2017

Svadhyaya

How are we today?

When I’m teaching yoga, I really like to try to help my students understand where they need to dive in, or to support while in a posture. But, I got kind of tired of not being able to give a verbal picture of where the hamstring attaches with just a string of descriptive words, so I decided to get a full sized skeleton to show exactly where the deepest point will be in the pose, or even several possible points that might drive you deeper into the strength of the pose. This life-like structure of bones will live in the studio, and it seems only fair to give our bony friend a name; In that vein, we are having a naming contest! Please submit your choice, and if your name is selected because it is obviously the best name ever, you’ll get a full month of unlimited yoga FREE!

It’s also worth mentioning that we have a minimal winter schedule in place to accommodate the holiday season. On Sunday, the 17th from 10:00-12:30, we enjoyed a practice devoted to Winter Solstice. Honoring the natural shifting of the seasons, we flowed through 108 Sun Salutations together in what is always a profound experience of insight, perseverance and joining. For those of us who have added this practice to our lives for the Summer and Winter Solstice, as well as Spring and Autumnal Equinox, I think it’s safe to say that it adds an element of finding treasure to our lives. If you missed it this time, don’t worry! It happens four times a year and is completely doable, not overwhelming and not graded. You literally only need to bring yourself and your intention. Get ahead of your New Year's resolutions and put this inspiring practice on your bucket list for 2018! New Years Eve Day is Sunday and there will be a single 10:30 to noon donation based class and Monday, January 1st, New Years Day, there will be a single class from 5:30-7:00 pm and
also at 7:30 pm for Acro if you are interested to join in on something really fun and empowering for the New Year!

There is a history to yoga, though it isn’t commonly talked about in yoga classes. All of the yoga classes and cute yoga outfits and Instagrammed Bird of Paradise and Warrior Twos actually started with enlightened men way up in the Himalayan Mountains. There was an educated monk or possibly a learned nun who put together a particular book that outlined a practice called, “The Yoga Sutras”. Yoga as in “to yoke, or to bring together” and Sutra as in “to stitch”. The Yoga Sutra literally translates into “The threads of yoga” . It doesn’t talk about different poses. There is no discussion about handstand or pigeon. It is a book that gestures into an eight limbed path that journeys toward enlightenment, which is the eighth and final limb- a book devoted to the progression toward enlightenment.

Within Yoga as we know it today, we usually discover yoga through a yoga class. We first discover that yoga isn’t actually as easy as it looks, and that we have to work to strengthen and gain flexibility. When we follow a practice of the postures, and really begin to weave our practice into our lives, sometimes the direction leads us into the code of the practice which
extends beyond the mat. This code is a practice, as well --a focused practice. It requires self-awareness on a level beyond the physical nature of the body. A practice of nonviolence. A practice of non hoarding. A practice of truthfulness. A practice of sexual responsibility; really, these are the moral code of yoga. They are the foundation of a path toward what is called
“enlightenment”; the building blocks of enlightenment and of the learned texts of The Yoga Sutra. Because this isn’t an aspect of western Yoga that is typically examined, I would like to bring awareness to the practice we currently know and to expand upon the understanding of where it evolved from.

Moving beyond the strength that is our base of integrated moral codes, we find the second limb; the Niyamas. Within the Niyamas is “Svadhyaya”. This time of year especially, I like to think about Svadhyaya because it is the practice of self study. In our culture, we have the tradition of having a “New Year's Resolution”. We vow that it is our intention to stop doing something, or to bring something that will improve our life to the forefront of our world. We hold off all year long, telling
ourselves that we will, on January first, stop eating chocolate cake. Or maybe we’ll lose that weight. Or get a better job. Stop chewing our fingernails. Our culture is all about big gestures of half hearted new year's resolutions...what will we say we will do better? How long will we even try to make it happen? Will we wait till next year’s resolution to make the effort anew? Obviously we all want to be better humans. But, when we see the tendency to put things off throughout the year, why do we keep needing to put a date on it? What does January 1st have to do with stopping a bad habit? Stop it now. Why put it off just because you find you are doing something wrong in May? In October? Today. That is why I like the infinite concept of self study...holding the mirror in front of the self. Seeing where you can go today while seeing what you are already doing well? What do you bring to the table?

I’d like to focus on that, first.

While you are really seeing what you are contributing, let’s go ahead and let that breath go. A big, full, satisfied breath. Push it out, big and full. Leaving space for the new. The part you haven’t brought in yet. A new breath. A comfortable place. If you have to tell yourself to do something in the body, like relaxing your shoulder blades, do it. If you would like to stop putting sugar in your body. Stop. Do it now. If you find yourself falling off into a pile of chocolate cake, pick yourself back up again...and start back to your intention. Look at that long list of stuff that you are excelling at. The stuff you are winning with. Look at the place you are able to stand, and acknowledge that you are doing that, just fine, right now. You have what you need to excel at what you are thriving at in your life. Keep doing that. It’s working.

And then, with that new fresh space that we made within ourselves, exhaling the entire breath of who we are, having acknowledged that there are things we are currently doing well... that’s when we turn to the new and we ask, right here, right now. Not tomorrow. Not just for the New Year...but...now. What’s one thing we can work on? Something we can improve. One thing.

Be the change. Every day. That’s really the whole point, isn’t it?

Namaste.

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is on her way! The longest nights of the year bring with them the shortest of days. Inner Harmony is bringing energy into these cold days with it’s tradition of 108 sun salutations on December 17th at 10:00 am.

These long nights can be hard on our emotions. It’s important to ask ourselves, how are we feeling? As our bodies slow down, fatiguing from lack of light and warmth, it can be easy to lose track of that very important question. How are we feeling? Sometimes, what we need isn’t what we find ourselves turning to. Do you want to turn on the t.v. and munch chocolate cake on the couch? Is that what you need? Will that make you feel better than you feel? Or, maybe, will you feel better getting out your mat, and finding your way into some deep stretches to bring warmth back into the body? Maybe, if you spend those empty spaces with something that fills you up, you might feel better than you did only 20 minutes before.

Isn’t that awesome?

We actually experience this. It’s what brings us back to our mats. It’s what calls us to join together in a practice that asks us to become better humans. That’s what we are reaching for; becoming kinder. More patient. More authentic. Better humans. It’s not just about being able to cascade to your toes in a never ending fold (though that feels great​). It’s not just about the
powerful strength and openness found in camel (mind-numbingly empowering, yes?), or the ability to balance in crow (don’t you feel awesome in crow?). It’s about so much more than that (admittedly cool) stuff. It’s about how it makes you feel. How it makes you, a better​ ​you.

When we take a few moments to just...breathe, it opens a space in the mind that feels like the pause at the bottom of a breath. There, we can ask ourselves if there is anything we need to do. Not something you want, necessarily, but...what is it that you need? If we focus on centering, we can hone in on a simple ujjayi breath. It’s such an easy place to be in stillness. We practice the breath is stillness so that we can keep track of it when we move back into asana. When the movement begins, we notice that the breath becomes more robust, especially as we find ourselves moving into more difficult postures. Going deep into the larger muscles of the body, we create heat, and movement and stillness in a balance. We give space to the breath and continue finding the ease within that breath.
Losing the breath can happen, but, when it does...back up. Go slower. Pay attention to holding that ease and if it gets compromised, simply shorten your stance and regather yourself.

We do this because yoga is found in the breath. We don’t want to start huffing and puffing...we need the tether of the breath between the mind and body. As we move into the complicated simplicity found in one-armed-balance-wrapped-foot-to-head-backbend-the idea is to be able to breathe, no matter the pose. The idea is to find the ease in the pose that we might look to find the ease in our lives.

In practicing breathing with ease and simplicity, we find stillness. We find the pause. When we begin the asana, look to continue to find ease in the postures. When we look for ease, we can think about the toddler who tries to jam a square peg in a round hole. We all know there are poses where we feel that way. The simply don’t make sense. Yet. The breath starts to become pressured.

When you feel like that in yoga, in life, back up a little bit and see if you can find peace in the moment. That’s what we want: to find peace in the postures. In our lives. We don’t want to force. We don’t want it to be complicated. We need simple. And to find that simple, we need to breathe.

Bring your hands to your heart and ask yourself what you are grateful for. Let’s give thanks beyond the holidays, it doesn’t have to be a special day to give thanks. It can be today. Tomorrow. The next day. Every day...

Namaste.

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