4 Simple Ways to Awaken Self-Realization Through Your Yoga Practice

4 Simple Ways to Awaken Self-Realization Through Your Yoga Practice

Yoga is many things to different people. It’s exercise, it’s stress relief, it’s a social activity, it’s a mood booster, and it’s even an effective way to cope with chronic pain.

What yoga truly is at its very core, however, is a journey into the self. By diving deeper into the self, the practitioner learns to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t through knowledge, selflessness, love, devotion, and self-control. This is called self-realization.

Self-realization is the experience of oneness with truth. The word “yoga” actually means “union” or “connection,” and it is through this system that anyone, anywhere can realize their truth and full potential through integration of the mind, body, and spirit.

There are many things you can do to promote greater self-realization through your yoga practice. Here are just a few practical suggestions to really focus on.

 

Practice standing poses to ground yourself and set your foundation.

Standing poses bring your awareness to your connection with the ground beneath you, demanding involvement and cooperation from all parts of the body. Poses like Warrior I, Warrior II, high lunge, side angle pose, chair pose, and others teach you how to create a steady foundation by firmly grounding your feet to the earth and engaging the muscles in the legs, core, and upper body so you can stand strong, feel more confident, and set yourself up for great potential.

 

Practice inversions to experiment with the unknown from another perspective.

Anyone who has ever watched a yogi do an inversion knows that inversions look and feel much different when they actually try to get into the pose themselves. Inverting the body helps you to see the world and feel the body from a whole new perspective—one that is often not experienced in everyday modern life. Inversions like headstand, handstand, dolphin poses, shoulder stand and others encourage you to face your fears and gain more clarity in the process of doing so.

 

Practice balance poses to calm and sharpen your state of mind.

The simple act of balancing has a calming effect on the mind because it forces you to focus and concentrate on one point to maintain balance—freeing your state of being from racing thoughts and bringing you back to the present moment. Try lord of the dance pose, Warrior III, tree pose, eagle pose, half moon, and others to become more aware of the reality that change is the only thing that is guaranteed in life and that the current present moment demands your full attention.

 

Practice slow, gently expansive breathing to restore equilibrium in the mind and body.

This should be a given in yoga, but you’d be surprised how many yogis simply focus on the physical aspect without giving nearly enough attention to breath work. The mind, body, and breath are very intimately connected and therefore influence each other. By consciously breathing properly with each yoga pose, you can tame anxiety, depression, fatigue, muscle tension, general stress and overwhelm. Clearing these mental, emotional, and physical blocks is necessary for going deeper into the true nature of the self.


5 Ways to Cultivate Your Passion Through Your Yoga Practice

5 Ways to Cultivate Your Passion Through Your Yoga Practice

Whether you’re embarking on a new career path or seeking out a creative hobby to fill your spare time with, discovering what you truly are passionate about can prove to be as confusing as ever.

While it can be frustrating to know that you must be passionate about something, yet not have a clue what that something might be, there’s reason to embrace this unknown.

Contrary to popular belief, passion does not typically arrive out of nowhere. In reality, we become more aware of what we’re passionate about by exploring a variety of interests, experiencing new things, taking risks, making mistakes, learning, and readjusting what we think we could do better or what we think might bring us more joy.

The meditative and self-explorative aspects of yoga make it an ideal practice for cultivating your passion. Here are five things to focus on in your practice to help move you closer to what you’re truly passionate about.

 

1. Breathe Your Way to Calm

To find your passion, quiet your mind. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the key to connecting to your Higher Self—that part of you that knows what will bring you utmost joy and satisfaction in life.

Consider starting your practice off in meditation or in supine pose with gentle breathing. As you begin to move, try deepening your breath in standing poses to help expand the chest and upper back before finishing on the floor with hip openers and poses that lengthen the spine.

 

2. Notice Attachments to Desired Outcomes

Sometimes it’s our attachment to the ideas we have of what a passionate life might look like that hold us back from discovering and fulfilling our passions.

Use your breath work to detach from thoughts from a mindful distance to observe what outcomes you might be clinging to. Don’t try and change them—just notice them for what they are.

 

3. Greet the Morning With Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

Traditionally performed at sunrise, sun salutations are wonderful for sparking your internal fire by targeting the major muscles in your spine, legs, and arms.

Starting your morning practice with sun salutations acts as a rebirth ritual, reminding you to seek out and embody your truth. A 20-minute flow through surya namaskar has incredible physical benefits and can even be powerful enough to bust you out of a mental slump.

 

4. Practice Grounding Poses to Heal Your Root Chakra

The root chakra is at the base of the chakra system and represents your solid foundation for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-bing. When out of balance, we may feel stuck or unconsciously caught up in desires.

Located at the base of the spine, practicing yoga poses that ground this foundational energy center to the earth can help you feel more secure and stable in all aspects of your life. Try poses like easy pose (sukhasana), garland pose (malasana), mountain pose (tadasana), and savasana (corpse pose).

 

5. Embrace Poses and Sequences That Encourage You to Release Negativity

Moving unwanted energy out of ourselves is key to clearing away the blocks that keep us stuck or unconsciously repeating bad emotional and behavioral patterns.

The breath work and poses discussed above will certainly help, but you can always go above and beyond. For example, you could create an emotional release ritual out of chair pose.

Start by standing tall in tadasana, visualize something you no longer need or want in your life and imagine grabbing it with your fists as you extend your arms up over your head. Then as you sit back into chair pose, quickly sweep your arms down in front of you toward your sides and back behind your torso as you release your fists and throw that unwanted thing away.


9 Things Yogis Can Do to Prepare for a Good Night's Sleep

9 Things Yogis Can Do to Prepare for a Good Night's Sleep

Making sleep a priority is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. By making sure you get enough good quality sleep every night, you not only set yourself up for a great next day, but a long and healthy life too.

Whether you’re an aspiring yogi, a beginner yogi, an intermediate yogi, or even an advanced yogi, you can take advantage of the following tips to improve your sleep naturally.

 

1. Refrain from Stimulating Devices and Activities

The earlier in the evening that you can turn off the TV, put your smartphone away, stop working, or finish any vigorous exercise, the better! Plan to do this an hour before turning in at the very least.

 

2. Snack on Sleep-Friendly Foods

If you’re hungry before bed, light snack can actually help you sleep better. Go for complex carbohydrates combined with lean protein that ideally contains the amino acids tryptophan (such as chicken/turkey breast, tuna, cheese, nuts, seeds, and beans). Tryptophan is known to boost serotonin levels, which helps promote sleep.

 

3. Darken Your Environment

You don’t have to sit around in a pitch dark room, but less light will certainly help your body adjust and get the signal to prepare for sleep. Instead of simply dimming the lights, try lighting some candles for enhanced relaxation.

 

4. Listen to Soothing Music or Sounds

Classical, ambient, and smooth jazz are perfect music genres for winding down. Alternatively, you could try listening to some sound effects like ocean waves, rain, thunderstorms, birds, or frogs to help you get in touch with nature.

 

5. Mindfully Prep for the Night and Next Day

Without any stimulating devices or activities to indulge in before bed, you can take the extra time you have to carry out your evening routine and plan for tomorrow. Take a relaxing bath, moisturize your entire body, brush your teeth extra well, pick out what you want to wear, make your lunch, and do whatever else you need to do while practicing mindfulness.

 

6. Do a Bit of Journaling

The evening is the perfect time to do a bit of a mind dump through writing. Grab your journal and and a pen to write what simply comes to mind. You may wish to reflect on your day, write about how you feel, or plan for what you want to do tomorrow.

 

7. Lower the Thermostat (Or Crack a Window)

Cooler body temperatures help promote sleep, so set your thermostat to adjust the temperature to somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the hours you plan to sleep. During slightly warmer weather in the spring, summer, and autumn months, you can even leave the window open.

 

8. Settle Your Mind With Aromatherapy

Essential oils have natural healing properties that can relax the mind and help you prepare for sleep. Whether you choose to gently inhale the aromas or put a few drops on your pillow is completely up to you. Here are seven essential oils known to have calm and soothing effect on the mind.

 

9. Get in Touch With Your Breath and Body

Last but not least, don’t forget about the practice of yoga itself to help you sleep. Poses like legs up the wall, supine spinal twist, reclining goddess pose, child’s pose, and happy baby are just a few to consider trying—many of which you can do directly in bed. If meditation is a better alternative for you in the evening hours, try these three deep breathing techniques to calm your mind and body in preparation for sleep.


7 Grounding Yoga Poses to Calm and Center Your Spirit

7 Grounding Poses to Calm and Center Your Spirit

When life gets busy, thoughts and emotions can run wild and make you feel like you're out of control. To get back to a balanced state, you can use simple grounding practice for some much needed relief.

Grounding involves rooting yourself to the Earth both physically and mentally to help you find your center. Taking the time to ground yourself in your yoga practice, in your meditation practice, or even just in everyday life can help restore balance back to your body and mind when stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, restlessness, and other negative experiences get in the way of living your life.

Look toward the following yoga poses to help ground you and find a quiet, calm space within.

 

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Image via WeTravel on Flickr

This is a standing pose where you’ll often hear your teacher instruct you to ground yourself down through the four corners of your feet. You’ll instantly feel supported and connected to the Earth without having to bring your awareness to any complicated balances, twists, or holds.

 

2. Warrior I (Virabhradrasana I)

Image via Daku Resort SavuSavu Fiji

Warrior I is harder than it looks as you pivot your back foot and press firmly down into the ground while keeping your pelvis turned toward the front of your mat. With proper alignment, however, this pose becomes a great source of strength, courage, confidence, and stability.

 

3. Warrior II (Virabhradrasana II)

Image via Tom Britt

When the thoughts flowing through your mind seem especially turbulent, the stable nature of Warrior II pose can help bring you back to a more balanced mental/emotional state. Remember that heel to arch alignment, press the blade of your back foot into your fat, and engage both quadriceps.

 

4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

Image via pbkwee

Triangle pose is a similar grounding pose to Warrior II and is often performed right after Warrior II in many sequences by straightening the front leg, adjusting the back leg as needed, and reaching through the hand pointed toward the top of the mat to fold and rest it on the front ankle or shin (or a block of course). Consider practicing triangle pose after and Warrior II to enhance the grounding effects.

 

5. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Image via WeTravel on Flickr

Trees ground themselves to the Earth, which is why tree pose is truly one of the best grounding poses. It helps promote balance and centering, helping you to develop greater physical and mental steadiness. Regularly practicing this pose may also help you improve your ability to focus and concentrate in your everyday life.

 

6. Easy Pose (Sukhasana) with Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Image via Teofie

Don’t forget the power of breathing! Sitting in easy pose while practicing alternate nostril breathing helps the balance out sympathetic nervous system (which governs your fight or flight mode) with the parasympathetic system (which governs your rest and relax mode).

 

7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Image via Shawn Perez

And last but not least, never skip savasana when you’re intention is to feel more grounded and centered through your practice. Savasana is all about surrender, and though it is physically the most uncomplicated pose of them all, it’s said to be the hardest for the simple fact that it involves learning to let go entirely in the moment.