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Useful articles to learn yoga

 

 

My yoga practice

 

 

One of my friends, Peentz, asked these two questions of our Yoga Sutra study group:

• Do you practice the 8 limbs of yoga as defined in the second chapter of the Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras?
• Do you carve out specific time each day for practice?

For me the simplest answers are Yes and Yes. Here is a longer answer. Ever since I learned about the Yoga Sutras, I became really interested in learning more about them. In the last decade I have been trying to answer the simple question: Can the Yoga Sutras be applied today?

Once I made a commitment to follow yoga as my main system for living a fulfilling life, I keep revisiting a fundamental question: What is Yoga? Over time the definitions have changed, with some definitions staying the same for a good while and others lasting only a few weeks or months. At this point, the definition that seems more direct, complete and comprehensive is Yoga is Presence. At any point I can use the definition to check if I am fully aware of where I am and what I am doing. Inevitably, as I check in during my day, I have noticed that some of my tendencies, inclinations and ways of being can be either an obstacle to be fully present. In other cases, some of my ways of being serve as useful ways to move towards being present. Why is this important? Because I am interested in enhancing the quality of my participation in my life, to contribute my presence to the world with greater clarity, kindness and compassion. There are always reminders that I am still learning. This is where I have found that a consistent practice is very helpful to diminish obstacles, inefficiencies and distractions on the journey to presence.

For several years there have been two aspects to my practice. First, there is my daily formal practice and second is the practice of showing up to my life to the best of my ability. These two aspects of the practice act synergistically, each one provides feedback and reinforces the other. In addition to presence, there is one idea shared by my formal and informal practice, Range of Action. In my opinion the guiding value in many societies, particularly in the society I live in, is the concept of “MORE.” It is prevalent in our economy and in how marketing works, by selling us the idea that we are not enough, not strong enough, not beautiful enough, not intelligent enough, not rich enough, not flexible enough, not traveled enough. The list seems never ending. When I believed the idea that more is always better, my internal life seemed to always have a low-level anxiety that influenced everything I did, what I felt, what I thought and how I interacted with others. No matter how hard I tried, I still ended up feeling that I was never enough. It was exhausting and unhelpful. Once I stop believing in the notion of more as the guiding principle to my life, I could recognize the abundance and richness of life everywhere. Rather than trying to accumulate more possessions and experiences I recognized that it is, at least for me, more important to focus my energy on the quality of my participation in my life. The quality of my participation is closely related to the idea of Range of Action. Everything in the world has a natural and organic range of action. Thus, we can experience enthusiasm and dejection, sadness and joy, ease and discomfort, vitality and exhaustion. And, since we are not digital beings, we are not limited to 0 or 1, to either feeling joy or sadness. We are lucky enough to be able to feel a wide range of emotions and sensations. Range of action applies to our emotions, our breath, our muscular engagement and to our mental activity. In both aspects of my practice I am curious to exploring a healthy range of action at the physical, mental and emotional levels. In the process of exploring it becomes obvious that these aspects of ourselves articulate elegantly to enable us to respond intelligently and appropriately to every situation and interaction that we find ourselves in. Presence and Range of Action are the guiding principles of my practice.

Formal Practice

In my daily formal practice, I explore the natural range of action in my joints, muscles, breathing and capacity to focus. I use the following yoga techniques in my explorations:

• Mindful movement of the main sections of my spine
• A concentration and coordination practice called the Dance of Shiva.
• Agni Sara
• A selection of postures (asanas) moving slowly from one to the next (vinyasa). The guiding principle for my postural (asana) practice is movement of the spine according to all of its natural directions. These spinal movements are complemented by the actions of the shoulder girdle and hip girdle. I complete this portion of the practice with corpse posture (shavasana). In my physical practice I modulate the level of muscular engagement to facilitate circulation, so that it tends to stay within a 40-75% muscular engagement.
• A systematic breathing (pranayama) practice including traditional breathing techniques (ashvini mudra, kapalabhati, bhastrika, shitali, dirgha puraka, dirgha rechaka, nadi shodana and some retentions.
• Yogic meditation, usually mantra recitation (japa).

After my practice, if time permits, I also try to chant a portion of the yoga sutras. Although I know that some scholars speculate that the yoga Sutra may not be a text that was transmitted orally, I find that trying to chant and memorize the Yoga Sutras is an amazing way to enhance my memory and my ability to concentrate.

I see my practice as a way to enhance function in body, breath, mind and emotion. Thus, my goal is to feel energized after my practice and never sore or exhausted. In the last couple of years, I developed the habit of going to my computer after practice to write my own understanding of the yoga Sutras of Patañjali. During my day I usually will try to read something related to yoga, especially related to philosophy and anatomy to enrich my understanding and my teaching. I see my daily formal practice as my own laboratory to clarify what yoga is for me through my direct experience.

Daily living

The second aspect of my practice is my attitude as I participate in my life, this is intimately linked to the precepts offered by Patañjali, the yamas and niyamas . Before I wake up in the morning, I give thanks for being alive and for having another day to try to be the best version of me that I can be. I also try to set my intention to practice gratitude, compassion and presence in my interactions with the people that I encounter. During my day, some of the questions that I use to remind myself of my intention include:

• Am I present?
• Am I doing what I think I am doing?

I also try to attend to my tendency to add comments and judgments of whatever happens. In other words, instead of making up my mind about whatever might be happening, I try to pause to pay attention to what is actually happening withholding judgment. Sometimes, as on the days when I have to drive for a while between my classes and my private sessions, I listen to podcasts or lectures related to yoga and other times I chant, either devotional chants or the Yoga Sutras. Most of my days revolve around yoga, because I really love how yoga has enriched my life. Of course, as a happily married man, I make sure that I spend time every day with my lovely wife, because it is a lot of fun to be with her and to learn from her. And of course, like many other people, I still have to wash dishes, clean, do laundry, cook, update my website, etc. Fortunately, since my job is teaching yoga, I have many opportunities to pay attention and to try to apply what I have been learning over the years. My goal is to participate in all my activities with a friendly attitude and a smile on my face, if simply because it makes everything more enjoyable in my life.

Peace,
rubén

 

 

Dance of Shiva: Transquarter

 

 

Namaste,
One of the excellent features of the Dance of Shiva is that with just four positions in each pattern it is still possible to create many variations to continue expanding our coordination and focus. The idea of transquarters is to learn to ‘skip’ one of the positions, so that instead of going 1-2-3-4, you can go from 1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 1 and 4 to 2. This can be applied to both the Horizontal and Vertical patterns.

The pattern is:

  • Move from 1 to 3
  • Return to 1
  • Advance from 1 to 2
  • Move from 2 to 4
  • Return to 2
  • Advance from 2 to 3
  • Move from 3 to 1
  • Return to 3
  • Advance from 3 to 4
  • Move from 4 to 3
  • Return to 4
  • Complete the pattern by advancing from 4 to 1

When this is simple enough you may explore going faster.

Video

In this video you can see an example of the Transquarter pattern applied to the horizontal and the vertical patterns.

One of the things you may notice as you practice is that there may be a running commentary in your head. Just try to practice and focus on the sensations and on saying the numbers of the positions as you move. I hope that you enjoy this practice.

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Smart and Enjoyable Yoga Practice

 

One idea that makes a difference in your practice and in its effects is to use the practice as a way to give your body an enjoyable massage. An effective approach is to explore with kind curiosity the healthy range of movement in your joints. The movements include tiny, small, medium and large movements. However, keep in mind that you are ensuring that you do not overstretch. You also pay attention not to squash your joints. Trust that staying within a healthy range of action will enhance circulation while preventing injuries. In addition, you get the benefits of the practice while also making your practice enjoyable and free of stress. If your practice is enjoyable you are more likely to practice again. As you build consistency in your practice you are more likely to receive incremental benefits at a sustainable pace. You will notice that your range of movement will improve also. This is a practical way of applying the yoga manifesto

Try this approach with the following video:

I hope you enjoy this approach to yoga.
Peace and health,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Meditation Challenge: Day 21 Joyful

Namaste and welcome to day 21!

I hope that you are happy with yourself and your level of dedication. Every journey in life offers you opportunities to feel a wide variety of emotions. Hopefully this meditation challenge has been a fruitful exploration where you have learned about yourself. Before you start, really take a moment to appreciate yourself and your heartfelt desire to do your best! As you practice today, you can plant the seed of intention to continue on this path of self-discovery. I appreciate you. You know how to contact me. Please stay in touch.

If you’d like to create more balance between your hips, you can try:

Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Joyfully present,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 20 Consistency

Namaste and welcome to day 20!

Well, you are almost there. Give yourself a big hug appreciating yourself. When you create consistency in your practice, your practice becomes one of your foundations. Then your practice helps you notice how your daily activities, including your diet, your sleep and exercise patterns and everything you do and think, influence your ability to stay focused. Then, it is easier for you to make choices about what you do, because you know from your direct experience how it impacts your life.

If you would like to clear your mind before meditating, you may try:

Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Consistently you,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 19 New habit

Namaste and welcome to day 19!

You have been giving meditation an honest try. I trust you are noticing that your body may be asking for its meditation time. Can meditation become something as deeply entrenched in you as brushing your teeth? Still paying attention, still returning after every distraction. It is normal for your level of focus to fluctuate. Can you savor it all?

In case you’d like to release tension from your shoulders before meditating, you may try:

Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Attentively,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 18 More like you

Namaste and welcome to day 18!

Sometimes, we may think that meditation is about making ourselves into a different person. Perhaps, into somebody who is special and without shortcomings. Remember that at the beginning of this challenge we defined meditation as meeting yourself as you are, where you are. In yoga we know that throughout your whole being there is deep peace, compassion and love. All the techniques in yoga are just trying to help remove whatever obstacles there are to feeling more like you, at peace, aware and filled with love and compassion. How is that experience for you?

If you want to release tension in your hips and lower back before your practice you can try

Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Being at peace with yourself,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 17 AUM

Namaste and welcome to day 17!

In the yoga tradition there is one sound that is said to stand for the ever-present vibration throughout the cosmos. It is represented with this letter: ॐ. As with anything else that has a long tradition you will find people who said that the way to pronounce that sound is OM, while others say to pronounce it A-U-M. Apply your skills to relax, breathe and chant in this session and notice what happens.

If you’d like to create better balance between your hips, you can try:

Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Vibrating,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 16 Meeting yourself

Namaste and welcome to day 16!

You have dedicated more than two whole weeks to deepening your relationship with yourself. How do you feel? Is meditation becoming part of your daily routine? Are you noticing any changes in your overall mood and attitude? Today is the last day of chanting the seed sounds. How are you meeting yourself today?

If you would like to clear your mind before meditating, you may try:

Seed sounds (bija): Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham and Ksham.
Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Meeting yourself without conditions,

rubén

Meditation Challenge: Day 15 Focused

Namaste and welcome to day 15!
As you keep honing your chanting, is it possible that listening to your voice and noticing the quality of your breath may be keeping your mind focused more easily? Still, if distractions emerge, you keep coming back without strain, without struggle, with no judgment and with a gentle smile.

In case you’d like to release tension from your shoulders before meditating, you may try:

Seed sounds (bija): Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham and Ksham.
Guided meditation below, when the recording comes to an end, take as long as you wish to enjoy the silence and to savor the effects of the practice.

Focused,

rubén