How do you start your day? How does that affect the quality of your life and interactions? In my early adolescence, my mornings began with a horribly glaring alarm, on which my roommate would hit snooze several times. Groggy, I would scramble to eat, shower and get ready for a busy day at school. Mornings felt like anxiety and rush, as if I was already behind. Gradually in my adult years, I developed a morning routine in which I woke up before the alarm to move my body, enjoy sunshine and fresh air, eat a healthy breakfast made with love and set out for a fulfilling day, already having treated myself to doing a few things I loved. This positive feeling inspired presence and productivity at work. How you start your day routinely can impact your wellbeing and happiness in the long run.
If we are creatures of habit, and habits are building blocks of character, how can we be purposeful with what we choose to do repeatedly to live a life we enjoy, sharing our best selves with the world? How do your actions first thing in the morning reinforce your values, such as physical vitality, mental clarity and spiritual connection? In yoga, the Sanskrit word sadhana refers to daily spiritual practices to maintain mental and spiritual “hygiene,” much like brushing your teeth is to dental health. I believe having a daily ritual of aligning your inner and outer being empowers you to live consciously, rather than on autopilot, and aligned to what’s meaningful to you. Also, when unexpected life challenges occur, such as a worldwide pandemic, your strengthened willpower and sense of health through daily ritual enhance your ability to feel grounded and resilient. Moreover, your devotion to integrity through regular discipline permeates daily interactions and shares a centered presence with those around you.
Here are things to consider when designing your morning ritual:
1. Personally meaningful– Choose meaningful actions that inspire you or reinforce something you value, so as not to simply become another laborious task on your To-Do list or a routine performed mindlessly. That’s why I chose the word ritual, implying that it is sacred to you.
2. Positively impactful- Through consistent practice, evaluate how the experience of your daily ritual affects you immediately after, throughout your day, during your week and long-term, and determine if it needs to be tailored. But first, commit to practicing it regularly for at least seven days, so that you are not just fluctuating between different practices and can notice a true pattern in your experience, like if it’s enhancing a character trait about you that you want to strengthen. Do you feel spiritually uplifted?
3. Make it doable.– Choose a realistic time of day, duration and location with which you can practice regularly and with full presence. I find that first thing in the morning is optimal, when my mind is more of an open slate and my body could use a balancing rejuvenation. Making it a consistent priority may entail waking up a few minutes earlier than before and sleeping earlier the night before.
So what are examples of activities to include in your morning ritual?
These will depend on your interests, goals, values, health needs and spiritual practices. Let me take you through my morning ritual to demonstrate its reasoning and logistics to spur ideas in constructing yours. Being a student and teacher of yoga for many years, my morning ritual largely comprises of yoga and includes Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing science that complements yoga. The following is my current morning ritual, as it has evolved through the years, with time allotments, identified purpose and origin of each action to demonstrate how they were acquired:
12 minutes – Ayurvedic practices, including tongue scraping, face washing with eyes open and oil pulling for oral health, followed by connecting nonverbally with loved ones at home and making the bed
3 minutes – Yogic techniques to promote digestion--Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal energy lock) and nauli (stomach churning)—followed by drinking a tall glass of warmed water with fresh lemon juice and dash of Himalayan salt
5 minutes – Soul movement, that’s moving my body intuitively to a randomly selected song, and a simple Tai chi sequence that welcomes energy flow with gratitude while admiring nature outside the bedroom window
3 minutes – Journal how I feel and how I’d like to feel today
1 minute – Bhastrika pranayama, or bellows breath, to energize the lungs and clear the mind.
20 minutes – Sit in silent meditation.
2 minutes -- Nadi shodhana pranayama, or alternate nostril breath, to balance left and right hemispheres of the brain and relax the nervous system
5 minutes – Focus Wheel writing to cultivate positive creative energy
1 minute – “Ego eradicator” kriya, which includes breath of fire in navasana, or boat pose
25 minutes – Set sequence of core-strengthening movements and yoga asanas, or postures, to activate navel (for willpower strength) and heart (for compassion and authentic connection) energy centers and promote digestion and clear perspective: bridge pose, upward-facing bow, forearm plank with leg lifts, bow pose, downward dog, jump through to seated spinal twists, seated forward fold, headstand and standing forward folds
Having shared the details of my personal morning ritual and qualities to consider when evaluating or developing yours, I hope you feel ready to start your days with intention and inspired action. Whether you set aside five minutes or over an hour, the bottom line is how does your chosen consistent habit affect your wellbeing? How do the conditions, such as time and logistics, allow you to wholeheartedly practice it?
If all beings shared their presence in the world purposefully aligned to their deep sense of self and overall health, I genuinely believe peace and joy would be a potent norm. Let’s continue to nourish ourselves daily, especially spiritually, to optimize the goodness we have to offer our lives and our world. Rooted in conscious ritual, let’s rise together vibrantly.
Watch the recording below of our 30-minute @root2riseyoga Instagram Live interview with Ayurvedic Practitioner Anjali Deva, founder of www.RootedRasa.com. She shares practical tips for understanding your dosha-unique (specific to your body composition and energy) stress response and skillfully using your nutrition, sleep and eating patterns, movement, yoga, meditation and more to optimize your mental, physical emotional and spiritual health during stressful times like the pandemic. Spreading her teacher's message, Anjali elaborates upon the quote: When times get complicated, eat simple. Derive inspiration from Ayurveda, India's ancient healing system that continues to empower one's listening to the body's innate wisdom and harmony with Mother Earth for proactive preventative self-care.
Watch a recording of @root2riseyoga Instagram Live Interview with Jasmine Azouz Levi on 4/12/20. She shares her ideas on time and money saving tips for cooking healthy plant-based meals for your family during the pandemic and onward.
Part 1: 21 min.
Part 2: 11 min.
By Michelle Chua
Art from Instagram @charliemackesy
In globally stressful times, devoting your energy to regularly grounding and uplifting yourself is instrumental to cultivating inner and outer peace and well being. Here are ten ideas you might explore or already practice:
By cultivating our own peace of mind and vibrant wellness through committing to personal practices, no matter the circumstance, we project empowerment and vitality into the world around us. In sharing a similar hardship, we experience our interconnectedness on this planet. This heightened awareness of our oneness, coupled with our understanding of our true nature as infinite spiritual beings, both teachings from yoga philosophy, might offer some solace as we stay at home to care for ourselves and each other, including the most vulnerable. In the words of a spiritual teacher, Shunyamurti, I meditated with in an ashram in Costa Rica:
At a certain moment, one crosses past the fear and doesn’t let it hold one back, and then one realizes the true nature of the Self that one always was, that the river originally was the ocean that simply took a journey of ascent and then descent and then back to the Source.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are the eight-fold path, as described in The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, for practicing yoga physically, mentally and spiritually and living with intention for optimal wellness.
Here’s an explanation of each limb, with a translation from Sanskrit, the ancient language from which yoga was translated.
The first limb, yama, deals with one's ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
The five yamas are:
Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.
The five niyamas are:
Asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation. These physical postures are meant to help train the mind. Asana literally means “a comfortable and steady pose.”
Generally translated as breath control, this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As implied by the literal translation of pranayama, "life force extension," yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself. You can practice pranayama as an isolated technique (i.e., simply sitting and performing a number of breathing exercises), or integrate it into your daily hatha yoga routine. Pranayama are breathing techniques to balance mental states.
These first four stages of Patanjali's ashtanga yoga concentrate on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over the body, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepare us for the second half of this journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.
As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. No easy task! In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. We, of course, have already begun to develop our powers of concentration in the previous three stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses. In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation. Dharana strengthens control over the mind through concentration.
Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. But don't give up. While this may seem a difficult if not impossible task, remember that yoga is a process. Even though we may not attain the "picture perfect" pose, or the ideal state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage of our progress.
Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the "peace that passeth all understanding"; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. On the surface, this may seem to be a rather lofty, "holier than thou" kind of goal. However, if we pause to examine what we really want to get out of life, would not joy, fulfillment, and freedom somehow find their way onto our list of hopes, wishes, and desires? What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: peace. We also might give some thought to the fact that this ultimate stage of yoga—enlightenment—can neither be bought nor possessed. It can only be experienced, the price of which is the continual devotion of the aspirant.
(Derived from Get to Know the Eight Limbs of Yoga, by Marra Carrico in Yoga Journal)
As Thanksgiving 2018 approaches, our Root 2 Rise Yoga community has been asked to contribute to our accumulating potluck of healthy, vegan and delicious recipes to support each other in self-care and ahimsa (yogic virtue meaning non-harm) for our planet and families. As the great Hippocrates stated: Let food be thy medicine and they medicine be thy food.
Please email Root2RiseYoga@gmail.com to add your contribution to the healthy potluck favorites. The only requirements are nutritious, vegan and taste-tested delicious :-) Thank you for sharing in community wellness! Below are our first two finds...
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Preserved Lemon, Dates, Pine Nuts & Tahini
--Recipe by Jill Fergus at feedtheswimmers.com (featured on Blue Zones)
1. Bring a pot of well salted water to boil.
2. Cook cauliflower in it with inner leaves intact until barely fork tender.
3. Remove and pat dry.
4. Brush generously with olive oil and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
5. Choose your favorite toppings, like those listed in the title, to taste preference.
Maple-Miso Brussel Sprouts
Recipe by Cafe Gratitude
Visit here for full ingredients and steps.
Here are the recipes from our recent Ojai Women's Retreat, "HeART-Full," cooking demo, contributed by Paola Cardona:
Sprouted Autumn Lentil Soup
- 1 carrot
- 1 cellery stick
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 small onion (red or white)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 large potato or two small
- 1 cup of mushrooms
- (welcome to add pieces fall squash or pumpkin too)
- 1 cup of sproured lentils (3-4 days sprouting or more if you'd like a longer tail on your lentils....will need less time cooking)
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp black pepper (to your taste)
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (to your taste)
- 2 large bay leads
- herbs (time, marjoram, or oregano)
- also can add 1/4 of turmeric
Sauteed onions & garlic with herbs. Then add veggies. In separate pot with 1 liter of water, bay leads, cook potatoes with lentil (try not to bring to boil to maintain live enzymes in sprouts) let cook in low temperature. Soutee veggies until well marinated also in low heat.
Once potatoes & lentils are cooked add sauteed veggies & let simmer together.
This makes about 8-9 servings
Divine Coconut Pumpkin Pasta
- 2cups pumpkin (or butternut squash, or
other creamy squash in season)
- 1 large sweet potatoes yams
- 2 carrots
- 1 can of coconut cream or milk (or 3/4 cup of soaked cashews or 3 table spoons of hemp seeds)
- 2 tsp of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- few black peppercorns (depending on ur taste for black pepper. Whole pepper will be more flavorfull)
- pink Himalayan or sea salt to your taste, recommend 1/2 tsp.
- simmer to steam pumpkin, yam & carrots until soft. Blend in blender wth spices & coconut milk or soaked nuts (or hemp seeds). Blend until smooth texture & serve over pasta.
These amounts make for about 5-6 people.
I used brown rice pasta, I can also use brown rice noodles.
Check out Trader Joe's for organic brown rice pasta varieties with only 2 ingredients brown rice & water.
Stay tuned for more contributions!
An amazing superpower we humans possess is free will. It’s enabled us to transform the darkest challenges into inspiring miracles, like when poet friend and guest speaker at our retreat, Marshall Jones, chose at the last moment not to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and take his life but instead transformed his words into inspiration to uplift thousands of lives on TEDx and more. When we train ourselves to utilize our free will, we can surpass others’ and our own limiting beliefs and create the so-called impossible.
What are the limiting beliefs that get in the way of using our free will to realize our potential? “I’m too old” influences our choice to not pursue something we love or take a risk that will empower us. “I don’t have time” can lead us to choose to deprive ourselves of what we know inside is more important use of our energy. “They’ll think badly of me” directs our choices to muting our self-expression and undermine others’ capacity to be compassionate.
What are we here for if not to use our free will to elicit our fullest expression of our uniquely talented and gifted selves to help raise the vibration of our planet so that we all thrive together?
So, how’s yoga related to free will?
The Yoga Sutras describe yoga as the calming of the fluctuations of the mind. It also delineates the obstacles to peace and self-realization that cause humans to suffer:
In our asana (physical posture) practice, we train in steadying the fluctuations of the mind by focusing on our breath and the present moment constantly. We seek to study our self and limiting beliefs we all have that blind us of our superpower--free will. We practice discernment from our ego mind in choosing when to modify a pose by honoring what’s honestly good for us. We attempt challenging physical feats to let go of our attachment to fear, familiarity or comfort and practice endurance with our free will. Lastly, we use our free will to view ourselves with loving kindness and compassion as we remember we’re on a journey of learning and not everything comes at once. Sometimes a lesson needs to repeat itself until we fully integrate it into our being. By repeatedly awakening to our superpower, we can align our actions, thoughts, words and everyday being with our highest, and resiliently peaceful, Self.
This past June, I had the honor to actualize my dream of creating a space where diverse individuals could come together to let go of their separate conditionings—as we all have—and simply play and be. The physical location I chose for this is where I learned how to reconnect with my own inner freedom while living there years ago and where a childlike innocence still pervades a culture that deeply values harmony—having no military and living with respect for Mother Earth: Costa Rica. In my eyes, travel is about opening your perspective and cross-cultural sharing of our loves, values and gifts to bridge gaps in our understanding as humans who together inhabit one home—this planet. While this past month completed the fifth consecutive year of our Costa Rica Yoga Retreat, I’m inspired and invigorated like it’s the first.
The itinerary that’s evolved through the years included group gatherings of all sorts: horseback riding to magnificent waterfalls, practicing Hike + Yoga at waterfalls and the beach, zip lining over the rainforest, mingling through silly and more reflective games and activities, sharing meals both home-cooked and restaurant-hopping to connect with locals, walking on safari at the national park and much more. After rural village eco-living in the mountains the first two nights, we landed at our second home for the week in Manuel Antonio beach town, where our traveling tribe unleashed more independence to live like a local choosing activities for their free time, like riding a bus to the local Farmer’s Market, lounging and dancing at the beach with Costa Rican locals, taking a surf lesson, parasailing in pairs, or rafting down the local river. As nature in the tropical jungle showered heavy rains intermittently, we learned to adapt to whatever circumstance arose and literally go with the flow of life, pure life, or as Costa Ricans call it, pura vida. That is the essence of freedom, living in a state of inner calm no matter the situation.
And, as we learned to live together as different personalities under one roof for a week and as global adventurers visiting another culture’s home, we practiced peeling layers from the illusion that we are separate from each other. Sharing the massive heart of Source or Divine Intelligence or Higher Consciousness (or whatever you like to call it), we all celebrated joyfully to witness our tribe members’ marriage proposal at the waterfalls and our group’s escalating boldness while braving one longer and higher zip line after another. Tears blessed the earth as we connected, soul-to-soul, sharing our memories and wishes for each other on our last night in Costa Rica. What’s truly amazing to realize is that the freedom and love we filled our cups with in one week overflows into the next chapter of our daily life journey, whether seeking happiness abroad or sitting in our cars driving to work and choosing happiness within. Every moment we are breathing, we have a choice to free ourselves to live in the present and see the beauty of our interconnectedness, that gifts us the free will and responsibility to live in joy and spread love.
Retreat or not, remember you always have a choice to be free.
(Highlights from the PBS documentary, Happy for No Reason, with brief commentaries by Michelle Chua)
Our common human goal of happiness is a choice we make through daily habits. The following are seven habits of happiness evidenced through research by experts in psychology, spirituality and neuroscience in the PBS documentary, Happy for No Reason. I've added a personal elaboration of each. See what resonates with you.
1. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
Let go of myths that make your happiness contingent on something or someone else, as exemplified by the self-talk , “I’ll be happy when/if…
2. Practice forgiveness.
In forgiveness, you release yourself from the anger, resentment and holding to allow peace of mind.
3. Focus on gratitude.
Genuinely feel appreciation as a state of being. Transcend feeling grateful because you have this or that or because your life situation isn’t “as bad as” the other. Without condition, feel the beauty of your existence.
4. Don’t believe everything you think.
Remember that you are the one who thinks, and thus, are not your thoughts, as much as the ego may want to identify itself as the mind, in all its worries, fears and fluctuating tendencies. When we think about a possible situation, whether it’s joyful or petrifying, our bodies feel it as reality, affecting our heart rate, breath quality and sensations. We can empower ourselves by dis-identifying ourselves with thoughts that do harm, and choose those that are of service to our highest good.
5. Practice meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation enables us to connect with ourselves as witness to the mind and have control over it. Scientific studies of the brain during compassion meditation have shown activation of the insula, the deep center of the brain connected to emotions and attributed to linking body and mind. Through mindfulness, our whole being rests peacefully in the moment, savoring it without anxiety of multi-tasking, worrying about the future or feeling stuck in the past. In this practice, we free ourselves from judgmental thoughts.
6. Live a life inspired by purpose.
Believing in something greater than ourselves that we are an essential part of empowers us to unwrap our unique personal gifts to this world, knowing that our existence is of great value.
7. Cultivate nourishing relationships.
We take on the habits and mindset of those we are frequently near, so choose which environment and levels of vibration you want to affect you. Honoring your values, engage in relationships that support your living in alignment with your truth.
Here on Root 2 Rise Yoga we recently looked at 18 benefits of yoga that can dynamically improve one's health and well-being. In the article we noted that one facet of your health that yoga enhances drastically is the quality of sleep. For this post, we put the limelight on how practicing yoga not only leads to better sleep and rest, but also helps your body recuperate more effectively.
Yoga Can Relieve Insomnia
Ditch the sleeping pills and go for something that's totally safe and organic. Very Well claims yoga can help you reinstate a normal sleep cycle as there are certain poses you can execute that will make you slip into deep sleep faster. For example, the happy baby (a.k.a. Ananda Balasana) is a move that can release tension in your lower back and hips that will make you feel looser for bedtime.
Yoga Can Soothe Your Senses
It can't be stressed enough that breathing is one of yoga's most important aspects. Yoga can help you feel more relaxed as it dispels tension in your muscles as you inhale and exhale while maintaining the poses. John Hopkins Medicine concurs and even provides a tip to maintain focus on your breathing. As you breath, imagine yourself watching a beautiful car pass by as you stand at the side of a highway. Your instincts will tell you to just keep still and watch the car. Apply the same instincts to your breathing.
Yoga Can Clear Your Mind
For many, restful sleep becomes impossible because of too many mental distractions before bedtime. If you want to work some of your issues out to achieve quality sleep, Leesa advises you to get a piece of paper and jot down all your concerns before climbing into bed. Couple this with a yoga move that will help you hit the reset button and squash distractions before you sleep, and your sleeping habits will improve. ZME Science notes that you can opt to do a child's pose just before you go to bed as this will help you relax your mind and put your whole nervous system at ease. Keep the pose between 5 to 10 breaths for the best results.
Yoga Betters Blood Circulation
Doing the corpse pose not only reduces tension throughout your body, but also rejuvenates your mind and encourages better blood flow. This pose makes sleeping easier because it keeps your head and spine at a neutral position. You don't want to feel unwanted pressure on different parts of your body that may impede blood flow to the rest of the body.
Yoga Regulate Your Blood Pressure
Not only does regular yoga practice ward off illnesses like diabetes and obesity, it also can bring down your blood pressure which will make you feel more relaxed for sleep. M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D, of the American Heart Association underlines that sustained yoga workouts can also increase exercise functionality and decrease cholesterol levels.
Yoga Can Help You Get into A Sleep-Better Routine
When you've locked down a regimen that works, more often than not you will stick to it. Performing yoga every night will get your body into a good bedtime routine. When you have a dependable habit, you can almost guarantee that you'll get the much-deserved rest and sleep you need every night.
Yoga Puts You in A Great Mood for Bed
There's no doubt that yoga eradicates feelings of negativity and you couldn't ask for a better demeanor before you go to bed. Yoga can definitely work as a holistic approach to preparing your mind, body, and spirit for quality sleep. In turn, you are able to maximize the full benefits of sleep as your memory strengthens, your muscles heal faster, and you feel more energized for the next day.
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