Yoga for Vets

YogaEveryDay is now a proud new member of YogaForVetsYogaForVets.org: supporting our troops, one breath at a time.

Four free classes for any Military Veteran. Period. That’s it. The website is simple, the concept is simple.

For me, it’s a way to say thank you and to give back. Yoga is good for you, period, that simple. And it’s a dynamic way to deal with stress, strain and cultivate the inner peace that supports courage.

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Practice for the life you want

Practice for the life you want.

 
I think a lot about what makes yoga different from other forms of physical fitness. My gym routines, daily dog walks and hiking also incorporate mind, body & breath and have tremendous benefits to my overall life & health. A well-timed walk can change my whole perspective.
 
So how is yoga different?  Yoga is a practice. And it’s not practicing for more yoga. Today’s yoga practice isn’t about tomorrow’s time on the mat. It’s about everything I do, because more than whether I bring my nose to my shins any time soon, more than whether I can clasp my hands behind my back, my time on the mat is about the present moment.
 
And that’s why yoga is different: while I can be present-moment in any or all of my activities, every part of yoga has as its aim this paradoxical state of being, which is itself beyond means & end thinking. The present moment is both every moment – and so different across time and people – and it is one moment, so it is the stable core of our being to which we can always return.
 
This is the paradox of eternity & the infinite: it is not a moment repeated forever, or a series of discrete moments following one another without end. It is a way of being from which we can see time. It is the way of being which allows us to take us a stand, or remain above the fray. And while walking and lifting and hiking bring me joy, connect me to my breath and occasionally bring me into the flow, Yoga is all about this. Yoga is preparation for meditation, which is to say it is a meditation on meditation from a beginners point of view – the very point of view to which most meditators are trying to return.
 
Yoga is a practice, and as such has profound consequences off the mat – not just on my ability to sustain a heart rate or walk a set of stairs, or even let a feeling go. My time on the mat is where I explore and create the structure of my life.  I investigate my mind while I hold poses, feel emotions, strive for goals. The poses, emotions and goals are but tools for the point of the practice which supercedes them all.
 
So what are you building and cultivating with your time on the mat? Where do you practice? Do you practice in a place & manner that reflects the life you are crafting? Are you fitting practice in or intentionally carving out the minutes for your mat time? 5 minutes on purpose without stealing from your other priorities is better than an hour and a half stolen from your sleep or other needs.
 
Knowing which is which takes a great deal of compassion and care in watching your own mind. Your mind is not only your thoughts but your emotions and what you might call your “almost thoughts”… the ones that flit beneath the radar. And of course this takes – you guessed it – practice: mat time.
 
So consider where & how you practice and the kind of relation with your mind that it cultivates. Plant the seeds of your best life on your mat, nurture them with your presence and a little bit of sweat and maybe even tears. And watch your mat – and your practice – grow into your best life.

Abundance

Having made some pretty drastic changes to my career life this year, I’m reflecting daily on what abundance and success mean to me. For real. I’ve been part-time as a Paramedic now for a few months, focused on building a practice as a teacher and a business as a yoga camping retreat facillitator.  My two careers are remarkably complimentary and the life I’m crafting is pretty much what I used to imagine when I was a girl. Pretty Cool.

I knew I’d move slowly, deliberately in my building. I knew that like learning yoga, building a practice and a living is best done one brick at a time. I don’t know about the rest of you teachers out there, or entrepeneurs of any stripe, independent, free-thinking crafters of service and beauty, but one of my most determined demons is named “Enough.” Is there enough, do I have enough, do I do enough, do I know enough, Am I enough, will there be enough? Enough knowledge, classes, time, strength, patience.

And the answer every day has been “yes” and that shrinks the demon a bit, but this demon drinks from a deep well, the well of emptiness that is at the center of being a human being, the one we identify with our fears, traumas, shortcomings and failures until we learn that it just is and that that’s Ok. But it really is part of being human, so it remains. And by sitting with it, calmly and persistently I’ve learned the meaning of abiding and of love.

And today I got to dance with it in the park, and we both forgot it was a demon. I’m working on building an outdoor yoga class in a park near my house, so Tuesdays at Noon I go the park and practice. So far it’s been alone, which is only a problem if you were hoping it to be different. I’m promoting it and have garnered interest, but so far I’m alone. More experienced teachers tell me this is part of the building experience. I wonder if I should make it earlier (Albuquerque is rather warmish at Noon, and it’s monsoon season, so it’s what passes for humid in the desert), should I go to a park in a more upscale neighborhood ( we are decidedly working class here in my ‘hood), should…. I should do yoga, I decide.

And I’m about to flip my dog on the second side when I look up and my eyes meet the lovely grey eyes of a little girl watching – she later tells me she’ll be 10 in September – one arm tucked behind her back, hand wrapped in front of her opposite elbow, legs entwined, head cocked to the side. We both smile. I flip & ask if she’s ever done yoga. Once. She joins me in downdog and we laugh at the name. She follows me into pigeon and her sisters and friend join us. We’re all doing pigeon, except for the youngest who is bouncing into people and grass like the park’s a mosh pit, giggling all while, and we join her as I teach them what to call pigeon in Sanskrit, our heads bouncing from side to side as we sing-song through “Eka-pa-da-ra-ja-kap-o-ta-sa-na”, little mosh darling falling down among us.

And I think, “This is IT. This is what I want, this is what I do. This is enough. This is more than enough. This is everything.” And even my demons laugh and all fall down.

Re-Imagining

Yoga allowed me to re-imagine myself.

I realized this today practicing with one of my old faves, Shiva Rae’s Solar Practice CD from 1999. It was one of my first home practice guides, and even today when I need another voice in my head, someone else’s metaphors and images to bring freshness to my Warrior, I slide this one into the player.

And I realized, her metaphors became my own. Her voice helped me re-imagine my body and re-connect to the way I related to my body when I was a girl. I remember squinting my eyes to make haloes and fireworks as I balanced my arm, perpendicular to the earth in its socket, so perfectly that I could imagine it wasn’t mine. It stood there on its own. And I was the earth.

And when Shiva Rae used the metaphor of “wings” for the shoulder blades today (well, the recorded sound of her voice…) I realized, that was the first time I re-imagined my body as an adult. Imagined it wasn’t set in stone as it sometimes felt, or in mud or even bound in cotton as it sometimes felt I was insulated from the world. That my body could become a conduit for energy and images and power. That I could live differently.

I had just delivered my last academic paper about a year before when I was practicing with this CD for the first time: Metaphor as the structure of Truth. Having received much interest, many plaudits and requests for reprints and further investigation, I vanished to the desert. My name had changed (returned to home), my profession, my location, my possessions (mostly left behind), and I had some radical re-imagining to do. I didn’t know it at the time (I had come here to be a Paramedic) but yoga would be the vehicle for my to realize the deep truth of that last talk. And Shiva Rea’s voice would plant a seed in my heart, a seed of wings and of roots.

The structure of metaphor is a container and yoga helps us explore how we contain our breath, and so how we express our meanings and truths. I still believe the basic tenants of that last talk, that sentences are derivatively true, that when we seek truth we are never ultimately looking for statements and that what makes statements true are neither facts nor objects nor worlds but states of consciousness.  Yoga helped me not only realize the truth of what I discovered, but to re-imagine it and myself in ever more revealing ways. That’s why I practice yoga. Every Day.

Take my Survey! Please!

As a yogini, I’m motivated, at least in part, by the Delphic dictum to “Know Thyself.”

As a teacher I’m equally interested in you and your practice. So I’ve put together this survey.

I’ve been priviledged to get to know some of you through email and your comments. Here’s your opportunity to let me get to know about your practice and your preferences. I’ll be honored by every one of your responses and the information you provide me will assist me with my writing and teaching.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this blog, for your responses and support and for your time attention to this survey. Stay tuned to hear all about the trends!

link url: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/survey-intro.zgi?p=WEB22834EKM6NT

Foundations for Practice

Yama & Niyama are variously described as rules of Ethics, yoga’s “Ten Commandments”, attitudes towards community & self, observances for dealing with others & self. The bottom line is that they are the foundation for practice.

One of the things that makes these principles fertile is the breadth of their application. Here’s an application to Personal Yoga Practice itself:

Above all, practice with Ahimsa, Non-violence:

practice is about self-observation, Svadyaya.

Notice your feeling, your breath, your body with kind attention

Respond with compassion and encouragement.

Be fierce in your commitment to being present. (tapas)

Be as clear in your estimation of your ability and need as you can be (satya)

Notice what bolsters your energy, intention and presence: cultivate this. (brahmacharya)

Don’t push past your limits: there is nothing you don’t have that you need. This includes yoga pose J (aparigraha)

Balance your practice in the context of other things: don’t steal time for practice from places you are responsible & don’t steal yoga time for places you are not. (asteya)

Make your actions intentional, focus on being present for your practice (saucha)

Allow yourself to feel the full measure of pleasure from what you’re giving to yourself (samtosha)

There’s nowhere to get to, no goal to attain. Set your foundations, follow through, evolve and let go! (Ishvara Pranidanani)

Personal Practice Guidelines

Getting ready for workshop tomorrow, buffing my handouts, and thought that these reminders might be just right for the blog. Just writing them is helpful to me, it’s amazing what we need to remind ourselves on a regular basis 🙂 Hope this is welcome reminder for someone out there!

Personalized Practice Guidelines

·         Feet on Mat (ok, maybe behind, or hands, or even your head!)

this is the yoga equivalent of “Just Do it.”

·         Compassionate boundaries for time, energy, what comes up

·         Breathe, and move with the rhythm of your breath

Opening your practice

·         Begin observing your breath in a relaxed pose: Steady & sweet.

·         Set your Intention, Sankalpa

·         Match your practice to your breath and body in the moment

·         You can always evolve as you proceed!

·         In general, warm up (cat-cow or sun salutations)

·         Let your warm up suggest a “pinnacle pose” or poses: the hub of the wheel of your practice

·         Work in towards your hub from various directions or “spokes”

·         One spoke would be increasingly vigorous shapes (eg: mild->more intense backbends)

·         One spoke would be major muscle groups: pecs or quads, for example

·         One spoke would be major joint groups: shoulder or hip openers

·         One spoke would be chakra work: poses that affect the solar plexus, for example

 

·         Kinds of poses: standing, sideways facing

·         Standing, forward facing

·         Standing, twisting

·         Standing balance (really, they’re all balance! So standing one-legged)

·         Forward bending

·         Backward bending

·         Seated

·         Reclining

·         Arm balances

·         Inversions

·         Always end with savasana… final reclining repose. Enough time at least for the breath to refine, the mind to settle, boundaries of the body to dissappear, even for a moment.

Mix & Match!

·         Balance poses with counterposes

·         Move with intention

·         Move with breath

·         Work into poses: explore your breath with your movement,

Explore your movement with your breath

·         Rest whenever your breath becomes erratic, difficult to contain or you feel strain in the neck, face or jaw

Practice Gratitude to yourself for making it to the mat, even for a minute, for your abilities and your life which has brought you to this perfect moment.

Remember yogapose is preparation for breath exploration and meditation.

Consider gifting yourself and the world with one or both after savasana.

Thank you for your presence and your practice.