Thoughts from the Lotus September 2013 What are the 8 limbs/parts to Yoga? What are the 8 limbs of Yoga: The 5 Yamas. The 5 Nyamas Asanas Pranayama Pratyahara Dharana Dhyana Samadhi We will briefly explore each one. There are 10 living principles in Yoga which I would like to share with you. They are the 5 Yamas & The 5 Nyamas. Yamas are Wise characteristics to develop and Nyamas are codes for living soulfully. Each month will be a new one for you to explore or deepen and be mindful of as we go about our day to day. You can simply take each one for a month and think about or meditate on or write a diary. I like to write one I want to work on at the top of my calendar in the kitchen. Reminds me! So this month September, it says in bold purple pen 'Ahimsa' Let me know on Facebook any thoughts, questions or experiences you have working with these. We will start with The 5. Yamas-Wise Characteristics. 1. AHIMSA- NON HARMING. COMPASSION for all living things. Questions for reflection may include ways in which we harm ourselves or others or ways we could be more compassionate through our thoughts, actions and deeds.... Perhaps set an intention for your week to practice Ahimsa...and the next, for 1 month All blessings to you. Sharon
 October 2013 No 2 of the 10 living principles of Yoga is the Yama (Wise characteristics) 1 of 8 Limbs of Yoga. SATYA=COMMITMENT TO THE TRUTH. This is an exploration of what Truth means to us and in what ways we are not truthful...I offer this for our reflection for the week & the next week and great to work with it for 1 month. Remember to remember! When we bring 'awareness' to a subject then we can start to really explore our inner thoughts, beliefs, behaviors surrounding a subject and if and when necessary make conscious changes. Insights can come when we take these Limbs of Yoga of which Satya is part of the 5 Yamas. Opportunities come for us to practice noticing where we are not truthful and why without judgement and blame. How does not being truthful or being truthful effect me or others. What is truth especially the question who am I ? Simply practice these Yama's each month, noticing what comes up through mindfulness, meditation or self reflection, diary, discussion can be very beneficial for yourself and others. Let me know on FB how you get on All blessings to you Sharon
 November 2013 No.. 3 of The 10 Principles of Yoga is the Yama (Wise characteristics) ASTEYA = NOT STEALING.... The practice of Asteya asks us to be careful to not take anything that has not been freely given. To also create gratitude with what we have and appreciate the abundance we already have. Let's explore and reflect on all the ways where we might 'take/steal' for example others time or from the earth or taking one's joy from ourselves and others; where we take when we feel a lack inside ourselves.... Remember to set an intention to work on Asteya- Not stealing for a week or a month. You can think at the end of the day, write a diary, chat with friends or sit in meditation for insights, understanding, nuances and self discovery and always practicing non judgement of the self and compassion. This can be a practice in of itself learning to allow forgiveness and compassion to arise in you for you. Have a great month and think of at least one thing before you go to sleep to be thankful for....gratitude for what we have can induce feelings of wellbeing and help us to sleep. zzz All blessings to you. Sharon
 December 2013. No. 4 out of the 10 Principles of Yoga is the Yama ( Wise characteristics.) BRAHMACHARYA = MERGING WITH THE ONE. This can be a most misunderstood and debated principle of The Yamas in Yoga because it wrestles with the dilemma, if, how, when and why to use sexual energy wisely. The principle being that one contemplates and has an awareness of how to use this energy to be in the highest good for all and to be a conduit to higher consciousness...to loose the sense of separateness and merge with the oneness. Remember there are 8 limbs on the path to Yoga. The Yamas are 1, The Niyamas are 2, The Postures/Asanas is No 3, they are all of equal value and Yoga invites us to work with these principles... Let's reflect and be mindful on how and when and why we use this energy-Brahmacharya-Merging with the One. It is a great topic for discussion and self reflection. Whatever way you are drawn to work with to reflect on this topic. Some people like to debate, write a diary, read more, meditate or simply sit quietly and think maybe for the first time or a bit deeper about sexual energy and ask-inquire and be open to where your mind takes you and observe any reactions and opinions. Ultimately when we take these limbs of Yoga and work on them every day especially in the beginning for a month,it is to really understand them in the body too with our intuitive higher self, consciousness within & around us. It can be an interesting self discovery if change is required to live more fully in conscious awareness especially with how to use wisely this energy to be whole, to be one. Let me know your thoughts and observations on Facebook. All blessings to you Sharon
 January 2014. No 5 of The 10 Yoga Principles is The 5th YAMA ( Wise characteristics) APARIGRAHA = NOT GRASPING Life would be much easier and less painful if we truly lived with the knowledge of impermanence as are only constant. Aparigraha is the principle of non grasping. This can come as grasping against or for change, towards a person, an outcome and an external reaching for things and a way of life. We are to ask ourselves where we hold on? Where do we grasp and attach ourselves to our identity to concepts. Holding onto things and being free are two mutually exclusive states. Yoga asks us to reflect on the meaning of this Yama in our life... Have a great month working with this last Yama. Remember to practice all these reflections for self discovery, mastery & understanding with non judgement. To cultivate and develop compassion and forgiveness if you judge yourself or others in any of these topics. This is a practice in of itself to learn and practice self discovery alongside holding a kindness towards ourselves and others in the process, not a free for all for us to beat ourselves up or others whilst we practice all limbs of Yoga. We have touched on 5 of the 10 Living Principles of Yoga in earlier mini blogs The Yamas- Wise characteristics are 1-5 and are the 1st limb. So to recap we started with 1. Ahimsa. 2. Satya. 3. Asteya. 4 Brahmacharya 5. Aparigraha. Let me know how you get on through Facebook.Questions, share realizations whatever your feel. All blessings to you Sharon
 Feb. 2014 We have touched on 5 of the 10 Living Principles of Yoga in earlier blogs.... The Yamas- Wise characteristics are 1-5 and are the 1st limb. The Niyamas-Codes for living soulfully are 1-5 and are the 2nd limb. There are 8 Limbs of Yoga. NIYAMA 1 is SHAUCHA = PURITY It is for us to make choices in what we want and don't want in our life that allows us to experience life more vividly. If we feed the body and palate cleanly we can appreciate the sweetness of an apple. If our minds are clear we can appreciate how to feel peaceful. If we nourish our minds by what we read, watch and who and how we engage in conversation we can appreciate our minds and others wisdom. If our environment is uncluttered and clean we can appreciate the atmosphere of our homes and places of work. The goal is to enhance and find more beauty and purity in body, mind and heart. To experience ourselves at a higher resolution. Something to reflect on.... Like The Yamas in earlier blogs. Some of us like meditation to reflect and go inwards on this topics. Some like to read more, discuss or write a diary or simply sit and ask questions and think and feel their way with a topic. Great to take these one at a time and for a month to really begin to delve deeper into the inquirey & self discovery and always without judgement of the self in the process which is a practice in of itself. I welcome comments and thoughts on Facebook. All blessings to you Sharon
 March 2014 NIYAMAS (Codes for Living soulfully) 2 of the 10 Principles of Yoga is SANTOSHA = CONTENTMENT. The exploration and practice of Contentment. This does not mean complacency with things as they are or acceptance of unhealthy relationships and situations, but a sense of feeling satisfied inspite of how things are and cultivating acceptance, hope and peace in this moment. To strive but also at the same time appreciate and develop contentment in the now. I invite you with all these Yamas and Nyamas. The 10 Living Principles in Yoga & part of The 8 Limbs of Yoga to set an intention to work with each topic for a month in the beginning and develop an awareness as you go about your day to tune into each topic and journal, meditate, discuss and explore these qualities in your life. I enjoy hearing from you your thoughts, discoveries, insights and changes to your life on Facebook. All blessings to you Sharon
 April 2014 NIYAMAS (Codes for living soulfully) The third Niyama of which there are 5 is TAPAS- BURNING ENTHUSIASM Tapas is fire or heat and is the disciplined use of our energy/ burning enthusiasm. This is for us to be aware of the energy and how it can keep our momentum for things that are important to us going. Whether to fan the flame of an idea. Keep a practice burning especially when the mind gets bored. To keep the heat of our actions steady and alive. To be watchful of ways in which we lose our energy and commitments. To consciously keep our energy endurance to manifest the ways of being we desire. Cultivating Tapas allows us to direst our energies toward a fulfilling life of meaning. I invite you again to take a good month and intend to be conscious every day and work and reflect on this Nyama. You can choose simply sitting and asking questions and thinking and feeling on these subjects. You can keep a diary or meditate or chat through with a group. These principles in Yoga are here for us to use them for self discovery , understanding and transform ourselves. Whilst undertaking to understand our habits , the mind , our behaviors , it is important to practice observing where our minds, feelings and bodies reactions take us, without judgement upon ourselves. To always especially if we wish to change things about ourselves to not harm (Ahimsa) ourselves in the process. To employ (Santosha) contentment with where we are right now and how we are in this moment whilst be present and open to transformation from perhaps ways of being and reacting that do not serve us anymore and rob of us of our joy in the now. We can use also Tapas in our spiritual practice to have an 'enthusiasm' to be kind and work with ourselves but in compassionate ways as we literally find our way. Remembering kindness towards ourselves and a dedication to Tapas to see our path through especially when we 'are' working on a topic and things appear to get worse! It is often only one's awareness heightening so we can look deeper and let it go...let it all go. Keep going can be part of Tapas - see things through, keep the flames burning. All blessings to you. Sharon
 May 2014 THE 4th NIYAMA (Codes for living soulfully) is SWADHYAYA = SELF STUDY Any activity that cultivates self reflective consciousness can be thought of as the practice of Swadhyaya. Self study. The form it takes to know the self, whether through meditation, writing, painting, athletics, work is not what is important. What is...is to begin, see it through and without judgement and with compassion, we realize our identity and attachments, habits, responses and perceived strengths, weaknesses and addictions. It is to learn with awareness about yourself and make more skillful thoughts, actions and reactions and keep cultivating non judgement of yourself and compassion for all aspects of your self. The Niyamas and Yamas in Yoga are here for us to reflect on sometimes daily or take one and practice it for a week, however your intuition is guided.... I do recommend a month in the beginning because usually a structure/plan/intention is required for the mind to get it's mind around putting some effort into this. Busy lives, never mind the nature of the mind to find real or imagined excuses will happen, and having a months sincere intention to work with these Yamas and Nyamas in Yoga gives us a bit more flexibility to do just that. Then, it becomes easier and we really want to sit quietly, spend time on them and even enjoy this process. All blessings to you Sharon
 June 2014 Remember there are 8 limbs to Yoga. 1. We looked at The Yamas in earlier posts meaning- Wise Characteristics, of which there are 5. 2. The Niyamas meaning Codes for Living Soulfully, of which there are 5 again. That brings us to the 5th Niyama for our reflection today ISHVARAPRANIDHANA- CELEBRATION OF THE SPIRITUAL Yoga tells us that the spiritual infuses everything we do and brings meaning to our lives, if we simply take time to connect with an intelligence that is bigger than our own. If we recognize there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing our lives we can allow an unfolding of our lives with greater joy and bliss. To embrace all experiences. Ways in which we can practice Ishvarapranidhana is to sit quietly and listen if only for a few minutes, to commune with nature, to meditate, to take a few moments in your car to breath,. To simply get in tune with the something bigger than ourselves and find meaning and joy. Let's embody the mystery of life and celebrate our true nature All blessings to you. Sharon
 July 2014 Here we are at number 3 of The 8 Limbs of Yoga. Please see previous posts for 1&2 The Yamas (5) The Nyamas (5). 3 are The Asanas- The Postures or comfortable seat. We use all these wonderful postures as a real somatic body experience to live in the body more, to listen & know ourselves especially to notice our thoughts. The Asanas take us through physical strengths, endurance, flexibility and focus but what makes Yoga different from other forms of obvious exercise benefits, is that it can with the awareness of the breath bring us home to the body, to connect to our real nature of pure awareness, pure consciousness, bliss. The ability to sustain a posture and listen and respond intelligently and kindly to our bodies is of value to how we wish to respond to life's challenges of the mat. The secret is in getting quiet with ourselves, being fully present in this moment in this posture. We explore our physical edge, what is too much intensity in a posture & what is not. To find our balance of working with our bodies in any given moment aware of our energy level, ,mood, what is real emotionally for us in that moment of Asana practice & honoring that in that moment & the next moment. To find an ease within the challenge of a posture, a steadiness in mind, body and heart. Asana practice is also a way to go within, to heighten our awareness of our inner world. We can bring in the Yamas and Nyamas when working with the Asanas- to utilize contentment (Santosha) with what you can do rather than grasping for what is not available yet, to engage in (Tapas) burning enthusiasm to sustain us on days we don't feel like practicing Yoga. To use (Ahimsa) kindness to oneself so if you need to come out of a posture you do. That we learn to let go of ego or any pressure felt in a posture and simply tune in to ourselves and guide and train the mind to be fully present in each posture. To listen. To use every posture to celebrate the spiritual nature of ourselves (Ishvarpranidhana) with joy & gratitude for your body. This connection or reconnect with your bodies experience of life, not any separateness from the mind and emotions. To re connect through awareness , breath, being present in the Asanas to bring us back to our truth, our consciousness, our true nature that is beyond our personalities and stories. The repeated practice of dropping into connection to that which is bigger than us, so we can remember we are whole and feel this again every time we feel disconnected and separate. With a regular Yoga practice we can embrace and transform our lives through being whole, mind body heart and spirit connected in the present moment. Union the meaning of Yoga. We also use this limb of Yoga- The Asanas to make it more easy to then prepare ourselves to sit in meditation to 'still the fluctuations of the mind' which is also according to Patanjali the godfather of Yoga the goal of Yoga. Again the secret is in getting quiet, giving ourselves to silence. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a resource for all things Yoga if you wish to read & integrate them into your life. All blessings to you Sharon
 August 2014 Here we are at number 4 of The 8 Limbs of Yoga. Please see previous blogs for information on this eight fold path. Pranayama is the topic and what a vast one it is. If we think about our breathing it literally is the ‘life force’ we are breathing in called in Yoga, ‘Prana’. One of my teachers the Ashtanga Guru of the west, David Swenson said, “we are only one exhale away from death”, which at the time I felt was a tad strong but true eh? Makes you pause. Pranayama practice goes way beyond breathing exercises although specific breath work can be to target, balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain, decreasing blood pressure, regulating hormones, decreasing muscle tension, anxiety & stress, stabilizing moods and dealing with trauma. There are specific Pranayama techniques that cool us down, fire us up with heat, will power & improve digestion & removal of addictions. There are specific breath practices that can initiate more creativity & intuition. The three part breath called Dirga Pranayama the most simple in theory to do, uses the diaphragm effectively to bring on board more awareness of what our breathing pattern is, and to stretch and compress the muscles and structures involved in breathing to allow for full capacity of oxygen and carbon dioxide to be properly exchanged. Dirga Pranayama is to be employed always, so this breath awareness as it develops brings us into the present moment on & off our Yoga mats. Dirga Pranayama can help us to align with this moment rather than living in the past or the future and in our heads. We use ‘awareness’ of our breath to bring us present and is a tool in training ourselves in Mindfulness. There are some schools of Yoga that do not believe in practicing the many advanced Pranayama practices till an awareness of our breath has been realized and Dirga Pranayama has been regularly practiced for years before introducing other breath work. The thinking that if we have not mastered regular awareness of our breathing pattern and have good use of this breathing apparatus then we are simply applying techniques on top of incorrect breathing. Personally I think it is correct. There are some advanced breathing techniques that I find stress my nervous system because I can’t do them! Holding my breath for a time length for example is one. But this is where it is important always to listen to yourself, be open to exploring but choosing wisely with what resonates for your wellness or not. Listen and the body speaks. The Yogis of ancient times said each of us are given a certain amount of breaths in our lifetime and to use each one wisely. There are some Pranayama techniques that are invaluable for their profound benefits on our internal systems, emotional systems and energetic systems like Ujjayi Breath & Nadi Shodhana. These 2 plus Dirga 3 part breath are used in most styles of Yoga as their benefits are profoundly calming, insightful, purifying and balancing. There are many Pranayama studies especially from Harvard that reveal the myriad of health benefits of these practices. Yoga is an ancient science and I encourage you to read more on all the wonderful current research worldwide on the benefits of using Pranayama and Yoga for health & more understanding of how interlinked our minds, body’s, hearts & energy systems are. Regular Pranayama awareness and practice can illuminate and transform your depth of joy for life especially when challenges come up. The use of Pranyama is one of the first and most important practices to guide us into the present moment. As the wonderful Thich Nhat Hanh says on Pranayama “ Breath is spirit”. Some nice reflections can be to ask ourselves where we breath in life fully, and accept what is happening to us, and are at one with our life however it is in any given moment, and where we hold, wrestle, tighten and even forget to breath…. And often used phrase from students in a physical posture when it is hard is ‘I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing”. I invite you to tune into your breathing , watch it, observe it, get to know it, practice Pranayama and see how it effects all aspects of you throughout your day. It can be a life transforming tool to be aware of and tap into right now. How ‘are’ you breathing right now…….? According to Yoga Bhajan, Yoga & the breath makes us happy, whole and holy. Sacredness lies in silence with the breath. Let yourself be breathed. All blessings to you. Sharon
 September 2014 There are 8 limbs of Yoga also called Petals of Yoga or The 8 fold path. (Please see previous posts for blogs on the limbs of Yoga) The 5th 6th & 7th Limbs blend together. And now to the 5th Limb of Yoga on the 8 fold path called ‘Pratyahara’ which means ‘Introversion of attention’. When we begin the process of tuning into ourselves by getting still, quiet, maybe closing the eyes, we can start the process of going within to connect to ourselves & the sacred. Dharana is the 6th Limb – ‘Concentration’. Now we move more into a deeper more refined focus where the mind is brought to be on a one pointed concentration inside the body or outside, often using the awareness of your breathing to keep the mind steady and fully aware of those inhales & exhales. This brings us into and with, the present moment more fully when we focus on the breath. You guide the mind back on to your breathing and in your breathing every time the mind wanders which it will, over and over, hence why it is a practice. The 8 limbs of Yoga are here to support us in our bodies with our minds and being with our emotions to bring about a sense, feeling and knowing we can be calm, steady, happy, healed and whole. To remember we always were whole. Then we can begin the process of being in a state of Samadhi (8th). The 7th Limb of Yoga is Dhyana which means ‘Meditation’. Meditation uses various techniques to guide us till we no longer need techniques. There are many ways to meditate. This subject is to be sincerely practiced and experientially explored for our own understanding, realizations, challenges and bliss. I highly recommend reading & trying different techniques on Meditation and finding what resonates with you as a way to begin Meditation in your life or deepen your knowledge and to practice Meditation regularly. My recommendations are The teachings of Ramana Maharshi. Adyshanti. Ajahn Succitto, though to simply begin is most important. There can be real struggles, thoughts & obstacles to not beginning or continuing to Meditate. It is important to begin anyway & to be open and curious to the experience and persevere. Also important to a regular practice is to suspend the judging mind and allow your practice to unfold and reveal itself to you and to be patient. However you start, whomever you hear about, read up about, listen to or feel guided to practice with begin, stay & make time for it. Osho the great Mystic said ‘No Meditation No Life – Know Meditation Know Life’ I am finding this to be true. Meditation offers us so much if we just start, listen, learn & begin again and again to meditate. We are all one, we are all suffering and there is a way out, to let go, to go within. To feel our own suffering and others then notice what is there behind that, profound compassion for ourselves & others, kindness, love and peace. We are offered through Meditation a way to return to our true nature that was, and is, always there around us and in us- Pure divine sacred consciousness. We are to wake up to the illusion of our separateness and inter ‘be’ with everyone, nature and all. Meditation can ‘still the fluctuations of the mind’ as Patanjali said in The Yoga Sutras to guide us and encourage us to keep practicing to realize ‘Samadhi’- ‘Our true nature’. The last limb of Yoga number 8 is ‘Samadhi’ & called other names in other traditions like Nirvana in Buddhism. They are the same meaning- a state of Joy, all pervasive Love, One with the Cosmos, a state of bliss, in which the mind and it’s tendencies to roam are void. A complete state of being that is free of the ego, personality & fully absorbed in ‘Samadhi’ which is Pure Consciousness, Pure awareness. Many great & wise scholars, teachers, Guru’s & enlightened beings have been challenged to describe Samadhi, because then the mind comes back into play and Samadhi is beyond mind. I encourage us all to simply begin a practice of Yoga & Meditation to guide us as we evolve, learn, let go, heal & transform our lives & transcend. To find out for ourselves, is the way. To simply begin is the key. Then, have your own journey with this observation & witnessing of ourselves in our life. Sri K Pattabhi Jois said ‘Practice Yoga and all is coming’ This is becoming my experience & knowing. There are many great articles, research, and science on the benefits of Meditation. The ancient science of Yoga and Meditation is gaining in evidence based results today, confirming that they were onto something back then and right here right now the world is waking up and through excellent studies, news coverage & worldwide access to teachings, we can learn and experience how we can use these ancient tools to bring about real change in our lives today. Begin now. No time like the present. Namaste. All blessings to you. Sharon
 January 2015 Happy New Year. All blessing to you. Here is a beautiful Meditation for you, using a Mudra which is a hand position. This one is called Padma Mudra which means Lotus. Sit tall, place the heels of the hands together, thumbs & baby finger touching. Open space between the hands and space around the fingers, like holding a cup inside. Place Lotus Mudra at your chest-heart center. Close your eyes visualizing light coming from your own heart through the palms and lighting your way in the world. Bringing light into darkness - into your struggles & with each breath out feel that light, that inner glow from your own heart. Padma Mudra helps us see from our hearts. Enjoy.... Mudras are Yoga hand positions each pertaining to balancing our energy-known as Prana - Life force. Each of the five fingers represents one of the 5 elements. The thumb represents fire. The index finger represents air. The middle finger represents ether. The ring finger represents earth, and the baby finger represents water. During a Mudra, a particular finger is brought into contact with the thumb, and as a result, currents that are found throughout the body bring that element into balance and help to maintain and restore health. Enjoy Lotus Mudra as you meditate. Happy 2015 Sharon
 May 2015 WHY GO UPSIDE DOWN IN YOGA? The Asanas/postures are called INVERSIONS. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? It is important to Increase our immunity and prevent illness. The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside down allows for more efficiency. The Respiratory system & Digestive organs have a pleasant gravity pull on them encouraging the efficiency of these systems and eliminating waste products to bring in fresh nutrients and energy into the body. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is also encouraged in Yoga to further benefit purifying the breath & mind. Inversions reverse the blood flow in the body and improve circulation. Using gravity, inversions provide the brain with more oxygen and blood increases ie. mental functioning improves concentration, memory, & processing abilities. It can change your mood. Literally you can have a new perspective on your life by going upside down. AND to RELAX: Whilst the heating inversions (handstand & headstand) energize, inversions of the cooling type (shoulder stand & legs up the wall) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of soothing relief from stress. The list goes on -improves core strength, upper body, balance and is FUN! Whatever level of ability the myriad of benefits from going upside down in Yoga are there for us to receive. All blessings to you Sharon

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