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 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: Dog Pose

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Dog Pose is great for strength, gauging the body, and also an easy inversion for kids. Like the dog or puppy, this pose activates so many areas and is a great way to calm anxiety and create endorphins.

Anatomy of the Pose: From tabletop, take the hands about an inch in front of you. On an inhale, straighten the legs to lift the sits bones. Feet are hip-width apart, fingers are spread with middle fingers facing forward. To make this more fun for the kids, ask them what sound a dog makes. Begin to do little hops propelling your tailbone into the air while barking. This makes the pose even more active and a lot of fun.

Chakras Most Affected: Dog pose balances the root chakra. Hands and feet are planted firmly into the mat connecting us to the earth.

Benefits for Children: This pose is very helpful for gauging the areas that are hold a lot of tension, kids don’t hold a lot of tension but take time at the beginning of this pose to ask them how different areas of the body feel: feet, legs, hands, arms, etc.

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Magick Card of the Month: Tickle Toes

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Tickle Toes is a very energizing pose that allows you to let loose and be silly. Its element is fire which promotes movement and action.

Anatomy of the Pose: Begin in mountain pose. Bring the arms up over head, reaching the fingers towards the ceiling. Inhale to lengthen, exhale to bend at the waist bringing the fingers to the toes. Have the kids tickle their toes while saying “tickle, tickle, tickle.” Saying the words in a fun, magical voice helps them to more easily remember the pose.

Chakras Most Affected: This pose is similar to forward fold which is a great way to activate the root chakra.

Benefits for Children: This pose is a great way to boost energy and de-stress. You can even adjust the pose to be more relaxing and just having the kids hang in a forward fold, letting all the tension fall out of the upper back, neck and shoulders.

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Yoga for the Holidays

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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.

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