Yoga

Here, find insights, teachings, and explorations into all things yoga.

Posted on June 18th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Yoga

The Yoga of Living: Leadership, Love, and Freedom

Yoga, ultimately, is so much more than Downward-Facing Dog. Rather, it’s a process, the way in which we engage with life, with our experiences, both on and off the mat. Yoga teaches us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and with the mystery of life. It offers us a map to help us get on the path of living our lives to the fullest, and finding the leader within—the inner voice that guides us into discovering who we really are.

The yoga of living asks fundamental questions such as:

What kind of world do I want to live in?

How can I create my own existence?

How do I say yes to my life?

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Posted on June 14th, 2012 by in Yoga

Shop Like a Yogi—in Four Questions or Less

I’m allergic to spiritual texts; one sutra and I’m prone to wild swelling of the nap gland. But as someone who’s practiced yoga for 20 years and is a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor, I’ve managed to cram the 10 yamas and niyamas (yogic do’s and don’ts) into my head. I aim, loosely, to practice them. Mostly, this is not a hardship. For example, ahimsa, or non-violence, means taking a breath when I want to say something cutting and offering compassion instead. Bramacharya, moderation, means eating three, and not 20, double-chocolate organic Newman O’s. Satya, truthfulness, translates as being upfront in my relationships. One that kicks my yogic booty, though, is aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Or as I like to call it: non-shopping.

I’m not sure if this is because I grew up in New York City as a double-Aries only child who wants what she wants NOW, or what, but I do like to shop. I’m not proud of it—you’ll never see me with a “Born to Shop” bumper sticker—but I like pretty stuff. I like looking for it, buying it, and wearing it. Usually, it’s clothing that brings me those temporary bursts of shopper’s delight, but I get a similar rush from buying a notebook, hair tie, or a mug with a spiritual message like, “Trust the Process.” Judging by the compliments I get from my fellow yogis on my sparkly TOMS, Lulu hoodies, and Sayta lotus earrings, I’m not alone in the paradox of wanting stuff that reminds me to give back and let go.

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Posted on June 12th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Finding an Inner Home

I was born in Iran. The political landscape there was not something I agreed with or felt I could change. I came to the United States to go to school. I’ve met many nice people here, but after 9/11, for some people, anyone of Middle Eastern origin represented the face of the enemy. I had many unpleasant experiences. Without knowing my beliefs, people would hate me just from looking at my face or seeing my last name.

At Kripalu, I heard comments from the teachers like, “Thank yourself for being here.” There was the utmost care and compassion for yourself. That’s what I needed to heal myself, the utmost compassion. Also, having compassion for the people who hated me for things I had no responsibility for. I learned to take the seat of the observer, instead of taking the seat of the judge and saying this is right or wrong.

Before Kripalu, any kind of yoga I tried had been bittersweet. There were so many things I couldn’t do. I thought, maybe my body is not made for it. When I came to Kripalu I could see that it’s about doing what’s good for your body. I learned there is no perfect Downward Dog. I began seeing yoga as a way to grow, and it’s okay if I never have a perfect pose.

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Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by in Yoga

A Religious Experience

In yoga, one writer reconnects with the notion of faith.

Like most kids in my middle-class New England town, I was raised Catholic, though in my case it was something of a default option. My parents had both been brought up in religious households but, by the time I came along, they were largely non-practicing. My mother’s strict Irish-Catholic family—so devout (or stubborn) that they refused to acknowledge her secular college education—turned her away from the church, and my father, a journalist, had been trained to follow facts, not faith. While they wanted the decision of religion to be mine, they also sought to provide me with a base from which to explore, a base that would include Baptism, Confirmation, and 10 years of weekly after-school Catholic-education classes.

But while I made all the milestones, I neither connected with nor opposed their meanings. My given religion was never something to think about; it just was. Later, as a teenager, church on Sunday remained important to me mainly because to my parents it was not. (What a rebel, right?) But it wasn’t as if my friends were so pious: The annual Christmas-eve midnight mass was as much about socializing as it was about celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Throughout, no one I knew questioned what we’d been taught. We took the word of our teachers, and our priests, on “faith.” In those early years, “faith” meant believing that if you were a good person, good would surround you; that if you treated others well, you would be treated well in return; that if you followed the Catholic doctrine, you would be rewarded with peace while you lived and after you died. Faith, for the most part, did not include questioning authority. And, for a long time, I didn’t.

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Posted on May 21st, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Turning Point: Vandita Kate Marchesiello

Vandita Kate Marchesiello, E-RYT 500, is a senior teacher and faculty member at Kripalu Center and the recording artist on two CDs, Transform, Relax, and Rejuvenate and Yoga with Vandita. Director of Kripalu Professional Associations and Kripalu’s Teaching for Diversity program, Vandita has balanced family, self-care, and a career in yoga and health for more than 30 years.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A Practice love, patience, and kindness toward myself and others, at home, work, and play.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A When I was in my early twenties, I was headed down a path that could have been destructive to my health and happiness. A friend turned me on to yoga, and I fell in love with the physical, mental, and spiritual practices. Now, nearly 40 years later, I am still practicing and teaching, from my own experience, the depth and breath of yoga that can lead to a whole and healthy life.
Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on April 26th, 2012 by in Yoga

Elena Brower on How to Keep Your Yoga Practice Fresh

How can we keep our yoga practice fresh during seasonal transitions?

Elena Brower, yogini extraordinaire, gives us some tips.

One of yoga’s keenest gifts, Elena notes, is that it makes us aware of life’s transitions, and how we approach our practice on the mat can guide us in how we welcome life off the mat as we open up to spring. Even when the impulse of awakening strikes, starting our practice slowly helps us find our way into greater freedom and deeper intuition as spring begins its journey toward full bloom. Backbends, with their emphasis on heart-opening, seem intuitive this time of year and, as the season starts, we can mirror nature’s journey by gently encouraging our own physical flourishing. With that in mind, she recommends opening the heart with baby backbends, such as Small Cobra. Going within and noticing the delicate balance between growth and surrender allows the process of springtime to unfurl at its natural pace.

Elena also notes that it’s important to keep the fragility of the blossoming process in mind, and to approach our yoga practice with attention to small details. “We can practice our yoga with a delicate level of care, connecting energetically to the universal pulsation, or spanda.”

Of course, nothing says “spring awakening” quite like reveling in nature, and bringing our practice outdoors can help create new perspectives. The season’s vibrant imagery—the colorful flora, bright sunshine, and hints of lush green landscapes—can act as a powerful complement to how we attune to the energy of renewal in our yoga practice.

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Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by in Yoga

Yoga Nidra: Power Yoga of the Mind

Susan Abbattista, Guest Blogger

One of my favorite vinyasa yoga teachers once said, “If dropping into stillness is the hardest thing for you to do, then that is what you need the most.” And so, sometime around the first frost, I came to Kripalu to try a meditative practice called yoga nidra. Translated as “yogic sleep” or “divine sleep,” this type of yoga focuses on systematic relaxation of the body while the mind enters a state of deep, meditative awareness—like dreaming while fully awake. The technique was developed by Swami Satyananda in the 1960s to make advanced, centuries-old practices of tantric meditation more accessible to everyone.

I’d never done this type of yoga before and didn’t quite know what to expect. One thing I did know: Underneath my blanket, I was an exhausted mess. Summer had passed in a hazy blur of work and play—and, admittedly, too many margaritas. Now here it was, the onset of fall, the hardest seasonal transition for me. I felt myself floating and drifting, a balloon accidentally released from the fist of a child. I needed to reel myself back in.

Over the course of five days, some unspoken guidelines (or pointers) emerged from the darkness:

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Posted on April 21st, 2012 by in Yoga

Get Grounded with Mountain Pose

How we stand, literally—with our feet on the ground—can have a huge impact on how we feel. When we align ourselves and ground in Mountain pose, we access the qualities of stability, balance, and strength. Reconnecting to these qualities can help us as we move through our day, meeting challenges and entering new situations. Try Mountain pose any time you need to ground yourself to find inner strength and peace.

To explore this foundational pose, stand with your feet parallel and three to five inches apart, weight evenly balanced, arms at your sides. Spread out the toes and press evenly down through the four corners of each foot. As the feet firm into the floor, the kneecaps will lift and the thighs will gently engage. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels and lift the pubic bone toward the navel. Firm the shoulder blades onto the back and slide them down toward the waist. Gently lift the sternum and reach the fingertips toward the floor. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, lengthen up through the crown of the head, while softening the tongue and the throat. Develop steady, smooth breaths.

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