“When you feel dis-ease (anger, jealousy, annoyance, etc.), stop and acknowledge the feeling without writing a script about it. Then keep your attention on the constriction and breathe into it. Just being with the feeling until it dissipates with your breath creates space to choose differently.”—Eight Tips for Finding Your Syncrodestiny | Crazy Sexy Life
At the ashram where I got my yoga teacher certificate, one could elect to be in silence the whole day. Since my roommates and my partner are out of town today, here is my chance! To do this, I’ve decided that typing and emailing doesn’t count, since both are still inner experiences—I’m not interacting with anyone, just writing my thoughts down for myself and other people.
Everett Bogue tells you to just do a few basic poses for your home yoga practice. This is a great sequence for when you want to do something minimalist. Come to my classes when you want something creative and kickass:
Click each of these poses for pop-up images showing you the pose.
Child’s pose. This is one of the most basic poses. Return to this pose if you ever feel overwhelmed and just breathe. It’s done by sitting on your heels with your forehead on the mat. Put your arms either in front of you or by your feet. Start your practice in child’s pose, and just notice your breathing for 15 minutes.
Flow. This is the fundamental sequence in Vinyasa yoga. I’m cheating a little, as this is a series of poses that you can use to ‘reset’ yourself after every harder pose. The sequence goes like this: start in plank pose, lower to ground by bending your arms, cobra, downward dog. Do a flow between any other pose that you attempt, this will reset your body between difficult poses.
Mountain pose. This one is easy, you do it a lot. Stand up straight, with your legs about two-fists distance apart. Reach your arms overhead with your palms facing together. Try to relax your shoulders. Now glance at the ceiling, bend forward to touch your toes and then step back into plank and ‘flow’. Repeat this 3 times or so to get your blood flowing.
Chair pose. This is like sitting in a chair. You can enter this pose from either a toe-touching position or from mountain pose. With your arms over your head, lower your butt so that you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Your weight should be in your heels, your butt is tucked. This pose is kind of hard, so only stay in it for 30 seconds or so. Relax and touch your toes. Flow. Repeat 3 times or until you feel like you’re going to fall over.
Warrior 1 + warrior 2. From a downward dog, take your right leg and put it between your hands with your foot facing forward. You will be in a lung with your left foot pointing towards the side of your mat. Reach your arms over your head. This is warrior 1. Stay here for a bit, and then reach your right arm forward and your left arm back. This is warrior 2. Stay here for a bit, then put your arms on the ground, put your right leg back. Flow. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder stand and plow. Lying on your back, roll your feet over your head, position your arms under your lower back and reach your feet towards the sky. Ideally you should stay in this for 15 minutes, but do it as long as you feel comfortable. Then move into a plow — relax your feet over your head, take your hands and claps them behind your back if possible. Don’t flow after this baby, just skip to the next pose.
Corpse pose. This is the last pose you do in any yoga sequence. It is done by simply lying on your back, with your legs slightly apart and your arms a few inches from your body with palms facing up. Close your eyes and rest for 15 minutes or so. The point of this pose is to completely relax your body after a strenuous workout. It is the hardest pose of all, because you must learn to relax completely.
“Unlike everyone else living at the Home for the Aged in Massachusetts, Mr. Cohen was spry and totally alert for his 87 years. As a third- year medical student with much living (and learning) ahead of me, I couldn’t understand why he was staying in this place, which, well appointed as it was, still remained a last holding unit for people who were waiting to die. I asked Mr. Cohen why he lived at the home when he was clearly doing so well. He looked at me with a patient, knowing look and explained: “Two floors below us is my wife, Emma. Three years ago, she developed Alzheimer’s disease and then had a stroke on top of that. On the very best of days, which don’t occur that often, I think she might recognize me. At all other times, she’s lost.” He went on to tell me to me that Emma and he had fled the Russian revolution together, and that more than a few occasions she had saved his life. The couple made their way to America, started a tailoring business and raised a wonderful family. “I tell my family not to visit as much as they’d like,” he said, “because I want them to make sure they enjoy their families now and because their mom and I are doing fine.” Each day, he would wake up, go downstairs to his wife’s room, bathe her, replace the diaper she now needed, put her into a sun dress, braid her hair, have breakfast with her and then read his newspapers and books as he sat beside her. I didn’t get it. Why was he doing this with a woman who couldn’t even recognize him? “This poor man must be eaten up with guilt,” I thought. I suggested, presumptuously, that Mr. Cohen’s guilt would not help his wife. The old man looked at me with an amused sparkle in his eyes and shook his head at my stupidity. “You really don’t understand, do you? This is where I want to be. Maybe someday you will understand.” It’s been 35 years since my visit with Mr. Cohen and I think I do finally understand. Instead of guilt, he felt joy in the presence of someone he had loved and been loved by for 60 years. It is difficult to change from a human doing to a human being, but as I observed first hand from people who died having it all, but who felt as if they had nothing and others who had very little, but felt they had it all, it’s probably something worth the effort. One of the best ways to bring out the human being in you is to “Just Listen.”—Mark Goulston, M.D.: Why Many High Achievers Feel Unfulfilled: The Syndrome of Disavowed Yearning
“In my village school, we children used the English word “love” rather casually, making statements like “I love this book!” Our teacher, who was particular about grammar and usage, would always correct us: “People are to be loved. Things are to be used.” Tragically, we have got it backwards today.”—Untying Our Wings | The Way of Non-Attachment
“When I take the certain routes to awakeness, through the portals of breathing, laughter, stillness, spontaneity; when I exercise the courage to not fill up space with empty conversation, with the tube, with busyness, it’s not my pain that I most often meet in such presence — it’s my power. When I override my senses, refuse to bend, when I check my email just one more time before I make time for me, when I eat even though I’m full, when I hold myself back from a bursting expression of “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!” because I don’t want to be too much, it’s not my pain that I’m avoiding — it’s my very life force.”—escaping? from what? your pain? or your power? | White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks.
go through each of the five senses and recall your favourite moment for each. For me: the smell of cheese on toast, the visual of a particular camping spot in Kakadu at dusk, the sound of kookaburras, the taste of dark chocolate, the feeling of being stroked on the inside of my arm. Then conjure them up, at all at once, flood yourself in a bubble ‘n’squeak of outrageously pleasant stimuli.
I do this and hold the riotous sensation as long as I can. My mind is so flooded with feeling there’s no room for thoughts or words. Feelings “crowd out” word-thoughts, and I feel a lightness and focus seep over me like honey.
stillman says blog is a record of an experiment started in April 2009 in Union Square in New York City (hopefully to be taken elsewhere) with two chairs, one table and a sign that reads “Creative Approaches to What You Have Been Thinking About” and a smaller one that reads “Pay What You Like or Take What You Need”.
I sit out there with no computer, no cell phone, just waiting to talk with strangers about any subject at all that they are contending with and trying to offer a creative approach to it. No subject is off limit. These are some of the stories. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful.
”—every single post on stillman says is touching and thought-provoking. we need one of these in Berlin.
“Become extremely aware. There were billions of micro decisions that lead us to the state of the world we live in today. We need to know that every single action matters and we need to make it count.”—Q & A with Yehuda Berg: Spirituality, Soulmates & Relationships - MindBodyGreen—Yoga helps you become extremely aware of every breath, every muscle in your body, and eventually every thought. Every single action matters.
“A relationship should not be viewed as the goal, it is the means to achieve the goal of becoming a more spiritual being. When we are in a relationship with others, we will get uncomfortable, we will be challenged and we will be forced to grow. That is spirituality. Today we look at relationships like a Hollywood movie, the wedding day is the last scene. They should make movies where it is the first scene.”—Q & A with Yehuda Berg: Spirituality, Soulmates & Relationships - MindBodyGreen
“Believe in yourself. Think about the future once a day and keep doing what you’re doing. Because I’m impressed. My regards to the family. Don’t let a day pass without a kind thought about them.”—We’ll Know When We Get There: Sincerely, John Hughes — from John Hughes to his normal-person-non-celebrity teenage penpal
There is a really cool project from Bindu Wiles, 21.5.800. She asks people to commit to writing 800 words per day for 21 days and do five days of yoga per week. I’m too late to join the party.
Sounds pretty cool but the coolest part I think is that she recommends as one possibility Savasana / corpse pose for 15-30 min a day as the yoga portion. So many people think that yoga is exercise, which it can be. But that’s not the most transformative part of yoga.
I love how she explains Savasana to people who don’t do yoga. For me, it is the most important part of my yoga practice. Giving myself the time to do absolutely nothing in our day of never-ending to-do lists and 24-hour news service and 1000 interesting blogs to read is LIBERATING.
If you are wondering if you should do Savasana, I’ll say this: Rest is wildly and tragically under-utilized and under-valued in the modern world. We push and push and push ourselves to the point of exhaustion and then we drink more coffee to keep up with our lives. So. If you are fried, hate yoga, have several children under the age of three, just had a root canal, are exhausted, and/or are energetically behind the eight-ball in every way, PLEASE DO SAVASANA FOR THE 21 DAYS. I promise you the pose will do it’s magic.
Savasana. Sava means corpse and asana means posture or pose. So corpse pose is the translation from Sanskrit. In Savasana, the idea is to imitate a corpse. Why would anyone want to do that you are thinking right? Well, folks, one thing that a corpse is, is STILL. By remaining motionless for some time, and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you LEARN TO RELAX. For a brief period the body, the mind , and the speech are still. All parts of the body, skin, muscles, and nerves are relaxed.
Unfortunately, the Manduka Eko Lite doesn’t seem to hold up well over time when one has a very active vinyasa or ashtanga practice. This comment confirmed my fears that the mat will biodegrade as I am using it:
"This mat isn’t everything I thought it would be after daily, intensive use. And now, about 6 months later, I’ve had to give it up altogether coz it’s started peeling even more and become just like the regular PVC mats with bits of flaky stuff. Then again, I’m a regular ashtangi, so unless you’re doing constant vinyasas and rolling over your toes and jumping through all the time, then I’d say don’t get this mat. Otherwise, if you’re doing a regular hatha or bikram practice, this eko-lite mat should be pretty cool. No break-in period either - it was great after the first wash and extremely grippy right out of the box."
My current purple yoga mat is almost 10 years old. I bought it at the first yoga studio at which I regularly practiced, because they were charging $1 for a mat rental. They cut it from a long roll, so the edges are irregular. That’s partly why I love it: it has stuck by me since the beginning, and I have yet to meet someone with a self-cut mat edge.
Unfortunately, my yoga mat was made probably from PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride, a toxic material connected to cancer and off-gases toxic emissions. At first I didn’t mind. I thought that throwing away something I could still use and would replace just because it wasn’t green enough was wasteful. I found the little bits that came off of it little annoyances that I would just wipe away with my palms in between poses. The wear marks are reminders of my commitment to be on the mat every day.
But then it stunk. And there seems to be no way of getting rid of the smell of hours of sweaty practice from the plastic, since it is an open-cell material. Open-cell means that there is more grip to the mat, but that sweat can seep in. This is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. And after almost a decade, it is.
But rubber, while a renewable and biodegradable material, is becoming a cash monocrop, leading to deforestation in the Amazon. Another negative is that it smells. And rubber can’t be used in direct sunlight, so I can’t use it at sunny vacation spots.
The Manduka ProLite is not advertised as eco-friendly, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee. And after having been married to my mat for 10 years, the lifetime guarantee is comforting. I like the idea of buying one mat that will last me in various incarnations for the rest of my life, since rubber is supposedly not as durable as other materials. Especially since for the price of the Barefoot Yoga mat, I could get the ProLite for life.
There seems to be no one right answer. And very few unbiased reviews (ie, not part of an online shop). So should I get a rubber mat, a rubber mat with jute mixed in, or a plastic mat that lasts a lifetime?
I am currently listening to the audiobook ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ that almost everyone told me to read before I went to an ashram in India last fall. It is a good and fast read, the kind of thing I listen to as I cook or brush my teeth.
In the second part of the book, the author Elizabeth Gilbert goes to her Indian guru’s ashram. A guru is just a teacher. Gilbert defines a guru as someone who brings light to darkness, someone who enlightens you.
When I was in my ashram, we had Guruji, who was almost never there but didn’t display any of the 10 myths that Guruphilia busts about gurus. He gave me a great recipe to clear my sinuses with steaming cabbage. The only complaint I had about him was that he didn’t answer all of our questions in class. He didn’t hold himself up as the supreme ego, even though there was someone else in a leadership role who did so sometimes at the ashram.
It is really sad that people who have the power to affect positively so many people then abuse that power. It’s only human, isn’t it? One more reason I want to teach everything I know to my students, so that they become their own teachers—learning through their own bodies.
“You must charge for your art. In everything - everything - there needs to be an exchange of energy. An equal one. One that fills me up. One that fills you up. If I give you a massage that nourishes and sustains and relaxes you, I ask you for money to nourish and sustain my life too. We must both be involved in the exchange, otherwise it is one sided. We must both be invested, so we both receive value. If I do not allow you to pay money for my service, I do a disservice to myself, but also to you. You must contribute too, in order to be fulfilled. You will value the things you pay for more. And my life will be better because I have helped your life be better. And your life will be better, because you have helped my life be better too. Everything - everything - must be an equal exchange of energy. It is sacred. Money is the manifestation of energy. Money is sacred too.”
most of us are raised with a poverty mentality. We think that cheaper always wins. We think that if we tough it out and pay our dues, one day we will be worth more. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. People equate dollars with quality – the higher the price the better the product. If you cheapen your value, whether it be your wages, your self esteem, or your relationship choices, people will consider you to have less value than the next person that holds themself in high regard.
I’m choosing to make my yoga class donation-only for 2 reasons.
1. I want yoga to be accessible to everyone, whatever their resources—yoga to the people!
2. I am not totally legal to do this in Germany, so doing it on a volunteer basis not for pay is one way to get around that until I am fully legal. I didn’t want to wait for the paperwork to go through before I teach, simply because with or without paperwork, this is work I enjoy and find challenging.
But I think Chic Vegan raises a good point, that in our capitalistic society where people are judged sometimes based on their earning capacity, perhaps people won’t think that I am good because I am asking for donations.
But my integrity tells me to stick to donations for the moment. I love the idea that some people might donate more so as to compensate for others who can’t. If it doesn’t work out and my papers come through, I’ll start charging a sliding scale.
And i still remember this feeling thirteen years later. And on my runs I do not think too much about distance or trying to be good at it, or perfecting something. I just want to feel my muscles and my lungs and breathe the fresh air and feel the ground under my feet (I wear barefoot shoes so it’s as close to shoeless as possible).
Keri Smith is always so clear and dead-on. She never holds anything back. This is how I feel about yoga too: not trying to be good or achieve every posture perfectly. I just want to be aware of every single part of my body and to feel alive in every cell until I am tired.