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We have finished the celebrations of Christmas and New year now but the Year of the Horse does not start until January 30th on a new moon. As we are still in the energy field of the Water Snake year, we need to be aware that this last month offers perfect time for cleansing, releasing, healing and renewing. We want to leave all that doesn’t serve us anymore behind in the Snake’s deep dark waters and get ready for new awakening, new inspiration, new luck that the Horse year is about to bring! Let’s use the remaining time wisely and shed some more old skins!

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Happy solstice!

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How are you feeling as we approach the darkest night of the year? It’s been cold and raining pretty much non-stop here in Taipei for more than a week now. A perfect weather for looking inward and feeling the sensations of the inner darker world…
I believe that to be well we need to be in touch with our inner flow which is always influenced by Nature cycles (the theory of microcosm and macrocosm, anyone?). We are taught to resist the darkness, to deny our needs and to put on a happy face especially during this time right now as we approach Christmas. It always makes me think: why in our society, the darkest time that we need to rejuvenate and replenish ourselves is used for one of the merriest celebrations of the year? Whatever the reason is, it makes sense to get in touch with Nature and our inner self, and find more time for silence, rest and healing.
Instead of pushing through with a smile on your face, look into your inner darkness, be quiet and aware to recognize what is needed, and try to act upon these needs. Give yourself the present of staying in tune with Nature, and Nature will give you the present of keeping well.
Happy Solstice!

The Mastery of Love

Love…. There has been written so much about it. People try to express love through visual art, music, poetry… And yet it’s something no one can really explain. The reason is simple: it’s coming from the heart, no mind. Or maybe even from the soul as Rumi wrote once:

I love my friends neither with
my heart nor with my mind.
Just in case heart might stop,
Mind can forget.
I love them with my soul.
Soul never stops or forget.

Why do we love someone? Where does love come from? And what is love??? Once I wrote my thoughts on love in relationships and its different levels/stages (kama, prema, bhakti).

Today’s post is about self-love as this is a source for love we can share with others. It has nothing to do with egoism. Only when you nourish yourself you can nourish others. Without self-love we will always look for some «loving» relationship that will make us happy. Coming from the place of lack, it will be always based on negativity of lack. It will be about demanding love from a partner rather than unconditionally sharing our inner love. How can you share if you don’t have enough? What can you squeeze out if you are empty?…

illustration by Jason V Lu

Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a little book by Don Miguel Ruiz called «The Mastery of Love». He said it helped him tremendously, and it was his everyday reading book for years. My English was quite poor back then, but I found that it was written in very simple words yet the meaning was very profound. Here comes a few pages of what the author said on self-love:

«Everyone has a price, and Life respects that price. But that price is not measured in dollars or in gold; it is measured in love. More than that, it is measured in self-love. How much you love yourself  – that is your price – and Life respects the price. When you love yourself, your price is very high, which means your tolerance for self-abuse is very low. It’s very low because you respect yourself. You like yourself the way you are, and this makes your price higher. If you don’t like things about yourself, the price is a little lower.

Sometimes the self-judgment is so strong that people need to be numb just to be with themselves. If you don’t like a person, you can walk away from that person. If you don’t like a group of people, you can walk away from those people. But if you don’t like yourself, it doesn’t matter where you go, you are right there. To avoid being with yourself, you need to take something to numb you, to take your mind away from yourself. Perhaps some alcohol is going to help. Perhaps some drugs will help. Perhaps eating – just eat, eat, eat. The self-abuse can get much worse. There are people who really feel self-hatred. They are self destructive, killing themselves little by little, because they don’t have the courage to kill themselves fast.

If you observe self-destructive people, you will see they attract people just like them. What do we do if we don’t like ourselves? We try to get numb with alcohol to forget our suffering. That’s the excuse we use. Where are we going to get alcohol? We go to a bar to drink, and guess who’s going to be there? People just like us, who try to avoid themselves also, who also try to get numb. We get numb together, we start talking about our suffering, and we understand each other very well. We even start to enjoy it. We understand each other perfectly because we vibrate in the same frequency. We are both being self-destructive. Then I hurt you, you hurt me – a perfect relationship in hell.

What happens when you change? For whatever reason, you no longer need the alcohol. It’s okay now to be with yourself, and you really enjoy it. You no longer drink, but you have the same friends, and everyone’s drinking. They get numb, they start getting happier, but you can clearly see that their happiness is not real. What they call happiness is a rebellion against their own emotional pain. In that “happiness” they are so hurt that they have fun hurting other people and hurting themselves.

You no longer fit in, and of course they resent you because you are no longer like them. “Hey, you are rejecting me because you no longer drink with me, because you don’t get high with me.” Now you have to make a choice: You can step back, or you can go to another level of frequency and meet people who finally accept themselves like you do. You find there is another realm of reality, a new way of relationship, and you no longer accept certain kinds of abuse».

illustration by Jason V Lu

And a bit more from the same chapter «The Dream Master»: «EVERY RELATIONSHIP IN YOUR LIFE CAN BE HEALED, every relationship can be wonderful, but it’s always going to begin with you. You need to have the courage to use the truth, to talk to yourself with the truth, to be completely honest with yourself. Perhaps you don’t have to be honest with the whole world, but you can be honest with yourself. Perhaps you cannot control what is going to happen around you, but you can control your own reactions. Those reactions are going to guide the dream of your life, your personal dream. It’s your reactions that make you so unhappy or make you so happy.

Your reactions are the key to having a wonderful life. If you can learn to control your own reactions, then you can change your routines, and you can change your life. You are responsible for the consequences of whatever you do, think, say, and feel. Perhaps it’s hard for you to see what actions caused the consequence – what emotions, what thoughts – but you can see the consequence because you are suffering the consequence or enjoying the consequence. You control your personal dream by making choices. You have to see if you like the consequence of your choices or not. If it’s a consequence you enjoy, then keep doing what you are doing. Perfect. But if you don’t like what is happening in your life, if you aren’t enjoying your dream, then try to find out what is causing the consequences you don’t like. This is the way to transform your dream. »

Thank you for reading it with me!

14th of Feb 2012

Zoya

http://www.zoyayoga.com

Change Your Life with Yoga Nidra

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.

7 Yogic Secrets to Get your New Year’s Resolutions Come True (part 1)

2012 is around the corner! It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions! I see the start of a new year as a perfect time to bring welcomed changes into my life. If I don’t even decide what I want to achieve, how will it ever come to me? It’s important to have enough clarity to choose the right direction, and to have enough determination to continue moving on the chosen path.

You’ve tried making resolutions before? You didn’t stick to your resolutions? It didn’t work out? Don’t feel disappointed! Resolutions made on New Year’s Eve have notoriously low success rate, so you are not the only one to fail. Then what’s the point, you ask?

This year will be different! We’ll make the resolutions the yogic way!!! I’ll share with you the secrets that will make your resolutions sticky:) I’d like to share with you a yogic method that has been used for centuries, and shaped people into heroes, and lives into fairy-tales:) Seriously, it works! My husband, my numerous friends and yoga students and myself, we  are all the proof that it does!

In yogic science, all the terms are given in Sanskrit, an ancient language of wisdom. A Sanskrit word for resolution is «sankalpa», it can be also translated as an affirmation or a positive mental statement. I would like to use the word «sankalpa» rather than «resolution» as there are some important differences between the two (which make sankalpa very successful and resolution – not so much).

How to choose and formulate my sankalpa?

  1. The correct formulation of sankalpa is critical to the success of its practice. So it is worth taking some time over this process.  Make an appointment with yourself to sit alone in a quiet place. Reflect on the past and dream about the future. Think about what areas of your life you would like to improve, how you might want your personality to change as well as about your goals and the purpose of your life. Write it down. You could be aiming at very specific goals or formulating how you would like to feel in general. 
  2.  Next, you want to choose what’s most important out of all the goals listed and formulate just one sentence that will get us to where we want to be. There should be only ONE sankalpa which should aim at ONE goal only. Yes, only ONE. Go for quality, not quantity. Any fisherman knows you can’t catch two fish on the same hook! The same way you don’t want to de-focus the power of your mind. However, this one sentence can be so powerful that it will bring all the changes in life that you need.
  3. To create your own sankalpa, don’t just ask WHAT you want to achieve, ask WHY? For example, if you want to have more money, go beyond saying, “I want to have more money because I need more cash.” Connect to something deeper. What’s behind your desire for more money? Say, you answer is to feel more confident / secure/ at peace with yourself, then your sankalpa should include «feeling confident/ secure/ at peace with myself » rather than «getting more money».When you clarify the “why” behind what you want you’ll feel much more driven and connected to your goal. Also, working on self-confidence might not only manifest more money into your life but also improve your relationships. The same way, working on security or feeling at peace with yourself might not only bring more money but it might help you to get connected to the Earth, your family, your inner self, and the life flow itself. So the result might be greater than the original goal!
  4. The sankalpa should be short.  The wording should not change, even if the meaning stays the same. If you are bilingual, you also need to fix the language of the resolve. Whichever phrase and language you choose, it should always be the same, until the sankalpa is fulfilled.
  5. The sankalpa should be made in the first person by using “I” or “my”. Completely different from a prayer in this sense, your sankalpa must involve you only, and cannot help to change something in another person. However it definitely can be formulated to change your attitude towards the situation around that person.
  6. The sankalpa must be joyous in its essence and therefore “not/don’t/won’t/can’t” and other negative words should not be used. For example, if you desire to recover from a medical condition it should not be structured as “I am not sick”; instead a positive statements such as “My physical body is healthy and strong” or “I enjoy perfect health” can be used. Only positive language should be used.
  7. It should be stated in the present tense as if it has come to fruition already. For instance, not «I will enjoy perfect health » but “I enjoy perfect health”. However, if you have some serious illness, saying “I enjoy perfect health” might sound too fake to you to experience positive feeling when you pronounce it (which is essential! but more on it in my next post). In this case you might need to modify it into «I choose to enjoy perfect health». It takes off the resistance, yet it’s much more powerful than saying «I will enjoy perfect health» (the last version will normally never come to the now, it will always stay in the future for your mind).

Let me give you another example: the statement “I will not be smoking in 3 months” is not a good sankalpa to stop smoking (negative + future tense). A better statement could be “I am free of addiction” but it contains the negative word «addiction» and has a limited therapeutic aim. By looking deeper at the roots of the problem and widening the understanding of the inner causes, one might come to a stronger and more efficient sankalpas as”I am at peace with myself»,  “I am secure in myself”, «I resolve to take care of my body and accept it as it is today», «I trust that my Higher Self fulfils all my needs»”, “I am open to share my truth and integrity with the world», «With playfulness and humor, I raise my vibration in the world», etc.

You are welcome to read some examples of sankalpas that I offer for each chakra (energy center) on my website. Click here, and then on any of the chakra article where you’ll find suggested sankalpas at the end. Just choose one sankalpa which feels most appealing to you.

During my yoga lessons I usually recommend starting with a simple sankalpa “I am at peace with myself”. The need for inner peace is often the «WHY» behind many desires. People might want all sorts of different things in life – to loose wieght, to find a loving partner, to be healthy, wealthy, joyful, generous, etc. But deep inside it’s all for the sake of feeling at peace with themselves. Looking from the other perspective, by re-connecting to inner peace we can be more successful in achieving any goals and reshaping direction in life along positive lines, and that, in its turn, eventually leads to more inner peace,  balance, happiness and fulfilment. That’s why «I am at peace with myself» is my all times favourite:).

While you are having fun pondering over your possible sankalpas, I’ll write my next post on how and when to use sankalpa to make it efficient and get your dream come true! I would love to hear from you if you find any difficulties, or if you simply want to share a thought. Thank you for reading! Talk to you soon!

Zoya

www.zoyayoga.com

27th of Dec, 2011

Namaste! Here is my first blog:)

Namaste to all who is reading my first blog:)

I’ve been considering blogging for a long while (almost two years?:), and I’m finally doing it. Yeay!:) Today is happened to be 12/12/2011, quite an interesting date. Recently we’ve had many special dates – 01/10/11, 10/10/11, 20/11/2011, 01/11/11, 11/11/11, and all of them have a specific meaning and therefore a task to perform. Honestly, I wasn’t able to “celebrate” all of them, though I believe in numerology and the fact that each number has a particular vibration and some special energy. But today is different to me –I’m doing it!

A few days ago, I saw a friend’s post on FB about the 12/12 alignment with an attached article on Divine Forgiveness and Divine Union. The part on forgiveness has clicked with me. It is something I’ve been working on for a few years. I’ve been receiving the message of forgiveness many times recently, so it feels like it’s time to finish the work! No, it is not that I have some enemies, or I hold a grudge against someone. In my case it’s more about forgiving my-Self! I haven’t killed anyone but I’m sure in some cases I could have done better… And don’t we all criticize ourselves for not being good enough, not doing enough of good things, or doing too much of bad stuff? Some people might take it easier but my «inner critic» is a strong guy, and I’ve spent much time and energy confronting him (yes, it’s him, not her:) i see him as a middle-aged man in a black suit:).  I was lucky to get help from my mentors and friends; I used Emotional Freedom Technique, Shamanic Healing, and hours and hours of meditation to get to where I am now at. However, I feel it’s not over yet. Tonight I’ll do an important step to say final «good-bye» to that unloving part of myself that holds me back from letting go of all past «mistakes» and embracing the now with openness and joy that will lead to an abundant future.

“Forgiveness” doesn’t require much effort at it is not an action. It is simply stopping of blaming someone or yourself for something. Since blaming requires energy, and forgiveness is the stopping of this action of blaming, it actually is easier to forgive than to continuously be blaming another or yourself. So all I need to do is to relax, take a deep breath in, breathe out and forgive! Then the energy that was held to feed my inner critic and the space taken by this guy who lacks compassion will get free! Yep, that’s it! Tonight is the night! Thanks to blogging I made this final decision. I’ll do it the moment I finish my writing.

Farewell my inner critic! Your space will be taken by a loving rose-cheeked woman with an open heart:)

Zoya Lu

http://www.zoyayoga.com

12th of Dec 2011