Posts Tagged ‘perspective’
What my shoulders tell me
I was on a long vacation recently — 10 days — abroad with my family. We planned a little excursion across Europe but ended up “stranded” in Paris thanks to that lovely little gift from Iceland, the ash cloud. Stressful at the time, no doubt, but a pretty funny story to tell for years to come.
Yesterday, I finally got around to uploading the video from our trip. As I watched the clips upload, I noticed something so interesting, something the pre-yoga me would not have seen. My shoulders started to inch up. And up. With each passing day. By day 10 of the trip, my shoulders are practically touching my ears! A confession: I did NO yoga in Europe. And wow, my shoulders were telling.
In class and in my home practice, I am constantly thinking about my shoulders. I am not a fan of shoulder stand, especially not since my return stateside (no wonder!). But finding that space between your earlobes and your shoulders, it releases so much tension. We all hold stress in different places at different times, though I imagine the shoulders creeping up is quite common for most of us. Seeing it in pictures was a rude awakening. Next family trip, I am packing my mat before I pack anything else!
practice is the goal
Last week I was working with a new client. She’s 52, and she’s been practicing yoga for a long time. It shows in her attention to the detail of the poses, and, as important, in her ability to find meditation and stillness in her daily life.
As we discussed what it takes to revive a stalled yoga practice, she said, you know, I need this work with you to get restarted for 2010, but I’m so grateful that I actually do know how to quiet my mind. She went on to say:
I wasn’t sure I ever believed that you could just turn your mind off, but then, after practicing for these years, I’ve figured out that, yes, you can. It just takes practice.
She stated this fact so simply, without any drama, discomfort or complaint. She said it better than any teacher I’ve ever had, in fact: You can still your mind without any real issue — you just have to keep at it. It isn’t a drive-through experience, and it cannot happen while you are moving, unless you have figured out how to meditate while you are actually still, sitting, for a little while. Then you can be anywhere — walking, in conversation or relationship with someone, in a fast-paced vinyasa class — and you can observe whatever is happening at that moment and be still in your heart with it.
Yoga teaches that the heart is the true mind. I believe that my client was talking about being at peace when she talked about “turning off” her mind. This was a powerful teaching for me, and I am grateful to share it here.
I wish you a still and peaceful 2010, filled with practice and gratitude.
drug it up
My job is to teach, and to run a business based on, the stilling of the mind’s fluctuations, so today passing the rite aid on U Street was a challenge.
A big sign I’ve never seen before was right there on the front door:
20% discount on all drugs!
This means two things to me. 1) Demand side: People are less able to afford the drugs they have been prescribed by their doctors, who by and large prescribe these “remedies” for the symptoms of disease, rather than for the disease and/or its cause , and 2) Supply side: The free market (and recession) is driving this sale in order to keep drug-buying traffic high at Rite Aid.
Yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda, or China’s Acupuncture, or even walking 15 minutes a day (possibly to yoga class), could render these discounts–and the RiteAid drug counter itself–utter failures.
all we have to do is use these ancient approaches to health and treat our bodies not as inconveniences when malfunctioning, but rather as messengers of the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.
boundless teacher mission
so the teachers and i just finished co-authoring this, the boundless yoga teacher mission.
i asked all of them to write me a manifesto on what their teaching style and interests were, and what they were really intending to do in a yoga classroom. i collated everyone’s overlapping and/or potent ideas, and then we all edited together.
we are a multi-disciplinary yoga studio, and we want to be clear in 2009 about the tremendous value that every class brings to you.
so i notice every morning in the shower that the thoughts start to creep in. the worry, the fears, the unsettled, unanswered questions.
then i go and sit to meditate, hair still drying and mouth fresh with the taste of mint, and i stare at the screen of my mind as i would at a movie screen. i ask myself:
what’s the thinking today?
and i go from there. for 10 or up to 40 minutes, depending on the day.
it’s kind of like holding back a busting dam, that process of recognizing the thoughts in the shower in the morning before meditation as they come tumbling and stumbling in, like wayward drunks, knocking over the still sleepy docility of my otherwise calm mind, jarring me into dull annoyance.
this is why meditation works. it is an extremely simple equation in that it gives your mind someplace to go when the thinkin’ starts cookin’.
you must practice being in this space. otherwise your thoughts run you over: they will think you.
the yang and the yin of it.
i heard here three or four times today a quote by an unidentified woman, telling the NPR Reporter that for the downwardly spiraling economy,
there are no silver bullets here…The best the Fed can do is throw pillows down to soften the landing.”
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’ve been telling students in class for the past week that if you are feeling tired, lethargic, and/or mildly (or more) morose, it’s totally normal. it’s time for the Winter Solstice.
in our hemisphere, we are on the cusp of the shortest night and longest day of the year. there is a lot of information here to describe the metaphysical, scientific, and ritual aspects of this moment.
for the body, which is comparatively depleted of energy from the sun, layers of darkness enter. this is the time when mentally we can reflect (or meditate) on the things we want to shed–just as the earth here is allowing most of its plants to die.
no matter what your asana practice is right now, be aware of your overall energy levels and practice around that. this is an important time of year to let go–no matter how you define the verb.
last night i was at an anniversary party and had a few glasses of champagne. the mood was celebratory (local business = success!), the music consistently danceable (de la soul and prince!), and the people watching and food delicious.
i slept well, but not well enough, of course, to get up and do my pranayama practice, which is a goal for tuesdays. instead i slept in and wished i could sleep more. my body was recovering from that bit of alcohol, technically a poison that the body has to work harder to remove in order to return to “normal.”
a learning for a yogini aiming to be consistent in her practice above all else, when she still loves champagne and a good dance party.
i think everyone is well served touching their own tailbone once in a while. for sure they should check out that bad boy during yoga class.
though this might not be the case for others, i find my own tailbone (coccyx, actually, and check out the groovy diagram on wikipedia) to be thinner and, well, bonier, somehow, than i always imagine it to be.
this is the base of your spine, the thing that holds you up so well. it’s amazing to think that the tailbone is where it all goes down.