Exploring Sadhaka & Badhaka Tattva

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In Hatha yoga, the sadhaka and badhaka tattva lay out specific sets of rules to advance your yoga practice. Basically, they tell you how to be successful (sadhaka) or how to fail (badhaka) in your yoga path. In Sanskrit, sadhaka means a person who follows a sadhana, which is basically a way of life. Tattva refers to the principles of living a certain way. Badhaka roughly translates to harm. Together, sadhaka and badhaka tattva lay out 6 facilitating and 6 obstructing factors in Hatha Yoga.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika first came on the scene in the 15th century CE, and is considered to be the oldest surviving text on Hatha Yoga. If you think something this old won’t relate to modern life, think again. The book presents a path to prepare the mind and body for Raja yoga, and sadhaka tattva makes an appearance in the first chapter. Although mentioned specifically to Hatha Yoga, the sadhaka tattva principles totally relate to modern life. Let’s explore ways to succeed and to fail, in order to make our yoga practice stronger!

Let’s get the bad, or badhaka out of the way first! These are habits that hurt your yoga. Basically Badhaka= FAIL.

  1. Over eating

This one just makes sense. Overeating can lead to feeling sluggish mentally and physically. As yoga prepares the mind and body, overeating will literally weigh you down.

  1. Over Exertion

Hustle. Go for it. You’ve heard it before, but over exerting yourself can lead to physical injury and mental exhaustion. Focus on balance and give yourself rest, s you can really go for it when the time matters!

  1. Excessive talking

Do you mindlessly chatter to fill space? If the chatter gets out of control, you never have time for silence and reflection. Remember, balance is key.

  1. Adhering to Rules- too much!

Rules exist to organize, protect and direct. Adhering to rules too much can lead to you not thinking with your own mind. Rules are there fore a reason, but should also be questioned.

  1. Excessive public contact

It is great to be social, but like all tings, you need some balance. Spending time with others is great, but spend time with yourself, too!

  1. Fickle mind

A mind that is always changing is distracting, and often doesn’t lead you very far. Help control the stream of thought and try to cultivate focus.

 

Okay, and now for the sadhaka, or the habits that promote success in yoga.

  1. Enthusiasm

When is enthusiasm not good? Being passionate and excited about something is great. It makes a task fun, and gives you’re a positive, and often more grateful, perspective.

  1. Courage

Starting anything new takes some guts. The ebb and flow of life can also challenge you- stay strong.

  1. Patience

Results do not often happen quickly. It takes good old time and consistency. Stay patient and enjoy the process.

  1. Determination

Life gets in the way sometimes, but you decide to stop or to keep going. Don’t be deterred- be determined!

  1. Faith

Sometimes, you just need to have faith that it will work out. Believing in something you can’t see can be tough, but it can also give you hope.

  1. Avoid hanging out with jerks

Sometimes, we hang with jerks because we think we have to. But here is the thing- you don’t. Investing time in people that don’t deserve your time, or that aren’t very good people, bring you down. Honor yourself and stay away from them!

The badhaka and sadhaka tattva ultimately help you find balance in your mind, body and ultimately your yoga practice. Even if you don’t consider yourself on the yogic path, you may be surprised by how applying them to your life can be beneficial. Where do you need to find more balance?

 

The Lagom Lens: A Framework the Enhance Happiness and Balance

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Different ways of thinking provide various frameworks to promote wellness. The many forms of yoga, mindfulness and Qigong are great examples, and these wellness frameworks often overlap. They often share the primary goals of finding balance in your life, releasing negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and showing kindness toward yourself and others. I recently read about the Swedish concept of lagom, and realized I was following a lot of the concepts in the framework without ever having known about it. Learning new ways of thinking can be beneficial and helps build your wellness and yoga toolbox. It is all about finding the framework that works for you when you need it!

What is Lagom?

Lagom is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”. You can think of it as not too much, not too little, or medium. The term is applied to the concept of balance, which is often the medium you search for to find a sense of calm in life. The term goes a bit deeper, ordering on the concept of fair and frugal. An example would be shopping less, making eco-friendly choices such as recycling and living simply with less stress. Basically, It is a way of living that finds balance and promotes calmness while promoting time to engage in the hobbies and passions that we love. In this way, it promotes simplicity, yet also calmness and happiness. Living simply isn’t anything new, but lagom has become increasingly popular in wellness circles. With a goal to increase happiness and decrease stress, what’s not to love?

Ready? Set. LAGOM!

Lagom isn’t embodied by one or two actions, but is a way of approaching life. Check out the examples below to explore lagom and if you already have it in your life!

  1. Buy less

Maybe you love clothes, shoes, cars or collectible toys. This love can easily overflow into abundance and clutter. The space you are in affects you. Buy less, use what you have and create a slimmed down, basic version of your wardrobe, collection or decoration. This allows your to use and appreciate what you have, without the never ending stress that consumerism can bring on. Do you have what you need? Why have, or buy, more?

2. Make time for a morning ritual

Life can get busy, crazy and stressful. Setting yourself up to have a good day, regardless of the challenges, starts in the morning. Meditating, taking a cold shower to wake up, and having tea are all examples of self care rituals that you can insert into your mornings to have a calmer day.

3. Spend time outside

It is no secret that spending time outdoors in nature is good for you. Spend time outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. Take a walk during lunch

4. Make and enjoy free time

A lot of people think they need to look busy or feel busy to appear to live a successful life. The culture of busyness is often equated to being important, but this cultural construct often leads to stress. Schedule time to do nothing, and teach yourself to enjoy it. Life is not always run by schedules, and learning to enjoy free time helps you stay in the present and enjoy the now.

  1. Spend time with others & work on listening skills

Stay busy and productive doesn’t always help friendships flourish. Make time to pend time with others, listen, and spread kindness. The happiness that comes from being selfless, listening to a story from a family member or friend, and experiencing good conversation will lead to feeling happy and satisfied. Relationships are something you must cultivate and respect, and the joy from friendship, conversation and kindness are

 

 

We all have our own ways of achieving balance and happiness, and one framework may work better for you. That said, trying out new things helps us expand our boundaries and challenge our existing knowledge, helping us to grow. Lagom is a concept that you may already be engaging in, or are interested in trying. Go for it! The worst that can happen is happiness!

Need more ideas on lagom? Check out this great video and article from Health!

 

Why is Pigeon Pose so Awesome?

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Before a yoga class begins, I like to ask students what they would like to focus on. Over half of the time, students shout out “hips”! Some even specifically request the most well known hip-opener: pigeon pose. As ubiquitous as the bird it shares a name with, this pose is a great hip opener and has variations and subtleties that help it adapt to fit every student’s needs

Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is an intermediate pose that opens the hips and chest, stretches the quads and, depending on the variation, provides a backbend. Just a heads up, there is another version known in Sanskrit as Kapotasana that is an advanced backbend and hip stretch, but I’m primarily referring to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. The pose may have been named after an actual pigeon (kapota translates to pigeon in Sanskrit), as the full expression of the pose resembles a pigeon puffing up its chest. It may have also been named after a yogic master named Kapota, who was known for agility, strength and vitality and documented in the Mahabharata scripture. Either way, this pose is awesome. Let’s explore why.

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The full expression of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Adapts to Every Students Needs

When we say pigeon, we usually are referring to some kind of hip opener. Pigeon can adapt to whatever you need- the traditional form, bolstered with a prop, or done in a supine position. Types of pigeon include, but are not limited to:

 

Kapotasana

This advanced posture stretches the groin and back.

Rajakapotasana or One-Legged King Pigeon

The elegant, advanced posture adds the backbend into the hip-opener. It is the “full” expression of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.

Pigeon on a Perch

Do you have trouble keeping your hip down? Place a block under it for support- your very own ”perch”!

Dead Pigeon

Morbid but comfortable! Lie on your back and simulate the hip opening by crossing one ankle of the knee and binging the knee toward the chest. This is also called thread the needle.

Double Pigeon

One leg not enough? Cross the other leg over for double the action. This is also known as fire log.

Standing Pigeon

From chair pose, cross one ankle over the opposing knee to open the hip!

 

Pigeon Opens the Hip and Stimulates the Nervous System

Pigeon pose also stretches the quads and chest, and is a backbend depending on the variation you choose. It also stretches the psoas muscle, the main hip flexor and connector of the torso and legs that becomes shorter due to a seated and sedentary lifestyle. It is a great way to lengthen and strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the hips by externally rotating the femur in the hip socket. The full expression of the posture also stimulates organs and glands in the abdomen, all of which promote physical wellness.

Mentally, pigeon pose helps you regulate yourself in stressful situations. The intensity of the posture activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing a “fight or flight” stress response. Finding pigeon pose helps you face challenges in life by teaching you to stay calm when this stress response is activated.

To recap, pigeon pose is awesome because it is adaptable to your needs, deeply stretches the hips and other areas, and may help you deal with emotions and stress in a healthier way.

How awesome is that?

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I Tried Goat Yoga. This is What I Think.

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On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to do goat yoga, which is quite literally yoga with goats around you. Before taking the class, I was skeptical of this trend. It seemed really gimmicky, kind of fun, but at what cost? Was it harming the goats or the traditions of yoga?

I decided I needed to explore the trend and experience it first hand.

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A preview of goat yoga.

History of Goat Yoga

Goat yoga hopped onto the scene in 2015 and has been popular ever since. Lainey Morse, an Oregon resident and farm owner founded the first publicized goat yoga event. After dealing with some challenging life events, she began to host happy hours with baby goats to find and spread some happiness. This led to a woman asking to host a yoga class in the property, and goat yoga was serendipitously born. Since then, variations of goat yoga have been popping up around the country, all of which are finding an audience. As cute and seemingly innocuous as goat yoga sounds, the trend has caused controversy in the yoga community, especially in regards to disrespecting the tradition of yoga. I personally thought the event sounded weird, but I wanted to keep an open mind and see what the trend was all about.

 

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The Class: What Went Down

The class was one-hour long in a beautiful park. The group started off corralled with mobile fencing, and after everyone had their mats in place, they were released. We all sat in a circle and the teacher sat in the middle. We began a yoga flow while the goats were wandering around the pen. Students are encouraged to participate in the yoga, or take some time out and just enjoy the goats. One thing is certain: goats do not care about  you or yoga.  They are looking for food, and any buttons on your clothing. The teacher occasionally handed out goat food to entice them to jump on your back and just hang out near you.

One thing is certain: goats do not care about you or yoga.

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Things I observed:

  1. The animal welfare is good.

The goats are treated well, and meet the standards of the Five Freedoms designated to assess animal welfare. They have access to food, movement, and water. This class was clearly not their first rodeo, and they were easily coaxed into hopping on backs. On an economic front, you are supporting the goats. Selfies with animals is a contentious topic, and one that I normally side on the “not necessary” side with. Taking photos with wild animals is not necessary, and often harmful to the animal subject. Goats, on the other hand, are domestic and are bred to need human care. Animals are awesome, and people may not have experience with them if they haven’t had the opportunity. In this sense, goat yoga offers a way to foster a learning experience and love for goats.

   2. It is all about the photos.

Would goat yoga exist without photos? Maybe, but the lure of a cute, unusual photo is a major draw. I’m not going to lie- this is the really gimmicky part of goat yoga. But in a world where photos are shared daily, a unique picture is desirable. Goats are awesome. They are cool animals and spending a class with them teaches you a little bit about their behaviors (and how their poop look like raisins). You can get a similar experience in a petting zoo, but the class makes you focus on the goats. It is rare that people have this kind of interaction with animals. Also, with a lot of bad stuff happening in the world, it can be nice to step outside of your normal yoga practice and do something different.

  1. It is not traditional.

This is pretty obvious by the name. You are encouraged to do yoga, but when cute baby goats surround you, your focus is usually going to be focused outward, often with your phone in hand in case a cute photo opportunity presents itself. Whether this should be called “yoga” is definitely debatable, but the marketing power of the word “yoga” is understandable from a business perspective. Does it honor the traditional philosophy of yoga? No.

  1. It will make you laugh.

This is by far the best part of goat yoga. I have never been in a yoga class where I laugh so much. You know the sometimes-awkward waiting period you have before a yoga class begins? That time is now filled with staring at goats or sneaking in a few pets. I also found it really easy to joke with people next to me. The event is social vs. personal, and this makes fun event.

  1. If you are new to yoga, it is not the best introduction to a yoga practice.

If you are interested in starting a yoga practice, I wouldn’t recommend goat yoga as the first choice. Yoga does require basic knowledge of postures, alignment and breathing techniques, and these are hard things to teach with goats around. But as a social event, goat yoga is great. It is all about the goats, and beginners should go to a class that helps them learn a solid yoga base.

 

Final Thoughts

I entered the fenced in area skeptical, but I came out feeling better. Goat yoga is, in its essence, fun. It makes you laugh. It allows goats to live their life and for you to watch. Should it be called yoga? Maybe not. Goat Stretch may be more appropriate. Goat yoga is not traditional, and that isn’t a bad thing. Things change, they adapt, and new things are invented. This is just life. Shouldn’t we all laugh a little more? Perhaps the popularity of goat yoga is rooted in people needing some joy in their lives. Goat yoga delivers just that.

Interested in finding goat yoga near you? Start with this list!

Thanks to Goat Yoga Las Vegas for the class.

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Sitting Sucks. Yoga Can Help.

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How many hours do you sit in a day?

What effect does this have on your body? On your mind?

We sit. We sit a lot.

People sit for work, on a drive to work, during lunch, during meetings, coffee out with friends. This sedentary posture is so common that many people schedule in their time for a work out, perhaps assuming they will not actually get a work out during the day. The push to make things easier and comfortable is leading some to some negative health trajectories. The good news is that we can do something about it to improve our health and wellness.

To be clear, sitting is and of itself not bad. It is the amount of daily sitting combined with lack of exercise that gets us in trouble. Take home point: sitting for extended periods of time, especially with poor posture, has negative effects on our health.

What Does Extended Sitting Do to Your Body?

Over time, sitting can mess with the body in multiple ways, such as poor organ function, muscle degeneration, bad back, reduced mental clarity, general body strain and weakening.

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Graphic from Quitting Sitting.

How does all of this happen? When we sit, we are sedentary- not moving. By not moving, we are losing strength and vitality in the body resulting in circulation and oxygen intake and weakening of our muscles. When we sit, we deteriorate.

Avoiding or reducing sitting can be tough, as it is often built into the day. Between driving to and from work, sitting at a desk for a large chunk of the day, and sitting down for dinner with friends and family, sometimes it is hard to avoid sitting!

The most difficult part of breaking the sedentary lifestyle is changing daily patterns. Set achievable goals that you can pattern into your day. Are you able to avoid watching TV for an hour and instead pop on a podcast and go walking? Can you walk to lunch? Have a stationary bike in the television room? Small changes can have big effects- we are designed to be active!

Yoga to Counteract Sitting

Yoga helps us engage our muscles by bringing new blood flow to areas that we don’t always use. The breath work also helps stimulate the nervous system and keep us calm and alert. Any yoga is good for you, but the following postures are a great way to target areas that may be weakened due to prolonged sitting.

Cat/Cow

Increase spinal flexion and extension with this pairing. In Kundalini yoga, you can do this set rapidly for 3 minutes to increase energy and balance.

Half Pigeon

Hip-opening poses like half pigeon pose help to counteract the detrimental effects of sitting by stretching muscles, tendon, ligaments and fascia in the area, release emotional build up and improve the ability to deal with stress by finding calm through activating the flight or fight response we all have.

Revolved Triangle

This pose engages the spine, abs, and the hamstrings- all muscles that need attention from a life with a lot sitting!

Wide Legged Forward Fold

Low back pain is a common issue for many people, and sitting can aggravate it. Release the low back, stretch the hamstrings and reverse blood flow in this pose.

The First Step is to Start

These are just a few ideas of poses to insert into the day and break up the seated lifestyle. Any yoga practice is a good way to counteract the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. The biggest challenge is simply working it into your day. Start small, put in the effort, and remember that are bodies are made to move! If you feel overwhelmed, check out the Sit-Stand transition guide from Quitting Sitting.

To check yourself and your progress, start with 3 baseline days. Simply record how many hours or minutes a day you spend sitting.

Make an achievable goal to reduce sitting time and get active! Insert an activity into your sitting them.

If you need support, get some friends together and hold one another accountable.

Take a stand against the harmful effects of sitting- literally! Let us know how you do!

 

 

 

Nickeled & Dimed in Yoga: Why do Yogis Work for Free?

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Most people do not get into yoga for the money, despite the industry being worth over 10 billion dollars in the US. Becoming a yoga teacher requires an incredible amount of dedication and costs, including monetary and personal. Yoga professionals are aware that a lucrative yoga market does not necessarily translate to a lucrative yoga career. In fact, many yoga teachers have, at some point, worked for free. In an industry that has exploded in the past five years, and requires extensive training and dedication, why are yoga teachers willing to work for no monetary gain? Why don’t Yogis demand more?

  1. We are driven by passion, not money.

Most people who work in the yoga industry may enter it out of passion, focusing more on the joy of actually teaching, practicing, and being involved in the yoga community than wealth. The connection to yoga is a powerful personal one, and the instructor wants to share that with others.

  1. We are predominantly women, and we do more for less.

Another factor is rooted in the demographics of yoga: the majority of yogis are women. Women work for less pay, speak up less about pay inequalities, and do more work than male counterparts. In fact, women are more likely to work with unstable contract jobs and are more reluctant to ask for a pay increase or promotion. Bottom line- research has shown that women work for less money than men, and these societal roots may be growing into yoga.

  1. We are honoring yoga philosophy by giving to others.

The Upanishads are ancient scriptures that discuss the concept of karma yoga, or sacrifice through action. In the modern day, others may feel that they are acting in a selfless form of Karma yoga, using yoga’s own philosophy to explain working for less or nothing. Essentially, you are sacrificing your work for perceived benefit of others.

 

  1. We equate celebrity or notoriety to success.

The popularity of yoga in recent years has created a competitive yoga market. Developing a following via social media, including YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, is commonplace for yoga teachers. The yoga industry has combined into fitness industry and celebrity culture, promoted by social media outlets. The result? Many teachers are willing to work for free in the hopes of achieving success by creating a following or brand.

Should Yogis Work for Free?

As much as I would like to answer this question with an unwavering “NO”, I recognize that the situation is more complex than that. In a time of unpaid internships and people vying for exposure, I can’t knock anyone for try to get experience- in fact, many people do it in a way to pay their dues before getting a paid gig. However, the amount of unpaid “work” in yoga is alarming, ranging from work trades abroad to promise of exposure through online websites- all without monetary pay. Working without appropriate compensation affects not just you, but other people in the industry as well. When considering working for free in the name of experience and exposure may actually devalue the work that you do. This devaluing of work reaches far beyond the individual, affecting the overall industry.

If you are in this situation, or are considering working for free, reflect on this: Do you feel respected? Are you learning something? If you answer no to either of these questions, I would leave and gain your experience elsewhere. If yes, consider staying- as long as it feels okay to you. But be aware that this is feeding into a larger social structure that promotes inequality. Respect yourself, what you do, and be true to who you are as a teacher, person, and student. You are valuable, but will you demand and command others to see you the same? It is your call.

 

Using your Yoga Practice to Burst the Busy Bubble

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We are all guilty of multitasking and pretending to be busy. In the era of social media where notifications constantly beep for our attention, it is fair to say a lot of us are distracted. The other day, I went for a walk. It was beautiful and sunny outside, and still I caught myself browsing through Instagram. I put the phone away and realized that multitasking and looking busy was actually taking away from what really matters: the enjoyment in the present moment.

Our Culture of Busyness

I credit my awareness to the “culture of busyness” to my yoga practice. The irony is that I originally started yoga to fill time- in other words, to stay busy. However, as my yoga practice progressed, it equipped me with the tools to slow down, deepen the breath, and try to focus on the present moment. At least sometimes.

Like many people, I find my social media and subsequently my phone pretty addictive. There is evidence that humans have the same attention span as a goldfish. Yes, a goldfish. What does this mean? People surveyed reported having an attention span is a mere 8 seconds, largely attributed to our attention being divided amongst multiple medias. This isn’t really an insult goldfish, but an example of how human attention is shifting due to smartphones. While are attention spans becoming shorter, we are able to multitask better- again, presumably because we have a wealth of information and entertainment at our fingertips. But is this a good or bad thing?

Depending on how you look at it, this ability to do many things at once but constantly be looking for the next thing is good, bad, or neither. For example, you may be able be more productive than offer, but you may not actually be enjoying the process of producing because your attention is pulled in too many directions. Or you may be looking ahead to see what the next project is. This can produce what psychologists call a the hedonic treadmill, a never ending race to find pleasure and joy that just keeps going and going, consistently leaving us unsatisfied. How do you burst the busy bubble and step of the hedonic treadmill? Use your yoga! Deepen your breath, close your eyes, and focus on the present moment, Try to tame the wandering monkey mind heading straight for the hedonic treadmill.

Yoga Helps Bursts the Busy Bubble

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, verse 1.2 states that “Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind”, in other words, get you to slow down and be in the present moment. A regular yoga practice can help you slow down and take control of manic thoughts. There is nothing wrong with being productive, but you should be able to put on the brakes when you need to!

 

Other steps you can take:

  1. Be mindful and show daily gratitude
  2. Take care of your mind and body so you stay healthy
  3. Stay away form people, places and activities that bring you down
  4. Appreciate and help others

If you need more inspiration to reduce busyness, check out this TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi.

Challenge the culture of busyness. Slow down. Embrace the present . You may be all the happier for it!