The best takeaway wisdom from teaching and practicing for me this past year was that if a student understands who he or she is it is going to make the job of cue-ing into an asana more efficient and lead to greater possibility that the student will actually benefit from what is being done. This is easier in a one-one setting, but I still try to empower students so they can figure out how to navigate themselves. This, to me, is a great skill to have off the mat as well, facing so many choices in our day. We can get a bit lost in tasks, stresses and relationships which distract us from the quiet inner guidance. You need to be able to figure some stuff out from the inside and thus heal, recover, rebalance.
Effectively, if you look at Yoga as a tool box for life management, it is “a process of deepening self-awareness which is inclusive of the body – a restoration of full awareness, a ‘remembering’ and rediscovery of our true, enduring self, that is at the same time a constant process of healing. The mental and physical obstacles we face are rooted in our limited self-awareness – i.e. preoccupation with the demands of the ego- which in turn lulls us into self-forgetfulness. The result is inefficient and even self-defeating patterns of movement accompanied by tension, pain, and even injury- whether simply physical, or moral and spiritual injury….Thus ‘yoga’ in the tantric sense, is ‘therapy’ – an ongoing process of self-healing- a healing of our awareness or understanding ” – Doug Keller
So next time you go to a class, don’t just listen to the Teacher and follow blindly. Interpret the directions based on who you are…
the word of today, as we walk through January, is sankalpa. This is a sanskrit word which means “conception or idea or notion formed in the heart or mind, solemn vow or determination to perform, desire, definite intention, volition or will. In practical terms, the word, Sankalpa, means the one-pointed resolve to do or achieve; and both psychologically and philosophically, it is the first practical step by which the sensitivity and potentiality of the mind is increased; it is known as the capacity to harness the will-power and the tool to focus and harmonize the complex body-mind apparatus. (source)
“Most New Year’s resolutions spring from the misguided desires of the ego, senses, and conditioning. They almost always fail because they start from the assumption that who you are is not good enough, and reinforce the mistaken belief that your happiness depends on acquiring what you want.The yoga tradition offers a refreshing alternative to the New Year’s resolution: the practice of sankalpa, or resolve. A sankalpa practice starts from the radical premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma. All you need to do is focus your mind, connect to your most heartfelt desires, and channel the divine energy within.” (source)
Your innermost sankalpa needs to be able to surface, which it does when the mind is quiet, and you can be attentive to that. I think you also need faith that there is possibility and hope greater than the present moment for your innermost desires to be fulfilled. So this season of resolutions, get yogaminded and uncover your sankalpa
getting yogaminded for the new year.. As the New Year approaches, the focus is always on making resolutions and commitments and doing a whole lot that sounds like reforming oneself or just making new decisions. It almost complicates a simple process. I like the expression Yoga Mind, I used it for my Cd and frankly, am loving the expression “yogaminded” now.
“Don’t make the same mistakes twice” ~ right!? We do anyway. I do not feel like yoga has prevented me from falling or failing, but it does give a framework for starting each day afresh, with a beginner’s perspective, and sometimes, when I am graced, I make better choices instead of opting for old patterned paths.
I think it fair to say that the best way to start fresh is to feel and experience being refreshed. Relaxation, of some kind is crucial and yet, often, quite ignored until we crash land, burnout, lash into someone, react and get pulled in. I for one like at least one full restorative yoga practice in my schedule (not just to teach but as well, to practice). It lends balance and calm. That Yoga Mind I cultivate leads towards all the things I should likely resolve to do more often. So this New Year, get yogaminded and unclutter your big list with just one resolution…
yoga and avoidance
“the yoga pose you avoid the most you need the most” Sometimes these statements have different sides to them. I think we can agree that some avoidance keeps us safe, in safe range of motion. Some avoidance is healthy. Some avoidance is un-challenging in a healthy way, and sometimes, perhaps the meaning implied here, it is a cop-out.
You have to know who you are to decipher a concept. “Clear seeing needs the calmly abiding self” ~ Stephen Cope.
One of the concepts in the yogic view of the world of time and space is that there all phenomena in the world manifest in an interplay of opposites. This could mean light and dark, or pain and pleasure, as well as attraction to and avoidance (aversion) of. As Stephen Cope says, “Yogic scriptures everywhere acknowledge that the polarization of life’s energies is one of humans’ central problems..In itself, the apparently dualistic nature of our phenomenal world is not a problem….The problem is that we human beings inevitably tend to choose for one side of the polarity and against the other side, artificially attempting to split life down the middle…We cling desperately to pleasure and attempt to banish pain”
Great segway into the word balance. I think sometimes we need a new approach. Perhaps you could learn how to do that revolved triangle appropriately for your body in a private yoga class and then you can include rather than avoid. Or perhaps you have carpal tunnel syndrome and need to modify downward facing dog. Maybe you have an addiction and need to avoid temptation or maybe you need to set new boundaries and confront the person you are hiding from .new year, new choices
I think the best way to describe how to develop present moment awareness through your yoga practice is to look at it as a moving meditation. “Yesterday ended last night” is a good way of affirming and grounding yourself in now. You may be living the consequences of yesterday today, but hopefully your new mindfulness will lead you to make different choices so that when you say this tomorrow, you are actually in a better place.
“Aligning the mind with the experience of the present moment is the fundamental practice of mindfulness…As soon as you become aware that your mind has ventured off into thoughts about the past or the future, slowly reestablish the vertical axis of mindfulness…” ~ Will Johnson
“Being “in the state of flow” doesn’t mean that we spend all of our time in bliss in the nondual realms. Flow means allowing ourselves to be surrendered to life, to the way it is, and to forget ourselves in pure involvement in our work, our task at hand, our love-without worry over the outcome. As Robert Frost said, “Freedom means moving comfortably in harness.”” ~ Stephen Cope
“Mindfulness is not just an action of the mind” ~ Will Johnson
Today, see if you can, every time the mind flies off to yesterday or tomorrow, just stop, take a breath and feel where that breath is moving in your body right now. Do that for just a minute if that is all you have, and see whether exchanging the thinking mind for the feeling self, harnesses your energy and guides you into an aware presence and calm
holiday or freedom, what are we actually seeking?
I am wondering, as we approach Christmas and New Year when so many people go away, whether we are really looking for a temporary break from routine, or something deeper, true freedom. I know it is a deep reflection, but as I re-read some of Yoga And The Quest For The True Self, by Stephen Cope, I came across an interesting chapter which I thought I would write about here..
“As we Westerners become more experienced with yoga and meditation, we will begin to become more realistic about their outcomes, A mere reduction in reactivity may seem a disappointment to those of us still engaging in magical thinking about Eastern enlightenment experiences. The increase of awareness and neutrality toward experience may be a bitter pill for those of us who were hoping for immersion in permanent oceanic bliss. But, actually, “a new freedom for well-considered and appropriate action” is a very wonderful thing. It means that we have increased freedom to choose..we become free to renounce actions that might undermine our most awake experiences of ourselves. And we become free to claim actions that express who we really are”
I think this is a great quote; even practitioners of yoga can get rather chase-y with practice (you may have heard me say this in my restorative yoga class). I think consistent practice, balanced practice, which includes relaxation gives us mini holidays for the brain/body, which add up to cultivation of a deeper sense of freedom. That is my take on it follow on twitter #liveyouryoga
Quality of Life: cultivating a quality of life on a daily basis through the practices of yoga…what does that mean to you? “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want” Lao Tzu
“The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself……The autotelic experience, or flow, lifts the course of life to a different level. Alienation gives way to involvement, enjoyment replaces boredom, helplessness turns into a feeling of control, and psychic energy works to reinforce the sense of self, instead of being lost in the service of external goals. When experience is intrinsically rewarding life is justified in the present, instead of being held hostage to a hypothetical future gain” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Yoga has fast become an activity to many, whereas it is a seamless practice of awareness and considerate actions, a moving meditation. As we have read and discussed here this week, cultivating mindfulness over time can lead to a more positive state of mind, that can get you through the thick and thin of life.
When you go within on your mat, you have to navigate the body with a wordless intelligence. This state of flow or concentration, if you start to engage it more off the mat can lead to a more enriching experience even when things are challenging or stressful
the present moment
harmony is created by practicing present moment awareness…
we continue to focus on the present moment as the week of posts continues…Yesterday we used some quotations from the above author, Eckhart Tolle, and today we resume, and add on other insightful reading
“Take the past, for example. We think of it as something, but it is really nothing. Go looking for it, and you will never find it. We all think of ourselves as being shaped by the past, and many of us think we are limited by it. The truth is, you and I both have a past. It’s powerful and often painful and has shaped us in ways past knowing. Having said that, I invite you to forget it. The past is, quite literally, irrelevant. It has power over us only if we give it the power each moment. You give it power by the moves you make in each moment. Each day you and I are offered the opportunity to recreate the past or to create a brand new future. Take your mind off the past and the future, and focus instead on the moments that are occuring constantly. If you do this, I guarantee you will not regret it.” From Conscious Living, by Gay Hendricks.
yoga – art of balance “life is a balance of holding on and letting go”
yoga : art of balance
Even as a physical practice, yoga is an art of balancing the active and the receptive sides, the doing and the being. Some of the quieter poses like forward bends, offer the practitioner the opportunity to calm the nervous system and promote the ‘rest and digest’ mechanisms, and help with fatigue. Within that, forward bends can be active or restorative depending on what your intention is. If you are chasing a stretch, using arms to pull yourself forward, or stretching the wrong place (insertion of the muscle) then your forward bends will not have these qualities. In a restorative forward bend, in order to have these effects on the central nervous system, you will have to use props in such a way as to support safe alignment and comfort in the pose. As well, you would support the head as this will promote relaxation
BKS Iyengar wrote “Actions mirror a man’s personality better than his words” – this statement is reflected in our physical practice. Movement with intention will differ from movement without it. Sometimes you have to give something up to get something else. Think of balance, and yoga, as an organic art form.
Daily inspiration…Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything
“Deep breathing and yoga previously haven’t been taken seriously as healing cures, but a new medical study found tangible benefits to the practice of meditation, leading to fewer sick days and reduced anxiety. So why aren’t doctors prescribing it?” (exerpt from Time)
Of course I have written about this subject before, with a catchy byline about being a peaceful warrior instead of a nervous worrier. The bottom line is how you use your energy will define how you cope, how you perceive, how you perform. All styles of yoga are intended to bring about the sattvic, calm mind, what I call the YOGA MIND and a key component to all practices is mindfulness. (try my 5 minute mindfulness retreat)
And, guess what ? Mindfulness has tons of rewards. “A new study from the University of Utah shows that individuals who describe themselves as being more mindful have more stable emotions and perceive themselves to have better control over their mood and behavior throughout the day. Higher mindful people also describe less cognitive and physiological activation before bedtime, suggesting that greater emotional stability during the day might even translate into better sleep. The study results will be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society”