Monday, November 29, 2010

Contentment (Samtosha)

We are all seeking to invite more joy and peace into our lives every day.  This can seem like a challenge when life is full of ups and downs, but every obstacle in life presents an opportunity to practice being at peace with things just as they are.  In yoga, we call this samtosha, which translates into contentment.  When we can ground ourselves in faith and love and accept everything as it is, the sting of life’s worries loses its effect and we can step into a constant state of peace.   I believe there are three essential keys to attaining the peace and joy that accompany contentment.  They are (1) recognizing our blessings, (2) focusing our attention on the unchanging spiritual realm, and (3) having faith in the Divine.

Recognizing Our Blessing

We cultivate contentment by being grateful for what each and every day has to offer.  That is, contentment begins with being thankful for all of our talents, gifts, and possessions without making comparisons or feeling we need anything extra to make us happy.  We are already whole, perfect and complete; all that may be missing is our realization of this truth. 
A great way to help ourselves realize this truth is to carry a gratitude token.  The token can be in the form of a rock, keychain, bracelet or any item with special significance.  We can incorporate this token into our practice by carrying it on a daily basis and whenever we come across it, allowing that item to be a reminder to think of three blessings in our lives.   This practice allows us to recognize the blessings in our lives throughout the day.  Ultimately, the need for the token dissolves and we find ourselves naturally shifting our mind to gratitude throughout the day.
Another great gratitude practice is to keep a journal and write down 5 new things that we can be grateful for each day.  On the “bad” days, we can review the many blessings of our lives and then allow ourselves to shift our focus to the good and add to the list of blessings, even in the midst of our struggle.  The purpose of thinking of 5 new things every day is to to go beyond the usual realm of gratitude and bring awareness to the small blessings and the blessings in disguise.  For example, we may start out by being grateful for our education and after a while, find gratitude for  the lessons learned in a past romantic relationship.  There are blessings all around us, we just have to take the time to look.  In doing so, we give ourselves the gift of peace and contentment.
Focusing Attention on the Unchanging Spiritual Realm

Releasing ourselves from the bondage of the material world and focusing  on spiritual improvement can also bring peace and contentment no matter what is happening.  When we know that we are loved by God and nurtured by family, friends, and community, we can simply be ourselves and be satisfied with whatever may come.    Therefore, its important to make time for prayer, meditation and/or reading inspirational texts daily.  Even if we don’t feel like there is enough time to pray or meditate every day in the morning and every night before bed, we can simply say a grace before eating.  If that doesn’t work, we can get creative.  For example,praying or listening to an enlightened message on the way to work, using one 15-minute break at work to meditate or pray, or replacing ½ hour of television with spiritual time can all have a huge impact.  Regardless of what we do or when we do it, investing time in shifting attention from this temporary world of form to the permanent realm of the soul is guaranteed to give a return on investment in the form of peace and contentment. 
The true aim of yoga is to create a space to connect with something greater than ourselves (God, the Universe, our higher wisdom, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, our ancestors, etc.).  Yoga can be cultivate more faith and contentment on and off the mat by incorporating physical asanas (poses), breathing techniques, and meditative prayer into the practice.   We start the practice off with a regular asana practice with a mix of poses (some easy, some hard).  As we practice the poses, we can focus on being content with our body and our ability--focus on the strength, flexibility and balance we exhibit, rather than how we wish the pose looked or felt.  We finish the  practice with shoulder stand or headstand and then lying in savasana (final relaxation pose) for about 3 minutes.  While in savasana, we take some time to reflect on 3 blessings in our lives and then relax in gratitude.  After savasana, we find a comfortable seated position with our spine tall and shoulders relaxed.  We practice alternate nostril breathing for about 10 times on each side.  Then, we sit and breathe comfortably with the eyes closed, spine straight, and attention focused on the area between the eyebrows.    Then we can begin a simple meditation prayer--reciting an affirmation, a bible verse or an inspiring quote from your favorite author.  I like to use a quote from Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind, that I was introduced to at the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas: "There’s only one Life. This Life is God’s Life. This Life is Perfect. This Life is my life, NOW."  We say this phrase to ourselves silently and repeatedly.  Each time, allow the words to remind us that God is all around us and everything is working in divine order.

Having Faith

Cultivating faith in the Divine allows a greater experience of contentment.  Life has many "highs" and "lows" but it is our faith that allows us to weather the storm in peace.  We all know that flowers bloom in the spring and leaves descend in the fall.  In fact, everyone welcomes the changes of the seasons because we know it is a natural part of life and we have faith that spring will follow winter and fall will follow summer.   (At least I know that’s what gets me through the hot summers and cold winters of Texas and allows me to enjoy those seasons too because they're temporary.)    
When there are changes in the economy, however, people strongly resist the change and become scared, depressed and insecure.  This is because we have misplaced faith in the economy as the source of our good.  The true source of our good is God.  When we firmly believe that God will provide, we are unshaken by the economy because we know that the ups and downs of the economy do not affect our good.
Further, when we have faith and know that we are always with God and God loves us as we are, we have less of a tendency to allow our jobs and sources of income to define our value in the world.  When we recognize that we are all individual expressions of God, losing a job doesn't cause us to have an identity crisis. When we identify ourselves as an expression of God, neither a change in our job nor a change in the economy can cause us to question who we are.  When we have faith in the Divine, all changes are like changes in seasons, they have no effect on our stability or our identity, they are simply facts of life.    
Once established in gratitude and the spiritual realm, faith automatically begin to increase.  As faith increases, so does contentment.  The true key to joy, peace and contentment is recognizing that God is all there is, God is the source of our good, and God is greater than anything this material world can throw at us.  Peace be with you!

Ronda Jyoti Litwin, RYT

Additional resources:   

  • The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical PracticeIf you want to find out more about the yogic definition of samtosha (contentment) and  how that concept fits into yogic philosophy, this is a great book.  It introduces you to the first two steps on the 8-limbed path to yoga, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances).  Samtosha is one of the niyamas
  • The Secret (Extended Edition)This movie is a great way to begin to anchor yourself in God as your source.  It also discusses beautiful gratitude practices.
  • The Center for Spiritual LivingThis is a wonderful place to anchor yourself in the spiritual realm, regardless of your spiritual or religious background.  You will learn all kinds of tools to help you grow into contentment.  The link is to The Center for Spiritual Living Dallas but if you live elsewhere there are other Centers for Spiritual Living, Religious Science, Science of Mind and Unity Churches throughout the world. 
  • Contentment: A Way to True Happiness:    Society may tell us to keep looking for the next purchase, person, job or feeling to fill the void, but, as the authors point out, "contentment comes from the inside." In addition to the examples Johnson and Ruhl draw from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist and other traditions, they present an extended discussion of the themes of spiritual blindness and insight into King Lear to illustrate the inward and outward examination necessary for growth. Their contemplative strategies for achieving happiness take into account the pace and complexity of modern life, and are not merely a call to simplify and reduce.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fear as a Catalyst for Transformation

We all experience fear.  Every time we experience fear, we are given an amazing opportunity to make a conscious decision about what to do next.  We can allow ourselves to be consumed by fear, ignore it and shift our attention to positive thoughts, or address the root cause of the fear.  

Embracing Fear

Shifting the focus to positive emotions is a great survival technique, but facing your fears provides a powerful opportunity for healing and freedom.  This is because our fears are likes stains on our hearts.  Ignoring them and simply shifting our attention to positive emotions is just as ineffective as trying to cover a foul odor with perfume.  However, when we address our fears head-on we eliminate the stench of fear so that all that remains is the sweet smell of positive emotions.

As we continue to do the work to clean our heart, we are able to allow our hearts to shine more brightly with divine joy. By looking at your fears, you shine light on your false belief that you are separate from God or separate from anything in this Universe.  As the Buddha taught, our fear is great, but greater yet is the truth of our essential connectedness. As you recognize this truth, you are able to transcend fear and step into more joy and more peace.

Transforming Fear

So, what can you do to address your fears?  I recommend two techniques.  The first is balancing the energy at the base of your spine. The second is doing "The Work" by Byron Katie.

Balancing Energy Along the Spine

The mind and body are connected.  Whenever you have a mental issue, try to bring your awareness to areas in your body that feel tense, disconnected or different than usual.  Likewise, whenever you have a physical injury or illness, it is important to look at your thoughts and emotions.  Over time, you will be able to notice correlations. This correction is the basis for the energy centers along the spine (chakras).  Energy circulates through our body just as blood circulates.  Although energy is not visible to the eye, it is a tangible power that greatly effects the body and mind.  One of the major channels of energy is along the spine.  This is why yoga focuses on the energy centers along the spine.  These energy centers along the spine are connected to specific aspects of your personality.

The energy center at the base of your spine (moolahara chakra) is associated with fear and the feeling of being grounded.  When your energy does not flow through this area of the body properly, you will experience fear.  You can learn more about this energy center and the six other energy centers of the body by reading Chakras for Beginners: A Guide to Balancing Your Chakra Energies (For Beginners (Llewellyn's)) or Chakra Clearing (Book & CD)

These energy centers of chakras can be balanced through yoga postures (asanas) and focused relaxation practices (meditation).  The yoga postures that can help clear fear are arm balancing  poses like handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) and hip opening poses like pigeon (eka pada kapotasana).  The arm balancing poses can cause you to face your fear of falling and once you have faced your fear on a physical level you can use that same courage to face your fears on an emotional level.  The hip opening poses open your hips and allow energy to freely flow at the base of the spine.  As your hips are open, you are also able to relax the spine closer toward the ground in sitting poses and thus, feel more grounded.  Poses that combine the fear of balancing poses with grounding effects of hip-openers like crane pose (bakasana), are especially helpful in clearing fear.  You can even use DVDs such as Kundalini Yoga - A Journey through the Chakras or Chakra Balancing Yoga to help guide you through a yoga practice specifically designed to balance the flow of energy along the spine.

The focus, relaxation and meditation practices that can help balance the energy along the spine are vocal vibrations (chanting) and visualization.  Regardless of which technique is used, you should begin by closing the eyes, taking a deep breath and bringing your awareness to the base of the spine.  With the energy focused on this area, you can begin to visualize the color red and chant the sound "LAM" (pronounced "Lom" as in "Mom")  The color red and the vibrations created by chanting "LAM" help to activate and balance the energy in this energy center.  These meditation practices can be greatly accentuated by meditation CDs such as Tibetan Chakra Meditations and Chakra Suite

Byron Katie's "The Work"

In addition to the yoga practices descirbed above, it is important to practice your yoga off the mat and in the real world.  Practical tools like those described in Byron Katie's "The Work" provide a straightforward method for facing your fears head-on.  In this technique, Katie invites you to ask yourself four questions about each of your beliefs or thoughts:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
  3. How do you react/what happens when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?
After you have explored your fear through the four questions above, your are ready to turn the statement around to three opposite statemens and find three genuine, specific examples of how each "turnaruond" is true in your life.  For example, the statement "She doesn't like me" turns around to (1) "She does like me,"  (2) "I don't like me," (3) "I don't like her."  You can learn more about this technique in Byron Katie's book,  Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life


The next time you feel fear, take a little time to give that fear the love and attention it deserves.  Love your fear and learn to use it as a tool for transformation.  When that becomes your journey, there truly is nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cleansing/ Detoxing

B.K.S. Iyengar says, "The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in." With this in mind, many yoga practitioners are conscious about their eating habits and work to complement their yoga practice with a healthy lifestyle. This can include eating only raw food, being a vegetarian, eating organic and many other lifestyle choices.  Nonetheless, everyone exposes their body to toxins in some way. It could be alcohol, fast food, pesticides in non-organic food or any other source. Therefore, doing a detox diet of some kind at least twice a year is important to ensure your body is able to eliminate toxins and prevent disease.

Here are some simple guidelines for those who are considering starting a cleanse for the first time:
  • Set your intention.  Begin your cleanse with a clear goal.  Decide the length of time and type of cleanse you want to begin.  In addition, think about the spiritual, mental or physical goal you hope to accomplish during this cleanse.  For example you could set your intention to have a deeper spiritual connection, increase your focus, or lose weight.  Regardless of your goal, make it clear from the beginning and make time to reflect on your goal through daily prayer, meditation, visualization and/or reading text that will help you acheive your goal. 
  • Drink plenty of water to help aid in the elimnation of toxins.
  • Eliminate all meat (including fish and broth) and processed foods (junk food, fast food and anything with ingredients a child could not pronounce).
  • Consume as much raw, organic fruits and vegetables as possible. Try to eat as little cooked food as you can.
  • Drink fresh fruit and green vegetable juices/smoothies with each meal. You can purchase a green food powder or simply add kale, spinach and/or wheat grass to your smoothie/juice. You can also add raw protein powder to your smoothie if you need something more filling. Try to have a juice or smoothie for breakfast, a juice/smoothie and salad for lunch, and juice/smoothie plus raw fruits & veggies for dinner.
  • Take a cleansing supplement such as  Renew Life - Rapid Cleanse, 1 kit.
  • Practice yoga daily.  Yoga is essential for a cleanse because it encourages deep breaths to help cleanse the respiratory system, improves blood flow throughout the body to improve cleansing through the circulatory system and massages the organs necessary for the digestive system. The following are good guidelines for the types of poses that aid in the purification process.
    • Twists are one of the best types of yoga poses to aid in detoxification because they force the air out of the organs and result in an infusion of fresh blood.  
    • Forward folds aid detoxification because they also compress internal organs and improve circulation when performed standing.
    • Flowing yoga poses increase circulation throughout the body. 
    • Abdominal exercises increase circulation to the abdominal area where the digestive organs are located and thus, stimulate the digestive system.
Pay close attention to your body and feel the wonderful benefits as it smiles and glows in appreciation.


Ronda Jyoti Litwin, RYT  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Choose LOVE, not fear

For about the last four years I have had the personal mantra, "Choose LOVE, not fear."  This mantra came to me from my personal guru and husband early in our relationship.  In fact, this mantra is what made me take the daring leap of loving him and ultimately marrying him.  What's more, this shift of choosing LOVE, not fear has lead me to experience more joy, LOVE and satisfaction than I have felt in a long time.

LOVE sounds innocent but it can cause all your fears to become blatantly clear.  Four years ago, I was faced with the choice of allowing myself to become vulnerable enough to open my heart, let down my guard and LOVE or choosing to turn my back on LOVE out of fear of getting hurt. 

The reason I had so much fear about LOVE was because of the pain I felt when I lost my father to pancreatic cancer at the age of 8.  At the time, I didn't know that most little girls' fathers would be there to protect them from boys when they were a teenager, cheer for them at track meets, watch them graduate from law school, and dance with them on their wedding day.  All I knew was that I LOVE my dad, I missed him and I would never see him again.  As a result, I took from the experience that people you LOVE will leave and that when they leave it will hurt.  Therefore, by the time I started dating, I believe I had unconsciously made a deal with myself to never allow myself to be hurt again. So, out of fear, I protected myself from LOVING another person.

That "worked" for a very long time.  But, when I met my husband, my unconscious decision to choose fear became apparent when I found that as my LOVE for him grew, my desire to leave the relationship also grew.  He noticed this and confronted me about it.  At that point, I was presented with the opportunity to make a conscious decision to choose LOVE.  Choosing LOVE meant letting down my guard and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to share my true self and fully give LOVE to another person.  My decision to choose LOVE in my relationship with my husband has led me to experience more LOVE and joy every day.

After making this decision in my romantic life, I have tried to look at other areas in my life where I can choose LOVE, not fear.  These opportunities arose in areas of my career and relationships with friends and family.  For example, whenever I consider teaching yoga at a new location I am faced with fear of rejection from the owners of the studio or the yoga students but rather than allowing that fear to stop me from sharing my LOVE for yoga with others, I choose to focus on my desire to share my LOVE and allow that desire for LOVE to be the impulse for my act of expansion rather than allowing my fear of rejection to restrain me.  Its not always easy, but it's definitely rewarding. 

Where are you holding yourself back out of fear?  Do you feel a calling to expand your business but you are waiting because of fear?  Are you staying at your job because you are afraid to try something new?  Are you afraid to get into a relationship because you are afraid you will be hurt?  Are you rushing into a relationship because you are afraid to be alone?  All these questions invite you to make the conscious decision of choosing LOVE

Each time you have an idea or you are faced with a decision, you are given an opportunity to decide to act out of LOVE.  In order to do this, you must look to the underlying motivation behind your two choices and choose what you would do from LOVE.

I read a beautiful message on Facebook about LOVE and fear today from Celebrating The New Man - Zorba the Buddha.  The message defined fear as the absence of LOVE, just as darkness is the absence of light.  Therefore, the best way to overcome fear is to LOVE, just as the best way to get rid of darkness is to bring light.  So as you are faced with more and more opportunities to consciously choose LOVE, remember that each time you choose LOVE, it becomes easier to choose LOVE again.  It also results in fear naturally devolving away so that all that remains is the cleansing light of LOVE.

See LOVEChoose LOVE.    Be LOVE!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Relax

Why Do I Need to Meditate?

The convenience resulting from technology is always increasing and this has given us the ability to get more accomplished in the day and have access to an infinite amount of entertainment and information. With all there is to do in the world and the increasing pressure to accomplish more each day, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, and tense. People attempt to counter these effects with alcohol, TV and medication. None of these actually solve the problem and, as we all know, they actually lead to more problems. Instead, the demands of the modern world make meditation essential. Each of us can greatly benefit from setting aside time each day for deep relaxation, prayer and/or meditation.

What Are The Benefits of Meditation?

  • Reduced stress
  • Increased focus
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased self-awareness, self-control & self-confidence
  • Decreased headaches, depression & insomnia
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased exercise tolerance in heart patients
  • Strengthened immune system which aids in the fight against cancer and bacteria & helps in post-operative recovery
  • Aids in weight loss because it decreases the hormone cortisol
  • Lowers blood pressure
How Long Should I Meditate?

Ideally, one would meditate for at least 20 minutes every day. However, it is recommended that beginners start with just 5 minutes of meditation and gradually work their way to 20 minutes. This is because meditation is about finding the gap between thoughts. The more you practice, the more the mind becomes trained to relax and the meditation practice becomes easier. Attempting to meditate for too long, too soon can possibly lead to frustration with your thoughts and judgment about your meditation practice. So, as you begin a meditation practice, take it slow and be gentle with yourself.

What If I Don't Have Time?

For many busy people, this is not easy but it is something that must often be written into the schedule. After all, making time for your health and well-being is just as important as going to a business meeting (its actually more important). If you feel like you don't have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you can simply meditate for five minutes at different times throughout the day. Maybe five minutes in the morning, five minutes at lunch, five minutes after work, and five minutes before bed. This is a great way to bring a relaxed and peaceful mental state with you throughout your day. However, it is important that you realize that everyone can make 20 minutes for meditation. You probably spend 20 minutes watching TV, talking on the phone or playing on the internet without a second thought. So why not spend that time doing something that will help you live your life more fully by making you more relaxed, focused, and healthy?

How Do I Begin?

LOCATION: First, it's best to designate an area for meditation. By doing this, you are creating a sacred space, where over time, you'll be able to reach a meditative state more easily. This space can be anywhere that is quiet, with the exception of the bed. You do not want to meditate where you sleep because you want to be awake and aware during meditation.

ATMOSPHERE: Second, it's best to create an atmosphere in that area that encourages relaxation and a connection with your source. This area should include a chair, cushion, or bench for sitting as well as decorations. You may want to have candles or incense, a small electric fountain and pictures to set the mood. These can be pictures of nature, family, or enlightened beings (ex: Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, the Cross, etc.) There is no wrong way to create sacred space, you must simply think of what inspires you and brings you peace.

TIME: Lastly, choose a time for meditation. The ideal times to meditate are during sunrise and sunset. If this is inconvenient for you, pick a specific time that will work for you every day. Meditating at a consistent time each day is more important than what time of day you choose to meditate because you are creating a healthy habit and setting a rhythm in your body and your mind that will allow you to more easily reach that calm and peaceful state.

How Do You Do It?
There are several different types of meditation and choosing a particular style is a matter of preference. You can choose two or three types of meditation that interest you and try each one for a week. Then decide which one you like best and stick with it for at least 3 months to fully allow yourself to get comfortable with the technique and experience the benefits. I will discuss a few different types of meditation below.
  • BREATH MEDITATION: Simple Breath Meditation is one of the best ways to begin a meditation practice. By becoming fully aware of your breath, you are able to silence the mind and move into stillness. Meditation is a way of training the brain to concentrate and finding the gap between thoughts. In this meditation, concentrate on the temperature of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils and any other sensation you feel as you breathe. One also focuses on the rise and fall of the chest as the lungs expand and contract. Each time a thought arises, it is released and allowed to float away as the focus returns to the breath.
  • MANTRA MEDITATION: The classic form of meditation associated with yoga is mantra meditation. A mantra is the repeated statement of a phrase (often in Sanskrit). One word that is often used in mantras is om. Om is the most sacred sound and does not have a defined meaning; it has been described as everything and nothing, the essence of the Universe and a symbol of Oneness. You can simply chant "om," "om shanti" ("peace") or chant "om namah shivaya" (loosely translated as "I bow to God and remove the blockages that cause me to believe there is any separation between me and God"). While Sanskrit is traditionally used in mantra meditation, you can use anything that resonates with you. You can use scripture or an inspirational phrase such as "I am peace" or "Be still and know God."
  • YOGA: Yoga, itself, can be practiced as a form of moving meditation. When practiced in a sacred place and with the intention of relaxing, focusing the mind, and connecting with your source, the coordinated movements of the body with the breath can have a very calming and centering effect. One can also chant a mantra, prayer, or scripture while practicing yoga to make it even more meditative.
  • YOGA NIDRA: Yoga nidra is another form of meditation that is used to obtain deep relaxation. It relaxes the body and the mind. Listen to this Yoga Nidra video on youtube. It will take you through the first 3 steps of yoga nidra. If you like what you hear, you can purchase the entire yoga nidra meditation on the website.
  • GUIDED MEDITATION: Guided Meditation is an excellent way to begin a meditation practice. In fact, it is the way I began my own practice. If you have a hard time sitting still and quieting the mind, a guided meditation will give you something to focus your attention upon and gently guide you into a calm, peaceful place. In fact, many guided meditations are spoken over music that blends and sequences sounds that help your brain easily slip into a meditative state. Two of the leading companies in this technology are Hemi-Sync and Brain Sync .
  • TAIZE MEDITATION: This is a Christian form of meditation that incorporates music, scripture, and silence. This is a sample of Taize. You can also attend a Taize meditation at the Center for Spiritual Living in Dallas.
How Can I Find Out More Information About Meditation?

  1. The Three Minute Meditator: 30 Simple Ways to Unwind Your Mind While Enhancing Your Emotional Intelligence by David Harper
  2. Journey of Awakening: A Meditator's Guidebook by Ram Dass
  1. Yoga + Magazine
  2. Yoga Journal
  1. Awakening Heart
  2. Center for Spiritual Living
    Ronda Jyoti Litwin

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    What Yoga Means to Me

    If you asked 100 people to explain why they do yoga you would probably get 100 different answers. Some do it to get a good stretch, some do it to lose weight and others do it to relieve stress. That is the beauty of yoga--there is a yoga class for everyone! And often it's the same class.

    If you asked me why I started doing yoga, I would say all of the above (increased flexibility, weight-loss, stress-reduction). But, if you asked me why I chose to teach yoga, you would get a very different answer.

    After practicing yoga for some time, it became more than a physical practice for me. It is now a philosophy and a way of life that focuses on having my spiritual, mental, and physical actions in proper alignment. Yoga has helped me walk a path to a more healthy, balanced and peaceful life. I decided to start teaching yoga so I could be a part of helping others improve their lives as well.

    I love exposing people to yoga for the first time. In doing this, however, I come across two common misconceptions: (1) you need to be flexible to do yoga and (2) yoga conflicts with religion, such as Christianity. While there are definitely some yoga classes that are made for super-flexible people and there are yoga classes that are very focused on the Hindu religion, that is not true of all yoga classes. It is certainly not true for my class. My yoga philosophy does not require a person to come into class flexible or to compromise their religious beliefs. Instead, I believe yoga is designed to help improve flexibility and complement your religious or spiritual practices.

    Yoga is about being the best YOU you can be. It is about reaching your full potential mentally, physically, and spiritually. Each person is made differently. Each person has their own physical injuries, limitations, and gifts and yoga can help you heal your injuries and fully realize your physical strength and/or flexibility while respecting your limitations. This is why yoga teachers offer modifications and encourage students to listen to their bodies. Yoga class is not about being the most flexible or getting into the most advanced pose. It is about loving your body, focusing the mind, and getting in touch with your Source.

    Yoga is about deepening your spiritual practice, regardless of your religious beliefs. Yoga opens the body, which might be thought of as the vessel through which the divine works in our lives. Regardless of whether you worship God, Jesus, Buddah, Allah or Krishna, the goal is the same. The goal is to make a connection with the invisible force that created us and connects us. Because of this, yoga is an excellent preparation for meditation or prayer.

    I hope my yoga classes bring my students the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga so that they can experience a more fulfilling life.


    Ronda Jyoti Litwin
    Yoag w/ Ronda on Facebook

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Consciousness in Action

    THIS SLIDESHOW is a beautiful, moving presentation that shows the difference ONE person can make in this world with Positive, Passionate, and Persistent words and deeds. It highlights individuals who have made incredible contributions to humanity. This presentation is not about comparing yourself to what these people have done, it’s about realizing what YOU can do. You do not have to be Gandhi or Martin Luther King to make a difference in the world.

    Often we feel overwhelmed and isolated and think, "I'm just one person; how can I make a real difference?" And sometimes it's easier to shut down because we're busy, and there's so much wrong in the world. But yoga teaches us to take action, to do service for the sake of service, to embody the world we want to live in. Yoga teaches us to say, "I know the world I want to live in can only come alive through me." That is why Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You become that change you want to see in the world by speaking clearly about you want to see in the world and letting go of talking poorly about people and situations.

    You can make a difference in this world as a parent, a teacher, or using whatever God-given talents you are blessed with. We can all make an impact in the world when we become consciousness in action. So uncover your purpose by asking, "Who am I supposed to be in my life?" Try following the five steps below to realize your amazing ability to change the world:

    1. Write down three words that describe who you are and what your loved ones admire about you. These qualities could be that you are spunky, smart, playful, funny, or grounded.

    2. Write down your passions and talents. Maybe its cooking, teaching, or knitting.

    3. Write down your ideal vision of the world: Maybe it’s “I envision a peaceful world” or “where everyone has health food to eat.”

    4. Put it all together into a single statement: “I will use my intelligence, spunkiness, and humor, through cooking food for the people that I love, teaching, and making art, to create a world that is peaceful and has healthy food to eat.”

    5. Place this statement someone you will see it every day. Maybe that’s on your mirror, your steering wheel or your nightstand.

    We are all connected. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi did not work alone. Find connection with other like-minded people. Don Beck is coming to Dallas in June to talk about Spiral Dynamics and identify opportunities to respond to human need in Dallas/Fort Worth. He will discuss how to:
    - Recruit, train and motivate caring volunteers
    - Unite with other organizations dedicated to serving the community
    - Plan for success

    You can also find community through the internet. For example, the Engage Network is a beautiful source of inspiration.


    Ronda Jyoti Litwin, RYT
    Find me on Facebook

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Ahimsa & Peace

    Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which is generally translated into non-violence in thought, word, and deed and is the first limb of the eight-limbed path of Ashtanga yoga. However, as an avid believer that your thoughts create your reality and you attract that which you place your attention upon, I choose to think of ahimsa as a call to promote peace, rather than to merely be non-violent.

    For me, living ahimsa involves recognizing that we are all part of a Universe filled with infinitely beautiful and unique entities. Learning to give peaceful love to yourself, the planet, others and animals allows me to feel a deep sense of peace within my heart. This is because when you give love and peace you receive it as well. Therefore, the best way to advocate peace in your heart and in the world is give peaceful love to all.

    But, even with this in mind, it can be difficult to have peaceful interactions with those you love. This is explain by western scient and yogic science, which both agree that the mind creates grooves that make it more difficult to change old habits. Luckily, that's not the end of the story. It is possible to create new paths in the mind. Changing your habitual thinking requires space to observe yourself, the situation, and the other person objectively. It also requires focus.

    Daily meditation allows you to train your mind to observe your thoughts more objectively and focus your attention on positive goals. Using a mantra or repeated phrase such as "I am Peace" or "Om Shanti," which means peace in Sanskrit, can help you begin to identify with your true loving and peaceful Self. Once you have created a mediation practice, you will be able to approach challenging situations from a place that will allow you to ask yourself the following:
    (1) What would Peace do in this situation?" and (2) "Will my actions promote or hinder peace in the world?" So I as you right now, how awesome is that?!

    It would be disingenuous for me to say I have achieved perfect peace in my life. But, since I have begun the practice of yoga, meditation, and spiritual study, I have become much more peaceful towards others and within my heart. I am greatful for my growth, confident in my evolution and patient with the process. As you proceed on your personal journey, don't forget to be peaceful and patient with yourself, appreciate your growth and be thankful for the ability to see where there is room for even more growth.

    By changing yourself, you are changing the world. And as I write these words, and you read them we are promoting peace. So be inspired, promote peace and, as Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

    Om shanti,

    Ronda Jyoti Litwin