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Balance and Center of Gravity

Today’s Class, Wed. 9:30am class focused on Working with Gravity for balance!

The need to balance becomes very apparent as we get older.  We hear stories of older people falling, breaking a hip, others complaining that they don’t have balance when they are walking or moving around.  Here are my tips for better balance:

  1. Gravity does one thing and one thing only; draws or pulls everything down!  On the surface, it feels like we are doomed to just become a puddle on the floor, but let’s think more in terms of how that in itself can help us balance.  Gravity provides an opportunity for an equal and opposing action.  How can we use that to our advantage?  When we are sitting, we allow the lower body ( hips down) to surrender to gravity, so we can use the upper body (waste up) to resist that force.  More we get settled with the lower body, more we can rise up.  We root down to rise up.  We use this throughout the practice, in all the postures.
  2. If we slouch when sitting or walking, we create multiple points in the body where gravity will pull us down.  When we sit or stand straight..( shoulders aligned with hips, hips aligned with feet etc.), we create a single linear relationship with gravity and then we can use gravity to oppose it effectively.
  3. Create a central reference for the body.  The central channel, that runs from the tail bone to the crown of the head, also is the CNS ( Central Nervous System).  The whole body is built around that center.  So when we walk, sit, run, we are always using that central line as the reference for the body.  The body is always drawing towards the center of the body.  Visualize a straight line from the crown to the tail bone and you can extrapolate a straight line down to the feet and use that as a reference for your body to draw towards.
  4. Lack of sleep, anxiety, fear can contribute to falling as well.  Pay attention to that and resolve these issues!  Above 60 is the Vata time of our life, where the Vata related imbalances such as insomnia, anxiety, fear can take hold.
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The Yoga Path

Many wonderful Yoga studios with the group classes continue to draw more and more people into the practice.  From kids to seniors and men attending Yoga, we are shattering the myth that Yoga is only for the young and fit.  We are hearing the message everywhere that Yoga is for everybody and indeed it is!

However, not everyone who would benefit from the practice is convinced that they too can join the practice.  The population that still stays away is the one with physical limitations, chronic illness.  This is where the traditionally developed postures that were developed for a teenager become on obstacle to those wanting to access it for deep healing and restoration.   Yoga was not developed as a group exercise. The teachings were passed on from the teacher to student when the teacher felt the student was ready and was done individually.  The evolution of Yoga into group exercise has spread its practice and brought health, consciousness and equanimity into the world.

Even when there are more and more practitioners of yoga with over 30 percent of practitioners over the age of 50, there are many who fear Yoga or chalk it up to a practice not meant for them.  Perhaps it is not.  Everything is not for everybody.  However, in the face of chronic conditions and limitations,  the question is not whether this practice is for you, rather it is more about aging well and disease free and Yoga with its vast application and mind/body integration is one heck of a modality to help you do just that.

Many in their minds equate aging with moving less and less, living a sedentary life style and loose their purpose. ” What’s the point now?”  as I have heard many times.  That is exactly the point, to rediscover yourself through movement, live fully and make every moment count.

In the yogic philosophy, the older years are indeed golden.  This is the time where we enjoy the fruits of our labor, share our wisdom with the younger generation and fulfill those dreams that were put on the back burner to raise a family or career.  But without a fully functioning body, sadness and depression set in.  It does not need to be this way!

This is where Yoga therapy and specialized studios can put the life back in your time left,  renew the hope of fulfilling your dreams and make the older years truly golden.  Don’t think main stream Yoga studios and classes.  Instead, think about a practice this is custom designed for you so you too can move your body in spite of the limitations, you too can feel well and fight those chronic conditions that you have been dealing with for years.

Using the physical to connect with our deeper truth and benefitting the physical at the same time is quite an extraordinary practice.  Strong and supple body, a conscious mind and a spiritual vision is the promise of Yoga practice.  Any physical movement is a great medicine for the mind, but the Yoga practice does that more specifically and scientifically.

When the postures create hesitation, fear, that is when it is necessary to broaden the deepen the horizon of Yoga.  There are a countless ways to move into the body to address physical limitations and help you enjoy the physical activities that you once did.  Yoga therapy is not about postures, rather it is about making you more mobile and pain free; it is not about perfecting the posture but to find a way to move into your perfect body.

Life changes in so many ways as we get older; family dynamics, changing bodies, change in the home environment.  For many, this change can lead to anxiety and depression and isolation.  So, to antidote that, it is crucial that we reach out, take care of ourselves and reinvent our life. It is more important to take ownership of our health in the older years as the quality of our life depends on it.

 

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More on Yoga and Ayurveda

A lot is happening in the world of Yoga and health! If we weren’t convinced before on the benefits of Yoga and why it really should be a part of everyone’s life, we sure are now.  There are countless inspiring stories and examples of how Yoga has helped people totally turn their life around and the benefits are immense and much needed in these times.  Recently, a student shared the New York Times column on Yoga, and it is reinforcing what we already know and experience.  It is nice to read in case you forgot why you practice or were practicing yoga

  1. Yoga may keep your brain young! A weekly routine of yoga and meditation may help to stave off aging-related mental decline, according to a study of older adults with memory problems.
  2. 12 minutes of yoga can improve your bones! Dr. Loren M. Fishman of Columbia University has been gathering evidence for years, hoping to determine whether yoga might be effective therapy for osteoporosis.
  3. Yoga improves your balance! Tai chi, dancing, even brushing your teeth on one leg can work your balance pretty well.
  4. Yoga may prevent inflammation! A class visit, a new book on yoga’s risks and benefits and the prodding of friends prompt a longtime skeptics reconsideration of the ancient and popular practice.
  5. Yoga can relieve back pain! Weekly yoga classes relieve symptoms of low back pain about as well as intense, regular stretching sessions, a new study shows.
Another phenomenon that has awaken everyone is the effect of our life style on our health!  I love how everything comes around in a full circle, if we wait long enough!  Of course, life style effects our health, in fact, our health is a direct result of our life style.  When we think of the word medicine , we think of pills. But we are expanding our definition to a much larger context now.  The real medicine is our life style! Life Style is everything from what goes into our mouth, what we take in through all our senses, how we live with others and our environment, our understanding and connection with nature, how we spend our time, how to keep body/mind/spirit healthy! This is what Ayurvedic medicine is all about!
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Is Yoga a Religion!

Recently, a couple of my fellow Yoga teachers were asked to teach Yoga in a school but asked to not call it Yoga. Obviously, some parents are concerned that their kids might be learning some religious rituals, so not to upset the parents, teachers opt out of bringing Yoga into the school system.

Is Yoga a religion?  More than a debate, it is a fear that keeps this profound healthy practice away from many people especially our youth. Where there is fear, there is a need for better education.

Yoga teachings come from the Vedic culture (the oldest living knowledge/philosophy), a part of Hinduism.  The word Yoga means union: to unite with what we have become separated from i.e. to our physical body, to our spirit and to nature(you can fill in the blanks). That union can come through a physical practice (Hatha Yoga) or a spiritual practice (i.e. Bhakti Yoga).  The practice that is most popular in the Western world is Hatha yoga due to its obvious and documented countless benefits.  Having said that, a spiritual practice is not separate from a physical practice.  Try being spiritual in a body that does not work.  It is challenging, isn’t it? A spiritual practice means we are able to look at the bigger picture.  How is that possible when we can’t move beyond our body and are stuck inside our head?

The practice of Yoga provides a spiritual direction if that is what we are seeking.  The depth and wisdom of Yoga is like an ocean; it is endless, however, the teachings are dynamic and practical; it is not a dogma.  The learning is experiential, not forced upon.  The practice is meant for anybody in human form.  The fact that millions of people all over the world practice Yoga clearly indicates that one does not have to be Hindu to practice Yoga nor you become one by practicing it.

Without going all Webster, isn’t religion a gateway to spirituality?  When religion gets confused with politics, we remain stuck in the religion and sadly never really move beyond it to spirituality.  The practice of Yoga welcomes all humanity, all religions; it is a spiritual practice t0 connect with your own spirit through your body and mind.

We do not become Hindu by practicing Yoga just like we do not become Christian by attending Church. We remain who we are at pure consciousness in human form. When we are healthy in mind, body and spirit, we can happily move in the direction of our purpose.  If we pondered more on our spiritual development, there may be a less of a need to protect  our religions.  We live in a polarity world.  We unite only when we embrace diversity.  The point of religion is to unite, not to divide.  Spirituality unites all humanity and all religions.

As a society, being highly stressed has become a norm. We are told that we can have it all and right now, so we work hard to chase this ever-moving target. Inevitably this stress gets passed on to our kids.  We have placed more emphasis on their performance, whether it’s  sports or academics, but none on inner expansion and development.  Starved for real wisdom, guidance and connection, many kids become prone to anxiety, depression and unfortunately far too many turn to drugs.  In spite of drug education and all the damage control does not keep drugs away from kids.  Why is that?  Because Kids need an internal experience for reference as to what connecting with their body, mind and spirit feels like.  It is this experience that holds the power to keep them moving in healthier direction. The Yoga practice can and has served as prevention and can give the kids that experience.  But instead of seeking the truth, we continue to hide behind our fears and biases and keep this very practical and proven practice away from our children.  For a handful of parents who want to bring Yoga practice to their kids have an uphill battle as there is no collective support from our culture or society as a whole.

Yoga practice for school age kids is self-regulating.  Kids learn to check in with themselves, enjoy moving, gain a sense of self, have better body image, de-stress, are happy and better equipped to meet the challenges of school; not to mention agile and have less sports injuries.  All of this sets up a foundation for a healthy life beyond the school years.  Drugs or anything that is toxic to their well being no longer holds the appeal.

Holding on to beliefs, biases and fears that keep us stuck is a waste of our intelligence and spirit. The point is not to win or to be right, it is to bring joy, peace and freedom into our lives; it is to be happy and healthy.  For only then, we can serve humanity.  Yoga offers that.  Do not get hung up on words, seek the truth and dive into the practice and experience it for yourself.  Cultivate the experiential knowledge that unites humanity not divide it!

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Yoga – more than skin deep

Originated in India some 8000 years ago, this ancient practice of Self-realization and transformation has become a much needed practice of the modern times. The undeniable health benefits of this practice are what draws about 20 million people in the US who have made Yoga a regular part of their health regime. The practice and teachings of Yoga are as wide and as deep as an ocean and provide an endless reservoir of self-exploration and deep wisdom for all of humanity and is free of any discrimination of age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, religion and belief. It is important to point out that what was meant to be an individual practice where the teacher imparted the knowledge to the student based not only on the physical needs but also on the mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the student, has evolved into a mainstream practice accessible to all.     

What is Yoga?  When asked this question, even the seasoned practitioner and the teacher tend to fall short in the explanation as the true explanation lies in one’s experience. Derived from Sanskrit, Yoga means to “yolk” or to unite.  Unite us with what?  The explanation that is most commonly understood is that it unites us with our body, mind and spirit.  True, but a more insightful question to ask is what have we become separated from?  What we have become separated from is who we are and what we are.  We can call this our true essence or the Self. Other names are the Source or Pure Consciousness.  While it is true that Yoga is an integrated practice of mind, body and spirit, but there is more.  Mind, body and spirit is the trinity that comes out of  Pure Consciousness.  Our own consciousness is part of the greater Consciousness which unites all of life and is infinite.  The ultimate union then is of our finite self with the Infinite Self.

Consciousness is universal energy and life force.  Our journey into the physical body begins with consciousness just like a tree begins with the seed.  However, it transcends the human life as we know it and beyond the earth, in other words, it does not end when our human life ends.  It has no beginning and no end and is beyond the concept of time and space.  It is the source of all thought, emotion and our liveliness and contains the energy, information and intelligence.  Healing comes from connecting with this source and disease arises when we disconnect from this source.    

How then can a simple asana practice deliver such a union? How can simply being in a posture connect us with our true nature?  Here is my attempt in explaining it.  Through a system of breath work and body movements, we come in direct contact with our strengths, weaknesses, and with what we are holding on to. The continuous flow of the breath beckons us to let go and to find ease. This letting go happens at the cellular level and gets deeply embedded in our muscles, tissues and bones, creating memory, stirring parts of us that we may have tucked away. We move through the body to move  beyond the body. It is subtle yet powerful.  We find a resolve in letting go and experience the relief and the stillness that accompanies it. We may find a place that is of pure love and acceptance, a place that is complete and whole.  This is our true essence. Nothing needs to be said, all is experienced in this inner silence and calm.  The connection heals with the realization that we were never broken to begin with.

We walk away feeling lighter, freer and happier and ready to infuse our experience into our lives and  becoming more and more of who we truly are, Pure Consciousness. It is this experience that shatters our judgments of ourselves and others, gravitates us towards health promoting habits, lifestyle and relationships. This is how simply taking a yoga class to relieve back pain can result in finding our true purpose, serving as a pivotal point in our spiritual journey. This is the story of numerous practitioners who have come before me.  We have to know nothing, we simply have to practice and the results will unfold for us when we are ready.

The word Yoga, “union” implies that there are two opposing forces or concepts at play. Yoga is the art and science of bringing these opposing forces into a more harmonious existence. Yoga is the balance between fluidity and integrity, mind and body. finite and infinite. Why balance is sought after, spoken about and is out of reach for many is because of the allure or the temporary stimulation the extremes hold. Budha discovered that living in the extremes is the cause of suffering and real growth and happiness only comes from the middle path.  Doing too much would be to push into challenging postures in spite of the strain, pain or fatigue that one may experience, doing too little would be barely even trying. The place in the middle is the point of steady pleasantness in the body and ease in the mind, truly experiencing going with the flow.  Life becomes effortless as it was meant to be.  We feel free. This is how we know that we are experiencing Yoga.

This heightened awareness serves as a preventative measure. Chronic psychological stress that caused blockages in the flow of this energy and intelligence begins to dissipate. This in turn helps us face our difficulties and not allow them to overwhelm us as they have in the past.   This increased ability to choose our own response fosters a renewed sense of control over our lives. It gives us strength to do the right thing at the right time and in achieving self-control and self-fulfillment. When we are at peace with our inner world, our outer world reflects the same back to us.  And that is what adds richness and fullness to our life experiences. We can feel being alive in every fiber of our being.  We can begin to move from surviving to living.  It is then no longer about what we do, but how we do it.   We now set up the ground for healing and health.  What we need to do to heal again becomes clear.  We become open to making changes that were not possible before.  We tune in to what we need and we find ways to get it.  We begin to believe that healing is possible and begin to trust in the bigger picture.  We move towards acceptance, which spares a lot of our energy that was tied up in worry, control and conflict.  Where we begin in Yoga and where we end up is hardly the point.  It is all the stuff in the middle of the journey that has the lasting effect on our lives.

The practices of Yoga and Meditation are intertwined.  Yoga practice itself is a meditation.  It uses the body, and the breath to train the mind and then to transcend it. This happens at the end of a yoga class, in the corpse pose. We observe without the struggle to figure it all out; we see all in its perfection, we restore our wholeness and trust.  When we begin to give to ourselves what we seek from others, we fill ourselves up to the rim to the point that we naturally overflow.  We forgive ourselves for the same qualities that hurt us in others.   It becomes easy to let go of past grudges because we realize how much energy it took to hold on to them.

My approach to anything in life is a pragmatic one. If doing something serves us, then do it.  As our life changes, our needs change and so do our rituals. Yoga is not about an external ritual or practice, it is about creating that inner attitude and experience that is important. We remember these experiences at a cellular level and seek to create those experiences in all aspects of our lives.  Yoga is about cultivating an ability to open ourselves enough that we can find something positive regardless of what we experience.  This ability to change our perspective, to be positive, is central to our psychological and emotional health, which in turn makes us better people.  As our inner life evolves, what matters more and more is how we are being with whatever life brings us. We acknowledge and accept that the outcome is ultimately beyond our control.

We are in everything alive; we shine in every star.  When we can connect with that part of ourselves which is beyond the body, mind and spirit, we see ourselves in all creation and we see all creation within us.  It is at this point where we realize we have begun to heal.

There is a deep connection between spirituality and healing.  To become more conscious is not to control the outcome of our actions; it is rather to co-create with that which is larger. It is to harmonize with our higher self and let nature do what is for the highest good. We regain our power when we harmonize with nature. We heal when we reconnect with the source out of which all life arises.  When we become that tuned in to who we truly are, there is no longer an attachment to a desired outcome, instead we feel okay with whatever happens.  We realize that what is in store for us is far more than we could have dreamed of.

 

 

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My Yoga Story

#myyogastory

I stumbled upon a Yoga class 22 years ago when I was working full time as a CPA. Being born and raised in India where Yoga, in one form or another, is embedded in the culture and lifestyle, I was surprised and delighted to be in a formal yoga class.  I felt a sense of “coming home” and that started my Yoga journey.

After having taught Yoga to all ages, abilities and in all different settings, needless to say, the practice and teachings have influenced every aspect of my life, shaping, reshaping and transforming me in numerous ways.  Like many of you, I have endured many losses, enjoyed countless blessings and have searched my soul to the nth degree to make sense of things. The wisdom of Yoga helped me in ways I did not think possible and unfolded my path before me and I followed.

As Yoga paved the way for more learning and evolution, I started studying Ayurvedic Medicine and graduated as An Ayurvedic Health Practitioner in 2011 from New World Ayurveda.  Being the daughter of an Ayurvedic physician, I grew up wanting to be a doctor so I could help people live healthier and happier lives. The Western medicine did not uphold the same appeal for me, so I took some detours before I found my way back to Ayurveda.

We may be alone in our own unique journey but along the way we are fortunate enough to find teaches(formal and other wise) and mentors who show us what we may not see by ourselves. I have had the good fortune to study with many amazing teachers and mentors who have helped me to my next level of growth and evolution in my personal and professional life.

Meena Puri

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What’s your reason to “Not do Yoga”

 

I have had a bad experience in a Yoga class. I never want to do that again. Have you ever bought a bad pair of shoes? Do you stop buying shoes because of that?  All shoes are not build the same; all Yoga is not the same!  Just because you’ve had a bad experience in one class, does not mean there is not a good one out there for you.  Try a class with us; we are pretty sure you will come back again.

I can’t bend; I am so inflexible.   This is a BIG one! The truth is most of us are inflexible until we do Yoga.  It is precisely the reason why you should!   Do not mistake the end for the means.  Flexibility is the end result of doing Yoga.  You start as you are!

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to reach up to get something without pulling a muscle, bend down with ease, pick up your child or bag of groceries without hurting your back, not wake up stiff, being able to look behind you without straining your neck, play with your kids on the floor….

What is it costing you to remain inflexible? Ask yourself this question and you may gain more clarity as to why you should do Yoga.

I am waiting till my shoulder gets better and my back does not hurt any more…Make Yoga part of your recovery process. We have 2 therapy classes, which will address your specific issues, or even the level I classes depending on if you are new to yoga or are seasoned.  Yoga therapy will help you regain most of your movement back; in many cases, full recovery and will help you prevent future injuries.  The Yoga School specializes in Yoga therapy! 

I can’t sit still. Frantically running around to get stuff done does not necessarily translate into accomplishing more. How do you feel when you run around everyday to do more and more?  How do you sleep?  Are you happy at the end of the day, or simply exhausted?

What if you could accomplish more with less stress and more fulfillment? This is the promise of Yoga! Why are you holding back in experiencing this kind of life?

Make Yoga part of your life – live with ease and presence and live a purposeful life.

It is too hard, you have to hold poses and I will make a fool of myself in front of the whole class. The classical poses are a very small part of Yoga, and some Yoga teachers may focus only on that. Here, at The Yoga School, we are not about poses, but we do all of them. There are countless ways to tap into the body and there is more to us than just the physical body.  We explore all that in our classes.  We teach you how to feel better in YOUR body; there is no predetermined class or material you have to learn.  NO, you do not have to hold any poses and endure pain!  You will walk away feeling better and have more energy.

What if I start laughing, can’t do what others are doing and make a fool of myself Come laugh away! Laughter is a way for many of us to work through what we may be feeling.  You will figure out what that is for you!  There is a purpose in comparing us to others; it helps us define ourselves.  Once we begin to accept ourselves as we are, what others do or think becomes unimportant. Laughter is the best medicine and we take it generously in our classes.

I do not want to be in 100 degree temperature room, that would be torture!  All of our classes are around 70-degree temperature. Bikram yoga classes are taught at a high temperature.  We are not Bikram Yoga.

I have a fear of… Fear can be a great motivator and it can also be debilitating. Are you afraid that you will never be healthy and happy?  Let that motivate you to start Yoga.

Are you afraid of getting better and taking charge of your life? Then stay with this thought, dig a little deeper to know why?

I will look horrible in Yoga Clothes. I do not know how fashion got confused into yoga, but it has!

Wear what you are comfortable in! Tights, sweats, t-shirts, sweat shirts.  We believe once you feel better, you will look awesome regardless of what you wear!  We are in the business of making you feel great from the inside out.  What you wear is only your business.

I do not have time to do Yoga, I am too busy This is how we all feel until we do Yoga. Yoga slows down the mind, gives more clarity and focus, so you can accomplish more but remain present and at peace.  The feeling of lack of time is a state of mind; Yoga will fix that so you will experience an abundance of time and richness in your life.

I have no reason! I just don’t think I am a Yoga person! That is because you haven’t tried Yoga with us. Come check us out!

 

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How to Develop a Safe Yoga Practice!

The recent article in NY times, “How Yoga can wreck your body” has stirred up a lot of dialogue in the yoga community. On one hand I am glad that this article came about as it has necessitated an open conversation, on the other hand I think that it may deter some people from trying Yoga when it could actually be beneficial for them.

It is important to point out that the practice of Yoga goes back to thousands of years and was traditionally meant to be an individual practice where the teacher imparted the knowledge to the student based not only on the physical needs but also on the mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the student. Needless to say that the evolution of asana practice (Yoga poses) in a group setting is a far cry from its original intention.

The asana practice on the mat is a significant yet a very small part of Yoga. So equating the asana practice to the whole of yoga is a misrepresentation. The physical part has risks with it as any other physical exercise has when done ignoring the body. However, tuning into our body and honoring our body during our practice can never harm us. It is not Yoga if we are not mindful to the body. We have to stop being so fascinated by the Yoga postures. There are endless ways to awaken each part of the body and bring balance.

Ultimately, what we seek is happiness and freedom from suffering. There is no bigger block to happiness than ill health.  The asana practice is means to an end.  It is a tool to unite us with our deeper self where we find ultimate peace and happiness. Feeling well in the body can allow us to move beyond it and connect with our deeper self.

Below are some tips that you may follow to develop a safe and enjoyable Yoga practice:

  1. Adopt a beginner’s mind. Each time you practice, practice as if this is your first time. Our body changes from day to day and so do our needs. Tune in to the body that day and see what you need. Understand the basics first. Understand your own unique strengths and weaknesses, get to know the problematic areas in your body.  Become aware and learn to honor where you are at.  Yoga may look simple, but it is not easy.  Build a solid foundation of knowledge of alignment before getting into challenging classes or poses.
  2. Learn to listen to your body. Tuning in to your body and honoring its signals will ensure a safe practice. In any yoga class, your body, not the teacher, is the real guide to what is best for you. If something doesn’t feel right, ease out of the pose. If something feels like a strain, you’re pushing too hard. If you feel fatigued, relax back in child’s pose or simply sit down and rest.
  3. Do not compete with your neighbor. Although it is natural to be impressed and awed by someone who can do the advance postures, it may not be safe to compete with them. Be inspired and know what is possible. Explore safely what is possible for you. Ultimately, your physical safety is your responsibility – take it into your own hands. Some people naturally are physically more able to do than others. Not everyone can do all the poses. More is not better, only better is better.
  4. Find a middle ground. Real growth happens in the middle path, never in the extremes. Doing too much would be to push into challenging postures in spite of the strain, pain or fatigue that one may experience, doing too little would be barely even trying. Find a place in the middle. It is a point of steady pleasantness in the body. Always start with 20% effort. Then find a sense of ease in this effort. When you come to the first level of resistance in the body, back off and breathe into it. Let the tension soften, and then move further.
  5. Pick the right teacher and class. Practicing with the right teacher is one of the most important aspects of your practice. It is important that the teacher has training and experience in alignment and is able to teach students of all fitness levels including those with physical limitations.

Size of the class is equally important. In a large yoga class, it is not physically possible for the teacher to pay attention to every student regardless of her knowledge and intention.  It is best to avoid large classes esp. if you have physical issues going on.  I highly recommend individual session with an experienced teacher esp. if you have physical issues.  Here the teacher can give you do’s and don’ts that are specific to your condition.

Remember the practice of asanas is not about what it looks like, it is about what it feels like to you. Honor yourself, honor your body and moreover honor your experience.

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The Business of Yoga

With so many twists, turns and amalgamations, we have come far with the business of Yoga!  Overemphasis on one limb, asanas(body postures), and at the best, confused and superficial application of the other limbs leaves the real purpose of Yoga far behind.

Yes, the real and true practice remains an illusion. And as a teacher, you watch this evolution( not sure that it is?) go on and without getting caught up in the trend try to offer a practice that is authentic and has some promise of spiritual growth.

Why has it become so confusing. The practice and teachings that are some 5000 years old were cognized and channeled by enlightened sages and gurus to provide humanity a way of life without suffering. This was the most purest, unselfish teachings as teachers were not looking to advance their finances or their name. The students sought after the gurus and were only introduced to the practice if they were ready. This was at the discretion of their teacher, of course.

A lot has changed since then. The challenge is how to infuse the truth of Yoga in a most authentic way in the modern life confusion and try to stay true to the teachings. The marketing advantage further distorts this path. Our minds have become accustomed to gravitating towards what looks good, feels good and is fun! That leaves many real teachers without much financial means and savvy hidden. The line between what is real and what is not becomes blurry for the novice practitioners.   The teachers, if they get caught up, risk distorting their teachings by catering to the students; some postures – but make it fun, yoga fashion, a bit of what may sound like spirituality, mood- making, and throw in a bit of Sanskrit for a good measure, and there you have it. At the best, this kind of setting creates a lure, a fascination towards the practice, but without the depth and all the dimensions, the illusion and the chase remains.

Now the question? Do you give your students what they want or what they need?

I do not claim to have all the answers, but am questioning the path that Yoga seems to have taken. The answer is not as clear cut and we may dance around what is possible and come closer to the truth. In order for the teacher to bring clarity to the students, the teacher must first be clear. To be clear means to not join the race of popularity or trendy. One of my teachers said that the purpose of the teacher is to make the students better than the teacher. Herein I find my answer.

Now with Yoga and wine(Seriously?), the time has come to once again go to the roots of this practice. Serving our purpose here with our limited time on this planet has to be the core of these teachings both for students and teachers and that requires some digging into the truth.  The question is: Do you want the truth or the trend?

 

 

 

 

 

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Drishti – From Old Notes

Our attention is the most valuable thing we have, and the visible world can be an addictive, over stimulating and spiritually debilitating lure.  There are billions of dollars spent in marketing on visual image and the value of our attention.  In Yoga, we use drishti (yogic gaze) to redirect our eyes and our focus.

In traditional Ashtanga practice, drishti is an important part of the practice.  Our attention follows our eyes.  When we intentionally direct our eyes, we also redirect our focus. There are 9 specific drishti points in Ashtanga Yoga.  In every asana, the prescribed drishti assists in concentration, aids movement and helps orient the pranic body.

Drishti organizes our perceptual apparatus to recognize and overcome the limits of normal vision.  Our eyes can only see objects in front of us that reflect the visible spectrum of light, but yogis seek to view an inner reality not visible to the naked eye.  We see what we want to see – a projection of our own limited ideas.

Drishti is a technique for looking for the divine everywhere – thus for seeing correctly the world around us – removing ignorance that obscures this true vision.  In candle gazing, eyes are held open until tears form.  Not only this gives the eyes a wash, it overrides the unconscious urges – the urge to blink.

In the practice, it is a soft gaze, to send our attention beyond outer appearance to inner essence.  By fixing the gaze on an unmoving point, we can assume the characteristics of that point – stable and balanced.

Yogic gaze emerges from an intense desire to achieve the highest goal of united consciousness, rather than from egoistic motives that create separation, limitation, judgment and suffering.

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