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Take the Deepest Breath You’ve Taken All Day – All Day, On Retreat! September 30, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma, Karma Yoga, Kirtan, Life, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Sukkot, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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sukkot-meditation-2015

What if you had a day, just a day? A day away from your regular routines, worries, and fears…. A day where everything you need is provided. Would you still worry? Would you still fear? Would you grumble and complain?

 

Or would you express a little gratitude?

Scientists, meditation practitioners, monks, and nuns have proven a link between gratitude and happiness. Even considering the possibility that there is something in your life for which you can be grateful, can affect your well-being in a positive way. So, what happens if you spend a day giving thanks for what you have – as well as for what you may have in the future?

Be joyful at your festival – you and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow who live within your city.

 

For seven days you must celebrate the Festival to YHVH*, your God, in the place which YHVH* shall choose, because the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your produce, and in all the work of your hands, and you will only be happy.

(*NOTE: YHVH is commonly translated as “the Lord” in English.)

Deuteronomy 16:14 – 15

Every cultural has rituals, meaningful traditions, marking liminal or threshold moments throughout the year. The Hebrew Bible / Old Testament outlines a series of ritual “holidays,” times when people are to gather for reflection, remembrance, and thanksgiving. Sukkot, the Festival of the Tabernacles, is the seventh and final holiday outlined in Deuteronomy, which some people view as a mandate for happiness. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the Season of Happiness.

But, what is happiness? How is it defined by the sages of various cultures? And how do we make ourselves happy? For that matter, how can we “only be happy” for any given period of time?

The answers to all those questions (and more) are within you. You just have to go deeper.

At the end of Sukkot 2016, join Myra K. Rucker, Meghan Murray, and special guest Kalyani for a day of community, ritual, harvest focused meals, and yoga – all centered around the link between gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness.

WHEN: Saturday, October 22, 2016, 10:30 AM – 9:30 PM (see below for full schedule)

WHERE: St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church (3121 Groveland School Road, Minnetonka, MN), approximately 40 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis.

WHO: Everyone (sons, daughters, neighbors, strangers) are welcome.

WHAT: Myra will lead two (2) alignment and breath focused yoga practices focusing on gratitude and the ritual of Sukkot, a walking meditation, and conversation to cultivate gratitude. Meghan will prepare yoga-friendly, vegetarian, gluten-free fall harvest meals guaranteed to tantalize the taste buds. Special guest Kalyani (Colleen Buckman) will close out the festival with breath work and music, including selections from her new album Fertile Ground.

HOW: Register online (or offline with Myra) by October 15th.

FULL PACKAGE A (Includes all events and meals*): $125, 10% discount available for senior.

+ Meals are not certified Kosher. Refrigeration is available for any attendee.

….and no one shall appear…empty-handed.” – Deuteronomy 16:16
emptybowls2016

In addition to being a phenomenal chef and baker, Meghan is also an amazing potter, who annually donates bowls to the Powderhorn Empty Bowls fundraiser. You can support this great fundraiser during our retreat by bringing a bowl to donate, purchasing a bowl to donate ($10), or purchasing a bowl as a keepsake ($20, includes donation). Either way, we will use the bowls and fill them with gratitude!

We will provide a limited amount of mats and props. At least one (1) meal and one (1) meditation/yoga practice may be held outdoors. Events are intended to be communal; however, quiet spaces will be reserved for anyone wishing to retreat in silence – and conversation pits will be reserved for anyone wishing to continue dialogue during the silent portions of the weekend.

** St. Luke’s is around the cornder from Mind Body Solutions and less than 2 miles from The Marsh. Contact The Marsh directly if you are interested in reserving a hotel room or utilizing their spa facilities. **

~ We are grateful for your presence ~

Saturday, October 22nd (tentative schedule):

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Heart Opening Yoga
12:30 PM – 1:45 AM LUNCH & “Guided” Conversation (1 space designated for silence)

2:15 PM – 3:30 PM Journey Meditation (1 space designated for silence / journal writing)

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM YOGA
6:00 PM – 7:15 PM DINNER & “Guided” Conversation (1 space designated for silence)
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM Closing Celebration & “Leave” Taking with Music & Breath by Kalyani (Colleen Buckman)

~ NAMASTE ~

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2016 Kiss My Asana #24: Guiding and Pulling (In) the Light February 26, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, California, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Daoism, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Kirtan, Kundalini, Life, Loss, Mantra, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mirabai Starr, Music, Mysticism, Oliver Sacks, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Qigong, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tai Chi, Tantra, Taoism, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear.”

– Excerpt from Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

 

“When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out – because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what’s inside.”

Wayne Dyer

Yogi #24 (Marilyn) gave me some amazingly delicious oranges once. She told me a little of their back story – they had been given to her by a friend who, if I remember correctly, has a grove in California. Eating the oranges gave me great joy (as she intended) and thinking of their back story filled me with awe and gratitude – but it also made me realize that, in reality, I knew very little of their back story.

How many people were responsible for the planting, the nurturing, the harvesting, and the transporting? How were their lives affected by the oranges? Who even had the idea to start all these endeavors? There was just no way to know. In the end, I could only be grateful.

“Gratitude is our ability to see the grace of God, morning by morning, no matter what else greets us in the course of the day. That has the effect of making us gracious as well.”

– Excerpt from Hustling God: Why We Work So Hard for What God Wants to Give Us by M. Craig Barnes

Marilyn herself is a lot like those oranges: Bright sunshine on a cold January day and present after long journeys, she is delightful, joyful, and fills me with awe and gratitude – yet I only know bits and pieces of her back story. I know she teaches; I know she heals; I know she loves animals, travel, and bicycling. Bottom line: I know just enough about Marilyn to know she has seen amazing places, people, and things in the world and encountered the very best and, possibly, the very worst that the world has to offer. Yet, she is always kind and graciously grateful, for the smallest things, even when someone has wronged her. And her smile lights up a room, even when she is frustrated.

“No other light, no other guide,
Than the one burning in my heart.
This light led the way
More clearly than the risen sun
To where he was waiting for me
– The one I knew so intimately –
In a place no one could find us.”

– Excerpt from Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross (translated by Mirabai Starr)

 

“Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical and depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, summer and winter?”

– Excerpt from the introduction to Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Thomas Moore

Marilyn practices qigong as well as yoga, which means she’s one of the people who get’s my little energetic puns when I describe one set of arm movements as “Gathering Prana” and the complimentary set of movements as “Gathering Qi.” Both qi and prana are words used to describe the life-force energy that is within us and all around us. Like ruach, pneuma, and spiritus, these are also words which were once used to simultaneously define breath and spirit.

Our ancestors, from all their different cultures, didn’t distinguish between spirit and breath – they were both divinely given and received. Our ancestors, from all their different cultures, believed spirit/breath was the light of the world – it was in them and all around them. Now, the modern mind turns to quantum physics to confirm the Truth our ancestors already knew: We can gather it, guide and pull it; dance with it and in it. Like Marilyn. Or not.

 “Of the deities presiding over light, I am the one for January, loved by all for turning the world’s course toward warmth. Of the wind gods who bring immense good in the world, I am the whirlwind. Of the daytime luminaries I am the radiant sun, and of the lights of the night I am the moon.”

Bhagavad Gita 10:21

 

“Of David: YHVH is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? YHVH is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

– Tehillim (Psalms) 27:1

Jesus said, ‘I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. / Split a piece of wood; I am there. / Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.’”

The Gospel of Thomas 77

 “I sit in my own splendor. / Wealth or pleasure, / Duty or discrimination, / Duality or nonduality, / What are they to me? / What is yesterday, / Tomorrow, / Or today? / What is space, / Or eternity? / I sit in my own radiance.”

– Excerpt from Heart of Awareness: Translation of the Gita by Thomas Byrom 19:2 – 3

One of my favorite sacred texts is the Ashtavakra Gita (The Song of the Man with 8-Bends in His Limbs). It presents the wisdom of a person whose outside is considered less than ideal, by the people around him. According to one of Ashtavakra’s back stories, he was 12-years old when he walked into the court of the King (who would eventually become his pupil) – and everyone laughed at him. Ashtavakra also laughed, and then he started to cry.

When the King asked why he first laughed, as everyone laughed at him, and then cried, Ashtavakra said, “I started laughing because you saw only my outside. I started crying because I crawled all this way to discuss the Truth with great scholars and all I find here are shoemakers and leather workers.” When the King took great offense and proclaimed his court a court of great scholars, Ashtavakra shook his head and said, “It is only shoemakers and leather workers who are so concerned with the quality of the outside that they can’t see the Truth within.”

I’d like to believe that, in these modern times, we’re not so one dimensional that a shoemaker and a leather worker can’t also be great scholars. Yet, too often, people in a position to teach the Truth get caught up with the quality of the outside. Too often, people in a position to receive the Truth get turned away because their outsides are considered less than ideal. Too often we all forget that we are in bodies together – and these bodies are the ideal vehicle for our spirits. The work being done by Matthew Sanford and Mind Body Solutions allows more people to experience the Truth of who we all are and how we are all connected. KISS MY ASANA if you see the Truth – or the light.

 

My donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th is full; however, I still have 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. Bay Area yogis, don’t forget: Sandra Razieli’s KISS MY ASANA class is in Oakland on Sunday, February 28th.

 

 

~ “If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable – each segment distinct. – Excerpt from Family Politics: Love and Power on an Intimate Frontier Letty Cottin Pegrebin ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #23: This Yogi is No Slouch! February 25, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 40-Day Challenge, Bhakti, Books, California, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Sukkot, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Be Yourself. Have Fun.”

Seane Corn on “the best advice she’s been given as a teacher

 

“Find your struggle, learn your lesson, and then know your purpose.”

– a “Monaism” (saying by Mona Miller, as quoted by Seane Corn)

People who come to my classes always talk about how the experience (of practicing asana with philosophy) is different from their other yoga experiences. From day one, my original teachers all included some aspect of the philosophy into their classes, so that’s the only practice I knew. It’s a practice that resonated with me, because even as a child I was preoccupied with the idea that we are connected to something more than ourselves, something divine.

Early in my life, I assumed everyone was a little preoccupied with issues of theology and existentialism. But, over time, I’ve realized everyone doesn’t consciously question and struggle with philosophical and spiritual matters – even when they crave the answers to that struggling and questioning.

In listening to feedback from people, I’ve now started to realize that every teacher doesn’t teach the way I teach. So, last year when I was ready to host my first yoga practice, I wanted someone who could teach the kind of classes I teach: alignment focused classes with spirit! Two teachers immediately came to mind – and Yogi #23 (Sandra) was one of those teachers.

“Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): ‘From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.’”

– Excerpt from Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 4:1

 

“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”

– Luke 6:40

Sandra and I met almost five years ago at a Seane Corn vinyasa teacher training in Minneapolis. Unlike some of the other teachers in the training, we were already spirit-focused in our teaching. We had lunch together the first day, touched base throughout the week, and stayed in touch after she returned to California. One of the many reasons Sandra left such an impression on me is that she obviously teaches from her experiences – one of her specialties is Yoga for Scoliosis because she is a little curvy and has first-hand knowledge of how yoga benefits physical well-being. Another reason she left an impression on me is that she gave me her CD, “Morning Blessings”.

“The tent that houses you / houses your soul. / The Mischan, the hollow dwelling place / Be a vessel / for the love-song of God”

– Excerpt from “Morning Blessings” by Sandra Razieli (with reference to Hanna Tiferet)

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; … Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I spent the week of Thanksgiving 2011 practicing with Sandra’s “Morning Blessings” CD. Even though my annual trip to Texas is always busy, that year it felt like a retreat. Years later, when I was thinking about the takeaway experience I wanted people to have on a retreat I hosted, I thought about how I felt after practicing with Sandra’s CD.

Sandra is an Iyengar teacher, as well as a certified Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer, as well as a Yoga and Jewish Spirituality teacher, as well as an Anthropologist, a spiritual leader, and…I could keep going with her accomplishments; because, bottom line, she’s no slouch. Sandra is a person of integrity and honor, a true mentsch.

A mentsch is someone who respects the needs and wishes of others—especially the desires of those in his care.

In the care of each of us is entrusted a divine soul. She has a terrible allergy to all those messy deeds that darken her world, and desires only those beautiful deeds that will bring in more light.”

Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

 

I can only imagine what a delight it would be to practice with Sandra on a weekly basis. What I know first-hand is that every time I am in her presence I learn something. Sometimes what I learn is obviously information inside me, just waiting for a way to be articulated; however, sometimes it feels like the information is just outside of myself, waiting to be invited in. Sandra has a way of inviting inspiration, grace, and spirit in – and she does it in a way that even someone who has refused the information in the past, suddenly is open to the invitation.

There are two ways to hug somebody. The first is to grab them and draw them in, but the second, perhaps a more refined approach, is to open your arms and create space for the other person. This opening is a passive energy of Hod (humility/gratitude) that makes room for others.”

– Excerpt from The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment by Marcus J. Freed

(words in parenthesis are mine)

I will always be grateful for the lessons I learned from collaborating with Sandra last year. We definitely enhanced what we each already bring to the table – and, in the process, we strengthened each other’s weak spots. However, Sandra once again upped my game when (at the end of our Sukkot/Gratitude retreat) she gave me a copy of The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment. I started the practice during my annual Thanksgiving trip, finished on my birthday, and experience a transformation I am still processing.

“Rabbi Ishmael the son of Rabbi Yossei would say: One who learns Torah in order to teach, is given the opportunity to learn and teach. One who learns in order to do, is given the opportunity to learn, teach, observe and do.”

– Excerpt from Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 4:5

I get a little goose-pimply when I think about all the ways my life-journey and Sandra’s life-journey have mystically, energetically, and spiritually overlapped. Take this weekend for example: We’re both leading donation-based classes which benefit Mind Body Solutions and the adaptive yoga program. My KISS MY ASANA class is in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 27th; Sandra’s KISS MY ASANA class is in Oakland on Sunday, February 28th. (Click on each of the KISS MY ASANA links above to find out more information about each class, as well as information about my second Minneapolis class on Saturday, March 5th.)

Just in case you’re not convinced Sandra is no slouch, you can also see her here in another Kiss My Asana video.

 

~ SHANTI, SHALOM, SALAAM, PEACE ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #19: And Now For Something Completely Different / Various Positions February 20, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma Yoga, Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind & the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

– B. K. S. Iyengar

 

“Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”

– Sting

 

The physical practice of yoga (Hatha Yoga) regardless of style or tradition has a lot in common with the song mentioned by Yogi #19 (Mary D.). In relation to each, people experience and express sorrow, joy, ecstasy, confusion, and/or spiritual transcendence. Maybe that’s why, as the songwriter puts it, so “many different (ones) exist.” Maybe that’s why so many different people try to put their spin on both. And maybe that’s why pretty much everyone who has ever heard the song, or practiced yoga, has a favorite version – and can be fairly fanatical about that favorite. Ironically, after the songwriter edited down at least 80 verses of the aforementioned song, his record label didn’t want to release the album containing the song because, he said, “They didn’t think it was good enough.”

“It was the first time I could really see and intuitively feel what it was I was doing, making or creating in that enterprise. After a long period of barrenness, it all just seemed to click. Suddenly, I knew these weren’t discrete songs I was writing…I could see – I could sense a unity. Various Positions had its own life, its own narrative. It was all laid out and all of a sudden it all made sense. It was almost painfully joyful, if that makes some sense. The pulling and the putting of the pieces together coherently, the being inside of that process and knowing, once I’d done that, it would be finished and I would have to leave it and go back to the world.”

– Leonard Cohen in a Globe and Mail 2000 interview

Underlying all the different types of yoga practice is a sense of unity. In fact, the Sanskrit word “yoga” means union. Of course, there are lots of different ways to experience yoga. Patanjali defines one way in the Yoga Sutras, when he highlights three (3) of the internal observations (niyamas) as a prescription for union through purification (Kriya Yoga). You could experience Tapas (heat/discipline/austerity), Svadyaya (self study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering efforts) in any number of practices. However, physical yoga practices like Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram (Hot Yoga) are deliberately built around the Kriya Yoga rubric. Each has a sequence of specific poses, practiced in a specific order and manner – Hot Yoga, in particular, has that “minor fall, and the major lift…” And, each guarantees 90 minutes of internal focus and heat, lots and lots of heat.

Keep in mind, tapas (heat) isn’t always about the temperature of the body. It can just as easily be defined as the focus on alignment found in Iyengar as the external (physical heat) found in Bikram Yoga or the internal (physical heat) found in Ashtanga Yoga. One thing is for certain, however, as a person experiences tapas on the mat, that person has the opportunity to study themselves as they encounter challenges and let go of anything that doesn’t serve them.

 

You put yourself into it, go through your hard work – or if you want to take it easy , you take it easy as much as you can, but you’re still moving. The body carries emotional baggage and you’re just getting rid of this baggage.”

 “One thing is this – people should see the result. If the result is effective and positive in their life, they should stick with it. I always say my Guru is my heart because I always listen to my heart – is it mentally, spiritually, and physically enhancing me, or not? If I see I am growing and it is helping me, then I’d rather stick with it.”

 “Bikram’s method is really consistent with people in building their personality; their perspective of life, their will power, and self esteem is helped by the 26 2.”

– Rajashree Bikram

 

Mary D. and I have only met once, in passing, several months ago. I had no idea at the time that she practiced any kind of yoga, let alone Bikram. When my housemate (who facilitated the video) asked her, Mary D. didn’t hesitate to participate in my Kiss My Asana challenge. My housemate said, “She likes yoga. She likes to help people.” Hmmm, based on the little bit I know about this Hot (Bikram) Yogi, I think what she really likes to do is to feed people – and it doesn’t matter if she’s feeding their bodies, their minds, or their souls. It’s all one.

When Mary D. “retired” a few years back, in order to start her own business, people at a certain university in St. Paul missed what she had to offer. But, pay attention and one starts to notice that while people obviously missed the food she prepared, those same people are just as likely to mention her personal engagement. She not only knew their favorite sandwiches (and how they liked them), she knew bits and pieces about their lives. Just as she knew it’s not a sandwich if it’s only bread on the outside, Mary D. knew no person is complete without their insides. After all, it’s the “guts” (physically and metaphysically speaking) that make us human. Mind Body Solutions offers people an opportunity to unleash what makes us human – regardless of what’s on the outside. KISS MY ASANA and you’re taking advantage of the opportunity to feed someone’s mind-body.

 

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.

 

 

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FROM THIS BROKEN HILL / ALL YOUR PRAISES THEY SHALL RING / IF IT BE YOUR WILL / TO LET ME SING (Leonard Cohen, again)

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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 #10: What Happens When You’re Full of Grace? February 10, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Minneapolis, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as you love yourself….”

– Leviticus 19:34

 

“And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or saw you naked and gave you clothes? Truly I tell you, just s you did to one of the least of those who are members of the human family, you did it to me.”

– Matthew 25:38

 

 “…and do good to orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet, and those who have nothing.”

– Qur’an 4:36

 

At least 7 yogis walk into a bar…. I know, it sounds like the beginning of a really silly joke. But seriously, if it weren’t for Yogi #9, I wouldn’t know Yogi #10 (and a few other yogis down the line).

Friday, February 5th, Yogi #9 (Elizabeth) invited me and my housemate to a fundraiser for a tutoring program at a school in St Paul. It was cold on the first Friday of Kiss My Asana, I’d just finished teaching, and I had stuff to do. But, I could hear Elizabeth in my head saying, “Come on. It’s kids; it’s for a good cause. You don’t have to stay out all night. I mean, you could, but….” (Note: She didn’t actually say this, but I could hear what it would sound like if she did.)

I acquiesced, in my own mind, and we headed over to the Urban Growler. It was not my usual scene, but it was super cool – and packed! We made our way around the pub until we found Elizabeth with a table full of her family and friends. She proceeded to introduce us to (drum roll, please) Yogi #10 (Molly S).

“Yoga changed my life!” Molly S exclaimed when she heard I teach yoga. My housemate asked how, and Molly left no doubt that yes, indeed, a single introductory course in yoga not only changed her outlook on her mind-body, it changed the way she engaged her mind-body. As a prelude to asking her, a perfect stranger, if she’d answer my 7 questions, I mentioned what I’m doing for Kiss My Asana and how the yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions –

Before I got anymore words out of my mouth, Molly S delivered the Universe’s punch line:

“Wait, Mind Body Solutions in Minnetonka? Matthew Sanford was my first teacher!”

Yep, turns out, it wasn’t just yoga that changed Molly’s life. It was Matthew Sanford.

When grace happens, generosity happens. Unsquashable, eye-popping bigheartedness happens. “

– Max Lucado

 “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

 

As if it wasn’t beautiful enough that she let me video tape her, on the fly (questions unseen), Molly left the fundraiser and proceeded to Kiss My Asana. (Thanks Molly!)

(NOTE: There’s still time for you to be like Molly!)

Don't forget, you can turn on and tune in with me this Saturday (5 PM & 7 PM) at the Walker! And February 27th is a Pucker Up and Kiss My Asana Saturday!

~ OM NARAYANA SHANTI OM ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #2: What Kind of Warrior Are You? February 2, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Without curiosity, none of this would have happened.

More than intelligence or persistence or connections, curiosity has allowed me to live the life I wanted.

Curiosity is what gives energy and insight to everything else I do.

For me, curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility.“

– Brian Grazer in his introduction to A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

One might describe today’s yogi as a peaceful warrior, a mindful warrior, a handy warrior, or even a loving and kind warrior. There could even be some times in his life when he’s a fierce warrior. However, I most often think of Kevin as a curious and insightful warrior. And curiosity and insight go hand in hand.

While he did not directly inspire my Kiss My Asana questions, I knew I was on the right track when – soon after I made my decision to ask these questions – I heard Kevin telling a mutual friend about A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Grazer’s weekly “curiosity conversations” have inspired him to create and produce TV shows like 24 and Arrested Development, and movies like A Beautiful Mind and Splash. I haven’t read the book (yet), but I love the results.

The goal of A Curious Mind is simple: I want to show you how valuable curiosity can be and remind you how much fun it is. I want to show you how I use it, and how you can to use it.

Life isn’t about finding the answers, it’s about asking the questions.” – Brian Grazer

 

 

My conversation with Kevin continued long after the camera stopped rolling. (Wait; does that idiom even make sense when I’m using a smart phone?)

Part of our continued conversation included questions he had for me, but most of it centered around the Movember classes I do on Men’s Health. So, as a thank you to Kevin and a KISS MY ASANA extra, today’s video includes one of my Movember playlists. Can I get a “Woop woop!” on YouTube?


NOTE: If you donate and purchase a Kiss My Asana t-shirt, you can embody Warrior II, while wearing Warrior II. And, if you donate today through the page of one of my teammates, she’s matching donations!

 

~ NAMASTE; The Warrior in me honors the warrior that is also in you! ~

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 ~

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 ~

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 ~