Category Archives: Beginner’s Yoga

5 Classical Yoga Books All Yogis Should Read

Here is a simple but mighty selection of 5 classical yoga books all yogis should read. These top recommended classical and dharmic yoga texts help guide both the brand new yogi and the seasoned spiritual seeker into the true essence of yoga, gain inspiration on the spiritual  journey, and deepen one’s understanding of this Timeless Wisdom Tradition.

1. Essential Teachings of Yoga – Shri Ramananda Mayi

The Essential Teachings of Yoga poetically, simply and perfectly outlines the four classical paths of yoga from the Upadesa Saram, one of the greatest treasures of yogic literature. It condenses within its instructions thousands of years of spiritual wisdom. The insight it offers clears many of the doubts and confusion that spiritual seekers encounter on their inner journey towards Truth.

This clear and lucid rendition into English, from the original work of Shri Ramana Maharshi, is sure to illuminate and inspire.

2. Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahamsa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi is at once a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation. Profoundly inspiring, it is at the same time vastly entertaining, warmly humorous and filled with extraordinary personages. A must read for all yogis!

3. Living With the Himalayan Masters – Swami Rama

In this classical spiritual autobiography, enjoy inspirational stories of Swama Rama’s, one of the greatest sages of the 20th century as he shares his personal quest for enlightenment and gives profound insight into the living wisdom that is the core of his spiritual mission and legacy.

Discover the rich experiences and lessons learned with the great teachers who guided his life including Sri Bengali Baba, Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore, and other spiritual luminaries— have a glimpse into the living tradition of the Himalayan Masters.

4. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Sri Swami Satchitananda

This valuable classical text provides a complete manual for the study and practice of Raja Yoga, the path of self-discipline, concentration and meditation. These timeless teachings are a treasure to be read and referred to again and again by seekers treading the spiritual path. The ancient Sutras cover the yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures, and provide directions for dealing with situations in daily life.

5. The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita – Paramahamsa Yogananda

With penetrating insight, Paramahamsa Yogananda sheds a clarifying light on the deeper meaning of the Bhagavad Gita’s symbology, and the true intent of India’s timeless and universal scripture.

An inspiring and concise introduction to the spiritual truths of India’s most beloved scripture— the Bhagavad Gita explains the step-by-step methods of yoga meditation and right action to achieve union with Spirit and ultimate liberation.

CARING FOR DHARMA BOOKS

Dharma books contain the sacred yoga teachings of Great Sages and Awakened Ones and have the power to show the way towards total Freedom and Bliss. They contain deep and vast wisdom that help guide us Home on this journey of Life— to the Truth of who we Really Are.

As such, they should be treated with respect and reverence. To help preserve the sacred knowledge within these book and out of respect please:

+ Treat books with care, respect and mindfulness.
+ Never place them directly on the floor, step over them, point your feet at them or take them into the bathroom.
+ Keep in a clean place, and ideally should be covered by fabric when transported.
+ No other mundane objects should be placed on top of them (cell phones, keys, water bottles etc.)
+ If you should one day need to dispose of them, it is best to give them away to a library, or immerse them in a lake, river or ocean rather than throwing them in the trash.

Thank-you for your understanding, love and care of these classical yoga books.

How to Create an Altar or Sacred Space

Ultimately, the whole world is one’s altar. One’s sacred space is a place within, that we can tune into at any time to feel connected to our own True Self. However, there is something so nurturing and simply sacred about having a physical altar that we can turn to for daily inspiration and energy.

So here are some guidelines and inspiration to get you started on creating your own individual altar and sacred space!

WHAT IS AN ALTAR

Altars are sacred, defined spaces used in wisdom traditions, world religions and in the personal homes of spiritual seekers of all backgrounds from around the world.

An altar is a space that one may go to daily to recharge with positivity, gain inspiration for living a spirited life. One’s altar acts as a mirror and outer manifestation of our own Divine inner world to help us stay connected with our own Highest Self and the Absolute Oneness that connects us all.

Altars are sacred spaces often devoted to spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, reflection, prayer, chanting, introspection, ritual, worship, or enjoyed simply as a space of sheer beauty, embodying the peace and calm one may seek.

Personal altars may range from being very simple or quite elaborate, and are created with items and elements of personal inspiration based on ones own individual path or lineage, preferences and reminders of Divinity.

WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE AN ALTAR

Creating sacred space for yourself is a sure way to nourish your soul! Creating a peaceful, calm, nurturing external environment, naturally our inner world begins to make this shift also.

An altar space is a safe, inspiring, nourishing space we can go to daily for inspiration, peace, to connect with our own innate wisdom and indulge in introspection.

In time, we begin to build a relationship with our altar. As we sit before the altar in spiritual practices (sadhana,) we begin to charge our altar with positive and healing energy. In turn, the altar items build and contain that energy and reflect it back to us as we practice within its proximity.

In this way, the altar is a constant reflection of our practices, love and devotion towards living a spirited life, and we are benefited greatly from this exchange.

INSPIRATION FOR HOW TO CREATE AN ALTAR

The possibilities for your altar creation are endless— use your intuition and listen to your heart when desiring your own unique sacred space!

You can set up your altar anywhere, but ideally you might choose the most comfortable, quiet and peaceful area of your home— and preferably a space where you could close the door and not be disturbed.

The foundation of your altar can be anything from a small table, platform, plate or tray, piece of fabric or dharba mat on the floor or a shelf you have.

To adorn your altar, based on your own beliefs, traditions, inspiration and intentions, choose objects, images or substances that personally connect you to your own True Self and remind you of Divinity.

Here are some examples:

+ Images of your Beloveds— your teachers, people of inspiration, saints, deities/archetypes, your family, partner etc.
+ Idols (murthis) of your own personal form of God (Ishta Devata)— Jesus Christ, Krishna, Shiva, Buddha, Allah, Saraswati, Angels, totem animals etc.
+ Items of inspiration that you feel connected to such as a seashell or feather you brought back from a life-changing adventure, beautiful art, tarot cards, books etc.
+ Delight your senses with textures, sights, smells, sounds. For example, in your space you can have cozy pillows, blankets or fabrics you love or mala beads for touch, the smell of your favorite aromatherapy oils diffusing, nourishing sounds of nature or soothing music to bring you into harmony, and plants, beautiful things or art that feed your eyes!
+ Include colors that invoke positive feelings within you and help you to feel precisely how you want to feel in that space.
+ Words of wisdom. You may write down and include a personal prayer, intention, affirmation, favorite inspirational quote, gratitude list or favorite mantra.
+ Invite the 5 elements. For example, you may wish to include:

Water = fresh or holy water contained in a vessel, or a small water fountain
Earth = plants, flowers, gemstones, crystals, mala beads
Fire = candles, ghee/oil lamps
Air = burning incense, sage, palo santo
Ether/Space = burn camphor, the invisible scent of flowers, chant Om, singing bowl

BONUS ALTAR CREATION TIPS

+ Try to set up your altar in a way that allows you to sit facing East or North for spiritual practices— the most auspicious directions.

+ When possible, choose metals or combined metals like gold, silver, copper or brass for idols (murthis,) as they hold a charge more than substances like wood or stone.

+ Turn your personal space into a sanctuary by clearing out clutter, mess, or unnecessary items from the space around your altar.

+ Create and initiate your altar with a grateful heart and feed your altar with love and appreciation every time you see it.

ALTAR MAINTENANCE

Here are a few tips to help preserve and build the energy of your altar space so you can receive even more benefit from the altar!

+ Never point your feet towards the altar.
+ Only items that are new and clean should be put on the altar (new incense, candles, even clean the altar with new paper towel each time, or have a special cloth used only for cleaning altar.)
+ Never place sacred objects directly on the floor— you may use a cloth underneath as a barrier if necessary.
+ Avoid moving your altar or altar objects around unnecessarily. Keeping your altar fixed helps to prevent dissipating the energy preserved within it.
+ Keep it clean— regularly wipe any incense remnants, dust, candle wax drips.
+ Avoid placing mundane objects on the altar such as cups, phones, lighters, pens etc.
+ The fragrance and beauty of elements of nature such as flowers, are given as offerings to the Divine and are not meant to be intentionally smelled.
+ Put nature back into nature— altar objects absorb the energy of offerings such as flowers and give energy back to the flower – in this way, the flowers given to the altar are considered sacred and should be put back into nature, not thrown in the garbage.

Now it’s time to get started on creating your own personal altar and sacred space! What will you include on your altar?

Yogi Tips & Etiquette for Yoga Studios, Spiritual Centers & Sacred Spaces

Whether you’re new to the realms of yoga studios, spiritual centers and sacred spaces, or an advanced yogi, here are the founding principles of yoga etiquette and tips for your own wisdom (or as a humble reminder,) to create the greatest possible experience in these sacred spaces for yourself, and others!

Based on the Yamas and Niyamas— an ethical and moral code of the yogic tradition, below are some simple principles such as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, preservation of vital energy, non-greed, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and devotion. These ancient principles are an incredible code of etiquette, a source of inspiration, and can act as an inner compass for simple practices to follow in sacred spaces for the greatest good of all!

YAMAS – ETHICAL PRACTICES

1. Non-Violence (Ahimsa):
+ Express kindness, compassion, acceptance and respect to fellow students, teachers and the space in thought, word and deed.
+ Be kind and gentle with yourself during movement and spiritual practices.
+ Think kind thoughts, speak kind words, act from kindness only—Practice tolerance and patience.

2. Truthfulness (Satya):
+ Be honest with yourself and your teacher about the reality of your experience.
+ If you have an injury, recent or past surgery, illness, disease, pregnancy or unique challenge – physical, emotional or mental – be open and honest with your teacher about it.
+ Don’t push yourself beyond your boundaries in an asana or meditation practice.
+ If something doesn’t feel right in your body or mind, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. Non-Stealing (Asteya):
+ Avoid taking away the peace of others by being mindful of how your presence— and sounds, scents, sights you invite may affect others in quiet spaces. Enter, set up, practice and be in the space as quietly as possible.
+ Turn your devices on silent so their sound doesn’t take away from the silence.
+ Avoid getting up during the practice and moving around, or leaving class early to prevent disrupting fellow students.
+ Arrive early so you don’t accidentally take the attention of fellow students from their practice or the teacher as you set up— 15-20 minutes before class is great!
+ Avoid pointing your feet at the teacher, altar, shrine, or sacred texts to preserve their energy for everyone to experience.
+ Ensure an appropriate energy exchange— when appropriate pay the studio/teacher for the class, make a donation or offer something in exchange.

4. Preservation of Vital Energy (Brahmacharya):
+ Take responsibility for the energy and attitude that you bring with you into the space and preserve your life force energy for yourself.
+ Let go of any judgments towards the teacher, teaching or fellow students.
+ Conserve your energy for spiritual practices, and be intentional in how you exert your energy.
+ Help others to also contain their energy during spiritual practices by giving your neighbours personal space— spreading your yoga mat or meditation cushion out evenly so everyone has comfortable space.
+ Yoga mats/meditation cushions are someone’s personal sacred space. Avoid stepping or touching people’s mats, props or meditation tools such as dharba mats, meditation beads or meditation slings or cushions without permission.
+ Wear practical, appropriate clothing for the setting your in.

5. Non-Greed (Aparigraha):
+ Take only what is given and using only what is needed in regards to teachers time, props, supplies, tea, water etc.
+ When setting up, consider giving your neighbours on all sides personal space, when possible, stagger your mat/meditation cushion slightly so you everyone has arm room, and everyone has
a view of the altar/teacher/mirror if there is one.

NIYAMAS – INTERNAL MORAL CODE

1. Purity (Saucha):
+ Come to class physically clean and free of any strong scents.
+ Try to wear fresh clean clothes, and it’s very beneficial to shower before all spiritual practices to receive the greatest benefit.
+ Clean up after yourself – don’t leave garbage in the space, wipe up any sweat, and clean/put away any props you used.
+ Please avoid wearing shoes into sacred spaces to preserve the purity of the space.
+ Avoid bringing extra, unnecessary and mundane things into sacred spaces— keys, extra clothes, purses etc. If possible, leave things out of the space, or to the sides to not clutter the area. Bring only what you need.
+ Many wisdom traditions prefer to wear white clothes during spiritual practices as a Sattvic colour, which reflects purity and receptivity of the teachings.
+ If you are sick, better you stay at home for your own comfort, and comfort of others.

2. Contentment (Santosha):
+ Express gratitude to fellow students, teachers and spaces, and connecting which the absolute joy, which is your Natural State.
+ Have an open mind and be present with what is in every moment without judgment or expectation. Trust the process!

3. Self-Discipline
(Tapas):
+ Spiritual practices are personal practices. Be disciplined and focused on yourself only.
+ Keeping your eyes on yourself, eyes closed and awareness inside is helpful to focus the mind and preserve your energy inside.
+ Draw your awareness from the external world, to your internal experience. Breathe mindfully. Concentrate. Meditate.
+ Practice mindfulness and moment-to-moment self-awareness.

4. Self-Study (Svadhyaya):
+ Take time in silence and stillness before or after class for self-reflection and self-inquiry.
+ Connect inside to your inner experience of the breath, and the beating heart– and hold space in silence and stillness for others to do the same.

5. Devotion to Divinity (Ishvara Pranidhana):
+ Take time in these spaces to connect within to the Beauty, Light and Paradise of your Heart.
+ Open the practice with chanting the mantra Om— the primordial sound, attuning your individual energy to their Natural State of Love, Peace, and Oneness only.
+ See the good in one another. Practices are often closed with the Sanskrit word Namaste— which means that you witness the Divinity, Love, Light and Wisdom within yourself, which is the same Divinity that exists in All Beings.

Namaste and Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantih! May there be Peace within, in the world, and in all beings everywhere.

Om: The Sound of the Universe

In our first few yoga classes, it may seem a little strange or awkward to loudly chant a funny “home” like sound before we begin our yoga practice— but with a bit of understanding and practice, you may just fall in love with the beauty and benefits of the incredible sound of Om.

WHAT IS OM?

Om is a sacred mantra and sound vibration traditionally chanted before and after spiritual practices in the yogic tradition.

Mantras are like scientific formulas of sound vibration known to have unique qualities, effects and energies. Repetition of mantras, including the sound of Om, are proven to have incredible benefits for the body, mind, and spirit.

Om is one of the most simple and ancient mantras, or sound vibrations. Known as the sacred primordial sound, it is said in the yogic tradition that all sound is born from Om. Om is known as the original vibration of the universe.

This sacred sound is composed of three fundamental syllables – A U M, which represents the various states of awareness, and the trinity of divine energies of Creation, Preservation and Liberation.

Within Aum, the first sound is “awe,” then the sound “oo,” then “mmm,” followed by a pause of silence.
by_om_symbol
WHY SHOULD WE CHANT OM?

All life on earth is simply energy, occupying space and matter. Everything we’ve ever known is simply vibration resonating at various frequencies. Similarly, chanting the sound vibration of Om is mathematically consistent with the frequency found throughout everything in nature and the universe.

Known as the “sound of the universe,” the sacred primordial sound and original vibration, the practice of chanting Om is like training our own vibration back to our original resonance— our True Nature. We are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound frequency and remembering our connection to all living beings, nature and the universe.

Chanting Om is like turning on the switch to cosmic energy— it is the transmission of pure Divine Love, and therefore it is necessary to first chant Om before and after spiritual practices to both initiate and seal the energy, as well as before chanting other mantras to have the full effect.

Mantras, including Om, are indestructible positive energies— meaning they remain in the cosmos indefinitely for the greater good of all and help reduce negative karmas.

Additionally, the repetition of Om is scientifically proven to help calm the mind, balance the nervous system, evoke knowledge, assist in healing the body and mind, increase physiological alertness and synchronicity of certain biorhythms, increase health and well-being and create a single-pointed, concentrated awareness in the mind.

HOW TO OM

Om acts as bookends to the practice. It establishes the beginning and end of Sadhana, yoga or spiritual practices such as meditation, pranayama, yoga asana, or chanting other mantra. It helps to differentiate the practice from other parts of the day, and contain the energy within the practice.

To open your yoga and spiritual practices with Om, try this:

1) Find a comfortable position with an upright spine and eyes closed.
2) Take a moment to ground, center, focus with love and gratitude in your heart.
3) Take a deep breath in, and on the exhale make the sound AUM (awe, oo, mmm.)
4) Repeat 3 or 9 times total.

TIPS FOR CHANTING OM

Begin the “awe” sound of AUM at a lower resonance, and then raise the sound to a higher note as you sound “oo” and “mmm.”

Create equal length of all three sounds A,U,M. And finish the whole sound with a pause of silence as you take your next big inhalation to create the next sound.

Visualize moving the vibration from the lower chakras, up and out through the crown of the head as you feel the sound raising up through your lower belly, chest and head.

On the “mmm” sound of AUM, you may try pressing the tip of your tongue to the roof of the mouth to help rise the energy into the higher chakras.

When chanted with devotion, love and sincerity, the positive effects of the vibrations are catalyzed and made more powerful.

With a greater understanding of the meaning of Om, may you receive more from and deepen your yoga practice, remember your True Nature, and return to Oneness.

How to Develop a Daily Yoga Practice

There are endless benefits to developing a daily yoga practice or spiritual practice. Many people know these benefits and want to create a daily practice, but perhaps don’t know what to do, how to do it, or how to maintain a daily practice long term.

This is a common challenge I hear from students and one that I myself have experienced through years of practice. In yoga, we call our daily yoga or spiritual pratice, sadhana. Here are four ways to overcome challenges on the path of sadhana so you can develop a daily practice and experience greater degrees of love, freedom, peace, and bliss in your life

1. Take the conditions out of your practice.

Sometimes, we are perfectionists in life and how we approach our practice is no different. We think that in order to be a yogi or develop a sadhana, we must have several hours a day, be stress free with little or no responsibility, endless energy, and have a tranquil, well decorated yoga room dedicated to practice. We place so much emphasis on perfection that we may fluctuate between practicing intensely for a short period of time, to then not practicing at all for a few days, weeks or months.

Troubleshoot common challenges to creating a daily practice:

+ “I don’t have time to practice.” | Do what you can, 5 or 10 minutes is enough.
+ “My house is too messy.” | Clean it up or don’t worry about it. Yoga is a practice of our inner experience, so the outer world isn’t too important for the practice.
+ “I’m too busy.” | Do your best to carve out time to practice. And practice mindfulness as you go through your busy day.
+ “I don’t have enough money to go to a class.” | Develop a home practice for free.
+ “I don’t know what to do.” | Go to a class at your local studio or do a free online yoga video or guided meditation.
+ “I’m too tired or lazy to practice.” | Great, honor how you feel, and try a more gently practice like yin yoga, restorative, yoga nidra or meditate to restore you. You may feel more energized after!
+ “I prefer to practice in the morning/evening and I was busy during that time.” | Creating a routine is valuable, but it’s important to also be flexible with your practice. Practicing at a different time of the day is better than not practicing at all. 

2. Make yoga your path.

Transform your practice into your path. Make yoga not only something you do, but how you live your life. Invite mindfulness, peace, and breath into all that you do and even the most mundane of tasks become sacred acts of devotion and union, which is the meaning of the word yoga in Sanskrit.

While asana, the physical poses of yoga, and meditation are important and valuable pieces of the yoga puzzle, there is more to yoga than these alone. In Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras, the two founding limbs of yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, are a code of morals and ethics which allow us to interact peacefully with the outer world, and with our inner experience. The Yamas teach us a path of non-violence, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, and non-attachment. The Niyamas encourage us to live a life of purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender. As Dharma Mittra says, “no Yama, no yoga.” If all you do is practice non-violence, ahimsa, the first of the Yamas as your spiritual practice— you are already a great yogi.

Transform your practice from an act of discipline into an act of devotion and your practice becomes an empowering, sacred infinite opportunity and choice to connect with yourself, and unite with Divinity.

3. Create ease in your practice.

Life, yoga and meditation can be challenging enough, no need to make things harder than they need to be. The practice of yoga is powerful, but subtle. Give yourself the permission to be gentle with yourself and your practice. When we push ourselves too hard with our practice, we may exhaust ourselves and then feel resistance to practicing. Practice as much as possible— but consistent, shorter, more frequent practices will benefit you more than longer, more intense practices done less frequently.

Create a practice that is simple, peaceful and that you enjoy doing and you may feel more drawn to practicing regularly. If slowing down your practice helps—do it. If using props or sitting in a chair while you meditate allows you to feel more comfortable—allow it to be. If doing less yoga postures and more meditation, chanting, or breathing exercises feels good— do this. If you prefer meditating in the morning/evening/before/after asana, yoga postures— do as you wish.

4. Develop a ritual.

 As much as possible, try to create a daily routine – or better yet, make it a ritual. Sculpt out time every day to practice, even if it’s only five or ten minutes. And as best as you can, try to make it consistent. Developing a routine time to practice gives instructions to your subconscious and may allow you to go deeper with practice.

Explore the infinity of yoga— There is an infinite depth to yoga that extends far beyond the physical postures. Yoga is the Yamas and Niyamas, the ethical and more code of yoga, yoga is Bhakthi— a path of love and devotion, Karma— a path of selfless service, Raja— a path of self-discipline, and Jnana— a path of self-inquiry and realization. Yoga is chanting mantra, meditation, prayer, pranayama, mindfulness, and union.

Having a sadhana sequence that you follow is very helpful in creating a routine. Through practice, your subconscious will begin to memorize what your practice guides you to find within yourself and you will be able to reveal it with more ease, depth and clarity.

Consistency is key. You will benefit more from shorter, more frequent practices, than longer and more intense sessions practiced less frequently.

Here is a beginner-friendly Sadhana practice that you may practice every day. Modify it as you wish and for what your schedule allows to make it your own.

how_to_do_sadhana

Create space | Enter Practice
+ Set up/clean altar. + Light candle and incense. + Get mat and props for meditation and asana.
+ Come into meditation seat. Ground, centre, withdraw inwardly (Pratyahara)
+ Open practice with Om x 3 + Set intention (Sankalpa) | Say Prayer | Gratitude
+ Chin Mudra: hands are palms facing up in the lap in with the thumbs and index finger connected.

Pranayama
+ Watch the breath + Ujjayi Pranayama + Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Concentration | Meditation
+ Drishti: navel, heart, space between the eyebrows
+ Watch the gap between the breaths
+ Mantra repetition: Om Namah Shivaya, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
+ Steep in the Bliss of simply Being

Yoga Postures (Asana) | Preferred Poses of the Day
+ Ground | Centre | Repeat Intention
+ Warm-Up
+ Standing | Strengthening | Balancing
+ Core work | Inversions
+ Backbending | Hip Openers | Twists
+ Savasana

Return | Close Practice
+ Om x 3 | Restate intention | Gratitude | Return

Creating a daily yoga practice or spiritual practice is one of the greatest gifts you can offer yourself to experience greater degrees of peace, freedom, love, bliss and truth in your life. Take the conditions out of your practice, make your yoga your path, create a practice you love to do, and make a daily ritual of if. Develop a daily yoga practice today!

the_pose_is_not_the_point

The Pose is Not the Point

The pose is not the point. In the west, yoga is often confused, diluted, and hybridized into something which is often quite accessible to all people and profitable for businesses, but lost it’s authenticity from the tradition of yoga from it’s roots in India.

          In the west, we’ve placed great emphasis on the physical postures of yoga. Asana, the physical yoga poses, are only one small limb of the 8 limbs of yoga which is aimed solely towards opening the body so one can sit comfortably in meditation for an extended period of time. In modern times, there is great importance placed on mastering the physical postures of yoga, as though that is the objective of the practice. Yoga has been advertised as a method to weight loss, relaxation, building strength, improving focus, or rehabilitating the body—while these may be outcomes and valuable benefits of developing a yoga practice, traditionally, these outcomes are not the objective.

Traditionally, yoga is a method that aims towards Samadhi— yoga is a path to liberation.

The pose is not the point. While yoga poses are valuable tools for opening, strengthening and balancing the body and mind, and many of us enjoy how yoga poses allow us to feel, and it is said that a certain level of bliss may be experienced through holding a pose in alignment for an extended period of time, mastering a yoga pose will not set you free. The pose is just a method, it alone cannot liberate you.

The realizations on the journey into the pose are far more valuable than the mastery of the posture alone.

What do you realize about yourself on your way into a yoga pose? What does the journey into the posture reveal to you about your True Self? What do you learn along the way on the pathway into the pose? What is laying underneath the surface of the posture that is waiting to bloom? What does the posture awaken in you?

If you yearn for the achievement of a pose, once you arrive into that posture, you’re still the same person— you’ve just touched your toes or balanced on your hands. But the journey into the pose gifts us with the opportunity to realize a deeper essence of your being. The Truth within you may be revealed. And you may realize that the pose was never the point.

The pose is not the point– when we think it is, we cheat ourselves of some of the greatest gifts yoga has to offer us. The pose itself becomes the least interesting— it’s the realizations, lessons, moments of surrender and strength on the journey into the pose that are the greatest gifts of yoga.

8_limbs_of_yoga

The Yogi Code | The 8 Limbs of Yoga

The 8 Limbs of Yoga are outlined in detail in the roughly two thousand year old texts, the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. These ancient texts are much like a yogis’ handbook; an instruction manual on how to live a happy, fulfilling, spiritual and peaceful life.

There is so much more to yoga than the familiar physical practice of yoga poses. There is a whole system to it, a yogi’s code, full of observances, ethics, practices and restraints to inspire you to embrace yoga as a lifestyle and help you navigate through life with ease.

1. Yama: Ethical practices to interact with the outer world.

The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of the 8 limbs of yoga, and are valuable steps to living a conscious life. They are a sum of values and virtues available to us, so we may relate with and co-exist peacefully with all beings, ourselves and with the planet. They can be broken down into 5 specific areas each:

a. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-aggression, compassion, forgiveness, kindness— love.
b. Satya: truth, honesty, sincerity, living your truth; your sacred purpose or dharma.
c. Asteya: non-stealing, take only what is offered – use only what is needed.
d. Brahmacharya: preservation of vital life force energy.
e. Aparigraha: non-greed, non-hoarding, non-collection, non-gluttony.

2. Niyama: A moral code of observances to cultivate a positive relationship with ones self and inner world.

a. Saucha: purity, cleanliness
b. Santosha: contentment, the art of being happy for no particular reason
c. Tapas: austerity, self-discipline, passion
d. Svhadyaya: Self-study, awareness of the Self, study of texts.
e. Isvara Pranidhana: devotion to divinity, celebrating the divinity and oneness within all beings, surrender to faith, contemplation of a higher power.

3. Asana: Yoga Poses

This is what we tend to think of yoga as in the west; people twisting their body into unique shapes. The physical yoga postures are only one limb of the 8 limbs of yoga which is the entire system and practice of yoga. Yoga poses, asanas’, care for our physical bodies; the vessel that our spirit resides in throughout this lifetime. Yoga poses strengthen and open our bodies, so we can be comfortable and healthy in our bodies, and so we are able to sit for periods of time in meditation.

4. Pranayama: Breathing Practices

The breath is critical for sustaining life. In yoga, we perform breathing exercises and techniques to circulate and direct our prana, the life force energy within all living beings and to calm and balance the mind and body.

5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal from senses.

After practicing yoga for a period of time, we naturally begin to withdraw from our sensory experience, meaning from the experiences of our 5 outward senses, and our attention is drawn inward, focusing on our inner experience.

6. Dharana: Concentration

When we concentrate, we free the mind of senseless chatter. We experience mental clarity. In yoga, we practice focus, observation and concentration. Our focus can be directed either inwardly (like in yoga nidra on various parts of the body, or outwardly, by finding our drishti, a single point of focus to gaze upon, to help us balance in yoga poses.

7. Dhyana: Meditation

Meditation is a state of being; it is an experience of nothingness and infinity simultaneously, without effort or thought. It is zen. It is absorption into pure silence and stillness. Everyone experiences meditation in many different ways. For some of us, it’s gazing into the heart of a setting sun, for others it is through dance, or through art. It is the experience of being so deeply absorbed into what is happening. It is thoughtless, and timeless.

8. Samadhi: Bliss | Enlightenment

Bliss, or enlightenment, is the ultimate goal of yoga. Bliss occurs through the transcendence of the ego. Upon the divine realization of the ultimate oneness of all. It is the purest state of being.

Your Yogi Challenge:

I invite you to practice the 8 limbs of yoga. Begin with the Yamas. Study them. Learn them. Memorize them. And practice them every day for a week, both on and off the mat. Master them. And the following week, move on to the Niyamas. Then asana. And so on, until you yourself, experience Divine Bliss.

These 8 Limbs of Yoga, from the Yamas to Samadhi, are like a pyramid or stepping stones to living a happy, fulfilling, peaceful and spiritual life. Allow the 8 Limbs of Yoga, this Yogi Code, to be your compass as you navigate through life.

5 Reasons To Go On a Yoga Retreat

Whether you are brand new to yoga, or a lifelong skilled yogi, attending a yoga retreat is an experience of a lifetime.

1. Deepen your yoga and spiritual practices:

+ Only in a yoga retreat setting, do you have the opportunity to live full time with your teacher, practice with them daily, and to dedicate a holistic 2-7 days to your yoga and spiritual practice. The retreat setting allows you to dive head first into your practice, to become curious about the possibilities of your body and mind, and to explore the depths of your practice, to grow and transform, on all levels of being.
+ A yoga retreat gives you a chance to get one on one with your instructor, to ask questions, to ask for support, assistance and to try and practice new things that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to in a regular 60-90 minute yoga class.

2. Meet amazing like-minded people:

+ Yoga retreats tend to attract very unique, beautiful and kindred spirits. Yoga retreats give you a chance to really get to know the people you are retreating with in a more intimate and loving setting than any other, and build deep, life-long friendships— sisters and brothers.
+ Experience a deep sense of connection; these people at retreats, they just get you. They are on the same path. They are passionate about the same things. They seek what you seek.
+ Some of my dearest friends are from all over the world that I have met at yoga retreats | yoga trainings. We keep in touch today, and many of them, I have met up with again after the retreat. I love my retreat siblings.

3. Experience a deep reset in life:

+ The nature of most yoga retreats are very empowering, transformational and deeply nourishing. It gives you the time and space to rejuvenate, recharge and reset in life.
+ You will leave feeling balanced, completely inspired, ecstatically motivated and devoted to your path and practice.

4. Deepen your connection to yourself:

+ Attending a yoga retreat is a large investment into yourself, your health, your wellbeing and your practice.
+ Embarking on a yoga retreat is a radical act of self-love, self care and self-honor.
+ It gives you the opportunity to reflect, meditate, and redirect your mind and energy to yourself.

5. It’s an opportunity to travel:

+ Whether it’s a solo international flight, a road trip with a bestie, or a short ride from your home, yoga retreats are a chance to travel. And when we travel, we are granted new landscapes, and a fresh perspective. We are taken away from our daily routines, and schedules, and maybe even away from our comfort zones. And that is where magic happens; just outside of the comfort zone. Check out our Yogi Travel Packing List.

If the above sounds absolutely amazing to you, add attending a yoga retreat to your bucket-list. Check out our Vancouver Island Yoga Retreats or your favourite yoga instructors, travel to your favourite places, make new lifelong yogi friends, deepen your practice, and connect deeply with yourself.

Is going on a yoga retreat on your bucket-list? Have you been on one before?
I want to hear about your yoga retreat experiences in the comment box below!

– Brit x

grounding_meditation

Grounding Meditation

This meditation is incredibly powerful when you are feeling disconnected, anxious or restless. When life gets too busy, when you find your thoughts are all over the place, or your days just feel chaotic.

Grounding is our anchor in life, and without this anchor, we float around aimlessly, tossed about by the winds and waves of life.

This grounding meditation guides you into grounding your energy, focusing your mind and connects you intimately with the love and support of Mother earth so you can feel connected, secure, clear and so incredibly calm.

Full “Inner Devotions” Meditation Series; to be released soon.

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Yoga Myths & FAQ’s

We have all heard about the physical and mental benefits of yoga. As a yoga and natural health professional, I commonly hear myths and questions about yoga that may be preventing people from trying yoga and receiving the endless benefits. Let us demystify the yoga myths, so everyone can enjoy the perks of a regular yoga practice.

 1) I’m not flexible— can I still do yoga?

“I would love to try yoga, but I am soo not flexible…” as a yoga professional, this is one of the most common comments I hear. The answer is yes, yes, yes! And in reality, if you aren’t super flexible, you are actually the perfect candidate to practice yoga. Alignment in postures is key, and your flexibility and range of motion will increase significantly with practice.

 2) Is yoga a religion/religious?

This is one of the greatest yoga myths I hear. While yoga may be in religion, religion is not in yoga. Yoga is not a religion nor is it religious in any way. Yoga is a science, an art, and a practice to connect us with our highest Self; if in someone’s personal practice, their intention is to connect them with a deity or to dedicate their yoga practice to becoming closer to a god, then yoga may be a part of their religion. Because of yoga’s intimate nature with the Self, it may be a spiritual path or philosophy of living for body, mind and spirit; however, religion is not a part of yoga.

 3) How often should I practice?

How often you should practice depends on your goals within yoga! Personally, I practice daily, but I listen carefully to my body’s innate intuition. Some days, I enjoy 90 minutes of vigorous practice, and other days, all my body wants is 5 minutes in a forward fold or a Savasana.

If you’re just starting out with yoga, try attending 2-3 classes per week to start the habit of prioritizing yoga into your lifestyle; learn the alignment of postures, find a yoga sequence that you prefer, and test out different styles and teachers to discover what suites you and your goals best!

 4) Why yoga; how is yoga different from other forms of fitness?

Yoga is a rare form of fitness because it is one of the only fitness modalities that is entirely holistic. Unlike many other forms of fitness that cause more stress and strain in the body and mind, yoga is one form of movement that positively impacts all aspects of our being; the body, mind and spirit. Yoga is unique because it is a science of specific postures to open and heal the body on a cellular level, strengthen and tone all muscles in our body— not just the large muscle groups, it balances our nervous system, hormones, immune system, cellular metabolism and cleanses our natural mechanisms of purification, all while working intimately into our energetic and emotional bodies.

I love running, and weightlifting, and dancing, but I would not be able to practice these other fitness practices if I didn’t have my daily yoga practice to bring me back to that mind, body, spirit experience.

 5) I’m a dude— am I going to be the only guy in the class?

Men, we welcome you to yoga with open arms! Thousands of years ago, it was men who traditionally practiced yoga. In our current western world, it is possible that you will be the only one in the room with only one X chromosome, but who cares! Men need zen, too. Over my years of teaching, I see more and more men regularly attend yoga. Men, did you know that you inspire us women, and that you bring a beautiful energy with you to each class? Buy some yoga shorts and come play with us!

6) “I’m too _______ to do yoga.”

Insert negative, self-limiting adjective here. I hear all the time; “I am too fat,” “too old,” “too stiff and sore.” Yoga really is for everyone. If you have an injury, physical limitation or are concerned about where you are fitness-wise, simply talk to your instructor before class. Any qualified and experienced instructor will be happy to offer you modified poses or adjustments to make your practice as healing as possible. There are many different styles of yoga to suit the entire population. From vigorous sweaty Vinyasa or Power yoga, to gentle, stillness based Yin and Restorative yoga, there is a class for you; whatever your age, schedule, or physical ability.

7) What do I need to get started?

The best part about yoga is that you really don’t need anything to get started. In western culture, we have created special yoga clothes, yoga mats, blocks, straps, cushions—even special yoga socks. Ultimately, our body, mind, and breath are all we need to get started, but a yoga mat, water bottle, and comfortable clothing for bending and stretching are what most people start out with for classes. (Many studios have mats, and props for use or rental.)

The physical and mental benefits of yoga are endless and truly accessible to everyone, so let go of the yoga myths, go buy a mat, go check out your local studio, and fall in love!