Does That Yoga Class Count?

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The Truth Behind Yin-Style Yoga Practice

Do you ever feel like you’re “cheating” on your regular yoga anytime you opt for the Yin or Yoga Nidra class? I know that when I first started doing Yin Yoga I thought it was somehow cheating, that I wasn’t doing “real yoga”. I recall feeling the urge of needing to get somewhere, to feel like I was doing something or making some sort of progress during my first few Yin Yoga classes. At that time, it didn’t feel like I was actually practicing yoga. Of course, I now know this couldn’t be any further from the truth.

It all started the day I sprained my ankle and my daily power yoga practice that I had come to know as the “Real Yoga” came to a screeching and abrupt halt. I found myself limited to the more gentle yoga and meditation classes, such as Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra. I had no idea I was about to embark on a blissful journey. You see, being a strong-willed, determined, always-on-the-go A-type myself, being forced to slow down was very uncomfortable for me in the beginning.

However, my dedication to a personal daily yoga practice persevered and I found myself taking a Yin Yoga class daily and practicing Yoga Nidra nightly. I started to search through the videos on Gaia and pick out the more gentle Yin and Yoga Nidra meditation style classes. I started to learn that I was not cheating on my regular yoga, but I was actually beginning to practice the “real yoga”—whereas before I was just practicing Asana (only one aspect of yoga).

I began to learn the importance of quieting the sun energy, or energy out and strengthening the moon energy, the energy inside. It is imperative to allow the body to recharge, working its way from the outside, inward. It’s amazing what you can feel on the inside when you can still your body and quiet your mind long enough to experience it.

Just when I thought my practice had reached an all-time new high, I stumbled upon the practice of Yoga Nidra, which was life-changing for me! In Yoga Nidra the body lies still on the floor, you have no physical movement, so there are no physical restrictions, which means pretty much anyone can do it. It’s known as “Yogic Sleep,” although you will not fall asleep—or at least that is the goal anyway.

I say this because it is very hard not to fall asleep during the sessions as you drop down to an altered state of consciousness quickly, and it takes practice to remain awake during your entire session. In Yoga Nidra, practitioners explore the fifth element to yoga called, Pratyahara, which literally means sense withdrawal. During the Yoga Nidra session, we set our intentions or affirmations, otherwise known as the Sankalpa, which allows the change to take place at the subconscious level. For those of you who don’t already know, the subconscious is what is running the show here, not the conscious mind, as one may think.

After all of the different types of yoga I’ve tried, it’s my Yoga Nidra practice that I come back to every night, with joy, and because I’ve experienced its healing powers first hand. Let this be a reminder that in the practice of Yin Yoga, the practice of surrender, we go inside and work our way from the outside in—this is by far a more advanced practice of yoga. We are going beyond the asana and using that to help us move on to the next step as we evolve in our practice.

If you’re ready to give Yoga Nidra a try, the practice that I do every evening before bed is the Yoga Nidra Practice by Armand Sagredo, and can’t recommend it highly enough. Be open to the practice and you will quickly see healing and miracles occur in your life.

8 Ways to Be Your Own Guru

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No matter how we define a teacher or a guru—an expert, an enlightened person, or someone who challenges us to look at our own limiting beliefs—they’re ways we look for wisdom outside of ourselves. These kinds of teachers are no doubt powerful. But the most powerful source of wisdom is within. How do we activate our own inner teacher—our own inner guru—so we always have someone there for guidance and support?

The most powerful source of wisdom is within you. This is what I help every single person I work with realize—that they are infinitely powerful and the only thing getting in the way of that is surface stuff. When we clear the surface, it’s like polishing a rough stone into a diamond. Suddenly, you’re crystal clear, knowing exactly where to go and what to do next.

The most important work I do with people is helping them access their own inner guru. Here are eight ways to access yours:

Talk less, listen more. You can hear or see exactly where to go and what to do next if you give yourself permission to trust the non-verbal part of your brain. We’re all intuitive, and one of the most scientifically proven ways to tap into it is to listen to the non-verbal part of your brain: your body.

Deactivate fear. Fear comes mostly in the form of worrisome thoughts. And these come from the verbal part of our brain—this part of our brain processes less information per second than the non-verbal part of our brain. In other words, worries are “less informed” thoughts.

Lean into peace. Wisdom and truth feel like relief, like a great letting-go. It’s a wonderful sensation of “Ah, this is such a nice place to rest.” Every time one of my clients hears from their inner guru, they feel a sense of great peace and presence.

Trust yourself. Practice trusting yourself with small things, something less consequential where the decision won’t have a huge impact, but a small one. Something like saying no to an invitation to an event you don’t want to go to. Worry and fear says things like, “She’ll be upset if I don’t go,” or “I won’t be invited anymore.” Peace says, “Do what’s right for you, trust yourself, and all will be well.” Usually what happens in these cases is that everything works out, and you end up getting even more invitations because people are drawn to your confidence and self-esteem.

Trust the universe. Practice opting out of doing something just because you think something like “What will happen if I don’t?” Yoga philosophy has a term called Ishvara Pranidhana that basically means surrender to the universe. It doesn’t mean we never do anything, but we can surrender our attachment to achieving a particular outcome, and through that surrender and non-attachment receive something even greater.

Build your intuition. Next time you want to hear from your inner guru and you’ve already listened to your body, listen for words or watch for symbols. I like to imagine a blank slate and ask a question like “What should I do next?” Sometimes I see a symbol. Other times I hear a word or phrase—things like “Rest,” “Play,” or “Go bigger.” Other times an entire scene unfolds.

Trust your body. Intuition is fun and can give us more information, but first and foremost the first line of wisdom is your body. Your body is constantly guiding you, through sensations of tension and angst or ease and presence. Hint: ease and presence usually means “Go this way!”

Lean into grace. Listening to the guidance of your inner guru leads to choices that create a life filled with less striving and more receiving. Taoists introduce us to the concept of Wu Wei, doing without doing. Through heart-centred action and trusting the universe, things happen with ease. Miracles occur. It was either Yogi Bhajan or Wayne Dyer, depending on which source you choose, who said: “I don’t believe in miracles, I depend on them.” It doesn’t matter who said it, it’s a universal truth, and one that you get to experience firsthand when you start listening deep and choosing to believe.

Much love, and good luck!

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