Now comes yoga in its essential essence, and now also begins the last stroke that the Yogi deals, which decides his fate. This is the stage of Dharana or concentration of the whole of one’s psychic being (Chitta).
A perennial flow of dharana is called dhyana or meditation. If Dharana is the drop, dhyana is the river. Many concentrations make a meditation. Qualitatively they are non-different, but functionally there is a distinction between them. 
Have you ever been so engrossed in a novel or a television show that you ignore some of your basic instincts? Thoughts like, “I’m thirsty, sweaty, hungry, sleepy, cold” or “I have to pee”, jump into your mind but then flicker out until sometime later you feel your bladder is going to burst. This is concentration. Dharana.
Though we find it easier to pay no mind to these instincts when enveloped in something so exciting, we then believe it is damn near impossible to do so when in a state of meditation.
This past year, I have challenged myself, or rather have been challenged due to the many hot flashes I experience daily. I will be in a Yoga pose or in a meditation and will feel sweat dripping down my face. All my life, I have abhorred sweat. But now I practice through it. In addition, I started taking Hot Yoga as an additional test of my instincts. I have come to love sweat. Ha! I never thought I would ever utter those words.
Practicing Dharana can be by focusing on an object, the breath or a mantra. Sit in a comfortable meditation posture with the spine erect. Commit to stillness. Find your Focus:
Focus on your natural breath, observing its sound, flow in and out of the nostrils, and where it brushes over the skin.
Focus on your third eye center. Observe colors, shapes, and movement.
Focus on an external object, such as a flower, or an image of a deity or great teacher.
Focus on a mantra, such as “I am Love”, repeating it audibly for several minutes, and then internally for several minutes.
Focus on sound, like the ocean, flute, or drumbeat.
This week, start off the process of Dhrana by letting go of multitasking. Fully engulf yourself in your activities, by not planning on the next. Be in the moment, genuinely. Engage your five senses. Experience each event as an event. Experience love, joy, peace, serenity, and stay blissful my friends – E
The third limb of Yoga comprises of the practice of Asana (or poses). Just as Christians, Yogic practitioners also view the body as a temple of the spirit. Therefore, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth as well as our physical growth. Asanas help us to develop discipline habits and the ability to concentrate. The practice of both is necessary for meditation.
Funny story: I have been practicing Yoga for some 8-9 years and it wasn’t until my husband gave me a book on Yoga that I came to realize the Sanskrit meaning of Asana is pose and that each Sanskrit word in regards to pose ends with asana! Ha! That one really did go over my head for years.
Abdominal Asanas such as Boat Pose (Navasana) and Half Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana) help to build core strength and stability, Improving Balance, Strengthening lower back over time, and developing sharper patience—Navasana is definitely one in which most people just want the pose to end. Patience indeed!
In addition, they are said to aid in digestion by raising the digestive fire. The naval center is known as the “third chakra”:
“The third chakra is called Manipura, which means “lustrous gem.” Located around the navel in the area of the solar plexus and up to the breastbone, it is a source of personal power and governs self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation. The Manipura chakra also controls metabolism and digestion.
When you feel self-confident, have a strong sense of purpose, and are self-motivated, your third chakra is open and healthy. If your third chakra is out of balance, you can suffer from low self-esteem, have difficulty making decisions, and may have anger or control issues. The element is fire and the color is yellow, bright like the sun.” 
Standing Poses – Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is good for strengthening thighs, calves, ankles, and spine. It stretches the groins and inner thighs, chest and shoulders and relieves sciatica. Also known to give one an improved sense of balance.
Arm Balancing Asanas such as Crane or Crow Pose (Bakasana)
For building strength in both arm and core muscles, as well as helping sharpen your mental focus or Drishti.
Backbends – Camel Pose (Ustrasana) and Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)
Heart opening asanas increase flexibility and stimulate the nervous system. These poses are highly recommended in the Winter and when one is experiencing a broken heart. Many of us close our hearts as a defense mechanism after heartbreak. The antidote for this would a back bending asana.
Forward Bending Asanas like Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Child’s Pose (Balasana) help you to create length and space in the spine as well as focusing your attention inward.
Inversions – Forearm Balance (Pincha Mayurasana) and Shoulderstand Pose (Salamba Sarvangasana) are two good examples. These poses are a great way to reinvigorate circulation. You will establish self-trust and experience a new perspective (Drishti) of the world around you.
Squatting – Garland Pose (Malasana) is another one of my favorite poses. This pose stretches the ankles, groins, and back torso as well as tones the belly.
Stretching Asanas -(Veerabhadrasana or Virabhadrasana) Used for stretching the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, groins (psoas). Strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back as well as the thighs, calves, and ankles. Improves balance in the body helps increase stamina.Highly beneficial for those with sedentary or deskbound jobs and those with frozen shoulders. Releases stress in the shoulders very effectively in a short span of time.Believed to bring on auspiciousness, courage, grace and peace.
Twisting Asanas – one of the most popular being Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) energizes the spine and stimulates the digestive fire.
Sitting Asanas – such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana) will open your hips and lengthen your spine. Boosts your state of groundedness and inner calm. Intensifies serenity, tranquility, and eradicates anxiety. It also relieves physical and mental exhaustion and tiredness.
Resting – Corpse Pose (Savasana) is probably everyone’s favorite pose! Good for connecting to your breath, stress relief, peace, and self-acceptance. Usually done at the end of each sequence, many people actually struggle with lying down, essentially doing nothing. But this pose is most important for completing and solidifying one’s practice.
With all this goodness, your temple is in pretty good shape! Stay Blissful my friends!
Hello there, my dear friends! For the next 8 Sundays, I will be sharing an 8-part series on the 8 Limbs of Yoga and how they apply to our daily mental, physical and spiritual lives. When one has an open mind, one is able to see the similarities and not the differences in religious and philosophical beliefs, bringing us closer to that Poetic Crossing and the Elysian Life.
Yama, being the first limb, is all about our ethical standards and sense of integrity, keeping focus on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are considered universal practices that relate to what is best known as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”.
There are Five yamas to consider and they are:
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will
– 2 Timothy 2:24-26
One of the biggest sources of violence toward others has to do with our differences in beliefs. Over the span of history, people have felt the need to assault those which whom they have disagreements. Religious wars continue to ensue to this very day. One would wonder how weary God is upon hearing another request for victory.
This is not just between countries. In our very own communities and even within each church. A classic example is this clip from Saved. Though many would consider this extreme, I do not. This movie brought to light some of the reality of growing up as a teenager in the modern day church.
“This is not a weapon!”, exclaims the lead character and she holds up a bible that has just been thrown at her. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” There is no disclaimer or loophole in this writing that says “unless you disagree with their form of worship or politics”.
When my dad was young, he went to live with his aunt in Los Angeles. This was when the Charismatic Movement had just come onto the scene. His aunt was involved in the movement. My father would experience kids throwing rocks at him, yelling “holy roller”! They would arrive home from church to find buckets of feces poured onto their porch. This was done to them, not by your average “non-believer”. These actions against my father and his family were carried out by other “Christians” who did not believe in “The Gifts of the Spirit”. My father refused to go to church ever again and began a 30+ year Heroin habit.
Ahimsa – nonviolence. Let’s try this. Let’s love one another regardless of our differences. Let us stop traumatizing young people who will feel said trauma for the rest of their lives.
I am not sure there is any belief out there that doesn’t teach truthfulness. When we lie, we must continue to lie to cover the first lie. This is not sustainable. To live a simple, drama-free lifestyle, we cannot lie. Lying is just too complicated.
There are lies of commission and lies of omission. I have done both in my life, especially during the years that I was drinking and drugging. I was an executive assistant to the president of an aerospace company, martial arts studio owner, church hospitality leader, and Sunday school teacher who drank and used cocaine regularly. Often, I would show up to church without having had any sleep. This was not sustainable.
Eventually, the truth would come out. Fortunately, this happened right as I was getting clean. After some time of being clean, I came clean to my church. I was embraced with love, understanding, and respect for being “real”. The other gift was watching as others began to open up about their addictions and shortcomings. Universal.
When you become truthful, it sets about a ripple effect of truthfulness in others. Of most importance, we must remain true to ourselves. The 12 Steps of Recovery, working with a sponsor and being part of a solid fellowship has been instrumental in helping me be true to myself and to others.
As with truthfulness, nonstealing is definitely taught across religions and philosophies. I am one who believes that any ill-gotten gain brings ill-gotten spirit into my household. I don’t want to be responsible for that.
Moreover, when I have worked for something, paid for it and brought it into my life, it has so much meaning to me. This might be due to the mindfulness spending I have been practicing lately. If I need it, if it is functional or brings beauty to my life, I will put it on a list. In a week, if I have the means, I will purchase it.
When I don’t have the means, I put it on a someday/maybe list.
Ah yes! Holding back. Self-control. I think as we age it gets easier to practice Continence. With experience and knowledge, we gain enough wisdom to know that whatever circumstance we are in, this too shall pass.
It is with that core understanding that we realize we don’t have to react immediately or emotionally. We don’t have to lash out, lie, steal, use drugs or drink over any situation. We can step back, breathe and turn it over to our higher power
One of my favorite moments in the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, is when Elizabeth Gilbert is praying in her closet. She is all emotional, wanting to get out of her marriage and unhappiness when she says she hears God speak to her for the very first time. God tells her “Go back to bed, Liz”. Yes indeed, all was not going to be resolved at that moment, as a matter of fact, it would end up taking a lot longer than Elizabeth expected. But for Liz, this began a wonderous spiritual journey.
“Thou shalt not covet” – Exodus 20:17, King James Version
The act of coveting will most often bring on poor behavior. From sulking and being joyless, through attacking one’s character, all the way to violence.
In my first marriage, my husband and his ex-wife were constantly complaining each time one would obtain something the other did not have. I was a very young woman and did not totally understand what was going on with all this exclaiming of just how “unfair” it all was.
I actually started to act on this myself. Though I am a workaholic so I just set out to get raises and promotions to acquire what I wanted. But during this time in my life, I really didn’t like the person I had become. Being comfortable in my own skin is the best feeling in the world to me and I know if I am to be covetous, that feeling would leave me immediately.
This covetous spirit was set free in me when my divorce took place. I didn’t have a lot of money but I felt I had everything I needed. Today, I could still fit all that I own in a very small truck.
Living these Yamas is another form of attaining bliss. Stay blissful my friends! – E
Approaching my stay at Konalini Ashram in Hawaii for Yoga Certification training, I have found a wealth of information in a book my husband bought me. “Health & Wellbeing Yoga” by Charmaine Yabsley and David Smith.
One of the most fascinating would be the Six Main Paths of Yoga.
Bhakti is a spiritual path of yoga. Known as a Yoga of personal relationship with God, it is centered on love and devotion.Its purpose is to eliminate the ego and to surrender totally to God. Some of the other more physical aspects of yoga such as Hatha are not included in this practice. In Bhakti, all is a manifestation of the divine. All else including all material things and the ego is meaningless. Bhakti is considered the most direct method to merge with the great universal consciousness.
The practice of Kirtan (singing Sanskrit hymns) is a lovely element of Bhakti Yoga. With the current surge of spiritual seekers, Bhakti, and its included Kirtan is becoming quite popular in the Western world.
This is the most practiced yoga in the western hemisphere. Hatha means “willful” or “forceful”. Ha-meaning “the sun”, Tha-meaning “the moon”.
Hatha is a path that involves creating balance and the unification of opposites. Balancing strength and flexibility in our bodies physically, effort and surrender in our spirit/heart.
This practice continually reminds us to focus on the breath, helping us to remain in the present moment.
Known as the “path of knowledge or discernment”. Connecting the finite self with the infinite cosmic consciousness is the main focus of this path. This is achieved through wisdom and knowledge, by withdrawing the mind and emotions and plugging into the universal spirit developing the ability to differentiate real from unreal. Students must integrate the lessons of the other yogic paths before practicing Jnana Yoga.
The Yoga of action or selfless service (Seva). Students are encouraged to act selflessly, to give everything with nothing expected in return. Karma Yoga teaches students to release any ego. The detachment of oneself and the fruits of their actions, instead offering them to the divine.
The Yoga of chanting. Mantras: words, phrases, or sounds often repeated over and over with growing attention and chanted thoughtfully. They are commonly used in meditations to develop focus, and also carry powerful spiritual messages or even be used in the pursuit of personal transformation. The use of the mantra allows the yoga student to transcend mental activity and emotions to achieve a higher state of consciousness.
Also known as the Great Yoga, Classical Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.Raja Yoga involves the eight-fold path.It is used to calm the fluctuations of the mind and it also encompasses the goals of Hatha.
Raja includes elements of other pathways, such as Mantra and Hatha. This science of the mind is based on achieving awakening and ultimately enlightenment through meditation, stilling the mind and good health. This is a good reason to pursue Hatha Yoga for exploring other deeper more spiritual yoga avenues.
I have discovered many intrigueing elements of Yoga. The more I learn, the more I seek to learn. That is the beauty of Yoga. Stay Blissful my friends! – E