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!

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!

The Heart of the Matter

Namaste my fellow yogi/yoginis!

“Love was born first, the gods cannot reach it, or the spirits, or men…Far as heaven and earth extend, far as the waters go, high as the fire burns, you are greater, love!  The wind cannot reach you, nor the fire, nor the sun, nor the moon:  You are greater than them all, love!”
–Atharva Veda 9.2.19

This month we focus on our center of peace, the still center point of our energetic body–the Anahata (Heart) Chakra.  This peaceful, loving, compassionate energy is reflected by the Golden Rule:  Treat others as you would wish to be treated.  Love yourself, as well as your neighbors.  What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself.   Where in your life are you being less than any of this towards either yourself, or others?

The element associated with the Anahata Chakra is air.  Air is most commonly associated with expansive knowledge, openness and spaciousness, freedom to breath and a sense of lightness.  This love is empathic, compassionate, and is experienced within us as a state of being which is not based on need or desire.  We will work with prana (breath), back bends, and chest openers to help us connect with some of these elements.

For your meditation practice, I offer you the seed (bija) sound for the Anahata (Heart) Chakra:  Lam.  Repeat this seed sound silently to yourself as you gently follow the rise and fall of your breath with your attention.  You might also envision a green, glowing light centered in your chest.  Feel this essence of compassion, drawing it in on the inhale, and radiating it out on the exhale.  

An interesting side note:  The translation of Anahata from Sanskrit is “sound that is made without any two things striking.

A couple updates to my teaching schedule:

1)  I have stepped out of the Saturday morning Vinyasa class rotation at the Palo Alto Family YMCA.  The class will continue to be taught by the remaining teachers on a rotational basis.  Check the online schedule at: http://www.ymcasv.org/paloalto/html/downloads.html

2) The Friday Breath & Meditation class at Breathe Together Yoga is at a new time:  2:30-3:00pm beginning Feb. 17th.

See you on the  mat!

 

Countering Stress & Anxiety

Almost a month ago, I received a call that no one likes to get–my mother had fallen while walking her dog and broken her hip.  I spent a moment in disbelief, before quietly shifting my attention to breath awareness and calmly beginning the process of making phone calls and preparing to make the trip up to Oregon where she lives.  Thus began two weeks of immersion in seva (सेवा), taking care of my mother as she navigates her recovery from a hip fracture.

The holiday season alone can be stressful, without the added pressure of worry for a loved one.   My meditation practice has been essential in helping me handle my anxiety and stress during the initial weeks of her healing.   As such, I would like to share with you a podcast meditation by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.  My primary meditation training has been with Mingyur Rinpoche’s ‘Joy of Living’ program.   This particular guided meditation gives you a taste of Tibetan Buddhism meditation practices.

Find the podcast here:  https://www.mindpodnetwork.com/guided-meditation-body-space-awareness-yongey-mingyur-rinpoche/

For more information on Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and the ‘Joy of Living’ program:  http://tergar.org/programs/what-is-the-joy-of-living/

See you on the mat!

Meditation Myths & Truths

Truth.  No one type of meditation is better than another.  What matters most is consistent, persistent practice of a method that feels right to you.  We will be practicing consistency today, 2:00-2:30pm at Breathe Los Gatos.  See you on the cushion!

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/3-myths-about-meditationand-the-truth?utm_campaign=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=32798269&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9Dx_s7Oh_Q-UtMXlxtezt6nrzvMwLh14Ofd_Lva_I8wRswj_A5YBMx2DjMyMZ5JIXWWc1EFyNQ0COSo-wDeOi077EIesHQokeoImRBKDtoEoCE7Uo&_hsmi=32798269

The Essential Breath

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outlines an eight limbed path to self-realization, or enlightenment, called ashtanga.  Ashtanga translates literally to eight (ashta) limb (anga).  Pranayama, or breath control, is the fourth limb, and one of the key components to both asana practice (the third limb) and meditation (dhyana, the seventh limb).  Breath both carries and sustains us during asana practice, and provides an anchor for meditation.  Pausing and paying attention to our breath is also very useful in everyday life, helping us to respond rather than react when encountering stressors.  Join me this week for dedicated pranayama practice, along with meditation, at our new time:  Breath & Meditation, 2:00pm, Fridays, Breathe Los Gatos.

P.S.  This video gives a beautiful explanation of the science behind breathing and its affect on the nervous system.

http://upliftconnect.com/breathing-in-yoga-video/

Breath Science

We do it every day, every moment of every hour in a day, and usually with very little thought devoted to it.  Breathing.  Inhaling and exhaling.  Simple and autonomous, and yet so much more.  B. K. S. Iyengar wrote that prāna is “breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy, or strength.”  Prānāyāma is essentially the science of breathing.  Body and mind, breath and mind, are inextricably linked together.  When we work with our breath, we directly affect and influence the physiology of the body.  Steady, even inhalations and exhalations help balance and regulate the nervous system.  Longer exhalations shift the body in to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and soothing to the body (think slowing down of the heartbeat).

As the body calms, desire diminishes and the mind settles.  This is why in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, prānāyāma is described as a precursor to concentration.  Concentration is one of the core precepts of meditation.  With a calm mind, meditation becomes effortless instead of a struggle.  Then we can begin the work of sifting through the layers of “stuff”–thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, boredom, the endless play of life–until we reach Source.

Beginning this week and continuing through the year, we will be learning and practicing a series of prānāyāma techniques as an integral part of our meditation practice.  Join me every Friday, 1:30-2:00pm, Breath & Meditation, Breathe Los Gatos. http://breathelosgatos.com