Resources

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Practices for Beginners CD

This audio CD was created for students who want help with their practice at home. Included on the CD are three practices for beginners. Janice leads the listener through the sequences that are 20 minutes long including a sitting meditation to start and a relaxation at the end. The routines are easy to follow.

Here is the link for free access to these audio-only yoga practices:

www.facebook.com/yogaconnectionNH

A 14 minute guided relaxation is now on our Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/yogaconnectionNH

Winter Session. All the quotes are from Pema Chodron’s Heart Advice emails.

Week 1
  • “The essence of bravery is being without self-deception. However, it’s not so easy to take a straight look at what we do. Seeing ourselves clearly is initially uncomfortable and embarrassing. As we train in clarity and steadfastness, we see things we’d prefer to deny—judgmentalness, pettiness, arrogance. These are not sins but temporary and workable habits of mind. The more we get to know them, the more they lose their power. This is how we come to trust that our basic nature is utterly simple, free of struggle between good and bad.”

Week 2
  • “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Week 3
  • “As people who want to live a good, full, unrestricted, adventurous, real kind of life, there is concrete instruction we can follow: see what is. When you catch yourself grasping at beliefs or thoughts, just see what is. Without calling your belief right or wrong, acknowledge it. See it clearly without judgment and let it go. Come back to the present moment. From now until the moment of your death, you could do this.”

Week 4
  • “What will happen to us today is completely unknown, as unknown as what will happen at death. Whatever happens, our commitment is to use it to awaken our heart. As one of the slogans says, “All activities should be done with one intention.” That intention is to realize our connection with all beings.”

Week 5
  • “When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently, endless opportunities to dissolve the seeds of war where they originate—in the hearts and minds of individuals like you and me.”

Week 6
  • “As a way of working with our aggressive tendencies, Dzigar Kongtrül teaches the nonviolent practice of simmering. He says that rather than “boil in our aggression like a piece of meat cooking in a soup,” we simmer in it. We allow ourselves to wait, to sit patiently with the urge to act or speak in our usual ways and feel the full force of that urge without turning away or giving in. Neither repressing nor rejecting, we stay in the middle between the two extremes, in the middle between yes and no, right and wrong, true and false. This is the journey of developing a kindhearted and courageous tolerance for our pain. Simmering is a way of gaining inner strength. It helps us develop trust in ourselves—trust that we can experience the edginess, the groundlessness, the fundamental uncertainty of life and work with our mind, without acting in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others.”

Week 7
  • “None of us wants to be miserable; we all want to be happy. But we can’t achieve this aim if we stay stuck in biased, narrow-minded thinking. No matter how much we long for joy, it will elude us if we continue buying into concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptance and rejection. What ultimately frees us from these constricting patterns is to stop reifying our experience, and to connect with the ineffable, groundless nature of all phenomena.”

Week 8
  • “There are many stories, but the basic message I’m trying to convey is that to the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s true spiritual warriorship. That’s the true practice of peace.”

Spring #1 Readings: All quotes are from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress.

Week 1
  • “If you had to sum up how you feel about stress, which statements would be more accurate?
    1. Stress is harmful and should be avoided, reduced, and managed.
    2. Stress is helpful and should be accepted, utilized, and embraced.
    I’m a health psychologist, and through all my training in psychology and medicine, I got one message loud and clear: Stress is toxic. But I changed my mind about stress and now I want to change yours. The new science also shows that changing your mind about stress can make you healthier and happier. The best way to manage your stress isn’t to reduce or avoid it, but rather rethink and even embrace it.”

Week 2
  • “The advice in this book isn’t based on one shocking study. The strategies you’ll learn are based on hundreds of studies and the insights of dozens of scientists I’ve spoken with. I offer this conception of stress: Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.”

Week 3
  • “So, this book includes a crash course in the new science of stress and what psychologists call mindsets. Every time you experience stress, your beliefs about it come to mind. Think about how many moments of your day you would describe as stressful. How often do you say, ‘This is so stressful’ or ‘I’m so stressed’? In each of these moments, how you think about stress can alter your biochemistry and, ultimately, how you respond to whatever has triggered the stress. This is the mindset effect, a belief with this kind of power goes beyond the placebo effect. A mindset is a belief that biases how you think, feel, and act. It’s a filter that you see everything through.
    Mindset 1: Stress is harmful or Mindset 2: Stress is Enhancing”

Week 4
  • “People who believe stress can be helpful are more likely to say they cope with stress proactively. For example, the are more likely to:
  • Accept the fact the stressful event has occurred and is real.
  • Plan a strategy for dealing with the source of stress.
  • Seek information, help, or advice.
  • Take steps to overcome, remove, or change the source of stress.
  • Try to make the best of the situation by viewing it in a more positive way or by using it as an opportunity for growth.”

Week 5
  • “When your survival is on the line, you may find yourself having a classic fight or flight response. But when a stressful situation is less threatening, the brain and body shift into a different state: the challenge response. Like a fight or flight response, a challenge response gives you energy and helps you perform under pressure. Your heart rate still rises, your adrenaline spikes, your muscle and brain get more fuel, and the feeling good chemicals surge. But it differs from a fight or flight response in a few important ways: You feel more focused but not fearful. You also release a different ratio of stress hormones, including higher levels of DHEA, which helps you recover and lean from stress. People in a flow state, a highly enjoyable state of being completely absorbed in what you are doing- display clear signs of a challenge response. Artists, athletes, surgeons, video gamers, and musicians all show this kind of stress response when they’re engaged in their craft or skill. The stress response gives them access to their mental and physical resources, and the result is increased confidence, enhanced concertation, and peak performance.”

Week 6
  • “Your stress response doesn’t just give you energy. In many circumstances, it also motivates you to connect to others. This side of stress is primarily driven by the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin’s primary function is to build and strengthen social bonds. Elevated levels of oxytocin make you want to connect to others. It’s also the chemical of courage. Scientists refer to this as the tend and befriend response. Unlike the fight or flight response, the tend and befriend response motivates you to protect the people and communities you care about. Oxytocin is actually good for cardiovascular health. Your heart has special receptors for oxytocin, which helps heart cells regenerate and repair from any micro-damage. This is quite different from the message we usually hear- that stress will give you a heart attack.”

Week 7
  • “Viewing the stress response as a resource can transform the physiology of fear into the biology of courage. When you feel your heart pounding or your breath quickening, realize that it is your body’s way of trying to give you more energy. If you notice tension in your body, remind yourself that the stress response gives access to your strength. Sweaty palms? Remember what it felt like to go on your first date- palms sweat when you’ve close to something you want. If you have butterflies in your stomach, know they are a sign of meaning. Your digestive tract is lined with hundreds of millions of nerve cells that respond to your thoughts and emotions. Butterflies in your stomach are your gut’s way of saying, ‘this matters.’ Let yourself remember why this particular moment matters to you.”

Week 8
  • “Whatever the sensations of stress are, worry less about trying to make them go away, and focus more on what you are going to do with the energy, strength, and drive that stress gives you. Your body is providing you assess to all your resources to help rise to this challenge. Instead of taking a deep breath to calm down, take a deep breath to sense the energy available to you, then put the energy to use, and ask yourself, ‘What action can I take, or what choice can I make, that is consistent with my goal in this moment?’”

Week 9
  • “When you are feeling overwhelmed, look for a way to do something for someone else that goes beyond your daily responsibilities. Your brain might tell you that you don’t have the time or energy, but that is exactly why you should do it. You can make this a daily practice- set a goal of finding an opportunity to support someone else. By doing so, you prime your body and brain to take positive action and to experience courage, hope and connection. Two strategies can amplify the benefit of this practice. First, your brain’s reward system will get a bigger boast from doing something new and unexpected that if you do the same act every day. Second, small acts can be just as powerful as grand gestures, so look for little things you can do instead of waiting for the perfect moment to be magnanimous. I encourage students to be creative in what they decide to be generous with. You can give others appreciation, your full attention, or even the benefit of the doubt. Like other mindset resets like rethinking your racing heart- it’s a small choice that can have unexpectedly large effects on how you experience stress.”

More Help with Home Practice

The Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York has created excellent level I and Level II sequences for practice at home. Download the sequences here.