Tuesday, July 27, 2010

yoga: sol y sombra

I'm a flamenco dance teacher as well as a yoga teacher, and teaching dance has been a precious opportunity to witness the gifts that dance gives to the hundreds of students I have taught -- each one a unique person, with a unique temperament, style of expression, and comfort level with her own body and personality.

Dance is a process of revealing oneself to oneself. In the process of dancing, the student learns new things about herself that she may not have come to know in any other way.

The dancer learns the moments and the circumstances under which she holds back and defends herself, where she shrinks from showing herself. She learns and develops the places in which she feels confident and strong. She finds physical places in her body that seem closed and inaccessible. And she knows her areas of freedom.

At first glance, a dance class is much more revealing than a yoga class, because dance is an expressive art. We're constantly finding ways to let go, to free ourselves, to bring our individual expression into physical being.

But yoga can have the same effect within us. It is an inner exploration of strength and fluidity, power and softness, expansion and contraction, breath and being, sun and shade. The inner dance.

When you think of yoga as a dance, a new joy can enter into familiar asanas. Your practice takes on a sense of play, if you will allow it. Goals become different, as every practice becomes an exploration of the you whom you may not have fully known until this moment.

Yoga practice gives you the opportunity to inquire into how you are feeling. Really. What is your body telling you? Are you willing to slow down enough that you can hear? Are you willing to play between the extremes of sun and shade, sol y sombra, where you will find the incredible breadth of who you are?

Monday, July 19, 2010

ramayana . . . with popcorn

Has reading the Ramayana been on your bucket list, but realistically, you have as little hope of getting around to it as you have of reading The Canterbury Tales in Middle-English?

If so, you will enjoy today's post, offering the brunch-menu version of the classic Indian epic, "Ramayana Three Ways."

First, there is the 1988 Indian television series, created, written, and directed by Ramanand Sagar, with all 111 30-minute episodes available for viewing here. You may find there are occasional blackouts that last for 30 seconds or so (where I assume that commercials were originally inserted). Just be patient, and the episode will continue.

According to Wikipedia:
"During its original broadcast, Ramayan was enormously popular, drawing over 100 million viewers. Although rising slowly at first, its popularity reached a point where the entire nation of India came to a virtual stop as nearly everyone who could gain access to a television stopped what he was doing to watch the televised adventures of Rama. In a phenomenon that the newsmagazine India Today dubbed 'Ramayan fever', religious services (Hindu and non-Hindu) were rescheduled to accommodate the show's broadcast; trains, buses, and inner-city trucks stopped running when the show was on; and, in villages, hundreds of people would gather around a single television set to watch the show."

Second, for a feminist take on the story of Rama and Sita, if you haven't already seen Nina Paley's 2008 animated film "Sita Sings the Blues," watch it here. Billed as "the greatest break-up story ever told," the soundtrack features the songs of 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, including "What Wouldn't I Do for That Man," "Mean to Me," "Moanin' Low," "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling," and others. A beautiful, quirky, and ultimately uplifting film in which Sita/Lakshmi gets her own back in the end.

Third, the Ramayana in (gasp!) book form. It's the incomparable William Buck translation that makes accessible and eminently readable this exciting story of love, loyalty, honor and duty (yes, it really is exciting, despite these currently unfashionable virtues). Read it and weep -- in a good way!

As an aside, William Buck made beautiful translations of both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, preceded by (as told in the publisher's preface to the Ramayana) "years of reading and rereading the translations, studying Sanskrit, planning, and writing."
He completed both translations before an early death at the age of 37. I've searched to find more about the life of this amazing author/translator, but have found little. If anyone has more information about him, please comment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

bakasana: fear of flying

I was tickled to learn that one of my yoga students had been inspired to draw a comic based on her explorations of bakasana (crow/crane pose) with me. I spend part of the beginning of every one of my Level 2 classes by working on core strength and upper body strength. This Level 2 group has been consistently working on bakasana each week because I love to see the surprise and feeling of accomplishment when the students are able to fully get into the pose after some weeks of practice.

Here's what the artist had to say:
"Here's the thing. I did think this every time I tried this pose: that I could manage it if I just weren't overweight, that something about my girth or the distribution of weight over my wrists or something, was keeping me from being able to do this pose.
"And it wasn't. A bunch of things were keeping me out of this pose, among them arm strength (which I'm building over time) and confidence (also building over time). But my weight had very little, and maybe nothing, to do with it, and I am left thinking, what other things in my life have I figured are impossible because I think I'm too fat for it? What else am I unfairly blaming on my weight?"

Do we all have something like this? A fill-in-the-blank about why we can't do fill-in-the-blank?

I could do _____________, if it just weren't for ________________.

One of the many beautiful things about yoga is that it gets you asking these kinds of questions.

See Sarah's bakasana comic (and others) full size at I think you're sauceome.

And check out this slideshow of lots of folks, from elite to regular-people yogis, doing inspiring arm-balance poses.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

solving problems the Louise Hay way

I was struck by this simple solution to dealing with challenging life situations. According to Science of Mind luminary Louise Hay, just affirm the following:

All is well.
Everything is working out for my highest good.
Out of this situation, only good will come.
And I am safe.

Louise says, "If it's a small thing, I repeat it [the phrases] two or three times. If it's a bigger issue, I babble it incessantly. This quiets your inner turmoil down long enough for the universe to find a solution to the so-called problem."

An effective and elegant way to stop spinning your wheels. Try it before scoffing ;-)~