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Improving Sleep with Yoga Nidra, the Yoga of Sleep

Photo by David Newkirk

Yoga Nidra is the yoga of sleep. To be more specific, Yoga Nidra is learning to wake up to your utmost nature of being. Yet, not so ironically, there are some wonderful applications in Yoga Nidra that can also help you to achieve natural, peaceful, and nourishing sleep. Let me elaborate…

The Yoga of Sleep

Yoga is an ancient term that refers to yoking all seemingly disparate parts of your being into one. This then leads us to experience the Oneness of all things, a state called Samadhi. The Sankrit word, Nidra, actually refers to the liminal brain state that is in between  our dreaming and awake states. Therefore, Yoga Nidra refers to arriving at Oneness, or Samadhi, through the state of Nidra. This happens through a specific and skillfully form of guided meditation that systematically deepens your layers of Awareness. This meditation helps you to release your identity from ego, things like body, mind, emotions, etc, and begin to identify as Awareness itself. You start to see your ego as merely things to be aware of rather than identify with.

But Yoga Nidra, the yoga of sleep, is appropriately named because its super power is relaxation. Relaxation helps to guide practitioners into deepening layers of awareness to arrive a the beautiful marriage of form and spirit. It does this in part by blurring the fierce edges of “reality” that our rational mind has created for itself. When you relax, you can enter into a more expanded world and see things with greater clarity. If a person falls asleep during Yoga Nidra, the part of them that is listening is doing so regardless if the conscious mind is or not.

How Yoga Nidra Can Improve Sleep

 

In addition to being called the Yoga of Sleep, Yoga Nidra is also a great way to develop regular deep, natural, and nourishing sleep. One of the ways it does this is through simply bringing practitioners into a great sense of Awareness. Tantra philosophy (the school of thought where Yoga Nidra comes from) states that our True Nature is that of Awareness. If you can experience your True Nature through practices like Yoga Nidra, you’ll find yourself more whole. As you experience your True Self, that of Awareness, you find yourself experiencing the part of you that is synonymous with Source. There’s nothing you lack or need in this state. Therefore, when you approach yourself to Source (your True Self) then any apparent lack goes away. Yoga Nidra is perhaps my favorite (and most relaxing) way of connecting to Source. If sleep is something that is troubling you, getting clear with Source is a great way to get back on track.

I’ve always said that wellness is the byproduct of Awareness.

Since Yoga Nidra is about deepening your Awareness, it’s also true that your nature state is that of relaxed Awareness. This is a very common state of mind during Yoga Nidra. The relaxation part of Yoga Nidra is very useful to practice. It trains you to deepen your relaxation when you really need it, especially during times when you’re trying to sleep.Often times, not getting good or regular sleep, or bouts of insomnia, are symptoms of other things such as imbalance in body, mind, or spirit. Your energy could be off. Your diet could be skewed. Your stress could be through the roof. Either way, if your sleep is lacking, it’s an invitation to look at your life. Yoga Nidra is a great way to do just this. The practice invites us to simply be the observer of things as they are and see our lives with as much objectivity as possible. Though practicing Yoga Nidra, you might discover an imbalance or a faulty belief that is preventing you from thriving in your life and which might manifest as sleeplessness.

 

Resting is a skill. Like all skills, you can be good at it or bad at it. Yoga Nidra is a way of practicing the skill of relaxing. It does this in part by deepening your layers of Awareness through the different layers of your ego called Koshas. You’ll experience paying keen attention to body, energy, mind, beliefs and archetypes, and even you layers of joy and bliss—all as ways of learning to misidentify with them and see how they point yo–––u to your True Self, that of pure Awareness. The process is very relaxing. Truly, you’ll experience your Both And nature, the part of you that is married as both consciousness and physicality combined. As you experience your Both And nature, you’ll find yourself simultaneously relaxing deeper and deeper while also becoming more aware.

Yoga Nidra helps you to simply welcome, recognize and witness without opinions. Often times we get worked up when we can’t sleep. We find ourselves not sleeping and then get stressed about not sleeping, increasing our anxiety and making it even harder to sleep. Yoga Nidra helps you practice allowing things to be just as they are, neither good nor bad, but witnessing whatever is as mere information. Even sleeplessness. You can rest blissfully in a sleepless state simply being curious about sleeplessness rather than getting worked up over the fact that you’ve got a big day tomorrow and it’s 2 am and you still haven’t fallen asleep. Also, it’s said that Yoga Nidra is the rest equivalent of 4x sleep, so 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is like a solid 2-hour nap. Even if you’re not sleeping, you can rest assured that you’re still getting some great rest.

 

Some things to consider regarding sleep

 

Your mind is a processing machine. It’s a computer. The brain isn’t very good about distinguishing between real events, scenes it sees on a screen like a moving, and things it pictures as images in your mind. If you’re laying there in bed, replaying the horrible things that could happen tomorrow over and over again in your mind, your brain is releasing the same fight or flight chemicals it would if you were literally in that situation. Instead, you can use one of the tools I often use in Yoga Nidra to help people tap into the rest and digest part of the nervous system. Because our mind isn’t great about differentiating scenes in the mind vs. scenes in reality, you can visualize peaceful scenes and release the same rest and digest chemicals in your brain as if you were literally in that scene, experiencing all that bliss. You get to make your own bliss. You simply tap into your senses and visualize as if seeing through your own eyes, smelling with your own nose, hearing with your own ears, all the things you’d see in your oasis of peace. This will help you to begin to relax and stop sending cortisol (stress hormone) through your system when you should be going to sleep.

To help your mind wind down before bed, you can also simply find a focus. Because the brain is meant to process, give your mind something simple and singular to process before going to bed rather than defaulting to process the worst-case-scenario of could happen tomorrow. Start counting your breaths down from 100. Exhale and think 100, inhale think 99, exhale 98, etc. It’s incredible how easily your mind will relax when it can focus on something simple. This works miracles.

Good Sleep Hygiene

You may consider a few tips to help you train your body to receive regular, deep, and nourishing sleep.

  • Develop a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Plan on a full 7–9 hours of sleep, even if you think you can get away with less.

  • Have a bed-time ritual. Plan on winding down before bed and that means avoiding screens, big emotions, and drama before bed. Do some light reading with dim lights and some camomile tea.

  • Avoid blue lights, fluorescents, and LED lights. All of these kinds of lights emit the kind of light that your body recognizes in sunlight and it messes up your circadian rhythm.

  • Monitor your caffeine. You may think that caffeine is not causing you any problems but it can stay in your system for up to 48 hours and even if it doesn’t prevent you from falling asleep, it can prevent you from going into deep sleep, or staying asleep.

Please enjoy a free Yoga Nidra recording designed to help you practice getting relaxed and practice deep, peaceful and nourishing sleep.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and the author of Practical Yoga Nidra: The 10-Step Method to Reduce Stress, Improve Sleep, and Restore Your Spirit. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he also writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program. Scott currently lives in Southern France with his wife and son. 

 




Source Of The Cool

As a yoga and meditation instructor as well as jazz musician, I see parallels in both disciplines. One obvious connection is the notion of practice. Another is sourcing something deep inside of you to offer your best self out to the world. Just like Miles Davis did.

Miles Davis was Miles Davis. He was always miles (work with me) ahead of the others regarding jazz innovation. In 1957 Miles Davis released an album called Birth of the Cool and ushered in an entirely new and refreshing style of jazz labeled “Cool.” In addition to his technical virtuosity, stellar writing, and unmistakable sound, Miles Davis’s genius lay in his ability to single-handedly steer the entire jazz movement world-wide.

So, big deal. Miles Davis made a new style of jazz. That’s the point, though. He didn’t set out to change the direction jazz, he simply knew who he was and found his voice. Really, though, Miles Davis didn’t create anything, he just sourced it. Instead of “Birth of the Cool,” should be “Source of the Cool” referencing that deep mystery within all of us. Whenever we source this deep mystery within us, something seemingly miraculous occurs. Miles Davis just was the notion of cool. He knew his heart’s purpose for the world which was to connect to Source and express that through his trumpet. He was the leader in many other jazz movements like Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Modern Jazz.

For me, yoga is the process of understanding Self through the method of listening. Like Miles Davis demonstrated, it’s about being who you are, understanding what your heart’s gift to the world is, and letting that find expression in your everyday, in your job, your relationships, your speech, and your art. That’s yoga. Source your cool! What is your heart’s gift to the world?

What is your cool? For some of us, the answer to this question is obvious, we are teachers or parents, we run businesses or make art. For others, discovering our heart’s gift to the world might take some serious quietness and contemplation, some movement and breathing. And for those of us involved in this earnest exploration of our heart’s purpose, listening to our heart’s deeper wisdom might seem maddening or just very quiet at first. But the more we practice, the more we listen, we’ll become adept at hearing that little but wise voice inside that will lead us to discover monumental things we didn’t know we knew, we’ll hear ourselves saying things we didn’t know were in there. We’ll find our cool. I’m sure Miles Davis had many moments being surprised at what found its way out the end of his horn.

There’s also practice. Practice is where the real magic happens. I play my best saxophone alone in my living room with no one listening but myself and my neighbor’s dogs. If you walk by my house and hear dogs howling, you can blame me. Also, regarding practice, it dawned on me that is never a yoga performance, it’s always a practice. The practice is the destination. Practice gives us permission to explore and try it differently next time until we find our true, strong voice. Also with practice we’ll find the clarity and courage to let that voice be heard in the expression of our everyday. Miles Davis said, “Practice, practice, practice and when you get on stage, just play.”

With our daily practices like meditation and yoga, when it does come time to be “on” we’ll have the presence and mindfulness to really shine, and to share our heart’s purpose for the world.

May I invite you to practice sourcing your cool in whatever practice you enjoy.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and the author of Practical Yoga Nidra: The 10-Step Method to Reduce Stress, Improve Sleep, and Restore Your Spirit. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he also writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program. Scott currently lives in Southern France with his wife and son.




Up-Level Your Life with Yoga

You want to improve in your favorite sports, have more alertness and stamina at work, or be more present at home? Yoga is an amazing practice that can complement all of our other activities. 

Photo by Seneca Moore

So, here is the low-fi low-down on yoga. The word “Yoga” is a Sanskrit word that suggests union through yoking body, mind, and spirit. The unity of these three aspects of self helps us have a clearer perspective and practical understanding of what it means to be us. The yoga poses, called Asanas, are designed to bring awareness to the mind, strength and wellness to the body, and to promote the fluid circulation of energy. Yoga also optimizes our range of motion in our joints, makes all muscles both strong and flexible, and helps remove toxins from the body. 

Balances Body

Certain sports or activities emphasize repetitive action in isolated areas of the body which can create physical imbalances.  A good example of this is the disproportionate use of lower-body muscles to upper- body muscles in activities like running or cycling. Yoga is a complete body experience and will help to mitigate some of these imbalances caused by the sustained repetitive action in isolated areas. Runners and cyclists will love yoga because it will balance out their upper-body with lower-body. They will also love yoga for what it does to increase strength and flexibility in the muscles they use regularly. 

Balances Breath

Breathing correctly is essential in any sport or activity. Yoga places a large emphasis on breathing. This deliberate breathing practice increases lung capacity and helps athletes also be aware of breathing while performing their sport. Sports aside, in regular every-day life it is common to forget about breathing. Do you ever breath shallowly or catch yourself holding your breath? Shallow breath or holding breath is a major cause of tension and compounds stress. Yoga will help you breathe easier in all aspects of life. 

Balances Mind

Yoga also helps us cultivate the right mental space to be able to enjoy our favorite sport, especially if you are competing or are engaged in endurance sports where your mind has to be focused and spirit has to be tough. Yoga helps us train our minds to be present in what we’re doing. This presence will help us prevent injury and help us make those split-second decisions that can sometimes make all the difference in a competition. 

 

Balance Steadiness and Ease

Perhaps the most helpful principle we practice in yoga that we can also apply to our favorite activities and every-day living is the principle of balancing everything with steadiness and ease. Being mindful of these principles will help us to negotiate when it’s time to put work down and go out and get to a yoga class or hit a trail or grab your bike. It will also let you know when you’ve worked hard and it’s time to head to a restore yoga class or crack a cold one on the porch. 

 

Here is what M. Fischer, a mom, energy worker, and powerful Ironman Triathlete, says about yoga:

 

“I used to use yoga as a balance with the rigors of Ironman training. Now it is my centering time in my ambitious schedule of working full time plus in a demanding career, being my toddler’s best and favorite mommy, and getting a decent workout in if the stars align. Both then and now, yoga is my one time to focus totally and completely on tucking my stressed and scattered thoughts back inside my body. It’s like reconciling, not my check book, but my energy book. I spent this much here. I spent this much there. I have this much left to spend. I get it all straight while I challenge my body, I breathe, I listen while in Savasana, and then I know how best to move forward.”

 

So come and practice yoga with and see how it can complement all the other things you do in life.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




Yoga: The Next Right Thing

The First Step

For over a year I volunteered to teach a yoga class once a week to a group of men at a place called The First Step House. This was an institution established for men who had just come out of jail and who needed a positive first step into managing a new life outside of prison. At the First Step House, these guys, many of whom were court-ordered to be there, would receive group therapy and courses about things like anger management, personal finances, and how to get a job. The director of this facility was a student of mine and felt yoga could be a great skill that these men could use. So she required everyone going though this program to receive at least 4 sessions of group yoga.

I remember showing up on my first morning, sometime in the late spring or early summer. I left my wallet locked in my car not knowing how cautious I should be about people who had just left the Big House. I walked into the large red-bricked building, an old renovated church, past a fat calico cat who looked at me like he owned the place. Inside, it smelled like bleach, bacon grease, and coffee. There was a scruffy man wearing a camo jacket and heavy boots standing at a kitchen window placing an order to a uniformed cook for some eggs and pancakes. I mingled around until I found the director; she was debriefing the staff for the day’s events in her office. “Oh Scott!” she said enthusiastically. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet our new yoga instructor. He’s going to be teaching every Wednesday morning.” I was greeted with several polite hellos.

After the meeting, the director showed me around the class rooms, therapy rooms, the grounds, and the kitchen and even invited me to order food there whenever I wanted. Finally she led me to a group of about 20 men in a large meeting room, all shuffling and slouching, consumed in the practiced art of killing time before some institutionalized activity.

“Gentlemen!” Sabrina said in a loud and cheery voice that both commanded attention and simultaneously demanded and conveyed respect. “This is Scott, our new yoga instructor.”

There was a long moment of uneasy quiet as this group of men shifted their eyes skeptically between Sabrina and me, processing the bomb that had just been dropped on them: they were now going to be required to practice yoga. A few less-than-subtle curses skittered around the room to which Sabrina paid no attention and instead marched out of the room leading me and the curmudgeonly group in tow.

She led us to a large shed-like structure behind the main building. Inside, there was industrial carpet on the floor, a few small windows, some fluorescent lights, and several chairs arranged a circle. We all began stacking chairs, some still complaining loudly at the fact that they had to do “@#$%ing  YO-GA!” Everyone was instructed to grab a mat and sit on the floor which they did, noticeably uncomfortable with tight hips, curved backs, and stiff knees, vestiges of long years of bodily neglect and abuse.

Uneasy Beginnings

I looked around and saw that many of these men with their military tattoos, dog-tags, and post-Vietnam-era chic apparel were veterans. A pang of bitter realization washed through me. It was a feeling that in some ways this country had forgotten and neglected these people and that blindness resulted in one way or other processing these people into our prisons. Yes, these men had made their own decisions but I wondered how many of these choices had been made as the result of a broken soul, horrific memories, and an impossible sacrifice for a country that all but shunned them when they came back from the living nightmare of Vietnam or the Middle East. I saw men almost void of consciousness, desperately trying to just make it for one more day.

Not all of them were veterans. Some of these men had been drug dealers, woman beaters, thieves, cheats, deserters, liars, and addicts. I stood there and looked around the room at these cut-throat, busted sons of America. This was their next step. This was their second chance, or their third or fourth. It didn’t matter. They were there and so was I. And what we all shared in common was that we were going to do yoga together in some shed with industrial carpet and stacked chairs, under garish fluorescent lighting and try to see what could come of it.

I stood at the front of the class and introduced myself. I explained who I was, why I think yoga is cool, and that I also like jazz and running and reading. I told them that I didn’t like yoga that much at first and that it took me a while to understand it enough to really love it. I shared how much I love the way it makes my body feel and how valuable it is to me to keep my body healthy in order to be a good vehicle of my mind and heart. I shared how well I’ve come to know my inner-self through this practice. My definition of yoga was very simple: understanding Self through listening; a union of body, mind, and heart.

Fixing What’s Broken

https://fox5sandiego.com/2014/06/20/clothing-drive-to-help-homeless-veterans/

My introduction over, I asked if anybody had any injuries that I could be aware of and spent the next 10 minutes listening to almost every person in the room explain something like an injured back, a shattered elbow, or broken foot. Yoga suggests that everything is connected and in my mind I wondered if these broken bodies were perhaps scars of deeper wounds.

I think something happened to me as I stood there and listened to them describe their injuries. My fears and prejudices melted away and I didn’t see ex-cons anymore, I saw hurt people. Aren’t we all just bodies with hearts and minds doing our best to know ourselves and this world? Aren’t we all just trying to mend and move forward? My nervousness subsided a bit and suddenly I found myself caught up with an excitement to be there, to offer something that we all could share, a way to connect, a way to heal, a way to simply feel good in our bodies and maybe find some inner peace. I shared a few jokes and anecdotes. This lightened the mood and greased the resistance a little.

Then we started the practice with a simple focus on our breath and some easy breathing techniques which caused a sputtering of coughs and gasps. We moved our bodies in cat-cow position on hands and knees and mobilized the spine. Together, we moved the body through some slow and gentle sun salutations. We mobilized shoulders, wrists, hips, neck, knees, and ankles. When we did supine pigeon pose to loosen up tight hips, you’d have thought it was a dungeon of hell with all the groans and curses through clenched teeth. But they were doing it. And whether they realized it or not, the intensity of stretching such tight muscles entered them into a very deep practice of mindfulness.

I believe that there is scarcely anything in the world that hones one’s attention like pigeon pose, any of its incarnations, applied to tight hips. Pigeon: the fast-track to enlightenment! We finished our session with a rest as I led them through a guided meditation. After, I taught them the meaning of Namaste, an honoring salutation that acknowledges the common goodness in all of us. I bowed to them, offered a Namaste, and even received a few timid Namastes in return.

Shared Light

That started my year-plus stint at The First Step House. There were several different groups of men at the First Step House. I would meet with the same group each Wednesday for four weeks then change groups. Invariably the first session of each new group started with the same curses and objections but just as predicable came the subsequent sessions marked more and more acceptance, even happy anticipation about the practice. Yoga was helping their bodies to feel better, helping their minds to be more focused, and their hearts to be more calm.

We grew to trust each other. I cherished their demonstrative respect for me, a respect that came easily once they got to know me. I stopped leaving my wallet locked in the car. I would come in to the center on Wednesday mornings and on my way back to the yoga shed, several of the men who had been in my previous groups would enthusiastically greet me with a hello and handshake or high-five. They followed my instructions and asked some great questions. Some admitted it, some didn’t, but almost everyone grew to really love the practice. I’ll never forget the sight and sound of these gruff dudes, sitting the best they could cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed in a squint and hands to heart, chanting the most gravely OOOOmmmm ever heard on this side of steel bars and razor wire.

Thanks to the First Step House, I learned a lot about yoga and teaching yoga. I learned that yoga can touch anybody. I learned that more than being a fantastic teacher, yoga itself is the teacher. I learned that the power of yoga lies in its current application to the situation and time at hand. I learned to offer this practice to people in a way that meets them where they are.

My classes at The First Step House were the only classes I’ve taught where I instituted a 10-minute smoke break in the middle of class; perfectly appropriate. I learned that no matter how broken you might be this practice puts you on a pathway toward wholeness.

Thank you, First Step House for all that you taught me. Though I wasn’t paid money, The First Step House gave me deep riches of yogic knowledge, insight to teaching, and a profound personal connection.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




Yoga Vs. Pilates

Some say that there are “Pilates people” and there are “yoga people,” as if they were warring factions of fitness tribes constantly engaged in civil war. First, that’s dumb, and second, if there were “Pilates people” and “yoga people,” I would certainly consider myself both. Sure, I make a career of teaching yoga and practice yoga more regularly, but I consider my Pilates practice absolutely integral to the process of understanding myself and therefore part to my yoga practice.

What I love about Pilates is the way that it invites me to understand myself through conscious and deliberate movements. I love the precision and the deliberate quality of the practice. I have learned so much about myself through the practice of Pilates. Pilates has informed not only my yoga practice but my teaching more than any other physical practice besides yoga.

I believe that yoga is something much bigger that what you do on your yoga mat. My definition of yoga expands to include anything that helps you understand who you are and invites you to pay attention. Therefore, for me Pilates has been perhaps one of the greatest extension of my yoga practice.

For several years, I’ve had the pleasure of trading a private Pilates session for a private yoga session with a very gifted teacher and friend, Maya Christopherson. Through our practice together, she has taught me volumes about how my body works, where my hidden weak spots are, and where I’m unconscious in my movements. I move my spine more completely and gracefully because of our work together. I understand the relationship between my tight psoas and the movement of my legs. I am more sensitive to not only how to move my body because of our work together, but also more sensitive to how I feel in my body because of her expert instruction.

“Well, there’s no mindful element to Pilates,” some yogis might say. I would say that on the contrary, Pilates is a deliberate, intelligent, and sophisticated way of expanding my somatic awareness and therefore improves my overall mindfulness. In fact, just like yoga, Pilates develops my being physically, energetically, and spiritually/consciously.

On the physical level, Pilates makes me strong; I find more power in my running, more capable in my yoga practice, and stronger in the daily dance of living life a dynamic life. I love how in my Pilates practice, I’ll be invited to do a few quality reps of an exercise rather than 100 sloppy ones.

On the energetic level, my energy or prana flows more fluidly after a Pilates practice because my muscles, joints, and tissues, have experienced a full-range of intelligently-crafted manipulation causing muscles to release tension from unconscious, habitual movement. My energy flows fluidly because I’ve eliminated stagnation from my system. Simply put, by practicing Pilates I get off my duff and move my body. But not just by flopping my limbs around mindlessly to burn calories. Rather, I’m moving in a way that feels like it was custom-designed for what my body needs.

On the causal or spiritual/conscious level, I have to be very tuned in and focused while I do Pilates, I can’t ever just phone it in. This focus on my movement expands my awareness, like a meditation in motion. In part that is what Maya’s job is: to watch me and inquire into things like whether or not I could be more smooth in my movement, more conscious of how my right side moves compared to my left, or how this part of my spine moves compared to this other part of my spine, etc.

And in some way you could choose anything, golf, tennis, gymnastics, driving, cooking, being a mom or dad, or whatever you do, as the vehicle toward your own self-realization but I believe that Pilates and yoga are two methods that are particularly useful to create a daily practice to maintain the body, to conduct the flow of energy, and to make me ever more conscious. It may sound oblique to say that I’m becoming a better person, on my way to complete understanding of self and universe, though practicing Pilates but that is exactly what I’m saying. And at the end of the day, body/mind/spirit stuff aside, I just feel great after a Pilates practice.

Hopefully you have someone as skilled as Maya in your Pilates-sphere. Consider changing up your yoga practice and adding in a little bit of Pilates as a perfect complement.

Yogi Scott Moore, scottmooreyoga.com

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Time To Go Inside

Turning Inward

When it turns cold outside it’s time to come inside. The Medicine Wheel in Native American spirituality uses the direction north and the season of the winter to invite us to hibernate, draw inward, and reflect on our deeper and true wisdom.

One way to think of this true wisdom is the instinctual knowing that is beyond rational thought. It’s instinct. In the yoga philosophy of subtle body (energy), the part of the body associated with this connection to our inner knowing is Ajna chakra, or the 6th chakra, located on the forehead between the eyes. This energy center is often referred to as the 3rd eye, the one that looks inward instead of those which look outward.

Whether or not it is cold where you live, consider the seasonal invitation to draw inward, to hibernate in a way, and develop your inner-knowing by the deep work of looking inward through the practice yoga and meditation.

 

Two Practices

“There Is” Practice

Firs, try a simple meditation technique I call the “There Is” practice. First, sit. Close your eyes. Start to listen and pay attention to everything you can experience, both inside and out. You could become aware of sounds, smells, textures, thoughts, emotions, images, anything. Without any judgment, simply notice everything and point to it with the phrase, “there is.” For example, “There is cold. There is the sound of cars passing. There are thoughts of work. There is a cat licking my toes.” Try not using personal pronouns (I, me, and my) and let things just be. Before you react to anything, just sit with it and try to be an observer. Allow your mind and thoughts to do what they will, but remain the observer that notices your thoughts, sensations, etc. This practice may help discover that who you are is deeper than your thoughts, experiences and emotions. Those are an important part of who we are but in themselves do not make up our true identity, an identity that is based in awareness, an identity that is this inner knowing.

 

Yoga Nidra

Photo by David Newkirk

Another practice to help you go inside is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a practice similar to guided meditation where you lie down, close your eyes, and listen to the facilitator lead you deepening layers of Awareness. As begin to refine and deepen your awareness, you start to become less and less identified as the things you are aware of and become more and more identified as Awareness itself. As Awareness itself, you can look at many different aspects of your body, mind, and spirit with some clarity. You can even begin to source some parts of your deeper archetypes held in your unconscious. I have created a great Yoga Nidra practice that is designed to help you become deeply relaxed before sourcing the wise person inside of you.

Enjoy this free guided Yoga Nidra practice: Yoga Nidra for Inner Wisdom. You may listen to it and gain clarity and insight as well as deep relaxation.

 

Photo by Seneca Moore

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




The Practice of NOT Doing

Is there an art of not doing?In a cultural climate that values production almost above anything else, how do we practice not doing? 

 

The Practice of Not Doing

Photo by David Newkirk

Relaxing is a practice. Relaxing is like any other practice: if you don’t do it regularly, you can lose your ability to do it well. Have you ever felt like the cartoon of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice whose master goes out (to play Sorcerer’s poker, I think) and comes back to find that Mickey has found his magic hat and wand and in an effort to make his chores more efficient and easier, created instead utter chaos? I think that just like Mickey, in our eagerness to make life easier, automated, or more productive, we forget to learn where the off-button is. Consequentially instead of creating ease for ourselves, we also find ourselves swimming in a river of chaos. 

Gentle practices like Restore Yoga and Yoga Nidra are perfect ways to practice discovering the off button, not as a way of tuning out but as a way of replenishing the source. Restore yoga is a style of yoga that is very accommodating, gentle, and slow. A practitioner will often use cushions, blocks, and blankets to stay in a passive and relaxing pose for anywhere from 5–25 minutes. The purpose is to restore to wholeness through gentle grounding and opening postures which take no effort—unless is takes great effort for you to turn off. (Click here for a free Yoga Nidra recording)

Yoga Nidra is a form of mindfulness, similar to guided meditation, where the practitioner will lie down, close their eyes, and listen to a facilitator lead them systematically through deepening layers of Awareness. This process lasts anywhere between 10–35 minutes. Deep relaxation is the special sauce for this practice and it’s not uncommon for someone to feel quite rejuvenated and deeply rested after this practice. In fact, when I teach Restore Yoga, I reserve the last 20–30 minutes of class to finish with a long, Yoga Nidra. 

The Ritual of Downtime

You don’t need to go to a yoga studio or find a specialized guided meditation to help you relax. Try coming home from work and dedicating 20 minutes to simply relaxing before you take on anything else. Resting for 20 minutes as soon as you get home will soon become a  ritual that your family will come to love because they will get the best version of you when you’re finally ready to have family time. Your family may even want to join in. For a rest time, I might suggest turning off your phone, dimming the lights, lay down with your legs up the wall (the yoga pose Viprita Karani) put on nice music and practice resting. The Kenny G is optional. Wouldn’t that be cool if there were a mandatory 15 minutes of savasana to end the work day? 

With a facility and familiarity with rest, you may actually find that you become more effective at what you do because we have taken a moment to replenish the source and clarified perhaps the reasons we do all that we do.

Not Acting is not Re-Acting

Another component in the art of not doing is very skillfully holding steady and not reacting to a situation. Sometimes, when something arises and we don’t know exactly what to do about it, often the best response is to hold our ground and see how the situation matures. For those of us who like to be in control of everything, this can be a difficult practice. 

In yoga there is a principle called Ishvarapranidhana. It literally means “to lay it down at the feet of God,” to let go of the reins of apparent control and allow God, or the Universe, or the World to make its move. This might mean learning to hand over control of a project or situation to someone or something else and walk away. This isn’t a sign of defeat but rather a powerful choice. Letting go can be a very difficult practice but one that ultimately can lead you to understand your own inner character and true being.

Whether it’s a Restore Yoga or Yoga Nidra practice or finding some downtime in your daily schedule,I invite you to practice NOT doing this week. 

Photo by Alex Adams

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

 




Yoga Nidra and the Holy Trinity

Sacred 3

History is replete with different forms of sacred  trinities. How many different forms of the trinity can you think of? Off hand a few that come to mind are: body, mind, and spirit; earth, wind, and fire; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; Shiva, Shakti, and Ganesh; Buddha, Sangha, Dharma; peanut butter, jelly, and bread . . . the list is eternal.

Online Yoga nidra Ganesh kauai.jpg

Ganesh. Photo by Scott Moore

The concept of the Trinity speaks to understanding our True Nature. A singular object is in isolation, adding a second creates a binary, but when you can understand or experience these in what I call their Both/And Nature, your eyes open up to experience a truer, more expanded concept and consciousness of an object. I believe this is what is meant by the 3rd eye. In fact, by expanding beyond the singularity or duality of your own nature brings you into the full knowing of your truest Self.

Stay with me…

We come from Source, that which is everything. We are born as into a human experience and our conscious is one of simple singularity—everything that exists in this form of consciousness is what can see or feel and that’s all I know. An infant experiences the entire world as simply an extension of herself. Natural differentiation happens between 6–18 months old and suddenly a duality is created. Now, the consciousness experiences a “this” and “that” which exist as two separate things. Many of us will live the rest of our lives in this sense of duality.

The Hindu god Ganesh is a perfect example of a trinity: He is the product of a form and consciousness, half spirit, half physical being, and exists as something new entirely. Many people celebrate Ganesh for his hybrid nature which lends itself to great compassion, understanding, and direction.

Both/And Nature and the Trinity

But many practices such as yoga, meditation, and Yoga Nidra, a specialized form of guided meditation, expand your consciousness beyond a binary and help you to come to know yourself as part of a larger Singularity, Source, built as the Both/And consciousness of any binary. Through a lifetime of practice you might come back to experience yourself as Singularity, but not in any innocent way but rather one of wisdom and expansiveness. This is what it means to open to the sacred trinity within you to reveal your True Nature.

Exploring the Trinity with Yoga Nidra

My favorite way to explore, and even better to experience, this unity of the Trinity, and allow it to open our consciousness into a unity of all things, is through Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a form of relaxing guided meditation, or guided awareness, where the practitioner is lead through deepening layers of awareness to come to know themselves as Awareness itself. One does this through practicing recognizing then letting go of objects of the ego, like the body, energy, mind, thoughts, etc.

 

Photo by David Newkirk

The objective of Yoga Nidra is to open to a felt sense of Awareness, Oneness, or your True Self. One of the techniques to acquire this felt sense of one’s True Self is to explore the trinity of your True Self. Often an Awareness technique that a facilitator might employ in a Yoga Nidra practice is to lead practitioners to pay deep and profound attention to as singularity, then the duality, and then to open to our Awareness, our True Nature, by inviting the holding of those two elements together to make a third, complete, and unified wholeness. The way I teach this in a Yoga Nidra practice is to invite practitioners to relax as they pay attention, for example, to their left hand and only their left hand. This creates a singularity in their consciousness. Next, I’ll have them pay attention to their right and and only their right hand. Now this alerts to the consciousness that there’s a duality, a right and left hand. I’ll toggle their Awareness between these two before then inviting them to feel and experience both hands simultaneously. The part of one’s consciousness that must open up to do this is the expanded part of one’s consciousness, that which is larger than a duality. Thus the trinity is what opens you up to experience your True Self.

This isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s a practice and an experience. Click here for a free Yoga Nidra recording.

I invite you to explore your own True Nature by experiencing a felt sense of Awareness through Yoga Nidra. It’s easy and still profound. Beginners and experts alike can practice and get phenomenal results. Experiencing the sacred trinity within yourself brings about wholeness and healing. You will enter into a profound and relaxing Yoga Nidra practice which is specific to this concept of the trinity and which will take you into deeper relaxation as the portal into understanding some of the mysteries of the cosmos through the trinity.

Photo by Alex Adams

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




What’s Better Than Happy

Why do we love tragedies? Why do we love a good cry? Why do we subject ourselves to it? I mean, really?! Why do we do it to ourselves? 

 

Why do we like things that aren’t all roses and laughs? Maybe it’s because what is most satisfying in life isn’t being happy. That’s what the Blues are all about. Being happy just one part of what it is like to be human. Because as human beings we thrive by working to understanding what we are. And to appreciate our own humanity means to understand everything that it is to be human: loss, joy, love, meanness, disappointment, gut-splitting laughter, an ache so large in the heart that it feels as if someone is literally standing on your chest. All of it. It’s because we cannot define ourselves by happiness alone, beyond happiness we keep searching for all the other things that make us US. It’s why we make decisions that we know are going to hurt but there is no other way. So we do it. We travel that tough road because we know that there is something over on the other side that calls to our True Self and we really have no other choice. 

As if happiness weren’t large enough a word. It’s more about living this life to the fullest by accepting everything that this life will throw at us. It’s presence, which is what we cultivate and practice in yoga and meditation. Being present with a well-lived sadness is a great way of offering a gift to others in that sadness is such a real part of being human and expressing it fully reminds us all of the beautiful phenomenon of being. Just listen to John Lee Hooker sing Rainy Day and you’ll know what I mean.

 

Scott Moore Yoga (Photo by Alex Adams)

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




Blessed By Fire

Have you ever been in a tricky situation in life and wondered what you should do, where you should go or where the truth lies? Consider that you’re maybe experiencing the heat of holy transformation. 

The Heat of Transformation

One good way of discerning truth in situations like this is to walk through the fire. Walking through the fire means simply going through something. Something intense. Something happens when you really go through a grand experience, when you are subject to something big and the heat and refinement of leave our numbingly familiar life for a while. It could be a journey, a ceremony, a yoga class, or even something you don’t choose, like an illness, death, or divorce but during and most certainly after this refining experience, after the heat of it, all the bullshit seems to be summarily burned away and what is left is something you can call Truth. In yoga philosophy the Sanskrit word Tapas means the heat necessary for transformation.

 

Learning to Sweat

A few years ago, my good friend Wendy who practices Native American spirituality, invited me to attend a sweat lodge ceremony that she was hosting in the lodge she’d built in her back yard. I showed up, having attended and even conducting several sweat lodge ceremonies in the past, assuming I knew more or less what I was about to experience. Little did I realize the degree to which I was going to experience Tapas.

If you’ve never attended a sweat lodge ceremony, the lodge is a round tent-like structure that represents the womb of the earth, or mother earth, the great turtle. The ceremony began by building a fire and blessing large stones with our prayers that we place in the fire and heat for hours until they glow red. The hot rocks represent the bones of the earth and facilitate the heat required for transformation. The ceremony is an opportunity to go back to source, to get right with things that are and find personal direction and clarity in by being relationship to that which is so clear, direct, and real. It’s the chance to sweat away all impurities. And just like in yoga, this refinement happens on the physical, energetic, and conscious level all at the same time.

The participants enter the structure by kneeling and saying the word, Omatakwayasay, meaning “to all my relations” past, present, and future, ancestors and progeny, and all spiritual beings who are involved in my being here in this moment. You invite the full spiritual parliament to assemble, to witness and participate in your transformation, you call on their spiritual power and wisdom. I couldn’t help but think of my grandpa who died on his 95th birthday and who was one of the sharpest and most gracious, and loving people I’ve been blessed to have in my life. If I have a guardian angel following me around, it’s probably him.

Once inside the lodge, the red-hot rocks are brought one at a time into the lodge and placed in a fire pit depression in the middle of the lodge. Once the rocks are in and everyone is present, the opening is closed and it becomes pitch black. Dark and hot. Dressed in only shorts, my skin opens to the heat, and within only a moment a thin line of sweat runs down my back. So it begins, I think to myself. The heat begins its refining process.

The Burning Begins

The ceremony starts with prayers and talk where each participant sits in the heat has a turn speak or pray out loud. At first the conversation is cautious as we sense the proximity of others, most of whom we do not know. But as time goes on, the darkness and the heat sets in and the walls of inhibition begin to melt. It’s not long into the ceremony and I’m crying into the darkness with desperate prayers, pouring out sorrow, desires, and hopes. Looking for truth. Seeking wisdom. Needing help.

The heat becomes increasingly oppressive as the officiator, a Native American holy man named Leonard, intermittently ladles water on the rocks causing hot steam to fill the small, cramped structure. The heat asks me to look within find my own deeper wisdom. After a while I’m starting to get worried. I’ve run marathons and this is by far the most physically challenging experience in my life. After an hour in this heat, I note to myself that rather than spend even another 15 more minutes exposed to the heat of these rocks and steam and the heat and weight of my souls doubts and fears, I would rather pop out into the night air and run a bare-foot marathon in nothing but these shorts. The ceremony continues and I am comforted knowing that I can choose to leave if it gets to be too much. Somewhere, my Grandpa is nearby. I’m called by something inside to stay and begin the biblical wrestling between the angel and demon, the call to stay and the desire to leave. After a while the heat is so hot that I curl up in a ball and press my face into the moist dirt, the only place even remotely cool. The air is breathable down low and I get a little respite.

The Blessing of Fire

After three hours of wrestling with this heat, I’ve decided that enough was enough, that I’m not strong enough to continue, that I’ve done my best, I’ve done enough and that I am going to leave. As I make motions to do so, my head is spinning the only thing I can think of is to get the hell out of that door. I was drunk a lust to breath fresh air, to lay my bare skin on the cool grass and look up at the stars. I scramble on hands and knees to the door. I’m half way out of the door when the Native American holy man conducting the ceremony puts his hand on my back. In my weakened state, the simple weight of his hand causes me to collapse onto my belly, face-down in the dirt, halfway in and half way out of the lodge, panting, my head spinning in the cool night air. “Brother,” the holy man says as he begins to offer a blessing to me. And for several minutes I lie in the dirt as he blessed me with wisdom and strength and a special gift to see into the future and into the past. He blessed me with the ability to see into different realms, the cosmic and the earthly, to stand at the crossroads and to translate and direct others. He blessed me in the sacred ceremony of my relationships and blessed me to listen to my heart. After 10 or 15 minutes of this I felt renewed. I felt brave and strong. I felt courageous and able to get back up and sit back in my place in that lodge.

I crawled back in and took my seat as they shut the door to the cool night air but not before bringing in a giant bowl of cold raspberries. Something you ought to know about me is that I’m not all that partial to raspberries. It was the night, the heat and weight of the experience, the holy man’s blessing, the brief respite and new courage to try it again. It was all of this and more and I’m here to tell you, that when I placed three cold raspberries into my tongue I saw the face of god! Never has anything tasted so beautiful, so sweet, so refreshing and so satisfying as those few raspberries. I suppose I will never taste anything as divine as those three raspberries as long as I live. And so with all of this, the ceremony continued and I worked through another hour of heat.

A Fiery Resolve

The moment came when the prayers had been said, blessings offered, expiation accomplished and the ceremony was over. My clarity came as I crawled out of that lodge, sprayed myself with the hose and finally laid myself on the grass and looked up at the stars, my whole body steaming and pulsing. All the bullshit—the pretense, the doubt, the insecurity—was burned away and what was perfectly clear to me were very specific things I needed to do for myself and for my relationships. I knew what direction I needed to go in the decisions in my life. While still steaming (literally) from the ceremony I found my phone and made phone calls to begin those important conversations all of which started with either I love you or I’m sorry. That clarity of that night has clearly shaped where I am now.

Living in The Heat

Maybe it’s not a sweat lodge. If fact, maybe it’s not even something that you chose but something that life has chosen for you, an illness, a change in your relationship status, a death or illness of someone close to you. This is all the same heat and sacred ceremony in some ways that causes us to see through the superfluous into what really matters. From that heat comes the clear vision we can use to make those invaluable course changes in life.

Yoga is a controlled way of administering the heat. Whether the Tapas is the literal heat you feel in your muscles in a pose or the heat of a new stage of life, it’s all the same in how it transforms us bit by bit into the sacred and divine beings that I believe are inherent in our nature as unique expressions of the Divine.

I bless you to see the heat of whatever is transforming you in your life right now as holy.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




Well Earned Pearls

Leonard Cohen, the hugely influential singer and songwriter died on November 2, 2016 at the age of 82.

“Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

~Leonard Cohen

Brilliant.

 

 

oyster pearlLike the grain of sand that makes becomes the oyster so too is the illness, the imperfection, or the improbable life-circumstances that beset us and therefore makes us perfect. Truthfully, it is not our problems that make us perfect but the practice we must develop to problem-solve around them that does. 

Choose a problem, any problem, and whether or not that problem ever resolves, in working toward overcoming (or sometimes simply yielding to it) you will be put on a path of understanding and mastery that will illuminate all your gifts, that will enlarge your soul, and will teach you more about the Universe and yourself than any other thing. An easy life free of problems does not ask you to give birth to that immense but perhaps latent power within you, the being of light within.

The university decal I want for the back of my ride is one that says I attended Knocks University, The School of Hard Knocks. And if you’ll forgive the dad joke (I am a dad now and those come readily), its actually quite true that those things that have taught me the most have been my struggles and challenges.

This is why one of my teachers, Judeth Lasater, says, “My gurus all share my last name,” meaning that while close relationships are sometimes hard, they are the things that will teach us most poignantly about our True Nature and place us on the path to our own understanding.

We celebrate and even embrace the natural process of our own growth through our challenges as we bask in the heat of our own transformation through our yoga postures. Knowing and celebrating that we are all imperfect allows us to practice yoga without any end in mind other than simply practicing. The same way that we are not perfect, none of our poses can be perfect. Or better said, we and the poses we express are all perfect in their imperfections, the well-earned pearls of our textured existence.

Celebrate your own divine nature through your imperfections and see how the light gets in.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

 




The Power of Intentions

Power of Intentions

Intentions are powerful. Salkalpa is the Sanskrit word for our intention and could be compared to planting a seed. Just like a seed, we must be aware of what we are planting and nourish that seed to see that intention manifest in our world. 

Setting intentions has everything to do with what we feel we are worthy of in this world, and then having the courage to ask for what we want. Yoga is one way of holding a conversation with that something that is larger than us. Setting your Sankalpa is a way of asking to be known by the Universe. Through that seed of desire, you’ll come to understand yourself perhaps better than by any other way. Yoga is a practice of becoming mindful, and conditioning body, mind, and spirit to do something about our intentions. It is preparing the soil for our intentions to grow.

Preparing the Soil

We prepare the soil of our intentions by making the time (even just a few minutes daily) to clear the chatter in our minds. Clear your mind, and then tune in and plant the seed of what you want. The seed you plant, your Sankalpa, could be for greater health, mental or spiritual clarity, an improved relationship, a better work situation, financial abundance, world peace, a lifetime supply of chocolate, or anything else.

As we start our yoga or meditation practice, we give ourselves a moment to reflect on why we are practicing, even if what we need or want seems like it has nothing to do with yoga postures. Then, as we practice, each step, each breath, each yoga posture, is a move forward, in that direction, a dedication to our Sankalpa.

Our internal conversation could go something like, “I may not know what to do to help make the world more peaceful, but that is my intention and at this moment silencing my distractions and practicing Warrior II is the step I’m taking toward that end.” Remember that yoga is a gift to help us understand a bigger picture of who we are. With that greater experience and knowledge, with that health and clarity, we have the tools to accomplish what we set out for. At other times, our attention and effort of yoga are a type of preparation, so that we eventually can see more clearly and act more purposefully.

Some might even see yoga practice best as a prayer in body and breath. In any case, it is starting the conversation with the universe regarding what we’d like to see grow in our lives.

Beware of Unconscious Intentions

Whether consciously or not, or with clear wise purpose or not, we are intending things all the time. Where are you putting your mental, emotional, and physical energy? Like one of my teachers, Judith Lasater says, “What is worrying, but praying for what you don’t want.”

So, what do you want? Put it out there. Then work and watch and see how God or the Universe or the Divine part of yourself responds. Be open to possibility and ready to learn from that response. Through our Sankalpa we aligning ourselves with what’s bigger. Through Sankalpa, you’ll discover how the divine is manifesting as you.

As you consider what you need or want in your life, go to your yoga mat or meditation cushion with this intention and place it on the altar of your heart. Plant the seed through your practice and watch how it grows.

The following is a very old mantra (taken from a hymn in the Rigveda) that you may want to learn as you are working with your Sankalpa.

Gayatri Mantra

(translation by Dona Fari in her book Bringing Yoga to Life)


Everything on the earth and in the sky and in between
Is arising from one effulgent source.
If my thoughts, words, and deeds
Reflected a complete understanding of this unity,
I would be the peace I am seeking in this moment

o bhur bhuva svaa
tat savitur vare
ya
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo na
pracodayat

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Tuscany and France , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




The “H” Word

The Cancer of Being Critical

Not too many years ago our culture invented a word: Hater. I don’t think that word existed back in the lexicon of my parents. It was meant to mean someone who is often contrary not only to you and what you’re about but more often than not, chronically grumpy about the world. Even in the last few years, the word “hater”  has now grown into something much more insidious vis a vis hate crimes and trolling on the internet, etc. I’m not so much referring to that kind of hater, though someone with pathological tendencies toward hate could still benefit from what I want to talk about. 

What’ I’m talking about is the person for which there is an unlimited supply of things to complain about, gripe about, or criticize. They see the world through hater-colored glasses. You know anybody like this? C’um on— do you ever find yourself resembling a hater? Reminds me of those two salty guys in The Muppet Show who sit up in peanut gallery and spit out insults and complaints like it were an art form, like it was their reason for being?

A hating attitude can be terminal. Cancerous to your soul. It can be an insidious habit that will canker your heart and color your entire world.  And if you don’t consider yourself a hater, then chances are that you know one, right? We all know someone who we like, maybe even love, but who can be so chronically cantankerous that we find ourselves limiting our exposure to them.

 

Contentment: The Antidote to Cantankerous

The Yoga Sutras talk about haters. Maybe not directly but if you read between the lines you can see it in there. Specifically, the sutras talk about the opposite quality of a hater. The term is Santosha and refers to the spiritual practice of contentment and seeing the world as abundant and perfect in its imperfections. Santosha means to decide to be content with what you have and see the world through gratitude-colored glasses, to choose to be cool with what life has thrown you. Sure, we will always hope and strive for a bright future, but along the way we can decide that we are happy with this, now. It’s about presence. Santosha is a spiritual practice and belongs in yoga philosophy because it will fundamentally change the way you see the world in a way that helps you feel a part of the incredibly beautiful and complex family of all human beings instead of fighting against it.

We can practice Santosha on the yoga mat. For one, we can practice being content with where we are at in our practice, always riding that comfortably intense edge, rather than pushing beyond our limits. Then, as we honor our bodies, it will be our bodies that invite us to move further in a pose rather than being discontent with what we have. And secondly, I love the idea that this incredible life journey called yoga can be done on nothing more than a 2’X6’ rubber mat, and that’s all the space we need! We can be content with that. Yes, the world is our practice space, but our yoga mat represents all the space we need as we join with like-minded people in a yoga class to apply the condensed practice of learning principles like poses and Santosha in order to bring those qualities into our practice of daily living.

Two Contentment Practices

I’d like to offer a few practices that may change your life. I know it sounds like I’m over selling this, but I’m not. Hang with me.

Practice 1.

(Photo: Pixabay/B_me. Pixabay Licence)

Before chronically judging people, practice seeing something good about everyone you see. Let it be the first thing you notice. Your mind might say to itself, “I like that guys hat. That woman looks great in red. That kid looks like he’s having a really fun day, that person drives an energy efficient car—thanks for doing your part to help keep our environment clean . . . ” Recently, I was walking around in public and did this practice as I watched throngs of people for an amazing result in my own heart. Instead of feeling like it was me against the world or at very least neutral with the throngs of all the other people that I couldn’t care about one way or the other, instead I felt like I was a part of an incredible family. You can do this practice at stop lights, while walking down the street, and especially while in a crowd. Practice doing it with your own family members. Watch to see how your entire demeanor changes and also how others change toward you.

Practice 2.

I’ve begun using a life-changing mantra: “I don’t need to have an opinion about that.” You can ask my wife, sometimes I’ll start to go off about the smallest things, like the wording on a billboard or the fact that Minis aren’t mini anymore, but rather mediums. I sometimes get negative too. I hope I stop myself before becoming a hater and remind myself that, “I don’t need to have an opinion about that. Why can’t there be a Mediums? That billboard can be exactly the way it is (illegible) and I simply just don’t need to have an opinion about it. I bet my wife enjoys me more when I’m not so opinionated about everything. Heaven forbid that I become that chronically cantankerous person in her life, right? Try out this mantra. Maybe offer it to the grump in your life.

Practice Santosha this week both on and off the mat. And if you don’t make it to class, nor you or I need to have an opinion about that.

 

Scott Moore Yoga (Photo by Alex Adams)

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Tuscany and France , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program




How To Do Yoga “Correctly”

“You’re Not Doing It Right!”

At a yoga retreat I was hosting a few years ago, a woman was humorously explaining that her 70 year-old father had just “discovered” yoga. She described him as a type-AAA personality— very analytical, a physicist or engineer or something—who had recently stumbled across a yoga DVD and had became suddenly obsessed with doing all the poses “correctly.”

“Can you do ‘The Downward Facing Dog?” he said to his middle-aged daughter who had announced casually that she was about to go on a yoga retreat. “Sure,” she said. “Well, let’s see,” he challenged. Without a mat or stretchy clothes, she got down on hands and feet and busted out her best Downward Facing Dog pose. “You’re not doing it right,” he asserted. “Your heels have to touch the ground.” “Who Says?” she retorted. “The DVD! Look right here,” he said, showing her “proof” of an image on the DVD’s case demonstrating some flexi-dude in Downdog with his heels on the floor.

To some degree I think we are all a little like my student’s dad who is looking for some sort of external “proof” that we are doing it right. Whenever we discover something new, begin a new discipline or philosophy, we try hard to define it by narrowing it down and distilling it to its essence, to define what it is and what it isn’t. But often times, the more we learn about a discipline we come to realize that such narrow definitions are inadequate.

noun yo·ga \ˈyō-gə\

The process of discovering who I am through the method of listening. 

 

Yoga Nidra Photo by David Newkirk

In my opinion, yoga cannot be defined merely by doing poses. For example, Yoga Nidra is a form of yoga where practitioners lye down, close their eyes, and go into a deep state of Awareness which to anyone observing on the outside resembles taking a nap. Nonetheless, it’s still considered yoga.

 

Yoga is so much deeper than just postures and yet we need to discover that depth for ourselves. The poses (however they are done) are merely the vehicles to access something deeper and yet in and of themselves, they are a wonderful way of keeping us purified, strong, and focused. The poses are beautiful and fun and make you feel great. Perhaps in our experience with yoga we will discover that though the poses are fantastic, the practice is much deeper than just doing poses. 

To truly be a student of any discipline means me must agree to evolve beyond our narrow definitions of that discipline. After all, why would we want to study something if we already knew everything there is to know about a subject? Our knowledge and growth beyond our entry point of the subject is crucial to the the journey of our education.

B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the preeminent yoga teachers to ever influence the west, wrote what many feel is one of the definitive text on yoga asana principles called Light On Yoga. It’s said that once, during an advanced asana workshop he was teaching a certain principle and a student pointed out to him, “That’s not what you said in your book.” To which Iyengar replied with a wry smile on his face and a glint in his eye, “That fool? He knew nothing!”

It’s misguided to tie the idea of “success” in yoga as being able to accomplish a certain proficiency or depth of a pose. Often we see pictures of yoga in the media of people doing outrageous poses, things that require inhuman flexibility or strength, and while there is nothing wrong with doing advanced asana (poses), they can be challenging and fun, it’s nonetheless important to remember that the poses are mere tools to arrive at something else entirely. They are pointers to yoga’s goal, not the goal themselves.

What is the goal of yoga? As stated in the Yoga Sutras, one of the primary philosophical texts on yoga, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” (book 1 vs. 2). It goes on to say that on a deeper level yoga is about “yoking”  yourself to the idea that you are both a localized expression of this Oneness. It says nothing about reaching your heels to the ground in Downdog. In fact, very little attention is given in this text about the importance of poses, a mere 2 of the 198 verses, and in those it says essentially that you must balance each pose with stability and ease.

 

Redefining “Advanced” Yoga

I’d like to redefine “advanced” poses and make a distinction between technical poses and advanced poses. A technical pose may be physically challenging and may incorporate several anatomical principles of alignment or muscular strength, balance, and or flexibility. An advanced pose is defined by your ability to negotiate that pose between stability and ease. Your ability to do a handstand doesn’t make it an advanced pose. What makes it advanced is the ability to decide whether or not doing the pose will keep you in a stable/ease balance. You could easily do a pose that is technical but not advanced or advanced and not technical. Challenging, technical, or deep isn’t the goal for doing poses. Nor do we need to stop doing technical poses for fear that doing so will make us appear as showing off to other practitioners. This also is a misuse of the poses. Simply, we must not confound ability with enlightenment and must negotiate each pose for ourselves. This is doing postures “correctly.”

 

Each pose is a tool or medicine. Any builder must use the right tool for the job. The finishing carpenter doesn’t brag that they can nail trim around a door using a sledge hammer. And who cares if you this remedy or that to manage a malady or keep you into balance? It doesn’t matter as long as you get the job done without making yourself sick in the process. Poses as medicine is a great analogy because your “dose” of a yoga pose depends on who you are, what you are doing it for, your experience, your preferences—all of your needs. You don’t go to the doctor and expect to hear, “Yeah, you’re messed up but compared to the guy who came in here before you, you’re really not that bad so I’m sending you home without any medicine. Stupid, right? Why, then, would we perform our yoga poses the same pose as the next guy? I like to say that the only way to do pose incorrectly is to do it the way your neighbor is doing them. 

 

This totally lets us off the hook because we don’t need to accomplish any poses to succeed at yoga! But by nature human are competitive, with each other and with ourselves. And as a teacher I unfortunately  see or feel others practicing yoga in response to what they “should do” or what they could do last time they practiced or what they could do 10 years ago, or what their friend can do rather than what’s right for them today. I suppose that’s what really gets us into trouble—when we confound our being with our doing. I heard once the phrase of a mistaken identity as a human doing rather than a human being. Yoga is about coming into the realization of our being. Nearly every time I have been injured in my yoga practice it’s because I’m not listening to my body or my being and I do a pose too deeply or at the wrong time or without sensitivity to what my body and being is saying. I’m injured because my dosage or my purpose is messed up.

 

In class I often say that we aren’t practicing poses, but rather we are practicing principles in the form of poses. We practice principles of alignment, muscular engagement, breath and energy work, principles of mindfulness—all as tools to slowly reveal the perfect being both in the outer form of our bodies as well as that mysterious part that lies beneath. This fact lets us off the hook from having to “perform” the poses. It says that there is no “right” way to do a pose. A teacher once told me that there isn’t correct or incorrect, only skillful and not skillful based on who you are and what you need. Who cares if you can “do” a pose? I’ve been on both sides of the equation. When I began yoga I could not touch my toes. Now I can and I’m here to tell you that life isn’t any better now that I can; the heavens didn’t open and angels did not sing. And yet if there is a pose that I love to do, there’s also no reason not to if it brings me joy and makes me feel great. 

 

In yoga class, I teach principles not so students will take my word for it or feel that they have accomplish something, or to know how to do a pose correctly. Rather, I teach these things as a way of helping each student tune in with increased awareness and clarity, so that they might pay attention and hear the voice of their true teacher, the one that is quietly speaking within their own heart. I find my role is to constantly point the student’s attention back to themselves. 

 

So the next time someone tells you by mere fact of how your pose looks that “you’re not doing it right,” you can turn the phrase back on them. If you are worried about how the pose looks then you’re not doing it right. 

 

Useful Phrases

Here are a bunch of little phrases I came up with that I like to throw around in class:

There is a yoga bill of rights and there is one right on the yoga bill of rights and that’s the right to suck at yoga. 

The only way to do this incorrectly is to do it the way your neighbor does it. 

We are not practicing poses but rather principles in the form of poses. 

I’ve decided that any pose I can’t do is overrated. 

Let the metric of a pose be “Awesome.” If it feels awesome, do it. Otherwise, find another way.

It is not by effort that we find what we are searching for in our yoga practice. Rather by the judicious balance between steadiness and ease we place ourselves into the flow, into the current of our own evolution of body, mind, and spirit and find that through it we arrive somewhere much more profound than simply a deep pose. We arrive at the profound realization of our True Nature. 

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Tuscany and France , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

 




Stress Help

Life can be stressful. So much to do, so many things that could possible go wrong. People often assume that because I teach yoga I never get stressed. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. This year I’ve co-taught two Yoga for Anxiety courses; not because “I never get stressed and here’s why . . .”, but because sometimes I freak out too and sometimes I use the tools yoga has taught me to help me manage stress. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to always have the answer for stress. Despite my experience with meditation, breathing techniques, and stress-relieving yoga poses, sometimes I still find myself self-medicating with Ben and Jerry’s.

 

Here’s what I do when I get stressed. First, I take a bunch of sighs out my mouth, mostly when I’m driving or alone and can really let it fly. I try to make it as dramatic as possible. I think this helps. I’ll try to relax my jaw and notice whether my stress lessens even by just a couple of sighs. Sometimes I’ll sigh for 5 minutes or so. Next, I’ll practice ujjayi breath, whisper breath. A lot of you know this but it’s the breathing you use during yoga practice where you breathe in and out of your nostrils and put a little whisper in the back of your throat, elongating your breaths. It really helps. I’ve read something about this form of breathing activating your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of your flight or flight nervous response. Try it.

 

I will also do something physically active, like go to a yoga class, put on my running shoes and hit a trail, or even just take a 10 minute walk around the block, even if I don’t have the time to do so. It’s incredible how my perception changes when I get outside or at least get moving for a bit. Wallace Stevens once wrote, “Perhaps the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Yoga explores the relationship between mind and body. If my body can relax, maybe my mind can follow. Putting some endorphins in my body and some oxygen in my brain is a great way to make me feel good and clear my mind.

 

Next, I’ll actually look the bull straight into the eyes and see it for what it is. I’ll try a meditation technique where I try to adopt the role as the observer rather than the one who is oppressed by stress. One day, I felt like I was feeling a lot of stress and caught myself trying to avoid it or pretend it wasn’t there. I had a few minutes to meditate and instead of mentally escaping it, I decided to look at it straight on. I closed my eyes and noticed how my body felt in response to the stress. I observed the images in my mind and emotions in my heart and thoughts in my brain, everything associated with this stress and tried to just observe it rather than fix it. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was a call to action.  Suddenly I noticed this feeling as more of a protection for my heart rather than an enemy to my heart. After my meditation, I still felt this same energy in my chest but with the added feeling of gratitude for what I was feeling. Through my meditation, my observation, I was able to see this feeling for what it was instead of trying to avoid it and worry about the monster I felt was breathing down my neck.

 

I can assure you that I’ll be using these techniques repeatedly.  Maybe you can use some of these techniques if you find yourself freaking out about anything. Try to do some breathing techniques, go to a yoga class, or try to meditate. I realize, too that the only thing yoga class does not incorporate is the Ben and Jerry’s therapy. Maybe after class you could go and get some ice cream.

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Tuscany and France , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program