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(Let’s) Go There June 1, 2020

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“The coverage was as unprecedented as it was surreal. Viewers from around the world gathered around their television sets in the comfort of their living rooms to watch the first bombs drop in real time.

There was another first for the Cable News Network. While the Big Three had celebrity anchors reading from the teleprompters, at CNN the news had always been the star and the anchors largely anonymous, seemingly interchangeable with each other. Now, for the first time, CNN had its own media stars, with the cool and collected Bernard Shaw becoming an overnight pop phenomenon.”

 

– excerpt from The Drudge Revolution: The Untold Story of How Talk Radio, Fox News, and a Gift Shop Clerk with an Internet Connection Took Down the Mainstream Media by Matthew Lysiak

 

“This is, uh…something is happening outside. Umm…The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We are seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.”

 

– Bernard Shaw, reporting live from Baghdad for CNN on Thursday, January 17, 1991  

 

Take a breath – a deep breath in, a deeper breath out – and take a moment to notice what you notice; bring your awareness to your awareness. You can “do that 90-second thing” (I’ll wait) or just take a few breaths and really pay attention to something. What I mean is, when you notice any the many things you can notice in this moment, pick one thing to make important. Now, focusing on that one thing – as you take a deep breath in, and a deeper breath out – consider if you stuck with that one thing and made it so important that it informed your next decision. What if everything else you noticed was understood through the perspective of that one object that is your focal point?

Don’t go back and try to pick something that you think should be a guide post. Stick with the first thing that came to mind. Whether it was a smell, a taste, a sight, a sound, a sensation of the skin, or a random thought, doesn’t matter. Make whatever you noticed paramount. Now, consider not only building a whole life around the one thing you noticed, but also having to explain that one thing. Like, right now. (I’ll wait… but I might get impatient.)

When Ted Turner’s CNN (Cable News Network) premiered today, Sunday, June 1, 1980, at 5 PM EST, it was the first 24-hour news channel and the first all-news television in the United States. Other outlets made fun of the new network, but Ted Turner had a slogan, a mantra to keep people focused: “Go live, stay with it, and make it important.” The fact that they were able to put those words into action, for going on 40 years, changed the face of television, politics, and social science. The way CNN tuned into the world, and the way the world tuned in to CNN, created a phenomenon that is studied by political scientists, media analysts, and journalism students all over the world: the CNN Effect.

“The one thing it does, is to drive policymakers to have a policy position. I would have to articulate it very quickly. You are in real-time mode. You don’t have time to reflect.”

 

– former Secretary of State James Baker, “clarifying the CNN Effect”

 

“Time for reaction is compressed. Analysis and intelligence gathering is out.”

 

– Margaret Tutwiler, former press secretary to James Baker, “clarifying the CNN Effect”

 

There have been a couple of times in the last four years, when current events and politics made me re-think a class theme. For instance, I stopped doing a class based on the Chanukah story “if the Maccabees had Twitter” and, for a couple of years I stopped doing classes on the CNN Effect. But I’ve missed those classes, because I’ve missed the point of those classes. With the class around the CNN Effect, I particularly miss the focus on focus, and how it relates to concentration and meditation. Focus, concentration, and meditation being one way to translate the last three limbs (dhāraņā, dhyāna, samādhi) of the 8-limbed Yoga Philosophy. Another way to translate these final limbs is concentration, meditation, and spiritual absorption. Either way you translate them, Patanjali referred to the combination of the three as a powerful tool for integration called Samyama.

Yoga Sutra 3.5: tád jayat prajñā lōkāh

 

– “Through the mastery of that [three-part process of samyama] comes the light of knowledge, transcendental insight, or higher consciousness.”

 

Theoretically, the more informed we are, at any given moment – about the given moment – the better we are able to make any decisions needed in a given moment. That, however, is just a theory. That theory is based, in part, on the idea that all the information is correct and/or that the incorrect information is easily identifiable. One of the growing pains CNN encountered early on (and something that has sometimes become a problem over the years) is that real time coverage can often include misinformation or incomplete information. Yes, the internet allows for “real time” fact checking, but that really only works when you have some indication that someone is going to lie to you on air (nope, not going there); someone is sitting off-camera pulling up the necessary information; and/or the person on-air is an expert in the field they are covering. A reporter’s job, however, is not to be an expert in anything other than witnessing/observing the facts of the story and communicating the facts of the story. That’s journalism; that’s the job – even when they, the reporters, become part of the story.

“Hello, Atlanta. Atlanta, this is Holliman. I don’t know whether you’re able to hear me now or not. But I’m going to continue to talk to you as long as I can.”

 

– John Holliman, reporting live from Baghdad for CNN on Thursday, January 17, 1991 (after the CNN feed went dead during the bombing)

 

CNN staff remembers covering the beginning of the Persian Gulf War

 

This week is all about perception and ideals. There is a definite connection between what we perceive, what we believe, and what we make important. There is a very definite connection between what we make important and the ideals by which we live. We can say all day that something is important to us, but (to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson once again), “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

If it’s possible, please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, June 1st) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute yoga practice on Zoom. We’re going to “go live, stay with it, and make it important.”

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, in the spirit of generosity (dana), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible, class purchases are not necessarily.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

 

#### PAY ATTENTION (TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION) ####

 

Let’s See… What We See May 16, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

If you take a moment to consider the anonymous quote above from two different angles (first as if you are “I” and then as if you are “other people”), you realize that the statement holds true for everyone. In other words, each one of us can only understand (anything) from OUR level of perception (or awareness). We might even add “from OUR conscious level of perception (or awareness).” Patanjali states, at the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, that yoga (the philosophy) quiets the mind and allows us to “rest in our own true nature” and that at all other times we identify ourselves as “the fluctuations of the mind.” Through the practice, we elevate our level of perception (and awareness) and, in doing so, elevate our level of understanding.

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

– “The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.19: viśeşāviśeşalingamātrālingāni guņaparvāņi

 

– “The ‘gunas’ fall into four categories: specific/identifiable, unspecific/unidentifiable, barely describable (by signs), and absolutely indescribable (because it is beyond reference).”

Yoga Sutra 2.20: draşțā dŗśimātrah śuddho’pi pratyayānupaśyah

 

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.”

Remember, Patanjali explains in earlier sutras that everything we do creates an impression (samskara) and that we have constructed the world and ourselves – as well as our understanding of the world and ourselves – from a lack of knowledge (avidyā) and attachment that is rooted in (either) pleasure (rāgah) or pain (dveşah). There is a part of us that is pure consciousness, but our connection to that part of us lies behind the veils of samskara. Until the veils are lifted, we will only ever see what the mind shows us. That is to say, we will only ever see what the mind understands – and the mind is often clouded.

 “You are the witness of all things, and are always totally free. The cause of your bondage (suffering) is that you see the witness as something other than this.”

 

Aşțāvakra Gītā 1.7 (The Song of the Man with 8 Bends-In-His-Limbs)

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 16th) at 12:00 PM, when we will continue exploring the connection between what we perceive and what we understand.  You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Note: The links are for playlists dated “March 31.” If you are so inclined, the playlist dated “05032020” also works for this practice.)

 

### OM OM AUM ###

BEING WATCHFUL – 2018 Kiss My Asana Offering #5 April 5, 2018

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“Practice, practice, practice…all is coming.” – Sri Pattabhi Jois

“It comes in its own good time
and in its own way to the one who will go where it lives,
and wait, and be ready,
and watch.
Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction.
The thing is to be attentively present.
To sit and wait is as important as to move.”

– from Being Watchful by Wendell Berry

We’ve been here before, and we will be here again – that is the nature of the practice. Practicing hatha yoga (the physical practice, regardless of style or tradition) can be a little like being in an old Western where characters pass the same rock again and again. In the movies, the only thing that changes is the characters’ bodies and their awareness.

Come to think of it, the same thing is true of our practice.

Some practices (e.g., Ashtanga – one of the earliest forms of vinyasa, introduced to the West by Sri Pattabhi Jois; Bikram Choudhury’s hot yoga sequence; and Sivananda Yoga – based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda)  include the same poses in the same order every time. These practices give people a standardized measure by which to gauge their practice and their evolution within the practice.

On the flip side, some practices include an ever rotating set of poses and sequences so that we keep coming at the metaphorical rock from a different direction.

Either way, as the body and the mind change, the practice also changes. The body and the teacher will repeat the same information again and again, but we won’t “hear” the information until we’re ready to process and synthesize it. That’s why, when people new to yoga ask me how they can hurry up and get up to speed, I tell them to keep practicing.

“And then I began to learn perhaps
the most important lesson that nature had to teach me:
that I could not learn about her in a hurry.

– from “Being Watchful” by Wendell Berry

We’ve been here before…but now something is different. It may be a while before we notice the difference, but it’s there…just waiting for us to be ready. In some ways, this is all like walking the land.

Walking the land is not unusual for a farmer – it’s what they do after all. They walk the land, pausing to assess something or just to soak it all in. Sometimes they just walk for the sake of walking. And, anyone who has walked just for the sake of walking will tell you, it is not unusual for the mind to open up on a walk.

Wendell Berry is a poet, a farmer, a novelist, an environmentalist, a Christian, an activist, and a Kentuckian. He is also a walker – and by that I mean, he walks. Naturally, being a farmer who is also a poet, he writes poems inspired on his walks. He calls them “Sabbath poems.” Consider today’s practice a “Sabbath poem.”

Being Watchful – by Wendell Berry

Move into Child’s Pose (Balasana) as if you are moving into a new house. Take your time to balance the effort and relaxation inherent in the pose. Watch the breath. Pause and take in the landscape that is your mind and your body in this present moment.

When you move into Table Top – hands and knees to the mat with shoulders over elbows and wrists, hips over knees – or into a seated position if that is more accessible, move as if you are taking a leisurely stroll. Take your time, and pause to get the lay of the land. 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.

“from this

moment this moment

is the first

– from Be Still In Haste by Wendell Berry*

Pause with the spine back in Table Top position. Sit down with your legs straight out in front of you. Sit up on a blanket or a block if you have a lot of tightness/stiffness in the back of your body. This is Staff Pose (Dandasana), which appears on the Top 10 Poses People Overlook/Underestimate.

Press your heels down into the ground, flex the ankles so the toes reach for the nose, and then spread the toes. At the same time, fire up your thighs and engage the quadriceps (the four muscles at the top of your things) in order to lift the knee caps into their full extended position. Press the sit bones and hands down (with the hands next to the hips). If this engagement is too extreme, bend knees or place the hands behind the hips (but still wide enough to just barely be outside of the hips).

As if they are seeds you are planting, push your shoulders and everything touching the floor, the mat, or a prop down into the earth. Watch how the engagement of your feet, your legs, your hips, your core, your hands, and your arms allows you to lift the heart and the ribs away from the lower body. You are actively creating space. Now, engage the space: squeeze your perineum muscles for the root lock (mula bandha); draw the belly button up and back for the core lock (uddiyana bandha); and press the chin into your throat for the chin lock (jalandhara bandha). With your eyes on your nose, watch your breath.

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. Again, like you a planting, use every inhale to press down in order to lift up – creating more space between your ribs and your hips. Use every exhale to twist and rinse – engaging that space. 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). Be here, and be watchful.

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 at one of the donation-based classes listed (April 7th and 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. 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.”

*Yes, clock watchers, the extra poem in this post is just for you!

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

 

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

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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 ~