There will NOT be classes at RGCSL on Friday Nov 24th due to Thanksgiving Holiday.
I have always delighted in looking at this album cover art! The woman looks comfortable in her body, full of vitality and enjoying a Hot Summer Day (a great song on the album). She has an openness, her heart is exposed, unguarded. She is experiencing the breeze, the sun and life! She is wholly present in that moment!
Along the same lines;
I remember a scene in a visually stunning Chinese *movie. Many people were harvesting or tending rice, they were all bending forward, down. A breeze came up and one by one everyone stretched their backs (similar to the woman on the album cover). At one point all of them were in variations of this position. They were not rushed, they all seemed to be listening to their own bodies needs, stretching their spines as much and as long as each needed to before going back to work!
Think about this for a few minutes…visualize it…
(* I wish I had a clip or remembered the film’s title, if you know, Please comment below!)
…When do you enjoy a nice long stretch of your spine? When are you most comfortable in your body?
I often hear people saying “I don’t backbend” or “I can’t Backbend”, and I see some students struggle with the easiest “backbend” postures. I wonder how much of this has to do with our modern lifestyle and our mindset, and our emotional health (self love, acceptance), to to feel free and safe!
Do rounded shoulders and hunched backs reflect our wounds, our heartaches? Is it some kind of armor over our heart?
As a yogi, I say YES, it is our wounds and our armor both!
I and many people find emotions come up when backbending! Even gaining just a little new suppleness around the heart, has brought me to tears. This is not a bad thing! If I have grief or sadness, isn’t it best to acknowledge it, give it some space and time to release from my being?
“The deeper sorrow carves into our being the more joy it can contain” ~ Kahlil Gibran
I was recently at concerts where the music was amazing, yet few people were smiling and very few danced. I thought of this poem;
O wondrous creatures, By what strange miracle Do you so often Not smile?~ Hafiz
I simply wish for everyone to love being in their body, exactly as it is. To feel comfortable and have a sense of vitality, aliveness.
I wish for everyone to enjoy embodied movement, embodied rest, embodied closeness.
These are some of the many reasons I am passionate about teaching yoga. This is also why I am teaching a Backbending workshop this October.
See you on the mat, Christina
Dear Yoga friends,
– 4th Wednesday (8:30am) every month at Versatile Vitality will be Restorative – be guided and supported in Asanas were gravity and your breath do all the “work” (mostly release of tension) and move deeper into relaxation. Gain awareness of the subtitles, the subtle body!
Individual sessions are available to design or refine your daily home-practice
THE CUMULATIVE POWER OF YOGA
Practicing 1 day per week will produce very little benefit beyond the class time.
Practicing 2 days per week will almost maintain your present level of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
Practicing 3 days per week will incrementally advance your level of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
*Practicing 4 days per week will make your body more strong,flexible and your mind better focused. Anti-aging benefits!
Practicing 5 days per week will make you physically and mentally stronger. And much more emotionally balanced. a
Practicing 6 days a week will unfold your very best in you.
The seventh day… rest!
Deep breathing and focus on the breath is just one beginning practice towards meditation, yet, Meditation is not this.
As an artist I could get “lost” in my work. Deep in concentration. I often get lost in ecstasy when dancing, I lose track of time similar to meditation, yet this is not meditation either!
If you get lost in asana practice, nature,making music or art or gardening, you may have entered an altered state similar to meditation, many would call this meditation. I would call it a taste; there is vastly more.
I had learned and share guided relaxation decades ago. I practiced techniques to “cool-down” students ending fitness classes. Now I do this in savasana and restorative yoga classes. Students greatly appreciate these moments of peace. The benefits of deep relaxation practice are numerous; calmer mind, increased energy, release of tensions in the body, Yet, this is not meditation.
In the early 1990’s I attended a meditation class taught by Deepak Chopra, He did a guided meditation that was a profound experience for me. I think of him often now, and have read his books, though for many years I didn’t practice meditation.
In the mid 90’s I met an extraordinary individual who was able to move and heal with energy. He spent many hours a day in meditation. At that time I didn’t understand the connection. I was blessed to have had those years of friendship and healing with Jeremiah. He practiced meditation and many people received profound healing and guidance from him. He was a great teacher, a fountain of love. I met him when he was in his 40’s. He had survived a tragic accident at 19 years old. After this injury (broken neck) he lived decades longer,surprising medical experts. He was genuinely at peace, even though his body suffered much pain as a quadriplegic. He practiced meditation daily!
In the late 1990s I was introduced to HeartMath biofeedback. Direct measurements of the metabolic and systolic heart rhythms combined with techniques to calm the mind showed directly in the program’s feedback. I used this program myself and with children who had experienced trauma. HeartMath is great technology and the HeartMath Institute is growing in it’s scope. It is a marvelous tool to help in relaxation and self awareness and self control (emotional health, PTSD)
This is not meditation, though it is a very good starting point for many people.
Discipline and daily practice opens up worlds of possibilities and awareness.
In 2009 I began study of Reiki, my Masters (teachers) instructed me to do it every day. I did Reiki meditation and energy work on myself daily for a year. This form of meditation I was able to stick with. Within months I began to shift into more awareness and profound peace. After Level 2, I began working on others as well and “saw” everyone’s inner beauty and a flow of love. Reiki meditation and healing opened up new sensibilities and awareness. I continued Reiki training to (Masters) Level 3. I came to understand more of what Jeremiah and Deepak Chopra were teaching! Other healers and traditions from many cultures; meditation is at the center of their practices.
These experiences where a good foundation for true meditation.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to take over a yoga class which I had been attending. I knew from past training that if I was to teach yoga, I had to practice asana and silent seated meditation daily, which I began in the months before taking over the class.
I got to where I could sit still for an hour meditation, yet, I would only have fleeting moments where there was peace, where the mental chatter would subside.
These brief moments where so profound that I continued finding it well worth the hour of sitting every day!
Silent meditation showed me how noisy my mind was and even now, how noise my mind can be!
Now, often during the day no matter how “stressful” or what events are going on, I can return to that peace within a few conscious breaths. This allows me to stay authentic and present. When I have peace with-in I can be present to others in a meaningful way.
Have I experienced enlightenment?
Yes! and no, and yes! It can be fleeting and can be found again in meditation.
True enlightenment is when that peace is carried out into every part of every day.
Personally, I do yoga asana to quiet my mind and prepare my body for seated meditation. When I began daily practice of both, I experienced amazing healing for my mind and body, and more… beyond words, language and description! I have also come to understand the energy that is within and around us.
Asana can lift us out of discomfort in the body. Meditation can help us have peace even when the body is in pain.
“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” BKS Iyengar
“disturbances of the mind and emotions fade away, and we are able to see true reality.” BKS Iyengar
There are so many benefits of yoga that are scientifically proven. So why is it that many people don’t “get-it”; don’t stay with it long enough to get real benefits?
One main reason is that it takes time to “see” results. Allowing enough time to get to know the subtleties within your own being. Initially the changes are subtle and experienced within your mind and life, long before they are seen!
Another reason people often don’t stay with yoga is not finding the right class at the right level and where they have trust in the teacher. Be an empowered student, ask questions. Try several classes, until you find the right one for you, and then practice at home also.
I highly recommend reading this recent article from Psychology Today Magazine…
Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits, by Alex Korb, Ph.D.
“Yoga can supposedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. These claims have all been made by yogis over the years, and it sounds like a lot of new age foolishness. Surprisingly, however, everything in that list is supported by scientific research.
As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.
Your brain tends to react to discomfort and disorientation in an automatic way, by triggering the physiological stress response and activating anxious neural chatter between the prefrontal cortex and the more emotional limbic system. The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts, like “Oh god, I’m going to pull something,” or “I can’t hold this pushup any longer”. And in fact, your anxious thoughts themselves further exacerbate the stress response. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.
The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways. For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking.
Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts.
Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases.
Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking.
After going back to my Dad’s yoga class a few times, I eventually came to the realization that not only can you practice yoga in real life, but, conversely, you could go to a yoga class and not really be doing yoga…. focused on something else entirely. Without the sustained intention of focusing on the present, and calming the mind, going to a yoga class is literally just going through the motions.” Alex Korb, Ph.D.
Enjoy your practice!
Yoga is an art. As a kid I wanted to play guitar. I went to lessons. I didn’t practice between lessons. My teacher kept saying “you can’t really learn without practicing at home”. He told me this every week. He could tell I wasn’t practicing. I think he got tired of going over the same bits over and over, which was all he could do because I didn’t practice. I didn’t progress much at playing guitar either; I lost interest and quit after less than a year of lessons.
Just as a musician must practice their musical instrument daily, or a dancer practice every day, yoga students who want to make progress will have to find the self-discipline to start a daily practice on their own.
The most important reasons to begin and continue a home practice
- You get to know your own body , your own strengths and weaknesses.
- You gain the mental and psychological benefits that are the whole original purpose of yoga, and will not come without daily home practice. You will learn more about yourself than any books or workshops can ever show you, because you will be taking that inward journey every day.
- You will have this touchstone, this place of anchoring every day, A true blessing in this ever-changing, fast paced and imperfect, sometimes crazy world we live in.
What is a daily “home” or “individual” practice?
Daily – Honestly, 5 to 7 times a week is GREAT!!!
Home – in your home, have a place for doing yoga, a place you like, it can be in any room, outside on nice days… Have a time for yoga; most people who don’t chose a specific time for yoga have trouble doing it 5 to 7 times a week. I carved out time in the early morning, because too much can happen once my day is started.
Individual – Just you with yourself. It can be done with or around others, but you are doing your yoga, no chatting, no interruptions, no TV, phone, no distractions!
Practice – is not a competition, not an exhibition, not a performance and not a race! Let it be stress-free. Cultivate a patient mind. Some days you’ll be slow and other days you will feel like being fierce. You will learn to honor where you are at.
How do you begin a home practice? To start, you do what you can remember from class (so yes, do attend classes.) Take your time getting into and out of postures, and hold postures longer, to make discoveries and build strength.
- Take some time, five minutes is good, to become aware of and deepen your breath.
- Begin moving easily and repeat 3 to 10 sun salutations, to warm up the body.
- Do standing poses – warriors, triangles, tree or others; switching it up is good.
- Do child’s pose when you need a rest.
- Do a few seated postures and one or two laying down.
- Include one inversion. Legs up a wall counts.
- Always do savasana for a minimum of 8 minutes.
It is a great idea to get an individual session to design and refine your daily practice, after a few weeks, then at least once a year.
BUT... “I don’t have time for it every day.” By making time for a daily practice the rest of your day will be more productive. The rest of your day will be less stressful. These blogs discus how yoga does this in more detail; yoga for beating stress yoga as tool against fatigue
“I don’t care if I make progress I’m just doing yoga for maintenance.” There is no such thing as maintaining, unless you are making progress. Unless you are strengthening muscles in your body, and moving in your full range of motion 4-6 times a week. Exercise is stimulus. The changes to body tissue happens in the 24 to 48 hours afterwards. You become weaker and more rigid after 48 hours. This is even truer as you get older. After the 48 hours… if there is no stimulus again your hard work begins to get undone. Period, that’s it. (After months and years of daily yoga you maintain better flexibility if you do miss some days or weeks, your base-line has gotten higher).
“I do enough other exercise.” Great! But, by doing a home practice of yoga, you’re less likely to get injured doing other exercises and be able to do them longer as you age.
“I’m active in my daily work (or life).” Most often, in our daily routine, we do many repetitive movements, with the focus on what we are doing rather than the body and mind doing it. We use limited amount of the many muscles, less range of motion and less systematic use of many muscles. If your work is hard physical labor, less and/or “restorative” yoga might be what you need to practice at home.
It means we face life head-on! We look at the hard stuff inside of us and outside in the world. That inner peace, is a reserve, so no matter what is going on outside, you are coming from a place of peace, rather than fear, anger, hatred, greed or pride.
As yogis we discover another reality beyond hype and fear. We chose compassion over and over. We show up to create another reality beyond the divisiveness of racism, sexism, classism, anti semitism. We look outside our individual socio-economic, racial, political, cultural bubbles to understand those we disagree with and those who we have been conditioned to see as “other”. We have the courage to build bridges daily.
We continue to reflect and improve ourselves and how we interact in the world. Svadhyaya – Self study, Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination” This is the 4th Niyama (Niyamas are one of 8 limbs of yoga) .
We heal our emotional wounds. Often, especially in times of turmoil, we forget to go to the stillness and listen, to feel, to let our broken hearts weep, to grieve our losses. Personally sometimes…. I felt so domesticated, so numb, so stoic, so inexpressive, yet, now I am learning to tap into those wounded places and give them voice. I have been finding where the old wounds live in my body and discovering ways to move/ wash/ breath them out. Doing this work is not pretty, calm or subtle, it is powerful, and can be fierce and messy, but it does not mean your hysterical or insane, you are just alive!
Here are some article links which I have chosen for you, who want to delve further, ( this is also recommended reading for those of you attending the Women’s Healing Yoga Journey on February 18th).
at the break of day
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
be fought again…
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
and they’re going to hear from me.
to love will come
but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in….
I am writing from my own study and understanding of first two limbs of the Eight limbs of Yoga, Yama and Niyama. This is an introduction. Further study of the Yoga Sutras is advised for continued learning.
It is important when practicing these restraints and disciplines to be kind and non-judgemental of yourself and your progress.
These are not things generally mastered, one by one, these are similar to lamp posts to guide your way at night or similar to a compass for your journeys. Yet, sometimes lessons will come from wandering off course and in the dark.
They are not mastered in any order, but studied and contemplated frequently. These are ideals that speak to our highest self, but we are here as humans and will likely fall short, maybe even frequently. It is better to have this moral compass, even if we forget to use it, we can learn from wanderings, learn from our errors… and then study them again with new insight. Mindful progress over time and progress is certain.
First consider all Eight limbs (in the usual presented order)- not as steps, for it is best to think of them as 8 spokes of a wheel.
- Yama : Universal morality
- Niyama : Personal observances
- Asanas : Body postures
- Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara : Control of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi : Union with the Divine
The 5 Yamas (Universal Morality) disciplines or self restraints that are primarily concerned with the world, and our interaction with it, in our day to day life.
1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a compassionate attitude and do no harm.
2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness
Satya means “to speak the truth,” and is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government. Asking yourself before speaking, is it true? is it kind? is it necessary?
3. Asteya – Non-stealing
Take nothing that does not belong to you. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time, for example demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.
4. Brahmacharya – Sense control
Brahmacharya is abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. It does not necessarily imply celibacy. It means responsible behavior, that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.
5. Aparigraha – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth
Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of or act with greed. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.
The 5 Niyama (Personal Observances) The second limb usually refers to self discipline and also with our actions towards others in our day to day life.
1. Sauca – Purity
Sauca is purity and cleanliness, outer cleanliness, daily washing etc, and Inner cleanliness for healthy, functioning of our bodily organs and also the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas and pranayama are means for inner cleanliness. Asanas tone the body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. Most important is t cleansing of the mind of toxic emotions – hatred, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.
2. Santosa – ContentmentSantosa is modesty and being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one’s lifestyle, finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties then life becomes a process of growth through all circumstances. We begin to accept that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment to accept what life sends us and flow with it.
3. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy
Tapas refers to the activity of awareness and control of the body’s energy. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. This is the understanding that we can direct our energy to engage life and achieve the ultimate goal of union with the Divine. Tapas helps us “burn up” the desires that stand in our way of union. Other forms of tapas are paying attention to what we eat, to body posture, , eating habits, and breathing patterns.
4. Svadhyaya – Self studysvadhyaya. Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. All activities which cultivate self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness , even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. Learning to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, and to dispel self-destructive tendencies.
5. Isvarapranidhana – Celebration , devotion to the Spiritual
Isvarapranidhana is contemplation on God (Isvara) It is the recognition that the spiritual is everywhere and through our deepening awareness we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. The practice requires that we make time, each day, to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and moving the the universe. this might be meditation, prayer ,study or service.
2016, this too, shall pass. Whew!
Maybe this crazy time is meant to awaken us to new ways of being.
The darkest is right before the dawn.
Let’s be the dawning.
~~~~ Some ideas for creating deeper inner peace ~~~~~~~~~~~
~ Awake with a prayer or sense of gratitude for another day. Look at the sunrise or anything beautiful for a few moments before starting your day.
~ Be receptive, allowing, and curious. Be willing to forgo your schedule. Try setting this as an intention before getting out of bed; see it in your mind’s eye! Be ready for surprises; keep open to the freedom of the unknown. Change is the only constant.
~ Walk in the great outdoors – with curiosity and wonder! Walk tall, without fear into whatever arises.
~ A daily spiritual practice ~ You do have time! Try setting your phone timer for 2-3 minutes and focus on your breath, slowing it and deepening it, receiving nourishing oxygen from the Universe on your inhales, and Letting go of tension on your exhales. When you’re done, notice how you feel. Do it daily. This is meditation, one of the 8 limbs of yoga! ~ Spiritual practices are nourishment, elevating your vibration to help you have power to react creatively and constructively to what comes up in life.
~ Stay in the moment- Now is where life happens. The present is our point of power. To live in the moment is so fulfilling. This is liberation. No matter what is going on outside of you, open up to the possibility of experiencing freedom in this moment.
~ Lift your energy in a private session with me! We will discuss what is up for you and find new tools that support your moving forward. I offer yoga including breath work & adjustments, reiki, or a healing session using all of these.
Whole-hearted thank you for the support and co-creation this past year. I look forward to evolving with you in 2017!
Love, Love, Love Christina
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
One aspect of the eight limbs of yoga is Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things. Ahimsa means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person. Practicing kindness, and compassion towards all living things.
We are all citizens of Earth. A small number of people who have power and immense wealth live in so much fear and isolation that they act with outrageous insane greed. They’ve worked tirelessly for generation after generation to manipulate the rest of us to judge and fight among ourselves so we won’t rise to power. Most of the manipulation is subtle and all of it pervasive, some of it costs lives, creates wars, poisons rivers and destroys ecosystems.
It tells us that one group of people, women, people of color, people of this or that religious faith, are somehow less than human, and that everyday violence against a group of people is excusable.
As a US citizen, at this point in history, I will state where I stand. I have been following what is going on at Standing Rock, ND. This could be the beginning of positive change, or end horribly for the planet. I believe it is up to each us to make sure the outcome is positive change even though it isn’t easy change… even if it changes our holiday plans.
Please ponder the following;
- This is an extraordinary example of organised, non-violent, peaceful resistance. Ahimsa
- The historical context is vast. Consider, Kennedy, Cesar Chavez and Delano
- A people deeply oppressed for 500 years is asking and trusting they will have help, Allies. That is us! When I think about how truly brave this is… no words.
- Though the DAPL hired security, police and Army Core of Engineers have been undeniably violent, these brave women, “protectors” are talking about forgiveness !
- Americans who care about freedom and justice are flocking to Standing Rock to support the Sioux, just as justice loving Americans of an earlier generation went to Selma, to Jackson and to Delano.
- At this time in the USA, when the rights of people of color, and the rights of people of various faiths, and the rights of all women are being threatened, native women are in true rolls of leadership for this movement.
At this time, with the current political climate, maybe it is the love of the Land (purple mountains majesty…) and the love of ideals of the US Constitution that will bring diverse women and men together, from sea to shining sea.
I believe this has started at Standing Rock. I believe We the People are vastly more powerful than our “elected representatives and leaders”.
Patriotically & peacefully yours,
Schedule for December – No classes at Rio Grand Center for Spiritual Living or Garden Gate December 19th – 27th. No Individual sessions 19th-27th. There will be a Sub (or no class) at Versatile Vitality on the 21st. I will keep you updated here, on Yoga trail, and the Versatile Vitality schedule.
Good News -update –Army Corps Denies Easement For Dakota Access Pipeline -This is very good news. This is the power of well organized non-violent action by The Lakota People and many Allies! There are many same, similar and other issues to deal with and all of our participation is key!