Tag Archives: Yoga Practice

The Beginning is Always Today

By Ellen S. Gibson

The beginning is always today.

Greetings Yoga Friends:

I’m writing this in front of a campfire at the South Branch Pond campground in Baxter State Park. It is one day after the fall equinox, a cool, clear evening. The stars are dazzling. The moon is waxing. My partner, Stephen, and I are on our annual Baxter trip.

Continue reading The Beginning is Always Today

Action, Mindful Action, Right Action

Understanding Karma Yoga and Dharma – and practicing these can help you, others, and the world live in a more peaceful and easeful manner.

Helping HandsWith so many things happening around the world including natural disasters, global warming, terrorism, racism, and sexism, etc. it is only natural to wonder what you can do to help others who may be in a less fortunate situation than you or to help the earth itself. It can also be natural to doubt your ability, as one person, to make a difference. These questions and doubts are perfectly valid, and the reality is that there are a lot of different things that you can do and that each one of them will probably have little direct impact on these huge issues. However, mindful action – Karma Yoga – moves us toward right action – Dharma – and when we practice our Karma Yoga and follow our Dharma, then each small act begins to contribute to the universal good.

“To become more conscious is the greatest gift anyone can give to the world, moreover, in a ripple effect, the gift comes back to its source.” ~ David Hawkins

Karma Yoga is the Yoga of action. It is one of the four paths of yoga. Here in the U.S. most of us are more familiar with the path of Raja Yoga – the Yoga of self-control where the focus is on controlling the body, energy, senses, and mind to realize our true nature or unite with the divine. Following the path of Karma Yoga we use the ordinary actions of our day-to-day life to “wake up,” and become fully present and devoted to self, others, the divine. This practice of being fully present, aware, and devoted during our actions naturally moves us toward a state of union or awakening.

Somewhere along the Karma Yoga path the desire to do service and right action may ripen. While Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action, Dharma can be translated as Right Action. As we perform our day-to-day activities with mindful awareness, we become more aware of how our actions affect us and others. From this expanded awareness the seed of loving kindness is planted, and the desire to perform right action for self and others grows. Along with this desire comes clarity and understanding of what our right action is in any given situation and at any given time.

Through regular practice, the concepts of Karma Yoga and Dharma can serve as roadmaps for each of us in moving forward in taking action to address challenges, injustices, and suffering that we see around us and throughout the world.

Here are six steps using Karma Yoga and Dharma that you can take to be the change, and help the world be a more peaceful and easeful place to live:

1. Practice Mindful Action.

Karma Yoga: Practice this often with small and large acts. If you can be mindful of simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, preparing your breakfast, greeting acquaintances, gathering your mail, then you will be better prepared to be present and aware at more challenging times of stress, indecision, or confusion. Start out by choosing one simple task that you do daily – and begin the practice of being mindfully present throughout this task every day.

2. Be open to your Dharma or individual right action.

As you practice your Karma Yoga, your own personal Dharma will become clearer. The Right Action in any given circumstance is different for every one of us and will vary from moment to moment. When you are faced with a decision regarding action, rather than following the path of others, check in with your self and decide on the best course of action based on your gifts and abilities.

3. Practice Loving-kindness.

Despite all of your best intentions – Karma Yoga and practicing our Dharma is, in the end, a practice, which means you won’t get it perfect, or even right, every time. When things don’t go as you expected or go “wrong,” observe the situation, yourself, and with loving kindness learn from the practice and move forward with the hope of doing better next time.

4. Be not attached to the fruits of the action.

A fundamental concept of Karma Yoga and the Dharma is not being attached to the outcome of your actions. This concept can be a tough one; yet is important. Despite our greatest efforts and intentions, things will develop in their own time and way. Over-attachment to certain outcomes may blind you to the chain of events that have been put into action, and you may begin to feel defeated, fatigued, or disenfranchised. When you release your attachments and aversions to certain outcomes, then your way will become light.

5. Be realistic.

Right action does not have to be some grandiose gesture, it can be as simple as smiling warmly at a stranger, offering your neighbor a helping hand, petting a lonely dog, volunteering for a local charity. There are times when we will have more than enough to share. Other times we will have more than we can juggle with family, work, health, finances, etc. leaving us few resources to contribute toward “saving the world.” Never underestimate the power of love and random acts of kindness. Regarding right action, Mirabai Bush said, “Be brave, start small, use what you’ve got, do something you enjoy, and don’t over commit.

6. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It’s a practice. Never stop practicing!

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, , and Instagram.

How often should I practice, It depends

Yoga PracticeA frequent question from new Yoga students and experienced ones is, “How often should I practice Yoga?” A great question and an interesting one.

Everyone practices Yoga for a variety of reasons.  News and research tell us that Yoga is helpful for back pain, cardiovascular health, stress and anxiety, and positive self-image just to name a few benefits (Huffington Post – The New Science of the Health Benefits of Yoga).  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  tell us that Yoga is “retraining the modifications of the mind.”  To be clear – our contemporary understanding of yoga is primarily focused on the physical practice of asanas (postures), while the understanding conveyed by the Sutras (400 CE) was that Yoga was the attainment of a state of Samadhi, or unity with the universal truth or divine.

OK… So you are thinking, “Seriously, how often should I practice Yoga?”  Well, it depends.  In Sutras 1.21 – 1.22 Patanjali tells us that, “Those who pursue their practices with intensity of feeling, vigor, and firm conviction achieve concentration and the fruits thereof more quickly, compared to those of medium or lesser intensity.  For those with intense practices and intense conviction, there are three more subdivisions of practice, those of mild intensity, medium intensity, and intense intensity.” (SwamiJ.com).  Essentially, my understanding is that if one devotes much time, effort, and conviction to practicing, then the fruits of their efforts are close at hand.  On the other hand, if one has little time and does practices with less intensity, but has a strong conviction then the fruits of their efforts are available and may take a little longer to attain.

For further clarity, one should understand that the practice of yoga is not limited to the asanas or physical postures, that in Raja Yoga (The one most recognized paths of yoga in the US) there are 8 limbs.  These 8 limbs are:
1) Yamas – 5 moral restraints focused on out interactions with the world around us.
2) Niyamas – 5 observances focused on duties towards ourselves
3) Asana – Postures
4) Pranayama- Breath work / control
5) Pratyahara – With drawl of the senses
6) Dharana  – Focused concentration
7) Dhyana – Meditative absorption
8) Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment

Therefore, depending on the fruits that you hope to reap, you may choose to focus your efforts on any of the above.  The important thing is that you do so with conviction, and with the greatest amount of effort and time that you have available.

We live in a prescriptive society where we are accustomed to being told how often to do things, how hard to do them, and how long.  Think of FIT in exercise terms (Frequency, Intensity, Time).  Yoga is not prescriptive, but an invitation for self-inquiry, and in my mind, that is what makes it so effective and powerful.  As you embrace the practices of yoga (See the 8 limbs above), you will find that you become more and more aware of the subtle messages that your body, mind, and spirit are offering you. You will have the answers for “How often should I practice Yoga, and how should I practice Yoga.”  As Yoga Teachers, we are available to shine a light and help dispel the shadows to help you along your path.

tivra samvega asannah.  mridu madhya adhimatra tatah api visheshah.  – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.21 – 1.22
Translation – “It [victory over mind] is close to those with intense desire.  It is very close to those who are charged with the highest degree of intense desire, and even that intensity could be mild, intermediate, or supreme.”
~ Yoga International

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500At Posabilities we are proud to offer a variety of options for your path to health, well-being, and balance including Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Thai Yoga Massage!  If you have any questions about any of these services, please do not hesitate to contact us!

By Katey Hawes,  MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.  You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u and Instagram.