Doing Nothing and Being Still Are Not The Same Thing

photo credit wikipedia.com

headstand

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Over a year ago, my practice became spotty. I’d been adjusting to a new schedule and trying to force old routines into new. I should have taken a moment to be still. Answers rise to the surface when there’s quiet.

I did nothing. I missed a class here. Missed a class there. No bueno.

Skipping classes wasn’t the problem. One thing this yoga life has taught me is to embrace fluidity. There are times that I need to practice twice a day for weeks. Sometimes five days a week is plenty. When I’m connected to my spirit it’s all good, as the kids say. Yoga is my life when my life isn’t in the way. Yoga needs to be my life as life is happening.

‘Taking yoga off the mat’ is a popular mantra. For some, yoga is great physical exercise that gets them in shape. My practice gets my spirit in shape. Every day I learn something about myself or how I view the world. Small consistent awakenings help me make my world and the planet better.

During a Brikram practice, my mind used to race in between poses. The goal in a Bikram class is not to fidget and fix your clothes, wipe sweat, look at the woman in front of you (and say when I lose 5 pounds I’m going to come to class half naked like her) or think about how hot the room is. The goal is to be present. You’re to observe yourself in the mirror. Not for vanity’s sake (though it’s really hard not to judge yourself) but for the sake of focus and form.

Instead, I was thinking about what I needed to do after class. I was thinking about how maybe 105 degrees for a yoga class is crazy. I was thinking that I didn’t know that I could actually sweat from the back of my elbow. Suddenly I heard the instructor say, ‘Doing nothing is not the same thing as being still’.

She should have dropped the mic and walked out because as far as I was concerned she had schooled me. Class dismissed.

I was doing nothing and not being still. If I had just remembered that it’s okay to not be okay with your schedule, a solution would have come to me. A different studio has a schedule that works for me right now so I’ll be taking classes there (I know, big duh). It’s not my regular studio but it’s not forever. And then I remember I’m not just trying to make my body more flexible.

Ah– I see. I see. I see.

Namsate y’all!

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Chalkboard Yoga, Fresh Starts and All That.

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You don’t have to wait for the New Year for a fresh start.

Amanda McDonald, yoga teacher wrote a status update that made high five my Mac.

Why are we so resistant to just solving problems, instead of procrastinating and worrying? You have the skills to fix it. Get out there!

And I thought of the clip from Vanilla Sky when Penelope Cruz says that ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.’

What are you doing this minute? Are you at peace? Do you want to be?

Don’t worry if you missed the last minute because another one is right here. And here. And here. And here.

Namaste y’all.

Here’s to the week.

Adventures in Yoga – Bike Yoga

new bike

*(I debated whether to go ahead and post this since the bike is gone, but it doesn’t change how I feel about riding my bike. Stay tuned for New Bike Day Part II…)

New Bike Day was a few weeks ago and it was incredible.

My butt is sore, but it was worth it. I picked up the bike and rode in my hood before heading to Liberty State Park.

I haven’t been this excited about something in such a long time. I smiled as I pedaled through the park- the wind was pretty rough but I couldn’t be stopped.

Then it occurred to me, why not stop?

So I did.

Breathing consciously makes you pause and stay in the moment.

I say this every time teach. Every. Single. Time.

But on New Bike Day the physician healed herself.

I pulled out a book and read for a bit. I took a few photos. I thought about a few things. I even spaced out.

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At first I was feeling hesitant to ride, now I’m wondering how I can ride and stay warm during colder months. I’m hooked. Visions of bike rides and watching the leaves change dance in my head.

Namaste y’all.

Rev Jim – Taxi Yoga

Taxi-1

I’ve been without my TV for over a week now.

I need to get it set up.

But in the meantime- I’ve been watching DVDs, listening to lots more music and enjoying the silence.

The old fogey in me loves to pull out shows from my youth. Lately, I’ve been into Taxi.

Taxi was an amazing show. From the theme song to the groundbreaking story lines- it was great TV.

Jim Ignatowski, or Rev Jim was my favorite character. He always seemed to be in a constant state of flux. He was the wisdom of the show- wrapped in a cloak of addiction, confusion and forgetfulness.

And of course I think of yoga.

Reverend Jim: I saw you standing in a Manhatten sunset / Your auburn hair blowing from Atlantic winds. / Your eyes were smiling at thoughts far away, / Dancing to sonnets only you could hear. // If I could, I would build you a castle / In a world from some other time. / A castle I can only imagine/A castle only you could inspire.

Relocation Frustration aka Moving Yoga

moving truck backs

I had this plan that I would smoothly transition from my old place to my new place.

Ha. Cue raucous laugh track.

My move was more than just a new place to sleep. It was symbolic of a new life. Though I’ve been teaching yoga and working on a business plan to be a yoga entrepreneur, the new home would make it official.

At least it would feel that way. I began this blog to document my new start, and this relocation seemed like just that.

In my head everything was timed like clockwork.  The movers would come- I’d cheerfully direct them! They’d laugh. I’d laugh- we’d do a few yoga moves in my empty living room. After namastes all around they would declare that this was the most tranquil move they ever did.

Ah- but life had other plans. It was a mess.

A bloody diasaster. And not in a cute British accent way. I’m talking real f@cking horror show. At least it felt like that in the moment. I could hear people screaming out like the aliens had arrived. Flames were shooting up from manholes, the masses were running for cover declaring that this was indeed the end of the world.

Well, that’s what it felt like.

The whole delay was a few hours. It felt much longer, mostly because of me and the gravity I gave the situation.

We all do that I guess, make things more important than they are. A minor impasse is distorted to mountain-sized road block.

This happens with poses. A point of resistance becomes a place where push happens. A more effective response is to breathe. This allows for release. I can feel it now even as I type- I feel a space where it seems like I can’t get deeper and after a few deep breathes my entire body falls into place.

On my mat I know this is how it works.

Off my mat, I need reminders.

I didn’t deal as effectively as I would have liked.

As I watched my things file out of the old space, I was happy.

After every storm the sun comes out. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass etc… etc..

More importantly though, I realize now that nothing is that critical. Because in comparison with the age of the universe, we are only here for a second.

And I, just like the stress that seemed so finite and so lasting is temporary.

My next part of the chapter awaits.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga- Me and My Big Trap

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A good neck warm up matters, yo.

Forgive me- I’m watching The Killing as I write and I love me some Holder.

The Killing has to be one of the most depressing and compelling shows I’ve watched.

It starts slow and builds to this point where you want more and more.

Actually it’s a lot like yoga. Seriously, yo. I know I say that about everything- but in this case it’s really true.

I need to back up for a sec and talk about my traps. Excuse me, my trapezius muscle.

My upper trapezius gets tight right quick. It’s one of those annoying injuries- it happens once, and you are doomed to have it happen quite a bit.

I can sleep incorrectly and boom- stiff.

A stiff neck makes me a lot less fun not the least of which is how it cramps my asana practice.

That my friends is not okay.

I’ve found though that by warming up mindfully (and slowly) I can avoid being a pain in the neck.

traps

Rodney Yee offers a great series of postures to stretch out the neck and shoulders. While he presents it as desk yoga- it seems perfect for any time. And really, can you go wrong listening to his soothing voice?

Stephen Holder offers his own brand of yoga.

Namaste y’all. Or as Holder might say, namaste yo.

Adventures in Yoga – Trust Me and Surrender

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I talk a lot about  the idea of letting go.

And the truth is I really mean what I say, but saying it over and over again can sound at best repetitive and at worst, disingenuous.

It got me to thinking- what do I really mean when I say let go? Do I mean that or am I trying to say something else?

Hmmm….

Let go…

At first, I think I meant letting go of control.

Last week, I found my deepest expression of ustrasana.

Oddly enough it was on a day that I didn’t feel particularly inspired to practice. In fact, I had to really slap myself around to get motivated.

I had spent a few days out of town and was beat. Every step toward the studio made me feel more put out than the previous one. I was rolling my eyes at myself (useless really…who loses when that happens? Silly rabbit) as I swiped my card to get on the train.

With headphones on and Esthero blaring the two sides of myself battled.

Can’t move on
But I can’t go home
And I’m not so strong
But I make my way
To the place I know
Inside my heart
Where I used to go
To get brave and
I don’t wanna be lost anymore

Hurumph. I’m tired. (Just shut up and go to class. You’ll be so happy when you get there)

Who needs class? Not me. (Yes you do, when you don’t want to go is when you most need your mat) 

Alas, the smarter side of me won. I got to class.

When I sat on my mat in the darkness I realized I had no fight in me. Maybe it was being tired from travel. Maybe it was lack of sleep. But I was able to turn myself over to my practice.

It was in a word, magnificent.

And while I found my new expression of ustrasana, I was more elated about my discovery.

It’s not about control. It’s about trust. 

I surrendered my body and breath to the pose. I didn’t let go with a ‘what if’ I can’t do it. With my chest lifted and hips moving slightly forward I bent backwards. There was no worry about whether I could. There wasn’t baggage about the last time I tried. Maybe it was because my brain was fried I wasn’t screwing around in my head.

There is a difference between letting go and complete surrender. Well there is for me.

The act of letting go doesn’t implies trust but doesn’t require it.

I can let go and stay in my skeptical shoes, but when I surrender it means that I’m turning myself over.

And that’s where trust comes in.

I’ll just say it- this is a big deal for me. The whys of this story aren’t as interesting as the now.

Yoga builds trust. It builds trust between your body and breath. Each complimenting each other working in unison to create harmony.

Yoga builds trust between me and the world. With a better breath my heart expands and with that I let more and more in.

This is yoga, and I surrender.

Namaste y’all.

oneika stripes

Don’t be Sorry, Be Yourself

Oneika Tree

It seems like when you get down to it when we’ve lost our peace we should go look in ego’s backyard. It’s sure to be lounging under a tree with an overfed belly and head full of worry.

A few days ago I read a great post, 3 Things Yoga Students Need to Stop Saying.

My favorite was #3- saying I’m sorry.

Students apologize. Despite constant conversations about non judgement, students (and teachers) can get caught up in ‘I’m sorry’. Which is really saying I’m not enough, I’m not worthy. Put one more way it’s all about ego.

And it’s hard not to judge sometimes. I must remind students (and myself) not to do someone else’s practice. For as many reasons as we come to our mats, we have as many different practices.

Trying to match someone else’s outside won’t mesh with your inside.

Let it go.
Simhasana-I-BKS
It’s one of the reasons I love teaching a long, slow meditative savasana.
With the eyes closed its easier to let go of judgement.
It’s easier remember how to love yourself when the gaze isn’t dialed into an external picture.
Sometimes if I’m feeling a lil off I let go of anxiety as I release a body part into the mat.
I let the back of my head melt into the mat and release any thoughts of feeling anxious. 
When my hips let go I release lurking feelings of inadequacy. 

 

By letting go of the body and the feelings I can open myself up to drift with looping thoughts or excess chatter.
Sometimes it works like a charm. Other times, it’s a struggle.
But it is always my yoga.
And that makes me feel peace.
This is yoga. Do you, yo.
Namaste y’all.
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African warriors, dancers and cobras

Do you know about the Africa Yoga Project? If not, please go right now and check them out!

Namaste y’all.

Yoga & Joyful Living

Sometimes you come across ideas worth sharing. This is one of them.

Thanks to the Africa Yoga Project over 250,000 Kenyans a year get to practise postures that can not only transform your body, but your mind. The project’s 52 teachers roll out their mats everywhere – yes, really. Everywhere. In prisons, schools or special need centres. They also teach members of HIV support groups, pupils at deaf schools and travel to rural villages.

So why is the language of yoga universal?

Because yoga’s language is the language of universal postures which speak to all of us, touch this very special, sacred space within us. No matter if we’re clad in Lululemon practising in NY or in a wonderful red traditional dress performing side plank in Kenya. But then, words are just words, and nothing illustrates the project’s impact better than – exactly, photos.

(All images…

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