Truth is in the Name

Following along the themes of the Yamas as the first limb in the 8 limb principles of yoga, the second of the Yamas is a simple one but not always easy. Some of my favourite asana postures are like this too. They challenge the mind and the body to work together.

We’ll be exploring the idea of Satya, or truth, as it pertains to the way we express ourselves both outwardly and inwardly.

Kali Mudra

Kali Mudra

Pose: Crescent Lunge
Mudra: Kali Mudra
Mantra: Sat nam (“My name is truth”)

  • From standing, step the right foot toward back of mat. Allow the left knee to bend toward the big toe. Ensure the pelvis is stable.

  • Come into Kali mudra, named after the fierce goddess Durga, bringing hands together with all fingers save index fingers interlaced - index fingers represent the sword of Durga, who slays illusions.

    • Both Kali and Durga are manifestations of the goddess Mahadevi

    • Durga represents the empowerment that enables us to stand in our truth

  • Inhale to lift the hands overhead

  • Exhale to lower them to heart level while visualizing the sword cutting through whatever causes you to be inauthentic (words, clothing, actions, habits)

  • Chant mantra Sat nam (“My name is truth”)

This time of year (if you’re living in the North-western hemisphere) we notice the days getting colder and darker and we learn into our comforts. It is a time of year where we can allow unhealthy habits to develop that deplete us or we can stoke the fire from within using fierce discipline and face our truths, no matter how uncomfortable or ugly they may be.

Whether we relate to the idea of mythology or not, the energy of Durga (often depicted in a menacing image holding many weapons while riding a tiger) represents our inner battles with duties/responsibilities, seeking happiness, values, forgiveness over mistakes - both personal and those of others, as well as other circumstantial challenges we face in life. Each weapon she yields represents each category of the struggle.

Image from India Currents

Image from India Currents

Focus of the Month: Ahimsa, from the 8 Limbs of Yoga

If you’ve been in a yoga class or teacher training and hear about the guiding philosophies that go beyond just the physical practice (Asana), then it’s probably in reference to the Yamas or the Niyamas. These principles were written thousands of years ago and once considered mandatory vows for any yoga practitioner.

They can be difficult for the modern practitioner to embrace in a secular, contemporary society. In the same vein, yoga was developed for adolescent boys to teach them to sit still with discipline and to strengthen their bodies for the arduous work ahead of them. Now, more than half your average yoga class is practiced by women and even more classes are created for women, like pre- and post-natal yoga.

My suggestion, as I review just a couple of the meanings from the 1st Limb of Ashtanga Yoga - The Yamas - would be to consider these “rules” less as directives and more as reflective tools that allow us to deepen our self-awareness in yoga class and beyond. These practices can have deep and long lasting effects, whereas the physical practice only takes you so far on the path.

For example, violence isn’t just firing a weapon; it may also arise in the harsh ways we treat ourselves (like pushing too hard in class to keep up with or compete with classmates). Or, non-possessiveness could be interpreted as letting go of old grudges.

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The first of The Yamas is Ahimsa, which means Non-Harming.

Rather than trying to explain, my teaching style is to bring it into the senses immediately - to feel - starting with the physical body in the Asana practice.

Pose: Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)
Mudra: Padma (Lotus) Mudra
Mantra: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (“May beings in all reals experience the feeling state of ease”)

  • From standing, step the right leg back towards the right edge of the mat, spiraling the right heel down so the foot is grounded

  • Bend the left knee and guide the right hip toward the left big toe

  • Bring hands together at the heart with fingers apart, in the gesture of Padma (lotus) Mudra

    • Drawing inspiration from the purity and perseverance of the lotus flower floating above the muddy waters of desire, fear and attachment - the feelings that cause us to lash out at others or ourselves

    • Meditate on the namesake of the pose: Vira means “hero” or “warrior” and bhadra means “with great virtue”

    • Apply concept of non-harming with fortitude and grace of a warrior

    • Attune warrior energy toward the virtues and peace and non-harming of yourself, others and the environment

    • Chant: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (“May beings in all reals experience the feeling state of ease”)

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). Photo by Annaliese Godderz.

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). Photo by Annaliese Godderz.

Padma (Lotus) Mudra. Photo by Joelle Ng.

Padma (Lotus) Mudra. Photo by Joelle Ng.






Mindfulness for Creativity & Critical Thinking

Teaching the practice of mindfulness is rewarding not only when you get to witness the calm, grounded transformation of your corporate students, but also the practices are immediately taken into the context of the work in the very setting where it's meant to be done. 

forbes office

Forbes' HQ in Jersey City is a bright and clean, spacious office overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You can even see the Statue of Liberty through one of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the reception. Just what you'd expect to see from a creative digital media powerhouse: sophisticated leather couches with colorful pillows and high-top hover tables for spontaneous discussion, gaming break rooms and open floor plan desk configurations. Forbes employees get to experience a bit of startup culture daily. And thanks to their Head of Product & Tech, they look forward to a mindfulness lunch led by yours truly every month. 

mindful

Most of the practitioners attending are beginners of mindfulness, with a little experience of guided meditation at the end of a yoga class, at most. And the employees are often coming from different departments, mixing creative with engineering and even department heads drop in on a session from time to time. Most say it's a welcome break in the stacked workday and they look forward to feeling more energized and focused after practicing mindfulness. 

The unexpected benefits, including increased ability for problem solving, experienced after a mindfulness session are the most rewarding for a teacher. Once, while eating gourmet pizza personally delivered by the Head of Product & Tech himself after concluding the meditation, one of his employees came to a realization during the session or, as I like to call it a "moment of clarity", that led to the group launching into a discussion about the organization of meeting structures and shifting of office layout. 

creative office space

The relaxed state of stillness between thoughts is a breeding ground for creative and critical thinking. And the quiet and inquisitive space held by the facilitator was as effective a tool for workplace productivity and camaraderie as installing pool tables and kombucha on tap, if not more. 

Of course Forbes has some of the best content on mindfulness in the workplace. Check out more benefits here