October 29, 2012
As many of you may know, when I stumble upon a gem of a book, I’m called to share what it is and why it’s so wonderful. This new one about Yoga is no exception. 21st Century Yoga is a collection of essays from teachers and scholars around the globe beginning provocative conversations about where Yoga is in today’s modern world. I believe it is a must-read for all teachers, and practitioners of Yoga.
The essays take a look at some challenging aspects of our human race such as; addiction, body-image issues, commercialism, and social & environmental activism. My favorite chapters are 7 & 9.
In Chapter 7, author Matthew Remski states “I am lonely, because my chosen path is not contained or supported by a coherent culture. It has no family infrastructure. It offers no life-transition rituals. It does not marry or bury us. It does not host AA meetings. It runs no soup kitchens. I don’t need Yoga to be a religion. I need it to provide community. Community that acts consciously and pragmatically for the common good. Community that is not bankrupted by its exclusive consumer classism. Community that reaches out as much as it reaches in.”
He continues “I want to figure out how we can ask ourselves as yoga practitioners and teachers to do more. I’d like to see us stop talking about community, and start actually doing community.”
The author spends some time critiquing what he calls “Modern Western Yoga Culture”, or MWYC, in instances where Yoga “has often retreated from our original home: the world.”
He argues that “MWYC exists as a consumer product, purveyed in commercial spaces with high overheads that necessitate competition between studios, lineages, and teachers.”
This entire book is thought-provoking, and inspiring. By beginning the conversations in our society about what it is that we are doing and why, it brings us to face our truth, gives us permission to examine it, to feel it and to be aware of our impact as a human race, to our communities, our earth, and our relationships. This is no single-sided promotion of any one viewpoint, but rather opens a platform for thought and speech, giving us tools for self-study and raises awareness of how our individual impact affects the whole world because we are not separate.
Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of just this one chapter, is where Matthew Remski actually outlines proposals that we can all do to make a difference, a set for practitioners and a set of proposals for studio owners as well.
For practitioners of Yoga, he proposes:
1.) “Study yourself. At what point will your self-therapy be ‘good enough?’ Has it gone beyond this point to become neurotic and self-obsessed? What can you do for others when your self-discoveries plateau?
2.) Measure your spiritual evolution by your general capacity for social participation.
3.) Work towards an equal balance of self- and other-care. If you go to one-hour asana class, donate another hour to the society. (Unless of course you’re in human services or are parenting young children on a middle class income or less, in which case your yoga should really be just about you because you’re already doing enough for crying out loud…)”
He urges that what we really need to know as we are on the way out of a class or studio is that “now that world needs what you have found within.”
If you are a practitioner of Yoga ~ you are likely to dig this book, and be inspired. Please share it.
If you are a teacher of Yoga, there are infinite conversations and realizations that this book will assist you in your duty of sharing this sacred practice. Please read it and share it.
October 11, 2012
Balancing the body’s energy for this turbulent autumn season is imperative for embracing life with ease and grace. Many times when we feel anxious, retain tension, or are simply holding onto “stuff”, we subconsciously breathe harder in an attempt to find relief. When we try to breathe harder, we can take in more air…which only gives us more “stuff” to hold onto. What about letting go? When we create space within our bodies and minds, we are clearing out anything not needed for our daily growth of consciousness.
So, rather than taking in more air, I invite you to practice letting more out. With each cycle of breathe, consciously press out every last bit of air, maybe even pausing at the base of the exhalation for a brief retention (kumbhaka). Listen for your body’s intuitive sense, and whenever your body tells you it’s time to inhale again, begin to take air back into the body smoothly and mindfully.
Observe the effects of your practice without self-judgment. If your body and mind are still feeling agitated, or “revved up”, then practice sitting upright and blocking your right nostril with your thumb as you breathe only through the left side. Allow time for long, smooth breaths and notice how the body feels.
The left energy channel in the body in related to the moon, is yin in nature and has a calming, soothing effect on the body and mind. Whereas the right side is related to the sun, is yang and active in nature and has an invigorating effect.
So, when you are feeling less than inspired, a bit depressed or need a “pick-me-up”; practice blocking the left nostril and breathing through the right side only. Continue for 5-10 breaths and then breathing mindfully through both nostrils for a few breaths before integrating back into your day.
It is important to check in with your body’s energy throughout the day, and choose a pranayama (breathing) practice that suits you in this moment. If you experience light-headedness or dizziness, this is your body’s way of telling you it is ready to stop. End your practice by breathing through both nostrils, finding a natural rhythm, and re-visiting this self-examination at a later time. Happy breathing and happy balancing!
October 7, 2012
We are encountering the cooler air and stale green colors of leaves as they prepare for their dazzling transformation into radiant hues of reds, yellows and oranges, as we are also reminded to experience change with grace. Autumn is the season of change, harvest and preparation for the even cooler, yin winter season.
Let’s allow this time as an opportunity to embrace change in our hearts and relationships for the betterment of the human race. The incredible closeness that I’ve experienced this year with some new friends reminds me that our hearts have the power to recognize kindred spirit if we really open ourselves in this way. Sometimes new friendships can feel just as comfortable and enriching as life-long ones do. You recognize them as a Divine spirit and welcome them as family.
This kind of Divine love can change the world. So, let’s notice whether we are embracing one another, or disregarding one another. Let’s be aware of each and every encounter with another human being, or living being for that matter. Can we all greet one another with a smile? How about with a warm embrace, a loving heart, a listening ear? Each and every act of kindness goes much further than we can fathom in making the world a better place to be.
This is good karma. Planting seeds of kindness, appreciation, Divine love, and compassion reminds us of our inherent interconnectedness. These seeds can and will only flourish with all of these virtues for you in this lifetime. So go on, smile a bit more. Hug a bit harder. Love a bit deeper. Listen a bit more openly. Life is surely too short to do anything but.
Perhaps my favorite Ram Dass quote: “Treat everyone you meet as God, in drag.”