Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Full Moon!!!!!!

     I am so excited to teach tonight...not that I am not excited for every (most) classes but tonight is special because it's a full moon!  There are all kinds of urban legends about the full moon...people go crazy, strange things happen, emergency rooms fill up, more arrests are made, pregnant women go into labor.  These are fun ideas to entertain but I'm excited because it gives us an opportunity to bring awareness to how nature effects our bodies and our moods and yoga is a perfect vehicle to bring everything back into balance. 
     The full moon and new moon are times during the lunar cycle when gravitational pulls have an energetic effect on the earth that can be compared to the breath cycle in our bodies.  The energy of the full moon is likened to the top of the inhale where prana (life force) expands toward the top of the head.  That is why during this time we may feel more energetic and vibrant yet ungrounded and feisty.  The new moon energy is a downward movement of apana that is compared to the bottom of the exhalation.  We feel calm and grounded but lethargic and unmotivated.  In the Ashtanga tradition, the full moon and new moon days are held as holidays and practice is encouraged during the mid lunar cycle when we are more balanced.  During the full moon when we may feel fired up and stubborn and may be less likely to listen to our bodies and honor our limits and may push too far and cause injury.
     In Hatha yoga, "Ha" means Sun (masculine energy) and "Tha" means Moon (feminine energy).  Most yogi's are familiar with Sun Salutations...dynamic invigorating sequences that fire up internal heat to build strength.  Less familiar are the Moon Salutations.  These are a series of postures that celebrate the feminine energy and are associated with intuition, the shadow and balance.  These sequences promote inward reflection and a sense of calm.  Anytime you feel out of whack...whether it is because of the lunar cycle or you are just having an off day, see if you can practice in a way that brings you back into balance.  If you are feisty and irritable try incorporating some grounding and cooling postures into your practice.  Likewise, if you are feeling lethargic and unmotivated go for a more dynamic heat producing sequence. 
     As a side note, bio dynamic farmers use the lunar cycle to manage crops.  They plant seeds during the new moon phase and pull weeds during the full moon phase.  Integrate this principle metaphorically into your practice.  During the full moon ask yourself: What am I holding inside of me that is setting me back?  What can I finally let go of that no longer serves me in a positive way?  Pull your internal weeds and make space for new growth and opportunity.  Namaste. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

I used to be an avid runner until I became an avid yogini.  Once I started my teacher training, my running took a backseat and I lost knowing how to balance these two loves that I have.  One day this week I laced up my sneakers and went for an early morning run like old times. Also this week, I was looking through my phone and found an old notes section where some time ago I jotted down a list of why I love to run.  At the time I did it "just because" not knowing the significance it would have for me later on.  I made a promise to myself that even if I didn't get out as much as I used to, I'd get out more than I currently do.  Balance.  Here's my list...

Why I love to run:

It gives me peace
It restores my spirit
I feel strong
To set a goal
To show my kids it's not about winning
I love my running friends
I feel invincible running in the blistering cold or in the rain (and I giggle at the crazy looks I get)
To see the sunrise
To see the sunset
To smell a neighbor's BBQ
A reason to splash in a puddle
To day dream
To escape
To reconnect
To feel the sunshine
To sight see on trips
To relish the early morning beauty
To teach my kids to be strong and fit
To eat loads of chocolate
Because I can today and may not be able to tomorrow
An excuse to run through a sprinkler or jump in a puddle
Running skirts!!!!! 
Skinny jeans!!!
To listen to my breath, breath is strength.

What do you love to do?  What did you love to do that you now feel disconnected from? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Not Your Junk

 I sat down to prepare my classes for this week and planned the intention around approaching your practice from a beginner's mindset.  It went loosely something like this: 

This week I challenge you to practice from a beginner's mind set. I don't mean be easy on yourself. I mean let go of the expectations you have for your practice, forget about what you think the aesthetics of the posture is supposed to look like, and set yourself free of any boundaries you limit yourself to.
     Well, as is typical of most of my planning, it quickly fell apart.  See, a family I know was in a stressful situation and needed my help.  I was more than happy to be able to be there for them.  I was even honored to be able to help.  As the day went on and even after I knew that I had done everything in my power that I could, I was still anxious for them.  I had anxiety and I couldn't stop thinking about their situation.  Then I had the "Ah Ha" moment.  It's not my junk!  I did everything I could, but beyond that I needed to let it go.
     So, this is my challenge to you and to my students this week.  What are you holding onto, soaking up or fixating on that doesn't belong to you?  What can you let go of to create more space within for the good stuff? I don't say this for you to walk around with a "screw you" attitude.  Hold that person in need with compassion, be helpful, lend an ear, give them your shoulder.  Just be real with yourself and own what is yours and let other people own theirs.   

     Meta Meditation – Loving-kindness ~ Buddha

May I be well
May I be happy and content
May I be free from danger and suffering
May I be filled with loving-kindness

May you be well
May you be happy and content
May you be free from danger and suffering
May you be filled with loving-kindness

May all beings be well
May all beings be happy and content
May all beings be free from danger and suffering
May all beings be filled with loving-kindness 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hold the Difficulties as Sacred

     As any yogi with a dedicated practice will tell you, yoga is not easy.  It is rejuvenating, cleansing, will kick your butt and parts can be relaxing...but it's not easy.  Most people find yoga purely for the physical workout.  They imagine themselves svelte and lean thanks to influences from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Madonna.  If you stick with a dedicated practice with a good nutrition program, a "good" body will be a nice side effect but yoga is so much more than that.  It's about finding a connection between your mind, your breath and your body.  It's about staying connected and grounded using your breath as the anchor.  Without the inquiry the postures just become calisthenics, just another workout to muscle through and the students leave class without any sort of lesson learned.  And, as Leann Carey once said in class, "You can't put the relationship to your breath and the postures on like a pair of pants.  It is something that is constantly evolving and being nurtured."  It is the integration of yoga on as well as off the mat that is the challenge.     
     During your next asana practice, I challenge you to go beyond the physical demands of the postures themselves.  Can you connect to your body, deep within, and develop an internal inquiry so that you come off the mat with something other than open hamstrings?  I will give you some things to think about for when the going gets tough:
     Welcome difficulty as a blessing.  It is in these moments when we feel our weakest that the magic happens.  With perseverance and fortitude you will gain strength and learn that you are stronger than you ever believed you are.  But, you have to be willing to push to your edge and do something scary.
     Be aware of the connection between your energy level, your internal dialogue and your breath.  When you start fighting yourself (ego) and me (your yoga guide), your energy level plummets.  First, amp up the breath.  By "amping the breath" I don't mean breathe shallower and faster, I mean get in there with your Ujjayi breath.  Breathe deeper and longer.  Imagine the inhalations as drawing strength into your body and the exhalations as releasing tension.  The calm in between creates new space.
     Notice the relationship between how you react to challenges in your asana practice and how you react to challenges in daily life.  Chances are you will find that you respond in similar ways on and off the mat.  You may go to your edge with full force.  You may push your to your limit only to get scared and back off or you may be afraid to go to your limit at all.  Everything we do on the mat is a metaphor for how we handle life and once you realize this relationship, you can use your practice to help you explore and overcome your own personal challenges. 
     Now, go get on your mat.