This lady is real. This Nun is experienced. This teacher is personal.
When I found out she was offering an online retreat called "Making Friends With Your Mind," I started figuring out how I could re-arrange my weekend classes so I could attend all of the sessions... and then I realized,
"I don't have to cancel, I just have to share."
That's right, this is so important I was thinking of canceling classes. Instead, I'd like to share it with you. For the description and schedule this weekend, Friday 2 October through Sunday 4 October check out the event page here. Attend by sending me an email (link on that page) and consider making a donation that will be sent with all donations collected this weekend at Badlands Yoga to thePema Chodron Foundation's support of Nuns in the Himalayas. Out of town? Check out eOmega.org and sign up for yourself. Share with your friends!
What do you think of her analogy to shoes for the heart in the video above? There's a lot terrific about the world (just check out our Gratitude Jar!), but we're wired to notice the lousy bits with greater intensity. But what if the lousiness has to do with our approach? What if we were in complete control of that?
What if we're all already okay? What if you're already whole, basically good and at home?
How would that change the way you live? How can that change the way we share?
Leave a comment to join the conversation below...
"You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
A brand new, fresh year. Someone told me yesterday that they love January because everything seems so possible for him. Here in the deep, dark of winter we make time for one last hurrah on New Year's Eve (even if that's just watching a ball drop or clinking glasses with sparkling water before going to bed at 10pm) and then wipe the proverbial slate clean as we awaken the next morning.
But what slate? What's changed? People make resolutions every year and a dismal number are still connected to them just 6 weeks later at Valentines.
Often we imagine that by saying something, maybe buying a new pair of shoes or equipment, we can squeeze our eyes shut real tight, ball up our fists and click our heels three times to arrive where we said we wanted to go.
But what if we had more important places to go? What if the thing we chose was really just the tip of the ice berg - or even a distraction from the root of what we intended to change? More importantly,
What if you're already whole and complete?
If you're already whole (spoiler alert: you are.) then the best thing you can do is connect to your deepest driving desire, your heartfelt desire, and plant that seed in the nurturing soil of your embodied consciousness, visit it often and allow for organic transformation over time. A year is a good span to live with.
You have a two step plan to get started, but don't worry, you'll enjoy these steps. You can rinse and repeat often over time, and here's the kicker: you'll want to.
Step One: Practice Yoga Nidra 61 points relaxation with enough time after to rest and listen to your heart, body, wisdom, journal if that's your thing. The deepest driving desire, your heartfelt truth may arise as a feeling, words, images. Just listen. Whatever you come up with - and if it seems like nothing, that's okay - you can't do this wrong - state it positively. Whatever is true "I am whole." "I am relaxed and open to new experience." "I am listening." These are simply examples, the possibilities are endless.
Step Two: Come back another time, remembering your expression of your heartfelt truth. Repeat Yoga Nidra 61 points and silently repeat your heartfelt truth in the stillness you've created through the practice.
A Sankalpa is more than a wish, a resolution or a petition. Rather than imposing a goal on your life, you allow a deep longing, heartfelt truth, to arise and then you actually pay attention to it. In listening, you commit to taking actions that this longing calls you to.
The heart center - the place where people rest their hand organically when making a decision, where joy can sometimes be felt as a leap and loss can feel like an actual cavern - is called "Anahata" in Sanskrit: unstruck. Like a bell. Like your original nature before the ups and downs of this life gave you habits and grooves, armor and vices. Like you.
Connecting to this sense of original self, a self without agendas or pretensions, is a matter of peeling back layers, in yoga and Sanskrit called "Koshas." Think of these as layers of how we learn to relate to ourselves. In Sanskrit, from the first to connect to to the final, here's what they're called and what it means:
You can turn them into questions to guide your practice and, in Yoga Nidra, you can bring them into awareness and learn how to deeply listen for your deepest driving desire, your heartfelt truth, that thing that lies under all the other things. In January we'll be working with the questions in classes, they're very simple and you can use them at home and in other activities:
Yoga Nidra can be practiced alone or after practice and we'll be approaching it in Savasana often this month through the 61 points practice. Technically, Yoga Nidra is the state of mind and the practice is a method for creating it, though people often use the term "Yoga Nidra" to refer to the practices that can lead to it.
There are many recordings you can use to guide you in the 61 points practice and sustaining awareness in the stillness it creates. You'll receive a free Yoga Nidra Guided Imagery Meditation when you sign up for the newsletter at the top right and you can use this to get started. We'll use this during New Year's Day YinYasative Celebration as well as the Restorative Workshop on Saturday, when we'll have plenty of time to take this journey twice in a restful, supported, even pampered environment. We'll practice a version at the end of most January classes.
Leave a comment and share how your experience with 61 Points Practice or Yoga Nidra and inspire others!
I get it. You're falling in love with yoga and you want to make sure you have everything you're going to need, and maybe a few shiny things to spare.
Truth is, though, there's not much gear to get set up.
One of the many beauties of yoga.
Most folks practice with a mat and though even this is optional, you'll probably want one. If you come to OMA to practice with me, you may use a borrowed mat and block, but having your own for ongoing practice is advisable and usually quite affordable. They are portable ways to create a special space and get your attention focused on yoga.
Learning to practice sans mat is equally useful as having the option to use one. You'll discover a whole new level of core engagement and realize how much the mat really does. As you become more connected and stronger you'll discover exactly how to provide the same stability for yourself. Sometimes you'll find yourself without a mat, though, when you really want to break into a Down Dog or Cobra. Maybe you forgot to stash your mat in the trunk, which you realize on the way to class or it's in a suitcase that gets behind. You just don't always have a mat when you need to have some yoga.
Blocks are also optional, but make for a much more aligned seated posture for the grand majority of people. Blankets do just as well as blocks if you prefer them. The idea is to elevate your sitting bones - the bony projections on the bottom of your pelvis - so they are able to point straight down instead of forward due to tight hamstrings, inner thighs or even just bony anatomy. You always want your knees lower than your hips in seated postures.
Cushions, bolsters, eye pillows and blankets are helpful for optimal sitting position, feeling muscular engagement in poses, assisting with balance and setting up restorative and meditative postures. Straps are useful for connecting hands behind the back, for connecting hands to feet in balance postures while maintaining healthy alignment and also some restorative postures.
You may not always have Mom around to be your bolster in restorative backbends:
So here are some options to get you started. I'm not affiliated with any of these companies, but they are companies I source my own gear through.
REI has great mats you can get your hands on, if there's one in your area. They carry my personal fave (though it's the spendiest, too): Manduka Pro and Prolite. This is the mat I've practiced on for 11 years. There've been others along the way, but I always come back for comfort, no-nonsense surface, a little cushion and unparalleled durability. (The lifetime guarantee is no joke.) It's adjustable shoulder strapped carrying case with a little zip pocket is a welcome bonus, especially when hiking.
The best deals that I've found are on YogaDirect where I buy supplies for teaching and you can buy just one of anything.
Start with little things and remember its about how you feel and what you can feel, how you live in your body. What are your favorite sources and props? How do you use them? Leave a comment below and be entered into a drawing for a Half Hour Private Yoga Lesson at the end of August!
You'll find class plans and themes here every week. I share these for many reasons and there are several ways you can best use them.
Long holds in intense positions: it's either a first date, performance art or yin yoga. Lucky for you, these poses "Feel sooooooo good!" according to one recent student and you can mix and match, alter the time in pose and total practice time.
Just the first 4 poses are a great preparation for sitting meditation and are great for letting go before bed.
Do you practice yin yoga? What are your favorite poses and sequences? Tell me in a comment below!
Moon Salutations are the calmer, less strenuous, more peaceful cousin of Sun Salutations. They aren't talked about in the ancient texts and are a modern creation by people creating alternatives that work for different bodies and different purposes. Because of this, there are many interpretations, some bearing little resemblance to the Sun version and others more. You can see a lovely and compact representation of many alternatives here.
In the schematic to the left you can see the version I practice, which incorporates rounder, softer, slower movements and a chi kung exercise for the water element. This practice can be the perfect warm up for a Restorative pose or session of poses or a stand alone practice. I find it focusing and a great way to connect with physical sensation right before meditation. And followed by some Brahmari (Bumble Bee) Breath in Savasana in bed, it can be a great before bedtime practice.
Mountain is the same as the one to which you are used, but with softer knees. You can meditate here at beginning or end or simply practice breath awareness. Try allowing the arms to float up with soft elbows and the hands to hover out in front of your heart with the fingertips 3-4 inches apart, as if you are holding a beach ball. Shoulders soft, gaze unfocused - like you're trying to see shooting stars. Stay here two or more minutes at beginning and end.
As you're ready to begin movement, the arms come up and overhead but round, like the moon. The gaze is at the palms.
When the fingertips touch overhead, the backs of the fingers, hands and wrists come together and descend to trace the front line of the body. The hands actually touch the body from the middle of the brow, down the face, throat, chest, belly and then the inside of each leg. Your gaze follows the hands as you slowly curl in and down to a soft kneed forward fold.
Exhaling, step left foot back and drop your knee.
Next exhale, right knee back.
Next exhale, lower down to chest chin and knees.
Inhale into low Sphinx or Cobra. You can make this a Yin Seal pose and stay awhile if you'd like.
Exhale Child's Pose.
Inhale look forward,
Exhale left foot forward.
Exhale right steps forward, Forward Fold with soft knees, shoulders, head.
Place your left hand inside right, palms up, as if you were cupping a drink of water from a well.
Begin to curl up slowly, dropping the tail bone and stacking the spine from the inside, watching as the hands are drawn up just in front of the midline of the body, as if you're drawing up water from that well.
As the hands come to the level of the heart and the shoulders drop and head stacks, still gazing down at the hands, turn the fingers to point up at the sky and bring the thumbs and pinkie fingers together, creating Lotus Mudra in front of the heart.
Remain for a few breaths.
Begin the next cycle by holding the ball again and use the right foot to lead this time.
Do even numbers of sets so you lead with each foot equal numbers of times.
Leave a comment if you try this series and share your experience!
Having your own yoga practice means taking it on the road sometimes. Realizing that home is where I roll out my mat allows me to see both spaces and my practice in a new and different way.
Sometimes taking my practice with me means eking out a strip between a hotel bed and a wall, a sidewalk, a deck overlooking a garbage bin, a patch of grass with lots of traffic nearby. I've gotten pretty comfortable with yoga-ing in public, partly by realizing that most people don't do more than glance. My yoga-paws come in super handy in many of these situations, but sometimes being on the road means getting to roll out my favorite Manduka in settings of such wonder and beauty that my everyday practice feels like the luxury it is.
Recently we spent a couple of days at a hot springs resort we love and I was able to roll out the Manduka on the deck you see in the photo here at Riverbend in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. One morning I practiced while an osprey hunted and then preened. The life of the mountain and river became backdrop for vinyasas and headstands and the sky my blanket for corpse.
Practicing out of doors is a particularly vivifying experience; it highlights how I usually interact with my environment to create balance even in the most basic standing poses. How would you like to have practice here?
Would you like to join a retreat in late spring 2014 when the air is the perfect mix of warm and lovely? Morning and evening yoga and meditation are supported by soaking in the healing hot spring water, beautiful vistas and relaxed, calm environment and people. Great food around and even a grill on the patio! Who's IN?!?!