Yoga beyond the physical asanas…what does that mean?

Fourteen years ago, I went to physical therapy for a non-threatening but persistent stomach condition that had painfully nagged at me since I was a teenager.  The therapist, basically, taught me yoga…how to breathe, link breath and movement with cat/cow, some stabilizing abdomen work.  It was a pretty immediate reaction of feeling more present and relaxed,  and more connected to my core, (an area I’d avoided in fear for many years).  She said I needed yoga in my life.

So I looked at a nearby yoga studio’s schedule and picked “power yoga,” because I didn’t want to sit still and chant.  I was lost, sweating, holding my breath, and self-conscious.  Fortunately, there was a teacher trainee who was assisting the class.  He stayed near me, gently informing me about the poses and breath, and then went over the schedule for me.  New yogis–beginner flow, vinyasa 1,  slow flow, gentle….take those classes!

I stuck with it and within a few months I started to begin to understand the language of yoga.  My stomach felt relief, and the “episodes” lessened.  I felt myself learning how to be awake in the present moment on the mat.  Breath, where my foot goes, shoulders aligned over wrist, tuck tailbone slightly, knee over ankle, etc.  My mind began to quiet as I realized that most of what my monkey mind was thinking was either about the past or the future, both fear inducing.  As my core became stronger, so did my confidence and my will.  By year two, inversions, arm balances, a lot of the party tricks were tried and conquered.  By year seven, I even went deeper and did a 200 teacher training and taught a little.

And yet I was still on my mat, studying my physical practice, and reading about the philosophy of yoga like a college subject that was going to be tested.

Only through confronting painfully needed life choices and injury did I finally begin to do yoga.  Only when I acted on my present condition was I able to get beyond the physical poses. Suddenly the other limbs of yoga (asana is only one of eight limbs) opened up to me.  Headstand was a path inside, but headstand alone won’t bring transformation, freedom, and truth.  And you don’t need a headstand to find the bliss.  Let me say it again, as we are bombarded by beautiful and artistic photos of incredible yoga teachers in their incredible poses…you don’t need to do that to be invited to your own enlightenment.  Samadhi can happen in sparks throughout your day and off the mat.

The benefits of asana practice are astounding and the research is abundant.  But when I overdid my SI joint and had to modify with blocks and realized how heart opening blocks can be…that’s the yoga.  As years went by and my body changed, I let go of many of the party tricks and realized the incredible depth of refinement Warrior 1 asks of us…that’s the yoga.  Deciding to become a vegetarian, deciding to use my voice as an action of my will, deciding to write “Inside the River,” is all about the yoga.

I guess this blog is about gratitude for the practice that is new for me each day, that is still unfolding, that is “unsheathing” the mist.  And if someone reads this, who is intimidated by the onslaught of yoga olympics, please know that as long as you have breath, you have yoga.  Find a class that speaks to you in some way and try it…try it at least twice a week for 3 months.  If a teacher asks something of you that doesn’t feel good for your body, listen to your body. If a teacher comes and assists you and it hurts, tell them. If a class didn’t work for you, then pick another class.

Then take notice of the benefits…there is no separation between the practice on the mat and off of the mat, just as there’s no separation between our mind and body and spirit.  We’ve called them different words and created that separation.  And to every reader, and beyond, I wish you peace…

Om Shanti

 

Every movie I make. That’s my hideout, the place I don’t quite understand, but feel most at home. –Ang Lee

So often I have sat inside my comfort zone, because I understood it.  It was important that it all made sense, that it wasn’t, with obvious intention, anything too risky.   My days flowed with a routine, a drowsy, seamless state of mind.

There is a creative fire inside me (as there is in all of us) and somehow not exercising it was keeping me in what I can label as my low grade fever days.  I wasn’t sick and my life was full of joy and laughter but there was a tiredness to my efforts.

“Inside the River,” has been the house guest I’d ignored for a long time, the light dazzling outside wanting to play, the risk of conscious action.  Writing those words, wrapped around a story brewing inside me for over twenty years, starting a blog, joining twitter yesterday (not sure I quite get that concept yet) and allowing myself this voice (read in 37 countries…would love to know who you are), has taken me to a place I don’t quite understand.

But it’s home….

xoxo

Clinging to Non-Attachment as my son left for college

Originally posted on insidetheriver:

I have stayed pretty faithful to my intention of this blog as the introduction of my novel, “Inside the River,” as well as holding the vision of Ang Lee directing the movie version of my book (although he doesn’t know it yet).  I have sprinkled in some yoga as my practice informs me in countless ways.

I know that people from all over the world have somehow read my words.  But, on this blog, I will dabble into something deeply personal as a way of honoring where I am at in this moment.

I recently dropped my oldest son off to college.  Eighteen years ago, when he was born, I looked into his eyes for the first time, and promised him I would let him go when he was older so he could explore this world without feeling limited by my needs.  Of course, I was blown away by the love…

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Clinging to Non-Attachment as my son left for college

I have stayed pretty faithful to my intention of this blog as the introduction of my novel, “Inside the River,” as well as holding the vision of Ang Lee directing the movie version of my book (although he doesn’t know it yet).  I have sprinkled in some yoga as my practice informs me in countless ways.

I know that people from all over the world have somehow read my words.  But, on this blog, I will dabble into something deeply personal as a way of honoring where I am at in this moment.

I recently dropped my oldest son off to college.  Eighteen years ago, when he was born, I looked into his eyes for the first time, and promised him I would let him go when he was older so he could explore this world without feeling limited by my needs.  Of course, I was blown away by the love I felt for this little life, but my love was linked to this hard truth from his first breath.

I didn’t start practicing yoga until he was around four and so as I began to delve deeply into the practice of yoga beyond the physical poses, the concept of non-attachment felt like the whisper I’d somehow heard before.  Non-attachment is setting an intention and then letting go of the result (or the expectation of the result you really want).  It is incredibly different from detachment which creates an aloofness and indifference to the world around you.

Non-attachment in the sutras of Patanjali is linked with practice…effort must embrace surrender.  It is a conscious choice.

I have loved my son, helping him grow, trying to let him make his mistakes so he can learn from them in his own time, praising and encouraging his desires, not trying to fix things, feeling proud as well as overcome with worry.  I have burst open with a love that won’t let me sleep until he walks through the door after a late night out.  But through it all, I have tried to practice my love without gripping.  And so when I kissed him good-bye and boarded a plane,  I surrendered to the sadness, and then began practicing letting it go.

It doesn’t mean I don’t love him; it means that I love him fully.

 

There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain

–The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line because our planet is elliptical.

–When a male bee climaxes, their testicles explode, then they die.

–There are more atoms in a single glass of water, than glasses of water in all the oceans of the Earth.

–Once Charlie Chaplin entered a contest for “Charlie Chaplin look-alikes” and he came in third.

–You replace every particle in your body every seven years. You are literally not the same person you were 7 years ago.

–George W Bush was the head cheerleader at Phillips Acadamy Boarding school during his senior year of high school!

–A tree is the opposite of your lungs. Physically and functionally.

–You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

–Both of Jack Black’s parents are rocket scientists.

I am sitting in front of my computer, trying to write, and this is what happened! 

Sometimes you have to accept distraction and find the fun in it. 

Thank you: http://www.buzzfeed.com/readcommentbackwards/62-amazing-fact-you-probably-didnt-know-that-will-dmjk

http://www.novafm.com.au/station/national/viral-fix/article/random-facts-that-will-blow-your-mind

(and my college professor of intro to math)

My words have flown to 29 countries….

I started this blog in a spontaneous, whimsical moment.  My intention was to share my process of finishing my novel, peppered with my journey inside yoga.  The umbrella for all this grace was to announce that Ang Lee IS going to make the movie version of “Inside the River,” (even though he doesn’t know it yet).

I sent this blog out, courageously and without expectations, like a curious experiment, like dipping a toe into the fast current of a river.  And, somehow, people from 29 different countries have come to my site and read my words.  I don’t know which words or how you found me (would love to hear your comments).

My mind is blown…truly.  So I am writing this blog in gratitude for your time spent here.  I don’t know who you are, but please know, you reading my words, matter to me.

It’s taken a long time to feel worthy of my expression.

xoxo

 

 

 

Santosha

Santosha is one of the niyamas, the second of the eight limbs of yoga.  The niyamas are about self-regulation and santosha translates into contentment.  The interesting aspect of this self-journey which is what I believe yoga is about…this union of ourself with ourself (which, of course, includes the divine) is that contentment is under the discipline of restraint.

Contentment is not about the striving to have more, be more, seen more.  You do not require more than what you have in this moment in order to achieve contentment.  Contentment lies in the idea that you are enough, that this is where you are at, and that even amidst the turmoil and pain, you can embrace santosha.

In my view of this beautiful idea, it is not the giving up or the caving in or the acceptance that brings this ease, but rather the constant awareness, constant discipline of practice, that allows me to choose contentment out of many other choices.

It is different from satisfaction which we feel after a delicious meal or an incredible vacation or a well-deserved promotion.  Contentment happens without needing other things to feel good.

“Inside the River,” is the novel I have just finished.  I am swimming in santosha about myself and my determination and discipline regarding the process of telling this story.  I am content with it, regardless of its upcoming achievement or failure.  I am not worried about where the book goes, because the book is….

Shanti–

xoxo