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!
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?
Kaya; the body. Indriya: the eleven sense organs, including thought. Siddih: power, perfection. Asuddhi: impurity. Ksayat: by the destruction, elimination. Tapasah: discipline, asceticism, austerity.
By eliminating impurity, a disciplined life brings perfection and mastery to the body and the eleven sense organs. (trans. Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga)
White Starburst (carolyn grady photo)
Tapas, the third yogic niyama, or code for living well, is another means for personal evolution. We don’t embark upon these practices for the sake of austerity or novelty or egoic gratification. T.K.V. Desikachar (The Heart of Yoga) stresses that Tapas must not cause suffering, “everything about tapas must help you move forward.”
Tapas is the inner fire or discipline which keeps the yogin practicing. Lethargy would be its opposite. One of the definitions of the word YOGA is “discipline,” so it’s easy to see how Tapas is related to daily practice.
What is it that draws me to my mat day after day, year after year? It’s the fire that burns in my heart center, awakening a sense of embodiment that yearns for asana to express itself.
Yoga Scholar, Bernard Bouanchaud, asks us to consider the relationship between contentment, santosha which implies acceptance and Tapas, the fire that burns impurities. I’d ask, how then does Shauca, or purity itself affect or deepen the Tapasic experience?
A tidbit of trivia I learned from Wikipedia: One who undertakes tapas is a Tapasvin.
A primary purpose of yoga is to become aware of, to channel, and to utilize energy. Yoga can be considered a form of Tapas. Certainly it is integral to the yogin’s life. In Yoga Mind Body & Spirit, the popular teacher and New Zealand yogini, Donna Farhi says that, “Far from being a kind of medicinal punishment, tapas allows us to direct our energy toward a fulfilled life of meaning and one that is exciting and pleasurable.”
The other elements of the ashtanga yoga are inter-related practices. Pranayama and Asana help to stoke the fire. Pratyahara assists the Tapasvin in focusing the energy. Brahmacharya, the moderation of one’s vital energy, is a natural extension of Tapas. Its practice helps keep the heart fire bright and pure.
Pink Explosion (carolyn grady photo)
Farhi quotes Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, “What we discipline is any form of potential escape from reality.”
It’s Tapas that helps me put some ooomph into a daily pranayama, so the practice does not become dull and listless. Tapas propels me and holds me on my dietary regiment. I pray for Tapas to light the flame of my teaching, service, and for inspiration for this blog!
In class, many of you have asked me about home practice. I sense much insecurity about practicing :”the right way.” Some have expressed fear of doing IT WRONG, worried that they’d hurt themselves.
Maybe some of this comes from over-emphasis on CORRECT alignment.
Correct alignment needs to come from inside the student.
ONLY YOU KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!
The BEST teacher in the world can only make an educated, experienced GUESS as to what is happening inside YOUR BODY.
The first thing we do in class is sit and listen. Listen for when to begin. Listen to an inner urging to point you towards the first asana. Listen with your inner ears tuned up to how deep and long to hold the pose. Listen to how you feel before, during, and after the pose.
This listening is a type of meditation.
Try to incorporate listening into your practice and you’ll have taken a major step in understanding yoga and if you can begin doing that in your life off the mat, you’ll have leaped into becoming YOUR SELF.
Here is a short video of master teacher, Erich Schiffmann.
Steven’s video is a little hokey, but I love the homemade quality. And I love watching him outside snowshoeing, since the weather here in Fredonia is conducive to a long white walk today. About the content though — what do you think? How much do we believe that we can effect events in our lives due to how and what we think?
I have a bumper sticker that quotes the Buddha: WHAT WE THINK WE BECOME.
Is there evidence in your life of thoughts actualizing? When does this NOT happen? Or do you think it’s 100% fool-proof?
How does yoga effect daily thought patterns? Does what you eat have any repercussions in your actual daily life or on what you think about? Are there other habits you can foster to improve your thinking, such as getting enough sleep, meditating regularly, speaking positively?
Thinking about how beauty and truth intersect. . . . .It’s a classic. Yoga poses are inherently visually striking when performed well. One of the rewards of teaching yoga is to catch a student in a pose that is BEAUTIFUL for him or her. Sometimes I must just stand back and clap in appreciation.
I’ll inevitably say “Now, THAT’S your pose!”
We all have this capacity for holding truth within us. Yoga teaches us to have a BEAUTIFUL life as well as a TRUTHFUL life.
Please spend some time WATCHING your teachers and your classmates as they practice/perform their poses. Let the BEAUTY and the TRUTH of the asana invade you and imprint upon you like your fav song lyrics. You know — the ones you hear and then can’t get out of your head! Asana can imprint upon you in just that way, if you invite it.
A few years ago, I was creating and conducting workshops on poems influenced by artwork, trying to inspire folks to marry the two fields in unusual and insightful ways. There are many poems now that use artwork as inspiration or that include their words in visual representations. There are entire collections wherein poets have used the visual arts for their MUSE just as there have been art shows focusing on WORD ART.
Here’s a poem I wrote a couple of years ago on the subject of truth and beauty. Thinking about Keat, of course — and please do listen to his poem read out loud using the link below my poem.
The sun rises
Every breath breathes
The heart drums
Truth is a bed in crumpled linen
A pillow limp from cranial weight
An open book flat upon the floor—
another page unread
Light flicks through dust motes and glistens
A cloud undulates in the bathroom
The towel damp on the rack
A night of nothingness dissolves
On the floor forgotten pajamas
Naked the day opens
Beauty is a bowl spoon and cup
ready on the wooden table
A coffeepot humming its routine
The mouth moistens
while sunshine pours
its sweet sauce through the shades
Do spend a meditative moment or two listening to a Fabulous rendition of Keat’s classic, Ode on a Grecian Urn. You won’t be sorry, promise!
I’m still trying to figure out ways to make these blog awards meaningful to you, my readers. I will gladly entertain your thoughts on the subject. In the meanwhile, I’m following BlissChick’s lead – using them as a chance to highlight some of the blogs I’ve been reading and enjoying lately. These particular blogs have a BEAUTIFUL look to them as well as content-rich posts.
CULINARY BAZAAR – makes food look so good, my belly starts to growl just reading the recipes
YOGA, the MIND and CULTURE – a sister on the yoga journey with artwork that really highlights her posts and makes them even more arresting
CHANGETHERAPY - a blogger who covers a lot of territory on her blog and I find her posts enriching as well as beautiful beyond the surface. Hint: Take a peek at some of her Wordless Wednesday posts; I love them.
YOGA for CYNICS – an outrageous attitude that is uplifting without trying, or even wanting to be – has a knack for beautiful images too though I think he collects them from around the web
BUDDAOFHOLLYWOOD – a tender one with a flair for creating zen stories just when you need them!
Do you think that Truth is beauty and Beauty is Truth…do you think that THAT is all you need to know?
Since I’ve been tagged repeatedly by FaceBook friends, I’ve gotten the message that I should provide a little more “personal” type info. for my beloved readers! So here goes, round two of 25 random thoughts….
25 Random Thoughts about LaughingYogini
1. Practices asana as a form of prayer.
2. Tore her Achilles doing the “Energy” Yoga tape with Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden ….which she did every morning after the kids left for school and M. went to work….for a solid year…still remembers the “zing” in the back of her heel (1998 or so)
3. She and Mike spent their 25th wedding anniversary at the London Iyengar Institute in an all-day workshop on standing poses.
4. Loves teaching college students (and younger!) because of their energy and willingness to go where they’ve never gone before!
5. Wishes her tummy was smaller so she could go deeper in several poses.
6. Is still waiting to get into full splits on the floor, lift into a complete backbend, do a headstand away from the wall, clasp her hands behind her back in gomukhasana…..hmmmm, the list goes on….but who really cares since she is alive and well and feels like a goddess in ardha chandrasana?
7. Worked intensely for 2 years with a meditation teacher with whom she no longer studies. She did however, ramp up her sitting practice AND learned a lot about herself in the process.
8. No longer publishes her e-zine CIRCLE YOGA. Laughing Yogini blog and website launched in May 2008.
9. Practiced a half hour of ujjayi breath every day for six solid months while grieving a family member’s illness and credits THAT to her own life.
10. While in legs up the wall pose, listened to Pema Chodron cds every afternoon for many many months.
11. Teaches seniors because they ROCK and they don’t hold back!
12.Will probably never become a complete and utter vegetarian, though she really does love her veggies.
13. Has always believed in a higher power…god, the goddess, the Self. The Great Spirit, energy, collective unconscious….you know what I mean. Believes that higher is within.
14. After returning from living in Mumbai, the entire family — parents and kids: 12, 11, 8 years old — practiced yoga on the living room floor following the suggestions of Richard Hittleman’s YOGA…for about a year.
15. Her back went “electrical” when F. tried to straighten her up in sarvangasana on the last day of her first teacher training! Not to worry, sometimes body parts need adjustments.
16. Gave each other yoga ropes for their 30th wedding anniversary (2 years ago). These are now in the basement studio and add a lot of zing to their personal practice as well as the classes.
17. Researched in Light on Yoga by B.K.S.Iyengar how to help heel spurs after being told by therapist that she’d never be able to walk barefoot…she’d already tried most of traditional medicine’s treatments at that time….after practicing Supta Virasana regularly those pesky heel spurs softened!
18. Graduated from 2 separate teacher trainings. Really LOVED BOTH of them even though they were quite different from each other. Sometimes it’s not the “advanced certificate” that’s as important as much as the knowledge that can be absorbed.
19. Is not happy with what the x-rays said about her lower back (spurs, eburnation, bone on bone) BUT is determined to continue honoring the “sacred space in the lumbar spine” as Vanda Scaravelli says.
20. Wishes she would find time to read and reread all of the yoga and meditation books she has on her shelf.
21. Was born bow-legged. Once found a pair of her baby shoes with boards connecting them at the arches which were supposed to straighten out her legs, according to Mom Kieber. She’s still working on straightening those bones!
22. Wishes she were more photogenic so she could create yoga videos just the way she thinks they’d be instructive for her students…ahhh well, they’ll have to make do with podcasts….the oral tradition.
23. While she’s broadcasting wishes: she wishes she had a full and complete studio built over the garage! And …..she’d like to get some training with Tibetans!
24. Was first introduced to YOGA nearly 40 years ago in Mater Dei High School Yoga Club. Blessings on that sweet teacher, whoever and wherever you are today!
25. Has found a deep connection to her yoga kula: students, friends, teachers, online acquaintances. She’s grateful for the wellspring of support and love that she has found there and hopes to return the sweetness with every breath.
Though I stumbled upon Elizabeth Gilbert’seat pray love by chance in the famous Portland bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, it had already been on the New York Times Bestseller list for over two years. I loved the story then and still do, so when I was asked to contribute to a discussion about meditation and the “India” chapter of the text at a local book group meeting, I was happy to comply and offer a bowl of my rice pudding for the dessert table. This book has already been reviewed and written about extensively, so I’ll simply add some quotations that were particularly noteworthy from the India chapter:
From section 38 ~ Why practice yoga?
Yoga, in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.” It originally comes from the root word yuj, which means “to yoke,” to attach yourself to the task at hand with ox-like discipline. And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union—between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors.
From section 70 ~ regarding religion:
I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted.
Your job, then, should you choose to accept it, is to keep searching for the metaphors, rituals and teachers that will help you move ever closer to divinity.
From section 68 ~ the effects of practice:
But it was pure, this love that I was feeling. It was godly. I looked around the darkened valley and I could see nothing that was not God. I felt so deeply, terribly happy. I thought to myself, “Whatever this feeling is — this is what I have been praying for. And this is also what I have been praying to.”
Here’s a wonderful section (64) where she comes to terms accepting her personality:
. . .if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.
. . . that doesn’t mean I can’t take a serious look at y talking habits and alter some aspects for the better — working within my personality. Yes, I like talking, but perhaps I don’t have to curse so much, and perhaps I don’t always have to go for the cheap laugh, and maybe I don’t need to talk about myself quite so constantly.
And from section 58 on Prayer ~
Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur?
From section 56 on types of meditation practice:
Now that I have my own personal issues with the very word detachment, having met spiritual seekers who already seem to live in a state of complete emotional disconnect from other human beings and who, when they talk about the sacred pursuit of detachment, make me want to shake them and holler, “Buddy, that is the last thing you need to practice!”
From section 49 – How to reach contentment:
Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time — when pursued like a bandit—will behave like one; always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you ‘re banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won’t. You have to admit that you can’t catch it. That you’re not supposed to catch it. At some point, As Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you.
If you’ve read the book, we’d love to hear the passages that spoke to you. If you haven’t read this funny, insightful, and moving memoir, here’s a link.