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Quick Announcements and A Thank You! May 3, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Black Elk, Buddhism, California, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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First, the thank you:

I am deeply grateful to everyone who participated in this year’s Kiss My Asana yogathon to benefit Mind Body Solutions. It doesn’t matter if you made a donation online, attended a donation-based class, hosted a donation-based class, or asked a question (and, maybe, are still waiting on my answer) – either way, you made a difference in how we view yoga and how we, as part of the yoga community, keep our sacred circle open to all bodies and all minds. During one class in particular, when I listed all the types of people who can benefit from adaptive yoga, I found myself referencing every person in the room. Just a reminder that it’s not about modifications, it’s about the practice.

Thank you, also, to Sandra Razieli for spending part of her birthday weekend co-teaching with me!

Thus far, we’ve raised $855 this year to support the Mind Body Solutions Solutions, where awakening the connection between mind and body transforms trauma, loss, and disability into hope and potential.

Oh, and by the way, you can still donate here!

 

And now, the quick announcements:

May the 4th is with us! While I am sad to report that I will not be leading any Star Wars yoga classes this year, I am very excited about returning to the Walker Art Center to facilitate meditation during MN Artists Presents: Marcus Young (5 – 9 PM). This free event is kid-friendly and has a lot of mindfully interactive moments. For more information, check out the event page or the Walker’s Facebook page. (Please note: road closures may create delays and detours. Breathe deeply. And may the force be with you.)

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Finally, my YMCA classes will have subs on Friday night (5/5), Saturday morning (5/6), and all day Sunday (5/7). Enjoy!

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2017 Kiss My Asana Question #2: Why 108? April 3, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, 31-Day Challenge, Baseball, Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Chicago Cubs, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Karma Yoga, Kirtan, Life, Loss, Love, Mala, Mantra, Mathematics, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Qigong, Religion, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Tai Chi, Tantra, Texas, Tragedy, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“The number of words you use to answer these questions is going to be divisible by 108? Why 108?” – the obvious questions

The significance of 108 is something pondered pretty much whenever people get ready to practice 108 Sun Salutations (for New Year’s Day, Spring/Fall Equinox, and Summer/Winter Solstice). It is considered an auspicious number in a variety of disciplines and traditions. So much so that if I listed 108 reasons, I might still be missing some. Swami J has a pretty comprehensive list; however, here are some of my favorites:

  • 108 is a harshad (or, “great joy” bringer) number in mathematics, meaning that it is divisible by the sum of its parts (1+0+8=9; 108/9 = 12)
    • Note also 1+2 = 3; 12/3 = 4 and 108/3 = 36; 3+6 = 9; 36/9 = 6
  • 108 is a prime example of numbers being exponentially powerful {(1, raised to the 1st power) multiplied times (2, raised to the 2nd power) multiplied times (3, raised to the 3rd power), i.e., 1*4*27}
  • 108 suitors pursue Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey.
  • In Buddhism, the 108 feelings or sensations humans experience result from external/physical and internal/mental stimuli (2) being received through our senses and consciousness (5+1) multiplied times our perception of sensation as positive/pleasant, negative/painful, or neutral (3) multiplied times our ability to experience feelings or sensations in the past, present, and future (3). {2*(5+1)*3*3}
  • In Eastern religions and philosophies, a mala used to count repetitions during meditation contains 108 beads – or a fraction of 108, and this coincides with an old school Catholic rosary which allows you to count out 10 decades, and provides 8 additional beads (for mistakes). The cross would be considered the guru bead.
  • In some religions there is only one God; however there are 101-108 names for God.
  • In an Indian creation story, God as Dance (Nataraja) creates the universe through a dance containing 108 steps or poses; and, there are 108 forms of dance in Indian traditions.
  • Some martial arts forms contain 108 steps or poses.
  • According to some yoga texts, there are 108 nadis (energy rivers carrying the bodies vitality) intersecting at the heart chakra.

Since I’m writing this on opening day 2017:

  • The 108 double stitches on a Major League baseball are hand stitched; AND
  • It took 108 years for a much loved baseball team to break a curse (that may or may not be real) – and they did it in the 10th inning with 8 runs!

Finally, it would be seriously auspicious if a couple of people (2) Kiss(ed) My Asana by clicking here and donating $54 each. Or, you know what would be a real joy bringer? If a certain number of individuals (108) clicked above and donated $108 each.

For those of you doing the math: $25 shares a “Beyond Disability” DVD with a home-bound person living with a disability; $250 provides four yoga classes at a battered women’s shelter or veterans center; $500 provides full tuition for an Opening Yoga Teacher Training Workshop; and $1000 transforms the life of someone living with a disability by providing them an entire year of adaptive yoga. While these numbers focus on the people directly receiving the service, consider how yoga affects not only the individual on the mat, but everyone that individual encounters off the mat.

~ LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #27: You’re a Wonder, Wonder Woman! February 29, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Texas, Tragedy, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

– William Moulton Marston in “The American Scholar” (1943)

 

If you had asked me, years ago, what I admired and found so endearing about a certain friend of mine, I would have floundered a bit. Oh, it wasn’t that I couldn’t have come up with hundreds, maybe thousands, of platitudes – after all, she’s authentic, fun and funny, quirky, one half of an amazing couple, emotionally intelligent, beautiful and strong, driven, unexpectedly deep, full of grace and love …. See, the list goes on. No, the issue wouldn’t have been finding words to describe Amber K. (Yogi #27); the issue would have been capturing her essence. The issue would have been describing the multidimensional heart beneath the surface.

 “Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.”

“Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

 

“… beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and as swift as Hermes.”

– attributes of Diana Prince, as described in “Wonder Woman (Vol 1) #159”, April 1959

People back in 1941, had some of the same concerns we have right now: debates over gun control and birth control; struggles with equality in the work place; war around the world, especially between people with different ethnicites and religious beliefs; politics and economy being driven by the war efforts; and immigration issues related to the war. The list goes on. What’s different, perhaps, is that towards the end of 1941, psychologist William Moulton Marston, inspired by his two wives, gave the world the hero they so desperately needed: Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman. She was a role model – not just for women, but for everyone.

NOTE: The original Wonder Woman was not born an American, but she defended the United States and all its inhabitants. She had a strong relationship with the divine – which was the source of her powers. She was so dedicated to the truth that she had a “Lasso of Truth” – along with a healthy physique, indestructible bracelets, and a tiara (cause, duh, princess). I’m pretty sure her invisible plane had a nonexistent carbon footprint. And, unlike other classic superheroes, she wasn’t from outer space – or tasered by an alien race, she wasn’t poisoned by something (like a radioactive spider), she didn’t have mutant DNA, and she wasn’t driven by childhood traumas or struggling with dark triad psychosis. Wonder Woman was just all human – unapologetically strong, fierce, proud, beautiful, intelligent, humble, and compassionate. When she faced challenges (like losing her powers) she found a solution (learning martial arts). She focused on restoration rather than retaliation and believed people could be redeemed.

If you look at Amber K. and see Wonder Woman, you’re getting closer to the truth.

 “Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold,
Change their minds,
and change the world.”

– “Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

I’m convinced Wonder Woman was a yogi. Look at the evidence: She consistently exhibited strong mental focus and clarity, plus her agility was a sign of balance between strength and flexibility. Also, her capacity for turning loving-kindness into a game changer was reminiscent of the siddhis (so-called “supernormal powers” outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). Finally, consider how the world would be a really different place if more of us interacted with each other the way Wonder Woman interacts with the people around her.

By the same token, Amber K. is a verified yogi as well as a belly dancer. She is generous with her comments – both positive and negative – in a way that is constructive and insightful. She works with and around her limitations with grace – never complaining, always breathing through what comes up. Her interactions with herself and the people around her imply a certain level of respect for herself and the people around her. Her personal and professional interactions also require a certain level of awareness about the rhythm of life, how things ebb and flow. I guarantee you, the world would be a really different place if more of us related to each other the way Amber K. relates to the people around her.

Oh, and did I mention that I’ve never seen Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and Wonder Woman/Amber K. in the room together? Makes me wanna go, “Hmmm.”

 

“Steve is impressed with Diana’s understanding, compassion, and belief that people can change. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘Where I was raised we were taught that good must triumph over evil; and that women and men can change.’”

– Excerpt from Ink-stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology By Jennifer K. Stuller

 

“I did nothing! It was Wonder Woman!”

– Captain / Major Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series

Amber K. is one of those people who consistently reminds me that we don’t have to stop practicing yoga just because our bodies and minds (or even our personal situations) change. But, changes in our mind-body may sometimes require a change in the way we practice. And, ultimately, that’s the beauty of yoga: it meets us where we are, accepts us as we are, and embraces all that we are.

Mind Body Solutions and the KISS MY ASANA yogathon raise awareness about the fact that our physical practice of yoga can change to accommodate our needs. If we (or a teacher) have the knowledge base to change and grow within the practice our yoga practice will advance – which doesn’t always mean we’re doing more “advanced” poses. Sometimes the challenge is accepting our limitations with grace. Sometimes, to get the most benefit out of the pose (and our practice) we have to fully commit to the modification. William Moulton Marston said, “Every crisis offers you extra desired power…. Besides the practical knowledge which defeat offers, there are important personality profits to be taken.” Our time on the mat allows us to cultivate life skills we can use off the mat – but, here again, we have to turn inward and be honest about what we find. We have to keep moving, keep breathing, and keep flowing.

Please, KISS MY ASANA if you are grateful for what you find in your yoga practice! Your donation will help others find a practice for which they too will be grateful – and the circle will be unbroken. Remember, Lynda Carter said, “You know that if you can affect one person’s life in your entire lifetime in a positive way, that your life is worth living.”
 

A big giant thank you to the 15 yogis who held the space and shared the practice my donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th(details coming soon). If you’re interested, there are still spaces available for March 5th (6:30 – 8:00 PM at Flourish). Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two). Space is limited.

2016 Kiss My Asana #22:Working with an Awakening Heart February 24, 2016

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“This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who seeks the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,”

– Excerpt from “Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013

 

“The Buddha said that we are never separated from enlightenment. Even at the times we feel most stuck, we are never alienated from the awakened state. This is a revolutionary assertion. Even ordinary people like us with hang-ups and confusion have this mind of enlightenment called bodhichitta. The openness and warmth of bodhichitta is in fact our true nature and condition. Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we’re feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta—like the open sky—is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.”

– Excerpt from“Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön*

 

Yoga, and its sister science Ayurveda, can be great healing tools – especially if you’ve identified what’s going on in the body and in the mind. Since I’m not a medical doctor, a psychotherapist, or an Ayurvedic practitioner, I avoid diagnosing people who come to my classes. However, if I were to offer a simple assessment of Yogi #22 (Mary C.), I would say she exhibits the characteristics outlined in the Karaniya, has a tendency to breath into the soft spot of her own heart, and “hear the cries of the world.”* On and off the mat, she practices ways to awaken the heart.

 Chitta means “mind” and also “heart” or “attitude.” Bodhi means “awake,” “enlightened,” or “completely open.” Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. Even the cruelest people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious animals love their offspring. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche put it, “Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.”

– “Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön

When you’re talking to Mary C. there is no question that she is present, engaged, and listening. Her focus is deliberate; mindful; skillful – and results in a hum that sounds a lot like someone whispering the question, “Do you realize you are loved?” If one can hear such a hum, and not be unsettled by it, it becomes one of the most comforting experiences in the world.

But, everyone isn’t comfortable being loved. And, being the one who always loves is not always easy or comfortable. In fact, there could be a downside to being the person that instigates that hum. After all, everybody isn’t humming along. And, if you are aware of the hum – and aware of the harmony – you are also aware of the dissonance, the lack of harmony. Being aware is a beautiful blessing, but not getting swamped by the darkness in the world requires effort. Mary C. not only makes the effort, she works it!

 “An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic; sometimes to anger, resentment and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all.”

– “Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön

 

I don’t mean to imply that Mary C. is a saint. Just like everybody else, she has her off days. However, while some of us check out on our off days, I’ve seen Mary C. own hers. In fact, I think her off days make her more curious. She is curious about the techniques and skills that will improve her life physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, underlying her personal curiosity is the awareness that if she improves her life, lives around her will improve.

If you are curious about ways to improve your life – physically, mentally, and emotionally – check out a yoga class at Mind Body Solutions (or at your local Y or neighborhood studio). If you’re not sure where to begin, check out a donation-based class anywhere or contact Mind Body Solutions to find out if they’ve trained a teacher near you. Even people across the pond are KISS(ing) MY ASANA! Have you?
Want to KISS MY ASANA while you practice? Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two) at a donation-based class on Saturday, February 27th (3:30 - 5:30 PM) or Saturday, March 5th (6:30 - 8:00 PM). Space is limited.Click here for more information about things to do in February and March.

 

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #17:Practicing in Scordatura, As Intended February 18, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Whirling Dervish, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

– Romans 12:2

 

“It is the aim of my pilgrimage on earth to show my brethren by living demonstration how one may serve God with merriment and rejoicing. For he who is full of joy is full of love for me and for all fellow creatures.”

– Baal Shem Tov*

 

“‘Where are you going?’
She said, ‘To that world.’
‘And where have you come from?’
She answered, ‘From that world.’
‘And what are you doing in this world?’
And she said, ‘I am sorrowing.’
‘In what way?’ they asked her.
And Rabia replied,
‘I am eating the bread of this world,
And doing the work of that world.’”

“Rabia Song” by Zuleikha*

 

Follow me for a moment, while I tell you a story: Once upon a time, a great composer created a piece of music that would inspire the world. The only problem was that none of the existing instruments in the world sounded quite right as the featured soloist. She tried everything. Finally, she decided to make a special instrument – that had to be played a special way. In her studio, the instrument sounded, mostly, divine. Honestly, it sounded OK if treated like any other instrument. And, it had the unfortunate knack of being really off-key if it wasn’t held properly or used appropriately. However, when proper care and attention were taken, there was nothing like it on Earth. It would sound heavenly and enhance the sound of all the other instruments in the orchestra. Knowing she wouldn’t be around to pass the instrument along in person, the great composer left the instrument, music, and instructions for a very competent musician.

 

Like all music, the figured bass should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamour and ranting.” – Johann Sebastian Bach

 

I have it on good authority that Yogi #17 (Greg) is a very competent musician. Like Yogi #16 (my good authority), he is also a healer whose presence is as soothing as his favorite music. If the world really were an orchestra – full of divine instruments and competent musicians (like Greg), who knew how to play their holy instruments – all would be right with the world.

 

 

Unfortunately, the musical story above doesn’t always end well.

In some versions of the story most of the composer’s instructions were lost; the music was rearranged; the special instrument may (or may not) have gotten a little dented; and the conductor didn’t know who was supposed to lead.

So, there you have it: the state of the world as we know it. We have these bodies that can touch and be touched – yet, we often feel disconnected from our bodies, and all the bodies around us. We have these minds that can draw in, process, and evaluate information in the present moment – yet, we spend quite a bit of time making up stuff about past and future moments. We have something driving us to live, to love, to play and be known – let’s call it a spirit – yet, we continuously ignore that our bodies, minds, and spirits are connected. It’s enough disharmonious ranting to make Bach pull off his powdered wig!

 

“Two things are guaranteed to hook you up with the God of Love: sorrowing and rejoicing. You do not need to go searching for either; they are written into the architecture of human existence.”

– (*All with asterisks) Excerpted from God of Love by Mirabai Starr

 

Somehow there is harmony and beauty in the world. Maybe, as Mirabai Starr indicates, that harmony and beauty (like sorrowing and rejoicing) is part of our basic make-up. Maybe we just need a practice, the right music, a healer like Greg, or a teacher like Matthew Sanford to help us connect to the very fibers of our being.

All I know for sure, is that on any given Sunday (or Monday through Saturday), someone realizes that they are more than their body, more than their mind. On any given Sunday (or Monday through Saturday), someone awakens to the fact that they are connected to something Divine/Universal. And, maybe they see the Divine/Universal something as an anthropomorphic being, or maybe they feel it as a sensation of connectedness to the people around them. Either way, this awakening comes with a responsibility and a purpose to play the notes they’ve been given.

 

“To be tender, loving, and caring, human beings must be tenderly loved and cared for in their earliest years, from the moment they are born.”

– Ashley Montagu

 

“The simple act of touching is of extreme importance to the healthy functioning of the human organism. The skin can be considered the outer layer of the nervous system. The skin is the boundary of our bodies. Through touch, that boundary is gently broken down, permeated by another, and our whole internal system enhanced and stimulated.”

– Excerpt from Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.

 

Greg, like Matthew Sanford, believes in the power of touch. It is important not only for the person who needs care, but also to the caregiver. It is critical to the person dying, as well as to those who go on living. During the KISS MY ASANA yogathon, it’s easy to reference the people who have obvious external signs that they’ve experienced trauma, loss, and disability. However, let’s not forget the caregivers and the space holders. While “best known for adapting yoga for persons living with disabilities,” Mind Body Solutions also offers workshops and trainings for caregivers, healthcare providers, and whole organizations. Remember: Everyone benefits when we integrate our mind-body, on and off the mat. So, if you want to honor a healer (or a musician), go to Sharon’s page (she’s matching donations) and KISS MY ASANA!

 

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“If there is light in the soul,
there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.”
– Chinese Proverb

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2016 Kiss My Asana #16: Peace Like A Gardener/Farmer February 17, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Jane Hirshfield, Julian of Norwich, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

“It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford

 

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

– Excerpt from A Revelation of Love – in Sixteen Shewings by Julian of Norwich

 

Towards the beginning of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali emphasizes that cultivating friendliness/loving-kindness, compassion/mercy, gladness/goodwill/joy, and acceptance/equanimity creates a calm, peaceful, and undisturbed mind (1:33). A bit later, he states that a person can be so firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa) that other people lose their hostility just be being in the vicinity (2:35). Towards the middle, he indicates that samyama (the collective practice of focusing, concentrating, and meditating/becoming) on these qualities produces the great strength or power of these attitudes (3:23). Finally, towards the end of the sutras, he explains that in order to realize great power through the practice, a yogi has to be like a farmer or gardener (4:3, although he hints at this throughout).

Some people read about the siddhis (great powers) described in the Yoga Sutras and think them as “supernormal” or psychic powers – while others reference quantum physics or Jedi Knight tricks. And, some people just think the whole text is an extended metaphor. How ever one thinks about siddhis on paper, there’s no denying the power of being in the presence of someone grounded in love. Considering Julie (Yogi #16) is a gardener, it should come as no surprise that being around her is a little like being hugged by love.

The moment you walked inside my door
I knew that I need not look no more,
I’ve seen many other souls before – ah but,
Heaven must’ve programmed you”

“Heaven (Where True Love Goes)” by Yusuf Islam

 

“More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, where foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.”

– Excerpt from “Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield

 

Julie is one of my favorite people and part of another one of my favorite yoga couples. I met her and her husband within my first year of teaching – and I am always thrilled to see them. Every once in a blue moon one will come without the other; but, more often than not, they come together. (And, spoiler alert! I started writing their posts in tandem because I think of them as my two anchors, or touchstones, in the corner of the room.) They come when it’s cold; they come when it’s hot; they come when they’re tired; they come when they’re busy; and sometimes they come when they’re not feeling 100%.

Julie mentions me helping her adapt her yoga practice during one of those times when she wasn’t at 100%. However, I wasn’t her only resource. She also practiced with the amazing Michelle P-W who, in addition to being a world-class yoga therapist, has practiced and taught with Matthew Sanford.

There are lots of people in the world who could benefit from a yoga practice if they had the resources to facilitate their practice. Sometimes the necessary resource is a knowledgeable teacher, sometimes it’s an accessible studio, and sometimes it’s just the awareness that there is more than one way to practice yoga. Either way, if you KISS MY ASANA, you help create more resources and opportunities for more people to discover and continue practicing yoga.

 

~ Forever, and ever, Amen. ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #15: The Statesman February 16, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Whether young, old or too old, sick or lean, one who discards laziness gets success if he practices Yoga.”

Hatha Yoga Pradipika I:66

 

According to Walter Lippman, “The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opposition than from his fervent supporters.” Ergo, this month of profiles would not be complete without Yogi #15 (Paul). For those of you who are keeping track, Paul is the third yogi I met in a bar and the third person in the line-up who doesn’t actually practice with me – which also makes him the third person to agree to this endeavor without a whole lot of information up front. He is also the fourth, but not the last, person posted in tandem with a significant other.

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”

Book of Ruth 1:16

There is something super sweet and special about people who practice yoga together. Really, there’s something super sweet and special about people who share a life together and also share any interests. Paul, however, will be the first to tell you that he and Yogi #14 (Ruth) don’t practice yoga together regularly.

Paul works out at a local gym. He has a routine he likes and, every now and again, he’ll check out a yoga class. Paul, like Yogi #14, is a straight-shooter. So, he doesn’t waste a lot of time apologizing for what he does or doesn’t do. He does what he does. And, while it is very obvious that Paul appreciates what yoga can do for the mind and body, he joins at least one other person here (out of 29) who may not actually like yoga.

Your speech doesn’t need music, it needs logic.”

– Excerpt from Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style, Substance, and Clarity by Peggy Noonan

 

In principle, my experience is not so different from yours, it is only more extreme. … My mind-body relationship changed in an instant — the time it took for my back to break. But the changing relationship between mind and body is a feature of everyone’s life. We are all leaving our bodies — this is the inevitable arc of living. Death cannot be avoided; neither can the inward silence that comes with the aging process.”

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

When we first met, Paul and I spent quite a bit of time talking about Matthew Sanford and the adaptive yoga program at Mind Body Solutions. Like so many people, Paul had heard about Bruce Kramer’s experiences practicing yoga after his ALS diagnosis. And, like so many people whose interest is sparked by the work Mind Body Solutions is doing with people who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability, Paul’s interest is personal: He knows someone who could benefit from the work you support when you KISS MY ASANA!

 

~ OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTIH OM ~

2016 KISS MY ASANA #7:Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now! February 7, 2016

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“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom (Sophia) is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Proverbs 8:10 – 11

 

“One does not accomplish great ends in some by-and-by future, O Warrior. Only in the present can you hammer out real achievement….To work without desire may seem impossible, but the way to do it is to substitute thoughts of Divinity for thoughts of desire. Do your work in this world with your heart fixed on the Divine instead of on outcomes. Do not worry about results. Be even tempered in success or failure. This mental evenness is what is meant by “yoga” (union with God). Indeed, equanimity is “yoga”!

Bhagavad Gita 2:47-48, abridged

 

Where to begin was the challenge in writing today’s post. Do I focus on Yogi #7’s inner light? Her outer beauty? Her kindness? Her intelligence? The strength of her character; and, the fact that she and I in a room together is like an exclamation point on “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes and the similarly named speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?!?!?!?

Hmm, maybe I should just focus on the practice. But, even then, I could write a book about what a privilege it is to be a small part of Yogi #7’s practice.

Mathea (Yogi #7) has the strength, the grace, the focus, the discipline, the wisdom, and the devotion to practice anywhere. What she doesn’t have is the luxury to spend all her time on the mat – she’s a householder (meaning she has the luxury of a lovely family, an extended circle of friends, a variety of interests, and a demanding job). Still, she could choose to practice anywhere. And, being a true yogi, she would appreciate and learn from the experience. So, whenever Mathea walks through the door, grins, giggles, asks a question, offers guidance, learns something new, or breathes in my vicinity I feel truly blessed.

“Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.”

– Excerpt from Wouldn’t Take Nothing From My Journey Now by Maya Angelou

Even more than appreciating the gift that is her presence in the present, I appreciate Mathea’s constant (albeit tacit) reminder that our yoga practice, like life, is a messy, messy process – and an unexpected heroine journey which requires us to fearlessly play with wise caution.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

– Excerpt from Let Us Have Faith by Helen Keller

 “There’s nothing in the world that’ll ever take the place of God’s love. / Silver & gold couldn’t buy a mighty touch from above. / When my soul needs healin’ I begin to feelin’ His power, / I can say thank the Lord, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.

– “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing” (traditional gospel)

 

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”

Philippians 3:17

 

Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”

 “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

– Excerpts from Wouldn’t Take Nothing From My Journey Now by Maya Angelou

There are people who appreciate the benefits of their yoga practice just as much as (if not more than) Mathea and I appreciate ours. However, not everyone has the privilege we do. Not everyone has the luxury of walking into a studio or a gym anywhere on the planet and practicing with whomever is leading. Not everyone feels welcomed. Not everyone knows they can practice yoga – even in a wheelchair, or a brace, or after experiencing trauma and loss. Matthew Sanford and Mind Body Solutions are changing how people think about yoga; they are transforming how people integrate their mind-body on and off the mat. You can KISS MY ASANA if you want to be part of this change!

~ Jai Guru Dev Jai Jai ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #1: Being the Questions February 1, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Depression, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– Excerpt from Ranier Maria Rilke’s 4th letter to Franz Kappus, dated July 16, 1903

I am a curious person by nature, and it is an attribute of my personality that was nourished when I was a child. So, it’s no surprise that my favorite letter to a young poet contains advice on questions and answers. What often surprises people, however, is when I explain that I didn’t take yoga teacher training so that I could teach – I took it so I could help answer questions.

When I started practicing yoga in Houston, I would constantly encounter family, friends, and even strangers whose main intersection with yoga was me. Naturally, these people had questions. These questions might start off simple: What do you like about yoga? How often do you do yoga?

But, before long the conversation veered outside my pay grade*: (1) Can I (or Should I) do yoga if I have high or low blood pressure? (2) I can’t do yoga because I have arthritis, right? (3) Is yoga bad for me or my unborn baby? (4) What do I do to get rid of this pain in my bottom or back side?

Keep in mind; I studied English in college, not holistic health – and I was practicing yoga, not studying it.

But, the questions kept coming up. And people didn’t seem satisfied when I invited them to take a class taught by one of my teachers or told them they should ask their doctor (who often didn’t know anything about yoga). They knew me, felt connected to me; so, they wanted my answers.

It was like the universe was echoing Rilke, “Live the questions…live your way into the answers.” So, I did.

These days, I don’t always have the answers, and I still refer people to their health care providers. But, now I know enough about the questions to recognize how to help someone live their questions or how to direct them to a resource, like Rilke directs Kappus to Nature.

The mind-body connection is part of Nature. Tapping into that connection allows us to live our way into answers. But, people often feel disconnected from their bodies or their minds in a way that creates suffering, discomfort, dis-ease, and questions. These questions can only be answered by tapping into our mind-body connection.

See the Catch-22? If you feel disconnected from yourself, your whole self, how can you tap into yourself? One word: Yoga. The only problem is that many people think they have to be a certain way or have a certain physique in order to “do yoga.” Many people don’t realize there is a yoga practice for everyone; you just have to find yours.

The adaptive yoga taught by Matthew Sanford, and the other teachers trained by Mind Body Solutions, is an approach to yoga which helps “those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability to find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body.” It is a way of practicing yoga which helps people tap into their whole selves in order to live their way into answers.

“When you leave this short time that we have together, you will spend the rest of your life fulfilling or answering a single question. The question is a simple one, it’s very straightforward. But I want you to think about it. The question is, “What’s next?”

– Excerpt from Rod Stryker’s 2013 The Four Desires lecture at Aspen Institute, 2013

 

After posting a pose a day for the first year, and a playlist and videos for the second year, I wasn’t sure what was next. I felt especially pressured because, even though it’s leap year and we have a long February, Kiss My Asana is shorter this year. We only have 29 days to pucker up and offer it up to raise awareness and resources for the adaptive yoga program at Mind Body Solutions.

Ultimately, I decided to offer an opportunity to explore the what, why, and who behind the practice. But, these questions (and answers) I’m posting as part of my 2016 Kiss My Asana offering are not only opportunities to explore the practice of yoga, they are also an opportunity to live it and share it. (The first “enhanced” video is here if you are reading this via email.)

Thank you, in advance, to everyone who donates and/or volunteers to answer these questions. If you’re interested in answering the questions (on camera), you can grab me after most classes Friday – Tuesday or email your video to myra at ajoyfulpractice.com. (Please note: If you are sending me a video, leave a 6-minute pause before each answer.)

Keep an eye out for the practices inspired by the answers and the donation-based classes coming soon!

~ NAMASTE ~


*NOTES:
(1) Yes, you can practice yoga if you have blood pressure issues; however, you may not be able to practice all poses or sequences if your blood pressure is unregulated. As with all physical exercise, get clearance from your health care provider before starting something new and then check in with your yoga teacher before class to make sure you receive modifications as needed.

(2) Wrong. While, again, some poses or sequences may be counter-indicated if you have arthritis, certain types of yoga are weight-bearing exercise, which means they are good for osteoarthritis. You may not experience the similar symptom-related benefits if you have rheumatoid arthritis, but yoga can still help you manage stress and promote overall wellness.

(3) Not if you’re mindful. Prenatal yoga and prenatal yoga modifications are great for moms-to-be, babies-to-be, and even dads-to-be. Check in with your health care provider and your yoga teacher to make sure you receive modifications as needed.

(4) It all depends on the type of pain, location of the pain, and why you may be experiencing the pain. Sometimes the answer isn’t a hatha yoga (physical yoga) pose or sequence, sometimes it’s a lifestyle or mattress change.

~ OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTIHI OM ~

Happy Wisdom Day: To Noble Kings January 16, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mathematics, Men, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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Today we celebrate the birthday
of a man who believed in angels and dreams.
We know he believed in the latter,
because he told us straight up,
“I have a dream…”
He was a man of faith,
who believed he could hear God’s voice (when Mahalia Jackson sings).
But did you know that
Dr. Martin Luther King
believed in living a three dimensional life?

– the beginning of my 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday class

 

This week has been a week of wisdom and legacy – or, maybe, that’s the legacy of wisdom. Monday was the birthday of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (b.1/11/1907), one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, who said, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” And, after each of my Monday classes, at least one person mentioned how inspired they have been (throughout their lives) by the blessing of Rabbi Heschel’s life. The thing is, on the outside, these people couldn’t have been more different (from each other and from Heschel) if they tried – and that’s the living legacy of Heschel: on the inside, we are all amazed by evidence of the Divine; on the inside, we are all seeking a relationship with the Divine.

“I prayed with my feet.” – Rabbi Heschel when asked if he found time to pray when he was marching to Selma.

The idea that one can pray with your whole body is not a foreign concept to me – nor would it have been to Rabbi Heschel, who was a professor of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). According to Marcus J. Freed (whose The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment combines weight training and yoga with Jewish mysticism), seven of the “10 Divine energies that emanate different attributes of God…are located in the body.” Malchut (Mastery/Nobility), Freed explains, is associated “with the hands, feet, and mouth. This makes perfect sense on reflection , as these are the organs that we can use to master ourselves and to complete the relationship with others, depending on the words we speak and the way we interact (e.g., Who we are giving to or walking towards and away from).” In Rabbi Heschel’s words and deeds we see this explanation of Malchut-Mastery/Nobility embodied.

Although Malchut-Mastery/Nobility is feminine in nature, it is often referred to as “Kingship.”And, today January 15th, we started the celebration of a King. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (b. 1929) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, four days and 22 years after Rabbi Heschel was born in Poland. Their beginnings seem as disparate as their appearances. But, go deeper and the similarities reveal themselves.

Both men descended from prominent religious leaders. Both men experienced ethnic persecution. Both men were called and ordained – and both men believed part of their calling was social action. By directly influencing Vatican II and by marching from Selma with Dr. King, Rabbi Heschel’s life became an instrument of the Divine used to combat racism, which he called “man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum hatred for a minimum of reason.” And, of course, Dr. King, himself, epitomizes a non-violent struggle for freedom, equality, peace, and brotherhood.

“Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs but how to remain human in the skyscrapers” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Oh, there will be a day, the question won’t be, “How many awards did you get in life?” Not that day. It won’t be, “How popular were you in your social setting?” That won’t be the question that day. It will not ask how many degrees you’ve been able to get. The question that day will not be concerned with whether you are a “Ph.D.” or a “no D.” It will not be concerned with whether you went to Morehouse or whether you went to “No House.” The question that day will not be, “How beautiful is your house?” The question that day will not be, “How much money did you accumulate? How much did you have in stocks and bonds?” The question that day will not be, “What kind of automobile did you have?” On that day the question will be, “What did you do for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (from “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”)

In 1954, at the age of 25, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Some sources state that his first sermon, his trial sermon at Dexter, was the earliest version of a sermon he would give throughout his life: “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.”* Reading and listening to a 1967 version of Dr. King’s sermon, I am struck by the similarities between King’s description of a complete life (based on Judeo-Christian texts) and the concept of yoga (union) as described by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (“The Song of the Lord”).

The Bhagavad Gita captures the moment when the young prince Arjuna pauses in the middle of a civil war. He literally steps into the middle of the battlefield and contemplates laying down his arms. He says, “I shall not fight,” (BG 2:9) even though he is on the righteous side of the conflict. His close friend and charioteer, Krishna, reveals himself as “the Divine Teacher” (i.e., an avatar of God). Krishna then proceeds to explain the nature of the soul as well as the various types of yoga (union paths) by which a person may live a life connected to the Divine.

Last year, during the 50th anniversary of those seminal Civil Rights marches in Alabama, I drew a parallel between Krishna and Arjuna’s relationship in the Bhagavad Gita and the relationship between (Representative) John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams. Then I saw the movie Selma, and realized the filmmakers created a similar conversation/relationship between (Representative) Lewis and Dr. King. (The movie version even took place in a chariot/car!) Now, in Dr. King’s first sermon, the conversation about dharma (law) or one’s duty in life; karma (action) or one’s responsibility to others; and bhakti (devotion) or one’s love for God is directed to us.

“When you know the true nature of the material world your grief is destroyed; when you understand the true nature of the Spirit, bliss is acquired…. Divinity is subtle and beyond comprehension. It appears to be many but is one undivided.” – Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 13:1, 16

And when you get all three of these together, you can walk and never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy. When you get all of these working together in your very life, judgment will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream…. When you get all three of these together, you will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”

(*NOTE: The three (3) links above for Dr. King’s sermon will take you to the same page, which contains the written text, as well as an audio recording of the text. You may also purchase recordings of Dr. King’s sermons and speeches on Amazon.)

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~