Our Internal Freedoms

This month we are celebrating true freedom, and we do experience freedom on many different levels. We celebrate political freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to choose. But what about thought and feeling freedom, the freedoms that we create internally? If you’ve ever felt trapped in your life or circumstances, you know that we actually have the power to limit the freedom we experience.

The truth is that our feelings come from the thoughts that we have, and our thoughts are based on beliefs. Our chakras inherently have much to do with the energy working within us, and each chakra affects a different part of our life. When our chakras are closed or blocked, we experience limited freedom as a result. Let’s look at some ideas for creating a strong foundation in our lower three chakras so that we can experience true personal power.

The Root Chakra is our security center because it’s all about our physical needs, and our need to belong. Everyone needs food, water, shelter, connection to the earth and our place on it. If you are experiencing financial troubles, feeling like you aren’t enough or that you don’t belong … your root chakra may be unbalanced.

There are many ways to address balancing chakras … color, mantras, gemstones, poses, meditations. Today let’s focus on a few essential oils that are supportive to our chakras.

Patchouli is a great essential oil to help balance the root chakra, as it supports our ability to connect with the earth, to feel at home and at peace in our bodies. You can apply it topically to the bottoms of the feet, and/or dilute an apply it to the legs. Breathe in the oil left on your hands after application and appreciate the rich earthy aroma that patchouli provides.

The Sacral Chakra is our creative center, it’s related to our level of joy and to the feeling of abundance we experience. It is the seat of our relationships with food, sex, and creation on all levels. When we are afraid of not having enough, when we want to control circumstances and people in our lives, and when we experience jealousy or any type of unhealthy relationship with food, our Sacral Chakra may need balancing.

Bergamot essential oil is a beautiful citrus oil that helps uplift and reconnect us to the joy that is lacking. It helps us recognize what might be holding us back, supports us as we connect to what we want to manifest in our lives, which helps us redirect our creative center to help us in achieving our purpose in life. Use aromatically by rubbing a drop in the palms of your hands and \ cupping your hands over nose, or using in a diffuser.

The Solar Plexus Chakra is origin to how we express ourselves as individuals. It relates to how the world sees us and how we see the world. If you are experiencing digestive issues, pervasive feelings of sadness and discouragement, or if you have difficulty setting healthy boundaries with others, your Solar Plexus may need balancing.

Geranium is a beautiful oil to help with healthy-boundary setting, especially when it comes to relationships with those closest to us. It can provide the added benefit of additional support for mother-daughter relationships. Another great oil to assist your personal feelings is Melissa – both these oils can be used topically on the bottoms of the feet, directly over the Solar Plexus or on the back of the neck just under the hairline. Rub in and breathe in.

Learn more about how yoga and essential oils can pair to bring light and wellness to your practice and everyday lifestyle by joining us for Essential Yoga Sangha this month, a two week online course, beginning July 30th; to learn more and register go HERE. This course is written for both yogis and essential oil enthusiasts, novices and seasoned students in each area. We will explore the world of aromatherapy, Ayurveda, and yoga and how they compliment each other. Yoga teachers will receive ten CECs from Yoga Alliance when signing up for the second part of the sangha course.

Our Freedom Depends on "We"

Yoga means union. Union of body, mind and spirit to be specific.  Yogis young and old, novice and seasoned, know and respect this, working constantly to deepen their practice in order to refine awareness and progress on their yogic journey.  Understanding how each of these three cornerstones are foundational to each of us defines the unique journey we each take.  We may share common ground as our journeys cross. The crossing of our paths give rise to opportunities to learn from each other and to recognize that the Divine presence of who and what intersects our path is just as important as the inward journey to discover our true nature, our true calling, the Divine spark planted within us waiting to be revealed. Our life’s work is from the microcosm to the macrocosm, realizing the inner work connects us to the ripple effect of the purpose of our life, and to the many lives we are affected by. This is empowering as well as humbling. We can contemplate many life lessons here: Your journey might start with “Me” but it is really about “We.”  We need each other in life. Our life’s journey requires spiritual growth. Yoga is a spiritual practice. We must work consistently at this, with courage and persistence, patience and faith.  In doing so, along the way we cultivate strength, resilience, happiness, humility, freedom, gratitude and love.  Love for God, family, country, humanity and self. We must embody our practice and in doing so we will appreciate how everything is connected, and that we are One, connected to the Divine.

We at Essential Yoga Practice are so glad to be connected to YOU! Share on our Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) how you are empowered by freedom? Join our online course “Essential Yoga Practice Sangha,” which begins July 30.  The second section of the couse will allow yoga teachers 10 Yoga Alliance online CECs. Prerequisite is to have your copy of the book, Essential Yoga Practice. Enjoy your practice!

Summer is Pitta Season!

As the summer solstice marks the official beginning of the summer season, the energy shift brings our attention to the intentional care and keeping of body, mind and spirit in order to avoid “Pitta imbalances.” Ayurveda teaches that we are all unique in our dosha (constitution) makeup and that we all have unique percentages of the three: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In each season, the change of weather patterns and temperatures, seasonal foods/diet, daylight hours, and general seasonal habits we might adopt, may be offsetting to the consistent daily practices necessary to support our unique makeup. Pitta imbalances tend to come in the summertime and to be sparked by heat, dehydration, spicy foods, … common to the summer season. Therefore we should look to the ways we can fend off any Pitta imbalance tendencies.  Our yogic and Ayurvedic practices are the ideal ways to learn more about ourselves, and to create daily and weekly supportive practices.  See pp. 13 – 24 of our book, Essential Yoga Practice to take a dosha quiz and understand more on each dosha.  In self-study we note our “reactions,” so as to be more mindful to practicing with intelligence in all aspects while creating new habits of self-care. Since pitta energy is hot, fiery, intense, sharp, penetrating, it makes sense that we balance Pitta dosha with calming, soothing and pacifying foods, environments, actions and energy.

In looking to our yoga asana practice, we want to be more slow and methodical in choosing asana sequences. In addition, connecting to the energy of the earth by practicing outdoors, inspired by the vibrancy of colors and fruitful energy of the season, is a healthy way to get grounded. Remember to stay well hydrated, protect yourself from damaging sun rays and irritating bugs, practice during cooler hours and try to be consistent in the time of your practice.  Use essential oils/aromatherapy known for their ability to calm and soothe certain emotions that tend to be related to pitta dosha:  cardamom, cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, helichrysum, roman chamomile, spearmint, thyme, wild orange, ylang ylang, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, peppermint, vetiver, rosemary, wintergreen, and spikenard.  In the coming weeks we will share more on all of these points from the perspective of Ayurveda.

Last summer we created and shared our own unique “Pitta Blend” of aromatherapy (See our June 2017 blog post on Pitta Season at www.essentialyogapractice.com), using a 10 ml roller bottle and the following recipe of essential oils added in this order:

·                                 12 d Lavender

·                                 6 d Peppermint

·                                 8 d Hawaiian Sandalwood

·                                 6 d Spikenard

·                                 2 d Indian Sandalwood

Fill the rest of the bottle with Fractionated Coconut Oil, roll on pulse points to enjoy this Pitta balancing aromatherapy, and/or topically around the liver (under the ribcage from the front or back body) to help counter feelings of irritability common in summertime heat. We would love to hear about your aromatherapy and yoga asana practices in the summertime!

Want to learn more as you grow your own practice?  Sign up for our 2 week online course, Essential Yoga Practice Sangha, starting July 30, a perfect way to start learning about the art of pairing yoga with essential oils if you are new to either. If you are a yoga teacher and member of Yoga Alliance, an additional section of the Sangha can qualify you for all 10 of your online CE hours. Click HERE for more information and to get registered.

International Yoga Day!

Happy first day of Summer to our Essential Yoga Practice friends!

Officially the first day of summer aligns with the Summer Solstice, June 21, and the International Day of Yoga! Across the globe yogis unite with collective efforts through the practice of yoga: asana, pranayama, meditation, Ayurvedic practices, contributing to the spreading of “how and why” to practice by doing. Additionally, these collective efforts are in part to raise the level of consciousness, to strive for peace practices and to foster global healing.  In many communities, there are organized events aimed to increase awareness of our passion and understanding in practicing yoga.  The Summer Solstice, as an auspicious day, gives us opportunity to “start anew,” with resolving to specific goals, learning something new, or turning a corner as our way to mark stepping stones on our journey of evolution.  These opportunities require our awareness and presence, key principles in our yogic journey, both personal and collective. What we focus on expands, so now is the time to embark on our next steps! Building community is key to this global mission, now in the fourth year, as the United Nations declared June 21 and International Yoga Day in 2015.  The understanding of how this day is marked by great energy and can hold our attention to intention is empowering! What will you be inspired to do with the energy of this day? What will your yoga practice be like? Do you have a special mantra to lead you?  Share with us some of your practice and intentions to be entered to win a “Peace essential oil blend.”  We will select the winner at the end of the month, so this gives time for you to focus on your steps as we “Spring into Summer,” and acknowledge the significance of June 21!  Read on the history of International Yoga Day.  Sign up for the free Yoga Day Summit HERE. Sign up for our two-week online course, Essential Yoga Practice Sangha, starting July 30, a perfect way to start learning about the art of pairing yoga with essential oils if you are new to either. If you are a yoga teacher and member of Yoga Alliance, an additional section of the Sangha can qualify you for all 10 of your online CE hours. Click HERE for more information and to get registered.

Chakras

Chakras consist of 7 energetic centers located along the spine. In eastern medicine, these energy centers have long been recognized as key components in our ability to achieve happiness, and in Maslow’s terms “self-actualization.” When we have free, clear-flowing energy in each distinct chakra, it impacts a certain part of our life.

The great thing is, there are many ways to approach opening your chakras and ensuring that the energy is not only flowing, but flowing in the right direction. As you read the information below, choose an action you’ll take with each chakra and experiment opening your chakras today. We’d love to hear how you feel afterwards!

Start the process with a drop of a grounding blend that you apply to the bottoms of your feet, then use a protective blend to communicate to your body and spirit that opening up at this time is a safe and supported process.

The Root Chakra, Muladhara:

· This chakra is located at the base of the spine and represents our roots – your family of origin, how you fit in, it concerns matters of survival such as food and shelter.
· Associated with the color red – focus on red; wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of Bergamot, Vetiver, Ginger, Myrrh, or Patchouli essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the base of the spine. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “LAM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Sacral Chakra, Svadhishthana:

· This chakra is located about 2 inches below the navel and is our creation center. It concerns well-being in the areas of sexuality and feelings of abundance.
· Associated with the color orange -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of Sandalwood, Orange, Geranium, Cedarwood, or Jasmine essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the abdomen about 2 inches below the navel. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “VAM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Solar Plexus Chakra, Manipura

· This chakra is located just above the stomach and represents well-being in the areas of self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. It’s how we perceive and feel about ourselves.
· Associated with the color yellow -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of  Juniper, Neroli, Lemon or Peppermint essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the area above the stomach. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “RAM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Heart Chakra, Anahata

· This chakra has to do with our ability to give and receive love. In yoga, we want to direct the balanced and open energy from the bottom three chakras to the heart, direct the energy from the chakras above the heart to the heart, and then lead with the heart in all things…this is our true center and helps us live lives of peace and happiness.
· Associated with the color green -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of  Bergamot and/or Ylang Ylang essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the heart. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “YAM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Throat Chakra, Vishuddha

· This chakra has to do with our ability to express our truth, to communicate in an authentic way
· Associated with the color blue -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of  Geranium, Bayberry, Chamomile or Myrrh essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the throat. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “HAM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Third Eye Chakra, Ajna

· This chakra is located in the center of the forehead and is connected to our ability to focus and approach life with imagination, wisdom and intuition
· Associated with the color purple -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of  Lavender or Camphor essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the forehead. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “OM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

The Crown Chakra, Sahasrara

· This chakra is located at the top of the head and is related to our ability to connect with our higher power and live connected to source, as our highest, best selves
· Associated with the color white -- wear it, eat foods of this color, intentionally look at artwork featuring this color
· Put a drop of  Frankincense or Lavender essential oil in your hands, rub your hands together, cup your nose and inhale. You can also apply a drop to the bottoms of the feet and to the top of the head. Rub in a clockwise manner.
· Meditate with the sound “OM,” taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed

Post on one of our Social Media pages to let us know how you are feeling after doing one or all of the chakra opening practices. You can learn much more about chakra opening and balancing by attending our Essential Yoga Sangha starting the last week of July, it’s a perfect way to start learning about the art of pairing yoga with essential oils if you are new to either. If you are a yoga teacher and member of yoga alliance, the Sangha can qualify you for all 10 of your online CE hours. Click HERE for more information and to get registered.

Live Authentically, Align the Energy of Your Chakras

Have you ever pondered your motivation or inspiration for decision making…or less formally, doing what you do? Common reasons include: wanting to please someone so we can get approval or deliberately making a choice we think will really displease someone, trying to receive some type of reward/compensation or trying to avoid pain/negative consequence, trying to avoid confrontation or trying to cause a confrontation. Sometimes we make decisions when we are in fight, flight or freeze (we rarely make good decisions when we are in one of those modes).

Ultimately, we want to become more aware of what we want to be, have, do and experience, so that we make our decisions based on intention …and by so doing we live deliberately. But what if you are making your “intentional” decisions based on the wrong motivating factor (such as someone else’s approval)? Then the brilliance you were born with may get stifled beyond recognition, and the rest of us may never get to experience the gift that is uniquely you.

So….what is the best motivating factor for decision making, and how do we tune into it? There are 3 levels we make decisions with. The first level is with our head …. That’s where all the “mind-talk” described in the first paragraph comes in. We can make decisions while we are in level one, but those decisions end up either being fear-based or inauthentic, neither of which leads to our best homework.

The second level is with our heart. When we make decisions from the heart, we make decisions from a place of faith and hope in ourselves and in our future, and we start to live authentically. Making decisions from level two can help us not only to live with an overall awareness of what we want to be, do or have but can also help us make decisions in the moment.

The third level is when we align our heart with our higher power. When we make decisions on this level, we are experiencing the result of proper chakra alignment. The 4th chakra is the heart of intuition and all energy – we want to bring the energy of the chakras above to the heart, energy from chakras below to the heart, then lead from the heart in all that we do. Ponder that powerful idea for a moment…when we are able to keep our chakras open and allow our root, sacral and navel chakras to create a foundational energy for the heart….and align the throat, third-eye and crown chakra (thus we align ourselves with inspiration, intuition, our best selves and our higher power) and allow the heart to lead with this alignment, our decisions will be firmly grounded.

Obviously this is a process easier said than done. Yoga with “heart openers” allows us to support that energy pattern in our bodies. You can also use aromatherapy to help you open the chakras and root and lift your heart so that your decisions are based on your best self. See pages 27 - 29 and the Chakra Chart on pages 30-31 in Essential Yoga Practice for a list of suggested essential oils and other ways to balance chakras, and determine to live as your best self, and to allow your unique brilliance to shine.

To learn more about chakras, yoga and aromatherapy whether you are a seasoned yoga teacher (needing CE hours) or whether you are brand new to yoga and aromatherapy, you’ll love our 2-week course, Essential Yoga Sangha starting July 30th, 2018. To register and for more information, go here .

How Being Present & Connected Helps us Solve Problems

It’s interesting to ponder on the themes of awareness and connection to the earth (see our blog posts for the month of May), and really get a sense for the power we can access when we master even simple skills and habits in these areas. Let’s add one more element to the mix, that of being present, which as you may already know, is our only point of real power.

Spending time thinking or worrying about the past, for any reason other than participating in energy healing or gaining a point of reference that will help us in the present is not going to benefit us … because the past has already happened. Spending time worrying about the future will also not bring any benefit, because the future hasn’t happened yet. Planning for the future is different … planning helps guide our present actions in a way that keeps us on the path for what we want to accomplish or experience in the future. But even with planning, we must realize the only moment in time where we have any real power to change or do anything is RIGHT NOW, this very moment.

And the power of right now boils down to focused action in the present. Being present in the present. Let’s consider some areas that might benefit greatly if we simply made the commitment to stay connected and present in the present. The first on our list: relationships. How many times do we really allow worries, to-do lists and projections of advice interfere with really being able to listen to someone important to us and enjoy their company in the most carefree way possible? How many little disagreements, misunderstandings or feelings of unimportance might be mitigated or altogether eliminated if we simply choose to listen to and experience one another in the present moment?

Brain specialists teach us that when we are “multi-tasking” we aren’t really multi-tasking. There’s actually no such thing as multi-tasking …. Instead, we train ourselves to become as adept as possible at jumping between one thing to another. But they know from research and experience that we are actually much more productive if we stay focused on one thing long enough to accomplish our goal in that area. Likewise, research on the use of media and how it impacts individuals has shown that in our “trigger-happy” world, in which anything you might be enticed by is just one click away, many people don’t have an attention span longer than a goldfish! (8 seconds)

Think of how lack of focus, or mental “multi-tasking” affects your relationships – when you have a brilliant opportunity to enjoy and enhance the present.

How about work? All of us have to make a living, and some of us are actually doing what we love to do. Others may be dreaming about what they’d love to do. Here’s an interesting question, no matter which side of the fence we are on: If you were somehow able to give yourself focused work time while you are at work (no thoughts of what you need to do later, no worries about how people might react or receive you, just pure focus on the task at hand and being the best person to do it in any given moment) …. How do you think that might change your life? Could it bring you the success and/or promotion and/or raise you’ve been dreaming about? It probably wouldn’t hurt.

How about play, recreation or down time on your own or with loved ones? Are you someone who goes on vacation only to sit on a beautiful beach with your laptop, or do you really experience the waves and the breeze and the pina coladas? Do you really play? Are you in the photos or behind the camera, on the sidelines? Or better yet, just in the business of making memories? How involved do you really get in seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, touching and interfacing with the experience? It’s definitely something to think about.

Chances are that if you have a cell phone, you’ve utilized the memory feature that helps you optimize your memory by combining files and releasing anything that isn’t serving or optimizing your phone’s performance at the time …. There were some things the phone was holding on to that reduced or impaired its ability to function. This is what happens to us when we try to multitask instead of focusing on the present. What if, instead of worrying and thinking about work, play AND relationships all throughout your day, you actually chose when you were going to focus on each …. And then unabashedly did it? That’s the challenge for today. Choose your focus times – then practice being completely present during those time periods. We’d love to hear how that goes!

And if you want to enhance your performance, use some focus-enhancing yoga poses such as  Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), Garudasana (Eagle),  Nataranjasana (Dancer’s Pose), any active inversions/arm balances,  and some focus-enhancing essential oils such as frankincense or wild orange together with peppermint….put a drop of each in your hands and inhale. Interestingly, pure aromatherapy can enhance our ability to stay on task and help us start to train our brains to act in a different way then they’ve become accustomed to. This is the time for you to assert authority over your own brain, and help it help you become the best version of yourself you can be.

We’re looking forward to hearing your comments on this week’s challenge….

Don’t forget that Essential Yoga Sangha is coming up on July 30, click HERE to join us to learn powerful ways to combine your yoga practice with pure essential oils for greater impact and benefit in your life. If you are a yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance, you can also opt to receive 10 online credit hours of Continuing Education…and we have extra tips for yoga studios and teachers that you will love!

Breathing to Come Present

Whether in yoga asana, meditation, or pranayama practices, breathing can play a powerful role in reducing stress, providing invigorating energy, fortifying concentration skills, and most importantly, allowing our awareness to bring us to the present. Physically, breath awareness and breathing exercises have a preventative capacity: improving lung capacity, strengthening cardiorespiratory function, providing more oxygen to the cells of the body and decreasing sympathethic drive/increasing parasympathetic responses, thus relieving stress by quieting the nervous system.  The latter lends itself to the quieting of the mind and the stress release that comes from stilling the mind by giving it a “one-pointed focus.”  Equally breath awareness is effective in restorative ways too, in all three areas of yogic interest: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Again, this is due to the one-pointed direction of our awareness when we focus our mind on our breath.

 

Breathing usually is an involuntary response, and dictated by cells that react to blood gas levels.  Sometimes, there is an overdrive of that mechanism with regard to emotion driving the breath response.  This is also involuntary. Typically we live with shallow breathing, in the anterior lobe of the lungs, with a sitting/stooping/haunched posture that constricts the lungs, and affects posture, mood, and outlook. On average, a human breathes 21,000+ breaths/day.  Cardiovascular, digestive and elimination processes of the body are for the most part involuntary too.  But of all the involuntary processes, breathing is the only one that can be affected voluntarily. We can take poor breathing habits and improve the quality of our breath, thus improving the quality of our life.

 

Consider the factors that effect breath in a negative way:  stress, illness (both chronic and acute), prolonged sitting, tight muscles, poor cardio-respiratory capacity, pain, fear, insomnia, bad posture, … all of these influence links between body, mind and spirit.  Many of these are connected to habits that exist outside our awareness. That is why a comprehensive yoga practice emphasizes improving the quality of breath by incorporating pranayamas, or breathing exercises and using them with the various limbs of the practice to include asana, meditation, concentration, and ultimately how we use yoga to evolve spiritually. It is the tuning in that begins with physical awareness and that then becomes a deeper learning of self and that understanding can help us in so many ways to live in a more meaningful and satisfied way.  We can pay attention to transform irregular, jerky or harried breathing into smooth, deep, controlled breathing. This transforms to a more resilient respiratory system, a body energized with enhanced oxygen delivery, and overall better function of the systems of the body.  In turn this translates to empowering us with clarity, patience, self control and confidence that comes from using pranayamas in yoga practices to build awareness.

 

Let’s learn to use the “box breath.”  Sit comfortably on a yoga blanket, or meditation cushion in Sukhasana, with legs crossed and with support against the back body (sit against the wall).  Rest the hands on the knees/thighs. Close your eyes and tune into your breath. Feel the “held tension” connected to your habits of how you hold yourself and with each exhalation, let go of these subtle tensions that do not serve you. All the while notice the deepening of your breath.  Once you have maintained slow deep breathing for a few minutes, you have helped the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles between the ribs to stretch. They have “warmed up” to your breathing exercise. Then begin to add retention at the top of the breath and at the bottom of the breath.  Use a rate of 1:1:1:1.  Try counting to 4 in each place.  As you become more proficient in deepening your breath, increase your count.  Then begin to “notice what you notice” as your awareness skills become refined in a breathing exercise that becomes more and more familiar.  One interesting aspect is what you notice once you have finished with the regulating of the 4 areas: inhalation, retention, exhalation, retention. What is the body inclined to do once that part of the pranayama is completed.  Sit and observe the tendency of your body. What do you notice at this phase? Observe without judgment.

 

Learn to tap into this remarkable resource of breath awareness, at any time, as consciously regulating breath is always available to you.  As with any other practice, consistency makes a great difference to maximizing on the many benefits!

 

Yoga poses for your breathing practices:  Typically pranayamas are practiced while sitting in Sukhasana, “Happy” or “Easy “ pose.  New students are taught Viloma I as a supported, reclined pranayama to learn how to tune into the various segments of the breath cycle, the qualities of breath, the building of retention, and of inner awareness. Ujaai is practiced during active asana poses, and helps to build stamina and resilience of the respiratory and muscular systems of the body.  Want to learn more?  Purchase your copy of Essential Yoga Practice here.  And, consider taking our Essential Yoga Sangha two-week online course, to deepen your practice and learn more about how to use these pranayamas – our next course is July 2018.  Follow our social media for dialy inspiration and chance to win in our monthly giveaways!

 

Aromatherapy suggestions for your breath awareness practices: 

To eliminate airborne pathogens and allow the respiratory system a cleaner environment, consider using citrus oils, not only do they have antiviral properties, they are known to improve mood.  Whether you choose to use a few drops on a cotton ball and place in a well ventilated area, or use a diffuser that will mist the essential oils more efficiently throughout a room, or create a blend with water in an atomizer, it is a wonderful way to decrease toxic load on the body’s most direct route  to being affected by the environment: inhalation. In addition, consider using oils that boost memory, clarity and focus, in order to enhance the value to your breath work practice. Rosemary helps support memory and focus, peppermint and spearmint wake up the central nervous system, and, marjoram, chamomile and lavender calm the nervous system which counters stress.  Keep in mind that the effect of certain aromas are unique to each of us considering the many factors in our own history.  Experiment with essential oils and blends that are calming and uplifting. Along the way, these gifts of the earth, if they are pure an unadulterated, will all serve to bring the mind present, and therein lies the real value of using aromatherapy with breath work, the profound opportunity to grow and evolve that lies within our reach when we are set up to use the clarity that comes when are indeed present!  Enjoy your practice - Namaste!

Connect with Mother Earth

Ways … and Why… to Connect with Nature

here are major energetic and scientific reasons to connect with nature on a regular basis. The scientific reasons include exposing ourselves to rich and vibrant living organisms and the way they impact us on a cellular level. Leading nutritionists and lifestyle coaches encourage their students to spend at least 1 hour a day outside connecting with nature as STEP #1 to getting back to living a healthy lifestyle. The fact is, we don’t really need lots of scientific evidence to convince us to reconnect with nature, do we? We all know it’s a major power source for vibrancy and vitality. So ask yourself? When was the last time you really connected to nature? When did you spend a whole hour outside breathing in fresh air, lifting your face to the sunshine, digging your bare feet into the earth, noticing the delicate and miraculous details all around you? How about even intentionally spending 15 minutes outside (walking between your house and the car doesn’t count!)

Try one of these things:

1.     Find a quiet place outside and sit down. Close your eyes, and think about the ground beneath you. Consider the texture, the temperature, the energy of the thriving earth below you. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on your breath. Pay attention to how it inflates your lungs. Think about expanding your diaphragm in and out so you are belly-breathing. Let the energy in the air fill your body with life. Listen to  the sounds around you. Maybe you hear some leaves blowing in the breeze, or birds singing.  Sit in gratitude that Mother Earth is holding you, supporting you, as she always does. We just need to focus on that and recognize it more often.

2.     Focus on the powerful energy of the earth. Think of how the earth shows her power through lightening, thunder, earthquakes, tornadoes, waves, hurricanes, etc. Picture making space inside of you to inhale and absorb this energy. Pranayama , breathing exercises, in yoga provide us that accessibility, both physically and emotionally.  Picture your cells feeling the thrum of this power, and harnessing it to fulfill their specific jobs that they carry out inside your body. Stand tall and reach your hands to the sky, in Urdhva Hastasana, Volcano Pose, opening your chest and own your space here on earth. Practice yoga asana outside and note the difference in the energy of your poses as well as the transitions between them. These powerful displays of energy are around you and in you. What will you create with this new (or rediscovered) power?

3.     Get rejuvenated with water. When you have some time available, enter a pool or other body of water. The ocean or a lake is rejuvenating and alive with aquatic life. If you are able to get to a natural hot springs, this might be the most delicious water experience you’ve ever had … No matter which option you choose, allow yourself to feel the water holding you and supporting you. You can float, you can run in slow motion, you can submerge yourself completely. There is something comforting about water … when you are in warmer water, such as a hot springs, you can literally picture Mother Earth holding you in the most nurturing way, as a Mother does a Child. Notice how restored you feel when you are done.

Using essential oils during any of these processes (and any others you like that help you connect to nature) can greatly magnify your experience. Choose oils that help you relax and get grounded, such as a grounding blend or soothing blend. You can also opt for an invigorating oil such as peppermint, or a respiratory blend to help you breathe deeply.

We’d love to hear about your experience in connecting to nature … did one of these suggestions resonate with you, or do you have another way of connecting? What oil did you use, and how to you think it contributed to your overall experience?

Watch for our Essential Yoga Sangha coming this summer to learn more great tips on the synergistic benefits of yoga and essential oils.

 

Cleanliness

 In the second of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga, Saucha is the first “Niyama,” the first of the disciplines.  Saucha means cleanliness or purity.  The first lim, the Yamas, or “Disciplines,”  bring us closer to truth by teaching us moral virtues from the reference point of our relationships with others.  The Niyamas on the other hand direct us with understanding that along the way of our yogic journey, the path to enlightenment is our own individual work.  Interestingly enough, the concept of saucha must begin with self-love, thus self-care: purity of body, mind and spirit.

In the practice of purification and cleanliness we can find many avenues:  asana  works to cleanse the body of toxins from the twists and folds, pranayama works to cleanse the body of toxins using breathwork to  accompany asana transitions or when done in meditation, and the kriyas like Sun Salutations done with rote memory to quiet the mind while building resilience in the body. Other Kriyas exist in Ayurveda there is detoxification that comes from Sat-karma-kriyas and from pancha karma, which include body massage techniques. All are physical purifications designed to maintain the healthy function of the systems of the body as well as to help rid the body of disease.

 In our intention to purify the body, we must become intimate with the parts that we do not like to focus on:  Sweat, mucous, bile,  … But these are the natural ways that the body rids itself of impurities, so as to maintain ideal function. With healthy function, the mind can focus on the spiritual journey that is the evolution of our lifetime. Saucha shows us that the lotus grows out of the muddy waters, and thus we must give attention to all the murky areas of our mental and spiritual growth. Along the way we learn to not judge, ourselves nor others. Our body is a temple. We must embrace all the parts in effort to set judgment aside. The lotus of our being blooms more radiantly when we accept ourselves, mud and all, and pay attention to the lessons the body hints at. Yoga is a great comprehensive tool.  Using all of the limbs of the practice, we arrive at realizing that purity is there all along, all we have to do is uncover what we have masked it with.

How to Practice Saucha:

1. Take care of your body:  Eat well, sleep sufficiently, strengthen all the relationships that define healthy movement (exercise, yoga asana).

2.  Live, work and sleep in a clean environment.  Being organized allows the mind to quiet and decreasing toxic load allows the systems of the body to function effectively, thus not inviting disease.

3.  Love who you are – a most unique individual, with a great dharma – enjoy your yogic journey to understand your true calling and then enjoy doing just that, showing the world who you are with your gifts and how you effect positive change.

4.   Get out in nature! Breathe fresh air, enjoy aromatherapy!

5.  Be present every day to what arrives in front of you – there is a reason and a lesson and it is connected to an opportunity to evolve.

Poses to practice:  Inversions and their preparations.  They give you a different perspective of the world, sharpen your awareness. Aromatherapy to consider:  Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Peppermint, and all the Citrus oils!

Awareness

During the month of May we’ll be focusing on ways we can connect/ re-connect to the earth, which is a powerful source of renewal for us.

This week let’s talk about awareness of what is happening in us and all around us, and how that can serve us. What does awareness have to do with connecting to the earth? Well, science has proven that the earth is full of magnetic and energy fields. What may look to us as ‘empty space’ really contains countless atoms and molecules that are carrying messages to us and away from us on an energetic level. As we become more tuned in to ourselves and all that is around us, we can navigate our earth experience much more effectively.

The first level of awareness might be the physical sensations we feel in our own bodies…when you plug both ears you hear a rushing sound similar to the ocean, as we become familiar with the sounds of our own cardiovascular system. Or when you close your eyes during daylight hours and you still see outlines of images and a reddish hue. After a strong workout when our muscles feel shaky but our lungs feel clear. There is something renewing about paying attention to these types of sensations that helps us feel more fully present in our own skin.

Another level of awareness has to do with expanding our sense of vision. How many times do we take our sight for granted. We see what we see. But have you ever paid particular attention to what is on the very edges of your vision, to your peripheral vision. This is actually a skill that can be developed that will help you be far more aware of what is around you. Practice extending your awareness to include what is just past what you can clearly see in your line of vision (up, down and sides). Does this extended awareness make you feel that perhaps there is a ‘sixth’ sense out there that can magnify our existing senses? (We’d actually love to hear your thoughts when you try this out, post on our facebook page..)

We can also choose to “listen to the listening,” which is when we hone our ability to accurately perceive the mood that exists in a room when we enter it, or sense the mood that another person is experiencing before even starting a conversation. As children, many of us were aware of when we should ask our parents for extra money or a chance to participate in a social situation based on their mood. Why then, as adults, do we tend to plunge into a conversation with someone without pausing a few seconds to sense the emotion that is charging all around us. Challenge: sometime today or tomorrow, pause a few times as you enter a room and identify to yourself the mood you feel as you enter. Not only will this increase your ability to navigate social situations around you, but it will also help you come to know and trust your own intuition.

Yoga and essential oils are phenomenal tools that can help us increase and hone our awareness. Through pranayama (breath work), asana (poses), meditation, sound therapy and more, we learn to sit in a more quiet space that helps us better connect with our mind, spirit and body. We are able to extend our awareness outside of ourselves until our expansion reaches levels we never dreamed of ‘holding’ in our own personal space. It’s really a beautiful experience when we find a pose or meditation or any specific practice that helps our heart and spirit soar in this way. Reflect on the first time you felt this sense of wonder when you participated in a branch of yoga.

Essential oils can physically and spiritually/mentally help expand our awareness. The powerful combination of peppermint and frankincense impact the limbic center of the brain in a way that we are able to make connections in reasoning and memory that we might not otherwise be able to make. Wild orange, lime, lemon and other citrus oils impact us energetically to provide a pick-me-up during the late afternoon slump but can also calm and soothe in the evening to help us with proper rest. Aromatic use of pure and potent essential oils can support us emotionally in powerful ways in addition to impacting focus.

And of course, as we well know, the combination of essential oils with yoga brings about a synergistically powerful experience. Let us know what poses and essential oils you like for deepening your awareness as a whole.

Post to our social media page(s) to let us know your favorite way(s) to expand your influence. Join us July 16th for our Essential Yoga Sangha for tips on how to combine essential oils with yoga for powerful results. The Sangha was uniquely created to be perfect for newbies to both yoga and aromatherapy, but has a component for yoga teachers that provides CE credits.

Detox - Twists and Folds

As we continue with the topic of spring cleaning and detoxification, the Essential Yoga Practice blogpost this week is a yoga practice video, a mini-practice of poses.  This combination of twists and folds allow the release of tension and negative energy as well as a way to enhance the body’s digestive system and flush out what “we don’t need to hold on to.” Remember that before and after movement/exercise, it is important to hydrate, so drink water infused with a drop of lemon or grapefruit essential oil as citrus oils help to cleanse the digestive tract. If you cannot practice outdoors in the fresh air, consider the aromatherapy of energizing peppermint essential oil to bring your attention present to your practice.  Any essential oil that is grounding or energizing will work here. Note there are options/variations of the poses in this short practice. You will need yoga blocks or some books), a yoga strap if you cannot reach your foot or to hook the hands, and a yoga blanket to allow a slight elevation of your seated posture, so as to ensure neutral lumbar curve when possible.

 

Share (tag 2 friends) (retweet) and comment to be considered for our monthly giveaway, a bottle of peppermint essential oil! Show us a picture of your practice to increase your chance of winning. Enjoy your practice!

Reducing Our Toxic Load

As we continue our detoxification and purification theme this month, let’s talk about the importance of reducing our toxic load. We’ve talked at length about plants and their cleansing properties, how they can support our efforts to rid our bodies of unwanted toxins. But let’s ask ourselves … what is the point in cleansing our systems of existing toxins if we don’t do anything to reduce the toxic load we keep adding?

 

Some of the key toxins that can impact our bodies come from chemicals we bring into our own homes in our cleaning products. Interestingly, our bodies have an amazing system of defense whenever we ingest something that might harm us. However, we are at risk when our bodies absorb chemicals aromatically and/or through the skin, which is exactly what happens when we use typical cleaning chemicals.

 

Pure essential oils are part of effective and safe natural cleaners that can not only serve to organically clean your mat and yoga studio…they work equally well in homes and cars. Below are some recipes we’d like to pass on so you can put together toxin and chemical-free cleaning supplies for your home. When you replace toxic cleaning supplies with these, you can reduce the toxins in your system (so you won’t have to deal with them later on).

 

Yoga Mat Spray

·      ¾ cup distilled water

·      ¼ cup alcohol-free witch hazel or white vinegar

·      5 drops lavender essential oil

·      3 drops melaleuca essential oil

·      Glass spray bottle

Combine all ingredients in glass spray bottle, shake until combined. Spray on mat and wipe dry with towel.

 

All-Purpose Cleaner

·      2 cups white vinegar

·      2 cups water

·      1 teaspoon natural dish soap

·      30 drops lemon essential oil

·      20 drops lavender essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a quart-sized spray bottle. Shake to combine. Spray and wipe on surfaces.

 

Glass Cleaner

·      3 cups distilled water

·      ¼ cup rubbing alcohol

·      ¼ cup white vinegar

·      20 drops melaleuca essential oil

Mix ingredients in a quart-sized spray bottle. Shake to combine, spray on windows, mirrors or stainless steel. Wipe off with paper towels for a great shine.

 

Stove and Sink Cleaner

·      1 cup baking soda

·      ¼ cup liquid castile soap

·      10 drops lemon essential oil

·      10 drops lime essential oils

·      10 drops wild orange essential oil

Mix ingredients together to form a paste (adding more castile if needed). Apply with rag or sponge then rinse with clean water.

 

Tub and Shower Gel

·      1 cup white vinegar

·      ½ cup natural dishwashing soap

·      Squeeze bottle

Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan on the stove until hot but not boiling. Stir in the dishwashing soap until combined, then pour into the squeeze bottle. Squirt onto shower and tub, and allow to sit for 1-3 hours. Wipe off with a scrubber, rag and/or sponge.

 

Fresh Linen Spray

·      ¼ cup distilled water

·      3 T witch hazel

·      20 drops lavender essential oil

·      15 drops frankincense essential oil

Add all ingredients to a small spritzer, shake well, and spray on sheets, piloowcases and linens.

 

Goo, Crayon & Marker Remover

·      Lemon essential oil

·      1-2 T fractionated coconut oil.

Mix together, then apply directly to sticker residue, random goo, gum, crayon marks, marker etc. (Suggestion: test in an inconspicuous place first). Rub in with fingers, then wipe away with a clean rag. Repeat as needed.

 

Citrus Carpet Refresher

·      1 cup baking soda

·      30 drops citrus oil of your choice (lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime)

Combine in a small container and cover tightly with a lid. Shake well and allow to sit for 6-8 hours. Sprinkle on stale or smelly carpet and allow to sit overnight. Vacuum the next morning.

 

Shower Spray

·      1 ½ cups water

·      1 cup white vinegar

·      ½ cup rubbing alcohol

·      1 t natural liquid dish soap

·      10 drops melaleuca essential oil

·      20 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Combine in a quart-sized spray bottle. Spray daily on shower door and walls after use to help prevent build-up.

 

Refrigerator and Microwave Cleaner

·      1 cup white vinegar

·      2 cups hot water

·      15 drops lemon essential oil

Combine ingredients in glass spray bottle. Spray mixture inside fridge or microwave, then scrub and wipe using a damp cloth.

 

Soft Scrub for Bath, Tile and Toilet

·      ¾ rounded cup baking soda

·      ¼ cup unscented liquid castile soap

·      1 T water

·      1 T white vinegar

·      10 drops lemon essential oil

Yield: 2-4 applications. Make in small batches and store in an airtight container. Combine baking soda and castile soap, add water and stir. Add vinegar and essential oil. The consistency should be a soft paste. Apply and let sit for 5-10 minutes and scrub to help get rid of soap scum, remove stains and brighten tiles.

 

Natural Wood Polish

·      ¼ cup olive oil

·      ¼ c vinegar

·      10 drops of lemon, orange or arborvitae essential oil

Add olive oil and vinegar to glass spray bottle. Add 10 drops of essential oil. Shake well before each use. Apply to microfiber cloth and wipe wood surfaces clean. Repeat every 2-3 months or as often as needed.

 

We'd love to hear about your successes with detoxing your environment!

 

And....in honor of earth day, we're doing a special giveaway. Take a picture of yourself doing ANY yoga pose outside and barefoot (connecting with the earth), and everyone who posts will be entered into a drawing to win a 5ml bottle of a beautiful grounding and centering essential oil blend.