Yoga Inspiration for September:
Allowing Yoga to Arise
In time for the launch of our new schedule of yoga classes, we wish to share with you this beautiful theme that has come across our path as practitioners as a very important part of any spiritual practice, but in particular the yoga asana practice.
When you walk into a yoga room, what is it that you imagine you will do? Perhaps you have some specific postures that come to mind, or you imagine yourself "pushing through" your limits to come a little closer to becoming enlightened?
While most of us are familiar with the idea of "going to the edge" and pushing ourselves into what appears to be the "next level" of practice, there is a counter-perspective to this approach which is not only gentler but often yields better outcome for our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and development.
In a lot of our classes, we emphasize the idea that instead of going to our limit, the most beneficial experience can be to simply allow ourselves to remain in a space where our entire system receives the signal to relax. Whether in a dynamic, fast moving class or in a slow yin session, our bodies have incredible intelligence and understand what we want them to do without the need to push ourselves to the limit. Often times, it is significantly more beneficial to imagine going to 70% of your capacity in a given posture, then move back out a little and just breathe and see what happens. As we engage consciously and respectfully with our bodies in this manner, the vagus nerve, which pierces through all major organs of our body including the lungs, gives the signal to relax and let go, and we can experience incredible benefits on the spiritual and physical level.
In a time when the yoga space is beyond saturated with images of performance and seemingly perfect asanas executed by seemingly perfect people, it is of crucial importance to remember that there is nothing to do and nothing to achieve in our practice. Not only can this underlying pressure to "do" an asana perfectly distract us from the inner work, it also frequently leads to long-term injury and attrition of the body's fragile structures.Instead of using asana practice as a measure of how far we seem to have advanced based on outside performance, it is usually much healthier to focus on simply creating the conditions in which awareness of our peaceful inner nature arises without pressure and hardship.
This peaceful inner nature is yoga, where the original meaning of the word means to unite- to unite with our inner space of calm, serenity and bliss and also bring integrity to the way we move, breathe, think, speak, act and live in this world.Many teachers in India have said that yoga asana should serve a simple but profound three-fold purpose: to expand breath, awareness, and relaxation. So next time you are in a yoga class, ask yourself those simple question: am I breathing more fully and freely, am I more aware of my body and mind, and am I relaxing? In other words, ask yourself if you are allowing yoga to simply arise on its own and bring you into a beautiful space that requires no effort, but merely your expanded awareness.
Yoga Inspiration for June:
Finding new Movement, Findiing New Space
If you think back of taking your first yoga class, you may recall the feeling you had afterwards- perhaps you felt a feeling of relief, but more than likely you also felt a little tired or exhausted. One of the reasons we experience such a range of effects after our class stems from the fact that we not only relax during the class, but fundamentally affect the chemical and mechanical reality of our body. Based on the revolutionary research on the fascia, every time we practice yoga we actively encourage our body to release waste material from our connective tissue that is spread into all parts of our body.
Not only are we mobilizing old material to move out of the physical body, we also actively confront postural and movement patterns which have been long practiced and are often detrimental to our goal of long-term health. A backbend may feel even more liberating after having spent a long time hunched over looking at a screen.
It makes us come face to face with the effects of having a contracted chest area and the closed heart space that typically goes along with it. Instead of closing up, we are asking our body to open to the front, quite literally allowing ourselves to openly face that which we encounter in the next moment.
It is this expansion of finding new movement and range of motion that has the potential to change many aspects of our lives for the better. Dissolving old body patterns, we not only allow the body to heal, we also create a more spacious emotional and mental state for ourselves, which is exactly the effect we feel after a good yoga practice.
Tom Myers of Anatomy Trains states that based on the most recent research, the fascial tissue, which lines all muscles and organs in our body and is heavily engaged in yoga postures, directly connects to the nuclei of our cells- the very core of each cell containing our DNA. In other words: our yoga and movement practice generates a literal pull on our DNA and can thereby alter the future expression of our genes.
As you start the month of June and go to your next practice, see if you can be aware of how the various asanas are counteracting the habitual patterns of your day-to-day life. Especially in postures that we find challenging, instead of trying to push harder, returning to the sound of your breath, to an internal mantra or to the intention of softening into the bodily sensations and discomforts can be one of the greatest tools for our practice. In this moment, become actively aware of the expansion of our mental, emotional and physical range of motion- we become a witness to this exquisite moment of change when one pattern is released and more room for the future is created.
Yoga Inspiration for May:
Balancing the Sun and Moon Within You
As we move more deeply into spring and summer, the days are getting longer and we get to experience more of the daytime with its warming sunshine. The night time becomes shorter and warmer, and the moon may even seem more brilliant to us as we spend more nights outside. The energies of day and night are not just at the core of how we experience our days, but also at the core of yoga practice.
While we see many styles of yoga asana today, it is good to remember that they share a source in common: Hatha Yoga. When studying the ancient scriptures like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, we find that one of the key concerns of yoga practice is balancing the forces of the left and right side of the body, described as two main nadis or energy channels running through the body. In fact, the syllables "Ha-tha" are often translated as "sun-moon". The sun and moon forces are said to be connected not only to the right and left nadis, Ida and Pingala, but to our two brain hemispheres, our left and right nostrils, and the qualities of intuitive perception and logic, respectively.
When we practice different sequences of postures and pranayama (breath exercises), we pay attention to engaging the left and right sides of our body equally.
As we come more and more into balance with the energies within us, our quality of life dramatically increases and we move towards an expanded and more inclusive awareness. From a more scientific perspective, it has been long-established that balancing the activity of our right and left brain hemispheres is linked to an increased ability to look at life from different perspectives and draw on both our analytical and our creative-intuitive gifts. This helps us create a space where the wisdom of the body and the sharp abilities of the mind co-exist and complement each other so that we can become more open and inclusive in our every day life.
As we enter spring, we get to enjoy more of the sun energy while coming to appreciate the cooling night time as well. We invite you this month to pay attention to your own body's rhythms as the season shifts. It is a perfect opportunity to tune in and use our yoga & movement practice as a way to find a balance that brings us more peace.