Posts tagged ‘breath’

beginning, again

It is such fun to teach the Intro to Yoga class at Upper Valley Yoga.

Each session I try to have a new framework for myself to teach around, a new way to organize myself.  I’ve used all kinds of structure to help me: the koshas, the eight limbs of yoga, a breakdown of the yamas and niyamas.  This time, I decided to use a few concepts behind the yoga, picking simplicity as the theme for our first day.

Simple doesn’t come easy to me.  I have a tendency to talk a lot, and get excited about the details, which can be fun and helpful, and overwhelming.  But if my intro students are doing something that’s new to them, and probably hard for them (coming to yoga class for the first time), then I can push myself into unfamiliar territory, too.

So, I headed into class with my teaching notebook open to the intro week one page, with only a few reminders about simplicity, the simplest of cues for a few postures, and a lot of blank space.  A visual reminder to myself: keep it simple; leave lots of space.

We started seated, practicing sitting up tall, reaching the hands out in front and overhead while leaving a lot of space for the neck and the shoulders.  Then we kept both sides of the body long as we arced to one side and the other.  Then we twisted, keeping the seat on the floor as we revolved the belly, chest and head in one direction, and the other.  Finally, we folded forward, staying long and open and keeping ourselves from folding in half at the ribcage or shoulders.

We moved to standing and did all the same things, this time with our feet underneath us.  We moved into a couple of standing poses: Warrior two (take your feet wide, bend your right knee as deeply as you can); Tree (stand and balance on two feet, then pick up your left put, place it on your right leg wherever you can).

We moved slowly.  I left big spaces without words.  I looked at my blank page.  Held my tongue.  Breathed.

It was hard work for everyone.  Yoga is not easy.  Simple is not easy.

I’ll keep you posted on the themes we use each week and how it goes.

Meanwhile, perhaps try simplicity in some aspect of your own day, whether in your practice, your work, or wherever you think it may be helpful, and if you have a chance, post here to let me know how it goes.

January 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm 3 comments

simply s t r e t c h

One of my favorite moments of every day is watching my daughter Nora wake up.  Sometimes she is lying in bed with her eyes open when I go in to check on her.  She’s quietly looking around the room, wrapped up in her swaddling blanket.  Sometimes she’s fussing a bit, making the squeaks and squawks which mean she is about to cry.  Sometimes she’s already crying, mouth wide open and eyes tightly shut.

When I peel open her swaddling blanket, no matter what Nora was doing the moment before, she stretches.  Immediately when her first arm is released, it goes over her head.  Second arm released, goes overhead.  Then a long stretch with her short little arms, and a big arch in her back as she rolls slightly to her side.  Then she stretches her little legs as long as they go.

What an inspiration!  Although Nora has been in many yoga classes since she was conceived–most of them in utero!–nobody had to teach her to stretch first thing in the morning.  It’s something every baby knows to do–after a long sleep, some time in the carseat, or a satisfying meal, pause and take a long stretch, head to toe.

I have so little time to practice these days, but I watch Nora and realize–much as I would enjoy it, I don’t need 90 minutes–or even 9 minutes–to practice yoga.  I just need to pause for one moment, take a deep breath, and stretch myself head to toe.

It’s as simple as that.

September 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm 2 comments

Return of the Light

One of my first winters in Vermont, I attended a solstice party, in which we all went from the warm and cozy house out into the very dark and deeply cold night, where we each took a candle, and lit it from the fire that burned outside (it had been set the hour before we arrived by our lovely hosts).

We brought our candles in to the hearth, lighting the fire in the fireplace (the house made cozy by the woodstove in the other corner), welcoming the return of the light.

Today, just after the solstice and just before Christmas and the New Year, I imagine the return of the light within myself.  As long as I have breath in my body, the light of the divine is always within me.  On my darkest days, I may not be able to feel the warmth of that light, or experience its brightness, but when I close my eyes, I can find it somewhere within me.

I imagine I bring that light–perhaps burning as bright as a bonfire, perhaps as tiny as the flame of a tealight–into my heart, reigniting myself in this winter darkness.

Solstice, the return of the light, as we journey, here in Vermont, towards the coldest part of winter.

Stay warm with your yoga practice, with the love of friends and family, and with the light of your own self, and your own heart.

Namaste.

December 23, 2010 at 6:24 pm 1 comment

I am whelmed.

My husband and I love to listen to Car Talk on the radio.  I know this is a divisive issue–I’ve yet to meet someone who is neutral about the snorting laughter and general silliness.  However, I have learned a lot about cars listening to them, and I love the snorts.

Whatever you may think of them aside, I do recall one show in which they read a story (probably submitted by a reader and certainly not an original), that took words like “disheveled” and “overwhelmed” and used their roots (as if they had them): sheveled, whelmed, and many others I’ve forgotten.

In this season, with so much movement, travel, and bustle, it is easy for me, and I think many others, to become overwhelmed.  Days that are busiest or that I feel most frenzied for whatever reason, I try to imagine myself being “whelmed.”

What would this day feel like if I were taking in every moment fully, as I take in deep breaths of cold, wintery air?  What would this moment feel like if I stayed fully present to my breath, to myself, and fully present to the experience around me?

What would it feel like to experience the wonder, the excitement that comes with overwhelmed, but stay whelmed–fully present to the moment, overcome by nothing, ever aware of my breath, of myself?

Good luck and good cheer as you move through December and into the new year.  If you are shopping for gifts for anyone, please remember to check the uppup yoga store for wonderful, wearable gifts for women, men, children and babies, including new sizes and a new color for children.

December 8, 2010 at 7:41 am 2 comments

Ahimsa

Someone in Vermont has a license plate that reads AHIMSA.  I see it from time to time as I drive around.  I’m always jealous that I was not clever enough to have thought of this idea–what better place to remind people to be nonviolent than in our cars (surely I am not the only one who has cursed at the car in front of me for driving too slowly when I am running late on my way to yoga class!)?

Ahimsa, which is often translated as nonviolence, is one of the yamas, or ethical guidelines, of yoga.  Although they each have a strange-sounding Sanskrit name, they are all principles we’ve heard along the way: to practice gentleness, and truth; to not covet the things or talents of others; to remember that each breath is a blessing.

The yamas are meant to govern our conduct with the world–the rules of the sandbox so that we can all get along with each other–but I’ve found it helpful to also think about how they apply as I interact with myself.

Am I gentle and nonviolent with my body when I come to my yoga practice, when I choose what and how much to eat, and to drink (ahmisa)?  Do I see my reflection in the mirror of truth, or do I allow it to be distorted by my own judgements, and expectations of what I “should” be (satya)?  Do I give myself credit where credit is due, stepping into the bright light of my own goodness (asteya)?  Do I pause to feel the satisfaction with who I am and what I have in life, instead of looking for what’s to come (aparigraha)?  Do I see the spark of the divine within myself, the light that shines out from my own heart–that piece of God within me (brahmacharya)?

In my classes, as in most yoga classes, we “Namaste” each other at the end of the practice.  This simple and beautiful word holds so much meaning–the light of the divine within me, recognizes and honors the light of the divine within you.

When we practice the yamas not only out in the world but also within our own selves, it is as if we are giving ourselves that greeting, Namaste.  I see myself as a spark of the divine.  I honor myself, in all of my grace, in all of my potential, in all of my perfection.

Namaste.

November 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm 2 comments


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