It All Begins at the Tailbone

It all begins at the tailbone is the first Svaroopa® Yoga Sutra.  You ask what is a Sutra, it is a statement about the principles of yoga, the philosophy behind the yoga practice.  Used in ancient times to pass down the wisdom of yoga philosophy to students.  The most famous book of Sutras is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which gives the teachings of the ancient yogis.  Today in Svaroopa® Yoga my teacher Swami Nirmalanda gives us Svaroopa Sutras to help us understand the underlying philosophy of why and how  Svaroopa® Yoga works.

It all begins at the tailbone is also our first Sutra which means it is the most important one.  We believe that all of the tensions in the spine first start at the tailbone and as those tensions climb the spine they create physical, mental and emotional health problems.  The good news is that as you release those tensions the healing process climbs your spine also providing healing from chronic illness, pain and stress.

Part of what makes this Sutra so important is to understand the way we tighten our spinal muscles and how that effects our health.  Unlike the ancient sages we are not monks living in a cave doing yoga and meditation all day long.  We live out in the world and there are so many things that cause you to tighten your tailbone, even though you may not even feel it happening!  Just think about driving, if you have a long commute it is not just the long time sat in the car (which can be very tightening and even painful)  but someone cuts you off suddenly your temper flairs and your tailbone tightened! As I look out my window and see the last of the leaves falling from the trees I know what I will be doing this weekend, raking.  How will my shoulders feel after that?  If my shoulders hurt how much did I tighten the rest of my spine?

The good news is there is help, do a little more yoga!  Do a little more Svaroopa® Yoga. Luckily the Magic 4 takes only about 20 minutes to do, or do any other spinal sequence to take the changes from the tailbone to the top of your spine.  You have so many options, the Daily Practice theme we finished in September has hopefully helped empower you to do yoga at home on your own.  Still not comfortable with doing yoga on your own? You can add an extra yoga class in one week, or better yet sign up for a private session to really get a deep opening in the tight muscles of your spine. You have so many options to carry over the blissful feeling you have at the end of class! Treat yourself to more – more yoga, more healing, more you!

 

 

® Svaroopa is a Registered  Service Mark of Svaroopa Teachings Collection, Inc. used under license.

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Sprinter

 

The other day on Facebook I read a post that said New England is now experiencing a new season called Sprinter.  Ugh, as I write this on April 19th there is snow and freezing rain falling outside my window.  Sprinter is not about running a short but fast race, it is winter conditions even though the calendar says we are technically in springtime.

Sprinter, makes my mind start to churn, and churn, and churn. Last month in my yoga class we talked about cultivating the opposite to calm your churning mind.  Students asked why and how do they cultivate the opposite.  Sprinter gives us the opportunity to practice cultivating the opposite.

Before you can cultivate the opposite you must identify what you are feeling in the first place.  So how does hearing the word sprinter  or looking out the window on April 19th and seeing snow make YOU feel?  Not your spouse, kids, friends or coworkers but you what are you feeling right now? Sit with that for a moment, experience and identify the feeling and emotion that arises.

If you are a skier you might be joyful, ski season is extended for you! Your mind is not churning.  If you are like me and want to work in your garden or get outside for walks and to enjoy sunshine and warm weather the feeling might not be so joyful.  Your mind might be churning.  Now sit with the churning, feel it, recognize the emotion and name it.  Until you name it you can not cultivate the opposite.  Once you name it and recognize it you can begin to cultivate or contemplate the opposite.

That opposite is also very individualized.  Lets look at some examples, sprinter might make you feel sad, angry, frustrated or worried just to name a few.  Now you have to decide what is the opposite for YOU.  The opposite of sad could be happy, blissful, joy, contentment so many choices, that you must identify for yourself.

Once you have identified the opposite can you cultivate it?  How my students ask? To start to cultivate the opposite you can begin by contemplating the opposite.  How do you feel when you are happy or joyful? Focus on that feeling, bring that opposite emotion to the forefront of your thoughts and choose to feel that instead of letting your negative emotions set your mind a churning.  You may even have to fake it till you make it a few times, but each time you choose to cultivate the opposite you are training your mind so that it is not always churning and leading you into negative thoughts and emotions.  You are training your mind to let yourself choose how you want to feel! Don’t let sprinter get you down, after all spring temperatures will eventually arrive, now how does that make you feel?

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Knackered

via Daily Prompt: Knackered

According to Google Knackered means tired and extremely exhausted in British slang. Married to a Brit for 30 years I didn’t need to google it, but thought I would see what the internet said.  This daily prompt fits me today because I have been sick for a week and have felt truly knackered over the last few days.

The British have great slang words, and sometimes I forget which are English and which are American after living with my husband all this time.  I sometimes say I’m bilingual, which really is silly since it is all English.  Sometimes after making a statement people look at me or my husband and I realize that was English slang let me translate that into American.

Knackered is more then tired or exhausted, to me it is feeling beyond exhausted.  You feel knackered! The great thing about the word is it so aptly describes how I’ve been feeling.

As I start to turn a corner and feel a bit better, it has given me time for introspection and reflection about feeling so sick.  Boy did I take feeling good for granted.  All those corny sayings about good health is better then all the money in the world etc.  really are true when you can barely get up off the sofa for a week.   Now that I’ve turned the corner looking forward to feeling better each day.  Looking forward to appreciating my health and wellness more.  Luckily Svaroopa(r) Yoga excels at healing. Luckily I have some great contacts in the health and wellness sphere who are helping me heal as well.

Last night I could actually say I no longer felt knackered, just tired, just not my usual healthy self. Hoping all of you are feeling well, that you appreciate your good health and that no one is feeling knackered.

My Inner and Outer Critic

via Daily Prompt: Criticize

How do I criticize myself?  Let me count the ways.  Self criticism is so internal that no one necessarily knows I’m doing it but me.  The thousands of thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis are rarely positive.  I’m fat, frumpy, not good enough a failure, etc. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Like any problem realization and acceptance are a start to stopping the inner critic in my mind. Like most problems I face my  yoga and meditation practice helps me to begin to control my inner thoughts. Yoga helps me still the constant replay of mostly negative thoughts.  In fact the goal of yoga is to still the modifications (thoughts) of the mind.

There is a flip side to self-criticism, I am not unknown to criticize others.  Often when I think or say something negative about another it is not to their face.  So I realize I can and should be kinder to myself and others.

The word itself criticize has a negative connotation, but constructive criticism is helpful, necessary and often provides an opportunity for growth.  So much of whether criticism is helpful or harmful is in the delivery.  So before I speak to myself, to others and especially about others I am going to pause, think and maybe rephrase to positive, constructive statements! How lucky I am to have found Svaroopa(R) Yoga to help me along the way.

Modifications of the Mind

One of the most famous text on yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the text Patanjali explains what yoga is.  In  Sutra 1.2 he says:

“Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah”

I.K. Taimni translates this as:

“Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind” 1

Your first question might be what are modifications of the mind?  We just don’t speak like that today.  Modifications of the mind is the chatter that at least for me is constantly going on subtly in the background of my mind.  Citta-vrtti is the sanskrit for these modifications and it always strikes me as the word itself almost sounds like chatter.

The modifications and chatter in your mind takes me back to 8 track tapes.  In the 70’s you could buy an album on an 8 track tape to play in your car.  In what now looking back was a rather large player that attached to your car radio.  We didn’t have car stereos back then and certainly couldn’t carry a whole collection of music on one little tiny I-pod. I guess I’m really showing my age.

This sutra reminds me of 8 tracks because in most peoples minds there is usually several streams of thought (tracks) going on at any one moment.  Fewer streams since I started yoga but always more than one.  Stop for a moment, close your eyes and notice the thoughts in your mind.  How many different tracks do you have?

Everyone has constant thoughts going through their head.  Yoga helps you stop the modifications of the mind, stop the chatter, stop the chitta-vrtti’s.  This is why yoga helps you calm and quiet the mind.  This for me is why yoga is so helpful in easing stress and anxiety.  If the thoughts going through your head are of constant worry and fear what will that do to your body?  To your mind?  Yoga’s tools of poses, breathing practices and meditation can be used to help you calm the chatter.

Practicing yoga helped me go from 8 tracks of thoughts to one or two at a time.  So don’t let the chatter exhaust you, don’t let your thoughts turn you into a hamster on a wheel constantly replaying things over and over in your head.  Take a yoga or meditation class and start to still the modifications in your mind.  See how much better you feel!

  1. The Science of Yoga I.K.Taimni p.6

More Signs of Spring

I was looking at my blog site and noticed that last April I had written a blog called signs of spring, with a photo of my daffodils poking up from the ground.  The date was April 7, 2015 it was a long hard winter in Boston last year.  Flash forward to today February 25, 2016 and those same daffodils are already poking up from the ground!  What a difference a year makes.

This winter has seen temperatures fluctuate from -9 to 56 degrees in the space of 3 days.  The weather man mentioned that we have had an equivalent amount of precipitation but rain this year instead of snow.  Letting out a sigh of relief, I look forward to more and more frequent warm days like today.

Sitting in my sunny dining room and writing this blog I feel an overwhelming sense of contentment and bliss.  The sun is warm on my face, NPR is on in the background and I am writing a blog post all things I enjoy.

Yoga says as you immerse yourself in your yoga practice you will open deeper and deeper into consciousness. As you become more and more immersed in your yogic state the structure of your mind changes it becomes more porous things don’t stick to you the way they used to.  You are not as dependent on external situations to create your happiness. You don’t need to prop up your state of being with externally pleasurable events.

The weather man says that tonight the temperature will drop, tomorrow is back to cold, cold winter. My  mind is more porous then it was a year ago, that forecast doesn’t stick to me, doesn’t bring me down, doesn’t change my state. Today I am enjoying the present moment, the warmth and sunshine, I am content and blissful.Tomorrow hopefully I will stay in my yogic state, in that present moment content and blissful.

Minimalist Living One a Yogi’s Perspective

Minimalist Living – More Confessions from an NPR Junkie

Coming home from a yoga class today I heard the last 30 minutes of On Point with Tom Ashbrook, a favorite fix for this self confessed NPR junkie.  His guests were Johsua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, minimalists who travel around promoting this new style of living and are promoting their new documentary coming out soon.

Personally I am in purge mode, wanting to rid my home and my life of clutter.  Listening to their interview I’m not sure if this makes me a minimalist or not, I am not planning to move to a tiny one room home, or even give away all of my possessions.  I do know that getting rid of junk makes me feel freer, lighter, less stressed.  Yes, stuff can stress you out. Where do you keep it, then you have to clean it, worry about it getting stolen, and fixing it if it breaks.  So I’m on board with getting rid of the stuff.

I liked the way the guests talked about how you choose the stuff you get rid of.  Somethings are easy the clothes you haven’t worn in years, toys your kids have outgrown, anything that is broken and just cluttering up your space.  It was also interesting how they spoke about what you decide to keep.  The things you keep are the things that add value to your life, bring you joy and don’t weigh you down or keep you from living your life the way you want to live it.

I do understand that many people are living a minimalist life not by choice but because that is all they can afford. I am looking at those who have disposable income, and it makes me wonder how we as a nation have gotten to this state of over consumption? Why do we feel a compulsion to buy, more and more stuff?

Yoga says that we are searching for happiness, our mind believes that when I get _________ then I’ll be happy.  After we have _____ for awhile we find we are still unhappy so we look for the next external purchase to make us happy.  What yoga promises is that true happiness is inside, ever arising within each of us.  That happiness Svaroopa(r) Yoga calls bliss and it is always there waiting for you to tap into it.

So for me getting rid of stuff helps free me up to tap into true happiness, the one I can’t get from the outside no matter how much I spend, but I find on the inside always there just waiting for me.

 

 

Svaroopa(r) Yoga is a registered service mark of S.T.C., Inc. and is used by permission

 

My daughter recently shared on Facebook with me a list of things that normally would be complaints and how these things can be looked at as things really we should be grateful for.

The list is:

  1. Early wake-ups = Children to love
  2. House to clean = Safe place to live
  3. Laundry = Clean clothes to wear
  4. Dishes to wash = Food to eat
  5. Crumbs under the table = Family meals
  6. Grocery shopping = $ to provide for us
  7. Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
  8. Lots of noise = People in my life
  9. Endless questions about homework = Children’s brains growing
  10. Sore and tired in bed = I’m still alive

At holidays we often will list the many blessings in our lives, and like many yogis I do a gratitude practice to acknowledge all the wonderful gifts that are present in my life.  What I loved about this list is it takes some of the things we grumble about doing and makes us realize again how lucky we are compared to most people in the world.

A real lesson for me is number 7 toilets to clean, and realizing how many people in the world do not have indoor plumbing.  Convenience aside the health risks that come with poor sanitary conditions associated with no indoor plumbing will make me think about cleaning my toilets in a whole new way.

A yoga practice really helps you to shift your attitude about many things.  As you release the tensions in your spine and your muscles become more open this also effects your mind.  Your mind can become more flexible making it easier to shift from grumpy to grateful.

When you approach these mundane tasks from a place of gratitude, they are no longer a chore.  When you do these tasks from a place of gratitude they are no longer done with a feeling of resentment, but from a place of joy. Lets be honest dishes and laundry need to be done, and a clean bathroom is more sanitary.  So the next time you feel resentful or are grumbling about your less pleasant mundane tasks find that place of gratitude and joy that is ever present inside you, remember all you have to be thankful for and see if you attitude shifts and these chores will get finished in no time.

Complaints turned into Gratitude

Slow Down Outside and Inside

The other day I read an interesting blog on Facebook written by a Slow Flow Vinyasa teacher about slowing down his practice and his teaching.  He commented that part of slowing down was due to the aging process and he needed to slow down his practice to accommodate his body.  What he found out though was that as he slowed down he became more aware of the changes on the inside.  This is exactly what the slower pace and longer holding of poses that Svaroopa(r) Yoga provides you with.

Every Svaroopa(R) Yoga class and practice begins with Shavasana during which the teacher takes you through a guided awareness.  When teaching I start the guided awareness at your toes and work my way up to your head.  Scanning through each part of the body and asking you to become aware of and notice each part both outside and inside.  Always working our way from the outside to the inside.

The purpose of this is to bring your awareness inside so you can be aware of what is happening inside your body, not just the external changes that you can see.  As you practice longer and take the practice deeper you can feel the muscles softening and the bones of your spine lengthening.  To do this you have to become aware of the inside.

The best thing about Svaroopa(r) Yoga is that you will get these changes either way.  Whether it is your first class and you are just following the instructions not really sure what is happening or you are a deeper student with the ability to track these changes on the outside and inside.

 

picture courtesy of Svaroopa(R) Vidya Ashram

Empty Nestor and Not Hating It!

Okay, another week has gone by and this empty nest thing is not going away, but it is getting a little easier.  I definitely still don’t like the overwhelming quiet that pervades the house, but there are some benefits.

The house stays cleaner, neater and tidier, there is less laundry to do and don’t even get me started on the beautiful state the bathrooms stay in.  How come I have 3 children but there always seems to be 9 dirty towels in the the bathroom?

Our food bill at the supermarket has gone down. This is relative in that I try not  to think about the enormous amount we paid for a meal plan at their universities. To be honest I will take every penny I can save along the way.  We had a coupon for our local supermarket and we had to spend $140 to reap the benefits and just couldn’t spend that much, oh how times have changed. That is another benefit, we can eat what and when we like!

The positive and negatives aside what I am really feeling is that most things in life are not all good or all bad.  The key is to just live in that moment, experiencing it, feeling it, living it.  Yoga says you can only control your reaction.  So when the empty nest sneaks up on you, and it really does, how are you going to react?  First I cried, then I did a yoga and meditation practice, then I blogged.  For me these were all things that help me process this life changing event. The yoga and meditation keep me grounded and help me maintain my yogic steady state even when I miss my children.

In fact the process helped me realize it’s not all negative, this is an opportunity to open a new chapter for my husband and me.  A time to reconnect and discover our own hopes and dreams not just what we want for our children. Now after 5 weeks I can look forward to parents weekend and going to see my daughter, hopefully I won’t cry when we leave this time. Even if I cry I know that I’m okay with returning to the empty nest. I’m living in the moment, in this new chapter I may not love it, but I don’t hate it.