Category Archives: Yoga

Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Ishvara-Pranidhara

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Nature is divine

Good morning! Today we are talking about the fifth and final niyama: ishvara-pranidhara. The words mean surrender to the divine. There are many ways one could interpret the meaning. I like the simpleness of the mantra “I surrender.” Choosing this mantra helps us recognize even though there are things out of our control,  everything is still going to be okay. We know that life runs in cycles and the world is full of yin and yang. What pleases us one day might anger us the next. Surrendering gives us peace in a world of uncertainty.

If you want to dig a little bit deeper into the meaning of ishvara-pranidhara then click on this article  by Jivamukti teacher/founder Sharon Gannon.

For me, a powerful way to practice surrendering is through yin yoga. Basically hang out in your favorite pose (such as child’s pose, savasana, legs up the wall, or reclined bound angle). Let go of any effort or force. As you inhale think the word “I” and as you exhale think the word “surrender.” Keep at it for at least five minutes, going as long as you like. Relaxing music is optional. I use the harp setting on my iPhone timer so that I can relax without worrying about the time.

How do you practice surrendering?

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Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Svadhyaya

Good morning! The word of the day is Svadhyaya. It means self-study.

Svadhyaya is the fourth niyama, or personal guideline, laid out in Patanjali’s eightfold path. The previous niyamas are

1. saucha- purity

2. santosha- contentment

3. tapas- heat

The “self” in self-study is referring to our inner selves. Basically our “self” in yoga is what’s left once we strip away the titles, relationships, characteristics and qualities that we identify with. It’s our inner truth and light. The Yoga Sutras teach us that our “self” is separate from our ego. It’s our ego that wants to identify as smart, pretty, interesting or whatever else we desire. If we can learn to detach from what we are on the surface then we can begin to let go of pain and suffering.

“One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.”     ~Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now

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Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Tapas

Good morning! The word of the day is tapas. It means heat or austerity.

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A Costa Rican sky illuminated by the fiery sun

The root of the word, tap, means to burn. Tapas is traditionally interpreted as “fiery discipline” (here’s a Yoga Journal article on the subject). Tapas is the burning desire and motivation to keep going. It’s also consistency.

How many times have I started something with full vigor only to forget about it a few days later? This blog is a running record of all the great ideas I’ve jumped on. But sticking with something? That’s another story. Patanjali tells us that we should use our inner fire to change negative habits, whatever they are. We can recognize that we have a choice to follow or change our patterns. Simply put, tapas is self-discipline.

For background info, click here.

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Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Santosha

Good morning! The word of the day is Santosha~contentment.

It’s been a while since the last Saturday Morning Sanskrit post…but I love learning the meaning behind these ancient words so I’m picking it back up where I left off. Before Baby Max came along I was studying Patanjali’s eightfold path.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, click here. The Yamas in the first limb address social behaviors. The Niyamas in the second limb focus on our thoughts and attitudes. There are five niyamas, or personal guidelines, to help us with our thoughts. The second is Santosha, which means contentment.

The dictionary defines contentment as a state of happiness and satisfaction.

Basically Patanjali tells us to be satisfied with what we have. It’s such a simple thought, yet at times it seems impossible. Our consumer-driven culture doesn’t help matters. But according to the ancient texts we really can be content with what we have, it just takes practice.

Contentment arrives when we make the choice to be happy with what we have. It’s not easy going against old habits. Especially old Nordstrom Rack habits when planning a Mexican-themed afternoon fiesta. But I’ve committed to the idea of Santosha~contentment with what I have, so I’m pulling out the summer tote to dig through the pile of dresses I already own to find just the perfect outfit. I’m also reading an amazing book about voluntary simplicity, which I will share more about later this week.

How do you practice contentment with what you have?

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Escuelita de Verano

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Friends in boat pose

This year I vowed to give back more. I started small during my recent trip to Costa Rica. A few weeks before we left I contacted Friends of Nosara to ask if I could visit the local elementary school. In Costa Rica January is considered summer and the schools close for the month. That leaves kids with nothing to do for the day, so the Surfing Nosara Foundation sponsors a summer camp with free lunch and activities for the kiddos. The English speaking coordinator Sarah was thrilled to have us visit. We volunteered to bring a blender and fruit to make smoothies and I planned to teach a yoga class. I practiced my Spanish beforehand and looked up a few key words and phrases. I also brought along these colorful cards. On the day of our visit we stopped at a roadside stand to pick up fresh bananas and pineapples. The students loved doing yoga, despite my broken Spanish. They adored Max. We had so much fun being part of the local community for the day.

IMG_3362Savasana works in any language

_DSC3275A helper adding pineapple chunks to the mix

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Every student got the chance to assist

_DSC3267Patiently waiting

M and have traveled extensively, but only recently did I think to reach out to a local school for a day visit. A few years ago I spent a month volunteering in Peru and I guess I thought that giving had to be some grand gesture. That’s nice when you have the resources, but even one afternoon can brighten someone’s day or $20 can make a difference.

I would love to hear about your volunteer experiences!

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Grace & Glory

I went to hot power yoga this morning and liked it. I’m not usually a fan of hot yoga because the heat can be pretty intense. But at 8:30 this morning M offered to watch Baby Max and the class at my usual studio started at 9. We live in the woods, so there was no way I could make it. I’d heard about Grace & Glory through a friend so I decided to give it a go. The room was packed and it was hot. 90 degrees to be exact. But it wasn’t stifling and in the chilliness of winter it actually felt pretty good.

What really made me like the class was the teacher. For me, yoga is more than just a workout. Sure that’s what got me interested in it years ago. A workout that you don’t really have to work at? Count me in. My thoughts have changed since then as I sit here drenched in sweat next to my sleeping baby, afraid to move. The reason I really liked Nicole’s class was because she sprinkled in plenty of yoga philosophy throughout the poses. Like, “My practice is my prayer.” Yoga is movement to get rid of all the crap that is stuck inside of us, both mental and physical. Jivamukti teacher Sharon Gannon wrote about intention this month. If you do yoga with the intention of losing weight, you will probably become thinner. However, why not elevate your intentions for yourself and your life? As Sharon points out, yoga without the philosophy is gymnastics. And sure it will make your body feel good for a little while, but why not awaken something higher in ourselves? And that’s why I really loved today’s hot power yoga class. Yes, I was there for a workout and to feel better physically. But I was also there to let go of negative thoughts and aspire towards inner tranquility. And sometimes that takes a good dose of sweat.

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Costa Rica with Max

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A monkey at Playa Dona Ana…the best rest stop in the world

The perfect place to stop for lunch on the way to the beach after a flight into San Jose

IMG_3326Yoga in the treetops at the Nosara Yoga Institute

IMG_3336Baby Max chasing a beach puppy at Playa Guiones

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Swinging at a family-owned restaurant in Nosara town (across the street from the air strip)

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Playing around on a long board

We stayed two nights in Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s hip surf town with a large number of expats, beach bars and surf shops. The yoga class that I took there was for the most part in Spanish with a little English and focused on hips, which I so needed after the journey. On Saturday we drove three hours through mostly dirt roads to the quaint little town of Playa Guiones near Nosara. M and I rented a long board to take turns on while Baby Max happily played in the sand. On our last day in Costa Rica we headed back to the San Jose area to a Swiss chalet…yes a European style hotel in the mountains of Heredia. The air was crisp and cool and the scenery was stunning. Although the truth is…it was quite an odyssey to get there. The internet said four hours, and after six and several trips around the same town I was starting to think a nice boring safe Marriott next to the airport wasn’t looking so bad. Baby Max was crying and everyone we asked kept saying take the main road up the hill. Problem was the main hill wasn’t labeled along with all the rest of the roads. Alas we finally made it and like always when traveling, it was worth it.

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“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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