Wobblyogi Wednesday -Book Club Notes 3

So….how’s the reading going? Do you find yourself noting moments of mindfulness during your day? Do you hear Judith Laster’s gentle advice to heed the feelings of impatience and fear? Somedays I am more self-aware than others. This week’s notes cover topics about our relationship with ourselves:  faith, perspective, courage and relaxation.

“….I came to understand that belief is a preconception about the way reality should be; faith is the willingness to experience reality as it is, including the acceptance of the unknown.”

Spirituality in all forms begins with the premise that we can’t know how everything connects, a faith in something greater than our limited existence. I liked one of mantras for daily living that Lasater offers in the chapter: ” Faith is the quiet cousin of courage.” It prompted me to ask myself what do I have faith in? How does that faith guide my actions and days? Does faith help me to stay in the reality as it is or is it a belief in how reality should be?

“With our willingness to have perspective, not only do we increase our ability to disinguish the important from the unimportant, we also increase our capacity for compassion toward ourselves and others.”

To take life’s challenges big or small as an invitation to shift our perspective and our expectations is so difficult. What do I consider demanding or challenging? Why? How could that challenging person or event help me see differently? How do I let go of my stubborn perspective and let myself see from another person’s perspective? In the current political climate, I’ve been feeling particularly challenged to see from different perspectives who see immigrants and Muslims as potential threats, who see me as a potential threat to national security. Can I feel compassion for that fear? In an effort to see from a different perspective I’ve widened my collection of daily newspapers and reading [highly recommend: Strangers in their own Land by Hochschild and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates], refrained from deleting people from my media stream,  I’ve appealed to my faith in the innate goodness  of people and mostly I’ve cultivated my gratitude . Yes, perspective has lately required much effort. Lasater’s mantra, “The worse could happen; the best could happen. Life is usually somewhere in between.” helps.

The next topic that flows from perspective is courage; to act out of compassion instead of fear.

….those times when I have been most afraid were when I felt disconnected from God, from Sprit, from the Universe, from family and friends, and, most importantly, from my own heart. Courage cannot exist in isolation.

To have courage in the face of the unknown and of shifting perspectives is to rely on a deep commitment to the connections that sustain us. What is worthy of my courage, my action? What is worthy of struggle?

As if sensing our strain, from the demands of faith, perspective and courage, Lasater concludes the section about yoga within yourself with…..relaxation.

This is a key to living yoga. Watching thoughts of anger, greed, boredom, impatience, I was no longer at the mercy of them. I had some space to choose what I would say and do in a way I never had before. I began to recognize patterns; I began to take it all more lightly. By learning to relax, I experienced less physical tension, which allowed me to see my monkey mind, which allowed me to let go of it a bit, which allowed me to feel more connected to the present moment, which is another word for the Infinite.

Oddly, relaxation takes practice. To develop the skill of relaxation, I allow myself to be a spectator instead of an actor. As I witness my thoughts, actions, emotions, I begin to realize that I am more than all those aspects of myself. And, more importantly, the person next to me is also more than her actions, thoughts, and emotions. That “something more” is what we all share. It is not by accident that Shavasana or corpse pose is a reference to our shared mortality with all living things.

The progression of these chapters asking us to notice our faith, perspective, courage, and relaxation was difficult. How can we be both courageous and relaxed at the same time? How can we witness and act at the same time? How can we honor ourselves and other perspectives too?

Part two, about our connection with others, begins to address my concerns. Not surprisingly the first topic in the next section is compassion.

Tell me about your thoughts about reading. How do you feel about the topics? Are they challenging for you? How do you resolve the seeming contradictions that I see?

Wishing you happy reading and ease,

the Wobblyogi

 

 

 

 

Wobblyogi Wednesday – Book Club Notes 1

Welcome to the yoga bookclub hosted by Community Yoga in Indiana!

Living Your Yoga – Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Lasater (Berkley, CA: Rodmell Press, 2000)

For more information on Judith Lasater herself and quick background, look up her website: http://www.judithhansonlasater.com/

[The notes relate to the first edition. I recently got the second edition and will note any significant changes. Her introduction to the second edition talks about the additions.]

If you have the book already in hand, let’s get started with the introduction where Lasater talks about how she came to yoga, how she understands yoga, how she “lives her yoga” and how she designed the book.

Here are a few passages and associated questions that resonated wih me and I can’t wait to hear which phrases, passages or ideas resonated with you.

Thought 1

Lasater talks about her experience in coping with childbirth, her background as a dancer and her “desire for a direct and personal relationship with divine,” as factors that led her to seek out and continue to practice yoga.

She writes, ” What I now know is that I had been seeking wholeness through integration of my body, my mind and my spirit.”

For us,we can ask,

What do I seek?

What brings me to yoga?

What makes me stay?

Thought 2

Laster’s yoga practice, she explains, responds to her search for wholeness.

…to practice is to pay attention to your whole life: your thoughts, your bodily sensations, and your speech and other actions. As you do, you will discover that nothing is separate from anything else. Thoughts are sensations of the mind just as sensations are the thoughts of the body. Each moment of your life is a moment of potential practice.

Practice, then, can be understood as a willingness to return to the reality of the very moment, that is, to observe with dispassion and clarity exactly what is — right now.

What is happening right NOW in my life? Why am I hosting a book club? Writing these words? What do I hope for my thoughts, feelings and sensations?

How do I connect to my own wholeness?

How do I connect to this very moment?

How do I connect with you my fellow readers?

Thought 3

After Lasater describes the structure of the book she concludes the introduction with a quote from Dag Hammarskjold, secretary general to the United Nations (1953-61):

In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.

She then asks us to “use this book in whatever ways best serve your needs. Living Your Yoga is my gift to you.”

What might be my road, my world of action?

How might I best use Lasater’s gift of  Living Your Yoga?

Here are my quick thoughts. What are yours? How might we bring these thoughts to our practice?

Let’s talk!

Let the book club begin!!

Anyone reading can join the conversation on this blog, just add your comments below. There is also a protected discussion platform. For a password and more information about the bookclub and April 1st workshop, go to:  https://communityyogalafayette.com/book-club/

Much love,

The Wobblyogi

My plan for offering notes to help us stay with the book is as follows:

January 13: Chapters 1-4
February 1: Chapters 5-7  (and additional chapter on relaxation)
February 15: Chapters 8-11
March 1: Chapters 12-14
March 15: Chapters 15-18 (and additional second edition chapter on empathy)
March 29: Chapters 19-21 (and additional second edition chapter on worship)
April 1: Book Club Workshop

 

Wobblyogi Wednesday – Burnt Cookies and a Joyful mind

If you feel burdened by the expectation to have a Happy Holiday or a Merry Christmas   Here is a story about keeping a joyful mind from Pema Chodron that might help (and it involves food).

Once a cook at Gampo camp was feeling very unhappy. Like most of us, she kept finding gloom with her actions and her thoughts; hour by hour her mood was getting darker. She decided to try to ventilate her escalating emotions by baking chocolate chip cookies. Her plan backfired, however — she burned them all to a crisp. At that point, rather than dump the burned cookies in the garbage, she stuffed them into her pockets and backpack and went out for a walk. She trudged along the dirt road, her head hanging down and her mind burning with resentment. She was saying to herself, “So where’s all the beauty and magic I keep hearing about?”

At that moment she looked up. There walking toward her was a little fox. Her mind stopped and she held her breath and watched. The fox sat down right in front of her, gazing up expectantly. She reached into her pockets and pulled out some cookies. The fox ate them and slowly trotted away. She told this story to all of us at the abbey, saying: “I learned today that life is very precious. Even when we’re determined to block the magic, it will get through and wake us up. That little fox taught me that no matter how shut down we get, we can always look outside our cocoon and connect with joy.”

When in doubt go for a walk………….

A quick reminder to join the Community Yoga Book Club! We’ll start reading “Living Your Yoga” by Judith Lasater on January 4th. Order your copy today. I found an inexpensive used version on Amazon.

Please join me for morning vinyasa on Wednesdays at 6 am and afternoon vinyasa at 12:15 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting January 5th.

Also, find me at two workshops in spring,  March 25th (Spring Workshop) and April 1st (Book Club Workshop). More details to come.

If you are new to yoga and in the area: Community Yoga is offering $54 unlimited yoga for your first month [a $99 value]. Please take advantage of the deal and try out all our classes and meet our wonderful yoga instructors.

Come to our donation classes on Sundays and give what you can. We are trying our best to make yoga accessible to everyone!

Wishing you joyful connections,

wobblyogi

Wobblyogi Wednesday – Book Club!

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Dear Fellow Yogis Near and Far,

I invite you to join the book club hosted by Community Yoga in West Lafayette (and Lafayette) Indiana. I’ll be offering bi-weekly notes and discussion prompts starting January 4th leading up to an April 1st workshop at the studio complete with an asana practice inspired by the reading, as well as a book discussion. Read along, join the open online discussion, the protected group discussion (email for a password at communityyogalafayette@gmail.com) and attend the workshop. Do it all or in part as your schedule allows.

Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life is our first book. I  was inspired by the Patanjali 101 online course I just completed with Judith Lasater. I enjoyed her commitment to cultivating yoga principles both on and off the mat. As a mom, I related to a lot of her stories and struggles. The book is organized in short thematic chapters that are easy to read. I found it a gentle introduction to yoga philosophy that avoids pedantic technical theorizing and perfect for starting conversations.

The main question she prompts me to ask myself is:

If the road to holiness passes through the world of action, what is your road? 

I hope you join the conversation and help me with directions.

Wishing you goodness and ease,

The Wobblyogi

p.s. Look up https://communityyogalafayette.com/book-club/for more information and to sign up for the protected discussion group and/or the workshop.

Wobblyogi Wednesday – Lunch Time Vinyasa!

My dear West Lafayette friends for whom my 6 am Wednesday Sunrise Yoga session is too early,

Welcome to my Tuesday and Thursday 12:15 – 1:00 p.m. yoga sessions starting next week, September 6th. Here are three reasons to join me,

Reason number 3: Short and gentle session open to all levels of yogis.

The shortened session is intended to be an afternoon break from the desk.  We’ll do a few standing poses to help recover our strength and ground, balance poses to help us focus on our remaining work and hip openers to help us sit through the rest of the workday.

Reason number 2: Wear comfortable work clothes.

No need to change into gym clothes. If you can take a wide stand, fold forward and take your legs up to the sky (comfortably and without flashing anyone),  any stretchy pants and shirt combination will work.  I don’t plan on getting us hot and sweaty. Despite the commercialization, there is no need for specialized yoga clothes! There I said it.

[If you feel the need to change, our bathroom is always available.]

Reason number 1: Grown-up rest time – Savasana.

Doesn’t a mid-day short break sound wonderful? Take yourself back to pre-school nap time (without the drool, waiting for your parents to pick you up, eyes half open, imprints of the mat on your face etc.). Nurture yourself, move your achy joints and muscles, stop the noise and hear yourself breathe for a few moments before you go back to your busy day.

A single session is $15. Try it. If you like it, treat yourself to one of the many packages. Sign up is easy on the Community Yoga Website: https://communityyogalafayette.com

Come move, breathe and rest with me!

Hope to see you next week,

The Wobblyogi

Image from a yoga studio in Bristol England: https://flowyogabristol.co.uk/. I would go there if I lived there. But, I don’t. Sigh. The lady looks so blissful.

 

 

Wobblyogi Wednesday – Jar of Pickles

A jar of pickles….is not a standard yoga practice theme. Since I started teaching Sunrise Morning Yoga classes, I’ve been thinking about opening, waking up and ways to unfold. The first week I looked at poses that reminded me of opening a book like dancing warrior. The second week I looked at poses that made me think of flowers blooming or birds taking flight, like locust, ustrasana or brikasana. This week I looked to gentle twists, like opening a jar, like a revolved side angle or twisted chair. Exploring how we wake up and open to the world through yogic poses and movement has been fun. We started seated one day, in a child pose another and today from a reclined position. Each start progressed through the standard sequencing practices of centering, sun salutations and warmup, standing poses, balance poses, seated poses and back to floor. At this point, I’m getting better at time awareness and “feeling” where I should be in the sequence. I still have to figure out my unique concluding phrase that each yoga instructor seems to have. Do I even need one? I don’t know yet.

Today I’ve been thinking about Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) and how the soul (and nature) is understood as movement, as animation. Can there be philosophy-themed yoga sequences? Nietzsche would definitely require a headstand. Hegel, a lot of opposing movements and then centering. Aristotle would definitely be an Iyengar practitioner, attentive to alignment between movements. Hmmm…I like thinking about this strange yoga thematic turn in practicing philosophies of embodiment. My mind is certainly wobblying now!

Maybe I need to compose Philosophers do Yoga like Monty Python’s Philosopher’s World Cup. Makes me laugh every time. Enjoy!

Wishing you ease and laughter,

The Wobblyogi

Image from: https://daphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/yoga/

Wobblyogi Wednesday- YTT Journal Week 20

Graduation!

Where did the time go???? We officially graduated from our 200 hour yoga teacher training yesterday. I was just getting started. Yoga is so much bigger and so much more generous than I ever imagined. There is a path for everyone and the fun part is discovering your own. I came to yoga to calm my frenetic hungry philosopher mind. In the vast yoga terrain I like to roam Hatha yoga, Vinyasa and Yin. As Jacqueline would say “let your thoughts rest on your breath.” I have found my place of rest on the yoga mat in movement inside and out. Relief.

I was honored to have my fellow yogis at my home for a celebratory dinner. What a wonderful group of people! Our menu included

  • Chicken Kabobs [chicken pieces marinated in yogurt, almonds, saffron, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom]
  • Aloo Gobi [Potatoes and Cauliflower cooked in a raisin, onion, ginger, tumeric, coriander and cumin sauce]
  • Eggplant and pumpkin [cooked with indian panchforan/five spice, red peppers, tumeric and onions]
  • Three lentil Dal [ a combination of red/masor, yellow/mong, and yellow split peas cooked with tumeric and ghee fried onions]
  • White Basmati rice and store bought naan

We also had a delicious (surprisingly gluten free) brownies, a cake with nutella, a cheese platter, chips and dip, mango and malai ice cream and tiny samosas (the baked frozen packaged kind).

Most importantly, there was laughter. It was a great night celebrating our time together, full of gratitude, good food and friends. Makes any journey worth it.

More wobblyogi adventures to come!

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Yoga image from nobleworks greeting card

 

 

 

 

Wobblyogi Wednesday -YTT Journal Week 7

This week we tried to twist, bind, open our hips and open our mind (by reading the first book of Patanjali). My brain is unlikely to recover. All my adult life I have worked to expand my mind, to use the art of reasoning, to imagine things…so much so that I studied architecture and philosophy as long as I could. Wrote a dissertation about dwelling in the world. And here I am trying to restrain my mind in order to dwell in the world! What! Mind blown……

The two sutras so far that have me twisted and bound are numbers 2 and 17. Yes…I was stuck at number two…after the very first sentence….”Now yoga instruction.”

2: “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”

17: “Samprajnata samadhi (distinguishing discerning) is accompanied by reasoning, reflecting, rejoicing and pure I-am-ness.

Instead of taking over the world we are trying to notice ourselves in the world. See ourselves as a perspective and not the perspective. Avoid the mouse brain delusion and disappointment.

pinky_and_the_brain_by_jrwcole-d4atvge-606.jpgBook Patanjali Book One tells us why we practice yoga….to restrain the brain. These sutras present yoga as a combination of mental restraint and mindful reasoning, reflecting, rejoicing and recognizing the “I” that appeals to the universal. The self is both restrained and empowered by encouraging selfless and limiting selfish acts. Thinking should help us be kind, not right or worse righteous. Non-judgmental thinking is an incredible challenge. It is so easy to put things in boxes of right,wrong, good or bad. I don’t know if we can  ever see our intentions clearly. Yoga, if anything is  a working evolving practice of seeing ourselves in the world.

We were also introduced to a kundalini practice and a short Ashtanga practice. The rhythm and use of breath were unique in each. All these diverse styles of yoga show how widely the connecting practice is interpreted. We started learning about all the considerations of balancing, building up, slowing down, safety, creativity, modifications and more in sequencing poses. Our homework involved observing a yoga class. While it was difficult for me to watch a class and not participate, the process was helpful in noticing a class from a teacher perspective. The small details of class managment…music, delivering a prop, responding the rising stress in the room etc. We have two more observations to complete. Next time I’d like to focus on how students receive the cues.

For next week, we (the 8 of us) are collectively teaching a class to ourselves and our homework is to individually design a whole session. I feel eager, ready and apprehensive. It seems like we’ve been learning to spell words are now expected to form sentences that make sense. I suppose stuttering is better than babbling.

At this two month mark, I feel more porous….like a sponge, stretched, twisted, squished, soaked and drained. I am quick to notice the few aches and pains that pop up. I find I notice and enjoy what I eat more. When I  feel stress rising in me, I try to remove myself sooner than I would have before. I notice when I feel a negative emotional charge or a hook, conversely, I also notice the positive charges. I still struggle in meditation, in quieting the mind, allowing my mind to roam as it pleases. For now.

I am so thankful for my gentle and patient guides, Jacqueline and Betsy and my seven curious and kind companions in this journey.

Wishing all of you easy breathing,

Wobblyogi

 

 

Image fromhttp://8tracks.com/spocktine/soundtrack-for-world-domination

Wobblyogi Wednesday – YTT Journal Week 5

 

yoga-timeline-all1.pngI find myself surprised to be at week 6 reporting on week 5. Where did the time go? It feels long in terms of how much I’ve learned and short in terms of knowing that there is so much more to learn. This week was mostly devoted to discussing the history, the branches and styles of yoga. Mapping the stylistically wide and historically deep world of yoga has left me happily lost.  What combinations would my yoga practice include: Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Jnana, Karma, Kundalini? This was as much about my own history and what brought me to yoga as it was about discussing the hazy, dense lineage of yoga practice that feeds into yoga teacher training in small-town Indiana.

Much like the practice of breathing and asanas that honor my body, it seems I have to feel my way through yoga history and principles in a way that honors my mind and my own personal background. Our discussions didn’t shy away from concerns about religious incompatibility, cultural discomfort with chanting and Sanskrit terminology, or distractions of disengaged students. “What is yoga to me?” is the question that resonated like a meditative chime throughout the week. For me, for now,  yoga is an attentive practice uniting mind, body and breath.

For us in the West, more important than the 5000 year old birth of yoga in India is the 1893 arrival of yoga to Chicago with the words of Swami Vivekananda. As Jacqueline explained, each of Khrishnamacharya’s students approached yoga differently. B.K. S Iyengar, himself sickly as a child, saw yoga as a therapeutic strategy involving attention to alignment and the use of various props. T.K.V Desikachar, learning from his father, saw yoga as an individual practice with attention to breath as shared, Pattabi Jois, saw yoga as a way to direct restless and active children-youth and thus developed more physically demanding sequences.  Indra Devi, the first woman and Westerner to be trained opened the first yoga studio in the U.S. and introduced yoga in China and Argentina.

Yoga in the modern world risks commercial dilution of principles while at the same time is recognized as a therapeutic and preventative path towards holistic health. Understanding and assessing contemporary yoga practices around us today, require awareness of our own preferences and needs. What you look for in a yoga teacher or studio will be guided by whether you want a rigorous fitness based practice or a restorative preparation for meditation…and all combinations in-between. One day your body may crave energy and another day calmness. Finding our way to what we need at that particular moment is the benefit of exploring the historical and pedagogical map of yoga. I have to restrain my philosophical penchant for definitions and just enjoy the path of attentive living.

Walk on and keep breathing wherever the day may take you. This is what I learned this week at yoga teacher training.

May we all find the corners of the yoga world that nourish us.

Bowing to the happy places inside you,

The Wobblyogi

Image from: http://gisyogafall2015.blogspot.com/2015/09/complete-notes-yoga-history-singleton.html

Wobblyogi Wednesday – YTT Journal Week 3

This week we were asked to team teach two fifteen minute sequences of standing and balancing poses. Both times, my partners and I tried to insert standing poses like the wide legged forward bend, trikonasona, extended side angle and the pyramid (or balancing poses like tree, dancer, half moon) smoothly into a sequence. Small  moves like turning the direction of our toes and gaze or stepping back or front became crucial components of a fluid transition. When leading the class, it felt like I was stuttering, as if the mind, body and breathing has yet to learn a new combined language.  I have a new appreciation for all those soothing and calmed voiced yoga instructors out there. Making anything seem effortless takes a whole lot of effort!

Betsy lead us through a Hot Progressive Yoga session. It was a combination of challenging poses and ease that builds in intensity through the session. Despite the intensity and sweat, the session did not conjure feelings of athletic breathless panting. I suppose this was my lesson for the week on and off the mat: to keep my breath steady regardless of ease and effort (and to focus on breathing and cue breathing when teaching).

At my third week of regular yoga practice, I do feel more grounded and grateful. I’m more aware of tight muscles and flexible muscles. I feel increased body awareness and am beginning to understand yoga instructions to “connect with your breath,” “ground through your feet,” “stack your hips” etc,. I’m discovering new questions like why is balancing with closed eyes harder? May that be a metaphor for something? I also continue to be amazed by my fellow yogis. What a combination of intelligence, kindness and grace! I am so lucky to breathe and flow with this inclusive and wonderful little community.

Oh….and we had our first test. It was a good reminder of all that we have learned already. And, of course of things we need to notice as important to remember.

It was a good week. We are no longer strangers. Wherever we started we have all started to deepen our practice.

This week’s yogi snack…dear readers I would love suggestions. What do you like to eat before or after practice? Vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free options seem difficult to make portable and share-able. Thoughts? Any cook book recommendations out there?

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla, granola, jelly
1. Beat egg and sugar together.
2. Mix in peanut butter.
3. Drop tablespoons of dough. Flatten. Makes about 12-15 cookies.
4. Bake 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Cool completely before enjoying!

Recipe from Food Network, Damaris Phillips.

Yoga Elephant image from: https://www.pinterest.com/jenhaussmann/yoga/