FREE Video: Yoga postures for Lower Back Pain, Hip Flexibility and Thigh Flexibility Breath

 

Yoga Postures to Release Lower Back Pain

This is a brief 12 minute video to help release tightness and tension from the lower back and to help increase mobility and flexibility in the hip joints and thighs. This session can be practiced in the morning, after exercising, at the end of the day or in preparation for sleeping. Patient persistence is the way of yoga, and it is IMPORTANT to remember that creating pain, forcing, numbness and tingling are not part of Yoga.

If you have chronic pain please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

After the practice you can check if you feel better than you felt before the practice, this is an indication that the practice is working and that you are practicing correctly.
I hope you enjoy the practice and its benefits

Namaste.

 

Yoga: Retreat into Presence

Just returned from another heartwarming yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I do know that every practice is a retreat,yet there is nothing like physically removing ourselves from our everyday lives to notice more clearly our own habitual ways of thinking, being, feeling, moving and breathing. Just as we do in most, if not all yoga practices, reducing distractions is a sound first step.

During the retreat we used a simple approach.
Our intention was to move towards greater Presence, that is towards our full participation in the present moment by:

Presence : Pause Listen Clarify Trust - yoga is being present

Pausing
Taking a brief moment in order to let go of all other moments, times and spaces
Listening
Tuning into our senses and noticing the unfolding of life, one moment at a time
Clarifying
Distinguishing what is from our preconceived ideas and automatic-habitual reactions
Trusting
Aligning with the silent whisper of our heart with confidence that its guidance is appropriate, applicable and relevant

These simple steps inspired us to act with heartfelt intention, to breath with integrity and to engage our bodies mindfully towards participating wholeheartedly and harmoniously in our every moment. Since we had minimized distractions we used our infinite time mindset to inform our playful exploration of a wide range of yogic tools. Every day we applied mindful breathing (pranayama), chanting (japa), postures and movement (asana & vinyasa), yogic relaxation (yoga nidra), mindful use of our senses (pratyahara) as well as reflection, discussion (satsanga), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) to deepen our practice, to uncover and remove restrictions, old patterns and pain.

Throughout the retreat we engaged in the study, reflection and application (svadhyaya) of the first four sutras in chapter 1 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra:

  • 1.1 Yoga happens only now, its study and practice requires our preparation and full participation here and now.
  • 1.2 Yoga is the reduction of agitation and noise in our mind, breath, body and heart.
  • 1.3 Stability in our mind, breath, body and heart lets our inner witness be established in pure awareness.
  • 1.4 Otherwise, we misidentify ourselves with the temporary labels we have been acquiring over the years.

In our inward journey we had the inspiration of the breathtaking Costa Rican tropical rainforest surrounding us. Inspired by the abundance of life and the exuberant foliage, we noticed how each leaf, each insect and every single animal contributes its uniqueness to their environment without trying, just by being. Nature provided powerful inspiration guiding us to sleep as the day light dimmed into profound darkness, enveloping us in the sound of falling rain. The guttural growls of the howler monkeys lulled us into sleep and woke us up every morning. At every turn we were captivated by the magnificent hues of blue of the morpho butterflies,the unusual colors of bright red and dark blue poison dart frogs, , the precise and purposeful movements of hummingbirds, colorful toucans and countless other birds , the deep colors of innumerable flowers like red ginger, bright orange heliconias, dazzling, birds of paradise, vivid hibiscus, and myriad intricate bromeliad blooms. The unbelievable beauty around us made it easy to disconnect from our contemporary communication technologies and to savor the joy of quiet.

Besides, the warmth of our hosts at Samasati Nature retreat, the delightful and plentiful vegetarian meals and the rustic comfort of our accommodations made our retreat the best way to deepen our yoga practice and to help us align with awareness to begin the New Year.

With grateful heart I am enjoying my return to the place I call home while I am already taking tiny steps to guide another retreat later this year.

May your year be filled with love, joy and awareness.
Namaste.

 

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica - Enero 2012 Retiro Yoga en Costa Rica

As suggested in every practice is a retreat , when we remove distractions our practice helps us notice our habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling. These habitual ways of being tend to limit our level of awareness and clarity. Certainly making each practice into a retreat is a valuable tool for all of us. Obviously, the power of actually withdrawing away from our usual surroundings is unsurpassed because our awareness heightens in response to a new environment and circumstances. In January this year I felt very honored and grateful to guide a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. Our group soon came together with a heartfelt sense of camaraderie and friendship clearly inspired by the beauty of the pristine rainforest, the welcoming people and atmosphere, the inviting practice spaces as well as the delicious food prepared and served with much love. I am happy to announce that we will return to our yoga haven in Costa Rica in January 2012. If you are interested in letting go of the stress and tension of the year and to start 2012 feeling refreshed, balanced and invigorated this retreat is for you:

  • 5 nights/6 days retrea
  • Arrive: Sunday January 1st
  • Begin: Monday, January 2nd
  • Return: Sunday, January 8th
  • Cost: US$1299

This is a retreat that is tailored to participants at all levels, so that each person’s level of practice benefits from a gradual natural unfolding. You are welcome to read some of the reactions to this year’s retreat.

For more information, visit http://stpeteyoga.com/retreats/CostaRicaSamasati2012.html or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664.

Enjoy the day!
Namaste,

 

 

Every Practice is a Retreat

Giardino di Ninfa - Italy

Always Doing

Most of us seem to be in constant movement from activity to activity, from thought to thought. It seems like there are very few, if any, times during our regular day when we are not doing something. It is clear, as it says in the Bhagavad Gita that being part of the world we are obliged to act (B.G. 3.8). However, it is also important to balance our activities with times when we slow down and shift our mode of acting and doing in order to relax and replenish our energy. Most often, the people I talk to and the yoginis and yogis who come to practice with me, regardless of their stage in life, occupation or gender, say that relaxing moments are generally scarce.

Unconscious Patterns

Moreover, our human inclination towards habit formation frequently results in physical, mental and emotional patterns that we cultivate daily. As we become very practiced in these habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling, their patterns accumulate in our bodies, hearts and minds and become our unconscious normal state of being and doing. For instance, if we spend several hours every day sitting in front of the computer, our bodies will find ways to adjust to this activity. Eventually, some muscles will be chronically tight and other muscles will be overstretched and without muscular tone, the joints and organs will also adjust. It is only natural that over time these adaptations affect our posture, our breathing, our ways of moving and walking and even our ways of thinking and feeling.

Retreat

A retreat is a conscious decision to pause, that is, to remove ourselves from our regular environment and activities. As a result, we create the opportunity to notice how we move, breath, think and express ourselves. As we notice the patterns that we have been cultivating over time, we can see if they are deliberate and conscious and if they serve a purpose aligned with our intentions. Every time we step onto our yoga mat we can choose to immerse in a personal retreat. That is, we can choose to convert our practice into a safe environment where we can explore mindfully the spaciousness of our breath, body, mind and heart. Wherever we find restrictions we can take time to discover ways to diminish or dissolve those restrictions. Quite often finding an obstruction gives us with insight into some of the causes for the restriction. Thus, we can investigate those causes and move towards greater awareness.

In other words, our practice time is time to dedicate to deepen our own intimacy with ourselves so that we recognize how our actions, movement, breath, thoughts and feelings are facilitating or obstructing our path towards the goal we have set for ourselves and our lives. It is possible that during difficult times we may feel that we don’t have time for our practice. But that is the time when we need to immerse into our retreat so that we can collect ourselves and clarify our needs, priorities and challenge. Seeing our practice as a retreat for ourselves can help us recognize that the practice is never a chore or something that we do because “it is supposed to be good for us.” Instead, we can cherish the practice time as an opportunity to remember what is truly important so that we can cultivate it and prepare to share it with the world.

Namaste,

 

 

Expectation is the source of frustration

Flowing river / Río en movimiento

For most of us, our minds are constantly remembering and thinking about the past. Often we try to use past information and memories of previous experiences to speculate about the future either short or long term. Obviously, being able to access previous experiences provides us with useful and applicable information for this moment. These past experiences compose our learning and help us decode, register and interpret what we perceive. However, when we rely too much on previous data to try to predict what will happen next, the same useful information can prevent us from seeing new options and alternatives. In those cases, we might be allowing our preconceived ideas to limit our perception and perhaps, to guide our actions toward old familiar ways. As a result, it is quite likely that, since we already think we know what will happen, that we’ll switch from awareness mode into “I-already-know-what–will-happen” way of being. In other words, we move from awareness into mechanical action.

Mechanical action is predicated on the notion that we do not need to pay attention, in other words, we assume that a moment, situation, or circumstance is always the same. That is, once we have an experience of a certain type we predict that it will always be the same. However, thinking this way, which is often subconscious, denies the essence of life, its constant movement and transformation.

When we think and act as if we already know how something will unfold and will feel, we tend to focus our attention on that outcome, which can restrict our ability to be open to recognize newness in the unfolding of the action. In particular, this focus on the outcome, especially when the outcome is seemingly ‘undesirable,’ is fertile ground for frustration because our goal oriented focus may preclude us from noticing newness and potential in the actual outcome.

It can be argued that being focused on an already known outcome is trying to live in the past, removing ourselves from being in the only place we can be and act, the present. When this happens, we close ourselves to the potential creativity and learning opportunities that unfold each moment. This is what “beginner’s mind” means, to focus our conscious awareness fully on what is happening right in front of us, as if we had never had this experience. In any aspect of the yoga practice, be it yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, or any of the meditation practices, it often happens that we tend to fall into routine, mechanical patterns of thinking, breathing, moving, and feeling. Letting go of expectations frees up the energy tied to our expectation, thereby creating the opportunity to immerse into focused present-moment awareness.

In any practice and activity, on and off the mat, it is helpful to check what expectations we are bringing with us into the activity. Some of the expectations might be physical, some intellectual, others psychological and others emotional. In yoga practice, Svadhyaya (self-examination) is an exercise to notice theses type of patterns, some might be explicit and obvious while other patterns might be stored at deeper levels in our bodies, minds and hearts. Pausing as we are about to dive into the activity and focusing our attention on the present moment through mindful deliberate breathing will help us come to a good starting point where we let go of at least some of our expectations while being mindful of our intention.

Expectations often create obstacles to accepting each moment just as it is. In other words, our unwillingness to accept a situation is the root of our frustration. It is important to note that I am not suggesting that we need to resign ourselves and that we should give up having an intention. On the contrary, recognizing the effect of our expectations on our actions can be instrumental to aligning our wholehearted effort with our intention. Furthermore, shifting our attention from expectation to intention will contribute to clarify both the path to our intention and the most intelligent and appropriate way to move towards it.

I hope this helps you in your practice and your life.
Namaste.

 

Yoga Retreat in Florida: The Art of Relaxation

Namaste!

Often I have been asked if I lead retreats in the Tampa Bay area. Finally, I am glad to announce an upcoming retreat at the beautiful Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. This retreat, The Art of Relaxation is an excellent opportunity to take time to pause and use a wide range of Yoga techniques to help you let go of pain, tension, and stress. In this weekend retreat, we will use a variety of traditional and contemporary yogic techniques to re-discover and re-connect to your true and balanced self.

Basic Information:

  • 3 day workshop
  • Arrive: Friday July 17 (evening)
  • Begin: Friday July 17 (evening) at 7 p.m.
  • End: Sunday, July 19 at noon
  • Cost: $450
  • Register online or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664

A retreat is a conscious decision to pause, that is, to remove ourselves from our immediate experience. Although stress is, unfortunately, pervasive in our society, few of us seem to dedicate time to relaxing, resting and renewing ourselves. In this weekend retreat we’ll cultivate the art of relaxation, an essential part of a healthy, balanced and fulfilling life.

More information …

Mantra, the power of words

Natural Patterns / Patrones naturales

Often when we hear about mantras, the concept seems both exotic and esoteric. In general, the word mantra is defined as a word or short sentence repeated often. The original word in Sanskrit is mantram, and it is often translated literally as instrument of thought. The underlying assumption is that mantras are a tool for personal transformation. Every day as I observe myself and the people around me I notice that most of us use mantras on a pretty regular basis. There are two distinct approaches on the use of mantras. The technique is very similar and in either case it renders a result.

Mantra Approach 1:

Even for people who think they do not use mantras it is quite simple to discover if they are using them or not. All that is needed is to listen, to observe, to pay close attention to the words that we use. We might discover a pattern or patterns where we repeat a word or sentence quite often. For instance, during the day you might hear your self saying “…this is going to be a pain” or “I’ll have to worry about this…” or “I hate this”. Quite often it doesn’t take long before we discover the mantra that we repeat habitually. When we uncover our mantra, we can try repeating it aloud at least 5 to 10 times. Most likely we’ll notice that our mantra fills up our mind and focuses our awareness on those words. My suggestion is that these words we repeat habitually are the mantra we have chosen unconsciously, and that by using it we are unleashing the power of those words to influence the way we feel, think and act.

Mantra Approach 2:

As I mentioned at the beginning, both approaches are quite similar and both produce results. The major difference is that in the second approach we add the element that is present in all yoga techniques, AWARENESS. So, the change is simple, instead of repeating mindlessly a word or sentence, we can choose consciously, with our full awareness, the words that we need to hear to remind us of our goal. We can use the mantra that we discovered, if it is a positive one that creates a a sense of clarity, of spaciousness, of more openness and less restriction in body, heart and mind. If the mantra we use unconsciously is a negative one, we can use the technique of cultivating opposite principles or thoughts (pratipaksha bhavanam) from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (2.33). This technique consists of focusing our mind on the opposite idea or at least we try to move our mind in the opposite direction.

Try it now, find a word or brief sentence that helps counteract negative thoughts, feelings, emotions in your mind, heart, body. Repeat the sentence with full attention 5 to 10 times and notice how you feel at all levels.

Making the change

The difference between the two approaches is simple. This small change in perpsective definitely works to our benefit. Although the change is simple, it takes work for us to move from our habitual unconscious pattern of thought, feeling and action to a conscious positive pattern. It is helpful to remember that the first step is just to observe and listen to our words in order to notice unconscious patterns. As we become aware of the patterns we are ready to shift from unconscious repetition to conscious affirmation.

I hope this helps you uncover the mantras you use in your life to facilitate unleashing the power of mantra for conscious life transformation.

Namaste.

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

Those of us who spend a lot of time sitting every day, for instance in front of our computers, driving and watching TV, often start noticing weakness and tension in the lower back as well as in the upper back, shoulder and neck areas. Certainly it is best to take frequent breaks, as often as every 30 minutes, to stand-up, walk around and move our body and counteract the habitual position we maintain for long periods.

Here is a simple 5 minute chair Yoga session to help you revitalize and refresh yourself even while sitting. Remember that the it is essential to be aware of the breath and of the quality of our participation.(If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )

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If you sit for long periods of time, you can try this practice once of twice a day, noticing its effects on your body, breath, heart and mind. Enjoy!

Namaste.
 

 

January 2011: Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica!

Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

I hope your week is going very well.

Often I have been asked if I lead yoga retreats. I love teaching where I live so that I can offer students opportunities to practice consistently. However, for a while I have wanted to offer a Yoga retreat to help students deepen their practice in a beautiful location. Finally, everything has come together and I am really excited to share this opportunity with you. The idea is to set the tone for the new year with a week in a sustainable retreat in the Costa Rican rain forest, practicing yoga in the morning, enjoying the surrounding area during the day, and coming together again for a gentle yoga practice and deep relaxation yoga nidra session before dinner. In this way you can let go of the previous year and start the year balanced, truly refreshed and focused. I am attaching a flyer with more information.

Please notice that there is a reduced price if you pay in full by September 21st.

We are organizing the retreat through St Petersburg Yoga and there is lots more information about the trip on the website: www.StPeteYoga.com/retreats

I know this trip will be a joyful and fun experience.

Namaste,
rubén