The third and fourth Niyamas are Tapas or determination, and Svadhyaya or self-study, two ideals that are paramount to making yoga a part of our daily lives. Tapas is the determination to meet life’s challenges head on using all the tools at your disposal whether they are in yoga, in meditation or in some other aspect of life. It means having enough energy and determination to stay with the path you have chosen for yourself, not wavering from what you know will help you to grow.
Svadhyaya means being able to look at your challenging situations in a different light. Learning from your past mis-steps and being able to put that knowledge to good use going forward. You see your actions and their motivations non-judgmentally with wisdom and clarity.
This week's practice helps us to get in touch with that part of ourselves that can watch what happens in the body and mind as we practice so that we can cultivate tapas and learn from the practice of svadhyaya. Enjoy!
Bring soft fisted hands together touching the middle digits of the knuckles together with the thumbs pointing upwards joined along their length. Hold hands in front of abdomen.
Benefits: Cultivates determination and discipline, brings awareness to digestion and assimilation.
Bring palms together in front of the heart. Spread knuckles away from each other so that only tips of fingers and heels of hands are touching. Bend thumbs into open space between palms so that the thumb touches the base of the pinkie finger.
Benefits: Cultivates clarity and self-study, relaxes tension around the face and throat.
Supta PadangusthasanaLie on the back with the knees bent.
Variation I: Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor. Wrap a strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg into the air. Reach the hands up the strap until the elbows are straight but the shoulders are still grounded.
Cobra to Childs Pose
Begin in Childs Pose with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale keep hands where they are and move torso through arms to come into a backbend with pelvis pressing towards floor. Exhale return to Childs Pose. Repeat 5-10 times with the breath.
From all fours, lean the pelvis forward so that the body and upper thighs line up like a plank of wood. Keep the belly taut and lift the chest forward. Hold for 3 breaths and release back into all fours.
Downward Facing Dog
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 for 5-10 breaths.
From Downward Facing Dog, inhale and bring shoulders over wrists as you swing pelvis forward, creating a straight line with the spine and legs. Hold for 3-5 breaths and release to all fours.
Lie on the belly with the hands under the shoulders. Press pubic bone into floor and lengthen legs behind you. Inhale and press upper body away from floor keeping shoulders back and chest broad. Hold 5-10 breaths and release chest to floor.
Sit on a block with the left leg in Virasana and the right foot on the floor. If you cannot sit in Virasana, sit cross-legged with the left leg. Either wrap strap around sole of foot or hold sole of foot with both hands. Inhale open chest and lean back taking left foot off floor and bringing left knee to chest. Exhale and extend the left leg straight.
Hold 10-20 breaths then release and change sides.
Lie on back with legs straight and feet relaxed to sides. Move arms away from sides slightly and turn palms to face ceiling. You may use support under the knees for low back pain; and a folded blanket under the head if needed. Rest 5-15 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.