This is our second to last Monday of the YEAR! Isn't that weird to think? Well, as it turns out we are perfectly timed to finish up the Yoga Sutras today on this #MindfulnessMonday, so that next week we can take a look back at what we've learned and decide how we can use it all to move forward.
So, the last 3 limbs of Pantajali's Yoga Sutras are Dharana (fixed concentration), Dhyana (Devotion) and Samadhi (Union with the Divine). Following Pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, which we covered last week, these last 3 limbs are meant to take you deeper inward to achieve the ultimate transcendence of the ego, or what we can simply term, bliss.
Dharana and Dhyana are practiced together in order to create Samadhi. By practicing Dharana and cultivating a deep inner perceptual awareness, we can begin to experience Dhyana wherein by meditating on the divine we can gain the ability to see the universal 'one'. Ok, let's pause here. We know this sounds like a lot of 'jargon', but really what it boils down to is practicing awareness from the inside out (most basic way is through breathing techniques which we have discussed) and then focusing that awareness on the oneness that exists in our world. By filtering out all the clutter in our minds and bodies, we can come to experience clarity and perhaps even a vision of our world and how we are all connected.
Once we can see all of this clearly (and remember this is TOTALLY a journey and not a destination), we can truly begin to feel this unity in all aspects of our lives and by experiencing this unity or connectedness, we can begin to drop our egos and enjoy a non-judging, non-anxious and dare we even say, blissful existence.
Of course, this is challenging. But, as John Legend said, #Imagine.
Happy Monday! On this #MindfulnessMonday we are tackling the 5th limb of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This 5th limb begins our journey into the last 4 of the Sutras, which differentiate from the first 4- Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama, which are outward practices that we do- whereas the last 4 are inwards practices that we have to cultivate and sort of just let happen. However, it is through dedicated practice of the first 4 that we can delve into the last 4.
So, to begin, we have #5, Pratyahara, which is translated to isolation and withdrawal of the senses. The goal of this practice is to take us from the outward to the inward to truly discover the Self. And, when we say withdrawal of the senses it literally means to drop awareness of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. This is certainly not an easy feat, but there are in fact some easy ways to begin to withdraw.
Firstly, a practice of Pratyahara begins with a practice of Pranayama. By focusing entirely on breath and clearing our mind, we can begin to detach from the outside world and come into our inner world. A second way to activate your Pratyahara is by focusing on our third eye, or our Ajna Chakra which is located in the center of our foreheads. The Ajna Chakra is considered the eye of intuition. By focusing in on our third eye, we begin to look inward and find the Self.
Of course, the practice of Pratyahara takes time and dedication, but when achieved can lead to intense relaxation, self-awareness and inner stability.
It’s the start of a brand new week and we cannot wait! This #MindfulnessMonday we are bringing you the fourth Yoga Sutra, Pranayama, which translates to extension of the life force or of the breath. If you have every taken a yoga class, we are sure you have been told to focus on your breath. Many yogis believe that Pranyama is even more important than Asana, for it is Pranayama that is our sustaining force both physically and mentally.
In any physical activity breathing is crucial to propel us forward and ultimately keep us from passing out! But, when we get so caught up in activity be it running, skiing, cycling or yoga, we can find ourselves holding our breath, which of course increases the difficulty of anything we are trying to accomplish. So, in yoga it is extremely important to remember to breathe. Can sound silly, but watch yourself next time and you will see, it is easy to forget to breathe!
Mentally, breathing is crucial too. I am sure every single one of us has been told to “take a breath” in times of anxiety or stress (which can be infuriating), but if you do, you realize it helps and it is not just a little home remedy, it is scientific fact- deep diaphragmatic breathing decreases the release of stress hormones in the body. It sounds overly simple, but it is true. By taking deep belly breaths in through the nose and long controlled out breaths from the mouth, you can decrease the amount of stress hormones (and other toxins) in the body almost instantly. Pretty easy fix, right?
Our favorite way to decompress and really tap into our breath is in wide legged child’s pose. If you can’t get into child’s pose and it’s a breathing emergency (say at your desk on a deadline!!!) just sit there and take 3 minutes to breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. We hope you have a great, stress-free week. #JustBreathe
We’re back! Sorry, we have been slacking on our #MindfulnessMonday posts lately, but it is really
because we have not been slacking at all! We have so much going on and are so excited to share it with
you in the coming months, so stay tuned. Today, we are stoked to tackle the third of the Yoga Sutras,
and probably the thing that most people think of when they think of yoga- Asana!
Asana translates into posture. All the movements we do in yoga from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) where
we stand still and ground into the earth to Bakasana (Crow Pose) where we take our feet off the earth
and learn to fly are part of the Yoga Asana (hence why they all end in that word!)
In Patanjali’s definition of Asana, the movements are meant to be steady and comfortable. We may find
this easy while standing in Tadasana or sitting in Balasana (Child’s Pose), but this can become
increasingly challenging in both the body and the mind when advancing into deeper poses or balancing
poses. This is when we have to remind ourselves to breathe and work from a space of calm and
acceptance. When in a class filled with many people at different levels it is common to look around and
compare our Asana practice to that of someone else, but it is important to try our best not to do that;
instead to focus, to breathe and to work from a place of balance and gradually build strength and flexibility
to advance into poses. When we can commit to a truthful Asana practice, we can grow.
So, be steady, be comfortable and enjoy your Asanas!
Samara Zelniker is a yogi, wine drinker, pet lover and travel junkie.