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Experience a Shift Through Practice

Let us slowly try to understand more, and what little we understand, let us try to practice. Practice is the most important factor in Yoga”  Rolf Gates

Do you ever find yourself to be cranky, reactionary, depressed, anxious, or stressed out, even though you would like nothing more than to be happy, calm, and joyful?  A well-rounded yoga practice could be the perfect prescription for you. Through the practice of yoga we strive to awaken our bodies, open space in our minds and use breath as a spiritual guide, so we may look more deeply into our souls. If you are interested in creating a practice that will help create joy on and off the mat, read on…

Throughout the month of February, our focus is abhyasa. Patanjali precisely defines abhyasa as the means (practices, discipline, etc) that is employed in order to remain in a state of union (harmony) with one's own Self.  Ask yourself:

  1. Am I interested in creating a sense of ease in my life each day?

  2. Can I commit to something that will make my life better?

  3. Will I practice to build well-being and harmony in my life?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you are ready to start, or enhance, your yoga practice. Set an intention for February to incorporate all aspects of yoga into your daily routine, so you may receive life-changing benefits that will move you closer to a space of joy and contentment and further from stress and anxiety.

Here's what to incorporate into your daily practice:

  • Daily Asana and Pranayama: Move your body with the intention to awaken and create a receptive seat for your other daily practices. This could mean heading to the studio for a rigorous or gentle class, but it could also mean stretching at home on your mat. A 60-75 minute asana practice is ideal, but not always realistic for many of us. Consider starting with 5-10 minutes. If you have physical constraints, do any focused movement that is accessible to you. Bring your awareness to your breath (Pranayama) as you move, and be sure to incorporate several conscious breaths before and after your asana practice. 

  • Daily reading. Choose a book that will help guide you into a spiritual space. It could be a traditional yoga book such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or the Bhagavad Gita, but it could also be a more approachable book of daily meditations. I recommend Meditations From the Mat by Rolf Gates or Journey To the Heart by Melody Beattie. Another option could be to start this quarter’s book club book, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. (Meeting 3/22 at 3:30pm)

  • Daily Meditation. Sit in silence and be. Meditation is free and can be done anywhere. It’s really just a matter of incorporating it into your practice. We have several meditation classes a week and there are many meditation apps available. My favorite is Ananda by Deepak Chopra. But let me emphasize - you don’t need anything to turn inward and be still. Close your eyes, sit still, focus on your breath and BE. Give it a try.

  • Daily Gratitude. Just say thank you - it’s that simple. In my opinion this is the easiest practice to incorporate into your life and the one you will see benefits from right away. When we move from a thought process of complaint to a thought process of gratitude, we are moving from dark to light. You will notice a shift immediately.

I think we all realize there is real benefit to these practices. They include reduction in stress and anxiety and an increase in overall physical health - all leading to greater peace and joy. So what prevents us from creating a daily practice and sticking to it? Deepak Chopra has said, “Oftentimes, the problem isn’t ignorance, it's lack of compliance.” We know we should practice, so why can’t we comply?

Yoga sutra 1.14, “Sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārāsevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ” translates to mean, “practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.” We need to start small and build. If you believe you only have 10 minutes each day - and we can all carve out 10 minutes - start there. 

This month we ask everyone to set your intention for a daily practice. Commit to doing it no matter what. Treat your daily yoga practice as you would brushing your teeth - there is no question of whether or not to do it. Our teachers will be incorporating lessons to help strengthen your practice in each of their classes. Over the course of the month you will begin to notice you are receiving the benefits of this ancient practice. Some of the changes you may experience are:

  • You have a greater sense of purpose and belonging.

  • You no longer lash out at family members or co-workers. 

  • You sleep better.

  • You naturally make healthier food choices.

  • Your stress is reduced and you have an overall feeling of peace and contentment.

There is no doubt, through these daily practices you will begin to understand that yoga is a practice of love, peace and being. Could there be any higher call to action than these? 

February Focuses:

Word: Practice - the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.

Asana: Sun Salutations - a great way to energize the body through movement and breath. You can make them gentle or rigorous to suit your needs. Sun salutes are at the root of every asana practice.

Pranayama: Ujjayi Breathing - When done properly, Ujjayi (translated as "victorious") breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out. Yoga Journal

Mantra: So Hum - this mantra is the essence of “I am.”

Mudra: Brahma Mudra - Gesture of creative energy and awakening vitality.

  • Make your hands into fists with your thumbs inside.

  • Gently press both fists together so that the palms are facing skyward.

  • Rest the gesture against your solar plexus.

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