Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Karma Yoga

Every time it snows I shovel our driveway.  Since I am out there and our driveways are attached I also do my neighbors driveway.  I could easily leave it, after all it does add another 1/2 hour or 20 minutes to my task but my neighbors are in their 60's and as I said I am already out there.  It feels good to know that I am helping them out a little bit and that I am saving them the time to do it.  I get fresh air and a little bit of exercise, and the kids get to play out side and eat snow (yes eat snow).

Funny thing about this shoveling that I do.  I really don't mind doing it, in fact I enjoy it.  This morning it was not as much fun.  Not because there was more snow - snow is snow.  Not because it was cold, it was a balmy -3.  Not because I was tired or hungry or thirsty or anything like that.  The reason was because my neighbors seem to have purchased a truck or are borrowing a truck or one of their kids are parking it in their driveway.  I found that this enormous pick up truck that is not normally there is blocking my way.  I can't easily shovel the snow from one end of the driveway to another.  You would think I would be happy, if I look on the bright side, this truck covers the pavement making less snow for me to shovel.  Instead I found myself cursing this damn truck that was in the way of my shoveling. 

I got over it.  I shoveled around it.  Brought my focus back to the task at hand and reminded myself that this little obstacle was in the path of my snow, not an obstacle in the path of my karma yoga.  I returned to the shoveling.  Shoveled lengthwise instead of sideways, enjoyed my fresh air and exercise.  Enjoyed making life easier for my 60 year old neighbors who parked a massive truck in the middle of their driveway.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yoga in Jeans

I can honestly and truthfully say (with satya in mind) that I practice yoga asana every day.  Sometimes my meditation falls off but I do some form of posture work daily.  Sometimes it is only 15 minutes and sometimes I am lucky and get an hour and a half, but mostly I am somewhere in between.

Because I have three small children and have found practicing with them around to be an exercise in frustration, I tend to practice at night once they have gone to bed and the house is quiet.  I occasionally forget to change out of my jeans and put on something more appropriate.  For fear of the "mommy can you sleep with me", I never return upstairs until bedtime to change.  I suppose I could practice in my underwear however my practice space happens to be in front of a very large window only a few feet from the street.  I am sure that some of my neighbors would be quite entertained I do not feel like finding photos of me doing yoga in my underwear on the internet... but I digress.

As I mentioned I don't always get to change my clothes so I sometimes practice in my jeans.  Now if they are of the snugger nature I alter my postures to fit around my clothes.  But occasionally my jeans are a bit more warn in and do not limit my flexibility.  However it still feels strange, I feel fabric touching me where I normally do not.

This always prompts me to wonder, why people need "special" yoga clothes.  Do the Lululemon yoga pants function any better than an old pair of jeans, does Nike or Roots have something that Levi's do not?  The answer... is yes!!!  Aside from the very well known fact that Lululemon pants have some kind of weird butt lifting technology making even the most unusually shaped butt look fabulous.  They do feel better.  Not necessarily better than other brands of yoga pants but certainly better than my worn in jeans, or my yoga pants that I bought for $9.99 because they were on sale.  They don't last and they make me itch in strange places!

So the point here is that it is not what you were that counts as long as you are practicing.  But if you are going to practice, it does help to wear something comfortable and nonrestrictive.  I promise you it will make your asana practice less about how your asana looks and more about your asana or other body parts feel!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Building up and Breaking Down

Another week-end of teacher training and I am feeling good but I realize everyday that the more I learn, the more there is to learn.

In my last post I wondered "will it ever be enough"?  Is that me or is that my nature.  Is it my purpose in life to learn as much as I can - maybe.  I have many people in my life who don't necessarily support my many decisions to learn this and try that.  Some think it is flighty, waste of time, waste of money.  Maybe it is, but I am honestly trying to find what I love most in the world and I think that is experiences.  I love to experience to try and to learn about myself in that experience.  Learning may be as simple as do I like it or not?  Does it make me feel uncomfortable - what is there to learn in that, why do I feel uncomfortable?  Or is it sometimes just to enjoy the experience.  These are the things I build up.  I guess I could say I am building up my portfolio of life and adding all my little experiences into it one day at a time.  I don't want to wake up one day 90 years old and think that I did nothing.  That I sat by and let life happen when I could have made it happen.

Breaking down is always more difficult for me than building up.  As I suppose it is for most people.  To start our week-end of on Friday one of our teachers did this really great sequence where we focused our breath on one of our Chakra's.  I of course was guided toward my head, third eye.  He suggested heart or crown but I couldn't do it - I need to see and feel more.  I need to listen more to my intuition and open up to the suggestions that I know are truth.  He finished our sequence with some chanting and always one of my favorites, Om Nimah Shivya - I chant this one often at home, and it works.

After the session and much of the next day I could not stop my right arm from shaking.  I spoke with one of my teachers briefly and told her - I am not nervous (I was presenting) but there is something going on with my nervous system.  Her response - "keep up the work, something is happening".  I know it but what is it and should I accept or ignore.  It is hard to keep up with a practice when you don't always know the end result.  I want to know what is the pattern I am breaking and how much work should it take to break down.  When will it happen.  This brings more yogic philosophy with aparigraha - non attachment.  I should just let the process happen and accept the results rather than be attached to what the results may be.

I think I have some idea of what the breaking down may be but I don't necessarily like it or want it to happen.  There is a part of me that is holding on to some of these old patterns and old thought processes.  Some of these things make me who I am and if I let go of them, what will happen.  Some of these may change me for good, some may change my family and my life.  I have already noticed some of these things happening.  My immediate family is receptive and go with it, most of them are under 7 and adaptable.  It is my outside family and some friends that are having a more difficult time, and although this is good for me it shakes them up a bit - maybe that's good for them too.  Change is good for everyone although we may not like it at the time.

So I continue to change and to chant - om nimah shivya - breaking down old patterns and creating new and wonderful ones.  Join me!!

Om nimah shivya

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Perfect practice

Can we ever have the "perfect practice"?  If so what is that, what does it look like, what does it feel like?  I am a person who is always striving to improve.  I want to be a better mother, a better yoga teacher, better belly dancer, a better prenatal teacher and just a better person.  This conflicts with being present sometimes.  I want to accept myself today for who I am and how I am, how I am feeling, how I am teaching how I am practicing. 

I am the constant student I flip flop from one thing to another and always back again.  I have been belly dancing on and off for about 6 years and this has improved my yoga practice immensely.  I have learned through belly dancing to practice with joy.  I have learned different ways that my body can move and flow.  I also love the costumes but that has little place in yoga.  In music I also flip flop back and forth from learning to play the guitar to leaving it be, to getting really into my hand drums and leaving them for months at a time, to really getting the hang of my zills (finger cymbals) and letting them go.  But again the music has helped me pick really great music for yoga and has helped me find and enjoy music that I may otherwise not have listened to.  I repeat it again, bringing more joy into my life.

I have been teaching yoga on and off for about 6 years now and am currently embarking on an additional teacher training but will it ever be enough.  I will finally be certified but now I am looking at what the next teacher training will be.  I want to train in India with Vishnu and Chetena a couple whose birth I attended 3 years ago.  I love their approach but it will be expensive and "un-necessary".  I want to attend another teacher training at the ashram in Quebec that I love but again it will be expensive and would mean a month away from my family.  It seems sometimes a matter of need versus want.  I don't need to learn more I just want more.  I have found in my personal experience that it is not enough for me to learn and to do something well, I need to perfect it and be able to teach it to others.  It just never ends.  Maybe that's what I love so much about yoga, between the physical aspects and the philosophy as well as the meditative,  yoga has so many layers that I can never learn it all.  Maybe my practice will never be perfect, maybe it will be but this is the lesson - it is as good as it is going to get today, in the present moment where I am now - maybe that is the perfection?

The improvement that I make in my learning enriches me and my life but I can't help but question... will it ever be enough.  Will I ever learn to be present and accept... or will I always be searching for more.

Om Shanti

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Turning obstacles into practice.

In returning to the subject of obstacles.  Again for us house yogi's these obstacles can be huge.  Take today for example.  I had intended on getting the boys of to school.  Getting Holly down for her nap and having a really nice yoga practice maybe topping it off with a nice long meditation.

None of this was in the cards for me today.  Liam wasn't feeling well last night before bed so I let him sleep in.  Reilly woke up with pink eye and couldn't go to school and of course my darling Holly wasn't interested in a nap until much later than usual.

My obstacles return.  I need to take deep breaths, now is the time for yoga.  Yoga in my daily life.  I will be honest with my self, I will be present in the moment and take what I can get.  I will say OK I need to care for my children and accept the for what they are and who they are today.  Not the healthy vibrant children they were yesterday but the un-well needing to be cared for children that they are today.  Being present and giving them what they need right now.

I still took time out for asana practice.  I really wanted to meditate so I did a very brief mediation before my asana.  My asana practice was 1/2 an hour.  Did I have the practice that I wanted today, no.  But in that I did remind myself of the practice of aparigraha and opened myself up to the physical practice of today and not holding onto or grasping the practice that was supposed to be.  I cared for my family and cared for myself - being honest with where we are today and practicing saucha.  As well not beating myself up for having a short practice but practicing ahimsa in being kind that I was able to practice at all.

I may look towards my next "present" moment and attempt some light asana practice with my children tomorrow.   I will try to make my children part of my practice and not the obstacles to it.  I will embrace the questions, the energy and the joining in that may follow.  Of course this may not happen at all...
Hari Om,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Obstacles on the path!

Last week in our training we discussed obstacles on the path to yoga.  In my long practice I have experienced all forms of obstacles.  For those new to yoga or the obstacles some of them are; sickness, laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth, cravings for sense pleasures, false perceptions of your practice, despair and the inability to concentrate. 

I think this past week I experienced all of those both on and off the mat.  I had a really bad cold for a couple of days, I tried to meditate but without the ability to breathe I was not able to concentrate putting me in a position of doubt, I think the doubt let to despair and the despair led to the inability to concentrate and all of these of course made me crave sense pleasures leading to laziness and lack of enthusiasm. 

Funny what a day or two makes.  I was excited about standing on my head in the middle of the room which made me really excited and nervous at the same time.  A combination of things that I love by the way.  The next day I was feeling stuffy and unmotivated.  Funny the difference a day makes.

Another obstacle that I think our Guru Patanjali forgot about, especially for us "house" yogis is children.  Don't get me wrong I absolutely adore my children and wouldn't change anything about our life.  But they are an obstacle.  I try to practice daily but if my daughter doesn't nap that day it doesn't necessarily happen.  If my boys are home they are asking every five minutes "mommy can I have a snack, mommy can I have a drink, mommy he's bugging me..."  You get the picture.  I often practice at night when the house is asleep but this is a personal obstacle as I am not always able to do a vigorous practice and it is often more yin and gentle. 

I then wonder.  If the children are an obstacle are they not also there to teach.  Without them I could not practice concentration and dedication fully.  You need distraction and temptation to do this. Additionally I practice not only because I love it but also to create a more harmonious family life and so my children have a healthy fit mom who is most often calm and relaxed and able to deal with most situations.  If I did not have yoga I may not be the role model that I want for my children and my parenting skills might not be the same.

We all have obstacles whether we have children or not.  The key is to overcome these obstacles in daily life as well as in our practice.  Do you know what your obstacles are?  Can you overcome them?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I did it!!!!

I recently read this little book called Smiling at Fear - Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chogyam Trungpa a meditation master and great teacher.  I very short but interesting read about finding your inner warrior.  Looking fear in the face and saying "so what"!!!   It is about fear in every day life not in the warrior battle sense but more the warrior in daily living.  At first I was thinking what the hell is this guy talking about but then when I really read the words I got it!!  And I liked it!!
This week-end after one of my yoga written exams I was outside speaking with one of our teachers.  We got on the subject of head stand.  Some love it some hate it and yes some even fear it!  The problem with head stand is that it is rarely taught in most hatha classes and only in the intermediate to advanced Ashtanga classes.  I have been fortunate that several of my teachers have taught it so I am practiced at it and quite like it.  I like it, but I fear it!  I told my teacher that I still practice head stand near a wall.  It has been a long time since I have fallen over but the wall is there for me just in case.  My teacher said she no longer teaches head stand against a wall because of that, people become dependent and then what happens. 

So today I decided to become the warrior.  I thought to myself close the end of practice when I often do a headstand.  No I am not going to move my mat to where I would normally do head stand.  Yes I was afraid, but I thought "fear, so what".  What is the worst that could happen.  I know that if I start to tip I can just come down, if I start to tip the other way I will roll forward.  I checked my neck, checked my shoulders and slowly went up.  I did not fall, I was not scared I felt AMAZING!!!  I would equate the excitement I felt with that of a child who first realizes that their mom or dad is no longer holding on to the back of their bike and they are riding by themselves with no training wheels.  I felt free!  Of course then when I realized how excited I was, no unlike that child on the bike, I got a little bit more excited and started to tip over.  I did not fall, I slowly lowered my legs.  Assumed the position of child's pose and relaxed and was so happy that I did it!  I faced fear and said "so what". 

I look forward to the upcoming days, weeks and even months when I am faced with fear and can say again "so what, go away, I don't need you right now". 

Om Shanti,