Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Is It, Anyway?

Just like Victoria Lynn Schmidt, in the article below, I've been asked and frustrated by this question. I've been accosted by uninformed people who think it's a religion or some hokey, new age, mumbo jumbo.  I've been given weird looks when I talk about what it is, what it does, and what it can be.  So, I was very happy to read Victoria's article on Yogi Times this morning because it helps gives answers in a way that might make sense to some of you.  Yoga is not something new.  It's been around longer than you probably think.  It's not a religion.  Though it can be quite a spiritual experience for those who are truly able to tap into the deeper parts of it.  Yoga is a way to stretch and calm your body, stretch and calm your mind, and truly allows you to confront those obstacles that you think your mind and body cannot handle.  In my opinion, anyway.

Such a frustrating question I have often received from friends and family members. They know I am athletic but everything I do and teach is more about energy, meditation & the mind than it is about poses and stretching. They are confused. This is normal though as many in the west think of yoga as a stretching class and there are some teachers out there who approach it as such too, so there is bound to be some confusion.

Here are some interesting tid bits that might also help anyone new to yoga answer this question from family and friends.

1. Yoga is about union. It’s about getting you to your highest and brightest potential, about being your best self, as Oprah would say.

2. Yoga is what ever it needs to be so that a practitioner can unplug from the drama of life and recharge on the way to a higher way of living. For many westerners this means getting the body in line, or unwinding stress and tension in the body, so that the mind has a chance to find peace. This is what westerners needed, so in the west we are used to Yoga as a physical practice.

“The first workout-like practice of asanas, or poses, stem from the Sritattvanidhi, a book written in the early 1800's by Mummadi Krishnaraja, a patron of Indian culture and arts.” Sadie Nardini

But Yoga has always been so much more than working on the physical level. In order for union (yoga) to happen one must train the mind and live a noble life. There are many teachings on spirituality (non-religious), mental development, right living, and philosophy to guide practitioners.  

“If we agree that yoga includes both preliminary and advanced practices for the body, mind and spirit, then there is plenty of archeological, linguistic, textual, genetic or other evidence to suggest that Hatha Yoga is at least 1500 years old, that Tantra is at least 6000 years old, that Yoga philosophy is at least 3500 years old, and that goraksasana (a complex Hatha Yoga bhanda) was practiced more than 4000 years ago.” Ramesh Bjonnes

There are forms of yoga that hardly stretch at all such as Jana yoga (working with the mind), Bhakti yoga (working with the heart), and Kundalini yoga (working with energy).

So it is up to us to help our western friends (and some teachers) understand the vast offering within yoga to help us on many deep levels to live a better life. It is not just stretching the body, it is stretching the mind and soul. Physical poses help calm us down enough to get to the good stuff!

“Confront a fear, practice patience, express gratitude, exercise generosity, and think of others first. This is what I call emotional yoga.” Dr. Miles Neale

Sunday, April 5, 2015

And All I Really Want....

I was in the middle of a trail run, yesterday, when an all too familiar song from the 90s started playing and all too familiar words ran through my head.

Enough about me, let's talk about you for a minute
Enough about you, let's talk about life for a while
The conflicts, the craziness and the sound of pretenses
Falling all around...all around

Why are you so petrified of silence
Here can you handle this?

Did you think about your bills, you ex, your deadline
Or when you think you're gonna die
Or did you long for the next distraction

I was in the most perfect location to stop, find a rock on which to pop a squat, and welcome in the silence.

It made me question, quite a bit, why we're so afraid of silence.  Why, when we're in the company of others, do some people feel the incessant need to talk, non-stop, about nothing in particular, no direct outcome, no direct purpose, just randomness that pops into their head and out their mouth to fill a silent void?  Why, when we're alone, must we have the blurring distractions of music, TVs, computers, tablets, etc., raging on?  Why are we so petrified of silence?

When I was first learning to drive, my father told me that I should probably not listen to music all the time.  He told me that by listening to the car, I hear the weird little clinks and clunks that could tell me that something was wrong.

It's the same with life.  Turning down the distractions, shutting your mouth, opening your heart and ears enables you to listen to the weird little clinks and clunks when life is trying to tell you something is wrong.

Turn it all down.  Sit back, observe, listen, and shut that mouth.  I mean that in a nice way, I promise.