7 Steps to Adding Intention to your Yoga Practice

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.13.16 PMWe all come to our mats for different reasons. Some of us for just a moment to breathe, some to sweat, some to sit, and sometimes, well sometimes we’re not quite sure how we got here.  While we may find ourselves chanting and flowing mat-to-mat, so close its not clear whether thats your sweat or your neighbors puddling beside you, but the truth is that even in a studio, yoga is still intensely personal. By cultivating intention in our practices we can start to bring the real yoga back into focus.

 1. Set one. You’ve probably heard the often used “set your intention” promptly followed by a few Sun Salutations. On days of, lets say, less than enthusiasm for the physical practice, my own lovely little internal voice has replied with a snarky “to get through this damn class”. It may not sound like a very yogic intention, and it’s certainly not the stuff of Namaste’s, rainbows, and unicorns, but it is authentic. Even if you’re first thought isn’t of gratitude or forgiveness, don’t discount what your body and mind are telling you. Intention doesn’t have to be grandiose and you certainly don’t have to think of your sick grandmother every time you jump back to chaturanga. Try to remember why you stepped on your mat in the first place today. If your find yourself praying just to make it through class, its likely your really trying to tell yourself to listen to your body. That in these moments your intention is to simply be mindful and take only what you need regardless of whats happening around you.

2. Turn off your phone. It feels crazy to even have to say this, but turn off your damn phone. It’s amazing how that little whistle, a soft vibration, even the imagination of one, can completely pull you out of the moment. Your emails will still be there, Instagram won’t flag your account for inactivity, and you brain will thank you for it.

 3. Create a safe space. It may mean exploring every teacher in town until you find the one. It may also mean putting in a little extra effort at home to set up a distraction free zone. Think about those practices you’ve had that have been truly wonderful or transformative. Where have you felt safe and supported? Maybe its the lighting, music or no music, props, or aromatherapy? How can you inject that feeling into your own practice space?

 4. Listen to your body. We simply can’t be mindful if we’re fighting ourselves the whole time. We’ve all been there, quit pushing on that door that clearly says PULL. Set aside what you thought your practice was going to be, what you think it looks like, and start stepping into the reality of what it is. That doesn’t have to mean settle, or don’t work hard. It just means that everyday is different, why would we expect our practices to always be the same?

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.15.00 PM5. Remember pranayama. It’s easy to roll out your mat and jump right into a flow. Try slowing down as you start practice and notice your breath. Notice it in down dog, notice it in Tadasansa, notice it in handstand. Counting the breaths can often be very helpful to gently crowd out unrelenting thoughts. Kapalabhati can be powerful heat building breath work to stoke the belly fires and focus the mind early. Let your breath do the focusing for you.

 6. Savor savasana. Five  minutes of Savasana is a gift. Ten minutes is winning the lottery. Allow yourself to revel in this time sans outside stimulation and see where it takes you. If you find yourself making grocery lists or rehearsing imaginary conversations, try not to force it. Just come back to where you started. Soften your muscles, soften your breath and give yourself the gift of ease.

 7. Remember that its a practice. Every time we step onto our mats is a new experience, and a new opportunity. Resist the urge to berate yourself if you find your mind wandering or miss a day of asana. Cultivating intention is just as much of a practice as Surya Namaskar B.

CarlingHarpsheadshotCarling Harps is a yoga doer & teacher, move maker, kick aficionado, sloth & kitten enthusiast who loves helping students build a strong foundation to explore their practice through alignment, self inquiry, and being rooted in the present moment. 

Website: www.patrickandcarling.com

Instagram: @carlingnicole

Facebook: Patrick and Carling 

The Gypsy Girls’ Guide to Intention Setting

If you haScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.37.13 PMd told me a year ago I would be writing an article about my dreams and intentions, planning, hosting yoga-based events, and supporting my community with the resources I now have, I wouldn’t have believed you, not in a million years! If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, some of these tips may sound familiar. If you have never taken a yoga class then maybe it’s time. . .

1. LET IT GO: This is a mantra that I say to myself, several times a day, seven days a week! If it isn’t serving you, if it’s holding you back, giving you negative energy… Let. It. Go. That monkey chatter telling you that you can’t do something because of xyz excuse? You do not… I repeat, DO NOT need it. Need a reminder? The Let it Go Mala is an excellent way to keep this intention in the forefront of your mind.

2. BREATHE:  Throughout our days we may encounter something that stresses us out – whether that be hitting snooze one to many times and running late, or our kids talking back to us, or our boss telling us we aren’t performing to our standards. Don’t forget to breathe – several inhales and exhales with or without an intention (“Stay Present”, “Let It Go”, “I Am Loved”, etc.) can make a difference.

3. DREAM (BIG): What makes you happy? What makes you excited and scared all at once? What are you passionate about? If you’re anything like me, you may not have known what you wanted to be when you grew up. I DO know that I love helping people, sharing things I’m passionate about (yoga), and supporting those that are closest to me! If you follow what makes you genuinely happy, you are on the right track.

4. MANIFEST AN INTENTION: Sometimes things happen organically without planning or putting much thought into it (or maybe I’m getting better at this manifestation?)… but sometimes it takes a little more! Your manifesting be as simple as staying positive or as huge as teaching a yoga workshop to 300 people at a large festival. It doesn’t have to be scary or set butterflies in your tummy… but it should be something positive and worth thinking (and dreaming) about.

5. WRITE IT DOWN: Seeing your dreams and intentions on paper can help you visualize them when you’re feeling stuck in life or literally stuck in traffic. What are your hopes and fears? What is holding you back?

87nQv5qmqauLkfKtV57TJXRcgbmkucXFGtKfahvEuwI,wVTPPAWleJW9CZbwvxtYvm2zyUIHMXAGSwk8o9J7AZM6. SHARE: Dreaming about something and thinking about it is great… but to be able to keep yourself accountable and on track, you should be sharing these thoughts with your trusted tribe. These are people who believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself, who keep you motivated, tell it to you straight when your random idea isn’t going to work, and will help you map out a new idea. Sharing helps solidify your intentions!

7. GATHER YOUR TRIBE: Surround yourself with people who will support YOU! Maybe you have one or two people that will walk through hell and back with you, but maybe you don’t. The law of attraction is “likes tend toward likes”. Your friends should have similar intentions for themselves personally and may not understand your crazy ideas, but they GET you and still support you. And just like your friends support you, there should be some level of support going back to them. Be the person you want to surround yourself with!

8. DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY: For myself, I love doing yoga – it makes my mind and body happy. I like to set aside time – even if it’s 10 min during my day to myself. It isn’t selfish… it will help you be a better person to yourself and for the people you surround yourself with.

9. COME BACK TO YOUR INTENTION: What is your intention? Maybe it’s simple and you can just remind yourself throughout the day. Maybe it’s bigger and you need more reminders – like putting an image on your lockscreen of your phone or posting a note by your mirror or door so you see it daily. There is something about reminding ourselves about what our intentions are that helps keep us focused and centered.

10. BELIEVE: Believe in yourself and you’re halfway there – Theodore Roosevelt
Get rid of the negative self chatter and honestly see yourself doing what you’ve only dreamed about.  You will be happier for it.

By – Ayami Hiroshige

The Boho Girl’s Guide to Fail-Safe Meditation

tumblr_n11nqjet3D1qb7dwvo1_500This world is growing faster and more furious every minute. With all that we have on the agenda these days, it can become a huge headache to relax. Our ability to stay in the present gets jumbled up in technology mania; messages from all over the globe flashing across computer screens, cell phones, and television sets at a million miles a minute. What’s a Boho gal or guy to do when it’s time to zone in and focus up on some serious “me” time?

For centuries, people have used meditation as a way of zeroing-in on themselves, their desires, and the goals that they wish to achieve. It’s a spiritual practice used to elevate the understanding of our inner nature as well as a practice to establish a connection to the divine. It’s been clinically proven that meditation not only calms the body and mind, but also works to inspire creativity, improve the immune system, and even help to boost our relationships with everyone (and everything) around us.

I could list the benefits for days, but how do you get down to the crunch when there is so much that is seemingly “crunching” you? Meditation is not supposed to be difficult. By all spiritual accounts, it’s one of the simplest practices, which immediately makes it the most difficult. And it’s totally important!

To get you in the “OM” mode, here are some tried and true, bohemian certified ways to make your meditation practice as simple and consistent as possible:

1. Get comfortable. In a lot of traditions, practioners remain in a seated position, legs crossed, hands upon the knees, or in the lap. However, we’re in the new age, so as long as you are comfortable, you will find that it will be easier to connect with your practice. As such, lying down is perfectly acceptable.

2. Focus on the breath. Start off your practice by simply paying attention to the ebb and flow of your on breath (if you are a yogi, you’re already familiar with this attentiveness to the act of breathing). Notice how the breath fills your lungs, your torso, and your chest, and notice how it leaves your body. Remember, you are not in this to change these sensations. Just notice them and connect with the physical act of the sensation.

3. Get a guide. Some people find guided meditations to be very helpful. A guided meditation will involve specific breath work, or alternatively, some visualizations that will create something of a “meditation story” for your practice. If this is something that you think you will enjoy, do some research. There are several books and websites that will have some incredible guided meditations for any practitioner.

4.  Accept where you’re at. You’re going to get frustrated. Accept this. No one ever achieved anything on this planet without hard work and practice. This is the biggest thing to remember when you are meditating. Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, and in time, the flow will come with less effort.

5. Breathe. When in doubt, just go back to the breath. I can guarantee that your mind is going to wander from time to time, and seriously, it’s no big deal. Even the greatest spiritual teachers in our world veer onto the mental fast lane! If your mind is starting to do its own thing, just bring your attention back to the breath. Notice the sensations again. Start counting the time it takes to inhale and exhale, and you’ll be on the right track again.

Once you’ve started your practice, it’s time to add in some consistency. Pick a time of the day when it is easiest for you to take a few minutes and enjoy the process of meditating. Some prefer the morning before they get up, while others like to wait until they are about to go to sleep. Discover what works for you and then commit yourself to doing it! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

As with all things, practice is key. Enjoy it, live it, and you will reap the benefits of meditation in every aspect of your life. I can guarantee it!

Namaste!

Lauren is a guest writer for the Huffington Post and Social Media Coordinator in Toronto.

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Twitter:@LaurenMesservey
Web: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lauren-messervey/

Confessions from a Boho Fashionista: Be with the ocean.

coastofkaiShe told us to be with the ocean.

“Your breath is the ocean,” she said, as we lay heavy on our backs in that first yoga class.

“Listen to your the breath. Hear the breath around you. Notice the waves pressing back and pulling in, like the tide does.”

She told us we’d never get lost as long as we could get back to our ocean breath.

She was from the coast of Kauai, and the golden tips of her hair fell way low, down past the wings of her shoulders. I met her for the first time that day in yoga when I was just 18. She was visiting our beach town in the summer to see friends from college and teach yoga classes.

Late in the afternoon I’d sit on my parent’s patio and watch pinks and blues dance around the sun as it set.  You could find her there when the sun was setting like this, sneaking down to the water’s edge to pop off her moccasins and practice yoga barefoot on the rocks. She’d close her eyes and match her breath to the rhythm of the water. I’d watch her mystified, and something about her came alive like the ocean did, in a way I’d never seen before.

It’s been years and I haven’t seen that Hawaiian goddess for summer upon summer.  But something magical about her words has stayed and still whispers to me like a bohemian song I’ve known forever.

“Be with the ocean,” she told us.

Kai-Mala-Tiny-Devotions-Mala-Beads_largeIn times when I’ve felt super stuck—and when there’s only been a tiny glow at the end of the road, I go back that mantra. When I need to ground myself, touch base, be ‘in it’, I listen for it.  Whenever I need to really feel alive, I put on my Coast of Kai Mala, and feel the tide.

So go boho beauties and be with the ocean, it lives in you.

Peace, Love and Magic from Bohemia xx