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

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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 #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 #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 ~

#PrayforPeace August 2, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Karma Yoga, Lent, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Passover, Peace, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Science, Suffering, Sukkot, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Yoga.
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A funny thing happened when I was getting ready for the classes I do at the end of Ramadan. I say “funny” meaning “ironic,” but it’s also something that got a laugh. And, it was also something incredibly profound and fitting.

Reba McEntire released a new song.

For the last three (3) years, at some point during the last 10 days of Ramadan – and for 2 – 3 days after Ramadan, my class themes focus on this holy time for Muslims. My “lessons” are pretty basic: I outline Kriya Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras and briefly explain that “ritual actions” which combine purification/training of the senses, self study in the context of sacred teachings, and dedication to a divine source occur in every major religion and philosophical practice. (Think, for example, about Lent, a Vipassana retreat, Sukkot, Passover – or Ramadan.) After explaining the basic premise of Ramadan, I outline the Five (5) Pillars of Islam; and break down six (6) Articles of Faith. I point out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions – meaning they share one historical origin. I also talk about the importance of the last 10 days with regard to Laylat al-Qadr and the power of prayer, especially as it relates to peace. And, as always, I try to include poses and music which reinforce the message.

OK, before I go any further, let me answer the two (2) most popular questions: Why would you do that? What’s it to you?

More often than not, I pick a theme because it has MEANING. The all caps means it has BIG meaning, so big that (dare I say it) it is universal. Or, at the very least, is accessible to a large group of really diverse people. The theme is a way to get everyone on the same page. And, getting everyone together (on the same page) is one definition of yoga.

Going deeper, going off the mat: It is also an opportunity to expose people to information that might not otherwise discover or seek out on there own. The Twin Cities have a large Muslim population – and, an estimated 1.6 billion people in the world practice Islam. However, many people in the West (including here in the Twin Cities) only know about the faith when it is in the news. And, unfortunately, Islam is in the news a lot because of negative situations. (Keep in mind, the majority of the people in the world who faithfully practice a religious faith are not making the news!) So, here again, is an opportunity to practice yoga – to come together.

If I play a song with lyrics during a Ramadan class, then the musician is Muslim. That’s been my personal modus operandi. I realize that within the Muslim community there is debate about what is permissible (halal) when it comes to music. I have considered only playing a cappella  music or voices accompanied only by percussion; however, in the end I’ve played a wide variety – all inspirational and devotional in some way. And, again, all songs with lyrics are performed by Muslim musicians.

This year, however, I felt like something – a song – was missing. I kept going back and forth between my Ramadan mixes and music in my library that I had chosen not to use. Nothing extra fit. So, for the first class, I left well enough alone. But, I still had that nagging sensation. Between classes, I was surfing the internet and I came across Reba’s new song Pray for Peace.

When I decided to include Pray for Peace in my remaining Ramadan mixes I wanted to be very clear that (so far as I know) Reba is not a Muslim. People seemed to find that statement funny – or maybe it was nervous laughter. Either way, I thought being clear was the best way to respect all the musicians on my playlists. This song, Reba’s call to prayer, was also another way for people to come together.

At first, all you hear are beats/foot steps; then what sounds like bagpipes (and maybe a fiddle). Then, for about 2 minutes, Reba sings, “Pray for Peace.” Over and over. “Pray for Peace.” Even when the lyrics evolve she doesn’t tell you how to pray or to “whom” you pray – she just asks that you pray. And, although the song requests that you pray for peace, the request is open ended: the nature of peace is not defined.

Granted, there was a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when Reba wrote the song last year. And a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when she released the song. But, I find it very interesting/ironic that this call to prayer was released (for free) during a time when 1.6 billion people on the planet believe their prayers are magnified.

Right about now, somebody is doing the math and thinking, “Well, yeah, 1.6 billion seems like a lot – but that’s only about a sixth of the world’s population.” This is very true. But before you discount the value of those 1.6 billion people, add in all the non-Muslims who were going to pray during Ramadan anyway. Now, add in all the other people on the planet who were meditating, or singing, or sighing, or dancing, or crying, or wishing and hoping.

Now, let’s say all people were on the same page.

 

~ Om Shanti Shanti Shanthi Om ~

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS WITHIN THE QUESTIONS December 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

מכבים      गायत्री

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many questions…that today become so many answers.

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

OFF THE MAT

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

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

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

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

Vinyasa Class Notes

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

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

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

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

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

~ NAMASTE ~