Posts Tagged ‘perspective’
the other tuesday,
i read in my day-by-day calendar, insights from the dalai lama:
only human beings can judge and reason; we understand consequences and think in the long term. it is also true that human beings can develop infinite love, whereas to the best of our knowledge animals can have only limited forms of affection and love. however, when humans become angry, all of this potential is lost. no enemy armed with mere weapons can undo these qualities, but anger can. it is the destroyer.
teacher vs. soundtrack
i’ve lately been pondering my voice and presence in a yoga class. the type of yoga i learned originally, sri swami satchidananda’s integral yoga, teaches a particular language, sequencing, and orientation for students in the class. the vinyasa style of yoga, derived from modern-day ashtanga yoga, also arranges the class (ashtanga more than vinyasa, in this case) in a particular way.
to be sure, most forms of hatha yoga have a style of teaching rooted in similar language (inhale/exhale), sequencing (standing poses before inverted poses), and orientation to what you are actually doing in the room (pray to the divine, or just notice your muscles). today what’s interesting to me is whether or how that approach gets stale if you don’t challenge yourself to renew your approach occasionally.
i wonder what other teachers and students think about the kinds of words they want to say or hear. it’s easy to be rote; you can say the same thing about the same pose every time. on the other hand, the ways of describing the body in space and time are endless — and experimenting too much maddens.
teachers: do you find yourself wanting to repeat yourself sometimes, or are you always thinking of new ways to describe the class experience? students: do you want to hear the same thing week to week, perhaps in order to learn the poses better, or do you like the language fresh and changing each time you come to class?
chrysler’s doing yoga now?
So I was talking to a friend and yoga student the other day, and he mentioned yoga journal‘s latest issue, which of course includes many pages of earnest yogis doing great poses. my friend mentioned a few particular pages that dismayed him because the poses were not part of a normal editorial section. these poses were paid for by chrysler.
this car-sponsored spread of yoga poses teaches us something about poses, to be sure, but to my friend’s point in a letter he wrote to the editors of this fast-changing magazine, it may teach us more about the necessity of something else: a dialog between the people who consider themselves students (surely we’re more than “enthusiasts?”) of this deeply internal practice, and the western media channeling millions of dollars to advertise its benefits.
what do you think? go buy a yoga journal and give aimmedia.com, its owner, more money and attention, so that we can talk sincerely about whether it’s ok for yoga journal to take money from a huge car company when it didn’t need to. to be sure, wholefoods and vegetarian times are two great entities benefiting from yoga journal‘s rise, so a rising tide lifts all ships? or all cars?
Dear [yoga journal] Editors,
I just bought the February 2008 issue of Yoga Journal — my first in a while. I was really looking forward to reading it. But picking up the magazine and opening it was like bumping into a friend one hasn’t seen in a long time and having your breath taken away by how far along their cancer is — your magazine is simply being overrun, inch by inch, with ever more inappropriate advertising.
I’m sure you get lots of letters like mine, and have many answers to my objection — where do you draw the line; it’s all in the name of getting the good word out about yoga; and so on. I’m sure it’s very easy to dismiss letters like mine, and very hard to turn down Chrysler.
But please, somewhere in the back of your minds, at least register that one reader has given up on you. I know we’re all caught up in the ugly contradictions of capitalism; I know none of our hands is clean. Still, even so, when I see that your editorial staff has decided to produce an “article” in the YJ house style that is actually an ad for automobiles — automobiles! — I’m unable to read the rest of the magazine. I hope your hard-working writers will
accept my apologies.
peace in struggle
i just finished a great book, all about love. in concluding both the book and a story about the bible’s jacob, bell hooks (who is also from kentucky: represent!) quotes two other writers who address the way we can stay peaceful in the midst of strife:
in that calmness we begin to understand that peace is not the opposite of challenge and hardship. we understand that the presence of light is not a result of darkness ending. peace is found no in the absence of challenge but in our own capacity to be with hardship without judgment, prejudice, and resistance. we discover that we have the energy and the faith to heal ourselves, and the world, through openheartedness in this movement.
this, from soul food: stories to nourish the spirit and the heart, by jack kornfield and christina feldman.
’tis the season to remember these words, eh?
the search for truth
so i learned last night how to customize my google home page, which was almost as exciting as when i found napster in the 90s. i was totally psyched, too, when, with two clicks from me, igoogle placed bart simpson’s and albert einstein’s daily quotes next to one another.
einstein’s quote for today inspired me to blog, and to let you know that i’ll be talking tonight at boundless yoga about the practice of yoga, 730-9 pm, for $10. we teach non-attachment in yoga, but especially as young, hoarding westerns, it’s hard for us sometimes to imagine ourselves not in possession of all the things we’ve accumulated, including our own intellectual “property.”
so the great man’s statement, “the search for truth is more important than its possessions,” provided me an instant, humble reminder of why i became a yoga teacher in the first place. i hope you can join me tonight. and, thank you, igoogle. you’re so cool!
yoga: from the gross to the subtle, with kim, $10
yoga is the practice of moving from the gross to the subtle. we first learn asana, and how the breath fills the physical structure that we change, pose to pose, moment to moment. once we arrive at the subtler aspects of the practice, what, then, does the practice become?
learn tonight from kim about a brief history of yoga, its basic philosophic tenets, and how the details of the inner world unfold the quieter we become. kim will discuss the value of asana, contemplation, breath, and meditation as part of the yoga ashtanga system, and she welcomes questions about the myriad ways we deepen a yoga practice, both on the yoga mat and out in the world.
yoga class, first and last
i am often asked how many times you should go to yoga class to experience its benefits. it’s a good question, born of the desire to improve; to feel better; to be longer, stronger, more lithe.
typically, i give a standard answer: “well, two times a week is good; three times a week is ideal when you’re starting out.” and then, typically, we talk about impediments to such a “routine,” or about what else one should do (run, workout, weights) in addition to yoga.
lately i’ve been wondering why i answer that way. giving someone concrete data (once/week = this; twice/week = that; three times/week = nirvana) can create stress, because you start thinking, shit! if i only go once, that means i’m less than good! if i go four times i’m more than ideal! personally, i don’t want to create that dialogue.
so, after talking with someone today–actually a friend of a friend trying to help boundless get its vendor credit card rates down–i’ve decided that i like this answer:
breathing is the first and last thing you’ll ever do, and in a yoga class you are essentially re-creating a relationship with your breath. years of behavior, thoughts, and (therefore) movement patterns have stifled the breath and redirected it in inefficient ways. “ideally” (here’s where the word feels so much better!), every yoga class will enable you to reexamine that relationship, such that you are aware of your breathing walking home, going to bed, getting up the morning, going to work the next day.
for some, this relationship will demand daily attention. for others, once every two weeks. still others, those at the top of the bell curve, between two and three times a week is advisable. but that’s only because we’re recreating new memories, new patterns in the system. introduce any “thing” to the mind/ego, and it will jump to the front and say, OK! i get it! i will do that again! er, um, but wait, how do i do that again? what was that thing that worked so well and felt so good? for most of us, the mind, and therefore the body, needs a reminder more than once a seven-day cycle — as in, more than once a week.
let your breath take you to class; let it remind you to start breathing, really. create a a simple intention to start feeling the prana, or qi (pronounced “chee”) flood into the system the way a flashlight bleeds through a dark room. then you’ll know how often to go to yoga class.
like a metronome
if you’ve played music for any length of time, you’ve probably used a metronome. this what one looks like:
imagine your spine as the pendulum rod (the thing that moves) in standing poses, especially ones in which the hips are open. when we attempt to do warrior two pose (virabadrasana 2) or side angle pose (parsvokanasana),
, settling into the poses can feel very much like the pendulum coming to rest at its center. you might even see here how pose 1 sets the foundation for pose 2.
one of the main ways to experience this sensation is to firm the legs. for most of us, desk jobs preclude the active use of legs during the day. sitting in chairs creates bad circulation, bad backs, and weak leg muscles.
in standing yoga poses, the direct result of using the legs is freeing the spine and releasing the back muscles into more efficient, well-distributed, graceul use.
if we consider open-hipped standing poses as though the spine were able to move back and forth, in rhythm, on a stable base, eventually settling in toward center, we might then orient ourselves toward using the legs to relax the spine, the organs, the mind.
knowing a place
thanks to the new york times article last week, i’ve reconnected with several old friends. one, from my hometown of louisville, reminded me of some conversations we had at least 10 years ago about getting to know a place. at the time, we contemplated what it would be like to stay in a place for a long time, versus traveling a lot of places to live, or stay, for only a brief while.
we can look at this concept in asanas. while my friend suggests the idea is to stay put, to look around, really, and to understand the climate, topography, and personalities of a place, my idea was that traveling was so important: how can you know anything if you don’t expose yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, to a lot?
now i see the merit in both approaches. since the body is the only landscape we’ll ever know, why not try traveling through it quickly, alighting with the mind to experience a place–the abdominals, the calves? then, in your practice or through the classes you choose, stay for a while in a pose. try a forward fold for, like, five minutes and see what happens.
it’s this comparative, internal experience that we have right here inside us that offers myriad lessons, easily extrapolated to the outside experience. and once we realize that neither experience is actualy different from the other in the end, we begin to understand yoga, union, oneness.
a boundless student testimonial
For many years, I had a very fickle relationship with yoga. It was love at first asana, to be sure, but depending on what else was going on in my life, my focus and dedication waffled and I could go months without stepping on my mat. When I moved to DC in 2005, I tested a bunch of gyms, then yoga studios, and because of a random spring promotion I committed two months to Boundless.
I knew immediately that there was something different about this place. Maybe it was the sense of community among strangers or the
way teachers tried to get to know their students, I am not totally sure. Regardless of the ‘it’ factor, I found myself coming into the studio
taking as many classes as I could, trying out as many teachers as possible to figure out which ones fit my style, and fashioning my weekly schedule around the classes I wanted to take.
After a year and a half at Boundless, I am dedicated to my yoga practice and know I will take it with me wherever I go. Through some fabulous teachers, I have grown immensely and am able to learn something new every time I come to my mat. At Boundless, you can explore your own possibilities in a creative, supportive, fun environment where people know how to laugh even when they are being serious. –sd