Inspiration Of The Month - February 2019
A year ago or so I have come to know of Radhanath Swami, when my teacher, Katie Manitsas, gifted me with his remarkable book;
'The Journey Within'.
It is a book that touched me deeply. The way he writes, the language and the topics, the metaphors and examples, all resonated very well in my mind, my heart and soul. Looking at what we would delve deeper into this month I started looking at the book again, which is full of marking and lining and highlighting. But I stumbled upon this quote:
“.... human beings have been entrusted with a priceless gift, one we can use to create profound benefit for ourselves and others - or horrible disasters. That gift is one of the most powerful things in all of creation: free will. But with the blessing of free will comes the responsibility of choice.
While beings in other forms of life tend to act instinctively according to their particular species, humans choose to be saints or criminals, or anything in between. The price of having the choice is that we’re responsible for our actions....”
How have you been using your free will? What choices have you made that contributed to you? What choices have you made you now judge as mistakes? How much responsibility do you take to what is happening in your life now? Right now?
This is not to be confused with self judgement and blame. If something terrible has happened to you in your life, this is not to say it was your fault. Do not confuse responsibility with guilt. And if something truly terrible happened to you, then it will be wise to seek the support of those who have the knowledge, wisdom and tools to make sure you reach these understandings safely and securely.
But if life happened to you, as it happens to all of us, all the time. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but all the time, then the question that Radhanath Swami raises is of great importance.
All my ancestors are family survivors. I saw first hand how some chose to remain victims, whilst others decided to make sure they do not waste a day in their lives. They do not take anyone or anything for granted. They celebrate life in its simplest moments as they did in its richest moments.
Spiritual teaching claims there are no mistakes. There only IS. At the time we made those choices, out of free will, for whatever reasons, they seemed like the right choices. We are all so much smarter in retrospect. We can now look back and think it was a mistake and that we could have done so many other things. And yet we didn’t. You didn’t. I didn't. For whatever reasons, that was the right choice at that time. The question is: what did you learn from the experience? If we don’t learn and grow, if we don’t take the time to pause and reflect and acknowledge, we will keep repeating these “mistakes” again and again and again and again.... Until we learn. Only then can transformation and change occur.
With free will comes responsibility of choice.
As we are already into February, with time passing so quickly, take the time to pause and think about this.
Plan a head. Write it down. Create a vision board.
How would you define free will?
How do you perceive your free will in this time in your life and in the world?
How would you like to express this free will?
What responsibility are you willing to accept?
"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds" - Bob Marley
Life is a combination of destiny and free will. Rain is destiny; whether you get wet or not is free will. - Sri Ravi Shankar
Standing balance poses
Tree Pose stretches the thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and tones the abdominal muscles. The pose also helps to remedy flat feet and is therapeutic for sciatica. Like a tree, extend your roots down and blossom your arms up toward the sun.
We will show you a few variations, just stick with these tricks and concentrate on perfecting your tree. When the time is right, you’ll know it’s the season for venturing further out and exploring the world of balance a bit deeper. Keep these tips in mind throughout each stage of this pose. Eventually, you won’t even need to think. Remember that Yoga is about practice and not about performance.
TRY practicing with the support of a wall using a block. Start in Tadasana - Mountain Pose with your right side leaning on a block against the wall. Raise the right arm and place the right hand on the wall for support. Shift your weight into the right leg, and on an inhalation bend the left leg, bringing the foot to the inner ankle for starters. Keep the right leg firm and straight toward the floor (not on an angle) and both hips facing forward. Lengthen both sides of the waist equally. Take 5–10 deep breaths before trying to lift the left leg higher, placing it either below the knee on your shin or high on your thigh. Practice on the other side.
USING THE WALL
1. Stand with your feet together, toes touching, heels slightly apart. Find a straight line of energy through the center of the body, from the inner arches up through the crown of the head. Bring the hands together at the center of the chest in Anjali Mudra. Exhale, root down through your feet, and feel steadiness, firmness, and grounding in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose.
2. Shift your weight onto your right foot. Bend your left knee, and move it into the chest. Keeping a long spine, reach down and clasp your left ankle. Place the sole of the left foot on the inner right thigh, on your shin BELOW the knee or on your ankle close to the floor (wherever this pose meets you at - remembering that it is all about practice - not performance).
3. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to stand tall and bring your drishti, or gaze, to the wall directly in front of you to help you balance.
4. Press your left foot into the inner right thigh and your right thigh into your foot in an effort to maintain your midline.
5. Square both hips to the front of the room, keeping your left knee moving out to the left.
6. Firm your outer right thigh by contracting the quadriceps muscles, or the front of the thighs. Zip your belly in and your lower ribs together. Lift the chest and bring the shoulder blades down.
What NOT to do:
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama - Alternate Nostril Breathing
This powerful breathing technique, is a pranayama that is easy to do, yet can take you through all the stages of your yoga practice.
How to do Alternate Nostril Breathing:
In this pranayam, the breath is always relaxed, deep and full.
Have the left hand in Gyan Mudra.
Use the thumb of the right hand to close the right nostril, and the index finger or ring finger of the right hand to close the left nostril.
Close the right nostril and gently and fully inhale through the left nostril.
Then close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
Then inhale through the right nostril.
Close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril.
Continue repeating, alternating nostrils after each inhalation.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Creates whole brain functioning by balancing the right and left hemispheres.
Is both integrating and grounding.
Purifies the ida and pingala nadis, gently.
Creates a deep sense of well-being and harmony on the physical, mental, and emotional levels.
Can help with headaches, migraines, and other stress-related symptoms.
Inhale left, exhale right: Helps to make you calm and integrates unwanted negative emotions and stress. Excellent by itself before bed.
Inhale right, exhale left: Gives clarity, and positive mood. Helps us to focus on what is important.