Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yoga, Reiki and more in Europe

This summer has been a whirlwind of events, experiences and adventure.  I am always grateful for every experience, encounter and learning/teaching opportunity.  I had the honor to travel to Belgium to assist in Yoga & Ayurveda Workshops & Thai Yoga Massage with a brilliant teacher from India, Ram.  Sharing the power of this ancient practice, and guiding people to methods of incorporating it into their daily routine is a beautiful experience.  Belgium was a beautiful country with incredibly kind souls.  I quickly realized how amazing the taste of Belgium chocolate truly is!  While in teaching yoga in Belgium, I was given the chance to teach a Karma Yoga class for a beautiful cause at Sampoorna Yoga.  Thank you to Sampoorna Yoga in Brussels, and all the yogis who participated.

Sun Salutations - Bringing balance to all Ayurvedic Constitutions
While in Belgium I had the beautiful news that my P.h.D. in Alternative Medicine was approved and recognized by the University in Calcutta, and the Indian Government.  I had been secretly working on this project for quite some time, and so grateful for the chance.  This was a culmination of my research in the power of Yoga & Ayurveda, how the achievement of yogic stillness relates to total mind, body health.  When people truly embrace yoga as more that an exercise for the body, and understand the physical tension we hold is a representation/manifestation of our mental fluctuations, karmic imprints, and emotions that are stored,  that are calmed with the help of physical practice and embracing the 8 Limbs of Yoga. 
While this amazing news was so awesome to hear, I had to miss the beautiful convocation in Calcutta, because I broke my toe.  This was the 2nd time breaking my toe, but this time the pain was a bit more intense.  This injury was a beautiful lesson in patience and stillness.  I kept my grateful heart as my travels brought me to Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Paris.

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever." Mahatma Gandhi

After touring around the various parts of europe, the summer brought me back to Belgium and was capped off with a beautiful group of ladies who embarked on Reiki Level 1 Course with me.  This course was beautiful and so powerful. I have to share my gratitude to the teacher who guided my journey, Mary Henry of Mukti Healing, she guided me to the Reiki Master Level, and taught me Crystal Healing.  Every time I teach Reiki Courses, I am filled with gratitude to every teacher who guided me on the path of reiki, especially Mary.  For anyone in or around Ireland who wants to experience Reiki, Crystal and Angel Healing, and Singing Bowls, please click on the Mukti Healing Link above, you will be so pleased.

Congratulations these beautiful ladies, Piret, Saskia, Eva and Katariina, who embarked on Reiki Level 1, and continue to grow in their gifts and reiki practice daily.  Thank you Katariina for taking the time and effort to organize this course.  Your kindness and hospitality are much appreciated.  Thank you ladies for inviting me to be your guide in the process, keep shinning! For those who don't know, reiki is transfer of energy, a non invasive healing touch of peace modality.  To watch this group of beautiful ladies experience how powerful this practice is, to embrace their own power, and grow in self worth was an awesome experience to be part of.  Truly, every human being is born with the innate ability of healing, because we are made from the essence of love.
Congratulations Piret, Saskia, Eva and Katariina.
There are powerful modalities that teach people to go deeper into their own intuitive gifts that are beautiful tools for everyone, like yoga, reiki, crystal healing, pranic healing, qui gong, thai massage etc.  I myself practiced reiki for years, and loved the benefits of it, and loved how many people shared positive feedback.  Now more and more allopathic medical professionals are embracing holistic medicinal methods like yoga, meditation & reiki, as they have seen the benefits it brings to patients.  While I cared for my beloved aunty who passed away, often I would use Reiki on her to help her sleep, and it worked. 
Exploring Brussels, dining with fellow teacher, Ram, and enjoying Chocolate

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ॐ Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra ॐ

Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra

I am filled with gratitude for this teacher.  When I lived in NYC, away from home, I found a home for my mind, body and spirit on my yoga mat in the Dharma Yoga Center.  When it was Dharma Yoga East, and I was recovering from an injured ankle amidst a sea of the most inspirational advanced yoga practitioners, Sri Dharma came over and gently adjusted me into full pigeon, and it felt amazing.  He was quick to remind me and the group, we can do more than we think.  Another memory was when a fellow yogi invited me to attend class, and we did Vasisthasana (Side Plank) into Chakrasana (wheel pose), and then back to Vasisthasana, again into Chakrasana (wheel pose), flip over and over and over and over and over and over again, It was bliss.  I stopped at one point, looked at Andrew with an expression "is this for real?", Sri Dharma charmingly reminded the entire group that he never said to stop.  Dharma encourages students to make the asana an offering, so the yoga classes leave your body drenched in blissful sweat, and your mind and heart grateful for the chance to explore closing meditations.  

I personally have a tendency to practice in the back of class, but Sri Dharma sees everything. 
One time in practice at Dharma Yoga West, the room was packed, I had my eyes closed, and on the "second time is the best" as he calls it for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), I looked up and saw Sri Dharma Mittra, he somehow jumped off the platform, and like a yoga ninja made his way over to me.  He guided me to place one hand on the ground, change the position of my other arm, and he gently put his hands on me like a potter does to clay, adjusting me into full bow pose.  I LOVED IT!  I never realized I could do that pose, and never bothered to try.  Then he read my mind (something I am convinced he does), and joyfully said "I bet you are wondering how to get out of the pose".  My brain freeze and inability to conjure a poker face was evident, I laughed and nodded, while ironically still in the pose, and he simply told me to let go one hand at a time.  Classes with Sri Dharma feed the soul, and that is why I have encouraged my students all over the world to take his class.  When I was in NY, on many occasions I would go with my friends and students to participate in the classes.  Many people feel intimidated to take class, because they feel they are not at a certain level, but once we lose the judgement, expectation, comparison, and just surrender to our breath, it becomes an awesome experience.

There was a time I was leading my 200Hr Riya Yoga Teacher Training Course (which was then called Zoga Yoga) and while I had some unexpected personal financial stress, at the time I was also recently in a car accident.  I knew my heart and body needed some Dharma time, but I knew I would not be able to do everything.  I got over my ego and went anyways.  The platform or stage was on the right side of the Dharma Yoga West room, and the temple was full, so I placed my mat on the wall at the furthest end.  I was basically in my own row.  My neck and upper back was in extreme pain, but I surrendered to my breath, modified where needed, and let my practice be an offering.  The sun salutations, the breathing, the collective consciousness of the room made me lose awareness of any pain in my neck.  We came to headstand time, and I knew I could not do it.  I decided to go into childs pose and shed a few silent tears.  While I figured I was invisible in a sea of headstanding yogis who were all facing me in my childs pose.  Sri Dharma again like a yoga ninja, jumped off the stage and came right to me and said "you hurt your neck".....I thought how does he always know this stuff?  he then asked what happened and suggested I do shoulder stand, at least I will be inverted, I did and it actually helped the healing process in profound ways. 

Dharma Yoga Center is a place where yogis gather to transform their hearts with the power of yoga asana, and the wisdom of a brilliant teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra.  For me it was the only place in New York that allowed me to deepen my physical practice and spiritual practice as one experience.  This teacher embodies his practice in so many ways.  He joyfully challenges you to pursue your practice with "angry determination" and ignites excitement when approaching Surya Namaskar "Follow me now, and don't get late!", he reminds you to "be receptive" to the grace of God that dwells within your heart, he encourages you to improve your health “If you eat dead, toasted, fried or frozen food, you will feel dead, toasted, fried and frozen” and guides yogis to honor the Yamas and Niyamas “With the Ethical Rules and a little concentration, anything is possible”.  He is the teacher who guides us on our path of self-realization with encouragement "Develop a strong desire for liberation" and wisdom, "when you are quiet, you see everything with love".  My favorite quote from Sri Dharma Mittra is "Second time is the best, third time is the best....etc"  after we complete holding a physically challenging asana for what seems like an eternity of breaths.  While living in NYC, I made a point to offer my Karma Yoga at the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx for years, and if you are in NYC, I encourage you to reach out and help the sisters as they provide meals to the homeless.  When I realized I was leaving NYC, I made a point to do some Karma Yoga at Dharma Yoga Centre, and I feel blessed for the experience to give back to the person who inspired my yoga practice in so many ways.

There is so much this amazing teacher has done for the yoga community.   I am inspired by his humble dedication to yoga, I am grateful that he has been my teacher, I am grateful for every life changing class I have taken, I am honored to learn from him.  Thank you Dharma ji for an incredible 75years of life, and for shinning light to yogis everywhere.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chakras with Yogi Vishvketu

While I was in India I was exploring the possibility to spend time in Rishikesh.  One of the Yoga Ashrams that caught my attention was run by Yogi Vishvketu.  Unfortunately, I became sick and was unable to add Rishikesh to my list of adventures.  Fortunately, Yogi Vishvketu teaches half the year in Rishikesh at his centre and the other half in Canada with his beautiful family, so I was able to participate in his Chakra Workshop this weekend at the lovely Jaya Yoga Centre.  While I have taught chakra workshops many times, I also love to be a student and take class, and kundalini based exercises is something I do not always do, so I wanted to take myself out of the comfort zone.  The workshop is part of a beautiful series, and this particular afternoon we focused on the Swadhistana (Sacral) and Manipurna (Navel) chakras.  Swadhistana affects our desires, passion and creativity with lunar energy, while our manipurna chakra or city of jewels is linked to the energy of confidence, determination and self worth with a lot of solar energy.  Much of the class included kundalini kriya work, postures, mantras, pranayama, bija (seed) sounds, visualization inspired meditation, and more.

“Men of great knowledge actually found out about the chakras – their workings, their petals, their sounds, their infinity, their co-relationship, their powers.  They found that the life of a human is totally based on these chakras.  They developed into a whole science.  This total science gave birth to Kundalini Yoga.  That is how Kundalini Yoga was born.” – Yogi Bhajan

While I was filling out information forms in the entrance of the studio, Yogi Vishvketu walked in with a big smile and joyful greeting to everyone.  Upon entering the class there was lovely mantra based music playing from art of living.  I sat in meditation for 30 minutes, enjoying this beautiful music.  Once we began class the collective consciousness of 20 participants was flowing, and it felt wonderful.  Between oscillating movements, dynamic and integrative pranayama techniques, Kundalini exercises can be very intense, bringing up emotions, and target energy flow within the chakras.  Our teacher was joyful and guided us to bring the same happiness to our inhalations and exhalations.  Since it is spring, many of us needed tissues to clear our nasal passage while we explored the dynamic pranayama exercises.  The experience was meant to guide everyone through transformation.  Yogi Vishvketu has a vast knowledge of vedas, and subtle body science, so when questions were asked at the end of class he provided very accurate and indepth responses to further everyone's interest in the subject of chakras.  At the end of class when I asked Yogi Vishvketu to take a photograph, he was happy to oblige.  The lovely yogini Savitri who snapped the photo initially cut out both our heads, and Yogi Vishvketu was witty and quick to point out the camera lens was focusing on the chakras we worked on today, to which we all shared in a laugh.  I am very grateful to have met this wonderful teacher, Yogi Vishvketu, and a few other friendly yogis this weekend at Jaya Yoga Centre.  Hari Om.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Art of Adjustments in Yoga Class

On Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you), I was inspired to write a post about adjustments in Yoga Class.  While I have studied Hatha Yoga (Sivananda), Ashtanga (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), Iyengar (B.K.S Iyengar), and Vinyasa (Sri Dharma Mittra...), I am grateful for having wonderful adjustments in class.  I have also enjoyed taking new classes, experimenting with various styles of yoga including Anusara, Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Acro Yoga, all in efforts to keep a positive and open mind, taking myself outside of my comfort zone.  Like everyone, I have a preference of style and teacher that I tend to gravitate to.  While I do like to keep an open mind and support new teachers, I also know my body, and if I feel an adjustment is not what my body needs in that moment, I have gestured or whispered to the teacher while in class. 

Ultimately, we are wanting to quiet the monkey mind, so if a teacher can take me to a place where my physical body blissfully swirls in fluid movements that are devoid of distractions, I am grateful.  As a teacher, it is important to understand the body, especially when adjusting.  I have heard horror stories of people getting injured in classes, and teachers giving painful adjustments, which result in injuries.  This should not be a reality.  Since it is an inward practice, I always prefer to say that our injuries are our biggest teachers, when we study the chakra system we understand the injury is a physical manifestation of unresolved mental fluctuations.  It is easy to blame yoga, blame the teacher, blame the snow that we had to shovel, but what happens when we look inward is liberation, which is the purpose of yoga. 

As a teacher when I train new yoga teachers we spend a good amount of time on adjustments.  The reality is, as nervous as some students are to be touched or adjusted by the teacher, some new teachers are equally nervous to adjust the student.  Much like the yoga practice is a practice, it is also a practice period for new teachers to get used to adjust different people into different poses.  The main reasons we adjust students is to ensure safety & alignment in poses, to bring people deeper into the pose, and to provide support when a student may not be able to maintain balance.  It is important to note that every body is unique, with their own history of injuries, physical limitations, fears etc, therefore every adjustment should be unique to the individual.  The goal should never be to get the pose exactly like the teacher/photograph, but to be able to breathe deeply in the pose to the full extent of that individual practitioner.

Here are some helpful hints to approach the art of adjusting.
  1. Lose the nervous energy, when you are calm the student will feel that.
  2. Ground yourself so you can provide adequate support for the student.
  3. Notice their breath, Cue their breath, and move them with the breath. 
  4. Notice their face and toes for tension, adjustments should be done when face is relaxed.
  5. Notice their foundation, once they are secure....gently place your hands and adjust
  6. Stay with the student during the adjustment, and support them out (it's not a game of tag).
  7. Be gentle with your hands, (no need to make it a wrestling match)
  8. If you adjust on one side, be kind and adjust the other side too. 
  9. Keep your hands away from bathing suit regions.

The reality is, every pose has their own proper adjustment methods.  There are books and classes revolved around the concept of adjustments.  In a private class setting there is more freedom for adjustments, whereas in a group class the teacher needs to maintain the collective consciousness of the group, and still be ready to provide hands on adjustments when verbal cues are not enough.  Often times a gentle hand, accompanied with a clear verbal cue is enough to guide a student to safely get deeper or aligned into a pose.

This inspiration came from a recent post on Facebook where a video of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was posted in the early days, that depicted some very intense hands on adjustments.  There were different opinions of the adjustments based off the footage, and everyone is entitled to their own view.  While I would say Ashtanga Yoga is one of the most intense approach to asana practice out there, I feel like it has evolved and grown like many forms of yoga.  I have not had the honor to practice with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, but I have practiced with incredible teachers who learned from him, and respect the fact that he was one of the yoga masters who brought yoga to the western world, and inspired what we popularly refer to as Vinyasa yoga, Flow Classes, Power Yoga etc..  While some teachers get certified, open studios and have the honor to guide people to the practice of yoga, it is important to respect the Gurus of India who started a worldwide movement that is truly a spiritual practice.  When we get to that place of undisturbed mind stuff, we embody the eight limbs of yoga, we see all things with beauty, understanding and gratitude which as teachers, should be our ultimate goal. While I practice ashtanga and vinyasa, I do it because my body enjoys the challenge, yet I do not recommend it for everyone.  I enjoy taking Iyengar classes, because an entire class that focuses on my trochanter forces me to quiet the monkey mind like nothing else.  Stay positive and grateful with every breath.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

4 ways to deepen your practice with Satya

सत्यप्रतिष्थायं क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम् ॥३६॥
satya-pratiṣthāyaṁ kriyā-phala-āśrayatvam ||Yoga Sutra 2:36||

Once a state of truth (satya) has been permanently established, each statement will form the basis for a truthful result. ||Yoga Sutra 2:36||

“When one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him."

The 2nd Yama (morale observance) as highlighted by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras is Satya, translated as truthfulness or living with highest integrity.   Patanjali explains how when the yogi bases their actions in truth, the results will always be truthful.  Truth is sometimes referred to as supreme consciousness, that which prevades the universe, without distortion, and equal to love.  The obvious expectation is to refrain from telling lies of any degree and speak, act, thing with integrity and compassion.  We see truth in all the Universe, and as a Yogi it is important to be example of this concept of divine truth.  Our truth can be seen in our words, and Patanjali highlights it as a Yama (restraint) to point out what we should refrain from doing, highlighting how we place a filter on our words so that we maintain harmony with the first yama of ahimsa (non-harming).  This interpretation of a filter is refraining from judgement.  Whenever we judge, we impose our perception on the world, and as explored in the calming of the monkey mind, seeing and speaking with "satya" is silencing our perceptions.

The Yogi should always acknowledge the difference between judgement and observation.  Judgement will create limiting beliefs while observation in the moment will allow for freedom of growth and flexibility of mind.  Our biggest truth is when we acknowledge that no person or situation is the creator of our suffering, but rather it is our interpretation/perception that makes us the creator of our journey.

The amazing reality is when these Yamas are applied in every area of our universe, the monkey mind becomes quiet, the ripple effect is the truthful result.  Words that are rooted in Satya have the ability to inspire virtue in others, every soul feels at home, and harmony is the successful result.

“Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, does it improve upon the silence?”

4 simple ways to implement Satya to your practice include:

  1. Be True to yourself - On the mat be in the moment embracing the fact that you are partaking in a yoga "practice", therefore if you cannot do a pose today, or it causes pain, be good to your body, it is something to work towards with practice.  Off the mat, if someone or a situation disturbs your inner peace, rather than allowing it to disturb your inner peace, walk away with compassion.  We can never control someone's actions, but we can always control our reaction.  If this is someone in your immediate family or work environment, look with compassion (ahimsa) before allowing judgement to formulate into anger or gossip.
  2. Speak your truth - Words are powerful enough to harm or heal.  Perhaps in your journal or meditation reflect on areas of your life where you can be more truthful.  Often we cannot be true to ourselves till we acknowledge the areas where we refrain from being truthful due to consequences we have created or fears we have built up in our own mind.  Whatever truth we speak, while it is great to be direct, always abide by ahimsa (non harming) when we choose our words.  On the mat, be a witness to your internal dialogue, judgements, expectations, blame, excuses and remind yourself to bring focus back to your breath, replacing negative self talk with gratitude & love.
  3. Be True with Love - There is no need to please or deceive people when we speak with truthfulness.  We can stay true to our convictions, goals and love of nature always in a loving way.   Communicate with love so to avoid misunderstandings.  Therefore rather than assume the yoga teacher is ignorant, take a childs pose in class (love yourself), and ask the teacher afterwards if you have concerns.  Respect another persons point of view, we do not always need to be right.  The moment we take a current life situation with the emotional reaction that places us in the victim role, we need to dig deeper and acknowledge that the scenario is bringing up unresolved feelings from a previous situation. 
  4. Be your best truth - For yoga teachers acknowledge your time is value, and you deserve compensation, studio owners should always compensate their teachers, money is an exchange of energy and a yoga teacher should always be compensated for their time.  While there is Karma Yoga in many ashrams and yoga centers, be mindful of not taking advantage.  Yoga students remember to recognize the teacher is your guide and your classmates are there for an experience too so refrain from chatter and distracting or disrespectful behavior in class.  On the mat if your body is tight, or you have limitations embrace that moment, rather than push and strain muscles.  Off the mat, always strive to do your best for yourself and your self development.  Truth has a beautiful way of allowing us to be vulnerable, expose our ego, and find liberation past limiting beliefs. 

Truth is a foundation of our yoga practice, our relationships, our business ventures, our families, and ourself.  When our foundation is cracked it will affect everything.  While many people get caught up in living a lie, or profiting from a lie, the laws of karma always come into play, and liars & cheaters never seem to go too far.  Take some time to re-evaluate your life with truth, and eliminate things that need to be let go, so you can maintain your truth. Re-evaluate your yoga practice with truth, and recognize if this practice has inspired you to better relationships with yourself and others. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yoga meets London Dowsers Group

While yoga is an amazing practice that can be practiced anywhere and by any age, I was so grateful for the chance to share the practice with the people in the London Dowsers, who are part of the Canadian Society of Dowsers. Dowsing is technique using a pendulum, that acts as a visual tool for our subconscious mind.  Having a clear mind with meditation & pranayama is an excellent way to begin for dowsing.

We explored one of the 8 Limbs of yoga, Pranayama or regulation of breath.  This group of amazing ladies that gather to meet were very receptive to the guided meditation, alternate nostril breathing, meditation chakra journey, and various other yogic breathing techniques I shared.  The group was incredibly receptive to the techniques.  Most traditional hatha yoga ashrams in India place emphasis on pranayama, because breath is king.  We are all made of prana (life force energy).  More than learning any yoga pose, we need breath, we need oxygenated cells.  In a world where we tend to have short breath, stress, and lack of balance, taking the time to breath deep, and balance both female and male energy with alternate nostril techniques is something everyone can benefit from.  Pranayama is one of the 8 Limbs of yoga, though simple techniques is something everyone can incorporate into their daily life, advanced exercises should always be practiced under the guidance of a teacher.   Many of the members found how simple our breath can lead us to healing, one woman shared how these simple exercises helped her heal her pain just in this 90 minutes, many found tears, laughter, joy, and a new awareness of the importance of our breath.  All of us raised our EMF fields just with the simple techniques of pranayama. 

Alternate nostril breathing technique has many benefits, primarily restoring balance.  Yogis believe that we naturally alternate the side we breathe on every 90 minutes, however, when prolonged use of one nostril for breathing occurs, it can result in an adverse effect on our health.  Those who breath through the right side more will tend to suffer from nervousness and mental disturbance, while those who breathe through the left side more than required will tend to have chronic fatigue, memory loss and reduced brain function.   Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Sodhana, brings balance, clears the nasal cavity, helps for those with asthma, helps with those with vertigo, increases pancreatic secretions to burn off toxins/fats/fluids, and especially beneficial for those with diabetes.  Yoga is an ancient science, and yogis discovered long ago most people with diabetes tend to breathe out of the right nostril more, which is the masculine/more aggressive channel of energy.  This simple technique can help restore balance to the entire body by bringing balance to masculine and feminine energy.

Nadi Sodhana

  1. Using your right hand in Vishnu Mudra, sitting tall and keeping your left hand in gyana mudra.  Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Do this to the count of four seconds.
  2. Immediately close the left nostril with your right ring finger and little finger, and at the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through this nostril. Do this to the count of eight seconds. This completes a half round.
  3. Inhale through the right nostril to the count of four seconds. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight seconds. This completes one full round.
Beginners can start with a round of 3, build up to 12.

Jo-Anne Eadie
This chance was made possible by the founder of London Dowsers & Brantford Dowsers, Joanne Eadie.  Joanne is incredibly gifted and highly respected NGH certified Master hypnotist who runs her own center (Power of Freedom), and hosts the Canadian Hypnosis Conference, where I will be teaching later this year.

For those who understand yoga as an 8 Limb practice, and that the purpose is to quiet the mind noise, they will understand the natural association of hypnosis as an additional method to achieve success of the second sutra (Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodaha - stilling the movement of the mind) .   The mind noise, patterns of belief, perceptions, monkey mind, is a result of our unconscious constant state of hypnosis.  I myself and a friend from New York who traveled to Canada twice to take a session with Joanne can both attest to her expertise.  Thank you to the London Dowsers for being receptive to the practice of yoga, and thank you Joanne for inviting me to share with this lovely group.

Monday, March 31, 2014

5 ways to deepen your Yoga practice with Ahimsa

अहिंसा - AHIMSA - Non Harming/Non Violence in thoughts, words, or deeds. Compassion for all living beings.

While the popularity of yoga is growing worldwide, many people are discovering that yoga is more than just a physical exercise.  It truly is a path to spiritual liberation.  Let's remember that the meaning of "spirit" is to breathe life into, we are all made from spirit (breath: life force energy/prana), and yoga is a practice that teaches us to unite with our breath.  This liberation begins with understanding the 8 Limbs of yoga.

Many yogis take their practice to the next level with the study and embodiment of the 8 Limbs of yoga.  The first two limbs being Yamas and Niyamas comprise the ethical rules for the yoga aspirant.  The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of our yoga practice, the path to liberation.

The first Yama is Ahimsa, which means non violence/non harming to all living beings in thoughts, words, or actions.  This yama asks the yoga aspirant to take responsibility for their actions, choices, thoughts and be guided by compassion.  Here are 5 ways to implement ahimsa into your life

1) Plant based diet - While this respects the life of the animal it also is a choice of compassion to our own body as it is better for digestion and cell rejuvenation to consume plant based diets. It is also better for the environment due to excessive waste from factory farms, and it releases the chance to consume any karmic residue from the animal.  There are delicious smoothie, juice, and raw food or warm food vegetarian/vegan recipes available.  For people in North America, local farm foods or organic produce is always a good option, familiarize yourself with the "dirty dozen" and "clean fifteen".  For those omnivores out there this point is to encourage you to add more fruits and veggies into your diet, your body will thank you. 

2) Love Thyself - This itself can be a huge topic to discuss about self love.  Surround yourself with people, habits, literature, experiences that elevate your soul and bring joy to your life.  Be good to your body in yoga class with breath initiated movement, and child pose if necessary.  Let go of the toxic habits and relationships that infringe on your mental and physical health.  Take some time to celebrate your victories rather than rant about being a victim, celebrate your beauty rather than focus on media influenced flaws, celebrate your blessings at every moment and more will pour into your life.  This is not to diminish any trauma that you may have gone through, rather to empower yourself to never be defined by a traumatic experience.  Yoga teachers who have found this love always shine with more compassion on others.  Yoga students who found this love tend to see all things with a loving, understanding and compassionate heart.
3) Words - Speak Lovingly always to yourself and others.  Our self dialogue is so powerful, therefore take some time to make affirmations beginning with "I AM" and be mindful of what we say afterwords.  Refrain from gossip, and even release the habit to speak in a way that would harm another persons reputation or feelings, even if it is true.  A true yogi knows the power of silence, a person with inner peace knows the power of loving words, and compassion.  We may not always get along, we may have disagreements, it is the path of the yogi to walk away, send loving thoughts, walk the loving path, and always choose forgiveness.

4) Oneness - While many would claim the word as tolerance, I feel oneness better describes the choice to look compassionately on things that challenge us.  Perhaps a situation is disappointing, take time to understand the disappointing emotional reaction is bringing up unresolved emotions that are like rippling waves in our life, leading us to the current tidal wave moments. It is easy to blame and point fingers, the yogi always aims to understand, which means understand what makes us react with passionate disturbance, our inner peace is ours and when we truly have oneness, we always shine like stars in the night sky.  
 "Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your own mind.  I tell you, in fact, others seem to be bothering you, but it is not others, it is your own mind." Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
5) Gratitude - Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and say thank you in every breath, your life is guaranteed to reflect many more things to be grateful for.  Perhaps you had your hopes set on achieving something or success in something, rather than put all your energy on the loss, be thankful for the experience and trust there is better for you.  Where your energy goes, energy flows both on and off your yoga mat.  Take time to be grateful for everything, family, friends, life, home, food, the list of things we can be grateful for, is usually greater than we tend to realize.  Perhaps your yoga practice is not where you would like it to be, you may have had a set back physically, relax, breathe, and be grateful for where it is, challenge yourself to quiet the inner dialogue of expectations, judgements, and just enjoy being in the moment and dance with your breath.

Those who study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in depth, take workshops or yoga teacher training may have the chance to learn more about the yoga sutras.  For those of you intimidated to take a yoga class, lose that fear and take a class, and see if you can add anything from this list into your daily routine.  For those of you who are yoga students already (including teachers) see if you can revisit something on this list for your own life.  Enjoy every moment and shine your love in every breath. ~ Namaste