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Once More With Feeling! May 15, 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.)

 

At my core, I am a storyteller, a griot, a bard. I spent a good portion of my life helping others tell their stories and then, I started helping people get in touch with their stories. Sometimes I tell other people’s stories; every once in a while, I tell my stories. So, it made sense to request stories for this year’s Kiss My Asana yogathon. I did this before I realized Matthew Sanford, the founding teacher of Mind Body Solutions (which benefits from the yogathon) was also going to share stories of some adaptive yoga students. Of course, it makes sense that, Matthew is also a storyteller who helps people get in touch with their stories. In fact, in his first book, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, he talks about “healing stories,” which he defines in the introduction as “my term for stories we have come to believe that shape how we think about the world, ourselves, and our place in it.” In recent years, he has co-hosted “Body Mind Story,” a series of writing workshops with Kevin Kling and Patricia Francisco.

“Healing stories guide us through good times and bad times; they can be constructive and destructive, and are often in need of change. They come together to create our own personal mythology, the system of beliefs that guide how we interpret our experience. Quite often, they bridge the silence that we carry within us and are essential to how we live.”

 

– from Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

The physical practice of yoga, can be a way to access our personal stories. In fact, Father Laurence Freeman OSB makes a very compelling statement (in Episode 14 of the podcast “Contemplate This!”) about why the body is a vital tool when it comes to accessing, telling, and understanding our healing stories. Father Laurence doesn’t use the term “healing stories” and, in fact, what he mentions in the podcast is Christianity, which has its own tradition of moving the body in order to access the story.

If you have ever attended a Catholic mass, you know that there is a lot of moving – like a lot, a lot of moving. People stand, people sit, people kneel; people bow their heads to pray – and then they repeat it all again. It is like a sun salutation, especially if you consider it from the perspective of the hips and knees. Even when people reach out their cupped hands or open their mouths in the shape of an “O” to receive communion, there is a kind of repetition and symbolism that parallels what we do in yoga. Another way, people use their bodies to access an important story in Christianity is by moving through the Stations of the Cross.

As I mentioned in April, I did not teach a Good Friday class for the first time in eleven years. My normal Good Friday class uses the yoga poses to mirror walking through the Stations of the Cross, which in turn is a way to mirror the Via Dolores – all three of which are ways people access the story of Jesus’s last moments and, in doing so, access their stories as Christians. I do the class, despite occasional criticism, because it is also a way to access a story of radical love and radical compassion.

Think about what that means to you for a moment – even if you take it out of context: radical love and radical compassion.

In my Good Friday post, I alluded to some people who would miss my Good Friday class. One of those people that immediately came to mind was Meghan G (who some of you will remember as Yogi #12: The Fixer during Kiss My Asana 2016). When I requested stories for Kiss My Asana 2020, Meghan G sent me the following Good Friday story:

“My story has happened quite recently. On Good Friday, just last week, I was feeling so disconnected from my faith community of Saint Joan of Arc, my yoga community Downtown YMCA Friday night yogis and really the whole human community.  Every tradition or ritual that I/we have grounds me in the meaning of Holy Week was uprooted.  Holy Week, and Good Friday contemporary stations of the cross in particular, is one of the most sacred times of the year.  It almost felt to me that day as though it was being ignored.

 

In an effort to stop the downward spiral of disconnectedness, I sought out Saint Joan of Arc’s Good Friday celebration on video, posted on the website.  I had tried to worship this way on Holy Thursday, but found myself distracted, multi-tasking and unfulfilled by the experience.  So this Friday I decided to stop the swirling in my mind I would lead myself through a series of poses to calm and focus my mind.  Myra had prepared me well for this.  As I listened to the Stations of the Cross and the familiar music and stories from my faith community I progressed through a series of poses that were also as familiar and soothing as the service.  I was able to connect Jesus’s suffering on the cross with the greater suffering in our world right now (and always) and feel again a part of the human community.

 

Thank you, Myra, for teaching me over the years to do yoga as you do life…with intention and love. Happy Easter, Meghan”

Like other yoga teachers, I say it all the time, “This is YOUR practice. This is YOUR time.” One of the things that has come up again and again in my conversations with various yogis is how the pandemic has forced us to take ownership and stewardship of our individual practices. Meghan’s story reinforces the fact that not only is it your practice / your time, YOU are completely capable of OWNING IT!

And, this is an important piece; it reinforces the fact that you are completely capable of telling your healing stories. You have what you need to guide yourself through the good times and the bad. You don’t have to go it alone, however, we are with you. Notice, even when Meghan felt alone, she knew where to turn.

Thank you to Meghan G and everyone else who supported Mind Body Solutions and the Kiss My Asana yogathon, this year and every year. Today is the final day to donate via my 2020 Kiss My Asana campaign.

Remember, when you do yoga, share yoga, help others you join a global movement, but in a personal way, and you open up a world of possibilities. Mind Body Solutions was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals.

Please check out the all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. This video also features Matthew and Kevin Kling talking about cultivating stories. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### HONOR THE STORIES ###

 

 

BONUS x2: DOUBLE THE BONUS! DOUBLE THE KINDNESS!! May 14, 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.)

 NOTE: Yes, another surprise! This post from Kiss My Asana 2016 was never posted in real time. In other words, it’s a bonus!)

“And so you have found out that secret – one of the deep secrets of Life – that all, that is really worth the doing, is what we do for others? Even as the old adage tells us, ‘What I spent, that I lost; what I gave that I had.’ Casuits have tried to twist ‘doing good’ into another form of ‘doing evil,’ and have said ‘you get pleasure yourself by giving this pleasure to another: so it is merely a refined kind of selfishness, as your own pleasure is a motive for what you do.’ I say ‘it is not selfishness, that my own pleasure should be a motive so long as it is not the motive that would outweigh the other, if the two come into collision?’ The ‘selfish man’ is he who would still do the thing, even if it harmed others, so long as it gave him pleasure; the ‘unselfish man’ is he who would still do the thing, even if it gave him no pleasure, so long as it pleased others. But, when both motives pull together, the ‘unselfish man’ is still the unselfish man, even though his own pleasure is one of his motives! I am very sure that God takes real pleasure in seeing his children happy!”

 

– from letter Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) wrote to the actress Ellen Terry, dated November 13, 1890*

There’s a certain family, with siblings all around the world, who are, even as you read this, pointing out that Yogi #30 (Anthony) is not “Bonus.” And, I want to go on record as saying, “I know that, however…” He and Yogi #31 (Paula) are the bonus yogis for a Kiss My Asana yogathon offering that started four years ago (2016) when the yogathon was in February, during Leap Year, and I only needed 29 yogis. You can say I’m four years, 2 months, and 2 weeks late with this post (or maybe, just a week, or 2, late), but none of that changes the fact that these two yogis are two of the kindest people you’re ever going to meet.

First and foremost, let me point out that Anthony and Paula don’t really know me. They know of me. We’ve met once, and that was the one time they took a class from me. If memory serves, I’ve answered yoga questions for Anthony, over the telephone, a time or two. But, they live in another part of the country and they found out about the 2016 Kiss My Asana yogathon from a friend of mine. The friend told them that making these video would help a lot of people. So, simply out of the kindness of their hearts and without having a whole lot of knowledge about Mind Body Solutions or how making the video would help people do yoga, they answered my questions. And then, they waited to see what would happen.

And they waited…

And they waited…

And they waited…

(but only through 398 days of summer)

“I’ve got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house oh oh oh
And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done oh oh oh

 

How many acres how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

 

Old dirt road (mushaboom, mushaboom)
Knee deep snow (mushaboom, mushaboom)”

 

 

– from “Mushaboom” by Feist

And, while they were waiting, life changed. Anthony and Paula got married. Then, as they were still waiting, they had a baby. A very lucky baby who will spend her life surrounded by kindness and love, an appreciation for the great outdoors, and an appreciation for all that the world – and all the different cultures in the world – have to offer. (A baby who will be happy and cherished even when she starts saying the very word her papa tries not to say in yoga!)

All the while they waited they continued their adventures in the mountains, in the world, and in yoga. My guess is that they didn’t give these videos a second thought.

At first glance, Anthony isn’t the person you would automatically assume practices yoga. Yet, he’s the first to admit that he has received a lot of physical and mental benefit from his practice. He’s even encouraged others to practice. If you read the description in her video, you will see that I mention clapping for Paula. She is a nurse and, although I haven’t spoken to her recently, my guess is that even if she isn’t able to actively practice yoga right now, she is still benefiting from the practice.

Yogi #30

 

Yogi #31

I mentioned in the last 2016 Kiss My Asana post (two weeks ago) that there’s a method in the madness. But, I’m off schedule and, you might think that throws everything off. It does and it doesn’t, but (for those of you who are curious) here’s the bonus behind-the-scenes look at why I do what I do:

If I were teaching today, it would be a bonus day of teaching and I’d either carry forward the themes of love, kindness, and compassion from earlier this week – with a little (double bonus) focus on mastering the beautiful art of humility – or I would take a look at George Lucas’s view of the Hero’s Journey (as today is GL’s 76th birthday). Had I stayed on schedule, this year, I would have posted this on the birthday of the author Annie Dillard, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or given myself a little grace and posted this during International Nurses Week, a fitting tribute to Yogi #31.

Back in 2016, had I stayed on schedule, Anthony and Paula’s videos would have been posted on March 1st, Saint David’s Day. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales, poets, and vegetarians. He is associated with dragons and doves and his miracles include healing the sick and (as I like to joke) creating mountains out of molehill. According to the legends, Saint David was giving a sermon to a large crowd, which was having a hard time hearing him, when a dove landed on his shoulder and then, suddenly, the ground beneath him rose and lifted him up above the crowd.

Mountains, doves, miraculous healings… – Can you see why I thought March 1st would be a good day for this pair? But, there are also dragons. So, on Saint David’s Day I usually quote Sarah Ban Breathnach (who wrote in Simple Abundance, “Always remember it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”) and conclude with J. R. R. Tolkien (who wrote in The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him.”). Today, however, we’ll wrap up with a quote inspired by Tolkien:

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

 

– from the movie version of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, adapted by Peter Jackson

Mind Body Solutions, and the work they do to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body, thrives because of “small everyday deeds of ordinary folk…. Small acts of kindness and love.” That’s what gets a person with limited mobility to their yoga class; that’s what inspires a person using a BiPAP machine to keep practicing; that’s what gets the caregiver to get up every morning and take it day-by-day, moment-by-moment; that’s what gets a teacher in Rochester, New York or somewhere in England to study adaptive yoga in Minnesota; that’s what got Matthew Sanford to load up his lap with mats and roll into Courage Center for the first time; that’s what gets every single one of us coming back to the mat, knowing that a bad day off the mat can turn into a good day on the mat, because we will be surrounded by “ordinary folk” and “small acts of kindness and love.”

A Big Hallelujah Asana / Five-Pointed Smile goes to Anthony and Paula, as well as to Meghan and Kelsey (who were the ordinary folk in the background rocking their own small acts of kindness and love). Thank you, also, to everyone who did yoga, shared yoga, and helped others during this year’s yogathon (and the previous 6 yogathons). Friday is the last day to donate and I have one more Kiss My Asana post for y’all. Stay tuned!

*In 1998, November 13th became World Kindness Day (so far as I know, it’s just a happy coincidence that someone picked the date that coincided with Lewis Carroll’s letter on kindness…but I could be wrong about that.)

 

### HA HA HA HA (SNORT) ###

A Fearless River Runs Through This One! April 29, 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.)

{NOTE: Yes, another surprise! This post from Kiss My Asana 2016 was never posted in real time. In other words, it comes to you courtesy of the “Wayback (Wednesday) Machine.”}

“And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores”

– “The River” by Garth Brooks

Let’s go way back, for minute. Way back to 2016, when the Kiss My Asana yogathon was, for the first and only time ever, in February instead of April – and it was leap year. I needed 29 yogis to not only answer 7 questions about their yoga practice, but to also let me post a recording of their answers along with (what I thought at the time would be) super short introductions on my blog. Being the generous soul that she is and having the work ethic that she does, Yogi #29 (Meghan M) was the first to volunteer – and also the first to start recruiting others.

This was not her first Kiss My Asana rodeo. If you have seen and enjoyed any of the 2015 KMA practice videos, you were probably watching a video recorded by Meghan M. She is an artist and a craftsman with a steady hand, an eye for putting things together, patience, and a heart as wide as the world. Given all that I knew about her, I didn’t think twice about her volunteering to be the first recording. Little did I know that she had an ulterior motive: You see, Meghan M likes to wave the introvert banner and while she wanted me to succeed in my Kiss My Asana campaign and while she wanted to support Mind Body Solutions, she also wanted to make sure I had enough volunteers that I wouldn’t actually need her video.

“But when I’m alone in the half light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories, and the sounds of the big blackfoot river, and the four-count rhythm, and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood, and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops; under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.”

– from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Coming from one of the bigger states in the country and being raised in a house-full of outdoorsmen, Meghan M may claim to be introverted, and even a little shy, but she is far from retiring. She may not always understand the injustices in the world, but she will stand up against them and fight for what’s right. She won’t often walk behind you, but if there’s a chance you’ll need an ally she will walk beside you – or even clear the path ahead. People that know her, love her, and recognize how fortunate they are to have her as a friend.

Meghan M is, in many ways, the best part of what it means to be human – and also the best part of what it means to be an American and a citizen of the world: she is responsible; she is considerate; she is strong; she is compassionate; she is intelligent; she respects the earth, the water, air, and sky; and she is (artistically) creative, as well as innovative. She is constantly learning and growing as a person. She’s also resilient (although we disagree on why that is). And while you will be hard pressed to find someone with a better laugh, you are highly unlikely to find a harder or more self-motivated worker on the planet. She can get more done in an hour than most people get done in a day.

“If we allow ourselves to be discouraged, we lose our power and momentum. That’s what I would say to you of these difficult times. If you are going to that place of intent to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the wild lands in Utah, you have to know how to dance.”

– from Two In the Far North by Margaret “Mardy” Murie

So, flash forward to the 7th annual Kiss My Asana in April 2020, and I am finally (finally) wrapping up my 2016 offerings. As you read this, you may be thinking, ‘Oh, does this mean you didn’t end up with enough yogis back in 2016?’ No, quite the contrary (as you shall see) and in no small part thanks to Meghan M. She persists and she succeeds even when others stack the odds against. However, there is a method to the madness and a little nod to Anton Chekov (as I have mentioned before), as well my own fondness for rabbit holes and numbers. So, if you were to go back over the different offerings or even to how I choose my themes for each class, you will find that numbers are important. Dates are important. And, in my head, Yogi #29 was always going to be on the 29th.

Pardon the shaky hands and lack of focus. Did I mention Yogi #29 is hilarious?

Speaking of focus: One of the things that is easy to overlook about Meghan M is her ability to focus and (again) to get things done. People like to say they can multi-task – despite the fact that studies have shown multi-tasking is a myth…or a misnomer. Consider a juggler, they hold something in one hand, toss or catch with the other, and scan for what’s already in the air (or, heaven forbid, crashing towards the ground), but in some ways it’s all an illusion. Lots of things are happening (lots of balls in the air), but the juggler is always doing one thing; focusing on what comes next. If you watch Meghan M in action you will see that same ability at work: she gets each thing in motion (in its own turn); keeps track of what’s coming down (or out); and cleans up after herself with a flourish.

On and off the mat, Yogi #29’s ability to focus is directly connected to her ability not to be distracted.  If you want to explore what it takes for you to focus, please join me for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Wednesday, April 29th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM. Both practices will engage “fearless play” and dance (in honor of International Dance Day), plus a lot of jazz. Please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Are you focused and Kiss(ing) My Asana?

The 7th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 29th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 29th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 29th)

A 5-Minute Practice

Questions Answered by Yogis (see post above)

Answers to Yogis Questions

* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. The second story was the story of philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The third stories, referencing Mary Wollstonecraft and Jessie Redmon Fauset, took us back to the start of the philosophy. Tuesday’s story was, philosophically, story number 5, a bridge of sorts. Which makes today’s story number 6. Are you noticing a trend? So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 1 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### “DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING” ###

Moved By The Spirit April 28, 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.)

{NOTE: Surprise! This post is a 2016 Kiss My Asana “throwback,” but it was never posted in real time. In other words, this post is a bit of a Tardis.}

“REFLECTIONS ON THE POSE DEDICATED TO THE SAGE VASISTHA. Given the great sage Vasistha’s place in the Vedic tradition, it is fitting that this challenging and invigorating pose dedicated to him epitomizes grace, strength, and steadiness…. Confronting all of these challenges that call upon your body to work as a whole, this is not a pose that every student will be able to do the first time he or she comes to yoga class. Even those who are strong may find it difficult to hold it steadily for any length of time. To make progress in this pose is to gain insight into the abiding principle of intention…. Singleness of purpose increases your capacity. By applying an intention consistently, you transform disparate efforts into unified action, chaos into order. Through informed intention you find your body – as well as yourself in the larger scheme of your life – moving purposefully, ever closer to your goals. …one of life’s most vital lessons: there may be nothing more powerful in determining your future as your resolve to do so.”

– from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker

Almost four eight years ago, a powerful yogi started sharing his practice with me. While yes, he was physically and mentally powerful, what struck me right off the bat that first summer was that Tom B. (Yogi #28) was spiritually and energetically strong. His focus and breath awareness alone were enlightening – especially when our conversations revealed that certain aspects of the yoga philosophy were new to him. What wasn’t new to him, however, was a dedication to knowing and growing through God.

“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 and failure. This mental eveness is what is meant by ‘yoga’ (Union with God).”

The Bhagavid Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (2:48), by Jack Hawley

Tom B. would be the first to tell you that one of the things which cemented the beginning of our spiritual friendship was when I mentioned Seane Corn approaching her vinyasa practice as a body prayer. For some people, the idea that one can mindfully and intentionally use their whole body to pray is a very alien, very esoteric practice. For others, it is a cultural experience they take for granted. Then there are people who start off in the first group and very deliberately, very intentionally, practice their way into the second group. In many ways, Tom B. belongs in this last camp. Like a dervish, he has spent much of his life revolving around ways the sacred and the divine relate to the mundane and profane. The physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga) has just become another way for him to pray and dance with the Divine.

“So, are you open to praying? Mmmmhmm? That’s my hope; that what we can do today is use this practice in a way that goes beyond the physical and does what I really believe yoga is suppose to do – which is ultimately unite us, connect us, inspire us – from a place that’s very deep within.”

 

– from “Yoga from the Heart” by Seane Corn

In addition to our early conversation about Seane Corn’s approach to the physical practice, Tom B. and I once stood on a rooftop and discussed comparative analysis of sacred text, which can be a form of svadyaya (self-study, one of the niyamas/internal observations). Specifically, Tom B. wanted to know more about the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali’s outline of the yoga philosophy. His interest was piqued by a class focused on ahimsa (non-harming, one of the yamas/external observations) and a reference I made to a translation of the sutras entitled How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali translated and with commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.

Here, again, the paradigm might have been new – but then, again, it wasn’t. As a professional theologian, Tom B. was already so well versed in religious ethics and the benefits of being virtuous that he could (and did) write a book about it! But, what I appreciated right off the bat – and what continues to inspire me about Tom B. – was not only his intellectual awareness and his continued pursuit of how certain Truths are universal to the human experience, but also his sense of humor and his commitment to practicing the principles of his faith, on and off the mat.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ”

 

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18

 

“Be grateful to everyone. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join in meditation. Always maintain only a joyful mind.”

 

– Lojong (Tibetan Buddhist Mind-training techniques) #13, #16, #21

 

“All the important texts on Yoga lay great emphasis on sadhana or abhyasa (constant practice). Sadhana is not just theoretical study of Yoga texts. It is a spiritual endeavor. Oil seeds must be pressed to yield oil. Wood must be heated to ignite it and bring out the hidden fire within. In the same way, the sadhaka must by constant practice light the divine flame within himself.”

– from Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar

(Click here if you do not see embedded video.)

 

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. / Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. / For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

– 2 Peter 1:19 – 21

“We get more pleasure from union with the spiritual objects we understand than from the bodily objects we sense: the objects themselves are to be prized more, the ability to understand is a nobler ability, and the union achieved is more intimate, more complete, and more lasting.”

– from Summa Theologica (1a2ae. 31. 5) by Saint Thomas Aquinas

While I’ve laid out a few of the reasons why Yoga resonated with Yogi #28, there are many, many more. And, perhaps the best reasons are the ones I’ve saved for last. In addition to being a contemporary theologian, Tom B is a person whose spiritual practices have been ancient, embodied, and interspiritual for much of his life. He is Catholic, and also catholic – the lower case “c” emphasizing the original meaning from the Greek words meaning “universal” and “according to the whole.” He is a recognized leader in Christian contemplative practices, such as Centering Prayer, and in the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas (who focused on ethics and proving the existence of God, both through the lens of love, goodness, and beauty). In the four years between now and Kiss My Asana 2016 (when I originally posted the “Questions Answered by Yogis” series), Tom B has continued and expanded his spiritual journey by starting a podcast called “Contemplate This!” where he interviews and cultivates dialogue with some of the most amazing modern day mystics and contemplative leaders (present company excluded in that platitude, as – full disclosure – I am interview #6).

“Spiritual pleasures presuppose virtue, so most people fail to experience them and fall back on bodily pleasures.”

 

– from Summa Theologica (1a2ae. 31. 5) by Saint Thomas Aquinas

Tom B once asked me to write a letter to his children, which up until now I have neglected to do (probably for the same reasons I didn’t post this back in 2016: “because all that I have written seems like straw to me.”). If we were to consider this part of that letter, I would call it “How to Know the Father” and tell his kids that if they look within themselves they will find all the need to know about their dad – especially if they add in a little comparative analysis.

“Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?”

 

– from The Wisdom of the Desert (LXII), translated by Thomas Merton

Please join me for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Tuesday, April 28th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM. Both practices will revolve around poetry and, also, explore what is required to completely devote oneself to something or someone. There is, after all, a bridge between the desire to commit and the actual commitment. It is the bridge that fosters “singleness of purpose” and permits one to devote their life to what is felt, but unseen. It is the same metaphorical bridge that allows poets to write poetry…about anything and everything. Please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Devote yourself to Kiss(ing) My Asana?

The 7th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 28th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 28th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 28th)

A 5-Minute Practice

Questions Answered by Yogis (see post above)

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 28th Practice (see “Poetry Practice” link above)

* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. The second story was the story of philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The third stories, referencing Mary Wollstonecraft and Jessie Redmon Fauset, took us back to the start of the philosophy. Today’s story is story number four (and also number five), are you noticing a trend? So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 2 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### “ENTER BY THE SMALL RIVERS” ###

 

Going Back to the Start April 27, 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 do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”

 

– from A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

 

 “Biology transcends society.”

 

–from The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Many, if not most, Westerners are introduced to yoga through the physical practice – which is a combination of asana (“seat” or pose) and pranayama (awareness of breath or “control of breath”). This introduction often comes without any introduction to the philosophy itself – or to the fact that people are starting in the middle of the practice, instead of at the beginning.

In some ways, starting in the middle is problematic, because the beginning of the philosophy provides the ethical component and fundamentals through which one can access the rest of the philosophy. Just as the beginning of a story introduces the characters and their situation, the beginning of the philosophy/practice introduces the who, what, where, why, and (most importantly, in some cases) the how of hatha yoga (the physical practice, regardless of style or tradition).

When you start in the middle of the story, you are constantly playing catch-up or asking someone else to explain what’s happening. You’re a little lost. You can still catch on, but it’s harder than if you started at the beginning. Another problematic aspect, especially if you are asking someone else for all the pertinent details you missed at the beginning, is that they occasionally missed a detail that comes back up later – and suddenly, you’re lost again. It’s like walking into the middle of a something written by a fan of Anton Chekov and going, “Wait, why does it matter what color thread she uses?” Or, wondering why people are laughing about a Rolex watch in Die Hard.

Yoga Sutra 2.30: ahimsāsatyāsteyabramacaryāparigrahā yamāh

– “Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-possessiveness are restraints (or universal commandments).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.32: śaucasantoşatapahsvādhyāyeśvarapraņidhānāni niyamāh

 

– “Cleanliness, contentment, discipline (or austerity), self-study, and trustful surrender to the Divine are the internal observations.”

The first and second limbs of the 8-limb philosophy of yoga consist of five universal commandments and five internal observations. Although, the yamas are often referred to as “external” restraints the truth is that we may first need to practice these on ourselves. Hence, we not only do unto others as we would have them do unto us (to paraphrase Jesus, Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12), we also do unto ourselves as we would do unto others (which sounds a lot like Matthew 22:39). And the perfect place to practice is on the mat (or on the cushion). The same is true of the niyamas. Get on the mat, get in a pose, breathe and notice how you are treating yourself. Notice what you are thinking about yourself. Notice how you are loving yourself. Or Not.

As you all have heard me say, and as my early teachers say, “How you do yoga is how you do life.” So, as you move through the practice you are, essentially, moving through the different aspects of your life. How you treat the different parts of you, may reflect the different ways you treat people in your life; people who are, essentially and philosophically, reflections of yourself. How you focus on outside, versus on the inside, reflects what you have been taught is most important.

“Sometimes I think that no matter how one is born, no matter how one acts, there is something out of gear with one somewhere, and that must be changed. Life at its best is a grand corrective.”

 

– From There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

 

– from A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

A slight loophole to my earlier statement about how starting in the middle is problematic, is that most people are introduced to some aspect of yoga after they have already been introduced to some kind of moral code or ethical compass. You may not have heard of the yamas and niyamas before, but you’ve most likely heard of the Ten Commandments (notice 5+5 = 10). Even if you did not grow up in a Judeo-Christian environment, you did grow up within a society with a division between right and wrong and (for most people) that comes with an understanding that translates into a code of conduct. In other words, you have your own set of commandments and observations.

Ultimately, the real problem is not that people are not immediately introduced to the ethical component of the philosophy; it is that the importance of ethical behavior is not always emphasized at the beginning, and throughout, the practice. Furthermore, this ethical component has to extend beyond the practice on the mat (or on the cushion), because practicing will change the way you interact with yourself and the world around you.

That last statement is not conjecture or opinion. It is absolutely fact. Underlying this idea is, as William Broad points out in The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, that yoga can result in physiological changes to the body, including an increase in testosterone. Testosterone, of course, is a natural occurring hormone in all genders. It is related to muscle and bone mass, prevention of osteoporosis, as well as sexual drive, aggression, and competitive behavior. Broad is a science writer and book received a lot of criticism from the yoga community (myself included) not because of his scientific research, but because he lumped all physical practices together and decided to only look at the practice through the physical lens. So, ultimately, the biggest complaint was that he left out the context; he left out the ethics.

Mary Wollstonecraft, born today in 1759, was one of the earliest feminist philosophers. She authored A Vindication of the Rights of Women, in which she argued that women should not only be treated, educated, and respected in the same way as men, but should also be held to the same accountability as men. Wollstonecraft wrote, “The mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices to rest on, and the current will run with destructive fury when there are no barriers to break its force.”

“I am colored and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I have felt that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so — but only temporarily — I have fled from it.”

 

– Jessie Redmon Fauset in a 1923 Paris Tribune interview

Like so many other Harlem Renaissance artists, Jessie Redmon Fauset spent some time as an expatriate in Paris. An African-American editor, poet, novelist, and educator Fauset, born today in 1882, graduated as valedictorian of her class at Philadelphia High School for Girls, the city’s top academic school, and applied to Bryn Mawr College. She ended up at Cornell University, however, after officials from Bryn Mawr found her a scholarship at another university!

After graduating from Cornell and receiving a Masters in French from the University of Pennsylvania, Fauset was selected by W. E. B. DuBois to be the literary editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis (from 1919 to 1926). Her novels focused on the lives of the Black middle class and, in some cases, the ethical and psychological ramifications of “passing,” where a Black person enters into society as a White person. Her work, as an editor and as a writer, was highly praised during her lifetime. Yet, despite the praise and the fact that she went to highly respected schools, you’ve probably never heard of her. There’s a good chance, however, that you’ve heard of some of the people whose work she highlighted as an editor: writers like Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and Gwendolyn Bennett.

You may notice that, with the exception of Bennett, all of those remembered writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance are men. And, you may not think very much of that, given the big picture that is how artists are promoted in the world, unless you consider a little bit of (her)story related by Morgan Jenkins in a 2017 The New Yorker article. The article talks about the events leading up to a dinner initially intended to honor Fauset and the release of her novel. The philosopher, writer, and educator Alain Locke, however, suggested that the evening should honor a group of writers and Faust ended up relegated to being “an afterthought.”

For many people, the other 6 parts of the 8-limb philosophy of yoga are an afterthought (or a never thought). If you join me tonight (Monday, April 27th) at 5:30 PM, however, the ethics will be front and center during a 75-minuite virtual yoga practice on Zoom. The new Zoom security protocols have definitely kicking in; so, please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems. There is no playlist for the Common Ground Meditation Center practices.

I consent to you Kiss(ing) My Asana?

The 7th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 27th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 27th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 27th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

 

* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. The second story was the story of philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Today’s stories takes us back to the start. So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 3 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

### IMBALANCE BALANCE IMBALANCE ###

The Philosophy of Opening Locks (& Measuring Internal Movement) April 26, 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 read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we’re so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.”

 

– Playwright John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation

 

“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or “Bacon’s Law” is based on the “six degrees of separation” theorem and the idea that Kevin Bacon has made so many movies he is the very essence of connectivity. (Although at least one study has shown Samuel L. Jackson is even more connected than Kevin Bacon, but that’s another story for another day.)

Simply stated, the ideas together indicate that by way of a series of (virtual or metaphorical) handshakes anyone (yourself included) is more closely connected to Kevin Bacon (or Samuel L. Jackson) than you might think. It’s a fun trivia game, something you can do when cabin or quarantine fever kicks in. It’s also a little surreal when you consider it in the context of your own life and realize how small the world is, and how connected you are to people you have never met and will never meet. (For example, during most of my lifetime – even as a kid – I have always been one to two handshakes away from the President of the United States, at least from Ronald Reagan forward.)

There is a similar idea related to the internet and Wikepedia. According to the “Getting to Philosophy” game, if you click on the first link in the main portion of a Wikepedia article, and continue clicking on the first link in subsequent articles, you will inevitably land on the “Philosophy” page. Sometimes it only takes seven clicks, sometimes it takes 14. Although, in all fairness, there are times when the fifth or sixth article contains two conjoined links in the first sentence and since the second link is “philosophy” you have to keep going all the way around red Robin’s barn. Bottom line, no matter where begin we always end up in philosophy.

“Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.”

 

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

 

Most of you have heard or seen me state that the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is part of an 8-limbed philosophy. But what does that mean and why does that matter?

The word philosophy comes to us from Greek, by way of Latin, Old French, and Middle English, from a word that means “love of wisdom.” It is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, thought, reality, and existence. It provides a way to think about and understand the world, the universe, and everything. As stated in Wikepedia, it “is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” The most basic question being, “Why?” which spirals out as:

  • Who/What are you?
  • Why do you exist?
  • Where does the world come from? / Why does the world exist?

The philosophy of yoga addresses all of these questions, and the follow-up questions (like, “Why do we/I/other people do the things we/I/they do?” and “How do I find balance in my life/relationships/pose?”). Yoga addresses philosophical questions even when someone only practices the physical practice, because, ultimately, the physical practice is a container in which we can consider these questions.

At least, that’s one way to look at the practice.

“It’s a gift*; it’s like there’s a moment in which the thing is ready to let you see it. In India, this is called darshan. Darshan means getting a view, and if the clouds blow away, as they did once for me, and you get a view of the Himalayas from the foothills, an Indian person would say, ‘Ah, the Himalayas are giving you their darshana’; they’re letting you have their view. This comfortable, really deep way of getting a sense of something takes time. It doesn’t show itself to you right away. It isn’t even necessary to know the names of things the way a botanist would. It’s more important to be aware of the ‘suchness’ of the thing; it’s a reality. It’s also a source of a certain kind of inspiration for creativity. I see it in the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.”

– Poet Gary Snyder on Indian philosophy

 

Consider, however, that the philosophy of yoga is one of six major Indian philosophies or darśana in Sanskrit, which means “point of view” or “ways to see.” As I referenced yesterday’s blog post and mentioned in yesterday’s class, one of the other six philosophies is Sankhya, which is the one most closely related to Yoga. Sankhya is the oldest Indian philosophy and focuses on the way in which one thinks/reasons and understands purusha (“pure consciousness”) and prakriti (unmanifested, primordial “matter”), and how everything and everyone manifests/exists as a result of these two elements combining with the forces of three “energies” (gunas) inherent in matter.

Yoga and Sankhya are so closely related that a philosophical question arises at all times: (Once you are aware of yourself, doing whatever you are doing) are you practicing yoga or sankhya? And is there a non-subjective way to measure, qualify, or quantify the degree to which you are doing one versus the other? For that matter, is there a non-subjective way to measure the interior movements of the heart and how practicing can shake us to our core?

“We would have been happy if we could have assigned just three categories, large, medium, and small; the point is, we wanted to avoid personal judgments. It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale.”

 

– Charles Richter, seismologist and physicist (born today in 1900), on the scale he developed with Beno Gutenberg

 

Born today in 1889, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” If you’re interested in using your body to answer that age old DJ Shadow question (“What does your soul look like?”), please join me today (Sunday, April 26th) at 2:30 PM, for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Some of the new Zoom security protocols have definitely kicking in; so, please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems. Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Can you knock my socks off when you Kiss My Asana?

The 7th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 26th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 26th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 26th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

 

* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. Today’s story is the story philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 4 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

 

### WELL, HELLO HEGEL ###

 

Speaking the Language of Hope April 23, 2020

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– Title of the third sigur rós album, on which all songs are “sung” by jónsi (born 4/23/1975) in Hopelandic (“Vonlenska” in Icelandic)

A lot of people, me included, find sigur rós music relaxing. I also find it visceral, something felt deep in the body. So, sometimes, when I want people to really tune in and pay attention to how they are feeling – deep in their bodies – I play sigur rós. There are albums where jónsi sings in Icelandic. On the third album, however, he sings in an imaginary language the band calls Hopelandic.

Hopelandic. How can you not love that name, or the idea of a place where the native language is hope?

“it’s of course not an actual language by definition (no vocabulary, grammar, etc.), it’s rather a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument. jónsi likens it with what singers sometimes do when they’ve decided on the melody but haven’t written the lyrics yet.”

– from the faq section of the sigur rós website

When I play sigur rós in class, I remind people that they are hearing an imaginary language, but also point out that if you listen long enough you can not only sing along you can also feel as if you understand what is being sung – if not the words (since they aren’t, technically, words), at least the sentiment. I also explain that it is a little like listening to the mind-body.

Our minds and bodies speak in sensation, that’s how they communicate information. The only problem is, we’re not always fluent in sensation. So, just like we do when we are learning a new language, we need to experience the “vocabulary” in context and then repeat and repeat them until they are ingrained. Living our lives in our bodies is a little like being immersed in a foreign language – except for the part where we can ignore all of the sensation/information and only converse in our native tongue because, in some ways, it is easier than trying to understand this language no one spends a lot of time teaching us how to understand. The physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is a way to start learning the language.

It’s not that hard to find a yoga class, if you consider yourself able-bodied and/or of sound mind. Even now, under the worldwide lockdown, there are lots of options. It may take a little effort to find a yoga practice that works for you, but it’s out there. What if, however, you (or someone around you) didn’t consider you able-bodied and/or of sound mind? What if you had been told that because you couldn’t move parts of your body on your own, couldn’t breathe without a machine, and/or didn’t feel sensation the way others felt it, you couldn’t practice yoga? What if your body didn’t look like the teacher’s body? What if you had experienced a loss or a traumatic event so devastating that it was hard to get out of bed? What if you were burnt out from taking care of people? What if a doctor told you that you were all but dead?

“Or do you need to get quiet enough to understand that some person – maybe close to you, maybe you – needs a beautiful place to come to, just to be, to come back to the purity of your existence.

 

And whatever’s dragged you through your life up to this point, beaten you forward to solve whatever problems, you drop all of that. And find yourself.”

 

– Robert Boustany describing that ‘Every answer is inside you.’

I started practicing yoga between professional dancers and musicians, people who used their bodies to make a living. They were also people (pardon the pun) very in-tune with their bodies. Then there was me, and on the first day, Robert Boustany explained that I already practiced yoga (philosophically speaking).

Because I knew Robert’s  background and knew some of the people who practiced with him under various conditions, it would be decades before it occurred to me that some people thought they couldn’t practice yoga. It was heartbreaking to realize that some people were being denied a really profound internal experience, a profoundly healing experience, because of a misconception about what yoga is and what it is not. It was heartbreaking to realize that there were yoga teachers all of the world who only knew how to teach a single, sometimes stereotypical, person – especially since there are so many people in the world who are not stereotypical.

“As I write this book, I am a yoga teacher, and I still get around in a wheelchair. I teach bodies that can stand when I cannot, that can feel things where I do not. This is possible because I have explored a different kind of connection between mind and body. Although I still cannot move my legs – and have no goal to do so – I do feel a heightened level of presence throughout my entire consciousness, including my paralyzed body

 

It is a connection that we all share. Most of us, however, have not needed to bring it fully to consciousness. I believe this shared connection has profound implications not just for the shape and quality of our consciousness, but for the aging process, for the experience of trauma, for our approach to disability and rehabilitation, and even for our survival on this planet.”

 

– from the Introduction to Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

Matthew Sanford is one of those people who is not stereotypical. He founded Mind Body Solutions to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon, the 7th annual yogathon, is only a week long. Seven days, starting Saturday, to do yoga, share yoga, and help others.  By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

Pucker Up & Kiss My Asana!!!

The livestream, all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering is (this) Saturday, April 25th at 10 AM on YouTube (in The Hub). MBS founder Matthew Sanford will share his insights into the practice, plus there will be live conversation with MBS students and mind-body practices for all. Get a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program and help raise $50K of essential support.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting Saturday. (I will still host my Zoom classes on Saturday and Sunday, so consider doing all three!) You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 23rd (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 23rd)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 23rd)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 22nd Practice (use “A Poetry Practice” link above)

 

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programing…. April 21, 2019

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Confessions, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Loss, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Twin Cities, Yoga.
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I have a confession to make: I haven’t been practicing what I preach and, after almost 3.5 weeks of all-nighters, my body had enough and demanded a little rest. As a result, I am sorry to say that I have had to put the blogging on hold and take a couple of days off.

Thanks to Vance G and Nancy B for agreeing to cover my Monday classes on Earth Day (4/22)! You can check the “Schedule” tab for updates on my classes, but at this point I am planning to teach on Tuesday (assuming I get my voice back) and will still host the following two (2) donation-based events as part of the sixth annual Kiss My Asana yogathon:

Saturday, April 27th (2:15 PM – 4:15 PM) at Nokomis Yoga (2722 E 50th Street, Minneapolis), as part of the Karma Yoga Project

Inspired by Matthew Sanford’s teachings, as well as the spirits of everyone practicing yoga together – regardless of their size, shape, or physical and mental abilities – this practice includes partner work and is open to all abilities. We’re going to have some energetic fun and donate all the proceeds to Mind Body Solutions. Space is limited. NOTE: There is an accessible bathroom available in an adjacent business.

 

Saturday, May 4th (4:00 PM – 6:00 PM) at Flourish pilates+yoga+bodywork (3347 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis)

A very wise teacher once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Another said, “Close your eyes. Feel it….it’s always been there. It will guide you.” On this very special day we will explore the power of the Force that surrounds, penetrates, and binds everyone – regardless of size, shape or physical and mental abilities. This practice will include partner work and is open to all abilities. Space is limited. NOTE: This space contains an accessible bathroom.

Please RSVP to myra(at)ajoyfulpractice(dot)com if you would like to join one or both of these practices.

 

I am MBS 2019

 

~ NAMASTE ~

Community Karma Yoga – Feel good. Do good. February 21, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“The word Karma literally means action. It may appear that Karma is happening to us, as if some outside force is causing good things or bad things to come to us. However, it is really our own inner conditionings and processes that are leading us to experience outer effects or consequences in relation to our own actions.” – Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

a karma yogi devoted to service to spread truth & peace” – from Be The Change by MC Yogi

When Rachel Guvenc started teaching at Nokomis Yoga she noticed we were missing something…something important…an opportunity to give back, as a community.

She could have just sat back and done her own thing, as many of the rest of us have done. She could have held her own classes to supported a cause or two that had a special place in her heart and left it at that. But Rachel decided to practice yoga (union) and bring us together.

She rallied instructors. She joined forces with Solveig Corbin. They publicize classes. People practiced yoga. Sounds so simple, but that simple required action. And, as a direct result of that action, the Nokomis Yoga community participated in 5 classes which donated a total of $900 to 5 non-profits in 2017.

This year, let’s double that impact! Click here to join a class.

Feel good. Do good.

## Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi, Om ##

2016 Kiss My Asana #27: You’re a Wonder, Wonder Woman! February 29, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Texas, Tragedy, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

– William Moulton Marston in “The American Scholar” (1943)

 

If you had asked me, years ago, what I admired and found so endearing about a certain friend of mine, I would have floundered a bit. Oh, it wasn’t that I couldn’t have come up with hundreds, maybe thousands, of platitudes – after all, she’s authentic, fun and funny, quirky, one half of an amazing couple, emotionally intelligent, beautiful and strong, driven, unexpectedly deep, full of grace and love …. See, the list goes on. No, the issue wouldn’t have been finding words to describe Amber K. (Yogi #27); the issue would have been capturing her essence. The issue would have been describing the multidimensional heart beneath the surface.

 “Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.”

“Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

 

“… beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and as swift as Hermes.”

– attributes of Diana Prince, as described in “Wonder Woman (Vol 1) #159”, April 1959

People back in 1941, had some of the same concerns we have right now: debates over gun control and birth control; struggles with equality in the work place; war around the world, especially between people with different ethnicites and religious beliefs; politics and economy being driven by the war efforts; and immigration issues related to the war. The list goes on. What’s different, perhaps, is that towards the end of 1941, psychologist William Moulton Marston, inspired by his two wives, gave the world the hero they so desperately needed: Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman. She was a role model – not just for women, but for everyone.

NOTE: The original Wonder Woman was not born an American, but she defended the United States and all its inhabitants. She had a strong relationship with the divine – which was the source of her powers. She was so dedicated to the truth that she had a “Lasso of Truth” – along with a healthy physique, indestructible bracelets, and a tiara (cause, duh, princess). I’m pretty sure her invisible plane had a nonexistent carbon footprint. And, unlike other classic superheroes, she wasn’t from outer space – or tasered by an alien race, she wasn’t poisoned by something (like a radioactive spider), she didn’t have mutant DNA, and she wasn’t driven by childhood traumas or struggling with dark triad psychosis. Wonder Woman was just all human – unapologetically strong, fierce, proud, beautiful, intelligent, humble, and compassionate. When she faced challenges (like losing her powers) she found a solution (learning martial arts). She focused on restoration rather than retaliation and believed people could be redeemed.

If you look at Amber K. and see Wonder Woman, you’re getting closer to the truth.

 “Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold,
Change their minds,
and change the world.”

– “Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

I’m convinced Wonder Woman was a yogi. Look at the evidence: She consistently exhibited strong mental focus and clarity, plus her agility was a sign of balance between strength and flexibility. Also, her capacity for turning loving-kindness into a game changer was reminiscent of the siddhis (so-called “supernormal powers” outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). Finally, consider how the world would be a really different place if more of us interacted with each other the way Wonder Woman interacts with the people around her.

By the same token, Amber K. is a verified yogi as well as a belly dancer. She is generous with her comments – both positive and negative – in a way that is constructive and insightful. She works with and around her limitations with grace – never complaining, always breathing through what comes up. Her interactions with herself and the people around her imply a certain level of respect for herself and the people around her. Her personal and professional interactions also require a certain level of awareness about the rhythm of life, how things ebb and flow. I guarantee you, the world would be a really different place if more of us related to each other the way Amber K. relates to the people around her.

Oh, and did I mention that I’ve never seen Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and Wonder Woman/Amber K. in the room together? Makes me wanna go, “Hmmm.”

 

“Steve is impressed with Diana’s understanding, compassion, and belief that people can change. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘Where I was raised we were taught that good must triumph over evil; and that women and men can change.’”

– Excerpt from Ink-stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology By Jennifer K. Stuller

 

“I did nothing! It was Wonder Woman!”

– Captain / Major Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series

Amber K. is one of those people who consistently reminds me that we don’t have to stop practicing yoga just because our bodies and minds (or even our personal situations) change. But, changes in our mind-body may sometimes require a change in the way we practice. And, ultimately, that’s the beauty of yoga: it meets us where we are, accepts us as we are, and embraces all that we are.

Mind Body Solutions and the KISS MY ASANA yogathon raise awareness about the fact that our physical practice of yoga can change to accommodate our needs. If we (or a teacher) have the knowledge base to change and grow within the practice our yoga practice will advance – which doesn’t always mean we’re doing more “advanced” poses. Sometimes the challenge is accepting our limitations with grace. Sometimes, to get the most benefit out of the pose (and our practice) we have to fully commit to the modification. William Moulton Marston said, “Every crisis offers you extra desired power…. Besides the practical knowledge which defeat offers, there are important personality profits to be taken.” Our time on the mat allows us to cultivate life skills we can use off the mat – but, here again, we have to turn inward and be honest about what we find. We have to keep moving, keep breathing, and keep flowing.

Please, KISS MY ASANA if you are grateful for what you find in your yoga practice! Your donation will help others find a practice for which they too will be grateful – and the circle will be unbroken. Remember, Lynda Carter said, “You know that if you can affect one person’s life in your entire lifetime in a positive way, that your life is worth living.”
 

A big giant thank you to the 15 yogis who held the space and shared the practice my donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th(details coming soon). If you’re interested, there are still spaces available for March 5th (6:30 – 8:00 PM at Flourish). Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two). Space is limited.