Tag Archives: shanti

Shanti Mantra

Maybe I’ve already written about this mantra before, but holy Ma, has it been soothing my fires of late, and so, I’ll lay down the Shanti Mantra for you again. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit. What is happening in the world at large is discordant and uncomfortable. In my smaller world, I find myself ridden with anxiety and less-then lustrous behaviors, poor knock-offs of my fretfulness for the big issues. On the bright side, I am alight with fresh fervor to ease the disharmony that is born in hatred and judgement. And I know that I am not alone.

Translated through my heart and head, and with the help and guidance of the luminous Joe Barnett, the mantra goes thusly:

Aum sahana vavatu: Maha (big, humongous, ever-alive) mantra aum – sound and vibration of all things in the perhaps not infinite, but immeasurably large universe – may our practice be protected. May the practice space be safe for all beings, and a sanctuary from the distractions of the external world, and its fleeting states of chaos. May those who partake be held in the nourishing net of good support and community, and do no harm to themselves or others.

sahanau bhunaktu: May the practice be pleasant. Let’s be honest, if we don’t like it, we won’t come back. There is plenty of yuck and crud up, there must be a bit of pleasure left in the world, hey! Let it reverberate and come through our work together. And may we be filled up, nourished and fed with the deliciousness of rekindling connection to our bodies, minds, and souls. Let the practice beget more joy, as in the sharing of joy, great growth occurs. Rather than suffering, may the practice spread comfort, ease, and happiness.

sahaviryam karavavahai: May the practice be courageous. It is not without effort that we will turn this shitpile of misunderstanding and mistreatment of ourselves and others into wine. We are going to have to be wholly courageous, full of vim and vigor and unyielding vigilance to stop the disharmony from further jarring our communities, our entire population, our planet, and our connection to all that is beyond our imagination. (Interjection of my belief : the damage is not done, but there isn’t a moment to spare. Never has been.) It is the selfsame fires of our commitment to study that will conduce productivity, making our practice potent and sufficient. May we not doubt our capacity, but have faith in the process.

tejas vinavati tamastu: Through the efforts of our practice, may the effulgence of understanding move and spread between us. Let’s turn all this effort into good energy, good feeling, and good will. Nature’s way is collaboration and balance, and compassion is a force of light that will cut through the murk of enmity, which is not the nature of humanity.

maa vidvishavahai: Dispelling hatred is just what this light of understanding will do. When the lights go on upstairs and in our radiant hearts that we are all connected and in this together, may polarization and judgement disperse and be gone. This light is not harsh, but gentle and yielding, integrating of all life force as it brings all beings together in life, and love. That’s how powerful we are, people! Go.

aum shanti shanti shantihi: and fostering peace peace PEACE. Peace in our minds, in our hearts, and in the world. Peace in all the worlds. Peace throughout the humongous vast universe that begins at home, and on the mat.

For aspirant and teacher alike,the request is the same, as the journey we take in a class, and in the world, is one of together energy.                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                I love you. Suki Ola

Aum sahana vavatu                                                                                                                                                                      sahanau bhunaktu                                                                                                                                                                     sahaviryam karavavahai                                                                                                                                                                        tejas vinavati tamastu                                                                                                                                                                           maa vidvishavahai                                                                                                                                                                                 aum shanti shanti shantihi

 

 

 

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What is Yoga?

What is yoga? Where did yoga come from? What is the point? What determines a “strong” or an “advanced” yoga practice?

As yoga becomes more and more popular the world over, and more and more people practice it in one form or another, an individual does not have to be a student of yoga at all, does not have to ever have set their foot on a yoga mat or into a yoga studio to have asked themselves, or another, any and or all of the questions above.

Perhaps a piqued curiosity of yoga led you to a local yoga studio like Shree and you excitedly jumped into a yoga practice without hesitation. However, most people who wish to answer these questions were probably more like me at the beginning of their yoga journey. Timid, shy, afraid to join the spandex-wearing crowd because of self imposed ideas of limitation leaving them feeling unfit to fit in.

Like most people who come to the mat I was encouraged to try it by many before I ever let my curiosity overcome my fear and allow an open minded perspective create new space in a mind that had previously been full of preconceived ideas of yoga being just about the stretching and the stretch pants. Nearly a decade ago when I began my yoga practice and I allowed myself to cross the threshold of fear into curiosity where I could begin to answer the aforementioned questions for myself the most logical place to seek out information was at a yoga studio. These days, in the age of high speed internet connections, researching and studying yoga and the variants between the many schools and philosophies of yoga has become not only more easily attained for the curious seeker, but also perhaps, even more confusing.  After all, where do you start?

At the top of the Google search page for Yoga is a link to the home page for Yoga Journal, a magazine dedicated to the culture of the practice. Yoga Journal is a wonderful product that has served the yoga community for years and is a fantastically informative print magazine, as well as online version, yet does not concisely answer any of these questions previously stated. Next on the Google search engine page is the Wikipedia link for Yoga. Like Google and the many other wonderful bits of information that are readily at ones fingertips with the advent of high-speed internet Wikipedia has become a widely used resource, and for good reason, it quickly gets to the point.  At the top of the Yoga Wikipedia page, above the brief synopsis I have come to trust and rely on as the concise and generally accurate information I seek, however, is the following disclaimer.

“This article is about the umbrella term yoga which includes both religion, philosophy, and practices. For one of the six Hindu philosophy schools, see Rāja yoga. For the popular yoga that explains and emphasizes the physical practices or disciplines, see Hatha Yoga.”

In this disclaimer alone are eleven possible avenues of information one could venture down in order to answer the simple question, “What is yoga?” The Wikipedia synopsis translates the Sanskrit “Yoga” into it’s more literal meaning of “yoking together” rather than explain briefly what is yoked in Yoga and how. Should one continue to seek the answers to these simple questions via the World Wide Web, they will most definitely have the opportunity to become more informed, yet as I mentioned before, there is a great potential they will also become more confused.

Akin to the failings of finding viable and concise answers to these simple questions on the prodigious blogs and articles published daily on the internet and in publications like Yoga Journal, one may also find these answers hard to come by in a yoga classroom setting as well. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest failings of the rapid growth and popularity of yoga in western culture today. Yes, the health benefits of Hatha Yoga (yoga in its physical form) are many and great, however the exercise is a tool to be used as a means to the end, and not the end itself.

Yoga is to yoke, to bring into balance. As I was taught, Yoga is also another word for discipline, which is rooted in the word disciple, meaning student of. In this vein, Yoga becomes the deliberate and repeated act of bringing into relationship all aspects of oneself into a well-rounded nature; body, mind, and spirit. The practice of Yoga consists not only of the physical (Hatha Yoga) and breath exercises (Pranayama), it includes focus and meditation (Dharana and Dhyana), the practice of the withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara), and the study of the philosophical principles through which one can create a sustainable lifestyle of ethics and morals to better ones relationships with self as well as with community (Yama and Niyama, as well as Raja, Kriya, and Bhakti Yogas), and not in this specific order. It is through the yoking of oneself and the continuous return to disciplined practice that attachment to the body and the concepts of the mind as well as the emotions of the heart fall away with ease. It is then in this place that radical freedom or the transcendence of the self (Samahdi) is obtained.

Where did yoga come from? What is the point? What makes an advanced practitioner?

The origins of yoga are up for debate, however it seems to be pretty clear that no matter the “School” in which you study your yoga, “Ashtanga”, “Iyengar”, “Bikram”, “Anusara”, “Hatha”, “Vinyasa”, “Kundalini”, “Kripalu”, “Bhakti”, “Kriya”, “Raja”, and on, all modern Yoga is rooted in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Sutras are a series of philosophical threads (Sutras) that explain in detail the many aspects of the practice dating back to 400 CE. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is in effect then, the questionable source of debate. Were they actually written by one person, or was Patanjali just the guy who decided to transcribe the teachings into a concise* format? (Using the word *concise loosely as the book is a series of four parts with 196 teachings.) The Sutras have been translated and interpreted many times and is the source for all pertinent information on yoga, if not concise, viable for any who are truly interested in being a disciple of yoga.

In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states;
Yoga Sutra 1:2, (Book 1, Sutra 2)
Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah
Yogas=Yoga; Chitta=of the mind stuff; Vritti=modifications; Nirodhah=restraint.
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.
(Translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda)

This mind stuff being the attachments, expectations, sufferings, disappointments, resentments, hopes, fears, happiness’s, stories, and endless chains of chatter by the mind.

So, what’s the point?

I like to tell my new students “I want you to leave happy and the instructions are an invitation not a command. Please do whatever you need to do to leave happy.” Not only do I want my new students to leave the class happy, I want all of my students to leave life happy, this is why I teach yoga. In essence I feel that the teachings of yoga, and the continued practice of yoga enable any level of student of yoga to surrender their beliefs and feelings of limitations as well as their attachments with more ease, and eventually learn to set new ones down as quickly as they picked them up. Inevitably this practice leads to more happiness. The long term sustaining of this state of quiet mind stuff makes an advanced Yogi. Perhaps this Yogi can do handstand, perhaps not. Perhaps they know all of the Sutras, perhaps not. The advanced practitioner responds to life with ease, open to the invitation of enjoying being no matter how life appears beneath or beyond the surface of their skin.

So, what is yoga? Yoga is a series of precise steps of dedicated practice taken toward freedom. Yoga is a spiritual practice that uses the tools each human is born with to facilitate their personal growth on and off the mat. Yoga is multifold, and a lifetime of learning. Yoga is an invitation to enjoying life through learning to surrender with ease. Yoga is all of this and so much more, and that is why the answer to this question is hardly ever concise. If you were thinking of trying yoga but havn’t yet, please take the leap over the threshold of your fear into a wonderful exploration of you, your limitations, your freedoms, and your willingness to change those boundaries at any moment. If you are a seasoned student, thank you for spending time with yourself, your spirit, your community, your skills and your liabilities both on and off the mat, and thank you for being an ambassador to what I feel is one of the most rewarding of disciplines to undertake.

If you are still curious and the questions still feel unanswered, in asking and seeking, you are doing yoga. It is when we come to know that we have stepped out of the classroom.

With Love, Always, For Giving, In Joy,
Genevieve

The End, Genevieve’s Spring Yoga Challenge, Class 21 Completed

Once upon a time I was working at World Cup on the corner of Taos Plaza and a new woman was hired, her name was Suki.  She was new to town and I had recently crossed paths with her at the Alley Cantina where she I watched her dance freely like no one was watching in the middle of an empty dance floor.  I could not take my eyes off of her, spellbound by her willingness to be so free despite having all eyes in the room on her, like my own.  The day she began working at the Cup I had been deemed the person with all of the information to fill her head in order to teach her to be the best Barista she could be.  It was July 2005, at the time I had a boyfriend who lived in Seco the day before her training my boyfriend and I enjoyed the Seco 4th of July parade, and that night I got a spider bite on my ankle.  I recall noticing the spider bite after it happened and not thinking to much of it, however by the next morning it had started to swell, and by the time Suki and I showed up at the World Cup for the afternoon training shift it was the size of a tennis ball.  During the course of our six plus hours my right ankle swelled to the size of a football and Suki insisted on mopping the floor, which in my training routine was something I generally kept until the next closing shift, however this time I could not refuse.  Being stubborn and not quick to visit a doctor when in illness I was telling her that I would probably just go home and rest after we were finished.  Suki, being the sensitive, aware, and intelligent woman she is, suggested I go to the emergency room.  We investigated the bite again and noted that it was starting to look like a volcano with big blue streaks coming down from it.  Looking at this grotesque image I knew it was time to go to the hospital.  That afternoon was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship of teaching, and learning from each other.

Suki came to Taos to do a Yoga Teacher Training in Santa Fe, and being an avid skier she intelligently informed herself that Taos Ski Valley would fit her fancy far more than Santa Fe’s terrain.  It had been eight years since I was ejected through a windshield, suffered a severe break to my lower back, and taught myself to walk again.  Over the course of those many years yoga had been suggested to me, but as I said in my previous story I am stubborn, and I hadn’t gotten around to exploring what yoga was all about by the time Suki arrived.  Just like the night at the Alley when she was dancing, over the course of the next few months working with her I noticed Suki was so very vibrant in all she did, her sense of self was strong and secure and she shined like her pearly white teeth behind her wide and friendly smile.  It’s another story, perhaps a book of it’s own, to describe how I felt at that time in my life and why I felt that way however, I was not feeling so shiny, and I wanted to know how to feel the way Suki felt.  One thing she was doing and had done for most of her life was yoga, and now she was beginning to teach.  She invited me to attend her class, I just couldn’t say no.   No matter how insecure I was, how afraid I was of not knowing what I was doing, how stubborn I was about my limitations related to my back, I just had to go.  Something about Suki’s bright smile and the tenderness with which she treated me from that day with the spider bite said to my fear, “don’t worry, you will be safe.”

I remember that first yoga class, it was in January of 2006.  I remember my first down dog, it felt agonizing as my arms shook, then Suki made the invitation to express the posture from the feeling of our hearts.  My heart softened immediately remembering it’s desire to be happy, and knowing the space I was in was safe.

Everyone comes to yoga for their own, unique, and personal reasons.  Everyone has their own intentions, motives, and desires of what they wish to get out of the practice.  Though eight years have now passed I think back and it is apparent to me my motives are still the same.  I wish to be happy and peace-filled while traversing this wild and crazy ride called life.  I wish to experience this happiness true to myself, in the fullness of my authentic expression without hesitation or fear of who may be watching.   I know that at the heart of sharing this experience of my Spring Yoga Challenge through this blog is this truth of my desire to be courageous while standing bare and vulnerable for the world to see.  Along my journey of the past eight years deeply devoted to this practice I have developed all of the skills I use to stand vulnerably as my authentic self with courage most deeply through this beautiful and continuing relationship with my dear teacher, friend, and student Suki. In this truth so much gratitude fills my heart and the joy of this gratitude  brings tears to my eyes.

After awaking this morning from dreams that were no where near as delightful as I would have called sweet, I awoke feeling a bit more ill than I would have liked.  Stuffy nose and slightly feverish I spent the morning quietly, took a walk with my dog, enjoyed fresh air and decided that it was the time to finish this journey I set myself upon.  If I had not challenged myself to complete the task by the 30th of April I would not have gone to class today, however, stubborn old me made my way over to Shree at noon to see my dear beloved teacher.

Suki guided us through beautiful asana of deep hip flexing and twists to sooth our nervous system and help us to drop more deeply into the quiet calm fibers of our being in order to bring us ease in the wild and voracious wind of the past couple days.  I silently acknowledged to myself that I had not felt to shaken by the wind and appreciated this inner calm was a sweet benefit of all of this yoga I have been doing.  Suki remarked on the quality of the wind being like the quality of our mind often blowing, sometimes blustering, and providing the potential to create a constant sense of unease.  The ultimate teaching she offered her students this afternoon is that yoga’s purpose is to quiet the mind stuff, to calm the winds of blustering thoughts so we may enjoy the ever present well of inner peace.  As always, I found myself returning from Savasana with the winged expression of joy, gratitude, and love for this magnificent teacher rising from the well of peace in my heart.

Being an owner of Shree Yoga limits the possibility of being rewarded in the most fabulous ways our students are rewarded materially by use for completing classes 7, 14, and 21 of the Spring Yoga Challenge.  Yet, the rewards of practicing regularly are not restricted from my experience and I have experienced many.  Through the calm diving into the well of my grieving heart, to the equanimity experienced in the ease I feel when the wind blows wild outside, and all the other resonances of my energetic and physical body and tastes of riches in my free spirit and open heart between, I have been rewarded.

Almost a decade ago this powerful relationship of friendship and studentship began, it has in itself multiplied into many aspects of my life and ever continues to bring me more joy.  I do not know if Suki knew I would be attending her class today, however, she brought me a gift, an edible treat of powerful super-foods we discovered on our journey to Maui together a few years ago, Happy Balls.  After class I delightfully devoured my happy ball and began to sing from the truest joy in my heart…If you are not familiar with Pharrell William’s new song Happy consider this your introduction…

“Clap your hands, if you feel like a room without a roof.  Clap your hands if you feel like happiness on the move…Because I’m happy happy happy happy…happy happy happy happy!”  You can check out his uber inspiring and creative video here.  http://24hoursofhappy.com/

Once upon a time I was bit by a spider feeling as grey as a cloudy day.  A wonderful yogi of luster and long fibers guided me out of the gloom and along my way.  Now I’m at home and though I’m alone I’m as happy as I could be.  Knowing inside me is all I will ever need to be willing, courageous, and free.

If you have been keeping up with me along this journey I thank you for sharing it with me.  It is my deep belief that the more we share of our experiences the narrower we bring the gap of separation between us and feeling alone in our suffering, or as I like to call it, being human.

There is still one more day to dive in and get your feet wet on your own magical Spring Yoga Challenge.  Yes it will be difficult in more ways than one.  Yes it will require commitment and tenacity.  Yes it will deepen the quality of joy in your life in all of it’s rewards.  Stop by Shree for tonight’s 5:30 class or tomorrow’s, 7:30 am, 9:30 am, Noon and 5:30pm classes to begin.

That is all for now, and this marks The End….of this story at least.

With love, all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

 

Reaching The Mountain Top, Class 17

Living in Taos most of my life has taught me many things including being in rhythm with the seasons of nature.  All four seasons happen in this high mountain desert climate allowing the awareness of that rhythm to be more clear than if I were to have grown up closer to the equator or the poles.  Currently it is April, windy season,or as I like to call the sporadic change of weather at this time of year as schizophrenic spring weather.  In the morning the skies are blue and clear, in the afternoon perhaps snow, by dusk rolling clouds and a light breeze.  Growing up in Taos I knew that March meant sunscreen and layers, May meant lilacs, presuming we didn’t get a late freeze, July meant possible flash floods at my friends house on the mesa, and Halloween meant long sleeves, jackets with our costumes and snow.

Summer weather in Taos is generally more consistent than spring, it’s either dry or wet, drought or monsoon.  Of course we pray for monsoons in the desert yet, if you are like me and you enjoy hiking, monsoon weather does not only put a dampness in the dirt but may also put a damper on your hiking schedule.  For instance if you wish to hike Mt. Wheeler it is advisable to leave early in the morning, six or so, so that you do not get caught on the way up the mountain in a thunder storm.  If you are like me, often times living beyond what is “advisable”  than you may find yourself as I have, on your way up the mountain watching the ominous clouds rolling in.  Ambition to get to the top to enjoy the beyond amazing feeling and view may impede your opportunity to experience the hike with a sense of pleasure sending yourself full blown into the unease of stress.   Being driven you may continue upward despite the warning of crackling thunder and drops of rain.  Perhaps, you pause in a moment of conscientious mindfulness, reflecting on the circumstance, attending to the rewards of your yoga practice, and in this awareness it becomes apparent that surrendering the desire to summit may not only prevent you from being struck by lighting above the tree line but it may also leave your spirit with more room for the fullest form of your inner expression of joy, which in effect is the reason to hike the mountain in the first place.Hiking a mountain in Taos during the monsoons is not too different from taking the Spring Yoga Challenge or any yoga class for that matter.

Today at noon I attended Suki’s Yoga Hour class, after a morning of working in the yard, and now three weeks of yoga challenge my body is admittedly tired.  To tell the truth I would have preferred to attend Gentle/Restorative Yoga this evening however I am teaching that class for Liz as she is in South America and well, that makes it almost impossible for me to also attend.  After so many years of being in this fantastic, feeling, healing body, I know it’s limits.  Sometimes I can push the boundaries and summit the mountain before the storm rolls in, rock the three and a half hour advanced yoga practice and smile all the way through, do eight hours of yoga two days in a row for the sake of learning more, and other times I just want to take a hot bath and get in bed.   This afternoon I had very little tenacity and vigor in me.  However, as the days roll by I now have only a few short days to complete this challenge I took on for myself.  I made my way to class knowing that in class instructions are an invitation as on a hike making it to the summit is not a necessary ingredient in the recipe of enjoying the great outdoors.  All that was really required of me today was to just show up.

Suki’s class was an invitation to find the place between excited and stressed out, how very appropriate I thought to myself.  She taught us a sequence of poses that built on one another leading to bigger and bigger poses incorporating twists and weight bearing, all of which required our physical effort.  Most asana requires effort and in that is the invitation to balance the effort, as yoga is a practice of balancing, with a softness in the effort, softness under the tone of the muscle, softness in the breath and mind, softness in the heart and spirit.  To carry the rhythm of our asana was a delightful breath practice specific to the softening of the quality of mind as well as the energy body beneath the effort of the physical form.  It was a wonderful and masterful practice, and minding my own needs I also managed to take good care of myself modifying where necessary, listening to the thunder in my body, in order for myself to leave happy and not hurt.

From my perspective leaving happy is ultimately the point.  Why stress oneself out in the pursuit of more joy and excitement?  Why stress oneself out on the journey of reaching the summit?  Why stress oneself out in the short years of our one and only miraculous life?  As far as I can see, I see no good reasons to do live in stress.  On my journey of life I continue to learn, up and down mountains, through joy and greif and all stages between, through this Spring Yoga Challenge, the gift comes in being present in the moment.  Showing up and being aware of your experience and how you feel, and if you don’t like how you feel choose to do somehting that will allow you to feel somehting you prefer, perhaps that is better, perhaps it’s just more peaceful or comfortable.  Feeling, being present with the feeling of the feeling, and knowing you can choose your mental response to that feeling as good as standing on the tallest mountain in the world.  I have learned that in the awarenss is great spaciousness and an opportunity to see the easiest route back home, literally, figuartively, metaphysically, esoterically, and intrinscly.

Now at home I sit calmly and happily without to much physical effort at my computer exercising another feature of my being tired from this self imposed challenge, my mental muscles and I share with you these many thoughts knowing I am approaching the end.  As I begin to see the descent off the mountain top of the Spring Yoga Challenge I am aware that rather than stress myself out about getting home it will better serve me to continue to do my best to be present with every step along the way, every breath, every down dog, every moment of frustration and delight, present in the yoga on and off the mat.  It’s like Suki said at the end of class “Thank you for showing up.”  Yep, showing up is enough.

With love, all ways in joy, for giving,

Genevieve

Genevieve’s Spring Yoga Challenge Day 14, Class 11

This evening I enjoyed a rare event, yoga with my loving husband.  I spent the day with my mother and was surprised when I walked into Shree at 5:30 pm for Suki’s Gentle/Restorative Yoga class to find my good looking husband sitting on the bench inside the front door taking off his shoes.  Though I regularly invite him to join me for class, as well as encourage him to do more yoga, he does not often go take me up on my offer.  One thing I really love about our relationship is that we are interested in different things and our singular approaches to life including the tasks of taking care of ourselves are not the same.  It is because of these differences that over the past eight years we have had a very good time enjoying each others company adventuring into the others world.  This said, my husband is not as enthusiastic about yoga as I am and has shared with me this truth many times, that it is not uncommon for him to spend the majority of time in a yoga class working out the thoughts in his head, i.e. thoughts that he might enjoy himself more should he be elsewhere.  Despite this, Mr. Oswald, like almost all other people I know, no matter the experience on the mat, feels better for it afterwards, and this is why he continues to come to class, all be it sporadically.

In class tonight Suki invited us to relax and prepare for sleep after the big full moon and eclipse of last night, tax day, passover, and the Ides of April.  I almost always find Gentle/Restorative yoga to be a perfect platform for the practice of relaxing, surrendering, and letting go, and often enjoy a deep savasana at the end of class.  Tonight was slightly different from such previous experiences as I found myself surprised to notice everyone was moving at the end of class and I had not heard Suki call us out of savasana, I had fallen asleep.  This to me is a sign of a job well done on the mat, and perhaps also a sign that tonight I am tired.

Now after my surprise yoga date with my husband and a delicious dinner I will off to bed to enjoy the sleep I prepared so well for in class.  If all goes well I will wake up tomorrow to meet an exciting new day full of wonder, magic, and everything new, including another effort to rise to the challenge at Shree Yoga Taos.

Wishing you sweet dreams and lots of love,

Genevieve

 

Genevieve’s Spring Yoga Challenge, Day 8 – Class 7

Today marked class number seven of twenty-one.  My body has reminded me throughout the day that it has done a lot of moving this week.  I am sore between my shoulders and in my arms, my neck feels more open than it has in months as do my hips, and I have been sleeping one to two hours more than my usual amount for the last few nights.  After a night of wild dreams I awoke this morning with a smile and a deep feeling of ease and happiness, a nice respite from the sorrow of this past week.

At noon I joined what felt like all of Taos for Clint’s yoga hour class.  It was, and always is, so much fun to do yoga in a full room, and today I think there were more than twenty-five of us.  When the space is full of bodies the energy is higher and deeply palpable.  As an owner of the studio, a full to the brim class is also a testament to the value of the offerings of our small business and the continued excellence of teaching at Shree, which brings me deep gratitude.

I love attending Clint’s classes.  I love attending any yoga class really, and all have something of value to offer, however Clint’s voice is like listening to the voice of my deepest conscience, which I guess says something about me.  I find the low tone of his voice to be sweetly soothing to my nerves and his insights touch my heart like the warmest hug. Clint opened class today with a parable, “The student asked the teacher, ‘When will I master this practice?’  The teacher said, ‘You will never master this practice’.”  Clint added, “nor will you master life”.   For life is always changing, and like the practice, one does not need to master it to benefit from it and enjoy it’s rewards.

Sustained practice over a long time enables one to effectively execute actions and responses that empower oneself and others.  This is the fundamental purpose of yoga, the Spring Yoga Challenge, and any practice that one disciplines themselves to.  The reward is not in mastering the practice, rather it is in finding ones way back to authenticity and alignment with ones highest morals and values when one has miss-stepped.  The reward is in knowing the difference between, and executing the action of, respondability versus reactivity.   Respondability happens when you are aware of your ability to choose your response to any given situation, and to choose the next right thing, the best possible choice, that which takes you to your fullest most radiant version of self right now.  The practice, whatever it may be, allows the opportunity to apply the successful use of the tools learned in that discipline to enable and support your highest good in action, be it plank, handstand, compassion, or forgiveness, etc.  Perhaps a level of mastery may not be reached however, in the effectiveness of your skillful action you can experience personal growth and the joy of immeasurable reward.

Though class this afternoon was basic and simple in its physical practice, there was an extremely advanced teaching being offered.  Bea Doyle, a brilliant yoga teacher in Albuquerque whom I did my teacher training with taught me that an advanced yogi is not someone who can touch their toes to their head.   Rather an advanced yogi is someone who can move with skill in action.  In yoga asana, skill in action starts with the basics, the foundation of the pose and knowing where the four corners of your hands and feet are.  For myself skill in the action of a peaceful and happy life is knowing that I get to choose what I think, and as Clint so kindly reminded us today in class it is also knowing that the breath is our friend, always available for us, always willing to support us and embrace us for as long as we are living.

This afternoon I am deeply grateful to Clint, and all of the spectacular teachers at Shree for being awesome and beautiful in their true humility and skillful, excellent teachings. Tonight, I will think of them all in a hot bath to sooth my aching muscles.

Lots of love, all ways, for giving,

Genevieve

 

Genevieve’s Spring Yoga Challenge, Day 6

To be, is not to always be the same, and to always be, does not exclude experiencing undulations of change in the state of a constant being.  Equanimity is to be peaceful, though the outward experience may be anything but that.

Suki covered this topic nicely today in her noon yoga class, opening with the thought that the English language perhaps had not enough room to cover the truest concept of being and beingness.

This rang so true to the state of being that I have been living this past week.  Though I find myself experiencing grief does not mean that the ultimate state of my being is not joyful and well.  Ultimately I know that if I am breathing I have much to be grateful for, in essence leaving me in a more joy filled state than sorrowful.  In the grand scheme of things this is perhaps one of the most valuable bits of knowledge we can embrace on the journey of life, the practice of equanimity in an ever changing world, which can be cultivated in a garden of gratitude.

Yesterday I had the great good fortune to practice next to Suki in Liz’s class.  Over the years Suki and I have done so much yoga together that when we practice next to one another we often sync up, moving and breathing in rhythm.  Perhaps our hearts are beating in rhythm as well?  To be in rhythm with the ever changing pulsating expanding and contracting world brings ease and as sense of equanimity to the experience of living, which inevitably will change.  An opposing experience of equanimity would be suffering.  Suffering is not the loss of what was, rather it is holding with attachment to what was and resisting moving into what now is.  This concept is easier to understand mentally than it is to cultivate in action, for our physical and emotional bodies feel.  We feel love, delight, joy, ease, comfort, and we feel pain, discomfort, sorrow, friction, frustration, and tension.  As we dive into the experience of our bodies in a physical practice like yoga it is not uncommon to experience discomfort in muscles as they contract and expand.  This discomfort is the physical manifestation of the transformation of the body from one state to another, from the old way of being to the new.  When we are manifesting a change that we wish for, that we desire, like being in better shape, being more flexible, becoming more strong, learning to stand on our hands, the journey, even when dotted with discomfort is often enjoyed for the greater experience.  On the path toward a healthier you suffering, the attachment to what was, the unhealthy you, generally does not arise unless along the way to the new version of yourself you injure your body and find new obstacles in the way of reaching your ultimate goal.  But what is the ultimate goal?  This is the most valuable and important question to return to in the face of any suffering.  What do I want to get out of this?  What is most important?

For myself, the intention behind my Spring Yoga Challenge was to return to my yoga practice after months of recovering from injury and pain in my body, and to share that journey via these blog posts.  I hoped that revealing myself as a student on the path of yoga, by sharing my journey of physicality, and spirituality on the mat, I may inspire others to dive deeper into knowing themselves as well.   Little did I know just how vulnerable I would become, and just how deeply into the essence of the heart of my yoga practice this journey would take me, and so quickly!  In this short fleeting life, my ultimate intention is to be happy.  For myself happiness is being committed to ones ability to live in an unconditional heart, to constantly and with discipline be aware of the spaciousness of ones spirit and the limits ones mind may be putting on their ability to love without condition.  Happiness to me is simply to see the love, and be the love, always without fear.  Yesterday a friend shared a quote with me of Chogyam Trumpa he said “It takes a lot of courage to keep your tender raw heart open.” After writing these posts this last week I have to agree with the monk.  This sharing has taken much courage, but what kind of teacher would I be if I could not practice what I taught?  As I said, I too am a student, and this Spring Yoga Challenge has quickly transformed from a journey of physical healing into a lesson of  courage and fearlessness, while sharing my open tender heart.

For many yoga is all about the physical experience, it is an essential part of my experience as well.  My body, the incredible vessel that it is, has provided me with endless opportunity to get to know it better, through health, injury, and healing.  There was a time in my childhood right up to the car accident that left me nearly paralyzed that my body was perhaps a perfect body, never in pain, always did what I asked it to, extraordinarily strong, flexible, and able to adapt and learn.  I was never a super fast runner, however I could run and run and always appreciated my stamina and endurance.  Being hurled through a windshield at sixty miles per hour definitely changed that.  It is truly a miracle that I can walk, let alone touch my toes and do handstands.  Ballet was a key component in my healing and from dance I found my way to yoga.  The most spectacular thing about yoga is the power with which it can heal the body, mind and spirit.  Yoga asana when done with mindfulness and awareness and concentration on breath can break through the blocked energy in the body allowing energy to flow and health to return to what was once in a state of dis-ease.  This breakthrough of energy in Sanskrit is called a Kriya.  My first yoga teacher was Suki, and I consider her classes the most valuable of all classes I have ever taken on my walk toward physical healing.  Suki is skillful in her understanding of the alignment of the body as well as her instruction for the student to get the most out of their physical experience.  Long holds with true alignment are common in her class and it is this type of practice that a Kriya release is common.  Today we worked on strengthening and lengthening the side body which I consider the home to the less integrated aspects of our being, the “I can’t see it, so it must not be real” aspects of ourselves.  This is a powerfully energetic location in the physical body to release and this afternoons class did just that.  If you have ever felt your body shaking in a yoga class or any physical experience this is the energy of your body, the chi, prana, shakti, moving through you, the shaking is on of many variations of a physical feeling of a Kriya.  All through class this afternoon my left shoulder and arm were shaking, which I took as a good sign, healing is happening in my body.

One week and six classes into the challenge and layers of fear and resistance peal away.   On the radio Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah plays now and I cannot deny the beauty of the serendipity of this wild and crazy ride of a life.  Equanimity is singing hallelujah in the well of grief, singing Hallelujah in the shaking on the yoga mat, singing Hallelujah in your beloveds arms, singing Hallelujah when the sunset paints the mountains red, singing Hallelujah when the wind is blowing your house away from Kansas, singing Hallelujah for the opportunity to share your hearts hurts and joys, singing Hallelujah for yoga and a journey toward wholeness, singing Hallelujah in the face of suffering, singing Hallelujah as a state of being, no matter the state of your being.

Singing Hallelujah as I sing Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,

Om Peace, Peace, Peace,

With love, all ways, for giving,

Genevieve