Archive for the ‘8 limbs of yoga’ Category

Nervous about beginning a Meditation Practice?

March 5, 2013

BreatheI have a high-strung friend who messaged me recently. He was looking for ways to relax and let go.

He, like a lot of people find the thought of MEDITATING intimidating, but actually, most people are doing mini meditations all the time.

Think about when you are angry, do you count to ten? – meditation.
Do you count sheep to take your mid off of things so you can sleep? – meditation
Maybe you take a walk or ride a bike, these things can also be meditative

There is no reason to be scared, meditation is for everyone. Anyone can do it.

I started him off with one of my favorite meditations:  Easy Self Guided Bareh Count Down Meditation.

I do this one constantly. It’s easy to remember and simple enough to do it anywhere, anytime.

Learn More about MEDITATION, Click HERE
LEARN MORE Pranayama (Breath Control) HERE.
Dhyana-Perfect Contemplation
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Samadhi -Enlightenment

June 7, 2011

Samadhi is the final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga. Samadhi means to bring together to merge. In this state, the body and senses are at rest, but the faculty of mind and reason are alert. You need to control the feelings of Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), Abhinivesha (clinging to mundane life).

The ultimate goal of the eightfold path to yoga is samadhi or absolute bliss. This is pure contemplation, superconsciousness, in which you and the universe are one. Those who have achieved samadhi are enlightened.

The eight limbs work together:

The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of yoga and build the foundation for spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain.

The last three, which would not be possible without the previous steps, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. They help the yogi to attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit. Enlightenment lasts forever, while a flat tummy can disappear with a week of binging.

You become enlightened when you discard aspects of your ego that block your connection with the divine.

The way to undo this block, is to work on two things.
1. Creating a still mind.
2. Clearing your emotional baggage

BUT to do these two things you need to understand many things.

1. What thoughts are and where they originate.
2. How you (the individual) think.
3. Why you think certain thoughts and not others.
4. How to correct your thought process.
5. What your emotions are.
6. How to feel your emotions.
7. How to render your emotions powerless.

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Lent Begins: Ash Wednesday, Fasting and Abstinence and Yoga

March 9, 2011

Today Lent begins for Catholics, but regardless of your Religion or beliefs,self restraint can benefit everyone.

When we abstain and focus on self reflection we learn to appreciate the things we have.  We learn to be present and to live intentionally.

In yoga we practice Bramacharya– moderation in all things.

There are several ways to approach Bramacharya, it’s really about living your life without being ruled by dependence on one thing.  It’s restraint that that gives us freedom.

A few years ago, my husband and I realized that slowly over time we became addicted to having the TV on.  It became a habit.  Come home form work, turn on the TV for company, sit on the couch and zone out in the evenings, we would even fall asleep with the television on.
We decided that we would give up TV just for one day a week during lent.  It was a challenge at first.  We had to hang signs on the TV so we would remember not to turn it on.  As the six weeks past, we read more, we talked more and we had more conversation, we went to bed earlier and slept more.
It was a great idea.  It broke the whole cycle of turning on the TV for no reason.  When lent arrived the next year, we gave up TV  three days a week. Again, we needed some reminders.  And this posed a bit of a struggle when there were several ‘Snow Days.’ At the time I was a field photographer and traveled over our five surrounding counties. The TV had the best closing schedules, but I restrained from using work as an excuse to break my TV fast.  The six weeks went by and we were successful.  We found that during the next year, TV didn’t have a hold on us anymore.  We consciously chose what to watch prior to tuning the set on.  No more randomly flipping through the channels.  By the next time lent rolled around, we hardly noticed the TV.  It would be off for weeks at a time.  The lent season was like making a  New Year’s resolution, it offered the perfect time to change bad habits and develop new ones.

We can all learn something by showing restraint and moderation.

My husband is a meat eater, and he gives up meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent.  This isn’t really a big sacrifice for him, I am a vegetarian and he doesn’t generally eat meat at home.  Giving up Meat on certain days made him take notice of his habits.  It helped him to make a conscious choice at a restaurant and opened him up to new foods he may have not tried if a hamburger was not off limits.

There are so many ways to practice Bramacharya or observe Lent:

  • Give up Food or Drink – alcohol or meat, candy, soda or coffee
  • Stay Home-reduce your social engagements
  • Spend less Money
  • Drive less-ride a bike, walk or carpool
  • Text Less, talk more
  • Refrain from Multitasking
  • Spend less time surfing the web
  • Spend time with the sick or elderly
  • Start a new practice of prayer or meditation

The Church’s official position concerning penance and abstinence from meat during Lent…CLICK HERE

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Dhyana-Perfect Contemplation

February 17, 2011

Dhyana focuses on Meditation. When one focuses their mind in concentration on an object the mind is changed into the shape of the object. Dhyana is the stage of meditative trainings that lead to Samadhi.

The goal of meditation is not unconsciousness or nothingness. It is heightened awareness and oneness with the universe. How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are only concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life.

What is Meditation

  • Focused, concentrated awareness
  • Elimination of distractions
  • Setting mind upon one thing

A simple meditation
Sit in a comfortable position, either in a chair or on the floor, with your back and head straight.

Close your eyes.

Breathe through your nose.

Focus on your breath — cool air in, warm air out.

If the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.

That’s it.

Start with a 5-10 minute meditation and work your way up to 15, 20, 30 minutes or more.

A variation that may make things a little easier at the beginning is to count your breaths. Count up to four and then repeat, over and over. You can add an “and” between counts to fill up the space between breaths. It goes like this: inhale (1) – exhale (and) – inhale (2) – exhale (and)…and so on up to four.

There are various ways in which you can meditate. Some effective ways of meditation include meditating while breathing, walking, sleeping, cosmic, and even guided meditation

When you notice thoughts, gently let them go by returning your focus to the breath.

Learn More about Meditation HERE

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Dharana-teaching the mind to focus on one point or image (prepares us for Dhyana)

December 15, 2010

Dharana-teaching the mind to focus on one point or image

Immovable concentration of the mind is the underlying principle of Dharana. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. The mind needs to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.  The goal is to still the mind, gently pushing away superfluous thoughts by fixing your mind on some object such as a candle flame, a flower, or a mantra. In dharana, concentration is effortless. You know the mind is concentrating when there is no sense of time passing.

  • Shotra    — ears
  • Chakshu — eyes
  • Grahna    — nose
  • Jivha — tongue
  • Tvak — skin

Shotra    — ears

Mantra is a sound, syllable, word or group of words that are considered capable of creating transformation

Example – to say the word om:

Take a deep breath in; as you release it say the oooooooooooooooo until the air is about 3/4 released then say the mmmmmm.

Chakshu — eyes

Visualization: you can visualize a beach, or a flower or the OM symbol or to concentrate on the point between the eyebrows, the Ajna Chakra or the third eye.

Grahna — nose

Pranayama: Focus on your breath

Example Sheetali:  Sit comfortably. Draw out the tongue and roll it up from the sides to form a tube like opening. Slowly suck the air through it and fill the lungs completely. After full inhalation withdraw the tongue and close the mouth. Then slowly exhale through the nose. Repeat.

Learn More Pranayama HERE

Jivha — tongue

Taste: Focus on eating a piece of fruit

Example – Close your eyes and see if you can smell the fruit. Lick your lips and rub the fruit over your lips. How does it feel? Now lick your lips. Can you taste the trace flavor of the fruit? Hold the it in your mouth, and roll it around. How does it feel in your mouth? As you chew, notice the immediate change in the intensity of the flavor. Slowly chew  while resisting the urge to swallow. Sit a little taller and notice if posture affects your appreciation for the fruit. Breathe deep. Does breathing help you enjoy the taste? Relax your face and smile. Notice how smiling improves the taste of fruit.

Tvak — skin

Touch: Walking Meditation

Example – Be mindful while walking, make each step a gesture, move in a state of grace. Walk with slow, small, deliberate, balanced, graceful foot steps. Then, when both the breath & walking have slipped into a regular pattern, become aware of the number of footsteps per breath (2, 3 or 4 steps per inhalation and 2, 3 or 4 steps per exhalation). When you have discovered your natural rhythm, lock into it, so that the rhythm of the walking sets the rhythm for the breath like a metronome.

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Pratyahara- Drawing senses inward (prepares us for dharana)

December 3, 2010

Pratyahara is the withdrawal or control of senses. It is most commonly known for sensory inhibition.  This occurs during meditation, pranayama or asana wherein you are so focused and immersed on your Yoga, Meditation or Breathing Pose that you become unaware of outside situations. Your focus becomes inward and you are no longer distracted by outside events.

Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit words: prati and ahara, where prati means away or against and ahara meaning food, or anything taken into ourselves. So, Pratyahara literally means “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.”

You can induce Pratyahara by reducing physical stimuli, and concentrating on one sense.

  • Shotra    — ears
  • Chakshu — eyes
  • Grahna    — nose
  • Jivha — tongue
  • Tvak — skin

Shotra    — ears

Sit in a dark room and listen to the sounds out side the room.  Concentrate.  Begin to separate the sounds.  Notice the cars driving by, the sound of the birds in the trees, a mother calling her child.

Chakshu — eyes

Close your ears with ear plugs and take time to look at a familiar object.  Notice, the color, the shape, the length, the with.  Notice everything about the objuct.

Grahna    — nose

Use essential oils or a sented candle.  Sit in a dark quiet room.  Close your eyes and concentrate on the sent of the candle.  How does it make you feel?  What memories doe the smell invoke?

Jivha — tongue

Eat slowly in a dark , quiet room.  How does the food taste?  Does it taste differently than when you can see the food.  Does it tase differently when your only focus is the food?

Tvak — skin

Sit in a quiet dark room.  Hold a familiar object in your hands.  See it with your touch.  How does your object feel?  Is it cold or warm?  Smooth or sharp?

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Pranayama-Breath Control

November 30, 2010

Pranayama Restraint of the prana or breath. Pranayama is composed of two Sanskrit words:

Prana-life force, or vital energy, and āyāma, to suspend or restrain the measuring, control, and directing of the breath.

Practice of pranayama  has been reported to be beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma, and stuttering. Pranayama techniques help with depression, develops a steady mind, strong will-power and sound judgment.

When you practice Pranayama, you are practicing Yoga

Yoga Breath – Abdominal breathing:  used throughout your Hatha Yoga Practice

Focus on your breath, breathing in and out
Slowly fill your
Belly, ribs and chest with air on the inhale
Fully empty your body of air as you exhale

Ujayii Breath – Sounding or Ocean Breath:  used throughout your Astanga or Flow yoga Practice

Pretend that you are going to fog a mirror, creating a throaty, airy sound in the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale.  This technique gets easier with regular practice. If you find yourself making a snoring or snorting sound, then you’re expending too much effort

Nadi SodhanaAlternate Nostril Breathing:  Brings Balance

Hold your index and middle fingers on your forehead at your 3rd eye. Use your thumb on the right side of your nose to block your nostril and your ring and little fingers on the left side.

In Through The Left (plug your right nostril – count of 4)

Hold (count of 4)

Out Through The Right (plug your left nostril – count of 4)

Hold (count of 4)

In Through The Right (count of 4)

Hold (count of 4)

Out Through The Left (plug your right nostril – count of 4)

Hold (count of 4)

Repeat (Start by doing three rounds, adding one per week until you are doing seven rounds)

Find More Articles on Pranayama HERE

Kapalabhati Pranayama: Breath of Fire

Sheetali Pranayama:  Cooling Breath

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Asanas – Body postures

April 9, 2010

Asanas are designed to free our mind and body from tension and stress.  It relaxes, rejuvenates, and energizes the body and aims to bring the body and the mind into a harmonious union. Asanas should be done with comfort, ease, alertness and steadiness, achieving a balance between ease and effort.  The practice of moving the body into postures helps in improving health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level, the practice of asana, which means staying or abiding in Sanskrit, is used as a means to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being.

Warm-up poses

Neck rolls, Shoulder lifts, cat and cow

Standing poses

Triangle Pose, Standing Side Stretch Pose, Warrior Pose, and Sun Salutation

Seated poses

Spread Leg Forward Fold, Hero Pose, Seated Forward Bend, and Child Pose

Twist poses

Half-Spinal Twist and Sage Twist

Supine poses

Leg Reclining Lunge, Locust Pose, Leg Raises, and Wind Relieving Pose

Inverted poses

Shoulderstand, Headstand, Downdog and Plough

Balance Poses

Tree, Eagle, Big Toe Balance, and Dancer’s Pose


Camel, Cobra, Wheel, and Bridge

Finishing poses

Corpse Pose or Savasana

View Asana Posts HERE

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Ishvara Pranidhana – Celebration of the Spiritual

March 29, 2010

Ishvara Pranidhana – Celebration of the Spiritual

Ishvara pranidhana surrender to god, or a higher power. Ishvara pranidhana requires that we set aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives. Ishvara pranidhana provides a pathway through the obstacles of our ego toward our divine nature—grace, peace, unconditional love, clarity, and freedom. Ishvara Pranidhana is to live an ethical lifestyle of non-harming, honesty, charity, purity, contentment, and discipline. All we have to do is let go.

Things you can try to practice Ishvara pranidhana

Do something meaningful

Set aside time to get quiet, clear and centered

Notice how a glass of water tastes

Try to feel before you act

Affirmation for Ishvara pranidhana

I see the divine in all beings

I am one with the universe

I am filled with light

Journal Writing Exercises:

When and how do you feel connected to the universe?

When do you feel separated from the universe?

How well do you honor all creatures?

How do you already practice Ishvara pranidhana?

Yoga Posture for Ishvara pranidhana:  Padmasana, Lotus pose

Posture perfect for Meditation since you can sit straight and be absolutely still.

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Svadhyaya – Self study & sacred study of the Divine

January 22, 2010

Svadhyaya- Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. Any activity that cultivates self-reflection is svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centered.  Svadhyaya is about making time to know ourselves better. The more honestly we know ourselves, the more we are able to be in control of our moods and emotions

Some of the primary sacred texts would the The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, or the Bhagavad Gita

Things you can try to practice

Try writing your feelings down every day in a journal

Try writing a gratitude journal (3-5 things you are grateful for everyday)

Notice how you feel (body, mind & spirit)

Try something meditative:  running, knitting, hiking, playing music, sketching…

Affirmation for Tapas
I am a life long learner
I study to develop my higher self

I gather in truth with other spiritual beings
I live a life of reflection

Journal Writing Exercises:

What ways do you practice Svadhyaya?

How can you further engage in study and reflection?

When do you meet with others of like consciousness?  How often do you do so?

What form of prayer, mantra, or japa do you engage in?  What is it’s effect on you?

Yoga Posture for Svadhyaya:  Balasana, child’s pose

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