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Explaining the Yoga Transformation cliché

Posted on Fri, May 17, 2013
beautiful yoga photo
Photographer Julien Balmer of Visual Spectrum Photography

It may be cliché, I know, but yoga has changed my life.

Somebody recently asked me how and I realized that it is has been a slow and steady process, one which is vast and deep and profound. I struggled for a quick and easy description. It got me thinking....... How has yoga really changed my life...... Or more to the point changed me.

I used to be a wild party girl, chasing the next thrill, the next high, the next hit and the next buzz. One day I finally realized that it was insatiable. There was never enough, it always left you wanting more. More music, more hits, more highs, more booze, more spiffs, more cigarettes, more alcohol, more sex, more rock and more roll, more more more more more. IT was never enough. IT was not satisfying. IT was endless because IT was not IT.

I woke up one morning with a nose bleed and a hangover from hell. I crawled downstairs threw up and then looked at myself in the mirror. There must be more to life than this. There must be more to me than just this. 

I turned my back on my party ways, I packed my bags and left my life. I left myself! I jumped ship. 

beautiful yoga photo, yoga paws, finding myself

Mhari Scott | Seattle and Portland Wedding Photographer

I had found Ashtanga yoga a year before and it was the first thing I had done in ages that actually made me feel good about myself. It actually made me feel. I had been numbing myself to life for so long that I could barely feel anything anymore. 

I chose life. I didn’t want o be numb anymore…..

I immersed myself in the new world I had discovered. I started taking my practice seriously. I devoted time to myself to making myself feel good. I started to take care of myself. Lesson one - if you don't look after yourself then how can u feel good? Inside and out. 

I started to observe myself. What did I do, how did I do it. 

I beat myself up. I put myself down. I hit myself with a derogatory stick all day everyday.

Lesson two - without observation there will be no change. First we have to recognize our faults before we can start changing them. 

I started to taking note when and why I was doing this. I burnt my stick. I made a pact with myself to start being nice to me. If I am not nice to me then how can I expect anyone else to be?

I changed my ways.

Lesson three - by changing the way you do things in your daily life can allow a new person inside of you to grow. I stopped drinking. I stopped smoking. I stopped partying. I went to class. I did my practice. I changed my patterns. I'm not saying it was easy, not at first, but with persistence and continuity; then things will change (Lesson four). 

India beckoned. I could hear it calling me. It's funny because when you drink and smoke and alter your state of mind then you begin to lose touch with you intuition. You simply can't hear it as clearly as you can with a clear head. I had lived in a blurry bubble for over 12 years and quite frankly, everything was hazy. As I began to clear my head I began to hear that little voice inside of me. The little voice of the larger me. The more I listened to it, the more it spoke to me. Guiding me, telling me which way to go, which path to take, which decision to make, what was right, what I wanted.

Lesson five - always listen to that little voice for it is the voice of your soul. 

I went to India. Choosing life, expansion. Choosing to follow my path. 

I learnt how to be on my own agenda. I realized that I had always done everything for everyone else and hardly ever did what I wanted to do for me. Lesson six. Live life for you! Put yourself first. 

forward bend

I learnt how to enjoy my own company, how to be ok with myself. Yoga teaches you to begin to be ok with where u are. Make peace with wherever you are and be content with that. Don't strive after achievements that you have not yet fulfilled or feel frustrated by things that have not yet materialized. Lesson seven. Make peace with exactly where you are today. Not where you were yesterday or where you want to be tomorrow, but where and who you are today. 

My practice and experience of India was arduous. It was a hard graft. I had upped my practice from 2-3 times a week to 6 and my practice itself was almost twice as long and the level of demanding-ness had quadrupled. I learnt that once again perseverance leads to achievement. Lesson eight - Without commitment you don't get very far. 

I kept going. When things got tough, when I felt like I was never going to get to where I wanted to go. I kept going. I was enjoying the journey and knowing that the journey was the destination I stopped looking forward and began looking at now. Living in the moment. Living each day as it came. 

Lets pause there for a moment…..living in the now is a hard practice. It takes years of trying to even get close. But you have to start somewhere, you have to be happy where you are and you have to preserver. I realized how much I cling to the past and how much I try to mentally paint a picture of the future. Again it is extremely heard to let go of these things but you have to just keep on trying. Keep acknowledging what you are doing and keep recognizing that you are doing them. Lesson 9 to live in the now is really hard! Only severe determination and constant effort will get you there.

yoga class, yoga shop

Lesson 10 - you are enough. Don't listen to other people's opinions of what you are capable of. If you want to do something. Just do it. Don't ask others people's advice. Listen to that voice inside of you. Don't listen to your fears of inadequacy. Don't let other people stop you from pursuing your dreams. 

A 'friend' told me that I was not ready for my teacher training, he had not been with me in India. He had not seen what I had out into my practice. He had no right to tell me what he thought I was capable of. I ignored his advice and I did it anyway. I was good enough. I started to believe in myself.

Lesson 11 - don't give up!

 On returning from my travels things went down hill.  My world fell apart. My vision of how life was going to be was so very far from how it actually was. I was lonely. I was in a new place. My creature comforts where stripped away. I fell. I got very close to giving up, for the first time in my life I danced with death. I fought depression. I struggled through. I took on all my weaknesses. I cleared out all my dirty corners. I did a big spring clean of me. 

When things got really bad I asked for help. (Lesson 12 always ask for help when you need it). I'm not very good at asking for help. I don't like to be a burden. Ironically I help other people endlessly, yet I can not ask for the anything in return. 

I asked for help. I got out of my hole. I reconnected.

Lesson 13. Everything you need is within you. Don't ever forget that. 

Lesson 14 - dream big.

Life is about following our dreams. About making them happen. Nothing is outside of our grasp. You really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Follow the things that excite you. Make decisions based on what feels right. If you can't find an answer then you are probably just messing with the wrong question! I was stuck between two options that I could not decide between until I realized that neither of them were what I wanted to do. I did a workshop with Nancy Gilgoff and she said to me 'come to Maui'. As she said it something inside of me lit up. I could go to Maui. I could go and spend a few months practicing second series with Nancy Gilgoff!! I could do that. Suddenly I got hit with the ' I can't afford it / what about my job / what would I do when I got back' thoughts. I decided to bin those and live in the moment. Right now it was the only thing that really excited me. It got my chi flowing. It made me sparkle. It made me feel alive! I was going to make it happen. I was going to live the dream.

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Lesson 15 - choose life. Every day you will be more. Every moment you are getting closer to your dreams. Every second you are changing and growing. Every day you can be a new you. Every thought can be the birth of a new dream. 

Who knows where you will be in six months, six weeks, six days or even six minutes from now. 

 

So that is how yoga has changed my life. It has taught me so very much about myself, about how I live and how I can live. Yoga is not about the physical stuff. It is a tool to help you begin to see yourself. Imagine you have a mirror to see yourself in, well practicing yoga helps you to clean that mirror…. For the purpose of seeing yourself more clearly.

When you can see yourself, you can change yourself.

This is how yoga helped me to transform.

 

Laura Grace  www.ashtangayogadeva.com

Tags: 4th Chakra, advanced yoga, 1st Chakra, being present, 2nd Chakra, 7 Chakra, 5th Chakra, 6th chakra, 3rd Chakra, 8 limbs of yoga, benefits of yoga, yoga chakras

Express Yourself: Five Yoga Poses to Give Voice to Your Fifth Chakra

Posted on Tue, May 01, 2012

throat chakra, 5th chakraWhether you’re Facebooking or face-to-face chatting, you’re engaging your Fifth Chakra. This wheel of energy is located in your throat and governs communication, faith and understanding. It’s called Vishuddha in Sanskrit, which means purity.

Ideally, everything you express to others would be pure, honest and kind. Practically, you know there will be times when you wish you could “unsay” words spoken in anger or frustration. You also know there will be times when you need to tell someone a “hard truth.”

Discernment is vital to keeping this Chakra in balance. Holding back the truth isn’t all that different from lying. Not speaking out when it would be productive to do so denies someone else the help he or she might need to heal or move forward.  It also betrays your real self, silencing the voice that wants to share your inner strength. As a Yoga Journal article says, “Voices are choices.” Each time you speak—or don’t—you are a making a decision about how and how much of yourself you are willing to share.

fifth chakra, 5th chakra, throat chakra Going deeper, working in your Fifth Chakra invites you to think about what truth and honesty are. It frees you to not only understand but take a stand about the concepts and beliefs that matter most to you. Thinking before your speak is vital. Since Vishuddha is the first Chakra to focus solely on a spiritual plane, it is the logical bridge between the ideas and experiences you hold within and the words you use to convey them to others. It is also a portal that enables you to listen better to what other people have to communicate to you and to really hear them.

The more you explore the implications of communication and understanding, the more opportunities you’ll see for expanding your connection with Vishuddha.

 

The basics: Vishuddha, the Fifth Chakra, is activated in the pit of your throat. Focused on the spiritual realm, it is connected with communication, self-expression, purification, willpower and inner truth. [Click for details on all seven chakras.]

throat chakra, 5th chakra

Its presiding deities: Ardhanarishvara (Shiva/Parvati) and the Goddess Shakini

Its element: Ether/sound

Its colors: Light blue or smoke gray

Its symbol: Chalice

Its sense: Hearing

Its aromas: Sage and eucalyptus

Its gemstones: Aquamarine, turquoise, tourmaline and chalcedony

Its sounds: Musical note: G; Bija sound: Hang; Mantra/sound: Ham/Se 

Its metal: Mercury

Number of petals: 16

Physical associations: Endocrine gland: Thyroid; Body parts: Throat, neck, arms, hands, brachial cervix, vertebrae

Imbalances: Physical: Weak voice, laryngitis, colds, sold throat, gingivitis, thyroid dysfunction, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, scoliosis, problems with teeth, hearing problems, jaw problems. Emotional: Difficulty communicating, shyness, egotism, mousiness, feelings of being unempowered, addiction, being overly critical, being uncreative,

A yogic lifestyle helps to bring this vital Chakra into balance. Here are some easy ways to begin:

 

fish poseMatsyasana (Fish Pose)

Benefits: This pose opens your throat (where the Fifth Chakra is), reminding you to cultivate easy communication with those around you.

How to do it: Begin on your back with your knees bent.  On an inhale, lift your pelvis slightly and place your hands under your buttocks. Lower your hips back onto your hands. Arch your upper back off the mat and allow your head to gently drop back until either the crown or the back of your head rests on the mat. Focus on lengthening through the back of your neck. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release and bring your legs into your chest.

 

Halasana, Plough PoseHalasana (Plough Pose)

Benefits: Lengthening the back of your neck in the pose can balance the feeling of an overworked Fifth Chakra.

How to do it: Fold two blankets into firm rectangles about one to two feet across. Lie down with your shoulders on the blankets. Bend your knees up and bring your arms parallel to your sides. On an exhale, push your knees off the floor and bring your hands to your mid-back, just above your waist. Once your body is supported, straighten your legs and allow them to fall back over your head. Your toes will touch the floor behind you. Keep your neck long. Remain in the pose for one to five minutes, then roll back down on an exhale.

 

Purvottanasana, Upward Plank PosePurvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)

Benefits: This pose stretches your whole front body, allowing you to focus on the relationship between your Fifth Chakra and its relationship to the rest of your physical body.

How to do it: Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Place your hands several inches behind your hips. On an exhale, press into your hands to lift your body into an arc. Carefully drop your head back. Hold for 30 seconds and exhale.

 

 

Simhasana, Lion’s PoseSimhasana (Lion’s Pose)

Benefits: This throat opening breathing exercise helps clear away blocks that keep your Fifth Chakra from allowing you to easily share you thought with others.

How to do it: Kneel and cross one ankle over the other. Sit down on your heels. Place your hands on the same-side knees and extend your fingers, visualizing your hands as lion-like claws. Inhale through your nose. Then, as you exhale, open your mouth and stick your tongue out, exhaling with a “ha” sound. Repeat twice more, then change your legs and repeat the same number of times.

 


throat chakra, 5th chakraEat to fuel expression and detoxify. Incorporate ginseng, gingko biloba, reishi mushrooms, barley, wheat grass, bananas, Echinacea and kelp into your diet. Avoid them if you are trying to cool an overactive Chakra.

Sing, chant—even scream—as part of getting in touch with Vishuddha. Express your truth wisely and learn from the truth of others. Focusing on your Fifth Chakra encourages you to contemplate, to meditate and also to share, to have faith and to work out the impurities that rob you of calm and peace. That’s a lot to talk about.

Dig Deeper

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Tags: Chakra Points, 5th Chakra, Chakra yoga poses

Chakras and Yoga Poses

Posted on Tue, Apr 19, 2011

 

There are seven chakras, or energy centers, in the body that become blocked by longheld tension and low self-esteem. But practicing poses that correspond to each chakra can release these blocks and clear the path to higher consciousness.

chakras, yoga, yoga paws, yogapaws, chakra systemThe chakra system provides a theoretical base for fine-tuning our yoga practice to suit our unique personality and circumstances. Traditionally, Indians saw the body as containing seven main chakras, arranged vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel, and these "wheels" were thought of as spinning vortexes of energy.

Each chakra is associated with particular functions within the body and with specific life issues and the way we handle them, both inside ourselves and in our interactions with the world. chakra chart, yoga, yoga paws, chakras

There are many yoga poses that can correct chakra imbalances, bringing us back to our body and the earth and helping us experience safety, security, and stillness.  

 

 Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra),  Centered at the perineum and the base of the spine, this energy vortex is involved in tending to our survival needs, establishing a healthy sense of groundedness, taking good basic care of the body, and purging the body of wastes. The associated body parts include the base of the spine, the legs, feet, and the large intestine.

supta buddha konasana, bound angel pose, yoga, yoga paws, meditation chakra yoga

Yoga Posture:Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Benefits: Release and the root chakra to balance, frees energy flow in pelvic area, increases vitality in digestive organs, quiets the mind, stretches inner thighs and opens groins


The second chakra is called Svadisthana, which translates as "one's own place or base."  This chakra helps allow for emotional and sensual movement in our life, opening to pleasure, and learning how to "go with the flow." Associated with the hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder, and kidneys, this chakra is involved with sensuality, sexuality, emotions, intimacy, and desire.

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Yoga Posture: Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Benefits: Stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest.  Balances second chakra.


 Located in the area of the solar plexus, navel, and the digestive system, the fiery third chakra is called Manipura, the “lustrous gem.” Associated with the color yellow, this chakra is involved in self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation; it also governs digestion and metabolism. This chakra is also the place of our deep belly laughter, warmth, ease, and the vitality we receive from performing selfless service.

bow pose, dhanaurasana, yoga, yoga paws

Yoga Posture: DHANAURASANA or THE BOW

Benefits: Increases strength and flexibility along the entire length of the spine. Balances thrid chakra.


The fourth chakra, the heart chakra(Anahata Chakra),rests in the center of the chakra system, at the core of our spirit. Its physical location is the heart, upper chest, and upper back. The fourth is the balance point, integrating the world of matter (the lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (the upper three chakras). Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. 

Cobra Pose Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), yoga, chakras, yoga paws, yogapaws

Yoga Posture: Cobra Pose Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Benefits: Opens the chest, allowing deeper breathing.  Helps to balance the heart chakra.


The throat chakra, Visuddha, is associated with the color turquoise blue and with the elements sound and ether, the field of subtle vibrations ancient Indians believed pervaded the universe. Located in the neck, throat, jaw, and mouth, the Visuddha chakra resonates with our inner truth and helps us find a personal way to convey our voice to the outside world. 

camel pose, yoga pose, yogapaws, charka

Yoga Posture: Camel Pose - Ustrasana

Benefits: Stretches the front of the body including the chest, abdomen, and quadriceps. Improves spinal flexibility.


Imaginative abilities—visualizing the past, creating positive pictures of the future, and fantasizing—are all aspects of Ajna ChakraAjna Chakra (3rd eye Chakra), whose Sanskrit name means both "the perception center" and "the command center." Associated with the element light and the color indigo blue, the sixth chakra is located between and just above the physical eyes, creating the spiritual third eye. While our two eyes see the material world, our sixth chakra sees beyond the physical. This vision includes clairvoyance, telepathy, intuition, dreaming, imagination, and visualization.

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Meditation:  Sit upright, holding the neck and head like a solider at attention. Take 5 deep breaths. This sends oxygen into your bloodstream and relaxes you. Look at the third eye area, in the middle of your forehead and just above your eyebrows. You will rest your hands in a comfortable position such as upon your knees. Remain as still as you possibly can. Inhale deeply while beginning to chant in a steady, slow soft voice the OM manta, pronounced AUM. For an entire exhalation the one single chant of OM (AUM) is sounded

Benefits: Guidance and inspiration, enhancement of awareness, improvement of health and well being


The seventh chakra is located at the crown of the head and serves as the crown of the chakra system, symbolizing the highest state of enlightenment and facilitating our spiritual development. The seventh chakra is like a halo atop the head. In art, Christ is often depicted with a golden light surrounding his head, and the Buddha shown with a lofty projection on the top of his head. In both cases, these images represent the awakened spirituality of the Sahasrara Chakra.

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Special Thanks to  Barbara Kaplan Herring for their consise chakra information. 

Tags: 4th Chakra, Chakra Points, 1st Chakra, 2nd Chakra, 7 Chakra, 5th Chakra, 6th chakra, 3rd Chakra

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