Posts Tagged ‘Yoga’
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.
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!).
In a world of abundant distraction, focus has become a more valuable skill than ever.
I use the word ‘skill’ because focus is something that can be practiced and improved over time.
In yoga, we call this ‘dhristi’, one point of focus. It starts with physical focus, fixing your gaze to a single point. From the physical focus, your mind becomes more focused, with your awareness moving to a what is happening in the current moment. From this mental focus you’ll find deeper levels of meta-physical focus.
When you look at things worth appreciating in this world; be it nature, new technologies, art, books, movies, music, meaningful relationships, etc…they were all created through some degree of focus. Scattered energy and attention doesn’t accomplish much and over the long-term can actually be destructive in terms of physical, mental and societal well-being.
Yoga and meditation practice is just one way to improve focus. Any act of doing one thing at a time works. Write a blog post, knit, go on a hike, spend time with family, play an instrument. The key is to just be present to what you are doing without letting your mind wander.
In yoga class I teach that all the benefits begin to show up when your mind says “it’s time to leave” but you stick with it anyway. This is the growing edge that we need to “surf” if any kind of growth is going to happen, physically, mentally or otherwise. I see so many people leave when things get uncomfortable and that is a shame (in a yoga class, it’s not that people leave the room, it’s that they come out of the pose or back out of it so it isn’t as intense). I see the same thing happen in the workplace.
All the benefits begin to show up when your mind says “it’s time to go,” but you stick with it anyway.
People get fed-up with a job, a boss or some other situation; and find it easier to just switch projects, change roles or leave the company as opposed to finding a way to make things work for the best. In many cases, the issue wasn’t any external factor. It was simply that the person was not willing to put in the effort (and perhaps time) required to come up with the solution. In other cases (less common in my experience), people do lack some skill or resource, but find it too inconvenient to ask for help (or maybe it’s just too humbling to ask for help?) – and instead just move on to something else.
In the course of the past 10 years I’ve been at Microsoft, there have been literally dozens of dreadful times where I totally was not looking forward to dealing with some project or person. In each case I stuck it out and in each case the thing that seemed dreadful at first came to past and everything worked out for the best. I think the ability to endure and see things through is a lost art. We get so caught up on the need for a quick fix (fast promotions, 6-pack abs in 5 minutes a day, etc.) that our own latent skills and capabilities atrophy due to lack of consistent and prolonged use.
If you spend any time in a gym this principle becomes obvious. In order to grow muscle, you must tire the muscle and then go a little further. Only then will growth happen. You could even say that first few reps and sets of an exercise are essentially useless and it is only the final effort hat causes any real adaptation. Instead of running from this place of growth, your edge, why not make it a point to find it and push against it? If growth is an objective then doing this is a necessity. Running away from your edge guarantees that growth will not happen. In fact it guarantees that you will degrade over time as your body adapts to a new and lower state of performance.
We are experts at adaptation. Relax and you will become use to that and your edge will soften. Regularly push up against your edge and over time it will become easy and your growth boundary will move. Use this principle to your advantage. Make surfing your own edge a game. Consciously and regularly pick things that will challenge you on some level. When was the last time you did something that pushed you in a meaningful way? Let me know in the comments to this post!
I had a recent conversation with a friend around the captivating nature of reality TV. How it is so interesting to get a glimpse into how others live their lives, whether the lives are boring or a total train wreck. Given that some of you have been reading this blog for a few years now, I figure it might be interesting for you to get glimpse into my day-to-day life. I’ll warn you up front my routine is fairly straightforward. If you still want to know what I do…read on:
In the middle of busy street at rush hour.
If you can find some peace of mind in the middle of madness, finding it in everyday life will that much easier. If you keep putting off a meditation practice because you don’t have the right meditation pillows, music, incense, etc…you’re making excuses.
Just sit down and do it. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining on your eyelids. It doesn’t matter if there is noise from the street outside. It doesn’t matter if there is a kid running around and distracting you or a baby crying in the distance.
Just start and embrace the distraction. It is all part of the practice.
Brock and Krista came to town for a three day yoga workshop. Learned a ton. Highly recommend checking out their classes. It will be different than anything else you have done yoga-wise. They have amazing methods for teaching inversions, arm balances and handstand variations. These were easily some of the most challenging yoga asana classes I’ve ever done. Some random things I’ve come away with from the weekend:
- Fear is by far the biggest limiter to doing a handstand or inversions of any kind.
- Raw strength is less important than core stability and muscle awareness.
- Pressure through the fingers (hasta bandha) is useful for maintaining balance in handstand and other arm balances.
- Have fun AT ALL COSTS :)
- Staying hydrated – before class not just during – is super important during intensive weekend trainings.
- Learn to fall and be ok with it….if you are going to do handstands, you are going to fall!
- Let your hips lead the way when jumping forward from downdog to forward fold.
- For me, tight hamstrings are a limiter when it comes to moving into certain poses. Need to work on that.
- Have fun with transitions into and out of poses…try new ways to get into and come out of poses.
Have another session with them tomorrow…will add any other tid bits to the list after that.
[updates after our final sessions]
A few more thoughts after a final 2.5 hour practice:
- Proper fuel and hydration are so important. I did a 90 minute vinyasa practice prior to the 2.5 hour intensive sessions with Brock and Krista – and sweated through several yogi-toes towles and several changes of clothes. Having proper hydration is critical. I am using Amino Vital right now, with nuun tablets in a separate water bottle and a PowerGel between classes. In retrospect I should have drank more water last night or in the middle of the night to prepare. Oh well.
- Building strength around an injury can help an injury heal.
- Play around with variations – e.g. handstand with one hand on a block, arm balances with one hand turned out, etc. keep it interesting.
- Some might say doing so many inversions is not part of the traditional practice of yoga – but Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and others had incredible practices and frequently went upside down.
- Some teachers might not be cool with you doing things (like jumping int handstands from downdog) outside of the norm – don’t worry about that – if you want to do interesting variations – do it and find a teacher that will support you.
- Again…I realized that tight hamstrings can be a limiter in getting my body into certain poses. Find your limiter and work on it (in class and outside of class).
- Interesting transition: go from forearm plank to low-plank using your back muscles! This can also work with a scorpion to low-plank transition.
- Interesting transition: go from headstand to tripod headstand and back by just moving your arms.
I asked a student in yoga class today “why are you here” and she replied “to lose my mind!” It sounds funny but it’s right on.
Losing your mind is great thing. When you are thinking you aren’t noticing what is really going on, and there is always much going on that is worth noticing.
Yogis practice for years to perfect this skill. Zen monks do austere meditation and rituals to cultivate present moment awareness and lose their minds.
The cool thing is it doesn’t need to take a long time and tons of effort to do this. Every day you spontaneously lose your mind. It happens when you get out in nature. It happens during bouts of intense physical activity. It happens when you express your creative potential.
Discover the ways of being where you can lose your mind. Bring more of that into your life. See all the cool stuff that is really happening when you are not caught in a web of thought.
(Below: losing my mind on the beach in Santa Barbara, CA)