If you think of people in your life who you perceive as pure, what qualities do they have that make you see them in this way? Isn’t it usually the case that you consider someone pure when you feel they are transparent, having no hidden agenda, healthy, and genuinely well-intentioned? Perhaps you came up with some different things. Like being clean, for instance. Sauca, which means purity in Sanskrit, is an essential part of Yoga practice, and ultimately of life.
Currently finding myself immersed in the wondrous pages of Paramahansa Yoganada’s Autobiography of a Yogi, the topic lies relevantly close to my heart these days. In this post, I would like to share some insights about why that is, and the ways in which we can speak about purity in relation to many aspects of life from a yogic perspective.
If you’re sincere about being a yogi, you know of the yamas and niyamas in Yoga, and you do your best effort to live by them. In case you are new to Yoga, the yamas refer to “restraints,” or rules for harmonizing the relationship between yourself and others; and the niyamas refer to “non-restraints,” or ways to cultivate inner discipline and organize your inner life. Sauca, or purity/cleanliness in Sanskrit, is the first of five niyamas according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The other four are: santosa (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual study), and isvarapranidhana (surrender to the Divine).
Living a pure lifestyle creates the ideal conditions within our being to come into resonance with the beneficial energies of the universe, and more importantly, to truly come to see the reflection of the divine nature of our own being. This may sound like a mouthful, but it’s true!
There are different types and processes of purification that can occur at various levels. Purification can be physical, mental, or emotional, and even causal in terms of burning karma. Although outer cleanliness is considered important, it is nowhere near as important for spiritual evolution as our emotional and mental purity. The idea is to be pure inside out. Why? It all comes down to resonance. Remember- ‘As above, so below.’ Every single energy in the universe at a microcosmic level corresponds to an energy at the macrocosmic level. In Yoga, we are trying to attune our microcosm with the macrocosm. In order for us to be able to attune to the energies which are beneficial, our own energy needs to resonate with them! By purifying, we can take more responsibility in our lives and empower ourselves. When we attract negative energy into our life, it is mostly a result of our own impure structure at a given time.
Look at it this way. The more impurities you have, the harder you will have to fight in life. As you eliminate impurities, you will see obstacles disappear. The less impurities, the less obstacles. Hatha Yoga is very purifying. When you are in an asana, you are flushing energy through your being. This purifies. It clears the path.
There is a type of Yoga that particularly aims to purify all the levels of your being. Paramahansa Yogananda brought Kriya Yoga to the West in the 1920s after it had been refound by some yogis of the nineteenth century. The sat karma kriya (six actions of purification) make up a complex system of internal and external cleansing methods. These are: neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, kapalbhati, and trataka. The Kriya Yoga methods as presented by Paramahansa Yogananda carve a path to meditation. The practice of Kriya Yoga smooths the path for evolution. It can be a path to liberation! You can also add some of the techniques to your practice and daily life. Kriya Yoga improves your health, clears your mind, and makes your body youthful.
I’d like to make a small parenthesis about the terms karma and kriya. Both of these words mean “action” in Sanskrit. Kriya refers more to actions that purify (Kriya Yoga as a path of purification), and karma refers to the notion of all actions having a cause and effect (Karma Yoga as a path of selfless service). Ultimately, all types of Yoga are meant to lead to samadhi (oneness).
In essence, we are already pure. The very essence of our being is pure. And that is the Beauty of Purity. Our sight is merely clouded by filters. By getting rid of any layers and obstacles
blocking our experience of the true nature of reality we come in touch with the true nature of our being. Just as we can only see our reflection in the water if the water is still and not murky, in the same way, we can only come to see the reflection of who we truly are within ourselves (the Atman) if we are pure. Essentially, we are reflections of something greater, and the idea of individuality is but an illusion limited by the confinements of our egoes.
With all this being said, I hope to have inspired you to have a look at your life, and address those aspects which are standing in the way of you getting in touch with your pure and beautiful Self.
Access Bars® is a gentle hands-on technique that quiets the mind. ‘Getting your Bars run’ (what we call it when you receive a session) allows people to lay back, not have to ‘do’ anything and just receive. The Bars are 32 points on your head which, when gently touched, effortlessly and easily can release anything that doesn’t allow you to receive.
The Universe is endlessly abundant and desiring to gift to you! We actually have to put up barriers to not receive the greatness, beauty and magic of what is available. The Bars breaks down those walls and barriers. This is an opportunity for you to let go of everything!
Touching the Bars allows for the electromagnetic charge that holds thoughts, feelings, and emotions in place to dissipate, allowing you to perceive your life, body and relationships with clarity and ease.
Access Bars is the core technique and class from Access Consciousness® . Access Consciousness is a set of life-changing techniques, tools and processes designed to empower you to create the life you desire. Practical, dynamic, and pragmatic, it provides step-by-step processes to facilitate you in being more conscious in everyday life and eliminates all the barriers you have put up to receiving.
I’ve always wondered what magic and possibilities lay beyond the mind’s reach. An intuitively creative person, it felt confining to be within structures that developing skills required. This gave me accomplishment with a sense of struggle! Strange, is it? Or have you somewhere, sometimes felt it too, with your life and creations?
Access brought me from struggles to celebrations, from frustration to gratitude for everything, most of all, this beautiful body that I took for granted!
At 44, I’m healthy and energetic with a soaring confidence and my home is a place where energies dance. My talents and skills flourish with an ease and joy. What can I say, it feels as if I was living half asleep before. And everyday is about waking up to more and more of living.
ELEGANCE OF LIVING : I am a Bars Facilitator with Access Consciousness and if you are looking to getting your Bars run or doing a Bars Class, reach out. Energetic living comes with such ease to me and it gives me boundless joy to introduce people to this beautiful way of living.
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What else is possible that you’ve didn’t think was possible!!!
While Yoga & Astrology are both different subjects of study and practice, yet they have many similarities as they work on common principles of elements, chakras and energy. Astrology is like the sister discipline of yoga They are both useful tools in daily life, which are also very ancient and have stood the test of time as are still very relevant up to this day and age. Both astrology and yoga help to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and the world around us. Through our personal agency, we can use the science of astrology to move through life with consciousness – awake, not asleep.
It is worth a brief mention that besides astrology, there are other divination methods are such as the Tarot (layouts of cards mirroring a certain situation) and the I Ching (a Taoist approach depicting the fluctuations between yin and yang [hyperlink yin yang blog] through 64 stages) which we can study to help us navigate through life too. But for now we will focus on the connection between yoga and astrology.
Astronomy gave rise to astrology, around the 6th century BCE – a time during which mystics and philosophers would gather to study astronomy and its effect on our human lives, which led to the emergence of the science of astrology and its spreading across the world. Star signs have ancient origins and still are relevant today. Zodiac signs are archetypal images which show our innate potential, as well as the areas in life where we tend to have difficulties in, which are often those aspects of ourselves we deny or reject
ZODIAC SIGNS & ASANA
The practice of Hatha (Sun-Moon) yoga cultivates a synchronization with the celestial cycles, it is a natural practice that aligns our being with the Sun, Moon, stars and cosmos! “Ancient yogis knew that Ida and Pingala align our bodies with the Sun and Moon and attune us — if we’re willing — with all of creation. That explains the term hatha. Ha-tha yoga in actuality means Sun and Moon in Sanskrit. Ha = Sun. Tha = Moon.” -Diane Booth Gilliam
As planets influence areas of your life, you can practice asanas to strengthen certain parts of your physical body related with planets which have an effect on your emotional body. This way, you can go through a beautiful process of transformation through which you alchemically transmute energies and turn weaknesses into strengths. Each astrological sign corresponds to a part of the body, carrying with it a universal resonance which highlights the dominant qualities of the zodiac signs. This way, we can make the most of these qualities by developing them further (and attuning to some we may feel we lack – I personally like to learn from all the zodiac signs and try to practice embodying all of their beneficial qualities!) Although some appear to have gotten lost in tradition, there are corresponding asanas for each zodiac sign:
Aries – warrior 1 (fighter)
Taurus – bullpose (grounding)
Gemini – downward dog – (quiets inner chatter)
Cancer – cobra – (works on the heart area)
Leo – Simhasana, lion pose (what more to say!)
Virgo – nabhyasana, nauli kriya (gut feeling)
Libra – balancing asanas – trikonasana, natarajasana. (weighing/balancing out)
Scorpio – scorpio pose (obvious one!)
Sagittarius – the archer – the adventurer, hips & thighs (warrior arms up)
Capricorn – the gate – (works on the knees & skeletal structure)
Aquarius –eagle pose – (steady gaze, steady mind)
Pisces –fish pose – (another obvious one, also works on the feet)
There is a lot to be said and studied about astrology. For example, the Sun signs depicting ways to discover yourself and others and your main tendencies; moon signs represent the hidden power of your emotions. Then there are the houses, each of which is home to each sign of the zodiac. Houses break up the sky in chunks; and they represent areas of your life. Moreover, you will often hear astrologers speak about conjunction (planets in relation to each other) and transits (the constant movement of planets in relation to their position at the time you were born).
Creating a comprehensive interpretation of an astrological chart requires some basic knowledge and understanding of astronomy (the planets and their qualities), the ability to create connections, and intuition. As a sidenote, this is why in a way, reading astrological charts can be considered an ajna (third-eye chakra – about vision and understanding) – vishhuddha (throat chakra- about intuition, aesthetic intelligence and intuition) practice.
There are features of astrology that are similar to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which mention yoga citta-vritti-nirodha – the cessation of the turnings of the mind, to open oneself up to union with the Higher Self and perceive the divine within (kaivalya).Yoga helps to bring our impulses under control. It helps us to bring more awareness about our structural behavior so that we can redefine happiness – the search for which defines much of human life!
ASTROLOGY AS A MAP
We, like cellphones trying to connect to WiFi, are searching for a connection that is more permanent rather than temporary. As much as Yoga teaches us how to tame the mind, this is practically impossible to do without reorienting it towards something higher. Yoga is not about negation or regimen, but rather about a better alternative: connecting to a higher signal that lives in the heart. So, what’s the link with astrology? Coming back to citta-vritti-nirodha, and the idea of the turnings of the mind: the Sanskrit word vritti is shared in common with the Greek language, and in Greek it refers to the turnings of the planets in the sky. The planets are always moving, the mind is always moving. With Yoga leading to the cessation of the churnings of the mind, it is not meant to be the same as astrology – it is more like astrology helps us to understand our mind better, not to get caught up in the dramas of our lives.
Astrology gives us like a map of the psyche and the soul, showing what we are experiencing in this particular body, it can go as far as depicting your dharma, your gifts, your challenges.
The planets follow predictable cycles, just as all of the ecology on this planet does, following the principle of the resonance between the microcosm and the macrocosm: as above, so below. When we look at how the planets are positioned and moving through the sky, we are seeing something a mirroring of where we are at. An astrological chart is basically an artificial photo of the sky, as if frozen in time, showing where all the planets are at a given moment (e.g. your birth date), showing us a unique point in time and space in which we find ourselves in, and a sense of where our lives are heading.
As astrological charts present us with a symbolic mirroring of where we are at, it is important to also have a symbolic attitude towards astrology rather than a deterministic one. Astrology helps us to see and understand our karmic tendencies so that we can live our lives with a little bit more wisdom. All too often, people identify themselves with what they look like and other material matters pertaining to maya (the illusion). This false identification is part of our tendency to, metaphorically speaking, fall asleep, instead of awakening to the true essence of who we are: Spirit. The karmic drama is not who we are, yet we do need to deal with it, and it is easier to move through a terrain if we have a basic understanding of the map. The point is not to get lost in it, but to be able to navigate through it in a way that promotes our spiritual evolution and act in a way that is both meaningful and effective.
It all comes down to attitude and stepping into our power (which we so often underestimate!). Having said this, I would like to conclude with a quote by Dane Rudhyar:
“The Essential Purpose of Astrology is not so much to tell us what we will meet on the road, as it is to suggest how we meet it.”
Thanks for tuning in, and until we meet next time in yet another version of the now,
In the spirit of the ongoing parents & kids yoga series with Ananda Bogers here at the studio, we are delighted to share with you this post about kids yoga- talking about what is it, what the benefits are, and why we love it! So let’s get started.
WHAT IS KIDS YOGA?
In essence, kids yoga is being based on techniques from the Hatha Yoga system, with each asana still most usually inspired by nature and animals, albeit at times modified and/or simplified for the sake of both fun as well as safety. Also, more than just postures are generally incorporated into the classes through the use of games and stories – letting everyone’s imagination run free! Moreover, other practices such as mindfulness and other elements of yoga are incorporated into the practice – such as the yamas & niyamas, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation.
The way yogis wisely came to base many of their techniques by imitating nature, inspires to understand the world around us, ultimately helping us to get to know not only the world around us better, but also ourselves – this applies to all ages! Pretty much the same effects are achieved for both children as adults through yoga, and it is only wonderful to introduce children to this practice from a young age.
However, due to the fact that children are at a different stage of development than adults, there are a few differences in the approach implemented for children in order to make it fun and accessible to them. For instance, the length of the exercises is generally shorter, there is more of an approach of a game-like structure, incorporating also storytelling to make it understandable for them, and the level of interaction is higher (whereas in yoga classes for adults participants are generally more interiorized.
We can’t expect children to act like adults. They will want to play and grant them space for that – within given guidelines in class. Kids yoga classes are playful adventures, taking them on a journey together with the group as well as within themselves. It’s important to make space for interaction and spontaneity, allowing and encouraging their creative capacity and imagination.Safety is very important, so it’s also crucial to make sure each child has more than enough space not only on their mat, but also around them – kids are still learning to coordinate their bodies and falling out of an asana seems to be more common for children. Also, demonstrating the postures is often needed, whereas this might not be as necessary in classes for adults who are already familiar with the practice, or are able to follow verbal instruction without physical demonstration. A mixture of discipline, flow and surrender form a great recipe for a perfect kids yoga class – this of course applies to life in general!
The earlier children learn how to connect to themselves and cultivate acceptance, compassion, and self-love through Yoga, the better – why should anyone have to wait for that? Yoga empowers children to develop a holistic and profound sense of self at a very young age.
THE BENEFITS ACCORDING TO RESEARCH
In my interest to find out what kind of studies and research have been done pertaining to the benefits of yoga for children, I was very pleased to find many! After reading several studies, I would like to present to you the most striking. *If you would like to read up more- there are tons of articles freely available for your viewing online- I have limited my sharing to a few as otherwise this blog would be too long!*
The first is from a study featured in the Journal of Integrative Medicine [16 (2018) 14–19], titled The beneﬁts of Yoga in Children by Chandra Nanthakumar, who conducted a research to study the intervention of yoga as a meditative movement practice in helping school children in Malaysia manage stress and anxiety. Her findings came to show that the practice of yoga brings, among others, “improvement in managing and reducing stress and anxiety,” and that “yoga appears to be an effective modality for helping children cope with stress and anxiety.” Restorative postures bring inner calmness as well as induce as state of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), calming down the nervous system. Through regular practice, children can get in touch with their inner world, and learn to coordinate and align their mind, bodies, and breath better. Moreover, the inner states of peace achieved through the practice of yoga induce more mindfulness and are beneficial to children’s overall health (physical, mental, and emotional).
Yoga for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Well-Being: Research Review and Reflections on the Mental Health Potentials of Yoga, published in Front Psychiatry (2014; 5: 35) and conducted by Ingunn Hagen and Usha S. Nayar presents a dicussion which provides some context as to why it is that it seems an increasing number of children are suffering from stress and anxiety these days: “…children today, face high expectations and constant stimulation through the Internet and other media and communication technologies. One reason why children experience stress and mental health challenges is that globalization exposes the youth all over the world to various new demands, standards, and options. There is also increased pressure to succeed in school, partly due to increased competition but also a diverse range of options available for young people in contemporary times than in the past.”
Another study published by Marlynn Wei, MD, JD (29 January 2016) in the Harvard Health Publishing blog, showed that yoga for kids in the U.S.A. is on the rise, and improving their physical and mental health, balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity. Also, their studies show that yoga can “improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior,” and further supports the findings of the above mentioned research by Nanthakumar in the positive effects of yoga in reducing anxiety and stress in children. Another added finding was that “yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.”
The Kids Yoga Research also published a study in September 2012, summarizing the benefits of Yoga for kids based on a myriad of academic and scientific studies that were conducted in this respect. All of it supported the findings from the studies already mentioned above, and adding that “…overwhelmingly, research shows that children…may also choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity than children who do not. The studies also illustrate that centered, calm and focused children learn more easily, have better social skills and, in general, are much happier kids.” And furthermore that the practice of yoga for children in summary: “helps manage chronic illness, improves prefrontal cortex function (including the ability to plan and execute complex functions), influences neurotransmitter function, improves strength and flexibility of muscles while increasing circulation, uptake of oxygen, and functioning of hormones, and makes the parasympathetic nervous system may become more dominant and stabilize the autonomic nervous system to enhance resistance to the effects of stress.”
Need we say more?! All in all, yoga offers a highly effective training of mind and body to bring emotional balance. It gives children the tools required to attune to their bodies, feelings, and ideas. It brings about better balance, posture, coordination, mindfulness, health, self-love, compassion, understanding, connection, holistic integration – I feel I could go on with this list forever..and that you get the point for now 😉 We want to encourage a healthy, happy lifestyle for everyone, don’t we?
At schools, children are taught about the world around them, but generally not how to connect with it. It would be great for schools to integrate teaching mental concentration in their curriculums as well as way to tune into the Universe in beneficial ways! How to expect kids to memorize all that stuff if they don’t know how to focus their attention? Yoga teaches beyond what is taught at the average school. It offers a deeper sense of living and perceiving the world.
It is a pity that some things are not taught at school. For example: they are told to study, but not how to study and concentrate their attention. They are quickly diagnosed with symptoms of ADHD, and given medication rather than teaching them how to deal with it in more natural and healthy ways. It is wonderful to see the popularity of Yoga growing. If schools could incorporate yoga as part of the physical education curriculum, it will be to a great advantage for students, and how amazing that would be!
I personally love teaching kids yoga because it effortlessly throws me straight into the heart, anahata chakra. It awakens my playfulness. I love to see and work with the variety of authentic personalities, still so unconditioned. It brings a sense of lightness to everything and reminds me not to take it all so seriously in life! I always feel it’s a give and take – although I may be playing the role of the teacher, I really learn a lot from them too.
One of my personal missions is to dedicate a big part of what I do in my life to Kids Yoga: both teaching classes as well as encouraging parents and communities to do the same. I could have saved myself a lot of suffering and unnecessary stress if I had known more Yoga throughout my childhood. Children are our future! After having lots of fun leading weekly Kids Yoga classes over the past three years, it has become very clear to me that dedicating my time to sharing Yoga with children is part of my dharma, my purpose.
Yoga can be playful, fun and interactive as a family activity at at home too! So get some guidance: find your local kids yoga teacher – join the kids yoga activities with Ananda Bogers here at saktiisha; get inspired- you can find lots of inspiration online to gather ideas to play some yoga games with your (or your friends’ and family’s!) kids at home , get creative – and get STARTED!
Doing yoga with children is one of the greatest gifts we can gift them, and to the future of humanity. As a wiseman once said: “Children are our future, so let’s be their now.”
Aldona from Saktiisha
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