Saturday, April 27, 2013

Om shakti, om shakti, om shakti, om!

If you've stumbled upon this blog, you're likely interested in Hindu mythology, stories of the origins of yoga asanas, or you may even be a bhakti yogi(ni).  If you're in any of those categories, here is a Tamil-language film (with English subtitles) to check out.

It's an adorable, low-tech devotional film from India that tells many of the most famous tales of the exploits of the Divine Mother, Adi Parashakti:  the supreme energy that animates the universe.

The vanquishing of Shumba and Nishumba by Chandi Maa, a very silly representation of Mahishasura (so cute) in his battle with Durga Maa, and many other beautiful stories are here.  I searched, but could not find information about when this film was made.  If anyone can add details, please comment : ) .

It's very difficult to find devotional films like these that have English subtitles, so please enjoy this one!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"let it all go -- willingly and with positive acceptance"

For those many yoga teacher training grads who found no place for themselves as hundreds of new yoga teachers flooded the scene at once, I offer Charlotte Bell's blog post, "Living Gracefully With the Financial Challenges of Teaching Yoga."  What I love most about it is this quote:
In retrospect, I think the most important thing that renewed my teaching and classes was being willing to let it all go—willingly and with positive acceptance. Clinging to being a yoga teacher is no healthier than clinging to any other identity we make up for ourselves.
This is exactly what happened for me.  When I let go of the desire to find my yoga "tribe," a path opened up for me to work with divorcing midlife women -- sometimes including yoga as a way of recovery, sometimes not.  But, always, yoga -- in the unique way I've experienced it in my life -- is a touchstone.

If you are a yoga teacher who has come to believe there's no place for you, please read this great essay.

And, if you're a frustrated yoga teacher who doesn't teach physical fitness yoga, check in with this blog post from Linda Karl.

And here's a been-there post from the Grace and Grit blog on the theme of failing by playing small and how to face the humiliation of teaching class after class with two or three students in them, preparing workshops that no one ever attends --  experiences that are now endemic in the yoga world if you're not teaching Ashtanga, flow, or hot yoga.

Love will find a way -- but probably not the way you thought, and probably not as soon as you hoped it would : ) .  No better way to learn total surrender than from total heartbreak.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"bakasana effect"

Once upon a time, I taught a very small yoga class, and each week, we would work on performing the pose bakasana, or crane pose, as a way to overcome fear. In trying to find ways to get students to "go for it," the practice ended up being about, on one occasion, having the students purposely just fall over and land on their heads (cushioned by blankets, of course).

One of the magical things that came out of this was a wonderful cartoon by a student in the class. But that wasn't the end of it. Soon after, came a Brazilian yoga blog with a Portuguese translation of the comic (see illustration at left). I began to wonder how many yogis in how many places learned to overcome fears -- not just about arm balances, but about body image, and who knows what else -- from seeing the comic inspired by my teaching the very small yoga class (with sometimes just one person in it).

Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Here's a brief explanation from Wikipedia:
"The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events seems first to have appeared in a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel although Lorenz made the term popular. In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that 'One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever.' Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly."

What about internal butterfly effects, in which a simple change you make has a broad array of effects in other areas of your life? Or, would that be the domino effect? Here's the point:

About a month ago, I challenged myself to wake up at least an hour earlier each morning. It was really a necessity, since my very long workday still wasn't enough to get everything done. Not only did I find that I began to accomplish my workload with more ease, but I miraculously had more time to spare each day, less stress, and greater sense of control. But it didn't stop there. I became more optimistic, happier, and less irritable. New opportunities began to come my way, unasked for, and I cheerfully was able to accept other opportunities that I may have turned down due to burnout.

Here's another way of looking at the exponential-reward equation, from author and yoga teacher Ricardo das Neves. He offers 20 5% solutions that can equal happiness (and, in his case, freedom from depression). A number of seemingly insignificant, small changes can become much more than the sum of their parts.

What's your equation? Whatever the goal, try the most insignificant way to get there and see what happens.

Monday, March 21, 2011

best-kept secret: changing habits is easy

A follow-up to last week's post about changing from night-owl to lark.

Fear and apprehension: Can it be done? Everyone says it's genetic. I probably need a plan. And a back-up plan. And a Plan C, after months have passed and I'm still struggling.

The reality: It's very easy. Just open eyes. See daylight (or the beginnings of daylight). Slowly roll out of bed. Sigh. Yawn. Growl. Mutter. Done.

What if all of those other things that I think difficult are really this easy. It's about tolerating brief discomfort, that's all. Why didn't someone tell me this years ago? (I've been asking this a lot lately.)

The owl/lark dilemma is just another take on a previous post, fear of flying. Same concept. Change "fear" to "discomfort" this time.

These are the prisons we create for ourselves. And now that I've experienced how easy it is to change the pattern of my day by a few hours -- all it takes is a little discomfort -- I'm realizing how rigid I've been.

It's spring. I want to see how adaptable I can become in other ways, too. It's not all as serious and set in cement as I thought it was. Who knew? Why do we believe this stuff? I want to thaw out, loosen up, and continue to free myself from the nested cages of my own perceptions.

Anyone care to share what long-standing habit you've surprised yourself by changing, and how you did it? I love this! Yay!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

changing from owl to lark: can it be done?

Alarm sounds. Middle finger hits snooze button. Sigh. Roll over. Repeat.

As my schedule gets busier (a good thing, right?), I find my lifelong night-owl ways severely challenged. My workday usually ends at 9:30pm, so it feels great to have at least a few hours to wind down before bedtime. And, after that, there's the favorite pastime of reading in bed, and, next thing you know, it's 2am!

Arising at 7am or earlier doesn't seem to work too well after all of that. Yes, it can be done, but not with a song in my heart. However, the rest of my world starts its day early, and I need to keep up.

So, for others of my ilk who may be experiencing similar challenges, here are a couple of resources:
Reset your body clock from Shape magazine
Do larks repress owls? from economist Robin Hanson's blog. Fun and interesting, but with much conflicting research.

Best tip so far, especially as it's now spring: Get out of bed immediately as the alarm sounds, open the blinds, and get some in-your-face sunlight.

But the real obstacle just might be my resistance to retiring early. There's a rebellious teenager inside of me who's throwing a fit because she doesn't like her bedtime. Yet, I know that my owlish nature will make the next day so much more stressful by getting a late start.

Bonus paragraph, apropros of almost nothing (from an eight-year-old Guardian story about shiftwork):
"Researchers following the metabolic rates of hibernating bats realised that the metabolic day-night rhythms of the inactive animals kept going even without time cues and regardless of temperature. Had the bat's rhythm been slowed down by cooling, it would have been assigned to some simple chemical cycle. The observation that it kept its own time regardless of environmental conditions suggested that there was an elaborate biological clock at work."

"Metabolic rates of hibernating bats" has such a lovely ring to it. Should be in a Cole Porter tune.

Solutions to my night-owl dilemma, anyone? Yoga teachers and personal trainers with early-morning appointments: How do you do it? Yogis, please share your wisdom. In the meanwhile, I'll be hanging upside down in my cave.

(Photo accompanying this post is a supermoon or lunar perigee. Extreme supermoon to rise this Saturday, expected to appear about 30% larger than a full moon at other times. A lunar perigee is when the Moon is closest to Earth during its monthly orbit. For a spectacular sight, watch from the lakefront as the moon rises this Saturday at 7:25pm Chicago time.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

swallow the sun

Tonight is Shivaratri, the night of Shiva, a time of enlightenment and transformation, so I thought it an appropriate occasion to revive this blog.

It's that chilly and dingy time of year when we can sense the scent of spring only in imagination and resolutions of the New Year are difficult to recall. But although we can't feel it, we know that a few weeks from today, we'll feel the warmth of the sun and see the first hints of green.

Where are you today on the continuum of your yoga path? Have you cut back on classes, or eliminated them altogether? Did you feel strait-jacketed by instruction that seemed too regimented, or that connected body to mind by only the most tenuous of threads? Is there part of you who wants to practice yoga your own way -- only, you're not entirely sure which way that is?

In this day of cheaper-than-cheap Groupon yoga, it can be difficult to find a practice that truly inspires you. But don't give up trying, because the answer may be -- guess where, and I bet you already know -- within.

Consider working one-on-one with a teacher who specializes in helping students develop a personal, at-home yoga practice that truly feeds you. A practice that's more than just an exercise class, but an expression of your being.

What if every practice session were an insight into how you're feeling and what you need on that particular day? And you could act on these insights in ways that calm and energize you and add to the joy with which you embrace each day?

Yoga can do just that, every time, when you create the practice yourself with the help of a knowledgable guide. It's ever-changing and ever-renewing, just as you are.

Swallow the sun next time you practice yoga. Receive everything that yoga has to give you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

blasting through limiting beliefs

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a fun workshop at Bodhi Spiritual Center, and it culminated with the participants breaking 1" boards on which we each had written one limiting belief that we felt ready to break through.

There was a lot of group energy and chanting of each person's name as he or she punched or kicked through the board representing the belief.

By the time my turn came, I had had the opportunity to hear what each person's belief was, as it was read aloud to the group. Then, the facilitator yelled to everyone, "Is this belief true?" And everyone screamed back, "No!" And, at that moment, it was time to symbolically destroy the negative belief.

It was great to be one of the last to do the exercise. I had the chance to see so many great people go before me, and I was shocked to hear what some of their negative beliefs about themselves were. It was obvious that none of these beliefs was even slightly true. People wrote things like: "I am fundamentally flawed." "I cannot achieve ________________, and still have someone who loves me." "I do not deserve a healthy love relationship."

Yet this was one of the most intelligent, attractive groups of people with whom I've ever participated in a workshop. How could they believe these awful things about themselves and their lives? How could they possibly carry burdens like this every day?

Then it occurred to me. If all of these people deserve happiness and fulfillment in life, and if none of their negative statements is even remotely true, then that means my self-limiting beliefs are equally false.

If I can believe in the goodness and worthiness of everyone else, it's okay for me to believe for myself, too.

So funny how it's easy to see the error in someone else's thought patterns, but so difficult to see the same thing in oneself.

What's your negative mental monologue? Guess what? It's not true!

Happy Monday. Let's all go out and let ourselves live.