September Focus of the Month – Cultivating Calm in a Chaotic World

Cultivating Calm in a Chaotic World

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States today. It doesn’t take a diagnosis to feel the impact. Whether it’s your own occasional suffering or a loved one’s persistent condition, anxiety crops up everywhere — draining life of its color, leaving exhausted humans in its wake.

This month we bring you tools to address the anxiety in your life, taught by yogis for millennia. While not a replacement for therapy or medication, yoga offers its practitioners many resources to access calm and peace even when these feel far away.

Some of the many tools of yoga:

  • Breath awareness, or pranayama practices. Ranging from the simple to the adventurous, yoga’s breath practices offer a way to become grounded and embodied, pulling the practitioner out of head space and into body space.
    • This month your teachers will guide you through breath awareness and breath techniques.
  • Gaze points, or drishti. Yoga is very concerned with focusing the mind. Its underlying assumption is that each of us has the power to tame the mind as a charioteer might tame horses. Focusing the eyes on a single spot is just one way to reign in the mind and to bring it under conscious control.
    • Notice when your instructor suggests where you should gaze.
  • Movement, or asana. Not everyone feels relaxed or at ease when they sit down, for instance to meditate. Agitating thoughts, like memories and worries, can sometimes be more noisy when all is still. Physical movement provides a way to lull and vitalize the mind and body, bringing them into better connection, stimulating happiness hormones and elevating mood.
    • The hearty part of any yoga class, consider how breath, gaze, mind and body come into balance when you’re doing asana.
  • Meditation. Anxiety and related disorders can have the effect of tightening and constricting consciousness. Sometimes done prior to movement, sometimes done afterward, meditation has the power to give you access to a wider field of awareness, bringing stressful thoughts into perspective, calming the nervous system, and kicking on the restorative centers of the brain.
    • Even a single minute of meditation can have a powerful effect. Your teachers can point you to more opportunities to learn how to meditate, if that interests you.
  • Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep. Yoga nidra is a restorative practice wherein the instructor guides you into a rested waking state while your body is positioned comfortably. The usual brain centers get a break and the healing centers work their magic.
    • TYH teacher Susan DeRyder and her partner Shawn are offering Asana and Sound Healing with yoga nidra this month, Friday, Sept. 28th, 7:30-9:30pm.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and yoga’s true impact comes when it is practiced regularly and over the long term as a lifestyle. Tune in to your teachers’ suggestions all month long. Balanced, peaceful, calm and joyful people are especially needed right now, and all the work you do to embody these qualities has a ripple effect “out there.”

Thanks for your commitment to the practice. See you on the mat <3.

 

In gratitude and service,

 

Leigha & Jacquelyn

Aroma REST Express with Mel Toth – July 6th, 6:45-7:45pm – $15

Aroma REST Express

 with Mel Toth

Friday, July 6th

6:45-7:45pm

$15

Uptown


aroma restorative, mel toth, essential oils, yoga, kingston, ny

Join Mel for two monthly offerings — her regular Aroma RESTorative class and a special Express version of the class in early July. Express, which normally follows Dee Pitcock’s Roll & Recovery, is still on in July even though R&R is on hiatus until August. Relax and unwind with restorative poses and hand-selected essential oils.


Sign me up!



August Focus – The 4 Aspects of Mind

Where Is My Mind?

Yogis have long sought to understand the cause of human suffering. As in many spiritual traditions, the aim has been to minimize suffering and maximize fulfillment. At the core of most needless suffering, argues this lineage, are habits of the mind, which, when left unexamined and untrained, can leave us in a state of lack, isolation, and anxiety.

The upshot is that each of us can learn which aspects of the mind tend to cause our superfluous pain. Armed with this information, we can stop painful thought habits in their tracks.

The mind, in Patanjalian terms, is comprised of four basic components:

Chitta, the storehouse of memories;
Manas, sensory processing;
Buddhi, discernment; and
Ahamkara, the notion of “I.”

The categories may appear to simplify what goes on in the ol’ noggin, but upon closer examination they’re pretty darn comprehensive. What follows is just a taste and, truthfully, an oversimplification.

So Where Do you Get Stuck?

Chitta
If you tend to get caught in chitta, you may have a habit of recalling the past and dwelling there a bit more than feels good. Do you play your own embarrassing moments on the screen of your mind? Do you tend to ruminate about past hurts to the detriment of your enjoyment now? A certain amount of this is unavoidable and even necessary, but catch yourself if these habits lead you to any shade of misery.

Or, you may spend your mental resources envisioning and perhaps worrying about future events. This is another way chitta strikes, most often subconsciously. Again, we need a little bit of prior planning to function at our best, but watch out when your time spent in the imagined future eclipses your time spent in the eternal now.

Manas
Manas, or the lower mind, is that which keeps us bound to sensory experience. On the positive (and essential) side, it facilitates our interaction with the world around us and puts us in touch with our senses. It processes information coming through the visual and other sensory centers, helping us to understand the environment and our relationship to it.

At its worst, it binds us to passing whims and gruff desires as though the cerebral cortex weren’t a thing. It’s what guides a guilty dog. Akin to the Freudian Id, “Me see x. Me like x,” might be its reductionist essence. To keep manas in its rightful position, we develop the layer of awareness that deciphers incoming stimuli with any eye toward consequences — that’s buddhi.

Buddhi
Buddhi is thought to be the most sattvic (or pure) aspect of mind. It’s our ability to discern and decipher, helping us for instance to understand the difference between a painful option and a desirable one. But when buddhi has led you down a path of suffering, it often looks like “analysis paralysis.” Have you ever caught yourself considering something — anything! a person, a situation, a decision — from a thousand and one angles? What begins as enjoyable consideration becomes a quagmire of speculation, indecision and prolonged over-analysis.

If you’re an over-analyzer, or if judgment and criticism tend to be your oft-tread avenues for emotional affliction, hey, the first step is admitting it! Rather than be ruled by your mind, yoga teaches that you can bring your mind into balance with focused practice (Hello, gaze points, breath work, asana, self study, and meditation).

Ahamkara
Finally, ahamkara, or ego, is that which holds us in a perpetual state of “I-ness” and therefore, too easily, isolation and alienation. Although totally necessary for healthy functioning, ahamkara is the self-same aspect of mind that will tell you things like: I am better than he is. Or, I don’t measure up to her because. Or, I deserve this more than they do because. I was slighted the other day when—. I feel insulted because.

Ahamkara’s most clever work is its subtlest. It doesn’t always show up as a pompous, egregious, “me, me, me” sort of state. It’s more likely to operate just underneath conscious awareness, offering little subliminal messages that tear you down or build you up but ultimately keep you from feeling connected to and at one with the life forms who make up your earthly family.

May this model of the mind-field help you to catch yourself in unnecessary suffering, and may your time on the mat shed light on what it feels like to tend to a mindscape in harmony and at peace.

In gratitude & service,

Leigha & Jacquelyn