Friday, January 27, 2012

8:30 Yoga Saturday.... then 10am WOD

A blog post by Kristin... appropriate for Yoga Saturday!
Hello my fellow yogis and yoginis!

I wanted to provide some insight after the article that came out in
the NY Times a couple of weeks ago discussing yoga and injuries as
many of you have raised it with me.  There is actually much of the
article that I agree with, but some of the guiding principles in it,
namely that yoga is not for everyone, I strongly disagree.

The article suggested among other things that practicing yoga can lead
to injuries as a result of practitioners taking the postures too far
either because their ego or their teacher prods them into in.  On this
point, I wholeheartedly agree.  Yoga is a practice in the grey area,
i.e. there are many ways to physically express the same pose.  Much of
life, our own dualistic, right and left brains included, is one or the
other, black or white, right or wrong, mine or yours.  And while there
are certain universal truths, in yoga we practice discovering our own
personal truths.  What is best for us, not because someone is loudly
telling us it is the case or because everyone else is doing it, but
rather by developing a compassionate, non-judgmental, all-knowing
voice from within which simply says, "This is my personal truth, this
is what feels right to me, regardless of what others think."  My yoga
teacher, Alan Finger, often told us, "We are each 98.8 percent alike,
the majority of the cellular make-up in our body is exactly the same
as everyone elses (2 eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc.), that said, the
.2 percent which makes us different is extraordinarily powerful."  It
is in that .2 percent from which we derive our unique gifts, special
talents, individual yearnings and it is up to us to uncover the .2
percent.  The analogy is that the Universe is made up of all creatures
large and small, each of us has our own note to play, and when we
honor our own truth, our own unique voice, the music played in the
Universe is a symphony like no other!  So we use our yoga practice to
discover what feels "right", where our own edge is, regardless of what
anyone else in the room is doing and regardless of what the teacher is
telling us.  To determine the place in which we are not being lazy
(unless that day calles for it! because we have been pushing too hard
in other areas of our life and to create balance we need to take it
easy) and we are not overexerting ourselves (unless that day calls for
it! because we have become complacent in other areas of our life and
we know we need to give ourselves a little kick to break through into
new territory or stir things up), but rather we are finding the place
in which we can maintain a steady breath and feel the benefits of the
physical practice.

Please remember that teachers are merely guides.  It is always OUR
yoga practice, which means it is up to us to determine what guidance
applies and what does not.  This can be tricky, as sometimes we
stubbornly want to cling to our patterns (the way we've "always" done
something) and some of these patterns are healthy, some are not.
Often a teacher can see things more clearly as an observer than we can
can see in ourselves, but only our innermost truthful intuition can
determine what is appropriate for us on a given day.  Through yoga, we
practice building a mind/body connection and when the mind and body
are in sync, like pieces of a puzzle, our intuition, our internal
voice, is unlocked to speak our truth (even when we may not want to
hear it.)  Our rational mind is not analytically determing a situation
and our bodily impulses are not governing our motivations, instead
they work in tandem arriving at the healthiest, most balanced place.
Yoga is a "practice" because that which we practice on the mat, then
becomes an ingrained approach in our inner cellular workings and
without even knowing it we begin to apply this approach to our daily
lives.  It is for this reason we focus on being compassionate,
nurturing, honest and non-judgmental first and foremost with ourselves
on the mat.

An example of how to apply this in class is when you are doing side
angle pose (parsvakonasana) and you see other people in the room with
their hand on the floor (extending their opposite arm up towards the
ceiling), rather than wanting to mimic them (which would result in a
deep pain in your side or a crunch in the back or a painful stretch in
the hamstring) perhaps you use the assistance of a block, placing your
hand on it (anyone who has trouble asking for help in life is
encouraged to incorporate the use of props, allowing the awakened
sense of accepting assistance and not feeling the need to always go it
alone), or maybe you instead lower your elbow to your knee knowing
that is as far as your body wants to go and you carry no self-judgment
regarding the place you are at in your own practice relative to
others, knowing the benefits you experience are exactly the same.  We
merely want to free the body from the armor of tension which locks
into us as a result of daily life, we need not look like the cover of
Yoga Journal for this to happen.  What we seek through yoga is a
physical release so that our mind and body can be free to feel what it
is that we truly are, without any thoughts or attributes.  And what we
truly are, in our deepest core, when we peel away all of the layers of
life which have built up around us, is peace, unconditional love, that
is, as my teacher says, "being loving for no reason at all" without
hidden agendas.

Yoga is for everyone.  Yoga in sanskrit means union.  The union of the
various facets of our personality, our spirituality, our physicality
and our mentality.  Because when we are united on the inside, we are
much better equipped to be united on the outside.  When we feel
connected we are more inclined to connect with the world around us in
a loving and compassionate way.  Breathing deeply and being aware of
our breath is yoga.  Walking down the street expressing gratitude for
the nature and beauty around us is yoga.  Placing our hand on the
forehead of a sleeping child or parent is yoga.  Feeling love in our
hearts for another is yoga.  And yes, side angle pose is yoga too...
but only in so far as it frees us to be able to connect more fully to
ourselves, each other and the planet.

I encourage you to read the following blogpost from one of my
teachers, Peter Ferko, with his thoughts on the article and to reflect
on the statement, "Range is of the ego, form is of the soul."

Shanti ~ Peace. Kristin

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