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REMEMBERING THE MOON – 2018 Kiss My Asana Offering #8 April 8, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Abhyasa, Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Suffering, Tantra, Twin Cities, Vairagya, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Remember the moon survives,
draws herself out crescent-thin,
a curved woman. Untouchable,
she bends around the shadow
that pushes himself against her, and she

waits.”

– from Remember the Moon Survives, by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver, born today in 1955, always seems to point her pen in the direction of struggle and suffering. Sometimes the struggle is within a single community, sometimes it involves multiple communities; sometimes it involves an individual struggling to find balance between a community; and other times the struggle is between man’s desires and the needs of the natural world. But, always, there is struggle, suffering…and hope.

The Buddha, whose birthday is also celebrated today by some Buddhists, pointed his heart towards struggle and suffering as well. Unlike Kingsolver, Prince Siddhartha Guatama didn’t grow up with awareness of the suffering of others. However, once he was aware of it, he started considering how to alleviate it. And so, like Kingsolver, the Buddha’s work includes the promise of hope.

The Buddha outlined Four Noble Truths: There is suffering/suffering exists; suffering is caused by desire and an attachment to ignorance; there is an end to suffering; and there is a path to the end of suffering. (Specifically, he points to the Noble Eightfold Path.) So again, there is suffering, there is struggle, and there is hope. However, in the middle of struggling and suffering, it is easy to get stuck in the middle of that second noble truth and forget all about the promise. In the middle of suffering, it is easy to forget all about the hope, and be filled with doubt – even when you’re on the road that promises freedom.

Just the other day, a friend of mine mentioned her rosary. “In Islam,” Mya said, “using the rosary [for prayer/meditation/contemplation] is called dhikr (“remembering”).” As the devoted move through the beads, they are constantly “remembering” God and the nature of God.

The words may be different, but this practice of “remembering” is the same in Catholicism. Hindus and Yogis use mala beads, also a rosary, to count out a mantra – this too is “remembering” what the practitioner views as important.

The Jewish tradition does not include beads; instead, some wear a prayer shawl (tallit) or small tallit (tallit katan) with a knotted fringe or tassels of blue (tzitzit). Jews do not count with them, but the tassels are intended as a reminder of what is important within the Jewish tradition.

Whether you are on the mat, on the cushion, on the pew, or on the rug, part of the practice is to remember. The question is: What are you remembering? Go back to that José Ortega y Gasset statement from the 6th offering, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

“You are the one who knows, behind
the rising, falling tide
of shadow, the moon is always

whole.”

– from Remember the Moon Survives, by Barbara Kingsolver

Remember the Moon Survives – by Barbara Kingsolver

Remember how to move into Child’s Pose (Balasana), but also remember it is the beginning and full of possibilities. Remember to soften into the breath and allow the breath to flow freely in and ebb gently out. Remember your intention.

When you move into Table Top remember to move with full awareness of your mind and body in the present moment. Remember to check your alignment. Press down so that the shoulders and shoulder blades are even with the rest of the back and your belly is firm. Engage your locks (bandhas) if that is part of your practice. Remember this is an opportunity to remember the connection between your mind, body, and spirit.

Remember to move through Cat/Cow or the “Un-Cat” sequence precisely matching the movement to the breath. So that, as the breath gets long and fine and deep, the movement gets richer – whatever that means to you in this moment.

On an inhale, stretch the right leg back, remembering to keep the hips level – even and equal to each other so that the low back doesn’t struggle. On an exhale, step the right foot in between the hands so that the foot is flat on the floor (with the right toes pointed forward). If the foot doesn’t easily land between the hands, scoop it forward with your hands. If needed, add a knee pad under the back knee. Pressing down evenly into both feet, lift your torso up and place hands on your right thigh. This is a form of Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana).

Use an exhale to slide the hips over the back knee and then place the back of the right hand on your sacrum (the flat part of your bum/hips) and place your left hand on the front of your pelvic bones. Your hands are now bracketing your hips. Slide the back hand down in order to direct the sit bones down. You may feel the front hand lifting as the pelvic bones lift. You may feel space opening up in your low back. You may also feel engagement in your left hip and thigh. Stay here or bend the front knee deeper into the lunge – remembering to maintain the space in your low back. Hands can come to your front thigh or reach the hands over head. If you have Hot Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) in your practice, feel free add it by lifting the left arm up and reaching it towards the right.

Remember to breathe. Remember to breathe into the heart. Crescent Lunge is one of the poses inspired by Hanuman, the monkey king in the epic poem The Ramayana. In the great adventure, Hanuman is asked to take giant leaps to save or rescue others. He hesitates, he doubts…and then he leaps. Again and again, he does what needs to be done to help others. At the end of the poem he revels what is in his heart: a devotion to God. Take a moment to remember what is in your heart.

After a few breaths, place the hands on the mat and step back to Child’s Pose. From Child’s Pose repeat the sequence again (from Cow Pose) , this time on the left side.

Once you’ve completed the second side and returned to Child’s Pose, inhale to Cow Pose and then exhale into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Remember your can skip the arm balancing, by moving into Staff Pose (Dandasana) and positioning the arms accordingly or using “Dolphin Dog.”. Another modification would be to do the pose on the wall. Either way, remember to check your alignment – make sure your body is in the shape of capital A.

Remember to make sure all your fingers are spread wide, with the majority of the weight/pressure in your hands moving into the thumb and first finger. (So that, there is less weight/pressure applied to your outer wrists.) When you relax your head and shoulders, remember to place your big toes are parallel to each other and at least a foot apart. Big toes can be behind the thumbs or behind the middle fingers. Notice if you feel lighter or heavier when your feet are spaced further apart. Hips are high, heels are low (reaching, but not necessarily touching the mat); and neck is long. Even if you have to bend your knees, remember to find Cow Pose in this position (so that you have a straight line from your middle fingers all the way up to your hips and then a second straight line from your hips to the back of your knees). Remember, eyes are on your nose, your belly button, or the space between your toes.

Remember Downward Facing Dog is simultaneously an arm balance and a standing pose; a forward bend, as well as a back bend; and an inversion.
Stretch back (meaning, push your spine towards your thighs) and on an exhale walk your hands to your feet or bring your hands and feet together. Once hands are in line with the toes and heels are flat to the mat, inhale to a Half Lift/Flat Back or Extended Forward Bend. (This pose may be called Ardha Uttanasana or Urdhva Uttanasana.) Place your hands on your thighs and press the shoulders into the metaphorical back pockets. Remember, you want to engage in a similar fashion to Cow Pose, Staff Pose, and Downward Facing Dog. In fact, inhale and find a little bit of Cow Pose (even if you have to bend your knees). Now, press the heels down and – as much as you are able without losing the extension of the spine – engage the quadriceps to extend through the knees and press the thigh bones into the wall behind you. Engage your locks (bandhas) as you are able.

If you have unregulated blood pressure, low back issues, eye issues like glaucoma, or if this is already challenging, remember to stay here with knees bent. Otherwise, if it is not contraindicated, bend the knees and flex from the hips to prep Forward Bend (Uttanasana). Keeping the upper back extended, place the hands on the floor or a block and begin to extend through the legs while pressing the thigh bones into the backs of your legs. Do not force the extension. Use the exhales to settle the heart on the thighs (as much as you are able without losing the extension of the spine.) If your legs are completely straight, make sure the knee caps are lifted and that you are not hyper-extending the knees. Also double check to ensure that if the knees are straight the hips are over the knees, not behind the ankles. Remember to engage your locks (bandhas).

On an inhale, extend to Half Lift/Flat Back and on an exhale fold into the Forward Bend. If you are modifying and using the Half Lift throughout, keep the back in the position that feels similar to an intense Table Top and use the breath to extend the knees on an inhale and flex/bend them on an exhale. Remember to precisely match the movement to the breath. Remember all the ways you are mimicking your body’s natural tendencies (e.g., extending/flexing, lifting/grounding, creating/engaging, rising/falling, etc.).

Move into Staff Pose. Keep the left leg extended and bend the right knee in order to set up the Sage Twist. Remember to keep the left heel and the right foot flat on the floor. You can place the right foot next to the inside or the outside of the left leg, as long as the knees are comfortable and the right foot is flat on the floor.

On an inhale, lift your right arm up and, as you watch it, reach the right arm back to the floor behind your hips. As you settle into the twist, adjust your left arm to provide additional support wherever you need it. You can always sit on a block and/or place a block under your hand if you’re hips and low back are really tight. If you don’t have a block, substitute a book.

Watch how you engage your base, your core, and your breath. Remember to start the twist in your base (not in your neck). Do not allow your body to collapse or untwist until you complete 3 – 5 complete breaths. After the third or fifth exhale, inhale to center, give the lifted knee a squeeze, and return to Staff Pose. Repeat the Sage Twist instructions for the Sage Twist (replacing right with left).

After the third or fifth exhale on the left, inhale to center and give the lifted knee a squeeze. Bend or extend both, as needed, and lower down onto your back for Corpse Pose (Savasana). Remember, just as the end of the inhale is the beginning of the exhale and the end of the exhale is the beginning of the inhale, this final pose is a beginning and an ending. Remember you are on the right path.

This opportunity to explore a poem on the mat is part of my offering for the 2018 Kiss My Asana yogathon. I encourage you to set aside at least 5 minutes a day during April, to practice with the poem as inspiration. You can practice in a class or on your own, but since the Kiss My Asana yogathon raises resources as well as awareness, I invite you to join me for a donation-based classes on Saturday, April 28th.

I also challenge you to set aside a certain amount every day that you practice with a poem in mind. It doesn’t matter if you set aside one dollar per practice or $25 – set aside that amount each time you practice and donate it by April 30th.

Founded by Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions helps those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. They provide classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. Thank you to everyone who attended the class on April 7th, and thank you to everyone who has already donated. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga. Or, as this year’s tag line states…

## do yoga. share yoga. help others. ##

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On the road full of promise (and light) April 25, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Loss, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Surya Namaskar, Texas, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Thanks to everyone who came out to support Mind Body Solutions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  The essence of Matthew Sanford’s teaching is transformation. It was deeply inspiring to see everyone open their minds and bodies to this exploration.” – Kari Anderson’s message to the yogis who donated $315 at our April 18th donation-based event.

Don’t despair if you missed our donation-based class last Saturday, because Kari and I are hosting another one on Saturday, May 2nd, 3:30 PM at Flourish!

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

As we approach the end of the 2015 KISS MY ASANA yogathon, I find myself overwhelmed on so many occasions that I sometimes feel like I have lost my “big girl words.” Time and time again, I have been blown away by the generosity and kindness of people on the mat. I set my 2015 donation goal thinking I could raise a few more dollars than last year – and already some joyful yogis from at least two (2) states have more than doubled my initial goal! (Thank you all for that!)

Time and time again, I have been moved by an encounter with a Mind Body Solutions teacher, student, or volunteer. And, every time – every single time – I take a class from Matthew Sanford, I am blown away and my mind is completely boggled. In fact, I shudder to think how many times I said, “I was blown away…” or described something as “mind boggling” during last Saturday’s donation-based class. Maybe it’s cute at first, especially if you’re expecting further explanation down the road; however, some things can only be experienced to be fully understood. So, I invite people to catch a Monday class with Matt and, every once in awhile, I mention Mind Body Solutions in class and try to channel a little Matt the way I sometimes channel a little Yoda. During last Saturday’s donation-based class, I felt my words were so inadequate I relied on words written by Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer in We Know How This Ends.

For those of you unfamiliar with his story, Bruce Kramer was a former dean at the University of St Thomas Twin Cities who chronicled his life with ALS on Cathy Wurzer’s Minnesota Public Radio show. We Know How This Ends describes their parallel journeys through this process of living and dying, while sharing the process of living and dying. The book is raw, and rich, and so real I had to set it aside for a moment after I first received it from a mutual friend and student of Bruce and mine. But, before Saturday’s KISS MY ASANA class, I read the chapter where Bruce and Cathy talk about “Dis Ease Yoga.” And I was so moved (read, “blown away”), I decided to share Cathy Wurzer’s words as part of our introduction and Bruce’s words as our conclusion.

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light / And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

In We Know How This Ends, Bruce Kramer describes aspects of yoga that are very familiar to me – even though I’ve never been in a wheelchair or felt the extreme decline of my body. He describes benefits from and challenges in his yoga practice that may be familiar to anyone who spends a little time on a mat. And, like me, he was a big music fan. (Thank him for the Avett Brothers song referenced here! And like it on YouTube!) He and Cathy Wurzer also talk about a point before ALS, before “Dis Ease Yoga,” when they didn’t really get the significance of the practice.

“If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected / Decide what to be and go be it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

I was fortunate in that my introduction to yoga included an introduction to yoga as a philosophy and to the idea that yoga can be practiced by anyone – you just have to find your practice. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I discovered people who would stop practicing yoga, because of an injury or an unfortunate circumstance. And, it never fails to break my heart when someone gives up what can be a healing practice, because their body (and/or their doctor) says, “No more push-ups.” That’s when a yoga teacher can step in and say, “OK, you’re not doing that anymore, but you can do this!” Only, I remember hearing former paratrooper Arthur Boorman’s healing story and thinking, “How is it possible that Diamond Dallas was the only yoga teacher willing to help this guy?!?” Well, bottom line, too many Western yoga teachers are ill-equipped to teach the physical practice (let alone the meta-physical practice) to someone who isn’t already considered physically and/or mentally “able.” Thankfully, Matthew Sanford and the other teachers at Mind Body Solutions are changing that!

“There was a dream and one day I could see it / Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it / And there was a kid with a head full of doubt / So I’ll scream till I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

Mind Body Solutions is on “a mission to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.” It sounds all lofty and wonderful, right? But, it’s also very real and very raw. It’s a mission that, as the Avett Brothers sing, gets “the last of those bad thoughts” out so we can realize that as long as we’re breathing there is a mind-body-spirit connection. And it’s there, even when machines are helping us breathe.

Despite occasionally practicing with Matt; implementing some of what he teaches in my own practice and teaching; and having a few personal connections to people being served by the mission, I am slightly removed from the very real and very raw experiences found in adaptive yoga. If you’re not living the mission or deeply connected to someone being served by the mission, I think it is easy to fall into a space where this whole adaptive yoga thing just sounds like a good idea – you know, a worthy cause – but somehow separate from what the rest of us are doing. As I mentioned earlier, reading the “Dis Ease Yoga” chapter in We Know How This Ends helped remind me that we are all in bodies together and so, therefore, we are all in this yoga thing together. It’s not the style or the tradition that makes something yoga, it’s the coming together.

 “ I feel part of the universe open up to meet me / My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in/ Once listening, the voices they came / Had to somehow greet myself, read myself /Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells “ – Better Days by Eddie Vedder

There are plenty of times when I feel part of the universe – and I feel connected to every other part of the universe. There are times I relish that feeling. Superficial as it may seem, I sometimes relish that feeling when it comes from seeing someone with a yoga mat and thinking, “Hey, that person’s a yogi, like me!” Even without knowing anything about them, or their practice – even knowing sometimes the person could be going to Pilates or something else altogether – I still have that moment of affinity; that moment when I feel connected and want to go deeper, find out more about them. But, it’s very rare that I have that feeling about someone in a wheelchair, or someone on a ventilator, or someone missing a limb. Cognitive, I know we are connected – but I very rarely have that visceral, bone-deep, cellular feeling like I do with someone with whom I have a shared experience.

Last Sunday I had a one of those rare bone-deep, visceral yoga/union moments.

I wore my Yoga and Body Image Coalition “This is what a yogi looks like” t-shirt while teaching, but (y’all know how I layer) between classes I wore my long sleeved 2015 KISS MY ASANA shirt. Somehow, despite my hoodie and my winter coat, a woman in a wheelchair spotted my yogathon t-shirt. We were going in opposite directions, but as we passed one another she shouted, “I practice there too!” I said, “It’s awesome.” She sighed, “I know,” with a big smile on her face.

About twenty minutes later, Carrie and I ended up in the same coffee shop – and we got to talk about yoga. She encouraged me to try a practice at Courage Center and told me about her teachers, only two (2) of whom were familiar to me. For a moment I thought about how by supporting the yogathon, teachers and students like me create opportunities for more teachers and students like Carrie, and her teachers.

But, ultimately, when I remember my discussion with Carrie, I will remember her saying she loved how friendly everyone is when she practices. I will remember that big Cheshire grin on her face when she said her favorite part of class was the relaxation part – and how her grin looked exactly like the big Cheshire grin my regulars get when they ask if we can do a 60-minute Savasana. I will also remember how that feeling I had when she first noticed my shirt, was the same feeling I have when I notice someone carrying a yoga mat: I will remember that moment when we were one and the same.

 

### NAMASTE ###