Stand at the top of your mat….

That’s it. Just stand, but stand with everything you have. Stand intentionally. Stand in your own arwareness.

I’m putting out a challenge to us all: students, teachers, sometimes yogis and gee-I’ve-been-thinking-about-trying-that-at-home folks.

Once a day, roll out your mat (or, if you don’t have one, clear out a space in the living room or on the grass). Stand. In Tadasana (Ta-Da!) (mountain pose).  That’s it.

If you feel like bustin’ out  some moves from that last yoga class or video, knock yourself out. If you feel like putting on a podcast, look up Hillary’s or Elsie’s (they’re on wordpress).

http://hillarysyogapractice.wordpress.com/

http://elsieyogakula.wordpress.com/

Breathe, pay attention to bandhas, hug your muscles to your legs, center your rib cage over your pelvis. Connect to the floor through your feet. Notice and play with the position of your sternum relative to your shoulders. There’s so much to do right here.

I’m doing this to to encourage us all to meet ourselves on the mat regularly. Leave a comment & say how long you want to join the experiment. Leave comments on your experiences.

Unroll your mat, unfurl your heart, unleash your voice. I bow to you. Namaste.

Every Two Days

My husband said I should call this “If you don’t go to yoga class, you’ll probably die alone.” While you may meet someone at yoga class, I want to motivate you to get your yoga on every couple of days to build awareness, strength and connection. Now, I am a yoga teacher, so I don’t mind if you come to class every two days. But you can take Tree pose in the grocery line, do DownDog in the park and follow it up with Camel against a tree to bring your mind back into connection with the heart and body any time.

You create your muscles and your body and your body contributes to your consciousness which determines how you move and create your muscles. And your muscles are “remodelled” every two days.

The remodelling process happens first by breaking down the structure that you used and then by rebuilding it to meet the demand again. Each part takes about 24 hours. So, in 48 hours you have new muscle. But then if you don’t use it, yep, you guessed it, you start to loose it. In about 2 weeks significant loss will occur.

So, if you feel like you’re treading water in your practice, try busting out your favorite moves from class last week while your waiting for your coffee. You’ll notice a difference in the moment and    in a few days and  in class next week. And, hey, you might just meet someone who notices you  doing yoga!  (information drawn from Julie Gudmstead’s recent article for Yoga Journal Online)

Evolving

Change happens. But when we do something that later we regret, often we are drawn into a notion of radical change, wiping the slate clean, starting over. One of things I love about yoga is the subtlety of the underlying philosophy. T.K.V. Desikachar puts it best in The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, I think, but I’ll sum it up: Keep up the things that give you lasting joy. They will overtake your life.

“The conditioning of the mind that lets it continually take the same driection is called samskara. Samskara is the sum total of all our actions that conditions us to behave in a certain way. … Through yoga we attempt to create new and positive samskara rather than reinforcing the old samskara that has been limiting us. When this new samskara is strong and powerful enough, then the old distressing samskara will no longer be able to affect us. You could say we then begin a completely new life. When the new behavior patterns become stronger the old ones become ineffectual. When we practice asanas we carry out actions that are not determined so much by our habits, and yet still lie within the range of our abilities. … [T]he mind clears a little. … This kind of reoirentation is called parivrtti. Vrtti means “movement” and pari translates as “around.””

Welcome!

Sunny Salutations! I’m new here at wordpress & so enjoying the thriving community. You are each and together so wonderful. I imported my blog from another site, so don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom if you got here searching for something that doesn’t appear in the first page. The blogs from a year ago have .jpgs templates of classes and the more recent ones are technique or asana based. Feel free to request a post on an idea or technique you find intriguing. May your life flow today!

Home Practice: Timing

So, you’re starting a home practice. Bravo! Brava!

It’s like bringing home your lover, a bit. There’s so much to be excited about, so much you know could change, so much you want to know… But then there are these little practical puzzles that can become obstacles.

 I remember when I first started practicing from a book. It would say to hold a pose for a minute or three or a half. Well, particularly when you’re doing something new, your whole relationship to time changes. And the sensations can be so intense! And it’s so easy to forget what the teacher’s always there to remind: Come back to your breath.

 So here’s what I did, and it remains a touchstone, like a grownup version of a blanket. I timed my breathing. Turns out that I usually breathe 15 times (thats one in, one out = one time) a minute. It doesn’t change much. Unless I’m straining or really relaxed. So now, when I want to hold a pose or pace myself, or make sure I hold one side as long as another, I count my breaths. It has the wonderful side effect of awareness and calming. Try it!

And kudos to you for doing yoga at home, at work, at the park, on your break! Remember, yoga IS love, truth, beauty; here, now. Claim it!

Hello world!

Change. Witness. Feel.

We’ve moved.  There will be growing pains, but this new home already feels more like ease. Welcome. Be welcome. Have welcome. Respond. Breathe. Relate. Move. Relax. Thanks for being here with us.

What Aristotle Taught me about yoga

Aristotle’s Ethical work on friendship is surpassingly subtle, which is saying something given all of his work. The last serious work I did in my previous life teaching and exploring Western Philosophy was in Relationship Ethics and drew heavily from Aristotle’s work.

One of the most subversive things I learned from Aristotle comes up in the Bhagavad Gita, too. Sometimes, and all times with some things, the best way to find something is not to aim for it. It’s to aim for something else, apparently unrelated to the thing you think you want in your heart.

Aristotle thought that all folks want to be happy. The problems are defining it (so we know what we’re aiming for) and how to go about obtaining it. Happiness – Eudaimonia in Greek – means well-being. Turns out, happiness is a state of full functioning plus luck. Since we can’t control luck, we aim for full functioning, which for Aristotle and any good Greek person traversing the agora, was Arete – or virtue. So, to be happy, we need to be good. Kinda disappointing if you were hoping for lolling in the grass being rubbed down by gorgeous babes of whatever persuasion.

In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that happiness comes from doing your duty. In chapter 18, Krishna gives a guna-based breakdown of happiness and then sums it up: Whatever your duty (what you have in front of you, what you must do), do it! Even badly done, this is a better state of affairs than running off to find something else, even something you can do with perfection. So, being happy comes not from trying to be happy, but from being good. Doing what you are called to do.

This insight, while pivotal in my own life, is even more greatly generalizable. Sometimes, the way to find something is to go looking for other things closer to your grasp, more obtainable, and keep your mind free for those miraculous ohhhhhhhhh!s.

About three and half years ago I started thinking and – more importantly – working deeply with Mula Bandha. Well, as deeply as I could. I heard Richard Freeman discuss it from poetic and physiological as well as energetic, emotional, intellectual viewpoints during a series of classes. Wow, I thought, I’d like to go there. So I tried. Frustration ensued. Finally I fell back onto what I knew, worked more or less diligently on many given days. Today, after an intense period of practice, most of it outdoors, in the snow, at sacred places in the middle of “nowhere”, I was driving home, winding along snowblown roads and looking for other hikes and places of beauty. And….there it was!!! I recognized it immediately, not because I was trying for it, but because I’d wrapped the guidebook carefully and deposited it in my heart’s memory and worked where I was at lots of different moments. It was a new and subtle sensation at my tailbone, connecting to the four corners of the pelvic floor and it was accompanied by a small but potent flame standing up in the center of that arena, spontaneously combusted from attention … to what I thought were other things!

Thanks, Aristotle, for putting me on the path of the true, circuitous, subtle, deep and rewarding search for what cannot be found; only courted and loved as a true beloved, with care, respect and some distance illuminating the adoration and gratitude.

I bow to you, reader, in recognition of your true, immanent and illuminating Beauty. Namaste.

Abhyasa & Vairagya… or The Yoga of Effort and Surrender

The most important aspect of yogic practice is attention to, observation of and care for the breath. When you pay careful attention to something as essential and inescapable as your breath, it may seem elusive, impossible to observe because so inextricably intertwined with all your other sensations, thoughts, emotions, beliefs. And then, as you re-double your efforts to “pay attention” you do pin it down, but now it appears – and feels! – like a specimen butterfly, no longer what it is, no longer free, animated. You’ve lost – or lost sight of – what’s essential. And too often, this is where I give up.

But perhaps you are more persistent. You look away and try to catch it from your peripheral vision. When you sense its flutters on the edge of your awareness, you wait awhile waiting for it move closer… then you pounce! And it slides away like a soft butter, fragments like mercury. Perhaps you give up here, or maybe you are more determined and you lie in wait a while longer.

As you wait, you refine your approach. Perhaps you clear out the field where you hope to find your elusive breath. Perhaps you make it more inviting, changing your position or the tension in your body. And soon you feel the free flow of your precious breath once more. You are amazed at its variety, its motion and you simply smile, breathe and watch. If you’ve gotten this far, you are in the beautiful place of witness to your own mind.

There are many ways of speaking of the relationship between witness and content, but what it all comes down to is aware self-consciousness. Skillful use of our recursive mind – our unique and sometimes puzzling ability to watch ourselves. A dynamic balance of effort and surrender is required for this skillful practice. We always have the possibility of self-consciousness – this is inherent in the structure of our thought. We sometimes misuse it, ignore it, partially use it. But to cultivate a true witness requires both discipline and non-attachment.

Patanjali tells us that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, and soon thereafter tells us that the path to this union is one of effort and surrender. In our experience as temporal beings, opposites occur sequentially. In order to court the deep union between these opposing forces, we require a practice ground where we can apply them in turn, repetitively, observing the changes.

Your yoga mat is your laboratory, the place of your beloved, sacred labor. Your asana is your crucible. Today, maybe it’s Virabhadrasana – Warrior – Series. Your effort to arrange your feet, legs, pelvis, torso, arms, head, gaze (drshti), spirals, energy, attention, breath, smile, heart, kidneys, waist, heels, shoulders – whew! You’re sweating. You pause to sink. You remind yourself to forget, for now, what you look like. You allow yourself to feel what you feel like. This is the surrender. You adjust your effort based on your observation – you sink again.

The turning from one supposed extreme to the other is often represented in yoga philosophy as the flopping fish. The poor dying fish will never be able to be both sides up, but in the flopping it reveals itself fully. In the eventual death of the fish, the opposites fall away. Of course, so does the fishiness of the fish. Some of us are naturally better at the effort, some at the surrender. Remind yourself to return to whichever is your challenge. In the midst of melting, reach for something. In the midst of sweating, feel what your sweating for. In the midst of it all remember to smile. Send your effort on the surrender of your exhale.

May all your experiments bring you the fulfillment of authentic experience. Namaste (the beauty in me recognizes and revels in the beauty of you and we are one.)

Yule Yoga

I am honored and endlessly pleased by our classes together, and extend my deep gratitude for your wisdom and presence as we finish out this year. Our biweekly classes have gotten underway at a new time and our new routine seems to support and connect us.

Months ago, at the end of summer, we began to learn Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutations. Feeling like a forgein dance step, it cast us into our doubts and uncertainties in and about our bodies, our space and our minds. This last class we collectively swam through Surya Namaskar as if it were our own private, familiar swimming hole! What a tremendous emblem of transformation for each one of us, and what a gift to take into the cool & dark end of the year, into the freshness of each new moment symbolized by the New Year. You are each one and collectively amazing!!!

As we take a two week break to honor the efforts of our lives, I have some resources to share. I will have tomorrow at our last class of the year a CD I’ve made of the Sun Salutation we’ve done in class as well as an extended Yogic Relaxation to go with your Savasana. Perhaps this will inspire you to practice your own yoga, in your own way, in your own space, with or without the words on the CD. If you aren’t at class tomorrow but have been a regular yogi at any time this year, I will leave a copy of the CD at the front dest of the North Valley Senior Center for you to pick up whenever it’s convenient.

I’ve also found this website you might enjoy perusing
http://www.silverageyoga.org/why.php. I did, and think they have some valuable insights and programs.

Remember in every moment, in all you do, in everything you are
you are present, you are free, you are whole.
Revel!!!

In gratitude, in peace and in celebration
I wish for you that
you are free from danger
you have mental happiness
you have physical happiness
you have ease of wellbeing.

Namaste
(The part of me that is sacred and universal recognizes and smiles to that same part of you)