The Sanskrit salutation “Om namah shivaya” ( pronounced as Aum Num-ha Shi-why), can be translated as: "I bow to Shiva." Shiva is the supreme reality, the inner Self. It is the name given to consciousness that dwells in all. Shiva is the name of your true identity- your self. Each of us has unlimited possibilities stretched out ahead of us, regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do or how old we are. It’s interesting to take a moment to bow to the possibilities. Inevitably something specific leaps to mind. Perhaps a physical goal, some mental hurdle or maybe even a spiritual seeking comes into focus.
As Yogis, we try to step back from the chatter, the planning and the desire that comes up when we contemplate those possibilities. There is an art to acknowledging potential without becoming overwhelmed by it or chasing after it. The key is to stay present. We explore this on the mat by placing ourselves in different physical postures or using varied this in the safe environment of the Yoga space, we may find this skill naturally extending into the other areas of our lives so that we can experience the fullness of our potential while staying grounded in the present.
Yoga offers you the opportunity to explore your potential in whatever aspect you choose; physically, emotionally, spiritually or any combination. Within Yoga there are a number of different styles and each one appeals to different people for different reasons. Yoga teaches us to be more present. As the Shiva force begins to manifest within us, it creates a certain pressure inside our minds and nervous systems for us to purify, to change, and to transcend. As we allow its currents to move, they will facilitate a deeper healing that dissolves our problems not merely suppressing them. Yoga helps us return to that path of previous great Yogis and sages whose blessings can guide us along the way, step by step.
Decades of scientific, medical and social research reveals that meditation has quantitative and qualitative benefits to anyone who takes up the practice; everything from lowering blood pressure, combating stress, overcoming insomnia, raising awareness, improving memory, cultivating happiness, reducing anxiety and increasing higher consciousness. The message is clear: if you want to feel great, then meditate. Here are 6 ways to begin your way to your inner peace and meditation practice.
1) Pick a place: Choose a suitable environment for meditation. That means a peaceful place where you won’t be easily interrupted by other people or loud sounds. Even if your surroundings are busy and noisy, make your meditation place as pleasing and comfortable as possible, so that you are happy to be there.
2) Select a time: Establishing a successful meditation practice involves selecting a time and meditating at that same time daily. Some people find that getting up a few minutes earlier to sit and meditate works well. Others like to meditate at the end of their day, shortly before going to bed. Still others find that a mid-day meditation break recharges them. Find a time that works best for you. If your schedule is hectic, don’t let that stop you. Just commit to sit and then find times that work with your changing schedule.
3) Prepare yourself: There are many options for sitting. You can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You can sit cross legged on your bed, couch or a cushion on the floor. If your body feels tight you may wish to sit on the floor or you may find it best to have your back leaning against a wall. However you sit, your back should be straight and erect but not rigid. Rest your hands comfortably on your legs or in your lap. At first a meditation posture may feel awkward but as you practice, the posture will begin to feel comfortable and familiar to your body.
4) Start with a small amount of time: Be reasonable and realistic with yourself when establishing how long you will meditate. Don’t set yourself up for frustration by deciding initially to meditate daily for a lengthy period of time. Remember that your goal is to establish a long lasting practice so it is better to begin slowly and progress gradually. If you’re a beginner, a few minutes can seem like a long time, so start off slowly and increase the length of your sittings as you feel ready and able. You may find that by the time you settle your body and mind and begin to focus on your breath, your time is up. If the session seems too short, you can always sit a little longer the next time. As your practice develops, you’ll find that even five minutes can be quite refreshing.
5) Remain focused in spite of distractions: As you sit, a variety of distractions will arise. For example, your foot may fall asleep, or you may feel some modest physical discomfort. As much as possible avoid responding to those distractions by moving and fidgeting. Acknowledge those annoyances, but try not to focus on them as part of your meditation. Be present, centered and concentrated in the moment.
6) Let thoughts come and go: Some when we meditate we believe that the goal of meditation is to have no thoughts. The objective of meditation however, is not to not have thoughts, but to reduce mental chatter and slow down random thoughts which bring confusion, anxiety, stress and mental overload. Meditation is about a focused mind, not about not having any thoughts.
These are some basic meditation techniques that will get you started on this exciting journey. Remember, just meditate however you happen to be on any given day; there is no right or wrong way to meditate.
Tree Pose or Vrksasana may look simple however, standing on one foot can be much more of a challenge than most of us may imagine. The pose is an ideal beginner balancing posture, but still offers benefits to students of all levels. Like most yoga poses, Tree pose can surprise you with its demands.
There are a variety of Tree Pose variations. However, you will always be standing on one foot. Yogis can vary the placement of the foot by placing it higher or lower on the standing leg to help assist with balance. The arms may be extended above the head or kept at the chest in Anjali Mudra (hands in prayer).
To practice this pose, slowly shift your weight onto one foot, keeping the other foot flat on the ground. Place your right foot on the inside of your thigh above the knee. Be careful not to place the foot on the inside of the knee. Keep the hips open, align your hips, shoulders and pelvis. Reach the hands upward above the head or keep clasped at the chest. Remember, trees sway in the wind, so if you feel off balance at first, no worries, just move back into tree pose again. Tree Pose offers a variety of benefits, some of which are listed above.
*Avoid this yoga pose if you suffer from the following problems or conditions:
High or low blood pressure
Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. One of the Five Principles of Yoga is Pranayama or Breathing Exercise which promotes proper breathing. From a Yogic point of view, proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama and Yoga asanas goes hand in hand. The union of these two Yogic Principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body.
Yoga breathing, or Pranayama, is the science of breath control. It consists of series of exercises especially intended to meet the body's needs and keep it in vibrant health. Pranayama comes from the following words:
Prana - "life force" or "life energy
Yama - "discipline" or "control"
Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"
When we focus on the breath, we are listening to and contemplating the true nature of consciousness as it is spoken through the breath. Breathing is therefore more than a simple physical action each breath has an underlying significance and a particular “coded message”. If you can realize the true reality of the breath, you can realize the atma or soul. It is the mechanics of respiration that opens up the space for pranic energy and for the spread of consciousness.
In our respiration process, we breathe in or inhale oxygen into our body, going through our body systems in a form of energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and take away all toxic wastes from our body. Through the practice of Pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Absorbing prana through breath control links our body, mind, and spirit.
Because of the daily work, family, or financial pressures, we tend to ignore our breathing. Thus, it tends to be fast and shallow. The use of only a fraction of your lungs results to lack of oxygen and may lead to different complications. Heart diseases, sleep disorders, and fatigue are some of the effects of oxygen starvation. Therefore, the negative energy of being restless and troublesome leads to lesser prana inside the body. By practicing deep and systematic breathing through Pranayama, we can re-energize our body.
Regular practice of yogic breathing has been shown to increase yogic breathing. This raises the vitality of the body and efficiency of the bodily functions. Breathing with the awareness of the heart is a way of entering the silence of the heart, a moment of inner calmness and joy, and steadiness of mind. You will become established in your own natural inner silence.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We became used to breathing from our chest, using only a fraction of the lungs, not knowing that this unhealthy and unnatural way of inhaling may lead to several complications. With yoga breathing, we increase the capacity of our lungs, bringing more oxygen supply to the body to function well. We learn how to breathe slowly and deeply - the right way.
Pranayama reduces the toxins and body wastes from within our body. It prevents one from acquiring diseases.
Pranayama helps in one's digestion. With the proper way of breathing, one's metabolism and health condition will start to improve.
Pranayama develops our concentration and focus. It fights away stress and relaxes the body. Controlling one's breathing also results to serenity and peace of mind.
Pranayama offers a better self-control. Through concentration, one can better handle temper and reactions. Mind can function clearly, avoiding arguments and wrong decisions. Moreover, self-control also involves control over one's physical body.
Pranayama leads to spiritual journey through a relaxed body and mind.
*It is worth noting that Pranayama should not be forced and done without proper preparation. It is part of a process in yoga. Breath control is a spiritual practice of cleansing the mind and body which should be done appropriately and with proper guidance and preparation.
For many people, the big attraction with yoga is how good it makes them feel, both physically and mentally. Although this alone is probably reason enough to start doing yoga, there’s more to it. Let’s look at some of the benefits of yoga in more detail.
The bottom line is that yoga can make you stronger, looser and healthier. It does it by combining stretching, breathing, and relaxation, along with poses that build strength, flexibility and coordination. Put all that together and your body can’t help but benefit. But what exactly are the physical benefits associated with practicing yoga? There are quite a few.
Yoga has been proven to improve blood circulation, the quality of breathing, and even digestion. So if you suffer from disorders like headaches, asthma, or stomach problems, yoga can help. Better blood circulation can also lead to healthier, glowing skin.
Along with strengthening muscles and bones, it helps make joints and spine more flexible. This leads to better posture and fewer backaches. You may also find that your joints feel less stiff.
Yoga won’t in and of itself help you lose weight. But it will help tone your body by building muscle strength. So you’ll look fit even if your weight doesn’t change.
If you often feel tired and lack energy, yoga can help. With the interaction of exercise and breathing, yoga can energize and refresh you. You’re not exhausted at the end of a session of yoga, like you might be after a workout at the gym. Instead you’re feeling recharged and ready to meet the challenges of the day.
But not only does the body benefit from doing yoga, so does the mind. One of the major benefits of yoga is its ability to release tension and instead produce a peaceful state of mind. It’s pretty much impossible to do yoga and feel upset or angry. By its very nature, yoga leads you to feel calm and relaxed.
The deeper breathing and relaxation that are so much a part of yoga also help with both focus and concentration. For students this can lead to better performance in school. When you’re on the job, it can lead to greater productivity.
If you are someone who feels constantly stressed out, consider giving yoga a try. A person under stress tends to breathe lightly. With less oxygen getting to the brain, concentration is more difficult which can cause even more anxiety. With yoga, you learn to breathe more fully. This will help relieve stress and allow you to relax.
Yoga can even help if you find yourself unable to turn off your brain when you crawl into bed at night. Instead of tossing and turning, take some slow, deep breaths and try some of the relaxation exercises you do at the end of a yoga session.
These are only some of the many benefits of yoga. The great thing about yoga is that as soon as you get start doing it, you also start getting the benefits.
Oftentimes people don’t have time to do a 30 minute to an hour yoga practice, so here is a practice for those who are new to yoga or time-challenged. Before you practice this 20 minute sequence, be sure to do a round of 3-5 Sun Salutations to “warm-up”. The important thing to remember is that this is YOUR practice. Consistency is more important than quantity. It’s much better to practice 3 days for 30 minutes than to practice 2 days for an hour.
Take pleasure in your practice. Be relaxed and calm. Breathe through each pose and enjoy how yoga makes your body feel. The more you keep returning to your yoga mat, the more you will see how yoga will change your life. We may not be able to avoid the stresses of life, but we can control how we react to the daily challenges that are thrust upon us. Have fun practicing and enjoy the journey!
*Always consult a doctor first before beginning any new exercise regimen. Don't push yourself and always practice yoga within your ability as to avoid injuries.
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