January 01, 2014

Four Powerful Ways to Happiness

Celebration can be attributed to any reason, because the nature of our spirit is to celebrate. The new year is a time when the spirit of celebration engulfs the whole world. This is also an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and take stock of the lessons learnt. A celebration has social, emotional and spiritual components. Often, we focus on the first two and forget the third. True celebration happens when the spiritual aspect is attended to.
Very often, people ask me how I see the future. And I say that the future is for them to build however they want it. The unwise regret the past, think the future is destiny and are miserable in present. The wise see their past as destiny, the future as free will and are happy in the present.
However significant the events of the past year were at the time, looking back, you cannot see them all as anything but a dream. Reflecting on these events, what stands out is the impermanent nature of all things. Events are like stones and pebbles in the great river of time which keeps flowing unabated. In life, things are to be learnt and forgotten -- learnt so that you do not repeat the same mistakes and forgotten so that they do not leave you traumatized.
Here are four ways to a happier 2014:
Make Meditation a Part of Life
Modern life's demands lead to stress and restlessness, which can be released through a few minutes of meditation. Meditationgives you deep rest. The deeper you are able to rest, the more dynamic you will be in activity. It is the best tool to wipe your mind clean of all past impressions that weigh you down.
Often, we get pulled in different directions and are unable to devote time to ourselves. We do not take out the time to think and reflect. This can leave us dull and tired. A few quiet moments everyday are the source of creativity. Silence heals and rejuvenates and gives you depth and stability. Sometime during the day, sit for a few minutes; get into the cave of your heart, eyes closed, and keep the world away.
Make a commitment to make this world a better place to live. Do some acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Service alone can bring contentment in life. It creates a sense of connectedness. When you bring some relief to someone through selfless service, good vibrations come to you. When you show kindness, your true nature, which is love and peace, come to the surface.
Feel Grateful
Our love, faith, and belief should be deep-rooted, and then everything else moves on its own. The feeling that "I am blessed" can help you overcome any failure. Once you realize that you are blessed, then all the complaints and grumbling disappear, all the insecurities disappear and you become grateful, contented and peaceful.
Spend time with Nature
If you are not amazed by the magnificence of this creation -- your eyes are not yet opened. Tell me, what in this creation is not a mystery? Birth is a mystery; death is a mystery. If both birth and death are mysteries, then life is certainly a greater mystery. Being completely immersed in the mystery of life and in this creation is samadhi.
Just like we live in the outer world of events and circumstances, we also live in the inner world of emotions and feelings, which we are not always aware of. The distance between the outer and the inner worlds is just the blink of an eye. Yoga is the skill of keeping attention on the inner world while acting in the outer. When you are lost in the outside world, there is disharmony in the inner world and life is like a war. When you are established in the inner world, there is clarity in the outer world and life becomes a game.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
-- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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For more on breathing and meditation programs, visit www.artofliving.org

November 03, 2013

Combating Cold with Yoga

The most common phenomenon of any seasonal change are the diseases it brings with itself. As we move from summer to fall to winter, a lot of people keep battling with flu and common cold. By default, our body's immunity system tries to get rid of the disease, but it is wise to adopt other preventive and curative measures to fight it better. While modern-day medicines are highly effective, they are not the sole option present today. People are also turning to options such as yoga to cure themselves and enhance their body's immunity levels.
Yoga is an ancient and unique technique that helps builds a stronger body and a focused mind. A Sri Sri Yoga course is one such exclusively designed course which equips us with simple yoga postures to live healthier by overcoming ailments like common cold. Here are a few yoga postures that will help you combat cold better:
1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril breathing technique)
The Alternate Nostril breathing technique helps open up blocked nose and facilitates better flow of oxygen to the lungs. It also helps release stress and relaxes the body. Practice 7-8 rounds of this breathing technique twice or thrice a day to overcome cold.
2. Kapal Bhati Pranayama(Skull Shining breathing technique)
The forceful exhalations done during the Skull Shining breathing technique helps unclog the respiratory tract, thus helping in breathing easily. It also energizes the nervous system, improves blood circulation and uplifts the mind. 2-3 rounds of this breathing technique twice a day should help combat the cold with renewed energy.
3. Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)
The Standing forward bend is a yoga posture that improves the flow of blood to the head and also clears the sinuses. It also invigorates the nervous system and relieves tension in the body.
4. Matsyasana (Fish pose)
The deep breathing done in this yoga posture provides relief from respiratory disorders and ailments like cold. The Fish pose also relieves the tension in neck and shoulders that usually bogs down the body.
5. Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall pose)
Another highly effective yoga posture to counter respiratory ailments is the Legs up the Wall pose. This posture helps overcome headache and backache. It also calms the mind, thus helping in keeping one mentally strong while suffering from cold.
6. Shavasana (Corpse pose)
The Corpse pose is practised as the last posture in a yoga routine as it leads the body into a state of deep and meditative rest. With the help of this pose, the body is relieved of stress and is rejuvenated.
The onset of any season is an incredible opportunity to enjoy it to the fullest, without being held down by common cold or flu. Regular practice of yoga fortifies the immunity system and enhances it ability to fight foreign viruses better.
The ancient holistic and natural medicine system of Ayurveda is also an effective measure to improve the body's immunity level. Unlike allopathic medicines that focus on management of disease, Ayurveda provides us with knowledge of how to prevent disease and eliminate its root cause. 

September 10, 2013

Happiness Week: September 1st to 7th, 2013

On September 1st, the Art of Living Foundation Montreal launched its first ever Happiness Week to bring more joy and happiness to Montrealers.

During the week:

  • Montrealers were able to participate in four Happiness Workshops offered free of charge in three locations.
  • The Art of Living Facebook page provided daily posts suggesting ways of living a more healthy and happy life, focused in celebration.

Live with Joy, Purpose and Confidence

Within us lie vast, untapped possibilities waiting to be discovered. It’s possible to set this potential free and gain a greater vision of who we are. We have the power to create a joyous life with purpose, find the confidence to stretch and grow beyond limiting beliefs, and develop the ability to lead a deeply fulfilling life.

The Challenge is in the Mind

In today’s demanding, distracting world, the mind is often stuck in the past or in the future. But happiness is here and now. It cannot be experienced when we are stuck regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. During the Happiness Workshop, you will learn and experience light yoga, breathing exercises, fun games and restful meditation.

Happiness Workshops will be offered in the West Island, Nun's Island and Montreal

August 17, 2013

A sunny Yogathon

By Fanny L. Arnaud 
The sun was shinning on Saturday morning for the 108 sun salutations Yogathon.

On August 17th, 50 yoga lovers met at McGill University campus to complete 108 sun salutations. The challenge organized by The Art of Living Foundation aimed at raising funds to support the Care For Children program.

Ariane Gagné came with a friend. She has never done yoga before and she doesn’t know the 12 movements of the sun salutation.

“I mainly came to support the foundation’s cause,” she says.

Indeed the Yogathon is less a sport challenge than a charity event.

The Artof Living Foundation is a non-profit organization based in more than 150 countries in the world. It offers yoga, meditation and stress-elimination programs in line with the founder’s philosophy: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.”

On McGill lower field, the volunteers are welcoming participants. They distribute snacks and beverages. People talk to each other, choose a yoga mat, and sit on the grass. The music began and Ralph Matta, organizer of the event and yoga teacher, steps on the platform.

“Let’s dedicate these sun salutations to Care for Children,” he says.

Care for Children is a program of The Art of Living Foundation. It helps establishing schools and other educational infrastructure in India. The 2013 edition of Yogathon raised $30,000 across Canada.

Indeed the challenge was simultaneously organised in 10 cities: Vancouver, London, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, St. Mathieu-du-Parc (Mauricie), Windsor, Halifax, Ottawa and Pembroke.

Matta decomposes slowly the first salutation for the beginners. Some people are watching him, other are already doing it. He’s counting “one: inhale, two: exhale.” People join the movement, volunteers help the beginners and quickly the 50 people are moving to the same beat. The passers-by stop, have a look, and ask questions.

The sun salutation has physical and mental benefits. The combination of 12 poses help to reduce depression, anxiety and stress. It tones your muscles and burn excess calories. It is a tradition to perform 108 sun salutations. It has been a sacred number for a long time, notably because the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.

People don’t hesitate to take a break. It’s really warm and they stop to drink water or to move their mat in the shade.

After almost two hours, the challenge has been met. For participants, it’s time to relax.

Adrienne Piggott has practiced yoga only a couple of time in her life. For the Yogathon, she accomplished 107 sun salutations.

“I will come back next year,” she says. “And until then, I will find time to practice regularly because yoga makes me feel really good.”

And she wasn't the only one to enjoy the challenge.

Sylvie Cournoyer has been practicing yoga for 10 years. She teaches yoga in Montreal. For her, it’s a completely different experience to complete the sun salutation in a group or alone.

“The group’s energy increases the sun salutation’s power, you can feel the vibrations,” she says.

For others, the Yogathon is an opportunity to practice yoga outside in a friendly atmosphere.

Roshan Pandey came for the music and the people. He has never done more than 30 sun salutations in a row until today.

“ It was more comfortable than I though,” he said. “I met the challenge.”