Learn Yoga Breathing: Ujjayi Breath

 

Ujjayi Breath : Conquering or Victorious Breath

In order to complement the previous post on inspired breathing here is a brief video that may help clarify how to practice the powerful and beneficial ujjayi breath.



One simple and helpful reminder as you try this is to do it in the spirit of falling in love with your breath! Enjoy.

Namaste.

 

More Yoga resources in English and Spanish coming soon

Namaste,

It has been a few months since I posted something on the blog. As I continue working with students individually, in group classes, in workshops, retreats, teacher training and mentoring I continue finding areas where students and practitioners have relevant and useful questions that can help us grow in our understanding and in making our yoga authentic. Most importantly these questions always suggest the need to bring authentic yoga into our lives. Over the last few months I have been exploring options to contribute through my new website: www.rubenvasquez.com and a new YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/RubenVasquezYoga

I am currently developing new content also for the blog so that I can provide more resources both in English and Spanish. Please stay tuned and if you wish to stay informed of new developments join my FREE mailing list.

Thank you to all my teachers and from my heart love, joy, health & prosperity to you,

rubén

 

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.

 

Talleres de Yoga en Bogotá con Rubén Vásquez Noviembre 19 al 24

¡Estoy feliz de poder regresar a Bogotá a compartir el Yoga con los yoguis y yoguinis Colombianos del 19 al 24 de Noviembre!

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

INTRODUCCIÓN A PRANAYAMA & MEDITACIÓN
¡Establece una base sólida para tu práctica de pranayama y meditación!
Domingo 20 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Lunes 21 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Martes 22 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

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,

 

 

Free Yoga Classes in September at New Tampa Regional Library

I am glad to announce that thanks to the support of the New Tampa Regional Library and the The Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County I’ll be offering FREE classes at the New Tampa Regional Library in September. Starting tomorrow, every Thursday (8, 15, 22, 29), 6-7pm, a Yoga for Well Being class for students at all levels.
Bring your mat, comfortable clothing and let’s breathe and move together.

Location: New Tampa Regional Library 10001 Cross Creek Blvd, Tampa, FL 33647-2581. Telephone: 813.273.3652

2 minute concentration exercise

Woodhenge

It is quite common for many of us to have a preconceived idea about meditation, what it is and how it works, even before we have ever practiced it. In the Yoga tradition, concentration (dharana in Sanskrit) is a preparatory stage for meditation. Concentration is just the ability to keep our mind focused on the same object, image, sound or idea for a brief period of time. We often price our mind’s ability to connect disparate thoughts, memories and ideas in a variety of ways. However, in many types of yoga practice it seems that the mind is the first aspect of our being that gets distracted. For instance, in asana practice, our breath may be flowing fully and without obstacles and our body be be able to stay in the posture in a perfect balance between firmness and ease but our mind may be the first to move out of the posture into thinking about what posture comes next, or about the activities we were engaged in before the practice or the plans we might have for the rest of our day. In such cases, what might be lacking is not strength or flexbility in the body or breathing integrity but mind strength to keep our focus. Just as we persist gradually in our conscious effort to improve the strength and flexibility of our muscles, tissues and bones, and to increase our breathing capacity, it makes snese to work on increasing our mind’s strength.
Here is a simple concentration exercise to work on strengthen our ability to keep our mind focused. This exercise takes just 2 minutes at a time and consists of looking at a clock for 2 whole minutes while keeping our full attention on the numbers as they change. You can use any clock at an appropriate place. Or you may use the countdown clock below, by clicking on the ‘play’ button.


Just try it and pay attention to what you notice. It is quite possible that you might get distracted. However, if you try gradually and with gentle persistence you might notice your mind becoming better able to stay focused.
Of course, remember that we are never interested in straining or forcing at any level. So give this a try as often as feels appropriate for you, enjoy the process and see what happens.

I hope that you find this exercise useful.
Namaste!

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

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 …