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Living a Yogic Life

I recently received a beautiful gift of the Daily Greatness Yoga Journal. It’s a beautiful book (I have trouble writing in any book and especially one that’s so pretty so I need to work up to it lol). At the very front it ask you to make a commitment to a yoga lifestyle. You’re likely thinking ‘easy peasy- you’re a yoga teacher’ but I hesitated. To me, a yoga lifestyle is an enormous undertaking. To live it every day isn’t easy.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

I know a lot of people have heard of the 8 limbs of yoga. I’ll add links to the limbs as I’ve written about them before in a deeper way, however living them all every day isn’t easy. It’s not for the feint of heart as they say. The practice of yoga asana – the poses that are seen in classes – is such a small piece of the yoga puzzle; the ancient teachings that guide us to enlightenment. Doing yoga and teaching yoga classes in the way done here in the western world just doesn’t cut it when considering a yoga lifestyle.

So what does cut it? Following, to the best of our abilities while knowing we won’t achieve at all times, all 8 limbs of yoga, along with their sub parts. This is essentially the way to delve into a moral, ethical life using self-discipline as well. The 8 Limbs as laid out by Patanjali, consist of:

  • Yama: This is the ethical standards that we live by. It’s essentially how we conduct ourselves on a day to day basis. Think “do unto others as you have have them do unto you”. There are 5 parts to the Yamas. Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing) Bramhacharya (abstaining).
  • Niyama: This is the restraints or self-discipline associated with yoga. This too has parts: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of scripture and self), Isvara Pranidhana (surrender).
  • Asana is, again, the postures, the poses that we see in the usual classes.
  • Pranayama: This is breath control and mastering the breath to control emotions and mind.
  • Pratyahara is withdrawal of senses. It’s going inward to release the outside environment – meaning outside the mind. Its to detach from all external forces, including one’s own body.
  • Dharana is concentration. This is to master to mind itself. It’s to slow the mind to the point of a single mental object, sound or energetic centre in the body.
  • Dhyana is uninterrupted flow of concentration. It’s to hold that one point as described above in meditation. To build mental strength and stamina to keep this meditation up for longer and longer periods.
  • The 8th limb is Samadhi, which I actually wrote about in my last post. It is enlightenment.

This is not an easy path to follow. It’s riddled with downfalls and self-doubt and opportunities to fail. That said, it’s also a very valuable path that has been laid out to help us achieve enlightenment – the end goal, the goal of all other goals. It’s well worth trying and to incorporate into your lifestyle. So why did I hesitate? Because I momentarily forgot that I don’t need to be perfect; I simply need to aim myself in the direction and use loving-kindness and compassion for self when I fall off the path.

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Christ Consciousness

I was recently asked if I could write a post on Christ Consciousness (thank you for the great idea Kate!) I immediately thought ‘what a great idea’ and started to research it more in depth. In yoga philosophy, we study the 8 limbed path written by Patanjali (Yamas or restraints, niyamas or self-discipline, asana or postures, pranayama or breathwork, pratyahara or withdrawal of senses, dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation, and samadhi). Samadhi is the equivalent of Christ consciousness from the yogic perspective.

Samadhi is broken down to sam – together, a – toward, dhi – sometimes interpreted as to hold together, other times as simply perfect. It’s the state of disengaging from the senses, the body and simply being consciousness. To be consciousness is to be Christ. This is the final step in the 8 limbed path that can be achieved through the other 7. It is enlightenment.

Enlightenment, from this perspective, is the state when we live our true essence, that part of us that can not be seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled. It is our very soul. When we are able to live from our soul rather than our ego, we simply are. We do not put on airs, we do not seek achievement for ourselves, we do not seek to be more than any other individual or any other living thing. We simply are. We recognize the true nature of life – that we are all one in terms of our energetic blueprint. Our energy is simply being held together by thought so that we can experience being human.

We practice being Christ consciousness through meditation for the most part. Activating the pineal gland, often referred to as the seat of Christ consciousness, is a most effective way. The pineal gland is activated through meditation at the Ajna or third eye chakra. This can be done by ‘gazing at the third eye’ (concentrating on that point while meditating) or by use of stones that can be placed on the area. Since the third eye chakra is said to be indigo (a purplish blue) stones such as amethyst which are purple can be used. Also Shungite is a great stone for this area. There are calcite micro crystals within the pineal gland that appear to be greatly affected by Shungite in terms of healing both physically and emotionally.

So, Christ consciousness is living as Jesus Christ once did, it is thinking and feeling in this way that takes into account all of life. Knowing that when we raise our own vibrations we bring all other life up as well. Many that come from a spiritual perspective practice raising their vibrations, not always while considering all of human kind, and all other life, however. To be honest, I’m not so sure that enlightenment is achievable while in a human body. I believe that we practice and we get closer and closer throughout our lives. To completely withdraw our senses and think of the entire living world in all of our deeds, however, is a pretty hefty goal. It is a worthy one, though, and through continuous practice we can continue to love and live in alignment with Christ consciousness in our hearts. That will lead us to a state of more loving kindness every day. It will lead us to think of others far more often. It will also lead us to forgiveness for ourselves when we don’t quite get there. We are all still living a human existence and perfection is out of reach for the most part. But less than perfect is still pretty damn good.

Balasana ~ Child’s Pose

krishna, universe, mouth, Yashoda, Balaram, yoga mythology, yoga philopsophy, spirituality, krishna images, krishna child image,  When Krishna was a child he was playing with his brother Balaram in the courtyard near his home. He took a scoop of earth in his hand and ate it. Balaram went running home to tell his mother, Yashoda. He told her “Krishna is eating dirt. He may choke on it”. Yashoda wasn’t surprised as Krishna was always getting into trouble. She grabbed Krishna and asked him if he’d been eating dirt. Krishna, his mouth and face covered in mud, replied that no he hadn’t eaten dirt. “Balaram is lying”, he told his mother. Of course Yashoda didn’t believe him. She told him to open his mouth. He did so but Yashoda didn’t see mud, instead she saw the entire universe and all of the galaxies.
Krishna’s family and their friends were vaguely aware of his divinity. But in order for Krishna to have a normal childhood with friends who were not in awe, and potentially scared, of his divinity, they allowed themselves to forget. This kind of forgetfulness is called lila. Similarly, the president of a country must forget his official role when he or she is playing with a grandchild. This is one of the paradoxes in yoga. First we must remember our divinity and then we must forget it in order to stay engaged in the world. It isn’t a complete forgetfulness though. We never lose our connection with our soul. We still remember that everything is in God and God is in everything.
Yoga is both very easy and very difficult. We simply must stop clinging to our ego. Yet this is one of the most difficult things we can do. The ultimate goal of yoga is to surrender to a higher power; surrender our ego in the sense that we are liberated from it while at the same time using the ego to function in the world. This surrender is symbolized through the pose balasana, child’s pose. Through surrender we open ourselves to receive and also to give. Balasana helps us to cultivate this quality of surrender.*
To take balasana, start on the hands and knees and then bring your hips down to your heels allowing the forehead to rest on the floor. Arms can either be stretched in front of the body or come back along side the body (there are other variations, but these are the two most common). knees can either be together or apart depending on your own comfort.

child's pose, balasana, balasana image, child's pose image, childs pose
Image from: http://www.havingmycake.com/2011/12/04/childs-pose-and-the-life-lesson/

childs pose, child's pose, balasana, balasan image, child's pose image
Image from: http://kimfischyoga.com/2010/08/childs-pose-warrior-4/

*Story as told in Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij

The Warrior in You

Virabhadrasana (Warrior) I, II and III

Photo from

In Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij, the mythology behind the warrior poses I, II and III is described quite poetically. I’ll give you the abbreviated version.
Sati was very much in love with Shiva and wanted to marry him. Shiva was not Sati’s father, Daksha’s, idea of good husband material, what with his dreadlocks, being covered in ash, his skimpy clothing, and generally wild ways. Sati married him anyway.
Daksha threw several grand parties and didn’t invite Shiva to any of them. Shiva barely noticed this, but it was very hurtful to Sati. The third time it happened she was so upset that she spontaneously combusted right in front of her father. Sati’s destruction was instantly felt by Shiva, who ripped one of his dreadlocks from his head and threw it to the ground. It was transformed into Virabhadra, the greatest warrior and rose out of the ground with arms stretched overhead (warrior I) in front of Daksha. Virabhadra drew a sword and extended it toward Daksha (Warrior II) and cut off his head. Virabhadra then reached forward (Warrior III) and placed the head on a stake.
As it is with Gods and Goddesses, Sati instantly reincarnated and scolded Shiva for killing her father, asking “do you really think this will make him accept you?” Shiva hadn’t really thought of that or how Sati would feel- he hadn’t really thought at all. Sati told him he had better fix it. Shiva saw that he could not reattach Daksha’s head, so he took the head of a goat and attached it to Daksha’s body. Daksha was so happy to be alive that he forgave Shiva and saw the error of his own ways in not accepting the man that his daughter loved.
The lesson? There are two lessons from this story. One is the lesson from Daksha. It isn’t always easy to be happy for someone. We need to get our own judgments and beliefs out of the way sometimes and just accept that another person is happy in whatever situation they’re in, no matter what we think.
The second lesson is from Shiva. It’s not easy being a warrior- especially one with a reactive mind. When we do react without thinking, there’s always an opportunity to make things right. We need to be brave and humble warriors to admit our mistakes and fix things.
Virabhadrasana II is done with a wide stance, open hips and arms extended over the legs. The shoulders relax away from the ears as if resting on a mantle. The quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes work to stabilize the hips and legs as the posture is held. Eventually the front thigh parallels the floor. Extend the spine upward even as you sink into the hips. Press the back foot into the floor and let your drishti, or gaze, fall over the front middle finger. Be a warrior.

The Final Goodbye

My sister passed away last night after many months of suffering through lung cancer that ended up taking over her body and finally reaching her brain. After the tumours were found in the brain she decided to make use of MAID (medically assisted in dying) to avoid more suffering and the increase in pain not only for her but for her family, her witnesses. She was so brave in this decision, so caring and compassionate for ‘her people’, which was how she lived. Over the course of her life, she struggled with fears like all of us do, but in the end she showed her true, authentic self. The final consent to end her life.

The days leading up to this felt surreal. Knowing exactly when someone will die is both a blessing and something else that I haven’t been able to identify just yet. It’s certainly not something many people experience. I can’t imagine what that was like for her. On my part, there was anxiety, sadness and a sense of relief that she would no longer be in pain. Right up until the end she found herself comforting others, her many nieces and nephews, her close friends and extended family. She brought people to her side and hugged them and comforted them as they sobbed on her shoulder. There was no holding things together for her anymore. It just wasn’t possible. Yesterday, though, she could no longer talk to anyone but her siblings and her husband who surrounded her as she made the final transition; all of our spouses sat outside the door after having received her final instructions that we were not privy too. I suspect it was along the lines of ‘take care of my sister’ sort of talk. Getting the last words in for sure, that was my sister.

Before the moment came she told us all to tell her a joke and when the best joke was told she would call it time. Not one of us was able to comply with that wish. In the end it was her that made the best joke. When the doctor asked if this was her decision alone she pointed at our oldest sister and said ‘it was her idea’.

And so her final transition from life to death, and possibly to rebirth in a stronger, healthier body, came amidst candles, flowers photos of all of her loved ones including her ‘yayas’- her best friends- and with her two children, her husband and all of her siblings sitting on he bed around her; loving her, grieving her and saying our last goodbyes. She lived well, she loved fiercely and she took no shit from anyone. Her final words after looking at each of us in turn were ‘what the fuck’. I choose to believe that was in response to something she saw that was beyond description in its beauty. She drifted to sleep and then was gone. A very peaceful, easy death.

After, my two remaining sisters and I along with her daughter, dressed her in the clothes that she wished to be wearing when she was cremated later this week. It felt quite ritualistic, a ceremony of strong women gathering to care for one of our own. It felt right. When the funeral home came to pick her up I answered the phone. I heard “it’s Jack from the funeral home” and thought to myself how odd it was that that sounded just like ‘our Jack’, our nephew who is finishing his studies to become a funeral director (sorry if I got that title wrong Jack). It turned out it was. He told no one that he had chosen to be part of this evening too. He came out for us, to ensure her proper care, to ensure that we all knew she would be taken care of until the end. She would be honoured to know that he did this for us. I know we were all comforted.

And now, once again in life, we adjust to our new way of living, where we are 4 instead of 5 siblings. All hoping to hell we aren’t last – making morbid jokes as we are known to do, thanks to the dark Irish humour we inherited from our mother. We carry on and hopefully honour our mother and now our sister with how we choose to live from this day on.

Transitions

We all move through various transitions as we move through life. As we grow up, the more obvious ones are from childhood to adolescence and then on to adulthood. We transition through periods of ease to those of stress along the way. We transition in the seasons and everything that brings as well.

In yoga, certainly as teachers, we often think of our transitions as moving from one pose to the next ensuring a fluidity in our movement so that the participants feel that flowing motion, the meditative quality that can happen in a class. There’s a much bigger transition that happens though. That’s the transition from doing yoga to being yoga.

When we start to be yoga, we embrace the philosophy of accepting things as they come, of bringing more loving kindness and peace into the world. We begin thinking of the beings around us as more spiritual beings on their own path. We embrace the meaning of namaste, literally meaning ‘I bow to you’, often interpreted as ‘the light in me honours the light in you’. We acknowledge there is light, spirit, in all beings. That allows a much more compassionate view of our fellow beings.

Of course, the final transition in yoga, in life, is that of death. The successful end to our journey. When all suffering ceases, the body is relinquished. As quoted by Paramahansa Yogananda, “Life and death are but a passing from dream to dream. They are only thoughts: you are dreaming you are alive, and you are dreaming you are dead. When you get into the great Christ Consciousness, you see that life and death are dreams of God.”

What would change if…

You overcame your greatest fear? Would you step out of your shell? Would you go after the job you want? Would you approach the person you’ve been interested in for some time?

Overcoming fears can feel impossible! We feel fear deep inside and it can be paralyzing. It can also become a part of who we are. A piece of our identity just like other roles we play. And in our own time, we are ready to let go of fears. If that’s where you are, consider how this fear is holding you back and what would open up for you if you moved out of fear. What would your life look like? Who would you spend your time with? What different things would you do? How would you feel? Does that image seem important to you? Overcoming fear starts with recognizing it for what it is and how it shows up in your life. How does it affect your quality of life? When this image is clear here are a few steps you can take to overcoming the fear.

  • When you close your eyes and form a picture of this fear, what stands out to you? Observe this as if from a third person and objectively opine what the fear is actually about. What are you really scare of?
  • Become curious about the fear. What thoughts pop up when you picture this? Are these thoughts true? Become an observer of your thoughts.
  • When you consider deeply what is happening in your life at this moment, where do you feel lacking? Sometimes our fears and anxieties will heighten when we are feeling lack in some area of our lives. Again, ask yourself if this is true. If it is, how can you overcome this lack? What specific steps can you take?
  • Journal you’re fears. Get them down on paper and out of your head. One method I found quite useful in my own life at a particularly fearful time, was to write notes on small pieces of paper every time a fear popped up for me. I put those fears into a container and gave them to God. Every time that fear came to mind again, I told myself “God’s got it”. It helped me a great deal and might help you too!
  • Take action. One tiny step away from that fear and then celebrate your success. Know that it isn’t easy to overcome fears, especially when they are deep seated. Celebrate every time you are able to move out of paralysis and into freedom.

Using a life coach can also be useful, of course. A life coach will help you to take the steps and to see your progress. They can help you to see where the fear comes from and how it shows up and holds you back. Finding the right coach for you might mean shopping around a bit to ind the person you have rapport with. Luckily, coaches often provide a free first session so you can both see if you’re a good fit.

If you would like to start overcoming your own fears and move more fully into your life and your aliveness, book a free session with me. It’s completely free and there are no commitments. You might just get the aha you’ve been looking for. https://reenadavis.as.me/transform

The Inevitable Crash

While we strive to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, there are times when everything goes wrong. The power goes out, we find out on a long drive that the healthier place where you were planning to eat closed down, you get sick – anything can happen! And it can throw off our best efforts.

When the inevitable, unexpected event occurs, we still have choices to make. We can choose the healthiest option under the circumstances. That could mean eating chips with the fewest ingredients! You need to eat, not eating isn’t an option. It’s actually one of the worst options you could make. If you found yourself in a fast food restaurant, check the menu over and figure out what would be the best option for you. What will give you the fewest symptoms if you happen to get symptomatic with certain foods? Over my years of managing kidney disease with diet, I found myself in situations like this from time to time. I had to eat much less sodium that the average person, and pre-transplant if I ate too much of it I would experience what I called a salt hangover. So when I found myself in situations like this I would ask for fries with no salt, I would get beef instead of chicken (chicken is soaked in brine during transport). And if going out to dinner I would check menus ahead of time and make decisions based on what I saw. Even better when they listed nutritional info!

The take away here is not to stress when you find yourself in a less than ideal situation. Rigidly following a healthy lifestyle can lead to a great deal of stress. Stress can cause you to hang on to weight, cause high blood pressure, effects sleep and so much more! The idea behind a healthy lifestyle is to also manage stress.

One of the tools I ask my clients to use regularly is to do an emotional check in prior to eating. If they find they are stressed before the meal it’s very important to bring that under control. Luckily, that can be pretty easy to do. Deep breathing is a strong relaxation technique. Make the exhale longer than the inhale to bring a greater sense of calm. When we’re stressed we don’t digest properly, and that leaves us with less nourishment. Breathe!

The last thing I want you to consider when in these unexpected circumstances is that it isn’t the end of your healthy, nutritious meal plan. It’s one of 21 meals in a week. Just one. So when you have that one less than ideal (or even way off the mark) meal, don’t stress over it. In fact, enjoy it fully. And know that the next meal will provide the nutrition that you need. This is not the end. It’s just an experience.

If you are looking for real help in developing your healthy, balanced lifestyle, I encourage you to book a free breakthrough session with me. You’ll walk away with at least one great tip for your healthiest self. Book it here Schedule Appointment


Tight shoulders?

If you have tight shoulders, here is a video to help. you out.

Be prepared to find out just how tight the shoulders are!

Living in Balance

We hear a lot about a balanced lifestyle, and for good reason. It’s important to have balance in your life. That might mean different things to different people, we are not one size fits all by any definition! Living in a balanced way has been shown to increase longevity, has beneficial effects on mental health and happiness in general and is beneficial to our physical health as well.

Knowing that, I wonder why everyone doesn’t strive for balance. I wonder if people understand what a balanced lifestyle means.
Consider the varying aspects of your life: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social and mental are good places to start. Are you taking care of one aspect at the expense of another? Because we are so driven by our finances, for example, we might work more than we perhaps should at the expense of family or social connections that are meaningful. Or maybe the opposite is true; maybe you’re caught up in pleasures of life and have no money to pay the bills. Wherever you land, having balance in these areas is important and we often lose sight of that.

This wheel is just one example of such exercises where you place a dot at the area in the ‘pie slice’ where you feel you land on a scale where the inner circle is no satisfaction or fulfillment and the outer edge would be completely satisfied or fulfilled. When you connect the dots, you see the areas that dip low for you. These are the areas where you need to put a little more time to bring about that sense of fulfillment in your life.

What’s missing in your life? What would bring about that sense of balance, of fulfillment and of overall health for you?