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,...
My morning is defined by a series of beeps. First, my alarm at 6am, then my timer at the end of meditation. Next, the kettle beeping when my water boils. Finally, there's the beep letting my husband know his tea has been steeped to perfection.
I trust these sounds every day. And, every day they happen, almost without fail, creating the faithful rhythm of my morning routine (which, by the way, is really worth creating if you don't have one.)
Beyond the beeps we rely on, there are so many other things we place our trust in every day. Just looking out my window, I see our recycling bin on the road. I trust it will be emptied because that's what happens every other Wednesday. It's snowing, and I trust the plows will be making their way down our road soon, because they always do. To say nothing of the faith I have that the sun will rise, that my daughter will wake from her bed, and on and on. Daily life is defined by the trust we have in so many things.
And, so it is in yoga....
The sun started rising during my morning practices today. First, there was a dim light. Then, a gorgeous soft peach that filled the sky. Now, it's a muted golden orb above the mountains.
It occured to me, the sun never says to the earth,
"Are you ready for me? Ready for another day?"
And the earth never says to the rising sun,
"Could you hold off for a little a while?"
Life is happening, whether we're ready or not.
Time relentlessly moves on, however we spend it.
Our relationship to time, therefore, is really about our relationship to our lives, isn't it?
Here are some questions to roll around in your mind today:
The cords of wood we got this year are really wet. You can see and hear the water burning off when we start our fire every morning. Today, our logs held a lesson for me.
This morning's meditation was not what I would call quiet. My mind flitted back and forth from the focal point of my mantra to one of several streams of thought it was decidedly more dedicated to than quieting down. It's okay. I KNOW it is STILL meditation even when my mind never quiets down. I KNOW it is STILL working.
Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, if 27 years of practice has taught me one thing it’s that struggling or trying to MAKE my mind quiet only works against me.
I'm guessing some of you *may* have experienced a similar quandary in meditation. Here's an understanding that might help:
In yoga, we see our ordinary mind, its limited concepts, habits and tendencies as the lived result of gathered up past impressions called samskaras in sanskrit. Through our practices, these...
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