Sunday, July 27, 2014

On Meditation

In my experience, there is a lot of public opinion about what meditation is, how it happens, when it happens and what it is like. There are expectations around the kind of personality it takes to meditation and the environment for where it is likely to happen. For many of us, meditation seems like a far reaching goal that takes long hours, a lot of practice and a lot of self-discipline. We have all heard of people who dedicate their entire lives to achieve this esteemed state of mind - our swamis, our gurus, Buddha, Jesus.

Gracefully offered to me as a point of consideration from my teacher, Mark Whitwell, tells me this about meditation -  get off your ass, and start living your incredible life.

Let me elaborate.

In the way that you would tune a radio dial to find a clear station, meditation [used here as a verb] is the way in which we can tune the chatterbox mind into some semblance of clarity.  Meditation [used here as a noun] is a spontaneous occurrence, a state-of-mind and a drastic shift from normal consciousness. We cannot will ourselves into meditation, just as we cannot will ourselves to fall sleep. To strive for or wait for meditation is like sitting in your own home and saying you are lost and need help getting back home.

Sometimes, I wonder if we confuse concentration as meditation.

Since multi-tasking and distraction is our norm, when we arrive in dhrana (yogic concentration), the extreme contrast can be astounding and quite divine. But having a single-point focus, being wholly engaged with the object or subject of your engagement is not meditation. It is concentration, and it is presence. But these two states are not synonymous with meditation. Although, one does lead to the other.

The big turning point for me in my relationship toward meditation, came when Whitwell summed up this very counter-intuitive argument. He explained that we can set up the conditions for meditative awareness to arise: 

We can clean the house so our guests can remain comfortable. We can clear the body of toxins through poses and breath controls. We can steady the mind through focused concentration, through dristhi (object of focus), through persistent and consistent practices.

This practice may look like sitting on the floor with eyes closed for long periods of time, or it may look like a long hike, or a mindful walk, or a vinyasa class at a gym, or washing dishes, or bathing a loved one, or gardening, or surfing.

I've taken a census with some of my Buddhist, yogi and mindful friends. Some love this idea, and some completely reject it. To some, sitting and focusing on a point in the body, on a word, on a prayer script, cultivates discipline and austerity. To others, allowing the spontaneous and transient occurrence of no-mind is a gift given when the circumstances provide for it.

Whitwell's perspective, from what I can garner, is mostly about living your life - because life itself is divine and whole and amazing. To dedicate the whole of it, or hours of it sitting alone with aches in the body and strain in the mind, resists the natural flow and chaos and inter-relatedness that life offers us in every moment. To live life, is to prepare for meditation. To life an authentic and truthful life is the act of meditation in action.

Where do you weigh in on this idea?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Face Lift!

It has been way too long since I've posted...though, I am posting on the Yoga101 Blog for Black Dog Yoga (Check it out.) pretty regularly...and I have a new article up on Elephant Journal ( Take a peek.)

The better news is....Light Inside Yoga is getting a face lift! I'm putting up a new website with new content, images and other fun things. All of this will be broadcast soon and in the meantime, my Facebook feed is still wildly ripe with inspiring quotes, images, goings-on, classes, opportunities to see yourself differently and all that jazz.

For now, I will leave you with some beautiful sonic yoga:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Workshop Line-up

Life is short, so I'll hop to the point! I'm writing today because there are a few workshops that I have put together for this summer season that provide big ways to go deeper, learn more, grow a bigger heart and get some extra wrinkles on the brain!

The main thing I'd love for you to know is that even if you are very new to yoga practice, workshops are the quickest way to get more advanced in a particular aspect of practice. We don't always have the time to get into the details during class, and workshops are a fun place to get all of your questions answered!

I made these workshops for you...hope you will enjoy one!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Free Practice Video

This is a basics level, flowing practice where poses are linked breath-by-breath. Use this sequence to warm up before a freestyle practice of your own or any time your energy level needs a boost, and to refocus your attention into the present reality.

This practice is not meant for pure beginners, as there minimal teaching, but is intended for current hatha yoga students who would like to access a short, movement practice outside of the classroom. 

Be well and enjoy,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fire of Transformation - "Tapas"

"Yoga tries to find the balance between what you can change (tapas) and what you cannot (ishvarapranidhana)." - Leslie Kaminoff 
Tapas is thought of as the inner fire of transformation, corresponding with the fire in our gut known as "Agni" which aids in digestion and transforms food into it's two essences: waste and nutrition.  The root, "tap" means "to burn" and typically refers to the deeply unconscious mental stuff that gets in our way of experiencing total love and lack of suffering.

I like to think of it as the great motivator, that fire under the rump that gets you up when you are feeling lethargic, doubtful or despondent. Tapas is like the kick in our existential pants that fuels us to recreate ourselves as something greater, stronger and more empowered. It is that part of us that was stoked the first time we decided to try yoga asana. It is that part of us that burns when we realize that what we have been doing wasn't serving us well and that heat which causes us to search for a better solution.

Long-Exposure of a Bottle Rocket
Tapas is the participation component of our yoga practice. It is the activity of getting onto the mat, of actually doing yoga, of thinking in terms of yoga ("I don't need to react to that driver who just gave me the finger, because that will not improve the love of this situation, and will only fuel my lack of love."), of living the yoga lifestyle.

It works with all of the things in our lives that we choose to contribute to - our choices around food, lovers, family, friends, the work we do, the things we spend our money on, the things we do with our free time, the way we speak to ourselves and others. It affords us a sense of control and contribution as we learn to truly see how little we do have control over in our lives - the people we love and who love us, our karmic debts, our genetic dispositions and some personality traits, time, space and taxes.

It requires the austerity to change a habit, which is the most stubborn behavior to change! Some translations even include "austerity" as a way to describe tapas. It is part of the second limb of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras  which describes practices for relationships with others, known as the Niyamas. 

An Exercise in Cultivating Tapas 

For the next 14 days, wake up each morning and write down or say aloud the first three things that come to mind when you ask yourself: "What am I grateful for today?" Do not miss a day.
If you don't do this rpactice as soon as you wake up, make sure you do it before you go to bed as a way to create a proactive habit. 
Remember that it is the 'doing' that is instigated by this inner heat, not the 'thinking-about-doing'! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Practice - with a capital "P"

"The greatest reward of doing sadhana is that the person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is a self-victory and it is a victory over time and space. Getting up is a victory over time, and doing it is a victory over space."  - Yogi Bhajan
Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for Practice - the category of behaviors, habits, exercises and services a student of Yoga will do in the action of reaching truly authentic living. These acts you do with the intention of knowing yourself wholly and completely, as you are, warts and all. These are things you participate in, with the intention of living YOUR life, not the life you "should" have or what others want you to have.

Patanjali notes in the cornerstone of all Yoga literature, that these practices should be taken up with a clear intention, and acted out with consistent dedication.

Students who come to classes consistently (or take tips from free, online classes and clips) are always better suited to show up with this consistent dedication to authentic living. Once the decision has been made to take a change in how you live in your body, how you view your life, or how you think, the hardest part is over. The Practice will meet you where you are -physically, mentally, energetically.

I've had students arrive to my classes after a 13 year hiatus from their on-the-mat practice, usually after a serious injury. How often do you hear of people returning to playing football or chess, after a break like that? The Practice is a journey all its own, and not to be confused with exercise, nor escapism.

In order to shift from unconscious, habit-based, surviving-but-not-thriving, living, sadhana must be completed every day.
"Always do some sadhana no matter how short, because every effort of the individual mind to meet the Universal Self is reciprocated a thousand-fold" - Yogi Bhajan
This doesn't mean you need to pour your savings account into a studio membership...this means taking up one practice that you can achieve every day, just as you eat and bathe and brush your teeth each day. Make your Practice part of your life, and your life will flourish.

Here is a short video I've created for you to do when you aren't going to make it to a public class where your teacher and peers can hold you accountable. Enjoy it and share with those who need it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Get Your A+ in Yoga

Students often ask their teachers how they can know when they are good at what they're learning. "How do I know I'm doing it right?" ..."How do I know I'm mastering this?"

People who practice yoga will often get caught up in the idea that to be a great yogi is to be great at creating shapes with their bodies, nailing a pose, or even worse, bending their limbs into the most extreme possibilities. 

The truest test of how good you are at yoga is this: how peaceful are your relationships with other people? 

Consider a few day-to-day scenarios that will immediately indicate to you how masterful you are in the art and science of yoga:

1. Someone cuts you off in traffic, nearly causing you to swerve into another car. They give you the sorry-I-did-that-open-hand-gesture before speeding off. What you do next will indicate how good at yoga you are. 

2. You best friend confides in you that they are cheating on their spouse. The thing you say and think next will indicate how good at yoga you are. 

3. You wake up after a night of unsatisfying sleep, one-too-many glasses of wine and a bloated stomach from eating your feelings after dinner last night. You pull yourself together enough to get to work. Once there, your co-worker pays you a genuine compliment on your complexion and your outfit. The thing you say and think next will indicate how good at yoga you are. 

4. The barista at your go-to coffeeshop explains to you that they are out of your preferred brew/milk alternative, etc. What you do next will indicate how good at yoga you are. 

5. For the second time this month, one of your colleagues is given a raise or special recognition for doing the same kind of work that you do. The way you react to this says a lot about how good at yoga you are. 

Some other things to consider:

If you haven't laughed at any point this week...your yoga practice might need to be modified. 

If you think that girl who practiced next to you yesterday and nailed her hand stand/ warrior 3/ tree pose is a bitch...your yoga practice might need to be modified. 

If you believe that wearing LuLuLemon makes you a superior yogi...your yoga practice might need to be modified. 

Sometimes we can lose sight of our heartfelt intention, when something we love becomes inundated with fashion, popularity, goal-orientation and a plethora of other people's opinions (including mine!). Take a moment every now and again (or better yet, at the start of your class before you get moving) to consider why you are practicing this age-old wisdom tradition that aims to quiet the distraction of living in a world of variety, and encourages us to know ourselves as individuals, in a deep and intimate way (warts and all).