Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Two weeks ago, when I tried silent yoga for the first time, I couldn’t think of enough words to sing its many praises. And then on my second try, two days ago, I was a bit disenchanted. A normal human experience; one day we love and the next we can’t seem to fathom what happened. In this case, I know what happened.
It was my preconceived expectations, to repeat a past experience, that set me up for a less than stellar experience. Because my first class was for the most part ‘silent,’ I was able to focus on my practice. There was an easy ‘aura’ that was present.
On this last experience, there was no such easiness:
People were doing their own thing.
Lots of unnecessary movements between poses.
People would leave the room.
A heavy breather was right next to me.
Some practitioners were making music with their stainless steel water containers.
It was Grand Central Station yoga time!
Needless to say, I wasted precious time by allowing my surrounding to distract my practice. I’ll just have to remember that I have a choice; ignore all distraction, breathe and stay focused. Of course it’s one of those ‘easier said than done,’ scenarios, but it can be done. I know that as long as I believe that I can do something, it’s as good as done. First a dream, then pursuit of a dream, and finally the realization of a truth inherent in a dream.
Now I can smile about the experience, but at the time, I was far from amused. It just goes to show that the practice of yoga never ends. It’s a work-in-progress. And in spite of the occasional stumbling blocks, the important thing is to learn and keep going. There are no losers or winners in yoga. Yoga is All!
From the very beginning, I associated yoga and meditation. However, trying to reconcile the movements in a Bikram yoga
practice and meditation was tough. First off, the poses were
quite challenging, then there was the heat to deal with; In the
end, I was just grateful that I came out at the end of each yoga session alive.
That was before I
tried ‘silent’ yoga. Minds you it was not totally silent. Our teacher, Johnny, would occasionally say when to start and when to get out of the pose. He spoke softly, so it flowed smoothly with our movements.
It was an experience worth repeating. Words can’t express the totality of how I felt, but I’m going to try anyway.
1) Increased awareness of my surrounding, and yet, I was not
distracted. I was focused on the moment.
2) First time to actively listen to my breathing while in a pose.
3) Ease and calm throughout.
4) Instinctively aware when I was doing the pose correctly.
5) Complete surrender while in the pose.
The silence was conducive to a general feeling of ease. Even
though I was already familiar with the intensity of a Bikram yoga class, I was able to put it aside. I know it may sound strange, but that was how I felt.
During the whole practice, I felt connected. Most of us are aware that we’re part of ONE whole, but to truthfully live within that understanding is oftentimes a fleeting thought. One moment of awareness and it’s gone. So for 90 minutes, I was in heaven!
Feeling connected is elusive, but once it is experienced, it’s
like falling in love. It’s a desire that is not to be ignored.
That’s the power inherent in silence.
It was an awesome experience and I plan to continue.
amid all the chatter
waiting for you
Our Bikram Yoga Honolulu ‘ohana (= family in Hawaiian) recently celebrated summer solstice with an appropriate breaking bread party. Gorgeous food, delicious ambiance, awesome yogi and yoginis and beautiful music. Perfect ingredients to renew and start a new cycle. The ever lasting cycle of life. Never stale. Always fresh.
The following pictures were taken at the party.When you stop to think about it, life’s a party. And the outcome depends entirely on our choices. Happy choosing everyone!
It’s been a while since I stopped by. Makes me a little sad. I kept saying that I’ll update my yoga blog and before you know it, days turns into weeks, then more weeks whooshes by and it’s been seven months and counting. No matter. Life goes on.
I know that I need help. I’m one doing a three people job. Thank god for yoga! I may have slide off updating my yoga blog but I’ve been faithful with my yoga practice. Is my priority on target? Or should I re-prioritize?
Someone once did a study on what people think is the most important thing in their lives and health comes first with family a close second. Makes perfect sense. Once our health is compromised, everything else becomes unbalanced. So perhaps being mindful of my health is the right choice.
Sometimes in yoga, we hit a plateau. I wasn’t consciously aware that I had reached that spot. One day, while lying in shavasana, I drifted off into dreamland. I saw myself in fluid motion doing an elegant standing bow. It was breathtaking!
The reality was my standing bow is more like an awkward bow. Nothing close to a bow at all. However, the thought that I could do better got stuck in my brain.
But how could one improve? I asked one of my teacher to take pictures of my postures. Just looking at myself while in the poses was an eye-opener. All of a sudden, I could see myself inching bit by bit towards the ideal. Should we all strive towards an ideal?
Yes and No. Yes we should always do our best at any given moment and no, the ideal is something out there which defeats the purpose of yoga. Yoga is in the now which is perfect irrelevant of the outcome.
So, is my yoga practice better? Yes, I think so. Since I saw my pictures, I’m able to visualize doing the poses deeper, little by little, one day at a time. There’s always tomorrow to try again. Living yoga is a journey, a special journey.
Kara-Leah Grant‘s well-written and sentient article is a joy to read. To immediately write ‘Yes,’ after the title was a surprise. A daring statement indeed. For the reader, it’s either accept it or please leave. A brave announcement. I was hooked. Who wouldn’t?
After the initial bold statement, she shares an intimate view of how yoga impacts her life, her body, mental, spiritual and more. Experiencing yoga is learning about acceptance; of self and all that life offers.
As the author wrote, one must practice regularly to appreciate yoga. And what has she gained? In her own words…
1. Yoga has meant I have lost weight and now maintain my ideal body weight with ease and no thought necessary – no dieting, no restrictions on food.
2. Yoga has improved my lung capacity.
3. Yoga has improved my flexibility enormously.
4. Yoga has improved my balance.
5. Yoga has improved my concentration.
6. Yoga supports my health – it’s fantastic.
7. Yoga means my stress levels are zero.
8. Yoga has made me strong – very, very strong.
9. Yoga means I can now hold a tune.
10. Yoga means I love my body, inside and out.
Number 9 is the only one that I can’t do. But, I’m not saying it can’t be done. What’s important is how we feel, how we interact with our world as a direct result of our yoga practice.
Recently, my hot yoga studio added a few yoga variations. Another hot yoga resource that has opened up my yoga practice. Practicing yoga is a work-in-progress. It’s a journey with no beginning, nor end. Has it given me a ‘great’ body? I knew you’d ask, and with a resounding ‘yes, yes, yes,’ my body’s in love with yoga. As for ‘great’ body, I can’t vouch for the observer’s idea of greatness, but I’m grateful and happy with the result.
These days, we go online to shop, read, share and more. Some spend hours on social media sites. I have to discipline myself in that area. It’s so easy to get hooked on endless chatter.
However, there are just as many websites that are both socially engaging and thought-provoking. A win win situation.
One of my favorite site to browse. More than just yoga gear, it’s also the story of people sharing their personal journey; their experiences with their yoga practice and with each other.
For loyal yoga practitioners, having great yoga gear is a wonderful thing. Remember that favorite blanket when you were a child? Or perhaps it was a teddy bear? For me, it was a collection of seashells. Yes, I grew up in a tiny island and the ocean was my front yard. All shapes and sizes of seashells for a child to find, collect, play and imagine a world contained within a tiny shell. It’s all about personal values!
Well, after you have a look at the Manduka website, and if you like what you see, here’s your chance to score your Manduka yoga gear. Share your story and who knows, you might get one of five $500.00 yoga gear.
Of course I am going to submit my own story. Have fun and stay well!
Take care of yourself!
PS: If you’re going to enter the Manduka sweepstake, you will have to register an account, then click on ‘The You Series‘ link. Once again, GOOD LUCK!
It’s a rarity indeed for anyone to go through life without ever experiencing a few aches and pain along the way. Pain, whether physical or cerebral, is part and parcel of living life! But what’s with acute pain while practicing hot yoga?
If you’ve been practicing Bikram hot yoga for some time, you probably listen to the teacher saying that feeling a little pain is to be expected. Throughout the dialogue, you hear the many health benefits of practicing hot yoga! That hot yoga will often times expose weaknesses within the system.
But hearing the words and experiencing the effects are worlds apart. I know and accept the fact that there’ll be times when I will feel some discomfort while practicing. However, I didn’t expect nagging pain to persist once I was done with my practice. But that’s exactly what happened.
Out of the blue, a new ache. As soon as I hit the mat, I felt pain on my left calf. Nothing sharp but relentless. Immediately, my mental clock went into over-drive. What could I have possibly done that would cause the pain?
Didn’t I hear a creak while doing the back bend? Or was it the half-moon? Needless to say, I was apprehensive. What if the pain will keep me up at night. Once the initial panic subsided, I turned my attention away from fear to finding ways of fixing the problem.
Because I could not pin-point the pain’s origin, I concentrated on the leg. Listening to my body’s needs, I started to flex and relax the leg. Throughout the floor exercises, in between the asanas, I’d rotate stretching between the left and right leg.
Before bed and throughout the following day, I’d kept at flexing and hyper-extending both legs. I continued to practice. Hot yoga enabled my muscles to stretch without causing added strain. Two days later, I was pain-free.
I still don’t know what caused the pain. What I know is that physical pain is our natural guide, telling us that something needs attention. Instead of fearing it, we should view it as a friend.
Pain tells my mind that my body needs help. For that I’m grateful.
It’s been awhile since I last visited. I’ve been on the road. First to Tonga to see my ailing mother, then on to see other family members on the other side of the globe.
During all this travel I did not practice yoga. Did it make any difference? Yes!
On my first class back, I did notice a change. I was stiff. I didn’t think that a month away from yoga will make that much difference. And then pain! My poor muscles were complaining. That was a surprise. Something unexpected.
It wasn’t as if I was just laying around on a beach doing nothing. I was walking miles on a daily basis. Some days, I would go to sleep as soon as my head hit the billow.
While in Manhattan, I would walk from Penn Station to Central Park, and all over the park. It was also very hot, so I was sweating a lot! In Washington DC, it was the same routine; walked a few miles daily.
I had checked out the Bikram Yoga studios in both locations. However, my plan to practice felt by the wayside.
Why didn’t I practice? I had to walk approximately 20 – 25 minutes to the studio. That was the easy part. It was the notion that I was going to walk back after my practice that stopped me short. There was a heat wave and it affected both NY and DC! If you can imagine walking out of a Bikram Hot Yoga studio and into an oven, then you get the picture.
So, no yoga!
Once I accepted the thought that I was not going to be practicing yoga, I set about planning to visit and see new places.
And I was happy to just go with the flow.
The attached photos were from this last trip.
I had visited the Pentagon Memorial before; however, I wanted to photography the Memorial from a different angle. Got the idea from their brochure 🙂
Some of the new places that I visited were Arlington National Park and the Martin Luther King’s memorial.
I also ran into friends from Hawaii! A group were participating at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. They did put on a first-class show.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip.
And just as wonderful to finally sleep again in my own bed.
Now it’s back to my hot yoga routine for which I will be eternally grateful.
Living yoga every moment, every day is living the yoga lifestyle. And yet, when I needed it most, when I should practice my yoga lifestyle, I forgot everything. Instead, a numbness took over. Let me explain.
I had a family crisis. A life was at risk, and she was far away. After the initial shock, instead of reconnecting to my inner ‘real’ source, I switched on the ‘fight or flee’ emotional button. Hours later, while frantically trying to book flights and making haphazard plans, I stopped!
Half the day had passed me by before I realized that I was all tied up in both an emotional and physical knot. A true yogini will not let appearances disturb them.
What happened to riding calm in the midst of the storm? Sadly, I realized that not too long ago, I wrote about the importance of breath. How breathing the right way will always help me stay focused and calm. How effortless one forgets!
It’s so easy to get side-tracked when we’re emotionally engaged, but it’s at such times that the breathing exercises works its magic. It’s at such cross-roads that a yoga lifestyle is truly practiced.
So how do we connect with our deeper potential and live yoga throughout our days? It takes discipline, love and a sincere desire to give ourselves the chance to be the best that we can be. It’s not a selfish desire, rather it’s a sharing of ourselves, of our individual bests with others.
There’s no such thing as a ‘fix-all’ yoga method or style. But there’s a yoga method for all of us. I practice Bikram hot yoga. It’s not for everyone! Hot yoga health benefits is my personal yoga style. Superficially, we may appear to be part of the same mold, so it makes sense to think that what works for me will work for you. And perhaps it will. What’s critical is finding your own way.
Finding our unique yoga lifestyle is as individualistic as it’s universal. A precious thought making an impression in the midst of universal thought.
Staying rooted emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically is important. Finding a quiet time to reconnect on a daily basis is part of my discipline. Until this phase is over, it will always be a work-in-progress. Far from perfect, but who’s keeping score?
The event that I mentioned in the beginning of this article is still raw. While practicing full breaths, with shattered emotions roaming freely, I let it be. I can’t help your pain. You can’t help mine. It’s OK. It’s my thought that counts. It’s your love that makes all the difference!
Finding a hot yoga studio to practice while traveling is always an issue. I could just do it in my hotel room but everyone who practices hot yoga will know it will not feel the same.
For this trip, I didn’t pack any yoga clothes. Because I had to take heavy warm clothing, I just didn’t have room for luxury clothes (yoga) packing. However, on the very first day in Vienna, I found the Bikram Yoga Vienna Schottenring studio. I had to take two trains but it was not far. Time to shop for yoga attire.
My oh my, you don’t want to shop for clothes in Vienna! The yoga pants that I saw ranged from €74.00 to €94.00 (US $96.00 – $124.00). And I thought that Hawaii was expensive! I finally found a pair of everyday-wear tights for €35.00. It worked just fine. Time for some hot yoga, Vienna style!
I was able to practice twice; both during the 7.00 AM classes. With the morning light pouring in through wide windows, it naturally lightened up the studio; a beautiful space. They even had complimentary fresh fruits and tea!
Vienna was cold, so the heat was a welcome release, and if someone were to ask me ‘how hot is hot yoga?’ I’d direct them to the Bikram Yoga Vienna Schottenring studio 🙂 Nice and toasty and I sweat buckets.
My first yoga practice was with Alex and the second one was with Tammy (studio owner). I appreciated the practitioners discipline. Everyone listened to the dialogue and tried to go through the postures as a group. There was no flopping all over the place nor beach postures and such. It was a treat! I will miss their focus, determination and control.
Now that I’m home in my little corner of beautiful Hawaii, it’s back to my old routine. I do appreciate my Honolulu Bikram Yoga studio. It might lack the Vienna style and ambiance, but it’s still home. It’s more laid back, island style. Personally, I prefer the Vienna discipline, but in yoga, we practice being present.
Short of being redundant, we need air! But there is more than the oxygen in the air. The following exerpts were taken from ‘The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath by Yogi Ramacharaka.
I practice Bikram hot yoga and in that heated room, we listen to the teacher talk about prana…it’s something in the air. It is everywhere!
The Science Of Breath dialogue…
“Breath is Life.”
To breathe is to live, and without breath there is no life.
The infant draws in a long, deep breath, retains it for a moment to extract from it its life-giving properties, and then exhales it in a long wail, and lo! its life upon earth has begun.
The old man gives a faint gasp, ceases to breathe, and life is over.
From the first faint breath of the infant to the last gasp of the dying man, it is one long story of continued breathing. Life is but a series of breaths.
Breathing may be considered the most important of all of the functions of the body, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it. Man may exist some time without eating; a shorter time without drinking; but without breathing his existence may be measured by a few minutes.
And not only is Man dependent upon Breath for life, but he is largely dependent upon correct habits of breathing for continued vitality and freedom from disease.
An intelligent control of our breathing power will lengthen our days upon earth by giving us increased vitality and powers of resistance, and, on the other hand, unintelligent and careless breathing will tend to shorten our days, by decreasing our vitality and laying us open to disease.
The Yogi practice exercises by which he attains control of his body, and is enabled to send to any organ or part an increased flow of vital force or “prana,” thereby strengthening and invigorating the part or organ.
He knows all that his Western scientific brother knows about the physiological effect of correct breathing, but he also knows that the air contains more than oxygen and hydrogen and nitrogen, and that something more is accomplished than the mere oxygenating of the blood.
He knows something about “prana,” of which his Western brother is ignorant, and he is fully aware of the nature and manner of handling that great principle of energy, and is fully informed as to its effect upon the human body and mind.
He knows that by rhythmical breathing one may bring himself into harmonious vibration with nature, and aid in the unfoldment of his latent powers.
He knows that by controlled breathing he may not only cure disease in himself and others, but also practically do away with fear and worry and the baser emotions.
Awareness of our breath and doing it correctly is vital to our health.
If you want to know more about ‘The Science Of Breath,’ download a free copy. Link on the sidebar. Enjoy!
If you have been following my blog, you know that I love hot yoga. I also read a lot about the practice and what other yoga practitioners share about their hot yoga experiences.
Recently, I landed on a forum where contributors vent their disenchantment with hot yoga; specifically Bikram hot yoga.
Granted, people should be free to voice their opinions, however, when judgments do not offer solutions or advance the issues discussed, then pray tell me why bother?
“…That hot shit does not make sense…
TradeMark and cult-like center…
Lot of crap…
Never liked the spiritual woo…
Well dur. You can’t breath through your feet…
Yoga butt, not the spiritual aspects of the practice…”
The list goes on…A slew of worthless expressions to manipulate both the non-informed and the earnest seeker.
If you think some of the above expressions funny, I agree. What a wonderful thing we humans are!
Life can be wonderful or a never ending confrontation and it all depends on your choices.
You have the capacity to reason and make choices that are based on critical thinking and not on personal biases.
It’s human to make biased decisions at times. What’s important is being aware when you make such choices based on your biases; When your emotion gets in the way of rational reasoning, and when wisdom is shoved out the door and your ego takes center stage.
I have no desire to defend my reasons for practicing yoga, but I think that yoga practitioners should be clear about their personal motives for pursuing yoga.
Most of us, once we decide on a path, want to know more about the potential risks and rewards. We ask friends, experts and do our own research as we move forward. In the end, we have to make personal choices.
What are my personal reasons for practicing hot yoga:
Ongoing self discovery
Personal time to focus on many levels
Learn to breath with awareness
Overall wonderful feeling
Great for relieving stress
Great for detox and much much more…
Yoga is a journey! There is mystery, there is discovery and joy. I’m too involved to let go. I know that there will be gloomy days, but my goal is clear.
I have been practicing Bikram Yoga since 2004. When I started I
went once a week. Then it was twice then three times and now I
practice hot yoga every day.
I can honestly say that I live the ‘Hot Yoga Lifestyle,’ but let’s stop
for a moment and think about it. Let’s forget about the different
yoga styles and concentrate on ‘yoga’ as a discipline.
A yoga lifestyle is ‘living’ yoga, is practicing yoga everyday, whether
it’s through sitting meditation or physical meditation.
A yoga lifestyle is applying the wisdom of yoga in my everyday
activities. Living with awareness.
Now back to my hot yoga practice. I started because a friend invited
me. Not a good reason to start a life changing event, but through
constant practices, hot yoga slowly became my lifestyle.
I can say that I incorporate the yoga lifestyle the easy way. Bit by bit,
yoga became my daily companion. No harsh ‘must do’ this. No lofty
health reasons. I knew that it was good for me and that was that. Before
I knew it, I was ‘hooked’ on the doing. The hot yoga health benefits was
These days, as a hot yoga practitioner, I sweat tons during yoga, so hydration
is part of my daily routine. A huge hot yoga health benefit! Toxins out!
Over the years of practicing hot yoga, I have grown to respect my body.
It houses everything that I think of as my ‘self.’
Through my yoga practice, I am keenly aware of my intimate responsibilities
towards myself and others.
As they repeatedly say in yoga, ‘take care of yourself, then you can take care
of others.’ I had always thought that taking care of others was more important.
But when I think about it, if I can’t take care of yourself, then it would
be arrogant to think that I can take care of anybody else!
I thank my lucky star for leading me to yoga.
Hot yoga health benefits is truly a life saver!
Hot yoga has been proven to improve health in so many ways, including body image, decrease in depression, and weight loss. It’s becoming increasingly popular among the yoga community. Founder of hot yoga, Bikram Choudhury, believes that by practicing yoga in a heated room it will help to ease muscles and prevent injury when stretching. Hot yoga health benefits provide you with revived energy and mental relaxation.
Walking into a hot yoga studio is like walking into a sauna, as the temperature of the room is heated to at least 105°F and 40 percent humidity. By stretching the muscles using a variety of poses plus the added heat, hot yoga weight loss can be easily achieved. The heat helps the muscles open up quickly and make stretching and poses much easier.
Hot yoga weight loss can be noticeable through toning the body with this heated type of yoga. Sweating intensively (which is expected) during hot yoga causes you to lose some water weight, but will quickly be gained once you renew your body with water. However, hot yoga is a very helpful tool in promoting health and toning the body as a whole. If you attend a hot yoga class as least three times a week, your chances of losing weight are much higher as you burn more calories and tone the body the more frequently you use this hot yoga health practice.
Through the practice of several poses, hot yoga health is sure to improve your overall health. A position called the “half-moon” helps lower back pain, deformities, and exercises the kidney, pancreas, and colon. Standing hand to knee helps improve concentration and improve circulation and flexibility, as well as reducing diabetes and strengthen back muscle and nerves. The “standing bow” increases circulation to the heart and lungs, while “balancing stick” increases blood flow all throughout the body at the same time and also clears arteries.
People believe hot yoga weight loss is a major benefit from practicing hot yoga, but opinions vary. It all has to do with your dedication and commitment. If it’s done a lot, then of course you will lose weight faster, as you’re burning more calories. If you just do hot yoga every once and a while, you probably won’t see be seeing dramatic weight loss. Like anything else, weight loss is achieved over time. This is true with hot yoga weight loss as well. You can, however, create an amazing and flexible body through hot yoga. The positions and poses stretch your body and works your muscles in an effective way.
Hot yoga weight loss is definitely attainable if done frequently. Hot yoga health can improve your body and mind in a variety of ways, making you feel lighter and more in-shape than ever before. If you’re looking for something a bit different than regular yoga, perhaps try out hot yoga and start benefiting the amazing results.
I do not know how many yoga studios we have around the Honolulu area, but I can tell you that yoga is very popular here. It is a fast and furious growing business. I love yoga!
Apart from some holiday closures, our Kaimuki Bikram Yoga Studio offers 49 classes every week. Eight classes Monday to Thursday, seven classes on Fridays and five classes on weekends. That might seem a lot of classes to fill, but every time that I go, the room is crowed.
So where do these yoga practitioners come from? They come from all walks of life. Business people, students, retirees and probably your neighbor.
Why is it so popular? Because yoga practitioners love to talk about their practice. It all comes down to word-of-mouth.
I think that yoga is the best example of a growing business that is driven mostly by people talking about their experiences. Some yoga studio owners do use various media tools to spread the work, but from my own experience, the die hard yoginis are there because they talk about their own health journey.
At our Kaimuki studio, we practice Bikram hot yoga. It is intense! A lot of practitioners will tell you that it is a love/hate relationship. But most will agree, that at the end of the day, they are grateful! Why grateful? Because yoga lends a second chance to recuperate, to regain their health.
Ever think about what it was like in the womb? Floating in a water world?
Well, if we stop for a moment and compare our present situation to that water world, there are many similarities. The problem is our lack of perception. So we try to connect the dots. In yoga, we focus, strengthen, align and realign to facilitate internal versus external energy flows.
When yoga works, we feel ease…and yet, we do not understand it fully. But, do we need to understand it fully to appreciate the benefits of yoga?
Scientists are still trying to unravel the black energy that inundates our visible and invisible world.
The following exerp is from NASA website:
What Is Dark Energy?
“…More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery.
But it is an important mystery.
It turns out that roughly 70% of the Universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 25%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the Universe.
Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the Universe.”
So when it comes to yoga, we try to align our inner world with the outer world. A world of which we know diddly little about and in which we float about in a sea of unknown.
So even if we know next to nothing about the little that we know, we still do yoga. Why yoga? Because we feel the benefits of yoga. Because yoga helps align the known with the unknown.
In today’s rush to be somewhere other than accepting the present moment, it is vital that we utilize everything that we know of to be able to keep up while maintaining our sanity. One way is to use our breath.
Whenever you find yourself tittering on the edge, be it an oncoming road rage attack, panic attack due to imagined or real deadlines, refrigerator attack as a result of a diet gone wild, STOP!
Take a big deep breath.
Deep breathing invites calmness and energizes. Slow steady breathing engages your mind and your whole body. Practiced a few times, you will find that awareness breathing allows time for you to return to what is important, you!
Think about it, if you cannot be kind to yourself, why would you think that you can give kindness to others? A few deep breaths will be your secret tool to pull out of your abundant hat whenever you need it and wherever you are.
There are hundreds of books on yoga breathing. But to get you going, here is a quick yoga breathing practice to start with.
If you learn to practice the following 5-minute breath break, you will be able to stay rooted in stillness in all situations that you will encounter.
1. Sit with your spine as straight as possible. Use a chair if necessary but don’t slump into it. Feet flat on the floor with knees directly over the center of your feet. Use a book or cushion under your feet if they do not rest comfortably on the floor. Hands are on the tops of your legs.
2. Close your eyes gently and let them rest behind closed lids.
3. Think about your ribs, at the front, back, and at the sides of your body. Your lungs are behind those ribs.
4. Feel your lungs filling up, your ribs expanding out and up. Feel your lungs emptying, your ribs coming back down and in. Do not force the breath.
5. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes. Work up to 5 to 10 minutes. Set up a time during your day to do this. First thing in the morning is always a wonderful time. This will set up the tone of your day. When you learn how good it makes you feel, you’ll want to do it at other times as well.
If you learn to do this every day, you will not only enhances your ability to deal with daily challenges but more important, you will genuinely find inner peace and joy.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be able to afford to give oneself kindness and joy out of thin air?
Granted I believe that my yoga practice is a rock in my quest to maintain good health; however, I do get the occasional bug and it is usually a quick process. But not this last time. For whatever reason, it (the bug) decided to be my faithful companion for two weeks. That is a record!
Being sick is always a humbling experience. Often times I forget that I am mere mortal, that I too can fall prey to ‘invisible’ elements that is part and parcel of being alive. That we are all here together, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly,’ sharing an universe that is both familiar and foreign simultaneously.
For days, body aches forced me to pay close attention, to acknowledge that I was never in control, that I was always vulnerable. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was glad for the opportunity. To once again evaluate current situations and ironically felt gratitude for just being alive.
The body aches were forgotten. I woke up the next day feeling much better. I thought that a little yoga would be great. So off I went. On the following morning, the bug attacked with full force. I felt like a tornado had tossed me around mercilessly before spitting me out without a care.
For three days, I slept. I was weak. This time, I did not let my mind interfere with my body. I gladly accept the fact that my body needed time to heal. I stayed away from yoga until my body felt ‘normal’ once more.
It was another week before I ventured back to my yoga. The heat felt wonderful! My body felt alive once more. It is truly wonderful to experience good health after being ill. Being grateful is an understatement.
Did I say that I am glad to be alive?
I wish you well. Thank you for stopping by!
PS: The pictures accompanying this article is all about complimentary colors.
I can list the most obvious reasons…relaxation, stress release, detoxify, weight loss and more, but when I seriously think about yoga, there is one reason that stands out above all else. But before I jump to the end, I want to share with you some surprises along the yoga way.
I never really thought about who I really am. OK, I know my likes and avoid situations that makes me uncomfortable, but, and this is a BIG but, I did not think to question why certain things or events made such an impact on me.
I was being tossed in a never ending emotional soup and I never thought to stop and question why. Why accept the flow when I could use my arms and legs to swim against the grain? Right, I do not know how to swim, but you get the picture.
For years, I did go though the yoga motions. I flowed along beautifully.
I was able to shed a lot of irrational stress. I was happy.
I did sweat out buckets of toxins. I couldn’t be any happier.
I could finally sleep like a baby. I was on top of the mountain!
I shed pounds of fat. Ecstasy!
It couldn’t get any better. Then one day, I woke up feeling slightly off balanced. Back to yoga I went. Of course yoga was my cure-all. But for a couple of days, it was helter skelter. From the top of the mountain to looking up from its depth. Shaky emotions; questions surfaced.
It was the perfect time to reevaluate and reflect. Back to yoga! Yap, I never gave up on yoga. This time I was focused. I forgot about my life before. I forgot that I have a life after yoga. I was totally committed.
My breath was all that mattered. I do not understand miracles, but I think what happened was a miracle. When the teacher said ‘You may cry, that is alright,’ I cried.
Of course no one noticed. Sweat was pouring from my hair and eyes and probably no one cared, and most importantly, I did not care. I was happy for no other reason than that I was alive. Intimately aware of being present and nothing else.
And that is what my yoga is all about. It is being present.
A few years ago, if someone mentioned yoga, most of us probably thought meditation and relaxation.
Nowadays, there are yoga studios in practically all major and small towns across the United States of America.
Yoga for the masses has arrived!
But what is this yoga phenomena all about?
A brief background…
Yoga has been practiced for thousand of years. Its exact origin is unclear; however certain events points to ancient India. Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization sites (modern-day Pakistan and northwest India) dating to mid 3rd millennium BC depicts figures resembling a common yoga pose. Scholars still speculate on the connection between these Indus Valley seals and later yoga practices. There is no conclusive evidence.
And the original purpose of yoga?
It varies from improving health to attaining moksha (literally mean ‘release’ in Sanskrit).
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning to join, to unite, or to attach. So it makes sense, that by practicing yoga (self and Universal Consciousness unity) that we can ‘let go’ and transcends ‘self.’
When ‘self’ and Cosmic Consciousness unite, there is no other, no tomorrow, no yesterday, only the moment.’
Nowadays, there are as many reasons for practicing yoga as there are yoga methods.
Balance and stability
Improve mental focus…
Personally, I chose Bikram yoga, not because I did any research to find out what it was all about, but because a friend recommended it. I had never done yoga before then and my general knowledge of yoga was practically non-existence. After practicing Bikram yoga for over six years, I still have a lot to learn about yoga.
There are lots of information covering the origin of yoga, its purpose and contemporary practice. If you are serious about your yoga practice, I suggest doing your own research.
Personally, practicing yoga is a work-in-progress. It is a way of life.
For a newbie trying to wade through all the information about yoga, it can become a formidable task indeed. So how does one decides which yoga to pursue?
I started because a friend recommended it. It was not just any yoga; it was Bikram Hot Yoga!
I think referrals from friends and trustworthy sources is always the best and easiest way to start. But for those that are going it on their own, making a ‘to do’ list is highly recommended.
1) Write down why you need or want to do yoga.
2) Do an online search on yoga: History, types of yoga and potential benefits.
3) Find yoga forums that includes personal testimonials.
4) Finally ask yourself: Am I physically and mentally ready to do yoga?
Doing the above tasks will clarify your reasons for embarking on your yoga journey. A clear goal is not an end in itself, because goals, like life, is an ever changing journey. However, having a goal will make the incremental achievements a thing of great joy.
Instead of waiting for the final goal’s achievement, one can simply enjoy the drive.
Personally, my yoga journey has given me more than I ever though possible. That itself is a story worthy of a lifetime. But if I am to summarize that passage in a sentence, I would say that my yoga has given me greater balance in all aspects of my life.
What do I mean by balance? It is the ability to view my world with detachment. It does not always happen that way. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment, but the ability to be aware when such occasion arises is priceless.
Instead of sweating hot yoga, I prefer to practice it.
A final word:
Find something you love to do and do it with purpose and passion!
I have been practicing Bikram yoga since 2004. But what exactly is yoga and what are its benefits?
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga), Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग yóga) is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India, whose goal is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
To find out what other folks out there think of yoga and its benefits, I did a Goggle search on ‘yoga medical research.’ There were over five million pages addressing yoga benefits online!
On the first page of Google, I saw the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Publications had articles on the many benefits of yoga.
After scanning some of the articles, it was apparent that yoga has too many benefits to address in this post. Some yoga benefits were more pronounced than others. But my main concern was how to personally share these benefits with you, my reader.
The following are personal testimonials. Keep in mind that personal testimonials are unique to each individual. How we each react to any set of circumstances can be similar and different at the same time. It is because we are all similar in that we all require, say, oxygen to survive, and yet, in a deeper level, we are all different in how efficient we process what we get.
So with our similarity and differences in mind, here are some of the thousands of yoga practitioners had to say about the benefits of yoga:
…increases joints lubrication, ligaments and tendons
…massages all organs of the body
…complete detoxification of the body
…excellent way to tone muscles
…achieve harmony helping the mind act in synchronization with the body
…physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being
…deep breathing and meditation dampen flashes and night sweats
and the list goes on. Yoga benefits seems endless.
Today, there are many different yoga styles to fit anyone’s lifestyle. The following are some of the popular ones:
Do your own research before choosing a yoga style.
For the reader, if this article is too broad for what you are looking for, know that many forms of yoga practice are safe. Some are more strenuous than others. Always check with your clinician before starting out on your yoga journey.
Yoga mindfulness is an excellent opportunity to practice awareness of the moment, just as it is, no expectation and without judgment.
Why, you may ask, do I bother with mindfulness anything?
Because practicing mindfulness has been scientifically proven to help alleviate a host of both physical and mental conditions¹. And in yoga, being mindful focuses my attention on my breath, my body and my energy flow.
There is nothing else.
I am present.
Mindfulness yoga allows me delve deeper with each posture. When done properly, it is indeed a moving meditation. A precious moment. An instant to just be, to align breath, body and mind.
It would all seem so simple to live in the moment, and yet, harried thoughts often go hand in hand with the act of doing. Most of us sail through our day thinking about everything else but the activities of the moment.
We exist on auto-pilot. We may jump out of bed in the morning, full of energy, we crawl to bed at the end of the day, and in-between is a blur of actions. Many moments in a day turns into months, then into years, and lifetime passes without a thought of being present.
A tragic situation indeed! To perhaps finally realize at the end of it all that being in the moment is what life is all about.
But how hard can it be to be mindful of each moment?
It takes discipline and practice.
It is not hard to live in the moment.
We are most present when events disrupts our ‘normal’ mindless journey. When we experience pain, or a loved one’s passing, then we become deeply aware of the moment. But with mindfulness practice, awareness slowly seeps into our daily activities.
I am very fortunate that I practice hot yoga. It is intense. It is challenging. And it is a prime situation to practice mindfulness.
I look forward to doing and being in the moment. Sometimes I drift off. Sometimes I get judgmental. Often times I allow annoyance of the other practitioners to get in the way. But I let go as soon as I realize what I am doing. I am back in the moment. I accept and move on.
*** The accompanying photos are of my friend and yoga teacher, Michele Santos.
They were taken a few days before Michele’s son, Lucca, was born.
Location was Kahala Beach, Honolulu.
While working on some of the photographs of our Kaimuki yoga practitioners (Pamela Suga compliments) I was simultaneously thinking of a title for my the blog. I had used the Kaimuki Yoga Practitioners title before.
With blogs, title is a vital element. It should grip the reader’s interest right away. Failing to do that, my words will not be enough to lure the reader to bother with the photographs.
I finished with the photographs and still no title. While looking at the finished products, the title became clear.
Yoga practitioners are truly a happy lot! It was not a superficial observation. I know some of the practitioners personally, but definitely not the majority. And yet, what stood out was a genuine sense of happiness, of well-being, of satisfaction, of yoga happy.
Breath is life and the yoga breath is the foundation of all yoga processes.
So, if breath is life itself, how often do we stop and think about the condition of our breath? The sad truth is that most people go through life without giving one iota of time to think about it. And it is easy to understand why.
Breathing, for the most part, is an involuntary function. But with mindfulness and focus, we can control how we breathe. We may not understand how our respiratory system works, but we can learn how to breathe the right way.
Just because we take breathing for granted does not mean that we are doing it right. Yoga is one way to learn how to breathe correctly.
The yoga breath is the root of the yoga practice. It is the fundamental basis of the yoga process. Done correctly, the yoga breath enhances our practice and our lives. When you stop to think about it, breathing is the primary connection to our life-force. It is through breathing that our cells gets nourished.
When we breathe with mindfulness, we become aware of our body. With each controlled breath, we send out healing energy throughout the body. Such a vital function should be given more care, but alas, it is not so. And yet, it could be so simple to add to our daily activities.
We could do breathing exercises before getting out of bed. Sitting at our desk. Before a meal. Walking to the car.
Next time you cannot think of a gift for a special someone, give them a yoga class. Learning the yoga breath is priceless.
We live in a ‘busy’ world. Most would agree that there is just too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get things done. And where does all this leads to? Ill health caused by stress. Stress causing ill health. A vicious circle.
But with a little yoga, a lot of ‘busy-ness’ causing stress could be overcome, and good health regained.
There is no fit-for-all yoga program, but there is a yoga program for whomever is serious about getting their health back.
When I first started yoga, I thought I was going to literally stretch my stress away. That it will be a piece of cake. Wrong!
It was intense! I had signed up to do Bikram yoga, also known as ‘hot yoga’ and it was powerful. For ninety minutes, every cell, every muscle was thoroughly worked. Before I had time to think about what I was going through, it was over.
How did I do? I felt wrung out like a rag doll at the end. Add a touch of slight disorientation to boot, and you get the picture. I walked out of that studio totally numb. Stress? What stress?
Did I go back? Enough to say that yoga has given me more than my health. I am living proof that doing yoga is ones personal gift to oneself.
As they always say in yoga; take care of yourself and you can take care of others.
The following photographs were taken by Pamela Suga of the yoga practitioners at my Kaimuki yoga studio: Bikram Yoga Honolulu.
The spectators are just as important as the competitors. And in our last Hawaii Yoga Poses Competition, The Spectators were there in full force giving their support and cheering the competitors on.
So what is all the fuss about yoga postures? We could cover a whole book on the topic. For this short blog, I would like to share with you my personal take on the subject.
When I started yoga, Bikram yoga, seven years ago, I knew next to nothing about yoga. Of course there was a lot of buzz about the health benefits, but I could not tell you more than that.
All I knew was that I needed to get my health back. Things were starting to physically fall apart . I was feeling new aches and my joints were starting to stiffen up. I was getting fat. Not acceptable!
So my yoga journey started. That was in 2003. I was on a health quest. I just did not know where yoga would lead me.
I will never forget that first day of Bikram yoga. Not a single word could describe the full impact of that first day.
I felt lightheaded.
I was sweating profusely.
I was suffocating.
I thought I was going to die. I laid down waiting for the inevitable end.
Nothing happened. I survived.
As for the postures, I could not do half of them. I could not bend forward to touch my toes. I could not bend backwards. I could not do sideways either. You get the picture…I was as stiff as a board. And why was I torturing myself?
The truth was, I had no idea what I was letting myself into.
After it was all over, while lying there on the floor, trying to catch my breath, I silently vowed to never ever do what I just did to my body ever again. It was over and done with. I could always say that I tried and that was that.
When I got home that night, I felt great. Of course I did not think it was the yoga. There is no such thing as a quick fix. I slept well. I felt wonderful the following day.
I had completely forgotten about my vows to never return to yoga.
A week later, I went back. Eventually, I would go three times a week. Seven years later, I could not only touch my toes but I could bend backwards, sideways, and now I practice yoga five times a week. This yoga practice saved my health.
I would not say that Bikram yoga is for everyone. All I can say is that it has worked for me.
Bikram yoga has not only increased my flexibility but it has strengthen my skeletal system. I am healthy and that is the best gift I can give myself.
Bikram yoga, often referred to as hot yoga, is named after the founder, Bikram Choudhury.
It is a Hatha Yoga Practice that works all systems of the body. Includes…
Two sets of each pose
and practiced in a heated room (temperature can reach up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
Hot yoga is for both beginners and the advanced yoga lover.
What do hot yoga practitioners say about it?
…enhance physical and mental well-being.
…relieve stress levels thus lowering the heart rate and blood pressure.
…improve posture and energy.
…strengthen and tone muscles.
…promote weight loss.
Listen in on a group of yoginis talk and you would think that they have found the fountain of youth. Snippets of conversations may flow along these lines…
invigorate and detoxify…
healthy connection between the body, mind and soul…
feeling of attainment…
explore the limits…
in love with…
But even in a perfect world, there will always be those whom perfection is just another side of imperfection. And they will also find what they look for…
…isn’t my cup of tea.
…felt like I had walked into a wall.
… the ripe smell of sweat.
… lack of ventilation.
… being miserable.
Did I say a perfect world? Well in yoga, there is no such thing as ‘perfection.’ It is the process that counts. And perfection is none other than the journey. The goals may be the same but the experience will be unique for each traveler.
No two eyeballs see the same object from the same angle, but both can sense the whole and reach the same conclusion. And practicing yoga is to experience the whole; to attain nirvana in all its many manifestations. No expectations, just being in the moment.
Hot yoga may have taken the world of health and fitness by the collar, but this is not for everyone. For those of us who find this beneficial, hot yoga is the perfect lifetime fitness plan. It is never boring; in fact, it is always a challenge.
Before starting on any intensive fitness routine, it is recommended that you check with your own physician before practicing hot yoga. Once you start practicing, you will learn to know your body better which will enable you to make choices that are beneficial to your overall well-being.
Personally, I am hooked on this hot yoga journey. There are many reasons for being a loyal hot yoga enthusiastic. If I am to pick one reason, then here it is…
If disease is fundamentally stress manifesting itself, then my mantra is…