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Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga.
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Q & A

Anyone who comes to my class knows I love stories. And, they can also tell you: I am an equal opportunity storyteller. This time of year is full of some of my favorite stories. Take Chanukah, for instance: within this celebration of light is the story of “Not Much,” the story of “Give It All You’ve Got,” and an opportunity to explore the original meaning of the word “miracle.” On Wednesday people all over the world were looking for and/or celebrating miracles. It wasn’t just that some people saw 12/12/12 as an auspicious date; it was also the middle of Chanukah, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the beginning of the Baha’i month of Masa’il (“Questions”).

Personally, I was excited, all fired up, inspired and ready for an “intensely fun, intensely intense” practice on Saturday.

Then, on Friday night, when I heard about yet another mass shooting and a death in my family, I was having a hard time focusing on fun.

It doesn’t matter if it’s today; yesterday; almost 2, 311 years ago (around 300 BCE); or nearly 100 years before that, when bad things happen we question. However, our questions don’t just stop with, “Why?” or “How could this happen?”

The closer we are to the tragedy; the bigger the scale of the tragedy; or the more innocent the people involved, the more we question. Sometimes, we question everything we believe to be true. We may question our faith, the very foundation of our existence, the things (literally and figuratively) that support us when we struggle. And, more often than not, we seek answers from that same foundation or truth – be it God, science, our leaders, or our community.

In every culture and in every heart, there is a word for that ultimate truth; for that something universal within us, and all around us. (Even science has subatomic particles that are in everything.) And in every heart, there is a question we can direct to that source, a question, which can also be an answer.

מכבים      गायत्री

In Exodus 15, “Moses and the sons of Israel,” sing the praises of God to God and in doing so they cite a number of marvels (also known as miracles). When a band of brothers/a father and his sons/a clan of priests chose Maccabee as their moniker and battle cry, they not only used a variation of a word meaning “hammer,” they used an acronym for a Torah verse (Shemot/Exodus 15:11): “Who is like You…among the mighty? Glorious in holiness fearful in praises, performing wonders (miracles)?”

The Maccabees took their question to the source and within the question they found their answer: the source. They also found inspiration.

I think what they did is similar to what Rainer Maria Rilke means in Letters to a Young Poet, when he writes, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you will not be able to live them…. Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”

My plan for today’s practice: Embody a question (addressed to the source) that simultaneously inspires and answers. Everyone would have their own personal question(s) and their own way of articulating “the source.” The tricky part would be getting everyone on the same wavelength.

In yoga, we talk about the light (or energy) within us, and all around us. When we move through our physical practice, our physical focus may change from moment to moment, but we have the opportunity to maintain a single-pointed mental focus, a meditation point. Adding mantra to our movement can strength our focus, and get us all on the same wavelength.

Today, I used the Gayatri Mantra to get us on the same wavelength.

People using a mantra for seated meditation often use a mala (“garland” or “ring”) to maintain japa (“repetition” or “remembering”) without excess effort (ajapa-japa or “constant awareness”). In the physical practice, using kirtan (mantra with music) is a great way to achieve a similar meditative state. More often than not, when I use kirtan in a class, the sequencing is progressive in the sense that each time we complete a cycle we begin it again and then add an additional pose or two. Occasionally, I will even get “asana-happy” (or maybe it’s “prana-happy”) and sequence in a mandala (“circle”).

Today, I wanted to go even deeper. Inspired by this idea of living the question, addressed to the source, I took another look at the Gayatri Mantra itself.

When I’ve used the Gayatri Mantra in the past, I’ve emphasized various translations and focused on the story of Visvamitra, the sage responsible for the mantra, and the peak pose named after him. But, this time I looked at the structure of the mantra.

One of the unique aspects of the Gayatri Mantra is its most common name comes from its meter. When in Sanskrit, a “great utterance” is followed by three (3) eight-syllable lines (padas or “feet”). What happens, I wondered, if an extended inclined sequence was followed by three (3) sequences, which each contained eight poses or pose variations? And what would happen if all the sequences put together made up a mandala? And what would happen if the repetition of the mandala prepared us for Visvamitrasana? And can I even get a room full of completely different bodies and practices to the point where their hips, hamstrings, shoulders, triceps/biceps, back, and core (not to mention their wrists) can even safely consider the possibility?

So many questions…that today become so many answers.

When we are moved to move, and we move to seek answers within ourselves, do we become the answer? When we live the question, as Rilke suggests, and our question is, “What can we do to make things better, brighter, to change this great wrong or keep it from happening again?” do we become the change?


Right now, lots of people are asking questions and calling for change, personally and globally. Lots of people are also insisting they know all the answers – sometimes insisting so fervently, in fact, that they can’t even hear themselves let alone the people around them.

I’m not claiming to have any answers…just more questions. I also have a desire to be still and quiet enough to hear all the answers when they come.

And, just like I do when I am seeking guidance, answers, and inspiration from the source of all things, I think some of our questioning and listening needs to be focused on the people who are the source of these tragedies, people who are in so much pain they want to hurt themselves and the people around them.

Finally, I hope that when the right answers come, we are strong enough, wise enough, and courageous enough to recognize and live those answers.

Vinyasa Class Notes

Key Asana Sequence: Anjaneyasana (“Crescent Lunge”) with Inverted Namaskar to Anjaneyasana to Modified Virabhadrasana III (“Warrior III”) to 3 variations of Virabhadrasana III to Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (“Standing Splits”) with Squats, Seated Sage Twist, and Gomukhasana (“Cow Face”)

Song(s) That Had To Make The Cut: multiple versions “Gayatri Mantra”

Song(s) Played Loud For Motivation: multiple versions of “Gayatri Mantra”

Song(s) Related To Theme (if you think about it): “Princes of the Universe” by Bear McCreary

Interested in harnessing the power of movement, mantra, and music? Click here to find out how people all over the world will celebrate New Year’s Day!



1. Meghan - January 2, 2013

I am sorry to hear about a death in your family. Your reflection on tragedy and embodying the question was very helpful to me. I am sorry I missed your New Year’s Day practice. I will be there next year…or sooner:)

ajoyfulpractice - January 2, 2013

Thank you, Meghan. I always enjoy seeing your smile come through the door (it precedes your body by about 3 feet)! Looking forward to practicing with you during this new year! Namaste, Myra

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