Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self-Awareness & the mind-stuff

In yoga there 5 koshas - veils - that shroud us on this humanly plane:

1. Annamaya kosha - food
2. Pranamaya kosha - air
3. Manomaya kosha - the mind-stuff
4. Vijnanamaya kosha - wisdom
5. Anandamaya kosha - bliss

While all of these effects throughout our lives, Manomaya kosha probably affects us the most. This is the veil that shrouds our mind judgments. The mind can hold us in chains, but it can also set us free. That is why, in yoga, we practice self-awareness.

The hardest part about being yourself is self-doubt. People and things can be a constant reminder of past wrongs and the people we used to be. On those days like those, I come to my mat and I remind myself that we, human beings, judge other solely as we see ourselves.

Instead of taking commentary and criticism from people, I remind myself that this world is bigger than "me"and in knowing that I accept who I am, wholly and completely, that I am doing all I can and should.

Through the practice of self-awareness, we can begin to sift though the messes in our mind and see what is really out there. We can reflect, gain perspective, quiet the reactionary self that attacks instead of listens and shift our perspective to a more positive one.

Self-awareness is like anything else in this world, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. The next time you are in yoga class draw your mind to your breath and to yourself. Don't mind what's happening around you, stay on your mat and inside of your heart. Reflect on your intention, and the theme of the class - reflect on why you showed up on your mat that day, whatever the reason may be. And after savasana, when you have om'd our last om, take a moment with yourself. How you live life on your mat should be reflected in your life off of it.

Prayer is where we ask the questions, and meditation is where we receive the answers.
It all lies within the self.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yoga Reminds Me There is Nothing I Can’t Handle

By guest blogger April

Over the past month, I’ve kept myself busy and distracted. Instead of dwelling on the baby we lost, I’ve been focusing on improving my health, career, and relationships. I was starting to think that I was healing from the miscarriage faster than I expected. Then, this week happened…

It all started off with a piece of mail and a family game night. The hospital finally sent the bill for the surgery, and that little piece of paper brought back all the emotions I’ve been avoiding. Later that night, I was forced to spend hours next to my sister-in-law’s adorable pregnant belly. Our babies were supposed to be three months apart. It’s hard not to think about how big our baby would be right now every time I see how much her belly has grown.

The next day, I had to go to my follow-up appointment for the D&C. When I first got there, I was the only patient in the waiting room, so I sat quietly enjoying the calming music and an old magazine. I tried not to think about the reason why I was sitting in that waiting room. Then, three pregnant couples came in and changed everything. They were talking about where they plan to deliver and looking at photo albums of cute babies the doctor had previously delivered. As they all basked in the glory of expecting, I sat there trying to fight back tears.

The only thing that kept me from sobbing in the middle of that waiting room was yoga breathing. I put my hand on my belly and focused on slowly inhaling and exhaling. I learnt that it is extremely difficult to cry and breathe properly at the same time. I might have looked a bit silly since I prefer to close my eyes when I’m focusing on my breathing, but it was less embarrassing that crying about my miscarriage in front of several happy pregnant couples. 

I learnt two things this month: 1) Healing takes time. Most days I’m strong and moving forward, but sometimes, little things like a pregnant woman’s belly or hospital bill can bring on the waterworks. 2) Yoga truly is relaxing and medicinal. When I feel like I’m losing control, I remember the things that yoga has taught me: relaxation, focus, awareness, balance, and strength. Yoga reminds me that there is nothing I can’t handle. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My experience with Navratri

At the beginning of the month, I attended what is called Navratri or nine nights at a local yoga studio. Every evening during these nine nights, devotees come together to worship the Goddess Durga (Goddess of the Sacred Female Power) and her different forms. Now, I had never been to one of these gatherings before, but had always been curious. This celebration occurs twice a year in days that are close to the spring & fall equinox, so the next one will be in September/October if you are curious.

Each night we did 3 different chants: the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, the Gayatri mantra both 108 times and then we would chant the 32 names of Durga 9 times. These chants are supposed to help us clean out the maya (veils) of ego and whatever other muck and remove difficulties that we've been experiencing and been carrying around with us and make room for us to gain clarity, spiritual knowledge and prosper.

At first, I felt like I was fumbling over the words even though I had my mantra sheet gripped in my hands...but then as I kept chanting and feeling the rhythm, the words started to just flow off my tongue and it was really almost like entering a trance like state. I have to admit, I hadn't heard two of the mantras, but the Gayatri mantra we had chanted in my yoga teacher training. But even that sounded completely different as we were chanting it in a completely different rhythm. By the ninth night though, I could close my eyes and make it through the first two mantras pretty well. The 32 names of Durga was not as easy to remember, and I was still fumbling on that last night, but that's okay.

After we finished the 108 times of the two mantras and the nine times of the names of Durga, a little hand drum was pulled out and we did some kirtan and sang to whichever version of Durga we were worshiping that evening...Kali or Lakshmi or Durga. It was really quite moving. I found myself tearing up a bit. It felt good to just to release through singing with these other people in this joyous way. The energy just overtook me.

I have always wanted to go to a kirtan concert and although this was different from that, finding how much love and energy just explodes out of this chanting and singing, I believe I will finally make my way now. I encourage you to give it a shot sometime, you may just surprise yourself.

At the end of the last night, Swami Atmarupa, who was leading these sessions told us that it is actually encouraged that we chant all 3 of these mantras every single day 11 times each right when we wake up to "cleanse" ourselves before starting our day. Even before we get out of bed.

Here are the Mahamrityunjaya & Gayatri mantras along with their translations if you are interested:

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra

Om Tryumbakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat

We meditate on the Three-eyed reality
Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we all be liberated from death for the sake of immortality,
Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.

Gayatri mantra

Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Pracodayat
Om Swaha

We meditate on the Divine Light of the radiant source.
May that inspire our hearts and our thoughts.
O, nourishing solitary traveler, controller, source of life for all creatures spread your light
And subdue your dazzling splendor so that I may see your blessed self.
Even that very self I am.

As for the 32 names of Durga, here they are:
Durga (The reliever of difficulties), Durgatirsamini (who puts difficulties at peace), Durgapadvinivarini (dispeller of difficult adversaries), Durgamacchedini (who cuts down difficulty), Durgasadhini (performer of discipline to expel difficulties), Durganasini (destroyer of difficulty), Durgatoddharini (who holds the whip of difficulties), Durgenihantri (who sends difficulties to ruin), Durgamapaha (who measures difficulties), Durgamajnanada (who makes difficulties unconscious), Durgadaityalokadavanada (who is fire for mighty tree like demon civilization), Durgama (mother of difficulties), Durgamaloka (perception of difficulties), Durgamatmasvarupini (the intrinsic nature of the soul of difficulties), Durgamargaprada (who searches through the difficulties), Durgamavidya (the knowledge of difficulties), Durgamasrita (the extrication from difficulties), Durgamajnanasamsthana (the continued existence of difficulties), Durgamadhyanabhasini (whose meditation remains brilliant when in difficulties), Durgamoha (who deludes difficulties), Durgamaga (who resolves difficulties), Durgamasurasanhantri (the annihilator of the egotism of difficulties), Durgamayudhadharini (bearer of the weapon against difficulties), Durgamangi (the refinery of difficulties), Durgamata (who is beyond difficulties), Durgamya (this present difficulty), Durgamesvari (the empress of difficulties), Durgabhima (who is terrible to difficulties), Durgabhama (the lady to difficulties), Durgabha (the illuminator of difficulties), Durgadarini (who cuts off difficulties).

I hope that you too can find clarity and feel any difficult times disappear.

Om shanti~Marcia