Have you heard about doctors now actually needing to remind patients to put on pants when they show up for their virtual visits?
Oy. In times like this, it’s easy to let things go. Simple politeness and niceness included. At this point, we might all be feeling a little raw and rough around the edges. But let’s not forget the simple power of just being a nice person.
I remember once sitting next to the actor Danny Glover on a plane. I was surprised at how genuinely nice he was. Kind, respectful, human.
I’ve always been most impressed when those in the public eye, with power to be less than nice, are just really nice.
Niceness feels good. It conveys respect and consideration. While it might seem superficial, consider how niceness, politeness, and friendliness express the fundamental yogic value that every human is inherently worthy of love and respect.
And right now, with so many people on edge, just being nice...
First world hair problems aside, much more than our grey is being revealed right now.
In this time of all being laid bare, one thing that becomes clear for all of us I think, is:
Where we turn for inspiration when life feels hard and scary.
Where we look for guidance, comfort, and meaning when we’re unclear and uncertain.
Where we find stability when the ground beneath us feels shaky.
For yogis, I’m not sure we really need to look anywhere new or different. In fact, we already have a foundation of understanding that’s tailor made to help us make sense of uncertainty, to hold us steady in adversity, to anchor us in an unchanging, underlying ground of our own being.
To say this time has felt heavy, dark, scary, and unknown is not an understatement. Yes, it has and it does.
The yoga tradition is there for us. The efforts we’ve made and the fruits of those efforts are there for us.
This is a time for us to get...
A few days ago, I was listening to a story on NPR about a group of community organizers in Vermont who were putting new systems into place to coordinate their efforts. One of the organizers said something like, “This isn’t the time for thinking about things, it’s a time for taking action, there’s no time for philosophy, things have to get done.”
“No time for philosophy.” That phrase stuck with me. I suspect many of us might be feeling that way just about now. And when it comes to organizing food deliveries for homebound seniors I get it. But for the yogi, I’m not so sure.
I understand how in some ways yoga philosophy might not seem very useful or applicable right now. At a time when so many of us are dealing with very practical and serious challenges, we might feel like there’s no place in our current reality for the teachings of yoga. It might feel like it’s a privilege even to have the luxury of time...
Don’t get me wrong, current circumstances aside I really love (and teach, and practice) online yoga. You get the benefit of a virtual teacher while continuing your commitment to your yoga practice, and people are really enjoying the support and connection it affords, especially during this time of social isolation.
Yet, even with the plethora of online offerings, and maybe especially because of them, I find myself craving the intimacy of my independent practice these days more than ever.
By independent practice I mean what I do on my mat without anyone else telling me what to do, how long to do it for, and what to do next.
As a teacher and teacher trainer, I’ve long been a proponent of independent practice. And not just for teachers either, although I’m convinced it is the single most important perquisite to powerful and impactful teaching. I believe independent practice is essential for anyone who wishes to use yoga as more...
One morning last week was particularly rough. Images on my Facebook feed of children and families playing outside, enjoying their time of social isolation triggered feelings of sadness, desperation, and anger for the children for whom school was their only safe place, their only guaranteed hot meal.
A few minutes later, I checked my Facebook feed and a friend had shared that she was offering a live meditation by donation and that all proceeds would benefit, of all things, a Kids Phone Help Line. Then later that day, a friend whose daughter works for New York State told me about all the people working so hard to get food and support to poor families there.
Sadness and desperation followed by hope, generosity, and goodwill.
What came to my mind was that moment in Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna reveals his full form to Arjuna.
Arjuna is awestruck. Krishna blazes with the light of 1,000 suns. He sees beauty beyond belief, all the majesty and magnificence of the...
I had a dream the other night that I was telling The Blind Men and The Elephant story. Do you know it? It’s a traditional Indian story about a group of blind men who’ve never come across an elephant before. They learn what the elephant is like by touching it.
One puts his hand on the elephant's side and says, “Now I know all about an elephant, he’s just like a wall.” .
The second feels the elephant's tusk and responds, “No, you’re mistaken. He's not at all like a wall. He's more like a spear."
The third takes hold of the elephant's trunk and argues, “You’re both wrong, an elephant is like a snake."
The fourth grasps one of the elephant's legs and says, “No, that’s not right, he's round and tall like a tree."
The fifth takes hold of the elephant's ear and says,“You’re all wrong, he's like a huge fan."
The sixth grabs hold of the elephant’s tail...
If ever there was a good time to start a home practice, now is it.
For your well-being, and for the collective well-being.
With everyday life already being disrupted in many places, it’s pretty clear that things are going to get worse before they get better. As one expert I watched yesterday put it, this isn’t just a blizzard, it’s a winter. Many of my studio-owner friends in Europe are already closed for now, and more cancellations, shut downs, postponements are on their way.
If you don’t want to practice with an online class, that’s okay.
Do what you remember.
Do what you love.
Do what feels good in your body.
Even a few full, conscious exhalations,
Or putting your legs up the wall for five minutes,
Stretching your arms up above your head,
Can do the trick.
I’m doing my best to use what I know to temper the intensity of these times, to be extra kind, extra caring, extra good to myself. Whether that‘s reflected in what I...
In a recent retreat, one of our participants called me out on not being very good at receiving compliments. It’s true. I hear them, I acknowledge them, they stay with me, but owning, really owning, my good qualities? Yikes that’s hard. In truth, I’m often more comfortable owning my shortcomings, even to the point of being self-deprecating. It’s something I continue to work on, one of the edges I seek to expand in my practice.
Does this comfort in the familiarity of playing small, this discomfort of stepping into our true power, by any chance ring true for anyone else (wink, wink)?
For us as yogis, it's an obstacle. Not because we're looking to be “puffed up” or for our egos to be fed, but because when others reflect our strengths back to us in words and we deflect that or dismiss it, we minimize ourselves. And, the work of the yogi is to fully step into our greatness, our rightful power, our true magnificence. Not for...
Transformation - the act, process, or instance of being changed - is one of those "big" words in yoga. We tend to associate it with lifechanging shifts and inner fireworks. And, certainly, all this is possible, even probable, as we go deeper.
Yet, it's equally as important to recognize that yoga also transforms our lives in small, but not less important ways. Helping our wrists and shoulders recover from extensive typing or knitting, the awareness of our breath as a way to release the emotional residue of an upsetting conversation, meditation as a practice of centering and grounding ourselves, and on and on. Little by little, these everyday shifts add up to a new, more expanded way of being, both with ourselves and in the world.
The simple ways yoga transforms us can easily go unnoticed and unappreciated. By calling them out we get to see how efficiently yoga actually works as an engine of shift in our lives. In doing so, we also get to reclaim...
I think sometimes we forget that some of the most basic things we do in yoga are devotional in nature. Meaning, they are designed to generate feelings of love.
Take, for example, Anjali mudra, sometimes called hands to heart, or Namaskar mudra.
The Sanskrit word mudra means seal. Mudras are kind of like “Hand yoga.” They are gestures or hand positions that leave an imprint on our psyche, like a wax seal.
Because it’s so commonly practiced, it’s easy to forget that Anjali mudra is a gesture of honor, reverence, and loving connection. We can direct it toward others, as in greeting someone with Namaste or Namaskar. But we can also direct the energy of Anjali mudra toward ourselves. In this way, it becomes a simple practice of self-honoring.
One of the marks of a seasoned yogi is the ability to find freshness, relevance, and meaning in even the most common gestures,...
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