25 November 2016
It was time to remember why I loved yoga
I had been feeling a bit jaded for a while, as a yoga teacher & practitioner. So, with the help of a couple of friends, I looked back through my life, to see what was my original inspiration for practising & teaching yoga. To re-inspire me.
To be honest, when I stood at the doorway of my very 1st yoga class, way back in my past, I just simply knew that whatever yoga was, & I had no ideas about yoga, that I would be doing it for the rest of my life, & that it was part of my destiny.
So that wasn't an inspiration. But I had physical damage from an incident, & it just was not getting better, even after 3 years. So, I went to my very 1st yoga class, & when I got home, I practised, everyday, a couple of things, whether it was flexibilities, asanas, or pranayama, that I could remember from that class. And every week, I would add whatever else I could remember, in the order that I could remember them. I had a doctors appointment 6 weeks after my 1st class, & the damage had been reversed. My 1st experience of how powerful yoga was.
My first inspirations
I did a bit everyday, & I did it all because it made me feel good. This was my first inspiration, for me. That yoga simply made me feel this way. A couple of years later, I started teaching yoga, & that was such a big inspiration, knowing that the class would also make people feel good. All I did was teach exactly what I had been taught, exactly how I had been taught. I figured that if it made an ordinary person like me feel fantastic, then it would also make other people feel the same.
And I don't mean just feeling good physically. No, it's more than that. One feels more emotionally stable & the perception & focus are clearer. The mental chatter & stomach churning switches off. One becomes calmer. What a blessing.
Later that first year of learning yoga, I also learnt off Dr Swami Gitananda who did a humble tour of New Zealand. Specifically, I learnt how to do proper yoga breathing & a comprehensive system for it, plus for breathing problems. It was very precise, & transforming. I experienced, & was inspired by, the powerful effects of prana, & the breath. But this wasn't my biggest inspiration, for myself, nor as a teacher.
A big reason for remembering our inspiration
Swamiji was adamant that yoga was supposed to make us feel good, &, if it didn't, then you were doing the wrong yoga for you. This is such a wonderful inspiration to keep in mind: teach your students how to feel good via the practices of yoga.
I have spent quite a few years in a situation where the yoga that was being taught was extreme. In every way. We "powered up" with asana, pranayama, bandhas, meditations ..... even the yoga nidra was intense. A lot of people loved it, they liked this approach. I didn't. It created inflammation in me, & made my mind restless & anxious. It was totally against my values with my inspiration for teaching yoga.
I like the calm & sublime results, so even if I teach a very hard class (asanas, pranayama etc)...I also use the final poses & pranayama to slow down to induce quietness. It's a very good approach for a hard class. Then a short relaxation to take one even closer to one's essence. This will make anyone feel wonderful. And it means that I stay true to my original inspiration.
11 November 2016
Dynamic, fast Sun Salutes
When I was doing a long period of intense yoga training, many years ago, we would do surya namaskara (salute to the sun), at least 6 days a week. No stretch & use-correct-posture type surya namaskara, it was just about getting it done.
We used dynamic surya namaskara with the deep lunge variation, (above) where you take one leg back into a lunge, & at the end of the moves, you are also bringing a leg forward into a deep lunge. This makes a 1/2 round. The lunges use the other leg for the next 1/2 of a round, so 2 namaskaras alternating legs for the lunges, are making one round.
An easy version is here, another here
And when you are doing 10, 27, 54 rounds each day, it's a real effort. Forget slow breathing, perfect form, etc. Just do it! Especially when 10 rounds, as described above, should only take us 10 minutes. I still prefer this way.
- it creates an energy
- is highly beneficial to our endocrine & nervous systems
- & is quite aerobic
- it made us all very supple, & surprisingly strong.
Whole body tone
There are lots of sun salute styles
It's not the only way to so surya namaskara, of course. I know a lot of people doing the Mysore style surya namaskaras A & B. 2-3 of each is a good early morning routine, & they are done more slowly. A nice little variation is by Mandy Ingber. Any salutes are hard to do at first, but Mandy does do a nice one.
Below is an easy version similar to the Mysore style
Add a few poses
If you add a twist....any sort, whether dynamic or holding one, easy or harder, plus either the bridge pose, or 1/2 shoulderstand will round out an early morning practice.
4 November 2016
Friends and family on the spiritual path
Sometimes one can feel quite alone in their spiritual journey, & this is one of the reasons why community is so important. It's reassuring to have people who are traversing the same path as oneself,
I personally have friends from many yoga systems, in particular the spiritual yoga systems. It's interesting & inspiring for me to hear of others stories of their spiritual journey, & I know that when we meet up, we are all instantly friends & family.
I also learn deep Maori spirituality & healing, & find that the same applies here. We come together, as spiritual whanau (whanau means family). We belong. And it's lovely, it really is.
People need people
So why do we need each other? We need guides, always. Someone who has travelled the path before us, who will give of their time & energy to help us on our path. Who inspires, who cares. And, as time goes on, we too need to share our knowledge, to "pass it on". I don't mean in the aspect of wanting to be a well-known teacher, no, not that. It definitely is that one has become a storehouse of knowledge & one is compelled to share it. There is an understanding that knowledge does not belong to oneself, nor to a group, nor to a path.
And, when we start our journey, & we go, for example, to a yoga class, the combined energy of that class mysteriously enables us to do the physical aspect of yoga with more ease. Then, when we lie down for relaxation, or do meditation, that same combined energy creates a vibration. This vibration becomes like a benchmark: we get to know that when we are in the class, that we can slip easily into the vibration of that energy: it takes us on a journey, it aids in transforming the neural pathways of body & especially the brain. These pathways have to do with beneficial neurotransmitters, or messengers, that create profound, feel good, vibrations, within us. The group energy is superlative for this.
Loneliness on the spiritual path
I noticed, through my own experience & through being a yoga teacher, then also a healer, that in any spiritual field, there is a long stage where one feels so alone. One is on a journey, & there is a human need to find others who understand that loneliness, & that yearning for spirituality. Finding others who also are seekers, helps deal with the feelings of isolation, & I can tell you that it is just a stage, it does pass. And a special bonus, is that when we practice on our own, the memory of the class vibration will kick in, & help us maintain the feel good factor that we achieved in class.
It doesn't matter what the path is. We do need each other. We need footsteps to follow in, & in time to create our own footsteps for other's benefits. The footsteps that we follow help us on the path, they inspire. The footprints that we leave are in gratitude for being able to walk the path that so many others have trod.