Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Adjustment Clinic: Inversions, Balances, Backbending

I had the opportunity to carpool down to Minneapolis this past Saturday for this workshop:

Adjustments Clinic for Yoga Teachers & Trainers:
Inversions, Balances, Backbending and Seated Poses

Yoga Center of Minneapolis
Saturday, November 221:30 - 5:30pm
led by Tanya Boigenzahn

I had a wonderful time! It was a relatively small class, probably about 17 people of varying experience: from folks who have been teaching for a while to students who wanted to know more about adjustments. I was disappointed to find out that this was actually workshop #2 in a series, but happy to find out there may be more.

Tanya leads a very fluid, open, and dynamic class. She first finds out what the class composition is and then structures the class around requests. This group didn't have much in the way of specific requests so Tanya started right off with balance poses, moved briefly into downdog, then onto inversions and backbending. We ran out of time to go over seated poses, so hopefully she will incorporate that into a future workshop.

She would have someone come up front to be the "beginning student" and go over the basics of a pose and how she would approach adjusting someone in it. Then we would break into groups of two or three and practice on each other. This is what I liked, being able to give and receive feedback.

Much of the session was a review for me, but I also learned so many new and neat things that I filled up 3 pages with notes! Tanya took pictures of us during the session and will send us the handouts afterwards - I liked this approach as well as this way she wasn't confined to a set lecture and can really personalize the notes when she sends them out.

This was also my first time at this studio and it was just lovely! It is situated in the old warehouse district in Minneapolis (off of Hennepin and Washington Ave for those of you familiar with the area). High ceilings with the big wooden beams and old glass window fronts. I love old architecture. I felt very comfortable visiting; there was someone at the desk to greet us and show us where everything was. The other students were from the area - Tanya knew about 1/2 the class already - but I didn't feel like I walked into someones clique.

I look forward to being able to visit this studio again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bhagavad Gita (Part 2 of 3)

I decided to take a yogic philosophy workshop this Fall on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most beloved texts in India. I discussed our first meeting here. We had our second session recently where we moved the discussion away from who the characters represented (our ego and the divine) and delved into the meaning behind chapters 3 - 10. I am summarizing greatly here other wise this would be a very long post indeed.

Chapters 3-6 discuss “Selfless Action” or Karma yoga. I must admit, I had a little chuckle because I’ve been watching off and on My Name is Earl, where Earl figured out that bad things happen to him because he’s been a bad person. He drew up a list and is trying to rectify all the bad things he’s done, often with quite funny results. But I digress.

Karma yoga is defined as, “the way of action”. Also: we reap what we sow; law of cause and effect, or our actions determine our destiny.

It is here that we learn a couple key lessons - Do not avoid work, but perform those duties without selfish attachment to the fruit or outcome of the work. And, we must act in selfless spirit, with out ego involvement and with out getting entangled in whether things work out the way WE want.

I particularly liked these passages:
(3:19) Act selflessly with out any thought of personal profit.

(3:35) Stick to your own Dharma and don’t worry about someone else’s Dharma.

Chapter 4 is titled Wisdom in Action and focus’s on how wisdom is the goal of selfless action and knowing is the fruit of doing.

Chapter 5 is titled Renounce and Rejoice and we come back to how it is essential in karma yoga that the selfish ego not expect gratification from work. Here the Gita emphasizes that nobody is more important than anybody else.

In Chapter 6 we start to see a shift in philosophy from karma yoga to jnana yoga (self knowledge), where the character Arjuna (our ego) asks, “Who is the true yogi?”. It is in this chapter Krishna tells Arjuna what the true yogi looks like, but also advises Arjuna to take up meditation to train the mind to be one-pointed or in other words, fixed upon God.

This is to prepare us for Chapter 8 - Eternal Godhead. In the yogic understanding it is about understanding death. All this is to practice one-pointedness in preparation of death so one can die consciously, focused upon God.

As illustrated in (8:5) Those who remember me at the time of death will come to me. Do not doubt this.

Chapter 9 - The Royal Path. To paraphrase, the purpose of life is to realize God and until this happens, the soul cannot escape creating more karma which has to e worked out, however long that may take.

Like I mentioned, I am greatly summarizing. I may have to come back at a later date and go through each chapter one at a time. This is an absolutely fascinating study.

The version we are reading for this session is by Eknath Eswaran, copyright 2007.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Musings from Austraila

As one who has great difficulty in slowing down, and as a practitioner of Ashtanga and vinyasa flow, I found Shiny Yoga's recent blog posting rather apropos: Slowing Down is Not a Waste of Time

And it's not always about the poses either. We need to learn to slow down in our day to day activities. I learned this the hard way in 2005 when the Husband and I found out he would be deployed to Iraq that Fall for 18 months. I had just started teaching yoga and I spent my summer running around teaching classes (while working full time at my regular job) and telling everyone, "I can't do this! I can't do that! Husbands getting deployed! I need to spend time with him!" But yet, I kept taking on more while saying I would spend time with him before he left...

...and then he was gone. And 18 months turned into two years. Heck of a way to learn to slow down - after the fact. But slow down I did, I was forced to. And now there is a chance he'll be going back for another year and this time I am paying attention to my actions and activities and making the effort to connect before it's too late.

For me, it was learning how to knit. Really. I'm not pinging around the house doing this and that when I am knitting. I am sitting there, minding my stitches, often next to the Husband while he watches TV or upstairs with him while he's on the computer. That was what he wanted - for me to just be there.

So as we move into this holiday season with the "must do's" and "have to's", stop and take a look at what you are doing. Seriously. Just stop for a moment. Grab a cup of coffee and the calendar. What can you do to slow down and reconnect with those around you on a more meaningful level?

Slowing down is never a waste of time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

Do you remember the game from long ago, or for those of you with kids, maybe you have it in your closet - Chutes and Ladders? If memory needs to be jogged, it’s where you follow a road with your game piece and every now and then you get to climb up a ladder and every now and then you fall down a slide. First one to the top wins.

I’ve decided the yogic path is kinda like Chutes and Ladders.

We have all made a commitment of some kind when we stepped on this path - some of us have decided to see it all the way through, others of us travel along for some duration and have parted ways for a while.

But when it comes right down to it, we are all on the same board, the same path. Some of us have traveled farther ahead, while others of us seem to keep landing on the darn chute square and sliding down. But the important thing is to get back up, dust off the trousers and move forward. How does the “game” end? I suppose, in keeping with the analogy, with enlightenment or samadhi, but that might be getting a bit more philosophical than I care to on a Monday ‘cause then I’d need to discuss karma and dharma and reincarnation and Eastern philosphy....

Try this: a yoga class is a lot like Chutes and Ladders.

Some days we struggle with our bodies, trying to morph them into a form a flexy-bendy yoga instructor up front is demonstrating. They make it look so easy - head dropping back, the spine long, shoulders opening, and it seems so obvious when they say engage Moola bandha. Yet when we go to attempt said asana, our shoulders become inflexible, our neck feels crinked, the spine’s not moving anywhere and you’re quite certain moola bandha is something only found on a sacred cow. You think to yourself, I’m slidin’ down the chute, man!

But other days, wow, other days we come to the mat and our center is right there. Our breath seems to miraculously pick us up and place us in the pose. We gain an inch reaching into that forward fold or back bend or we’re rock solid in a balance pose and we think, cool! I’m climbing up the ladder today!

But that thought process is reversed - the days we feel “off” should be our ladder days, because that’s when we need to be most aware of what our bodies and minds are doing and that is what yoga about. The yoga path is not about “getting it”. It's bringing one pointed focus to the mind. It’s about understanding the journey along the way.

And that is when we truely start moving up the ladder.