Posts Tagged With: clarity

Yogi Sleep

Yoga nidra is also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. It is an ancient practice involving a state of conscious deep sleep. Yoga nidra is rapidly gaining popularity in the West, since it is a very simple practice that is accessible to everyone. It is a deep relaxation technique with a lot of benefits including deep rest, release of tension, better sleep and improved memory. During a yoga nidra practice you are gaining access to the unconscious mind in a conscious way. If you practice meditation, you remain in the waking state of consciousness while gently focusing the mind and allowing thought patterns, emotions and sensations to arise and go on. In yoga nidra, you leave the waking state, go through the dreaming state, and into the deep sleep state, yet remain awake. If you stay in the state between waking and sleeping for a significant period of time, a state similar to that of deep sleep will be induced. The difference is that you are still aware of the external world. Your awareness is active while your body and mind deeply relaxes.    

A yoga nidra class involves a variety of techniques – guided imagery and body scanning among others – to aid relaxation. The savasana is an important pose at the end of the asana practice which takes at least 20 to 45 minutes. This allows enough time for the practitioners to physiologically and psychologically sink into it. Yoga nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations and results in an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. 

Nowadays most people live in a chronically exhausted, overstimulated world. Therefore, yoga nidra can be very helpful, since it provides you with a full-body relaxation by unwinding the nervous system and a deep meditative state of consciousness. During the visualization stage of yoga nidra the contents of your unconscious mind can arise and be integrated into your conscious experience. Your task is to remain the witness of this experience while viewing the contents of the mind as a movie. This is reasonable easy to do in the deeply relaxed state of yoga nidra. Though, in the every day waking state it is usually hard to remain the witness. We react, interact, express and thereby often give the negative patterns more energy and attention. The continuous practice of yoga nidra will therefore benefit your everyday life by remaining aware of your behavioural and mind patterns. This allows you to live from your true authentic self – openly and freely.     

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Yoga of Awareness

Kundalini yoga is an ancient and unique form of yoga and is also called the yoga of awareness. It is the most spiritual type of yoga I have practised. It is brought to the West in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. The focus is primarily on expansion of self-awareness and realizing your true potential. Kundalini literally means ‘the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved’. This metaphor refers to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us and enables us to become one with the infinite consciousness. In other words, Kundalini is the untapped energy or prana at the base of the spine that can be pulled up through the body and awake each of the seven chakras. When this prana reaches the crown chakra at the top of your head, enlightenment occurs. However, for most of us, this potent energy lies dormant at the base of your spine. Through the practice of Kundalini yoga, you can release this energy by breaking through emotional blocks, energy imbalances and addictive behaviour. For this reason Kundalini yoga can be highly transformative, since it releases held issues whether body or mind.

Each Kundalini class typically includes six major components: mantras, pranayama and/or warm-up, kriya, relaxation, meditation and closing with a song. The class starts with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main part of the class is called a kriya. This is a complete set of exercises including pranayama that focuses on a precise area of the body. The kriyas are precise and bring the body and mind to a state where deep meditation is easily achieved. The goal of a kriya could be clearing the heart chakra or increasing spinal flexibility for example. There are hundreds of kriyas and therefore no class will be the same. The class ends with a meditation and song. Most Kundalini teachers and devotees wear white clothes and wrap their heads with a white turban or other head covering. The white clothing is worn to support both the body’s energetic field or aura and the nervous system functions. The white headband is believed to protect the crown chakra and improve the experience of meditation.

Since the emphasis is on breathing, meditation, mudras (hand gestures) and chanting, a Kundalini class could be intense and odd for newcomers. The breath and movement are often very dynamic and will be unfamiliar to more conventional Hatha yoga practitioners. Though, the use of mantras could support you if you are new to meditation and find silence challenging. Mantra meditation can result in clarity, balance and equanimity. This type of yoga appeals to you if you are up for both mental and physical challenges. I have tried different Kundalini yoga classes and I always love the use of mantras and sounds, because it supports me with the transition from a busy work day to a quiet yoga practice. I am quite used to physical challenges, but Kundalini yoga provides me with a whole new kind of challenge. The combination of specific pranayama techniques and asanas requires me to be focused and attentive. After practising some more physically focused forms of yoga, I felt at ease to spend time and energy to develop myself spiritually as well. My first steps in the world of Kundalini yoga were quite magical experiences; it brought me to stillness and peace, my true self.

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The niyamas describe actions and attitudes we should cultivate. The first niyama is saucha meaning purity or cleanliness. It includes purifying your body, mind and spirit. Cleanliness of your body can be accomplished by washing yourself, maintaining a clean and orderly home, eating healthy foods and drinking clean water among others. Purity of your mind involves not polluting your mind with negativity and clutter. Cleanliness of your spirit refers to keeping your personal energy clean and devoting yourself to meditation, mindfulness or yoga.

I can call myself a pretty organized and clean person. My practice of asanas and pranayama is perfectly aligned with the saucha philosophy, since it tones my entire body and removes the toxins and impurities. Therefore physical purity is relatively easy to maintain in the first instance. Though, you can also consider the food you eat and how you eat it, in regards to saucha. Over-appreciation and over-avoidance of food can both cause problems. I could definitely improve my practice of mindful eating. Often, I catch myself eating while checking my email or reading a book. With the result of not being aware of what I actually put in my mouth or when I have had enough to eat. Above all, I remind myself that food is meant to nourish and sustain my body and of course to be enjoyed, so that spiritual development can continue.

Purification of the mind is way more challenging for me, consequently a lot can be learned in this area. During the day I often experience a constant, random inner dialogue. Yoga, including self-study, meditation and pranayama (breath work) supports me to calm down my mental activity and cleanse my physical body at the same time. Maybe that is one of the reasons why yoga appealed to me in the first place.

In terms of cleanliness of spirit, it is interesting to know that 99% of matter in the universe is energy and space. Daily purification of your energies, can help with the elimination of invisible obstacles. Chanting Om for example is a method to cleanse energies. At the beginning of your yoga practice chanting guides you from an outward focus during your workday to an inward focus during your practice. At the end of your practice it can seal the energy or inward focus before moving out into the world again. Practicing purity of the spirit is a way to increase your consciousness and spiritualize your daily life.

On a deeper level, saucha involves the purity you find in your heart. By practicing cleanliness you can lift your self-esteem and self-consciousness and feel your intentions and goals with clarity. If you connect yourself with the purity in your heart, the inner dialogue will be naturally quieted with the result of experiencing calm and stability even in the most difficult circumstances.

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