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A Guide to Ashtanga Yoga

With its translation being “Eight Limbs Yoga,” Ashtanga Yoga’s series of breath synchronized Asanas or postures not only help detoxifying and strengthening one’s body but are also made up of parallel procedures that complement them and can guide us through a path of internal purification for revealing the Universal self. The eight limbs or spiritual practices are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama; Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi and in accordance to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ book Yoga Mala, they can be understood and practiced the following way:

Yama

The first limb is made up of Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha which stand for:

Practicing non-violence towards sentient beings in all word, thought, and deed.

Always telling the truth in all word, thought, and deed.

Not cheating or stealing from others; and not envying others.

Retaining of vital fluid, which makes reference to focusing the mind in Brahman without losing concentration or allowing the mind to wonder; as just the strong minds will be able to realize the Self. This non-wanted wondering includes all kinds of external and sensorial distractions from eating and playing to having sex or working.

Eating pure, untainted food that was acquired through righteousness; while just eating the amount your body needs to maintain itself.

Niyama

The second limb or step is made up of the five sub-steps of Shaucha, Santosha, Tapas, Swadhyaya and Ishwarapranidhana:

Internal purification achieved by viewing every being as a friend and treating all with affection considering everything to be a reflection of God; and external purification achieved by washing the body’s surface with red clay and water.

Feeling content despite the circumstances.

Discipline the body and sense organs to destroy impurities.

The correct recital of Vedic verses and prayers to unite oneself to one’s deity.

Carrying out all actions for God and remaining detached of whatever results these actions may be aiming for.

Asana

This third limb consists of the yoga postures, through which first the body is purified and then the mind’s strength developed. It is important though to take into account the fact that body and mind are inseparably linked to one another, and that the body and sense organs largely depend on the strength of the mind; thus, the method for concentrating the mind is extremely important.

Pranayama

Once you have learned the asanas, you should learn how to bring your breath under control, this will help purify the breath and eliminate diseases of the body.

Pratyahara

Directing our attention internally rather than externally for observing our inner world; the fifth limb of yoga means sensory transcendence.

Dharana

Once we have achieved pratyahara, we seek to stop being distracted by the turbulence of the mind in order to achieve concentration or attention on a single point.

Dhyana

The seventh limb of yoga consists of meditation or contemplation, which could be described as a state of deep and uninterrupted concentration that ultimately leads to a complete condition of awareness, stillness and quietness.

Samadhi

The eighth and final limb can be understood as a state of trance in which the mind has reached a complete stillness that may allow the person to experience ecstasy and a connection to the universal Self.

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Manipura: Bringing Balance to the Third Chakra

In previous articles we have addressed the first two wheels of energy known best by chakras. The root chakra has opened our way for finding safety and calmness within ourselves, whereas the succeeding sacral chakra has allowed us to listen to and express our emotions in a healthy way, whilst developing a nourishing relationship with others as well as with pleasure.

Now the fiery third navel chakra of matter better known as Manipura, which basically stands for “lustrous gem” represents our self-esteem, personal capacity, and warrior spirit. This disk of energy can be found around the navel, including the solar plexus region reaching up to the breastbone. When this one is aligned we feel self-confident, self-motivated, and have a strong sense of purpose. When the navel chakra is blocked or out of balance though, we may feel lost and confused when it comes to making decisions, we may feel powerless or suffer from low self-esteem and/or have problems related to anger control.

Some physical symptoms of an imbalanced third chakra can include constipation, ulcers, pancreatic, liver or colon issues, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, or eating disorders; whereas mental symptoms can involve aggressiveness, controlling or irritable behavior, perfectionism, as well as a fixation on a victimized mentality, or lack of self-esteem.

Five asanas or yoga postures that can aid you with unblocking and re-aligning this Manipura chakra are:

Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutations

Virabhadrasana or Warrior poses I or II

Ardha Navasana or Half Boat pose

Navasana or Full Boat pose

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana or Upward Extended Feet pose

Performing a few rounds of Bhastrika Pranayama or “Breath of Fire” (aka “Bellows Breath”) is also helpful to stimulate your inner energy. For carrying out this breathing exercise simply sit up tall in a relaxed and comfortable quarter lotus position or simply on a chair with your feet touching the ground and your hands gently resting on your laps; using your diaphragm begin exhaling strongly through your nose and inhaling the same way at a rate of one second per cycle. While you are sitting and breathing, remember to keep your entire body as still as possible as your abdomen moves in and out.

Meditation is also extremely useful for bringing a chakra back into balance. So, sit on your own, quiet and motionless while you bring your mind into a relaxed state, join the eternal observer within you, and tap into the wisdom of knowing that real power comes from your inner self only and it is independent of your career, title, bank balance, or any other external thing that you feel is defining you. Fortunately, we all unavoidably have this great power and strength within us independently of anything that has happened to us or of the things with which we tend to identify ourselves.

Other tools that you may want to consider for when working towards aligning the Manipura chakra is its corresponding sound “Ram,” its color yellow or gold; gemstones such as yellow topaz, golden yellow labradorite, and tiger eye stones that you can place on the chakra’s region while lying down, also using essential oils like lavender, mandarin, rosemary, and bergamot while eating whole grains, legumes, bananas, corn, pineapple, chamomile, lemons, and spices like turmeric, ginger, cumin, or cinnamon.

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How to Wear Yoga Clothes All Day

Yoga clothes are amazingly comfortable. They stretch and move easily, they are made of soft fabric that feels good against the skin, and they are designed for exercise so they’re perfect in warm weather. It’s really no wonder that people are wearing their yoga clothes outside of their classes more and more, incorporating them into their everyday wardrobe. There is a lot of debate over whether this trend is good or bad, with passionate arguments on every side, but the comfort of the clothing would seem to be a deciding factor. With that in mind, here are some tips for wearing your yoga clothes outside of classes and still look good.

Carefully Choose Where You Wear Them

This obviously must come first. Do not go into a super formal workplace in your yoga pants, or to a black-tie dinner. Yoga pants may work in a few circumstances outside of exercise class, but there is still a ban on them in certain situations. To determine if they are appropriate, you must know the culture and tone of the place you are going into. And, if in doubt, don’t wear them.

Make Sure Your Clothes are in Good Repair

This is not an excuse to wear your ugly, holey pants or that T-shirt with stains all over it out in public. For this trend to look good, and not a sign that you are too busy to care for yourself, the clothes must be in pristine condition. No exceptions, no matter how busy you are.

Accessorize Appropriately

Sometimes, it can be the additions that bring the yoga clothes from the gym out to the street. Accessorize to be congruent with the sporty, athletic feel of the clothing while at the same time lifting it above the pure function. This could be as simple as a pair of mirrored sun glasses that carry on the sleek feel of the yoga clothes while lending a more casual touch.

Add a Third Piece to the Look

Don’t just walk around in your yoga pants and top, add a third piece to the outfit, such as a jacket or a bold accessory, to give your look instant chic.

Add Layers

Because yoga clothes are usually tight, they are perfect for adding bigger pieces over the top. Whether it is a big jacket or long jumper, layering pieces with more volume over the top can give you a lot of warmth, and make your yoga pants look like a planned part of the outfit rather than a choice made for comfort

Always look your best even in yoga clothes! Shop the above look here.

Choose Neutrals

This is the final tip and it’s an obvious one. Whatever other strategies you are going to use to dress up your yoga clothes outside of the gym, most of them won’t work if your yoga clothes are brightly colored or have a lot of assorted colors in them. If you intend to wear them as part of a more casual look, it’s best to stick to neutral colors so they don’t draw more attention than you want them to.

Fashion trends come and go, and the recent trend for wearing yoga clothes outside of classes will probably be replaced with something new soon. But what will not change is that yoga clothes can be amazingly comfortable to wear. This means that ideas for how to make them appropriate in different situations and incorporating them into everyday wear, will always be welcome.

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How to Embrace Spring With Your Yoga Outfits

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of gray. My house is decorated with shades of gray, beige and the occasional white. My clothes often end up being white, gray, black, or striped, sometimes with some chambray thrown in there for variety. I think this is because I know that these colors will “go with anything” so they always seem like a safe choice! If I buy something bright-colored or with a bold print, how do I know that it will go with everything? When I purchase yoga attire, I follow the same thought process, but since the weather is becoming warmer and sunnier outside, I’m feeling inspired to add in a little color and print to welcome spring!

The first obvious solution to welcome spring is to just add a pop of color to your regular yoga attire. Last year I found a great bright green tank top that is flattering and also just helps me get excited about the new beginnings that spring brings.

You can also try and change things up with some pattern. Florals have been a popular trend this season and what better way to welcome spring, than with some flowers.  I’ve seen some beautiful and elegant, rose-patterned ballet style yoga pants that I’m dying to try.  If bold is more your style than there are some really great tropical floral prints out there too!

I find I get a little more active in the warm spring and summer months; whether that means walking and running more, or doing more vigorous forms of yoga.  Either way, it’s always a good idea to have a little extra support. You can welcome those spring months with a fun-patterned sports bra or simply just a bright-colored one.  I love wearing a neutral top and then being able to see a little bit of a pop of color or print in the back!

I have a hard time buying something just because I think it’s pretty. It has to have some functionality as well. With warmer weather approaching or if you’re taking hot yoga classes, the material and type of yoga attire become increasingly more important. Cotton is more absorbent and gets heavier when you sweat. You want something that will keep sweat away from your body not only because it doesn’t stick to you but also to avoid issues like chafing. The best breathable materials are made of polypropylene, spandex, polyester blends, or wool.  Wool is a better option for cooler weather. Wearing clothing that is breathable and comfortable will help you get excited about yoga and working out this spring.

Spring is one of my favorite seasons because it seems to bring a renewed spirit and excitement to everyone. It’s an opportunity to take advantage of the nice weather, and achieve any fitness goals you may have. Yoga, in general, is just a great exercise that helps you embrace change and new opportunities. Try and welcome the new season with some new clothes that pop in color and are also functional!

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