Monthly Archives: February 2012

The elusive perfect yoga practice.

Poolside yoga in Roatan, Honduras.

What makes a good yoga practice? If you are still practicing yoga, that means you have experienced at least one sublime practice. As it is human nature to be pleasure seekers and masters at avoiding pain, it makes sense to seek that which we have enjoyed. It’s that one practice that hooked you. It’s what keeps bringing you back onto your mat time and time again. But among the good practices lie a few awful one’s too. Why is that? What is making your practices so different from one another?  It even happens when it is a set sequence of postures like Ashtanga yoga. You would think that if you are doing the same poses day in and day out that you would be having a ground hog day like experience. But it’s not so.

All life has an ebb and flow. The proof is all around us. Yet we become so accustom to the changes that we don’t acknowledge their impact like we should. We are very sensitive beings. Even though its seems as if we pretty much do the same thing day in and day out, we don’t. And it’s the little things that are changing our experience on our mats. I think that’s the fun of yoga. It’s like chasing down the elusive big foot – that notion that you have seen something once, but can’t prove it. I have done some amazing things on my mat. And as much as I try to recreate all the elements that were in play the day my practice was easy, smooth and effortless, it can seem like I’m chasing something that’s a myth.

Have you ever found yourself recreating all the environmental elements that were in play that day? But yet still no luck at recreating the elusive perfect practice. You know what I mean right? You put your yoga mat in the exact same place, you practice at the exact same time of day, wear the same clothes, make it the same temperature and you try and do the poses exactly as you did that day. Hoping that when you lie down in savasana it was everything that it was the epic time before.

If we were all to describe what a perfect practice is, we would find it’s not the same between us. You might consider a perfect practice to be where you finally held crane pose with out falling on your metaphorical beak. Or it’s when you never once looked at the clock. Or there was no presence of struggle. Or you finally felt like you engaged your bandhas the whole practice. The way that I have experienced it is there was a quietness in my practice and a nice heaviness and ease in my savasana. Where it felt like I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just doing yoga for the joy of it. There is a yoga sutra that tells us out right, that if we want to have a great experience with yoga, then take this simple advice… Sutra 1.12 ” Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah” Practice yoga with dispassion. Or more commonly said : practice without attachment to a particular outcome.

Recently, I took a vacation with my husband to the lovely island of Nevis. It was my kind of vacation, lots of relaxing by the ocean and plenty of time to roll out my mat and practice. Where ever I go, my yoga mat goes. So after we settle in, I went down by the swimming pool and rolled out my mat and proceeded to practice. I didn’t follow the ashtanga sequence. I ad-libbed some researching postures into the mix. So as I was moving along, I popped right up to a hand stand on my first try, with both legs at the same time and stuck it, then came down and carried on. I did that twice more in the practice and comfortably got into Marichyasana D, and came up out of backbends fluidly. When I finished, I was purely delighted with my practice.

Then the next day, I came out by the pool to practice. Again, I tried doing many of the same things I did the day before and it just wasn’t working. There’s a simple answer why. I’m hoping you have already figured it out. The first day that I practiced, I had no expectations. I just wanted to do yoga. But the second day, my expectation was that I wanted it to be as easy and joyful, as the day before. In a sense, I wanted to control the outcome one day and the other day I did not. I would accept the outcome. Which to me means, I was open. Open to things that I can not control and open to whatever the universe had in store for me.

There will always a percentage of the practice that you do not control. That’s the time where it is appropriate to surrender and accept. Without acceptance there is conflict. You are pitting yourself up against something, and you will usually apply force to achieve the result you are trying to control. This is usually the best teaching opportunity. What will happen is you will fail. You will be humbled, you will learn and grow by defeat. I like to say to my students when I’m teaching, that surrendering is not giving up, it’s giving in. There is a big difference between those two things. One, you walk away, the other you walk towards but peacefully, and without struggle.

Now, I’m sure being on a tropical island, under a beautiful blue sky that was filled with the intoxicating rays of the sun at the equator, and with the ocean as my backdrop, did assist my overall experience. But the real reason, that practice, was one of those knock your socks off kind, was because I wanted nothing. That doesn’t mean I was without desire. Because desire is what gets you to your mat. But once I stepped into Samastitihi, I gave into God, grace, time, whatever you want to call it . I didn’t want to stick handstand, I didn’t want to bind Marichyasana D, I just wanted to move my body as freely as it would, or could that day. It happens with running, too. On the days I head out the door for a run and I’m predicting that it has all the makings of a perfect 6 mile run, it usually turns out to be a heavy leg, slow stepping, long agonizing run. But on the days I head out the door to run and nothing else, it turns into a light, easy 8 miler. Because I had no expectation for the outcome.

There’s a great quote out of the book Born to Run. ” Think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless. Like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you have practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.” This great quote can be applied to yoga up till the fast part, as speed will not help our cause. But you can change the word fast to meditative or blissful, and this bit of advice will work just the same.

Having expectations is like predicting your outcome. There is a general societal skepticism about predictions. Right? We don’t believe someone can predict the end of the world, or when Jesus is coming back or lottery numbers. We tend to think these people that make such declarations are kooks. Yet when you step on your mat, believing that you know exactly how things are going to go, then you might as well set up shop as a fortune teller. Our past experiences do give us knowledge to how something might turn out. But to make assumptions or generalizations, will ultimately get you into trouble.

There is one other element missing for the make-up of the perfect practice, and that is belief. To believe in something means you have no doubts. That you know and trust that what you are doing is right and that it will work out. When there is still doubt, you will still be doing your practice as a study in removing your doubts. Have you ever met someone who believes in something that you think is far fetched – let’s say like big foot? What divides you, is he/she has no doubt it exists, and you do doubt that big foot exists.  If your doubting the practice of yoga, then you haven’t done enough yoga yet. Tim Miller, my teacher says “Experience removes doubt.” This is true. When you have done enough yoga, you will believe in it. You will stand in that belief with conviction

I always know that the day I utter these words, “I have to do yoga today.” I have already laid the ground work for a struggle. Instead of saying “I want to do yoga today.” You need to have the desire to get there, but you need to have the grace to embrace all possible outcomes. If you step on your mat as a form of punishment or control, then you are using your body as an object instead of a vehicle. Going into your yoga practice with doubts is like driving your car with your foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time, not trusting the vehicle and your ability to maneuver it. Take your foot off the brake, practice with abandon. Abandon your expectations, your control and your doubt and you will probably have more experiences with that elusive perfect practice.

Now, Samastitihi!

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Let’s remind each other.

I have had a hard time sitting down this week to write. I want my blog to be positive and I haven’t been in a positive frame of mind due to a recent tragedy in our community. It’s a sad story: A young lady that practiced yoga where I teach went missing. It seems from the information so far that she was murdered by her fiancé who has since committed suicide. I went to the candle light vigil for her, which I find interesting, as I never thought I’d be the candle light vigil type. But I felt the need to take a stand on the side of non-violence. To me, taking a stand is an interesting thing because it shows me what I believe in, with conviction. What are you willing to stand up for?

I think things that I can not come to understand are what build the fire of my convictions. I can not wrap my head around violence. Because of that, I have been vegetarian for 16 years. It’s not so much that we eat animals, it’s how we treat them up until that point. Why is treating other living beings decently a fading rule of thumb? Supposedly, we have all these golden rules to live by like: “do unto others as you would have done to you”, or  “love thy neighbor, as thyself”. In Ashtanga yoga we chant the Mangala mantra at the end of very practice “Svasti praja bhyah pari pala yantam nyayena margena mahim mahishaha go brahmanebhyaha shubham astu nityam lokha samastah sukhino bhavantu”,- May the well-being of all people be protected. By the powerful and mighty leaders be with law and justice. May all things that are sacred be protected, and may all beings everywhere be happy and  free. (There are many different translations of this chant.) And there is Patanjali’s sutra 1.33 “Maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha dukha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam.” – By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness. If churches are being filled every Sunday and yoga studio’s every day of the week, then why is violence plaguing all nations, all religions, all communities?

The idea of violence as a way to resolve conflict seems exacerbating. How can the side that violence is committed against ever be free of the emotions of anger and sorrow? Violence just breeds more violence. It seems that violence can be a learned behavior. Which would then lead me to believe the opposite: that non-violence (Ahimsa) can be a learned behavior. I’m hoping that is the case. To use the only direct behavior that I can personally relate to, I’ll go back to my vegetarian life style as an example. I have known my fare share of vegetarians over the years and they are passionate people. Though sometimes, even they let their passion misguide them to the very behavior they despise, violence. They attack the other side with words and hostility. I find that people don’t realize that language can be where violence begins. I have always tried to take the path that actions speak louder then words. But, I try and remind myself that words can be as sharp as a knife. Words are a different weapon, but they can have the same result.

I live what I believe, and I don’t feel the need to defend it with attacks on those that disagree. I am being the change I wish to see in the world. I am doing my part. I am trying, in as many ways possible to stay as far removed as I can from violent acts to other beings. Being vegetarian is just one of those ways. Other ways I try is reading positive books, listening to positive music, treating my own body and mind with kindness and respect  and welcoming as many people as I can into the yoga community, where there is a belief in a respect for life.

There is great story from Indian mythology that should be an inspiring representation of what we should all be doing. In the story called the Ramayana, there is a battle of good vs. evil. One of the characters is a monkey, named Hanuman, who devotes himself to Lord Rama. All of Hanuman’s actions are of service. Hanuman is humble, and wise. Hanuman is capable of many great things, however he can not access these powers until someone reminds him of his abilities. It is through these reminders that Hanuman is able to fulfill his Dharma, his path in life. Shouldn’t we all be reminding each other of all that we are capable of? Pointing out each others strength’s and talent’s, instead of the opposite? We should be each other’s cheerleaders!

Hanuman is usually depicted as a representation of devoted love. Art work show’s him ripping his chest wide open to show that inside his heart he keeps Sita and Rama. What do you keep inside your heart that you would stand up for? His service is to the divine masculine and feminine qualities of life. Hanuman is considered to be the messenger of the unconscious to the conscious. He symbolizes the waking up process of consciousness. Once you have expanded your awareness, it is not easy to contract it. You won’t be able to turn the other cheek as easily against the darkness once you have dispelled light on a situation. Awareness is our greatest asset.

Yoga is the practice of listening. If we were all better listeners, we would be able to hear other people’s points of view with our hearts open. It would give us a chance to work on our ability to discern what their message is. Good discernment is a skill.  We should be helping one another along, with kind words, and kind actions. And if you can’t be kind, then be silent.  Besides we can only listen, if we are not speaking. Yoga gives us a place to practice being kind, first and foremost to ourselves. As the change you wish to see in the world must start with you. Cheering one another on is like putting a log on each other’s fire. Stoking the flames, that will help each of us dispel the dark side of life.

There used to be this comic strip that had two super hero’s called the “Wonder Twins”. They were a brother and sister (masculine & feminine). When they would say “wonder twin powers activate”, and touch each other, they were able to change shape, and then fight crime. But they only had access to their powers if they were connected. It’s such a great idea: That there has to be union in order for something to have great strength against evil.  Didn’t Batman have Robin and The Lone Ranger have Tonto? There are so many great examples in mythology and in history that it is better to be united.

The word “Yoga” means union, to come together. How are we coming together? Who is in your community? If we are a community of people that think alike, then if something bad happens against a member of our community, we will take a stand! The more of us who stand up against violence, the louder our voice will become. And the clearer the message. I am against violence. I live the way I wish the world to become. I can do this alone but I feel better when we are doing it together. Let’s remind each other…of all that we can do that will change the world. Let’s be a community that is against violence. Let’s be cheerleader’s for love, knowledge, and service. Let’s remember to always remind each other that we are united! That we are better as a whole, then we are apart.

In honor of a young lady, murdered at age 30 by the man she had wanted to marry.

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Stacking stones, stacking bones.

Moonlight beach, Encinitas, CA 2010

I have studied with my teacher, Tim Miller many times and in many different places. I have been to Mexico to study yoga under a thatched roof that is 20 yards away from the Carribean Sea and I have studied in his hometown of Encinitas, CA, where his studio is also just a stretch from the pacific ocean and here in my hometown of Charleston, SC, with many beaches available. My 1st  visit out West was to take his first series Ashtanga teacher training back in 2008. I remember going for my first walk on the beach and being challenged to shift my preconceived notions of what a beach is. I grew up having to travel to the east coast for some beach time, where the water is warm and sea shells are washing up on the beach everyday like individual precious reminders of the creation that’s going on under the sea. I would seek to collect memories amongst the vastness and variety of shells that would wash up on the beach. This was one of my favorite past times. Well, the Pacific isn’t anything like the Atlantic. The Pacific water is very cold. When I was there it was 54 degrees. It’s clearer than the east coast. You can see your feet getting bright red from the cold water, if your standing knee deep in the ocean. But the oddest thing to me was the lack of shells. Instead, what was scattered on the beach were stones – smooth stones, that varied in color and shape, but were all relatively similar in appearances. I was first disappointed, as I find it very meditative to walk a beach looking down at each step to see what washed up, artistically-crafted shell I can find. I can seem to do this for hours, peacefully. Since these stones were my only option I decided to start collecting them. Each one in my hand was different and when I stopped expecting them to be shells, I started to see the beauty in each one. The ocean had been rolling and polishing them to the smoothness and shape that made them each very individual. But, what was I going to do with a handful of stones?

There is a practice of stacking stones in Buddhist cultures, where the stones are stacked as prayers. The number of stones might correlate to the number of family members. These stone prayers were stacked around temples. Closer to home, when I was young I remember being taught about hiking safety in girl scouts. We were taught to mark out trails using sticks or  stones in the form of arrows to guide us safely back to where we began. You will see fancier renditions of this by some hikers who will opt to stack stones instead. I have hiked a few trails in my time and have come across these expressions. They always leave me wondering…How long had they been there? Who stacked these and why? How many other people had walked past and been intrigued by this natural art? So I decided to take a whirl at stacking stones, and it became a very interesting experience for me.

I started with the collecting process, which naturally made me feel like a little girl again collecting things from nature. Carrying them back in the hem of my shirt, excited to see my loot dropped in a pile at my feet. I knew since I wasn’t going to spend a day frolicking in that very cold ocean, this could be a fun way to spend a day at the beach. So as I started to make a stack of stones, I kind of figured I’d do one, and that my attempt to balance stones would be a passing interest. But after I stacked one, I began the second, and then the third, until I had 5 stacks of stones. I started to enjoy the challenge of pairing the stones. The effort it took in patience to find the stones perfect balance point and the delicacy required to stack stone number 6 on number 5 without affecting all the stones below. You might get to stone 4 and knock them all down while adding stone 5. This process was slowly forming a very quiet space in my mind. I had begun to appreciation each stone’s character points that were ultimately going to influence their balance point. I started to see the parallels that stone stacking had to the alignment process of my bones in all the asana’s I had traveled out here to learn from my teacher’s 30+ years of experience.

I remember a workshop I took within my first year of practicing yoga with Rodney Yee. I remember him demonstrating a pose called Trikonasana (three angled posture). He taught me a great lesson that day. It was the art of refinement. Small movements create a chain reaction in all areas of the posture’s alignment. Rodney Yee’s background was ballet. So he seemed to be demonstrating an impeccable understanding of his body and the ability to influence it’s alignment with a intelligent approach to movement, which was done without force. At the time, I am pretty sure that I was coming at my yoga practice with all braun and no grace. After seeing him make a few tiny movements and watching his posture go from what seemed disintegrated to integrated, it opened my eyes to a whole new approach to alignment. I had to find the balance point of each individual muscle and have the patience to allow all the muscles to work together with appropriate effort and sensitivity. Much like Patanjali’s yoga sutra 2:46 “Sthira Sukham Asanam” : Asana’s should have equal parts steadiness and ease.

As you build a yoga posture, it becomes just like stacking stones. First you have to have a good foundation, which is why it’s just standard to do yoga on a firm service. Then you have to start from the bottom and work your way up.  It begins in our feet, hands, arms or our sit bones (Ischial tuberosities). It really just depends on the asana that you are trying to build. It begins at the part of the body that will have the most contact with the floor. But what isn’t always paid attention to is that even once your foundation is set, the way you stack the rest of the stones/bones matters too. It’s the teeter totter principal. Too much weight in any one direction will throw off how the load is carried.

As I am looking at each rock and feeling its weight and character in my hands, I have to try and feel for it’s balance point. I would roll the rock around to feel where it was heavy and to try and find a flat, smooth point. We can do this to with our bones by contracting back and forth between the opposing muscles that make the bone move in a given direction. The size and strength of a muscle can influence the impact it has on the movement of the bone. So you start to look for misalignments, areas where there is not equal movement. We all get the same muscles but we don’t all develop the same. Some of us have stronger abductors then adductors, or quadriceps vs. hamstrings, or core vs. back strength. These disproportionate make up is bound to create bad mechanics in our movements. But yoga is the process of tuning us into these things with awareness being the tool. Training our sense’s to feel more intimately stress and strain on the joints and ligaments. Sometimes, one of the only ways you can know what balance feels like is by pulling your body out of balance in both directions. Then start refining your movements slowly to where the center point lies.

It’s the pendulum swing. Sometimes you have to try the good and the bad to find what is just right. It’s very much a Goldilocks approach to yoga. Is the porridge too hot, or too cold? Does my pose need more of this, or less? Looking for the greater then and less then symbol in each muscle to find the appropriate give and take to the movement you are trying to isolate. Give it a try: tilt your pelvis posteriorly, and then try and tip anteriorly, and then try and negotiate the neutral point, where there is no stress on the pelvis as it comfortably holds a neutral position.

There was an interesting scenario that happened a couple of times when I was trying to stack the stones. Even though 5 stones seemed perfectly balanced if I placed the 6th stone wrong it caused the other stones to misalign. This is what is going on in our bodies everyday, under our skin, beneath our muscles. There is disintegration instead of integration. My teacher, Tim, likes to talk a lot about integration. It’s a great word to describe a balanced yoga posture. If we pick up a bad pattern of movement in our hip, it can create a reaction outward from there. An example is, if the hip is not functioning optimally, then it may create a strain and weakness in the knee. Or, it can create a imbalance all the way up in to our shoulder eventually affecting our neck. You could relatively look at areas of the body as representations of each stone you are trying to stack. 1st stone – ankles, 2nd stone – knees, 3rd stone – hips, 4th stone – lumbar spine, 5th stone – thoracic spine, 6th stone – cervical spine, and 7th stone  – the head. It’s not only about the bottom stone/bone, it’s about how they all work together and distribute their weight on one another.

It took me about 2 hours to collect and balance 5 towers of stone. And in that time, I learned a lot about my level of patience. I learned that speed does not assist delicate things well, and that force will not create balance, and that center isn’t as it outwardly appears. Center is where things meet, they don’t compete and they seem harmonious. Can I describe yoga asana’s that way? I can now. During my attempts at asana’s, day in and day out, I am looking for a point of balance that I feel my way into patiently and gently. When I move this way the poses that I’m striving for comes surprisingly easy. So, I say : if your having a hard time with your asana development, then take a break and go stack some stones, and see what you can learn. Then go back and try and stack your bones with the same interest, sensitivity, kindness and maybe even a little prayer while you do it. Stacking stones on a hiking trail will always get you back to the beginning. Maybe reminding ourselves of how far we have come from that beginning by looking back down the trail for the markers will give us a greater appreciation for our progress and abilities. Stop on this yoga path every now and then and stack some stones so that you don’t lose your way by being clouded with frustration and lack of patience.  Pattabhi Jois said “Practice…and all is coming. ” Whatever it is we practice, stacking stones or stacking bones?

Successfully stacked stones!

Categories: Asana, For the beginner | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get out your shovel.

Tim Miller said to me back in 2001 – “You can dig one hole deep or many shallow holes”. This, at the time, made a whole lot of sense to me, and lucky me, it still does to this day. The hole that I’m digging is Ashtanga Yoga. I’ve been at this manual labor for 12 years now. I’ve got a pretty deep hole. Just like the earth having many different layers, so has my yoga journey. I guess this is why archeologist love what they do. They find dirt exciting! I find yoga exciting! But it’s more then that, it’s a loyalty thing. There is a sense of pride that comes with sticking with something. Learning about it from all sorts of sources and experience. I was recently inspired to give loyalty some more thought because of a movie I watched called “Hachi” starring Richard Gere (that was easy):-). I googled the title, and found that this movie was inspired by a true story.

The story goes: In 1924 in Tokyo, Japan, a professor in agriculture took in an Akita as a pet. At the end of each day, this Akita, named Hachiko (means 8 in order of it’s birth), would greet Hidesaburo Ueno, his owner, at the train station. They did this for 2 years, until in 1925 when his owner had a cerebral hemorrhage. He died and never made it back to the train station where Hachiko was waiting for him. What the dog did next just seems to speak the truth of at least what I have always felt. Which is, animals do have souls. I know I can be accused of anthropomorphism, but I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. Which is where we project human emotion on to animals. Well, I think we would all be better off if we projected more animal emotion into our own behavior. But I won’t digress right now.

For the next nine years, Hachiko punctually showed up at the train station waiting for his owner/companion to return. Nine years, in a dogs life, is 63 years of longing for his owner, or for understanding of his loss. People today can’t stay married longer then 72 days. (I know I shouldn’t have gone there) But this is true, people jump ship when things get hard, or confusing or not self serving, instead of digging one hole deep. Why do we have the attention span of a puppy and not of a loyal adult dog? We seem to be the only species sometimes that can’t seem to come to terms with doing something repetitively and seeing where it takes us. A common expression that is used to describe a lack of loyalty to yoga is “I got bored”. Another word for bored is routine. What’s so bad about a routine? We all have them, like the way we start our days, or prepare our meals or dry ourselves off out of the shower. Routines should give us comfort. But some routines, like ashtanga yoga, will take us out of our comfort zone. If practiced diligently and correctly it should constantly change your comfort zone. That might be the problem?

The other amazing thing about Hachiko’s story is that under what would seem like apparent grief, was the amazing force of hope. I recently read a quote, nonetheless from a yoga book about Krishnamacharya, which said ” Failing isn’t as bad as not trying at all. Hope is the last thing we can lose.” This dog had hope that his owner was going to return. That the best place for this reunion, was the last place he knew he went. Most of us lose hope too quickly these days. If something doesn’t go just as planned or happen on our predetermined timeline, we lose hope and quit. You know the expression “cut your losses”. Somewhere in the course of those nine years that dog could’ve taken to a new owner. All the local commuters had seen him every day perform this ritual, and had become quite attached to him. Hachiko could’ve cut his loss and moved on. From the way the story sounds, the commuters began to take care of Hachiko with treats and pats on the head. These commuters where able to be empathetic to this animal because they saw his suffering. But they also saw his loyalty. Now in Japan, the word Hachiko symbolically means loyalty. The country erected a bronze statue of Hachiko in 1934 at the train station where he waited for his owners return until 1935, when he was found dead in the streets of Shibuya. Maybe, Hachiko knew his owner was not going to return, but did this ritual daily, as a tribute? What would we be willing to do daily, for 9 years?

Usually, for something to become significant enough to become a ritual it needs to have a high emotional value. The bigger the loss, the greater the tribute. As we just past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we proved that with the new monument dedicated to him. It stands 30 feet high. It has two mountains: one symbolizing “a mountain of despair” and MLK stands carved in the middle with the other side of the mountain symbolizing a “stone of hope”. Those two lines are taken out of his “I have a dream” speech. Why is hope so hard to handle? It sometimes seems like chasing down a greased pig. But if we lose hope, then what moves us forward? What inspires us to try again? What will make us take another shovel full of dirt, of our hole that we are digging?

Cathy & Ginger, Sullivans Island, SC.

The quitting, cutting your losses, or losing hope happens when we can’t see the outcome. If you look up the word loyalty it describes it as faithful. Faithful! To have faith, is to blindly trust. Akita’s are bred to be loyal to one owner, they were used to protect the king. The loyalty lied with the King. If you have never experienced this breed or it’s other closest relative, the Chow Chow, which was bred with similar attributes, but was to protect the queen, I have. My current dog in my life is mostly Chow, and first hand, I can tell you that this loyalty thing is true. When I first took her in she had no interest in me what so ever. No surprise as I was now her second owner. Her first one didn’t want her any longer, but she was staying loyal to him. I had to keep her name “Ginger”, as it was the previous owners name for her, because it was the only way I could get her to pay any attention to me at all. We now have a pretty amazing bond but it took time and my loyalty to her. Why would I say this? Because when I decided to keep her I had found out she was dog aggressive. I knew that if I gave her up, she either had a future of being disowned again and again from this behavior, or she would be euthanized. I was the best chance she had at a good life. My decision to be loyal to her eventually gave me a very loyal dog. Is loyalty something that has to be earned? Is loyalty a two way street? Should anything be a two way street? Unconditional love is the greatest example of a one way street, no conditions. Again dogs excel at this.

Hachiko couldn’t have known the outcome to his circumstance, yet he did it anyways. He must have had faith in his actions. An interesting thing about having faith, is most of us attach an expectation to faith, that we will have faith, IF it produces the desired outcome we want. See, that’s not faith. Faith is releasing control, accepting whatever comes. I’m sure Hachiko had hope that his owner would return, but had faith that this was what he needed to do. No matter the outcome. And he did, till his death. I always say I am going to be a little 80 year old lady doing yoga. I have made the commitment to it “till death do us part”. I find that making a commitment to another human being is harder then it is to my yoga practice. But what I’m realizing from my yoga practice, is a thing or two about loyalty. I am loyal to my practice. I am loyal to my teacher. I am loyal to the style of yoga that resonated with me 12 years ago and I am loyal to hole that I am digging. I have been shaken in my journey with injuries, finances, relationships, etc., but I still keep digging. Just as I am sure Hachiko dealt with cold, hunger, illness, etc., but for nine years, precisely at the time of their train station ritual, he would appear.

I figure that if I can stay loyal to yoga, then I am practicing staying loyal to other people and things. So I have faith that this hole I am digging is taking me somewhere, even if I don’t know where. I hope that this is the right thing to do. I have these things because I have made my yoga practice ritualistic. Important enough for me to do it as a tribute to my teacher, and to his teacher, and to myself, as I am my own best teacher. Each day, when the train of yoga pulls up, I hope that the passenger coming off that train is a better one because of my dedication, and faithfulness. That the ritual of my yoga practice is a tribute to my journey, my teacher, my husband and my dog. I highly doubt that anyone is going to  make a statue of me at the end of this experience, but if all goes well, I won’t know if they do, because I won’t be around any longer. I will see this through to the end. I figure at the end, that the hole I am digging won’t be a hole any longer, but more of a tunnel that took me through the mountain of despair, to the stone of hope.

Do I think we all need to become more dedicated, loyal and willing to do things even if they are not self serving, easy or transparent? Yes, I do. But since I can only be accountable for my own actions, then all I can do is hope that they are inspiring. To lead by example. I realize the holes we dig will not be the same. I do wish that the people that are digging their hole in the path called yoga, that they will stick with it, one shovel full at a time. That they won’t get bored and that they’ll never feel the need to cut their losses. I started yoga at age 29. So if I’m lucky enough in life to get 63 years to practice my loyalty to yoga, then at a young age of 92, I’ll still be digging in this hole. A dog inspired me. My teacher inspires me. And you just might inspire me? Start digging, have faith and show your loyalty.

My Hachiko, Ginger.

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

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