Tag Archives: breathing

Listening to Your Heart

If we take a moment and look deeply, most of us will realize that in our heart we feel a desire to be more in harmony with our true nature, to recognize the inherent ability to rest in who and what we really are. Plants don’t feel this desire. They cannot create an image of themselves and therefore aren’t a bit confused about where they came from, or who they really are or how they should be.

On the other hand we humans are thinking beings. Whether we like it or not our minds play a significant role in our existence. This is also why it is so important to direct our minds toward that process of being in more harmony with our true Self. We can “think” from the heart, or as some people would say “live from the heart.” This does not mean that we should be motivated by passions, it means something totally different. Thinking (or living) from the heart means from our center, our core. This will establish a rock solid realization that we are a part of a greater whole, a whole from which nothing and no-one is excluded. And intuitively seeing that everything and everyone exists for this greater whole. Therefore this is our contribution, even if we do not know exactly what it is. Living from the heart, from the center or core, is a state where knowing is not a requirement.

Our True Nature…

We are often preoccupied with this or that and forget that there is an entire natural world that lives like this; in absolute harmony with who and what it really is. This we call “Nature,” and then we experience ourselves as outside observers, disconnected from it, which in turn creates the urge in us to seek “being with Nature.” Sadly, we frequently forget that we are an inseparable part of it, that it is always here, within us, exactly where we are, as close as the nose on our face.

When we consciously connect with our breath as it moves in and out of our body, and we truly feel our body, feeling the warmth, the presence and the “Nature” in our body. And this “Nature” has a voice of its own. According to Zen this is the voice of “no mind.” The body is equipped with an active mind, a thinking (or thought producing) apparatus, but in itself is still “no mind.” It functions from “no mind.” Just like everything in nature; no thought is necessary for a flower to open and release its fragrance for all to smell.

Meditation starts by inviting our mind to calm down, to be still, so that our hearts may open up to the voice of nature once again, to the voice of ‘no mind’. We can feel this voice of nature because it is identical to our center (our core).

And rest assured that this voice has never been lost, nowhere, neither inside of you or outside. Because that is simply just not possible. At most it may be overlooked, obscured, covered up by thoughts and/or emotions. But it is still resonating from deep within, patiently, diligently, knowing that sometime, someday when you take time to listen you will hear, and rediscover what has always been, always is, and always will be.

*Of related interest, click on: The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

And…Mindfulness: Benefits & Cultivation…

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

A recent study has shown yoga practice to be beneficial for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an incurable, often progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe normally. COPD can include Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, or a combination of both.

The participants in this study showed improvement in lung function, reduced shortness of breath, and a decrease in inflammation after practicing yoga for 12 weeks; this according to the “GW Center for Integrative Medicine” and a press release from the “American College of Chest Physicians.”

Study presenter Prof. Randeep Guleria, M.D. said: “We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,”

For the study, 29 COPD patients practiced yoga twice a week for an hour. Their yoga routine included yoga asanas, pranayama, kriyas (cleansing techniques), and meditation.

COPD, affecting approximately 24 million Americans is most often caused by cigarette smoking, but controlling symptoms and slowing (or stopping) progression of the disease helps improve the quality of life for patients according to researchers.

Yoga practice is an excellent form of exercise for almost anyone with COPD. When done properly it is relatively low impact, and it helps to improve both emotional and physical health.

Yoga is described as a “mind-body practice,” by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and although yoga’s roots are found in Eastern philosophy, it’s not necessary to hold any particular spiritual or religious beliefs to take part in classes, so it is quite possible to find classes that just focus on yoga as a way to stay fit, flexible, and relaxed.

There are many classes, including those offered for people with diagnosed health conditions, that do not focus primarily on the spiritual aspects of yoga practice. However, for anyone who feels they would benefit from the spiritual elements of yoga, that’s also okay. The main thing is to find a class and/or instructor that works best for your particular needs.

Yoga practiced as a secular exercise is made up of two essential parts. Physical postures, known as asanas, and breathing techniques, known as pranayama.

Yoga asanas are performed to help improve your balance, flexibility, range of motion and general fitness levels. They also work well to raise your energy levels, reduce stress and clear the mind from worry.

Breathing techniques (pranayama) are a vital part of yoga practice. They help you to control your breath and teach you how to use your lungs more efficiently and effectively. Pranayama can be performed while holding the asanas and/or separately as stand-alone Practice.

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center’s web-site, “Yoga improves fitness, lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation and self-confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety. People who practice yoga tend to have good coordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep habits, and digestion. Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been used with conventional medicine to help treat a wide range of health problems.”

Specific Benefits of Yoga Practice for People With COPD

Yoga classes designed specifically for people with COPD generally offer modified forms of yoga, so there’s no need for concern that you’ll be expected to contort your body into complicated poses. They can be tailored to meet the health needs of people with COPD and should provide a gentle, easy and effective way to manage both overall physical health and emotional well-being.

Yoga asana practice can provide a variety of gentle stretching and bending exercises help to improve fitness and flexibility, improve the range of motion in the shoulders and open the chest, thus increasing overall lung capacity, while familiarizing yourself with different breathing techniques (pranayama) will give you the tools to confidently manage any attacks of Dyspnea (breathlessness). These learned techniques should be taught in a way that they’re  easy enough so that they can also be practiced at home.

Of related interest, click on: Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

How Well is Your Head and Heart Aligned?

One of our greatest strengths as humans lies in our unique ability to operate from either our head or our heart. Both our brain (with the ability to think) and our heart (with the ability to feel) are powerful organs that not only sustain life, but they are tools that can help us experience the world in a most profound way. New research has conclusively shown that we can “think” both with our brains and with our hearts and if (and when) we do that, we increase our ability to make better decisions. Aligning our heads and our hearts also greatly helps us to gain clarity, feel more flexible and resilient, plus it works to guide us toward a more balanced and peaceful life.

We experience this whenever we create coherence. Coherence is the state when our heart (along with its feelings/emotions) and our mind (along with its thoughts/logic) are in dynamic alignment and in cooperation with each other. Heart and mind coherence can be defined as the synchronization of our emotional, mental and physical systems, creating a high-energy, optimal state that has the ability to encourage, stimulate and produce positive outcomes whenever its combined force is concentrated.

This heart/mind alignment results in us feeling good, and when we feel good we generally do good. We fully engage life, with less stress and more energy. We have greater power to make better decisions, and all this comes from developing the awesome potential of our heads and hearts working in synchronicity.

Three tips on accomplishing this alignment.

  1. 1. Listen your heartbeat while breathing from your heart space. Begin by just slowing down and noticing the miracle that you are. Find a comfortable spot and sit quietly, taking slow, deep breaths and experience your own heartbeat. Be aware of its pulsing. Then try breathing from the heart center. Resist the temptation to force the breath, just breathe normally, but visualize each breath coming in and out of the heart center. This draws you from the head into the heart space and now the two can be engaged and aligned.
  2. 2. Always act with compassion. Compassion is a quality that manifests on a heart level and head level, it involved both thinking and feeling and when balanced it becomes a powerful force for good. You’ll notice it’s a deep feeling, precipitated by thought and understanding, it’s also an excellent way to create coherence. When you act compassionately, mentally visualize that emotion swelling out of your heart until your head and heart find their proper alignment.
  3. 3. Go beyond listening to just your heartbeat and try to hear what the heart has to say. It’s common to hear the inner voices coming from our head. They tend to be in the form of thoughts – analytical, critical and sometimes disparaging. Well, next time these inner voices arise, listen to what the heart has to say, likely these will be kind, compassionate, supportive words. Imagine your heart speaking directly to you and you may realize that in reality it’s sending us these signals continuously.

There are many ways of aligning your head and your heart to create the coherence mentioned above…Try this, next time you feel like you are too much “in-the-head” about something, pause, take a deep breath and merge those thoughts with the feelings arising from your heart center. Visualize these two aligning, creating a cooperative force designed to help ease your stress so that you can create a better thinking/feeling experience, subsequently enriching your life and all your activities.

Of related interest, click on: Meditation on the “Feeling” of Being

And: The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga as Science

The ancient view of where yoga and science meet has been considered “yoga as science,” what does this mean to you? It is common for people when they talk about yoga to speak of it as something to do with the physical body only. But yoga is much more, it’s a science that serves the body, breath, mind, soul, and ultimately, the entire universe itself. Yoga is simultaneously both practical and theoretical.

Patanjali codified, systematized, and/or arranged the already existing traditional yoga practices into the 196 concise statements called the Yoga Sutras. In doing so he was not trying to teach any particular religion. Yoga isn’t, and never has been, a new religion, and it does not support or condemn any religion. Yoga doesn’t insist that you become Hindu, or a Buddhist because it sees all the great religions as having come from one source.

Religions tell their followers what to do and what not to do, usually providing a set of rules (or commandments) that can never be fully satisfying. Yoga as science doesn’t tell you what to do or what not to do, but provides you with tools to learn how to be. Yoga as science helps you to realize both the known and unknown aspects of life, and that helps you to liberate yourself from pains and suffering by prompting you to attain that state which transcends pains and suffering.

Is it possible for someone living in this modern world to practice Yoga as science? Yes, once the fundamental principles of Yoga as science are understood and why Yoga as science should be practiced, the practice itself becomes easier. But first the decision must be made to enquire into yourself. You need to feel some necessity of finding who you really are without turning to anything external to you. There are millions of people, throughout the world, that are searching for Truth and Self-realization (religionists call it God).

So you begin to question life. When the mind begins to question, it’s an indication that there’s dissatisfaction. Life then becomes a question which continuously rises to the forefront. You feel the need to know something more, but you only have this tiny mind, which you try to use like a yardstick, to measure the vast universe and its multitude of mysteries.

No religion can be fully understood until you understand yourself, and once you understand yourself all the doors to higher knowledge begin to open for you. Patanjali offers something to dedicated seekers of truth and he insists the source of knowledge lies within you. The world and all its external knowledge can only inform and inspire you, perhaps giving some indication that there’s so much more to life. To spiritually evolve does not mean going toward any external world, instead it means going back to the very source. This source can be considered like a bright light, but it has many covers over it? The light remains as it is, but it will appear dim or invisible. As you remove the covers, you will begin to see it more clearly. That source of knowledge within can be compared to this light and yoga as science is a method and a guide to help you go through many obstacles to that source.

When practicing yoga as science all the different levels or layers of yourself are exposed, including your physical body’s well-being, your actions, thought processes, emotions, and desires. Your relationship with the world starts to take on a new meaning, and you learn how to manage your life in the world. Yoga as science establishes a bridge between the internal and external conditions of human life, it’s a way of improving yourself by understanding your mind’s processes and how they affect your internal states. Each and every one of us has the potentials within to discover who we are. Patanjali encourages the awareness of our potentials and provides us with the means to learn how to use them.

In Sanskrit, he word yoga means “union, or to unite with,” meaning you need to unite yourself with the whole. Currently you are probably a separate individual and as a result you are experiencing pain and suffering. Patanjali teaches that the cause of this misery is ignorance and ignorance is self-created and his yoga sutras teach that you can be free from this misery because it has been created by you.

You have to become a light unto yourself. No one else (or any religion) will give you liberation (or salvation). Every individual has the ability within (and the responsibility) to enlighten themselves. Do not think you cannot do it. You have that spark. You are fully equipped. You simply need to discipline yourself. Discipline is not a prison. It simply means practice.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga Provides Relief for PTSD Sufferers

The number of military and veteran suicides is rising, and experts fear it will continue to increase despite aggressive suicide prevention campaigns by the government and private organizations. Some 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, a toll of about 22 per day, according to a 2012 VA study. The VA acknowledged the numbers might be significantly underestimated because they’re based on incomplete data from 21 states, not including Texas or California. Even so, the data documents an increase of nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the most recent year of data in the study.

Military enlistees and veterans consider suicide as an alternative to coping with pent-up rage and fear. This shows how much the establishment casts the mental health needs of returning veterans by the wayside.

Not only combat veterans suffer from stress disorders, they are now beginning to become more common among civilians working in today’s increasingly stressful environments. To alleviate symptoms of combat and operational stress reactions (COSR), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plus increase the resilience of critical task workers that are exposed to high stress environments (this includes affected caregivers and family members), evidence-based yoga and mindfulness practices have been shown to be effective.

What most people fail to realize is that trauma is not necessarily the story of something terrible that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems. Traumatized people are often terrified of the sensations felt in their own bodies.

People with PTSD and other stress disorders easily lose their way in the world. Their bodies often continue to live in an internal environment of the traumas they were exposed to. We are all biologically and neurologically programmed to deal with critical situations, but time seems to stop in people who suffer from PTSD. That makes it hard to find pleasure (or peace) in the present moment because the body keeps replaying what happened in the past. If you practice Yoga and can develop a body that is strong and feels comfortable, this will contribute substantially to help you return to the “here and now” rather than remaining stranded in the past.

Yoga is an Asian tradition that clearly helps to reintegrate the body and mind. For someone to heal from PTSD, they need to learn how to control bodily/mind reflexes. PTSD causes memories to be stored at a sensory level (in the body), and the stored, unresolved PTSD symptoms include hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even immune disorders. Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses. Practicing mindfulness in order to become consciously aware of the ebb and flow of internal experiences, and paying particular attention to whatever thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses emerge are important aspects in healing PTSD.

Yoga greatly assists in regulating both our emotional and physiological states. It empowers the body to regain its natural movement and balance and it teaches the use of breath (pranayama) for self-regulation.

What is so attractive about Yoga is that it instructs us (and this is a critical point for those who feel trapped in their memory sensations), that all things do come to an end. While doing certain asanas, uncomfortable sensations may be evoked. But, by keeping track of them while staying in a posture for a limited amount of time, students and practitioners get to observe that the discomfort can be tolerated, at least until they shift into a different posture. The process of being in a safe space and staying with whatever sensations emerge, and seeing how they come to an end, is a positive imprinting process for the mind/body. Yoga helps those affected to befriend their body; the same body that had previously betrayed them.

Another important aspect of Yoga is the proper use of the breath. Normally in western culture we’re taught that we can’t learn to master our own physiology; solutions always come from outside, starting with relationships, and if those fail, alcohol or drugs. But Yoga teaches us that there are things we can do to change our brain’s arousal system, our sympathetic and our parasympathetic nervous systems and subsequently quiet the brain.

Meditation: is it recommended for those with PTSD?

In the west meditation has now almost become mainstream. The neurobiology of meditation, which indicates that the brain can grow new cells and actually reshape itself, is becoming more and more acknowledged and to the degree that it’s finding its way into mental health services. If we meditate regularly, this can restrain the fear center which helps us become more focused. Ironically though, if you are traumatized, remaining in silence, even for a short period of time is often terrifying. Memories of traumas are stored, so when you are quiet and still, these demons come out. Those with PTSD should first learn to regulate their physiology with asana, pranayama and relaxation and work slowly toward meditation practice.

Of related interest, click on: Ten-hut – Yoga & the Military

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga, Sensitivity and Intention

As we fast approach the Holiday Season, it seems as though no matter how much we try to avoid it, stress inevitably will rear its ugly head.  With awareness and sensitivity it will be obvious when it is happening to you.  Once its onset is recognized we can employ the proper tools to handle it.

By taking just a few minutes to go inward and be attentive to your breath will almost immediately give you the space to open to a new perspective. This will help remind you that all of your stress is a matter of choice. You will undoubtedly realize that it’s rare that you can change the causes of my stress, but you can almost always influence your reaction to it.  It is good to know that you have the potential to completely control your reaction to any given situation (stressful or otherwise).  When you are successful in changing your reaction to small stresses, which originate from sources that are out of your control, you’ll know that you also have the potential to do the same thing with bigger stresses.

Whenever you open to your own potential you’ll gain a feeling of empowerment. This works as a reminder that you have choices. You’ll also discover insights that lead to finding the gifts within each appropriate choice you make.

Whether we realize it or not, we all live in a world of infinite potential. We have the ability to make a conscious choice to believe that anything is possible. If we do that we will likely find it to be a very effective way to live. Naturally, we’re all well aware that at times life is hard and there is nothing we can do about it.  But once we have acknowledged that, we can then choose to move forward and focus on what we can do, what we can change, and what I can gain from any given situation. The yogis refer to life as the “ananda tandava” (the dance of bliss). We too can create this experience in our lives by remaining focused on the good, enabling our potential and discovering our opportunities.

We are becoming aware that being overly or excessive positive in our thinking doesn’t necessarily produce guaranteed or magical results. Too many people have mistakenly oversimplified this practice by taking out all the gray areas and have since become disillusioned. So it’s necessary to come to grips with the fact that our thoughts alone do not “create” our circumstances. However, our thoughts do create our reactions to our circumstances and that in turn influences many things in a very real and often physical way.

Sensitivity and Intention Yield a Balanced Yoga Practice

And, practicing yoga with sensitivity and intention will lead to a balanced life.  But, always start first by intending to become more sensitive. Without sufficient sensitivity, there is no way to react appropriately to situations encountered in life. Very few of us are born with this level of sensitivity, but yoga can give you a taste of what it is like to live life with more sensitivity and you’ll be amazed as it develops through your intentions.

Intentions come from our deepest longings and desires. Many spiritual traditions teach that desire (per se) is the root cause of all suffering. And this makes absolute sense when we are talking about shallow or secular desires. However, when desire is “spiritualized” it can be the cause of movement, growth and spiritual maturity. So, in reality, it is not about eliminating all desire, but rather staying sensitive enough to discover what our deepest spiritual desires are. Spiritualized desires are the ones that bring us closer to others, the world around and all that we consider Divine, rather than separating us. This would include the desire to serve, the desire to discover our gifts and use them, and of course, the desire to know God.

Even these deeper, spiritual desires can be dangerous; can lead us into suffering as easily as into bliss. When we become anxious, impatient or try to rush the process of spiritual evolution we tend to sabotage our original intention. Once again, it’s our ability to be sensitive that reveals the wisdom to know the difference. In yoga, this is a balanced action, so resist thinking of it as a static place; think of it instead as a dance. When dancing, sometimes you lead (intention) and sometimes you follow (sensitivity), and this dance with life is what you’ve been created for, plus it is the key to living a life that reveals and eventually fulfills your spiritual potential.

Of related interest, click on: Develop a Positive Attitude with Yoga

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Using Bandhas to “Lock-In” Your Life-Force

Prana (Life-Force or Energy) flows through us continually, keeping us alive. It is this flow of Prana, which regulates the functions of our body and mind. However, when this flow or pattern becomes irregular it routinely leads to various physical and mental ailments and tensions.

Our Prana, or Life-Force is much like water; it has to constantly flow through our body in order to provide a sufficient energy supply to each of our cells. Sometimes, because of our stressful lifestyle or negative thinking, this flow becomes inhibited or disturbed. When this happens, certain parts of our body get too much energy while other parts don’t get enough. The Prana may not be reaching to some places, or there may be a stagnation of the energy at one place or another. This imbalance then can lead to headaches, backaches, constipation, sexual disorders, stomach problems or any of a host of other disorders depending on type or severity of the imbalance.

Most yoga students and practitioners are familiar with Pranayama, but it is not quite so common that they recognize that Bandha is another yogic practice that is also effective when it comes to regulating this life force.

Bandha in Sanskrit is defined as “to bind, to lock or to tighten.” In actual Bandha practice, the breath is intentionally directed to a particular area of the body and then “locked” or concentrated there. The body is tightened, retaining the energy in that part for some time. This binding or locking of Life Force has numerous benefits. The bandhas help you regulate and control all your internal systems; hormonal, sexual, metabolic, digestive, eliminative and more.  They also balance the adrenal system, relieving stress, lethargy and tension.

Bandhas assist in massaging of the internal organs and removal of stagnant blood. Besides that, the practice of Bandhas regulates the nervous system, slows the aging process, increases overall vitality and accelerates to spiritual development.

Additionally, Bandhas help to release “psychic knots.” Psychic knots are like whirlpools of energy that are entangled like a knot in certain areas of our body, these can occur as a result of a current life experience, or archetypal (karmic) residues (samskaras) developed over a lifetime. These knots restrict and/or prevent the natural flow of energy, leading to the imbalances mentioned above.

There are three basic Bandhas: 

1.    Mula Bandha,

2.    Uddiyana Bandha,

3.    Jhalandara Bandha.

When these three Bandhas are engaged simultaneously, it is called Maha Bandha, the great lock.

The Mula Bandha is perhaps the easiest to start with due to the fact that it’s the most familiar to us. The contraction of Mula Bandha on the deepest physical level is similar to the Kegel exercises used to correct urinary incontinence and strengthen the pelvic floor and vaginal walls after childbirth. To find the Mula Bandha, practice beginning to urinate and then interrupting the flow by stopping the urination.

Mula Bandha (aka, Anal Lock)

·         Sit comfortably in Vajrasana or Padmasana (cross legged) with knees touching the floor.

·         Place the palms of your hands on your knees.

·         Concentrate on the Muladhara Chakra (Root center).

·         Inhale deeply, completely filling your lungs.

·         Hold your breath while contracting the muscles of your perineum area by drawing them upwards.

·         Hold the Bandha for as long as comfortable, feeling the tightening of your muscles.

·         Release contraction and exhale slowly.

·         Repeat this 10 times and may be increased to 30.

As with all yoga practice, when practicing Bandhas one should also keep their awareness at peak levels. Continue listening to your body during the practice and stop at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Combining awareness, patience and practice will lead to exceptional benefits and blissful results.

*A cautionary note: Pregnant women, people suffering from high blood pressure, peptic and duodenal ulcers or heart ailments should not practice Bandhas without first consulting with a trusted health care professional.

Of related interest, click on: The Importance of the Feet & Pada Bandha in Yoga

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga and a Grateful Heart

The most natural state of the human heart is that of gratitude. And a grateful, open heart receives everything that impacts it in life, moment by moment, just like the ocean receives raindrops. There’s never any rejection or coveting of any individual drop; just each drop, each part dissolving into the whole.

Similarly, our heart has the innate capacity to open to both suffering and joy with equal acceptance. In fact, this is how it functions best. The heart’s secret is that it wants to feel everything. In order to thrive, it wants to be fully alive in order to learn all that it can from the trials and celebrations of life, but our ego/self has other plans. It encourages and supports all that is agreeable to it and discourages (or tries to block) everything that is not.

As sentient beings, it is nothing short of a miracle that we can experience everything from pain and suffering to happiness and bliss. It’s utterly amazing that we have a consciousness that can experience any feelings at all. Of course, it’s not quite so surprising when the ego/self steps in and grabs hold of the suffering and keeps us there, tormenting us with its blame and insensibility.  

The practices of yoga and meditation ask us to confront our suffering directly and stay the course with it, experientially, until it reveals the seed of liberation that it contains.  When we move closer to suffering, experiencing it fully, it transforms us and leaves us with an air of expansion and a greater understanding. When we allow this to happen in our lives, we are left humbled, and grateful.

Now, of course this is not easy work because we find it is painful to really, truly feel. It is terrifying to take that leap of faith, assured that on the other side of the abyss of suffering is the promise of a greater wholeness. Our ego tends to wonder if it’s worth the risk, or even possible. But when we soften the heart into non-judgment, then we are as we are. By releasing expectation, life is allowed to arise as it is.  Whatever life is moving in you today is a miracle. Receive it with an open heart and you’ll feel gratitude radiate from those parts of you that just want to be?

Gratefulness can also arise by realizing how many things we take for granted. Consider this – the poorest people in America now live with more luxuries than royalty had 100 years ago. We have running water for a shower, it’s even heated! How about indoor plumbing, we no longer need to go out in freezing weather and sit in a stinky outhouse. It hasn’t been very long ago that indoor plumbing was a luxury available only to the very wealthy. We have electricity, which means that we can stay up all night reading and never have to worry about running out of candles. Not even Kings and Queens could do that throughout history.

Try starting each day reflecting on what (and who) you are grateful for. Focus with intent on heart-felt gratitude. Don’t allow “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to come into play, remain a witness, without judgments and you have opportunity to see all the things you have to be grateful for; things like the simple smile of a child, the smell of a flower or the sight of a cloud against the blue sky, or even just the ability to wake up and take a deep breath.

Use yoga practice and meditation techniques to develop your inherent quality of gratitude and infuse your life with a deep sense of peace and joy. And in that place, you’ll have come full circle, finding it very easy to be grateful.

Of related interest, click on: Try These 12 Tips for a Healthier Life…

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Meditation – It’s Not What You Think!

It’s also not just something you do. Meditation (Dhyāna) is a process, and may best be described as a continuous, unbroken, conscious awareness of the mind’s activities when in its raw state. Meditation, as a process, involves overcoming the distractions and dissipation of energies which then allows blissful awareness to arise.

When observing the activities of the mind we’ll see that at any point in time we are consumed with endless thoughts and assorted emotional baggage at both the conscious and subconscious level. This is perhaps the largest obstacle when it comes to preventing us from experiencing true, uninhibited bliss. Bliss naturally results from an expanded awareness of any and all happenings, but only in the absence of any attachments and/or bondages.

Meditation practice as a process will equip us with the necessary tools we need to experience this inherent bliss, showing us the path whereby we may live our everyday life using these tools.

Those who regularly meditate realize that they experience a beautiful inner space and peace as they disengage from the external world and go deep within themselves. They no longer identify with their ego-self and its accompanying emotional bondage in order to experience this feeling of peace. Sadly, as soon as they come out of it, they generally return to their so-called normal personality traits. These traits are accompanied by learned patterns of behavior and thinking in regard to who they are, and what they can or can’t achieve.

We must strive to integrate these two states; the higher meditative state and the daily conscious state. At any given point of time, we should then be able to become aware of our higher meditative state. Meditation practice is really mind management and helps us do just that.

What Meditation can do for us:

Meditation can help us overcome our assorted desires and eliminate distractions. It doesn’t directly “curb” these desires (they will always be there), but it will render them inconsequential in the face of an unbroken and expanded awareness of existence. The more we can retain the actual experience of our meditation practice, the easier it is to draw ourselves back from our seemingly endless desires and various distractions.

Meditation teaches us to how to be a “witness.” When we are meditating, we find ourselves detached and “in” the moment. But after we finish, we lose that “being in the now” experience and return to our ordinary distracted state. So, we need to develop a meditative lifestyle, where the meditative state is always available as our reference point. Adapting this meditative lifestyle will help us observe and understand why we tend to oscillate between a calm, peaceful meditative state and our daily unsettled state of mind. We then observe which lifestyle patterns disturb our calm, peaceful and potentially blissful state.

Important requirement for successful Meditation:

In order for successful meditation to occur, we must be “grounded.” Grounding is that essential “anchor” that helps us to remain stable during the meditative process. This grounding can be accomplished by anchoring to your breath or your body movement (e.g., yoga asana) during meditation practice. It’s quite common that as you proceed in meditation you reach a stage of unknown or unfamiliar territory, where you would ordinarily have no confidence to proceed further. It’s exactly these times that grounding is of great help as it establishes a reference point of where you are and of your purpose. It provides a stability to rest upon as energies start to shift and change while proceeding deeper in meditation.

Using Meditation to our best advantage:

During meditation, it is best to develop the capacity to use our energy to control and train our mind and the subsequent feelings that result. We need to be able to understand what is happening at our deeper levels. When and only when, we fully understand these issues can we confront them and eliminate them as distractions to our calm sense of being, enabling a blissful state.

In Antar Mouna (the “Inner Silence” technique) there are six stages to do this. In the 1st stage we witness the sensory information. In the 2nd stage we witness the spontaneous thoughts. In the 3rd stage, we consciously create and dispose of thoughts. The last three stages (4-6) are considered advanced and won’t be dealt with in this article.

But as you can see, meditation practice is a time to work upon ourselves, to take on issues that prevent us from being in a perpetual meditative state; one free of distractions where fear, anxiety, insecurity and desire are absent. As we progress in developing this medita

Yoga’s Perspective on Fear & Guilt

Like many other things in life, fear and guilt (in themselves) are neither good nor bad, they simply are. In any given instance, they can serve to further our goals and needs or just the opposite, they can push us further away from them. In any event, they are not to be ignored, but instead, when these feelings arise, they warrant some compassionate reflection; that way we can discover what attributes they possess that might be useful or helpful to us and which ones we should just let go of.

During yoga practice we may find fear to have its place. A healthy fear of injury works well to prevent our egos from pushing us into asanas that we’re not ready for, or it may give us pause when we feel driven to force ourselves to go further into a pose than we should. it seems guilt is not quite as useful in most yoga practice, but now and then, it is that guilty feeling about not practicing regularly that keeps us coming back to our mat. So, as we all have probably realized, it can be a motivator in many cases.

Due to our conditioning, fear and guilt are commonly perceived by us as negative emotions. But come to think of it, they may be not so bad.

Would it be going too far to state that fear and guilt are good? It’s easy to see that both these emotions have played important roles in our evolution, and they continue to do so. They are necessary for our conscious and spiritual evolution, making us more thoughtful and capable of more compassion.

Fear functions well when it comes to instilling in us the necessary respect for life, and often prevents us from behaving recklessly. Almost all young children have fears (like the fear of darkness, loneliness, fear of animals etc.). These fears ensure that the child seeks to remain in safer situations. As they grow older, they gradually shed these fears, evolving beyond them.

Feelings of guilt ensure that we evaluate our thoughts and actions from time to time in order to become better human beings. When we commit a misdeed, or bring harm or suffering to someone or something it is natural for us to feel bad about it. This makes us want to correct it and make an effort not to repeat our mistakes, but rise above them instead. If it weren’t for guilt we would become insensitive, perhaps even ruthless.

Humans are fortunate to have evolved above other forms of animal life. Animals have no guilt but possess lots of fear. As a result they do not evolve as humans do and develop compassion or any understanding of empathy for the suffering of others. But some may protest, saying animals do feel guilt, citing dogs as an example. But this has been proven to be a mistaken notion. Recent studies at Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the “guilty look” in dogs and found that it is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any response to its own misdeeds.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that balanced emotions equal a balanced personality. As in everything else, a balance needs to be there to hold everything in check; similarly excessive (or obsessive) fear and guilt can ruin our personalities.

Excessive, and especially irrational, fears (aka phobias) hamper one’s life. One begins to become afraid without any reason. When fears persist after we should have outgrown them, they should be addressed and if need be treated by a trusted health care professional.

Also, too much guilt, will often lead to a flawed and/or dysfunctional personality. When a person feels guilty most or all the time, they become apologetic about everything. From this an inferiority complex will often develop.

When we’re not able to properly balance and manage such emotions as fear and guilt, it affects our relationships as well as our physical health. Unhealthy, unbalanced guilt and fear lead to excessive adrenalin production, prompting other hormonal imbalances; this in turn establishes the breeding ground for a host of ailments.

Yoga practice fosters mindfulness and compassion that can help you replace negativity with self-acceptance. When you feel physically tight, yoga allows you to breathe into the muscles to relax them. It’s the same when you encounter difficult emotions such as fear or guilt. You learn to inhale and exhale through that too, working toward a place of greater balance, understanding and confidence. Therefore, when properly balanced, the emotions of guilt and fear are beneficial. One should not be overly bothered about them. They are a natural and inherent to our state of existence. As a person evolves spiritually, their usefulness dissolves and they tend fall away on their own.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500