As we navigate through this busy, shifting season and ever increasing demands for our time and energy, it is important that you replenish your body by doing absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes every day. Even if you cannot take the time right now to practice other poses, this one is exceptionally key.
Archive for the ‘Asana’ Category
“Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you.”
Take a moment to fill in the blank:
My life would be better if _________________________.
I will feel successful when I ________________________.
If only ___________________, then I’d be happy.
There have been many times in my life when I believed that the secret to my happiness was “somewhere out there”. Just the other day for example, I had a moment where I honestly believed that my life would be greatly improve if only I bought a pair of $200 pants from Anthropologie. I mean, I NEEDED those pants. My future happiness depended on it! But, I didn’t buy the pants. And surprisingly enough, my life didn’t fall apart on the spot. After I left the store with my bank account intact, I took a walk in the park, found a sunny patch of grass and laid on my back to watch the clouds. And in that moment, I felt truly happy.
In this media driven society and in a city like New York especially, we are continually surrounded by people who are more talented, have more money, wear hipper clothes, have hotter bodies or prettier faces or cooler hairstyles… And we want what they have. We hold ourselves up beside them in comparison, and we feel bad when we inevitably don’t measure up. But of course! How can we feel happy when we continue to feel that we aren’t good enough just as we are?
Yoga has the power to teach us sustainable happiness – The second of the eight limbs of yoga is the Niyamas, translated as the observances or how we treat ourselves. One in particular, the second of the five Niyamas is Santosha or practice of contentment. When we let go of our desire for something someone else has or something outside of ourself, we step ever closer to finding true contentment and happiness. Santosha requires our willingness to enjoy exactly what each day brings and to be happy with whatever we have, whether that is a lot or a little. It requires daily practice, but over time, we uncover the hollowness of achievement and acquisition; while material wealth and success aren’t evil, we learn that they can never in themselves provide contentment.
This doesn’t mean killing your ambitions or life dreams – Santosha instead helps you destroy all the unnecessary ambitions – things you don’t need. Without the mindless chatter of desire and longing, you have more energy to work on your dreams and ambitions with a pinpointed mind.
Get started on your path towards contentment right now – begin by focusing on your breath. With your eyes closed, allow yourself to feel whole and perfect, just as you are, right at this very moment – not once this or after that, but exactly as you are right now. Carry that with you as you move though your day and keep in mind that you, yourself, exactly as you are, are supremely beautiful.
Yoga Pose for Contentment:
In this pose, your back hand is reaching into your past, your front hand is reaching into your future and your body is firmly rooted in the present moment. Breathe and connect with where you’ve been, looking towards where you’re going, but remain in the now, feeling the sensations in your body and mind.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe, deserve your love and affection.” –Buddha
Today, I bought myself flowers. I had no reason to buy them for myself other than they were bright yellow and made me smile. I would like to be able to say that I do these little random acts of kindness for myself all the time, but I don’t. I give up my seat on the subway for those who need it, I compliment and smile at strangers, I call friends and family regularly just to say ‘I love you’, but I sometimes forget to extend these types little courtesies to myself.
So, this month, as Valentine’s Day approaches, consider showering yourself with a little self-love – whatever that means to you. Maybe you buy yourself a special treat at your favorite bakery, take a bath, skip to work, write yourself a love note, or try a class at that new pottery school that just opened up. Whatever self-love means to you, give it try. You deserve it.
And since sometimes, I like to practice theme-appropriate yoga around certain holidays, this month, I will focus on a heart opening practice. Here are a few heart-opening yoga poses for you to try on your own:
- Cat/Cow – On your hands and knees begin by breathing in deeply and lifting your head, heart, and tailbone. As you exhale, curl your head and tailbone under as you look at your naval. Repeat 6 times.
- Downward-Facing Dog – From your hands and knees, curl your toes under and push with your hands to lift your hips and lengthen your legs. Allow your heart to open and your head to gently hang from the neck. Stay for 5 deep breaths.
- Bound Bridge – Come onto your back, knees bent, feet hip distance with heels under the knees. Lift your hips, and press your palms down by your waist. Begin to bring your shoulder blades together as you open your chest. Hold for several breaths before rolling down through the spine back to neutral.
End in a comfortable sitting position with your hands in a prayer pose in front of your chest, your thumbs lightly touching your heart. Visualize the sun coming into your heart and radiating throughout your body.
Here are some tips for awakening self-love during your yoga practice:
- Practice your poses with total attention on your breath.
- Take a moment to sit in stillness and focus on someone for whom you are grateful.
- With your focus still on that person, flood him/her with forgiveness whether he/she needs it or not.
- Extend those same feelings of gratitude and forgiveness on yourself.
~ Namaste ~
Many of my clients and students have to come to me recently with stiff necks, tight shoulders and sore backs. Most spend the majority of their day hunkered over a computer while others are just weighed down by heavy bags and busy schedules. I often times even catch myself completely slumped over during my commutes and it takes it toll. Stress often winds up stored in the neck, shoulders, and back, which eventually weakens our muscles, limits our range of motion, strains our joints and commands our attention – when our body is in pain it takes up our time and focus. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. The shoulder girdle is designed to allow the neck and arms to move freely and once we learn to fully relax the muscles, we can then strengthen them.
Yoga doesn’t have to be strenuous or super hard core. Try practicing poses with the least amount of tension and effort and focus on finding comfort. Use your breath for support and listen to what your body is telling you. Be mindful of tight or painful areas as you move.
Easy poses to release tension –
For sore necks try:
Lying on your back with a blanket or towel rolled under your neck. The roll should be large enough to wedge between the base of your skull and your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Elbows together, place the palms of your hands on your forehead. With deep breaths, gently begin to slide the shoulder blades away from your skull. Remain up to 5 minutes, then remove the roll and continue to lie on your back for a few more breaths.
For sore backs try:
Standing with feet hip width apart and parallel. Bend your knees enough so you can drape your belly and chest on your thighs. Release your arms and your neck. Relax muscles along the spine and breathe, patiently waiting for them to release. To come out, curl hips under and slowly roll up stacking each vertebrae, one on top of the other until you are upright.
For sore shoulders try:
Beginning on your hands and knees. Thread your right arm under your left until you are resting on your right shoulder and the right side of your face. Ease into rolling a bit more into your shoulder and stay for a few breaths. Come out and try the other side.