It IS You.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately, maybe too much.

Mostly thinking about what is posted often on Facebook within the Yoga community.

Workshop here, workshop there. Come learn this, come learn that.  Learn to fly, float, freeze, love, listen, blah, blah, blah, blah. These posters are inspirational and the workshops often highly informational – but I find the abundance of them overwhelming, and can often leave us striving to master a certain series of poses or even doubt our own ability.

It seems we are missing the point. The point?  You ask.

Well…as an Ashtangi – the point is just to practice and to start understanding and trusting the process of the practice by practicing.

This yearning for THE POSE  can often lead us down the ‘head up your ass’ path or as some might call TUNNEL Vision.

(The below is not a pose we are looking to accomplish – but it’s not far off one of the poses in second series).

TunnelVision

While I think it’s nice to have tips to get from point A to point B.  I often think the tips without foundation can do more harm then good.  There is no fast track unfortunately, and accepting this , I find, is critical to the ultimate surrender that is you – the surrender to your yoga – your union.

The point is The Practice.  The practice done correctly IS the teacher.  The practice reveals the teacher that is you.  Every time you practice; 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours – whatever –  provides you the chance to learn more about yourself on that given day.

When we place too much emphasis on the external and lose sight of the internal, we lose the ability to realize that the teacher we seek is staring us down in the mirror every morning.

My teacher Tim Miller said once – that it is important to discern the quantity and quality of information you get.  Meaning – sometimes too much information – too many different views – makes the practitioner crazy.  I even think this is taught by ancient teachers – to pick one teacher, from a lineage,  and stick with that teacher. This is the hardest part…because some days, especially the days you are battling yourself – those are the days you want to jump ship and it is at this point to not jump around – it is at this point that things really begin to shift.

This concept is true of any kind of information we take in or any kind of practice we take up…too much information makes us crazy – kind of like reading WEB MD and then jumping all over the web in search for the cure for the symptom we are dealing with.

So I ask you to simplify…to discern..and be wise in how you apply your efforts and the information you take in – not just in your practice – but also in your life (I will promise to do this with you).  Instead of jumping around – settle down – and just go through the work – one dusty corner at a time.

I have found that when I edit the information I take in and when I simply show up to do the work – the answers are revealed (some answers have taken a long F’n time – but I had some heavy gunk to remove to reveal the truth), and they show up on my time – not on any one elses. This is truly one of the magical mysteries of it all and it’s totally personal.

It’s you and the mat…you and your meditation cushion…whatever it is you practice.  It’s not about the teacher or the workshop – it’s about you.  Ultimately, the yoga practice is meant to be a home practice where we are with ourselves, guiding ourselves…this does require some coaxing – but eventually you become your teacher under the guidance of someone who has experienced what you are going through now or will be experiencing.  Crazy concept in todays wild wild west of yoga studios.

Do the practice – whatever that is for you – find yourself in the work.

Learn to start trusting the ultimate teacher that is you.

The Guru That Is Pain

2012 taught me how to soften my grip on my practice and not beating myself up on the mornings I didn’t make it.  Being a new parent and creating rhythm takes time. My home practice started SUCKING wind the latter quarter of 2012 – plus I worked through some physical shit in my lower back (Sacro Illiac) and glutes. Let’s just say I kept leaving practice achey and had a dull pain in day to day life for about 4 months.   

David Keil’s article nails my experience- and I worked with my Chiropractor, Dr. Michael Meleander for a month.  He came highly recommended by Josh Summers – who had also seen him for work.  Regardless of where you are in your practice – pains show up.

It seems my pelvis is crooked , this is very common in most of us and sometimes it’s muscle related and sometimes it’s structure. The offset pelvis could of been there before pregnancy..but pregnancy and post-partum exaggerated it as a result of carrying a child, horomones, ligament shifts that happen during and after pregnancy.The joys of being a woman!

My chrirpractor used Active Release Technique on several parts of my psoas, gluteal minimus, and piriformis, erector spinae, etc…he discovered adhesions throughout my psoas as  a result of trauma during the labor and delivery of my daughter .  This created a contracted psoas – long story short –  AY YI YI.  I had a pain in my back and a pain in my ass.

The good news – is the work with my Chiro added more awareness and learnings into my body.  Also I am more balanced :).  I realized that my practice post pregnancy was probably not as integrated as it needed to be and I was essentially practicing in a very different body than before pregnancy.Things are feeling better and the pain has shifted and my practice has improved in terms of stability and refinement.

My key learnings:

1) Heightened awareness of bandhas & breath.

2) The imports of engaged feet, legs  and the affect of this on your pelvis, core, and therefore spine – and also gaining insight into how the body compensates to make up for what is not being used.  In my case – upper back over working – creating a shorter/contracted psoas –  pulling on lumbar vertebrae – affecting pelvis, hips, and even upper back/neck.

3) We often avoid pain in the form of ignoring or denial.  This is the human condition and is addressed in the Yoga Sutras.  I ignored – I am human.

4) Shedding light on the source of the pain requires the tools of courage, honesty, compassion, and results in more courage, heightened awareness,  and stability.  Maybe even some better decision making in the many corners of our life.

5) You Go back.  Rediscover and refine foundations – “ripen in the advanced” .

6) The human body is amazing.

7)  Yoga asana reveals what is going on in the body  as a result of emotional trauma,  physical trauma, and some our own doing through lack of awareness and old patterns. It shows up in the various stages in a lifetime of practice.

8) Pain is a powerful guru from within,  if we are willing to learn.

9) Practice IS a lifetime…we have to learn how to ride the waves.

If you are working with a chronic injury, inflammation, and discomfort over a  period of time and it doesn’t shift – GO SEE A SPECIALIST (recommended by someone you trust)! Take rest if you need – but as some wise person said – “avoidance is not the answer”.

Our Whole Life Could be A Ritual

We could learn to stop when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up. We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves, and we could realize that it’s sad. The sadder it is, and the vaster it is, the more our heart opens. We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.

-Pema Chodron

Gratitude for it all – whatever it is – this Thanksgiving.

“Best Is The Enemy Of The Good”

Recently,  Keith came outside as I was beginning my practice early one morning (we are all early birds in this castle) and said happily “YOGA!”

“Gotta do what I gotta do.” I said.

“Perfect is the enemy of good, right?”  He said.

Pause.

“Totally.”  I grinned.  Because, I knew exactly what he meant.

I had one of the best home practices in a long time.

” The best is the enemy of the  good.” ~Voltaire

I think we are all too familiar with the voice inside of us.

“If only I had this – then I would do/get that.”

“I don’t have the time I ‘really’ need to do it (practice, go to the gym, run, clean, start a project, cook a healthy dinner), therefore I won’t.”

“If it were this….then it would be that”.

“If I can’t make it to the studio, then I won’t practice.”

The voice telling us that all conditions must be a certain way before we begin or do anything that we know might improve our lives (or change it). The weather reporter as some people call it.

The other perfection advocate within us is the one that keeps pushing, forcing, advancing, tweaking, changing, until this illusion of perfection is achieved.  This can often leave us burned out…defeated…hurt.

Sometimes,  good – is exactly all we need.  I think Mick Jagger coined it perfectly – “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”  For me, this has been a huge learning as of late and it has helped me in cultivating a home practice that may not be what it is in the studio, but, the fact is, over time, it could be.

Perfection is just an endless pursuit. It is not an actual.  Ever.

You don’t have to be a yogi to experience this.

An infinite distance lies between nothing–the unsaid comment, the unwritten letter, the undone act–and something, no matter how much room for improvement remains. In comparison, the distance between that something and perfection is barely noticeable at all. www.edbatista.com

It’s about effort.  NOT getting it right every single time.  Chances are within those efforts we catch glimmers of perfection or as some would say “excellence”.

“99% Practice, 1% Theory”, Right?

Keep practicing,

Sandra

 

This Morning I Practiced – By Eric Jeffers

This writing is from Eric Jeffers, who wrote a note on Facebook, which made its way around.  When I sometimes feel that yoga is too much about a teacher or a ‘rockin’ playlist…I get a gentle reminder of why the Ashtanga lineage has meant so much to me.

Silence, independence, learning to trust and believe in yourself…exactly where you are.

This morning I practiced.

It was very simple. I unrolled a mat, said a few words softly to myself, and began.

Nobody asked me to open or expand anything. I was not instructed to take anything from one level to another. No one asked me to melt any part of my body. It was never suggested that I should embody some concept or another. I didn’t hear anyone speak their truth. No one assured me that I could manifest anything I wanted. It was never suggested that I would be happier if I bought some new product. I wasn’t told to pursue any bliss. Spirit was neither mentioned nor invoked. No one used the word energy. Nobody implied that I could be stronger, more beautiful or more free than I currently am.

In fact, no one spoke at all.

I spent two hours moving through a familiar sequence of poses. I did this practice in a warm, quiet room listening to my breath and the breath of those practicing nearby. I was assisted by a gentle and patient human being who, for the most part, left me alone to do my work. At the end of my practice, I lay on the floor completely still for a long time.

When I was done, I quietly left. People smiled at me on my way out. I smiled at them.

I will practice again tomorrow.

Maintaining Momentum

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving ~ Albert Einstein

Implementation of my ‘new life strategy’ has been boding well for me in terms of managing my life, expectations, and improving overall well-being.  Not only am I feeling better about NOW, my yoga practice has also changed significantly.  My awareness is deeper and I find that I am cutting through the mental bullshit and getting to the clearing in my mind and body more expeditiously. I am finding new depth and strength on a more subtle level on the mat and off.

When we go from feeling stuck to developing a strategy and then taking action – we create momentum – we send other things into motion.  Things begin to happen – we taste the savory nature of small successes and begin to feel energized and motivated.  The challenge?  Maintaining it.

A couple of things I have learned in maintaining momentum in life/business:

1.  Keep your goal visible:

  • In business I always liked to keep my goals visible.  This was something I could always use to speak into and use to determine actions of my team.
  • When thinking of designing your life – create a vision that includes short term, mid term, and long term goals.  Let this vision include words and images that inspire and keep you motivated.  A vision board may not be your cup of tea, but the reality is we all need something to remind us of what we are actually working towards.
  •  Make it dynamic.  Your vision may change as a result of a new idea – and that’s okay.  If you get a fresh idea include it…this IS part of a creative process.  Also, if an old idea just doesn’t jive any longer – let it go.

2.  Revisit & remind yourself and others of your goals.  Companies do this monthly and or quarterly based on results….shouldn’t we do the same?

  • Determine what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  • What new actions need to happen or old actions need to go.
  • Remind yourself and your support group or team – this goes a long way in maintaining momentum and motivation.

3.  Capitalize on the energy from one success to move to the next – immediately.

  • The best time to do something is when you are inspired to do it. Not only are you more motivated after a success you are also energized. Use this energy while you have it.

4.  Consistency/Discipline in your actions:  Whether you’re in business or dealing with a personal transformation – staying disciplined to the tactics/or actions is important particularly over long periods of time (I thank my ashtanga practice for giving me this discipline).

  • Look at your weekly goals and determine the daily actions necessary to accomplish those and do your BEST to do them daily.   I like to use certain days for certain actions.
  • Build in a buffer knowing that life is going to ‘happen’.
  • Be realistic with your time and action list.  Focus on the priority goals and perhaps get rid of anything superfluous.

5.  Be the Tortoise – as in the Tortoise and The Hare.  Keep moving forward with modesty and perseverance (this goes hand in hand with consistency).

  • Are you familiar with sprinting out of the starting gate the suddenly stopping when you’ve gained traction? This quickness and overzealous nature can lead to burnout, exhaustion, injury (if dealing with exercise or even yoga), or taking too long of rest (i.e. a vacation).  The result of this means you end up falling behind and then racing to catch up again.
  • Consistency cultivates steadiness. Peaks cultivate burnout (in some shape or form). Valleys cultivate laziness or dullness.
  • Set yourself up for success by creating an achievable and realistic pace as well as being aware of your efforts.

6.  Create Balance:  We all need to take a break from our regimes in order to re-fuel. Think of a road bike team that works together.  They are moving forward at an aggressive pace, but at certain times the front rider drops back to draft and rest.  They also have rest days built into their practice.  They create a pace and strategy that is fervently moving forward and manageable over the long haul.

  • Include YOU in your time management or schedule.  Time for personal growth (classes, etc…), reflection, and your health (eating well and exercise).
  • Take rest on days your body or mind demand it or better yet, include days of rest in your schedule.  Make sure the rest is consolidated and actually rejuvenating. More than a day here or there may be a warning sign that you’ve been working too hard (this would apply to even to too much exercise).
  • If you find that you are swinging too far up or too far down in terms of your efforts, get to a place where you can regroup and then set up a paceline or strategy that is achievable and do your best to stick to it.

Momentum requires diligence and steadiness.  These are just a few tips, but I would love to know what are some of the things you currently do to maintain momentum and consistency in your efforts?

And remember, it’s all just practice…

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.