Tuesday, June 28, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away By David Whyte: Question 1

This was forwarded to be by a friend and it really was too good not to share.  However, it is too long to put on one posting, so I'm going to post the questions over the next week or so.  Enjoy!

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away

By David Whyte

June 15, 2011

The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.

The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."

I still work with this idea. Questions that have no right to go away are those that have to do with the person we are about to become; they are conversations that will happen with or without our conscious participation. They almost always have something to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with timing: when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better—both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves at the same time.

If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step, as if she'd known, without ever being told, not only the exact time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed back.

Here are my 10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away.

1) Do I know how to have real conversation?
A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want. To do this requires vulnerability. Now we tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there's a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.

There are many tough conversations, but one of the most difficult is between a parent and an adolescent daughter, partly because as a parent we are almost always attempting to relate to someone who is no longer there. The parent therefore usually tries to start the conversation by offering a perspective that the daughter finds not only out of date but also unhelpful; the daughter then replies by way of defense with something just a shade more unhelpful, and so the process continues. A year or so ago, I found myself in exactly this dynamic, my daughter's bedroom door slamming shut just as I was just about to say that last, deeply satisfying unhelpful thing.

But I caught myself and said, "David, this isn't a real conversation. How do you make this a real conversation?" I gave it the old 10-minute cooldown time, walked into the kitchen, made tea and put out a tray, and on the tray: a plate of cookies, a milk pitcher, a cup and a saucer. Then I knocked on her door and said in a very different, more invitational voice, "Come on, Charlotte, I've made tea. Let's go and have a talk."

As soon as I put the tray down and we had sat next to each other, almost by accident I happened to say exactly the right thing—I said, "Charlotte, tell me one thing you'd like me to stop doing as a father. And tell me one thing you'd like me to do more of." She suddenly gazed up at me with a lovely look in her eyes, one I knew from her very early infancy. She was engaged again because at last I was really inviting her to tell me was who she had become—not who she had been or who I wanted her to be—but who she was now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I apologize for being a yoga teacher...

...because I am flawed.  And therefore, shouldn't teach yoga.

Perhaps I said something that didn't sit right with you.

Perhaps I didn't say Hello when you walked in.

Perhaps I suggested an adjustment that didn't work.

Perhaps I played some music that you didn't like.

Perhaps I did a sequence that was too hard/too easy one day or not what you wanted.

Perhaps I was the substitute instructor.  

Perhaps I quoted a poem during savasana.

Perhaps I opened with a chant.

Perhaps I read a passage from the Bhagavad Gita and you are a devout Christian.

Perhaps I quoted a biblical saying and you are an Atheist.

Perhaps I have a physical disability and therefore cannot demonstrate every posture perfectly.

Perhaps I have an emotional disability, which you can't see, but you wonder about anyway.

Because obviously I'm not fit to teach yoga....

You judge me on all these things.  Forgive me.

If you are a perfect instructor, please let me know, and I will humbly step aside and take my place in the rows of students to sit before you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Focus Pose: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold)

Another focus pose! This particular asana people love, or they hate. You are putting pressure on both knees, the hips, the shoulders are opening, while (maybe) adding a forward fold. Lots going on and depending on your anatomy, it either feels really good, or it’s agony in the making – in which case modifications are necessary! Please, listen to your body, it’s trying to tell you something.

While looking for some further details on this pose - which comes after Hand To Big Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) and before Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)in the Ashtanga sequence - I came across this article from Yoga Journal as written by Beryl Bender Birch: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

In 2005 I went to a workshop conducted by David Williams – he skipped this one completely with the reasoning that most people dislike the whole balance/twisting/bending aspect so why do it standing at all when you are just going to repeat it in 10 minutes on the floor in seated variation? Interesting point.

Yet, it’s a good pose to know.  If you are a cyclist, an endurance athlete, runner or triathlete, it's a great way to stretch the hip.  I love doing this stretch after Spin class or a long ride. 

Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold

(From the Ashtanga sequence)

You’ve just finished Side B of Hand to Big Toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) in your variation and returned to samasthti at the front of your mat.

Press your LEFT foot toward the earth.

INHALE, bring your RIGHT foot toward your left hip flexor:

      NOTE: I cue “toward” your left hip flexor. Please listen to your knees and hips. If such an extreme flexion is not appropriate for you, take Tree Pose (Vrksasana), or a Standing Pigeon Variation.
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

Level 1: Standing Pigeon or Tree Pose

Level 2: Tuck heel in toward hip flexor, grasp foot with left hand underneath, wrap right arm around behind. Maybe you’ll grab your elbow, maybe forearm, maybe wrist.

Level 3: With heel tucked in, right hand is grabbing right toes.

Level 4: IF RIGHT hand is grabbing RIGHT toes, begin to experiment with forward fold on an EXHALE. IF forward folding, over time, start to walk left hand back toward left foot.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Two ways to exit:

A) INHALE - look up EXHALE – pause INHALE – bending supporting knee slightly, come to standing

B) INHALE all the way to standing.

Both places, EXHALE to samasthti.

Repeat LEFT side.

 This is another pose where there is some deviation in what to do with the arms. One variation has the practitioner keeping the opposite hand at the hip. The other variation has the practitioner raising the arm over head and keeping it extended as they forward fold. Which variation you do will depend on when your instructor learned the pose, and who they learned it from. Either arm position is correct.

Bent knee – try and keep the bent knee pointing somewhat down toward the Earth and not jutting out toward the side. Again, how you are built will dictate where in space your knee is.

Some contraindications:

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! IF you have had knee surgery, knee issues, hip surgery or hip issues modify modify modify!

If forward folding, try not to hyper extend the supporting knee.  Be careful exiting the pose – bend the supporting knee. Engage your core.

Do the same thing on BOTH sides.  If you keep working toward your strong side, your weak/injured side will not have a chance to catch up, and you will create an imbalance in your body.  Modify the same on both sides to achieve equilibrium, then move forward from there.

Alternatively, do tree pose (Vrksasana) standing, and work on the nuances of the pose when you come to it in the seated sequence. When you feel comfortable with your balance, then start to build from there.

And because a video can convey so much more:


Pictures taken from the web by Googling ardha baddha padmottansana.  Video is from YouTube.