This is the time of year we all set intentions--resolutions for a new you. Usually they're overridden by our innate laziness and human frailty, but there's a way to work on transformation that is more successful than a random wish for sobriety and weight loss.
In Yoga, we have the practice of Sankalpa. It's the taking of a vow, not simply for irradicating a bad habit, but to influence your whole life, by transforming you at the levels of not just the body or mind, but also spiritually and emotionally. Choose a phrase that will bring strength to the structure of the mind--a call to awakening! Try a short mental statement that will create a quickening of your evolution.
We are in a season of overindulgence. We move from overeating on Thanksgiving, overshopping on Black Friday, overworking for the next few weeks, and then it starts all over again during the holiday season. Finally, after the New Year, we start to get back to our more moderate routines. It's a good time to learn Vajrasana, the Hero pose,
also known as the digestive pose because it helps to line up all the organs of digestion
Nothing is quite as yummy as a good rest. Here are 3 meditations that can get you there. The Yoga Nidra session is about 15 minutes long, or a shorter version, the Body Scan, is only 8 and a half minutes and can be done in a chair. The Om Shanti chant is a 3 minute meditation using the sacred mantra shanti, which not only means peace, but invokes a feeling of peace and serenity. These meditations will be available through the holidays as my gift to you. Go to my resources page to download.
If you think you never meditated, I beg to differ. Anytime you've concentrated on anything to the exclusion of everything else, you have meditated! My Guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda said meditate on "Anything the delights the mind".
First, find a comfortable seat. Actually, this is why the Yoga postures were "invented". In order to be comfortable for long periods of meditation, the body must be flexible and light, hence forward bends, backbends, inversions and twists. Hatha Yoga prepares the body by squeezing out all the bad juju.
February 11, 2014
Have you ever regretted a yoga class? It's not a nice feeling. Here's some tips to help you avoid the "icks".
1. You feel out of place
This one's a no-brainer. If the yoga teacher looks at you funny, or says something mean, like "Come back after you've lost weight", then RUN! Or, if the vibe says you're a freak, you'll feel it. Don't stay for that class. The room should ooze warmth, compassion and acceptance.
2. You're the only person over 30
Younger folks can do a more vigorous, faster-paced practice. Unless you're already in tip-top shape, look for classes with folks your own age.
3. It costs over $15.00
Well, maybe in New York or LA classes are over $15.00, but don't choose a yoga class just because it's pricey. Sometimes the best yoga teachers are the ones teaching in the trenches--instead of a fancy Yoga studio, they teach at the Y or a church where overhead is low. Those teachers need your support too!
4. The next day you hurt like crazy
If your practice makes you really sore the next day, maybe re-think the class level you're attending. These days, even the "beginners" classes are pretty strenuous. It's fine to feel a little something in your muscles and joints the next day, but not so much that you're hurting. As my friend Swami Murugananda says "Start slow, and taper off".
5. You don't understand a word they're saying
I love using the Sanskrit terms when I'm teaching, but I always use the English as well, in case the newcomers might feel out of place (see #1) or not understand what the heck I'm talking about. That's what teaching is all about--helping people to learn stuff for and about themselves. Yoga's not an insider's club.
Don't be discouraged if you do find yourself in the wrong Yoga class--it happens. Just know that it's not your fault, so don't feel guilty about it. It may be that the class description didn't fit what was actually going down. Or, maybe a sub was called in at the last minute who wasn't familiar with teaching the class you signed up for. Things happen. Bottom line--keep going till you find a class that feels like home. Have a relationship with the studio, the teachers, the other students--the sangha. There is safety in numbers and it's wonderful when we all support one another on this magical path of Yoga.
Wow! Look at that expansive mouth! You can just imagine what kind of sound will come out of that mouth--a big, resonant, glass shattering beller! It takes a really strong body to sing in that powerful way. One of my favorite quotes from my days studying opera is one from svelt soprano Ileana Cotrubus, "Well, you have to be strong as a horse, but you don't have to eat like one"!
I've been studying Yoga for about 40 years now, and have read dozens of books on the subject. I've even written a couple books myself! I thought I would share wth you some of my favorites--books that I go back to again and again.
At the top of the pile is Autobiography of a Yogi, the first book on Yoga that I read back in the late 60's. It's the incredible story of Paramahansa Yogananda's journey as a Yogi, full of mysteries, magic and fun. If you've never read anything about Yoga, this book is where to start.
The next book I think I read was Swami Satchidananda's Beyond Words. I had met Les Alexander at a retreat in 1975. Les and I clicked right away and this is what he was working on at the time-- compiling and editing the many talks Swamiji had given in the U.S. since arriving 10 years previously. Les called it "Swami's greatest hits"!
Meera Kerr B.A., E-RYT