Eight Limbs of Yoga

Most people might look at yoga as just a form of exercise (asana), but it is so much more than just the movement of the body.  You might have remembered me talking about how I did alot of practice during my pregnancy and post-baby but that did not include a lot of movement (asana).  I was doing a more meditative practice in order to keep relaxed and balance during times of chaos.  Having a new baby brings a lot of changes that not everyone is ready for and I for sure was one of those people.  Patanjali, a master yogi, wrote the 8-limbs dating back more than 1500 years ago.  Please find the chart below which shows both the sanskrit term and english translation:

Sanskrit English
Yama moral codes
Niyama self-purification and study
Asana posture
Pranayama breath control
Pratyahara sense control
Dharana intention
Dhyana meditation
Samadhi contemplation

(The above chart was found on Wikipedia)

The combination of mastering all eight limbs enables one to perform Samadhi (the last of the 8-limbs) efficiently. Samadhi then becomes the ulitmate goal, which is of total freedom of being.  Therefore, the eight “limbs” lead to samadhi.

Yama

These are forms of moral commandments, rules, or goals. They consist of acts in our dealings with the external world.

  • Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one’s own self, it goes as far as non-violence in thought, word and deed.
  • Satya: truth in word and thought.
  • Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own.
  • Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual intercourse; celibacy in case of unmarried people and monogamy in case of married people. Even this to the extent that one should not possess any sexual thoughts towards any other man or woman except one’s own spouse. It is common to associate Brahmacharya with celibacy.
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

Niyama

These are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. They consist of acts in our dealings with the inner world.

  • Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.
  • Santosha: satisfied with what one has.
  • Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,
  • Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.

Asana

Rules and postures to keep the body disease-free and preserving energy. Correct postures through discipline of the body are a physical aid to meditation. These postures control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing instability.

Pranayama

Control of breath. This allows for steadiness of the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.

Pratyahara

Withdrawal of senses from their external objects.

Dharana

Concentration of the citta (one’s state of mind) upon a physical object, such as a flame of a candle, the midpoint of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity (supernatural immortal being).

Dhyana

Steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation.  The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.

Samadhi

Oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation.

This may seem a little deep for some people into the world of yoga but this is a broad picture of what it takes to get the most out of your yoga practice.  Most people will never attain Samadhi, and I am one of those people because I unfortuantley do not dedicate enough time to my practice.  But knowing that there is something to strive for, to practice towards, makes yoga that much more challenging and that much more rewarding.  So as you take your next yoga class or begin a yoga program, remember that yoga is so much more than just the movement and you can practice yoga everyday and it will help you become a better person.

~Namaste~

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Baby Yogi

I think my favorite part about being a new mom is having the opportunity to watch my baby develop and grow.  He is moving closer and closer to crawling each day and I realized his development runs like a yoga class…

Sukhasana – seated pose

close enough... right?

Childs pose

Cat/Cow

This one needs the motion, so try using your imagination

Cobra

Upward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog/Plank

Reclining Big Toe

At Mommy and Me yoga 🙂

Wide Angled Seated Forward Bend

And maybe a foot in the mouth...

Pigeon

He's got pretty good form if you ask me!

Legs up the wall

Or legs up the hamper, same thing right?

Happy Baby

Corpse pose

Ending this 'practice' with my sweet little newborn yawning on the changing table 🙂

Looks like we were all meant to be yogi’s… Now give it a try, can you do these simple poses?  Try to hold each pose for at least 5 full breaths.

Namaste

Yoga in the workplace – week #8

Lunch time yoga has been going really well.  I have approximately 6-12 students each week that take time out of their busy day to relax and join me in a quick 30-minute yoga practice.  I wish more employees would take advantage because I know that many can use this time to reflect and relax in the middle of the work week.  We have focused a lot on downward facing dog and Surya Namaskar A (more details on this asana in a future post).  I have been trying to think about why people are intimidated by yoga?  What are some of the reasons people haven’t tried even though they have told me over an over again that they could really use the flexibility and relaxation in their lives.  So I figured I would tackle some of these ‘obstacles’ and maybe you can help me think of others…

#1 I don’t want to take off my shoes and socks.

You don’t have to take off your socks if you don’t want to.  However, you will find that the mat will be a little more slippery if you are wearing socks.  Remember that your practice starts and ends on your own mat and not on anyone else’s.  I always promote to my students to try not to think or look at others and if possible keep your eyes closed during the majority of the practice.  We too often allow our egos to get the best of us and are always trying to compare ourselves.

#2 I’m afraid of passing gas (you might laugh but this can happen!)

Try to avoid gassy foods before you practice including broccoli, beans, etc. and drink lots of water to promote good bowel movements. If you are still concerned than use the time to meditate instead of doing the asana (exercise).  It’s important to have time to yourself.  I provide relaxing music to help you let go of your stress and reflect within.

#3 I don’t have workout clothes.

I rarely wear workout clothes to practice in at work.  A comfortable legging or workpants will do fine.  As well as a tight fitting top so that it does not distract you from moving in the poses.  However you are welcome to change into something more comfortable for you if you would prefer.  I personally wear a workout t-shirt and work pants while I teach and model the poses during class.

#4 I don’t have time in my day.

We all need breaks in our day whether you sit at a desk or walk up and down stairs carrying boxes.  Its important to rejuvenate yourself and not push yourself too hard.  We as Americans work so hard and don’t take enough time for ourselves. 

#5 Yoga is for women, not men.

More men are taking advantage of the benefits of yoga these days.  A flexible man can lift more weights, prevent injury, and have more longevity in the gym or during his workouts.  My husband does a little yoga in his workouts every day.  He is a strength coach and understands the benefits of flexibility for his athletes.  Yoga doesn’t have to be all about chanting and spandex.   Yoga is for everyone!

What are some of the reasons you haven’t tried yoga yet?

Yoga Pose – Tree Pose

Tree Pose – Vkrsasana

Yoga in general has so much to do with balance…  Balancing your mind and body through your practice.  This pose is no exception.

Some Benefits of this pose include strengthens legs, ankles and spine, Stretches inner thighs, chest and shoulders, improves balance, and eases sciatica pain.

Begin by standing in Tadasana. Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot and bend your right knee. Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle.   Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh; if possible, (or on to your calf, but not against your knee) press the right heel into the inner left thigh.  Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg.

Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor.  Bring your hands together in prayer pose.

Gaze softly at a fixed point or drishti in front of you on the floor about 4 or 5 feet away.  Note:  a drishti is a point of focus where the gaze rests during asana (form of exercise) and meditation practice.

Stay for 1 minute. Return to Tadasana and repeat on the other side.

You can vary this pose by stretching your arms straight up toward the ceiling, or form a V with your arms, similar to a standing tree.   Additionally, to help aid in balance, you can stand with your back against a wall in this pose. For more of a challenge, try practicing this pose with your eyes closed, balance can be very challenging without the ability to focus on an outer object or place.

Namaste

Yoga in the NBA

Last night my husband and I went to our first professional basketball game.  We have been Lakers fans for years but had never made it to a game until now.  We had a great time and I’m sure this will not be our last game.

One of the biggest things I noticed while the players were warming up before the game was the use of yoga.  I was impressed to see downward dogs, warriors, chaturanga, and upward dogs on the court.  Athletes can benefit in so many ways from yoga. After doing some research online I found that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the first NBA athletes to practice yoga.  He holds many records in the league and has played more minutes than any other player in NBA history. For a man that large, it seems hard to have longevity in a career like basketball, however he admits that yoga helped with that.  Because of all the high impact movements like running and jumping on the court, basketball players (and many other athletes) have a tendency for tight muscles and injured ankles.  Yoga is a great way to not only increase flexibility but also a way to prevent/minimize injury risk.

Kent Katich is the NBA’s Guru Yogapreneur and has adjusted his practice to make it more basketball friendly.  Athletes listen to music that includes artists like Tupac and Kanye West, no spandex required, no chanting, and no sanskrit.  I admire how he has adjusted his yoga classes to the person who is taking them and how he has made yoga more approachable for the athlete. (www.yogahoops.com).  After reading this, I’m inspired to adjust my practice a little more based on the type of client that I am working with.  I typically work with beginner yogis and so I think that by making these small adjustments, I may be able to help engage my students a little more.  Katich is striving to break the mold by helping modern athletes to become comfortable in an unfamiliar territory.  He’s finding many athletes are saying that flexibility is the key to longevity.  This is important because in a world of athletes lifting heavy weights and trying to run the fastest sprint, many athletes are close-minded to new ways to help improve their game.  Today in the NBA, many different teams are employing yoga instructors as part of their programs, on and off season.  According to Clippers guard Baron Davis. “If you can find a place that keeps you centered, both mentally and physically, it can help push your game to the next level.”  Yes, many athletes are used to conventional strength and conditioning and even probably prefer it too.  But, many strength coaches, including my husband, believes that flexibility can greatly improve an athlete’s ability to become stronger, decrease injury, and overall promote longevity as an athlete.  I will be interested to see how yoga evolves in professional sports over the next few years.  I think more teams will be changing their mindset and incorporating this in to their practices.

Namaste

For more information:  http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=ortiz/100129_kent_katich_nba_yoga&sportCat=nba

Yoga Pose – Warrior 2

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)

There are 3-warrior poses; however the easiest on our bodies would have to be Warrior 2.  This pose can be taught at all levels.  The benefits of this pose include stretching of the legs, groin, and shoulders, strengthening the legs and ankles, stimulates abdominal organs, relieves backaches.  To modify the pose you can use a chair to help create balance.

Directions:

Beginning in Tadasana (mountain pose). Step or lightly hop your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor.  

Bend your left knee and open your entire leg out till your left foot is at 90 degrees.  Turn your right foot in slightly. Align the left heel with the inner arch of your right foot. Firm your thighs. Secure the movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.   Stretch the arms away from the midline of the body, parallel to the floor. Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.   Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time.

Namaste

Yoga in the Workplace (week #1)

I have already broken my New Year’s resolution and did not blog last week.  That means that this week I will be posting 2 blogs to catch up…

This past weekend I had yoga on my mind… I will be back to teaching yoga at work this week for my co-workers (800 employees) and I had to start thinking about my sequences.  The biggest challenge is that the classes will be 30 minutes long (during lunch breaks), since I am no longer able to stay after work due to picking up the baby from day care.  But I think that this will also be a great opportunity for more people to be exposed to yoga in the workplace.  This week we will start off with a very gentle practice because I don’t want to scare away any new students.  I’m actually going to try doing a little bit of Kundalini mixed with my regular style.  According to Wikipedia, Practitioners call Kundalini yoga, the yoga of awareness.  It is based on active exercises, pranayama (breath), and meditation to release Kundalini energy and the activation of energy through the chakras (focal points for the reception and transmission of energies).

I took my first Kundalini class this weekend and was amazed at how challenging it was…  To be honest, my yoga practice over the past 6-months has pretty much been dwindled down to only meditation.  I take small moments of my day to reflect on my life and what I am grateful for (which is so much these days!)  Having a baby has changed my life in so many ways.  My favorite meditation time is when I do baby massage with Bode.  We listen to soothing music and both he and I relax/reflect as we bond during this time.  I have to say it is one of my favorite times of the day (just before bedtime).  I’ll talk more about this subject in a future blog…  This Kundalini class happened to be one of the first classes I had taken for myself in a long time.  I found the link between breath (pranayama) and movement (asana) energizing and awakening.  I walked out of this class feeling confident and empowered.  These are 2 things that I want my students to feel this week when I teach.  I’ll let you know later this week how my first class back went!

Namaste

Yoga Pose – Downward Facing Dog

Since returning to asana (body positioning or postures in yoga), I have once again learned to appreciate the poses that are building blocks to the rest of my practice.  I will break down the poses and let you know what the benefits are to your practice.  The first pose I will break down is downward facing dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana:

Come to the floor on your hands and knees.   Place your knees directly below your hips and hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, and press down into your mat evenly with your fingers and palm.

Push the floor away with your hands.  Press the thigh bones back.   At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor.

Firm the upper inner arms. widen across the collar bones, melt the trapezius, move the shoulder blades down and into the back, and lift the sternum.
Inner thighs roll back, outer hips hug in.  Make sure your legs are parallel and that the four corners of the feet press down and the heel is lined up with the 2nd toe.

Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.  Hold this pose for 5 full breaths.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose.

The benefits of this pose are that it calms the brain, stress reliever, energizes, and improves digestion, therapeutic for asthma and sciatica.  Contraindications, caution if you have high blood pressure or late-term pregnancy.  Some beginner tips are to use blocks under your hands, wrap a strap securely around your arms just above your elbows and press the outer arms out resisting the strap and push the inner shoulder blades outward, or place your hands wide on the top of your mat.

Namaste