Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Asana as Meditation

Ever since I began to dive deeper into yoga, the concept of meditation has been very fascinating to me.  However, it was always one of those “I wish I could do that…” type of things.  I can easily share with you how I’ve always been a deep thinker and problem solver or how my mind never stops or how I love fixing things or how I do usually do very well in stressful, emergency type of situations.  I could explain to you in great detail how all these factors contribute to the fact that my brain, lifestyle, and upbringing are not conducive to meditation.  To put it simply: I can’t meditate. 

Anybody else feeling like I am lying to myself because I sure do.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is to continually eliminate words such as can’t from my vocabulary.  Words such as this allow yourself the excuse to shut your mind off.  If you think you can’t, why would you even try?  Our words truly become flesh so rather than say “I can’t…” a better saying would be “How can I?”  That simple question can open your mind up to a world of possibilites.

I can’t do it.  —> How can I do it?

I don’t have time.  –>  How can I make time?

I can’t afford it.  —>  How can I afford it?

I can’t meditate.  —>  How can I meditate?

See what I mean?  The first is a close-minded statement with no room for solutions but the second is an open-ended question with an unlimited amount of possible answers.

When I first started my yoga practice, meditation was my unicorn.  Something that sounds so great but at least for me, didn’t exist.  But the truth is that I so badly wanted it to exist.  I bought a meditation book that came highly recommended from a friend only to read the first few pages and haven’t picked it up again since.  And it had nothing to do with the book, rather it was all the insecurities floating around in my head.  The thought that perhaps I wasn’t good (or good enough) to even attempt to incorporate mediation into my life.  Even as I write this post, I continually look up at my bookshelf to see that book staring right back at me, waiting to be read and appreciated.

As my yoga has evolved and balanced into a mental and spiritual practice as much as a physical practice, meditation has become a much more comfortable part of the process.  I no longer see meditation as a mythical creature but instead a slowly evolving part of my practice.  I do not have a daily meditation practice, rather I have allowed myself the freedom to experiment when I see fit.  There are times I will turn off the lights, play some soothing music, and quietly sit cross-legged on the floor for a few minutes or however long the mood strikes me.

A few days ago, I was thinking to myself and trying to define what mediation meant to me.  Meditation is such a deeply unique experience for each person that there is no be-all, end-all answer to meditation.  There is no way I can define the undefinable so a better question is trying to understand what meditation means to me.  Some of the things I thought about were quieting my mind, being happy, finding balance, delving beyond the physical layer of an experience, experiencing joy and contentment in nothing (or everything?), and feeling connected with my surroundings.  Then later that day I went to an asana class when a thought suddenly struck me:

This IS my meditation.

All those things I feel meditation “is”, happens each time I walk into class and escape the rest of the world.  Each time I walk into the yoga studio, that time is deeply and personally mine.  Sitting meditation at home has been a very powerful and beneficial meditation for me BUT so has my asana practice.  I’m not sure if many yogi’s have considered asana as a form of meditation but I’m sure many would agree that there comes a point in their practice where asana’s went from being something purely physical to something so much more.  For me, it has become another form a meditation. 

In another moment of fate or coincidence, as I was contemplating this concept of “Asana as Meditation”, the chapter in the book I am reading (Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White) is entitled Meditation Is Your Life.  The first paragraph helped confirm what I was feeling: “Your entire life is your meditation.  All other specific forms of meditation technique are secondary.  By integrating qualities of attention, awareness, caring, and insight into all arenas of living, we reach the deeper core and more essential meaning of meditation.  This is an important contextual perspective to elucidate before proceeding further in an inquiry into specific meditation techniques.  Rather than simply asking how to meditate, it is better to explore first the essense of what meditation is.

As I continue to live my yoga, I am sure I will eventually learn and develop more of the “proper” meditation techniques.  However, today I am very content knowing that my asana practice is a very fulfilling venue of my meditation practice.  And for today, that is more than enough.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

Tapas + Saucha = Tejas

5/22/10    11:45pm

A few moments ago I was sitting at my computer just mindlessly surfing the internet and not doing anything much in particular when a bunch of memories, thoughts, and regrets just suddenly hit me at full speed.  I don’t really know what triggered it but it caught me so completely by surprise, I was content one moment and the next dazed and confused.  It took me a few moments to finally realize what happened but when I did, I turned towards my mirror, stared at myself for a few seconds, and said out loud, “Stop.  Dude, you have to stop.”  A few days ago, a friend shared with me some great advice.  She said that we cannot dwell in the dark places in our lives.  We cannot change the past.  We must work towards the future.  With that in mind, I think it would be appropriate to begin my sadhana practice for the day.

**********

5/23/10    12:30am

Sadhana wasn’t what I was expecting but I still feel was a success nonetheless.  After some stretching I tried doing a few shoulder stands but my body was still much too tight.  As such, I was fighting and struggling to properly align my body which didn’t seem to be doing much good so I stopped.  Instead, I decided to focus on loosening up my body, hips and legs in particular.  The 3 poses I did were Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), and Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) forward fold.  I decided to hold each pose for roughly 5 minutes.  Especially feeling tight, these poses were going to be a challenge physically and mentally.  Each time my mind and body were screaming for release, I focused on my breath.  I knew that if I could endure the initial pain, my body would eventually relax.  Perhaps this breath or maybe the next but the pain would eventually be replaced by steadiness and ease.  It did.  When that moment came, it felt as if I just melted into the floor and could stay here forever.

As I was practicing, I was reminded of a lesson shared by my instructor earlier in the day.  She said:

Tapas (fire, intent, purpose) + Saucha (twist, cleanse, wring out, change)

=

Tejas (Inner Light, Brightness)

First, I committed to the pose, accepted and allowed the pain to settle in my body (Tapas) and when steadiness and ease replaced the pain (Saucha), I smiled and gained victory from within (Tejas).  Through these asana’s, I found again the contentment and peace I had temporarily lost.  I thought about attempting another shoulder stand but decided not to.  My sadhana felt successful and complete, I honored that. Ended with an extended savasana and went to bed shortly thereafter.

It was a good day.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

I Believe In Me

I say this not as a “Truth” but more of an action statement.  And being such, I cannot say it in the past (I wish.. or I hope..) nor can I say in the future (I need to.. or I want to..).  It must be in the present tense.  Right here, right now.  Something I must keep repeating to myself till it is no longer just something I say but something I do.  Something I AM.

**********

Today brought me much more clarity than yesterday.  It didn’t start that way and I have yoga to thank for the change.  As I drove to yoga, a big part of me just wanted to turn around and go back home.  Nobody else was going to be there, I could relax, and I honestly just didn’t want to face the world today. 

No… I had to go to yoga, HAD to.  Wait, is that just ego talking?  No, I knew yoga would help.  I could “escape” the world and clear my head.  Walking into my Saturday class each week, I always loved being there.  This was one of my favorite instructors and I was always “Present” in her class.  Even knowing this, there I was in the parking lot, sitting in my car, and fighting the urge to just turn the keys and drive home.  No… I was going to yoga.  I DESERVED it.

Walking into the yoga studio, a different instructor was there…  An instructor I really like but I definitely wasn’t ready for her.  My usual Saturday morning class is a set sequence that we do every week (a few variations here and there but overall it’s always the same). In fact I am so used to it, there are times I unconsciously set up for the next pose and grab any props (blanket, block, strap, etc) needed before the instructor says anything.  The other instructor is different.  I love her classes as well but her classes are challenging.  Usually there is a pose or two that I can’t do.  Mentally, I was prepared for a slow, steady class.  But you know what?  It really didn’t matter.  I was here, I was ready (albiet worried), so let’s just give it my best shot. 

Class started.  We began by sitting cross-legged on our mats.  Eyes closed.  Back straight.  Shoulders down the back.  Chest out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Quiet your mind.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Equal inhale, equal exhale.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Be still.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

“… Know that you are here.  And you are EXACTLY where you are meant to be.”

*smile* Ahh yes… Yes, I am.  If there was anything I needed to hear today, THOSE were the words.  Those words defined my entire “being” today.  Yes, I was meant to be HERE. Right here, right now.  I can do this.

Class was tough.  My body was tighter than usual.  I was exhausted.  My muscles ached.  But I was meant to be here.  Meant for this moment.  This pose.  This struggle.  This victory.  Here.  Now.  Present.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

I could do this.  Poses I knew, I did with joy.  Poses I have yet to master, I knew the variations.  I could do this.  I was meant to be here.

And then the moment I knew was coming… Salamba Sirsasana.  Headstand, the King of Asanas.  A pose I’ve been slowly working my way towards but have yet to accomplish.  And although I haven’t attempted it in awhile, I knew I was close.  Now here was my chance.  Here.  Now.  So I picked up my mat, brought it to the wall, set up a blanket.  Ok, down on my hands and knees, place forearms down on the mat, interlock hands.  Place top of head between forarms.  Tuck elbows in.  Ready?  Raise legs onto the balls of my feet.  Walk feet in closer towards head.  Relax shoulders.  Stack joints.  Ready?  Kick!

Whew… Almost.  C’mon, I can do this.  Relax.  Good.  Now breathe in.  Breath out.  Breathe in.  Ready?  Kick!

I’m up! I’m up!  Wait, that wasn’t so hard… Hey, FOCUS before you fall!  There… Good. Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Be still.  Smile.  I did it…

I did it.  🙂

“… Know that you are here.  And you are EXACTLY where you are meant to be.”

And when I finally came back down, I sat there for a few moments and savored my accomplishment.  Sitting in Virasana (Hero pose), I brought my hands together in Pranamasana (Prayer pose), whispered a silent Namaste, closed my eyes, and gave thanks.

 Class continued and each asana brought additional stillness and ease.  The final pose before Savasana was Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand).  Since starting my Sadhana practice nearly a week ago, I have seen steady improvement with my shoulder stand.  And despite a physically tiring class, my shoulder stand today was the best it has been in awhile.  Most of my weight stayed out of my hands and my feet were reaching toward infinity.  And because of this, I was able to hold shoulder stand comfortably much longer than I have been.  Another small victory.  🙂

Class ended with a relaxed, almost meditative Savasana and I definitely knew that YES, I was meant to be here.  Namaste dear Instructor, thank you so much.  Thank you for helping me find my strength within. 

“… Know that you are here.  And you are EXACTLY where you are meant to be.”

Yes, I am here.  And yes, I believe in me.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

Three days have passed in my shoulder stand sadhana practice and I feel like I’m slowly making progress.  Day 1 brought me awareness.  Because shoulder stand is meant to cool down the body and promote happiness and balance, I wanted to wait till the end of the day.  Instead I waited too long and fell asleep before I could practice.  I realized that although my reason is valid, I used it instead to procrastinate and be lazy.   There were many times I could have done it throughout the evening but I kept waiting.  Lesson learned.

Day 2 was adjustment.  I do not know how I formed such a mental block against shoulder stand but I am slowly working through it.  My main issue has been alignment.  Although I feel like I am straightening my body and creating a straight line up from my shoulders to my toes, my feet are actually forward over my head.  And thinking I was in the “right” position, trying to find extension in the pose only caused strain on my left shoulder and neck.  It has been an adjustment period trying to bring my legs back inline with my body.  Mostly I feel like I am leaning backwards and instead of my legs and core keeping my body upright, my hands resting along my back feel like they are taking all the weight.  I’m sure it will just take a little time to find that groove again in my muscle memory and shoulder stand will be comfortable again. 

However, as important as position and alignment are, I also must keep in mind the perfection isn’t necessary to achieve the benefits of shoulder stand.  The day before my sadhana started, I did a “test run” at home.  The area in my room that I am practicing is in front of my mirrored closet doors.  Trying to figure out the proper position and alignment, I kept glancing over to make adjustments.  At first I thought it helped but instead all it did was create further strain in my neck.  I just need to be patient and let it be, I know it will come back to me.  In addition, it felt weird watching myself practice an asana pose.  A friend once told me that there is a reason yoga studios don’t have mirrors.  Yoga is not about watching yourself (or others), the asana must come from within.    

Day 3 I would describe as expansion.  Shoulder stand came a little easier that day.  The pose is starting to feel better and my mind was quieter.  I think quieting my mind really helped because the moment when I started to think, “There! I got it!”, I would quickly lose it soon thereafter.  I tried to keep my focus on my breath and relax into the pose. Sthira sukham asanam (“In every asana, there is steadiness and ease.” – Yoga Sutra 2.46).  In  addition, I have been able to slowly expand my sadhana into the beginnings of a home practice.  In addition to shoulder stand, I have begun to include warm up, hip openers, twists, forward folds, arm balances, and most importantly, savasana.  The space that I am practicing in is barely the size of a yoga mat so it’s hard to practice a flow (such as a moon salutation).  I mostly incorporate seated poses into my practice which is actually to my benefit because my hips and groin are probably the tighest area in my body.  The extra attention will definitely help.  I already see my sadhana benefitting my yoga practice in general, not just for shoulder stands.

As I practice each day at home, I find it very beneficial and soothing to incorporate music into my practice.  The title of this post is a line from the song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlin.  This song has recently called out to me and I feel is an accurate representation of my life right now.  I chose shoulder stands for my sadhana practice because it represents happiness, balance, and infinite extension.   That sounds exactly like what I need.  I’m sure my sadhana will bring me closer to my true Self.  Till then, I’m trying my best to embrace the journey.  May I find some comfort here.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

As part of my upcoming satsung this coming Sunday, we were asked to choose a sadhana (spiritual practice) for the next 30 days.  My first thought was that this would be a good opportunity to start a meditation practice.   For months now the thought of being able to meditate and quiet my mind has been very appealing to me.   A little unsure of what I’m supposed to “do” exactly has left me procrastinating on this experience.   My upcoming sadhana seemed like an opportune time to give it a try.

However, for some reason the thought of meditation for sadhana just didn’t seem right.  I didn’t know if it was the timing, uncertainty and fear, or maybe just some frustration but although the thought of meditation sounded good, it wasn’t calling out to me.   Something about it just wasn’t right.  However, rather than stress or worry about it, I knew that if I was patient, the right answer would eventually appear.

With that in mind, yesterday a dear friend, yogi, and fellow blogger wrote something in her blog that (as is often the case when I read her blog) just clicked in my mind and a light bulb went off.   I hope she doesn’t mind that I quote her but she said in regards to her sadhana, “I’ve struggled with finding something that is expressive of my yoga as opposed to doing something sheerly for someone else’s  benefit. I am working to look inward and perfect mySelf…”  I began thinking to myself, “What do I need most in my life that a sadhana can help me with?  What am I struggling with the most?  What is it that I truly need right now?” 

Two things immediately came to mind:

1) Current struggles with feelings of depression, confusion, and loneliness.

2) Difficulties recently with shoulder stand. (Mentally it just feels like I’m not doing it correctly although physically my instructors see nothing wrong)

Although I was trying to stay away from choosing an asana pose for my sadhana, I decided to google shoulder stand anyway to see what more I could learn about it.  The results surprised me… Shoulder stands (Salamba Sarvangasana in Sanskrit) are considered the Queen (or Mother) of Asanas.  As B.K.S. Iyengar states, “It is the “mother of asana,” as a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, so this asana strives for the harmony and happiness of the human system. It is a cure-all for most common ailments.”  Sarvangasana (and inversions in general) are very beneficial to the body.  Physically, they help purify the blood, improves circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system, etc.  On an emotional and mental level, by turning ourselves upside down in inversions, it can help shine a new light on old habits or behaviors.  Sarvangasana can help reduce anxiety, stress, anger, and depression.  Individuals who practice sarvangasana regularly “feel new vigor and strength, and will be happy, confident and at peace. New life will flow into them; their mind will be at peace and will feel the joy of life.”  (http://www.sunandmoonstudio.com/Articles/headstand.html)

I also read another powerful statement and although it was in regards to Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand), it applies just as much to all variations of Sarvangasana. “…the shoulders and arms remain rooted to the earth while the legs extend toward the horizon, reaching out to touch infinity. This suggests the true purpose of yoga: to be grounded while simultaneously stretching into the vastness of the unexplored Self. To do yoga is to be fully rooted in the present while at the same time embracing the possibilities of the future–a state in which we are both being and becoming.” (http://ezinearticles.com/?Yoga-and-Side-Shoulder-Stand—Go-Beyond-Asana-to-Reach-Infinity&id=1431457)

A sarvangasana practice is definitely the right choice for me for my 30 day sadhana.  Prior to writing this post, I decided to give it a shot to see how it felt.  I went into my bedroom, turned off the lights, played some soft, gentle music, and began.  I did sarvangasana for a few minutes, decided to add in a few forward folds and hip openers that just felt right at the moment, and ended with savansana.  Although I learned 2 lessons (include a warm-up first and use a blanket to reduce strain on my neck), my practice session was definitely a success!  I felt much more centered, relaxed, and happy and all it took was about 10-15 minutes!!

This is definitely what mySelf needs.   I am looking forward to my sadhana and the benefits I will be blessed with.

Sarvangasana… To infinity and beyond.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

Steadiness and Ease

Sthira sukham asanam

“In every asana, there is steadiness and ease.”

– Yoga Sutra 2.46 –

My instructor shared this Yoga Sutra verse during class on Saturday and I have thought of it often throughout the weekend.  Although I entered class feeling pretty good, once we started I quickly realized various aches and pains I was carrying in my body.  I had pain and tension in my left shoulder/neck, left ankle, and right hamstring/groin.  No surprise that my asana’s were very challenging, especially the portion in class where we hold each pose for 5 deep breaths.  5 breaths is only about 1 min but when your muscles are sore, it sure seemed much longer.  It was also hard to find a rhythm and my poses felt out of sync.  Mentally, the poses just felt weird although I’m sure I was doing them correctly.  Regardless, I did my best to keep my focus from drifting and many times repeated the sutra above to assist me.  “In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…  In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…  In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…

In every asana, there is steadiness and ease.

Isn’t that so true in our lives as well?  In it’s simplest form, so many things are so simple and easy yet we sometimes find ways to make things much more difficult than they really are.  What if this happens?  What if I’m wrong?  What if nobody believes me?  What will others think of me if I did this?  What if I fail?  What if… what if… what if…  As wonderous and amazing as our minds are, it also has the ability to hold us back and live in fear… IF we let it.

Well what if we just focused on steadiness and ease instead?  What if we just enjoyed the moment?  What if we smiled even in moments of pain and despair?  What if we stop letting our thoughts get in the way of our actions?  What if we just took a second to relax and just breathe..?  Imagine THAT!

Class on Saturday was challenging because my body never felt quite right.  Poses I’ve done many, many times that day felt… weird.  Good but not quite right.  So while the possiblity presented itself for class to be very frustrating and annoying, I instead choose to honor the state of my practice TODAY, and not what it could or should have been.  I enjoyed myself because I knew that this yoga was still mine and is still beautiful in it’s own way.  I learned more about my body that day and that means I made progress.  I was exactly the person and yogi I was meant to be that day. 

Yes, I do believe I found steadiness and ease.   It was a good day.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

If you didn’t know, April 18 is the 108th day this year.  The number 108 carries a lot of significance in many cultures, religions, and philosophies on life, nature, the world, etc.  Yoga is no exception.  Mala’s usually have 108 beads (or some fraction of that number such as 27 or 54).  In pranayama, it is said that if one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.  Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.  But the reason I will be using for this blog post relates to the Heart Chakra.  The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.

Ahhh, Self-Realization…

As you can see from my recent blog posts, self realization has been a major focus for me in my yoga practice and life.  As such, on this 108th day of 2010 I would like to reflect on my yoga journey since the beginning of the year.   Although I attended my first yoga class around Oct/Nov of last year, January 1st was really the beginning of my yoga journey.  That was when I really began to take yoga seriously and incorporate it into my life. 

As I think back to the beginning of the year, I really can’t believe it has only been 108 days… It truly feels like its been a lifetime since then.  Here are some of my lessons along the way:

  • My year started off with 50 straight days of at least 1 yoga class a day (2 a day when I had the time and energy).  I enjoyed this immensely and it really helped me to refine my asana poses.  Poses became easier and much more familiar.  As I become more comfortable with the basics of each pose, I was able to explore it more fully and learned to listen more to my body and adjust accordingly.  As much as I enjoyed my asana practice, I also realized how much of yoga I had yet to learn, most needing to be done in my own time, outside of the classroom. 
  • I attended my first Kirtan a few months ago, hosted by the yoga studio I attend.  It was a very uplifting experience and the energy, love, and joy you could feel around the room was just amazing.  One of the highlights for me was having to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine” aloud, one-by-one to the rest of the class.  It was a nerve-wracking experience (especially since I had to go first) but the feeling of accomplishment and pride for facing this small fear felt so good!  We weren’t just singing lyrics to a song, it was sending a very important message straight to our soul.  It helped me remember just how important it is to keep this little light of mine burning brightly within me.
  • Also attended my first satsang which was focused on ahimsa (non-harming/violence).  I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for applying ahimsa into our everyday lives.  It is instrumental to my development not only as a yogi but as a human being as well.  One of my biggest lessons is making sure to also practice ahimsa on myself in my words, actions, and thoughts.  Forgiveness is also an integral part of ahimsa.
  • Started blogging.  The inspiriation for this blog came from reading a book called Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater.  I highly recommend this book! It helped me so much in learning how to live my yoga off the mat as well as on the mat.  It gave me direction and guidance when I felt my yoga practice had hit a lull and was unsure what the next step in my journey was.
  • I’ve learned how to quiet my mind much more now during asana practice and slowly being able to incorporate that into my everyday life.  I remember when I first started how scattered my thoughts were during asana practice, especially once I started feeling my muscles burning.   During those times, all I was waiting for was the teacher to hurry up and go to the next pose already.  But now, my mind is much quieter and during times of struggle, I am doing a much better job now of focusing on my breath and practicing ahimsa in my thoughts.
  • I am gaining a better understanding of my body.  Physically, it’s amazing that we can control different muscles through practice and awareness.  To understand how the most subtle movements can be the difference between doing a pose correctly versus “looking” like you’re doing a pose but could be causing an injury in the future.  I am more flexible and loose.  I have less body aches and pains.  I am more conscious of the things I eat and drink because they do have an effect on your body and how it operates.  Having much more awareness and respect for my body makes me think twice about eating unhealthly junk food.
  • I am beginning to find my spiritual family.  I have made great, new friends but also lost others who are on a  different journey in their lives.  I thank the ones who are no longer here for helping me learn and grow and I honor new friends for their motivation and support.

The list goes on and on.  As I keep rereading this, I realized just how much I have learned but it’s more than I can fit in a single blog post.  I’ve grown as a human being, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  My life has been filled with much joy and sorrow, smiles and tears, Love and heartbreak, and much more.  January 1st sure does seem like an eternity ago which amazes me when I think how different my life has become in just 108 short days.

After a short moment to reflect, I am now ready to continue on my journey and look forward to the new lessons and adventures the next 108 days will provide me.  Let us continue to move forward and find within us our Divine Self, full of truth, happiness, awareness, understanding, compassion, friendship, and most importantly… love. 

Love Is So Amazing.

Namaste.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »