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    Our Most-Read Stories of 2021

    For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, .
    With the end of the year approaching, it’s always interesting to look back on all that you’ve accomplished in the past 365 days. And based on the Yoga Journal articles that you’ve gravitated toward, you’ve done a lot of self-improvement in 2021. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, you wanted to know how yoga can help-and we feel confident that it did. The physical practice strengthened your body and your self-awareness. Meditation helped you find bliss. Essential oils provided comfort and security. And throughout it all, you chose to deepen your practice by learning Sanskrit. Way to go! And rest assured, there’s still so much more to study and experience.
    Whether you’re at the beginning of your journey or you’ve been practicing for years, yoga will meet you wherever you are. And we’ve been honored to be a resource for you as you grow, refine, and find yourself through this practice.
    The top articles of 2021
    The Benefits of Yoga: 38 Ways Your Practice Can Improve Your Life
    If you’re a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed the benefits of yoga. Maybe you’re sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. But if you’ve ever tried telling a newbie about the benefits of yoga, you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears.
    As it happens, Western science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay. Once you understand them, you’ll have even more motivation to step onto your mat, and you probably won’t feel so tongue-tied the next time someone asks you why you spend time on your mat.
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    40 Sanskrit Words Every Yogi Should Know
    It has been said that learning a new language is like a spiritual journey in which we discover another culture. Studying the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit has an added benefit-it can assist you in going deeper in your yoga practice to reveal a greater understanding of the poses you’re perfecting.
    Whether you’ve just started taking yoga classes or are already an experienced yogi, there’s plenty to discover about this mystical language. Here, we’ve broken down 40 common Sanskrit words and their meanings, so you can broaden your mind and confidently take to your mat.
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    5 Essential Oil Combinations That Smell Better Than Candles
    Scent is so important at the yoga studio and at home. But so many candles can be filled with potentially harmful chemicals that release into the air as the candle gives off smoke. Even soy-based ones we think are super-healthy are often loaded with chemicals! This is especially true of paraffin-based candles, which are the most popular and least expensive (we’re looking at you, “Warm Vanilla Sugar”).
    According to CNN, some of the chemicals candles expose us to include known carcinogens like benzene and toluene, other heavy metals, and paraffins. Given these facts, candles made of beeswax or soy are the best and healthiest options-if you’re going to use candles at all. On the other hand, natural essential oils offer the soothing scents you crave without any of the health risks or smoke.
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    6 Simple Ways to Clear Negative Energy
    Every day we come into contact with energy that can greatly influence our mood and well-being.
    Have you ever walked into a party that was bubbly with fun and excitement? You immediately felt at ease and got swept up in the revelry. Or have you ever found yourself at an unfortunate Mary Tyler Moore party? I call them that affectionately. On the TV show of the same name, Mary always threw these terrible parties. Her friends dragged themselves in and got into arguments with one another. No one had a good time. The energy of such an event feels dead, heavy, and forced.
    Highly toxic energy can build up in many environments, including your own home. If you or anyone in your household has been sick, stressed, or depressed it’s even more important to clear the energy. You can also take steps to shield yourself energetically every day and reinforce that shield when entering places like hospitals, prisons, or even concert halls and bars. Wherever people congregate, there will be collective energy in that space. Often it contains energy you’d rather not be picking up on and feeling.
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    Is a Kundalini Awakening Safe?
    Are you ready to discover your life’s purpose and activate your fullest potential? Kundalini Yoga is an ancient practice that helps you channel powerful energy and transform your life. In Sanskrit, kundalini means “coiled snake,” and it is believed that divine energy was created at the base of the spine. It’s energy we are born with, and Kundalini works to “uncoil the snake” and connect us to our divine essence.
    Kundalini was originally a study of the science of energy and spiritual philosophy. In ancient times, royalty would sit with Kundalini Masters to hear the ancient scientific teachings of kundalini and spiritual visions. Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini to our western culture and transformed it into the beautiful practice with ancient knowledge and the modern practicality that it is today, making it accessible to all.
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    Skip the Gym. These Are the Best Yoga Poses for Strength
    We could all use a little more strength and power in our practice. Whether you’re looking to build to tricky arm balances and balancing postures or increase your overall physical performance, these yoga poses for strength will make those muscles work. Practiced consistently (and correctly!) over time, these poses will make you stronger-and prepare you for those advanced asanas. Suddenly, you’ll feel more powerful and ready to tackle that Handstand (yes, really).
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    Scientists Just Did a Study on Orgasmic Meditations-Here’s How It Affects Your Brain
    In a recent study, scientists pointed to the effectiveness of meditation in achieving a calmer and more relaxed state. Yet, this type of meditation isn’t your typical 20-minute mindfulness session. It’s orgasmic meditation.
    Led by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University, this study, which is the first of its kind, studied the brain responses of 20 pairs of participants-all of which included one man and one woman-who engaged in orgasmic meditation for 15 minutes. To engage in this type of meditation, an individual strokes the clitoris of their partner. However, unlike the name may suggest, the goal is not to achieve an orgasm. Rather, it’s aim to induce an intense meditative state-and according to the research it’s attainable.
    “The practitioners have described various spiritual-like experiences, such as the feeling of oneness or connectedness, as well as a sense of flow and awareness,” the study says. “Emotional reactions including a profound sense of relaxation, energy, or joy are also described [by participants].”
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    The 5 Best Crystals for Protection
    Crystals are one of the many tools we have to help us feel connected to our minds, bodies, and soul-and the earth, too. While true crystals were formed on the earth’s surface long ago, they are still tangible objects we can incorporate into our daily lives. They vibrate at different frequencies, and help us flush out any energy that does not serve us. Thus, crystals are an amazing tool when you need some protection in your life.
    Humans have always been drawn to crystals-you see them in our engagement rings and other forms of jewelry, as well as in yoga studios and other places of healing. Crystals all have different properties and can be used to support you in various ways. Crystals for protection can ward against negative energy and instill a sense of safety and calm.
    So which crystals are best for protection? While certain crystals are known to offer protective properties, the best crystal for you is the one that you’re drawn to. The energy of the crystal will invite you to it, and you can pause and learn what you may need from it, too.
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    The Meaning of Namaste
    The scene at the end of a typical yoga class: The teacher sits cross-legged at the front of class, takes a deep breath and, pressing hands together in a prayer position, leans into a deep bow and reverently intones the word “Namaste.” Dutiful yoga students mirror the pose and bow low in return, whispering namaste in unison. It’s so common that yoga doesn’t seem like yoga without this ritual.
    But recently, yoga practitioners have been looking more carefully at how, when, and why they’re using the word “namaste.” Does it mean what we think it means? Are we using it properly? Should we use it at all? Some yogis are concerned that the term, which holds cultural significance in South Asia, has been so misused that it has lost its true meaning-and thus its significance.
    Here, we offer “Namaste 101” to help you understand the term and know how to use it with care.
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    7 Poses to Help Release Those Tight Hamstrings
    Whether you’re doing an intense exercise such as running or a sedentary activity, like sitting at a desk for long periods of time, you’re likely to experience tightness in your hamstrings. Fortunately, stretching is an excellent way to release tension in these important muscles, and many common yoga poses can directly alleviate your discomfort.
    The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip, meaning they’re used every day for walking, climbing stairs, or riding your bike, so it’s crucial to give them the care they need to keep you moving. Just make sure not to overexert yourself in postures, which can lead to injury. Always listen to your body and be proactive when it comes to protecting this group of muscles. Use props such as blocks and blankets to provide support so you can stretch safely and more efficiently.
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    Author:YJ Editors
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