Friday, July 15, 2016

The 5 Niyamas of Yoga

By Kelly Smith, 300 hour Bali yoga teacher training student  

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written nearly 2,000 years ago, the second limb of yoga is the Niyamas. The Niyamas are daily observances that guide us to show  full and gratifying life. These observances, which include purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender, show us how to be fully present to life in each moment. The practice of the Niyamas is like our yoga practice—we show up every day and do our best. 

Saucha, purity, invites us to keep our bodies, minds, and thoughts clean. In yoga we use cleansing not just for the physical body but for our thoughts so that we can cultivate mindfulness. Cleansing removes residue that has built up in our lives. Perhaps you need to cleanse emotional residue by letting go of grudges or past experiences. Or maybe you would benefit from giving up mental residue by living in the moment rather than the past or future. Saucha challenges us to look at all aspects of our life where we might be carrying unnecessary burdens or building up residue and to allow ourselves to be clean and pure. 

Santosha, contentment, challenges us to be happy and content with what we have. We live in a world that is constantly telling us what we don’t have, what we should have and how we will be happier based on material things. Santosha tells us to stop looking to the outside world and instead be content with what we already have in our possession. When you look inward, you see that you already have everything that you need. To practice contentment is to practice gratitude for each and every moment, quality, and experience you have every day. 

Tapas literally means heat but also means self-discipline. The Niyama of Tapas teaches us to slowly burn away our less desirable traits such as laziness, selfishness and ego to make room for growth. When we practice Tapas we are practicing the art of self-discipline by doing things like our daily yoga practice, eating nourishing foods, and practicing compassion. When we do these things we slowly dissipate what we don’t need to better enable us to live our passion and continue our journey of growth. 

Svadhyaya, self-study, teaches us to become an observer of our bodies and minds. When I think of Svadhyaya, I think of those Russian Matryoshka—you know, those nesting dolls that consist of a series of dolls in graduated sizes hidden within one another. When you start to remove the outer layers, eventually you reach the core, which is the original doll. We need to unpack the larger copies of ourselves until we reach our core, which is our divine essence. We practice self-study through our yoga practice and our meditation practice and being mindful throughout the day as we interact with others and ourself. Do not be afraid of what you might find or see when you practice self-study and do not shut out the unpleasant parts of yourself. Just observe them. 

Ishvara Pranidhana, or surrender, is more than the practice of savanasa at the end of yoga class. To surrender is to accept the creative force behind our life, our universal consciousness, at work. Through this Niyama we are taught to meet life with courage and to accept each moment with an open heart. Surrender teaches us that there is purpose in everything and to let go of attachments. We cannot control the moment and when we acknowledge this and  let go of control we can move through life lightly. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The 5 Yamas of Yoga

By Kelly Smith, 300 hour Bali yoga teacher training student  

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Patanjali gave the world the Yoga Sutras. Also known as the eightfold path, the Sutras comprise eight limbs that collectively explain how to create a life of spiritual fulfillment. The first limb constitutes the Yamas, which are essentially a set of ethical standards. The Yamas are less commandments than they are reminders of the fundamental goodness of the human spirit and comprise traits that tend to come naturally to us with a dedicated practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation. The Yamas comprise Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (nonstealing), Bramacharya (nonexcess), and Apariagraha (nonpossesiveness). Though ancient, these principles still help us navigate contemporary life, almost like a moral GPS.

Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is the first Yama. It refers to embracing a peaceful manner with all living beings and forms the foundation of the Yamas as well as our entire yoga practice. As yogis, we tend to gravitate toward peaceful behavior. However, nonviolence doesn't apply exclusively to how we treat others. It also applies to how we treat ourselves. Too often we are our own worst critics, engage in negative self-talk and fail to treat ourselves with the same compassion and understanding we show to other living beings.  Ahimsa challenges us to extend that same love to ourselves.

Satya is truthfulness. This Yama goes beyond not telling lies to being honest in all aspects of life, including our thoughts and actions and not just our words. Satya is a powerful and sometimes scary act. Truth demands integrity, realness, and courage. Without truth, we will never live a real and fulfilling life. But being truly honest can be challenging. Satya asks us to look at why the truth can be so frightening. What is so scary that we decide to lie instead? Remember to not just to be honest with others, but to be honest with yourself. Do not be afraid or feel guilty about your truth. If we can find the courage to live and speak our truth then we can truly grow. Speak your mind but ground your truth in nonviolence. 

Asteya, or nonstealing, asks us to look at where in our lives we might be taking what is not rightfully ours. We can steal in many ways that aren't limited to taking an object that doesn't belong to us. Are we stealing from others by trying to be superior? Are we stealing from the earth by being wasteful? Perhaps we are stealing from ourselves because we aren’t living our lives fully? Asteya challenges us to look at all the ways we detract from our life by failing to lift others up or by selling ourselves short. When we stop these actions, we find fulfillment.

Bramacharya teaches us how to say enough is enough. This Yama is commonly translated as sexual restraint but also means restraint from any sort of unnecessary consumption in a world of excess. Bramacharya encourages us to gently reject the desire for overindulgence and to be satisfied with what we truly require in the moment. In order to achieve this, we need to become quiet, turn our gaze inward, examine our needs and find a place of just enough.  Any unspent energy can then be directed toward spiritual fulfillment. Achieving balance by taking only what we need, nothing more or less, will bring a life of clarity.

Aparigraha, or nonpossessiveness, teaches us how to let go. We live in a world that is rooted in material things. This Yama challenges us to let go of possessions and notions of “yours” and “mine" and travel through this world lightly. Aparigraha extends not only to mental and emotional attachments to objects but to loved ones, habits, and ideas. Feelings of vulnerability can surface when we let go of possessiveness, but this final Yama reminds us to live in the moment and teaches us the art of surrender in all aspects of life. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Off the Mat with Katherine

Get to know Katherine, Zuna Yoga cofounder and instructor

Describe yourself in one word. 

What is your spirit animal?
The hummingbird. It embodies lightness of being, joy of life, speed and resilience. It can also travel great distances and even fly backwards.

What is your astrological sign?

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
I like to play sad songs on the ukulele.

What do you love about Bali? 
The sensory experience: warm, humid air; the scents of incense, frangipani and rain; the vibrant colors; the cacophony of nature and people. I also love how nosy the locals are. You can't go anywhere without someone asking you where you're going, if you ate breakfast, and where you live. I've learned to answer honestly—nothing bad will come of it. 

What's your favorite place to eat in Ubud? 
Kafe for a late lazy breakfast and Taco Casa for my Tex-Mex fix (their veggie burritos are super fresh and, unlike many other local restaurants, they never run out of avocados!)

What are your top three travel tips? 
- Book a window seat so you can lean against the plane with your travel pillow and get some sleep. Don't worry about waking the people in the middle and aisle seat if you need to get up—as a flexible yogi with great proprioception, you can silently step by as they snooze without bumping them. I've got this move down.

- Bring a mini-wellness kit: herbal tea sachets, saline nasal spray, eye drops, Annee de Mamiel Altitude Oil, sanitizing wipes for your armrests and tray table, Yes to Cucumbers facial wipes, an SK-II moisturizing sheet mask, Emergen-C, Jurlique's rosewater facial mist and a blarf (a combo blanket and scarf). Create your own little bubble of hydration and good-smelling well-being. And keep sipping that tea, it's hydrating and comforting.

- When you're not napping, stand up frequently. Keep your lymphatic system active by doing calf raises and do some spinal twists and other stretches to prevent stiffness.

What book are you reading right now? 
Samkhya Darshan, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. I alternate "study" books with "fun" non-yoga books to keep it balanced. My last book was A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a beautifully written and very Dickensian book that takes place in 1975 in India.

Three songs on your iPod right now? 
Adele, Hello, Sad Money x James Carter remix
Sia, Fire Meet Gasoline
Phillip Glass, In the Upper Room

One thing you're really good at: 
Remembering names and faces. Not as good as the Balinese in this arena, but pretty darn good.

One thing you're epically bad at: 
Trilling my R (which leaves the Spanish and Italian languages out of reach—as an avid linguist, this is frustrating).

What do you do for fun? 
For indoor fun: scrabble
For outdoor fun: tennis, snowboarding, biking, hiking–there's no sport I'll turn my nose up at.

What's your biggest pet peeve? 
Bad manners, especially at the dinner table

How did you make your first dollar? 
Babysitting. I was 10 years old and taking care of 5-year-olds while their parents (usually friends of my parents) were out for dinner. Hard to imagine today!

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today? 
Brains, brawn and charm.

What's your favorite thing about being a yoga teacher?  
Supporting students' discovery of their own strength and capabilities.

What's your biggest challenge as a yoga teacher?
Imparting to students the importance of regular practice when they return home after leaving the yoga bubble with us. While we will all have occasional "aha" moments during yoga that feel like instant gratification (and there are many of those moments at our Bali trainings), those breakthroughs are the result of consistent, dedicated practice. There's no such thing as a free lunch. We have to keep working—chop wood carry water—even though it can get boring. 

What are you working on in your own practice? 
Kindness. The older I get, the more important this becomes.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Buy Apple stock

Katherine is based in Bali and is cofacilitating Zuna Yoga's 200 hour and 300 hour yoga teacher trainings. Learn more about our staff here!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spotlight on Samina, Zuna Yogi & Human Rights lawyer

Zuna Yoga catches up with Samina Ullah, 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate (May 2015, Gili Meno), powerhouse lawyer and global citizen from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Job title 
Junior Legal Consultant with the Office of the Lead Co-Lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Current Yoga Teaching Gig
I teach yoga twice a week on average at Nataraj Yoga Studio in Phnom Penh and at the ECCC. Right after my YTT on Gili Meno, I moved to Cambodia for an internship. During my first few days there, I randomly stopped in at a yoga studio as I was getting oriented to the city and asked if they needed teachers. They said yes, and I was teaching a community class on Sunday evenings almost immediately after my arrival. I started Yoga at the Court about a month later with another lawyer and yoga teacher from Australia, since many people were asking for a yoga class after work. Profits from our classes are donated to the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia, an NGO whose aim is to heal the psychological wounds of the Cambodian people caused by the civil war and the genocidal regime between 1975 and 1979, and care for those who suffer from psychosocial and mental health problems. My students at the studio are predominantly part of the expat community living and working in Phnom Penh. At the court I teach mostly legal interns and consultants. 

Describe yourself in one word

What is your spirit animal?
There is a tarot card reader in one of the markets in Phnom Penh who told me my spirit animal is a bat. Having no previous connection to a bat, I did not put much weight in it, but here is the most succinct version if you ever find yourself drawn to bats. "You are highly sensitive to and extremely aware of your surroundings and have a powerful ability to see through illusions. You tend to dive straight to the heart of matters, are extremely social and have strong family ties. You are nurturing, have good communications skills and use your sense of touch as part of communicating. You are very perceptive on a psychic level and are prone to having prophetic dreams. You are also highly adaptable to any situation you find yourself in." 

What do you love about Cambodia?
I love the freedom to drive on the wrong side of the road, ride my bike, work with amazing people from everywhere and always be warm. I've been cold a handful of times here and then I remember how much I do not like it. 

What's your favorite place to eat in Phnom Penh?
Java Cafe. Their vegetarian burger is my comfort food. 

What are your three top travel tips?
Learn about the places you visit. Learn the history, a few phrases and about current affairs, social and political. It will not only enrich your experience but is also a sign of respect to the residents of the country where you are visiting.

Approach travel with a child's mind: be ready to explore, play and have things not go according to plan. Color outside the lines (safely). Have an adventure, put the map away and practice being open to whatever comes your way. 

Be mindful of yourself. It is easy to be swept up in the myriad of new views, smells, tastes, good times and lose track of processing your experiences. Traveling is an excellent teacher when you can take the time to learn from it. 

What book are you reading right now?
Autobiography of a Yogi
Emma's War

One thing you're really good at:
Finding a way when I set my mind to something

One thing you're epically bad at:

What do you do for fun?
Surfing or anything that is in the water

One important thing you learned at your Zuna Yoga Teacher Training:
Space. The breath can create space and that space is infinite. It is easy to let that space become cluttered with a list of things to do, places to go etc. I am learning how to let that space be my sanctuary and space to grow. I also learned that you are what you practice. I grew much more aware of what I repeat on a daily basis in my thoughts and actions.

Highlight of your Gili Meno yoga teacher training:
Turtles, beaches, beautiful people and taking the time to heal

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?

What's your favorite thing about teaching yoga?
Guiding others to experience spaciousness in breath. When someone else "gets it" in your class, there is nothing like it.

What's your biggest challenge as a new yoga teacher?
Managing my energy levels and knowing what is left and right - it's much harder than you think.

How does yoga make you a better lawyer?

I have patience and compassion for my colleagues and for myself. As a lawyer (and human) it is a certainty that you will make a mistake. My practice of yoga helps me to be patient and kind and allow the experience to unfold without judgment.