Spring is the feminine.
She is Mother nature in constant creation.
It is Her dewy moisture and water that give growth and life to every being.
In Her morning calmness, shining drops of dew set onto the flower petals creating a land speckled in water.
Her morning is a place for birds to sing a welcoming note as at sun rises from their slumber.
Her moods shift in the afternoon bringing storms and rolling thunder, rain that feeds the land and river ways. Her rains are the sustenance of life as the plants soak Her up into their roots. Each thing is no separate from one another.
I invite you to wake up at sunrise and step outside, feet bare and sleepy eyed. Listen to Her bird songs, feel the cool moisture of dew on your toes. Imagine the dew giving your day energy and clarity. Breath in the freshness and purity of the morning air. Invite it into your body, giving flow to your own prana.
Anxiety seems to be a common theme in today’s world. There’s plenty to be anxious about from the large scale, to the small, to the everyday mundane responsibilities and balance in life. Anxiety gets a bad rep. It is categorized as the negative emotion, and often denied by hiding it within, pretending that it’s “all good.” By hiding this emotion or running away from it, we actually miss out on valuable teachings. Anxiety is a teacher, a messenger, and an inner calling to pay attention.
On a biological level, anxiety is a survival mechanism. Our brain and nervous system pick up everything that is going on around us within our environmental field that we may not consciously be aware of. On the logical, science based fact- this is our primal resource.
Where we get into trouble with anxiety is when we add the mind and analytical thinking. This is where yoga comes in. Yoga teaches us to remain present and work with arising emotions. A common trigger for anxiety is the fear of walking one’s path or to fully step into the threshold of transition. Anxiety keeps us right on the edge of the threshold rather than courageously saying yes and walking through. This type of anxiety is debilitating.
Yoga teaches us not to deny or get rid of the feeling, but rather, work with it as a tool for deeper self awareness and awakening. Anxiety is the body’s way of saying slow down and pay attention! Which is contradictory to what we want to do when our stomach is in knots and our mind is going a million miles an hour with an imaginative story line of the situation.
When you feel anxiety arise stop and pause. Notice that your inner wisdom is calling to you to pay attention because it has something to tell you. Ask yourself, “What do I feel?” Strictly notice body sensations without applied meaning.
Now ask, “What does this tell me?” Surrender and breath, notice what comes up and ask the same question. This time go even deeper. Pick up on the message and go deeper again.
Notice your bodily sensations. Is there anything coming through to you? From there, contemplate, “How do I heal this?” “How do I work with this as a tool for growth?”
Notice the patterns in your life and when the anxiety surfaces. Is it reflected in similar situations? How can you transform the experience?
Yoga teaches us to welcome the sensation in and allow it to move through by being in the stillness and the breath.
Keep practicing. Keep noticing. Keep asking the questions. You have all the tools you need for yourself within.
The beauty about being human is that we are all in relationships of many kinds; work, romantic, family, friends, roommates, the stranger in line at the store, etc. Relationships are a reflection of the areas in our lives that are filled with love and ease, and others may be filled with conflict and judgement. Those same qualities can flip within relationships and ebb and flow between hardship and grace. Each relationship shows us something different. There are going to be some people who you may never get along with- that’s okay. It’s about seeing it as it is without judgement, a grudge, or disgust. Instead, see it as what it offers, see that person as human too, and see yourself as human; imperfect, learning and on the journey. This is also for those relationships that are peaceful and filled with love.
Here is a short meditation to along yourself to let go of any harmful feelings, so that you allow more space for grace to flow:
Sit or lay down.
Begin three parts breath. Bring a hand to your stomach and feel breath, allow it to rise to mid stomach, and then to your chest.
Bring attention to your heart space and think of someone you love. Allow that space to be filled with that love you feel for them. Thank them. Give love to them.
Breath into your heart space again and think of someone who may cause stress or irritation. Feel it. See it. Notice how it affects you. Breath again bringing acceptance and unconditional love into your thoughts. See them as another human on the journey. Bring in the awareness that they are doing the best from their state of consciousness. This may take a few goes. That’s okay. Be sure to accept yourself and not judge yourself either. Keep choosing to feel acceptance and love.
Remember: We are all doing our best based on our current state of consciousness. We are all working though unseen and unspoken battles.
Notice the sun setting setting over the horizon. Notice the colors that are being reflected with the sunset. Feel the air change temperatures, listen to the bird’s song, and notice how the earth begins to put Herself to rest.
Find yourself a seat somewhere comfy. Light a candle or two to set a warm and calm atmosphere. Use a drop of lavender oil mixed with a carrier oil and rub it between your palms vigorously. Feel the heat in your hands and take in the scent of the lavender. Pause and cup on hands over your nose taking a deep inhale. As you inhale, imagine all your tension being washed away by the aroma. Allow the scent of the lavender to be drawn inward. Savor the smell and notice it how your body reacts.
Softly rest your hands on your knees. Relax into your seated meditation. Feeling ease and gratitude, begin a chant that means something sweet to you.
If you need one, try this:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
In short, this chant symbolizes loving devotion- you can never go wrong there.
*If you are pregnant it is advised that you always ask for guidance before using any oils.
Food plays a vital role in our lives. It’s more than a pleasurable experience for our taste buds, it’s medicine. Everything we eat has a certain affect on our body. And, what is healthy can often turn toxic if we are taking our food for granted and not listening to our body. Did you know that if you are overeating or eating emotionally/when not hungry, that it actually build up in your intestinal tract and becomes toxic? Food is our ultimate medicine, food is life. This is why yogi’s take a very mindful approach to eating. Here are a few ways to eat your meal with more awareness and consciousness:
- Pay attention to what your body wants. Feel into it. What’s it craving? When you think of food what do you think of? This is what your body needs. Eat accordingly.
- Try to eat before night fall. This is best for your digestion.
- Once food is prepared, sit down and think of what you are grateful for. Take in the colors of the food and the scent. Savor that moment. This actually sends signals to your brain and digestive system to prepare itself by stoking the digestive agni (fire).
- Eat in silence without distractions. This way you can fully take in the nourishment and be aware of your body’s signals when it’s full.
- Eat slowly. Think: Drink your food and eat your drink. Your saliva creates the enzymes needed to digest the benefits of what you are eating. Be sure to fully chew your food until it’s almost as if it has been juiced. Your body will thank you.
- Stop when you feel satisfied. It’s okay to not clean your plate.
It doesn’t end after the meal. Pay attention to how your body feels during the day. Are you sluggish, gassy, and bloated? Are you energized and balanced? Notice how your hair looks, your skin, your tongue, your eyes. Keep track of what you eat during the day and how it relates to your overall being. You don’t need a fad diet or a master cleanse to tell you these things. Rely on your own inner wisdom to tell you what is best for your body! Just because something is said to be healthy doesn’t mean it will agree with your own unique constitution. Trust your instinct… trust your gut feeling!
Our bodies are that of nature. The coldness of winter brings on the frozen, solid, and stiffness just as a creek or lake freezes over. As spring come, the freeze begins to melt and creates access water. Our bodies are similar. You may notice more nasal drainage or extra mucus in your throat. This is because we too, cycle with the seasons. We are ending the cycle of winter, characterized in ayurveda as hibernation, energy saving for warmth, slowness, sleepiness, and less internal fire. During this time we are in the cycle of kapha. The kapha dosha is characterized as cold, heavy, soft, and slow. As the sun becomes warmer and the days become longer, the kapha naturally begins to shed and we move into spring, characterized in rebirth, awakening, and growth. Kapha though, is also represented as water. Winter and spring both share this kapha trait. Think of spring as the transitioning period between winter and summer. Carrying excess un-needed kapha energy will be hindering once summer moves in.
It’s important that you assist your body in the seasonal transition process rather than restrict the extra flow. Here are a few ways to relieve your body of excess winter kapha so that you will have more spring like energy:
- Move! Sweat it out! Go on a run or a hike. Get to the point where you are sweating.
- Find warmth and avoid dampness. Lay in the sunshine and feel the rays on your face. Soak in the vitamin D. Imagine those rays to be a source of reawakened energy, vitality, and healing.
- Wake up with the sunrise. Resist the urge to sleep in.
- Drink stimulating spicy teas, such as ginger or cinnamon.
- Perform daily Garshana. This is a dry body massage to stimulate movement of the lymph. If you chose to use oils stick with sesame or almond oil. Castor oil is also wonderful, however, use it less often as it is heavy and can increase the excess kapha. After oil, take a hot bath and allow yourself to sweat. Once you exit the tub, stay in the bathroom a little longer and savor the hot steam.
Often what we see advertised for yoga is the poses. The emphasis is on the beauty of the pose, the flexibility, and the strength of the one performing the pose. We don’t often see the other parts of a yoga practice highlighted or even desired in the business of today’s society. Yoga offers a full spectrum in ways of living so that we accomplish what yoga means; the union with the Divine, the Oneness, the Universe, God, whatever your preferred terms.
The 8 limbs of yoga can take us so much more deeper into our practice and into ourselves. They may seem intimidating at first or the idea of living by constructs may deter you. These however, are not rules the bind your freedom, rather they are ways to deliver you to the ultimate freedom! The 8 limbs are to be practiced in order- you cannot have one without the other. The list isn’t concrete either, its dynamic. As humans, we bounce back and forth. One day you may be right on and in connection, another day you may be at struggling through the yamas. That’s the beauty of practice. If we aren’t dynamic, what would be practice? This is tantra as well, don’t judge yourself based on where you are in the 8 limbs, know that it’s always changing and that’s okay!
Below, the 8 limbs are outlined in simple and non intimidating way in which you can begin to incorporate them into your life.
- Yamas- Universal Morals: Simply, the fundamental nature of the compassionate, loving, mindful way we influence the people around us. This is how our attitude is shown in the outer world. Yamas are broken up in five characteristics, which could be an article all in itself. They are: ahimsa, compassion for all living things; Satya, truthfulness; Asteya, non-stealing; Brahmacharya, withdraw of sensory pleasures; Aparigraha; non-possessiveness. Observe this list and make notes as to where in life you can add more positivity in a trait, or decrease negative habits that influence a trait.
- Niyama- Personal Observances: This is an intimate and personal way in which we treat ourselves on an internal level. This is our soul level, our connecting point to get us closer to the Divine. These are outlined in five traits. They are: Sauca, purity; santosha, cleanliness; tapas, discipline; svadhyaya, self- inquiry; ishwara pranidhana, Divine connection. Observe this list and see where you can add more energy.
- Asana- Body Movements: This one we know so well! Yoga is far beyond the physical even in the poses. Let’s go deeper than what the pose looks like and the applause for the accomplishment. This part of yoga is fun too of course. But, we must all get beyond the ego we find the emotional and energetic release within the pose. We discover the mythology behind the pose. Our warrior is that of Durga, our flow is the creative energy of Saraswati. Our mountain pose is that of Shiva. Pose actually create and release energy simultaneously. Have you ever started crying in yoga or felt yourself suddenly become angry? Maybe you feel a wash of pure love and bliss, and sometimes all of this wrapped in one. These pose are designed to release layers and blockages that hold us back from our true nature. Let’s move from the physical to the ethereal body. So, while in your asana practice, feel the release. Notice where in your body you are feeling sensation. Now, take that off the mat. While in daily life notice where and how you feel in your body.
- Pranayama- Breath Control: Control your breath and control your reactive nature. Listen and notice your breath and understand your triggers. The breath is a gateway to understanding our emotional nature. Breath is life force. A free flowing life force makes for a healthy light body. Breath is purification. When things get stressful, breath deeper and slow down. When anxiety happens, breath slower. When abundant in love, breathe out and share it.
- Pratyahara- Control of the Senses: Much of our emotional balance is that of our own creation. Pratyahara is a withdraw of sense, a withdraw of the drama that often rules our lives. Our internal world in inherently peaceful and calm. Our external world is that of constant stimulation. Withdrawing and going inward to our calmness is a retreat for the mind, a place of stillness and solitude. Play around with this concept. When you find yourself wrapped up in the drama, withdraw inwards. Try focusing your awareness to your heart.
- Dharana- Concentration: This is a direct focused mind. Focus deeply on one direction. This can be practiced by lighting a candle, placing it in front of you so that your natural gaze can be focused on the flame, and then sit with all your focus on that flame.
- Dhyana- Devotion, Meditation: This is devoted worship. Here, the mind has become well practiced in dharana that it can shift its full focus on the union with the Divine. Dhyana is seeing the Divine in every object, every encounter, in every creation, and knowing that it is a direct reflection of oneself.
Samadhi- Union with the Divine: This is the final step- this is to merge with the Divine. Simply put, you are the Divine. You have gotten to a point where the 8 limbs are being lived simultaneously.
Yoga and nature are one. Nature is the ultimate yogi. It doesn’t try to control anything, it simply is being nature. It has no ego, no influenced identity, it just is. We are also nature. Our ancestors walked the earth barefoot and had a connection to the natural environment that has been lost into today’s world of highways, cars, and cityscapes. However, those things don’t mean we can’t still have a beautiful nature connected practice, because nature is everywhere once we train our awareness to see it. The below meditation is about deep listening and encourages the meditator to use their senses in a direct, deliberate and functional way to increase expansiveness. Though the meditation directs you to listen with your ears, remember that deep listening also comes from the body’s intuition as well.
1.) Behind seated somewhere cozy outside. This can be on a trail, in a park, your backyard, or even a porch. Take a few moments and simply breathe. As you become more settled, close you eyes. Simply sit with your eyes closed for about a minute. Notice the wind, notice the temperature of the air. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?” Just notice it.
2.) Now, shift your attention to your right ear only. Only listen from your right ear, ignore all other senses. Extend your hearing from the right ear as far as you can go. Strain to hear the smallest noise miles away. Pick up on every sound you hear and notice it. What is it? Strain a little harder to ear even further.
3.) Once you feel complete, rotate to the back of your head. What do you hear behind you? Strain as far as you can hear. We are not taught to listen to what is happening behind us. The backside hearing can be a little more difficult. Your brain may, out of habit, try to listen from either ear. Remember, listening isn’t always about the ears, but about the feeling as well.
4.) Once complete, move around to the left ear. Only the left ear. Strain to hear as far as possible. What do you hear?
5.) Move forward to the front of the body. Only the front. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel?
6.) Once complete, shift your attention to the sky. Listen all the way up to the clouds and beyond. Listen to all the spaces in between. What do you hear? What are you feeling?
7.) Move your listening to the ground below you. What do you feel? What do you hear on the surface? What do you hear below the surface?
8.) Now allow all the sounds to merge together. Take a few breathes and slightly open your eyes. Once the eyes are completely open, focus from the peripheral vision as if you were looking at everything from a panoramic camera. Just sit and notice nature. Take in the sounds, the sunlight rays reflecting or the cloudy day casting shadows. Notice the birds. Are they closer to you now? How has nature communicated with you? What are you feeling?
If you want extra deep practice, go straight into some seated silent meditation or into an asana practice- preferably both. Take in what you notice about your body movements during asana. Observe how they have changed and how you have shifted.
“She represents what is hidden, secret subtle and sensitive, what has to be searched out and discovered. As the word, she represents both the teaching and its comprehension. She is thus the inner guiding power. The Goddess represents what is to be known, what we are drawn by an inner fascination to discover. She is the mystery and the allure of the higher knowledge which causes us to lose interest in what the mind can know, the familiar realm of the senses. The Goddess takes us beyond the realm of the known and the domain of time-space into the secrets of eternity-infinity.” Dr. David Frawley
Durga is both a nurturing Mother and an amazonian fierce warrior goddess. She is the protector of her devotees. She is the one we call on when we feel we are in trouble. When we call, she hears. Her fierceness is that of compassion. She guides towards our most radical aspirations and through the dramas that life brings forth so that we can gracefully navigate the storms. She is the goddess that releases inner spiritual power and the one who reminds us that when she is called- she answers.
Calling on Durga’s essence helps us reconnect with the essence of who we are and uncover the true source of feminine power. Durga represents unconditional love with a direct no-nonsense approach to life. She is known as the demon slayer, a metaphor for the fear-based stories our mind creates to hold us back from our true calling.
Now is the time to invite her into your life.
Part of tapping into Durga’s power is to envision and feel her. Imagine the battlefield of the mind. Demons run amuck, creating fears that leave you feeling stuck and helpless. This represents the monkey mind of fear and insecurity tell you that you are small and powerless to the external forces of life. This place is dark, loud, unsettling and scary. This is where Durga’s light of compassion shines.
You call on her.
She arrives; radiant skin, full breasts and hips, soft yet focused intent eyes, her dark waving hair flows wildly behind her, she s adorned in shinning jewelry. Chaos all around her, she rides her lion with steadiness and ease. She is unwavering. She cannot be pushed back. She does not get wrapped up in the story of the mind’s fears. She awakens the commitment to hold steady in your integrity under challenging circumstances. She is feminine empowered presence.
You too, are that feminine empowered presence. You are the unwavering, grounded, fierce and steady confidence. It lives within, but you must ask for it and have the courage to receive it.
Visualize the shimmering presence of Durga. Imagine yourself as Her, riding the lion into the heart of the mind’s battlefield of fear, knowing that you will be unscathed. Ask her, “What inner obstacles do I need to be aware of?” “Where am I holding myself back?” “What is my deepest fear?” Write down whatever comes forth from your heart. Afterwards, hand them over to Durga so that she may assist you in dissolving the fears that cause you harm.
You are invited to explore Durga deeper and invite Her to become a living force within you. Please join me at the Yoga Pod on March 19th, 2:30-4:30pm for the Balance, Power, and Grace: Women’s Yoga Workshop. Through the use of ancient yogic practices and mindful relational practices, we will awaken the radiant feminine energies that are the seat of power in all of us by exploring the myths and relevance of the Goddess Durga. In this workshop we will learn how to embody her essence. This way we can walk into the chaos of life with a calm, centered, confident presence so that we can show up more fully in the world as empowered feminine leaders.
“Look at Mother Nature- her fecundity and seemingly endless abundance in contrast with her capacity for absolute destruction. These same qualities lie in a woman. If you don’t accept both sides of your nature, then you can never act from consciousness and create the world you long for- a world of pace.” Everyday Grace: The Art of Being a Women, Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa
Tantric yoga is based on the acceptance of all of our human nature. Tantra is not about transcending our emotions or being pure.
It’s about accepting all facets of life, all the mess, all the grace, all sides of the paradox. In tantra, everything is Divine. All of you is perfect. What we see as ourselves and know as ourselves is just the tip of the iceberg. As the deepest level of our being, the unseen, the entire universe is imprinted within us. You are not part of the whole, rather you are the whole. You are a dynamic, dancing pattern of energy ecstatically unfolding in the expression of the Divine. Tantra says infinite potential exists within you- just as you are.
Because of this ever-expansive dance of creation, we have a huge impact on our own inner self and on our external environment. With each breath we become
more and more aware of our creative potential as women. Everything you touch is artistry as we are constant creators. As women, we are nurturers for
the seed to unfold. Often, that ‘seed’ is external from our own inner selves. We juggle the creative process in work, in partnership, in friendship,
and in mothering. Commonly, we nurture our own seeds last, if even at all. Women’s creativity is the essence of Her. The wisdom goddesses of the tantric
yoga tradition give us the gift in coming back to inner self. The goddesses represent expressions of a multitude of energies within the body and mind.
These goddesses are archetypes of our many parts; the creative, the abundant, the nurturing lover, the mother, the wrathful, the warrior, the romantic,
the caregiver, and on and on. The goddesses are all-encompassing, as women are all-encompassing.
Another aspect of the goddess is Her energy, or Shakti. Shakti is the all-pervasive power that brings to life everything within. Shakti pulsates with flowing
feminine life force. Shakti is the descent of Divine grace that allows us to realize our own consciousness and recognize the power that lies within
us. Tantra gives us tools to awaken and enliven the Shakti dormant within.
The goddess and Her Shakti, manifest on all levels of the universe from the mundane day-to-day physical realm to the Pure Divine consciousness and it not limited to the female human form. She is found in voice, vibration, song, thoughts, and symbol. Her physical form which we are most familiar with gives us the accessibility to access Pure consciousness within our daily lives. Tantra is seeing the Divine goddess in all aspects- our emotion, trees, plants, animals and inanimate objects. There is no separation. As we awaken Her Shakti within us, we begin to notice that all aspects of the universe are part of our own nature.
Goddess influenced yoga practices open the doorway for us to dive deeper into our own physical and subtle body so that we can begin seeing the Divine within everything. It is through intentional practice that we can begin to create a life that pulsates with creative energy force and begin to walk through each day seeing the other as our self. Tantra is the gateway to peace- both inner and outer.
- Spring is a Woman: A Meditation
- How to Transform your Relationship with Anxiety Using Yoga
- We Are All on this Human Journey
- Sunset Meditation
- 6 Ways to Eat Your Food Like a Yogini
- 5 Ways to Shed Winter Kapha
- Follow the Path: The 8 Limbs of Yoga
- 8 Steps to Connect Yoga and Nature
- How to Connect with Durga
- An Introduction to the Tantric Goddess
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