yoga

The Mindful Yoga Practice: What I Expect

If this practice brings grace

I will continue to practice.

If this practice reveals judgment

I will continue to practice.

If this practice exposes fear

I will continue to practice.

If this practice bestows greatness

I will continue to practice.

If this practice reveals perfection

I will continue to practice.

If this practice destroys all things

I will continue to practice.

There is no beginning or end to devotion

There is only being in it

And knowing it

As the source of all.

The Mindful Yoga Practice: From the Gross to the Subtle, My Takeaway From Rodney And Colleen Saidman Yee

It was an intense 16 hours of yoga this weekend here in the Wood River Valley. Rodney Yee and his wife Colleen Saidman Yee came to teach a weekend workshop in Ketchum. I was very interested in taking both the advanced track of yoga sessions and the all-levels track of yoga sessions. This translated out to 5 hours on Friday, 5.5 on Saturday and 5.5 on Sunday. Naturally, I am still processing. The advanced sessions came before the all-levels sessions. For the first portion of the advanced session, they focused on intricate and precise details of breathing exercises. I noticed in the all-levels sessions which followed, Rodney and Colleen (who seamlessly co-teach) would direct the inhale and exhale in a similar, but more general way with less focus on multiple details progressively. I connected this to a theme that Rodney offered multiple times throughout the weekend: moving from the gross to the subtle.

I have pages of notes pouring out of my body since the weekend. I do not take notes during workshops in order to pay more attention in my body. I have a tendency to overthink. So after these sessions, I was mentally reviewing what we had done so that I could write it down. This turned out to be a great memorization tool which also deepened my focus during the sessions.

As a transition from most poses, they asked us to perform Baddha Konasana and Dandasana, two seated positions. (Soles of the feet together, knees wide, and soles of the feet extending away from you, legs on the ground). They would say them quickly and also call out the next pose. Most often I would do them quickly and get to the next pose. 15 hours in to practicing this way, I realized I wasn’t paying attention to these transitional poses. I was rushing through them. It would take no effort at all to perform them with precision and focus. I was simply not being present in the practice. As I began to spread my toes and allow my feet to connect and then ground my heels and pull my toes back toward my face for each transition, my mind was able to absorb into the poses and the nuanced cues I was being given. My body could pulse as a field in challenging poses and simple ones.

This idea that our practice becomes more subtle and nuanced, more like a dance is available in every aspect of the journey. When we first start moving our bodies and coordinating them in new ways, it is enough to know where to put each part. We then begin to understand the muscle movement and alignment of the bones. Rodney referred to this as being with the gross body and the gross aspects of the practice. To move in to the subtle realms we have to choose to pay attention and be mindful of how we practice, how we breathe, and how we focus. It is possible to practice for an extended amount of time and miss the subtle aspects of the practice. When these aspects become the priority we are able to access our humble nature and compassion. We are less likely to say we are addicted to yoga or discover that we are irritable without it. Instead our commentary will sound more like we are dedicated to yoga and that it teaches us how to be in the world outside of the classroom.

The Mindful Yoga Practice: It Takes Work to Find Ease

Yoga develops your ease in precarious situations. Our true point of focus becomes apparent when we explore balance poses. It is easy for us to suddenly become aware of other people watching, begin to judge our actions, compare our success with those around us, etc. For most of us, the challenge of balancing is confounding and not at all easeful. This can be said about many postures in yoga. And yet ease is a fundamental element of a yoga practice. Far from lacking ambition, not trying, or laziness, ease is actually cultivated by practicing with constant attention and focus. When ease is developed in a pose, there is an opportunity to explore even further on what becomes a limitless journey toward unfolding the inner self. Modifying and conserving energy through an intense practice can offer expansion in your general expression of poses, allowing you to express poses more purely than if you are continually at your edge. Practicing to develop ease challenges our tendency toward vanity in physical practice and reminds us to monitor sensations in our body and gauge our practice accordingly.

Day 1

I have been revving my engines for days in preparation for this fast.  As it is now time to dive in, I find myself nostalgically expecting great wisdom to set in.  I've been moving a lot today.  Setting the stage, fussing about, cleaning furiously.  It's behavior that is needing balance.  I have not yet surrendered to the pace of fasting.  Sometimes I don't receive the lesson until I experience actual body pain.  So, I have taken to my bed with the laptop for a quiet moment to reflect.

The lemon gets in the limelight.

When I remember to move slowly and gently it is a gateway to the softness of the experience.  The lightheadedness adjusts into a slight fuzzy feeling in the in the skull when I take a deep breath.  The breath itself is more spacious and expansive.  The breath settles the brain and gentle clarity replaces the running thoughts.

I find that my ego wants to ensure those around me that I am strong.  I'm reassuring them and using body language reflecting strength.  Funny approach, since fasting is a quick road to vulnerability.  I also know that my inward strength does not require outward expressions for my family to know it.  When I am confident and grounded, they will simply know and have no fear.  I like that as a lesson applied to my life in general.

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As I described before, I intend to document and observe my behavior during the fast in order to gain insight into the workings of my egoic patterns.  With regard to my relationship to food, I am surprised to see that many things have changed since my last fast.  In recent months, my developed food habit has been to grab a piece of fruit in the morning as I work in order to maintain my energy/sugar levels.  I had to stop myself from feeling the low sugar levels and to not reach for the fruit as a solution.  What a change from mentally battling cravings and fantasies about food.  This commitment I made to eating without fear has profoundly adjusted more than I realized.  I will explain my approach to eating in another post, but it is suffice to say that I have spent much of my life viewing food as an enemy and a temptation.  In recent years I have tested out methods of re-cognizing food as something which serves me, rather than harms me.

It is time to rest.  Thank you for taking the time to share this experience with me.  Again, if you would like to share or comment please click on the title of the blog post and you will be able to comment at the bottom of the page.

More soon.

 

 

 

Sanskrit

I love that my Sanskrit teacher, Manorama, calls Sanskrit the luminous language.  In my twenties I came to the conclusion that our language was embedded in our culture, was embedded in hatred, domination, lies, violence, and ultimately fear, and therefore we needed to create structural change by retooling language.  Singer Tracy Chapman apparently felt the same way and released "New Beginning" in which she literally called for new signs, symbols and language.  And yet, here was this realized, liturgical, luminous language which has mathematical resonance already waiting for our study and use.  Sanskrit mantras are powerful tools for positive change.  I choose to remember how potent this language is in supporting the expansion of peace and harmony on the planet.  Each mantra is a prayer, an offering, an invocation for positivity and growth.  

Many practitioners and teachers of yoga hesitate to use sanskrit, often due to difficulty with pronunciation.  Here is a link to just one of Manorama's resources on pronunciation of key yogic terms.  (She has many to choose from).

https://sanskritstudies.org/product/yoga-language-series-learn-to-pronounce-yoga-poses

 

Fascia

Bob Cooley, The Genius of Flexibility

https://www.thegeniusofflexibility.com/resistance-stretching/fascia.html

I teach five Yin Yoga classes a week now.  In a town where many yoga practitioners exit the classroom looking like they have bathed in their own sweat, it would make sense that the opposite end of the spectrum would become popular in contrast.  (Little does the beginning Yin Yoga practitioner anticipate the beads of sweat that begin to pop out while deep in pigeon).  Yin Yoga is said to work on the fascia.  This link that I have provided is not for a Yin Yoga practitioner, but rather a specialist in the area of fascia.  Many of his postures are reflective of yoga poses, but his approach is slightly more focused upon working to make something occur in the fascial tissue in order to actively heal the body.

My teaching in class is inspired also by Roger Jhanke, a qigong specialist, who discusses the measurable electromagnetic field emanating from the water which runs through the fascia.  In his book The Healing Promise of Qi, Jhanke describes the fascia as a "liquid crystalline lattice."  My discussion of a person's energy field, aura, or subtle body typically begins by describing the fascia as a way of grounding these topics of feeling in the gross manifest.

http://www.feeltheqi.com/Dr_Jahnke/