Posts Tagged With: asmita

Fast food yoga anyone?

Yoga has succumb to the fast food influence. Everyone wants the cool poses and they want the cool poses NOW! People would also like to pay as little as possible for their time spent doing these trick postures. These circus trick postures seem to be as tempting as the little plastic super hero figurine in a happy meal. The “high” from these postures is addictive, and it has power that can alter your life. But not all things we do are good for us. The surgeon general warns us that cigarette smoking is bad, yet people still do it. So what are we to do when we feel tempted to only be pleasure seekers and pain avoiders? Always start with awareness.

We have gone mad with yoga in the United States with classes called happy hour, wisdom warriors and rockasana. These classes branded with big promises of happiness, knowledge and the “Cool” factor. If anything, when I head to a yoga class I am usually looking for less, not more. I want to walk away feeling liberated of the heavy load I’m carrying. I don’t want to worry about how cool I look, while losing a percentage of my hearing because I’m jamming out to Eminem in Triangle pose. What has happened to yoga in America? In my opinion, it has just become another thing we have tried to control, stamp a label on, and declare it ours. Now let’s see how cheap we can make it, how trendy and nutritionally devoid. Sounds a lot like fast food doesn’t it?

Now I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Natarajasana from the towns people, but I wouldn’t mind stealing a few things away from this Americanized yoga. Like Loud music, cute little names for the postures (like fallen angel and baby grasshopper), lavender-scented hand towels, foot rubs in savasana, and arm balances. Now hear me out, I know I few of you just gasped; If you like loud music, listen to it in your car on the way to yoga because it’s not possible to listen to your breathing in a Rockasana class. Which is the primary tenet of yoga’s methodology. If you like foot rubs, pay a trained massage therapist to assist you in your healing. If you like lavender-scented towels then launder your clothes with a little lavender added to it. Remember the 4th limb of yoga Pratyahara – sense withdrawal, not sense overload. And if you like your practice to have a heavy portion of arm balancing, this could be a good time to examine why? Has your yoga become a place for an addiction? Is this kind of yoga possibly feeding narcissism?

IMG_2614

I know arm balancing postures are very empowering! I’m not trying to say that they have no place in yoga, as they have many benefits, different for each student. I’m not saying that we should take any of these things I speak of away from the students. But teachers should ask the question “Am I teaching this class to be popular? to be famous? to fill my ego and get my number of followers to a million on social media?” or “Am I teaching it for the people who show up? Evaluating their ability and analyzing their patterns of weakness and or stubbornness. Is it for me, or is it for them?” No doubt there is a “high” that can come with being up at the front of the room demonstrating great skill in front of 40 people, their eyes wide from being enamored by your grace and beauty. It is this “high” we must be careful with. I took a great workshop from Sean Corne, a very beautiful and gifted teacher. She said, “do you want to be popular, or do you want to be a good teacher?” That question has always stuck with me through 14 years of teaching. I try to check my motive behind my teaching with that question. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the trick poses so that you can teach an intelligent sequence that informs and educates as you go.

Some teachers do a beautiful job, sequencing, cueing and supporting the student, but too many times I have seen the opposite – where 80% of the students are at a basic level ability, but the teacher is handing out advanced level postures. 20% of the students achieve the asana, 50% are plain sitting it out, 10% are putting in good effort and 20% are setting up patterns of future injury. This is not good teaching. I believe the source of this kind of teaching has to do with the fast nature of the industry now. Yoga studios are graduating large groups of trainees every couple of weeks. This side of the industry is becoming like an assembly line. The fact is that you can get certified to teach yoga in 1 month, accumulating as little as 200 hours of knowledge, and in the end all you have to do is pay your 95$ to Yoga Alliance. Which only proves you finished the training. It proves nothing of your knowledge or commitment. Graduates do not have to take a test, or submit competency of any kind to the governing body of yoga. This seems like a slippery slope for yogas future.

In traditional ashtanga yoga, a teacher can hold you back from future postures until you have done the work necessary to move your body into and out of it in a safe and appropriate way. This is just one of the reasons why I love Ashtanga and its old school principals. There is nothing wrong with taking things slow. I love that my Ashtanga yoga teacher, who I greatly respect, doesn’t even offer a 200 hr course. He offers instead two separate 100 hour trainings and they are spaced a year apart. This helps to ensure that the student stick with it for at least a year. It proves a teacher’s level of dedication when they are willing to wait, continue to practice and come back a year later to complete the course.

Now a days, a student can start yoga in February, practice on and off for a couple of months, take a 1 month teacher training, and maybe a few months later they open their own studio and begin teaching something that they have only just begun. This would be like opening a restaurant because you own some cook book’s. Or opening a doctor’s office because you are really proficient at taking temperatures, and giving boo boo’s kisses. There is a reason why so many professions take years of schooling. Many have boards that you must pass before you can practice your profession. It’s the reason why restaurants receive reviews from the board of health, to help prevent you from getting bad food. Who is going to protect the public from getting bad yoga?

Change will come when people no longer want it fast and cheap. When they decide to no longer be glazed over by the shiny big promises of the cool poses and fancy tricks, but start to enjoy the simplicity of what yoga can do for you – like a better nights sleep. Maybe it’s time to teach “bran muffin-nutritionally packed” kind of yoga, with thoughtfulness to the actual students that show up and organized progressively towards a specific posture. Instead of teaching a “donut-empty of nutrients” kind of class, devoid of any substantial thought and or observation to the students participation and progression. These kind of classes that has as many arm balances thrown in as possible, with each one behaving like a sugar spike the way nutritionally devoid food behaves. These sugar spike postures are bound to create a big crash, or as I have seen – a real crash to the very hard and unforgiving floor.

Yoga is a lifelong journey that requires time on a yoga mat – alone and with a professional teacher. It requires time to digest and adapt the information. It requires the student making wise choices to practice with qualified teachers who have done their time on the mat. So don’t be afraid to ask your teacher qualifying questions like “How long have you been teaching?”, or “With whom have you studied?” There are enough qualified, elder and senior teachers out there – with more than 10/15 years teaching experience. You don’t have to settle for the studio that is the closest, the cheapest, or even the fanciest. That could be buying you yoga devoid of any expertise.

Keep your awareness sharp and make sure you aren’t falling for nutritionally empty yoga. Be ware of gimmicks. Play with those postures within reason. Stay aware of some of the poisons there are in a yoga practice like aversion and attachment.

When are you an addict? When you are so attached to something that it causes you great suffering to go without. It’s easy to get addicted to just about anything. By constantly re-examining your motives you will keep your addictions in check. Go for sustenance, commit to the long haul and enjoy the subtle flavorings of a good practice with a very qualified teacher. Sometimes the best flavors come out of a long slow cooking process. Soak in the wisdom from the years some of these teachers have invested. Be willing to let your yoga progress slowly at times. A good teacher will help you do that by calling you out on your aversions, and your attachments. And always try to remember this simple advice from the yoga sutra’s.

Sutra 1.12 Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah. Mental fluxes are restrained by practice and non-attachment

Sutra 1.14 Sa tu dirgha kale nairantarya satka-rasevito drdhabhumih. Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnest.

Sutra 2.3 Avidyasmita raga dvesabhinivesah klesah – There are five primal causes of suffering: ignorance of your True Self and the value of spirituality, egoism and its self-centeredness, attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain, and clinging to life out of fear of death.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paying for patience.

If patience were for sale, would you stand in line to buy some? How much would you want? How do you think they would be selling it, by the hour? Personally I have found my patience level is directly related to how much something is inconveniencing ME. Damn ASMITA – ego! My ego you can make me such a terrible person sometimes. I am usually forced into becoming patient after I have done something stupid while trying to out smart my impatience. Like the proverbial speeding ticket, as you’re speeding to get where you need to be you end up getting pulled over. Naturally, you end up getting where you needed to be, but later. Or how about how your impatience makes you push aggressively against every warning sign your body is giving you, and you injure yourself trying to get one more yoga asana in the “I can do that pose” pile. Which then sets you back weeks from actually being able to do that pose. Do you recognize any of these scenarios? If so, then fall in line behind me for your fare share of patience. It’s marked down to $9.99 a hour! Would you pay that? Either way, you’re going to pay. If you don’t find a little more patience in your life.

I have stuck with Ashtanga yoga for 13 years. The number of poses that haven’t come easy for me out weigh the ones that have. My husband says I’m a diesel. What he means is, I am good at long and slow distances when it comes to running. What I think he really means to say is I am willing to suffer as long as necessary to get something that I really want. What I have come to realize is that I like rubbing myself up against discomfort to find out just how much of it I can really handle. This personality trait works really well with Ashtanga yoga, because there are poses that seem strategically placed to weed out people who can’t handle the discomfort. For all the poses that could scare me off I usually just dig in even harder. I find I am incredibly patient when things are difficult, but terribly impatient in the most mundane moments of my life, like walking my dog.

I think I have the Ganesha spirit inside of me. Ganesha is all about overcoming obstacles. When yoga throws a pose at me that seems illogical to my body, I just trumpet out “Oh yeah, watch me!” then I take another deep breath and carry on. In my practice I have come up against Marichyasana D, Baddha Konasana, pashasana, kapotasana, dwi pada sirsasana and a few others. Here’s what I can tell you about these asanas. Don’t give up, and don’t think they will come quickly. Marichyasana D took me 3 years to bind. Baddha Konasana took me 10 years to get my forehead to the floor and knees down. Pashasana has taken me 13 years on my left and is still a tad elusive on my right. Kapotasana took me 7 years just to touch my toes, and dwi pada sirsasana only happens for me as Yoginidrasana, because of a herniated L5/S1. Even with a consistent 6-day-a-week practice these poses have taken a long time to come around. So why should we do yoga for ten years just to get our forehead down to the ground? What’s the point?

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

The point is, if I don’t walk away from challenges in yoga then it’s likely I won’t walk away from other challenges life throws my way. The point is, I now have a sense of pride every time I execute those postures. No one but me made them happen. But put these things aside and ask a different question. Why would I walk away when I have no ability to predict when I will be able to do these postures? If I would have put a time limit on my yoga practice; that, if these things don’t happen for me in a year then I’m walking away. Who’s to say that the day after I walk away it wouldn’t be the day my hands clasp, or my head touches the floor. I feel there is a greater risk in walking away than there is in seeing it through. Walking away will always leave me with regrets, but seeing it through is like turning the door knob of opportunity. Walking away is like never even ringing the doorbell of opportunity. Sure I have regrets from things I didn’t walk away from sooner, but they are always overshadowed by all that I am proud of myself for NOT walking away from.

Why not walk away from Ashtanga yoga when the going gets tough? When I did bind in marichyasan D no-one dropped party streamers and brought me a cake. No-one read about it in People Magazine. The interest rate on my visa card didn’t drop, the bills in my mail box didn’t go away, the dog I wish would live forever didn’t suddenly defy nature and survive her cancer, and my boss didn’t call me into her office and say “I hear you bound Marichyasana D last night. Congratulations, here’s your new office and a $5,000 raise.” So what is all the hard work for if it didn’t get me any of those things? But keep in mind what I did get…pride. How much is pride worth and would you stand in line to buy some? Do you think buying pride would feel the same as earning it? If two lines were forming one selling pride, and another selling patience which line would you stand in?

Pride is like food for our spine. It pulls your shoulders back, and you seem to stand a little taller. Especially if it came from sweat and hard work. The pride I gain from overcoming one difficult asana gives me fuel to over come the next, and the next after that. I think pride is what gives our eyes that little twinkle. Look into an ashtangi’s eyes after their practice, you’ll see that twinkle. I think pride settles our heart, and it strengthens our convictions. It is limitless in all that it gives. The beauty of pride is it best earned with patience. Patience is the real hero. Its sort of like how your body makes a shadow; patience shines a light on areas that are weak. As you work through those areas you get stronger and then can do more. Pride is just the after effect of your patience.

I love those moments where the Universe laughs at me for thinking I have control over all that’s around me. When the ego boast the “ME! ME! ME!” cry and all you’ll end up hearing is the Universe laughing. The ego may drive you to want more asanas, but sooner or later the ego becomes weak. What takes over when the ego walks away…the heart. Its inside the heart that patience lives. Don’t be afraid to let hard work pay off and to see things through. There will be no party, and probably no checks will be written, but there will be a sense of great pride. Pride like that can make you feel as strong as an elephant. Hopefully that elephant like feeling you experience is Ganesha pointing out to you that you are overcoming obstacles. So, put away your wallet because patience can not be bought. But I promise you, if you don’t find some you will end up paying for it.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

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

Rinse and Repeat.

The human body seems to respond a lot like cotton and not enough like spandex, but it should and it can. When you wake up in the morning, it feels like you have shrunk. Isn’t it true that we shrink as we age, too? So you move about and by the middle part of the day you feel like your old self again, comfortable for the most part in your own skin. Like your favorite pair of cotton jeans, a little snug at first, but then a little movement and they break right in to that perfect fit. How can we become more like spandex and less like cotton? Cotton continues to stretch and expand to what seems like no limits. Where spandex holds with a good fit and maintains its original shape. Spandex stretches to great lengths where cotton will tear. Is it all in the fibers? In the memory of the threads?

Your body has a memory doesn’t it? Can’t you still feel an old injury in your body even if it happened 5 years ago. That memory is made up of weakness and now scar tissue. Scar tissue is actually a form of protection in the body trying to create stability. The body even responds to injuries by leaving external scars. Similar to those jeans, once they rip at the knee they will no longer be able to be repaired to their original state. They usually rip at the knee because you weakened that area from repetitive action, around those cotton fibers. Injuries tend to happen at the weakest area in clothing, as well as in the body. Interesting thing about spandex; it will usually thin down before it will actually tear.

Ardha Matsyendrasana, Half Lord of the Fish Posture.

So, if there is memory in our bodies, what can we do with that? Well, just as our memory can fail us as we age if we do not keep the brain active, our bodies can fail us in muscle memory if we don’t keep the body active. The solution is to agitate the body. What? That doesn’t sound positive, but it is. Agitation to the body is a lot like the agitation process of your washing machine.

Imagine this, you’ve worn those favorite jeans of yours and stretched them and soiled them so the only solution to getting those jeans clean and back to their original shape is to wash them. Water will cleanse them with the help of a little detergent and movement of that water will agitate the dirt right on out of there. Then they will be spun to be rinsed clean and then place in the drier in a nice warm, tumbling cycle. They’ll come out as the jeans you so know and love and that are getting the greatest miles out of your $. Jeans more than anything are worth every penny we pay for them ,as they hold up so well. As I have witnessed, we become very attached to some of our jeans. So much so, that we are still putting on a pair from 1992.

Yoga to our bodies is a lot like the wash cycle is to our clothes. All the various movements in yoga agitate the body. Without that agitation the body would become very stagnant. I’m going to make the assumption you all know just how bad and smelly stagnant water becomes. Movement is the key to health. It keeps energy flowing and in the sake of water it keeps the water oxygenated. Movement to the human body also keeps it oxygenated. Anaerobic vs. aerobic, greater demand of oxygen, right?

Ok, so here’s my best example: there are two ways you can show up to yoga. You can either show up like a loose, baggie pair of jeans that have torn and become ragged at the edges, or you can show up as a pair of jeans that have a bit of give to them because they are made with a bit of spandex. So they adapt, but keep their form. How do you show up as one over the other? By doing yoga as often as possible.

There is an expression that yoga is polishing the mirror of your heart. Well, it is cleaning, agitating and drying your body back to its optimum fit. The practice moves vigoursly in a flowing nature. Let’s say that all the movement in a yoga class is the agitation, and the flowing part represents the watery nature of the wash cycle. What would represent the detergent? Well, the filter of your mind. The mindfulness we seek and practice over time becomes a refined process of removal (buddhi). What are you removing? Well the things that dirty us, that cloud our perception, or that leave us feeling grimy. Pessimism, judgement (asmita), fatigue (tamas), dissatisfaction (dvesa), these things (klesa) become a heavy dirtiness to our mind that creates a film over our perception. We then see life through this dirty lens.

When we show up on the mat and work into the postures that agitate the organs, muscles and nervous system, things come up to the surface. If you are practicing with as much clear discernment as possible you will start to see the clutter and negative things that need to be stripped away. Yoga is a process of subtraction (viveka). When you wash your clothes you don’t want them to disappear, but you do want them returned as close as possible to their original state. Your refined skill of observation allows your mind to become a bit like a lint filter. It will take away all the fibers of thought that are no longer supporting your original state. Remember that your original state is that you were already born with everything you need. That you are essentially perfect, before you covered it with makeup, labels and opinions. Each of those things we put on, if not careful, can become another stain or impiedement to getting back to our original state.

We practice to keep coming back to our original state. Your body knows when it is in perfect harmony, your mind knows when it is clear. Yoga brings you back to this place. It’s an intuitive state in the body, that when we find it, we trust it, and know it to be the truth (satyam). It is a place of no doubt. As my teacher has said “the only thing that removes doubt is experience.” We must experience the stains of life, but be able to wash away the ones that no longer align to our truth.

So let’s show up on our mats and use the warm cycle -heated room and movements to better support getting out the grime. Let’s practice fluidly- tapping into the watery nature of our being. Let’s bend, twist, stretch, and reach in to all sorts of agitating positions – the wash cycle. Let’s rinse the body of everything it brought to the surface by exhaling it all out. Let’s tumble dry the body by 1st turning it on it’s head. Then by grounding it in a warm comfortable savasana. Then let’s fold it, into our bodies, by bowing forward (Namaste) and welcoming the practice and our own divinity into our hearts.

If necessary, like shampoo bottles advise “rinse and repeat.” Let’s do it all again tomorrow or as many times as necessary until we are rinsed clean of anything that is not supporting us. Each time we practice, it’s as if we take one cotton fiber and turn it into one spandex fiber. For each practice we take we are accumulating greater ability to stretch back to our original state (Purusa).

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inhabiting Your Space.

Proprioception should be a less intimidating word, but when I say it to people, they give me that furrowed brow look that says “huh?”. Proprioception is the ability to know where your body is in space in relation to other objects. It’s what allows you to walk around a dark room at night and not bump into things. But I find so many people are in the dark about where their bodies are in space. I want to bring some light to this problem, and if I do you will have fewer stubbed toes, less bumped knees, knocked heads, bruises, and overall mishaps. And if you are one of those infamous close talkers, you might find you’ll have better conversations. I can’t tell you how many times I have backed away from a close talker because I felt my personal space is being compromised, possibly not allowing me to be as attentive as I would like.

We are all pretty aware of movement. Our arm just doesn’t move randomly and without our noticing, thank goodness, or we’d all be a bull in a China shop. For the most part, most of us have refined our movements to be able to look and move like everyone else. Until you put people in yoga poses, then the truth comes out. Most people are just touching the tip of the iceberg in their understanding of muscle movement.

I am choosing to link coordination and proprioception together. But let me be clear – I am not a scientist, at least not by degree. By personal interest, I am a scientist in behavior. I am constantly testing, experimenting, researching, analyzing and interpreting my abilities. I’ve read enough to be well informed of the limits of the human body, but I like to test what I have heard and read it through my own body. Figuring that as I go, I might find some contradictions, as well as some very clear affirmations. But at least I will have developed new skill sets along the way. With every new movement, I am gaining sensitivity. It is this sensitivity that is informing me towards more graceful and coordinated actions. This sensitivity allows me to know the difference between 1 inch and 1 foot of space between me and anything else I might come in contact with.

Interestingly, I was a long jumper in high school and I think that helped me refine my skill of proprioception. If your foot stepped over the launch line it was a scratched jump. Just like if a high jumper knocks the bar with their body when jumping, it’s no good. These spacial relationship’s are a great way to learn muscle movement and just how much it can be refined. So how is it that so many people show up on yoga mats across the country, year after year, and they don’t seem to be inhabiting their body. Some people wear their body like an over size suit, just flopping it around with out any life in their limbs, almost with a sense of bagginess. As if, if it weren’t for their bones they’d fall to the floor. Then there are those people that wear their body like a suit of armor, rigid and unpenatrable. Their movements have no fluidity and they seem expressionless and motionless.

Triangle pose, Trikonasana. Photo by Zsolt Haraszti

The one pose, as a yoga teacher, I endlessly become a bit saddened by is Triangle, or trikonasana. It is one of the trickiest poses for people to execute properly. As many times as I will physically place students in the best example of the pose, week after week, they still execute bad alignment. One of the easiest ways to fix this problem is to give people a reference point, something for their bodies to work with or against, that will help them  perceive their body position. What I do is put them up against a wall, and try and have them make themselves as flat as possible against that wall. (There is more to it then that, but for now I’ll leave the description of triangle brief as this isn’t about triangle). This always seems to work, but the moment you bring them off the wall back on their yoga mat the pose seems to just disintegrate.

It is that word that I want to focus on: disintegrate. Or better yet it’s direct opposite, integrate. Yoga is the practice of integrating muscle movements into our perception. Yoga is a great way to work on your body feedback system. The more feedback you become aware of, the more refined your movements will become. But how to make people listen to the feedback is the question? No matter how much information and physical support I provide some students still do not execute the pose well. Maybe it’s a laziness issue or a poor health issue. But whatever the case, I can’t teach people to want what I want for them, they must want it.

The yoga sutra’s talk about a list of obstacles that will effect your development in life, your ability to integrate your perception of yourself in space as well as in behavior. Sutra 1.30 Vyadhi styana samsaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarsana alabdhabhumikatva anavasthitavani citta viksepah te antarayah. Translated – The obstacles that distract the mind are illness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, overindulgence, illusions about one’e self, lack of perseverance, and instability.  I have found you can’t really teach people to be less lazy or less careless. I have found that you can inspire caring and inspire effort, mostly by example.

This is why with my teaching style ,I will demonstrate yoga poses in a two pronged approach: I will first show them a bad example, and then start to integrate from that form right into a good example so they can see how I move my body onto different planes with different energies. I have found this to be a very useful teaching method, as more and more, I feel we are becoming a society that learns more through our eyes then we do through our ears. There are three available approaches to yoga teachers in informing their students. First is words, second should be example and third should be touch. I don’t start out with touch first, because all that sometimes happens is, I am moving them into the correct position. I’m the one doing the work, not them. When students constantly want to be adjusted it can be a sign of laziness, they want you to do the work. I will intervene only after they have tried. After they try and perceive where their body is, and what might be holding them back, then I can assist them with touch. This is where, if the student is interested, yoga will expose patterns of movement that are not always working. In this exposure, the student becomes enlightened. This enlightenment will give them greater perception, greater understanding of their body in space. which is ultimately going to lead to gracefulness, coordination, sensitivity, and integration.

This will happen on your yoga mat if you come to your practice with all the necessary tools available to you: health, alertness, confidence, concern, energy, moderation, truthfulness, perseverance, and stability. Now, if you do not have all these things at the start, then yoga’s journey should help you get all of these things. Your teacher should be inspiring and provide you with the best possible guidance. But remember, it doesn’t lie on the teachers shoulders. You must care. You must want more knowledge, more health, more energy, etc.. As my teacher says, “experience removes doubt”. The best way to get started is to get on your mat and experience inhabiting your body. Work to become more perceptive of the details, the things that aren’t always “in your face” obvious. Shine some light on what has become dull. The trade off will be fewer stubbed toes in the middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, or fewer bumped elbows on the corners of things, and better posture,  greater health, or overall a generally good feeling about your body and how you are inhabiting it.

You know that feeling when someone has put their yoga mat down too close to yours, when you feel like your space has been invaded. Well, what I want for you is to invade your body, to become more in it, and not of it, to be more connected, instead of disconnected. Proprioception is space invading instead of space evading. Avoidence is not the answer. As sutra 2.3 says Avidya asmita raga dvesa abhinivesah klesah. Translated – the causes of suffering are ignorance, egotism, excessive attachments, unreasonable aversions and fear. Being in the dark can be scary and dangerous. Use yoga to become enlightened, to reduce your suffering and to make you very perceptive. This inward perception that you will strengthen will also deepen your outward perception of the world around you. This is illuminating, it’s like turning the lights on inside your body.

Each room in your home has a light for you to navigate it, so do your muscles. Treat each muscle like a room. You have approximately 640 muscles in your body so it’s like living in a mansion. Take care of this body that is your home. Turn on the lights, open the windows and doors so that energy can flow through. Yoga is feng shui for your body. It’s time to create good Qi. The life force is within you, go find it.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: