Recap of Indian Yoga Gods & Goddesses Series with Karlyn

Last fall, we explored six iconic Gods and Goddesses from Indian yoga traditions and mythology during the Wednesday evening Power Flow classes. We often hear of, or see images of, Hindu deities in the yoga world. And while we do not need to take them too seriously (like anything in yoga!) or apply them literally, their stories and aspects shed light on yoga’s overarching goals. I hope you enjoyed learning about their stories, trying the poses associated with their energy, and chanting their mantras. We alternated masculine and feminine deities, and on a few occasions, listened to live kirtan music played by Daniel on his harmonium.

Personally, I feel we can learn from these ancient figures by applying lessons and qualities invoked by them to our modern lives, regardless of your personal religious or spiritual beliefs. Here is a brief summary highlighting the main teachings of each God/Goddesses.

SHIVA
Shiva1We began with Shiva, who represents consciousness itself. His name in Sanskrit means liberation, or freedom. Shiva is one of the three gods of the Trimurti, representing destruction, or the end of the cycle (the other two being: Brahma the creator, and Vishnu the sustainer). His destructive energy does not, however, have negative denotation. The shedding of the ego, old habits, attachment or aversion is instead a purification power. In essence, nothing is really destroyed by the illusion of individuality, so this purifying quality works both on the personal and universal levels. Known as the patron of yoga, Shiva is depicted by the art of meditation and we chant, “Om Namah Shivaya” (listen to Krishna Das’s version at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcdI-c-jAWQ). The statue of “Shiva’s dance” is commonly found in yoga studios, and we explored the symbolism of this dance, or “Ananda (= the bliss of being) tandava (= the dance)”. In the statue, Shiva stands on one leg over the dwarf he eventually came to defeat. The story goes that Shiva would strike this dwarf on the battlefield, and each drop of the dwarf’s blood that landed on the earth produced a clone of the dwarf, resulting in an entire army. This suggests that we can actually make a problem bigger by responding violently to it. Have you ever found yourself forcing a situation, only to wind up with less desirable circumstances? Shiva finally learned how to rise above his circumstances, thus his victory is celebrated by this dance. The ring of fire represents the fact that challenging situations never disappear, but that we learn how overcome them and avoid being burned by them. His hands hold a drum and a flame, balancing creation and destruction (birth and death) in the natural world. And his raised right hand suggests “Fear nothing,” inviting us to find stillness, or steadiness, amidst chaos.

Shiva2In class, we used challenging poses, dancer’s pose and Shiva’s pose to put this to the test ourselves, at least on the mat. We use poses to get into the body, the body to get into the mind, the mind to get into our heart, and our heart to get into the bliss of being. One take home message for today’s living is, “Whatever is in the way, is the way.” Next time you encounter an obstacle, ask yourself what you can learn from it.

LAKSHMI

LakshmiOnto a feminine diety, we then turned to Lakshmi, the goddess of light, beauty and good fortune. The mantra “Om shri, maha Lakshmi Namah” calls, “May I recognize and honor the divine abundance within”. Wife of Vishnu (God of preservation), she is associated with both material and spiritual wealth and prosperity. We offered up our hands in lotus mudra to emulate Lakshmi’s prosperity and generosity, and focused on heart openers and hip openers. In our daily lives, when we perceive or experience lacking of money, health, support, etc., our physical tendency is to contract, tense up, or close off. The heart expansion postures counteract that contraction, and allow for the receptivity of Lakshmi’s abundance and grace!

Stories depict Lakshmi arising from the sea with outstretched hands of ever-flowing gold coins, so we focused on fluid, watery movements engaging our second chakra. They say that all Gods and Goddesses convened to bring forth the nectar of immortality, so they planted a mountain in the ocean and wrapped a large snake around it. From their churning of the mountain, a poison first arose, but then dissolved. Lakshmi was then born, bringing with her all of her gifts of beauty and abundance. Many Hindu women invoke Lakshmi in their households during the month of October, which is dedicated to worshipping her. There are also special offerings to her during the auspicious celebrations of Diwali.

From Laskhmi we can learn to enjoy the gifts of this world, without becoming attached or infatuated by them. Additionally, the wealth is not for one’s own material desires, but to be shared for the benefit of others. She embodies charm and grace, and we are reminded to express gratitude and giving.

HANUMAN

HanumanLord Hanuman, the monkey god, represents courage and devotion. In the Ramayana (one of two Indian epic poems), the story of Hanuman reminds us to keep the faith and to practice selfless service. Like many monkeys of that era, Hanuman possessed super powers. He was the son of Vayu, the God of Wind, but was known to be quite cheeky and mischievous. As a youngster, his rascality got him into trouble, so the Gods punished him by casting a spell over him so that he would forget about his super powers.

It was told that King Rama’s wife Sita was kidnapped on the island of what is today Sri Lanka. The King of the monkeys called together all monkeys to see who could rescue Sita by jumping across southern India to Sri Lanka. The monkeys debated who could make this giant leap, when suddenly one of the monkeys suggested it to Hanuman, saying, “You are the son of Wind, you have done this before and you can do it now.” But Hanuman was unconfident, reluctant and oblivious to his super powers. At that moment, the sky opened up and Vayu Wind caressed Hanuman’s head, inflating Hanuman’s body. Now capable of undertaking the daunting feat, this first jump is called the “leap of faith”, which gave Hanuman more and more trust in his abilities, and developed into a leap of knowing.

Our practice in class worked with shedding layers of doubt that can cloud our own vision and powers, and to see the expansiveness that becomes possible when devotion is in the heart. Our peak pose was full splits pose (Hanumanasana), with variations of side plank (Vasisthasana) and other leg stretches. The stretching of our legs became a symbolic expression of reaching with devotion to our true inner practice, and encouraging each other to let ego go and surrender. You might be surprised by what you’re capable of in those moments of utter courage, and can thank Hanuman for his inspiration.

SARASWATI

SaraswatiOur fourth Hindu god of the series was Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and the arts. Along with Lakshmi (see above) and Parvati, she is part of the female trinity, or Tridevi. Consort to creator Brahma, Saraswati embodies creativity. Saraswati is a multifaceted deity, gifted with knowledge and music, speech, communication. She reminds us that to be a true seeker, we must tune our mind and intellect to achieve equilibrium of being free from both attachment and from aversion. Her name means both “the essence of the self” and “the one with plenty of water”. The river of consciousness that enlivens creation also dispels chaos and confusion, and knowledge helps humankind to find possibilities where he once saw problems. Saraswati is depicted on a lotus seat, rooted in supreme reality. Her white sari gives tribute to her purity and true intentions. Her four arms showcase omnipresence and omnipotence and denote mind, intellect, alertness and ego. Her mala is a symbol of the meditation required to reach samadhi (union with the divine) and a swan is her vehicle to overcome fear and fickleness. The peacock, on the other hand, denotes unpredictability, or the chaos that is bound to arise in our mind, but that we have the ability to overcome with discipline.

The Gayatri mantra is associated with Saraswati; the version I learned chanting to can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=P26ZvKY–KY, though Deva Premal has a popular, modern version at www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHpA6qotiwg). Creativity and fluidity were the main aspects of our physical practice inspired by Saraswati.

GANESHA

GaneshaGanesha, is probably one of the most familiar Hindu Gods to Westerners. You might see a framed photo of Ganesha in your favorite Indian restaurant, or a statue of the elephant-headed god. Referred to as the “Gate Keeper”, Ganesha is the son of Shiva who is known for removing obstacles and bringing success, and is often invoked at the beginning of rituals or at the start of a new undertaking. Have you ever wondered why this human, pot-bellied god has the head of an elephant?

While guarding the gate and preventing anyone from passing through, his father Shiva arrived insisting to be let into his house. Somehow Shiva didn’t recognize his son, and lost patience with Ganesha, pulling out his sword and decapitating him in one swing. Shiva’s wife, Parvati, the mother of Ganesha, emerged and was filled with mourning and suffering. The gods granted them the favor of returning Ganesha to life, after seeking out the first animal in the jungle with its head facing north. So after finding an elephant in the jungle, its head became that of Ganesha.

Ganesha places himself in your way to help you overcome your obstacles. Often associated with the first chakra and pelvic floor, we worked poses to help us begin creating deep openings, and therefore deep changes, in our own lives. Ganesha represents the beginning, which is like using poses (asanas) in developing our yoga practice. The physical sequence helps us to focus on breath and still our mind, which eventually allows us to concentrate more and more deeply. As the destroyer of pride and selfishness, he allows us to look beyond the form of our material universe. Ganesha’s vehicle is a mouse, symbolizing the small self, which allows him to slide into small spaces and destroy obstacles of all sizes. Patron of the arts and sciences, Ganesha is also worshipped as the god of education and wisdom. The mantra associated with Ganesha is “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha” (listen to Deva Premal’s version at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AK44boAd_I).

KALI

KaliWe finished our series with fierce Kali, the unmistakable goddess of destruction and liberation. A fiery practice emulated Kali’s fiery nature and transformative nature and wove cyclical mudras and variations into the physical sequence. The great recycler, her destructive powers allow for rebirth and revealing of the true self and overcome the idea of “I-am-my-body”. Thus Kali is often associated with nudity (our naked, true Self) and sexuality (rebirth) as she liberates us from the cycle of karma (her sword is used to destroy this “false consciousness”).

Our ego arises out of the identification and attachment to our bodies. The Mahanirvana Tantra explains: “Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her”. Her name means “time,” and the representation of past, present and future is depicted by her three eyes.

Stories of Kali recount her defeat of Raktabija, a dark force who the other gods couldn’t beat. Each time a drop of blood from the demons fell to the earth, it reproduced another demon. Shiva was called upon, but he was deeply meditating. So his wife Parvati took Kali’s form and went into battle against Raktabija. She rolled her tongue out onto the battle field like a carpet, in order to catch all enemies’ blood and prevent continual replication, which is why she is depicted with her tongue out. During battle, Kali ended up getting carried away with her killing spree, so Lord Shiva thrust himself under her to startle her back to her senses. This gesture is how we wind up viewing Shiva sprawled out beneath Kali’s feet, symbolic of how his energy is inert without her.

Our practice was inspired with warrior and goddess possess, using powerful breath-of-fire and lion’s breath pranayama. While we might be fearful of this warrior’s exterior and abilities, she is just the right friend to have around to keep us authentic. It was a strong completion to a six-part series, wrapping up before the darkness of winter solstice. Channeling Kali gave me more courage to confront the perceived demons I experience during this season, and stressed the illusory outer nature of this reality. Phew!

 

Breath Before Action – by Ann Carlson

Ann bio picThe past few months I’ve been feeling like a lunatic. One minute I’m pulling my hair out kicking and screaming to the gods “WHYY!?” The next I’ve completely withdrawn and could relate to some form of turtle. Weird examples, but you get the picture. Really confusing, really frustrating, really just pinch me because is this all real? BUT, after a few moments of that I-need-a-drink what-the-hell-is-happening panic settles, I realize as a yogi I have no other choice but to ACCEPT, ADAPT, ACCOMMODATE (words from my teacher Anand).

SO, first thing I do is…you guessed it..BREATHE. And if I could give one tidbit of advice to anyone, it would be to master the simple tool of awareness of breath. Where does the air go in your body when you inhale? Where do you feel it? How deep can you go? What is the feeling upon fully releasing all the air on an exhale? Can you slow it down, the in breath and out breath? Can you take more air in, filling the belly first and then up to the collar bones? Can you let it out slowly, feeling that gentle tug of your low belly in towards your spine as you squeeze every last bit of air out? You only need a minute of this really aware breathing to snap you out of whatever mind-fck you’ve been experiencing; and from there, from that space you can move forward with more intention, clarity, mindfulness and realization that no matter what happens you have control over your reality and therefore your life. I find that whenever I’m in a stressful situation, the key is never to react but to take a moment for yourself; clear some space in your brain by breathing with intention and awareness, and then respond. Less reaction, more response. We need to counter the storm of the world and the storm of our minds with individual acts of loving kindness and thoughtful awareness towards ourselves and our human brothers and sisters; one breath at a time. XO

Follow Ann’s blog here… annspired.weebly.com/blog

Yoga, Read All About It: Blue Yoga Mat, by Tracy Fitzwater

TracyI love to read, there are no two ways about it. Books, cereal boxes, whatever is in front of me, I will read it. I used to read magazines, and never failed to pick up at least one whenever I went to the grocery store. Magazines tend to stack up; if you have subscriptions, you know what I mean. They just keep coming! I won’t tell you how many issues of Threads I have, but I have all issues, except for one or two. I just can’t get rid of them, and scrolling through a CD is just not the same as turning the pages.

Where am I going with this? I have two go-to magazines associated with my yoga practice. One is an old friend, back when yoga was more of an idea, and the other is one I found, and have have recently subscribed to. My column this month is a review.

Yoga Journal – I have a feeling that if you’ve been practicing yoga for any length of time, you’ve read this. The magazine was founded in 1975, not quite as long as yoga has been practiced, but that’s a pretty good run. The covers are always enticing, with articles just begging to be read, and the yogi on the cover is in a pose that, for the most part, looks doable. The articles are good, and very thoughtful. I rarely practice the poses, but I always read through them. The ‘Practice Well’ section includes an Anatomy article, which is helpful in that I can understand what is happening in certain poses, as well as Home Practice and Yogapedia sections. My biggest complaint about Yoga Journal is the number of ads – holy cow, does this magazine pack them in! But, you can find just about anything you want in the world of yoga just by perusing the ads. There are a fair share of blow-ins, the postcard sized opportunities for you to subscribe, but these make pretty decent bookmarks. The subscription rate is $18.00 for nine issues yearly.

Mindful: Taking Time for What Matters is new to me. I found it at PCC Natural Markets. I haven’t seen it locally, but to be honest I haven’t looked too hard. Mindful has been around for four years or so, and is associated with the non-profit of the same name, dedicated to exploring and connecting to people who are interested in mindfulness and meditation. Featured areas are Living, Practices, plus Point of View and Brain Science. Issues also include a survey, with the numbers already filled in, as well as Mindful-Mindless, which is the magazine’s take on “who’s paying attention and who’s not”. The articles are well-written, and thoughtful. The February 2017 issue is all about Kindness, including being kind to ourselves. I like the emphasis on being conscious about life, which can get lost in the day-to-day stuff that goes on. Mindful is published six times per year, with a cost per year of $19.95.

The format of both magazines is similar, one focusing on the physical, and one with more emphasis on the mental and emotional. The recipes in both look delicious, and dare I say it, healthy. Both have websites with good resources. And finally, both of these magazines will help me be a better yogi.

Sunday Meditation with New Sangha at Poser YOGA

Sunday New Sangha (Jan 2017)Meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us- our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. Stopping is the first important step when we meditate. When our body has stopped moving, it gives our mind a chance to calm down too. Then we can be free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.

Sangha is a community of people practicing mindful living together in order to bring about and maintain awareness.  The Sangha is here for you to support you on your path.  Joining with others for regular meditation empowers each of us busy and committed people to stop, be quiet, calm down and let go ——-together.

Just as we join together for our yoga practice, we can take care of ourselves in a safe community of Sangha to meditate.  Each week we will meet starting with sitting meditation, a short break and a ending with Dharma talk.  The break will allow those who do not want to participate in Dharma talk to leave without disruption.  You do not need to be a Buddhist to participate.  You don’t need to be anything – just a real human being.  Everyone can practice because you can breather.

This Sangha will follow the mindful teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.  

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh  (Thay) is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

We are open to teachings of mindfulness wherever they come from as long as they are wholesome and beneficial to the group.  We will strive to help each person feel welcome and comfortable.  

Our first gathering for New Sangha at Poser YOGA will be on Sunday February 5, 2017 at 4:00PM  Please arrive up to 15 minutes early to find/build your seat to be ready to sit comfortably. 

Blue Yoga Mat: So, How was that October Challenge? by Tracy Fitzwater

TracyFor the month of October, I had decided to challenge myself to practice yoga every day for the entire month. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go, and if I would be able to do it, so here are the results of my personal challenge. It went two ways; good, and could-be-better. Let’s look at the good first.

From my perspective, I did pretty well. Although I didn’t practice every single day, I did make it to the mat nine times. Whoa, you say – nine times in a month that has thirty-one days? That nine days is actually up from the September’s four times. Another way to look at those nine days is that I actually practiced at least two times a week. And honestly, I can live with that. Yoga nicely compliments the other physical things I do, which are kickboxing fitness, as well as walking.

The could-be-better part of this challenge is pretty simple – practice more days. Oh, yeah, I had opportunities, but I chose not to take them. I’m not going to beat myself up for that – it is what it is. Having said that, I found myself concentrating on simple breathing at various times throughout each day, particularly at night as I lay waiting to fall asleep. Breathing and visualizing the creation of knit stitches are ways I get myself to sleep, and that isn’t a bad thing. I also discovered that I routinely end kickboxing with child’s pose, and one downward dog. When I’ve done those two things, I’m done. And strangely enough, I found myself in tree pose every now and again at home, practicing balance in combination with a relaxed concentration. This one happened most often in my sewing room when I was working out a project.

What did I learn? I discovered that I think about yoga – a lot. I feel that, after two years, I am starting to “get” yoga. By that I mean that the breathing in conjunction with movement is starting to feel natural, and necessary. The poses are ones I know, and can easily move into without too much effort. And I know more yoga than I thought I did. Creating a home practice was not something I was sure I could do, mostly because I like having someone else lead the way. When left to my own devices, however, I was able to put together a series of poses that made sense, but I realized how much the teachers I’ve practiced with know. I have a renewed appreciation of what it takes to put together a series of movements, breathing, and relaxation, and have it last an hour! My top at-home time was thirty minutes, and I’m pretty sure I did things out of order, or at least not in a way that was thoughtfully sequential. Finally, I realized, after talking with my son’s girlfriend that even ten minutes a day is enough – it’s yoga, and I’ll take it.

Do I prefer the studio setting? Yes, I do. Do I have an expectation that I’ll practice daily? Not really, but I will continue to breathe, and stretch, and do what I can, and with the knowledge that I’m getting better, I’ll stick with yoga.

Where Does the Mind Go When Challenge Arises? by Ann Carlson

13731937_10101072903320659_7059718930822056996_oToday’s insights… where does the mind go when challenge arises? My knee jerk reaction? It goes to panic, worry, self-victimization, need for validation and justification. All these things draining energy. Suffocating the prana. It’s stifling. It’s heavy.
The more I practice (mindfulness, meditation, being still, moving with intention, breathing, turning inward..all forms of yoga) the more I begin from a place of stillness and emptiness, the more I notice just how debilitating these reactions are. The havoc they wreak on my mind, body and soul feels almost palpable.
I instead work towards lesson. When I feel challenged, there is something to discover. It’s like a meal that needs that bit of something else to make it complete, whether that’s letting go, putting in more effort, accepting and allowing, changing perspective. Sticking with the analogy, growing from a cook of the mind to a master chef of the mind. Knowing the ingredients I’m working with (thoughts, feelings, emotions) and how to use them to up my quality of life experiences. I choose each experience I have. I may not choose the things that happen around me, but I have complete ownership of the way I handle what comes at me…and it’s FOR SURE not always perfect, and that’s fine, but there’s no room for blame anymore. Growing up isn’t getting older, it’s accepting that where you are right now, physically, mentally and emotionally is because of YOU. There is deep freedom in that acceptance, and the realization that you can cook up WHATEVER deliciousness you like.

Yoga, Along for the Ride, by Diane Urbani de la Paz 

yoga me straight onOh no, I thought: Here come two weeks away from the yoga studio. Heading out on a road trip to California to visit stress-fraught family members, I could already feel my jaw clenching and shoulders rising up to meet my earlobes.

I would be sitting in the car six to seven hours a day, and that was just the start. Upon arrival in the Bay Area, I’d be spending extended face time with relatives, people I’d only shared social-media messages with over the past many months.

Off I went, brain full of anticipatory thoughts. The drive is going to be long and boring, I promised myself. And those conversations with family members will be strained. And then I’ll eat too much and get no exercise.

All this and I would be a long way from the yoga studio, the place where I feel at peace.

Then, some miles south, everything changed. The gigantic thing called the Pacific Ocean arrived.

Along the northern Oregon coast, I pulled off of U.S. Highway 101, hauled myself out of the car and onto a trail that delivered me to sand.

Standing on the edge of the North American continent, I faced the sea. It sighed. I sighed. The waves, like smooth hands, massaged the shore, and I felt my body loosen.

There it is, I thought. Reconnection with the wide Pacific — I grew up beside it in California, after all — was just what my inner doctor ordered. So in the little communities of Depoe Bay, Yachats (pronounced “ya-hots!”), Cape Perpetua, Bandon and Seaside, I placed myself beside those waves. I listened to their heavenly sound. I let myself breathe along with this rhythm. I communed with birds — from bald eagles high in the sky to black oystercatchers walking elegantly at water’s edge — and thanked them for sharing this world.

As you may well have figured out, I didn’t leave my yoga practice behind. It’s embedded now. And when I mixed it with the ocean and its creatures, together they reminded me how to walk, breathe and feel.

On the last coastal walk of this trip, I followed a trail deep into the forest. At the apex stood a giant spruce tree, ostensibly the goal of the outing. As so often happens with expectations of grandeur, the reality fell a bit short; the tree didn’t seem all that huge after all. It’s one among many stately specimens. So I admired it and its neighbors and headed back toward the car.

But then, when the walk was almost over, I heard an unmistakable sound. The call of the Swainson’s thrush: a measure of music lilting from the boughs overhead. This was probably the 10th time I’d heard the bird’s call since the beginning of the drive down the coast. Not once had I been able to see its source.

This time, though, was altogether different. The thrush became visible on a branch maybe 10 feet above me. So I could watch her as she sang, beak open wide, head turned toward sky. And our bird doesn’t just sit still and sing. Each time the sound appears, she flutters her wings, as if to say: This feels so good.

So yes, there were stresses on this road trip. But I breathed through them. The Pacific Ocean and the Swainson’s thrush, in their ways, taught me that a yoga practice is supremely portable,  available, on cue. The trigger can be the sound of the waves, a bird’s song — even my next breath in and out.

Diane Urbani de la Paz is back from California and teaching Hatha Flow at 7AM Thursdays as well as Karma Yoga this Friday, July 1, at 5:30PM.

The 30-Day Challenge: Tying it All Together, by Travis Riemer

11960490_10153166159837921_2015086279_oThe 4 main themes for our 30-Day Challenge were: Detox, Ground, Nourish, and Manifest. Looking back on the month, each week inspired thoughts for me, and these are a few I shared in my classes…

Week 1: DETOX
Pratyahara is one of the eight limbs of Yoga laid out in the Yoga Sutras. It is often described very simply as withdrawal of the senses, but it has many more layers than that. The term pratyahara is composed of two Sanskrit words, prati and ahara. David Frawley, a well known Vedic scholar and practitioner of Ayurveda states “Ahara means food or anything we take into ourselves from the outside. Prati is a preposition meaning against or away. Pratyahara means literally control of ahara or to gain mastery over external influences.” We can think of three levels of ahara. The first level is the physical food that makes up our body, the second is the sense impressions, and then the third level is associations or our relationships with the people in our life and the emotions that are brought into us with them. So when we think of detoxing we usually just think of removing toxins from our physical body, but if we apply pratyahara we can detox physically, mentally and emotionally. Our body is made up of the food we eat, our mind is influenced by our senses and our emotions are influenced by our relationships. We can detox our body by eating clean and nourishing food, we can detox our senses by not bringing in unnecessary or the wrong kind of stimulation. For example, limiting watching tv, being on the computer, or looking at your phone. When necessary, use them as a tool, instead of as a form of entertainment. Give the eyes and ears a break and observe something pleasant in nature instead. This idea can be applied to all of our senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Also we can become aware of the emotions connected to our relationships, and limit our contact with those that are unhealthy. To detox all aspects of our being we can use the idea of pratyahara to withdraw from the wrong food, wrong impressions and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to the right food, right impressions and right associations.

Week 2: GROUND
Being grounded means being stable or balanced. In Yoga, we work towards creating stability; physically and mentally. Our energetic, or pranic body, is the bridge between our body and mind. If our energy is unharmonized, our body and mind will be equally unharmonized. In Yoga we do asana to strengthen and balance the body. We combine asana with breath work, or pranayama, to harmonize the energy. Then, when our energy is under control, can we get to the level of the mind and begin to experience a meditative state. When our body, energy, and mind are harmonized we can begin to have awareness of ourselves and the greater world around us. When this happens, we then have the ability to respond to life with awareness instead of reacting through emotions or conditioned responses. My teacher Fabio Andrico once said, “If you have a balanced condition, and there is a secondary experience that is positive, you can make the best of it. If there is a negative secondary experience and you are unbalanced, you will receive all the negative influences, but if you are balanced you can easily over come it.”

Week 3: NOURISH
We get what we give. We all seek happiness and everything that we seek, in the hopes of satisfying ourselves, is based on us trying to create happiness. One of the best ways to cultivate happiness is by creating it for others, that is why all the great belief systems have some form of charity worked into them. Buddhism takes it one step further and incorporates it into meditation. Metta meditation is a simple but profound meditation that cultivates happiness through compassion and mindfulness. Also called loving-kindness meditation, it is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people. Cultivating compassion towards ourselves and others helps to diminish the ego. The ego is what causes us to constantly seek happiness in objects or activities that ultimately leave us unsatisfied and unhappy. When the ego is diminished we can start to cultivate ourselves in ways that make us better people, which will nourish ourselves and everyone around us. To read more about metta meditation, follow this link to the Metta Institute.

Week 4: MANIFEST
If we pull all these ideas together and incorporate them into daily practice our body will be healthy so we can physically pursue our goals; our mind will be stable so we will know what we need and how to get it; we will be naturally joyful because we will be grounded within ourselves and we will have created loving relationships based on understanding and compassion. With all of that in place you have already manifested a beautiful life.