The Second Limb ~ Niyama

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The second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga approach involves the five internal practices of Niyama (observance). Niyama means “rules” or “laws.”  They are an extension to the ethical codes of conduct in the first limb, the yamas. Niyama, to the practicing yogi, helps them to maintain an internal environment in which to grow in body, mind and spirit. The principles of self-discipline and inner-strength become necessary on our yoga path.

Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we create toward ourselves as we create a code for living authentically.

  1. Self-Purification (Shaucha)

Shaucha means “purification; cleanliness.” It includes a number of practices for cleansing the body as well as the mind. Shaucha is not only the basis of bodily health, it is also the entryway to deeper and more peaceful states of meditation.

Practice Tip: Choose wisely when allowing anything to enter your body or mind. Keep all food and thoughts pure and feel how radiant your health becomes.

  1. Contentment (Santosha)

The word santosha means “contentment” and in addition, “delight, happiness, joy.” It comes from a place of total acceptance of our lives. It involves being content and happy. It teaches us that happiness is a choice. Being content and accepting our realities as blessings makes happiness our choice.

Practice Tip: Do not envy others. Feel gratitude for everything you have and do. Free your mind of expectations and just know you are exactly where you’re meant to be.

  1. Self-Discipline (Tapas)

The meaning of tapas is “heat.” Tapas accompanies any determined effort  that we dedicate ourselves to, whether it is to improve our health or to take a different direction in life. Tapas focuses energy, creates passion, and increases our strength and confidence.  Asanas are a form of tapas for the body and meditation is a tapas for the mind.

Practice Tip: Pick just one healthy change you can do for now. Take small steps daily to replace an unhealthy habit with a healthy habit.

  1. Self-Study (Svadhyaya)

Svadhyaya means “to recollect the Self.” It is the effort to remember, to contemplate, and to meditate about ourselves. The “Self,” meaning the light that shines at the innermost core of our being.

Practice Tip: Make a list of the things that inspire you. Then when practicing your asanas and/or breath awareness, or meditation search to recognize when you are acting in harmony with your goals or if you are being counterproductive in your daily activities.

  1. Self-Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana)

Ishvara refers to powerful consciousness; pranidhana means “to surrender.” Ishvara is the last and most significant of the niyamas, and possibly the most difficult for students to grasp. Self-surrender is the act of giving ourselves to a higher purpose.

Practice Tip: During meditation, observe and acknowledge the thoughts that distract you. Then let them go and practice inner stillness. Focus on the center of your being.

Practicing the Yamas and Niyamas is a route on our journey . Take one Niyama at a time and proceed with self-compassion and patience. Do not worry about perfection.

” When you pick one petal from the garland of yamas and niyamas, the entire garland will follow.”

– Swami Sri Kripalvanandaji

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Detox with Yoga

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According to Dr. Pam Peake, national spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine, “Yoga and all physical movement support the natural process of detoxification in the human body.”  But how and why do our bodies need detoxification? Our digestive, nervous, and hormonal systems were designed to work together to achieve ideal health. This is what our bodies want to do! When we overload them with toxins and unhealthy foods, these systems don’t work as well as they should and we get sick.

Detoxing brings balance back and helps our systems function properly again. We all feel the need to detox when we feel tired and weighed down by stress, a lack of exercise, and poor food choices. What is great about yoga practice, is that with each new breath is a new moment:  you can re-start any time, all the time. Yoga helps you to remain in the present, moving forward, never looking back.

All asanas assist in the detoxification process. So if you feel inspired, play by your own rules, and choose your favorites. Wherever you are in the practice—whether you’re moving into advanced poses or you are a very beginner—enjoy yourself, and watch the benefits from detox happen naturally. Certain postures, especially twists, remove toxins to stimulate digestion and the thyroid gland, build muscle, and get the digestive track moving. Inverted poses, such as head stand, help drain accumulated lymph fluid from the legs and upper body. This is a great pose to do at the end of your practice, as all toxins that were released during the practice are flushed toward the heart to be oxygenated and cleansed.

The right yoga routine can definitely help you detox your body and mind. Practicing after a long weekend of partying or especially around the holidays, when we tend to “indulge” is a time when you may feel like you need a cleansing. As you practice, use each inhale to lengthen and each exhale to wring yourself out like a sponge, getting rid of anything you no longer want or need. If nothing else, yoga is an awesome way to reboot your metabolism and give you more energy!

 

 

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The First Limb ~ Yama

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The first limb, yama, refers to one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves off of our mat. Yamas are universal practices that best relate to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Yama refers to vows, disciplines or practices we share with the world around us. While the practice of yoga increases our physical strength and flexibility, it is our interaction during our day to day lives that needs work.

There are five Yamas:

1. Ahimsa: nonviolence

In Sanskrit the prefix “a” means “not,” while himsa means “harming, injuring, killing, or doing violence.”   Ahimsa, the first of the yamas and the highest ranking among them, is the practice of non-harming or non-violence. This is the key to maintaining both harmonious relationships and a tranquil inner life.

2. Satya: truthfulness

The word “sat,” in Sanskrit, means “that which exists, that which is.” Satya, then means “truthfulness”—seeing and reporting things as they are rather than the way we would like them to be.

3. Asteya: nonstealing

The word “steya” means “stealing.” When it is combined with the prefix a, it is asteya: non-stealing. We are most likely to associate stealing with tangible objects, but intangibles, such as information and emotional issues, are common “things” stolen in our lives.

4. Brahmacharya: moderating the senses

The translation of brahmacharya is “walking in God-consciousness.” Brahmacharya turns the mind inward, which balances and supervises the senses, and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings. When the mind is free from domination of the senses, certain pleasures are replaced by inner joy.

5. Aparigraha: noncovetousness

Graha means “to grasp” and pari means “things”: aparigraha means “not grasping things,” or non-possessiveness. It helps us achieve a balanced relationship with the things that we each call “mine.”

Practice Tip: Pick one yama and try and put it into action in thought, words and action.

 

 

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Understanding the Eight Limbs of Yoga

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The eight limbs of yoga, called “Ashtanga,” literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb) and is a path in which we take towards a more meaningful and purposeful life. Think of it as guidelines toward happiness. Each limb is a stepping stone and there is a logical order to them and how they must be approached. They are limbs very much like a tree has limbs – they belong to a central body. This central body is filled with teachings of moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline.  They direct us towards healthy living and all of the spiritual aspects of our inner nature.

We will address each limb throughout this blog. Stay connected!

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Pain in the Sacrum?

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The sacrum is a large, wedge shaped bone on your lower spine. It forms a strong foundation for the vertebrae and connects to either side of your pelvis, or hipbones, through the sacroiliac joint above.  It is central to the structural posture of the entire body. The sacrum is reinforced by a web of ligaments that stabilize your spine and protect your pelvis when you move.

The sacrum is also where the svadhisthana chakra is, one of our seven major energy centers in the body. The svadisthana chakra is linked to our emotions, creativity and sexuality. It’s overseen by the element of water and characterized by flow, movement and flexibility. So hip opening poses, for sacral health, may help activate the sacral chakra.

Pain in the sacrum is fairly common if it is not aligned and stabilized in your pelvis.  Simple yoga poses practiced with mindful alignment can help open your lower back, stabilize the sacrum and sacroiliac joints and relieve sciatic joint pain.

Here are two things you can incorporate into any yoga practice for sacrum health.

Sacral Massage

Lay on your mat and bend your knees.

Hold your knees with your hands (feet floating off the ground) and start to draw circles with the knees.

Your elbows should bend and straighten as you go around in circles. Move both clockwise and counterclockwise, and focus on any angle that feel s therapeutic to you.

Gentle Rocking

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor.

Bend your knees.

Gently rock your knees to one side and then the other, while keeping your feet flat on the floor.  (just as far as they will go)

Keep your lower spine relatively still.

Both of these movements should provide a nice, gentle stretch to the affected joints and are good for overall sacrum health.

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Focusing on your Breath and Blessings

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Gratitude is one of the greatest sensations of our hearts. Opening our hearts through an asana creates an energy of gratitude. With intentions of thankfulness, more things begin to enhance our lives to be grateful for.  Many yogis believe that every day should be Thanksgiving.

Get into the season’s thankful state of mind with gratitude-geared practices all month long!

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Bust Belly Fat at Its Source!

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We’ve known for some time that STRESS is connected to weight gain, specifically “belly fat.”

A high level of the “stress hormone,” Cortisol, has been shown to increase appetite. Because increased levels of this hormone cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. So when your body reaches a certain stress level, it does what it feels it needs to do in order to feel better. In most cases, that means overeat.

Yoga can help reduce stress because it promotes relaxation, which is the complete opposite of stress. Yoga combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation, which is especially helpful during tension-filled times.

Yoga helps reduce stress, lowers blood pressure and your heart rate. And anyone can do it!

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Become a Senior Yoga Instructor

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Debbie showing our 200 Hour Power teacher trainees how to adapt their classes to accommodate the senior population! If you’ve ever wanted to learn about Senior Yoga or if you are interested in teaching seniors, Debbie will be leading our next Senior Yoga Teacher Training Nov. 11 – 13. For more information, send an email to            Debbie@next-yoga.com.

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“How to Tame Your Ego”

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by Bhante Sujathagful

At the core of buddha’s teachings is the belief that the most deep and meaningful life is found at the center of things, on the middle path.  It’s usually in the high’s and low’s, on the extremes that suffering and struggle prevail.  As we all walk this path, seeking meaning and joy in every moment, Ego is a near constant hinderance.   It pops up at the most inopportune times, when we least expect it.  Ego influences our actions and behavior far more than most people realize—- even in generosity and kind deeds you will find ego emerging as we check in on what’s really motivating us—- the desire to be loved, to be recognized, to be seen often is at the source.  We’ve become obsessed as a nation with eliminating Ego— you can walk into any bookstore in America, turn on any self help television show or talk to a thousand “teachers” and they all talk about the need to get rid of the Ego.  However, when we really look at the Buddhas core teachings, you won’t find the total elimination of anything—- the teachings are about the middle path and Ego has a center too.  Keeping Ego in check, finding a gentle balance with it, understanding how it emerges and influences a situation is a highly beneficial awareness that will yield you powerful results and increased joy.  Ego serves a great purpose deep inside us, helping us live confident and effective lives.  Only when we have too much or too little do we suffer…..

I invite you to stop trying to remove Ego, instead, let’s find a healthy place for it within the total of who we are— let’s explore how to observe our ego and notice when its growing or shrinking, when it’s influencing us in positive or negative ways.  I believe when we tame the Ego, we find true happiness.

Bhante Sujatha, a 30+ year Buddhist Monk, is singularly focuses on adding more love in the world.  Bhante teaches loving-kindness meditation to people around the globe for all those seeking the art of happiness and contentment.  His approach to meditation is deep and simple, bringing core Buddhist teachings to everyone in a way that is practical and easy to understand.  A joyful, radiant, funny and wildly energetic monk, Bhante will help you obtain peace that can only be found in deep silence.   He is originally from Sri Lanka and is the head monk / abbot of the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple and Meditation Center in Woodstock, IL.

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Opening Your Throat Chakra

If you find yourself struggling to communicate well with your friends, co-workers, your spouse, or your kids…you feel isolated and unable to express your uneasiness.  You’re probably starting to feel a bit hopeless and frustrated. If your throat chakra is blocked, you may also suffer from sore throats, headaches and migraines.

Once you understand and channel the power of your throat chakra, you will begin to create balance within your mind and spirit. The physical postures, or asanas, we practice in yoga work to release dormant energy from the body while activating and balancing fresh energy. The harmony of a stabilized throat chakra will make you feel more at ease, balanced and confident.

A great posture for opening the throat chakra is Camel Pose  (Ustrasana).

Camel Pose is not only excellent for your throat chakra, but also your heart chakra. Camel is known for its ability to make us vulnerable and open to giving and receiving love.

If you are comfortable in your back bend, while in Camel Pose, place your hands on your ankles and drop your head so your throat is fully exposed, like Lauren is demonstrating here.

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