Yoga Diary /

Category: Wisdom

Most of us are familiar with yoga as a form of physical practice, sometimes a painful one but a good workout nevertheless.  In fact the physical practice of yoga (the asana) that we do in class and in our home is only one small limb of yoga.  There are eight limbs as prescribed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Asana is the third rung on this ladder.  Want to read more about the Eight Limbs? Yoga Journal has a couple of great articles check them out here

The first limb comprises of 5 Yamas relating to ethical conduct.  The second limb has 5 Niyamas relating to self-discipline and spiritual observance and ideally we’d have a good grasp on the first two limbs prior to engaging in the third, Asana.  These limbs do their job by laying strong foundations to lead us toward and through the other five limbs where ultimately we land our minds and bodies at the door to enlightenment.  There’s a lot to take in so for today the lens will focus in on the 3rd Yama, Asteya, the principle of non-stealing.

“To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.37

It’s obvious right?  Stealing: bad.  Not stealing: good.  We can be the Kings of Oversimplification if it means we don’t have to look at how we might possibly be engaging in the less overt acts of stealing but the truth is energetic stealing happens all the time.  Theft, like a stealth mental Ninja, seeks out opportunities to snatch at ideas, thoughts, judgements and time before we even know what’s  happening.  When we want or desire something that is not ours we are engaging in a form of stealing.  How so?  Surely we should be able to want without guilt.  Have goals and aspirations to achieve and fly high in business, relationships, finance, health and wellbeing?  Of course all these things are valid desires but if we focus on the things we don’t yet have, we are stealing value from the things we already do have.

As Rhyanna VL Yoga rolls out its first mentorship programmes the principle of Asteya is being held at the forefront of ethical conduct.  Engaging as both recipient and giver of mentorship really brings home the essence of non-stealing. By giving guidance to new teachers the programme aims to give tools to the recipients so that they can find their own voice/style/method/structure of teaching.  

Rather than just the rote receiving information, regurgitating it and reproducing a replica of what’s already being done.  By the same token, the mentor must stay open to learning too, as everyone has some unique gift to bring to the experience.  If a mentor takes on a role of complete authority by shutting off external suggestions and information it defeats the purpose of an equally shared learning environment.

Here are some other ways that we can engage Asteya during our practice and stop that Ninja in their tracks: 

  1. Be cautious of comparison, concerning yourself with others abilities or lack thereof on the mat is stealing from your own practice.  Do what YOU can to YOUR best ability.
  2. Stay as present as you can while in your practice by following instructions and guidance given, you can get back to your stories and dramas after class. Wandering off mentally takes away or literally steals from the present moment. 
  3. Try to give yourself enough time to get to class.  Arriving on time for your own time is a way to honour the value of that time.  To always be rushing or running late actually steals from it.

 

Helpful links:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-eight-limbs/

http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/The_Ten_Living_Principles_Yamas_and_Niyamas/2410

http://yogisurprise.com/the-five-yamas-of-yoga

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.

---

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

Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or just starting out on your yoga journey there’s no doubt you’ve cut the shape of a “Warrior” every time you’ve stepped onto your mat.  The warrior poses a.k.a. Virabhadrasana I, II and III are the cornerstone asanas in many a practice across all styles of yoga.  But what do they mean?  Why do we have fighting associated postures in our peaceful practice?  Who is Virabhadra and why does he show up all the time?

If you are into fantastical tales of magic and mayhem you must read the story of Shiva turning one of his dreadlocks into a fierce warrior (Virabhadra) with flaming eyes and wrath like no tomorrow.  There’s romance, plot twists, murders and revenge.  There’s sorrow, forgiveness and something for everyone whether you like “Days of our Lives” or “Game of Thrones” Hindu Mythology caters for all.  Read the story here….

As with all mythology, questions and answers of morality are at the heart.  We know that yoga is a multilayered practice of which the physical is just one small aspect.  Yet, with the physical we can express many of the deeper layers and tap into the psyche of yoga and the myths that build the practice.  We can become Warriors both on and off the mat when we find our personal representation of Virabhadra who is really the slayer of ego, and all the “stuff” we seek to cut free from.

The biggest physical challenge with the warrior poses is often alignment.  You’ll hear so many cues, directions and miniscule adjustments to make in each pose.  This can make the practice frustrating, destabilising and sometimes annoying.  But here lies the magic.  When you notice what comes up for you in each challenge, particularly in these fierce and strong standing postures you are getting information about what stands in your way.  Your duty then is to be courageous.  Like a Warrior standing ready to strike his opponent.  There may be fear but there is focus.  The ego must drop away.  The stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t do must disappear and we must be grounded in our truth.

Whether you read the full story or not the following 3 points will give you insight into these postures so that you may experience them in a new way, separate from any emotional issue that may arise during the practice.  Virabhadrasana I – Here (complete with vintage image of the late and great Iyengar) the Warrior rises up through the ground.  Building from the base, feet, legs, hips, torso: ACTIVE. Chest pushing forward, shoulders back, arms raised. There is nothing loose, or slack. This form spells “R-E-A-D-Y”.  You are ready and you are strong enough.

Virabhadrasana II – The Warrior, opens out, drawing a sword.  The base is as grounded and strong as before, no wavering, no retreating.  The gaze over the front hand marks its target. And in the back hand is the metaphorical weapon. (Be aware that it is not dropping down towards the ground but holding horizontal, in place.)  Look your “opponent”: your ego, your drama, your story, your fear, dead on.  Here our inner warrior stands for tensity of “F-O-C-U-S” .

Virabhadrasana III – As the Warrior steps up to balance on the front leg he slices the “sword” forward through the air to strike his target.  Cutting through our darkness, the stuff we do and say that keeps us playing small requires balance, skill and strength of character.  We cannot cut through the crap if we don’t acknowledge it exists.  So the most challenging of the 3 postures is also the most rewarding.  Despite the terminology, it doesn’t have to represent violence or anger, striking out or cutting through are courageous acts. As we balance out there on one leg, unwavering we can experience gratitude that our readiness, our aim and our focus have enabled us to “S-T-R-I-K-E” down what holds us back.

Can you see now how the terminology can affect our interpretation and experience?  Warrior I, II and III with all their variations produce a base for meaningful sequences.  All of yoga is entwined with all of life and this is how the light you find in your practice will follow you throughout your journey.

Namaste. Rhy xx

 

Further reading:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4046/Warrior-Pose-Understanding-the-Spiritual-Warrior.html

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/ways-of-the-warrior/

http://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/why-we-practice-the-warrior-poses

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!

---
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
 

If you are new to this studio, if you brought your friend, your mum, your lover or your kid along to Satsang week at Camelot there’s every chance you’ve mentally short cut the formula as Satsang = Me + 1.  It is that.  And it’s so much more.  The formula is actually Satsang = All + Truth

Traditionally Satsang is a gathering of devotees in the company of a guru or teacher to receive, share and experience the highest truth.  Satsang is not worship per se rather “giving” without attachment to “getting”.  It is giving for the joy of creating, extending and nurturing a community of likeminded/hearted people.  

Even if we take the term Satsang literally there will be multiple ways of interpreting it.  This is often the case with ancient and traditional rituals or teachings.  We must be able to evolve and interpret the original without losing its authenticity, yet at the same time make it accessible to our current experiences and needs.  

Let’s face it, if you came along this week as the plus one, and had experienced a gathering of chanting enthusiasts, listening to a loin clothed guru with a plaited beard wax on about spiritual enlightenment, well there’s every chance you’d consider it odd. In fact you might even reconsider your relationship to the person who brought you along in the first place.  Perhaps “cult” would run through your mind.  This form of Satsang is practiced in many cultures and communities; we could say all religions practice a form of Satsang: Sunday Mass (anyone?), if we see it simply as a gathering of people to receive the highest truth.  

So how does this Satsang relate to you and your experience coming to yoga as the + 1 or the inviter?  Consider this quote from the book Value Based Wellness by S. Srinivasan (2005)

“…. strong individuals associate only with those who have acquired and cultivated positive mindsets and energy fields around them.  This is the essence of the Indian concept "satsang"…… an act of synergizing with others in order to fortify and multiply 'sattvic' and positive traits"

Compare to this excerpt/translation from a poem by Shri Adi Shankaracharya an 8 Century philosopher.

"Good and virtuous company gives rise to non-attachment.  From non-attachment comes freedom from delusion.  With freedom from delusion, one feels the changeless reality.  Experiencing that changeless reality, one feels, 'I am not the body and mind, although I have a body and mind'. "

We can see how despite being written in settings more than a thousand years apart, these quotes have threads of similarity in the truths they offer.  

Thus Satsang week at Camelot is an opportunity to grow our community, to share in the joy and truth we find in yoga.  We come together (gather) in our studio to take part in a practice that helps us access our inner truth.  During our practice we move inward but our energy is shared and exchanged with our community.  The teacher (guru) leads us through the practice with their knowledge and wisdom.  We are therefore gathering in a sacred space to share and extend our community, to access and assimilate the highest truth through the practice of yoga.

And you thought it was just + 1 week.  

Namaste Rhy xx 

---

Note: the following texts were helpful in writing this post, for further reading check out these links:

http://jivamuktiyoga.com/teachings/focus-of-the-month/p/satsang

Value Based Wellness - For The Service Sector Executive By S Srinivasan (p.63)

Endless Satsang


 

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