Saucha

IMG_3064Our bodies are temples. Our positive actions are conduits for positive re-action. Our thought forms are pulses of energy with the potential to open hearts. But if we hope to raise our bodies, actions and thoughts to their highest vibration, a place where the catalyst for healing exists we must practice saucha.

Saucha, our first niyama, is purity and cleanliness.

Much like the Western mind considers asana as the first step on their yoga journey we are drawn toward considering physical cleanliness as we begin our practice of saucha. Yet physical cleanliness is not limited to what we see on the surface. When reflecting on saucha and how it pertains to the physical we must also look at how we keep pure that which is within us. What we choose to put in our body is as critical as what we choose to put on our body. How do we source our food, clothes and cosmetics?

Likewise, how do we manage our environment? Do we choose to create a space that aligns with the principle of saucha? My first request to a class that they stack their props mindfully was met with laughter. The second time, when I explained saucha, they still laughed but began to understand. The third time they smiled. And then I watched as blankets were folded, blocks were stored on shelves and bolsters were lined against the wall. It didn’t matter that in ten minutes another class would undo the effort we made to create a clean space. The energetic flow we manifested through our effort supported our practice.

Is it possible to practice saucha in order to create a clean and nurturing emotional environment? One in which mental impurities are washed away? I believe we can. It takes diligence and for that reason I am relieved that we call our yoga a “practice.” My diligence and discipline fail me more times than I want to admit.

Remembering saucha as we observe the world as well as our actions as we move within this world reminds us that it is possible to reframe our thoughts, our words and our behavior even while maintaining the integrity of the ideas we wish to communicate.


Satya or Who I Am and Why I Am Here (and There)

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In between my last post on ahimsa and this one on satya I have enrolled in Blogging 101, a free tutorial offered by WordPress. After almost a decade of riding roughshod I’ve decided it’s time for me to tighten up my cinch and re-group.

I write (somewhat inconsistently) two blogs. Practically Twisted is devoted to yoga. It is my ‘business blog’ – the one where I advertise classes, repost current research on yoga, share articles I find of interest and support fellow yoga teachers.

I began my other blog, The Well Seasoned Yogi, more recently. It is the one I write for fun. I post recipes, discuss my adventures with menopause, and examine the pros and cons of everything from detox diets to juicing. I allow myself to go a bit off-topic with this blog. The boundaries are fuzzy compared to the parameters set for Practically Twisted.

My goal for both blogs, in addition to honing my written word skills, is to create a virtual community. It’s also a means to communicate with my current students and a tool for finding new students and clients.

On Practically Twisted I am currently working through the yamas and niyamas with a series of short essays. Todays post concerns satya – truthfulness.

Satya

The truth is mutable.

Two individuals stand in the same large gallery. In the center of the otherwise empty room an accordion screen draws a zig-zagged pattern from corner to corner. One individual stands to the far right and sees a screen with two pink stripes. The other, in the far left corner, sees two blue stripes. Two individuals stand in the same room at the same time. They are looking at the same object yet each sees something different.

The truth is mutable.

There is a playful, shifting fickleness to the truth. As our perspective changes, our truth changes.

But when we consider satya we move beyond the simple command to not bear false witness. Satya is more than choosing to speak the truth. Satya resonates beyond the spoken word.

We must hold truth with tenderness. The container is fragile and when navigating the hard surface of life it is easily broken and abandoned.   The shallow truth as we consider it in the West has a façade lined with unmet expectations. But satya has a depth of meaning that is both layered and potent.

And yet the meaning can shift and change. It all depends upon where we stand.


Movement as Meditation: A Therapeutic Approach

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There was a time in my teaching journey when my classes consisted predominately of demonstration, repetition and analysis. I was a strong advocate of perfect alignment. It was what my teachers taught me and to this day I encourage individuals new to yoga to spend time studying lineages that encourage strong alignment. Practicing safe alignment early on a yoga path is like practicing piano scales. Once you know them you are free.

As my practice (and my body) changed so did my teaching. My hard, straight edges have softened. My teaching has a flow and an emphasis on breathing with that flow. I still offer alignment cues but the days of strong hands-on adjustments have disappeared. I’ve shifted my awareness from the external form of an asana to the internal. I no longer consider how I look, I consider how I feel.

Beginning on Tuesday, May 5th I am offering a new class at Samyama Yoga Center. We’ll meet each Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 12:45. I’m calling it Movement and Meditation. Our intention will be to examine how our asana practice, in conjunction with our awareness of breath, can draw us toward a flow state as described by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. After a short opening meditation we’ll transition toward sequences that move through active and passive shapes and encourage a sense of peaceful presence. We will also consider the clinical applications of this practice and how it might bring relief to chronic physical pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and mild mood disorders.

I hope you’ll join me.

Samyama Yoga Center
Tuesday and Thursdays from 11:30 to 12:45 beginning May 5, 2015


Into the Light

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Into the Woods, Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, California

I’m back!

It’s been the longest two years of my life. Yet it flew by and it’s almost over. In January of 2012 I attended my first seven-day Opening Seminar at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology). In a few short weeks I will complete my final requirements and will be set free, the requirements for my master’s degree in hand.

Much of the work at Sofia is experiential – especially in the first year of the program – and it took quite a bit of trust to stay in the program. This was, after all, unlike any master’s program I had read about. How could I be learning if my assignment was to take a two-hour walk in the woods?

And yet, somehow, I was.

The first year charted the course, and without my noticing, refined my thinking. Those first twelve months focused my energy even through my frustration and resistance. It was a struggle and a retreat and not unlike crawling into a spiritual cave.

But this second year? The stone has been rolled away and there’s light. During this second year the curriculum asks us to gather what we’ve discovered during our first year and figure out a way to bring it into the world. This second year asks us to make a commitment. To live, as the cliché goes, by the courage of our convictions.

My final assignment on this two-year journey is to create an e-portfolio. If you go to my Sofia page you’ll be able to view my resume’, mission statement and philosophy. I’m also including some poetry and artwork created over the past twenty-four months. (Since posting this I’ve continued to re-work the presentation of my e-portfolio.  My intention is to blend it seamlessly into the Practically Twisted site rather than holding it as a separate page. To facilitate that I’ll be removing the Sofia page.)

My Transpersonal Integration Paper will be available to read as a separate post pending approval from the Chair of the program. My topic was A Kosha Model for Creating a Yoga Therapy Based Healing Protocol. (Since posting I’ve learned that my paper has indeed been approved!)

So…these two years are nearing an end. I’ve about to complete the masters and I’ve completed the first 500 hours of Niroga Institute’s yoga therapy program. The question is – how will I fill my days?

Is it time to stop collecting pieces of paper? I think so.

I think it’s time to start using what those pieces of paper represent. It’s time.


Embrace Change

I arrived in the Bay Area a few days after Mount St. Helens erupted, in May of 1980. That first summer was a rough one and there were times I thought about returning to Nebraska, where I’d just graduated from Doane College with a degree in art and education. I thought about running back home to Pennsylvania, too, even though I knew there was nothing there for me.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I worked my way from a hostess at The Good Earth in Santa Clara to a teacher’s assistant at Lakewood Elementary School in Sunnyvale. For a time I directed an after-school extended day care program but I left that job when I began work as an artists’ model. That odd job – sitting still while a room full of painters or drawers or sculptors fashioned my likeness with paint or charcoal or clay – introduced me to a new way of being in the world. Until then I’d felt a bit lost and unsure of who I was and who I was meant to be. But my new friends, most of whom were fellow artists and models, had a way of shaking off any expectations the world held. They walked less certain paths in life. Paths littered with stumbling uncertainty and bold adventure.

One new friend, a fellow model, invited me to join her for a Friday morning yoga class at the only yoga studio in town, a little Iyengar studio on Cowper Avenue. That was sometime around 1985. I didn’t know it then but two decades later I would be the one teaching that very same Friday morning class.

But on Friday, June 27th I will teach my last Friday class at California Yoga Center. My class ends at 10:00 AM.

IMG_3300At 10:01 California Yoga Center, after forty incredible years, will close its Palo Alto studio. A team of volunteers will come in to take away the bolsters and the blankets, the blocks and the belts.

When the news first broke four months ago I held my own grief as well as the grief of my students. Change is difficult. Order in a chaotic life – knowing that at Friday’s from 9 to 10 AM I was teaching at CYC – was easy. But now what were we going to do?

I have three more classes to teach at CYC – this next week, a final Yin class on Monday evening at 7:30 and then my last two hatha classes on Tuesday and Friday at 9:00 in the morning. I will miss the studio very much. It is where I began my practice and where I began to consider teaching.

But change is inevitable and the truth is that we will move on.   Some students will find new teachers and new studios. Others will find my new classes.

Beginning the week of June 30th I’ll be teaching all of my community classes at Samyama Yoga Center at 2995 Middlefield Road (next to the Winter Palace) in Midtown, Palo Alto. Here’s my new schedule:

 

Monday 8:15-9:15 AM – Shakti Reset: Slow Flow in the main studio

Tuesday 7:00-8:15 PM – Pure Yin in the main studio

Wednesday 8:15-9:15 AM – Shakti Reset: Slow Flow in the main studio

Friday 1:30-3:15 PM – Pure Yin in the main studio

Saturday 4:00-5:30 PM – Slow Flow in the main studio

 

One of my yin students left a note for me in my sign in notebook. He wrote,

Embrace change.

 


Breath Taking

IMG_0190Breath taking.

That’s what change can be.  It can take our breath away with the most wonderful gasp of delight, or the breath can be caught tight in our chest, sharp and immovable.

My life has seen so much change in the past six weeks.  The beginning of exciting new projects and sudden changes in circumstances that I didn’t expect.

Awe inspiring change can make us feel lighter than air.  Awful change can make us feel leaden and stuck.

I prefer awe-inspiring change.  Who doesn’t?

Here’s the thing – how we describe change depends on how we process the change.  The story we write about it in our heads and our hearts.  The peace or the violence we ascribe to it.

I’ve been thinking about this because of the labels I’ve been using to describe the changes in my life.

One of our assignments during our first month of training at Niroga Institute in Berkeley was to give some thought to Ahimsa.  Ahimsa is the first of Patanjali’s Yamas – or moral codes.  Ahimsa asks that we be compassionate.  It asks us to walk a path free of violence.

What is violence?  Is there ever a time when an act of violence can be justified?

This is what I wrote for my assignment:

 

Ahimsa

Violence is a small thing.

It is a girl child running through the jungle, arms stretched out, mouth open in silent cry,

clothes seared from her body.

It is a small thing.

Violence is an act of war.

It is a jetliner ripping a skyscraper in half.  It is men detonating the bombs they strap to their bodies.  It is women being gang raped on the back of busses.  Violence is the sting of a mother’s slap on her young son’s frozen cheek.

Non-violence begins when I remember that violence doesn’t ask for much.

Because violence is a small thing.

Violence begins when I wake to curse the haggard reflection staring back at me.

Violence ends when I wake and offer thanks for my humble life.

Violence begins when I whisper secrets that belong to someone else.

It ends when I sit in quiet contemplation.

Violence begins when I fill my eyes with gratuitous images.

It ends when I change the channel.

Violence.  Non-violence.  Ahimsa.  Himsa.

Two sides of the same coin that we toss into the air without a second thought.

We can choose the side on which it lands.

 

 

 


Whack-a-Doodle Time

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Did you notice? I did. Today was the day I felt things going a bit whack-a-doodle. Not that I mind, of course – ’tis the season, after all. But with the whack-a-doodle season come a few whack-a-doodle schedule changes.

 Here’s what’s happening over the next few weeks:

My classes at California Yoga Center will continue uninterrupted through the end of the year. You can join me on Monday evenings for Yin Yoga from 7:30 to 9:00. I also teach Hatha on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00. Check CYC’s website for more details.

Samyama Yoga Center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That means my 7:00 AM classes on November 28th, December 24th and December 31st will not be held. But you are welcome to join me and the rest of the early bird yogis at dawn on every other Tuesday and Thursday! If you prefer to sleep in, I teach a Level I/II Hatha “slow flow” class at Samyama on Saturdays from 4:00 to 5:30. That class will continue uninterrupted through out the holidays as will my Friday afternoon Yin class.

While everyone else is traveling over the river and through the woods, I’ll be subbing at Samyama for those teachers who have family to visit, marathons to run and workshops to attend. Please join me on these days:

Friday 29th November at 4:00 PM for Slow Flow

Sunday 1st December at 10:30 AM for Yin Influenced Flow

Monday 9th December at 7:00 AM for Shakti Reset

Wednesday 11th December at 7:00 AM for Shakti Reset

Thursday 2nd January at 9:30 for Slow Flow

Sunday 5th January at 10:30 for Yin Influenced Flow

(after that I’ll be ready for some subs of my own!)

 

Finally, classes at Avenidas Senior Center are on holiday break. They will resume the week of January 6th. You can register for the winter quarter online by visiting the website or by visiting them in person. I teach Hatha Yoga on Mondays from 1:00 to 2:00 and Chair Yoga on Fridays from 10:30 to 11:30.

 

May we be filled with gratitude for gifts received and find joy in the giving. May our winter be filled with warmth, love and comfort…..and yoga!