Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love Yoga's Philosophy on "Teaching" Yoga

Authentically teaching Yoga has it’s roots in living Yoga. Kristina and I designed the YogaLife program with this philosophy at the heart of the matter. The entire program is designed to assist each student’s better understanding of and application of Yoga - yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, yogic science, yoga practices of breath and movement - in his and her day to day life.

If one is to teach patience, it’s best to practice ‘being’ patient. For many of us ‘patience’ must practiced day in and day out. For many of us this means cultivating moment to moment awareness of our behaviors, actions, reactions, thoughts and words. Over time the practice of 'patience' yield great reward: we are less reactive, calmer, more compassionate, better listeners, etc. And, additionally, through the very act of being patient we will teach others patience.

Yoga is similar in this way. Yoga is learned actively through the daily application of ethics, cleansing practices (for mind-body), devotion, Self reflection, and meditation. It is not learned through passive reading or purely intellectual study. Yoga is not learned by mindlessly following someone else’s choreography (though we may be introduced to a surface layer of the practice through this experience). And Yoga, in its wholeness, can not be taught if it is not being lived.

How do we “live” Yoga?

Firstly, we must stop pushing and shoving our way through the crowd claiming to be ‘patient’. We must slow down and examine (with a magnifying glass and the Truth) our current behavior. We must be willing to see ‘whatever’ is. For many of us when we arrive on the scene of our own behavior we’re shocked at just how hurtful, life-depleting, self-lacerating, out of control, judgmental, unconscious, unkind and impatient our behavior is.

At first consciously witnessing the self can be a bit like watching the same train wreck, over and over and over again. It is good to have a very loving teacher in these early stages. Someone who can remind you just how miraculous you are even when you eat the whole pan of brownies, binge drink, get stoned, wake up next to Mr. What’s Your Name Again?, yell at your mother, buy things you can’t afford on credit, etc. I kid, sort of, but you get my point.

My initial 'conscious witnessing' (waking up) period involved the end of my engagement, the healing of a 10 year struggle with bulimia, the direct confrontation with a pattern of habitual lying, the painful realization that I was utterly mean to my self and unable to esteem myself, and so much more not-fun-stuff. The Lauran Janes train wreck, really.

Kristina was one of my first teachers during these early stages of awakening. In her words: "The inner Witness is the Source of Love itself. And this Love is more powerful than any negative outward behavior and therefore, is the greatest protection for humanity. The practices of Yoga soften the roughest edges of the world and brings you back to behaviors that stem from Love."

Though we may feel very far from Love when we first begin to witness ourselves, don't be fooled. For interwoven in the very act of witnessing the self is the Source of Love.

In addition to WITNESSING THE SELF, the art of ASANA as a daily practice is an integral part of living Yoga. Asana is a practice of ‘cleaning out’, ‘undoing’, ‘pushing the re-set button’, ‘getting back to Love’, ‘finding the happy place’, ‘calming the mind’, ‘tapping the unconscious’, ‘unsticking’, ‘gaining strength’, ‘increasing confidence’, ‘becoming excited about the body-mind’, ‘practicing non-violent actions’, ‘witnessing thoughts’, ‘expanding my boundaries’, ‘playing again’, ‘focusing on anything other than the chattering-list-making-machine of the mind’ and more.

Asana assists our movement out of the head and into the heart - physically and literally. We move our attention to something greater than the ‘jumping beans’ between our ears and we literally expand the tissues around the heart. We align the skeleton as a means of strengthening the scaffolding of the ‘playground’ of the body. This process opens brilliant channels of energy to flow from heart to mind, toes to hair, Love to all.

Additionally, to live Yoga it is extremely helpful to better understand the SCIENCE OF THE MIND. Just as we can learn how our digestive track works (and feel the body’s varied reactions to what we consume) we can also understand how the mind ‘digests’ the constant inward following current of information. In our YOGALife program we study how the mind receives information, creates perceptions, sensations, and feelings. We study how the mind reacts to these feelings and how these reactions give birth to our underlying “story” of self. We study how our deep attachment to these stories hinders our sight. Experiencing life with hindered sight (through the veil of our mind's story - ego) is like driving with a foggy wind-shield. Though we can still drive, we are very likely to cause harm to ourselves and others.

More to Come...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Cave Behind the Water fall

While exploring the interconnection between Neuroscience and Nirodha this image of the stillness of thought waves (the cave behind the waterfall) arose and came through as a poem...

Rest yourself Inside
behind the veil of thoughts

Sit in the glow of the Cave
behind the waterfall

Dry and calm

Watch the descending current without judgment

Without taking pride in the water
Without scolding the water
Without wishing there was no water

Move within

Not easy
Nor is childbirth
Nor any process of Becoming

Most are closer to water than the Cave
Cold & drenched, hand scratching head

That’s okay

From beneath the water read the Sign Post:

"Move within. Now. Love you, Your Divinity."

Trust the moments of warmth
the glimpses of Light
the echoes of Silence
the hints of the Heart

Step out of the water

Some days very hard
Some days easier

Some days dry and warm
Some days wet all day

That's okay

Pratice watching the ‘lonely’, the ‘hurt’,
the ‘fear’, the ‘jealousy’,
the ‘right’, the ‘wrong’,
the ‘good’, the ‘bad’,
the ‘she’, the ‘he’,
the ‘I’, the ‘me’...

Endless drops

Watch and breathe...without judgment

...or maybe there is judgment...

That's okay

Practice again

Keep practicing
moving inwards
recede completely
into the Fire of the Heart

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Great Surrender

Upon returning from an 8 day "Raise Your Vibration" yoga journey with Desiree Rumbough at Kirpalu, this poem whispered itself to me.

softly landing
in my own skin
again tender

after so much clinging
gripping the bit
but not controlling

my breath
lays me to rest
in the openness
of my own heart

nothing to fight here
not even my own self

a smooth baby-body
asleep in mommy's arms
in daddy's hands

today i am baby
i am mommy
i am daddy

i lull myself sweetly
towards the great surrender
that precedes freedom

The Mind is Like a Dixie Cup

A young Krishna is playing with his friends, eating dirt, as boys will do. His mother catches him and insists that he spit out the rocks. When he opens his mouth wide she peers in and catches a glimpse of the entire universe...with in him! Stars, suns, moons, boundless space. At the sight of The Everything with in him, Krishna's mother momentarily passes out. The mind is like a Dixie cup. It can’t hold that ocean.

This is story paints such a delightful image of a foundational aspect of "Yoga". "Yoga" is the state being where nothing's missing. The state of yoga is a cellular recognition that every planet, every star, the building blocks of every living thing exist within each of us. Intricate systems work together inside our being. Water, electricity, waves, and powerful vibrations animate our every moment, our alive-ness. Nothing’s missing.

Of course, we will forget the grandeur, the twinkling of the stars inside, the multitudes of universes inside us. Part of the human experience is forgetting the miracle of The Everything of which we are composed.

That is why I practice yoga daily. The practice helps me move beyond the waxed paper border of my mind into the greater space within. Whether it's asana, mediation, pranayama...the practices help me touch the space my mind can't reach. In this way it brings me into a direct experience with The Everything...if even for just a moment.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Preaching to the Choir

Whenever possible I climb to the top of the nearest mountain or speed bump to declare my ecstatic love for this practice called ‘yoga’. Yoga brought me back to my own Self - like a shepherd to her sheep. In the style of ‘Amazing Grace’, I was lost and then I was found.

When yoga found me I had long intellectually understood that I was composed of divine intelligence - the same divine intelligence that makes waves in the oceans, brings about spring after winter and designs animals of every color, shape and size. I understood with my head the miracle of my being, but that didn’t stop me from making very poor, selfish, fearful, hurtful, self-defeating decisions over and over and over again. My understanding of my own Grace-nature had not integrated into my cells, my heart, my breath or my every waking moment. Not even close. Bridging that understanding from my head to my heart occurred (and occurs daily) via my yoga practice on and off the mat. Yoga integrates what we know with our brains with the boundless life-force energy of the heart.

It is for this reason that I will share this practice with others for as long as I live. The practice is a direct extension cord to the Love in our hearts, the Love in every living vibration on the planet. Plus it just feels so dang good to play and breathe and squirm and find stillness again on the mat. So I teach yoga as a means of giving back the greatest gifts I have been given by this practice - health, consciousness, self-reflection, calmness, peace, vibrancy, and, oh yeah, Universal Love.

I am madly in love with the human race. Many of my friends can not fathom this possibility. And, let’s face it, as a race we are not always so lovable. We do things that hurt each other. We say things that sting like daggers. We are fallible, angry, violent, cruel and selfish. But, somehow, the practice of yoga gives one X-ray vision of sorts. With this vision we are able to see through the fallible ‘ways’ of man and woman, right into the root of the root of the heart of the matter that gave birth to the anger, violence, cruelty and selfishness. It’s a radical gift to see through the hurt to the heart. And that is the gift that keeps on giving in the practice of yoga. Sure, your hamstrings will elongate, your backpain will go away, your self-doubt will finally step to the back of the stage - but even cooler - you will learn to see love where previously it was hidden. It’s a crazy, beautiful, thrilling, exhausting, liberating thing. It’s like going to the best optometrist on the planet. Dr. yoga, yo.

So from the top of every mountain let yoga ring.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Sky is Waiting

Lift Off
Come fly.

Leave your left brain.

Bring your heart,
your trust,
your quite eyes and ears.

Leave your fear,
your no's,
your cant's,
your wont's.

Bring your wonder.

Bring your laughter.

Bring the wings of your breath.

Come fly.

The sky is waiting...

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Cat in the Hat & Resistance in the Body

Like Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh The Places You’ll Go, perhaps some day I’ll write a book for my yoga students titled Oh The Obstacles You’ll Meet.

In class I often refer to these obstacles as “resistance”. When I first began the yoga asana practice I met the resistance of my hamstrings, my hips, and my spine. I met the resistance of neglected and denied emotions. I met the resistance of my self-doubt, the twisted knot of my lack of self-compassion, and the exhaustion of an unloved body. I met the resistance of a chronically dense sensation in my heart-center. I met the resistance of an over-active inner-critic. I met the resistance of an over-active perfectionist. Oh the Resistance I Met.

In the face of resistance on the yoga mat I have found the following questions to be very powerful and empowering tools: How am I meeting this resistance? Am I meeting this resistance with a fight - with my fists clenched, teeth gripped and shallow breath? Can I meet this resistance with its opposite - with a patient exhalation, a soft loose jaw and with loving compassion directed to the area of resistance?

Consider the lives and choices of Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa and Gandhi. These individuals lives reflect the possibility (and power) in meeting resistance with something other than...more resistance. They met life's inevitable resistances with non-violence, calm, compassion and intelligence. Their lives teach me that since resistance is inevitable how I handle resistance is my only choice. Staying tuned to how I confront obstacles and choosing a love-based response to them is one way to practice living yoga off the mat.

Oh the Compassion We'll Cultivate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sun-shiny beauty of dandelions...

When unpacking boxes this weekend my fingers tripped over this poem written nearly a decade ago. Amazing how our own written words take us back, back, back, like some strange warped time machine.

Sun-Shiny Beauty

When I was little I used to delight
in the sun-shiny beauty of dandelions.
I would gather them in bunches and bouquets
and give them to my mom with joy.

She always seemed to appreciate them.

One day the story changed.
Someone told me they were actually ugly
weeds that ought to die
at the hands of plant poison.

Plant poison, as it was explained to me,
was a reverse fertilizing product
created to destroy.

It came in giant white plastic bags
that weighed as much as my 4-year old self
for the bargain price of $4.50.

$4.50 was all it cost to kill the dandelions
in our yard for an entire year.

Perhaps the bag could have lasted longer
had I not dumped a large portion of it
over our fence into the neighbors yard.

Their prize-winning roses didn't grow that year,
but I managed to save a few dandelions
from a poisonous fate.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Are Pacha Mama

Evan and I just returned from our back country journey in Big Bend...

When over-looking a 2000 ft cliff, my chattering ego-mind vanishes. All I am left with is the visceral knowing that I am a part of something greatly larger than myself, a part of Pacha Mama, Mother Earth. It is so easy to forget our inner connectivity to Nature in our day to day city lives. In so many ways we have constructed a world of "comfort" that separates us from Nature - we drive instead of walk, we eat in chairs instead of under canopies, we visually consume television instead of the nightly sunset. In detaching ourselves from Nature, we have forgotten that we ourselves are Nature.

Funny how the clickity-clatter of the mind can often find a way of muffling this knowing, replacing it with rowdy, clammering tales about the "weighty chore" of filing taxes, the "stagnant frustration" of Lamar traffic, or the "looming" skyscrapers of post-moving boxes that must be tended to in every room of our home.

But the beauty of merging with Nature is that we come to recognize that labels like "weighty", "frustration", and "looming" belong to our over-active minds. These labels do not belong to Nature. (But isn't our mind part of Nature, one might ask...) When consciousness merges with the Nature, the mind's suffocating labels disappear. This merging with Nature, this smoothing of my mind's waves (vritis), is the driving force of my yoga asana practice - another way to merge with Nature.

Just as Nature smooths the waves of our thoughts, reminding us that there is another mode of existing that is not purely mental, so too does yoga return us to a state free of heady-tinkering. Like Big Bend National Park, the breath too soaks the jars of my thoughts and peels back my labels, reminding me that I am a part deeply interconnected to the Whole. I am liquid. I am air. I am the cycle of life and death. I am the seasons. I am animal. I come from the Mystery. I will return to the Mystery. I am a peon. I am a miracle. I am both insignificant and divine.

Less labels, more freedom. Less labels, more flexibility. Less labels, more peace. Less vritis, more Truth.

On our last night Evan and I were humbled spectators of what seemed to be a never ending sunset. Pinks, oranges, yellows spread out across the omnidome of sky doppled with clouds and graced by falcons. Though cold winds whipped across the upper cliffs of the South Rim, our senses were muted by the grandeur of what surrounded us...in that which we are all interconnected.

As I return to Austin, the city, my life as a yoga teacher...may I remember to inhale and let Pacha Mama sweep through me. May my daily practice and this breath hear and now serve to remind me of the Nature I am...of the Nature we all are.