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!

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

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.

On taking yoga off our mats, and into the world.

“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!

IMG_0387

I. Am. Enough.

Samtosad anuttamah sukha labhah
–Yoga Sutra 2.42

Contentment brings supreme happiness–so translates Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.42.  This contentment (santosha) is the result of being just as we are, without going to outside things for our happiness.  Things come, and we let them come.  If they do not, it does not matter.  Letting go of attachments allows us to rest in the here and now, content, not living in the past and not anticipating the future.  In this way, it could be said, we walk the middle way.

When we review those occasions when we have been truly happy, “…we shall almost certainly find that they had one characteristic in common.  There were times when, for this or that reason, we temporarily ceased to feel anxious; when we lived–as we so seldom do–in the depths of the present moment without regretting the past or worrying about the future.”  [Christopher Isherwood]

Practicing santosha actively in our lives requires a certain amount of willingness to enjoy exactly what each moment brings, no matter how it arrives or what it contains.  Peace of mind can never be dependent on external circumstances, which are always changing in ways beyond our control.  It is easy to practice santosha when things are going well.   But, if we are able to be content when things are difficult, then we are truly free.

We practice santosha in small ways on our mats, by accepting what our practice looks and feels like, just as it is, on any given day.  Daily, hourly, even moment to moment, we continuously practice letting go of the past.  As my teacher puts it, “Hold close the yogic premise that whatever we have in the present moment is enough.”

A mantra practice to try anywhere, anytime:  Breathe in, “I am.”  Breathe out, “Enough.”

See you on the mat!