Creative Potential

“Yoga releases the creative potential of Life.  It does this by establishing a structure for self realization, by showing how we can progress along the journey, and by opening a sacred vision of the Ultimate, of our Divine Origin, and final Destiny.  That Light that yoga sheds on Life is something special.  It is transformative.  It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees. It brings knowledge and elevates it to wisdom.”

B.K.S Iyengar, Light on Life

The above leaves me speechless – what more does one need to ramble on about the wonder of this thing called yoga – he said it ALL right there.

New Adventure

After an exodus from a corporate career that was highly successful, but also not aligning with my core values, I knew it was time to figure out next steps.  I am learning that many things are possible with time, steadiness, and removing self-sabotaging voices – yes we teachers get them too!

I am beginning a 1 year program at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become an advocate and steward for health & wellness.   I have been looking for a way to compliment my own life practice while helping others optimize themselves, and making a positive impact on those around me – both professionally and personally.

We are all capable of changes if we so desire, but it does require us to dig in, do some extracting and create fertile ground.

Like I said…it’s all just beginning and I look forward to serving the greater good.

Asana Focus Of The Month: Parsvottonasana

I found this old picture - notice the wider stance and the back foot - this is exactly where I was corrected today. Thanks Monica!!!

This week in my own practice with Monica Marinoni, I was enlightened into the full expression of Parsvottonasana.   My stance was widened and my back foot was opened to an 85 degree angle, a completely new experience for me.

Benefits:

– Eliminates bad fat at the waist.

– Stretches spine, legs, and waist.

– Calming to the mind.

– Prepares for seated poses

– Excellent preliminary pose to various other poses in an asana practice.

To Begin:

– Start at standing/tadasana/samasthiti take a wide step to the right – 3 feet (many times you see this pose and the stance is too narrow).  3 FEET gives you the benefit of stretching both legs proportionately.

– Pivot the right foot so that the toes are pointing to the right and ball and the heel of the front foot is firmly planted.  Your backfoot will be 85 degrees to the front foot and the alignment will be – heel of the front foot to the arch of the back foot. Turn your torso to square your hips and shoulders to the right so that you are  in line with right knee and toes.

-Arms will reach behind to go into reverse prayer – if this is NOT a possibility (TODAY) – I like to recommend going fist to fist to help draw open the shoulders, or you can grab opposite elbows, or even grab opposite wrist as is shown in above image.  (You can also bring arms/hands to either side of the front foot, perhaps slightly behind, after you fold down – however, if you want more of a shoulder stretch bring arms behind you in mentioned options).

– As you inhale draw the tail bone down, lift and open the chest creating length in the spine, exhale the breath as you bend forward, extending the spine, drawing your chest toward your front thigh, and the forehead to the knee (or to your intelligent edge).  Press into the ball of the front foot (particularly below the base of the big toe) and the heel of the front foot.  Protect your knee joint by engaging the quadriceps of both legs and and lifting the kneecaps – keeping the knees slightly soft, and lifting the arches of both feet.

– Tip:  As you exhale down notice how the weight may distribute to the front leg, see if you can evenly distribute weight to both front/foot and back leg/foot – this may mean you don’t come down into full forward fold as your back hamstring may prevent this.  You will benefit from observing this and coming to your intelligent edge and breathing at that point – versus trying to just come into the full fold with all the weight on the front leg.  You can also position yourself so your hands reach a wall and you can support yourself at a halfway point (or even use a chair to put your hands on).

– Notice the back leg and continue to press into the ball and heel of the back foot.

– If your forehead is comfortably drawn to the knee or shin – go ahead and draw the chin to the shin or knee to extend the cervical spine.

– Keep leading with the sternum.  “If you had a flashlight in the middle of the chest it should be shining to the toes of the right foot”, as per David Swenson’s practice manual.  Let each inhale be an opportunity to lengthen and each exhale an opportunity to find space in the pose.

– Breath steadily and deeply here for 5 -10 breaths.

– To exit the pose – Exhale your breath completely and use the inhale and strength in the waist to rise to standing.

-Pivot the feet and repeat on the other side.

Namaste’.

On Discipline

In Jainism, Kevala Jñāna (Sanskrit: केवलज्ञान) or Kevala Ṇāṇa (Jain Prakrit: केवल णाण), "Perfect or Absolute Knowledge", is the highest form of knowledge that a soul can attain.

DISCIPLINE: ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense [mortification by scourging oneself] ): via Old French from Latin disciplina ‘instruction, knowledge,’ from discipulus (see disciple ).

Recently there was an article in the Wall Street Journal regarding French parents vs. American parents.  It was an article on discipline, and how we approach it differently as a culture. What I found interesting is the French don’t see the word discipline as punishment but rather as ‘educating’. In a nutshell the article was about how French parents teach their children how to wait; in a restaurant, at home, at the park, in public, while their parent is on the phone etc…This struck a huge chord for me, particularly someone who practices Ashtanga vinyasa and who is a new parent.

Several weeks ago I had a discussion with a colleague regarding  a friend of hers who went to a Mysore class and was told to stop and take rest by the teacher.  My colleague said, “can you image how that made her feel?”. Of course this did not sit well with this student, she is an ‘advanced yogi’ right?  More than likely they suffered a mild sense of humiliation, was confused, and or wanted to prove that they knew what they were doing.  She never returned.

There are no other yoga practices that I’ve experienced where a teacher will tell a student to stop mid way through. There is a reason for this in the Ashtanga system, and understanding it is an important part of the practice, and also part of the Hatha yoga lineage of teacher/ student relationship. It is easy for us to succumb to the emotion, to be angry, or have the desire to continue – this is the ego.  How we handle being told ‘NO’, ‘Please wait’, or ‘Stop’ – IS part of the learning.

I have been teaching regularly now for only a little over 2 years and practicing for 12 – and through teaching and practicum, completely realize and value the Ashtanga lineage and system.  There is no ambiguity, and nothing superfluous within the system/series. Every breath and asana is a ‘prescription’. The practice is an incredible teacher.  It has ‘worked’ in terms of taming my bad habits and or completely making me honest and aware of them, particularly my patience. See, I can be a big brat.  I want it NOW. Give it to me NOW. Like full on Veruca Salt.  This has been something that my practice has helped me discern, and yes, being humbled in the process was critical in in this lesson.

We live in a world and culture where we are rewarded just for participating, and can get what we want when we want.  Learning to be at ease with not getting what we want (which is desire) is a mastery of the senses and part of real life.  The real good stuff requires time, devotion, dedication, and discipline (higher knowledge) – because “the sweet just ain’t as sweet without the sour.”

From what I have learned in my own practice, the yoga (the yoking) is what happens through the practice and implementation of the 8 limbs (which take learning), and the teaching of a traditional yoga lineage (Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, traditional Vinyasa Krama, etc…)  is similar to that of a martial art. There is a highly regarded teacher, who helps students understand the etiquette, discipline, respect, self-confidence, and breathing and meditation techniques of that lineage.

Similar to that of a martial art, in Ashtanga there is a series of progression (1st – 6th series), each has it’s reason for existence and different effects on the gross, subtle, and causal bodies.   Also, this teacher, sensei, guru is a transmitter of a lineage, and generally there is an import of honor there (which is a discipline).  In most martial art centers or traditional yoga studios there are images of their master teachers, honoring them. I value this and I like knowing where it all came from.

If you have ever had a great teacher you have experienced first hand that the relationship between you and them becomes stronger over time. A good teacher can help you overcome many obstacles during your (life)time practicing (physically and mentally), introduce humility to an overzealous student (something very hard for our culture), and encourage a student who is ready for new challenges to step out of the comfort zone.  These teachers are hard to find, and in my mind, extremely valuable.

I can only write from my own experience…and after thinking deeply about this and from practicing other styles of ambiguous asana yoga in my early years, it is the Ashtanga lineage that has provided me the most in terms of foundation, discipline, humility, and courage. In thinking back on my colleague’s friend who went to the Mysore practice – I would have asked some hard questions. “Why did you feel uncomfortable?  What was it that made you not want to go back?”  Chances are those answers and some hard self-study would reveal that the Ashtanga system is exactly what that student would need in order to change ‘pre-conditioned’ notions and patterns deep inside.    An advanced yogi is always a beginner, doesn’t have to contort their body into advanced postures, can detach from a practice, has nothing to prove, can just be with exactly what is.

“It’s in those places of discomfort where the teacher exists”, my other friend Josh would say. Ashtanga, is not all gooey and lovey most of the time,  and  it’s not very democratic. It’s made me fall on my head, stomach, laugh out loud, swear like a truck driver, bust out in tears, and sometimes just step away…it is in that very relationship that I have journeyed into deep corners of my mind and body to unearth truths that I did not believe or know existed about me (some gorgeous and some that needed discarding).  It’s taken me nearly 12 years to realize it to this level. It requires us to be in those places of discomfort to question, move through, evolve, find ease, so that the learning presents itself and the mind becomes sharp.

For me, the word discipline no longer has a negative connotation, but rather implies action and awareness on my part.  As a new parent I want to ensure my daughter LEARNS how to be with herself in the times of discomfort. How I handle NO or PLEASE WAIT is how I will teach her.   Consistency, discernment, repeating, confronting, pushing aside distractions, being with, and learning,  are words I associate with discipline.  I am far more comfortable being rejected, turned down, told no, and respecting a teacher that tells me to wait – it takes awareness and practice – and sometimes I ‘lose it’ – but I can bring myself back far easier than before.  I am not above or below – but exactly where I am.  I am so thankful that I have the ability to see this now – because not only does it make me a better friend, parent, student, and teacher…it makes me a better human.