<![CDATA[Yoga Psychology - Blog - Living Yoga]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 06:47:50 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[How Do We Stay Healthy? ]]>Sun, 03 Apr 2016 22:52:09 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/how-do-we-stay-healthy
From an Ayurvedic perspective we stay healthy primarily through the rhythm of our minds. It is our minds that determine the rhythm of our actions: what foods we eat, how we relax, how we exercise and how we handle stress. It is these daily actions that determine our habits and “go to” reactions to the events of the day. It is our collection of habits that determines our character – how others perceive us, what opportunities we are given and how we handle our responsibilities..

The mind is impacted by three gunas, or energetic qualities: sattva, rajas and tamas. By understanding how to work with these three energies we begin to understand how to work with our minds and reach our full potential.

Sattva is the energy that creates a clear, focused and stable state of mind. When this guna is predominate we are able to see reality as it is. There is a desire to serve others, without the need to be recognized and applauded for one’s views. This quality is nourished by simple-foods, service to others, compassion and kindness.

Rajas is the state of mind that is active, wants to achieve and get things done. Sometimes we have clarity, but at other times our vision is distorted by our personal agenda. In the moments when we no longer have clarity we may make decisions that do not benefit ourselves or those around us. This quality is nourished by spicy foods, alcohol, marijuana, yearning for ambition and recognition.

Tamas is the state of mind that is dull. This is when we blame others for our troubles and have difficulty seeing that we even have trouble. We cannot see reality clearly. We have difficulty making change or getting going. Everything seems hopeless and pointless. This quality is nourished by old, cold foods, drugs, pornography, and violent films.

Of course these are not the only three energies. If we combine these three energies with the doshas of Ayurveda (vata, pitta and kapha) we begin to have a much clearer picture of who we are and what we can potentially achieve. 

VATA FOLKS...
           

SATTVIC VATA INDIVIDUALS.  When Sattva predominates these individuals are inspired & free. They have immense creativity and vitality. They are open-minded, communicators who are quick to understand. While they may not stay on any task too long, they are always receptive, sensitive, and artistic. They are best described as HAPPY.

RAJASIC VATA INDIVIDUALS. When a Vata person becomes rajasic they begin to feel physically cold. Fearful and anxious, their behavior becomes erratic and difficult to contain. They may have bursts of energy, but are then depleted. They will be active, always doing things and staying busy. As rajas increases they are prone to distraction, shame, and become extremely talkative. They may become noisy and dramatic. They are best described as RESTLESS. 

TAMASIC VATA INDIVIDUALS. When a Vata person becomes tamasic they begin to operate our of a space of fearful. They will becomes extremely erratic, and feel intense shame. These individuals are prone to sexual perversions and are easily addicted as they seek to escape the chaotic minds in which they live. As tamas increases they are prone to havoc, hurt, and may engage in cutting and other forms of self-harm. At their lowest point they are suicidal. 

PITTA PEOPLE...  


SATTVIC PITTA INDIVIDUALS. When a Pitta person is dominated with sattvic energy they are courageous, and unafraid to do the right thing. They will proceed with warmth and compassion. These individuals are natural leaders, who are extremely intelligent, disciplined, and perceptive. They have a friendly nature and a strong will. They are best described as JOYOUS.

RAJASIC PITTA INDIVIDUALS. When a Pitta person is dominated by rajasic energy they are angry and aggressive. If they cannot critique and evaluate others, they will be critical of themselves. Their controlling and judgmental nature makes them difficult to be around. They see themselves as "being right" and have challenges seeing other people's point of view. They want to fix systems and people. As rajas increases they increasingly blame others and allow their passion to drive themselves and others mad. They are best described as IRRITABLE.

TAMASIC PITTA. When a Pitta person is dominated by tamasic energy they begin to feel violent and destructive. They may be vile, harming of others, vindictive, and hostile. Tamasic pitta people make excellent criminal leaders as they want to lead others and are not afraid to hurt other people to get what they want. Hatefulness and revenge may overtake them. At their lowest point they are homicidal.  

KAPHA FOLKS...

SATTVIC KAPHA INDIVIDUALS. Individuals who are Kapha with a sattvic energy are full of love. They are loyal, supportive, and patient. They are pleasant to be around as they are steady, comforting, and extremely giving. These individuals are forgiving, caring, and willing to be a provider for those who need it. They are best described as FREE.

RAJASIC KAPHA INDIVIDUALS. When a Kapha person becomes rajasic their kind disposition gives way to possessiveness and greed. They become exceptionally materialistic; they love luxury but not the hard work that brings it. As rajas increases they become excessively attached (and even obsessed) with people, places and things. They may be hoarders or  emotionally manipulative through wealth. They will become co-dependent and have difficulty seeing their worth without others. They are best described as DISCONTENT.  

TAMASIC KAPHA INDIVIDUALS. When a kapha person becomes tamasic inertia and stagnation take hold. They may become depressed and insensitive to their own suffering. There will be no effort to change and they will not be able to see that change is needed. Hoarding may take over and become an obstruction in their life. They have memory of slights and abuses that inhibit them from seeing the love all around them. They have a tendency to be obese, and have low level addictions (to sugar in particular). At their lowest point they commit suicide through neglect. 

Well then!! Obviously the tamasic state creates a whole bunch of suffering for all of us!! Luckily, this isn't our personality, it is merely a transient form of energy that we are experiencing. We have a choice. We can continue to cultivate our current energetic state f it is satisfactory or we can actively cultivate a new energetic state.  

Tamasic people need to cultivate Rajas first. The Tamasic state has such low energy that it can be difficult to get going or to make positive change. Indeed, in the Tamasic state one will find things like gardening, calmly connecting with others and meditation to be exceedingly tedious. Indeed, a true Tamasic person would rather engage in self injury than settle into a peaceful state. If you find peace and ease to be annoying, you are probably in a Tamasic state. The first step is to cultivate Rajas.   

Rajas has the high energy needed to pull individuals out of tamas. Rajas is cultivated by eating fresh, spicy foods. Begin avoiding meat and add a green juice to your morning routine. Drink a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning. At work, contribute good, consistent work. Put effort into finding the thing that you want to contribute to the world. After work, take a vigorous walk, go to the gym or take a power yoga class. This will boost your energy. After dinner be sure to take in a film with lots of action or listen to music. Add triphala to your after dinner routine. Over a few months you will begin to feel some high energy. Remember that rajas energy is erratic (light on- light off) so your energy will not be consistent. At this time begin to cultivate sattva. 

Sattva is the energy you need to pull out your best qualities. In the morning get up with gratitude for your day. Spend a few minutes or more in meditation. Have a vegetarian breakfast that will sustain you for your service. On the way to work appreciate the plants and sky.  At work seek wisdom and engage in creativity. Spend time gardening, hiking, kayaking, meditating, chanting, and participating in your spiritual community. Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. Remove all stimulants from your diet: coffee and alcohol.  A calm hatha yoga practice with breathing practices and meditation will help you sustain even energy that you can use to transform the world around you.  Avoid gossip and scandal mongering; instead focus on saying words that transform and inspire those around you. Encourage yourself and others. Find ways to give and cultivate selfless service.

You can easily achieve peace. Actually, it won't be easy. It will, however, be totally worth it. The world needs your energy, your gifts, your time. These are best found and offered in a sattvic state. Remove your bad habits one by one. Substitute positive habits for negative ones. Instead of saying " _uck that driver cut me off!" Substitute "That is an unwise driving move." Do not loose your peace of mind and do not give it away. You are a gift unparalleled; a diamond in the rough that is ready to be burnished with the discipline of yoga. 


]]>
<![CDATA[A Yogic Perspective on Psychological Trauma]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 22:51:39 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/a-yogic-perspective-on-psychological-trauma
Swami Satchidananda often compared the mind to a lake. When it is calm, the beauty and resources of our inner being are reflected on its brilliant surface. When the mind is agitated, however, the surface of that lake becomes choppy, distorting the calm and beauty that still lies underneath. For individuals who have suffered a traumatic experience the mind can become so disturbed that the surface of the water would look like it is in the relentless frenzy of an unending hurricane. In such a troubled mental state, the time-honored methods that sages throughout the world have proclaimed as essential to the achievement of equanimity may seem like nothing more than elaborate fairy tales.

Joan Harrigan, the spiritual director of Patanjali Kundalini Care in Knoxsville Tennessee, believes that traumatic encounters can create a sudden rise in "intense energy" or Kundalini. This powerful energy is usually unleashed after a prolonged period of spiritual practice that gradually prepares the individual to handle the experience. The practices of Yoga develop a disciplined mind that is able to direct the unleashed Kundalini towards the spiritual goal of enlightenment. Harrigan maintains that when an individual is not prepared through spiritual practices or is not in a devotional frame of mind at the time of a Kundalini rising (such as in a traumatic event) they are unable to handle the intensity of the experience. The result is a sense of extreme agitation and prolonged over-stimulation that can leave the person feeling lost, confused, tired and angry.

Harrigan advises that people who are experiencing the negative after-effects of trauma dedicate (or re-dedicate) themselves to the process of spiritual transformation. A spiritual orientation provides a framework that can calm the mind and restore hope, offering the individual ways to accept the challenges of dealing with a traumatic event. Harrigan maintains that it is faith in God that creates an environment where trauma can be seen as the needed catalyst to propel one towards a more fulfilling life. Because of the intensity of energy unleashed in the nervous system, Harrigan recommends that the physical body be cultivated through calming yoga postures, breathing practices, and the application of a moderate lifestyle. Rest, relaxation and moderation in all activities are strongly emphasized. Any rigorous or strenuous Yoga practices (either mental or physical) are to be avoided.

Dr. Lad, the director of the Ayurvedic Institute describes undigested traumas as non-healing ulcers that we carry in our sub-conscious mind. He compares the sub-conscious to the basement level of a house; It is where we put all the things we do not want to see. If the pain is too great and the subconscious begins to take up too much space, there is no room for consciousness or the outer mind. Our house," states Dr. Lad, "becomes a little nest on a much larger mess.

Dr. Lad maintains that it is in understanding our hurt and traumas that we begin to make room to truly experience our lives and ourselves. When we see "what is" in our past, but are not happy about it, we create a concept of what would be, could be and should be. In traumatic memories what is "is fear, anger, conflict, and betrayal." These emotions can be so strong that we cannot manipulate them into what "should be." What we are asking of individuals who have survived trauma is to relinquish their desire to have a past that is not horrific, a past that is not damaging.

Dr. David Frawley, author of Ayurveda and the Mind: the Healing of Consciousness, explains that our consciousness not only holds our memories of what actually happened, but our memories of what we feel to have happened in our hearts. He believes that it is important to not devalue these "false" memories as they are considered the history of the ego -  that part of ourselves that would prefer that only good things happen to us. 

What is being healed in trauma - whether on an individual basis or on a community level is that which cannot be seen. It is the delicate fabric of what makes us human: trust, faith, a sense of order, and an awareness of the uniqueness of our human life. Yoga suggests that suffering is not without cause or meaning - rather it is our impetus, or call, for radical change and a renewed attempt to spiritualize our lives.

Spirituality entails more than hearing someone else's ideas of what freedom and love are. It entails walking one's own path to self knowledge. It is this path that will lead each person to feel safe in opening not only to the pain of their past, but to the beauty and joy of the present. Individuals who have experienced severe trauma are often cut off from this experience, as they hold on to the past and resist the present. The Yogic perspective, while not a universal substitute for psychotherapy, can offer those who have experienced trauma or who have a loved one devastated by trauma, the tools to understand the path that person is walking. If the Yogic perspective on trauma does nothing more then inspires the student to the study of their own lives than the practice has contributed greatly to the healing of humankind.
]]>
<![CDATA[The Scientific Power of Meditation ]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 22:32:07 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/the-scientific-power-of-meditation
]]>
<![CDATA[Yoga Psychology Today]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 23:04:04 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/yoga-psychology-todayPicture
By Laura Sevika Douglass, Ph.D.
Excerpt from Integral Yoga Magazine, Fall 2012 


The simple act of meaning making can turn a horrendous tragedy into an opportunity to learn how to tolerate difficult emotions, improve relationships and begin to connect with the nourishing relationships that surround us. That we are a meaning-making species is evident from the philosophical approach to Yoga psychology grounded in the teaching of Samkhya philosophy, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Upanishads and other sacred texts. This philosophical approach enables us to find hope in the face of tragedy.  The flip side of this approach, however, is there may be the false sense that what we “do” doesn’t matter, if only we think the right thoughts.
 
The Ayurvedic approach to mental health is much different. It adheres to an understanding that psychological disturbance has a physiological component (called a doshic imbalance) and that there is much we can do in terms of diet and lifestyle to put us in right relationship with our bodies. Right relationship to the body is seen as the beginning of mental health, for we often treat those around us in much the same way as we treat our bodies. Ayurveda holds Yoga and Samkhya as essential philosophical schools of thought that help us understand the world around us as well as our place within it.
 
The Charaka Samhita, a textbook on Ayurveda, is the only book that directly addresses psychological disorders. Ayurveda has a lot to offer those who suffer with mental illness. A good Ayurvedic practitioner can help us understand what we need to take in through the five senses to facilitate our development as spiritual beings. We often think of mental illness as something “not spiritual,” but it, too, is a path toward a deeper understanding of ourselves.
 
The Aitareya Upanishads say that we all have access to the atman, or a state of consciousness that is unperturbed by our mental anguish. In this place we experience ourselves as satchidananda, truth, knowledge and bliss. We all have access to this state of consciousness, regardless of any emotional problems we may have. In my experience, this state of consciousness doesn’t “fix” mental illness, but it does open us to experience the totality of our being. We begin to see ourselves from a higher perspective. We may say, “Oh yes, my mind is prone to anxiety and has difficulty feeling safe.” But we also experience that we are so much more than the body and mind.  We experience that our mental suffering is temporary, while our soul is eternal. We see clearly that our mental afflictions are a path, which if followed, will lead us to develop wisdom, compassion and love. 
 
Higher states of consciousness evoked by Yoga have the unique effect of settling the mind, because we are no longer wrestling with mental illness. We no longer push it aside as something unworthy of our attention, or as a bother. We begin to accept the eating disorder, the traumas, the anxiety and the difficulties connecting with others as functional adaptations to extremely traumatic situations. We begin to see the limitations of these strategies, and can consciously choose to replace them with yogic tools that help to keep us safe in ways that are not harmful to us. We begin to accept that we have to engage in self-care, if we are to truly begin healing and recovering our sense of self.

]]>
<![CDATA[The Message of Fear]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:59:56 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/the-message-of-fearPicture
​Once a month I receive an enthusiastic email or phone call from a student who has been searching for a yoga class that emphasizes self-awareness. They have been referred to yoga from their friends and care providers who assure them that they will have more energy, vitality and a deeper sense of calm. Finally, they’ve found a class that seems perfect for them! They sign-up and often pay, but as the weeks go by they can’t seem to make it to class. Something always gets in the way: work, family, relationships, walking the dog, taxes, cleaning the house, simply not enough time. I know these are the things that get in the way, as these obstacles are the same ones that I face each and every day when I settle down to my yoga practice.

The Taittiriya Upanishads, one of the classical texts upon which yoga is based, addressed the difficulty that each one of us faces in establishing time to cultivate self-awareness.  The authors believed that our fear of temporality is what holds up back from taking the time to nourish ourselves. They believed that when we finally do glimpse the reality that our body, quite definitely, will not last forever, it is the rare person who does not try to suppress, deny, or minimize fear.  This fear manifests itself as attempts to grasp or control life through work, achievements, sensory experiences (travel, films, etc) and the accumulation of stuff. Attempts at claiming a quieter life of reflection that would allow us to work with the basic questions of self awareness, are clouded with long “to-do” lists that supports the idea that one’s physical presence is wanted, important and in demand.
 
The difficulty with our enactment of fear is that it simply doesn’t feel good. We experience increased tension and stress that never seems to be alleviated no matter how much we achieve. Although it seems counter-intuitive the yogic solution to “not enough time” is to add more self-awareness practices; particularly the practice of yoga postures, or asana.  Āsana in its broadest therapeutic sense can be considered developing an individual’s right relationship to his or her body. From a Yogic perspective understanding what prevents us from taking the time to nourish ourselves is the first and central task because we often treat the world and everyone around us the same way we treat our body.

The next time you experience fear, whether it is in the form of needing to achieve, needing to feel connected, or the feeling of not having enough time – take a moment to engage in self-care. The Dalai Lama once said, “A half hour of meditation is indispensible every day, unless you are overwhelmed with the tasks and demands of work and family life. If you are overwhelmed, then two hours a day is the absolute minimum.” Take some time each day to nourish a connection with yourself: take a walk, a long bath, engage in a creative endeavor that you plan to never share (that’s just for yourself), or follow up on the commitment to take a regular yoga class.

You’ll find that each and every person in the yoga class has similar difficulty in making time for themselves. We are not as alone as we often think. A yoga community can also be important as people often share stories of the increased energy, vitality and feeling of being engaged and calm that comes from a committed practice of yoga. While the first few weeks it may seem like “one more thing,” over time it becomes a place in which you re-connect with what is most central to yourself, a time to explore how you feel, and a way to connect with your own wisdom, truth and sense of contentment.

]]>
<![CDATA[Self-Esteem: Helping Each Other Reach Our Potential Through Ayurveda]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:57:48 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/self-esteem-helping-each-other-reach-our-potential-through-ayurvedaPicture
Self-esteem is our evaluation of what we are worth. It includes our beliefs, thoughts, emotions and actions. We all want to believe in ourselves, to think positively about our achievements and potential.  Research studies show that individuals with self-esteem are better academically, earn more money, and are more likely to exercise regularly. I've thought a lot about self-esteem as I have the worst self-esteem in the universe! What is it? Where does it come from? And why can't I find it in a book? 

We often think of self-esteem as something you are either born with or without.  Ayurveda, the East Indian system of medicine, teaches that self-esteem is more than an inner sense of grace. Self-esteem is crafted in relationship. Do we know this to be true? Yes. In a 1987 book, 
The Truly Disadvantaged, sociologist William Wilson reported that moving individuals from poor, urban neighborhoods to neighborhoods were 90% of the individuals lived above the poverty line vastly improved the participant’s sense of self-worth and happiness. Despite what we know about self-esteem, it is rarely discussed as a product of being in community.

Luckily, Ayurveda, has a lot to say about how we can help each other cultivate self-esteem. That’s right: you are instrumental to the emotional well being of those around you! You have a pivotal part to play in encouraging the net worth of happiness and contentment in your community. You may not be able to do much for your own self-esteem, but you can definitely help those around you!  To do this Ayurveda outlines three primary ways in which the different constitutions (doshas) experience self-esteem. Understanding these constitutions helps us to reflect back to each other our strengths.

PITTA.
Pitta people are intelligent, excellent workers, and exceptionally organized. Their productivity is envied by many, but few see that this productivity is driven by a desire to be recognized by others.  When pitta individuals experience low self esteem it often manifests as anger. They begin by critiquing outside people (the government, people at their jobs), but they ultimately blame themselves – descending into self-doubt and self-loathing. Outsiders may wonder how someone so accomplished can feel so blue. We can support our pitta friends by recognizing their contributions. They achieve so much it seems like why should we point out yet another success? Simply because it makes pitta people very, very happy.

VATA.
Vata people are creative and engaged. They thrive on being involved in multiple projects at once. They have fresh insights into many different topics – from the arts, to politics and economics. Indeed, they have so many fantastic ideas that they will not be able to complete all of their projects. When vata individuals feel low self-esteem it is usually related to not accomplishing as much as they would like; they quickly become anxious and fearful that they will never achieve their dreams. We can encourage our creative vata friends by pointing out that inspiring others is in itself a fantastic contributing that they are uniquely positioned to share! Vata people often fail to understand how much they contribute to the world around them simply by sharing their ideas. We can help by pointing out how they help us to see things in new and unexpected ways.

KAPHA.
Kaphas people are stable and filled with compassion, love and care towards others. Kapha people are slow to change. They are the stable members of every family and community. When kapha individuals have low self-esteem they become depressed and turn to cookies, candy and chocolate.  They may feel out of place in the fast paced world of vatas and the competitive edge of the pittas. What they really wonder is: who will love them? We can encourage our kapha friends by slowing down, sitting by their side and pointing out their many wonderful qualities. Kaphas don’t need to achieve (like pittas) or create (like vatas), they need to love. We are all made more wonderful by slowing down and embracing their compassion.

Take an opportunity this week to reflect on how you can support positive self-esteem for those around you! It feels great to support each other and goes a long way to helping us build the community, recognition and support that we often crave.  My teacher, Swami Satchidananda, once said “The biggest mistake people make on the spiritual path is thinking they can do it alone.”  Sangha, or community, is how each of us reaches our potential.

]]>
<![CDATA[The Preoccupied Mind...Again]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:52:14 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/the-preoccupied-mindagainPicture
The other day I was chatting with a few colleagues about the need for our entire organization to receive training on the "repetition compulsion." The illusive need to engage in the same behaviors, repeatedly, despite the sincere lack of satisfaction our actions generate! In yoga, the repetitive mind is often described as a “preoccupied.” Our minds return to the same topic time and time again, attempting to make sense of an experience, person or recent event; yet nothing seems to restore our natural sense of peace. Yogi’s say the mind is like a monkey, jumping from place to place, creating havoc. The mind is not, however, like any old monkey; it is like a drunken monkey which has been stung by a scorpion. Preoccupied with its own pain, it desperately seeks relief in endless actions. Yet each action pulls it further away from its own peace, exacerbating the sense of desperation and isolation it feels.  
 
We’ve all experienced a preoccupied mind at some point in our lives! The downside of such a mind is that it becomes impossible for us to orient towards that which brings peace. Even strategies we know bring us a feeling of wellbeing, such as eating well, spending time with loved ones and exercising, are cast aside. As we let these habits go, it is not surprising that our minds become even more preoccupied, leading to further disequilibrium and desperation. Ayurveda says the preoccupied mind falls into three general categories: vata, pitta and kapha.

Doshas Out of Balance
 
Vatas: Stress, fear and anxietyEnergy is high, but scattered.
Pittas: Anger, Energy is consumed in negativity and confusion (masked as “knowing” and expressed as critiquing).
Kaphas: Attachment and preoccupation with peopleEnergy level is stagnate, making change difficult.
 
 With our minds in a preoccupied state, we are weakened because we are no longer living in and responding to the present moment. As our minds wrestle with the future or the past, we become more susceptible to negative emotions, other people and the environment.
 
Luckily there is a “cure” for anger, hatred, fear, nervousness, worry, apathy, dullness, and finding inadequate time for peace, silence, or for heart-to-heart talks!  Participation in a healing community. Renewing the mind in silence, with one’s fellow seekers brings a sense of ease that enables us to stop relying on stimulation of movies, TV, sports, and other distractions. Instead we nourish ourselves with selfless service, meditation, yoga asanas and pranayama.   

Ayurveda sees all psychological problems as imbalances in the internal self. We forget that we are interwoven with the communities in which we participate! Each of us needs a supportive community as part of his or her healing path. As we open up to living in the present moment, free from a preoccupied mind, our natural equanimity begins to lead us. In Ayuveda each dosha has a natural talent:
 
Doshas in Balance  
 
Vatas: CreativeEnergy is high and focused on creating.
Pittas: IntelligentEnergy is passionate, intelligent and organized.
Kaphas: LovingEnergy level is full of compassion, love and care.
 
So the next time you find yourself separated from your loving, intelligent, creative self – take some time in community. Allow yourself to be nourished by those around you by serving, loving, and giving to one and all.
 
 TIPS & TOOLS FOR A CALM MIND WHILE LIVING ON PLANET EARTH            
        
  1. Cultivate love, faith, and self inquiry.

  2. Meditate on the Divine in a form dear to one's heart.  

  3. Perform service to those in need. 

  4. Rub sesame oil on the scalp and souls of the feet. 

  5. Add a few drops of medicated ghee in the nostrils to soothe mental activity.

  6. Use essential oils: Rose and lotus calm and nourish the heart; Jasmine cleanses the emotions and increases love and compassion; Gardenia purifies heart.
 
 
 

]]>
<![CDATA[Why Practice Yoga? It Depends on Where You Are.]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:48:44 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/why-practice-yoga-it-depends-on-where-you-areOver the last 21 years the reasons I practice yoga have changed. In my twenties I wanted freedom from ulcers that plagued me. As I gained greater ability to work with my body, I wanted enlightenment and peace of mind. Gradually, I began to experience that there is nothing to gain, but that happiness always resided within me. Certainly, it was difficult to remain in a place of contentment, as life challenges in the most surprising ways. Now, I practice for stability, for health, for mental equanimity and for an ability to whether the constant changes of life. Yoga, keeps me "fit" physically and mentally. Yet, how do we choose what to practice?

Often we settle into a yoga practice that "works" for us. As life changes we wonder why our practice is no longer satisfying, why the gifts of yoga seem to be distant. In these instances I have come to realize that I am imposing yoga on my life, instead of using yoga to listen to life. When we have the opportunity to slow down and truly listen we so often find that what we "need" is not often what we "want." The dissonance between what we want and what we need is what creates suffering.

I have a group of hatha yoga students that I can best describe as perfect. I've been thinking, how can I bring the dynamic, ever changing nature of yoga into our class? To explore, in a group setting, the way yoga can be adapted to meet our needs as they change season to season. Reflecting on this, I developed a series that I hope helps to bring yoga deeply into their life. The series is aimed at uncovering ways to feel completely in the present moment, to put forward our best and to work through the obstacles that keep us from experiencing each moment as perfect exactly like it is. Integrating yoga into our life has three main phases: Tamas, Rajas and Sattva.

In the tamas phase we are not even aware that something is wrong. We may feel heavy, lethargic or stuck. In our "work life" we feel as if there are no options. We may even use work as a way to fulfill our own desires rather than as a place to serve others. We think little of leaving work early and justify the lack of service with long mental lists. In this phase, it is important to emphasize a yogic diet, moving from the core and challenging ourselves to be in alignment. We'll resist doing all of these things, but moving through the obstacles will leave us feeling refreshed and energized. If tamas is dominating your day-to-day life, and you feel stuck, work on: 1) Implement a yogic diet (eliminate sugar, meat, fish, onions and garlic; focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts) 2) Sweat. Engage in rigorous exercise that will break up the pattern of "stuckness" or use a sauna if you can't find the energy to exercise. 3) Music and dancing to being zest into your life.


In the Rajas phase we are extremely busy. We may be getting a lot done, but feel depleted because we are moving quickly from one activity to another. We may believe no one does as much work as we do. Our ego defines our excess activity as "special." We find it difficult to transition to social activities which don't bolster the ego in the same way as our achievements. In this phase, it is important to emphasize relaxing and letting go through restorative yoga, pranayama and meditation. We won't want to! We may want to use our practice to "achieve" something difficult. We may see enlightenment as something "far off" that must be "obtained." Yet enlightenment rests underneath our need to achieve. If this is you, start a calming practice of yoga, sit still and challenge yourself to enjoy the present moment without changing it one little bit. Apply your bustling energy to see underneath the mind, find a place of peace and ease that sustains all your activities.

In the sattva phase even if we are outwardly busy, we are inwardly peaceful. We don't expect the world, or even ourselves to be perfect - mistakes happen. Whether or not we achieve our goals is of little concern to us, as the work itself glorifies the divinity which surrounds us. We can be active or peaceful, there's flexibility in how we approach our day to day life. We listen. In this phase we need to actively sustain our insights so that we don't slip back into a Tamas or Rajas. We need to move in a way that allows us to respond to what is, we find the place in which practicing yoga is not an effort, but a natural expression of the present moment. Activities that sustain sattva are meditation, chanting, gardening, painting, writing and other creative pursuits (but be on the alert for the pesky mind that sees these activities as making us "better.")

Yoga is ultimately about living freely, without constraints, but with responsibility. Yoga is about find out who we are, what we have to bring to the world and sharing these gifts with others. Indeed, in true yoga there are no others, everyone is an expression of the same spiritual energy. Practicing together helps us to build this awareness. We see how others on the path are making progress and it inspires us to do more...or less...depending on who we are. We turn our gaze not on the fault of others, but on ourselves in an ability to increase our awareness. We delight in the virtuous and seek to cultivate this within ourselves. We see what is wrong in and take action, but do not let our minds be moved to anger, resentment, disgust or fear. We are friendly to those who are happy. We have compassion for the unhappy. These states arise spontaneously for the limited time we are sharing planet earth.

May you have happiness. May you see the good in others. May your mind rest in peace. 
]]>
<![CDATA[Incremental Small Changes]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:33:26 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/march-11th-20161Spring is Kapha time! The qualities that predominate are heavy, rainy, and moist. It is a time when we might feel heavy, both physically and psychologically. It is also a time for cleansing and starting new projects with vim and vigor. It is a time of new growth, that can often seem too slow. It is a time to prepare ourselves to express our most authentic selves. .

Yoga practices during the Spring months should be about clearing out old habits and establishing new patterns that you would like to continue throughout the year. When we typically think of Spring cleaning, we think about what we want to get rid of in our house or what mental patterns and habits that are holding us back. Ayurvedically, Spring is not a time of “getting rid of,” but instead an opportunity for new things to grow! What seeds would you like to plant in the upcoming year? What habits would you like to foster? Think about how to change some of the typical patterns of change so that they reflect what you want to grow into this summer!

Change need not be heavy or burdensome, one healthy action often has a ripple effect that creates change in multiple areas of our life in surprising ways!

Old Pattern of Thinking           Spring Pattern of Thinking               One Healthy Action
I want to lose weight.                I want to be healthy.                     Take one yoga class a week                                                                                                                 to practice self-awareness.  
Stop being so critical.                 Integrate Compassion.                 Find compassion for myself.
 
Can't stay in touch.                  Enrich life with relationships.        Send mail to one friend or                                                                                                                      relative each week.Incremental Small Changes

Create incremental small changes by adding one positive and consistent change to your diet. There’s no need for a major overhaul, a complete redoing of your diet; instead start looking at what you are doing right! Make a list of everything you are doing great with regarding your diet.

Choose one thing to change: Vegan Thursdays, Add nutritional yeast to one meal a day,  Be proud of yourself and see how easy it is to create change when we cultivate compassion for ourselves!!

If you are choosing one change for health, try adding one green juice every morning. I guarantee you'll feel better! Here's a few recipes that you can add to your daily routine of love, compassion and acceptance. All recipes from Living Raw with Mimi Kirk.

SIMPLE GREEN DRINK. 2 cups coconut water, 2 frozen bananas, 2 hand fulls of spinach. Blend and enjoy!!
TRIP TO THE MOON. 1 cup coconut water, 2 peaches, handful of berries, 6 kale leaves without stems. Blend and enjoy!!
BASIC GREEN SMOOTHIE. 1 apple, 2 hand fulls of spinach, 1 cup water, 2 stalks celery. Blend and enjoy!!

Be Kind and Compassionate!! To eat more delicious vegetarian foods.
]]>
<![CDATA[Jerks, Gratitude & Yoga ]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:22:20 GMThttp://www.yogapsychology.org/blog---living-yoga/march-11th-2016Picture

















​One of the interesting things about living on planet earth is the surprising number of human beings who are, well, jerks. Jerks can teach us a lot about yoga and ourselves! Planet earth is abundant in jerks because so many folks feel unloved, uncared for and unable to connect; it's the perfect recipe for creating people who are crabby, short tempered, and prone to saying thoughtless and hurtful things. Indeed, it seems we must all protect ourselves from the occasional phenomenon of being hateful. What can we humans do?!

Luckily, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a 2nd century B.C.E. text offers a bit of advice on the social scene of our species. Yoga sutra 1:33 states,

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

That's right! We don't have to invite jerks for tea, or take them out to lunch. To preserve our peace of mind we must disregard their behavior and cultivate compassion for the sadness that resides underneath their anger and bitterness. Disregarding the behavior of jerks doesn't mean we have to tolerate it without action. It does mean that we shouldn't get mentally caught in or stuck in improving their behavior, or even hoping it changes for the better.

Keep in mind that jerks help us to develop patience, perseverance, strength and gratitude. I've been working on boundaries lately and they give ample opportunity to practice setting boundaries as well. Think of jerks as your personal yoga trainers that are so dedicated they give you all their time for free. 

What I love about Patanjali is that he asks that we get our social house in order before he even introduces us to the practices of yoga postures, meditation, breathing practices or even deep relaxation. We all know why too! It's incredibly time consuming to have a life filled with angry folks and drama queens. It's hard to find the car keys, much less peace and equanimity with all the disruption of jerks!

You may be thinking, "Oh no! If I keep up with this yoga business, I'll have no friends at all!" Patanjali's counteroffer is delight and happiness. Delighting in the good fortune of others exponentially increases your own happiness.  

Happiness requires effort, steadiness and practice. It isn't an easy path. Wrong diet, challenging associations, and accumulated stress can sweep us off the path and we find ourselves once again struggling. Let's face it, it's easy to slide into an  unhealthy relationship with ourselves and the world around us. It's challenging to add daily practices that keep us motivated, healthy, calm and focused. 

Recover your identity as truth, knowledge and happiness! May you be grateful for the many jerks who are steadfast in their reminders that peace is no easy attainment. Next time you encounter a jerk, remember they're here to help you on your spiritual path! Give them a dose of gratitude, but don't invite them over for tea...it's just not a very yogic thing to do.
  
Pitta Jerks.  Are self-righteous, angry, & critical. If they don’t have someone to criticize they will criticize themselves.  They are prone to violence against others in word & deed.    
Bring them out to ice cream, make them a mint tea, tell them they are smart & then ask them out for swimming. They'll want to go out drinking, but convince them you want a relaxing movie instead. If you’re a pitta jerk, the yoga practice for you is meditation! Try not complaining for a day. You'll want to do something athletic, but push yourself to engage in calming activities, like bird watching.
 
Kapha Jerks. Are depressed, lethargic, greedy, burdened and have difficulty getting motivated to make any change. They are prone to inaction, leaving others to take care of their needs. Bring them out for a brisk walk, give them a glass of celery, beet, apple juice and tell them that they are loveable just like they are. They'll want cookies, cake and chocolate, but convince them they want to exercise with you. If you’re a kapha jerk the yoga practice for you is pranayama! Try a vigorous round of kapalabhati!!  You'll want to do something relaxing, but go kayaking instead.
 
Vata Jerks. Are hyper, have difficulty focusing, forget to eat, have high out of control emotions that fluctuate. They are prone to hurting themselves.Give them a long hug and tell them to take a hot bath. Make them a warm glass of vanilla saffron milk and them everything is okay. If you’re a vata jerk the yoga practice for you is chanting! Om shanti, om shanthi, om…You'll want to do everything while talking non-stop, but practice silence instead. 





]]>