We've spent the past couple of weeks talking about how the practice of yoga postures can lead to greater flexibility, ease, comfort, and steadiness within the body. I thought it would be fun today to offer you a quick 5-minute practice so that you can begin to experience these benefits right away! Practice these postures on their own; or, for a longer practice, combine with some of the other videos I have already made (links below).
Want more? Join us for our weekly live, virtual classes where I lead you through your practice live and in real-time!
This is Sutra 2.46 from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the main handbooks for hatha yoga. “Sutra” means thread of wisdom, and this book has 4 chapters of distinct Sutras of which only one directly refers to the yoga postures. This Sutra is “Sthira Sukham Asanam,” and it translates to “May our posture be steady and comfortable.”
In today’s blog, we continue from last week when I answered the question “Do I need to be flexible to start my practice of yoga?” I explained that we do not need to be flexible to start our practice of yoga, but it is through the practice of yoga postures that our body naturally becomes more flexible. In previous blogs, I have also described that Hatha Yoga consists of an 8-limbed path and the postures are just 1-limb on that path. As we gain greater flexibility in our body through the practice of postures, we also ripen our mental and emotional flexibility.
When I contemplate this Sutra within the grander concept of yoga, I am reminded of the analogy of “being as flexible as a blade of grass.” So that when the storms come, we are able to bend, flow, and adapt. In our lives, we all experience rainy seasons. It is simply Nature’s tendency to have a rainy season; at the time that I am writing this, we are in Springtime, which is naturally a rainy season. So, not only do we need to be able to adapt physically, but also cultivate flexibility and the ability to adapt mentally and emotionally. The practice of yoga postures helps us cultivate this flexibility, so that when the rain comes, we can bend, flow, and adjust. And, when the rain clears, we stand tall once again, with grace and poise.
What are your thoughts on this Sutra and this idea of being as flexible as a blade of grass? Share your thoughts below!
“I would practice yoga, but I'm just not flexible.”
This is the number one reason people tell me that they don't practice yoga. Even people who are genuinely interested in yoga and who know of the many benefits that yoga offers, will often say “I'm just not flexible; I can't do yoga.” This limiting belief closes them off from experiencing an incredible tool called yoga. So, I'm here today to bust this myth!
Before I started practicing yoga, I could not even touch my feet! I was not flexible. In fact, I have clear memories of being in elementary school and feeling so embarrassed on fitness test day because I could not even come close to touching my toes on the sit and reach test. I'm not sure if they still have fitness test day in gym class in schools anymore, but the sit and reach was where we would sit on the ground with our legs extended straight in front of us, feet flexed with the soles of our feet on the inside of a wooden box. The box had a measuring tape on the top of it. The exercise was to fold forward and reach our fingertips as far as we could on the measuring tape. I could barely even reach the box!
Well, many years later, I started practicing yoga at the local YMCA. I still could not touch my toes. Actually, I could barely even do half the poses in class, and I was too scared to even try the other half of the poses like shoulderstand! Still, I went to class because I was interested in it. My grandfather was a yogi and I wanted to try it. Needless to say, I fell in love! I always felt so great after class. I felt peaceful. I felt more comfortable and relaxed in my body. And so, my point is this - most of us are not that flexible when we first start practicing yoga. We do it anyways, and the flexibility naturally arises through regular practice.
Our regular daily life is restricted to such limited ranges of motion. Think about it, we wake up, get out of bed, get ready for our day, sit in our car, drive to work, sit in our chair at the office, and then drive right back home. This limited mobility tends to stiffen up our bodies. Even if we do exercise after work, our muscles can tighten up especially through repetitive movement exercises, like running. Simply through the practice of yoga, the flexibility comes. Now, I've been practicing yoga for more than 15 years and I can easily touch my toes, but this was not the case when I first started.
So, I'm here today to say that you do not need to be flexible to start your practice of yoga. As a result of your practices, the flexibility will naturally arise. I invite you to give it a try! At Shakti Vidya Yoga, we offer live, virtual yoga classes throughout the week. I invite you to join us. Even if you don't try it out with us, find a local studio, gym, or online videos to give it a try!
We all have moments in our lives when we get emotionally triggered. Particular events or life experiences may occur that trigger us deeply and emotionally. These triggers may give rise to different emotions in each of us. Some of us may experience anger or frustration, while others may find our emotionally charged home in fear, worry, and stress. Today, I want to talk about returning to the place of love, peace, and joy that is our true nature, especially in those moments that we get emotionally charged. In today’s blog, I will offer you insights into these emotional patterns. I will also offer you 2 simple practices to help you return to that place of love when you are in an emotionally triggered experience.
Gabby Bernstein, spiritual activist and NY Times Best-Selling Author, talks about this idea of coming back to that place of love quicker. She describes that no matter how long we have been on this path of spiritual and personal development, no matter how advanced in our practices, we all still experience a similar range of emotions. The only difference being that our practices help us return to that place of love quicker, so that we don’t dwell in those highly charged emotional states.
Tony Robbins talks about a similar concept that he describes as living in a beautiful state. He describes his own practice of the 90-second rule that whenever an unresourceful emotion arises, he allows himself to fully experience that emotion for 90-seconds only. After that time, he shifts his focus back to his beautiful state. In other words, living as much as possible each day in that space of true nature, of love and gratitude. For many of us, especially just starting out, it may take much longer than 90 seconds to return to that beautiful state! I know this is the case for me, that when I am really caught up in an emotionally charged reaction, it often takes me longer than 90 seconds to return to my center. This is why it is a practice. I am committed to engaging in this practice, and I invite you to as well!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also talk about a similar idea called Pratipaksha Bhavana. This Sutra states that as soon as a negative thought arises in the mind, replace it just as quickly with a positive thought. Practicing this concept, as soon as a negative thought, emotion, feeling arises within us, just as quickly we return our focus to something positive - to something that more fully represents our true nature of love, peace, joy and interconnectedness. The Bhagavad Gita talks about being alike in hot and cold, in pleasure and pain. So, whether hot or cold, whether experiencing pleasure or pain, the Gita guides us to essentially find our beautiful state.
So, how can we do this? How can we return to that place of love when we are caught up in emotional reactions? Well, today I want to give you 2 simple practices that I use very often in my life. I find these practices to be incredibly powerful, effective, and universally applicable.
1.Gratitude Practice So, the first is gratitude practice. If you've been following along on my blogs, you know I talk about gratitude practice quite often. Gratitude is such a powerful practice because when we are deeply in a state of gratitude, we cannot feel fear, stress, or worry. The light of gratitude dispels the darkness of negative emotional reactions.
How can we use this gratitude practice during emotional reactions? When caught up in an emotional reaction, we would first need to pause and be aware of the reaction itself. In this moment of awareness, we are not judging ourselves, rather we are simply being aware and accepting the moment for what it holds. Then, we make a decision. We choose to not stay in that emotional reaction. We know that the emotional reaction does not define us; rather, it is simply an experience we are having in the moment. Then, can we find something to be grateful for? Can we pause, widen our perspective, look around, and find one thing to be grateful for? And, then, can we allow ourselves to experience this feeling of gratitude fully, deeply, and entirely?
2.Heart-Centered Breath Practice A heart-centered breath practice is simply this: Place your hands over your spiritual heart center. Close your eyes. Breathe into that space, following your breath from your nostrils down to your heart center and up again. Breathing deeply into this space that energetically holds love, forgiveness, and compassion. Practice for 5-10 breaths, or longer
Let me know your thoughts. If you decide to try out any of these practices, then please let me know how they're working out for you by leaving a comment below!