Friday, June 25, 2010

about the two classes I taught today, and the bilboard add I saw on the way home

I taught two classes today:
My first class at flow EMC 9:15-10:30 we worked on cultivating qualities of perseverance, acceptance, and patience. We did lots of forward folds (remember forward folds are any pose in which the hip is flexed forward, so we did lots of deep standing poses), and some fun arm balances including playing with linking different bakasana poses.

My afternoon class at Kula 12-1 we talked about how the studio is going through some shifts, and how this shift provides an opportunity for us to look for the good. I used a pretty funny metaphor about a TV antenna and how we can use our asana practice as a way to adjust our antenna so the goodness/bliss “channel” comes in really clear. Haha we did some hip opening and back bends. I kept encouraging the students to soften their eyes and become sensitive to the way they feel inside. Becoming so sensitive that they can be aware of the inner goodness that is within them.

As I was driving home I saw a billboard Coke add, that read “open happiness” (I couldnt find the same billboard add I saw but here are two that provide the same message):

The society we live in which is based off of corporations and consumerism tells us over and over, that we are missing something. We are lacking something (their product)., and until we get it (their product) we cant be happy. This leaves us to think that we always need to be seeking something external from our self in order to feel full, and feel happy.

Here are just some of the things society is trying to sell us with the promise that it will make us happy:
•Weigh loss
•Make up
•Plastic surgery
Those anti-smoking commercials are correct when they say “You are a target for Big Tobacco”. But it isn’t just big tobacco, we are a target everywhere because we are surrounded by signs, commercials, magazines….that are telling us that we are not ENOUGH.
This is one thing I love about yoga. When we practice yoga asana, when we step onto our mat it is us saying that instead of seeking happiness from outside, I am going to go within and REMEMBER that inside of me is all the happiness, bliss, and peace I could ever want. Our society and the way many people live their lives has caused us to forget. And yoga is a process of remembering our goodness, and our worth.
So the next time you see an add, that is in some way saying buy my product and you will be happy, laugh and know that you already have everything you need to make you happy inside your own heart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

this morning class I taught, and a students comment after :)

This morning’s open level class I taught at flow yoga SLC EMC was lots of fun. People have been telling me my classes have been steadily getting more challenging. I am not trying to make them harder but I am teaching the universal principles of alignment more and that does require that you are totally present and totally working the pose. (last week some called me and thanked me for teaching them to engage their muscles, and that they feel stronger and more confident now. How awesome!) This morning my husband was coming to class and he asked that is not be hard and requested some twists because his back hurts (I think it is his SI). I thought what a great opportunity to offer the universal principles in a more gentle and therapeutic way.

Theme: the muladhara chakra and the svadhistana chakra. The muladhara chakra has to do with the earth and grounding and the svadhistana has to do with fluidity, sexuality and sensitivity. We used the muladhara chakra to help us get grounded and connected to the earth, and we used the svadhistana to become sensitive to what is happening with in us. Can we be sensitive to the breath, the alignment, the prana, the quality of the mind….
Sequence included: standing poses, squats, twists, hip opening, and forward folds.
Main teaching focus: keeping the femur bones back, inner spiral and outer spiral of the legs.
Meditation/ cnetering: we started and ended the practice with pranayama and a seated mediation where we visualized the chakras.

After class a student asked “Does Anusara Yoga only draw happy people do the practice? Or is it something you cultivate..Because ever Anusara teacher I have had has been genuinely happy?”

I think the answer is: it is a combination of both. I think people who are happy enjoy the practice of Anusara yoga because the practice is a celebration of the heart and is a way of fully being present with yourself, your Shri, and your happiness.

We all have bliss in us (annamaya kosha), we all have this inner light that is real, conscious, and bliss (sat- chit- ananda) however we forget. The practice of Anusara yoga is a practice of remembering our greatness.

In Anusara yoga we learn how to move through many different kinds of poses (twists, forward bends, backbends) with different levels of challenge (easy, intermediate, advance) and as students we learn no matter what the pose, or how difficult or easy it is can we stay connected to our heart. Even if it is a pose we don’t practically like. I think this is happiness training. If we can learn to stay in the pose, stay with our self, with our breath, with an awareness of our intrinsic goodness, and with our heart. Then when we step off our mat and we go into the world whatever situations come at us (personal, work, family, global) we know how to stay with our heart. And no matter what situation we face on the mat or off the mat what matters is we recognize that life is a gift, and we are so lucky to be just where we are.


(I wrote this paper for my immersion part 3)

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is based off of Classical Yoga, which is dualistic. We see this dualism in almost every sutra, where Patanjali makes a sharp distinction between Purusha (Self or Spirit) and Prakriti (non-self or matter). Classical Yoga holds that two totally distinct realities exist. One is Purusha the Self, and then separate from that Sprit, there is Prakriti, the non-self, the gross material. Patanjali believes there is no connection, linkage or interaction between Purusha and Prakriti (dual). Although Purusha and Prakriti are not connected, they do depend on each other. Without Purusha there could be no Prakriti, and without Prakriti there could be no Purusha (2:23). Classical yoga believes that humans suffer because they are ignorant to dualism, to the fact that there is both Purusha and Prakriti. Instead of realizing this dualism they falsely identify Purusha (Spirit, Self) with Prakriti (non-self, matter, materialism). Classical yoga says in order to reach liberation (mukti) we must distinguish between the two. We must believe in dualism and we need to realize that there is a Self (Purusha), and at the same time there is a non-self (Prakriti). Patanjali is telling us in The Yoga Sutras that we need to learn how to nirodhah (restrain) our Prakritic nature so we may be absorbed in Spirit (Book 1). Patanjali then goes on and tells us what practices will help us do that (book 2), he says through this practice we may receive supernatural abilities (Book 3) and then we will experience absoluteness, and unlimitedness (Book 4).

It has been really interesting for me to go back to The Sutras after getting so interested in non-dual philosophy. I have read this book many times over the past 5 years, but this time as I read it I tried to see how I could translate the sutras into a more non-dual teaching. I have included my thoughts in parenthesizes on how I think tantra would explain them. However I might be completely wrong in my translation. :)

Book one, Samadhi Pada: a Portion on Contemplation. In the first book of The Yoga Sutras Patanjali talks about the process of separating our identity from our thoughts. We should concentrate and absorb our self into the Spirit (Purusha) instead of mis-identifying with our Prakritic self. The first sutra says “atha yoganusasanam” Now! The teaching/ instruction/ exposition is offered. I really like how he uses the word atha, now. He tells us that the practice of yoga is happening now, in this moment. In this book he talks about learning how to control the mind. In 1:2, Patanjali says that the minds natural state is peaceful but the chitta vritti “the modifications of the mind-stuff” or thoughts disturb that peace. If we could learn how to control the mind though nirodhah (restraints) we would experience this peaceful state. (The tantra side would say instead of restraining the mind, go into the mind and figure out how to appropriately use it in an effective way, so we may align with Grace.) He continues to say only when the chitta vritti, the modifications of the mind-stuff is nirodhah, restrained is it possible to rest in our True Self, and that at all other times when our mind isn’t still we are falsely identifying with our material nature.

Patanjali explains the different kinds of vritti which are either painful or not painful and that we can control the mind through non-attachment (1:12). (The tantra side would say we can align with the mind through appropriate attachment.) Patanjali says that you need to be continuous and steadfast in your practice of non-attachment (or appropriate attachment). Patanjali says if we can detach from the mind and its personal desires completely we will then experience a reflection of Purusha. Since Patanjali believes in dualism, then we are Prakriti and are completely separate from Purusha we can only ever experience the reflection of Purusha, but even the reflection of Purusha is peaceful and is much better than our Prakritic nature.

Patanjali talks about sraddha (faith) and vigor to restrain the mind stuff so we may experience the spirit. (The tantra side would say it is all one, we are part of that one. Through vigor and faith we can use our freedom and choose to align our heart with grace.) Patanjali explains the final stage of yoga, Samadhi and the different kinds of Samadhi. He believes that Isvara is the highest Purusha and we should surrender to this Supreme God, Isvara pranidhanam. (The tantra side would say this is opening to grace, surrendering to this one big intrinsically good divine energy, and that we in no way separate from this Isvara.)

Patanjali talks about obstacles and explains the different ways to concentrate and the different things to contemplate on to prevent these obstacles and to retain steadiness of the mind. I like the positivity of 1:33, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness” (Sri Swami Satchidananda). Patanjali talks about contemplation on visoka va jyotismati an ever blissful light within (1:36). I remember reading this sutras after I had fallen in love with Anusara and this totally reminded me of the last lines two lines in the Anusara invocation, “Nisprapancaya Shantaya Niralambaya Tejase”. I researched this to see if they had the same or similar meaning, and that is when I learned just how different this dual classical yoga is from the non-dual tantra philosophy that I have been learning about through Anusara. In 1:36, Patanjali is saying that this inner light is separate from us and that we need to move past the body, that the body isn’t a gift it is a hindrance and we need to step over our Prakritic nature so we may be absorbed in this light. The invocation is saying we are that divine goodness and that we are always full of peace. This body is a gift and we should celebrate our embodied freedom.

Book two: Sadhana Pada, The Portion on practice. In this book, Patanjali explains how to attain the goal of Samadhi. This book explains the mind, suffering, and how to live a yoga lifestyle (classical yoga, renunciant). Patanjali explains the three paths of practice that The Bhagavad Gita teaches. Patanjali says we can use our Body/Karma/Action, our Mind/Jnana/Alignment, and our Heart/Bhakti/attitude. “The practical means of attaining higher consciousness consists of three components: self-discipline and purification [Karma], self-study [Jnana], and devotion to the Lord [Bhakti]” (2:1 Mukunda Stiles). He then talks about the 5 kleshas or obstacles that cause suffering including: ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and fear of death (1:3-9) and explains that these obstacles are caused by the ego. (The tantra side would say that the ego isn’t all bad because it allows us to make chooses and allows us to express our freedom).

In 2:29, Patanjali outlines the eight limb path which is made up of yama (the don’ts), niyamas (the do’s), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (contemplation). Ever since I first read The Sutras I loved the yama’s (non-violence, truthfulness, non stealing, creative use of sexual energy, and non selfishness) and the niyamas (cleanliness, contentment, spiritual discipline, self study, and surrender to grace). I try very hard to follow and align these ethical rules in my life.

One of my favorite sutras is when Patanjali describes the third limb (asana) of the eight fold path, sthira sukham asanam (2:46), “asana is a steady, comfortable posture” (Sri Swami Satchidananda). However, I like to look at this sutra a little deeper. Asanam means posture or seat. It is the seat or position you take on or off your yoga mat. This position requires two aspects sthira and sukham. Sthira means strength, stability, and effort, and sukham meaning a sense of comfort, ease, and delight. It is this dynamic balance that brings harmony to our life. Just like how we need a dynamic balance between muscular energy (sthira) and organic energy (sukham) to bring harmony in our body. I used to really use this teaching in my asana practice, and I still do but currently I am finding a lot of strength from this sutra off the mat.

Third Book, Vibhuti Pada: The Portion on Supernatural Abilities and Gifts. This book focuses on the supernatural abilities (siddhis) gained from the practice of samyama. However, Patanjali makes sure to warn us that these powers are not the goal of yoga, they are the by-products (3:38). Patanjali starts this book by explaining the last three limbs of the eight limbed path including concentration, meditation, and contemplation. He says the practice of all three of these on one object is call samyama, and that through the practice of samyama we may receive these powers (3:4). Patanjali talks about many ways to use samyama, and ends this book by saying through the practice of samyama we can purify our mind and when the “mind becomes equal in purity with the Transcendental Self, then absolute freedom, arises” (Mukunda Stiles).

Book four, Kaivalya Pada: The Portion on Absolute Freedom. In this last book Patanjali talks about the forces of nature (gunas) and how to move past the limitations of time and space. He explains that yoga’s goal is a continuously unfolding process of self-knowledge and that this will lead to moksha, liberation. This reminds me of the reasons we practice yoga chit ananda, to know more and to be happy. Patanjali talks about what happens while you are absorbed in Samadhi. In this absolute state of freedom you stop accumulating karma (4:6) and through Samadhi all afflictions and karmas cease (4:30). Patanjali says when you see the duality between the Prakriti and Purusha, “the distinction between the mind and the Atman, thoughts of mind as the Atman ceases forever” (2:25 Sri Swami Satchidananda). (I think tantra would say that when you realize you are part of the one divine energy you are aligning with grace). Patanjali ends this book by saying absolute freedom is the result of “the power of pure consciousness becomes established in it own essential nature” (4:34 Mukunda Stiles).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The story of Virabhadra...with a new lesson...Be fiernce and unite with your heart

The story of virabhadra.what serves you? I love myths. I love how every can teach so many lessons. Every time you return to them even if it is a story you have heard one hundred times before you will learn something new, gain a new insight, be inspired in a new way. This time I thought about how this story reminds us of Anusara "flowing with the heart". I was thinking about the story of Virabhadra the other day. The fierce warrior whom our poses virabhadrasana (warrior) 1, 2, and 3 are named after.

(I posted a blog very similar to this story so if you read it before you can move toward the bottom and read about a different way at looking at this same story :))

Once upon a time in the celestial realms lived a young man, Lord Shiva, and a young woman, Sati (also thought of as Shakti). Shiva and Sati fell madly in love and were wed. Unfortunately their story did not end here. For Sati was the daughter of King Daksha, who never approved of his daughter marrying a dreaded hair yogi who danced, sang, and consumed intoxicants. To show his disapproval, Daksha through a huge party, inviting everyone in the universe except for Shiva and Sati. Sati heard about the lavish party that her father was throwing as a way to punish her and her new husband, Lord Shiva. Annoyed, she begged Shiva to go with her to the party in spite of her father’s wishes. As the wise Lord of Consciousness Shiva replied; “why go, were we are not invited?” Sati disagreed and decided to go alone.

When she arrived her father jokingly announced that she must have come to her senses and left her husband. Sati whom was not amused defended Shiva, even pointing out his divineness, his oneness with nature, his steady unchanging firmness, and his supreme consciousness. She realized her father would never understand so she announced “since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it!” Determined she took her seat on the floor in the middle of the party and closed her eyes. She visualized Shiva and then through pranayama (breathing techniques) and other yogic exercises she cultivated her Agni (internal fire). Moments later she burst into flames, leaving the body her father had given her!

Out of devastation and grief of Sati’s fiery death, Shiva enraged tore out his hair (or a dread lock depending on which ancient text) throwing it to the ground. From this hair he created the fiercest warrior, which he named Virabhadra. Vira is the Sanskrit word meaning hero and bhadra means friend. I like to think of Virabhadra as faithful servers of Shiva. Shiva instructed Virabhadra to go to the party and seek revenge for Sati’s death.

The actions that Virabhadra took that night in battle are what inspired the asana poses we have come to know as virabradhasana 1, 2, and 3:

Virabhadrasana 1: Virabhadra entered the party by breaking through the ground as he rose from within the earth clasping a sword in each hand.
Virabhadrasana 2: Moments later he spotted Daksha from across the room.
Virabhadrasana 3: Lastly he beheads Daksha.

So that is the story… And every time I think about it a different aspect, a different teaching sticks out to me. I wrote a blog about this story and the ego In that blog I talk about viewing Daksha as the ego, so Virabhadra is beheading our own ego in service of Shiva, our consciousness. However since writing this blog I have been studying a lot of tantra (Shiva-Shakti and Rajanaka). In this tantra view we don’t believe the ego is nessisaraly a bad thing. The ego is what makes the choices for the I. When I first came across this I idea I was so confused. For so long I have been trying to get rid of my ego. And yes the ego is bad when it makes me coincident, arrogant, cocky….But the ego is also that part of me that chooses to practice yoga, eat healthy, study tantra, meditate, and be kind... The ego in its essence represents the freedom of our life. The freedom what makes life so beautiful. So in tantra we don’t want to behead our ego. Does this make sense?

As I thought about this a different teaching came to mind. I thought about how Shiva represents our Consciousness and the Self while Sati (Shakti) represents the heart and the creative expression of the divine. Their marriage represents the union and experience of the heart, bliss and freedom with the Self. When Shiva and Shakti are united we can experience Param-Shiva the singular Supreme Spirit. Daksha can be viewed as whatever is not serving this union of the self (Shiva) and the heart (Shakti). When we move toward this Supreme Spirit we experience the “Essential Attributes of the Absolute” including: absolute Goodness, Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Sat-chit-ananda), pulsation, self-awareness, ultimate freedom (Svatantrya) and perfect fullness (Purnatva). Daksha represents the “stuff” that stands in our way, prevents us, or pulls us out of our connection with the heart, and the creative freedom of life. Whatever stops you from connecting to the bliss (ananda) that is part of our being (anamaya kosha).

This myth can inspire us to be fierce like the Virabhadra in serves of our Self, encouraging us to “behead” or remove whatever is not serving us in our life. Whatever is stopping us from being more heart centered, and more blissful. I love this. We can then take this view and apply it to each version of virabhadrasana:

Virabhadrasana 1: when he is breaking through the ground. This can represent us showing up for our self. Deciding and acknowledging that there is work to be done so we may connect more fully with our heart. This is the first step. It is empowering it takes strength and dedication, like the strength to break up from the earth.

Virabhadrasana 2: when he is setting his sight on Daksha. This is us looking. It is us being present in our life and seeing what is pulling us out or preventing from experiencing the “Attributes of the Absolute”, from being happy, from being connected to the heart. Maybe this is fear, anger, sadness, insecurity; maybe it is bad friends, drinking, gambling, sex…. Not only do we need to show up (virabhadrasana 1), but we need to dive into our self and see what needs to be “beheaded”.

Virabhadrasana 3: when he is beheading Daksha. This is doing the work. We have showed up (in virabhadrasana 1), we have looked and been present with our self (in virabhadrasana 2), and now we need to do the work, we need to implement changes and behead what is stopping us from being heart centered. Part of this phase is to continuing to show up (virabhadrasana 1 and virabhadrasana 2). It is continuing to practice, continuing to look at our self. A great Sanskrit term for this is Abhyasa.
“Abhyasa is the best term that encapsulates this concept. It's showing up, over and over, for a long period of time with a devoted heart. The word abhyasa means: "a continuous endeavor; constant practice; repetition; exercise; exertion."” (Maria Cristina) we practice can we show up for our self, look with in and see what is holding us back, and then have the strength to do something about it, and continue this process over and over and over! This is hard work, which is way we can be inspired by this fierce warrior Virabhadra who serves us (Shiva) so we may unite with our heart and creative freedom (Shakti).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ananda and Nanda!!! BLISS

I spent a few days thinking about “the universe being a big ball of pulsating bliss”. As I contemplated this statement from John Friend I really focused on the pulsation (spanda) and the dance of Shiva and Shakti energy (see earlier post). I then shifted my focus to the later part of Johns explanation of this newly named Anusara Shiva-Shakti Tantra… “bliss”. Ananda is Sanskrit for supreme bliss.

Nanda (without the a) means happy. Nanda is connected to the emotion of being happy, which is a happiness that we seek from the physical world, outside of our self. Once we find some physical thing that makes us feel happy we cling onto it in fear that we will lose our happiness. However whenever we find happiness outside of ourselves, it will eventually change or go away and this leads to unhappiness, sadness and/or anger. This happiness we seek outside of our self, nanda, is only temporary and will always go away. “The only thing constant is change”.

For example it’s like an ice cream cone. I think yummm.. a mint chocolate-chip ice cream cone sounds soooo good. I then I get one. I lick it and think sooo good, I feel so happy, but if I cling to this happiness that the ice cream cone brings eventually: when I eat it all, it melts, or it falls to the ground I will be unhappy. Then what do I do? Do I start the cycle over and just constantly buy and eat ice cream cones trying to stay happy? No I need to find a happiness that doesn’t come from something outside of myself. Ananda (with the a) means beyond happy, supreme bliss, unending joy. This happiness comes from a connection to our heart, from inside of our self.

In yoga philosophy we talk about different layers or koshas of our self. I like to think of these layers like layers of an onion. Starting with our physical body (annamaya kosha, like the core of the onion), then expanding away from the physical body with the breath/ life force body (pranamaya kosha). Then there is the mental body (the manomaya kosha), the wisdom body (vijanamaya kosha), and lastly the bliss body (anandamaya kosha).

I really like the anandamaya kosha. This is a layer of our self that is full of bliss! This part of our self is unaffected by the outer world, the senses, and the emotions. It is untouched by all of these and it is always blissful. This part of our self doesn’t need anything to be blissful; it just is it always is!!

Lately in my personal asana practice, and when I teach class I have been focusing on this ananda and nanda forms of happiness. The longer you practice yoga, especially when you are practicing with good alignment it is easy to get good at “advanced” poses. Once you start doing these poses you can connect to this happiness about the physical aspect of the pose. This is nanda, the happiness that we cling to in the external world. As you are performing your asanas and you feel happiness ask, which happiness is it? nanda, based on the external world? Or is it ananda, based on our inner state of bliss?

No matter what our level is, or what poses we are performing can we use the physical practice of yoga as a way to connect to that layer of our self (anandamaya kosha) that is steady and ever blissful no matter what our outer shape looks like. Yoga is great because it provides an opportunity for us to really connect to our self and our essence and at our core we can connect to this always present always blissful energy.

I love this idea. Of this bliss full layer that is completely apart of who we are. Whenever I find myself getting upset or sad I pause and I remind myself of the anandamaya kosha, normally when I remind myself of this I don’t instantly feel this bliss body, but I totally believe and know it is there. And that is great!

We can remember this every time we chant the Anusara invocation. Sat-chit-ananda

Picture resources:

“The universe is a big ball of pulsating bliss”

Last week I went to Tiffany Woods (an Anusara-inspired teacher who is going through the certification process) class at The Shop in Park City Utah. It was my first time at The Shop and it was phenomenal. Tiffany mentioned she was on a teleconference call with John Friend talking about the newly named Shiva Shakti Tantra of Anusara yoga. She said that at the end of the phone call someone asked John how to explain this Shiva Shakti tantra to our Anusara students, and well spoken, articulated John Friend replied, “The universe is a big ball of pulsating bliss”. I absolutely loved this! I am so grateful Tiffany shared this with us. All week in my practice on the mat and in my life of the mat I thought about how the universe, the trees, the trash, the sun, me, everyone….is all a part of this pulsating ball of bliss.

I focused and meditated on this pulsating ball of bliss. This pulsation is like a dance of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is like the sun. The one energy, consciousness, the masculine principle of stability, stillness, and that which never changes. Shakti is like the sunshine. The dynamic expression of the oneness, the feminine principle of freedom and is in constant motion. I thought about how this pulsation (spanda) explains the ups and downs, the contraction and expansions of life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

my teaching experience 6/9/10

I just got back from teaching my all level class (9:15-10:30 at Flow Yoga EMC). It is a new class and it has slowly building up students. When I come to teach I normally expect 3-6 students. It is hard having a new class because it takes time to build up students and momentum, especially at a new location. It is a good reminder as a teacher to have patience and remember that I do have something to offer and even teaching one student is such a great opportunity to teach and experience the Shakti of life.

Anyways today I had a plan for what I was going to teach. I was thinking inner spiral and outer spiral of the legs. I had some clever sequences planned and some exercises to help the students experience what inner and outer spiral done appropriately should feel like. It gives more support and stability and the opportunity to experience and expand more fully. However when I got there I just had one student. When ever I have one student I throw my plan out the window and it becomes more of a private. I ask what they want to work on, or if they have any questions, or if they ever experience any pain that we could look into…

We decided to do some light stretching, more of a therapeutic practice. However as we were practicing I was aware of the inappropriate shoulder alignment in many poses. I knew this student and know that she has regularly complained of shoulder pain. So I decided to focus on keeping the shoulders plugged in to the back of the heart. Really working the rhomboid muscles, pulling the tips of the scapulas together so that the shoulder blades can assist in the opening of the heart. It was wonderful. My beautiful friend who works the front desk slowly moved into practice with us. She first practiced in the lobby and then eventually grabbed her mat and came and practiced (now two students). This was another wonderful reminder that it is a great opportunity to have smaller classes because you get a chance to really break down and teach the universal principles of alignment.

Some of the sequence:

We worked on finding the rhomboid muscles in tadasana doing a few exercises to find the scapula alignment. For example we extended the right arm toward sky and bent out right elbow then took our left hand to the right elbow like a shoulder stretch. I first asked them to pull the shoulder blade off the back body which is a nice stretch but is not shoulder integration. I find it is nice to point out what we shouldn’t do so we can feel that before moving into what we should do. I then had them pivot there torso to the right, which provides more access to squeeze the tip of the right shoulder blade toward the back of the heart. I then helped by stabilizing and securing there scapula in that position on there back as they rotated there torso back to center. WOW! Rhomboid muscles identified :)

We worked on finding the shoulder integration in our plank and chaturangas as well. As we were doing this I noticed that both ladies were collapsing in the hips and not engaging the core so we also went over inner spiral of the thighs + outer spiral (scooping the tail bone) to get the low belly engaged then we melt the heart found out shoulder integration and SLOWLY lowered down. We practiced always squeezing the tips of the shoulder blades together so the top of the shoulders would never come down below the elbows even as we transitioned to cobra (again working the shoulder blades to open and expand the heart) and then to AMS (downward dog). I got such great comments like “this required so much more awareness” and “felt so much more in control” and “strong”.

We laid on a rolled up blanket with the tips of the shoulder blades just above the blanket. Here we worked at plugging the shoulder into the hear extending the arms toward sky palms facing each other and then slowly lower the thumbs toward earth and then slowly extending the arms toward sky, keeping the shoulder integration the whole time. This was a lot of fun the muscles where shaking and I reminded them that “when the muscles shake it is the muscles jumping for joy!” They were so surprised that by lying on a blanket and lowering and lifting the arms which sounds so easy required so much focus and “heat” as one student said.

We did some bridge work and then made it to urdhva danurasana shoulder plugging exercise. Before I did this I had them sit in heros pose and take anjali mudra over there head so their forearms where facing sky and elbows were pointing to the front of the class. Here we worked at unplugging the shoulders taking the elbows forward, and then plugging the shoulders taking the shoulders tips together, elbows back, and heart expanding forward as a result of the shoulder integration. We then did this in urdhva danurasana prep with our head on the ground. Unplugging, plugging, unplugging, plugging, unplugging, plugging…

Then we did a cool down integrating the femur bones into the hamstrings and some twists, then a nice shavasana.

After class I talked to the student and said "so much for stretching" haha. She laughed and said we did plenty of stretching. She said she loved will be sore tomorrow, and she is also happy to know better alignment.

What a wonderful way to start the morning. It is great to know that I can still teach a good class spontaneously without a plan. It requires that I focus on the students and what is going on in their bodies and their minds.

I am so thankful to my students and my teachers. Now I am off to walk the dog, garden, read, and then teach another class at 5:40 at The Yoga Center and I think my father in law might be coming to his first class. FUN FUN FUN

balanced action, newtons third law of physics

(I have been organizing my yoga documents on my computer and I have discovered a few blogs that I never posted)
Balanced Action and newtons third law of physics
Balanced action reminds me of Newton’s Third Law of Physics: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction".

Every yoga pose is like an experiment. Sometime the experiment goes well, sometime not so much. No matter how the experiment goes can we still bring a soft, playful and compassionate presence.

There is a big difference between action and leaning. When you use action, you push and cause the body to integrate, hugging into the mid line. When you lean you put weight onto a limb, which causes a collapse in the body. When you have an action, when you hug in, you will automatically get a reaction, a lift in another part of the body. Finding this out in yoga is groovy. This gives you yet another aspect of your experience to anchor your attention to. Helping you to be aware of your yoga = “yoking”, marrying the poses together in such a way to bring about a revelation, of connecting to your blissful essence, of aligning your body, mind, and spirit with the divine.

According to Newton’s Third Law of Physics "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". This scientific fact is great to keep in mind as we conduct our asanas. We can monitor the quality of our experiments by being aware of the opposite reaction. Since the opposite reaction is present it means we are performing our action properly

1.Anjaniasana: In our lunge we want to be pressing the ball of the back foot down into the matt and forward so much that the back thigh floats up slightly (femur bones back).
2.Plank: In plank we have two actions that cause two reactions. First the hands push into the floor so firmly that the chest lifts and secondly the balls of the feet press forward and down so the thighs lift.
3.Parvrita Utkatasana: Twisting chair pose, let’s say we are hooking are left elbow to the outside or our right knee and we bring our hands to anjali mudra. You want to tuck the tail bone slightly to the kidneys lift, and you want to press the elbow into the thigh so firmly that the ribs move away from the thighs and the left side of the belly moves more toward the right.
4.Bakasana: Three actions and three reactions. First, you are pressing into the floor so firmly the chest lifts. Second, you squeeze the elbows toward each other so the mid belly lifts. Lastly, you press the knees into the arms and hug into the midline so that the low back lifts.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why practice yoga?

(I have been organizing my yoga documents on my computer and I have discovered a few blogs that I never posted, so here is one :))

In Anusara you study yoga for two main reasons:
1. To know more. This is called chit in Sanskrit. To know more has to do with muscular energy (drawing the muscles to the bone, drawing from the periphery along the core lines of the body toward the focal point, and drawing from the periphery to the midline) knowing more, deepening your consciousness is related to Shiva and masculine energy.

2. To be happy! How wonderful. This is called ananda meaning bliss, delight, joy. To be happy is similar to organic energy (extending out from the midline toward the periphery, softening the skin, and extending out from the focal point along the core lines). It is choosing to expressively share our beautiful uniqueness with others. Ananda, being happy and expressive is related to Shakti the feminine energy.
Anusara yoga is about remembrance. Remembering that at our core we are part of this one auspicious energy. We remember chit and ananda at the beginning of every class when we sing the Anusara invocation “sat chit ananda”.

I love this wonderful practice rooted in the non-dual Shiva-Shakti tantra philosophy rooted in intrinsic goodness. I love this, the idea of doing something so we may know more, and so we may be happy. May we choose to use every experience in our life to gain more knowledge (chit) so we may live and align more fully with grace, and to bring us more happiness. It is easy to write this and make it sound easy but it is important to remember that chit and ananda takes a lot of hard work. It requires tremendous amounts of tapas (heat) and adhikara (studentship, if you want to learn more about adhikara read my previous post Even though this practice demands discipline and hard work, it sure does make for one fun journey and I am continuing to discover much ananda and chit.

Friday, June 4, 2010

new mantra: Experience

I just got back from enjoying 5 long lovely days in the desert of Moab Utah. It was wonderful. When I first got there I was so happy to be in the desert (the desert is one of my favorite places ever), however I couldn’t stop thinking. I kept thinking and worrying about yoga, family, and all this other stuff. I thought “why I am on a vacation? I want to submerge myself in the essence of nature. Why can’t I let go of this attachment to my thoughts?” I then thought of the word experience. This word became my mantra for the rest of my trip.

When I was busy worrying, thinking, obsessing over these thoughts in my mind I wasn’t experiencing the moment, the moment that was unfolding right then and there. I wasn’t aware of my breath, the posture of my body, or the feelings of my life force energy (prana) pulsating inside me. When my mind was racing around like a ball bouncing around in a pin ball machine, I felt distracted, empty, not full, and not super happy. So I would pause and experience the precious moment that was unfolding. I would feel the breath moving in and out. I would notice the way I was holding my body, I would notice how the energy (the prana) was moving through my body. I would then adjust my body, enhance the quality of my breathe so I could fell full of vibrant energy. I did this my whole trip. As I sat and meditated, ate, hiked, talked, danced…anything and everything. I kept thinking and saying “experience”. Experience the touch of sun and breeze on my skin. Experience the sounds and smells. When I shifted my focus it doesn’t mean that all that other stuff that was preoccupying my mind no longer existed, it just meant that I wasn’t hooked to the thoughts.

My husband plays lots of video games and in some of his games he has to train. For example he takes his advatar to this training area and he practices shooting his bow and arrow. There is a little monitor in the side of the screen that displays his skill level and the more he practices these skills the better he gets. Then when he leaves the training area his bow and arrow skills are more finely tuned and he does better in the real game situation. When I saw this I thought this is yoga!

We train on our yoga mat to practice experiencing the essence of ourselves. We start by sitting down on our mat. We experience our breath, posture, prana, and mind. From there we move through some warm ups. Can we keep experiencing what is happening within every pose and within ever transition? Can we notice when we get hooked by inappropriate thoughts and bring our awareness back to what is actually happening? We then move into more challenging poses. Can we stay with the experience as we use more strength and endurance. The more we practice experiencing what is happening in each moment on the mat, the more we increase our ability to be able to experience the present moment off the mat and to the real obstacles we encounter on our path.
I have a lot of people say to me “I can’t do yoga, I can’t mediate I just can’t stop thinking.” Yoga is not the stopping of thinking, but it is the learning not to get overly hooked by your inappropriate thoughts. I say inappropriate because thoughts are helpful, and allow us to express our freedom, but when we worrying, stress and picking at inappropriate thoughts is when we get hooked. Instead of getting hooked by every thought that comes into your mind can you just be aware. Can you think to youself “I am thinking but at the same time I can feel my breath, my body, and my spirit?” Can you be so aware that you can distinguish between an appropriate thought that allows you to connect to life and handle the challenges more fully, and can you choose to let go of the inappropriate thoughts that don’t serve you? When you are thinking, can you keep a connection to your heart, body, and energy?

I love this “experience” mantra so much. I used it so much in the desert. I hiked to this beautiful river that was secluded and peaceful and I started thinking for probably 30 minutes about other things, I was just distracting myself by overly thinking and planning. I then realized what I was doing and I paused. I thought experience. Experience what is happening right now. Hear the water, the birds, feel the sun and the breeze, feel the breath and the body. I kept laying there for over an hour and it was wonderful. I felt so full of energy so vibrant yet a sense of calmness. This is the feeling tone I am trying to create through the practice of yoga, a sense of alertness and vibrancy and at the same time a sense of peace and ease.

One of the classes I taught we focused on the theme experience. For the UPA (universal principles of alignment) we focused on experiencing the inner (expanding) spiral of the back leg and the outer (contracting) spiral of the front leg, here is the sequence:
*AMShigh runners lung
Tadanasana, urdhva hastasana, uttanasana, ardha uttanasana, Lunge, AMS, vinyasa, uttanasana, tadanasana
Tadanasana, urdhva hastasana, uttanasana, ardha uttanasana, Lunge, virabhadrasana 2, AMS, vinyasa, uttanasana, tadanasana
Tadanasana, urdhva hastasana, uttanasana, ardha uttanasana, Lunge, virabhadrasana 2, reverse virabhadrasana, AMS, vinyasa, uttanasana, tadanasana
Tadanasana, urdhva hastasana, uttanasana, ardha uttanasana, Lunge, virabhadrasana 2, reverse virabhadrasana, modified utthita parsvakonasana, utthita parsvakonasana, virabhadrasana 2, AMS, vinyasa, uttanasana, tadanasana
Virasana (eyes closed experence)
Ams, ardha chandrasana, virabhadrasana 3 prep, **urdhva prasarita eka padasana, virabhadrasana 3, virabhadrasana 1, AMS
Malasana, bakasana 3X
Tadasana, garudasana legs, hands in anjali, arms reach up, full garudasana, virabhadrasana 3 with garudasana arms, virabhadrasana 1 with eagle arms, virabhadrasana 1, uttanasana, tadansana
Malasana, bakasana
***Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (active legs squeeze toward midline, reach up)
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (with quad stretch, mermaid style)
****Matsyasana (with knees bent soles of feet on floor)
Supta twist

Sanskrit words translation
*AMS (Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog Pose)
** urdhva prasarita eka padasana (standing splits)
*** Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon)
**** Matsyasana (fish)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I haven’t mentioned this a lot in my blog because it is new to me and I am still trying to experience it. I have however, been studying reiki for quite some time. “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" (prana) flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then they are more likely to get sick or feel stress. If ones “life force energy” is high, they are more happy, healthy and vibrant. Reiki is the laying on of hands and it is using your hands to move, enhance and cleanse the energy in your body bringing health, peace, and vitality.

About 6 months ago I got my first attunement. The first attunement means I was attuned to the prana or ki (life force energy). This attunement gave me the ability to channel the life force energy to use for self healing. I planned on doing my second attunement shortly after my first, I even scheduled an appointment with my friend, but it didn’t feel right at the time. That is one thing I love about reiki. I feel like my intuition has gotten deeper and more connect to my authentic truth. Right before I left to go camping on Tuesday, situations and grace alignment and my beautiful friend Allison, gave me my second attunement!

The second attunement was really cool! Not only can I heal myself but I can do treatments on other, and I also learned symbols to make the energy and healing more powerful! Reiki attunements open and expand the prana-holding capacity or the energetic body and clear any energy blockages. The attunement opened a channel for the Reiki energy to flow from me to a client. The more I practice using Reiki the clearer and stronger the flow becomes.

After getting my first attunement I have been doing treatments to myself, but only when I felt I needed it. Over one month ago I started doing daily treatments. It is really cool to see myself grow as a reiki practitioner. My intuition is getting more sensitive, I am learning to feel where my hands should be and how long my hands should be over certain parts of my body. When I was camping I did lots of self treatments, it was wonderful I would leave the camp and hike to a rock and sit down mediate and hen perform a reiki session. I felt so vibrant the whole trip. Sometimes I imagine my body as a cub that contains life forces energy, which is like water. Sometimes, especially when I was distracted I felt like my cup was empty (even though I know it never is) however after doing reiki I felt so full of energy, of prana, as if the water (prana) was overflowing my cup (body). This is such a great feeling! Sometime it would make my eyes water, and I would think, this is me at my essence! This is how I should always feel!

I also did a few treatments on my friends. I mainly practiced on my fabulous friend Steph and I thank her so much for sharing her wonderful, phenomenal, beautiful energy with me. Performing a reiki treatment demands presence. You have to be present in order to experiencing what is happening. You have to be open to the moment, allowing the energy to flow and be sensitive so you know when to move and when to stay from position to position. I felt my hands warm, and my clients would comment on my warm hands (it’s funny because my first reiki treatments I always thought that my teacher’s hands were also warm). At my hands I felt powerful energy either sucking or pushing energy in and out, but instead of this energy just coming from my hands I felt the energy coming from behind my shoulder, as if the energy was being drawn from the sushumna (the central energy channel that runs up and down the spine) behind by heart.

My life is a wonderful journey. I feel so lucky for all the opportunity and pains that have happened in my life because it has brought me here. I can’t wait to see where my journey leads me, and I am so happy to share my experiences here on this blog. Thanks for reading.

(PS. If you happen to be in Utah I am providing reiki for trade or pay what you can, I would love the opportunity to share this with others, please contact me


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kanchukas and intrinsic goodness

We have freedom in our life. We have the freedom to choose how we want to live our life. We also have the freedom to choose our perspectives. We can choose to be negative, we can choose to pick at everything and point out and notice the bad, but we are also free to choose another perspective. We can choose to be positive; to see the goodness in life. We can even choose to see that everything in its essence is intrinsically good. We can choose to look at the brightest side of every situation. (I wrote a story of Shiva and perspectives Perspectives are powerful.)

Maya uses 5 different cloaks (kanchukas) to try to hide the beauty and intrinsic goodness of life.

Maya: the differentiating power of the universe, it makes us see the one as being separate.
The 5 Kanchukas= cloaks:
1.Kala: limits omnipotence (Kriya, relates to action of the 3 A’s), creates limited agency or the capacity to act. Makes you feel like you can’t do it.
2.Vidya: limits omniscience (jnana, relates to alignment of the 3 A’s)) creates limited knowledge. Makes you think you don’t know enough, that you have inadequate knowledge.
3.Raga: limits fullness of heart (iccha, relates to attitude of the 3 A’s) creates desire and longing to be full again.
4.Niyati: limits omnipresence freedom of creative power and expression (Shakti) creates fabric of Space, and the energetic tapestry of causality. Limits the individual expression. We think this causes this and this causes this and that we are too small to participate in the destiny of life.
5.Kala: limits eternal awareness (Shiva) creates time, and the sense of sequential awareness.

My metaphor about maya and her use of the kanchukas:
The kanchukas are mayas way of hiding the beauty and goodness from us. I like to imagine every situation fits into a big glass box and in the middle of the box there is a beautiful shinning light of goodness, this light is Param Shiva (the highest energy). Maya uses these cloaks, like five pieces of cheese cloth fabric of 5 different colors, that are sown together to make one big sheet. Maya then throws this big sheet over the box (the situation), so you can still see the light shining out of the box through the cheese cloth fabric but the light is distorted from the cheese cloth fabric so you can’t see the total truth, the intrinsic goodness of life. For example the kala section of this cloak shines all the light through it accept it limits omnipotence. So you can’t see that you do have the power and capacity to act. The vidya fabric shines all the light through but it doesn’t shine out that you have full knowledge, it limits omniscience. The raga swatch doesn’t show you that your heart is full, so it creates a longing in you so that you can be full again. When really you are full but maya has thrown on this fabric that makes you think you are empty. The niyati fabric shines all the beauty through the cheese cloth except your freedom, so you think that you don’t have freedom of creative expression. The last cloak maya uses is kala and it doesn’t let you see that you have eternal awareness.

How do the five kanchukas fit into intrinsic goodness?
We can acknowledge that these cloaks exists that in every situation, we can acknowledge that maya uses these 5 cloaks (kanchukas) to hide how great life is, how great we are. We can choose to look for the goodness that does shine out in any given situation. We can remember that there is more goodness under her cloaks, but we just can’t see it yet, but we can still no it is there.

How can we use the Kanchukas to see the beauty and intrinsic goodness of life?
Whenever we experience one of these kanchukas like omnipotence, omniscience, emptiness, omnipresence, and lack of awareness we can remember that these are just cloaks that maya uses to hide the full beauty (shri) and goodness from us. We can use the kanchukas to remind us of the intrinsic goodness of life. The kanchukas spell out limitations and they also give us the opportunity to make up our mind on how to behavior which allows us to express our freedom. They also give us an opportunity of discovery. The cloaks also allow us to experience situations at the appropriate time. They cloaks provide an opportunity for revelation at appropriate times. It is like Ganesha the elephant headed god, he is both the remover and the placer of obstacles so we can experience things when we are prepared to and not before. We can see through more and more of the cloaks the better we perform our studentship (adhikara) and we will gain appropriate wisdom on our evolutionary path.

Maya creates these categorize of illusion and brings about the appearance of difference. She hides the truth of oneness. It is easy to see maya as this horrible thing hiding beauty but she is doing it so we can delight in the goodness, so we can see and experience more. If we saw goodness everywhere, all the time we would get used to it and not be so delighted with the beauty. It is like when we get sick. I know whenever I am healthy I am not always thinking how grateful I am for my health, but when I get sick I remember and appreciate my health so much and then for a week or two after I was sick I live with gratitude for my health and how great it is that I am not sick. But over time I get used to my health and I am less grateful because it is so constant. It takes these cloaks of maya so we can delight and embrace the beauty

I found these resources very helpful:
They Anusara Immersion Packet, by John Friend
Adam Ballenger and the wonderful individuals in my immersion group.

Intention and Testimonials

Testimonials & My Intention

My Intention It is my intention as a yoga teacher to help you bring more health and vibrancy to your body, ease and alertness to your mind...