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Online Protestors Bikram Choudhury Teaching in Canada

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On February 20, Bikram Choudhury—the founder of hot yoga and the defendant in seven civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault, rape, discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination—is scheduled to headline a week-long series of classes in Vancouver, British Columbia. The event is being promoted as “Boss is back!”

But “Boss” of who, exactly?

Not Canadians. As word of Choudhury’s return to Vancouver makes its way throughout the yoga community and beyond, people are taking part in an online uprising. Many of the responses express dismay that Choudhury—who left the United States, failed to pay a jury-mandated judgment of more than $7.4 million, and had a warrant issued for his arrest in 2017—could be allowed to enter the country.

“I have felt a number of times that we have a tendency in yoga circles to let people get away with things and try to avoid conflict for fear of appearing judgmental or mean,” says Colin Hall, the owner of Bodhi Tree Yoga in Regina, Saskatchewan. Hall, who has taught yoga for more than 20 years, shared an open letter to the organizers of the event calling for it to be shut down.

“I will not stay silent,” said Hall. “I just won’t.” That sentiment has been voiced by others in recent days. The following is a look at what is taking place.


January 18

A post titled “Bikram Choudhury (Rapist and predator) coming to Vancouver” appeared in the “Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Earth” group on the social platform Reddit. It features the “Boss is back!” poster that Canada Yoga Sports Federation (CYSF) is using to promote the upcoming event.

So far, the thread has drawn 1500 votes and more than 200 comments, including questions—rhetorical and otherwise—as well as suggestions.

“People are not let into Canada for way lesser offenses. I wonder how one would flag this for the Border Services Agency?” asked one commenter. Someone else answered with a link to the Canada Border Services Agency watch line.

Another commenter encouraged others to direct concerns to the Marriott Parq Vancouver, which is the site for the week-long series of classes and lectures with Choudhury. “Hi folks, commenting on this post isn’t enough. Info@ParqVancouver.com is their email and it is 100% worth sending an email.”

January 21
The Vancouver Sun published the article “Controversial Bikram yoga founder’s planned Vancouver workshops raising flags.” The article outlines allegations against Choudhury, including those of a Vancouver woman.


February 1

On Change.org, someone launched a petition titled “Stop Bikram Choudhury from hosting Yoga Seminar at the Parq Marriott, Vancouver.” It’s drawn more than 2000 signatures and elicited dozens of comments.

One commenter posted “Don’t we pride ourselves on keeping women safe?” Another stated, “This has to stop. I stand with the survivors.” Someone else offered a call to action referring to the Marriott: “Maybe warn them that this P.O.S. wouldn’t pass their own Patron Code Of Conduct.”

The petition has also been shared on Twitter.

February 4
On Instagram, Hall dedicated an episode of “The Yoga News,” an occasional video series, to the Vancouver situation. In the three-minute reel, he recaps the allegations against Choudhury and then deadpans, “And apparently now we’re going to welcome him into Canada.”

After inquiring, “Who do we have to thank for this lovely thing?” Hall answers his own question, citing the CYSF. The reel then shares a screenshot of the CYSF “Contact” page showing its email address. “On their website, they say ‘Let’s connect.’” says Hall. “So I encourage you to connect.”

The reel ends with Hall saying, “We’re not putting up with this. This is not okay.”

February 5
Less than 24 hours after sharing “The Yoga News” video, Hall posted an open letter to the organizers of the event on Instagram requesting that they cancel the event. The letter asserts “Bikram Choudhury should never teach yoga again.”

If you are a victim of sexual assault, there are resources that can provide support at any time of day or night. In Canada, you can call the Women Against Violence Against Women Crisis and Information Line at 877-392-7583. In the United States, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or reach out via confidential online chat at online.rainn.org.

 

About Our Contributors

Sarah Herrington is a writer and educator who has been teaching for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Yoga Journal and she’s passionate about safety in yoga and meditation spaces. For years she taught yoga in NYC public schools and out of that experience founded the OM Schooled teacher training. She now runs Mindful Writing Workshops combining writing and meditation and loves holding space for other writers to speak from the heart. She holds MFAs from NYU and Lesley University and has more than 500 hours of yoga training. She is grateful for both the paths of writing and yoga. 

Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal and has worked on staff as an editor at The Washington Post, Real Simple, and various online media platforms. She started studying yoga nearly 20 years ago with teachers in New York City who emphasized the challenging of finding precise alignment in a posture. Her understanding of yoga changed when she began studying with teachers who believe the practice is less about how we execute the posture and more about whether we can surrender into the experience of it. Renee finds that editing, writing, and practicing yoga are each about becoming more aware of truth. She has been teaching yoga since 2017.

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Weekly Astrology Forecast: February 5-11, 2023

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It’s a week of stepping forward into greater alignment with the full Moon culminating in change and Mercury inviting liberation of the mind when it transits into Aquarius.

Full Moon in Leo

In astrology, the Moon is our internal world. It is our intuition, it is how our body speaks to us through our cycling emotions. Midway through the Moon’s cyclical 28-day journey, we are gifted with its fullness and accompanying luminosity.

For the Moon, there is no fear of being full, vulnerable, and completely visible in the night sky. There is only presence. With a deep intuitive flow to her movement, she knows it is not her path to be anything but where she is and as she is. And it is with this presence and full acceptance of her current self and current moment that she is able to then release and change. As Carl Jung said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Ruled by Leo and sitting in a tight and tense aspect to Uranus, the full Moon this week takes us to an edge, a culmination, a choice point. It acts as a doorway into healing, liberation, and a significant inner arrival once we step through it. It’s the kind of doorway that once we walk through, there is no stepping or shrinking back.

Uranus directs us to our future visioning—our long-term hopes and dreams—and invites us to step out of the known and accepted ways of being. The Moon and Leo take us inward and backward in the name of reflection, awareness, and release. We cannot release what we have not brought into our awareness, what we have not accepted, what we have not yet felt in our bodies and moved through in our hearts. They take us back so that we may process our journeys and take each step forward in a manner that aligns with our immeasurable inner worth.

Mercury in Aquarius

As we continue floating through Aquarius season, Mercury joins the Sun in the forward-thinking and innovative air sign on February 11, 2023. In astrology, Mercury is our mind. It is our thinking, mental processing, communication, and learning. It enjoys Aquarius. Here our minds can leap beyond the tried and tested to explore our own sense of truth, authenticity, and originality through our thoughts and our communication.

Mercury and Aquarius coming together means new ideas. Radical ideas. Sparks of intellectual energy that allow our minds to explore limits in a new way—questioning them, seeing beyond them—so that we may break them down.

Your Invitation

This week is in an invitation of liberation, truth, breaking open, and releasing any cages trapping us and keeping us small. Leo is anything but small. It is proud and expressive, courageous and passionate. Aquarius is authentic and innovative, not concerned with the status quo or limitations of the past.

There is healing available as we connect with this full Moon, healing that comes from saying yes to the self, to our inner worth, and releasing anything that does not match up to that worth. Under the full Moon this week, you are invited to make that decision and take that step. Act entirely from your heart, from your desires and your passion, from your need to be who you are. And the invitation is to do so without fear of expressing yourself.

As Mercury journeys through Aquarius, it pulls back the curtains, allowing you to experience a new way of thinking, being, learning, and perceiving the world around you. It is an opportunity to really make the most of what Aquarius is offering—forward momentum, truth, liberation, and a new way to do, be, see, and think.

Aquarius wants you to connect with your originality and innovation. As both the Sun and Mercury journey through it, you can begin to feel as if you’re tapping into a higher dimension of the self, one that’s already living in your future, where you have already released what was never yours to carry. Where you have already embraced the full spectrum of who you are.

Allow Mercury in Aquarius to show you the limits of your thinking—whether it relates to your self-identity, what you believe is possible for you and your life, what you desire, how to create what you desire, and so much more—so that you can begin to bring those barriers down and see just how much is being offered.

Learn more about the influence of astrology in your life, including astrological events the Moon cycles, your Sun and Moon and rising signs, how journaling can help you connect with the current influences, and more with Jordane Maree at Girl and her Moon.

About our contributor

Jordane Maree is the founder of Girl and Her Moon, a platform and community exploring Soul through the lens of astrology, tarot, and energy healing. She is a writer, intuitive astrologer, energy and soul guide, and host of Girl and Her Moon, The Podcast. She is inspired, every single day, to be the mirror for you to see all that you truly are, you in all your infinite abilities, in total expansion, in infinite opportunity and love. 

 

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We’re all suffering from racial trauma. Here’s how to cope.

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In 2020, when I published my book about race-based stress and trauma, the country was in the midst of a pandemic, sharp political divisions, and a social reckoning around police brutality. Recent events, including the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police and two mass shootings in Asian communities, prompted me to consider the ongoing impact of the experiences we continue to have.

What’s clear is that that living in a racially-charged climate affects us all. In October 2022, the American Psychological Association published the Stress in America Survey which found that 75 percent of Black adults reported the racial climate as a significant source of stress. But the percentages are high for other groups as well. For Latino adults, the number was 70 percent; for Asian adults, 69 percent; and for White adults, 56 percent. Everyone feels the effects.

Here, as a psychologist and yoga therapist, I offer some thoughts on the role yoga can play in helping us manage our stress and recover from trauma.

On the impact of recurring racial violence

Race-based traumatic stress is defined as any race-related event that causes emotional pain. It is ongoing, recurrent, and cumulative. What we’re seeing play out right now is an ongoing, recurrent, and cumulative experience of brutality, violence, injustice, and insensitivity associated with race. It not only affects the people who are directly impacted, it affects those who experience secondary trauma from observing and hearing about it. Secondary trauma can be as toxic as secondhand smoke.

On whether it’s more important to “witness” violence or avoid the potential emotional harm

If you know that watching something on television or on social media or listening to the radio or a podcast is going to throw you into a state of anxiety or depression, then you would be better off not watching or listening. You can be aware without watching. What I say to people is, “Judge for yourself.” Hopefully you know what you can manage emotionally. For people who feel like they need to bear witness—if they can do that without damaging themselves—I’m not in a position to judge that.

On normalizing difficult emotions

Finding yourself in a state of extreme anxiety or despair that you can’t pull yourself out of is different from being in a state of shock or anger. We are shocked because these events are shocking, angry because they provoke anger. All of these emotions are normal. But when your nervous system is overloaded to a point that it cannot process or digest what’s happening, it means you’re approaching trauma.

On processing trauma

We live in a culture that suffers from unacknowledged and unhealed trauma. Not just racial trauma; it includes everything that has been traumatic that has never healed, individually and collectively. It just piles on. It’s cumulative. That’s why you see a lot of people acting out. This includes people of every race and ethnicity. I recently read an op-ed written by a Taiwanese American who suggested that violence happens because the process of assimilating into a culture that has normalized violence creates an imbalance. It just builds and builds and builds until one day you blow up. We just don’t know when that may occur or what form it will take.

On the benefit of Restorative Yoga

When your nervous system is well-toned, regulated, and in balance, you can move back and forth between an activated nervous system (fight or flight) and a calm nervous system (rest and digest) as needed. There are times we need to mobilize and times we need to be still. Restorative Yoga helps tone your nervous system and brings it into balance, giving you the flexibility and discernment you need to choose when it is wiser to take action and when it is wiser to do nothing. When your nervous system is balanced, you are better able to navigate the stressful and traumatic events that you experience without acting out impulsively, freezing, or falling apart.

On how to practice emotional self-care

Turn off media–social media, television, podcasts, and radio. You need to rest your nervous system. Rest to give yourself an opportunity for recovery. Living in a culture that has normalized violence is exhausting. You must compensate for the energy that you’re using to live under this kind of stress. When you don’t you become overwhelmed, overloaded, and your system just can’t do the necessary processing that’s needed to recover. So listen to your body, pay attention to your needs, and make your health and well-being a priority. Above all, immerse yourself in loving relationships and caring communities.

See also:  How Restorative Yoga Can Help Relieve the Stress of Racial Injustice


Gail Parker is a psychologist, a certified yoga therapist, and a yoga therapist educator. She has been a practitioner of yoga for 50 years. As a practicing psychotherapist of 40 years, she pioneered efforts to blend psychology, yoga, and meditation as effective self-care strategies that can enhance emotional balance, and contribute to overall health and well-being.

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He Faced Allegations of Sexual Assault and Rape From Students for Years. Now Bikram Choudhury is “Back” Teaching in Canada.

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Last week, the Vancouver Sun reported on an upcoming series of yoga classes and lectures taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, and being promoted across social media as “Boss is back!”

“The Boss” is Bikram Choudhury, the founder of hot yoga and the defendant in half a dozen civil cases alleging sexual misconduct.

In 2013, Sarah Baughn was the first to publicly accuse Choudhury of sexual assault. Larissa Anderson stepped forward next. Then Jill Lawler. In all, seven women—six of them former Bikram yoga students—filed civil lawsuits against Choudhury for sexual assault, harassment, creating a hostile work environment, wrongful termination, or rape. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has not chosen to pursue criminal charges against Choudhury.

The only lawsuit to go to trial was brought by Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury’s former legal adviser. In 2011, Jafa-Bodden initiated an internal investigation into allegations of rape and sexual assault by several of Choudhury’s students. She says he initially dismissed her concerns and when she didn’t relent he forced her to resign.

In her case, Los Angeles jurors deliberated for approximately a day before they unanimously decided against Choudhury, awarding Jafa-Bodden more than $7.4 million in damages in January 2016.

Sixteen months later, Choudhury’s failure to pay the ruling resulted in a warrant for his arrest. He filed for bankruptcy, and continued to lead yoga teacher trainings in India, Thailand, and Mexico with dozens of students paying tuition of more than $10,000. Photos of Choudhury with dozens of students at the trainings appeared on his Instagram page.

To date, at least three of the lawsuits have been settled out of court. The remaining were left pending after Choudhury left the country.

Choudhury has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement shared by email, Choudhury’s spokesperson, Richard Hillgrove, said “Mr. Choudhury is innocent and was stitched up by a hate campaign orchestrated by a former legal assistant and yoga enthuisiast [sic].”

In a 2014 video interview with ABC News Nightline’s David Wright, Choudhury said, “I never hurt another spirit. I’m the most spiritual man, David, you ever met in your life.”

It’s not clear whether Choudhury’s legal history in the United States will affect his Canadian seminar. The U.S. and Canada share criminal databases, effectively allowing the Canada Border Services Agency to access all criminal records in the U.S.—including warrants.

Whether the California arrest warrant remains active will, in large part, determine whether Choudhury can legally enter Canada. When a person attempts to enter Canada with an outstanding U.S. warrant, they are likely to be detained, questioned, and may be boarded onto a flight back to their country of origin, says Robert Russo, PhD, a graduate program lecturer at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. Multiple requests placed with the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not disclose information on the warrant.

If a warrant is current, it’s possible, says Russo, for attorneys to arrange for waivers that would allow individuals to bypass the usual regulations for entry into Canada.

The Vancouver event, which takes place February 20-24, is sponsored by the Canada Yoga Sports Federation, also known as Canada Yoga. During the reporting of this article, more than a third of the responses to the most recent Choudhury post on Facebook were “angry” emojis. At the time of publication, Canada Yoga limited comments on the post.

According to its website, Canada Yoga “promotes the discipline of Yoga Asana and encourages yoga practitioners of all lineages, all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds, to participate at a competition level.” It is an affiliate of the International Yoga Sports Federation (IYSF), which works toward the inclusion of yoga in the Olympics. IYSF was founded in 2003 by Rajashree Choudhury, Bikram’s wife at the time. A spokesperson for Canada Yoga declined to comment unless the interview could be broadcast live on social media, counter to journalistic norms.

IYSF and Marriott International, owner of JW Marriott Parq Vancouver where the seminar will be held, did not respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Tamara Y. Jeffries.

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What the Full Moon in Leo Means for You: Finding Your Truth

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Full Moons feel intense. They stir up emotions, both consciously and subconsciously. Every full Moon provides us the opportunity to transform our emotions and raise our vibration. Although to work with the emotions revealed by the upcoming full Moon in Leo on February 5, 2023, we must be willing to feel them.

We are energetic beings made of subtle frequencies. We are not that much different from light or sound, as we consist of waves vibrating at different levels. Depending on our thoughts and emotions, we vibrate at higher or lower frequencies. Your overall vibration is created by the many thoughts and emotions running through your body at any one time. One thought or emotion, though, can take over your entire vibration and affect all areas of your life—even the ones you think are not connected.

If you feel frustrated by a situation at work, your overall vibration lowers as a result. This lower vibration disrupts other parts of your life, including your relationships and your health, and even your ability to see beauty in the world. It can also block your potential to manifest your intentions. When we exist in a higher vibratory state, aligned with love, gratitude, passion, and joy, we find ourselves in the flow. Abundance becomes available to us, and we feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation for everything in our lives—even our challenges.

The full Moon brings us the opportunity to vibrate at a higher level by shedding light on what lowers our vibrations. We can see thoughts, feelings, and even words we use to block ourselves. We are already connected to everything we desire. The reality we want is possible and, in many ways, is already available to us if we are willing to let go of anything that prevents us from living it.

The full Moon is the time to become aware of and release any energy that prevents us from manifesting our visions. Through conscious effort and attention, we can shift energies we no longer want to carry and welcome energies that align with our souls.

What the full Moon in Leo means for you

The full Moon in Leo comes to us in the midst of Aquarius season. While Aquarius teaches us to shift the collective consciousness by being ourselves, Leo helps us decide what that means.

Leo represents our center. Ruled by the Sun, this sign reminds us of what holds us together. It helps us feel our truth, and more importantly, it helps us feel our hearts. The regal lion of the zodiac, Leo embodies the energies of leadership, compassion, vulnerability, strength, and love.

With Leo’s energy governing the full Moon, we are encouraged to focus on the heart’s truth. Acknowledging this takes courage and vulnerability. It’s not always easy to listen to and follow our hearts. Our mind often has different plans and will try to convince us these plans are safer. The mind would like to trick us into thinking it is in control, but the heart is the one that leads us forward. The heart knows the direction we must travel to align with life’s purpose, and the heart knows how to tap into the infinite wisdom of the Universe. The mind is simply along for the ride.

This Moon can help your break through all the layers placed upon you that dim your light. It helps you find yourself, what you love, and what you ultimately want to express to the world. The full Moon in Leo is the time to find what makes you shine and embrace that part of yourself despite fear of rejection. The full Moon in Leo teaches you to love yourself fiercely and let that love change the world.

This full Moon is the time to listen to the heart and follow its lead, even if we are unsure of the road ahead. It’s a time to feel the guidance of the heart through our emotions and let it give us the answers we’ve been looking for all along.

The full Moon in Leo and the Sun in Aquarius

On the full Moon, we are working with the energies of Leo and Aquarius, where the Sun is positioned. Leo and Aquarius oppose each other in the sky and differ energetically in many ways. But they also have many similarities. This full Moon is an opportunity to find their common ground and harness their combined energy to help you create the breakthroughs needed to step into your heart and your highest self.

Aquarius season teaches us that we are energy and have an energetic field with a corresponding frequency. Leo reminds us that the heart emits an electromagnetic frequency greater than any other part of us. The heart’s energetic field extends far past our bodies and influences others around us through its frequency. This full Moon reminds us to tend to it and ensure that it is sending out the vibrations that accurately represent who we are at our cores.

Part of tending to the heart is listening to it. Following it, though, can make us feel vulnerable. The heart does not come with organized spreadsheets that tell us the exact trajectory of our decisions. The heart is messy, complicated, and may feel illogical at times. It contains all of our feelings, including our pain, regret, and fear.

It also holds our joy, love, compassion, and gratitude. To feel and amplify the positive vibrations of the heart, we must also be willing to feel and understand everything else the heart holds. We cannot open our hearts and feel only the good things. We have to stand in the presence of all of it, which can make us feel scared, vulnerable, and even ashamed.

Leo is the sign of kings and queens. It reminds us that each of us has the potential to lead others through the full expression of ourselves. We must, though, be willing to be seen. Kings and queens are generally the center of attention in any room. They feel confident enough to take up that space. From this platform they can lead and share their energy.

Leo teaches us to show up for ourselves with courage and strength. It reminds us that we can face anything within ourselves with love and compassion. It also teaches us that the pathway to leading from the heart starts by understanding its full depths.

Leo reminds us that we all are unique in our own way. Each of us has a unique set of talents which needs to be honored and shared with those around us. Each of us also has a message that comes from the heart. The full Moon in Leo is a time to find your heart’s message and send it to the world.

Feel into your own willingness to take up the space you deserve this full Moon, and use it to share your heart’s gifts with others. Express your heart and allow its messages to extend far past the confines of your body. Accept and love yourself for who you are this full Moon and let that love allow you to shine your brightest light into the world.

How to navigate the full Moon in Leo

Astrological energies, like emotions, have a lower and a higher vibration. Think of each zodiac sign as a spectrum of frequencies. We align with a particular zodiac frequency at different points of our lives and take on its resulting qualities in mind, body, and spirit.

Leo’s higher frequencies include the qualities of a benevolent leader. Leo aligns us with the vibrations of courage, compassion, empathy, and honor. When we tune in to this high side of Leo, we hear the messages of our hearts without judgment. We listen with only unconditional love. We wholeheartedly love and accept every aspect of ourselves. Furthermore, we express ourselves fully to the world without fear of rejection. In this high state of Leo, we embody the confidence and poise of a great leader who accepts approval but does not depend upon it. We find our highest Self and share that person with the world, unrestricted by the ego.

When working with the vibrations of Leo, we come up against the ego, which is Leo’s shadow. The ego is the part of us that yearns to be defined by something. It is how we identify ourselves, including the conditioned patterns we have formed about who we are in this life. It is also our inner critic, our self-defeating thoughts, and the part of us that feels separated from others.

The ego can get in the way of us finding and expressing our true selves. It attaches to ideas of how we “should” behave in the world and how others “should” receive us. The ego’s fuel is fear, and it can often lead us down dark paths of needing constant validation and approval of what we express to the world. The ego’s role should be to motivate us, remind us of our purpose when needed, and help us function in society. But it should not lead our lives.

On this full Moon, we have the opportunity to recognize when the ego has taken the reins and, in its effort to define our existence, closed the full expression of the heart.

The counterpart to the ego is the higher self. When we align with Leo’s and Aquarius’s highest vibrations, we tap into our highest Selves and the higher consciousness of love. This highest self is the part of us that is connected to the entire energy of the Universe and, therefore, to everyone and everything around us.

When moving from the higher self, there is no need to compare or compete with others because we are all one. Without separation, we do not feel insecurity, lack, or unworthiness. When we operate from the higher self, we are always connected to the our message. We do not need to distract ourselves from our feelings, for we understand that the true nature of ourselves is pure love and beauty. From this place, we feel fulfilled in our lives and are confident in everything we do because we are constantly moving from the heart. We no longer worry about rejection or approval from others. We feel confident in who we are.

To remain centered within the higher self, we need to be deeply aware of when the ego takes over, then redirect our energy toward higher vibrations of compassion, love, and connection. Aligning with the higher self allows us to honor our true essence—the heart—and give its message freely to the collective without needing approval.

As we work with this full Moon’s energy, we have the opportunity to connect with our higher selves. This opportunity is the true merger of Leo, Aquarius, and their corresponding frequencies. Throughout this full Moon, ask yourself how you might be aligned with the lower vibration of each sign. When we align with Leo’s shadow side, we become demanding, need approval, and feel insecure. We seek external validation instead of feeling our power. We can even cause drama in our lives and the lives of others to gain the attention we need to feel secure within ourselves.

This lower vibration of Leo disconnects us from our hearts. Instead, it aligns us with the delusions of the ego. We latch onto our identities and forget that we are beings made of pure love, capable of deep compassion and unlimited joy. Spend some time this full Moon thinking about where you may be aligning with these vibrations of Leo. Resist the urge to judge yourself. Judgment can drop you into an even lower vibration. Instead, accept these parts of yourself and welcome them to your conscious awareness. When you become aware of your shadow sides, you immediately form control over them, and they stop controlling you.

When we embody Aquarius’s lower vibrations, we become overly judgmental and critical of others, especially those in authority positions. Instead of helping change what we do not like in the world, we complain and detach from the world. We disconnect from the vibration of love and acceptance and become aloof. We withhold our energy while acting superior to everyone around us.

Notice if there are any places in your life where you may be aligning with these lower vibrations and, again without judgment, accept them. Accepting them will help you acknowledge the behavior. Through this awareness, you will shift it and find Aquarius’s higher vibrations.

When we step into the highest frequencies of Aquarius, we can feel the infinite connection between the Universe and us. We understand that we are just one part of a bigger collective. We want to contribute our energy to making the world a better place by connecting with the vibration of love and acceptance.

When we shift away from the lower vibrations of both Leo and Aquarius, we make space for the higher ones. We have the opportunity with this pair to vibrate to a higher level than ever before. These two energies allow us to feel the heart’s messages and honor them while honoring the collective. We learn to express ourselves from a place of love and gratitude instead of a place of judgment or neediness. We embody the true Age of Aquarius, in which everyone contributes their unique talents while working together for the good of everyone on the planet.

Take the time to feel what your heart wants to give to the world and courageously create a life that embodies its message.

Other astrological influences on this full Moon

This full Moon brings us the fast-moving energy of the Universe. All planets are currently stationed direct, meaning no retrogrades until April. This period of time each year can feel like a whirlwind of excitement and possibility. It can also feel overwhelming and chaotic.

As you work with the energy of this full Moon, ground yourself and know that things may be happening more quickly than you could imagine. Notice if an abundance of opportunities have come your way and consciously focus on your resounding yeses. It can be easy to overextend yourself at this time or overcommit. Make sure you are only saying yes to things you can follow through with over the next six months. Say yes only to things that align with your heart. Then be confident enough to express your nos.

We have a few other aspects of this full Moon affecting the energy of the day. The Sun and Moon square Uranus in Taurus. Squares add friction and tension to our energy. Uranus is the planet of change. It brings major breakthroughs to our world and helps move us out of our comfort zones. Uranus shakes things up, and this upheaval can initially feel shocking. It’s important to recognize that sometimes things need to fall apart so they can be put back together again.

With Uranus squaring this full Moon, it’s an opportunity to break through attachments of the ego. Spend some time thinking about all the ways you identify yourself. How do you want to be seen by the world? What do you want to be known for?

Then ask yourself where these definitions are coming from. Are they coming from your heart and your truth? Do they represent who you are at your core? Or are they coming from a place of insecurity and a need for validation?

We can become overly attached to an image of ourselves or something we’ve been told we should be. We don’t make decisions in alignment with our authentic truth. Instead, we make decisions in accordance with who we think we should be or who someone else thinks we should be. We may even feel we need to be a certain way to receive love and acceptance. This need affects our behavior and takes us away from our essence.

Over this full Moon, feel your truth. Notice if you are doing anything, including actions or thoughts, that is not in alignment with your truth. Step outside yourself and observe how you are showing up in the world. Be honest with yourself and notice if you are acting out of alignment with who you really are. We all feel a need to belong to a community. We want to fit in and be liked and accepted by others. This deep need can cause us to act out of alignment with our hearts. We may want to be seen in a certain light, so we do things that help support this identity.

With the help of Uranus this full Moon, break free of any behaviors that you may be doing to gain acceptance and a sense of belonging. Instead, commit to showing up as yourself and know that the people who are your real community will also show up. You will attract the right people, situations, even jobs when you show up as yourself. Dissolve the attachments of the ego. Instead of wanting to be seen or defined a certain way, let yourself be who you’ve always wanted to be.

Mars and Chiron are also involved in this full Moon. The Moon trines (sits 120 degrees apart) Chiron in Aries and sextiles (sits 60 degrees apart) Mars in Gemini. Both trines and sextiles are beneficial energies and add the energy of these cosmic bodies to the vibrations of the full Moon.

Chiron is the wounded healer of the zodiac. This comet helps us understand our past wounds and how they affect us today. It also teaches us that our wounds can become a place of power when we can accept, love, and integrate them. We may never be able to change the past, but we can shift how it affects our present reality.

As we work with Chiron’s energy, notice how old wounds are affecting how you show up today. Acknowledge any painful experiences that are still controlling your ability to be yourself. Perhaps you felt shame or rejection in the past for expressing your authentic truth. Or maybe you were embarrassed in some way for simply being you. You may have even been told there was something wrong with you or that you didn’t fit in due to certain behaviors. Give these points of pain your love and acceptance.

Also, be aware if these experiences have wounded your inner child. Leo represents children and affords some inner child work this full Moon. Give your inner child the love and acceptance they needed in the past. Hold space for their feelings and stand in their struggle, even if no one could stand with them before. Ask your inner child if they have any unmet needs and, on this full Moon, meet them.

Mars’s energy on this full Moon brings us fire and will. It takes a lot of courage to be yourself in all situations. We are conditioned by society to fit in, and that can sometimes mean sacrificing our truth. Anytime we do not honor our authentic vibration, it feels like a betrayal of our energy. This can cause wounds and dampen our willpower. The more we mold ourselves into someone who fits the status quo but does not fit our hearts, our energy contracts.

Your invitation

Over this Full Moon, find some time to sit with yourself and listen to your heart. Feel what you’ve avoided or shut down in your heart. Ask your heart what it wants to tell you and be open to learning from it. Breathe into your heart and listen to it without the mind and its thoughts interfering.

Feel where you have been sacrificing your brilliance to feel accepted. Align with the fire of Leo to burn away any of these habits and allow yourself to shine fully. Love yourself through any fear and take back your power. Bravely and boldly be yourself—even if you don’t fit in with others. Being yourself will always attract the people, energy, and support you need to live aligned with your soul.

There is always a bit of inner-child work available to us on the Leo full Moon. Leo is associated with the energy of play and children. It brings out our wounds around love, approval, and courage created in childhood. Notice if your inner child associates love with approval from others. Do you feel you need to do something to earn love? Do you feel you deserve love simply for being yourself?

Align with Leo to play with some of these concepts and hold space for your inner child to reveal themselves. Reflect on how you were taught to love and be loved. Whether you received unconditional love or not as a child, you can give it to yourself now. The full Moon in Leo is the perfect time to begin developing love for yourself without conditions. It begins by loving yourself for being you. You do not need to do anything, accomplish anything, or create anything to be loved.

Feel into this energy of love throughout the full Moon. Write yourself a love letter and remind yourself of your inherent beauty and perfection. Align with Leo to know you are worthy of love, always, and allow this love to bring out your true essence.

Learn more about the full Moon, including additional astrological insights and journaling prompts, in the Leo Full Moon Workbook, from which the above is excerpted.

About our contributor

Jill Wintersteen is the founder of Spirit Daughter, a lifestyle brand devoted to helping you live your best life through understanding the energy of the Universe. She also writes workbooks on each full Moon as well as other astrological events. Follow her on Instagram @spiritdaughter.

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10 Poses to Help You Focus

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In our go-hard culture, it’s easy to feel as if you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions. You find yourself expending your energy on urgent demands as well as on things that, frankly, seem important to everyone else but you.

When you have a lot going on in your life, it’s not hard to start feeling depleted. You’re made to think that constantly being on the grind is the path to Capital S “success”–or what passes for it. That makes it difficult to slow down and move with intention. But the yoga principle of brahmacharya emphasizes the importance of conserving your energy so that you can direct your attention and creativity more consciously.

Find Moderation in Your Practice

As one of the five yamas, or moral codes of yoga, brahmacharya is most often defined as celibacy. But some teachers expand the definition to include all kinds of creative, second-chakra energy beyond the sexual. Nicolai Bachman, author of The Path of the Yoga Sutras, describes it as “conservation of vital energy.” Many teachers use it to mean “moderation” and apply it to life activities well beyond sexuality.

When you apply this to your asana practice—the physical poses—it may mean finding a balance between sequences that move you briskly from pose to pose and those that can help you slow down and go inward.

Yin yoga, for example, asks you to stretch in poses for up to several minutes at a time, which allows you to spend time feeling your body in unfamiliar postures. Restorative yoga poses are also held for longer periods of time, but with the support of blankets, blocks, bolsters, and other props. When you really need to downregulate, Yoga Nidra offers an opportunity to lie still, quiet your body and your mind, and drop into a profoundly deep rest.

But you can quiet down any yoga practice and make it more inward focused.

How to Conserve Your Energy

This sequence includes folded-over shapes and poses that are downward- and inward facing. That suggests an opportunity for introspection. Don’t try to move quickly from one pose to the next. Take your time getting into the pose, take several breaths, then ease your way into the next position. You may even want to close your eyes to eliminate visual distraction.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or emotional, a slowed-down sequence of poses could be just what you need to find balance in your body, mind, and feelings.

(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

1. Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Settle into Staff Pose, rooting down through every part of your body that makes a connection with the floor beneath you. Then lengthen your spine, lifting the crown of your head toward the ceiling.

Woman demonstrates Seated Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

2. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

This Seated Forward Bend gives you many opportunities to practice meeting the needs of your body. When you hinge at your hips to fold into the position, you can keep your legs straight or bend at your knees (a little or a lot). You may place your hands on the floor beside your legs, reach for your toes, or clasp your hands around your feet. Breathe into the pose and, if you like, lightly round and arch your back for a gentle spinal movement. Explore this pose for at least 5 breaths. Then sit up into Dandasana.

(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

3. Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

From Dandasana, turn your right foot out, bend your knee, and bring the sole of your foot to press gently against your inner thigh or anywhere along your left leg. On an exhalation, fold forward and reach toward your left foot for Janu Sirsasana. Place your hands on the floor on each side of your leg or grasp your foot with both hands. You may want to close your eyes as you feel yourself relax into the pose. Take 5 or more breaths. Then return to seated.

Asian American woman in bright pink top and tights practiced Marichyasana Pose. She is sitting on a hardwood floor with her left leg extended and her right knee bent. She is twisting her torso toward her right leg
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

4. Marichyasana (Marichi’s Pose)

From Janu Sirsasana, place your right foot on the mat in front of your hip so your knee faces toward the ceiling. Inhale and lengthen your spine, then exhale and twist your torso toward your bent leg. You can hold your knee with your hand or wrap your arm around your leg to hug it to your body for Marichi’s Pose. Place your right hand behind your hip for support and, if your neck allows, look toward the right. Stay here for 5 or more breaths. Then release the pose and return to Dandasana.

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

5. Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)

From Dandasana, spread your feet wide apart with your knees and feet pointed toward the ceiling. Bring both hands to the floor in front of you. You may stay here and explore the stretch. Bend your knees slightly or walk your hands forward and fold forward between your legs. Explore this pose for 5 or more breaths, moving forward or back depending on the level of stretch your body needs.

Return to Dandasana and repeat poses 1-5, taking Head-to-Knee and the Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend on the other side. Then lie on your stomach.

A person demonstrates a variation of Locust Pose in yoga, with their hands by their sides
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

6. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

From a prone position, roll your shoulders back and reach your arms alongside your body and your hands toward your feet. You can practice lifting into this pose a number of ways: Lift your head, shoulders, and upper body off the floor; lift your feet and legs; or lift both simultaneously into Locust. In whichever variation you choose, focus on keeping a long, even curve in your spine; don’t compress your lower back or your neck.

A Black woman wearing cream colored tights and top practices Child's Pose (Balasana). She is on a wood floor against a white backdrop.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

7. Child’s pose

From Locust Pose, bring your hands forward and place them, palms down, under your shoulders. Push up and press you hips back into Balasana. Reach your arms alongside your body and your hands toward your feet, or extend your hands forward over head. Stay for 5 breaths or more.

lizard pose
Andrew Clark

8. Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)

From Child’s Pose, transition to Lizard Pose by coming to Tabletop then lifting your hips into Downward Facing Dog. Bring your left foot forward and place it along the outside of your left hand. Shift your body forward and try to create a straight line from your head to your right heel. Level your shoulders and your hips to be parallel with the floor.

Woman in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing; Calia)

9. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

From Lizard, inch your left foot to the right so that it’s somewhere behind your right hand. Lower your knee and calf on the mat. (Shown here with the right leg forward.) Adjust the angle of your knee so that you feel the stretch in your left hip. Extend your right leg straight behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat. Adjust your positioning so that your hips are level, placing a blanket, pillow, or bolster under your left hip for support if that makes your Pigeon more accessible. Stay supported with your hands on the floor in front of you or walk your hands forward and drape your body over your bent leg. Stay here for 3 breaths or more.

With your hands beneath your shoulders, press down to lift your chest from the floor. Shift your weight the left, bring your right leg around to the front and return to a seated position. Take a few breaths here. When you are ready, come back to lie on your stomach and practice poses 6-9, taking Lizard and Pigeon on the opposite side.

A woman with blond hair and blue clothing practices Child's Pose with hands behind the head in Anjali Mudra
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

10. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Come to your hands and knees in a Tabletop position and, when you’re ready, press your hips toward your heels on an exhalation. Allow your torso to drape over your thighs or adjust your body as needed for comfort. You can bring your knees wider apart to make more room for your front body. Place a block or pillow under your head, or a blanket under your knees or ankles if that is more comfortable. Extend your hands out in overhead, or bring them to prayer position or clasp them behind your head. Rest in this pose as long as it is comfortable for you.

End your practice in Savasana, taking as much time as you can to relax into the pose.


Tamara Jeffries, RYT-200, is a senior editor at Yoga Journal.

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Turn Your Difficult Emotions into Feelings You Can Use

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The term “alchemy” is known as the process of transmuting base metals into gold or silver. Ancient alchemists placed the metal in a container and subjected it to the influence of a transformative agent—heat or salt or other chemicals—and watched to see what changed. The underlying belief was that any substance can be transmuted—even a poison—and its power used in positive and transformative ways.

I first learned this principle from a South American shaman who, as part of his training, experienced a year of solitude and other rigors. “During this initiation year I experienced an intense yearning for human contact. For seven months I suffered,” he said. “And then one day I felt Mother Earth rising up to hold and nourish me, and after that my pain was gone. And to this day I feel the power of my connection with Her and She helps me in my role as healer.”

Look Beyond the Moment

I heard a similar story from someone who struggled with addiction. “I finally hit bottom. It was either kick the habit or die. I’d been an addict since the age of twelve. Words cannot describe the living hell I endured. The only way to get through it was to stay completely present, moment-by-moment, and train myself not to look beyond the moment,” he said. “Passing through the worst of it I experienced a powerful confidence that I could do anything I put my mind to doing. I knew that I had the ability and willingness to go the distance with anything I wanted to attain in life. It continues to serve me well.”

I was surprised to hear very similar experiences from two men on opposite sides of the world, from completely opposing cultures, experiences, and education. Both men experienced a transformational element (in their cases, a combination of pain, determination, and desire) that resulted in radical change in their lives. The intensity of the pain, the strength of the desire, and the grounding of determined perseverance created the confluence of forces needed for their transmutation. These are both examples of the alchemy of emotions.

How to Transform Your Emotions

Your base emotions are energy trapped in reactive and protective defensive patterns. Fear, anger, hatred, and all their variations of emotional pain are all  emotions that are reactions to danger, violation, or hurt—perceived or real. But within each emotion is a higher emotional state—a non-reactive state—that can respond with love and intelligence to the circumstances of life.

When fear is transmuted it opens you to the quality of courage. When anger is transmuted it expands your capacity for reaching out into life. It can help you set clear boundaries and act with loving fierceness on behalf of your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. Pain transforms into loving compassion and kindness. Hatred transmutes into positive power and love, and paradoxically leads to inner peace.

1. Gather Your Emotions

Acting out strong emotion discharges the energy that you actually need for the alchemy. Learn to manage the emotion you’re experiencing by breathing, grounding the energy of the emotion, and exerting the mindfulness practice of awareness.

But let’s face it, sometimes an emotion has too much “charge,” and you cannot easily process it. That is a natural part of life. Being prepared for that situation will help you safely and consciously release that emotion and energy.

2. Don’t Suppress or Avoid Emotions

Invite and engage the emotion by taking the attitude of curiosity and allowing. For example, how does hatred or anger or fear feel in your body? Anger has a lot of dynamic energy, often in the arms or jaw. It wants to strike out. Hatred is cool, contained deep in the body. Hatred can be found in the forehead, the eyes, and contractions in your core. Anger wants to strike, but hatred wants to annihilate a threat in a cool, calculated way. (Think the cold, calculated power of Darth Vader.)

Pain is another reactive emotion. It is a hurt, a wounding, and a sense of loss. There are many causes of pain and many kinds of pain. Often when you think you experience pain, you are more likely thinking it than feeling it directly. You may sense it as a contraction in the area of the heart. You might have learned to cut off pain, or rationalize it, or discharge it through emotional drama. We humans often judge ourselves for feeling pain. But when you actually feel your pain without trying to get rid of it, you open the door for compassion to take its place.

3. Find the Truth in Your Emotions

Everyone has different ways of managing their emotions. Sometimes you may judge them, thinking you are weak for having certain “negative” feelings. Or maybe being afraid to give them up because they have protected you for a long time. It is important to understand the relationship you have to your emotions in order to move forward.

Hatred is a great example here. As a society, we tend to judge this emotion as bad. We think that feelings of hatred make us a bad person. But hatred arises from a deep hurt, often a perceived betrayal, or a deep fear of being annihilated. It’s a natural defensive emotion. Jealousy, self-rejection, disdain, contempt, arrogance are all variations of hatred. While it can be dangerous to act on hatred or turn it against yourself, the actual feeling of hatred is a natural protection.

Clearing out your judgments toward emotions like hatred is a core component of the alchemical process. Have you ever forgiven a friend for a personal slight and felt an immediate lightening in your spirit and mindset? Once you allow yourself to understand the root of your emotions, breathe into it, and open your heart and mind, you will begin to transmute that emotion its higher aspects.

Your emotions are gifts because they are doorways to their higher expressions. The alchemy of emotion can bring unexpected gifts to your life.

This article has been updated.  It was originally published on July 19, 2017.


 About our contributor:

Leah Chyten is a psychotherapist, workshop leader, and teacher of spirituality. The author of the novel Light, Radiance, Splendor, she lectures and facilitates groups that explore all facets and dimensions of human potential.

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Yoga for Sitting All Day: 6 Poses to Loosen Up Your Body

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If you’ve experienced dead butt syndrome after responding to emails all day or find your back aching after scrolling your phone for hours, you’re not the only one. As Americans, we spent a lot of time sitting. And it’s slowly killing us.

Research has shown that excessive sitting does a number on your mental and physical health—from increasing the risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions to straining your neck, back, and spine and spiking anxiety.

If all that makes you want to get up and move, yoga can help. These six poses—from fun inversions to full-body stretches—will loosen you up and leave you feeling invigorated. Your legs, back, and neck will thank you.

Yoga Poses to Combat the Effects of Sitting

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Boost your creativity with this full-body inversion. Getting your head upside-down literally changes your perspective, and the focus required to keep yourself from falling over instantly replaces the dullness of sitting at a desk with a fun challenge. Plus, this posture engages your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abs, triceps, deltoids, the full back, and doubles as a heart opener, quickly reawakening any tired or strained muscles.

To practice this posture:

  1. Lie down with your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet hips-width distance apart with your heels close to your sitting bones. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head with your fingers pointing toward your shoulders.
  2. On an exhalation, press your feet into the floor while lifting your pelvis to the ceiling. Firm your glutes to round out your pelvis and keep your quadriceps engaged and parallel.
  3. On an exhalation, press your hands into the floor, keeping your shoulders blades flat against your back. Keep your arms parallel, trying to not flare the elbows out. Lift the crown of your head onto the floor.
  4. On an exhalation, press your hands and feet into the floor, lifting your head off the floor and straightening your arms. Lengthen the tailbone to the back of the knees while your pelvis lifts toward the navel.
  5. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then gently lower yourself back down.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Woman demonstrates Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

This gentle inversion will provide a deep stretch through the sides of your calves, hamstrings, glutes, back, and shoulders, and releases tension in your neck.

To practice this posture:

  1. Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your arms extended by your sides.
  2. Step your feet out so they’re in line with your wrists (about 3 to 4 feet), keeping them parallel.
  3. On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints, keeping your torso open.
  4. Lower your fingertips to the floor, or interlace your fingers behind your back and with straight arms, lift them toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

Shayla in goddess pose
Photo: Brien Hollowell

Step into your power and take up space after hours hunched over a computer. This posture activates your root and sacral chakras, stirring powerful feminine energy, while also engaging the quadriceps, inner thighs, and core; and stretching the hips and low back.

To practice this posture:

  1. Start with your feet and arms mimicking Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend, but then turns your toes out and your heels in at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and flip your palms forward, facing in front of you.
  3. Bend your knees toward your toes and drop your hips in a squatting motion, pressing your pelvis forward and your tailbone to the floor.
  4. Engage your core while maintaining a flat back.
  5. Option to rock your hips from side to side, leaning into one knee at a time (without extending your knee past your toes), to feel a deeper stretch in your hamstrings.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Downward-Facing Dog Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

This classic pose offers a full-body stretch, lengthening the neck, arms, chest, back, and legs. Pedal out your feet to wake your legs up, and then do “yes” and “no” movements with your head to release tension in your neck.

To practice this posture:

  1. From Tabletop, walk your hands 3 inches in front of your head.
  2. Firmly press your palms into the floor while spinning your biceps toward your ears.
  3. On an inhalation, tuck your toes under.
  4. On an exhalation, press your hips back and up toward the ceiling.
  5. Allow your shoulders to spin out and up while maintaining a flat back.
  6. Let your head hang freely.
  7. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.

Bananasana

Banana Pose

Stretch out your side body and spine with this gentle posture. The psoas will feel the majority of the stretch while your spine gets lengthened. This is an excellent way to reverse the feelings of slouching and provides movement to your side body, which may stay mostly sedentary while you’re at a desk.

To practice this posture:

  1. Begin by lying down with your arms by your sides and your legs out in front of you.
  2. Press your heels and palms into the floor to raise and scoot your pelvis up and to the left of your body, about 3 inches. Try to keep your arms and legs where they were, only your hips should move.
  3. Walk your feet out to the right about 3 inches while keeping your legs touching, and reach your arms overhead and interlace your fingers. Keep them straight.
  4. Bend through your side body to stretch your arms to the right of your head.
  5. Point your toes down toward the floor, increasing the stretch on the tops of your feet.
  6. Hold for 1 minute, then switch sides.

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)

A woman demonstrates crocodile pose while lying on a deck with mountains
Photo: AzmanL / Getty Images

Let all your tension go in this soothing pose that releases the neck, shoulders, and low back. If you’re feeling anxious, this pose will help you calm down, while also giving relief to areas of the body that may have tightened up from typing all day.

To practice this posture:

  1. Lie down on the floor with your chest, quadriceps, the tops of your feet, and your arms on the ground.
  2. Fold your arms above your head and rest four fingers from your right hand over the knuckles of your left hand while forming a V shape with both thumbs
  3. Rest your forehead in the V between your thumbs and fingers.
  4. Hold for as long as needed.

This article has been updated. Originally published on May 29, 2021. 

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Practicing This Yoga Principle Made My Partnership Stronger

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I was at a monastery in India on a retreat when I met the love of my life.

As I had been toying with becoming a nun; he was considering becoming a monk. We shared our passion for Spirit. He courted me by inviting me to see the Dalai Lama speak, and he kept singing “Oh Susanna.” Sparks flew.

After many months of deep practice and connection, we decided to forgo the monastic robes. Now we share a home, a child, a marriage—but not just any kind of relationship. We were intentional that we were going to approach our path as a spiritual one. Brahmacharya played an important part.

Defining Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya has multiple meanings in yogic and vedic culture—and these meanings change based on context. The fourth yama, or moral restraint, in the Eight Limbs of yoga, brahmacharya is often defined as “celibacy” or “moderation.” Like most yogic concepts, it’s much more nuanced than that.

The Sanskrit word brahmacharya comes from brah meaning “expansion (of consciousness)” and charya, which means “path” or “to follow.” Brahma is also the name of the Hindu god representing creation. The full meaning of brahmacharya, then, is to follow the path of Brahma or expansion of consciousness.

In the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions, brahmacharya can refer to the complete renunciation of sex, marriage, and other material pleasures. It can also refer to the practice of virtue and describe managing one’s various energies toward the aim of becoming one’s highest self. It means utilizing your life-force energy—including your actions, your movements, your breath, your sexuality—for your highest aims. Overall, we can accurately understand brahmacharya as “energy management” or “aligned use of energy.”

Brahmacharya is also the term for the first of the four age-based life stages, or ashramas, in Hindu culture. At this first stage—the age of study and learning—all of your energy is to be conserved and used to focus on gaining knowledge through education. That includes managing life force, sexuality, even breath. A person who commits to this practice is called a brahmachari.

Traditionally, brahmacharya encourages practitioners to use their life-force energy for a higher or more spiritual purpose, rather than for simply satisfying pleasure or external desires. That is where the celibacy interpretation comes in. A value-based, virtuous lifestyle can include celibacy for people at the student stage of life or for someone who has chosen a monastic or renunciate path. But when you move beyond the student stage—or if you aren’t planning to become a monk—there are still many possibilities for applying brahmacharya.

How I Put Brahmacharya Into Practice

My exploration of brahmacharya happened directly at the intersection of its many different definitions.

During our first summer together, when my partner and I were in the honeymoon phase of early love, we traveled to the romantic landscape of Europe. In the midst of France’s gourmet restaurants and world-class wineries, we spent weeks camping in vineyards—completely sober, eating vegan, and practicing yoga, meditation, and noble silence. It was a joyful and amazing practice of brahmacharya.

Later, when we met with challenges in our interracial relationship, we turned back to yoga ethics to ground us. I’ve found that being in relationship sometimes also means being in conflict. Having tools, values, and guidelines for managing the energy of those conflicts has helped preserve love, kindness, understanding, and a long-term, mutually supportive relationship.

The practice of brahmacharya eventually transferred to our parenting together. I never thought I’d marry or have children. I was too afraid to lose myself. What I started to see in a love relationship built on this philosophical foundation, is that I could be myself and even grow more fully, while engaging with others. That is brahmacharya in balance.

Practicing Brahmacharya to Create Boundaries

In daily life, brahmacharya often looks like practical spiritual considerations around boundaries and energy management. Say, for example, a friend invites you to socialize but you really feel like curling up with a good book. In these moments, I practice brahmacharya by tuning in to what I really want. I do what is aligned with that. And then, I practice satya, truthfulness, by saying something like, “My dear friend, I know this party is important to you, but it isn’t right for me to come at this time. Can we get tea later this week so we can connect?”

This way, I’ve honored my connection with the person as well as my own energy. This kind of self reflection, energy awareness, and communication is a constant dance in the practical application of brahmacharya.

Brahmacharya Involves Give and Take

Sometimes brahmacharya seems like the opposite of reserving energy. I experience it as a dance of giving and receiving. There are ways that giving to others nourishes their energy and my own. Here, brahmacharya spills over from concerns that are just personal to being in connection with others and with the universal.

We can practice brahmacharya in the world—conducting our lives in such a way that we are “walking in presence of the divine god.” When we are in alignment with our energy, compassionate action often flows forth.

How Are You Practicing Brahmacharya?

Bringing mindfulness to your energy and observing where your life force energy flows is powerful because your energy is so precious. What can you release to regain intimacy with your energy and direct it towards your and others’ highest good? To explore how to bring the practice of brahmacharya into your own life, here are some questions to ask yourself. Consider the ways that you can imagine and begin to work with your precious life-force energy.

  • What gives you energy? What drains it?
  • What is important to you to spend your energy on?
  • What do you want right now?
  • What does the world need from you?
  • Are there areas of your life where there are energy “leaks”? Are you constantly scrolling social media, poring over endless to-do lists, or attending to tiresome obligations that don’t truly serve anyone?
  • Are you invested in being a “savior”? Do you try to “help” people in ways that don’t truly serve them or you?
  • Are you involved in relationships that are one-sided, toxic, or otherwise harmful to your spirit?
  • How can you give less energy to negative attachments, and enjoy more things that nourish and support you and others?

 


About our contributor

Susanna Barkataki is the founder of Ignite Institute for Yogic Leadership and Social Change. She helps yoga teachers, studios, nonprofits, and businesses become leaders in equity, diversity, and yogic values so that they embody thriving yoga leadership with integrity and confidence. Learn more and get the Honor Yoga Manifesto at susannabarkataki.com.

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Weekly Astrology Forecast: January 29-February 4, 2023

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With no major astrological movements and no planets in retrograde, it’s a clear path forward as we enter February. Anticipate quiet and ease this week as we meet the first quarter Moon.

The Moon’s Meaning in Astrology

In astrology, the Moon represents our intuitive nature from deep within. She is the feminine, the yin, Receptive in nature, the Moon signifies our deepest personal needs. Our subconscious. Our feeling of safety and comfort in ourselves. Our inner child and, simultaneously, our mother.

The Moon is in a constant flow of waxing and waning, birthing and dying, creating and letting go. As she moves through her cyclical phases of renewal every 27 and a half days, she represents the waves of emotions that come with being human. The Moon reminds us that we, too, journey through ever-moving internal and external cycles. We are movement, we are energy, we are flow, we are always releasing, and we are always becoming.

First Quarter Moon in Taurus

On January 28, 2023, we initiated the first quarter Moon. The halfway point between a new Moon of beginning and a full Moon of release, a first quarter Moon is a building phase. During it, we create who we are in response to what was begun at the new Moon. It is an invitation to look at what is emerging, what is being released, and who are we becoming.

We all feel and know the difference between a mental maybe and a full body commitment. When you know, you are all in, surrendered to the ride and ready to meet whatever might come forth. We are asked to consciously make a choice. Do we say yes to this new self that is emerging, these new desires, this new path calling our name? Do we not just say yes but embody that it is for us? Do we allow the unfolding of something unknown in our life?

With the influence of Taurus, this energy holds even deeper invitations of building. Taurus is the builder of the zodiac. It is an archetype that reminds us that there is no rush, that work must be balanced with pleasure, and that what is true will stand the test of time. Taurus teaches us that devotion to the long term is sustainable and it is where we grow.

Your invitation

The Moon is a constant reminder that your phases cannot be forced. You are moved by an internal guidance of action and rest, movement and stillness, push and pull, trust and surrender. This internal guidance does not come from logic or timelines.

As the Moon moves through her cycles, she invites you to review the journey that you are experiencing. With the influence of Taurus, this emerging can be felt through the senses and can seem to come from deep within yourself and the Earth. Taurus invites perseverance through stable and steady actions and invites grounded and practical action.

The first quarter Moon in Taurus is a beautiful opportunity to get on board with the inner pull that forever guides us forward—and to let it guide.

Learn more about the influence of astrology in your life, including astrological events the Moon cycles, your Sun and Moon and rising signs, how journaling can help you connect with the current influences, and more with Jordane Maree at Girl and her Moon.

About Our Contributor

Jordane Maree is the founder of Girl and Her Moon, a platform and community exploring Soul through the lens of astrology, tarot, and energy healing. She is a writer, intuitive astrologer, energy and soul guide, and host of Girl and Her Moon, The Podcast. She is inspired, every single day, to be the mirror for you to see all that you truly are, you in all your infinite abilities, in total expansion, in infinite opportunity and love. 

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