Breath - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Are you Bored with your Breath?

By Denise Lyon
June 11, 2018

Breath - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

At the beginning of most of my meditations I set an intention. This morning I asked for wisdom to arise that would let me know why I don’t always take care of myself…why I don’t always put exercising or eating better or resting at the top of my list. Why does everything else seem to bubble to the top? Why can’t I seem to get everything done. Sound familiar?

 

So I was expecting (ok, remember Denise…let go of expectations in meditation) to gain a better understanding of self love, self empowerment on a grand scale from the morning meditation. But you know what I heard?

Part of creation

My Breath Awareness Meditation taught me this morning that in every moment we are a part of the incredible life force that animates everything. With every inhale I am inhaling the very same thing that makes the sun rise, that makes a heart beat for the first time, that makes the neon green leaves emerge from the trees in Spring. With every inhale of breath I am honored to be a part of this creation, and with each exhale I have the opportunity to let go of that which doesn’t serve me…my judgments about myself, the lies I have told myself about me, my busyness that keeps me from seeing things as they really are…and on and on.

 

With every breath, let go

Every moment I can remember the miracle that I am and let go of anything that blocks the sunshine. With every breath I can do this. And with this same breath I can be reminded that I am a part of this life force. Wait…no, I AM! the life force that animates everything. I can allow the knowledge and the experience of this miraculous force to be what drives me everyday…that kicks my butt when I forget who and what I am. I exist inside the miracle of the energy of creation.

 

So I guess I really did gain a better understanding of self love. I have this to remember when I forget.

   

Denise Lyon is a mind and body healer, a soul-centered seeker, and believes that to create a peaceful and happy world, we start with creating our own peace and happiness. Denise is a dedicated meditator, a Certified Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor and a graduate of McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, AZ. Her heart’s desire is to provide a path anchored in ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience to help guide us to that place of living together in peace and possibility.

 

Are you new to meditation? Join Denise for her introductory Meditation and Mindfulness retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 24th to August 26th.

 

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: breath , Denise Lyon , meditation , mindfulness , the Practice
Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Niyamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
May 10, 2018

Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

Last month, we delved into how to practice Yamas on the mat. Today, we’ll be looking into Niyamas. The Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

 

Shaucha (purity)

Cleanliness and tidiness in the outer environment and your own personal cleanliness keeps the mind from becoming cluttered and irritable. On the mat, if your mind becomes disturbed, then your body cannot focus on doing asana, and the whole practice becomes disturbed.

Deeper understanding of Shaucha is to understand that your body and mind influence each other both on the mat and off the mat. Taking care of each is important to achieve a steady and comfortable asana. Balance and symmetry can only be achieved if the mind is calm and the body flows with the breath.

Shaucha on the mat means personal and environmental cleanliness, together with calmness of the mind.

 

Santosha (contentment)

Santosha on the mat means your asana practice is happening with a relaxed attitude of the body and mind.

Accepting the body as it is in that moment without complaint, and having a mindful attitude toward the practice of asana. When the mind and body are both relaxed, then every movement is joyful and becomes an expression of happiness.

 

Santosha on the mat is a tension-free body and a joyful mind, both flowing in harmony with the breath. 

 

Tapas (penance)

Tapas means willingly accepting adverse conditions without complaining, and this extends to your asana practice on the mat being met with a sincere attitude. Having patience and willingness to give the practice your sincere effort. This type of practice will develop endurance and stamina on the mat and build capacity for endurance off the mat.

 

Tapas on the mat is accepting the challenge of practice with a sincere attitude.

 

Swadhyaya (self-study)

Self-study on the mat means observing one’s attitude, balance, symmetry, and sincerity, and from these observations, learning to improve your own practice at your own pace.

Swadhyaya on the mat means learning from Self-reflection.

 

Ishwar pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)

Ishwar pranidhana is invited to your practice by 100% just letting go of any anxiety on the mat. Once your sincere effort has been given to achieving symmetry and balance on the mat, let the mind and body totally relax.

This attitude drops any feverishness. It allows you to transcend the body into stillness and the mind into a deep silence. This allows the divinity within to prevail.

Or as Patanjali explains, “Prayatna Shaithalya vAnant Samapatti bhyam!”

Ishwar Pranidhana on the mat is letting the divinity within be your guide into the practice and allowing the divinity to prevail: It is the journey and the destination!

 

In fact, one needs to follow only one of the Yamas or Niyamas and all other Yamas and Niyamas will start to manifest. Not just on the mat, but also in life. Each Yama or Niyama holds a secret to leading one to the truth, and like all rivers merge in the ocean, each of the Yamas and Niyamas bring one to the depth of True Consciousness.

Asatoma sat gamay…

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


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: alignment , niyamas , spirituality , the Practice , yoga

The Practice: Yamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
April 28, 2018

Yamas and Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

As per Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, Asana is the third limb, the first limb being Yamas and second limb being Niyamas. It makes sense, then, that the first two limbs must have some relevance to Asana practice. Superficially, there may not be an obvious connection, as the Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

Patanjali explains how an asana should be practiced: Sthir sukham asanam: An asana, or a pose, should be steady and comfortable. So how can Yamas and Niyamas help bring about an asana practice that is steady and comfortable?

Today, we’ll be looking into Yamas.

 

Ahimsa (non-violence)

In an ordinary sense, we see violence only when it is directed toward others. Rarely does one look at himself or herself through an understanding of non-violence.

On the mat, Ahimsa means that you choose to honour and respect your own body and its ability to practice asanas, so that you will not hurt myself physically or mentally. It means that you make an effort to do what you can on the mat with sincerity, respecting the limits of you body.

This means that you will not over-stretch or strain your body, and at the same time, will do what you are able to with what capability you have. If an asana is done with this attitude, it can be the first step towards being still and steady in body, mind, and spirit, to reaching a place where there is no judgement as to your ability and no comparison with others. Because the body is not strained, and the effort is sincere, the mind is relaxed and the spirit free.

 

Ahimsa on the mat is a sincere effort that honors the body and calms the mind.

 

Satya (truth)

How can an understanding of truth help on the mat? What does truth on the mat look like?

 

Truth remains the same on the mat or off the mat. There is truth in the fact that everything is changing at every moment. There is truth in the fact that one’s body and mind change daily, even from moment to moment! If you allow yourself to be swayed by the changes in the body or changes in your thoughts, feelings, and opinions, then your asana practice cannot possibly remain steady and comfortable.

 

Truth is also found in the thought that though everything changes, there is a part of you that is not changing. Your ability to stretch, lift, flex, and twist may improve as your practice becomes more intense and regular. These abilities of the body may also deteriorate as a result of illness, injury or aging. However, the understanding of a steady and comfortable asana can only continue to improve as you practice, so that you can transcend the body-mind attachment and discover the part of yourself that is unchanging.

 

Satya on the mat is: Body, breath and mind belong to me and change with time and circumstances. Honouring these changes I aspire to rise beyond these changes to that part of me that is unaffected by the change.

 

Asteya (non-stealing)

What can you possibly steal on the mat?

Asteya on the mat comes in the form of losing patience, or attempting advanced asanas on the mat, when you have not sincerely learned the basics of a beginner practice. If you want to practice and look the same as an advanced yoga practitioner without applying sincere effort, that, too, is stealing. You might also practice for shorter periods of time on far fewer days of the week, and still expect to gain the physical and mental benefits of yoga practice.

This insincere attitude is stealing, wanting more than what you have earned. In this type of practice, you cannot possibly reap all the benefits of yoga practice, and may even end up with a physical injury that will prevent you from continuing your practice. If you continue to envy the advanced practitioner, you may be left with a feeling of failure or disappointment.

A strained body and a disturbed mind cannot possibly bring you to a state of a steady and comfortable asana.

Asteya on the mat is being non-judgemental, non-competitive, and measuring your growth only by self-comparison. You are your only competition!

 

Brahmacharya (celibacy or moving in infinity)

How can one practice Brahmacharya on the mat?

Brahmacharya has a more superficial meaning of celibacy, but a deeper meaning of becoming free from desire and abiding in the Brahman. Abiding in the Self.

If by practicing asanas, your intention is to develop a slim, trim, and sexy body, then asana practice will become nothing more than an exercise routine. However, a properly instructed asana practice will bring you to a deeper understanding of the Self.

With full awareness of the body that is properly balanced with a mind that flows effortlessly with the breath, the asana practice itself becomes a meditation.

Brahmacharya on the mat is a body that is balanced, and a mind that flows effortlessly with the breath, so that the spirit is free to soar the vast expanse of the sky.

 

Aparigraha (non-accumulation)

How does one practice non-accumulation on the mat?

 

You are practicing aparigraha when you simply have the confidence that with sincere effort and proper execution of instruction, you will be able to do the asana mindfully. That as your understanding of the asanas increases, even simple asanas will unfold their complexities and value for your wellbeing. Having the confidence and being content with your abilities at any given stage in your practice will open up the path towards higher learning.

 

Aparigraha on the mat is confidence and trust that you shall be given what you need as you continue to do your practice sincerely.

 

Tune in next month for Niyamas on the Mat!

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


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: alignment , niyamas , nonviolence , the Practice , yamas , yoga
Kripalu Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Me and Kripalu Yoga, An Unexpected Love Story

By Heather Bilotta
April 26, 2018

Kripalu Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

I walked into my first yoga class at 19. It was strip mall yoga. I remember being told to relax and breathe while in poses where breath, and relaxation were the last things I imagined possible. “WTF” was muttered under my breath repeatedly as I contorted myself into painful poses I’d never done before. I worked hard and tried to keep up with a flow that felt like it was created by a sadist. When the class was over, I remember feeling really angry and hateful. No bliss. No peace of mind. I walked away from my first experience of asana wondering what the hell my straight-edge, vegan friends getting into yoga and joining the Hari Krishnas were thinking. Nuts. They were nuts.

 

Why I ran from yoga

But like many ultimately great relationships mine with yoga started with distaste and confusion. What the hell was this practice that pushed my buttons so deeply? Why would I want to chaturanga 20 times and then hold down dog while watching my brain spin? Not willing to quit right away I tried out some DVDs by yoga-lebrity teachers and disliked those too. Some were too fitness class like, some too New Agey. And just like the woman who runs from that guy at the party who sips seltzer and challenges her mind with interesting thoughts rather than telling her how hot she is, I ran from yoga.

 

What on earth is Kripalu Yoga? 

Flash forward by 9 years. My back hurt. It hurt bad. I had herniated discs during labor and the road to recovery was filled with intense lightning bolts of pain. Every doctor I had encouraged me to try yoga. “It’s good for a bad back,” they said. “It’ll be relaxing,” they said. With my initial experience of yoga with the sadist and boring DVDs it was hard to believe what I was hearing so I ignored the advice. After a year of limping through physical therapy, cortisone injections, and ever more pain I saw a flyer in my town for free yoga classes… this yoga had a weird name… Kripalu Yoga. Incredulous. Exasperated. I decided that I would try this yoga with the strange name.

 

I walked into the tiny rec center with a stinky carpet and cardio machines jammed against the wall and my tiny chunk of hope shrank even smaller. There were 10 or so people jammed into a room that only 6 people on yoga mats would fit comfortably…I was about to leave when my teacher Laura immediately sprang to help me find a spot. Everyone shifted a little left, a little right, and suddenly there was a place for me…it felt nice. My hope grew a smidge.

 

Coming home

There was gentle chanting playing from a tiny radio. She had a sweet little altar with sacred objects I didn’t recognize and this little chime that she struck right before she began to speak. After the chime sounded everyone stopped stretching and the room fell silent. We were old, young, fit, and fat people all gathered together. Looking around the room I felt a sense of ease. I felt that we each belonged there on that mat, in that place, with each other. I felt myself settle.

 

This is yoga!

When Laura spoke her voice resounded through the small space, sounding like warm honey tastes…nourishing and sweet. She encouraged us to turn our gaze inward and sense our breath and body as it was in the moment. Then for about 10 minutes we breathed and noticed that practice. We began simply, just filling our bellies with breath, then breath moved up a bit higher, all the way to the collarbone. We exhaled generously, squeezing the belly. I felt my self sink deep into my body, felt my busy mind slow way down. I felt the muscles in my body soften a little, felt peace beginning to bubble up from inside. Suddenly my heart and brain screamed from inside of me, THIS IS YOGA!

 

Finding the true potential of yoga 

Though the rest of the practice was challenging and again I found myself in poses I didn’t know that I could do and breathe simultaneously, again I felt angry about my body’s limitations, however there was a big difference between that night and my other experiences. This time I had space for it all. With my teacher’s gentle cues, encouragements, and lots of reminders to notice and accept the thoughts and sensations I was having I made it through the 90 minutes of yoga without letting my frustration sweep me away, off the mat and out of the class.

 

At the end of class I felt a sense of accomplishment, and my body felt better. Tensions were softened. Tissues lengthened. Though the flow was intense I felt like I was learning something beyond exercise for a sore back, I was learning something really important about noticing my experience and not letting it carry me away.

 

The beginning of a mad affair

That was 11 years ago and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been practicing Kripalu Yoga ever since. Not to say that this mad affair has been all wine and roses, true yoga practice isn’t. I’ve cried, sweated, blown apart, come back together, blown apart again and got back on that mat many times. I’ve learned that what I experience on my mat I can take into my life…noticing the hard feelings and not becoming overtaken by them. Bringing acceptance to my limitations, celebrating my growing ability to become conscious of feelings and thoughts.

 

The impact of a good teacher

Over the past decade I’ve had the opportunity to study with a number of yoga teachers, some true masters of Kripalu Yoga but none will ever capture my gratitude and heart like my first teacher, Laura Lin. Thank you Laura, wherever you are now. Your spirit lit the candle in my soul and I will be ever blessed for that. Jai Bhagwan!

 

Heather Bilotta is a passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community. Her Shake Your Soul®, Kripalu YogaDance, Kripalu R&R classes, one-one SomaSoul® and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® healing sessions are infused with heart and creativity and are an opportunity to bring light and acceptance to your whole, unfiltered self. She truly provides a supportive no-judgment zone. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. She is continuing her studies in Body-Centered, Subtle Energy Healing in the Professional Training Program at Hartford Family Institute.

Join Heather at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 28th to 30th, 2018, for Move. Feel. Heal., a SomaSoul® Somatic Therapy retreat to help you unwind, slow down, and soothe your nervous system.

This article first appeared on heatherbe.com. 


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 , Heather Bilotta , kripalu , spirituality , the Practice , yoga

Learn more about our 2018 retreats and offerings!

Stay in touch