Learn how to find and manipulate your core
with David Schlussel
by Elika Aird
Springtime is the season for celebrating Easter, Passover, doing taxes (ugh), spring cleaning, and maybe an internal detox for the body. But what about the mind?! Unless you are a regular mediator our minds can get clogged with so many thoughts, creating conflict between the body and the mind.
I have been sharing this chant with my students over the past month, encouraging them to release not only the old clothes and paperwork we don’t need, but also the old habits and limiting beliefs that no longer serve our highest Self. Despite all the blissed-out yoga you might be practicing, public classes primarily focus on the physical practice, so a negative thought or two could slip in from time to time. One of the most powerful ways to dispel these thoughts and create a more elevated mind-state is through the practice of mantras or nada yoga (yoga of sound). Ayurvedic teacher and healer Maya Tiwari, offers a selection of mantras in her book Path of Practice:A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing. The mantra above is used to help cleanse the mind of negative thoughts and promotes a state of spiritual and emotional tranquility.
Don’t worry about how you sound, just sing with an open heart and mind
In the Vedic tradition, the practice of chanting is used to create a vibration that has the ability to attune our body/mind with nature, creating a harmonious balance with the universe, the primordial wave sound, or the One Consciousness, which is Infinite and all-pervasive. Just try this mantra if you are feeling a little down and see if doesn’t pick you up. Don’t worry about how you sound, just sing with an open heart and mind and the intention to connect with the power of these healing sounds.
Visit her website: blissfulbodiesyoga.com
In Buddhist teachings there is this concept called “the second arrow”. You may not have heard this term before but you have experienced it no doubt. The second arrow refers to our reaction to any suffering in our life. Life can be unbelievably beautiful but it is also unpredictable and painful at times. Often we have no control over “the first arrow” – we catch the flu, our lover leaves us, we lose a job, our body ages and becomes ill. As if these were not painful enough, we often, unskillfully, add judgement, blame or dismissal: the second arrow. The second arrow is usually thought based. Our mind goes on a tailspin, we lose perspective and our entire life boils down to this one event.
Here is an everyday example of the second arrow. Just yesterday I spent no less than three and a half hours working on a new playlist for my yoga classes this week. While I was making the playlist I felt excited and energized about the new atmosphere this would provide. When it came time to transfer the music from my computer to my smartphone, something wasn’t right. The music would not transfer and my playlist would not show up. I only had 20 minutes left to figure this out before I had to go teach and this (tiny, non-problem) ISSUE was driving me MAD! I got panicked and frustrated so I called my husband, the tech genius, at work to ask for his help. He tried but could not help me in the moment and I felt upset that he hadn’t dropped everything for me, causing a little rift between us for the moment. Then, admitting defeat, I went back over my day and recounted how much time I had wasted when I could have been transferring the music. I definitely should not have taken that really amazing walk in the sun with my friend, it would have given me more time to make this iPhone work! Then as my/your mind does, I went into ” I am a bad yoga teacher” and now my class will be boring and uninspiring because of the lack of music. You see how silly all of this is, yes? And all of these second arrows were shot within a matter of seconds. That is how it happens. If we are not mindful and present, we do not even know we are doing this. So here is what I did, and what I do when I find myself shooting second arrows:
STOP THE MADNESS. Move out of the space you are in to another space. Change rooms, switch park benches, take a step to the left and be still and quiet for a moment. Use the RAIN acronym to bring yourself back into presence.
Recognize that you are in a “second arrow” moment. There are key signs in my body/mind that I am about to go there or am already there. My breath is usually shorter, everything feels urgent, suddenly I am doing a lot of blaming. Look for your own signs to tip you off so you can Recognize when you are going there.
Accept your situation, as it is, for the moment. I was never going to have music for my class that day. Accepting that would have put me in a better position to prepare. Acknowledge your current situation and try to be present for a moment.
This one can be difficult, but it makes all the difference. Explore what is happening with curiosity and interest. When doing this, try to feel into the current flavor and quality of your experience and not psychoanalyze yourself based on your past.
You can have a thought and not be that thought. You can have an experience and not be that experience. We all know that, but in the moment we often connect the dots in a way that attaches our entire being to this one dilemma. Because I do not have music to play today, I am a bad yoga teacher incapable of helping people. Or, because I forgot to bring cupcakes to school, I am a bad mother who lets her child down. We so easily go there. There is a lot of spaciousness and freedom when we learn to take a step back from being our thoughts and experiences.
My teacher refers to this process as making space for “the one who knows”. The one who knows is you. It is just the version of you who remains present and mindful and has perspective no matter what you are experiencing in the moment. Next time you are troubled try this mini-meditation:
Use RAIN to explore what you are feeling. Then imagine yourself (your body/mind image) split into two. Now there are two of you. The one who is experiencing pain, panic, anxiety, depression and the one who has perspective. The one who can softly remind you to take a deep breath. The one that reminds you another breath is another moment, making space for a new experience.
Read more from Ashley on her website ashleywestroberts.com
Welcome to Spring! The undeniably most popular season of the year is here. As winter melts into spring, the birds, bees, flowers, trees and human hearts are all nourished by more and more sunlight. We may bask in that sunlight, but often we find ourselves still sluggish from winter, with too much on our plates and seasonal allergies to boot! The wisdom of Ayurveda is here to help us balance the shift of seasons and get us glowing, not sneezing all spring.
Spring is also about new beginnings, setting roots that sustain us in summer and fall. This spring, let’s commit to sustaining and thriving- through balance, deep breaths, clean closets and cleansed bodies!
In Ayurveda, the Indian classical Medicine used by yogi’s for thousands years, spring is ruled the elements fire and water, which combine to make pitta dosha or bodily constitution. In spring we work to shed the excess of winter and balance the amount of fire AND water in our systems. Too much water combined with excess earth leaves us feeling heavy, muddy and full of toxins (ama). Too much fire and we’re angry, over heated, over doing, full of allergies and without enough time. Too much fire and water at the same time leaves our bodies taxed, inflamed and pressurized (think sinus headache). Spring is ruled by the organs of liver and gallbladder, our main organs for cleansing and processing toxins. Our liver processes allergens that come from pollen and pollution, but if our liver is taxed, it has a hard time working as smoothly. Using Ayurveda we cool our heat with water, and cleanse with fire. When we are balanced we have healthy fire, creativity, action and ideas, and the coolness of water to stay hydrated and go with the flow. The wisdom of Ayurveda helps us live in balance with the season and the natural world around us, which is ultimate challenge in our modern urban world — however it is so worth it!
Here are 3 basic tips to get you going.
It sounds basic but de-cluttering your space will help you de-clutter your mind. They say the body is the temple of the mind, and it’s much easier to clean the temple of the body and mind when the literal temple of the home is clear. Get new plants and increase the amount of fresh green things in your living space.
Spring is the perfect time for a mild Ayurvedic cleanse to reduce toxins (ama) from winter. Since spring is ruled by the organs liver and gallbladder, it the perfect time to give those organs a break. It’s like an oil change for your body.
Try cutting out sugar, alcohol, dairy, caffeine, cooked oils and red meat for 2 weeks just to give your body a break. The first 3 days are the hardest – it gets easier after that! Getting a friend or partner to join helps a lot too. Increase your intake of water, yoga, rest and alkaline foods (green veggies, fruits, whole grains, raw olive oil, avocados). If you have allergies, increase your intake of bitters, sours and astringent. Bitter veggies (arugula, mustard greens, dandelion greens) support the liver and gallbladder, helping to cleanse the system. The excess of winter is all about sweet, heavy comfort foods. Now is the time to cleanse those out of the system.
The simplest is often the hardest. When we simplify our days, our desks, our dreams, we have more space just to be. Too breathe, to rest, to delight in the moment. Find 10 minutes in your day to do pranayama (breathing practices) and then just sit (or put your legs up the wall if you feet feel tired, hot or swollen). If you find pranayama challenging from sinus congestion or allergies you need a neti pot and a steam inhalation (more in class about that).
The simplest pranayama practice is samma vrtti – count to 5 as you inhale and 5 as you exhale. Take a short pause after the inhale and after the exhale, as a reminder to pause and take space! If you feel especially hot, stressed or need to relax, lengthen the exhale (5 in, 8 out). 12 rounds of breath is perfect. Then sit or put your legs up for the remainder of the 10 minutes.