Posts Tagged ‘the yoga of words’
I hear students in class often talk about how they “can’t do” an asana. It just occurred to me that if the student has a goal for improving her practice through doing more complicated poses, the question is not “why can’t I do that?” It’s rather “where can’t I do that?”
Your whole reality will change if you start looking at your body as an instrument that you play in class, versus a thing that holds you tethered to the physical, mental, and emotional patterns you know. This small step — of detaching just enough from the body to see its behavior more objectively — represents a quantum leap in healing the body, mind, and spirit through yoga.
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.
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!
right round baby right round
On this side of the dateline, we tend to define karma as the apostle Paul did: “Man reaps what he sows.” “What goes around, comes around.”
I’ve always had trouble with the term “karma yoga” as defining good acts, because then you aren’t you still attached to getting only goodness in return? it seems to me you can do anything and still be practicing karma yoga. What if you’re ok with doing something neutral or negative, and with being prepared to experience that same thing some point in the future?
Asking for negative acts to come back to you might even been like saying “bring it” to the universe.
Lately, I am examining karma by being aware of an emotional state I am uncomfortable with, for example, depression, sorrow, anger, or frustration. I drive almost every day, and I often feel “cut off” by someone rushing to their job, home, a bar, their dying grandmother. My heart jumps as the other driver speeds past me and into my lane, my breathing changes, and at least 50% of the time, I find myself reacting in anger. this anger comes from the fear of experiencing an accident.
as i experience this sensation, i imagine that i have done that exact thing to someone before. when i wedge in this stop sign on the road of my own reaction, a mental shift occurs:
1) My negative emotion changes or goes away.
2) I see immediately the universe’s answer to a previous demand from me entitled, “bring it”.
9 times out of 10, i can recall an instance in which i have acted toward someone in exact the way that i am currently uncomfortable with.
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.
i started this post several weeks ago when i noticed that the amount i was being thanked for adjusting students in class went up.
i didn’t know what to say about it at first, but i’ve decided now that it’s surprising. i want all yoga students to expect to be adjusted, or at least be guided, with as much precision as possible through the poses they do in my class. when i adjust someone’s pose verbally or physically, i consider that part of my job, part of what i’m paid to do.
so, you’re welcome, but sheesh! it’s what you deserve!
the great bill moyers was interviewed on Npr’s fresh air today, and he recalled a conversation he’d had with joseph campbell, the popular scholar of mythology, said this:
if you want to change the world, you change the metaphor.
the in of sane
i want to clarify the term hatha yoga. According to Wikipedia and other sources i’ve studied, hatha yoga is not as old as yoga “proper;” hatha yoga showed up in the 15th century, because a guy named Swami Swatmarama wanted to give practitioners (sadhakas) a clearer path to the “heights of raja yoga.” raja yoga is, simply, the yoga that emerges through behavior observances, body/breath practices, and several stages of meditation.
this brings me to something Einstein said:
insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
the issue with today’s hatha yoga, especially the part influenced by vinyasa yoga (a more modern version of hatha characterized by repetitive, faster-paced movements linked to the breath), is that it can be too rote.
hatha yoga, like yoga itself, is a living, breathing, ever-changing reflection of the mind that studies it. we can call this mind “your” mind, “my” mind, or even the “collective” mind. whatever the definition of mind, it’s important to know that expecting the same result from your yoga class (i always feel so good after class! my hamstrings are always so strethed!), is missing the point of “ha” (sun) and “ta” (moon), hatha.
practice, of course, is always and only up to the practitioner. and the breath, which underlies the practice no matter what its form, is never, ever the same. back to einstein’s statement, we could, then, conclude the breath is the sanest thing around.
i mean i had cancer
last night, talking with a student after my therapeutic class at smith farm healing center, i remembered that for all my teachers, students tend often to be the sagest.
This student has studied with me for more than a year, and she is recovering from cancer. she is young. i’ve been away from the class for a few weeks, and i was sharing with her some recent events in my life, and my reaction to what felt like a big disappointment this past week. before i could wax any level of philosophical about the experience, she smiled, shook one hand into the air as if flicking away my words, and said, “you know, you just never know why things happen. it could be that this is for the best.”
a lot of people say this when you express disappointment. in general i resist the flicking-away-of-feeling-let-down, because i question why disappointment, among other emotions, is so hard to tolerate and accept. but last night, my student went on to clarify that our conversation reminded her of one she had with her doctor last year. the doctor, also a woman, was in reassurance mode, telling my student that–now that her treatments were over and the cancer was officially in remission–”you’ll have a better year next year, for sure.”
and my student, still with a smile (though by this time a wry one), said to me, “I told my doctor, ‘you know, this year hasn’t really been all that bad. i mean, i had cancer and all, but as i think of it, the year was pretty good!’”