Who’s Your Yoga Role Model?

There’s a belief that magazines and Instagram hold the secret to Yoga – that Yoga role models are the people in the pretzeliest poses, in the fanciest leggings, and with the prettiest flowing hair.

I’m not the pretzeliest one in my class, my leggings are boring, and as those of you who know me know, flowing hair … what?

And, so a flowing-haired pretzelly poser might not be the best role model for me.  And, maybe not for you either.

This is my Yoga role model.

thanks to my friend Tim Black for this awesome photo.

Hi, Mt. Shasta! How are you today?

I’ve come to learn that role models come in all shapes and sizes. And, sometimes a Yoga role model isn’t even a person at all.

Mt. Shasta reminds me of stillness and strength. Mt. Shasta also reminds me that Tadasana, the mountain pose, is more than just standing around waiting for another pose. It is being present, still, and strong. It is its own pose.

When I told a friend that Mt. Shasta was my muse, she got me this tee-shirt …

 

Sure, I like seeing what pretzelly poses they come up with on Instagram. I don’t discount anyone just because they have fancy leggings and many of them tell beautiful stories and share important Yoga tips.  But, I also learn something from everyone who comes to our Yoga classes. So, you, too, are my role models.

So, your homework this week – while Peaceful Hands classes are on break – is to find a few out-of-the-ordinary role models that can inspire your practice and I hope they will nudge you to unroll your mat and see where your Yoga can take you this week.

National Public Radio reported yesterday on a study that found that inactivity today does more than raise the risk of disease, it also reduces the ability to get around at all as we grow older. And, rebounding from prolonged inactivity becomes slower – much, much slower – as we grow older. The story is here.

So, do your Yoga today, so you can do your Yoga tomorrow.

(Fall Session at Peaceful Hands begins Monday, September 11. More details in a couple days … but, first, time to unroll my mat and see what Mt. Shasta inspires in me today.)

Shastafarianly Yours, Jackie

Old Pose, New Pose

I’ll remind you in class from time to time that Yoga poses – asanas – are usually not as old as we think they are. And, while some instructional Yoga guides to asanas are a couple hundred years old, there aren’t any that are truly “ancient.”

As I mentioned in our Sun-Moon class on Monday, the Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar – is probably only 100 years old or so. The Moon Salutation, Chandra Namaskar? Well, it’s younger than the Internet.

But, there’s nothing wrong with poses being young. They are born of the spirit of Yoga – which is ancient – and the knowledge of modern science, anatomy, and physiology. They are the perfect balance of old and young.

And, that’s what Yoga is, isn’t it? The balancing of energy – sun and moon, right and left, young and old.

Here are two poses for you to ponder. One old and one is so young it hasn’t been invented – yet. But, maybe you can help me with that.

Old Pose

Lilias Folan was one of the great teachers of Yoga in the United States. Her Yoga programs on PBS beginning in the late 1960s introduced thousands to the practice at a time when there weren’t many Yoga studios around.

During Wednesday’s heart opening class, we practiced Gormukhasana. It’s a wonderful way to open the shoulders and stretch the heart center.

I’ve always known it as “cow face pose.”

So imagine my surprise to find it in a book by Lilias from 1972. The pose hasn’t changed. But, the name certainly has …

lilias 1972 warrior

Any guess on what Sponge pose is? (I know the answer … we do it all the time and we call it something else entirely.)

New Pose

California blogger Casey Karp writes about all sorts of things, including technology, the Bay Bridge, baseball, and cats. Every Friday he shares a photo of one – or some – of his cats doing … something.

Today, he featured Rhubarb, curled up and sleeping in what looks to me like a wonderful, brand-new Yoga pose. A pose that hasn’t been invented yet.

rhubarbasana

Photo of Rhubarb from koiscribblings.com Thanks Casey!

Check out the entire post for Casey’s description of the specific alignment Rhubarb is demonstrating: Read here.

Casey believes that cats get short-shrift in Yoga. He knows about Down Dogs, but he doesn’t know about cat tilts … cat-grabs-its-tail … lion pose … tiger in the grass.

I told Casey if anyone could turn his cat’s photo into a Yoga pose – Rhubarbasana, of course – it would be us. Take a look and see what you think.

If you want to share your thoughts on how to make Rhubarbasana come alive on the mat, let me know or comment below.  Or, maybe we’ll invent something new on Monday!

(And, a Friday treat for you. Here’s the Heart Sutra from Wednesday’s Savasana.)

 

The Perfect “Giraffe Pose”

My Yoga classes and I will, on occasion, rename Yoga poses.

Not because the original  names are wrong, but because sometimes they’re dull or just not the right fit for us. Sometimes we come up with something better.

Like Giraffe-asana. Which is standing wide-legged fold. It just feels so much better when you imagine yourself stepping wide to allow your long, long graceful giraffe neck to reach down and down and down in order to take a cool sip of water.

Really. It’s a totally better pose when you channel your inner giraffe.

You can see Giraffe-asana here … if you watch this through … done to perfection.

 

Pratyahara: Turning Down The Volume


There are eight limbs of the Yogic path.

Review them all, click here.

We often forget that there are eight.

It’s very easy to simply enjoy our time on our Yoga mats – stretching and reaching and curling and twisting. Asana, the limb of physical movement, is especially popular here in the West because, while our lives may be quite active, our movements often aren’t.

So, we come to our mats to revitalize our physical bodies.

Nothing wrong with that … I would be awfully lonely in my Yoga studio if you all didn’t love to stretch and fold and twist on your mats with me each week!

In almost every Yoga class, there is also time to focus the breath, practicing breathing with direction and purpose.  The limb of Pranayama.

Next up is Pratyahara, the limb of withdrawing the senses inward. This means to turn off the distractions that surround you, in preparation for mediation or simply a bit of peace.

I call it, “turning down the volume on the day.”

While people can get very excited over accomplishing a headstand or a handstand, they often write off the value of just going inward.

In  truth, the movement of Asana and the direction of breathing are simply tools to help us reach the higher limb of Pratyahara.

Pratyahara can be a nourishing part of any Yoga practice on the mat. But, it’s even more nourishing when you find ways to incorporate the practice into your daily life.

I wrote about Pratyahara “off the mat” on my other blog this week.

Click here to read about the little kid who showed me how it’s done.

Keep Calm & Carry OM

I love to chant OM in Yoga class. 

Oh, I’m out of key sometimes, sure, but I still love the vibration that comes with a long and heartfelt OM.

And, I’m so inspired when everyone else joins in with me in class. 

In our new Yoga studio, the walls hum with the magical and healing vibration of OM.

OM is considered the sound of the universe — the universal hum that gives us all fuel and life.  To chant OM is to honor the energy that surrounds us and to tap into it for our own healing and calming needs. 

When we all chant OM as one in class, we join our energy together making it even more powerful. 

When the whole room OMs, my entire body vibrates with a wonderful, radiant and healing energy.

During the Second World War, the British government printed a poster that said simply, “Keep Calm & Carry On”.  Its purpose was to inspire the population — telling them to stand up to the urgent and dangerous threat of the enemy by continuing their daily lives in a show of strength and defiance.  By keeping calm, carrying on, the British could stand up to any dangers and any threats before them.

So, when I saw this version of the old British poster I had to smile and smile and smile.  Because OM gives us the same empowerment, the same strength, the same encouragement.  It’s the same reminder that our inner strength can overcome any threat. 

Thank you to the anonymous, and incredibly clever, online OMster who shared this with us all!

Spring Training ~ At The Arts Center in Orange

The Arts Center in Orange — on Main Street in Orange, Virginia — just opened a sweet and warm exhibit called Spring Training.

All things baseball!

Many of you know that baseball and Yoga get all entwined on my path — both provide me with the inspiration to stay present, to stay ready, to stay peaceful.

So I was delighted to warm my winter bones with some amazing baseball at the Art Center this weekend … and I wrote about it on my other little “side blog” Baseball, Yoga, Life … (and me).

I especially loved this image, called “Venus Flycatcher,” by local photographer John Strader …

To be so still, so focused, so present … in the midst of dust kicking up all around … now, that may be baseball, but that’s also Yoga. 

You can read my post about the Arts Center’s “Spring Training” exhibit and see some more of the wonderful photographs, paintings, and multimedia pieces on exhibit by clicking here.

Even better, take a few minutes and wander through the exhibit itself. The Arts Center in Orange is a sweet little treasure, right on Main Street.  Definitely worth a visit … for the baseball … for the art.

 
On Exhibit at the ARTS CENTER in ORANGE
129 East Main Street, Orange, Virginia
 
February 7 thru March 30, 2013
Monday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
No charge, although donations are gratefully accepted


All images are the copyright of the artists. Images used with the kind permission of The Arts Center in Orange. A special thank you to Laura Thompson, Arts Center Executive Director.

Health Is Your Birthright ~ A New Year’s Blessing

I share this each year in our New Year’s Day Yoga class.  Instead of bogging down your heart with a list of insurmountable “resolutions” … how about a simple reminder that you are worthy of a year filled with good health, strength, joy, and blessings? 

These words come from Swami Satchidananda, who brought Integral Yoga to the United States in the 1960s.  (If you’re from Virginia, then you may know Swami Satchidananda from his ashram at Yogaville.)

May your year be healthy, strong, joy-filled, and peaceful …

“Health is your birthright, not disease. Strength is your heritage, not weakness. Courage, not fear. Bliss, not sorrow. Peace, not restlessness. Knowledge, not ignorance. The person who aims for good health and strength of both body and mind is a gem among all humanity. Such a person possesses the true treasure.” ~ Swami Satchidanada

Letting Go Of The External "Stuff"

In Yoga, we often say “Let Go” during our practice. 

But, what are we letting go of?  What are we holding on to?

As we settle into our practice we try to let go of the tight muscles that might be hiding in our shoulders, neck, back, hips, or elsewhere in our body.  We try to let go of thoughts and stress and worries and the busy activity of our mind.  We try to let go of these things so that we can free ourselves up so that our breath can widen out into the space.

But, often we’re holding tightly to more than just a few tense muscles. 

And, that’s the more subtle part of “letting go.”  And, it’s just as important.

We’re holding tightly onto our external selves.  Who we think we are.  Who we want to be.  How we want to look.  What we do, what we have, and what we want.

Because, that’s often how we define ourselves.  We are our age, our height, and – oh my! – our weight.  We are our jobs, we are our education, we are our social standing, we are our bank account.

That’s a lot to let go of. But, it’s an essential part of Yoga.

If we hold too tightly to those external “definers”, we will never reach our truest, purest spirit that hides under all that external stuff.

Today, I was part of a conversation and the topic was all the external stuff.  What they were getting their spouse for Christmas, how much they were spending, how indispensible they are to their job, how much they know.

It was a little uncomfortable, but mostly it was a good reminder.

We all do this. We all hold on.

It’s not our job to judge what someone else does or what they hold on to.
Instead, Yoga asks you and me to hone in on what we’re holding onto that is stopping us from finding our own inner pure light.

I hold on, too. (If you’ve seen me in the past few weeks as I have prepared for my move to a new Yoga studio, you know how I hold on … and worry … and lose sight that Yoga is much, much more than having a perfect floor to practice on.)

It’s hard enough to let go of our stressed shoulders (see, didn’t you just check your shoulders and drop them down alittle?).

Now, Yoga asks us to let go of the other things we hold tight. Who we are on the outside. That takes more effort.

But, the reward is great.

The light at the very center of your being is pure and perfect. It is healthy, it is wealthy, it is wise. It is everything. But, to find it means you have to dig a little bit. And, you have to let go of everything that is getting in the way.

It’s not easy. But, practicing Yoga – on your mat, or just by slowing down and paying attention to your breathing – can give you a peek at the “True You.”

And, then, what you look like on the outside, or what you have, or what you want, begins to fall away on its own. It starts to become superfluous.

I am not my weight. I am not my job. I am not my Yoga studio.

I’m just me.

After the earlier conversation about Christmas presents and stuff, someone shared this post with me. How perfect! 
 

VOTE! It’s Your Yogic Duty

Voting is part of our Yogic duty. The time to take your Yoga off the mat and into the world.

It may seem strange because much of the time our Yoga seems like solely an inward journey … a journey to expand and enlighten our own body, mind, and spirit. After all, when we step on the mat — it is just your two feet planting, your two arms reaching, your one heart beating, your one spirit shining.

But, as we respect and foster our own inward growth through Yoga, we must also remember — as the word Namasté reminds us — that we are all one.

Our actions, our efforts, our Yoga are for the “all one” … not the “just me”.

And, so, we must respect and honor … and take responsibility for … our journey as a society.

Yoga is not about isolating ourselves from the world. It is about non-attachment to the things of the world, true. But, that’s something altogether different.

We seek our inner growth as a means not only to help ourselves, but also to be of benefit to others.

Voting is a very easy way to do that. It shows your support and concern for the wellbeing of your neighbors, friends, and your community. It shows that on your Yoga journey you seek the highest good for all.

It shows that you care.

How lucky we are to have some say in how our society operates.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by all the political anger in this election season — less from the candidates themselves, but from friends and others who think that by raising their voices, by shaking their fists, by being loud and rude, they will force me to their way of thinking. And, I’ve heard it on both sides.

I’m so tired of, and disappointed by, the mean-spirited links and “likes” that my Facebook community has been forwarding. I’ve kept quiet. Because anger, mean-spiritedness, sarcasm, and yelling will accomplish nothing — no matter who wins on Tuesday.

Voting is not about disagreeing and being angry.

Democracy is about working together. Compromising. And, making a difference in our community, our country, and our world.

And, as always, there is someone who says it far better than I ever could. Dorothy Day, a Catholic leader and social activist of the early 20th century, has inspired me in so many ways. She once said:

“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”

The work begins on Tuesday. Vote.

Let your Yoga light serve us all.

Namasté