Modifications in Our Practice

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Giving up on something we think about everyday is a sure-fire way to not get closer to our goals.

Physically, yoga is good for the body. Mentally, yoga is good for the mind. Spiritually, yoga is good for the soul. Practicing yoga daily is good for the entire being. Yoga, in this sense, is not just the physical aspects but also the mental clarity and spirituality that is provided along with the physical. Physically, when a pose is challenging, the yogi searches mentally for a way to practice acceptance in the pose and to make the pose more available to them. A good instructor will listen to the challenges presented in the physical practice and offer modifications. Modifications do not mean “make easier”, instead, modifications are the understanding that not every yogi is 5′ 7″, narrow, and flexible. Modifications help yogis deepen the pose, as when a yoga strap is introduced to enable a deeperĀ Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). The yoga block lengthens arms when bending sideways into Trikonasana (triangle pose).

While these modifications, the physical ones, are obvious because they can be seen and are tangible; it is the mental modifications that make the greatest changes in the yogi’s practice. The modifications start slowly at first for a new practitioner and may take the form of an inner dialogue, “Wow, this is tough. Wait, is that twisting? or bending? Oh! I feel that, I get it. Is this how I’m supposed to look?” and after a while, that inner dialogue quiets down and another arises, “Oooh yeah! We’re practicing trikonasana! My hamstrings have been so tight! I can’t wait to get into paschimottanasana tonight!” until, the thoughts quiet altogether and the mind focuses, “Moving, flowing, breathing. Moving, flowing, breathing.” Of course, the occasional, “Wait! What? Oh. Moving, flowing, breathing.” And there it is. While it may, or may not have been a conscious modification, the mind suddenly acknowledges that the time on the yoga mat is for the yogi. It isn’t the time to think about that big work project, or the grade your kid got on that report, or even about the upcoming dinner party. It is simply time for the yogi to be present, with the breath, moving, flowing, breathing in their body. I hope you make every practice of yoga, both on and off the mat, a practice of modifications.

Namaste

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Compassion

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Familiar to us is the strength and power of the word compassion; and seeing compassion can move people in strong, emotional ways. Compassion is prevalent in the animal world such as when we witness animals of different species helping one another. Tears fall freely when a deep sense of compassion is shown to others who have sustained great loss. In short, when compassion is the leading theme of an interaction between living beings, it’s as if the air has been sucked out of the room and we could hear a pin drop because of the deep level of respect we feel for the participants.
Let’s try an experiment today; it will be a tough experiment for me personally and all the more reason I want to try. A few days ago, there was a blog posted on A Cup o’ Yoga. It showcased a video of people going through some very emotional times with a theme that surrounded a hospital. In our interactions today make an internal statement before each interaction starts, “I don’t know what this person is going through personally.” And relate to a moment in that video that moved you deeply. The person you are facing, no matter the circumstance, deserves your compassion and respect. Human beings are all on the same road, all water runs downhill. We just call the journey different things, just as we call water creeks, streams and rivers. Extend a moment of compassion to the person before engaging in conversation, even with those you hold most dear! You will be amazed at what happens in both your heart and in your head.
Living a more yogic lifestyle is allowing others to be who they are, honoring them in their existence and becoming aware of our own thoughts, feelings and responses before acting. Be mindful of the story from the video that resonated deeply with you; we never know exactly what another is going through.
Namaste


Finding Our Voice

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In our journey through life, we can find ourselves speechless. We have moments of speechless clarity when we are met with profound kindness, beauty or grace; and we have moments of speechless awkwardness when we are met with crude, rude or violent behavior. In search of following a more yogic lifestyle and living our truth, we must be mindful of our speechless moments and honor our 5th Chakra: Vishudda.
The vishudda chakra is about communication, honesty, and intuition. When this chakra is out of balance, we can find ourselves unable to speak up or speak out. This imbalance can create other unhealthy areas in our life; it can affect our ability to practice the yama Satya and hinder our interactions with others. Therefore, we need this chakra to have good energy and balance. Signs the chakra is out of balance include lying and “biting our tongue”, or not saying what we are really feeling or thinking. An overactive chakra can be characterized by “not thinking before speaking” and constant chattering.
In both cases, balance can be restored by meditating on the chakra, which is the color blue like the robin’s egg, while chanting the seed sound “Ham” with mala beads. Balance can also be restored with asana, or poses, that help to bring harmony to this chakra. The poses are salamba sarvangasana, shoulder-stand, followed by matsayasana, fish pose. These poses will close and open the vishudda chakra thereby enabling expression to our voice in an authentic way. The poses bring awareness to the throat reminding us that both the voice and silence have their place.
But, when we are unable to speak up, we are not only hindering our growth, but also potentially acting as silent witnesses to the stagnation of others’ growth or even their harm. Finding our voice can encourage others to do so as well, while balancing the overactive chakra allows greater connection with people through better listening.
Connecting to your truth and being honest with a balanced vishudda, enables open communication which in turn helps guide the journey toward living a more yogic lifestyle. Being able to express what we know in our hearts to be true makes us more authentic and we find ourselves closer to the path of living the lives we choose.

Namaste

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Chakra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Authenticity

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A cup of yoga notices that sometimes we choose to show our authenticity, no matter how small, and I’d like to take this moment to applaud that. I see this often in yoga classes.

I love knowing students are in the class for themselves, they are on the mat focusing on the sensations in their bodies. I adore when their gaze is turned inward; focused on the breath and movement. I honor when they aren’t on time with the routine, sometimes going slower; other times going faster. I can respect their reflection in that it is internal and their practice is authentic for them. I enjoy letting the student take responsibility for their pace, time and movement on the mat because it gives me, and them, the freedom to practice their poses at their pace in their bodies. Yoga, teaching and training, isn’t about controlling or dictating as teachers on the mat; it is simply guiding a person through their yoga practice and honoring their gift of yoga to themselves.

To your authentic practice today!

Namaste


Additional Authenticity

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What about the times when we are afraid to be who we really are (authentic)?
This is a question we can hear about and struggle with constantly. First, my heart goes out to you in your deepest moment of need, and I’m beside you, if not literally, figuratively. Even if ultimately the choice made is something different than what you would have wanted going in…you, my dear yogi, were able to make a choice that felt right in your mind, heart and being for the moment; authentic to you. We are all human beings, joined together in our perfect imperfections and each one of us makes a difference in someone else’s life. It could be as simple as being that one extra stop on a mailman’s route; or as complex as when the nighttime story is read, one more time, to a little one before trucking them in for the night. In this moment, I would like to honor the authentic you, to reward you, to cherish you for the brave-ness you exhibit in your choices at every moment of your life. Right or wrong, left or right, up or down;…you take the road you freely chose to and you move forward albeit, maybe on the Road Less Traveled.

The choices we make aren’t perfect. I know sometimes we will disappoint others based on our decisions as autonomous human- wonderful-beings and our choices are made, for the most part, with an authentic belief that it is the right one!

I encourage you to continue to move forward with your choices – be authentic, and cherish them. When we move closer toward acting in accordance with our internal truths, we will find peace of mind and step even closer to samadhi.

Whatever your choices, big and small, and especially surrounding your daily practice of living yoga – Believe me; The best is always yet to come in yoga… and; that makes all the difference!
Namaste


Monkey Mind on the Mat

Monkey Work in Progress

Monkey Work in Progress (Photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny)

 

The Monkey Mind, the ever chattering, constant movement of a mind not ready to be still. How do we move through our practice when our minds are cluttered with chatter? You think about the day, the relationships in your life, the other members in class, and so on. For example, when you are on the mat, and the perfectly coiffed little yogi girl is standing next to you, are you thinking that: your clothes don’t fit as well as hers; you do the pose better – or she does; Man, she has skinny thighs; wonder what brand of mat that is…and on, and on?

 

Relax! It is OK. It is our human nature.

 

We cannot fault who we are; yet we can be mindful. We can watch the thoughts arising (or at least catch them after they have arisen!) and then put them at bay. Yes, she has a beautiful yoga mat and it must bring her joy to practice on it. Does that mean her practice is any more beneficial to her than yours is to you? Almost seems like a silly question now, off the mat – away from her skinny thighs – doesn’t it? And, yet, you know that when you next hit the yoga studio and she is there, you’ll find some equally challenging, urgent and unimportant thoughts coming up. Again, it is our human nature. We all do it.

 

How about not berating yourself for these thoughts or any other thoughts that come up during practice? How about becoming aware of them and accepting them? Answer the question, the worry or the concern right away at the beginning of your practice. Let’s continue with our example. This time our perfectly coiffed little yogi has the cutest top on! You find yourself intrigued by the top – not your breath and suddenly you become aware that you aren’t taking time for yourself here! The monkey-mind has won again! Or, has it? Try saying to yourself, “OK, I love that top. I have to know where she got it. Must ask after class.” There. It’s solved. You’ve answered that question that would have followed you through your practice. And you move forward, letting go and focusing on your body, your breath, and the poses you experience during your time on the mat.

 

Lo’ and behold…I’ll be surprised if you even remember that perfect little top (or any of the other majorly urgent yet unimportant things that crop up) after svasana…but, if you do; you did let it go throughout your practice to allow yourself time to honor your body and you now have the power to follow through with the decision you made about the question, worry or concern that started talking to you at the beginning of practice. I promise, it will still be there at the end of class if it is an important one. Your practice is your gift to you; or if I’m teaching you – your practice is a gift from me. I look forward to watching you grow and learn in yoga; every, single moment.

 

Namaste

 

 

 


If We Could See Inside Other People’s Hearts

Wonderful insight from a fellow yogini!