Deepening Your Practice Archives
A collection of past articles
8 Limbs of Yoga
- coming soon
8 Limbs of Yoga
In a culture of much thinking and doing, we don’t often consider relaxing the brain as an important aspect to creating overall health and
well-being. The practice of becoming more aware of and working with our breath—pranayama is a wonderful tool to calm and settle the ever-active
mind. In fact, calming an agitated or overly active mind is one of pranayama’s hallmarks. Working consciously with the breath allows the energy
(prana) within the breath to reach, expand and relax all areas of the body, including our busy brains. An added bonus to using the breath to relax
and settle the mind is that when you do need to kick into thinking and doing mode, you may be surprised to find your mind more clear and focused.
Putting Pranayama into Practice:
Try this simple, yet powerful breathing technique to settle the mind in stillness. Sit on the floor, using a cushion if needed, or in a chair with the spine long, shoulders heads back and collarbones broad. Allow the tailbone to descend gently downward. Take a moment to settle and just observe the breath. Soften and open to something greater.
When you are ready, raise your right arm and close off your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through the left nostril and exhale back out through the left nostril. Repeat 12 times. When you are finished, release your right hand back to your lap and raise your left arm and close off the left nostril with your thumb. Inhale through the right nostril and exhale back out through the right nostril. Repeat 12 times. When you are finished, drop the technique and breathe normally for several seconds. Notice how you feel.
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When I first started a meditation practice in the early 1970s, I was fortunate to have a wise teacher who taught with analogies. Although I have read and studied extensively about meditation since that time, I find myself continuing with the very simple practice she taught us.
Putting Meditation into Practice:
Take a comfotable seat, either in a chair or on the floor, just for a few minutes in the beginning. When a thought arises, using the analogy of the camera, click a photo of the thought and let it go. When another thought arises, do it again. Thoughts will keep arising, and the practice is to acknowledge them without judgement and let them go. Eventually, the thoughts arise with less frequency and the mind becomes quieter.
The profoundness on this very simple process lies in the accumulation of the practice. Even after a short time, there is a noticeable change in one's life and the practice appears as a tool for responding to everyday situations in a more mindful way.
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The Yoga Sutras are a manual for the study and practice of yoga. Standing the test of time, these teachings, or threads, have been passed down for hundreds of years and include practical advice on how we can learn to master our minds, to achieve physical, mental, and emotional harmony in our lives. As Swami Satchidananda puts it, “If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.”
Putting the Yoga Sutras Into Practice
The world around us is based on our thoughts and mental attitude. There is a Sanskrit saying, “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.” “As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” On the physical level, the practice of Yoga teaches us how to open up the lines of energy within ourselves, how to work with our breath, and from there we learn how to quiet our minds. From that still point we are able to access what is rather than some thought distorted by outside illusion. Things outside neither bind nor liberate us; only our attitude toward them does that. So take the time to pause, go inside and be guided from within.
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Anusara Yoga is a relatively new style of hatha yoga, recently celebrating its tenth anniversary. Anusara (a-nu-sar-a), means “flowing with Grace”,” going with the flow”,” following your heart.” Within its very name, this method of hatha yoga, simply and profoundly sets our intention for our yoga practice. It is often said that yoga is both an art and a science. Anusara Yoga beautifully and skillfully combines the art of yoga with heart-oriented and inspirational teachings and the scientific principles of biomechanics.
An elegant, concise set of alignment principles called the “Universal Principles of Alignment” is applied to each asana in the Anusara Yoga method. A central idea within these principles is the three A’s which are the foundation of Anusara Yoga and distinguish yoga from mere exercise or stretching:
Attitude—the power of the heart as the force behind every action or expression in an asana (posture), the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature and the celebration of life.
Alignment—the mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and connected.
Action—the natural flow of energy in the body, which provides both stability and joyful freedom.
In each pose, Action is composed of two main complementary forces that provide each pose with balanced action. Muscular Energy is the force within the body that contracts inwardly toward the center while Organic Energy expands outwardly from the core.
Other alignment principles include Loops and Spirals are secondary which help to refine the alignment of the body in each pose.
Putting Anusara Into Practice
Listen carefully to what is being said in class. Ask your teacher about any language or concepts you do not understand. As you practice more, you may begin “feel” some of these concepts in your body. By becoming more aware of the broader philosophical and more technical aspects of Anusara Yoga, you can deepen your understanding of both your practice and your connection to yourself and others.
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In many cultures and countries around the world, massage is considered a valued component to enhance and maintain one's health and well-being. Not only does massage bring relaxation and healing to our nervous system, it's basic premise is to encourage blood flow and oxygen to all tissue in the body, bringing healing to all body systems. Massage is very beneficial in alleviating and removing chronic pain. Headaches, neck, shoulder, low back, hip, knee, carpal tunnel and many other areas of chronic pain and discomfort can be reduced and removed through massage.
Putting Massage Into Practice
Putting Massage Into Practice: If you suffer with frequent sinus or tension headaches there are points at the base of the skull and in the upper trapezius muscle (muscle between shoulder and neck) that will reduce and remove your discomfort. Next time you feel a headache coming on and are looking for relief, gently massage your head, neck and shoulders or try pinching the webbing between the thumb and index finger. The essential oil of peppermint is also very effective in relieving headaches when massaged gently into the temple by the hairline. You can find peppermint oil at Desert Song. We carry Young Living Essential Oils in our Yotique, the purist oils that are available in the United States. If your pain is chronic, call and schedule an appointment and experience the healing benefits of a therapeutic, pain-relieving massage.
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By Mary Beth Markus
Owner of Dessert Song Yoga and Massage Center
The theme this month is heart. It has been an incredible heart opening week at Desert Song with the country's historical inauguration and our celebration of Yoga during Yoga Day 2009.
It was inspiring to observe and feel the emotion of our citizens coming together in a spirit of hope and new direction. Furthermore, this carried out at Desert Song with a gathering of over 40 people last Saturday, practicing yoga together with a financial offering to support the homeless in our city . We are living in unprecedented times, and if there is anything about owning a business that allows my soul to sing it is that Desert Song is an organization that has heart. It is one built on assisting individuals to find a path back to radiant health, (inside and out), while bringing the community together to grow and share the qualities of the heart (such as kindness, compassion, love, patience, support, peace, understanding), while we practice Yoga.
I have an enormous respect for my staff, family and friends of the yoga and massage community who daily offer support to create such a wonderful environment in which to work and live. There have been so many times that the energy of the community has made a significant difference in my life and others.
I continue to hold the vision that more companies and communities will be supported in this way. I am confident that Yoga, which is such a unifying practice, will help to move us through these difficult times in conscious and loving ways. My heartfelt intention to you is to continue to offer a healing center where you can reconnect, refresh and restore your spirit and keep the faith, hope and heart alive.
When we live from our hearts, magic happens and miracles become the norm. May this be your experience throughout this year.
With love and gratitude,
By Mary Beth Markus
Owner of Dessert Song Yoga and Massage Center
This month’s theme is balance. It is an unending dance we experience to find balance and harmony in our lives. Once we feel we have achieved it, balance eludes us again.
I have come to appreciate the environment of the studio and the individuals that come into Desert Song because as a whole, they tend to be searching for a more conscious way to live.
As we practice together, a feeling of centeredness returns to the room and it becomes evident on students’ faces that they have found a place of peace within themselves. Our breathing and movements become steady and rhythmic, we connect to our inner nature and then seem to balance with others around us in the room.
By moving inside ourselves before going outside ourselves, we come to understand the sweet balanced essence of our true nature and can then live from that part of ourselves. Practicing yoga or tai chi becomes a touchstone that acts as a lever to support a more balanced harmonious life. Yoga and tai chi are two of the most powerful gifts given to us to support a balanced well-being.
The Yoga of Integrity.
By Meg G. Byerlein
Certified Anusara® Yoga Instructor
When first asked to write about this subject, I thought “of course… great… that would be an honor.” This topic is paramount to the living practices of yoga. Then, I began my research, my contemplations, my drafts and came to the poignant realization that any dialogue or discussion on integrity would be exceedingly vast.
Integrity is a central theme in all religious philosophies, in politics (rather surprisingly) and government, in branches of the armed services, and in our educational and healthcare systems. Whether or not we’ve been consciously aware of it, the presence of integrity or the lack thereof, touches many aspects of our lives and our heritage. If we accept this premise, we could choose to move from a general discussion about integrity to personalizing our knowledge and understanding of the matter. Then, we could each allow the principles of integrity to become a true guiding presence in our lives moment to moment. Some reflections for personal exploration might include...
What is our own unique relationship with the term integrity and with the meanings and concepts which surrounds it?
How does integrity touch us, affect us as individuals?
Why do we choose (or not) to live with integrity?
Who ultimately benefits if we make the choice to live from this perspective?
Taking the time and energy to answer these questions can offer us a number of valuable personal insights and could also serve to expand our self awareness. In addition, the practice and process of self inquiry deepens and clarifies our relationship with the variety of groups we each participate in, including our yoga community.
When it comes to an exploration of esoteric concepts like integrity, I often find that there are more questions than answers. Yet, the process of questioning sustains our curiosity and our curiosity evolves our yoga. As yogis, what we ultimately seek is to create a living experience of our practices.
In essence, yoga is about relationship and integrity is fundamental to our yoga. Viewed this way it becomes clear that integrity is about both, being and doing. In other words, integrity is a way to ‘be’: in the world, with each other and with ourselves. It is also the way we can choose to ‘do’: our practices, our communication, our housework.
Integrity is present within the very fabric of our existence and can be intricately woven into every single aspect of our lives. As a quality or state of being, integrity is fully alive; it is not a fixed stance; and it is certainly not embedded in multiple rules and regulations.
There is a wonderful correlation between the definition of yoga as “union” and definitions of integrity as “completeness, unified.” Both concepts invite wholeness (non-separateness) and a recognition of and appreciation for unity (a bringing together of the parts and an honoring of diversity). Our practices can be consciously deepened and expanded as we learn to incorporate a genuine awareness of unity and learn to physically embody an understanding of our wholeness.
In yoga and in life, our inner asana (or postures) are as significant as our outer ones. Often the inner poses we’ve assumed in the form of attitudes and beliefs are the more challenging ones to adjust or realign. With this recognition, our truest work is identified. How does what happens on our mats inform us in terms of integrity regarding: ourselves, the challenges we encounter, our personal strengths, and our approach to life and practice?
Several years ago I was shopping with a new friend. We were having a great time together, trying things on, visiting, laughing - what I perceived was a sense of true shared experience. Eventually, I made a purchase, excited with the prospect of wearing something new. As we left that store, and walked up the street together, my companion rolled up her sleeve to proudly reveal a shoplifted shirt under the one she was wearing. Initially, I was shocked and temporarily speechless. This situation was completely unanticipated. In recounting it now, I thoroughly appreciate the simple and timeless wisdom of the anonymous quotation “Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.”
As a virtue of the heart, integrity would invite us to:
Be honest and truthful.
Be personally responsible.
Be an expression of wholeness.
May we wisely and skillfully choose to utilize all that presents in our lives to enhance the integrity of who we are, what we do, and how we live.
by Evon Hart, Certified Yoga Instructor
Nurturing is the May theme at Desert Song. This theme will be uniquely woven by each instructor into the yoga classes you experience at our center. It is greatly beneficial to reflect on these various themes for an entire month. When we immerse ourselves into one intention at a time, it can be a welcome change from our fast-paced, short-attention-span culture. Allowing ourselves to slow down, reflect and fully experience a theme creates more possibility for awareness and for shifts in perspective.
It is an honor to be invited to write my thoughts on this theme of nurturing. As a relatively new mother, I thought it would be an easy enough assignment. However, upon further study of this theme, I have discovered that nurturing is absolutely not exclusive to the woman's experience, though it does have a strong feminine connotation. When defining nurturing, we explore the principles of growth, development, fostering and potential. Reflecting on those qualities, it becomes clear that the art of nurturing is equally shared by men and women alike.
Nurturing is something to learn. In some areas of our lives, we may find it easy or instinctual to nurture. In other areas, perhaps we need more practice. Nurturing is the ability to care for and foster growth in yourself and others. It is the skill of furthering the development of self, a relationship, a business, a garden, a child, a community. Accepting this definition, we recognize the need for patience, commitment, wisdom, acceptance, steadfastness, perspective and foresight in this sacred nurturing process. Observe the most obvious example, the nurturing of a child, and we can see how these heart qualities are essential and that instant gratification plays no role in the process.
It is often helpful for me to examine opposites when I try to fully understand a principle or virtue. Neglect seems to sit at the opposite end of the spectrum from nurture. When we avoid, abandon, disconnect from, or stop paying attention to something, we see the results of that neglect. A business may begin to fail, a child might show signs of low self-esteem, a garden wilts and dies. In contrast, when we are attentive, responsive, resourceful, empathetic, intentional, connected and loving... the fruits of our efforts become quite evident. A relationship bond might deepen, our bodies may begin to feel stronger and more vibrant, and we could feel a profound shift on our spiritual path.
When we commit to fully nurture something... anything... we recognize it is an ongoing process that does not end. We never stop nurturing our children, the form just changes. Yoga is a beautiful practice that teaches, at its very core principles, the benefits of process, of slow shifts and steady commitments. Meditation and pranayama give us the chance to quiet our lives and our minds for just a few moments, so that we may connect inwardly and with our own divinity. In that sacred space, nurturing is happening at the most profound level. Physiologically we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends messages to our organs and tissues to relax, restore. Emotionally and mentally we begin to experience clarity. Spiritually we remember our interconnectedness. This lays the groundwork for the nurturing process to take root. Our asana (poses) practice offers us various ways to self-nurture. As we transition into each pose, we set our foundation consciously, knowing this time and care will help us create stability from which to express the freedom of our poses, of our lives. As the pose unfolds from the ground up, we begin to notice sensations in our bodies. By listening and responding appropriately to those sensations we are participating in the act of nurturing.
Allow yourself to explore your own relationship with the qualities that define nurturing: patience, deliberate action, conscious choices, thoughtfulness, presence, and empathy. This inquisitiveness and self-study is the bedrock of a yoga practice. When trying to cultivate more nurturing qualities, looking inwardly and answering honestly sets us on a path of growth and movement, of reaching for our full and boundless potential.
Desert Song provides opportunities to nurture in many forms, on many levels. Sign up for a Partners’ Yoga workshop to nurture a relationship; attend your first Restorative Yoga class to move into a deep space of personal rejuvenation; practice Ahimsa (nonviolence) when attending an Intermediate or Advanced class; experience therapeutic nurturing with a massage treatment, nutritional consultation or private yoga session. For those seeking a rich family experience, participate in Parent/Young child yoga, Prenatal or Mommy & Me classes. Desert Song provides an environment in which to learn how to integrate these themes into our daily lives through our many offerings.
These times we are experiencing in our country and in our world call for a different way of being. We all have such bright fires within us through which anything is possible. Applying the virtue of nurture, we can rebuild and heal ourselves, our children, our communities and the world in which we live. It is an honor to be on this path with you and a privilege to be a member of this community.
By Mary Beth Markus
Owner of Dessert Song Yoga and Massage Center
Our theme this month at Desert Song is ENERGY, which is one of my favorite topics. I have been on a journey, so to speak, in understanding all the aspects of energy for more than twenty years. I am fascinated by it’s essence, experience, effects and how we use it in our daily lives. Let’s face it, EVERYTHING IS ENERGY: from the subtlest forms such as thought and feelings to the more gross levels of our physical body and worldly foundations around us.
Prior to moving to Arizona, I lived on the East coast and had a mirage of health considerations. I was not the health nut I am today, and had a rather intense younger life, which resulted in ulcers and a nodule on my thyroid gland by the age of 17. I took medicine for my ulcers, had my thyroid nodule removed surgically and put no effort into inquiring why I had developed these health problems in the first place. It was not in my conscience yet that my symptoms reflected stuck energy that eventually manifested into my physical body. I became more interested in the topic of ENERGY when I began to practice yoga in college. Yoga was my first holistic look at my life. I moved from a very unhealthy, intense person to someone who for the first time became healthy and happy. I would enter yoga class tired, upset by someone or something that happened before I arrived and be transformed during class to a relaxed, energized and motivated yogini. It was so interesting and perplexing how a 90 minute class could unravel my body on a physical level and affect me in a mental and emotional way simultaneously.
My interest increased when I decided to become a yoga instructor and subsequently learned about the Indian science of Ayurveda, which delves more deeply into the energies of the body, most specifically the charkas (energy zones), nadis (meridians), koshas (energy fields) and prana (life force or energy) itself. It was the early eighties at the time, so there were few people who practiced yoga or talked about “energy”. I read every book I could find at the library and the bookstores. I was on a mission to explore the subtle effects of energy through bodywork
I eventually became a licensed massage therapist and worked on hundreds of people before I received my certification. During that period of time, as I was giving deep therapeutic massages, I witnessed two main things. First, by the end of the treatment, my client felt healed, relaxed and energized. Secondly, I was in pain and sometimes nauseous. My hands looked and felt like they were getting arthritis. This was devastating to me because I loved doing the work. I finally got the courage to speak to one of my mentors and she agreed to watch me massage and give me feedback. What she discovered was that I was not releasing the energy from my body as I massaged it out of my clients body. She shared a video with me that was photographed through a kirlian camera. A kirlian camera allows one to see the energy field or aura around the subject as they move. The video filmed a woman giving a massage and it showed how the woman was moving the energy off the body in long sweeps at the end of the extremities of the person’s body. Long spirals of light current flowed into the atmosphere off the person’s limbs. I was awestruck. The very next massage I gave I used these final sweeping motions off the client’s body, and to my delight I had no pain or discomfort after the massage. Not only was I not tired but I felt more energized after the massage than before I began.
At that point I proceeded to take workshops and classes in Therapeutic Touch, Jin Shin, Polarity Balancing, Chakra balancing and many yoga retreats and workshops that focused on energy healing and cultivation. This science of energy awareness changed my life.
Today my interests along with the asana practice and bodywork have centered on working with the chakras. Chakra means wheel or vortex. There are seven main chakras in the body. Chakras are spiraling vortexes of energy located in the core of our body. Five are located on the spine and the other two are found in the skull. There are said to be thousands of nadis (meridians), which move through our body, some interacting with certain chakras and correlating within the physical body, most specifically aligned with our nerves and nervous system. The chakras act as conductors filtering energy from the universe around us to the inner realm of our beings.
Chakra work can give us clues to understanding how we process life. The base chakra is called the Muladhara, meaning root or support”. The element associated with the root chakra is the earth. This chakra represents our physical world or earth. To be balanced here would mean you feel a strong foundation in your life, within your home, finances, family, job, etc. Muladhara chakra regulates your feet, legs and base of your pelvis. Nowadays with the recession looming over us daily, many people are experiencing root chakra imbalances, such as broken ankles, knee problems, sciatic nerve problems, constipation, etc. It is astonishing how prevalent root chakra ailments have become in the past four months. Seated postures, standing warriors and lunges, squats, postures that bring the front body on to the floor, such a cobra (bhujangasana) or locust (salambasana) are helpful postures to practice to promote balance in Muladhara. Using visualizations to sense rooting into the earth is also useful.
The second chakra, Svadhisthana, meaning “sweet abode” is locate below the navel between the pelvis bones and is associated with the element of water. This chakra is associated with the sexual and reproductive organs. When balanced in this chakra, one opens to passion, the ability to thrive in life, sensuality and creativity. Governed by the element of water, it influences how we experience our emotions and our physical health and well-being. Some imbalances of the second chakra would reflect in symptoms of infertility, impotence, urinary tract infections, menstrual problems, etc. Some postures that are useful would be hip openers, twists, squats and abdominal exercises, including Kapalabhati breathing, relaxing in water and being more fluid and adaptable in life. In the last two years, several women have approached me concerning menstrual problems and infertility. With focused exercises, such as restoratives, hip openers and deep forward bends, breathing techniques and some specific daily rituals like self massage, especially the belly, Epsom salt baths, dancing and playing to embrace the second chakra, successful outcomes have been realized.
The third chakra is Manipura, meaning “lustrous jewel”. The element of this chakra is fire and reflects the will or personal power of an individual. It defines our sense of self. Some attributes are self-confidence, strong self worth and personal power. This chakra governs the digestive organs such as stomach, liver, spleen, kidney, small intestines, etc. When out of balance, some symptoms that could arise include ulcers, acid reflux, gall bladder or liver problems and inflammations. As with balancing any chakra, postures would be chosen depending on whether the chakra needed calming or more stimulating effects. If inflammation were a factor, cooling postures and breathing techniques would be performed to balance the region. Awhile back, I had a very stressful personal situation arise which I had no control over, diminishing my personal willpower (third chakra) and I started experiencing acid reflux. The pain was so intense I thought I might be having a heart attack, since I had never experienced this before. I intuitively began to do cooling, controlled breaths and focused on softening my belly. Slowly I regained a sense of control and in a short period of time it relaxed the acid reflux. Sometime later, after I felt the ease return to my body, I performed postures such as warriors and abdominal strengtheners to realign and strengthen my Manipura chakra. I meditated on my strength, resilience and ability to cope. The acid reflux has not returned, even though the situation has not changed. These are the chakras that have been most affected by our recession. People are losing their homes, their financial savings, their jobs and their health. Many of the participants shared similar symptoms of imbalance in the first three chakras. We must realize that everything is energy, which begins with more subtle aspects, such as thoughts and emotions, and if focused on for an extended period of time, this subtle energy will manifest in a physical way, exhibiting symptoms in the body. As energy moves from the base chakras up the spinal meridian called the “Sushumna”, it becomes lighter and transforms through the heart chakra or Anahata, meaning, “unstruck”
The element of the fourth chakra is air, which is a more expansive vibration of energy than the base chakras. The heart chakra regulates our heart, lungs and thymus gland. It is at the heart chakra that we transition into the three upper spiritual chakras. The heart chakra energy softens, unifies, transcends the ego and allows a sense of love and connection to develop within us and with one another. It is the heart chakra that allows us to heal, forgive and spiritualize our experience of life. This is the chakra that moves us to an elevated way of thinking and living our lives. When we follow our hearts, we are guided to what is natural and true for us and we respect and honor another’s truth. Someone who is balanced in the heart chakra lives in a state of joy and acceptance. Some imbalances in the heart chakra may manifest in various heart conditions and congestive lung problems. It is often said, “he died of a broken heart.” Working with your practices to move energy around the heart and chest can be extremely helpful and healing. Our sorrow, low confidence, mistrust and the like often settle in the heart and cause havoc. Choosing postures and breathing techniques that gently open the heart and lungs can be beneficial in shifting the emotions through or “clearing the air.” The heart chakra energy is love, the most powerful energy there is. When we can truly love from that place within ourselves, we transform not only ourselves, but also make the world a little brighter.
There are three chakras above the heart chakra: Vishuddha (throat, sound), Ajna (brows, thought) and Sahasrara (crown, spiritual connection). These three chakras are said to be the spiritual chakras. As we heal, transform and elevate to these chakras, we open to the oneness of life based on the belief that there is no separation between us. The source of all existence connects each of us in an intimate way and we experience Samadhi (bliss) within ourselves and with all of life. The chakra work opens a window to our psyche, giving us valuable information on how to proceed on our path to our wholeness and spiritual renewal. Our yoga, tai chi, meditation and massage practices give us the ability to observe and be sensitive to the subtle energy in and around us, then tools to balance and rejuvenate ourselves through these practices. See our offerings this month in workshops, classes and bodywork that will encourage a summer that will balance, energize and restore your energy.
By Mary Beth Markus
Owner of Dessert Song Yoga and Massage Center
Our theme for December is Joy. This may feel elusive with all that is happening in our world lately.
Now more than ever we need to use our spiritual practices to connect us with that part of ourselves that understands that joy resides within us. Cultivating joy is an inside job. It arises from a healthy state of well being. Practicing yoga, tai chi, meditation or any internal exercise moves us into the touchstone of our soul where we can move positively through all difficult situations. Our practices develop an elevated state of consciousness allowing us the ability to see the good in any situation we are faced with. There is always a silver lining if you are open to see it.
Make space in your schedule daily to connect with your spiritual side. Live from that side of yourself.
Focus your thoughts during this time on appreciating yourself, someone or something in your day.
Express your gratitude to others and enjoy time with those who bring you joy.
Look for the goodness all around you and expect good things to come your way.
Like anything else, cultivating joy will take time and practice but it will be worth the effort. Living from a state of joy will develop into a lifetime of happiness. Joy is as close to you as your own breath. We at Desert Song are so grateful to have such a wonderful community with whom we are able to share our practices and therapies. It is among the greatest joys of our lives. May you and your family have a beautiful and joyful holiday season, and may happiness and health extend throughout the year.
By Mary Beth Markus - Director, E-CYI, LMT
Our theme for the month of September is compassion. You may have noticed the small picture of His Holiness the Dalia Lama on the windowsill in Studio A. It was a gift to me from one of my instructors who practices Buddhism. Although I am not a Buddhist, I have come to resonate with some of the simple, yet profound Buddhist philosophies, especially concerning the human qualities of compassion and loving-kindness.
I have been privileged to be in the presence of the Dalai Lama four times and have been sincerely touched by the joyful, wise, compassionate and loving nature of this great sage. He has touched many beings of all religions and creeds with his teachings, not so much with the foundations of Buddhism, but rather through the concepts of compassion and love. It is my vision, for myself and for our center, to hold to these qualities as we share our teachings and services with the public. Recently, in one of his lectures, the Dalai Lama said: "Let us cultivate love and compassion both of which give true meaning to life. This is the simple religion I preach, more so than Buddhism itself. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness," He goes on to say that compassion is one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives.
How does one cultivate compassion? As practitioners of yoga, we come to realize that compassion and love need to begin with ourselves and then stream outwardly to encompass all beings. Besides the fact that practicing compassion makes you and those around you happier, scientific studies show that people who practice it produce 100 percent more DHEA, a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol, the stress hormone.
Here are some suggestions from my personal practices to cultivate compassion and happiness. Even if I have just five to ten minutes for this practice, it is well worth it.
Morning ritual - Every morning I light a candle on my home altar. I then consciously move into my heart and send love and compassion to everyone who has touched my life, including relationships that have not been as positive as I would have liked. (This part has been a process of forgiveness through compassion.) This ritual has helped me to live more in a state of love and appreciation for all those in my life, both casually and intimately.
Meditations with compassion - I have used these various intentions and focuses throughout the years to broaden my connection with all beings.
Appreciation meditation - this is my favorite. As I look for aspects in my life to appreciate, I feel so full that I have more love and compassion to share.
Forgiveness meditation - One way I find compassion towards those that have mistreated me is to imagine the suffering that that person must have been through in his or her life to act towards me in that way.
Act of Kindness meditation - I often reflect on the simple acts of kindness that have been bestowed on me and consciously open myself to opportunities to share that kindness with others throughout my day.
Setting intentions before a yoga practice - Whether it is before my personal practice or with a group, I find that by setting an intention very valuable. It moves me into the internal temple of my heart, allowing a softening of the experience, free from judgment, goals, competition and comparison. It can be quite freeing.
Evening Meditation - During my nightly ritual, I reflect on the experiences of the day with appreciation, as well as with foresight in how I can be more open and loving to all those who have crossed my path. Moving into sleep in appreciation allows for a more restful, peaceful slumber.
As we move into this month's focus of compassion, let us all be the lights of compassion that will channel out into our community, our city, state and eventually our planet. It is always a joy and a blessing to be a part of this community.
Peace and blessings to you always,
Gratitude is one of my favorite topics. I have come to discover that I am the happiest when I am grateful for whatever it is I am experiencing. Many years ago my husband and I began a daily ritual together of praying, and more importantly, giving thanks for all of our daily blessings. We used to do this separately but realized that when we appreciated our blessings and expressed our gratitude to one another, it opened an extraordinary pathway to our hearts. We became intimately present to one another in an expanded way. Even when we had difficult days, the simple ritual of expressing our gratitude for just one small thing was enough to shift our attitudes and give us a sense of appreciation for the day, the moment and our togetherness.
These are some of the experiences and wisdom that living in gratitude has brought to our lives.
• Gratitude transforms typical days into thanksgivings and ordinary opportunities into
• Gratitude will nurture our souls and open our hearts and minds to more abundance in all
areas of our life.
• Gratitude is a powerful energizer.
• Gratitude takes the negative aspects in our lives and allows us to see them as valuable lessons.
• There is contentment in our lives when we live in a state of gratitude.
• Gratitude breaks down the barriers of resistance formed by judgments, attitudes and negative
belief systems and allows for a broader experience of life.
• When we chose to focus on being grateful for the abundance we have instead of what we are
missing, more of what we want miraculously comes to us.
• Happiness and joy are by-products of living a life filled with gratitude.
• The more grateful we are the less illness we experience.
• Gratitude encourages us to notice the little things in life, to look for the good even in the
unpleasant, to open our senses to the beauty all around us and as Einstein said “To live your
life as though everything is a miracle.”
The staff of Desert Song Yoga and Massage Center is sincerely grateful for all the members of this community. We appreciate your business, your energy and your compassion towards each other and us. For us, our work is our life’s passion and we are grateful, honored and blessed to share it with you.
Mary Beth, Vince and the Desert Song Staff
Generosity is a quality of spirit. It offers us an expanded experience of living, giving and receiving. May you be generous with the time you take to reflect, relax and renew.
The true gifts of this season are the gifts of the heart, such as love, kindness, time, support, forgiveness, laughter and togetherness. We continue to vision for a better future for all, for each being on this planet. May you come to know the brilliant light that you are, the importance of our interconnection and the peace that rests inside you.
Mary Beth Markus
Imagination: January 2010
Pablo Picasso said, "Everything you can imagine is real".
Imagination opens the door to possibilities, expanded awareness, the undiscovered, the sacred. It heightens our sense of connection with something larger and broader than ourselves. Imagination frees our mind from the knowledge of what is and allows us to dream of what can be. It is because of our ability to imagine that we are able to grow, create, and transform our lives in the ways we hope to live and thrive. Imagination is the first step in self-realization and creating the life we want.
One statement that I have pondered many times over the course of my life is, "We become what we imagine ourselves to be", Kurt Vonnegut. I have experimented with various Tantric techniques of imagination, such as visualization, yoga nidra and meditation. I have used journaling, prayer, vision boards, ritual and other imagination constructs to create what I wanted in my life. In review, all the processes mentioned have had substantial results on how the events and desires have come into fruition, including the evolution of Desert Song Yoga. In amazement, I have observed how my thoughts and imaginations have become manifestations. At the fundamental level of the yoga practices, it suggests that our mind can be developed as a tool to connect us with the Universal Mind or creative power that all of life streams from. As we connect with the Source of all and soften to the inner guidance within ourselves, we discover that things and experiences evolve for our highest good. As we align with the Universal Mind, limitations cease and possibilities abound in the highest purest form. Our life unfolds from a divine state within us.
As we move into 2010, allow your yoga and massage practices to encourage you to find your inner self and from that center, let your imagination grow. Release the limitations that originate in your mind and imagine a broader experience of prosperity in health, relationships, finances and peace in the world. Imagination can change your inner state, and that inner state will reflect in the world around you. As Einstein said, " Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions".
Many Blessings this year and always,
Mary Beth and the Desert Song Staff