Yule Time

“We are approaching the threshold of winter.

Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself. 

And we as natural human animals are being called to do the same, the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow.”
–Brigit Anna McNeill

There is often an intuitive pull to turn inward at this time of the year.  Honoring the natural cycles of light and darkness is innate in most of us.  The Winter Solstice was celebrated by many ancient cultures as the rebirth of light.  For while the light grows shorter now, it will return.  Within this cycle, now is the opportunity to work with some of the heavier aspects of our inner worlds. Acknowledge and honor the sadness, or the heartache, the anger, or resentments.  To do this write about them in a journal, or place them on slips of paper to burn in your Yule fire.  To bring more light into the darkness, light candles, build fires, put up twinkling lights, take a walk in the sunshine, eat a flavorful, warm meal with loved ones.  Spend time in contemplation.  What is the spark inside you that lights your fire?  How can you grow that light, and share it with others?

See you on the mat!

For my December teaching schedule, there are some additions, some cancellations, and some subs!  Please see here:  https://physiquebyfountain.com/yoga/

December Meditation:  Inner Drishti (gaze)

Find a comfortable, supported seated position and close your eyes.  Take three easy, full breaths, releasing tension held in the body on the exhale.  Allow the breath to fall into its own natural rhythm.  As you continue to breath softly and comfortably, bring your awareness to the shape of your body sitting–noting heaviness, softness, the breath filling all the space within–for three minutes.

Then, gently bring your awareness to your heart, center of your chest–noting sensations such as warmth, expansion/contraction, perhaps even feeling your heartbeat, whatever comes up for you–for three minutes.

Next, gently move your awareness to your third-eye center, middle of the forehead, between the eyebrows–breathing as though through this spot, noting sensations, perhaps the sense of air moving inward to the center of your skull on the inhale, and back out on the exhale–for three minutes.

Next, gently move your awareness to the roof of the skull–again noticing any sensations you may become aware of, using the rhythm of your breath as an anchor–for three minutes.

Finally, simply rest in an open field of awareness, noting all passing phenomenon from the movement of breath, to the flicker of thoughts or images, and sounds reaching your ears.  All is allowed, all passes through, nothing lingers, as you remain still and at ease.  Rest here for as long as you like.   It can be useful to use an app such as “Insight Timer” that allows you set interval chimes.

Enjoy!

Thank You!

“If the only prayer you ever say in your life is Thank You, it will be enough.”
–Meister Eckhart

I am grateful for so many, many things in my life–from the simple joys of the first warming sip of my morning tea, and the sound of my cat purring, to the comfort of a safe and secure home, and family and friends who love me.  Life is an intricate, often impenetrable, mix of light and dark energies, love and hate, good health and dis-ease, heaviness and joy.  How often do the heavier, darker aspects seem to outweigh or coverup the light?

Gratitude, according to the Buddha, offers the highest protection against unhappiness.  Gratitude is the key to balancing life’s energy.  Contentment (Santosha) is available to us in every moment.  “I accept this moment, just as it is.  I accept those around me, just as they are.”   Peace of mind cannot be found through external circumstances, but through our willingness to enjoy each moment as it is.

As Meister Eckhart said, a simple, heart-felt “thank you” is enough.  It has the power to shift e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.   This month we are practicing the art of contentment and acceptance during each breath, each pose, each moment on the mat.  What are you thankful for today, right here, right now?

See you on the mat!

Fall Transitions

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
–Henri Bergson

Autumn is the season of change and transitions.  From the falling leaves, the subtle browning of the earth, and the hints of crispness in the air, fall signals the shift from growth to dormancy.  Fall brings with it a predominance of the air element (Vata)–think dry, light, rough, windy, erratic, cool, mobile, and empty.

These external, environmental, and energetic qualities are also reflected internally.  Fall holds a certain sense of emptiness that can leave us feeling exposed, spacey, anxious, or disconnected from our ground of being.  But, it is also filled with possibility.  This is the time to ‘strip down’ to a quiet sense of being, to savor simplicity, and to reconnect with our roots.

Here are some seasonal tips for balancing the predominant seasonal fall Vata energy:

  • Choose foods that are warm, cooked, and moist.  Eat lots of warm soups, stews, steamed vegetables, and hearty grains.
  • Drink a warm tea of fresh ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.
  • Eat more apples, avocados, dates, grapefruit, squash, chilies, beets, onions, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, kidney beans, miso, butter/ghee, kefir.
  • All spices are good for Vata season: allspice, anise, asafoetida, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, turmeric.
  • Get consistent, moderate exercise.
  • Practice periods of silence.
  • Use a neti pot to keep the sinuses and lungs clear of congestion.
  • Massage your skin with warm, organic sesame oil, followed by a warm, relaxing shower.
  • Commit to a regular meditation practice to help settle and clear the mind.

This month our yoga practice is filled with warming slow flows, grounding standing postures, and restorative forward folds.

See you on the mat!

Mantra, Oh Mantra

OM! Shanti, shanti, shanti!
 
One of my favorite ways to meditate is with mantra. The word mantra can be broken down into two parts: “man,” which means mind, and “tra,” which means transport or vehicle. Mantra is an “instrument of the mind” that helps us transcend our thoughts. Mantra is, in essence, the vehicle that helps us connect with our true source, or pure consciousness.
 
Join me this month as we explore and experiment with mantra:
 
2:15-2:45pm, Fridays, Breath & Meditation, Breathe Together Yoga, Los Gatos. #breathetogetheryoga
 
Come, sit, and transcend!

Change Your Thinking, Change Your World

“The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Summer is sliding to a close, bringing the shift into Autumn.    I love witnessing the beautiful bloom of fall colors in the trees, the slow drift of leaves, and the hint of crispness in the air.  It truly is my favorite time of the year.  Fall always helps me reconnect with the practice of working with change, and the art of letting go.  

“Change has long been a fearful thing for human beings…and at the same time, it is our most Divine opportunity.  Clinging to the banks of the river may seem safe and more secure, but life’s possibilities are truly engaged only when we trust, release, and become part of the Flow of the Universe.”  –Chelle Thompson

There exists a radical release of suffering when we free ourselves of attachment and the need to control all that we have, or think we need.  Expectations are like leaves.  Let them drop.  Live as though this moment is exactly enough. 

This month brings us an asana practice rooted in prana, the flow of breath.  We are moved by breath–flowing, pausing, letting go, resting our awareness in the rhythmic inflow and outflow of prana.  Aware that this breath, this moment, this shape, this sensation is perfect, and exactly enough, just as it is.

See you on the mat!

P.S.  A simple 6-minute Falling Leaf Meditation to help with practicing non-attachment to thoughts:  https://vimeo.com/288997646

Take A Seat

“It is not how far you move into a pose, but how deeply you feel the pose.”
–Anodea Judith

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the most important posture as one in which the practitioner can hold motionlessness and comfortably, “sthira sukham asanam.”  The idea is to sit with ease, not being pulled by aches, or pains, or restlessness.  Whether the pose is as simple as Dandasana (staff pose, see above), or as challenging as Virabhadrasana III (warrior III), we are always moving towards being well-seated within the pose, balanced, equanimous, and observant.  These qualities become transferable to everything else we do and experience in life.

This month has been blazing by me faster than anticipated.  Family emergencies, a friend in need, and a “celebration of life” have offered me many opportunities to practice sitting with what I am experiencing.  These are truly golden moments!

I have a few extra classes on my calendar this month.  Please check my schedule under “Yoga.”

The following short video clip is a balance sequence, useful for practicing equanimity, and sharpening your focus.  This can also be practiced with a strap around the ball of the lifted foot.

See you on the mat!

https://vimeo.com/285648158

Let’s Talk Equanimity

“A modern definition of equanimity: cool. This refers to one whose mind remains stable and calm in all situations.”
~Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace

Every so often (or more), there comes a day that challenges my sense of stability, peace, or safety.   You may be familiar with this phenomenon. The morning news stirs up emotional responses, nothing seems to go right, every stop light is red, and rushing to catch up or move beyond only seems to increase the effect of frustration, or the feeling of unsettlement.  The solution to days, or moments, like these can be found in Patanjali’s Sutra 1.33.

Maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha
duhkha punya apunya visayanam
bhavanatas citta prasadanam

The mind becomes tranquil through
the practice of friendliness toward the happy,
compassion toward the miserable,
joy toward the virtuous, and equanimity toward
the non-virtuous.
[Gary Kissiah]

Upeksha, or equanimity, is a state of even-minded openness.  Even though we may be stirred or moved by outer circumstances, and are motivated to make things better, our deep inner stability and serenity remains undisturbed–if we have developed equanimity.  We are better able to respond in balanced and clear ways, rather than reactively.  A balanced heart feels without grasping, pushing, or pulling.

We never know what changes, or consequences, each day will bring.  Equanimity allows for things to be just as they are.  The qualities of friendliness, compassion, and joy are balanced by the stability of equanimity.  This enables us to offer an open heart in all situations, without expectations or attachments.

On the mat–and off–we have many opportunities to practice kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity towards ourselves.  Each time we fall out of a pose, compare ourselves to others, break that favorite cup, get cut off in traffic, we can repeat to ourselves, “May I not be caught in reactivity.”

As we enter the hot months of summer, we will be working with managing our inner tapas (fire), and developing non-reactivity.  See below for one of the cooling pranayam (breath) exercises we will be practicing.

See you on the mat!

 

Sitkari Pranayam
  • This pranayam can be practiced anywhere, anytime.
  • Gently press your upper and lower teeth together, and part your lips comfortably so that your teeth are exposed.
  • Inhale slowly through the gaps in your teeth, and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
  • Close the mouth, and exhale slowly through the nose.
  • Repeat up to 20 times.

Root to Rise Up

We never look deeply into the quality of a tree; we never really touch it, feel its solidity, its rough bark, and hear the sound that is part of the tree. Not the sound of wind through the leaves, not the breeze of a morning that flutters the leaves, but its own sound, the sound of the trunk and the silent sound of the roots.
–Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Root to rise up.”  You have probably heard this cue in more than one yoga class.  Whether in a standing pose, or seated, connection with the ground beneath you is foundational to what happens above.  Well-connected toes, and distributed weight in the standing foot, help keep us from toppling out of Vrksasana (tree) pose.  The strength of our legs in Virabhadrasana (warrior) I and II is driven by the anchoring of our feet.  Tendons anchor muscle to bone, while ligaments tether bone to bone.  Without these connections, there is no push, pull, movement, or stability within the body.

In the Eight Limbed Path of Yoga, the Yamas (things not to do, restraints) and Niyamas (things to do, observances) are the first two limbs; or what I like to think of as, the seeds of my yoga practice.  All aspects of daily life are grounded in these restraints and observances:  from non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and non-greed; to purity or cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to something higher.

Yoga is a Life practice, embedded into our relationships with others, this amazing planet Earth, and with ourselves–body, mind, and spirit.  On the mat this month, we will play with building stability and extending lines of energy from the ground up whether we are standing, seated, or inverted.  Off the mat, we will contemplate how, or where, the Yamas and Niyamas are manifesting in our lives.  What do we need more of (grow new roots)?  What do we need to let go of (prune away)?

See you on the mat!

“We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.”
–Marcus Aurelius

Doing good for others begins with the self.  Whether practicing the Dharma (the teachings of Buddha), or the Yamas and Niyamas (yoga’s moral and ethical codes), doing anything positive benefits both ourselves and all beings.  This month, let’s:

See you on the mat!