Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Eight Angle Pose - Astavakrasana

'Go do some of that yoga stuff!'

Many individuals laugh at the very thought of practicing yoga; it can be seen as a 'soft' discipline by those who are unaware of the potential the postures have for strengthening their muscles. It is always good to remember that a healthy body will help to produce a healthy mental state. As I have mentioned in previous posts it is important to remember that this is not the only part of yoga and it is beneficial to learn about the spiritual aspects of the discipline.

Since I began recently (in the last month or so) taking yoga much more seriously I can see that my strength, stamina and general well being have greatly increased. I can now do several poses I only dreamed of previously and I can balance for far longer than I have ever been able to. In only a month!

Lets look at yesterday's yoga practice. Once the teacher explained that we were about to do our 'challenge pose' I was wondering how far I could get. Frequently these poses tell me where I am and what needs work. The teacher usually shares at least one challenging pose that requires some practice before mastery. That is probably the main reason our teacher shares these with us; although that is just my assumption. The challenge pose shows some students that they are further than they first thought they were and shows other students what they can work up to with gentle persistence and dedication. The cool thing also is that it brings a bit of laughter as many of us think... Hmmm can I really do that? Then we enjoy trying it! Sometimes we are caught in some laughter as we try and have a small break from the seriousness of the practice.

In comes Astavakasana (dont ask me how to pronounce this) or the Eight - Angle Pose! Surely you have seen it! Here is a description from Yoga Journal on the pose and how they propose you do it.

I was shocked to find that with all the gentle exercises I have been practicing that I am now able to get my knee right the way above the back of my shoulder on each side! Now that I am doing my research I am finding that our teacher carefully works our bodies and chooses different poses to strengthen and stretch certain muscles.

So if you would like to build up to a pose you can do some online research or look to your books to see which simple exercises will slowly tone your body so that you can do the poses you have been looking at in awe. We can all train our bodies!

In order to achieve the eight - angle pose you need to practice the following poses suggested in this Yoga Journal article (check them out) I really enjoy all the information that site provides!

Here are the poses that will build you up to the Eight Angle pose and provide you with strength that will benefit other areas of your practice too:

  • Marichyasana I (Marichi's Pose)
  • Paripurna and Ardha Navasana (Full and Half Boat Pose)
  • Jatara Parivartanasana (Stomach-Revolving Pose).
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward-Facing Tree, a.k.a Handstand)
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
  • Lolasana (Pendant Pose)
  • Eka Hasta Bhujasana (One Hand Arm Pose)
The truth is that many of these poses are difficult within themselves. This is why it is important to have a daily practice and have some form of goals although the point is not to focus on those goals but to gradually progress through your practice.

I am going to work on my upper body strength! Many of the poses I would like to work on involve a great deal of upper body strength! So after I publish and share this I will be practicing: plank, dolphin, dolphin plank, and the boat... One day I will be able to do handstands with ease and one day I will get to the Scorpion! You will see them happen!

I wish you the best in your practice. Don't forget the importance of breathing exercises and a relaxation before and after your practice to deepen the effects and let your energy flow.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The birth of my yoga practice.

One of my favorite aspects of yoga is that it teaches us balance. Between the light and dark, excess and lack, movement and stillness; in this respect I find it is very similar to Taoism. I was introduced to Taoism and Tai Chi when I was in high school by my theater arts teacher. I remember, like it happened today, we would start many of our practical classes with a meditation where we all were lying on the floor and our teacher would guide us through some breathing exercises and mental visualizations. We also practiced several Tai Chi poses in class. The whole idea was that we needed a calm and focused demeanor to be good actors and theater professionals.

I cannot recall my first yoga class. I am not sure when it was. I went to a few here and there during high school or perhaps I just read about it. The memory of my first studio experiences is not clear. Since I spent over five years taking juggling and circus arts pretty seriously many of the people were either yoga teachers or acrobats so I guess that is where my love for yoga began.

I had some incredibly difficult experiences in 2005 that challenged me to the very core of my being. I found a true friend and soul brother who was nice enough to bring me to his dad's house and they let me stay in his sister's room for a few weeks while I was waiting to go back to London after this vacation turned nightmare. I felt so lost and confused. So many testing circumstances had occurred; I had faced some major demons from my childhood. For the first time ever I stood up for myself. Once my friend and his father graced me with the space, I found an incredible Craniosacral therapist to exchange services with me: I painted her kitchen and got 2 full treatments out of it. This was a very deep healing time from traumatic wounds I was only vaguely aware of up to that point. I began doing yoga for at least 45 mins a day in the morning and the evening. I spent two weeks in that habit.

This was my birth into yoga.

Since then I have done yoga on and off in studios and on my own with friends and teachers. I had never taken it seriously until recently another set of incredibly trying circumstances has lead me full circle back to yoga. This time it has been different. I have walked so many miles since my last experience of connection to yoga that I know now this is my true path.

I just started reading 'Light on Yoga' by B.K.S. Iyengar recently and am taken by the way my mind has instinctively worked into the ideologies of yoga without having formally studied it.

Every day my practice deepens and I am slowly leaving behind all that does not serve my purpose. I have found a new form of strength within the practice and a determination to persist with my physical, mental and spiritual purging of all that separates me from the true guiding light of my soul.

I hope that within my writings you will be able to find inspiration and information that could lead you to select a spiritual discipline that will help you do the same.

Tonight is our weekly Sivananda practice. There is a possibility I might not be able to attend but I am committed to doing the practice even if I am not physically present in the class with my fellow students and our gifted teacher.

Every day there is a new birth. Every day there is a new person I see. This person has always been inside of me. I am at peace and know everything will be exactly the way it is supposed to be.

May the light shine deep within your soul!

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What exactly is this stuff they call yoga?

Most people in the 'West' think that yoga is a bunch of crazy looking poses that a bunch of very flexible people do. Unfortunately; that is one of the many misconceptions which leads many non-westerners and traditionalists to shun the new and modern interpretation of these ancient disciplines. I really hope that we all learn acceptance of each other no matter how challenging it might be.

It is much easier for me to explain yoga as I see it currently. A discussion of the depth and scope that I enjoy of what yoga really is and its origins would take far longer to read than a short blog post. It will take years of study for me to be able to succinctly express what yoga really is; if there is any way it can just be summed up!

To me yoga is very simply a variety of techniques that are designed to work the mind, body and spirit. Within the teachings the seeker will learn about breath control, body control and mental focus. These different aspects are achieved though a variety of means. I like looking at the concept of the eight limbs; Ashtanga means eight limbs. Most modern interpretations of yoga in the west do not really focus on the eight limbs and really just put emphasis on the postures for the well-being of the body.This of course depends on the teacher and the student. If you do not see anything other than the body then you are limited in what your practice will provide for you. If you are just looking for a good workout then just practicing postures will help to strengthen your body and will provide peace and serenity but in my experience the postures are just one small aspect of what yoga can do for those who choose to delve into the depths of their practice.

I found an excellent synopsis of the eight limbs of yoga in a Yoga Journal post and a more thorough explanation can be found at Expressions of Spirit. Both are excellent introductions to the eight limbs and can give you an idea of how deep some aspects of yogic philosophy go.

This is by no means the only way to see yoga. It simply is the way I have been looking at it recently. Again I cannot stress enough how vast the practice of yoga is and how many different interpretations there are of these ancient arts.

In summary yoga is a series of different codes and practices designed to train the mind to surrender to the ultimate source of peace and unconditional love that resides within each and every human being and pervades all consciousness.

By practicing yoga you learn to stop depending on archaic forms of self-limitation and connect to your highest good. It is a tool for evolution of the mind and tranquility of the soul. Through practice and dedication we can all be connected to our highest states of being.

As always thank you for reading and please feel free to comment and share your experiences and thoughts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Welcome to my quest!

The practice of yoga is an incredible gift passed to our modern generation from times much different than ours. I remember doing the wheel, shoulder stand, plough and several other postures during my youth having no idea I would one day desire to fully integrate these and other postures into my day and share them with others.

There have been some drastic changes in my life and my routine. To help myself adapt I have begun to practice yoga four to five times a week. I have found an incredible mentor who owns a cozy and quiet studio near my home and regularly teaches at the Y I go to. I would like to thank Tracey from Still Lake Yoga for helping me to find my footing in yoga and for being there to support me in my journey. I have searched for many years to find a supportive and nurturing teacher like yourself. I am extremely enthusiastic about our weekly Sivananda practice and have begun to integrate the sun salutations into my day.

Yoga is not just about the postures and looking cool. Yoga stands for union and it is a practice that will lead you to a union with the divine consciousness that exists within all parts of the universe. When we learn to let go of our thoughts and notions we become at one with this universal mind that will lead us to true happiness and inner peace through acceptance and surrender.

I am so eager to begin learning more and to join a teacher training course at Yoga Matrix Studios in Orlando, FL. I will be doing some fund raising to make this dream possible and will be adding a donations button to the site. I will need to raise about $1,000 for the first session which will go towards the cost of the course, books, daycare, and travel expenses.

This blog will be focused on my journey to becoming a teacher and you will find regular journal entries expressing different aspects of the development of my practice on the Journal page. My blog posts will be focusing on the benefits of yoga and the vast variety of techniques that can help us all attain inner peace.

I am very thankful to all of the individuals who have influenced my yoga practice and who continue to be rays of light on this path.

I look forward to sharing more of my journey. Please feel free to comment and interact!