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!

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

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!

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!

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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!

The Breath of Love

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
~Rumi

Put your own oxygen mask on first.  Take a deep, flowing, sweet breath. And, let it out.  Every inhale is an opportunity for something new to enter. Every exhale is a chance to let go of something old.  Each breath brings expansion, softening, and allows you to open wider.

Each breath is a love-note to yourself.  The key to giving or receiving love is to remove the walls and barriers that have become hard-wired into the body, like permanent body armor.  “The breath is the central key that unlocks the body and opens the realm of the heart.” [Anodea Judith]

This month we will continue our exploration of breath and movement.  In particular, we will be working with a variety of krama (step) pranayama practices, that break the breath up into steps or parts.  We will pause to witness the affect that breath and movement has on our subtle energy body.  And, finally, we will rest in the warmth and pulse of our living, breathing bodies.

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!