Yoga Makes You Well

May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well,

may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy.

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Yoga Challenges

Posted on October 25, 2014 at 12:17 AM Comments comments (27)
I have been teaching in some new ways lately.  Sort of going off the grid with yoga teaching in order to try and capture some interest from some new people.  It is interesting and kind of fun.

Some teenagers I work with make up their own yoga challenges for us to try in class.  If one of them can accomplish the feat, we all try it.  It makes yoga more of a game.

I am teaching one on one in a more corporate environment, too.  Getting people to just try that has been tricky.  So I started decorating and putting up a little stick figure yoga lesson on the dry erase board so that there is some sort of curriculum.  It met with some good response.

Yoga is so much fun.  It exposes so much about us to ourselves.  It is just a great way to observe the way we act and think and approach life.  And then, as we change our habitual postural patterns on the mat, those attitudes and beliefs might get adjusted or discarded, too.

In the book about Ayurveda and Yoga that I am reading, it talks about the importance of a healthy body as the basis for being able to transform consciousness to a higher level. (This book is mostly over my head, but that just means I will read it three times and finally understand it for real.)  And that is the main goal of life as far as Yoga is concerned.  Transform consciousness so you are radiating more like a god energy.  So you are less selfish and more compassionate.  So you are more helpful because that is what you want to be.  Not because you read it and grandma says you should.  But because you actually want to. 

I like helping people get healthier bodies.  I like working with lots of other people who also like helping people get healthier bodies.  It is cool to help people get better.

Cleaning up

Posted on October 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM Comments comments (28)
It is fall.  Time to take out clothes from storage for a cooler season. Time to look at what I have used and not used. Time to get rid of things that no longer serve.

The yogic principle this relates to is "saucha".  Saucha translates as cleanliness. It is really cleanliness in outward ways of life and in inward ways of life,  Habits with clothes and possessions as well as with thoughts and people.  Yoga encourages us to look at them and see what is clean and what is not clean in all our habits.

I had a bunch of nice clothes that I used to wear years ago, but have not put on in years.  They were crammed into my closet along with lots of things I do use and wear now.  They were so fancy I did not want to let them go.  But they were no longer useful in my life,  

So, with saucha as my guide, I went through and got rid of them.  I took them to my neighborhood church's clothes closet.  Now some people who do not have the money to buy nice things will be able to have some nice things,  and I have some closet space.

Letting go of those things felt hard.  But then it turned out to be so nice.  Clean.  

A different kind of yoga

Posted on September 28, 2014 at 10:28 PM Comments comments (22)
I went on a trip and while I was gone, I got injured.  I think I am going to be fine, but I must say doing yoga is different with an injury.

As I design classes, they may even be harder because there is less variety in the poses as I avoid whole body parts.  That focuses the work on the other body parts in a way that has my students giving me the stink eye.  I am used to the yoga teacher stink eye, so no worries.  But still.

One thing yoga is supposed to do as you go along through the years is get deeper and more internal.  It is supposed to introduce you to yourself on the mat.  No one is there but you.  And if you show up regularly, you will get to know yourself. 

Being injured in yoga class is a little embarrassing.  It is bad enough that I am not the one taking the option to do a headstand in the middle of the room like another person in class.  But now I am having difficulty with the regular up and down motion of sun salutations.  Modifying.

And yet, there is something almost gorgeous about being able to modify a flow and keep going.  It is creative and personal and it requires my full presence and attention.  I am paying attention to how my injured body part is able to move and not move.  I am being careful and aware.  I am listening to myself and learning in a unique, personal, private way.  I am learning a language of moving with awareness in a different state than I am used to.  It is like I am trying out my little bit of French to talk to my body and listen to it as I move. 

Like doing yoga left handed.

Yoga brain

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 12:36 PM Comments comments (20)
One of the fun things about working out with yoga is that afterward, you feel sort of... better.  There is a certain lightness and a feeling of bliss that sometimes accompanies the end of Savasana (Corpse Pose) and that final "Om".

In that few minutes of waking up from yoga practice, there is a lot of socializing that happens in the class.  People become friends at yoga and we want to talk and tell each other the news or just some yoga insights we have had. And yet, we have this yoga brain.  

It is far from problematic, of course.  We drift happily around and put away props, smiling, saying hello and floating out with rolled up mats under our arms. 

I think it is similar to music or to what worship is supposed to be like.  It is other-worldly.  It is internal.  It is cultivation of clouds to ride the rest of the day. 

Music and animals

Posted on August 31, 2014 at 10:52 AM Comments comments (27)
Just a disclaimer: this post has not a thing to do with yoga or meditation or massage. 

Among many other things, I pet sit.  I am pet sitting this week and I adore these animals.  They really like people, which is a pleasure.

I did not expect to find myself with a new band, though.

I just heard the beautiful song by Patti Casey, "It all comes down"


and I have been singing it all week long.  I was singing along with the acapella band and just belting it out for all I was worth a few days ago.  In a minute, one dog started howling along.  And in a minute, the other dog joined in.  As if we weren't enough, here comes one of the cats.  Meow!  Meow!  Meow!

I was inspired by this beautiful music, which apparently knows no bounds.  I hope you like it, too.

Yoga and the creative aspect of life

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (27)
I have been noticing the ways in my life I have become more reliable since starting yoga.  I notice emotionally I am more available and vulnerable.  I notice I am better able to keep a steady pace with the rhythm of my life, instead of rushing around all the time as I did for years.  And I notice that I find it easier to be creative.

I spend a little bit of time every day writing or taking pictures or making something.  Mostly for me it is writing.  Sometimes it is just cooking and nothing else.  Or designing a yoga class around a particular need in someone's body or around a theme in yogic philosophy. 

I think as I become more balanced, I am not so overwhelmed by all the things happening around me and outside me.  I find I can listen to and notice the things happening inside me.  I write about them. 

One noted author I read said that the best way to become a writer is to read everything and to write a little every day.  I believe in the every day habits.  The things we do every day or almost every day become our lives.  They are the things we build ourselves from.  Brush teeth, eat breakfast, talk with a friend. That is a pretty good start on a pretty good life.  Now add some artistic expression into it.

Many artists are very passionate about their work, showing up to work on it whenever inspiration strikes for days on end with no sleep and no routine.  And that makes sense.  But the days lost, weeks lost, years and then decades lost as an artist waits for inspiration to strike cannot be redone.  Those are years of artistic fields lying fallow. 

I think yoga is an excellent therapy for life because its wisdom is so simple and so practical.  With yoga, the idea is to do some yoga every day.  For a lifetime.  What happens when we do a little artistic expression every day?

"That practice is indeed firmly grounded when it is pursued incessantly, with reverence, for a long time." Yoga Sutras I:14

Women and Yoga

Posted on August 21, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (22)
One thing I love about yoga is how it introduced me to my own strength.  I was in teacher training to be a yoga teacher and we were working on handstands.  I had been doing about 15 hours a week of yoga and yoga related activities for several months, so I was stronger physically than I had ever been in my life.  

I was at the wall, practicing handstand and I felt like I could stay there indefinitely.  As I was upside down there, for the first time in my life, I felt my own strength.  In my mind, all I could think was, "I am strong as hell.  I am strong as hell.  I am strong as hell.  I... am strong... as hell.  I'm strong as hell!"  It went around like a mantra in my mind. 

In that moment, I wished that every woman on earth could have that experience. 

If a woman gets into handstand and holds herself there for several minutes, she is unlikely to stay in an abusive relationship for the rest of her life.  She might just turn that relationship upside down and think to herself, "I am strong as hell!"  And then she will be more bold in standing on her own two feet. 

I want women to experience their own strength.  I study yoga in part in order to be able to teach it to women who have been disempowered.  There is something very empowering about being able to hold those poses.  Once you can do that, you think, "Well, maybe I can do these other things, too."  And then you try.  Empowered.  Yes.

Little Things

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 6:01 PM Comments comments (31)
One of the ways yoga and meditation and massage could be described would be that they are all conscious cultivation of a better relationship with your own nervous system. 

Get on your yoga mat, you will sweat and breathe and move and align your nervous system in that hour.  Sit on your meditation cushion and you will close your eyes and breathe and still your focus inside your own body at your center point for that hour.  Get on the massage table and you will relax and release hormones that are aimed at feeling better and repairing your system as a whole. 

All of these (and plenty of others are out there) are ways to calm and focus and clear.  They all put you in touch with your actual self.  You become acquainted with the light inside of your own self.  And then things that are good for you start to feel good and right and things that are bad for you start to feel bad and wrong.  You find your own light and then you recognize light outside you too.

What Yoga Has Taught Me About Making Art

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 10:02 PM Comments comments (27)
Today's guest post is from Lucy Curtis... The Amazing Lucy Curtis!  Lucy is a yoga teacher at the 500 hour level (an advanced certification).  She is a groovy DJ and she makes her yoga classes fascinating through the use of storytelling.  When I have attended Lucy's yoga classes, I have always learned some new things about the ancient roots of yoga and I have always laughed because of the way she phrases things.  I remember one time she told the class to hold our hands in front of our chests as if we were "holding something amazing in them, like a library card!"  She is quirky and deep and an amazing yoga teacher.  She has a wonderful way with words, too, as you will see.
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What Yoga Has Taught Me About Making Art

First I was invited to design and make my own hat at a High Tea thrown by Elisabeth Koch, who is my oldest friend on Earth. We spent most of the 1980’s playing Barbies and building kudzu forts in the suburban Atlanta neighborhood we shared. Elisabeth’s family moved to Europe when we were just 12 or 13, but we’ve always kept in touch. She’s since lived all over the world and in recent years has made a name for herself as mainland China’s only couture milliner. Elisabeth’s hats are beautifully crazy and crazy-beautiful and can be found on the heads of socialites and in the pages of Chinese Vogue. I jumped at the chance, not only to catch up with my friend who only comes to America a few times a year, but also to make my very own fabulous hat!

Then the very next weekend, another dear friend, Atlanta artist Heather Johnson, invited me over for brunch and to make our own linocuts, which is a printmaking technique. First you draw a picture and transfer it to a piece of linoleum. Using a little gouging tool you then carve out the negative space so that the image shows up. Then, after slathering a piece of plexiglass with ink, you press the linocut into it and finally print the image onto paper. I’d never made a linocut before and drew a complicated little cartoon for my future husband of all of his favorite things. It includes me, a skateboard, our two cats Debbie Harry and Joan Jett, his Gibson Les Paul guitar, and a fishing rod with a lunker of a bass dangling from the hook.

In both creative pursuits, I felt an exquisite feeling of happiness that was so intense it surprised me. I wasn’t just making a hat to wear to a party or making a little present for David “Dreamboat” Lane, I was truly connecting with my soul through art. I’ve felt this feeling before, sometimes in nature, certainly while watching live music (if you want to experience enlightenment through your ears, check out The Purkinje Shift at the Earl on 8/ 28), but most often on my yoga mat. In fact, I feel like my yoga practice is what’s trained me to be able to feel that soul connection in the first place. Here are 3 things my yoga practice has taught me about making art:

1. Trying is Succeeding
I remember making a scribbly mess as hot tears rolled down my cheeks when, as a kid, I couldn’t get the perfect mermaid on a rock out of my head and onto the paper. At that moment I threw in the towel, decided I was “bad at art” and began to pursue other interests even though making art had always felt so good when I wasn’t obsessed with a perfect final product.

In yoga there’s no such thing as a perfect final product. Yoga is not competitive. It's about the practice for each individual, and in yoga trying is doing and doing is succeeding. It’s not like you practice yoga to achieve a perfect Tree Pose and then you’re named champion of the Yogis and you never do it again. Conversely, it’s not like the Yoga Police are going to come in and take your mat and stretch pants away if you fall out of Tree Pose. The physical poses are just a conduit for doing the best you can with the tools you have in the present moment.

Before my yoga practice taught me that trying is succeeding, I might have turned down the opportunity to make art, because I would’ve been too scared to try and fail. I might have spent my time comparing my work to others instead of diving into my own experience. Now, however, the hat might turn out ugly or the linocut stupid-looking, but I’m not going to let fear of a non-perfect final product stop me from throwing myself into the experience with all I’ve got.

 2. Positive Self Talk
At both events I noticed that as people were working on their pieces, they were dogging themselves and their artwork, pointing out all the ways they were sucking. At the same time, they were freely complimenting other people’s work. They say we’re our own worst critic, and I saw that in action for sure.

In the years that I’ve practiced yoga, I’ve noticed a definite shift in how I talk to myself and about myself. The first rule of yoga is ahimsa, which means non-violence or non-harming. You try not to hurt others and you try not to hurt yourself. One way to make your self talk more ahimsic is to talk to yourself like you were talking to your best friend. I’ve even used this band from Tennessee’s name as a mantra: Be Your Own Pet. The whole function of yoga is to control the mind. My yoga practice hasn’t made all of my self-critical thoughts disappear, but it’s certainly trained me to quit listening so hard.

3. Aparigraha, Baby!  
At the hat making workshop, Elisabeth was running out of black supplies so I got stuck with a pink base for my hat. I felt a flash of greediness. I wanted a black base! I calmed myself down by reminding myself of another tenet of yoga, aparigraha.

Aparigraha means non-grasping or non-clinging; pretty much you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit. Perhaps if I hadn’t learned about aparigraha from my yoga practice, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy making a pink hat, but as I ungrasped my mind from the idea of having to have a black hat, I began loving it more and more.



Here is Lucy in that fabulous pink hat:
Lucy Curtis is the cofounder of Art & Action, a yoga and art program for kids. Learn more about what she does and contact her at the website: artandactionatlanta.com

Elisabeth's website (with the hats): elisabethkoch.net 

Heather's website (with the prints):   curiositaphotography.com

On the Passing of Robin Williams

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 1:17 AM Comments comments (24)
Now that man spread a lot of light while he was here on earth.

I have laughed so hard at things Robin Williams said that I have had water come out my nose.  He made the Vietnam war a topic that could be approached through his healing gift of comedy and his great love for humanity.

He did some amazing things with the spotlight he had on his life.  Having a spotlight on your life all the time cannot be fun or easy. 

I do not know what his mental health status was.  But he seems bipolar to me.  He was certainly manic on stage doing his stand up routines.  And I suppose he dealt with the lows that accompany those highs.

A lot of people I know try to judge if it is right or wrong for someone to take their own life.  I do not know and I do not think it is my place to judge it.  I just know it has to be so sad.

If he was bipolar, I have read that that tends to go along with a very high risk of suicide.  It usually happens in a mixed state.  A mixed state is a manic phase (high) with depression (low) at the same time. 

I am lighting a candle and dedicating my meditation and yoga practice to him to help him transition into a better place in his next life.  That is a Tibetan belief.  Also making things that smell good is supposed to help the recently departed to head toward the light. So I will cook some yummy smelling things, too.  For about a month, that is supposed to do some good.

One reason I study yoga and meditation is that it is so helpful for regulating moods and for helping to get thoughts more organized. 

Yoga is a practice to get the mind stable, basically.  And meditation is too.  The Yoga Sutras (the equivalent of a yoga bible that is 2500 years old) talk about the mind. 

Chapter one, verses 12-14 of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali (translation by Mukunda Stiles):

The vacillating waves of perceptions are stilled through
consistent earnest practice
and dispassionate non-attachment.

Of these two, practice is the continuous struggle
to become firmly established
in the stable state of the true self.

That practice is indeed firmly grounded
when it is pursued incessantly,
with reverence,
for a long time.

Robin Williams, you were a light to many people.  I hope you find great peace.



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