Feelings and new beginning

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?

imageWhen 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!

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Yoga, love and motherhood.

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.
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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!

Are you ready for 2014?

It’s time to summarize the year 2013 as we have only a few days till new 2014 starts. Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself:

What important lessons have I learned?

What are my happiest moments in 2013? What made me feel joyous and content?

What and who am I grateful for?

I love finishing on a high note remembering the most valuable memories and most beautiful pictures of the year.

And then it’s time to plan for 2014!

If my life of the coming year is to be described in the newspapers, what would I love to see as the headlines?

What is most important quality I’d like to develop in the coming year?

Depending on my answers I’ll be formulating my new sankalpa. I feel like the one that I worked with in 2013 have come to life! So it’s time to channel my energy into a new area of my mind and soul.
(For info on yogic way of creating a new year resolution please read https://zoyalu.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/7-yogic-secrets-to-get-your-new-years-resolutions-come-true-part-1/ )

How do you finish your 2013? What are your thoughts? Do you have a tradition for closure and new beginning?

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Holiday season and to send you some blessings!

Lovingly,
Zoya

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 2)

Have you come up with a sankalpa? Hopefully, as this year is coming to its end, you’ve found some time to look back at your past and evaluate your mistakes and achievements, and then to look forward and think about the improvements you want to bring up into the 2012. By the end of the process described in the Part 1 of this post, you should be able to formulate a perfect Sankalpa for yourself. Next, you need to know what to do with it to get your dream come true.

When and how to use my sankalpa?

  1. Let’s start with WHEN. It’s not just repeating it with a glass of champaign at midnight on the 31st of December. We want to repeat sankalpa as often as possible. However it’s essential that the seed of sankalpa is planted deep into the subconscious. That’s the MAIN SECRET: to be successful, a resolution should be repeated when the mind is relaxed and ready to accept and absorb it. In the receptive state of mind we are able to correct the negative patterns already existing in the brain and install the positive ones. Only this way sankalpa can be powerful and effective, and unlike most resolutions or affirmations, will always get fulfilled. Each of us has the power to remould our own mental structure in order to achieve our goals, no matter how impossible it may seem at the beginning!
  2. l got to know about sankalpa when I was learning yoga nidra in an ashram of the Bihar School of Yoga, and I’m ever so grateful to Swami Satyananda Saraswati for his empowering teachings. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep is one of my favourite practices ever! All you do is just lie down comfortably in Shavasana, and relax your body and mind very deeply. For more on yoga nidra click here.  When we practice yoga nidra we achieve a very relaxed and receptive state of mind. We traditionally repeat sankalpa 3 times at the beginning of  yoga nidra practice, which can be compared to sowing a seed in the bed of our mind, and then 3 times at the end of practice, when the mind is receptive and sensitive to autosuggestion, which can be compared to irrigating it. William Wordsworth said: “Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, the harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”What do you choose?:) I love growing flowers!
  3. I also repeat my sankalpa 3 times before and after any other yoga practice. Yoga ia all about  building up awareness, and being aware of the thoughts allows us to control them so we can get rid of «weeds» (negative or empty recycled thoughts) and encourage the growth of «flowers» (positive powerful thoughts).  Sankalpa comes as a yogic tool to plant and nurture a beautiful seed into the mind field. Let me just make it clear that by practicing yoga I don’t mean fitness yoga but yoga practice as it is meant to be – mindfully performed asanas, as well as pranayamas (breathing techniques) and meditation. 
  4. Receptive and meditative state of mind also occurs naturally when we are waking up and falling asleep. So it’s a good idea to repeat sankalpa in bed. At night, my sankalpa lets me smile and go to sleep in a positive state of mind (read the next point and you’ll get why), and in the morning it helps me to refocus my energy of the day.
  5. Now about HOW. We usually pronounce a sankalpa 3 times aloud or silently. However, it’s not just about the words, the sankalpa must be supported by our positive emotions in order to create a powerful binding mechanism within our subconscious. It’s more about the vibrations that we project out into the Universe, so an inner smile, symbolic positive images and/or pleasant physical sensations in the body will rise our vibrations and therefore increase the power of sankalpa. When repeating your sankalpa, always feel what you will feel when you achieve the desired outcome and see yourself in a new desired state.
  6.  You should have sincere faith that your sankalpa will be effective. The result does depend on your sincerity, as well as on a deep felt need to attain the goal of your resolve. Knowing how this works is irrelevant compared to knowing that it does work. Your faith strengthens the effect of the sankalpa on your subconscious mind, so that the resolve will become a reality in your life.
  7. Don’t expect results overnight – flowers don’t grow this fast! Depending on the complexity of the request the manifestation will take shorter or longer time to come into full being. Don’t give up! If you slip up a couple of days or weeks, just let it go and get back on track. To see the flower growing and blooming, we need to take care of the flower seed by regularly watering it, providing fertilizers, air and sunshine. The same way we have to keep practicing and continually repeating sankalpa every day with conviction and passion till the goal is achieved. The sankalpa when practiced correctly never fails!

If you know what you want to achieve in life, sankalpa can be the creator of your destiny. That’s what it’s become to me – my sankalpas (as I’ve been reaching my goals I’ve changed quite a few of them throughout these years) helped me be more clear, more self-confident, more loving, more disciplined and more accepting which ultimately has allowed me to live the life of my dream. I use my sankalpa all the time as a reminder, an uplifting and motivating force that keeps me content and joyful, that helps me to manifest all I want into my life. And I have dozens of stories from my friends and students about their changed lives, great achievements and beautiful experiences that were brought to life thanks to sankalpa practice.

You still have a couple of days before 2012 kicks in. Choose your sankalpa and make your new year a memorable one! Thank you for reading!

Zoya

www.zoyayoga.com

29th of Dec 2011

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

The Benefits of Compassion (by Dalai Lama)

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“The first beneficiary of compassion is always oneself. When compassion, or warmheartedness, arises in us and our focus shifts away from our own narrow self-interest, it is as if we open an inner door. It reduces fear, boosts confidence and brings us inner strength. By reducing distrust, it opens us to others and brings us a sense of connection to others, and sense of purpose and meaning in life”.

His Holiness Dalai Lama