How to incorporate Aparigraha (non-attachment) in our lives

I've been thinking today about the yogic concept of Aparigraha - non-attachment or non-clinging. Aparigraha is one of the Yamas - the ethical guidelines found in the Yoga Sutras. Attachment can take many forms -- holding on to fixed ideas of how things should be, coveting what someone else has, wanting relationships to work out a certain way. Sometimes the past makes itself known in a very present way, and it's our inability to let go that causes us pain. Or maybe we're stuckĀ on material possessions, and finding value in accumulating things that, in the end, are just that... things Read More


About the "Hot Yoga" at our studio

The most common questions we get from prospective new students are about the heat in our classes: How hot is it? Will I be miserable? What's the point of making it hot in the room?


First, a little history: "hot yoga" first showed up in the U.S. as Bikram Yoga. This is a particular style of yoga with a set sequence of postures that is the same every time. The heat is rigidly regulated (traditionally at 105 degrees with 40% humidity), and this style is what people most associate with hot yoga. It is often taught in a more aggressive way, with an emphasis on people pushing their bodies beyond their capacity, which can lead to injury. As time has gone on and modern yoga has developed, many studios have moved away from calling classes "Bikram Yoga" -- but they still run the same sequence with the same heat. Studios that advertise "26 postures" or "traditional hot yoga" are probably doing Bikram classes.


MYSTIC MONKEY YOGA IS NOT A BIKRAM YOGA STUDIO and we do not have a set sequence of postures. We also don't heat the room quite as much -- our hottest classes run about 100-102 degrees, and we use radiant heat panels, which allow us to heat the room without added humidity. This means that, while still hot, the temperature in the room is not overwhelming to most people. We also offer classes at lower temperatures -- our "Hot Vinyasa" classes are at 95 degrees, and our "Warm Yoga Flow" classes are at 85. This means that even people who are more sensitive to the heat should be able to find classes in their comfort zone. Quite often, we get new students in who are nervous about the heat of the room, and by the end of their first class, they find they actually enjoy the added warmth. And, unlike Bikram style studios, we emphasize doing the yoga practice in way that is appropriate for your body, which may mean modifying poses or not pushing yourself so hard at times. There's no sense in giving 110% effort all the time in a practice that is meant to be sustainable over a lifetime.


So now the other question: why heat the room in the first place? The simple answer is that it's there to support our practice and make it safer. It becomes easier to warm up our muscles so they can stretch with less risk of injury. Our blood vessels open with the heat, increasing blood flow and improving our cardiovascular health. Many of us discover that this practice supports weight loss and healthier lifestyle decisions. And we do sweat more in the hot room -- which gives us a cleansing feeling so we feel detoxified and de-stressed by the end of class. These benefits are in addition to all the other benefits of yoga, such as improved balance, better lung health, reduced tension, improved strength and flexibility, and much more.


If you've been leery about our classes because of the heat, why not come give them a try? You might be surprised! We still have our $30 for 30 days New Student Special so you can see how you like it.


You can see all our classes here:





How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril

One of the central practices of yoga is pranayama. Pranayama is a Sanskrit term meaning "energy expansion", though it is often taken to mean "breath control". By using different breathing techniques, we can learn to increase and consciously direct our prana, or life energy. This can give us many health benefits, as well as mental clarity, stress relief, and much more. Ultimately, pranayama assists with meditation and can be a powerful tool for bringing us to higher states of consciousness.

A simple but powerful pranayama technique is nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. There is a great deal to be said about this technique and its relation to kundalini energy, nadis (energy channels), and more, but that is for another post. For the sake of simplicity, it's enough to understand that there are two major energy channels known as ida and pingala which are associated with the left and right nostrils, respectively, and the two hemispheres of the brain. Through the course of the day, we tend to take in more oxygen through one nostril than the other, and thus one or the other of our brain hemispheres becomes more active. By consciously taking air in through each nostril separately, we cleanse these energy channels and balance the flow of oxygen to the brain. This allows us to function better and brings an immediate sense of calm and tension relief.

To do this technique, sit in any comfortable position (cross-legged or in lotus pose is best, if possible). Make sure your spine is straight. Take your right hand and fold your first two fingers over. This will leave your thumb and ring finger (with pinky) extended. Take your right hand to your nose and cover your right nostril with your thumb. Breathe in deeply through your left nostril. Then rock your hand so your ring finger closes your left nostril and your thumb releases the right, and breathe out through the right nostril. Breathe in through the right nostril, then cover it again and breathe out through the left nostril. This is one complete cycle or round. Continue this process, switching on each exhale breath.

Do this for at least five cycles. As you get used to the technique, you can increase this to ten cycles or more (the more time you spend with this and the more cycles you do, the greater the benefit). When you're done, remove your hand from your nose and breathe deeply through both nostrils. If you like, you can move directly into meditation from here. You will find that this simple technique is very effective at calming the mind and body, and that it brings a sense of peace, grounding, and centeredness. It can be done on its own or at the beginning or end of a yoga session.

Alternate nostril breathing is just one of many pranayama techniques, and it has many variations as well. In future blog posts, we will explore other techniques and their benefit. Thank you for reading, and namaste.


The Journey of the Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is a powerful image in yoga, symbolizing perfection and purity. It is associated with concepts of transcendence and enlightenment. The god Brahma is said to have been born out of a lotus flower which springs from the navel of Lord Vishnu. The lotus is also connected to Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity. In Buddhism, several different colors of lotus are used to represent different spiritual states. The lotus pose is probably the most iconic posture in yoga, and carries with it great serenity and bliss.

So what is it about the lotus that makes it so special? It is truly a beautiful flower, but there are many different kinds of beautiful flowers in the world. Why is spiritual attainment not represented by a rose, or an iris, or a lily? To answer this, we need to trace the lotus to its roots.

The lotus grows in swamps and ponds. It roots into the soil at the bottom of the water, and then the shoot starts to climb towards the surface and the nurturing light of the sun. The lotus is constantly surrounded by muck and stagnancy, but it is patient, and always seeking the light. It spends a long time growing in this dark and dirty environment. When it finally grows tall enough to poke through the surface, the petals open into the glorious flower we know so well. Once it blooms, the lotus continues reaching for the sun, and keeps its petals out of the darkness, which gave it life and still sustains it, but does not damage its purity or its loveliness.

The lotus is such a powerful symbol precisely because of its humble beginnings. It doesn't need a perfect environment to attain its highest nature. Rather, the hardship of its environment has been the medium for its growth. And so it is in our own lives. Too much ease and idleness can leave us weak and unclear, but the difficulty that comes from immersing ourselves fully in the dirty world can give us lessons and opportunities for growth which allow us to bloom into the best versions of ourselves.

The next time you see a lotus, or the image of some Hindu or Buddhist character sitting on one, recognize that its beauty is only possible because of what we may normally consider ugly. We can't help being wrapped up in the world, and sometimes the daily struggle of life feels very remote from any spiritual growth. But if we keep our heads up, and keep moving towards the light, we allow ourselves the capacity to one day burst through the surface of the water, and find full flower in the glory of golden sunlight. May we all reach that place, in our own individual ways.

Om mani padme hum.


A Story About Hanuman, the "Mystic Monkey"


Here's a story about Hanuman, the Hindu monkey hero who Mystic Monkey Yoga is named after.

Anjaneya was the son of Anjana and the wind god Vayu, meaning he was half-god. He had many great powers. One day, while still a child, Anjaneya saw what looked like a giant mango in the sky. He loved mangoes (who doesn't?), so he used his superhuman abilities to jump into the sky and try to grab it. The problem is that the mango was not a mango at all, but the sun! To protect the sun, the god Surya shot a lightning bolt which hit Anjaneya in the jaw and knocked him to the ground, killing him.

Vaya found out his son had been killed and became very angry. He took a giant breath which sucked up all the air in the world, and everything living began to suffocate. Vaya refused to exhale until his son was revived.

The other gods agreed to revive Anjaneya, but cursed him by making him forgetful of his godly powers, so he wouldn't abuse them again. The boy was renamed Hanuman, and he was given the body of a monkey to begin his new life. Later, he would often perform amazing feats, but others had to remind him to use his powers, and he forgot about them again soon after.

Just like Hanuman, we all tend to forget our divine nature and underestimate ourselves. Sometimes this is for our own good. Often, though, we have lost track of our true nature, and this forgetfulness causes us to lead our lives in small ways, instead of rising to our full capacity and tapping into that divine source of strength and wisdom that we all have within us.

Let's work to rekindle that magic in each other, and when we see that our loved ones have lost track, let's remind them of their miraculous nature, as often as needed. We have to do it together.

See you at Mystic Monkey Yoga in June!