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Discovering Consciousness Through Soma Yoga

By Sage Johnson

When our modern lives stress our bodies, we react in a myriad of ways. For example, working long hours at a computer can cause slumped posture, which in turn results in neck and shoulder pain, TMJ, carpal tunnel and a long list of other issues. Our bodies respond to this stress with unconscious reflexes that, when triggered continually, can cause habitual muscle contractions that can’t voluntarily release.

Somatic movement (or somatics), on the other hand, is performed consciously and with intention. It incorporates sensory motor awareness to recondition muscles with the goal of releasing habitual contractions. It is focused on the internal experience of the movement rather than its external appearance or result.

Soma yoga incorporates the principles of somatics with classic yoga asana in a practice that invites us to identify – and reverse – unhealthy or harmful movement patterns that have developed over time. Soma yoga is gentle, exploratory and conscious, focused on the internal experience of movement. Soma yoga can help:

  • Develop healthier movement patterns in order to let go of tension, reduce pain and increase mobility.
  • Unwind old stress-holding patterns in your body to unlock your body from chronic pain and increase your flexibility.
  • Change chronic tension patterns by realigning the body’s innate ability to self-correct to ease and efficiency.
  • Gain awareness of habitual moving, thinking and attention patterns; with awareness lies freedom.  
  • Expand your movement – and therefore, improve daily living – by releasing layers of involuntary holding patterns.
  • Strengthens the mind/body connection by building awareness and consciousness.

When our bodies function in the inherent brilliance intended they are limitless and empowered to heal themselves. Soma yoga is ideal for anyone interested in finding a more free, curious, and awake relationship with their interconnected mind/body/spirit.

Experience Soma Yoga in a special workshop series with Replenish guest instructor Angela Fulghum of Nomad Wellness.

How to Just. Relax. Already. 

By Christa Heibel

As a yoga teacher for nine years, I have found myself repeatedly fascinated with all the ways we choose to suffer in life. Even more alarming than self-suffering is the fact that we are also killing ourselves. Stress and tension have become a part of everyday living for most people. However, the human body is not designed to live in a high energy/anxiety/stress mode. The result is an imbalance of mind, body and spirit.

We can reclaim that balance – and greatly improve the quality of our lives – through relaxation, which has been found to provide the following benefits:
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • ·Boosting confidence to handle problems
Techniques for relaxation include:

  • Exercise, including yoga and Tai Chi
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage
  • Doing an activity you enjoy, like gardening or reading
  • Talking/letting it out
  • Love, including time spent with friends and family
  • Music
  • Sleep
  • Being present
  • Hot bath with candle light
  • Laughing and smiling
  • Journaling

How to Breathe into Relaxation

  • Diaphragm Breathing – inhale diaphragm down to belly button, exhale releasing the diaphragm muscle and breath
  • 3- Part Breath – Inhale filling the low torso, then mid torso and then full torso on the exhale, adding length to the breath as you go
  • 2:1 Breath – create an even inhale and exhale counting silently to yourself and then add two counts to the exhale for several breaths
Focus the Mind
For many of us, relaxation comes only through conscious thought. Choose to focus on:

  • Breath
  • Sound/Vibration
  • Drishti Point- Visual object/view
  • Mantra
Relax through Meditation
One of the best ways to find relaxation is by practicing meditation. I’m offering a new class on the technique at the Workshop, located downtown Int’l Falls. Learn more and register here.

All We Need Is Love…Literally

By Christa Heibel

During my trip to India, I had an unbelievable opportunity to be in the presence of true Enlightenment, with people who embody love. Being with them literally changed my vibration. I believe if you have ever been near an enlightened one, you know what I'm talking about. It is that moment you know that the questions you've been asking yourself about how to be a better person in this sometimes horribly tragic and difficult life are important to ask and strive to achieve. It is the moment you realize that, if we get out of our own way, we can vibrate love.

As a Reiki practitioner, I've been fascinated by the energy body and the concept that we are made up of much more than the mere substance matter of the physical body that we in the West so often associate ourselves with. Yoga has been an invitation to me to explore myself beyond the physical body to discover breath, prana of life force energy, the mind and consciousness itself, my true inner Self.

One need only look to the mystics and Saints of the past and every religion to understand they all lead us to some core concepts (Perennial Philosophy), including that the most basic answer to Who We Are, the most important action we can express and the most important energetic vibration we can be is love.

However, the whole concept of love is sticky and tricky. It can be as heartbreaking as it is heart uplifting. It often comes with attachments, expectations disappointments and hurt.

Yoga invites us into a greater exploration and expression of a love many of us have not experienced in the past. Yoga takes us to a different place and energy, to the kind of love that is an invitation to give without expectation, to love without attachment of receiving anything back in return. Yoga puts love into an expression of kindness, compassion, support and grace that we all have an opportunity to offer each other in every moment.

A beautiful Vedic scholar and teacher, Siddhartha Krishna, speaks about loving with a small heart, in the realm of attachment, expectations and ego/mine versus loving with a big heart that allows love to be given freely to all.

As we further explore the concept of love and what it has meant to us in our life, we sit with the vibration of wanting to be a more lovingly kind individual, and we start to develop interests in the larger concepts that yoga encourages us to explore. The foundation of yoga philosophy is ahimsa translated as non-violence. Its aspects invite us into the acknowledgment that when we hurt one, we hurt all, and our application of loving kindness should be applied to living things at all times.

As beautiful as it was to sit in the presence of individuals that so clearly emanated and reflected love out of every cell of their being, it felt overwhelming to step back into my own life, where I am more likely to be busy than present, short than kind, selfish rather than selfless. How to bring that loving kindness into my life is now a daily question and a constant challenge.

Nevertheless, it is a challenge I am up for.

Cow Dung and Goat Yoga

By Christa Heibel

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a writer. I spent most of my business career looking for resources in my consulting business to help me edit and I rewrite myself. However, a recent return from my first trip to India has completely relaunched me back to the importance of bringing the traditional practice of yoga philosophy to my American friends.

I am a typical type A: very busy, stressed, over-committed, internally insecure, worried, optimistic adventurer, friend, lover, business owner and woman. India, in all of her complex beauty, showed me a deeper level of the yoga philosophy that can truly help us navigate our sometimes rough, challenging, messy and beautiful lives. Somehow in the streets of Rishikesh amongst the ever-present sacred cows and streets of cow dung, I clearly saw how we need more of THIS in our life. 

I originally fell in love with the Himalayan tradition of yoga nine years ago when I did my yoga teacher training. I will never forget the day I was introduced to the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga and had my little American yogi mind blown by the fact that yoga was not just about a rolled out plastic mat and a bunch of poses to make me look better in my yoga pants! What was laid out for me was a simple yet complex, brilliant and practical practice for mind, body and spirit. What bloomed before me was a whole philosophy and plan to help us live with more grace, strength, balance and kindness, and I have been committed to sharing it in its fullness since I started teaching.

In India, I got the opportunity to witness this type of practice in living action and how the philosophy integrated into a culture in a larger way. A beautiful calm beneath the chaos of an overpopulated country. An expression of respect of daily spirituality and faith despite individual differences. Acceptance and openness to where one is, versus constant Western judgment and comparison.

I saw Namaste in action.

As I returned to my American studio, where I get the unbelievably inspiring opportunity to train teachers and share this practice with students every day, I arrived committed to holding steadfast to sharing the traditional Himalayan practice of yoga and its philosophy. I found beautiful tradition, answers and an invitation to the vibration of loving kindness in the cow dung in the streets of India, rather than in the western variations of yoga that seem to be invented a new every day.

Your yoga practice might include drinking a beer with a goat, or a beer or marijuana, and that is ok – it is great you have a practice and found your way to the mat (literally and figuratively). But at some point, I hope you will get curious. Don’t get lost in the maze of all of the western yoga options that exist, but rather invite yourself into a deeper curiosity and exploration of all eight limbs of this beautiful practice in order to fully understand the broader philosophy that may just change your life. Get curious about the Yamas and Niyamas that provide us a beautiful ethical system, being silent with your breath in meditation, how we can relax body and mind for greater connectivity and clarity, and how to explore better connection to your core of loving kindness.

Replenish means to “to fill up again,” or “to restore to its original/previous condition.” Alternatively, from late Middle English, “to supply abundantly.” This practice in its complete traditional format as an invitation to replenish all parts of ourselves.

Traditional Yoga: Brilliance for Today’s Bullshit

By Christa Heibel

I will never forget the moment in my Yoga Teacher Training the day the 8 Limbs of Yoga document was laid out in front of me. I thought yoga was mats, pants and poses. Period.

Then the beautiful, simple-yet-complex 8 Limbs were explained to me, and a process of opening my mind and heart to how things could be, who I could be and how the world could be all started to open up to me. These practices date back thousands of years and are brilliant in how they can help us better navigate life from suffering to contentment, from the false perception of control to surrender and from fear to loving kindness.

Today I try to hand out the same 8 Limbs sheet I was given to everyone who comes to the Replenish studio- even if they are just there to try a walk-in class. I want all potential students of yoga to know there is more than poses and Yoga Journal. There are rich, beautiful traditions for better living in every Limb to explore.

The Masters recognized that before one would be able to find the time to “do their practice,” they would likely need to get daily life in order. How often do we “intend” to go to class, and then life sweeps us away or we are swept further from ourselves?

The eight limbs start with the ethical system of yoga in the form of the Yamas and Niyamas. The foundation of this concept is we need to have our daily life “right” with ourselves and others to find time to DO the practice. So practicing the Yamas and Niyamas is about how we live daily, and they invite us into peace, presence and kindness.

Yamas- The five restraints – how we live in the world externally

  • Ahimsa  - Nonviolence – the required gentleness for ourselves and all others required for the first step of peace; loving kindness expressed to all; often traditionally practiced as vegetarian/vegan in diet
  • Satya - Truthfulness – the honesty to live in connection with your True Self
  • Asteya - Non Stealing – the ability to not take what is not needed and what is not ours from the plant, others or ourselves
  • Brahmacharya  - Non Excess – the ability to not withhold, but restrain and experience joy in all things with moderation that allows us to keep balance; to walk with God; sometimes practiced as celibacy
  • Aparigraha - Non Attachment, Non Greed– the ability to live without need

Niyamas- The five observances- how we life with ourselves internally

  • Saucha - Purity- the effort and ability to live with cleanliness in what we allow in and around our mind, body and Spirit
  • Santosha - Contentment – the choice to live happily wherever one is
  • Tapas- Self –Discipline, Training of the senses; Change, the ability to evolve and flow with the Live Force, transformation
  • Svadhyaya - Self Study- inner exploration, living with reflection and effort for self-appreciation and understanding without judgment
  • Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender to God, choose to go along for the ride of Life with the Divine

When we have right intention and living, we then dedicate the time to our physical body, breath and energy body to move towards balance, calm and the ability to quiet body and mind.

Asana- the physical poses that prepare the body to sit with effortless effort in meditation. The process of taking care of the physical body our Divine dwells in.

Pranayama- the energy of prana (life force energy) that is represented by the breath and connects us to the internal realm of Self and Divine….life itself. With the body prepared to sit with connection to breath, calm and focus, we lovingly invite ourselves into meditation, into truth and light.

Pratyhara – the act of a sense of withdrawal, when the body and breath are settled, transporting our focus to a place on our breath

Dharana- the complete concentration on an object, mantra or vision with focus

Dhyana- the state of deep meditation when we have a connection of oneness with our focus/world

Samadhi- the connection to the internal Divine often defined as total bliss and beyond all other words

The 8 Limbs represent a never-ending practice. We do not “do” a practice, then master it and never come back. The 8 Limbs meet us where we are at all times, and invite us into better and deeper understanding and meaning every time we revisit any piece.
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