Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Knowing What You Need: Svadyaya

In older posts I've mentioned Ashtanga, (the Eight Limbed Path). The first 2 practices are 1.) Yama (restraints and disciplines) and 2.) Niyama (observances). Svadyaya is the sanskrit word for "self-study," and is a type of observance.

Lately, I've been challenged in my classes by teaching from this place of giving students what they need and not from what they want. There are some people who do yoga to push, sweat and work themselves to achieve the "yoga body." There are moments in an advanced practice that require you to be still, to regather energy and focus, to come back into the breath, and the advancement really comes from integrating this into the movement practice again and again. What I am seeing is that some students choose instead to work through postures before their bodies are able to fully receive them. My teacher Maria says that she has not been injured in her yoga practice for something like 10 years, and she is quite advanced!

Here's my deal:
Yoga WILL change your physical body, it will expand your lung capacity. It will strengthen, lengthen and tone your muscles. It will help balance your complexion, your hormones, your moods, your appetite. It will help you to release stress and to know yourself more clearly. And yes, with a regular practice, you CAN achieve a toned, fit, beach ready body.

Now, you can also overstretch, strain, pull, hyper-extend and in other various ways, injure yourself. Hatha yoga IS an exercise routine, you are weight-bearing and moving fluidly. IF you are not practicing self-study, that is, if you are not taking a break when you need to, if you are not catching your breath, if you are not mindful of your body's placement, you are not aligning yourself to the fullest benefits of the practice.

I don't care what kind of arm balance you can do or if you can invert in the middle of the room. The very first practice we take is non-injury. Couple this with self-study and you are already on your way to taking care of your body and your self in a way that will support any degree of physical challenge in your hatha practice.

When it comes down to it, it's none of my business how you are moving through your practice. But if you are in my class, expect me to cue you for the practices you need more then what you want. There are many, many teachers in Los Angeles than are happy to lead you through a strong practice without reminding you to look within, and take care of what your body is asking for.

Sometimes, it's more difficult to sit in stillness.

Monday, May 23, 2011

aMUSEing: A Stroke of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight | Video on TED.com

This talk is mind-blowing ;)
A detailed report of the relationship between left and right hemispheres.
If you haven't already seen this talk, stop what you are doing and listen! :)

Friday, May 13, 2011


Tonight I need to talk about letting go.

According to the Ashtanga philosophy, there is a deeper aspect of existence that can be unveiled through the practice of yoga and it's 8-fold path. This path unfolds with an ever widening scope of exercises we practice in order to achieve mental clarity.

The 1st of these layers is called Yama [pronounced ya-mah] and includes this idea of letting go. The sanksrit word is Aparigrapha [pronounced Ah-par-ee-grah-ha] which literally translates to non-hoarding.

Off the mat, I've been struggling with letting go of a feeling before it transforms into a mood - or worse, an attitude. Someone will say something that I will take the wrong way, and even if the mis-communication is resolved right away, I hold onto the feelings that were mistakenly caused by assuming.

On the mat, I'm sometimes hard on myself - judging and comparing myself against things that aren't happening in that moment...stuff that I've held onto. This, of course, takes away from the clarity of breathing and movement. When I remind myself about the practice of aparigrapha, it is easier to let go of all the ill-feelings. I have come to learn that these are just emotional reactions and can be left as such; they do not need to turn into moods or attitudes, and that they are often times mere transient states, fleeting sentiments; that they are as easy let go of as an exhale.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Join me - FREE classes!

For the next 6 weeks I will be promoting my newest class at Urban Lily Yoga. Save this flyer to your computer, print it, and bring it to 14843 Burbank Blvd in Sherman Oaks, CA to trade for 2 free classes ;)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome home, Confusion!

Lately I've been faced with turning point decisions that leave me confused and easily lost in comparing my Self and my story with others around me. My default creative process has me envision an end result and then slowly begin to build from that seed thought until the thing I want to see in real life, manifests. ...without a clear result in mind, confusion takes me.

For most, I think this is the point where stress, anticipation, and impatience take form inline with confusion. ...It's in these moments that I am reminded of an idea I garnered from my high school weight lifting coach; confusion training.

Muscle Confusion Training is this idea that by regularly changing your work out routine, your muscle and cardio strength will not plateau, but instead continue to develop.

For me, this is a direct parallel for the opportunity I am being offered. When some life experience leaves me confused, it is a chance for me to expand beyond what I have already mastered. Confusion, then, indicates potential evolution!

While it may seem counter-intuitive to embrace this, the moment I do, anticipation and impatience subside. If I can recognize that I am befuddled as the befuddlement is happening, then at least I am seeing myself clearly. Confusion generally leads to asking questions. If I am asking questions, then I know I am actively participating in my life and this can only lead to more growth and expansion. Yes, it's an uncomfortable experience, and oftentimes too frustrating...BUT, know that it is the gateway to something more creative.

Take home point: confusion is good!