Conscious Breathing

Your breath reflects the way you feel. Take a moment here. Close your eyes and just notice your breath. Is it quick and shallow? Is it forceful? Is it characterized by long inhalations and exhalations? Don’t try to change anything, simply notice. “Self-Observation Without Judgement”, as Swami Kripalu teaches.

In the practice of yoga, we focus our attention on our breath as we move through the various postures. As we hold more difficult postures, we put even more emphasis on the breath to help us keep the postures longer. Breathing consciously can be calming and relaxing. Bringing full awareness to the breath, is also a form of meditation.

Your breath can tell you much about yourself and how you are feeling. For example, I know that when I am going through a set of strenuous moves while rock climbing, I get out of breath. The result being that as I come out of a crux (the most difficult portion of a climb) I have difficulty breathing. This is because I simply don’t breathe when I make those moves!

How is this relevant to anything? Well, for climbing or any other strenuous activity, it is very important. The body’s priority is to provide oxygen to the brain first. This means that if the body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs because you are retaining your breath, it automatically starts channeling what it has left to feed the brain leaving the muscles and the rest of the body without oxygen, making it more strenuous to move and eventually leading to hyperventilate or to faint.

And so, in daily life situations, when we get angry or nervous, if our breath becomes fast and out of control or if we restrict its flow, we quickly become physically ill. This being said, becoming more conscious of our breathing can affect positive changes in our lives. So take a deep breath, notice your posture, your heartbeat, relax and let go.



The Power of Practice

Whether you meditate, do yoga, run, climb, train or dance (or do any other activity that makes you feel good really), no matter how many times you fall off the wagon, you notice the difference. You become more irritable, cranky, and you just don’t feel all that good about yourself.

Having an activity that both engages body and mind, that makes you think or stop thinking, I think is very beneficial to our health and our well-being. I believe that by engaging in such actions, we are able to live more fully into the present moment. Taking climbing for example, for me, it totally puts me right there in the moment for if I don’t give all my attention to what it is I am doing, I’ll fall off! It’s as simple as that.

In practicing yoga and meditation, I find that I can bring this focus and calm to other parts of my life whether it is while climbing or at work, these practices not only make me more fit but they also enable me to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

A lot of the times, I think that many of us need just that: taking a step back. By doing so, by engaging in these types of activities, we allow our creativity, our focus and our conscious awareness to emerge. We come to understand the flow of life and see the beauty of it all. We realize that we were overwhelmed and preoccupied by events happening outside of us forgetting that the stability and peace we seek is inside of us.

And so, by taking this step back, by taking care of ourselves, we slow down time and we truly enjoy every moment. Jivan mukti ~ fully living here and now in a state of self-realization and liberation. I hope you find your own “practice” or way of taking time for yourself, reflecting on where you are now. Only by knowing where you stand can you move forward.


Back to basics!

I’m sure many of you have heard the quote “Milk does the body good” before. Well let’s get a new one going: “Moving does the body (and the mind) good”! A healthy body makes for a healthier mind.

Almost a month has passed now since your New Year resolution. Some of you may be sticking with it, while some others gave up the next day! No worries, try again, but this time, set an intention instead of a resolution. One of my yoga student told me she finds the word resolution drastic and negative. She preferred using the idea of setting an objective.

I liked the word intention because it relates more to how you want to feel. I want to feel good in my body for example, may then be achieved in many ways. Eating well, drinking less and yes increasing the amount of physical activity we do. For many, walking 15 to 20 minutes twice a day each day of the week can be enough. Walking the dog, going out at lunch time to take a walk around the block or getting off the bus a few stops ahead.

Since the idea of this blog is to share thoughts and ideas on how we can all live a happier life, I found it relevant to encourage you to move. You will feel better about yourself, feel more confident, laugh more, have more energy and have a clearer mind if you exercise more. Exercising is a proven way to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.

For my part, I enjoy doing yoga because, not only does it provide me with physical well-being, it nourishes my mind and I have met amazing people and friends throughout my practice. We all know what we need, so put on some good music and go for it, get moving!

Consider this your swift kick in the butt!

Present moment awareness with Yoga

Sthira sukham asanam. Essential insight for the practice of yoga postures, these Sanskrit words are meant to guide us. As Mark Stephens explains it, “Sthira means ‘to be stable or firm’, while sukham means ‘to be soft, at ease, relaxed’. Taken together and put into the context of a dynamic practice, we find a blended quality in which one is cultivating steadiness, ease, and presence of mind, breath by breath, within and between the asanas”.

The term asanam, or asana is often simply translated as pose or posture. However, it means so much more. The interpretation I prefer is “being just here, just now, in the present moment” (B.Bouanchaud). I find this description interesting because it is not limiting, meaning, this can be practiced at all times and not just during a yoga class.

By bringing yoga into our lives as a way of living, we become more in tuned with our senses. We can develop a physical awareness that extends and reaches far beyond the body. Everything becomes in sync within us and around us. We find stillness in the incessant movement of Life. We become grounded in our every breath.

Eventually, this space between asanas expands to the space from one practice to the next, bringing this steadiness and ease into our daily lives. And then, as during every practice, we become lighter, filled with inner peace and joy. For this, I am grateful to those in my life who have introduced me to yoga, taught me yoga (here I include my students) and encouraged me to practice it. Namaste.

The first Yama: Ahimsa or the path to non-violence

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Yamas – Introduction, there are five yamas. The first one is named Ahimsa which can be translated to non-violence. However, as I will try to convey to you here, it means so much more.

Ahimsa refers to non-violence but also to non-harming as well as compassion for all things and people. In everyday life this can be applied by respecting your body through the food you ingest, by limiting your aggressive and demeaning behavior towards others (and yourself), and/or by having the emotional strength to try and alleviate the suffering of others.

In the Yoga practice, as a teacher it may mean to create a safe place for students to learn and practice, approaching students with compassion and understanding. And then, for students, it may mean respecting your body and its limits, not hurting yourself. Then for some, this principle can be applied to food, whereas vegetarianism stems from this yama, vegetarians choosing not to eat meat as they consider the killing of animals to be a from of violence.

Unfortunately, violence is so commonly accepted as a normal form of interaction in our society that many of us don’t even realise the extent to which it has overtaken us. Our thoughts and our actions towards one and other reflect the toxicity of violence in our lives. It has become so engrained in our behavior that we do not even notice how we are treating each other. Some will say that we have done what was necessary to adapt, but I beg to differ. I think that this violence is slowly killing us, destroying our relationships, turning us into indifferent insensitive beings. But it doesn’t have to be this way…

I have mentioned thoughts, actions and behaviors. This is exactly how violence is triggered: as the thought emerges, the action is taken and then repeated creating and reinforcing this pattern. But as we have explored the subject before, what we practice grows stronger. Not only do we have the choice, we have the ability to completely change our behavior. Granted, it takes time and perseverance to modify such strong patterns, but by restraining ourselves little by little from violent behavior, actions and thoughts, it is possible.

So today, right now, stop and take a good long look at your life. Do not judge yourself only become aware of what is. Start with little changes, notice as thought patterns emerge and mindfully decide to no longer partake in any forms of violence against yourself and others, whether through words, thoughts or actions. This is the first step, the base on which you can build a new life, whatever your past has seen. Forgive. Forget. Love again. Embrace life. Om Shanti.

Moving forward in a world of infinite possibilities

I am taking a moment here to acknowledge the great people in my life, and one of them who brought this saying to my attention. Last night I made my ultimate wish, to deepen my practice. I chose to do so for the benefits it has brought to me so far and because I want to continue along this Path, for myself, for others.

I have been practicing yoga for several years now and have started to study the scriptures and practice daily in the last two years. Along with meditation, I have found that it has positively changed my life and my relationship with others. I am continuously learning about myself, my behaviors, my thought patterns, and it has allowed for a better understanding of what is truly important in Life while slowly getting rid of what hinders my growth.

To deepen my practice. Although I will continue the physical practice of yoga that heals my body and the mental practice of conscious awareness that guides my actions and my thoughts, there is more. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras presents this as the Eightfold Path which some describe as the ethical blueprint for living a moral life and incorporating the science of yoga into your life.

I believe that it is now my time to delve deeper into this Path, my practice, and to fully become a practitioner. I am grateful for all of those who have been there. I am especially thinking of you and how grateful I am for your support, for your laugh, but most of all, for being here patiently with me. You are one of my greatest Teachers and I love you.

There is no reason nor sense in looking back, the seed has been planted. I am moving forward in a world of infinite possibilities. Sat Naam and Namaste.

Karma Yoga

Aujourd’hui je recommençais à enseigner le yoga au bureau. Nous le faisons de façon volontaire, demandant aux gens de contribuer à une organisation de charité que ma copine Joanna et moi avons choisie. Karma Yoga : je donne, tu donnes, et tous reçoivent!

Il fait toujours plaisir de se faire rappeler que ce que l’on fait pour les autres est grandement apprécié, mais là n’est pas la raison. En fait, je pense que nous souhaitons peut être trop souvent être reconnu pour nos efforts et remercié pour les services rendus. Je vous propose donc cette idée de Karma Yoga ou de Karma n’importe quoi finalement!

Pour les hindouïstes, le karma est le résultat des actions de nos vies antérieures. Tandis que pour les bouddhistes, le karma est ce que l’on crée pour nous même par nos actions physiques, nos pensées et notre parole. Pour les janaïstes, le karma va plus loin que l’action dans le sens où, l’état d’esprit dans lequel l’action est posé est tout aussi important.

Les lectures à ce sujet s’attardent souvent au côté négatif du karma. Le karma comme le fardeau d’une vie. Pourtant, notre vie est pleine d’opportunités, il suffit de les saisir. Il n’est pas toujours évident de voir le bon côté des choses ou d’agir de façon positive. Ce que j’ose espérer, c’est que plus de gens encore choisissent de remercier quelqu’un, de donner de leur temps et de le faire sans espérer quelque chose en retour.

Là est la vraie valeur de cette vie que nous partageons. Soyez convaincus qu’éventuellement, ce que vous semez honnêtement, de votre coeur et de votre âme, vous reviendra. Malheureusement, je crois que le contraire est tout à fait possible aussi. Il est donc à vous de choisir le chemin que vous voulez prendre. Mais finalement, si vous désirez vivre une vie plus heureuse, le choix est simple. Essayez pour voir!

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