Yogis Living Skillfully

I have a student who is hearing impaired. She comes to my class weekly. She's such an inspiration. I often theme my classes, and she doesn't get to hear the great wisdom I get to share. So this entry, and subsequent entries focused on class themes, is dedicated to her, so she can know what yoga is really about ~ it's not just about the postures ~ but the heart of yoga lies in it's wisdom. In this way, we can truly make yoga accessible off the mat. Yoga teachers use many resources, and one of my recent inspirations is the book, My Body is a Temple, by Christina Sell.  Christina has this way of making the teachings accessible and practical.

Awhile back, I went on a weekend yoga retreat. We were told that we could bring a bottle of wine to share. Knowing I am a "cheap" date, since I never indulge, I decided a little vino to help me unwind was just what the Dr. ordered. And so I had a couple of glasses of wine the two nights of the retreat. We laughed, we hooped, we yoga flowed with the hoop, we laughed some more. It was really a great time, and I didn't regret a moment of it. Needless to say, the next day, I was not as strong as I could have been.

Christina talks a lot about the teachings of one of her teachers, Lee Lozowick. He talked about "Enthusiastic Discipline". Looking at the etymology of the words, with "enthusiastic" ~ "En" the prefix means "in" and "thus" the root means "theos" or "god". With "Discipline" it shares the same root as "Disciple" which means "to learn" "to comprehend" or "to hold apart". She says, "Enthusiastic Discipline" means "Holding God Within". She further says, "No matter how inspiring the vision or how much we want to align with our highest, our sincere longing and inspirations must be brought to life through enthusiastic discipline efforts. Enthusiastic Discipline originates deep in the inner being of the practitioner. For instance, we are not holding ourselves apart from things we enjoy by some imposed restriction, but rather abstaining from those things that are against our highest aims and practicing those things that strengthens us, out of the recognition of what serves our deepest truths." Furthermore, she says, "Enthusiastic Discipline is the willingness to say yes and no, to give up those things - behavioral  or attitudinal - that compromise our efforts so that we can be able to hold God within."

Wanting to feel and look my best is a form of self-love. It's a the kind self-love that doesn't require much more than an awareness of what works and what does not work for me personally.  Will I indulge in a glass of wine on my next retreat? It's not something I can predict. After all, should my "Enthusiastic Discipline" become so rigid as to cause anxiety and guilt for partaking in such action, then "Enthusiastic Discipline" is just another dogma. Living as a tantric yogi, "Enthusiastic Discipline" offers the lesson that I am free to do what I want in any moment, but begs the question, does it serve my highest aims or my higher calling?

When we have the desire and wisdom, our "Enthusiastic Discipline" can help guide our actions and we have a choice to live more skillfully.

Theme: Enthusiastic Discipline

UPAs: Muscular Energy (embracing what works for us personally)

Apex: Surya Yantrasana


Ahamkara and Practice

There are a number of things that people neglect to tell you about having children. Prior to having children I always thought it was the parents that always embarrassed the child.  Well, after having two kids I discovered that it's not always the case! The other day I was at the doctors office for a strep test for my daughter. My 4-year old son spontaneously burst into song in front of the female doctor. The chorus went something like this, "boobs, boobs, boobs, boobs!"  He picked up this little ditty when we left TMZ on a little too long. Needless, to say, I was a bit mortified. Oh, out of the mouth of babes!

In yoga there's a sanskrit term "ahamakara". Breaking it down: "aham" refers to the self or "I" and "kara" refers to "to make" . Ahamakara,  is when we find too much attachment to the ego-state of the human existence. Ahamakara is believed to exist in the sphere of duality, or in the realm of opposites, e.g. freedom and boundry, contraction and expansion, hot and cold, and so forth.

Knowing that "ahamkara" exists in the realm of duality, or in a world where there's always a complimentary opposite, I was aware that this state of embarrassment (a state of my mental discomfort) was one way to let go of any expectations of good behavior at all times from a 4 year old.  Just being aware, helped me to step back and see the bigger picture, that  my sweet boy meant no offense to anybody, including myself. Any mom, would be honored and pleased by his overall cheerful and sweet nature.

Many times people come to yoga expecting that the practice will immediately help them connect to their true-nature without much work. That what is offered in yoga class will always be presented  in a neat and  lovely gift-wrapped package for you to open and furthermore that you'll love the gift and not want to return or exchange it. What people may actually experience is a stirring-up of things that have been sitting stagnate below the surface, in our tissues, mind, subtle energy  and all the sheaths or layers of the body, and that we wish we had a gift-receipt.

In the wise words of yoga teacher Christina Sell, "The fine print of yoga is that it teaches us virtue through the direct experience of virtue's opposite." The teacher may go on about how yoga is an "expression of the spirit", "teaches us that the one is in the all, and the all is in the one" (non-duality), "teaches us that it's all about a connection to the heart". While you sit there admiring and cursing below the breath the scantly-clad, spandax-ed, able-bodied goddess in the front row. We don't always immediately resonate or relate to the message the teacher is lovingly trying to deliver to help inspire us and get a glimmer of self-love. So while we try to reconcile our thoughts and emotions with what is being presented, it is through this offering of opposites that we can learn to grow and progress on the path of yoga. Learning first to become aware of the virtue's opposite as a bubbling of perhaps a sort of an 0ver-active energy within the body, acknowledge it, feel the intensity of the power behind that feeling and alchemize that intensity it into an energy that will serve you better.  There's no special formula to get there, it's a tiny bit of surrender and lots of gratitude for yourself and yourself alone. It's good to be selfish in this way.

When we are too attached to the state of ahamkara, we aren't able to connect to our true-nature. However, it is through this lens of appreciating the virtue's opposite that we can learn to grow and expand in a direction that is healthier for us in the long-run. Contrary to western thinking, the path of yoga is not a sprint to the finish-line, but a rather a pilgrimage to the heart that takes years if not life-times to reach.  If you are discouraged or frustrated by things, give it lots of time, T.L.C., focus and practice, and eventually it's complimentary opposite will surface.