Diwali – The festival of Light – A deeper understanding

Diwali “The Festival of Light” – A Deeper Understanding

Diwali or the “Festival of Light” is joyously celebrated by millions around the word.  In the modern times it becomes even more and more important to retain the ancient tradition and philosophy for the present and future generations.  Vedantic Philosophy offers the purest lifestyle that is time tested from thousands of years and remains applicable to everyday life in the modern times.

In the Home:

By tradition we light “ghee lamps” or the “Dia” in every room of the house to invite auspicious light, health and wealth into the home.  For many the home is Laxmi Devi Herself, therefore cleaning the home, chanting mantra, cooking healthy food, singing devotional songs, and keeping auspicious energy in the home brings the Divine Attributes into the home and blesses the family.  The Ghee Lamps should stay lit throughout the night to symbolize our triumph over darkness and Healing Divine Light over evil.

The Light and the Light of ALL Lights:

Ghee Lamps are used in many different traditions.  When Ghee is burned through the combustion process 100s of pounds of purified oxygen is pumped into the immediate atmosphere.  Therefore the lighting of a Ghee Lamp while meditating or practicing pranayama is highly regarded because of the vast intake of purified oxygen.  During the auspicious Vedic Fire Ceremony, “Homa” or “Yajna,” Ghee is offered to the Sacred Fire thus cleansing the atmosphere and creating a “High Pranic” energy field all around.  We well know that sound can travel a great distance.  When Mantra is chanted along with the purifying fire the Mantra is lifted with the purified oxygen into the atmosphere creating an “unseen” Divine Energy that grants blessings for all beings.  Coming full circle to the Dia!  The Sacred Light of the Ghee Lamp represents the “Light of the Eternal Soul,” the light of the Divine Source that cannot be quantified or explained.  We honor the Dia the Light of ALL Lights, which also exists as our individual soul.  Diwali is a Sacred Tradition of unifying our individual light (the soul) to the source of ALL SOULS, the singular light to which all beings merge, the Paramatma (the eternal soul).  Aham Brahmhasmi (I am that Eternal-Divine Soul). This is the greatest blessing of taking birth in the human body.  We have the ability through meditation and pranayama to connect with the Ultimate Divine Source!  Therefore Diwali is an auspicious time to reconnect with the light within and set affirmations on the path of meditation, pranayama, saadhana (spiritual practices), and Seva (service to the greater good).  (Note:  Ghee is best if home made or from a completely organic source of non-homogenized milk).

Maha Laxmi Devi:

818Lakshmi

Diwali is considered a festival for Maha Laxmi Devi, the Goddess of Divine Wealth, Health and Prosperity.  Laxmi Devi is also considered Kamala Vasinyai Devi (the Divine Mother Birthed from the Lotus Bud).  The symbolism is that the Divine Spirit of Wealth and Prosperity emerging from a flower that grows out of murky mud water, is the very essence of growth and prosperity.  Laxmi Devi is often depicted showering golden coins from Her palms to symbolize the source of the highest wealth, the granter of auspicious boons.  Furthermore, the golden color of the coins represent the attraction of Solar and Cosmic Energy.  The Divine Radiance of the rising sun purifying the heart of the seeker!  Laxmi Devi also offers the Pink Lotus Flower as a symbol of pure thoughts, enlightenment, and a transformation of the seeker from the murky water of tamas (negative attributes) to sattwa (auspicious attributes).  Like the seed of a Lotus Flower Laxmi Devi’s large black eyes show compassion, love and the infinite bliss granted by the energetic presence of such Divine Radiance.  Chanting Sri Suktam is a special way of connecting with the prana-shakti  of Maha Laxmi Devi.  Each verse of Sri Suktam not only connects the seeker to the Divine Sound Vibration of this wealth-giving energy, it also has deeply coded language of taking in deeply the energy of the Sun and the Moon.  Therefore Laxmi Devi is seen as a Divine Energy that radiates from the Sun and the Moon.  As with all Deities in Vedantic Traditions there is a deeper symbolism to the physical or material form.  Studying such topics and imbibing the spirit of the teachings brings peace through higher wisdom.

By Tyagaraja Welch
Teacher of Raja yoga class – Tuesdays 6.30pm
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Interview with Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya

This weekend ( Oct 18th/19th) Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya will visit ESY and offer a program on Bhakti Yoga – The Ocean of Bliss.   For those yearning to go deeper into Yoga teachings or curious about this event this insightful interview with Sri Acharyaji gives a hint to the depths of his teaching.

acharyajiCan you address comments you’ve made regarding Bhakti Yoga and how it is the Yoga for our time?  

To address the significance of Bhakti Yoga, we need to understand what is the goal of Yoga itself.  The goal of Yoga itself is not merely to have a good body physically. But more than this, the actual goal of Yoga is to know the Divine.  In fact, the goal of Yoga is twofold:  it’s to know ourselves in a pure and unadulterated way, and then secondly, to know the Divine.

With that understanding, we need to then ask, “If that is the goal, then what is the best means to achieve that goal?”  All of the Vedic scriptures, including Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras, are in agreement on this: Bhakti Yoga is the most efficient, fastest, and most joyous means of knowing our true Self and of knowing the Divine.

The next logical question is: Why is it that we don’t know ourselves and why is it that we don’t know the Divine?  The reason why is because of false ego- ahamkara.  False ego creates an artificial sense of self.  It covers up who we are and it covers up our relationship with the Divine. With this being the case, what we want to do is overcome this false ego.  The best way of doing this is in the way that is most radical.  And the way that is most radical in order to transcend ego is to surrender ego, to surrender everything that we are, at the feet of the Divine.  There is no more radical path.  There is no path that is more direct than this.  So this is the reason why Bhakti Yoga is the most important Yoga of today.  Given the fact that, in this current age especially, undertaking time-consuming, serious practices is very difficult.  What is wonderful about Bhakti Yoga is the fact that it is not that difficult.  What it requires, essentially, is developing devotional consciousness toward the Divine.  This is something that a person can do anywhere, regardless of who they are, regardless of where they find themselves, if they are single and celibate or if they are married and within the world.  It doesn’t matter what their lifestyle is.  As long as they have sincerity, they can cultivate this devotional consciousness.  Being that practicing long, long periods of meditation and yoga is very difficult, if a person develops Bhakti, devotional consciousness, this is something that’s much easier to do.

Could you elaborate on the ideas you presented during one of your recent talks here in Austin that, contrary to the notion that modern-day Western Yogis are avoiding the world and its problems, in fact true Yogis (perhaps even especially Bhakti Yogis?) are heroic people and very much in the world?

Very practically speaking, I would challenge anyone to even find a modern Yogi who is living in America who is avoiding the world, who is living stereotypically in a cave somewhere or just living in an ashram.  Very few people are doing that.  99.9% of Yogis are indeed very much engaged in the world: they have jobs, they have families, they go to school, they have a social life, et cetera. You’d be very hard-pressed to find a Yogi who indeed has renounced the world to such a degree that they fit that stereotype.

Yoga, properly understood, does not encourage us to artificially renounce the world.  In our current age specifically (known as the Kali Yoga in Vedic philosophy) we are actually called upon as Yogis to very much engage in the world.  This is the central teaching, for example, of the Bhagavad Gita.  When Arjuna wanted to renounce the world due to his own illusion, when he truly did just want to hide away from his actual duties, what does Krishna say to him?  He doesn’t pat him on the back and say, “Okay, wonderful, Arjuna, come off to my ashram with me and let’s disappear from everything.” No, on the contrary, he chastises him, and he says “ You are meant to practice Yoga, but also to be in the world.  You are meant to complete your duty.”  And Arjuna, having fallen into a depression, Krishna actually says to him, “Arise Arjuna, Arise!”  And he again encourages him to do his duty.  This is the message for Yogis today.  Like Arjuna, we are meant to not artificially renounce the world and pretend we’re something we’re not.  Rather we are meant to be wherever we find ourselves, in whatever city, in whatever nation. We are meant to have family, we are meant to have jobs, we are meant to be active in the world: that means socially, that means politically, that means in every way that everyone else is.

But this is the only difference: unlike everyone else, our consciousness should be different.  While we are in the world, we are not of the world.  That’s it.  This is one of the common teachings of actually many spiritual paths, even Christianity, interestingly.  We are meant to be within the world but not of it.  Again, we are meant to have our full life within the world, but unlike other people, we are meant to approach all things in this world with wisdom.  Understanding the ultimate context in which we are encountering everything that we are encountering. We are encountering other people and we’re encountering other situations in the world: what is their ultimate meaning, not simply the meaning before my eyes right here and right now?  I’m encountering conflict within the world, well that’s a terrible thing.  But I need to ask myself:  what is the ultimate cause of conflict? Ultimately it’s spiritual; it’s a spiritual problem. The reason why people steal from one another, take from one another, manipulate one another, the reason why they abuse one another is because of spiritual ignorance.  Because they have made the mistake (false understanding) of thinking they are something they are not.  They don’t know their true selves; they don’t understand that they, and every living being that they are encountering, are eternal beings.  That being the case, with that understanding: how can you try to harm, exploit, take from, someone who really is the same as you on the level of consciousness?  You can’t.  So, if anything, taking the spiritual approaches teaches us how to be within the world, but also approach the world with wisdom.  In such a way that, if anything, the Yogi has the ability to actually function in the world even better than the non-Yogi.  Because again, they have everything that the non-Yogi has, but the Yogi also has wisdom that the non-Yogi does not.

Can you explain more about who this event is for, who would be welcome, and perhaps even speak to concerns people may have about feeling either feeling that in some way that they aren’t Yogic enough (whether they think they haven’t done enough asana or meditation) or spiritual enough to attend  (they don’t identify with a path or faith or even feel themselves to be very spiritual at this time)?

As far as who this event is meant for:  it’s meant for any individual who sincerely wants to know the truth of themselves, the truth of everything they are encountering in this world, and the truth of the Divine.  And what’s more, it’s those who not only want to know this, but want to experience the Divine in a very loving, connected, close sort of way.

If a person is worried that they may not be spiritual advanced enough or advanced enough in Yoga to take this seminar, that probably is the person who should be taking this seminar, because they have humility.  That’s the first thing I would say.  The second thing I would say is this:  how do we truly know who is advanced in Yoga?  It’s not merely who is the person who can do the best, most pretzel-like asana.  It’s not merely who is that person who can sit for three hours in meditation.  You see, we don’t know what they’re meditating on.  Rather it is that person who has sincerity and who wants to know and embrace truth who is advanced in Yoga.

True story:  Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is one of the most famous sages in Sanatana Dharma.  He lived 500 years ago.  There is this famous story of when he was traveling throughout the length and breadth of India.  And at one point he was in South India and when he was there, he encountered this person who every day he would see the person come into the temple, put the Bhagavad Gita in front of him, look at it, as in reading it, and just start crying and crying and crying.

Chaitanya at some point wanted to speak to this person because it was obvious that this person was just crying out of devotion.  So he went up to the person and as he looked a little bit closer, he noticed that the Bhagavad Gita was upside down. This person wasn’t even really reading the Bhagavad Gita.  Chaitanya asked him, “Sir, everyday I see you here and … and you read the Bhagavad Gita and you start crying and crying.  And as I look, I see your Bhagavad Gita is not even right-side-up.  Can I ask how are you reading this and why is it making you cry?”  And the person said to him, “Actually sir, I’m illiterate and I can’t read.  But the reason why I do this every day is because my Guru told me, “Every day, sit here for two hours and read the Bhagavad Gita.  Well, I can’t read but still my Guru ordered me to do this.  So everyday I come here and I put the Bhagavad Gita in front of me and I try to read it.”

And Chaitanya understood and he said, “Well that’s interesting but why do you cry when you sit here?  You’re obviously crying in devotion.”

And the person said, “Well I see this image of Krishna and Arjuna.  And I see that Krishna, who is the Avatara- the incarnation of the Divine- decided to become the servant of his servant, as his charioteer.  That rather than Arjuna being the charioteer for God, and God simply sitting on the chariot, rather it’s the other way around.  That Krishna decides to be the charioteer of his devotee.  And when I think about that, I just have to cry and cry and cry out of devotion to Krishna.  And it was at that point that Chaitanya understood that this person, though he was illiterate, was a liberated being.

So in the same way, an individual who may think they are not advanced enough, either in Yoga or just in spirituality in general to take this seminar that we are going to do, just have them know this, that even an illiterate person can become liberated as long as they are sincere

To learn more about Acharyaji’s teachings visit www.dharmanation.org

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Karmic knots unbound

When considering our personal karma and life destiny it seems that all is beyond our control we are pushed and pulled in all directions as life events unfold. What is karma? How does it play a part in everyday life? What can you do about future karma? My hope is that this article will shed some light and clarity as to this karmic process and offer straightforward advice that can be utilized day to day.

Draw upon the collection of desires that you hold at this moment in time. Bundles of potential energy resting somewhere within you, awaiting their fruition and transformable at anytime into words and actions to manifest their fulfillment.

What if all that collective energy were to be released at once into the ether, can you imagine that occurrence? Within your own being lies not just the potential energy of your surface desires but all the suppressed desires, dormant desires and prior incarnations residual desires. It is said that no man is an island, no respite exists for nature in perpetual motion. Therefore it is our inherent nature to manifest inner desires whether we like it or not, whether we believe in this natural process or not.

Now, try to extrapolate this scenario into the collective consciousness of all humanity on this planet. Is this not a tremendous amount of potential energy that is waiting to be expressed outwardly?

When the human being draws his last breath there can be no extinguishing of desires and attachments to unexpected and unanticipated circumstances, indeed the holding pattern is deeper than the physical shell of the body, so is it not logical that the unfulfilled cause effect energy exchange continues somewhere out there in subtler realities?

If you could see this energy and understand it’s significance for your own future destiny it would become palpable, tangible and by the subtle laws of physics unfulfilled. You recognize in your own self what a burden to hold on these petty attachments, old grudges, bitter resentments, sustained grief and unworthy judgements. Not to mention your expectations for just about everything, oh what a web we weave!

Your knowing is intuitive yet science cannot prove this objectively at this stage of our development which leaves us skeptical, uninterested and ignorant. That being said for all human beings if you objectively reflect on these words you know it to be true.

If this potential energy exists in the ether then it must beby Divine Law that it will germinate in the future per the hidden laws of karma, it is our destiny. The cause effect ratio will then be completed, the Soul’s checkbook will be balanced at some point in your future, the seeds sowed shall be reaped.

For the spiritual seeker there is another possibility, it is an opportunity to overcome this karmic burden and hasten spiritual progress for themselves. The knower behind the actions seeks fulfillment and expungement of karmic seeds without effect. Take note of this rare discovery, it is not to taken lightly as this release of karmic burden can be realized through deep meditation the stoking of the inner fire through authentic yoga techniques. Awakening the inner light at the spiritual eye (ajna chakra) burns the karmic seeds in an instant. This rarity comes to the devoted practitioner and those bestowed with Divine grace.

In the bank of karma we are greatly overdrawn to our own detriment, we are also stuck in a never ending karmic whirpool as we don’t appreciate or understand the effect of our actions. Many people crave social justice, it makes sense when a wrong is committed we want to see that action put right so that societal balance is restored. This intuitive craving is an outward manifestation of karmic law. All thoughts, words and deeds are things, they are projections of subtle energies and all must be balanced as a natural law, it’s not punishment to have karma , it just is. The web is so vast it’s literally overwhelming and beyond our comprehension however yoga and meditation can give you a direction to work on your karmic self development.

In our spiritual blindness and in our ignorance to our own intuition we continue to withdraw from the bank leading us to a fully fledged debt crisis. It is truly amazing that our debt-ridden society seems to outwardly mirror our inner imbalances. Could our karmic balance be compounded further? Is there no way out for the suffering?

Start now, yes right now this instant to make amends, wake up to your karmic potential and karmic opportunity to regain balance with good deeds, become selfless in your actions and offer all good deeds to the Divine, in whatever form speaks to you.

Karma is as neutral as gravity yet as real as your hands. Make amends for past wrongs, you know the areas that eat away at you in guilt or repressed feelings. The past can haunt your dreams and stifle your future if you suppress it. Learn to let go ,to forgive, to find compassion for others then and only then they will the withdrawals cease. The hemorrhaging of karmic consequence will stop.

Make good your promises to others even if those promises are said vaguely or in jest they will interject energy into future so seek to complete these actions to the best of your abilities and for the highest good. Draw from past experiences and troubles as they give your soul lessons and untie karmic knots, they give you strength and clarity for the future. If you ignore the lessons of the past then history will repeat itself, if you take this on board you will be freed from bondage in the future. Have faith that day will come, in this life or the next!

The unfair consequences of past life actions are indeed some of our greatest challenges to behold in this lifetime, the yogis counsel to control your reactive process, to take the challenges as they come and have faith you were meant to face them. With calm courage and strong will and openness to solutions you can work past these life altering events. To put is simply work with the hand you have been dealt.

Lastly, know yourself more subtly, learn to study and observe your thoughts which originate in your desires and attachments. Meditate on calm intuitive responses to life challenges, beware of the reactive subconscious, each time you inwardly defend yourself merely to win a point in your mind, it dominates conscious thought and blocks an intuitive and higher response. If you can be determind with the mind when it reacts you stand a chance of receiving true inner guidance to benefit your karmic equation.

Here is a simple yoga practice

Light a candle and visualize the flame before you.
At the brow point cultivate the same inner light
In deep meditation offer yourself fully to the light
Karmic propensities can be dissolved and burned
Great progress can be made

May your karmic knots be unbound!

Steven

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Understanding the Heart chakra

heart center

Have you ever noticed in everyday life the multitude of expressions we use concerning our hearts and it’s relationship to how we feel? Somehow we instinctively recognize each Valentine’s day that our heart signifies our romantic love; sayings such as I love her with all my heart, she has my heart, my heart belongs to you are so common they are intuitively acknowledged as true. To quote William Shakespeare “If you love me I will always be in your heart” over the centuries these words have touched millions of lives.

Perhaps more powerful than feeling love in our hearts is the heart ache we all have felt at one time or another. People instinctively hold their chest it’s as if an emotional dagger has wounded a person, indeed the lowest point for a person we describe as heart­break. Suffice to say there is more to the heart than just pumping the blood around the body.

Simultaneous functions of the heart exist and are prevalent in all humans which distinguishes them from other animals. The heart radiates the feelings aspect of one’s consciousness whereby any person can direct their love outwardly or inwardly depending on their motives, perspectives and habits.

For the average person caught up in seeking happiness they look outside themselves from external sources to fulfill their desire to be happy. Whether that be towards people, an object of pleasure or expectations the heart reaches out in desire. It’s as if a ray of energy wants to attach onto that object or person based on the potential to fulfill the desire, it will keep looking for fulfillment until that desire is fulfilled. Then we feel relief followed by the feeling of temporary happiness and you think that would be the end of the story. As you have probably figured out by now it’s not, the desire intensifies , new desires sprout, new cords of energy reach outwards and we begin the process all over again. Not to mention that happiness outside ourselves is often followed by a slump or hangover in ourselves. It hurts!

In expecting to receive love, then receiving the love from another the heart creates attachment and from the perspective of prana (life energy) this is a literal cord project from you to that other person or object. Once expectation and attachment based on arbitrary condition is in place we are in perilous territory. Let’s say two people that become attached through conditional love do not meet each others expectations, this causes frustration and bickering in many a relationship. Worst case scenario there is a fall out, the pranic cord is severed and the heart ache ensues.

Heart ache or heart break are very real feelings and may manifest outwardly in new emotions, any downward pull of prana will literally depress you and may make you sick.

In yogic terms there is a valid reason for this phenomena and it’s simply due to the expectation of receiving happiness from another based on conditions out with your control. Behind all attachments and desires there are subtle ramifications to the flow of your life force in a downward direction. Hence the saying I feel down or low.

There is an expression that goes, let the good times roll, but roll to where? If the heart directs it’s love outwardly there will be a current of energy that uplifts us for a while, but it is doomed to fall again and not be sustained. The never ending mystery can be solved simply which clarity and guidance from the yoga teachings. It is this:

Know that you are the happiness that you seek. It is within you always, it is you! When we look outside ourselves then set conditions on our happiness this is only a dim reflection of the true love potential in your heart. If you recognize the true source of the happiness you will not become too attached or be heart broken when things don’t go your way.

It is possible to cultivate lasting love and purify the heart chakra where your love becomes impersonal and expansive to all regardless of their actions. In fact your love becomes unconditional. This is is the key.

To work on the heart chakra but to ignore the lower chakras (Firmness in your direction in life, openness to your intuition and self control to become the best version of yourself) leads to apathy, cynicism and lack of direction. Do not be cold to the World, find the love within and share it in all your words and actions and with all the beings you touch.

If your love can become impersonal, expansive, unconditional and held in sincere kinship, things will start to shift for you in an upward direction, literally upliftment. In essence the heart will start to become sacred, to be clear this does not mean you become cold or unfeeling towards others. The inner secret is to develop the heart’s love and offer it to the Divine in any form that speaks to you.

Through this new awareness you begin to realize that real Divine love flows through your every situation, every person you touch, every sunset you gaze upon, all of these and more are Divine gifts that allow you to feel the love within you. Take time to bring that feeling inwards and recognize the higher source. Each time you practice this the love in your heart will increase exponentially.

Develop devotion in the form that speaks to you, chanting or singing the Divine names is regarded as the highest path of yoga called Bhakti. Giving your whole heart in this practice allows you to direct the heart’s energy to the Divine, this sacred offering will purify the heart it is the only desire that won’t lead to heartache.

For the love in your heart to truly grow and be sustained there is an essential yogic ingredient, you consciously choose to offer your heart’s love at the spiritual eye (ajna chakra) in deep meditation. As you channel the love upwards within yourself it’s as if a ray of light is shining to that beyond and beyond.

Once you begin to understand and become aware of the heart it’s relatively easy to see when it’s reaching out in desire based on condition. In that moment learn to re­direct the heart’s feelings inwards, know that you have the love and joy within, then even the difficulties become wonderful experiences.

Awaken Divine love to transform your yoga practice and spiritual life. Make the heart a sacred refuge once and for all, then you will awaken unto something far greater than yourself.

You will become an expression of Divine love.

This October I will give a free lecture on the chakras including simple practices that have the potential to uplift you. For guided meditations on the chakras visit our FB group. Eastside Yoga meditators.

Love to you!

Steven

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Develop Your Home Practice

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Benefits of Postnatal Yoga

~ By Melissa Savoie

The postnatal yoga that I offer at Eastside Yoga is a class for mothers and babies to attend together.  Partners, family and friends are also welcome.  Women usually don’t begin attending this class until cleared by their midwife or doctor for activity around six weeks postpartum.  

 

Just like prenatal, postnatal classes are focused on community.  We begin the class with a circle to share updates on the babies’ progress as well as physical, emotional or mental updates that moms choose to share.  These discussions also include sharing information about infant care: teething, feeding, diapering and any other issue that might arise in early parenthood.  In this way, the group acts as both a place for asking and answering questions as well as a place to find referrals to other resources in the community.  These referrals include infant swimming and music classes, mother’s support groups, pelvic floor physical therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture.  This sense of community supports women especially in these early days of parenthood, which can feel very isolating.  

 

The yoga in postnatal is a mixture of yoga done for parents while their babies rest or play on blankets and yoga done with the babies.  This is an open class.  Parents might stop to care for their child at different points in the practice and then re enter when ready.  The yoga for parents is focused on the needs of the group in the room that day.  Common issues include low back discomfort, upper back tension, wrist discomfort and a feeling of being unsupported in the core.  We use therapeutic style yoga to address these areas of tension as well as strengthening poses to support postpartum recovery.  

 

The yoga for the babies also includes strengthening poses for mom: squats while holding the baby, lunges and wall sits with songs.  We do a lot of singing in postnatal yoga.  Primarily, the same songs are sung each class so that as a baby grows the classroom is a familiar and comfortable place.  As they begin to move into toddler class, they will sometimes sing along.  We usually do a standing circle of activities, followed by a seated circle.  These activities and songs are a great way for parents to bond with their child.  This can be one of the first activities outside the home that they share and enjoy together.  

 

To end class, we finish with some restorative poses like long twists, legs up the wall or my favorite for parents: supported crocodile pose.  This pose is a great variation of savasana for parents, who tend to be very stimulated.  We lie facedown with the torso supported by a bolster and the forehead resting on a blanket.  It encourages release in the neck and a moment of relief from the constant alertness involved in the parenting of infants and babies.  In these moments of savasana and rest, how ever long they last, part of the practice of parent and child yoga is finding peace and rest in moments that might feel chaotic.  This is the practice of parenthood and is reflected in this type of yoga.

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Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

~ By Melissa Savoie

It’s Saturday morning in East Austin with sun lighting up the gold curtains and warming the cork floor.  Six women in varying states of pregnancy move about the room, unfolding their mats and gathering blankets and blocks.  The class begins with eyes closed, one hand on the heart, one on the belly.  Focusing on the growing and changing new life inside and to the breath that connects mother and child from the very beginning.

 

Prenatal yoga classes give students the opportunity and the place to connect to their community and their changing body.  At the beginning of each class, women are asked to share where they are in their pregnancy as well as any symptoms or experiences that are pressing at that moment.  These discussions are sometimes also focused more on the emotional and social experiences of pregnancy.  Being able to share these common symptoms, emotions, worries and joys help women feel connected to the other mothers in the class and to normalize their experience. Prenatal yoga class is a great place to begin to build relationships with other mothers that will continue after the birth of the baby.  

 

The movement in my classes often ends up being more therapeutically focused.  We try to relieve the common discomforts of pregnancy, including leg cramps, low back discomfort, upper back tension, ligament pain and even allergies.  In addition to contributing to the relief of these symptoms, yoga can also increase circulation, improve sleep and reduce stress and anxiety.  We also practice strengthening poses to prepare the body for labor and aid women in their postpartum recovery.  These include full and half squats, modified push ups and gentle core strengthening exercises.  These poses are great for building strength but also help women to feel strong and confident as they prepare for birth and parenthood.

 

We work on connecting the movement to the breath, which helps to focus the mind.  Also, practicing restorative poses or resting poses helps to relax the nervous system and calm the thoughts.  Practicing progressive relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and vocalizing is also applicable to labor and delivery later on, but help women stay more relaxed and calmer during their pregnancy.  Studies have connected the practice of prenatal yoga to shorter labors with less pain.  In general, being able to relax the body and mind is useful preparation and beneficial through the entire prenatal period.  

Yoga supports awareness and mindful decision making. The practice offers the opportunity for self study, which supports the transition into parenthood.  Any positive practice, which supports the mother, whether it’s healthy diet, meditation, yoga, or exercise supports the baby as well. Yoga helps to make that connection between the health of mother and baby more clear and present, hopefully supporting mothers to continue to practice self care as they move into early parenthood.

Image

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