"Relax, no one gets out of life alive." I've been repeating this gem of a quote to myself all week long. It reminds me of the impermanence of everything. Our emotions, feelings, life situations are all transient. Life is a cycle and every part of the cycle is important and needs to be felt and embraced fully. The Byrds famous lyrics sum this up perfectly:A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
There are three Hindu Gods: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, that represent the cycle of creation, sustenance, and destruction. Brahma, represents creation. He uttered the work OM to create the world. Vishnu is the sustainer of creation. Shiva is the destroyer; he represents endings and transformation.
My great-grandmother always use to say "it's darkest right before dawn." In other words, the darkest times in life give birth to the light and the most beautiful transformations. Often people try to avoid destruction and the pain associated with loss and letting go. This is an uphill battle that everyone eventually loses because endings are inevitable and necessary. For example, try this exercise: be Brahma and take deep inhalation. Now be Vishnu continue to inhale but avoid becoming Shiva and don't exhale.... our body understands the need for endings, even when our mind doesn't. We need to honor the cycle and allow it to occur without trying to change or control it. We tend to fight and fight, swimming upstream against the currents of our lives because we are afraid of letting go.
Kim Amani illustrates this beautifully:
"Most people resist breaking. They fear pain.
So they hold onto their weak places. Like a cup which is full of cracks, it is no longer a solid vessel.
Much better to smash it, sweep up the pieces, throw them into the dustbin and find a new cup.Let yourself break.
Most people can sense the vulnerability that comes next. If they let go. So they back away from it. In the split second where they could choose to plunge off the cliff, they step back.
And the whole process shuts down.
The jump will break you.
This is where you are reborn into a shinier, more true and powerful, version of you.
Your old cracked parts fall away.
Yet, the price of admission is vulnerability. Letting go of control. Softening. Being willing to expose yourself and all that lies underneath."
The cycle of creation, destruction, and transformation is apparent all around us in Nature. Nature blossoms and blooms in spring and summer. Leaves start to fall during the autumn in preparation for the cold, dark, and restfulness of winter. Nothing blooms forever in nature, why would we expect it to in our own lives? If we look at how plants grow we can gain some more insight. Lets look at the tiny seed that is planted into the dark earth. The seedling's protective hard shell needs to break apart in order for growth to begin. The amount of energy needed for this to occur is tremendous. It sprouts not knowing where it is heading or why, pushing through the darkness until it breaks through the ground. It grows upward towards the sun, blossoming and becoming all that it was meant to be.
Another example is the caterpillar who instinctively builds a cacoon. While in the dark enclosed cacoon, the caterpillar literally self destructs turning to mush. It may think its dying but in actuality it is going through an amazing transformative process that gives birth to a beautiful and strong butterfly.
The cycles of creation and destruction are also apparent in the waxing and waning moon cycles. The new moon waxes or grows each night until it reaches its peak as the full moon. The full moon then wanes or shrinks until it reaches the darkness of the new moon. The energy of each of these phases is very powerful, in fact it has the power to move oceans. New moons are a time to plant the seeds of our intentions- its a time of inward reflection and connection. As the new moon transforms to the full moon so does our intentions manifest into being. Full moons are a time of outward vibrance....babies are born, wolfs howl, energies are high, but this does not last forever. The full moon transforms back again to the new moon, we let go of things that no longer serve us turning inward again so we can make room for brand new intentions, and the cycle continues.
Even women's menstrual cycles show the phases of creation and destruction. Each month the lining of the uterus is built up to prepare for new life. If fertilization does not occur, then the lining of the uterus is shed.
These examples show us that periods darkness and letting go are just as important as periods of light and growth. Sometimes you just have to push through the fear and take a leap of faith, embracing the unknown and trusting that you will be supported and transformed to new heights.
Our language is based upon symbols that we assign agreed upon meaning to. The rules and agreements of language do not translate from one culture to the next. A word we say in English will have little meaning to someone from Greece or Japan, hence the phrase: "It's all Greek to me!"
Our words are used to describe our experiences and allow us to convey our feelings, emotions, complex messages, and stories. However, our words are just symbols and do not alway accurately describe the details of our experiences. For example, take the word tree. I can relay my experience to someone by saying: "Today I walked by a beautiful tree." They would understand what I was saying, but the words I used would not convey my exact experience. Someone may have imagined I walked by a maple tree, another person may have pictured a pine tree, a third person may have imagined a palm tree. To me, the phrase "words fail me," expresses the utter incompetence of words to communicate experiences. Our experiences are so rich that in most cases our words can not describe them fully. This idea is what inspired me to paint the blue painting above that says red in the lower right corner in yellow paint.
This leads me to my next topic, the semantics of God and the stories used by religions to convey God. From the earliest of times people have used stories as a tool to teach moral lessons. The language and the setting of the story are based upon the familiar culture of where that story originated. Stories may convey the same moral meaning, but depending on where you live in the world, differ in the language used, as well as the characters and settings described. I find that religions often get caught up in the semantics and whose story is correct instead of looking deeper to the meaning of the story. We often lose sight of the forest for the trees. It is so sad to me that we have created wars over man's ego in the name of God or love. We seem to have missed the point. Gandhi once said, "God has no religion". I love this quote. Lets take man's ego and fears out of the equation and try to go back to the basics. There are many pathways to the summit of a mountain. No matter which path you choose, once you get to the top, the view is the same.
Numerous people, including myself for many years, have shied away from using the word God. Religion has assigned so many meanings and personifications to the word God. These definitions may not align with our own beliefs. But lets remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water here. We forget that God is just a word symbol that describes an experience or feeling or aspect of life. To some people God may represent an old man with a white beard who lives up in the clouds. To others God may represent Mother Earth or the feeling of Love. There are many words that can be used describe the feeling of God such as Source, Creator, The Divine, All Knowing Intelligence, Love, Peace, Spirit, Joy..... the list goes on.
I write about this topic because you may hear me drop the word God in class and I know it can be a sensitive word. To me God is a feeling of peace, relaxation, connection and love. Yoga is not associated with a religion. It is a tool to help us feel a more authentic connection with ourselves. It teaches us how to slow down, relax, and be at peace. We learn how to be gentle with ourselves by becoming more aware.
I'm interested to see how you feel about what I wrote today. Are you comfortable using the word God? What words do you use to portray the feeling of God? Please share your comments below.
Peace and Love,
First and foremost I want to thank everyone who has helped support Healthy Progressions Yoga. We are approaching year one in February and I am so thrilled and grateful to share this special practice with you.
As the month of December comes to a close, we start to reflect on the past year and hope for new beginnings. Many of us hope for a better body, more meaningful relationships, or to break up with a old vice. Instead, I hope and pray that we all awaken to love and have the strength and courage to release all the negative and destructive fears in our lives.
This year has been a meaningful one for me. I finally was able to surrender and it has been such a beautiful journey. I'd like to give you a little taste of how my life was like this past year in hopes that some of you may relate to it and be inspired to make a change. This past year there were times when my Ego was running a little too rampant trying to force and control situations. Fear was poking its leering head into many of my decisions. My self-importance was a little too strong at times. Most of all, I was turning a blind eye to many of my hardships in my life. This process of reflection wasn't easy by any means, but it was a beautiful one and I'd like to share some of my insights.
A few months ago a rock hit my car windshield not once but twice in two months cracking it. When the repair man went to put a new windshield in, the new glass cracked from the roof to the hood. I like to think this is symbolic to my life. The cracking of the windshield represents the cracking of my old ways of seeing the world.
I went out kicking and screaming to my own sweet surrender. But I now realize that sometimes God's plan for us is so much more beautiful than the plan we have for ourself- so I try to surrender wholeheartedly.
I now realize happiness is a choice that we make every day. Life is like a beautiful rose whose thorns can be fierce if we are not paying attention; care must be taken. Care must be taken with our thoughts and our lives, or we will be pricked by the sharp thorns of the reality we create.
Additionally, this year I realized the beauty of compassion. Not everyone is where I am at in life and thats OK. We are all at different points in our journey. Many people are driven by their fears and this can be a very dark road. Some people are threatened by the light because they are attached to their way of life. They may try to control you, shame you, manipulate you; but shine on little darlings. Instead of reacting, lead with your example- it's very much worth it, and in the end it is a much more beautiful way of life.
Probably the hardest lesson that I am continuing to learn is that you can't help people who don't want to be helped. Sometimes I think that I can help everyone, but I can't. Boundaries need to be made and respected. Relationships are an exchange of energy between two people. That exchange needs to be revered. And if a relationship no longer exists in the light of love, then it may need to be put on hold until things shift.
As far as new beginnings, I am excited and inspired to continue to evolve both personally and professionally. You may notice a few changes in the studio as our practice has become much more slow and deep. Stayed tuned for many more fun and tasty herbal teas at the end of class and some new and exciting aromatherapy options. I hope to see your shining faces soon. Either way, you can always stay in touch via our social media facebook page. Please see below for our holiday class schedule. Wishing you a blessed holiday and a happy new year.
Love and Light,
You may have heard me chant the opening mantra before the start of each class and wonder what in the world is being said. A mantra is a sound or group of words believed to have psychological and spiritual benefits when recited. See below for the mantra and translation/meaning.
Om gam ganapataye namaha
Salutation to ganesha for removing the obstacles from the way
Om gum guruveyo namaha
Salutations to the teacher within us for opening our eyes
Om aim saraswatye namaha
Salutations to Saraswatii (goddess of knowledge and art) for giving us inspiration and knowledge
Om saa nau-avatu
Om, may God protect us both (the teacher and the student)
Saha nau bhunaktu
May God nourish us both
Saha viirayam karava-avahai
May we work together with energy and vigor
May our study be enlightening
Not giving rise to hostility
Sound of creation (see below)
Shanti Shanti Shanti
peace, peace, peace.
The Light within in me bows to the Light within you
The Meaning of OM
Om is the most sacred mantra, and it is the first and last sound you will hear in our yoga classes. It is made of of three syllables A, U, and M. To pronounce OM correctly, remember it rhymes with "home". The three syllables of OM encompass all sounds and words in the human language. Each of the three syllables have special symbolic meaning:
1. The A, pronounced "Ahhh": represents the creation of the universe and all things in it. Ah is the beginning of all sound and "a" is the first letter of the alphabet. While chanting this syllable you feel it in the back of the throat and mouth.
2. The U, pronounced "Oooo": represents the sustaining of energy. When you chant this syllable the sound moves forward between the tongue and the palate.
3. The M, pronounced "Mmmm": represents the transformative energy of the universe. The sound mmm is produced by closing the lips and and vibrates the crown of the head
4. The fourth sound is silence: it is the vibration beyond verbal pronunciation and represents the pure consciousness of the self.
Om is said to represent the sacred trilogy found throughout spiritual practices and it can represent all sorts of trios in life: past, present, future; the Hindu Gods Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer); as well as the dreaming, dreamless, and waking states that represent all of consciousness.
When we recite the word OM with its meaning in mind, we come closer to our true nature.
Why do we say Shanti (Peace) Three Times After the Opening and Closing Mantras?
Ancient scriptures tells us that the purpose of life is to remove three kinds of obstacles of three kinds of suffering. The three kinds of suffering are:
1. Adhidaivika: suffering due to divine origin that we have no control over i.e natural disasters
2. Adhibhautika: suffering due to other beings (humans, animals, insects, reptiles etc). Ex. Suffering due to physical or verbal abuse from someone; suffering from an insect or snake bite etc.
3. Adhyatmika: Self inflicted suffering. This is the most damaging of the three. Most suffering stems from the mind. We suffer when we focus on negative emotions: anger, hatred, jealousy, greed etc. The reason we say shanti three times at the beginning and the end of class is to pray for peace in all three types of suffering in our lives and in the lives of others.
As a tribute to Wayne Dyer, Hay House is offering FREE viewing of "The Shift". The Shift is a great movie that talks about the shift from our obsessions with self, status, and wanting more, to a life of meaning that is focused on serving and giving back.
I hope you enjoy this beautiful movie.
View The Shift by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Modern research is finally catching up to what yogi’s have known all along: breath work can produce powerful benefits. Yoga tells us that the mind and the breath are closely related. We can learn a lot by watching our breath. When we are anxious, fearful, or angry, our breath becomes quick and irregular. On the other hand, when we are calm and relaxed, our breath is slow and steady. Just as our emotions can influence our breath, the reverse is also true, our breath can influence our emotions.
The yogic term Pranayama means breath control. Becoming mindful of the breath is an important part of the hatha yoga practice. The average person breathes 15-20 times a minute; this is more than double the rate that we should be breathing.
Deep breathing allows for better gas exchange and removes stagnant air from the lungs. Instead of using our diaphragm, we take quick and shallow breathes from the chest. Yoga teaches us to slow down and deepen the breath utilizing the diaphragm, our breathing muscle. Try a few of the practices below and see for yourself how pranayama can affect your energy and mood.
There are 3 main parts to the yogic breath. During our practice we will touch all three parts of the yogic breath:
2. Inhale deeply through the nostrils and feel the hand on your belly rise. As you exhale feel the hand on your belly fall. Continue for a few breaths.
3. Deepen you breath and as you inhale feel the belly rise and then the chest expand to the sides and the collarbones rise. Exhale and let everything go. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
Nadi Shodhana- Part 1
1.) Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Place the left hand on your lap in chin mudra, thumb and index finger touching and last three fingers extended straight.
2.) Place your right hand in front of your face. Bend the index and middle fingers towards the palm. Place the right thumb on the right nostril closing it.
3.) With your eyes closed, fix your gaze in between the eyebrows. Inhale and exhale through the left nostril. Try to inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four. Repeat for 10-15 breathes. (Figure 2)
4.) Close the left nostril with the ring finger and pinky and breath in and out of the right nostril. Again, try to inhale and exhale for a count of four deepening the breath. Repeat for 10-15 breaths. (Figure 3)
5.) Inhale through the right nostril; close the right nostril; exhale through the left nostril; inhale through the left nostril; close the left nostril; exhale through the right nostril. Repeat for a few moments.
6.) Release the right hand and place it in chin mudra on your lap. Try to breath equally through both nostrils for a few moments.
Figure 2 (left) : With right thumb over right nostril- breath in and out of left nostril
Figure 3 (right): With right ring finger over left nostril- breath in and out of right nostril
Important Points to Remember When Practicing Pranayama
Do not force the breath. If you feel any light headed or any stress stop the practice. This practice is not recommended for those pregnant or with serious health issues. Practice under the supervision of a certified yoga teacher is strongly recommended.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
Have you ever noticed times in your life when you are fully present? You may be playing an exciting game, painting a still life, or playing a musical instrument. Time seems to fly by. You are in the moment and not thinking about the past or future. On the other hand, can you think of times in your life that you go through the motions of what you are doing without being truly present? For instance, you may be walking to work and accidently step in a puddle because you weren’t paying attention to what you were doing. Instead, you were replaying a fight in your head that you had with your spouse the night before. Or say you are visiting with a friend you haven’t seen in a while but the whole time you can’t help but think about a big job interview you have coming up that week. You become divided. Your mind is somewhere else. You are not present.
All stress results from not being satisfied with where you are or with what you have in the current moment. This resistance to the current moment creates a low level of stress and discontentment that lingers in the background of our everyday lives. Our thoughts are not the only things that distract us from the present. We often try to escape the current moment with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, TV, or the Internet. Although these tactics may provide some comfort in the short term, they rarely work out for anyone in the long term. The only way out is to become present.
Staying present involves a great amount awareness. Here are a few simple steps from the hatha yoga practice that can help you become more present:
1. Become Aware to Your Body
2. Relax Your Face
3. Focus on the Breath
4. Become Witness
5. Yoga Please
Sciatica refers to a symptom of pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve branches from either side of the lower lumbar spine and goes through the hip, buttock, and down each leg. You can feel pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve, but usually you only feel pain on one side of the body. Yoga postures that focus on the hips, buttocks, and hamstrings can help alleviate the symptoms of sciatica. See the postures below for more information.
With any type of muscle pain or discomfort relaxation is key. Try some restorative yoga postures. Relax with an Eye Pillow . Sip soothing chamomile tea or try some Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief Tea with chamomile and spearmint. Relax your muscles with an epsom salt and lavender bath. Breathe in some relaxing essential oils such as lavender or peppermint ; Just make sure to do your homework while using essential oils. Not all oils are safe for topical use. Namaste.
Yesterday my husband and I packed a small cooler and took a day trip to Cold Spring, NY, a cute town a little over an hour from NYC. We hiked up part of Wilkinson Trail, a great hike for beginners who want a really good challenge. As I breathed in the fresh air, I felt my body working hard to climb up the steep trail. Even though I am not an experienced hiker, my yoga background helped me during my hike. I tried to keep my breath steady and my body relaxed as I strategically placed each foot in front of the other, climbing my way up the rocks. Practicing mindfulness and paying close attention to my breath, body, and thoughts were the keys to my success during the climb. I noticed when I was aware, mindful, and relaxed I could keep my footing as I walked up the rocks. When I lost my breath, I lost my stride, and slowed down a lot. During difficult parts of the climb I would catch myself clenching my jaw and tensing up areas of my body unnecessarily and this would eventually lead to negative thoughts. This is very similar to the reactions we have in our body during our yoga practice. We often clench our jaws, furrow our brows, and forget to breath during difficult postures and as result the practice becomes harder. No matter if we are hiking or practicing yoga, its important we watch out for signs of stress. Treating your hike or yoga practice as a mindfulness meditation gives you the skills needed to be present enough to notice the signs of stress that show up in the body and the mind.
Have you ever found yourself applying skills learned in yoga to other activities? If so share comments below.