Seva comes from the Sanskrit word that means selfless service and is considered the most important part of spiritual practice. It lies at the heart of the path of karma yoga (selfless action), which asks us to serve others with no expectation of outcome. Seva is a principle that means to give back. Currently with all that is going on around the world globally, now is a wonderful time to practice this principle. As a yogi, it is important to understand what Seva means and its impact on the world. When we practice yoga and the principle of Seva, it brings us opportunities, the ability to reach and inspire others, as well as a positive change to the world around us.
"We express gratitude through seva, selfless service. We say, 'thank you', and live by that thank you." - Radhanath Swami
When we give back, not only does it help others, but we also receive gifts from the experience of giving. When we give to others without the expectation of receiving something in return, we flourish as individuals making a positive change to the world. Giving allows us to connect more deeply not only to ourselves, but to others and our community at whole. Seva helps us to lead more joyful, happier, and purposeful lives.
Here are 5 easy ways to practice Seva everyday:
Pay it forward: While waiting for your morning cup of coffee at your local café’ offer to pay for the drink of the person behind you. Although this may seem small, every extra action helps.
See some trash on your walk or morning run? Pick it up and place it in the trash or recycle bin. We can give service to our planet as well as to others.
Find a volunteer opportunity in your community; a local school, an animal shelter, a homeless shelter or children’s hospital, etc. Time is a valuable commodity and spending some of yours can make an impact!
Donate food or clothing
Do you have extra groceries? Clothing perhaps that you know you are not using or wearing? How about donating them to someone or someplace where they can be of use to someone else?! There are countless opportunities to be of service. You don’t have to wait for the holiday season to be charitable.
Offer a kind word or a smile to someone
You never know what sort of day someone is having or has had. Your smile or just a kind word can make a huge difference in someone else’s demeanor to turn their day around (and yours too)! Whether it's your friend, a stranger, or your mail carrier, just one word can open a new world with endless possibilities.
“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” - Mother Theresa
With all the talk and news about coronavirus, we can become overwhelmed and feel stressed. With regular practice of yoga it can help decrease stress and tension, increase strength, balance and flexibility, lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol levels. It also produces strong emotional benefits due to the emphasis on breathing and the interconnection of mind, body and spirit. Frequent practice of yoga for stress management encourages better sleep, helps individuals to not focus on things beyond their control and how to live in the present. It makes a stressful event a lot easier to handle, whether it's family or work. While most people have the notion that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga, the truth is, anyone will benefit from yoga regardless of age.
There are many different styles of yoga to suit your preference. It's not about doing yoga better or worse than the others, it's about how you feel in your body and how relaxed you can allow yourself to become. Yoga is considered as a deeply personal practice and no two people can or should hold a pose in exactly the same manner. A person has to work at his or her own level of flexibility, one that is challenging but not overwhelming. If you don't feel good with what the instructor is telling you to do, don't do it. Your body will warn you if you are about to get hurt. It is important that you listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don't let yourself be overcome by ego. Allow your body to guide you and be your friend.
The “goal” of yoga is to synchronize the breath and movement. It is important when to inhale and exhale as you work through poses. Breathing only through your nose keeps heat in the body and keeps the mind focused. Concentrating on your breath is the key to yoga for stress management, as it helps you let go of external thoughts and anxiety. The easiest way to bring yourself into the present moment is to focus on your breath. Feel how it goes down your nose and into your body. It helps you let go of the worrying thoughts. As you end each yoga session, simply lie on your back with both arms at your side with eyes closed and breathing deeply. This final pose (Corpse Pose or Savasana) is designed for deep relaxation.
Keep in mind that yoga is a slow process. Forget about expectations. Let go of competition and judgment. As yoga brings you into the present moment, you will experience joy not only in the physical movement and mental benefits but in spending time in the now.
We have all heard of the many benefits of yoga including, physical, emotional and spiritual. The physical practice of yoga is extremely beneficial to the human body. The more we practice, the stronger and more flexible we become, leading to better posture, a stronger spine and easier breathing. Below are 5 physical benefits of a yoga practice.
The physical practice of yoga is only one of the 8 limbs. Through asana practice, we gain better control of the body by practicing different postures that strengthen and tone our muscles and organs. Most yoga poses that are practiced focus on engaging the bandhas, or energy centers in the body. Engaging uddiyana bandha, (pulling the belly in and up), tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles and organs. By practicing and repeating yoga poses, the body learns to hold these postures more comfortably and creates muscle memory. The more we practice, the stronger the physical body becomes.
Most yoga poses can be standing, balancing, forward fold, backbends, and hip opening postures. Each one of these categories focuses on lengthening different areas of the body and increasing flexibility of the muscles around those areas. Backbends help to improve the flexibility of the front body (quads, abdomen, front of the neck). Forward folds (either standing or seated) lengthen the back body (hamstrings, spinal erectors, calf muscles). Similar to how the body becomes stronger and better at performing a movement the more we repeat it, the same applies to the flexibility of a muscle group. The more our bodies are in these types of poses that stretches a particular muscle group; allowing us to feel comfortable in those poses and go deeper.
In addition to having a strong and flexible body, yoga is wonderful for our spine! The spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae. These bones are steadied by muscles that help keep our body upright. After sitting for long periods of time or when our muscles are tired, these spinal stabilizers don’t do a very good job at securing the spine and we either slouch or rely on the strength of the neck muscles to hold us up. Overtime, bad posture can cause chronic pain, so it's important for the spinal stabilizers to be strong and healthy to stay pain free!
Proper body posture throughout the practice of yoga is important to maintaining a strong spine. In yoga practice, the body learns how to shift its center of gravity to hold different poses. For each pose, the spine is lifting, flexing, extending or rotating. Each of these movements strengthen the different muscles that support the spine helping prevent compressed discs and maintaining the necessary space between each vertebra. A strong spine is key to preventing many types of injuries, particularly spinal injuries. However, ankle, wrist, knee and hip injuries can also be prevented by maintaining a strong and flexible spine, naturally developed with a regular yoga practice.
One of the main physical benefits of practicing yoga is better breath control. It’s one of the things that connects the body to the mind. This connection allows us to access a parasympathetic state, which is the opposite of fight or flight. Practicing yoga helps us control our breath by putting us in a position where we must hold poses, some rather uncomfortable at times, and simply breathe. In Ashtanga yoga, for example, each posture is held for five slow breaths. Not only does each exhale allow us to better access a posture, but the awareness of the breath also brings us to the present moment, which can be difficult to achieve throughout the rest of our day-to-day. By mastering better command of the breath, we achieve a better control of our bodies and minds.
The physical practice of yoga is incredibly beneficial to the human body. The more we practice, the stronger and more flexible we become, contributing to healthy body posture, a stronger spine and better breathing mechanics. These physical benefits allow us to keep up with our daily activities pain free.
Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. Practicing both daily can enhance your overall yoga practice. Thousands of years ago in ancient yogic texts, physical asanas were initially created to prepare our minds and bodies for meditation. Meditation is the act of getting in touch with the present and having awareness over our thoughts. Through regular meditation, we can learn to be more aware of our emotions and how we react to different situations in our lives.
Many people often find the practice of meditation difficult because they don't know how or have misconceptions about what meditation means. There are many ways to meditate and there are no right or wrong ways to go about it. There are many different forms of meditations; Vispassana meditation (which means to see things as they really are),
mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, Yoga Nidra meditation, walking meditation, and more!. All of these different ways to meditate have one common goal, to help us achieve more inner peace.
There are also some yoga poses to practice at home that naturally relax and calm the mind. Child’s pose, Cat-Cow, Easy pose, Mountain, Pigeon, Bound Angle, and Savasana; just to name a few. You can hold these calming poses for 3- 5 minutes (longer if you can and/or want) to really feel their soothing effects.
To begin a meditation practice, come to sit in Easy Pose or a cross-legged position with your eyes closed. Simply sit and notice the stillness around you. We are not trying to quiet the thoughts or alter the breath; just simply listening and noticing the stillness and quiet around you. Do this for several minutes. Start with a simple meditation like this for just 5 minutes a day - anytime of the day. You could try meditation in the morning, afternoon, or nighttime. Aim for just 5 minutes a day and once you feel comfortable, move on to make your meditation time longer. With daily practice; you will begin to acquire the life changing benefits that meditation has to offer.
To relax in Savasana
• Legs spread comfortably apart
• Close the eyes
• Unclench the jaw
• Allow the arms to rest comfortably away from the body
• Allow the feet to fall open gently
• Keep the palms relaxed and open up towards the sky
• Soften the muscles in the face
• Allow all the muscles in your body to completely relax
As the days become colder and shorter, everything in nature becomes quieter and more dormant. Winter can be a wonderful time for soul-searching; a time to reflect and reset our own energy. Winter can be a time to recharge our energy before the onset of Spring. This cooler and quieter energy is also related to Yin energy in the traditional Taoist philosophy. If this calming Yin-style energy is left unbalanced, it can lead to lack of motivation, lack of energy, and lethargy. To balance this energy, we can incorporate its opposite energy, Yang-style or warmer asanas, which heat up the body and mind during these cold Winter days. Here are a few of tips to help warm and energize your body and mind:
Practice a Warming Yoga Sequence
To begin asanas for wintertime, warm-up with a few rounds of Sun Salutations to heat up the body. Make sure to end your yoga practice with some restorative, calming asanas(poses) that allow time for you to reflect and recharge your energy levels. Some asanas to practice are supine and stretching asanas that are held for longer periods of time, such as: Savasana, Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), Extended Puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana), Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana), Plow pose (Halasana), and the Sage’s pose (Marichyasana C). When practicing yoga in the winter at home, make sure not leave your home (or studio) to quickly after a practice. Cooling down too quickly can tighten muscles and reduce circulation, which can put you at risk for muscle injuries. Waiting 5-10 minutes before going outside, and bundling up when you do, should be sufficient to allow for a proper cool-down.
Practice Breath Retention (Kumbhaka Pranayama)
In this gentle, beginner-level Kumbhaka Pranayama, we are working to heat the body. Kumbhaka is traditionally practiced holding the breath for 10 seconds, but keep in mind that this length is recommended only for advanced students. In this practice, begin with holding the breath for 2-3 seconds.
To begin, come sit in a comfortable seated position. Take a big inhale in, fully inflating the lungs. Next, hold the breath for 2 or 3 seconds. Slowly exhale out all the air from the lungs. Repeat for up to 10 minutes or longer.
Cold and gloomy weather can certainly affect your mood and disposition; don’t let the weather outside get you down. Be mindful of the benefits that yoga (and meditation) offer. Just a few minutes of daily yoga can set the overall tone for your day! Reading and studying books on yoga or going to a class can help boost your motivation. Can’t get out because of snow or ice? YouTube has some fantastic yoga classes!
Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can be an excuse for avoiding all kinds of tasks. But don’t put your yoga practice aside, the overall benefits are wonderful for your mind, body, and spirit.
If the holiday season has you stressed or you’re not feeling very festive, there is good news! By adding a little yoga practice and mindfulness to your day, you will be able to get through this holiday season better than ever!
Below are a few tips I have put together to help get you through this holiday season.
Being mindful means being present, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing! The purpose is to allow us to feel our emotions and think thoughts, but not to become overwhelmed with them! Instead accept that they are part of the moment and that they will pass. There’s no right or wrong with mindfulness, only observance.
Stress often comes from overthinking about the past or future, rather than remaining in the present. This can lead to anxiety and stress over what’s to come or what may have happened in the past. The holiday season often means one thing after another, but if you can focus on each thing as it occurs that can ease the tension.
Let Go of Expectations
Often, we have ideas about how we want things to be during the holiday season. Let go of expectations during the holiday season and simply let things happen. Not everything is going to turn out perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it for the way it is.
Be Compassionate for Yourself and Others
This may seem easy, however during the holiday season we often forget to practice kindness to ourselves and others. Spending quiet time with yourself when needed can relieve the pressure by being mindful in the moment. Try to avoid rehashing any past tensions and instead focus on the good moments. Reflect on the good things whether they’re related specifically to the holiday season or just a nice moment in your day.
The holiday season isn’t the time to set aside your yoga practice or let it slide. If anything, you should make more time to practice yoga during the holidays, to help you relieve any stress or tension you might have. There’s always time for a round of Simple Sun Salutations or Yin yoga to help you destress at the end of the day. Practicing yoga in short bursts several times a week when you wake up or prior to bed can work wonders and help you to relax.
Yoga and mindfulness can help to alleviate tension that builds during the holiday season. Even if you enjoy this time of year and you’re having fun, things can get a little overwhelming and put stress on your body. Don’t forget the benefits of practicing yoga and mindfulness can have.
The holiday season can be especially overwhelming for many people. The thought of shopping, entertaining family and friends and holiday cooking can leave most of us feeling completely drained! It is during these times that our Chakras can become out of balance. What better time than now to pause and meditate. Each energy point relates to certain aspects of our lives which can be enhanced and improved through Chakra meditation.
Whether we realize it or not, our Chakras are constantly working in the body. They influence our mental and our physical state of being. By focusing the attention to these areas, we can begin to improve various aspects of our lives thus feeling more harmonious, peaceful and balanced. If one of your Chakras is out of balance, meditating on the specific Chakra can do wonders for your overall well-being, or if you really want a boost, wear the specific color associated with that Chakra! Below are the 7 Chakras in detail and the areas in the body and life they can influence:
The Root Chakra
This is the first Chakra, located at the base of the spine. It symbolizes the energy of the earth flowing into the body and is the correlation between our physical presence and the material world. The color red is associated with the Root Chakra representing health, protection and well-being. Meditating on this Chakra or the color red will enhance these areas in your life.
The Naval Chakra
This Chakra is located just above the Root Chakra, in the lower part of the abdomen. It signifies energies associated with sexuality, happiness, love, compassion, sympathy and understanding. Its corresponding color is orange. Feelings associated with giving and receiving are tied to this Chakra. Meditating on this Chakra or the color orange will allow you to control emotions.
The Solar Plexus Chakra
Located above the Naval Chakra just below the chest, this point focuses on willpower and self-transformation. The power of the subconscious mind, discipline of the ego and ability to control one’s self all emanate from this Chakra, which is associated with the color yellow. Meditate on this one to control your external circumstances as well as your self-esteem.
The Heart Chakra
Associated with the color green, it signifies energy associated with kind nature, forgiveness and unconditional love which extends beyond the physical realm. This Chakra is located in the middle of the chest and centers around perseverance, harmony and patience. Meditating on this Chakra will allow you to heal pain through the power of love.
The Throat Chakra
Located just below the chin in the throat. It symbolizes the power of all forms of communication and how qualities like truth, nobility, character and wisdom can be conveyed with the correct purpose and respect. It is associated with the color sky blue and also revolves around extra sensory communication. Meditating on this Chakra will allow you to express yourself truthfully at all times.
The Brow Chakra
Symbolizes intuition, insight, instinct and how the mind perceives the soul. Concentrating on this Chakra will give you peace of mind and stimulate your imagination. The color synonymous with this Chakra is indigo and relates to spiritual guidance and direction. Meditating on it will allow you to access the path to your inner wisdom.
The Crown Chakra
The Crown Chakra is located at the top of the head. It signifies our higher consciousness and our relationship between with the world around us. The highest powers of the mind and spirit can be reached by meditating on this Chakra. Its color is violet, and it also serves to encompass the entire body within the realms of spirituality.
By turning your attention on the Chakras, they can enable you with the ability to align with the physical and non-physical elements of the body. Do not force this process; with experience, you should find it more natural for your focus to drift to the chakras that are most in need of balancing when you meditate. Hopefully, this introduction to chakra meditation has been enlightening.
The holiday season is upon us and with that often comes stress and anxiety. So, if gift buying, holiday parties and baking holiday treats have you feeling stressed out, sluggish or just plain drained, rest assured you are not alone. Here are my 5 yoga tips to help relieve some of your holiday stress:
Breathe: This is the simplest and most effective way we can do to calm the nervous system is to breathe deeply with awareness. Sit tall or lie on your back. Close your eyes. Fill your belly with breath on your inhale and release all the air from your lungs on the exhale. Continue for 5-10 minutes resting your awareness solely on your breath and feeling the tension fall a way.
Practice gratitude: We have so many blessings in our lives, whether it’s the food on our plate, the roof over our head or sharing a laugh with a loved one, become aware of the abundance in your life by simply being aware.
Remain dedicated to your yoga practice: It is in times of stress that our yoga practice holds the most importance. By dedicating time to yourself through your practice, you will begin to feel more calm and relaxed. Even a 15-minute home practice will help connect the body and mind, improving concentration and relieving stress.
Have Fun: This may seem difficult, but have fun! Play games with your kids, play in the snow, sing Christmas songs out loud, watch “Home Alone” or any funny Christmas movie or cartoon. Finding playfulness in our daily activities helps us to not take ourselves too seriously. It’s hard to feel anxious, sad or angry when you are laughing, so even if it feels a bit fake at first, crack a smile and see what happens.
Cultivate compassion, forgiveness and peace: Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. The key to cultivating happiness is forgiveness; forgiveness of others, forgiveness of self. Holding onto a grudge hurts you in the end. Forgiveness is a choice and it requires a lot of compassion that ultimately leads to peace and we can all use peace in our lives no matter what time of the year.
Chair Pose, or Utkatasana is not just a beginner pose, but it is also part of the Sun Salutations and is often used as a transitional pose. It can also be practiced on its own to build strength and stamina throughout the whole body.
Utkatasana comes from the Sanskrit words utkata meaning powerful or fierce and asana meaning pose. Many yogis may skip this pose or they will not hold it for long because it can feels tiresome, and it is not the most “glamorous” of postures. However, practicing Chair Pose is good for you, not only because of its physical benefits, but because it advances your practice physically as well as, emotionally.
Modifications & Variations
Utkatasana can be an excellent full-body strengthener when practiced correctly. It can take time to build enough strength to hold the pose for more than a breath or two. Take it slowly and be careful not to over-stress your knees or shoulders. To deepen or modify the pose, try these variations:
Utkatasana can build a lot of strength and stamina throughout the body when it’s done with correct alignment:
Maintain a slight arch in your back.
Squeeze your thighs as close together as possible.
Bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible.
Draw your chest back and up, instead of reaching your torso forward.
Keep your weight evenly distributed in your heels. Shifting the weight forward can over-stress your knees..
Remember to breathe evenly throughout the pose! If your breath becomes strained, come out of the pose until you can breathe deeply again.
As a yoga practioner and teacher with a business based on health and wellness, you would think I’d have my personal wellness plan figured out all the time. But I’m human, and I often fall into the trap of wanting to achieve more, work harder, do more, etc. And in my mind, I think that if I eat all the “right things” and do the “right practices”, that that’s enough. But the one thing I was not allowing myself to do was to actually receive the benefits of the foods and practices through rest. In our culture, most of us don’t know how to slow down because we are addicted to the busy cycle of always doing and not enough of just being.
The body will often send signals that it’s time for us to slow down and that no "super-food" or supplement can remedy deep fatigue. Just like you, I need to give myself permission to rest, and to rest deeply without the guilt that I should be “doing” something else. But slowing down when you’re in a cycle of always moving can be hard to do. That’s when I turn to a practice Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation that is essential for a culture that needs structure in order to feel at ease in slowing down. I usually start with 10 minutes, and opt for 30 days I schedule in this structured time to rest deeply. After a month of this, I slowly began to heal my adrenal fatigue and find a more balanced, sustained flow of energy. It’s an essential practice that I often do. Yoga Nidra is done with full consciousness and allows us to access layers of our subconscious mind with clarity and mindfulness. This allows for the release of negative thought patterns in the mind to unravel and dissolve.
So what IS Yoga Nidra?
Nidra means sleep in Sanskrit. When following this meditation, it takes you past the dreaming stage and into a state of conscious deep sleep, where the brain waves function in theta state and healing of the nervous system, heart and mind take place. Because Yoga Nidra activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, it also has profound effects on supporting digestion and countering stress-induced insomnia. Through consciously relaxing the effort of body and mind, we learn to address stress in our waking states with more ease and direct the flow of energy more intentionally. On a deeper level, we use Sankalpa Shakti in this meditation to process and transform karma in our lives and manifest our deepest desires.
A regular practice can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. It’s even said that one hour of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of a full night’s sleep! The best time to practice this meditation is in the afternoon between lunch and dinner; although anytime you can set aside for this practice the benefits will be well received. So, what are you waiting for? Give Yoga Nidra a try and reap the wonderful benefits. Check out this awesome Yoga Nidra - Meditation & Guided Relaxation . It is a complete 16 minute training script that can help you relax deeply and touch a place of deep stillness, peace and insight within.
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