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Relaxations

Welcome to our online collection of yoga meditation! We offer these guided visualizations with the intention of helping you relax, sleep better, feel more alert, know yourself more deeply and generally improve your quality of life.

What is stored on this page?

yoga meditation can calm the doors of your mind

This page houses our collection of audio files, recorded at our studio for yoga in Berlin Kreuzberg. Each file contains a different guided relaxation, and each relaxation has a different theme or concept behind it. The relaxations are written/created/reworked and delivered by an English Yoga Berlin teacher. The ideas and the images are inspired by a variety of sources: our teachers, our dreams, the art and music to which we are exposed and, of course, the relationships, challenges and lessons that are part of teaching yoga and meditation!

These relaxations are licensed via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. That means that we would be very happy if you can share them with friends and family, or adapt them for your own use! We ask only that you attribute the recordings to their source, and that they not be used commercially (ie, not be used to make money).

How to Use These Relaxations…

Before listening, we suggest that you spend 30min doing some gentle Yoga asana of your choice. This will help release tension from your body and deepen your breathing and concentration. Some relaxing Pranayama, such as Anuloma Viloma or Bee Breath, will also be helpful. If you have trouble with visualization, we suggest 10min of Tratak beforehand, to sharpen the visualization skills and help clear the mind.

When you feel ready to listen, we suggest lying comfortably on your back (or on your side, especially if you are pregnant!). You can also sit upright in a chair, if this is more comfortable. Please make sure you feel warm and comfortable, so that you won’t have to move during the relaxation.

If you want to learn more about these techniques, you can read more about Yoga Nidra, here and here.

If you are a regular English Yoga Berlin student, you can access our password-protected database of relaxations here.

If you are not an English Yoga Berlin student, you can access our selection of free relaxations here.

**Please note that the audio files only work if you have a Flash plug-in and Javascript enabled.

Enjoy!

Endometriosis and a Personal Approach to Healing

It wasn’t until my 30s that I started realizing there was something off about my menstrual cycle. I’d always had pain during the first few days accompanied by heavy bleeding, and often experienced what is called ‘breakthrough bleeding.’ But it gradually started to get worse, until there were months when I was bleeding every day of my cycle. With the advice of a friend, I went to see a naturopath, who prescribed homeopathic medicine (specifically, venom from the snake, Lachesis). I was open to trying it, but after about half a year, I felt no change for the better, and out several hundred dollars. In the meantime, I moved 5000km to another city for graduate school.

At this point I’d had a yoga practice on & off for about 8 years. After I moved, I made an effort to continue my yoga practice and
discovered many more different teachers and styles of yoga than I had before. I felt that my practice had been good for me ‘physically.’ I became more aware of the pain I was experiencing and was able to ease it a little during my menstrual cycle. But I didn’t recognize the healing benefits until much later on. I continued to struggle with menstrual cycle problems, and had now built up a lack of trust towards naturopathy. So I tried allopathicremedies – the birth control pill was advised for hormone balancing, even though I didn’t need it for contraception, and I had several invasive surgeries. After the second surgery to remove ovarian growths, a biopsy showed that it was endometrial tissue. That was when I got the diagnosis of endometriosis. But the hormone therapy didn’t seem to work: the tissue kept growing, albeit perhaps slower.Endometriosis is a rather common illness, affecting approximately 10% of people with female reproductive organs, and perhaps more who show no symptoms. The allopathic methods of treatment vary from mild hormone treatment to organ removal surgery. Sadly, I know several people who have had full hysterectomies, and yet still experience the return of growths. Growths root down onto other organs or muscles, making them difficult to remove completely and can cause lung collapse, kidney failure and/or extreme pain. Endometrial tissue can often even grow on the scar tissue from previous surgeries! Hormone therapy such as IUDs or contraceptive pills can slow the growths and relieve some pain, but not always. Sometimes androgen hormones are recommended to induce menopause. One person I know had tried this method twice and still experienced the return of the growths and painful menstruation.Often, pregnancy and subsequent breast-feeding can act to “re-set” the adrenal system so that endometriosis may not return. Menopause may see an end to more growths, but the ones that have already rooted down may continue to grow. There has been some evidence to show that even people without ovaries and a uterus may develop endometriosis on the prostate. It is seen by the medical system as a woman’s disease, making it difficult for male-identified people to receive proper treatment.

Having no success with allopathic or naturopathic methods, I began to investigate the alternatives. My personal approach to healing began when I decided to become a yoga teacher and delve deeper into my practice. I read this book that recommended a strict endometriosis diet and followed it dogmatically for one year. And I tried out many other modalities – body talk, the sadhana practice of kundalini, myofascial massage, acupuncture, mindfulness meditation and medicinal roots. I sought advice from elders and spiritual practitioners. A couple years ago, I had yet a third surgery – recommended because of something that looked cancerous but turned out not to be. All of the methods I had tried became too much for me to keep up a regular practice with, it became a stress to try to keep up the discipline of the diet. And I wanted to do other things than focus on my body all the time! But I learned an awful lot through experimenting with different things and I eventually found what worked for me.

Endometriosis is an immunodeficiency illness, attacking the body when it’s low on other resources, so I focused on trying to keep healthy. I also became convinced that stress causes endometriosis by the physical tightening of muscles around the pelvis. The practice of mula bahnda (the root lock) brought more awareness for me about what was going on in my pelvic area. During menstruation I now try to focus on letting go of any tightness, sometimes even doing exercises to push out any stuck endometrial tissue. And I am also careful not to do inversions during heavy days. I continue to make smoothies out of spirulina (for immune boosting properties), maca root (for adrenal health), and trying to not let stress overtake my life, while keeping a balance of having some fun, expanding my limits and moving beyond my comfort zone once in awhile. I occasionally get some pain and breakthrough bleeding, and then I know it’s my body telling me to slow down. So far, the growths have not returned, and I’m still years away from menopause! It may not take becoming a yoga teacher for you, but I know there’s a way that you can heal yourself too.

Juli teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga in our Berlin Kreuzberg studio. She continues to explore self healing with yoga and encourages her students to do so, too.

December got you wrapped up in stressful knots?

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or Dōngzhì, or no religious-cultural festival at all, the month of December in the Northern Hemisphere can be a stressful time of year. Winter is starting to hit hard, the hours of light dwindling down to their shortest, and the temperature is dropping. Additional stresses can wear us down; such as family or work social obligations, exams, deadlines, trip-planning, depleting finances, and attempts at tying up our own loose ends or goals for the year. Our hibernation impulse kicks in, and we want to stay inside where it’s warm and snack on comfort food.

Acknowledge your stress

Sometimes we can get so caught up in all these activities we don’t realize we’re wearing ourselves down or getting irritated in the process. Once you acknowledge and recognize that stress is indeed affecting your mood or sleep cycle, you can give yourself permission to slow down, take breaks or drop things with less priority. It may seem counter-productive to schedule more things in, but adding some regular breaks, and things that are for ‘you’ to your schedule, will make the other stressful items on your list seem easier. You can look forward to the little present you give yourself – your Friday evening acupuncture session or swing dance class.

Eat Hearty Warm Food

Being on the go all the time can deplete our resources and zap our body of nutrition. It’s more important than ever during stressful times to eat well. There are a lot of sweet treats around this time of year, which fill us up without providing nutrition. Depending on where you live, you might also feel more dehydrated because of cold weather. Also, according to Ayurvedic nutrition, our bodies need more Vata energy during the cold winter months. They recommend eating more heated root vegetables, rather than raw salads. You can save time by making large batches of soup or stew. If you spend most of your time away from home glass jars can provide a DIY alternative to a thermos in order to carry around your delicious hearty lunch.

Breath and Movement

Outdoor activities in the cold can be quite exhilarating if you’re prepared for it. Wrap yourself up in a warm scarf and wear loose clothing made with natural fibres. One misconception most people have in countering the cold is to hunch their shoulders up by their ears and round forwards. This actually makes us colder! If you open up your chest and drop your shoulders down, your lung capacity increases and allows more oxygen to enter and warm up your body! If you breathe deeply and slowly or take slight pauses as you hold the breath in, it helps to keep the warm air in longer. Keep your body moving by riding a bike or walking quickly. And when you reach your destination do some gentle stretches to come back to the warmth of the inside temperature.

Regenerate

A regular yoga or meditation practice helps to recuperate us from stress. Keep going to your yoga class, despite your busy schedule. Or even add a new one!

Take advantage of our special offers this month at English Yoga Berlin – bring a friend for free to our slow and rejuvenating Restorative and Classical yoga classes.

And remember, as the daylight hours grow shorter, the actual Winter Solstice on December 21st is approaching, which means the daylight hours will start to increase again!

And as the New Year is shortly upon us, so is our new yoga schedule for 2014.

Honouring your limits and restoring balance: A new restorative yoga class, and a guest teacher!

This Thursday, Natalie Kakon joins us as a guest teacher in our community class: “Unwind and release; allow your stress to slip away by yoking to a feeling of infinite space within the body. Learn how to expand your chest and lengthen your spine with the support of blocks, blankets and chairs. Bring your body back to its individual balance while connecting to a deep sense of relaxation. Join us for a restorative, yin practice.”

 

What?:  Restorative Yoga with Natalie Kakon

Where?:    At the English Yoga Berlin studio

When?:    Thursday, November 7, from 15h45 till 17h15

How much?:   Donation based/pay what you can

 

Our weekly Restorative Yoga class with Juli happens every Sunday evening at 18h in our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

 

 

 

Why Restorative Yoga?

In our everyday lives, we are often encouraged to push further, achieve more, do more, be more social, be more productive, fill our days with activities and take on more work. It is easy to lose sight of our own capacities, our own limits, and we can push ourselves beyond them without nurturing the support structure that we need to maintain a healthy balance, inviting stress, anxiety, injuries or illness. A restorative yoga practice (as well as yoga nidra and other practices that focus on relaxation) can help to rejuvenate the body and mind after pushing too far, thereby fostering balance. Once we know our limits and have nurtured them we can then gently (and with support) test the waters and play at the edges.

Expanding our limits (and moving beyond our comfort zone) can cause great rewards such as opening our minds to new concepts, becoming more flexible or physically strong, and strengthening our empathy towards other people. But it’s not possible to find balance if all we feel is stress, low energy and burn out. Restorative yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for nurturing our bodies and restoring them to health. When we are in a rushed and high-energy state, our bodies activate the ‘sympathetic nervous system,’ which is responsible for releasing certain chemicals to keep us going, so that we can react quickly and do more within a shorter period of time – a state of fight-or-flight. These chemicals can linger in the body until the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to counter them. And we can remain in this state long after the specific things that have caused us anxiety or stress have ended. This is why we sometimes feel that ‘relaxing’ (meeting friends, watching TV, reading a book) cannot rejuvenate us. We may have trouble sleeping or have anxious dreams, which only perpetuate the feeling of urgency, stress, and low energy.

What is Restorative Yoga?

The only way to counter these effects in our body is with complete and total concentrated relaxation. Activities that remove distractions, such as meditation, sitting by a fire, or going for a solitary walk can help. Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga are specifically designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, so that the body and mind can restore to balance. Restorative Yoga is based on the Iyengar tradition of using props to support the body during poses.

Some of these poses were adapted by Judith Lasater for a restorative practice, so that deep relaxation could occur by holding positions longer (up to 15 minutes) with the support of bolsters, blocks, chairs, pillows and blankets. The body is positioned in such a way that it is totally supported, without the need to either stretch the muscles or use their power. A restorative pose should be very very comfortable and relaxing so that the muscles of the body can decompress, and the mind can completely unwind, fostering the release of chemicals from the parasympathetic nervous system. A restorative yoga class may contain some gentle flow or Hatha poses before moving into the longer-held restorative poses.

The classes we do at English Yoga Berlin incorporate a gentle flow, along with some chair-supported Hatha poses (beneficial for those needing to strengthen their bones and joints because of Osteoporosis or Arthritis). Our community class guest teacher, Natalie Kakon, will incorporate some Yin poses in her class. Yin poses use gravity to help open up the body to deeper stretches, encouraging more flexibility. Yin yoga is about finding the edge of your limit and breathing through it to open up a little more space. This particular combination of restorative and yin poses can be very juicy, as it can support the return to balance as well as gently push the edges all in one class!

Is Yoga Good for Business?: An Interview with Shaleah Dawnyel

Small Business Coach, Shaleah Dawnyel

The classes we offer in Kreuzberg are as varied as the people who attend them. We have artists, activists, doctors, parents and business people. We offer Classical yoga, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and Restorative yoga to make sure that there is something for everybody. And because we offer affordable classes in English and Spanish, we often attract people from around the world who are starting a new life here in Berlin.

Recently, we did an interview with one of our longest attending students. Shaleah Dawnyel is a small business coach in Berlin who focuses her work on helping freelancers and entrepreneurs to move their businesses forward. She is also one of the biggest supporters of our yoga school as she is constantly sending overworked and overstressed people our way. So, we took some time to ask her why.

 

What made you start coming to English Yoga Berlin?

The stress of my international move is what originally prompted me to come to the studio. I was looking for some way to handle my anxiety about being an expat-freelancer who was starting over from scratch here in Berlin. But when I moved from LA, I had the wrong idea about yoga. I thought mediation was a bunch of crap and therefore I thought yoga was too. It’s a big industry where I come from where people are often trying to prove how holy, bendy and yoga trendy fashion conscious they are. When I discovered English Yoga Berlin, it totally changed my perspective.

What’s so different about our yoga classes?

EYB classes are always so nurturing, supportive and challenging. They aren’t filled with esoteric babble but rather a lot of practical wisdom. And the yoga teachers are not only knowledgeable but down to earth. They teach me to explore my personal limits and then to support myself once I have found them. This is a hard thing in life and business: knowing when to push and when to accept things as they are. The difference between go time and wait time is illustrated so clearly every day on the mat and it has helped me enormously to be able to identify what time it is in this big life transition.

How has your yoga practice helped you in your work?

I have learned to breathe through discomfort. This has helped me during difficult meetings. I have learned that every day I have a different capacity for things. This has helped me with effective time management. Yoga Nidra shows you how to visualize things in a relaxed state. This has taught me to achieve my goals with less striving effort. By learning to respect my own limits, I have actually become a better business person. I don’t ignore my instincts like I used to, but instead respect them as I know they are giving me valuable information about the current situation as it is unfolding. I don’t take situations with clients personally anymore because I have the benefit of the kind of perspective that regular yoga practice creates. When you become an audience to your life and work, you become exponentially more effective in everything you do.

What advice would you give freelancers and entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting yoga?

Do it. Seriously. If I was to give you just a short list of all the potential benefits of regular yoga practice it would include: more restful sleep, more energy, better focus, less stress and relief of back pain etc. In addition to this, I have noticed that with my small business clients and myself, the emotional and psychological benefits are exponential! Many freelancers and entrepreneurs over-work themselves because they simply don’t know when to stop. They continually struggle with understanding what is “enough”. Over time, this causes burn out. Any time we access and accept what is really going on inside us and use it- things have the potential to drastically improve. Regular yoga practice has helped me to manage anxiety, cultivate more creative thoughts and put them into action, increasing my self-confidence. By learning when to stop, I have become more effective in my “go time”.

 

But one word of caution- don’t just go anywhere for yoga. Go somewhere you feel good. Shop around if you have to because it’s an individual experience that should bring you what you personally need. English Yoga Berlin has small classes that make me feel like I am being simultaneously cared for and challenged. I look forward to being in the studio every week and I am truly grateful for their contribution to my life and work!

Coming Out of Yoga Nidra

Elegance and Shadows by Fern

Yoga Nidra is a powerful technique, evolved by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from ancient tantric scriptures. To those who have practiced it, Yoga Nidra is experienced as a deep relaxation. But, although this method induces complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, it is much more than that.

In the Tantric tradition, Yoga Nidra is viewed as a Pratyahara method; a way to turn our awareness away from the external impressions. During the process, our consciousness is constantly moved through images, symbols, states, and different parts of ourselves. In this way we are led to fully and consciously experience these internal objects, making the mind more flexible and able to deal with impressions.

But due to the deep state of relaxation and meditation in which the mind is plunged during Yoga Nidra, it is important that we come out gradually from the practice. Passing too suddenly from the deep state to waking consciousness could temporarily jolt the mind and produce unpleasant feelings of irritation or even headaches.

Most of your Berlin yoga classes include some Yoga Nidra at the end of each practice. We feel that this is a great way to end a class filled with active asanas, breathing and other meditative techniques. But it is very important to closely follow the instructions for ending the practice; gradually moving the awareness outwards and opening to the sense stimuli. We recommend listening to the sounds, feeling the tact of the floor or clothes against your skin and opening your eyes very slowly before you look around. Before you do anything else, it’s good to experience your surroundings: the room, sounds, light, people, objects; everything around you, as a whole. This will ensure that you receive the maximum benefits from the practice and are able to transition back into the rest of your day.

Eight Steps of Classical Yoga Part 2

 

strengthen your ability to concentrate at english yoga berlin

The different parts of the practice of yoga are indeed dynamic. As we discussed in Eight Steps of Classical Yoga Part 1, your yoga practice can adjust to your needs and your experience level. Each part is at your disposal whenever you need to manage your health, deal with some aspect of your daily-life, overcome some limitation, or go deeper in working with yourself. The following are steps 5-8 of a classical yoga practice.

 

Step 5: Develop a calmer attitude towards your outer and inner environments.

How can we become independent from mental disturbances? How can we learn to achieve a more tolerant outlook towards ourselves and others? How can we learn to accept that which we cannot change? Through Pratyahara, you discover that there are actual things you can do, systematic practices that offer you the possibility to act from your own center, even in adverse conditions. Based on a precise knowledge of how the mind works, these methods teach us to work with the mind, rather than fight it.

 

Step 6: Learn to return to the relaxed state throughout your daily life.

To be relaxed is not simply to be momentarily free from conscious worry. True relaxation requires something more than just flopping on a sofa and listening to chill-out music. It is a measurable state that has a profound healing and reinvigorating effect. The practice of Yoga Nidra, opens a door into deep states of relaxation that will benefit you long after you do it. And, perhaps more importantly, this guided method trains you to let go of tensions at will, whenever you need to, in the midst of daily activity.

 

Step 7: Strengthen your ability to concentrate.

Many people have already experienced that concentration is something that can be trained. After you have released tensions and become more calm and clear, concentration will be easier. But yoga also offers specific methods that enable us to strengthen this ability and to become concentrated whenever we need to be. Through the practice of intense concentration (Tratak), you learn that concentration involves no strain or effort, but that it is a relaxed state in which your attention remains easily fixed on an inner or outer object of your choice.

 

Step 8: Increase your awareness and get closer to yourself.

To be aware and present is to experience life fully. This becomes possible through your work with meditation. There are as many meditation methods as there are temperaments, and they are available for any degree of experience or personal preference. Many traditions use the breath or the body as meditation objects, others employ elaborate rituals to occupy the mind. One meditation technique doesn’t need to exclude another, but can be complementary to it. Through persistent practice, you become conscious of what hinders you, you become more fully yourself.

 

The only way to truly discover the methods of yoga, and their effects, is through their regular practice. Yoga touches you deeply, but it does so without rush. It follows the natural processes of your body and mind, so that all change is harmonious. By small measures, your practice prompts you to continue to use these methods according to your own situation and the way you live. Our yoga classes in Berlin are taught with the understanding that your exploration should always continue at our own personal pace.

Bhakti: The Dance of Love & Detachment

Your heart must become a sea of love. Your mind must become a river of detachment.”

Sri Chinmoy

 

It may seem somewhat counter intuitive that many spiritual practices believe that the only way to find deep love and connection is to practice detachment. Detachment or ‘non-attachment’ basically teaches us to free ourselves of any addict-like behavior. This behavior can come in the form of the consumption of material objects or the treatment of others as if they are objects to be consumed by our desires or to fulfill our needs. This type of self absorption can actually keep us from seeing things around us and appreciating them for their inherit value. By freeing ourselves from attachment to material objects or desires (practicing healthy detachment) we can actually open the way for deep attachment and interconnection to the rest of the world- the earth, other human beings, and animals.

Many spiritual practitioners call this recognition of the interconnectedness of all living things, seeing the “divine”. The practice of Bhakti helps us to see the ‘divine’ or the ‘beloved’ in every living thing and to honor it through devotion.

What is Bhakti?

The Sanksrit word ‘Bhakti’ encompasses a multi-layered meaning of Love. Bhakti is not just about ‘love,’ but Capital-L ‘Love’: faithfulness, devotion, zeal, sharing, caring, belonging, worship, homage, and faith. Bhakti means to give unconditional Love and servitude to the universe, to serve others compassionately, to give of oneself whole-heartedly, without expecting anything in return. Bhakti is an active practice because some kind of action is required for others to feel a sense of belonging and feel cared for. Action is needed to devote oneself to the betterment of human-kind.

How to Practice Bhakti

There are many ways to practice Bhakti: choosing veganism, caring for a small child, protesting for the rights of asylum seekers or smiling at a stranger because they look sad are just a few examples. And because it is an active practice, Bhakti has the potential to be revolutionary. It can affect the practitioner’s way of seeing other people and themselves, thereby shifting how they interact with everything in the world around them. Acts of kindness, caring, empathy, respect and service are the ways of showing devotion and deep Love towards the divine, or towards the interconnectedness between all living creatures. The practice of Bhakti requires intense focus on and concentration towards (giving space and listening to) other living creatures outside of the self. It requires examining how to serve them with honor and respect.

By utilizing aspects of Bhakti, it is possible to develop kindness and Love towards other living creatures.Heart-opening yoga postures (back bends, twists, reversed hand locks) and meditation on the heart chakra along with Anahata meditation, (chanting YAM while visualizing a 12-petaled green lotus), can assist in connecting with Bhakti, as well as asking oneself the simple question:

What can I do to help others?”

 

Mastering the Monkey: Is Peace of Mind Impossible?

You don’t think thoughts but rather thoughts think you.”

The mind often creates a natural barrier to inner peace. If you were to sit down, right now, and say to yourself, “For the next 5 minutes I will only think of a star,” you would find it is impossible to do so. The nature of the mind is for it to wander, to work with associations and to jump from thought to thought. In some ways, that’s its job. And in others, it ends up keeping most people feeling restless.

 

The mind is often compared to a monkey- jumping from one branch to another with no control.

Let’s follow the “monkey” and use the example above of focusing on the star; soon, I realize that the star reminds me of all the falling stars I have seen in my life. This thought brings me onto all the wishes I have made on those stars. That, in turn, makes me think of unfulfilled wishes, which reminds me that I’m unhappy. When I think about being unhappy, that tenses up my chest. Feeling the tightness in my chest reminds me that I have to buy an inhaler for my asthma- and why am I unhappy anyway?…

This is how the mind works. Within just a minute or two of thoughts, I have not only had mental fluctuations but I also have had emotional reactions from serene to sad. Every emotional reaction has produced a physical reaction, in this example my chest tightening, which has taken me through so much in such a short period of time.

My yoga teacher used to say, “When the mind can be fixed on the same thing for 3 seconds- that is called attention. When the mind can be fixed on the same thing for 12 seconds- that is called concentration. If you can concentrate 12 times (12 sec x12=144 seconds) then THAT is called meditation.”

Photo by Rob from Cambridge MA

Practicing concentration techniques are very important for one to feel centered and grounded. Meditation is a great tool to make the most of the minds power by making sure it is not wasting it’s energy. In our berlin yoga classes, we practice these techniques by observing the body during the Asanas, by using the practice of Tratak and through Yoga Nidra. Because the mind is so important, it is vital to learn how best to use it. Once we have mastered these techniques, then we will be able to take the practice to a more advanced level in which we can find a way to master the monkey!

Yamas and Niyamas, Part 3

Yoga in Berlin is about more than just physical exercise. It’s about the multitude of benefits you can receive from consistent practice. Although we never push doctrine on our students, our Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga classes do incorporate a traditional understanding and awareness about how yoga can really change people´s lives when they are off the mat.

In our last blog about the non-physical benefits of yoga, we talked about the pillars of wisdom or ethical guideposts set out by Patanjali as a foundation for practicing yoga (aka the Yoga Sutras). The first being the Yamas and the second being the Niyamas. The Yamas are ethical principles about attitudes and behaviors that cause suffering (greed, dishonesty, violence, etc). The Niyamas (the second limb) are the attitudes and behaviors that yogis can work towards.

Step One: stop the behaviors that cause you to suffer.

Step Two: cultivate ones that bring you peace and happiness.

Saucha

This Niyama is often translated into English as purity or cleanliness. Those words have a lot of judgmental, puritanical cultural baggage in the West, so the way we like to explain the concept of Saucha is ‘lucidity’ or ‘clarity’. In essence, cultivating Saucha means trying to keep your space, body, mind and spirit free of clutter and garbage so that you can perceive and act with the most clarity possible. Some yogis interpret this Niyama through strict dietary observances (no meat, no alcohol) or with spiritual rituals (dawn meditation, intensive asana practice every day etc.) In our English Yoga classes, we interpret it to be about maintaining a dialogue with yourself about how your surroundings/diet/thoughts are affecting you, and striving to maintain a feeling of openness and clarity.

Where could your life benefit from a good ‘spring cleaning’? What relationships, lifestyle habits, thoughts, choices make you feel icky? How could you begin to clean up these areas?

Samtosha
Samtosha means contentment or satisfaction. Again, this can be a difficult Niyama for Westerners to understand because it sounds very close to passivity or acquiescence. But it’s more subtle than those concepts. Samtosha is about cultivating an attitude of equanimity. Yogis who practice for a long time begin to realize that all of reality is fluid, linked, and unchangeable. Underlying life’s ebbs, flows, births and deaths is a basic, unchanging whole experience. This is also the basis of modern physics: energy moves but it cannot be created or destroyed. Cultivating Samtosha means cultivating an attitude of acceptance of constant transformation and contingency. In Asana, cultivating Samtosha means accepting your body for what it is or is not on every given day, and knowing that ”you” are indeed much more than ”your body”!

Can you think of a time in your life where a big change seemed like a total disaster- but you now see that it was for the best? What changes are you afraid of now? Can you imagine accepting those changes, and even welcoming them?