yoga.mykajabi.com/blog/the-niyamas  and March 29 2021 https://somalumina-yoga.mykajabi.com/blog/the-yamas ) These self-restraints (non-harming, non-lying , non-stealing, not over indulging the senses, and  not being attached to our possessions) and observances (cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and the recognition of something which is greater than ourselves) are just as challenging as any posture. These self-restraints and observances are the supports for bringing the mind to peace.

     Last week I shared my personal attempt at the niyama of...

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Meditation

     According to Classical yoga all of the preceding steps of ashtanga yoga from yamas (restraints), niyamas (self observances), asana (stabilizing the body), pranayama (harnessing prana), to pratyahara (the withdrawal of the mind from outward sensations), all have been laying the foundation for the ability to control the mind’s field of attention in meditation. Meditation continues from pratyahara, moving the mind inward and then to a single object of focus.

     The last three limbs of ashtanga yoga are dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, which are collectively referred to as samyama. The beginning stage of meditation is dharana, which is focusing the mind on a singular object.   When the focused attention can be sustained for long periods of time, then it is called dhyana. (Traditionally for longer than 12 breath cycles, but who is counting because that would be a loss of singular focus!) Broadly speaking, the deeper state of...

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Do Your Senses Get You in Trouble?

     Do you remember learning about the senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound? It was placed somewhere between math problems and learning about the different states of the USA.  It was taught as five ways of perceiving without the connection to how much power they have on our emotions. The senses are a major driver of our experience of likes and dislikes and therefore our emotions. Interpretation of sensory experiences can lead you into disgust, ecstasy, despair, or delight. Through our senses we are moved away with some degree of repulsion or towards with attraction and sometimes we are neutral with no particular emotional response.

     Experiences are created through our senses. In the transition through puberty the timing of when to start using deodorant to cover up body odors could make our break your popularity among your peers, or your acceptance of others.  Does enjoyment over the taste of good food lead you to eat...

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Money Can’t Plug Up All the (W)Holes

Have to be whole to enjoy life. 

Have to have soul to enjoy life. 

Have to be your whole soul to enjoy life.

 

Money can plug the mortgage hole, the utility hole, the mobile phone hole.

Money can plug the internet hole, the clothing hole, the food hole, the car finance hole. 

Money can plug a lot of holes. 

Money can even fill a doughnut hole.

But money cannot fill up all the (w)holes

Money does not fill the whole soul. 

 

Money fills holes of physical comfort, which is not the same as whole soul comfort. 

No currency can fulfill the soul joy of being whole.

Connection is the wealth of the soul.

Connection with own self-worth,

Connection to the love and laughter of family, and friends,

Connection to the beauty, and awe of nature, and the infinite

    make the soul whole.

 

Money is the physical possession. Possessiveness finds the holes.

Relation is making connection. Connection finds the whole.

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Pranayama

     This post is part of a series on the eight limbs of yoga known as Ashtanga yoga outlined by Patanjali over a thousand years ago. The first three limbs are the yamas, niyamas, and asana. These have been described in earlier posts. The fourth limb is pranayama. As we move from the beginning limbs to the latter limbs the practices become more and more subtle. First we move from outward restraints (yamas) and observances (niyamas)  then turn inward to the balancing of tension within our body (asana), and now with pranayama we turn to a more subtle universal force permeating our body and mind

     Behind the breath is the vital life force, or prana. Behind our own prana is prana shakti, the cosmic energy.  This cosmic energy is the impulse that animates all life forms.   The breath is our doorway to this cosmic energy. The cosmic energy that courses through our body and mind is...

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The Healing Force of Nature

     I am interrupting the blog series on the eight limbs of yoga (covered the first three limbs so far) to share a recent personal healing experience. 

     I walk regularly 2 to 3 miles daily.  The other day I was one mile into my walk when an oval blur in my right visual field appeared. This was the classic sign of the onset of a  migraine headache.   Usually I have 15 minutes before the visual symptoms turn into a full blown stabbing headache with nausea and vomiting.  If I hurried home I could make it in just over 15 minutes. On the other hand to hurry would only intensify the headache. I decided rather than backtracking home through street traffic and different neighborhoods, I would enter the wooded trail then take a shortcut through the field that would take me back home.  

     This decision to go into the woods was influenced by recalling the research of an...

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Asana

     In this post we are moving to the third stage of the eight limbs of ashantanga yoga (not to be confuse with the westernized brand by the same name) as laid out by Patanjali almost two thousand years ago.  The first two stages being the yamas and niyamas, respectively, which were described in earlier posts.  Here at the third stage is the mention of postures or asana.

     It is the postures that people mostly associate with yoga. In the classical yoga text, Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali mentions the word asana only two times out of 195 verses!  Asana is important to the practice of yoga but is not the entire practice of yoga. Sutra means thread. Patanjali lays out 195 threads to codify the method and state of yoga. Chapter II addresses the outer practices of the eight limbs of yoga and verses 46 through 48 describes the way that asana should be approached. The goal of asana is for the posture to be maintained with comfort and stability....

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The Niyamas

     Much of the practice of yoga actually occurs off the mat.  The practices on the mat or the meditation cushion are to give us experiences that help to reinforce our ability to be in the world with a peaceful mind.  Last week's post discussed the first step, the yamas, in the practice of Classical or Raja yoga.  This week we will look at the second step of an eight limb yoga approach to obtaining fulfillment and freedom in an imperfect world.  To recap the five yamas are  restraints in terms of non-harming, non-lying , non-stealing, not over indulging the senses, and  not being attached to our possessions. This week we will look at the five niyamas which are observances consisting of cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and the recognition of something which is greater than ourselves.  

     Cleanliness is both external and internal. This include the...

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The Yamas

     Yoga begins even before the mat hits the floor or taking a seat on the cushion.  The first step of Classical yoga also known as Raja yoga is the yamas, otherwise known as restaints.

     The entire goal of yoga is to attain fulfillment and freedom. Yoga has the goal of living a life in this imperfect world free from sorrow.  To "be in the world but not of it."  This can only happen when we are established in our true essence. This takes awareness and effort. This can seem like a tall order but even the small steps bare great benefits. 

     There are five yamas or ways to act in the world. These five restraints are non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-attachment. 

     Non-harming is the foundation of all other restraints.  First do no harm. That is the Hippocratic oath of all physicians when it comes to treating patients.  Harm does not have to...

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