Why you should get your asana outta bed and practice yoga early...
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There are many people in the world who still view the word 'yoga' as something completely 'out there'... Tree huggers, incense, die-hard vegans, impossible feats of flexibility and basically not very appealing to your average Joe. Well here's the thing... We are not all like that. We are normal everyday people just trying to get by in this crazy world who happen to have found something to make everything better.
You see 'yoga' is not about all those things. It's about a way of living that is real and true and present. It's about breathing and being friendly and not taking things for granted. It's about being honest. If you can stand or sit and look at the people around you, everything around you, with equanimity then you are practicing yoga. Because it is the art of understanding the mind and the modifications of the mind that are the real practice. One of those three modifications is the 'ego' - a three letter word that rules our world - that takes us constantly from 'like it' to 'want it' to 'gotta have it'. You know the one. The other two are the intellect; our discerning quality of mind, and the 'monkey mind' - the part that jumps around from one thing to another constantly and is never satisfied. All these three things work together and give us the energy for action.
So with some understanding of the mind our practice is to gain some mastery through focus. And that can be anything - it doesn't have to be the physical practice of yoga, which in fact is quite a small part of the practice, it is supposed to be the mindfulness and consciousness that you bring to 'any' action you perform. You see, yoga is not so hard to understand or 'do' but, through practice of certain 'do's' and 'dont's', which is NOT easy, we just try to be kind and truthful and 'real'.
If you like coffee and hamburgers and wine can you practice yoga? Of course you can! If you can't touch your toes can you practice yoga? Of course you can! Fact is the more mindful you are of 'you' you will begin to discern what is doing you good and what isn't. It's a natural process of looking after 'you' and being the best you can be 'now'. That's all. Just show up with the intention if being present and being the best that you can be and you will be practicing yoga!
One thing that yoga teaches us is that 'change' is inevitable. Some amazing things have happened over the last few days and it reminds me....We should welcome change with open arms and an open heart. Whatever crosses our path, we should view it with equanimity. That does not mean Indifference, nor does it promote a fatalistic attitude, but it does, I believe, help us understand through experience 'santosha'. Santosha is the observance of contentment; one of the 'niyamas' which are part of the eightfold path of yoga. Contentment is the secret of life - enjoying the passing of time - enjoying the change that comes not only from year to year but from moment to moment.
Most of the time we want 'it' to be different right!? Most of the time, given the opportunity, we would rewind that sentence, that day, that week and 'do more' or 'do it better' or make that perfect comment or comeback. Oh for a 'groundhog day' sometimes (the thought of Bill Murray always makes me smile!).
But here's the beauty of santosha - that whatever it is and however it is, we 'can' choose to be content .
How beautiful is that!
My reasonable summer plan in April is to reorganize my life: out of shape, apartment a mess, and time for healthier eating habits. I plan to reconnect with my yoga practice and pencil in a week-long workshop for June in DC. With a local stay, I still can juggle my office work, somehow. Instead I go to France with my family. I disconnect (mostly) from the office; they forget about me too (I think). We look at mountains, blue skies, lavender fields, small ancient cities and listen to talk I do not understand but know. We walk, eat, drink and stay up late looking starry nights. Days go by. We laugh hard and cannot think why, later. Friends ask me to dinner. I message back: Away, far away – next time.
I return but soon depart for the Family Reunion in New England. We hike, eat, drink and go to bed early, worn out with laughing and playing. Time blurs into ceaseless meal preparation, a swirl of voices, children calling, aging faces, blazing sunshine, ripe berries, a splashing pool. Who is arriving now, let’s take a photo, where are we re-uniting next year? More calls: where are you? Still away; be in touch soon. An old love sends a few texts. Why now I wonder and don’t ask.
Home at last. Much work to do, lists to check, issues loom at the office. But I’ve been away, my post-vacation eyes view the summer agenda and I think “not so urgent”. I reconnect. Friends are coping with aging parents, sending children to college. Another contemplates moving back home; we laugh when he says he might not – family first, always. I learn another is leaving my industry after almost two decades – and suddenly, summer’s purpose is clear for me.
Time for change, to see what has served a purpose and let it go, and to gather the meaningful very close. I restart my summer.
Piles of things to donate grow, surfaces reappear. Calls from the past go unanswered; nothing new to learn. Daily irritations stop being so; other things are more pressing. I get on my yoga mat, embrace practice, try hard-for-me poses and challenge students with new poses, hold foundational poses over and over. I draft my resume and explore possibilities for my next chapter, my next season.
Another family weekend away. A bittersweet event, gathering people and choices not everyone has embraced yet. We all are together though.
The reward unrolls in beautiful days together: my father and a young nephew both talk to me at once, in each ear, as we stroll. Everyone needs attention; do I listen enough? Adults smile as children laugh and race, all enjoying each other and the moment. Perfect weekend; let’s do it again.
“What Summer Does”: Summer gives me beautiful healing escapes from the daily habit of life; Summer gives me time to spend simply listening, seeing and being present; Summer re-energizes me for saying yes to family and friends, for learning, for ease in time on the mat and with students, for laughter, for conversations, questions and answers; Summer reminds me to get outside and seek the company of others; Summer gives me grounding to do what is joyful and loving and necessary, for saying yes – I am here; Summer – a light-filled lovely journey to my next season; ummer - a living practice.
Whether you have just started with yoga or have been practicing for some time, if you love the way it makes you feel there is a natural progression towards wanting to practice more and learn more. My own experience (see ‘parachuting yoga’ blog below if interested) had me falling in love with one pose at my first ever yoga class and seeking out a training program the very next day.
The amount of YTT Programs has grown exponentially and it is wonderful that there are so many programs out there, but if you are ready to step forward on this journey, how do you choose the ‘right’ one?
Factors such as location, timing, and cost of course need to be considered. Intuition will certainly play a part in helping you make your decision, but don’t forget to ask questions! Ask lots of questions! Attend classes at different studios with different teachers so you can get a feel for where you might like to spend your time and with whom. In the average (short) 6 months of training, what is your primary goal and what is it that you want to learn? What about the School itself? How long has it been around and what is the experience of the teachers that are going to teach you?
Different schools will have a different emphasis on their training. What will that be and does it gel with what ‘you’ want? Yoga is much more than asana, and a good program should certainly introduce you to certain fundamental and foundational concepts, but it’s impossible to cover everything in 6 months of training, so what do you want to focus on, and does that school meet your requirements? This will be a commitment of your time and perhaps also the time of your family members, so does the program fit into your life?
If you have concerns as to whether you should, let me alleviate your doubt… Your practice ‘is’ good enough, you do not need to be able to stand on your head, you are not too old nor do you need to lose weight. If you have a passion to pursue this journey, then you are ready.
Most schools will hold information sessions before the start of a YTT. This is a great opportunity to get your questions answered and get a feeling (or otherwise) of whether ‘this’ is the program for you. If you can’t make a session then arrange to speak with someone who can give you the information you are looking for.
The 532Yoga teacher training program is now in its 14th year, and has a 5-Star rating with Yoga Alliance. We are committed to guiding you through a training that will open doors of opportunity for personal transformation and growth. This is a program that will transform your practice, and it will give you the professional knowledge, confidence and skill, to become an exceptional yoga instructor. This is an incredible journey which combines coursework and a teacher training curriculum led by a deeply experienced faculty of expert instructors! You’ll be supported by teachers with decades of experience in teaching, leading, helping, and healing. Our programs are designed to be very user-friendly; fitting easily into your work and family life. We offer you practical teaching skills; hands on teaching right from the start, which will build your confidence and ability to conduct a well-informed and well-sequenced class using Sanskrit and English. You will have the knowledge of alignment for key poses which will enable you to understand how to address the ‘building blocks’ of each pose without causing undue stress to the joints, and you will be able to assist those that need your help in order to work their own body optimally in a pose.
Our next 200-hour Professional Yoga Teacher Training starts 23 Octoberr!
"I went into teacher training looking to teach and give back to the community all that yoga had given me. But I found that the real gift was how much it taught me about myself and the person I wanted to be. I'll be forever grateful for the experience." Evelyn Mizell
My journey to find yoga was and is a lengthy one. I wish I could say that I found it, and loved it from the start, but that would be a lie. As a college student, I chose it as a physical education credit. But all we seemed to do in class was lie on the floor, roll around,and then journal about it. If the time I spent in a gym or studio setting wasn't cardio intensive, I didn't want any part of it. Marriage, children, and an aging body seemed to change all of that. When I hit my thirties, my body stopped recovering from runs as well. I queried my runner friends as to what to do. They all said, "Why don't you try yoga?" At the same time, our military moves became more and more frequent and my husband's job increasingly dangerous and stressful. I began to feel nervous and panicky in social situations, even with the people I loved most. It was such an effort to be this high strung version of myself. This time I called my mother to discuss it, "Why don't you try yoga," she asked. Ok. Ok. Message received. I signed up for classes and started going almost immediately. But this time, it was a different style of yoga. There were poses that were new to me, poses that integrated balance and flexibility and after we were all physically spent, we got to rest, and the anxiety that seemed to have a pretty fair hold on me began to let go its grip. I wanted this; I craved it. There were not enough classes at the leisure center I was attending, so I found small group lessons and signed up for those. And when we moved from that duty station, I found another studio to call home. The study of the spiritual side of yoga and the moral codes (yamas and niyamas) came later, but they came. I used to despair and feel a bit jealous that I did not find yoga earlier in life. But I now know that it would have been wasted on the teen and twenty-something athlete who used it solely for vanity and athletic prowess. No, yoga came at just the time I needed it.
"Waking life is confusing. What appears to be an enemy can turn out to be an ally. By articulating and clarifying our values, by digging deep and thoughtfully questioning our core beliefs, a perceived enemy can turn out to be a well wisher and a friend."
The Story of the Crane, as recounted in the Mahabharata and paraphrased by yours truly our
532Yoga Instructor, Ginny Loving!
In an effort to avoid a long and bloody civil war, the Pandava brothers and their wife Draupadi attempted to placate their warring cousins the Kauravas by going into exile in the wilderness for thirteen years. Towards the end of their thirteen years of exile circumstances brought the group to a point where they found themselves tired, frustrated, hungry, parched and in great need of water for their wandering troupe. Nakula, one of the brothers shimmied up the highest tree he could find, and reported that from up there he could hear the calls of water cranes, so there must be water nearby! The leader of the Pandavas, Yudhisthira the eldest brother decided to send out Nakula to find water and relief for the group. Nakula did not return. One-by-one Yudhisthira sent out the rest of his brothers, and just like in a scary movie. . . not one brother returned!
Finally, with no brothers left Yudhishtira set off himself to see what was going on. He searched until he came to the shores of a beautiful, crystalline lake, surrounded by trees, flowers, wildlife, and general loveliness. Being so thirsty, he rushed to the beautiful bank and to his horror, the found all of his brothers lying there, all dead. At the dreadful sight before him, he lamented, he grieved, and as he sat beside his brothers to mourn. . .he heard a voice.
" I am the cause of your brothers demise. . .I warned them, but they in their arrogance would not listen. So, now they are dead. This pool belongs to me, and unless you are given my permission, the same fate awaits you."
The voice belonged to a crane. The brothers had been too preoccupied with their own situations to listen to the bird's warning. Yudhisthira quelled his anger and grief, wiped his eyes and asked what it was that he must do to gain the permission necessary to make the water safe to drink. Not only was he the oldest brother, but the coolest, calmest, and most dharma driven of them all. The crane replied that his questions must be answered! The number of questions varies in most accounts of this story with 108 being the number in some traditions, but all accounts agree that the questions were deep, with subtle layers and insightful significance. The questions covered all sorts of topics. Some were philosophical, some were riddles (think Odepius Rex and the Sphynx) and some were teaching points. The questions and their answers are thought to lay the basis for the Srimabhagavadgita and have helped guide the lives of Hindus for thousands of years. Examples include explorations of the topics of judgement, mercy, and simplicity.
After a very long discourse, some say hours, some say days...the Crane announced he was so happy with their discussions, so satisfied with Yudisthira's answers that not only would he give the permission needed to make the water safe, but additionally he would bring one brother back to life. Which brother would be up to Yudisthira! Yudisthira thought long and hard. Finally, he announced that Nakula his 1/2 brother was his choice to be returned. " A half brother rather than a full brother?" queried the crane "Why?" He was puzzled...
"So that neither one of my mothers is left with out a child" was Yudisthira's response. The Crane was so pleased with this response that he brought all the brothers back to life! And with his blessings and aid, the brothers and their company replenished themselves, and continued on with their many adventures. . .but that's another blog!
So, that's the story and now for the pose! BAKASANA
Behind every yoga posture (asana), a story can be found! Behind the iconic Warrior sequence, there is a colorful story of passions. This particular story is a love story, a tragedy, a drama and a cautionary tale with elements of attachment, shame, violence, sadness, compassion and renunciation.
Are you ready for this tale!? Read On. . .
Once upon a long time ago, lived a great king - Daksha, a nobly born son of Brahma. Daksha was very rich and powerful, blessed with 100 beautiful daughters, and he served as the high priest to the ASURAS (Gods). Out of his 100 beautiful daughters, his favorite was the youngest- Sati, who happened to be an incarnation of Parvati. As one would suppose, an incarnation of Parvati would be drawn to Shiva, and so it was Sati was helplessly in love with Shiva, and was determined to marry him. Daksha disliked Shiva intensely, and was determined that this unorthodox yogi, god of death, destruction and transformation, who hung around graveyards smoking bhang, and keeping company with goblins, ghouls and other unmentionables, wearing tattered skins and nappy dreadlocks - would never wed his daughter. Love won out however, and Lord Shiva and Sati wed and lived happily in the pleasure city Shiva created for them on Mt. Kailash.
Shortly after Sati had left home to her new domicile, Daksha, being the high priest to the gods organized a HUGE yagna or ritual sacrifice. Ritual celebrations in themselves are not a bad thing, but this one was for the wrong reasons. Rather than devotion , the purpose of this yagna was to show off his wealth, his social standings and to intentionally avoid Shiva and Sati. Daksha invited anyone who was anyone back in Long Ago BC: all the Gods and demi gods, nymphs, air spirits, celestial beings, nature elementals, wealthy kings, shamans, priests, etc. Think Kardashian wedding of long ago B.C. Everyone that is except for Shiva and Sati. Shiva could have cared less. Life up on Mt. Kailash was sweet and he told Sati to leave well enough alone. Sati was heartbroken at not being invited, and insisted upon crashing this party. So, despite Shiva's admonitions Sati ignored social etiquette and her husband's wishes and went without Shiva to the ceremony. Upon seeing her at the yagna, rather than embrace her, Daksha belittled, embarrassed and ridiculed her in front of the guests. All the guests present laughed. Humiliated, Sati was unable to bear further insult, decided that she wanted nothing more to do with her father, including the body he had given her. She fell into a mystic trance and began to increase her inner fire through yogic exercises until she burst into flames and perished.
When news of Sati's death reached Shiva, he was shocked, sadden- and enraged. The Lord of Destruction fell into blackness. He tore his clothes, ripped out his hair and shrieked in fury. He picked up the dreads he had torn out, and from these he fashioned the fiercest warrior to carry out his revenge, Vira (hero) Bhadra (friend) - and gave him the task of retribution for his lost Sati. He sent him to the yagna to kill Daksha and the guests who had humiliated his love.
Shiva arrives at Daksha's palace to see the damage that Virabhadra has ravaged. His anger is gone, but now he is full of profound sorrow for himself, for Sati, for Daksha. Sorrow turns to compassion as he sees the bloody aftermath of his rage. He finds Daksha's headless body and he brings him back to life, giving him a goats head in place of the one lost. Daksha, overwhelmed by this generous action, bows in awe and humility to Shiva Shankar (Benevolent one). All follow his suite and honor Shiva. Sati, however is still dead. Shiva gathers up the body of his bride, and wanders the earth crazed w/ grief knowing that somewhere somehow, they will be together again.
Moral of the story
The higher self (Shiva) slays the prideful ego (Daksha) for the sake of the heart (Sati). Through infinite compassion, the higher self forgives the ego. The essential nature of the heart is the power of love, which will be brought back to life again in another form. . .but that is another story.
“To the warriors of light, there is no such thing as impossible love.
They don’t allow themselves to be intimidated by silence, or by rejection.
They know that behind the icy mask people wear there is a heart of fire.
That is why the warriors risk more than others.
They tirelessly seek love, even if this means hearing, many times over, the word ‘no’,
returning home defeated, feeling rejected in body and soul.
Warriors don’t allow themselves to be discouraged.
Without love, living has no meaning.”
I fell in LOVE with YOGA the first time I went parachuting. Yep! My mother added my name a a list of volunteers who were prepared to jump out of an airplane to raise money for charity. It was one of those things she knew I wanted to do, but I remember thinking ‘but do I want to do it ‘now’? A group of us went. We were working at the RAC Club in Epsom, England, and we headed out for the weekend to train and to jump. Let’s fast-forward to the jump itself. It was my first experience of Yoga. What?!
So, the definition of Yoga is "a union of space and time and body and soul that enable you to be in the present moment." Yoga is an experience of the present moment. See?! I definitely ‘did’ Yoga that day. From suiting up to preparing to jump out of the Cessna, to being told ‘now!’ to jumping out of the airplane, I was totally ‘doing’ Yoga – I was totally present and totally aware of where I was and what I was doing. And the jump itself.. well that was the epitome of yoga. And I fell in love. Without knowing anything about Yoga, I found myself in the present moment. Away from doing to just ‘being’.
Let’s use a few adverbs here; BRILLIANT, AWESOME, AMAZING, FABULOUS, EARTH SHATTERING, INCREDIBLE. . .I could go on . . . ! From the moment I jumped out of the airplane, the world became ‘my’ world and everything transpired in slow motion. Floating in the air, falling through the sky, everything was still and quiet and real and ‘now’, and yet everything around me was so small and seemingly insignificant. I was superbly happy. I was experiencing every single second of some few minutes before reality set in and I had to start ‘doing’ and get ready to land.
I never realized I was practicing yoga until I actually practiced it for the first time. Didn’t enjoy the class at all, but right there at the end of the class, in Savasana, I had the very same experience that I’d had as I was descending through the air; being present as a single entity in the world whilst simultaneously being a part of the whole world and being superbly happy.
The next day, despite being 8 months pregnant, I signed up for yoga teacher training. I wanted that same experience, and I have worked towards that same experience every day since. I practice yoga every day. I try to be as present as I was on that day floating to earth. Some days I am. Some days I am not. I work to continue to experience ‘being’ in the moment.
I have been parachuting and skydiving 4 more times since my first jump and have been teaching and practicing yoga every day. Thanks mum!