Category Archives: Yoga Philosophy

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.

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.

Trust + Surrender: The Art of Letting Go

“Stop fighting and resisting. Try something different – surrender.” – Rumi

MY STORY ON SURRENDER

Four years ago, I found myself at an ashram in Thailand, studying yoga and meditation. I arrived disoriented from heartbreak, dizzy with confusion, incredibly lost and feeling alone. I had been practicing, and teaching yoga for years already, but recent life events left my mind turbulent, my heart shattered and my body locked up like a box.

At this training in the jungle on a foreign island, I held my sad, beaten heart in my hands and presented it to my teachers. They consoled me, and told me that even when I felt like I was suffocating in meditation, to just keep gently breathing into that tender spot in the center of my chest.

“It will open and heal,” they promised.

After a month of intense practice, Asana, (yoga postures,) Sadhana, (daily spiritual practice,) meditation and journaling, we sealed our time together with a closing ceremony. A fire homa they called it. It smelled like incense and the fire they created with palm leaves was warm and bright. Our teachers dotted the space between our eyebrows with sacred ash, red turmeric and sandalwood— or something like that.

At the end, we were given small slips of paper, and were asked to write our Sankalpa, our intention, that we would like to carry with us into the year ahead.

Almost instinctively, my heart traveled down my arm, through my hand and into my grip on the pen, and begged for surrender.

“I am opening up in sweet surrender,” it wrote.

At that time, I really didn’t know what it meant for me, or how this nine letter word would present itself in my life for a whole year.

I devoted myself, and my life to that intention. In times I found myself anxious and worried, tightening my grip on life, and structuring how things ought to be, I soothed myself with this word— surrender. This word dissolved my armor, it woke up my sleepy eyes, and finally, my heart broke open.

Literally, in meditation one day, a cracking sound thundered from the bones of my sternum followed by a flood of blissful tears flowing from my face.

Surrender unchained me from myself. I opened up to the whole Universe, and the Universe opened up to me.
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In Sanskrit, we call the concept of surrender Ishvara Pranidhana. Surrendering (Pranidhana) to a higher source; to the Divine (Ishvara.) Beautiful.

“Surrender is the intersection between acceptance, and change.” – Unknown

With all of my heart, I know that surrender is not submission. It is not backing down. It is not irresponsible, laziness, passivity or being unambitious. It does not mean ‘giving in’ nor does it mean ‘losing’ control or a battle.

The only thing you will lose by surrendering, is frustration, bondage and suffering.

The art of surrender is means to yielding to the flow of life with radical acceptance, ease and grace. Surrender is the opening of our hearts to the unknown, and trusting with faith in the Perfect unfolding of Now. Surrender is a process of letting go of the ‘small’ Self to the ‘big’ Self in each moment. Surrender is an opportunity to tune into the qualities of openness and receptivity to invite total freedom and peace into our lives. Surrender is Freedom.

SURRENDER VS CONTROL

+ Acceptance | Resistance
+ Being | Doing
+ Releasing | Grasping
+ Openness | Closedness
+ Softness | Security
+ Yielding | Resisting
+ Fluidity | Rigidity
+ Ease | Effort
+ Flow | Stagnation
+ Flexibility | Breakable

PRACTICE SURRENDER: ISHVARA PRANIDHANA

1. Release how you think things ought to be, and appreciate things as they are. Surrender the expectation that something is wrong if it doesn’t go according to your plan.

2. Steep in the Bliss of simply Being, instead of always doing.

3. Let go of ego, expectation, judgement and attachment- to outcomes, to things, to people, to ideas or concepts.

4. Surrender to the Truth of your Experience in every moment – whatever that is. In this moment there may be happiness, frustration, contentment, anger, joy, shame, gratitude or grief. There is nothing personal about your thoughts or emotions. They are simply phenomena passing through your awareness. Allow these experiences to come and go- without resisting displeasurable ones, or clinging to pleasurable ones.

5. Give yourself the permission to really feel what you feel, because what you feel, you heal. What we resist, persists. And while emotions and thoughts aren’t personal, they are valuable pieces of information. Pain informs Strength. Confusion informs Clarity. Failure informs Wisdom. Grief informs Compassion. And so on.

6. Open yourself up to the Perfect Bliss of Now, instead of resisting it or wishing life were any other way than it is. Wholeheartedly engage with each and every moment, as it is, and recognize the Absolute Perfection in it all.

7. Have faith and trust that you always have been, always are, and you always will be supported by Life. You are living proof that you’ve survived every moment of your life so far – and will continue to thrive. Life gives us precisely what we need in each and every moment for our hearts to open and souls to Awaken. Trust that you are exactly where you need to be. Surrender to the process and have faith that all is perfect.

8. Be open to the possibility that something may be greater than you alone and what you are able to control. Surrender your fear and pain, and witness something far greater than that which the fear was trying to protect.

You are not a salmon, so stop swimming up stream. Practice Ishvara Pranidhana. Go with the Perfect Flow of Life. Surrender to what is. Surrender in pigeon pose. Surrender to love. Surrender, and Be Free.

How can you surrender to move through life with peace, ease, grace and fluidity?

4 Key Aspects of Yogic Living (+ Tips for Staying True on the Path!)

We hold within us all infinite wisdom and endless knowledge. Already, we hold within all that we could ever need to come home to the remembrance of who we really are. Ultimately, we require nothing outside of what is here, now and within to remember Truth.

However, we live in an age that tends to have some distractions and confusion which clouds our perception of Reality. To help create ease on your journey, here are four key aspects of yoga to help maintain, inspire and encourage you on the path of awakening and enlightened living.

1) Spiritual Community (Sangha)

If you have even one person in your life on the same or a similar path as you, you’ve encountered a great blessing. In yoga, we call our spiritual community our Sangha. Sangha is a valuable part of our spirituality. Being immersed in a community of like-minded souls is inspiring, grounding, and uplifting. It is invaluable when it comes to living an inspired, conscious yogic life, and realizing the Truth of our own Divine Nature. Your Sangha is an endless source of love, support, inspiration, connection and a safe space to Be As You Are.

When possible, choose to surround yourself with positive, wise, peaceful, truth-seeking, love-embodying people, places and nature that encourage and inspire you on your spiritual journey— on the path to the remembrance of your True Nature.

2) Spiritual Practice (Sadhana)

Practice, practice, practice. Sadhana is our daily spiritual practice or discipline. To experience the true Bliss, Freedom and Peace that is our Natural State, we as yogis have incredibly valuable tools and practices available to us to help guide us into this state of Being.

Create a daily Sadhana that resonates with your heart. Your Sadhana may include yoga poses (Asana,) breathing techniques (Pranayama,) meditation (Dharana,) chanting mantra, kirtan, or self-reflection. Shorter, more frequent practices are more beneficial than longer practices done sporadically. A daily and consistent practice is the key to enlightened living.

3) Spiritual Texts (Svadhyaya)

On our spiritual journey, reading the sacred texts written by the enlightened sages and saints is an invaluable source of wisdom and inspiration. Svadhyaya means “self-study” and includes study of the classical texts of yoga—the authorities of classical yogic and vedic knowledge.

Some simple and inspiring texts to read are:
+ “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahamsa Yogananda
+ “Living with the Himalayan Masters” by Swami Rama
+ “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” commentary by Swami Durgananda
+ “Bhagavad Gita” commentary by Swami Sivananda
+ “Be As You Are” teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

4) Spiritual Teacher (Guru)

Ultimately, life is full of teachers— teachers come in many forms and the whole world is our classroom. However, it is a great gift to have a spiritual teacher whom we can connect with and receive knowledge and inspiration from.

The Sanskrit word guru means “gu” (darkness,) and “ru” (that which dispels.) The guru is a spiritual teacher who helps guide us from unreal to real, darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge. A Sattvic Guru is an embodiment of Love, Peace and Truth. In their presence, we are uplifted and humbly guided into our own awakening.

You must listen to your heart while searching for your teachers. Seek out a teacher for whom emanates Love, Truth and Peace. Choose a teacher who is devoted to their own practice and awakening, comes from a traditional lineage, and who follows ancient scriptures not only in words but in everyday life.

Additionally, look to the yoga masters for inspiration— the great sages, spiritual masters and realized beings for guidance— teachers like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Amma Sri Karunamayi, Swami Saraswati Sivananda, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the Buddha, Jesus Christ and many other enlightened souls who have devoted their lives to the path of Realization have passed down the ancient traditions of yoga generation after generation.

Immerse yourself in the greatness of Sangha (Spiritual Community,) Sadhana (Spiritual Practice,) Svadhyaya (Self-Study + Spiritual Texts,) and in Wisdom from the Guru (Spiritual Teacher) to inspire you on your journey of Awakening and Yogic living. May we all be blessed as we come Home.

Yoga and the Soul

“You yourself are eternity; you yourself are infinity; you yourself are immortality.”  –Amma Shri Karunamayi

If you are reading this, like me, you’ve encountered the rare and precious gift of being born as a human. Like many great wisdom traditions around the world, yoga teaches us that “I” and you are simply soul manifested in the form of a human— energy descended into matter.

Not only have you been blessed with this human experience, but you’ve also found the path of yoga and dharma. The greatest blessing and purpose of this human experience is for the heart to open and the soul to evolve— to become Self-Aware. There are many paths to this one Truth; and from the fruits of positive karma from countless lives, you’ve been blessed to find the incredible path of yoga. In the shape of a human, you’ve been blessed with conscious awareness, the capacity to Be and recognize your own existence, to and the ability to realize or remember who you really are at your essence.

The timeless teachings of yoga teach us that we are Atman— immortal and eternal, embodiments of Spirit. The soul is the absolute essence of you— it is who you really are. The soul is the True Self; your True Nature. It is the answer and Truth to one of the greatest questions yoga asks us— “Who Am I?” And when we trace this question back to it’s source, we find the simple but profound Bliss of Nothingness, Oneness and Infinity simultaneously. We discover that who we really are is Pure Divinity, Infinity, Immortality— Pure Bliss.

You are pure Consciousness, pure Energy, pure Being. You are timeless. Boundless and Eternal. You are a piece of Spirit or God or Source—a spark of divine light and love, a fragment of Absolute Perfection.

This same essence resides in all living Beings everywhere. In this way we are the same. There is Oneness only. This is the meaning of Namaste— recognizing and bowing to the divinity, the Love, the Absolute Consciousness and Perfection that exists within all Beings, and witnessing and serving all beings as embodiments and manifestations of the Spirit that we all Are.

Like you, all is Spirit. All is Love. All is One. All that you see in this world is Spirit manifest. All of this is the phenomenal expression of Divinity. Life’s joy, sorrows, happiness, challenges and grief is all perfect—for Life will always give us the gift of precisely what we need in each and every moment for our hearts to open and our soul to evolve. May we see with the eyes of Love, speak with the words of Love, and act from Love’s Grace. May we see Spirit in the eyes of all Beings. And remember our unity always.

“Life on this Earth teaches everyone many lessons. The wise ones take these lessons to heart and experience inner awakening.” – Amma Shri Karunamayi

One of the greatest gifts of this human experience is that the soul that we are evolves— through the experiences of life, mundane, joyful and challenging. All these experiences are the fruits of previous karmas that are written in the contract of our soul for this lifetime. This is the gift of Being here— to experience life as it is. To be as we are— steeping in the Perfection of each and every moment. Resting in the Bliss of who we really are. To awaken to the Truth of where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and why we’re here. To remember Reality so we may all come home to the Love that is our True Nature.

May you enjoy the bliss of this human experience. May you enjoy this moment exactly as it is in it’s absolute perfection—as it is the only one there is and has ever been. May you rise up to the challenges of life— allow all experiences, and people you encounter to be your teachers so your soul may evolve and awaken to the Truth. Meditate to deepen your remembrance of your own Divine Nature.

Devote your time while in this temple of flesh and bone to Awakening; Remembering; Realizing your own Divinity— so you may be truly Happy and Free.

7 Sacred Mantras for Spiritual Illumination

Mantras are powerful sacred sound vibrations from the ancient Sanskrit language that are traditionally chanted during spiritual practices in the yogic tradition.

Mantras are composed of Sanskrit letters, each infused with unique frequencies— much like scientific formulas of sound vibration known to have unique qualities, effects and energies. Similarly, Mantras act like a secret password to various aspects of our inner dimension. They are said to hold subtle knowledge in their vibration, and cleanse the body, mind and spirit.

Repetition of a Mantra is proven to have incredible benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. They are 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.

Choose one of the following Mantras that resonates with your heart for your highest good and for the greater good of all Beings everywhere.

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Om Namah Shivaya
 (Aum Na-mah She-vai-yah)
Rebirth. Letting go. Healing. Surrender. Strength. Compassion.

Om Gam Ganapatayae Namaha
 (Aum Gah-mm Gah-na-pat-eye-aye Na-ma-ha)
Overcoming Obstacles. Inner Wisdom. Ease. Supreme Knowledge. Awakening.

Om Hrim Dhum Durga Devai Namaha (Aum Hreem Doom Dur-gah Dev-yay Na-ma-ha)
Protection. Truth. Courage. Power. Purity. Fearlessness. Forgiveness.

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (Aum Low-kah Some-ah-sta Sook-ee-no Bah-van-too)
Peace Prayer: May all beings everywhere be happy and free of suffering.

Om Shring Hring Kleeng Mahalakshmi Namaha (Aum Shh-ring H-ring Cling Mahah-Luck-shh-mee Na-ma-ha)
Abundance. Dharma – Purpose. Beauty. Freedom. Success.

Om Aim Shrim Hrim Saraswati Devyai Namaha (Aum I’m Shreem Hreem Sara-swat-ee Dave-yay Na-ma-ha)
Creativity. Highest Knowledge. Arts. Intelligence. Beauty. Truth. Expression.

Om Aim Klim Somaya Namaha (Aum I’m Kleem Soma-Ya Na-ma-ha
Secret Knowledge of the Moon. Surrender. Peace. Receptivity. Divine Feminine.

With love, practice, and intention invite the secret power of mantras into your daily practice and life and witness great benefit for yourself and 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.
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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.

The Yogi Code: The Yamas

The Yamas are the founding principles of the 8 Limbs of Yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras summarized by Patanjali. They are the foundation of living a conscious and yogic life. The Yamas are external disciplines— a sum of ethical practices, values and virtues available to us so we may interact, relate and co-exist peacefully with all beings and with the planet.

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The Yamas can be broken down into 5 specific areas; Ahimsa (non-harming,) Satya (truthfulness,) Asteya (non-stealing,) Brahmachara (continence,) Aparigraha (non-possessiveness.)

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Lets further explore the qualities of the Yamas, these values and virtues to live more peaceful lives both on and off the mat.

1.AHIMSA: non-harming, non-violence, non-aggression, compassion, forgiveness, kindness— love.

2. SATYA: truthfulness, honesty, sincerity. Being truthful in thought, word and deed. Living one’s truth; sacred purpose or dharma.

3. ASTEYA: non-stealing. Take only what is offered and use only what is needed.

4. BRAHMACHARYA: moderation and continence. Preservation of vital energy. Exerting one’s energy wisely. Sexual responsibility or celibacy.

5. APARIGRAHA: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-hoarding, non-collection, non-gluttony, non-attachment.

By practicing the Yamas, you can advance your yoga to the next level by transforming yoga from a simple practice, into your way of life. May these ethical practices of yoga guide you deeper into the essence of yoga and transform your yoga practice both on the mat, and off the mat into the world.

How do you practice the Yamas – on the mat and off the mat? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. <3

4 Ways to Create a Peaceful Life (And World!)

Perhaps you’ve noticed – there is suffering in the world we live in. As compassionate, loving people of the planet, we can easily empathize and sometimes even feel the pain and suffering of other beings. Sometimes, it may make us feel sadness, sometimes we grieve, sometimes we become angry, bitter or even hateful. But we cannot create a world of peace from a place of hatred. When we hate in the name of love, I’m afraid we’ve missed something very important.

Here are 4 ways to peacefully navigate through a world of suffering to create a life and world of peace. May peace and love be our compass, and may all beings be happy and free.

1. Start with yourself.

Perhaps, the greatest thing we can do for well-being, empowerment and peace among all beings is to do the inner work so that we may be at peace with ourselves and, actively participate in creating the peace we wish to see in the world. Be kind, be gentle, be compassionate with yourself first.

By filling our own cup with unwavering self-love and radical inner peace, we have more to give, we are better able to serve others, and we become a bright light in the world that emanates love and peace everywhere we go so that more people can be impacted by the peace we share, and one day, the whole world may live in peace.

2. Make peace your path.

Make peace, love, and compassion your path. Transform peace from being something you do into who you are. Doing acts of peace is powerful, but being peace will change the world.

To be peaceful, or a peace activist, you don’t have to stand outside of building chanting what is wrong with the world, you don’t have to aggressively comment on social media what you believe to be wrong or unethical, and you don’t have to donate heaps of money to humanitarian organizations.

Try practicing what I like to call micro activism in your daily life; small acts of compassion that create massive waves of peace in our world. As best as you can, try to eat, shop, exist compassionately with as little negative impact to other beings and this planet as possible. By you living a peaceful life, there is more peace in the world.

3. Choose love.

Please—stop hating in the name of love. It is easy to become angry and bitter when we see the injustice and suffering in the world, and from this place of anger, we may want to scream hatred and aggression in the name of love. Our intentions our good, but the method is not always compassionate, peaceful, or effective. To fight in the name of love is to forget what love really is. Don’t allow the suffering of the world to stain your heart of it’s true essence—unconditional love.

Ask yourself in every moment; in every interaction, in how you shop, in what you eat— how can I choose love? How may I serve in the most compassionate way? What is the most loving thing I can do here? How can I share peace? Choose the path of least harm— and when you can, always choose love

4. Do what you can to alleviate others suffering, but don’t make yourself suffer in the process.

When you cross paths with someone you can serve, do what you can. It is our highest duty to do what we can to alleviate the suffering of other beings— but that doesn’t mean we must carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. You don’t need to go searching for suffering.

We have infinite resources to offer each other; from time and money, to a loving hug or words of compassion. If you cross paths with a hungry cat or thirsty dog, do what you can to nourish them. If you can share money or food with someone less fortunate, do so. If you notice a shelter could use a volunteer, show up. If you feel called to offer words of compassion or a hug to someone in emotional pain, do it. If you see suffering, do what you can to help, to serve, for the greater good of humanity.

But that doesn’t mean you need to go looking for suffering. In a world where every catastrophe on the planet, large or small, shows up on our newsfeeds on several devices in an instant, we need to give ourselves a break from the suffering of the world. It’s important to know what is happening in our world, but our constant connection to world events can take a toll on our state of being, and move us into a state of fear and anger.

Take time away from the news, social media etc every so often to recharge your heart with inner peace and love— we can offer more to the world from that state of Being.

BONUS YOGA TECHNIQUES FOR PEACE

1. Chant the mantras:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

(Low-Kah Sum-A-Sta Sook-ee-no Buh-Vun-Too)
May all beings be happy and free of suffering and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness freedom for all.
Om Shanti Om
(Aum, Shun-tee, Aum)
May there be universal peace.

2. Meditate
Silence and stillness allows us to settle into the experience of peace that exists within us all, and we can live and act from this place of peace.

3. Practice Ahimsa
Ahimsa in yoga is the first of the Yamas, the moral code written in the ancient texts of yoga. Ahimsa teaches us to live a life of non-violence, non-aggression, love and peace with one another. Do no harm.

May we up the ante on the shanti— start by creating peace in your own life, make peace your path, alleviate the suffering of other beings that cross your path as best you can, and always choose love. Ps. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit, which makes this a funny, cute peace rhyme because the world needs more smiles, too.

But for real, may all beings be happy, and free of suffering.

How do you live peace? How do you choose love? I’d love to hear in the comments below! x

om_shanti

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha.

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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.