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December 18th, 2013

Going There: 5 Ways To Find The Center Of Our Being

By Brian Hyman

“At the center of our being is a truth that shines brighter than a thousand suns.” – The Vedas

My experience as a teacher and student of yoga is that the center of our being is a cradle of infinite wisdom; knowingness within a realm of timelessness; a birthright of calm; a reservoir of love without boundaries; and the place where mind, body, and Spirit are informed by the rhythm of the cosmos.

The center of our being can be found in many ways. For example, I have used various religious, spiritual, and secular methods to find the center of my being. I have called upon God, Buddha, and Jesus; I have prayed to Shiva, Ganesh, and Hanuman; I have meditated on a mountain top, in the desert, and beside the ocean. I have also sang, danced, played music, and invoked the spirits of my ancestors.

Ultimately, the search for the center of our being is an inner journey. There is no right or wrong way to approach this type of self-examination. However, I would suggest the following three guidelines as means to remain determined while on such a path: 1) Be open, honest, and willing to discover truth in all its forms; 2) Be sincere with intentions and efforts; and 3) Lead with the heart.

Below are 5 ways to help illuminate fundamental truths and eternal wisdom within the center of your being.

SILENCE
When noise ceases, experiential knowledge supersedes intellect. Quietude stimulates concentration and comprehension. Amidst silence, a sense of interconnectedness with all things forges a path toward the center of our being.

How to Go There: Set aside times during the day to turn off the TV, radio, and computer. Choose moments each week to refrain from texting, talking, and emailing. Sit in silence and focus on the breath.

NATURE
Nature is reliable and devoted to purpose; its consistency is trustworthy. Nature is a gauge by which thoughts can be realigned. Groundedness is established through communion with nature. When the integrity of nature is revered, awareness of Oneness becomes a pathway to the center of our being.

How to Go There: Go outside, touch the earth, look at or swim in the ocean, take a hike, work in a garden, and enjoy the sun, moon, and stars.

YOGA
Yoga practitioners connect to the center of our being through mental, physical, and spiritual stimulation. For example, standing pose tadasana, or mountain pose, cultivates solidity and stillness; sitting pose sukhasana, or easy pose, allows for discovery of patience and presence; and supine pose savasana, or corpse pose, offers opportunity to learn humility through surrender.

How to Go There: Take a yoga class at a local studio or gym. Also, practice at home alone, or with a DVD or online class.

CANDLE MEDITATION
When a candle is lit, a drishti, or focal gaze, can be utilized to contemplate the flame. The eyes can then be closed and the image of the flame can become a point of focus within the mind (a yogic process known as trataka). Attention will shift from physical sight to Inner Vision; the center of our being can be accessed during this transition.

How to Go There: Find a quiet spot and light a candle. Focus on the breath to anchor this meditation in the present moment. If friends are invited to join this practice, create a circle and place the candle (or other fire source) in the middle of the group.

PRAYER
Prayer strengthens the energy of mindfulness. Prayer can be offered aloud and in silence; sitting, kneeling, and standing; communicated in solitude and among spiritual or religious friends. When prayer is utilized for sacred relationship, connection to the center of our being is made.

How to Go There: Pray to a higher power of your own understanding. Speak from the heart.

How do you find the center of your being? What do you find and feel when you go there? Please leave comments and suggestions below, we would love to hear from you! Namaste.

December 17th, 2013

The Gift You Give Yourself

By Patti Cocciolo

The holidays are officially here – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are just behind us, and Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner.

It’s easy for your yoga practice to lapse this time of year – it’s hard to find time to unroll your mat with so much going on. If you practice in the morning, a warm cozy bed can be hard to leave. If evening practice is your thing, holiday parties, shopping or increased workload often take priority. And if you travel at all over the holidays, all bets are off.

But here’s the thing – now is when you need your practice the most. It’s what will keep you peaceful when Aunt Bernice gives you yet another “hand crafted” macramé snowflake sweater or when your boss dumps a pile of work on you, Scrooge-style, on Christmas Eve. But if you can’t get to class, and a full home practice seems daunting, what’s a yogi to do?

Here’s a suggestion: choose something simple, whenever and wherever you need it. It might not be your whole practice, but it will connect you to your regular practice in a way that can be really powerful. Here are just a few examples to get you through the holidays, and tide you over until everything calms down a bit:

1. Sama Vritti Pranayama: This practice of even breathing (literally translated as “same breathing”) is a great starting point to find balance. The theory being, that if you can find evenness and balance in the breath, the mind will follow. And it’s super simple. In a seated position (at your desk or on a plane, train or automobile) or even standing (in line at the grocery store, or waiting for that plane, train or automobile…), find a long torso and spine. Now, breathe in for a count of five; breathe out for a count of five. Repeat. If counting is not your thing, chose a word or mantra to focus on, just make sure it’s the same on the inhale, as on the exhale. Taking just a few rounds of this breath can bring calm and clarity immediately, and you can literally do it anywhere, for any length of time.

2. Ardha Surya Namaskar: A few Half Sun Salutes can get your blood moving and get you focused again. Here’s the key: allow the breath to initiate each movement as you go through the linked poses. When we’re busy, our breath can get shallow and kind of lost – like it’s chasing after our body, trying to catch up. Give the breath a few minutes to be back in charge, and you’ll find your center again in no time. An added bonus? It takes only slightly more room than Tadasana. If your cubicle is big enough to stand in, it’s big enough for a half sun salute.

3. Prasarita Padottanasana C: In general, forward folds can relieve low back pain and calm the mind. In this version of the wide legged forward fold, the fingers are interlaced behind the back to aid in the opening of the shoulders, and the release of the head and neck. Try this after too many hours hunched over your computer, or standing behind a register at work. It’s also handy if you’ve just run past 10 gates at the airport, pushing a double stroller, with a giant toddler car seat slung over each arm. Just sayin’.

4. Apanasana and Simple Twist: When you finally hit the hay at night, even if it’s hours past your bedtime, give this one a go. Moving slowly, hug your knees into your chest, and let your knees fall to one side. Slowly bring them back up, and then let them fall to the other side. This simple action releases low back tension, aides in digestion, and it just plain ol’ feels good. It you practice Sama Vritti here too, it can ease an agitated mind and get you off to sleep a little faster.

5. Forward Fold: When it all gets to be too much, fold inward. You can pick your favorite: Paschimottanasana, seated, with your legs straight in front of you; Janu Sirsasana, seated, with one leg folded in to the midline; Uttanasana, a standing forward fold. And then there’s always sweet, delicious child’s pose. Whichever asana you choose, lead with your heart and bring your focus inside. This will keep the world at bay, even if just for a moment. Close your eyes to remove visual distractions and bring you even deeper into your center. Sama Vritti is dreamy here, too.

The most important thing to remember is that your yoga practice is exactly that: YOUR yoga practice. Find simple movements, asanas and pranayama to keep you connected to what you value most from your time on the mat. That should be enough to sustain you through the holidays and into the New Year.

Happy holidays, everyone! XO

December 16th, 2013

Featured Retailer: Ebb 'N Flow Yoga



Where being able to breathe, be, let your fear disappear and feeling part of the community are staples. Your practice, your mat and you, become one. Let the sun salutations warm your body let the energy flow and your spirituality awaken.

Each instructor brings their own unique quality in their teachings. Born from experience is wisdom.

We wish to promote health and wellness and to inspire peace and bliss for many.

Ebb n’ Flow yoga was an idea brought into practice by a mother daughter team. When understanding the meaning of ebb and flow, consider that the entire cosmos is an ocean, and that all life lives within this sea. This body of water is made up of vibration, tides of energy that ebb and flow in natural cycles the same way the ocean does. As with all tides in life we ebb and flow, our energy, our spirituality even our personality ebbs and flows. It is important to acknowledge in life that there will always be changes, ups and downs, ins and outs, but to remember that their will always be an upcoming tide ready to bring you back to your true self. In our lives family has always played a strong role in staying grounded, and being true. Whenever I ebb too high she is always there to reel my head back out of the clouds, or whenever she flows too low I’m there to pull her back up to the surface. This comfort, strength, and confidence that we find in the ebb and flows of our own family is what we hope to establish here at Ebb n’ Flow yoga. The place for you to come to be grounded, to be well and to find ones true self.

December 15th, 2013

Meaningful Gifts: Manduka Partners With Off The Mat


Give great this season with a Manduka eGift Card. Let the yogis on your list pick their gift + we're sharing the love: 10% of proceeds go directly to Off The Mat Into The World®. Off the Mat, Into the World® (OTM) is a non profit organization, dedicated to bridging yoga and activism. Their mission is to use the tools of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism. OTM helps individuals take the path of yoga “off the mat and into the world," expanding the sphere of change outward to local and global communities. OTM does this by facilitating personal empowerment through leadership trainings, fostering community collaboration, and initiating local and global service projects.

You can support the practice of your loved one and also support communities around the world!

Click here to learn more about Off the Mat, Into the World.

December 12th, 2013

No Rest For The Weary: Ways To Recharge During The Holiday Season

By Dana Damara

As a single momma of two busy young girls, I have had to find ways to recharge daily! Some days I feel like I have entered warp speed time zone and will need an extra slow motion replay in order to see what really happened. The holidays just speed things up a little bit for sure. We can’t slow down time; we can’t manage time; we can’t control what’s happening “out there” but we can manage our energy.

And personally, I like to use “energy management” as opposed to “recharging” because recharging would mean that I am depleted and I try not to ever be completely depleted. It’s nice to catch it before it gets to that point, wouldn’t you agree?

So here goes … a few ideas to manage your energy while the world bustles around you:

1. Get up a little early and meditate. Yes, that is correct. Leave your comfortable bed, wrap yourself in a blanket or robe so there is no complaining, and sit for a bit in the morning. You can breathe, chant, pray, visualize, manifest… whatever you want to do…do it. But claim that morning time for yourself. When you get up early you are empowered and you have said, “I’m in control of my day.” (yes, you can trick the mind with this one.)

2. Eat a healthy breakfast. Mine usually consists of a green juice or a protein shake. And have some tea or warm drink.

3. Do not answer every text, email, Facebook message or tweet as they happen. Listen, this is good advice anyway, at any time of the year but especially during the holidays. A lot of those messages you are getting are scheduled and sent from a computer and is an ad telling you about something you don’t have and need to get this minute. Set up scheduled times when you answer or delete these items and do it only during those times. NO EXCEPTIONS unless it’s important stuff having to do with family members of course.

4. Do something for you at least once a week. Paint your toenails, take a bath, go for a run or a hike, do nothing if you want. And then don’t justify it to anyone. Know what’s important and make a weekly schedule for yourself… make sure you are on it.

5. Read a book or magazine before bed. Do not let the television or the computer be the last thing you look at before you go to bed. Make a “cut-off” time and stick to it. Maybe it’s 10:00pm, maybe it’s 9:00pm. Whatever it is, stick to it and then read, chant, sit with your legs up the wall or cuddle next to your favorite person before drifting off to sleep.

This time of the year can mean different things to different people. For some it brings joy, others sorrow, others anger. Conserve your energy as you head out on a daily basis. You never know who you are going to run into and you want to be awake and alive to it all with grounded feet and an open heart.

Dana Damara