In Ayurveda, the actions in a healthy daily routine—dinacaryā—are heavily weighted towards the morning and, among other things, involve giving attention to each of the five sense organs—the nostrils, the tongue, the eyes, the ears and the skin.
There are mysterious and terribly interesting reasons why these things are so. For starters, from a certain perspective, what we perceive through our senses adds up to what we know. Therefore, it behooves us to both cleanse our sense organs and refine our abilities to sense.
When we consider refining the sense of vision, for example, we can consider improving the health of the eyes with Ayurvedic drops, washes, salves and with certain exercises. All those remedies can be very useful—but we can also consider how to refine our subtle ability to see, in interesting ways. And we can see that how we see influences the effects we have on others, including people, plants, animals, the world in general.
A few years ago, I was in Costa Rica. Here are just a few of many possible examples of refined visual ability—at least in that neighborhood of the world:
• If you want to find bats, don’t look for bats. Look for bits of big tropical leaves that have been bent down in a certain configuration. The bats bend the leaves to create their hidden house. If you look for bats, you wont find them. If you look for the de(re?)formed leaf structures, you will. Or you will be more likely to.
• If you want to find monkeys, don’t look for monkeys. Look for falling leaves or listen for rustling leaves and branches in the tree canopy. If you look for monkeys you may not find them. If you look for falling leaves and listen for rustling branches, you will probably have better success.
• If you want to find ants, look for acacia trees, etc. etc. etc.
In Costa Rica, guided nature tours are common affairs. Walk through Manuel Antonio park, for example, and it is common to see groups of people gathered around a guide’s monster telephoto lens—trained on some large or small flora or fauna specimen that nobody but the guide spotted. It could be a tiny insect on a leaf 10 yards away crowded by tropical, gaudy foliage. Or a large sloth a couple stories up, (what else) sleeping. More than once I heard someone exclaim something along the lines of, “How can you see that? I wouldn’t see that in a hundred years!”
How indeed. These guides have spent years learning what to search for and how to find what they want to see. They’ve spent years in this environment. Millennia evolving to pay attention to crawling things. They’ve received tips from elders and guides before them. It has become ordinary for them to see the tiny insect amongst the lush and concealing tropical foliage. But their ordinary is our extraordinary.
We train—consciously or unconsciously—for what we look for and what we see. What we look for and see shapes our experience. If—and I would say this is a truism in Eastern thought—our prana (life force) follows our focus or attention, then we feed what we focus on. We nourish what we see. Or even look for. And so what we look for and see also influences what we look at.
The guides looking for bugs and other natural specimens are feeding them. How? The tourism industry in Costa Rica is booming because people like looking for—and seeing—these specimens. Their appreciation and attention is protecting these specimens. Costa Rica has something like 26% of their land in preservation. We nourish that upon which we focus, whether it is bugs, sloths, fear, goodness, or whatever.
Like the guides with the bugs and sloths, we nourish what we look for in our relationships. If we look for the bad, we feed it. If we look for the good in our patients—or parents, children, partners, friends, colleagues, doctors, acquaintances and enemies for that matter—we feed that good. Alex Haley said, “Find the good and praise it!” When we train our attention on the good, it changes, protects, and nourishes the good, and the host of the good.
This might not be easy. Like it’s not easy to see the tiny insect engulfed in flora. A person’s disease or disposition might be screaming anything but goodness. But it’s got to be in there and it might be for the highest good of all of us, to look for it.
There are many examples and ways that refining our sensory abilities help us see Reality more clearly, improve our health and improve our relationships. It is not an accident that Ayurveda places great emphasis on sensory health in healthy daily routines.
From Feb 9-11: Dr. Claudia Welch & Dr. Robert Svoboda plan to explore ways of refining the five senses, and how this can improve our health in their upcoming seminar at Kripalu--the last scheduled appearance of Drs. Welch and Svoboda together in the US for the foreseeable future.
Being a teen in the modern age is no easy feat. A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found the overall level of teen stress ranked at 5.8 on a 10-point scale, compared with just 5.1 for adults. A major reason behind these high stress levels in teenergers is schoolwork - of which exams are one of the most stressful components. While a little pressure and stress can be a healthy motivation for study, too much of it can take its toll on mental, emotional, and physical health. If your teen is coming up to - or in the middle of - their exam period, why not introduce them to the wonderful world of yoga - an effective stress-reliever for people of all ages and abilities.
The benefits of yoga in relieving exam stress
Let’s start by looking at a study conducted on high school teens concerning yoga and stress relief. Published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, this 10-week study showed that students who took a regular PE yoga class reported having less negative emotions than students who did no yoga.
Additionally, the teens who didn’t take the yoga class scored higher for mood problems and anxiety than the teen yogis. Even better, roughly 75% of the teenagers involved expressed the desire to continue with yoga practice after the study - it is addictive, after all.
Yoga releases endorphins
Ever heard of the “yoga high”? Just like any form of exercise, practicing yoga releases endorphins in the body, feel-good chemicals which ease stress and anxiety. A 2014 study found that yoga reduces the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body. The endorphin rush coupled with the reduction in cortisol accounts for the yoga high you may feel after a particularly good yoga session.
Yoga heals the adrenal glands
As your teen works hard to prepare for exams with practice tests, they may fall into adrenal fatigue, which can occur during prolonged times of stress. Adrenal fatigue essentially means the body struggles to rest and repair itself properly. Yoga is a healing practice that can replenish overworked adrenal glands, and help balance the body, allowing it to rest and restore itself.
During exam time, good stress management techniques are just as important as study and revision. Regular yoga practice will do wonders for your teen’s mental and physical health - and ultimately, give them the clarity of mind needed to successfully prepare for and sit their exams.
If you are fairly new to your personal yoga practice, you’ve most likely realized that yoga provides benefits that extend far beyond a good stretch. In addition to its physical advantages, yoga is well-known for helping reduce stress, and helping create a sense of mental clarity and well-being. You can expand those benefits even further by adding meditation to your personal yoga practice. Scientific research has shown that nearly every kind of meditation can boost one’s mood, improve concentration, and significantly reduce stress levels.
If you are thinking about adding meditation to your yoga sessions, explore three different types of meditation to consider.
When people think about meditation, transcendental meditation is the variation that most commonly comes to mind. This is likely due to its increasing popularity and media attention. Transcendental meditation arrived in the United States in the 1960s, and is centered around promoting relaxation. According to WebMD, this is achieved by “avoiding distracting thoughts” and “sit[ing] in a comfortable position with eyes closed and silently repeat[ing] a mantra.” Although yoga only involves sitting for a brief period of time, the core practice of transcendental meditation can still be used throughout your session.
The practice of psychic meditation is highly valuable during a yoga session. As its main goal, psychic meditation focuses on helping individuals “discover or access [their] inner [psychic] gifts.” The recommended conditions for practicing psychic meditation are highly similar to the recommended conditions for practicing any kind of yoga. One must find a quiet, calm space to achieve the maximum benefits from their meditation. Additionally, focusing on your breath and having overall awareness of what you are feeling are key components of both psychic meditation and yoga.
Finally, Kundalini meditations are another exceptional use of meditation in your yoga practice. These meditations are frequently used by yoga instructors as part of their guided yoga classes. Kundalini meditations are ideal for those looking to reduce their stress and anxiety levels, since they help guide the breath and focus.
Benefits of using meditation in your yoga practice
Adding meditation to your yoga practice can help you make the most of your sessions. Whether you choose to use transcendental meditation, psychic meditation, or Kundalini meditations, you can expect to feel enhanced focus, concentration, and an overall sense of well-being.
Hatha yoga is a gentler and less physically demanding form of yoga. The classes at Burlington Yoga are an ideal starting point for beginners, but also for experienced yogis looking to focus on self-knowledge and personal development. There are also hatha flow classes, which focus on strength building and high energy exercises. What they both have in common is a deep spirituality that aims to inform every part of life. After taking a class with certified teachers, you should visit a remote spot and form a connection with the natural world.
Spiritual Benefits of Nature
In the modern world, we have taken every step to distance ourselves from nature. We spend more time looking at screens than walking on grass or watching the rise and fall of the sun. Our phones are a constant source of information, keeping us busy and entertained. This is why we may find it difficult to shut our minds off and just experience clarity and stillness for a while.
Nature reconnects us to spirituality by helping us to understand that we are a part of a larger ecosystem, planet and universe. Scientific research has suggested that being among nature focuses the attention by reducing mental fatigue. In busy cities and even busier Twitter feeds, our minds become overwhelmed by information. Nature has a calming effect, allowing you to concentrate solely on your meditation and yoga practice.
Vermont’s Most Spiritual Sites
There are few places as beautiful as Vermont. Visit one of the remote waterfalls for the best yoga experience. The Moss Glen Falls trail, Stowe, is just under 3 miles long, but the short trek can be quite demanding, so wear appropriate hiking boots. This trail remains quiet year round, allowing you to pay attention to the sounds of birds and flowing water. Water has a calming effect, reducing stress and helping the mind to become quiet. Moss Glen Falls is a large waterfall in a remote location, making it the ideal place to put your Hatha yoga training into practice.
Alternatively, mountains offer solace from the concrete of towns and cities. Mount Equinox has a Skyline Drive to the summit, allowing for easy access to visitors. At the top, find a quiet spot to practice yoga, overlooking the spectacular mountain ranges. At 3848 ft up, it is impossible not to feel a sense of serenity.
Hatha yoga promotes cautiously stepping into the unknown, where your true self can be allowed to grow and flourish. Beginners may want to start their journey in the yoga hall, but after class, don’t be afraid to take this knowledge out into nature, where you can achieve a real state of spirituality.
In India, the New Year will occur after sunrise on the 28th, so Wednesday, March 29 (ruled by Mercury) will be the day celebrating the Vedic New Year, and Mercury will be the lord of the year in India. The beginning of the Vedic New Year also marks Vasant Navratri, the nine-night spring festival of Mother Divine when Devi Durga comes down to bless the world and her children at the beginning of the New Year.
We’ve just come through the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere where I live, which marks the time of year when Mother Nature rebalances and begins to awaken herself. Spring is also the time of year when we take an especially deep breath and renew our commitment to awakening ourselves, perhaps with a focus on improving health and well-being. According to Chinese Five Element theory, Wood is the element of spring. It represents new growth and an expansive sense of renewal, the birth of upward moving Yang energy that propels us forward with new vision, hope and determination. The organs of the body associated with the Wood element are the liver, gallbladder, eyes, tendons and ligaments. The liver governs planning, and the gallbladder relates to decision making, so in this season, it is only natural to initiate new beginnings and plan for future activities.
The positive emotions of Wood are kindness, forgiveness, generosity and compassion; the negative emotions are inflexibility, indecision, anger and disappointment. Feng Shui sometimes correlates the Wood element with the Throat Chakra, which governs our will and self-expression. This time of year especially, it is important to honor and express all our feelings, especially those of resentment or frustration, in order to help us release the past and move forward with a light and clear perspective.
According to Ayurveda, the winter kapha season (water) is now slowly giving way to spring vata season (air). According to Polarity Therapy, the negative pole of the water element is in the feet, and negative pole of the air element is in the ankles, and the energy in these areas has a tendency to be quite congested now. For a smooth transition in this season, I highly recommend foot and ankle exercises and body work/massage etc.
To harmonize with the changing energies of spring, we should take brisk walks in the fresh air to open the lung meridian and disperse the tight and stiff “Woody” energy in our tendons and ligaments. If you have a yoga practice, focus on inversions, twists, forward bends and backbends to tonify the liver and gallbladder. A balanced spring detoxification program to cleanse the liver and gallbladder is also important. Clear away clutter in your home and office to create space for new energies to emerge. As Water is the supporting element of Wood, make sure to drink enough H2O.
Astrologer, Teacher and Healer
Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer
As cosmetic surgery becomes more prevalent, it becomes increasingly important to question its role in achieving beauty and health goals. There are some things that only plastic surgery can accomplish. No number of downward dogs will make your nose smaller or correct your crow's feet. But aging gracefully should also be celebrated. It's important to find a balance between achieving your beauty goals and loving yourself for who you are.
Practitioners of yoga look to their teachers to provide spiritual, mental, and physical guidance. But what if your teacher has augmented their body with plastic surgery? These augmentations can range from cellulite removal to breast implants to butt lifts. Regardless of the type of surgery, however, they all have one thing in common: they seem antithetical to the practice of yoga.
The Mind Body Connection
Yoga is more than a physical exercise. It has a number of benefits, ranging from relieving anxiety to improving self-confidence. In an interview, Morgan DeYoung, also known as the Southern Yogi, admits that she's considered plastic surgery. Yoga often forces practitioners to confront their darkest emotions and insecurities, but it can also provide them with a fulfilling emotional outlet. According to DeYoung, she decided against rhinoplasty surgery because she feels that her nose represents the journey that she's been on in life. Yoga can help people achieve greater self-knowledge, transforming perceived flaws into a facet of their individual journey.
Yoga and Age
Yoga may not offer the immediate results of cosmetic surgery, but it provides practitioners with a number of anti-aging benefits. For example, it helps increase flexibility. As bodies age, joints and muscles stiffen and become less pliant. In time, this leads to decreased mobility and other health concerns. When people practice yoga, however, the spine is elongated. The vertebrae are stretched in a healthy and beneficial manner. This enhances nerve conduction and prevents the spinal shortening that comes with age.
If you practice yoga regularly, you've probably noticed that it enhances your sense of wellbeing. Yoga focuses on breathing, making each practitioner concentrate on the simple in and out of their breath. In time, the capacity of the lungs increase, and we bring in more of the life force that surrounds us constantly. This provides much needed energy to our cells, giving us the oomph we need to combat aging. Proper breathing technique can also lower blood pressure and improve digestion.
Yoga has the power to enhance our strength, balance, flexibility, and overall quality of life. It has the power to feel at peace in our own skin. And if you feel at peace, the desire for cosmetic surgery might just go away.
laṅghana – लङ्घन / bṛṃhaṇa – बृंहण
The effects of asana and pranayama can be classified into two categories, known as langhana, “reducing,” and brumhana, “nourishing.” These concepts are very similar to the Chinese concepts of yin and yang.
Langhana means “to fast” or reduce, and is very similar to the concept of yang in traditional Chinese medicine. In reference to asana practice, it refers to the more energizing postures, which stimulate the metabolism and energize the nervous system, and balance tamas. These postures are warming to the body and activating for the mind.
Brmhana means “to expand” and is very similar to the concept of yin in traditional Chinese medicine. In reference to asana practice, it refers to the more relaxing postures, which slow down the metabolism, heart rate, respiration rate, relax the nervous system, and balance rajas. These postures are cooling to the body and calming the mind.
laṅghana: “to fast, reduce”
constrictive, solar/yang, shiva/masculine, exhalation, heating, detoxifying & reducing, vata & pitta qualities, backward bending
bṛṃhaṇa: “to expand”
expansive, lunar/yin, shakti/feminine, inhalation, cooling, nurturing & tonifying, kapha qualities, forward bending
Written by Debby Andersen
Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer
Back in the 1960s, when yoga first hit American shores, the media branded it as a "hippie" thing, connected with the counterculture, rock music, and teenagers.
Now it is comfortably entrenched in the mainstream, the yoga industry rakes in $27 billion per year. More people attend classes, buy books, magazines and DVDS, and sport yoga apparel than ever.
Along with high-profile gurus, instructors and apparel companies, yoga now has a slew of Instagram stars and influencers. These include teachers and self-styled yoga gurus who demonstrate poses on the Internet. While video instruction has been a regular feature of social media since the advent of the medium, teachers as yoga influencers now have a big say in promoting certain apparel or merchandise brands.
Rise in Injuries
The New York Times has noticed another social media trend – yoga "show-offs." A recent article examined the proliferation of students practicing too many repetitions of advanced handstands – and photographing them. This trend has sent many people to emergency rooms with wrist sprains, tendonitis, or serious muscle tears.
You'd think there's an ongoing competition for the most complicated posture, sexiest yoga pose or the weirdest place you've done yoga after perusing Instagram and Facebook posts. The posts are often posted by students who are proud of what they've accomplished, but photos of some yoga practitioners exhibit more "poseur" than "pose."
Yoga isn’t a Competition
The purpose of yoga is to help people get fit and healthy and feel balanced on an emotional, mental and spiritual level, like many forms of physical fitness. Yoga is a personal journey and not a competition. There aren't any medals for Best Rishi's Posture or Headstand in the Olympics yet.
Maybe we should look at the Instagrammers who give the impression they are only in it for being credited as performance artists who use yoga. Think of it as an alternate use of yoga. Or maybe this Instagram/yoga influencer trend is just that, a trend that will fade away just like shiny cargo pants or shrug sweaters.
Social media popularity has nothing do with our worth as a yoga student. We shouldn’t feel the need to be an Instagram star to feel we’ve learned something. Nor should we feel the need to share any photos of our yoga practice with the public at large.
We should use social media as a platform to share the positive aspects of yoga, encourage other students and trade tips. Like any other technology, it’s the way you use it that makes the difference.
Posted on November 26, 2016 by JulianaThe waning crescent Balsamic Moon is once again upon us. This phase covers about three-and-a-half days leading up to the New Moon, and belongs to the ancient “dark” goddess who takes us deep within ourselves for transformation and rejuvenation. Balsamic Moon is time for letting go, burning karma, and healing ourselves as we prepare for new beginnings at the culmination of New Moon, which occurs on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 7:18:09 AM Eastern Time. This is the last waning Moon of the Dakshinayana, the waning cycle of the Sun which will end on the Winter Solstice (N. Hemisphere).
The November 29 New Moon will have the Sun-Moon conjoined at ~14 degrees Scorpio close to the fixed star Antares in the heart of the Scorpion and near the degree of the Saturn-Mars conjunction of last August 24, which fell on the heartland point of the US chart. Please refer back to my previous blog about this conjunction for more information.
Not only is this New Moon activating the Mars-Saturn-Antares conjunction of last August, but also the luminaries are in an exact T-square with the lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu (in the 4/10 axis of the USA chart); and the rising sign of the USA lunation chart is conjunct Antares and the Sun-Moon; and Saturn is the first planet to rise. Key expressions for all this now and through the next few weeks may include: intense emotional turmoil and trauma; political intrigue; cultural upheaval; war and terror; and other dangerous natural or man-made events.
In general, the New Moon in Scorpio tends to draw out shadow themes revolving around depression, fear, aggression, death, sexuality, rebirth, money, control and personal power. When not in harmony, Scorpio can be dogmatic, fundamentalist, rigid, stubborn, or narrow-minded. With Scorpio’s emphasis here, some will have a tendency to feel stuck, tight, or heavy in body and mind. It may be helpful at this time to focus on spirit, move our bodies, keep with a positive message, enjoy nature, and most importantly, laugh, be kind and soften our hearts.
The external world is an unstable place, seemingly more than ever lately, so keeping ourselves at peace and in balance becomes the biggest challenge. Knowing and understanding something of the astral energies at play can actually be quite supportive during such times, not as a predictor of bad things happening, but more as a reminder of where to align our attention. For instance, the current waning Moon moving into Scorpio can assist us to stand in divine light and call out the darkness of the world; and also, to go quietly within and examine what we fear the most, let go, and actively cultivate more joy, love, forgiveness, and peace.
This is even more important now as this Balsamic and New Moon phase mirrors the current waning phase of the Sun, occurring as we move toward the darkest day of the year on December 21 (Winter Solstice-N. Hemisphere), when it is natural to slow down and be more contemplative than usual. Remember, the waning Moon is fast losing its light, and the Sun is also losing light. The Sun and Moon represent our higher brain and chakra centers and all psychological, metabolic and physiological processes. So, the Sun-Moon diminishing cycles can reflect in weariness and emotional vulnerability. Therefore, introspection, awareness, and repose are of utmost importance during this period.
Beannacht / Blessing by John O’Donohue
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
It is no secret that stress is not good for our health. As we age, our bodies may be more negatively impacted by stress. As retirement looms you may be facing a significant drop in income, unless you have a stellar pension plan and plenty of savings. Financial stress is extremely common among older adults. Health issues can be another major source of stress. Aging bodies just don’t move as well as they did 20 years earlier. Decreased mobility can be scary. Immunity can be lowered, which makes the elderly more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Loneliness is another common cause of stress. If you are retired, you may have lost that connection you once had with co-workers. Keeping an active connection with colleagues, friends, and family takes effort. If the effort isn’t put forth, depression can set in. Depression is extremely stressful to manage.
Stress impacts seniors both physically and mentally. The physical manifestation is increased cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that kicks in when our bodies feel threatened. This is good unless there is too much cortisol from repeated stress. Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today says high cortisol is “public enemy #1”.
Symptoms of Stress
There are several ways to lessen stress for those 55 and older. Meditation and yoga are particularly beneficial. Both can be practiced either in a group setting or individually.
Meditation for Stress
There are different forms of meditation, such as Mindfulness, Zen, Transcendental, and Vedic. All forms are beneficial for people of all ages. CNN has reported on how meditation can slow aging. Seniors can benefit from guided meditation. Guided meditation is basically a practice with a teacher or an experienced guide. This is often practiced in a group setting. Seniors can especially benefit from group meditation. It is a calming, centering, and social way to practice.
Meditating for just 10 to 20 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon can relax your central nervous system and temper the cortisol surge. Meditation has been shown to improve digestion, aid in sleep, and enhance the natural healing properties of the immune system.
Yoga for Stress
Exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress. There is a powerful belief that healing occurs in the presence of movement. Seniors may not be physically capable of engaging in rigorous workouts. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for seniors. Yoga can be as intense or as gentle as you want it to be. According to the popular website Daily Cup of Yoga, there are 5 basic types of yoga. You can choose which style best suits your abilities.
Taking a Hatha yoga class is a great place to start if you are a beginner. Hatha concentrates on basic yoga poses and relaxation techniques. It helps to improve breathing, posture, muscle tone, and it relieves stress. Chair yoga is designed for seniors with less mobility. It is a gentle practice designed to increase circulation and flexibility. It is also terrific for relieving stress. Yoga classes are wonderful venues for social interaction.
Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer