You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

By now, any student of mine has heard me say “effortless effort” a few times, at least. This paradox is a concept set forward by Patanjali, the wise teacher(s) of all things yoga and writer(s) of the Yoga Sutras, the “bible” of all things yoga. Paradox (especially this one) is foundational not only to the practice of yoga, but to the practice of life. Yoga is balance: between night and day, between feminine and masculine, between earth and air, fire and water. In asana practice, it is the balance between strength and flexibility, between structure and flow, between organic energy and muscular energy.

We all tend towards certain patterns in life. Just as we all gravitate toward certain elements, we also gravitate towards their tendencies. Fire people love action- they power through life, with movement, will, and, well… fire. Those who tend to be on the earthy side are grounded, stable, and softer than the sharp fire types. And so on. Some people like schedules, to-do lists, and a clean desk, whereas others tend to thrive in a bit of chaos and spontaneity. And the best thing? Not one type is “better” than the other. 

My patterns fluctuate between chaos and order… perhaps due to my astrological sign (Pisces: two fish swimming in opposite directions) and perhaps due to my upbringing (parents on complete opposite sides of the spectrum). Yoga is there to help me find balance between these two. This year, instead of “battling” between  my 2-5 different sides, I resolve to embrace these extremes and find the happy medium. Yoga teaches us to tune in and listen to our bodies, to go with the flow, to be adaptable. Yet, it also gives us a tool to calm the mind, organize our bodies, and realign our energy. Life follows this same ebb and flow. For example, my tendency to work on a predictable schedule plagues me at those times when plans change and I have to adapt to something new. On the other hand, there is also that mess of ideas and words and images floating around in my head during the day when I’m trying to get things done. My messy, cluttered desk… and my impeccably organized computer desktop. My disciplined activity schedule… yet the absence of a watch on my wrist. So, instead of cursing myself for each time I swing in one direction or the other, I can practice forgiveness and adaptability on one end… and a little bit of structure and alignment on the other. 

Just as the sun and the moon, day and night, can coexist and cycle, so will we. It is finding that yin within the yang, and vice versa, that helps us really tune into the natural beauty of life and living.

Although I was absent the week of February 17, we still had a theme, and I do believe it fits in well with my resolutions… 

With Glowing Hearts

The theme of this winter’s Olympics is “With Glowing Hearts”. We can feel our hearts glowing as we watch our country’s athletes win medals just as we feel our hearts glow when we overcome our obstacles in life and receive our little rewards. This empathy that we feel is compassion, and it is what keeps us doing good for others. Because when our favorite skier wipes out on the slopes, that pang we feel in our hearts is moved by the same compassion that brings tears to our eyes when we see them burst with excitement at a new record time. This compassion is what keeps us humble and grounded, and what motivates us to go out into the world and do good for others. Compassion is non-judgement and non-violence. Compassion is one more virtue that we cultivate in practicing yoga– as we learn to love and listen to our own bodies, we open ourselves up to learn to love and listen to all other creatures on earth.

So, keep those hearts glowing. It shows.

To activate our 2nd chakra and all that wonderful stuff related to it (creativity, flow, love, flexibility), we worked on loosening up our hips and stimulating our cores… in order to be able to salsa our way home! By starting the class with some core work, we were able to bring our focus to and energize our bellies, preparing us for the rest of class.

Poses and movement which stretch and release the hip and pelvis area liberate the energy of the second chakra. So many yoga poses address the hips; some wake up our hip flexors, some lengthen our adductors, some loosen up our abductors. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II) (held for more breaths than usual) doesn’t only strengthen our legs and will, but also allows us to soften into the opening through our inner groins while stimulating our abdominal organs. Trikonasana (triangle pose) brings new light on our inner groins, while continuing to strengthen and tone the legs and allowing us to express some extra creativity with an open heart and wide arms.

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Continuing on this journey to open hips, we included a long series of Prasarita Padatonasana and it’s variations. Adding twists and shoulder openers to this pose is a great way to crack open the heart even further and expand the possibilities of poses to come! Pigeon pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, was a required addition, as it is the ultimate hip pose for all those muscles that get tighter as our hours at work grow longer.

Seated poses are fantastic to help us with adaptability and receptivity. Upavistha Konasana (Open Angle Pose) and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana provide freedom of movement in the pelvis. Remember: these hip and groin openers should never be forced and pushed, it is the subtle feminine aspects and softness of these poses and their ruling chakra that will allow us to open deeper. The more we can tap into our 2nd chakra, the more we can open up to the power we hold inside to move like water and nurture ourselves and our loved ones… on Valentine’s Day/Svadisthana Day and on every other day of the year.

In the spirit of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I would like to propose a second name for the day: Svadhisthana chakra day. Valentine’s Day, in my opinion, does not quite encompass all that this day really could signify… not only in the way of relationships, caring and love for others, and compassion, but also in the sweet nectar of life itself. This brings me to one of my favorite resolutions this year: Keep the Sparks Alive.

In saying this, I am not only talking “relationship-wise”. The 2nd chakra, or Svasdhisthana chakra, is not only responsible for our sensuality and relationships, but also with creativity, taste, nurture, flow, flexibility, and a general love of life. And of course, this includes love of one’s self. As it rules all the fluids in our body, it is responsible for the lubrication of joints, cleansing of our lymphatic system, and the general fluidity of our lives. It is almost unquestionable that the mere image of this flow brings us feelings of softness and adaptability, bringing us closer to another feminine aspect inside ourselves.

Thus, in “Keeping (or re-igniting) the sparks alive” I want to get back in touch with this “go-with-the-flow” nature that resides within each of us, to awaken my creativity, and to stimulate a “lust for life” that will get me through the rest of this Winter (and this semester at school). In our fast-paced lives, it is no wonder there is an increasing prevalence of dysfunction with sexuality, with depression, and with relationships. By reconnecting to our this sweetness inside by doing things we love, by spending time with people we love, and by nurturing ourselves and others, we can reconnect to that fire inside. 

So the key here is to take time to taste the chocolate, to enjoy the sunset, to create art (in whatever way possible), to play, and to express yourself… at least once a day. But of course, that is not a static goal… because we’re not into that this year, right?

This week, in yoga class (my first one back after a terrible bout with every circulating pathogen this winter!), we kept it simple and full. As it was not only my first class back after a while, we filled the class with familiar poses, held for a good number of breaths. In this, we were made to really connect to the essence of the pose. We practice yoga to bring balance into our busy lives, to provide our bodies with nourishment, and to connect with what it is to be alive. Just as in our good intentions (resolutions) for this new year, our yoga practice is a life-affirming way in which we can express our joy for life and appreciation for our bodies.

King Pigeon Pose

King Pigeon Pose

 

In Warrior 2, we felt our thighs start to burn, as we honored the strength of not only our muscles, but our wills. 

To nourish our bodies (in the way we plan to do all year), we included backbends such as Cobra, and lots of poses to open up our side bodies. In expanding our upper bodies, we are expanding our ability to breathe and our connection with this life-giving breath that feeds our every cell.

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana was one of these side-opening experiences we held until our sides grew another inch. We finished with a new and unusual transition into Pigeon pose, and, with the help of our belts, grew into King Pigeons (picture shown here), a beautiful and heart-opening experience… in whatever form we were able to achieve!

Until next week, yoginis… and remember to continue nourishing yourselves!!!

Just me…

2010 Journey

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