Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cup Half Full

By Nikita Kirpalani, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training student

Editor's note: Nikita is keeping a journal of her experiences during her 200YTT, read the previous blog post here

It's a week into the yoga teacher training and I am finding it difficult to put into words exactly what it is that we are experiencing. Leading up to the training, I had so many ideas about what it may be like, what my fellow yogis would be like, how my life would change afterwards. So I find it highly appropriate that one of the concepts that's been popping up all week is the idea of "emptying the cup." You would think the challenge to unlearn or disregard the preconceptions that we came here with—about the yoga teacher training, the correct form for asanas, even our take on philosophy and life—would be a big ask for a bunch of passionate yogis. I mean, we all reached this point because of our experiences.

However, as difficult or intimidating as it may be, sometimes it's nice to press the reset button. To take a step back from our "truth" and "reality." To untangle fact from perspective. You and I are simply an amalgamation of our experiences. The way we think and see the world is not ours but rather a patchwork quilt of opinions and perspectives that other people have left behind. Every interaction we have or observation we make is speckled with our experiences, splattered with our values, and subconsciously doused in our beliefs. 

This last week has certainly challenged "reality" for me. The morning silence we observe from the moment we wake through breakfast has altered the way I interact with myself and others. The anatomy lectures and posture labs have forced me to question what I already "knew" about physical asanas. Finally, the emphasis on breathing and meditation as a way to clear the clutter and to create and claim spaciousness has forced me to be open to the unknown. 

I can already feel that cup getting lighter and the spaciousness that fills it—Sukha—inviting possibility. I'd like to see if I can truly empty the cup and reevaluate what I would fill it with. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Meaning of OM

By Jenny Ní Ruiséil, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training student

“For it to have its effect, the sound of AUM is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.28).

“Om,” in the yogic tradition, is chanted at the beginning and end of class or practice. It’s one of those things that’s often assumed as universally understood yet it’s rarely explained properly, if at all, by yoga instructors.

Om is an ancient sound used by various Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduisim, Sikhism, Jainism, to denote the beginning and end of sacred scriptures, texts, and prayers. Many of the world’s religions indicate that creation began with sound, the vibrations of which are said to be contained within om. Each time we chant om, we connect with the eternal vibration of being that has been in existence since the beginning of all things and is the creative source of energy behind all existence.

The Om symbol consists of 3 curves, a semicircle, and a dot. The curves represent mind, body, and soul, and the semicircle at the top is maya, understood as an obstacle to achieving the highest form of enlightenment. Om is sometimes spelled “aum,” a more accurate phonetic spelling which divides the chant into its three individual sounds of a-u-m. "Aum" encompasses all possible combinations of sounds and lies at the root of all potential or pre-existing sounds. In linguistics, all sound is said to be produced between the root of the tongue and the entrance of the lips, the throat sound being “a,” the lip sound being “m,” and “u” representing the rolling forwards of all sounds until they stop at the lips. Like the letters of the alphabet, which in all possible combinations give rise to every word ever spoken, the sounds of a-u-m pass through every formation in the mouth necessary for vocalising language, making it a magnificently meaningful sound.

Om allows us to tap into the existing energy which always surrounds us but which modern distractions and lifestyles have shifted from our immediate awareness. For millennia, various names and personifications have been used by religions to represent a single all-powerful being. This placement of belief in a deity instead of in our immediate environment ignores the connection between the individual and that which surrounds us. We chant om to not only honor the beginning of all things but to appreciate all of creation that still surrounds us. The Upanishads refer to this state of collective consciousness and universal awareness as ishvara. Om is our key to accessing it.

We do not create om simply by chanting it. Instead, om serves as a medium through which we connect to these vibrations. Physically, chanting om creates a pranava or humming sound, as Patanjali describes, which stimulates the body into a meditational state, increases relaxation, and is said to stimulate the body to remove toxins and increase our capacity for self healing. Mentally, speaking om allows us to focus, shifting our attention outwards, away from internal struggles and helping us tune in to that which can provide us harmony in mind, body, and soul.

It’s common to hear the word “shanti” included after a final expression of om. Shanti means “peace” in Sanskrit and is intended as a parting wish for peace and happiness within the universe at large and within everything around us. Shanti is commonly used throughout India to express a light-hearted and peaceful state of being in casual conversation and descriptions of everyday occurrences, while om is reserved for more spiritual practices such as yoga practice or religious ceremony.

Om shanti.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Enter to win the 5 Day Real Food Detox!

We are partnering with author, health coach and Zuna Yoga alum Nikki Sharp for a fantastic Instagram giveaway this week! Show us what keeps you healthy and energized after your yoga practice and enter to win a signed copy of Nikki's 5 Day Real Food Detox, packed with healthy, delicious, inspiring recipes. 

Here's how it works: 
- Head over to Instagram
- Post a photo of your favorite healthy post-yoga snack or meal 
- Tag your photo with #zunafoodies 
- Follow @zunayoga and @nikkisharp on Instagram. 

Enter as many times as you like. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Sunday September 11th!

Friday, September 2, 2016

You are Here. Now.

By Nikita Kirpalani, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training student


This is the very first word on the very first page of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It refers to the now. The present. This exact instant in time.

Growing up, the present always seemed like a foreign and unattainable concept to me. As a dreamer and a thinker, I have always indulged in nostalgia and anticipation, reminiscing on the past and envisioning the future, and in doing so, never fully experiencing the present moment. Yet this very abstract idea of atha is what I have come to value most about my yoga practice.

Over the last six years, my life has been in constant motion. I have lived in three different countries each year, have switched career paths a couple of times, and have hired moving vans more times than I can count. While all this change has been extremely stimulating and exciting, it was definitely something I struggled with in the beginning. My mind was always somewhere else and my tendency to reminisce and dream slowly devolved into a habit of worry and anxiety. I was in a perpetual state of clutter and disorientation.
Although I had been superficially practicing yoga on and off for a few years, I found myself spending an increasing amount of time within the confines of the four corners of my mat. Amidst the noise and chaos, it provided a sense of familiarity and comfort. It proved to be one of the few constants in my life across multiple borders, time zones, and language barriers. With time, I found that on my mat and, eventually, in my daily life, I was more present. Yoga allowed me to let go. To be still. To be here. Now.
When I came across the 200 hour Zuna Yoga Teacher Training, it seemed like the natural progression of my personal journey. To be on a gorgeous island, away from everyone and everything I have ever known, I won’t be able to be anywhere but in the moment. With my start date right around the corner, I am finally allowing myself to indulge in the eager anticipation. And with it, the questions. What will it be like? Am I prepared? Who will I meet? What are their stories? Will I be able to keep up with the course plan? With the other trainees? With myself?
I will just have to wait and see, one moment at a time.
And so begins my practice of yoga. Atha yoga anushasanam.