Ways Yoga Can Help You Transform Your Life

Yoga is an ancient practice that historians attribute to Indus Valley civilization. Regardless of its origins, it’s becoming increasingly popular today. It’s not only a retreat from our chaotic lifestyles, but also brings with it many great health benefits. This blog post will highlight some of the ways in which Yoga can transform your life.

Weight Loss

Obesity is one of the biggest concerns in the United States as we find more and more people falling victim to it. Apart from damaging your body image, obesity is also responsible for many serious health issues. While there are many diet plans and workout routines that claim to help you lose weight, yoga’s ability to do so is often underestimated. Research shows that yoga can facilitate weight loss by making you a more mindful eater. This automatically translates into better control of certain cravings which can also help you achieve the calorie deficit you’ve been looking for.

Fitness

Yoga can help you lose weight and keep it from coming back. In other words, this spiritual art of stretching relaxes your mind and body and can help tone your muscles. According to research, young adults who engaged in yoga for at least 30 minutes every week for four years experienced slower weight gain than those who didn’t.

The same research also reveals that yoga practitioners have balanced lower body mass indexes (BMIs) . Researchers carefully studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had never engaged in yoga or any similar practices before. These participants then practiced yoga at least twice a week for around 3 hours, and the results showed a significant improvement in their fitness and strength levels.

Cardiovascular Health

Apart from keeping you in shape, there are many purported health benefits as well of yoga.  Studies show that elevated mind and body connection can help lower blood pressure and restore “baroreceptor sensitivity.” Stats also suggest that people who practice yoga regularly are able to maintain better lipid profiles and overall heart health.

It’s because of these benefits that many doctors have start including yoga in their cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Reach out to TheYogiMatt for best advice and yoga practices.

Matt Giordano, TheYogiMatt, is a world renowned yoga teacher, and the creator & founder of the global school called Chromatic Yoga.  He is most known for his skillful ability to guide students into postures to awaken their full potential. Matt provides top level teacher trainings in both the 200 and 300 Hour formats.  Visit www.theyogimatt.com to learn more about online classes, immersions and teacher trainings.

Samadhi

SAMADHI

Dissolving into the state of oneness.

Samadhi

Samadhi

Samadhi is the experience we have when the mind realizes the totality of itself – that it is one part of an infinitely grander whole. Using an analogy from one of my teachers, Alan Finger – Consiousness is like the ocean. When the ocean swells and crashes upon the shore, drops of water fly up in the air. These drops are still the ocean separated by time and space. We are those drops in relationship to the bigger more expansive ocean of consciousness. For brief moments in time, we arise and take shape in the form of this body, collecting unique experiences in our mind and forming beliefs and identities. In meditation, the mind has the opportunity to realize this and come back to the awareness of all that is. In those moments when the mind returns to the understanding that it is simply a drop that is a part of the ocean, there is a feeling of indescribable goodness that overwhelms our being. Yogis call this Samadhi.

How Do We Reach Samadhi?

Samadhi is the result of your Sadhana (yogic practices). For the past month, I have been offering you teachings out of the yoga sutras, weaving them through the live classes, and sharing them here on this blog. We’ve discussed  “Abhyasa and Vairagya” and “Burning Samskara” amongst many others. Why are these practices necessary to experiencing Samadhi? Samadhi is the state of being when the intellect or budhi lets go of duality and releases into the realization that it is one with all things. The intellect is incredible it allows us to understand life on the physical plane, dividing, defining, and systematically looking for like and unlike in everything. The Intellect’s ability to separate is incredible. We have spent our entire lives training the intellect and therefore have become really good at separation. Unity or Oneness requires that the intellect surrenders to the reality that it is one of many tools. This requires that our identity or ego surrenders to the fullness of reality that we are unique individuals, part of the magnificent power of nature, not separate, but a thread woven into the fabric of something much grander. The Ego gets scared of the idea that it is not most important, so you have to remind it that this means it is not less than, it is actually far more than it thinks, it is a manifestation of the vast ocean of Awareness.

Maybe you want to experience the state of oneness with the universe and are ready to jump in but where to start? The Yoga Sutras are a guide map to this, but if you are going to practice one thing only, it should be Self Reflection, Swadyaya. You can practice Self Reflection in your asana (physical practice) by observing the sensations of your body before, during, and after each posture. You can do this through Pranayama, observation of the vital energy that pulses through your system. There are endless practices of Self Awareness. Start with the live classes from the Month of March and join me for the asana and meditation practices throughout the month of April. I am committed to sharing dharma talks to inspire self-awareness in order to support the dissolution of the intellect and merging into the state of oneness. We will be doing this together with the support of the global community to give us power and strength.

OneNess

In a time when everyone is feeling separateness, moving inward to the state of oneness is more important than ever. Underneath the layers of intellect and ego that disconnects us from the whole exists One undivided consciousness that permeates all things. It is always there, omnipresent, and it pervades all aspects of our being. The only thing standing in our way of experiencing it is the need to hold up the illusion that we have created of truth – the need to know in order to feel safe. Instead find comfort in the unknown, vast potential that is at the core of your being. Thanks for tapping in with me. Enjoy your practice!

 

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Samskaras and Neuroplasticity

Burning Samskaras

Dissolve Thought, Emotion, and Behavioral Patterns

Does your family put your spiritual practice to the test? 

Have you been making leaps and bounds through your yoga or meditation practice – feeling better day to day, learning to take a breath in the challenging moments, and ultimately living life more freely from a place of joy? The Yoga practice helps us move in that direction, and then we go back home for a holiday gathering with our family and suddenly we are right back where we started. Why is that? What is it about family, caretakers, or being in the home we grew up in that pulls us back into our old patterns of thought, emotions, or behaviors? According to the yoga tradition, it’s because of Samskaras.

What ARE Samskaras?

A samskara is often translated as the groove or pattern of the mind and directly relates or corresponds with our actions or behavior. Samskaras begin forming at the very moment we step into our bodies. Our parents, or the ones who raise us, largely play a major role in the forming of our Samskaras. When we were children our lens of perception was colored for us; we were taught to see the world the way our parents, teachers, and society saw it. At some point in our journey, we woke up and began to self-reflect, recognizing that perhaps the lens we’ve been looking through is not the truth. Let’s look at this lens of perception as a window. The window has a lifetime of dirt and grime, and the yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practice help to clean the window little by little, allowing us to see life more clearly so we can experience it as it is rather than as we believe it to be.

The analogy I use in the video below is another way of understanding Samskaras. I explain that Samskaras create grooves in the mind like the groove of a river in a mountain side. The river carves out the earth little by little through repetition and time and eventually becomes powerful. Our mind  (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perception) is exactly like the river. Starting when we are young, the mind begins to look for like and unlike experiences and collecting them as beliefs and perception. This helps us to determine safe and unsafe situations, and forms our communication: “When I cry, caretaker brings me food,” or perhaps “when I cry, no one responds.” Through repetition, these observations become our perception or the grooves of our mind. We may then form the opinion that it is good or bad or effective or ineffective to express ourselves a certain way. We form beliefs about others and the world we live in.

Now that you have begun your yoga practice, you have likely begun the process of burning away your Samskaras. How do you know? If you are behaving differently: more patient, kind, respectful, loving, emotionally stable or vulnerable, light-hearted, joyful, etc. Burning Samskaras or old patterns allows us to live in the now, where the magic of life exists, and the world feels exciting and new again.

WHY DOES BEING AROUND FAMILY MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I HAVE NOT GOTTEN ANYWHERE?

Because the vast majority of Samskaras were formed at a very young age, they have had a lifetime to get stronger. Like the river that has been digging its way into the earth, the longer it has been flowing, the deeper the groove. The samskaras that were formed as a child are triggered by experiences that are closest to the ones that formed them in the first place – typically your parents, siblings, or caretakers. Or you might be most triggered by people in your life that most resemble them which could be your boss, teacher, in-laws, friend, etc. You may have been working on yourself for quite some time, burning away the outer layers, only to show up at a family gathering or holiday dinner and notice your blood boiling, ready to argue, run away or just plain give up. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you think you are enlightened, visit your family.” How perfect that statement is as a reminder that yoga is a practice, not a one-time product purchase to solve your issues. We need to continuously stoke the fire of transformation to experience freedom from our Samskaras.

Burning Samskaras

Burning Samskaras is recognized in modern psychology as Neuroplasticity – our brain’s capacity to change our neurological patterning. While much of our childhood patterns are formed without our awareness, it is awareness that allows us to burn what no longer serves us. Awareness is also what allows us to choose how we want to feel, act, think, and exist in this world. Awareness is a state of being that floods our conscious mind when we are present in the here and now. Have you ever watched yourself think a thought, or witnessed the sensations of your body, or decided to take a breath instead of reacting? The part of you that is aware of thoughts, emotions, and actions is awareness–and awareness is something you can strengthen just like a muscle. How do you strengthen it? The 4 main practices are Yoga, Meditation, Breath Work (pranayama), and Self-Inquiry. Self-Inquiry is also the result of the first three practices, as it is our “awareness” that creates the inquiry. Self-inquiry is the process of asking yourself questions, observing your thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, and reflecting upon your actions and reactions. Through repetition, your awareness builds strength and awareness slowly burns away old patterns. Literally, the brain forms new neurological “wiring” which changes the way we act or react in any given situation.

Anchoring

There is much that is beyond our control such as life circumstances and outcomes of our actions, but what we do have control of is the inner landscape of our mind and our actions. That might seem like a large task, and it does take time and routine practice of yoga and meditation (see Elements of Mastery for both), however, there is one thing you can do right now to help you maintain your ground when you step back into the all too familiar family dinner or holiday celebration. 

“Create an Anchor” This is what I call having an intention, but I use the imagery of an anchor so when the seas get rough, you hold tight to the ocean floor and stay deeply grounded in your intention. The questions to form your intention are

  1. How do you want to feel?
  2. How do you want to act? 

Anchor yourself into the answers to these questions by asking yourself how you want to feel/act the moment you start to feel your blood boil under the surface of your skin or when you just want to run or hide. When you notice yourself falling back into your old patterns, hold tight to your anchor and do not let go. You may need to excuse yourself and take a few breaths or do a quick sun salutation, and that is ok! Be compassionate, the river is incredibly strong but you are indeed stronger.

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The Transformation Equation

The Transformation Equation

 

 

A.C.T.

Deep inside every one of us there exists a desire to be the best we can be during this short time that we have here in this life. It may be covered up by insecurities, shame, guilt, or the business of our day-to-day. You owe it to yourself to live a life that feels amazing and has a positive impact on everyone around you. Reading this means you are already stepping in the right direction. Only those called toward a path of self-awareness would get excited enough at the word “transformation.” Most would be terrified of the word and back away entirely. Acknowledge your courage and continue seeking the tools that support your growth.

A.C.T. is the acronym I use for the Transformation Equation. It stands for Awareness + Conscious Action = Transformation. Before we go over what I mean by this, let’s first get clear on one thing. Transformation in the spiritual sense of the word is not the same as change. Change is inevitable, it’s happening all around us, within us, and it is unstoppable. Try to take control and stop change and you will always lose as it is a law of life. On the other hand, Transformation is a choice. While everyone longs to transform their lives and live at their highest potential, few are willing to risk the comforts of the known over the adventure of the unknown. Stepping into your potential is not without risk. You can try and calculate it but ultimately you have no idea what lies ahead. All you can control is what you do with the time that you have. Do you choose to face the challenges that are required for you to step up to your potential, or do you sit back living in the known stagnancy of day-to-day tasks?

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AWARENESS + CONSCIOUS ACTION = TRANSFORMATION

    Step 1. Awareness

    Awareness is required before action if you want your efforts to produce positive outcomes. Action without awareness will still be productive but as we know, it often causes burn out and unfavorable results. Awareness can only be built through routine exercises of self-inquiry and observation. Self-inquiry is focused contemplation, asking yourself the questions to better understand your patterns of behavior. Most people are terrified of self-awareness simply because they don’t want to see all the aspects of themselves that they do not like. While it is true that you will see the darkness of who you are, you will also grow to see your amazing light that permeates every cell of your body. You cannot see your inner magnificence without cleaning off the lens that you see yourself through, which means you’ll have to be willing to see aspects of yourself that you are not proud of. No matter how much we each deny it, we all want to be the best we can be, and that requires facing our internal challenges, cleaning our lens of perception, and inquiring about who we are and why. Self-inquiry takes tremendous courage but as a result, we become self-aware, grateful for the person that we are, relaxed in our being, confident, filled with love to give, able to receive, more productive, less burnt out, more joyful, and so on.

    Step 2: Conscious action

    Action in alignment with awareness leads to profound results. Conscious Action requires awareness in every step, re-evaluation, and clear communication with anyone you are carrying out the actions with. Awareness produces a clarity inside of who you are and what you want to create with the time you have in this body. However, without Conscious Action, you can never grow into your potential. Potential is a trajectory, a path that you walk not a destination. Your potential could simply be to become a kind-hearted, loving human being, or it might be bigger than that: to become one who pulls others around them into their potential. Your potential will always grow as you take steps toward it – stay in tune through self-inquiry, and Consciously take action in alignment with it.

    Result: Transformation

    Transformation is the inevitable result of your awareness and actions. The choice to transform your current life for the person you are becoming is one that very few people take in this life. Transformation can not happen without Awareness because without seeing your own magnificence you can never expand upon it. If all you see is your self-doubt and insecurities, and you spend your energy hiding them from the majority of people you connect with, you will never have the energy to move forward. Do you choose to hide or do you choose to get courageous, see and share yourself, and expand into the person you are becoming? Watch the video below to see more about how to make use of the transformation equation and build the courage to step into your magnificence potential. You deserve it. 

    Create a Life You Love

    Place your energy on what you want to create in your life so that the short life that you get to live is filled with love! If you are looking to go deeper, I taught and recorded a workshop live called Dance with the Flames which uses the theme of stepping into the fire of transformation in order to live the life you deserve. I sincerely hope you make use of the transformation equation and that it serves you for the many years to come! Please share your comments, questions, and experiences. I look forward to hearing from you.

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    UNLOCK YOUR HIPS

    UNLOCK YOUR HIPS

     OUTER HIP STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY FOR THE LOW BACK AND S.I. JOINT

     

    THE LOW BACK AND S.I. JOINT

    Low back pain or S.I. Joint instability are quite common for many people and the cause seems to be a mystery. What most people don’t realize is that pain is usually the result of weak or underdeveloped muscles resulting in the overcompensation by other muscles. In other words, the body develops patterns that are perhaps not the best when it comes to our well-being. Why does it develop patterns? All of nature adapts to the environment. As beings of nature, we do exactly the same thing – the body adapts to what we give it. If we give it a shape and hold that shape for the majority of the day then it will develop patterns of elongated muscles and shortened muscles. Some of the muscles that tend to cause problems for the low back that are often overlooked are the ABDUCTORS of the Hips. 3 of the muscles that make up the abductors are the Gluteus medius, Gluteus Minimus and T.F.L. You can see in the photo to the right (or below if you’re on mobile) that the gluteus medius attaches to each side of the pelvis and to the top of the thigh bone. 

    LOW BACK PAIN

    The two sides of the pelvis are actually independently mobile structures due to the sacrum that lies in the middle which has a joint on either side that is called the S.I. Joint. This joint allows the pelvis on each side to move. This is a blessing but could also be a curse if the abductor muscles are out of balance. If one side is tight and the other flexible this could cause the pelvis to tilt, potentially resulting in low back discomfort or scoliosis. This was the case for me.

    Growing up, I played hockey which strengthens the abductors. Unfortunately, I favored my right leg significantly which caused an over development and shortening of the musculature on the right side resulting in scoliosis and back pain throughout high school and college until about a year into yoga when I finally learned how to unlock my hips!

    S.I JOINT

    Now for other people, the low back isn’t affected but the S.I. Joint is. This seems to be most common amongst women, especially those that have had children – the ligaments tend to be more lax and so the sacrum can move inside the two sides of the pelvis resulting in pain on the back of the pelvis or radiating through the lower back near the pelvis and sacrum.

    THE SOLUTION

    There are many muscles that surround the pelvis that can pull on either side of the ilium or sacrum which could create pain, so where do we begin? Often times it can be overwhelming and ineffective to target all the hip and back muscles every yoga practice, so it is useful to focus on one area per practice. In the video below I share with you ways of working on the Abductor group for strength and range of motion. You may find that one side is not as strong as the other – if this is the case I recommend strengthening the weaker side which will help bring the abductors into balance.

    I do have a workshop called Hips: Rock and Unlock Em that I created as a way to target as many of these muscles within one practice. You could start there to get a feel for what areas of your hips are underdeveloped or out of balance.

    In addition, I highly recommend the JULY IMMERSION which focuses on the Chakras. The first 5 practices of that immersion will awaken your strength, flexibility and awareness of the muscles that surround the hips.

    OPEN YOUR HIPS AND HEART

    The July Immersion takes you on a 12 Class Journey through the Chakras and the elements, to develop your strength, flexibility, and awareness of each energy center and the corresponding muscles. There is a heavy focus on the Hips in the Earth, & Water classes, and the Back in the Water and Air classes, balanced by Core strengthening in the Fire section.

    THE STEP BY STEP APPROACH

    “Dream big, start small, then connect the dots.” This quote from Dan Millman’s Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior has been the foundation of my yoga practice from the moment I stepped on the yoga mat. It was that book that led my to yoga in the first place, and that line that became a mantra in my head from that moment on. How does it apply to the asana practice? Most people come into the yoga practice and feel something magnificent and of course they want to come back. At some point, regardless of how egoless we believe ourselves to be, we become attracted to the external postures of the yoga practice. It’s typically innocent of course, we associate a feeling with certain postures, on a subtle level we believe that when we attain them we will feel strong, powerful, fearless, light, free, at peace, worthy of love, kindness, etc. On an intellectual level, we usually know that this is not reality but we get pulled into it anyway. The beautiful thing is that we are being pulled into practice and the practice reveals what we need to learn. So I wouldn’t ridicule this process, but rather as you walk the path remind yourself that everything you wish to feel already exists within you, and rather than expecting yoga to do the practice for you, step into the feeling you crave and let that amplify your practice. This is what it means to practice with intention.  

    All that being said while we are living in this body we want to take care of it and allow it to reach its highest potential which includes movement practices, stability practices, diet, hygiene, mental health, creative expression, and so on. When I say highest potential, I don’t mean an end result or destination but rather a trajectory that gets us to walk the path. The purpose of this blog is to support your physical well-being in regard to your body. Asana is the practice that cultivates our body awareness, but most of us focus on the postures instead of our body and as a result we are left with thousands of shapes and alignment cues. A shortcut to body awareness is to put your body first, and the pose second! What does that mean? There are only a few major joints to learn in the body, and each has a few movements available to it. There are muscles that surround each joint that create this movement. If you use your asana practice to become aware, proficient, or even masterful in each movement then you will no longer be perplexed when you see a new pose, you will know exactly what is needed to put your body in that shape. You will grow to understand your limitations and your abilities, becoming your own best teacher.  

    THE CHROMATIC SYSTEM 

    I created Chromatic Yoga based on this concept of small steps toward our potential. Each month we have a focus in our classes, a Physical Through-Line (PTL), and a Thematic Through-Line (TTL).  The PTL is the one muscle group or joint action that we pull through an entire class, or workshop, while the TTL is similar but for building awareness of the mind and subtle energies of life. Because I encourage Chromatic Teachers to be authentic with how they teach, each will have their own way of creatively sharing the PTL and TTL. This month PTL – Abductors of the hip, is the focus of the video below. These are just a few ways to strengthen and become aware of the muscles.

    To find a Chromatic Yoga Teacher near you be sure to visit us at www.ChromaticYoga.com 

    3 Steps to Master the Abductors

    1. Awareness: learn the sensation of activating the abductors
    2. Strengthen: the muscle group through various postures in your yoga practice.
    3. Practice: activate the abductors over the course of time, through as many yoga postures as possible until you can easily activate them on command in any posture!

    Step 1. Awareness

    The first step to building awareness of any muscle is to intellectually understand where it exists in the body. The abductor group is generally located in the outer hip/pelvic region. In addition to the intellectual understanding, you must learn what it feels like to activate this muscle. For this, it’s typically easiest to “create a boundary” and press into it. So here I have placed a hand outside the knee and I press into the hand which creates the action of abduction and engages the abductors.

    Step 2: strengthen

    Next, you will want to develop strength in accessible postures. Typically choosing static postures for “isometric” engagement is a safe and stable way to strength. Isometric means activate the muscle without movement of the joints. For this video, I chose Chair pose to share with you. With feet about hip-width apart, push your yoga mat apart with your heels while keeping your knees pointing straight forward. Note: if your pelvis is tucked under you may not be able to access the abductors, stick your buttocks upward.

    Step 3: Practice

    Lastly, you will need to learn how to activate this muscle group through a range of motion. This means not only choosing a wide range of static yoga postures to activate the abductors in, but you will also want to do the movements that it creates. For this, I chose fire hydrant pose, both abducting the upper hip by lifting the leg up high, and the lower hip by squeezing the pelvis inward. Because the foot is on the ground, moving and rotating the pelvis away from the foot is abduction. You will feel it in your outer hip muscles.

    Mastery Leads to Discernment

    Why become masterful at anything? Mastery is not an end goal, it is simply a state of heightened awareness and capability. To become masterful in your physical body is not a chore but rather a privilege. Getting to know this vehicle that we have for only a short period of time is a form of respect and love. There is no end to mastery, just like there is no end to potential, it’s simply a trajectory or path that we walk out of respect to the greater energy that pulses through us. Mastery simply means that we can assess what is appropriate for the well-being of our body at any given time, and we have the tools to do what’s necessary to feel better. While we will always have blind spots, we can minimize the vast amount of guesswork by taking the step-by-step approach to understanding our body – one muscle group or joint action at a time.

    To apply this approach to the body,  I recommend practicing The July Immersion – 12 Yoga Classes, 4 Guided Meditations – and Hips: Rock and Unlock ‘Em!  The online workshop is a journey through what I call the 4 quadrants of the hips, supporting you on the path toward mastery of the inner thighs, outer hips, posterior chain, and hip flexors.

    Hips: Rock & Unlock 'Em

    Get 2 full hours with Matt Giordano focusing on the techniques that increase the range of motion in your hips and provide long-lasting freedom. You will have immediate, unlimited access, and can enjoy the benefits today!

    LIVESTREAM PACKAGES

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    • 12 YOGA CLASSES
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    • 4 POST CLASS MEDITATIONS
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    BIRDS OF PARADISE

    • 12 YOGA CLASSES
    • 4 GUIDED MEDITATIONS
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    • 12 PEAK POSTURES
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    BEST STARTER PACKAGE

    • 6 YOGA CLASSES
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    JOURNEY TO BLISS

    • 12 YOGA CLASSES
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    KING PIGEON & HANUMAN

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    JOURNEY TO THE HEART

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    BACK, NECK & SHOULDERS

    • 12 YOGA CLASSES
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