By Awilda Rivera
This piece was originally published in July 2016 in Aquarius Magazine
Yoga can be a mystical and enchanting love. For some Yoga is an experience of love at first sight, and yet others have to spend time cultivating their yoga love affair. What happens when you fall out of love? What happens when you no longer have the same zeal for the practice? When all of your favorite teachers bore you? When you no longer have the desire to practice on your own? Have you stopped loving Yoga?
Many Yogi’s suffer from the idea that Yoga is a panacea. I agree that Yoga produces a multitude of physical, medical and energetic benefits. However when all you do is Yoga, all the time, you can get too much of a good thing. Yoga fatigue occurs when Yoga is your only physical practice, spiritual outlet and extra-curricular activity.
Space is key. In every relationship there must be space – between partners, between the creator and their art, the athlete and their sport, the professional and their craft. If there is no space then the relationship is out of balance. When you take space form the activity, person, or behavior that you love then when you come back to it, you are able to approach it with a fresh perspective and renewed interest.
For 48 months I did Yoga, and only Yoga. I learned Yoga Asana, I taught Yoga, I studied Yoga text, I had Yoga meetings, I got involved with Yoga organizations – my life was consumed by Yoga. About 5 months ago I started to lose some of my zeal for Yoga, I had too much of a good thing. I was of the strong opinion that if you practice Yoga regularly then you don’t need any other daily exercise. Yet, I couldn’t deny that I was just not having as much fun practicing Yoga anymore. I knew I needed to take action, but the only action that came to mind was to – take a break from Yoga.
I sat with this deep, frightening truth. It was beyond my comprehension that I could already be burned out. After sitting with the reality that confronted me, I realized I needed to vary my daily physical activity; in short I needed to diversify my exercise. Once I accepted what I was feeling, the resolution presented itself rather quickly: It was time for me to start running. But, was I going to break up with Yoga?
Running is wildly different from Yoga. I was attracted to the speed, quick satisfaction, jock culture and the challenge. Running was like a mistress I was cheating on Yoga with, all the time I spent running I thought about Yoga. As I ran I would sequence my ideal Yoga class to compliment the trauma a runner’s body experiences. The more I was drawn to running the more I was called back to the mat. The space I allowed myself brought me back to the mat.
Allowing myself the space to be honest, take time away from yoga, and be open to other pursuits helped to reinvigorate my love of Yoga. I was able to look at the practice & its benefits through a new lens. Yoga was no longer my only choice, but rather a foundation from which I could create an expansive, safe, varied psychical practice with avenues for spiritual exploration and energetic release.
Love Yoga, Love yourself, love your options. Remember you can have too much of a good thing. Until next month…..
by Awilda Rivera
Originally published in Aquarius Magazine June 2017
What we think about ourselves matters. As summer winds down, we can reflect on the pressure we place on ourselves each year for the "perfect beach body" . Bathing suits, pools & BBQs are opportunities for us to gather and beat the heat, but instead we spend the summer experiencing these moments as hot beds of anxiety. We place an incredible amount of importance on how we look and that can be difficult for anyone who struggles with Self-image. You might be wondering: “What the heck does this have to do with Yoga?”
Yoga can have measurable effect on one’s ability to establish & maintain a positive self-image. One study found that “Yoga Practitioners are 20% more likely to a positive self-image as compared to the general population.” Yoga encourages one to slow down, look within, be open minded and accepting to what is happening in the now. The presence of mind that is cultivated through the practice of marrying breath with movement has been shown to lead to:
As a result yoga has become a powerful tool for doctors who work with patients in recovery for eating disorders. The great thing about these statistics is that you do not have to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder to begin the practice of Yoga & experience these benefits. A 2016 Yoga in America Study showed that, over 50% of Americans surveyed reported improving overall health as the reason why they started and continue to practice Yoga.
Here are my Three tips for finding an awesome yoga class & studio to get you loving you:
Yoga is about connecting deeply with your Self in the present moment and using that as platform to build strength in your body, mind & spirit. Confidence, Positive Body-Image, Peace of Mind are all by products of the process of self discovery that Yoga helps to facilitate. Here is a few extra tips just for the guys reading this:
Male or Female, if you want to get out of your own head, connect to & love the body you’re in while you get fitter then you should consider incorporating Yoga in to your routine. Once you find the studio and class that both challenges and empowers you, allow yourself to enjoy it. All you have to do is show up open minded ready to be present on your mat and the rest will happen organically.
Enjoy the adventure yogis!! Until next time….Namaste.
by Awilda Rivera
Originally published in May 2017 in Aquarius Magazine for the "Under the Bodhi Tree" column. Some edits have been made to this version.
by Awilda Rivera
Originally Published July 2016 for Aquarius Magazine in "Under The Bodhi Tree"
by Awilda Rivera
Originally published in Sept. 2016 In Aquarius Magazine for her long running column "Under The Bodhi Tree" under the heading 'Yoga and Change'
15 years ago there were less then 10 Yoga studios in the Atlanta Metro area. Now it seems that a new Yoga Studio opens every few weeks. The issue no longer is: “where can I find a yoga class,” but rather “should I attend a Hot Power Yoga class or a Yin Vin class”. For many the essential question remains: “Is it not all Yoga?”
The short answer: Everything is Yoga. Yoga comes from yug which means to Yoke or bring together. The union of mindfulness, movement, breath, concentration and action is Yoga. The movement part, Asana, is one of 8 limbs of the Tree of Yoga. As Americans we tend to get caught up in the movement, concerning ourselves with the physical results rather than the process.
My first forays into Yoga consisted of traveling around to multiple Studios, marveling opened mouthed at what other people could do, cursing my body and my seemingly fading athleticism for not being able to copy what I saw with immediate ease. I wondered, about the calming & centering aspect of Yoga I had heard about so often. I wondered how the balance of effort & ease would make itself known to me. At the beginning of my Journey, it seemed that every Yogi I laid eyes on in class was able to find a graceful hang-time between their edge & relaxation, regardless of how challenging the posture. It seemed impossible to me that there would ever be a time or place where I would feel truly “calm & centered” while standing on one leg, bound like a pretzel. However, I did not let that deter me from continuing to explore what Yoga had to offer me.
Almost 2 years later, I am able to achieve the same graceful hang-time I once coveted in Gauradasana, Eagle Pose (standing on leg bound like a pretzel) . How did I get here, was it a miracle? No. Is my body special? NO. Am I some kind of a Unicorn? No. In fact, as a native New Yorker, born to Puerto Rican parents in poverty, my environment made me predisposed to dislike Yoga. As a teenager, I considered it a luxury for the privileged who simply did not care for real exercise or real sports. I know now that Yoga is a lifestyle, and the Asana are like a medicine that can help keep you healthy & happy.
Ancient Yoga texts are clear that the use of Asana, the physical postures of yoga, is intended to be prescriptive. The Asana should be used to give the body what it needs physically, energetically, and spiritually. We are all different. As our needs vary from day to day the way we experience Yoga can be effected. Therefore, when one begins to explore a Yoga Asana practice you should go to many studios & try many different styles of Yoga. Once you find a style, studio or teacher that can fill your personal prescription then the other aspects of Yoga begin to reveal themselves in unison with the movement. Even if you have been practicing a certain style for a longtime it is always good to vary your practice occasionally so that you can nourish the different aspects of you body, energy & spirit
Many of you reading this may already meditate, chant, engage in mindful movement or practice Asana. The truth is that those are all still just limbs of the Tree of Yoga. Yoga is: how you live; what you do; how you treat others; why you do things; & how you keep yourself operating at the highest vibration possible. Yoga is not about how many sun salutations you can do, or if you can do a handstand.
Yoga simply asks: what are you willing to do with what you have been given that will improve the quality of your environment?
Yoga is the gift of the Universe to the world. This Ancient system is a non-religious way of living that offers infinite prescriptions for what ales you. Yoga exists to improve our lives, if you are willing to dive in and look beyond postures. Dare to cultivate your prescription of the right postures through exploring different studios and styles. Are you ready to dive in?
On Bahkti Yoga - The Yoga of Devotion
For the last 12 months, we have explored questions around the practice, purpose and benefits of Yoga Asana. We have taken time to explore some of the philosophical underpinnings of this historically rich tradition; and we have also discussed how to identify & begin a physical yoga practice that resonates with your soul. Yet, we have only begun to scatch the surface. All we have discussed relate primarily to the physical practice of Yoga Asana and all that comes with it.
The question remains: Can Yoga exist off the Mat, with out Asana being involved?
Yes! There are several types of Yoga that exist. As westerners we are most commonly acquainted with Hatha & Raja Yoga. Hatha & Raja Yoga contain an essential element of physicality that is very attractive to busy people in the west who are looking to exercise their body in an intentional. It is through this intentional exercise that they hope to achieve balance, increased self-awareness, and ideally inner peace – also know as enlightenment.
Bahkti Yoga exists devoid of required physicality. It is known as: The Yoga of Love, The Yoga of Devotion, The Yoga of Devotion To God. Ultimately, this is the Yoga of Surrender to the Divine. There is neither a Diety in particular to whom you must devote yourself, nor one idea; however, in order to surrender completely you must devote yourself to something greater than yourself. The devotion to something greater need not take a shape or personage, but it can be simply embracing the Divine Love and connection we all share OR the Beauty of Nature all around us in every living thing.
In a modern western world, it is understandable that we modify the application of the ancient principles of Bahkti Yoga to fit our realistic needs. Therefore you many not feel called to sing Kirtan, chant mantras every morning, or set an altar with deities to whom you pray directly… and that’s OK! There are may ways you can tap into the spirit of Bahkti Yoga such as: volunteering, giving food to the homeless, dedicating the energy your physical Yoga practice to someone who is in need, interacting with all around you from a place of unconditional love & non-judgment, or immersing yourself in nature so that you can appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
Bahkti Yoga is not a RELIGION. It is just another avenue available to those who are looking to connect with the Divine through a unity with the world around them. While I would certainly encourage you all to experience a Kirtan performance and research mantras, I understand that for some of you that will not resonate. The great news is that in this brave new world, we have the opportunity to take the powerful ideas of Bahkti Yoga: Love – Devotion – Connection with the Divine, and find ways in our everyday lives to organically engage in this fulfilling and empowering practice. How will you bring a little Bhakti Yoga into your life?
Until next time…. Namaste!!
 You may be unfamiliar with Raja Yoga, however it is the Original Form of classical Yoga from which 90% of yoga lineages found in west were derived. It is also known as the ‘8 limbed path’ of Yoga. Hatha Yoga is more commonly known as ‘Sun Moon’ Yoga as is focused on using the body as a vehicle to transform the conscious of an individual.
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**All blogs written by Awilda Rivera, unless otherwise indicated therein.