Yoga in Focus

Each month I pick out a theme for my yoga practice. I focus on that aspect at least once a week often two days a week and leave the rest open. The reason why I started this is that it helped take me out of my comfort zone. Because sometimes you have to pick sequences that are not your favorites.
 photo Pairing-up-the-heart.jpg
Creating a well rounded home practice includes asanas that are not in your top ten. By pushing yourself out of your favorites you start to grow and improve your yoga practice. Some of these are things I am not good at or can even do fully. I try to cultivate a practice of joy in the moments of struggle or just sheer absurdity of it. Laughter makes any of the versions of paralyzed mermaid pose frankly more fun. Or when your arms are ready to fall off in an intense kundalini yoga kriya, laugh it makes it better. It may not change what you can do but it feels better.

January tends to be yoga that focuses on cleansing and de-toxing after the indulgence of the holiday season it feels good to support your liver and kidneys with yoga. February is a more subtle month there isn’t a big need after that January cleanse month.

What came to mind this year is heart openers and solar plexus. Why these two choices? I am starting with the second. It is still on the dark side where I live, not a lot of light yet. More light than there was a month ago but the days are still short. Focusing in on the navel is a great way to tap into the power of the Sun and your own personal power. It brings out the light in you.

Heart openers because this is the month of Valentines Day when many end up feeling like crap. Its a weird holiday that places so much emphasis on being in a romantic relationship. It also makes people feel lonely and loser like for not being able to participate. But what it comes down to is you need to love and like yourself and remain open to love, the world, and opportunities. Heart openers are going to help you do this. They also work through emotional issues since they open up the heart chakra.

Pairing up the heart with your will means you align yourself in love. The choices you make will come from the gut and the heart. That makes it a wonderful, powerful, and awesome place to live.


Favorite Yoga Websites

As much as I love books, I use online resources a lot for my yoga practice.  One of the main bonus of online resources is they are often easy to search and access.  That search aspect is very nice when dealing with periodicals.  At one point I had ten years or so of Yoga Journal’s around the house but you have to remember which issue and find the name of the article, so much easier to search for it on google or the website.

 photo yogasitesscreencap.jpg

Yoga Journal is probably the most known yoga resource out there.  They have been around for awhile now and have wealth of knowledge on their website.  If I don’t know I start here.  One of my favorite sections is the Home Practice  area.

Yoga Dork is a site that covers the serious and the lighthearted. It keeps a finger on the pulse of yoga and what is topical.  As a result you will see thought provoking posts along with ones that will make you laugh.

Elsie’s Yoga Kula.  If you read my favorite blog sites you saw this one coming.  I fracking love Elsie, love her.  Elsie has put out some of my favorite podcasts and they are free.

More than once I’ve found myself reading Yoga and Health Archive A-Z on Ravi and Ana’s website.  There is a ton of info tucked into that section and it has helped me expand my kundalini yoga practice.  How to modify a pose, an idea on how to help tight neck muscles, and so much more.

3HO is a kundalini site.  Need a mediation this is my go to.  It is a good source for the teachings of Yogi Bhajan who brought kundalini yoga to the west. It also has info on mudras, chakra, and pranayam.

Yoga: Why I keep practicing.

It seems like I’ve been doing yoga forever.  It is one of the first activities that I tried and stuck with.  I love that one can find it everywhere these days and it is no longer relegated to the metaphysical bookstore on a shelf between Alistair Crowley and Isis Unveiled.  I can’t remember why I wanted to start practicing, it just got in my head and I tracked down what I needed to get started.  Once I started I knew I liked it from the very beginning.  It made me feel better all around, mind, body, and spirit.  Yoga felt like coming home.

 photo DSCF2018-3.jpgWhat has yoga done for me and why do I keep doing it? I get stuck in my head a lot, I’m a thinker and my yoga practice has balanced that out for me.  It get’s me out of my head and into my body, it also helps integrate them.  Working out in general is a good stress release but yoga changes my mood faster and gives me the skills to cope when things go sideways. Being able to realize your breath patterns while angry and change how you are breathing is powerful and can change a negative situation into a good one.

Yoga has helped me rebuild self esteem and have the awareness to know when and what damage I am doing to myself and stop it.  Yoga has helped me love myself and stop negative thoughts from getting to me.  Don’t get me wrong I still have fat days and bad days, but it helps to put those days in perspective.

One aspect I didn’t really think yoga would bleed over into is running.  Yoga has helped my running in ways that running more would not have.  First off is recovery and maintaining range of motion which is what I expected.  What I did not expect was full diaphragmatic breathing and breath of fire to help make breathing easier while running.  Running can be uncomfortable at times and yoga has helped me know when to push on and when something has gone beyond uncomfortable.  When you are learning to run it all feels bad for the most part and yoga helped me separate I am going to hurt myself pain from, oh my god this sucks.

The main reason I keep practicing yoga is that I love it and all the other benefits are the icing on my yoga cake. What do you love about yoga?

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.

 photo DSCF2036.jpg

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

September is National Yoga Month

Kundalini Yoga DVDs for Beginners

Mantra Girl Introduction to Kundalini Yoga and Chanting
Maya Fiennes De-stress and detox
Ravi Singh and Ana Brett Fat Free Yoga

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.