Monday, January 7, 2019

Reset and Recharge: New Year Yoga Sequence

During the holiday season, we’re out of our routines, we tend to eat and drink more, and we might be dealing with some cyclical grief that comes up during the darker season. Not to mention family stress, visitors, and the ravages of holiday traveling. All these things can throw us off our center. This gentle yoga practice supports calm, digestive health, and immune function to help you get back into the swing of things. This sequence can be done pretty much anytime, including first thing in the morning or right before bed.
1. Cat/Cow
Come to all fours. As you inhale, tip your tailbone and chin to the sky in a little backbend. As you exhale, round your back and press your belly button to your spine. Continue like that for around ten breaths or longer, and feel free to add anything else that feels good, like moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles. This moves the joint fluid around the spine and helps us check in with the shoulders, hips, neck, back, and belly. 
2. Low Lunge with Side Bend
From hands and knees, step your right foot forward into a lunge. Lengthen your stance enough that your back knee is behind your hip, not right under it, and your front knee is right over your ankle. Tuck your back toes under. Feel free to pad your back knee with a blanket. 
Reach your arms up to the sky. Point your tailbone down to the floor while pressing your hips forward at the same time. Look for a stretch at the front of your left thigh. 
Now bend your left elbow so your hand comes roughly in between your shoulderblades. Hold the elbow with your right hand. Pull your belly in, keep your tailbone down, and begin to side bend to the right. This releases your hip flexor, shoulder, and side, and can open up some space for your digestive organs. Hold for around five breaths, more if you like. 
Gently come back to all fours and then repeat on the left side.  
3. Wide Legged Forward Fold with Shoulder Stretch
Carefully come to standing. If you’re comfortable with downward dog, you can use it as a transition: lift your knees into downward dog, walk forward into a standing forward fold, and then gently roll up. 
Step your feet wide apart on your mat with your feet parallel. 
Interlace your fingers behind your back and squeeze the shoulders together, opening the chest. Carefully fold over your legs, letting your fists rise to the sky. 
Keep a small bend in your knees and press the legs out to the sides. If your shoulders bother you, simply let them come to the ground. Breathe here for five or more breaths. This pose stretches the legs and shoulders and is an inversion, which is healthy for the digestive organs, the brain, and the heart, and is soothing for the nervous system. 
When you are ready to come out, hug the shoulders onto the back, look forward, and keep your back straight as you gently come up to standing again. 
4. Restorative Backbend
Sit down on the floor and find a bolster, a long pillow, or two pillows in a line. Place your prop behind you so you are sitting in front of it. Lay back so that your bum stays on the floor but your head is supported by the prop. Bring your feet together and let your knees open to the sides with support from more props (blankets, pillows, etc.). If that’s uncomfortable, keep your legs straight.

Finding Spiritual Strength in Severe Illness

“Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching. They may awaken simply because they can’t stand the suffering anymore.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Sometimes in life, we face pain so great that we must focus on surviving one day at a time, or even by the hour or the minute. During these moments, it feels as if our hearts naturally gravitate toward the spiritual, as there is only so much sadness, fear, bitterness or grief a human heart can hold before it cracks.
We long to find the good in the bad situation, the purpose in the suffering, the safety in the unknown. And once we finally let go of our fear and take a leap of faith, we experience that familiar sense of peace and safety that seems to transcend the suffering.
Numerous studies over the years have confirmed the incredible benefits of having strong spiritual beliefs during times of hardship and illness. These findings not only show that spirituality is linked to stronger emotional and mental health, but physical health as well.
A new analysis, published in the journal CANCER, has found that cancer patients with greater overall religiosity and spirituality experienced better physical health, greater ability to go about their daily tasks, and had fewer physical symptoms of cancer.
"These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater emotional aspects of religion and spirituality, including a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a connection to a source larger than oneself," said lead author Heather Jim, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa in a news release.
The research team also found that cancer patients with a stronger sense of spirituality had fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress. In contrast, spiritual distress and a sense of disconnectedness from God was linked to poorer emotional well-being and greater psychological distress.
Greater spirituality in cancer patients was also linked to healthier relationships. The findings show that those who believe in a benevolent God (as opposed to a distant or easily angered God) and those with stronger convictions that a personal God can be called upon for assistance had an easier time maintaining relationships and social contacts. In contrast, those who struggled with their faith struggled more with their social life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Importance of Spirituality

1. Importance of Spirituality – The subject of Spirituality is useful for both – those who have worldly pursuits as well as those with an inclination for sādhanā (Spiritual practice)

  1. In case of patients (those with some ailments), if an attempt is to be made to explain them briefly so as to convince them intellectually, then spiritual remedies are extremely important in the two types of illnesses mentioned ahead:
    • An individual can do nothing about old age, incurable illnesses and death. In such cases, if a patient is depressed, then to overcome the depression, Spirituality may be used as a therapy to cultivate in him / her a philosophical attitude towards old age.
    • In cases of obsessive compulsive disorder (a psychiatric illness), it is useful to keep the patient’s mind pre-occupied.
  2. In the life of an average person, 20% problems occur due to physical and / or psychological reasons. Another 30% are due to spiritual as well as physical and / or psychological reasons. The remaining 50% are solely spiritual in origin. This means that by performing sādhanā, 80% problems can be resolved or the ability to endure them can be acquired by accepting one’s destiny.
  3. Those desirous of worldly pleasure : Sakām sādhanā gives happiness and reduces unhappiness as well.
  4. Those in search of Ānand (Bliss) : They experience the blissful state by performing nishkām sādhanā. Besides, their worldly unhappiness also gets alleviated.

2. Importance of spirituality – Subject which bestows eternal and supreme Anand

        Every living being, from the smallest insect to the more evolved human being wishes to acquire supreme quality of happiness continuously and constantly. Every moment he makes attempts to acquire it. Happiness which is everlasting and of supreme quality is called Ānand. The science which teaches how to acquire Ānand is termed, ‘the science of Spirituality’. It is only after becoming introverted through sādhanā, that man realises the Divinity of the soul, that is, the spiritual prowess of God residing within him.
अध्यात्मविद्याविद्यानाम् ।- Srīmadbhagwadgītā, Adhyāya 10, Shloka 32
Meaning : Of all the sciences, spiritual science is the most supreme.

3. Importance of Spirituality – Subject bestowing Omniscience

        There being innumerable subjects in the universe, studying even for several births will prove insufficient to become proficient in all of them. To merge into the Omniscient God, one has to become Omniscient. However, God has made this easy by providing us with the subject of Spirituality. This is the only subject in which if one becomes Omniscient, one becomes knowledgeable in other subjects too. This is because, finally all subjects have originated from Spirituality.

4. Importance of Spirituality – A chance for an individual to free himself from the cycle of birth and death

        Man is born again and again for two reasons. The first, that is 65%, to complete his destiny by enduring it and the second, that is 35%, to make spiritual progress so as to acquire Ānand. Both these causes are related to Spirituality.
        The man is interested in Spirituality for the following reasons:
  1. Desire to discover the Creator : Each one feels like discovering the one from whom he has been created and feels like returning to Him. For instance, when a person comes of age, if he comes to know that he has a foster mother and that his real mother is elsewhere, then he will go in search of her. If someone goes on a vacation to a beautiful foreign land, at some point he feels like returning home. Similarly, at least subtly each one feels like going in search of the Creator and desires to return to Him.
  2. Desire to go from the temporary to permanent : One feels like giving this temporary life a support of the permanent (Spirituality). That is, one feels like going from incompleteness to Absoluteness at some time or the other, since there is a certainty of finding everlasting Ānand on this path.

How to Balance Your Chakras Instantly

Takeaway: Try any one of these techniques today in order to balance one or more of your chakras.
The chakras are a fascinating aspect of healing in yoga. It’s said that there are seven primary chakras running along the midline of the subtle body; whirling vortexes of energy that are associated with specific vibrations in the cosmos. Our chakras, as well as these cosmic vibrations, affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The chakra system is fascinating. It’s a truly holistic method of healing.
It doesn’t have to take eons of time to balance the chakras, and you don’t have to visit an expert to experience healing; although, that’s always an option, too. The beauty of yoga is that it’s a self-healing modality and your chakras are no different. Repeating positive, healing affirmations over and over again is one such way to balance and align your chakras. You have the innate intelligence to balance them on your own. Here are some tips for balancing each chakra in an instant.

Root Chakra

Your root chakra, which resides at the base of your spine, has to do with feeling grounded in the world. It represents basic survival needs -- security, stability and protection. If you suspect your root chakra needs positive vibrations, you could repeat the following affirmation to yourself several times throughout the day: “I am safe. I am secure. I am always protected.”
This may sound too good to be true, but gardening is a powerful way to instantly balance your root chakra. Gardening promotes grounding to Mother Earth, and cultivates a deep sense of stability and protection from nature. If you suspect your root chakra is out of balance, go outside and pull some weeds. Plant some flowers in the earth. Or simply lie in the grass beneath the warm sun. (Learn more in Get Grounded Through 'Earthing.')

Sacral Chakra

Your sacral chakra is your center for passion, creativity, pleasure and sexuality. When balanced, we give and receive pleasure openly and freely. If your sacral chakra (which lives just below the navel) is out of balance, you may wish to repeat the following affirmation: “I receive pleasure and create what I desire in the world.”
To balance your sacral chakra, simply breathe into your hips. Roll your hips while sitting or standing. Get loose in your pelvis and feel your connection to your hips and your sensual center.

Solar Plexus Chakra

Your solar plexus chakra corresponds to your self-esteem, self-worth and ability to self-motivate and manifest. If your solar plexus chakra (located right above your navel) is lagging, you’ll want to repeat the following affirmation: “I am confident, worthy, and able to manifest what I want in my life.”
Because your solar plexus chakra is directly related to the sun and the fire element, expose your skin to some good old-fashioned Vitamin D. Soon you’ll be feeling calm, centered and confident.

Heart Chakra

Your heart chakra helps you have compassion and empathy for all sentient beings. When balanced, you give love and receive love without conditions. This chakra is located in the center of your chest -- just to the right of your actual heart. To balance your heart chakra repeat: “I give and receive love unconditionally.”
This probably sounds a bit simple, but hugging is a powerful way to balance your heart chakra. If you don’t have a human being around to hug, hug a pet. Your heart chakra will get an instant surge of light and love.

21 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

21 symptoms of spiritual awakening

1) The feeling that something has changed inside of you

woman lightYou can’t explain it but you feel different. You even have the sensation to have become a new person, which has nothing to do with the one you were before. You may even have already been different persons, but it continues. Each time you have the feeling that you are getting closer to your truth. This feeling fills you with deep happiness, as you get closer and closer to who you want to be (or should I say, who you really are). At the same time, it scares you, as you have escaped from your comfort zone, and escaped the cage in which society had put on, and sometimes you even think it was easier before, in the “known”. But now that you have escape the “illusion”, that you have dropped the “mask”, and that your blinders are gone forever, you feel you can see everything much clearer. You even wonder how you could live “like this” for so long. The world has now a new color and a new taste, simply because you now look at it with new eyes…

2) Awareness of your old negative habits

You become aware of everything that was not right in your “old life”, in your old you. You realize all the things you used to do and don’t want to do anymore, and all the thinking patterns you don’t wish to keep. You are ready for a big change and you never want to go back, being so happy about what you have discovered. You feel a feeling of deep fulfillment and happiness, from getting closer to your truth, and deep joy to feel this new momentum and feeling of hope.

3) To not feel good with your old entourage anymore and to feel the need to be alone or with new people, more alignment with who you have become

woman forestEvolving spiritually can be a painful process, as not everyone around you will evolve at the same speed. Very often, we grow ourselves following a certain event or certain encounters, but it is not necessarily the case for our family and friends, that stay the same. We start, little by little, to feel “weird” to think all those things we think, and even guilty for not wanting to spend as much time with them as before. We certainly wish we could, but the “gap” we feel, between them and us, has become too big. Our vibration became higher, and as result, when we see them, we feel a feeling of discomfort, and the need to recharge our batteries after seeing them (we feel drained). Therefore, we then prefer solitude than being drained by negative people. We look for new people, more in alignment with who we really are and our new energy. Naturally, we are attracted to these new people, who make us feel good and energized. We connect with them directly, even virtually, as we are on the same “wave-length”. We often feel better with them than our own family or friends that we have known for 10 years. That’s because this time the connexion is from soul to soul. You “see” each other, and you are of the same vibration. It’s a heart and soul connexion which is less likely to be ruled by the ego.

4) To not stand superficiality and everything that is not authentic

nightclubLots of places or people that you were used to go or see before will not interest you anymore, or even make you feel depressed. You have become allergic to anything superficial and not “real”, not authentic: people, places, activities, TV shows (if you even keep watching it). You are on a quest to authenticity, simplicity, real things, that would make your heart sing. You may think you have become antisocial, or “too difficult”, but “it is no sign of health to be well adjusted to a sick society”, always remember this. Always follow your heart. If your mind and your ego can dupe you and make you sink, your heart can never lie to you. The more you will grow spiritually, vibrationally, the more you will be attracted to authenticity and the less you will be attracted to lie, illusion, hypocrisy and sham.

What Is Spiritual Enlightenment or Spiritual Awakening?

A definition of spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening is hard to pin down. This is, in part, because "spiritual enlightenment" and "spiritual awakening" have been used in so many ways to describe so many things, similar to the way in which "love" is used to describe everything from a preference for ice cream to a merging with everything. And it is also because spiritual enlightenment and spiritual awakening are such rich and complex experiences that they are innately hard to define.
Some definitions are very specific and narrow. One such definition for spiritual enlightenment is the complete dissolution of one's identity as a separate self with no trace of the egoic mind remaining. This sets the bar very high and means that very few people qualify as enlightened.

The opposite approach is to say that everyone is enlightened, that there is only awake consciousness. In this view, it's only a question of whether this natural awakeness has been recognized or not. Of course, when a word describes everything or everyone, it loses some of its usefulness. If everyone is enlightened, then why even talk about it?

Combining perspectives on spiritual enlightenment

Perhaps there's a definition that includes both of these perspectives, which recognizes that consciousness is always awake and enlightened, but the amount of awakeness, or aware consciousness, that is present in any moment can vary. This definition acknowledges that there's a difference in the amount of awakeness, or enlightened consciousness, that different people experience or that one person experiences at different times but still suggests that the potential for full awareness or becoming enlightened is the same for everybody. If every apparent individual consciousness is infinite in its potential, then each can also be infinite both in its capacity to expand or awaken and in its capacity to contract or identify with a narrow or limited experience.
If all consciousness is made of the same essential awareness and light, and if everyone has an equal potential for enlightenment, then all expressions of consciousness are equally valid and valuable. Everyone truly is a Buddha or enlightened being, at least in potential. So defining enlightenment in many ways now makes sense, depending on what is being pointed to. One may use the word enlightenment to point to the state of self-realization beyond the ego or to point to the innate potential for this realization in all of us.

As for differentiating between the words enlightenment and awakening, "enlightenment" implies a more finished and constant state of realization, while "awakening" has more of the active quality of a verb and therefore suggests a movement or shift in consciousness. An awakening may be defined as a sudden increase in the overall amount of consciousness an individual is experiencing. There can be small awakenings and bigger awakenings. Not only does consciousness have unlimited potential for the amount of awakeness, but it also has an unlimited potential to shift in any way, at any moment. Consciousness can and sometimes does shift from contracted states of fear, anger, or hurt to expanded states of peace and joy in an instant. Unfortunately, it can also shift in the other direction. Consciousness has no fixed state.

What about the spiritual awakening happening now?

As it is being defined here, a spiritual awakening is a sudden expansion or shift in consciousness, especially a more dramatic one (we don't usually refer to a minor realization as a spiritual awakening). Enlightenment, on the other hand can be used to mark a particular level of realization or awakeness, even if the exact definition varies depending on who is using the word, as it does with every word.

What really matters is what your awareness is doing right now. How is your consciousness appearing or shifting in this moment? Are you realizing more of your experience and Essence right now? Or are you contracting and limiting your awareness with thoughts and identification? Is any shifting happening from reading these words?

Enlightenment or awakening is a profound mystery, and the best definition may be found in the actual experience of your own shifts in consciousness. Just as it's more nourishing to eat an apple than read about one, so it can be more rewarding to explore the movements of your own awareness than to try to understand these things mentally. While definitions of such things can be helpful, it can also be beneficial to not have too many concepts, which could interfere with your actual experience. It's a good thing that language isn't so fixed or defined when it comes to spiritual unfoldment. Maybe the best definition of enlightenment is no definition. Then there is only what is found in your own direct experience of awareness.

Understanding the 7 Chakras

Takeaway: Discovering which chakra is unbalanced requires you to tune in to how you're feeling psychologically and physiologically. Once identified, specific chakra activating asanas can help you balance your chakras and bring yourself back into alignment.
The seven major chakras, which means wheel in sanskrit, are energy centers within the body. There are said to be hundreds of chakras, but we tend to focus on these major seven: muladhara (root), svadisthana (spleen or sacral), manipura (solar plexus), anahata (heart), visuddha (throat), ajna (third eye), and sahasrara (crown). They can be visualized as spinning wheels of energy that can become slow, sluggish or blocked. The ability for energy to flow freely within the chakra affects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We can learn to sense blockages by creating awareness of our own energy, physical sensations, and emotional states.

Intentional Chakra Targeted Asana Practice

Most asanas stimulate one or more chakras. By tuning into which areas of your body are used and the locations of each chakra, we can understand which asanas to use when attempting to balance specific chakras.


This chakra is connected to our root and therefore asanas that allow us to ground will help us to balance this chakra. This includes asanas such as: malasana (yoga squat), padmasana (lotus), and standing asanas, like tadasana (learn more in Ground Into Tadasana to Connect With Your Root Chakra.)


Asana that stimulate the sacral and pelvic area help to balance this chakra. Some asana include bhujangasana (cobra) and dhanurasana (bow).


Asana that stimulate, twist, and strengthen the abdomen are helpful in balancing the manipura chakra. This can include paschimottanasana (seated forward fold), and ardha matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist)


To balance the anahata chakra we can perform asana that opens our hearts. These can include matsyasana (fish), chakrasana (wheel), and ustrasana (camel).


We can balance visuddha by focusing on our throat. A great asana to tune this chakra is sarvangasana (shoulder stand) or halasana (plow) as they stimulate the throat and thyroid gland. Any asana that can include a slight throat lock or that engage the jalandhara bandha are great for balancing vishuddha.

Ajna and Sahasrara:

These chakras have many of the same asana as the intention is to stimulate the head. Sirsasana (headstand) is considered the “king of all asana” and is very helpful for balancing these chakras as well as the entire physical and energetic system.

Balancing Each Chakra

Balancing each chakra can be done many ways including: meditation, affirmations, color therapy, mantra repetition, and asana practice. Color therapy can include eating colored foods, wearing colored clothes, working with colored stones, crystals or lights, as well as visualizing the color in meditation.

5 Essential Asanas to Kickstart Your Mornings

Takeaway: Taking 10 minutes to start your day with these poses will wake up your spine, getting you physically and mentally ready to face whatever the day brings. 
Most of us don’t have time to practice a full hour of yoga in the morning before shuffling the kids off to school or scooting out the door for work. Sometimes we barely have time for a nice coffee, a hot shower or ample time to get ready, depending upon our busy schedules.
However, taking just 10 to 15 minutes each morning with the following five yoga asanas will get you going naturally and might even replace your morning coffee. A morning yoga practice is one of the healthiest ways to start your day, and if you can get into the routine of moving your body and breath during this dawning of the day, you’ll be oh-so-happy you did.

5 Asanas to Kickstart Your Mornings:

Sufi Grinds

Sufi grinds are really good for the spine, the hips and also for your digestive health. Most of us need a digestive boost as the day begins and this pose is perfect for that. It helps relieve stress and relax the entire system, while relieving constipation, if that’s an issue.
For the sufi grinds, we sit in a cross-legged position with our hands taking hold of our knees. We then begin to rotate our torso in a clockwise direction. Take as big or as little circles as feels right for you. Imagine that you have a poll in your center which you’re rotating around. Allow the head to remain centered, directly above the neck and spine. Your inhale takes you around the front of the circle while your exhale takes you around the back of the circle.
You can do this asana while closing your eyes and focusing on your third eye. After moving one way for a couple minutes, change direction to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. Sufi grinds are a truly brilliant way to kickstart your day.

Cat-Cow Pose

The ancient yogis believed that the health of the spine was central to longevity. In modern-day yoga, we still follow this recipe for a long, healthy life, which is why moving and stretching the spine early in the morning is a really good idea. Cat-cow pose is the perfect spinal stretch to begin with because it’s both gentle and effective. We can also link our breath to the movement in this pose — inhaling as we arch the back into a cow-like position, and exhaling as we round the back into a cat-like position. The addition of the breath helps get our prana, or life force energy, flowing throughout, which is essential for harnessing your energy for the day.
Cat Pose
Cow Pose
(For more prana-boosting postures, try 3 Poses for a Natural Burst of Energy.)

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

By this time, you’re warmed up enough to come into downward-facing dog pose. We all love down dog because it feels good. Why? Because you’re stretching and elongating the spine while strengthening your arms, legs and entire torso. Down dog is like a full body workout while remaining gentle and easy on the body. It's a great energizing pose for the early morning and you can hold the pose for as long or as short as you like. Just focus on taking long inhales and long exhales to get the prana flowing freely throughout your subtle body.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Camel Pose

After downward-facing dog, camel pose is the perfect counter pose. It’s also a nice backbend and heart opener to begin the day with because it can be modified if your body isn’t totally warmed up just yet. This chest-opening asana clears and frees up energy in the throat and also the area of the chest and heart center.