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