Category Archives: Blog

HIP Winter Benefit: International Food Buffet

Special Guest Speaker: Shelly Craigo
December 8th
6:30 – 9 am
$25 (limited space- please reserve your seat soon!)

Please join us for this special evening of food, fun and community.

“Being a part of a group practice gives us the opportunity to taste the joy of unity; the joy of being an integral part of something bigger, better, brighter, and more enlightened and powerful than ourselves. It is this experience that eventually instills our minds and hearts with vision and courage to bring an extraordinary change both in the world inside us and outside us…”
—Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph D

About the event:
Become a force of change!  Humanity has endured cycles of prosperity and impoverishment, peace and darkness, ingenuity and stagnation, spirituality and science, for centuries. Where we are today in this process of growth and decline may be seen as we observe—both externally and internally—the qualities of fear, anger, sorrow, and greed, and their and internally—the qualities of fear, anger, sorrow, and greed, and their proportionate interplay with those of love, compassion, and joy.

Now is the perfect time for aspiring souls who believe in the power of collective consciousness—one that is positive, vibrant, and focused, and fills our consciousness with inner abundance and fulfillment—to take personal yoga practice to the next level.

Shelly brings a message and a practice from Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute.




 

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Monthly Community Meditation

Our Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh is a peaceful community
welcome to all. In these turbulent times…let us come together, drop within and meditate…or maybe you have never meditated? You could simply sit in silence. Let’s create a positive energy that will promote peace and carry us throughout our world.

Monthly Meditation to start Friday, November 10, 2017. Please join us on the second Friday of each month…

Time: 7pm – 8pm. Sit for five minutes or stay the whole hour!
Bring: Mat, or props that will comfort. We do offer mats, bolsters, blocks, and blankets for your support.

Please pre-register at the Front Desk

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Chyawanprash Cookies

From the Himalayan Institute

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 jar of Chyawaprash

5 cups white flour
3 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Ginger root powder

Raw Sugar

Directions: Pre-heat oven at 350

1. In mixer, cream together butter & brown sugar then add eggs (one at a time). Blend well then add chyawanprash. Use a knife to get it out of the jar.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger and salt; gradually add to the wet ingredients until blended well. Use a spoon to scoop into a medium size ball. Dip one side in raw sugar and place on a lined cookie sheet, sugar side up. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Movement, Breath and Meditation

with Kate Kill
Tuesdays 11-12 pm

In order to get the most out of our practice, we need to be comfortable and focused. This class will include postures to prepare the body to sit for meditation.  We will also practice pranayama, or breath work to help clear and focus our energy for a 15 minute meditation practice.

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Stealing from Myself by Bev Gray

Last night I taught my usual Tuesday night yoga class, the one I’ve been teaching now for a year and a half. It’s typically a small class, with some regulars and some drop-in’s who attend intermittently. The pace is even and the asanas are mildly challenging.

For the past couple weeks, some of the students attending this class have been teacher trainees from another yoga studio; part of their training encourages them to go to different studios and experience different styles (very cool, I must say).

Last night’s visiting attendees were two women: one instructor and one trainee. Both were young and energetic, the instructor thin and lithe, her upper body overlaid with colorful tattoos. Her asanas were nearly perfect and lovely to watch.

Like most instructors, I’m sure, I always feel a little intimidated when an instructor shows up for my class; feeling not so much that I’m being judged, but watched. Very carefully. I do the same when I attend a fellow teacher’s class. I’m not judging, but always searching. Searching for new ways to explain a pose or inspire students (or myself). I recognize that my style is mine, that theirs is theirs, and that instructors can’t be compared. I have tremendous respect for all teachers. What intimidates me, however, is knowledge.

Yoga is so deep and vast that when I meet other teachers (especially if they practice a different style), I am always overwhelmed at how much I DON’T know. I am suddenly reduced to a student, a child seeking approval, feeling inadequate.

“No, I don’t remember what my dosha is.”

“No, I’ve never practiced ashtanga yoga (at least I don’t think I have).”

“Nope, never heard of the hasta or the pada bandhas.”

“No, I haven’t read the Bhagavad Gita from beginning to end.”

“No, I can’t do a handstand or hold a hip balance with straight arms and legs for more than a few breaths.”

“No, I don’t make a habit of adjusting my students.”

Cerebrally, I know that we are never “done” when it comes to yoga; that the depth of this practice is vast and never-ending. So why do I feel so less-than when I discover something I don’t know? And how do I release the self-judgement for not knowing everything about something which is fundamentally unknowable?

As always, I look to the Yamas and Niyamas for guidance. The Yamas and the Niyamas are the first two limbs of the 8-Fold path of yogic philosophy. Taken from the Yoga Sutras, there are five Yamas, or restraints, and five Niyamas, or observances.

For this particular experience, Astaya, the Yama of non-stealing, spoke to me. According to Deborah Adele, in her book, The Yamas and the Niyamas, “Astaya guides our attempts and tendencies to look outwardly for satisfaction.” In looking outward, we are stealing our joy and ability to look inward. Astaya asks us to shift our awareness of others to ourselves.

So in looking inward, I can appreciate how far I’ve come, without the distraction of comparing myself to others; because comparing either leaves you feeling dejected or superior, and neither is a healthy alternative. And often what we reach for is not necessarily what we want, but what may look good at the time. In our culture, we have much to compete with. There are pretty little baubles, bangles and beads in front of us wherever we go. If we keep reaching out for things just because they are there, we aren’t fulfilling our truth.

I don’t see myself as a teacher, really, but a guide. I share what I know and take in what my students teach me. I don’t feel I will ever be one of those instructors that people seek out, revered as a master in my field. I work full-time, have a family, so my ability (and let’s face it, energy) to study and immerse myself are limited. But I love my class and my students and take the moments I do have very seriously.

No, I am not trained in Ayurveda. No, I can’t twist my 49 year-old body into asanas that a tattooed twenty-something can do. And yes, there is an enormous amount of knowledge yet to be discovered. Astaya encourages me to “be where I am,” appreciate the journey and discover where I really want to go.

Oh, and I don’t have any tattoos. Just sayin’.

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Essential Oils – Lemon

by Judie Markley

Of all of the citrus oils, lemon just seems to have the sunniest disposition with its clean, fresh, yet rather sharp citrus scent.It’s the perfect oil to combat the short, dark dreary winter days. If you are feeling a little down in the dumps,reach for the lemon oil.

Lemons, a member of the Rutaceae plant family, grow on somewhat small yet horizontally expansive trees. The lemon tree, native to Asia, has been cultivated in Italy, Australia and the United States. It likes a lot of sunshine, but not a lot of wet soil. The oil is expressed from the peel of the fruit.

True to its sunny disposition, lemon oil is antidepressive in nature. It increases one’s sense of humor and feeling of general well being. It dispels feelings of indecisiveness so one might sense greater emotional clarity and direction. It’s also useful to support the attributes of joy, strength and memory.

lemons

Sunny, bright and happy lemons!

Lemon’s antiseptic properties make it good for disinfecting everything from wooden cutting boards to infected wounds and sore throats. Now I know why my grandfather added lemon to his homemade cough syrup. Add a drop or two to a glass of water and give your liver a lift.

Once you understand how to use essential oils for daily skin care, lemon makes a wonderful addition for softening the skin and helps with oily and irritated skin. It’s a good choice for a cellulite blend as it has diuretic properties and speeds up blood flow.

So when you want a little extra freshness and lightness in your life, reach for that lemon oil.

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Pranayama – The Fourth Limb

Pranayama

Pranayama

According to the yoga sutras (1.31 – 1.32), irregularities of the breath is one of the obstacles that we seek to overcome throughout yoga practice. By practicing Pranayama (prana= life breath, yama=control) we are able to overcome these irregularities.

Breath work brings many valuable benefits to our overall health. A a conscious practice of proper breathing calms the nervous system, reduces blood pressure, relaxes the body, and increases oxygen to the organs. By consciously focusing on the breath we can quiet the mind and improve concentration.

There are a multitude of pranayama practices in yoga: Nadi Shodhanam, Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, Ujjayi, etc. Each practice brings it’s own benefit, from quieting the mind for meditation to increasing the heat in the body to cleansing the body of toxins. However, what we want to focus on before moving into any of these practices is the basic step of retraining ourselves to breath properly. Once we can connect to the diaphragmatic breath, we can move onto some of the more advanced breathing exercises.

Have you ever watched a newborn baby breathe? When we are born our breath is naturally a diaphragmatic breath. We have not yet experienced the day to day stresses this life puts upon us making us hold our breath and retain tension in our autonomic nervous system. At a very young age we begin to lose the innate ability to breath deeply. The breath moves high into the chest, we suspend the breath (either in or out) and engage in a constant “Fight or flight” reactionary breath, unwittingly keeping ourselves in a constant state of stress.

We have forgotten to breath and therefore need to retrain our system. In order to do this we need to start at the very beginning, teach ourselves to breath as we did when we were infants. Reconnecting with the movement of the diaphragm, acknowledging what is happening with our breath and learning to deepen and even out our breath until it becomes as natural as it was when we were born.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the practice of using the diaphragm with consciousness. As you inhale the diaphragm drops, gently pressing into the organs of the lower torso. As you exhale the diagram contracts and presses the air out of the lungs. We first practice this in an exaggerated fashion, letting the belly expand on the inhale and pull in on the exhale, but once we can connect back to the natural breath the movement of the lower abdominal muscles decreases to the point of a gentle rise and fall.

An additional behavior to take notice of is if you are breathing through your mouth or through your nose or some combination of both. Our nose is built to be our first line of defense for our immune system, the book The Science of Breath, does an excellent job describing the function of the nose. So let the breath move only through the nose when you are practicing the diaphragmatic breath.

Take this practice with you throughout your day, check in with your breath on a regular basis, notice if you are holding the breath (in or out) and remind yourself to breathe. Notice if you hold your breath in stressful situations and if consciously breathing helps your stress level decrease. And bring this practice to the mat. Notice how you are breathing throughout your yoga practice and if you can keep the breath steady and even.

The breath is the keystone that moves us from the physical body to mental awareness. It is the best tool you have to strengthen concentration and mindfulness and to begin moving through the last four limbs of yoga.

Join us next time as we move into Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses.

 

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Asana – The Third Limb

Asana

Asana

Here in the west, Asana is associated mainly with the graceful movements and postures that we experience in the course of a yoga class. We flow through sun salutations or hold steady in our Warrior or Triangle poses. However, In regards to the eight limbs, asana refers only to a comfortable and steady posture. From this posture a practitioner can be fully at ease in order to achieve higher levels of concentration necessary for moving deeper into their practice.

This doesn’t mean that the postures aren’t a necessary element in the eight limbs. In order to release and let go of what is happening in our bodies, we first have to turn our attention to our body. Practicing the postures in any style or level of yoga class is how we are able to access this awareness. And once we realize what our bodies need; where they are tight and where they are limber, where they are strong and where they are weak, we can begin work to strengthen and stretch to achieve that comfortable and steady posture. (note: awareness is not equivalent to judgment, judgment holds you back, awareness moves you forward.)

 

sun salutation

Sun Salutation

As a result, sages and yogis, over the course of a couple of thousand years, have developed postures and movements to stretch and lengthen the spine (forward folds, back bends, twists), to open through the pelvis and the hips (triangles, warriors, lunges), to strengthen the muscles that hold our spine straight (core work), to work the shoulders in order for the muscles to release and relax down the spine and away from the ears, and to build awareness of the alignment of the vertebrae in our neck so that we know when we are extending it too far forward or too far back. These postures have all been designed and coordintated so that we can access and maintain a comfortable cross legged position on our cushions or our mat.

It is also important to note that, although the root of the word asana (as~) means to “sit,” and we see images of sages in the Lotus posture, or in any of the other many variations of a cross legged seated pose, the Sutras do not specify what this “perfected posture” is. It is widely accepted that the focus should be on aligning the head, neck and trunk while maintaining the natural curve of the spine (Cervical and Lumbar). So if you are uncomfortable on the floor, or your hips or back or legs are tight (or a combination of the three), find a position that works for you. Uses cushions and pillows to support you, sit with your legs out straight in front of you, sit with your back against the wall, or sit in a chair. It is also helpful to work with a teacher who can address where you need support (via props) in order to find the ideal position for you.

So the next time you roll out your mat, take some time to watch your body and discover how you can become more comfortable and steady in each posture as you flow through your asana practice.

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