Friday, January 20, 2012

Steady and Comfotable?!

This was a week of closing doors and opening others.  At the senior center,  we lost 4,  4 are under the weather and 4 new students came to yoga.  This is a great time to be alive and to see the changes that are before us.  Some people become more entrenched in their current ways,  others see this is a time to open up and become whatever they want to.  They see this is a time that they can build upon the wonderful parts that are them.  I am so lucky to be able to witness the transformations!

Yoga is just a start for this.  People come to class because their back hurts,  or they had some surgery they are trying to recover from,  others are just simply curious.  There is a place for each of them in yoga as long as they are open to learning new ways of doing things.  Often times beginners do not want to use the props,  but in time they see they are not only a way to make asana practice safe,  they are there to encourage students to try things they never thought possible.  

This week in class,  one of my all time favorite students called me Boss.  It made me giggle.  Who would in a million years ever call me boss?  I guess in some ways I am at that moment to them.  Another student stuck their tongue out at me while I was preparing them for backward extensions.  My favorite this week was when someone else called me balanced.......if you know me at all,  you know that I do strive for this,  but just like most I have my moments.  

I thought on the comment,  balanced,  me?  Whoop!  I must have done something right in my own asana practice that morning.  It was a practice that began like most others,  chanting,  childs pose,  vajrasana,  dog,  uttanasana,  then some study of the sutras.  After studying that morning I did a practice of standing poses,  not pushing and straining, but made sure my mind and breath were always connected.  At one point,  the Vizsla came in,  sat down right in front of me, had a big sigh,  and went to lie down onto her little yoga blanket. 

As you move through your weekend,  please be attentive to your body,  your breath,  what is the state of your mind?  Let this be where all things come from,  a balanced place.

Sutra II.46  Sthira, sukham, asanam

** Posture should be steady and comfortable

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Senior Sequence to build bone health!

At the senior center on Tuesday,  we had program about bone health given by a nutritionist from the Vitamin Cottage in Northglenn. The facilitator talked about nutrition,  supplements and all the things you would connect with building strong bones,  but she also gave mention to stress, balance,  and breath. Standing on one leg helps to build bone density,  stress can lead to bone loss, and breathing can help us to stay calm while we are balancing!
It got me thinking about this "meditation in action"  we try to achieve in asana practice.  Thinking of the seniors that I teach,  balancing poses came to mind.  I am constantly on them about balancing,  not just standing on one leg at a time,  but balancing out the weight on both feet while keeping the mind one pointed while in the pose.   It is so hard to think about anything else while trying to balance, so maybe this is our answer to stress relief!  No longer thinking about the stressors you came into the room with,  but maintaining focus on the lift of the knee cap,  the four corners of the feet.  
Here is a sequence to keep you working on balance.  Be prepared to start and stop and laugh.  No longer thinking,  "I cannot do this",  but taking a breath and saying to yourself "I can do this!".  Be in each pose for at least 4 full breaths and do them 2 or 3 times.  Make sure to rest if you need to.  Keep the mind attentive and be joyful!

Sequence for balance
Tadasana at the wall,  press 4 corners of feet,  lift knee caps,  and draw the abdomen to the spine!
Urdhva Hastasana-same actions as in Tadasana add lift chest,  roll the triceps in toward one another and reach!!        

Utthita Trikonasana with chair-attention to pressing feet evenly,  and straighten those legs!
Balancing on one leg at a time,  keeping fingers at the wall the 1st time,  then after you get the hang of it,  start lifting one arm.  When you feel really confident,  turn around and face the center of the room and lift both arms!
Vipariti Karani-Stay for 10 minutes to reduce fatigue in legs. 
Adho Mukha Svanasana with the chair

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lord Vishnu and the nectar

While studying for my first assessment in the Iyengar method,  we were asked to read a part of the Tree of Life by B.K.S Iyengar. Honestly,  it was about this time last year that I opened the book for the first time after having it for nearly 8 years.  Over the last year,  it has been a story I have read numerous times.  All the art work that depicts this story is beautiful and detailed.  Then while studying and chanting sutras from my next list,  the story was revealed again in the very first sutra! through the explanation of B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on the Yoga Sutras.  For those of you who know me,  this story is a perfect representation of the last 4 years of my life.  Without all this churning and practicing and breathing,  I would not be sitting here writing this from such a place of gratitude.   The story goes like this I will keep it short:

In the Srimad Bhagavatam,  there was a story of how the "nectar of immortality"  was produced.  The angels feared that the desire of the "nectar"  to the demons would over take them. The angels sought help from 3 Lords who went to Lord Vishnu for help.  He suggested the angels and demons work together to churn then ocean to bring out the "nectar".  They used Mount Meru as the churn-er,  Lord Adisesa (Lord Vishnus serpant couch)  as the the rope to turn Mount Meru. the angels and demons are the ones pulling back and forth on the serpant to get that mountain to move!  Many plants were thrown into the ocean to produce the "nectar",  these plants refer to the 7 constituents the body is made of.  Mount Meru represents the spinal column and Lord Adisesa represents the control of the spine for respiration.  So as the story goes on,  the mountain sinks to the bottom of the sea,  at this time, Lord Vishnu reincarnates to Lord Kurma (the tortoise) and goes under the mountain, lifts it up again so the churning can continue!  Isn't this exciting??  The first thing to come out of the ocean as a result was halahala which is a poison that represents exhalation,  thank goodness that Lord Vishnu took one for the team, he swallowed it.  The last, but not least was the "NECTAR".  Yeah! 

Sutra II.49
tasmin sati svasa prasvasayo gativicchedah pranayamah

Pranayama is the regulation of the incoming and out going flow of breath with retention.  It is to be practised only after perfection in asana is attained.

**  In Light on the Yoga Sutras,  he explains that the story above is an "interwoven explanation, symbolizes what takes place in the human body in the practice of pranayama."

***As you practice this week add in a little pranayama of your own.  Be reminded that the poses would not be possible without this prana=energy we produce at every moment!  Take time in your asanas to breath,  to breath, to breath some more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Get out there and do it.

I work at a senior center.  Did you know that?  We thought it would be fun to have an un-resolution party filled with our most tempting snacks. (yes that will mean some chocolate for me) Most Americans vow to go on a diet,  exercise more,  be nicer to co-workers,  call their families more etc.  etc. etc.  The seniors at our center have lived through wars, depressions,  illness,  death,  the i-phone and still manage to march on without feeling the need to apologize or buy things they really don't need. 
I write this in response to my own thoughts of what should I change or do better in this new year.  I was not sure exactly where to begin,  so I just began with no pomp and circumstance to read a sutra  every morning and to meditate on them.  To not watch so much Today show,  not because I think the tele is evil, but I know my heart and brain will cooperate more if I can find a more peaceful way to start my day.  To create things,  not just of the tangible kind made of fabric or canvas,  but create a new thought pattern that involves moving closer to my center,  to my soul.  To make music again in the form of playing my clarinet again and chanting every morning while still in my PJ's.  By all this I mean to just live joyfully and hopefully spread it around to those I love.

Sutra of the Week:
tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam
Then, the seer dwells in his own true splendour.

*When the waves of consciousness are stilled and silenced, they can no longer distort the true expression of the soul.  Revealed in his own nature,  the radiant seer abides in his own grandeur.

**Light on the Yoga Sutras