Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Heart of Yoga

"However beautifully we carry out an asana, however flexible our body may be, if we do not achieve the integration of body, breath, and mind we can hardly claim that what we are doing is asana. What is Yoga after all? It is something that we experience inside, deep within our being. Yoga is not an external experience. In Yoga we try in every action to be as attentive as possible to everything we do. ... As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both the observer and the observed at the same time." ~ TKV Desikachar from his book, The Heart of Yoga

This is Yoga... practice this in poses and you will become aware of the subtle aspects of yourself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Diving into the depths of asana

Each pose provides an opportunity to move from a very physical level of positioning the body, lengthening and strengthening of the muscles. In Yoga we don't stop there. With the body in position, we work with the breath, in some cases ujjayi breath, sometimes building on inhale, sometimes the exhale. Our intention is to collect and move the energy or life force, prana. In each pose, despite the strenuous or provocative nature of the asana, we find a balance between effort and allowing, the breath following our direction, we can begin to notice the mind also settle and relax. The effort develops an internal heat, tapas; the heat of transformation. The transformation of the physical level, a detoxifying effect in the organs of the body, and also a transformation of thoughts. Our thoughts begin to welcome a little spaciousness and curiosity.

When savasana finally arrives, it is a moment to rest, to allow the effects of each pose to be integrated. The body and mind, the prana collected, knowing we are safe, we can move beyond the physical body, beyond the mind and remember the part of ourself I will call soul or our true nature. Coming to know this part of ourself is the true essence of practice.

Some days it is definitely easier to get there than others. But given the benefit of asana on so many levels, you just can't lose!

Oh... and a hint, group classes are a lot like taking the bus, takes a little longer to get to where you are going than taking your own car. You will still feel the tapas, however, if you have a personal practice, you can get there without all the extra poses. ;)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Loving me is my job

I study Yoga because I know that in the end, I am the one who is ultimately responsible for my experience of life. I may not be responsible for the storms of life, but ultimately I get to choose how I perceive those things. And how I act as a result of them. Yoga gives me a mirror to see the reflections of my mind. In the stillness of a pose, or the the quiet of sitting in meditation, the movement of thoughts; the direction thoughts go, tells me about my real fears, beliefs and desires.

I recently have been very engaged in watching the unfolding story of Reatah Parsons. I can relate to that young woman. I was raped by a boy I knew. And it did not just happen once, it happened repeatedly. I can choose to see myself as the victim or worse as the person who should have prevented it, blaming myself for not somehow stopping it. I did that for years. And I was very close to being hospitalized for an eating disorder because of it.

I am now no where close to that tender teenage time of life. I can see how the way I thought about the events that unfolded then are still with me in the many little betrayals I experience now. One part of me defending myself and the other feeling so shamed and weak, at fault. The truth is both perspectives are true. I only want the one where I was good and valued to be the one that is true. But I know that it is not; in every relationship people come to it with their own life experience, fears and desires. Someone elses' choices are only partly about me. "Ahhh," I think, "but if only I was good enough or better." And that is the thought that has almost killed me.

It is hard to change these repeated thoughts. And that is not necessarily the point of Yoga. The point is to be able to remain steady and not confused by these thoughts. It is to recognize them as just thoughts, not truths. They only become "true" when I give them value. Hopefully, if I do practice, I can hold the thoughts away from my heart and see them as thoughts. I can then act from a place that is true to my heart.

Our power exists not in proving we are right or good enough, or worthy of love.

True power exists when we can let others think all the bad things they want and treat us poorly and we still know in our hearts we are worthy of love.

Do me a favor, just work with the thought that you are worthy. Write it 100 times and see if you resist it, or what thoughts stop you when you are writing and write those too. Then you will know where you really stand with yourself. Because in the end we will all die alone. And we will need the power of our own love to walk that path.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vinyasa Krama - wise progression

"...a vital thread of the Yoga tradition: a practice should suit the needs of the individual." Rod Stryker

While usually we all leave a Yoga class feeling better than when we went in, the practice of asana can be exceptionally powerful when we learn how different practices influence our experience of the world.

Yoga is a science, your goal is to understand what you need to make your own view of the world one of joy and freedom. Try this... next class see if you can figure out what the intention of the series of poses were leading to. As you move through the poses notice if you feel more energized, or more grounded? Perhaps you felt very blissful and a little lighter. Take note. Then try to remember where that started,was it when you were in the forward folds or pigeon. Did it happen in wheel or headstand? Just notice. You can always ask the teacher what his/her intention was and see if it fit your experience.

A few hours later it can also be helpful to do another few moments of sitting quietly and ask yourself, what do I feel now? Has that feeling persisted or has something else taken it's place.