New Age Yoga Practices

 

Years ago, it was not uncommon to hear friends say “I’m off to my hot yoga class;” but to hear them say, “I’m going to practice some goat yoga,” will likely make you say, “Wait – what? Did you just say goat yoga?” And it doesn’t stop there, yoga has expanded to such a point that you can add beer yoga, cliff-side yoga, aqua yoga, and even dog yoga (or Doga as it’s called) to that list. 

 

Yoga is a great exercise and practice for your mind, body, and spirit. So, it’s no wonder that we want to incorporate it with our other hobbies and interests. If you’re curious about some of these newer yoga styles but feel a bit unsure about what they entail, have no fear, let’s take a deeper look at what is involved in each. 





Goat Yoga

 

Essentially as it sounds; a newer craze where yogis bring their mat to a farm, lay it in the hay and –ahem – whatever else may be there and get their yoga on. Goats are free to roam around you and may decide to lie down beside you; or in some cases, jump up on you while you are holding your downward dog. 

 

What should you expect if you decide to try this style? You may be required to sign a liability release form. After all, goats aren’t known for being the most docile; and you might not like the smell which could become distracting. Goats are sometimes brought around to calm horses, so you can imagine that they may have the same effect on you. 

 

Beer Yoga

 

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is definitely one that I am interested in trying. Originating from Germany, this new yoga has come overseas and is likely here to stay. It incorporates yoga poses with the holding of a beer. Your mind is expected to focus on the beer that you are holding, even smelling it during the practice, all while gaining the essence of the beer.

 

Some may like the idea that a little alcohol helps remove their inhibitions, and makes them less shy and more likely to try new things – although the point is not to become intoxicated from this unique practice. The only requirement to practice this style of yoga is a valid proof of legal age. 

 

Cliff-Side Yoga

 

If you thought keeping your balance in half-moon was difficult, then I have a challenge for you. This style of yoga, popular in China, requires you not to be afraid of heights and be willing to push your yoga abilities to new limits. 

 

It can either be practiced on a clear platform that has been integrated into the cliff, or on tightropes with other ropes above to hold onto for better support. If you are the type of person who likes extreme sports – skydiving, bungee jumping, and the like – then this may just be the yoga challenge for you. 

 

Aqua Yoga

 

A little more on the mellow side, especially compared to cliff-side yoga, this style allows the yogi to perform his or her practice in the gentle surroundings of water. This helps create a low-impact exercise, as well as create buoyancy for your body since it relieves the strain on your joints while allowing you to strengthen your body. 

 

Dog Yoga 

 

This one is for the yoga lovers who also think the world of their dog. When one’s passion for animals and the passion for yoga come together, you get what is called, Doga. Many may have already experienced this type of yoga if they have practiced it at home with their favorite pet around, but this entails a little more interaction with their dog, like massaging them. 

 

Yoga with your dog may be distracting so it’s up to you if you’d prefer to keep the two separated from one another. Besides, you may feel that since you frequently experience this at home, then why would you bother to pay for a class that involves the same thing. 

 

Whatever the style of yoga you prefer, it’s nice to know that more people are willing to try it because of the new angles that are being put on it. If you are a yogi who prefers the more traditional style, then these new twists may not be for you, but remember with yoga an open mind is a necessary instrument to have.

 

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Picnic Inspired by Summer Festival Vibes

I love a good party. I could even say that throwing parties is one of my guilty pleasures. However, I know that a good party can cost a considerable amount of money. I overtime came up with some tips on how to save and make good use of all the things you already own but still host a party that looks like one from a dreamland. Plus, any decorations or references of the 70’s just scream summer. A well-organized Bohemian party can be held anytime from early spring until the winter chill takes over the land. It attracts summer during the wake of spring and reminisces its warmth well through autumn.

1. Party vibes start with well-chosen music.

I think that there is little to go wrong if you go with an acoustic guitarist or a playlist that represents the era well. Having live music, however, gives the party a more interactive feel. There might be a friend of yours who is good at playing, while we pretty much all know how to sing when the company and the timing are right.

2. Pair the tunes with the decorations that bring the place where your party is being held up a notch.

Outdoors is great as you can mount the table and chairs underneath a tree or set picnic blankets to the ground. If you’re organizing it at an indoor place, make good use of plants or even invite your friends to bring some plants with them to set the tone. Then, decorate the greenery with twinkle lights and ask your friends to each write you a note and display them hanging like ornaments from the branches (or bigger leaves).

Having a tepee is also a great Bohemian trend when this is possible. Even use tree branches and old beddings to create small hiding places for private conversations.

One of my favorite tricks is to have a polaroid camera handy and make guests take photos of themselves which you can later showcase. After all, parties are made for creating fun memories, right? Polaroid sheets can be expensive, but ask your friends to buy them collectively as a party-warming gift. They will later come to good use when you’ll be able to save those captured memories for a lifetime.

3. Make the best of what nature offers you.

 So, summer months are perfect from the standpoint that most of the fruits and vegetables are in season. It is easy to grab them straight from the tree or even press into delicious smoothies. You could previously freeze them into mouthwatering cooling popsicles or simply place them around as if you would have an all-inclusive fruit bar. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from organizing a Bohemian get-together during any other time of the year. Just make sure you use the help of nature to your advantage. A warm chestnut on a chilly winter evening paired with a cup of hot cocoa is just as welcome to make you feel cozy at any party.

4. There is obviously a huge range of reasons for which you have chosen to throw a party in the first place.

I particularly enjoy casual vibes surrounding any of the affairs. Being a health nut pretty much all my life, I also don’t like the not-so-cool lethargic feeling that partying leaves on me. Therefore, I enjoy adding elements of a workout to the picnic table. It can be a simple jump rope, an aerial hammock or chalk to draw hopscotch on the ground. Not to underestimate brain activity, board games are also a great way to entertain a group of people. 

5. Adding a charity element to the mix always elevates the spirits. 

Make them invest tiny amounts of money and donate the earnings to the charity of your choice. Different ways of incorporating the same intention are to have guests bring used clothing or items of food that you later take to a local youth home. You could even give those items an up-do by organizing a small DIY workshop area. It is a bonding experience with your friends with a good cause in mind. People in need have always greeted any acts of this kind. I’m positive they will in your area, too.

So, whether it is a birthday, a kid’s party, or a simple hangout to watch a movie under the stars together with your friends that you are attempting to organize, I hope these tips will spark some inspiration. You definitely don’t need to spend a considerable amount of money to have a great time. You can even dress up in your yoga leggings and burn some calories while you prepare, because why not multitask? At the end of the day, memories are usually made by people, not places and things. 

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Eating Habits Before, During And After Yoga Classes

We have seen arguments and debates about what yoga practitioners eat. Unfortunately, a definite answer cannot be reached, and the only rules we should follow when it comes to food consumption and our yogic journey is that we should eat healthy things. While many chose a life of veganism, many find it hard to abstain from taking meat, which is also fine. Whichever path one may choose should contribute to the overall fitness of the yoga workouts. Therefore, we are confronted with the question of which is the best diet to eat while practicing yoga. We find ourselves in a situation where we have no idea which type of food to eat before, during, and after yoga classes. 

Fortunately, in yoga, there are no set of rules on how or what one should eat. There are no mandatory requirements when it comes to the diet; we are left with the freedom to choose what we consume and at what frequency we do it. With freedom comes the responsibility of knowing how to control your appetite and hunger. We should also ensure that a balanced diet is maintained at all times, and we develop a strong eating habit that adheres to our yoga workout goals.

Some of the habits that we must observe regarding what we consume are the following:


  1. Observe Our Diet: We should ensure that the food we eat is balanced. The levels of calories that we consume should be directly proportional to the amount of workout we employ to burn them. By adhering to a proper diet, we also ensure that we remain healthy at all times.
  2. Body Dehydration: We should always ensure that our bodies are still well hydrated by drinking water. It is recommended to drink water before, during, and after a workout session. It ensures that your body performs at optimal levels, and you remain healthy.
  3. Eat Greens: We should always ensure that we incorporate green vegetables in our food. They are a great source of vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins. Greens can be taken at any time.
  4. Increasing The Levels Of Protein: Protein acts as a building block of our bodies. As yoga practitioners, we should always ensure that our food has enough protein, and thus, guaranteeing physical development.
  5. Keep Away From Fast Foods. It is recommended that one should always keep away from fast foods. It is to ensure that the levels of calories consumed are kept to a minimum, and also, the food consumed is healthy at all times.

By observing proper eating habits, we can maximize our potential and can be fit and flexible. It then leads to increased productivity during our sessions. 

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Hip-Openers

Square And Frog Pose: 

The Only Hip Openers You Really Need

Hip openers are a common subject among yoga practitioners since inflexible hips make many postures hard, painful, or even impossible to achieve. It is something we should aim to stretch daily but often have no enough time to do so. It is because with all of our training and daily responsibilities, giving our hips an entire sequence can take too much time to be consistent with.

For this reason, it is good to choose just a few hip openers which target most of our hips when trained together, and which need only 5-10 minutes to finish.

Since you are doing only two poses, it is important that those are hard enough to challenge your hips but also easy enough to modify based on your needs and level of practice. The frog and square pose both fulfill this request and is also a great choice because it’s easy to track your progress with them. They don’t require much space and can be done anywhere. Performing a few sun salutations prior to warm-up would be good. 

1. Frog Pose 

It is an inner thigh stretch and can get very uncomfortable. Therefore, go only as far as your body allows; don’t over sprain because it could very easily lead to injury.

You start the pose in a tabletop position and slowly widen your knees to the side. Your calf and feet should touch the floor. You can use the wall and push your feet against it to be sure they are parallel to thighs.

When ready, place your elbows on the floor or a yoga block. You can roll the sides of your mat towards the middle for more support for your knees or even put pillows or a blanket under. Do three series of one-minute stretch with a little rest in between, or stay static in the pose from 3 to 5 minutes. Decide if you want it to work your muscles or deeper connective tissues. If you’re going to stretch your muscles, then they must be active, need warmup prior and can be contracted at periods. If you want to make the deeper connective tissues, such as joints more flexible, you should practice with cold muscles, completely relaxed. Feel free to try different stretch techniques every day for faster results. 

2. Square Pose

It is another intense hip opener as it is aimed to work out the outer thighs and gluteus. It is often mentioned as one of the best preparatory poses for a full lotus.

Sit on the floor with knees bent in front of you. With bent legs, place the right knee on the floor, similar to the crossed leg position. Place the ankle of the left leg on the right knee and try to open the left knee towards the right ankle. At first, it will be impossible to touch the foot; but with time, you will notice that your knee is going lower and lower. You can lightly push the knee down but be cautious; you shouldn’t feel any pain in the knee. Keep your back flat and stay in the pose from 30 seconds to one minute and repeat on the other side. Do this three times on each side.

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Does Shapewear Mean You Don’t Have Unconditional Love for Your Body

Yogis who adhere to the traditional yogic philosophy and tradition proposed in Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras often carry those values both on and off the mat. One of the core aspects that Pantanjali urges yogis to practice is the act of self-love or self-compassion. This teaching is related to his first teaching (otherwise known as the first Yama) known as ahimsa in Sanskrit – the act of non-harming.

One of the most hotly debated issues in the world of yoga apparel today is whether or not shapewear violates this first core teaching proposed by one of the forefathers of yogic philosophy. Does sliding on a pair of high-waist capris with built-in shapewear to make you appear slimmer means that you don’t have self-compassion and unconditional love for the body you have?

On one side of the argument, it’s true that shapewear fundamentally alters your appearance by concealing unwanted fat or jiggly areas. Many individuals may view this as hatred towards their own physical appearance, a clear violation of one of the core principles of the practice. 

As in most debates, there are other yogis who take a slightly different view of this sometimes-controversial clothing choice.

Shapewear does assist in concealing trouble areas of your body, but it does not actually cause physical harm to the wearer. Your body is no worse for wear as a result of donning these items. In fact, some yogis find shapewear to be more comfortable than items without additional support. This can be particularly true for yogis who have excess skin, which can hang painfully during inversions regardless of how mild the pose truly is.

For these individuals, it would seem that shapewear is actually a commitment to practicing self-compassion by allowing them to find a more comfortable way to enjoy their yoga practice.

Some yogis prefer shapewear because it gives them a confidence boost compared to ordinary street clothes or workout clothing. Taking their focus off their self-consciousness allows them to focus more on their intentions, cultivating a life that truly embraces all of the yoga sutras that Pantanjali proposes.

Ultimately, the desire to purchase and wear shapewear can stem from a number of places. Your intentions in wearing it can often determine whether you may need to return to the more basic fundamental principle of self-compassion and self-love.

If it allows you to focus more on extending your practice to places beyond the mat and achieve a more well-balanced lifestyle, then shapewear doesn’t have to mean that you don’t love your body. Likewise, you may find it more comfortable which is certainly an indicator that you do care for the body that carries you. By making it as comfortable as possible, you are practicing self-care, compassion, and love.

Before you pass judgment on your own decision or someone else’s decision to wear shapewear for his/her yoga practice, you may want to evaluate the intentions behind it. They may not be as clear as they first seemed.

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How Strength Training Should Make You Feel

Strength training should not make you feel bulky. As with anything in life, you need to start at the beginning and ease your body into any different type of activity that you’re attempting. I’ve been there, diving head first deep into things and not feeling too well afterward. Sometimes, I think it’s smart to listen to failing attempts by those who have crashed and burned before you.

Let’s put the negativity aside and see what I’ve learned. As with any other fitness training, start slowly and with exercises that you’re already familiar with by deepening their understanding and getting the best of them. Moreover, it comes in combination with healthy nutrition and proper hydration but mainly quality sleep.

This type of training namely increases your lean body mass, which leads to better metabolism functioning. Yes, you might be feeling hungry more often, but as long as you have healthy snacks on hand, you’ll boost the nutrition. In turn, the nutrition will boost your productivity levels and you’ll easily become more efficient in everything you do.

Don’t look at the bodybuilders, they are a specific group of people with specific training and nutrition plans. Yours should first and foremost be sticking to lean protein in combination with heaps of veggies that add lots of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, women produce considerably less testosterone than men do. So, a little weight training won’t make you bulk up, it will rather make your muscles look lean and your mind fresh and strong to tackle things from your agenda.

With strength training, opt for higher repetitions that will, in turn, lengthen and tone your muscles. Go for the types of exercises where you go slow on the contracting part of the exercise. Like for example going slow into the squat and then exploding up into the starting position on the extending part. Furthermore, that will activate your muscles and make them super springy and full of energy.

Start slow. I can’t emphasize that enough. Challenging your body is a good thing, but stay within healthy limits. Maybe start with a lighter set that weights somewhere between 3–5 lbs. and for the second round of the same exercise either make it heavier or drop it depending on how comfortable you were completing the round.

One thing it is really important, especially when you feel the exercise is challenging you is that you keep a good form. Check yourself in the mirror. If you don’t think you’re doing it right, you’re most probably right. Then it’s a good time to drop the weight or perform the exercise with your body weight only. It provides plenty of resistance, especially at the start of your strength journey or on the days when you’re feeling under the weather and you’re using your training as a pick-me-up.

Make sure that you fuel your body right within a short time window within the completion of your workout. Have some healthy snacks on hand. A simple piece of fruit in combination with some nut butter does the trick or even a non-dairy cocoa milk. Did you ever think a healthy lifestyle can treat you so lusciously with yummy foods?

At the end of the day or week, take time to recover. I would jot down at least two days per week that are dedicated solely to routines like yoga and stretching. Your body will be grateful for it. In combination with a quality good night’s sleep, it is all you need for feeling strong and, in turn, confident.

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Students Can Do Yoga to Soothe Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia

Campus Calm had the opportunity to speak with Bo Forbes about how yoga can be an effective treatment option for stressed-out students who may be suffering from anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Forbes is a yoga teacher, clinical psychologist, and integrative yoga therapist with over twenty-seven years of clinical experience in mind-body healing. She is the founder of Elemental Yoga and Director of the Center for Integrative Yoga Therapeutics(TM), established in 2006, which offers innovative mind-body yoga therapeutics to clients in the Boston and New York areas. She has a master’s degree in Social Sciences and a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology.

Campus Calm: How can yoga be beneficial for stressed-out students who are dealing with problems like depression, anxiety and insomnia?

Forbes: Yoga requires that you focus on your breath and on what you’re doing in a certain posture. This focus helps you take your mind off what you’re worrying about — either anxiety-wise or depression-wise. The movement of an active yoga class — the contraction and release of muscles — can help you release the muscular tension that comes with anxiety and depression, helping you to discharge stress and balance your mood. That combination of movement, plus certain things that you do in the practice, plus the breath, really makes you focus and be totally in the present. You’re not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. In addition, other forms of yoga that are non-active, such as Restorative Yoga, can also help.

Campus Calm: Some students go outside and run when they’re stressed. How is it different to learn to slow down and do yoga?

Forbes: Again, it’s that focus on the breath and what you’re actually doing which helps you achieve body awareness. It’s pretty life-changing, whereas if you’re just doing a workout, or just running, you can still zone out in that running experience or in that workout. You can be not present and run ten miles. I think a lot of people do just that. A yoga class really demands that you be present on so many levels. Other than just a workout for the physical body, it’s a mind-body workout.

Campus Calm: Isn’t it true that yoga helps you practice gratitude for your body?

Forbes: That’s a nice thought but I don’t know if that’s the goal of yoga. I think some people may say that happens. There can be a problem with yoga in America today in that, like in other endeavors, there’s an emphasis on having that perfect, thin yoga body. We still have that to worry about. Many women who take classes will compare themselves to the size of the other women. Still, one of the guiding principles of yoga is contentment and acceptance- and gratitude can be an extension of that contentment.

Campus Calm: Students grow & learn when they are able to block out the world’s expectations and instead listen to what they really want out of life. How can yoga help students learn how to focus and how to develop an inner dialogue that leads to internal awareness?

Forbes: Yoga is about quieting that external stuff — what the world expects of us — and moving inward. The more you are focused inward, quieting your mind, being present, and moving your body in a certain way, the more you are able to get in touch with your inner truths. And the more apt you are to create and maintain a productive dialogue with your inner voice, as opposed to someone else’s.

Campus Calm: In one of your articles, you said, “A personal crisis can be a gift on the path to spiritual maturity.” Can you explain that further and discuss how a student’s attitude in adjusting to the challenges of college life could help him or her develop a strong sense of self that will serve them their entire lives?

Forbes: Every crisis is an opportunity for growth — to be stronger and to mine our own internal resources. If things are always easy, we don’t realize that we can rise to the occasion. A crisis helps us to dig deep within, to connect with something really strong inside us. And yoga helps us to develop that inner strength, so we can call upon it when we need to.

Campus Calm: Can yoga, in some cases, be more effective than prescription medicines in treating anxiety, insomnia, and depression?

Forbes: Many of my students have used a yoga program, under supervision from a yoga specialist and their physician, to go off antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It’s a complex process that involves a combination of active yoga and restorative yoga.

Restorative yoga is a great way to address anxiety and depression. For people with anxiety and depression, they have a lot of imbalances in the nervous system. The nervous system is either on hyper-alert all the time or it might be under-functioning.

Restorative yoga’s extraordinary combination of breath work, internalization of the senses, calming of the mind, relaxation of the physical body, and passive stretching help soothe the nervous system. It subdues the “fight or flight” response characteristic of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic stress, while activating the “resting and digesting” response of the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in mental calm and physical release. It’s a whole different process from active yoga. Chances are there’s a restorative yoga class somewhere in the city that you live in. Once you learn it, you can do it in your dorm room or wherever you are.

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The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga

Pilates and yoga are often thought of as being in the same exercise category. They are gentler forms of exercise and meant to exercise the mind almost as much as the body. Pilates and yoga are vastly different forms of exercise despite these similarities. When you compare both you should be able to determine which one is suited for your unique situation.

Spiritual Vs. Health Origins

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s and was inspired partly by yoga movements as a way to encourage healing after injuries. It is focused purely on physical conditioning, although some people report that there is a mindfulness element to it that reduces stress and encourages contemplation and self-awareness. This effect is secondary however, and not a part of the system in the way it is naturally part of yoga.

In contrast to this earthlier purpose and mindset, yoga originated in India and is thought to be thousands of years old. The original purpose of yoga was to train the body to elevate the practitioner into a state of self-awareness that would promote spiritual development. Yoga was fundamentally important to religious practices in India, and although much of that has been abandoned in western practice, most forms of yoga are focused primarily on the mental components and secondly on the physical elements.

Physical Benefits

Both forms of exercise work on stress relief, flexibility, and muscle control with a series of gentle movements. However, Pilates has a strong focus on core strength and the strengthening of specific muscles. In contrast, the focus of yoga is on flexibility and all over muscle strength. Movements in yoga are often long and flowing, involving the entire body whereas a lot of Pilate’s movements are more focused on a single area.

Equipment

One important difference between yoga and Pilates is the equipment used to enhance the exercises. Pilates was designed to work in conjunction with equipment that the inventor called the apparatus, with many of the moves performed against resistance created by this apparatus. In contrast, yoga is mostly performed without any equipment, relying on body strength and gravity to provide resistance. In recent years, equipment meant to aid in yoga practice has been added, but this is a recent movement and not fundamentally part of the system.

Breathing Differences

How you breathe is a fundamental concern in yoga. In order to relax the body and train the mind, the breath is used to encourage and reduce stress. Concentration on the breath as a form of meditation is an almost universal technique with this system, and most yoga poses come with strict instructions for how to breathe correctly throughout.

In contrast, Pilates is focused on the physical movements. Because of the concentration on core strength, the belly is often held tight and thus, breathing appears shallower and concentrated in the rib cage. There usually is no meditation in Pilates and no focus on the breath as a way to focus and elevate the mind.

Both yoga and Pilates are gentle forms of exercise that can have very specific benefits for those who practice them regularly. Although they are different, they work together well and can have a complimentary effect if used to promote overall health, strength, and fitness.

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Om – the original sound of the universe

If you ever visited a yoga center, you have probably started with, or relaxed at the end of the session, with the mantra Om (ॐ). But have you ever wondered what it means and where it comes from?

The Sanskrit original word for the westernized “Om” is AUM, and it is described, among other ways, as the original sound. The sound that was born with the universe. Its three letters represent creation, preservation, and destruction. When done properly, the Om sound created by our own throats resonates from the pelvic floor upwards through the crown of the head, filling the body with vibrant energy that empowers us and, at the same time, radiates tranquility.

In addition, it is said that the Om mantra increases self-awareness and concentration in your most intimate spiritual world.

It is important to learn the correct way to chant the Om mantra in order to fully enjoy its benefits.

First of all, let’s learn its correct pronunciation. It has three syllables: A-U-M. It begins with a nasalized vowel [a:] that transforms into [u:] and ends with a long and vibrant [m]. Om is pronounced in a single deep exhalation: a-ā-u-ū-m-(ng)-(silence).

Now that we know the phonetics of Om, let’s move on to the visualization or the feeling of each sound. To sound the first two syllables, open the mouth wide as if you want to swallow the whole universe. When you start chanting, imagine that the first vowel (“a”) appears around your bellybutton, and the sound waves irradiate to your pelvic floor and your lower chest.

Then it grows towards the second syllable, slowly moving the place of the sound to your throat, and allowing the sound to massage your heart, thymus, and thyroid on its way up.

Finally, gently close your lips for the final syllable [m], allowing the sound to move from the throat up. The vibration of the [m] sound then resonates within your skull, massaging your pineal and pituitary glands, until it finally reaches the crown of the head.

The movement of the mantra Om through your body is often associated with the chakras, or energy centers and their colors. So, you can also practice visualizing these colors when you chant: inhale through the back of your body to open those places where tension is locked and then visualizing Yellow, which is the color for the Manipura chakra where Om is originated. Then green (heart), sky blue (throat), indigo (third eye), and purple (crown of the head) when the sound travels up.

It is believed that the power of the Om mantra is so great that even staring and taking in the Om symbol (ॐ) can exert a positive influence. You can even chant the mantra in silence, in your own mind to regain calmness!

Pronounced or written, the Om mantra is one of the essential aspects of yoga and one of the most important stages for the understanding of yoga. I hope you enjoy this practice. Just try to chant it 24 times in a row to see the benefits!

Namaste!

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