This month we will explore the second limb of Patanjali’s eight limbed path of yoga, called the Niyamas. The five Niyamas, or moral observances, harness the effect of our sensory perceptions allowing for more mental and emotional equanimity. In Sanskrit they are Saucha or purity, Samtosha or acceptance, Tapas or determination, Svadhyaya or self-study and Isvara Pranidhana or surrender.
This week we discuss Saucha and Samtosha. Firstly, Saucha or purity relates to purification of all parts of our being. From eating the right foods in appropriate amounts, to keeping our surroundings free from clutter, to allowing space for quiet practices and contemplation.
Samtosha or acceptance means being able to react to life's challenges and victories from a place of equanimity. Being able to release the struggle of daily life and allow those things you cannot change to lessen their grip on your mind as you consciously look for the positive learning and blessing in each situation.
As we practice the twists below, feel the purification inherent when the abdominal organs are wrung out, a practice especially nice after the Thanksgiving holiday. Also accept where your body is right now and try not to push yourself deeper into the postures than is comfortable or necessary. Enjoy!
Press thumbs onto sides of ring finger at middle joint, extend all others. Rest hands with palms up.
Benefits: Activates and purifies the throat
Press tips of index, middle, ring, and little fingers together. Extend thumbs upwards and hold hands in front of abdomen.
Benefits: Opens breath in the front of the body, instills a sense of contentment and acceptance.
Draw feet to left side of pelvis, knees stay in front of torso. Try to press left hip towards floor as you raise left arm overhead. Exhale and twist belly, ribs, chest and head to right. Release left arm to outside of right thigh, right arm can support behind the back.
Hold for up to 2 minutes, then release and change sides.
Begin on all fours. Inhale lift right arm out to side. Exhale press right arm under left armpit lowering right shoulder to floor. Continue to press left hand into floor for balance. Can also raise left knee up pressing left ball of foot into floor. Be careful not to put too much pressure on your head.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin on all fours with hands slightly forward of shoulders. Turn toes under and lift knees off floor. Keep shoulders wide and palms flat, press thighs and sit bones back, scooping belly in.
Hold 1-3 minutes, release into Child's Pose.
Stand in Tadasana. Inhale arms overhead. Exhale and bend forward from hips. Engage quadriceps and draw belly in as you press heels into floor, and sit bones upwards.
Hold up to 1 minute. Release back into Tadasana by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Begin standing with feet slightly wider than hips distance apart. Keeping the knees soft, begin to swing arms around the body like two elephant trunks, lightly tap the body with the hands wherever they land as you twist right and left. Go faster or slower depending on how it feels to you for about 1 minute. Then slow down the swinging until you are again standing still.
Stand with feet wide apart. Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward with crown of head facing floor.
Hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose)
Stand with feet wide apart. Turn right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in 30 degrees. Inhale arms out from shoulders. Exhale and bend right knee. Bring right elbow to right knee or right hand to a block behind the right foot. Raise right arm overhead and stretch entire left side of body.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Sit in Dandasana. Bend right knee and either step the foot down in front of right sit bone, or cross over and step outside of right thigh. Inhale and sit up tall through torso, wrap right arm around front of left knee, left arm reaches to floor behind torso. Exhale and twist into left leg, belly, ribs, chest and head
Hold for 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Lie on back with legs in the seat of a chair. Lift pelvis off floor and place block or a folded blanket under pelvis. Place arms away from sides and palms up. Rest 15 minutes.
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.