Posts Tagged ‘inner yoga’
Transformation starts with the body
Transformation that happens anywhere starts first in your body. While there are many ways to observe and assess the universal principles of organization and chaos, I will address the topic of human bodily transformation that in turn takes root in society. I want to teach you how you can learn to observe your experience in the world, which then then necessitates positive change everywhere — foremost in your life.
I am specifically teaching you about your own dharma or destiny. I hope you can make it!
Off the Mat: Mint Tea
One day last week, my carpool delivered me to work early, so I decided to try some tea at a coffee place I’d never been to before. The tea came and I took it too an outside table where I could sit, read and watch people walking by, Without intending to, I did not take a sip of tea, but instead inhaled the tea vapor, through my mouth, where it sprang from the hard palate to the back of the throat. I was not prepared for the sublime clarity of the mint flavor, it was as if the essence of the tea had been transferred directly to my nerve center. I was simultaneously thrilled and sated and felt without need to taste the liquid after that heady mint bounced around my head.
The “taste” of that experience was such that, of course, I hoped the tea itself would be divine. So I took a sip. I don’t know if it was the water the tea was brewed in, or other things that were mixed with the mint , but the tea itself had a strong taste of straw and dirt and! I was shocked and wondered if my taste buds were fooling me after being inundated with the pure mint essence. So I took another sip, but the taste was the same, still unclear and dirty. I opened the cup and looked at the tea bag, which was, in fact, half full of some yellow, straw-like substance. Perhaps it was chamomile, though the tea did not taste of chamomile. Whatever, the taste was quite disappointing!
This happens to me in other parts of my life too. I find myself involved in or observing a unique and wonderful moment, and, at that moment, conscious of it’s special wonder. That experience is often accompanied by a feeling of lightness, connection and deep gratitude. However, instead of being satisfied with that and taking the time to appreciate it fully, I often try to get “more” of that experience, which, of course, immediately moves me out of the moment of appreciation and connection and into a different state altogether: one in which I am alone, trying to accomplish something rather than surrendering to and staying in the experience of that moment. Why do I do that? Why does anyone do that? That’s a whole other blog and lifetime. It could be due to any number of common human faults, from impatience to greed to fear or ignorance.
Lucky for me, awareness is the first step toward change and while I often find a way to “pop” myself out of an experience, I don’t always. The times of being able to relax and be are more frequent than they used to be. And, for this particular Mint Tea experience, I decided to try “mouth-breathing” the tea vapor again, to see what that would be like. YUM! Almost as intense as the first time!
In a previous post I suggested a couple of after-swim poses, which I did again yesterday, and which felt great again.
Yesterday, after an all-night bender with the daughter, I was exhausted and honestly interested in splashing around in the pool instead of trying to keep up in the Medium Lane. (That organization, by the way, seems to keep people sane in an East Coast Pool. Otherwise, Grandpa with the snorkel isn’t in the way of Type-A-even-in-water-Guy lapping everybody in .5 seconds).
So it was Grandpa and me. He, with the snorkel and flippers, and me, with the bags under my eyes and a kickboard. This Pitta woman has a hard time slowing it down, and later, in yoga class as my teacher instructed this pose and this pose and this pose, I was, again, in the slow lane.
I am slowing down, of course, because I just had baby, and the first of the problems in a postpartum body is a weak core. Add bouncing baby 10+ hours a day, and you’ve got a tight neck and shoulders, and often, low back pain.
These physical issues, though, sound like a lot of America. So it occurred to me yesterday, as I observed the others — from pool to yoga classroom — speeding past me and creating shapes beyond me, that there are advantages to slowing down and looking around.
Slowing down gives you the opportunity to create a reality with (probably, but not always) more intention, and in the asana (pose) context, it gives you the chance to observe more deeply what what’s really happening in your body. To be sure, John Schumacher was instructing poses deliberately and slowly, and most of the class had few problems manifesting his information. But what worked for me in class, especially, was watching the others make these shapes based on his instructions, and to imagine that information ultimately making its way into my body.
I will find these shapes soon by taking it slowly. You will, too.
from a new teacher trainee, on the discussion of dharma
and i think a better translation of dharma than “duty” is “groove.” not groove as in “rut,” but groove like on an LP: you’re the needle. you move along the groove, music happens. don’t travel in the groove, and you’re either just bouncing along the edge, around and around, or (if you’d been previously traveling along the groove for a while) making a horrific screech. it’s binary, too: you can’t half-assedly follow the groove. once you start on the track, you’re either in it making music or making a horrible noise. and eventually you spiral into the center of the record.
On Wednesday, the yoga class I took was silent. The teacher explained at the beginning of class that first she would do the poses, and then with the tap of a singing bowl, we’d follow what she’d done. There would be no talking during class, just imitation of what we saw in her positions and adjustments.
I’d never taken a class like that before. I’ve taken many silent classes before, especially out at Piedmont Yoga Studio, when I was taking that studio’s Advanced Teacher Training in 2004. But this class was different. There was something in the standing around, watching her create a shape–and then trying it ourselves, as a group–that ignited my spine.
The purpose of yoga is to quell the jumpiness in the mind — the constant analyzing, thinking, reviewing, obsessing. Through the practice of hatha yoga, we create shapes and fill those shapes with breath, or prana, and observe the mind/body connection from moment to moment as the breath and shape changes. This body-and-breath training is ultimately mind training, and through this training the mind settles down like a choppy lake that becomes crystal clear and still.
During the class, I felt mainly, only, my spine. I felt movements up and down the sides of it in asymmetrical poses like trikonasana and parsvakonasana, and I felt it expand into something warm and soft during sirsasana (headstand).
My teacher said at the beginning of class that a certain type of “transmission” would take place during the class that differed from that which could be conveyed through words. Though I understood intuitively what she meant–music communicates something very clear and real, and something altogether different from words–it wasn’t until the actual practice that I felt the experience I’ve had, time and again, over the past 15 years of yoga:
The spine is the thing we are lighting up, as it is the superhighway of all our thoughts and experiences. It is either congested or not. Hatha Yoga cleans up body and in turn cleanses the spine, which in turn cleanses the mind and its troubled thoughts. Much of this experience cannot (yet) be measured by science or (probably ever) be conveyed in words.
i’ve just finished reading the last of boundless’s 2007-8 boundless teacher training papers, which is a requirement for graduation. omg love them! i asked the trainees first to take one page to define yoga — to put this vast word into a few paragraphs that would then serve a their thesis for the paper. here’s what one trainee wrote on p. 1:
in the modern western world, the understanding of what yoga is and how it is practiced in the mainstream has been reduced to one limb — asana. facilitated by the reductionist principles of western medicine and the fitness movement, with its focus on the physical well-being of the body separate from the emotional, mental, and spiritual body, asana has been extracted from a whole and has come to represent what was intended to be a multidimensional philosophy.
this student goes on to pose the following questions for her paper:
How does this extraction of asana and reduction of yoga affect the efficacy of the practice in stilling the modifications of the mind? What are the benefits and the possible harm induced by only practicing asana? What happens if you practice yoga with selfish or misguided intent? Do you create karma for yourself as you would if you gave to charity based on self interest? does the simple act of aligning the body and increasing your awareness and concentration make you more open to learning and seeing the world through clearer eyes? By allowing the body to function at a healthier leavel, do the mind and the heart function at a healthier level? What can a modern mainstream yogi achieve by knowing only a small part of a holistic system intended to offer a path for the balanced and healthy physical, physiological, emotional, and spiritual existence?
clearly a lot!
i just got off the phone with my husband, who is buying a black winter coat, a coat he does not currently own. the jacket is 40% off its original price, which is a great deal for December. he called to discuss the purchase, and to justify it he said,
“the thing is, i lack [a] black [coat].”
i thought this was a good justification for spending money, and it got me thinking about shopping in general, since many of us will me doing a lot of it in the next 20+ days.
a good way of shopping could be to buy the item only when
1) you want to walk out of the store wearing the item you like/love it so much,
2) you need that specific item because you actually do not have any (or one) of them.
another thing i’ve done today is watch this live puppy cam.
in savasana, there is an excellent opportunity to navel gaze. imagine your thighs–and indeed the bones of the thighs and legs–dropping toward the ground to such a degree that the tops of the thighs feel flat and smooth.
or at least like rolling hills. calm, rolling rounds of earth.
so i thought today of an interpretation of this.
the energetic bodies of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd chakras live in and alongside the tailbone and legs; abdomen; and solar plexus, respectively. their physical properties are those of earth, water, and fire–or earth, oceans/waters, and the sun.
think of using your inner eye and looking down at your own sun, water, and earth–as from the sky–and determining how your own inner planet is doing at that moment. how hot the sun, how turbulent or calm and rhythmic the waters, how stable the ground.
stress is not gone
yesterday at the end of a private session with a new female client, the woman turned to me from her very first savasana (corpse pose) and said,
so, like, is this not your favorite pose? i mean, are you like the most relaxed person ever? and don’t you do this pose all the time?
i told her yes, savasana is in fact one of my favorite poses, but i don’t do it all the time, and in fact, i said,
when i’m feeling stressed out i’m actually really bad at this pose and sometimes go so far as to avoid it at the end of my practice.
this confused her. she questioned me more on how i could *not* be so totally unstressed as a result of doing yoga.
i told her that it’s not that i”m never stressed anymore–life continues to be life, and to have its natural ebbs and flows. rather, i find myself able to relax more quickly, more precisely, and more deeply.
the greatest advantage of yoga in this context, i told her, is that you begin to witness the coming stress like an arriving storm. just as you put on a raincoat, or get an umbrella, or even stay inside until the storm blows over, you observe yourself in a stressed-out state and access the breath, or do a lengthening pose here and a strengthening pose there.
using these yogic tools helps you move away from the stress response in a way that is difficult to do otherwise.
most important, practice is not at all about doing the poses *better*. it is instead about witnessing the effects the poses have on you more and more clearly.