We recently chanced upon MindBodyGreen.com's reasons why they love getting naked, and their article sparked a few of our own.
Here are our top 5, but and there are so many more.
1. Feeling of complete and utter freedom--JOY!
2. Appreciation for the body, it's endless wonders--the mere fact that we have one! The curves, connections, senses, and of course, the skin, for when it's uncovered, we can actually see all of it (especially if we have a mirror handy), or through the eyes of a lover.
3. A sense of true oneness with the self
4. Being able to feel the sensation of air currents circulating around areas of the body that are usually covered, hence rendering the entire self a more sensitized, "aware" recorder of what surrounds you--the air, the sun, the water, and it goes on.
5. When we get naked, we feel a deep love for the body, the mind, the self and the spirit that lives within this miraculous "house!"
Tell us why you love getting naked-we'd love to hear from you!
When life gets crazy, it's only too easy to get swept away by the current of turgid emotional waters that can swirl around in your own head and lose your center.
So how do you find the shore and catch your breath once again?
So simple, really ... by first finding the breath. The following is a beautiful, simple, yet powerful seated meditation that is guaranteed to help you rediscover your own calm, your own power, your compass to help you navigate life more effectively so that you can remember to stop and smell the roses, knowing that this moment is all we have, and it is perhaps the greatest gift. Enclosed in this moment is awareness, heightened consciousness that makes your life so much sweeter.
Start on your mat with legs crossed, in a comfortable, cross-legged seat. Close your eyes. Connect to your breath and see where it lives inside your body. Imagine that you are a tall, beautiful tree with your roots reaching down deep into the rich earth below, drawing nutrients up into your body. Your torso is the strong trunk of the tree, lifting tall and your head, the graceful branches, leaves and flowers, reaching up to heaven, to star or sun energy, collecting the infinite power of the cosmos and pulling it down into the center of your being. If thoughts start to enter in, simply notice them without getting involved, and return to your breath. Observe it, feel the quality of its depth, measure the temp of your inhale and exhale and sense its temperature as it flows in and out of your nose. Smile to your heart and feel immense gratitude that it beats endlessly to keep you alive. Inhale love and exhale thanks. Go deep, get quiet, feel rooted and centered. Continue in this way for 5-15 minutes. Then start to deepen your breath, returning to yourself and feeling each breath reach into every cell of your body, becoming conscious of your own ability, your own power to bring this peace and calm to your heart, your mind and your spirit. Bring your hands together in front of your heart and bow head to heart, uniting head and heart, mind and spirit and set an intention for your day, for your night, for your life ... and carry this new feeling of tranquility and groundedness into your world, and remember when the going gets tough: "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." It's the very adversity in life that teaches us wisdom through experience, in navigating the tumult in order to return to the safety of the harbor, which is quite simply, returning to our very selves. Find yourself again, and join us here: http://www.yogaundressed.com/downloads/
Many of us practice yoga to feel centered and balanced in this busy, frenetic world we call home. We practice in order to cultivate greater flexibility and to break down barriers that we unintentionally build for ourselves throughout the day.
It is in my practice that I always come to truly appreciate the discipline of yoga, because it is so much more to me than just the "stretch workout" that is promoted by and served up at my local gym. Yoga is, above all, a discipline regime of the mind - a method that facilitates the growth of consciousness while fostering a relationship of intimacy between our minds and every fibre of our physical being. Through this union of mind and body, I can manifest a compassionate reconnection to the world around me. This is why I am so grateful for my favorite part of personal yoga practice: the daily meditations that are so central to my life and being.
What is meditation, and how does one practice it without drifting into distraction?
Meditation is the art of cultivation and understanding, as exemplified by a sanskrit word for the practice - bhavana, meaning "to cultivate," or the Tibetan equivelent gom, "to become familiar with." What we are trying to cultivate in our practice is mindfulness, the ability to perceive different aspects of our reality without attachments, so that we may come in contact with those greater qualities of ourselves that lie deep within us, helping us to understand what we really truly want out of life. Doing so without attachments allows us to do this compassionately, to understand our role in the menagerie of our experiences without the veil of the ego to interfere in our seeing. It was the Buddha who taught that all pain and suffering can be relieved through meditation, and therefore help us find our highest happiness within. In meditation our anxieties and sorrows hold no sway over our thoughts when we allow for true introspection to arise from within our being. This has been my experience with meditation, and I hope that you will find the same peace of mind within you.
I'd like to share my own personal practice, in the hope that I may inspire those who are new to meditation to take part. I prefer to meditate in the early morning and again at the end of my day when I need to settle my busy mind. To meditate, I must find the perfect environment to let my mind focus, and that is a difficult task, indeed.
How do I begin to find that sacred space within? First, I create a clean and quiet place to sit. This can be in my house, in my office, in a park, or in the forest. I have found that all space is sacred space when it comes to creating a quiet state of mind, as long as I have privacy or have surrounded myself with others who are also practicing their meditations. I do not interfere with the space of others while I sit in observational silence. All distractions should be removed - telephones, pets, televisions, and music are turned off or removed from the room.
Next, I find a comfortable position in which I can maintain good posture. During my yoga practice I move to the center of my mat (at home my yoga space also just happens to double as my meditation space), and I sit in lotus, or Padmāsana, on a meditation cushion placed under my tail bone so that I can keep my spine erect. Keeping the spine straight is very important for the well being of your nervous system, and it will allow you to focus your mind better during your silent time. Lotus on a cushion is the best position for me so that I do not exert to much stress on my knee joints, where I have sustained serious injuries in the past. I also have several friends who need to sit in a chair, due to their age or their own history of injuries that prevent them from sitting on the ground. The most important thing is that we want to sit without being in physical discomfort or pain. Once in the proper position, I like to think of myself as the face of a mountain, quietly holding a strong and solid presence.
I personally have two different methods for positioning my hands for each practice of my day. During my morning meditations I prefer to hold my hands in Gyan Mudra - resting the back of my hands on my knees, my fingers relaxed while I bend my index finger and thumb to connect in a circle. During my evening meditation I prefer Dhyani Mudra, to have my palms loosely laid face up on my lap, and in front of my stomach. I create the shape of an imaginary egg by resting the fingers of my left hand over the fingers of my right and then touch my thumbs together at the top, my elbows resting naturally on my upper thighs. Thus I create an imaginary portal to the universe through my navel, a fantastic umbilical cord of energy that refreshes my entire being.
It is at this time that I begin to use the breath to clear my mind. By focusing on my now slow, relaxed breathing, I can focus on my own rhythm, slowly vacating the thoughts that would normally vie for my attention. I do this by focusing on the very air that is rushing in and out through my nostrils, and I actually envision myself becoming the air that I breathe. I also begin counting back and forth slowly between the numbers one and two, every inhale and exhale acting as a half of each number. This way I count mindlessly and don't become distracted by focusing too much on the act of counting itself.
The idea is for me to eventually create a state of Sunyata or emptiness, a state where I have no attachment to my inner thoughts, and where I can let them come and go without engaging them. This is where I cease to hold onto what no longer serves me. The idea is not to vanquish these thoughts from my mind, but to let them become clouds that I can passively observe from afar.
I hold my head looking forward at a slight unfocused distance, anywhere from 3 to 5 feet in front of me. Some people prefer to close their eyes, but I like to keep mine open. Either is fine, as long as one doesn't drift into distraction. When I choose to meditate at home, I prefer to use a candle to hold my point of focus. When I am out in nature on the sea cliffs near my home, I like to stare at the horizon line while I use the sound of the waves to lull my mind and breathing into a unified rhythm.
This gives me the sensation of dreaming awake while looking off to nowhere. The early part of my practice is a general cooling down time and it relieves my mind of its weariness from the days' activity. It is like a stage of early sleep that allows my mind to settle into a state of deeper focus. It is at this point that I begin to contemplate in a state of "emptiness."
When I am finished with my practice (I have a delicate bell charm on my phone that signals the end of my time) I move my hands up into Anjali Mudra, or lotus with my hands pressed together in front of my heart. Then I seal my intention with gratitude, touching my forehead to my fingertips, and I arise. Now I can let myself feel the bliss of my practice long after it is over, either to engage my day, or begin a night of restful sleep.
A meditation practice can be taken up at any time, although I have set times for my practice so that I can round out my day with a dependable routine, what i like to call "the turn of the wheel." My morning yoga practice begins at 7:00 am, and my evening meditative practice begins at 9:00 pm. I observe this pattern every day, and I look forward to it with every rising and setting of the sun. In this way my times of silence have evolved into a reflexive habit, and my mind is drawn to seek these times out for myself regardless of wherever I might be.
My practice in the morning has a different purpose for me than my evening meditation does. When I begin with Kundalini yoga in the morning, it is to stoke the fire within. The meditation that finishes my practice is meant to set my intention for the day, keep me energized and my inspiration and creativity flowing. Therefore, I choose to limit my time to 10 to 15 minutes so that I may engage the day fully charged.
The meditation I have at the end of the day is much longer and meant to encourage rumination and self-reflection. It is here that I take the time to look back on my actions of the day with compassion, understand the actions of others and the things I cannot control. I like to take between 30 minutes to one hour for this practice. This allows me to re-center before going to sleep, and to close the circle of my day. Thus, every day is a turn of the wheel, and my every day prepares me for the next.
This is my path to inner happiness, and it is a path that leads me me through great beauty and joy on a daily basis. You too, possess this ability to cultivate deep and everlasting happiness within. I hope that this sharing of my personal practice inspires you to seek out the boundless love and understanding that resides in the experience that awaits you.
Natarajasana derives its name from the root words "nata", meaning actor or dancer, and "raja", meaning king. It is also known as the Lord of the Dance Pose, and it is meant to express the Hindu Deity Shiva, who is also known as the cosmic dancer. The dance of Shiva is meant to express cosmic energy in what are his five expressions of his powers: creation, preservation, destruction (or the re-absorption of the world), concealer of authentic being, and blessed revealer. As a standing pose, Natarajasana expresses the gracefulness of that dance most elegantly.
There are many great benefits that one receives from Royal Dancer, and like many of the complex moves, these benefits affect many areas of the body at the same time.
Entering the movement directly through Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the practitioner will stretch the shoulders, chest, thighs, groin and abdomen while strengthening the legs and ankles. Natajarasana also helps lungs, Kidneys and spine while improving balance.
Royal Dancer is the the last of several challenging back bend poses and can be preceeded by many different preparatory poses. They include Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose), Supta Virasana(Reclining Hero Pose), Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose), Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose), Virasana (Hero Pose), and Vrksasana(Tree Pose). Natarajasana is a fantastic final expression in any practice that includes other backbend poses.
Some practitioners prefer to practice this pose with a partner who can help them balance. If practicing alone, others might want to use one hand outstretched and pressed against a wall for stability while attempting to balance.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is the first of four King pigeon poses, and is considered a movement of grace and beauty. In its simplest form, One Legged King Pigeon (Pigeon I) is accessible to beginners with experience, but as one begins to practice more difficult variations it is considered an intermediate and advanced pose. Eka Pada is considered a good first pose for the other three King Pigeon poses, and is usually integrated into more advanced practices. For example, One Legged Pigeon is considered an important precursor to Kapotasana for opening the body up for that final expression.
There are many areas of the body that One Legged King Pigeon helps the practitioner focus on, and they include stretching the thighs, hips and groin. The pose also stretches the abdomen, thereby stimulating the abdominal organs, while stretching and opening the chest, shoulders and neck. This last area opens up the heart center and helps one facilitate deeper breathing.
There are many poses that the practitioner may prepare for One legged Pigeon with, and they include Baddha Konasana (Bound Ankle Pose), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Ankle Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose), Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose), Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Virasana (Hero Pose), and Vriksasana (Tree Pose).
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana can be very difficult, especially if one has had previous injuries, and great care should be taken to know the limits of one's own body. People with tight hips or thighs, knee injuries, ankle injuries or sacrioliac injuries should practice great caution in relation to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, and should avoid this asana. If the practioner is having a hard time allowing the outside front leg hip to touch the ground, one may also find the need to support the outside hip with a cushion or folded blanket.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana can be found on our Advanced DVD here: The Goddess Series : Advanced.