Head Balance & Shoulderstand.

Head Balance & Shoulderstand.

The Head Balance and Shoulderstand are unique asanas.  They are two of the original Hatha Yoga poses. The goal of these two poses is not to have an affect on the body.  They are mudras.  A mudra is a position that we put the body in to have an affect on the nervous system, the energetic body.  A mudra is sometimes called a seal too.  Mudras act on energy the way a mirror acts on light.  Energy that is normally moving down and out is turned back in and up.

The Head Balance and Shoulderstand are called viparita karani mudras, the reversing the flow mudras. The Head Balance is said to stimulate the pituitary gland, and the Shoulderstand stimulates the medulla oblongata and the vagus nerve. These two poses are the king and queen of the asanas in Hatha Yoga.  They are given these names because they stimulate the masculine and feminine sides of the autonomic nervous system.  They are also very powerful poses, like the King and Queen of a country.  

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Arm Balance Workshop!

Arm Balance Workshop!

Arm Balance Workshop!  Arm balances are considered advanced warm up poses.  Advanced students need more challenging poses in order to go into the fire.  Each arm balance is simply a variation of a Standing Warmup Pose but done in either Plank Pose or Low Plank.  If you can hold Plank Pose and Low Plank then you are strong enough to work on many arm balances.  Are you flexible enough, though?  When you understand the anatomy of each pose it’s easy to see the different families of poses.  Crow Pose is the Deep Squat done in Low Plank.  Crane Pose is the Deep Squat done in Plank.  Koundinya’s Pose is the Triangle Pose done in Low Plank.  Etc.  So much fun breaking things down with the Baja Soul Yogis in Cabo!  Missing you already! 

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Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is part of the Shiva Meditation practice that I teach. We had some very deep Shiva Meditation classes at Baja Soul Yoga this past weekend. Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara practice. Pratyahara means sense withdrawal. The purpose of the practice is to turn inward and let go of the outer world and even leave the body behind. Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Sage Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Yoga. Yoga Nidra teaches us to stay conscious as we move into a dream state. Tension releases from the subconscious part of our mind through; emotions, dreams, and old memories during the Yoga Nidra practice. Yoga Nidra is a very cleansing and healing practice. The practice also gives us the opportunity to plant the seeds of intentions much deeper than they might normally go if we just set our intentions consciously. Setting intentions is a big part of the Yoga Nidra practice. My teacher, Mr. Ramaswami’s teacher, Krishnamacharya, used to say that, “Yoga is the practice of replacing old patterns that aren’t serving you with new patterns that will lead you in a more positive direction.” What are your patterns? What are your habits? How does your mind get in the way of your growth?

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The Guru is the one who is heavy with knowledge.

The Guru is the one who is heavy with knowledge.

One of the things that I loved so much about this past week at Baja Soul Yoga in Cabo San Lucas was revisiting the journey I’ve taken with my teachers.  When I shared a story from Annie, Dharma, Mr. Ramaswami, or one of the other wonderful teachers who have influenced my practice, it’s like they were there in the room with us, and I felt transported back to the day they first shared that same story with me.  I got to fall in love with their teachings all over again, reliving them with my students.

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What makes your practice sacred?

What makes your practice sacred?

What makes your practice sacred?  You get to choose how sacred your practice is to you.  It's up to you.  Sacred ritual is one of the ways that we can define when something is special to us.  We inject our energy into these sacred rituals and into our practice.  What you are training yourself to do is to also inject your energy into your life.  It's up to you to make your practice special and to give it meaning.  It's up to you to make your life special and give it meaning.  

My teacher Dharma always says, "Take responsibility for your own practice." I think we could add to this, "Take responsibility for your own life."

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The pain is the feeling of disconnected parts of you reconnecting.

The pain is the feeling of disconnected parts of you reconnecting.

I had my first big back bending practicing last night.  It felt so good.  I've been easing my way back into deeper practices after taking a week off over the holidays.  My back was stiff.  It took ages to warm up.  I kept pushing and kept going deeper when I thought I had hit my edge. 

So much of my healing comes through back bending.  My hip flexors are the tightest area of my body and it feels so good to open them up and release my lower back. 

I remember Dharma saying in one of our trainings that, "Three is the absolute minimum you should do when it comes to backbends, seven is better, and ten is the best, if you have the time."

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Making a peaceful transition to the next life.

Making a peaceful transition to the next life.

I was talking in class this past week about yoga and the journey of life...

I remember in my training with my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, during a discussion one day, we were talking about yoga not just helping us to find more peace and balance in the present but helping to make the transition easier at the end of this life.

Some of my teacher's are getting older now and they are moving into their old age stage of life and the end of this life is approaching.  My teacher, Mr. Ramaswami, wrote a book called 'The Three Stages of Yoga'.  In the book, he talks a lot about this third stage of yoga as a preparation for the end of this life.

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What is Yoga Therapy?

What is Yoga Therapy?

Really interesting conversation with one of my students yesterday about Yoga therapy.  There's so much confusion about Yoga therapy.  There's so much confusion about Yoga in general too.  So, what's the difference between Yoga and Yoga therapy?   

Yoga can be a very healing practice for the body but that's not it's purpose.  The goal of yoga is to quiet the mind, find stillness and experience a deeper connection to your Self.  

I gained a lot of healing benefits from my asana and pranayama practice when I first started practicing yoga but that wasn't the goal of the practice and wasn't the main benefit that I experienced from my practice either.  By changing my relationship to my Self through my yoga practice I have changed my relationship to everything and everyone else.  The physical benefits I received because of my practice have just been a bonus.  I am more flexible and stronger and my body is much healthier because of my practice but ultimately these things haven't changed my life.  

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Be kind, be compassionate, be loving.

Be kind, be compassionate, be loving.

Yogis!  We know that in our yoga practice we are on a journey into stillness.  We are working towards quieting the mind, and moving deeper into stillness, so that we can experience a deeper connection to our Self.  We also know that once we experience this deeper connection it changes our relationship to everyone and everything around us.  We change our relationship to our Self and that changes our relationship to everything else.  It’s like we have to get alone with our Self before we can truly connect with others. 

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Practicing gratitude is practicing yoga. Practicing kindness, compassion, and love is practicing yoga.

Practicing gratitude is practicing yoga.  Practicing kindness, compassion, and love is practicing yoga.

Practicing gratitude is practicing yoga.

The yogis were very good at dealing with the mind.  Most of our yoga philosophy is not about the body but about the mind.   

The yogis realized that the mind was constantly falling down.  The mind didn't automatically lift itself up and go towards the light.  The opposite was true.  The mind was never satisfied.  Even brief moments of satisfaction were only followed by more dissatisfaction.  The mind's natural tendency was to go towards darkness.

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Happy Thanksgiving! The Story of the Three Debts:

Happy Thanksgiving!  The Story of the Three Debts:

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Thank you to everyone who came out to practice with me today.  Really nice to see you all. 

Today in class, in my Dharma talk, I shared the story of the 3 debts, and the origins of the sun salutations in yoga.  This story is from an article I wrote for LA Yoga, a few years ago.  If you want to have a look at this article, or any of the others I have written, please visit the Selected Articles Page on my website, and check out some of the articles I've had published:  www.garthhewittyoga.com/selected-articles

My teacher, Mr. Ramaswami, told me this story in an advanced training program with him a few years ago.  Whenever I tell it I try to get out of the way and imagine the students are hearing it directly from him.  

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I surrender to this moment, right here, and right now.

I surrender to this moment, right here, and right now.

The last day I spent in Bali, I returned to one of the temple’s we had visited and toured earlier in the week, on my recent yoga retreat. I was so grateful to be able to take some extra time and soak up this beautiful place. Sometimes you have to sit in a place for a while to experience it, take a few deep breaths, do a little yoga practice. Whenever I am shooting yoga pictures I always think of my teacher, Dharma Mittra, shooting the pics for the 908 Asanas poster. Dharma shot so many pics for the poster and he only used the ones where he felt like he wasn’t attached to the results. That’s hard to do when you know you are being photographed. Forget the photographer. Forget about the pose. Settle into stillness. Find peace. Breathe into it. Try to find that perfect balance, where the light is moving through you. I offer my practice. No me and no you. No expectations. I breathe into this moment. I surrender to this moment, right here and right now.

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Get out of your comfort zone!

Get out of your comfort zone!

Get out of your comfort zone! No one in the history of the world ever said... I never challenged myself, always stayed in my comfort zone, and when things got intense, I avoided them and often ran away and hid under the bed, and I’ve lived a very fulfilling life, and I think I achieved my full potential...

You know all the good stuff happens when you are vulnerable, when it’s intense, when you are out of your comfort zone. So, you’ve got to override that voice that keeps telling you to get back in your comfort zone. The yogis know that if you feel vulnerable, you’re in the right place. If you are afraid and there’s some resistance, you’re in the right place. You’re job is to dance with the fear, push through the resistance, and go there. Show up for yourself. Courage in yoga isn’t about doing some fancy pose. It’s about sitting in the fire and letting it burn. The hotter the fire, the sharper the knife. The stronger you are, the more intensity you will be able to handle, the more vulnerable you will be able to be. Are you ready to feel vulnerable? Are you ready for the temperature to rise? Are you ready to get on your mat and get to know your Self?

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Get off the roller coaster!

Get off the roller coaster!

Get off the roller coaster! Peace of mind doesn’t come from looking out. Happiness in the world is fleeting. Satisfaction is short lived. The yogis know that lasting peace comes from looking within. When you experience your Self in the stillness, when the mind is quiet, then you don’t want to go anywhere or do anything else. You are content, happy, right here, right now. You feel love and compassion for others and a connection to everything and everyone. Get off the roller coaster. Take the journey inward. Find peace.

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Hanuman is the symbol of perfect balance.

Hanuman is the symbol of perfect balance.

Hanuman is the symbol of perfect balance and also represents the bridge to the Ultimate Reality, the experience of the true Nature of your Self, and through that experience, your connection to the Universe. 

This picture was shot in one of the Temples in the jungle in Bali. It’s hard to see it in the picture but I’m doing the pose on this small grass walkway that is separating two rice fields. The walkway is pretty narrow. The field on this side is just a short drop into the mud, but still, into the mud. The field on the other side is about ten feet lower. A long drop into the mud! I managed to find balance and not drop into the mud, but there was a pretty high probability that was going to be the end result of getting these shots. Lol 😂. See you on your mat!

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What has your yoga practice helped you learn about yourself?

What has your yoga practice helped you learn about yourself?

Practicing in a Hindu temple, deep in the jungle, in Bali!

What has your yoga practice helped you learn about yourself? What has been revealed? What dark part of you did yoga help you shine some light on? What part of you has been disconnected? 

You are the doctor and the patient! 

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The yogi knows to get passed the fear and resistance as quickly as possible.

The yogi knows to get passed the fear and resistance as quickly as possible.

One of the things I talked about a lot on our retreat to Bali was the difference between practicing yoga and just doing yoga exercise. 

A new student in class yesterday, in Woodland Hills, said to me after class that she finally understood yoga for the first time. She used to think it was boring but after being encouraged to practice yoga and focus on quieting the mind, she said to me, “It’s really not boring at all is it? It’s just not about getting all sweaty and raising your heart rate. There’s a lot more going on here. I wish I could record your voice.” You know you need to get to the intensity. You know you need to get to the discomfort. How quickly can you get past the fear and resistance and go into the fire? The mind and the ego tell you to run away, avoid it, distract yourself, whatever you do, don’t go into the fire! It’s uncomfortable. It’s going to be hard. It’s not going to feel good. 

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We started our practice with lots of pranayama today!

We started our practice with lots of pranayama today!

We started our practice with lots of pranayama today! And before that we even did some simple breath work. This was our last class together on the retreat. This class was in honor of my teacher, Dharma Mittra, and modeled after his Maha Sadhana practice. These classes offer what Dharma calls the "best of the best", with a sampling of different yoga practices. Breaking down how you are breathing can bring into focus areas where you are creating tension and magnify things you are doing that are making it harder for you to breath. These patterns of tension and things you are doing that are inhibiting the breath need to be undone and let go of before you can make progress in your yoga practice.

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What pattern are you done with that isn't serving you anymore?

What pattern are you done with that isn't serving you anymore?

Fire ceremony and cleansing ritual on our retreat to Bali. We always do a variation of this ceremony on my yoga retreats. First, we do some journal writing exercises, and then boil things down to one thing we are ready to let go of once the retreat is over. And then we condense that down to just one word. This word gets written down on a piece of paper and gets burned in the fire as part of the ceremony and cleansing ritual. These ceremonies aren't always fun. They aren't always the "feel good" moments on the retreat. Yoga isn't always about feel good moments. You've gotta go through your stuff to get to the other side. The fire ceremony and cleansing ritual offers another opportunity to dig deep and take a look at old patterns, to shine the light on some darker areas, and then to set an intention to let go of this old pattern that isn't serving you. Often times, these ceremonies are uncomfortable. They make you feel vulnerable. They can be confrontational. They make you look at something about yourself or about how you're living your life that you may not want to look at yet. That's the point. This is yoga. Getting out of your comfort zone is your yoga practice. Being vulnerable is your yoga practice. Yoga isn't all about rainbows and unicorns, and neither is going on yoga retreat. Your yoga practice at times will be confrontational. It will challenge you. It should challenge you. Yoga is intimate. It's vulnerable. It's profound work. It's not always about being happy and smiling, or, checking out, listening to music, and distracting yourself. What are you ready to let go of? What are you ready to burn off in the fire? What pattern are you done with that isn't serving you anymore?

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Journal writing after class.

Journal writing after class.

Journal writing after class!

1. What are your favorite parts of your yoga practice? What parts of the practice are the easiest for you? What poses do you like? What poses are you good at doing? 
2. What are the most challenging parts of your yoga practice? What are the hardest poses? What parts of the practice do you dislike the most? 
3. Your teachers are the challenging parts of the practice. Your teachers are the poses you don't like. Your teachers are the poses that are hard for you to do. 
4. What are these challenging parts of the practice teaching you about your practice? 
5. What are your favorite things to do? What parts of your life are going really well? Who are the people in your life who you really like? What parts of your life are easy? 
6. What parts of your life do you not like? What parts of your life are not going well? Who are the confrontational people in your life? 
7. What are these confrontational people in your life teaching you about yourself? What are the challenging things in your life teaching you about yourself? 
The challenging parts of your yoga practice will teach you the most about how you are out of balance. The confrontational people in your life will teach you the most about yourself. Look closely at the things that are hard for you to do. Look closely at the people who challenge you. What are you learning about yourself?

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