Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Week 3 - Asteya

Asteya means non-stealing, non-misappropriation, desirelessness and non-covetousness.  Not having any desire to have something that is not yours by untruthful ways of obtaining it.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra II.37 says: asteyapratisthayam sarvaratnopasthanam
When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come.

Mr. Iyengar writes in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,that upon the man who does not take what does not belong to him, all riches are showered. Being without desire, he effortlessly attracts what is precious, materially and figuratively, including the gem of all jewels, virtue.

Asteya does not just mean the literal sense of not stealing from others, it is also not taking more then you need or require. Often when we feel there is not enough of something to go around there is a sense of greed and we want to hoard it. When we sit back and look at what we would truly need to survive and prosper we would realize it is very little and that there is an abundance to go around for everyone.

I will end with a quote I often read to myself.  I'm sorry I don't know where I found it but it says:

Live Simply....
So others can simply live.

Pamela Nelson

January - Pose of the Month - Utthita Parsvakonasana - Extended Side Angle Pose

Utthita Parsvakonasana - Extended Side Angle Pose

Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with feet together or slightly apart and parallel to each other if you have back, hip or knee issues. 
Inhale and then jump or step your feet approximately 4-41/2 feet apart into Utthita Hasta Padasana.  The feet are parallel to each other and the arms are parallel to the floor.  Keep the shoulders rolling back and down away from the ears and the chest lifting.  Press evenly into both feet, centering the torso between the two legs.

Parsva Hasta Padasana - cut the back foot in about 15-30 degrees and rotate the right leg out 90 degrees.  The front heel is in line with the instep of the back foot.
Variation 1- On the exhalation bend the front knee to 90 degrees, angling the knee towards the pinkie toe.  Keep pressing into both feet and draw the front thigh bone deep into the hip socket.  Bring the front forearm onto the top of the front thigh, keeping the side body lengthening evenly.  Keep the chest open and roll the bottom ribs up towards the top ribs.  Raise the back arm up and over the ear, pointing the hand to where the ceiling and wall meet.  Look up past the top arm if you can.  Stay for a few breaths, then press into both feet and inhale to come up. Turn the feet back to the front and repeat on the other side.  Come back to Tadasana.

Variation 2 - Back foot at wall - Back view
Back foot at the wall - Front View - Bracing the back foot at the wall helps keep the back leg active and avoid overstretching or straining the abdominal organs.
Place the short edge of your mat at a wall.  Bring the outer edge of your left foot into the wall and step the right foot out about 4-41/2 feet.  Feet are parallel.  Then turn the right leg out 90 degrees, aligning the front heel to the back arch. Exhale, bending your front knee to 90 degrees.  Keep the front outer ankle, knee and outer hip in line.  Fully stretch the back leg, and press the back thigh back.  You can either rest the front forearm on the thigh or place the front hand on a block or the floor, outside the front foot.
Inhale, pressing the feet into the floor to come up.  Turn the feet back parallel. Come to Tadasana and repeat on other side.

When you feel ready you can take the pose away from the wall.

Benefits:  This pose builds strength in the legs and the arms and helps to increase flexibility in the hips, shoulders and spine.  This pose helps reduce fat around the waistline and hips and is great for the digestive and excretory systems.  The internal organs are toned and massaged.
Cautions:  High blood pressure - look at the floor
Avoid if have migraines, osteoarthritis of the knees, varicose veins, insomnia, depression.
Avoid during menstruation and if have cervical spondylosis look up only briefly in the final pose.

Pamela Nelson


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas: Week 2 - Satya

The Yamas are the first limb in Patanjali's Astanga (eight-limbed) yoga.  Yama means moral or ethical injunctions.  The second yama is satya or truthfulness.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra II.36 says, satyapratisthayam kriyaphalasrayatvam. 

When the sadhaka (practitioner) is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization.

Just like we need to practice ahimsa, or non-harming in words, thoughts and deeds, the practice of truthfulness needs to extend to every cell in the body.

Pamela Nelson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Twin Pillars of Yoga - abhyasa and vairagya

The Twin pillars of yoga are described as abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (detachment).

Patajali's Yoga Sutra's state:

Y.S. I.12 abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness.

Y.S. I.13 tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasah
Practice is the steadfast effort of still these fluctuations.

Y.S. I.14 sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara asevitah drdhabhumih
Long, uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations.

Y.S. II.16  Heyam duhkham anagatam
The pains/sorrows which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.

Pains, sorrows and afflictions are a part of life due to our desires.  The external world has many desires that pull us, which creates more desires.  When our desires can not be fulfilled we experience pain and suffering.

Geeta Iyengar says in her book, Yoga: A Gem for Women that,
"Without rigorous practice nothing is gained.  Without practice, purity of the body and the mind cannot be achieved, fluctuations of the mind cannot be controlled.  The fruits of the material world cannot be obtained without sustained effort; this sustained effort has to be multiplied a thousand times to gain Self-knowledge.  This rigorous practice is fourfold: moral, physical, mental and spiritual."
 She also says,
"The key to success is effort.  Vairagya or absence of worldly desires can be achieved by controlling the senses, by carrying out one's duties without thought of reward and by acting with goodness and purity."

The same idea is described in B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Astanga Yoga.  He says abhyasa means practice and vairagya means desire less practice.  Our practice needs to be done with detachment so that there is no expectation from the fruits of our actions.  This does not mean we do not have an aim to our actions for universal good, but to let go of our ambition to remove the selfish motives and desires.

Another way this is written that I find helps explain the twin pillars is in B.K.S. Iyengar's translation of Patajali's Yoga Sutras.  He says that,
"The twin paths to this goal are practice (abhyasa), the path of evolution, of going forward; and detachment or renunciation (vairagya), the path of involution, abstaining from the fruits of action and from worldly concerns and engagements."
They are described as twin pillars because to do yoga you cannot do one and not the other.  If either one is missing your foundation will crumble and the cycle of suffering will continue.

Pamela Nelson

Any mistakes in trying to explain the twin pillars are my own.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Importance of Chanting the Invocation of Patajali

First I guess is who was Patanjali? 

Although not a lot is known about the life of Patanjali, it is believed that he lived somewhere between 500 and 200 BC.  He has been acknowledged for giving the Yoga tradition its classical format and so it is often referred to as Classical Yoga.  He is most widely known for writing the Yoga Sutras, which is a systematic treatise defining the most important aspects of Yoga theory and practice.  He has also been acknowledged for being a grammarian and doctor of Ayurvedic medicine.  On top of this he is known as the patron saint of dance in India.

The legend surrounding Patanjali is that he may be the grandson of Brahma.  He was sent to earth to write a commentary on grammar and devote himself to the perfection of dance. He came to earth as a tiny snake and grew into human form before his mother’s eyes.  She named him Patanjali.  Pata meaning fallen and anjali meaning “hands folded in prayer”. He is depicted as being half human and half serpent.  Patanjali is thought to have 4 hands.  Two are in the namaste position, one holding a sankha or conch that embodies energy and one a cakra, a disc that embodies the turning wheel of time or the law of cause and effect.

Mr. Iyengar says in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that Patanjali’s works are followed by yogis to this day in their effort to develop a refined language, a cultured body and a civilized mind.  This is referring to all the great works of Pantanjali on grammar, dance and yoga.

yogena cittasya padena vacam
malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
yopakarottam pravaram muninam
patanjalim pranjalir anato'smi

abahu purusakaram
sankha cakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim

English Translation:

Let us bow before the noblest of sages, Patanjali, who gave yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity and purity of speech, and medicine for perfection of health.
Let us prostrate before Patanjali, an incarnation of Adisesa, whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and a disc, and who is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra.

The first part of the invocation salutes Patanjali’s achievements as the founding figure of yoga and his achievements in grammar and ayurvedic medicine.  The second part salutes Patanjali for carrying the conch and wheel.  The part where he is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra refers to his form as Anata or Adisesa, the devine serpent and that in biting his own tail symbolizes endlessness.

The importance of chanting the invocation to Patanjali prior to beginning your yoga practice is that it reminds us of the original culture and tradition yoga came from and gives respect and gratitude to Patanjali for giving yoga to us.  In calling respect to Patanjali at the beginning of the yoga practice also humbles the yoga student so the true lessons of yoga can be learnt.

You can listen to B.K.S. Iyengar chant the invocation by visiting

Pamela Nelson

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yogasana or Bhogasana?

The word yogasana means a yogic posture.  Yogasanas were discovered by sages to keep us healthy and satisfied by exercising every muscle, nerve and gland in the body.  Asana (postures) bring great vitality, health and lightness; helping to produce mental equilibrium and steadiness of mind.  When we do not use the asanas as a bridge to unite the body with the mind and the mind with the soul then we are merely doing bhogasanas, or asanas of pleasure.

B.K.S. Iyengar says in Light on Pranayama, 
"The external world lures us towards its pleasures, creating desires. The inevitable non-fulfilment of desires in turn creates pain, which suffocates the inner being." 
These afflictions or sufferings (klesas) are said to have five causes: ignorance, pride, attachment, aversion and fear of death. 
Therefore, we need determination to practice the asanas correctly to free ourselves from the afflictions of physical disabilities and mental distractions.

Pamela Nelson

Resources used: Light on Pranayama and Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar and Yoga Rahasya vol.17 No.3, 2010.
Any mistakes in presenting this are my own.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Intentions of the next 10 weeks - Week 1: Ahimsa

Way back at the end of October I wrote about Patanjali and how he has been credited for codifying yoga in the Yoga Sutras.  I had listed the 8 limbs of yoga (astanga yoga) being yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara,dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

Over the next 10 weeks I hope to write about the yamas - which there are 5 and the niyamas -which there is also 5.  Each one will be the intention of the week during the Winter Yoga Session.

So to begin, Yama is the first limb in our eight limb path.  The yamas are the ethical disciplines or the great commandments transcending creed, country, age and time.  They represent the rules of morality for society and the individual, which as B.K.S. Iyengar writes if not obeyed bring chaos, violence, untruth, stealing, dissipation and covetousness.
Sutra II.31 states this as:  jati desa kala samaya anavacchinnah sarvabhaumah mahavratam
Translated as: Yamas are the great, mighty, universal vows, unconditioned by place, time and class.

Ahimsa is the first yama. It means non-harming  or wishing no harm in words, thoughts and actions.  It is being sincere.
Sutra II.35 states this as: ahimsapratisthayam tatsannidhau vairatyagah
Translated as: When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one's aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one's presence.

The sutras stress that yama and niyama are an essential part of yoga, not just the postures we have come to know in western society.  The postures though can help us learn much about ourselves so we can develop equipoise in all areas of our lives.  Mr. Iyengar says, "In asana, the pose first brings inner balance and harmony, but in the end it is merely the outer expression of the inner harmony.

Pamela Nelson

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Citta - the sanskrit word for consciousness, which is made up of three factors.  The mind (manas), intellect (buddhi) and the ego (ahamkara).  The mind has three functions - cognition, conation or volition, and motion.

From "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali", BKS says, "Mind acquires knowledge objectively, whereas intelligence learns through subjective experience, which becomes wisdom."

I like this quote because it always reminds me to do my practice.  I can continue to read...and reread many of the books I have and think I understand it, but not until I gain the realization through experience can I say I have wisdom.


Pamela Nelson

Yoga for the Office - Practice 1

I have recently taken on some computer work and although I know the effects of desk jobs can cause chronic neck, shoulder and back issues I was surprised at how quickly one can start to feel these symptoms.

Below is a practice that is good for anyone, but especially for those that sit for long periods at desks, in vehicles...or even on the couch!  If you stop for even five minutes every hour to do a few of these postures, it might help counter the negative effects of desk jobs. 

Namaskarasana - Begin in a seated position with your feet hip distance apart and parallel.  Press firmly into your feet, and sit evenly on your sit bones. Press your palms together at chest height, keeping your wrists and elbow in line.  Release your shoulder back and down away from your ears, while at the same time keep your spine lengthening and chest open.

Maintaining the same position of your feet, length to your spine and openness to the chest, interlace your fingers.

Keep your shoulders moving back and down and press your hands away from you, palms facing out.  Try to keep your arms straight and parallel to the floor.

Bring your chin to your chest, inhale and raise your straight arms overhead.  Continue to press out through your palms.  As your arms stretch up, keep the shoulders moving back and down and keep the chest open, feet pressing to floor.

On your next inhale, levelize the head.  On an exhalation release the arms down and repeat the last five poses interlacing your fingers with your opposite pinkie finger to the outside.

Stand with feet hip width apart and feet parallel.  Bring your weight evenly into your feet.  Front to back, side to side.  Engage your quadriceps (thigh muscles) and compact your outer hips.  Lift your waist off of your hips, lengthening the side body evenly to the armpits.  Raise your arms out to the side, parallel to the floor, and keep your shoulders moving down the back.  Press out through the palms and feel a greater release in the neck and shoulder area.  Draw the arms behind you as far as you can.  Bring arms back in line with body and palms facing the floor. 
Maintain the action in your legs and arms.  Inhale and on exhale release ear over to shoulder.  Don't let the shoulder move up to the ear.  Inhale to levelize the head and repeat on other side. 

Ardha Uttanasana - Place palms on desk, shoulder width apart.  Step back keeping feet hip width apart and parallel to each other bending at the hip crease - not the waist.  Feel the spine lengthening and lower back releasing.  Try to keep the tailbone in line with the heels.  Allow the abdomen to soften and outer thighs roll inward.  Lift the kneecaps up towards the hips to engage the quadriceps muscles and keep the femur bones (thigh bones) pressing back.  On inhalation walk feet towards hands and press to come up.  

Sit again in your chair.  Keep feet parallel and hip width apart.  Sit bones pressing evenly into chair.  Inhale, lengthening your spine, rolling your shoulders back and down and keep your chest open.  Exhale, bring your right hand to the outside of the left knee, revolving to the left. Take a few breaths to complete the twist beginning from the tailbone up to the base of the neck.  Look beyond the left shoulder, stretching the eyes as far as they can too!  On the exhalation come back to centre and repeat on other side.

This pose is great to quiet the mind and release the back and shoulders.
Feet are hip width apart and parallel. Release forward, bending at the hip crease, grasp opposite elbows and release forward.  Rest your forehead on your folded arms or on the desk.  Feel the muscles of the back releasing, the shoulders relaxing and the abdomen softening to release tension.  Stay for as long as you can.  Slowly come up on the inhalation.  Sit for a moment or two feeling calm, relaxed and ready to proceed with your day.


Pamela Nelson

Monday, January 3, 2011

Upcoming Winter Iyengar Yoga Classes

Happy New Year!

Below is my 2011 Winter Yoga Classes.

Mondays - in Christopher Lake - 10 weeks - January 10th - March 21- no class Feb.21
5:15-6:30 - Beginner Yoga
6:45-8:00 - Intermediate Yoga

Tuesdays - in Prince Albert - 10 weeks - January 11th - March 22 - no class Feb.22
5:30-6:45 - Intermediate Yoga - Full
7:00-8:00 - Beginner/All Levels - Full

Wednesday Workshops
January 19, February 9th, March 2 and 23rd

Saturdays - in Prince Albert - 6 weeks - January 8-Feb.19th - no class January 29th
10:30-11:45 - Beginner/All Levels - FULL

I will be posting the spring session in the next week or so.  It will run about 8 weeks starting in April.

Pam Nelson