Monday, April 7, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let it Be

[Note: This post has been cross-posted to my other blog, Complexity Simplified, as part of the Yoga Monday series]

It is snowing. Again. I took this photo about ten minutes ago, and the flakes are still coming down. The weather service says this will continue for several more hours.

It's about 18 degrees Fahrenheit out there, and expected to drop even further, to around 8 degrees by tomorrow morning. The federal government, my area's largest employer, is closed, as are all the county offices and school districts.

Even the bus system has shut down. All of these events have transformed my neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, just three miles outside of Washington, DC, into an oasis of utter quiet. No buses trundling by on Lee Highway, a half block away from my house. No cars. No sounds outside at all, except the bluster of the wind as it rattles my windows every few moments.

I could rail against this, point out that we've had just about enough winter already, thank you very much. Or I could dismiss it, the way many of us who have been transplanted to Washington DC react to the inevitable freakout that accompanies every flake that hits the area, saying it's just a little snow and people here don't know what real snow is, not the kind of snow we had back in Idaho and Montana and North Dakota.

Or I could notice how quiet it is. I could notice how relaxed I am, how peaceful it feels in my house, how tasty that lunch was that I just made for myself. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich! What could be better? I could notice that the snow is clean and white and beautiful, as snow always is. I could notice that our heat is working because our power is still on. I could notice that I am grateful for this, and for all of these things.

I could also notice that it is snowing whether I want it to snow or not. I could notice that nothing I say or do or feel will change the fact that, today, it is snowing. Again. This is today's truth.

In yoga, we have a set of ethical principles, the yamas and the niyamas, which appear in the yoga sutras as guides to our practice. Among the yamas, which are the "external disciplines," we find satya, which means truthfulness. When we practice satya, we focus on that which is true, that which is--not that which we would like or wish to be, but that which actually exists.

When we apply satya to our asana practice, we are truthful with ourselves about just how far we can stretch those hamstrings or bend that back. We don't pretend that we can stretch farther than we can or bend more than we ought. If we do, we are being untrue, to ourselves, as well as to the practice.

When we apply satya to our lives, we are truthful about everything--we accept the truth of our past and our present, we accept the truth of who we are, and who we are not. And we especially accept the truth of things we cannot control, like the weather.

Among the niyamas, those "internal disciplines" that guide our yoga practice, we find santosa, which means contentment. A verse in the yoga sutras says, about santosa, "Contentment brings unsurpassed joy."

And, thus, we arrive at the essential lesson of these two yogic principles: by letting go of our attachment to the way things ought to be, and accepting the truth of the way things actually are, we will find joy.

It is snowing. Let it be.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Journey Continues

When I started this blog, about three and a half years ago, I had just begun a 200 hour yoga teacher training program at Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in northern Virginia, and wanted a log to record and reflect on my journey towards becoming a teacher. Now, over three years later, I have taken another major step in this journey by enrolling in a second teacher training program, also at Sun & Moon, that will (hopefully) one day lead to a 500-hour certification.

In some ways, I find it hard to believe that I have already been teaching for almost three years, but it's true: my first class was offered in late March of 2011, and I have been teaching more or less continuously since then. It was only yesterday, when I attended my first teacher training session of this new program, that I began to see how much I've grown and learned in these three years of teaching -- and how much I still have to learn.

Some of my instructors in the teacher training program joke that even though they finished the 500-hour or 700-hour certification some time ago, they are currently embarked on the 5000-hour or 7000-hour training program. It's a good point, since there always seems to be more one can learn, and you're never really "done" with your training. No matter how much we teach, we will always be yoga students.

In other news, I am now offering an "All-Levels" yoga class at the Sun & Moon Arlington studio at 11am on Friday mornings. Drop-ins are welcome! You can find more info about the class here.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Why Yoga?

A couple of days ago, I offered a free Introduction to Yoga class in order to provide an opportunity for all those folks whose new year's resolution list includes "Take up yoga!" As expected for the first week of January, there was a great turnout, so many people, in fact, that we ran out of props for the first time ever. I'm offering this class again on January 18 (more info here) so if you are in the area, please consider attending!

The folks who attended this special class had a wide range of experiences with yoga, including several who had never tried it, but also more than a few who had years of experience. Some were looking for a new teacher or, in a couple of cases, were just in town for the holidays and away from their regular class, so dropping in for a visit. It was an interesting mix of people and I enjoyed talking to the new folks about what brought them to the study of yoga.

It is often the case that the issue that brings us to yoga is not the one that keeps us there. In my own case, I was gradually introduced to the practice through the efforts of a couple of fitness instructors who were, themselves, taking yoga lessons and trying the moves out during the stretching sessions at the end of class. I liked those parts of their classes a lot and tried out an actual yoga class, a free "Intro to Yoga" session offered by the local hospital. I liked it a lot, too, but didn't think I had time to add another "work-out routine" to my already busy schedule.

Even though I was not yet 40, I had a lot of aches and pains, particularly in my low back, and  I finally consulted a chiropractor who advised doing what I recognized as a move that we had practiced in that intro class--a simple reclining twist. A light bulb went off. I realized that yoga was more than just another form of exercise. Here was a method that might actually make me feel better.

And, so, I sought out a teacher, which wasn't easy in those days and in that place (the late 1980s in Indianapolis) but I found her and commenced upon the more organized portion of my yoga journey. It was to be many years before my study and practice helped me to fully deal with my lower back pain, but I quickly learned that yoga made me feel better in many ways--not just physically, but emotionally and, even, spiritually. 

If you practice yoga, what brought you to the practice? If you've practiced for awhile, have your reasons changed? I would be interested in hearing your story!


This post is being cross-posted to my other blog, Complexity Simplified, as the first installment of the new Yoga Monday series. Additional posts were appear on the first Monday of each month. Watch for them!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Beginning

I started this blog over two years ago, to chronicle my journey toward becoming a yoga teacher, a goal I achieved within a year. It was quite the journey and I had a lot to write about all through the process. I thought I would keep the blog going even after I began teaching, since I still had many thoughts about yoga to share with others. 

So, I kept posting through those early weeks and months of launching my first classes, preparing lesson plans, learning how to teach by teaching, etc. And although I thought I would keep going, since I had much to say, soon the reality of juggling a lot of new responsibilities along with the old ones left me with little time to write and even less inspiration.

It didn't seem that readers would be much interested in all the stuff I was thinking about, stuff like where can I buy high quality yoga equipment for a low price? How do I find an adequate space to rent for my classes, a space with no furniture, a quiet atmosphere and a cheap price? How do I recruit students and advertize my classes? Do I need to buy insurance and, if so, where do I find it? And while we're on that subject, do I need a business license? And where do I get one of those, anyway?

I had a lot on my mind, and it was fun to figure it out, but I really didn't think anybody would be very much interested in what I was going through to launch my new yoga teaching business. On the other hand, maybe they would be interested. And, then, just as I thought I might begin to blog about what it takes to start a yoga teaching business, I suddenly had classes to teach, sometimes as many as four or five classes a week. 

Oh, and did I mention this was my part-time job? My full-time job was supposed to be "writer," but I soon found that the writing took a back seat to a class of students waiting for me to show up and lead them through a yoga routine. Blogging is one aspect of my writing life, and it was the first to go. Before the rest of my writing life went, I finally came to my senses and cut back on my class offerings. And, miracle of miracles, my writing life came back! It's funny how clearing a space for the future, as Alexandra Stoddard says, can be the key step in bringing that future into the present.

It's now well over a year since I last posted to this blog, but I've been thinking about it a lot. When I noticed that I was composing blog posts in my head but never typing them up (since I felt the blog no longer existed) I woke up and realized that maybe I wanted to try to restart this blog.

So, here we go! I've started by changing the blog description. See that box over to the right labeled 'Welcome'? It now has new words in it. And I've been having a great time today making a list of all the topics I would love to write about here. And now, look, I've actually written the first new post!

Join me as I continue to write about my life in yoga. Something tells me I still have a lot to say.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nearly-Wordless Wednesday

All the Colors of Fall

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit the main site.
For more of my photos, see Flickr.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Gate of Heaven

Available for Kindle & Nook

“You looked just like a nun sitting there,” she said, walking up behind me.
It surprised me, but only a little, to find myself pleased to be mistaken for a nun. And I might very well have looked like one, since Paul’s black jacket was long on me and my dark hair flowed out like a veil from under the white band encasing my ears. 
I had come to the woods to be alone, to escape the endless questions, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. What was going to happen I, perhaps, should have been able to predict in minute detail. But, then again, she walked up and began talking to me before I learned I had the ability to do such things. I stopped my finger-folding exercise and peered over my shoulder."

The above passage is the beginning of my short story, "The Gate of Heaven," published two years ago by Paycock Press in the anthology "Gravity Dancers," and recently republished electronically for both Kindle and Nook e-readers. When I wrote the first draft of this story five years ago, I had no idea that the "finger-folding exercise" that my main character repeatedly carries out in the story is actually an example of finger yoga.

Although, it's not really called "finger yoga," but, rather, a sequence of mudras, or finger positions, believed to activate certain energetic pathways in the body. Practicing this mudra sequence is a form of yoga, though, and it can have powerful effects. 

As the character in my story was about to find out.

I, like the character in the story, learned the sequence from my doctor, who taught me to do it after I suffered a serious hand injury. I doubt very much if he knew about the role of this practice in yoga, but when I learned about this mudra sequence a few months ago, I was astounded. It had worked exactly as the tradition says it would work, even though I didn't know anything about that at the time.

The exercise, or mudra sequence, is also called a kriya, which is a sanskrit word that simply means "set of actions," or "sequence of movements." This particular kriya has actually caught the attention of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, which advocates its use for the prevention of Alzheimer's. Apparently, studies show that practicing this mudra sequence in conjunction with chanting can increase activity in the area of the brain associated with memory.

I really don't know if the results provided by this foundation for Alzheimer's research are valid, and further study is definitely warranted. But one thing I do know: these finger-folding exercises are deceptively simple, and extraordinarily powerful.

As you will find out if you read The Gate of Heaven. Check it out!