Asteya: Yoga’s Answer to Hungry Ghost Syndrome

I met a hungry ghost at a dinner party. I know the type, but had never met one who was so far gone. We had an eye opening conversation that got me thinking.

The concept of hungry ghosts comes from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese folklore. Hungry ghosts are lost souls, often depicted as having long, thin necks and huge swollen abdomens. According to tradition, evil deeds such as killing, stealing and sexual misconduct lead to becoming a hungry ghost.

“Defined by a fusion of rage and desire, tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding impossible satisfactions, hungry ghosts are condemned to inhabit shadowy and dismal places in the realm of the living. Their specific hunger varies according to their past karma and the sins they are atoning for. Some can eat but find it impossible to find food or drink. Others may find food and drink, but have pinhole mouths and cannot swallow. For others, food bursts into flames or rots even as they devour it.” – Hungry Ghosts: their History and Origin

This person was a living embodiment of the hungry ghost archetype. I soon realized that I was talking to a black hole of self-despair. I tried helping her but after a few attempts she became hostile so I let it go…

At the end of the night she had a flashback to a past trauma (poverty and starvation). She kept repeating:

“I was so hungry.”

One way she chose to deal with this was by directing her anger at the wealthy class. People she had never met or had any direct contact with. In her mind taxation was the solution to wealth inequality. She admitted that she lives beyond her means and has significant debt.

The interaction left me feeling drained and unsettled. One way I handle troubling situations is through research and contemplation (Jnana Yoga). My reflections led me back to the third Yama of Ashtanga Yoga: Asteya.

The Yamas are the universal ethical practices of yoga. Paired with the Niyamas (observances) these moral restraints form the foundation of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

Asteya means non-stealing. One could say that stealing is a response to a sense of powerlessness which stems from feelings of not being enough.

In this context, stealing extends beyond more obvious forms of theft (examples: pick pocketing, burglary, etc.). Stealing may also include:

  • Other people’s ideas
  • Disregarding personal boundaries
  • Having an envious state of mind
  • Taking up a person’s time or attention
  • Energy (succubi/incubi)
One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling ‘drained; and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. – The Psychopath: The Mask of Sanity

She had what I would call a hungry ghost syndrome. Somewhere along the way these people lose their connection to their personal power. It may be a result of abuse, resulting in any number of dependencies.

Asteya is a reminder that we are enough. Learning how to cultivate personal power is an excellent way to reverse hungry ghost syndrome. Building our energy reserves allows us to feel balanced, strong and healthy when we go out in the world.

Some ways to do this include: meditation, taking care of your body, self-love, and alone time. In my Intro to Pranayama course I teach people how to access their own complete, full source of energy.

Final thought from the Yoga Sutras:

Once non-stealing has been permanently established, all riches will be available.

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Practice, Practice, Practice Alone

Superhuman Healthcare – CranioSacral Therapy

This Independence Day I found new freedom in my body. I was blessed with an amazing gift of a CranioSacral treatment. It rocked my world, to say the least…

It’s been ten years since my last CranioSacral treatment. I can remember feeling very relaxed but was unaware of the subtle effects.

My awareness of my body is very different now. Meditation has played a big role in that. During this treatment I had a much better understanding and appreciation of the internal effects.

What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on treatment of the whole body. This method uses light, still touch to guide the body and nervous system into balance.

Sheila Hennessey is a licensed massage therapist and CranioSacral specialist. She provides treatments in Parker and sees private clients. She is a registered therapist with the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. From their website:

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists understand how an optimally functioning healthy nervous system performs.  We are trained for years on how to use acute perception skills to perceive subtle physiological changes.  We also are aware of the energetic map that underlies one’s basic health and symptomology.  We believe that health is never lost no matter what the ailment.

What happened?

To say it was very relaxing would be an understatement. My nervous system had been on overdrive for months, from moving amidst a series of life challenges.

As the stress-induced body armor melted from the heat of the Bio-Mat I entered a parasympathetic state. This allowed my body to begin the healing process. With Sheila’s expert touch and gentle guidance the layers of tension began to dissolve.

A few highlights from this session:

  • Subtle shifts and tingling sensations in my body.
  • The healing effect on my neck.
  • Sweating and detoxifying.

Afterwards I felt very light and balanced. My alignment and posture improved a great deal. I felt calmer and more comfortable in my whole being. I enjoyed this enhanced state for days on end.

I recommend this therapy to anyone who practices yoga and meditation. Not only is it phenomenal for relieving the effects of prolonged stress, it does wonders for the central axis of the spine. This gentle process can also help expedite the development of the mind-body connection.

If you are considering CranioSacral treatment, I highly recommend you contact Sheila.

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Sensory Deprivation Tanks – Pratyahara for Modern Day Life

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Sensory Deprivation Tanks – Pratyahara for Modern Day Life

Finally!

I’ve wanted to try a sensory deprivation tank for years. It’s been on my bucket list after hearing friends swear by them.

As luck would have it, Parker is home to the largest float spa in Colorado. I was delighted to find a Groupon deal for a 90 minute session at the Astral Float Spa.

…invented by John Lilly back in 1954, it is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. The tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine. The best thing you can do for your mind, body and soul. The only environment like it is in space or back in the womb. – Astral Float Spa

DEETS

  • The interior of the tank is about 4′ wide by 8′ long.
  • The water is approximately 10″ deep.
  • Each tank contains 800 pounds of dissolved medical grade Epsom salt.
  • The high salt content gives the water a soft and silky consistency.

So why would anyone do this? Modern day living has many people feeling desperate for relief. Our senses are bombarded constantly. The need to unplug is strong but few of us are able to get off-grid.

Sensory deprivation tanks can be an oasis for an over-stimulated nervous system. Modern day yogis can use them for practicing pratayahara, (sensory withdrawal) the fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight-fold path. According to Yogapedia:

Pratyahara is considered important in yoga because it forms a bridge between the external focus of the previous limbs of yoga and the internal focus of the subsequent limbs, which move the practitioner into concentration, meditation and, eventually, to the goal of samadhi (union with the Divine).

Fear Factor

To be honest I was a little apprehensive. Mild claustrophobia and concerns of being too cold crossed my mind. I wasn’t about to let fear stop me so I worked through my reservations.

This may sound morbid, but we all die eventually. I figured that a 90 minute savasana was a good way to practice for the big event. That’s what “Corpse Pose” is for anyway.

My fears dissolved the moment I stepped into the tank. The darkness was inviting and the water temperature was comfortable. The parts of my body that were exposed to the air were surprisingly warm.

Effortless Floating

The high concentration of Epsom salt made my body super-buoyant. I positioned myself in the center of the tank and moved into stillness. The only sensory input was from occasional contact with the walls or a random droplet of condensation.

I focused on my breathing and started to relax. Knots of tension began to unravel. First my sacrum, then my right femur, left shoulder, fingertips…

As the layers of modern day body armor began to melt a wave of sadness rose up my back (the storehouse of past memories). Much like the effect of healing bodywork, floating helped me release some grief.

Once the daily headlines and life soundtrack ran their course, past memories of floating began to surface. These dreamlike images of swimming or soaking all shared a similar feeling of freedom. I drifted farther into a state of bliss when all of a sudden…

BLAM

With uncanny precision, a single water droplet exploded between my eyebrows. Chinese Water Torture on my third eye. A current of awareness traveled up my forehead and the crown of my head began to pulsate.

After an hour of stillness I wanted to move again. I discovered that when I secured my heels against the floor I could slide back and forth, creating wave patterns with my spine. My joints cracked open as my hair floated around me like long strands of seaweed.

Aftermath

Afterwards I felt hypersensitive, similar to the effects of a two hour yoga practice. I felt disoriented, vulnerable, and eager to retreat from the world. I wasn’t so sure about the whole operating a motor vehicle thing, but I drove myself home.

If you ever want to try a sensory deprivation tank, my advice would be to arrange for someone to pick you up. Also be sure to go when the weather is warm. Best to avoid going into the cold with open pores or a wet head. Stay healthy!

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Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie

I’ve had slow-cooked foods on the brain lately: French onion soup, barbecued ribs and pecan pie. Slow-cooked foods are ideal in the winter and when my body is craving certain foods, I listen.

I’ve wanted to make a pecan pie for ten years. My inspiration came from the Shoshoni Yoga cookbook, which I discovered after a day trip to the Rollinsville, Colorado center.

Even more outstanding than the high frequency of the beautiful mountain ashram or the gentle yoga class was the food…

The yoga class was held in the main hall next to the kitchen where I could hear the cooks chanting mantras (mantra: to protect).

The summer meal consisted of Mexican vegetable soup, salad with avocado dressing, and sopapillas with refried beans and cheese. I felt so nourished from eating these foods and left wanting to know more.

I studied every page of that cookbook. All great recipes (especially the desserts section) but the pecan pie was the most impressive. Why?

They use maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

I didn’t know you could substitute the two. Corn syrup is a standard ingredient in pecan pie. It’s also one of the sweeteners that I avoid.

Maple syrup is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. Combined with pecans’ massive health benefits this dessert is a phenomenal superfood.

“One saintly Ma from Bangalore tells us, “We need to eat a little sweet on occasion, so we stay sweet.” – Yoga Kitchen: Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

I’d been hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to do it. I didn’t want to mess up or waste good ingredients. But after a two week Personal Yoga retreat I felt more courageous and aware of my body’s messages.

It became clear that I needed more information. So I did some research which led me to this recipe. It’s similar to Shoshoni’s version and has more detailed instructions.

A Personal Spin

I used pre-shelled pecan pieces (slow food is great but ain’t nobody got time to shell 2 1/2 cups of pecans) and added a little nitrate-free bacon fat to the pie dough (bacon fat prevents the crust from burning). You could go straight butter – just keep an eye on the edges. [Is Lard Healthy?]

Maple Pecan Pie

Prep: 8 hours or overnight

Servings: 8

One 9″ Pie Crust

  • 3/4 cup white flour, chilled
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, chilled
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbsp butter, chilled
  • 3 Tbsp bacon fat, chilled
  • 4-6 Tbsp ice water

Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecan pieces
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Prepare the Crust

  1. In a food processor pulse to combine the flours and salt. Add chilled butter and fat and process until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add 4 Tbsp ice water and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. Add 1-2 additional Tbsp of water if needed.
  2. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper. Form dough into a round disk, handling as little as possible. Wrap dough in parchment paper and place in a sealed ziplock bag. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer to a 9″ pie plate. Press rolled dough to fit pie plate. Shape edges into a fluted or decorative design of your choice.
  4. Chill crust for 30 minutes.
  5. Line pie crust with parchment paper and dry rice or pie weights. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove paper and weights.

Filling

  1. Prepare the filling while the pie crust is baking. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add maple syrup, vanilla, and Bourbon.
  2. Stir in the toasted pecan pieces. Option: to infuse the pecans add them to the vanilla-syrup while they are still hot. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the three eggs. Stir into pecan mixture in three additions.

Pour filling into hot, pre-baked pie crust. Reduce heat to 275 degrees. Bake pie for 20-40 minutes. I recommend reading the Bojon Gourmet’s article for how to determine when the pie is done.

Let the pie cool completely and refrigerate. One hour before serving cut into slices and bring to room temperature.

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Personal Yoga Discount $

Personal Yoga Discount

 

Personal Yoga sessions are a worthwhile investment because of their effectiveness and numerous benefits.

A great way to receive the same results at a fraction of the cost is to become a research client!

As a research client, you will receive the same training program as other clients at a discount. You may be asked to:

  • Fill out pre or post session assessments
  • Participate in photo or video documentation
  • Spend a few minutes being interviewed about your progress

Your anonymity is assured, just like every private client.

Becoming a research client is a great way to help others while gaining valuable insight about your own progress.

Research clients save 25% or more off the normal session rate. Reap the rewards of Personal Yoga training at an amazing discount!

If you’re ready to commit to your health and contribute to other people’s wellbeing contact Emily today.

Yoga WOW

Emily Seymour Yoga WOW

Long-term consistency trumps short term intensity. – Bruce Lee

Have you ever wanted to try a yoga class but wasn’t sure if you’d like it? Or maybe you held back in a challenging vinyasa class because you didn’t want to burn out? Ever wish you could take a yoga class that gave you a road map to follow?

Enter the WOW. I’m pleased to announce that I’m rolling out a brand new class series this summer. The Yoga WOW (Workout of the Week) is a customized class that I’ve designed for Integrate CrossFit in Salida, Colorado. Inspired by the CrossFit WOD model, this class is great for yogis and CrossFitters alike.

Yoga WOW is not a typical gym-yoga class. If you’ve ever seen a CrossFit facility you know that it isn’t an average gym. While gym-yoga classes tend to be promoted as a supplement to other exercise routines, Yoga WOW is designed to support you with creating your own yoga practice!

What happens in a Yoga WOW? Each class is one hour long. Students arrive a little before the class starts and begin warming themselves up. We’ll chat for a few minutes about the WOW list of exercises. The list is posted in the gym and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts for students who want to do their own Home WOW. Each month has its own theme that focuses on a primary category of poses. There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to yoga, so this class includes plenty of variations to choose from. The general class structure includes:

  • 5 mins Warm ups/Introductions
  • 5 mins breathing
  • 15 mins sun salutations
  • 15 mins WOW poses
    • Peak Pose of the Week
  • 5 mins cool down
  • 5 mins corpse pose
  • 5 mins meditation

The goal of Yoga WOW is to give students a basic outline of a personal practice. Once they get familiar with the format they can start playing with variations and designing their own sequences. Over time a personal practice becomes a choose your own adventure experience!

Want to learn more about designing your own Yoga WOW? Book a FREE no-obligation consultation today. 

Park Gym Mandala

Park Gym
Photo courtesy of Bodybuilding.com

So I recently discovered this amazing park gym in Boise, Idaho…

The Bodybuilding.com Park Gym at Ann Morrison Park is made up of 15 pieces of durable new fitness equipment installed on a 1,400-square-foot pad. Use of the equipment, which is accessible year round, is free to the public.

If you’re not sure how to use all of the pieces of equipment, you can follow the detailed, step-by-step instructions that are posted at the entrance. (Self Teacher Training note: you can also devise your own ways to use the equipment.) 

I’ve seen outdoor gyms before, but I really liked this one because it’s circular and because it’s designated for adults and children (14+). Why is this so awesome? Outdoor training season has officially started, so it’s probably a good time to discuss a common stereotype about adults using playgrounds. 

During the warm months I like to practice in parks and playgrounds. They’re great for Mind Body Parkour and exercising in nature does wonders for the spirit. Most of the adults are enjoying time with their children and my interactions with them are positive. But every once in a while I’ll encounter some resistance.

I could tell you stories…

There’s a fraction of the population that doesn’t support the idea of adults using playgrounds for exercise. I see this as being due in part to the a large number of Americans who’ve fallen prey to the Spectator Epidemic. Meaning, they tend to be passive observers about exercise which is a big problem in our culture. In this video of Chinese seniors, you’ll see that their culture is completely supportive of adults exercising in parks.

So I’m even more appreciative of parks that cater to adults who want to work out. When you consider that obesity rates in America are among the highest in the world, with two out of every three Americans being obese or overweight, it’s quite obvious that we have an exercise shortage in our country. According to Wikipedia:

Obesity has led to over 120,000 preventable deaths each year in the United States. An obese person in America is likely to incur $1,497 more in medical expenses annually. Approximately $190 billion is spent in added medical expenses per year within the United States. Obesity is a preventable condition that has been increasing within the United States. Health authorities anticipate no change to this vector.

What is needed in order to bring about this change is a shift to the public’s perception about integrating exercise with lifestyle. Television is the primary obstacle, as it breeds passivity and creates a mind-body disconnect. It also prevents many people from perceiving their homes as viable places for exercise.

A good starting point in beginning the process of lifestyle rehabilitation is to use your local park for routine exercise. It’s free and easy to access (for the most part). By doing this you’re helping yourself as well as helping to shift the collective consciousness.

Want to learn more about developing your own park gym routine? Book a FREE no-obligation consultation today.

Get Your Evolution On

Sri Aurobindo Superman Evolution

With the recent release of the new action film Lucy it seems fitting to discuss the controversial topic of superhumans. As a small disclaimer, this subject requires the willingness to go beyond what some might consider to be a “rational” thought process. By all means, I encourage you to exercise your discernment muscles. But I will say that it helps to approach yoga philosophy with an open mind…

There are many different kinds of superhumans which can essentially be divided into two categories-natural and artificial. According to Wikipedia, “A super race is a future race of improved humans that is proposed to be created from present-day human beings by deploying various means such as eugenics, genetic-engineering, yoga, nanotechnology, and/or brain-computer interfacing to accelerate the process of human evolution.”

The branch of superhuman development that involves yogic technologies is part of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga:

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) developed a system of yoga called Integral yoga to transform selected humans into a new super race called the Supermen that would have a fully and permanently awakened kundalini and thus become siddhas with various siddhis (paranormal powers) such as the ability to observe chakras and auras with the third eye, to travel by astral travel at will, to be able to subsist adequately with full bodily functions on small amounts of vegetarian food, to go long periods without sleep, to communicate by telepathy and to levitate. The function of this new super race would not be to dominate others but to lead humanity toward world peace. – Wikipedia

Paranormal powers without the use of drugs, surgery or technology might sound more like fantasy than science fiction. Social conditioning based on the 300-year old system of Western science has made it difficult to comprehend such things. No matter what your belief system may be remember that there is no one-size-fits-all method to learning. I recommend that you use what works and leave the rest. Personally, I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the ultimate superhuman diet.

The science of yoga is designed to assist with paranormal evolution. The siddhis are part of the journey but they are not the end result. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work but ultimately the Slow Path is the best way. While the quick fix of hotwiring our brains and bodies into an artificial state of advanced evolution may seem tempting, it is unlikely that these future technologies will be available to anyone but the super-elite. And if by some slim chance they were available to the general public I wouldn’t trust them. The potentially damaging effects to the subtle body isn’t worth the risk.

What do you think about super-humanism? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

The Skinny on Skin Care

Emily Seymour yoga skin care
The warm weather is here! And with that comes the gradual shedding of layers, swapping flip flops for shoes, and increasing our Vitamin D intake. As with any seasonal transition it’s a good idea to give ourselves time to adjust our lifestyle patterns accordingly.

Body care is one of the many aspects of a balanced home practice regimen. Just like you might want to give your car a routine waxing it’s a good idea to give your body “vehicle” a good skin care treatment. Especially if you’re anticipating spending more time in the great outdoors.

While there are some purists who won’t practice yoga in the sunshine, I absolutely LOVE practicing outside. But there’s just nothing fun about sunburns. I’ve gotten my share of “tomato-face” syndrome from practicing during peak hours (10am – 4pm) so my advice is avoid sun exposure during that time.

Twilight is my favorite time to practice outside – the sun isn’t too intense so you don’t really need to use sunblock. But if you’re a die-hard sunblock user I recommend reading What You Need to Know Before You Ever Buy Sunscreen Again.

If you like to play with making your own body care items, I recommend reading Adventures in DIY Products. It was written by my friend Mandy who makes her own sunscreen using aloe and coconut oil. I absolutely love using coconut oil on my skin. Whenever I’m cooking with coconut oil I’ll take a little and rub it into my arms, elbows and hands. Here’s a quick overview of the many benefits of coconut oil:

  • Hydrates and conditions the skin
  • Clears away dirt, grime, and flaking skin cells
  • Has antibacterial properties
  • Soothes bug bites
  • Helps with rashes
  • Softens and shrinks wrinkles
  • Protects against skin damage
  • Prolongs tans
  • Prevents cellular aging
  • Can be used to remove make-up easily
  • Is a great massage oil

In addition to protecting our skin externally we can also nourish our skin by eating certain foods. Dark chocolate contains a high level of antioxidants which protects the skin from sunburn and cancer. The carotenes in apricots, papaya, mango, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets all help to reduce the negative effects of UVB radiation.

Staying hydrated is key. Drinking plenty of room temperature water creates a natural moisture factor which protects the skin. After spending time outside it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of fluids so as to prevent dehydration.

How do you care for your skin during the warmer months? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below:

A Taste of Divinity – Raw Cacao

Practice Create Repeat

For just a moment ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the BEST that you’ve ever felt?
  • Where were you at the time?
  • How old were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you alone or with someone?
  • Did this happen more than once?

Just sit with these questions for a minute and see what comes up. Now ask yourself:

  • Could you create this state again?
  • What would it take to replicate it?
  • What (if anything) is keeping you from feeling this way now?
  • How might you take this experience to the next level?

I’m asking these questions because they relate to my mission as a yoga teacher. For the past thirteen years I’ve been focusing on my personal evolution. My body is the healthiest it’s ever been. I’m committed to eating the most beautiful food, moving in ways that I enjoy and living a low-stress lifestyle. I am free from scoliosis-related back pain. My mind is calmer, clearer and more creative than ever before. I am learning so much and I am more in love every day.

My goal is to help people learn how to do this for themselves.

Life is not easy. We face countless challenges and seemingly endless distractions. Thankfully there are some simple ways to create heightened experiences on a regular basis. One way to do this is by cultivating a personal practice. In my humble opinion this is the BEST thing that we can do for ourselves. A personal practice is an amazing tool that helps us connect with our highest Selves – our creativity, divinity, sovereignty – call it what you will.

When you treat your body like the temple that it is you elevate your life.

If a daily yoga practice seems overwhelming to you, not to worry. There are plenty of ways to administer self-care. I suggest that you start small by picking ONE healthy habit that you can do on a daily basis, such as drinking lemon water or eating one superfood every day. A superfood is a food that is extraordinarily good for your health.

One of my favorite superfoods is raw cacao. The botanical name Theobroma cacao means “Food of the Gods.” Raw cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. It contains three natural mood enhancers which make you feel like you’re in love. The health benefits of raw cacao are far more powerful than conventional chocolate.

Raw Cacao:

  • Aids in weight loss
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Is high in antioxidants
  • Enhances mood
  • Contains essential minerals and vitamins
  • Improves brain function
  • Promotes heart health
  • Is an aphrodisiac

I have a little side project called Amaroons. I make handcrafted macaroons with raw cacao powder, coconut, almonds, maple syrup, vanilla and Himalayan sea salt.

Amaroons make a wonderful gift!

I’m happy to announce that my Etsy shop is open for the holidays.

Your purchase supports my independent small-business and will help to expand my operation. Thank you for your support.

Amaroons Raw Cacao Superfood Macaroons
Amaroons – Raw Chocolate Macaroons