Guerilla Yoga in Albuquerque

First Guerilla Yoga Event was a quiet Gorilla success, thanks to all who brought their presence and energy to our practice!!!  All we need is a drummer, a gorilla (or costume…) and the next event, so here it is!  Yoga to the People, All People, All Places, Any Time!

Guerilla Yoga (n.) to participate in yoga outside a studio, home or private place; to do yoga in public settings, i.e. a park, mall, school, boardwalk, etc.

Guerilla Yoga is FREE, INCLUSIVE, happens in PUBLIC PLACES & IN SURPRISING WAYS.

The point of GY is to break down barriers to yoga practice: social barriers, internal barriers, conceptual barriers, financial barriers, emotional barriers.

But even more importantly, the point of GY is to expand our minds, get more yoga in our lives and spread awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings, the wholeness of the human spirit and the joy of movement.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket/Mat)

Next GY Event announced at the GY Event: 3pm Saturday 8 November                               
check dukecityfix.com/events

First Rule of Guerilla Yoga: Rules are made to be broken.

Come as you are, Leave happier! Tell everyone you meet!

Advertisements

Yoga Thoughts on Ashtanga, ~Amy Nobles Dolan

Amy Nobles Dolan teaches yoga in Wayne Pennsylvania and writes a blog at Yoga With Spirit.  She exemplifies the addage that you’ll know you’re ready to teach when students come to you, and her expansive sense of generosity and gratitude, grounded in experience, wisdom and knowledge illuminate her writing. She’s an Ashtanga Yogi who brings an embracing perspective to both her choice of tradition and her teaching. On her website bio, she affirms, “…yoga works for everyone.” Here’s her reflection on why Ashtanga works for her. Thank You, Amy!

ps: also check her out at the YogaJournal website featured blog!

………….

Not too long ago my husband and I took our three kids to Baskin Robbins.  When I ordered (as I often do) Rocky Road, my youngest daughter, Sally, asked me why I chose that flavor.  Hmm.  I actually can’t think of a single reason not to order Rocky Road!  But trying to explain to my daughter why this flavor beat out the other thirty left me tongue-tied.  Where to start?  The creamy chocolate ice cream?  The delicate swirl of marshmallow cream?  The chocolate covered nuts that add a perfect textural balance?  I had no idea there were so many reasons I love this flavor!  Not wanting my scrumptious scoop to melt while I crafted my response, I bailed out of the question with a wholly unsatisfying “Because I like it,” leaving her to make her own choice without my input.

 

Shortly after this incident, a curious student asked me why I had chosen ashtanga yoga over all the other types of yoga out there.  Perhaps because yoga is a lot more important to me than Rocky Road ice cream, the retort “Because I like it” felt even more like a cop-out than it did in the ice cream parlor.  And, perhaps because yoga doesn’t melt, I was more willing to take the time to put my thoughts into words.  I’d love to be able to say that I stood in front of the ice-cream-case of yoga and selected ashtanga for myself.  But I can’t.  It was pure providence that led me to my first ashtanga yoga class – which was also my very first yoga class.  Had I turned up in another kind of class, the practice may not have “stuck.”  And I shudder to imagine my life without this sustaining daily practice.  You see, throughout the years, ashtanga yoga has always been a perfect match for me.

 

In the beginning, I was searching for a way to regain my body after years of sharing it with babies.  I craved the physical.  I needed the endorphin high of a good work-out to carry me through the grueling day ahead filled with diapers, bottles, heavy car-seats and temper tantrums.  I yearned to look good again.  Heck, I yearned to simply feel good.  Ask and ye shall receive.  Ashtanga yoga fulfilled all these desires and then some.  The challenging asanas toned and strengthened my body.  The vigorous, at times speedy, flow steadily increased my stamina and endurance.  The stronger and fitter I became, the better I felt.  My regular ashtanga yoga practice had completely revamped my physical body.

 

Time passed (as it does) and I changed (as we do).  My babies got bigger and the challenges that filled my days changed.  The demands I faced were no longer as physical.  I needed the wherewithal to focus on thirteen things at once – imagine three simultaneous requests for help with math homework while cooking dinner, folding a load of laundry and developing a marketing plan for my new yoga studio!  I needed the self-awareness to understand that my short temper had more to do with an over-abundance of volunteer commitments than with my husband and children.  I needed the prescience to see past the scowling face and rude demeanor to sense that something had happened at school to upset my child.

 

Again, ashtanga yoga met my needs.  The ashtanga series requires high levels of concentration and focus.  As my abilities to focus on one thing at a time and to stay present in the current moment developed, I found myself better able to deal with the multiple demands for my attention one at a time.  As I was learning to be curious and aware of myself – my feelings, my fears, my reactions, my ego – on my mat, I became more tuned into what was behind my feelings off my mat.  This awareness also resulted in a heightened sensitivity to the feelings and needs of the people in my life.   My regular (now daily) practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming my relationships – with myself, with my family and with my friends.

 

With time, discipline and dedication, my practice continued to deepen.  My times on my mat became more inwardly focused.  As I became stronger and more flexible, I began to be able to relax into the postures.  The more comfortable I was in the asanas, the less mental energy was required of me to stay in them.  I could now sink below thoughts of alignment and balance into the quiet of moving meditation.  As my physical practice matured, I began to work more diligently with my breath.  Ashtanga’s ujjayi breathing became a point of meditation for me, taking me even deeper into a meditative state.  And, as meditation became more natural for me, my rests in savasana at the end of my practices became richer and more rewarding.  Day after day while I practiced, I drew closer to the divine spark of life and love that is at my core.  Day after day, I recognized that same spark in the people I met after I rolled up my mat and moved on into my day.  My daily practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming and expanding my spirituality.

 

Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like with Rocky Road ice cream, I can’t think of a single reason not to!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like Rocky Road ice cream, I choose it because I like it!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  As I said before, I shudder to imagine my life without it.  Physically, mentally and spiritually, the practice is transformative — and as wholly satisfying as a scoop of ice cream.  Just as Rocky Road ice cream is the perfect flavor for me, ashtanga yoga is the perfect yoga for me.  What about you?  What do you choose?

Press Down to Lift Up: shoulderstand, the up side down way to learn to reach your dreams

One of the most delicious and maddening things about being human is having dreams. I’m not just talking about goals:  this house, that sales figure, that asana, this number of pounds lost or muscle gained. I’m talking about a vision, a feeling of how the world could be, will be how we want it to be.

It’s called being attached, and any first time visitor to meditation hall or yoga class knows that attachment is the cardinal sin of those who seek “Enlightenment”. According to some ways of thinking, it’s the number one cause of dukkha, suffering. But simply severing it isn’t the answer… even if we could.

I’m a great fan of recurrence theories, perhaps it’s my Ancient Greek Philosophy roots, or maybe even the sparkling brilliance of Hegel still bubbling and opening my cranial cavities after all these years, but if there’s one thing of which I’m certain, it’s that nothing happens BOOM! all of a sudden, once and for all, emerging Athena-like, full blown from the thigh of anything or any one.

Even love at first sight. Take the first time I saw my husband. He waited behind me with  a compliment and a smile after my first poetry reading. I stood at the bar, ordering refreshment for my moral support, ready to wheel and slice any man who trod near my tender heart or toes. As I turned, ready to “burn him with my eyes”, my ember stoked eyes fell on his and the furnace of my heart opened to a rush of air that fed flames I didn’t know existed. It was truly a life changing moment.  I knew this person was important, and social stories and norms being what they are, I bore the usual twinge of “could he be…?” But love is a series of choices to keep the furnace tended, sometimes opened, sometimes closed, always stoked, but not to high… and not to jump in, but to sit close and absorb the warmth, to sit close with somebody else, and to remain.

And so with all great stories and commitments, which both enlightenment and non-attachment must be. We make small choices every day that create conditions to invite the condition of which we dream. We dream. We are attached to our dreams, but then we sit. We become and are capable of making distinctions between the conditions of which we dream and the particular things, feelings and people that stand in for our imaginative purposes. We find the emptiness in the dream, and so make the realization possible.

We can live and create our dreams, but only if we let go of specific ideas about how they’ll come true. The best way I know to do this is head down, eyes on the path. Do what is right in front of me with everything I am. The “everything I am” part keeps me focused on foudations, because a big part of who I am is the commitments I’ve made and the beings I love.

And so, contemplating one readers’ plaint of being unable to lift the butt into shoulder stand, I’ve been paying particular attention to how that lightness is created. And it’s no surprise to find that it’s from the bottom up. If you focus on levitating your backside over your shoulders, you’re going to struggle. It’s a lot of core strength, but as much as muscle it’s the union of opposing forces. To raise any part of the body, mind or spirit, another part must be reaching in & down.

In this case the elbows and backs of the arms work nicely. But we can even get more basic than that: the precursor to shoulderstand is bridge, so this is a lovely place to investigate the feeling of butt levitation. From a supine position, bend knees & place the feet on the mat, parallel and hip width apart, close to your rear. You press into your feet to lift your backside and so your frontside. Play with all the ways to press your feet into the floor – there are multiple combinations of muscles that will get the job done and you’ll feel the differences. Press more into your heels, then the toes, then lift the outsides of your feet. Try to move your knees farther from your hips (but never further than your ankles) without moving your hips.

Next, move up to the arms which will be important in your levitation. You can bring the elbows together & support your upper butt with your hands. See what that feels like and maybe try lifting one leg at a time off the floor. You can also support the sacrum with a block and experiment with different levels.

Investigate drawing the shoulders back & together, externally rotating the upper arms and maybe even clasping the hands. The neck should not be on the floor. This is very important, and you should take great care. Do not try shoulderstand if you have an injury or are concerned about your neck, high blood pressure, strokes. Talk to a teacher before going up. This blog is never a substitute for in person advice of a qualified teacher.

Another way to investigate your foundation for this amazing inversion is against a wall. Sit knees tucked with one arm & thigh against the wall. Lay down with the support of the other arm, onto your back, extending your legs up the wall. You might still want to inch your butt closer still to the wall. Bend your knees, place your feet against the wall, parallel and hip width apart, and press into them. Voila! Your butt comes up & off the wall, over your torso. You can play with pressing into the feet, and eventually (making sure your neck is always in a gentle natural curve off the ground) straighten your legs, feel pressing into the wall, for a supported shoulderstand. If you support your sacrum with your hands and bring your legs back so that your thighs and abdomen are at a right angle, this is half shoulder stand and a great way to work into the full stretch of the back required for shoulder stand. Focus on your legs and feet being bright and engage your core, bringing the abdominals back to support your organs and spine.

By focusing on the little things, the everyday decisions of where we press down, what we engage, little by little we move toward the fullest expression of our dreams. The path sometimes bears little resemblance to a disinterested viewer, but we know where the connections are, we feel how the oppositions support one another and finally flower into the very conditions that seemed so far away.

Non-attachment? Maybe, or maybe just loosening the strings, tending the tent stakes and letting the breeze billow the tent makes the heart light enough to take refuge under the sky.

Bow Down & Open Up

Sometimes, most times in fact, the best way to address large projects is to take up the small things. Starting a business? Do the small, unsexy boring things first. Working on a relationship? Do the simple things and watch truth and love break through the cracks. Working on an asana? Check your feet, your alignment and your breath, make sure you can smile, set your eyes free.

Listening to Lara Hedin of YogaPeeps interview Sofi Dillof of Bow Down Yoga this morning reminded me that my focus is always best centered on the small things. Wake up breathe, smile, stretch. Practice. Be Kind. Everything in between is not only negotiable, it depends on these other small things.

I hadn’t heard of Sofi ’til this morning over my coffee & peaches. She introduced me to new things about Jivamukti, things that’ll make me take a second look. I’ll definitely be listening to her podcast. I’ve been a fan of Lara’s ‘Peeps show since my first listen and wholeheartedly recommend it for inspiration, community, reflection. She interviews the most amazing people and her own growth as an interviewer is organic, with great integrity.

Time for me to attend to the small things. May all your small things be great doorways to truth.

Good for what ails you…

One of the most difficult kinds of questions to field as a yoga teacher is “What does yoga do?” Or, “How is it different than …?” The benefits of yoga – the asana, pranayama, meditation – are both permeating & subtle. 

“Research shows that reflecting on a personal value controls cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress.” ~October ’08 Self  Magazine

So it’s heartening when even such a cursory summary of research throws itself in my path. Cortisol, as you may know, is one of the multitude of compounds our body releases when in “fight or flight” mode – aka, stress. Cortisol impacts vascular health, ability to concentrate as well as appetite and what our bodies do with food. The very compounds our bodies release to deal with the stress also perpetuate it.

We need to break the cycle. And that can be accomplished as simply as “reflecting on a personal value.” And that’s precisely what we’re practicing every time we return to our breath (focus on the present, remain present), find the fulcrum between striving and ease, meditate, read and study and ponder inspiring ideas. When we practice yoga (this is why we refer to it as practice), we’re practicing for that moment when the person assigned to help us is less than helpful & kind, or when we just plain don’t get what we want or think we need. We’re even practicing for when we do get what we think we want. Our personal values are always a breath away.

And as I was in the venipuncture waitng room, reading this quote on the “happiness!” pull out in Self, I wondered “Which personal value will I remember and reflect upon when I feel stress?” Who was I kidding? I’d received run-around answers from everyone I’d dealt with getting into this cramped waiting room where I was perched on an end table because there were so many of us sickies huddling together, and whenever one of us was called prematurely out of order, a rather pressed-looking woman who presumably was not much in front of me cursed and slammed small objects. All this so I could allow a disinterested stranger to poke a sharp stick in my soft vein, and probably I’d faint. I needed to reflect on my personal value, pronto.

Thing is, even when you practice at regularly scheduled times in comfy surrounds and seats, it’s still a stretch to remember in the waiting room. But stretching is what yoga teaches, so I grounded, reached, adjusted my gaze and relaxed into reflecting on my personal value. Glad I knew what it was.