Free the Mind

How you think affects how you move. And how well you move affects how well you live. What is your mind filled with everyday. What does it say of you and your daily landscape? Is the inner dialogue positive? If not, can you change this? Yes, you can!

 One of the blessings of yoga practice is that it often helps us realize just how much there is to learn about our mind and our conditioned patterns.  Once a consistent yoga practice is established, often times it will affect your lifestyle. The practice is much like a mirror reflecting your ways of being; likes and dislikes your points of vulnerability and likewise your areas of wisdom. It can reveal all.  It brings about an array of questioning. But simultaneously it shows how much power we have to sustain our health and wellbeing through self-observation and self-care techniques.

Cultivating a habit to watch our mind is a powerful way to foster change. My personal favorite is doing a daily check-in of whether I am content. Notice the moments in which an obstructive thought kicks in to disturb this contentment by introducing the feeling of judgement or dissatisfaction. The instant it does, look for that undercurrent of thinking, like soft whispering, that for example, what you have is not enough, that you are not worthy, that you should of done this or that, etc. Challenge the thought. Do I really need more? Is this a priority or value in the long run that nourish my soul?

Turn it around immediately. Think of all the ways in which you are lucky and blessed. Think of all the things you are grateful for and use those to drown out your desire and discontent. Reinforce this on your yoga mat.

5 reasons why teacher training makes you feel good!

After instructing a long slew of yoga teacher training programs, I noticed that most students that sign up for this venture experience a journey that goes beyond the practical physical learning. He are 5 common reflections the graduates shared of their experience…and how they applied it to life after graduating.

1.Feeling human again. From feeling alienated from themselves and others they became better acquainted with themselves and developed a genuine interest in others. The asana practices, breathing exercises, mindful sitting exercises and self observation assignments elevated their power of perception. What changed in their lives? Instead of mechanically reverting to texting or communicating via Facebook and other media, they made the choice to meet friends, co-workers, family members in person. Seeing the person, feeling the person´s energy, and listening intently to what they were saying and often times what they were not saying.

2.Not taking things too seriously. When asked to adjust their fellow students and take turns teaching in groups - many had to exit their comfort zones. What happened next? Laughter…laughing at oneself, and being comfortable with that. Coming to this state takes a high degree of self-acceptance. What changed in their lives? They took things less personally and could better discern useless drama and maintain it at a low level in their personal lives and in work situations. Better yet, they became more likeable because they actually enjoyed their own company.

3.Sharpening one´s focus and attentiveness. The course beckons students to fully immerse themselves in an ancient system that asks you to act, speak, breathe and think more mindfully. The in-class practice of watching their classmates intently to know where to adjust them, where and what advice to provide as to further their yoga practice, or where to modify the practice to suit their body and temperament presented a difficult albeit invaluable tool -  that of being internally neutral and calm as to be fully present and aware of others. What changed in their lives? The ability to still oneself as to foresee or anticipate shifts coming.

4. Loving oneself and wanting to be seen. Those who never thought they would embark in the whole social media thing, who stumbled when asked to write their profile or retracted when having to list a dream they wished to pursue, or a challenge they wanted to accomplish – they found their voice.…and within this voice was a clarity and presence that resonated strength and compassion. What changed in their lives? They were now armed with a deep sense of self-respect and worthiness.

5. New lifestyle, refreshed sense of purpose. The study of classic yoga philosophy classes, metaphysical thinking, and research into human physiology grooved new thought patterns into the student´s heart and minds. It ignited an exploration of new aspects of health, environment, culture, critical thinking, productivity and creativity.  What changed in their lives? A renewed motivation was born that was not rooted in short-lived goals but a set axiom that life is this moment of awareness – the NOW…that is, in turn, connected to everything and everyone.


Why Knot?

            For the past 16 years, I literally tie myself into knots over the idea of eventually attaining enlightenment. Before sunrise, when it is still pitch black outside, I tangle my body into the form of a knot. I stand barefooted, clothed sparingly on top of a rubber thin mat placed directly onto the floor.  I breathe loudly and with determination I squeeze myself into a knot-like assemblage of the body. The same knot is formed on both sides of the body. Once there, I remain for a minimum of five very deep long breaths. They are special breaths called Ujjayi, meaning ‘extended victory.’ In other words, I’m to stretch my breath, make it ‘victorious,’ controlling the value and length of each inhale and exhale while staring at a point on the ceiling with calm albeit alert eyes. The goal is to stay in this knot effortlessly, assuming a comfortable stance, prepared to linger like this eternally with an empty mind and lack of emotion.  After five breaths, I detach myself from the posture, untangle myself loose by resuming the prescribed breath counts and movements. If for any reason a thought would suddenly arise and cause a disturbance to my monotonous breathing, part of my body would immediately tense into an involuntary knot of tension - an inner calamity would ensue.  Hence, my focus must remain intact as I watch from a distance the thoughts that appear and disappear while my entire body relaxes into the yogic knot I’ve constructed.  Though the intent is consistent every morning, the feel of the body wrapped into this knot has a spectrum of sensations ranging from heaviness, pain, discomfort to a lightness and ease. Everyday I wonder which it‘ll be and attempt to decipher the reasons behind the particular sensations of the morning practice.  I analyze the activities of the prior day as to locate what could have triggered the ‘dis’ ease or the lack of agility in entering the same knot, at the same time, at the same place, with the same technique, with the same body…though perhaps not with the same mind?

            The noose posture, pasasana in Sanskrit (see illustration above) is the term by which this particular asana is referred to in the yoga circles around the world, specifically the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System. If you happen to be adept enough to be practicing the Intermediate Series or Nadi Shodana (nerve purification) of this yogic system, then the noose posture appears after having completed the first 26 standing postures, and then is followed by 57 other postures. This sequence is performed five times a week within a span of 90 minutes.  And so, I knot myself up in the mornings whether alone or surrounded from what can be 10 to 50 other fellow practitioners.  At other times I demonstrate it to a few beginners or up to 200 viewers. I teach it, explain its constituents and assist others in exploring it as to attain its powerful benefits. For some it is a great challenge and requires time and effort through heat, repetition and perhaps a string of grunts. The access to the posture lies not in the physique but in attaining the key to untangle the corresponding knot of the mind. This is the art of yoga.

            But why intentionally ravel myself up into a state of immobility only to untangle myself?  Perhaps to relive the experience of freedom and its negation, repeatedly? Or have it proven to me that anything is possible – knots can be dealt with.  That I can be taught to be my own surgeon or “doctor of the jungle,” as is recited in the mantra I repeat before commencing practice. It is a path that I trudge upon every morning, as do others worldwide.  To me, it is a symbolic study of the dialectics of knots.  I train to do and undo; to like what I dislike; to be detached from the things I love; to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations - In essence, to resolve opposition. I tackle entering unlikely and challenging situations as to be adept at undoing myself into a state of emancipation. This daily repetitive action is a practice of observation, a study of the weaving of opposites as to produce a tapestry showing the way to transcend the dualistic nature of life. After many years of practice, this tapestry of knots is my personal map of an art of opposites. Yoga became a lifestyle for me, an art of living. And I, the artist creating my existence, painting my destiny onto the tabula rasa provided – the yoga practice mat.