Here’s What Happened When I Tried Mantra Meditation During The Hardest Month of My Life

Hint: It helped. A lot.

Want to know the benefits of mantra meditation? Here is what happened when one writer tried mantra meditation during the hardest month of her life.

If someone would’ve told me back in December that the first month of 2019 would be the hardest of my life, I probably would’ve thought twice before signing up for Yoga Journal’s 30-day meditation challenge. Because let’s be honest: Meditation is the exact opposite of running away from your problems. Instead, it inspires you to sit your butt down right in the middle of those problems and face your resulting emotions head on.

In January, all I wanted to do was run away from my ongoing relationship problems, self smack-talk, and most significantly, the immense sadness from the death of my beloved aunt.

See also YJ Tried It: 30 Days of Guided Sleep Meditation

Yet even though there were many days that stared at my cushion with pure, unadulterated resentment, or put off my practice until the end of the day, I can honestly say that the practice completely transformed how I handled some of the most challenging times I’ve ever faced. It not only gave me the space to confront my feelings, but it also helped me learn how to take care of myself along the way.

Introducing Myself to Mantra Meditation

I’ve been consistently meditating for a little over a year now, practicing everything from guided 10-minute meditations on the Calm app to classes at MNDFL meditation studio in New York City. However, I would say my relationship with meditation didn’t become a real commitment until I got a meditation cushion for my apartment about five months ago. It’s dramatically changed my practice, which used to happen in my bed. (You can imagine how that went on the days I was tired.)

Even though I had heard positive things about mantra meditation—a practice where you silently repeat a mantra, which you either choose for yourself or is given to you during an initiation—I was pretty intimidated by it. However, when I spoke with Alan Finger, meditation teacher and author of Tantra of the Yoga Sutras: Essential Wisdom for Living with Awareness and Grace, he told me that mantra, just like asana or pranayama, is simply a tool used to alter the consciousness. “When practicing with a mantra, it’s important to say the mantra aloud first, so that you can feel the sound vibrations in the body,” he told me.

See also Tempted to Skip Savasana? 10 Top Yoga Teachers Explain Why It’s the Most Important Pose

As a somewhat experienced meditator, mantra meditation was still very new to me. I didn’t really have a plan to choose a mantra, but after practicing alongside Hilary Jackendoff in a guided meditation video, she helped me discover “So Hum,” which means “I am that.” Finger mentioned that different mantras can be used for different feelings, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and more, but this mantra felt pretty versatile, so I stuck with it.

Jackendoff taught us to meditate with the mantra, using the breath. On every inhalation, I would silently say the word “So.” On every exhalation, I would silently say the word “Hum.” I’m used to meditating with my breath, so this seemed doable.

Week 1: When Sh!t Hits the Fan, It’s Time to Sit

Disclaimer: I didn’t meditate at all the first two days of January. I also didn’t work out or eat healthy (some of the habits I stick with regularly). I was feeling really down on myself, because January is supposed to be a time to start new habits, eat clean, and get fit—and I felt like I blew it already. It sounds ridiculous, but that is my thought process sometimes. When my good habits don’t happen, I tend to beat myself up.

Then, as I was working at my laptop on the third day of January, I had a thought and told myself: You can sit here, work, and feel miserable—or you can take a 20-minute break, step away from your laptop, and meditate.

See also Get Your Sit Together: 7 Best Meditation Cushions to Support Your Practice

It took everything in me to walk upstairs and grab my cushion, but I was desperate to feel better, so that’s exactly what I did.

Week 2: When “I am that” becomes “I am love”

After my first week of mantra meditation, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Suddenly, my goals for the new year weren’t tied to perfecting myself through diet and exercise, but instead, doing something every day that made me feel loved—and meditation became that thing. I switched my mantra. Instead of silently repeating So Hum, I started repeating “I am” on every inhalation and “love” on every exhalation. I found myself looking forward to making a cup of tea, plopping down on my cushion, and sitting for 20 to 30 minutes every day.

Having a week of solid practice under my belt really helped me for what was to come. Because my theme for 2019 is self-love, I became hyper aware of my relationships—with myself and with others. My boyfriend and I got into an argument in the beginning of the month and I wasn’t able to let it go. Every time we tried to talk about it, we couldn’t come to a fair conclusion.

See also 5 Poses to Help You Reconnect With Your Partner After a Miscommunication

During the second week of my meditation, the lingering argument kept coming up in my meditation. I would sit on the cushion, silently repeat my mantra, and cry. How could I practice “I am love” if I didn’t feel loved? How could I love him if I kept beating myself up?

So, what did I do? I continued to sit, to cry, and to come back to my breath. Giving myself that space during meditation allowed me to tap into what I was really feeling. It also gave me the space to go to my boyfriend later that week with a calm heart. Instead of arguing, we were able to have a productive conversation. I truly believe that if I didn’t give myself that space, we would still be arguing today about the same thing.

Bee and her Aunt Gigi in 2011.

Weeks 3 and 4: Sitting with Sadness

For the past eight months, my beloved aunt had been living with metastatic breast cancer—the terminal kind. On January 21, she passed away.

A few days before her death, I my mom called me to let me know it was time to come home. I took a bus from New York City to Maryland on the morning of January 21 and repeated my mantra for about 25 minutes. An hour into my journey, my brother texted me to tell me that my aunt had passed away.

See also Spiritual Leader Ram Dass on Zen and the Art of Dying

In the days following my aunt’s death, I felt so much hurt I didn’t even realize was possible. Every time I came to my meditation cushion, I would cry, breathe, and simply sit in a feeling of numbness. The cushion gave me space—to feel sad, to mourn, to feel angry, and sometimes, to do nothing. Every time I came back to my mantra—“I am love”—I remembered that my aunt wouldn’t want me to live in grief and sadness. It was inevitable to feel these emotions, sure. But I realized the only way these feelings would pass is if I really felt them.

The difference I noticed thanks to my new mantra meditation practice happened when I wasn’t on my cushion. Every single day after my aunt passed, I would ask myself how I could bring a little more love into my day. Some days that meant resting and watching movies with my mom. Other days that meant working out, going for a long walk, or spending time with friends.

Moving Forward with Mantra

Now that it’s February, I still hold my mantra in my heart. I still ask myself every day, “How can you bring more love into your day?” or “What will make you feel more loved?” I think I will continue to keep my mantra in my practice until something else seems like a better fit. Just as Finger told me, there’s a mantra for everything—and I look forward to discovering more mantras as my life’s journey, and all its ups and downs, unfolds.

See also Why Does Meditation Make You Feel So Rested?

Low Sex Drive? These Yoga Poses Can Help Rev It Back Up

I’ll be honest—I lost my mojo a few years ago.

While Austin Powers made losing his mojo funny, for me, it wasn’t the slightest bit humorous. In our overworked and over-stimulated digital world, the constant connection to my inbox, projects, and phone notifications acted like an off-switch for my sex drive. With a culture that remains hush-hush around bedroom talk, it wasn’t until I felt confident enough to talk about my struggle that I realized the phenomenon was happening far more frequently than I expected.

If you start to feel more connected to WiFi than our partners, how do we regain intimacy? For starters:

Ditch The Technology

The first step may be obvious: Ditch the tech after hours. When we are hyper-focused on what is happening outside of the bedroom, we lose focus of what is in front of us. Set a cut off time at the end of every night where the tech is turned off and you can turn on your partner. After creating space between myself and my devices, I turned to my yoga mat for answers to ignite the sexual flame again.

Using Yoga as a Tool for Sex Drive

The practice of yoga is a tool of unity and oneness. When we step on our mats, we are prompted to disconnect from outside stimulation. Every pose is an opportunity to tap into the rhythm of the body and breath which work simultaneously together to create a multi-sensory experience.

Just like yoga, sex is a multi-sensory experience of unity where two become one. Between the breath, the movement, and the presence required for mind-blowing sex, we can find inspiration through the postures and pranayama practiced on the mat.

5 Poses That Ignite Your Sex Drive

Hatha yoga, the parent style of the various styles practiced around the globe, stems from Tantra and uses poses and deep breathing to increase sexual libido. Throughout time, the history of Hatha has been watered down to focus more on health and fitness than stimulation. Despite the shift in focus, what many have noticed is that a consistent practice can be a catalyst to reignite the flame again.

Science is catching on with recent studies seeing a significant increase in sexual function in both men and women after completion of a 12-week session in yoga and fast breathing causing an increase of blood flow to the genitals. The studies focused on poses that increased blood flow in the sacral region and hips and are often found in your standard 60-minute flow.

Upon reading these studies, I took to my mat to see for myself if the poses held the answers I had been searching for. All photos of, and courtesy of, the author.

Full Wheel

Plant the feet hips width distance and bring the palms alongside the ears, fingertips face the shoulders. First, inhale the hips into bridge pose, then press through the palms to lift the chest toward the sky.

woman in wheel pose yoga

Cobra Pose

Bring the palms underneath the shoulders and the shoelace sides of the feet onto the mat. On an inhale, straighten through the arms and lift the chest. Relax the shoulders down the back and relax into the lower body.

woman in cobra pose

Fish Pose

From lying on the back, bring the palms alongside the hips. Press through the forearms and palms to lift the chest and round through the spine. Option to bring the crown of the head onto the mat to expose the throat.

woman in fish pose ava johanna

Bow Pose

From the stomach, bend into the knees and capture the outside edges of the feet. Begin first by kicking into the palms enough so the chest hovers off of the mat.

woman in bow pose ava johanna

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Place your right thumb on your right nostril and peace fingers on your third eye. Plug the right nostril and begin inhaling through the left for a count of five. At the top of your inhale, plug both nostrils, then release the right thumb. Continue with this breathing for 5-10 minutes to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

woman doing alternate side nostril breathing ava johanna

Does It Really Work?

If the flames of your sexual desire aren’t burning bright, adding yoga into the mix is a practice that can fan the flame on a physical and emotional level. While it’s not the end-all-be-all that will guide you back to your mojo, it is an intentional practice that awakens our connection to the present moment and our partner. For me, combining these poses with breathwork, a nightly digital detox, and intimate conversations with my partner was a recipe for success. As Austin Powers says: Yeah, baby!

Ava Johanna Pendl is a wellness writer and teacher based out of Southern California. Between teaching meditation, yoga, and breathwork at events across the globe, Ava focuses on providing readers with online mindfulness practices via her blog and her podcast, The Alchemized Life. Check out her website,  Instagram, and podcast.

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Deepen Your Practice with the Yamas and Niyamas

In ancient India, it is said that the great yogis would only teach asana, pranayama, and the steps to meditation if students had sufficiently mastered the first two limbs of the eight-limbed path of yoga—the Yamas and Niyamas.

The 10 guidelines or observances, the Yamas and Niyamas, are often overlooked in our rush to get on the mat, get moving, and get noticeable results. In our world of instant gratification it can seem more desirable to learn and achieve crane pose than to practice sincerity in every moment. Our egos may tell us that a headstand will be more fulfilling than only taking what we need from the Earth’s resources. It can seem far easier to meditate for 20 minutes a day than to practice kindness in every moment.

While the Yamas and Niyamas invite us to remember that yoga is a way of life—not just 90 minutes three times a week—they are also integral to our sadhana. They are the foundation of an open heart and a peaceful spirit upon which we can build, and without them, the rest of the eight limbs become empty technique. How can we focus the mind, when it is full of cravings and aversions? How can we hold a posture if we do not have self-discipline? How can we enjoy the fruits of savasana if we are unprepared to surrender?

The Yamas, which translated from Sanskrit mean “restraints” are those renunciations that are to be embraced. They are:

Ahimsa: Nonviolence

Satya: Truthfulness

Asteya: Non-stealing

Brahmacharya: Non-excess

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness

By observing the Yamas we can create space in our lives and remove the blocks that keep our hearts from reaching out. They ask to us to be our best person and thereby allow us to take a deeper breath knowing we are acting in line with our true nature. It is the freedom that graces us with the Yamas which allows us to go deeper into the second stage of our eight-limbed path—the Niyamas. They are:

Saucha: Purity

Santosha: Contentment

Tapas: Self-discipline

Svadhyaya: Self-study

Ishvara Pranidhara: Surrender

These five Niyamas are practices to be nurtured and cultivated. They will stay with us during our lives taking us ever deeper into the subtle realms of our being, moving us closer to the stillness inside. Who we are beyond the body in asana, and beyond the mind in meditation is where the Niyamas gently lead us. Without them, samadhi would be an impossible dream.

“Paradoxically, the Yamas and Niyamas would not be possible to uphold if our true essence were not love, if love were not our aim and our home.”

In Meditations on the Mat, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison describe beautifully the journey to oneness created by the observances: “The Yamas and Niyamas would not be needed if we—the entire human race—did not already have the propensity to violate them. Paradoxically, the Yamas and Niyamas would not be possible to uphold if our true essence were not love, if love were not our aim and our home. To practice them we must find the maturity to tolerate the duality of our nature, while allowing the possibility of victory over our darkness. Love is not a thought, it is an action. And each loving action that we take infuses us with more energy for loving action in the future.” Each time we actually practice—not just think about—the Yamas and Niyamas, this is what we’re doing: Putting love into action.

HelenaveryHSHelen Avery is a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, and full-time dog walker of Millie. 

 

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Release Tension (& Move Lymph) with a Daily Ayurvedic Head Massage

John Douillard’s vigorous marma point scalp scrub enlivens you and moves lymph.

Craving change but feeling too stuck, sluggish, or restless to take aim? Join John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com, and Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, for Ayurveda 201: Six Weeks to Transformation and Bliss Through Ayurvedic Psychology. In this new online course, you’ll experience: unique yoga practices; inspiring discussions backed by science; and recipes, herbs, and a short, gentle cleanse. The results? Clarity, brilliance, and balance so you can create lasting shifts in your life and well-being. Learn more and sign up today!

In Ayurveda, self-massage called abhyanga is a significant part of a daily routine because it helps purify the body and hydrate the skin. However, if you’re skipping your scalp, you’re missing out on on some major benefits. Here, Ayurvedic expert and LifeSpa.com John Douillard, who leads YJ’s new course Ayurveda 201, reveals how a vigorous scalp scrub enlivens you, helps you enjoy a better night’s rest, detoxifies your brain, and moves lymph. Since the lymphatic system is responsible for delivering energy, eliminating toxins, and facilitating immune support, keeping it flowing is an important piece of health hygiene. Watch above as Douillard explains more.

See also Need to Cut Through Mental Fog? Blend 2 Common Breathing Practices

10 Years of Wanderlust with Janet Stone

Tradition dictates that a 10-year anniversary is celebrated with aluminum; modern norms have ditched the tin for diamonds. As we begin celebrating 10 years of Wanderlust in 2019, we think the diamond is apropos: Over the years, we’ve certainly refined the proverbial lump of mindful coal into what we consider a shining beacon of the promise of wellness for all.

It’s been a journey—and there have certainly been plenty of bumps along the road. But one of the things that hasn’t changed (and of which, full disclosure, we’re pretty darn proud!) is our great relationship with world-class teachers. Every year we bring you a roster of renowned talent to help you find your true north. In this series, we’ll highlight some of those teachers who have been with us over the years—and how they look back at their relationship with Wanderlust over the past decade. This week: Janet Stone

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this very special 10-Year Anniversary! Join the global mindful movement at a Wanderlust event this year.


Tell us about your first time at Wanderlust.

The first Wanderlust was a profound experiment in community.  We stepped out of our normal rhythms of practice to meet in the majestic mountains of Northern California. We showed up in the laboratory, fusing our passions of yoga, music, and nature. Over those four days, we danced, taught the many lineages of yoga, and met each other in the heart of practice. That weekend gifted me with lifelong friendships and a tribe that spans the globe.

woman teaching yoga on stage

Janet teaching at Yoga in the City (2013), a precursor to our 108 events.

Describe Wanderlust in 3 words.

Community. Nature. Wonder.

Janet Stone teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley, 2013.

Janet Stone teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley, 2014.

What does Wanderlust mean to you?

Wanderlust is home to me. A family reunion of all the friends I’ve met along this path and all of the new ones I get to meet on this journey. It means connection and collaboration, dance and exploration, pushing my boundaries and expanding my heart, singing with friends and being sung to by brilliant artists. Wanderlust is vitality and wonder.

 

 

janet stone and dj drez with records spinning

CLICK THE IMAGE to read an article Janet wrote in 2015 for the Wanderlust Journal about a collab with DJ Drez

How has Wanderlust been a part of your journey?

Being in the practice of yoga for nearly three decades, I can safely say that Wanderlust has been the yoga home that has made the most sense to me. It unites a vast community for those who want to be awake, alive and compassionate along this path.

Like any family, we’ve all witnessed each other grow and hold each other to the commitment of creating more love, connection and kindness in this world.

 

 

This video, featuring Janet, was shot on location at Wanderlust Festival in 2015. 

 

 

What Janet is up to now:

  • Stepping into my own online platform to offer deep dharma, online classes, and virtual trainings
  • Seventeen years of tending to my San Francisco home sangha
  • Leading deep immersive trainings globally, online, and at home in California. All of my offerings can be found at janetstoneyoga.com or @janetstoneyoga on Instagram
  • Working to awaken us all to climate change and all the ways we can make a difference. Deep bows to NRDC (Natural Resource Defence Councel) & SeaLegacy

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6 Tips for Sticking With Your Home (Or Nomadic) Yoga Practice

Practice at home with the all-new Wanderlust TV! For just $9.99 a month, you can Wanderlust anywhere with your favorite teachers, flows, and DJ-powered classes. 


A solo yoga class in your living room probably won’t match the energy of a packed class, but that’s not the point. Any time on your mat is a good time to move your body and shift your energy, and establishing a home (or traveling) yoga practice is the perfect way to stay in the flow. Here are some tips to get your started.

Be Prepared

A good mat and proper props are essential to be able to drop into your practice fully. Don’t expect to be able to immerse yourself into your yoga on a carpet, wood floor, or slippery mat. Have a good mat to use at home, along with a block and a strap. If you’re traveling, invest in a small roll-up mat, or even one that folds up like towel with a grippy surface.

Set Your Intention 

Have a good, clear reason to come to your mat. It can be as simple as the desire to ignite your day with some sun salutations, or shift your energy after a long day in the office. Hold the intention closely so that you stay committed to it. It’s a lot easier to get distracted, and even stop completely, when you’re not practicing in a room full of other yogis, so stay on task to create what you are looking to fulfill.

Clear Your Space

You don’t bring your cell phone and extra clothes into a studio class with you, do you? Then keep away the excess when you are practicing on your own. If possible, use an area that is clutter-free and uplifting (or calming) in energy, so that you don’t take on the weight and story of the room around you.

Listen Closely 

Podcasts are no secret in the world of self-practice, so use them! Videos are also a very useful tool (we may be biased, but our faves are definitely on Wanderlust TV). Download practices of all lengths from your favorite teachers, or try something new. Even if you are familiar with various poses and sequences, and even if you’re a teacher, anyone can benefit from being guided in a yoga practice—it helps get you out of your head and into your body. Play your favorite music to inspire even more energy movement.

Follow Through 

Don’t quit early. Complete your full practice with the integrity that it deserves. If you set aside 60 minutes or 90 minutes to practice, fulfill that whole time, without distraction. Step away from your phone and to-do list, even if there’s a stack of laundry calling your name in the other room. If you only have 20 minutes, there are still options. Give those quickie practices your all.

Stay Present 

Don’t lose the intention that you set and cultivated before and during your yoga practice. Walk away from the experience by taking a piece of mindfulness with you, and always take a moment to acknowledge yourself and your commitment to your ever-evolving journey.

kim-fullerKim Fuller grew up in the Colorado mountains and has always found beauty and inspiration through nature and movement. She is currently a freelance journalist and yoga teacher based in Vail. Her writing and photo work has focused on health, wellness, recreation, food, and travel since 2007, and Kim began her yoga practice in Boulder, followed by her first teacher training with Real Evolution Yoga at Peace Retreat Costa Rica in November of 2012.

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Quiz: What’s Your Ideal Style of Yoga? Find it on Wanderlust TV

Practice at home with the all-new Wanderlust TV! For just $9.99 a month, you can Wanderlust anywhere with your favorite teachers, flows, and DJ-powered classes. 


Some like it hot, some like it cold (or at least room temp). And whether it’s fast, slow, or up in the air, different styles speak to different yogis. Luckily “yoga” trickles down into several different types and forms, providing unique offerings for practitioners of every level . Whatever you seek, you can find and carry with you. Discover what serves you, what speaks to you, what awakens you, and leave the rest.

Take this quiz to see which style of yoga your soul prefers: 

1. When you’re feeling stressed, you neutralize it by:

A) Breathing through it.
B) Dancing it out.
C) Sweating it out.
D) Challenging yourself.
E) Chanting your heart out.

2. The best place to unfurl your mat is:

A) In a softly lit space with candles.
B) In a space with good jams and lots of room to move.
C) Scrap the mat, I’ll take a paddleboard or some scarves to hang on from the ceiling.
D) Wherever I can learn!
E) I just need a bolster or a blanket and maybe a wall. 

3. Whether you’re dropping it onto your pressure points or into your home diffuser, your go-to essential oil is:

A) Ylang Ylang to sedate and calm the emotions.
B) Frankincense to boosts immunity and reduce inflammation.
C) Rosemary to kick fatigue and boost energy.
D) Cyprus and peppermint to helps stay alert and focused.
E) Lavender to soothe the nervous system. 

4. Your favorite yoga prop:

A) Essential oils.
B) A good playlist.
C) Another human or a long silk scarf.
D) Blocks and some position cards.
E) Sound bowls, crystals, and a bolster.

5. Choose your spirit animal: 

A) Koala Bear: Intentional and mindful.
B) Cat: Agile and move with fluidity.
C) Bird: Ready to take flight and see what happens.
D) Elephant: Wise and curious.
E) Panda: Zen and enlightened.

6. Yogi’s choice. You most prefer: 

A) A grounded, slow-paced class with lots of juicy twists and stretches.
B) Moving with my breath. Flow-and-go style!
C) Acro with a friend, flying in the sky, or SUP on the water.
D) A technical workshop that focuses on specific postures.   .
E) Lots of OMs, chants, and soul searching.    

7. When you leave class, you want to feel:

A) Ready for bed.
B) Exhausted.
C) Energized.
D) Educated.
E) Transformed. 

8. When you wake up in the morning, your ideal routine is:

A) Taking a few deep breaths and supine twists before I even get out of bed.
B) Rolling out of bed and into downward dog; have to flow before I get out and go.
C) I’m going upside down, baby—I have to get a few inversions in first thing!
D) Working on improving postures that I struggle with.
E) I light some incense and start to breath, chant, or OM.

9. Your glass is half full of:

A) Kava root tea.
B) A coconut milk latté.
C) Yerba Maté.
D) Matcha.
E) Ginger tea. 

10. You have some down time, you:

A) Plant some flowers and take in the gorgeous Earth.
B) Duh—dance party!
C) Find some sort of adventure.
D) Crack open a book or catch a lecture, always curious to learn.
E) Get cozy and journal.


Mostly A’s: Yin

You are a grounded and beautiful soul in tune with your body. You push yourself hard, but know when to back off and go easy. Your idea of “treat yo’self” is a chance to relax and rejuvenate. Your idea class is restorative and spent mostly horizontal on your mat. You prefer soothing, stress-reducing, slow, long-held postures.

Mostly B’s: Vinyasa

Traditional, but a classic. You like to sweat it out and go with the flow, as they say. Whether you’re stressed, depressed or feeling great, a few vinyasas speak to your soul and always bring you home to yourself. You like the predictability of knowing what’s coming, and can appreciate a creative sequence as well. Your ideal class is flow based, organized and almost “dance like.” For adventures in vinyasa, try The Journey with Chelsey Korus on Wanderlust TV. 

Mostly C’s: Aerial, AcroYoga, SUP Yoga

You, yogi friend, are a friend to adventure! You’re anything but traditional and your practice proves it. Whether you’re taking flight with a few acro or aerial poses or tuning into your Aquarian side with a stand-up paddle board flow, these practices are perfect for those looking to combine the outdoors/adventure with their practice. 

Mostly D’s: YOGAMAZÉ 

Not one to shy away from a challenge, you are a rare breed. You hear the names of poses, you see the poses, but you want to know MORE. Is this the correct form? Are there modifications? What’s the next extension of it? What chakra does it open? Which part of the body is it benefiting? You, curious yogi, will find yourself at home with YOGAMAZÉ —a special and challenging kind of yoga class where you focus on alignment and specifics of the posture. New to YOGAMAZÉ?  Give it a try on Wanderlust TV. 

Mostly E’s: Meditation/Kundalini 

You know that the key to a happy body is a happy mind and while you love your traditional practice, you also love getting weird too. Curling up on a bolster with your crystals, some candles and maybe some essential oils is where you are most at home. When it comes to examining the soul, you go deep, making meditation and kundalini your ideal type of practice. Enhance your meditation practice with the Wanderlust 21-Day Meditation Challenge. 

sized-Laci-MosierLaci Mosier is a copywriter living and loving in Austin, Texas. She and her one-eyed pirate dog live for exploring and discovering life’s magic. She is most inspired by yoga, running, Kundalini meditation, good books, great jams and even better coffee. Getting lost is where she is most often found. Follow her on the Twittersphere or Instagram.

 

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How to DIY Your Own Yoga Props

Practice at home with the all-new Wanderlust TV! For just $9.99 a month, you can Wanderlust anywhere with your favorite teachers, flows, and DJ-powered classes. 


Have you been practicing at home and found yourself in a pose where you needed the ground just a few inches higher? Or gone for a bind and your fingers were merely a few inches from connecting? Yup, we’ve been there. A home practice can be difficult when you don’t have your props. But fear not—we’ve got the remedy with some DIY yoga props.

Props can be anything, so long as they safely and comfortably assist your practice. Good props allow you to find more depth in your poses, increase flexibility, and garner more stability. But props can get pricey, and sometimes you need to improvise.

The next time you dive into a home practice, get crafty and try some of your own DIY yoga props. Here are our favorite tricks:

Yoga Blocks 

Yoga blocks are one of the most common yoga props, and for good reason. From seasoned veterans to yoga newbies, everyone can benefit from these fantastic tools. Whether your hamstrings are too tight to touch your toes or you’re hankering for a higher seat in Lotus, a block is the ultimate remedy.

If you don’t own yoga blocks, there are a few things around the house that serve as a suitable alternative. If you need a only slight lift off the ground for your seated poses, try a rolled-up towel or blanket.  For standing poses, grab a dictionary or a create a small stack of hardcover books. When you make it to Half-Moon, Triangle, or a seated forward fold, have your “blocks” nearby to assist you.

Yoga Strap

Yoga straps are are practical tool when working to increase flexibility or opening up tighter muscles. For newer students (or on the days when you’re feeling tighter than normal), a strap can be used to to assist a forward fold. A strap also helps to support the arms when practicing forearm stand or dolphin pose. Finally, straps are insanely beneficial for simple side stretches—just hold the strap over your head and gently move left to right.

No yoga strap at home? This one’s easy. Head to your closet and grab a necktie, bathrobe tie, belt, or scarf. All of these will work like a strap to support a deep opening and release.

Bolster

A bolster can be heaven-sent when needing a more restorative practice. Think of a bolster as an epic yoga pillow; it helps provide deep relaxation while allowing for longer, delicious holds.

Bolsters can cost a pretty penny, so in the meantime, try rolling two to three blankets in a tight and firm roll. This tool can support the low back, lay beneath your knees when resting in savasana, or sit under the upper back for gentle heart-opening. When the hips are tight, try the DIY bolster under your tailbone for extra support or when in a wide-seated forward fold. The possibilities with a homemade bolster are truly endless.

Yoga Blanket

The yoga blankets that we see in our local studios are great—they’re made of wool, warm, and thick enough for support while still being nice and soft. You may have to experiment with a few different blankets before finding a solid substitution, but it’s oh so worth it.

Try using a thick and cozy throw, or use a few blankets stacked on top of one another. Your knees will appreciate the homemade blanket in poses like Low Crescent or Cat-Cow. It’s also nice to have a blanket close by when practice slows down and you need a bit of extra weight. Place your blanket over your pelvis during savasana for a deep, tranquil release. 

Be Creative

Yoga is all about exploration and discovery, so why not extend that creativity into your props? Remember that each body and practice is special in it’s own way. Find props that work for you.  Now how will you choose to use them?

Zuzu Perkal is an independent artist, photographer, yoga instructor, and adventure enthusiast in Austin, Texas. Her days are filled with coffee, paint, and daydreams. She believes mistakes are simply a beautiful opportunity for growth and that our own life experiences serves as our most valuable teachers. Zuzu graduated from Wanderlust’s first Teacher Training Program and is on a mission to continually expand her consciousness while following her journey down the yogic path. She is currently experimenting with the concept of a floating yoga studio and mixed medium practice.

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The Yogi’s Ultimate Crystal Ritual Guide

Six ways to use your crystals during your meditation or asana practice to make their effects even more powerful.

Let your intuition guide you as you create a crystal ritual that works for you. 

The ways in which you interact with your crystals and experience their benefits is very personal. You might prefer to meditate with rose quartz, keep green aventurine on an altar, and sleep with amethyst under your pillow. You might find that you prefer one method for a particular type of crystal, such as including it on an altar, and then find that you want to change it up by keeping it in your pocket. As with most elements of crystal work, let your intuition guide you.

See also 7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed

Here are six ways to work with your crystals, along with suggestions for ritualizing.

The Crystal Ritual Guide

Creating rituals around crystal work can make the effects even more powerful and dynamic. Ritualizing also increases mindfulness, and is a wonderful self-care practice that promotes overall wellness. Here are six ways to work with your crystals, along with suggestions for ritualizing.

1. Altar

Creating an altar gives your intentions and desires a physical form. It also gives your crystals a sacred space to work in.

Ritual: First, designate a space for your altar—a shelf or tabletop can work well. Smudge the area, burning dried herbs or wood so that the smoke cleanses the energy of the space. Choose your intention, pick the crystals and other sacred items that align with your altar’s purpose, and arrange them intuitively. Create a new altar when your intention has manifested or when you feel called to hold space for something different.

Amethyst or rose quartz are both great for this ritual.

2. Bath

Infusing bathwater with crystal energy by dropping water-safe stones into a bath is a gentle way to immerse yourself in their colors and vibrations.

Ritual: First, prepare the space where you’ll be bathing. Perhaps this means dimming the lights, lighting candles or incense, or dabbing a few drops of a calming essential oil on your temples. Draw your bathwater and add a few crystals aligned with your intentions— amethyst or rose quartz are both great for this ritual. Before getting in, draw a few deep, cleansing breaths, close your eyes, and meditate on your intention. Get in and let the energized bathwater envelop your body.

Take a few centering breaths, and visualize your grid’s intention.

3. Grid

Making a crystal grid—arranging stones to harness the power of sacred geometry—not only is a meditative practice, but can also increase the effectiveness of your crystal work on a particular intention. Grids can be as simple or intricate as you like.

Ritual: First, designate a space for your grid and clear the energy by smudging. Set your intention, then choose the crystals that will support it. Decide which sacred geometry grid calls to you, and place your crystals in the pattern, starting from the outside and working your way in, keeping your intention in mind. Lastly, place the final “master” crystal in the center of your grid. Take a few centering breaths, and visualize your grid’s intention.

See also 4 Ways to Care for Your Crystals

Holding a crystal while meditating can enhance your practice.

4. Meditation

Holding a particular stone (or keeping it nearby) while meditating can enhance your practice, opening your consciousness and strengthening your connection to the earth.

Ritual: Choose the stone you want to work with (fluorite, celestite, and smoky quartz are good options). Find a quiet place to sit. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths; close your eyes and quiet your mind. Hold the stone you want to work with (or set it nearby), and imagine its energy permeating your body and soothing your mind. Focus on your breath as you hold space in this energy.

5. Physical contact

Placing stones directly on your body, especially over chakras, can help clear energy blocks and guide specific benefits to the areas that need the most healing.

Ritual: First decide which chakra you want to work on and pick a crystal that supports it. Lie on your back, take a few cleansing breaths, and quiet your mind. Take the crystal and place it on the chakra you want to cleanse, open, or heal—for instance, amazonite on your heart or iolite on your third eye. Visualize its energy radiating into your body. Continue for several minutes or until you feel called to stop. Take a deep cleansing breath and express gratitude, either internally or out loud, for the work that was done.

6. Sleep

Keeping crystals on your nightstand, or even under your pillow, is an easy way to benefit from their energies while you sleep. Calming stones like dumortierite are best for this practice.

Ritual: Just before you get into bed, dim your lights, hold your chosen crystal, and take a centering, cleansing breath. Visualize the crystal’s energy, and the deep sleep you know it will give you. Place the stone in your pillowcase or under your pillow, and then drift easily to sleep.

The Beginner’s Guide to Crystals, by Lisa Butterworth

Reprinted with permission from The Beginner’s Guide to Crystals, by Lisa Butterworth, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Ashtanga 101: Breaking Down the Primary and Secondary Series

Bibi is an advanced Ashtanga Yoga practitioner and studio owner teaching at Wanderlust Whistler this year. Pay homage to the foundations of your practice and explore Ashtanga with her IRL. In the meantime, let’s break down just what the traditional Ashtanga series are all about. 


Primary Series: The Basics

Primary series, or yoga chikitsa, is a healing practice. It is a practice meant to work on resetting the physical body so that the practitioner can begin to work at a deeper level by sitting in meditation, sitting for pranayama, or working with the body at deeper levels through the series that follow it.

Primary series targets the main organs of the body, such as the digestive system, liver, gall bladder and kidneys. It also  balances our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The practice is based on and around the tristhana method: pranayama, asana, and dristhi, or gaze. The breathing technique we use is Ujjayi breathing, victorious breath, or ‘deep breathing with sound.’

This specific type of breathing creates tapas, or heat, in the body. This heat is used to ‘thin the blood,’ as Guruji used to say, meaning that as blood is heated it becomes thinner, and more able to circulate through the different tissues and organs in the body. A lack of flexibility belies a lack of blood circulation in the tissues around the area of stiffness. Enter: Asana.

Each asana is geared to create space in specific regions of the body with the means of facilitating the flow of blood. When the blood is able to circulate to areas of stiffness the muscles, tissues and fascia begin to soften and become more flexible, allowing for opening to happen. Doing the same asanas repeatedly six days a week allows for the body to bring circulation to these areas consistently. It’s like hammering a piece of rock in the same place over and over again—eventually it gives.

Circulation also happens within the organs; each asana targets a specific organ, blocking the flow of blood for 5 breaths at a time; when the asana is released the blood is flushed back into the area forcing stagnant things and toxins to move along towards the peripheries of the body. When we rest in Savasana everything that has been moved, circulates closer to the surface of the skin and is released. This is why primary series is such an important practice which we continue to revisit weekly even as advanced practitioners. All the elements and movements of practice are within the primary series. The rest of the series are just advanced versions and variations of the primary series asanas.

Secondary Series: Building on the Basics

Second series, or nadi shodhana, is a sequence of poses designed to clear the nervous system and the energy channels of the subtle body known as the nadhis. There are over 70,000 nadhis in the body. The focus of this series is on backbends, deep hip openers, and some inversions. It fires up the sympathetic nervous system with the goal of creating stress on the nerves in a safe space to learn to cope with it in a non-stressful space. The deep backbends and the hip openers activate the sympathetic nervous system, and once the practitioners arrives in the finishing poses the focus shifts onto the parasympathetic system, enabling the practitioner to experience a deep state of relaxation at the end of the practice.

This series is very emotionally intense, often accompanied by periods of light sleeping, strong emotions, vulnerability, and heightened awareness of the spiritual side of things. Practicing the second series of Ashtanga yoga means you are established and devoted to the daily practice. It also naturally pushes the practitioners to enquire about the deeper aspects of yoga: yamas and niyamas.

Following a vegan/vegetarian diet will come naturally at this point, as the system is highly-purified and sensitive to all that is assimilated. Curiosity towards the philosophy of yoga and God begins to develop naturally in the mind. The mind is more prone to sit comfortably in stillness. As the nervous system—and therefore the senses—are being purified, it becomes easier to observe the quality of the chitta, or “mind stuff.” The practitioner is therefore naturally called to meditate.

Nadhi Shodana is also a pranayama breathing technique that calms the mind, body and emotions. The term comes from the Sanskrit nadi, meaning “channel,” and shodhana, meaning “cleaning” or “purifying.” It is also known as the alternate nostril breathing. It helps to harmonize the hemispheres of the brain, balancing the logical and emotional sides of the practitioner’s personality. Nadi shodhana (the practice), just as the pranayama technique, helps circulate breath through the nadis, the chakras and the brain, thus, returning the body to a state of balance.

We practice these series in a specific order because as you have read above, the body has to be ready. The practice is slowly preparing the vessel of the body for sitting in silence. It is a process of purification that begins with the physical to penetrate into the subtle. It uses asana as the means to create space for prana to flow. Through the ‘vinyasa’ or the linking of the breath with the movement it generates heat, which in turns stimulates circulation which unlocks granthis, or blockages / knots, in the physical and energy body. Through this very detailed and tightly structured method we are able to begin to see ourselves for who we are as Purusha. We are able to discriminate what is real from what is unreal and in this find a deep sense of coming home within ourselves.

Ashtanga as Basis for Popular Yoga

Vinyasa yoga stems out of Ashtanga Yoga. Vinyasa sequences are personal interpretations of the understanding of aspects of practice of each individual teacher. It is a free interpretation of the teacher. Intelligently-threaded vinyasa sequences will usually be aimed at helping the student understand and come into a specific asana. They are more physically oriented then the Ashtanga practice. While you may feel a sense of peace and union within yourself after a vinyasa class, there is no space for internal lasting transformation, but more of a temporary sense of relief.

When taught by good teachers it can greatly help the student in overcoming physical ailments, and it still gives way for prana and circulation to come into areas of blockage. But (and I may be biased) it is somewhat limited in longterm effects on the mind and nervous system, and spiritual growth, compared to Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga requires a daily commitment, in that commitment you are practicing the same thing, and revisiting and refining movements over and over again, so the body and mind have an opportunity to open and transform progressively and on a regular basis.

The practice is done in silence, there is no one telling you what to do, no music drawing out the sound of your—chitta (mind stuff)—so the practitioner is left observing the different formations and creations of the mind. In that observing comes knowing and with knowing comes the opportunity for growth. When you become aware of something you have the power to change it. As the practice is learned slowly over a long period of times, it allows for the changes to happen gradually, as the practitioner becomes ready for them. Mysore style practice is a one on one practice which means you create a strong relationship to the teacher, who gets to know you as a whole over time and can therefore guide you properly throughout the different phases of life.

Vinyasa requires a different kind of commitment to oneself, and is therefore limited in its ability to serve as a healing transformative practice. Ashtanga yoga requires daily commitment, dedication and discipline. It is a practice that we take on to serve us for a lifetime, it changes and we grows with us.

bibi author bio photoBibi Lorenzetti is a Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher & Holistic Health Coach. She received her blessing to teach Ashtanga Yoga in 2014, from the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, where she has had the honor of assisting R. Sharath Jois multiple times over the years. She taught at the Shala Yoga House in New York City for over 6 years and is now the owner of her own Shala in Newburgh, New York: Ashtanga Yoga Newburgh (AYNBNY).

 

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