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)

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