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DOING THE NON-POSE YOGA POSES

28 Feb

CONTINUED CONVERSATIONS ABOUT YOGA BEYOND THE POSES….

Ironically, in a conversation about yoga beyond the poses, it’s important to speak about the poses. How do they fit with whatever else that is beyond the poses?  Why do them?  Do they matter?  How do we get value from doing them?

As one of many systems that support personal growth and fulfillment, yoga is distinct from the others in that mind, BODY and spirit are engaged.   But this embodied approach makes it a double edged sword.  Although the poses are typically what initially draw people to yoga, if they stay with the poses-only stance, they can quickly find themselves focused on competition, harsh judgments and even hurtful self-criticism.  This is not yoga and in fact, this drives people away from yoga.   It is understandable that so many people get drawn towards this direction.  In the West, we’re taught that we need to work hard to be better than others and if we do, our reward will be found; around the next corner or even somewhere beyond the rainbow. No pain, no gain is the Western mantra.  We aren’t taught to find the value of now or how to deal with things like pride and fear.  Yoga does that.  The word yoga means becoming one.   So long as we stand apart in judgment, we sabotage our potential for connection and growth.

Getting back to the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defined the Eight Limb Path of Yoga.  Poses (asana) are the third limb.  The yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) are the first two limbs and they are rarely mentioned in most yoga classes. The yamas are the renunciations to be embraced and the niyamas are the practices to be nurtured.  These concepts along with the physical aspects of yoga practice are the foundation for all that yoga offers.

As we do a pose, we experience a wide range of responses physically and emotionally.  Yogis are taught to observe everything that arises; difficulty, discomfort, fear, boredom, distraction.  The lessons from doing one pose are fodder for the next lessons when a new pose is learned.   Sometimes the best response will be to honor a need to rest and sometimes it is to play with the experience by holding the pose longer or in a slightly different way. Either way, we are honing our ability to know, to see and to feel our full experience with awareness and compassion. We can observe ourselves more clearly and as needed, eventually let things go.

Sudhir Johnathan Foust explains it well.  “Most of the time I’m looking outside myself to have my world view corroborated.  The beauty of yoga is that when we become energetically alive, and our mind becomes drawn into direct experience of the moment, we turn inside; it’s a doorway, a new infinite world of possibilities…. The doorway to insight is the present moment.  So, the question is, how do I enter the present moment? For that, the body is an incredible tool.”

So what’s a yogi to do with all this talk saying that it’s not about the poses followed by a suggestion to get on your mat every day and do poses!!!

What can be done to move from simply doing poses as yet another form of exercise to all the yogic good stuff?

~~ Get on your mat and do yoga-like movements rather than yoga poses. That means lengthen, twist, bend, turn, balance, invert and stretch different parts of your body.  You might start with your head and work your way down or do the reverse and start with your feet.  Bring awareness to each joint as you move it all the ways that it is designed to move. Don’t even think of doing something that feels difficult!  For that matter, don’t do any pose that has a name.  Don’t do any sequences that you learned.  Make up your own sequence and your own poses.  Hold them long enough so you can notice how you feel physically in that pose and how you feel emotionally.  Just note those observations and move to the next pose.

~~ As your body expands or stretches, inhale.  As your body contracts, twists or folds, exhale.  Match every movement with a breath.  When holding a pose, count the number of breaths taken.

~~ Stay on your mat only as long as feels right to you and be sure to leave at least 5 minutes for your final relaxation (shavasana).  Use this time to absorb the entirety of your experience.  Commit to your daily yoga practice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas and suggestions.  Are they helpful?  What do you do that helps?

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BEYOND THE POSES

27 Feb

CONTINUED CONVERSATION ABOUT YOGA BEYOND THE POSES….

Everyone’s experience is different as we work through the assortment of options for personal growth and fulfillment.  Yoga is but one option and it can provide different types of value to the practitioner.  No matter where we are and which option we’re moving towards, consistency challenges often derail many.  The Yoga Sutras, as other similar guides, can be filled with useful gems but can also overwhelm.

A good grounding exercise is to remember the importance of the relationship between two underlying concepts explained by Patanjali, the Yoga Sutras author.  Practice (abhyasa) and nonattachment or renunciation (vairagya) create the framework for a sustainable practice.

Making space for new often involves removing something old.  Vairagya is the practice of letting go.  It is the elimination of unhelpful things.  Those can include negative self-talk, self-defeating behaviors, or poor choices.  We seem to be hard wired for a propensity to hold on to things, even when they don’t serve us well.  The physical part of yoga (asana) helps us learn to be present with ourselves by learning body awareness, breath awareness and feelings awareness.  Once we progress in our ability to experience nonjudgmental self-awareness, we are then poised and open to respond differently.

One way to support the release of unhelpful things is to commit to abhyasa, your practice.  That means getting onto the mat every day and it also involves nurturing an attitude of dedication to your practice.  Abhyasa is a personalized realization of your choices with ferocious and unswerving faithfulness to your best self.

Renunciation (vairagya) by itself has no staying power.  Intentions and thoughts commonly are only temporarily turned into actions.  Then, something else catches our attention and off we go!  Practice (abhyasa) is walking the talk.   A consistent practice starting with simply doing the poses (asana) and breath work (pranayama) is perfect because it can provide the energy and the sense of purpose needed to stay steady during the harder moments.  Even a daily ten minutes on the mat can provide that.

Yoga doesn’t magically remove old behaviors or beliefs.  Instead it is the steadying space for permitting whatever changes are needed.   It is a commitment to self and to growth.

Once yoga is part of our self-image, we have a safe and reliable platform for letting go while also being nourished by the self-care time on the mat.

Together practice and renunciation nurture progress along a more consistent path.

YOGA – DETACHMENT – LOVE

21 Apr

Detachment is not indifference. It is the prerequisite for effective involvement. Often what we think is best for others is distorted by our attachments to our opinions. We want others to be happy in the way we think they should be happy. It is only when we want nothing for ourselves that we are able to see clearly into others needs and understand how to serve them.     – Mahatma Gandhi Continue reading

GETTING STARTED WITH YOGA TERMINOLOGY

13 Apr

Yoga can feel a little overwhelming at first. All those pretzely positions seem impossible! There is even some confusion about what yoga really is. Is it an exercise program or a spiritual path? Granted, there is a lot of territory to explore and many options to consider. Personally, I hope you don’t turn away before you discover what yoga can mean to you and your life.

To make your introduction to yoga a little easier, here is a yoga vocabulary cheat sheet of sorts. This is NOT meant to be an in depth explanation of yoga. Instead, it will hopefully just help you navigate your introduction to yoga experience. Later, when and if the time is right for you, you can learn more by drilling down in any area that beckons you!

At a certain point, embracing the language of yoga can be part of the joy and charm of the yoga lifestyle. For some, it is a lifestyle that influences what you eat, how you move, and how you see the world. Continue reading

YOGI BALANCE AND A BALANCED LIFE

10 Apr


Balance….. Yoga teaches us balance but not just to hold a pose.  Continue reading

I DID MY FIRST HANDSTAND!

7 Apr

I did it! I did a handstand for the first time ever! It wasn’t the most beautiful handstand and it only lasted for about three seconds but I did it! I consistently did handstands against the wall where I tapped the wall with one foot for just a second and then held the handstand without touching the wall at all!

Let me explain…. I set a goal to do a handstand by my 65th birthday which will be in January 2014. My apologies to those who have patiently listen to me talk about my desire to accomplish this goal. J My new goal is to do a stronger, better and longer handstand by my birthday. In the meantime, I’m aware of how much I’m learning aside from how to do a handstand. Here’s what I mean… Continue reading

MY VERSION of YOGA 101

5 Apr

My yoga journey started July 2011. Originally I went to the yoga classes offered at my gym just because they were there. I wanted to get more fit and I decided to check out yoga. I was 62 years old at the time and I was experiencing yoga for the first time in my life. It was very challenging. I strained and struggled. Okay, I admit that I probably even grunted a time or two! Flexibility? I was like a board! Balance? Sure, balance wasn’t a problem if I could hang onto the wall! But fortunately I kept going to the classes. Continue reading

LESSONS (SO FAR) FROM MY YOGA PRACTICE

20 Mar

While my personality is one where I am naturally always working to accomplish the next “great” thing, I don’t want my yoga practice to be all about achievement.

Yes, I DO have a goal of doing a strong handstand by my 65th birthday (January 2014) and I’m serious about accomplishing that goal but I don’t believe I need my desire to do that pose as the driver of my practice. And, I still trust that I WILL be doing a nice handstand by my birthday or before.

Here is what I’m learning from yoga. Continue reading

ACT AS IF UNTIL YOU BELIEVE YOURSELF

14 Mar

DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

Who me? An athlete? NO way! I’ve never been able to … I can’t …. That’s just not me…

I feel guilty when I do something for myself.

Strong you answers, “Tell yourself that you are worth it!”

OK. I’ll try to believe that.

Strong you replies, “Act as if you are worth it until it becomes true!”

BUT DOES THAT REALLY WORK? Watch Amy Cuddy on this Ted Talk video and learn why it really does! Then, let’s see how it applies to yoga. Continue reading

YOGA IS LOVE

14 Feb

Happy

Valentine’s

Day!

I dedicate my yoga practice today to sending you love!

  Continue reading

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