Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Body - Breath - Mind

I stand in warrior three. Firmly planted on my right foot, the leg extended. My left leg reaching back behind me. Arms reaching forward. The standing leg tremors, my mind responds, "will I fall? Steady. Oh. I have overcompensated. No! Okay, I think I have it. Oh, no."
My thoughts are interrupted by the instructor cueing the breath, "smooth and steady."
That's when I notice I am not breathing.
We come out and I exhale in a sigh.

Sound familiar?!?

The body, mind and breath are all related. In Yoga we refer to these layers as the koshas. There is the physical kosha, anna maya kosha; within that sheath is a more subtle sheath relating to our living energy - the energy of fear or of love for example -called the prana maya kosha. The third sheath is the mano maya kosha, or the sheath of the mind. The thinking essence of ourself. We experience the world around us through the layers of emotion energy and our physical experience of the world.

In warrior three, I may arrive with physical tension from sitting at my desk all morning and having done my run on a treadmill the day before. I had that extra cup of coffee in the morning and hungry for my lunch. These things will influence my physical experience of the pose. I rush to class, knowing I have a full afternoon before me. Knowing that I will not stop until late tonight. This is the living energy I bring to the class; this energy of being hurried, continuing moving, not grounded and steady. The mind is thinking of the results. It is checking the things off the to do list. It is judging the experience. "Is this class giving me what I want? Am I being successful?" This is the mano maya kosha layer through which I am experiencing the class.

My overall experience depends on how I manage these layers. A restful sleep. A healthy meal that balances me. Ensuring time in my schedule. These elements will create a very different experience on the three levels I have just described. This is why Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Ayurveda works with the physical, energetic and mental energies. Eating foods that stabilize and balance the elements of the body, oil massage that creates a more relaxed or enlivened experience based on what one would benefit the most, help to create the maximum benefit from asana practice.

The koshas don't end here. There are two more layers; the vijana maya kosha and the ananda maya kosha. When we can move through the first three we reach the layer of discrimination. This is the place of clear understanding. And finally the layer of bliss. That place of joy, ananda maya kosha. This is the real fruit of our practice. Being and experiencing our best self.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Relationships within ourselves

All my decisions are a reflection of my relationship with myself, whether that is consciously understood and seen by me or not. I think this is true for everyone. Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who was telling me I was undervaluing myself by offering a movement clinic where the fee was only fifteen dollars. There was a time when I did movement clinics for groups for free in order to build a name for myself. And there was also a time when my rate for a private session was a hundred an hour.

So why did I decide to charge so little? My relationship with myself when it comes to climbing is disconnected. Funny since I run a climbing gym. But I have watched climbing change and as the ability of climbers has continued to get more advanced, the pattern of movement in bouldering has become more dynamic. Back in the day... when I started climbing, I was a trad climber. The rule was you don't fall. Then I progressed to route climbing and discovered you could fall, but I still didn't like the idea. So I learned how to make big moves while staying in balance throughout most of the movement. This served me well when I discovered bouldering. I knew how to climb tall even though I was short and I was strong through my core.

Now people like to swing to holds and move completely out of balance and then reel themselves back in. That doesn't appeal to me. People like to climb boulder problems that are 20 feet tall. That doesn't appeal to me. People like to climb at night with headlamps. That doesn't appeal to me. And so I have not found a climbing partner that shares my love of grace in movement and I have stayed home. I haven't climbed much. Unless I go to visit my friends in Colorado who don't dyne for things.

In this photo - first climbing post delivering Fynn, my left leg is dropping - I didn't do the move. Understanding that is the kind of thing I love about climbing... and yoga.

I gave up on connecting to people who share climbing and therefore, I gave up on my climbing. Oh... I haven't forgotten how to move gracefully, nor any of the safety related issues or how to set routes, but I gave up believing that anyone cared about that. And that ended my relationship. Funny thing is that it shouldn't. I have never climbed for anyone else before. I have walked away from sponsors because they didn't share my values about the joy of movement. And yet I walked away from that joy because I did not have anyone to share it with. Except myself.

Time to share my joy with myself. See you out there. ;)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Agni - the fire of self knowledge

When I settle into locust, each breath lifting my chest higher and each exhale grounding my belly on the mat. It doesn't feel uplifting and beautiful. I do not see the beauty and joy in my practice. I am generally having a negotiation with myself about just how long I will endure this discomfort.

This discomfort is what we Yoga teachers call tapas... inner heat. It's not the "sweating" that happens after ten minutes on the treadmill. It is as much a discomfort of the mind as discomfort in the body. The internal dialogue that heats up and I begin to bring on the ego in fullest splendour. The ego must not lose this battle. Ego begins to judge and argue. In my mind there is criticism that arises. Critical of the sequence, the teacher, others in the room, and eventually it settles with myself. If there long enough. If the discomfort is sustained and I eventually let myself free from the struggle, tapas eventually leads to tejas.

Tejas is defined as splendour, light, fire, fierceness, beauty, majesty, clearness of the eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul. Tejas is your inner light, your fire, the beauty and majesty that is you... the you that is not the physical body. It is the clear seeing of oneself. This is why I practice. This clear seeing helps me to see clearly the choices I want to make, see clearly the love in my own heart.

So why do you practice?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Cleaning

The local CBC radio program is running a little contest for folks who need assistance decluttering their homes. As I listen to people discuss the amount of clutter and disorganization they are suffering from, I begin to think, "they just have too much stuff."
"I don't have too much stuff."
"Ha!" my mind retorts, "you have too much in your mind."

And I know it is true. Thoughts bounce between the rather serious work incidents this week, the upcoming events I've committed myself to, the dogs and their well-being, the commitments I am making just seem to never end.

All week I have been trying to coach myself into approaching all actions with love, even the little ones. And yet, I find myself just wanting to sit in a chair in front of the fire and watch TV while snacking on my vata/pitta deranging treats. And I do. I am getting through some pretty full days and my new home project and then collapsing into mindlessness.

I get it. I understand easy it is to hoard things. I don't hoard stuff, I hoard stuff to do. I have a very strong vikalpa around doing means I am worth loving. I pack my life full of ways of trying to be helpful to others. I find myself suddenly up to teaching four Yoga classes a week, doing my 9-5 pm work, adding in a few climbing work opportunities and working on the board of a non profit. Ironically, one of the things I need to do is prepare for an upcoming training with my teacher and I need to work with giving up a not so healthy habit and working with vikalpa. I've added entertaining folks at my home and doing a little kitchen upgrade project for good measure.

I wake up every morning saying I will take care of myself and because I am continually moving through a day packed with commitments, I don't. I collapse into a mindlessness relationship with my computer instead.

So... a new resolve. I feel clutter free. I am approaching the things in my life with joy and anticipation, love. Now... the bad time. Ahhhh...yes, computer time.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life goes on.

Last month, at our month 108 gathering, I divulged my darkest secret struggle. It is a negative thought, feeling that I push away whenever it arises. I don't write about it and yet I really feel a need to talk to someone about it. And at the same time, it feels silly. Well, maybe silly isn't the right word. I feel very vulnerable acknowledging it.

I am getting older. This year, in just two months I will turn fifty. Yup, I acknowledged that publicly. I have always been fortunate that people think I am younger than I am, but I am embarrassed to be getting so old. And I feel it physically. I try climbing every now and again and all these thrutchy, dynamic movements feel horrible on my joints. I try running and my knees are not so happy with me going up the stairs that night. The worst is that I look in the mirror and I see a belly that just won't be flat like it used to and grey, wirey hair protruding through the brown. I feel old.

I have always had a lot of fire, intensity. I have always been a results oriented focus. This tenacity has gotten me up some pretty hard routes, I've graduated from many degrees and certifications and I have created more than a few careers for myself. I work two jobs and raise a child alone. I get the job done, albeit not always well loved by those who have felt my fire ;) I still feel that fire. I don't want to slow down and not be great at the physical pursuits I once was great at. And yet, I don't want to have a great running speed for the sake of loosing belly fat or feeling strong. I don't want to send V9 to prove I still can.

I want the more subtle nuances of my strength and stamina. I want to feel the expansion through my core and the strength to sustain it as I feel it in warrior three. I want to experience that feeling of surrender to discomfort in a pose rather than the continued forceful persistence. I want the gracefulness that comes with acceptance and skillful effort.

This morning, I came across an article on the Yoga International website. Titled, Aging Gracefully, the author, Debra Willoughby recounts her experience of physical decline and what she eventually gained from it. And I am encouraged by the words of my teacher's teacher. Since starting my journey with Yoga, faith has always been the key. As my mother declined last year and eventually past away, I saw very clearly the inevitable for all of us, but I believed while her body left us, her spirit never did. Her live was full of meaning and purpose.

“As long as we remain inspired to discover why we came to this world, we remain youthful,” he said. “Old age has no power over us when we are accompanied by faith that we have something precious to experience and achieve in this lifetime. This faith sparks a burning desire to know the true nature of the invisible force that lies at the core of our being, and when it wells up, nothing—not the lack of worldly resources, a limited knowledge of philosophy, the absence of a living guide, or even old age—can stand in the way of our inner fulfillment.” Pandit Rajmani Tigunait.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Work of a Lifetime

I want my life to have meaning. Last night I pondered who would come to my funeral. I could see people whose heart I had touched and those who would not come because of the distance between us or because of their own desire not to face death and loss. Still it happens.

These thoughts seem so far removed from asana - the poses we use on the mat, and yet those poses are the seeds to who would show up when I die. When I saw those faces, I saw the many faces of those with whom I study, practice and teach Yoga. Those faces are the people who are willing to open their own hearts and be vulnerable and accepting - of me and them selves.

Yoga happens on the mat, for sure. But there is no perfect representation of a pose, only a perfect degree of acceptance of how the pose manifests in ones body, moves energy and awakens the spirit. More importantly, once the spirit comes awake and curiosity to examine life from a new understanding is born, perspective on everything in life changes... for the better.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stillness and Steadiness

Yesterday my son brings his computer into the kitchen. He is watching a show.
I ponder the clues to my crossword puzzle; What is that word, oh... ice cream. Yes, it fits. What number is that?
What is he watching?'
Was it across or down?'
How long has he been watching shows?
86 across, Will's wife.
He is eating again. What time is it? Maybe I should start supper.

Even as I sit and write, I notice the continual movement of my dogs. Waiting for me to get up and take them out for a morning walk. Pacing. It draws me away from the story, then I can come back, only to be drawn away again.

Next week there will be 18 young people at my work for a camp. I will have instructors to work with them, but I will also be expected to assist and to be with these busy little people. My days will be full of being drawn out to new tasks and then to try to return to tasks half finished. It is just the nature of my work.

This is exhausting for me. Trying to recapture my focus takes precious energy. I am naturally an introvert, recharging my batteries through the process of self reflection and quiet study or working with only one or two people. I would exchange loud noisy places with lots of people for a quiet conversation with one other person outside under a big tree with no one in sight.

Chaos is an inevitable part of life. Yoga has taught me how to live with it. How to manage my own energy so it doesn't escape me too quickly and so I can easily focus while in the midst of the chaos. That takes practice, lots of practice. It requires asana, breath work and meditation. It requires restoration. It requires warm comforting foods. Good sleep. A bit of hibernation when I can. The only control I have is the energy I bring to meet the ups and downs of life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The wagon has been a bumpy ride since making my New Year resolutions. The challenges of everyday life have not made it possible to have all the shakti I need to get through in the best ways possible. More importantly, I notice I have not reached out for help. I have stumbled through it alone. Because I am the only one I trust. And because my healthy ego doesn't want to admit it needs help.

So I have stumbled.
I have binged on TV and salty snacks and wine.
I have not exercised or practiced asana when I could have.
I have sat resisting the cold and been blaming Mother Nature for my choices.

Well, it is time to also note, I have offered myself self acceptance. It is cold. It is unpleasant to walk the dogs when it is -12 degrees. It is hard to sit in meditation for 30 minutes when I would rather stay under the covers longer. The discipline to do these things robs me of the shakti to make other challenging choices. So I understand and have compassion. And I will hold it all a little lighter. This life is a practice. There is no perfect ending, only continual change.

But spring, please hurry!