Maple leaves in Chautauqua county NY (c) 2012 barefootphotos
6AM: woke up and since I had done supta padanghustasana 1 before falling asleep,I drew up both legs for urdhva pascimottanasa for 3 minutes, then Happy Baby. Thought about the relationship of HB and Supta 2 with the outer rotation of the leg in the hip socket.
Then a series of twists: supine cross- legged, crocodile, revolved belly, half supine virasana, gentle bridge 3.
Was going down to the studio at 7:30, but then S. skyped me from Poland. People first. Karma yoga in action. LOVE. Asana Practice could happen later.
After our call, I cleaned the studio and picked, prepping for the 10 AM class.
I’ve been reading student meditation journals most of the afternoon, so still have not returned to an asana practice.
This evening, though, I took a break and meditated with one of Susan Piver’s 20 minute guided practices. susanpiver.com If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you subscribe to this very accessible meditation teacher’s online OPEN HEART PROJECT. Susan’s got me thinking about the soft front body and the strong back body in meditation posture. How there is no boundary. How they exist simultaneously. How awareness shifts from one to the other. How difficult it is to hold them BOTH in awareness. But in a strange way, it’s comforting to know they are both there. Both.
10 PM In the studio for a two hour session. Pigeon (still difficult on left side as it activates the sciatica), Half handstand, Wide angled seated forward fold with twists, cobbler pose, Downward facing dog pose,sphinx, bow, camel. Really paid close attention to camel as I looked up several articles online regarding alignment. Kept repeating as I played with alignment.Headstand for 4.5 minutes, Child pose with close attention to maintaining hips resting on heels and releasing spine into front of body. Shoulderstand and a quiet Legs Up The Wall, hips on the shoulderstand stack of blankets. Connecting the soft front of the body with the strong back body.Comforted, I was satisfied and went to bed.
Carolyn with chickadee in Buffalo, NY (C) 2012 barefoot photos
A student spoke up before we began class this morning, with a hopeful look on her face, eyebrows raised, Do you really practice every day?
She was getting ready to go to herwinter residence and hoping I’d let her off the hook.
I smiled. I discussed how my practice had grown and changed over the years.
Until a wise student shared, Yoga is not a practice; it’s a lifestyle.
DONG! Bells went off in my head.
I became inspired share my personal yoga journal with you on a more regular basis. I’m committing to daily updates to give you a sense of the day-to-day life of one yogini’s struggles and awakening.
7AM: alarm, listening to the news in bed, practicing reclining back of the leg stretch (supta padangusthasana 1,2,3), and cross-legged revolved belly pose
7:15 AM on mat in studio, practicing gently due to the slight flair up of sciatica I’ve been experiencing lately: reclining hero (supta virasana), pigeon (rajakapotasana), kneeling lunge to splits with big bolster support (hanumasana), tree (vrksasana), standing half-lotus forward fold (ardha baddha padmasana), dancer (natarajasana). Immediate connection to a nonverbal, physical knowing with one leg held behind up behind me while my opposite arm extended in front of me. The feeling of moving my body confidently in this space created joy.
8:15AM: Trotted upstairs to celebrate with a cup of decaf because I was able to enter dancer without the aid of the wall for the very first time. EVER.
This is what keeps me motivated to continue day in and day out through all these years. I’m continually learning and experiencing new ways of being in this very body that is mine for a short time on earth. And I say YES to that.
After teaching the YOGA for 50+ class, I accompanied my son to the airport to say good-bye after a lovely visit of nearly two weeks. On the way home, Mike and I headed to a favorite bird watching spot in Buffalo to take our minds off of the emptiness and sense of absence we felt.
It was a stunning October day that would break all previous records for warmth in Western New York. Surrounding ourselves with so much beauty dissolved our heavy hearts.Happiness bubbled inside me as I held my hand out for the glorious chickadees and nuthatches that landed on my outstretched fingers.
Eye contact with these creatures led me into a non-verbal state of pure joy. Rather than connecting from the inside to the out, as usually happens during savasana, a connection happened as I reached my hand and heart out to my avian neighbors.
I connected with that deep inner knowing that is always present and available. This connection is also YOGA practice. No sticky mat necessary!
Some experience it like yogini Prabhavati Dwabha, helping children in rural India. Reaching outward and finding herself. Every single day.
How do you practice connecting with your inner knowing?
Today’s meditation: Naming the myriad ways that yoga is already present in my life.
Yoga is the dance of bodymindspirit. We say meditation in movement. Each one of us finds our unique expression of this ancient art. Your pose may not look much like mine. Doesn’t matter –The point of practice lies deep within. It’s a journey of the soul, mind, and body. All equal participants.
This morning I heard stories of how the previously posted and popular piece on Matt Harding’s version of the Gratitude Dance had rocked it’s way around campus at the end of the semester, so I thought I’d look into what Matt is up to now. Turns out he’s made another gorgeous globe trotting vid, this time using local dancing styles. Not exactly Yoga. But it is Body. It is Heart. And Mind is there as well. Hope you enjoy the dance around the world. Hmmm, Maybe it’s time we found a sponsor to YOGA around the planet.
Or maybe you’d like to send in photos of your Yoga in unusual locales. We’d love to see them and will post as able. …Maybe another video in the works!
A beautiful way to bring yourself home to your own beautiful presence is through centering awareness in the breath.
This is the very first and most important practice of all breath work. Before beginning to consciously control the breath, it is important to grow the awareness of how the breath is moving, or not, in this moment. We practice without criticizing, without judging, and without creating stories about the path the breath is currently on. When critical voices begin yammering inside, honor them as a part of you, and then, with kindness, come back to the breath. As judgments arise, name them simply, and come back to the breath. As thoughts flow through the mind, allowing them to flow, rather than holding on and developing them, enables awareness to gently sit in the breath.
If you would like to be guided in a Breath Awareness Practice, here is a short video.
The following video was shared with me by a dear yoga student today. As I watched, my own practice as well as my teaching, grew truly inspired. And yet, there was a tiny nagging voice that asked, Do you really believe? Even after all of these years of practicing, studying, classes, teaching, I questioned my own belief in the transformational power of yoga.
How large is my capacity to change? How strong can I grow? How large is my faith? Can I move forward without becoming burdened and worn down by feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, and self-recrimination?
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ancient sage advises us to study and concentrate upon the qualities of an elephant to gain strength (Sutra III.24). In the video, we watch the transformation of a human being, from burdened and weak to fast, and strong with a much wider capacity to live a bigger life, to express his own life force. How important it is to the development of faith to see examples of transformation in living beings!
May you also be inspired. Would love to hear your story!
Yoga is about learning to channel energy. Using your power involves channeling your energy. Not recognizing your power is perhaps the easiest way to negate the energy at your disposal. This tribute to women who have transformed their own energies into action to change the world in big and small ways is inspiring for all of us, men, women, children, elders alike.
Though International Women’s Day is March 8, I am inspired by this video TODAY. It really supports my intentions for the year 2012. How about you?
Do you wish you could live more fully present in your life? I sure do, so I am working on expanding my sensory awareness. There is so much that passes me by, that never registers in my consciousness every waking (sleeping!) moment
What is sensual living, but a life spent paying attention. It’s a physical life. A receptive awareness. It is presence. Experiencing all that is. Touching, feeling, seeing, smelling, moving (yes, the body has that kinesthetic sense), listening, tasting. Any and all of these modalities can become meditations if you ramp up your awareness and really open yourself to what you are experiencing. Yoga itself becomes a powerful tool for meditation this way.
I just finished reading A HOUSE BY THE SEA by poet, May Sarton. Sarton describes living a sensual life in on the coast of Maine. I feel as if I’ve lived at Wild Knoll and pulled goldenrod from her delightful garden and sipped chablis on the patio in her colorful tapestry of existence beside the sea.
Here is a video that I found inspiring and hope you will too. I can’t wait to make my own BOOK OF SENSES. I invite you to live sensually for one month. Maybe we can compare notes afterwards.
I am so sorry dear readers that it has been sooooo long since I’ve posted.
This is the thing, my father-in-law who moved into assisted living in Fredonia last fall, fell out of bed and clunked his noggin’ at the end of February. Ten days of hospitalization were followed by a transfer to a nursing home-the locked dementia ward. This man, who two months ago was enjoying homemade dinners and classical music concerts with us, can no longer walk, barely eats, is in diapers, has leg sores, and hardly knows who his son is, much less who I am. At nearly ninety years old, where is the dignity? What effect does my yoga training have on my response to his suffering…and the family’s grief and suffering?
Well, the first thing I rely upon is the breath. I take long sessions of ujjayi to assuage the grief that he is leaving us.
The second practice I engage in is TONGLEN meditation. I will write a page about that soon. Fortunately for me, my teacher, Mahala of ten thousand bodhisattvas dot com offered a Tonglen class shortly after Ben went into the nursing home. Did the universe know that I needed this? I can hear my yoga teacher muttering karma, carolyn, karma!
As a caregiver of a ninety year old with end stage dementia, I now know that I need to learn how to take care of myself first because at present I am suffering from a very nasty case of the flue, probably due to exhaustion. So restorative yoga, here I come. The third practice. Pull out the bolsters and blankies, cause I’m resting, deeply. It’s the core practice of compassionate caregivers.
Are you holed-up and snowbound today? Home with the flu? Just plain lazy, lethargic, tamasic? Sounds like a good opportunity to watch an inspiring TED talk.With grateful permission, I am reprinting this post from Online classes.org.
15 TED Talks to Help You Find Happiness
Everyone finds happiness in something. Whether it be the exhilaration that swoops in after the completion of a new creation, or enjoying the cool air of a sunny autumn day or learning anything and everything about the world, even those who struggle with their moods still occasionally enjoy the concepts of joy and satisfaction. Though nobody’s journey completely parrots that of others, this eclectic selection of TED Talks showcases how nearly all people work towards one almost universal goal.
1. Stefan Sagmeister:The power of time off: Everyone knows the value of rest and respite — it recharges the mind, body and spirit and maximizes productivity. For designer Stefan Sagmeister, closing down his studio for a year and spending the time traveling and conceptualizing actively stimulates his creativity. Without it, he says, he never could have produced some of his favorite works. This TED Talk showcases some of the different projects he conceived while on sabbatical, and discusses how to make the most of scheduled downtime.
2. Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time: Renowned Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo delves deeply into how cognition and perception play a role in establishing happiness, comfort and stability. He cites the “time paradox” as one of the major stress factors in peoples’ lives, suggesting a shift in understanding how it works can alleviate a goodly chunk of the problem. Awareness of one’s mental and physical orientation in the past, present and future makes it much easier to set firm priorities and goals. Based on his research, Zimbardo outlines what he believes to be the healthiest, happiest, most productive strategy for time management.
3. Nic Marks:The Happy Planet Index: Although the old adage dictates that money rarely purchases happiness, nations still tend to rank their success more on economic productivity than the true satisfaction of its citizenry. The Happy Planet Index attempts to juxtapose resource consumption and overall personal contentment, and the most joyous locales on Earth are not necessarily what one would assume. Through complex statistics and painstaking research, Nic Marks challenges many of the common myths regarding the relationship between finances and emotions.
4. Srikumar Rao: Plug into your hard-wired happiness: Persistently questioning and pining away for possessions and affections remains one of the most common roadblocks to discovering happiness. Most people never seem to realize that sloughing off such a mindset significantly improves their outlook on events both major and minor. Fortunately, Dr. Srikumar Rao makes a compelling case that most (though not all) people are born with the capacity to forge their own individual sense of satisfaction — largely free of over-preoccupied thinking.
5. Paula Scher gets serious: For creative types especially, designer Paula Scher’s lecture perfectly sums up the oft-lauded joy to be found in the human imagination. In spite of the title, her “serious” work nevertheless resulted in a gratifying life, and she shares with viewers some of the projects that proved the most enjoyable. Though many compartmentalize their lives into “fun” and “career” designations, it is entirely possible to fuse the two together for the ultimate happiness experience.
6. Nancy Etkoffon the surprising science of happiness: While it’s relatively common knowledge that emotions directly impact human physiology, most popular discussions regarding happiness tend to focus more on the more abstract mental health components. Nancy Etkoff looks at the ever-elusive concept through the lens of cognitive science, exploring how the body conditions itself for negativity and oftentimes compromises its own satisfaction. Though despite biology and cognition’s hold, there are still a few things people can do to work around them.
7. Matthieu Ricardon the habits of happiness: Religion and spirituality are not necessarily everyone’s preferred route towards discovering happiness, though millions still find them an indispensible facet of their lives. Former biochemist Matthiew Ricard discovered his calling as a Buddhist monk, and the lecture pulls from this eclectic background to offer some personal thoughts on one can achieve personal satisfaction. He makes a case for clearer consciousness and self-awareness as the cornerstones of forging the best life possible.
8. Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you: Some days it seems as if the tenets of common courtesy have emulated elderly elephants and disappeared to perish in some secret, mysterious locale. This counselor earnestly believes that a simple resurgence in pleasantries such as “thank you” can make a massive difference in society as a whole. Both the speaker and the recipient walk away from those two seemingly small words feeling gratitude and harmony — feelings that can very easily carry on to others they encounter.
9. Stuart Brown says play is more than fun: It’s a thesis sure to satisfy pretty much everyone — taking time to relax and play around makes for one of the very best things anyone can do for his or her health and sanity. Juxtaposing animal behavior (including macaques and polar bears) with human habits, Stuart Brown illustrates how taking time to indulge the imagination opens up plenty of paths towards the ever-elusive happiness. Children especially benefit from such leisurely jaunts, as playing pretend games help strengthen the skills needed for success once the realities of adulthood descend.
10. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity: Aimee Mullins was born without shinbones, but in spite of this setback, she still managed to enjoy an eclectic, exciting life of sport and art. She cites the physical challenge as the single most motivating factor in her pursuit of modeling, activism, acting and participating in the Paralympics. Without it, she claims she never would have discovered such a profound satisfaction with her life — proving that sometimes the darkest moments result in the greatest personal triumphs.
11. Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems: Death, aging, “existential risk,” poor motivation and depression formulate the core of humanity’s greatest roadblocks towards happiness. Oxford’s Nick Bostrom finds hope and solace in transhumanist science and philosophy, explaining how many of the emerging technologies might very well reverse some of these serious ills. For viewers interested in amazing leaps in science and engineering, this lecture offers up plenty of intellectual questions to ponder.
12. Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises: Plenty has been said about the role creativity, innovation and an active imagination help combat more negative emotions and mindsets. With the rise of a global economy and free markets, some believe that today’s economic climate — tempestuous as it is — actually provides some exhilarating challenges for those who derive enjoyment from such things. From a broader perspective, one can easily see how tragedies can slowly turn to victories with some hard work and even harder thinking.
13. Benjamin Wallace on the Price of Happiness: Many old proverbs and folktales warn against placing too much satisfaction in money and material goods, but that still doesn’t stop many people from trying. One particularly interesting study revealed that when the same wine first presented with an average price, then again with something higher, the latter garnered much more praise. Benjamin Wallace makes a compelling argument for pulling away from pursuing money and possessions as anything beyond means to caring for one’s needs.
14. His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart: For the more spiritually inclined, this lecture by one of Buddhism’s most revered clerics fuses religion and science in a manner that he claims maximizes happiness. No matter the myriad progresses made in the technical sector, he believes that true joy comes from peace of mind and body — though there exists plenty of pleasures to be found externally. And, of course, in forging loving and mindful connections with others.
15. Eve Ensler:Happiness in body and soul: Vagina Monologues scribe Eve Ensler found fulfillment in protecting women from abuse and marginalization. Both her writing and her activism brought happiness and peace to numerous victims, serving as an inspiration to those hoping to promote justice. She also believes that embracing one’s body and sexuality as something lovely rather than shameful will also help forge a positive personal pathway.