Root to Rise

2-13-12-14-10-16-47m

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!

20160319_114525.jpg
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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Take Time to Make Time: Creating More Joy for the Holiday

The buzzer wails on the nightstand, you roll over and hit snooze.  You rush out of bed, perk yourself up with coffee, and like a busy bee, dive right into your To-Do list. The packages need wrapped, the cookies need baked, the elf needs to come up with an excuse for forgetting to move, and you need to smile and be nice to the kids.

But maybe all you muster is a quick ponytail, a haggard look, and a wistful sigh as you watch all the Merry making that TV families make so easy. All of a sudden you are yelling at the children and a lovely holiday is spoiled by stress. Sound familiar?

I’ve got a solution – take time to make time. I promise you that taking time to reduce stress will make you feel like you have more time and space in your day and you will be a happier, healthier version of yourself.

IMG_0831

How Can Taking Time Make Time?

As we turn an eye towards the quality of the time we spend each day, space is created. Rather than rushing about, with worry and anxiety stealing precious minutes of our day – the anxiety and worry are reduced and we receive those minutes back.

When we prioritize health and wellness – we reduce stress, anxiety, and chaos. Compare this to a hurricane – the winds blow high and when the storm clears, all that is left is a mess.  This is how we treat our Holy-Days? Like a hurricane – rushing about without taking time to notice the light, the people, and the glory of the season. “That went fast,” we cry when it’s all over, and then we rush ahead to diet and fret over cleaning up the mess we made of our “most wonderful time of the year.”  A mountain of wrapping paper and regrets over what we missed and how we acted towards our loved ones – that is not merry making – that’s insanity.

IMG_0832

This year choose to reduce noise and stress; choose to make that commitment to your family for a more focused version of you. When you prioritize your own health and stress management – you gift yourself, but you also gift everyone else around you. Someone needs to be the calm in the storm.

The presents will still get wrapped, the food will still get cooked, the show will go on even if you decide to take time for yourself. No one else in your life is going to prioritize your stress level and well-being, you absolutely must do it for yourself.

IMG_0833

An Invitation to Join the Joy

Join me at Be.You Fitness on December 24, 2015 at 9:00 am for a 75 minute Ode to Joy: Movement and Merry Making. We will focus on stress reduction, boost  immunity, calm anxiety, and open the heart with a specific intention of creating more space and time in our day so that we can experience more of the joy of the season. Regular class fees apply – please pre-register, so I can bring tokens of appreciation for everyone!

IMG_0830

The End is A Synonym for a Beginning – The Happily Ever After of Senara Yoga

Happily Ever After

 THE BACK STORY

In November of 2012, a dear friend and yoga colleague approached me about becoming the Director of Yoga for Senara in Peoria, IL.  I did not immediately say yes – considerations of my family, my work life, my practice all needed attention.  Ultimately I accepted the responsibility. I said yes to leading a group of fantastic teachers, to spending hours creating schedules, websites, flyers, and processing payroll; I said yes to opportunity because I believe that when a door opens, you walk through it.

Courtney, Des, Molly, Chris, and I. Without the teachers, we wouldn't have had the practice.

Courtney, Des, Molly, Chris, and I. Without the teachers, we wouldn’t have had the practice.

In May of 2015, that same friend called me up to say that she and our mutual friends felt disconnected from me. My time had grown so short that they hadn’t seen me in more than a year. She let me know that I was missed and there was some concern among the group that I wasn’t making enough time for life and fun. How ironic, because her call came during a time when I had been considering this fact for weeks. It was as if the stars aligned to give me this message very clear and crisp – the time is right to move forward.

That friend, has been in my life for all the major changes and you know who you are – I say thank you. You gave me the push to prioritize and accept inevitable change.

I'll never forget this serene space and all the lovely people who floated into my life here.

I’ll never forget this serene space and all the lovely people who floated into my life here.

I have no regrets about my time with Senara. The lessons learned, the friendships made, the progress in my own yoga practice was all worth it. However, it’s important to recognize when opportunity changes into burden or burnout, and so it is here in June of 2015 that I close the door behind me and the end of Senara Yoga.

Without all the helping hands, we couldn't have touched so many hearts. Thank you to my staff, past and present. I truly love you.

Without all the helping hands, we couldn’t have touched so many hearts. Thank you to my staff, past and present. I truly love you.

This is a mutual decision. Senara is ready to grow in new and exciting ways and I am too. I am forever grateful to Senara for changing my life and my health and will remain close with the Kramers, an inspiring power couple, that have lifted me up, inspired me to pursue my dreams, and have healed my family through their wellness offerings. I encourage all students of Senara Yoga to remain patrons of the Spa and Chiropractic services – there is nothing to regret. This is simply a change of venue and habit.

 

 

 

MOVING FORWARD

2015 is a year of change in my world. My child begins kindergarten in fall, and like all mothers, this march toward school makes one consider if enough time was spent. This is a good choice for my family and my personal yoga practice – a lesson I’m happy to know at 33 rather than waiting until my child is all grown up and regretting time not spent.

This is NOT the end of my yoga teaching path. That meanders onward and forever. Yoga will always be a priority in my life. Currently, I’m in an intense program for my 500 hour level certification through Prairie Yoga in Lisle, IL.  My thesis is expected to be completed in 2016 and will require intense hours of research and study so that what I offer the yoga community is meaningful and will cultivate positive change in our practices and perceptions of yoga. It deserves my full focus to do it right.

In the midst of a sun salutation at Senara Yoga. These windows streaming light and framing clouds were always my favorite.

In the midst of a sun salutation at Senara Yoga. These windows streaming light and framing clouds were always my favorite.

I plan to completely take off for the summer, maintaining only periodic classes in Lake Camelot on Tuesday nights, outside, by the lake at sunset – seriously, it’s so beautiful. You are welcome to join in if you wish. In fall, I may consider hosting workshops at various studios in support of home practice development and maintenance.

In support of home practice, I’ve joined Audible Yoga, a hosting space where one can download audio classes. My voice can lead you through familiar practices and you can always access my teaching. I’ll attempt to post 3-4 classes per month. You can also find inspiration for your practice on my social media feeds where I supply more in-depth teaching on the deeper practices such as Yoga Sutra study, meditation, and short videos on alignment or support for your physical practice.

A common call from my students has always been : “I love your classes, but they don’t fit my schedule,” thus the opportunity I’m exploring will be to offer more digital content to you when you want it and then meeting up periodically for in-person instruction.

Padma Mudra: Opening to New Opportunity. Thank to Gena Applyby for the lovely professional yoga photos these past 3 years. www.genaappleby.com

Padma Mudra: Opening to New Opportunity. Thank to Gena Applyby for the lovely professional yoga photos these past 3 years. http://www.genaappleby.com

Senara will be having a closing practice on July 2nd – 6:00 pm – 90 minutes. If you have ever been a Senara student or teacher, please attend. We will enjoy a physical practice, a meditation for new beginnings, and then share in the simple joy of community.

Here is a link to my teaching schedule, which is updated regularly and you can share with your friends: https://kirstenheddenyoga.wordpress.com/classschedule

image

 

 

 

A Bag Full of Pennies Bought a Lifetime of Shoulder Pain

There she stood at the teacher’s desk, must have been in 4th or 5th grade.  She held a plastic sandwich baggie full of pennies. She couldn’t even afford a Ziploc. The teacher made her count them out loud, in front of the whole class.

One, Two, Three……One Hundred and Nine, One Hundred and Ten. Lunch money.

They all laughed.  They all pointed.

The teacher announced loudly that the next day the girl needed to bring a dollar bill.

An awkward child figure, with big curly hair and a big nose with second hand clothing, hung her head and silent tears rolled down as she shamefully walked back to her desk without a friend in the world, knowing without a doubt that at 10 years old, she was poor, she was different, and no one really cared. Her shoulders hunched a little more that day as she learned to close off her heart and protect herself.

This is one of my earliest memories of trauma and I found it in a yoga class. It has sat inside my body, inside my muscles, creating an unknown tension for many years.  The memory of it just sort of popped up one day, in an intense shoulder opening.  Like an unwelcome visitor in the body, knocking on my mind to say, “you need to deal with me.” And just like that, the shoulders relaxed a little more and that bit of tension was forever gone.

Many people walking around in your life have untold stories of trauma. It isn’t just one story, it isn’t just trauma from abuse or war, any experience that leaves you feeling shamed, unloved, unwanted, abandoned can give you a traumatic shock in your body system. We get very good at hiding our stories from others, we get very good at getting small and unnoticed, and we call that “fitting in.” Except even if you never talk about it, never remember it consciously, your body knows and you can’t lie or hide from it forever.

Maybe your trauma lives in your shoulders and neck as a sort of tension you can’t seem to let go, no matter how calm and soothing or sweaty and hot the yoga class. Maybe it’s digestive issues that no medical doctor can seem to explain or they tell you “it’s all in your head.” Perhaps it is an intense desire to eat your emotions.  This is the power of yoga practice, the awareness it brings to your body and mind so that you can be open and available for true deep healing.

This is also why some people don’t like yoga – it makes you face things that perhaps you aren’t sure you want to dig back out, so you think, I’ll just outrun it – maybe with a marathon. Except that as you age and you stop being able to run, the body catches up and it still holds the tension of those traumatic lessons you chose not to deal with in your earlier years.

The point is, everyone has a story to unravel and a yoga mat is usually a safe space to reread and release your story so you can feel less trapped by your body. The next time you are in a yoga class and you feel the urge to leave a pose you don’t like, try staying and see what comes up. Keep a journal so you keep aware of how you feel and what you might purge. Be OK with shedding some tears and having catharsis.

Not every pose is beautiful and not every yoga class is joyful – you need to know that it’s OK to release and feel angry or sad, don’t suppress those emotions any further, they are physical expressions of fear from your life lived and all the accumulated experiences, but to heal you have to wade through them. You need to know where they live in your body. To know they exist so you can let them go. The final limb of yoga is joy – not the first. It takes a lot of hard work; trust the process, it’s time tested for at least 3,000 years.

Yoga is NOT entertainment, there is no doubt that you can have a rockin’ good time in a great yoga class with high volume music and that’s OK too, not every yoga session needs to be a huge release of some trauma. But if you want the real meat, the real healing, you have to do the real work and it’s not balancing on your head – it’s going into the deep unknown, exploring the abyss and that can be scary.

Find yourself a teacher that has been there and come back, not necessarily enlightened – for the ones that claim enlightenment are usually false gurus. Find the ones that don’t judge you, that allow for quiet, that make you feel safe. As Pattabi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.”

I give thanks to my own teachers, to my own students, and those that have walked the path of life with me.  I am the person I am because of life’s traumas and my work in overcoming obstacles.  Thank you, dear reader, for spending a little time in my world.  You are loved.

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.

    sun-salutation-INSET

    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.

10723746_566358650130615_1916999371_n

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.

header_bg

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.”

coexist1

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.”

 

Anjali Mudra – Reflect to Receive

“Each of us shares a unity with Spirit and all life,
and simultaneously each of us is an individual with free will.
There is a duality to us as separate and as part of the whole.”
~Jonathan Lockwood Huie~

Mudras as an overlooked aspect in modern yoga, especially in the West.  They are not frivolous hand gestures or esoteric spiritual wish sign language.  They are literal energetic connections between two points creating a circuit of energy.  You don’t have to “believe,” in them – they are scientific, in the same way that you don’t “believe” in plugging in a light bulb, you know the plug goes into the socket and links the energy to create a circuit.

One aspect of my personal yoga practice as well as my teaching, is utilizing mudras.  Just as I began with Sutra 1.1, I begin with the most basic of the mudras – Anjali Mudra.  You have probably even done this mudra, but given it little thought.  A simple joining of the hands together in what looks like a prayer – see below.

There are probably thousands of blogs and articles out there on this mudra, so I will share what was given to me as a personal teaching.  Consider that the hands, held in this manner, look similar to a candle flame.  In yoga philosophy and in many religions we are taught that there is a spark, a light, a oneness with Spirit/God/Creation inside us, we are a reflection of God’s image.  To me, this is the light.  When I hold my hands at my heart center, it is a prayer or an affirmation that I recognize a unifying spirit in all things.

In general, we open/close a class with Namaste.  This Sanskrit word has many meanings, my personal favorite is:

The light in me sees and reflects the light in you.

There it is again – CANDLE FLAME!

And if you aren’t into God or Spirituality – think of it as a very basic anatomical reminder – lift your sternum.  Stand taller, chest up, shoulders back.

Until next time, Namaste – lead with love, follow your passion, let your heart come before your head.

The light in me, reflects the light in you.

Aside

Yoga Sutra 1.1 – Atha yoga anushasam

And NOW Begins my Yoga Blog.

The word sutra is akin to threads of truth, so these Yoga sutras are concise directives on how to approach a path of self-discovery. Although there is some controversy over the dating of the literature, a commonly accepted age is 200 BC. Think of this philosophy as a map to take you out of the tangled web of ceaseless thought. As we resume our Yoga Sutra study, let’s refresh with a look at the first one.

Yoga Sutra 1.1 – Atha yoga anushasam

This means – and now the practice of yoga. NOW – not when you become more flexible, not when you lose weight, not when you quit your wine-a-day habit, but literally – right now.

This also means, yoga is not just an approach for class, it’s an approach for daily living. In the noise of life and the photos of young, skinny yoginis in hot pants doing contortions, the real meaning of “Yoga” is lost. Yoga is union – union of consciousness with practice. This can be breath to body movement, the joining of solar and lunar energies, or even the simply linking of your mindfulness to everyday things like eating.

A common phrase for this attitude is “Off the Mat,” Those practicing yoga postures in a group setting (Asana Practice), already know the wonderful feeling that follows the class after the final relaxation of Savasana. BUT – what is more important is how you can take that feeling and then apply it to your daily tasks.

  • Can you be conscious and aware while you wash your dishes?
  • Can you hold your peace when your teenager cries and yells at you?
  • Are you fully experiencing each bite of the food on your plate and taking time to notice the impact on your body?
  • Are you being kind to people be it in the midst of a traffic jam or a long line at the grocery store?

In these three simple words – And Now Yoga or Atha Yoga Anushasam – is a thread to link to living life well and with intention. It means that once you begin your yoga practice, you link it to your whole life so that every moment is a chance to practice being a better version of yourself.

If you are interested in learning more about the sutras, stay tuned throughout the year, come to class, and above all – just keep practicing.

Namaste. Kirsten

P.S. This post was originally posed by me on the Senara blog back in May of 2014.  I thought it timely to share again as I begin my own blogging adventure under my own name.  To enjoy the original post – follow this link: http://senarablog.com/2014/sutra-study-yoga-sutra-1-1/

Connect

309-657-9881
Classes:

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)

There was an error retrieving images from Instagram. An attempt will be remade in a few minutes.