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!
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.
Kathleen commented that “It is not about the “stuff” but about being with each other and spending time with those that we love. It is also about taking time for self.” Both thoughts I want to hold close to my heart during this new year. Spending time with those we love, and I include MYSELF among the beloved, is a core practice. Any nigglings of alienation dissipate when I am present to love. Self-doubt, one of my “corrupting nigglers” also wears thin in love’s presence. In the presence of love, I know who I am ….and feel good, spiritually and mentally healthy, and whole.
For K., A copy of Esther Myers’ book beautiful and honest book, YOGA & YOU Energizing Yoga for New and Experienced Students, is awarded. Esther passed away in 1994. Though I was never fortunate enough to have a class with EM, her struggle with breast cancer as well as her honesty describing the daily ups and downs of yoga practice continue to inspire me. Fortunately for us, her teachings live on in this text. Kathleen, I hope you enjoy, learn, and your practice is inspired in 2011!
Perce wrote that it was during a yoga practice (don’t you love those little epiphanies that arise out of nowhere during practice ~ I sure do and they remind me that my BRAIN needs yoga as much as anything else) that she realized she had many items already on her shelves that her family would enjoy. Don’t we all, Perce!
Thanks for the reminder to look around and mentally, or in your journal, inventory, your assets. There are so many gifts already in our possession, from the “stuff” we own, such as the jewelry you mentioned in your comment, to the personal characteristics we’ve developed over the years, such as an ability to listen and be present to another person.
For you, a book that was on my shelf: Mira Mehta’s How To Use Yoga, A Step-by-Step Guide to the Iyengar Method of Yoga, Relaxation, Health, and Well-being. Perce, I hope the precision shown in the writing and the clear photos in this book will assist the alignment and sukham (happiness) in your practice.
One of my teachers offered a teleconference course on sacred self-care. Oh, I thought, this is pushing things a bit, I mean, reallysacred self care?
Furthermore, why should I sign up, I already teach self-care. Certainly I know how important it is to devote some time everyday to the important task and pleasure of taking care of myself.
Well, it was time for me to wake up to the essence as well as the deep importance of self-care practice.
The journaling and meditations I did highlighted long held resistance to my own self-care. Could I be hard-wired to NOT take care of myself? I wondered. Was it a genetic trait? Am I simply and incorrigibly lazy?
As the class progressed week by week, I found a deep well of pleasure arose in my bodymind whenever I gave myself a gift of self-care. It’s possible to tap into that well as a means of motivating myself to continue developing self-care practices.
This week, our homework was to identify one self-care practice to focus on and try to develop it. A small step it would seem, but progress and transformation happens in small simple steps repeated time and again.
So, what am I working on? My negative self-talk. I’m growing my mindfulness around the times I call myself names or otherwise speak poorly to my beautiful self. It’s tough. Sometimes I catch myself disparaging the voice that catches, “Oh, there you go again, you idiot.” Yes, I can even use mindfulness against myself! So I’m continuing to practice softening and then softening again. I need a lot of practice. Unfortunately, it seems I’m giving myself plenty of opportunity. Grrr.
I do recognize how terribly important this is though. It forms the foundation of the spiritual path. Think about it. Better yet, conjure up the feelings in your body of an abundance of self-care. Then ask yourself what would happen if you had that available all the time….
Here’s hoping that you are floating in nirvana-land with me on this one. It’s just a little bit of self-care away!
If you are jazzed by the thought of floating on a cushion of wondrous self-care, READ MORE; visit LUMINOUS HEART.
This has been a season of death. On Saturday, three young men died in a tragic car accident. One of them was the son of a long-time friend and writing group buddy, a member of the extended “Penelope Writers” family.
Watching the faces of the O’Rourke family as they followed the coffin wrenched my heart. What sadness! Sadness heaping upon sadness these past three months.
What’s a YOGINI to do?
It’s healthy to feel emotions, to give them space to exist and pass through. It’s not so beneficial to hold onto them or to stifle them — though that is EXACTLY what I’d often like to do. Sometimes I just want to wallow in negativity, feeling sorry for myself, feeling a victim to circumstances, wishing the world would shake its collective head and join my sad little pity party.
Fortunately,yoga and meditation are such life-changing tools that these depressing emotions can flow through me as if they were rain water washing through sandy soil. I don’t need to IDENTIFY with and embellish the stories that coincide with these emotions. I cringe at how I did exactly that in the past though!!
FURTHERMORE, science is now clearly showing the plasticity of the mind that yogis have claimed for hundreds of years. I’ll collect some of this research in a future post, but for now, check out Buddhist priest, Mathieu Ricard’s take on happiness and mind training from TED. Some call Ricard the “happiest man alive” because of the results of his brain scans.
I’m sure many of the readers of LY have seen these sorts of changes happen in their life. How have you dealt with overwhelming grief? Have you noticed any effects of your practices on your emotional life? Please share them with us!
Mathieu Ricard’s blog is also enjoyable as well as thought provoking. The link is a page translated from the French.
I am so grateful that yoga is in my life, teaching me to appreciate each moment fully so that when life jigs its inevitable cruel dance tugging at me to partner-up, I can connect with my breath and remember that there is a beautiful, calm, loving place within me. Through continual practice I have found it is possible to live more deeply—beyond the “rat race of survival.”
One way is to awaken each morning with awareness centered on the first inhalation. Then, exhaling, invite a smile to fill your face. Even on the mornings when you don’t feel like it, SMILE and BREATHE. You embody the essence of happiness. Let that be your first prayer and intention.
As you move through your day observing the gardens and lawns that may be shriveling, remember that the sky has blessed us nearly every evening with glorious sunsets whose pinks, purples, and apricot splash in gay abandon overhead.
Spending an evening enjoying a sunset is yoga in action! With every inhalation try to radiate some of the colors of the sun. Open your heart to the people around you, whether at work, at home, or on the beach. Be aware of how your color enriches every one of those lives –and many more that you are unaware of. You are a child of the universe; every sun salutation celebrates that.
While we were releasing into savasana during tonight’s class in Westfield, D. read from Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT. I remembered the video I’d seen some time ago and the awe and maybe a little jealousy that I’d felt at Dr. Taylor’s experience. D. commented that the section she read to us reminded her of her experience in corpse pose: the way body boundaries disappear and sometimes it feels as if the body itself disappears as we recognize ourselves as magnificent bundles of energy.
After all, nirvana is what we are after isn’t it? Or is it? Nirvana is a term that floats around in the pop culture and we know that we should be achieving it at yoga class BUT…..do we really expect to ever experience it? Have you ever thought, maybe it’s just too darn much effort and trouble. It’s easier – safer – to simply stick to the practice of asana or some non-taxing meditation practice.
It’s not like we actually know anyone who has ever experienced nirvana anyway. I mean, sure, we’ve read STORIES about some extreme individuals in India, Tibet, or Japan, but c’mon, but this is the 21st century and we’re too busy checking our Twitter updates to have time for nirvana.
The ancient sage, Patanjali writes, in Yoga Sutra III.43: