Summer is in full swing here in Utah and that means practicing outside whenever possible! Here’s a picture of my favorite summer practice space, my own backyard. Don’t get me wrong, practicing in a class with beloved teachers and friends is fantastic and I highly encourage that but having your own private practice is so very important. If you only practice in class and with that one teacher, then you have missed the purpose of yoga entirely. Yoga is about you and only about you. Does your teacher encourage you to practice at home or do they talk only about coming to the studio? If your teacher isn’t encouraging home practice, isn’t helping you move your practice off the mat and out of the studio, then it’s time for a new teacher. It is that simple.
Ok, enough of me pontificating about what your practice should be like. Let me tell you something about mine. I took the above picture Thursday afternoon just before I began my practice for the day. The air was warm and I felt fantastic but my day didn’t start that way. I woke with a fuzzy head and during my drive to work, my right ear canal was the center of so much pain that I could not see clearly through my right eye. I excused myself from work and carefully made my way home. Once home, my fantastic friend, Dhruti, brought me some garlic oil and herbal tinctures to help relieve the pain and speed my recovery. How fast was my recovery? It was only a few hours until I felt almost good as new. I asked myself what else I needed and I knew I needed to be out back on my mat.
My practice was nearing its end. I was seated in a simple matsyendrasana and I felt it: My lower back opened up, released a huge amount of energy and began to spasm. I’ve known this feeling on and off over the years and immediately came out of the pose. I expected a sore back for a few days but figured I would be able to continue my regular activities including teaching a posture class and leading Yoga Nidra that night. Less than 30 minutes later, the spasms in my back were so strong that I could barely breathe. The first time I injured my back was moving boxes weighing 15 lbs. I needed two full weeks off work to recover. What I experienced Thursday night was much worse.
Fast forward 36 hours as I write this. I can walk around the house with the aid of a walking stick and I can begin to slowly fold forward while seated in a chair. This is a huge improvement from Thursday night when I needed 15 minutes to crawl on my hands and knees from the couch 15 feet to the bathroom. Why the quick recovery? I attribute it to four very specific things: 1) My brother-in-law, Brad, and another neighbor, Garth, gave me a blessing which promised a quick recovery and that I would be “directed how to move to speed the healing of [my] body.” 2) Yoga, my practice has taught me how to listen closely enough to my body to feel the directions promised in that blessing. 3) My tempurpedic mattress, it provides perfect support and takes all the pressure off of my back so it can relax completely. 4) My sweet wife and youngest daughter, their kind hands and strength have helped me when I quite literally could not help myself.
Ok, I have completely worn myself out writing this. I’ll be in touch again soon. Until the, Jai Bhagwan!
May all you mothers who have given the sweet blessing of life be honored and blest.
May all you mothers who tenderly care for your children be showered with love.
May all you women who nurture and care be remembered as the sweet mothers you are.
Is there any more blessed name than Mother? I surely think not, may God’s greatest blessings be on all mothers this day and every.
May all children everywhere, the very young and the very old, give thanks and dearest love to all we call Mother.
How did you do with yesterday’s challenge? I was amazed at my own reluctance to do tell my own family that I loved them. That was something we didn’t do as children and it wasn’t any easier to begin yesterday either. I actually felt silly for wanting to say and do it! I attended a family Christmas party and as the party began to wind down, I started giving hugs and saying “I love you” to each family member. With each hug and uttered word, what I was doing became easier and I was able to better feel the love that was returned to me.
Today’s challenge will take a bit more determination. We all have broken bridges in our relationships. Some bridges are just in disrepair and others have fallen to the chasm floor, far below. Pick one of those bridges and do what you can to begin repairing or rebuilding it. This can be something as simple as writing a letter or as courageous as going to their door and talking with them.
What should you say? Say two things: First, say that you miss them and second tell them that you love them. Say nothing more than that and accept whatever they say or do in response.
Yoga is the science of the soul, of peace and joy and love; yet, yoga is well known for teaching warrior pose. Why would anything focused on peace and joy and love need warriors? Warriors are needed because some actions, such as my challenge for today, demand a warrior’s courage.
Do you feel sorrow or grief because of yesterday’s events? That is entirely natural and, to a degree, healthy. Do you feel guilt because of yesterday’s events? Some in the area where this happened feel so guilty that they are taking down decorations. Stop. Stop right now. There is not a single one of us living that should feel guilty for being alive and enjoying life. Celebrate, those children would definitely not want their deaths to make you feel guilty.
Many are trying to make sense of this. Stop. You cannot make sense of it, it was a senseless act, an act of madness and none of us can understand the madness that caused this man to act as he did. Can you imagine a life so bleak that this would be the only solution you could see before you? I know I cannot, no sane person can but this man did.
Why do things like this happen? As a society, we are becoming more and more isolated and disconnected. How connected are you to your neighbors? Do you know their favorite activities or hobbies or where they work or who their parents are or when their birthday is? Do you even know their names? We are becoming, more and more, a nation without love. Without love, we become disconnected and isolated. Isolated, we cannot protect each other, cannot care for each other.
This man’s mind was broken to where he saw such horrible violence as the only answer to end his own suffering. Where was the love and care he needed to protect him BEFORE he reached this point?
Act in love.
I challenge myself and each of you that reads this to act in love every day. From now until Christmas I will post a new daily challenge to remind us all to act in love.
Today’s challenge has multiple parts: First, go to your mirror and look into your own eyes. See yourself, all the shiny bits and all the warty parts and say aloud, “I love you, Ramdas.” Of course, use your own name in there please. Do it now and before you go to bed. Do it every day for the rest of your life at least once a day.
Second, hug every family member you see today, look into their eyes and tell them you love them just like you did for yourself. “I love you, Grandpa. ”
Big Love to each of you!
It’s November and for many that means it’s a month of gratitude. On Facebook, I’ve been invited to be part of Month of Gratitude by two friends and a number of my friends post there every day. So far, I have not joined the event nor have I posted anything for which I am grateful.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel gratitude every day. I see reasons for gratitude everywhere I look but that was not always the case and when I try to explain the wonder and amazement that fill me with gratitude, I see confusion on many people’s faces. The reason is that I really do see reasons for gratitude almost everywhere.
A co-worker said he was feeling a bit ill; I immediately felt grateful that I could share a recipe for thyme syrup with him. That gratitude increased when he sent me a text later that day saying, “FYI you [sic] voodoo medicine is awesome!” In turn, I felt gratitude for my friend, Dhruti, who gave me the recipe in the first place.
In 2009, I studied with Eric Walrabenstein. He said something that I will never forget: “A truly enlightened person sees the divine everywhere, even in the warm pile of dog shit he just stepped in with his bare foot and is now squishing between his toes.” I studied with him again in 2010 and heard him say, “Keeping a gratitude journal is kindergarten stuff.” He went on to explain that a truly enlightened person would be grateful for everything and not just the good things in life. I knew what he meant and experienced it when, a few nights later, I pushed him into delivering a scathing critique of my teaching during the training session. He was brutally honest and there were some wet eyes in the back of the room when he finished but I felt only gratitude as Eric verbally filleted my teaching. To this day, I am thankful for that experience because it helps me to step up and be the teacher he knew I could be.
I have since heard from someone else who was present for all of these experiences as well. She told me that last year she was diagnosed with cancer and that within less than 24 hours she found gratitude for her situation because of what Eric had said. With that, I challenge you to be grateful . . . for everything. A daily gratitude journal is a great way to start but remember, as Eric said, it is only kindergarten stuff.
Earlier this evening I received a very exciting phone call and follow-up email. Before I say anything more about that, let me tell you a little about my way home from Florida last month. As I drove, I really felt my own desire to teach. I also found the source of that desire to teach: Love. I Love and I express that love best through teaching. Teaching allows me to spread the joy and happiness that I have. I acknowledged all of this to God as I drove, we had plenty of time to talk during my three days of travel.
I realized that I had recognized this while I was actually in Florida training still, I also realized that I expected some kind of miracle when I returned home. I knew that I needed to do a couple of things; so, I did that and now I was expecting the pay off, miracle time. Nothing or so I thought. Fast forward to Monday night of this week and I’m having another conversation with God—actually, we talk daily but we were back to the subject of teaching again. Basically the conversation went like this: “I want to teach and only teach. I don’t know how to make it happen; so, I’m letting it go. I know you want me to teach too; so, I’m leaving it in your hands now.” “OK” was the reply. The last time I did that, I said I was done with the dating game, if I’m to be married then you will have to arrange it. OK was the reply then too and two weeks later Shanna called me for a date and eight months later we were married.
That was 48 hours ago and since then things are moving of their own accord. Two possible opportunities have arisen for me to introduce Yoga Nidra to groups that provide counseling and now, as I wrote at the beginning, I have received a very exciting phone call and email. A friend knows of an opening teaching yoga in a corporate setting. He called me about it and forwarded on all the information he had about the opening.
Here’s the funny thing: I have no more expectation. I know, for a fact, that this story will resolve itself exactly as it is intended to be. We’ll have a great opportunity to watch it unfold together.
I am taking some action to track my sadhana. Part of that is I have started, just today, to email my favorite friend about what happened in my practice. Let me share what I wrote:
Alignment seems to have more ease in it. I usually have to make a number of adjustments from chaturanga dandasana to urdhva mukha svanasana, moving hands or feet, but not so today. Body just flowed forward almost effortlessly.
Continued on through the postures and I noticed that I was not shaking quite as much as I have been. Also really engaged every muscle I could in every posture. I definitely had more energy and no lethargy moving out of each pose. One noticeable exception was natarajasana with the right leg raised. There was absolutely no life in that right leg, almost painfully so.
As I continued through the sequence, I came to ardha shalabasana and had a very unexpected experience: I pressed my hips down and both legs came off the floor high enough my hips started lifting off my arms. Went into ardha shalabasana and each leg came up only a portion of what happened in the full posture. No ego reaction to it though.
Moved into ardha navasana, paripurna navasana with less shaking and more ease in the breath. As I came down into dandasana, my tail bone was already behind me and the sits bones were well place. That never happens and was a nice thing to experience. As I folded into paschimottanasana, I could feel my back opening and exhaled forward slightly more and heard and felt a very sloppy sounding pop in my low back just above the sacrum. Minor sense of electricity but no real pain. I felt slight discomfort in setu bandhasana but gentle movement helped relieve that.
Sitting, as I do most of the day, is stiffening up my back though, very uncomfortable; so, I have been squirming and walking to keep the area from seizing up. No real pain though.
Whether you like yoga or the way I teach is really none of my concern. I don’t teach to be liked. I don’t teach to collect a following of students. I teach because there is immense power in yoga to experience CHANGE.
If you are not yet willing to CHANGE, then perhaps aerobics or weight lifting or even some yoga classes at Gold’s Gym would be more in line with where you need to be right now. So, what kind of changes might you see if you commit yourself to a regular practice with me or with Dhruti at Shanta Yoga? You might see greater flexibility, strength and balance. You could lower your blood pressure and reduce your mental and emotional stress. You might even find more happiness and joy in every day life.
How can simple stretching do all of this? Well, that’s the secret isn’t it? Come to the studio and I’ll happily share all my secrets with you.
No practice this day.
Added 19 March 2012
07:00 Asana—60 minutes
As I practiced, I heard the words “It is 100 times more effective.” I have heard this said in relationship to pranayama being more effective than asana, to meditation being more effective than pranayama and to yoga nidra being more effective than seated meditation. I have simply taken this as being representative of truth, with each of these practices being more effective than the more basic practice that precedes it. This morning, however, questions arose on hearing those words. “More effective at what?” “How is it more effective?”
Added 19 March 2012