Monday, June 28, 2010
The Yoga Sutras, an ancient text written around 200 CE, acts as one of the most authoritative texts about yoga. In this book, verses (called sutras, meaning sutures) string together directional truths that give us clues about what we are looking for in the practice of yoga and how to go about finding it.
Patanjali, the author and yoga scholar who wrote the Yoga Sutras, gives us a definition of yoga right off the bat. In the second verse he states, "Yoga chitta vritti nirodha," which means "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." So, yoga is stopping the mind from its endless neurotic volatility. Later in the Sutras he states that we've found the experience of yoga once our mind stops moving, once we become one with an object, be that our body, an idea, or another person, etc. Let me make a distinction: the experience of yoga may differ from the practice of yoga. We may practice getting to that place of unity by the refined and skillful means of our asana practice, connecting body and breath for a sophisticated method of listening and focusing, which brings physical health, understanding, and mental clarity-- and still only find the experience of yoga once in a while. Regardless, the practice of finding yoga is itself very centering, grounding, and worthwhile. And with regular practice, we become gradually adept at finding this place of mental stillness and focus and will learn to enjoy the experience of yoga more readily.
Be warned! The experience of yoga may come on suddenly and without any preamble or effort on your part. It may happen in a yoga class, while walking your dog, or while contemplating the meaning of life as you sit in the maddening lines at the DMV. The experience of yoga is different for everybody. For me it feels like everything makes sense, like the universe is expansive and inviting. For me it's calming bouts of real clarity and connection.
Come and practice with me! I invite you to consider your experience and practice of yoga this week. I would love to hear about times you feel you have experienced yoga. Feel free to click the facebook or blogger icon and leave your comment to this message.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Yoga means union. I’ve never experienced such a union, such a sweet manifestation of community as when people from all over came to help out when Celeste was in a very serious car accident in 2006. People stopped by to be with her, to love her, to read to her. People organized kirtans, taught yoga classes and then donated the money to us, and brought us meals every night for two months straight. I gained 10 pounds from all that lovin’. People donated time, money, and energy and in so doing they helped heal Celeste, and therefore heal me, but also they healed the community as they all came together in a common cause. It has also been inspiring to participate in Yogis Give Back, the benefit yoga workshop where the community of yoga teachers and practitioners come together and practice for a common cause to the tune of several thousands of dollars that we can donate to that cause.
Whether it’s the Arts Festival, Gallery Stroll, the Farmer’s Market, Strut Your Mutt, The Salt Lake City Marathon, or the Twilight Concert Series, one of the reasons that Salt Lake City is such an amazing place to live is that it is both large enough and small enough to celebrate a wonderful community.
One of the reasons we come to yoga class is to be a part of the diverse community of yoga practitioners. By coming to this communal practice we offer our personal voice, our body, our breath to the diversity of the practice, a diversity that has been celebrated for thousands of years. We gain enormously from the power of practicing together by feeding off each other’s energy. Nothing is as electrifying as practicing yoga with a lot people in class. Surely yoga means first union of body mind spirit of individual and second we are invited to participate in the union of body mind spirit of a community, then of the world.
Yoga, like life, is very personal. A personal practice is very important yet this personal practice doesn’t have to necessarily exclude other people. One of our greatest personal lessons is how to live and thrive with other people with whom we share this community and this earth. It’s about learning to accept and celebrate differences, work out our problems, and to learn to love each other, even when someone has a different political philosophy than us, even when someone practices differently than we do.
I invite you to practice community this week by coming to yoga class. Celebrate community this week by coming to our Partner Yoga workshop this Friday night at Centered City Yoga (see details below). Come and be with us!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I just spent two weeks in Kaua'i, where I co-hosted a yoga retreat, practiced relaxing, and connected to a very special place. In Kaua'i, there is a feeling that permeates the island, inborn to the locals and infectious to its visitors. For me the feeling can be summed up in a simple motto: No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem. The island spirit seems to welcome all people to come as they are, whether they are bronzed beach bums or uptight tourists.
I'd like to adopt some of this aloha spirit in our yoga culture. Yoga is about getting to know yourself and the world around you by practicing awareness. It's about willing to refine yourself through the transformational heat of the practice (any change, even gentle change, is refining). It's about practicing surrender and submitting to a force larger than yourself. All of this can be done from whatever place you find yourself in life. Whether you're fit or fat, got a tight butt or just tight hamstrings, stressed out or blissed out, there's a place for you in yoga. Whether you feel like you're falling apart or feel like the world is rolling your way, whether you're going through your daily ho-hum, or major changes are stretching your life, whether you're a soccer mom, a corporate bigwig, or a total wide-eyed beginner, yoga's for you. Whether it's advanced asana practice or meditation or restorative yoga, there's a practice for you.
Besides, yoga class seems to be one of those few places not proximal to the beach that can also boast the motto: No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem.