Monday, February 28, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Week 7 - Santosa

Sutras II.40-II.45 describes the effects of practicing the five niyamas.  They are the internal disciplines or individual rules of conduct.  They are the positive and help one to follow the yamas.  If one is disciplined in niyama it will be easy to follow yama.

Santosa - contentment

II.42 santosat anuttamah sukhalabhah
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness.

Santosa means true contentment with oneself, not trying to be like others or relying on external forces to make one happy.  When the body is clean and the mind purified then contentment arises.  True contentment checks the cravings for food and helps curb desire, anger, greed and ambition.  True contentment is a state of mind.
I really love even just saying the word santosa.  It brings a smile to my face when I feel moments of true contentment.  When I am in the present moment, enjoying that moment for what it is, I can even find santosa while doing the dishes!  Contentment is not neccesary found only when all the stars align perfectly and all things in life are going well.  True contentment comes from within even during the difficult moments. 
As Judith Lasater says in her book Living Yoga,
"Contentent requires the willingness to enjoy whatever has been given you today knowing that it will change."

I hope you find true contentment in your life.
Pamela Nelson

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a Wonderful World

I love this song and although I know Louis Armstrong was the oringal artist, Raffi also does a very good version.  Having three kids, this was a great bedtime song.  The melody is wonderful, but also the message...we are all on this wonderful world together.

What a Wonderful World

Written by: Robert Thiele and George Weiss

I see trees of green, red roses, too.
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white.
The bring blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Pamela Nelson

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review - Falling to Heaven

I have to say I was never great at book reports in school, but I thought this would be a way to find out about the many great and interesting books/magazines/articles out there.  Please feel free to email me with suggestions.  I am always looking for new books to read.

My reviews will give more of an overview of the book or article as I do not wish to put my opinion into others minds before they have a chance to read it themselves.  In many cases I will just put the information on the book jacket as it is probably written better than I will be able to do myself.

I will have only the current review in the Book Review Page section, but you will be able to find all the reviews in the blog section too.

The following book was recommended to me. Thank you.

Falling to Heaven
by: Jeanne M. Peterson
ISBN: 978-0-312-53392-2
Thomas Dunne Books
Copyright 2010

Following taken from the book jacket:

In 1954 Emma and Gerald Kittredge leave their secure Quaker community and travel to the small Tibetan town of Shigatse, not as missionaries but as believers who fervently have faith that "there is that of God in everyone."  They soon find companionship in their neighbors, Dorje and Rinchen,and thier sons, Dawa and Champa - tasting yak meat dumplings, mastering the art of brewing yak butter tea, and exploring meditative practices with Lama Norbu.  But the arrival of Maoist soldiers from China into their quiet lives shatters everything.

I found this story moving and insightful into the many cultures and traditions of the area and the history surrounding this time period.

Pam Nelson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prayer Flags

Here is a nice quote I found from The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition website regarding prayer flags.

Prayer flags are always auspicious when placed high across buildings. The wind blows on the mantras and all sentient beings, including birds and other flying insects, benefit from the mantras.

-Lama Zopa Rinpoche

If you are interested in some of your own I have some large and small prayer flags for sale.
Check the product section of my website or call for information.

Pamela Nelson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Week 6 - Saucha

As we move into the second half of this yoga session, we also move into the second limb of Patanjali's astanga yoga...the Niyamas.  There are five niyamas which are to help develop the internal disciplines or the individual rules of conduct.  They are the positive and help one to follow the yamas. If one is disciplined in niyama, the yamas will be easy to follow.

The five niyamas are: Saucha, Santosa, Tapas, Svadhayaya and Isvara Pandihana and are found in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali in sutras II.40-II.45.

PYS II.40 saucat svangajugupsa paraih asamsargah
Sauca – cleanliness, purity of mind, body, thoughts, words, deeds and actions- The body acts as a temple for the soul within so it is important to keep it clean, pure and healthy. 

PYS II.41 sattvasuddhi saumanasya aikagrya indriyajaya atmadarsana yogyatvani ca
When the body and mind are clean they become fit for the intelligence to develop the power of concentration and attention to go inward to discover the core of the being.

Through the practice of yoga we hope to merge the individual soul with the universal soul.  Without a healthy body though, it is hard to have a healthy mind.  Therefore it is important to keep the body healthy physically, physiologically and intellectually.  Mr. Iyengar says in "Light on Life" that sauca is related to the cleanliness achieved through asana practice.  A yoga practice cleans the system and rests the nerves.

Pamela Nelson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Week Five - Aparigraha

Aparigraha - freedom from desires, without possessions, without belongings, non-acceptance of gifts

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - II.39  aparigrahasthairye janmakathamta sambodhah
Knowledge of past and future lives unfolds when one is free from greed or possessions.

Parigraha means possession, hoarding or covetousness.  Mr. Iyengar says this is another form of asteya (non-stealing).  We should not take what one does not really need and we should not hoard things that we do not immediately require.  When we collect or hoard things we also desire more. This creates an attachment and attachment leads one towards aversion and avarice, towards jealousy and hatred.

This is an instinct in all of us that traps us in the karmic cycle of reincarnation after death.  While giving up material possessions may seem possible, Mr. Iyengar asks, what about emotional or intellectual possessiveness?  It is difficult sometimes to know where need ends and greed begins.  This is where Astanga yoga can help to discipline the mind, freeing it from the desire to possess and bring it into a state of aparigraha, freedom from desire.  This is not only a freedom from possession, but a freedom from rigidity of thought.

Mr. Iyengar says that Aparigraha trains one to live fearlessly.  This is because when one observes aparigraha they lead a simple life and do not feel the loss or lack of anything.  They know everything they need will come to them by itself in time.

Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health - B.K.S. Iyengar
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga Rahasya vol.17, No.4, 2010
Light on Astanga Yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar

Pamela Nelson

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February - Pose of the Month - Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

For the month of February, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, I have chosen a chest opener for the pose of the month. Our heart is in the area of the Fourth Chakra or Anahata, which means "unstuck" or "unhurt".  It is in the centre of the chakra system balancing the lower three chakras and the upper three chakras.  When the chest is open we have more room to breath and can feel a sense of love, harmony and peace.
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana - (Two Legged Inverted Staff Pose)
I have shown a variation using the chair and then one without the chair.

Props needed with chair:  A sticky mat with the short end to the wall, a block on highest height at the wall, a sturdy chair about 2 feet from the wall with back facing the wall, a blanket or mat on the chair and a strap.

Begin by sitting through the chair facing the wall and place the strap around the mid to upper thighs.  Make sure the buckle is not touching the flesh. The strap helps prevent abdominal strain and keeps the legs from rolling out.


Draw the sacrum toward the back edge of the chair, and holding the sides of the chair, recline back.  Allow the spine to curve back over the seat of the chair with the shoulder blades clearing the front edge.  Extend the legs and press the soles of the feet into the wall.  Keep the feet together and parallel.  Press the thigh bones towards the floor and engage the thigh muscles.  Draw the sacrum towards the heel to keep the lower back lengthening. Either reach the hands down the chair on the outside of the legs, or if you can thread your arms through the front legs of the chair and grasp the back legs.  Keep the abdomen soft and the throat and eyes.

Other variations not shown include supporting your head on a bolster, raising your feet so the legs are parallel to the floor (to be done if menstruating or back pain), roll a blanket or towel and place in lower back if pain.

To come up, bring feet back to the floor, grasp the chair back and slide buttocks back to chair center.  Come up on the elbows and as push up place a hand behind to help lift the torso up. Try to come up with the spine long, leading with the chest. 

Release the lower back by doing a seated twist to the left and right.

Without chair:
Lie on the mat with knees bent, feet hip width apart and parallel.  Bring arms up overhead and palms to floor, fingers pointing towards shoulders.
Inhale. Press up onto the top of the head, keep pressing into feet, trying to keep knees from splaying out.
Bring the forearms to the floor and interlace the fingers behind the head.  Keep the elbows in line with the shoulders and press into the forearms, top of the head and feet.  Draw the tailbone up and lengthen the spine.  Press the hips upwards and draw the back body towards the front. The collarbones open out to the sides.  Keep the throat, eyes and abdomen soft.  My feet have splayed out abit in this picture.  Try to keep them parallel and the thigh bones rolling inward.

If the elbows keep splaying out or lifting, come into the wall and press the elbows into the wall.

Benefits: Using the chair provides support to help open the chest and bring mobility to the spine and shoulders without stressing the body.  The heart, lungs and brain cells are soothed and massaged, preventing arterial blockage.  This pose can also help those suffering from depression by building emotional stability and self-confidence.  Chest openers open ligaments in the chest and tones the spine, helping to alleviate lower backache.  Also, the adrenal, thyroid, pituitary and pineal glands are stimulated.  This pose can help correct displaced bladder or prolapsed uterus and can help relieve menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause.

Cautions: Do not practice if you have a herniated disk, migraine, stress headache, eye strain, constipation, diarrhea or insomnia.  Discontinue if you feel dizzy.  If you are menstruating you can practice with the chair, feet parallel to the floor and head supported with a bolster.

Pamela Nelson

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yoga for You

"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.  The better your practice, the brighter the flame."     -B.K.S. Iyengar

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Yoga Mat Cleaner Recipe

I found the recipes and articles below on the web.  There is a number of different articles out there so I have put only a few on that I found.  I have put the site they came from so you can check them out yourself and also to credit those sites with the information.

 This yoga mat recipe is from The Hungry Wife website.  The link is below.

1/4 cup water (purified or distilled if possible)
1/4 cup witch hazel
10 drops tea tree oil
6 drops of other essential oils (lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, whatever your heart desires)

Place all ingredients in your spray bottle, shake and clean!  Some extra notes, some witch hazel products contain 14% alcohol.  This will not damage your natural rubber mat, but you can also find witch hazel with no alcohol if you wish to be completely alcohol free.  When creating your custom scent, tea tree oil will be the main ingredient in your yoga mat cleaner after water and witch hazel, so when you experiment with your oils, be sure to put that in first.  Going heavy on the lavender usually comes out very pleasant.  You can spray onto your mat before or after your yoga class (but if you use it after, your mat will be fresh for each practice). Spray a thin layer onto your mat and wipe off with a dry or slightly dampened cloth or paper towel. If you have time to let your mat dry before you need it again, you can get your mat a little wetter and use a little more spray.
The site URL:
The Title: Yoga Mat Cleaner Recipe

The below information came from

How to Keep Your Yoga Mat Clean
Editor at Wai Lana

Fitting yoga into your busy schedule is a challenge without having to worry about spending time cleaning your mat!  However, regularly washing your yoga mat will:

  • Keep it soft and sticky.
  • Prevent bacterial growth.
  • Maximize the life of your mat.

The only way to keep most yoga mats clean is to wash them by hand, so here are some tips to show you how to wash a yoga mat easily.
Wash your yoga mat before first use
You will probably want to wash your yoga mat before its first use to remove any “rubbery” odor and slickness.
Deep Clean
For its first wash, or whenever your yoga mat seems particularly dirty, you will probably want to give it a really thorough cleaning.
  1. Run a few inches of cool or slightly warm water into a bathtub or large laundry sink and add a few drops of mild, non-oily detergent. Make sure you don’t add too much soap or it will be difficult to rinse away completely, leaving your yoga mat unnecessarily slippery.
  2. Submerge the yoga mat in the water. Let it soak for a few minutes (the longer you let it soak, the more thoroughly it will be cleaned).
  3. Gently rub down both sides of the mat, top to bottom, using the soft side of a sponge, a piece of terrycloth, or even just your hands. This will help the mat to develop that soft, grippable surface for which sticky yoga mats are so prized.
  4. Rinse the yoga mat out very thoroughly in clean water, making sure you get rid of any soap residue.
  5. To dry your yoga mat, lay it on top of a dry towel and tightly roll mat and towel together like a cinnamon roll. Squeeze out excess water by pressing with your hands or feet. Unroll and hang to air dry. Make sure you let it dry out completely before storing to prevent mold.

Quick Clean
For lighter, more frequent maintenance cleaning and a quicker drying time, you can just clean your mat with a spray bottle and soft cloth.

Homemade Yoga Mat Cleaner

It is very easy to make a spray-on mat cleaner that will break up sweat and dirt and kill odor-causing molds and bacteria while at the same time extending the lifespan of your mat. Try either of these recipes.
Water/Vinegar Spray
For a very simple, natural antibacterial/antifungal mat spray, simply mix 1 part warm water with 3 parts white vinegar. You can also try adding a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus, lemongrass, lavender, mint, or tea tree oil to add a nice aroma and increase the germ- and odor-killing potential.
Soap/Water Spray
Another easy cleanser is a simple soap solution of 2 or 3 cups of water and a few drops of mild detergent.

Spray Cleaning Instructions

  1. Spray your yoga mat cleaner over the surface of your mat. If you are using a soapy cleanser, spray very lightly or your mat may become slippery. If you are using a vinegar cleanser, you can spray liberally. If your yoga mat seems especially dirty, let the cleanser sit and soak in a bit before cleaning it off.
  2. Wipe the yoga mat with a wet cloth or sponge. When the cleanser has been thoroughly removed, rub the mat down with a soft dry cloth, like a small towel or washcloth. Now repeat on the other side.
  3. Allow your mat to air dry, which should take only about 5 to 10 minutes. If it takes longer than this, then try rubbing your mat down some more with a towel to remove the excess water and accelerate drying time.

And one more site ...
with one more recipe.

Yoga Mat Cleaner Recipe

  • 1/2 water
  • 1/2 witch hazel
  • 18 drops tea tree oil
  • 6 drops lavender
  • 2 drops lemon grass

Pamela Nelson

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yamas and Niyamas - Week 4 - Brahmacarya

Brahmacarya - continence, chastity, religious studentship

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra II.38
brahmacaryapratisthayam viryalabhah

When the sadhaka (yoga practitioner) is firmly established in continence, knowledge, vigour, valour and energy flow to him.

From my readings on brahmacarya I have found it to mean self-restraint and control of one-self.  It does not have to mean complete celibacy to be spiritual or the cycle of human life would end, but by channeling our energy in a respectful way we are able to follow all the Yamas and Niyamas.

For more reading on this Yama you can check out BKS Iyengar's translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra - Light on the Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali or Light on Life.

Pamela Nelson