Loving Kindness

We don’t think about the impact we make on people very often. Most of the time we never know what that impact is, good or bad. Recently I have had the opportunity to find out what impact I did make on someone’s life. I had no idea of the impact I had on her life. I knew the effect she had on mine, it was good and is still good. It kind of blew me away.
 photo Threads-that-are-golden.jpgSee I had no idea, let’s call her Charlotte, no idea how she how viewed our friendship in the past. Its been years since we last talked before Charlotte and I reconnected on Facebook. We’ve been messaging for a couple of months, getting caught up on each others lives and getting to know each other again. Even with the gap, it feels normal to have Charlotte back in my life even if it is now long distance.

Charlotte and I met as teens. We were both on the outside looking in. Neither of us fit in for a variety of reasons. We connected on that aspect and became best friends. That friendship helped get me through some rough patches in high school. We lived across town from each other, there was a lot of telephoning.

This reconnection got me thinking of how we impact the lives of people we meet whether you know them or not. Think of how a stranger smiling at you can brighten your day. A minutes worth of conversation nudges your day into the good. It makes me want to strive to be a good friend in those short encounters. Imagine that impact of continuing in a friendship that can span decades. I chose to give hope and kindness to to my friends, family, and strangers.

I make that choice everyday, don’t get me wrong. I am not perfect, there are still arguments, but I choose how I react and handle it after the fact is what is important. Let those you love know and keep smiling at strangers. Let’s imbue the world with loving kindness.


The 8 Limbs of Yoga

There is more to yoga than just the physical practice or asana.  The yoga boom has instilled us with the perspective that yoga will get us the body we want but often lacks the other aspects of yoga.  Let’s take a look at the 8 Limbs of Yoga and how we can start to incorporate them into our lives.
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Yama represents the universal morality.  There are five yamas. They are
ahisma  or compassion, often referred to as non-harming, satya or truthfulness, asteya do not steal, brahmachyra  or control of the senses, aparigraha or non covetousness.

Incorporate it – Pick out a new yama each week and focus on it.

Niyama  is personal observances.  There are five of them and they are: sauca or cleanliness, santosa  is contentment, tapas the direction of our energy, mindfulness is a good example of a tapas, svadhyaya or contemplation, and isvarapranidhana or devotion to the divine.

Incorporate it – Focus on a niyama for a week.

 Asana is the physical practice of yoga and the one we have the most exposure to.  It will detox you, create strength and flexibility, calm, release, and increase circulation to name a few things.

Incorporate it – practice 3 to 5 times a week.  Even a short practice will make a difference.

Pranayama is the expansion of the life force via the breath.  Negative emotions often rear up when starting to learn pranayama.  This practice will help you control your mind and emotions.

Incorporate it – When feeling stressed focus on long deep breathing.  Want something more formal?  Sit for five minutes and focus on the breathe.

 Pratyahara is the control of the senses.  We become used to the barrage of information that we constantly receive from hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching.  This aspect helps us not to be distracted by them.

Incorporate it –  Sit quietly and let thoughts and sensations occur.  Acknowledge them and let them go. This technique is simple yet powerful.

Dharana is focus or concentration.  Another way to think of it is will power and the more you develop it the stronger it will get.

Incorporate it – Sound is an easy way to start pick out a mantra or affirmation.  On of my favorites is Sat Nam, truth is your identity.

Dyhana is meditation or total absorption.  Meditation is where tuning into the divine really starts. We become more who we are and integrated into the universe.

Incorporate it –  After asana practice sitting in stillness and letting the mind quiet, let it nurture and renew you.

Samadhi is transcendence or union with the divine.  This is the ultimate attainment of yoga, the divine union.  It also makes me think of the saying, “before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water.”

Incorporate it – Use savasana, relaxation pose to learn how to surrender and let go.  Be at peace and at one with everything and everyone.

Opening Up With Yoga

Yoga can change your life. Sometimes you don’t even see it happening other times you do. That change is not on the schedule you might want it to be. But it is there, on the outside or lurking below the surface. The change can be the goal of taking a bad mood into a good mood. I used yoga to help me with overeating when I was working on not binging. But one of the most powerful transformations I have seen that stays with me and reminds me how power practicing yoga can be was when I was in college. This blog is about a young college student who went from being closed off to the world to being open and bright.

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I don’t remember her name but I can picture her in my mind. She was in one of Susan Ann’s yoga classes. Susan Ann taught general yoga at the University of Utah and was my first yoga teacher and inspiration, but this is not her story so enough on her. One girl in my college yoga class was very collapsed in on herself. Her shoulders slumped forward which put her head out of alignment, but most of all she was very closed off. She didn’t smile much and did not invite you to come talk to her. She looked like an interesting person but unapproachable. I remember thinking how uncomfortable it must be to have ones’ shoulders slumped forward and neck jutting out, like a vulture.

Over the course of the semester she started straightening out and not slumping forward She went from someone who did not engage, to talking with other students in the class. As the semester progressed she was brighter, more open and gained two inches in height by standing up correctly. How we hold ourselves directly applies to our life: how we see ourselves and how others see us. Someone who is folded up on themselves is perceived as closed off. It sounds corny when talking about yoga opening one up but it is true.

Yoga helped this young student move forward. She turned out to be a very interesting person who started chatting with a few of us who would talk briefly before and after class. She was excited about how she had changed and grown two inches. She will always have a place in my heart. Namaste.

Yoga Books

It is hard sometimes to pick out a books about yoga since there are so many to chose from. So here are the fiver I use and an honorable mention since it is out of print.  As a dedicated yogi you want to  know and understand the asanas you are doing and going to class is one way to start.  But one of the most powerful ways to understand them is through a home practice and study.  That’s where the books come in.  I have listed them in the order that I bought them.

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1.The Sivananda Companion to Yoga.  This is an older book so don’t be put off by the people in leotards.  This book has great information in it and covers everything from sun salutations to pranayama.  The description of the asana is thoughtful and includes information about the chakra associated with it.

2. Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch. This book covers  a lot of ground, it is detailed and has wonderful pictures showing you different phases of a pose.  It includes carpal tunnel syndrome, tight shoulders and other modern issues.  It is a good solid resource even if you do not do astanga or power yoga.  She makes sure you understand the poses and emphasizes correct form.

3. Yoga the Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira, and Shyam Mehta. I love this book.  Detailed descriptions on how to do poses and modifications.  This is a great book for learning form and how to modify poses to your level or for recovering from an injury.  Iyengar yoga is methodical and precise which makes it perfect for beginners.  It also has yoga practices laid out for you in the back.  If I could only have one yoga book it would be this one.

4.The  Kundalini Yoga Experience by Guru Dharam Khalsa and Darryl O’Keefe. This was my first book on kundalini yoga.  It takes the time to talk about the chakras, yogic numerology, and how to apply that information to your yoga practice and create balance in your life.  It also has sets or kryias for each chakra.  It also covers breathing, mudras (sacred hand positions), and chanting. This book helped deepen my yoga practice.

5.Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schifmann.  Schifmann came onto my yoga radar after he did the Ali MacGraw yoga video which I love and only have on video.  Almost half of the book is the theory behind yoga and the mental process that happens before and after asana practice.  He does a lovely job of describing and and showing you how to do asana.

6. Is an honourable mention since it is out of print. Kundalini Yoga: For Body, Mind, and Beyond by Ravi Singh.  I bought my copy used off amazon.  I remember looking at this book in the late ‘90’s but never bought it. This book offers sets for beginners on up, it has a little bit of everything in it.  If you own any of Ravi and Ana’s DVDs you will notice some similar sets on some of the early DVDs.  I use this book more than  my other kundalini book at this point in tim

A Cat, Backbends, and Me

My cat, Tamson  was my workout partner, he yogaed with me, did cardio, lifted weights, well okay really he just napped and snacked, while I worked out.  Tamson died about a month ago, he was old and had lived a good long life. I lost my constant companion.

Tamson lounging in one of his cat carriers.

About now you are all  wondering what this all has to be with backbends.  Backbends open the heart up.  The heart chakra is greatly affected by backbends. They can also release emotions and fears. My yoga practice today happened to include several variations on cobra pose and a couple other backbends.  

I had finished the first heart opening segment and was in the middle of the second heart opening segment in horse stance, punching and doing breath of fire.  Now the only problem was I started crying.  There was the empty kitty bed.  That’s when the breath of fire ended but I kept up with the rest of it as tears streamed down my face.  I felt my grief, sorrow, and how much I miss that cat.

Ravi Singh says “If you can feel it, you can heal it.” I let myself feel what I was feeling and punched the heck out of my sadness today.  I didn’t try to stop the tears and be “balanced” didn’t feel that I needed to get it under control.  I let it be, I let it happen, I chose to feel so that I can heal. Let healing happen in your life, let it blossom and shine. Sat nam.