Posts tagged ‘practice’

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a little girl, I would ride my bicycle to the library. I used to love the silence, the solitude, and being surrounded by books and endless possibility.

I gravitated toward the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I remember they were in one section of the library, and I would read them one by one.

But I wouldn’t just read them one time through. I had to explore every possible scenario in each book. I liked to witness how the choices I made at the bottom of the page affected the storyline.

It’s about the Journey, not the Destination

For as long as I can remember, I have used Choose Your Own Adventure books as my analogy to life.

We are born with a certain set of circumstances. From there, we choose what to do, where to go, who to be, how to feel. Then with each new choice we make, we are given a different set of circumstances and decisions to make.

That is the great adventure to life, this journey that we co-create right along with the circumstances we are given.

Becoming the Author

Part of practicing yoga is to become awake to being the reader of the story, the story of our individual lives. We stand back from living the drama, and instead witness how our actions affect our outcomes.

With this greater perspective, we can then become the author of our destiny. We can begin to make choices that lead us more toward happiness and less toward sadness, more toward living the life we truly love, and less toward attracting the things we do not wish to experience.

So that begs the question, “If I am unhappy, what actions can I take to change it?”

Progress Requires Action

Part of being a yogi is moving more toward becoming radically alive, about living each day as if it is your best day. It is not the path for everyone, but it is a path that leads to happiness.

One way yoga leads to happiness is by helping us realize that all we really have in life is the present moment. This present moment was created by our past decisions, by the choices that we made at the end of the page.

Our future, therefore, is determined by the choices we make right here, right now, by the fresh ink still wet on the paper of our current adventure.

So we can co-create our futures now by making decisions that will benefit our greater good tomorrow.

I will be working on answering the above question myself over the next several months, “What can I do to be happier?”. I invite you to join me. I invite you to Choose Your Own Adventure.

Namaste,

~Amber

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Choose Your Own Adventure books

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Free to Breathe Yogathon

I am once again raising money for the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon that takes place 4 weeks from today (specific details below). Last year, I lost my grandfather to lung cancer just two short months after he was diagnosed.

In last year’s yogathon, I participated as an individual, but this year, I am Team Captain of Team Charm City Yoga. This blog post explains a little more about Free to Breathe, about the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon, and about Team Charm City Yoga.

Free to Breathe

Free to Breathe is the event series raising money for the National Lung Cancer Partnership, an organization that supports lung cancer research and awareness.

In a yogathon, or a yoga mala, yogis perform 108 sun salutations continuously. We unite as one to breathe together for a single purpose.

On November 4, 2012 at 1 pm at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, yogis from all over Baltimore will breathe together to raise awareness for lung cancer.

Did you know? Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States. In fact, it kills more people than the next 6 cancers combined. 27% of all cancer related deaths in the US are due to lung cancer.

Yoga and the breath are integrally connected. Yoga unites mind to body using the breath, so a yogathon is the perfect fundraiser for lung cancer, so says the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon creator Elissa Sachs-Kohen, a Rabbi at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Rabbi Sachs-Kohen reached out to Free to Breathe after her mother died of lung cancer. She brought the Yogathon to Baltimore in 2008, and has been an advocate for Free to Breathe ever since.

Team Charm City Yoga

This year several Charm City Yoga teachers have united to form Team Charm City Yoga to raise money collectively. We invite you to join our team and be a part of not only Charm City Yoga, but also a part of helping fund research for the most underfunded cancer.

That’s right: lung cancer is both the number one killing cancer and the most underfunded in research dollars.

Over the last four years, the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon has raised over $75,000 and counting. Every dollar raised helps fund invaluable research and prevention.

Join Our Team

Today I ask that you consider helping Team Charm City Yoga. You can help in several different ways.

  1. Be a part of Team Charm City Yoga by joining our team.
  2. Donate to either my personal fundraising page, or Team Charm City Yoga‘s fundraising page.
  3. Join us on November 4th for the 108 sun salutations for a registration fee of $30.
  4. Or, simply share this blog, or our fundraising pages to help us raise money for Free to Breathe.

Yoga means “union”, so let’s unite as a team and raise money so that everyone can be Free to Breathe.

Details

When: November 4th, 2012 at 1 pm
Where: Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 7401 Park Heights Avenue, tel: 410-764-1587

Thank you for your support!

Love,

~Amber

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a spiritual and physical practice that was created over 3,000 years ago in India. Yoga, meaning “union”, is intended to connect the mind to the body.

There are many different types of yoga. The physical practice is called Hatha Yoga, “ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon, and its purpose is to unite opposites and stretch the body in all directions.  The physical practice was invented specifically so that yogis could sit comfortably erect in meditation without too many pins and needles in their bodies.

Hatha Yoga is what we think of when we refer to yoga in the West, however, as you will read below, yoga is much more than just the physical practice where we contort, strengthen, and stretch our bodies.

Wait a minute… What if I am not interested in a spiritual path? Can I still practice yoga?

Of course you can! The spiritual path of yoga is not for everyone. The beauty of yoga is that the philosophy can be adapted to fit your personal beliefs.

Even if you practice yoga just for the health benefits, or the amazing workout of asana, you can still call yourself a yogi. Likely what will happen is that even if you practice only asana and nothing else, you will find yourself able to deal with stress much better than before, which will improve your quality of life.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

The asanas are just one part of yoga. There are, in fact, 8 limbs to yoga, which represent the intention of our yoga practice. These 8 limbs were written out in the Yoga Sutras by the sage Patanjali around 300 BCE.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explained that the purpose of yoga is to calm the mind so that we can elevate our conscious awareness. He laid out an 8 fold path.

The 8 limbs of Yoga are:

Yamas (the restraints)                     Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
Niyamas (ethical observances)     Dharana (concentration)
Asana (postures)                              Dhyana (meditation)
Pranayama (breathing)                 Samadhi (higher consciousness)

The 8 limbs are meant to be a series of progressive stages where we begin to explore our ability to live in a state of Samadhi.

Samadhi, meaning bliss, refers to living our lives in a state of equanimity, where no matter what the circumstances are we can be content. The place of contentment comes through the journey of the other 7 limbs where we learn non-attachment to the fruits of our labor; giving, working, and loving just for the sake of doing the right thing.

But the 8 limbs does not start at the finish line, of course.

The “10 Commandments” of Yoga

The first two limbs of yoga are the Yamas and the Niyamas, which together make up the “10 Commandments of Yoga”. The Yamas are the restraints that Patanjali suggested allowed us to live a more selfless life. The Niyamas are the ethical observances that he recommended we adopt to live more healthfully and consciously.

The 5 Yamas are:

  • Ahimsa – Non-Harming
  • Satya – Truthfulness
  • Asteya – Non-Stealing
  • Brahmacharya – Control
  • Aparigraha – Non-Greed

The 5 Niyamas are:

  • Saucha – Cleanliness
  • Santosha – Contentment
  • Tapas – Heat/Passion
  • Svadhyaya – Self-Study
  • Ishvarapranidhana – Surrender to God, or surrender to the powers greater than yourself, or simply, surrender to that which is.

Asana

Asana means “seat”. In the Yoga Sutras, the word asana was used to represent the seat upon which a yogi sat to meditate. Asana includes the physical postures we associate with the word “yoga” in the West.

Part of the Niyamas is tapas, or heat. Asana is meant to purify the body using the heat that we build as we practice the athletic aspects of yoga. Yogis treat their body as a temple, and asana is the method by which that temple is maintained.

Pranayama

The second sutra in the Yoga Sutra states that yoga is a practice by which we still the mind. Pranayama is the breath work that yogis use to calm the mind.

There are dozens of breathing practices used by yogis, each of which have a different purpose. Some of the breath work stimulates the body to prepare it for intense labor, and some of the breath work is calming and relaxing. Some are meant to warm the body, and some are meant to cool the body. Others relax certain areas that commonly hold tension. There are even breathing techniques that intend to bring yogis to higher levels of conscious awareness.

As different as they are, all of the pranayama techniques have purpose along the 8 limbs of yoga.

Pratyahara

Pratyahara means withdrawal of the senses. Why would we want to withdraw from the senses?, you might as. Withdrawal from the senses allows the mind to begin to look inwardly so that the next limb of yoga can be achieved.

Dharana

Pratyahara withdraws the distractions of the senses from the mind so that the mind can reach Dharana, which means concentration. The Sutras claim that with single-pointed awareness, the yogi can move to the next stage of the 8 limbs. Are you beginning to see how the limbs are intended to be followed in a sequence?

Dhyana

Dhyana translates to meditation. Remember that asana was created so that the yogi could sit comfortably in meditation. Through purifying the heart with the yamas and the niyamas; keeping the body strong and relaxed through asana; stilling the mind through pranayama; withdrawing from the senses with pratyahara; finding concentration with dharana; the yogi finally comes to a place where the mind can be quiet enough to sit in meditation.

Samadhi: Why We Meditate

Yogis meditate to reach Samadhi, bliss. Through meditation, yogis can begin to explore the intentions behind their actions. With this kind of svadhyaya (self-study), equanimity can be achieved.

As previously mentioned, the path of yoga is a path to live without attachment to the fruits of our labor. To live for the sake of living. To give for the sake of giving. To love for the sake of loving.

When we live from a place where we are not attached, inner peace is achieved. By not being attached to the results of our actions, there is no place in our hearts for greed, jealousy, resentment, anger, or heartache. When we peel away those negative emotions, we find our true nature, which is love.

More importantly, through non-attachment, yogis are content (santosha) regardless of the circumstance. Does that mean they are never sad? Of course not. What it means is that even though yogis might be sad, we are aware that “this too shall pass”.

Nothing is constant except change. Yogis understand that the ups and downs of life are all fleeting moments. True happiness, true contentment, true satisfaction can only come from within.

Yoga is a path to enlightenment, and yogis believe that enlightenment is living without attachment to action, equanimity.

To Practice or Not to Practice

Remember, you do not have to be on a spiritual journey to practice yoga, but I am sharing this with you because most people do not know that there is more to yoga than just the physical practice.

Please feel free to continue practicing asana or meditation, or only the limbs suit your needs. Regardless of how many limbs you practice, you will reap rewards!

Namaste,

~Amber

The Path of a Yogi: Why I Practice Yoga

Yesterday, for a split second, I got into handstand for the first time by myself.

Source

Keep in mind, yoga is not about mastering the physical practice. The physical practice of yoga is a metaphor for life.

I focused on something for a very long time and finally accomplished it. Yoga happens when I take those skills off the mat and relate them to my day-to-day life.

Yoga teaches us that when we concentrate the mind on something, we can achieve it. Yoga also teaches us that we can control our mood, our chattering mind and our body by controlling our breath.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

As defined by Patanjali, the great yogic sage, yoga has 8 limbs. The first four limbs of yoga pertain to the practical and physical nature of life:

  • The Yamas (ethical observances) teach us how to deal with the outside world.
  • The Niyamas (restraints) teach us how to deal with ourselves.
  • Asana (postures) teaches us to treat our body like a temple, to keep it strong and healthy.
  • Pranayama (breathwork) teaches us to relax the mind.

The remaining four limbs focus on the evolution of the spirit:

  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) teaches us to turn our attention inward.
  • Dharana (concentration), teaches us to focus the power of the mind.
  • Dhyana (meditation), teaches us to be aware in the present moment
  • Samadhi (bliss, absolute union), teaches us we are bigger than our bodies and we can connect to the source of all things.

Soul Meets Body

I read a profound quote yesterday that a fellow blogger and yogi posted on Facebook.

“You do not have a soul. You are your soul. You have a body.” -C.S. Lewis

The purpose of practicing the postures is to live your yoga off of the mat so that the spirit can be ever evolving like a tree growing up toward the heavens.

And just like the tree, before we can evolve, we must be rooted in what is manifested here on Earth, our physical being.

I practice yoga because it elevates my mind, my body, ultimately uniting me with my true self, my spirit.

That is the path of the yogi.

Namaste,

~Amber