Smithsonian yoga exhibit lectures now all online for you

The Confluence Countdown

I’d been paying attention to the Freer|Sackler Youtube page, figuring at some point they’d get up some things from the big yoga exhibit. I slacked off, but they are available at this link. They’ve been up a couple of weeks — and only have 60 or so views each, so I don’t feel like we’re too far behind.

I’m hoping that link works — it was a bit wonky for me. So, if it doesn’t, here’s one of the videos (it should be the first), and if you click through on it, it’ll get you there (no promises about where there is):

There is about four hours worth.

We still are planning to catch the show when it comes out to San Francisco, and I’m sure we’ll write something about it — although a little late to the party.

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Tiny Devotions + Daily Cup of Yoga Mala Giveaway

With summer days quickly fading and the summer yoga festival circuit coming to a symbolic savasana (wait, wait…you still have time to hit up Bhakti Fest!), we thought you could use a little sunny news. So cheer up because right now you have a chance to win some new yoga mala bling, courtesy of Tiny Devotions!

As I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, the first yoga book I ever read was Yoga for Dummies by the late yoga scholar, Georg Feuerstein. Yeah, I thought it would be on my level at the time so I picked it up at the local Barnes & Noble, but I discovered and have since realized I couldn’t have started my yoga journey with a better book. I now have a pretty extensive yoga library, but I would still highly recommend Yoga for Dummies to any aspiring yogi.

How to win: Anyhow, to win a fabulous 108 bead mala, leave a comment about the first yoga book you read and let us know what you thought about it. Also, it wouldn’t hurt if you left a preference in the comment of your favorite 108 bead mala with a link (check them out here).

The winner will be chosen at random and announced next Wednesday (5 Sept 12). Good luck and namaste!

Yoga Solutions for Better Sleep

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by life coach, yoga teacher, and libreliving.com founder, Lindsey Lewis.]

Apparently the National Sleep Foundation is onto something. 65% of all Americans have trouble sleeping. Here are some yoga solutions for sleep that I’ve shared along the way to help non-sleepers become dreamy sleepers. I hope they help you, too.

1. Bring the outside in. Getting outside during the day is essential. And not just outside into a concrete jungle, but somewhere with green: lawn, trees, bushes, shrubs. Stand in the space and breathe it in. Study after study—including this one on how nature-viewing commuters feel calmer—has shown that nature soothes us. Plus, getting outside, and noticing the planet, helps to remind us that we’re a very small part of this great big Om, helping us to recognize the real size of the stressor: Pretty tiny.

2. Burn the adrenaline and cortisol. There are varying opinions on whether the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol actually remain in our system after we’ve gotten stressed, or if they’re just released every time our minds re-live the stressor. But everyone agrees exercise helps relieve them. Go for a jog, a power-walk, or do power yoga, Kundalini yoga, a strong Hatha class, or anything else that draws you (Zumba, anyone?). Don’t have time to get to the yoga studio? Try one of the videos at http://www.myyogaonline.com/.

3. Notice your mind. Yogic philosophy encourages us to see our mind as a tool, rather than our master—and to view our thoughts, no matter what they are, as just thoughts. Sometimes simply noticing our thoughts and labeling them as just thoughts, no matter how important our active mind wants us to believe they are, can help us find distance between our essential, peace-full, joy-full selves, and our busy mind. It might help to use the mantra “Noticing my thoughts” on the inhale, and “Letting them go” on the exhale.

4. Soothe your own asana. I love taking a 15-minute Viparita Karani in the evening. While in legs-up-the-wall pose, I cover myself with a blanket, put something soft and light over my eyes, and simply let myself be. I don’t even deepen my breath, I just get out of the way of it, by simply noticing it. After a little bit, my breathing becomes deeper, longer, calmer.

5. Pranayama pointers. As a couple people pointed out in the last post, kapala bhati is often used as an energizing breath. I find that people who have serious trouble sleeping love it and find it effective. But there are other pranayams that work well, too. Nadi Shodhana helps to balance our prana, bringing it evenly into both nadis (energy channels) spiraling on either side of our Sushumna channel (spine), and bringing our system into a state of equilibrium. Try it for 10 minutes, seated comfortably.

Happy sleeping, and Namaste,

Lindsey

Making Your Yoga Practice a Moving Meditation

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From interview of Ashtanga yoga pioneer, David Williams, in Guruji:

More and more over the years, I work to make my yoga practice a moving meditation, and then at the end of my practice, when I get up and walk away, I continue that meditation into my life, all day long. So I consider the practice to be the foundation of a twenty-four-hour-a-day meditation.

Get your virtual chillax on with Yoga Retreat on Facebook…

You know you’re curious to find out what this Facebook “Yoga Retreat” game is all about. Well, wait no longer, Yoga Retreat is now live and just waiting for you to unleash your virtual yogic amazingness.

 Here’s more details from the press release:

HELSINKI, Finland – August 9th 2012 – Gajatri Studios, an independent and innovative social games development studio, announce the release today of their debut title, Yoga Retreat on Facebook.

The first social management game derived from authentic well-being and yoga content, players will take on the role as a yogini, building their own tropical wellbeing island resort through practicing and teaching genuine yoga techniques, curing their digital customers’ ailments and completing quests to collect virtual currency.

As players advance through Yoga Retreat, new yoga poses to practise and facilities to build and use will be unlocked.  These include the Steam Room for aching muscles, the Beach practice area for advanced yoga practices and the Juice Bar where healthy drinks for ailing customers can be made from ingredients harvested from the resort. Playing alongside Facebook friends will enhance the game experience as players can share items and visit ‘Friends’ retreats.

“People new to yoga often tell me that they have a hurdle of going into yoga classes because they do not understand why asanas are practiced, or the logic of the flow, or do not recognize the pose names. Yoga Retreat uses fun game mechanics such as practicing and teaching yoga, as well as curing customers ailments, to gradually reveal these ideas for casual game players.” Commented Tiina Zilliacus, founder of Gajatri Studios

In addition to the well-being techniques players will learn throughout the game, Yoga Cat, the in-game furry friend is on hand to show players simple neck, shoulder and spine exercises for the a truly relaxing social gaming experience.

A gameplay trailer for Yoga Retreat can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eak8uCCcOkA

About Gajatri Studios

Formed in September 2011 by Tiina Zilliacus, a certified yoga teacher with 14 years of production, marketing and business management experience in games, online and mobile start-ups, Gajatri Studios was created to be an innovative and unique proposition within the social gaming space; a well-being games company creating fun and engaging social games derived from authentic well-being content. Yoga Retreat is set to be the company’s first game, releasing on Facebook in August 2012, a game that is both fun and uplifting highlighting genuine yoga techniques to enhance players’ mental and physical health.

Isn’t Yoga Cat cute? What do you think–are you going to play?

Vinyasa Yoga – How Flow Can You Go?

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by YOME – ‘The Yoga Portal For Wonderful Life’]

While K. Pattabhi Jois popularized Vinyasa yoga in the Western world, Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, (Ashtanga meaning 8-limbed path in ancient yogic teachings) has arguably been around for centuries. In many circles, it is simply known as ‘flow’ yoga since the asana are practiced much like Surya Namaskara, or sun salutations, in a continuous flow from one movement to another coordinated with the breath. The great thing about a Vinyasa practice, or simply, flow, is that participants can get more of a cardiovascular workout, and while alignment and practicing asana correctly is vital, there is a freedom of movement not always apparent in other styles of yoga that many people enjoy.

From the Primary Series to True Flow – What’s the Best?

Some ‘flow’ teachers aside from the famous Pattabhi Jois include people as diverse as Shiva Rea, who does an almost dance-like version, and lesser-known Himalayaa Behl, who incorporates some Bollywood movements into her yoga practice. Traditional Ashtangi’s, however, will practice the primary series, a specific grouping of postures, and then eventually move on to the second series, etc. In a ‘true’ Ashtanga yoga class you will hold each posture for exactly five full breaths, and this formula is never strayed from. While Mysore, India, is now frequently called “Ashtanga City,” due to Jois’s legacy, I believe that any true yoga master will agree that all forms of yoga can be modified or evolved so that the practice fits your particular needs. More dance-like, flowing movements is a cornerstone of the ‘flow’ movement, but it came from Ashtanga yoga, while allowing the creativity of the teacher to come through. So the true question becomes, how flow can you go, and still be practicing yoga?

Yoga Diversified – Always Has Been and Always Will Be

When you consider that there were originally many different types of yoga being practiced all over India, and that Patanjali (the sage who is given credit for compiling a bunch of oral systems into a cohesive set of universal sutras, called the Yoga Sutras) was just one of the yoga gurus who happened to write down their thoughts on a cohesive system of yoga, then it begs the question – can I expand my understanding of yoga so that it includes instead of excludes?

A Little Yogic History

The oldest known yoga teachings, after all, with archeological documentation are between 10,000 and 3,000 years old, since dating of Vedic seals and Stone Age shamanism aim to define pre-classical yoga. Yoga had its own stages of evolution too – if you look at its history. Before Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas (a main component of the Yoga Sutras which informs many of the modern yoga teachings, Ashtanga included) they were practicing yoga near the Saraswati River – this is where the great Rig Veda was said to have been produced, and new satellite images point to this area being a hot-bed of yoga practice. Now, scientists are coming to the conclusion that this area is dated to 3000 BCE. Is it not logical, then, to allow for a continuation of yogic evolution from this far-reaching date in our history?

If you ask yourself whether your teacher is practicing Vinyasa yoga correctly, you should consider that there are dozens of branches of yogic science, from Bhakti and Jnana yoga, to details on diet and meditation practices numbering in the hundreds. There is yoga inspired by ancient India and evolved through Buddhism and Sikkhism, and Shivaism. There is the evolution of yoga through Christianity and atheism. Yoga has a thousand faces and a million names, but its ultimate aim is to bring you closer to an awareness of the divine within yourself and for you to lose your erroneous belief that there is an ‘other.’ Yoga is inclusive, not exclusive. So, how flow should you go? If it brings you joy and opens your body and mind – then you are headed in the right direction.

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Posted by: YOME- The Yoga Portal For Wonderful Life

YOME connects yoga teachers with yoga practitioners and features FREE high quality, hand-picked yoga videos at any style which you can select according to your specific need. To practice yoga anywhere anytime you can create your own list of Favorite Yoga Videos. Visit http://YogaMeditationHome.com to register and start your yoga journey.

Connect with YOME on Facebook and Twitter.

[Image courtesy of Keidel]

High Vibrations Yoga DVD by Jo Tastula

I’ve been practicing yoga pretty regularly lately with YogaGlo and one of my favorite yoga teachers on the site is Jo Tastula. Besides having a great Australian accent she teaches a pretty darn near perfect vinyasa flow class. I always feel inspired, focused, and in the moment afterwards. Most of her classes on YogaGlo range between 30 and 60 minutes–enough time to get good and sweaty–, but I recently discovered she also has an excellently produced DVD, High Vibrations Yoga, which consists of five short meditations and five sun salutation practices. Any combination of the practices can be completed in less than 20 minutes. Great for those moments when you don’t have a lot of time, but want to reconnect with and realign your body’s energy.

The five practices focus on the concepts of abundance, release, strength, balance, and peace. As the instructions for the DVD state, you should “start where you are. Get still. Listen within, and take a deeply honest survey of how you are feeling,” and then choose one of the meditations and yoga practices for a transformational yoga pick-me-up. In addition to the outstanding yoga instruction, the music is top notch (Lisbeth Scott’s vocals are absolutely mesmerizing) and the scenery of Sequoia National Park is stunning. All in all it’s a great beginning to intermediate yoga practice for those not looking to get really sweaty, but looking for a little inner peace and outer strength.

David Swenson on Change and Personal Growth

“If you want to grow…

…you have to take that step into the unknown…”

Inspiring to listen to David’s insight into personal growth and pushing our limits. Also noticed that David has a new blog section on his website and that he has some new ashtanga yoga posters…SWEET!…totally going to snag one of those.

Water (Jala) in a Pitta Time

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Melina Meza, BS Nutrition, RYT-500]

The water (jala) element plays a significant role in the Ayurvedic system during the summer season to balance the intensity of fire (agni) which can be transformative or fierce. Water is considered a balancing, cooling, calming force, essential to maintain our health, longevity, and juicy tissues. If you get overexposed to the fire element in nature, or become dehydrated, over-exercise during the hottest time of day, lose sleep, or travel too often, your luscious water body and inner reservoir of life-sustaining fluids will begin to evaporate into space and leave you feeling irritated, tired, and unfocused. Without sufficient water and hydration, your inner ecosystem will be in the red-alert, “high risk category” for running too hot and dry in the Pitta time of year, which occurs during June-August in North America.

Water is essential for life as we know it to exist. It is in every plant and food that we eat, in every cell in our body, and within everything in nature, yet it’s easy to forget how precious water is, where it comes from, and what it looks like in nature. One way to get re-connected to the water element and the water you drink is to take a hike and discover your local watershed!  Do you know where your drinking water comes from? Do you know the name of your local watershed? What’s its ecosystem looks like? What creatures and plants drink from the same source as you?

Once you arrive in nature, notice how it feels in your body to be near the source of water that sustains your life. Do you feel a connection with water? Can you see how water is part of a dynamic ecosystem, a part of you? I’ve had the good fortune of visiting and meditating by many rivers and a few watersheds this summer and have come to the conclusion that each body of water has its own personality and offers its own medicine. The sounds and rhythms in water do their part to call us into balance, back to our true self, and into our most elemental state. All we have to do is stop and listen.

Without sufficient water on a daily basis, you will likely experience dehydration, dry skin, tight fascia, stiffness, and constipation on a physical level. In life, you might experience a version of this “dryness”—lack of juiciness, when you over commit in work or social situations, eat too many spicy meals, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or coffee, or place yourself in intense situations, like competing for first place in every sport without proper water and electrolyte balancing. A few simple activities such as eating cooling foods and spices, prioritizing leisure time, napping, planning a vacation, or scheduling free time each day to be creative can take you from the dry side of life back into the flow. Summer is ideally the time to chill and be outdoors as often as possible. Give yourself a break, you deserve it!

One simple mindfulness practice I encourage people to consider in the summer is to become more conscious and aware of their water consumption and the temperature of the water they drink. Notice how it feels in your body (hot or cold) after drinking beverages that are room temperature, warm, or iced cold. If it’s hot out and you want to cool down, consider drinking a glass of room temperature water with cucumber and/or mint, adding a squeeze of lime to your drink, or making a cup of peppermint or rose tea to cool down instead of drinking iced cold beverages that may actually have the opposite effect of cooling you down. Once you become of aware of what water temperature works best for you, experiment and place sliced cucumbers or mint leaves in your water to keep you mellow and your water consumption steady.

If you are looking for some foods to help you stay cool and calm, here are a few suggestions for your next visit to the market:

  • Fats: Coconut or sunflower oil
  • Dairy (if you eat dairy)
  • Mung beans & lentils
  • Vegetables: Celery, cucumbers, spinach, sprouts, zucchini
  • Grapes, melons, lime, pomegranate, figs
  • Grains: Barley, basmati, white rice
  • Spices: Saffron, cumin, fennel

Aromatherapy: Lavender, chamomile, clary sage, vetiver, peppermint, rose

Skin Care: Aloe vera applied to burnt skin or try a honey facial to hydrate your skin

Summer Yin Yoga Practice

This sequence I am suggesting is a balancing, yin practice in that it promotes easy, slow, quiet, cooling movement. Find a comfortable place to rest on your back before drawing your knees close to your belly. Take a few moments to close your eyes, relax and unwind, before starting the summer yin/restorative practice.

  • Pranayama with a bolster under your spine: pause and relax after each exhale
  • Supine twist with bent knees
  • Balasana (child’s pose) with forehead resting on hands
  • “Reaching under the bed” pose
  • Mandukasana (wide knee child’s pose with chest on the floor or bolster)
  • Sphinx
  • Virasana
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana (mellow version)
  • Sukhasana (meditation seat)

Additional asana sequences, information and products including Melina’s DVD, Yoga for the Seasons, Fall Vinyasa and book, Art of Sequencing can be found at www.melinameza.com

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Melina has been exploring the art and science of yoga and nutrition for over 17 years. She combines her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, whole foods nutrition, and healthy lifestyle promotion into a unique style called Seasonal Vinyasa.

What is Seasonal Vinyasa – Yoga for the Seasons?

Seasonal Vinyasa describes an artistic style of sequencing asana and seasonal daily rituals. The main inspiration for Seasonal Vinyasa comes from the Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda traditions, two complementary sciences that promote health in body, mind, and spirit. While inspiring the self-knowledge to adjust day-to-day choices and align with what is occurring outside in nature, Seasonal Vinasa emphasizes the teachings of the yogis—that there is no separation between humans and nature.

26 Bikram Hot Yoga Postures

Falling out of a posture means you are human; getting back into the posture means you are a yogi. – Bikram Choudhury

“Yoga With a View”


Last night while waiting for the Bachelorette finale to pop up on Hulu (don’t judge me…), right there on Hulu’s front page I came across a new yoga series that looks like a great way to get a quick yoga pick-me-up. Many of you will likely be familiar with the yoga instructor — the new Mrs. Alec Baldwin, a.k.a. Hilaria Thomas (@hilariabaldwin) — who has been in the news a lot lately and also teamed up with Plum TV for six episodes of “Yoga with a View” on Hulu.

I’m a huge fan of YogaGlo, but it’s tough to argue with a free, refreshing, and calming way to start and end each day.  Shot on location from spectacular settings, the series provides a convenient and visually stunning way to de-stress and recharge in 20 minutes.

Here’s a little flavor of what to expect:

Bhakti Fest 2012: The Festival of Yoga, Kirtan and Wisdom from the Heart Returns to Joshua Tree September 6-9

 


Joshua Tree, CA – July 13, 2012 – Bhakti Fest is celebrating its fourth season September 6 – 9 at the Joshua Tree Desert Retreat Center, in Joshua Tree, CA. Yoga, kirtan music and wisdom workshops will be offered in the tradition of the dynamic Bhakti Fests since 2009.

According to Sridhar Silberfein, Founder and Producer of the Bhakti Fests, “Bhakti is devotion to love. Shining within and without like the sun. We emanate pure love whenever and wherever we go, giving unconditional love to everyone, especially our personal relationships. This year’s Bhakti Fest will be a total immersion in this love for all the presenters and attendees.”

Music provides the core of the Bhakti Fest. Attendees will have the opportunity to experience devotional chanting, called kirtan, continuously, along with nationally acclaimed musicians including Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal, WAH and Donna De Lory, to name a few. Twelve hours of daily yoga classes in three large studios will be facilitated by incomparable and world-renowned yoga teachers such as Shiva Rea, Sara Ivanhoe and Bryan Kest. Each day will also feature extensive wisdom workshops geared to educate and inspire with some of the most formidable guides of our time, covering such topics as Aromatherapy, Nutrition, Pranayama, Mantras and Mudras, Meditation and more. Presenters include Radhanath Swami Shyamdas, Ron Alexander, Mirabai Devi, Lorin Roche, David Haberman and others.

Attendees will be invited to leave the busy world behind and immerse themselves in a conscious community for four full days for what the festival producers call “the path of the heart.” They will experience an independent thriving community complete with an eco-friendly vendor village of more than 100 artisan merchants who will offer delicious, high vibrational raw, vegan, and vegetarian foods and beverages, yoga gear, clothing, musical instruments, crafts and more.

The Joshua Tree Desert Retreat Center is the perfect setting to foster inner reflection and spiritual reconnection because of its peacefulness and natural desert beauty. Thousands have come back since 2009 to experience the Bhakti Fests at this pristine resort. Accommodation options include hotels, camping and RV parking, all on site. There are also ten local hotels within ten miles of the event.

For a full list of performers and teachers and to purchase tickets (kids under 12 are FREE) please visit BhaktiFest.org.

 

Finding Balance ~ An Interview with Felicia Tomasko of LA Yoga Magazine

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marina Chetner, who blogs at Bikram Yoga Musings.]

When it comes to her job as Editor-in-Chief at LA Yoga Magazine, Felicia Tomasko is a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. She’s in charge of everything from the publication’s overarching editorial content, to making sure the magazine’s Facebook page is up to date.  A yoga practitioner for the past 25 years, Felicia knows the importance of a regular practice, though there are times when foreboding late nights at LA Yoga Magazine could potentially get the better of her. It’s the power of the ‘positive peer pressure team,’ aka her close group of yoga practice buddies, who ensure she gets in her daily dose of yoga.

We chatted on the phone while she was running errands for one of her writers. So happy to share her knowledge, this is what Felicia had to say:

What does your day to day involve as editor of LA Yoga Magazine?

At LA Yoga we’re a pretty small and tight knit team. An editor is a jack of all trades– it’s being able to look at things from a very big picture of what is going on in the world of yoga: who are the personalities involved, what are the stories that inspire us… Then, looking at the details: timing, deadlines, websites, and emails. I get a couple hundred email messages every hour, as well as text messages, and phone calls. My day is jam packed and makes me really glad I practice yoga!One of the things with editing a magazine is that there are so many bits and pieces to juggle. My work life is a combination of going to meetings, going to yoga class, connecting with people, going to events. There’s a certain amount of time spent at the computer: working on what’s new, what’s coming up, and we write a lot of in-depth stories. I have some days when I am booked in meetings all day, and I have other days when I do not answer my phone and edit all day long.If we look at the teachings of yoga – the tradition of yoga – there’s so much that comes to us in the form of stories. Part of being a magazine editor is looking at all the submissions that come in, working with my regular writers, and asking ourselves: how are we telling compelling stories? I handle everything from story concept, to going to press. When we’re on deadline with the printers, there comes a moment where there is no longer a tomorrow.Being an editor is actually very interesting because some of my childhood friends think I go to a coffee shop, smoke, and sit at a computer. But with writing, there’s really an art to good storytelling. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do with the magazine and the website.

How do you achieve balance on your toughest work days?

I find that I really focus on doing my personal practice first thing in the morning; before my day gets busy with the phone ringing, emails, or what I have to edit. My personal practice is really important to me. Sometimes it is very simple, sometimes it is more elaborate. I’ve worked with a few different meditation traditions and I’ll usually pick a practice to do for a period of time and commit to that. Right now, I have a specific mantra meditation practice I’m working on.

I also do asana practice. I find that my own personal practice in terms of asana varies quite a bit…  Because of long hours sitting at a computer, I do need to do something really active to balance that out. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk or a run in addition to my yoga practice. Our offices are located in Santa Monica so whenever I can, I try to arrange out of the office meetings to which I am able to bike. It’s amazing when I am able to do that because I can combine being outside, getting a workout, and getting to where I need to go. Multi-tasking is important!

I have a small group of yoga practice buddies and this is something that is extremely helpful to me. We’ll meditate together, we’ll run together, we’ll go to yoga class together. We even schedule yoga car pools to make sure we’re getting to class – we’ve got that part down! One of friend’s cars even has my yoga mat in it. It’s important in my life to have that positive support system and positive peer pressure to help get my practice in. It can be a temptation to look at my to do list, or to open my email, and think, “I can’t get to practice today, I have too much to do.” That’s a real trap because by the end of the day you’re cranky, your back hurts, you’ve been sitting at a computer, and thinking, “Wait, where did my practice go? I’m writing about yoga but how am I actually practicing it?”

What does your personal home practice consist of?

I love standing sequences – I’ll do some modified Sun Salutations, I love Downward Facing Dog, and I love standing balancing poses. I’ve been doing lots of sequences that involve Warrior poses and am creative in linking them together in different kinds of ways. And, I really do love Yin practice – I’ll usually do a full Yin practice once a week, and at one other time during the week – a partial Yin practice. I find if I don’t, I get stiff from being at the computer.

A lot of my practice is dictated by the fact I am an editor and the reality of that means a lot of hours at the computer keyboard. This is why I am not crazy about Chaturanga. In terms of my hands, wrists and shoulders, I have to really think about not overusing them but making sure I am doing things to stretch and open them up.

Which studios do you practice at?

I make the rounds of studios in Santa Monica. Sometimes I’ll go to one studio all the time and then rotate to another studio. With what I do at LA Yoga, I really like to stay connected to people in my home yoga community; I do that through going to class. It’s such a rich yoga community, with different teachers, different traditions, and different paths of yoga, so I’ll mix up my own practice.

One of the great things about yoga in general, is that there’s so much variety. We don’t get bored.

What would you recommend to the yoga beginner, faced with a varied selection of yoga styles, in choosing a practice right for them?

In this point in time, there are more people who practice yoga than probably at any other time in history. It’s a great thing, I think, that there’s this democratization of the practice because there are very few things that provide us a sense of: how do we get more in touch with our bodies, how do we develop this relationship that we have with ourselves, how do we become more skilful in our lives, how do we find a sense of ease and sweetness. All these things are what the philosophy of yoga purports to offers us, to teach us.

So how do you find the practice that is right for you? The advice I usually give to people is that a lot of it has to do with our personal relationship, or personal chemistry. If someone walks into a class and thinks, “this isn’t for me,” then it’s probably not yoga but the specific style, or the specific teacher. Even within different styles of yoga, teachers can have different approaches to the practice. So I usually advise that people try out a few different things before ordering the entrée.

It’s also important for us to keep in mind when practicing is how the practice supports our body: are we being pushed past out limits; are we in a situation where we’re able to do something that feels good and has a sense of ease to it; do we have a level of challenge that is appropriate; and, does the teacher support that process of us doing the practice in the body that we have right now?

Why do you think yoga is so popular these days, especially in this techie age?

I think that’s one of the reasons why yoga is so popular. Even though we are so techie, our bodies work best with movement. Many of the movements in yoga, even if they start off somewhat awkward, actually help us to have a better experience with our body. If we’re thinking about the performance of our car, or defragmenting the hard drive on our computers, well, yoga is doing the same thing for our biomechanics. Our own body is practiced in such a way that it is allowing for that.

Tell me about the role education plays in maintaining a yoga practice and general health.

In Yoga Sutras, Patanjali mentions Kleshas, which are obstacles, and one of the obstacles is Avidya – or ignorance. Sometimes we can’t get too mad about it (lack of education) because there is a lot of ignorance in the world. When we think about education, we have to think about how we receive it: it could be through formal schools, the things we read, through email, the things we say or do or write about, or the magazines we read. Whether we’re educated through movies, or through Twitter; when we look at what’s going on in the world today, as much as we can say there’s obesity, for example, at the same time, there are movements to bring yoga to more schools.

There are a lot of training programs that train yoga teachers how to work with school systems and kids. What it takes is not waiting for someone else to do it, but it’s that small part that we can do: how do we educate ourselves, how do we educate each other, how are we role models, and how do we encourage more in our school systems, and also more for people of any age.

I think this is also a time in history where people of different ages are practicing yoga and there is a greater understanding of some of the medical benefits of a yoga practice.

It’s important to be good advocates: for our children, our parents, for how we take care of ourselves, and being part of a positive peer pressure system; and then advocates on a larger level, whether it is in our town, in our school system, or health club.

Jnana yoga – The Intellect Deconstructs Itself to Find Freedom

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by YOME – ‘The Yoga Portal For Wonderful Life’]

Whether you call it the path of wisdom or of ‘right knowledge,’ Jnana or Dhyana yoga (pronounced gi-ya-na) is a path of inquiry into one’s own mind in order to find deeper truths about the world.

Instead of looking externally, or practicing asana, the mind is cultivated and observed as a means of improving the self. Jnana yoga is based on a Vedic wisdom practice which sees the world as undivided, or non-dualistic. You can find this philosophy in Buddhism as well, in the form of dependent arising. This philosophy is not purely eastern in its understanding. Though it is also found in Sufism and Zen, the Gospel of St. Thomas also points to the non-dual nature of reality. As far as Jnana yoga’s Hindu teachers are concerned, Ramana Maharishi and Adi Shankara are two of the most prominent teachers.

In order to improve the ‘self’ one must see correctly. As long as we perceive ourselves as separate from all else, we are not seeing correctly and our actions will result from that ignorance. The path of Jnana yoga requires us to look past the veils of Maya or manifest reality, and see what is ever-present and non-changing. Some call it God. There are relative truths and then there is Truth, with a capital T and that is what Jnana yoga aims for us to uncover.

Who Am I?

One of the main teachings of Jnana yoga, in order that we might uncover greater truths about our world and the way we see it, involves asking one simple question – “who or what am I?” You are not your body. You are not your brain. You are not your parents’ ideas of you or your friends. You are not even your ideas about yourself. You are not a brother, mother, sister, wife, lover, etc. You are not any-thing that is singular. As long as you are tied to an individual reality, then you will suffer, because you don’t align yourself with your true nature – which is Infinite.

Peter Marchand writes in his book, The Yoga of Truth that Jnana yoga has such huge metaphysical underpinnings that it is often misunderstood. It asks you to rationally deconstruct everything about yourself, and this is a task, which the ego does not like to do. He states that, as difficult as this is, the more we remove the veils of body, mind intellect and ego; however, the closer we get to our divine nature, which shines through quite naturally, once the refuse and artifice are cast aside. Marchand also states that the concept of non-duality is a very simple concept – that we are all one – but one we make very difficult because we fear not being the concepts we have created for ourselves. After all, you can call yourself a woman and me a man, (or insert any other label you like) and when we die, we both become food for worms. These are only temporary definitions of a greater Wholeness, which more truly defines who we are.

The Practices of Jnana Yoga

The practices of Jnana yoga are primarily contemplative, meaning we use the intellect to deconstruct the intellect, much like the Zen saying “don’t’ mistake the finger that points at the moon for the moon.” Eventually, the intellect is subdued and one practices meditation, which is the opposite of intellect. It is a state of ‘no-mind’ and it is usually in this state that one can truly perceive their oneness with all that is.

Jnana yoga is considered one of the four pillars of knowledge (4 means and six virtues) required for a yogi to understand prior to reaching enlightenment. The school of Vedanta, a primary teacher of Jnana yoga) lists the following as important teachings for Jnana yogis:

  1. Viveka – discrimination, or the ability to see the difference between what is real and unreal, permanent and temporary, self and not-self. This principle is also found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
  2. Vaiargya – non-attachment, or the decreased yearning for the objects (material manifestations of this world) and a deeper yearning for the ultimate wisdom within.
  3. Mumukshutva – longing or strong passion for learning of the ultimate nature of reality, and thus oneself.
  4. Shat sampat – the six virtues, which include: tranquility, training, withdrawal, forbearance, faith and focus.

The use of mantra, and other tools is also common in Jnana yoga, but ultimately, one must do exactly as Marchand describes, and deconstruct the intellect to uncover the Truth of our Infinite reality.

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YOME- The Yoga Portal For Wonderful Life at: http://YogaMeditationHome.com

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Journaling the State of Yoga

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marina Chetner, who blogs at Bikram Yoga Musings.]

Bill Harper is publisher of the largest circulating yoga magazine in the world, Yoga Journal. Based out of Active Interest Media’s corporate offices in El Segundo, just north of Manhattan Beach in LA, his day is nonstop. Between managing a portfolio of products, keeping in touch with teams across time zones that stretch from NY to San Francisco, and granting time for interviews such as this one, there’s no doubt that he maintains the balance with a liberal dose of yoga.

Here’s what Bill had to say about running a successful brand and the state of the yoga today.

Bill, what’s a typical day like for you as publisher of Yoga Journal?

I would say a typical busy day usually starts in my house at 7:30 in the morning when I check emails from my sales staff on the East Coast.

As the publisher, I am essentially in charge of advertising revenue. This entails 3 specific areas – print magazine, online digital, and event sponsorships such as the upcoming San Diego Yoga Journal Conference. My main day is filled with generating ideas that sales people can sell with: what does the yoga market look like, what areas do we see growing, where do we see opportunities.

I leave the house at around 8:30 and, as my cell doesn’t work in my house but does in the car, I talk to teams in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, and finish up on what we didn’t cover via email. I do like to talk versus email, and spend most of that 45 mins in the car on the phone. By 9, I’m at my desk – fortunately, or unfortunately. Then it’s communications with staff. I also work on Vegetarian Times.

The web has taken a much bigger part of my time because traffic is growing about 30% a year. We redesigned Vegetarian Times this year, which was very successful, and we’ll probably go through a pretty good sized redesign for Yoga Journal next year. Though there’s not a lot to do visually, there’s some back end to fix.

In terms of time, I spend 30% on web business, 40% on print business, and 30% on conference business/sponsorship as we have 4 conferences a year (San Francisco, New York, San Diego, and Colorado).

You’ve been with Yoga Journal for about 6 years.  Before that, you were at Wenner Media working on Rolling Stone, US Magazine, and part of the launch team on Men’s Journal. How different is it working for Yoga Journal?

Well, all are high profile magazines – very high quality and succinct in their mission statements. It gave me an opportunity to look at the yoga market and craft the way we would sell Yoga Journal to the advertising community… and really bring attention to the strength of the yoga market. Luckily, it has been growing and going in the right direction for me. Before Rolling Stone I was at Esquire, so I’ve really done nothing but magazines for my entire working life.

Yoga Journal has great editorial product, great graphics, and great photography. (Working here) It’s almost like night and day in terms of philosophy – the inherent goodness of the people on the staff, and what the magazine communicates outwardly. I guess at one time I became critical in my own life about messages sent out through everything from the television, magazines, and movies… and I was really looking for a place where I could work and feel good about the editorial products and the message that the product delivered. That’s where I think Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times are impressive products that really help people live a better life.

So I do feel good in selling the content and the audience of the magazine to advertisers.

How has circulation of Yoga Journal’s portfolio of media increased over time?

We’ve had a very steady increase on the website; we’ve had a steady increase in the conferences; the magazine has been pretty consistent. In the state of the advertising industry at the moment, there’s more money going into digital and face to face interaction, with advertisers wanting to reach out to customers via sampling and ‘touch-feel.’ The good thing about the magazine is that it has been consistently strong. For the past 5 years we’ve been at a 350K circulation. It may not be growing as quickly as the other areas but we’re happy with it. The worst thing is to be with a magazine whose market is declining.

Yoga Journal has been available on tablet platform since February 2012 with Kindle and Nook, and we’ve been on the Google newsstand since about 2 weeks ago. So, every Android device will have Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times available on it. We’ll be on the iPad in September. (Given this) there should be a big increase in the next 2 or 3 years.

Of print, about 50K is sold on newsstand, and there are 300K subscribers. Of the subscribers, 4 to 5% subscribe digitally.

With publishing undergoing all sorts of changes, what changes has Yoga Journal made in the way it shares content?

The majority of the people who read Yoga Journal practice yoga and look for everything from tips on yoga philosophy, to help with asana sequencing. The big change that has taken place is that we do relate the magazine’s content directly to the website – to make it come alive. Yoga is about movement and that’s where the website and video comes in; to show what the movement (sequencing) is all about.

Why do you think yoga has become so popular?

People have become more conscious of their wellbeing but it’s sometimes hard to find that on your own. I think that there are so many news and media outlets that write about yoga these days – it seems like it started 5 years ago with NYT, WSJ, LA Times, and local newspapers covering a lot. Then along came celebrities like Ashley Judd to Madonna and Lady Gaga. It’s very much out in the market place. Then, you get these big events like the Times Square Solstice where people go, “Wow, I guess I should be doing this…”Then they start doing it (yoga) and realize, “Wow, this is actually pretty good. I like this!”

Just look at the events like the one in Times Square, to upcoming global yoga in Central Park – I think they’re shooting for 15,000 people there. There are these large scale events that are bringing yogis and local communities together that keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s these kinds of things that begin to influence how big the yoga market is to advertisers.

MRI has been measuring yoga since 2001 (their studies include people 18 years and over). In 2001, 4.4 million people were doing yoga, now, there’s 14.5 million.

Were you a yogi before you started at Yoga Journal?

Actually I was not. I was very surprised by how difficult yoga was, and how good it was – not just mentally and emotionally, but physically. So I pretty much started out with Hatha Yoga and did basic flow for a period of time; then did Ashtanga until I pulled my hamstring. I practice at home most of the time. Every once in a while I’ll look at one of the over 200 videos on the Yoga Journal website.

What’s some advice you would give yogis the world over, in terms of their practice?

I would say that you never know until you try. Stick your toe in – the water’s great!

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Marina Chetner is a writer, hot yogi, and passionate world traveler. She writes about all things travel inspired on her eponymous blog, marinachetner.com,and Bikram yoga related on bikramyogamusings.com. At the moment, her favourite asana is Floor Bow because it is such a challenge, she can’t get enough of green juice, and Tokyo is at the top of her travel ‘to do’ list. You can follow her on the aforementioned blogs, or via Twitter: @mchetner.

Taking the Easy Way Out: Warrior III + Life

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lindsey Lewis, yoga teacher, life coach and founder of www.libreliving.com.]

Grace doesn’t grow from strain and struggle; it arises when we let go.

On the mat

I used to think that if a pose was easy for me, it meant it was an easy pose—for everyone. I figured that if I felt strong, energized and calm in Warrior II then everyone did. Never mind the fact that every body is different. Never mind the fact that we’re all in different mental states—not just from each other but from moment to moment. Never mind the fact that different teachers teach things differently and following one teacher’s way of teaching may be easier than following another’s. If a pose was easy for me, it meant it was an easy pose—for everyone. Picture me with blinders on—like a horse plodding one foot in front of the other, seeing only the narrow vista right in front.

Here’s what I didn’t see: that when a pose was really challenging for me, it was me that was challenging the pose, not the other way around.

There I was in Warrior III, wobbling and tipping (and cursing), and my mind is going “Well, hey, of course you’re falling over, you’re on one leg. You’ve got your arms outstretched in front, too, silly. You wanna be stable? Ya gotta stand on two legs.” So I kept wobbling and tipping and cursing.

Until this: I remembered that our bodies are made for asana. And asanas are made for our bodies. In fact, standing on one leg doesn’t have to be difficult at all. But it will be if we convince ourselves it is. If we let our minds tell us it’s unnatural, we’ll topple for sure. But if we don’t….

Whaddya know? My next round was strong and solid—one-legged and everything.

Off the mat

How many times do we tell ourselves something will be hard, or the same as it always is, and it is? What might happen if we told ourselves it would be easy, and better this time?

Imagine what this might do:
– During an interaction with a co-worker you usually clash with
– At your in-laws place
– In a conversation about a topic that usually turns into a fight
– And on and on and on it goes

What recurring challenges do you face? When do you tell yourself that something is hard because it’s hard? Where do you challenge the instance and by doing so make it challenging? Where could you re-program to find ease, grace, and power?

As for me? My horse still likes the blinders, but we’re practicing taking them off as much as possible. He likes chocolate as a reward.

7 Great Yoga Poses for Pregnancy

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Faye Rousso who blogs on the YOME yoga portal.]

Are you ready to relieve some of that pregnancy weight tension? How about strengthening the pelvic floor to get yourself ready for labor and delivery? Here are 7 different yoga poses that will keep you coming back to your mat for a full nine months, and possible thereafter.

Yoga Poses for the Floor – Supine

1. Balasana – Child’s pose – What better way to get ready for delivering a child than to rest in this posture. As your pregnancy weight increases and your belly gets larger, you can practice this posture with the knees spread wide to accommodate the little child growing inside you. Rest with your head on a folded blanket and take deep, calm Ujjayi breaths to instill a relaxation response and release tension in the pelvis, spine, and hips.

2. Viparita Karani – Legs Up the Wall is another great yoga pose to practice when you are pregnant and to keep thereafter. If your feet have swollen to an unrecognizable size and your legs feel tired and heavy it is likely due to the extra pressure on the sacrum and the extra weight your regular frame isn’t used to carrying around all day every day. By letting your legs rest up a wall, or propped up on pillows as high as you can comfortably get them, you allow blood that becomes stagnant in the legs and lower back to more easily recirculate. This can help with swollen feet and vericose veins alike.

3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Ardha Bandha Sarvanghasana are milder versions of a backbend that you can practice while pregnant to help keep circulation going in the all important spinal column, the birthplace of every important action of the nervous system, without over-straining the spine, especially in later stages of pregnancy. You can practice this version of bridge pose with bolsters and pillows or blocks as well, placing one or two blocks under the tailbone and then allowing the feet to walk out from this support to a comfortable distance, stopping when you feel any discomfort or overstretching. It is a heavenly posture to practice with pillows in bed too. Get your significant other to help set you u in your own Sarvangasana cradle.

Yoga Poses for Balance and Energy

4. Chakravakasana – Cat Cow Stretch is another yummy pose to help relieve tension in the shoulders, upper, mid and low back as well as free a stagnant breath. You can practice as many of these as you want all the way through your entire pregnancy without any concern.

5. Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose honors the feminine energy that allows us to hold life within us. This balancing pose is great for expecting moms. It allows you to stretch the groin and hips while working on your balance and concentration. Take your time and if you want to, you can practice be leaning against a wall like spider woman, allowing the shoulders and hips to lean completely against that upright support.

6. Adho Mukha Savasana – Downward Facing Dog is one of yoga’s gifts to women suffering from lower back pain and sciatic nerve discomfort in the legs, often caused by later stages of pregnancy where the weight of the belly presses against the sacrum and supporting muscles and nerves in the pelvis. Downward facing dog will allow the sacrum to stretch deeply, and if your body weight feels too heavy to support in the full posture, you can always practice puppy pose instead using bolsters between your legs and supporting either side of your belly to help relieve the lower back without putting strain on the wrists.

An Essential Pose for Relaxation

7. Savasana – An all important and often overlooked pose is Corpse or relaxation posture. Calming the mind and integrating the energy that you have awakened while doing other yoga poses (asana) is key to feeling relaxed and energized, focused and happy. Practice this posture while focusing on your breath and relax every single muscle. If you like you can even add the practice of Yoga Nidra to this pose which is said to be worth over five hours of REM sleep with just a twenty- minute practice.

A concise presentation with more information on Prenatal Yoga can be found at this link.

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Author: YOME– The Yoga Portal For Wonderful Life. Join YOME on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Take a Vacation When You Can’t Take a Vacation…Courtesy Beginner’s Mind.

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by yoga teacher and life coach Lindsey Lewis of www.libreliving.com]

THE TRAVELLING HIGH

Take a vacation at “om”

Travelling is addicting. I recently read that serotinin—that’s the happy brain chemical—is released when we experience something new. Even receiving new emails is apparently enough to kick it into gear. No wonder we love being on vacation! New-ness around every corner! Serotonin overload!

The other week I realized that I was in desperate need of some new territory—a change of scenery. But I just went to New York, and I’ve got some trips coming up sometime soonish, so I’ve simply gotta save my funds. Since I’m damned if I can’t prove that yoga and other ancient spiritual practices can be useful and helpful in nearly any modern-day situation, I challenged myself to find a way to solve this conundrum using my yogi powers.

THE YOGA HIGH

Here’s my solution: mindfulness. Yup, mindfulness. When we travel we’re more mindful. We’re more present. Because when things are new, we don’t skip past them, caught up in the whirl and wind of our monkey mind. Instead, we are fully aware of our surroundings. Which is actually something we teach in mindfulness-based practices: Using our senses is one of the easiest, most effective practices we can adopt to help us drop out of our planning, rehashing, and worrying mind.

So here I am: planted in my regular spot in the café I regularly hang out in that I arrived at the way I always do, strolling down the streets I always walk. BUT, here’s what I did differently. I pretended I was seeing it all for the first time. Okay, I know I sound a bit like a kids’ book writer here (I can’t help it, I’m hoping to get some published.) I know this sounds like something you and I have heard before. But it really hit home. All I did was drop out of my head, all I did was drop into a somewhat light version of zen mind, or beginner’s mind. I stopped letting my mind convince me I knew it all, had seen it all. And the florist shop was bursting with blooms I’d never registered. The linen shop had sheets and duvet covers that were shockingly fresh and new. The Greek bakery offered treats labeled with names I’d never heard of. Signs were written in a language I took time to comprehend.

THE BEGINNER’S MIND VACATION

Abracadabra mindfulness shaboom: I am on vacation, baby! Who are all these fascinating people? Check out this group meeting for somebody’s birthday—look at the men’s style: all cardigans and skinny jeans and slouchy toques. And the women! Long-sleeve button-ups with high-waisted pants. They’re kinda preppy in a hipster kind of way in this town. Ooops, I just saw someone I know. How did they get here? Wow, we’re on vacation in the same place at the same time! Okay, that may be taking it a bit far.

The point is it was so simple. And so powerful. Mindfulness is mad! It’s incredible! I’ve just taken a leap of faith out of my mind and into the moment and once again the rewards are endless. Jai ho!

With love, Lindsey

5 Different Types of Yoga – Which One Suits You the Best?

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Chiara Fucarino who blogs at Yoga-Paws]

Ah, yoga. What’s not to like about stretching your muscles, sprawling out on a comfortable mat, and losing yourself in tranquility? Not only does practicing yoga tone your body and refresh your mind, it also improves your immune system, helps lower your stress level, and provides so many more health benefits. Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, and we’re still fine-tuning the practice. Today, aside from having a yoga studio around every corner, we have many different styles of yoga. Even though they’re all based on the same poses, each style has a particular focus. For example, one style has a purpose to improve flexibility, while another style primarily strengthens your core.

With many different types of yoga being practiced today, it may be difficult for you to figure out which style benefits your mind and body the most. It’s important for you to find out which type of yoga meets your needs, so here’s a quick explanation of five of the most common yoga styles practiced everywhere.

Hatha

Hatha originated in India in the 15th century. This type of yoga is slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation.

  • Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
  • Good for: Beginners and people wanting to learn the basics of yoga

Vinyasa

Much like Hatha, Vinyasa covers basic poses and breath-synchronized movement. This variety of Hatha yoga emphasizes on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement is matched to the breath.

  • Purpose: To link the breath with movement and to build lean muscle mass throughout the body
  • Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, tones the abdominal muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
  • Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike seeking to strengthen their bodies

Ashtanga

Ashtanga yoga metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. Considered a form of power yoga, Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups.

  • Purpose: To help improve one’s spiritual self
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
  • Good for: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side

Iyengar

Iyengar covers all eight aspects of Ashtanga yoga and focuses on bodily alignment. Different props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Standing poses are emphasized, and are often held for long periods of time.

  • Purpose: To strengthen and bring the body into alignment
  • Benefits: Helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury, and builds up body strength
  • Good for: Beginners who want to learn the correct alignments in each pose and those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions like arthritis

Bikram

Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It’s typically a series of 26 poses that allows for a loosening of tight muscles and sweating.

  • Purpose: To flush out toxins and to deeply stretch the muscles
  • Benefits: Speeds up recovery from an injury, enhances flexibility, and cleanses the body
  • Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves and those with physical injuries

These are only a few of many styles of yoga. Try one or all of them to figure out which one suits your needs the best.

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Mindful Breathing: Round n’ Round We Go…

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Nicole Newman who blogs at Yoga for the Arts.]

“The complex has its root in the simple.” ~Lao-Tzu

Anxiety. Shallow (or rapid) breathing. Muscle tension. Guarded posture. Fear. Fight-or-Flight response activated. Increased restriction of respiration. Oxygen deprivation. Exhaustion. Dysphoria. Augmented anxiety. Psychosomatic illnesses.

The most effective and accessible antidote to anxiety is to establish a grounded, centered breath with sound, referred to as ujjayi, “one who is victorious,” or ujjayi breath, “victorious breath.” Ujjayi is produced by gently narrowing the base of the throat by partially closing the epiglottis (the piece of cartilage at the top of the voicebox) and breathing exclusively through the nose. In spite of its simplicity, ujjayi requires both relaxation of effort and presence of mind, which naturally deepens the breath and calms and strengthens the nervous system.

Practice finding the ujjayi sweet spot by exhaling through the mouth, as if to fog a window. Feel the breath create friction at the base of the throat as the soft palette rises, doming upward. Use this same technique to recreate the oceanic-like sound, but this time close the mouth and inhale and exhale through the nose.

Changing the breath directly influences biochemical reactions, producing more relaxing substances, such as endorphins, while dramatically reducing the production and release of anxiety-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, including adrenaline and cortisol.

An incessant undercurrent of fear and anxiety cause physical and emotional blockages, creating a constrictive armor of tension, which hinders freedom of movement, thought and creativity. A well of untapped potential energy resides at the base of the spine, the root of our nervous system. Through mindfully cultivating an even-tempered, sibilant ujjayi, one can awaken and regulate this seat of inner strength.

When paralyzed by anxious thoughts, I find refuge in and inspiration from the Hindu deity and warrior, Durga, “the invincible,” or in Bengali referred to as “the one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress.” Her unshakable fearlessness prevails, even when embroiled in epic spiritual battles. She embodies fortitude and remains rooted and centered in the eye of the storm. Her many arms wield symbolic weapons, including a sword, representing the power derived from discriminative knowledge.

Learning how to use the breath to reign in the wandering mind brings equanimity and strength of mind and body. Senior Ashtanga teacher, David Swenson is often quoted for sharing the following yogic saying: “The mind is more difficult to control than the wind; But, if we are able to control our breath we may control our mind.”

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Nicole Newman is an Ashtanga practitioner and enthusiast. She studies with her favorite teacher and mentor, Eddie Stern at the Sri Ganesha Temple.

Nicole is a conservatory-trained flutist, who developed scoliosis after practicing several hours a day over many years, without any instruction in mind-body-instrument awareness. Through yoga, Nicole was able to realign her spine and strengthen the muscles supporting her back. She now moves without pain or discomfort. Nicole dedicated herself to sharing the transformative science and art of yoga by founding Yoga for the Arts. Nicole’s mission is to help artists live happier, healthier, more artistically productive lives.