Tag Archives: natural balance

Angela’s Yoga Lab: A Mantra for 2015… or anytime, really!

For many yoga practitioners a mantra is a powerful tool to use to deepen their practice.  Sound is particularly powerful and the repetition of sound can help focus the mind on that which is outside of and bigger than yourself.

The mantra below is perfect for any time you need to feel grounded and centered.  If you have only 5 minutes,  this will still be powerful and effective, but if you have more time – you can invest as long as you need into the mantra as a way to focus energy and attention on what you need most,  especially  transitions such as the one you will be making  into the New Year.

The type of mantra I have created here is a simple and highly effective version of mantra japa (repeating or remembering mantra).  With this way of using internal vibration of ‘So-Ham’ we journey from Gross to Subtle,  and the mantra will center and focus the mind on an object through the chanting itself.

How to do this mantra:

    • Find a comfortable seated position, preferably somewhere where there is natural sunlight,  a window open for fresh air ( ideally you want to be not too hot,  not too cold) and where you have some quiet and privacy uninterrupted. Turn off the TV, computer, radio and your phone.  You can light a candle or some incense if you will not be distracted by the smell.  You do not need a candle or incense as you can do this mantra wherever you are and in whatever position,  though seated is best.

     

    • Sit with your spine straight and keep your eyes closed to draw your focus inward.  Only if you are too sleepy should you keep your eyes opened.

     

    • Take a few long deep inhalations (breath inward) focusing on creating space in the internal body and then with every exhalation (breath outward) focus on releasing any tension, pain or stress –  anything that does not serve you right now.

     

    • Roll your shoulders down away from your ears, unlock your jaw and move your tongue so your mouth is relaxed.  Feel the earth/mat/ground below your sitting bones which are supporting you.  Focus on the sensation of your lungs lifting on the inhale and falling on the exhale.  Soften your face,  the base of your neck and behind your eyes.  You can rest your hands lightly on top of your knees, or in your lap.   Keep wrists relaxed.

     

    • For this mantra we begin with So-Ham Pranayama (breathing technique).   Whilst seated, bring your focus to your breath. While inhaling think “So”, and whilst exhaling think “Ham- or “Huumm”.  With the latter you may observe that this will lengthen the quality of your breathing,  which is the goal here.

     

    • Continue the flow of So-Ham and attempt to match the length of your inhale with your exhale so the flow is even.  However, do not obsess over this.   After feeling confident breathing So-Ham  begin to observe the natural pause between your inhale and exhale.  This is a pure moment of sweet stillness, a cessation of thoughts between So and Ham.  Do not hold your breath here to control or create this but rather observe how it naturally occurs.

     

    • Once you have completed a few rounds of So-Ham breathing you can begin with the mantra.

     

    • Out loud chant, “I am here, I am now, I am here, I am now, I am here, I am now.”

     

    • Repeat for at least 20 rounds at any volume or pitch you like. You can change the volume of your voice to what feels right.  Once you get into a rhythm you may find you do not want to stop at 20 rounds so,  in that case,  keep going until you feel compelled to stop.

     

    • Stay connected to the words and stay present in your body as you chant.  Do not zone out or lose connection to what you are doing.

     

    • Once you’ve stopped chanting out loud keep repeating the mantra inside your mind,  feeling the sensation of vibrations of your chanting rippling through you and the power of the words settling inside of you.

Benefits of this mantra:

This has the dualistic effect of being both a grounding mantra while also being empowering.   From a place of being grounded and anchored in the present you are able to tap into the potential of that moment with no expectations.  Often the lead up to a new year is filled with expectations.  We place so much pressure on resolutions to shift and change the various parts of ourselves and our lives – and sometimes others – which we feel are inadequate.

We enter with the premise “I am not enough”, “I /my life needs to change because who I am right now or how things are now – is not of any worthy”.

We can also get swept up in the hype of the idea at this time of year that things should or must shift and while change is healthy,  often these expectations lead us to over-promise,  over-commit and under-deliver, making us feel even more helpless and worthless when we cannot follow through.

Life being fluid is filled with death and rebirth, coming and going.  A new year is just another entering and exiting.  Having an equanimous mindset and connection to the present,  being here and now, anchors us so that we can handle any weather that may come our way both in 2015 and in the rest of our life.   We do not need an arbitrary date to make changes that need to take place.  We need to be in touch with ourselves so we can see from a place of clarity.

Whatever we enter the new year with is the place we take off from. The year before is gone but the year ahead is also unknown.  So all that matters IS as the mantra promises – the here and now.

 

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

 

If you liked this, you might also enjoy these two posts.  Just click on the pictures to bring you directly to the article

AngelaBlog5           Kundalini, yoga, yoga lifestyle, yoga retreat, health and wellbeing, yoga and meditation, mantras, yoga poses        Fighting Winter Depression         My Yoga Journey: Donna Davidge

 

Balance Out Indulgence: 3 Holiday Treats and 3 Ways to Burn Them Off

As a nutrition coach,  I work with clients all the time to help them understand that food has two equally important functions: as a source of energy and as a social, community and cultural phenomenon.  To focus on the calories alone is to ignore a huge component of what makes food so preeminent in our lives.

While it is critically important to our long-term health that we eat nutrient-dense foods and essential to a functioning planet that we eat as much local and organic fresh produce and animal product as possible, there is something to be said for eating all the foods we love–even the ones that aren’t so good for us–at least in moderation.

There is no time of year when the social function of food is more important than the holidays.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the U.S. and Christmas hot on its heels, temptation to indulge in all those “foods we love” is everywhere you turn.  One way to dig in to your favorite holiday treats guilt-free is to empower yourself with the knowledge of what it takes to burn off those extra calories with common physical activities.

I’ve compiled a list of three of most folks’ favorite holiday dishes and three corresponding workouts to help you stay on a healthy track from now to the new year.

Delicious Culprit #1: Pumpkin Pie

Nothing says fall flavors and the start of the holiday season like a little warm pumpkin pie.  This is my favorite dessert at this time of year.  Did you know that just one slice of pumpkin pie without whipped cream has around 300 calories?  When I found that out I little spot inside my heart died. The good news for those of you with a sweet tooth like me is that you can scorch those calories in no time. In fact, it’s as easy as riding a bike!  All you have to do is hop on your wheels and head out for a 5 mile ride.  This translates to about 35 minutes of cycling and, voila, you can call it even!

Delicious Culprit #2: Mashed Potatoes

Most of us try hard to avoid too many starchy foods but when it comes time to build a holiday meal, more often than not potatoes become the base.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes, but I’m willing to bet many of you are.  Just one cup of homemade mashed potatoes, prepared with whole milk and butter comes out to around 250 calories.  To burn this comfort food off you’d have to walk at a brisk pace for roughly an hour, covering anywhere from 3-4 miles depending on your stride.

If you like your spuds with gravy, tack on an extra 8-10 minutes of walking.  Here’s an idea: why not gather a group of family and friends for a nature walk to get some fresh air and improve digestion post-feast? It might just become a new holiday tradition.

Delicious Culprit #3: Stuffing

Stuffing, made with cranberries and nuts, has about 300 calories per 1 cup serving–and let’s face it, most of us go back for seconds.  This traditional and tasty side is often only prepared for Thanksgiving so it’s worth the carb-overload. When it comes down to balancing the scale, try a one-hour (or longer) Power Yoga class.  A slow-paced, stretch-focused yoga class won’t fit the bill here so make sure you aim for the kind where you really build up a sweat.

Need a little direction? Try my Fusion Flow class most Sunday mornings on Muuyu.  It’s my signature class which brings together the best of yoga, martial arts and plyometrics for a high intensity, mixed movement interval workout.  This fun and challenging class is geared towards building strength, power and stability in your body. Fusion Flow will make you sweat, keep you on your toes and leave you feeling the burn.

The bottom line with holiday feasting is that it’s all about making smart choices when you can, not dwelling on a little over-indulgence here and there, and putting your healthy efforts into balancing out the food you eat with the amount of physical activity you ask of your body – that way, when family and food come together in one beautiful space there will be no guilt, just joy and fun!

yoga, asanas, yoga for athletes, yoga for weight loss, yoga classes

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy’s passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. MOAR-fit.com serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she’s up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram, PInterestTwitter and Muuyu.

My Yoga Journey: Donna Davidge Connecting Life, Yoga & Theodore Roosevelt

Muuyu recently had the privilege of interviewing prolific yogini Donna (Amrita) Davidge about her life, practice and Kundalini yoga.

How long have you been teaching yoga and what types of yoga do you teach?

I have been teaching yoga nearly 3 decades. For the first 14 years I taught exclusively Kundalini.  Then I added Ashtanga, Dharma Yoga and finally Iyengar to my Kundalini teaching and practice.   So I teach all of these and have a regular, weekly Kundalini class on Muuyu.

How did you find your way to yoga?

I found my way to yoga first in a class at University of New Hampshire in the 1970’s where I was a distance runner.  Later, in my early twenties in the late 70’s, after I had earned my masters as a nutritionist, I picked up yoga again via audio cassettes – remember yoga was not mainstream at that time!

However, my real path to yoga came via Kundalini, which I discovered in NY City in 1985 with Ravi Singh.  I had been on an outer journey, adventuring to Europe to model from 1982-1985, which had been challenging in many ways, and the inner journey of Kundalini yoga resonated with me immediately.  What drew me to this style was its inner focus, the work from the chakras and with energy.  I was an athlete so I was not as concerned with physical prowess as with how the energy worked in my body, particularly as I am high energy and tend toward nervous energy. Having this type of energy is a great gift if you learn how to channel it.

In yoga you often hear mention of Kundalini energy, but what exactly is that?

Kundalini is the life force energy in the body, often envisioned as a serpent as exhibited in the medical symbol. The idea is that the kundalini is awakened from the base of the spine when the shushumna (central spine channel) is opened through yoga and meditation.

For someone approaching a Kundalini class for the first time how should they expect it to differ from Hatha and Vinyasa?

First of all Kundalini is not a left brain yoga! Though it works the brain and, of course, you need both parts for the practice it is very different than, for example, Iyengar, which I love, but which but is very focused on facts and proper physical alignment.

Let me explain that a bit more- our teacher Yogi Bhajan, with whom I studied for about 15 years before he died in 2004, said that Kundalini Yoga was taught to give the student an experience.  So for someone used to doing Hatha or Vinyasa I would say simply have an open mind. I often say do not expect a trikonasana or headstand here and no flowing sun salutes. Instead leave your expectations at the door.

How did you get your name Amrita and what is the meaning behind it?

Amrita was given to me by Yogi Bhajan in 1987.  Ravi Singh, who had encouraged me to start teaching, said I needed a spiritual name and took me up to Yogi Bhajan on one of his NYC visits.  He bases it on your birthday- mine is the same as Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King. Yogi Bajan wrote my birthday 1-15-55 on a small scrap of paper and said “Princess of the Nectar of God, very special name” and that was it. In Sanskrit it means the elixir of immortality and nurturance.

In yoga we are meant to believe our soul is immortal and as I get older I see myself more as a nurturer to students,  almost like a mother.  I think the yoga retreat I established at Sewall House is a big part of that.  Alongside this I am very big into preserving life, being an animal activist and vegetarian for example.

Can you share with us the origins of and current activities at your yoga retreat, Sewall House?

Sewall House originally belonged to my great grandfather, Bill Sewall. I never met him, but an interesting fact about him was that he had been a very instrumental part in Theodore Roosevelt’s life.  When TR was a sickly college student he visited Sewall House three times, with each visit lasting for three weeks.   Sewall House was, at the time, an informal Inn in this tiny northern Maine town my family had founded. Trekking in the woods, sitting by the lake and rivers, meeting the loggers and climbing Mount Katahdin were all part of TR’s healing and he remained lifelong friends with Bill Sewall.  There is one book in particular, ‘Becoming Teddy Roosevelt’ by Andrew Vietze, that focuses on their journey.

I purchased Sewall House in 1997, really on a wing and a prayer. The house had stood empty for 18 months after my great-aunt died and I wanted to maintain the contents, the history, the tradition and the legacy of healing and bring it back into modern times through yoga.  I broke my back when I was 22 skydiving and was hit by a cab on my bike in NYC when I was 41 so I truly believe in yoga, healthy eating and nature as healers.

This now is the theme at Sewall House.  We have no corporate backers or investors- we are simply run on yogic principles of living in the moment and with as much truth and integrity and fun as we can. We like to think we are as loving and welcoming to our guests as Bill Sewall was to TR and many come back and do become friends.

Since we only have 5-7 bedrooms available at any time (depending on staff and work study) the experience is personalized and much smaller than the many yoga retreats that have come on the scene since I started 18 years ago. We hike, kayak, do yoga and eat together but everyone has private rooms and the area is beautiful and the town is quaint and quiet. We have always offered massage as well.

What is it you hope most to impart to students?

I wish to inspire them to know and accept themselves better, to understand yoga as a lifelong, individualized practice. I like to make people laugh so occasionally in a class I throw in something to make them happy I hope (a story or quote ). I also like to see my students’ progress at their own pace. That way they can make their own breakthroughs without me pushing.  I think in teaching we need to create a space of allowing and see what happens. Of course, sometimes we may see something and need to speak and see if the student trusts our intentions. This is what Yogi Bhajan would call poke, provoke and elevate …with love!

What is the most important gift or lesson yoga has brought to you?

The most valuable gift yoga has given me is the ability to work on myself and hopefully set an example to others even if they have no idea what yoga means totally.

The other day I got to speak briefly at a conservation group in Maine regarding an environmental fight I have led in Maine and lost. The loss is really painful because ridges are being dynamited, pristine previously preserved forests are being clear-cut in huge acreage and animals and birds will die and be gravely injured as a result of this.   A naturalist I had not seen in years but who had studied yoga with me was at the meeting and wrote me afterward that my words moved her to tears and that despite this battle, which has been very challenging, my light showed through.

I think Yoga shows us how to keep going, not just in our progression from one pose to something more advanced, but to a lifestyle where you can turn to yoga instead of things like alcohol and drugs when you have to face challenging feelings about yourself and your situations in life.

Yoga has been such an integral part of your primary life experiences for over 20 years, so what does yoga actually mean to you now?

Yoga is a lifestyle, yoga is my family and yoga is a path and a journey which changes during different phases just like life and our bodies and minds.

 

Yoga, Kundalini, Yoga Retreat, Asanas, Ashtanga, Iyengar Yoga

A former student of Yogi Bhajan, Donna also studied with Pattabhis Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, Rod Stryker, Ana Forrest, David Life and Gurmukh.   She has worked consistently for the last 30 years as a yoga teacher to a wide range of clients from A-list celebrities to people with life-threatening illnesses.   Her joy is to help people pave their own path to a consistent yoga practice and over the years she has shared her expertise through appearances on syndicated TV and radio shows across the States and numerous national publications.  Contact Donna at her website or on Muuyu to request a class.