Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Caught Short on Compassion

One of the first spiritual lessons that yoga imparts is compassion. This principle arises from the tenet of non-harming or ahimsa,  in Sanskrit. On and off the mat, things go better when we approach from a place of caring and softness.

Is it helpful to lament your tight hamstrings or to focus on your fussy knee when you’re practicing yoga? What about the I’m Not as Good as She Is Malady” Turn that negative tape off! Let the breath bring softness to the tight spots and regard your vulnerable areas with care. How can you adjust the pose so that there’s no pain? Maybe it’s not “your” pose, and you should just come out of it. And who really cares what anyone else in the room is or isn’t doing…focus on your practice and enjoy it to the fullest.

Ahimsa is a timeless, boundless principle that makes life sweeter and softer. I was caught short recently when someone I love made me furious. I was getting pretty amped up, ready to confront this person with the affect her actions had had, when a simple text from another loved one stopped me in my tracks. Those  few texted words reminded me of all that the person we both love is suffering, and reconnected me with my heart of compassion. How would I want to be treated if I was in her shoes? It’s this recognition of our shared humanity that softens the hard edges and helps us be more peaceful and loving, even toward those who make us a little crazy.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. –Dalai Lama

 

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Staying Grounded on a Bumpy Road

It’s coming up on a year since my husband and two daughters were each hospitalized for different reasons, all within about two weeks of each other. Some of this was planned, some not. None of it was pleasant of course, and taken as a whole, it was something of a nightmare. In the midst of so much uncertainty, I relied on what I know: faith, family, and some close friends. Life is stripped down to basics when the road gets bumpy, and I was reminded of what’s most important. My take-away was a deep sense of gratitude, and that gift hasn’t left me, even a year later. I’m thankful that I have an abiding belief in a God who’ll never abandon me and who has a plan that works for good; for a family foursome that pulls together in a heartbeat; and for friends who’ll pray with us, bring dinner, and who understand that some good wine, chocolate, and laughter are essential elements of sanity. These foundational elements…faith, family, close friends (who bring wine and chocolate)…kept me steady.

In yoga, too, we rely on our foundation. The dictionary defines this as the basis or groundwork of anything. Yogis know that your physical foundation is whatever part of your body is supporting you in a pose — your feet, sit bones, or hands. We set the foundation with great precision and care, because it underpins the whole pose. And then we hold ourselves strong in that foundation, solid & sure. That bedrock keeps us physically safe, and so long as we hold strong within it, we can count on it. We find lightness and power in our bodies, and more strength than we thought we had.

We can learn alot from this basic, beginning lesson from the yoga mat, and take it out into our life. What do you hold onto when push comes to shove? Can you hold steady, receiving support and not holding onto more than is necessary? Are your roots deep and strong? I love this quote from Paolo Coelho, a Brazilian writer: Everything will be okay in the end. And if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Skillfulness in Action: Prioritizing to Reach Your Goal

Next year I’ll begin a new phase in refining my yoga teaching practice, as I start a 15-month advanced teacher training course. I am unbelievably excited about this next step, ready to deepen and broaden my knowledge so that I can help people live more joyfully and with less pain!

Did I see you rolling your eyes as you read that last sentence? You might have thought it was just a slogan, or perhaps you sniffed a bit and surmised, “well, that’s a rather lofty goal, isn’t it?” Does helping people live more joyfully and with less pain sound a bit trite? Perhaps it is to your ears, but to me, it isn’t lofty or trite…it’s my truest, highest intention.  It’s the reason that I will miss work, soccer games, school events, family weekends away, and teaching some of my classes. I won’t read much that’s not yoga-related, and probably won’t see too many movies. Everything in my life will fall in line with my intention. At the risk of sounding lofty or trite, articulating the reason for all the hard work and long hours will help me immensely when I’m in the thick of it.

In Chapter Two of the Bhagavad Gita, yoga is defined as “skillfullness in action.” The fruits of a physical yoga practice have this weird way of seeping into the rest of your life, real life — you know, the part when you’re not on the mat. Building skills on the mat somehow translates into thinking about being more proficient in real life. This requires prioritizing so that you can live according to your highest intention and achieve your goals. Once you identify a direction, you have to create an environment that nurtures you along that path. Inevitably, there will be obstacles as you pursue your life purpose, and you have to make choices. That’s when it helps to have articulated your highest intention — your life purpose — because when you feel like you’re in over your head, you can check back in with yourself and figure out whether you’re still aligned with your intention. Then you’ll either make a course correction with a new intention, or refine your priorities and stay the course.

As Goethe writes:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assisatnce which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genious, power, and magic in it.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

It Takes a Little Time

Today I was reminded once again that yoga is an ever-changing practice. This is truly one of the things I love about it – there’s always a surprise just around the corner. I was warming up with a simple twist that I’ve done a million times. In the past it’s been kind of a ho-hum average stretch to me; today it knocked my socks off!

There could be a lot of reasons for this. Perhaps I’ve gained an opening in some area that enabled me to get into the pose more fully. Maybe it was just the right day for me to do that particular twist. More likely, though, is that I’ve learned to be a bit more skillful in the pose. I rooted into my foundation more fully, shifted my hips a bit, settled my shoulders in a subtly new fashion, and viola! The stretch was delicious, and I could feel a huge release in my back as I breathed into it and held the pose for a good long while.

Here’s the thing: yoga intelligence doesn’t come fast. The mind/body connection takes time to grow. In Yoga 1 and in Gentle Yoga, the body gets stronger and more flexible by focusing on the standing poses.  The poses are simple but not easy, and a variety of props and modifications make them accessible to anyone who can breathe. As the flexibility and strength of the body develops, the mind also becomes stronger and more pliable. Initially we just scratch the surface in learning how to carry ourselves in ways that ease pain and stress, and we start to understand some of the mental and physical habits that don’t serve us well. With time, patience, and consistency in practice, our knowledge deepens and the body becomes more finely-tuned. Those simple, basic poses become more delicious, just as this morning’s simple twist did for me.

In beginning a yoga practice, you start wherever you are. The practice meets you right there!

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!