Is this the time of year in which you tend to think about love and romance and make effort to be more loving towards yourself and others? YES! Valentine’s is coming!
As you are reading this, I am enjoying most beautiful island of Bali with my husband and son. It is easier to feel loving and lovable when in the mood for holiday and surrounded by the beauty of nature. What about everyday life?
Sometimes I feel angry or powerless as things get out of control, or I might feel burdened by many responsibilities, or usual routine makes my life feel dull… Under these circumstances can I still feel IN LOVE with myself, my husband, my son, life itself? I say YES! and practicing yoga is my answer. Right, yoga is my answer for most of my questions (as it really does work!).
When yoga is approached as a practice to deepen awareness, it helps to cultivate the skill for self-compassion and love which is especially useful when your life has become out of alignment. And the practice could be very simple – just feeling your body. Do you know that your body speaks your mind? Your body is a barometer of what’s really happening in your mind and in your life. Breathe deeply and notice how your body feels today. Where do you feel tightness? Any discomfort anywhere? Just bringing awareness to some place in your body stimulates the flow of vital energy to this place. It might intensify your sensations at first but if you keep your calm focus and deep breath, the physical discomfort will gradually disappear and it will release some mental pressure too! This is a practice I’ve been doing more than any other ones since my son was born. The reason is simple – it’s very effective in relaxing the body and mind and I can do it pretty much any time, even while simultaneously taking care of my baby. In this case I choose a smaller area to concentrate on – say, my feet if I’m walking, or my hands if I’m cutting veggies.
Since we talk about it before the Valentine’s day, I suggest you concentrate on feeling your chest and your heart area. Is your heart cold or warm? Open or closed? Soft or hard? Really feel into it. And stay with whatever comes up for you for some time. Keep choosing feeling instead of thinking. Don’t let your mind interfere. Then start exhaling anything that doesn’t serve you anymore. Empty it all out. Create some renewed space in your heart. As the next step, allow your breath get deeper and start inhaling love. Feel warm smooth soft sensations filling in your heart. And feel the well of love which is always in your heart pouring out. You ARE love. That’s what your deeper self is. Just pure love. Once you feel you’ve had enough, finish the practice with sending love, blessings and warm wishes of happiness to your loved ones and all beings. Repeat daily or as often as possible. I hope you will try this meditation for yourself, and will like it as much as I do.
It’s important to learn to nourish our deeper self first, to feel love, to be love. Only then we can share it with others. It is also great to stay open to the love that surrounds us. You might be surprised at how much you are given when your heart and mind stays open. Giving and receiving freely is so much fun! As you learn connecting to your heart and your true real self – LOVE, you will find it much easier to stay connected and loving to others.
HAPPY VALENTINE’s DAY!
Zoya at http://www.zoyayoga.com
I’m sometimes asked to answer some questions regarding my yoga or life in general. I thought I should share my answers with you. And if you practice yoga, I would love to get your answers to the same questions. If we all participate it will be fun! I would really love to hear your voices!
Question: What attracted you to yoga in the first place?
Answer: I went to my first yoga lesson simply out of curiosity. Yoga wasn’t so popular back then, and I didn’t know anything about it. In my mind of that time, a yogi was some weird old man covered in ashes who could walk barefoot on hot coals. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a teacher was a fit pleasant-looking woman, and the studio was filled with mainly young sporty guys.
Q: How did you feel after your first ever yoga lesson? Did you enjoy it? Find it challenging? Too easy? Weird?
A: It was a love from the first stretch. During final relaxation I managed to relax really deeply on both physical and mental levels. After the class I felt my lower back pain was considerably released, and that was a chronic issue at that time nothing could help with. For the first time in my life I felt grounded, truly relaxed and at peace with my self. I was hooked.
Q: What frustrations, if any, did you experience along the way with your yoga practice?
A: I remember at the beginning of my yoga journey, being quite frustrated with lack of flexibility in my body. I was always very stiff despite of the fact that I’d always been into sports. Then, as I got exposed to different yoga styles and schools, I sometimes got confused and frustrated with conflicting approaches, and different names for the same yoga practices. It didn’t last for too long tough. I soon developed deeper understanding of real meaning of yoga, and all confusing details faded away.
In general, when I think about yoga and frustration, I’d like to say that thanks to yoga I’ve learned to let go of frustration in my life. I know how to accept things as they are, and my regular practice brings me to the space where “all is well and as it should be”(the words I often use when teaching yoga). If I ever get frustrated nowadays, it doesn’t last long.
Q: Now that you have experience yoga, what does it give to you—what has changed in your life?
A: EVERYTHING! My body changed, my mind, my relationships, my work, my entire life have changed profoundly. Yoga brought complete transformation on all levels. My life is divided into two parts now: before yoga and after. Of course, it wasn’t an overnight change, and not even a matter of a year or two but me before yoga and me that practiced yoga for over a decade now are two completely different persons.
I’m a vegetarian, completely free from any addictions. Yoga filled my life with mindfulness which brings lots of joy and fulfillment on a daily basis. I’m much better wife, mother, friend, and daughter. Yoga has helped me to find the meaning of life and has become my way of life. Yoga IS my life!
Zoya at Www.zoyayoga.com
We’re near the end of January. How have the first month of the year been feeling to you? I’d like to emphasize – FEELING. It’s not about what you’ve done, but how have you’ve been feeling or in other words what and who have you BEEN.
For me who I am BEING is equally, if not more important, than what I am doing. And our feelings define the quality of our being. Am I feeling / being joy or sadness? Acceptance or resistance? Love or fear? Pain or pleasure? Freedom or limitation?
When we have emotions that feel good, we are vibrating at a high rate, aligned with Source Energy. And that helps us to attract more positive stuff in our life. So it’s vitally important to choose to do things that make us feel good, to have wonderful positive people around us, and to learn surrender and go with the flow of life when we can’t change what’s going on rather than struggle and get angry.
If you don’t feel you’ve been your best this January ( I personally don’t), we’ve got a perfect second chance! Well, yes, every day is a second chance, I know! but it feels good to do it in synchronicity with big natural cycles. The new year of the Horse is starting next week and it’s for me a more significant new beginning to compare with the 1st January of any year, since Chinese calendar follows natural rhythms of the universe. So let’s start anew and this time really do our best to FEEL our best by doing what we need in order to feel so.
The practice of self-study, or svadhyaya as we call it in yoga, is always compelling at the turn of a new year. As I look inwardly, I’m asking myself: Who am I most committed to being in 2014? What is my word or phrase (sankalpa) for the coming year? I might write about my answers one day but for now I love you and leave you contemplating on what YOU want to BE. And to motivate you, I’d like to finish with the words of the Dalai Lama: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.” If doing it for your own sake is difficult, do it for your loved ones, all people around you, your town/city, your country, your planet and all living beings!
Many Blessings for a Happy Horse Year!
There were three major events in my adult life that directed me to the spiritual path and shaped my personality and life. First was yoga. It has slowly and gradually transformed my body – relieving physical pain and ailments, then my mind – removing emotional garbage and revealing the bliss of mental peace under the constant chatter, and eventually, my soul – allowing for deep connection to the purpose of my life and my higher self. I’m, of course, not talking about yoga as only practice of poses but yoga in its deepest meaning of Union with its meditative experiences, the feeling of the energetic body and its currents, and ultimately as a conscious way of life.
The second transformation has started when I fell in love – a true love that has been removing the edges of my ego and opening countless opportunities for self-reflection and self-growth. This real love has been showing like in a mirror my ugliest angles in order to remake them through presence and awareness. Becoming ONE with my husband has been a truly transformational experience as it gives no choice but to allow, embrace, forgive, and savour each moment whether it’s bitter or sweet.
The last and the most recent biggest change was brought to me through the amazing journey of motherhood: calling for a soul, embodying it, giving birth to it and now taking care of the new human being I call “my son”. To know by experience what unconditional love means, one must become a sage or a parent. The latter could be easier but for me it’s connected to a huge responsibility to be the best person I’ve ever could. What can be a better opportunity for self-improvement then knowing that the little person you love the most in your life will copy everything in you including your worst unconscious patterns? Along my teaching and coaching past I’ve met way too many people with pains and problems all rooted in their childhood. Will I exaggerate saying that 99% of all problems are related to our relationship to our parents? The desire to bring up a healthy and wholesome being simply forces a loving parent to become a better person. It’s still a very new adventure for me but my son Veda has been the greatest teacher I’ve ever had. The spiritual potential that parenthood withholds is amazing. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming on the next page of my story.
Life is beautiful! I’m so grateful for it all!
I was very lucky to learn yoga nidra (yogic sleep), a powerful raja (royal) yoga technique of conscious relaxation, during my first stay in India in 2004. I spent a month in a Bihar School of Yoga ashram in Bangalore where I learned yoga nidra directly from a yogacharya (yoga teacher) who was a disciple of Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati for most of his life. It’s Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati, an outstanding spiritual leader and the founder of the Bihar Yoga Tradition, who adapted yoga nidra from tantric yoga and made it accessible to all of us. I am so very grateful to Guruji and my teacher for sharing this powerful technique which since then had become a permanent part of my personal yoga practice and my yoga teaching. Thanks to yoga nidra, many of my friends, students and myself personally have benefited greatly and brought essential positive changes in our lives.
Nidra is a Sanskrit word which can be translated as sleep, and yoga nidra is known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. It is a powerful technique of inducing complete and systematic relaxation on the physical, emotional and mental levels of our being. It uniquely unwinds the nervous system, which is the foundation of the body’s well-being. One can rejuvenate in a short period of time – 30 minutes of yoga nidra is as restful as two hours of conventional sleep! Practiced lying down, it does not involve movement, just listening and relaxing, therefore it is suitable for any physical condition.
The practice of yoga nidra consists of a few different stages among which are total relaxation of the physical body, breathing techniques to promote deep mental relaxation and guided visualization to resolve suppressed memories and desires. Another very important stage of yoga nidra, which turns it into a life-changing method, is sankalpa (resolution) but it’s a vast topic I wrote about previously.
Yoga nidra practice has been investigated in many research centers around the world and showed extremely favorable results in many fields. A state of profound psychophysiological relaxation and metabolic rest which occurs during yoga nidra is characterized by decreased sympathetic and increased parasympathetic nervous activity, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, altered levels of «stress hormones» such as adrenaline and cortisol, and enhanced concentration capacity. This state was given different names such as «the hypnagogic state», «the creative surrender» and «the relaxation response». It is in this state, the awakening and mobilization of prana (vital energy) happens naturally, and with consistent practice the ability to consciously control and direct prana throughout the body can be developed. This ability to use pranic energy at will allows a yoga nidra practitioner to access unlimited potential of inner healing power and improve any diseased condition of body-mind system.
Doctors and healers in many countries now prescribe yoga nidra as a preventive and curative therapy for stress-related diseases. Stress is a contributing factor in everything from backaches and insomnia to cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some estimates say that stress is related to 40-80% of all doctor visits! Heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, arthritis, bacterial or viral infections, migraine headaches, asthma and respiratory aliments… Have you ever experienced any of these problems? Unfortunately, most of us have illnesses or conditions brought on by stress or made worse by it. Fortunately, yoga nidra has been successfully used in the management of many stress-related diseases, and is proved helpful in both acute and chronic conditions.
Yoga nidra is also a successful therapy for psychological disturbances of all kinds, such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc., as it helps remove emotional imbalances and mental fatigue and tensions. In yoga nidra the subconscious mind is tapped to bring out into awareness the source of psychic pain – previously suppressed emotions, memories and desires. Self-recognition and desensitization of these painful life experiences follow spontaneously, and it can be safely relived and reintegrated into the conscious personality. When practice yoga nidra you become your own psychotherapist, you follow the instructions and not the instructor. The instructor is only a guide who doesn’t dominate your mind or will in any way. In yoga nidra you do everything yourself, and when you become familiar with the technique you will not even need an instructor anymore. Yoga nidra helps you to recognize your own personal problems and systematically alleviate them.
You can also use yoga nidra to stimulate your personal growth. The combination of alert awareness and the deepest form of relaxation helps you to dive into the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind. In this «hypnagogic state» the mind is exceptionally receptive, and its nature can be easily changed: bad habits can be given up more easily, personality can be reshaped and direction in life can be chosen more wisely. In yoga nidra state you can also restore your creativity: we all have genius but we often cannot find it under the layers of tension and ever-busy mental chatters. You might find that right after yoga nidra practice, your mind is clear and still, and you feel inspired and called by your creative muse. This time is precious and can be used to write poems or music, to paint, sculpt or for any other creative process.
Applications of yoga nidra are very versatile, and one of them is to enhance the learning process by using our ability to absorb knowledge through the subconscious mind. Experiments are showing that yoga nidra is an extremely efficient mean of increasing learning capacity and memory function. Many pioneering educators now utilize yoga nidra to create the state of active and relaxed awareness in which knowledge is soaked up without effort. If you are a scholar, you might choose to use the stillness of your mind after yoga nidra practice to memorize and study.
The last and for me personally the most important use of yoga nidra lies in its meditative nature. If you find it difficult to meditate in a sitted position, you should start with yoga nidra. Achieving deep relaxation and perfect state of pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) brings out sensory inhibition that enables you to watch your mental activity. This can be more difficult to achieve while sitting but it is a necessary prerequisite to any meditation. Once you master pratyahara and relaxation, you will be able to get to the stage of dharana (contemplation) where your inner focus on one point helps you not to get involved in your thoughts and to reduce their number. This might eventually lead to dhyana – defocusing or effortless focusing, the state in which you keep one single thought effortlessly and are continuously present in the now. That makes meditation a meaningful experience filled with spontaneous awareness and deep insights. Knowledge of truth only comes when you are free of tension and mindful. The ultimate purpose of yoga nidra is to take you even further into the state of samadhi where your body, mind and soul are completely united and become one with all there is. This is the true goal of yoga – UNION.
Everything and everyone in this world possesses qualities of Yang and Yin, Ha and Tha, Surya (which translates as the Sun from Sanskrit) and Chandra (the Moon from Sanskrit). It’s only when these opposite forces are in balance, the perfection is achieved. The balance doesn’t mean 50/50. Thanks to all sorts of different ratios of Ha and Tha qualities in objects, animated and unanimated, we can enjoy the variety and beauty of our Universe.
But let’s look at a human being. Surya is our most fundamental life force, which is always within us. It enables our existence. It gives us that «I am» feeling which is crucial for our self-identification and survival, the understanding that «I am one and unique». The same way the Sun is constantly producing light, our inner Surya is producing awareness and projecting it into the world. This awareness allows us to control everything in our inner world, and projects it out creating our outer world. We need to spread out our awareness into all spheres of our being and life, the same way the solar light spreads out in all directions. Our awareness is our light that dispels the darkness of ignorance and gives us ability to see, to understand. It’s by becoming aware we get power to create changes. The more we pay attention to Surya, our fundamental force of existence, the more powerful we become.
Whatever we do in life is to feel better which can be achieved only by strengthening our force of Surya. All spiritual practices help to strengthen our Surya by connecting to this main life force within us. A meditation is always based on «centring» ourselves – coming to our centre, our Surya. Surya force is in the centre of everything just as the Sun is in the centre of our planetary system. Imagine yourself standing in the centre of a circle or a sphere. How does it feel to you? Being in the centre, makes us feel better as we get supported by the force of Surya. Some people, however, might feel confused or shy which indicates that their Surya force is not quite awaken. Have you noticed how children love to be in the centre of attention? Their spirit is still weak, and by receiving people’s attention, they receive strengthening of their Surya. Children that will eventually get strong enough, won’t need it anymore, but those who fail to develop enough Surya strength, will always rely on others for the energy support. Egoism is a manifestation of the weak Surya.
Take a minute now to feel this Surya force inside of you. Sit straight, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, breathing out all the thoughts out of your mind. Now open up your awareness and look within. Come to the centre, your centre. Feel where that most concentrated «I am» is. We usually feel it deep inside, in the centre of the chest. Stay there for some time and observe it. Something that is being observed is your Surya. Something that is observing it is also your Surya. And that expansion of «I» that is happening by this observation is of Surya nature too. Being in the state of meditation makes us stronger, warmer, more solid, more stable. It brings us experience of being united, being One with all, and gives us power to influence anything we want, as it becomes a part of our being.
15th of Jan 2012