A brief explanation of the concepts of Ego, Universe and Integration
Let's Be Selfish
The message that often gets misconstrued as we discuss the practices of Yoga is that it is a practice of selflessness. True: we are to practice Karma Yoga by being in service to others. True: we should detach from desire and let go of that which we grasp. True: ultimately we will realize that all that we think is true is false and reality is an illusion.
Also True: we are Ego driven, Kosha limited, human beings. Our current situation is the result of the fact that we are influenced by the fluctuations of nature (Gunas) and our own consistution (Dosha). Realizing this, observing its effects and changing our behaviors is our basic goal for now. Therefore, we have to be selfish. We have to focus on ourselves, first.
When teaching the concepts of self (Ego) and Self (Atma), I like to relate them to the way in which humans have evolved to understand the universe. First, we thought the Earth was flat. Then, we thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then, we thought there was only the Milkway Galaxy. Then, we realized there is so much more.
The self (Ego, I-ness or Individual) is who you are now. You perceive the world based upon what you think is important (the Earth is the center of all things). You are the most important thing. Therefore, everything else revolves around you.
The Self (Atma) is a tiny piece in the grand, gigantic, enormous, universe. It plays a part that is both of value, but also minor in the grand scheme of things. It is made up of all the stuff that surrounds it and, it's its own way is a tiny universe in itself (the Milkyway). It is both unaffected by the Ego and also hidden by it.
You know that video that starts out with the viewfinder on one individual or tiny speck and then pans out for what seems like forever until it has broadened the view to contain the the entire universe? That last part, when it's panned out as far as it can go; that's Brahman.
Once we realize that we are "chips off the old block" of something bigger (Atma), then we can begin to See the whole picture. Before, we were caught up in wants, desires, thoughts, nature, perception, etc. (Ego). Realization, observation and detachment has revealed that all that stuff is unreal; illusion. Now we can see. It's as though our vision has panned out from that tiny speck to envelop the entire universe.
Bliss sounds great, but integration sounds better. Would you rather be all zoned out and disconnected or fully aware and detached? This is the difference between bliss and integration. Samadhi is made up of two words: Sama meaning "same" and Dhi meaning "reflection" or "perception." Samadhi is the the ability to see sameness among everything.
When I first started learning about Samadhi it was translated as bliss. In my mind I imagined that I would be in this happy, joyful, euphoric mindset; that every experience would be wonderful. The deeper I dove into understanding Samadhi, the more I realized it isn't a state of bliss. It is a state of integration; a state of contentment. You reach a level of awareness that allows you to stop "sweating the small stuff." You get to participate, observe and be present without having attachments to emotion, energetic fluctuation or mindful chatter.
Want to learn more about the traditional practices of Raja and Hatha Yoga and how to integrate them into your life? Join us at LTY.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 40.4 million family caregivers for adults age 65 or older in the United States. These caregivers are typically family members who take on the responsibility of helping their loved one with long-term services and support. Caregivers may provide financial assistance and personal care, but a large part of what they do is helping with day-to-day activities and emotional support. While most caregivers find that being there for their loved one is a rewarding experience, it stands to reason that the role involves a certain amount of stress with the risk of burnout. While dealing with that stress involves several healthy lifestyle choices, adding yoga and meditation to your daily schedule can be a huge boon to the overall mental health and wellness of both caregiver and senior.
A Morning Stretch
Among the many changes that happen to the body as we age, most seniors find that they lose flexibility and agility as the years go on. Doing a gentle yoga routine in the morning is a great way to improve mobility and balance, which is essential for preventing senior falls. Stretching is also beneficial for caregivers of all ages, as it eases tension due to stress. Furthermore, it’s helpful in reducing pain as well as stiffness in both the muscles and joints.
To get the best results, it’s important to be consistent and commit to stretching every morning. Having a dedicated practice ensures both senior and caregiver maintain muscular integrity while building strength. Try this easy stretching routine to help relieve stress and improve flexibility. To make it more like yoga, focus on your breath with each stretch. Inhale through your nose as you prepare to enter each pose, and exhale through your mouth when you release.
A Mindful Approach
As stretching and yoga help seniors and their caregivers maintain healthy bodies, meditation helps improve the health of the mind. By dedicating time to contemplation, people who meditate increase their mindfulness for a happier and more fulfilled life. According to Gizmodo, research shows that meditation can shield the brain from the damaging effects of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it helps improve patience, enhances sleep quality, and alleviates feelings of depression. A daily meditation practice enriches one’s life and helps build self-esteem. Learning how to meditate is even a helpful skill when it comes to the management of chronic pain.
Just about everyone can benefit from meditation, but when it comes to seniors, there are particular benefits to consider. For one, when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and medical supervision meditation slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, degenerative conditions that impede cognitive function and memory. When seniors meditate, they are less likely to suffer from isolation and loneliness, which can have devastating physical health effects on top of the mental and emotional strain. Meditating stimulates the brain’s centers for memory, so it can help slow the memory loss that affects many people over the age of 65. Furthermore, the deep and focused breathing that accompanies meditation introduces healthy oxygen into the blood while improving circulation. Many seniors suffer from poor circulation resulting cramping, pain, or a heavy sensation in the limbs.
Millions of people in the United States provide unpaid care for a senior loved one. Care giving involves many things, including financial assistance, personal care, assistance with day-to-day activities, and emotional support. While most caregivers enjoy being there for a loved one, it comes with its share of stress with a risk of burnout. Along with a healthy lifestyle, seniors and their caregivers can ensure wellness with daily yoga and meditation habits. Stretching in the morning is a great way to improve agility and balance for seniors, while it can help their caregivers relieve anxiety and stress-related pain. Meditation is as good for the head as yoga is good for the body. It improves mindfulness and protects the brain from stress, but it’s also helpful for seniors, as it slows the progression of dementia.
Give The Gift of Yoga
Lake Tahoe Yoga offers a variety of options for individuals interested in beginning the practice of mindful movement and meditation.
Guest Blogger: Trevor McDonald / https://trevormcdonald.me/
If you go to the doctor for pain, he’s likely to prescribe something. That’s just how our system works. Modern medicine may try to find and fix the root of the issue, but that’s always the case. Either way, prescription painkillers are likely to make an appearance in your treatment protocol.
And anyone who has television can turn on the nightly news for examples of why prescription painkillers are dangerous. Painkiller addiction is common, and it's a problem that's plaguing our nation.
If you’re sure you don’t want to follow that path, you’ll be happy to know that there are other options. We tend to think of pain as something that’s localized. If you break your leg, your leg is the problem, right?
Somewhat surprisingly, the answer isn’t that simple. Your leg is the root of the problem, for sure, but there are other things involved.
Your perception of pain has nothing to do with your leg.
Even opioid painkillers don’t work on the source of pain. They work by blocking pain signals in the brain. Short-term pain relief must focus on the brain while long-term relief typically must focus on the pain source.
Here’s how to adopt a holistic approach to pain management.
Learn how to meditate
Do you know how some lucky people just seem to have a higher tolerance to pain? We usually chalk it up to genetics and nothing more. And while genetics may play a role, there’s most definitely more.
A Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study suggests that mindfulness training, including meditation, can change a person’s subjective experience of pain.
When it comes to pain management, perception is everything. You cannot stop a bee from stinging you, but you apparently can alter the way you perceive the pain. Of course, we’re not talking about turning pain into pleasure like water to wine, but meditation may help alleviate the literal and figurative sting.
Researchers found that participants in the pain study showed significantly less pain after meditation, but they also showed an increase in brain activity in the area responsible for self-awareness and perception.
Find natural remedies to alleviate pain
Through meditation, you may be able to tolerate pain better, but it may not be enough when you're battling an extreme case. If you find yourself in a situation like this, experiment with various natural remedies to alleviate pain.
If you’re in a state where medical marijuana is legal, this may be an option. Research has shown that marijuana may be effective at treating some types of pain. Other natural remedies include turmeric, devil’s claw, capsicum, comfrey oil and glucosamine (specifically for joint pain).
Treat the source of your pain
Perception and mediation are great stop-gap solutions to help live your life while experiencing pain, but they will do nothing to help alleviate your pain in the long run. To accomplish lasting pain relief, you must find and address the root cause of the problem. This will be different for different people, but your doctor should be able to help you determine and address pain at the source.
With a holistic approach to pain management, you can get back to a state of good health without having to rely on dangerous prescription medications.
Yoga + Focused Concentration = Less Stress
Stress from work, school, and family can build throughout the day until, when it’s finally time to get some much needed rest, you have trouble closing your eyes. You need a full night’s sleep, that’s a solid seven to eight hours every night, to rejuvenate, energize, and refresh the body for a new day. Yoga and focused concentration both offer ways to help clear your mind, slow your heart rate, and prepare your mind and body for better sleep.
Yoga, especially those forms that use directed breathing, reduce the inflammation brought on by stress. Focusing your mind and body before bed has measurable benefits by reducing the activity of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation. Yoga Asana also helps relieve tension and tightness in muscles.
Focused concentration that centers on mindfulness is another way to help center your mind, putting stressful events and thoughts in the background for better sleep. Mindfulness concentration encourages practitioners to focus on the moment so that thoughts and emotions center in the present rather than dwelling on the past or speculating about the future. This type of concentration helps relieve symptoms of depression, chronic pain, and conditions like high blood pressure.
Yoga for Better Sleep
Yogic and concentration techniques can be performed before getting into bed or after you’ve laid down. When doing poses in bed, your mattress type may prevent you from getting a stretch with the same intensity you are used to on the floor, but that doesn’t reduce the relaxing benefits.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with the feet hip-width apart, folding from your hips toward the ground. Reach your arms to the ground. You can grab your elbows with your hands and let your arms gently dangle for a better stretch. Slightly bend your knees to relieve any strain. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm.
Seated Spinal Twist
Start by sitting on a mat or your bed with both legs out straight in front of you. Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot over your right leg. Gently hold your left leg with your right hand, and twist your torso so you’re looking over your left shoulder. You can keep your right leg straight or bend it toward your left hip. Take up to eight deep breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
On your knees, sit with your knees wider than your hips and bring your big toes together. Lengthen your torso between your legs. Extend your arms out in front or rest them beside your legs. Let your forehead drop toward the ground or your bed. Take up to eight long, deep breaths before releasing.
Focused Concentration works well once you’re lying in bed. Start by focusing on your breath. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm and listen to the sound of the air entering and leaving your lungs. Focus your mind on the calming sound of your breath. If it helps, focus on a calming word with each inhale and exhale. As you continue breathing, keep your mind focused by pulling it back to your breathing when it begins to wander. Continue until you feel calm, quiet, and relaxed. You may even drift off to sleep.
Special thanks to TUCK for their contribution of this blog and active work in the study of Mindfullness, Sleep and accessing Dhyana (Meditation).
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
We all know that the only way to truly prepare for Winter sports is to get out there and do them. Whether you are heading to Heavenly or Kirkwood, Squaw or Sierra at Tahoe, Yoga Asana and Pranayama as well as mindful practices can help you to feel strong, safe and aware while out on the snow. Try out these simple practices to help you enjoy this year's season. You won't regret it.
1) Asana (Poses)
There are many Yoga asana (poses) that can help you to strengthen as well as recover from your day out on the slopes. An experienced and knowledgeable instructor will be able to guide you through theses poses and teach you how to use them in a way that helps you prepare for your day out, then release afterward.
Yudrasana (Lunge) - raising and lowering between high and low lunges.
Deviasana (Goddess) - holding, and also shifting your upper body from side-to-side.
Virabhadrasana Dvi (Warrior Two) - holding, as well as rotating.
Parsvottanasana - intense side stretch.
Supta Virasana - reclined hero
Svastikasana - auspicious pose/reclined twist variation
2) Pranayama (Conscious Breath)
If you’re heading out to the resort you are unlikely to be the only one doing so. You can prepare for and remain relaxed while sharing the mountain by applying a simple breathing techniques. Not only will they help you to remain calm and patient in lift lines. Pranayama practices can also help you to reduce stress levels while you are out and about traveling and visiting the area.
Victorious/Powerful Breathing (Ujjayi):
Breathe in and out of your nose only.
Constrict the back of your throat slightly so that your breath is audible to you, only.
Feel your breath as it moves in and out of your throat.
Slow your breathing down so that each inhale and exhale is as long as you can make it.
3) Dharana (Mindful Practice)
We can easily become caught up in the cycle of activity and buzz around us while we are out on the slopes. There are people moving everywhere and in every direction. It’s a good idea to step out of the way, look around, and observe our circumstances every once in a while.
Be sure to follow these simple mountain rules to keep yourself and others safe:
-Move to the side of the trail if you need to stop for any reason. While waiting for friends, fixing your gear or taking a break, move out of the way of those who are riding.
-Be considerate of others by keeping your backpack, poles and gear close to your body while moving around or riding the lift. Wear headphones if you like to listen to music and keep the volume at a level that still allows you to hear the liftee and those around you in the case that someone is trying to get your attention.
-Stay in control of yourself, even if your friends are bombing down the slope ahead of you. Most of us don’t get to ski every day. Honor your abilities and be honest about how much control you really have over your board or skis. Everyone, including that 5-year-old grom crushing it on the bumps will have more fun when staying in control.
Find a spot on the side of the trail, pull up a chair, or head into the lodge and relax for a few minutes. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Enjoy the crisp air and the swish of others sliding by.
To learn more about the poses, breath work and mindfulness practices that keep Jenay peaceful during Tahoe Winter visit LakeTahoeYoga.com.
Beyond your Body
Most people are now familiar with the word Yoga. The practice of Yoga Asana has become so popular that the word "Yoga" is often used to mean "the poses of Yoga." To truly describe the practice we have to deepen our understanding.
Yoga is the practice of eight limbs: asta anga. The first four are the most well known and accessible: Asana, Pranayama, Yama and Niyama. You can read more about them in another blog. In order to move beyond the physical (anamayakosha), we must practice the eight limbs of Yoga. The final four: withdrawing inward, concentration, meditation and divine consciousness are the paths which move us beyond our mind and body.
Pratyahara is the practice of moving inward. Our skills of asana and pranayama lead us toward a more quiet body and mind thus preparing us to release from the bondage of the physical. When we are no longer distracted by body limitations and the chatter of our thoughts we become able to connect more deeply with our selves.
There are many tools available for helping us to practice pratyahara: mantra, breathing and mudra are all physically and mentally engaging tools that draw our attention inward. The more we do so, the less distracted we are by our surroundings.
Dharana is that one-pointed concentration developed through consistent practice and dedication. When we detach from the physical, we are better able to look within and focus.
We can practice dharana by using techniques including tratak (gazing), pranayama, guided focus practices and spending time in quiet places. The more we practice these techniques, the more easily we can return to them when we need them. They are useful on airplanes, in busy offices, while in traffic, and when the quality of energy around you begins to become overwhelming.
Dhyana is meditation; stillness on every level. Meditation can occur while seated or moving. The key aspect of this practice is that you are one-pointed and still within.
I wish I could tell you exactly what to do to access meditation, but I can't, because you can't. Meditation cannot be done. It happens. It happens as a result of all of the other practices you do. Once it happens, it doesn't go away. You reach a state of liberation and are no longer drawn toward distractions. The only way to access dhyana is through practice of the previous six limbs.
Samadhi is the ultimate state we work to reach. It is similar to dhyana with the exception that you are not effected by emotions, attachments, etc. You are still and peaceful on all levels and move through life in this way at all times.
I like to use the word "integration" to explain samadhi: we become so aware of the interconnection of all things that we no longer percieve separation. Once again, this is something that happens, we can't practice it or make it happen. We just have to stick with our other practices and allow samadhi to occur.
At Lake Tahoe Yoga we integrate the eight limbs into every class. Our intention is to provide you with the tools to practice on your own so that you may access the deeper aspects of Yoga. Join us for group sessions that provide a general overview of how to practice Yoga. Book a Private Session to begin deepening your individual practice. Learn more on our website and blog.
Take a Vacation for an Hour
Th practice of Yoga is designed to increase inner awareness and decrease your concern over all that is gong on around you. The challenge if the movements and direction of inhales and exhales is intentially expressed in order to draw your focus. Everything from the lighting of the room, music chosen to the scents used during the practice are intended to shift your perspective.
Take advantage of these conscious efforts by joining class at a Yoga studio. A well trained instructor should be able to guide you away from your day and into an hour long vacation.
Quiet Your Mind with Sound
How many times have you found yourself listening to something and being distracted by another sound?
I think back to my grade school years and how, although I was interested in what was being taught, I was so easily distracted by the sound of a tapping pencil, creaking chair or bird singing outside. As we know, our minds are constantly drawn into many directions. We are being hit with millions if not billions of pieces of information at any minute and focusing on just one can seem like an impossibility.
Find Quiet In Everything You Do
Consider the last time you were in silence. What did you hear? One would hope the answer is "nothing," but it's most likely that you heard something. Perhaps a buzzing or high pitched ringing or maybe, just maybe your own internal "Aum."
Using sounds as part of our practice to find one-pointedness and concentration can be very helpful. Sounds can help us to become centered and to draw us inward. Of course, they can do the opposite, as well. The sound of screeching tires or an alarm can certainly draw you outside of yourself. In opposition, the sound of your own voice in a hum can draw you inward. A deep bass can connect you to your belly and your favorite song can rush in memories of old.
Focus on finding stillness in your asana practice, use the sounds around you to help you turn inward. Even the pounding of the dancer's feet on the floor offers the opportunity of practice to bring our attention inward. As your physical practice becomes more still, so shall your mind, breath and spirit.