Discover Your Authentic Self Through Yoga

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Exploring Swadhyaya: The Study of Oneself

Yoga offers a complete system of spiritual development through the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The second limb of yoga is known as the Niyamas or self-observations. When broken down even further there are five areas of self-observation with the fourth one being Swadyaya. When translated into English the term Swadhyaya means self-observation. Self-observation can be interpreted as many things and can be accomplished through many means. One way, for example, is to study sacred texts or scriptures to help us understand ourselves better. Other approaches include meditation, journaling, modern day therapy or simply talking with friends or family members who know us best.

I believe we best learn about ourselves through our relationships and daily interactions with the people around us. Over time we may be forced to change some of our attitudes, patterns, habits or inclinations because our old ways are just not working for us. These patterns are often hard to recognize, even harder to accept, and hardest to change. However, we might also be compelled to change some things about ourselves because we think that changing will make us a better person, make us more likeable, make us more successful, or because we want to please others. Doing this almost always results in failure.

The truth is who we are is part of our DNA. Anyone who has ever had children can attest to the fact that certain personality traits are evident almost from birth. Traits not taught to them by either parent nor by any caregiver. No matter how hard we work on changing ourselves there are some things that make us who we are and to change them would be fraudulent to our true selves. In fact, we all owe it to ourselves, to everyone we meet, and to life itself to always be an expression of our true selves. Trying to be anything or anyone else would deprive us of our true authentic self. Being inauthentic deprives the Universe of who we came here to be and what we came here to express.

Self-development and self-growth are all important practices to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment or union with the Divine but we must tread lightly on the path and not lose the extraordinariness of ourselves along the way.



4 Yoga Postures to Balance Your Emotions

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Yoga has the power to unlock, heal and balance your emotions. For those of you who have a regular practice, you can probably attest to lying down in Savasana with tears streaming down your face or smiling so hard your face hurts.

Whether the energy of the Black Water Snake or just a change in the energetic system as a whole, 2013 has already been a year of intense change and momentum for many of us. By default we have been given the space to finally make peace with the inconsistencies, loose ends, relationships that no longer serve and things that we have been putting off in our lives.

With change this compelling, emotions are inevitable and what can be difficult is maintaining balance without letting yourself get swayed or uprooted. If you experience anxiety, depression (even on a mild level), lack of confidence, worthlessness or any of the other yucky feelings that we humans get to feel, these yoga asanas will do wonders to help.

1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana****) – Maintain the length in your arms, legs, torso and chest as you bend forward placing your hands in front of your feet on the mat. Bend your knees as much as you need to or place your hands on blocks.

Allow any pressure or emotion to release and as you take 10-15 breaths in this pose, really root down with your hands and feet, drawing up healing energy from the ground. Be still.

2. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)** – Shift your weight onto one leg and raise the other leg, foot facing inward and place it upon your calf, thigh or in half lotus. Raise your arms above your head in prayer or with arms separated, palms facing in.

Take 10-20 breaths and breath deeply into your heart space. Feel your roots deep within the earth like a giant oak tree. Feel stable.

3. Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II) – **Stand with your feet about three-and-a half to four-and-a-half feet apart with your front toes pointed straight and your back foot in at a 45 degree angle. Bend your front knee until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle and extend your arms. Lengthen your spine by tucking your tailbone in and down.

Breathe 20-25 breaths here, drawing energy and vitality from the earth. Feel strong, powerful, confident and beautiful. Shine out of your heart space.

4. Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) -** Note: This pose is for advanced practitioners only. If you do not have a regular yoga practice you can lie on your back and put your legs up in the air and breathe here.

Lie on your back and elevate your legs bringing them over your head until your feet touch the floor or a block. Place your hands up your back, lift your spine and elevate your legs. With spine straight and chin away from your chest, breathe here.

Take 25-50 breaths in this pose. Inversions help to shift perception and rejuvenate the body as well as tonify and cleanse the endocrine system. You may also choose to place your feet to the floor after completing your breaths transitioning into Plough Pose (Halasana).

With regular practice of yoga asanas, you will notice yourself feeling more balanced, joyful, confident and less abound by your fears, therein, facilitating transformation and change with emotional stability.

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