"All creative scientists know that the true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions they uncover the laws of truth." Scientist JC Bose
Let us imagine that the yoga studio is our lab; the poses our experiments. We may try chair pose with our hands at our heart and compare that to twisted chair. We may make scientific changes to downward facing dog by lifting one leg in the air, then opening that hip, then bending that knee. We might set the leg back down and try lifting a hand off the ground to reach back for an ankle. We may rest our head on a block in supported dog. All of these variations the independent variables. But what is the constant?
The dependent variable is the change that occurs in response to the independent variables. Maybe in traditional dog our mind stays calm but with each added change the mind begins to struggle, to judge, to frustrate. Our intention in yoga is to keep the mind peaceful and free of ego judgment.
We initially think the asanas are the struggle, the hard part of yoga. We travel through the "There's no way I can do that" to "Well, maybe I could try" to "Did you see me do that?!" And then what happens? Once we can do a pose and it becomes second nature, then what? We don't have to think about the pose as much as we first did so where does the mind go?
"All creative scientists know that the true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions they uncover the laws of truth."
The mind's struggle over the asana is maya- it's an illusion put forth by the ego. Once we put that aside, the truth is revealed. I can be calm and peaceful in this pose despite my body's ability to do the pose or do it with ease. Yoga is about the mind; more specifically, your mind set...
"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Wayne Dyer
And about perspective...
"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?"M.C. Escher
Be a creative scientist the next time you are on your yoga mat. Make changes. Experiment. Keep the breath and mind constant despite modifications you make. The yoga studio may be the physical laboratory but the poses are the experiments.
"How do we know that the sky is not green and we are all colour-blind?" Author Unknown
You're Strong Enough
I watched "He Named Me Malala" last night. What an amazing, eye-opening and inspiring documentary about the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls' educational rights. Everybody else was fearful of saying anything against the intruders into their village for fear of being killed. But, at one point in the movie, Malala says you come to a point where you either have to stand up or stay in silence. And, so she stands up and sends her voice out into the world.
Don't we all, at some point in our lives, arrive at that same place? Where we have to either stand up and be true to our own voice and our heart or make the choice to continue being silent?
I like the line from Birdy's Let it All Go song, "But if we're strong enough to let it in, we are strong enough to let it go".
Isn't that a great line? If we are strong enough to have coped with, suffered through, lived to tell about...we also embody the strength to release it all back out to the Universe.
Is there something that causes you suffering, angst, guilt, remorse, pain? Stand up like Malala for your own heart and let it all go. Hanging on to that stuff simply silences you. It stagnates you.
"I don't want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up." Malala Yousafzai
To listen to your heart find some stillness. Do not let fear (of change, of other's reactions, of other's opinions) be the source from which you live and make decisions. Embrace change. Hope for hope. Allow your voice to be the advocate for your heart.
"I say I am stronger than fear." Malala Yousafzai
Mudras For Breath
The Sanskrit word mudra translates to a seal or gesture typically with the hands though some mudras incorporate the entire body. Looking upon a statue of Buddha or Hindu deity, notice how most of their hand placements are in some type of mudra, each with its own meaning. But it is one thing to know, for instance, that Abhaya mudra dispels fear and another thing to physically feel the effects of a mudra.
The tips of the fingers have nerve endings and when your fingers are placed against the thumb or palm or other fingers, these nerve endings signal the brain that there is work to be done. The four mudras we have been working with in class lately connect with the breath. Each of the four following mudras works with the breath in a different part of the body. But first, take a moment to close your eyes and feel where your breath is right now so you have a basis of comparison. Is the breath low in the abdomen, high in the chest or head, or somewhere in between?
Because Chin mudra activates the abdominal area, when your hands are placed in Chin Mudra, you will notice the breath move towards your sacral chakra, the space beneath your naval. To create Chin Mudra, the thumbs and index fingers touch to make a circle and the other fingers are extended straight. Then rest the backs of your hands on your lap or knees. Stay here and notice the abdominal breath for about 10 inhales and exhales.
When you are ready, take the fingertips of the three extended fingers and bring them down to touch the palms in Chinmaya Mudra. The breath will automatically move to the ribs because this is the area affected by this hand gesture. Stay for 10 breaths.
The third mudra, as you may have now guessed, will take the breath higher into the chest. You might actually feel the breath open up into the head as well. Opening your hands, the thumbs reach across the palm and the four fingers gently fold over the thumb in a loose fist; this is known as Adi Mudra. Close your eyes for ten breaths.
Brahma Mudra is our final hand gesture, which will allow you to feel the breath in the abdomen, ribs and chest all at the same time. Keep your hands in their loose fists, bring the knuckles to touch in front of your naval, fingernails facing up.
You can play around with these mudras by switching back and forth, noticing how the breath changes along with the placement of your fingers
April 08th, 2016
"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's a quote by Mary Oliver that I taped to my computer monitor. This morning, the word astonishment was a beacon to my eyes. Can we find something to be astonished at today in our, perhaps, mundane Friday? I am not astonished it is raining again but can I look for wonder in the pattern of a single raindrop landing upon the sidewalk?
Mary Oliver says "pay attention". My grandfather used to say "be curious". In yoga we translate this to "being present". Tell me something that brings wonderment to your soul today. One definition of astonishment is wonder. For me, "wonder" links to open-eyed unbiased childlike amazement with everything. I remember when Sam was two and we were driving home she pointed out the fabulous sunset in the sky and said, "I want to paint that." My grandfather was so amazed, astonished, awed that she had said that. As time would tell, Sam is the creative wonder in our house whether it is with pen, makeup brush, hair color, music.
Wislawa Szymborska's poem Astonishment as translated from Polish:
"Why to excess then in one single person?
This one not that? And why am I here?
On a day that’s a Tuesday? In a house not a nest?
In skin not in scales? With a face not a leaf?
Why only once in my very own person?
Precisely on earth? Under this little star?
After so many eras of not being here?
In spite of seas of all these dates and fates,
these cells, celestials and coelenterates?
What is it really that made me appear
neither an inch nor half a globe too far,
neither a minute nor aeons too early?
What made me fill myself with me so squarely?
Why am I staring now into the dark
and muttering this unending monologue
just like the growling thing we call a dog?"
In this poem, Wislawa asks a myriad of questions that really don't have answers. That's the best part of wonderment; we can just appreciate and be without over thinking the how and why. We allow ourselves to be present in astonishment.
Wonder the possibilities in your yoga practice. How today the hands might find each other in a bind when yesterday they seemed miles away. How the toes know to grip down when we lift a leg to balance. How child's pose allows us a place to hover away from the thoughts of the mind.
"The wise man is astonished by anything." Andre Gide
Your One Word Intention
Intentions are important; they are the basis for everything we do, say or think. Approaching a person with an intention of peace has a much different energy and result than approaching someone with an intention of anger or revenge. We base our yoga practice on intention and my reiki practice is based on intention, as well. My question for you is what is your intention for today? How do you sum up your life's intention in one sentence? Think about it for a moment and write it down...
Then take your sentence and sum up your intention with one word. Yep- just one. I'll wait... ... ...
That's not an easy feat but you, hopefully, have one word written down in front of you. We will come back to it.
Dr. Sid Garrett said, "Always think of people as whole beings, never just as their symptoms." (Change Your Brain, Change Your Life) He was talking to medical students about analyzing a person's biological, psychological, social and spiritual make-up. How do you suppose we would react to people differently if we considered each of those aspects?
One of the major themes in the Bhagavad Gita is our belief in the seen versus the unseen. In Sanskrit, this is a lesson in parusha versus pakriti. Parusha represents the unseen spiritual world that creates everything that exists in the pakriti or material world. How easily do you believe in what you cannot see? Our human nature is to want proof. In the Gita, warrior Arjuna challenges Lord Krishna to show himself in his full and most powerful form because he needs to see Krishna's greatness for himself. When Krishna finally gives in, Arjuna must turn away because Krishna's power and magnificence is too much for his eyes.
What would we really do, how would our intentions change, if we could see or know the whole truth behind a person? If we could see the biology that has led to them being disagreeable or angry? If we instantly knew their story and it explained everything?
Of course, that's not possible and people allow us to see what they want. Facebook is a good example of this. How well do you know your "friends" beyond the selfies they post?
I asked you to narrow down your personal intention to one word. Do you believe in the unseen power of a thoughts' ability to become a tangible creation? Do you believe in your own intention? Know that your words have the power to manifest even though you might not see it happening.
“Kind words, kind looks, kind acts and warm handshakes, these are means of grace when men in trouble are fighting their unseen battles.” John Hall
“It gives me a deep comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."” Helen Keller