Posts Tagged ‘yogic perspective’
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!
Fold as naturally as the sun
The thing with pachimottanasana, or seated forward fold, is that it takes almost as much stability as paripurna navasana, or boat pose. I wrote about boat pose last month. Take a minute to look at both poses in the links to Yoga Journal, especially the legs. We could accurately say that the stability in the legs is quite the same in both poses, but the (re)pose in the spine is different.
In the spine especially, we are looking for a non-doing-ness as much as we’re looking for doing. Seated forward fold shows this perhaps this best of all yoga poses other than savasana, or corpse pose. The concept in Taoism is called wu-wei, or the natural timing of any action. Inasmuch as we are lifting the breastbone and calming the breath down in boat pose, we are doing the same actions in seated forward fold. Except we do this as we elongate the torso over the legs rather than away from it into space.
Seated forward fold is about letting go, about letting your own psychology of action be revealed to you in the minute or two you hang out in this pose. Most people find seated forward fold challenging, because it’s a shape — like navasana — that we hardly ever do. Sitting in chairs, oops, is our main daily action that makes extending the legs out on the floor and folding over so hard!
I recommend spending the hotter moments in July cooling down with this ultimately nourishing, calming, and (yet) spinally challenging pose. When you hit a wall, i.e., when you feel like the only way you could go “further” in the pose is by forcing the body into more “length”, relax. Seriously, observe any tension in your shoulders (and therefore) your spine, and relax. R-E-L-A-X. Spell the word out to yourself and by the time you hit “X” notice that you’re in a different pose.
Let your body forward fold this month as naturally as the sun comes up to roast you every day.
Learning to Rest
In case you were wondering why I have not been to the studio for a while, I’ve been on an extended vacation from asana practice, courtesy of my back. Yup, it appears I’ve slipped a disk. I can trace it back to shoveling snow this winter, anyways, that’s when it started to hurt. The good news is disks are actually easier to manipulate back into place at my age than when younger, precisely because they have become a little firmer and are less mobile. Who’da thunk? Needless to say, I am eager to get back to a more vigorous asana practice, but for now, I have to be satisfied with having graduated from doing the most gentle of movements (sphinx and low cobra with stomach, butt and legs NOT engaged) to being OKed to begin adding more “yogic elements” to these movements.
Recently, I helped my neighbor, who was injured in a car accident by adjusting a cart she is using to get around so it fit her better. I didn’t think twice about sitting on the floor and so I could work on the cart. But I sure thought twice when I had a hard time standing up! I am feeling “old” for the first time. Like really old. Like stereotypically old. Imagine an old lady bent forward and walking around with one hand on her back. OK, so maybe I am having a bit of drama about this, but it is quite a revelation when any movement heading in the direction of a forward fold, like bending down to pick up something from the floor requires planning, otherwise it will hurt!
What I am discovering in this period of forced inactivity is that I don’t really know how to rest. And, of course, that is really what my body needs to heal. In fact, I almost never rest, unless I am sick, and I don’t think that exactly counts, does it? My idea of the ideal vacation? Put on a backpack and hike for five or six days in high elevation mountains. My idea of a restful day at home? Get the shopping done, bake bread, cook, etc. while doing loads of laundry in between. Sleeping in? Mmmm, that would be 7:00 a.m., right? You get the picture.
So for me, the challenge is to learn to rest. To accept limitation. It’s probably a no-brainer, a doh! moment for most people, but my attachment to my perception of myself as a physically active and fit person throws sand in my eyes and makes it harder for me to do what I need to do to heal- which is rest. Luckily, the body reminds me every time my perception moves away from this new reality!
a trainee’s thoughts on meditation, pt. 1
The Advanced Teacher Trainees and I have been talking a lot about what meditation is over the past couple of months, and I’m sharing on this site their recent writings on the matter. AM writes:
I have heard people explain that the mind is like a lake and that the fluctuations of the mind are the ripples that flutter across the surface, implying that a level of awareness and stillness of the mind will bring the lake into such peace and calm that the surface of the lake is flat and tranquil so it appears to be a mirror.
In thinking about meditation and asana, I’ve come to realize that the lake metaphor described above, for me, is an over simplification of fluctuations of the mind. This metaphor implies that that the water and the land underneath the surface of the water are still. But realistically, the earth (as are our physical bodies) is always moving and changing. For the earth, which is the foundation of the lake, to come into stillness means it must come into relative harmony with the forces of nature. To bring this from a lake metaphor to the context of yogic practice in today’s reality, I believe that the fluctuations of the mind of the average person come from a more fundamental, internal source. Much as natural disasters such as tsunami are caused by movement deep within the earth and whose source are miles away from the resulting waves, so are the originating sources that cause fluctuations of the mind. For many of us, the quest to seek a still mind is as much about bringing awareness to, observing, and working to bring harmony to these fundamental imbalances. In relation to the physical body, the connection is clear, as tightness and imbalance may be more readily identifiable.
Meditation is an ancient practice that, like asana, has different histories, schools of thought and techniques. I searched “types of meditation” on the internet and found meditation through virtually any means: dance, sex, martial arts, chanting, breathing, walking, stillness, concentration, and prayer, to name a few. As the types of meditation vary, so do the definitions. The Princeton Dictionary describes meditation as continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature. I’ve often heard people say they meditate “on” something. I find this interesting, as when I sit in meditation, I do not have a particular subject matter or concept in mind. In my experience, meditating “on” a specific concept increases my mind’s restlessness. However, in Satchidananda’s commentary of the Yoga Sutras, he also translates “The practice of concentration on a single subject [of the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” In regards to what that subject may be, Satchidananda comments “Anything can take you to your goal, because you are not concentrating on the object for the sake of the object but for the sake of your goal.”
Wikipedia states that meditation as oftentimes part of a religious tradition. Meditation is yet another aspect of yoga that may seem to many as religion. Much like religious prayer, meditation is surrounded by ritual – the posture, the state of mind, the mudras that may resemble hands together in prayer, the incense or candles, the chanting, etc.
While some see meditation as related to religion, others categorize it quite differently. Many websites online consider meditation as a medical treatment that falls under the holistic or alternative therapies umbrella.
And finally, Krishnamurti defies all of these definitions with his description of meditation. “Man, in order to escape his conflicts, has invented many forms of meditation. These have been based on desire, will, and the urge for achievement, and imply conflict and a struggle to arrive. This conscious, deliberate striving is always within the limits of a conditioned mind, and in this there is no freedom. All effort to meditate is the denial of meditation. Meditation is the ending of thought. It is only then that there is a different dimension which is beyond time… When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy – if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.”
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.
What is energy?
This, from one of my energy apprentices on her recent test:
What is energy? That is an interesting question, one that I have thought about over the three years that I have been doing energy work, but one which I don’t think that I ever really have an answer. In Anodea Judith’s Eastern Body, Western Mind, she describes energy as “the evolutionary life force within each person. In my patch of the legal world, “energy” is a commodity, such as oil, natural gas and electricity that is bought and sold. What is similar between the two types of energy that I just mentioned is that they are the inputs that are necessary to drive machineries, whether it is the human body or a gigantic power plant. In other words, energy is what “makes things work.”
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.
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.
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.