Magick Card of the Month: Rainbow Pose

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Rainbow Pose is what we know as side plank. Its element is air because it’s creative and also takes a lot of focus to balance and hold.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to plank pose, where the body is parallel to the floor. Push back through the heels. Begin rotating the back of the body towards the right as you come to balance on the side of the right foot; left arm comes up as the right palm stays firmly planted on your mat. You can bend the left knee and place the foot out in front of you for balance as you lift the left hip towards the ceiling. Or, if you want the full pose, place the inside edge of the left foot on top of the right foot. Gaze can be forward, or up towards the left hand if you want to challenge your balance further. Come back to plank and switch sides.

Chakras Affected: Rainbow pose is wonderful for your solar plexus, or Manipura. It strengthens the core as well as the arms, and is a great way to improve balance and stamina. Though rainbow’s element is air, manipura is often associated with fire because it transforms and cleanses.

Benefits for Children: This pose is a lot of fun for kids because balancing is so challenging. It takes a lot of focus and kind of feels like flying once you get it down. Side plank in general is going to help your child with balance and core – which are two great areas to get a head start in.

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Magick Card of the Month: Camel Pose

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Camel Pose, or Ustrasana, is a backbend as well as a great chest opener. Its element is water, which is fitting since it’s wonderful for blood flow and detoxing.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to the knees and sit back on the heels with toes tucked. Lift off the heels to engage the torso and ensure that you’re in alignment with the hips, chest, neck and shoulders. Lift then drop the shoulders away from the ears. Inhale and bring the palms to the lower back opening up the chest. Exhale as you begin to drop the head back. Keep the hip bones pushing forward as they will want to fall back as well, keep them aligned! Stay here or reach the hands for the backs of the ankles, this will cause the shoulders and head to fall back more as well. Push the navel towards the sky to get a nice bend in the back as you continue to keep the hip bones pushing forward. Try to relax the neck and drop the shoulders away from the ears. Breathe here. To come out of the pose, slowly lift the head and then the torso – place the hands on the lower back or the floor for support if you need to.

Chakras Affected: Camel pose is a heart opener and therefore great for our heart chakra, or Anahata. Backbends and heart openers can bring emotions to the surface. Several people have reported crying, or feeling really angry, and some even say it makes them feel elated. Whatever is going on in your heart, be prepared for more than just a great stretch.

Benefits for Children: This can be a very deep pose for adults, but flexible children who don’t have far to fall find camel fairly easy. However, keeping the hands on the lower back is perfectly acceptable to get the benefits of this pose. Children who are experiencing growing pains may also get fast physical relief from camel. Follow with downward dog for a great full body stretch.

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Defining the Five Niyamas and Putting Them Into Practice

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The Sanskrit term, niyama is what we would recognize as positive duties and observances, often practiced alongside the yamas, which we discussed last month in Defining the Five Yamas and Putting Them Into Practice. Again, we will focus on Patanjali’s teachings, which are: Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svhadhyaya, and Isvara Pranidhana.

Whereas the yamas encourage us to strive for peace with the world, the niyamas are ways we can find peace with the self; observe thyself and seek restraint with the world. These are by no means simple to live by, but when we do observe yama/niyama our life will be full, our body healthy, and our spirit will be enlightened.

Saucha (purity)

Another word commonly used to describe saucha is cleanliness. Practicing saucha means you are striving to be clean inside and out – what goes into our body is clean and what comes out is clean. What goes in could be good, clean food and what comes out could be clean language and pure intentions.

Santosha (contentment)

These days the word content is often seen as settling, or not being totally satisfied. We see it as simply accepting the situation, and while a big part of santosha is acceptance (of what you have, and of others), to be content is actually to be satisfied. When we view contentment as a bad thing, we’re insinuating that we need abundance, and in some cases over-abundance, to feel pleased. This niyama asks us to be more down to earth, be happy with what we have, and take only what we need.

Tapas (austerity)

The literal translation of the sanskrit, tapas, is “to heat”. When we practice tapas we are practicing discipline and austerity on an extreme level to liberate and renew. Some cultures practice tapas as if it were penance, believing they must suffer (often by mortification) to be cleansed of bad karma. This may bring a more literal understanding to “heat” as burning cleanses all and forces transformation.  An example of this that we encounter more often in our culture would be fasting or cleansing.

Svhadhyaya (self-study)

Many use meditation as their svhadhyaya practice, and while this is great for finding your center, we must also observe our behaviors in a number of situations, inevitably over a period of time. How we act and react to situations and to others will help us to understand where we struggle or prevail, but also how to make decisions that best fit our true disposition.

Isvara Pranidhana (dedication to the Lord)

One way of describing Isvara Pranidhana is committing yourself to that which is unaffected, because whatever that is for you is the catalyst that encourages action and/or change. For some this is God or a deity of sorts, for others it’s considered a higher form of consciousness.

Just as I said last time, none of this is easy. We are all lead so often by our senses and emotions, it’s hard to be aware of what’s in our best interest at all times. The truth is, unless we completely isolate ourselves and are void of any interaction, we will always have missteps keeping things interesting. The best we can do is have good intentions and learn from our experiences.

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Defining the Five Yamas and Putting Them Into Practice

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One of the most beautiful aspects of yoga is that it is non-discriminating; it can be practiced anytime, anywhere, by anyone. And this practice can mean a lot of things. The first thought that comes to mind for most when they hear the term yoga is the asanas (postures), but this is only one aspect of yoga; one limb on a tree full of possibility. Actually, living a yogic lifestyle means you are seeking peace with the world and with self. These two ideas are known as yama and niyama. The way I would describe this to myself during my teacher training was: observe thyself and seek restraint with the world. Easier said than done, but this is supposed to be a journey so take it easy on yourself.

For this article I want to focus on Patanjali’s five yamas, what they represent and how we can begin to incorporate them into everyday life. I will focus on niyama in my next article. It’s important to mention that not everyone who recognizes these restraints and observances fully interprets them equally. If you disagree with something or see it fitting into your life differently at the moment, I encourage you to embrace that and begin where you are.

Ahimsa (non-violence)

This yama is the main reason so many yogis have decided to become vegetarian or vegan, they take it very literally and believe that to kill or hurt another living thing is to do it to yourself and that you take on that negative energy. Many spiritualists use the term energy and while it has become a buzzword and felt to be frivolous, there is a reason that the word is used. Consider Einstein’s E=mc 2, which broken down means energy and mass can be changed into one another, mass is a large amount of matter, and matter is made up of positive protons, negative electrons and neutral neutrons. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed the energy distributed by a violent attack does not die with the victim, it would still exist.

Others take a less literal approach and believe that non-violence really means the absence of cruelty. So killing does not have to be a violent act, and getting meat products and by-products through humane sources will suffice.

Both arguments hold weight, so where do you fall? Like I said earlier, begin where you are and decide what truly feels right. If you think vegetarianism is what this means for you, do that and be ok with the fact that it may not happen overnight. If the latter is the ethical choice for you, begin looking for local farmers and even options in your grocery that will help you start your cruelty-free diet.

Outside of this prevalent argument associated with ahimsa, non-violence touches other areas of life as well. Treating others with respect and kindness, loving yourself and others, and not abusing anyone or yourself physically or emotionally.

Satya (truthfulness)

This yama always makes me think of the Three Wise Monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. On more literal terms, satya means to speak truth, act truthfully, and think what is true. Some take this to mean “being honest” at all cost even if it hurts, however if one were practicing both satya and ahimsa, truthfulness would be tactful, not destructive.

Incorporating this may not sound so difficult but I would begin with observing yourself and those around you. Things and actions that are commonly overlooked are: gossip, judgmental words or behavior, unrealistic fantasies, tabloids, entertainment news, and even reality tv. There are a lot of things we see and hear that we need to filter more realistically and truthfully. Seeking truth in these areas is one thing but taking lies as truth without question is a recipe for disaster.

Asteya (non-stealing)

As humans, we can steal both physically and emotionally, but why? We steal because we want something we don’t have, and don’t have enough faith in ourselves to get it ethically, nor do we have the patience to wait for it. Let’s look at what we the world commonly steal:

Money

This is probably the first to come to mind for many. We need money to eat and live, this creates urgency and the poor may steal simply to survive. We also steal money for power or luxuries; in this case we truly don’t believe there is any alternate route for us or a faster way. In reality, opportunity is available to everyone, and while some may have to look harder and work harder, that does not constitute unlawfully taking it from others.

Love/Desire

Some would say love cannot be stolen, it exists or it doesn’t. However, one may steal affection in cases of adultery because of a lack of love or lack of belief that love is possible any other way. Satya would help to crush this denial and uncover the distinction between love and desire.

Ideas

Ideas are most commonly stolen in the workplace and on the Internet, and there is so much ambiguity that it’s hard to know what belongs to whom, who came up with what first, and what’s available for public use. It’s common and pretty likely that many people will have the same or similar ideas, but very few will put them into action. If you steal something unintentionally make it right and apologize, if you’re in doubt about what you’re doing, research it fully and handle it respectfully.

Brahmacharya (continence)

This means practicing self-control and restraint in terms of sexual desire. The idea is to practice celibacy while unmarried, and faithfulness in marriage. Since people are getting married much later in life, if at all, this idea has evolved for many to mean a committed relationship, rather than a literal marriage. In other words, being very cautious and selective of who you allow in your bed, and abstaining from casual sexual encounters. Casual sex is seen as a lack of self-control as we are acting on impulse when sex should be meaningful for the mind, body and spirit.

Aparigraha (non-coveting)

Don’t be greedy is the best way to describe aparigraha. It is the idea that one should live simply and without frills. You have what you need and don’t ask for more or desire excess. This relates to many different areas of life: food consumption, materialistic behavior, desire for fame, power and even an abundance of money, and wanting things that belong to others.

This is another area that can be ambiguous, so observing first and taking stock of your behavior and surroundings is a great way to start incorporating aparigraha. Do you put a lot of money or effort towards things you don’t need, or things you desire only because of its face value? Do you overeat or buy more food than you need or will consume?

Don’t be afraid of your answers, just show yourself compassion and truth and enjoy the journey. There will be little victories and big victories, little set backs and big ones. All of it is inevitable and ok. Most importantly, while you are on your journey flying and flailing, be kind to others who are also on a journey. We all start out differently and some detours take longer than others. So, may your flights be humble and your flails be quick!

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Magick Card of the Month: Butterfly Pose

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Butterfly Pose opens the hips and balances our crown chakra. Its element is air which helps to remind us of those things we cannot see but know are there.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to seated, bending at the knees and bringing the soles of the feet together. Pull the heels in towards the body and begin to fold forward slightly to grab the big toes with the index and middle fingers. Stay here or fold deeper into the stretch letting the elbows push back onto the thighs. It’s important to keep a straight, lengthened torso when folding forward, try not to round the back. Once settled in the pose ask the kids to bring the knees up and down like flapping butterfly wings.

Chakras Affected: In butterfly pose we trigger the seventh chakra, Sahasrara. This is also known as our crown chakra. It connects us with the divine opening our awareness to the spiritual aspects of our lives.

Benefits for Children: Butterfly pose is a great hip opener, which is vital to most physical activity. We do very little movements throughout the day that open the hips allowing more flexibility and blood flow. Children and adults who practice this pose regularly will notice that it is easier to get in and out of the asanas and hold them for a longer period of time.

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7 Ways to Declutter Your Life

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A cluttered space is a cluttered mind, but physical space is not all we have to worry about. We live in a tech-savvy world where information is coming at us fast and with no end; add that to a mound of mess and disorganization and it’s a wonder we can still breathe. We have to clear our space entirely, not just the physical. Here are a few tricks to declutter quickly and efficiently.

Create a New Email Account

At some point our email accounts end up becoming junk mail central, you may even stop checking it just because you know you’ll have to go through pages of ads, deals, and newsletters before you get to that one important email. You could unsubscribe, but it doesn’t always work and it would take forever. Just shed it now. Create a new account and give the address to the ones you want to hear from, and let the email happy companies continue to send their deals into the abyss.

A Goodwill Box and a Goodwill Bag

Most of us have a time or two a year where we donate things we no longer want or need, but start doing this more regularly and everybody wins. Get a small box and a trash bag and go room to room collecting things that can go now rather than later: clothes, knick-knacks, accessories, kitchenware, etc. You may even ask to keep the box and use is as a monthly donation bin.

Take a Break From Social Media

Scary, I know, but you would be amazed at how much social media takes of your time and your sound mind. Scroll after scroll of politics, rants, and selfies is not natural. There are positives, and social media can be fun, but being bombarded by it seems to be the new normal. Deactivate for a bit, see if it helps, you can always go back or check in later.

Organize and Shred

All those important papers, probably the most annoying clutter there is. Grab all the mounds of it dump it in the middle of the floor and separate what to keep and what is officially ready to be shredded. A good rule of thumb is three years old or more needs to go. If you have a shredder, great, if not put it in a bag and find your local shredder, most have a special rate for individuals and they recycle. As for what’s left, find a cabinet or box to organize it in, and get your counter and dinner table back.

Stop the Paper Trail

So what about those important, but not really that important papers? Like bank statements, student loan info, invoices etc. Go to your account online and go paperless. Start paying and reviewing all these things through the company’s portal and you will cut your paper clutter by more than half.

Edit Your Contacts

This little hack is surprisingly satisfying. Grab your phone, go to contacts and remove the many people you never talk to or simply don’t even know anymore. You’ll notice there are quite a few and without them your cell phone and mind feel a lot lighter.

To-Do List = Daily, Not Weekly

If you want to make a tentative weekly to-do list, go for it, but make a daily one that morning and have a way to cross tasks off. Daily lists usually get done and if you do it the morning of, you’re a lot more honest about what you’ll be able to accomplish that day – and crossing things off, I swear, releases endorphins or something.

What do you feel immediately declutters your mind and space?

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Magick Card of the Month: Eagle Pose

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Eagle Pose, also known as Garudasana, represents the “king of the birds”. Its element is air, which is creative, constant and playful. This pose interlaces the limbs and challenges our balance and posture.

Anatomy of the Pose: Beginning in Tadasana, bring the hands to the hips to maintain balance and keep the torso aligned. Slightly bend at the knees. Keeping the right foot planted firmly into the mat, lift the left leg and cross it over the right and wrap the foot around the calf as the toes reach towards the floor. Find your balance. Now, bring the left arm up, bent at the elbow as the right arm comes under the left and wraps around as you try to get the hands to meet in prayer position. Make sure the torso is still in a straight line, you may lean forward slightly so keep pulling your shoulders towards whatever is behind you. Pull the elbows down as if they were trying to separate from the wrists. To come out, unwrap the legs first and then the arms. When you switch sides, raise the elbows, rather than pulling them away from the wrists, as if you were trying to straighten your arms.

Chakras Most Affected: Eagle pose helps to open and balance our seventh chakra, Sahasrara. This chakra is located at the crown of the head and connects us to the divine.

Benefits for Children: Garudasana is a lot of fun for kids, they get to twist their bodies and work on balance. Helping them find stillness in the pose will be very beneficial. Try lightly supporting their shoulders so they know how the pose is supposed to feel once balance is achieved.

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Magick Card of the Month: Boat Pose

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Boat Pose is a great way to fire up the abs and activate the sacral chakra. Like its water element, this pose can bring up deep emotions. It is also great for detoxing.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to Dandasana, or Staff Pose. Lift the feet off the floor, bringing the knees towards the chest, and rock back so you’re balancing on the sits bones. Place hands under the knees to help find balance. Stay here, or take the hands out from under the knees, arms are still straight with palms up. As if you had an oar in each hand, begin motioning as though you’re rowing a boat. Straighten legs on the forward motion and bend the knees as you row back. Do this while singing:

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

If you see a crocodile

Don’t forget to scream

Ahhh!

Chakras Most Affected: Svadhistana, our second chakra, located in the sacrum is activated and balanced in this pose. The energy here brings light to our relationships and aids in emotional cleansing.

Benefits for Children: Not only is this pose fun and they get to sing a silly song, but this pose can help children to positively deal with emotions that feel overwhelming. It also gives us a new perspective on balance, as this is not a common position we find ourselves in.

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