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

 

 

The Power of a Creed!

Just as it’s important to have a vision and mission for your business and life, having one for your family can make a huge impact. I’d like to share two special strategies we use in our family to stay happy and healthy.

Using the KISS (Keep It Simple Stacy) method, the first strategy is our Family Creed (creed is derived from the latin word “credo” which means “I believe”) and the second is a short meditation video.
To write your own Family Creed, begin with the vision or purpose of your family.

The McCarthy Family Vision

The purpose of our family is to love and support each family member in achieving the fulfillment that comes from doing their best to fulfill their life purpose, maintaining high levels of integrity, and working to improve themselves each day.

The McCarthy Family Creed
Today, I give thanks for all that I am and all that I have.
Today, I treat everyone I see with kindness, love and respect.
Today, I do my very best in everything I do.
Today, I do my very best to increase my knowledge, skills, health and attitude.
Today, I create wealth and abundance for myself and all those around me.

Every day as I drove my kids to school, we would recite our creed. It was awkward at first, but it became a habit. My kids are 21 and 18 now and they have recited the creed thousands of times over the years. While I can’t point to any specific miracles that are a result of our creed, I can tell you I have two fantastic kids. Even as teenagers, we enjoy spending time together. They are loving and respectful, they excel in academics and athletics, and they are leaders. Every day we have a choice of where we want to set our intention and our family creed helped nudge the kids in setting the right intention.

Loving Kindness Video

20 Years of Yoga with my daughter Kylie

Mother daughter namaste

 

5 sure fire-giveaways that you’re a dedicated Yogi

Recently I was taking a class in LA and I watched the most focused yogi ever:

This yogi was sitting in padmasana against a wall

waiting for class to begin.

A few feet away from this yogi, is a very Famous and Attractive

Actress (F.A.A.) trying to get his attention.

Not only does he NOT EVEN LOOK

at F.A.A.,… He doesn’t even appear

to physically HEAR F.A.A.

He’s so immersed in the moment… Focused

on his breath… That not even one of the

worlds most beautiful women can distract him.

Watching this got me thinking…

It never takes longer than 60 seconds

to tell the difference between a Dedicated Yogi (D.Y.)

and a fly by night yogi (F.B.N.)

And having taught thousands of students and trained hundreds of teachers,

I’ve noticed a few sure fire giveaways between the

students who get it – and the students who

fall off the mat entirely.

Here’s 5:

#1:

A F.B.N. Yogi will complain that she doesn’t have

a studio or the props to train.

 

A Dedicated Yogi will find a place to practice at all costs… Even when it means

practicing with chaos around you  –

Or using no equipment except your body and your breath.

 

—————————————–

“I had my first baby and I tried to go to a yoga class, but my baby was too young to attend childcare at the studio. I don’t have any yoga props at home, but I turned the phone off and put in your Busy Mom Yoga DVD with my newborn nearby. Still the best Yoga practice I’ve ever done, even now that my newborn is a toddler!!!”

Jennifer Davidson

Dedicated Yogi and Peaceful Mom

– —————————————–

#2:

F.B.N. Yogi’s will complain they need to be in a hot room, not to be in a hot room, have music playing, not have music playing, have a teacher, have only a particular teacher.

 

A Dedicated Yogi will not make excuses of why they can’t practice, no matter

what the reason is. They will be okay with life’s ebbs and flow. They will accept life’s ups and downs and do their practice anyway.

 

—————————————–

“I started practicing with you back at the beginning of January. As I followed you from Hot Yoga studios, to College Yoga Classes to Ashtanga Classes at a Sports Resort I learned to maintain the ritual and cultivation of a regular practice without the attachment to one environment. I’ve learned to work towards my goals but view my practice everyday with new eyes.

–       Justine Lu

Yogi cultivating a regular practice

—————————————–

 

#3:

F.B.N. Yogi’s will blame their injuries on yoga poses.

…And give up entirely. They’ll say that “chatarunga hurt their shoulder or

padmasana (lotus pose) hurt their knee”. They’ll demonize the pose instead of admitting…

It is you doing yoga postures wrong or pushing yourself into poses you are not ready for that is the problem.

 

A Dedicated Yogi will look at their injury, and say this:

“I need to let my ego go and modify my practice. I may not be able to do everything I use to, but I have a bigger picture I’m working towards and this set back is temporary”.

 

—————————————–

“I have a group of friends that I started yoga with several years ago, now only a couple of us still have a regular yoga practice. The excuses were many, they wanted  to try the latest exercise craze or they were to hyper for yoga or they kept getting injured. I’ve heard you say there is always someone out there with a disciplined yoga practice, transforming from the inside out when others are jumping from the latest exercise craze searching for something outside themselves, searching to change their physical shell. I am that person staying committed to my yoga practice through all the highs and lows of physical and mental discomfort.

The transformation for me continues to evolve physically, mentally and spiritually and I’ve never felt so grounded and content in my life.

Jesica Murphy

Yogi calming a monkey mind

—————————————–

 

#4:

F.B.N. Yogi’s will claim they don’t have

enough TIME to get their practice in, read inspiring texts

daily, and stay on top of their responsibilities.

 

A Dedicated Yogi will say that she doesn’t have enough time either.

Then she’ll just get up earlier.

 

—————————————–

“Since I’m in college and work on

the weekends, it’s tough to get my yoga practice in

– especially with exams almost every week.

 

So I wake up at 5:45 am to get on my mat

and although it’s tough, I persevere

because I can feel and see the difference.

It’s this discipline that has given me a

Powerful Body and a Peaceful Mind”

 

– Tracy McFarland

Dedicated Yogi

—————————————–

 

And finally, #5:

 

F.B.N. Yogi’s will push themselves for a couple months,

and say that it’s “too hard.”

 

Dedicated Yogi’s will challenge themselves but will

work at a rate that’s safe and say it’s challenging.

And then continue to practice & modify as needed

until the practice becomes easy.

 

Dedicated Yogis will get results like this:

 

—————————————–

“Stacy I struggled with my stomach for years after having four children.  Your teaching physically changed my body.  My stomach is finally flat and strong, my back is muscular, and overall my body is firm and toned. I have a greater awareness of my body, how I carry myself, and my posture outside of yoga. And I’m more present with my children and loving to my husband.”

–       Patti Lorne

Dedicated Yogi, Wife and Mom

—————————————–

Now it’s up to you to decide which results

YOU want.

Fly By Night Yogi…

Or Dedicated Yogi.

The choice is yours.

 https://www.yoganamastacy.com

Stacy

 

Graduation Wisdom

For the past twenty-five years I’ve been a teacher helping people live healthier, happier lives physically, mentally & spiritually. I’ve guided CEO’s, athletes, entrepreneurs, Moms and Dads through the power of yoga in creating leaner, stronger & more flexible bodies while connecting to a deeper part of their inner self and discovering lasting peace. Through my own daily practice I’ve learned a lot about what makes for a fulfilling life – a life that honors our authentic self and values our most treasured gifts.

June is a month of graduations and transitions to a new phase of life for many. My daughter is graduating and in only a few months she’ll be off to UCLA to start on a new path. Although she is probably tired of me giving her advice & holding her accountable for her actions, I can’t help share a few more lessons in hopes that it makes a positive difference in this exciting next phase of her life. I hope these lessons speak to you and if there is a student who might benefit from this wisdom, please pass the newsletter on as a graduation gift.

#1. It’s not what you have it’s who you become that matters. What you have & what you do will never be as important as who you become. In yoga we call it Svadhyaya or self-study. Learn to meditate on the self & find the light within. In the Bhagavad Gita one of the oldest & most read scriptures today, it is written, “On this path, effort never goes to waste and there is no failure”. While this particular author was speaking of the path of enlightenment, this quote can be applied to any effort we undertake in the pursuit of being all we can be.

#2. Find Your Treasure. By treasure, I’m not talking about material things or your net worth. Read more