Thursday, October 30, 2008
I teach yoga at the county juvenile jail to kids in the substance abuse treatment program. Some of the kids like it, and some dread it. They all participate, though, because it's a treatment program and yoga is one of the treatment modalities we offer.
For the last few weeks one of the kids in my Thursday morning class kept asking me if we could just have a class of Corpse pose. No warm ups, no special breathing, no asanas. Just flat on the floor, spread out arms and legs, eyes closed, Corpse pose. For an hour. He's one of the kids who isn't exactly in love with yoga. Since there were only 2 kid in the class today, and he was one of them, I decided to get as close to an hour of Corpse pose as I could, and I taught a restorative yoga class. The kid who loves Corpse pose is angry a lot of the time. He is also unhappy a lot of the time. I don't think I've ever seen him smile, and he tends toward sullen, one syllable answers when I talk to him. About half way through today's class, as he settled into a supported reclining gentle backbend, with blankets under his back and arms, blocks supporting his open knees, and his upper chest and heart opening to the sky, he looked me directly in the eyes and grinned a full on, joy inducing, toothy smile. Then he said, "This feels great". He stayed in the posture for the next 20 minutes, with his eyes closed and his body relaxed until it was time to wrap up class. This is the kind of thing that makes me love teaching yoga, and that will sustain me for days on end.
I like to think about the relationship between knitting and yoga. When I am in my knitting groove, I feel much as I feel in yoga practice: I am deeply in the moment, my mind not ruminating on the past, nor yanking me into the future, but instead here in the NOW. Simply breathing, deeply focused, hands and fingers moving, moving, moving in their own little mudra dance.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
This morning, I woke up at 5:30, but instead of staggering into my yoga studio per usual, I found my attention moving in other directions. This isn't particularly unusual--there are plenty of mornings when I'm up, but my brain finds all kinds of ways to try and distract me from my practice. Nothing very interesting. The typical low level vibration of "I don't feel like it". I ignore that vibration, knowing that how I feel about starting my sadhana has little to do with what happens after I land on the mat.
No, this morning was different. My brain wasn't resisting yoga, and my body wasn't complaining either. I made a cup of hot chocolate, mixed up some muffin batter and got it baking, but instead of heading up to my mat, I sat down in the kitchen and began to breath, relax, feel and watch my experience. I wasn't being harsh with myself over not doing my practice-- I was doing it! It was kitchen yoga! It felt just fine. After a while, I got up and started a load of laundry, then went into my closet and put away two baskets of clean clothes that had been collecting for the last week. I was still relaxed, breathing and meditative. Laundry yoga! It felt fine. Eventually, I started getting ready for work, and my "regular" yoga practice never unfolded. Instead, it was life-yoga unfolding. What a great reminder that whether I am on the mat every single day, or not, the beauty of yoga is the ability to practice it anytime, anywhere. Yoga on and off the mat.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"The Prudent Mariner", by Leslie Walker Williams is a quietly powerful story that begins in coastal Georgia in 1913 and moves forward to the 1970s, and it has gripped my brain, heart and gut with a tenacious hold since I started to read it a week ago.
Ridley Cross, a nine year old girl who sometimes sees ghosts and is compelled by the salty river water near her home, her senile grandmother Adele, who told a lie as a little girl that inadvertently caused a black man's horrific lynching, and Carver Varnell, a woman painter and reluctant southerner, are drawn together over, among other things, a postcard souvenir of the terrible event that Ridley discovers while looking through her recently dead grandfather's possessions.
The story unfolds through the experiences and understanding of nine year old Ridley, which gives the story a gentle, sometimes bewildered sense of the world around her. Leslie's ability to capture the voice of Ridley, while exploring the deeply complicated relationships between both Ridley's family members, and blacks and whites in 1970's Georgia, while bathing everything in the oppressive heat and deep seated shame of the southern past is extraordinary.
Please consider purchasing this book, AND call your local library and ask them to order it for their collection!
Check out Leslie's website for more information:
Practicing opening my heart in daily sadhana prepares me for just those difficult times, by allowing me to remember, in a deep body memory, that returning to intention, to breath and to stretching and opening my thoracic spine will support and sustain me through anxiety, disappoint and anger. Learning to be open-hearted means being emotionally generous--even when it feels like it may make me vulnerable and open to criticism or judgement, or that it won't be accepted or appreciated.
Some may wonder, why is it even important? I can't answer for anyone else, but since I started to intentionally connect the loosening of my thoracic spine, the release of the muscles around my chest, shoulders and middle back, and the subtle opening of my own heart space, I have deepened my experience of the utter happiness found in the simplest of things--a steaming cup of sweetened black tea, the deep red of sliced beets as they drop into the steamer basket, the smell of the fall leaves, wet and glossy in the backyard, the enormous cawing of birds as they settle into the trees of Eberwhite Woods, the sensation of ease and well being after a yoga practice, and the comfort of love from family and friends.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A few nights ago, Lucinda Williams returned to the Michigan Theater, and I was right there-- celebrating Audrey, and honoring the power of a woman musican who more than holds her own with an electric guitar and a kick ass back-up band, singing her life from her heart and soul.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
After morning sadhana I wandered out to our chicken coop, opened the door to the laying box and nestled inside a circled dimple of straw was this little beauty. Our hens are still young, so daily delivery is still a new wonder. The egg was warm in my hand; a perfect orb.
This time of year, as we turn towards the shortening days with dark coming earlier and earlier, I am sharply aware of the expasions and contractions that inform our lives from the smallest to the grandest scale. I love exploring the idea of repetition and similarity in the natural world, and the concept of expansion and contraction is one of my favorites. I tend to think more about it when we are in the midst of a seasonal change, especially winter to spring, and summer to fall.
Of course, there is the obvious expansions and contractions in our bodies. The cranial sacral fluid's gentle push, the filling and emptying of the lungs, the muscles moving in and out of asanas. Thinking bigger? How about birth? That hen was certainly expanding and contracting when she laid her latest gift. Thinking biggest? The universe. Darkness, compression, pressure, contraction, then, the Big Bang, and we've been expanding ever since.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Atha yoga nushasanam
Now, the inquiry of yoga
Yogas citta vritti nirodah
Yoga is an opportunity to quiet the chatter of the mind
Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam
Then consciousness finds it's authentic nature
Sthira sukham asanam
May the posture be sweet and full of ease.
Sweet sukha yoga.