Happy Happy Joy Joy…

It is difficult these days to teach and discuss ‘traditional’ yoga – like Ashtanga, Iyengar, etc…because of this notion that only if you feel happy, elated, and bolstered, empowered during your yoga class are you doing something worthwhile. The whole idea that if you’re not feeling that way, then you are somehow still “burdened by the pressures of everyday life” as one yoga (Anusara) teacher put it; that by virtue of the style of yoga that is perhaps more difficult during class somehow does not let you “rediscover that belief in infinite possibility” (as another teacher put it), you are not doing yourself any favors. I say – bullshit.

It is my experience of these types of teachers from this particular style of yoga that they are convinced that they are the only ones who can give you a warm and fuzzy feeling (and that that is the only target on which we are focused and which makes doing yoga “worthwhile”) and you should therefore do nothing else. Anusara is a thing with which those that teach it and practice it and are ardent supporters of it use to judge all else in the yoga world (OK – so do teachers and practitioners of Iyengar and Ashtanga – whatever). My point is that it is my experience that it is the Anusara practice (John Friend) that has USURPED, hijacked the HEART FROM ALL THE OTHER YOGA PRACTICES. As a heart-felt, sincere, mindful practitioner and teacher, I do not appreciate it.

The Heart is in ALL Traditions of Yoga Practice (including the Asana Practices of Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Meditation, Satsang, etc.)

I am so tired of how Anusara and all its followers take away the joy that is inherent in the practice of yoga in ALL its traditions – even if it is not “playtime” in an Ashtanga class.

Truly, we are not kids any more and that notion that we must somehow get back to that, is a fallacy. It’s steering those people who want to deepen and give birth to their true selves in the wrong direction. As ‘adults’ we know too much to become children again. And yes, we have a lot more responsibilities to actually be able to act like one and get away with it. But through the difficulties of life, we have a choice to make – either we hide behind the tricks of the ego acting like we are spirit which only accepts ‘goofing off’ or ‘prancing about’ as a way to be ‘happy’. Or we can accept ourselves and others and all our foibles by cultivating a no-nonsense, present centered consciousness which sees things for what they are and in that find the “burden of the pressures of everyday life” lifting in the face of the truth. That is freedom. In becoming unburdened this way, we find true freedom, with that we are ‘happy’.

The Way to Happiness

Unburdening yourself of the constraints of an ego that can’t face ‘ordinary’, sometimes ‘boring’ moments is the work of true yoga and is made accessible by embracing all aspects of yoga not only asana. Meditation, reading thoughtful spiritual books (not only the Power of Now), going to a really good therapist that recognizes Spirit as a part of our worldly experience, etc., all help to open you up to those “infinite possibilities” beyond the pacification and gratification of our ego-ic nature.

What is really scary and really exciting about it all is that it takes years! Not months. Really, the work to unravel you; what you’ve built up over the years to protect you: your defenses, your opinions, your preferences all must dissolve to make Yoga happen and it’s quite a journey. You don’t get rid of the ego entirely (see my other writings). You need your ego to survive.

So for the first real step: cultivate awareness. How you do that by convincing yourself that there is nothing you need to work on, is beyond me. Somehow though, it is thought that if you admit you have things to work on, you are admitting to being irreversibly flawed. That there is something ‘wrong’ with you. That you are unworthy of love and attention because you are not perfect. That, my friends, is the first thing to work on. It is not awful to admit to yourself that “I can be a real bitch/bastard sometimes”. It is actually pretty freeing. And it’s scary at the same time. Still, just because you grow to accept that about yourself doesn’t mean you go around being one. The point is to go toward the unpleasantness, toward the things you’re afraid of, the dislikes, the repulsions. This work is not dwelling on the negative, as the New Agers fear (something else to look into) nor is it holding on for dear life to the positive, the light that everyone seems to be seeking.  You may find as some have often done so, is that the thing you fear the most is your beauty or your talent, etc. As human beings, we don’t only hide the stuff of anger, jealousy, envy. Go, see what you can learn about yourself.

We Are All Perfect In Our Imperfection

There are many aspects of ourselves we don’t know and won’t know if the idea of admitting to our flaws repulses us. So the next step is acceptance of yourself. Can you accept that you are not perfect? And that Perfection IS in the acceptance of all that is you! When you accept that can you accept that people aren’t perfect. That means everyone. If you can open your heart to that then you are well on your way.

Surround yourself with those who know that it is not readily accessible in just a few months. When you are with others who know, then when your ego flares up because it is fighting for its life, those around will show you the way to go deeper. Trust them even if what they say ‘hurts’ you or ‘insults’ you – that’s a good way to tell your ego has a hold of you.

The Playground That Is Yoga

There’s nothing wrong with being playful. In fact, all of this is play in one way or another. The key is to pair your asana practice with counseling, reading and meditation. Ask questions and accept guidance. Be wary of those who tell you to ignore or forget about the dark and move only into the light. Be wary of classes which only stress to appease your tendency to look for distractions and your ego-ic nature’s incessant whining. And as well, be wary of those who say yoga is about being stern. Even the most disciplined class of Ashtanga, practiced with an open heart can be light-hearted and very loving.

Joy Joy

Truly the joy comes from within – and when you and only you are ready to express it, will you find “joy” in your practice. No one can give you that and show you it. The teacher is just there to give you the practice – meaning the practice is what teaches not the teacher. The moment a teacher really feels that within their bones that’s the minute they’re a good teacher.

The wonder of it all is that when you do not hide from yourself or others, there is joy. When you can stay focussed and present in the most difficult, challenging posture (for you) or situation, there is elation. When you can accept guidance and assistance (teacher and student) without expressing arrogance, there is love. When you can look at yourself without criticism, there is peace. Let YOGA teach you this. Then life will be so much fun!

This was inspired by this blog post: http://yogaspy.com/2011/07/22/hooping-and-the-hybridization-of-yoga-in-america/#comment-4309

Asana practice: Urdhva Dhanurasana

Asana practice:  Urdhva Dhanurasana

Yes. It has always perplexed me – Urdhva Dhanurasana. Even as I take the pose it is not very comfortable for me. I don’t feel ease and I can’t stay in it long. It took me years of concerted and sincere practice to even get me here.

I never learned from someone who could do this posture well. They are the kind of teacher who can’t believe you can’t do it. You know the teacher that says, just do this, or that, and they think it’s that easy. I had one teacher give up on me. That didn’t feel good.

So I took what I knew – by that time 20 years of practice, and started to practice on my own (doing it for 12 years now), and didn’t rely on a teacher to see me through. What I learned about my body: what it could do when I moved into things the way that it needed to, was a real eye opener. I learned a lot and my body opened up considerably after in the years that I’ve been teaching myself. I always told my students that the people with the most difficulty in postures are the lucky ones. We are the ones that really feel our bodies open and change and even tighten up again. We learn that there is an ebb and flow.

So it taught me that for me, Urdhva Danurasana was always going to be a challenge and the things like Kapostasana, might not ever come. But it doesn’t mean I don’t venture into that realm of back bends – I keep practicing. There are days when I can feel what it’s all about. And then the next day it’s gone. I accept that about my body and that’s what yoga’s all about. Isn’t it?

So absolutely go slow. Ease into it. But most importantly – move as if there was no where to go. No goal in sight. Just keep expressing the energy of back bend, or forward bend, or inversion, or any other type of posture you’re doing. Doesn’t matter if it ‘looks’ like you are in the posture perfectly, it matters how deeply you can go into the feeling of the energy of the posture.

 

Ask me about anything: If you’re struggling with any posture including backbends, send me a note. I’d be glad to assist.

A note from SBYC’s FB page…wanted to share it here

Hi – while I genuinely appreciate the work and dedication of those who sincerely study, practice and teach yoga in their particular way to encourage, and effect change in social and individual consciousness, I can not allow the posting of these teachings on SBYC’s FB site because I can not endorse the method with which they are presented at times.
I have a very clear notion of how yoga is to be presented, and with my heart, to me, it is not about joining a single group, following a particular swami, seeing ‘god’ as a separate and isolated entity that is beyond our intimate and personal knowledge, or advocating for the Light only, etc..
Everyone living is a separate entity – of course we all know that. And while practicing and studying these teachings we must remember that everyone is different. The human heart/mind has certain sensitivities, or preferences which guide an individual along their chosen path. These eventually dissolve to show that we are not separate at all. But in the initial stages of Self-discovery, our egoic nature gets caught up in the how we are read and seen by what we chose to do. It is a lonely path truly, because no one else feels or sees things the same way you do, and so the individual must begin and continue for years their journey in a way that speaks to them.
Anyone who has been walking the spiritual path knows this intimately. How many ‘styles’ of meditation, asana, teachers, books, workshops, retreats, have you gone through in your years of practice? This is good. Opening up to different practices and work, only deepens your process. It deepens the process sometimes by confusing us at first. The mind has a way of latching on to a particular thought or way by convincing itself that this is the ONLY way until the heart is no longer served by whatever it is, and must move on to find ‘flow’. The searching will continue until the heart settles into a LOVE that is deep and eternal, and directed outward.
Yoga practices which include everything from asana styles, meditation traditions, Bhakti especially, all help to bring about Self-realization, Union with the Beloved.
I encourage you all to find your own path. To be still for a moment and really listen to what is being asked of you. Then move in that direction.
I am grateful that along your path you have stopped here if only for a moment.
Namaste
Peace!

Asana Practice

Preparing for Leg Behind the Head

Variation for leg behind the head pose. Working into it and stopping along the way.

I love to do this variation of the leg behind the head posture. Took me a long time to get here. When I’m here I feel a certain kind of freedom in my body and mind that only comes from the kind of practice that will get you here. For some people this is a posture that comes simply and naturally. For me it took about 10 years! Think about it…

We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence. We should find perfection in imperfection. For us, complete perfection is not different from imperfection. The eternal exists because of non-eternal existence. In Buddhism it is a heretical view to expect something outside this world. We do not seek for something besides ourselves. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, through our suffering. This is the basic teaching of Buddhism. Pleasure is not different from difficulty. Good is not different from bad. Bad is good; good is bad. They are two sides of one coin. So enlightenment should be in practice. that is the right understanding of practice, and the right understanding of our life. So to find pleasure in suffering is the only way to accept the truth of transiency. Without realizing how to accept this truth you cannot live in this world. – – Suzuki Roshi Zen Mind, Beginners Mind

On Our True Non-Dualistic Nature…