Visual Representation of the Buddhist Meditation Path

Buddhist teachers have identified nine levels we all go through when learning to meditate. Some levels will take longer than others, but we cannot skip any of them.

When we start our path in Buddhist Meditation, it is important to understand it is not a race against the clock and there are no stipulated times to complete the levels in Buddhist meditation.

Visual Representation of the Buddhist Meditation Path

There are several pictures which depict the road to realization. The visual representation of the nine levels of Buddhist Meditation consists of a monk traveling a road. On the road, there are an elephant and a mysterious monkey.


The Road

It comprehends an ascending, continuous road without stops or checkpoints. The road is obviously the path you must go through in your quest for mental peace. The road is continuous, meaning there is not a point where you can distinguish when one level is over and the next starts.

The River

There is a river flowing from the top of the image, which is born in the snow mountains reaching the bottom of the picture. The goal is to reach the origin of the river through meditation. As you ascend, you can look down and understand the river flows down from where you are. When you reach higher levels, you will see where the river originates.

The Elephant

The elephant represents your mind. At first, the elephant is out of control and running. It does what it wants. The monk starts his path trying to catch the elephant, but at first, he cannot catch up with the elephant’s pace.

In the beginning, the elephant is completely black. It lacks light. The mind is out of control. It falls into negative, dark thoughts.

With every turn of the road and little by little the elephant begins to turn white starting with the crown of the head. It represents the light that starts entering our minds thanks to meditation.

The first thing to turn white is the elephant’s head, reflecting the control of the mind over the body. At this point, the elephant stops and waits for the monk’s instructions. On each level, the elephant continues to turn whiter.

The Rope

The monk has a rope in one hand and a staff in the other. The rope serves to control the elephant and lead it along the way.

For the first two levels, the monk carries the staff closest to the elephant. It means we will need to apply some “hard hand” to get control over our minds. It will require determination and continuously undergo the Buddhist Meditation road.

The Monkey

During the first four levels of Buddhist meditation, the monkey guides the elephant. The monkey, as the elephant, starts the road being completely dark, turning white from the head down with every level of Buddhist Meditation achieved. But the Monkey mysteriously disappears when it turns completely white!

We can explain what the Monkey Mind is with this example:

“The monkey is in the woods. From a tree, it turns its head, looking for something. Suddenly its eyes light up and, resolutely, it jumps. It takes another branch. It is calm and happy to have reached the new tree, but it doesn’t last. It is still missing something. Probably the monkey wants more sun or there is not enough fruit. It could be resolved in the next tree, so the monkey repeats the ritual and jumps again. For five seconds, the monkey feels calm, until it realizes this dreamed place was not what it seemed. The monkey, once again, turns its head searching for something.”

Your worst enemy is the monkey that lives inside you.

The Rainbow.

At the top of the picture, the white road ends and turns into a rainbow.

The rainbow represents happiness. At the end of the road, you start walking on that rainbow. When the monk reaches the rainbow, he climbs on the elephant. Now the elephant goes exactly where the monk wants.

Three Simple Ways To Keep Long Hair Back During Yoga

Yogis with long hair often have a terrible time keeping it tamed during their practice. The tangles of long locks can be painful to unknot after a particularly rigorous workout. What can seem relatively simple for most workouts doesn’t always transfer to a regular yoga practice. For example, a traditional ponytail makes reclined postures painful on the back of the head. 

So, what can yogis do to keep their long hair back during a practice? Try these essential hassle-free hairstyles to keep your hair under control during your next yoga class. 


1. Headband And Low Ponytail

Headbands are a great way to keep loose strands away from your face during practice, but long hair tends to fly around them. Instead, try pairing this simple piece of headwear with a classic low ponytail, tied near the nape of the neck. The ponytail can be pulled over to one side and draped over the shoulder to keep the hair from pulling during a reclined posture such as the bridge pose or savasana. 

Opt for a fabric headband with good grip to keep back shorter pieces that don’t quite make it into the ponytail. If you’re having a hard time finding one with an excellent grip, check the athletic wear section. Many headbands can be found here or among the yoga gear. 

2. French Braid

For those who have a knack for slightly more intricate hairstyles, a French braid is ideal for yoga. A plait down the back of the head and straight down the neck makes it comfortable to lay down during reclined poses. Because of the way the hair is woven together near the crown of the head, it isn’t likely to fall forward into your face, even in poses such as the downward facing dog or the standing forward fold. Secure it with a hair tie that is relatively small to prevent laying on it uncomfortably during savasana. 

3. Side Braids

For yogis who don’t have the knack for braiding required to weave a French braid, side braids are another excellent option. Part hair down the middle and plait each side separately. It keeps hair off of the back of the neck which can be a cooler option overall. It may also be more comfortable to lay on side braids than on a big French braid since all of them will be on the sides. 

Start the braid just past the earlobe to keep it tied tightly to the sides of your head but to avoid all of the intricate combing required for a French braid. You can use fun hair ties at the bottom for a funky twist on this traditional style. 

There are plenty of simple ways to style long hair suitable for even the most intense yoga practice. All of these methods look very fashionable with popular yoga wear, including yoga leggings, yoga pants, and high-waist Capri leggings. Fashion can be both practical and pretty with these simple hairstyles that all long-haired yogis will want to try during their next practice.

How to Do the Reclining Hero Pose

The reclining hero pose, also known as “Supta Virasana,” is best suited for advanced yoga practitioners who can handle a challenging asana. It is a derivate of the hero pose which provides plenty of benefits. This position requires a lot of self-discipline and targets plenty of different muscle groups. Here are some useful and practical tips and steps on how to perform the reclining hero pose.

Begin from the Hero Pose

As I previously mentioned, before doing the reclining hero pose, you must perform the classic hero asana. Kneel down on your yoga mat (you should definitely use a mat or a blanket to protect your knees). Keep your lower legs apart at a hip-width distance. Now, lower your pelvic area until your buttocks are supported by your heels. Then, slowly place your feet even further apart one from the other until your lower back and pelvis are situated in between your legs. Arms must remain relaxed and parallel with your torso. You can even rest them on your upper hips’ front part. Don’t forget to align your ankles with your knees. If you cannot sit on the mat, use a yoga block to prevent injuries created by pressuring your body too much. Don’t worry! Once you gain more experience, you will be able to perform this pose without any adjuvants. 

Make the Transition from Standard Hero to the Reclining Hero Pose

Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply before you continue to the next phase of the asana. Doing this relaxes your entire body while making it more flexible. Support your body by putting both palms on the floor right behind your feet. Continue breathing and make slow movements. Slowly and deliberately start to lean your upper body back and align your hands with your torso. Make sure not to let go of your heels. Just place your palms further back as your body leans back as well. Continue doing this until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. Now, it is time for you to bring your elbows down on the yoga mat as well. Bend your elbows until your forearms are perpendicular to your upper arms.

Final Touches 

Bring the rest of your body down on the yoga mat. Your body must be lying flat on the ground. With this movement, the reclining hero pose will be complete. As your upper body comes all the way down, you must extend your arms forward in the same direction pointed by your head crown. Another option is to maintain your arms as they were and grab your feet’s heels. Hold this pose and don’t forget to breathe deeply. 

Releasing the Reclining Hero Pose

After holding the pose for as long as you can, it is time to come out of it and relax your body. Press up from your elbows and arms and push your body up toward your legs. Engage your abdominal muscles as well as leg muscles.

*Caution: during this pose, your movements must be deliberate and slow. Otherwise, you risk pulling a muscle or hurting your back. 

Bottom Line

The reclining hero pose, although challenging, will improve your digestion and will stretch and strengthen the pelvic area. It is best done after eating. Also, it opens your chest and torso while boosting your blood flow and mobility.

Moon Phases and Harnessing Its Energy

Much like the Sun, the Moon has great power over what happens on Earth and within those who call it home. Think about it, the gravitational pull of the Moon affects the tides of the water, and over half of our bodies are composed of water, so it stands to reason that the pull from the Moon can affect us as well.

To Harness the power of the Moon, which we refer to as a feminine power in yoga, we need to align ourselves with its eight phases. But even more so, we need to understand what each of the phases represents so that we can send our intentions accordingly.

Phases of the Moon

New Moon: At this stage, the Moon is hidden from the human eye between the Sun and the Earth. Like the name suggests, this is a time for new beginnings; everything is possible at this time and it is a great place to start your journey and set your intentions. Consider planning new projects, whether at work, within your home, or even within yourself. Yoga is meant to be abstained from practice during this phase.

Waxing Crescent Moon: There is a visible crescent on the moon at this time, she has moved past the intention of showing herself and is now declaring itself. Here you can do the same, declare your intentions out loud and conceptualize them.

First Quarter Moon: For this phase, half of the Moon is illuminated to us and the other half is in shadow. Feeling indecisive lately? This is the phase where you need to take action with any indecisions and make up your mind. Use the energy from setting your intentions and proceed forward with momentum.

Waxing Gibbous Moon: Here, Gibbous means that more than half of the Moon is aglow, while waxing means that the illumination is increasing. Nurture your ideas and yourself during this stage. Take the time to refine and edit your ideas, while maintaining trust that it will work out for you.

Full Moon: The Sun here is lighting the Moon up in full splendor. How often have you been out in the dark to stumble upon a full Moon and be stopped by her captivating beauty? Here, your energy levels are at their peak, so take advantage and either continue to move forward with your intention or realize that it did not work out for you and release it from your burden. The full Moon is also a time for celebrations. Yoga is meant to be abstained from practice during this phase.

Waning Gibbous Moon: Now is the time to have gratitude, receive your intention with thanks, as the Moon’s illumination is fading and some of it is starting to shadow. Take the time to help and nurture others, as well as nature.

Third Quarter Moon: The exact opposite to the First Quarter Moon, this is a time in your life for forgiveness. Readjust anything that needs it and give back to your intention.

Waning Crescent Moon: Alas here, the Moon’s glow is almost gone and so your intentions come to an end as well. This is a time to rest and restore before the next New Moon. Reflect on the past month and prepare yourself for your next intention.

Setting Intentions

Now that you know the phases of the Moon, and the best times to harness her energy, you can begin to set your intentions. Decide what you want to change or accomplish, this can be physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally. Essentially these intentions are goals that you would like to meet, be positive and specific with your intentions and remember to align them with the phases of the Moon.

How to Prepare for Your First Yoga Class

Today’s the big day! You’ve finally signed up for that yoga class that your friend has been raving about, but you’re feeling a little nervous. Why wouldn’t you be? The wonderful world of yoga seems to be such an exclusive group for bendy people and it seems a little intimidating with its exotic terminology and foreign philosophy. You’re in luck though, because I’m about to break down the six main things you need to know to prepare for your first yoga class.

What Type of Yoga are You Getting Yourself Into?

There are so many different types out there, so be sure you do some quick research to mentally prepare for your yoga session.

 

Make Sure You Go in Early.

You will probably have paperwork to fill out and a new yoga outfit to get changed into. You’ll also need to be able to get a good spot where you can see the instructor, which is incredibly important on your first day.

 

Find Out What You Need to Bring.

Does the studio provide yoga mats and towels? If you are doing a hot yoga class, you might even need an extra towel! Do you have a water bottle you want to bring in with you? You can always call your studio and double check with them if you have any further questions.

 

What Should You Wear?

Your outfit greatly depends on the style of yoga you are doing. If you are doing hot yoga, you might be better off wearing tight fitted clothes that are small and/or thin. If you are doing a restorative or yin yoga class, it might be best if you wear something warmer and more comfortable.

 

Where Should You Set Up Your Mat?

I know that yoga can be scary the first (few) times, but it really is so important to find a spot in the class where you can hear and see the instructor clearly. You won’t be able to do that if you’re hiding in the back of the class. Also, depending on how busy the class is, you might be extremely close to the people around you. Try to stagger your mat so that you can reach your arms out without hitting your neighbor.

 

Have Fun and Relax!

Everyone starts somewhere. Even if you feel like you’re extremely clumsy and are feeling shy, just remember that everyone else in the room has been “the new girl/guy,” too. Pay attention to your own body and do your best. Focus on your breathing, the instructor’s cues, the instructor’s voice, and how your body feels.

 

Other Important Things.

Make sure your phone is off because it really can be a huge distraction and throw off the entire class. Some yoga studios are very quiet places, observe whether other students are talking, or if everyone is quiet. Some people use their time in the yoga studio as a sort of meditative experience; so, remember to be respectful of the other people around you.

That’s honestly all there is to it! The hardest part is taking the initial step into the studio because it is something new and you probably don’t know what to expect. Hopefully, from reading this article, you now feel more equipped to walk into the class ready to enjoy your first yoga experience!

 

Namaste

Yoga Poses for Mom and Baby

Finding time to work out after having a little one join the family can be challenging, especially if it’s your first. Trying to establish a new routine while trying to keep a tiny baby safe can be nothing short of overwhelming. As your body starts to heal and you get used to the new human in your life you may find yourself trying to figure out ways you can work in a work out between their feedings and nap times. However, what you might not realize is that there are plenty of yoga poses you can do with your baby that can help you both interact together; building strength for you and motor skills for them. Here are a few of my favorites!

Poses for Mom:

Goddess Squat: Goddess Squat is great for stretching out your hips, strengthening core muscles, and increasing your circulation. To perform Goddess with your baby, spread your feet about 3 feet apart with your feet pointing outward. Hold your baby so they are looking out the same direction you are facing. Exhale and then bend your knees. For your safety keep your knees directly over your ankles. Inhale as you straighten your legs to your starting position.

Legs up the wall pose: This pose is done exactly how it sounds. You’re going to lay down on the ground with your feet up a wall. Make sure your hips are as close to the wall as you can get them. Depending on how old your baby is they can either sit up on you or lay on your chest. This position doesn’t necessarily build up a lot of strength but has a variety of benefits for the postnatal mama. It relieves insomnia, migraines, varicose veins, and even digestive problems. It also helps to calm your mind!

Poses/Activities for Baby:

Baby Planet: This pose I found from the “Yoga Buddies” workout from FitPregnancy and loved how it focused on the baby. Baby planets are a fun way to get your baby moving his or her limbs and help you to bond with them because you focus on looking at her face. Lay your baby on a mat or blanket and sit up straight in front of them with your legs crossed. From here it’s all about baby! First touch her forehead with your finger and sing “North Pole.” Then touch her little feet and sing “South Pole.” Next take her left arm and extend it outwards saying, “West Coast.” Then do the same move with her right arm saying, “East Coast.” Lastly, gently hold your baby’s hands and mover her arms together over her chest and sing “Inside,” then move her arms outwards and sing “outside.” There are some benefits to mom with this pose. Sitting up straight with good posture helps strengthen your lower back and core.

Baby Elevators: A baby elevator is essentially a weight lifting exercise with a squat. Start out with your feet hip width apart, and hold your baby at chest level, facing you. Bend your knees into a squat position, then as you straighten out your legs lift your baby up. This is a fantastic move because it works everything from your core to your arms. The baby bonus is that your little one will have so much fun being lifted in the air!

These are just a few of the poses out there you can try with your baby! I think the hardest thing I’ve experienced being a mom so far is remembering that to take care of your baby, you must take care of yourself. These poses are a great way to mind yourself but still involve your baby. What other poses have you tried?