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!