Monday, February 24, 2014

On Busyness

Are you busy? I'm busy. It seems like we're all busy. And when your schedule is busy your mind is busy processing and planning and negotiating it all to make sure it gets done. And that is precisely the trapping of busyness: you get so harried, so scattered, that you can't really focus on anything very well. Your nervous system gets shorted out, your energy reserves get depleted, and you never have enough time and you end up increasingly more and more tired.

I don't think we're alone. In fact, around 200 AD the yoga scholar Patanjali wrote an entire freegin' yoga sutra on the topic. It's the primary source for all the philosophy most of us yogis study. Right at the beginning of this ancient text he states very clearly that the entire purpose for doing yoga is to stop the mind from all its busyness. And that was 1800 years ago before kids' soccer practice, the 9-5, and the 27 other things we have going on during any regular weekday night.

Easier said than done, right? It's like when I get worked up about something, am really upset, and someone comes up to me and gratuitously offers that smidgen of infallible advice, "hey, chill out." Rarely has this advice ever found purchase with me. I imagine myself stopping mid-freakout, relaxing all my tension, and just as that stupid smile of contented relief begins to spread across my face, I say, "Thanks! Why didn't I think of that?" No! I need to work through it. The same goes with busyness. It doesn't work to simply say, stop being so busy all the time. There needs to be a processing, an accounting for the busyness and then maybe we can find some practical and lasting method of stopping the madness.

After a while of running around with your head cut off, if you're like me, you'll take a moment from the craziness and ask if there is a better way of being. Ironically, part of the processes of reducing busyness is getting completely exhausted, completely fed up with busyness, to realize that busyness is counter to who you really are. Maybe, if you're like me, you could take a good honest look at why you make your schedule so busy. A few questions you might ask yourself might be: “Why do I make myself so busy? Am I avoiding something by filling my schedule so full? Who would I be if I weren’t so busy? What are those things in life that mean the most to me?" After asking yourself those questions, you might gain some clarity as to why you’re so busy and then choose to prioritize your energy.

I suppose this is what yoga does for us. Yoga gives us the opportunity for a pause, for reflection, and for focus. It is one of the most practical ways I know of learning to practice being in a place where everything is simplified down to that which makes the most sense, body and breath. Maybe with this simplified perspective, we can take a look at those things on our schedule that don't really serve us and commit to spend some time, meditating, doing some yoga, or catching up on something you never make time for. But what about all the stuff we gotta do for our kids, taking them to this practice, this playdate, this kids' activities? With a little mindfulness and creativity, you'll find a solution for that too. After all, what are we teaching them with all of our busyness? Easier said than done? Maybe. Remember, you have the right to say no sometimes to obligations, even if the only reason is so that you’re not so busy.  

If coming to yoga class is going to be one more thing that busies your schedule, I might suggest take the pressure off of yourself and stay home. Seriously. If you can arrange to come and not have it be "one more thing" to add to an already busy schedule, then I'd love t see you in class this week as we focus together and practice some radical simplification. Maybe we'll gain some clarity on those things on our schedule that don't serve us and could be replaced by something that does.

See you in class, OR NOT.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Is That Guy Standing on a Baby?

My friend and fellow Prana teacher, Rachel, came to class to  Prana Yoga  one year around Thanksgiving time and brought 9-10 of her visiting siblings and/or their spouses. I thought it was really cool to have such a huge family, together practicing yoga. Rachel comes from healthy and active stock, everyone seemed very athletic, fit, and capable. Despite being all super fit, there were a few of them who were new to yoga. I welcomed everyone to class asked the class if they had requests or injuries I could be careful with. One of Rachel's family member's, one who was relatively new to yoga, raised his hand and asked, pointing to the 4.5 ft. statue behind me, "Why is that guy standing on a baby?" What a fantastic question! And suddenly I began to wonder how many people walk in and out of our studio each day and see this beautiful, huge statue of Siva with his many arms, surrounded by a wreath of fire, a snake around his belly, dancing dreadlocks, standing on an impish creature and wonder,  "what is going on with that cat?"

So, yoga synthesizes ancient wisdom with our modern circumstances to provide a practice for being in the world and for understanding ourselves. Plus, it just feels good. Yoga's many ancient symbols and philosophical tenants can seem not only confusing to modern, western practitioners, but also down right alienating. As a teacher, I'm always asking the question, "So what? What does all this ancient wisdom and symbolic gobbildy gook have to do with waking up each morning, dragging my butt outta bed, and going out into the world to live another day?" Well, let's see.

So, the Dancing Siva, or Siva Nataraj (meaning royal dancer), is a statue that tells many stories and can point to personal pertinence in our current lives, regardless of spiritual or non-spiritual tradition. To understand the mystery of the squashed baby, maybe we could look at several of the symbols in this statue.  

First, Shiva represents an idea of the creator who propels the continuous dance of all things. Shiva's limbs illustrate this cosmic dance of birth, life, death, and rebirth.  In his first hand, Shiva's holding a drum, laying down the beat, the vibration that quickens everything in the universe. Modern science says that everything is vibration--frequency--from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy. As a musician, I like that idea of the universe being created by DJ Shiva laying down a steady backbeat that makes everything in the universe pulse. That's cool. 

In his next hand Shiva is holding out his hand, fingers up, palm out, in the Abhaya mudra, a hand gesture that represents sustaining. By this, Shiva's saying, "Hey, man. I got you." Things were created and then are sustained or stay in motion.

Shiva's third hand and holds a flame. It says in not so many words not to get too attached because everything changes. Things wilt, fade, wither and die. Physics 101: energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed, rather it simply takes on a different form, leaves fall, become mulch, soil, nutrients, reabsorbed , become another leaf, etc. This might be a practical understanding of reincarnation. Let's not get into that here. What I'm getting at is that Shiva is suggesting that change is the program, his zippo lighter is the catalyst.  

Shiva's fourth arm crosses his chest concealing his heart. He's telling us that you don't get a free ride to know the heart of God, or your own deep divinity. To know this heart you have to work to see it. And translate "God" however you want, the divine part of yourself, a supreme being, you choose. Either way, you can't be a wall flower in this cosmic dance of existence. To really appreciate the fact that everything is moving you gotta to join the dance, gotta shake your booty, gotta be willing to scuff your shoes and sweat. But hey, the dance enthralls us and through it, you come  to know yourself and the whole universe. Don't worry, it will only take the rest of your life and maybe beyond. We've got time.  

Ok. This still doesn't explain why Shiva is doing Riverdance on the baby. So, with one leg, Shiva is standing on a creature, not really a baby,  known as Apasmara. It looks like a baby, sometimes a demon, sometimes pig-like, and while this seems a little callous of Shiva, this action is actually quite compassionate. That's because this Apasmara isn't a baby but a creature that represents our own ignorance. He knows our divine potential and won't stand for anything less, I have a pun permit so back off. So, while one leg stands on this demon-thing, his other leg is lifting in a gesture that invites us to rise from that old, ignorant self into a new understanding of ourselves. He's revealing our true nature and with that perspective also revealing to us a new relationship with the world, new circumstances, and even a new relationship with our old circumstances. He is the dance partner inviting us to rejoin the dance of our life, with new understanding, through the continuous dance of birth, sustaining, death, and rebirth. He's telling us to constantly reinvent our relationships, our jobs, and our passions. And he's doing it all with the stillness of a God while the universe is burning around him. Pretty cool.  

And THAT is why Shiva is standing on that thing that looks like a baby. My hope is at very least we understand this symbol a little better. Maybe this week when we are practicing yoga at Prana under Shiva's calm gaze, in all his dynamic magnificence, we might remember some of the reasons we practice yoga. Maybe we can use the symbol of Shiva standing on Apasmara to allow this transforming practice of yoga to give us the strength, hope, and clarity, to take action in our lives and commit to reinvent it over and over again in this wild dance of our own existence. See you in class.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love Letter

“There was a boy . . . The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.” These lyrics were written into a song called Nature Boy by a yogi, Eden Ahbez, who lived under the Hollywood sign in California and incidentally influenced the hippie movement. Nat King Cole made it famous, then did Ewan McGregor in the movie Moulin Rouge. I think that yoga is a practice and mirror of life and vice versa and that that no matter what we learn in life or in yoga, like Nature Boy says, nothing can be more important than learning to listen to and follow your heart. 

Over the past several years, I have taken to listening to my heart more and more, to literally turn it into a personal practice, not allowing my intellect to have undue sway over important decisions. Seems illogical? EXACTLY! Logic is good for the SAT, but not necessarily some of the other important things we might be doing in our lives. I think everything we do in yoga practice is teaching us one major thing and that is to listen.
If I’m listening to my heart, this is what it is telling me.  .  . (Ahem!)

I love. Really that’s it. But I’ll expound. Firstly, I’m deeply, deeply in love with a wonderful woman, Seneca Perri, and we will be getting married on the Solstice. She is the light of my life, the woman of my dreams, the blossoming of my heart’s complete affection. I’m the best version of Scott Moore with her. She is a miracle in my life and I’m totally crazy about her. So yes, I’m totally madly in love. 

I love playing music. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I get to play tenor sax for two really kickin’ bands. The first is TheSoulistics, a 9-piece soul revival band. Also, I play for a fantastic jazz quintet called Jazz BrulĂ©e. There is nothing better than to blow through the end of a saxophone with the support of a wonderful band behind you that is puttin’ it down! What a thrill. I also have a wonderful sax teacher, Alan, who helps me find the music that is within me and helps me find my voice out the end of my sax.

I love my family. I have wonderfully supportive parents, two great sisters, and a twin brother who will always be my best friend. I swear we are like those G.I. Joe twins who can feel each other’s pain from across the country. 

I love a great meal with friends. I love a great meal and I love friends. So, if I can ever combine the two, fantastic. Typically someone will pull out a guitar and start playing or someone will start in with a heart wrenching or hilarious story and we will all get drunk on love for life and each other. 

I love teaching yoga. It teaches me much more than I try to teach anybody else. It’s taught me who I am and how important people are in my life. I love to practice yoga and discover who I am through this incredible practice. 

I love me some good chocolate. Sennie and I went to the Chocolate exhibit at the Natural History Museum the other day and I swear it was my modern interpretation of Scotty and the Chocolate Factory. I was in heaven. 

I love Prana Yoga. It’s been such a challenging and yet rewarding endeavor. I love the people I work with, my business partner Jennifer Ellen is a wonderful partner.  I am inspired by all the teachers and employees who bring their hearts, will, and spirit to benefit my life and the lives of everybody who walks through those doors of both of our studios. 

I love to run. I love to watch people grow. I love families. I love this valley. I love to laugh. I love a good movie. I love beautiful art. I love poetry. I love. I Love. I Love. And I love you all!
I invite you to write a love letter to all the things you love. Do it now.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Dancing Under the Radar

The nervous system has what I call the Idiot Override Button. I imagine several mustache-sporting, paunchy dudes in pleated khaki pants sitting in some command station located somewhere central in my nervous system, all very serious, reviewing clip boards, radar screens and other data. They only speak in one-liners, like "Not on my shift, he ain't." Their only job is to make sure that while I'm working for that major endorphin hit trying to release tension from muscles, I don't do anything to my body that it might regret, like tear a muscle, pull a tendon or pop a ligament. If I crank on my body, this weighty group of guys hit the aforementioned Idiot Override Button and my muscles actually start to freeze up and get tight so that I won't get hurt. Plus, no endorphin hit.

Okay. If I know that everybody needs to go out for break and a bevvy once in a while, including the serious central command, and that these guys will only be alerted to anything that comes across the radar as a red alert, I can skillfully work my way under the radar in a better way than if I just tried to crank my way there. What I mean is that if I put myself into a pose and crank, pull and grunt like I'm some ruddy Olympic weight lifter from an eastern bloc country, then the Stretch Cops in my nervous system's central command will put the kibosh on that right away. My muscles will freeze up and I'll actually get tighter by trying to stretch rather than getting more flexible. But, if I take it a little easy, if I back off from anything really intense and hang out at what I call comfortably intense, especially in tensions releasing poses like stretches, my body will relax into the pose. The red alert never goes off and consequentially, my mustaches in central command go out for a doughnut and a Diet Coke. I follow my breath and listen to my body which begins to release me bit by bit, still in the comfortably intense place, deeper and deeper into the pose. I never get to the red alert stage and at the end of the day find myself much further along my path toward tension release than if I had just cranked. After all, I'm trying to release tension from my body, not add more, right?
Then after a few moments in this comfortably intense place I do something unprecedented: I relax and back off a bit. "What?! He is MAD!" the eastern bloc weightlifting coach screams as sweat rolls down the throbbing veins in his temple. After a few solid breaths in this easy place of backing off, I could look at the security cameras at central command and all my dudes are laying paunch-up in their office chairs, eyes closed, sawing logs, completely checked out. Then, like Mission Impossible, I move gently further back to comfortably intense, a little deeper to that place of "hurt so good" and feel the natural mechanism of my body release endorphins all through my system. No wonder yoga makes you feel good. And at the end of the day, nobody got hurt, nobody got their knickers in a pinch, and I was able to release adequate enough tension from my muscles that I was able to get that major endorphins hit. It's about paying attention and going easy.

In the sacred text, the Yoga Sutras, the yoga scholar Patanjali says that the way we get to this place is by negotiating every pose with steadiness and ease. This week, I invite you to listen to your body, to sneak under the radar of your Idiot Override Button Controller Squad and get that major natural hit of endorphins by taking it easy. Let's find comfortably intense. See you in class.