Your first Yoga With Paul newsletter of 2017. Enjoy!
I read a touching post recently on 4 Things to Remember When Life Feels Hopeless.
As I grew stronger in handling life’s curve balls, I was grateful that I had developed this invaluable life skill at a young age so I can have the rest of my life to benefit from it. While maintaining a thankful heart, I realized that even in dark times there are stars we can gaze upon.
Every life, however blessed or fortunate, has tough patches. This article reminded me of periods of grief and uncertainty where I really wasn’t sure how to move forward. In those times, yoga became a comfort and a tool to find stillness.
My yoga journey, like yours, began as a student. It was new, challenging and even frustrating, but intensely rewarding. For every posture I struggled with there were ones where I could feel my mind and body aligning in a profound way.
This spurred the curiosity to study. Bikram yoga teacher training, Dharma Mittra teacher training… Different practices illuminated different aspects of the mind-body dynamic. Learning became teaching, which is the biggest learning experience of all.
Right now I am doing Sangyé teacher training. It is a vigorous, meditative, spiritual practice that is pushing me to develop in new directions. I’ve started teaching as well, which has brought a joyful new challenge to my practice.
Yoga has taught me that there is always a path through difficult times — and it lies in learning. Learning to stretch, learning to ask for help, learning to commit to daily practice, learning to have perspective and grace.
Share your experiences of finding hope in hard times in the comments.
Life would be so much happier and easier if we were free from distracting thoughts, worry, anxiety and anger, and if we felt calm, joyous, loving and peaceful. Yoga is a path that guides us toward the goal of mental and emotional harmony.
These are the fifth and sixth limbs of yoga:
Pratyahara teaches us to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. We are aware of our surroundings but cultivate detachment and focus our attention internally. Pratyahara is an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. The beauty of this practice is that by engaging with it in a variety of settings we strengthen our disciple. We are able to observe our cravings or habits that can be detrimental to our health and interfere with our inner growth.
Attention leads to concentration (dharana). “In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. We, of course, have already begun to develop our powers of concentration in the previous three stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses.”
Next blog… the final two limbs of yoga!
Next time you practice yoga stop and ask yourself: What’s your best yoga pose?
Not best in a competitive sense but best for how you feel in the pose, or the sensation it gives you afterwards. Then ask yourself why you think it’s your best pose.
The answer will reveal something about where you are in your practice.
Is your best pose is one that comes easily? This is normal — we all like to feel a sense of achievement — however, beware of competitiveness. If our “best” poses are only best because they are better than someone else’s we are still comparing ourselves to others, which is not the goal of yoga.
Is your best pose one that you recently learned or improved upon? This indicates you are committed and eager to learn, which is a wonderful trait. Practicing a new posture can give great confidence and satisfaction, especially if it opens a new dimension of physical experience, such as inversions, or balancing poses.
Is your best pose one you find difficult? This is the sign of dedication and determination. Often the poses we find hard are exactly the ones our body and mind need the most, so if you are able to find joy in these challenging poses you are on your way to deepening your experience of yoga.
Is your best pose different every day? This means you love to explore and are attuned to different needs of your physical and mental being in each class. Be open to these experiences and enjoy the freshness of each new favourite.
Tell us about your best yoga pose – and why you like it – in the comments!
There’s an app for everything and yoga is no exception.
Personally, I struggle to follow the action on a phone screen, but there are definitely situations where app yoga is better than no yoga at all. If you’re travelling, cooped up in a hotel room, or stuck at home with the kids, an app can provide a quick hit of guidance and inspiration that will allow you to keep your practice flowing.
Here are three top yoga apps:
Features 24 hours of video classes. You can create unlimited custom classes with video. Includes class scheduling and detailed info and advice about over 280 poses. (iOS)
Free app for Android or iOS with more than 50 yoga classes and 400-plus workout poses, complete with video and music. It includes yoga plans with a variety of intensities and durations.
Universal Breathing – Pranayama
Experience the benefits of pranayama anywhere. This simple and intuitive guide to deep breathing features a progressive course to help you find balance and stress relief.
Share your yoga app recommendations in the comments!