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Seriously, Is That All You’ve Got? December 31, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Health, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Life, Loss, Mala, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Texas, Twin Cities, Whirling Dervish, Wisdom, Yoga.
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It is New Year’s Eve eve. And, while I still have things to do in anticipation of the New Year, I am more than ready for the arrival of 2017. Funny thing is, all of us who are “D-O-N-E, stick-a-fork-in-it, done” with 2016, have to admit that it hasn’t all been bad. There have been some memorable and very personal highlights and there have been many changes for the better. Oh, then there’s the fact that this whole “new year” thing is completely arbitrary.

Yes, yes, there are reasons and explanations for why the Western world celebrates a beginning and an ending at this time of year. But, in some ways those reasons and explanations are beside the point. What’s important is that change is always happening – and most of it is beyond our control. Since being out of control can be psychologically uncomfortable, we take control by choosing a transition to celebrate. The celebration is a reminder that everything, including hard times, ends and that the end of one thing marks the beginning of another thing.

We can only hope the new thing is better than the old thing.

Even when, it’s the same thing over and over again.

Throughout history, different cultures have had different ways of marking transitions. One yoga tradition is to practice 108 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) when the seasons change on the equinoxes and solstices. Here in the West, we have also taken to practice this yoga variation of a marathon when the calendar year changes. (I am again leading the Surya Namaskar malas at Nokomis Yoga (this practice is full) and at the Downtown Minneapolis YMCA (3 PM – 6 PM).)

Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) are a moving meditation consisting of 12 poses. The series of poses are linked with breath so that we mimic our bodies’ natural inclination to extend the spine and open the heart as we inhale, to flex the spine and engage the core as we exhale. Or, you could think of it symbolically: as reaching for the sun as you inhale, drawing its energy to the earth as you exhale. Or, you could reach to the Source of all the things as you inhale, surrender to that Source as you exhale. Or…you get the idea. Whether you come to the practice from a physical-mental, psychic-symbolic, or emotional-energetic perspective, this series of poses engages your whole being: mind, body, and spirit.

Since the practice mirrors the cycle of time – the beginning of each breath marking the end of another, the end of each pose marking the beginning of the next – we inevitably find ourselves appreciating it, enjoying it, and then wishing it were done. We can be lost in/absorbed by the effortless repetition (ajapa japa), but then find our brains want a delineated break.

We seek the break, not because we’re tired, per se, but because it’s a way for our brains to absorb the pattern. And, in that moment, we may create the break by asking the question that has been coming up a lot in my practice: Is that all you’ve got? Seriously, is that all you’ve got?

I can’t remember if it was during an interview or during a teacher training, but I very clearly remember Seane Corn describing a conversation where she said to the Universe, “Bring it; but, bring it gently.” I love that sentiment. It acknowledges that throughout our lives we are going to be faced with challenges, and it simultaneously reinforces the idea that we can be ready to meet those challenges head on. It is a statement sourced in strength, courage, and wisdom – without being braggadocios. In fact, it embodies the splendor of humility.

This secular calendar year, 2016, New Year’s Eve happens to fall on the 8th Night of Chanukah. (Therefore, New Year’s Day 2017 is the 8th Day of Chanukah 5777.) Hod (humility, splendor, surrender, or gratitude) is the eighth aspect of the Divine found on the Tree of Life (in Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah). Physically it is symbolized by the left foot and leg. Energetically it is directly connected to Gevurah (Strength, discipline), Tiferet (Balance, Compassion), Netzach (Endurance), and Yesod (Foundation or Bonding). It can also be energetically connected to the 3rd Chakra, our physical core, which is related to our personality, our sense of self, and our self esteem.

I could go on, but what I’m getting at here is that the question (Is that all you’ve got?) isn’t something I’m asking the Universe. I know the Universe has more in store for us. I know it’s going to bring it (hopefully, gently). What I’m really doing, at those moments when I want to throw in the towel, is asking myself the question: Is that all you’ve got? Seriously, is that all you’ve got?

My early teachers often said, “How you do yoga is how you do life.” Whether we are in the middle of 1 hour, 90 minutes, or 3 hours of yoga – or anything else – we all have that moment where we want to throw in the towel. But, if we pace ourselves, we inevitably get a second wind. And, while I don’t always feel this way after I other physical things I do, in yoga and in life I almost always feel like I could have handled a little bit more. Not that I want to or need to – but, that if I had to, I could dig deep and pull up a little bit more of whatever I need to face the challenge.

The first day of 2017, is just another day on the calendar; just another day in our lives. It’s a beginning and it’s an ending. So, yes, celebrate, set an intention, and move on.

But, don’t forget that this liminal or transitional moment is also a middle. And, ultimately, the most significant thing that’s changing is your awareness and your perspective. Start noticing what you’re doing when you ask a question like “Is that all you’ve got?” Start noticing what you’re doing when your answer to the question changes.

Feel free to share your experiences by commenting below!

~ Happy New Year, Happy New Perspective ~

MULTIPLYING YOUR POWER EXPONENTIALLY (TO THE POWER OF 108) January 3, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Algebra, Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Kundalini, Loss, Love, Mala, Mantra, Mathematics, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Tantra, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Whirling Dervish, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“(1, raised to the first power) times (2, raised to the second power) times (3, raised to the third power)”

– One of John G’s responses to my question about other people’s favorite reasons 108 is significant

 

“That’s the way, I remember it, I remember it that way / From the day, I was living there, I remember it that way /
Some of our stories fade as we grow older / Some get sweeter every time they’re told / That’s the way, I’ll remember you that way”

– “That’s The Way I Remember It” by Chris Gaines (aka Garth Brooks)

Memory is a funny thing. It is more about perspective than reality – and, as such, the days and moments we remember change as we remember them. On the flip side, our perspective shapes our reality.

So, if we remember ourselves overcoming obstacles and meeting challenges, we will put on our big boy/girl panties, keep our chin up, and ride through the next storm. If, however, we forget we survived the challenge, forget that we found a way to make the obstacle the way (to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius), and only remember how hard it was to ride while soaking wet, we’ll stop riding – which is just another way to say we stop living.

Doing 108 Sun Salutations is a wet and wild ride! While doing it, people experience all kinds of things. There are moments when they aren’t sure they’ll make it one more breath – let alone 6. 12. Or 20. There are moments when they wonder how they got talked into doing it in the first place. There are moments when they feel like I’m a toddler saying, “Again!” There are moments when they can’t believe they aren’t done – or that they’re still standing. There are moments when they feel vibrant and alive. There are moments when they are amazed at everyone moving and breathing together. There are moments when everything outside of the present moment ceases, stops.

Then, there is the moment when they finish – and, as Patricia and Elizabeth said first, they feel a great sense of accomplishment. And that’s what most people remember. That’s the reason people keep coming back to do it again, and again, and again.

A feeling of accomplishment, especially when it comes from harnessing the power of awareness (mind), community (body), and breath (spirit), produces a combination of momentum and clarity. Momentum and clarity are one way to consider the two kinds of energy that make things happen: Shakti (Prakriti) and Shiva (Purusha).

Shakti (Prakriti) is nature in action and stillness. Like the seasons, it is the power of change and movement. It is symbolically female and thus gives birth to ideas so that they move from the brain or heart and into the world. Shiva (Purusha) is pure consciousness. It is arrogantly untainted by doubt, fear, or prejudice. It is symbolically male and thus provides seeds of awareness. Everything and everyone in the world is created when an idea – which is a single (or series) of electrical impulse(s) in the mind – meets the step-by-step plan that makes the way for things to happen.

 “As my teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait explains: Tantric masters discovered long ago that the success in both the outer world and the spiritual realm is possible only if we awaken our latent power, because any meaningful accomplishment and especially the attainment of the ultimate spiritual goal requires great strength and stamina. The key to success is “shakti” – the power of the soul, the power of the divine force within. Everyone possesses an infinite (and indomitable) “shakti”, but for the most part it remains dormant. And those whose “shakti” is largely unawakened have neither the capacity to be successful in the world nor the capacity to enjoy worldly pleasures. Without access to our “shakti”, true spiritual illumination is not possible. Awakening and using “shakti” is the goal of tantra.”

– from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker

A few Sundays ago I ended a conversation (with Terre and Jill at the Blaisdell Y) by saying, “Everything is tantra.” Meaning: Everything is the weaving of “the richness of spiritual experience and the fabric of everyday life into a single vibrant tapestry.” (Rod Striker, The Four Desires). You feel this weaving in the 108 mala when you have to deal with your personal limitations (physical, mental, and emotional) in order to connect the movement with the breath, and your mind-body with the spirit of the group. You feel the weaving when you recognize your heart’s desire – and start making it a real thing in the world. In The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar says “to attain what was previously unattainable” (i.e., coming together with your goal) is one way to define yoga.

Yoga and Hindu philosophies, however, are not the only places where you find this idea of weaving the seen and the unseen, the profane and the sacred. It is a fundamental aspect of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim mysticism. It is why the Dervishes whirl; it is why anchorites and anchoresses (like Julian of Norwich) withdrew from the world; it is, on a certain level, why people say Mazel tov!

As I mentioned at the end of the 2016 New Year’s Day practices, I often find myself wanting to wish someone, including myself, “Mazel tov!” Just before New Year’s Eve 2015, I ended a journal page with the above blessing and then thought, “Good luck…that doesn’t sound quite right in this context.” But it felt right. So, I went deeper.

I knew that “tov” means good – and that in the Jewish tradition something is good because it is meaningful. But, to discern the meaning of “mazel,” I turned to Aron Moss, who writes on chabad.org:

“The word mazel literally means ‘a drip from above’ (in reference to the zodiac)….Thus mazel is the influence dripping down from the stars.”

 

“There is another meaning of the word mazel that is more relevant to the phrase Mazel Tov. Mazel is the term used in Jewish mysticism to describe the root of the soul. The mystics say that only a ray of our soul actually inhabits our body. The main part of the soul, our mazel, remains above shining down on us from a distance.”

On special occasions, Moss says, we feel the power of that drop splashing down into us. It is a moment when we are consciously aware of our unlimited possibilities. It is a moment when we feel we can accomplish anything. And a critical part of success is remembering that feeling!

Completing 108 Sun Salutations is as much a symbolic accomplishment as it is a physical/mental/emotional accomplishment. That symbolic feeling may last for a few hours, a few days, or – like a drop of mazel – you may feel it splashing into you throughout the year.

I hope the latter will be the case for everyone reading this.

If you were not one of the 51 people who started 2016 with me or with a sense of accomplishment, do something now (!!!) that is the symbolic equivalent. Try something new, something you didn’t realize you could do, and (maybe) do it with some friends. Most importantly, do it with awareness. Then, once you’ve harnessed your power, set an intention (not a resolution, but a promise to yourself) to remember this powerful feeling.

2015 Group Sankalpa (Intention): “I am an instrument of peace and love. I am healthy, happy, and whole.”

2016 Group Sankalpa (Intention): “I have what I need to fill the world with love and light. I am healthy, happy, and whole.”


 

I am humbled, honored, and continually amazed by the presence of the people who share their practice with me. Know that you will be a great source of inspiration to me - and others this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you - 108 times over!

If you haven’t already done so, please check out my 2013 New Year's follow-up, which includes a link to the (password protected) Recovery 101 sequence.

 

Aron Moss ends his mazel article with the following blessing, which I offer to you:

“May this drip of inspiration from your soul above not dissipate, but rather have a positive and lasting effect, that from this event onwards you should live your life with higher consciousness. You should be aware of the blessings in your life and be ready to receive more and more…. Good mazel!”

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Living A Life Of Joy December 29, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Basketball, Bhakti, Black Elk, Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Harlem Globetrotters, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Hula Hoop, Karma Yoga, Love, Meadowlark Lemon, Men, Movies, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Volunteer, Women, Writing.
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“Life’s most meaningless statistic is the half-time score.”

&

“My lasting legacy is if I pledge to always take it to the next level, on and off the court.”

– Meadowlark Lemon

If you’ve ever questioned how doing what you love (and loving what you do) can benefit the world, if you’ve ever questioned how your personal goals can impact people you’ve never met and will never meet, or if you’ve ever wondered what happens when you live a life fueled by joy…remember Meadowlark Lemon’s smile.

He was smiling for a reason.

Lemon, who died yesterday at the age of 83, was known as the “Clown Prince” of Basketball…as well as an Ambassador of Good Will in Short Pants, the Missionary of Happy, the Smiling Zealot – oh yeah, and also as Reverend Lemon, an evangelical Christian minister who said in a 1999 pre-Christmas interview, “I believe God put me on this earth to bring joy.”

And bring joy he did – even when he was “beating” the pants off of his opponents.

Over the next few days, weeks, maybe even months, people will be talking about how Meadowlark Lemon inspired them. There will be friends and family members expressing gratitude for his presence in their lives. There will be basketball players who will talk about how the Harlem Globetrotters organization led to the integration of the NBA. There will be actors and other entertainers who will mention how he helped them through a challenging time. There will be people who talk about how the Globetrotters were the first African-Americans and/or the first Americans they admired or appreciated. There will be kids (former and current), armed service men and women (former and current), prisoners (former and current), as well as the sick and shut-in (former and current) who were touched by a man with a big heart, big skills, and an even bigger smile.

And, somewhere out there in the world, there is a former or current 11-year old who hears about how the 11-year old Meadow Lemon III’s dream came true – and decides to hoop it up:

Or hoop it up:

Or hoop it up:

Or…you get the idea.

“One significant difference between life and any other game or race is that in life we only compete against ourselves. Even though others may be involved, each person’s life is judged by no greater criteria than how they did when measured against their own individual potential. Decide right now that you are going to begin a new chapter in your life. Why wait until January 1 to make your resolution? Make your declaration today and finish this day strong, this week strong, this month strong, and this year strong. The common denominator for all mankind is that we all get 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else. What you do with that time is up to you. Choose well…” – Meadowlark Lemon

 

Click here for more information about Meadowlark Lemon Ministries.

 

 ~ OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTHI OM ~

New Year, New Intentions? December 8, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Books, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Depression, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Loss, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, New Year, Pain, Peace, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Taoism, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Women, Yoga.
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“Searching for an answer / Where the question is unseen / I don’t know where you come from / And I don’t know where you’ve gone…”

Amen Omen by Ben Harper

We are closing in on the end of 2015. And many of us are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” or “How do I go on without him/her/them?” or “Now what?”

It’s those unseen (and unspoken) questions lingering between our readiness to be done with some parts of this year; our desires to move on; and our need to let go of the old – so some healing can begin – that can create fear-based behavior and make us move into deep hibernation. But, as much as I’m a fan of hibernating in order to heal, I’m more of a fan of putting things in perspective and moving on. So, let’s remember that this year hasn’t been all bad.

Remember, for instance, if you set an intention at the beginning of the year and now realize the “stars aligned” to help you reach your goal. Maybe you wanted a new experience, a new job, a new love – or maybe you wanted to heal as an old experience, job, or love passed out of your life. Either way, with all the craziness (and scariness) we’ve seen in the world this year, I think it’s important to remember our own personal highs-and-lows, ebbs-and-flows, risings-and-fallings.

Sun Salutations (surya namaskar) are a moving meditation which mimics the natural tendencies of our bodies and our lives. We rise, we fall, we ebb, we flow – and, if we do enough of them, we experience highs and lows. Practicing a 108 Sun Salutations is the yoga equivalent of a marathon. Like a distance runner, we repeat the same steps over and over again; finding our breath, finding our rhythm – until there is no difference between our breath, our rhythm, our minds, our bodies. We become the cycle, we become the circle or ring (mala). In essence, we are practicing effortless repetition (ajapa japa): where a whisper becomes a scream and then drifts away to silence. (See link above; it’s so worth it!)

I’ve started the past few new years with this 108 ajapa-japa mala practice because it is a great way to reflect on the past, wipe the slate clean, and prepare for the new year. Again and again, it is a way to take Ranier Maria Rilke’s suggestion to a young poet and “live the question (in order to)….live your way into the answer.”

If you’re available or interested, click on the links below for more information about 108 Sun Salutations events on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day:

 

If you’ve started a new year with this practice, please share your experiences below!

 

~ May you be healthy and strong (and accept your limitations with grace) ~

 

 

 

 

Food For Thought – Part I December 1, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, New Year, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Women.
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It is the last few moments of Movember (which, for those in the know, is the month following Pinktober) and while some folks are still digesting the first of many holiday meals, I want to offer a little food for thought. Enjoy and be grateful!

~ May you have ease and well-being, and accept all the conditions of the world ~

Remembering Things To Come – Getting Ready for 2015: A New Year of Possibilities January 3, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Twin Cities, Writing, Yoga.
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“It is happening again. It is happening again. [Deep breath in. Deep chuckle out.”

– from D. J. Shadow’s “What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)” / “Transmission 3” on Endtroducing…

If your computer, iPod, Cd player, or other music maker is on repeat – and you’re listening to D. J. Shadow’s debut album – the end is the beginning, and the last words are prophetic.  Sometimes when I play this song in class, everything syncs up and we are starting the second side of a challenging sequence: so, we are at the beginning, the end, and the middle – and the words are highly prophetic. Last year, as I prepared to lead 108 Sun Salutations for New Year’s Day, I realized everything was syncing up: we were at the end of one year, the beginning of a new year, and in the middle of a week – and I was getting ready to do 108 Sun Salutations three (count them, 3!!!) times. Suddenly, D. J. Shadow’s chuckle was highly prophetic.

But, the fact that I counted out 324 Sun Salutations – and that several people (myself included) spent part of New Year’s Day thinking D. J. Shadow’s highly prophetic words with utter disbelief – isn’t what started me thinking this song should be one of our 2014 theme songs. No, my reasoning was a little deeper than that.

“Why would we want to go back to where we were so many years ago?” (D. J. Shadow)

We just can’t seem to help ourselves. On the mat, we find our thoughts involuntarily wandering to situations and people seemingly out of context. Try as hard as we might to stay focused on the here and now – as opposed to that arbitrary thing that happened in 1979, with that person who shall remain nameless – our mind seems to have, well, a mind of its own. It goes back again, and again, and again, like a random paragraph from Swann’s Way.

Somatically speaking, such thoughts may not be as random as they appear. Yoga teaches us that we hold our experiences in our bodies. So, it stands to reason, when we’re working the body we are also working though our years. The physical practice sometimes becomes a practice of systematic reflection. Pose-wise, we often move from Child’s Pose (Balasana) or Corpse Pose (Savasana); through the approximation of learning to stand and walk – think Table Pose to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) to Forward Fold (Uttanasana) to Equal Standing/Mountain Pose (Samasthiti/Tadasana) (video); then we explore and play; until we slow down, move into Corpse Pose (Savasana), and ultimately roll over to start all over again. Energy-wise, we typically move from our childhood (first chakra/wheel), through our developmental stages (second and third chakras/wheels), into our “maturity” stages (fourth and fifth chakras/wheels), and then to the unknown that lies beyond (sixth and seventh chakras/wheels).

But, even people who don’t practice yoga spend a fair amount of time reflecting on their lives. At the beginning and end of a year, right around our birthdays, whenever we experience one of life’s big milestones, and/or when the seasons change, we think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Making resolutions (or just good old-fashioned planning) seems like a natural part of this reflection process, because as long as we are are actually living there is some part of us wanting to learn and grow. Yet, a good portion of us will get stuck thinking about the past, and approximately 80% of us will set goals we won’t achieve – which, at some point will have us lamenting the past. Perhaps equally significant is the fact that regardless of when we celebrate a new year or a birthday – or even observe the changing of the seasons – we will almost always find ourselves in situations we’ve dealt with in the past.

“And why should we want to live a life that’s past and never more?” (D. J. Shadow)

The wise old wives tell us we’ll repeat the same situations until we learn the lessons. And, let’s be honest, sometimes we’re that kid who keeps failing the class. What the wise old wives don’t tell us is that we can move on to the next grade, but we’re still going to be struggling with the same material. We can blame our (master) teachers, we can blame life, we can even blame the wise old wives; however, at some point we need to cowboy (or cowgirl) up and take responsibility for being where you are.

Karma is a word we throw around, sometimes without really thinking about what it literally means. We focus on the idea of destiny, fate, or retribution and reward. However, karma is the Sanskrit word for work, action, deed. It is everything we think, say, and do. Obviously, one way to think about karma is in the context of reincarnation. But, what if you don’t believe in reincarnation or the idea that you will keep living lives until you live (or get it) “right” – whatever that means? Have you considered what happens if you just look at this life you’re living and the ramifications of the work/karma you’re doing? Have you considered the fact that everything you think, say, do in this moment leads to another thought, word, and deed in the next moment? Look back at that last link where Don Juan speaks to Carlos Castaneda in Journey to Ixtlan.

So, in that interest, have you assumed responsibility for being here?

“This is not a dream….We are unable to transmit due to conscious neural interference….You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are….” (D. J. Shadow)

At some point, on or off the mat, we all want to skip to the end and reap our rewards. We want to ignore the seemingly random thoughts and sensations so we can get to the good stuff. We want, not only a passing grade, but all the accolades which come with it. We want, not only what we’ve earned, but also what we desire. And, at some point, on and off the mat, we are confronted with….what we’ve already done.

I started this post on January 3rd (2014). It was intended as a “sample” of themes and motifs for the year (2014). But, the year got away from me – and this post sat over in the draft column…waiting to see if I’d dust it off and update it. Or, if I’d just trash it. I’d like to say it was waiting patiently. But, that’s not how my mind works. So, sometimes, it was taunting me. Other times it was encouraging me. Finally, it was speaking to me.

Not surprisingly, a year later (to the date) it sounds a lot like D. J. Shadow….

Things that are happening again:

108 Sun Salutations – New Year’s Day 2015

7 Saturdays – Journey On and Off the Mat (Dates TBA)

Exploring the Wren Cycle – March 17, 2015

Kiss My Asana Yogathon – April 2015

New Things: ?????

 

~ May your new year be happy and free ~

 

108 Sun Salutations? Check! Now What? January 3, 2013

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Food, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Twin Cities, Writing, Yoga.
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Practicing 108 Sun Salutations is the marathon of yoga. Of course, if you’ve never trained and then run a marathon, your body doesn’t know the difference. So, when you’re done, treat yourself as if you just ran 26 miles. Smile, breathe, and congratulate yourself. Maybe go out for some pasta. Definitely take Kathy T’s advice and enjoy an unapologetic 108-minute nap. (Best advice ever!!!)

Then what?

For your body

Relax and pamper yourself. Some research shows ice baths are helpful after a major endurance event. But, if you’re injury free, I’m all about keeping the muscles warm. Especially when it’s sub-0 outside the studio! So, indulge in a hot shower; soak in the tub with your favorite bath salts or bubbles; or combine one of the above with some time in the sauna or whirlpool. Take a restorative or yin yoga class to support and encourage deep tissue relaxation. For the ultimate indulgence, combine all of the above with a massage.

Literally and figuratively, put your feet up. Every pose in the sequence requires you to engage your feet and legs, while simultaneously activating your hips and core muscles. Decompress the lower body parts by spending some time in Viparita Karani (“Legs-Up-the-Wall”). This is a mild inversion that you can adjust as needed. If the shoulders and neck are out of sorts, place a blanket underneath the upper back. If the shoulders, hips, and low back need more tension release, elevate the sacrum and hips with a blanket, block, and/or a bolster. Keep the legs extended if you need the hamstring stretch. However, if they are already feeling overstretched after 216+ forward bends, release the hamstrings by bending the knees at a 90 degree angle and resting the shins on a chair, sofa, bench, or table. If it’s in your practice, explore more inversions.

A little hair of the dog is always good, but don’t go whole hog. Try Surya Namaskar C with Inch Worm and a modified Crescent (to stretch the psoas and quadricep of the back leg). Adding Chest Expansion to the lunge creates a nice stretch through the upper chest, shoulders, and a baby back bend for the low back.

Most importantly, listen to your body. When I finished the practice just before midnight on December 31st, my body was screaming for Gomukhasana (“Cow Face Pose”) legs. The next morning, when I could actually walk, I was really glad I listened. The second day after my practice, I added Garudasana (“Eagle Pose”) arms and Gomukhasana arms to the seated pose.

For your mind

Spend some quiet time just breathing, or contemplating how you felt before, during, and after the practice. A lot of people, myself included, expressed a little anxiousness before the practice. Take a moment to consider how much of the anxiety was fear of the unknown and fear of “failing,” and how much was actually anxiety about letting go.

Consider the different variations and dedications, as well as how you reacted to each. Look back over any notes you made; maybe make some more.

Request additional information about something that was said or done, or music that was played during the practice.

For your spirit

Be still. Soak up, celebrate, and appreciate all you did. Give yourself permission to express any emotions that came up during or after the practice. Recognize that some of your emotional responses are going to come down the road. Notice them; acknowledge them; and honor them.

Review your sankalpa (“vow”, “intention”) and your guiding principle statements. Notice if the still resonate. The intention of the meditation was to start the process of setting an intention. What you wrote or thought during the practice was a first draft. Maybe it worked right off the bat. But if your tongue or mind tripped over the words, then or now, restate it.

Finally, remember that the sankalpa is not intended as a simple affirmation. It’s part of your heart song and it’s a message meant to be sent and received internally. If you meditate or pray, include the words in your mind the next time you sit, kneel, or walk. The next time you practice yoga, think of the words during your Savasana. The vow is particularly powerful when used during Yoga Nidra; so, find or download a class and relax your way to your goal!

For the teacher inside you

Notice where you felt the practice, physically and emotionally. Notice where you didn’t feel it. Being sore after the practice is a common experience; you’ve worked every part of your body, after all, and in some cases you’ve worked harder than normal. And everything you did before the practice was part of your training. The question is: how good was your training? Did you remember to bend your knees – or are your hamstrings sore because you forgot to bend your knees? How’s your core? Do your shoulders and low back ache because you worked the muscles in a different way? How are your feet, hips, and knees? What about your wrists and neck? How many of the 14 muscles in your shoulder girdles feel good versus stressed, sore, or fatigued?

OK, to be fair, that last question was my favorite trick question. Most of us don’t even realize we have 14 muscles in each of our shoulders. The point isn’t (necessarily) to identify them so much as to notice how you feel and to note if your are sore (or not) because you were ready for the practice (or not) or because at some point along the way you forgot to be mindful of your alignment.

Finally, noticing how you feel after practicing 108 Sun Salutations, along with the counterposes, gives you a good indication of what parts of your practice are working and where you can focus a little more awareness during the new year. Talk to your yoga teachers about what poses or sequences can help you build strength or flexibility in your weak areas.

For the teacher who led you

No matter where or when you practice, the person (or people) leading the practice will appreciate your feedback.

The 2013 Nokomis Yoga New Year’s practice was a first for many in my circle and a “multi-first” for me! While I have practiced and co-led 108 Sun Salutations at the YMCA for the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, this was my first time leading solo; my first time doing all 108 at Nokomis; and my first New Year’s practice with the guided meditation. Since I would love to do it again, please let me know how it felt for you. If you have a moment (now, or over the next 12 months), please let me know (via e-mail or comment on the blog) what you liked or didn’t like; what resonated and what fell flat; what you appreciated – even if you didn’t like it; and whether or not you would join me again for this type of event. I know Solveig would also appreciate a review for Nokomis Yoga, if you are on google+.

Many thanks and blessings to the 22 incredible people who shared their New Year’s Day with me. I feel honored and humbled to be a small part of your practice and I appreciate the energy and joy you put into the occasion.


~ Check out Tara Woltjen’s 2011 post on the Surya Namaskar backstory and for the wonderful poem “A Prayer to the Light” (which coincides so beautifully with the practice I included it in our "mindfulness round"). ~

Didn’t make it to a New Year’s Mala practice on January 1st? There’s still time! Several studios (including taraNa in Minneapolis) are hosting the practice on Saturday, January 5th!

Still sore? Recovery 108 is currently password protected.

~ Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanthi Om ~