Tag Archives: yoga practice

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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Resilience and Adaptabilty

Resilience and adaptability are an intrinsic part of nature. Weeds survive, cockroaches will inherit the earth, and water will always find its way. Unfortunately, the possibility that one can become stuck in a rut of being, obdurate and unable to be fluid like water, is as great a potential as falling in love. 

Nevertheless, life invites us to be flexible. Too much fragility and we will crumble under life’s pressure. Too much rigidity and we will stubbornly refuse to adapt with changing times. Get left behind, looking out at an unfamiliar world from an inner gaze hardened by our own stubborn shortcomings.

So much of this journey of life is a dance among paradox. Dancing between stability and freedom is the dance of liberation. Freeing ourselves from our attachments to the past and desired outcomes, yet holding the gaze steady on the intent and the motive is the recipe for a vibrant life. Despite the length of that sentence, the concept is still much easier said than done.

None of us are outside the circle of loss. None of us are exempt from desire. None of us are without needs. Life, being what it is, will test our capacity to meet ourselves in the company of ourselves, during loss, overcome by desire, with needs unmet. What we do when we arrive at thes thresholds is what becomes the fluid and flexible bouncy of resilience or hard brittle bark of unfluctuating obstinacy. The most beautiful part is that we get to decide. We get to decide how to respond to life’s undulations.

The key ingredient is knowing that responding is not reacting. Life happens. Take a breath. Connect to the deeper part of you. The part that evolved with the ever evolving universe, conscious, adaptable, resilient, and remember what drives your heart. Take another deep breath, move away from the drama, exhale. Take another deep breath, choose the direction you wish to go, take one small step in that direction. Responding mindfully to life’s unsavory as well as life’s more rich and delicious circumstances is like becoming the resilient and ever buoyant material of a trampoline. Not only do you bounce back but you catalyze movement into the future.

Regularly returning to practice returns you to your capacity to connect to your breath. Regularly returning to your practice invites deeper connection to your adaptable and graceful heart. Regularly returning to your practice reminds you of your ability to skillfully spin, twirl, and jive on the paradoxical dance floor of life. Stepping gracefully between stability and freedom, acknowledging your innate ability to be simultaneously fragile and rigid, embracing your innate ability to be resilient and adaptable, will bring you ever closer to the vibrant freedom of peace you were born to enjoy. Carry on!

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving,

Genevieve 

Building Personal Capital 

One of the great gifts of this life is that we can all learn to skillfully respond to life’s challenges and build personal capital. i.e. build confidence through inner strength. This is great because I think it is safe to say that no one of us actively seeks to experience shame, guilt, and remorse. It is not part of our nature to seek suffering, though it is part of our nature to relive our suffering over and over through the obsessiveness of our minds. Suffering is in fact a quality of the mind, the quality of attachment. When we attach ourselves to an idea of how things should be or how things were, then we do not permit ourselves to experience things as they are, in peace, spaciousness, and a willingness for the potential of things to get better.

 No matter who we are, what our backgrounds or trajectories, life will challenge us, life will bring us to our knees. Not all challenges are devastating, but life in its essence tests our concepts of comfort and ease. Sometimes it’s just a simple conversation with a loved one or a co-worker that sends us reeling into a flurry of inner turmoil and anguish, other times it’s something greater like the loss of a job or home. No matter what the trial is, the opportunity to meet it with composure and equanimity is also there.

 What does that mean exactly? Well rather than flying off the handle because your mom pushed that same button for the nine-thousandth time, you can calmly respond with a request to not go down that road again. Or rather than respond to the trigger, guide the conversation into neutral territory, into gratitude, into love. Rather than going into a tailspin of depression or substance abuse at the loss of a job or after an intense personal attack by some mindless person, drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a hot bath, take a walk, take a deep breath. Gather yourself and be mindfully and courageously in the company of the discomfort, rather than taken out by it.

 So few of us actually have skills to use in the face of life’s challenges, rather we have coping mechanisms. And our coping mechanisms are often synonymous or entangled with behaviors that are less than those we would feel proud of sharing with the world. I know that one of my coping mechanisms is to be mean to others when I feel vulnerable. I regret this behavior after I have expressed it. I feel guilty for hurting someone else because I felt vulnerable. I feel ashamed when I behave this way and I know I could have behaved better. I have learned that in order to not have to visit ourselves in the waiting room of shame, guilt, and regret, we can cultivate skills to respond to life’s challenges that enable composure, equanimity, restraint, mindfulness, patience, and calm.

 When we know and accept that life will challenge us and press up against the rough and sometimes sharp edges of experience then we can more actively step into our bigger selves, to see our potential to react, and rather than react, respond. Respond with composure, self restraint, calm and equanimity. To live fully in the company of grace.

 Our time on the mat is valuable because it translates. Asana practice pushes us up against the boundaries of our comfort zones and into the rougher sharp edges of where we are not comfortable. Through mindfulness of breath and our thoughts we can learn to be in the company of the discomfort in a state of composure and equanimity. This translates off of our mats and into our lives, so that when life pushes us into the uncomfortable experiences of our everyday we can restrain from behaviors that leave a residue of inner turmoil and exercise skillful responses. Knowing that you are the only person in your life who can make it more comfortable gives you the power to do so. This is the great gain of confidence ind inner strength that comes with building this kind of personal capital.

Yoga is not about being anything at all. Many of the Greats would say that if anything, yoga is about becoming one with everything, and so, about being no thing. There are hosts of ideas, thousands of years of scripture, and a billion and one styles of yoga in the modern world to fiddle with the big (and small), ideas of the practice, but my truth is that the yoga is about: being many things, learning many things, digesting many things, and then being free and capable to make informed decisions about what I might like to repeat. It’s about being supple, in body and mind, and keeping my heart open to the mystery. For that all to work out, it’s got to continue to change as I do. Over the years, different aspects of the yoga have enticed me, and for different reasons. In allowing transformation to happen, even seeking it through a variety of models of praxis, the yoga has become integral and linked to every encounter and breath. And seriously, I feel it is just beginning.

I have a teacher who likes to say that if you have found an idea or a practice that you enjoy and the concept of “rinse, lather, repeat”, is enticing, then you have found the impetus to practice. It is from this desire (tapas), and curiosity for process that we begin to understand what it really is that brought us to ask for practice at all. One can’t know what the end result is before it has come, but we have to strive for resolution and goals. Without direction, we are rather lost at sea. I like to look at the yoga – and especially something like the Root Down challenge – as an invitation just to set a course. It may be an arbitrary thing to attend 20 classes in 30 days, but that might just be the gift. Somewhere in all that breath and time with community, inspiration and deep wisdom will rise from the depths and the roots.

The Root Down Spring Yoga Challenge is on, as of today, and I am feeling all the feels about it. Already I’ve worried about how all that time traveling to and fro, and being on the mat at the studio is going to happen. But I know from experience that the yummy part of the challenge isn’t completing it, but witnessing the inevitable shifts that take place in the middle of it. Picasso said it nicely, “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” He spoke directly to the surprise embedded in any commitment’s fibers. Just start, and see what unfolds. Join me for 20 in 30 days this spring. We can help support each other in the ebbs and flows of all that asana, remind each other to stay hydrated, and to stay open to the wild growth that will come from our setting strong roots into practice.

Love and giant respect, Suki Ola

For today, a list of 8 things I believe that I know to be true :

Stay creative, stay open wide, and steer clear of certainty, for it mocks the spirit’s nature of freedom. As the noise of the news is deafening, and I can only stomach so much atrocious information at one time, this is my practice of late. It is like a sweet salve for the parts of me that border on obsession and anxiety to figure out the truth, right now, and fix the issue. My wise and candid Father recently emailed me a link to a list that well-advertised his disposition of keeping a beginner’s mind. One of the most curious humans I know, my father explores the world with childlike wonder. I am blessed to have such a teacher and guide, and found 25 Ways To Kill the Toxic Ego That Will Ruin Your Life to be a funny peek into the state of humanity. The precepts are simple, happy reminders to stay present. The language is wholly approachable, and each facet provides a conversational channel to deeper spiritual teachings.

How easy it is to be swayed into the camp of certain doom, and absolute disgust, when faced with the facts and anti-facts of today’s cacophonous media soundscape. But, I was reminded this week in a community talk about resiliency (thanks, Kyle and Jan!) that it takes time to digest hard information, just as I know so well the slow and uncomfortable process of digesting foods that don’t sit so nicely in my guts. I have been led by fear and anger to make sheer judgements based on fear-producing newscasts before, ok, many times, but am encouraged by things like this new-age-y list with decided inquiry. A doomed planet, rampant hate on and off the streets (in seats of office), and disarray in the pockets of policy that are supposed to be arranged so neatly are not the only news, they’re just the loudest. Reading through the lines is super hot right now, and there are bushels of good people doing good things to meet the challenges of an awkward start to 2017 on earth.

The recent momentum in industries of self-help, wellness, and practices like yoga points to a pursuit of health and peace and happy, as a cultural theme. I happily participate in these ultra-mod industries of wellness, and observe the irony of needing to be ever-reminded of one’s own innate capacity to heal. Plus, it’s nice to be in such abundant company. Thus, I am a student of yoga, every day, and I try to educate myself, reading: astrological forecasts; a slew of online news reports; spiritual wisdom journals; herbalism, meditation, yoga, wellness, and insight blogs; books. Certainly these are a curated set of horse’s mouths, and I choose them carefully, as every tidbit affects the scene and timbre of the day. Some days the ole’ guts are ready to absorb mainstream media, and some days, some things are just impossible to swallow.

The special brand of action that is born from curiosity, which leads to exploration, and then to glimmers of understanding, will well up inside of me if I wait and see what it looks like, feels like, tastes like, and breathes like. I believe that the wisdom that only comes from experience – prajna – is the good stuff. I know this, and I teach this. Yet, I forget. And at the risk of being too a cheerleader, which some days I am really into, We know this. We have gone down weirder paths before, together.

First on the 25 ways list, Epictetus, the Greek philosopher born as a slave (according to Wikipedia, where admittedly, much information first reaches the shores of my peering mind) is quoted to say, “It is impossible to learn that which one already thinks one knows.” Smart, Epictetus. How many times have I talked myself into being sure of something, only to be dashed on the rocks of mystery and chance?

When I think about it, the things I believe to be true fit it one rather small basket. And when I falter, and question the relevancy of what my teaching yoga has to do with anything at all, I recall that these spare lessons feel universal, and totally relevant right now:

Love is a resilient, unbreakable, and indelible force;

Life is fragile;

Health is a balancing act;

Yoga helps me, most of the time;

Breath is happening, but breathing is more fun;

Peace takes effort, and has got to come from inside;

Trust your gut;

All is shifting all the time, so let it, as certainty can surely kill: creativity, the mood, and will at least put a rude scratch into the perfect mirror of divine mystery. 

Love and deep respect, Suki

When the sun is standing still.

Go to the place within you that is both silent and cacophonous in the same breath. It is there, in the moving within the stillness, and the light inside the dark, that all is. And it is there that all is happening.

I have learned in some years of “practicing”, and “refining”, and “being good”, on and off the mat that nothing that seems to be the real goal, is it. There are endless caverns of respite within effort, and deep tides of peace that only come from restlessness and disease. I believe that it doesn’t have to always be this way, but that for many, like myself, we must crawl through the rocks on our knees to find what is real. And simple. And good already, birthed from the sweat and grunt of time. Looking back, I heard this wisdom from many mouths, but who was I to listen? And who is any teacher to tell? We all must learn and find ourselves.

It is now, facing the winter solstice 2016, when the world is been cracked open, yolk broken and spilled, once again, and I feel it is safe to relax and begin anew. There is no less passion, just less me in the way of the work. And oh, so much more urgency for the process of unveiling the truth about real: medicine; politics; religion; health and wellness; love, trust, and compassion than ever before. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again, as many times as needed: a mantra, a prayer – practice is over. No more suffering at our own hands for perfection, only forward motion and steps toward something we can all feel at home in.

As the sun comes to a momentary pause, may we also sit still and source a link to the rhythm of the movement that is never absent, in all things. Blessings for your own moments of stillness, may they bring to you just what you are seeking and need – healing, rest, self-reflection, irreverence, reverence, faith, or just the chance to BE, and quit doing, if only for a breath or two.

Love and respect, Suki Ola

Making yoga

What a whirl. This month has been, in my humble: tough, uncomfortable, awkward, baring, totally expected (did I really think we as a country were in for anything less than a straight shot to the heart?), and raw. Movement and meditation offer a fine tether to peace and calm, especially in strange times. It is a part of the practice to accept that there are always more factors than the business reports, the polls, the media could ever reveal. To know that no thing is severed from the truth, coincidences and circumstance are in fact, alignment, and the result of past thought and action, and anything that makes you feel, is your practice. The Universe is a vast and immeasurably large thing. Yoga helps me to see this and remember the delicate balance inherent in each living, breathing moment. .

In the bared face of our country’s state, I am heartened to hear conversation, rather than silence. I am waking up. I am thankful to know that other people are waking up, too. And I’m crying a bunch, as things are cutting deeper lately, hitting home and so, opening gateways for communication – that butterfingered pathway of speaking the heart’s world through the mouth, so oft and ungracefully led by the mind. I believe though the stakes may seem incredibly high, that we as a populace of loving and respectful beings, can overcome hatred and bigotry, we can foster trust even in the bungling waves of the body politic, we can forgo destructive behavior and choose salubrious habits for the earth of our bodies and the body of earth, and we can write a future tale that is peaceful and hearty. There may be no training program to download and unpack, that kind of practice, with a standard protocol for all, is over. But we can all tap in and find a way that is clear for us.

Recently, I led an evening of deep healing at Shree Yoga with two dear friends who I have learned and grown with, like, a ton. The event is called R&R+ and the offering is a two hour restorative yoga practice, with reiki and really sweet singing. It seemed like perfect timing, what with all the difficult truths and future challenges presenting themselves so blatantly, for a shared space of rest and mellow. We’ve offered R&R + three times now, and for some mystical reason, in the preceding days to the most recent gathering, numerous people asked in class about their role in the singing portion. “How will I know the songs?”, many asked. No verbiage was changed in our promotion – we sing to you is the whole idea, while we offer reiki, and allow the nutritive effects of gentle restorative postures to do their work. I think the current situation is asking everyone to step up, and this collective call to participate, make better, and GROW UP was directly reflected in the conversation. This is good. We have to ask now what we can do, how we can help. And we also have to take care and rest, in the same moment, same breath. This is masterful practice, friends, and no small feat.

May we learn to settle our minds, and bridge the gap between true feeling and phrase. May our actions reflect the highest. May we all find a path that calls to us, and follow it into our particularly individual, completely irreplaceable, and perfectly generous role of making a difference. Coming together, not all isolated and alone, but courageously as a community of individuals, is the answer. These down-to-earth words from Sri Nisargadatta have been helping me, maybe they are encouraging for you, as well. I brought them to teach with on election day and found my fellow teacher, Sonya Luz had brought the same exact quote to class. “The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas: we see it through the net of our desires divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes.”

The Queen of Distress

A student of mine recently gave me a new nickname, the “Queen of Distress”. The student informed me, after I queried, that this was a compliment and not otherwise. I am pretty confident that the nickname came about as a reflection of the subject matter I have been unfolding in my classroom recently. All recent themes have been spokes off of the hub of adversity.

The reason for this focus in my class themes is not me working out a current personal journey through distress, but rather my continued desire as a teacher to relate the asana practice to something greater off the mat. And I am pretty sure that no matter how open, strong, or flexible someone is, asana practice invites adversity. With this in mind I often teach on the theme of rising above or navigating through adversity as the great opportunity to translate the practice off the and mat into ones life.

While I may not be perceiving my life currently in a specific state of adversity, I am aware that there is always a bit of challenge to be navigated in the course of every day. This is one of the many reasons I return to the mat regularly. Each time any of us returns to our practice we have the opportunity to reset any states of discord to something more harmonious, or to set the stage for harmony before the discord arises. Be it physical, mental, emotional, energetic, spiritual, or otherwise.

The practice of traversing adversity mindfully and with courage can eventually lead us deeper into the more esoteric qualities of our yoga practice. As we learn to navigate the rising and falling of life’s challenges we become more capable of seeing what exists in the steadiness beneath those waves. Through this lens we become more capable of discerning what is temporary and what is eternal. In Sanskrit this is Viveka, or the practice of discernment. In time our practice of Viveka enables us to experience ever more harmony in the midst of whatever life hands us, and the fact of the matter is that life will hand it to us.

So I may now be the “Queen of Distress” but I am comfortable with that. Even though I may not percieve myself in the midst of the shit today, I know I have earned the title. And I am happy to share my knowledge with others in the hopes that something helps.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, For Peace,

Genevieve

Inside, Out

There are many powerful gifts bestowed upon the regular yoga practitioner as a result of their committed practice. One of the most life enhancing qualities is gift that teaches us to move from the inside, out. Turning the experience from one where we compare ourselves to the world around us into one that honors our innate beauty, vibrancy, skills, and limitations with love. 

Using the potent thread of the breath, awareness can penetrate deeply into the innermost layers of ones being. Beyond the veils of the flesh, muscles, connective tissues, and fluids of the gross body into the universe of the vibrant subtle body and even more deeply submerged into relationship with the seed of consciousness itself. Getting to taste the Amrita, or the sweet nectar of consciousness is so life enhancing, so flavorful and sweet, so lustrous and rich that it beckons one to return again and again. In the dance with the breath we learn how to follow its grace step by step, how to let the beauty of consciousness lead the way, how to breath into what is and breath out satisfied.

With the breath as guide the exploration of the inner body culminates with arrivals on distant and unknown shores, spacious and beautiful, craggy and wind blown, wild and free. Exploring these new found places leads to cultivation of the tools that enables arriving at these scenes of wild and unlimited freedom more regularly. And, even when it is only a glimpse of the slightest new shades of color in a regularly witnessed skyline, our hearts delight in the presence of an expanded and enhanced view. From simple postures like Tadasana to more complex poses, moving from the inside out, the subtle body to the gross body, the intention to the action, culminates in an experience that is authentic, rewarding, and satisfying no matter the experience one is having beyond the surface of the skin. Such is the gift of the practice to the dedicated practitioner; peace and ease, joy and contentment, steadiness in storms, and freedom amidst limitation.
Enjoy the journey!

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

 Genevieve