BAMBOOMOVES https://yoga-baltimore.com Mon, 02 Dec 2019 21:38:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 The Practice of Aparigraha https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-practice-of-aparigraha/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-practice-of-aparigraha/#respond Mon, 02 Dec 2019 21:38:10 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5119 By: Tara Gallo As we approach the holiday season, we are constantly bombarded with all the ‘hot,’ new items to put on our wish list for ourselves, our friends, and our family. How many options for tablets or smart phones do we really need? All of this marketing for ‘stuff’ makes the joy of gift-giving…

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By: Tara Gallo

As we approach the holiday season, we are constantly bombarded with all the ‘hot,’ new items to put on our wish list for ourselves, our friends, and our family. How many options for tablets or smart phones do we really need? All of this marketing for ‘stuff’ makes the joy of gift-giving overwhelming and sometimes too much to handle.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we learn about the path called raja yoga. This ‘royal’ path consists of the 8 limbs that lead us to union with the divine, essentially yoga itself. The first of the 8 limbs of yoga is called yama. The yamas are our codes of conduct with the outside world. In other words, our moral observances and restraints. Within the yamas there are five wise characteristics, but the one that stands out the most this time of year is the fifth yama known as aparigraha. Parigraha means worldly possessions so aparigraha can be defined as ‘non-possesiveness,’ ‘non-greed,’ ‘non-attachment,’ and ‘non-hoarding,’

“As we progress in the practice of aparigraha, we begin to see our subtler and more potent mental possessions.” -Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

Not only are we exposed to all of this stuff to buy, but we are now seeing more stores putting up their holiday displays well before Halloween. This added exposure to all things holiday can make us feel as though we need to start mentally preparing earlier and earlier each year. Our minds start attaching to these things, but in reality what are we really attached to? Yes, it does feel good to buy a loved one a gift, but are we getting attached to the gift itself or the feeling of the outcome? Do we want that sense of approval or praise from the recipient or are we expecting something in return? These subconscious expectations are what binds us to those ‘worldly possessions.’ The practice of aparigraha, while difficult, starts to detach ourselves from expecting something in return (physically or emotionally). In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of the action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.”

In addition to gift giving this time of year, hosting or planning holiday get-togethers becomes the common theme. Social media and magazine covers are graced with beautiful displays of food and matching decor. How many of us have tried to nail that ‘perfect’ recipe to impress our guests only for it to turn into a flop? Plus we worry that the table display won’t be flawless so we end up forgetting to put out the festive place cards that we spent so much time on. When we spend too much time attached to the outcome and the pressure of perfection, we never truly enjoy the essence of the work itself.

In these next few weeks, try to detach yourself from ‘things’ and the unnecessary need to accumulate ‘stuff.’ Try cultivating the practice of aparigraha through meditation, pranayama, and asana and observe what comes up for you. Maybe you’re able to let go of physical objects that weigh you down by cleaning out your house and donating them. Maybe you’re able to let go of the mental impressions that carry too much emotional baggage like the desire for praise from others or expecting something in return. Freeing yourself of these possessions allows you to really live your true, honest self and to know that you are enough just as you are.

Suggestions for practicing aparigraha in meditation, pranayama, and asana:

Meditation- focus on your third eye (6th chakra; Anja; knowing and intuitive mind). Breathe into that space and breathe out attachments to things that don’t serve you. Let go of any expectations.

Pranayama- Kapalabhati (‘skull shining’ breath) is a great technique for cleansing and purifying because it is considered a kriya. It is done with a passive inhale and a powerful exhale. Sit in a comfortable seat and start by inhaling deep and exhaling all the air out. Inhale halfway and begin short, quick, forceful exhalations by contracting the abdominal muscles. Start with 20 breaths, then 30, then 50. After the last breath inhale deeply, hold the breath and activate mula bandha. Then exhale completely. Not only is this pranayama technique beneficial for clearing the sinuses, massaging the internal organs, and oxygenating the blood, but it also helps to detoxify your mind.

Asana- what happens when we show up to our mat and our mind tells us one thing and our body the other? We may have been able to get into Utthita Parsvakonasana with our arms bound yesterday but today we physically are not able to. Be present with the breath and let go of what came before so that you can honor the reason why you came to your mat.

Wishing you all a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday season.

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A Reflection on Gratitude https://yoga-baltimore.com/a-reflection-on-gratitude/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/a-reflection-on-gratitude/#respond Mon, 04 Nov 2019 22:23:56 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5104 November Focus of the Month By: Martha Goldstein “Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel (philosopher/poet) As we approach the holiday season we prepare for the colder weather, busy work weeks and the anticipation of friends…

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November Focus of the Month

By: Martha Goldstein

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel (philosopher/poet)

As we approach the holiday season we prepare for the colder weather, busy work weeks and the anticipation of friends and family gathering together. We can get caught up in planning, shopping and all the exciting tasks that accompany this time of year. Gratitude and the practice of being grateful can get lost. It’s a hectic time and it’s too easy to lose our connection to ourselves and feel ungrounded so this November we are asking that you take the time to ‘freshen up’ your thankfulness.

Being thankful is part of our natural state. The true self is always grateful. Gratitude creates an environment of awareness; awareness of ourselves, of those around us and of course awareness of all of our blessings. It is a beacon of light that guides us inward to the place where all truth and love originates. Gratitude expands all that it touches and can help to dissolve resistance and obstacles in our daily lives. It also opens up our perspective, removes blockages that prevent us from feeling joyful, and reminds us to pause. Plus the act of being grateful is good for your health. Oh yes…this is a scientific fact! Scientists who study positive psychology found that even a small one time act of thoughtful gratitude produced an immediate 10% increase in overall happiness and a 35% decrease in depressive symptoms.

How then can we practice and cultivate our gratitude? Here are some simple ideas from my heart to yours…

1. Meditation is a perfect step toward opening your energy line to a more grateful  daily consciousness.  Even just a few minutes a day can change things, alter your equilibrium, and can spark magic. 

2. Taking a few moments at the end or beginning of each day to reflect on those things in your life that you are thankful for.  Perhaps even begin a gratitude journal where you can document even the smallest moments of gratitude. The key here is taking the time, slowing down to notice new and unexpected things. This type of journaling works because it can eventually change the way we perceive people and situations around us by adjusting what we focus on.  And it can be anything from that neighbor who always greets you with a huge smile and a wave to the sweet little dog you pass each day as you walk to Yoga class.

3. Some easy Sanskrit Mantras that you can use in conjunction with your meditation practice can also help us to develop gratitude. Beginning by bringing focus to your breathing and allowing the breath to get longer.  After at least ten distinct breaths take a deep inhale and then repeat any of the three outloud or to yourself as you exhale. You can use the mantra in Sanskrit or if you’re more comfortable just repeat the translation in English. You can continue for a minimum of ten breaths again or as long as you’d like. Repetition of a positive mantra can only attract more positivity into your life. Because you are declaring to the Universe that this IS what you are,  this IS what you’re feeling.  And so it will be. 

–       Kritajna Hum = I AM gratitude ; Being connected with all things. I am you, you are me. The deeper we dare to go within the more we connect with the true self. The grateful self.

–       Dhanya Vad = I FEEL gratitude; When we are grateful we find grace. Creating space for gratefulness to expand in our hearts.  I am one with gratitude.

–       Samprati Hum = This present moment is my true self; Being here now, being grateful now. Our presence is our power. Gratitude creates presence in the moment. 

4. The Act of Gratitude – We can reflect all we want but when we put our gratitude into action we develop an entirely new level of understanding within ourselves and of others. It can be simple acts of gratitude. Whatever makes sense for you.  Even acknowledging a stranger who’s been kind can affect more than just you and that stranger.

Don’t ever be afraid to express your gratitude. Remember being grateful is your true Self. Being joyful and open is your true Self. Enjoying a sense of abundance and appreciation of yourself and others is a beautiful thing. Spread the importance of experiencing and expressing thankfulness and gratitude. Accept the small pleasures into your being and it will affect someone else, and so on. We are all connected. We are all one. And for that I’m grateful.

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Lila: Divine Play https://yoga-baltimore.com/lila-divine-play/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/lila-divine-play/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2019 17:00:28 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5092 By: Tina Crandell The Sanskrit word, lila (pronounced “lee-lah”), means play. More specifically, divine play, or the play of the gods. While the term is much richer than our word, certain sentiments are shared: that play is something spontaneous, inspired, and magical.  Children are our best teachers when it comes to play as they are instinctively curious, creative, and joyful.…

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By: Tina Crandell

The Sanskrit word, lila (pronounced “lee-lah”), means play. More specifically, divine play, or the play of the gods. While the term is much richer than our word, certain sentiments are shared: that play is something spontaneous, inspired, and magical. 

Children are our best teachers when it comes to play as they are instinctively curious, creative, and joyful. They have a remarkable spirit and joy for the moment. When I teach yoga to children, I marvel at how they are unburdened by self-consciousness in movement. They are not influenced by pre-conditioned notions of themselves or others. The essence of lila is brilliantly weaved into the fabric of their very being and naturally manifests itself in everything they do. 

Children make great yoga teachers. This month try reconnecting to your inner-child and practice with a child-like curiosity. Let go of inhibitions and try not take yourself too seriously. By doing so you invite more spontaneity, creativity, and magic into your practice. By letting go of judgment and perfection you make space for more joy, freedom, and simplicity in movement and the moment. 

If you have children, practice yoga with them. Allow them to inspire you while you gift them the seeds that will bloom into a life-long love of yoga.

In the spirit of lila, every Sunday in October BambooMoves Baltimore will host a Kids Yoga Series (ages 4-7 years old). Drop your little yogis off for an hour of laughter and play!

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The Yoga of Action https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-yoga-of-action/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-yoga-of-action/#respond Tue, 03 Sep 2019 16:18:59 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5080 By: Monica Ott “The power of action shakes off the inertia blanketing our soul. It awakens our dormant forces of will and knowledge and infuses us with self-trust and self-confidence. In the light of this active will and knowledge we are able to see ourselves, discover our own strength, and awaken and deploy our dormant forces.…

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By: Monica Ott

“The power of action shakes off the inertia blanketing our soul. It awakens our dormant forces of will and knowledge and infuses us with self-trust and self-confidence. In the light of this active will and knowledge we are able to see ourselves, discover our own strength, and awaken and deploy our dormant forces. Kriya shakti, our intrinsic power of action, is the hallmark of yoga.” -Pandit Rajamani (The Practice of the Yoga Sutra)

As 2020 approaches, we are living in the best of times and the worst of times: everything at our fingertips, technology like never before, people allowed to be who they are, inclusiveness. But, we also have a tumultuous political climate, mass shootings every other week, dehumanization of people who are different, separateness. Was this the future any of us had imagined? How do we cope with the duality of the world? But really, the bigger question remains: How do we find peace and (dare I say it) happiness within the world we’re living in?

As a yogi, I’ve always felt like I’ve had a leg up and a handle on navigating through the swirling storms of this changing world, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost my compass. Schedules get busier and with that there’s always something to do or somewhere to be. Added to that, the blazing fire of summer burns us all out, including our inner fire, our agni, our lust for life. As a kid, summer was a time of playfulness and rest, but now I find myself longing for the steady earthiness of fall. I’ve realized very recently the thing that anchors me is having a disciplined practice-and if taken away my mind becomes so easily uneasy. I don’t just mean asana (the physical practice), rather the deep connection to the core of yoga: Kriya Yoga.

To put it simply, kriya yoga is ‘the yoga of action.’ It also means ‘ability to act’ and ‘ability to move.’ It is comprised of the last 3 niyamas (moral observances) in Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras:Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvara pranidhana. In essence, the three niyamas practiced together can lead us to the highest form of enlightenment, Samadhi. These three practices can seem easy enough, but really the hardest part is acquiring the will to begin and having the discipline to stick with it.

Tapas means ‘heat, radiant fire.’ It is part of the practice that ignites our inner fire and brings us vitality. Think of any activity in your life that makes you feel alive, that inspires the desire to create; something that awakens the dormant spontaneity of childhood. That is tapas. For me, it’s making music. It’s the creative juices that flow when I give myself the time and permission to sit down and write a song or the rush of excitement I feel when I perform in front of a crowd. When I wander off the path is when I lose a part of ME and then I wonder how I strayed so far. Why do we create roadblocks for ourselves in the first place?

That brings us to Svadhyaya. Sva means ‘the power of one’s self.’ Adhyaya means ‘study, contemplate, examine’ so Svadhyaya means ‘to study and examine ourselves.’ This self-reflection refers to both our internal and external states of being: the health of our body, the quality of our mind, our emotions, actions & reactions to life’s moments. This may be the hardest task of all because we are so used to filling up our day with stuff that we never give ourselves a moment of pause. Maybe it’s because we feel guilty or selfish that we’re taking time away from other things or from family, or maybe it’s because we’re fearful of seeing what’s really going on inside. One of the best ways to slow down from the whirlwind of life is through meditation. More specifically, one-pointed focus or japa (repetition of mantras) can start to quiet the mind and provide a clearer lens into how we’re feeling. It can illuminate what is contributing to the way we’re feeling, the things and people we surround ourselves with and the actions that we take in relation to them. We start to gain a discernment for how to sift through what we can free ourselves from and what actions we can take that will help us get to where we want to go.

In order to make the shift back to our intended path, we must have Ishvara pranidhana: trustful surrender to God. “Ishvara is utterly different from the concept of God in the various religious traditions. In yoga, God is not an entity separate from us and residing outside of us. God is not a person but an ever-present guiding intelligence.”1 This divine intelligence is what appears when we listen. This is what fuels our actions and brings us outside of the separateness that our worldly experiences constantly put us in. We start to trust ourselves because we’re no longer driven by rewards, or fruits of actions. We’re guided by grace; we’re guided by love. We become so grateful for this precious human life and perhaps begin to realize the things that we’re capable of changing in our life and the lives of those around us. We become better equipped to handle the mental challenges that the forces outside of ourselves bring about. The practice of kriya yoga helps us to stand in our true nature, to shine in our inner light, and to project that joy unto all beings. Trust the process and become the practice.

Practice:
Tapas: Start doing something that creates a spark inside of you. Even asana and pranayama (breath work) can build heat and transform your energy into luminosity. Maybe it’s an activity that you’ve put off because life has gotten in the way. Rediscover it and stick with it.

Svadhyaya: Start a japa practice whether you use mala beads and chant a mantra (it could be as simple as ‘Om’) 108 times or take 5-10 mins of walking, seated, or supine meditation focusing on a simple mantra. Chant something that you want to bring more of into your life.

Ishvara pranidhana: Have faith that there’s something beyond the body and mind. Read ancient scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, or the Yoga Sutras. Love unconditionally.

1. pg. 14 The Practice of the Yoga Sutra Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

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Honoring the Language of Yoga https://yoga-baltimore.com/honoring-the-language-of-yoga/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/honoring-the-language-of-yoga/#respond Mon, 08 Jul 2019 16:51:03 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5065 However, this language is not for others, it is for you. Beyond uniting you with a global community of practitioners, or with your own immediate community, it will bring you closer to an intuitive understanding of the Yoga practice and its teachings.

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by Chef Nik

Just as every classically trained chef ‘speaks’ the language of Escoffier and follows Le Guide Culinaire, every yogi needs to ‘speak’ the language of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sanskrit is the gatekeeper of Yoga and you must make friends with it to be allowed into the inner sanctum. While adopting the techniques and terminology of another Western tradition often goes unquestioned and may even seem glamorous (like speaking culinary French), there can be a great deal of initial resistance to the ancient language of yoga and the Eastern traditions. After all, Sanskrit is not easy, it is often referred to as a ‘dead’ language, and others are not impressed by your knowledge of it. However, this language is not for others, it is for you. Beyond uniting you with a global community of practitioners, or with your own immediate community, it will bring you closer to an intuitive understanding of the Yoga practice and its teachings. 

After you have mastered the Sanskrit names of yoga poses, there is something to be said about being able to go anywhere in the world and practice yoga with a new teacher without skipping a beat. There is a great deal of gratification. You know what pose they are calling out and you hop to it. In addition to being part of the practice, you belong to this larger linguistic community, and who doesn’t like to belong? However, that ‘asana’ knowledge and that feeling of gratification, or of belonging, merely scrape the surface of why the language of yoga is so important. It goes much deeper than that.

The first yoga sutra says “Atha yoga anushasanam.” The translation of this verse commonly goes like this: ‘Atha’ means ‘Now’, ‘yoga’ is referring to ‘yoga’, and ‘anushasanam’ means ‘discipline’; so the translators like to tell us the meaning of the verse is: “Now, the discipline of yoga”. In case you picked up the Yoga Sutras and expected to be reading something else, here is a confirmation that the contents will match the cover. Is it possible that a tradition so deep and meaningful, with such carefully crafted and deep verses begins its teachings with a verse akin to ‘Welcome to Biology 101”? 

I poke fun at that common mis-translation, because there is nothing in my practice of yoga (or in the next Sutras) to suggest that the proper meaning resides in such a translation or in that syntax. Yes, the trans-literation may be correct, but the meaning behind this verse is hardly conveyed. My practice has taught me not to dwell on the translation, but rather to inhabit the original verse, because my inner true Self intuitively responds to it. Using the language of Yoga in the form of sutras, mantras, and asana will reveal to you the depth of the practice. If you must translate it, reach for the core meaning and concise form of the verse, just like the original Sanskrit does. It will reveal itself to you, as long as you keep practicing. So, here are the first three yoga sutras and their meanings, as my yoga practice and the practice of Sanskrit have revealed them to me: “Atha yoga anushasanam,”(I-1). Yoga is the discipline of being present. “Yogaha chitta vritti nirodhah,” (I-2). Yoga will free your mind. “Tada drashtuh swarupe wasthanam”(I-3). So that you may see with the eyes of the Soul. 

I encourage you to honor the tradition and practice Yoga together with Sanskrit, whether it be by learning the names of the poses, chanting mantras, or reading the Sutras. The linguistic essence of Yoga will unite you with its tradition, history and community, and allow for a deeper connection with the practice and its core teachings. 

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The Power of ‘OM’ https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-meaning-of-om/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-meaning-of-om/#respond Thu, 06 Jun 2019 19:49:26 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5049 Barriers dissolve and we feel this deep sense of oneness. Chanting OM both internally or externally unifies us as a whole and reminds us that we’re not alone.

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By: Stephanie Miller

“Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God.” When I Om, I feel that I’m able to pray and meditate at the same time.” -Reverend Diane Robinson

It is said in Hindu mythology Brahma (the creator) had a thought, “I am one, but may I become many?”  This thought created a vibration that developed into a sound.  The sound was OM.  From this sound everything in the universe was created.  This sound is also called pranava: that which moves through the breath and sustains life.  

The Bible begins its description of Creation with the sentence, “God’s breath moved upon the waters.”  Prana is God’s breath. This exchange is so beautiful; through Prana (God’s breath), we chant to creation and to life (past, present, and future).  Barriers dissolve and we feel this deep sense of oneness.  Chanting OM both internally or externally unifies us as a whole and reminds us that we’re not alone. 

OM is our direct link to the eternal, all pervading energy within and all around us.  We become both a participant in and a recipient of divine energy. 

OM embodies three main characteristics; creation, preservation, and liberation. It has four syllables and is pronounced Ahhh-Uuuuu-Mmmm.  The Ahh sound connects us to our physical body and the world around us.  It is our material identity and considered the waking state.  The Uuu sound brings us into our subtle energy body.  This is known as the dreaming state.  The Mmm sound brings us beyond mind, energy, form, and identity.  It brings us to the causal realm or sleeping state.   The final sound is silent.  It feels like time and space just stop.  This is where we absorb the vibration of the sound, digest it’s healing, and feel a connection to the entire universe.  

While chanting A-U-M feel the ‘Ahh’ sound at the solar plexus sending energy up, feel the ‘uuu’ sound resonating in your chest and moving up into your throat, feel the ‘Mmm’ sound at the lips activating energy in the frontal lobe.  Chanting OM has profound affects on the physical body as well.  We trick the body into exhaling longer (creating more space for a deeper inhale).  The vibration also calms the nervous system relieving feelings of anxiousness and stress. When we calm the body, we create space in the mind and can listen more closely to the ‘unstruck’ sound (the purity and silence) of the heart. This state of pure consciousness reminds us of who we truly are.


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Dharma: Living Your Heart’s Calling https://yoga-baltimore.com/dharma-living-your-hearts-calling/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/dharma-living-your-hearts-calling/#respond Fri, 03 May 2019 17:21:00 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5036 only we are able to live our own heart's true calling. We must live our dharma full-out and let go of the fruits of our actions. When our minds focus on the outcome of our efforts, we begin to falsely identify ourselves with success, fame, fortune, etc. Our ego and self-worth become attached to these efforts, and our choices become a matter of life or death. Instead, Krishna says to live your dharma with pure love and devotion; when we surrender our need for results, we feel gratitude for whatever happens.

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By: Shayna Freedman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”― Marianne Williamson


In ‘The Bhagavad Gita’, Arjuna, a fierce warrior about to go into battle and reclaim a kingdom stolen by way of many injustices, becomes overwhelmed by the responsibility of the task at hand. Overcome with hopelessness, Arjuna asks his charioteer, Krishna: “Why must I engage in this terrible war? What will be the consequences of the pain I will cause in this fight? What if I die? What is the meaning of all of this?”

The conversation that follows between Arjuna and Krishna is one of vulnerability and acceptance, as Arjuna slowly begins to understand the laws of the universe and his own innate role within it. Krishna explains that all things in the world carry their own unique potential, and it is their dharma (their individual mission or purpose) to fulfill it. Okay, Krishna, that sounds wonderful, but how do we do that?!

Krishna shares that we must embrace our dharma; only we are able to live our own heart’s true calling. We must live our dharma full-out and let go of the fruits of our actions. When our minds focus on the outcome of our efforts, we begin to falsely identify ourselves with success, fame, fortune, etc. Our ego and self-worth become attached to these efforts, and our choices become a matter of life or death. Instead, Krishna says to live your dharma with pure love and devotion; when we surrender our need for results, we feel gratitude for whatever happens.

We can all learn from Arjuna’s struggle and the wisdom of Krishna as we each embark on our own paths. The ‘Bhagavad Gita’ reminds us that we each are faced with our own internal and external battles that make us question our life’s purpose. As one of my teachers once said, it is not our duty to question our dharma, but instead it is our duty to ask: What I am going to do with it? How will I engage with my potential and share it with the world? How will I move out of my own illusions and move into my own divinity?

Krishna imparts that fighting for a noble cause is the highest act of honor for the dharma of a Warrior, and it is Arjuna’s destiny. Krishna states it is better to live one’s own dharma poorly than another person’s dharma well; it is our responsibility to our individual happiness to live our dharma, and it is our greatest contribution to the world to actively play a part offering our finest skills and talents. Staying on course requires hard work and dedication, however when we surrender the need for results, we are able to go along for and enjoy the ride. After all, the act of pursuing and sharing our dharma is a gift in itself!

Like Arjuna, we each have a potential that lies within us. We all must take ownership of the choices we make in pursuit of aligning with our highest Self, and stepping into that vulnerability is scary. Like Arjuna, we all have insecurities, doubts, worries, and are frightened of our potential. But we are also like Krishna ― all-knowing, divine, and full of devotion. When we begin to see ourselves as Krishna would, we are able to live our potential with grace and love. Once we understand we are part of the universe’s creation and the role we play within it, living our dharma becomes an act of personal freedom and celebration. 

Practice: Meditation to Bring Awareness to Your Dharma 
Dharma is not your career, although your career may be a way in which your dharma manifests. Dharma is not what you do, but how you optimize your potential to engage with and contribute to the world’s Peace, Love, Joy, Truth, and Light. The below meditation will guide your awareness to your own innate gifts and joy, and how you may share them. 

Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and draw your awareness to the heart space. Let each inhale draw you deeper inside your heart, and invite the wisdom within to be revealed with each exhale. Take time to quiet the mind so the heart may speak. As you breathe, reflect on the below.  What brings you joy? Remember the experiences that make your heart feel open, radiant, and alive. 

•What takes you away from your bliss? Look at the thoughts, behaviors, activities, and people in your life that build toxic or negative energy.
•What are your unique talents? What makes you feel special?

•Look at the bigger picture of your life events. Of the experiences that have brought you the most fulfillment, see where the similarities lie. 
•How do you like to engage with the world? Do you like to bring people together? Make the show run behind the scenes? Be in the limelight? Fight for causes? Offer services and tools to help others?
•Who are your heroes and role models? Identify the qualities they embody. How could you begin to manifest these traits in your day-to-day living?


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Pranayama https://yoga-baltimore.com/pranayama/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/pranayama/#respond Thu, 04 Apr 2019 15:20:13 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5025 Prana is more than just breath, it’s a vehicle. Just as our cars carry us from one place to the next prana carries awareness. If you want to send your awareness to your pinky toe, prana will carry it there. When you have sufficient flow of prana you can spread your consciousness everywhere within.

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by: Stephanie Miller

“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”  –John Muir

Every night we charge our cell phones but how do we recharge the mind?  The secret is our breath. “Prana” refers to the universal life force and “ayama” means to regulate, stretch, extend, or lengthen. So pranayama is the extension and expansion of all our vital energy.  Pranayamas are yogic breathing exercises that have the ability to improve our health, and increase mental clarity and energy.

“All vibrating energies are prana.  All physical energies such as heat, light, magnetism, and electricity are also prana.  It is the hidden potential energy in all beings.  It’s also the prime mover of all activity.  It is energy that creates, protects, and destroys.  In the Hindu tradition they often say that GOD is the Generator, Organizer, and Destroyer.  Inhalation is the generating power, retention is the organizing power, and exhalation is the destroyer.  This is prana at work.  Vigor, power, vitality, life, and spirit are all forms of prana. “ (Light on Life, BKS)

Prana is more than just breath, it’s a vehicle.  Just as our cars carry us from one place to the next prana carries awareness.  If you want to send your awareness to your pinky toe, prana will carry it there.  When you have sufficient flow of prana you can spread your consciousness everywhere within. 

Think of your body as creating hydroelectric power.  Stagnant water cannot create energy which means if we’re not breathing, we’re not alive.  Breathing normally means there is some flow but we’re really just creating enough energy for what we require in the moment. There’s no surplus stored or invested. Pranayama techniques allow us to channel, direct, and dam the flow of energy to better harness it’s inherent power.  

We can’t rush this process though or skip the fundamentals.  The fundamentals would be creating a stable container.  We must first strengthen the body and mind through asana to ensure we don’t overload our circuit board.  If the body and mind are weak we can experience bouts of depression, tremors, and restlessness.  If this is the case it’s important to just start with slow even inhalations, retention, and exhalations.  Finding the evenness in the breath as well as space.  Finding space along the spine is really important as the spine is the central column of the nervous system.  “By lifting and separating the 33 articulations of the vertebral column, and by opening the ribs from the spine like a tiger’s claw, we deepen and lengthen the breath.”  (Light on life, BKS)

This month enjoy exploring the many healing aspects of pranayama.  Pranayama cleanses, balances, and invigorates the body and mind. It reveals our own divine nature and serves as a conduit to cosmic consciousness. 

If you find it difficult to sit upright for pranayama try lying on your abdomen with a rolled blanket under your sternum.  Bend your elbows over your head and grab the opposite elbow (your chest should be slightly lifted off the floor.)  Rest your head on your forearms. This is crocodile or Makarasa pose.  This pose helps to develop a diaphragmatic breath, soothing and balancing the parasympathetic nervous system. Pay attention to the four parts of the breath. 

  • The Inhalation (puraka) 
  • Retention of the breath after inhalation (antara kumbhaka)
  • Exhalation (rechaka) 
  • Retention after exhalation (bahya kumbhaka)

You could also lay on your back placing your hands on your abdomen and/or your chest.  Work on creating a steady, even breath again paying attention to the four parts of the breath. Without forcing anything, feel your body as a three dimensional container, breathing into the front, back, and sides of the body, lean into the experience with ease.

As you build strength and endurance in the lungs and spine you may feel more comfortable sitting upright.  You could start by sitting against a wall feeling your back supported.  Inhale from the crown of your head to your heart, exhale from your pubic bone to your navel.  Over time you can start to feel your breath move further down on the inhale and further up on the exhale.  

Note to teachers: Create a safe and relaxed pranayama experience providing options to modify if needed.  Be sure to offer any contraindications if necessary.  Encourage a practice of gratitude as learning to appreciate breath, we’re learning to appreciate life itself.  I think it’s also important to note the practice of self love.  Pranayama as we know can bring up a lot of emotion especially for a student new to the practice. If this is happening they are breathing from their head not their heart.  Hold space for it all.  

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The Magic of Mantras https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-magic-of-mantras/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/the-magic-of-mantras/#respond Fri, 01 Mar 2019 17:57:02 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=5009 A 'mantra' is like a beautifully wrapped gift that we take our time to open; something that has so many layers of meaning that eventually reveals itself to us over time

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By: Monica Ott

“Inside of me there’s a mantra going on that reminds me of who I am. It’s that place inside – that niche in the wall where the candle flame never flickers. Always bringing me right to my heart where we dwell eternally.” -Ram Dass

A ‘mantra’ is like a beautifully wrapped gift that we take our time to open; something that has so many layers of meaning that eventually reveals itself to us over time. Rather than ripping through the wrapping paper of instant gratification, we start to see the value of its essence the longer we hold onto it and believe there’s something more inside of the box. The word ‘mantra’ in Sanskrit comes from the root ‘manas’ (the thinking mind) and ‘tram’ (to protect, to free, or to go across). Therefore, the word ‘mantra’ means to free ourselves or protect ourselves from the thinking mind. It moves us through and beyond the the lower state of conscious thought to bring awareness to our higher state of consciousness.

In the Western world, you may have heard ‘mantra’ being used as an affirmation or a phrase that helps empower us. While this is great motivation for us in the long run, diving deeper into the spiritual aspects of mantra used for meditation will help guide us back to our divine nature and help expand our yoga practice. Being a lover of sound and music all of my life, I was immediately drawn to mantras when I started practicing yoga. I loved that I could make sound in another language and it didn’t matter if I understood what I was singing or not. That was what made the sound ‘Om’ so special for me in the beginning. This big, primal sound was stopping me from thinking. Yeah of course, I cared about what I sounded like at first, but once I got over that and realized that the mantra ‘Om’ connected me and my fellow yogis together in a profound way, I started to incorporate mantras into my practice.

While mantras don’t necessarily have to be in Sanskrit for them to work, we can travel further away from distracting thoughts when we don’t use our native language. For instance, if I create a mantra in English like ‘I am strong,’ I am already creating stories about the word ‘strong’ or perhaps old memories are coming up about a time I wasn’t strong and so forth. If I use a sanskrit mantra like ‘Om Namah Shivaya,’ it allows me to tune out any hardwired word associations and forces me to focus on the sound of the mantra:

“That is, when a mantra is done sufficiently it gets into a certain kind of vibration or harmony with the universe in a certain way which is its own thing. The conscious beings who evolve certain languages such as Sanskrit specifically evolve the sounds of these languages to be connected with various states of consciousness – unlike the English language- so that a Sanskrit mantra, if you do it over and over again, will take you to a certain state of consciousness.”1

Everything in this world is made up of energy. Even thoughts are energy (and all energy has a resonance or vibration) that produces a frequency that our cells, organs, and brain responds to. This is why the Sanskrit language is so powerful. Through the repetition of chanting mantras, we have access to the 64 meridian points on the hard palate and the 20 meridian points on the soft palate. When these points are stimulated, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus respond by strengthening our immune system producing endorphins and ‘feel-good’ hormones that dramatically shift out mood:

“…chanting yogic mantras, particularly in Sanskrit, stimulates the vagus nerve, which is situated near the jaw, and is considered to be the single most important nerve in the body; it services the heart, lungs, intestinal tract, and back muscles.”2

With that said, not all mantras have to be sung or spoken. Once you have heard the sound of your mantra audibly, that sound can be transmitted silently. This is where the meditation practice opens up that beautiful gift. The silent mantra now becomes the one-pointed focus and over time, it becomes part of us. If you continue to practice with mantras, they can become even more meaningful, release the mind from limitations and connect us to the depths of our spiritual being.

Practice: Pick a mantra that you’ve connected with. If you’re unsure, just start with ‘Om.’ Start by audibly chanting it. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out Om. It can be short repetitive Oms. Chant for 2 minutes, then work your way up to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. After you chant audibly, silently repeat the mantra for another 5-10 minutes. Let go of the mantra for another few minutes and sit silently. Notice how you feel. Observe the mind and if you start to create unnecessary thoughts, come back to your mantra. Repeat this for 30 days and then if you’d like, choose a different mantra next month.

1.https://www.ramdass.org/mantras/
2.‘The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant’ by Russill Paul

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FOMO & FOF https://yoga-baltimore.com/fomo-fof/ https://yoga-baltimore.com/fomo-fof/#respond Thu, 31 Jan 2019 20:15:25 +0000 https://yoga-baltimore.com/?p=4996 When we live our lives from the outside in, we lose touch with our own authenticity and wisdom. In dealing with fear, our work is not to eliminate it, whether it is fear of missing out or fear of failure, but rather to transform the way we relate to it.

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By: Liz Ortiz

In yoga philosophy, we learn that the greatest causes of our own suffering are due to mental obstacles known as the Kleshas (poisons in Sanskrit).  These mental obstacles, when active, serve as the motivation for what we do, while keeping us from a sense of what is real and true.  Two of the Kleshas we encounter frequently are Raga (attachment) and Dvesha (aversion).  These two mindsets cause us to pursue those things that we believe bring us some sort of pleasure and retreat from those things we perceive to be unpleasant.  The reason these thought patterns can cause suffering is because they are essentially moving targets.  For instance, a fantastic bottle of wine (pleasure) has the capacity to bring a hangover just like going to the dentist (unpleasant) reaps great health benefits (an oversimplification I know but you get the idea).  What we perceive to be pleasurable, when outside of us, is impermanent and subject to loss.  What we think is painful can actually be exactly what we need but, if we run from it, we’ll never know.  It is a common human tendency to fear not having the things we desire and to fear having to live with the things that we dislike.

Let’s put this in modern day terms.  Raga (attachment) can be represented as FOMO (fear of missing out).  With FOMO we become anxious and attached to the idea that there is something externally gratifying we are missing like a job, a relationship, going to a social event or looking a particular way.  Because we are wired to pursue pleasure, FOMO pushes us to organize ourselves around the pursuit of that pleasure. This pursuit is endlessly unsatisfying and unsuccessful when we realize looking externally for our personal happiness will never yield what we want.  Dvesha (aversion) can be represented by FOF (fear of failure). With FOF we organize our actions to avoid failing in order to prove we are worthy, valuable and useful beings.  We are so afraid of failing that we avoid interactions, experiences and opportunities that may be outside our comfort zone just to appear like we have it all under control.  But most of us know that fear of failure may be hindering choices that will bring us growth. 

The commonality between these two conditions is twofold.  One is that both Raga/attachment/FOMO and Dvesha/aversion/FOF are essentially fears and anytime we choose out of fear we are made small and separate from our true nature.  Secondly, they are both defined by external measures.  When we live our lives from the outside in, we lose touch with our own authenticity and wisdom. In dealing with fear, our work is not to eliminate it, whether it is fear of missing out or fear of failure, but rather to transform the way we relate to it.  We can recognize it as the origin of our actions and make different choices, even if the fear itself remains.  We can also begin to see that when we look for things outside of us to make us complete, we are looking in the wrong direction.  

Yoga exists as a practice in order to help illuminate our original condition of wholeness and connection to Source. The state of fear is the antithesis of that essential condition and lures us farther from it.  Being human, we will always be drawn towards alleviating that feeling and filling that void.  The key is to choose wisely and meaningfully so our pursuits are productive.  Beneath the push and the pull, the chasing and retreating, the attachment and aversion there is a saner way to live.  Through the practice of yoga, we aim to remove this sense of being separate and realize that there is nothing we are  missing that isn’t already within us.  There is nothing that fear can do for us that love cannot do better.

 

Practice:

•Try to limit your screen time this month whether it be your phone, computer, or tv (especially before bed).

•When you find yourself having FOMO, go for a walk, do some pranayama, meditation, or something that stokes the creative fire within you.

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