Spirituality, Yoga

Advent Yoga

For the second year in a row, I am offering a two-hour Advent-themed Yoga class at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hampton, VA.  This year, the class will take place on Saturday, December 7th, 1:00-3:00PM in the fellowship hall.  This class is free and open to the public.  Join us for a prayerful experience integrating body, mind, emotions, and spirit during the holy season of Advent!  (Bring your yoga mat if you have one.)

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Spirituality

Beauty

Notice the beauty everywhere you find yourself.
Right here. Right now.
leaves
Spirituality, Yoga

Always There

“Yoga is constancy and equilibrium – a place that is ever the same.” (Bhagavad-Gita)

Yoga means ‘union’ of our Higher Self with our lower self. It’s the path to that union and it’s the union itself. Yoga just IS. We fickle humans are the ones that wander away and wonder what’s wrong or missing. Nothing is wrong or missing! We already have everything we need. Deep within ourselves, when we take opportunities to really look, we find ultimate peace, deep contentment, and joy/bliss. Always there – no matter what. May we trust the process of life, the process of yoga, and the constancy of yoga! Namaste….

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Spirituality, Vibrant Health, Yoga

Traditional Paths of Yoga

The word “yoga” encompasses much more than physical exercises. In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that yoga means “stopping the fluctuations of the mind-stuff” (YS 1:2). All the practices and paths of yoga help bring us to this place where we experience yoga (“union”) of our lower self with our Higher Self.

A main reason I chose to complete my advanced yoga teacher training with Integral Yoga is the fact that they teach and incorporate the six major paths (or branches) of yoga as recognized in India. When we consciously work to bring all of these paths into our daily lives in some way – to balance them in a way that works for us as individuals – we become healthier in mind, body, and spirit.

The six paths are:

Raja Yoga
Balance and control of the mind through ethical practices, concentration and meditation. Also sometimes known as the “eight-limbed path” or ashtanga (not to be confused with a style of hatha yoga known as ashtanga).

Hatha Yoga
Focus on the physical aspects of yoga through asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), mudras, kriyas, yogic diet, and deep relaxation.  Hatha is one of the eight limbs mentioned above under Raja.

Karma Yoga
The path of action and selfless service. Serving without attachment to the fruits (or results) of the action.  All of our work and daily activities become part of our yoga practice.

Jnana Yoga
The intellectual approach. Through the knowledge of what really exists, that is, what is not changeable, one who engages in the “Path of Wisdom” realizes Oneness with the entire Universe.

Bhakti Yoga
The path of devotion by constant love, thought, and service of the Divine. This can be practiced by everyone regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation. All that is needed is faith and constant remembrance of God or Higher Consciousness.

Japa Yoga
Japa means repetition of a mantra – a sound structure of one or more syllables which represents a particular aspect of the Divine Vibration. (An example is OM Shanti [“OM peace”] or “peace be with us.”) A mala (a string of prayer beads) can be used to count the repetitions of the mantra.

I encourage you to learn more about these paths of yoga, to explore them and their usefulness in your own life.  More info can be found here.  Please contact me if you would like personalized guidance on how to practice in your own life.

Spiritual Direction, Spirituality

About Spiritual Direction

burning (2)Spiritual direction inspires people to experience authenticity in their lives as they connect with and explore the ground of all being, that deepest of truths which is beyond life and death and goes by many names and no name at all. Spiritual companions are intuitive spiritual friends – accountable and compassionate.

In spiritual direction, you reflect deeply on the experiences of your daily life. Gradually, as you contemplate, you may begin to recognize a deeper connection, presence and grace in your life. You may come to realize how spirit is truly with you every day and everywhere.

You may come to spiritual direction for a variety of reasons, including to:
— Identify and trust your own spiritual experiences
— Integrate spirituality into your daily life
— Discern and make difficult choices
— Share your hopes, struggles, and losses
— Live the essence of your spiritual affiliation with integrity

Most spiritual directors have formal training and are seasoned in the art of spiritual direction. They continue tending their own spiritual life by engaging in ongoing education, confidential supervision, and also meeting regularly with their own spiritual director.

You and your spiritual director will agree on a convenient location and time for meeting, usually once a month for an hour. After three or four sessions, you will have an opportunity to evaluate the relationship. Whether your relationship with the spiritual director continues for many years or for only a short period of time, it is very important to be comfortable with the person you choose. What is shared between you is held in strict confidence.

For more information and to search for a spiritual director near you, please visit Spiritual Directors International and consult their Seek and Find Guide.

(This post is composed of excerpts from the pamphlet, “Explore with Spiritual Direction,” published by Spiritual Directors International.)

Spirituality, Yoga

The Meaning of Yoga

“Yoga is the art of doing everything with the consciousness of God.”
–Paramahansa Yogananda

Like most people in the United States, I came to yoga by way of the physical practice of asanas, yoga poses. My first experiences were through classes taught in a gym setting. I thought of yoga primarily as a system for exercising the body – although I was also open to learning about breathing techniques and meditation.

The first definition of “yoga” I learned was: Yoga means union of body and mind. In gyms, yoga – along with Pilates – is classified as a mind/body practice. Later, my understanding of yoga expanded to: Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit via the breath. I could easily see the connection of breath and spirit. My current concept of yoga is this: Yoga means union with God.

The neat thing is that all these definitions are correct; they’re not mutually exclusive. Yoga meets us wherever we happen to be on our life journey. If we want only a physical practice, then yoga can satisfy us in that way. If we want to heal mental/emotional issues by working with the body/mind connection, yoga shows us the path. If we desire a deep, personal relationship with the world of Spirit (God), yoga takes us that far as well. Yoga can enhance our religious beliefs – regardless of what they are – and develop our experience of God as Love.

I love the above quotation from Paramahansa Yogananda because it reminds me that all of my life, every moment, can be yoga if I choose to see it that way. Yoga is not confined to the times when I’m practicing poses and breath awareness – or sitting in meditation. It includes brushing my teeth, driving to work, teaching, talking to people, doing chores, sending email, etc. No matter what we’re doing, if we do it with awareness, that’s yoga.

Sanskrit, Spirituality, Yoga

Sanskrit Names

In the United States, there’s now a tradition for the main facilitator of yoga teacher trainings to bestow a Sanskrit name upon the students at the time of graduation. This is often done at the end of a basic 200-hour training, and if not then, at the end of more advanced-level trainings.

I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty and meaning of Sanskrit names and felt disappointed when my class didn’t get names in 2011. As I was completing the Yoga of Recovery training at Yogaville in 2017, I inquired about Sanskrit names, yet didn’t believe any of the teachers or Swamis knew me well enough to choose a name for me. I knew these names are best bestowed upon a person, rather than chosen for oneself.

So, this past January as I completed a 30-day residential staff program (the Living Yoga Training, or “LYT” program) at Yogaville, I asked one of the Swamis who knew me well by that point about a name.  She asked me to write her a few sentences about what I believe my mission in this world is; she said she’d pray and meditate over what I write and allow a name to come to her spontaneously.

It’s believed that these names are divinely bestowed when the process is taken seriously and reverently.  The name that’s given represents something the person is already living to some degree AND striving to develop more fully.

Some common female Sanskrit names are :  Shanti (peace), Padma (lotus), Satya (truthful), Prashanti (ultimate peace), Anandi (blissful), Nirmala (immaculate), and Prema (love).

I wrote to the Swami (which means, through her, I was communicating with God) and told her I believe my mission in this world is to be an instrument of healing:  My work and calling involves helping people physically, mentally and spiritually; I genuinely want everyone to be happy and healthy and to enjoy life to the fullest.

So, after an evening of prayer and meditation, the Swami met with me and told me the name that came to her is Jivani (pronounced Gee-vuh-knee).  This means “vivifying” or “enlivening.”  It’s also a name of the Divine Mother who gives life.

The name, Jivani, is beautiful to me!  I am both proud AND humbled to carry such a name.  When people call me by this name it reminds me that I have the quality of “enlivening” AND I’m continuing to develop this quality.  It’s an ongoing process just as life itself is a continuing process.  There’s always more to learn, more to develop.  This can be – and hopefully is – exciting!