Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gratitude Part 2: Karma Yoga

We receive so much in our lives; constantly. Sometimes it is easy to lose track of the ways we are blessed but most of the yoga students who attend my classes are truly blessed. When we acknowledge what we have to be grateful for, we can become more whole. We become even more whole, when we take the time to give to others.

One of my favorite prayers is one attributed to Saint Francis beginning, "Lord make me an instrument of thy peace." The prayer ends with the words, "It is in giving that we receive and in death to self that we are born to eternal life." This provides for me a rationale for Karma Yoga. In Karma Yoga, we give freely of ourselves with no thought for reward, save those to our spirit.

I find that personally, I gain far more joy from giving than from receiving. Giving can mean little things. It can mean listening to a friend. It can mean giving someone a wave, a smile or a hug. Little acts of giving can make a huge difference in the lives of others. Even these small things are Karma Yoga.

Take a moment right now to think of someone in your life who could use a little love. Then, set the intention to dedicate your practice today to someone else. As you practice Karma Yoga in your life, think about what you have and offer it to others.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Aerial Yoga Teacher Training

Here are the pictures from my Aerial Yoga Teacher Training. I now am qualified to teach level one students. Yeah!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I’m fascinated by the gentle and terrible depiction of Shiva, known as Nataraja. This God is also referred to as “The Lord of the Dance.” When I think of Vinyasa Yoga (flowing with breath and movement), I think of the graceful dance of Nataraja, poised on one leg as though coiled to leap into a whirling cosmic dance at any moment.

When people think of Shiva or Indian mythology, they often think of the image of Shiva, balanced on one leg, multiple arms spread wide, surrounded in flames and wrapped in a snake. This image is Nataraja. There are two dances performed by Nataraja, “Lasya (the gentle form of dance)” and “the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of the world. In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are just two aspects of Shiva's nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again."

I find great allure in the idea of a divine destruction in order to create new beginnings. I believe yoga often takes us through this process. We focus our mind and breath on the present, seeking deep within in order to grow but this is not enough--we also must learn to defeat our ego. This ego is also often part of the representation of Nataraja. It exists in the form of the dwarf, "(Apasmara) who symbolizes ignorance." In yoga, we are eternally at battle with this dwarf, this lesser, more petty part of ourselves. For me, Nataraja is the force that transcends this tiny inner demon.

To create, we also must destroy. We must let go of the things that do not serve us. We must let go of our insecurities and intolerances. May we all take a page from the book of Nataraja and destroy that within us that is destructive to our growth. In our yoga, let us embrace the lightness and joy of the dance as we free ourselves of the things we no longer need. Embrace the breath, embrace the dance and become something greater than you are at this moment.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude: Part 1

It can be so easy to become overly focused on what is not working in our lives. We fixate on what is lacking, how we are not fulfilled, how it seems so hard to get our basic needs met. Sometimes it is important to just stop and reflect on everything that is working in our lives, everything we do "have." When we stop to truly count our blessings, we remember that our lives are not all trial and challenges.

When we remember what we have, we can begin to fill our hearts with gratitude. About a year ago, I could only seem to think about what was wrong in my life. Then, someone suggested I spend some time meditating on what I had to be grateful for. At first it was hard but every day I dutifully wrote out one thing I felt grateful for. As I continued to do this, I began to remember that my life was not so bad after all. In fact, the more I reflected, the greater it seemed.

This time of year is a perfect one for beginning your own mediations on gratitude. Every day, spend five minutes thinking of one things you are grateful for. If you can, write it down and look back on it in hard times. Today, fill your heart and mind with one thing you are grateful for and celebrate that thing during your practice, whatever it may be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why Push in Yoga?

When I first started yoga I went for the challenges to my flexibility and strength. I did Power Vinyasa and I was all about the "butt-kicking" workout. Then, in April of 2008, I was diagnosed with MS. At first, I could barely stand. My balance was shot. This changed my perspective on yoga.

I started taking therapeutic yoga designed people with auto-immune disorders. I backed off on my practice and focused on breath and meditation.

This summer I went to a "Strength and Flexibility" workshop with one of my favorite teachers. During the class, I found myself questioning the emphasis on strength, flexibility and speed. "Why would a teacher ask us to push?" I questioned.

One of my friends then explained it to me. A rigorous practice is designed to help us learn to push through challenges. It teaches us to overcome obstacles. it teaches us to deal with the tough stuff in life. It shows us how to use breath and focus to take on the hurdles life places before us. So sometimes you must embrace the challenge to learn what you are truly capable of.