The grace and beauty of yoga

Here is a small collection of pictures that illustrates how graceful and beautiful yoga can be. I hope you enjoy.

yoga031

yoga029

yoga024

Body as Temple

Body as Temple

yoga003

yoga-in-the-jungle

yoga022

yoga002

yoga-2

yoga030

yoga-en-couple-a-la-mer

yoga-balancing-pose

triangle-pose-1

yoga018

yoga004

Namste

Advertisements

It’s a choice – Part 2

In “It’s a choice” I discussed the need to make a conscious choice each day. The choice you must make is to choose a positive outlook over potentially negative behavior that is in response to the stimuli around you. Seems pretty simple, but as mentioned in the previous post it isn’t. You need to set the stage for choosing a positive response to life and the challenges you will face on a daily basis. I mentioned that you will need to nourish your mind and your body to prepare yourself for this transformation; failing to do so will leave you susceptible to reacting instead of controlling your behavior. I’m going to make a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourself to begin making those positive choices:

Yoga – practicing yoga can calm your body and your mind. It is more than a form of exercise, and can lead you to discover many things about yourself that few activities can offer. Yoga is also a great prelude to meditation, which I will discuss next.

exercise yoga class

Meditation –  I would recommend that you meditate for at least 10 minutes in the morning, preferably after you have done some form of exercise and before you start your work day. Meditation can help you control your mind by actually quieting it. Over time you will have the ability to center your mind on the present and turn off some of the noise that goes on in your head.

Old zen saying

Affirmations – I was not a big fan on using affirmations until recently. I think they are most effective when they follow your meditation session. You need to come up with a list of 3 to 6 statements that reinforce what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t just read them, say them out loud. Here are the ones I say each day when I’m finished meditating:

  • I am grateful for the opportunity to make today a great day.
  • I am confident in my abilities, and will work with purpose and joy.
  • I will lead by example, being positive, showing appreciation and compassion.
  • I will stay focused on the present, and enjoy each moment.

Affirmations1

This is what I have found effective, but you might find that running is a good substitute for yoga, or taking the dog for a walk, riding a bike, or doing Pilates. The key isn’t so much what you do as long as it is a physical activity that can be a precursor to meditation.

I know you are busy, and don’t have time for a yoga practice and 10 – 20 minutes of meditation, but what if you could make a 30 – 40 minute investment every morning. Maybe you would have to get up a little earlier to fit these things into your day. Remember you are investing in yourself, in your piece of mind.

I’m guessing that in your heart, you know you are worth it.

In “It’s a choice Part 3” I will write about why it is important to understand how your diet influences your ability to make positive choices in your life.

Namaste

 

 

How Yoga & Meditation saved my life

Yes, this title is a bit dramatic, but there is more than a little truth to it. I am also somewhat ashamed that I haven’t posted any of my own writing for some time, and I’m working on getting something posted, once a week.

women doing cobra

After some time off work, I joined a company, and found myself more unhappy than I have ever been at work. It turned out to be a combination of extremely poor leadership at the company and work that I didn’t enjoy. My stress levels were skyrocketing, and I leaned on some familiar ways of coping including a lot of binge drinking, which of course did little to relieve the growing anxiety and displeasure with my situation. When I wasn’t medicating myself, I began delving into other ways to help control my emotions, including reading about Buddhism, adding yoga to my daily routine, and meditating in the morning. I even started to listen to things like The Law of Attraction or classical music on my way into work to prepare me for the mental war that was being waged in my mind while working.

My somewhat sporadic use of yoga and meditation, finally turned into a daily ritual, and then it replaced drinking as a way of coping with my situation. After a couple months I quit drinking all together. The stress at work only increased, but my negative reaction to it began to become less severe and the amount of time I was upset by it started decreasing. There have been other times in my life when stress and anxiety were my close companion, but never to this extent. I can honestly say that my utter dislike for this work situation was probably a blessing in disguise, and led me to making a really sincere effort to cope with it. I really had two choices at the time; quit the job or find a way to deal with the stress. While this job led me to a regular yoga and meditation practice, which allowed me to cope with this situation, it also made me more resolute to do something about it. This led to pursuing other opportunities and I recently landed a new job and resigned eliminating the stressor part of the equation, well at least that one.

The question is why do I credit yoga and meditation for allowing me to cope and even take action. I won’t go into all the physiological reasons why yoga and meditation seem to work so well, as you can Google that yourself, or read some of my earlier posts. What I can say is there is a synergy when combining yoga and meditation. Your yoga practice is the perfect precursor to meditation as it depends upon an awareness of your breath, relieves tension through stretching, and thus sets the stage for sitting in meditation for 10 – 20 minutes. I find it much easier to meditate after my yoga practice, allowing me to reach a calmer state of mind much sooner than without it.

I don’t think that my experience of dealing with stress, anxiety, and other forms of mental anguish is unique. In fact I’m not sure anyone is immune to the stimulus that manifests itself in negative thoughts, sleepless nights, and all the self torture that is often the result of how we decide to cope with it all. Notable exceptions might be monks, young children, and those of you in the 1% category that have your shit together. For the rest of us that might want to consider another way of coping; I can heartily recommend giving yoga, followed by 10 – 20 minutes of meditation a try. Be committed to your practice, and within a couple weeks you begin to the see results. Here a few things you can expect from your yoga and meditation practice:

  • You will be calmer, little things that really pissed you off just don’t anymore
  • Your ability to cope with stress improves
  • Having a new coping mechanism can free you from those habits that were destructive and didn’t really work
  • It is inexpensive or free to pursue a yoga and meditation practice
  • Your ability to think with a greater level of clarity will improve
  • You might even begin to be a little more tolerant of other human beings, act more compasionate, and be more empathetic
  • Last but not least you will be healthier as you do something good for your body and your mind

Namaste

Is Yoga exercise?

I was reading Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar a couple days ago, and historically the actual act of performing an asana is only a fraction of what yoga is all about. Even if you have never studied the origins of yoga one must appreciate there is something different about yoga. It is not like strength training, although strength is an important component of yoga. It is not like Pilates, although core strength is very important. It is not like distance running, although breathing is key to performing an asana. Maybe the difference between yoga and some forms of exercise I have mentioned is in the purpose. One runs to build aerobic capacity, for overall fitness, and to get the runners high. If you perform Pilates you are building stronger core muscles and getting a great workout at the same time. Strength training or bodybuilding is about increasing strength and size of all the muscles in the body.

yogaBigban

Now don’t get me wrong, it is not my intention to disparage any form of exercise, and clearly my list of reasons one engages in a form of exercise is not exhaustive. Maybe all one can do is express things from their own perspective. For me yoga does more than exercise my body, building strength and flexibility. My purpose for practicing yoga includes:

  • opening my body up, removing stress, and calming me
  • a prerequisite to meditation, making it easier to sit
  • brings me into the now
  • makes me want to take better care of myself
  • seems to interconnect with other interests like Buddhism
  • supports an interest in a more ecological existence on earth

Back to the question is yoga exercise? Sure in the sense that it strengthens the body, increases flexibility, enhances blood flow, and aerobic capacity. It is also therapeutic for the mind, in bringing calmness, a sense of accomplishment, and a lifetime of challenge. If you have been practicing yoga and still feel it is just another form of exercise and nothing more, then I challenge you to read a few pages from Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar or The Power of Ashtanga Yoga by Kino MacGregor to get a little historical perspective.

No more excuses, take your socks off, and get on the mat.

Namaste

 

Early or Late?

women doing cobra

Should you engage in your yoga practice first thing in the morning or later in the day? Many of the experts out there would say first thing in the morning is the best time, and if that’s not possible then later in the day is also acceptable. I used to go on that premise and once I was fully awake I would be on the mat starting with sun salutations. I also tried performing my yoga practice after work and found there are pros and cons to both approaches:

Morning Practice

Pros

  • You get it done first thing in the day, and don’t have to worry about something else coming up.
  • Yoga done first thing in the morning sets the stage for morning meditation by breathing and stretching before sitting.
  • Both the yoga and meditation enhance your frame of mind as you start your day.
  • Early in the morning is usually quieter for both yoga and meditation.

Cons

  • You are the least flexible first thing in the morning.
  • You must make time for it and you may have lots of things to take care of first thing in the morning.

Evening Practice

Pros

  • You are the most flexible later in the day. I found this particularly true for me as I was much more flexible at night versus first thing in the morning.
  • After working all day you may really need some physical activity and yoga is a great way to re-awaken your body, especially if you have a job where you sit all day.
  • It sets the stage for an evening meditation session.

Cons

  • It is more likely that something else may come up and you end up skipping your practice.
  • If you are also performing some other form of exercise you will need to determine how to fit this in. I personally had to move my strength training to the weekend so I could concentrate on yoga during the week nights.

I am currently performing my yoga practice in the evenings as soon as I get home from work, and when I’m done I spend about 20 minutes meditating. I would also note that while I don’t practice yoga in the mornings I do other forms of exercise and about 10 minutes of meditation. My strength training routine had to change as I went from a 6 day split to a 3 day split, with the majority of this being done on Saturday and Sunday.  This leaves me 5 days a week to devote to yoga in the evening. I guess you have to ask yourself, what works best for you and your lifestyle? Can I get up early enough and have the uninterrupted time needed to perform a morning practice or is it more convenient to do it after work? Neither of the approaches is optimal for people with demanding careers, but choose the least objectionable one and make sure you make it a priority.

Namaste