Thanks to everyone for another fun Mysore last Friday! Breath by breath, everyone stayed focused. It is such a pleasure to observe and offer guidance when needed, as I trust David Keil's and John Scott's teaching to come through me.
Many times, at the start of practice, my mind is thinking, "Well, I feel really tired; I'll probably just do the fundamental poses and then 'take rest.'" That's what happened on Tuesday...
Then, today, I go all the way through practice, and my mind goes, "How did I do that? Where did that come from?"
Sometimes, I answer myself, saying, "I don't know how I did that, but I am very grateful for it. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
The only way I can make sense of it is that there's more than "me" doing the practice. That is, obviously my mind isn't doing the practice - well, the physical part, anyway... my mind IS practicing - practicing getting out of the way so I can focus on breathing and being.
So, maybe... Strength is Being.
Strength is Ujjayi breathing.
Strength is Devotion.
Strength is Sthira - sukham asanam (a pose that is steady, still, alert, calm, and relaxed, or with-ease).
Strength is flexibility, not just of body, but of mind. The willingness to observe the mind and its wanderings without letting the wanderings take over and change being.
Strength is Now - not what you had in the past or what you will develop in the future; it's here in you Now.
My friend, Mark, an awesome yoga teacher in Narberth, PA, is headed out on a business trip, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to have the opportunity to teach for him this Sunday from 8:30 - 9:45 AM at Yoga Garden in Narberth, PA.
It'll be a led Primary, probably a 1/2 led Primary with vinyasa counting. Come have fun with us!
Since I've been teaching Mysore lately, I've missed teaching led classes, so this will be great.
Also, check out Yoga Child's website (http://www.yogachild.net/) for dates and times of upcoming 90-minute Body Rolling classes (eg., Feb 7 and Feb 21, each day from 1-2:30 PM). Here's your chance to experience your body in a whole new way, heightening your awareness and deepening your breath.
I was quite excited for Jill's workshop on Saturday, as I arrived around 12:40 for the 2 PM start... oops - I thought it started at 1 PM. So, I found a wonderful local coffee house, Infusion, and had a delicious soy milk latte - MMM. Definitely recommend a visit, even if you're like me, and you have to drive on Lincoln Dr. to get there. I'm really not fond of this road; if you drive 25 mph - the speed limit - you are getting passed every second by people driving 30-35-40+ mph. Phew.
Nevertheless, the efforts were all worth it. Jill set up the workshop with some harmonious (pun* not intended, but...) chanting, and then gave us 1% theory, leading to 99% practice. She wove her theory eloquently in to the practice, and guided us skillfully through many sun salutations and standing poses, all containing the "drop-back" essence. As she suggested, we not only prepared to drop-back, but we dropped our shoulders, dropped our jaws, dropped our expectations, etc. "Dropping" can be quite a positive experience. Don't think about it too much.
It felt as though every participant was fully Present, and as the collective breathing deepened, hearts opened (not just through the chest, but through the back, sides - every direction).
In preparation for dropping back, Jill taught some creative, step-by-step preps, including using the wall in a safe way. Also, we spent quite a bit of time dropping back from our knees; ie., starting with Ustrasana (Camel). My guess is that many people had sore quads the next day. Dropping back is NOT just about having a flexible spine. As with any asana, a balance of flexibility and strength throughout the body (and mind, and spirit) are essential. I think everyone really understood this by the time we were actually dropping back.
Great job, Jill! It's always fun to see and experience new ways of teaching things, and Jill has the experience and creativity to do so safely and enthusiastically.
Not sleeping well (in part, due to wonderful cats snuggling in the bed) and then waking up with my upper back and right side of my neck on fire led me to believe that this (yesterday) would not be a "good practice day." Note to self (lower case "s"): It's not necessary to label practices.
Anyway, I showed up on my mat to see what would happen. Sometimes, practice heals these out-of-nowhere morning "injuries." Actually, often, I'm surprised what I can still do. Other times, not so much. Then, meditation and rest are the healers.
I added in many more sun salutations than the normal 5 A and 5 B, as my body did, indeed, feel better as I went along, and my head flexion and extension gradually improved. No Second Series this time, though; that was for sure. A-ha... I needed Yoga Chikitsa (yoga therapy) = Primary Series! It really helped. I could barely look up at the ceiling when I started, and by the end, I could look up and back.
Admittedly, last week I made the mistake of doing Second Series with a similar neck pain... well, it felt better at the end of practice, but worse the next day... but then better the following day... so was it a mistake? Who knows. Svaha.
Btw, tomorrow is Jill Manning's workshop at Blue Banyan Yoga in Mt. Airy, PA., and I'm going. Jill is an excellent teacher who knows how to connect with students of all levels. So, if you want to experience joy while learning about drop-backs, come join in the fun!
Yesterday, I just wanted to climb back in bed with my cats rather than practice (which I have done before... if I need the nap, it becomes yoga nidra and my yoga practice for the day)... but, on this kind of lethargic day, I often give practice a chance, just to see what will happen. Sometimes I make it through sun salutations and do a verrrrrry long savasana, and sometimes I do more.
Well, this time the practice just awakened my energy. Literally, breath by breath, it seemed, energy seemed to arise from nowhere, and I enjoyed a full practice. Sometimes, it's amazing what can happen when you give practice a chance. All we have to do is stand on the mat and breathe, and then see what happens.
It's not that the practice is perfect or even nearly so... but there's "just something" about the Presence in the practice, where the prana just keeps growing, and the thinking just keeps getting more silent. Some asanas are challenging and some are relatively easy, and it doesn't matter. Whatever is, is.
I'll have to make a point of posting when this doesn't happen. In the meantime, the effects of such a practice seem to bubble over to many following practices, without any conscious effort.
Next time perhaps I'll edit before I publish the post...
In my last post, I wrote that yoga practice is for connection with the Self. The change I'd make to that sentence is that yoga practice (or meditation, for that matter) is for recognizing the connection with Self. That is, my feeling is that the connection is always there; we just tend to not recognize or be aware of the connection on a moment-t0-moment basis. Too much thinking (analyzing, ruminating, judging, etc.) gets in the way. Stillness and emptiness, a mind unoccupied, cultivated through practice, awakens the connection to Self.
As I often say: turn off your brain, turn on your breath.
Time to resurrect the Eight Limb Yoga blog... for several reasons, the main one being that I'm headed back to New Zealand for John and Lucy Scott's Level 1 Ashtanga Teacher Training.
[I don't think that we're supposed to call it "teacher training," so... well, consider it a very intensive study of Ashtanga yoga.]
The energy of change is here, and while the fear of change is palpable, I also sense a real energy of opportunity, of open-mindedness, of awareness...
Having this opportunity ahead of me leaves me feeling completely grateful, fortunate, and humble. The practice of yoga is ever-humbling, ever-inspiring, and ever-centering.
As the Buddhists often suggest, you practice not just for your self, but for all sentient beings, and as the yogis say, it is for connecting with the Self (upper-case "S"). These are my intentions.
Offer it all to the Divine in all. Be with the energy in each moment, each breath.
Thank you to all of my loving family, friends, clients, and students, for being present. Thank you to my incredible, loving husband, Tim.
I leave February 27, and will return April 4... why five weeks? The last week, following the 4-weeks of intensive study, will be practice with Manju Jois, son of Pattabhi Jois. Since I've never studied with Manju or Pattabhi Jois, the time seemed ripe to do so. John and Lucy will be practicing in the same group with me... should be quite interesting; ie., the energy in the room, the energy at Stillpoint Yoga in Upper Moutere, NZ.
May our practice, as every practice, be for the benefit of all sentient beings.