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

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“The number of words you use to answer these questions is going to be divisible by 108? Why 108?” – the obvious questions

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

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

Since I’m writing this on opening day 2017:

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

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

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

~ LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

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

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It is New Year’s Eve eve. And, while I still have things to do in anticipation of the New Year, I am more than ready for the arrival of 2017. Funny thing is, all of us who are “D-O-N-E, stick-a-fork-in-it, done” with 2016, have to admit that it hasn’t all been bad. There have been some memorable and very personal highlights and there have been many changes for the better. Oh, then there’s the fact that this whole “new year” thing is completely arbitrary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to share your experiences by commenting below!

~ Happy New Year, Happy New Perspective ~

Yet another reason I love Dianne Bondy! July 19, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Life, Love, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Science, Super Heroes, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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(Not that we really need more reasons, but if you’re viewing this through your email you might need this link.)

### THIS IS WHAT A YOGI LOOKS LIKE ###

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 #21: The “Yes, and….” Sādhaka February 23, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Improv is an art. However, it is also a craft. A craft is something that is learned through practice, repetition, trial, error and hard work. Much like any other art, skill in improv is acquired over time. The more time spent improv-ing the greater the improvement (pun intended).”

– Excerpt from Rules of Improv Part I by David Alger (Pan Theater)

 

Yoga is as much an art as it is a science; as much theory as practical application (i.e., craft). Every once in a while, a yogi walks in and is clearly open to all these different aspects of the practice. Seemingly ready for anything…fearless, like a jazz virtuoso or an improv king, these people walk in with a “yes, and…” attitude. They create the moment, stay in the moment, and keep adding information that allows movement into the next moment. On the outside, this go-with-the-flow attitude can be deceptive, because it’s not that such a person can do everything right off the bat; it’s not that they are the Superman or Superwoman of yoga. It’s that yogis like Tyler (Yogi #21) are willing to give it a try. Scratch that…Yogis like Tyler are willing to skillfully give it a practice.

 

“Practice, practice, practice. All is coming.”

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

 

Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.”

– Excerpt from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B. K. S. Iyengar

 

Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar started practicing with T. Krishnamacharya in 1927 and 1934, respectively. Each would go on to expose the Western world to a physical yoga practice that can (in our modern experience) seem very different on the outside: one (Ashtanga) involving the ability to flow with the breath and the other (Iyengar) involving alignment principles which enable a practitioner to focus on the breath. Practicing one can enhance the experience of the other. In fact, some vinyasa teachers even encourage a regular Iyengar practice. But, ultimately, the thing to remember about different physical yoga practices is that the foundations supporting each practice are essentially the same.

Jois’s famous words above could just as easily be, “Abhyāsa, Sādhanā, Kriyā. Yoga (union) is coming.” Every non-translated Sanskrit word in the above Iyengar quote could just as easily be replaced with the English word “practice.” Do we lose something in the translation? Maybe. Or, perhaps such word-play reminds us that in outlining the philosophy of yoga Patanjali devoted a whole chapter to ways to practice – and two out of four chapters are devoted to what happens when you practice!

 “Are you practicing?”

– David Swenson, on the cover of his Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual

 

A few summers ago, when I was getting ready for my rooftop classes, I noticed the David Swenson quote above – and it got me thinking: Sometimes it’s not only “Are you practicing?” Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “What are you practicing?”

If you know what you’re seeing, you can pick up on what type of yoga a person already practices. You can also notice, for instance, that they have a regular seated meditation, tai chi, martial arts, or gymnastics practice. It’s a fascinating exercise in physical tendencies. But, as a teacher, I’m also fascinated by how many people spend their time on the mat practicing their asana/seat (vs. their toe picking); their drishti/focus (vs. their clock-watching); their pranayama/awareness of breath (vs. their habit of holding the breath/not breathing when things get exciting/challenging), and their possibilities (vs. their limitations).

One thing I’ve noticed about Tyler in the short time he’s been practicing in the Twin Cities is that he seems to consistently practice acceptance, gratitude, and joy. Not surprisingly, given where he comes from, he reminds me of a story about the guy who started going to Yoga To The People and telling each teacher that he had had the best class ever!

 

So, it wasn’t something cute to say at the end of class. What I discovered, over the next couple of months, was…he would get up and authentically, genuinely, have loved the experience, that he created for himself…. When was the last time you created the greatest class – that wasn’t predicated by the teacher? That wasn’t predicated by the sequence? It wasn’t even predicated on what you could do and not do – But the essence that you create for yourself is this really great class. So, my invitation to you today, is to make this the greatest class you ever had.”

Yoga To The People teacher telling “Brian’s” story at the beginning of Podcast 2

 

 “Each practice session is a journey. Endeavor to move with awareness and enjoy the practice. Allow it to unfold as a flower opens. There is no benefit in hurrying. Yoga grows with time. Some days are easy and the mind is calm and the physical body is light and responsive. Other days you may find that the mind is running wild and the body feels like wet cement. We must breathe deeply and remain detached. Asanas are not the goal. They are a vehicle to access a deeper internal awareness.”

– Excerpt from Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson

Like me, and several other yogis in our midst, Tyler is a transplant who wandered into the studio and promptly made himself at home. It’s exciting to move to a new place, to find a new part of your tribe, and to be full of hope and potential. But, making yourself at home on (and off) the mat involves making yourself at home in your own mind-body. In this world that moves fast and focuses on perfection, it is easy to get disconnected from our true selves. It is easy to forget we are connected to each other. It is all too easy to lose hope. Mind Body Solutions is on a mission to reconnect us to our hope and to our potential.

Every time I inhale, every time I exhale, I’m inviting you to be part of my KISS MY ASANA tribe! Every time I inhale, every time I exhale, I’m inviting you to dwell in possibilities, and remember we are all one!

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.

 

~ MAY OUR STUDY TOGETHER BE BRILLIANT & EFFECTIVE ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #20: This Is What a Yogi Looks Like February 21, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma Yoga, Life, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think…”

– Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh

 

“She’s anything but typical…”

– “She’s Every Woman” by Garth Brooks

 

Certain people make me wonder why they come to class. They seem not to get that there’s a science behind the poses and sequences – that alignment matters – and they seem not to enjoy the experience. It’s almost like they’re sleepwalking through the practice. But, they keep coming back; so they must experience some benefit. On the flip side, there are people like Yogi #20 (Vickie), who is definitely awake – and awakening.

The first time I saw Vickie, she was outside of the studio looking at a bulletin board full of information about what the gym offers its members. I had just finished a class, looked out the window and saw what I thought was a typical “health seeker,” someone who wants a healthier life but doesn’t know where to start. We started talking about the yoga classes. When she ended the conversation by saying, “Maybe I’ll try it,” I thought I’d see her in class…once.

I had no idea I’d pegged Vickie all wrong or that, years later, she is still “trying” it.

 

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

– Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back

 

An asana is not a posture which you assume mechanically. It involves thought, at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance.”

B. K. S. Iyengar

 

Vickie may come off as easy going and happy-go-lucky, which she is to a degree; but, she’s also incredibly conscientious. She’s a dot your I’s/cross your T’s kind of yogi. She works hard, on and off the mat; but, she doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She’s too busy enjoying the work, and soaking up all the little lessons that come from practicing with awareness.

She also enjoys the music. Turns out, the other thing I didn’t know about Vickie when we first met: we enjoy the same music. But, honestly, we could up on the rooftop with only the sound of the wind and distant traffic as a soundtrack and at some point in the practice I’m still going to look over at Vickie and realize that she is completely absorbed in every aspect of the practice. That’s yoga. And that’s Vickie.

 

“Listen not to the critics / Who put their own dreams on the shelf / If you want to get the truth to admit it / you gotta find out for yourself”

– “How You Ever Gonna Know” by Garth Brooks

 

I say it all the time: There’s a yoga practice for everybody. The problem is everybody isn’t as intrepid as Vickie; everybody doesn’t take the time to find their yoga practice. Sometimes the obstacle is perception, sometimes the obstacle is accessibility. Sometimes, however, people don’t take the time to find their practice because they aren’t aware that there’s more than one way to practice.

Thinking of Vickie makes me think of Matthew Sanford’s yoga journey. He, or his teacher, could have easily said no when a friend suggested he try yoga – and he would have missed out on doing it. He could have allowed distance or financial resources be an obstacle – and he would have never known all that he has to offer. He could have thought about possible naysayers, instead of loading up his lap with mats and heading over to the Courage Center – and the world would have missed out on a great teacher.

Mind Body Solutions is best known for its adaptive yoga program, but anyone can take a class there and benefit from what the practice has to teach. And, anyone can KISS MY ASANA! In fact, please do.

 

 

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.

2016 Kiss My Asana #18:This Is Why a Tree Bends Toward the Light February 19, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Tantra, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.”

– preface to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 

Since a lot of people come to my classes, I could reiterate the passage above and claim they are too many to be considered beautiful. But it wouldn’t be true. Some people stand out. Some people are beautiful inside and out. It’s not a showy thing, and I don’t think it’s something they do on purpose. However, some people are just so naturally themselves that, no matter where they go or what they do, their energy shines through. Maybe it’s because people like Yogi #18 (Tracy) aren’t wasting a lot of energy trying to be someone other than themselves.

“Your very nature dictates that you perform the duties attuned to your disposition. Those duties are your dharma, your natural calling. It is far better to do your own dharma, even if you do it imperfectly, than to try to master the work of another. Those who perform the duties called for by their obligations, even if those duties seem of little merit, are able to do them with less effort – and this releases consciousness that can be directed Godward.”

The Bhagavad Gita (18:47)

Tracy is a natural scientist, who spends a lot of time outdoors. I don’t imagine it was easy, getting where she is in her life and in her career, but she makes things look easy. From what I can tell, that ease comes from loving what she does, on and off the mat. Her appreciation for what’s she’s doing, in the moment, is one of the reason it’s a pleasure to work with her. She’s also got one of the best smiles. And, no matter how hard I work her, she always shares that smile and expresses gratitude for the work we’ve done together. Those are just a few of the reasons Tracy is one of my favorite co-workers.

At this point, someone who knows me and/or Tracy is thinking, “Wait, Tracy works with you?!?!?” Yep. She’s one of the people I see when I go to work each week, and we collaborate on special projects (i.e., ourselves).

Now, I realize that my perspective is a little different from everybody else in the studios – after all, most people see me when they’re on a break from their work. Still, I’m lucky to work with a really great group of people – and Tracy is one of the people I look forward to seeing when I go to work. Like that person you see once or twice a week for a status report, Tracy and I occasionally share little tidbits about our lives and celebrate random successes. She shared her “favorite musical yoga moment” with me when it happened a few years back; she got her (now) husband to practice a little yoga during the first Kiss My Asana yogathon; and over the years she’s mentioned times when she’s brought the practice off the mat. But what strikes me most when we’re in the middle of the practice is how Tracy works it, gloriously – like she’s so glad to be there.

 

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 

 

A seed settles into the soil and waits. Once it germinates, it moves stone and earth to tunnel the shoot that will become its roots. The seed projects a second shoot skyward, which will allow it to convert sunlight into the energy it will use to sustain itself for the rest of its life. Drawing upon every resource available, a seed is compelled to become the thing it was meant to be: a tree, grass, vine, bush, shrub, or flower. If unsuccessful, it will have died trying, but not before exhausting every last fiber of its being to fulfill its potential.

 A honeybee, drawing nectar from a blossom, bats its wings 11,400 times per minute. Salmon swim as much as a thousand miles upstream, or more, in order to spawn. An ant will carry twenty times its weight to serve a colony. This same drive, all but invisible, pervades everything in the natural world. The world we live in is little more than an endless and vibrant expression of energy.”

– Excerpted from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker

Tracy strikes me as the kind scientist who appreciates the energy of nature with every inhale and every exhale. But it’s easy to overlook the simple and profound things happening around us and within us. It’s easy to take nature for granted – and, in the process, to take ourselves for granted. A physical yoga practice is an opportunity to tap into our natural resources, on and off the mat. It’s an opportunity to reconnect to the reason we have bodies and minds.

Sometimes, however, there’s a whole lot of mental and physical busyness (or business) keeping a person off the mat. Sometimes that mental busyness is the idea that the body already has to be a certain way in order to practice yoga. Unfortunately, a lot of us teaching yoga here in the West are so focused on the outside we can’t feel the forest or the trees. If you take a class from Matthew Sanford, you will feel the energy of your mind-body. That’s what he does: practices from the inside out (instead of the outside in). JOIN my KISS MY ASANA when you donate and you not only support more teachers learning how to teach the essence of the practice, you’ll also have the opportunity to take some free yoga classes at area studios (through the end of February).

 

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.

~ OM, NAMAH SHIVAYA ~

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

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

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

Proverbs 8:10 – 11

 

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

Bhagavad Gita 2:47-48, abridged

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Excerpt from Let Us Have Faith by Helen Keller

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

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

 

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

Philippians 3:17

 

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

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

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

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

~ Jai Guru Dev Jai Jai ~

Little Puppy, Big Green Monster, Mice…Oh my! Children’s Books, Music, and Mantra, anyone? September 26, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Taoism, Twin Cities, Writing, Yoga.
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Awareness comes in many shapes and sizes – and the opportunity to deepen your awareness is always one breath away. So…

 

TAKE THE DEEPEST BREATH YOU’VE TAKEN ALL DAY!


Now, deepen your awareness. Notice what you notice.

Sometimes, deepening your awareness is just that simple: take a deep breath and start listening to the sensations/information within you and all around you. Sometimes, you will find – as I often do – that you are surrounded by stories. Stories that can make you laugh, or cry, or think out loud. As I recently mentioned to some high school students in Hopkins, our lives, minds, and bodies are full of drama, hilarity, and sorrow. We just have to pay attention. Listen deeply to the stories, the music, the poems that are in you and all around you – and you will always be inspired.

Of course, if it were that “easy” to be inspired – all the time – we might not ever step outside of the box….You know, that box… the one we call our house or car or office or regular routines. Or ourselves. These boxes are made, metaphorically and physically, to extend and expand the same way our bodies do when we inhale. And, every time we inhale we are, literally, being inspired. Yet, it is just as easy to miss the inspiration as it is to notice it. Why? Because when we live in a world where we celebrate the times our “cup overflowth,” we are in fact, celebrating ourselves as the university professor with the overflowing cup.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Shoshin is the Zen Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind” – which I associate with yoga’s practice of santosha, the niyama (internal observation). It’s when you show up with the awe and wonder of a child; when you’re just curious to see what happens if….

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about establishing regular “artist’s dates” with yourself. Doing something you don’t typically do – or don’t typically do by yourself – is a great way to empty your cup and then fill it back up again. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, going on an artist’s date can give you a new perspective. And hat new perspective may be exactly what you need to go deeper.

The events listed below (for this weekend and next) will make great artist’s dates; however, I’m going to strongly encourage you to grab your family and friends.

THIS WEEKEND: Chitta vritti (“fluctuations of the mind”) is sometimes referred to as monkey mind, elephant mind, wild horses or oxen. It is also called puppy mind. My Tuesday classes already know what happens when The Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster meet yoga – everyone else will have to wait a bit. Meanwhile, anyone and everyone can join our own Mike Wohnoutka at The Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster launch party on Saturday, September 27th, 10:30 AM at Red Balloon Bookshop.

NEXT WEEKEND: Satya Seekers is hosting the Russill Paul weekend (Oct 3-4) in Eagan. Last year’s event was inspiring, energizing, and well worth the drive! If you want more information about the music and Yoga Nada, check out Russill Paul’s website.

ALSO, NEXT WEEKEND: Join Nokomis Yoga’s own Jinjer Stanton at Nokomis Beach Coffee Shop on Sunday, October 5th (2:00 – 4:00 PM) as she signs copies of her newly released children’s book, Mousenapped!, and her first book, Yoga For Every Room In Your House.

Hope to see you on and off the mat!

~ NAMASTE ~