When I was in college I was your typical Type-A sorority girl who attended all her classes, studied really hard and actually wanted to understand what I was learning rather than just memorizing and regurgitating it like money. Like a dry sponge, I thirsted for all the information thrown at me to soak into my brain. A never-ending need to ask the question "why" resulted in many circular conversations over dozens of cigarettes with fellow philosophy scholars.
The perpetual quest for understanding why things are the way they are stalked me into my adult life. After studying and teaching yoga for several years I began noticing I actually do understand much more than I credit myself for. Is this self-realization? If it is, do we stop the quest once we feel content? Perhaps this newfound wisdom is a result of aggregated experiences and the mere fact of growing more refined (not older).
Friday, 29 July 2011
To meditate is to focus your attention on one thing. Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t some cryptic and esoteric task-taking place under a Bodhi Tree out in the wilderness. Meditation can happen anywhere at any time. A meditation practice strengthens our capacity for focused attention. Meditation is a tool to achieve clarity of thought and relief from life’s frustrations and stresses. To experience the benefits of mantra meditation it’s important to practice patience and non-judgment during each meditation session because the human mind, referred to as the monkey mind will undoubtedly wander aimlessly through its vast forests of thoughts and emotional responses. How many times throughout your day do you become sidetracked or distracted from your original intentions? The ability to place and maintain your attention where you choose to is both empowering and liberating.
Mantra meditations are words or phrases that are chanted verbally or mentally. Usually a mantra is prescribed to a student by a guru or teacher. Mantra can also be self-prescribed. For example, by choosing to mediate on the word "love" or "compassion" the mediator invites more love or compassion into their field of awareness and therefore into their life. The word or phrase is the object of meditation giving the mind something to focus on. You will notice your mind pulling your attention outwards, away from the mantra. Sounds in the immediate environment, sensations in your body and of course thoughts will enter and occupy the mind; yet instead of entertaining these distractions, allow them to enter your stream of consciousness and then choose to recommit to the mantra. You will notice these distractions will exit your stream of consciousness as quickly as they entered. With a consistent meditation mantra practice the physical world of distraction begins to gradually fade away and the only thing the meditator construes as reality is the spoken or mental mantra. Ultimately, after a long mantra meditation the mantra itself begins to dissolve until there is nothing but serene and expansive consciousness. No thoughts, no words, no judgment, just space.
YOGI TIDBIT TO TRY:
This mantra was given to me by Julian Walker, a true guru.
Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit. Close your eyes. Watch the quality of your breathing for a few cycles of breath. Remember that the breath is four-part with the inhalation, the pause after the inhalation, the exhalation and the pause after the exhalation. Begin verbally or mentally reciting the following mantra:
MAY I BE WELL. MAY I BE HAPPY AND SAFE. MAY I BE HEALTHY AND STRONG. MAY I BE FREE FROM SUFFERING AND THAT WHICH CAUSES ME TO SUFFER. MAY I BE WELL.
Begin by reciting this mantra five times. Then build up gradually. Practice this mantra anytime, especially in times when you feel self-doubt and self-conscious.
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
The main goal of So You Think You Can Yoga?® is to demystify some of the common misperceptions people have about yoga. One of them is the notion that unless you are naturally flexible yoga is uncomfortable and impossible. Yes, the asanas do require flexibility but they also require strength. With a consistent practice, flexibility and strength develop together; like a married couple. They are two sides of the same coin. People who tend to be on the stiff side usually fare better with poses that require more strength. People who are more on the flexible side tend to do better with poses that facilitate elongation of the muscles and ligaments. Neither one is more advanced than the other per se. The degree of difficulty really depends on which side of the coin you identify with the most. Yoga is about balance. The goal is to reach equilibrium between the two sides of this coin.
Astavakrasana is an “advanced” asana because there are several elements to it. Astavakrasana illustrates the duality of yoga specific to a yoga practice because it requires core strength and flexibility. Below is a sequence of asanas designed to help prepare your body for astavakrasana. It helps to think about this pose in terms of component parts, which include the core and hip flexibility. The sequence below strengthens the core muscles while simultaneously targeting external rotation of the hip joints.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
I recently saw a commercial on television in which a yoga instructor endorses Advil. I thought to myself, "wow, this is irony at its best!" Isn't yoga the "natural" painkiller? By participating in the commercial, yoga instructor Lacey Calvert deflates the value and the physical benefits of yoga. Many people turn to yoga precisely because they experience pain and because they believe yoga can help extinguish their physical discomfort. This commercial is just another cunning attempt by Big Pharma to shove another pill down our throats in an attempt to solve our problems. Instead of unnecessarily creating another bad habit and popping a pain pill, think about what caused your physical pain. Did you exhaust all possible options to alleviate the pain or are you simply choosing the easiest and most available option? Click here to view the ad.
Monday, 18 July 2011
Uncertain socioeconomic times leave many struggling to stay afloat. No jobs, no discretionary income and no apparent light at the end of the tunnel. What do you do? Where do you turn? Yoga? Dance? Being outdoors? Yes, yes, and yes. It’s remarkable to see how during such a rigorous economic downturn there are still people out and about everywhere I turn. Cafes bustle with hungry crowds of casually dressed people. I see people walking at a leisurely pace shopping and lunching. Afternoon yoga classes are more crowded and even Runyon Canyon is more packed than usual. Normally I wouldn’t think twice; however this type of suspicious activity caught my attention because it occurs during prime afternoon work hours on a Monday or a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Thursday! What the heck is going on here?
I stopped to think about this one. Luckily, thinking comes easily to me. Either people aren’t working at all or they are working less and at a much slower pace. How European. If less people are working full time, that means they have more time to do other things. This is precisely what is happening. Summer time in LA is always busy, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen it this busy during the workweek. Did I not get the memo or something, because apparently the overworked, overstressed, underpaid and now the underemployed decided to just say “Oh screw it!” The majority opinion changed drastically from “work hard, save your earnings” to “enjoy what you have today, ‘cuz that might be all you get.” I look at this situation as a resting period; it’s hibernation of America’s workforce. People need rest. They need entertainment. They need something positive in their lives amidst all this chaos. Now that there is more time during their day, people are more willing to dip into their savings to enjoy their hobbies. The overworked are stocking up on their well deserved rest. So when we do experience the big economic boom we’ve all been waiting for, we are refreshed and ready. There is something to this philosophy. America is a country where you work hard for what you earn, but these days it doesn’t matter so much how hard you work or how hard you try because ultimately keeping your head above water is for all intents and purposes impossible.
Could these distressful economic times teach us a valuable lesson, a lesson that Europe already learned long ago? When the future is uncertain, what are you left with but the present moment? Yesterday is history. The moment has passed. Tomorrow is a mystery and isn’t promised. The only option available is to make the most of the present situation and that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing after all.
Saturday, 16 July 2011
Too many people think they can't do yoga...and the reason they think this lies in their hips. Most people are quite tight in the hips because of our sedentary culture. We sit in traffic, we sit in front of our computers at work and then we come home and sit in front of our computers again as we "socialize" with our virtual friends. Excessive sitting, especially with poor posture, leads to constant flexion of the hip joint causing tightness and stiffness.
True, your hips might be tight with respect to one range of motion, but they might be very loose in another. In other words, your hip flexors could be very tight, yet you might naturally possess more external rotation in your hips than the person next to you making certain poses like pigeon pose more accessible and poses like crescent pose less accessible. This is where the beauty of personal exploration chimes in. If you are honest about your physical limitations and practice consistently and without judgement, you'll notice a refined sense of awareness when it comes to your body. You will begin understanding which poses work for your joints, which ones don’t and most importantly why.
Check out this video. I provide three hip openers for you to try. Each one stretches the hip joint differently. So try all of them on and see which one fits your body best.
Saturday, 09 July 2011
You may feel like you are independent and thus responsible for yourself and only yourself; however, something greater binds all of us together into one collective planet...respiration. On a molecular level, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs every single moment and ultimately ties us all together, whether we like it or not.
Check out this article and then tell me you aren't in some indirect way connected to the very person you are flicking off on your way to work right now! So take a moment, breathe deeply, create happy molecules within you so that the next unassuming individual who's fortunate enough to inherit your molecules resists the urge to yell or torment all the bad drivers he or she comes into contact with when the imminent Carmageddon strikes Los Angeles’s 405 Freeway during the July 15th and 16th weekend.
Thursday, 07 July 2011
In the spirit of the 4th of July (hey better late than never right?)...
"True Independence Is Liberation From The Condition Of
I heard this uniquely insightful statement this afternoon during a kundalini yoga class with one of my favorite instructors, Kia Miller and thought to myself, "Wow, I wonder what our forefathers would think about the condition of the average contemporary mind..."
My Conclusion: Our forefathers would find the contemporary mind overly contaminated by unnecessary stimuli and undernourished with the purity of Truth.
Thursday, 07 July 2011
Wednesday, 06 July 2011
As yogis we have a heightened sense of spatial awareness. But even if you don’t practice yoga, you are still able to move your body through space. The human musculoskeletal system is so sophisticated that it allows you to move like a real live three-dimensional structure through space, unlike a paper doll. There are three planes in which all movement occurs, including the coronal (frontal), sagittal and transverse planes.
Corornal Plane: Motion viewed in this plane appears as side-to-side movements. Adduction and abduction of your limbs occur in this plane. For example, making snow angels in the winter illustrates movement in the coronal plane because the arms and legs move laterally. Another example is steering the wheel of a car. When you steer, do you place your hands at ten o’clock and at two o'clock? Why not?! It's a simple concept, yet for some reason so many L.A. drivers seem to have missed this lesson in drivers ed.
Sagittal Plane: Motion viewed in this plane is best viewed from the profile and is construed as forward and/or backward motion. Walking occurs in the sagittal plane, so does kicking a soccer ball with your foot because it involves the thigh moving forward and towards the torso. Conversely, extending the leg behind you brings the thighbone away from the torso as when a ballet dancer does an arabesque.
Transverse Plane: In the transverse plane motion is construed as rotational. Hula hooping is an activity that involves the torso twisting around its own axis in order to balance the hula-hoop around the hips.
Thursday, 30 June 2011
What happens when a child falls in love with a shiny new toy at the toy store and begs mom or dad to buy it but mom or dad refuses? A temper-tantrum. What happens when an adult applies for his or her dream job and doesn’t get it? A temper-tantrum? It’s quite possible. You can take the human out of the playpen (hopefully) but you can’t take the humanity out of the human.
When things don’t go our way we get upset, frustrated, mad and stressed causing our mindset to crossover into dangerous terrain. Thoughts are the basis for emotions. Emotions are nothing more than the colors, which paint the landscape of life. I was at an audition the other day; I got a call back (that’s half the battle right there) and my performance at the call back was nothing short of “fierce” (inserting some shameless self promotion here). Indeed, I was crushed when I did not get this job. As a dancer, it’s best to avoid setting up any sort of expectations despite how awesome your performance was (yea…good luck with that); but let’s be honest, if I didn’t think I had a chance why would I throw myself into the grind yet again and even bother to show up at the audition? As I reflect on the outcome of this particular experience, I am forced to ask myself “Why am I so attached to the outcome?” The results of this audition didn’t change my life in the grand scheme of things so why the hell am I still dwelling on it?
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
A simple breakdown of the kleshas for your enjoyment:
Klesha is a Sandskrit word. A kleshas cause is suffering according to Yogic Philosophy. Kleshas are the constructs for the way we think. Some refer to kleshas as afflictions of the mind. As you read the list of the five kleshas, reflect on your own percieved suffering. Do you find yourself suffering from any just one klesha at the present moment? Maybe it's all five. My suggestion to you if you suffer from all five is DO SOME YOGA!Avidya- ignorance. This is considered the root for all human suffering. Asmita- The Ego. “I this…” “I that…” “Why me…” Raga- Attachment. It can be attachment to tangible as well as ideas or the intangible. Dvesa- Aversion. Maybe think about why you avoid yoga? Abhinivesa- Clinging to bodily life.
Notice that Raga and Dvesa are opposites. How do you behave towards that which you like versus how you behave towards that which you fear or dislike?
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Many of you seem to be really intrigued by the topic of my last post Meditate on Mulholland...as was I.
Transcendental meditation or TM evokes a mysterious and esoteric reaction from many people. I've found that the idea of meditating is bothersome to many of my students and some of my friends. Just uttering the word "meditation" causes most non-yogis to feel quite uncomfortable because it involves sitting quietly with one's self. S-C-A-R-Y! Being confronted by the cacophony of your own chitta (a.k.a. stuff in your mind) can certainly freak people out and cause them to avoid any type of meditation altogether. However, think about it this way: meditation is like surfing. It's every young surfer's dream to catch that perfect wave, the one that encapsulates you like a tube or barrel and then to ride that perfect wave all the way in to shore. Once you catch the "meditation wave," you become aware of the fact that you are observing yourself in your rawest and most pure form. This experience is often described as your individual consciousness merging with the Collective or Cosmic consciousness. The longer you ride the wave, the longer one’s connection to True Self lasts.
The late Maharishi Mahesh, the founder of TM explains the simplicity behind it. Anyone can do it at any time anywhere. Watch this video and your qualms and misperceptions about TM will dissolve almost immediately and you will see that if anything, TM is more logical than mystical
Thursday, 09 June 2011
I was half asleep in my cozy bed last night when a story about transcendental meditation a.k.a. TM came on the NBC 4 eleven o'clock news. My ears perked up... I was intrigued.
HERE IS A FUN YOGI FACT: David Lynch, the idiosyncratic Hollywood director known for such films as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet is himself a devout meditator. "My first meditation blew me away. It curled my hair," says Lynch. Lynch and his wife Emily established the David Lynch Foundation in 2005 with the goal of implementing scientifically verifiable stress-reducing modalities like TM for at-risk populations. With the help of the David Lynch Foundation techniques alleviating stress become accessible and instrumental to changing many at-risk lives through rehabilitation programs like Children of the Night, a shelter for abused and traumatized children and teens.
Wednesday, 08 June 2011
Watch this video to learn how to simultaneously stretch and tone your entire core. The underlying poses for this exercise include adho muhka svanasana (downward facing dog) and plank pose. You will need one folded up yoga blanket to assist you in this excercise. Practice this exercise on a smooth surface, like a wood floor. Begin with three sets of five repetitions. Work your way up to ten repetitions. Rest in balasana (child's pose) in between sets. _LFoOJMmTKU
Tuesday, 07 June 2011
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER OF THE COSTANZA YOGA CHALLANGE!
"Whenever I am upset at work and think that i have a hard job, or don't get paid enough, I think about the fact that at least I have a job! I have health insurance, a way to pay my rent and feed myself... I remind myself that i'm actually LUCKY and it usually puts me back into a good place emotionally :) little daily reminders to myself that life is GOOD and I appreciate it."
Saturday, 04 June 2011
Live like a Lotus flower in a pond... Unaltered by water Inspirational Source
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
It’s no wonder that George Balanchine, the father of ballet in America as we know it, was such a stickler for tendus. Balanchine believed that if a dancer could execute a perfect tendu, then no step or combination of steps is unattainable. A battement tendu is a French word meaning to “stretch” or to “extend” and is a fundamental step in the classical ballet vocabulary where the foot is fully stretched so as to continue the line of the extended leg. Every time the foot leaves the ground, it has to be pointed!!! This is the 1st commandment of classical ballet! Otherwise, let's just face it...it's bad ballet. Tendus are the basis of all jumps, turns and all the seemingly effortless footwork seen in ballet. It can take years to perfect the tendu; in fact if you ask most highly trained professional dancers if they consider their tendus to be perfect they will undoubtedly reply: “Far from!”
Tendus are to ballet as tadasana is to yoga. The most fundamental asana in yoga is tadasana a.k.a. Mountain Pose. As the name suggests, the energy of this asana is strong and unbreakable like a mountain. In tadasana the feet are either together or slightly apart, the arms down with the palms at the sides of the body and the chest is lifted. It is important to keep the gaze soft by directing it at the tip of the nose to maintain the undisturbed energy generated by this asana. Tadasana is the blueprint for all postures in yoga because in tadasana the body is at its optimal alignment with the neck positioned over the shoulders, the shoulders stacked over the hips, the hips aligned over the knees and the knees positioned over the ankles. There's even weight distributed between the mounds of the big and little toes and the inner and outer heels. In tadasana the spine is maximally extended and not torqued. When the spine is elongated it allows for prana to flow through the body uninterrupted. When all the anatomical puzzle pieces fit together like this moving freely from one position to the next becomes second nature. The need to push, strain or overexert disappears and the risk for injury greatly diminishes. Additionally, when we successfully find this sense of ease in our yoga practice we can begin to pay less attention to the physicality of our movements and tap into their energetic quality. When this happens, many find it mentally soothing and therefore quite liberating.
Every sport, activity or art has its building blocks; but in my experience the building blocks of yoga often compliment those of ballet and in doing so provide me, “the ballerina,” a more comprehensive understanding of my body and a greater sense of physical awareness and mental clarity.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011