Thursday, February 25, 2010

Aparigraha, part deux

What mystery there is to the way things unfold. Just Sunday I was grieving a little and having a hard time letting go of disappointment at having missed a deadline for a training opportunity, and 36 hours later, I had not only been accepted but enrolled and ready to start. I had never been sure about completing my 500 hour RYT certification requirements-- the 200 hour level seemed enough for the time being-- and the program I just completed has a 500 hour level but it is very expensive, with lots of travel and the expenses associated with that. While I wanted to get more training so that I could take my yoga teaching to a higher, deeper, and wider place, I couldn't see the way.

Then I just happened to visit the web site of Rolf Gates, whose Meditations from the Mat I have been reading for the last year and a half, either picking from it for my classes or now, reading from start to finish. I saw that he is leading a program in Virginia Beach that started this past weekend and continues for several three-day weekends until early June 2011. After a few emails between his wife Mariam and me, (and paying tuition in full- yikes!) I am joining the program. I will have a lot of work to do to catch up, I think, but the opportunity is a great one-- the program is designed around preparing teachers to run workshops and seminars and use the practice of yoga in every aspect of life, not just on the mat, which is where I am headed anyway! I have always wanted to be a community leader, in my own way, and this is a great chance for me to accomplish that.

What's funny is that I was feeling a little down about having missed the deadline and thinking I had forfeited an opportunity, when actually, I was right where I needed to be. Instead of being discouraged, I sent the email, made the request, and my request was answered. Amazingly, checking out all the dates, all of them fit in with what I already had planned, so no changes were necessary. It seemed I was right where I needed to be. In November and December, when most people likely enrolled, I had not yet received my 200 hour certification, so I would not have been ready in that way, nor was I mentally in a place to take on another long training. Yet another instance when letting go of limiting thought patterns and having patience creates possibilities for wonderful things to happen.

Aparigraha-- letting go. This is my word for the year!

There are some other things I am letting go of, and I will talk about them later. Namaste.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I am working through some issues in the "letting go" category right now. I can't put it in words, but I will soon. I am receiving messages from everywhere these days-- from Tiger Woods, from my knees, from the melting snow, from my family, from my friends-- everywhere I look these days reminds me that in order to move forward gracefully there is a loosening of the grip that needs to take place.

More about this later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just Mind It!

I found this article in the Indian publication The Hindu concerning Nadi Shodhan Pranayam (alternate nostril breathing) and Meditation in combination with Surya Namaskar in "resolution of many mental disorders that find no permanent solution in Allopathic or other systems of western medicine":

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yoga in Time

This article has been around a while, but it makes a good case for the physical benefits of yoga.

I especially like the following, though I was a bit frustrated by all the fluffy stuff about Madonna and Gwyneth and yoga butts:

The sensible practice of yoga does more than slap a Happy Face on your cerebrum. It can also massage the lymph system, says Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Lymph is the body's dirty dishwater; a network of lymphatic vessels and storage sacs crisscross over the entire body, in parallel with the blood supply, carrying a fluid composed of infection-fighting white blood cells and the waste products of cellular activity. Exercise in general activates the flow of lymph through the body, speeding up the filtering process; but yoga in particular promotes the draining of the lymph. Certain yoga poses stretch muscles that from animal studies are known to stimulate the lymph system. Researchers have documented the increased lymph flow when dogs' paws are stretched in a position similar to the yoga "downward-facing dog."

Yoga relaxes you and, by relaxing, heals. At least that's the theory. "The autonomic nervous system," explains Kripalu's Faulds, "is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which is identified with what's been called the Relaxation Response. When you do yoga — the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body — you initiate a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the Relaxation Response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Here is part of my daily reading from Meditations from the Mat:

"Unfortunately, the reasonable desire for ego-gratifying results must be abandoned in yoga. If we are really practicing yoga and abiding by the principles of yoga, then we are making a commitment to focus on the nature of our efforts and not the nature of the results. [This] sort of attachment to progress ... is not only antithetical to the true aim of yoga, it is also a one-way ticket to injury and burnout. When we focus on what we can get out of yoga, we miss the point. We also place ourselves in physical danger while sabotaging our relationship to our practice. to realize the beauty of yoga in our lives, we must never forget that the prize is in the process."


What I think is so interesting about this passage is that for me, I could almost substitute the word "relationship" or "marriage" for "yoga" or "practice" and it would make just as much sense to me. I recall a time when I lived in a constant state of expectation about my husband, what I thought I needed him to do or show, in order for me to fully recognize him as a partner. In effect, I was seeking the "final pose," whatever that was, instead of breathing and enjoying the process of just being a partner!

Today we took a partner yoga class together-- our second-- and I think we really were on the same wavelength, so to speak. We really communicated, and it felt like we were really present, really listening to each other, and especially, smiling a lot. The poses felt amazing even if we weren't always in perfect form or balance. The whole class felt like a metaphor for our relationship at this stage in the game... I feel really lucky to be able to recognize this and be as happy about it as I am.

Wishing you a heart full of peace,


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vinyasa Krama

This was shared with me recently and I thought I'd post it here since it helps remind me why I became so interested in Vinyasa yoga. To be honest, the first five or six Vinyasa classes I took as a student were extremely frustrating for me. I couldn't keep my breath and movement linked; going from forward bend to lunge to Warrior One to chaturanga was extremely vigorous and challenging for me. (There were a couple of times I actually became so frustrated I left the class early on the verge of tears.) It helps me as a teacher to remember those times because I hear similar things from my students now. As much as advanced practitioners know that bodies need yoga, beginners struggle with getting to that state of knowledge. Our compassion and patience as teachers, every bit as important as their compassion and patience as students, are the bridge that connects the two shores of experience.


Vinyasa Krama

The Forgotten Language of Sequencing Postures

Excerpt from Chapter 8, Jivamukti Yoga

The newborn baby is not able to walk like a young child; it gives constant suggestion to its body through the mind and after one or two years of the practice of suggestion, the baby walks. Any knowledge that we are acquiring at present, or that which we expect to acquire in the future, will come to us through the power of suggestion. If there is evil suggestion this will result in an unhappy life, good suggestion will result in a happy life.

— -Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, The Textbook of Yoga Psychology

Learning only static postures does not reveal the incredible potential of asana. When individual asanas are linked together correctly in a sequence, the result is a physiological mantram, a fleshy vortex of intersecting rivers of everything. The word vinyasa means "a joining or linking mechanism." Krama means "the process"; it refers to the succession of changes that occurs from moment to moment. Vinyasa krama means the succession of changes undertaken with a single pointed intention, free from fluctuation.

Most people are not conscious of their intention from moment to moment. Details fill their lives, but the casual thread of the vinyasa remains elusive. They may often find themselves in situations wondering, "How did I get into this one?" When we establish a conscious intention and teach ourselves how to remain aligned with that intention, no matter how much we are dissuaded or distracted by the external world, the process unfolds as it should.

The vinyasa is the element that sews together the various moments in a sequence of changes. It is like the string on which pearls are strung for a necklace. The linking strand may be of two types: conscious or unconscious. Change is always occurring, but usually a sequence of changes is linked by unconsciousness; in other words, the conscious mind fails to perceive it. The yogi, having escaped from the illusion of duality, is able to perceive the moment-to-moment sequence of changes past, present, and future. When one perceives clearly both the instigation and the outcome of moment-to-moment changes, one can choose to undertake a sequence of actions that has a conscious end point and will have a particular effect.

When you practice a sequence of asanas, you link them with conscious breathing. The real vinyasa, or link, however, is the intention with which you practice asanas. It is the intention that links the postures with consciousness instead of unconsciousness. The breath is a metaphor for that intention. If your intention is to practice asana to realize the Self, every breath you take will help break down your sense of separation from others.

Excerpt from Jivamukti Yoga, by Sharon Gannon and David Life - June 2004 Focus

Friday, February 5, 2010

Borderline Personality Disorder

I often catch myself implying that yoga is a cure-all. Stressed? Yoga! PMS? Yoga! High Blood Pressure? Yoga!

Okay, to some degree yoga can help people manage all of the above conditions. But I know in my heart that some things are so rooted in the biochemical that it seems unlikely yoga would make much of a dent. Last night some friends were talking about borderline personality disorder. I remember studying this in my psychology classes at VCU but must admit, the details are a bit sketchy. I was reminded that it falls somewhere between untreated bipolar disorder and psychotic break. Scary stuff: people with it tend to be highly unpredictable, aggressive, and moody, like in bipolar, but they also have no remorse (or even memory of) their episodes, as during a psychotic break.

My friend grew up with a mother with b.p.d. and she recounted horrible stories about abuse, alcoholism, and broken trust. As a result, she says, she has developed into a very nervous and anxious person. She reads into environmental cues as a self-preservation mechanism-- to an extreme, she says, because when she was young she learned that the sound of her mother's car pulling into the gravel driveway foretold the evening to come. This is heartbreaking for me. My friend is such a caring and warm person, and like me, an only child. Having grown up with an alcoholic mother, I understand that feeling of walking on eggshells. Being nervous all the time. Second guessing myself and others. Living in a state of fear. And b.p.d. has no treatment, because it's a personality disorder-- she said, if you look at the brain like a cake, it's marbled throughout, affecting everything. And apparently, things can be going along well and something-- a major life event, a stressful encounter, or seemingly nothing at all-- and it can be triggered.

What perhaps is most worrisome though, is that it's genetic. She has a young son and, universe willing, will have another child in the next year or two, and I asked the question: How would you know if your child had it, since kids are so moody anyway, it seems? Nobody really had an answer for this.

I keep thinking to myself (and probably intimating to others) that yoga can be a treatment for everything. But maybe it's more precise to suggest that its techniques could be used as a preventative mechanism. Teaching kids early to breathe through painful and tumultuous times could be so valuable later on. Teaching them about the interconnectedness of everyone, and how we rely on each other for survival. And how the body and the mind truly rely on one another, through the breath. I remember learning about neural pathways being carved in the brain through repetition. In depression, it's like a slow downward spiral which, if caught early, and its victims taught coping skills, can be halted or reversed.

I wonder if those with b.p.d. could benefit as well. It's a nice thought. But the attitude and behavior of yoga require so much personal responsibility though, so much self-monitoring, so much mindfulness, that it may not be possible.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I learned of the passing of a high school classmate today, Brian. He had apparently had some fairly serious emotional issues that remained unresolved over the past couple of years, had withdrawn in many ways from family and friends, and took his own life and that of his dog sometime last week. His body was discovered on Monday when his family sent the police to his apartment to investigate.

I didn't know him well at all, not even when we were in school together, but I remember him being a friendly person. I wish I could remember specific situations that characterized the kind of person he was, but I can't, so I will leave that to people who knew him well.

I think what it is about this news that really affects me is that I remember the feeling of being in a state of darkness for some time, really for about ten or even more years, and sensing that I was alienated from everyone and everything and really had no place in this world. I probably behaved rather normally for the time, being a teenager and then moving into my early to mid twenties, but inside I really did feel lost and disconnected. I sought counseling a number of times, and had one therapist with whom I really 'clicked'-- he was a grad student finishing his practice counseling at the VCU Center for Psychological Services and Development. Our sessions were taped, reviewed by my counselor and his supervisor, and erased. I didn't share everything with him, but he had such a caring heart and a gentle and thoughtful manner, I really felt I was making progress with him and I felt that normalcy was possible.

At the time, I was taking Western World Literature and we were reading T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," still one of my favorite literary works of all time. We discussed this poem, especially its themes of ending suffering by both opening one's heart and responding to the turbulence of life with steadfastness and grace (symbolized in the poem, among other things, by adjusting the rudder on one's own sailboat). Our sessions lasted several months, during which time we met one to two times a week. At the end of his student year, he notified me that he was terminating our sessions because he was finished with his practice counseling. This may have been my first opportunity to end a relationship gracefully. Our final sessions were really positive, and during our last session he gave me a small rubber stamp with an image of a sailboat. He reminded me that that image was so helpful, and so powerful; that no matter the state of the water-- turbulent, or choppy, or calm-- it's my own approach as the captain of my own vessel that determines whether I make it. My life didn't immediately improve-- there were and continue to be periods of darkness and trouble that remind me that I am never very far from that young and vulnerable girl-- but I have learned so much since that time and allowed myself to remain open to the possibility that I am not alone, no matter what-- and that the universe has lots to offer me in whatever time I have left in this life.

I wish Brian had found help the way I did.