Have You Taken Your Yoga Vitamins?

 

1. Faith (Shraddha)
2. Vigor (Virya)
3. Mindfulness (Smriti)
4. Meditative Consciousness (Samadhi)
5. Discernment (Prajna)
We all need a little pick-me-up from time to time. The same can be said for our yoga practice. While we know that, “to compare is to despair” it does seem at times that yoga and meditation come more easily to some than others. We can fall into the trap of looking around the room in handstand, or Warrior III and comparing someone else’s outsides to our insides.

The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali, a classical text on the practice of yoga, tells us not to fret. Perhaps others seem born blissful, but the rest of us simply need a booster shot of yogic vitamins to assist us on our path.

Yoga Sutra 1.20: To some, liberation comes from the practice of faith, vigor, mindfulness, consciousness and discernment.

“Sraddha Virya Smrti Samadhi Prajna-Purvaka Itaresam”

When we put the yoga vitamins into practice, we have the faith to know we are evolving, growing and learning. With vigor, we direct our energy wisely and learn to practice self-care. With mindfulness, we can pause when uncertain and acertain the right action. With consiousness we can connect to The Divine, and with discernment we begin to “instinctively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”

My aim is to offer classes that are infused with these life-affirming vitamins. Click here for my full schedule and join me in class again soon <3

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Green

pidgeon rock

In March, we “spring forward” into all of spring’s budding possibilities and “Kiss me I’m Irish” shenanigans. We see St. Patrick’s Day decorations and flowering plants begin to sprout up, decorating our world with green.

Green is one of my favorite colors. To me it inspires a sense of grounding and feels clean and crisp. But culturally, we have much conflicting symbolism connected with the color green. Green is as eco-friendly as it is envious, vile as it is lucky, ill as it is fresh.

The fact that the color green symbolizes luck and simultaneously characterizes envy is actually a contradiction that I wrestle with in my own spiritual life. How is it that at one moment I can feel as lucky as a four-leaf clover and the next minute I forget all my blessings and become green with envy over the blessings of another?

The entire first chapter of the Yoga Sutras help us to identify mental pitfalls such as greed (aparigraha) and give us practices to help us transcend. As for eliminating envy, the yoga sutras suggest cultivating happiness for others with grace for ourselves even if it is not our initial response.

Sutra 1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil. (maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam)

If we still can’t clear up our misperceptions, the more tangible practices of physical yoga, breath work and meditation can help us untangle many of these knots and create a sense of equanimity in our hearts and minds.

Sutra 1.34: The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice. (prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama)

If all else fails and you simply can not get out of a green envy funk, the Yoga Sutras suggest practicing contrary action, or ACTING AS IF YOU WERE GRATEFUL:

Sutra 2.33 When these codes of self-regulation or restraint (yamas) and observances or practices of self-training (niyamas) are inhibited from being practiced due to perverse, unwholesome, troublesome, or deviant thoughts, principles in the opposite direction, or contrary thought should be cultivated. (vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam)

Contrary action and contrary thought are some of my MOST useful spiritual tools. Nothing cures inaction like action. Can’t get your mind off of jealousy? Write a gratitude list. Stuck in a self-centered pity party? Go volunteer to help someone in need or simply call to check on someone and ask how THEY are doing instead of getting stuck in yourself.

We all fall into less-than-fresh thinking from time to time. The key is to keep growing, keep practicing and springing forth. As we continue to cultivate clear perception and still the fluctuations of our mind, we will be able to recognize our own truths and see that in our own individual way we are more than lucky, we are complete.

Love Yourself

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

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A few days ago I was asked by a friend what the topic of my upcoming newsletter would be. “Self-Love!” I replied excitedly. My friend paused, and asked, “Shouldn’t we be focusing on loving and serving others instead of loving ourselves? Isn’t there enough self obsession in the world?”

This might be true if we were to confuse Self-love with self-obsession.

One need not be consumed with love for themselves to be self-obsessed. In fact, most people who are self-obsessed are gravely insecure. We live in a very judgmental culture. I would venture to guess that way more of us struggle with self-criticism than with self-congratulation. The truth is, we are constantly bombarded by an achievement based and materialistic culture that suggests we need to do more, buy more, and be better. This can consume our minds and obscure our true Divine Nature.

So, what I am speaking to here is not self-obsession. Nor am I suggesting you can gain healthy Self-love through pampering the physical body, or taking self-seeking actions that would harm another. Instead, I urge you to explore the practices of self-care as discussed in the Eight Limbs of the Yoga Sutras.

The Yoga Sutras define the Self as your Soul or your Divinity, your Self with a capital S! Call it Energy, call it Spirit, God, or Universal Consciousness, but when I talk about you loving yourself I am recognizing that you are a Divine Creation. If you have even the vaguest sense of a Spirit/Energy/God within you, then why wouldn’t you treat yourself with the love you would extend to That which you honored and appreciated?

The very first verses of Patanjali’s yoga sutras help illuminate this concept. We have an authentic Self with in us, but often we cannot see it. We mis-identify ourselves with our egos. We compare ourselves with others, and try to figure out if we are “good enough” based on how we measure up to some arbitrary cultural expectations.

Yoga Sutra 1.2 states that, Yoga is the practice of controlling the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind. (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah) and that once we clear out the clamor of the mind – all the mental junk – then, like a dirty mirror wiped clean, we can begin to see our True Self.

1.3 Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.
(tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam)

When we take actions toward Self-love and self-care, through the practices of meditation, asana, and the rest of the eight limbs, we are not so caught up in the mental pitfalls of competition, comparison, and self-doubt. When you love yourself, you can see that you were created perfectly imperfect just as you are. So go ahead, give yourself some love. Accept yourself as you really are and use the tools of Yoga to explore a deeper personal understanding of the Spirit within you.

Handstands in Paradise AKA: God is Good.

 
Embrace each of your senses in turn
Seeing as being touched by light
Hearing as immersion in an ocean of sound
Tasting as enlightening
Smelling as knowing
Touching as electrifying
Follow the subtle pulsations
Into the spaciousness of the heart
Intimate with the unknowable
-The Radience Sutras #9
as translated by Lorin Roache
 

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Over the past four years I have been making a concerted effort to re-define my understanding of God. Not an easy task as old ideas and sanskara run deep.

As I child I was very interested in religion and took it upon myself to walk to church and get to know Spirit. I loved Spirit! I remember reading the Psalms of David in my little pink Precious Moments Bible and mulling over “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1)

But somewhere along the way I started to develop a strange understanding of god. As I transitioned into adulthood and maturity, I somehow failed to grow in spiritual maturity. I came to know the god of my youth as a god of trials, and when I fell ill with Lupus and RA I came to believe that I must have these diseases because either, a)I did something wrong and deserved these trials, or, b) that god was using these diseases to “teach me a lesson”

These false ideas stayed with me throughout my 20′s. God was to be feared and suspected with a new “lesson” to  anticipate around each corner. Prayers became selfish bargaining sessions begging for an easy way out. I was simply incapable of seeing the Good and the Blessing in life because of this strange fear of god.

Letting go of these false beliefs has been very difficult. Basically, I had to get into enough spiritual pain to admit that my views just weren’t working.

With the help of yoga philosophy, 12-step programs, and amazing mentors, I have been SLOWLY turning over my ideas and am becoming open enough to accept the possibility that GOD IS GOOD.

Fast forward, and today the Shakti is SO BRIGHT I gotta wear shades! No longer do I believe that pain is the only touchstone of spiritual growth, No longer do I feel that God puts obstacles in my path as my only means of spiritual growth. What about love? What about selfless service, what about devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace? Can I not be taught just as profound of lessons through blessing as I can through trial?

My recent vacation to The Bahamas really sealed in this new assumption. Maybe, just maybe, God is beauty. Maybe God is love,  selfless service, devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace. This is God. And yes, there is a lot of MYSTERY… maybe God is all the Confusion too, that is all part of the messy Mystery, but as long as I keep my eyes off of myself, and on the blessings of creation, hopefully I can keep seeing the Good and ENJOY my life. After all, I am in remission from my R.A. I am safe, sober, sound and doing handstands in paradise.bahamashandstands

 

Free Lululemon Class

Complimentary Yoga Class At Lululemon Beverly Hills

This Sunday only//April 18th//9:30am – 10:45am

334 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
tel: 310.858.8339

lulu-flyer

Every Sunday Lululemon Beverly Hills hosts a complimentary Yoga class with the greatest instructors in our community. All levels are welcome – perfect for beginner, intermediate or advanced practitioners. During the month of April 2010, JK Zen Fitness is the STUDIO of the MONTH! I am the JK Zen Fitness Teacher this Sunday April 18th :)

I hope to see you there!