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What to Expect in an Ananda Yoga & Meditation Class

I was trained in a small village in the very rural foothills of Northern California at a magical place called The Ananda School of Yoga & Meditation. I return back about once every year to further my knowledge for not only the classes I teach but for myself.

I started out VERY strict with myself. I followed the “Ananda way” for the first 3 years after attending my school the first time. Over the last couple of years I have started to recognize that an extreme of anything is often detrimental to the initial intention. My intention with learning and teaching yoga was to understand myself better and to understand the world around me in its truest form. I am at a place where I no longer strictly focus on the way I thought yoga had to be done, but instead I focus on my experience of each aspect of my practice and what my body and mind are asking me to do. What I mean by this is that if I feel like connecting two poses together (not the traditional “Ananda way”) as a flow, or if I feel like reconstructing the sequence other than how it was originally taught to me, that all of this is ok. The focus is not how¬†I complete my practice. The focus is that I quiet my mind from these worldly distractions and practice being in my own stillness, my own ¬†space.

My practice is still evolving and I am proud of whatever form it takes. I am grateful to have the ability to share this experience with others and I’d like to go deeper into the traditional ways of Ananda Yoga. This sequence below is the way I was taught to formulate my personal practice sessions and classes that I taught. I appreciate its power immensely.

  1. The Energization Exercises: This is a series of 39 exercises used to physically warm-up the body and energetically to experience the body as energy.
  2. Asanas: Asana refers to the physical yoga postures commonly known from most westernized yoga classes. These postures usually include one of each of the following: a balancing pose, a forward fold (flexion of the spine), a backward bend (extension of the spine, a twist reflecting on each side, and a lateral movement of the spine reflecting on each side (side-to-side). I was taught that the most energetically beneficial way of sequencing is to start with a balancing pose, move through a forward fold, twist, and lateral movement to open the spine, and a backward bend to energize the spine and to draw energy towards the brain. Drawing energy towards the brain is said to benefit one in meditation as it takes much focus and energy. In Ananda Yoga, each posture has its own affirmation that is to be repeated by the practitioner. Traditionally, there is a short period of time between postures where one practices a “mini-meditation”. This is a time to focus on one’s experience of the previous pose on both body and mind.
  3. Deep Relaxation: This is also known as Savasana or corpse pose. I have heard many times that this is a favorite. In Savasana we practice stillness while resting the body in its anatomical position lying supinated, or on our backs. This is a time to rest the body, but not the mind. In Savasana try to keep your gaze gently lifted, this will help to keep you awake. For beginners and intermediate levels it is beneficial to have a guide during Savasana. Your teacher may use poetry, visualizations, readings or additional methods for you to keep your attention on. Try to keep your energy in the body, moving upwards towards the brain. Utilize your breath. One of my teachers at yoga school told me to be cautious when entering into Savasana as many people release their hard-earned energy out of the body as they lay down. This is probably due to the body position and its relation to how we sleep. Habits die hard.
  4. Meditation: Traditionally in Ananda Yoga meditation contains 2 preliminary techniques, a practice of releasing the breath, a mantra and finally time to enjoy our cultivated stillness. This is done with the Hong Sau technique. Hong, meaning “I am” and Sau, meaning, “Spirit”. This mantra is used to help one connect with our true essence.

So there you have it. The traditional way of practicing Ananda Yoga. I utilize this in my personal practice frequently. I am grateful that I am no longer so hard on myself about always practicing and teaching in this format. It is beneficial to both me and my students that there is a level of freedom and creativity in the practice of Yoga.

-Namaste Soul-Friends

The Matrix vs. True Reality

I only recently returned from the Ananda School of Yoga and Meditation in Nevada City, CA. This was my third time attending the retreat center and school. I took classes on Advanced Pranayama (Advanced Breathing Techniques) and classes on how to teach Restorative Yoga. As it always seems to be, it was a magical experience. I feel like this place is the charging port to my spiritual battery. I discovered new insights, personal lessons, and tons of techniques to share in classes!
As I was preparing to leave the Ananda School of Yoga and Meditation one of my teachers, Gyandev, said to me, “Emily, you must enter back into the Matrix. Remember, out their is the matrix. A world of delusion and human emotions. Here, this is reality.”
This really resonates with me. I would like to add that I feel that I hold the magical place of Ananda Village within me. I return to it with every meditation or moment of true awareness. Inside of you, when you experience that place of Peace, that is reality. This physical world, the world “out there” is the matrix. Don’t be fooled by the filters of the matrix. The filters of human emotions are not who we are. They may trick our current experience and we may feel them in the body or brain, but who we truly are is that Peace, Joy, and Love. That stillness in meditation. The joy or love you feel with your family, partner, or dearest friends. That shared experience of a divine quality. That is our true essence peaking through. That is who you truly are.
In times of woe, desperation, greed, addiction, or heartache know that that is NOT who you are. That is the matrix of this outside world dizzying your Truth. We are all the light or energy that is invisible moving around us. Feel it move within your body as you breath, feel it captivate you, inspire you as it moves in the sound waves of music. Feel acceptance in your heart that this body is the separating factor from your light and energy being absorbed into the bigger pool of light and energy. This body may have it’s magical moments and moments of pain, but it is not who you truly are. Acceptance of the bigger picture will awaken you to your True Reality.
If you would like to hear a different perspective on this matter by Paramhansa Yogananda click this link: https://youtu.be/RQoYRk3vgO8?t=3m10s
Blessings to you all,
Emily Basili

Positively Attuning Thoughts

Over the past weeks I have had a heightened awareness of the duality of positives and negatives. Being a duality both sides of this coin are equals in the value of the universe. In the post below I attempt to communicate my thoughts on the matter thus far. This is not a completed thought, but I wanted to share the bits I have formulated so far.

I feel that without knowing sadness I would not have the benefit of valuing happiness. Without financial hardship I would not value a dollar. Without illness I would not value good health. The list goes on. The obvious trait these examples give is that experiencing both sides of this coin allow one to see the entire coin and thus experience life more fully.

I do not believe that the duality must be experienced personally on both sides to develop this understanding. For example, a person who has only experienced loss or grieving through supporting others that are dealing with this can develop a value for the people in their life. It also seems that we naturally develop this understanding whether or not we are aware of it.

If illness is labeled as a negative, including the flu, a cold, viral and bacterial infections, or any other contagious illness then what is the duality of this? What else is contagious and seen as a positive? I find that when people are kind to me I want to share that kindness with someone else. When I feel inspired I want to share that inspiration with another. It seems to me that the other side of this contagious coin is kindness, inspiration, perhaps also, gratitude, and acceptance. If contagious illnesses take affect on the body then contagious positives take affect on the mind.

It is taught in Yoga philosophy, and some research shows, that having a positive outlook and positive self-talk can help to heal and rid the body and life of things we quantify as negative. Could it be that one step further is sharing that positivity with others? Sharing or spreading things like kindness, inspiration, gratitude, and acceptance. If one can build up their immune system to block illness can one also close themselves off to the contagious experience of the positive counterparts? That would then imply that one must be open to receive and experience someone else’s kindness, inspiration, gratitude, and acts of acceptance.

Being open to experiencing situations and each other allow us the opportunity to further experience ourselves. This opportunity of openness can also allow one to experience kindness, inspiration, gratitude, and acceptance, and thus, feel compelled to spread these qualities, and their like, to others.

I hope to further explore these ideas in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading and experiencing my thoughts.

Emily Basili

Returning From the Forest

A week ago I had the magical opportunity of sharing a walking meditation experience with the people of Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan. It was a delightful experience to share these teachings in such a setting.

EF MedWalk2

When I became certified (200-hr) back in 2015 I dreamed that one day I would get to share and teach in a festival setting. I daydreamed of that opportunity happening at one of my favorite festivals, Electric Forest (EF).

A few months ago I applied to the EF Brainery Workshop program. About a month later I was just getting off work when I received an email stating I had been chosen to give the workshop I had applied for. My heart dropped and then ascended quickly back up my body. I drew a breath in and felt it expanding into every part of my body and beyond. I had not gotten my hopes up about being chosen for this honor as there were, no doubt, many applicants all with brilliant ideas of what they could share with the Forest Family.

I ran across the street to where a friend was. We embraced and whispered into their ear, “I just received confirmation that I will be teaching a walking meditation at Electric Forest.” They was elated. My excitement was boiling within me but their’s was boiling in every direction!

The workshop gifted us with two tickets to the festival. We both put our requests in for time off and before we knew it the day came for us to make the 7 hour trek to the Forest.

The Walking Meditation Workshop was scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 am. This was like the Universe winking at me, because Sundays at 10:30 am is when I teach a weekly Ananda Yoga & Meditation class in Iowa City. What were the odds that I would be teaching at EF at the same time on the same day of the week!

We arrived on Thursday morning to set up camp and enjoy a few days of the festival before sharing the workshop experience. After checking in with the Brainery staff, receiving our wristbands, and a couple of security check points we were guided into the fields where thousands of people were setting up (and already enjoying) camp. Due to some miscommunication between one of the vehicles and the staff who was telling cars where to park they required the people in our row to reverse and reorient our vehicles closer together. There was some over-compensation in this movement and it left our vehicles with barely any room between them. Which meant we wouldn’t have that much room to set up our tents.

This year at the second weekend of Electric Forest there was a record heat wave for the event. With our tents staked on top of each other, the sun beating down, and no breeze sneaking through the walls of tent mass, to say we got hot does not begin to express the experience. This was my fourth time at EF, first time being involved with the Brainery. I have never experienced heat like that before, and I hope I never have to experience it again. There was no point where we weren’t sticky with sweat. The heat seemed to creep into our bodies and brains. It muted my senses. Even now, attempting to recall those first two days is difficult. I can’t seem to recollect the artists we saw, what we did during the day, or our neighbor’s names. The heat never ceased. Sleep was a drift between consciousness and only brief moments of sinking into those joyous places of subconsciousness. The sleep deprivation only added to the discomfort and delusion of the day.

By Saturday morning around 8 am we were both awake, sweaty, and miserable. We craved sleep but new it was nowhere near. We attempted to go to the waterpark near the festival grounds, but after enjoying the A/C of the building while waiting in line for 2 hours we decided to call around to see if there were any rooms available.

I have never stayed in a hotel during a festival before. I love camping during festivals and throughout the year. I usually don’t enjoy the effects of air conditioning and find hotels to be stuffy. We came to the hotel decision only after days of heat exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I have no regrets.

We did not enter the water park. As soon as we booked a hotel (30 minutes from the festival grounds) we headed back to tear down camp, load up and head to the place we knew we could rest our weary bodies. We slept, we ate, we even enjoyed the pool and hot tub at the hotel. After an hour worth of showers we drove back to the Forest to enjoy a show before hitting the duvet for a full nights sleep.

Sunday arrived and I can actually recall all parts of that day. We arrived to the Brainery tent an hour before the workshop. I centered and handed out fliers that gave a description of what attendees could expect.

To say the workshop went off without a hitch would be false, but I had the energy and centeredness to handle the workshop as it unfolded.

EF MedWalk3

I am so grateful to have had this experience at such a wonderful place with such open and gracious human beings. The heat was difficult, but shaped a unique Electric Forest experience I have never had before. I am grateful for every part of the experience. I hope to return in the future and continue to share the teachings of Ananda Yoga and Meditation.

 

To those who attended the workshop I hope it was a centering and peaceful experience for you. I hope you took the practice with you and gained an understanding of how you can use walking mediations in your every day life to develop qualities of awareness, even-mindedness, and observation.

 

Blessings to You All,

Emily Basili

Intermittent Fasting & My Personal Practice

I have been doing intermittent fasting for the last two months. I was introduced to the idea by a Yoga mentor and by one of my fitness mentors. I have been into personal fitness since High School. In college I received a bachelor’s degree in strength & conditioning and have since made fitness and nutrition a beloved hobby. I have never liked the idea of being on a diet or restricting myself from things that I love as long as I enjoy them in moderation and in a mentally healthy way.

Before I started intermittent fasting I was struggling with consistent meal times. In yoga school they recommend not eating before a personal practice of yoga or meditation. I do my personal practice when I wake up in the morning and before I.F. I always wanted to eat breakfast. If I didn’t eat breakfast I would find that my stomach would be painfully hungry by the time I sat to meditate. I often would finish my practice early because I was unable to get my mind off my hunger.

I do about one to two hours of personal practice in the mornings, but I no longer feel like I am controlled by my hunger. It’s been a beautiful difference actually. My work keeps me up until two or three in the morning sometimes. I try to eat my last meal around 8 pm. With intermittent fasting you don’t consume foods, or high amounts of caffeine for 16 hours and then consume all your daily calories and nutrition within a 4 to 8 hour period. This 4 to 8 hour period depends on how deep you want to get into I.F. I am happy with sticking to about 8 hours of eating. Within this 8 hour period I consume three meals and usually a cup of coffee and a lightly caffeinated cup of tea. I drink lots of water throughout the day along with herbal tea.

How do I feel? I am completely satisfied with Intermittent fasting. I sometimes have to remind myself to eat or to eat enough for my daily caloric intake. This is drastically different from how I was just two months ago. I no longer feel like I’m ruled by my hunger and I feel like I have more energy in my workouts and throughout my daily activities. My mood is improved and I rarely feel “hangry”. I feel like I have been getting better sleep and I have noticed a flatter lower tummy area. (This specific area, like many, has always been a tricky spot for me.)

Back to how this has effected my personal practice. Well, I no longer feel distracted by my hunger in meditation even after 13 or 14 hours of fasting! I no longer stress about eating breakfast or not. I still eat a sort of breakfast but not until noon. As for the meditations, it is hard to say if I.F. has had an effect on how “deep” or focused I am, but no longer being distracted by my growling tummy has been amazing!

I plan to continue with Intermittent Fasting as long as it agrees with my lifestyle. I love how I feel and how it has cultivated a healthy relationship between myself and food.

 

Blessings,

Emily Basili