Meditation Monday #40 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Annamaya)

Welcome to another rainy Monday at the beach. Do you know I haven’t taken my kids to the beach at all this summer? How terrible is that?! Last summer our beach days were play dates and there were many of them, but this summer our beach buddy is also my running buddy and play dates have been of a different nature. *Sadness*

Alright, enough about the rain….today I’m here to talk to you about meditation again. Why? Because it’s something that I’m making a priority in my life these days. Over the weekend I was in Asheville teaching the NETA PT Review Workshop to a great group of people at the Woodfin YMCA. They were wonderful to hang with and chat with and to work with. I love it when I have great weekends away like that!

I had intended to go and scout the 8K course for the race this fall after I got done teaching on Saturday, but it was raining….and I had left my car windows open….and my lunch from Whole Foods was disappointing. I had also missed breakfast and hadn’t drank hardly anything all day. I think the run would’ve sucked if I had attempted it.

Instead I chose to go back to my creepy hotel (don’t stay off of Tunnel Road) and work on the Inclusivity Training and some NETA writing. I experienced some seriously great meditation practices in this course that I cannot wait to share with you! And that motivated me to start back up with the How to Meditate series again today.

So now, after that seriously unnecessary introduction to this post, I want to talk to you about Koshas….which is not a slang way of talking about Jewish foods or pickles. Koshas are the five layers or sheaths of the body; the outermost of which is called Annamaya or the “Food Layer”.

First off, this has nothing to do with the food you’ll eat (we’ll talk about that layer later), but rather with the fact that we all must die someday and (if buried) eventually become food for the earth and other creatures on it. We liken these layers to nesting dolls with each successively deeper layer representing a deeper part of the self. However, unlike nesting dolls, the layers cannot be separated.

Annamaya is most often cared for where people start their yoga practice….with Asana (postural practice). Both Asana and Annamaya deal with the muscles, the bones, the flesh. Consider your Annamaya layer and ask these questions from Rebecca Pacheco’s book:

  • What physical experiences nourish me?
  • When am I most comfortable in my skin?

For me the obvious answer for both is exercise. But, during meditation I often find more.

When am I most comfortable in my body? When I’m taking care of it. And that includes eating well, getting enough sleep, making time to move and rest. Not just exercise, but when I’m playing with my kids and when I’m not thinking about the body and all the ways in which I’ve judged it in the past.

What physical experiences nourish me? The little things like putting lotion on, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth with a new toothbrush, drinking warm tea, wrapping up in a cozy blanket, hugging my children, snuggling close to my husband, holding his hand, laughing with friends.

My Happiness Project is all about my body and I started with health and now I’m working on eating (again), but I am not neglecting the Annamaya layer in this process. Perhaps you should give your Annamaya layer a little more attention this week?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on/response to the questions posed above.

Advertisements

Meditation Monday #25 -Positive Energy and the Authentic Self

I am siting in the airport on Sunday night and writing this on my phone. The airline took my bag and my laptop with it. I guess it was too big for my flight.

I was traveling for NETA again this weekend and taught a Yoga Foundations course to a small group of people in Manheim, Pennsylvania at a fitness center located inside of a retirement community. They were beautiful people who inspired my post for this Monday.

Each time I travel I fear, but only slightly, that the workshop will not go well….that I will not connect with the participants and therefore struggle to present. However,  this was one of the great weekends in which I felt my authentic self shine through and a connection established. Not only does that mean that I am more easily able to deliver the material,  but also that I gain a sense of self satisfaction in fulfilling my Dharma. I have most definitely been called in life to be a teacher. And recently I have been teaching a lot about the Yamas and Niyamas as well as studying them in my personal meditation practice. I have been re-reading Do Your OM Thing and keep resonating on the final Niyama: Surrender or Devotion to a Higher Power (Isvara pranidhana).

Pacheco highlights in her book that a) Yoga is not a religion and b) that the higher power can also be one’s Best Self. I have always reiterated the first of those things, but tend to seek something outside of myself such as the good of all humankind. This weekend I did a free writing exercise meditation to clear some negative thoughts from my mind. In doing so I came to one major conclusion: I really like my authentic self. However, something else struck me in my writing and that was that I think my authentic self is hiding in parts of my life where I need it to be expressed most.

My authentic self is naturally positive and caring and happy. I am happy with my children, my work, my friends, my yoga practice, but I don’t always live as if I am happy with those things. I don’t always devote myself or give over to my best and authentic self. This negates a few more of the yamas and niyamas.

First, your authentic self is living your truth (Satya). Second, the opposite of a happy and positive person is a negative one. When I exude this negative energy into the world around me I am leaving reverberations for others and infecting them with this negativity  (Himsa – causing harm). Finally, I hoard these negative thoughts and feelings (violating Aparigraha) and pollute my mind, body, and soul (negating Saucha).

I could go further yet and find that this leaves me ill content  (not experiencing Santosha) and this steals my own happiness as well as that which belongs to those around me (Asteya). But I have decided that I want always to make ripples of positive energy in my world because I felt them this weekend in my workshop. I felt them leave me and enter others and I felt them rebound back in a way that brought me peace and joy and fortified my spirit of myself.

How would you describe your authentic self?

Do you keep him/her hidden away?

What are the reverberations of your thoughts, words, and actions on the world?

How are you doing with the Yamas and Niyamas these days?

Five Yamas Friday #5 – Living Them

Another Friday, another reflection on my Yoga Life…..

How has your week been? Mine has felt like catch-up due to late flights and sick kids. I have skipped all of my workouts so far and this has added to a feeling of unease and chaos.

What’s going well? I’ve been on task this week when it has come to work, I feel a little bit better about my future, and I am starting to live the Yamas so well that they feel like part of me instead of just something I’m having to make a conscious effort to exude.

Nonviolence

Honesty

Nonstealing 

Moderation

Nonhoarding

This week I had two moments that bookended my week of Yamas. They were moments in which I felt like I lived my true self and maintained an authentic practice of the Yamas.

The first was during an argument when I realized and stated outloud that one of the worst things I have been doing in life is spouting angry words toward others during fights as a defense mechanism. I don’t like to say hurtful things, it hurts me to say them and it doesn’t feel like me at all. If I am mad, I want to be heard for the honest expression of my feelings instead of feeling forced into a corner and made to fight like an animal with words as my claws. I am a nonviolent person; I feel that in my soul. I am choosing from now on to practice the nonviolence that my heart aims for.

The second time was during class today. I was expressing honesty to my students and told them that it is easy for me to be kindhearted toward and accepting of others far more than myself. I know, because we’ve all heard it before, that the hard work is supposed to come from inside first. It just hasn’t worked this way for me. For me, it’s been easier to find ways to be more accepting of others and then, slowly, turning those skills inward.

I am trying hard not to hoard, any longer, ideals about myself that do not fit who I am. I am trying hard to shed those same images that others may have of me. I am embracing aging this week as a tactic to stop judging myself. I haven’t pulled a single gray hair out all week. That might seem superficial to someone else, but it’s one way that I can accept who I am and how I am in this moment. By doing this I am not stealing the experience of life….of the present.

My yamas are becoming more and more a part of my daily life….

How are they doing in yours?

5 Yamas Friday #4 – A Difficult Week

I am writing this post very late on a Friday night, in my hotel room in Columbia ,  MD , on my phone. My computer is having WiFi connectivity issues at the hotel and it’s just one more thing this week that has put me out of sync with my life.

I don’t know if it’s the strep throat recovery? I don’t know if it is traveling two weekends in a row? I don’t know if it is the time change? I do know that part of it is the fact that I’ve only run once this week. I do know that part of it has been this election coming to a head. And I do know that yoga has helped me again this week to be a better and stronger person.

I have tried my hardest with the Yamas this week than I have at any point in my life. I have considered others and avoided the protests that are taking a turn from peaceful to violent. I have chosen my words wisely so as to be both truthful and nonharming. I have been respectful of the values of others around me so as not to steal away their rights of expression , their right to their own beliefs, their right to choose. And I have worked hard to let go of anxiety, sadness ,  regret, and fear.

The world is going to be what it is going to be and I have no control over Internet connections, the seasons, and other people. I do have the ability to be the best me that I can be, perpetuate the values that are important to me by raising my children to be open minded and caring individuals , and to practice respect for those around me while working for a better tomorrow . Each moment is here and gone….I am contented to be able to be in it.

What have you done with the Yamas this week?

Five Yamas Friday #3 – Back to 530am

So, it’s happening, I’m going back to working out at 530am and I started this morning. Why? Because I’ve been unsatisfied in the way things are going with my schedule of late. This month, so far, I have skipped 6 runs, 5 meditations, and have practiced Garland pose more in my classes than on my own. So, 530am time is coming for ME as a gift to myself. A way to celebrate each day as a present (at least Monday through Friday).

So, now that that’s out there, How has your week been? Are you ready to talk about the Yamas again? I am!

Nonviolence – I haven’t really considered a way to be less harmful this week except for continuing to try and be patient in my interactions. I had midterms to grade this last weekend and I extended some leeway to a few of my students who failed to accept. This was disconcerting for a few reasons, but did not deter my positive attitude toward the students themselves. They are adults and will make their own choices, I just have to trust their judgment is the right thing for them.

Honesty – Owning up to my lack of ability to commit to the goals for this month is about as honest as it gets. It’s also about being realistic with myself and realizing that my heart may not be in some things from time to time and therefore I need to prioritize the things in my life that truly make me happy.

Nonstealing – We are currently under a water usage restriction in my town due to the flooding in NC from Hurricane Matthew. I know that this means that every time I choose to use more water than I need I am stealing from those most in need. It also means I run the risk of a $500/day fine, so we’ve been taking quick showers (even when I feel like I need to stand in the water longer) and flushing our toilet less. I know that sounds kind of gross to some people, but imagine those without the option to shower at the moment! I can stink a little more for their sake.

Moderation – I’ve been trying to sleep a little more this week because I feel like I don’t need as much tv time at night and I need more rest instead. Moderating the way I’m spending my time also provides me with more energy which means I’m not stealing from myself and I’m being honest about what I need and not harming my body.

Nonhoarding – Honestly (again) I haven’t gotten rid of one thing I need to at the moment. I’m not intentionally holding on to anything, but I just haven’t gotten to the point of clearing out spaces at this time. Trying to keep tackling that list that I am slowly crossing off and feeling, little by little, the weight lifting from my shoulders.

How did you do with the Yamas this week?

Do you have any tricks/tips to help me get better at my practice and/or organize my life?

What do you think of 530am exercise?

Meditation Monday #21 – Not Ready for Santosha

Santosha is one of the Niyamas (observances) in yoga. It really means being content with our lives as they are in this moment. This contentment asks us to play on other aspects of our yoga practice, but for me, today, I am not ready for Santosha.

Why?

Although the 8 Limb Path of Raja Yoga is not a step by step path in which you master one element before you move on, there is something that I do need to do before I can move on to contentment. That is to deal more thoroughly with the first of the Niyamas – Saucha (cleanliness). Continue reading “Meditation Monday #21 – Not Ready for Santosha”

Five Yamas Friday #2

How has your week been? I know it’s only been since Wednesday, but it feels like I’ve been away from the blog for so long….and yoga, although I taught this morning. Something has had to give this week and for the next three days I have “CATCH UP” written on my schedule so that I can clear my lists. That and grade midterms. This is always one of my favorite times of the semester because I get to know my students a little better through their midterms.

The main theme of the midterm is to reflect on their yoga journey thus far this semester. I do this on the regular with meditation, the blog, and my teaching. I even wrote a whole series this spring about my yoga journey (12 Years of Yoga). But today I’m here to reflect on the week past and specifically the 5 Yamas.

  • Nonviolence – I have been careful with my body this weeks as I have still been suffering from allergies. With that mostly in check I tackled my Wednesday run like nobody’s business and dropped time and felt free. The run went great and even better was the workout after. However, my knees spoke to me the rest of the day and into Thursday’s teaching. I went back to my knee stretches and did some more supported deep squats and that took care of the pain for me. I was able to teach this morning pain free. I feel like my patience with others has also been high on the nonviolence scale this week. I’ve just been trying not to let too many things get to me and being as calm and understanding as I can in my interactions. Sometimes that means just shutting my mouth and walking away from a situation and other times I’ve lost my temper a bit in order to “Set the record straight”.
  • Honesty – If I’m truly being honest though, the “record” is subjective to the person speaking it. Things don’t always happen the way that you feel or remember them. I think that part of honest is realizing that your truth is only yours.
  • Nonstealing – I have tried to stay on top of my 30 minute work cycles this week so that I am not wasting my time. However, it has stolen a few other things from my schedule and this has not made me feel as satisfied with what I have accomplished as I had hoped. I stole away yesterday, twice, to take my kids to the park…..I mean it’s almost 80 degrees here in OCTOBER! Why wouldn’t we celebrate a cool 80 degree day at the park?
  • Moderation – I have tried to spend less time sitting down this week so that I feel like I’m getting stuff done, but it’s also led to a few early bed times. Moderation doesn’t mean go, go, go all the time….it also means I need to rest and I’ve been glad to recognize that going to bed before 10am once in awhile is not the end of the world.
  • Nonhoarding – I had to let go of the idea, this week, that I had some things figured out. I read a great thing in the Gates’ book about clutter in our physical lives and our emotional lives. I put a few things in the donation bag when I cleaned my room this week, stopped myself from adding more things to the schedule until after other things are completed, and let go of the idea that I have to have it all.
I feel like this painting today, but when I try to go to the blogspot that it was posted on I end up on spam, so don’t click on it.

Overall I have felt like this week has exemplified a lot of what it means to me to be yoga.

How did you live your Yamas this week?

Five Yamas Friday #1 – Delayed by Hurricane Matthew

I’m writing this post on Saturday instead of Friday for the simple fact that I decided to move my children out of the direct path of the hurricane yesterday. It’s “only” a Category 1 storm now, but I didn’t want them to have to sit in the dark for hours on end and wonder about if the water was going to come inside. So, we traveled north and west to family and are now just sitting through rain. It’s a horribly gloomy day.

But, time for reflection on the week past and the 5 Yamas that I am trying to live a little better each day….

  • Nonviolence
    • I did some good things for myself specifically this week. If you check in on my runs this week I had a great plan for going the distance. However, Wednesday afternoon my tonsils and sinuses revolted as a part of this impending storm and allergies. I ended up not running that day. I thought I could teach yoga on Thursday, but chose to rest instead. By Thursday night I thought maybe I could run, but listened to the fact that things were still not clear in my head and waited until Saturday (because of travel yesterday). My run this morning was also strained and I’m still living on allergy meds, getting green stuff out, and feeling the pressure in my face. Have you ever had your upper teeth hurt with each bite?
    • For others I have been trying to be more patient and to continue to choose good things to think about the choices that others make and to say nice things about them and to them as well.
  • Honesty
    • I can’t think of anything specifically in regards to living an honest life, but I have been more honest about myself with myself. Understanding the things that are important to me and making sure that I prioritize those. Sometimes what you want is more important than what you think you should do.
  • Nonstealing
    • I’m trying very hard not to get distracted by other things and not allow myself to steal from my own time. I wrote earlier this week about distractions and mostly I’m sticking to not allowing things to take all of my time and to staying focused on one thing at a time.
  • Moderation
    • This is a big one for me in so many ways. I’m watching my calendar fill up and trying to make sure that I’m choosing to be more moderate as it goes. I am getting done with projects and not taking on more. This is also something that goes in regards to the way that I eat and exercise. Having a plan has been helpful in allowing me to remember that I don’t have to do it all each day. I can choose to eat mindfully (I don’t always remember to do this) and know that it’s okay not to eat the M&M’s just because they’re sitting on the counter…..but man that sounds good to eat right now. 😉
  • Nonhoarding
    • Letting go has always been my biggest struggle and this week I would love to finally get rid of a few things on my plate. I had to remind myself at a meeting this week that I am not responsible for everyone. Let go of that need to take charge of everything, to put everything on my plate, let go of control.

Each little step in the right direction is like a drop of water falling into the pond…..the ripples reach outward to making bigger and bigger changes in my life.

How did you live your Yamas this week?

Currently September 2016 – The Yoga Project

Biggest Pet Peeve – Posts that don’t post on time!

So, it’s Friday the end of September and I’m sure some of you are wondering: How did the 30 Days of Yoga go?

Well, it went better than expected and reignited my love of a daily yoga practice so much that I have a new plan for 30 Days of Yoga in October! But we’ll get to that in a minute. First a little reflection on the process.

At the beginning of the month my practice was heavily focused on the Asana and Pranayama limbs of yoga, but I ended up spending the end of the month in Dhyana….meditation. In total I meditated for 16 days this month using the Gates book and finished the section on Yamas just in time for the end of the month. The biggest portion of my meditations were spent on the idea of Aparigraha or Letting Go. There’s a lot of that needed in my life, but the best part of letting go was opening space for something new…..for more yoga!

This week’s meditations and reflection on the month, in particular,  have taught me that I still have some work to do on the Yamas. It’s a daily struggle and not something that comes easily in certain areas.

  • Nonviolence
  • Honesty
  • Nonstealing
  • Moderation
  • Nonhoarding

Which brings me to October and the start of the Niyamas…The Sustaining Practices.

How will I be sustaining my Yamas? By having 5 Yamas Friday for the month of October.  I will look back at the week and reflect on the best example of me living My Yoga Life through the Yamas.

How will I be sustaining my physical practice….my Asanas? Every odd numbered day of the month I will be working on the first of the three poses that I wanted to master this year. October’s Pose of the Month will be Garland because it pairs best with the knee recovery exercises I’ve been working on. I also plan to take pictures along the way to chart my progress.

How will I be sustaining my Dhyana? On the even days of October I plan to meditate using the Gates book. It has taken me 795 days to get from the intro of Meditations from the Mat to Day 61 in the meditations. I had planned to finish that book in one year and now it seems necessary for my continued progress in life.

So, expect updates along the way and 5 Yamas Fridays each week. Come back Monday for Mini Movie Monday – Exercises for My Back! I hope you have a great weekend and Join Me for 30 Days of Yoga October!

How are you living the Yamas?

How are you sustaining your yoga?

 

The Yoga Report

meditationI am still finding time to meet the demands of my self-imposed 30 Days of Yoga challenge, but finding it harder to make the time to write about it. Some of that is because it’s a personal practice and sometimes I just want to do it and not mention that I did it. Other times I just allow life to get in the way of writing.

So, here’s a quick recap of the practices I did last Wednesday through Sunday and my plan for this last week of September. Continue reading “The Yoga Report”