Defining the Five Niyamas and Putting Them Into Practice

6458598_orig

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.

Advertisements
Read more "Defining the Five Niyamas and Putting Them Into Practice"

Magick Card of the Month: Butterfly Pose

MMYbutterfly

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.

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Butterfly Pose"

Magick Card of the Month: Eagle Pose

kids yoga Louisville

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.

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Eagle Pose"

Magick Card of the Month: Boat Pose

MMYboatpose

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.

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Boat Pose"

Magick Card of the Month: Giggle Breath

mmygiggle

We all know that laughter is contagious; Giggle Breath is just that: contagious laughter. Like its air element, it inspires us and moves the things around us. Humans are one of the only species that laughs, and those who laugh a lot tend to have incredible problem solving skills, as it triggers the same area of the brain.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to criss-cross applesauce, or your comfortable seated pose. Inhale to fill the belly. As you exhale, begin to laugh. This is a lot of fun to do with a group, you’ll find that the pose ends up becoming very natural as it’s almost impossible not to go from forced laughing to genuine, doubled-over laughter.

Chakras Most Affected: Laughter is a beautiful emotion and it balances both our second and fourth chakras: sacral and heart. These trigger feelings of joy and abundance.

Benefits for Children: Children are naturally joyful and energetic; they wear their emotions on their sleeve. This pose is incredibly easy for them, not to mention it’s inclusive and builds confidence. It also reminds us to breathe correctly, into the belly.

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Giggle Breath"

Yoga for the Holidays

holiday-yoga

Credit

Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and relaxation. Family and friends come together in hopes of catching up on old times and taking a break from the daily grind. On the other hand, the holidays are also very busy, filled with excitement, and hustle and bustle. It’s times like these that we need yoga more than any other; it reminds us to stay mindful, present and humble.

Here are a few easy ways to get through the holidays with ease and splendor, as it was always meant to be.

Meditate and set your intentions

Keep this very simple. Even if it’s only for five minutes when you rise in the morning, or maybe it’s in the middle of the day; take a moment to clear the mind. Notice nothing but the breath and the back of the eyelids. Let everything release. When you’re ready to come out of meditation, save some space to set your intentions. This isn’t your to-do list, but more of a theme for the day, here are a few examples:

I will take my time today and not let others dictate my mood or actions. 

I will show those around me only love, patience and kindness. 

Breathe

When things get hectic, find your breath; just as you would while practicing the asanas, let it guide you. There are several breathing exercises but one seems to cover a wide range of needs: focus on breathing in and out through the nose. Inhale completely and then hold the breath for at least five seconds, then slowly exhale. Do this as many times you need. This is great for anxiety and to regain focus.

Stretch

Stretch as much as you can: in the morning, at the table, in the car, out shopping, anywhere and everywhere. We hold a lot of tension during stressful times; this makes us tense up in the shoulders and neck, and even makes us want to eat more. Actively stretch and relax the muscles to relieve tension. You will thank yourself when the new year rolls around.

This is all you need to get you through the holidays, until you can get back to a more stable routine. Everything goes by so fast this time of year, let’s try to be totally present and enjoy every moment of it while it lasts.

Read more "Yoga for the Holidays"

Magick Card of the Month: Snake Pose

mini me yoga Louisville

Snake Pose, similar to cobra, is a whimsical pose that encourages relaxation and day dreaming. Its element is Earth, which helps to keep us grounded.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to the belly, on your forearms. Let the third eye rest on the floor. Inhale to lift the head and chest, exhale to come back down. For fun: do a snake hiss when the head comes up.

Chakras Most Affected: Snake pose is wonderful for Anahata, the heart chakra. It opens the chest and helps to stretch the lungs and abdomen.

Benefits for Children: Snake is a fun pose for kids. It sparks the imagination and lets them role play. It also allows them to open the chest, which we don’t often get to do naturally.

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Snake Pose"

Magick Card of the Month: Sun Pose

sunpose

Sun Pose helps us to recall that childlike enthusiasm we often forget. It allows your child to feel creative and get energized.

Anatomy of the Pose: Start in standing position, spread the legs as far as is comfortable, and spread the arms out overhead. Then ask a very simple question in a magical voice: “Did you know that the sun is a star?” Once you see those little eyes light up, ask if there are any songs they know about a star? The most popular is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Sing along with them as you sway back and forth. Singing the song out loud helps to build confidence and they’ll naturally hold the pose longer.

Chakras Most Affected: The third chakra, located at the solar plexus is most affected by this pose. When this chakra is open we find ourselves more self-aware and strong in who we are.

Benefits for Children: There are so many elements of this pose that are wonderful. The arms out and up with the chest open is an immediate mood booster; it tells the body you’re happy, healthy, free and totally comfortable. Kids also get to come up with a song, and sing and dance. The pose is not too structured, it’s simple and fun.

 

Read more "Magick Card of the Month: Sun Pose"