A Qigong Remedy for Loneliness - The Art of Living Retreat Center

Awaken Awareness: A Qigong Remedy for Loneliness

By Robert Peng
January 10, 2019

A Qigong Remedy for Loneliness - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

The modern world is a lonely place. Even when we’re surrounded by people, and even when we keep ourselves busy, loneliness has this tendency to creep in and make itself at home.

Whenever you’re feeling disconnected, isolated, or driftless, you can cultivate a feeling of being at home in your family, your community, and the universe at large by practicing a simple qigong exercise called “Awaken Awareness.”

 

The more you sharpen your awareness, the more you enjoy this moment—and the more you feel connected to the people around you and the entire universe. When you do this practice regularly, it becomes easier to integrate into your daily activities, until eventually it becomes as natural as walking or breathing. Here are the instructions from my book, The Master Key:

 

Part One: Awareness

1. Sit upright comfortably in a chair with your hands resting on your lap. Open your eyes and become aware of the outer world. This is the world that flows into awareness through the physical senses. Concentrate on the sights, sounds, smells, and the sense of space around you. Continue doing this for a few seconds.

2. Now close your eyes and become aware of your inner world. This is the world that flows into awareness through the inner senses. Concentrate on the feelings and images floating through your mind, and even on the sense of time flowing by. Continue doing this for a few seconds.

 

Part Two: Focus

3. Now with your eyes still closed, focus your attention outward once again to the qualities of the outer world. This state of consciousness feels like being in a dark forest on a dark night while your senses extend like antennas. Continue doing this for a few seconds.

4. Next, open your eyes and focus your attention on the qualities of your inner world. This state of consciousness feels like being in a daydream in which your eyes are open but your senses are introverted. Continue doing this for a few seconds.

 

Part Three: Integration

5. With your eyes still open, now become aware simultaneously of both your inner world and the outer world. Become aware of both objective and subjective experiences arising in awareness. Concentrate on the spacious quality of awareness for a few seconds.

6. Then close your eyes while maintaining an awareness of awareness of both your inner world and the outer world. Realize that all experiences arise in the light of awareness. Concentrate on the formless quality of awareness for a few seconds.

7. Now let go of all experience. Allow your inner world and the outer world to dissolve into nothingness. Become “aware” of awareness itself. Awaken your awareness. Realize that “Awakened Awareness” is your true nature.

 

Rediscover the universe inside of you and your place in the universe. Robert Peng hosts Qigong Empowerments for Wisdom and Vitality at the Art of Living Retreat Center from March 17th-22nd, 2019.

 
Presenter Bio Image
Robert Peng

Robert Peng is a Qigong master who, as a boy in China, secretly apprenticed under the legendary Buddhist monk Xiao Yao. Yao trained him in the martial and healing arts – a training which included 100 days of meditation and fasting in a dark, underground chamber deep in the mountains of the Chinese countryside. Later, Robert discovered that he had developed spiritual powers – including the ability to transmit powerful energy from his hands. He now offers a distillation of his training in the form of Qigong Empowerments, with the intention of enhancing the well-being and quality of life of his students.

 

This article was adapted from The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom by Robert Peng.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

   
TAGS: awareness , loneliness , meditation , mindfulness , qigong , Robert Peng

A Breathing Practice to Calm, Soothe, & Relax

By AOLRC
December 20, 2018



For the last 35 years, the Art of Living has taught over 30 million people how to use breathing exercises to quiet the mind, reduce stress and make meditation easier – and Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of our favorites.

In Sanskrit, Alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations such as job interviews and public speaking engagements.

How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and the hips relaxed. Release any tension from your jaw. Close your eyes.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee with the palm face upward, or in the Chin Mudra by pressing the index finger and thumb together.
  • Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows with the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril and use the thumb for the right nostril.
  • On an exhalation, close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
  • Breathe in through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger.
  • Release the thumb on the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger from the left side and exhale through the left nostril.
  • These two full breaths are called one round of Alternate Nostril Breath.
  • Perform 5 to 9 rounds of this alternating breath between the nostrils. Remember to always inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.

The Nadi Shodhana Pranayama will relax the mind and prepare it for meditation, making it a great technique to perform before meditating.

The Benefits

  • Calms and centers the mind
  • Brings the mind to the present moment and out of the past (releasing old fears, regret, and worry)
  • Therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
  • Stress relieving and relaxing for the body and mind
  • Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
  • Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
  • Maintains body temperature.

3 Things to Remember

  • The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
  • Do not force the breath – keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
  • Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.

Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Watch Art of Living faculty member, Jim Larsen, guide Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


 

Interested in learning more about yoga and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , breathing , experiences , health , meditation , pranayama , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training
What is Consciousness? - The Art of Living Retreat Center

What is Consciousness?

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
December 8, 2018

What is Consciousness? - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

You ask me what is consciousness, but I ask you, what is not consciousness? Everything is made of of consciousness.

 

When you go deep into that empty space that you are feeling in meditation, three things happen. At the beginning of the meditation, you don’t see anything, you just see emptiness, but when you put attention there, when you continue there, then you start feeling the vibrations. This is called spandana, when you feel some vibrations, some sensations, and then that vibration becomes light.

 

So the first step is really nothing but relaxation, and then from there feeling the energy, sensations, vibrations, and then it becomes light.

 

But when you can’t just sit, and say things like, “Oh, where is the vibration?”, or “I want the light now,” it’s not going to happen, forget about it. Expectation itself keeps you in a very excited state of consciousness, and keeps your mind on the surface level, so it doesn’t let you go in.

 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian and spiritual leader, an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Sri Sri has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world.  He has founded courses that provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and he has established nonprofit organizations that recognize a common human identity above the boundaries of race, nationality, and religion.

   

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: consciousness , meditation , mindfulness , spirituality , sri sri ravi shankar

Too Busy to Breathe? 5 Easy Tips to Incorporate Yoga into a Busy Day

By AOLRC
November 22, 2018



Regular contemporary life is quite hectic, and the mind, body, and spirit go through various spins just trying to keep up. While we’re running amuck, tending to chores, and fulfilling our duties, we have a tendency to fall out of sync with ourselves, which eventually results in a deterioration of our health and well-being.

The truth is that we all need a support system in the form of something that can help us keep running and remain healthy even on our busiest days. Yoga has been helping people for centuries to achieve complete balance in the body, mind, and spirit. The science of yoga is universal and does not require a specific time, place, or schedule in order for practitioners to benefit. You can make it your most reliable companion, even on the busiest of days. All yoga needs is the right mindset. Here are five ways you can incorporate yoga into your hectic schedule and achieve greater balance, harmony, and wellness.

1. Begin the Morning with Sun Salutations

If you snooze in the morning, then you shall lose the day! True to these words, yoga demands commitment, but in return, it will be your constant supporter, even through your worst days. The first step to incorporating yoga into a busy lifestyle is adjusting your body clock so that it is in line with the daily cycle. As a yogi, it is essential to function in harmony with the energy cycle of the sun. This means getting 6-8 hours of sleep, along with ensuring that the wake-up time is at or before the sunrise. Turn off the lights and put away your electronics by 11pm, so you can wake up feeling fresh and active just before the sun begins to shine its first rays. Begin your day with 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, which can have the same effect as a 45-minute workout. Through Surya Namaskar, you not only pay homage to the ultimate source of power (the Sun) but also start your day off prioritizing your mind, body, and spirit.

2. Practice Yogic Breaths On-the-Go

Breath is the source of life. Yoga explains how breath is directly linked to the health and wellness of the entire body and mind – this pranayama breathing technique can be performed anytime and anywhere. All you have to do is breathe into the full capacity of the lungs, retain the breath for a few seconds, and gently breathe out through the nostrils. This is recognized as Simple Relaxation Yoga Breathing. This process of breathwork not only clears any channel blockages in the body and mind, but also ensures that impurities are flushed out from the body in the form of carbon dioxide. If you want to kick it up a notch, there are a few other yogic breathing techniques that you can try, such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Sudarshan Kriya, Sheetali Breath, or Kapalbhati.

3. Embrace an Ayurvedic Diet Regimen

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, has a significant role to play in sustaining a yogic lifestyle. Our body is composed of different doshas (constitutions) that directly influence our physical and mental behavioral patterns. Maintaining a dietary discipline according to the body constitution is crucial for gaining the maximum results from your yoga practice. If you are unsure about your dosha, then seek the help of an Ayurveda expert, and begin to incorporate the suggested personalized diet that they will recommend.

4. Take Yoga Breaks

If you’re too busy to roll out the yoga mat and perform a full routine, this doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga! If you are devoted and in need, then the science shall accompany you wherever you go. Take a few minutes in the car, at work, at your desk, or in the kitchen to practice some Chair Yoga. Try the Seated Spinal Twist, Cat/Cow Pose, Seated Camel Pose, Seated Forward Bend, Seated Tree Pose, or any other poses that you can perform comfortably and in the space of a few minutes. These poses are simple, restorative, and highly effective in keeping the circulation of energy up and running through the entire body from head to toe.

5. Conclude the Day with a 10-Minute Meditation

Now that you are all set to doze off, invest in a few minutes of guided meditation and self-reflection. This can be done by lying down in a supine position, and gently reminiscing about the gifts of life with gratitude while embracing any disparity with positivity. This will help you sleep better, as the practice puts both the mind and the body in a peaceful state.

The first step to welcoming yoga into your life is a resolution. The rest will follow.

By Manmohan Singh. Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


 

Interested in learning more about yoga and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , Ayurveda , experiences , health , healthy lifestyle , meditation , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training

Exploring Wisdom: Shakta Khalsa on the Energy Between Us

By Shakta Khalsa
October 5, 2018

The Energy Between Us - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

Every thought, every feeling, every action has a particular frequency of energy or vibration. The American Heritage Dictionary defines vibration, in the sense that I am using it, as: A distinctive emotional aura or atmosphere regarded as being instinctively sensed or experienced.

 

Tuning into your emotional aura and energy

I like the description of vibration as an “emotional aura,” because I feel it accurately describes the tone of the frequency that we emanate at any moment. If I am sad, my emotional aura, or signal, is of the frequency of sadness. And if I am happy, the signal I emit is joy. Others who come into my energy field pick up on that signal either consciously or unconsciously and respond to it. The really good news is that we can learn to become mindful of our vibration and, with practice, consciously choose the vibration we want to feel.

 

This atmosphere of thinking, in terms of energy and vibration, is the new luminous space we are feeling for in our relationship to ourselves and, in turn, with our children.

 

The true impact of disengagement

Consider this scenario and the various energy vibrations it contains: Mom (or Dad) is driving with a 4-year-old who is sitting in their car seat in the back. They are driving down a highway when another car cuts them off, and Mom has to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Mom begins to swear, then tries to calm down. The child notices the dramatic change in her parent’s energy. This child can tell that something upsetting has happened, so she asks, “What’s the matter, Mom?”

 

Now, Mom can either use this as a time to “protect” the child by saying, “Nothing, honey. Everything is fine.” Then Mom looks at the small child through the rearview mirror trying to smile, but it really doesn’t reach her eyes because she’s scared. The child, being intuitive and instinctive to feelings, knows that something is not fine.

 

So this one little incident becomes one of many little incidents for the child, and over time the child will begin to believe that either: (1) Adults do not tell the truth because what they say does not match with what I can feel, so they cannot always be trusted, or (2) Since adults are bigger and wiser and must be telling the truth, I must not be perceiving this correctly. This is how a child begins the path of mistrusting his or her own guidance.

 

Choosing presence and intention

Now, since every cloud has a proverbial silver lining, we can turn this same scenario around so that it becomes a gift. The same thing happens, but this time when the child says, “What’s the matter, Mom?” Mom says, “That car cut me off and I got scared we’d have an accident, so I got a little upset. But everything is okay now. I am calming myself down by taking some deep breaths; do you want to do it with me?” And she glances at her child with an encouraging smile. Now the child can relax and feel safe. She also gained three profound understandings:

  • Things happen in life that I may get upset about.
  • It is okay to admit that.
  • There are tools, like breathing, that I can use to help myself feel better on the spot and recover my connection to my inner self.

Obviously Mom or Dad or Teacher would do well to practice centering techniques such as breathing or meditation at times when there is a lull in the action. Centering practices set the stage for positive experiences when life with children is presenting the threat of a storm, and can even help avoid a full-blown hurricane-level interaction.

 

Learning to remain centered for yourself and your child

In my yoga path, we always take a moment to center with the breath or sound before starting a project. It is a great habit to get into, even for small things such as answering the phone mindfully, getting ready to drive the car, or having a conversation with your child. The centering makes all the difference in the interaction. In my Montessori training, we were told to get on the level of the child and look into their eyes with an open, supportive attitude. I think of it as answering an invitation into their world.

 

More and more parents and teachers are practicing the “highest yoga” by relating to children with an attitude of wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Life becomes so interesting, and yes, even extraordinary—once we start the inner journey toward being who we actually are, our authentic selves. It’s at this place that we sense what truly exists and find ways to deal with what life brings us in a more graceful, connected manner.

 

Do you feel called to share the joy of yoga with children? Join Shakta for her Radiant Child Yoga Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 7th-11th, 2018, and contribute to the building of a more peaceful world.

 

This article is excerpted from The Yoga Way to Radiance by Shakta Khalsa. © 2016. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd and reposted with permission from the author.

 

Shakta Khalsa, ERYT-500 and IKYTA certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, is a leading expert on children and yoga.. She is a parent, Montessori educator, and a yoga professional recognized by Yoga Journal magazine as one of the top five Kundalini Yoga teachers in the world. Shakta is the Founder and Director of Radiant Child® Yoga, an internationally-known training program for teaching children yoga and working with/raising children consciously.  In the children’s yoga community, Shakta is considered the “godmother” of the children’s yoga movement.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: childhood , children , energy , intuition , meditation , mindfulness , parenting
Yin Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Gifts of Yin Yoga: A Balance to an Active Life and Practice

By Brahmani Liebman and Jashoda Edmunds
September 4, 2018

Yin Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

The yoga practice of your dreams

What if you could listen to dharma teachings and receive the benefits of being in a yoga posture?

 

What if you could calm the nervous system and enhance your energy at the same time?

 

What if you could practice meditation and yoga simultaneously?

 

What if you could find a practice that was both contemplative and energy enhancing?

 

What if you could nourish the connective tissues, joints, and bones while also accessing the deeper parts of your mind?

 

What if your active practice could be even more fluid?

 

What if you were able to sit with even more comfort and ease in your meditation practice?

 

What if you had a practice that complemented Kripalu Yoga in its invitation to grow in tolerance and go beyond your self-limiting beliefs?

 

Welcome to Yin Yoga!

We first discovered Yin Yoga at a Yoga Journal Conference in Manhattan around the year 2000. That class taught by Sarah Powers inspired each of us. She modeled how to marry our two loves of meditation and yoga practice. We both observed a more open body and quieter mind, as well as a depth experienced through the integration of the dharma (specifically yoga, Buddhism, and psychospiritual inquiry) while holding the postures. We had been students of Vipassana meditation for a number of years, and this gave us each freedom to include and share all that has inspired us in our practices and studies.

 

As we all know, the tendency in the Western culture is to overschedule, keep busy, do more, and go, go, go. We see it happening from early childhood on throughout life. We even see it manifesting in the world of yoga and meditation. Yin Yoga offers the possibility to stop, look, and listen. Yin Yoga asks us to keep being here in this moment, because it is the only place that life is happening. It’s the perfect complement to our active lives and to a more active yoga.

 

What is Yin Yoga?

The three basic teachings or tenets of Yin Yoga are:

  1. Practice appropriate pressure: Come to an edge of sensation that is neither neutral nor alarming.
  2. Remain muscularly passive: Come into the posture while allowing the muscles to be soft and passive, so the prana can move through the body to nourish the connective tissue, joints, and bones.
  3. Stay awhile: Longer holdings of three to five minutes enable you to grow the capacities beyond the mind and the self-limiting concepts of what we think. This steady pressure allows prana to accumulate and flow.

Placing the body in a posture, Yin style, invites an open receptivity to inspiring teachings. This can happen when practicing in a class or on your own, through recordings.

 

As a teacher of Yin Yoga, you have the opportunity to share relevant and meaningful teachings that inform, inspire, and light you up. When you impart teachings during the Yin portion of your classes, you can carry that theme throughout class and into life.

 

How to use Yin Yoga

How and when might you use Yin Yoga? It can be practiced on its own, as well as part of a yin (passive)/yang (active) practice. To receive the greatest benefit to the connective tissues, joints, and bones, it’s best to practice before warming the muscles in an active practice.

 

One of our favorite things about Yin Yoga is that it can be practiced upon waking, right in the comfort of your own bed. Place your body in a Yin pose; set the timer for three to five minutes; breathe long, slow Ujjayi breaths; and allow the pose to prepare the body and mind for sitting meditation. In fact, preparation for meditation is one of the primary benefits of Yin Yoga.

 

Other times to practice might be before bed or in the middle of the night, to allow the nervous system to settle, or anytime an active practice is not appropriate (such as during a healing process).

 

Wide-Knee Child’s Pose, Yin Style

  1. Begin in Table pose, with knees under hips and hands under shoulders.
  2. Spread the knees wide and bring the feet towards each other.
  3. Press the hips back and as close as possible to the feet and meet the appropriate edge.
  4. Come to rest on the elbows and spread them wide, placing one hand on the other and resting the head on your hands. Keep a gentle press into the hands or elbows to keep the weight back in the hips and out of the knees.
  5. Stay in the pose for three to five minutes.
 

To release,

  1. Press into your hands
  2. Bring your buttocks off your heels
  3. Lift one knee at a time and bring it back under the hips
  4. Press back into Child’s pose
  5. Pause and feel the effects.

For a variation on the posture, try either beginning in Child’s pose; extending the arms overhead; or resting the chest on a folded blanket or bolster.

Experiment with this practice and make it your own!

 

Connect to your inner wisdom for transformation. Brahmani Liebman and Jashoda Edmunds host Journey Into Yoga: Awakening the Wisdom Within this September 21-23 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.

 

Brahmani Liebman, MSEd, E-RYT 500, has been studying yoga and meditation since the 1970s and has been a yoga teacher since 1988. A member of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training faculty, she founded the Rivertown Center for Yoga and Health in Dobbs Ferry, New York. She is cocreator, with Jashoda Edmunds, of Journey into Yoga School of Yoga & Meditation teacher trainings and the CD Journey into Yoga: Awakening the Spirit. Brahmani has additional training as a Phoenix Rising yoga therapist and Transcendental Reiki master/teacher.

 

Jashoda Edmunds, E-RYT 500, has studied yoga since 1971 and began teaching in 1987. With Brahmani Liebman, she is cocreator of Journey into Yoga teacher training and the CD Journey into Yoga: Awakening the Spirit. Jashoda is a founding member of the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association (now the Kripalu Yoga and Ayurveda Association) and a member of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training faculty. She also draws on her study of Buddhism and her training as a Phoenix Rising yoga therapist, shiatsu practitioner, and craniosacral therapist.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , brahmani liebman , jashoda edmunds , meditation , yin yoga , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat
Nature, Dance, and Meditation - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Nature, Dance, and Meditation

By Jon Turk
August 23, 2018

Nature, Dance, and Meditation - Art of Living Retreat Center

In my life, I’ve done some very long expeditions into the wilderness, some lasting several months. What I’ve learned is that when you spend time in silence, in vulnerability, and in connection with nature, what happens is that these useless thoughts that you have are just thrown out. You’re left with a cleaner mind.

 

I want everyone to experience that peace of mind, so for a long time, I’d been trying to find a way to help others reach that state. But you can’t compress a three-month experience into three hour class. You can certainly help somebody with the techniques of meditation, but you can’t “teach” someone to meditate in a weekend. It doesn’t work that way. It takes commitment and dedication. No matter what I did, I couldn’t design a methodology that had that kind of impact.

 

Then, something amazing happened to me. I was presented with an opportunity to become a storyteller with a modern dance company headed by Jody Weber.

 

Dance and ecstasy

We spent a couple of years performing one of my stories, The Raven’s Gift. It energized our audiences in an incredible way. I realized that this was because we’d compressed around five years of exploring Siberia into one very ecstatic movement. Dance reaches a form of ecstasy that speech just doesn’t.

 

It was a wow moment. Instead of taking people into the wilderness and trying to compress this experience, we could create ecstasy in storytelling through dance. Dance could be the meditation.

 

Many, many animals dance. If you’ve ever seen a polar bear sliding down an ice or snow field and just having a bang of a good time, that bear is actually dancing. Dance is so much deeper than speech. It’s a medium that journeys your brain into ecstasy.

 

Healing through dance

Everybody gets broken in life. You break your bones. You break your spirit. People break. It’s inevitable. So we have to learn how to heal, and one of the ways we can do this is through dance.

 

Jody and I visited a youth detention facility to teach. It’s beautiful spring day and we’re in this gray building with bars in the window. People are walking around with guns, and the warden says to us, “You have one hour to give these child criminals a bit of hope.” We hadn’t practiced anything in preparation for this, but we begin anyway.

 

The dancers we’d brought with us get up and say, “Okay, we’re going to dance the dance of flowing water. Water flows. You can’t stop water. It doesn’t get interrupted, so we’re going to be the way.” The dancers started dancing, and I’m thinking “Oh boy, these kids are not gonna buy this.” Well, let me tell you. By the end of the hour, we had every single one of those hardened, sometimes violent, child criminals up and dancing. At the end of the hour, tears were just streaming from my eyes. We were dancing our ways not necessarily out of physical prisons, but personal ones, and that was very powerful for everyone involved.

 

Forgetting our mythologies

People are the only animals that think about things that don’t exist, so we make up stories. These stories take up a lot of brainpower. Nature takes those extraneous thoughts and just sucks them out like a sponge. That’s why we experience such peace in nature. That’s why we connect with cats and dogs–they talk to us, but in that deeper language. This is what music is. Dance, animals, a snowstorm, a sunny day in the desert–all take these mythologies that we build out of us and turn us back into something more peaceful. And that’s something incredibly powerful.

 

Jon Turk earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1971 and was nominated by National Geographic as one of the Top Ten Adventurers of the Year in 2012. Between these bookends, Jon wrote the first environmental science textbook in North America, while simultaneously pursuing extreme adventure: he has kayaked around Cape Horn and across the North Pacific, circumnavigated Ellesmere Island, and made first climbing ascents and ski descents on remote mountains all over the world. Between 1999 and 2005, Jon learned Koryak wisdom from Moolynaut, one of the last of the old time Siberian shamans. Jon has written four popular books on his adventures and the Conscious Revolution that will carry humanity into the 21st century with hope, sustainability, and compassion.

 

Join Jon Turk and Jody Weber at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 5th to 7th, 2018, for their retreat, Techniques of Joyful Meditation. 

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: dance , meditation , mythology , nature , storytelling , wellness , wisdom
The Wisdom of Tai Chi - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: David-Dorian Ross on the Wisdom of Tai Chi

By David-Dorian Ross
August 11, 2018

The Wisdom of Tai Chi - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

This past May, the Art of Living Retreat Center hosted David-Dorian Ross for Power, Freedom, and Flow, a weekend of connection and transformation through the practices of Tai Chi, yoga, guided mediation, and QiGong. Here, he shares his journey with Tai Chi, and how this gentle, holistic practice can change your life too. 

 

Tai Chi is a teacher

I’ve been teaching Tai Chi for about 40 years, and I continue to benefit from it every day–not just what it teaches me about health and longevity, but what it teaches me about about daily life too; about relating to other people, dealing with problems, and most of all, about my relationship with myself.

 

What is Taijifit?

Taijifit is how I give back. I started Taijifit as a part of an ongoing exploration of different methods to share Tai Chi with a wider audience.

 

One of the things that really amazed me was the sharp decline of Tai Chi practitioners after a short period of time. A lot of people are interested in it, but very few stick with it. A lot of teachers tell me how they’ll start with 25 people in their class, and it dwindles over time to two or three. But rather than thinking there was something wrong with the students or teachers, I began to look at the methodology used to teach Tai Chi. How do we keep people engaged long enough for them to really taste the magic of this wonderful practice?

 

Taijifit is a format that meets people where they are. We use beautiful, contemporary music, and focus on learning long, complex routines of movements. In fact, we could do a hundred days of Tai Chi and never use the same routine twice. Every session is different and special, and yet still focused on the central characteristic of Tai Chi — something we call “flow”– which is the connecting energy that binds the body, mind, and spirit together.

 

Tapping into our authentic nature

One of the things that we all want to find is a way to tap into our authentic nature. Our own original, innocent, pure spirit. In our philosophy, we believe that you’re born with this and that it’s inherent within you, but that as we age and become adults, sometimes we stray away from this flow.

 

We have lifestyles that perpetuate separation from our flow. When you wake up in the morning, you’re close to your authentic self, but then you brush your teeth, take your shower, and get dressed, and then all of a sudden you’re in work mode, and you’ve got to put on a different face. After work, you go to the gym and put on a different face there, and then you go home and you have a different face there, too. We even have different costumes and speech patterns within the confines of different social environments. This interruption is the opposite of flow.

 

Learning to reintegrate flow

Just like a stream that hits a dam, your energy, your spirit, and your authentic personhood stops at these different junctions. But what if that wasn’t true? What if you could feel comfortable and unselfconscious while being exactly the same person who got out of bed in the morning? The same person at church, at the bowling alley, at the dinner table? That’s true authenticity. That’s tapping into your true nature.

 

So how do you do that? Well, the first thing to learn to recognize is when you’re interrupting that flow of life. This interruption happens so fast and is so habitual that we don’t recognize when we’re in it. That’s what Tai Chi teaches us. Tai Chi makes this concept physical and observable, so that you can tell when your flow is interrupted. You can sense, feel, and measure the stopping and starting of flow.

 

Tai Chi is an active meditation. The way that we think most often is that we judge, and assess, and analyze constantly. It’s a process that keeps us from being in the moment. Movement, on the other hand, happens in the now and brings you to the now.

 

Tai Chi and aging

Tai Chi is great for the aging process and for helping people retain flexibility in motion. Aging is just a description of the process of what happens when our bodies don’t regenerate. When our bodies fail to keep up with the ravages of the environment, most prominently gravity, which is working on us all the time. It’s just natural to our existence on this planet.

 

One of the reasons why the body sometimes fails to keep up with those environmental problems is that it’s out of balance. A body that is in harmony, that is balanced and in equilibrium, has the best chance of using its inherent nature to heal itself. The body that is out of balance, on the other hand, is less able to keep up with environmental ravages.

 

When we’re observing the aging process, what we’re really observing is a body-out-of-balance who’s struggling to keep up with the inevitable. What Tai Chi does is train you–it continuously brings you back into a balanced and harmonious state. The postures are based upon the physics of equilibrium so that even the martial aspect, the fighting aspect of Tai Chi, is about finding harmony.

 

A practice of love

The thing is, Tai Chi has the reputation of being boring. People are afraid they don’t have the balance, that they’re going to fall or look silly or feel self-conscious. But with Taijifit, we inject a little fun back into it. We create a community in which we work very hard. We create all kinds of conversations and events and environments in which we know that there will be no judgement. In which we know that there’s only love.

 

A philosophy and physical practice together

Tai Chi literally changed my life. I’ve got terrible genes in my family–emphysema, COPD, cancer, heart disease–and I’m so obnoxiously healthy it’s not even funny. Of course, I’m not immune to social pressures and the gravity of the world’s current situation, but Tai Chi is my guiding path, a philosophy and physical practice blended together. My work is my spiritual practice. There is nothing higher for me than getting up and doing it every morning. That is my prayer. That is my meditation.

 

Grandmaster David-Dorian Ross has introduced more students to Tai Chi than any other teacher in America. Master Ross has written, produced and starred in more than 150 educational dvds and television programs. He is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit, the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program, and is the director of the first online Tai Chi academy. Trained in China by championship martial arts coaches, Master Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive Tai Chi, winning eight U.S. gold medals, a world silver medal and two world bronze medals —the highest awards ever given to an American for international Tai Chi performance.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

 
TAGS: holistic wellness , meditation , tai chi , wellness , wisdom
Bringing Joy into the Body - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Bringing Joy into the Body

By Jody Weber
August 9, 2018

Bringing Joy into the Body - Art of Living Retreat Center

Dance has always been a part of my life. After years of rigorous training, I became a performer in New York City, Washington D.C., and later Boston. For the past 26 years, I’ve also been a choreographer making dances that ask questions about our fundamental relationship with ourselves, and with our beautiful blue planet.

 

Our deep connection with nature

Science has always played a role in my inquiry, and science is now catching up with the power of interconnectivity through works like The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Both of these books have influenced my most recent work, Her Sylvan Ascent, and profoundly engage our understanding of our relationship with nature and the deeply connected structures that maintain balanced ecosystems.

 

The powerful wisdom of the body

How can we deepen our own connections? How can we find paths to our own inner wisdom to guide choices that are in balance with our own joyous spirit? As a dancer, I believe that the answer includes our full selves. I understand the powerful wisdom of the body and how it can teach us to be in alignment, and I share my upcoming retreat cohost Jon’s profound love of what the natural world can say in response — if we are willing to listen.

 

Communion with the natural world

My path has included work with Alberto Villoldo, whose mentorship has helped me develop a more comprehensive understanding of the way that intuition, meditation, and creativity can be enhanced through physical practice and communion with the natural world. Through this work, I am able to bring the tools of shamanic practice to the workshop, united with movement practices that will open our hearts and help each of us establish a relationship between our physical bodies and the energetic world.

 

Techniques of Joyful Meditation

It was synchronicity that brought Jon and I together many years ago, and I am thrilled to share this weekend with him — and with you. Jon’s marvelous tales from his extraordinary life illuminate a magical world, and I know it will be a special time for all of us. I hope you will join us at the Art of Living Retreat Center in October for Techniques of Joyful Meditation. 

 

Dr. Jody Weber has had a beautiful, fulfilling thirty-year career as a choreographer, teacher, and dance historian working in academia, traveling with her professional company, and working with communities across the nation. She is also a trained shamanic practitioner through the Andean Lineage. As a graduate of Alberto Villoldo’s Light Body School, she is thrilled to offer ancient practices to help clients clear their energy fields, balance their physical bodies, and pursue their life’s work.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: body , creativity , dance , meditation , nature , shaman , wisdom

5 Benefits of Using Ujjayi Breath in Your Yoga Practice

By Tommi Howard
August 6, 2018

 

Whether you have just started out on your yoga journey or are an advanced practitioner, the Ujjayi breath is a powerful technique that you can use to transform your practice. Ujjayi is unique in that unlike some other forms of pranayama, or breathing exercises, it can be used during your moving asana practice as well as whilst seated – adding a whole new dimension to your yoga.

Breath of Victory

Ujjayi breath means “breath of victory” as it brings a sense of upliftment, power, and confidence to the practitioner as well as soothing and focusing the mind through its ocean sounding movement – giving this pranayama its other name: the ocean breath.

Integrating Ujjayi pranayama into your practice will deepen your experience both on and off the mat. Here we share the top five benefits of Ujjayi:

 

1. Physical Health

The technique builds internal heat which helps release tight areas of the body thus making the body less prone to injury while stretching. At the same time, by expanding the lungs further than usual, circulation increases and toxins are released from the inner organs. Further benefits include a strengthened immune system, improved sleep, assistance in controlling high blood pressure and thyroid problems, and rejuvenates the nervous system.

 

2. Flow of Energy

The Ujjayi breath allows more prana, our vital life-force, to enter the mind-body system, cleansing the channels (nadis), through which it passes, of stagnant energy which helps the body overcome fatigue, stress and negativity. This pranayama further encourages the movement of energy from the root energy center all the way up to the crown.

3. Relieving Stress

When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or nervous, the slow, concentrated, rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath has been shown to be very effective in calming the nervous system almost immediately. Studies have also shown the breath balances the cardiorespiratory system. Restoring balance to these two systems helps release stress, irritation and frustration and calms the mind and body.

 

4. Focus

The steadiness, sound, and depth of the Ujjayi breath help align the mind, body, and spirit with the present moment. When this happens, mental clarity and focus increase. The flow between asanas is effortless. Stability increases, and it is possible to hold postures for a longer period of time. Maintaining the Ujjayi breath throughout your practice allows you to remain centered, grounded and embodied – keeping thoughts at bay.

 

5. Meditation & Relaxation

The Ujjayi breath promotes calmness in the body and mind. The constriction of the throat causes vibrations in the larynx, stimulating sensory receptors that signal the vagus nerve to relax the mind and body. This contraction also exerts a gentle pressure on the carotid sinuses in the neck, leading to reduced tension. The slow, steady rhythm of the breath also makes it easier to let go during restorative postures and further supports sense withdrawal, helping ease the way into a meditative state.

Ujjayi is a profound pranayama with far-reaching benefits. Introduce Ujjayi into your asana practice and begin experiencing the power of this breath.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , breathing , meditation , yoga

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