Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category
I recently started practicing yoga asana again after a 9 month hiatus. Life got busy so I spent my time doing things aside from heading to a warm yoga studio to sweat and breath deeply. Over the past few weeks I’ve rolled out my mat several times. I’ve re-discovered how my yoga practice illuminates and challenges my “weakest links.” Right now these weak links are my ability to breath deeply, flex my spine and maintain a steadiness of mind. What I love is that even though I’m challenged now, I know that what is challenged will inevitably react and strengthen.
Meditation is something that anyone can do. It doesn’t require any type of special certification or training in a certain meditation technique. It just requires consistent practice. Here are three helpful tips to help you in your own meditation practice:
1. Sit every day, no matter how long or short. Frequency matters more than length. Like any habit, doing it often and with regularity – even if you can only sit for 60 seconds a day – is better than a multi-hour marathon meditation session once a week.
2. Sit in a dark and quiet place. Less distractions the better, especially if your mind wanders easily. When in a small apartment that was brightly lit, even in the morning, I would cover my entire head with a shawl.
3. Sit early morning. Before your coffee. Before getting dressed. Make your meditation the first thing you do.
Yoga is a fantastic workout for your physical body, but that is not its purpose.
It’s purpose is to cultivate a deep sense of connection to the present moment. In doing so it is the ultimate workout for the mind.
Sweating, losing weight, gaining strength and all those things are collateral benefits but should never take precedence over the real purpose.
I’ll go so far as to say that if your real goal is to get “fit” physically, there are many more effective and time efficient ways to do so. Start running or swimming. Do Crossfit or a spin class. There are definitely better ways to get a normal “workout.”
The real reason to practice yoga is to exercise the mind.
Mountain Pose aka Tadasana aka your “True North.”
It is the physical foundation of any yoga practice.
A simple pose that aligns your body, mind and breath towards a singular purpose.
All you need to do is stand tall, with legs active, shoulders back and down opening the chest and heart, with a deep breath in and out through your nose. Keep your eyes closed or lightly focused on one-point straight ahead.
Yoga does not and should not be complicated.
Floating into handstand can wait….for now just focus on standing tall and strong in Mountain Pose and you will get ALL the benefits that yoga has to offer. Complications just mask the true purpose, which is to notice what is showing up in your own body, mind and breath.
Wait…isn’t there some trick? Some advanced variation that will deepen the experience?
No, there is not.
There is power in the simplicity.
Yoga literally means “union”, but in practice it is the art of surrender or letting go.
Like peeling an onion, it’s about stripping away everything that is not needed and getting to the heart of things.
Extra effort, mental strain, random thoughts, labored breath, emotional attachments, stories about why something is the way it is….it’s about letting go and surrendering all of these things.
A 5 minute long warrior II pose or 3 minute wheel pose (both of which I did in Jason Magness’s “Jedi Training” class during the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference!) can help simply because after putting in so much effort for an extended period of time, you have no choice but to surrender and drop away extra thoughts or movements that drain your power.
I see the same thing in endurance triathlon or running. One path (though definitely not the only one) to deep surrender and Yoga (an experience of the interconnectedness of all things) is through intensive effort.
The 2011 Baptiste Power Flow Immersion is complete!
500 + yogis gathered in Estes Park, CO for a three day immersion in Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. Led by Baron Baptiste, this gathering included Master Teachers from around the country leading workshops in addition to plenty of teachers and students of all skill levels coming together to practice.
Each day began with a four-hour master class led by Baron that included mediation, intensive Vinyasa Yoga practice and plenty of time for group dialogue, sharing and partner work (handstands anyone?!). Following lunch, students could choose from a wide variety of afternoon breakout session. Some were discussion based while others involved more practice – all led by remarkable master teachers from the Baptiste community.
Each evening following dinner there was a different event – including a premier of the new documentary for the Africa Yoga Project and a Yoga Dance Party on the final night.
I’ve been to many yoga workshops and multi-day trainings but the Power Flow Immersion was unique. It was unique in the size and welcoming nature of the community that gathered to practice each day. It was unique in its setting – with Estes Park being the gateway to the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park (where else do elk walk by you on the way to yoga practice?!). It was also unique in the balance between intensive practice and discussion sessions with just enough free time that allowed things to really “sink in”.
For me, the most unique thing was the overall quality of the teaching. Each Baptiste training I’ve been to has been more impactful than the last. Part of it might be that I’m becoming more receptive to the teaching and as such – things are starting to really “click” for me, and it’s also true that Baron and his committed teach of staff and master teachers are continually evolving and improving their approach. That’s part of what I really like about this community – everyone really seems committed to constant and never-ending improvement – and that includes Baron and his teaching!
I’ve walked away from the past three days with a new found sense of possibility for what I can create in my own life. I’ve been inspired through witnessing the transformation of others around me in the Baptiste community. I’ve also learned the difference between power (good!) and force (not good) and how these energies show up in my own practice and everyday life.
I have a few more days remaining here in Estes Park as the Yoga Journal Conference kicks off today and continues through the weekend, but already the experience has greatly surpassed my expectations. If you have an opportunity to attend at Baptiste program, don’t hesitate to do it! Whether you have a desire to teach yoga or not, you will surely come away with direct experiences and practical tools that you can apply to create massive progress throughout all aspects of your life.
Here’s a video recap of day 1 (I’m in the video about half-way through!).
Attachment is having a “hangup”. It’s a stickiness or a blocking (as described by Zen teacher Alan Watts).
It’s about having a hangup on the things we are told by our parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, bosses and peer groups. Things that define what we do, what we think about the things we do (or don’t manage to do) and how we feel about those things.
We create elaborate mental models based on peer feedback about how we should relate to the world. Some things are helpful –> like ‘don’t put your hand in a fire.’ Others are less helpful –> ‘successful people must drive a nice car, live in larger homes and work endlessly day and night until they are 65.’
In yoga we learn to not be attached.
This means, listening to what people say – but then not getting “hung up” on those things.
This means, going through life without the burden of needing to conform to some pre-fabricated and outwardly imposed model of the universe. Instead, it means going through life with the curiosity of a living organism that interacts with the environment – as part of the environment – and relates to the world based on what is actually showing up – not based on what someone told you or what something is called.
A tree is a tree not because it is called “tree,” but because it is what it is – beyond just an image in your mind or words.
This is non-attachment.
The universe operates in terms of cycles – or seasons as I like to call them.
This applies to obvious things in our environment – like the changing weather throughout the year; as well as other things like relationships that come – and go – and then come back together again, businesses that thrive – wither and then come back to life, or as was the case of my White River 50 experience, emotions that go from good - to terrible – to oh my god I’m gonna die – to great….all over the course of a few hours of racing.
The seasonal nature of things plays in out so many ways.
I’ve seen this enough in my own life that I know it’s how things work. Sometimes the seasons play out over the course of a few hours. Other times it takes many years…but they always do play out.
Yogis have understood the seasonal nature of things at a cosmic scale for thousands of years.
Acknowledge the seasons and know that when things are not going so well…they are bound to improve. Likewise, when things are going great – take the opportunity to “prepare for winter” – that is to say, remember your successes and draw on them stay strong and confident in your purpose when things become challenging. This is where journals become powerful tools, as do vision boards, affirmations or regular meditation on a positive intention.