What ignites your passions? What challenges you? What frustrates you and what creates desire within you? Whether is fiery love or fiery anger, it’s all tapas. We have an inner fire, or agni, that ignites our digestive process, our confidence, our willingness to transform, and our will to move forward in life with vitality. It’s how you chose to direct your tapas, inner fire, that will either create negative habits or burn off negative karma. Karma in this context includes any pattern that adds toxins to our body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Tapas is the commitment to burn away impurities with right doing and intentions. Tapas brings the niyamas of svadhyana (Self contemplation) and ishvaraprandhana (surrender) together in practice. By intensely looking at how we live (svadhyana) and then surrendering into the greater process of the whole (ishvaraprandhana) we can commit to making changes that burn off hindering karmic patterns.
One way to burn off karmic toxins is through pranayama practices. There are many techniques that can aid in igniting our inner fire. The Fire Breath is an accessible and useful practice to incorporate into a yoga practice.
1. Begin sitting cross legged and upright on the ground or a cushion.
2. Imagine a white light beginning from the earth up through your spine that reaches towards the clouds. Feel yourself grounded and safe.
3. Begin with a deep inhale through the nose and forcefully exhale through the nose. As you exhale push your navel back towards your spine. Allow yourself to naturally inhale and repeat the process. Allow the navel to pump in and out while rapidly breathing.
4.Start slow until you get the hang of it. Begin with short repetitions of 15 breaths. Eventually, move towards thirty breaths, pause, and begin again.
This process releases toxins from the lungs, mucus lining, generates new cells, stimulates the solar plexus, increases oxygen flow, and synchronizes the entire system under one rhythm. Fully surrender into this practice by allowing your breath to move emotional blockages as well. You may experience tears, anger, or the need to yell. Allow it all without judgement. Witness whatever comes up, see it for what it is, and then let it go!
Cry into the earth.
Yell from your deepest core.
Surrender to the breath.
Let it go.
Forgive and move forward with love.
Commit to the practice and this inner fire is yours to empower for the greatest good.
We are the ultimate creators of our overall experience.
When we exist in the one current moment, there is no other distraction of past story line or future anxieties.
In sanskrit, Samtosha is contentment with all that happens in life, trusting that all is okay and exactly where it needs to be. Samtosha is finding equilibrium rather than allowing ourselves to be pushed and pulled around by external forces. Samtosha is the ability to take a deep breath when things get messy and say “Whew, I trust that I’ll be fine.”
It is easy to spend most of our life attempting to control unpredictable outcomes so that we feel secure and safe. However, life is just that, it’s unpredictable. Anything can happen! Anything can throw off our future goals, plans, and expectations.
We are not in control of the moment, of other people, or outside circumstance. We can make the choice to see the moment as a gift without placing any judgement on it. Something falls apart so something else can come together. We learn that in contentment we can release all preconceived notions and allow the process to unfold organically. That organic process will guide us exactly where we need to be. This comes back to the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, surrendering to the Divine plan. The only happiness comes from within regardless of external changes.
When things change, remember samtosha. When something doesn’t go as planned, stop, breath, surrender, trust that you’ll be taken care of, and find harmony in the experience.
That is yoga.
Abhyanga, ayurvedic massage, relaxes muscles, removes toxins from the body, and helps the body prepare for restfulness and deep meditation. This practice helps move stagnant energy and lymph through and out the body, increases circulation, softens the skin, and gives nourishment. In addition, this is a beautiful practice in self love. Using one’s own hands intentionally and mindfully over the body can raise self appreciation, boost confidence, and help self security. Consistent abhyanga builds knowledge to body changes. You’ll be more aware of how your body moves with your moon cycles, or notice differences depending on stress levels. Knowing how your body reacts to outside and internal influences is empowering!
You will need some kind of carrier oil based on your dosha. Don’t know your dosha? Take the quiz here. Sesame oil is a good neutral choice. A glass mason jar or the like to transfer the oil into if it’s in a plastic container. You’ll be heating the oil and it’s best to not heat oil in a plastic container. Optional: essential oil blends; lavender, rose, etc. Also, it is recommended that you do not perform abhyanga when you are on your moon cycle.
- Heat hot water in a bowl or mug. For safety measure, do not allow the water to heat up enough to boil. While that is heating, transfer your choice of oil to a glass jar. Optional, you may add a few drops of essential oil. Once the water is heated, place to jar in the water so that the oil can heat up slightly. Test it as you go making sure it’s not hot enough that it will burn your skin.
- Wrap your body in a towel and find a comfortable, quiet place in solitude to apply the oil.
- Begin with massaging the oil into your hair and scalp. Take your time throughout the entirety of this practice.
- Work your way down focusing on your face and ears. Give attention to every inch. Spend more time in the areas the particularly feel the best.
- Continue to move down to the chest and breast. For the breast, move from the armpits first. This is where the lymph moves into the breast area. Use whatever pressure feels good. Create small and large circles.
- Work your way from the chest, down to the arms and fingertips.
- Work oil clockwise around the abdomen. Clockwise only, as this is the directions our intestinal tract digests.
- Apply oil to the back and sacrum, down the hips and glutes.
- Work your way from your hips, down your legs, to your feet.
- Pay special attention to your feet and spend time here. Hot oil foot massages help stimulate deep sleep.
Once the massage is complete, sit still for a few minutes giving gratitude to your body. Move slowly to the bath tub and take a hot bath or shower. This opens the pores and allow the oil to soak in on a cellular level. This practice is best done in the evening. However, it can be done in the morning too, if you know you have a slow, relaxing day ahead of you.
This is our calling.
It’s a calling that guides us further on the yogic path. It’s a calling to circle up with one another in the practice of Svadhyana, Self contemplation and exploration.
It’s through reflection of one another that we can become aware of our own Divine true nature. Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘You are what you eat’? It’s true! Everything in this material plane has a ripple effect that reaches far beyond our individual self. Therefore, we are what we choose to do, we are the company we choose to keep, we are what we read, what we watch, and what we listen to. It all has a huge influence on our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well being.
Svadhyana incorporates a lot of solo Self reflection, but equally important is changing our lifestyle so that we can fully create the space for the practice of Svadhyana to thrive. This is where an intentional yogic sisterhood can be invited into our lives to step into the process of Svadhyana. Circling up and discussing sacred texts, listening to teachings, and reflecting together will assist in dissolving the illusion of separateness and see the truth of interconnectedness. When we chose to become immersed in the teachings of yoga, then we become those teachings. We can live it, walk it, breath it, and embody it.
It is through seeing Divinity reflected in our sisters, that we can see the Divinity we reflect into this community and look inwards. We are each an individual pearl on a connected strand of billions of pearls, living our own lives, yet part of a whole complex consciousness.
There are many ways to bring Svadhyana practice into your life. You can do any of the below on your own or with community:
- Study sacred text and/or books that inspire your path. Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, Yoga Sutras, Awakening Shakti, Shakti Women, etc.
- Making a list of mentors, teachers, and other inspiring figures who exemplify the way you want to live and the qualities they embody.
- Create sacred space in your home.
- Watch YouTube videos and listen to podcast of teachings.
- Listen to conscious music or find a kirtan meetup group.
- Find pictures of the goddesses and hang them up in your room.
- Chant holy names to invoke the Goddess. Here are some to try out:
Om Dum Durgayei Namaha,Om and Salutations to that feminine energy which protects from all manner of negative influences.
Om Mata Om Kali, Durga Devi Namo Namaha, Bow unto the Divine Mother and Her many feminine aspects.
Enjoy the journey with an open and gentle heart.
Our thoughts are in a continuous flow of one thing after another like a constant flowing and changing river. This is what makes meditation frustrating at times. Our minds don’t stop! However, meditation is not about stopping mind, but observing the mind as an outsider so that we can better understand our emotions, reactions, and patterns. We observe so that we don’t get caught up in the false storyline that is created out of future anxieties and hopes, or past regrets. It is a practice of presence with what is. In yoga, this is called dhyana.
Dhyana means meditation, or fixing one’s gaze on a single object or image. Dhyana is part of the eight limbs of yoga that reigns in the mind to transcend self absorbtion. With practice, this can create discernment, and nurture an easeful state of existence.
The best part about dhyana… it can be practiced anywhere!
Let’s begin with the sky.
The sky represents the infinite expansiveness that our mind are capable of. Find a cozy place with a view of the sky overhead. Preferably on a cloudy day or during sunset. You can lay on your back or sit cross legged looking out at the horizon.
Begin noticing your breath. How are you breathing? Is your breath open and free? Is it contracted and shallow? Are you breathing with your chest? Breathing with your belly?
Now, ask yourself “How am I feeling?” Notice how your emotions affect your breath. With that awareness, regulate the flow of your breath from the belly, mid belly, to upper chest, gently. Find the ease in the breath and allow your emotion to follow.
With this ease, allow your gaze to be unfocused as you look to the sky. Be aware of the clouds, but do not get lost in their shapes. Notice them drift away without attachment. Feel the space in between you and the sky. Feel the air. Notice it’s temperature or smell. Let that drift away as well. Notice and let go. Continue this pattern as new things arise in your awareness. See it for what it is and then allow it to move on.
Just as we practice in observing the changing sky without attachment , we can also observe our changing thoughts without attachment. See the thought for what it is, see the storyline that has been created, breath, allow that to go, and come back to the present moment.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Imagine walking into a home. You attempt to open the front door but you can hardly squeeze through because there’s something behind it. You manage to get through only to trip over various objects that crowd the floor. There are dirty moldy dishes on the coffee table, and the room is clouded with a terrible musty odor. The curtains are dusty and cover the windows making the room dark and cavern-like. How does this make you feel?
This is not very different than how we tend to treat our own bodies. We may hold onto old patterns and emotions that block our openness to the outside Divine light from entering. We keep stale breath and energy within our bodies that cause dis-ease and toxins to build up. Our inner mind and body may be covered in dust and ‘mold’ of reoccurring negative patterns.How we keep our space, internal and external, and what we put into our bodies, physically and energetically, matters. This is saucha, purification or cleanliness. Through purification comes clarity in mind, body, and Spirit. Saucha is the practice of clearing out the dust and removing what is necessary so that there is space for more pureness to enter.
There are many ways to put saucha into practice. Keeping a clean and clear home space is crucial for mentally clarity and is quite simple. Keeping a clean diet and paying attention to ingredients helps the body cleanse impurities. That means noticing how you feel after you specific foods or drinks. Are you actually hungry when you eat? Does your body feel energized or tired? Are you gasy? Do you have a headache? These are all things related to food and worth paying attention to. If certain foods or beverages cause discomfort, then do your best to refrain from putting them into your beautiful body.
Breath work is also a form of purification. We tend to breathe only with our upper lungs and ignore the lower belly and mid lungs. Next time you begin savasana focus first on your belly. Rest your hands between your pelvis and naval region and breath into that space. Feel your lower belly rise and fall. Imagine the breath you are sending is like a river current moving through blockages and obstacles, eventually clearing those obstacles to allow more flow. Take that vision with you as you move your awareness to your mid belly/lower lung area. Stay here for a few breathes and move upward to your upper lungs. Now, imagine a continuous stream flowing from lower belly, mid belly, to the upper lungs. Invite the current of breathe to remove blockages.
This same breath is used throughout your asana practice in any pose. The breath is crucial to clear away the inner dust and allow more space for purified clarity and awareness. Breath is life force, prana. It is the yoking of mind, body, and movement.
Surrender into the breath, the clear space, and set the intention to clear those blockages that keep you from embodying your full potential.
Have you ever had one of those nights where you’re searching the internet world looking for something that will move you emotionally and mentally? These five videos feature a variety of women representing goddess energy as they move along their heart’s path in creating change. They each touch on the beauty that is both bliss and heartache, the light and the darkness, and they embody in their own way, the balance of the masculine and feminine.
1. Sara Kay, weaves her gentle beautiful words of creativity representing the energy of the goddess Saraswati in her TED Talk poem, ‘If I Should Have a Daughter.’ Her potent delivery of grace warms the heart.
“When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say “thank you,” ‘cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away. You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.”
2. The fierce, modern day Kali, Marianne Williamson, delivers her speech about women and religion at the Parliament of World Religions. Her words of wisdom and strength bring the women and men in the crowds to a standing ovation. After watching this video you’ll be fired up to enthusiastically continue your heart’s path.
“Every woman here who is a healer is a priestess. Every woman here who is a teacher or educator is a priestess...A Divine goddess is not just beautiful, she’s fierce.”
3. Another representation of a modern day Kali, Rha Goddess, delivers her voice in the importance of building a strong community of young, empowered girls. Her speech, ‘Who’s Got Next,’ was delivered at a Bioneers conference. We have the opportunity to teach our young girls what it means to be empowered and create healthy boundaries so they can stand up confidently as the next leaders.
“The next wave of women in power, where we are building the next feminine, soul centered, social political movement, one voice at a time...Next wave women know that we are responsible for ourselves, and our universal family. And the responsibility begins with honoring who we really are, and bringing what we have been called to bring.”
4. Brene Brown delivers her TED Talk on inviting more vulnerability into our lives. She is Lakshmi, bringing awareness that in vulnerability comes an abundance of authentic connections and expansive potential. Deep transformation and healing begins first with being vulnerable.
“Connection as a result of authenticity. They let go of who they thought they should be for who they are…They fully embraced vulnerability. They believe that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.”
"No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively. When a woman hears those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine." Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The feminine is strongly connected to the natural cycles of nature; the tides, the moon and sun, the stars, and Mother earth. Due to urban living and the hustle of life, we often forget this fact. When we practice yoga outside we are in unity with the plants, the trees, the people around us, and in unity with the flow of the universal consciousness that is always taking place. Yoga in nature allows us to perceive nature as a living and conscious organism.
Here are a few ways to connect your yoga practice with nature. Remember, nature is always there, regardless if you’re in a city park, your back porch, or deep in the woods.
- Practice being present. Disconnect from your iphone and earbuds. Listen to the sounds around you. The wind rustling tree leaves, river stream flowing, birds singing, branches crackling somewhere in the distance.
- Pause often. Go for a walk, stop and breath. Begin taking five deep breaths in stillness. Focus on opening your heart as you expand your awareness.
- If possible, go barefoot. Feel the earth, the pebbles, moist earth, the warm sand. This is a healing and grounding practice, even if you’re standing in one place with direct contact to the earth.
- Root to rise. Set a solid foundation for tree pose. Reach your arms up and pretend you are the branches. If it’s windy, allow your branches to sway and dance.
- Lay down in savasana. The back of your heart space is in contact with Mother earth’s gentle, loving vibrations. Allow yourself to sink into Her. Allow everything to fall away and invite healing to flow up from the roots and into your heart.
- Begin to track your menstrual cycles along with the movements of the moon. Observe your emotions based on what is happening in the night sky. This is a beautiful way to intimately know your body and how it is influenced by nature.
- Meet a plant, flower, or tree. Notice a plant, flower, or tree that catches your attention. Meditate with it while noticing what bees or animals are attracted to it and observe how it changes with the seasons. Take time to research the it. Does it have healing benefits? Where is it most common?
“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another”. Mahatma Gandhi
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