Monday, July 25, 2011

Naked Truth

If it hasn't happened already, there will come a time when we stop trying to produce that infallible vision of ourselves and allow ourselves the radical permission to be exactly what and how we are. This permission revolves around the yogic principle of Satya or truth. To be honest with who and where we are, both our strengths and weaknesses, allows us a solid platform from which we can skillfully step to the next place. We stop trying to be everything that we're not and finally find how perfectly we belong to exactly where we are.

With intention, direction, work, and most of all appreciation for our present situation, our dreams of where we want to end up will start to fill out. If we feel stuck, indecisive, depressed, or angry, our truth is to speak to that place. We can speak to all our situations with yoga, an embodiment of all our inner landscapes.

What we want is within our reach; it's simply laced with a bit of irony: the key to fulfillment in the future is to be content now. If we're committed to the honesty of where we are and are content for what is, knowing things change, we create a bridge of present content moments which links us to contentment in our fulfilled future. Without present contentment, without appreciating the truth of where we are, we may find ourselves where we previously hoped for only to discover our habit of malcontent, and, disgruntlement, wishing we were back where we started or somewhere else. We're back in the viscous cycle of hoping for anything but what is true, what is here.

Our main task as I see it is to understand where we are, where our love lies, and bravely organize our lives to focus on what matters most.

I hope that this truth and brave path may lead you to yoga this week.

Here is an offering I learned from my teacher that you may want to use in your meditations:

By the power and truth of our simply practice,
May we and all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May we and all beings be free from sorrow and any causes of sorrow.
May we and all beings never be separated from that sacred happiness which is beyond sorrow.
And may we and all beings live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion.
And may we live recognizing and honoring the equality of all that lives.

Sarva Mangalam (May the greatest goodness unfold)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Flood the Soul

The Experience and Practice of Yoga

The experience of yoga and the practice of yoga are different things and both are different for each person. When I feel the experience of yoga, I feel like everything is perfect, like the world is just the way that it needs to be and I am a privileged be a guest here. When I feel yoga, I feel boundless, like my body is able, lithe, and strong. I feel like my heart is huge and sturdy enough to hold any pain. When I experience yoga I am aware and intuitive. I am still. Sometimes the experience of yoga is subtle and fleeting, just happy and aware. Mostly, when I feel yoga, I feel like I've sourced something inside that I knew was there all along: a wellspring of creativity, love and understanding and a contentedness to just be.

The experience of yoga is about transformation, the transformation of recognizing our True Selves. It's not that our current self isn't real or true, it's that yoga helps us see the big and deep part of ourselves that doesn't change. It's about coming home and seeing ourselves in our true identity.

The practice of yoga is about making the conditions right in body, mind and spirit, for the experience of yoga to happen. In our asana practice, we become stronger, more flexible, and balanced. We ease tension from muscles and set our nervous system at ease. We focus our minds and learn presence. All these qualifiers are vital for the experience of yoga to happen but don't replace the experience of yoga. In other words, there is a difference between the practice of yoga and the experience of yoga.
When I feel the experience of yoga, I feel like everything is in balance. My body feels great, my mind feels at ease, and I feel like myself. I feel timeless. In these moment’s, it’s easy to see how the word yoga means to yoke or unite. When I experience yoga I feel like everything makes. You may feel a little differently when you experience yoga.

We may not feel the experience of yoga each time we practice. Some of us may have never felt or maybe just haven't recognized the experience of yoga. That doesn't mean that we are doing anything wrong or should stop practicing. The more we practice, the easier we discover how to most effectively travel our own pathway to transformation until one day the path becomes well-worn. Simone Weil said, " Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul." She's saying to keep practicing and one day it will all pay off. Often when we are least expecting it, going about our practice like any other day, we'll find ourselves in a posture or something and suddenly everything opens up to the experience of yoga, or some sudden insight about ourselves will come flooding in. Sometimes it’s not so grand, but rather subtle and sweet, a simple feeling of contentment. Either way the more we practice, the more frequent these moments come.

I'm excited to be on this journey with you all. Every day I experience the value of this practice. I feel honored to be able to help direct you down your own path of transformation. I am a practitioner first and foremost and a teacher second and I am humbled by the privilege to walk this path next to you. I hope that through yoga you can all taste of that rich experience of yoga, transformation, and experiencing your True Self.

I'll see you in class!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Yoga Reading List

Part of yoga practice is study.We can effectively improve our understanding our who we are, what we are doing here, and why and how to practice yoga as we read or hear the teachings of masters.

I leave it up to you to determine who is a master, guru, or sage. Whether the texts are religious, philosophical, narrative or mythic, with the same awareness and sensitivity we practice in yoga, we can understand and resonate with the message and open ourselves up to higher learning. This deeper knowledge will invariably affect our yoga practice and our practice of every-day living.

Here are just a few of my favorite yoga and philosophical texts that I think you may enjoy reading.

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

by T.K.V Desikachar

I love this book. For me, this book has everything in there in an understandable and concise manner. The son of Krishnamacharia who is essentially the father of most of the yoga practiced in the west, Desikachar is an amazing source of knowledge, quoting the teachings of his father. In this book Desikachar talks explores the fundamental yoga philosophy, technique, and considerations concerning practicing yoga in a conscious, safe, and informed way. Plus, he offers his complete translation of the Yoga Sutras with commentary in the back of the book. This is number 1 in my yoga reference library.

Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living by Dona Farhi

This is another one of my favorite books. I'm here to say that not all great yogis are great writers. This one is. Not only is Dona Farhi an internationally recognized master teacher, but she is also the author of several books, all of which are wonderful. In this book, she offers light onto some of the basic tenets of yoga philosophy as stated in the yoga sutras in a way that is completely approachable to modern-day mentality. It's less of a how-to and more of narrative/expose. Great book.

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann

This book is more of a how-to with pictures and diagrams and the whole bit, offered by one of the most qualified teachers in the country. In this book, he has very detailed information about poses, meditation, and pranayama. It even lists a few yoga routines in the appendix of the book. I teach yoga as an adjunct faculty professor at Westminster College and this is one of the books I require for that course because of it varied and detailed information.

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

I hope that you've read this book in the past. It's a very rich adult book that also appeals to kids. There is so much good stuff in here about valuing what matters most in life and how to care for those things that you have, even if they seem difficult and challenging. It is a book that I will read over and over again throughout my life. If you haven't read it in a while (or even if you have) check out this book. It's a great way of looking at those things that matter most in life. Yoga is really trying to create a practice that does the same thing.

If you read one or all of these books and still find yourself hungry to learn more about yoga or are interested in our yoga immersion and teacher training, please consider attending Prana Yoga's Yoga Immersion and Teacher Training this fall, beginning in September. You can find the details below.

Also if you have another book you'd recommend, please comment for others to see.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Join the Dance

Everything, down to the last molecule in the last corner of the universe, is moving. As we seek to find stillness for body, mind, and spirit, ours is not to hold up our hands and try to arrest this inevitable motion. Instead, we are to join the dance--and by so doing, find the stillness that comes from moving in tandem with the larger motion, like a surfer riding a wave, like friends walking together, like the fluid motion of a yoga class. Please join me this week, as we enter the dance of life, and thereby find stillness.