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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yoga Myth #6: "I Have to be Thin"

In this culture where "toothpick" and "pretzel" are the dominant stereotypes of the yogini it can seem intimidating to come to a yoga class. This trend is a terrible example of the limitations of our shallow culture infecting the beauty, power and grace of an ancient tradition. How many people have opted out of the opportunity to practice yoga because they felt they did not fit these destructive stereotypes. A deep sense of self-acceptance is central to the philosophy and practice of yoga. One of the reasons I describe the practice as Beloved Yoga is because we all can benefit from taking time to BE LOVED. Negative body images are a huge source of stress and pain in people's lives. With practice (and it does take practice) we can silence those internal judgemental voices that come from parents, media, teachers, society, friends, etc. In fact, it doesn't matter where those voices have come from you are listening to them everyday whether consciously or not.

At our classes I try to remind students (and myself) of the simple sacredness of the human body. As we concentrate on feeling the sensations in the body we develop a more authentic connection to our body. Comparing to others is a conditioned experience in a group. It is important to continually withdraw your attention inwards so your body is the one receiving the benefit of your focus. You do not have to be thin to deepen your awareness of body and breath. You may very well lose excess weight as you begin to move and to release in a yoga class but that is a fringe benefit. Your body is the greatest gift of your life, take care of it by connecting deeply and honestly with your innate beauty.

Be Loved,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yoga Myth #5: "I Can't Meditate, My Mind is Always Racing"

Welcome to life as a human being. There are many misunderstandings when it comes to meditation but one of the ones I seem to hear a lot is, "I can't meditate...my mind is always racing!" It is the nature of the mind to race, to judge, to compare, to reflect, to bounce from one thought to another with every new sensory input. That said we all have the special ability to observe that racing, comparing, judging mind. It is in the simple witnessing of the race that we begin to harness the healing power of meditation.

If you can't get out of the rat race than start to become a keen witness of it, starting with your own mind. A busy mind is not a barrier to meditation, it is the why you need the practice in your life. With practice we can begin to shift our perception to become a little more connected with that witness and a little more detached from that monkey mind. Don't expect the mind to stop...in fact, don't expect anything and you are on your way with meditation.

One simple and profound meditation practice that I learned from my teacher and would share with you is to observe your breath and each time to notice that you are indulging in thought simply say, "Not Now" and come back to your breath. The truth is that each time we are following the fantasy of the mind we have slipped out of this present moment and it really is Not Now. You have access to a well of bliss in the present moment and this bliss is independent of all external circumstance. Practice watching that racing mind and you may just discover that waiting bliss.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yoga Myth #4: "I'm Too Tired"

This is one we hear a lot as people's vital energy is being consumed by a growing list of mental and physical stress factors. As we worker harder and longer we also tend to play harder. You know that feeling of needing a vacation after a vacation? Practicing deep relaxation is an invigorating experience that will help relieve fatigue. There is nothing more difficult than feeling like you do not have the energy to be present with children or partners. When the activities of your day leave you fatigued it is time to make a change. Often we cannot change what we are doing so we much begin to shift the way we are doing things.

The fatigue we feel in our lives is also related to both poor nutrition and poor hydration. Dehydration is one of the most commonly overlooked causes of fatigue. All of that said, the reality is that when we do make the time (even when we are tired) to make it to a yoga class or to do some stretching, breathing, relaxation, strengthening and/or meditation we are increasing the body's ability to rejuventate itself. We invariably feel better so rather than watching another TV show, give yourself the gift of yoga.

Eat fruits and vegetables to harness the energy of the sun, drink water to be sure the body is hydrated and make yoga and meditation part of your weekly and daily ritual. You will be doing yourself and everyone around you a favor.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Yoga Myth #3: "I Don't Have Time"

Our third yoga myth has to do with that monkey on everybody's back....time. We have all had times in our lives where we have prioritized the activities that are essential our our well-being. We have also had periods where we have not...and the difference can be staggering. I appreciate that getting to a weekly class may seem overwhelming and there may be real barriers in your responsibilities and/or schedule that make it seem impossible. That said, we all have the same number of hours in the day and we all have a body, a mind and a capacity for awareness that is awe-inspiring.

Take 5 and Change your Life
Spend 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening simply being aware of your breath. Keep your body still sitting on the floor or in a chair (even if it has to be in the bathroom), sometimes that is the only place to get some alone time. Make friends with your breath, forgive yourself for anything and everything, forgive others with the same intensity. Let go of regrets from the past and fear of the future and be simply and fully present with yourself. This practice of awareness is also yoga. Concentrate your mind and you may discover a well of bliss within yourself that offers the gift of renewal and freedom 5 minutes at a time.

Our days are busy, give yourself time to be present - I assure you that everyone in your life will benefit.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yoga Myth #2: Yoga is a Religion

There is a popular myth that keeps people from realizing the great benefits of a regular yoga practice and it has to do with that "touchy" area of religion. It is amazing to me how quick people are to reject something in the name of Christ when such a profound part of the Christian message is to embrace. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which are the foundation of yoga science states quite explicitly that the science of yoga is not to be aligned nor does it belong to any particular culture or religion. The Eight Limbs of Yoga lead the practitioner to a highly concentrated state of mind which becomes meditation and, once stabilized culminates in the direct experience of Oneness.

Yoga is Applied Spirituality
A regular yoga practice has the ability to deepen your faith experience in addition to the obvious physical benefits. My training in yoga has always emphasized a devotional element which is known as Bhakti Yoga. Regardless of your religious path, the practice and exercise of devotion plays a role. I find many people pay lip service to the "idea" of devotion but do not really take time to practice this ancient art. From my perspective, a big difference between religion and spirituality is practice and experience. Through yoga, we learn to concentrate on the object of our prayer. Regardless of how you practice prayer, concentration is a critical element. To sit and practice the rosary can be done mechanically while your mind is wandering or can be done with intense concentration and awareness that can catapult you into a deep and profound experience of Divine Love. Yoga is a tool that serves to deepen our faith regardless of how we define that faith.

I choose to describe the form of yoga I practice as "Beloved Yoga", this is because we are all entitled to an intimate and personal connection to our Beloved. Our regular yoga practice helps us cultivate that connection and deepen it. Another way to look at this word Beloved is as BE LOVED. We all need to take time during our day and our week to practice being loved unconditionally. Most of us attribute unconditional love to our religion and yet we don't practice experiencing unconditional love. This is the opportunity we have through yoga and meditation.

Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is a tool to deepen your experience of religion. Yoga is the science of cultivating stillness of mind and is the same path so eloquently articulated in the Psalms as...."Be still and know God".

Friday, January 22, 2010

Breaking Through the Yoga Myths

I wanted to start a series of blogs that deal with the many misconceptions about yoga that may keep people from harnessing the benefits of this ancient practice that has never been more important. I have been teaching yoga for over ten years and have heard all of the excuses, well many of them. I have also seen a very serious misunderstanding of the scope and depth of yoga become the norm. So, without further adieu let's beginning Busting the Myths of Yoga.

Yoga Myth #1 - I'm Not Flexible

Not to sound cruel but this is the most ridiculous yoga myth and the most popular. This is like saying to the cleaning lady, "No! I don't want help cleaning my house...it's too dirty". Flexibility is a bi-product of practicing yoga and definitely a contributor to a younger, healthier body. Maintaining a healthy, flexible spine will ensure that you are able to continue doing the things you enjoy much longer into your life. If you consider yourself to be "not flexible" then find a yoga class and Just Do It! I know that Nike has changed their tag-line and they may change it a hundred times but they will never find a better one.

There are two other things that come to mind for this myth. First, there are many different yoga teachers with a variety of backgrounds, experience and intentions. I have seen many so-called Power Yoga classes that are presented in a way that really is inaccessible to many body-types. It is easy to blame the teacher but truly yoga is a deepening of your experience of your own mind and body. It is up to the practitioner to back off where necessary. I believe the teacher should continually remind students of this but don't count on it. The other consideration here is that the flexibility myth is not the real barrier but rather the pride of being seen by others in the class. I understand how hard this can be (believe me) I have seen pride rob me of many experiences that would have enriched my life. It is critical that we find the courage to conquer pride and do the things that we need to do to be healthy and happy if not for yourself then as a role model to the next generation.

"I'm not flexible" is EXACTLY why you need to be taking steps to rectify that. You wouldn't tell the doctor that you can't visit because you are sick. Your body is a beautiful and amazing miracle of life that can heal and adapt quickly. Once you start working on your flexibility you will be amazed at how great you feel and how enormous the ripple-effect of flexibility is positively impacting every aspect of your life.

Be flexible!

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The One Minute Vacation

We all love vacations! The word "vacation" comes from the Latin word vacare meaning "to be empty or free". Taking vacations is an important part of our life. We tend to give so much of our time to our professions and our routines that to break it up a few times a year is an essential part of our mental health strategy. Taking time to empty ourselves of tension and stress, to let go of our routine and practice a greater sense of freedom is all part of the ritual known as vacation.

You know that saying, "As above, so below"? I enjoy exploring the macrocosm and the microcosm. In this case, the macrocosm is the typical year in your life that includes a summer vacation and a winter vacation. Now we can take that down into the microcosm which is a typical day. Giving yourself time twice per day to "be on vacation" is again part of a good mental health approach to life. The question becomes, how do I get to Florida and back twice per day? Or, if I live in Florida, "how do I get to Nova Scotia and back twice per day"?

The truth is, we do not have to go anywhere to touch the emptiness and the freedom that is at the heart of the vacation experience. Yoga and meditation are phenomenal tools to introduce us to the micro-vacation. Like a vacation meditation requires a little bit of planning like making sure that you won't be interrupted; unless of course you do get interrupted and then that interruption becomes part of your meditation. For one minute you break all routine, there are no have to's or should's, there is only space. Now, the mode of travel is the breath. Your breath is like the airliner that will carry you to your destination which is no destination at all. The micro-vacation takes practice but in 60 second segments, even you can afford it.

Close your eyes and begin to be very aware of your breathing, in and out through the nose. Sit up straight and let the shoulders fall down and away from your ears. Feel all the sensations in your body as you pay less attention to the thoughts that rise and fall in the mind. Trade thinking for feeling. Incorporate a great sense of relaxation into your micro-vacation. Enjoy yourself....enjoy your SELF.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

I am always fond of exploring the microcosm and the macrocosm, you know(vacations twice per year)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yoga: Exercise for Body and Mind

I often forget how most people consider yoga to be simply physical exercise. More people are discovering yoga in gyms in North America than in the many yoga studios that seem to be on every street corner. Of course, we have to get a bit more creative in rural areas. The way the public thinks about yoga is quite telling. One of the fundamental challenges we face, according to yoga psychology is our over-identification with the body. That means we fail to recognize our psycho-spiritual nature (for the most part). Human beings are like ice-bergs where there is more going on than meets the eye.

Any activity that is intended to re-unite our fragmented experience of reality can be classified as yoga. Even living in an ashram for 10 years there were many people that continued to say, "this is yoga and that is not yoga" Well, unless you could see into the heart and mind of that individual how could you possibly know if they were practicing yoga or not? We go to a class and get on a mat so that we can learn to concentrate the mind, strengthen the body and improve our health but the practice of yoga need never stop. You are continually faced with your perception of reality and the myriad of ways your ego reacts to that perception. Simply being aware of this process is a yoga practice.

To say, "I don't have time for yoga", then is the ultimate misnomer. It is time to deepen our understanding of this ancient practice. One translation of the above statement could be, "I don't have time to remember who I am". I would say it is more a function of space than time. Learn to create space in yourself and time will loosen its grip on you.

Be deep,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta




Monday, January 18, 2010

Create Space in Your Busy Life

Hello All,

For many of us, life is full with work, family, hobbies and friends. Taken individually each are enriching and beautiful aspects of life but altogether it can feel overwhelming at times. It can feel like we have no space in our lives. Tension builds without even knowing it and we become rigid and fragile unable to bring the best of who we are to any of the many roles we play each day. Yoga and meditation help establish a spaciousness within ourselves that is perhaps the greatest gift we have that so often goes unacknowledged. With practice we become more patient, more compassionate, more sensitive and ultimately more joyful.

As you sit, simply be aware of your breath and trade the "thinking mind" for the "feeling mind". We pay the majority of our attention during the day to our thoughts and the emotions they generate. Paying more attention to the sensations in the body begins a subtle journey inwards. Allow the body to relax and the mind to become more and more concentrated. This practice is not about going anywhere but rather allowing everything in your moment to be just as it is. There is no substitute for regular practice, even though these tools are inherently simple they require practice to harness the tremendous value in your life. Find a yoga class or a meditation group or, if you have the self-discipline, practice on your own.

We will meet at Milo Boathouse tonight at 7 pm to receive the gift of space that we can then bring to the many elements of our life. Of course, yoga will also build strength, increase flexibility and improve your balance. I hope to see you there.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Something for Nothing

Hello All,

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and you are all ready to continue or start a yoga practice that will support your overall health and well-being. A dedicated practice (and there is no experience necessary) will improve your energy level, strength and flexibility and reduce stress.

I have noticed more and more of these "passive fitness" tools like the shoes and boots that help tone your muscles just by walking (BTW walking with any shoes or boots will help tone your muscles). I am sure there is some science behind it but these products appeal to our culture's "something for nothing" mentality. When I first discovered yoga, I was a heavy smoker (surprised?) and was amazed at how easily I shed the habit when I began paying attention to my breath. I never really "quit" smoking but rather I started breathing. The breath is the very source of life, the first thing we get and the last thing to go. Pay close attention to your breath and notice the quality of your life improve. Allow every exhale to become the end and each inhale to usher in a brand new moment. Life begins and ends with the breath and it may be the one thing that really gives you something for nothing.

We will practice doing something and nothing at the Boathouse this evening at 7 pm. If you have been doing nothing for your health come to this class and I promise you will get something out of it. If you have been doing something to stay fit and healthy then come and do nothing during our relaxation and you will get something out of it....either way you win so there are no excuses.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta