Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Month of Shoulder Stand - Day 16

This week I have been working regularly with chair shoulder stand and its variations. There is nothing like shoulder stand to feel completely on top of your shoulders. I have been working with blocks under the shoulders, blankets under the shoulders, and a bolster over the shoulders. My favorite variation at the moment is coming into Nira Lamba Sarvangasana - lifting the torso away from the chair, so that my torso is completely vertical.

Being in a completely vertical line gives the pose a different feel altogether - deeper Jalandara Bandha, less curvature of the Lumbar spine, but if done right, the chest can be just as open.

My new mission - try using taller props in traditional shoulder stand.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Month of Shoulder Stand - Day 4

So I tried it, Shoulder stand without thinking about alignment too much.  Well, I tried anyway. I realized that I have to be ok with readjusting. I will collapse, so I will have to readjust. 

I do have to think about alignment. BKS Iyengar has been quoted as saying that God is on the midline of the body. Just like in meditation, we have to ensure that the body is in proper alignment. That alignment of the spine is the means for the travel of energy in the body. 

So here is my new goal - align the body without it being the focus. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Month of Shoulder Stand - Day 3

Today's practice was all about alignment and placement. In class tonight, we worked with Setu Bandha up the wall, as a means for aligning our shoulder stands. 

I often have my students work in this way, drawing the tailbone into the center of the room, groins toward the wall, and hands moving down to the shoulder blades. 

This made me realize that I am often very focused on alignment - to the point of perfection - trying to get my hands as close to the floor as possible, tailbone so very forward, groins back, tops of the shoulders, etc. 

Tomorrow, I plan on attacking the pose in a softer way- without attacking. Keeping it soft and without judgement. Relaxed. Lets see how it goes.

Month of Shoulder Stand - Day 2

As I practiced shoulder stand today, I couldn't help digesting something that I had heard yesterday. I was at a workshop with the amazing Kevin Gardner, when he shared something beautiful about Jalindara Bandha. Kevin said that when we are in the very earliest stages of life, the heart and the brain are the first parts if the body to develop (heart first, brain second). And they're developed right next to each other, in incredibly close proximity. So when we do shoulder stand, it is just like bringing the two back together.

I found this incredibly touching at the time, but it means much more and is so much deeper when meditating on this while doing shoulder stand. I can't help but be completely focused on this idea. It makes me wonder how influenced my brain was by the heart at the time, in the womb. And if I continue to bring them together, can I bring myself back to that original state? Can we return to leading from the heart, before the brain existed? Is this the point?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Month of Shoulder Stand - Day 1

As many of you know, over the last year I have been recommitting myself to my pranayama practice. One thing that is very important to pranayama is Jalandara Bandha - which is perfected in shoulder stand. I feel like I have been neglecting my shoulder stand a bit - so I have determined that I will go back to doing 5 minutes of shoulder stand every day. 

I realized today how far I have drifted away from comfort in shoulder stand. I don't have a lot of trouble when others are telling me what to do (from a teacher in class), but when I practice on my own, I often back away from shoulder stand sooner than I originally intend to. Today I started easy (for me), by holding shoulder stand for about two minutes, then doing three minutes of halasana. I believe that my issues with the pose come from my shoulders and groins. Tightness and fatigue often pull me away from my holding, so I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me - to loosen up and maintain the holding for longer.

I will try to write something every day - try! Wish me luck.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thoughts on Practice

I have been working with my classes lately with Sutra 1.14 - regarding practice. The sutra says that practice should be uninterrupted and practiced with devotion. 

I have to admit that my practice has slumped in the past few days. I typically do asana every day, I practice pranayama most days, I chant just about every day, etc. I have been away on business, and have unfortunately laxed. 

My attitude has changed noticeably. I feel grumpy, impatient, rude. I felt that recently I had found some peace. It is remarkable what a few days will do. Well, everyday is a new day and my practice starts over today.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Perfect Amount of Sleep

Recently I wrote about vacation and being in the present. Since then I've been trying to bring that feeling to my everyday life. It's so funny how difficult it is to be in the present. From the moment I wake up I put myself into the future. I often wake up telling myself that I didn't get enough sleep, and it's going to be a very hard day. All of a sudden I have created myself a story.

From that moment forward, I am in the future. Thinking about how rough the next hour or the next day is going to be. How can I possibly be present after that?

I read once, from BKS Iyengar I believe, that one should wake up believing they got the perfect amount of sleep. After all, once we've woken up, how can we change that. 

I've been noticing on my morning walk with Franklin, my dog, that I need to struggle to pull myself into the moment. It's fascinating to me, because it's such a beautiful time of day. The sun is coming up, It is so quiet, and there's no one there. So I've begun to take note of this issue. Drawing my attention to it. Allowing Myself to enjoy the moment or at least be in the moment.

I found tht beginning my day in this way chips away at some of the difficulty.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vacation - a Lesson for the Present

I was very blessed recently, because I was able to go on vacation. Probably even more blessed than I had originally thought. Blessed because this time away helped me to realize quite a few things.

The biggest thing I learned is that I am not very present. It took me quite a few days to realize that I am as high strung as I am. I've always known that I am very future focused, but what I didn't realize was the toll that it was taking on me. 

It was about day four of my vacation that I realized how difficult it is for me to just relax and enjoy the moment. I'm constantly worried about what comes next, what my plans are, and how to achieve them. I live a very regimented life, with work, my own yoga practice, and the classes that I teach. The idea of being present is such a simple thing, I find that it's so easy to overlook. There's nothing like a vacation to help you realize this. What I need to do now is take that lesson and apply into my daily life. Today I figured I'd try something else -Try not to live for the next moment, instead living for the one I have right now.

I remember that I saw a television program was interviewing a pretty high-profile actor. He said that acting has taught him a lot, and the most important thing is to live in the moment, right now. Living in the moment like you are living it for the first time. We walk through life not actually enjoying our experiences, not living our experiences. We are home every day, we are at work and with friends every day. Taking the time to really be there changes everything.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Love in the Heart - Part I

I heard something beautiful from Swami Kriyananda the other day - he says that the best thing we can do in our practice is to open our hearts to love and devotion. So I have decided to look to the Yoga Sutras for inspiration to build love and devotion in my heart.

This week, I have been working with Yoga Sutra I.36 - Inner stability is gained by contemplating a luminous, sorrowless, effulgent light. I feel that this sutra is particularly helpful  as it can help us to take our minds away from what is not important and instead draw focus to our true selves. This sutra is guiding us to a focus of the atman (or individual soul), using imagery of light and lack of sorrow to provide a taste of what the atman is and provides.

This imagery not only helps us to pull focus to the atman, but can also help us to see that same effulgent light in others. Behind all of our sorrow, deep down in every person is that same light. Stability in our reactions and interactions with others can also be attained, I feel, by seeing that same light in others. Seeing this same light in others can only help us to open our hearts to love and devotion, just like Swami Kriyananda said.

If you have a few moments, try chanting this simple sutra - with contemplation on its meaning:

visoka va jyotis-mati
Inner stability is gained by contemplating a luminous, sorrowless, effulgent light.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Relating to Food

I love food. I love to eat. I do know, however, that I need to look to my body and at my body as though it were a temple. I, like so many other Americans, find it difficult to cherish our bodies when it comes to food: what foods we eat, the amount, and the attachment to it. I know that I am very attached to food. When I am bored or nervous, I look to food. When I want to escape the reality of a situation, or am faced with a challenge that I am afraid of, I turn to food for comfort.

I know that I need to look at food differently. I am continuing to define my relationship with food. Over the past few years, I have begun to look differently at the way I eat. I no longer eat meat and I have learned to look at food preparation as something holy or sacred. I enjoy the food that I prepare myself, much more than foods that are prepackaged or made by other hands. I can appreciate it more, and I know that I prepared the food with good intentions and love.

I do, however, realize that this struggle is all about willpower. BKS Iyengar says that we have to let "the intelligence and the soul make the true dicision, for this is where real willpower and real dedication are found." I know that the decision to gorge does not come from intelligence. In fact, I am certain that it is coming from old habits, fear, and issues that I have with my body (that I perhaps feel I need to self sabotage or create some self-fullfilling prophesy to sabotage my will).

I am writing this after lunch, still craving. Let's give this willpower a try!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Am

You need not get at 'IT', for you are 'IT'.
'IT' will get at you, if you give It a chance.
      - Nisargadatta Maharaj
I have been fascinated recently with the story of Brahma and the So Ham mantra. In the Hindu religion, Brahma is looked to as the creator. It is Brahma who creates the world. When he opened his eyes for the first time (all five sets of them), he finds the world in complete darkness - yet to be created. Could you even imagine the simplicity? The quiet? The peacefulness?

At this moment, he has no choice but to live completely in the present. He has no past, so how could he grasp the idea of future. His life at this moment is without suffering - no past to cling to, no regrets, no disappointment. No thoughts of future - no sense of longing or concern.

He begins to ponder the question - who am I. In his wisdom, he realizes that who he is cannot be found in the outer world - so he turns inward. His thoughts materialize to words when he says "I am" (So Ham). And from there, mantra was born.

His response to the question of "who am I" is so basic, but so wise in its simplicity. He does not cling to the idea that he is a god or a creator, but instead identifies with something so base and so simple. I am.

We work hard in our lives to create. We educate ourselves, earn prizes, meet goals, and can easily identify ourselves with these goals. I am a teacher, I am a CEO, I am a student, I am wealthy, I am poor, I am thin, I am large, etc. Each of these titles or roles giving us a reason for separation. Separating ourselves from each other and separating ourselves from the simple true nature of what we are. While these goals or titles may be comforting, they may also be painful or lead us to pain. Each of these roles creates walls and barriers to being.

For me, this story of Brahma shows us the real truth of ourselves and the beauty of just being. Perhaps once we realize the simplicity of what we really are, we can relate and understand others and answer the question that we all ponder, even at old age. Who am I?