Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How often do I practice yoga

"Exercise whenever you can and look forward to it. Practice moderate yoga on a regular basis. Breath fresh air and think positive thoughts... become the light."-- Doug Sweenson

I get questions about how often to practice yoga (or pilates). While I would love to see everyone do some kind of yoga (karma, meditation, pranayama, asana...) everyday, it's not necessarily realistic for everyone to do a physical practice daily. I think it's important to stay active, no matter what you do. If you do what you love, you will keep doing it and find ways to do it. How often do we sit in front of the TV (OK, besides me- I watch maybe 2 hours a week at the most) or check our email (that one gets me... way too many hours!)... what we could do with that time!
Find what you love, and just do it regularly. Everything in moderation-- and for joy!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

True Friendship

"True friendship is like sound health, the value of it is seldom known until it be lost."---Charles Caleb Colton

Open your mind & expose you to new ideas or challenge yours
Gently encourage or can be silent & just listen without trying to "fix you"
Keep your confidence and dare you to dream because they know and tell you that you're capable of great things
Show wisdom and humor, and most importantly help you not to take yourself so darn seriously

I remember you, my lovely friends, because you make me a better person, mom and friend.

Merry Christmas to the most wonderful, powerful and spirit-filled friends that I could have ever asked for...

Love,

Mel

Thursday, December 17, 2009

faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


I keep picturing the scene in Indiana Jones where he steps out over the edge in order to retrieve the Holy Grail and the first stone appears under his foot, only after he takes the step. Learning to trust is one of the most daring things in life. Someone commented to me a few days ago, that I don't trust easily. Actually, I think I do for certain situations... but when it comes to matters closer to the heart, well, I guess I have a lot of room to grow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Transformed

"Through our beliefs, thoughts are formed"-- Anand

In Christina Sell's recent blog (Anusara Instructor/Trainer out of Austin), she explains why the rules or guiding principals make such a difference in Anusara, which I think applies well to my teaching style both in yoga and pilates. While I do not want to appear to be legalistic (or bossy, as someone recently described my teaching style!), I do want people to practice in a way that is safe, effective and will allow them to be challenged (physically and mentally) while growing to their full potential both on and off the mat... to dare to be transformed.

"Instead of understanding the letter of the law, so to speak, the Anusara Yoga practitioner has to learn the spirit of the Law. We laugh all the time that "it depends" but it is not enough for us as teachers to just say "it depends." We have to endeavor to teach our students what it depends on. We have to, as practitioners, go deep beneath the surface where rules live, to principles and to what is at the essence of the principle itself. It is such exciting work. It really is.

So really, I don't want the method as it gets bigger to get reduced down to a bunch of small minded rules and Anusara-isms that we spout off like dogmatic automatons. That, to me, would be a tragedy. I want us to grow as a mature group of practitioners and teachers who love the exploration, who love the questions and who see the boundaries as guiding lights to our own wisdom."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sankalpa


"Attachment leads to suffering. Detachment leads to freedom." ---Ram Das

I met a lovely young woman in one of my cycle classes yesterday who seemed to have a sense of calm about her unlike the rest of class who rushed in just as class began or late. I asked her if she was ready for the holidays and her response was, "in what way?". She explained that her family is quite small, and they keep it simple by not exchanging gifts but by just doing something kind or giving for the other person. She said that she just doesn't feel the pull or drain of the holidays-
Doesn't that sound inviting? Not realistic with small children, but I think the principal behind it is that we determine our attitude-- I can set my intention or sankalpa. I can control what seems on the surface to be uncontrollable by not allowing my circumstances to affect my joy. By learning to detach or let go of that which does not serve me well, and doing only what does...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yoga Sutra 1.20




Sraddha Virya Smrti Samadhi Prajna-Purvaka Itaresam.

These 5 requirements bring success: Sraddha (faith), Virya (strength), Smriti (memory), Samadhi (contemplation), and Prajnapurvaka (discernment or illumination).

Sraddha or faith should empower you and the people you meet and resembling a flowing river. When you have faith, there is no fear that can bind you. (Having no boundaries can create fear or insecurity). Samadhi, total absorbtion (no room for doubt) where you are absolutely present in practice or service which is powerful and full of intensity. Be strong (with true courage or Virya energy comes) and you will have the memory of the mistakes you've made to learn from. Smriti or memory is rememberance, being clear of purpose or practice.

YS 1.20

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maitraydisu Balani.

Through meditation on compassion comes intense power. Companionship + compassion equate to no fear and therefore transmits great power. Let go of "victim mentality" and have compassion.

YS 2.24

I've been doing some teaching to teachers this past 2 weeks-- and loving it! I feel absolutely in my element and am so grateful to be doing it. Also, extremely humbled. When you teach, especially teachers (who know so much and often think act as if they know it all-- me included, at times!), it's extremely humbling. The approach that I have taken is one that I learned from several other of my mentors- Stephanie Adams and Melody Morton, in particular. They teach with heart- and in a way that expresses their desire to see their students grow in a way that makes them feel challenged and yet successful.

Many of my students have asked me how I did on my level 2 Peak Pilates test-- well, I'll be honest and say that while I passed the written, I have an opportunity to re-do some of the practical section. I personally think I did the best that I could have done that day. Without making any excuses, I know that I could have done far better. Did I do all that I could have done in preparation? Probably not. Here's where I got another big dose of humble pie. To learn from my mentors what real leadership, compassion, and grace means has been a gift- one I hope to pass on.




Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holding the Breath

"Learn to be calm and you'll always be happy"-- Anonymous

I talk so much about the breath in class. I truly believe it's the key to deepening your asana and LIFE practice. When we hold our breath, we are creating a stress response within our bodies. I don't even think that we are aware that we are doing it. We just begin to move or go through the motions of practice or our day and unless we are intentional with our breath, it remains shallow and the diaphragm is not moving well enough to engage our deeper abdominal muscles (the transversus abdominis). If we fully engage our diaphragm, a relaxation response will happen.

In Anatomy and Asana (S. Aldous), she explains how to adopt "relaxed resilience" which starts with the breath and grows with awareness.

"Relaxation in yoga is not "doing nothing". It is the direct experience of the vital and dynamic action that is inside, which occurs when there is space and freedom for movement. It occurs when we don't force the movement. With force, tension develops at the superficial layers of muscles. As relaxation develops (through breath and awareness), superficial muscles can release and deeper muscles can take over. Then, core stability improves, mobility and flexibility increase and strength and power are enhanced. That is relaxed resilience."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Iyengar's Yoga

"Yoga has also been described as wisdom in work or skillful living amongst activities, harmony and moderation. Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow. This is steady control of the senses and mind."-- B.K.S. Iyengar

I've been reading Light On Yoga which was written in 1966- it's amazing how the resistance Iyengar experienced from those not exposed to yoga at that time was with yoga's spiritual nature... and today while that's somewhat improved (even in the "Texas Bible belt"), it's primarily viewed as a physical practice by most. And when we mention something in Sanskrit or yoga philosophy, we often experience some resistance.

Taking yoga beyond the physical in a way that brings out the light in yourself and others-- that's the challenge as a teacher. In the very first paragraph of his book, Iyengar describes yoga as union or communion. "It is the true union of our will with the will of God...yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul to God."

Finding balance and union with our will and desires, and living out our own Truth.


Thursday, December 3, 2009


Blog topics have been way too serious lately... I suppose because I've been swimming in what feels like an upstream river... instead of flowing with it. But, in my new 'take charge of my life and follow my heart' attitude, I think it will just feel cloudy with a chance of rain until the sun breaks through?

I just got some sage advise from Melody Morton this morning regarding my fears over a test I have tomorrow... "Fake it til you make it!" OK, Mel... I guess what you're saying is, "whether you think you can or you can't, you're right"?

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Doing my best,

Mel

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"On this path, no effort is ever wasted, no gain is ever reversed."
Bhagavad Gita

Monday, November 30, 2009



Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.-- Rumi

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yoga Sutra 2.40

“You can either hold yourself up to the unrealistic standards of others, or ignore them and concentrate on being happy with yourself as you are."
―Jeph Jacques

I'm reading Awakening from the Dream by Anusara instructor, Christina Sells. She talks of her battle with bulimia and how she's struggled with body image throughout her life. I imagine if you asked any American woman, no matter her age, would tell you she has also had an on-going internal conflict with how she views herself and her body. One study shows that 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.

In her book, she examines a "radical reliance on the Divine through deep acceptance of the way things are" by developing a natural relationship to food and her body. She said to end the war within her, she had to expose the ways she didn't have it all worked out and risk appearing less than perfect and allowing herself to be of service and compassion for others.

This past summer, I finally came to terms with my own eating disorder. I hate to call it a disorder- but if I am truthful, that's what it is. An unhealthy way of living. A struggle I have felt almost like a cloud over me. I realized that I eat to avoid... others, my own circumstances, to feel better (and then of course, I felt worse). In my high school, I had the other extreme, I would starve myself in hopes to make myself appear to have it all together or make myself more attractive to my peers. Even to my father, who has commented on weight (mine and everyone else) all of my life said this week that I was "very attractive and that I keep getting better with age", then he added "that's as good as it's going to get. I'm the best that I'll ever look." I know his words ring true to him but to hear them aloud was another thing. Can't we all relate to how we respond to the comments of others- no matter how subtle?

Saucat Svanga Jugupsa Parair Asamsargah.

Yoga Sutra 2.40

Saucha means purity. Having an awareness of what we put in our bodies, staying physical and keeping our body clean (inside and out) with the motive of honoring ourselves not to please others. "With purification there is detachment. Not allowing foreign substances (any addictions) in your body. Cultivating an awareness of the company we keep, a respect for our bodies and to not allow these things to be an escape from our life in the world." (Anand)

Just becoming aware that my trigger to overeat is avoidance (a form of escape) has helped me to move a little more forward toward healing. I'm grateful to Christina for her bravery to expose herself in a way most of us hide.

Healing,

Mel


Friday, November 27, 2009

Why Practice?



Reflecting on why I practice yoga: What is it that draws me to it so much? How it makes my body feel (I'm the strongest, most flexible, and more knowledgeable about my body that I've ever been in my life.), I think was my initial reason. But, now almost 6 years later, I think it's the acceptance, grace and awareness that it's created in me. I fail continually -- on and off the mat but what I keep going back to is not the amazing physical benefits but that there is something beyond myself- that everyone is same. We all have the same doubts, fears, struggles, odd family members and life road bumps. Hardships do not discriminate. However, there is the Divine (God) in everyone- and that if I don't see it in them and act as though I do, then, I am not seeing God at all.

John Friend (founder of Anusara Yoga) asks in his workshops, "what offering we could make with our practice?"

To find stillness within movement

Grace when a pose is not aligned or "perfected"

Humility when a pose appears to be done well

To breathe in awareness of my body and what the expression of the pose is telling me (do I have soreness in my shoulder from pushing too hard or are my hips resisting a posture because
I am going beyond my edge or am I holding back an emotion that just needs to be released)

Forgiveness- letting go of my critical nature- the internal chatter that says I'm not... good enough, thin enough, strong enough, that I'm not authentic or real, or that I'm too judgmental of others or myself.... (Fill in the blank here; I've thought it all).

Acceptance in what I can do in the moment.

In grace,

Mel



Monday, November 23, 2009

Set your intention



"When you set you set your intention, the Universe will conspire to make it happen." -- Robert Sherman

What an amazing group of yogis that I was able to practice with this weekend. No doubt that we were all meant to be there.

Namaste,

Melissa

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Karma

"Don't let the energy ride you. Live. Find stillness and groudedness in the moment."-- P.Seth

Enjoyed an lovely day of Vinyasa yoga yesterday by Chris DeLaRosa. After the practice, as a group of trainers, we had to share 5 minutes on yoga philosophy or any topic we felt appropriate to a group of about 50 other other yoga instructors from the Minnesota area. It was completely humbling. I was going to share on yamas but then of course winged it and decided on something all together different.

It amazing to me how things continue to come together in unexpected ways- so much in life is just what you make of it. How we perceive it. I've heard the example that, we can all see the sunset or sunrise each day but depending on where you are is how you view it. The sun is the same. It does not change, it's just all in how you see it from where you are.

Puja Seth gave a talk on Karma in Hood River: "The greater Truth is to move beyond the pattern of our lives (Karma), to transcend it . Karma is an imprint, the things that happen to us or our make up (the color of our skin). We can live with our Karma through Dharma (your path). It's having a higher level of consciousness to ease the situation. An awareness of how to best serve (Karma) rather than just react to a situation. This or this is happening to me, so do I act or re-act to it? When you approach Karma with more Karma (acting with softness and compassion), you get more Karma."

Grounded for the moment,

Mel


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yoga Sutra 1.2


Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah

Yoga Sutra 1:2

The restraint (nirodhah) of the modifications (vritti) of the mind-stuff (chitta) and of individuality. The purpose of yoga is to dissolve the "I-ness" and realize our True Nature. How you can make the most of your life.

I'm not into self-promotion, but I am certainly guilty of it. There's something about fishing for a compliment, praise, or acknowledgment that makes me feel like I'm screaming 'look at me, notice me'... and then, there's the me that is simply waiting for someone to take initiative to do what I think they should do for themselves or for me... how many countless hours spent in a lifetime just wishing, waiting, and hoping...

But, then, I also embody the opposite - I'm a doer, a pitta, a lover of life and all things moving. At times I have so many plates spinning in the air that I have to gasp when I feel one may tip over and break.

Yoga practice... learning to practice self-control, self-reformation, and self-adjustment. It's those moment by moment adjustments that are shaping me into something I'm beginning to feel comfortable with. A sense of lightness, freedom and joy that says, I am not who I think I am, I am truly something more. My True Nature...making the most of my life.

In Joy,

Mel

Friday, November 20, 2009

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana

"Never let your practice today interfere with your practice tomorrow." -- Rodney Yee

Striving is not what yoga is about. It's the opposite, actually. Aparigraha or non-grasping is the sense of letting go control. We get it in our minds that we need to be able to do the "cool" poses, and if we're really dedicated, work hard, we'll get into that twisted, upside down, one hand in the air while are feet are rapped around our head-pose. Or maybe you just want to do Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) without feeling like you'd rather be in Balasana (child's pose).

I'm guilty. Guilty of wanting a pose (OK, several poses). It started this summer, wanting to do Myurasana (peacock). Then, watching Jules work on her handstand without the use of the wall, I thought, 'I can I do that'!

The purpose of yoga is a vehicle for meditation. Yoga also embodies consistent practice and ahimsa (not harming ourselves). And the only way to learn a new pattern in the body and mind is to practice-- constantly. It's when we go too far in practice - wanting to accelerate through the learning process, that we risk injury or come out of practice with a feeling of discouragement or frustration rather than refreshed and at peace.

Inversions are meant to make us feel a lightness and see things from a different perspective. Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (downward-facing tree or handstand) creates length in the body and strength in the abdominal, erector spine, shoulders, arms and wrists with hands rooting in the ground.

Stand facing 2-4 feet from the wall. Exhale and fold forward, placing hands on the floor, shoulder width apart. Straighten arms, look forward, and kick up one foot at a time to the wall. Squeeze through inner thighs and hold for at least 5-20 smooth breaths. Experiment over time, with moving one foot, then the other away from the wall. To come down, slowly and with control, remove one foot at a time to lower to the floor. If someone assists you to bring one leg up at a time to the wall have them stand to the side of the leg you're kicking up first. Avoid: arching the lower back, bending elbows, and letting the belly hang.

In joy and non-striving,

Mel



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Courage



"Find the courage to hold on to your beliefs. Even if the world around you chooses to believe differently. Have the courage to change those beliefs that no longer fit the person you have become. In doing so, you truly become yourself."
-- Unknown

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Warrior Breath

"Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now." -- David Whyte

Leeann Carey, who lead the restorative yoga training I did at the end of the 3 week intensive in Hood River, read several of David Whyte's poems to us as during class. This one especially moved me.

Anand Puja lead many Kriyas (moving mediation) and this particular one was very powerful- not at all restorative, but invigorating and cleansing.

Standing with feet parallel, knees bent. Bending deeply over, with 2 strong inhales through nose, pulling arms as if grabbing something with fists up to waist; then with 2 more inhales through the nose, pushing palms of hands up as if you're lifting up an offering toward the sky, end with arms fully extending, reaching high

Using 2 strong exhales: One exhale (a "shh" sound through mouth) to push hands half way down (a downward "chi"-like motion), then another exhale pushing arms straight as if resisting through water


Monday, November 16, 2009

"We don't meditate because we don't desire it enough." -- Anand

Mediation takes discipline and time. To find time, a quiet space and a peaceful mind, those are my challenges. And, did I mention my 2 rowdy boys that get up most mornings at 5.30am?

At JennYoga in Houston, in they offer a weekly donation-based mediation group. After a lovely flow class by Jenny, I attended their Vipassana (mediation technique, to "see things as they really are") class last night. For 30 minutes we sat still. That's it. Stillness. Even with the music from the other room and the sound of the traffic outside, it became like a flow of sounds that just passed through.

After the daily pranayama and meditation practice that I had during my RYT training in Malaysia, sitting in mediation, for almost any length of time feels comfortable, especially after a vigorous practice. Asanas (physical poses) were created to stimulate the organs & gland, to create body awareness, and to still the mind for meditation. During those intense trainings (unfortunately, not after a physical practice but at 5am!), I experimented with a number of different seated postures to find comfort. Cross-legged (Sukasana, "easy seated pose") was not easy and was the most painful for me. After just 10 minutes, it was as if knives were being driven through my legs. I'm all for a little discomfort to bring awareness to the body. But, mediation for me is for renewing the mind, not suffering. Finally, I discovered when I sat on a bolster Virasana, or Hero's pose, ahh.... I could sit for an extended period of time, with my back erect and my heart and mind open to whatever experience the mediation would bring.

Mediation is not always that fluid for me. Most days, I find myself fidgeting, my mind flooded with thoughts or to do lists, or even rehearsing a past experience in my mind, like a movie. When I can move beyond that and turn my mind to a mantra or my breath... it's lovely. The lightness and calm I feel afterward is a beautiful reward. Now -- to just find that time and space and quiet...

Blessed,

Mel

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meditation

"When we practice dying, we are learning to identify less with Ego and more with Soul (who would want to be an ego when we can be a soul?)"-- Ram Das & E. Lesser

It's funny but when I get comments on the blog, I'm always surprised because I forget that there are a few people (a very few) actually reading it! I have to admit this has been more like therapy for me to write, express and process what I'm learning. I believe when you have to teach something as opposed to just taking something (a class), you learn far more. And, when I actually try to apply it to my life-- then I can feel myself growing and moving with more love and less judgement... most of the time, anyway! Humility (death to self) is a constant lesson.

In the book, Broken Open (thank you Chrys Kub for the recommendation), there is a chapter on "Meditation for Practicing Dying". It sounds a bit morbid. But, really, every day is lesson in death of ourselves (our own ego, resistance to Truth, or selfish desires). "Death heightens our appreciation of every moment we are alive and calls out to us, soon you will die; what will you do with your life? What have you not done yet that you want to do? Death is the best kick in the ass I know. It is profoundly confrontational and profitable to contemplate."

"Practice dying means living as close to reality as we can in each moment. It is the ultimate bravery... the reality of the most mundane, day-to-day situations: arguing with your mate; when you get sick; when you are in a meeting at work; when you confront again, for the hundredth time, the same issue with your parent, child, or friend. Every day you are given an embarrassingly rich array of opportunities to die to your resistance to what is so about yourself, your life, and those you share it with."

Here is a meditation that the author uses to practice dying; (It just takes a few minutes. Sit in a quiet, comfortable space and read and mediate on the following):

"Bring your awareness to focus on something in your life that is changing or ending or dying right now. Breathe gently as you consider whatever transition is most significant right now in your life. Note any feelings that arise--trepidation, excitement, resistance, anger, annoyance, or grief. Every time your feelings get the better of you, become aware of your breathing. Meet your troubled and contracted feelings with your calm and expansive breath. Breathe, sigh, and stretch out on the river of change. Remember times when you have resisted change in the past. Regard how things turned out in the end- maybe not how you thought they would or you wanted them to, but in the end, there you were. Wiser, stronger, still alive. Tip your hat to the poignancy of death and the promise of rebirth. Smile. Relax. Allow yourself to break open. Sit tall, with dignity and patience, watching your breath rise and fall, rise and fall. Pray for the courage to welcome this new change with openness and wisdom.
Then, open your eyes, go back into your life, and do what you have to do, but do it with grace, with hope, and with a lighter touch."

Practicing,

Mel

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Namaste


Namaste, the prayer hands gesture over your heart, moving hands to the forehead and then bowing deep is a sign of respect given to my students and to the lineage of teachers that have gone before me. There is a Divine nature in all of us located in the heart (chakra). Namaste recognizes that nature or soul within all of us, by saying "I honor the Spirit or Light within you". Literally in Sanskrit, Namaste translates to "I bow to you". Used as a parting greeting, I've also heard it said to mean "wish you well".
“There is place inside of every human being…a place of love, light, peace, and warmth. When you are in that place and when I am in that place, there is only one of us.” Gandhi

When I lived in Malaysia, I observed that Malaysian Indians would make this gesture without saying Namaste but rather a simple gesture of their hand over their heart saying "Selamat Datang" meaning "I greet you from my heart" or welcome. (For an expat, I would do this when I met someone older, offering a handshake first, then covering my heart with my hand.) There were so many greetings in Malaysia. Mostly, because of the European influence, a kiss or a kiss on both cheeks would be a typical greeting outside of yoga class among friends. However, in traditional yoga classes, Namaste was usually done but not said. And, most classes would end with a Sandskrit blessing or prayer as well. (There were many other differences in classes compared with the US. For example, no air con or music and the difficulty level of just a beginner class would compare to a level 2/3 class here. Let's just say, there's not as much concern about liability or safety issues. ; ) )
I think Namaste is beautiful because it is a symbol of respect and deep gratitude for sharing practice together.
Namaste, Melissa



Monday, November 9, 2009

Yoga Sutra 2.35

Ahimsa Pratisthayam Tat Samnidhau Vaira Tyagah.

"When nonviolence is established, all beings lose their violent capacity."

YS 2.35

It is not causing pain in thought, word, or deed to yourself or others. Avoiding comparison or competition to others, avoiding gossip and negative self-talk. It is not "no pain, no gain" in regards to asana practice. By cultivating respect for your body, Ahimsa honors you and others.

Here's an admission: I find this especially challenging for me at times. I'm a competitive Pitta (fire and water- too much fire!) person by nature. To find balance for me requires discipline- sometimes more than I have. But I've found, the more I practice (on and off the mat) for the sake of self-discipline and pure joy, I do become more balanced, more Kapha (earth and water).

Today is Andrew's 4th birthday. He's a strong Pitta thus far- and makes an adorable pirate. After a morning of Lego pirate-ship building, the boys are off to school, and I'm headed to teach my 3 back to back classes. I read recently an article that claims when we become Yoga teachers it "hinders our living out Yoga." (Something about building our own ego...yeah, If I'm honest, that's somewhat true... however...) I've found that teaching Yoga has driven me to a hunger for knowledge (Jnana Yoga), along with love and devotion for God (Bhaki Yoga) which has lead into action and service (Karma Yoga). Really, I love the sense of community it creates-- and hope that others desire that union (Yoga) as well.

All this leads me back to Ahimsa, honoring myself and those around me in what I say, do and think.


Mel

Sunday, November 8, 2009

There is so much magnificence

Visiting Austin earlier this fall, I had the blessing of taking a class from Giocanda (named after da Vinci's Mona Lisa). Although her class was physically challenging, she did it in a way that moved her students deeper into practice with more heart, less ego.

During Savasana, she played a movingly song by Steve Gold, There is so much magnificence. Beautiful.


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Heart

"When there is conflict between the heart and the brain, let the heart be followed." -- Pathways to Joy

There are no coincidences. Everything that happens is as it's meant to. I feel strongly that when a circumstance or situation presents itself - I have the opportunity to rise to it or shrink from it. Rising- moving into who I was created to be...is where I am. To know that I am not alone-even when I feel alone and my world is shaken. I am held by a God that loves me. By friends who care for me. Children who's love is treasured. Love is all around.



Mindfulness

"Mindfulness teaches moment by moment awareness. A kind of falling in love with naked reality." --E Lesser, Broken Open

The moments are what you have now. At this moment both my boys are outside playing... they've been playing since the sun came up around 6.30am. It's good to be a kid... I'm headed outside!

What a beautiful day--

Mel

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Matthew Sandford

“Patience. Allow for stillness. And the eyes will adjust and the world might reveal itself, only darker. Work with darkness, rather than against it.” -- Michael Sanford

When I took Yoga Therapy a few weeks ago, our trainer Chrys Cub, shared with us a video of Matthew Sandford, speaking to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, and author of Waking. I found his experience to be truly inspirational.

After a near fatal car accident, he first focused on the absence of light, but then he found the stillness to be a feeling of loss with a sense of awe. He chose to work with the darkness (the silence) rather than against it. To live differently, with a new view of the silence. The darkness became a visible representation of the silence. "Stop moving, wait for your eyes to adjust. The world will reveal itself again, only darker and different". He believes this darkness is a fundamental part of us. In Yoga, we integrate what we can and can't control. Allowing our bodies (his, paralyzed) to be our teacher. Learning to recognize the subtler connections of our breath and the chain of alignment that moves up and down our bodies.

He said that we are all aging, or slowly leaving our bodies. So, we can all in some way have compassion for those who are injured. We share both mind and body experiences. A disabled experience is a loss of presence in the trauma. He found Yoga not to be therapy or a prescription but an experience. He urges us to try not to fix others but instead participate with them in the experience.

More amazing excerpts from his book are on his website.




Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Empty Room



"We shape clay into a pot. But it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want." -
Tao Te Ching

This poem below was written by a student at a friend's yoga studio. The community (kula) they share - that we all share when we practice together is a unique bond and transformational experience. It goes beyond the physical and allows us, if we're open to it, to go beyond the surface and explore the layers (koshas) that lies within.

Building community and sharing a passion for what I love.

Blessings,

Melissa


How an empty room / can hold so much

not a temple in a religious sense / for we are a varied tapestry of difference / our kula hails from all over the world / different cultures, countries, religions, perspectives. / what we share is the reverence for health and discovery / you could even say radical self discovery. / our bodies become the moving temples within the light of this reverence / daily painting vibrant worlds and stories invisibly upon the walls / each practice, a new mural of moving meditation.

here we are given space / to be with ourselves and others / to be held and nurtured within the clean open space / to enter, and to leave no physical trace / of our comings or goings / except written in the fibers of our bodies / the halls of the mind and the movement of touch across our hearts. / the empty space that holds so much / for friendships, epiphanies, griefs, losses, gains, and celebrations. / the emptiness birthing forth a space for exquisite contemplations / realizations, peacefulness, and resolutions.

- nikyta palmisani, yoga student

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sun and Clouds

"The sun is covered by layers of clouds, but remains unaffected by them. The work of the wind is to drive the clouds away and the more the clouds disappear, the more the light of the sun appears. There is no change in the Spirit- He is infinate. God alone is eternal, and He never changes; everything else is transitory. We make our own destiny. The sun shines for both the weak and the strong. All the strength you need is within you. " -- Pathways to Joy

I think I've quoted this before. But today it is especially fitting. A new chapter begins and life is evolving for me- the clouds (my circumstances) are changing but God remains faithful. I can see the hard road ahead, but I feel confident that what will unfold is meant to be. I am exactly where I am supposed to be today. Being open to learning and growing from the hardships (even self-imposed ones!) just gives me more confidence and peace.

My sweet Andrew, who will be 4 next week, asked yesterday why there were no clouds in the sky. I said because God made a beautiful day. He said he will "ask God to make the clouds tomorrow. There should be clouds."

Yes, Andrew, there are always clouds but blue skies remind us of His unchanging nature and grace, and there, through grace, we find freedom.



Monday, November 2, 2009

Yoga Sutra 1.35



"Mastery combines a balance of science and art. Knowledge of science is like the colors on an artist's palette- the greater the knowledge, the more colors available. The body is the canvas and the asanas are the art we create." --Patanjali

I've been reviewing anatomy for both my Yoga and Pilates classes. In her book, Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries, Susi Hately, shares that Yoga is designed to balance and create space within the body and within that space, prana (energy) is created. To create ease and grace, use your breath. When that breath is fluid, it brings life.

Breath is a constant theme in my classes. Finding your breath within each asana enables you to go longer, farther, or deeper in your practice. Or, it reminds you to restrain yourself, not allowing the ego to take you where your body is not yet ready to go. Conscious Breath creates a sense of calm that is simply not possible when you're unaware and breath is shallow. The more I breath, the more I centered or grounded I feel.

Visayavati Va Pravrttir Utpanna Manasah Sthiti Nibandhani

Concentration on subtle sense perceptions that can cause steadfastness of mind.

Yoga Sutra 1.35

What grounds your practice?

Grounded for today,

Mel


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Celebrate Life




Life should not only be lived,
it should be celebrated

-Osho




pumpkin caring takes on a new meaning as mr potato head takes over

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yoga Sutra 1.1

Atha Yoganusasanam

The practice or discipline of Yoga.
"Without practice, nothing can be achieved."

Yoga Sutra 1.1

How do you cultivate discipline in your life? What do you to overcome those seemingly impossible tasks?

I have great discipline in certain areas of my life (Yoga and fitness, journaling and quiet time, my kiddos...). And other areas (everything else!) I often sorely neglect. I don't know any other reason except that maybe facing the challenge seems beyond my control. So today, I sat down and picked up my greatest challenge and just simply started... and a wave of relief and calm washed over me. Just letting go of the fear, I was able to face it, move it over and out of the way.

Just learning,

Melissa

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aging

Daily meditation (samadhi) improves memory. At a recent Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., results from a University of Pennsylvania study confirmed for the first time that daily practice of meditation can improve cognitive function among individuals with memory complaints.

There is a difference between normal aging, dementia (there are 70 different kinds of this type of memory loss) and Alzheimer's (affecting over 1 out of every 8, over the age of 65). Alzheimer's is a progressive incurable disease that "attacks the brain causing cell death".

If you're like me, you forget where your keys are or maybe where you parked your car or where you took off your watch. But, when you have Alzheimer's you forget what a watch is called or which car is yours. It is not a normal part of aging. There is a check list of 10 warning signs to look for on the Alzheimer's Association website.

I have a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease. But until she was diagnosed, I did not fully understand the impact that the disease would have on our family and especially my father, her caregiver. I hope by being involved through outreach in my local Alzheimer's Association and learning more about prevention for myself and my students, it will empower them to make subtle changes that can make a life-impacting difference.

Living to the full,

Melissa




Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love

Love your body enough to exercise safely and effectively

Love your mind enough to be in the present time and let go of negative thoughts

Love your spirit enough to spend time with the Sacred

When you are filled with LOVE, there is no room for "dis-ease"



This quote came from Candace, PT and Yoga Instructor who specializes in helping women with pelvic floor rehabilitation. She was just amazing and so full of knowledge.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yoga Therapy


I just arrived home from Atlanta where I completed a 4-day training in Yoga Therapy. Yoga Therapy is a field that the yoga community is still trying to define and get it's head around since it's such a diverse and complex field. (Click for more flying photos.)

Yoga Therapy defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists: "The process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of philosophy and practice of yoga".

But, as Chrys Kub, our trainer put it, yoga therapy is not a "cookbook approach" to yoga where you just pull out certain poses for them to do to fix them. It's more of a "holistic approach" where you look at the root cause of the condition. Where is the muscle imbalance occurring and more importantly, why?

There isn't really "Yoga Therapy" because Yoga IS therapy. Simply put, yoga heals.

This weekend was a bit surreal, achieving my 500 hour RYT. My son asked me when I got home, so what's the big deal? I said, you know, you're right. It's not a big deal to earn a certificate. It was a big deal, though, to devote the past 5 years (more than half Nathan's life) to this process of transforming myself into what am today. And, thank goodness, I won't be the same tomorrow as I am today! It sounds like a cheesy thing to say it's not the destination but it's the journey, however, it's true! I've never been more sure and secure in who I am as a person and a teacher, and I feel it's by the grace of God and through this amazing refining, humbling growth.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yoga Sutra 2.1

Taph Svadhyahyesvara Pranidhanani Kriya Yogah.

Accepting pain into your life and learning from it, instead of avoiding it for: purification, spiritual awareness (from the heart rather than ego), and surrender (dedicate everything) to the Divine. All of this makes up Kriya Yoga which is a deep energetic work or action (creation of tapas or fire/heat) of yoga in practice.

Yoga Sutra 2.1


Boredom is often the result of unfinished dreams. Keep dreams within tapas, with hot awareness (and self discipline). Everyone starts something, but few finish and continue to the end.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Satya

Within the 8 limbs of Yoga, lies Yama (abstinence) and within the Yamas, is Satya or truthfulness, without lies. It can also be defined as awareness of True Self. Awareness of God. An honesty to be who you truly are while at the same time adapting, accepting, and accommodating for growth. Not wearing different masks, one for family, one for work, another for friends... just being You, uniquely You and dissolving those masks.

Satya Pratisthayam Kriya Phalasrayatvam

When an individual is established in truth and can create karmic joy and good deeds for himself and others.

Yoga Sutra 2.36

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Proverbs

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Proverbs 25:11

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Om Poornamadha Poornamidam

Om Poornamadha Poornamidam
Poornaat Poornamudachyate
Poornasaya Poornamaadaaya
Poornamevaavashisthyate
Om shanti shanti shanti

This is full (complete) and
That is full and
When you take this full out of that full,
That is still full.

Anand gave the analogy that when you have a full bucket of water and you just take a cup out, that the bucket is essentially still full.

Isn't our life like that? When we're filling ourselves with refreshing water (rest, love, food, our passions, quiet spiritual time- meditation or prayer) then when cups of water (life, energy, anger, joy, shared experiences) are taken from us, we still have more to give. But, when we continue to give and give and don't a time of renewal and restoration, our water will deplete itself. What then will we give?

Feeling full,

Mel

Friday, October 16, 2009

Swadhisthana Chakra

Continuing my study and reviewing notes from our lectures on Chakras this summer with Anand in Hood River, OR. (The first Chakra and Restorative Sequences can also be found on the blog.) More restorative sequences to come.

I leave for Atlanta next week to take Yoga Therapy for 4 days-- This will complete my 500 hour RYT! This is something that I've been working toward since early 2005. What a blessing to be able to do this and have such support from my family, friends, and students. Someone asked me where I go from here? You the know the saying, the more you know, the more you realize you don't know? I'll be a life-long student whether or not I'm taking courses. Other courses this
year: Peak Pilates (PPS2) and another test (ACE) that finishes in early December. Tentative plans for 2010 but I am trying to savor the moment and enjoy where I am right now- taking it all in, growing from it and incorporating it into my classes. I'm loving the daily journey of it all!

Melissa

"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and they will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success." --Lao Tzu


Swadhisthana Chakra

Chakras are a wheel of energy used to awaken and enlighten the body. There are seven Chakras that correspond to the planets. This energy aligns in the spine. Often referred to as a spiritual tree, the energy can flow from the brain down or the root up.

The sacral Chakra, "heart abiding place", desire or experience center includes all the sexual organs and slightly above. It is active energy, not necessarily sexua
l energy. Achieve balance by redirecting that sexual energy, so that it creates a sense of awareness, enabling a letting go of frustrating or guilt-like feelings.
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Teaching Asana: Create a circle or sense of flow and flexibility through practice.

Meditation: Choose to focus on the qualities of water and flow of breath and life. Can also add Anuloma Pranayama to balance the sun and moon, right and left sides of the body.

Element: Water (water is life)
Color: Orange
Planet: Jupiter (biggest planet- 12.5 times bigger than all the planets put together. It's almost the size of the sun and radiates 2 times more energy than the sun. There are constant storms on Jupiter.) The protecting energy-- as asteroids tend to hit Jupiter rather than earth because of the energy pull.
Animal: Crocodile (makes it the most active Chakra)
Senses: Taste
Day of the week: Thursday

Imbalanced state: Lust, greed, abuse, or "what about me", addiction; there is no sense of self/ associated with shame and guilt and carrying of emotional baggage.
Balanced state: Through respect; the third eye or Divine wisdom. (using the breath in through the naval center up to the third eye.

Inner Balance (gunas or 3 states): Tamas, Rajas andSattvic. (The root Chakra is usually more tamas/rajas in nature).

Tamas: Slow, lazy, lethargic and lacking life force
Rajas: Fast, dynamic, and action-oriented
Sattva: Alive, alert, balanced/ relaxed state with a clear mind and body

You can be in any state at any time, and there is a possibility of dropping back to another state at any time. If you're attentive, however, you can keep transcending through sustained practice.

Tomasic: Enjoy the pain
Tamasic/ Rajasic: Obsessed with desire (abusive or addiction)
Rajasic/ Tamasic: Betrayal (cheating on spouse, you are normal part of the time- but it is creating an illusion); the humor is more sarcastic at the expense of someone else (your intention is not pure)
Rajasic: More subtle; you function normally but there is a sense of what about me; dependant on other's opinions; there is a longing and some manipulation (if you make me happy, I'll make you happy); your humor also comes from here, there is a love and sense of community and ability to laugh at yourself; you can detach from yourself
Rajasic/ Sattvic: More creative; live a more creative life with inspiration. Joyous; you don't need pain to create things; solution oriented

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Words


Verbose \vuhr-BOHS\, adjective: Abounding in words; using or containing more words than are necessary; tedious by an excess of words; wordy; as, "a verbose speaker; a verbose argument."

I've never been accused of using too few words. Economy of words is something I struggle with as a mom and a teacher. Just yesterday, my son said "just tell me the part I need to remember, Mom."

Thoughtful Quiet.

Comfortable Stillness.

Beautiful Silence. It encourages God's presence and promotes thoughtful speech.

Just enough information to want more.

Learning to love the space between words,

Mel