Posts Tagged With: alasya


Our country has a “say when” problem. It’s something I am reminded of every Tuesday evening in my neighborhood when people put their trash out for the week. Trash just seems to over-flow. Don’t even get me started on the fact that some people aren’t making an effort to recycle. This “when-to-say-when” problem exist in other ways. Credit card debt is a great example of, yep you guessed it, they didn’t say when to the fact they had no more money. “When-to-say-when” is showing up in the form of obesity, too. People are not realizing when they are full, and so they keep eating. People keep buying more, and more, and can no longer park their cars in their garage. We are overflowing in our homes, bodies and trash cans. We are living in a world where we feel pushed all the time for more, and more. So it’s no surprise to me that the “when-to-say-when” shows up in the yoga room. Yoga is where I would like to address the problem. As I am not a financial advisor and I am not a dietary expert. When is enough…ENOUGH?

It’s all about what you grasp and and how you grasp it.

Aparigraha – Grasping would be the word yoga would use to describe this affliction. The sutras advise us on grasping in the yama’s, the 1st limb of the ashtanga yoga system. Sutra 30, Chapter 2 says “Aparigraha sthairye janma kathamta sambodhah” – For one who establishes a non-grasping attitude gains a deep understanding to the meaning of life. Holy crap, that’s a big one. Aren’t we all searching for the meaning of life? Well, I’ll tell you this; The meaning of life is not greed. We are not here to strip the earth of all it has to offer. We are not here to strip each other of the light we were all born with, and we are definitely not here to strip our body of its vitality.

But we are stripping our body of its vitality (prana). What we put in our body, what we do to our body, and what we think about our body can either be good for us, or bad for us. What we really need to come to understand, is there is a great benefit to emptiness. That it is ok for our bellies to be empty. It’s definitely ok for our minds to be empty. That is why a meditation practice is so good for us. It gives us time to clean out some of the clutter in our mind. Just like not eating for a while allows our body to become empty, and allows digestion to take a break.

What about what we do to our body? You might think I mean to suggest doing nothing, in the case of our body. On the contrary, we need to move our body to empty it of past scars, patterns (samskara) and waste. But even in yoga people come at their practice with greediness. They want to be able to do this pose, and to do it now. Like the girl from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, Violet Beaureguard, who turns into a giant blueberry from her greediness. “I want it, and I want it now!” That kind of thinking in yoga will likely lead you to injuries, fatigue and even disinterest. Burn out is a great example of greediness (aparigraha).

People walk away from yoga all the time and they say things like, I got bored, or I don’t have time anymore. If you have ever fasted, you are blown away by how much time you get back in your life when you are not eating food, preparing food, buying food, and even thinking about food. At least that’s what I learned from the two fasts that I have done. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t eat, that would be crazy. What I am saying is we can eat less, spend less and we can always make time for things we value the most. As far as boredom and yoga, I don’t understand it. Because for as long as I have been at this, I have never been bored. Ever! I find my body interesting and always changing. There are ways to keep things interesting though; things that can stave off the boredom excuse, practice at a new time of day, try a new teacher, or better yet, realize that your boredom might be a reflection of your will power. Your ability to see things through, even when they can become as routine as brushing your teeth.

If some of the people that walked away from yoga were willing to tell the truth, they would probably tell you it was because it became confrontational. Things weren’t happening as they wanted, on the time line that they were trying to control. By doing yoga, I have learned how much I try and control everything. There are the graspers/over indulgers, the lazy/lack of perseverance and then those that are steadfast and diligent.  The graspers are going to run into injuries and resistance, and the lazy/lack of perseverance will run into boredom and slack, the kind of slack that allows you to “cut yourself some slack” for not practicing. The diligent/steadfast type will embrace the practice with humility and become willing to relinquish their control.

Yoga is a process, and usually a slow process. There will probably be a handful of poses you will excel at right at the start, but the rest will take time. I like to say, “Your body didn’t get this way over night.” The tightness, weakness, and instability crept in when you forgot to make time for your health. (If you don’t believe me, read my  blog called “Paying it forward.” ) What are we willing to sacrifice time for; people will wait in line for hours to get the new i-phone, or to see the latest trilogy movie, spend hours tailgating before the big game, or camp out in chairs in 32 degrees for black friday shopping deals so they can cram their houses, garages, body and wallets with greed. If we don’t make time for our body it will break down and the wheels will fall of, so to speak. It’s amazing how quickly people will get to a doctor when that happens, and then want someone else to fix what they broke.

It’s time to eat less, spend less, buy less, throw away less and do more. More yoga, more meditation and most of all more reflection on why you roll two full garbage cans to the curb? Why do you have to work more to pay off greater debt? Why do you have an injury that won’t go away? Why do you need to buy more clothes, because you’ve out grown the old ones? Why do you need to take more pills to fix the things that are failing you? If you could just make a little more time in your life for exercise, stop making the excuses, don’t over do it and see it thru even when it gets hard, boring or routine, you would be doing yourself, your family, your employer and the earth a great favor. The new year is fast approaching, don’t make the promise that this year you’ll do this, wake up tomorrow and make it a lifetime commitment, not a January one.

Let this yoga sutra guide you. Sutra 30 Chapter 1 –  Vyadhi Styana Sansaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarsana alabdhabhumikatva anavasthitatvani citta viksepah te antarayah – The obstacles that distract the mind are illness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, overindulgence, illusions about oneself, lack of perseverance and instability. If you are struggling with “when-to-say -when”, then you just need to look at the “when” as ” Now”. As the very first yoga sutra says “Atha yoganusanam.” – Now, yoga.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do I do yoga?

I have had a lull in my writing. I now know that this venture is going to be tricky one. I write best when I’m feeling inspired and creative. I guess right now those juices are just not flowing. That’s ok, I can honor and respect that. But I also figure that I can out-smart it, or work around it. I have five writings that I have started but just can’t seem to finish. So, I thought I’d keep it simple and try to write about something that would come easy. So: “Why do I do yoga.

Well, to answer that I wonder if you need to know how yoga came into my life? 12 years ago I was living in Columbus, Ohio. I was 28 and married and working as a manager at a retail pet store chain. My husband was in advertising and he was shooting a commercial for our local hospital. They were using a firm out of California to film it. So one night we went out to dinner with all of the crew to this great Indian restaurant. The restaurant had the best gulab jaman that I have ever eaten. It’s this yummy round pancake like dessert that floats in a bowl of honey and other spices like cardamon and nutmeg. I recommend you try it, if you’ve never had it. Anyway, I sat next to a gentleman that had an interest in Buddhism, as did I. So we got to talking, and the conversation led us to the topic of yoga. He began to imply that from some of my patterns of thought and behavior that I would love yoga. See, at this point I had already been a vegetarian for 4 years and I had a great appreciation for the human body. I had been working out for years as a way to stay healthy and active, and at one point I even worked hard at trying to become a bodybuilder.

That man was very persistent, so I signed up for my first yoga class at our local gym. This was back when yoga studios were not available in every neighborhood, as they are now. It took place one day a week, for 8 weeks, back in a tiny conference room, off the gym.  The first class was me, 7 other people and the teacher. He turned off the lights, offered us yoga mats and walked us through approximately 12 poses in one hour. I had been lifting weights and running for the past 12 years, so I considered myself pretty darn fit. I walked out of that class, and for the first time, thought of fitness in a whole new light. I couldn’t do half of the 12 poses he led us through, and none of them were advanced poses. I remember this one pose in particular  that I could not execute and  it left my mind spinning. How could I be fit enough to run a triathlon, fit enough to bench press 165 pounds and fit enough to ride my bike 30 miles, but couldn’t handle an hour yoga class without feeling pretty darn inadequate. I figured that if something that looked simple in it’s outward appearance, but could humble me that much was something worth sticking with. And sticking with it I did indeed.

Upavishta Konasana

Upavishta Konasana

Jump ahead 12 years later and I still do yoga. Now it is 6 days a week for at least an hour and half up to, two and half hours a day. That pose that I couldn’t even tip forward in one inch is now easily executed and cherished as the pose that got me to where I am today. It’s called Upavishta Konasana or more simply put wide leg straddle forward fold. I worked hard on that pose to get it to where it is now.

So why do I do yoga? I do yoga because after that first class I felt great. But better then great, I felt curious. I felt a strong need to know. Right after that class, literally 10 mins after it finished, I was buying my first two yoga books from the store that was walking distance from the gym. Weeks later I still didn’t really know what yoga was, even after reading a few books and going to all 8 classes offered. But what I did know is that I didn’t know it all. At the age of 18 we think we know it all and that doesn’t change much in your young 20’s. But I do think there is a moment for everybody when you realize you have to admit you don’t know it all. But what got me, was that I thought I knew a lot at least about my limits. And that sentence right there is why I do yoga. Because there really seems to be no limit to this practice of yoga. 12 years in and I still almost daily walk away tickled pink by yet another physical/mental challenge I have over-come. I got hooked on yoga because of the number of things that I couldn’t accomplish. I hated this idea that other people could do those things that I couldn’t. So yes, the competitive side in me was being confronted. A lot of people say yoga is not a competition, getting all holier than thou about how yoga is spiritual and not about the ego. Your confrontation with your ego will make you grow spiritually, that you will not escape. But I’ll tell you this, for me, it was and still is about competition. And I’ll tell you why.

The ego is not bad. It’s your confidence, it’s your courage, it’s your hootspa. It’s what makes me carry my voice, it’s what makes me stand up straight, and it’s what makes me determined. If I didn’t want to be better then I was yesterday then why get out of bed? We need to learn to embrace the ego. It is what drives us to experience life usually to the fullest. Without it, we would be meek, shy and reclusive, and miss out on so much stuff in this one life we are lucky to experience.

What is so great about yoga and the way that it is practiced is for an hour to an hour and a half there is no talking! This forces you to listen to all the chatter in your head. This forces you to hear how your ego speaks to you – whether or not it speaks kindly or aggressively, logically or illogically, honestly (satyam) or dishonest.  What the ego brings up in us is not always good, nor is competitiveness. But at least if you are given the time and space to listen, you might figure a way to get out of your own way. The best time to listen is in a home practice, where there is no teacher, music or other students to compare yourself against. It’s just you and what’s in your head and body that day.

So yes, yoga keeps me flexible and keeps me strong. Those are the two best physical reasons to do yoga. But what it boils down to outside those two things, is it keeps me adaptable, humble and balanced (sattvam). The ego can’t get too big and or too small when you practice at home, holding your own feet to the fire (agni). Not everyday is the same on the yoga mat. Just the other day I had a practice that felt like I was beginner. There was no willingness in my body anywhere. But it’s a discipline and I am a disciple of it, because it has endlessly surprised me with showing me all that I am capable of. It turns out that my original goal of wanting to be a bodybuilder came true. Through yoga, I am building the best body I have ever had. Yoga encompasses everything in my body: my heart, lungs, muscles, injuries (himsa), weaknesses (klesha, obstruction), strength’s, attitude’s (bhavanam), opinion’s, laziness (alasya), ego (asmita) and more. It keeps it all changing, adapting and improving.

The best word to describe yoga and the impact it has on me is  “EVOL-UTION”. If you look closely, by no coincidence do I believe; in the spelling of evolution, LOVE  is spelled backwards. I believe in evolution because I have experienced it. It’s being able to see where I have been that better directs me to where I need to go. To evolve is to develop gradually, there’s no better gradual way then one day at a time, one yoga practice at a time. I am capable of anything that I want bad enough. To want something, I must have desire. I desire it because the ego see’s something that it wants to do better.

Yoga gives me the platform to expand. There are over 1,300 variation of  yoga postures. If I had to guess, as popular as yoga is today, there are probably more being added. I have a long way to go in being able to execute all of the asana’s out there. But because I want to be better than others, not to bring them down, but to elevate myself higher then I currently am. I will get it done. I have never gotten bored in the past 12 years. But I have gotten frustrated, injured, and knocked down a peg or two, but the competitive side in me says, get up, brush it off and roll out your mat.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret

Do you ever feel like some people know something that you don’t? Does this make you paranoid? It could, or you could think it makes you curious. Curiosity gives you that drive to keep going, to figure out what you don’t yet know. I always say the greatest thing you can show up with on your yoga mat is curiosity. Your greatest asset in yoga is not your black Manduka mat (even though I do love it), or a cute outfit, or a yoga companion; but instead, it’s that insatiable need to ask more questions and always look for your own answers.

The definition of curiosity: “eager desire to know”. Oh, I love that! It is not defined as just a desire to know, because that is not enough. It’s the eagerness that makes it so great. This gets even better. I looked up the word eager: “enthusiastic”. Ok, we’re getting somewhere. Didn’t that just simply spell out why  curiosity is your greatest life companion? We should be enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand our knowledge (vidya). Sadly, the greatest contradiction to this idea is, the old wives tale that “curiosity killed the cat.” Well, if a case of the curiosities is what I must die from, then I accept. I accept it enthusiastically!

In the Ashtanga yoga system, you would place curiosity under the second limb of the system – “niyama” or self observation. The practice of yoga should help you look at your interaction with your self more often. You will see patterns exposed and identify old schools of thought that maybe you have never challenged, maybe they were schools of thought handed down to you from your parents, or your environment. You took them to be true, without any self-study to find if those truths aligned and resonated with you, as you are now. The study of the self (svadhyaya) happens when you become curious. When you allow that curiosity to carry you into the deeper layers of the things you have been told to believe, and you start looking for the things that seem to resonate with you in that place we call our gut.

Our gut instinct should naturally occur. But it can be slowly squashed out of us when people make these statements: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” or “Because I said so.”. We have all heard it from so many different sources, and sometimes there is an inclination to go, “Ok, they must know something I don’t know.” Well, I say, challenge that. What do they know? How do they know it? Where did their information come from? It’s your 3-year-old brain I’m talking about.  The 3-year-old brain is the one that digs for information relentlessly, right? Well hang out with a 3-year-old and it sure feels relentless! What, how, why, when, where and repeat.

That is how life’s secrets are found: the things you feel your missing, the things no one is sharing with you. We live in a time where we are bombarded with information. But how much of what is coming at us, have we challenged? I am always surprised when people say to me: “I tried yoga, but I got bored.” I have never understood how boredom can happen in a yoga practice. We have approximately 656 muscles in the human body, and we have 206 bones. With over 858 parts moving in our bodies, there should be no time for boredom. Boredom comes from a lack of interest. A lack of interest can come from laziness (alasya)or aversion (abhinivesah), or from trusting that your yoga teacher knows more than you would about your own body. A yoga teacher should know many things about the body and how it best functions in different asana’s. However, you should never take someones word for it. If you haven’t first applied your three-year old brain to the things the teacher says.

Here’s an example of an internal dialogue of a curious yoga student: “Trikonasana pose – I wonder what that means? Ohh, 3 angled pose. Where are the angles? Oh, there they are. Why should my body be on one plane? Oh, because on two planes, I can’t receive a stretch to my tensor fascia latae muscle. What’s my tensor fascia latae muscle? Oh, it’s at the front top part of my ilium and attaches to my illiotibial band. Where does that go and what does that do? If my TFL muscle is tight, I wonder what problems it’s causing in my body? How does it affect my alignment of my 206 bones? If I can better stretch that how will I feel? When will I be able to grab my big toe? What would I need to do to grab my big toe?” This can go on for a while and after you have tried many things you will start to refine the postures you’re in. That refinement of your body will dispel ignorance (Avidya). You might also start to feel like people aren’t with-holding the secret. Then, you could realize that it doesn’t really matter how it looks, but more important, how it feels and why it feels that way?

Curiosity never really killed a cat. Not unless the cat’s name was “Doubt”. Because curiosity only kills doubt. Curiosity exposes the secrets you feel you have been missing. But it also creates secrets that you now know about your Self (Svadhyaya). I remember a big epiphany that I had. I was just getting ready to start my first yoga teacher training program of 9 ladies that were eager to learn. I was reviewing all my notes and nuggets of information I had learned, so far, in my study of yoga. I found my self grasping to my knowledge and not wanting to share it – out of fear that they might learn all the secrets I had worked so hard at uncovering. The little ego that exists inside all of us was afraid that if I gave it all away, I might not matter as much (which exposed another limb of the Ashtanga yoga system which is aparigrahah – non-greed). I only became the teacher I am now when I stopped coveting the information I have learned. When I openly and willing share all my secrets in hopes they will inform, in hopes they will dispel doubts, but also that they will be challenged.

So the Secret is…Don’t believe everything you are told until you have exhausted your self-study of how that information applies to you. Maybe you do need to be told, to move forward more, or to tilt your pelvis forward, or to exhale completely and then lift. But I promise, even with out those things that seem like secrets, you will figure it all out for yourself, if you just come at it with the eager desire to know!

My teacher, Tim Miller, sharing his secrets with me. Second series Ashtanga Yoga teacher training, 2010. Encinitas, CA.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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