Yoga: Beyond Aesthetic Instagram Asana Posts

In the Western world thanks to social media, yoga is mostly recognized by asana (yoga posture). In many countries, yoga does not exceed the boundaries of the physical body practices. Are yoga’s essence, philosophy, and intention limited by the posture? What is yoga? Why do people do yoga, go to yoga lessons, or become yoga instructors?

For thousands of years sages, hermits, and seekers of knowledge in the East reached different levels of consciousness by way of deep meditation and contemplation. Vedic knowledge (Vedas), inner visions, and myths that contain the knowledge of existence in itself, such as the Bhagavad Gita, slowly began to feed society and become part of collective consciousness. Patanjali collected all the known information about yoga in the Yoga Sutras around the years 200-300 BC.

Yoga means “yuj” or “unity”; it is a system that aims to unify the individual with other humans and with all life forms of the world, with the inner space, with the invisible, and with the infinite and inexperienced formless one. It is a lifestyle, an attitude, a perspective, and a way of understanding which stands high upon eight great limbs. In the Yoga Sutras, these eight limbs brought thousands of years of work together for the first time.

Let’s take a look at them.

 1. Yamas: Ethical and Universal Standards

Ahimsa (Non-Violence): Ahimsa means non-violence in words, thoughts, deeds, and intentions. This non-violence is an area which begins with the person and extends through all of existence. From social interactions to your inner relationship with yourself, it is a very valuable point of view. It includes many choices from being a vegetarian to holding no grudges. When practicing Asana, it can be interpreted as embracing your body, your mind, and your feelings with compassion and avoiding compulsions which might hurt you.

Satya (Truth): Satya means truth. It teaches speaking the truth and avoiding lies. It teaches finding your own truth, mission, and purpose for life and living according to them. In the practice of asana, satya means knowing the limits of your anatomy, psychology, emotions, and many other things and practicing according to your truths.

Asteya (Non-Stealing): Asteya means not stealing any property, money, or ideas. Not taking anything that is not given and not forcing others to take anything. Swami Sivananda says, “Desire or want is the root cause for stealing.” When we steal anything, including time, energy, happiness, property, promotions, money, ideas, love, or dreams, that means we actually lack what we steal. Having no trust for the natural system or the perfection and authenticity of existence and not feeling any excitement for the path which the soul is meant to discover may reveal the jealous mask of ego and generate feelings of injustice. In asana practice, asteya involves not stealing breath or effort from others while practicing a pose and not comparing yourself with others and thus stealing value from your own pose. It also means not separating yourself from the moment of practice with your mind by projecting yourself to other times and places and instead being able to experience the moment of practice to the fullest.

Brahmacharya (Using Energy for Unity): Brachmacharya is working for unification, being able to live for everyone in society, taking your worldviews outside your home to the world, and focusing on a certain subject to expand your creative energy. It means not being a slave to your emotions and instincts, especially lust, and keeping the level of focus you want. It is the use of sexual energy with love rather than judgment or negative emotions. When practicing asana, brahmacharya is being able to value all parts of the flow equally and see it as a whole.

Aparigraha (Non-Grasping): Aparigraha means non-grasping. Grasping for a person, a dogma, a look, or anything else in this world that is centered around change and temporariness keeps us away from new things that will make our lives more colorful, and it blocks learning by causing us to become stuck in certain parts of our lives. Aparigraha includes staying away from ambition, greed, and excessiveness. In the practice of asana, aparigraha is approaching your practice with respect, sparing some time and space for yourself, not obsessing over asanas, and not making strict habits.

2. Niyamas: Reference Points for Self Discipline and Spiritual Enlightenment

Saucha (Cleanliness): Saucha teaches being clean in body, mind, emotions, and energy, purifying yourself in these four areas with intentions and practices for living a better life. It is the practice of asana as a clean and pure whole, creating a zone of clarity reaching from your yoga mat to your heart.

Santosha (Contentment): Santosha is knowing that the condition you are in is the best combination for you and acting according to the knowledge that something is “for you” rather than “to you”. Knowing what is in your way, what is good for you, and having a calm inner world are all parts of it. In asana practice, it is accepting the limitations of your body with love and celebrating your current state in the practice.

Tapas (Fire): Tapas derives from the Sanskrit word “tap” or “fire”. It means work, discipline, and burning everything which keeps us away from the real yoga – the state of being one with the universe. In asana practice, it means working with the agni of the body (the energy of the fire element), going beyond agni, and keeping the passion of regular practice alive.

Svadhyaya (Introspection): Svadhyaya is the heart of yoga and its deepest stand. It is the knowledge of one’s self by way of introspection. It requires knowing the reasons behind your reactions and the meanings behind your words, your emotions, your judgments, and your mental patterns. Real freedom is freeing the self from the past and the webs of the mind. In yoga asana practice, it is accepting the movements as reference points and therefore recognizing the person who makes and applies those forms. Recognizing who that person is, what that person is, what mental or psychological state that person is in, and what the condition of that person’s self-relationship is through these movements.

Ishvara Pranidhana (The Power to Surrender): “Ishavara”means “God” in Sanskrit, “Pranidhana” means “devotion and surrendering”. This is the walk of a person on the path of yoga into the unity, the universe, the God, or the truth. In yoga asana practice, it is the practice of the pose for reaching beyond the perception of self, rather than practicing the pose for the pose itself.

 

3. Asana (Posture):

Asana refers to the yoga postures. Today, yoga is best known for its asana practice. As told in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, asanas are movements which are taken from nature itself or from the movements of other living beings and practiced by yogis.

Asanas have effects on all four bodies: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

There are many uses of asanas for the physical body such as softening the muscles that regulate blood flow, improving joint capacity by relieving the spinal cord through opening the vertebrae, and improving lung capacity through weight control. The association of asanas with the hormonal system comes from the ability to regulate the nervous system. In regular breathing and movement, the body reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol and increases serotonin, oxytocin, and melatonin secretions.

“Yoga chitta vritti nirodha” or “Yoga relaxes the fluctuations on the waters of the mind” is the most meaningful sentence that comes to us from the Sutras and shows the effects of yoga on the mental body (mind). During a yoga lesson, and especially at the end of the lesson and afterwards, the mind is very calm, and you can enjoy hours of deep relaxation. Yoga improves healing, health, and feelings in all bodies; cleans blockages in the meridians, nadis, and energy lines; and balances the flow overall.

Today, thanks to  the influence of the capitalist system and the search for eternal love in the practice of asana, both instructors and students are trying to achieve the “necessary” flexibility, strength, mobility, and balance by practicing, but in a very human way, causing them to sometimes miss the real purpose: a deeper contact with the inner world.If we remain attached to aesthetic concerns, such as being able to achieve a posture or not being able to do so, the mind becomes solid, and the practice becomes a boring routine. The mind finds something to fight and lose again, and the invisible part remains secondary and forgotten.

We know the saying “Sthira-sukham asanam” from the Sutras, which means that asanas are patience and comfort. It describes both the state of our inner being and the experience of the body in a posture or in a variation based on our own limits and the level of our practice. It means to be rooted in our innermost area, where both the body is pleased with the mind and the mind is pleased with the body. In this way, the body is there to support a clean, clear, open, and free mind.

 

4. Pranayama (Energy / Breath Control):

Prana is the Sanskrit word that referes to chi, the vital energy. According to yogis, there are two large energy channels starting from the tail end and reaching the two nostrils: Ida and Pingala. If these two channels, as well as the right and left hemispheres of the brain, the masculine and feminine energies, and all other things, are in balance, then energy rises along the Sushumna channel up and down the middle line.

Prayanama involves taking high amounts of energy into the body in different forms and intentions through breathing practices, therefore cleaning, purifying, and focusing. For this, three diaphragm locks, as well as certain body shapes, certain breathing speeds, and certain breathing techniques, are applied.

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal):

Pratyahara is being able to examine the inner world with a distance from the the external world by turning all the senses inwards. Pratyahara means controlling ahara (food / external factors) or, in other words, gaining control over the external factors.

Yogis turn themselves inwards to gain a stable power, rather than taking their power from ever changing external factors, looks, and pleasures. Afterwards, all that introspection turns into a garden of happiness and inner peace. The external factors no longer affect the yogi.

There are 3 levels of aharas in the yogic system.

The first one is our food in physical terms. We feed our bodies on 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

There are “impressions”  which feed the mind on the second level – sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell perceptions – and they match with the subtle presence of each other; sound matches with ether, touch matches with air, sight matches with fire, taste matches with water, and smell matches with earth. On the third level of ahara, there are “ties”. The people we keep in our lives and in our hearts feed the soul and affect us with 3 basic guna – sattva (harmony), rajas (distraction), and tamas (laziness).

Pratyahara has two faces simultaneously: avoiding bad or inappropriate food and impressions and eating the right foods and having the right impressions and ties. We cannot provide ourselves with mental impressions without having a proper diet, proper friendships, and proper ties. But pratyahara’s primary emphasis comes from being able to stay away from sensory impressions and pleasures or being able to control them; this allows the mind to leave the outside and turn inside.

As we stay away from negative and low vibrational impressions, pratyahara increases the immunity level of mind. A healthy body resists all toxins and pathogens and wants to throw them back out when they try to invade. Similarly, a healthy mind is actually strengthened against negative thoughts and external influences around it. So if you feel that you are stressed from external construction sounds, crying children, or car horns, practicing pratyahara could be the right step for you.

Going Beyond With Control

Patanjali suggests that the last three steps of yoga should be grouped together since they are tightly bound together: Dharana, Dyana, and Samadhi. This is the part of the road map that emphasizes control and shows the path to nirvana.

6. Dharana

Dharana, or concentration of mind, is the unity of the mind with the object through intense focus on one object. It can be an external object such as a flower or a candle, or it can be something internal such as a chakra or an organ. Usually, this is practiced in yoga when instructors tell their students to “focus on the breath” or “follow the flow of the breath.”

7. Dyana 

Dyana is turning the concentration from the single object towards the whole existence, the whole perceived area. Therefore, the concentration becomes one that is unlimited and all-embracing. This removes the limits of the physical area in which one can express the self. In this step we experience our true selves in a way that is beyond human.

8. Samadhi 

Samadhi is a state of complete unity with existence, the creator, and everything.

In a Nutshell

These are the precious steps that yoga stands on, both progressing in order and open at the same time to the practitioner. It is not easy to share all of this in a yoga lesson while simultaneously respecting the limits, sensitivities, and well-being of many bodies, since there are many thoughts, perspectives, and volumes of books behind them. As yoga instructors, we actually pass through different steps in every lesson by sharing questions and thoughts with our students.

My suggestion to anyone who has been doing yoga or is just starting out is to take some quiet time for yourself every day. We do not have two ears and one mouth for nothing: Listen.

Stay silent and listen to what is beyond.

If you wish to join, let’s listen together with shapes, ideas, utterances, and feelings.

 

Emotional Eating Is Not the Solution

I keep eating even when I’m full.

I always feel a need to eat. I always keep some snacks nearby.

I never feel full. I feel like I am going to feel weak if I don’t eat.

I only feel happy when I eat.The only thing I enjoy in my life is eating. What would I do without it?

Sound familiar? If so, ask yourself these questions:

What do I feel when I need to eat? What emotion do I feel when I crave food?

Do I eat when I’m angry, anxious, or stressed?

Do I eat to fight boredom?

Do I eat to fight loneliness?

Do I eat to reward myself?

Do I eat because I don’t know how to deal with negative emotions?

Do I feed my body or my emotions? 

Emotional eating is a defense mechanism against stress.

Constant eating is a way to deal with negative emotions, just like all other addictions. Overeating causes unintended results such as weight gain and health problems. Weight is actually not the problem itself, but rather is a symptom. This symptom is a reflection of other problems that lie deep inside. Just like drinking and smoking, eating can also suppress your worries temporarily. How many times have you visited the fridge even though you are not hungry? Why did you do so? To avoid a problem? To soothe your stress?Everybody has difficulties in life. The important thing, however, is how you deal with them. Even if your relationship with eating hasn’t been very healthy up until now, you can still change it now. Let’s take a look at the path you can take to end emotional eating:

Be aware of your eating habits.

In order to solve your emotional eating problems, you must first recognize your eating habits. What time do you eat the most during the day? Do you eat more when bored or alone? Do your food choices usually include high calorie foods or sweets? How big are your portions? Do you hurry when eating? Where is your mind while eating?

Stop conditioning happiness with food.

Similar to other addictions, constant eating stimulates the reward mechanism in the brain. The short-termed  feeling of relief when eating causes the pattern to repeat: Negative emotions to trigger the same behavior later on. Continuing like this will cause you to feel happy only when eating. In order to break the “food equals happiness” conditioning in the brain, you should explore other ways of handling stress such as exercising, focusing on things other than eating, or spending more time with the people you love.

Face your negative feelings.

The real function of emotional eating is to avoid facing negative feelings. Going on like this does not help with the problem and may cause you to gain weight or experience health problems. Eating sweets or high calorie foods can relieve you temporarily, but your relationship with eating will become more and more unhealthy unless you find the source of the problem. Practicing introspection, trying to understand your negative emotions, and expressinglearning to express them in a healthy way are the first steps to overcoming this problem.You can also consider psychological counseling from an expert.


Make peace with yourself and your body.

As with many psychological problems, emotional eating is caused by a distortion of your relationship with yourself. Hating yourself and your body not only does not solve the problem but is actually the source of the problem itself. Eating to escape problems or lack of love is like force-feeding a baby who actually wants attention. It is not possible to lead a healthy life without love and trust. If you give these to yourself first, you will see that those around you will change and become more loving and trusting. Loving and trusting yourself is a wonderful present to give yourself and those around you!

Don’t forget that a healthy and joyful life begins with the relationship that you build with yourself. Don’t hesitate to seek support in this matter.

Wishing you love and good health.

Mental Toughness is the Key to a Good Life

Everybody wants to live a good life, but not everyone works to achieve it. Some give up easily; some show determination. There is a clear personality difference between those who give up and those who persevere. But we are all born with basically the same potential. So what then is the secret to mental toughness?

Mental toughness is the ability to overcome difficulties. If you want to succeed in life and reach your goals, you must develop this skill. You have to be mentally tough when you are striving for your goals; fighting difficulties; and overcoming doubts, fears, and worries. Determination and mental toughness can be strengthened just like muscles. If you are having a hard time reaching your goals and you give up everything easily,check out The 40% Rule.

The 40% Rule which is explained in Jesse Itzler’s book Livingwith a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet, is a rule used by Navy SEALs to fight harsh conditions while going through one of the toughest training programs in the world. We can also use “The 40% Rule” as a way of “dealing with the difficulties and moving on” and apply it to the challenges of daily life. As Itzler explains in his book,“He would say that when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done. And he had a motto: If it doesn’t suck we don’t do it. And that was his way of forcing us to get uncomfortable to figure out what our baseline was and what our comfort level was and just turning it upside-down.”

It is scientifically proven that our limits are a lot farther than we think. The placebo effect (When we really believe in something, it happens) has been proven many times in research. Neuroscientists tell us that mental toughness is connected to three things:

  1. Being optimistic and cheerful: A tough mind is able to cross boundaries and find creative solutions to problems. For this, the mind needs to be safe and flexible, and a flexible mind can only be achieved with an optimistic point of view. Optimism basically means looking at events from a cheerful perspective. You can use the power of smiling to do so. You don’t even have to be happy to smile. According to Charles Darwin’s “Facial Feedback” hypothesis, facial expressions affect the mood just as the mood affects facial expressions. This means that smiling without being happy can actually make you happy. As Navy SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters says, “You have to have fun and laugh to cope with difficulties, laugh at yourself and what you do.”                                                                                                                                                  
  2. Training theBrain: The brain is also a muscle. Just as you need to exercise to improve your muscles, so also you should exercise continuously to train your brain. Working a little bit each day will make this muscle better. Avoid doing the same things over and over again; over time it becomes boring and causes a lack of motivation. Instead energize your mind with many different stimuli to keep it active and motivated.
  3. Point of View: Do you make your problems and obligations seem bigger than they are? The easiest way to deal with difficulties is to change your point of view about the things you see as being difficult. Instead of seeing challenges as drudgery, the trick is to perceive them as a game. Navy SEAL James Waters says, “Many people are unaware that Navy SEAL Training is evaluating the ability to cope and maintain with difficult conditions. This is a game. You need to enjoy it and keep it in your big picture.”

The key to living a happy and good life is to be mentally tough. The purpose of the difficulties in your life is to improve you and make you a better version of yourself. Always staying in your comfort zone will ensure that you never move forward. Life is not stable; it is unpredictable and constantly changing. The way to adapt to those changes is mental flexibility and determination. Confidence brings determination. Determination is like a muscle that improves when used. You have more than you think. Challenge yourself. Pushing your limits will help you achieve more. The key to the great life that you deserve is in your hands; opening the door is your choice.

Wishing you love and good health.

 

 

How to Motivate Yourself to Lose Weight?

Failed diets, gyms which you do not attend regularly, extra pounds that you cannot lose. Do you need a little motivation? The advice below is just right for you. Be honest with yourself:

Why do you want to lose weight?

Do you want a bikini body for the summer, or do you want to improve your health.

Give yourself time: If you want to lose extra pounds quickly but you gained the weight over a long period of time, think again. Your body will show resistance in the beginning because you have given up healthy eating habits. Set yourself realistic goals during this period so that you can actually follow them.

Don’t follow super-skinny models: Stop comparing your own body with the supermodels you see on Instagram. Instead, follow people who have lost weight and are peaceful with their bodies.

Realize the truth behind your eating behaviors: If you are using eating to soothe or suppress a particular emotion, no diet will work. You must first make peace with that emotion. In this situation, dieting may even harm your self-confidence, causing you to be angry with yourself and eat again to handle this anger. Your goal should not be short-term weight loss but instead to develop and maintain healthy eating habits. Before starting any diet, try to address the deeper problems that cause you to search comfort in food.

Visualize the new you: What does your dream body look like? What is your ideal weight? Visualize this body often, and even start to behave like you would in your ideal body. You will never really own things that you think about as existing only in future tense.

Consult the experts: When considering weight loss you should definitely get advice from experts. Do not refrain from consulting a dietitian for your diet, a sports trainer for your exercise, and a psychologist for emotional support.

Accept and love yourself: You yourself are the most important source of motivation on the journey of weight loss. Even if you cannot motivate yourself, stop criticizing. Research shows that the biggest obstacle to losing weight is mental resistance. Feeling anger and guilt over your extra pounds will cause your subconscious to insistently keep the extra weight. Don’t forget that the first decision for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to accept yourself the way you are.

The decision to live healthy is the first step to achieving a higher quality of life. Think of your weight loss process as the beginning of your new life. The advice above will help you on your journey.

Wishing you love and good health.

Resistance to Bedtime

Nighttimes and going to sleep can really be a challenge for some kids. It means that they have to leave their activities, playtime, and parents and go to a dark room all by themselves left only with their imaginations. Therefore, when the parents say it’s time for bed, the resistance starts!

“Pleaseee 5 more minutes!” “Can you sleep with me please?” “Can I sleep in your bed?” “I don’t want to go to sleep!!!” Sometimes you think that your child is in his or her room sleeping when suddenly you see a little silhouette in the corridor or hear a voice saying, “Mommy, I want water!!”, “Daddy, I am scared, come!” This resistance can turn into a huge struggle every night for some families. To beat this resistance together with your child, you should help him or her to build coping skills to deal with feelings of discomfort and increase self-regulation.

Understand what your child is feeling

Why is your child resisting bedtime? Is it because he does not like his room? Is she scared of the dark or the monsters or the sounds coming from the window? Does he think that something bad is going to happen to you, the parents, while he is asleep? Does she feel safe in her room? Or it is just that he does not want to leave you? As a parent, you can ask your child why she does not want to sleep. Give him the space to talk about his fears, and listen to them. Empathize with her feelings. “I can understand that in the dark you get really scared, but I will help you to be more comfortable.”

Establish a bedtime routine

For this, you can come up with a secret word with your child. When you say the secret word, it means that your child needs to get ready for bed. Establish the steps to get ready. Brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, picking up toys, taking a glass of water from the kitchen, saying goodnight to everyone in the house, etc. It is important to consistently repeat the same routine in the same order every night. Your child can do these steps by himself, but monitoring will be needed.

Read a bedtime story

Before your child falls asleep, spend five minutes talking or reading a story. Your child may want to share her ideas and thoughts after a long day. Spending this time together will help your child relax and ease into sleep.

Use a security object

This may help the child to cope with his discomfort and to feel safer. This object may be any kind of soft toy that the child is willing to sleep with.

Leave the door open or turn on a night light

This may help the child to cope with the uncomfortable feelings that she experiences at night and feel safer; she will thus be able to sleep more easily.

Make your child’s bed a safe space

This will help your child to cope with his insecurities regarding bedtime. Your child needs to feel that her room is safe and that she can stay there by herself. To provide this security, you need to have your child sleep in his own bed consistently. Whenever she comes to you, you need to take her back to her own bed and stay a little while until she falls back asleep. If the child has trouble falling asleep, instead of the child waking up and coming to you, you can agree to check up on him every 15 minutes. This will also give the child an opportunity to practice to coping with her feelings. 15 minutes alone is less scary than the whole night!

It takes patience and persistence for parents to help their children have a good night’s sleep!

Negativity Harms Your Body, Your Mind and Unfortunately, Your Life

  • I like myself just the way I am.
  • I am satisfied with my body, I do not need to change anything in my body.
  • I have a sense of balance in my life, I feel comfortable and my work does not stress me out.
  • I feel that I take care of myself very well.

If at least one of the statements above is true for you, then you do not need to read the rest. If none of these expressions fit you, I would advise you to continue reading the article.

How Negative Emotions Affect Health

The relationship between mind and body is stronger than we thought. Most of the experts nowadays think that negative emotions and stress are one of the main causes of all diseases. The habit of thinking negatively also contributes to the endless cycle of chronic stress, which has a profound effect on our lives. Under chronic stress, your nervous system loses its balance. The nervous system balance between the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system is now shifting to the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system helps you to rest, sleep, digest and to heal, while the sympathetic one activates your nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress makes it very difficult for you to rest and feed your body by keeping you angry.

There are many studies showing that emotions affect not only your mind but your whole body.

When you are angry, for example, your body is stressed, your digestive organs become hardened, your heartbeats accelerate, and your chin and facial muscles strain. When the stress is chronic it leads a danger signal which blocks the blood flow to your brain, your immune system and your digestive system. In this case, blood flow turns to your legs for escaping from danger. So your digestive system cannot function properly, your immune system cannot protect you, and your brain cannot think clearly. Well, if negative emotions and stress affect your health so much, what should you do?

It is Necessary to Get Rid of Negative Emotions for Body and Mind Integrity

According to the studies investigating the link between body and mind, our mental state affects our sickness or healing. Many of these studies show that anger, stress, fear, jealousy, hatred, and hopelessness weaken the immune system, cause illness and premature aging. Now that it is scientifically proven that the negative emotions are weakening your health, you must first get rid of the effects of these emotions in order to protect or regain your health.

For the integrity of your body and mind, you need to get this chronic emotional burden off your mind as soon as possible. You should look closely at your life style, your daily choices and your thinking habits for this.

Stay with health and love.