“It is not how far you move into a pose, but how deeply you feel the pose.”
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!
“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.”
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:
- Feed our bodies well. Try out these nutrition packed smoothies: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3582/3-scrumptious-smoothies-that-pack-a-nutritional-punch
- Rest and restore. Set aside 30 minutes once a week for a guided yoga nidra relaxation session. Here is one to try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN6vapfvWOM
- BE(e) the inspiration, by showing up for ourselves. Make a daily meditation practice a priority. Set your alarm 10, 15, 20 minutes earlier, and begin your day with a session of meditation. Insight Timer, and Head Space, are two meditation apps I highly recommend.
See you on the mat!
“Earth, may thy summer, and thy rains, and autumn, thy winter, and thy dewy frosts, and spring-time. May thy years, Prithivī! and ordered seasons, and day and night pour out for us abundance.”
// 36, Prthivī Sūkta, Atharva Veda
The word “yoga,” defined simply, is “union.” Patanjali, the great yoga master, referred to yoga as attaining mastery over the dynamic forces of the mind. Once the mind has been purified, disciplined, and brought to one-pointed focus, then union occurs between body and mind, consciousness and mind. We achieve wholeness. Ultimately, yoga brings us to the understanding of our interconnectedness with everything in the Universe, including this precious planet Earth.
April opens with the celebrations of Easter, rich with the symbolism of rebirth and renewal. All around us are budding trees and flowers, hillsides carpeted in lush green grass, baby birds hatching, and extra light at the end of the day. Earth Day also falls on the 22nd of this month.
The Prthivī Sūkta of the Atharva Veda is a poetic description of Earth. It’s hymns speak of a deep Hindu tradition of reverence for nature and all forms of life. The earth supports us, sustains us. Our health is intimately linked to sources of clean air, water, food, and time spent outdoors connecting with Mother Nature.
If yoga is about realizing the interconnectedness of all beings, how then can we take our practice off our individual mats and into the world? The answers lie in the foundational ethical principles for living found in the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Asteya (the third Yama) is the concept of non-harming, both towards ourselves and other beings. Non-harming is practiced in thought (how we speak towards ourselves), word (how we speak to others), and through our actions in the world.
This month, as we practice on our mats together we will observe our thoughts regarding our practice from a place of loving-kindness. As we step off our mats and into the world, we ask ourselves, “How can I help Earth, and all beings who share this planet with me?”
Here are a few ways we can increase our connection with others, and lessen our environmental impact:
- Plant a garden. Whether it’s flowers, herbs, or vegetables, it’s about getting your fingers into the earth and a little dirty!
- Support your local farmers. Visit your local farmer’s market one or more times a month. Fresh, organic produce is healthy for you and supports the farmer!
- Use re-useable cups and water bottles. The amount of plastic produced and then thrown away is shocking. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
- Park it. Walk, run, bike, ride Light Rail/BART/CalTrain one or more times a week if possible.
- Unplug and connect. Turn off the television, your laptop, your cellphone, and connect with your family or friends around the dinner table, on the beach, or for a walk in the woods.
- Tune in. Notice your surroundings, the colors, textures, and sounds, and how your energy responds to it.
- Breathe. Practice meditation and pranayam/breath-work.
LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.
See you on the mat!
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!
If you are a yoga teacher, this teacher training is invaluable. The first weekend is for all yoga teachers who want to know how to include cancer survivors in their classes in a safe way. The second weekend focuses on how to lead classes specifically for those with cancer. Teaching yoga for cancer survivorship is Lorien’s passion. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Begins March 27th! Contact Breathe Los Gatos to register: www.breathelosgatos.com
This beautiful yogini is living the concept of “paying if forward.” Fundraising ends Dec. 31st! http://www.volunteerforever.com/volunteer_profile/veronica-reis