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I get quite a number of questions about taking oil baths as a complement to one’s asana practice. Below is a tutorial and demonstration on Ayurveda Oil Baths (Abhyanga).
I find them helpful in reducing inflammation that can build with a 6/day per week practice of Ashtanga. They can also be helpful for anyone who practices regularly, any style of asana.
Check out the video and if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. 🙂


 

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I’ve been challenged to do 30 questions in 30 days on Facebook Live. For those who aren’t on Facebook, I’ll be posting them here as well. I hope you enjoy this series. It definitely puts me outside my comfort zone, so I thought I’d start this series discussing that topic.

If you have questions and/or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments. And I’ll eventually get to answering them on these videos – you never know when someone has the same question as you.

 

I was talking with a friend the other morning about the difference between yoga instructors, classes, and the different feelings we come out with from different classes with different teachers. All other things being equal – say, if we’re discussing Vinaysa – the relative format is the same. You go into any Vinyasa class and you can expect to merge movement with breath. The variables: pace, sequence, energy of the room, how long you hold each pose, and of course, the level of experience of the practitioners. While these seem like common variables in any given yoga class (regardless of style, save your designated sequences like Ashtanga, Bikram), there’s another variable that we often fail to consider. This is the focus variable. In my years of study, I’ve found there are two types of focus – the focus within and the focus without.

The focus within is an internal focus, where regardless of the teacher, the sequence, the energy, the style..you are focused within yourself, within the four corners of your mat, within your breath. You see your practice through your mind’s eye, not your physical eyes. You are listening to the cues of the teacher, listening to their silly jokes and quips (without pulling your attention). You are not listening to the grumbles of your neighbor, not focused on their practice, their level of advancement (or lack of advancement) in the given poses. While you are aware of these other beings, you are not focused on them, and they don’t affect your practice one way or the other. You may not even “see” them because your gaze is so strongly focused inward. You feel the breath on the internal layer of your skin, caressing your organs, interweaving with the brain cells, muscle tissue, bone marrow.

The second type of focus: the focus without. I don’t mean a practice without focus, but in the adverb (literary, archaic) sense of the word ‘without’ meaning ‘outside, not within’ – an external placement. Your focus is on the group collective. You focus on your breath and your poses, but that focus is turned outward. You feel your breath as part of the group, your pose as part of the collective corps de ballet, as something you’re giving to the room, to the world, to the teacher. Your contribution to the world of yoga. You view your practice through your physical eyes, not your mind’s eye. You physically see the objects and people around you. You feel your skin at the surface, how the air feels against the outside layer of skin, how you push through the molecules of O2 externally. Now, this is not the same as a distracted class where there is much chit-chat with your neighbors, laughter, and clapping – I consider this to be a class without focus, not a class who’s focus is without. While levity and questions can be appropriate during class, extensive conversations are a recipe for injury (through distracted practice). There is a seriousness to the practice for reasons of safety, no matter how light and casual the atmosphere.

I’m not saying one focus is more right than the other.. I’m simply making an observation I’ve come to find over the years. In fact, I think we need the existence of both. For those who are constantly in their heads, constantly taking from the world (not in a negative/greedy way), continuously receiving and never having the opportunity to give, I feel the focus without is a more fulfilling type of class. For those who are constantly extending themselves and their words to others, constantly contributing to the world, continuously giving and never having the opportunity to receive, I feel the focus within is a more fulfilling type of class. This is why it is important to try different styles of yoga, and especially different teachers. If you come out of a class with feelings of agitation, perhaps ruminate on the practice – first, did you do a lot of hip openings, but then see if you felt inward or outwardly focused. If you tend to be a giver in the world, find a focus within and take a little time to be selfish. If you tend to be a receiver, find a focus without and have a chance to share something. On the flip-side, take note if you come out of a class feeling like you’ve just come home..examine the tendencies of that class. One teacher may be the kind who encourages the focus without, and other may encourage the focus within. You need to find what works for you, and at the same time..allow yourself to evolve. In one lifetime you may flip between focus depending on which aspect of your life needs balance. And isn’t that one of the grander points of yoga practice, to find balance (and no, I don’t mean in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana 😉 )…

~Namaste

In the ancient yogic texts, there are guidelines to living a yogic life. These guidelines are dubbed the Yamas and Niyamas. According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas. In this “Yamas & Niyamas” series of posts, we’ll be discussing each of them. These are the moral imperatives, the ‘right living’ aspects, the ‘do’s and do nots’ if you will. Now I am not a moral elitist believing my way is the only way (because I know that to not be true), and I do not think my opinions are above all others..they are simply that, opinions..thoughts..feelings on the matter. Feel free to disagree. The Yamas comprise the ‘shall not do’ list of moral/ethical living. The Niyamas comprise the ‘shall do’ list of moral/ethical living. Whether you agree with these codes of conduct or not simply because they are of Hindu/Yogic origin, I think you’ll find similarities to all religious lists of moral codes for right and moral living. My personal feeling (and it’s half my blog, so that’s what you’ll get..my personal feelings) is that regardless of your religious beliefs, I think we can all agree on living an ethical life for the betterment of all Earth-kind. So in this series, and because this is a yoga blog, we’ll discuss the yogic codes for ethical living – the Yamas and Niyamas. For now, I’ll just list them out with a brief description..a light introduction to the list. But as time goes on, we’ll discuss each in further detail.

Yamas:

*Ahimsa – non-violence; non-harming

*Satya – absence of falsehood; truthfulness

*Asteya – non-stealing

*Brahmacharya – appropriate use of vital essence

*Aparigraha – non-possessiveness

Niyamas:

*Saucha – cleanliness of body and mind

*Santosha – satisfaction with what one has

*Tapas – austerity, traditionally in regards to yoga practice and discipline

*Svadhyaya – self-study

*Ishvarapranidana – acknowledgment that there is something greater than your Self, modesty, humility

Not only should these moral and ethical precepts be extended to all others you encounter physically, mentally, and emotionally in the world..but the world also includes you. Extending these same attitudes and actions towards yourself is the first step to extending truth, non-violence, cleanliness, austerity, humility to the world at large.

So let the wheels begin to turn, and we’ll discuss in further detail each Yama and Niyama in it’s own dedicated post.

~Namaste

From that perfection of Yoga posture, duality, praise and criticism, cease to be a disturbance.” ~Patanjali

Of course, this is easier said than done..in yoga, or otherwise. One thing that I’ve noticed about my own journey, my own practice.. that as the postures begin to work from deep inside me to an outward expression, I’m less concerned with external validation – of how the posture is viewed by the outside observer. Alignment issues aside, the external ‘beauty’ of a posture (or common/en masse acceptance as ‘perfection’) is irrelevant and should not be the goal of a practitioner. With time and practice, sure..the pose will become easier to express physically, thus finding a deeper expression of the outward appearance – and thereby be accepted by the masses as ‘beautiful.’ In the beginning, perhaps we’re all looking for that external validation such as “oh, you have such a beautiful practice” or  “your poses are so beautiful.” I find myself, as a teacher, guilty of saying “you have such a beautiful practice.” However, when I’m saying it, I’m often referring to the depth of the practice internally, not the external expression of the poses themselves. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be considered beautiful. But with beautiful must come the non-beautiful (i.e. “ugly”). Otherwise there is no frame of reference from which to measure beauty.

External validation is just that..external. As one practices yoga, over time the validation turns inward (whether we want it to or not)..and we become our own voice. So the duality of praise and criticism begins to disappear – the duality of beautiful and ugly begins to disappear. I find that as I practice yoga, voices internal and external to myself no longer tell me “I’m/ You’re beautiful,” “I’m/You’re ugly,” “My/Your postures are great,” “My/Your postures suck,” “..intelligent,” “..inadequate.” “..too fat/skinny, “..too short,” “..what I was hoping for,” “..a dredge on society and a waste of space.” Now, whether the comments are positive or negative, they simply exist.  They no longer disturb my journey. Well, not totally..I’m not 100% there yet.. that’s why they call it a journey – otherwise I’d be enlightened, awakened and sipping tea with the gurus of time past. Sometimes the voices warm my heart or lightly sting a bit.. but with practice the warmth softens to a moderate temperature, and the sting becomes bearable. The praise and criticism no longer ripple my pond – the spikes and valleys level out to a moderate, peaceful calm allowing me to let life ebb and flow in and around my molecules that make up my physical body. I do not think it’s about not experiencing the highs and lows of emotions; I think it’s more about not letting the external praises and criticisms affect your internal voice.  And I don’t mean that internal negative voice which deconstructs every fiber, tearing you down to a sad shred of human existence; I mean the internal voice that lies beneath which is where your true existence, your true nature, your true Self lies. Again..not perfect..not 100% there.. Clearly, there is work to be done.

~Namaste

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