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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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.

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.

Empty Nester and Not Loving It!

This fall my youngest left for college.  It is a new phase of life, a new stage.  How did this happen? It seems like just a moment ago I was holding each of my 3 children in my arms as newborn babies.  in that instant I was filled with so much joy, love and happiness and now already the last is leaving the nest.

So my nest won’t officially be empty for 4 more weeks when my oldest son leaves for Thailand to go and teach there for a year.  It seems so very far away and almost incomprehensible that we won’t see him for almost a year.  My second son is back at college for his Junior year, and my youngest is having a great start to her Freshman year in college. I am so proud of each of them and happy to see them moving forward in their lives, this is exactly what my husband and I want for them! So why is it tinged with sadness for us and most other parents?

I find for me there are several reasons. First, while yes I am still their mother there is a change in that identity.  I am not needed to mother them every day.  Unlike when they were younger they don’t need me to drive them around, make them a snack or tuck them in at night. I am still their mother, but like a cousin once removed, I now mother from a distance.

Some of the sadness comes from missing the daily communications. My house is so quiet, no more noisy dinners as we hear about everyone’s day, no more friends dropping by filling the house with noise and laughter. No longer can I hug them when I notice they are having a tough day.  Communications are planned, first texting “are you available to Skype at 8?”, then waiting till 8 o’clock and hoping the technology will work for us.

What does yoga have to say about this?  Yoga says that your attachment to an identity causes pain, the feeling of loss of the identity of mother causes pain. Even though I am still their long distance Mom, it is a loss, a change in that identity, it can and should be mourned. Yoga says your happiness should be independent from the events that are happening around you.  I can’t let my happiness be dependent on my children being home, this would not be healthy for them or me. They are doing what they should be doing, what we have encouraged and prepared them to do. they are moving on growing, learning and becoming beautiful independent young men and women that my husband and I are incredibly proud of. The way they are stepping into their new stages of life with grace inspires me to do the same.

Finding Balance

Several years ago I was out with my Mom, sisters, niece and daughter looking for bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding.  As we were in the dressing room my Mom said “you can put your trousers on standing up? I can’t balance well enough to do that anymore.”  This really made me pause because as we age balance is so important and becomes such a big issue for the elderly.  Now I use “putting my trousers on standing up” as my baseline.  I know if I can’t do that I need to work on my balance!

In Svaroopa(r) Yoga we say that balance can not be forced or created but like your bliss is found within.  If your mind is churning with thoughts, you feel worried, anxious, or distracted you are not going to find balance in your body.  When your body and mind are out of balance this will spill over into your life.  So how do we find balance?

Yoga gives you many tools for keeping or regaining your balance.  One of course is to first learn to balance on two feet standing in Tadasana and letting your weight lean through your leg bones and into your feet.  Allowing yourself to feel grounded and connected to the floor.  You can also practice balance poses like Tree or Stork, you can use a wall for support and practice standing on one foot.

There is another way to find the balance that is within and that is to work on your mind. Using meditation to quiet your mind will first stop the racing thoughts in your mind and secondly as your mind balances your body will naturally follow, becoming more centered and grounded as you stand on one foot.

If you can’t put your trousers on standing up and you can tell you have poor balance it can become a viscous circle, where do you start?  When you practice Svaroopa(r) Yoga you will use poses that are reliable to release the core tensions in your spine and when these tensions release your balance in your body will automatically improve, your mind will begin to quiet and your balance pose will become more steady.  All this from releasing the tensions in your spine starting at your tailbone and working up to your rib cage.

If you want to experience more balance in your body, mind and life join me Sunday May 17th at Sohum Yoga for a workshop on balance 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM.  This workshop is suitable for the beginner to the experienced yogi! Can’t make it this Sunday try any Svaroopa(r) Yoga class to experience profound changes in your body and your mind.

Svaroopa(r) is a registered service mark of S.T.C., Inc. Copyright(c) 2008 S.T.C.,Inc all rights reserved

More Confessions from an NPR Junkie.

On April 15th when I was listening to NPR and thinking about tax day,  I heard that it was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, it was also the 2 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Then this weekend was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I could hardly believe that 20 years has gone by. Sadness comes over me each time I am reminded of these terrible events.

So sitting here writing this on a grey and gloomy Patriots Day in Massachusetts thinking about this years marathoners, I can’t help thinking about these horrific events, and how sad it is that 70 years after the revelation of the genocide of the holocaust that the human race still commits such violent acts against one another.

Yoga says that Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the 5 laws of life.  These are 5 practices to help us live a better life, and reach enlightenment.  Practicing non-violence helps us to live as a better person, but there is more to non-violence then not physically harming someone.  Most of us are not going out and committing acts of terrorism.  So how do we cultivate non-violence in our lives.

The practice of Ahimsa to me is similar to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or  “love your neighbor as yourself”.  If we treated everyone as we want to be treated the world just might become a better place to live in. We can practice Ahimsa towards others, so if you don’t want to be gossiped about don’t gossip, don’t want to be bullied or made fun of don’t bully others. We can practice Ahimsa towards ourselves, take a good look at how you speak to yourself. If we spoke to others like we talk to ourselves we wouldn’t have many friends. These are just a few ways we may be behaving violently without thinking of it as violence.

I maybe naive,these historic events are such major acts of violence how can they be changed by my individual shift in behavior and attitude. I say that we have to try, as individuals this is something we can do to help change the world. In yoga we call this a practice, I also like to think of it as cultivating non-violence. Your practice is like a garden it needs to be tended, watered, fertilized, weeded and finally harvested.  You won’t be able to change all of your thoughts and actions overnight it takes time just like growing your garden.  So start cultivating, big changes happen by small acts of individual people.

Signs of Spring

Friday strolling down my driveway after a morning walk I noticed that all of the snow had melted around the base of one of the trees in my front garden.  There just poking up from the ground were the tips of daffodils rising up from their long winter sleep.  Letting out a whoop of joy my mood lifted instantaneously.  Seeing this tiny first sign of spring brought me so much joy.

Fast forward to Saturday morning waking up to snow showers coming down from a cold, steely grey sky.  Oh the depths a mood so easily lifted can just as easily crash down.  This brought me up short and made me think “is my yogic state so shallow”?

Yoga says that your joy or happiness should not be dependent on what is happening on the outside, the burst of spring or return of winter, but is always there arising from within.  In Svaroopa® yoga we cultivate this yogic state in our practice and particularly with a guided awareness during Shavasana when the teacher guides you through a body scan so you can bring your awareness into your body to notice your state outside and inside.

You will often hear yogi’s refer to this yogic state as being detached, but that sounds like you don’t care.  What yoga is really saying is that this yogic state you’ve cultivated is not attached to or influenced by external events.  That you or I can be as joyful during the Saturday snow flurries as we are seeing the daffodils and other signs of spring.

It isn’t easy, it is a practice.  This is why we refer to it as cultivating a yogic state.  Some external events or people push you out of your yogic state more easily than others.  So I am giving myself a break here, it has been a long, cold, snowy winter and this time the snow pulled me down. I hope to better maintain that yogic state the next time.  Actually like everyone else I am hoping that was the last of the snow flurries for this winter that gives me all spring and summer to deepen my yogic state!