Sunday Spirituality

Sunday Spirituality ~ My latest blog as published on MINDBODYGREEN
Whatever your personal journey, you are guaranteed an epic adventure. Here are 10 spiritual guidelines to remember to help live your best life: 1. You will forget everything. You start at the  Read

With all the asana tips out there, sometimes the spiritual aspect of yoga can get distorted. The goal of the physical practices are always to lead us towards a clearer state of mind and being — both off the mat as well as on it. But as a younger yogi, I think I used to believe that doing yoga would make me moreinvincible all around.

However as I mature in age and practice, I’ve come to realize that yoga is more of a multi-faceted medium. It gives me the tools I’ll need as life rocks on — I can roll with it, land on my feet, make nourishing life choices, or simply recover.

My teacher always said (and I believe he was quoting his own teacher), “We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” It is that level of spirituality — that context greater than our small selves — which leads to feelings of oneness instead of isolation, contentment beyond the craving for things, and open-hearted compassion, instead of anger and frustration.

While it is that extremely rare person who never has any negative emotions, dwelling in them, in anxiety, is clearly not the best path for a healthy, whole, productive life.

Here are three ways that can help you cultivate your spirit, when incorporated into your daily routine. I believe these tactics can serve as real spiritual touchstones — helping to manage some of the stress and turbulence we encounter along the way in our journey.

1. Bring appreciation home.

My husband and I use this incredibly grounding practice whenever we feel the pressures of life begin to mount. We simply tell each other what we appreciate about one another. It’s that simple! Usually it is something small, but the results of this practice are huge at the same time. Or maybe he makes my coffee in the morning, or I make him a lunch. Whatever it is, it is a moment to be thankful and show or tell someone in your home how much you appreciate them. Gratitude has the power to shift the mood toward more meaningful.

2. Sit still.

At some point in your day — it doesn’t matter when — just sit. And without trying too hard to fix your posture, set yourself up (with props if you like) so that your body is supported well, and just close your eyes. Focus on your breath and allow it to be full but very soft. Allow your brain to quiet down, encouraging the mind to silence itself, as all the thought waves begin to settle. As you inhale, you can mentally repeat “let” and as you exhale, mentally repeat “go.”

As Stephen Cope says in Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, “Clear seeing needs the calmly abiding self.”

3. Reflect on the meaning of “Namaste.”

When you really think about it, the true meaning of Namaste: “The spirit in me greets the spirit in you” is rather deep and enriching on many levels. I don’t sign emails with it generally, but I do believe it is a great tool to cultivate kindness, especially in your relationships, and that, to me is the very basis for everyday spirituality.

Photo Credit: Stocksy

Yoga In the Subway

Yoga in the subway: I was just sent a link to this article, with lots of pretty cool photos of people in yoga poses in the subway. I think it is very creative, though the subways are pretty dirty and I would not want to put my mat down let alone my hands for a handstand. When I take the subway, I usually just focus on being mindful of my surroundings and my breathing and that is sufficient for me.

The byline for the article is : Are Yoga Enthusiasts The New Acrobats (you can read it by clicking HERE). As with any topic, there are many perspectives, and, I sometimes am inspired to move into a pose outdoors so I am in no place to judge. In the article, they say,  “on one level, it’s pretty impressive (and perhaps even inspiring) to see all these flexible people strutting their stuff on subway cars.”  On the other hand, it does border on “attention-seeking”.

yoga is apractice

I suggest we come back to the origins and spirit of Yoga for a moment, and just reflect that “Yoga is a Practice Not a Performance” so maybe “yoga in the subway” is like performance art…Weigh in.

Yoga – levels?

By Rana Waxman
July 11, 2013 4:00 AM EDT
I recently dropped in on a yoga class, which I later found out was a Level 4. Typically I don’t just “drop in,” but I’m new in town and seeking a yoga community. After telling the receptionist that I’ve been a teacher for more than 20 years, she circled a few classes, including the Level 4.Well, I ended up doing “sit-on-my-asana” for most of the class. Some of the flow was too fast to do with proper form and alignment, let alone a calm breath. After the teacher tried to adjust me without my permission into a variation of cobra pose (Bhujangasana) that would have destabilized my sacroiliac joint, and then went on to do another five backbends without, in my opinion, enough warm up, I exited the scene. Namaste.

The receptionist asked me what was up, and when I told her I felt uncomfortable, she said; “Well, it is an advanced class.”

For a moment, her comment made me feel badly about my practice, like I wasn’t bendy enough. I always approach the mat with a beginner’s mind, but as a teacher, it’s hard to put aside a sense of responsibility for staying safe, in tune with breath and sensation, while accepting the challenge to grow.

Two decades ago, I was sitting with my teacher and announced that I wanted to advance in yoga. He just smiled and talked about how the goal of yoga was a calm mind, and a wholehearted approach to life.

So here are the 3 things I reminded myself about getting better in yoga:

1. Yoga isn’t about chasing a level, it’s about being present where you are. 

For me, in this case, listening to my body showed me I had learned to honor myself rather than disrespect my limitations, which can fluctuate.

2. It is more personal than physical. 

Not all poses are suitable for everyone, or at least, should be modified so their needs are met. For some people “Level 4” challenges are not realistic; they are still learning and have nothing to feel bad or guilty about if that doesn’t change. Challenge is relative and that is the only constant truth about that.

3. In yoga, every stage is a stepping stone. 

You know where you are, where you have been, and where you are headed, and every stage is a stepping stone, even in asana, it is all organic.

Yes, students: be realistic and listen to studio guidelines!

Studios: give extremely accurate descriptions of your classes so students know exactly what they are getting. Ultimately though, do not let anyone define yoga as if it was an audition for the Cirque Du Soleil. Advancement is internal, ultimately, and happens to us in a unique and individual way.

Photo Credit:

Going With the Flow

my yogaRecently published on Cafe Truth

I was recently sent the question; “What do you think of vinyasa?”…Those of you who know me by now are probably laughing, “that’s it, here she goes, it’s never a one word answer, it’s always a blog post!” Correct! It is certainly a layered subject.  Phases of the moon, sunrise/sunset, the flow of seasons, a flower blossoming, birthdays…these all reflect underlying patterns of fluidity and transformation in Nature. One of the grandfather teachers of yoga,  T.K.V. Desicachar, writes, “Vinyasa is, I believe, is one of the richest concepts to emerge from yoga for the successful conduct of our actions and relationships”.  I agree.

The word “Vinyasa” is a derivative of the Sanskrit term, nyasa, which means “to place” and the prefix, vi, which means “in a special way”. Musicians will relate to this, as the sequencing of notes forms a melody. Yet another meaning of vinyasa in the Yoga teaching world, relates to sequencing of postures which needs to be carefully planned to properly ensure students are warmed up for challenging poses, then move through a counter pose and then rested for integration.  In this way, vinyasa teaches us to cultivate an awareness of one action linking to the next, both on and off the yoga mat, a meditation in motion.


Vinyasa as a style of yoga is basically a class that continues to flow, and many of these are based on Sun Salutations.  You do not always get a chance to deepen into a pose or learn all the foundational skills required, because one posture moves into the next, flowing hopefully with a strong connection to one’s breath. If done without this crucial link, it just becomes a sport, and plays into the modern day need for an adrenalin rush. Yoga is a system not a sport.


As a  Yoga Therapist,  I assess the needs of a student, and choose a progressive approach towards meeting these needs, so vinyasa as sequencing can include different components:  it is a way to warm up the body in specific ways, to learn the skills required in the postures I am going to be including  in the session.  To me, vinyasa is not equal to sun salutations, there are many different sequences that can be utilized.  Vinyasa should not be a one size fits all.  I also hold postures with support, to build strength, teach the body kinetic skills and alignment that will improve posture and challenge one to maintain a calm breath and deep focus while all this is happening.  It helps to wake up the body’s sluggish or stagnant or underworked zones.  I like restoratives, again, with support, to calm the body’s overworked areas.  My vinyasa, in other words, is a flowing sequence but the flow allows me to stop, look inside, and listen…in addition to strengthen, tone, build strength, relax.


To understand the concept of a one-breath per movement vinyasa, here is a little sequence to try now:

1.  Sit tall, bring hands in front of chest to prayer pose.

2.  Inhale as you stretch your arms up, come to about 10% above shoulder height, turn the palms up, reach up to parallel.

3.  Exhale, bring the arms back to prayer pose 10-15 times.


This simple exercise shows you how there is a mindfulness built into our little flow.  Also, how when you use your breath, you get absorbed in a steady stream of consciousness (flow).


Foundational to the system of Yoga, is that vinyasa, or “artful sequencing” as Shiva Rea calls it, is intended to apply to our daily life as well. Whether this means something simple as brushing your teeth after a meal, setting up your appointments so you have scheduled some time for your own peacefulness, saying “thank you” to someone for cooking you the perfect dinner, “job well done!’ after your team completes a project at work. The approach of the practice of vinyasa is to honor each of the stages and understand how each step builds a foundation for the next one.  Preparedness and mindfulness go hand in hand.  Consistent Yoga practice builds this in your consciousness, and evolves it in your life, the way a seed grows, forming roots, into a tall tree.

You can’t take the next step before being aware of where you are starting from, so every action plan begins with this question.  This is what I would ask the man who sent me the email.  What is your physical, mental, emotional starting point?  Then, be open to the honest answers that are generated from your own inner guidance system.  This will help you create an action plan, your vinyasa, for wellness – on or off, the yoga mat.

Om shanty, shanty, shanty

Photo credit: Rana Waxman



RanaWaxmanMeet the Author: Rana Waxman

Rana Waxman is a registered Yoga Therapist.  Her own love of Yoga began in the late 1990’s and she has been teaching ever since.  Rana’s extensive background in somatics and practice as a licensed massage therapist, have earned her the nickname “the muscle whisperer”.  She is well-known in her home city, Montreal, as being a pioneer of bilingual Yoga TV, with her show, “Yoga Chez Vous” which translates to “Yoga At Your Home”.  Rana believes that Yoga is a system which is accessible to everyone, although not a one-size fits all practice.  Her specialty is seeing the unique needs of each individual and tailoring the yoga practices that will help empower her students to lead meaningful lives off the mat.  Rana is a regular contributor to MindBodyGreen, Greenster and Elephant Journal, and CaféTruth and is often called the “Modern Yogini”.  Her inspired style blends, vinyasa, kinetic skills, alignment and restorative work.  Rana sees and teaches Yoga as an unfolding meditation in motion, leading to improved performance, posture, and peaceful positivity
February 12, 2013 |