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Showing posts from March, 2014

Creative Visualization Practice

"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it." We've all heard this quote ad nauseam. Who said it? William Arthur Ward, apparently. Also, your soccer coach probably said it, or your high school guidance counselor, or your uncle or your great aunt or your hypnotherapist. We hear this idea regurgitated in various forms all of the time. "If you build it, they will come." That one's a little different, but same principle. 

Is it true? Is it right? Is it a wive's tale or a fairy tale or a logical fallacy? Like a lot of "kitchen soup for the soul" advice, it turns out that this bit of oft-repeated wisdom is mostly legitimate. Brain scientists, doctors and mental health professionals have done the work to scientifically prove how we can retrain our brains and improve physical and mental performance through visualization. When we purposefully imagine a specific action before performing it, we increase our odds of s…

Your Lion's Heart of Courage

There is an ancient story from India still told by Hindus and Buddhists today, about a lion cub adopted and raised by a flock of sheep when its mother abandons it. Having never known its mother, the lion cub believes itself to be a lamb. It sleeps and grazes with the sheep and even bleats just like a sheep. As it grows older, the lion never learns to roar, knowing only sheep behaviors. One day a large lion jumps out from behind some bushes where it had been waiting to devour the sheep. Still believing itself to be a sheep, the adopted lion crouches among the other sheep and bleats in fear. The predator lion sees it there, staring in complete bewilderment. He calls out in lion language, "Brother, what are you doing among these sheep? Why are you hiding and bleating? You are a lion!" The sheep-lion answers only, "Baaaa! Baaaa! Baaaaa!" its eyes wide with fear. The predator lion thinks this animal has lost its mind and is hallucinating that it is a sheep, so he pounce…

The Yoga Microcosm

What if your yoga mat had no borders? What if your yoga studio had no walls? 
What if your breath ceased to be yours alone and got lost in the collective respiration of your fellow students, your friends, your family, your office, your entire community? In fact, it does! We know our breathing is tied in with the other animals and the plants around us in an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that allows for cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Our breath is connected to the cycle of life happening within and around us. In fact, our own bodies and our breath are microcosms of the life of our entire planet. 
On some level, almost everything we do, every place we go and everything we have is a kind of microcosm for something that exists on a larger scale. As yogis, this includes our practice. Just this morning as I was contemplating teaching a class based on yoga as microcosm, this quote popped up in my newsfeed: "The whole world is your yoga mat!" Of course, Judith Hanson …

The White Flag Wins

There are times when we just want to yell, "Uncle!" Remember playing those games as a kid? If your opponent had you in a bind he'd shout, "Say Uncle!" I remember saying it when someone was tickling me and I couldn't escape their grip on me. Saying "Uncle" is tantamount to surrender and defeat. It means you lose. No one wants to be a "Loser" -- except in Yoga. No crying in baseball. No winners in yoga. Huh??

Now this is for real: in the philosophical and moral teachings of yoga, we read in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that the quickest and most direct route to Samadhi or Enlightenment is: drum roll, please: Surrender! That's right, Dorothy. No need to click your heels three times! Instead, just wave your white flag high in the air. Surrender will take you Home, little girl.

The Sanskrit key phrase for surrender is Isvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is translated as the Supreme or personal God, the all-encompassing and all-powerful Divine tha…

Softening into Difficulty

When life gets really hard, we respond in the best manner we can in the moment. When faced with a difficult task or situation, we pull on the strength and resources we have available. Do we react based on our habits and conditioning, or can we respond with a deeper awareness? 

Practicing yoga helps us rewrite some of the unconscious programming that dictates our reactions to stress and hardship. Through executing the postures and learning to control our breathing, we train ourselves to soften into resistance. We connect to our inner strength so that we are firmly rooted, yet soft and yielding in response to the storms of life. Our roots are firm so the wind can't pull them up, yet we retain the flexibility to bend and not be broken. 

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras verse 46, Sthira sukham asanam, tells us to practice yoga with a balance of strength and ease, effort and relaxation. We must balance hard with soft. 

We may intellectually grasp the concept of sthira sukha, but to embed it…