Why yoga is all about accepting yourself

It’s all about this moment.

If you strive for body flexibility and the performance of advanced poses in yoga, you are missing out on the real “juice” of of this ancient science: accepting yourself exactly as you are in this precise moment. And expanding to your full potential in this precise moment.

I used to get frustrated, because as a yoga teacher, I can’t manage a full Upavishta Konasana (wide angle forward bend). Now I just expand my presence & energy and find ease & flow in the pose. In the moment. And smile! 🙂 ♡ ☮

I would love to hear from you! How do you see your yoga practice?

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The most popular yoga mudra and its “downside”: meet Jnana & Chin!

Mudras help awaken cosmic energy in the body, mind and soul. With hand mudra practice, healing is literally at our fingertips.

nadisOur palms and fingers are filled with nerve root endings, that constantly emit energy and are just waiting to be activated. Like the seven “famous” chakras along the spine, there is a chakra, an energy wheel, in the center of each palm. This chakra is part of a vast and intricate pathway of meridians or energy currents (nadis) networked throughout our whole body. According to many traditional texts we have 72.000 of them!

At the fleshy tip of each finger there lies an electrical contact point. Touching it with the thumb creates a lock, accomplishing a specific effect depending on the position of the fingers.

Jnana Mudra

In mudra science the thumb symbolizes the Divine or Cosmic Consciousness (Paramatma) and the index finger the human consciousness (Jivatma). When the two meet, there is realization, the oneness of humanity with the cosmic consciousness. It is also the symbol of the Infinite. This particular gesture is, as you well know, often used during meditation.

jnana mudra

The other three fingers, the small, middle and ring finger represent the three qualities of nature, the objective world (gunas): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity) and satwa (harmony, luminosity, creativity). This objective world symbolically disappears when union is achieved.

Jnana is a mudra for evoking wisdom.

How to

As all the hand mudras, Jnana mudra too, can be practiced it in a sitting or standing position. The only requirement is that the spine is completely erect – the chest, neck and head are held in a straight line. The hands are relaxed with a gentle pressure of the fingers.

We join the thumb and index finger, keeping the other three fingers straight. Palms are open up, towards the sky, in a position of receptivity. Traditionally Jnana mudra is done in the morning.

jnana mudra

Chin mudra

The name Chin is derived from the word chittha (consciousness). The hand positioning is practically identical to Jnana mudra, only that the palms are pointing down, towards the earth. In this position the energy is being given out to the earth.

Traditionally this mudra is practiced in the evening, like Jnana, usually during meditation.

chin mudra

The benefits

Both mudras can be used to help with loss of memory, lack of sleep, poor concentration and in general to enhance spiritual wisdom.

According to some sources Jnana is a miracle mudra, which regular practice helps to overcome bad habits of any kind, including addictions to intoxicants.

Since practicing these mudras with the awareness of their meaning, and allowing the energy to flow freely through my fingertips, I have to say, I feel a big difference. Mostly in being calmer and more focused. Still waiting for the effect on my bad sugar habit though. 😉

Let me know how you are finding it!

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Read more about mudras: Sarvajit  Mudra, The Lotus Mudra

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Sarvajit Mudra for stillness of the mind

Mudras are an ancient science that unlocks wonderful secrets. They help awaken cosmic energy to purify the body, mind and the soul. And the best thing is, they can be practiced by anyone, at any time!

We usually don’t even think about it, but through our fingertips different types of electrical waves flow to various parts of the body. Mudras use those energy currents for healing.

Sarvajit Mudra

Sarvajit Mudra helps balance the activities of the right and left hemisphere of the brain. It gives victory over all the senses and surrenders the mind to stillness. It leads to Nirvana, enlightenment.

Sarvajit Mudra

We can practice it in a sitting or standing position, as long as the spine is completely erect – the chest, neck and head are held in a straight line. The hands are relaxed with a gentle pressure of the fingers.

How to:

Interlace the little, ring and middle fingers and bend them. Straighten the index fingers, touching the pads together. Straighten the thumbs, bringing them together side by side, as you see in the photo. A little triangle will be formed above the thumbs.

The mudra can be practiced as a part of meditation. Practice for at least 3 minutes per day.

How to: Sarvajit mudra

The triangle symbolizes the connection between us and the Supreme, and the movement of consciousness away from the many into the One. The sacred geometry of the triangle impels us to surrender, enabling the one Supreme Self to be victorious over the illusion of the many.

Personally I find this mudra practice extremely soothing and calming. Let me know how it goes if you try it! 🙂

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Read more about mudras: The Lotus Mudra

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Invite aboundance into your life with the Lotus Mudra

Yesterday we had the super (new) moon, today is Chinese new year – perhaps a good time to try a new practice: yoga mudras.

Yoga Mudra

Mudra is a yogic science, awakening cosmic energy to purify the body, mind, and soul. It heals physical problems, mental and emotional disturbances and leads to spiritual awakening.

Lotus Mudra

The Lotus mudra is the symbol of purity. It belongs to the heart chakra (the energy centre located in the heart area).

It is a hand mudra, that can help us become like the lotus flower – born in muddy water, going through much in its growth, and then emerge to become a beautiful flower. Because the lotus rises from unclean waters to blossom as a pure, uncontaminated flower, it is a symbol of purity and resurrection.

The Lotus also represents the spiritual heart. Mahanarayana Upanishad says:

“In the citadel of the body, there is the small sinless and pure lotus of the heart which is the residence of the Supreme.”

lotus yoga mudra

How To:

Place both hands in front of your chest, so that only the edges of your hands and your finger pads are touching. Open your hands (like the bud of a lotus flower), keeping contact between the tips of the little fingers and the outer edges of the thumbs. Spread the other fingers open as wide as you can.

Then visualise the lotus filling with pure prana and love, giving you all you need in abundance. Offer the flower of your heart, expanding and opening with each breath to receive Divine Grace.

Body posture:

For maximum effectiveness mudras should be practised with a symmetrical and centred body posture – chest, neck and head straight in one line. The hands are relaxed, with a light pressure of the fingers.

Duration:

15 – 30 minutes divided during the day or all in one go.

Let me know if you try it!

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Resources:
– “Hand book on union with God through finger postures”, Aparna Choudhuri, Aparajita Publishing, Puttaparthi, India (2007)
harekrsna.de

Uplift your day with yoga!

I love my morning yoga practice!

One of the main reasons why it’s a win-win situation?

You will RE-set our body and mind before you begin the day.

It’s something like resetting the computer. You bring your energy vibration, the body and the mind back into balance. Giving yourself the very best starting point. Before even beginning your daily tasks and challenges!

So, go on, uplift your day with yoga!

uplifting_yoga

I would love to hear from you. When do you usually practice yoga? Why do you choose that time of the day?

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Ditch New Year’s resolutions for 5 yogic tricks & get immediate results

2014 is just around the corner. Besides cozying up with our loved ones and celebrating this special period, most of us also take time to reflect. Looking back on the year that is passing and pondering how to make the one that’s coming the best ever.

Step in the (in)famous New Year’s resolutions! OK, before I let you in on the yogic twist on the subject, let’s take a quick trip back to where it all started.

A tradition dating back to B.C.

JanusAs it turns out, the first New Year’s resolutions date as far back as the Babylonian times (from 1894 BC on). Then promises were mostly made in order to earn the favor of the gods. The actual tradition of making New Year’s resolutions began much later though, during the reign of Caesar, after 46 BC. The month of January in fact gets its name from Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and transitions. Janus is depicted looking backwards into the old year and forwards into the new one. Resolutions made at the time were of a moral nature, such as being kind and virtuous to others.

Nowadays the tradition is still very much alive. Apparently about 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, 17% make them infrequently, and the U.S. Government’s official website even gives you suggestions on what your resolutions could be.

Low success rate 

If so many people set themselves goals as the year ends, why is it then, that just a few actually manage to achieve them (as few as 8% as reported by statisticbrain.com)?

According to scientists one of the reasons for that is, that New Year’s resolutions are psychologically daunting. And combined with all other tasks and priorities we have in our life, the amount of willpower that they would require, is just too much for our brain to handle. So we eventually drop them.

The yogic way 

In yoga we strive to observe ourselves without judgement, act according to our inner guidance, let go of what is not needed and welcome what’s coming. Paraphrasing Gandhi, we try to “shake our world in a gentle way”.

These 5 simple tweaks should get you surprising and immediate results.

1. Smile your way to happy

MonaLisaSmileBy smiling, when we are actually not feeling happy, we “trick” our brain into believing that we are. It goes like this: when contracting our “smiling muscles”, a signal that we are experiencing joy, is sent to the brain. In return, the brain, now “knowing” we are happy, sends a signal right back to the muscles, to smile some more. The loop goes on and we actually start experiencing joy.

Why is smiling so powerful? Because it stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms. British researchers found that one smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 chocolate bars and it can be as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 £ in cash!

>>> What to do: Just smile! With your eyes too. 🙂

2. Look up for confidence

This is one of the best tips I ever got. It comes from Dr. Sai Prakash, an Ayurvedic doctor in a small village in India. He told me: when you walk around, always gaze slightly up, not straight ahead, never down.

Looking up (towards the sky, the higher power, God or however else you prefer to call it) changes our brain chemistry making us feel more confident, positive and assertive. Whereas looking down towards the ground promotes feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

And that’s not all, the fact that body posture affects our emotions and even our hormones is backed by science. Check out this amazing Amy Cuddy TED Talk and this Scientific American article for more info.

>>> What to do: First look straight ahead and then direct your gaze slightly up. Keep it that way all day.

3. Drink water, feel good

body_is_waterWe need water to function optimally. Why? Up to 80% of the human body is water – the brain is 75% water, the lungs approximately 80% water, lean muscle tissue about 75% water (by weight), bone 22% water, blood about 83% water, even body fat has 10% water.

Water helps carry nutrients to the cells in your body, washes away waste products and helps biochemical reactions such as digesting food, producing energy, and building tissue. It sends electrical messages between cells so that your muscles can move, your eyes can see, your brain can think. It helps regulate body temperature, and lubricates your joints. It affects our mood – when dehydrated we feel lethargic, irritable and tired.

>>> What to do: Drink up. The suggested amount is about 2-3 liters (9-13 cups) of water throughout the whole day.

4. Sleep for productivity

A good sleep allows us to function to the best of our abilities, remain happy, positive and healthy.

Sleep is essential for our health, because it lets our bodies recover and repair themselves after the day we had. It also gives our brain time to process short and long-term memories. During the phase of deep sleep the mind is completely still so we can reconnect with the original spirit or consciousness.

>>> How much sleep do we actually need? There are different estimates to be found around the web, usually suggesting 6-8 hours. I personally try to follow the Ayurvedic recommendations – different times for different body-mind types (doshas > find out yours here): Vata 8 hours (10pm-6am), Pitta 6.30-7.30 hours (10/11pm-5.30) and Kapha 4.30-5.30 hours (11pm/12am-4.30am).

5. Think positive.

happythoughtsOur mind is powerful enough to bring things into existence, and the ancient sages knew it thousands of years ago already. As one of the most famous Buddha’s quotes goes:

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

When we feel happy and positive our energy vibrates on a higher frequency, and that’s the kind of energy we attract into our life as well.

Throughout the years we can take on negative affirmations, subconsciously telling ourselves, that we are unworthy, incapable or un-something else. The trick is to replace them with positive and uplifting ones. Ever heard of “Fake it till you make it.”? Something like that… in a good way.

>>> What to do: Here a few affirmations you can try. You can adjust them or come up with your own ones. Then repeat them to yourself throughout the day.

“I am safe, I am loved, all is well.”

“I love myself deeply and completely. I forgive myself deeply and completely. I accept myself deeply and completely. I am enough.”

“I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.”

“I will not be distracted by noise, chatter, or setbacks. Patience, commitment, grace, and purpose will guide me.”

It’s all about being mindful

As you see, ultimately these 5 life-tweaks are simple habit changes, that will nourish your body and steer your mind into a calmer and happier existence.

They are all exercises in mindful living, staying present in the moment and giving it your undivided attention. Because that’s where life unfolds.

What about your New Year’s resolutions? I would love to hear what you think! 🙂

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Happy holidays & a blessed New Year!

Dear friends, another year is ending.
 
I wish you all happy holidays and a blessed new year.
 
May we all leave behind what we don’t need anymore and shine brighter than ever!

HappyHolidays

`•.¸(¯`•.•´¯)¸.•´ `•.¸.•´ º .¸¸.•´¯` (¯`v´¯) .`•.¸.•´

Happy Winter Solstice!

The end of 2013 is approaching fast and the holiday season is in full swing. Besides the 8 yogic life-hacks that I compiled for you, here’s some more inspiration for the coming week: Winter Solstice is just around the corner (tomorrow!) and here’s how to elevate your energy & infuse it with light.

>>> Happy Winter Solstice! 

winter_solstice

>>> One of the best and most versatile recipes ever – coconut whipped cream! It’s healthy, easy to make (just 2 ingredients) and super yummy. Plus it’s vegan and looks like snow! 🙂 You can put it on cakes, cookies, muffins or wherever else you like. The only change I make, instead of sugar from this recipe, I use 1 tbsp of honey.

coconutcream_recipe

Read the original recipe at HealthyHappyLife.

>>>  And finally, a clip from an interview with one of my favorite authors, Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate—it’s that we are powerful beyond measure.” – without a doubt her most famous quote from the book A Return to Love (and often mistakenly attributed to Mandela). As she reminds us in this short interview, the cosmic spotlight isn’t pointed at us, but it radiates from within us. Beautiful!

YOU are the light, that you are looking for!

 

8 Yoga life-hacks to get rid of December stress

It’s that time of the year again! The time of lights, love and fun, but also overeating, late night parties and rushing around for gifts. To make it less stressful this time around, here you go, 8 yogic life hacks!

lifehack

Yes, that’s right, reflect on the year that’s passing, get together with your loved ones and celebrate the year ahead calmer and more energized than ever before

1. Drink up for focus & energy
About 80% of the human body is water. With your digestive system doing over-time, all the stressing, and alcohol’s dehydrating effect on top, your body needs to stay hydrated more than ever. Hydration keeps your brain in top condition, your mood stable, and prevents tiredness, migraine, constipation, muscle cramps and bad breath.

The hack: Drink a big glass of room-temperature water right after you brush your teeth in the morning. Also: take altogether about 2-3 litres (8-12 cups) of water throughout the whole day. But don’t drink it right after a meal, especially not a cold drink, it will slow down your digestion.

2. Rise and shine… with a splash
When you don’t get enough sleep and party through the night, it can happen that you wake up puffy and feeling like a zombi. No more of that!

The hack: After you wash your face and mouth with cold water, hold cold water in your mouth and splash some more over your open eyes. This has a double cooling effect. Then blink your eyes seven times and rotate them in all directions (side to side, up and down, diagonally, clockwise, counterclockwise). Hello freshness & alertness!

3. The 15-minute energizer
I realize I might lose you with this one. How could getting up earlier than usually help you, right? Trust me, it’s well worth it.

The hack: Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) is a set of yoga postures best practiced in the morning, to energize your body, mind and spirit. Try it to believe it. It will stretch and tone the muscles of your entire body, improve blood circulation and stimulate your digestive, respiratory, and circulatory system. Regular sun salutations will also improve your intuition, bring more clarity and focus. Do 4-16 cycles and finish with a short relaxation lying on your back (Savasana). You can use this video as a reference.

4. Breathe through it
Breathing and mind are closely connected. Every thought changes the rhythm of breath and every breath changes the rhythm of thinking. Through the art of breath control (pranayama) we can influence the flow of vital energy in our body (prana), and our state of mind.

The hack: The first step is to become aware of your breath. Sit down with a straight spine and tuck your chin in to straighten your neck. Place your right palm on your chest and the left palm on your belly. Slowly inhale in the chest and exhale in the belly. Do 10-16 breaths. Notice the difference. Remember: smooth breath – calm mind. You can also do this after Sun Salutations, before going to bed or anytime during the day.

5. Bye bye hangover
Even if you usually stay away from alcohol, it can happen that during the party season you have a few too many drinks. And when you wake up in the morning… not pleasant.

The hack: Courtesy of Ayurveda (Indian system of traditional medicine):
– mix a glass of lukewarm water, 1 tsp lime juice, ½ tsp sugar, pinch of salt and, just before you drink it, mix in ½ tsp of baking soda, or
– squeeze a glass of fresh orange juice, mix in 1 tsp lime juice and a pinch of cumin powder, or
– get organic coconut water, or
– if you are feeling drowsy, headachy, with a burning stomach and no appetite: blend 1 tbs of yogurt, 1 cup water and a pinch of cumin powder – drink 3-4 times during the day. It prevents dehydration, relieves nausea and soothes a burning stomach.
(tsp=teaspoon, tbs=tablespoon)

6. Ate too much? Get back on track fast
Been there, done that… stomach pain, bloating, not being able to concentrate… not pleasant. In any case don’t beat yourself up about it, you enjoyed the food and that’s what matters. Here’s how to make it better fast.

The hack: Fennel seeds! Did you know that munching on a bunch of those will aid your digestion, relieve abdominal cramps, gas and bloating? Yes! Fennel seeds will also freshen your breath and they taste good. Just take a bunch and chew them well! I always keep some in my bag, handy stuff.

7. Sleep deprivation be gone
Yoga nidra, also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness, induces a full-body relaxation and a deep meditative state of consciousness. Slowing down your brain-waves it gives your nervous system a well deserved rest and allows you to occasionally “cheat” through sleep-deprivation. Some say that 1 hour of yoga nidra substitutes 7 hours of sleep. I’m not sure about that, but it always works wonders when I don’t get enough sleep.

The hack: You just lie down comfortably, close your eyes and follow the guided relaxation. The length will vary from 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on which recording you choose. Here’s a shorter and a longer example, but you have many more to choose from on the web. Try it and emerge refreshed! A suggestion – cover your eyes with a lavender eye pillow to relax even deeper. P.S.: I’m preparing guided meditations and relaxations to be available soon on my website. Follow the blog to get notified!

8. Slow down, tune in
When we are balanced we are happy, healthy and we handle stress better. But how do we get there? Meditation is the art of bringing harmony to the body, mind and consciousness. It helps us achieve mental clarity, alertness, effectiveness, and a better ability to cope with a hectic work environment. It also simply means that you gently take what you deserve – space and time in your life, for your self.

The hack: Take 10 minutes out of your busy day to sit in a quiet place. Straighten your spine, relax your body and close your eyes. Take a few breaths as described in hack 4.. Visualize yourself in a place, where you feel calm and relaxed, it may be a forest, a beach, a place where you regularly go, or perhaps you visited it only once, wherever you feel calm. Notice how your breath is expanding. Feel with your whole body and mind actually being in that place. Keep breathing slowly and smoothly, stay alert and relaxed.

If any thoughts come, acknowledge them, but do not follow them. Let them pass by, like clouds in the sky. Continue as long as it feels comfortable. Before you finish, deepen your breath and repeat to yourself an affirmation of your choice three times. “All is well.“ or anything else that you feel you need in that moment. Open your eyes.

May your holidays be full of light & love! 

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