Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha

In a media world – How do we practice yoga authentically?


I have a friend who is just starting his yoga journey. He began practicing yoga to improve his health, but when he looks at yoga on social media he’s left with the impression that yoga is only about touching his toes, twisting into a pretzel, or hand-standing on a perilous cliff… Encouraging, right?

I think he’ll find some solace in this….

The research is valid that a consistent practice of yoga can relieve back pain and lower blood pressure; and the most recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology suggests that yoga and mediation can actually “suppress inflammation-promoting genes and genetic pathways, and can actually undo the physical and mental effects of stress, and reduce the risk of disease, at the genetic level.”

This is the yoga that yogis have practiced for centuries, and is detailed in the second verse of Patanjali’s yoga sutras: Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha (Yoga ceases the fluctuations of the mind). The ancient practice of yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about liberating your mind from the redundant, recycled, unnecessary thoughts that constantly pass through our heads.

The power of yoga is its ability to connect us to the deepest part of our inner self so that we may finding lasting health and peace. When we heal the mind, we heal the body.

The past decade has seen the packaging of an ancient practice in a way that makes it accessible and attractive to an emerging yoga community. The modern yogi’s challenge, then, is staying faithful to the antiquity and integrity of the teachings, not slipping into commercialism or diluting the practice.

 

So. How can you make sure you’re really practicing yoga, and not just glorified calisthenics?

 

For me, I practice authentically by practicing awareness of mind. If my mind is racing, competing, or judging the person on the mat next to me, I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am going over my to-do list for the day (or for the next three months), I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am still mulling over the guy that cut me off on the way to class, I am definitely not doing my practice.

But when, in the midst of the effort of each pose I am serene, focused, and full of breath, I know am doing my practice. When I choose to love my body, even when I’m tired, achy or injured, I am doing my practice. When I tune in and feel more than I judge and think, I am doing my practice.i

I come back to the teachings. I come back to the Sutras, like Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha.

The real practice of yoga is deeply intimate. Only you, yourself, can truly tell if you’re immersed in the depths of stillness that come from complete surrender to experience. Only you know when your mind is still. And only you can attest to how that makes you feel… But I’d bet it makes you feel pretty darn good. I bet you breathe a little easier, that your heart rate normalizes, that you sleep better at night, that your injuries heal faster…

So, don’t worry about what the social media yogis are doing. They have their practice to do- and you have yours.

Yoga is so much more than handstands, and so much more than a weekend get-away. It’s a lifelong commitment to bettering yourself, a constant inner-looking (Svādhyāya), a daily remembering of the power of your thoughts, and lasting peace that comes from the stillness of the mind.

Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha. Yoga is stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

 

Do The Twist – Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex

Do The Twist!

Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex


 

Just as important as backbending and forward folding, twisting is an integral part of a balanced yoga practice. A well balanced practice will take the body in all directions available, so that you end feeling balanced and whole.

For some, however, twisting brings up many concerns. If shoulders, low back, or hips are tight, it’s likely a challenge to twist in a way that feels good. And if you’ve ever had a neck or back injury, twisting may down right scare you…

But! The good news is this: Twisting is accessible for almost everyone! 

You don’t need to go into the deepest expression of a pose to reap the rewards. With the use of simple modifications, props and good instruction, you’ll be doing the twist in no time.

Before we jump into posturing, let’s review some of the benefits and fundamentals of twisting:

Twisting the body is a little like ringing out a wet towel- the process of rotation helps to squeeze out toxic fluids and make space for new, fresh fluids to take their place. In this way, twists detoxify the body. Incorporating twists into your daily practice will increase your spinal flexibility and strength, give more dynamic strength to your core muscles, create more space for breath, and will actually help to “ring out” your internal organs (aka: healthier digestion, more regular bowel movements, and easier processing of nutrients).

Twisting postures range from simple to complex. Keep in mind that twisting is all about elongating (2/3 Lengthening, 1/3 Twisting)! As you twist, lengthen gently with your inhales, and then rotate gently with your exhales. Remember that you can’t move into a twist if there is “no room”.

*Please Also Note: Contraindications to twists include bulging or herniated disks, sciatica, severe scoliosis, any back or neck injury that is upset by twisting movements, pregnancy, menstruation. Always listen to your body. If there is any glimpse of pain in a posture, do not practice it in that moment. Consult an experienced yoga teacher, physical therapist or physician should you need further guidance.

One of my favorite twisting postures is Bharavadjasana. This seated twisting pose opens up the low back, hips and shoulders all in one, and acts as a great example of how to modify any twisting pose to suit your ability.

 

 Bharavadjasana, Simple to Complex:

 

 

 

Variation A: Seated on a Block / Front leg in Sukhasana variation / No bind of arms

When you need to focus on gently opening up the back and hips, and elongating the spine, this is the variation for you. Sitting on the block will give space to those with less range in their hips, and will help keep the pelvis in proper alignment. As you twist, take the opposing hand to the thigh of the front leg. The back hand will act as a reminder to lift (hint: do NOT dump your weight onto this hand- this will throw off the alignment of your shoulders and bring unwanted lateral flexion to the spine).

 

 

 

 

Variation B: Seated on Mat / Front leg in Sukhasana / Bind of back arm to front arm

This variation is for those whose hips and low back feel comfortable seated directly on the mat. (hint: both sit-bones will be evenly weighted, and the pelvis in proper alignment). As you twist, the opposing hand will meet the front thigh, while the back arm will gently internally rotate from the shoulder in order to wrap around the mid-back. The back hand will meet the front arm, just above the elbow crease. (hint: keep your shoulders opening gently away from the heart center, and breathe as evenly as possible into both sides of the lungs).

 

 

 

 

Variation C: Seated on Mat / Front leg in ArdhaPadmasana / Full bind of arms

The final variation of Bharavadjasana is for those with open hips and shoulders; whom need a little more intensity from their seated twist. The front leg is bound in ArdhaPadmasana, offering greater opening to the front hip (hint: as in the previous variation, make sure both sit-bones have even placement on your mat). As you twist, the opposing hand will reach to the front knee, while the back hand will reach for the bound foot. Some find this connection at the big toe, and others can reach around the full foot. (hint: use your inhalations to consciously lengthen, while keeping the pelvis weighted, and the exhalations to gently deepen the twist).

 

 


There you have it, yogis.

Get on your mat + Happy Twisting!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy McCarthy

 

 

 

How Fast Are You Aging?

Do you remember the first time you realized your body was “aging”?

Maybe it started in your thirties with a few more aches and pains in the morning. A tendency to get tired earlier in the day. The first signs of wrinkles around your eyes. A memory not quite as sharp as it used to be.

As the years have progressed, those little twinges have probably gotten more frequent. And if you’re like most people, you brushed it off as a “normal” part of the aging process… just something that happens when we get older.

The thing is, you don’t have to give in to the frailty, disease, and memory issues associated with aging. These symptoms are not “inevitable.” They are signals that your body needs something.

When it comes to aging, we’ve been fed a load of unsubstantiated assumptions our entire lives. But emerging research from top experts suggests that we can have all the advantages of youth, well into our later years.

That means a lean, strong, flexible body….supple, smooth skin….. a brain that is sharp… energy to last all day… and an immune system that provides powerful protection against illness.

We are a body-oriented culture. We judge ourselves by our appearance and our body’s ability to perform. When our bodies change—as they inevitably do—our self-worth goes with them, for better or for worse.

In Siddhartha, a novel about enlightenment and self-discovery the prince, Siddhartha, ventured out of his palace for the first time, he was shaken by his first glimpses of a person bent with age, a person wracked with illness and the body of a person who had died. Seeing the inevitable path of all our bodies to our final demise caused him to inquire into how he might transcend the suffering he had witnessed. This led him to realize that in order to transcend suffering, he had to transcend his attachment to and identification with the body. He had to look deeper, beyond the pleasures and suffering of the body, for lasting happiness.

This is what our yoga practice teaches us. Any person in a body who is practicing Yoga is living in a yoga body, regardless of age, build, gender or flexibility. And the deeper practices at the heart of Yoga—meditation—require a body simply as an anchor for awareness. 

I think most people when coming upon my age may scour, but I’m truly looking forward to the unfolding lessons, increasing self awareness and growing self love that comes with aging. I’m reminded that this is the start of a brand new year- and that there are still infinite opportunities for growth along my journey. Within every moment lies a miracle. And within every burden lies a blessing. 

Namaste~

Balancing the Chakras : A Simple Guide

Meditations, Mantras and Movement to Keep Your Chakras In Balance

What sets Yoga apart from other calisthenic routines?

The ancient yogis knew of something beyond the outer shell of movement- something deeper than muscles and bones- yet something just as important to shaping our physical health.

What they looked at and sought to keep healthy through their physical routine was the Chakra System.

So, what’s a… Chakra??

A Chakra (literally Wheel in Sanskrit) is an energy center or wheel of energetic movement in the body. It is part of the body’s subtle anatomy; and though subtle, has major effects on the gross, physical body and mind.

There are 7 major Chakras, which run along and align the spinal column, ranging from the base of the pelvic floor to the crown of the head.

Each of these 7 Chakras has a specific energetic and emotional quality, associated color, sound, and deeper meaning.

Often when we feel out of balance- angry, saddened, over-whelmed, exhausted- it is a sign that our deeper, more subtle self is in need of some serious restoration. Therefore, a great way to target the root of our imbalances is to look at the Chakras, and bring them back into balance first.

Below, you’ll find a simple guide to the Chakras, and how to bring them back into balance:

MULADHARA (ROOT CHAKRA):

Location: At the base of the spinal column, centered in the Pelvic Floor / Energetic Qualities: Stability, Security, Safety, Fear & Fearlessness / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unsafe and fear-laden

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Lying on your back, with your hands on your low belly, imagine red light charging through your spine down to the base, igniting new life and energy with each breath.

Mantra: “I fearlessly take on the challenges of life. Trusting my inner-guide, I face the unknown with love.”

Movement: Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose). This posture requires strength, poise, and confidence. Open your heart wide and feel the power of your lower body. Breathe deeply all the way into the Pelvic Floor.

 

SVADISTHANA (SACRAL CHAKRA):

Location: Just above the pubic bone, below the naval / Energetic Qualities: Creativity, Sexual Energy, Personal Expression / When you’re out of balance: You may feel “stuck” or uninspired

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice simple seated meditation, follow your breath and soothe your mind into stillness. Creativity is the product of a clear mind. Sometimes just finding some peace and quiet is all you need.

Mantra: “I am available for creativity to flow through me with abundance and ease. I reflect the creation of all life, and recognize the gift of creation within me.”

Movement: Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose). This posture requires strength and ease, and challenges the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdomen to maintain a long, supple spine. It sparks awareness and stillness. Root firmly, and maintain a soft gaze.

 

MANIPURA (SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA):

Location: At the Solar Plexus, between the naval and the breast bone / Energetic Qualities: Personal Power, Will, Decision Making / When you’re out of balance: You may feel uncertain, weary, uneasy about a decision

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice Kapalabhati Breath (Skull Shining Breath). Breathe in deeply through the nose into the belly, let out quick exhalations through the nose, as the navel “snaps” back toward the spine. Before trying this on your own, ask a teacher for proper instruction and safety guides!

Mantra: Simply state, “I am” with each inhalation. With each exhalation, bring your awareness to your physical presence, stating “here”.

Movement: Plank Pose. Yes, a simple posture to refine your core muscles and define the strength of your abdomen. Gently draw your navel toward the spine, reaching through your crown, broadening across your chest, and pressing out through your heels.

 

ANAHATA (HEART CHAKRA):

Location: At the heart center / Energetic Qualities: Loving-Kindess, Acceptance of Self and Others, Compassion / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unloved or unloving, disconnected, impatient

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Simple sitting, with hands on your heart. Breathe into your heart space, filling it up with air and letting it flow out. Practice until you feel your chest and shoulders softened and available to move freely.

Mantra: Loving-Kindness “May my heart be filled with loving kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy”

Movement: Ustrasana (Camel Pose). This backbend opens the heart, strengthens the back muscles and invites you to breathe into the chest and ribs. Keep the neck and throat soft, and use the stability and strength of your legs to ground.

 

VISHUDDHA (THROAT CHAKRA):

Location: In the throat / Energetic Qualities: Verbal Expression, Speaking our Highest Truth, Communication / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unable to say what you need to, afraid to share your truth

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Recite “AUM” with clarity, taking equal time to pronounce each sound “A-U-M”. Don’t be afraid to make noise! The point is to hear yourself, and to get past the discomfort of opening up.

Mantra: “I speak my truth with confidence and clarity. I listen deeply to myself and to others, and communicate with ease.”

Movement: Matsyasana (Fish Pose). Try this assisted with two blocks, one underneath the scapula, and one supporting the head. Lengthen through your toes, and allow your throat space to open as you relax the face and breathe.

 

AJNA (THIRD EYE CHAKRA): 

Location: Just at the Pineal Gland (Third Eye), set between the brow bones / Energetic Qualities: Insight and Intuition / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lost or untrusting of yourself

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: With eyes closed, bring your inner awareness to the place between your brow. Keep your inner gaze alive and bright, as practice maintaining focus on this area.

Mantra: “I am connected, at peace, and present.”

Movement: Balasana (Child’s Pose). Allow your head to rest fully, either on the floor, or on a bolster or block. Soften the muscles of the face, and allow the gently pressure of the position bring your awareness to your third eye.

 

SAHASWARA (CROWN CHAKRA):

Location: At the crown of the head, rising up like a “Thousand Petal Lotus Flower” / Energetic Qualities: Trust in your Highest Self, Connection to Self, to all things, and ultimately to the Essence of your True Nature / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lonely, unsupported or irrelevant

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice inhaling and exhaling bright white light in through your crown. Inhale, white light filters in the body all the way down the spine. Exhale, white light leaves through the crown, shooting back out and creating a field around you.

Mantra: “AUM. I am one with all that is.”

Movement: Sirsasana (Headstand). Please consult a yoga instructor before attempting this posture. Grow through the spine, reach the tail and the toes upward. Use your foundation wisely, planting the forearms/hands firmly into the earth. Breathe deeply into the body, and keep a soft gaze.

 

 

Happy Balancing, Yogis!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy

 

 

Ageless Yoga in Business?

Does Ageless Yoga have a place in business?

YOGASMOGA teaches us that YES!! It absolutely does.

When YOGASMOGA asked me to be their first featured Smogi, I was absolutely honored! A company is only as good as their practices, and this one really takes the ageless practice of yoga to heart.

One way YOGASMOGA is living their yoga is by practicing Satya – or Truthfulness – in their marketing and management, in the making of their products, and in how they treat their employees. They honestly depict models (no photoshop!) no matter they’re age, body type or color, they use all natural dyes and fairly traded materials in all of their clothing and accessories, their clothing is made 100% in USA, and they give generously to their employees so that they can make an honest living. Not a bad business model… It’s one that many would say isn’t sustainable, but I think they’ve found the opposite. It, indeed, is  sustainable to live your practice-  it’s ageless, too.

With age, certain things come into clear perspective. Like our responsibility to care for this Earth, our duty to protect resources for later generations, and our purpose to preserve the natural beauty that we are so blessed to dwell in and be supported by. Without this planet, there is no us! Making informed decisions about what you wear is one huge way to contribute to the wellbeing of the planet. I’m committed to wearing cruelty-free, organically produced, fairly traded clothing- especially when it comes to what I wear on my mat. What is the point of the practice if I’m not truly incorporating it into my life?

This ageless practice of yoga deserves respect in all areas of our lives. Ageless Yoga is how we show up to our mats, how we choose what goes on our plates, and how we choose what covers our bodies. 

San Diego Yogis of all ages, I hope you join me for an in-store class at YOGASMOGA La Jolla on Saturday, July 8th at 10am! Come to do your practice, to mingle, to shop, and to keep yourself feeling ageless for ages. 

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy

@yoganamastacy

For more YOGASMOGA go to @YOGASMOGA on Instagram!

The Antidote For Aging

A common saying in yoga is, you’re as young as your spine. It’s not the number of years that determines your age, but the flexibility, strength and mobility of your spine that determines a person’s age. Yoga lets you trade in characteristics of old age for characteristics of youth. Physically, a regular practice slows down the aging process by giving elasticity to the spine, firming up the skin, removing tension from the body, strengthening the core, improving the tone of flabby arm LLU3I1F1952-2muscles, correcting poor posture, and preventing dowager’s hump.

 

The mental benefits of a yoga lifestyle are even more profound. Through a disciplined practice there is a heightened mental prowess and an increase in focus and concentration.

In his book, Reversing Aging, Dr. Paul Galbraith wrote about the power of yoga and it’s many benefits of living with greater vitality and joy. The following are a few of the anti-aging benefits of a consistent yoga practice.

Live longer. Yoga affects all the important determinants of a long life: the brain, glands, spine and internal organs.

Increased resistance to disease. Yoga produces a healthy strong body with increased immunity against disease. This increased resistance extends from the common cold to serious diseases like cancer.

Increased vitality due to yoga’s effect on the brain and glands.

Rejuvenation of the glands. Yoga has a marked effect on the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and sex glands. This produces a feeling of well-being, prevents premature aging and extends sexual virility well into old age.

Look and feel younger. Yoga reduces facial wrinkles and produces a natural ‘face-lift’. This is mainly due to the inverted postures. By doing the inverted postures for a few minutes each day, we reverse the effect of gravity and use it to our advantage. The result is firmer facial muscles, which cause a reduction in wrinkles, and a natural face-lift.

Vision and hearing improve. Normal vision and hearing depend to a large extent on the eyes and ears receiving a good nerve and blood supply. The nerves and blood vessels which supply the eyes and ears have to pass through the neck. As we get older, the neck becomes less flexible, like the rest of the spine, and there is a tendency for nerves and blood vessels to be encroached upon as they travel through the neck. This impairs the nerve and blood supply to the eyes and ears, affecting their function. Yoga postures and yoga neck exercises improve the condition of the neck, resulting in better eyesight and improved hearing.
Because of yoga’s rejuvenation effects on the glands and nervous system, including the brain, yoga results in a positive mental/emotional state. It will help you to feel more confident, enthusiastic and generally optimistic. You will also become more creative in your everyday life. As you start to feel and look better and unfold more of your full potential, these positive mental and emotional states occur as a consequence. Within a few weeks you will feel calmer and have better concentration. Within a few months, rejuvenation of the organs will start to occur.

 

All these benefits won’t happen overnight, but as you continue to practice, you will build a strong foundation to age with greater health, joy and vitality.

 

If You See Someone Without A Smile…Give Them One Of Yours

What’s the most important part of a yoga pose? Your smile 🙂

SMILE

Even when you are breathing through a difficult posture, maintain an inner smile. What you feel and practice on the inside will come shining through on the outside. Smiling changes our mood. Next time you’re feeling down, start with an inner smile and then spread it to your outer lips. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood. When my kids we’re young and would start complaining or crying, I would have them place a pencil in their mouth to form a big, wide grin and then have them look up. They would instantly go from unhappy to laughing and smiling.

The mere act of smiling is contagious and makes us more attractive. Frowns and grimaces push people away, but a smile draws them in. We are drawn to people who smile and want to figure out what is so good. The same muscles we use to smile are the same ones we use to lift our face and make us look younger. Save your money on a face lift, and just try smiling through the day. If you start to feel stressed, it can show up on your face making you look tired and worn down. Go back to your smile to help reduce your stress and prepare you to take more effective action on your concerns.

There’s a reason it’s recommended to watch a funny show when you are sick. The act of smiling is a natural pain killer releasing endorphins and serotonin. Your immune function improves helping to prevent flu and colds. If you have high blood pressure, smiling while monitoring it has been shown to reduce your reading. Try it if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Take your reading frowning first, then take it smiling. Do you notice a difference? Smiling as a natural drug combines these body chemicals to make us feel good.

So next time, you find yourself scowling through your least favorite yoga pose, take a deep breath and smile. Let me know how it feels.   🙂