Root to Rise

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I was taking a hike the other morning. It was one of the first hikes I’ve taken since winter released her chilly and isolated grip. The sun was shining, the dappled light streaming down through the branches like sunshine glitter and the robin’s egg blue sky aglow with a promise of warmth. Welcome spring!

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As I walked the trails at Peoria’s Forest Park Nature Center, I came upon a tree that had not made it through the icy grip of winter. I noticed that the root system was fairly shallow and thought back to the ice storm we had experienced in December. The tree had not been rooted strongly enough to weather the challenge of this particular winter. It toppled over.

The root system had been shallow. The foundation had not been strong. The journey of this tree was more broad than deep. And now here is yoga.

y8The breadth of yoga is vast. The methods many. This debate over the right and wrong is pointless – the truth is that there are many paths for many people. Your yoga doesn’t need to be the same as someone else’s. As we begin a yoga journey, exploration is required. How do you know where you want to root if you aren’t sure of into which landscape you wish to plant?

However, at some point the endless wandering does need to pause and plant. The exploring gives you a wide number of roots but the staying is where the depth is found. That’s not to say you can’t replant your tree of yoga, but consider that if you are seeking something specific, it may be hard to discover it if you keep skimming just the surface.

Tree-of-YogaThis analogy can be married to whole host
of yoga topics – what lineage is right for you? What pose do you want to achieve? Anatomy? Meditation? Breath work? Supernatural yoga powers?

The point is that if you don’t plant some firm roots for your goal to grow, at the first sign of a storm, the tree of your practice can be easily uprooted. This is where the practice of setting intention can be helpful. Be clear about what brought you to the mat and then revisit your intention every so often and fine tune it.

Choose your own adventure – study it well – do the practice and all is coming. You can weather any storm. You can root down to rise up. You can.

 

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The Space Between: Creating the Creative Mind

Cue up Dave Matthews and let that song run in the background of your mind. I just created a thought wave for you. In yoga speak, it’s called a chitta vrtti, a cool way of saying fluctuation of the mind.

Often times the analogy of an unruly monkey is used with a leash. I prefer the image of the ocean, rising and falling, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm – that’s just the nature of the ocean – to fluctuate with the weather. Same with humans – the nature of our mind is to fluctuate with each new input. That’s not a bad thing. It’s normal.

Chitta Vrtti

If you have been going to yoga or meditation with this idea that you have to stop thinking – you don’t. That is not the teaching in the Yoga Sutras and it’s not the purpose of meditation. It’s worth clarification because often students will say something like, “I’m not Good at Meditating.” This indicates that thought is bad, which isn’t true, it also indicates that calming yourself is something to be “good,” at doing – logically, the process never ends, therefore, one can never be good at it.

Thinking mind is only troublesome if it gets in the way of living fully. Our thoughts of creativity and even of anxiety are necessary human skills which help us solve problems and also keep us from life threatening danger. The issue is when your thoughts are based on misperception or are redundant, like a broken record. Someone once told me that 80% of our thoughts are the same thoughts we had the day before and someone else said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. This is the problem that yoga practice aims to solve.

Repeat

You don’t have a THINKING problem, but you may have a REPETITIVE thinking problem. Make sense?

The techniques of yoga are utilized to create space between your thoughts. This helps you have the time and awareness to notice destructive, non-helpful thought patterns and create the space for enhanced creative thinking.

SPace

Meditation Practice

Let’s try this as a meditation – this is something anyone, anywhere can use. Being good is not a requirement.

  • Sit quietly and comfortably
  • Notice the thoughts in your mind. Are they fast or slow? Are they on one topic or many? Are they a list or are they visual? Just notice your thought process without controlling or stopping it.
  • Before you go further – notice if you are judging your thoughts. Rather than judge, sink into the noticing – nothing is wrong with you, you are sitting safe and still, the only thing moving is your mind.
  • Now notice your breath. Is it fast or slow? Is it rough or smooth? Is it deep or shallow? Is your breath moving as your thoughts are moving?
  • Become aware of the spaces between the breath. Become aware of the spaces between the thoughts. Just notice without control.
  • Do the thoughts impact the breath?
  • Does the breath impact the thoughts?
  • Just notice.
  • Continue fluctuating between breath and thought for about 2-3 minutes, longer if so inclined.
  • As you conclude, notice any difference in the thoughts between the time you began and the conclusion. That’s good information for you to receive.

You’re done! You did great! And if you applied the meditation without just reading through it, now you understand Yoga Sutra 1.2 – Yoga as the process of creating space for clearer thinking.

Pause

If you are interested in more info on the Yoga Sutras, check out my Instagram feed – I am doing a project where I’m posting all the Sutras as images.

Steadiness and Ease: Sthira and Sukha: The Infinity of Practice

I’m in downward dog for what may be the 10,000th time of my practice, but today it still feels like the first. My breath is smooth and even, I feel solid in this pose, but then a draining feeling from my sinuses into my forehead emerges and I know I must leave this position and surrender to child’s pose. I’ve not been well for the past week, I’m tired and infected with a cold. The time for ambition in practice is not now – restoration is needed and my body told me that clearly. Rest, surrender, do less – it’s OK.

In today’s modern yoga practice and through our Western ideals of bigger, better, faster, stronger – we are easily connected with the Sthira or steadiness and strength of our practice but easily swayed from the sukha or ease and happiness of the forms we take. The idea of doing less at any time is somewhat foreign and seems unnatural in a world of bootstrapping up and making our mark.

I’m no stranger to this pull – I have a strong desire to master the handstand and an idea of touching my foot to my head in King Pigeon. However, a pose in which the breath is ragged or labored is not serving the deeper purpose of yoga – a withdrawal of senses (pratyahara) and an all encompassing awareness of every single cell in every single pose. B.K.S. Iyengar, whose teachings greatly influence my personal practice, said that the achievement of asana (postural yoga) is in that moment when you can literally feel every part of your body all at once with no stress or strain.403023_312843125497457_767800096_n

Goodness! That means I have yet to master Tadasana and I can clearly see his quote of “we all want to stand on our heads, but very few of us know how to stand on our feet!.” After 10,000 downward facing dogs, I’m nowhere near the goal of complete steadiness and ease in my practice – I may need 100,000 more.

That’s the point – do not feel the need to rush the practice, allow the practice to come to you. Try the next pose, but if you struggle, be kind to yourself, both mentally and physically and allow yourself to stay in the stage before (vinyasa krama). There was this one day, while in side plank (Vasisthasana) that I felt called to simply lift my leg and reach for my toes – there was no struggle and I had zero intention of doing that, it just arose from within me, as an evolution of my practice. When I stopped forcing myself into a shape, the shape naturally presented itself in my practice. Does that make sense?

In the practice of Astanga, the vinyasa flow does not progress until the prior stages are presented in the body. For example, one must complete, with steadiness and ease, the standing sequence before being permitted to move forward to more difficult floor work. In social media, this aspect is often left out as impressive forms are captured by cameras and as the audience cannot see all the hard work that went into that achievement.

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Pattabi Jois stated, “Do your practice and all is coming.” This quote indicates that you do not force the practice, it comes to you – through steady effort (consistency) and easeful approach (joy in the process).

As Yoga Sutra 2.46 instructs: Sthira sukham asanam – the posture should be steady and easeful. Apply this not only to your practice on the mat – but off as well, where in your life can you find more steadiness and ease, what can you shed to allow more strength and joy in your life?

Further Reading:

Yoga International (Himalayan Yoga Institute): https://yogainternational.com/article/view/sthira-and-sukha-steadiness-and-ease

SwamiJ, Yoga Sutras On-line: http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24648.htm

Overcome Bullying with Yoga

I was bullied. I was threatened, shamed, and physically abused through bullying. Now, 33 years old, the pain and disquiet of being bullied lingers. Being bullied can make you feel that someone is watching and waiting to poke a big hole in your balloon, hoping to deflate you.

Inflated/Deflated Project

Inflated/Deflated Project

Enter yoga.

Yoga means union. Yoga is a community. Yoga makes a person feel like it is ok to be different; it’s ok to just be you. We find an acceptance in all the yoga-speak about being non-attached, forgiveness, offering love, compassion, and self-care. Yoga class is the place one can go to make mistakes, to fall down and get back up, to practice overcoming obstacles and find inner potential.

We strengthen our bodies so that we strengthen our spirit. We practice strength so that we can share that strength with others who might not be as strong, so we can support and lift up the other folks who are having a hard time.

Bullying is something that makes a person feel alone. Yoga is a practice to unite and overcome isolation. You become strong enough to forgive and shift perspective, which opens up a new space within you, a space you can fill with your potential to create, to share, and to love.

The magic of the practice is in the journey. As you work your body, you find you have a new script, your own personal inner life coach that tells you that you are capable, that you are strong, that you are beautiful – just the way you are.

I did not have a context for inner strength until I found the practice of yoga. Bullying is not personal, it is one person transferring their negative shit onto your negative shit and making a giant shit pile. It stinks, but manure makes great fertilizer. Keep practicing your potential and see what can bloom for you.

Out of the Muck Grows The Flower

Out of the Muck Grows The Flower

 

Have you ever been bullied? Feel free to share your story with me in the comments, or direct message me on Facebook at Kirsten Hedden Yoga. I know you can feel alone – sometimes it helps to reach out to someone that cares – I’m here to listen.

4 Practices to Try Right Now:

Protect Your Inner Child

Protect and Strengthen – A Downward Dog over Child’s Pose

To Peel or Not to Peel? (Hint: You Need to Peel)

Quick Experiment: Point to yourself.

DO NOT SCROLL DOWN YET

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Where did you point?

I’m going to guess that you pointed at your chest, more specifically, the heart center. Why didn’t you point to your brain?

You pointed to your heart because you are a being created in love, driven by heart, and haunted by a mind of incessant thinking. You are not your thoughts; you are not your brain. Who is the one watching you think? Who is the thinker and who is the witness?

Study of the Koshas in Yoga philosophy can give us a description of what we are doing through practice and where we are headed if we stick with it. Without actually practicing, it means squat. 99% practice.

I drew this in teacher training. My meditation man is winking at you.

I drew this in teacher training. My meditation man is winking at you.

 

This photo is a little misleading (I’m not the best artist) – we aren’t really sitting under a rainbow of layers, all the koshas (energetic layers) weave into one another like a great tapestry. However, breaking them out in this way gives you an idea of how we practice through the layers.

Annamaya Kosha

  • Physical Layer – Earthy, Matter
  • Literally translates to “Food Body.”
  • Penetrate and purify this layer or aspect of ourselves with physical practice like yoga poses, exercises, clean eating, relaxation, and sleep.

Pranamaya Kosha

  •  Energetic Layer – Water, Fluidity
  • Prana means “life force,” so this layer is all about what moves in your body: blood, air, luymph, elimination systems.
  • Work with this layer through pranayama (breath control)

Manomaya Kosha

  • Mental Layer – Thinking Mind
  • Mind is manipulated by our thoughts which turn to words and then actions. We become an accumulation of everything that has come previously through our system and then react according to memory and habit.
  • Purify this layer with meditation especially on aspects such as compassion, selfless service, and forgiveness.
  • This layer causes us deep stress, anxiety. It is difficult to penetrate this layer without the foundations of asana and pranayama.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

  • Intellect and Discernment, Insight and Wisdom
  • This is deeper than just the conscious mind, this is latent, intuitive knowledge
  • This is not what you read in books or others ideas, it is what you experience and know through direct perception.
  • The difference between thinking and knowing is wisdom, vijnana.
  • Deep self-study and reflection on ancient scriptures and philosophy help tap into this layer.

Anandamaya Kosha

  • Bliss – Joy
  • There is a difference between pleasure and joy, pleasure arises from passing experiences and material objects, joy is a state of being, in which you can be joyful when something is difficult and not necessarily experience pleasure.
  • This is the heart center – the very place you pointed when I asked you to point to yourself.
  • All the yoga practices bring us to this place over time and consistent practice. It’s where we discover our personal truth and where we can hear our purpose most clearly.
Maybe this is a more accurate Kosha diagram - peeling back the layers until you get to your heart center - like an onion, you'll probably cry as you peel.

Maybe this is a more accurate Kosha diagram – peeling back the layers until you get to your heart center – like an onion, you’ll probably cry as you peel.

 

Yoga is a never ending journey. Just when you think you’ve mastered something physically, you can come back and add on another layer of work in order to peel back another layer of illusion. Eventually you have revealed your true self. When you wonder just who you are, point to yourself to remember.

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm – Feel the Vibrations

Vinyasa MeansThere is a certain power in the chanting of Sanskrit. This is not the incantation of spells or any magic – it is simply the use of our human ability to create unique sounds by movement of our mouth, tongue, and throat in a special way (which is a VINYASA!). On the physical level, one can easily feel the vibrations of resonance through the body simply by putting the lips together and humming (do it now – no one is watching you).

This technique is called Bhramari Pranayama and is a valid practice all on its own. If you are in need of anger management, feeling frustrated, or suffering anxiety – this is a good and simple technique you can do anytime, anywhere with no contraindications.

Why even bother making sound at all?

How does a good beat and good hook catch you? It resonates in your body and you feel something, a connection, an emotion – sound is one method of taking us out of the swirling mind and into a clear, present moment.

Why the need for a Sanskrit chant or mantra when there is plenty of music to be found?

One reason would be that we have no associations with the Sanskrit language. None of our memories or human conditioning have happened in Sanskrit, we have no preconceived notion of what it means when we hear it. Sanskrit is a perfect blank slate for most people – we can learn it from our teachers and then it becomes associated with practice and a great tool for meditation. The meaning we infuse is one of practice, peace, and presence.

Sanskrit is also a vibratory language, it is closely aligned with primordial sounds and each letter produces a specific resonance within the body meant to vibrate in specific areas or energy lines (nadis).  One could think of it as the Paleo diet of language.

This is also why it is important to learn the names of our asana and to hear it said in class, the names of the asanas carry the same energetic qualities as the poses themselves – layering on the proper name is important. Consider for a moment how you feel when not called your proper name – yoga tradition is similarly to be respected.

 

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Pranava of Om

You don’t have to believe me, experience it. Try an Om, the most well-known of the mantras. It is pronounced A-U-M; the aaaaaaaaaaa resonates in the belly, the uuuuuuuuuuu vibrates into the chest, and the mmmmmmmmmm is felt in the head. Although there are many meanings attributed to Aum or Om, it’s ok to enjoy it as a feel good vibe and respect the simplicity.

Breath Mantra – So Hum

Another easy mantra with no religious connection would be So Hum. This is simply the sound of your breathing. Take a moment to listen to your breath.

On the inhale – can you hear the whisper of breath saying So? Can you hear Hum on the exhale? What is the purpose of chanting the breath? To further connect to your true self and to disconnect from your ceaseless and noisy mind. So Hum is an excellent way to develop a meditation practice.

This is How We Do It

In learning to chant or use vibration, it is taught that you say the chants out loud – this occupies the senses of hearing, feeling, and even tasting as the tongue is involved.   We close our eyes and restrict the sense of sight.  All brings us closer to the yogic state of sense withdrawl (Pratyahara) Knowing our brains to be poor multi-taskers, chanting aloud gives more opportunity to quite the mind. You will notice it is near impossible to chant and think at the same time.

The next stage would be whispering the chant very softly. You will notice that if you are not yet well-trained in meditation, it is easy for the brain to get louder than the whisper, hence why it is the second stage.

The final stage is silent repetition in the mind only and this is the most difficult. It can be easy to go on auto pilot and sink back to thinking mind. If this happens to you, go back to repetition out loud to reconnect with the meditation. The purpose is quieting the mind to reduce distracted thought and allow creative, expansive, clear thinking to arise so that we might know our own gifts and share them.

Mala Beads

Frequently you see the use of mala beads – this helps to count the repetition and becomes a sort of time-keeper for your practice. In general, there are 108 beads and you repeat your mantra 108 times. Look for me to post more on the significance of 108 and mala beads in the future. But for now, the use of the beads is another good way to occupy your mind from thinking and anxiety, the mala is a great meditation companion.  Lotus Seed Mala Beads

Personally, I enjoy using mantra and sound in my asana practice. It is an enhancement to your routine and produces a palpable energetic effect as it naturally regulates your breathing. Many traditions of yoga utilize a mantra during asana as a way to time the breath and track the sequence.

Practice

Now to bring it back to the simple breath chant – So Hum. Try this right now – using a mala or a timer (try 3-5 minutes), sit on the floor or your mat, cross legs or lotus, and focus on your breathing. Add the So and Hum out loud as you breathe. How do you feel? Share your experience in the comments.

Gratitude

With respect and recognition, I salute my teachers that have helped me on this path.  For this love of mantra, I want to recognize teacher, Dr. Indu Arora, who illuminated aspects of this practice so I could understand and hope to share.  Namaste to you readers, thank you for spending this precious time with these words that flow through me to you, for you.

 

Pick and Choose – Daily Sadhana (Healthy Rituals) in the New Year

Here it is, the last day of 2014.  I started my last morning of this year by doing what I hope to do eveyday in the year to come.  I practiced living a better life in order to contribute to making a better world.  The key word there is practice.

Start your morning off right - everyday in 2015, wake up, pay attention to your practice, and have a fabulous day.

In yoga, a word we use to define a daily practice or ritual is SADHANA.

“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer (of living life). Sadhana is self-enrichment. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.” ~Yogi Bhajan~

This is the day we are meant to set resolutions and then joke about throwing them out by February.  Let’s not do that this year.  This year, let’s simply make an intention or a Sankalpa to be a little better than last year.  This mindset will feed everything else and permeate your year.  It certainly doesn’t mean throwing out goals, but it does mean using your practice to lift up everything else.  This is your year to grow, thrive, and achieve.  Practice your potential everyday and you will see results.  Start with a morning sadhana to make every day of your life a little better than last year.

Recommended Practices for Daily Sadhana

Choose 1-3 things to do daily in 2015. No need to overwhelm yourself, when we practice our potential, it can be nice to go slow so that the changes stick and we don’t overwhelm ourselves or stress about these incremental changes. You are welcome to do it all if you can, but pick out a couple practices that you will promise yourself not to skip – be realistic with your choices so that you will be able to complete your commitment. Write down your choices and stick it on your mirror in the bathroom.

  • Establish a sacred space in your home. Some call this an altar, but that word can conjure up false images in the mind. It is simply a dedicated space that is beautiful to you, with reminders of your faith and what inspires you like a piece of art, flowers, or photo of your teacher. If you like to be in the space, you are more likely to stick with the practice.
  • Rise a bit earlier than normal – start with 10-15 minutes. Ideally, in yoga, the most sacred time for practice is between 4 am and 6 am.
  • Tongue scrape. Get a tongue scrapper and clean your mouth.  The tongue gets loaded with various toxins through sleep, it is elimination in the body, if you swallow it, you have to purge it again. One of my teachers, Dr. Indu Arora – an ayurvedic expert, states that the toxins on the tongue post sleep were unable to be processed by the liver. Regardless, your mouth will be happier and you will have uncovered your taste buds, so food will be extra yummy. Then brush as usual.
  • Oil pulling. Many people have been writing about oil pulling, do a quick Google. You can use the oil appropriate for your dosha. I personally use Sunflower oil or coconut oil. This practice has been found to reduce plague and tartar as well as whiten your teeth.
  • Drink a full glass of water 8-16 oz.  Use glass or copper, no plastic please. For extra credit, add in a slice of lime or lemon and make sure your water is lukewarm, this jumpstarts your digestion and wakes up your metabolism.
  • Oil your body and self-massage. Anoint yourself with oils for both the physical benefits of moisturizing the skin along with the feel-good element of a morning massage. Wait about five minutes and then shower. If you are short on time, be sure to rub your ears, face, and chest – waking up your senses and touching your heart center for a more alive beginning of your day.
  • Pranayama. This is the breath practice of yoga, there are several options – have your teacher show you a few.  A simple practice is nadi shodhana, the alternate nostril breath. Try 9 rounds. Watch the video for guidance.

  • Yoga Asana. Move your As-ana. This doesn’t need to be fancy or a 90 minute commitment, although if you can – all the better. If you have time constraints or children, squeezing in 3-5 sun salutations is helpful and a committed practice – it counts. Simple and steady is better than doing nothing.

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    Basic Sun Salutation. Visit your local teacher for specific instructions or message me personally at my page – Kirsten Hedden Yoga on Facebook.

  • Meditate. No epic practice required. Your meditation can be breath focus or simply sitting for a few quiet moments in your favorite space. 3-5 minutes is ok, don’t feel like you need to be still and silent for 30 minutes – do what you can.  Personally, I chant mantra to help me focus and reduce anxious thinking.
  • Eat breakfast! Try a light serving of fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a handful of nuts. Off you go with a sweet taste in your mouth and powered by protein. In Ayurveda, one should not mix dairy and fruit – so if you are a smoothie person, keep it dairy free.

I love thinking of waking in the morning to perform a committed prayer of living my life – for me, this mindset and all encompassing aspect of yoga is what makes it work in my life more than mere exercise or gymnastics. Yoga is the art of living connected.  Let your life be more artistic this year.

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Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you. Before you face the world each day, do yourself a favor and tune up your nervous system and attune yourself to your highest inner self. To cover all your bases, it will include exercise, meditation, and prayer. ~3HO~

The Dark Night of the Soul and Your Yoga Practice

**Please Note** This post contains a swear word.  If this would offend you, please don’t read further.

There comes a point in your yoga practice when you have to stare at yourself and you might not like it.  This is a dark little secret in yoga that some don’t care to discuss, with all the love and light and joy memes.  Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras does it say that all of your life will be blissfully happy – that’s something the marketing gurus selling you a yoga butt invented.

It is OK if you feel rotten, depressed, angry, bored, indifferent, or some sense of negativity in your yoga at times.  Read that again – IT IS OK to be upset.  Yoga opens up things within us and what needs to be taught is that it is NORMAL to not be cloying sweet and happy all your yoga life – you have to process the negative to become more positive.

You have to get deep in that muck and then like the lotus, you will emerge happier, healthier, and open to life – but first comes the mud and sometimes it smells rotten.  No Mud No Lotus

 

This point in your life practice is lovingly referred to as, “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  Basically, you have to get real about your problems.  You have to face the reality of all the actions you’ve taken up to this point of practice, you get to take a very real look at your Karma and sometimes that is ugly, especially if you are a human that has made mistakes (all of us!).

 

You may go through a depression or an increase in anxiety – don’t worry about it (haha and roll eyes).  This is actually a sign that you are clearing up.  You can’t clean what you can’t see.  Yoga shines the light in our darkest places; that can be very uncomfortable.  Those memories you worked so hard to suppress, they bubble right up to the surface and you have to deal with that shit.  And that’s why people sometimes quit on their yoga.  This part can be more painful than falling on your head in crow pose.

In the Dark Night of the Sould, Brightly Flows the River of God

It is at this point in your practice when you need to find yourself a highly experienced yoga teacher that is living this path, that has pushed past this very issue in their own psyche and body. This is not the time to focus on a yoga butt, but the time to enter into the deeper practices of Sense-Withdrawl (Pratyahara), One-pointed focus (Dharana), and Meditation (Dhyana). 

A good teacher can lead you through this valley of dark and shadows in a safe way and illuminate the more important teachings of yoga for you.  Seek out a teacher with years of experience and who still has a teacher of their own.  Be picky, don’t get distracted by shiny pants and tiny tops with great abs – remember that The Buddha had a belly and was never depicted with his foot behind his head – but rather in meditation and mudra.  Sometimes your best teacher may not be a yoga-lebrity, especially when you enter the dark stages of your practice.  10843791_345959338923369_1679910113_n

When people complain that they aren’t flexible enough or strong enough for yoga asana, consider that this is just a mental blockage – you do the asana to build the body strength and flexibility so that the mind becomes more pliable as well. Once you clear up the self-judgement, you start becoming a more compassionate, less judgemental person – that’s how you share your practice to make the world better.

It is true that the world has dark places – you cannot ignore the reality of death and destruction that permeate our planet, nor should you.  But you can remember that out of darkness comes the light and they both exist together.  G.O.D. – Generator, Organizer, Destroyer – rinse and repeat. 

Ask yourself:

Have you been the person that says, “I can’t meditate, I can’t be still, I can’t get quiet.” – yeah, me too.  That shit is hard.  You have to literally stare yourself in the soul and get open to what comes up.  But stay a while longer, Practice and All Is Coming.

The Dark Night of The Soul by St. John of the Cross

Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
While all within lay quiet as the dead.

(Chorus)

O, night thou was my guide!
O, night more loving than the rising sun!
O, night that joined the Lover to the beloved one!
Transforming each of them into the other.

Upon that misty night
In secrecy beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
Than that which burned as deeply in my heart.

That fire ’twas led me on
And shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where He waited still
It was a place where no one else could come.

(Chorus)

Within my pounding heart
Which kept itself entirely for Him
He fell into His sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave.

From o’er the fortress walls
The wind would brush His hair against His brow
And with its smoother hand
caressed my every sense it would allow.

(Chorus)

I lost my self to Him
And laid my face upon my Lover’s breast
And care and grief grew dim
As in the morning’s mist became the light.
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair.

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.

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Once upon a time we were told there are two things one never talks about for polite conversation: RELIGION and Politics.  This practice leads one to wonder, if we can’t discuss it, how can we understand it?  If we can’t understand it, how can we change it?  If we can’t change it, how can it evolve?  Enter Yoga.

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga. ~SwamiJ~

religion-yoga

As part of our 500-hour teacher training at Prairie Yoga, the group went on a field trip to the Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple in Aurora, Illinois.  Why did we do this?  The tour guide explained it this way:

“I’m not here to convert you to Hinduism, I am here to educate you on what we practice.  Comparative study of religion only helps one to better understand their own faith and own self.  Religion is a tool towards God-realization, different people need different tools and so thank GOD that we have so many paths of understanding.”  ~Sadasivan N~

This man offered up a message I wish we could all hear.  We don’t have to be RIGHT – what would happen if we all just existed together in a kind of harmonious agreement to respect individuality and mind our own business?  After all, the mentality of “I Am Right,” is so arrogant, if God exists, what must God think?  The guide also mentioned this:

“I’ve never been dead, I’ve never met God, so I cannot tell you what you should or should not believe.  The person who tries to tell you what you should believe is probably selling you something.”

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Some people feel deeply uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of yoga and that’s OK – no yoga teacher should be asking or instructing people to change their faith – that is not the yoga teaching as laid out in the Yoga Sutras.  In fact, yoga isn’t even about your teacher – it’s about what they may inspire within you to explore within yourself.  YOU are your own best teacher.  No sales pitch needed for that.

I can recall a moment from a teacher training with Shiva Rea in which she said this:

“The Yoga Teacher is like a river guide; pointing out what is nice to see, but the one being guided has the ability to look in another direction.”

Some may disagree and that’s OK too.  Personal truth, personal experience, personal belief systems are PERSONAL – yoga offers contemplations to study your own self, your own beliefs so that you becomes more clear about your personal understanding of life.

As I continue to educate myself on Yoga, study my own life and my own beliefs, the resonance of my teachers is clearly influencing my teaching, but I add my own flavor because it is just my own perspective developed through practice and that is all we can share.   No dogma allowed.

As you seek to study yoga, the depth of which you practice may change over time – there is no doubt that once we access that connection through the physical practice of Asana, we open a door and light comes in.  That is what is scary to people, the fear that you may begin to doubt your own faith is real.  But through doubt comes more study – through more study comes more understanding, with more understanding comes more compassion, with compassion we have less judgement, etc… and what you may experience is that through practice, your faith is strengthened or changed, but then again, no journey ever leaves you exactly the same.  As Mahatma Ghandi reflects:

“There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. It transcends the senses whilst everything around me is ever changing, there is a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and recreates.”

 

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Mondays: 7:00 pm @Senara on Willow Knolls

Fridays: Noon & 4 pm @Senara

My Personal Practice

Alignment Authenticity Anatomy Junkie Spiritual Flow Mantras Mudras Continuous Education Practice What You Teach Progress Not Perfection Guiding Teachers: BKS Iyengar Pattabi Jois Shiva Rea Daren Friesen (Moksha Chicago) Marinda Stopforth (Prairie Yoga - Lisle, IL)

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