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!

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

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!

Season of Manifestation

“The inside of a seed is far larger than the outside of the seed. Inside of the seed is an entire forest. It is a probability space.”
–R.A. Delmonico

A single seed is a wellspring, a universe of probability.  It is a delicious mystery of unknown potential .  It is energy, fertility, growth, and evolution.

The Spring equinox arrives on March 20th.  As the power of the sun grows, and the nights become shorter, we stand poised between light and dark, receptivity and activity, the unconscious and conscious.  This is the perfect time to plant the seeds of positive growth and change, both for ourselves and for the world.

This month also marks a big shift for me.  After several months of quiet contemplation, I made the decision to step away from a job position that was no longer bringing me joy.  It was a heavily weighted decision for me, and in the afterglow (yes, afterglow!) I am feeling much lighter, more spacious.  Now I begin the process of planting new seeds in open and fertile ground.

As we practice together, we will use the time to balance and bring together what we wish to unite.  Whatever we bring our thoughts to will grow–love, intentions, hopes, and dreams.   As we move with awareness of movement from within to without, we will plant seeds:  Who am I becoming?  What am I awakening in myself? What do I wish to grow more of in my life?

See you on the mat!

It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new year!

Here in the heart of winter, bitter dry winds, cold rainy days, or a sense of heaviness and stagnation are often the hallmarks of this dark time of the year.   This is a prime time to focus on wellness for body, mind, and spirit; and, to deepen our relationship with self, spending time in meditation and self-exploration.

This month we will practice Bhastrika pranayam, stoking the fire residing in our solar plexus–the Manipura Chakra.  This fire warms us, and lends steadiness and flow to our vinyasa practice as we release stuck energy and patterns.  Ultimately, the vinyasa practice prepares us to simply sit.

In the Modern Western Yoga practice, we have come to associate the flow of poses practiced as ‘asana.’  The direct translation of ‘asana’ is to ‘take a seat.’  If we can achieve a sense of steadiness and ease in each pose, then it could be said we have achieved ‘asana.’  But…….

“By tradition, the conditioning asanas of hatha yoga were practiced in the service of the meditation postures:  they provided enough suppleness and strength for the yogin to remain in a meditative posture–usually the lotus posture–with steadiness and ease for a long time.”  [Elliot Goldberg, ‘The Path of Modern Yoga’]

Once we have released the disturbances that arise from the physical body, our contemplative practice begins.  A still body allows us to move our attention inward and witness the flow of phenomenon–thoughts, feelings, sensations, sound, breath.  As the mind begins to settle we experience the pauses and quiet spaces in between thoughts, sensations, and breath. The pauses, gaps, are where we ultimately connect with the awareness that resides behind it all. Those are the golden moments we seek!

Let’s breathe, and flow, and sit together, shall we?!

See you on the mat!

Count Your Blessings

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” –A.A. Milne

“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” –Roy T. Bennett

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” –John F. Kennedy

Count your blessings…….no matter which way they may appear, sorrowful or joyous, boring or stimulating, hateful or kind, indifferent or filled with loved.

When Henry Thoreau retreated to Walden Pond, he wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Thoreau had come to understand that a conscious life was a gift, and the highest form of gratitude was to know it in all its depths.

‘This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows.’ [Phillip Moffitt]

This month we will contemplate what place gratitude holds in our daily life.  How often do you pause and reflect on the many things in your life for which you are grateful?  Does the list include a safe place to sleep, clean air and fresh water, food to eat, blue skies, laughter, birdsong?   Do you experience the good things in life to the same degree as the not so good things in life?  Or, do you feel the weight of bad things more?

The antidote is to actively, on a daily basis, reflect on what you are grateful for.  A great example I recently came across, was being stuck in traffic.  This quite often leads to feelings of irritation and frustration.  But, what if instead I felt grateful to simply have a car to drive, that I am able to put gas in it; or that all the drivers around me were following the agreed upon driving rules, keeping everyone safe.  In this way there is a certain universal level of “well-being and community cooperation” that is supporting me even in the middle of rush hour traffic.  These moments stuck in traffic simply are, but how I am experiencing it gradually begins to shift the more I practice gratitude in the moment.

The words ‘gratitude’ and ‘grace’ originate from the same Latin word–gratus.  Gratus means ‘pleasing’ or ‘thankful.’   It has been said that when one is in a deep state of gratitude, you will often feel the spontaneous presence of grace.   As a state of selfless gratitude is developed and then embodied, our happiness is no longer contingent upon outer circumstances.  That moment is when we can truly relax into life.

See you on the mat!