Celebrate Yoga Awareness Month!

Hi yogis!

We are about halfway through National Yoga Month and the good news is that there is still time for you to find studios giving away free yoga classes for new students, as well as some really cool events coming up, both of which you can search for on the Yoga Health Foundation website.

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As many of you know, I travel often for work and recently found this great article titled Om-ing in on the Best Hotels for Yoga - what better way to start your yoga practice than when you are on vacation or (even better) a work trip? Whether you are looking for a last minute getaway or something to look forward to in the coming months, the folks over at Gogobot put together a list of some great places to get your yoga on during National Yoga Month and beyond. From the Hotel Solamar in sunny, laid-back San Diego, California to Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa in sizzling hot Miami, Florida or the environmentally conscious James Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, they have sought out the best of the best across the country. If you have more great places to share, I would love to hear about them!

Yoga builds stronger ties with our loved ones, our communities, and our Earth. Share something you love with others – tell your friends and family about National Yoga Month!

Letting Go

Island

Over the past two years, I have been caught in the midst of some very serious family drama. Despite my desire to retire immediately to a secluded island in the Pacific, I was obliged to continue to deal with normal day-to-day issues – how to pay the bills without giving up on my dreams, how to fit in my (almost daily) yoga practice and still be productive at work, how to be true to my needs and yet continue to be present for my friends and family, how to (occasionally) eat delicious foods without getting a tummy ache… I think you get the idea.

In order to deal with the familial quagmire, I needed to speak to people I had not spoken to in years. This was not easy for me. I had to do some serious soul-searching in order to approach them with equanimity. Fortunately, this situation made me discover that I could do without the anger and resentment I had been traveling with for so many years. I no longer wanted to be a victim. I decided to allow myself to forgive the past for not living up to my expectation of how it should have been. I appealed to myself to acknowledge that we all make mistakes, myself included. I realized sometimes you need to give up what you have been holding on to in order to begin anew. I would never have been able to do this without yoga.

My friends can tell you that I believe in the healing powers of yoga, but most of them probably could not tell you why. I am writing this now, because I want to explain that I see yoga as a very practical route to resolving conflict within ourselves and, in turn, the world we live in.

We are intrinsically a part of the fabric of our families, our communities, our nations, our Earth. We must somehow learn how to navigate the waters of life. This is where yoga comes in for me. Through the first limb of yama as discussed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we are taught how to be better citizens of this world. These precepts teach us how to be constructive and compassionate by letting go of violence, dishonesty, theft, indulgence and greed. Niyama, the second limb, reinforces the first by advising purity, contentment, self-study, self-control and surrender. The yogic practice of asana or posture follows the yama and niyama in the eight limbs of astanga yoga. This is not by mistake. Though we place much emphasis on the physical practice in the West and many of us confuse the practice of asana with the broader path of yoga, the postures alone do not lead to transformation.

Friends, my practice is not just a series of physical exercises, but a journey of discovery of my true Self. I may need to be a part of society (not all of us can run away to the hills to meditate on the nature of existence), but I can do so mindfully, with humility and acceptance of what is and what is to be. When observing my actions (and reactions) more holistically, my practice of yoga then becomes a process of letting go – a release of old habits, of ego, of expectation, of non-acceptance. It takes on a new form that helps me to face life in new, more productive ways. It helps me to be free.

 

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Yoga Doubts

yogaAfter more than half a year in the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco’s Advanced Studies/Teacher Training program, I am beginning to feel like I am starting to break the surface in my education on yoga. I have tried to work hard at my study of philosophy, anatomy and teaching skills, practice asana and pranayama regularly (almost every day), and be as engaged with the yoga community here in SF as much as I can, while still making sure my other commitments are fulfilled. I am a big believer in education and ever since reading Adrienne Rich’s convocation speech from 1977, I have followed the tenet that you are learning only if you are putting in your due diligence. In this influential and heartfelt speech, she wrote:

The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb “to claim” is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. “To receive” is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. 

I never tire of reading and re-reading this masterpiece and look to it when I need inspiration. I needed some inspiration this morning.

One thing I have learned in the process of Iyengar Teacher Training is that yoga is not all dancing elephants and cool warriors born of dreadlocks. Now, for those of you who do not know me, please believe that I did not think this to begin with – I came into the process with open eyes and a (somewhat) firm background in this discipline of yoga. And, yes, it is a discipline. You do need to claim this education, perhaps even more so than the two degrees I already claimed; you have to commit yourself in a way that is much more intensely personal and often times conflicted than getting a college degree. I mean, this is my inner Self I am working on, right?

So why the doubts?

Well, there are several reasons, but perhaps the most troubling for me is the competitiveness that exists in our community. It has made me wonder if this is really my path after all. Don’t get me wrong, there is also a lot of support out there. But one of the reasons I started to do yoga regularly is that it was a safe space to explore my spirituality, sans judgement or dogma. It was a place that I cold feel good about my body no matter if I was curvy or bow-legged or not as bendy as the yogi next to me. It was my safe space in this all too harsh world of criticism and back-biting. So here I am, working on my Self and finding that this place I had hoped was my solace is filled with people who are just as ego-driven as the folks “out there.” That makes me doubt my own capability, my own ego, my own reasons for this practice of yoga.

I love my teachers and my practice. I am grateful to the teachings and the space to discuss and work on the most meaningful and beautiful aspects of existence. I am blessed that my husband is engaged and committed to this discipline, too. I am lucky to be a part of this community of dedicated yogis. I suppose I must take the good with the bad and focus on my own work, but it would be a much more satisfying process if we were indeed all in it together.