Yoga Diary /

Category: Inspiration

How often have you thought about how interconnected we all are with everything that exists?  Don’t resist the idea, just imagine that you are one with all that is: the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the strong, the weak, the light and the dark.  You are all that.  We all are.  There is no separation.  Yet in our day-to-day lives we charge around with all sorts of stories attached to the idea of separation.  The exclusion of “bad” and inclusion of “good” is how the ego splits our experience of life into little compartments.  

As yogis we are seekers of truth and the truth is there are ALWAYS two sides to the same coin.  That means without darkness we have no concept of light.  Without frustration, anger and apathy we have no understanding of peace, equanimity and action.  Opposing forces are in everything and understanding this is only part of the whole.  We have to feel into opposition, know and befriend it so that we can get closer to the truth.  

In Hindu mythology, Shakti (The goddess - symbolises the feminine principle, the activating power and energy) and Shiva (The god - symbolises consciousness, the masculine principle), with their sacred union can be used as inspiration both on and off the mat.  By embracing these opposing energies we allow so much of the ego storytelling crap to dissipate so we can get on with the business of being complete.

Consider this quote:

“Only when Shiva and Shakti combine can action, movement and creation arise. Until energy is impregnated with consciousness it is ignorant, disordered, aimless and “blind”. Energy alone can produce nothing; consciousness bestows upon it content, form and direction. Conversely,  consciousness without energy is dormant power, sleeping energy, and on its own is unable to be the cause of anything.”   Read the full article.

But, how does this relate to our asana practice?  More importantly can you find personal connection to these words and relate it back to all the parts of you?  Have you ever come to class feeling like you don’t really want to be there, you know it’s good for you but you can’t be bothered? Maybe that’s the essence of Shakti alone – blind action with no conscious awareness. What about being consciously engaged in the idea of going to class, so much so that thinking about it is all you do?  There’s the element of Shiva at play in that.  Without unifying the two we act out of separation.  Opposing forces create the whole.  The whole is necessary for truth to emerge.

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Ways you can embrace opposing forces in your practice:

Be willing to feel both strength and softness required in each posture.  There should always be the power and integrity of alignment (action/Shakti) combined with the peace of relaxation  (consciousness/Shiva) in even the toughest poses.  Ask yourself: Do I need to clench my jaw to hold my arms straight right now?  Do I need to hold my breath to balance on one leg?  Inevitably the answer is no.

Competition is the same as judgement and judgement holds us separate.  Separation keeps us from the truth.  Thus, maintain an inward focus during your practice.  Be aware of your own body and not the body next to you.  As with all things there will be others both “more” capable and “less” capable than you.  It does not matter.  It matters that you are practicing together.  One coin.  Remember.  Two sides.

Allow your shadow to have a voice.  It’s ok to feel “not that into it” sometimes.  Bring all parts of you onto the mat and let the practice do it’s job.  Staying connected to what is, rather than separate from what is not reveals the truth.

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences or shoot me questions if you’re not sure about something.  Feel free to comment below and let’s start a meaningful discussion!

Namaste. Rhy xx

Image via rebloggy.com

And let go of what you don't.

We don’t have to be prime candidates for the casting of Season 6 “Hoarders” to have an issue with keeping shit we don’t need.  Holding on to and accumulating unnecessary stuff is really the symptomatic manifestation of hoarding.  In fact health professionals, treating those who hoard, begin by addressing the defective thoughts and emotions that trigger the compulsions to hold onto “stuff” before they tackle the obvious symptom: the piles and piles of god knows what.

With these images of chaos and disorder sifting through our minds let’s take a moment to consider Aparigraha – the fifth yama – non-grasping/ non-hoarding/ non-accumulation.   Not sure about the yamas?  Haven’t got a clue what they are?  No problem.  A couple of posts back we touched on this subject and included some super handy links for extra reading.  Head there now before you read on.

It might seem dramatic to draw similarities between having a severe anxiety disorder that results in “hoarding” with the concept of Aparigraha or “non-grasping” but if you remove all the illusions that separate “you” from “that” and simply ask: Do I take, keep or want more than my own reasonable share [of anything]?   I’m pretty sure we’ll all say YES.  Bear in mind your answer is not meant to incite any judgement only highlight a cultural norm, where we in the Western World, have way more than what we need. 

This is not to say we must chuck on turmeric dyed cloaks, shave our heads and receive alms.  It’s completely ok to enjoy the comfort and abundance afforded to us here and now.  It’s more a question of how attached we are to things.  All the things.  Just understand we are blessed with so much more than material security here.  

Yet we constantly grasp and snatch at ideas of wanting and needing more.  If we practice Aparigraha – we’ll notice it’s the ego that wants more.  The ego operates from fear.  From the place where there is not enough, from neediness and comparison.  Our ego will tell us to keep the thing we no longer need because it may be useful “one day”.  But our heart knows what is enough and is burdened by the unnecessary weight of hanging on.  Those who hoard “things” (whatever they may be: emotional/physical/mental) are driven by attachment.  And the insecurity that creates attachment to stuff is the same insecurity that creates attachment to ideas, labels, relationships even grudges.  

Can we find a way to bring Aparigraha to the mat and trust all that happens on the mat will simultaneously flow into our lives at large?  

Of course!  Here are 3 ideas for you to entertain when the moment seems right:

1. Take only what you need.  Not less, not more.   Consider the most challenging part of class – the peak pose.  Where can your body reasonably go?  What option will you take?  Can you let go of the expectations?  Have integrity and detach from the thoughts that tell you where you “should” be.

2. Receive what you need.  Do you have a lot of questions about yoga?  Your body?  Your limitations within the practice?  These are important issues to address.  Instead of trying to squeeze a few distracted minutes in after class why not book a one on one session and allow yourself to receive the right amount of attention.

3. Detach from labels and associations.  You may be physically a certain way: thin, tall, short, strong, flexible, bald, vegetarian, mother, brother, video game addict - whatever (you get the drill).  When you come to the mat can you drop the labels and separate from the stories you tell and were told about who you are.  Just let go.  And be.  Here lies delicious freedom.

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Are you interested in reading about simplifying life?  Becoming Minimalist recommends 8 different blogs inspired by simple living.  There’s a lot of focus on having only what you need in these…

Over to you now: what have you let go of lately?  How was your experience of letting go?  I really look forward to you sharing in the comments below.

Namaste. Rhy xx

Image via Tumblr

The end of winter brings about a renewal. We turn off the heat, throw open the windows and breathe in those first scents of spring. Early mornings become bearable as the darkness withdraws and the chatter of birds breaks the silence.

Soon our layered clothes will make room for bright tights, shorts, light tops and eventually bathers! You may find an urge to clean, discard and organize all the clutter that winter seems to collect, allowing for the freshness and growth that spring promises. As a good spring clean creates a harmonious home why not amplify these actions and pursue the purification process with your body and mind?

Enjoy your 'inner spring clean' by following my top 4 replenishing yoga go-to’s:

1. Salute the sun
In many cultures light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. ‘The world begins with the coming of light,’ wrote Jungian analyst Erich Neumann

One of the means of honouring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar (sun salutation). Each sun salutation begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. Aside from this there are variations aplenty that have evolved over the years. Because of the sequences malleability, it’s easy enough to cook up a few of your own. 

Go with what feels good for you on the day, start slowly with 3-5 rounds and then quicken the pace to 15 if you can.

2. Twist it up
Twisting poses we practice in yoga massage the abdominal organs, helping to facilitate the elimination process of toxins and waste, perfect for that spring revival that we are looking for! Try seated and standing variations and be sure to breathe. Notice the space you feel as you exit the pose. The word 'twist' also gives permission to zig zag along your path. Take a moment to experience any newness and relish it!

Quick tips:
-  Try a new class or teacher
-  Attempt an exotic pose
-  Place your mat in uncharted territory when you next enter the studio

3. Do a headstand #everydamnday 
Headstand (Sirsasana) is often referred to as the king of all yoga poses. And with soo many benefits it is obvious why! As part of our resurrection from the lows of winter a headstand each day can allow the adrenal glands to flush thus creating more positive thought. Another key benefit is a decrease in feelings of depression and being upside down will almost always put a smile on your face!

4. Get outside
Take your practice outdoors and take some time to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. As the winter chill recoils be sure to step out into nature. Notice the squishy grass between your toes. Breathe in the aroma of the freshly blossoming spring flowers. Touch the crisp but ‘promising of warmth’ air. Sync in with the cyclic nature of the big wide world. Let the season of rebirth spur on your inner awakening.

 

It's a time to renew your energy, refresh your desires and reset your intentions to live out your dreams. Get to it!


Namaste. Rhy xx

 

Where to next:
-  Tomorrow (Sept 12) will feature a 1 hour PLAY session after class that will have you getting upside down and taking your practice outside.
-  My regular weekly classes at the Mosman Park studio always include sun salutations. Refer to my class schedule.

Ganesha: such a popular deity.  We see his image everywhere in trinkets and on t-shirts, replicated on impressive (but not always) tattoos and posters.  Many of us are probably aware that this cute elephant with one tusk and a big belly is the lord destroyer or remover of obstacles. And likely many of us are happy to leave it at that. Ganesha’s image lends itself well to vibrant colours making it a go to choice for lovers of kitschy pop art and easy to grasp spiritualism.  Naturally the pre Vedic scriptures where Ganesha first shows up tell a story detailing trials and tribulations layered with symbolism and moral dilemma.  Stories that end up summarised in a tiny nutshell: you want to get past something that’s standing in your way? Ganesha.  

But have you ever wondered what meaning is behind this delightful looking character?  The next time you’re tempted to buy into him as just another lucky charm consider this; in parts of the world where Hinduism is the practiced religion, no building is built, no business is conducted and no praying at the temple is begun without an invocation or offering to Ganesha first.

Ganesha being part elephant has large ears. Ears for listening carefully to all the requests that come his way. 

He only has one tusk the other one was broken off as an act of sacrifice symbolic of not holding onto what’s not needed.

The big belly?  Aside from making him look so cute and cuddly it actually represents the digesting or processing of life’s experiences.  We must take the good with the bad.

He has four arms each holding a different tool. 

In his upper right hand he carries an axe or a sword… To cut away the obstacles which lie on our path.

His upper left hand usually holds a rope or a noose of some sort.  He uses this to capture those who are struggling or falling off their path and to pull them in the right direction.  

In his lower left hand he holds a sweet literally representing the sweetness of a spiritual life and the rewards available to us when we continue along our spiritual journey.

His lower right hand is almost always extended the mudra (gesture) of blessing.  An act of benevolence. 

Just at his feet is a little mouse.  It’s said that this mouse is Ganesha’s chariot but obviously there’s some metaphor at play there because impossible right?  The little mouse represents desire.  When desire is out of control it becomes a ‘pest’.  To keep the ‘pest’ under control it needs to be ‘reined’.  In other words we must keep our worldly desires under control. Doing so will mean less obstacles in our lives.

I love how this can relate to our practice of yoga and also how we can carry all the rich symbolism off the mat and into everyday life.  Here are just three ways:

1.    Listen more.  By listening to all the instructions given during class instead of letting your mind wander off on its own story you might find something clicks that never clicked before.  One minute adjustment cue could be the difference between getting over an obstacle holding you back in a particular pose and just hitting the same wall again.  Off the mat try listening more to the people in your life.  What are they telling you? Can you really hear them without adding your own bit in?

2.    Use the tools Ganesha has to overcome fear and stagnation in your practice.  Fear is not unique, but you are.  Therefore you only have yourself to get over.  Cut through that ego, lasso the struggling part of yourself and haul it back to the path.  Be kind to yourself, add sweetness to your practice enjoy its rewards.  Accept all the blessings that come to you through hardship and ease.  Off the mat it’s pretty much the same; your fears and worries are not unique to you.  The whole world has similar fears and worries.  Only you can get past the shit that holds you back.  There’s no need to punish yourself for perceived failure, remember all things are ultimately blessings.  

3.    The Desire Mouse. Yes, we all have desires.  We want longer legs, stronger abs, more money, less stress and to experience never ending happiness.  But like all emotions happiness is transient.  And the desire to constantly seek it is destructive.  Don’t let your Desire Mouse give you the run around.  Harness it.  Guide it.  Enjoy the happiness when it comes up embrace the frustration, sadness and apathy as they come up.  The class will end soon enough and you can take what you’ve learned on the mat and practice it off as well!

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Are there any obstacles you need to boot out the way? Open up in the comments below!

Namaste. Rhy xx
 

We’ve all heard and certainly used the expression “go with the flow” - it’s synonymous with the idea of being happy go lucky, feeling chilled, being flexible with change, open to challenge and just generally having an altogether cool with life vibe. But... Did you know this concept of “FLOW” is a scientifically studied experience that’s been well documented by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi? (Ok –this is how you say his name MI-HIGH CHIK-SENT-MI-HIGH). And as a side note: this awesome guy accidently or serendipitously developed a fascination with psychology when he was a broke teenager in Switzerland, having no money to go to a movie he took himself to a free lecture in the town hall. The speaker that evening was none other than Carl Jung. Minor digressions aside, this is going somewhere – I promise. Stay with me.

In developing his interest in psychology Csíkszentmihályi studied people who were heavily involved in art, philosophy, religion and music. He interviewed them and discovered that all them had one thing in common. They were most happy when immersed in the subject of their choice. They all noted that when totally absorbed and focused on their chosen task time slipped by, they felt no pangs of normal biological needs such as hunger, thirst or needing to wee. They could in fact go for hours or days without noticing anything but pure engagement with the task at hand. Language accompanying such experience included “being in the zone”, “finding a groove” and “everything just flows effortlessly”. Csíkszentmihályi then went on to write a thesis on “The Flow Experience” for his doctorate back in 1972. You can read more about Flow Psychology here and here.

The concept of the flow experience has infiltrated many levels of society today, from big companies such as Microsoft to small businesses and the personal development industry. We often use the language of flow experience within our own lives without even knowing its origins because it feels so natural. And that’s the key. This is an experience gifted to all of us when we find our passion. Our drive.  It’s The Holy Grail in a sense. Now, the thing is flow doesn’t just land in our lap like a little present from the angels. It actually takes effort and challenge. In a nutshell it is the intercept of challenge and skill. There is a fine balance hanging there where challenge can be too great and it creates stress and worry, or challenge can be too low and it creates boredom and apathy. Flow happens when the challenge of the task pushes us to the point of heightened awareness but not beyond our actual capabilities. 

So, getting to the nitty gritty of Flow and Yoga: How can we apply or tap into the flow experience on the mat? Here are 4 ways:

1.    Get real about your reasons for doing yoga. We hear this all the time “Yoga is so much more than good stretch” but if you do yoga just because it makes your body feel really great then own it, it’s the best start! Pretending to be or experience more isn’t authentic and you will automatically resist “flow”.

2.    If you have to force anything in your practice, you will not be able to experience flow. Challenge good. Force not good. Be honest with yourself, no one feels peaceful or happy if there is pain and struggle. Let challenge meet your skill level – from there you can progress.

3.    Boredom is a teacher. If you find yourself thinking- F... this, I just want it to be done. Don’t judge. Notice. Why? Are you feeling underwhelmed or over stressed? Being bored is the antithesis of flow. Being bored means your skills have increased and therefore your challenge must increase. It’s actually a GOOD thing. 

4.    Revisit what feels too hard. Sitting still or lying in savasana is the hardest thing to do.  Our monkey minds just want to chatter all-the-day-long. We have lists and conversations and stories and problems that constantly compete for attention. Eventually though, through the effort of coming back time and time again, meditation and savasana will provide the ultimate flow experience. Practice it. Honour it. And your internal world will be lit up, free of ego and timeless.
 

Now join me for your next 'flow' on the mat!

Namaste. Rhy xx

No doubt this time of year sparks up a little bit of reflection and some forward thinking. Did I achieve what I set out to achieve? Am I moving forward? It is when we look back, we ask ourselves where to from here? 

Which leads to…New Year’s resolutions. Yup, we’ve all heard of them. We’ve probably all made them at some point…and probably all broken them at some point too. Quite possibly this year’s resolves are long forgotten already.

So are they worth it?
Are they useful?
And what’s yoga got to do with it?

Firstly, yoga teaches us we’re enough. That we’re not defined by what we achieve, by our weight, by our wealth – the unchanging Divine within us is always everything that we need to be. The closer we can align ourselves with that truth, the more we realise that resolutions like I want to lose xxkg or I want to be in xxxx position in the company or even I want to achieve xxxx pose in yoga this year really hold no place in our thinking. We kind of have to make an ‘un-resolution’…instead of entering 2016 to be ‘better’, or to change ourselves, we change our thinking and find a resolve to be more authentically ourselves.

But we can still have goals right? After all, tapas (our discipline) and abhyasa (our consistent practice) is what keeps us going and what keeps us focused on the mat…how do we bring that to our lives?

It lies in embracing impermanence – understanding that our world is continuously cycling through the three phases of creation, preservation and destruction. It’s through this flow that we can allow ourselves to let go of what no longer serves and welcome the opportunity for new possibilities.

We can think about how impermanence exists in our lives a little bit like traffic lights. The obvious: RED means stop, YELLOW means slow down (yes, yellow means slow down and not put the foot on the accelerator and gun it…), and GREEN means go. As inconvenient as traffic lights can feel at times, they get us to our destination. The changes that occur in our lives unfold in a similar fashion. There are moments in our lives that force us slow down. Sometimes we’re stopped completely – opportunities to find clarity and ask where am I actually going? And then there are the times we get the green light to move forward with momentum.

If we think about what traffic lights are actually designed to do, they’re there to keep everyone flowing smoothly, getting them where they need to go. When we truly understand impermanence, we see that everything we’re currently experiencing is moving us to the direction we need to be. Even when it may not feel like it at the time, everything is moving at the proper speed. Sure we can cheat it, try to race ahead and run the yellow light (or the red one…)…but ultimately life catches up with us at the next red light. We just gotta let it play out.

So let’s bring it back to the mat, because that’s where it starts. It’s not about changing ourselves, or about being better, about being this or being  that, but about finding a firm resolve that honours the incredible being that is Self. The universe is always going to throw at us what we need, when we need it (even when it reeeeeeeeeally doesn’t feel like it at the time). What we can choose to do is stay consistent in our efforts. Choose to keep showing up. Choose to embrace all the changes we experience along the way (the stop’s, the slow down’s and the go’s)…let them be the opportunities that await us in this exciting year ahead.

Namaste. Rhy xx
 

Image credit: Gemma Correll via Society6