By Roxanna Gumiela CYA-RYT200
More and more people seem to be adding yoga to their daily routine. What is it about yoga that our society finds intriguing, to begin with and, often, more and more satisfying as the practice of this ancient Hindu spiritual discipline finds its way into the mind, body, and spirit of the new practitioner? Perhaps it is exactly that! Yoga is not just a physical exercise or activity. It is a mind/body/spirit experience, a union of those three entities that encompasses a deeply meaningful philosophy and way of being. In the hectic, 24/7 lifestyle that so many Millennials, Gen-X, Gen-Y, and even late Baby Boomers have adopted, many are searching for an oasis of tranquility, calm, and peace that the practice of yoga can provide.
Living in our world today offers many challenges and, while some yogis may focus more on the asanas, the other 7 limbs of yoga offer an approach to life that brings clarity, calm and peace to human existence. Often, even if one starts with the asanas, that can lead to a curiosity to find out more about where this ancient tradition came from and what it has to offer.
I know that is what drew me to yoga. I am a relative newcomer to the practice of yoga, but after 5 years of practice, I wanted to deepen my understanding of the yoga philosophy. I began teacher training and soon decided that it was time for a career change. The philosophy I was learning about had me hooked, I wanted to teach. I do, however, credit my previous profession of early childhood education with the understanding that positive role modeling is key to students’ acquisition and acceptance of new learning material. If we act as role models, students will, in many cases, do as we do!
The first limb of yoga, the yamas, offers ways of “being” in relationship to our world, to other people and to ourselves, that are central to living a life of freedom (Donna Farhi, Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit: A Return to Wholeness – pg. 7). The first yama, ahimsa, is a characteristic integral to a life lived in freedom. Ahimsa is compassion for all living things and can be roughly translated as “nonviolence”. But what does that really mean – is it simply “thou shalt not kill”? Ahimsa goes beyond not killing living creatures or other people. Ahimsa speaks, as well, to the relationship we have with ourselves.
Ahimsa encourages self-kindness and self-love. It encourages gentle words of gratitude and self-compassion. The ability to extend compassion to our natural world and all living creatures depends on our ability to show compassion to ourselves.
The ability of our students to understand the meaning and the importance of ahimsa comes, in part, from those students seeing their teacher as self-accepting and from knowing that they too, with all their beautiful imperfections and unique characteristics, are accepted by their teacher. If our actions and our words are based in ahimsa, nonviolence, as well as the other yamas, which include satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (non-excess) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness or non-greed), we pass on to others the benefits and the beauty that yoga can bring to life.
I truly believe that yoga and the yogic philosophy will have the greatest effect on humanity as it changes one life at a time, one practice at a time, one breath at a time.
By Nicky Sehra CYA-RYT200
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.
― Eckhart Tolle
In the autumn of 2014, I ventured out to Santa Barbara, California for yoga teacher training. It was truly the beginning of my individual yoga awakening. I remember when I first started to teach I was so regimented in the way I taught. Prior to teaching classes, I used to write down everything from postures to breath work to the direction of each class. This was a useful way to teach until I found my own rhythm. I now teach intuitively.
I have been teaching yoga for about five years, and the way I conduct classes has shifted. One aspect I appreciate about yoga is that you are both a teacher and student simultaneously. It is a beautiful thing to learn from others and share you heart with like-minded souls. Each yoga class, whether you are a teacher or student, can shift your energy, vibration and demeanour. Your individual yoga practice aids your healing and connects you with the infinite source within.
Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.
— B.K.S Iyengar
I would describe my yoga style as a karma practice. I now feel it is my purpose to guide others as they uncover aspects about themselves. All I wish to do is inspire others, let them know how important they are and I often make references to meditation, self-love and empowerment —aspects which I try to incorporate in my own life. Meditation, similar to yoga, is a gift to yourself. When you close your eyes, the heart awakens. Stillness has many benefits to our well-being. I often reflect that spiritual channeling takes place as I begin to conduct a class. Messages come out of nowhere. All I know is that my knowledge is needed in some way. I am here to serve and facilitate humanity.
We are all here for a divine reason, everyone has a gift to share and a mission to fulfill. I never really gave thought to what would happen after a few years of teaching yoga. I can honestly say that it creates a ripple effect on the spirit. You become more aware of who you are, what you stand for and delve into additional spiritual practices. I started to educate myself on various topics such as: numerology, the moon phases, saints/angels and healing mantras. I do my best to incorporate these into my yoga practice as well.
Over the past few years, there has been political strife, economic and ecological upheavals happening on our planet each day. For example, just watching the news and tuning into catastrophic events, at large, can affect you internally. In a way our psyche is being affected. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold, however, what we can control is how we respond to everything around us. This is the blessing with yoga, we are immersed in the present moment and the power of now!
While teaching, I try not to discuss matters which are occurring on the global scale. However, I do feel it is necessary to speak about nature especially Mother Earth also known as Gaia. Mother Earth is divine Goddess energy just as important as the masculine energy of the Sun. Together, they reflect light, wisdom and energy on our lives. The earth and sun work hand and hand nurturing our being. I often remind students to stay grounded and appreciate the vastness of Gaia — she is an entity. The message I relay is that the earth needs our love. Together we can enhance the vibration with spreading our light towards others.
It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.
― Rachel Carson
At the beginning of 2019, I decided to do a seven-week series on the chakra system. We have seven energy centres in our body located from the base of our spine, up towards the top of our head, the crown chakra. Every week I have spoken about each individual chakra, their importance and what they represent emotionally and spiritually. Why I have done this is because yoga helps to shift energy in our body and chakra system. I remind students about the mighty I AM, in Sanskrit known as SO HUM. By reciting this powerful mantra, you elevate your consciousness. It has taken me a few years to get comfortable with sharing my ideologies, beliefs and spiritual practices in yoga class. I do feel it is serving a higher purpose.
There are many things happening in this day and age that impact us all. It is necessary for everyone to come back home, to their inner selves. Follow your own path, be humble and be kind to yourself. Your life is like a canvas of art; make it a masterpiece each day. We are all sparks of the universe on earth. Each of us has a role to play, you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to do this. All we must do is love!
Do not be led by others,
awaken your own mind,
amass your own experience,
and decide for yourself your own path.
By Lynda Neil CYA-RYT200
I believe the true essence of yoga is to benefit all and to do this we need to keep an open mind and open heart. This openness extends further than just on our mat — it extends to our family, our work and our community.
The next question is: how do we do this? We already know the mind-body connection that yoga facilitates, so start right there. Think about what we do and say. It seems simple enough but, like everything in life, we can easily “get caught up” in the moment and forget how our actions and words affect those around us. Bringing a sense of calm into all we do and say will help set an example for others and, by this tiny action, we can spread this outward.
Practice the “pause”. Pause before reacting, before responding, before making that decision. Take another breath before continuing the conversation.
Listen carefully to what others are saying. Listen to hear the words, their meaning and the feelings/emotions of those words. By listening in this fashion, we refrain from thinking ahead getting our response ready and thereby missing much of the underlying content and context of what is being said.
We do not have to make grand plans and gestures and actions to influence the world we live in. It is like a pebble thrown into the still pond — the ripples it makes extend further and further out until they reach all shores.
In keeping with the open heart and open mind mantra I try to live by, I will share with you a few of the things I have challenged myself with over the past few years.
Each week when I go grocery shopping I add items that equal approximately 10 % of my total grocery bill and drop them into the local food bank box at the grocery store. This is a simple gesture that adds to the wellbeing of my community but takes absolutely no added effort or time on my part. Sometimes the items are nutritious breakfast foods, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers and food or toothpaste and toothbrushes — you get the idea. As I have shared this weekly food bank story with family and friends, I am astonished to hear that others have taken this on as well.
Another “give back” that I participate in is teaching a weekly yoga session at a local community health centre. This is a volunteer position that allows me to connect with and teach those that are unable financially to pay for yoga/gym memberships etc. When we look at the “perfect” yoga body that the media portrays, these students do not fit and they would not venture to a class on their own. By being open and available to guide them weekly, they begin to accept their bodies and improve their health and wellness.
I am sure each one of you reading this can think of at least one way you can help others in your community. We are each on our own personal journey and always need to be respectful of this individuality. Let us open ourselves to possibilities — possibilities within each of us, our families, our friends and our communities.
By Pradeep Kumar ( Jivasu/Naturality CYA-RYS200)
The fear of death as well as guilt are the two core problems that humanity faces. These feelings make us insecure and uncomfortable and result in stress and anxiety. To alleviate this, we constantly search for security and protection. In a way, our lives are spent trying to seek safety rather than actually engaging in life itself. Our brains becomes conditioned and as a result, dormant because of this obsessive safety seeking. We lose the natural pleasure of daily life which is generated from the pleasure centres in the brain. In the absence of internal pleasure, we seek pleasure from the external world by accumulating power and wealth and we use this to constantly stimulate ourselves. In other words, we become consumers and consumption ultimately comes from nature’s resources. Nature is damaged by our pleasure seeking behaviour. This is the reason why our global environment is in danger.
The practice of Yoga and Meditation brings Awareness, Bliss and Calmness or the ABCs of life, because they affect us in such a way that our old patterns of behaviour are broken. The dormant body and brain are awakened, resulting in activation of the pleasure centres within. When pleasure and happiness are experienced from within, we don’t seek it in the external world. We take only as much as is needed from nature to live comfortably. We are not consumers anymore. As we walk this path, our fear and guilt slowly decrease or even disappear, leaving us free. In this state of natural balance, we experience the flow of our natural selves. On this ground of the natural self, we connect with nature and live in harmony with it, rather than destroying it.