"Undo," Not "To Do"

By Laura Mills  

    It’s easy to put myself last when gift giving. What I give myself is often hardly a gift anyway; stress, that unwelcome yet persistent part of the holidays, sneaks in and gets cozy as I list, decorate, shop, wrap, rush and socialize. Unfortunately, over the years I’ve realized I harbor a certain over-confidence in my ability to manage stress (“Stress? Never! I teach yoga, for goodness’ sake!”); at the end of the most hectic days, I consistently find that the hardest part of stress management is remembering to do it.

    Undoubtedly, I keep up with stress management best when I make it a regular part of my day. One habit I’ve developed is just stopping and intentionally breathing—slow and deep, low into my back and belly, and then exhaling completely—for at least a few minutes. I aim to do this just after I wake up, or else just before bed, but sometimes I do it also at my kitchen sink, in my parked car, in line at the grocery store, or any other time I feel stress encroaching in the form of tight shoulders, headache, or a quickening heartbeat. After very little time I notice a difference…at the very least a clearer head with which to approach whatever’s happening in that moment.

    Of course, an irony of stress management is that trying to keep up with it might initially cause stress. None of us needs one more thing to do in December, after all…. But stress management, like so many other worthwhile pursuits, is a practice. Therefore it’s something we become more adept at with time. I’ve been approaching it lately not as another “to do” on my list, but rather as a means of undoing the effects of hectic days. I hope you try it, too, for as the days shorten, the nights darken, and the ever-busy holidays approach, it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves. At the beginning, try just a little…and then, as you become more comfortable and more regular with it, add a little more. Even a small amount of stress management will make a difference, leaving more space in life for cheer, holiday and beyond.

12/4/2014   Tags:  Laura Mills, stress, stress management, holidays, breathing Direct Link

Squirrel in Reverse

By Laura Mills  

    I plopped into my car after bringing my daughter to a class. 1pm and I was already beat…. And it hadn’t been that extraordinarily busy of a day so far, either—only that after the craziness of the last few weeks I had lost track of the day and the time and, it seemed, life in general. This day I was lucky to have managed my daughter’s drop-off at the correct time in the appropriate place.

    While I stared out the window, catching my breath, a squirrel approached my car from across the parking lot—then appeared on the hood! With a sound like fast raindrops it skittered toward the windshield and then up onto the roof; a moment and a few skitters later, its tail waved down onto the windshield, followed by the rest of its body as the squirrel slid back onto the hood. Then it hustled toward the rearview mirror, and it climbed over and all around it. Stopping just a few seconds to stare into the window at me, it then ran back onto the roof and disappeared into, I think, an overhanging tree.

    I laughed. Of course I had never encountered a squirrel so “up close and personal” before…but also because I immediately thought that squirrel could really use some yoga. And, I laughed because that squirrel seriously reminded me of myself. Those jerky movements of head and tail, the constant quivering of nose and whiskers, the non-stop motion of legs in different directions…that had for sure been me during the last few weeks. Now, here I was, alone in my parked car—the perfect opportunity to pause, sit a little taller, relax my shoulders, close my eyes and breathe. And that’s exactly what I did.

    Namaste.  

10/16/2014   Tags:  Laura Mills, exhaustion, nature, slowing down, breathing Direct Link

A Few Short Weeks

  By Laura Mills  

    June is nearly over…it’s a fact, but it’s something I’m having trouble believing. I feel like June just started—no, I feel like May just started. Except earlier this week I got invited to a Fourth of July get-together…. The truth is I’ve allowed this summer so far to slip away much more quickly than I’d like. Before I know it, August will be here and I’ll feel the need to start planning for fall and beyond.

    It’s just too easy to get caught up in our “stuff,” isn’t it? Everyday stresses like chores and errands, responsibilities and obligations…and then also not-so-everyday stresses like illnesses, fender benders, disagreements, deadlines…. We all deal with a variety of these things all the time; at any given moment most of us, I believe, have something on our minds that stresses us to some degree. No wonder days and weeks so often blur into one weighty, rolling mass of time.

    Yes, June is nearly over…I need to clear my head before it’s too late and summer is gone! As I move forward, one of my strategies is to more often stop what I’m doing—such as getting out of bed, entering my car, washing dishes—and just breathe for a few moments. Another strategy is to more often whisper words of gratitude when I feel the grace of a blessing—such as when I play with my daughter, set out for a walk, or sit down to eat. Even if I remember to employ these strategies only a handful of times in the next few weeks, I’ll succeed in slowing my summer at least a little. And when August arrives, I’ll have experienced that much more, instead of just passing through as usual.

6/26/2013   Tags:  Laura Mills, summer, passage of time, stress, breathe, gratitude, experiencing, presentness Direct Link

Winter Prescription

  By Laura Mills  

    Ah, mid-January…the time of year when we drag the last of the holiday decorations into the crawlspace, vacuum the remaining tinsel and tree needles out of the carpet, and add up and file away all those holiday receipts. The wind is cold and suddenly not so festive; vacation days once again need saving; we’re hearing the first advertisements related to tax time….

    Some days, the smallest bit of enthusiasm is totally absent. Accomplishing anything—from merely getting out of bed to productively working, or even just stepping on a yoga mat—requires considerable effort. We all have those days, during the worst of which we feel hollow and numb, like a robot squeaking through the motions of the next item on our to-do list. On such days I’ve found it futile to try to force myself to do anything; rather, I just stop for a little while. I close my eyes and turn my attention to my breath—the inhale fills my torso from bottom to top, lifting my heart, and the exhale releases anything that needs releasing at that moment. I focus on the space between and just above my eyebrows, and after a little while I almost feel like my breath is entering and exiting my body through that point. For at least a few minutes, all is right.

    And from there I find it’s not so hard to stand up and move on. I’m a little sharper mentally and more tuned in to the energies and rhythms of things around me. I might get something done, like cleaning my kitchen or planning my next class; I might even realize an entirely new—and better—direction for the day. And the next time any un-enthusiasm creeps back, I will probably stop and breathe again. Life’s just too short and precious to live any moment in a state of numbness. Any time spent cultivating awareness is time well spent. The house may be messier and the wallet lighter, but those “ordinary” days may really be amazing. 

1/16/2013   Tags:  Laura Mills, winter, enthusiasm, breath, breathing, awareness Direct Link

Yoga Lullaby

  By Laura Mills

    “Time” just doesn’t mean what it used to in my house; every spare moment during which I can wipe the kitchen counter or (on the best days) sip some tea has dramatically increased in value. These days, I compose my classes and write my blogs during my daughter’s naptime—when she naps, that is—so of course I usually find myself trying to take advantage of every minute.

     One day shortly after Thanksgiving festivities had upset our usual routine, my daughter started crying as soon as I put her down and didn’t stop as usual. I waited a few minutes outside her door; I went downstairs and set up my computer; optimistically, I even filled my teapot. But the crying intensified, so I returned to her room to check in. Suffice it to say she did NOT want to nap in her crib that day; half an hour later I was sitting in the middle of her floor, rocking her as she sniffled and snuggled into me. Finally, she fell asleep, and not knowing how to return her to her crib without waking her and beginning the process over again, I stayed put.

    My mind wandered, but before long my back hurt and my legs numbed, which drew my attention to my body. I knew my options for changing position were limited, but I was able to pull my belly in, extend my spine, and draw my shoulders slowly up and then back and down. I lengthened the crown of my head to the ceiling, tucked my chin a little more, and then begun to coordinate my body’s rocking with slow and measured breaths. After a little while my daughter’s breaths seemed to synch with mine, and for over an hour that afternoon she slept while I held her…both of us at peace.

    Yoga doesn’t get much better than that.

 

12/12/2012   Tags:  Laura Mills, time, body awareness, breath, peace Direct Link

Small but Mighty

By Laura Mills

“Every breath is another opportunity.” It’s one of my favorite things to remind my yoga students; it’s one of my favorite things to remind myself. The words are not mine, at least I don’t think so-I honestly don’t know where they came from, whether I heard them somewhere or read them in something. But one day they rose from the reaches of my memory to the front of my mind, and I said them to my students just before Savasana.

The more I think about the expression, the more I like it. Of course, it applies to the tiniest pieces of a yoga practice: we inhale to lift arms, exhale to bow, inhale to lift half-way, exhale to fold…. But we also inhale and exhale as we roll our mats, find our shoes and leave the studio; we inhale and exhale as we enter our cars, leave the parking lot and turn out at the light into the rest of our day. Every inhale and exhale is an additional moment of choice and possibility—even with regards to the smallest, most seemingly-insignificant things—and as long as we’re breathing, it’s never too late….

Your next breath may be your best yet.

8/17/2011   Tags:  breath, opportunity, possibility, choice, life Direct Link

SENSORIUM OF EXPERIENCE

March 26, 2011.  "When we understand sensations perfectly, we will see beyond this conditioned world." - Samyutta Nikaya

Do you know which grows first in the human body?  Your heart or your brain? Answer is: Your heart.  

That is a pretty good indication that the energies greater than us want our heart energy to be more predominant than our intellectual capacity to analyze.  And at the very least something within our DNA is saying to us pay attention to both.  You may also find it interesting to know that your heart & brain maintain a constant and conscious 2-way dialogue.  And in this conversation the heart sends far more information to the brain, than the brain to the heart. The heart also generates the strongest rhythmic electromagnetic field in the body & this actually can be measured in the brain waves of people around us.  

So then why do we so often try to rationalize the emotional space of the heart?   Why do we try to over direct our lives with only our brains? And then wonder why this doesn't feel right?

When we come to the yoga mat we are dialing back into our heart's intelligence. And the gateway into the heart is the breath.  The first breathing technique we learn is Anapanasati, awareness of breath: its duration, it's orgination, its temperature, its cadence, its rhythm, is it rough or smooth, easy or labored, where do you feel it and where don't you feel your breath? This renewed sensitivity to our life energy transfers into everything else we do.  And as a result we begin feeling more.  

"The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist." Lord Byron

And of course the asana are on purpose to help us feel both Sensitive and Fierce sensations.  We want to feel the full spectrum of emotion and sensation. Yoga helps us unite our hearts intelligence and intellectual understanding together.  “These two teachings, the supremacy of the heart and the uniqueness of each human being are very important to me.  They give me the fullest understanding of my membership in the human family.”  Robert Muller

The more we feel the more we become expert in our own human experience and then as a result the more expert we are in the overall human experience. We learn to feel what other people feel.  And when the constant dialogue of our hearts with one another becomes a way of life then the more gently we live with one another sharing this beautiful planet without war, without fighting, without aggression. Then and only then will peace prevail.  So please use your yoga to connect to your sensorium of experience and bring peace on earth.  Love yourself, love your day, love your life, Silvia

"Different winds come from all directions. Some are clear, some carry dusts, some are cold or hot, fierce gales or gentle breezes. In the same way sensations arise in the body - pleasant or unpleasant or neutral. When we see sensations as we do the winds, coming and going, clear or dust laden, fierce or gentle, we will fully understand them and be free from dependence on them." - Samyutta Nikaya

 

3/26/2011   Tags:  SENSATION, UNPLEASANT, PLEASANT, NEUTRAL, BRAIN, HEART, COMMUNICATION, HEART INTELIGENCE, BREATH, ART OF LIFE, PEACE, SENSORIUM OF EXPERIENCE, BUDDHISM Direct Link

YOUR LOVE MUSCLE

February 19, 2011.  I make the time for important stuff like googling LOVE MUSCLE.  Interestingly enough here is the best advice I found in looking after your Love Muscle:

1. Locate the love muscle

2. Remember to breath

3. Don't overdo it

4. Results should show in 8-12 weeks

 That's pretty good advice that could easily apply to yoga as well.  In yoga we always work our Love Muscle.  The love muscle is our mind.  We work our mind muscle by focusing our thoughts on positive expectations. Shakti Gawain says it like this, “When we create something, we always create it first in a thought form. If we are basically positive in attitude, expecting satisfaction and happiness, we will attract and create people, situations, and events which conform to our positive expectations.The more we practice using our muscles the stronger we get.  In yoga class we move and breath practicing making our minds stronger.  Brian Tracy says, "Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.

I understand maintaining a positive expectation is not easy.  Yoga stretches our mind muscle, it teaches us how to connect with ourselves and accept the sense things make or make sense of things as they are.To me this is the ultimate definition of yoga: anything that wakes you up to who you really are, that makes you more aware of your life, that which works our love muscle. Love yourself, Love your day, Love your life! Silvia

 

PS Here is the salutation we practiced to stretch our mind through our body. 

7th Chakra Namaskar

*Start standing in Mountain with HASTA VINYASA – “Conductor arms” 

INHALE – Reach arms down and out lift left knee Crane

EXHALE – Arms to sides and reach forward Flying Lunge

INHALE – Low Lunge circle arms out and up

EXHALE – Half Splits circle arms down and out

INHALE – High Lunge circle arms forward and up

EXHALE – Prepare

INHALE – Warrior 3 circle arms down and out

EXHALE – Crane circle arms forward and up, lower foot to Mountain

Side 2 begins


2/20/2011   Tags:  love muscle, breath, 7th chakra, sun salutations, mind, positive, expectations, practice, 21 days of love Direct Link

LONGING TO BE FREE

February 18, 2011.  The choice to be FREE requires an enormous amount of inner strength.  It asks that we be courageous and believe in our own right to be free.  Yoga Sutras Chapter 2.26 talks about how if we believe we are limited, you will be limited; if you believe you are free, you are FREE.  In yogic terms Freedom is known as Jivamukti.  For whatever reason or reasons you feel trapped in your life know you have a choice to free your mind and heart.  It is always there.

Yoga teaches us that we are sovereign over the democracy of ourselves.  Living in a democracy we all can appreciate a thing or two about Freedom.  So ask yourself what kind of freedoms do you encourage in your life?  Are you afraid to stand up for your rights?  Do you promote shared responsibility amongst the constituents of your limbs, breath, mind and heart?  Do you keep yourself shackled to workaholism or do you imprison yourself with worry or self-doubt or critical self-dialogue, do you allow someone outside yourself to run your life?

In my personal work the greatest prisons I've experienced have been those of my own making.  It has been through the yogic practice that I started to place more daily importance on liberation. With time I embraced how crucial it is to find peace and happiness from the inside.  As we study ourselves the yoga helps us explore through movement a freedom in our bodies and a kind of flowing meditation where we can find peace and tranquility in our minds.   

So right now, sit in a way that elongates your spine and let’s your breath travel more freely.  As you free your breath you liberate your mind.  As the mind opens the heart opens.  You being to realize that you can choose to draw upon your own fortitude to free your heart from pain, to free your body from long held tension and to free yourself of unhealthy mindless habits (samskaras).  It is going to look different for everyone.  And it is a constant practice to remind ourselves that we alone are the most responsible in keeping the peace and joy within the democracy of self.  "You see the wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice to be able to remain “easy” in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom. When we learn this then everything we do and everything we say becomes an “asana”, a position of body, mind and soul which requires the attention that brings us into the present."  I know what it’s like to feel imprisoned. I also can tell you I know what is it like to break free.  It’s not easy but I believe all of us can do it. So here I leave you with a final poem to inspire you to free yourself, love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia

"May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart
...something good is going to happen to you.
May you find harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing that lies at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you be set free from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, 
mind you, and embrace you in belonging."    
-  John O'Donahoe

TODAY'S PLAYLIST:

Flow, Sade

Outta Control, 50 Cent

Xoxoxo, The Black Eyed Peas

Au Pays De Gandhi, MC Solaar

Groovejet (If This Ain't Love), Spiller

15 to 20 (Den Haan Remix), The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, KT Tunstall

Every Breath You Take, The Police

Lumière [MAIN], Blue Scholars

Revelation Dub, Kabanjak

Twin Blue, Millions & Millions

Shavasana/Deep Relaxation, Shiva Rea

2/18/2011   Tags:  freedom, jivamukti, choices, COURAGE, trapped, love, breath, hip hop yoga, democracy, strength, yoga sutras, Direct Link

BE PRESENT PAY ATTENTION AND BREATH

JANUARY 5, 2011.   PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BREATH.  That's it.  This is yoga!  And this yoga can be practiced anytime, without any warm-up, anywhere, with anyone or by yourself.  I know you were probably thinking it would be harder or more complicated?  But nah, Yoga teaches us that when we are not present our minds become totally distracted and our thoughts are all over the place, starting stopping, wandering from one thing to the other at often break neck speed.  If we pay attention we harness the power of our thoughts.  As a human being this is what distinguishes us from other creatures and is our GREATEST STRENGTH.

 Forgetting to pay attention happens to the best of us. 

The Yoga Sutras say “enjoyment is the sweetness of noticing your life right now – smell, taste, feeling, sensation”  You see in times of doubt the key thing to know is that there is a point to it all. Even when we don’t understand why things are happening in our life we can rest assured as Sadie Nardini says, “alongside positive change, challenge appears.” This is why the greater point to spiritual practice is simply to drop in, tune in and PAY ATTENTION.  

 My teacher Shiva Rea says, "All beings have their yoga. This insight comes from a profound contemplation by Abhinavagupta. [He was] a prolific 12th-century scholar. He has this great axiom about yoga which is “tuning ourselves into our essential vibration.” We are learning how to tune ourselves into being present.  This is why we go a yoga class. We feel out of tune. We start to feel in tune after the practice. I think only human beings distort ourselves to be something that we already are, our essential selves. For instance, a tiger essentially knows its nature; where as human beings have this incredible capacity to forget who we are and then have to search for ourselves."

 I know from my own practice that the most powerful thing we can do is just be present to whatever is happening, tune in and trust that ability to focus one's thoughts will be enough to bring the clarity you need for the next moment. And we only live one breath, one moment at a time without needing to change anything. Today practice Anapana-Sati breathing and notice how this impacts the best of your day.  Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia

ANAPANA-SATI BREATHING TECHNIQUE

Watch for the judgmental mind that discounts small movements as insignificant or unimportant
or the ambitious mind that jumps in to tell you to make your breath bigger or deeper,
or labels your perceptions as good or bad in order to arrive at a conclusion.
- Donna Farhi

 

DEFINITION: Anapana means breathing.  The full name of this technique is anapanasati or mindfulness breathing.

PURPOSE: The primary purpose of this breathing concept is to gather more specific information about one's breathing patterns, rhythm, and intelligence. Simply observing the natural breath, do not breathe in a certain way or make your breath imposing. It is helpful to enter this inquiry with curiosity and inquisitiveness rather than a desire to get it right. This technique will calm your mind and keep you in the present preventing thoughts from stimulating stress. Be watchful. Thoughts will sneak up on you. When you catch yourself drifting toward thoughts, you must bring yourself back to natural breathing.

TECHNIQUE: Lay on your back or sit in any comfortable position, place one hand on the belly and the other on the chest or place both hands on the belly with the fingertips below the navel. After observing the location of the breath, you may move the arms to the side with the palms facing up.

Location of the Breath: Where is the movement of the breath most noticeable? In the lower part of my body or in the upper part?

Origin of the Breath: Where does the movement of the breath begin? Just as an earthquake has an epicenter that scientists can locate, your breath has an epicenter.

Frequency of the Breath: Is your breath fast or slow or somewhere in between? Count the number of breaths per minute or if possible have a friend count them for you. Twelve to fourteen breaths per minute is consdidered a normal rate.

Phrasing of the Breath: Is there a noticeable difference between the length of your inhalation and exhalation? Are they equal?

Texture of the Breath: Is the textyrue of your breath smooth and even or is it jerky and uneven?

Depth of the Breath: Does the breath feel deep or shallow?

Quality of the Breath: If you could describe the quality of your breath what word or words would you use? Is it pneumatic, labored, billowing?...Let descriptive worlds or images arise without latering them in any way. Do you have any images that you associate with your breathing?

Reference: Donni Farhi, The Breathing Book

"I like Anapana because there is no judgment involved. It is refreshing to just feel the breath without trying, or feeling the need to change it. It creates a kind of self acceptance for me. I am where I am." - Shannon Barker

1/5/2011   Tags:  pay attention, breath, be present, forgetting, strength, love, silvia mordini Direct Link

PAY ATTENTION

NOVEMBER 10, 2010.  Jon Kabat Zinn says, "too often our lives cease working because we cease working at life."  

Yoga teaches us that when we are not present our minds become totally distracted and our thoughts are all over the place, starting stopping, wandering from one thing to the other at often break neck speed.  If we pay attention we harness the power of our thoughts.  As a human being this is what distinguishes us from other creatures and is our GREATEST STRENGTH!  Yet our least utilized.  When we start the practice first thing we do is remind everyone to be conscious of their breathing, to pay attention to the breath: anapana sati breathing technique.  Not being bossy just watching it. For as Gabrielle Roth writes in the book Sweat your Prayers, "the breath is promiscuous, and if you don't pay it attention it will find another lover."  

Consider how tuned in to your breath you have to be to experience this from Pieree Teilhard De Chardin “The inhale and the exhale. Breathing out carbon dioxide to the trees and breathing in their fresh exudations. Oxygen kissing each cell awake, atoms dancing in orderly metabolism, interpenetrating. That dance of the air cycle, breathing the universe in and out again, is what you are, is what I am.”  Wow!  All he is talking about is paying attention to the breath. 

 Then by paying attention to the breath the breath reveals your state of mind and heart.  “If you want to know the past, to know what has caused you, look at yourself in the present, for that is the past’s effect. If you want to know your future, then look at yourself in the present, for that is the cause of the future.”  Majihima Nikaya

And as we pay attention to breath, we then pay attention to aligning our movements or poses with the breath.  There is this really on purpose experience of where we put our hands and feet and energy without judgement, just observation.  For what we know and don't know eventually become one.  Rumi says it like this: 

why are you so busy

with this or that or good or bad

pay attention to how things blend

 

why talk about all 

the known and the unknown

see how unknown merges into the known

 

All that you know, all that you don't know are no longer things to be feared or apologized for or worried about.  Just by paying attention the universal intelligence that loves and supports us all is working on our behalf.  All we have to do is pay attention and the rest works itself out for our greater happiness.  Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia 

PS And if you need a way to re-establish the ability to pay attention without distraction come on retreat with me. Stretch your mental and physical boundaries! Alchemy tours. Facebook us, facebook me anytime, visit our website www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com

11/10/2010   Tags:  attention, focus, breath, pay attention, alignment, observation, judgement, rumi, distraction, alchemy tours, silvia mordini Direct Link

BREATH ACCEPTS YOUR IMPERFECTION

OCTOBER 14, 2010.  The breath accepts us unconditionally. It is always all forgiving and accepting.  Think about it, we ignore our breath, treat it with total disregard, prevent it from entering our body by holding our breath out when stressed, we behave casually towards it making little to no commitment.  If we were a lover and the breath was our boyfriend, he'd leave us!  

But not our breath. It lovingly accepts our human imperfection and gives us another chance, and another, and a million and more.  There is a lesson here: when we breath we have another chance to try our best, We are not practicing to be perfect.  We are practicing to make real, to realize the beauty of our humanness.  Yoga philosophy helps us to see that we are perfectly imperfect.  Eventually the more you practice becoming enamored with your breath you allow it to become your best teacher.  And a shift happens.

As the breath accepts you, you start to accept yourself.  Then as you practice this advanced yoga of self-acceptance you become more compassionate and forgiving of others, just as you are towards yourself.  If you love yourself, you know how to love others unconditionally.  And even when other people in your life make mistakes, you appreciate their imperfections and give them a second, third, millionth chance.  

 "You see the wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice (and in the other practices of yoga as well) to be able to remain “easy” in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom. When we learn this then everything we do and everything we say becomes an “asana”, a position of body, mind and soul which requires the attention that brings us into the present." And in that present moment there is perfect presence.

Practice breathing on purpose today.  But pranayama is not about belittling the breath or forcing or making it perfect.  The literal translation is below.  And it doesn't say anything about perfect.  It says conscious, deliberate. So we try.

Tasmin sati svasa prasvasaho gati-viccheda pranayama

Pranayama is the conscious, deliberate regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath replacing unconscious patterns of breathing. It is possible only after a reasonable mastery of asana practice.
- Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.49

Our key breath learning in this practice was about chest breathing.  I have included a quick summary for you below.  The greater take away is how the breath accepts your imperfections, it knows you will forget and will welcome you back to try and in that trying may you be PRESENT.  Love yourself, Love your day, Love your life!  Silvia

 

CHEST BREATHING
This is probably the most common breathing pattern in today's stress-filled society. Also known as paradoxical breathing, it is a natural reflex when we are suddenly startled or frightened. We gasp, pull the abdomen in and breathe high into the chest. The lift of the abdomen and pelvic floor prevents the diaphragm from descending completely as we inhale. Chest breathers restrict breath movement in the abdomen, forcing it higher up into the chest, while shoulders move up and down.

Effect on mind/body
Chest breathers rely on weak upper body muscles. Thereby developing chronic tension in thoracic spine, shoulders and neck. Moreover, this tension is resistant to massage or any other relaxation therapy as it recapitulates the moment the person resumes chest breathing, which is an incredible 22,000 times a day! Since we can't breathe in fully, we can't breathe out fully also. So we resort to breathing more quickly to make up for lack of oxygen. Scarier still is the fact that it sets the stage for an even more serious breathing problem: hyperventilation. Chest breathers normally sit on the edge of their seats and exude anticipation in their entire bearing. They never seem to have enough time to do all the tasks they set out on and often experience a chronic, free-floating state of anxiety. Scientific evidence now points to the connection between chest breathing, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Identify it
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Observe the movement of both. If both your shoulders and chest are rising, you are probably not a chest breather. A chest breather suppresses breath in the lower abdomen, forcing it to move higher up into the body.

How to let go
Relax your shoulders and upper back. Consciously follow normal breathing pattern. Mentally assess yourself without judgement.  Ground yourself in the present.

(If you want to explore deeper learnings join me on retreat, yoga vacation www.silviamordini.com or www.alchemytours.com)

10/14/2010   Tags:  BREATH, acceptance, forgiveness, alchemy tours, silvia mordini, love, stress, present moment, perfect, compassion, yoga sutras, unconditional, Direct Link

CHEMISTRY OF TRUTH

"Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted, like the face of a mirror that contains no images. If you want a clear mirror, behold yourself and see the truth." - RUMI

OCTOBER 10, 2010

The mat serves as a mirror for each of us.  The opportunity to let go of anger, fear, stress allows us to open up to our happiest selves.  This process requires we see ourselves honestly. Its easy to stay upset and hold on to grudges and muddy up the picture of what we really feel or who we are.  So this experiment is quite radical if you're used to masking or hiding from your truth.  

There is a Chemistry to Truth.  And we have in every moment a choice about how to influence the balance with the chemicals of our thoughts and our breath.  If you do not breath out fully you are in fact poisoning yourself.  Or if in your thoughts you are self-critical or judgmental this drama is creating a stress and hormones like cortisol are being released.  

Writes Donna Farhi, New Zealander yoga teacher, in Holding Your Breath (Yoga Journal, April 1996): "Stress may be real or imagined. Just imagining a stressful event can reduce inhalation volume. When we are continuously exposed to stress, then the body just forgets to relax." Obviously, the breathing pattern changes, and "it just might become a statement about what happened in the past rather then what is happening to us in the present".

Every exhale, every pose can help us relieve the past and be more conscious of the moment we are living.  You can by breathing wisely and thinking healing thoughts dilute the concentration of the harsh chemicals in your body.  But first the practice of studying yourself, svadhaya, asks that we see ourselves truthfully.  You engage when you hold your breath, where you get overly dramatic for no reason, where you are making yourself TOXIC.  And the diluting can be accomplished through mantra as well, what you are thinking on purpose. A favorite of mine is the lovingkindness meditation:

Think of yourself, offer healing and a way to let go of sadness, anger, worry saying inside:

May I be happy

May I be peaceful

May I be loved

 

Then think of a challenging person, who you need to heal the relationship and say to them inside:

May You be happy

May You be peaceful

May You be loved.

 

Then think of how to influence the chemistry of the world (of which you are a part of) by saying to all people:

May We be happy

May We be peaceful

May We be loved.

The answer to stress, anger you feel towards a situation or a person or thing is not eye for an eye. Fighting is only going to make it more acidic, more poison will kill us eventually.  The only answer is love.  Love dilutes the pain, the worry and relieves us of this toxicity.  And in that truth we see our best most beautiful selves!  Love your day, love your life, love yourself!  Silvia

10/10/2010   Tags:  truth, satya, letting go, love, lovingkindness, meditation, breath, toxic, exhale, happiness, balance, chemistry, alchemy, stress, Direct Link

HAPPINESS MEANS SOCIAL CONNECTION

SEPTEMBER 17, 2010.   

In 1948 a study began known as the Framingham Heart Study.  It was the most comprehensive of its kind.  Now 60 plus years later scientists have studied other aspects beyond just heart disease.  One of their findings ins related to happiness theory.  And of the factors studied a key part is that happiness is being connected to other people.  We experience happiness through social connections.  And therefore are very much influenced by clusters of other people around us.  Check this out:  a change in one person effects you and all in the cluster, your probability for increased happiness improves 15% if your most immediate friend is happy, 10% if a friend of your friend is happy, and so on until four degrees of separation. 

They are figuring out and measuring what yogis have known for thousands of years:  happiness is contagious.  

This means everyday we have the opportunity to save someone's life.  You practice yoga today, so you can practice tomorrow.  What you do to manage your thoughts to create happy cells impacts not only you but those around you.  In this way we are creating our world thought by thought, day by day.  And it can be heaven on earth!  Maybe it is.  The sutras spell out that if we are imbalanced mentally, physically, emotionally which means we are not living our true nature - which is naturally happy then we must practice chapter 2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavana.  Engage happy thoughts.  So simple.  It is our Namaste:  Seek the still point where the words "you" and "I" lose meaning, where we meet and merge as one. 

Try this breath meditation when you need to elevate your attitude. And be the change you want to see in the world (Ghandi). Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia

 

Inhale: I welcome happiness,

Exhale: I am grateful

Inhale:  I welcome inspiration

Exhale:  I am grateful

Inhale:  I welcome love

Exhale:  I am grateful

Inhale: I welcome hope

Exhale: I am grateful

 

“Heartfelt gratitude really is the fastest way to experience happiness now.  It is impossible to be truly grateful and neurotic; it is impossible to be truly grateful and not happy.”  (Happiness coach Barry Kaufman author of Happiness Is A Choice)

9/17/2010   Tags:  HAPPINESS, HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE, GRATITUDE, PRATIPAKSHA BHAVANA, NAMASTE, CHANGE, LOVE, MEDITATION, BREATH Direct Link

DIRECTING AND ALLOWING YOUR LIFE

“The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular mood of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change its form without being disappointed by the change, for happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up”  - Unknown author

AUGUST 30TH, 2010.  Today my meditation focused on what combination it takes of Directing and Allowing in your life to achieve ordinary happiness.  To me it is like Alternate Nostril breathing.  The inhale is a directed effort but then we allow the exhale to empty and there is that pause at the end of the out breath that purifies that allowing.  You must wait for it to occur for extraordinary change is within that pause.  Now at the same time we surrender to the changes that are outside our control we exert effort in directing our lives.  This is a nondualistic happening: one not more important than the other.  Directing and allowing, allowing and directing.  Inhale, exhale.

"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular."  -Tony Robbins 

The challenge is the constant sensitive adjustment necessary to manage especially the directing side of life.  It is too easy to let life be done to us and give up all control of plans for the best life ever.  I know this, we get on the treadmill of daily life (work, home, sleep, work, home, sleep) and convince ourselves to not make time to focus our attention.  The time on the mat in yoga class or going on retreat is that period of directing our thoughts and processing what we are allowing for in our lives.  So today engage more directly with yourself. You are the audience and the actor on the stage of your life and this is on a daily basis the performance of your life!  "In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently." -Tony Robbins 

And just like we learn to refine our awareness of breathing we can refine the consistency of how we direct our lives.  Go big, dig deep and go for it!  Love yourself, love your day, love your life!  Silvia

8/30/2010   Tags:  directing, allowing, surrender, intention, focus, yoga retreat, consistency, yoga mat, adjustments, alternate nostril breathing, breathing Direct Link

CAN YOU BE HAPPY IF DOING WITHOUT?

May, 23, 2010.  I have found selling my house an opportunity for continuous spiritual growth.  The last 3 weeks I went without hot water, not even warm water. All I had until yesterday was COLD (no make that Very Cold) water.  The first couple days showering like this was ok.  Not the end of the world, but as week one became week 2 and then 3 it was liking camping indoors except I wasn’t doing it on purpose.  Then with the help of friends finally I had hot water again! YES! I was so grateful. 

During the time my house has been on the market I moved my unsightly microwave to a dark corner of my basement on the ground for that was the only place I could figure to plug it into an outlet.  I don’t rely heavily on microwaving, actually am trying to break myself of the habit 100% but being merely human yes I succumb to its ease. Except during the last 3 months in order to warm anything up I had to travel long and far into the nether regions of my basement to sit on the floor to open its little door and sneak my food in. It was very much like being Alice in Wonderland, I’d be small then once warmed I could grow big again and return to the land above ground.  Not the end of the world, but gosh as each month wore on it became a chore.  This weekend my house sold and I was able to return my microwave back to the kitchen, on the first floor and stand up while using it.  YES! I was so grateful.

Many years ago I was run over by a car by a very sweet apologetic 80 year old man while I was walking from my garage to my townhome after church on a sunny Sunday morning. One moment I was mobile and easily walking, moving, breathing and then next (since the car was bigger than my petite frame) I was lying on the ground.  Eventually through yoga and the love and support of doctors, family and friends I recovered to a place of healthy even beyond what I had before. YES! I was so grateful.

So I have been asked many times over the years why or how did I begin teaching.  The main reason is that I don’t want you to experience having to lose anything and do without in order to get the lesson that GRATITUDE unlocks the fullness of life. As Melody Beattie says and goes on to say “It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  Sometimes all it takes to reconnect to active Gratitude is coming back to the mat to gently remind us of how fortunate we are in this moment.  You don’t have to be without Hot water to give thanks when you shower each day of what a cool blessing it is that you just turn a faucet and out it comes.  You don’t have to loose mobility to realize how awesome it is to walk onto the mat of your own volition.  When I need a simple kick in the pants I return time and again to the words of the Buddha:

Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die;
so, let us be thankful.

No matter who we are or what our situation is, we can always find something for which we are grateful. It is most often when we work too hard, or stretch ourselves too thin that we have a tendency to feel impoverished which Trungpa Rimpoche called, "poverty mentality."   If unsure just breathe and remember to be grateful that you were chosen to be alive today!  Gratitude is a form of meditation and promotes an elevated attitude to any negative thoughts. This is known as Chapter 2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavana.  A simple favorite of mine is:

Inhale: I welcome happiness,

Exhale: I am grateful

Inhale:  I welcome inspiration

Exhale:  I am grateful

Inhale:  I welcome love

Exhale:  I am grateful

Inhale: I welcome hope

Exhale: I am grateful

My sincere hope every class I teach is that the gratitude meditation becomes part of us and we never have to lose something to recognize how grateful we are to have that person, that situation or that circumstance in our life.  From this point forward say thank you to everyone you meet for every kindness they offer you.  It will change your life!  Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia


5/23/2010   Tags:  gratitude, love, silvia mordini, breath, meditation, happiness, buddha Direct Link

BENEFITS OF RESTORATIVE YOGA

APRIL 5, 2010:  Each first Monday of the month our 10:45am and 7:30pm Basics classes are Restorative Yoga.  The ultimate goal of Yoga is liberation, freedom from pain, stress, suffering. In the Hatha Yoga Pradpika it’s written, “Breath is the key to ultimate emancipation.”  We use the breath while holding poses in a supported way in Restorative Yoga to help our brain’s relax.  Our normal breathing pattern is brain initiated which creates tension. It’s a lot of work! But in conscious breathing our brains become more passive and relaxed.  Here is more about the specific type of yoga known as Restorative Yoga.  Love to you, Silvia

Restorative Yoga

Yoga can work for many different types of bodies, many different stages in life, and for each person's many different moods. All yoga is healing.  The restorative effects of yoga should never be over-looked, no matter what age, and sometimes slowing down the practice, going deeper in poses, and just feeling the restorative power of them does wonders for the body.

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga focuses on relaxing the body in restful postures. Rest provides the body an opportunity to renew and heal. Countless studies have proven the physical and emotional benefits of this.

Restorative yoga, as well as other forms of yoga, help to trigger the Parasympathetic nervous system also known as the PNS. The PNS is responsible for balancing the body and bringing its response system back into equalibrium. Stimulating the PNS helps to lower heart rate, blood pressure; it helps to healthily stimulate the immune system and keep the endocrine system operating healthily. When this system gets out of whack, or when the Sympathetic nervous system, SNS gets over-stimulated, the PNS helps to bring all back in balance. It is believed that is the PNS is tapped out or under-active, illness pervades. Thus, forms of relaxation, such as yoga and meditation, that help to stimulate the PNS are generally beneficial for overall body health.

David Spiegel, M.D., author of Living Beyond Limits, reports, "In medicine, we are learning that physical problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, can be influenced by psychological interventions, such as relaxation training. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration issued a report recommending these non-drug approaches as the treatment of choice for milder forms of hypertension. Mind and body are connected and must work together, and this should be a powerful asset in treating medical illness."

4/5/2010   Tags:  Restorative Yoga, relaxation, brain, breathing, healing Direct Link

INTENTION SANKALPA GROWTH AND EVOLUTION

MARCH 10, 2010:  As you know I just put my house on the market. As part of this process the experts encourage you to simply, streamline, neutralize and otherwise declutter your living space. So I had this big indoor plant that got moved into the garage, then a week later I felt bad so moved it into the basement from the garage (mostly because you know plants do like light) well then I forgot to water it because it was now in the basement. This all went on for a month, just last night with the help a dear friend finally moved it outside in our 60 degree temperatures today. It finally got light, water and is not forgotten. 

This plant had a strong intention and desire to LIVE! After all I put it through and changed about its surroundings it kept steadfast to the intention of surviving and thriving.  I have to believe that if a plant can stay single minded in its intention we can too. So today ask yourself:  HOW DOES THIS CLASS INSPIRE YOU TO BE MOVING TOWARDS MEETING YOUR EXPECTATIONS? 

When we begin class and take our hands together at our hearts we create SANKALPA MUDRA a Mudra of internal commitment, a gesture of commitment in outer form and everything that goes into it is our intention.  Intention is defined as setting an expectation for yourself, an expectation to your OWN GROWTH AND EVOLUTION.  

Take a moment to think about deepening your breath into the commitment you've made to grow.   The breath expands our connection to this promise we have made ourselves.  And what I wish someone had told me a long time ago was to expect that there will be times that will be a little challenging – this is part of the growth process.  Spiritual maturity comes as a result of using our expectations as little markers demonstrating our progress.  And we have all COME A LONG WAY ALREADY.  So on the mat we keep breathing to deepen our commitment and our intention whether the poses are easy or hard or whether we hold them a breath or a long time.  We stay focused on experiencing ourselves. 

The power of our intention is that focus on one clear thing. Not 50 things at the same time. It is like the Buddhist parable of how to dig for water: it is not fruitful to dig 100 holes when instead we should focus and dig 100 times in the same place and then for sure we'll strike water.  So we took time to think about one pose from this practice that we woudl want to develop mastery of and promised to do it for 1-2 minutes per day for 28 days, a minimum of 28 minutes total to see if we could develop mastery in this pose and stay with one intention for this period of time.

So today, refocus your promise to yourself and the kind of life you want for yourself. And with Spring approaching let's really grow in our lives what is most important to us, to our health, to our hearts, to our peace of mind.  Love the day! Silvia

PS - My plant is doing great!

3/10/2010   Tags:  intention, sankalpa, growth, evolution, expectation, promise, breath, commitment, Direct Link

TAKE TURNS WITH YOUR EMOTIONS

MARCH 9, 2010:  So I read this great article abou Gary Lauder's clever idea to reduce traffic accidents: a traffic sign that says "Take Turns".  I love this. It's solo yogic! It's simple, cheap, smart and kind.  And if 50% of traffic accidents happen at intersections it could save lives. The yogi in me takes this suggestion and applies it to our emotions. So imagine you approach the intersection of your emotions (just like you would in your car) and you look around and politely allow the emotion you are feeling to cross over.  Then the next emotion takes its turn quite politely.  Splendid!

Yet as human beings we often push back our feelings creating in the flow of our lives a flood at some point of pent of emotions. Or we deny what we are feeling trying to run away from it.  Neither of these works.  When we allow our feelings to take turns we are really CARING FOR OUR FEELINGS.  As Rumi writes;  "It's good to leave each day behind, life flowing water, Yesterday is gone and it's tale told. Today new seeds are growing."

This is really getting to the heart of a Tantric practice which encourages us to embrace all of who we are.  The sadness and the joy, the tiredness and the vigor, the fear and the love.  This is a nondualistic approach to see that there is not a winner/loser or bad/good that we don't have to battle our emotions, thoughts or feelings any longer.  Running away from what we feel will only prolong it.  And all of our feelings can be put into 3 buckets: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.  So as hard as it might be to heal and remain in a state of being healed we are taught through yoga to embrace your feelings, care for them.

A great meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh suggest we take a feeling, let's say sadness, and talk to your feeling: say to your sadness "breathe - I am taking care of you now."  Acknowledge this feeling is you and as you breath out, let it go.  Then allow for the next moment to unfold and the next feeling. Breath into that one.  Take one at a time and stay with the flow taking turns. 

Most importantly know that whatever you're feeling is part of your humanness, love and hurt co-exist, one is the compliment to the other so to prevent staying in a state of suffering it helps to embrace all you feel and care for yourself.  We literally learn about ourselves as we experience emotion, feeling and thought.  We also become expert through this in the human experience. We can by caring for our own feelings learn how to care for how others feel.


If we can take turns in our emotions we can allow others to feel what they need to feel and take turns appreciating them too for their humanness.  Through this we create a more polite world. A world of peace and authenticity.  Love yourself, Love your life! Silvia

 

Gary Lauder's new traffic sign: Take Turns | Video on TED.com  

 

3/9/2010   Tags:  take turns, emotions, caring, feelings, TED, past, politeness, tantric, running away, breath Direct Link

MENTAL DIGESTION AIDS US WHEN WIRED AND TIRED

FEBRUARY 6, 2010:  As Americans we spend a lot of time thinking about physical digestion (what we eat, when we eat, what we're not going to eat, how many calories stuff has) but what about Mental Digestion.  When we have poor mental digestion we experience stuff like poor sleep, obsessive worry, lethargy, impatience, fatigue, anger and an annoying degree of anxiety.  How does this happen?   

1. Being too sedentary keeps us in our heads, leading to overall mental stuckness. We need to move and breath, like we do in yoga.

2. Watching others move like on dancing with the stars doesn't help our mental constipation.  We still need to move and breath.  

Two articles that support this:

(1) Well, health experts say that sitting is deadly.  "Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods - even if you exercise regularly - could be bad for your health. ANd it doesn't matter where the sitting takes place - just the overall number of hours it occurs.  Several studies suggest people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to be fat, have a heart attack or even die. After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals says Elin Elblom Bak of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences as reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.  

(2) In the January 29th, 2010 issue of the The Week, page 23 an article suggests "TV can kill you.  Watching too much television may shorten your life by years. Australian researchesrs tracked the medical conditions of 8,800 healhty adults for several years; the more television the participants watched, the more likely they were to have died during hte years examined.  On average, for every hour per day spent watching TV, a subject was 18% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, 9% more likely to succumb to cancer, and 11% more likely to die of any cause.  The culprit is the inactivity TV promotes.  Prolonged watching of TV equals a lot of sitting, which invariablly means there's an absence of muscle movement, study author David Dunstan tells CNN.com.  Long, unnatural periods of doing nothing physically, he says, clearly lead to premature death.  The antidote is to just get up and move, he adds. The more you move, the greater the health benefits likely to be."  

Our mental digestion is relieved by using the breath led poses in vinyasa yoga to help us circulate our energies, both physically and mentally.  Otherwise our minds feel both WIRED and TIRED.  We have this need to burn off excess energy that's pent up from sitting too much and we also need to breath and refresh our brains.  Remember as John Doulillard, Director of LifeSpa School of Ayurveda in Boulder, Colorado says, "everyone thinkgs that when you can't sleep, you have too much energy, but usually people have too little energy: they are TOO exhausted to get to sleep."   Please stay with your commitment to yoga and let your life be free of all constipation, mental or otherwise!  Peace and light, Silvia  

3/1/2010   Tags:  mental digestion, energy, fatigue, health, movement, yoga, wired and tired, breath, vinyasa, death Direct Link

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP

FEBRUARY 23, 2010:  Better sleep has been touted for years as one of the benefits of yoga. 

  • Today we learn about Yoga for Sleep and improved emotional well-being since there is a link between inability to sleep and anxiety. What is Anxiety?  It is how we manage stress.  What is Stress? The opposite of relaxation.
  • Insomnia—the inability to get to sleep or to sleep soundly—can be either temporary or chronic, lasting a few days to weeks.  It affects a whopping 54 percent of adults in the United States at one time or another, and insomnia that lasts more than six weeks may affect from 10 to 15 percent of adults at some point during their lives
  • If you've ever had trouble falling asleep at night or staying awake during the day this meets the practical definition of insomnia.  This can be caused by a number of factors.  Yoga offers you a number of ways to relax the parasympathetic nervous system. 

1.       The poses work to reduce muscle tension which can impact our ability to get to sleep and the quality of our sleep. This in turn lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2.       The breathing techniques raise levels of carbon dioxide a natural sedative as well as melatonin levels. Both of these helps us sleep.  The other mental payoff from deep breathing is that it increases levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with happy, calm feelings.

3.       The breath linked movement known as vinyasa is a form of meditation that focus the mind through self study known as "Svadhyaya".  Observing what we're thinking and feeling gives us the opportunity to shift our perspective which is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy.  We learn in yoga class techniques to break negative thinking patterns (samskaras).  Simply put you can learn how to worry less by thinking happy thoughts.  And as Deepak Chopra says, "Happy thoughts create happy cells that create happy souls."

BREATHING:  At the core of most anxiety is the breath, or the lack of it.

When you are anxious, natural breathing is inhibited. The diaphragm freezes, failing to move air downward as you inhale, which means that you don't let your lungs fully expand and fill with air. "And when you don't get enough oxygen, the brain receives a 'danger' signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety," explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. "Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow; in an extreme case this can lead to a full-blown panic attack, in which the person begins to hyperventilate."

POSES:

According to Baxter Bell, inversions help people switch from the sympathetic nervous system (which includes the fight-or-flight responses) to the parasympathetic nervous system (which handles relaxation) by sending the body a signal that the blood pressure has gone up. In response, the blood vessels constrict and the heartbeat and breathing begin to slow, which causes the mind to relax.

  • forward bends such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). You can do them supported if you wish, on blankets or bolsters, and they should be held for five minutes.
  • While all of these poses should help, the most important of all is Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). When practiced immediately before bed, it prepares the body for sleep. And if done during the day, it may help compensate for some lost sleep. You can also practice it supported on a chair. All inversions—such as Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand), Halasana (Plow Pose), and Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)—are helpful to practice when you can't get to sleep.
  • Finally, don't forget to practice the very important Savasana (Corpse Pose), unless you do Sarvangasana just prior to sleep. 
2/23/2010   Tags:  better sleep, insomnia, yoga poses, breathing, calm Direct Link

FEAR, LOVE AND ANAPANASATI

FEBRUARY 22, 2010:  We focused tonight on the breathing practice of Anapanasati.  This is usually the very first breathing technique we learn in yoga. This ability to watch our breath and practice mindful self observation.  As we watch ourselves we gain insight into whether we are breathing in a way that shows us fearful or peaceful.  We then can link this to how we are living our lives. Are we judging ourselves each moment? Or is it possible simply to be with your life, feel your breath, without needing to change it.  Can you use the practice of mindfulness breathing to create a self-acceptance for yourself and let go of the fears you might have?  Can you ultimately choose to view your thoughts, your breath, your actions through a prism of love without so many labels of good enough or not good enough but just be.  I know you can, this practice if you let it will help you achieve the hardest pose of all, self-love.  Love and courage to you, Silvia       

ANAPANA-SATI

Watch for the judgmental mind that discounts small movements as insignificant or unimportant
or the ambitious mind that jumps in to tell you to make your breath bigger or deeper,
or labels your perceptions as good or bad in order to arrive at a conclusion.
- Donna Farhi

 

DEFINITION: Anapana means breathing.  The full name of this technique is anapanasati or mindfulness breathing.

PURPOSE: The primary purpose of this breathing concept is to gather more specific information about one's breathing patterns, rhythm, and intelligence. Simply observing the natural breath, do not breathe in a certain way or make your breath imposing. It is helpful to enter this inquiry with curiosity and inquisitiveness rather than a desire to get it right. This technique will calm your mind and keep you in the present preventing thoughts from stimulating stress. Be watchful. Thoughts will sneak up on you. When you catch yourself drifting toward thoughts, you must bring yourself back to natural breathing.

TECHNIQUE: Lay on your back or sit in any comfortable position, place one hand on the belly and the other on the chest or place both hands on the belly with the fingertips below the navel. After observing the location of the breath, you may move the arms to the side with the palms facing up.

Location of the Breath: Where is the movement of the breath most noticeable? In the lower part of my body or in the upper part?

Origin of the Breath: Where does the movement of the breath begin? Just as an earthquake has an epicenter that scientists can locate, your breath has an epicenter.

Frequency of the Breath: Is your breath fast or slow or somewhere in between? Count the number of breaths per minute or if possible have a friend count them for you. Twelve to fourteen breaths per minute is considered a normal rate.

Phrasing of the Breath: Is there a noticeable difference between the length of your inhalation and exhalation? Are they equal?

Texture of the Breath: Is the texture of your breath smooth and even or is it jerky and uneven?

Depth of the Breath: Does the breath feel deep or shallow?

Quality of the Breath: If you could describe the quality of your breath what word or words would you use? Is it pneumatic, labored, billowing?...Let descriptive worlds or images arise without layering them in any way. Do you have any images that you associate with your breathing?

Reference: Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book

 

2/22/2010   Tags:  breath, anapanasati, fear, love, donna farhi, self-love, self-acceptance Direct Link

YOGA IS SPRING BREAK FOR ADULTS!

FEBRUARY 20, 2010

Dear Friends,

During the Winter we are simply more in our heads than in our bodies (if you live in colder climates). I remember when I was working an office job during the Winter I'd end up working longer hours.  If for no other reason then it felt like it was too cold to be outside.  I'd literally run from my car to the Metra station to wait inside or run to the bus to go to my office.  In an effort to avoid being in the cold I'd eat more lunches at my desk.  At some point (about now) I'd start to feel the Stress growing bigger and bigger. I'd get more tired, more stressed from working extra and go home and crash.  My balance would get lost.

Thank goodness yoga offered me a healthy solution.  In our Chicagoland Winter's we NEED yoga more than ever.  Otherwise we get stuck in our head's working too much & thinking too hard when we need some play time too. Yoga is like recess for Adults. 

Hey you don't have to wait for Spring Break (like we did when we were kids). YOGA CLASS IS SPRING BREAK!

So get back to moving and breathing your body. Come have some fun, take a break from work, home, and all the seriousness of life.  Instead be a serious student of FUN for 2-3 hours per week. Yes, you heard me right, I'm proposing you give yourself more than one yoga class per week in the Winter.  Come warm times then by all means, walk from Union station to your office, stand outside the Metra station and do jumping jacks, hike, cycle, run outside.  But for the next couple more months of colder weather don't just lose your balance accepting you'll just feel lousy and cranky when the solution is right here. Do something!  Come spiritualize every aspect of your life by staying tuned into to the blessing it is to be alive.  And then plan to join me for your summer vacation for the Spiritual & Cultural Adventure of a Lifetime in Tuscany June 20th-26th!!  But in the meantime, play more now! Love your life, Silvia

 

2/20/2010   Tags:  newsletter, fun, breathing, winter, balance, stress Direct Link

I LOVE THEE WITH THE BREATH: MY FAVORITE POEM

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

 

FEBRUARY 14, 2010 This above is my favorite poem so I share it with you this Valentines Day.  It honors the breath!  The theme today was about being our own valentine and that yoga helps us see every day as valentine’s day not just once per year as we come to the mat to Fall in love with ourselves.  When we are spiritual babies we tend to look outward for love but eventually as we mature into spiritual adulthood we look inwards for love. We are born as physical beings but at some point through this or any spiritual practice we are born as spiritual beings.  We wait until that point when we wake up to love, for when our soul which may be asleep awakens. At that point as Gabrielle Roth writes in a favorite book of mine, Sweat Your Prayers, “When your soul is in charge, your life becomes a LOVE STORY. A love story between you and yourself.”

May this practice help you make the beautiful discovery of how great you really are, not because someone else tells you so but because you think so. You see yourself as unique and wonderful and through self-care you nurture all the qualities that you admire most about you.  And in loving yourself, you are acknowledging that you are special.  This process on the mat and in our life Sadhana takes time.  It is a personal process (just like learning handstand that we practiced today). Take your time, be kind and loving to yourself and all will blossom from the inside out!  Thank you to all who shared part of your day with me you made my valentines one I’ll never forget! Love in all ways,  Silvia

2/14/2010   Tags:  love, I love thee with the breath, love story, breath, soul, beauty, self-care, discovery, self-love, valentines Direct Link

SLOW DOWN FIND THE FLOW: THE ANTIDOTE TO IMPATIENCE

FEBRUARY 9, 2009:  I love that it snowed all day today! It means that every single person in Chicagoland is practicing YOGA! I couldn’t be happier about that. Everywhere I went I saw folks SLOW DOWN and PAY ATTENTION.  When we have nature asking us to practice patience we should listen.

So today my theme is Patience. From yogic teachings this means that we find equanimity towards all objects, situations or things - be they joyful or sorrowful or easy or hard, snowy or rainy.  When we find our yoga we enter a state of calmness and clarity that reflects perfect presence within the chaos or tension, even a snowy day.  It is that feeling where we are in sync with what is going on and don’t feel compelled to fight the situation.

Joan Baez said, “you can only decide how you are going to live.”

So when we are faced with the snow, we are reminded to slow down and be mindful.  It is actually then that we realize the snow is just water and has no agenda for or against us. Yoga teaches us that the ANTIDOTE to impatience is "going with the flow". To be in sync with the way things are happening remembering that whatever the present situation we know "it will change."  Snow is water, water is flow and it will eventually melt and move onto a different form. 

If you need more patience instead of fighting or getting mad at the snow just slow down, keep breathing and enjoy.  The time you spend in your car then becomes an oasis from the chaos of life instead of a prison.  Make this the best Winter EVER!  And remember, “love is patient, love is kind.”  Love to you all, Silvia

2/9/2010   Tags:  patience, impatience, slow down, breath, love, snow, mindfulness Direct Link

GRACE AND COORDINATION

JANUARY 2, 2010:   On the beautiful winter day after the beginning of a new decade I have been meditating about the relationship between Grace and Coordination.  As we aspire to remain graceful in the way we coordinate our lives we will achieve that perfect balance. This is really what the Sutra 2.26 talking about Sthira and Sukha is getting at.  That we find a peaceful way to effort and forward our lives.  So on the mat we practice rhythmic breathing coordinated with movement to help release blockages or stuckness. This allows energy to flow in an optimal way and we feel mentally and physically balanced.  We know what happens when we hold our breath from stress:  our nervous system goes on red alert, there is a distress signal set off in the body/mind.  However gentle flow of breath coordinating easy and even in and out makes us more relaxed.

One of my favorite definitions of how Hatha Yoga works is “Hatha Yoga increases energy by aligning our physical and subtle energy bodies, through physical poses (asana) and enhancing our life force through breathing practices (pranayama) and encouraging our sense inward through deep relaxation (pratyhara)."  You see to live gracefully is whereby we keep returning to our center, that balance point.  But it requires a great deal of spiritual courage to coordinate the sensitive adjustments required to maintain this.  The sustaining part is the most difficult.

So here’s to the new year and wishing all of us much Grace and Coordination to find and KEEP to our center! Love, Silvia

 

1/2/2010   Tags:  grace, balance, coordination, breath, yoga Direct Link

LET GO OF TENSION: YOGA FOR ANXIETY

Today in class we spoke about Yoga for Anxiety as the holiday season often brings about a bit more tension and anticipation. So here is the breath work and meditation we did in class. Peace to all! Love, Silvia

Breathing: At the core of most anxiety is the breath, or the lack of it. When you are anxious, natural breathing is inhibited. The diaphragm freezes, failing to move air downward as you inhale, which means that you don't let your lungs fully expand and fill with air. "And when you don't get enough oxygen, the brain receives a 'danger' signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety," explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. "Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow."

Meditation for Relaxation:

A very effective method to relax the body is by systematically stressing all the muscles, holding that 5 to 10 seconds, and then releasing the tension.
-Sit or lie in a relaxed way.
-Put an extremely tense expression on the face, straining as many face muscles as possible. Take a deep breath and forcefully hold it. ...... Now slowly release the breath and the tension of all the face muscles, feel as if you breathe out all stress.
-Inhale deeply again and stress all neck and shoulder muscles.... then let go
-Inhale, make fists and stress the arms... let go
-Inhale, stress chest, belly and back.... let go
-Inhale, stress buttocks, legs and feet... let go
-If you still feel tension at some places, just stay relaxed, don't hold the breath now, but release all the tension while breathing out.
-Enjoy your relaxed body.


12/23/2009   Tags:  anxiety, meditation, breathing, let go, mantra Direct Link

DISCOVER YOURSELF

DECEMBER 8TH, 2009: When we get on the mat it is that special time to rediscover ourselves. Or for many of us, myself included, when we first start practicing it is a FIRST time discovery of who we really are. What a great surprise to find that no matter what age you are currently you can still give birth to your spirit. Through yoga you learn to tell what your soul needs.

All of this is accomplished through mindfulness and conscious breathing. When you use your breath on purpose and breath as you, you gain control of your emotions, your harness the power of your mind and direct your 60,000 daily thoughts towards what you need from the inside to live happier and more peacefully. Each pose then is an opportunity to listen to our body. We can ask ourselves in any pose “How can I use this pose to be more accepting of myself, How can I use this pose to practice being less reactive in difficult situations, How can I use this pose to celebrate my life, How can I use this pose to love myself more?”

When we live life trying to be what everyone else wants us to be we lose who we really are. Then the grumbling mind tends to get bogged down in its own weariness of trying to keep up. But if we discover ourselves our personal story shines out and through our acceptance and expansion of ourselves we give permission to everyone around us to be themselves. May this practice bring the inner yoga alive in you! As Rumi writes, “I was dead, then alive, weeping then laughing. The power of love came into me!” May you love yourself more, love your day more, love your life more! Silvia
12/8/2009   Tags:  rumi, self-love, self-acceptance, self-discovery, breath, mindfulness, love, soul Direct Link

GRATITUDE

NOVEMBER 9, 2009:  I wake up each day and begin with a gratitude meditation.  The meditation follows my breath and goes like this: 

Inhale: I welcome happiness,

Exhale: I am so grateful

 

Inhale:  I welcome inspiration

Exhale:  I am so grateful

 

Inhale:  I welcome love

Exhale:  I am so grateful

 

Inhale: I welcome clarity

Exhale:  I am so grateful

 

"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life." Says Christiane Northrup.  So begin now, ask yourself as you breath what you are grateful for and if you experience any struggle with this then hold close these words of the Buddha:

Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die;
so, let us be thankful.

You see gratitude changes our attitude and helps us to stop feeling victimized by life.  This is Yoga Sutras Chapter 2.33 “When presented with negative thoughts or feelings cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.” If feeling down, hopeless, worried, doubtful then to bring the glow of positivity back all you have to do is practice gratitude.  And watch for those habits that detract from a gratitude habit such as:

·         Reverse any tendency you have to make comparisons.

·         Quit talking about what you don't have compared to what you have;

·         Stop complaining about how you are doing career-wise, relationship-wise, or any other-wise.

·         Instead, concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, saying to yourself from morning to night “I am grateful for…”

 

And I promise you will discover a life filled with gratitude wakes up and nurtures your soul and brings quiet happiness to even the most challenging days.  And know I am grateful to each of you deeply and truly.  Love, Silvia

 

 

From the Book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine – Essential Gratitude Meditation

How very fortunate we are to have this moment in this body.   Even with the difficulties, even with the confusion, how blessed we are to be here. Grateful for the kindness of loved ones. Grateful for the moments of joy. Grateful for the clarity that arises even during pain.  Grateful for the blessings, great and small. Grateful that our pain is no greater than it is.  Grateful for our inheritance of happiness, that joy is our birthright.  Grateful for the sense of presence. Gratitude for simply being. Gratitude for the process.”

 

11/9/2009   Tags:  gratitude, yoga sutras, positivity, thankful, breath, meditation Direct Link

PAY ATTENTION

NOVEMBER  1, 2009:  “If you want to know the past, to know what has caused you, look at yourself in the present, for that is the past’s effect. If you want to know your future, then look at yourself in the present, for that is the ause of the future.”  Majihima Nikaya

 

What I would love for you to do today is just Pay Attention.  Start by paying attention to your breath.  When’s the last time you really thought about the power of your own breath?  Consider this prose from Pieree Teilhard De Chardin to help inspire you “The inhale and the exhale. Breathing out carbon dioxide to the trees and breathing in their fresh exudations. Oxygen kissing each cell awake, atoms dancing in orderly metabolism, interpenetrating. That dance of the air cycle, breathing the universe in and out again, is what you are, is what I am.”  Wow!  All he is talking about is the breath. 

 

Keeping the breath in mind helps us to focus our attention. It is an anchor to the present moment and if you use it the breath will always guide you back to yourself when your mind wanders.  The breath helps us remember that we can only live one moment at a time and that is right here, right now so we might as well be alert to whatever is actually happening.  If we stop paying attention to the moment before we know it we stop paying attention to our life and years or decades slip by.  Jon Kabat Zinn says, too often our lives cease working because we cease working at life.

 

Yoga teaches us that when we are not present our minds become totally distracted and our thoughts are all over the place, starting stopping, wandering from one thing to the other at often break neck speed.  If we pay attention we harness the power of our thoughts.  This is a human being what distinguishes us from other creatures and is our GREATEST STRENGTH.  I don’t care how much money you make or have in the bank, the value of the currency of your thoughts is worth more than anything! 

 

Probably the coolest thing I come back to time and again is that we get to choose on purpose our own thoughts!  Our thoughts then are like a magnet that attract similar energy (positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative).  So why would we waste time paying attention to negative thoughts over and over again?  Why wouldn’t we choose to pay attention to what makes us stronger.

 

Ultimately, when we are present and paying attention we can through practice have a meaningful dialogue with ourselves asking “WHO AM I” and as Swami Vivekananda says, “We are responsible for what we are and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.”  And from there we are so focused that we can ask ourselves “WHY AM I HERE?”  You’ll be amazed that this naturally evolves simply from paying attention.  But if your mind is disturbed its like rough waters on a lake you can throw a pebble in and you won’t be able to see the ripple effect because the water is too choppy…but if your mind is calm from paying attention you can throw a little pebble and watch it ripple.  When you practice yoga, you see these ripples of possibility every moment!

 

Today just say to yourself “My life is precious and glorious and I will pay attention.”  Love to you, Silvia

 

11/1/2009   Tags:  pay attention, attention, be present, who am i, breath Direct Link

WILL YOU LET YOURSELF RECEIVE?

SEPTEMBER 25, 2009:  Today the third day after Autumnal Equinox is so special. Our affirmation today:  I AM OPEN TO ACCEPTING LOVE AND HELP.

 

This represents our ability to receive support and love from other people as we allow ourselves to evolve towards greater experiences of happiness. And I assure you we are readier than we ever have been to receive and be happy.  I know this and more importantly you know this because in class when we breath more deeply into ourselves it feels wonderful! You guys, this reflects our willingness to breath in Life itself, to be more conscious, more present, more receptive.

 

BREATHING BREAK: Right now wherever you are Witness the breath, appreciate the ebb and flow of breath and how you can better feel and receive it.  As you deepen into your breath inhaling it smoothly and fully know that you have received an amazing gift. The gift of life, of energy, of opportunity!  Not everyone was chosen to breath today. Some in this world did not win the life lottery.  But you did!  And as you breath, be aware of the raw abundance of the breath. It is continuously meeting your needs.  Open and expand into this knowledge that on the most fundamental level all your needs are being met in this moment.

 

Then think about someone in your life right now that has done something for you, that has offered their love or help….what have you done to receive the gift of this offering?  How could you do better at receiving from them?  Receiving has this quality of surrender that all we need do is welcome the gift into our life (we don’t have to judge, question the motives, demand it be more) all we have to do is just accept it and let it come to us.

 

William Holden, PhD says in the book Be Happy, “RECEIVING is a prelude to giving.  Receiving and giving are two sides of the same coin.  In other words, your capacity to receive is what determines your capacity to give.  If you are not good at receiving, you will not give yourself fully to a relationship or to a job, because you will be afraid that giving will deplete you.  The only way to keep giving and not receive is to be in sacrifice.  And that can only last so long before you feel like you have nothing left to give.  Also in truth no one can give what he or she has not received.”

 

Today what can you do to receive more?  How can this help you see that recieivng is infinite and abundant you don’t have to limit yourself from receiving love.

 

On the mat you can practice by saying to yourself “How does this pose help me?  What gifts does it have, am I receiving them with an open heart?”  Allow each pose to be your teacher and before you know it you will find that you grow better at receiving.  And with time we all learn to just feel grateful for this immersion into the flow of abundance. That the universe is working on our behalf to offer us love and help inside every moment, in the guise of every Angel on earth that we crosses our path.  Question is, will you let yourself RECEIVE?  Big love to you all, Silvia

 

9/25/2009   Tags:  Be Happy, Receiving, mantra, love, breath, meditation Direct Link

LET ME SEE THE CHANGE I NEED SAMSKARAS

SEPTEMBER 14, 2009:   Today I realized as I was driving home after yoga class and my mind was freed up that I uncovered another Samskara.  Part of me said UGH! Not this again. And yet the other part of me after I stopped crying was like ok let me care for this and before I fall into the proverbial hole in the sidewalk (that I've been in before!) let's see what I can change.  But let me say seeing it doesn't make it easier to change especially as it relates to love it just makes you more responsible for yourself. And yup sometimes that's harder.

 

As is written in the Secret Power of Yoga my favorite translation of the Yoga Sutras, "our thoughts and feelings form these clusters of habitual patterns, tendencies and potentialities called Samskaras. These Samskaras accrue by the constant churning of our thoughts and emotions.  Whenever any thought or feeling is encountered it is easily fed into one of these patterns.  Then our habits and patterns become set.  The pattern of HABIT or samskara is difficult to change, as our consciousness is often unable to reconfigure the obvious."

 

You see our thoughts (all 60,000 per day) are trained by habit to flow in predictable patterns.  We are tuned out to most of these habits, especially the Unhealthy ones.  The practice of yoga inspires us to recognize who we really are, our true selves and we begin to see our "MINDLESS HABITS" (Samskaras).  We then begin making more conscious choices.  It is like we wake up.  Chapter 1.50 When experiencing the absolute true knowledge all previous Samskaras are left behind and new ones are prevented from sprouting. 

 

In the yogic model, two reasons exist for remaining stuck in negative emotions or unhealthy actions:

  • The first is samskaras, or karmic knots, that develop over time.
  • The second is a lack of prana, or vital life force, oxygen in our bodies. 

How yoga can help:

  • Releases emotions/stress locked in the body.
  • Brings in more oxygen/prana or life-force. (For instance we learn when we hold our breath)
  • Balances the brain.
  • Calms the mind and develops the “witness” - we see our thought pattern or physical habit.
  • Helps us reconnect, become more awake or conscious. 
  • According to Stephen Cope, MSW, LICSW, a psychotherapist and author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Bantam, 1999), hatha yoga's postures improve mood by moving energy through places in the body where feelings of grief, stress, worry or anger are stored. "Hatha yoga is an accessible form of learning self-soothing," he says. "These blocked feelings can be released very quickly, [creating a] regular, systemic experience of well-being." 

So today let's dedicate the metta meditation to where we are personally stuck in an less than healthy samskaras (patterns) and let's offer this practice to someone in our life that is living in the darkness, someone who doesn't see they are repeating the same negative cycle over and over again.  As I said to a friend yesterday, it is like being in a dark room and you have to first want to find the light switch, the thing is the light switch is always there on the wall (it doesn't move around) and it may take some crawling around to find it but all you have to do is flip the switch and all in your life will be illuminated! Sending you all courage to change your life for the better!! Love, Silvia

 

METTA (LOVINGKINDNESS) MEDITATION

May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful and free

May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful and free

May we all be happy, may we be healthy, may we be peaceul and free

 

9/14/2009   Tags:  samskara, habit, yoga sutras, change, PRANA, BREATH, METTA Direct Link

GRATITUDE

AUGUST 23, 2009: 

Gratitude is the state of mind of thankfulness.

Every day I practice some form of gratitude meditation. I just start off saying to myself inside my breath I am grateful for…and then as part of a stream of consciousness I let it flow from my heart.  It has taken years to find the ease in this flow. For a long time I would over think it, or rank some things as less or more meaningful than others.  Finally I realized through spiritual practice Gratitude is a constant state of being. It is a way of seeing the world and there is no ranking necessary, all things big and small matter equally when practicing gratitude.  

 

Gratitude increases our appreciation for life.

So many days it starts by being grateful for my life, for my breath. This awareness that just be breathing we won the lotto today! That not everyone in the world was chosen to breath on this day.  That’s pretty powerful eye opener.  When I was at the Chicago Field Museum yesterday I stopped by the Man’s Evolution section and amongst all the cool stuff there was a statistic that said “in the last 24 hours 33 species have become extinct.”  Hmmm it doesn’t take much to appreciate we are still promoting our legacy. But for many species of the world each and every day the experience of breath ends, that’s it.

 

Gratitude is a form of acceptance. 

Just as we are grateful for our families the more gratitude we experience for others happiness the more our gratitude grows.  Stephen Levine says “As gratitude is cultivated, we experience an increase in our sympathetic joy, our happiness at another’s happiness (this growing sense of gratitude for whatever happiness, great or small, that comes to those around us.)”  Through gratitude we accept the good in all. 

 

Gratitude is a return to balance

It brings balance to those parts of ourselves that are disconnected, or attached to suffering.  Gratitude changes our attitude and helps us to stop feeling victimized by life.  This is Yoga Sutras Chapter 2.33 “When presented with negative thoughts or feelings cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.” If feeling down, hopeless, worried, doubtful then to bring the see saw of our life back into balance we practice gratitude.

 

Gratitude is love.  Try this easy to remember breath meditation

Inhale: I welcome happiness,

Exhale: I am grateful

 

Inhale:  I welcome inspiration

Exhale:  I am grateful

 

Inhale:  I welcome love

Exhale:  I am grateful

 

 

From the Book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine – Essential Gratitude Meditation

How very fortunate we are to have this moment in this body with some intuitive acknowledgement of that which goes beyond our understanding. 

Even with the difficulties, even with the confusion, how blessed we are to be here.

Grateful for the kindness of loved ones. Grateful for the moments of joy. Grateful for the clarity that arises even during pain.  Grateful for the blessings, great and small. Grateful that our pain is no greater than it is.

Thankful for our Great Heart and the capacity to become whole.

Thankful to be living in a world and time, in which the value of compassion cannot be overlooked. 

Grateful that among the billions now on this planet our hearts are so drawn by the possibility of liberation. Grateful for the path that has brought us each so far. Grateful for the love and the grace the spontaneously emerge from our true heart.

Grateful for our inheritance of happiness, that joy is our birthright.

Grateful for the sense of presence.

Gratitude for simply being.

Gratitude for the beneficent process.”

 

 

8/23/2009   Tags:  GRATITUDE, MEDITATION, BREATH, ACCEPTANCE, APPRECIATION, THANKFULL Direct Link

CARING FOR OUR FEELINGS

AUGUST 6, 2009: 

It’s good to leave each day behind,
like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today new seeds are growing.
~Rumi

 

This practice of poses and breath brings about an awareness of what we are feeling.  For most of us when we start yoga we haven’t made time to even ask ourselves this simple question. We’re either too busy going faster and faster or really good at avoiding what we are feeling.  Denial or argument with our feelings has become a way of life. But also a formula for suffering. 

 

Tantric practice encourages us to embrace all of who we are.  The sadness and the joy, the tiredness and the vigor, the fear and the love.  This is a nondualistic approach to see that there is not a winner/loser or bad/good that we don’t have to battle our emotions, thoughts or feelings any longer.  Running away from what we feel will only prolong it.  And all of our feelings can be put into 3 buckets: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.  So as hard as it might be to heal and remain in a state of being healed we are taught through yoga to embrace your feelings, care for them like you would look after a younger sibling.

 

A great meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh suggest we take a feeling, let’s say sadness, and talk to your feeling: say to your sadness “breathe – I am taking care of you now.”  Acknowledge this feeling is you and as you breath out, let it go.  Then allow for the next moment to unfold and the next feeling. Breath into that one.  Take one at a time and stay with the flow. 

 

Most importantly know that whatever you’re feeling is part of your humanness, love and hurt co-exist, one is the compliment to the other so to prevent staying in a state of suffering it helps to embrace all you feel and care for yourself.  This practice of being human is put into poetry by the poet Kahlil Gibran who wrote, “all these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart.”  We literally learn about ourselves as we experience emotion, feeling and thought.  We also become expert through this in the human experience. We can by caring for our own feelings learn how to care and offer compassion towards how others feel. 

“In that calmness we begin to understand that peace is not the opposite of challenge and hardship. We understand that the presence of light is not a result of darkness ending. Peace is found not in the absence of challenge but in our own capacity to be with hardship without judgment, prejudice, and resistance. We discover that we have the energy and the faith to heal ourselves, and the world, through openheartedness.” (From book All About Love)  So may you all take away from your time on the mat the courage to “CARE FOR YOUR FEELINGS” as they arise, holding them gently and then surrendering them to the next moment. Love in all ways, Silvia

 

8/6/2009   Tags:  Caring, love, feelings, hardship, sadness, breath, meditation, rumi, thich nhat hanh, kahlil gibran Direct Link

FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL: STAY HUMAN

AUGUST 4th, 2009:  Don't forget Michael Franti plays Ravinia August 27th 7:30pm, join TBY Friends in lawn for yoga on grass, drinks, food, fun before and after show.  Franti inspired me with his song, STAY HUMAN for tonight's class.

 

8/4/2009   Tags:  Michael Franti, anger, breath, Direct Link

FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL: STAY HUMAN

AUGUST 4th, 2009:  Don't forget Michael Franti plays Ravinia August 27th 7:30pm, join TBY Friends in lawn for yoga on grass, drinks, food, fun before and after show.  Franti inspired me with his song, STAY HUMAN for tonight's class.

“It is not easy to keep your heart open in the face of the trials of being human.  Life can so often be difficult, disappointing; our dreams are so easily broken.  How precious, then, those shafts of sunlight that sometimes break through our daily preoccupations, our anxieties, and reveal the beauty that was there all along. 

Neither beauty nor love – for the eyes that see beauty are the eyes of love – need the absence of pain or suffering to exist.  Sometimes we know the grace of sheer joy…when the phone call comes that seems to break our world apart, does it mean that the love we once knew has gone away? 

 

No, say the poets, this is not what it means.  Even in the midst of our suffering, love can bloom.  Our weeping as well as our laughing, can open our heart to a deeper stream. 

 

When we finally stop struggling with life, stop wanting it to be anything but what it is now – not giving up but giving it over – then our heart will indeed fall open, and we shall know beyond all doubt that, however dark the night, all is already well.

 

Let us end with Rumi, and with these lines from his poem Zero Circle:

 

Be helpless, dumbfounded, unable to say yes or not.

Then a stretcher will come from grace and gather us up.

 

That will be the moment when we let go and feel the motions of tenderness that have been around us all along.”   (ten poems to open your heart by Roger Housden)

 

 

8/4/2009   Tags:  Michael Franti, anger, breath, grace, rumi, beauty, love, hurt Direct Link

PRECISION AND GENTLENESS FOR BACK PAIN

JULY 18TH, 2009:  Good morning!  So today I passed out a handout with the suggested foot alignment for all standing poses.  We started by really talking about the detail and precision as well as precise modifications for all fundamental standing poses like Pyramid, Lunge, Warrior B, Triangle pose and Wide Standing Pose.  With that said I wanted to make the point that if we only emphasize technical precision we can get overly self-critical, perfectionistic and even downright militant.  The yoga practice can be used in an unhealthy way becoming way too constrictive and goal-oriented.  So as we focus on the elegant principles of alignment we also emphasize gentleness.  Otherwise the yoga can be a means to create more stress in our already stressful lives.

 

Our physical focus today was the psychological triggers of back pain.  In the book The Mind Body Connection by Dr John Sarno he argues the cause of back pain is usually entirely psychological.  He says back muscles go into spasm and cause pain because of mental tension and that if you can get to the root cause of the tension the pain will disappear. With yoga we can heal back pain by calming down our overactive stress response system.  The greatest tool we have to do this is the breath which is why we link breath with movement leading to muscle relaxation and mental quiet. A personal favorite breathing mantra to practice in and out of class is this:

Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in

Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I calm my mind.

 

Practicing slow deep breaths triggers the "relaxation response" the antidote to flight or flight response. The focus on all three parts of the lungs (especially deep abdominal focus on exhalations) helps bring in more oxygen.  And the wave like undulation of deep inhales and exhales gently massage the spinal column which brings nutrients to our spinal disks.

 

The poses we practice today were specific to stretch all major muscle groups around the hip joints including adductors, quads, rotators, and hamstrings. What happens is that when our Hip rotators are tight they hold the pelvis too much and the force of movement transfers up to the low back putting strain from there on up the spine.  It hurts!  We held poses working on precision but then we also put a simple routine together you could practice at home for 5 minutes per day at a one breath per movement ratio, letting go of perfection.  This way we improved overall circulation that brings nutrients to the intervertebral disks while removing toxins.  The thing is that disks don't have an independent blood supply therefore they depend on movement of the surrounding structure to aid in the delivery of nutrients.  Movement causes the disks to be compressed which squeezes out stale disk fluid and then to expand bringing in fresh supply.  Judith Lasater says, “In the majority of cases back pain can be prevented.  The majority have to do with how we use our bodies."  We don’t hurt anymore!

 

Altogether we used this practice to learn how to manage addressing our mental and physical tensions so we could find stillness and gentleness by the end. The whole class intended to help us get to the final pose of Savasana where in the words of Eckhart Tolle in his power Practicing the Power of Now we experienced a feeling of letting go.  I hope you find this background on healing back pain helpful and healing. Love the day! Silvia

 

When you surrender to what is

and so become fully present,

the past ceases to have any power.

Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you,

An unfathomable sense of peace.

And within that peace, there is great joy.

And within that joy, there is love.

 

7/18/2009   Tags:  Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, peace, joy, healing, back pain, breath, meditation, gentleness, precision Direct Link

HOW TO RELAX

JULY 13TH, 2009: 

 

“We no longer have a choice about including practices in our daily lives that create health and spiritual growth. If we want a world worth living in today, as well as one worth leaving to future generations, we must take responsibility to create health in our lives, as well as to support others as they choose healthier lives for themselves. It is up to each of each of us to lovingly transform the world simply by first transforming ourselves.” (Judith Lasater)

 

Tonight at 7:30pm Basics we practiced the Art and Skill of Relaxation.

 

How did we do it?  The answer is to be present.

 

It all starts with the breath.  Even right now take a few moments and feel your entire body as you breath.  Ask yourself what is your experience of yourself right now, right here?  Keep paying attention to the breath to tune you into the present moment.  Inhale, pause, exhale pause.  As you breath remember no force, no over effort, think of your body as a glass and the base of the glass is your hips, the top of the glass is your collarbones.  Just fill up smooth and easy.

 

Through the meditation of breathing we learn to be more present.  This helps us connect to a quiet grounded sense of peace when our lives are filled with stress and messiness.  But I’ll be honest with you, RELAXATION takes practice.  So that’s where yoga comes in handy.  Our time on the mat is the classroom in which we can practice how to relax.  And once we take time to practice our yoga it can support us in our real life. Yoga can help us stay present and calm even in the most chaotic times.  How?  It reminds us that our natural state is one of love.  From love all good things flow.  And in a state of self-love we grow more relaxed no matter what is facing us outside ourselves.  I wish you your own best love. Please hold your heart gently.  Love in all ways, Silvia

 

“The present moment is always full of inifinite treasure.  It contains far more than you can possibly grasp.  Faith is the measure of its riches: what you find in the present moment is according to the measure of your faith.  Love also is the measure: the more the heart loves, the more it rejoices in what God provides.  The will of spirit presents itself at each moment like an immense ocean that the desire of your heart cannot empty; yet you will drink from that ocean according to your faith and love.”  --Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751) France

 

7/13/2009   Tags:  breathing, meditation, love, faith, be present, relaxation, Direct Link

LOVE IS NOT LEISURE

JULY 10, 2009:  Get a life in which you are not alone.  Find people you love, and who love you.  And remember that love is not leisure, it is work

 

Yoga teaches us that we can only share love to the degree we feel it for ourselves.  So the question to ask ourselves first is “do we think we deserve to be loved?”  It is a simple question and requires the utmost heroism to respond honestly.  And if you say yes then we begin by practicing self-love.  This is the most advanced practice of yoga.  And I’ll tell you, it’s not easy at first. But the good news is the more you practice the less you’ll even remember the old ways.  It will be like breathing.  Oh yeah, we learn in yoga breathing takes work.  (Thank goodness the body keeps us breathing even when we don’t pay attention) But the best quality of life means we are loving our breath, we appreciate it we PAY IT ATTENTION. 

 

So on the mat we practice loving ourselves so we can love our live’s better.  It takes effort, effort means taking some action.  So we are reminded that love is not leisure.  Managing our breath is one activity of self-love and another is being in charge of our own thoughts.  As science tells us we know we have 60,000 thoughts per day and whenever we think a thought the brain sends chemicals through our body that produces a feeling based on that thought.  If we think the same critical thoughts over and over, these repetitive thoughts and their repetitive chemical reactions will create a negative view of life. They will drain the life from our life.  So ask yourself WHY DO YOU THINK THE THINGS YOU DO? 

 

The thoughts you have today will go through a gestation period (short or long) and will eventually give birth to the quality of your life. 

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE BORN FROM YOUR LIFE?

 

Even making love to another requires some effort, some action (you don’t just lie there inactive, unresponsive) this is the same for what we want to be born in our lives for growth only takes place through love and kindness.  And by actively generating love we organically open the doorway for the entry of people and experiences that are like the love we feel for ourselvesSo engage your life more, actively love yourself in thoughts, words, and actions each day and let your heart shine out!  Love in all ways, Silvia

 

Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heart-sweetening light! 

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life;

the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love;

the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.   -Tagore

7/10/2009   Tags:  love, tagore, action, tapas, breath, self-love Direct Link

FREEDOM FOR ALL

JUNE 28, 2009:  Martin Luther King said, “In every age and every generation, men have envisioned a promised land. Some may have envisioned it with the wrong ideology, with the wrong philosophical presupposition. But men in every generation thought in terms of some promised land.”  This promised land is freedom and yoga teaches us that it is here right now inside us.  All that is necessary to FIND IT is to choose love, to allow yourself to feel more and think less.

Get on the mat, feel the breath, feel the sensations and let your mind unwind.

 

So today have the courage to set yourself free!  For Stress paralyzes life; love releases it. Worry confuses life; love harmonizes it. Anger darkens life; love illuminates it.  As Augustus William Hare writes, “The feeling is often the deeper truth.”  Embrace your truth, embrace what you feel and free your soul for love and peace! 

 

Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu (May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts words and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all!)

 

With lovingkindness,

Silvia

 

6/28/2009   Tags:  freedom, martin luther king, truth, breath, meditation Direct Link

DON'T GIVE UP: FATHER'S UNIVERSAL ADVICE

JUNE 21, 2009:  Make yourself comfortable… Let your body weight sink into the seat… Relax your body and close your eyes. As your awareness is interiorized, connect with the Breath of Life gently moving through you… Make all your senses alert to the breath… Enjoy its power and simplicity… Feel the sustaining energy behind the breath... Feel that life force coursing through your cells and thoughts.

 

On this Father’s Day and Summer Solstice I think of my Father Enrico who encouraged me never to give up.  As the heat of the summer rises we may find ourselves falling more lethargic or tired.  In those times think of the father sky energy that exists everywhere around us supporting us. This the breath itself.  What my Father, Papa, was trying to say is same as what Einstein says Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

 

Don’t give up.  We all want to be understood, we all want to be loved, remember always you are loved.

 

Didn't I tell you?
I am an ocean, you are a fish; do not go to the dry land,
it is me, who is your comforting body of water.

Didn't I tell you
not to fall in this trap like a blind bird?
I am your wings, I am the strength in your wings,
I am the wind keeping you in flight.

Didn't I tell you
that they will kidnap you from the path?
They will steal your warmth, and take your devotion away.
I am your fire, I am your heartbeat,
I am the life in your breath.

Didn't I tell you?
They will accuse you of all the wrongdoings, they will call you ugly names,
they will make you forget
it is me, who is the source of your happiness.

Didn't I tell you?
Wonder not, how your life will turn out,
how you will ever get your world in order,
it is me, who is your omnipresent spirit and protector.
If you are a guiding torch of the heart,know the path to that house.
If you are a person of spirit (God), know this,
It is me, who is the chief of the village of your life.
 

So today enjoy these poets words from all those that have served us a father figures, whether they are still of this earth or those that have gone beyond like my Papa. “I see you are a pioneer. You are full of courage and power. You are a transformer of reality. Transform the reality that no longer serves you. As you do, link with others who know Me and recognize the family of Life. When you recognize in someone what you know inside to be true, seek to expand that truth, for as light is shared and love is grown so shall the world change. You are my feet and hands, my eyes and voice. You do not live alone nor shall you die alone. The world is yours to craft as you
choose. Choose freedom. Choose the way that creates the best for all; children; men; women; bodies of water; mountains, the land; and all planetary species. I gift you with Life and the ability to care for it. Embrace the gift.”

 

6/21/2009   Tags:  Fathers, breath, meditation, don't give up Direct Link

POSITIVE CHANGE

MAY 27, 2009:  Change is happening all around us.  We need not push or shove or pull at change but learn how to get along with it keeping our hand on the tiller so to speak but with the inner knowing we can’t control people or situations outside ourselves.   So we practice gratitude for all that we have. Try it now:

 

INHALE THE GIFT OF THE UNIVERSE, YOUR LIFE ITSELF

EXHALE WITH GRATITUDE

 

Now with a more clear mind really feel that the changes you seek, which I call “dreams” are all around you like ghosts waiting to be seen.  So through this yogic practice love the gentle flow and let it lead you back to yourself.  Use your thoughts to keep your energy on positive changes while knowing we are always moving so there is no rush. Slow down, SHANI.  I understand more than you know how attached we can get to despairing thoughts that we want to run from. It only slows us down to be running from our suffering so take it easy, remain with your breath and let the river help you flow away from past pains.  And know this, you are not a prisoner. Everything is change, all is impermanent even the pain so keep flowing my friends.  This will keep your heart open and clear.  In the Alchemist its written,

 

“Continue in the direction of the Pyramids”, said the alchemist. “And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is.” 

 

“Is that the one thing I still need to know?”

 

“No”, the alchemist answered. “What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream.”

 

It will not only get better but as we progress mindfully towards positive changes, dreams we have for our lives we learn many lessons along the way. These are gifts as well, so slow down and be in the process.  With heartfelt love to all beautiful minds & hearts, Silvia

 

5/27/2009   Tags:  change, shani, breath, gratitude, alchemist Direct Link

APPRECIATION OF THIS MOMENT

MAY 16, 2009:  Everyday we are working on our PhD on how to be a better human being. We are all doing the best we can.  So right now for 5 minutes can you let go of what you thought was supposed to happen, just breath and let things be.  Can you appreciate your life just as it is offered to you in this moment? 

 

There is that tendency we have to want things to be different than what they are but spiritual maturity impresses upon us to learn how to find a way to be content with what is in the present for it is a gift.  To help with this growth simply listen to your heart as you watch your thoughts.  This study of oneself will open up channels of stuckness in both the physical body and channels to deep reservoirs of clarity and wisdom within our minds.  This cultivates appreciation.  And there is an inherent gentleness when we practice appreciation for who we are.  Please make your observations not from a place of judgement but of understanding, compassion and self-love.  Know that you dissolve negativity through appreciation for this is the real enemy of love.  Practice appreciation and love triumphs!

 

So today take time to appreciate your breath, to appreciate your feelings (whatever they may be – joy, sadness, peace, frustration, love), appreciate being in your own skin.  I know this is not easy.  Just like the poses we practice on the mat are not easy.  They are often very uncomfortable. 

 

So I’m asking you to be uncomfortable. To actually stay with the discomfort of your reactivity until you can turn it into a loving response.  With time you’ll find the action of appreciation gets easier and this is the answer to dissolving the negative from all areas of your life.  And as luck has it life is going to keep giving us opportunities to evolve this practice.  From one perspective what we are talking about here is Santosha, to be with what is and find the good, experiencing contentment within the situation, with the person instead of getting angry or having to change the thing, situation, weather or person.  Now that’s the advancing of our spiritual selves.  Let the door of appreciation open the way.  Love you, love serving you! Silvia

 

 

5/16/2009   Tags:  appreciation, santosha, contentment, discomfort, meditation, self-love, breath Direct Link

NOURISHING YOURSELF

May 4, 2009It’s easy to buy a sandwich and start to complain it’s not what we want exactly (that they could have put more mayo or less lettuce), and that if they did so then it could have been more nourishing.  But the thing is we are the one’s that by blessing our food (and making it what we need the sandwich to be) make it nourishing.  We are responsible for putting intention into things making life what we need it to be for us.  We could go to yoga class and say that it was too easy, too hard, not something enough but again here we have the opportunity to get from the practice what we need.  The class itself is offering a whole meal with different courses and we can choose based on the nourishment we need on a given day what is going to nurture our spirits and bodies the most.  This is how the practice is made unique to each and every person.  This is how life is offering itself to you at your feet…waiting for you to stop blaming or judging the offering and instead turning it into a nourishing experience each and every moment.

 

Donald Walters says, “There are realities we all share, regardless of our nationality, language, or individual tastes. As we need food, so do we need emotional nourishment: love, kindness, appreciation. We need to understand our environment and our relationship to it. We need to fulfill certain inner hungers: the need for happiness, for peace of mind for wisdom.

 

We all need to be nurtured. If you look up Nurture in Webster’s dictionary it defines it as a “form of nourishment” and to “educate”.  These are both spot on with the philosophies of yoga.  In class teacher to student we are educating you on techniques you might use how to self-comfort yourself.  The flow of this self comforting is love.  Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. “In the Buddhist teaching, it's clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.” [Shambhala Sun March 2006]

 

We all deserve to love and be loved. 

Love is a form of nourishment. It requires action in thought in words and movement. 

So we meditated together on how we might nourish our spirits through our inner dialogue, how to speak words of kindness to nurture others, how to take actions in honoring our bodies as sacred, nourishing their health.  For a healthy heart lives in a healthy body.  We spoke of the junk food of life things like gossip or complaining and that these do not nourish us but leave us empty and drained.

 

I so want you to appreciate the forms of nourishment: Breath, Thoughts, Words, Actions, Sleep all of which make for a sweeter life!  Please let your time on the mat be that opportunity where you learn how to nourish yourself with bigger breaths, poses and self-observation. All of this leading to greater and greater self-growth!  Happy National Sleep Better Month!  Love you all, Silvia

 

5/4/2009   Tags:  Nourishment, self-love, meditation, love, nurture, responsibility, breath Direct Link

ANGRY? LET YOGA HELP

 APRIL 9TH, 2009: As long as I believe that others are the source of my suffering, I will continue to suffer.  Others may be the stimulus for my suffering, but they are never the cause.  My thoughts are the cause.  Today remember that others are not the problem whenever you can, and it will soften your day.  - Judith Lasater.  It is easy sometimes to get lost in angry feelings, that's part of our humanness.  It comes about mostly when our mental state is uneasy, restless, anxious.  We then can't think of ourselves. Instead we agitate ourselves by only thinking of the person, the situation, the catalyst for our anger. The more we think about it the more angry we get.  And the cycle continues.  Sigh. 

Yoga works to calm the anger because the poses and the breathing techniques (Like the one offered below) remove tension.  Anger subsides and we feel more sane. An easy way to think of this is that Anger is too much PITTA (fire dosha).  So if a fireman was entering a home on fire what would he/she do first?  Answer? They would put out the flames first. Only later would they analyze why or how it got started.  So do the same for yourself.  Use Yoga, Breathing to put the flames of anger out there is time later to observe why or how we came to be angry.  Let love heal.  Silvia

Breathing in, I know that I am angry

Breathing out, I know that the anger is me

Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant

Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.

Breathing in, I am calm.

Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of my anger

 

  

4/9/2009   Tags:  Anger, Meditation, Breath, Pitta, Love Direct Link

YOGA TIME OUT

APRIL 8TH, 2009:  I came to the practice because of pain in my body but what has kept me coming back for 15 years is the relief this practice gives my mind.  I was always a good kid, so I never was given a forced time out but I like the idea. Maybe I didn’t have to get a time out because I gave them to myself. When I needed to I’d go chill out and rest.  I like time outs.

So when you come to the mat, give your mind a TIME OUT from having to figure everything out.  Tell yourself for this class or even just a few minutes “you are not going to solve any problems or think about anything stressful.”  Even right now at your desk while you read this join me in a virtual TIME OUT. 

 

Take a big breath, draw your shoulders back.

·         Inhale Peace, Exhale “I am Worthy”

·         Inhale Patience, Exhale “I am Great”

·         Inhale Love, Exhale “I am Present”

 

We all need time out’s.  Otherwise we can overwhelm ourselves on purpose with the vast amount of knowledge we take in every day.  Knowledge is important but it is not enough.  We can know everything and still be unhappy. You can know all the facts and still be miserable.  Information is not sufficient for a happy life.  If it was we’d all be blissed out all the time and no one would stressed out.

 

The answer is to take the time out, open your heart and feel the moment, feel your breath instead of only engaging your analytical mind.  I want you to understand the practice but more importantly I want you to feel the energetics.  Happiness, true happiness, is an inside job. It lies deep within us (regardless of whether or not all the surface stuff is going smoothly or falling apart).  Take the TIME OUT and you’ll find you will love your life more!  With great affection, joy to the world within you! Silvia

4/8/2009   Tags:  Happiness, Time Out, Breath, Meditation, action Direct Link

BREATHING ROOM

MARCH 8TH, 2009:  I mediate often on the power of freedom and what this means in relation to having room to breath.  Some years ago I read the book by Thit Nhat Hanh Peace in Every Step. In the book there is a story titled "Breathing Room".  Sorry to say I didn't read the story until recently.  But just the title had a huge impact on me. 

What does that mean to you "breathing room"? 

So you can interpret it in different ways.  I took it literally, like wouldn't it be cool to have a room where we breath.  That is in many respects the sacred space of the asana room at the studio.  Interesting enough this is also what Thit Nhat Hanh is suggesting as follows: 

"We have a room for everything - eating, sleeping, watching TV - but we have no room for mindfulness.  I recommend that we set up a small room in our homes and call it a "breathing room", where we can be alone and practice just breathing and smiling, at least in difficult moments.  That little room should be regarded as an Embassy of the Kingdom of Peace.  It should be respected, and not violated with anger, shouting or things like that.  When a child is about to be shouted at , she can take refuge in that room. Neither the father or mother can shout at her anymore.  She is safe within the grounds of the Embassy.  Parents sometimes will need to take refuge themselves.  Therefore, that room is for the benefit of the whole family.  I believe that every home should have one room for breathing.  Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important.  They can change our civilization."  (the rest of this story is found in the book Peace Is Every Step)

Please enjoy this and look around your own home is there a closet, a corner, a room that you could designate as your BREATHING ROOM?  I know there is.  Why?  Because we all had this as children except we called it a tree house, under our bed, secret spot by the big tree...you still have that available to you now (it just might be fancier).  Wishing you freedom in breathing forever! Big Love, Silvia

3/8/2009   Tags:  BREATH, Peace, MEDITATION, Thit Nhat Hanh Breathing Room Direct Link

SHANI MEANS SLOWING DOWN

MARCH 5TH, 2009:  Yoga is a process towards looking inward to develop insight, awareness and understanding. To do this, we must practice Shani-- the slowing down between impulse and reaction. This slowing down naturally facilitates mindfulness and introspection and gives us the choice on how to respond rather than impulsively reacting to situations and events. So tonight the focus of our practice is SHANI.  When we multi-task too much we actually create that buzz where life seems to be going faster and faster.  Our nervous systems get wacked out and the constant flight or fight response goes into overdrive.  Yoga helps us to slow down to the sweet speed of life, which some psychologists call "easy speed." 

I personally slowed down this week by making more space to let the story of my life unfold on its own without too much over organizing. I made my To Do List but then crossed off all but 3 things on it each day.  I put down my IPHONE and stopped to breath more.  I took more yoga classes, practiced more pranayama and hung out more.  It has been a wonderful week as I slowed down enough to enjoy each moment!

One of my all time favorite ads for the lifestyle/yoga company prAna was where there was a picture of the middle of the woods and posted on a sign it said, "Slow Down, People Breathing."  Think how different the world would be if from this point forward everytime you approached a stop sign there would be a sign underneath it saying this same thing, "slow down, people breathing."  The thing is this signpost is in our mind.

So today enjoy the sunshine, stop multi-tasking so much, slow down and BREATH MORE!  Love in all ways, Silvia

3/5/2009   Tags:  Slow Down, PEACE, BREATHING, PRANA, mindfulness Direct Link

GIVING BIRTH TO OUR REAL SELVES

DECEMBER 26TH, 2008Yoga is a journey into revealing the truth about who we are, what we are capable of and how our actions affect our lives.  We start each practice inhaling the gift of the universe and your life And exhaling with gratitude. 

Jon Kabat Zinn, a favorite writer of mine, says “too often our lives cease working because we cease working at life.  The idea of wherever you go, there you are” which is the title of a book of his I highly recommend.  He says, “You can think if you change location, change partners, change circumstances that everything will fall into place, you can start over, have a new beginning. This is very romantic.  However, we carry our same patterns of thinking, living, breathing with us.  Transformation and discovery of who we are is right in the middle of what is here and now.  In the long run there is no escaping form ourselves.”

 

So when we come to the mat we might as well ask ourselves Where We Are In Life, Who Am I?  Try to get behind the I DON”T KNOW.  That doesn’t serve.

 

And it may be like what Gabrielle Roth writes in Sweat My Prayers, “GIVING BIRTH TO OURSELVES.”  I hope this practice gets you moving, breathing and contemplating why you have been chosen to move and breath.  This alone I am certain will birth your greater purpose.  After that it is as Swami Vivekananda says, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT WE ARE AND WHATEVER WE WISH OURSELVES TO BE, WE HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE OURSELVES.

 

Love yourself, Love your life, enjoy the ride!  Peaceful blessings to all, Silvia

 

12/26/2008   Tags:  Strength, Responsibility, Path, Journey, Jon Kabat Zinn, Breath, Gratitude Direct Link

HEALING

DECEMBER 22ND, 2008:  Swami Satchidananda says Illness begins with "I".  Wellness begins with "We",  do we practice together and begin by connecting to the medicine of our breath, using our breath to send a gently flowing stream of loving energy from our hearts to any physical or emotionally injured area. 

The experience of yoga, the "we" was achieved by partnering with someone and sitting back to back to make the evidence of our own breath stronger.  By staying in the "we" we stay in wellness.  And what is wellness if not healing.

So healing could be defined as a process of rejoining, a rejoining of body to heart, spirit to consciousness.  To me it means letting go of hurt or angry feelings, the absence of conflict, relief from pain, a belief in the miracle that things WILL GET BETTER.

We dedicated 3 sets of vinyasa flows to the past, present and future, keeping our energy on healing thoughts the best we could the whole time.  Why do I work so hard to promote healing? Well, I don't wish anyone to stay in a state of suffering. I've been there. I don't want to suffer, I don't want you to suffer, I don't want your families to suffer.  So this practice of studying ourselves (svadhyaya) through this we realize stuff about ourselves.  We figure out what is REAL.  Eventually you figure out that life is really happening right now, that it is not a dress rehearsal and there is no need to wait to be happy, to make real your intentions for love and freedom.  So here's wishing you your best dreams!  Courage to you, Silvia

 

12/22/2008   Tags:  Breath, wellness, connection, Healing, Svadhyaya Direct Link

ANXIETY

DECEMBER 9TH, 2008:  At the core of most anxiety is the breath, or the lack of it. When you are anxious, natural breathing is inhibited. The diaphragm freezes, failing to move air downward as you inhale, which means that you don't let your lungs fully expand and fill with air.

"And when you don't get enough oxygen, the brain receives a 'danger' signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety," explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. "Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow; in an extreme case this can lead to a full-blown panic attack, in which the person begins to hyperventilate."

To use the breath to combat anxiety, though, is something we know intuitively. Frequently the first words we say to someone who speaks too fast or appears physically distressed are "take a deep breath"

So just let the breath relax you, listen to its rhythms, hear its soothing ocean sounds.

Once you surrender to the natural sounds of your inhalation and exhalation, you begin to invite a breath that is not fearful, that begins to calm the body and to lower the heart rate and blood pressure.  Take 5 minutes right now and just try it.  May all your conflicts be resolved through your breath! Silvia

 

12/9/2008   Tags:  ANXIETY, breath, calm Direct Link

WONDERMENT

DECEMBER 6TH, 2008:  My friend Jennifer is in Paris right now.  Like the song goes I love Paris in the Spring time but I also love it in the Summer, Fall. Anytime really.  I like it most because of the feeling of wonder you cultivate looking and feeling part of some place with so much history. Along with the fact the pace of life and even walking are slower.  Being on the right side of the brain is a little like being on the Left Bank in Paris relaxing while watching the passing show, listening to music on the corner, savoring a rich glass of wine. It’s a place to sit around and wonder about it all. And of course most importantly to slow down. 

During yoga class we get to try out the art of being. We sit in wonder of it all in the moment and practice breathing.  Or like Ludwig Wittgenstein says, “That the world is, is the mystical.”  “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science. Whosoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes dimmed.”– Albert Einstein

 

So today put the left brain down, get into your body ruled by the right side of the brain and just sit in awe of the relationship between things.  Live in wonder of your own life! Don’t forget when you love your life, your life will love you back!  Silvia

 

 

12/6/2008   Tags:  WONDER, CURIOSITY, LOVE, albert einstein, breathing Direct Link

DETOX MIND AND BODY

NOVEMBER 28TH, 2008When we think about detoxification I think for most of us physical detox comes to mind.  However, for me the even more impactful detox that yoga brings about is the MENTAL DETOX.  Yoga has been proven to help us overcome the blues, negativity, stress and even depression.  Patricia Moreno, founder of the intensati workout says, "When we're in a state of stress, fear or depression, that attitude creates a sensation in the body, Yoga helps purge toxic thoughts by teaching you to move your awareness away from the chaos of the mind and back to the present moment. That practice is not a basic component of other fitness pursuits.”

 So we started our practice with Kapalbhati breathing which most literally translated means "sparkling clean". It makes the head clear out of negative emotions so it is devoid of toxins and becomes shiny and clean by very quickly eliminating Carbon dioxide and bringing in tons of oxygen.   

We also used physical asanas especially designed to work on the three main systems of the body that play a crucial role in the elimination of wastes. These systems are: circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems.  Yoga impacts these three systems better than any other fitness because it focuses on stretching and compressing every part of the body.  Every part of the body is pushed, pulled, twisted, and turned my friends!  I hope that you will find the practice as powerful as I have in bringing back the sparkle into your life.  That it will help you fine tune the instrument of your body but even more will open your mind to the best life possible!  I want for you mental peace, physical health and radiant well-being!  Love, Silvia

 

11/28/2008   Tags:  Detox Yoga, Breath, contentment Direct Link

YOGA IS AN INVITATION

NOVEMBER 22ND, 2008:  I was thinking about Thanksgiving coming up and how we either made or received an invitation about Thanksgiving, right? Well, Yoga is an invitation. The practice is an invitation to affirm your choice to live fully each day.  Coming to the mat and opening your heart is a way to accept the invitation. 

What else do we do on Thanksgiving?  We nourish ourselves in community.  Well yoga is about loving ourselves. What does this really mean?  NOURISHMENT.  It is no different than Thanksgiving where we’ll nourish ourselves with food.  But there are other forms of Nourishment as well.

 

BREATH AS NOURISHMENT

·         Breathing is a method of nourishing the body with air. We breath oxygen into our lungs where it is carried in the bloodstream to nourish all our cells.

·         Without oxygen we feel tired.

·         With oxygen nourishing us we perform at our PEAK level, full of energy, vitality and confidence!

 

NOURISHING THE SPIRIT

·         Yoga is learning how to love yourself first.

·         Yoga is soul food. It provides us with all of the essential spiritual vitamins, minerals, and nutrition we need.

·         We require spiritual nourishment because otherwise stress can make us sick.

·         If we nourish in our thoughts and actions things like Kindness, love, and compassion these will expand and return to us (if we grow hatred, anger, isolation these will expand and poison us)

 

Now is the perfect time to open your heart, be sweet to yourself just as you are.  Please join me on the mat and allow this practice to revitalize, rejuvenate you and nourish you!  The cool thing is when you feel nourished on the inside you’ll more easily nourish those around you.  Love in abundance! Silvia 

 

 

11/22/2008   Tags:  NOURISHMENT, SELF-LOVE, love, breath Direct Link

BREATHING BETTER

OCTOBER 4TH, 2008: 

10/4/2008   Tags:  BREATH Direct Link

ANXIETY BE GONE! LETTING GO OF FEAR

SEPTEMBER 18TH, 2008:  "Anxiety is mostly caused by two emotions: anger and sadness," says Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., author of Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery (Bantam, 1995). "People get anxious about not being able to control their anger or about not knowing how to deal with situations that make them sad. And that is what fear is—the inability to solve the problem that is making you angry or sad."

At the core of most anxiety attacks, though, is the breath, or the lack of it. When you are anxious, natural breathing is inhibited. The diaphragm freezes, failing to move air downward as you inhale, which means that you don't let your lungs fully expand and fill with air.  "And when you don't get enough oxygen, the brain receives a 'danger' signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety," explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. "Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow; in an extreme case this can lead to a full-blown panic attack, in which the person begins to hyperventilate."

To use the breath to combat anxiety, though, is something we know intuitively. Frequently the first words we say to someone who speaks too fast or appears physically distressed are "take a deep breath".

Inhale breath in the gift of life the universe offers you

Exhale with gratitude

 

It is no accident that we are breathing, we’ve been chosen because we are vitally important to the universe.  Breathing is a celebration a way of saying YES to life!  And if we love life, appreciating our breath life loves us back in return even more.  This removes fear from our life. 

9/18/2008   Tags:  Breath, fear, love, letting go Direct Link

TOPIC: SLOW DOWN - PEOPLE BREATHING

JULY 7, 2008:  We all know that Chicagoland summer is a time of activity.  However, the summer seems to be more and more a time for being SUPER BUSY, with almost a sense of hyper activity!  So in class this week we've been meditating on asking ourselves. "Is what I am about to do going to bring me peace?  Or is it going to bring me anxiety and stress?" 

Like life the practice on the mat always begins with an inhale into the first pose and it ends with an exhale in Savasana but really the depth of the practice comes from the quality of our breath between that first and final pose.  Wherever you go this summer if you're really just running from one thing to another but not enjoying the gentle pace of the natural breath ask yourself, is that bringing you peace?  Do you need to SLOW DOWN?

The time on the mat helps us find stillness so we can practice breathing fully. This tunes us into the gift it is to be alive so we don't miss the fun.  My friend and fellow TBY Teacher Mara Campbell mentioned an amazing quote from one of her teachers out in Arizona "sometimes we overwhelm ourselves on purpose and forget to be truly human." 

The practice of yoga and life is not about how hard we work but how effortlessly we work.  So if you're tired of running around and need a break just slow down...and practice breathing.

Peace in all ways, Silvia

7/8/2008 12:59:57 PM   Tags:  BREATH, stress buster, take a break Direct Link

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