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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Life Is the Practice

Some of you, my readers, from my posts can tell I work with children as well as adults. I taught and directed a private non profit preschool for many years until the universe changed my seat assignment. Now I still get to work with them in a different capacity, by bringing  them freedom to be themselves through yoga and art. Children are amazing beings. They are loving, forgiving, open hearted and resilient. They bounce and push boundaries. Full of curiosity.  They see each moment as  being open to possibility with no regrets. Guess what? You and I  were  children once!  We all wanted to seize the day in our own way. Didn't care what we looked like to the rest of the world ( even though your mother probably was not too thrilled when you wore two different socks and your shirt backward to school!) it helped us grow. Every minute was an opportunity for fun. But  as we move into adulthood, we sometimes put that child that resides within all of us deep down, hidden from the world. We stop being spontaneous and don't move ahead, losing sight of that sense of abundant joy  and build walls around our heart and minds.  Conform to the norm. We stop being present in our lives.  Ask yourself when the last time you behaved without caring what others thought? Without fear? Jump in any puddles lately, or did something just because you felt like it? It is fear that brings us here. Fear weighs the soul down like quicksand, you get stuck. If you struggle, you sink deeper. The truth is, it is healthy to face your fears, look at them and see what it really is that frightens you about taking chances. And then do something about it-do something that scares you as an adult, but as a child you wouldn't have thought twice about. Make it a personal practice every day to  do just one thing that challenges you. See how it liberates you and how you feel more buoyant. Be that person that sings in the rain-people may whisper and look at you like you are batty, but that's because they wish they were doing it too! In yogic tradition, the teachings tell us to step away from the ego, which causes projection, it tells us stories about the past and creates scenarios for the future. The way to avoid this is to be present, that the only moment that is real is now. Live like there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, and only today-LIFE is the practice, all you have to do is commit to being part of it.
Yesterday is a dream, tomorrow is a gift yet unopened, all that exists is this moment, breathe into your existence.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's Your Brand?

The "market" it seems, lately is being flooded with yoga. Everywhere you see a photo of a brightly clad hip looking yogi/yogini with their wheat grass smoothie, their favorite style of mat, or their coconut water in hand. Commercialism, much?  Groupons  and Living Social deals pop up all the time for classes-Bikram, Hot, Vinyasa, Inyengar, Svaaroopa, Laughter, Ashtanga,  Acro, ( don't be upset if I forgot one,  I am sure I am leaving someone out)...the branding goes on and on.  Yoga has become a product, for sale. Teachers see adds on "how to grow your yoga business". "How to market your brand" So sorry, but I want to throw  up.  Yes, we live in the modern world, and yea, the times they are a'changin', that brings with it good and bad.The reality is that "Yoga" ( the meaning of the word is union, or to yoke together) comes down from a thousands of year old tradition. It was taught guru to disciple, one on one.  There is a rich heritage of texts describing the process of yoking the mind, body and spirit. If you start to delve into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which only contains two passages on physical posture, the  eight limbs, or Ashtanga are as follows...
                1. & 2.Yamas, Niyamas which are observances and disciplines of conduct.
                 3. Asana; the physical postures
                 4. Pranayama; breath techniques that enchance the life force or Prana
                 5. Pratyhara; the withdrawing of the senses-looking within
                  6. Dharana; pinpointed focus
                  7. Dhyana; meditation
                  8. Samadhi; absorption, knowing one's true nature
(When was the last time that you were offered any of these in a class, my friends? )
If you look further you and examine the Bhagavad Gita, will find the real brands of yoga, the originals, not cheap imitation knock offs of, as Osho puts it,  this science of the soul....
                1. Jnana Yoga; the Yoga of knowledge
                 2. Raja Yoga; the all encompassing royal path
                  3. Bhakti Yoga; the Yoga of Devotion
                  4. Karma Yoga; the Yoga of selfless service
I don't know about you, but when there are too many choices I get overwhelmed. I may pick something in haste because it looked appealing and the price was right. Only to be disappointed that it wasn't what it appeared. It lacked substance, Yoga is a rich tradition, and it is being reduced to " Indian army calastentics" ( to quote one of my dear teachers tongue in cheek!) to make money and because people are seeking something. Yoga is meant to help find the answer to "who am I" to bring a deeper connection to your self. And maybe when you do that, you just mind find a connection to the human condition.
I love  all four paths of yoga; I am amazed at the knowledge and wisdom of the ancient sages. Add the psycho physiological reaction that comes from asana, where maybe you just find that "space" between and connect to the practice and learn how to breath and find out where you got lost on the way. Chanting, and realizing that there is something more out there is heart opening, it connects you. Helping others, without thought to yourself will change your life. This IS yoga.
I teach adults, pregnant mommas, and children. I practice all four kinds of yoga. I chant mantra, practice asana and love it. I devour the writings.  I love sharing this knowledge with my students, and watching them grow. There is nothing better when you witness that "aha" moment when a student really finds a posture. My brand is not a about the latest flavor, I don't wear Lululemon or drink Vitacoco. To each his or her own- if that's your thing, no offense. Personally I don't want 40 students in a class, it can be detracting to a more personal experience.  And I don't walk into a class and throw a handstand to show my physical prowess to my students ~( yes friends, people teach this way.)...about how to have an ego-the very thing yoga teaches us to step away from!
  I teach from the deep and beautiful tradition of this multi layered science , and have seen and believe in the healing and heart opening that comes through practicing true yoga.
Right now, I am setting my feet onto the path of Karma yoga. I bring yoga to patients at intensive outpatient rehab in North Philly, they have started bringing  me in twice weekly because we are getting positive results, I have traveled to Haiti to bring yoga to children there, and  am once again going to do out reach in a very poor and needy region, the Cumberland Mountains in Appalachia to bring yoga to those who need it. I have heard once again a range of comments...."awesome" to  "why are you doing that-you don't get paid?" ...yadda, yadda. And yes I teach classes at studios, and privates and do get paid in dollars , one has to pay the bills. But yoga teaches us that we can be in the world but not of it. We don't have to suck up to the big cash Sacred Cow. The reality is I do get paid in many ways- for the classes I teach,  in the smiles of my students, the heart felt appreciation of sharing this gift together, the peace that comes from letting go of all the b.........t. ( Fill in the blank, please) This, folks is my "brand" of yoga. Not flashy nor neon colored, but substantial.  Authentic. Trademarked.  Do you prefer the real brand or a cheap fashion knock off?

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