Friday, November 16, 2012
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
- to accept without causing pain
- self mortification
- to heat
"Discipline" has come to be a bit of a bad word in some parts of our society, especially among liberals and youth. For people who seek freedom and self-discovery, any idea of limitation or rigidness might appear antithetical.
Yet, Patanjali says in this sutra that we need tapas if we are to journey on the path to freedom (samadhi).
Many years ago I heard Gary Kraftsow describe a certain delicious fruit near his home in Hawaii. But, this fruit was not digestible until cooked. The heating process made it possible for nourishment to occur. He used this as a metaphor for tapas.
Does discipline need to involve pain? I don't think so. Perhaps it involves discomfort. But, if we don't choose a healthy discipline for growth, we are likely to bump into more painful experiences that will teach us the lesson in a more difficult way. This is why the doctor tells us to exercise: because the other option is to have health problems resulting from lack of exercise.
The good news about discipline is that it eventually starts to feel good to know that we are taking care of ourselves and investing in a healthy future. This is why people who have a routine of yoga look forward to their regular practice.
I invite you to consider what discipline means to you. And ask some of your loved ones...how does discpline help in their lives?
Friday, July 2, 2010
As I have heard friends and students discussing surgeries and illnesses this week, I am keenly aware of the importance of evangelizing "restorative yoga."
Perhaps you are in a period when you know that you long for the calm and renewal of yoga, but don't have the energy or ability to do vigorous, moving poses. This is why restorative yoga exists. Sometimes we need constructive rest. Each poses aligns the spine and supports the joints in a way that allows the inner systems of the body to do their natural processing. Digestion gets flowing again. Lungs oxygenate. Lymph moves. The immune system refills its well.
In the teachings of Judith Lasater, a yoga teacher and physical therapist focusing on restorative yoga, I have heard the term "Rest and digest" as an option to "fight or flight." This might mean to digest our food, or it might mean to digest life issues---joys, griefs, mysteries.
When I consider the time to digest mysteries, I am reminded of the prayer practice lectio divina. In this method, a passage of sacred text is read multiple times. I have heard the metaphor of taking a bite, tasting it, savoring it, digesting it, allowing nourishment. This is what makes lectio divina different than prayer that is vigorous or heated, like some kinds of yoga.
In Psalm 23, the author says that his shepherd leads him beside still waters and restores his soul. Restoring. Restoring the soul.
Isn't that what we all need time for? I wish for you to find restoration through prayer and yoga---to digest what life has brought you.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
As risk of oversimplification, we can think of the gunas this way. The fast moving water is like the trait of rajas, which is energetic. The slow moving water is like the trait of tamas, which is sluggish. The flowing water is like the trait of sattva, which is clear.
These qualities of nature (the gunas) are the foothold of Samkhya philosophy, and are often referred to in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Patanjali assumed that the student would already know these basic constituents of nature, and builds many of his arguments on this foundation. If you want to see more, check out: Book II Sutras18-19 and Book IV Sutras 13-14; 32-34.
I see these qualities in students as they arrive at class. After class, they often report that they have a renewed sense of balance and clarity. It often comes out like this: "I'm so glad I came, even though I was tired. Now I have some energy!" Or, "I was so amped up before class. Now, I still have energy, but I feel calm at the same time."
Sometimes, during class, I ask students to observe their minds. Are their thoughts tumbling like the rapids in a stream? Or is their mind lethargic? Ideally, by the end of an appropriate asana and pranayama practice, their minds feel clear and flowing.
And what better way to approach life?
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sanskrit workshop with Alex McGee
Sunday June 27, 4 – 6 pm at Polarity Barn in Batesville through
To register, contact me, or Kate Hallahan at Guerilla Yoga Project.
Depending on your goals, you can gain:
* more confidence saying the Sanskrit words in front of your class;
* the pleasure of sharing in a chant;
* greater understanding of how the rules of Sanskrit show up in the verses that you already know.
We will review Sanskrit letters, grammar, and pronunciation, and apply this to a chant or verse.
This class will follow a similar format to the April workshop, and we will repeat this format in coming months. By repeating this standard format, we hope to provide a place for new folks to be exposed to Sanskrit and experienced folks to have review. If you have questions, bring them to class or e-mail Alex beforehand (alexandramcgee(AT)gmail). We hope to be an ongoing local resource.
Here's a little bio in case your friends are wondering who this teacher is...Alexandra McGee has been studying Asian languages since 1989, and Sanskrit since 2002. Alex studied Sanskrit for two years at UC Berkeley with Sally Goldman. She also learned from Cynthia Snodgrass, using the methods of Vyaas Huston, of the American Sanskrit Institute. She is eager to help others apply Sanskrit for yoga teaching, for sacred settings, and studying ancient texts.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
What can I say? It seems that some of us just have a hankering to know more. Maybe because the sacred sounds nourish us and we yearn for more. Maybe because we'd like to pronounce the names of the poses. Maybe because the more we learn, the more we see the rich complexity of yogic theory.
So....you are invited to come to a workshop on April 11 at 4 pm in Batesville, Virginia, where we'll explore all these things. If you are a visual learner, an auditory learner, an extorverted learner, or introverted learner---there will be something for you.
To register, contact the Guerilla Yoga Project. I look forward to playing in Sanskrit with you!
Monday, February 8, 2010
One of them said, “Well, I just know myself better when I do yoga.”
Another said, “When I do the poses, I feel things in my body that I didn’t feel before. And, I feel feelings that I might not take the time to feel otherwise.”
Ah. What treasure.
I, myself, have valued my yoga journey because of how it helps me feel things inside. I believe that each of us has an inner compass. Some of us can read this compass through thinking, some through images that come to our minds, and some through how we feel inside.
Once, my teacher, Sandra Pleasants, suggested that we imagine a garden hose. If there are kinks in the hose, the water can’t flow. So, she said for us to get in triangle pose, then see if each arm and each leg felt like a garden hose flowing. Or were there kinks? What did we need to adjust to get the flow going? Sometimes it was to rotate a joint, soften a joint, engage a muscle, or breathe differently.
Similarly, when we find ourselves in situations in life, we can ask ourselves: are there kinks in the garden hose right now? Perhaps you can recall a time when you made an adjustment in your life and suddenly everything flowed better?
Yoga helps us practice feeling this flow on a more and more subtle level, so that eventually, hopefully… whether in a yoga pose, a work decision, or family communication … we can be in touch with it, and it can guide our actions whenever we need.