Positively Prana (By Rod Stryker)

Why does Yoga make us feel so good?

There are a dizzying number of styles and approaches to yoga these days. Some involve resting in simple supported postures in quiet, candlelit rooms. Others push students to the edge of their physical capacity or are done to the beat of loud, rhythmic music. Some focus on physical alignment, while others offer a heart-centered approach. There is so much variety that describing them all is impossible.

Different in tone and substance as the various yoga styles might be, they share one quality that inspires people to practice them: They work. Put simply, you feel better when you walk out of class than when you walked in. The question is, why? Better yet, how does yoga work? As you’ve probably heard, one reason asana leaves you feeling so good is that it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, thanks to two elements that almost all asana practices have in common—the lengthening and strengthening of musculature and calm, even breathing. The parasympathetic is the part of your nervous system that slows you down—it’s responsible for telling your muscles to relax, improving your digestion and assimilation, boosting immunity, and helping you sleep better. It also normalizes your blood pressure and lowers your heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts many stress-related symptoms and the negative by-products of our modern, fast-paced, high-output lives.

But the truth is that much of the yoga being practiced these days doesn’t do as much for the parasympathetic nervous system as you might think. To build your parasympathetic nervous system, you need to do poses that encourage deep relaxation, such as forward bends and hip openers; do fewer standing poses; and do more sitting, supine, and prone postures as well as inversions. You also need to hold poses longer, as you would in restorative yoga, and dedicate longer periods of time to developing slow and complete breathing. Vigorous vinyasa, backbends, handstands, and arm balances are powerful and beneficial, but they don’t stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system as much as the practices listed previously. So if the positive changes you gain from yoga can’t be entirely credited to its impact on your nervous system, what is helping you feel and live better? The answer is life force. Almost all styles of hatha yoga increase the flow of prana, or life force, in your body.

Yoga, like the science of acupuncture, or tai chi and qi gong, is based on prana (referred to as chi in the Chinese arts and sciences). These disciplines see prana as the essential force that sustains everything. Yogis went a step further, prescribing the intelligent use of prana as the key to facilitating spiritual awakening. “Having known the origin…and the physical existence of prana, one achieves immortality,” says the Prasna Upanishad. In other words, the aim of life (and practice) is realized through the skillful use of prana.

The Ultimate Strength

Prana has always played a vital role in hatha yoga. Ancient Tantric texts, like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita, list various techniques to help build, channel, and regulate life force. In these writings, asana is described as the foundation for hatha’s deeper practices because it is so accessible and helps to free life force: The process of holding a pose—while “breathing through it”—dissolves pranic blockages. Different postures unlock prana in different ways. Forward bends, for example, increase the types of prana that calm, soothe, and ground; backbends unblock pranic forces that are more expansive and revitalizing.

A key reason you feel better after class is that the practice has helped move your life force in a way that is more balanced, complete, or suited to your particular mental and physical needs. The principles of how different asanas affect life force are explained in both the hatha tradition and Ayurveda. The more we learn and practice these teachings, the more we know about which poses will help at any particular time. You may notice a particular practice (or style) that used to make you feel great is doing so less and less; that may be a sign that it is time for a change.

The more you control and build your storehouse of life force, the more you can achieve through practice. “The control of prana is the ultimate strength,” says the Srimad Bhagavatam, one of India’s revered scriptures. The more you learn to skillfully utilize the power of prana that begins with asana, the closer you come to realizing yoga’s limitless potential.

Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga, has taught yoga and meditation for more than 25 years. Article found at www.yogajournal.com.

 

Soothing Ginger Tea

Fresh rosemary infuses lightly sweetened apples, top, with an unexpected aroma and flavor. Mint invigorates a calming tea, above, brewed from a traditional Indian blend of ginger, fennel, and cardamom.

  Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons cardamom pods, crushed
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 piece (6 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced inch thick (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

  Directions:

1. Toast cardamom and fennel in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add water and ginger. Reduce heat, and simmer until it reaches the desired strength, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, and stir in honey and mint leaves. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain into mugs. Garnish with mint.

 Recipe from www.MarthaStewart.com

4 Reasons to Stop Looking Outside Yourself For Happiness

By Matt Cooke from MyYogaOnline.com

We are complete. No assembly required. No owner’s manual to read. We know the instructions. Most of the time we are conditioned, then continue to let others get in the way, telling us that we need to read, and live by their owner’s manual. Of course this can be helpful for getting started on our path, but then we have to take responsibility and own that path.

1. Carve your own path. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Imitation is suicide”. Too much of the time, we read magazines that tell us what weight we “should” be at, what celebrities products we “should” buy, or what our goals and ambitions “should” look like. Or worse, we look to family members to decide our life path. Instead swing the question around to yourself. What are you wanting, right now? Stop asking for permission to live your greatest life!  This is when we dig in and get dirty and bruised. Take that shovel to the ground, and carve your unique path. You know it’s yours when no one has ever done it quite like you.

2. Create a new mantra. “I am Innately Unique, Infinite, Eternal and Whole”. By exclaiming to ourselves that we are complete and infinite just the way we are, we supercharge our feelings of self-efficacy. Making the choice to be infinite and eternal takes so much pressure off being “perfect” in this lifetime, and getting burnt out with quick fixes, and diet pills. We can then just have fun, striving towards our ideal vision of ourselves. This better sets us up for mastery, and self-actualization, knowing we have to be patient and persistent in living our ideals and virtues. How do we do that? By showing up for yoga, running, eating healthy, journaling or creating.

3. “Acting” as your Highest Self. How do we show up with happiness? By playing the highest-self game. Journal, draw, or describe out loud what your envisioned highest self looks like. Then, move throughout the day from a place of “acting” like your highest self in this given situation. Then this unattainable goal becomes a more playful way towards mastery, knowing you have forever to perfect it! By being in integrity with your highest vision of yourself, happiness begins to flourish. The farther away we are from our ideal, depression and ick begin to set in.

4. Soften into who you are. I love the idea of “softening” into who we already are. This gives the idea of completeness, and all we need to do is stop listening to others ideas of what we should be, and just be open to the universe, and how it’s creatively expressed through us.

Lavender Milk Bath

To make a soothing and relaxing Lavender Milk Bath, fill a tub with hot water, then add the following:

1/2 cup dead sea saltsImage
1/2 cup epsom salts
8 drops organic lavender essential oil
4 drops neroli essential oil
1 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup lavender buds
1/4 cup baking soda
5 drops jojoba oil

Stir around and soak. Enjoy with candlelight and some relaxing music.

**epsom salts contain magnesium to soothe and relax muscles

**try filling the tub with hotter water than you would normally use and letting it sit for 15 minutes to cool and allow some of the chlorine to evaporate before your soak

***after your bath you may want to leave the water in the tub for an hour or so to continue to enjoy the relaxing lavender scent in your home

Courtesy of Michelle Trantina from MyYogaOnline.com

The Law of Karma: Chopra Center Daily Inspiration

The Law of Karma: Chopra Center Daily Inspiration

The Law of Karma: Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind. What we sow is what we reap. And when we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.

1)  Today I will witness the choices I make in each moment. And in the mere witnessing of these choices, I will bring them to my conscious awareness. I will know that the best way to prepare for any moment in the future is to be fully conscious in the present.

2)  Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: “What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?” and “Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?

3)  I will then ask my heart for guidance and be guided by its message of comfort or discomfort. If the choice feels comfortable, I will plunge ahead with abandon. If the choice feels uncomfortable, I will pause and see the consequences of my action with my inner vision. This guidance will enable me to make spontaneously correct choices for myself and for all those around me.

The Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules For Successful Living

The Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules For Successful Living

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.