I’ve been doing a 5 minute guided meditation lately, and finding it surprisingly helpful. I guess it’s true: even a little bit of meditation can bring a lot of benefits. So I made this video, in case anyone else finds it helpful:
I was stuck in traffic the other day. On my way to teach a yoga class (or course), the highway turned into a parking lot and my mind turned first to panic, I’m going to be late. I’ll have to call the studio…could anyone there sub for me? – then to anger: what the $%#& is going on up there? Why can’t people drive, anyway?
And then I realized what a jerk I was being, acting as if the whole situation was just one big inconvenience to me. I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by probably hundreds of people, and that everyone else around me was equally important, equally inconvenienced – and that all of us were actually lucky compared to the people involved in the wreck up ahead. I had a moment of sanity: this situation is not all about me. It’s not about me at all. I realized that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my convenience. Thank goodness.
– See more at: http://yoganonymous.com/monday-mantra/#sthash.IvdiIL9m.dpuf
A quick view of practice:
Since that time, my students have progressed, so I’ve updated my list for the next stage in their practice…
Yoga is not about feeling good all the time:
Sometimes people get a bit intoxicated with yoga when they start feeling the benefits: less stress, better health, and so on. And that’s great. But as transformative as yoga is, it’s not going to get rid of all your bad feelings and problems. In fact, sometimes yoga cultivates a clarity that brings painful, unacceptable things about your life into focus so that sometimes things get worse before they get better.
Forget about trying to rid yourself completely of sadness, anger and fear. These emotions are not the problem—they are a gift from your nervous system that protect and help you stay on track. The real problem is that we try to deny, run from or cover up these feelings and end up making things worse in the process. By the same token:
Know that your “stuff”—the self-doubt, criticism, intimidation, judgment or whatever your drag onto your mat—is just that, stuff:
Not fact. Not truth. Not permanent or solid. With increased awareness comes the ability to see your stuff for what it is, and to not get caught up in it. Keep reading here: http://yoganonymous.com/10-more-things-i-want-
1 part Tapas (Austerity)
1 part Svadhyaya (Self Study)
1 part Ishvara Pranidhan (Surrendering to God)
Mix ingredients on yoga mat consistently, with full effort, over a long period of time. Season liberally with ahimsa as needed. Do not be alarmed if recipe spills off yoga mat: this is a sign that you have combined ingredients skillfully. Repeat ad infinitum.
Ok, so the Yoga Sutras aren’t a cookbook, and transforming our lives through the practice of yoga isn’t as simple as following a recipe.
Or is it?
Read the rest of this article at YOGANONYMOUS!
Check out my latest on Yoganonymous, an article on the ways we make ourselves suffer!
By request…a video to help you do Chaturanga Dandasana safely and correctly:
For your home practice: here’s a quick warm up sequence you can do to begin, or even do alone as a mini practice when you’re pressed for time…
I’ve just uploaded a new video to YouTube – a tutorial to help you get into Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana). Hope you like it!
For those of you who are new to yoga and want to practice at home, but don’t know where to start…I’ve recorded a quick video to guide you through some modified sun salutations. Doing a few of these would be a great start to a home practice. I’ll be adding more videos so you can keep expanding your home practice so stay tuned! Here’s the link:
Do the words “let’s begin with some seated meditation” cause you to recoil in horror? Do you practice at every studio at town, know every teacher and practice several styles? Are you constantly seeking the thrill of newer, more advanced poses? You might be a yoga thrill seeker.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with variety. I need a certain amount of it, and I know my students do too.
But as a yoga teacher, I sometimes have to resist the urge to entertain my students. I want them to like my class, so I pepper it with humor and try to keep things fresh. And I think that’s ok, as long as I don’t cross the line and actually break into a song and dance routine.
At some point, though, students that have been practicing a while sometimes start to get…bored. They’ve done every possible vinyasa variation. Maybe they can do some really impressive poses. They may have experimented with different styles and different teachers. Even so, sometimes, they’re left with a feeling of, “now what?”.
To these students, I say: you’re bored with yoga? Congratulations. Now the real yoga begins.
If you’re bored, it’s a sure sign that you’ve exhausted the superficial layer of yoga and it’s time to go deeper. Because yoga is so much more than fun party tricks.
Maybe, like me, you have a wandering mind that seeks stimulation – and you may believe that you need that stimulation to feel the joy and inspiration that will keep you coming back to the mat. Sometimes we all need to change our routine or something about our practice to stay motivated. But often these changes are just distractions.
Likewise, emphasizing the purely physical aspect of the practice, and chasing down bigger and more impressive poses can be like a fun thrill ride. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking that ride every now and then, thrills can actually take us further away from ourselves, which I’m pretty sure is not what Patanjali had in mind.
Boredom is sometimes your ego’s way of letting you know it wants more cool stuff to feel good about – like being able to do chaturanga on 2 fingers. Very impressive. And very distracting.
But take heart. We all get bored sometimes. Think of it as a good sign – a sign that you’re ready to go to the next level. Boredom is a sure sign that you haven’t dived deep down into the practice, with full attention on the breath and in your body. Because that breath and that body are an infinite source of information, inspiration and even entertainment, if you pay close enough attention.
Of course, just like the body, attention needs to be trained. Just as the physical practice becomes more nuanced and refined with time, so will the mental – if you make it a part of your practice.
One way to go deeper in your practice is by developing your mindfulness. “Mindfulness” is a word that is used a lot, but I have a feeling a lot of people don’t really know what it means. To me, mindfulness means paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment, in a deliberate, inquisitive, and non-judgmental way. It means being an observer to your experience – being aware of what you are doing, seeing, feeling, and thinking – without getting caught up in reactions, judgments, and story lines.
In yoga, and meditation, we can use the breath as a vehicle for practicing mindfulness. We practice bringing our attention back to our breath time, and time, and time again -whenever we find our minds wandering off. We can also use our bodies – keeping our awareness attuned to the ever changing flow of sensations and energy that we feel as we practice.
Working with our attention, we can begin to observe and witness what goes on in our minds without getting caught up in thoughts and stories we tell ourselves – like “if only I could do that pose.” We learn, through experience, not to take all of our thoughts and feelings so seriously, because they are ultimately fleeting and formless, like that sensation in your thighs in Warrior 2.
Practicing this way, you can use boredom as a a sort of red flag – a signal that you’ve lost your mindfulness – or maybe that you are resisting the present moment in some way. Because when you are truly mindful, when you are paying full attention to the present moment, nothing is boring.
So what to do when boredom – or resistance arise? Acknowledge them. Recognize that you are seeking distraction, stimulation, comfort, whatever. Remember that we all have those moments and try to accept that those moments are part of the practice – but that they too are temporary. Then gently pull your attention back to the breath and back into your body, without judgment or self-criticism.
Like your muscles, mindfulness gets stronger the more you practice it, and it will transform your practice, and your life, if you practice it diligently.
And that, I believe, is more worthwhile than any thrill ride!