Somedays, I write this blog at night instead of first thing in the morning. As I sit here now, for some reason it reminds of the Evening Star or the Evening Post. Not like Norman Rockwell but like some magazine or newspaper from a childhood memory. Specifically, back when I was a kid, the Washington Star newspaper had this separate fold-out tucked into the comics just for children. I can't remember the name of the little fold-out but it had puzzles, stories and history lessons about George Washington and the Supreme Court-stuff like that just for kids. Sorta like a Weekly Reader magazine but inserted into the comic section of the Sunday paper. You could count on it to be there every Sunday and then the Washington Star went out of business. I was devastated. I was heart broken. I was just about 6-years-old and already understood the importance of print newspapers long before their digital downfall.
Then much to my delight, the Washington Post started carrying my little fold-out of Sunday bliss. My hobby; my ritual. Isn't it interesting how we are attracted to certain things as we grow up? Things that to other people would never matter but to you, your little world revolves around it and it brings you pure unadulterated joy.
Even to the point, that 40 years later you are writing about it in a blog. The thought of its consistency and simplicity brings light to my heart and a smile to my face even now.
It is so consistent and simple it is meditative. So is the the practice of writing about the memory itself. The original meditation is being 6-years-old with pencil in hand doing my "find a word" puzzles, and developing my love of polar bears and penguin by reading the blurbs. The meditation now comes from being present in this moment in time writing about the joy of my childhood ritual.
So as I finish writing this blog entry tonight, I will remember to get up early and write tomorrow's blog first thing. After all, it will be Sunday morning and it will be time for my 6-year-old self to be unleashed.
What simple task is meditative for you?
I don't know about you but I have the tendency to over-schedule myself... teach too many classes and privates, work too much overtime, etc. I don't just sit sit and do nothing (or do something for myself just for fun). I go and go and go until I hit a wall. When I was younger, I noticed I would do this to the point of self-sabotage. So, I started to become more aware of this habit.
The strategy I use that helps me NOT over-schedule and ultimately burn-out is lots of bourbon…just joking. OK...maybe just a little bourbon.
Seriously, I purposely take a step back and analyze my calendar about every quarter. I look for places where I’ve overbooked myself, places where I’ve had to cancel appointments because I just did not want to “people” that day, etc.
Then I make adjustments. I stop teaching certain classes (sometimes that has meant walking away from great establishments), I stop booking so many private sessions, I reduce my overtime hours at the day job, etc.
My clients also benefit from my adherence to sitting down and trimming my calendar by seeing that they too don't have to do everything and be everywhere.
Instead of spreading myself too thin, I can be truly present.
"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst"-William Penn
I recently learned that Body Fat (Adipose Tissue) is an endocrine organ and actually has more impact on the body than the thyroid gland. Therefore, too much adipose tissue (obesity) can lead to diabetes. Obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as well as contributes to the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
So what yoga therapy tools work great for the management of diabetes?
I recommend these 3 yoga therapy tools:
1. After a few rounds of natural breathing, begin Ujjayi breathing. While your breathing, some food for thought-How Tapas (effort) is balanced with Santosha (contentment). Tapas can bring about change like improved health and lower blood sugar levels. While Santosha brings peace in the current circumstances. Always remember the importance listening to the doctor regarding nutrition and monitoring insulin levels. (5-10 minutes)
2. A short series of asanas to develop an exercise habit that can help with obesity, heart issues, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. Also , these practices can help lead to improved mood potentially leading to lifestyle changes and improved quality of life. Always watch for any dizziness with the increased movement. (30 minutes)
• 10 ½ Sun Salutations: The Sun Salutations can be completed as slow as necessary or even use a chair.
• Warrior I: Warrior I (lower body) with goal post arms. Transition to straight legs and Warrior I (straight) arms. Repeat 5 times per side with an extended hold at the end (3 counts/breaths). You can also do this posture in a chair if needed.
• Seated Spinal Twist: Depending on our flexibility, the opposite leg can be bent or straight as well as accomplished with deer legs or from easy pose.
• Seated Forward Fold: Finally, transition to a seated forward fold to begin the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
3. Savasana: Practice a relaxation pose of choice and begin breathing with an extended exhale. You can also use a guided visualization of your peaceful place to continue the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. (10 minutes)
Yoga can be incorporated into your daily life and have positive impacts on glycemic control. Studies suggest that yoga has a direct impact on psychoneuro-endocrine and immune mechanisms as well as contributes to parasympathetic activation and anti-stress mechanisms. This all leads to improvement in overall metabolic and psychological profiles, increases in insulin sensitivity, and improvements in glucose tolerance and lipid metabolism.
In addition to the practices listed above, yoga practices utilized in the management of diabetes often include cleansing exercises, and the use of bandhas, meditation, relaxation, chanting, Yoga Nidra, or mudras. These practices can reduce blood glucose levels as well as contribute to the management of co-morbidities.
What yoga practices will you incorporate in your fight against diabetes?
Raveendran, A. V., Deshpandae, A., & Joshi, S. R. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 33(3), 307–317. https://doi.org/10.3803/EnM.2018.33.3.307
If you know anything about me yet, it is that I'm a lover of Pranayama or yogic breathing. As many posts as I have written about the benefits of Pranayama and how to actually perform various types of Pranayama, I don't think I have ever laid out the basics.
The word Pranayama is a Sanskrit compound and it has been defined in numerous ways by different authors/commentators/etc.
I personally view Pranayama as the expansion of the breath and individual energy (life force) into the larger interconnected cosmic universe. When we work with our breath, we gain access to our life force energy. Pranayama is the access point to the subtler aspects of yoga as well as being tremendously helpful in developing body awareness, mindfulness, focus and stamina.
Mainstream society is now discovering the benefits of pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises. The various types of Pranayama are accessible to the most beginner students, even those whose physical impairments and injuries prevent most asanas (yoga postures). Whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi, you will find Pranayama to be a powerful tool to help you on your yogic journey.
How to Practice Pranayama
1. Clothing: Clothing should be loose, especially around the abdomen, to ensure the diaphragm is not impeded.
2. Diet: Do not eat heavy meals at least 2-3 hours prior to practicing Pranayama.
3. Time: Dawn is a terrific time to practice yoga and meditation as well as Pranayama because the early morning air is fresh and contains the most amount of Prana (life force). Of course, if this is not feasible, no worries, practice when you can.
4. Posture: Always sit with your back as straight if possible. In addition, keep the chin slightly tucked so that the back of the neck is aligned with the spine. This will help the flow of energy up and down the spine.
5. Illness: Do not practice any advanced Pranayama techniques while ill. Do the easier breathing exercises. It is also fine to stop entirely until you have recovered fully.
6. Effort: Do not strain. Progression should be gentle and systematic. This is even more applicable for any Pranayama that requires you to hold your breath for prolonged periods. If you feel uncomfortable while practicing a Pranayama, stop, take a break and restart again when you feel ready.
7. Cautions: Do not practice any heat generating Pranayama while sitting directly in the sun. This can aggravate the heat in the system (pitta). Similarly, choose Pranayama according to physical conditions and state of your health.
8. Location: Try to practice in a well-ventilated room with plenty of fresh air.
How will you practice your Pranayama today? Do you have any helpful tips that make your Pranayama practice more consistent?
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. "-Martha Graham
Swami Satchidananda was once asked by a student, “There are times when I feel very deep loneliness that no friend, family member or lover can seem to satisfy. Do you ever get lonely like that?”
Satchidananda replied, “If you depend on anything or anybody outside you to be a companion, it is impossible to have that companion always with you. Even if another person wants to be with you always, he or she cannot. We come alone, and we go alone. Don’t depend on outside company. Even as you are coming and going, there is always another there—your own spirit, your own Self or the God within you.”
When we rely on things, people, or experiences outside of ourselves to make us happy, we are seting ourselves up for failure. True equanimity comes from being independent of the comings and goings of the outside world. The minute we cling to something or someone we create little mind fluctuations that cause suffering. The key to gaining control over those fluctuations is to understand what lies underneath those thoughts.
Our thoughts may be pure, positive, and virtuous, and move us toward enlightenment.
Or, as is the case for most of us mere mortals, our thoughts can impede our path toward enlightenment by creating a mental field of suffering caused by the Kleshas (obstacles or afflictions of the mind).
So What Are The Kleshas?
The five Kleshas are:
Some of the Kleshas afflict us on a daily basis at a subtle level and others can be overwhelming and cause great suffering. The Kleshas stop us from fully enjoying life, from being truly present in the now, and from having a sense of freedom. Unlike pain—an uncomfortable physical, mental, or emotional experience—suffering is the state of being caught up in your situation and identifying with it as an aspect of your being. Therefore, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
All of human suffering can be attributed to one of the five Kleshas. All causes of suffering are contained within the first Klesha (Avidya). When you remember your true identity as pure spirit (and not as the physical body):
How Do We Overcome the Kleshas?
This is where meditation comes in. In meditation, the mind can be fixed on one thought. That concentration on one thought or one point literally transforms the mind by allowing it to flow undisturbed from thought to thought. Once the mechanism that produces the detrimental, harmful or damaging activities of the mind is eliminated, your thoughts are no longer afflicted. The underlying obstacles, the Kleshas, are removed and we realize our true nature.
To transcend the first Klesha and, thus, the remaining four, the Yoga Sutras give this guidance.
Sutra 2.10 states, “In their subtle form, these obstacles can be destroyed by resolving them back into their original cause.” This means if we eradicate the first Klesha (Avidya) we can become self-realized/liberated. Through yoga the Kleshas become less and less active until they reach the subtle form. However, remember even the subtle form can be triggered back to the active state-think about all the fallen gurus in recent memory whose Kleshas came back roaring.
Sutra 2.11 states, “In the active state, they can be destroyed by meditation.” Think of it this way-Sutra 2.10 is for the already “advanced” meditating yogi and Sutra 2.11 is for the rest of us-the yogis that are embarking on the path to liberation. Meditation is moving away from a life of suffering and is the key that unlocks this prison by returning you to the state of knowledge of who you are.
Everything in the physical world is impermanent and ever changing. Friends are not permanent. Our physical body isn’t permanent. A job isn’t permanent. Money isn’t permanent…and the list goes on.
What is permanent…your True Self.
Swami Satchidananda. The Golden Present. 1987. Integral Yoga Publications.
Over the years, I have noticed there are certain wardrobe faux pas that yoga students (including myself) commit on a regular basis. So as the self-ordained yoga Blackwell (a long dead super famous fashion critic for those born in the 2000s), I will list them and their remedies.
Booty shorts: Don't not wear booty shorts to class. When half the poses I put you in require some variation of spread eagle, I do not want to see your lady bits and know the frequency of your wax appointments.
Remedy: Wear shorts/pants at least to the middle thigh. This ain’t amateur porn hour; it’s a yoga class.
Baggy Shorts: Likewise, do not wear baggy shorts and no underwear. I do not need to see your manly bits nor do I need to know that you have never manscaped in your entire life.
Remedy: Wear some flipping underpants, please!!! Preferably the boxer-brief stye so nothing down there can break free.
The Demi Pushup Bra: Whaaaaa!!!???? Keep control of the girls! Demi bras and, I don’t know, INVERSIONS do not mix well. Another possible test to use--If they pop out when you raise your arms in Warrior I, you are NOT wearing the appropriate bra for said activity.
Remedy: There’s this new fangled invention called a sports bra. Try it; you’ll like it.
Fabio Hair (another pre-2000 reference-Damn, I'm getting old!): It looks really pretty but I have a hard time teaching Cousin It. I will break out into “Dah-dah-dah-DUM" and start snapping my fingers.
Remedy: Pull it back, cut it off or let it dread. Trust me-I'm guilty of this one on a regular basis so I started carrying a supply of hair ties in my mat bag along with extra deodorant (another faux pas we wouldn't cover here but please for the LOVE OF GOD wear some!)
Makeup: Did you really think Harry Stiles (WOOHOO! A 2021 reference for ya!-we think he is cute, right?) was going to be in class today or something?
Or is the full makeup (complete with lipstick and false eye lashes) just for me! The average yoga student’s face touches their mat a few times during class--so does a yoga student's feet...and sweaty hands...and plumber’s butt. Now combine all that bacteria with all that makeup...YUM!
Remedy: Buy some makeup wipes. Your fresh clean zit free face will thank you.
The Mala: These are beautiful strings of beads to help a practitioner keep count when chanting and meditating. You may have noticed, I said...Meditating. Not practicing asana. By the time I have untangled you from your long strand of Mala beads, you will be unconscious. That’s not samadhi; that’s brain death.
Remedy: Leave the Mala at home. A self induced hallucinogenic bliss can be achieved on your own time--assuming your health insurance covers it.
And last but not least--I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!--the Poker Dealer Visor. You know the kind--the one your grandma wears to BINGO. How will get your forehead to the mat? AND....What harsh firehouse bingo hall light are you shielding your eyes from?
Remedy: Yeeeaahhhh-just don’t wear those to yoga class. Unless you enjoy the completely perplexed look on my face when I see you wearing one, then by all means go forth and deal me in....after all, I do love a good round of Blackjack.
Comment below with your own yoga class snafus!
Sadhana (Spiritual Practice) means "methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge". Sadhana encourages the practitioner, known as the sadhaka, to use self-discipline in order to achieve power over the ego (to find relief from suffering). Sadhana enables the practitioner to attain peace and maintain a connection with universal oneness. In other words, Sadhana is our personal, daily yoga practice.
With a personal, daily yoga practice, we continually realign the inner self, slowly progressing toward Samadhi. Although Sadhana is centered around a spiritual "goal" (Samadhi), achieving Samadhi is not the intent. Sadhana is used to cultivate discipline and non-attachment. If we focus on the end goal, we bring the ego into the practice which creates suffering--What, I didn't achieve Samadhi? WTF?
Instead the key way to control a restless mind/ego and reduce suffering is to do the right action (Sadhana) for the pure sake of doing the right action. Sadhana is practiced for the sake of maintaining a practice.
Once again the Yoga Sutras explains it!! Patanjali writes about Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (non-attachment) in Sutras 1.12-16. "These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment (1.12)". More specifically, "Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness (1.14)."
So how do we get to Samadhi? Practice, Practice, Practice!...but with non-attachment. Easy Peasy! Yeah Right!
Ideas For Developing A Personal, Daily Practice
Your personal practice time doesn't need to be long. Start with 15 minutes a day. When and if you have more time, you can practice longer.
You Do You
What type of practice speaks to you? Meditation, asana (postures), malas, chanting, pranayama (breathing techniques), prayer, jnana yoga, guided visualization, Yoga Nidra, etc.
Pick one! Pick them all!
Show up at the same place and the same time every day. If you miss a day, don't fret. Start where you left off and reboot the next day.
Make It Special
Think about where you practice. Will it:
Props and Apps
Have props handy. Everyday is different and our bodies will need different support. One day you may be meditating on a floor cushion and the next day, as Shakira would say, the "hips don't lie"-it's all about meditating in a chair.
You can also check out my Guide on Yoga Props for helpful ideas.
Having an Accountability Buddy may be helpful of using a Meditation App like Insight Timer.
As you age, evolve on the path, and are exposed to different teachings, your practice will likely change. What needs to stay and what needs to change?
As you develop a personal, daily practice consider:
But It Doesn't End There
Because Sadhana is the surrendering of the ego, anything that is practiced with awareness, discipline and the intention of spiritual growth can be considered Sadhana. After we leave the yoga mat, we can continue to do the right action for the sake of doing the right action.
How do we do that? According to the Bhagavad Gita, there are Three Paths of Yoga:
Karma Yoga (hands) Action: Volunteer Time and Money
Bhakti Yoga (heart) Devotion: Attend Kirtans or Pujas
Jnana Yoga (brain) Knowledge: Read or Attend Lectures
What ways to incorporate Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga into your life?
How I Incorporate Sadhana Into My Life
As a yoga instructor, Sadhana is my "walking the walk." Sadhana makes me a better instructor as well as empowers me on my path of self-realization. Currently, most mornings I roll out the ol' yoga mat, and do some pranayama and meditation. I like to keep it simple. Sometimes in the evenings, I might do Yoga Nidra. My goal this year is to incorporate more asana into my Sadhana since in recent years I have strayed away from it (and once again-the ever widening HIPS don't lie!).
I also incorporate other elements into my personal, daily practice. They add stability and grounding to my routine. They include:
Additionally, I volunteer as a yoga teacher for a local church and military base (COVID has put a damper on my Karma Yoga, unfortunately) as well as donate money, resources, and time to various community organizations (a local Montessori school, animal welfare organizations, homeless support organizations, and food banks). These activities are a huge part of my Sadhana because they keep me grounded, and remind me of what is truly important in life. I may not reach Samadhi but at least someone will have a warm meal tonight with their family.
Over time, my Sadhana has evolved and I expect it to continue as I age and as the world around me changes. Showing up for my practice, doing my Sadhana, is showing up for myself and others. Swami Satchidananda said it best, "Spiritual practice is not what you are doing, but what you are thinking. Remember that."
What are some ways you can take Sadhana out into the world and make it a way of life?
Jack Benny-"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice"
Swami Satchidananda The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Integral Yoga Publications 2012
Eknath Easwaran The Bhagavad Gita Nilgiri Press 2007
Shakira, Omar Alfanno, LaTavia Parker, & Vinay Rao "Hips Don't Lie" 2006
I AM Boundless Bliss Yoga. Just me. I'm a one-lady band. I'm a yoga therapist. I didn't start out to be a yoga therapist, I just wanted to learn more and SHAAAZZAMM...here I am.