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A few years back my friend gave me a book with the same title and it is a great idea for how to connect to Spring and all ideas that can now begin to grow after being under frozen earth during winter (apart from my lucky pals who live in California!). Yet all these metaphors live on no matter where we live. One of the benefits of a yoga practice, especially a Sadhana-based practice (by this I mean where the practice is for spiritual development and not poses for the sake of posing.. if you know what I mean kids), is that we have the stillness and quietness of mind to really begin to look at what is being spoken to us from our deepest inner words.

Sometimes it is easier to live life with unfulfilled dreams, keeping one in the role of victim of their life, than it is to be brave enough to branch out and fulfil your dreams and perhaps fail along the way. Therefore, the ideas, wishes, travels, creative projects that we would love to do get buried deep in the frozen earth, never to bud or grow. With all good intention, this is actually more a ‘normal’ way of living than the person that relentlessly follows their heart and inner voice. However, I really truly believe, after connecting with literally thousands and thousands of people in my teaching career in the past 18 years, that it is our desire collectively to fulfil our potential and let go of limiting thoughts, we just need to know that somebody or something has our back in this situation. We may take years to learn to completely trust that somebody will have our back and allow us to fulfil our dreams, even if that person is actually ourselves.

One way of checking in with this is to consistently write down your thoughts, feelings, dreams and desires. My favourite time to do this is very early morning, looking out at the sky budding with intention for the day ahead, dark to light, birds singing the song of longing for the light outside. I freeform write, essentially to get what is in my heart onto the page and in that moment have a new perspective of the things that happened yesterday, or my gratitude for the moment, or the day ahead. With my daughter’s (read:mine) guinea pigs snuffling about and their contented noises after eating their breakfast, I write. In that moment comes clarity, forgiveness even anger sometimes, and it all gets out onto the page.

Therefore, there is great sense in the idea of a journal, a diary, morning pages, the Daily Greatness Journal (my fave and no not sponsored this is loooooong before other people starting receiving money to LIKE stuff!). It is even sweeter after meditation, sweeter still with a hot morning coffee.

So in this time of transition, go dust off that notebook you got for Christmas from your Great Aunt, sharpen your pencil, and sit quietly with your dreams, pull your weeds, then plant your seeds.

Love you,

Claire X

Photo credit Logan Lemmon at Yogaglo.

According to Hinduism, the divine source creates, maintains and destroys the universe. The power with which these functions are performed is called Shakti or the Divine Mother. As Ramakrishna said:

“To my Divine Mother I prayed only for pure love. I offered flowers at Her lotus feet and prayed to Her,” He prayed that She take him beyond all the dualities in Her creation, knowledge and ignorance, purity and impurity, and take him to Her heart. In most cultures, the Mother is the one person who is considered to be the most exalted and worthy of respect and service. The unparalleled love possessed by a mother for her children is the subject of praise and reverence in numerous scriptures. A Mother is the very embodiment of qualities such as love, sacrifice and selfless service to her children.

I also see that the path of the yoga teacher is one of a great mother: loving, serving, protecting and encouraging her student children through doubt, fear or ignorance. That’s why there’s often a deep internal pull towards teaching as a path of service and love – a feeling that someone divine is coming through you in order to guide others.  So much so that your own personality or charisma drop away. This is so beautiful for those that don’t fit into the literal role as mother.

There are women who have difficult relationships with their own mothers, women who chose not to be mothers, mothers with tricky relationships with their children, mothers who would really rather not be mothers and women who would love to be mothers but cannot be. Teaching yoga, especially if approached as an extension of one’s own sadhana (spiritual practice), one’s own bhakti (devotion) and as a path of complete absorption in the divine offerings coming through you – can be the most nurturing, mothering experience that is deeply fulfilling whatever your human life experience.

The Divine Mother is also called the Cosmic Mother as she is present everywhere in this cosmos, especially in the cycles of life, nature, our bodies. She is maintaining and sustaining all this creation –  just like a mother takes care of her children by watching from the side of the playground and being gently present (i.e. resisting the urge to micro-manage, stop children climbing or projecting their own fears onto the child. It takes so much presence and self-control not to do this!)

Ramakrishna’s wife, the Divine Mother Sri Sarada Devi, embodied this selfless love (She is known as Holy Mother). She looked upon herself as the mother of all beings and spent her whole life in service to all, as her children, undergoing unending sacrifice and self-denial. About her role in the mission of Sri Ramakrishna, she stated: “My son, you know the Master had a maternal attitude (matri-bhava) towards everyone. He has left me behind to manifest that Divine Motherhood in the world.”

Therefore, there are so many opportunities to heal our mother/child relationships, to have the opportunity through yoga and other healing modalities to be aware of the shadow we may need to heal, and to allow the divine goddesses to seep into our practice, life, love and sadhana. We are all divine mothers somehow, every woman, every sister, every daughter, every lover, every teacher. If we practice forgiveness, uplift one another, become brave enough to deal with the shadow  – we have so much more to connect with students and friends on the path.

Let’s take a leaf out of Ramakrishna’s book and bow to the Divine Mother in all and everything, and to all the teachers out there: your worth is in what comes through you, so keep listening deeply and quietly and all your answers are there, like a loving mother softly singing in the dark, while stroking your forehead. She is there. She is here. She is you. Jai Ma.

The image for this blog post is a photo I took of an illustration in Illuminations from the Bhagavad Gita by Kim and Chris Murray, a favourite book for both my daughter and I.

With Thanks…

To @kali.mandir  @ambikananda.swami and @bhaganananda.swami for always inspiring through the internets.

To Skanda Vale, for being a peaceful space for me to sit with Kali Ma without getting on a flight!

To Swami Sarvadevananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, for always inviting me to sing to Ma in his presence and for offering food as divine prasad.

Winter and Adaptogenic Herbal Support

One of the primary goals of Ayurveda, the sister to Yoga in terms of health system with Indian roots is preserving health — and Rasayanas (the Sanskrit term for an adaptogen) are considered the primary method for maintaining health of body and spirit. Literally translated, a Rasayana is “that which enters the essence” — in other words, that which promotes health and longevity. There are many individual fruits, herbs and spices in ayurveda that are considered Rasayanas. The key to Adaptogenics are that they are natural plants, fruits or herbs. No synthetic made drugs. The best and most wonderful thing about Adaptogenics are they there are no adverse side affects. Some important aspects that positively distinguish adaptogens:

  • adaptogens are nontoxic
  • adaptogens stimulate a nonspecific response in the body – an increase in the power of resistance against all kinds of stressors: physical, chemical, or biological – great for us who feel stress deeply (me for sure)
  • adaptogens have a normalising influence on body physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor

I’ve found that since I incorporated adaptogenic herbs into my daily routine, in drinks, smoothies, coffee, warm evening milk, my auto-immune issues are a non-issue. I have coeliac disease and apparently I have something called Lupus, however, the moment I received this diagnosis I signed up for my first triathlon and told it to essentially EFFOFF. So, these beautiful herbs keep me well, warm and happy in the winter.

Practical Use

Adaptogenic Spices Already In Your Cupboard

  • Black Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2000 years. It has immuno-modulating effects that aid the body adapting to stress. It can also be helpful in treating anxiety.

Tulsi

Holy Basil, which also is known as Tulsi, is the go to elixir in India. It helps to fight fatigue and stabilize your immune system. It can also be used to regulate blood sugar and hormone levels.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola is another potent adaptogen that has had many research studies done on it. Rhodiola helps the body to adapt to both mental and physical fatigue that is stress induced. The plant contains a natural phytochemical known as salisdroside. This natural component helps to combat anxiety and aging. Rhodiola suppresses the production of cortisol and increases levels of stress-resistant proteins. Studies have found that it restores normal patterns of eating and sleeping after stress, combats mental and physical fatigue, protects against oxidative stress, heat stress, radiation and exposure to toxic chemicals. Rhodiola protects the heart and liver, increases use of oxygen, improves memory and may extend longevity.

I buy these (with my own money – I’m not sponsored!) from my local health store, from wonderful Moon Juice and respected from the Ayurvedic creation stalwarts Banyan Botanicals.

All of these beautiful adaptogens can be mixed into your hot drink, smoothies, nut milks or sprinkled on your porridge. Before I take any food I aim to repeat the most beautiful verse from the Bhagavad Gita:

May I remember the truth: the food being offered is Brahman, the individual offering the food is Brahman, and the process of offering itself is also Brahman. Therefore, I perform this offering with full awareness of Brahman alone. May the entire act of cooking, serving, and eating be transformed into sadhana—spiritual practice—leading us all toward Brahman, the highest goal of life. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

Brahmarpanam brahmahavir
Brahmagnau brahmana hutam
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Brahma-karma-samadhina
Om vishvatma-priyatam
Om shanti, shanti, shanti

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Sacred Sadhana For A Lifetime of Radiant Living

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