Sunday, 29 April 2007
Some years ago, I saw a billboard campaign by a major sportswear manufacturer (I´m not telling which) that had just launched a line of clothes and other gear apparently specially designed for yoga practioners. The message these billboards conveyed was that the manufacturer in question had stuff for you no matter what kind of exercise you were into. Their yoga posters sported the word "Yoganista?". I don´t know if this word existed before but since this campaign, I have heard it spoken by several people. Yoganista, then, is apparently a person who practices yoga and now there´s a whole collection of stuff, including some kind of yoga slipper that we can get to make our practice better. A yoga slipper? What does one do with a yoga slipper?
It happens that, when I tell people that I "do yoga", they reply "Oh, that´s very popular these days". 90% of these people go on to tell me that they have been thinking about doing yoga for ages. Because it´s popular these days. Yoga is being offered in most gyms, yoga studios are booming in most cities, celebrities tell us about how yoga has changed their bodies and lives. There´s no escaping - yoga and fashion have intermingled and it doesn´t seem likely that it´s going to change.
In the late 1990´s, the media wizzard Madonna publicly proclaimed her love of Ashtanga yoga. She sported an incredibly well trained and defined body and said she had become "gym free". She even took the renowned yoga teacher Duncan Wong, the creator of Yogic Arts, with her on her Re-Invention Tour so that he could be a spot on instructor while she was on the road. Yoga and pilates were the thing. The whole world followed, as it often does. Supermodel Christy Turlington wrote a book on yoga and launched a line of clothes meant for fashionable and comfortable yoga practice, Madonna´s friend and Oscar winning actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, appeared in the documentary "Ashtanga NY" on Sri K. Pattabhi Jois´ trip to New York, alongside Willem Defoe and a member of the Beasty Boys. Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell released a yoga dvd, promising that everyone could attain a "Geri body" if they did yoga. Many yoga teachers reached celebrity status. Then Madonna fell off a horse and couldn´t do yoga for a while. She is apparently doing somethig else now. A new fad on its way?
It is easy to cringe about this. If yoga is about anything, it certainly is NOT about being a money machine and an exercise fad fueled by supermodels in Sirsasana. Trends come and they burn out. People get their fix and go on to seek the next big thing.
I have often rolled my eyes when someone told me how their gym now offers yoga classes. On the other hand, there might be benefits to be reaped here. Yoga has proved to be more than a proverbial flash in a pan of the exercise world. It stuck around for thousands of years before Raquel Welch and Madonna got turned on to it and it has displayed staying power for quite a few years after that as well. I actually taught a class in a gym for a short while and while I definitely noticed how people who had no idea what they were coming to, turned up in my Ashtanga class to "relax" after they had pumped iron, ended up facing their physical demons, often caused by pumping iron, and never returned again, there were others. These "others" seemed to have sensed that this "yoga thing" was something else. To my great joy, I noticed how some of them got themselves their own proper yoga mats and started developing into real yoga practicioners. People actually got the connection between breath and posture and noticed how their emotions got touched by the practice! What I realised was that yoga in gyms and on Madonna concerts can present yoga to a lot of people who would never be exposed to it otherwise. It turns on their inner yogis and turns them on to a lifetime of practice. Of course, there will always be people who try a yoga course or two and realise that yoga takes work and sweat and effort and that it´s by no means a quick fix and they go back to whatever they did (or did not do) before yoga. But what inspires me are those myriads of others who start up thinking they´re in it for the exercise and end up reading books, going to workshops, perhaps travelling to India and ultimately (India or not) understanding that yoga is a lifestyle and that the fat burn, flexibility and the "yoga body" are just side effects of something else, far more enormous. For amidst the nonsense of yoga slippers, teachers turning into tacky franchise owners and what not, there are so many people turning into bona-fide yogis, lives being changed and incredible teachers getting a chance to reach practicioners around the globe. This, I think, makes it worth while. Those chasing trends will go on chasing trends. They would with or without yoga. Some of them might realise along the way that they should give that sticky mat yet another try. And maybe they will stay. When I think about it, my practice didn´t start after three months of deep meditation in a cave in Tibet. It was because I had heard that people I respected and admired had started practicing. So I tried and stayed with it. I have an expensive and fabulous mat that somebody probably earns good money on. The bottom line is that using our heads is as good thing as ever. Has Geri Halliwell inspired you to do yoga? Great! Just realise that your practice will be yours and not Geri Halliwell´s or Madonna´s or Willem Defoe's and your body will end up looking like yours and not theirs because you´re you and not them. Staying with it is what it´s about, no matter what (or where or who) the starting point was. What makes us yogis is a steady, discipined practice and not developing the "yoga body". The fashionism in yoga should, if anything, be an ignition point for a lifetime of good practice. I think that it often is. If not, you´ll come and you will leave.
For all of us who have stayed: Go on - get those yoga pants if you REALLY want to (and can afford them), as long as you keep in mind that it´s about the effort. And breath and sweat. Never about the pants.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
If you are avoiding arm balances, bear in mind that they develop core strength, keep the bones sturdy, and sharpen mental discipline.
By Julie Gudmestad
When an arm balance appears in the Yoga Journal calendar or magazine, interesting discussion ensues at my studio. Some students are intrigued, wondering when we will work on the pose. Others, from the tone of comments like "Not in this lifetime," appear to be in awe. One student, a triathlete who competes in Ironman eventsâ€”a 2.4-mile open water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathonâ€”provided my favorite arm-balance remark: "Why in the world would anyone want to do such a thing?" To which I replied, "I bet people ask you that too!"
Actually, my student's question is a very good one. Why should you bother practicing these challenging poses? Even though they are hard for most people, are there benefits if you accept the challenge and really work on them? And what can you add to your practice that might make these arm balances come just a little easier?
One reason arm balances are so challenging is they require both strength and flexibility. You may be very strong but still not be able to do arm balances if you don't have the necessary flexibility. And yet excellent flexibility is no guarantee of success if you don't have the needed upper body and torso strength. Many people, especially women, come to yoga relatively weak in the upper body. This weakness may be due to a lifelong lack of regular work with the arms, shoulders, chest, and abdomen. Unfortunately, the weakness usually progresses as the decades go by and is often a factor in loss of independent living skills; many elderly folks can't open heavy doors or carry their own grocery bags. Over many years, the lack of hard work that challenges the upper body muscles and bones also contributes to loss of mineralization in those bonesâ€”osteoporosisâ€”which can be a serious health problem.
So the practice of poses that include weight bearing on the arms is a good idea to help prevent osteoporosis as well as to build upper body strength. In addition, practicing any balance pose, including arm balances, helps strengthen the balance reflexes and prevent falls. The combination of osteoporosis with poor balance reflexes can lead to falls and broken bones (wrist, shoulder, and hip fractures are most common), with potentially life-threatening consequences for the elderly.
Armed with this information, do you feel more motivated to work on those arm balances? Good, because it's quite a bit easier to build and maintain strength and bone density earlier in life, rather than try to regain later what you've lost. However, it's never too late to begin work, because studies have shown that the body responds to challenge by building muscle and bone mass even in the later decades of life.
A good place for most students to begin, at any age, is with regular practice of Plank Pose and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Both of these poses put moderate weight on the arms and shoulder bones and build good isometric strength in the pectoral muscles (chest), deltoids (cap of shoulder), and triceps (back of upper arm). All of these muscles must be strong for arm balances, and it may take months of regular Plank and Down Dog practice to build the strength required.
Plank is an especially good preparation for arm balances. It strengthens the weight-bearing muscles of the arm at the same angle, 90 degrees to the torso, that is needed for the prototypical arm balance Bakasana (Crane Pose), as well as many others. Scientific studies indicate that muscles are strengthened in the exact range of motion in which you work them, so you may be strong in one position, but the strength won't apply in another position.
While you're in Plank, it's a good idea to throw in some push-ups. If you're not so strong in the upper body, start with "mini-push-ups": From Plank on your knees rather than toes, let yourself down toward the floor just a few inches, then push back up.
With regular practice, you'll be able to go down a little deeper and do a few more repetitions. Eventually, you'll be able to go all the way to the floor and back up, and then it's time to start working full length from your toes. When you've lowered all the way down near the floor, bearing weight on only your hands and toes, you will of course be in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). This is also a good arm balance preparation, because you are bearing weight on your arms with the upper arms in line with your sides (instead of forward or overhead), as in arm balances like Astavakrasana (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Astavakra) and the rather advanced series of poses dedicated to the sage Koundinya.
Success in arm balances has another hidden ingredient: abdominal strength. Most balance poses, including inversions, require abdominal strength to support and stabilize the center of your body. In many arm balances, like Bakasana and Lolasana (Pendant Pose), the abdominal muscles must contract even more strongly to lift the weight of your pelvis and legs off the floor. So if you come to yoga without a regular practice of abdominal work, arm balances are likely to be a study in frustration. What poses can you include in your basic practice to build a solid foundation of abdominal strength? Plank Pose is again an excellent choice. Besides building chest and shoulder strength, it also works the abdominals. In an informal biofeedback study at our studio, one of our teachers found that Plank Pose elicited a stronger abdominal contraction than any traditional abdominal exercise, including crunches and sit-ups. This makes sense when you consider that in Plank the abdominals are supporting the whole middle of the body, preventing it from sagging with the pull of gravity.
Another great pose for abdominal strengthening isNavasana (Boat Pose). The abdominals contract in the pose to hold the torso up at an angle to gravityâ€”and to keep you from falling over backward. In addition, Navasana strengthens your hip flexors (the iliopsoas and rectus femoris) and thigh muscles (the quadriceps, including the rectus femoris) and is obviously also a balance pose. For all these reasons, it is an excellent conditioning pose for arm balances; unfortunately, it's also a pose not often included in home practices.
To make Navasana a little easier and to inspire you to include it more regularly, try coming into the pose by sitting on the floor with your knees bent up toward your chest, feet on the floor, and hands wrapped around the tops of your shins. Sit tall, lifting your chest and lengthening your spine. Slowly tip back, getting your balance as your feet lift off the floor. Keeping your chest lifted, release your hands and stretch your arms out parallel to the floor. In the first few weeks, you don't have to straighten your knees completely: Even with bent knees, you can feel the abdominals contracting. As you get stronger, you can gradually straighten your knees, keeping your chest lifted and lifting your feet above the height of your eyes.
While you are working on your upper body and abdominal strength, a few key areas also need work on flexibility. These include the spineâ€”in flexion (rounding forward) and twistingâ€”and the hips. Squatting in Malasana (Garland Pose) works on both spine and hip flexion, which are so important in arm balances like Bakasana. To come into Malasana, start by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Next, hang forward into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), placing the feet together so the inner edges of the feet touch. Then squat, allowing the knees to widen enough so the arms and shoulders fit inside the knees. Try to keep the heels on the floor; if they won't stay down, put a block or blanket under the heels.
Let your hips be heavy and your head hang down, relaxing your neck. Stay in the pose for a minute or so, letting your hips and back relax into the stretch. Eventually, your arms can wrap around your outer legs and your hands clasp behind your back.
Any of the sitting twists will help build rotational flexibility in the spine and rib cage, which is needed for arm balances like Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose). However, the squatting twist Pasasana (Noose Pose) is especially helpful as a preparation for the twisting arm balances. In the beginning, it's good to use the support of the wall to add leverage and avoid struggles with balance. Stand near a wall with your right side about a foot from the wall. Squat down, again supporting your heels if they come up off the floor. Lengthen your spine and rib cage up, turn to face the wall, and place your left forearm between the wall and your right knee. Place your palms flat on the wall and use the leverage of your arms against the wall to help you twist more deeply.
Now that you know some ways to condition your body for arm balances, it's time to consider another necessary ingredient for progress: mental discipline. Just as much as you'll be excited by your first successes, you'll be deeply frustrated and discouraged by your failures. Arm balances are therefore the perfect poses to practice persistence in the face of challenge, as well as non-attachment to the fruits of your labors.
Sunday, 22 April 2007
Sharon Gannon and David Life have written "Yoga is who you are.". Rather than being a quirky cliché, what it means is that whoever we are, our stuff- good and not so good - will show through our practice. The more challenging the practice, the more stuff will come up. This is when yoga really is revealed as far more than a physical practice. I find this to be especially true for balancing postures (for other people, other postures will trigger their target issues).
When I'm really tired or agitated, I often feel a tinge of flight reflex when I know that standing leg raises (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) are drawing nearer and nearer in my standing seqence. Leaning my chin toward my shin seems like such a chore and I am often tempted to just do the asana without leaning forward. Far from it being a purely physical thing, it is clear that what throws me out of balance is my generally unbalanced energy at that moment. I have done the posture countless times during years and years of my practice and STILL when my energy is a bit off, I find it challenging. On "good" days, it comes so easy that it`s difficult to imagine I ever found it difficult and then there are other days...
As in any other asana, what I find happens is that the practice communicates to us exactly what it is that we need. More stability, more strength, more focus, more breath. It tells us that in order to get to where we need to be, we need to release the mundane jitters of everyday life. Acknowledge them, keep your breath steady and release them. Shit happens and you don´t need to roll around in it but acknowledge that it happens and why it happens and take it from there. We need to know ourselves better and more honestly in order to get those asanas steadier and stronger. We all need to be truthfull to ourselves, both in our asana practice and at any other time, if we are ever to get to any place sensible. Mr Iyengar says that every cell in the body needs to know what to do. Now, this is a great truth. Since who and how we are, both at the moment and at any given time, is bound to seep into any posture we do (the harder the posture, the more of a challenge this will present), we need to direct our energy in a way that serves our purposes. This is extremely metaphoric for life. Things will happen as they do. Often times we like it, other times we don´t. And so what? Like leaning your chin toward your shin in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, the goal is knowing where you need to get yourself. Where do you need to go? So, at those jittery moments, I tend to take an extra breath, remind myself of exactly what it is that I am doing. I anchor my standing foot and try to spread the energy of my steady breath through my body. I try to inform every cell in my body of what the task is. And I relax. At a workshop Edward Clark did in Oslo, he said to us that we should think of what our dharma is, what we have to give to the world and put that into our practice. I loved this - it truly struck a major chord in me. The practice will inform us of where we´re at and who we are, if we are willing to listen. Now, we can choose to ignore this, but if we´re ever to get to any kind of goal that is worth while, where we really are at needs to be respected and acknowledged. If we don´t, something might snap, or the asana will seem impossible, or the breath will get uneven, or all those things at the same time. I remember when I started practicing Koundinyasana B (check out the picture), how I got all panicky and panting. I was all in my arms and I tended to forget to breathe. It was SO hard. So, first I decided that I just wasn´t strong enough. Then I tried it again and I just floated up. The difference wasn´t in my strength. What happened was that instead of just practicing the physical posture, I practiced yoga. Meaning that my breath was there, my focus was there, I was being honest and I took it from where I really was, instead of where my frantic, panting delusion told me I was. And It was delicious. The way it needs to be. The way my arms shook a little was delicous. The way it didn´t matter because I was really steady and there was delicous. Gannon and Life say that you can´t hold your balance - you have to reach for it. This, I think, is one of those things you can´t really grasp by analyzing what they might have meant by that. I honestly think that this needs to be practiced to be experienced and understood. You need to be thrown off balance and get yourself back into it to really understand. And then, the time comes when it actually does work. That´s how we balance the edge. That´s what yoga practice is all about.
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Here´s an update on what`s up on Oslo´s yoga front these upcoming weeks and months:
A unique opportunity to study with a true Indian yoga master and to establish a full yogic lifestyle, incorporating all elements of Patanjalis sutras that will compliment your asana practice.
He is a very advanced practitioner, having earned the title of YOGA SAMRAT (Emperor of Yoga)and has developed his own system of ten asana series (atmavikasa). You will receive a lot of individual attention and Venkatesh's teaching style is well known for his precision, dignity, discipline and ability to grade and progess students of all levels.
Though he is an expert in all sections of Yoga , his
special and rare expertise is in back bending asanas.
He is the first pers onto introduce special courses on
flexibility improvement tecniques which are based on
very strong scientific yet traditional grounds .
Yogacharya Venkatesh and Hema
.Five day Workshop starting
Monday april 23rd - Friday 27th
The cost is 4,250.00 Kroner or £350.00
Saturday april 29th - Sunday 30th 2007
The cost is 2,000.00 Kroner or £150.00
3 hours 600 kr per class
2 hours 400 kr per class
PENZANCE EIGHT DAY TEACHER TRAINING INTENSIVE WITH
EDWARD CLARK,ELIZABETH CONNOLLY, & DAVID COOKE
Open to those who are interested in developing and
progressingtheir understanding of yoga in a small
maximum of 14 students
The cost is £1250 which includes
accommodation , organic food and teacher training.
Deepen and develop your own practice with the amazing
Andrew Eppler at PRESENCE YOGA
Booking fee 1850kr
Contact: Gaute 0047 90 848412
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
e-mail Elizabeth : email@example.com
Actually, check out www.osloyoga.com for more info on all of the above.
David Keil will hold a workshop at Ashtanga Yoga Oslo from 26 May to 30 May. The focus will be on a deepers understandning of yoga anatamy. This will probably be an excellen one, both for those who attended his last workshop at Ashtanga Yoga Oslo and for those who are interested in the anatomy of yoga. Check out AYO´s website for more info.
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Commitment to practice is evidenced by your willingness to be present on the mat for whatever comes up right now.
By Judith Hanson Lasater
No matter how hard it may be to drag yourself to yoga class at the end of a busy day, inevitably you feel better when it's over, walking fluidly out the door with your sticky mat rolled neatly under your arm. At that moment it may seem inconceivable that you would ever resist practicing again. But somehow even the very morning after a great class, resistance to practice can arise. You may experience a mental struggle as you lie in bed, trying to decide if and when to get out of bed and onto your mat for that first Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
This experience of resistance is not just a modern phenomenon plaguing our overly congested culture. Throughout the history of yoga, students have struggled with exactly what it means to practice, what discipline is, and how to overcome recurrent resistance to practicing.
Very early in his classic Yoga Sutra, Patanjali provides a few verses that speak directly to these questions. After defining yoga as "control over the fluctuations of the mind" (Chapter 1, verse 2) and describing the basic categories of these fluctuations, he says, "Control over the mind's fluctuations comes from persevering practice and nonattachment" (1.14). These two guiding conceptsâ€”abhyasa (persevering practice) and vairagya (nonattachment)â€”are not just the key to overcoming your resistance; they are also the key to yoga. On the surface, abhyasa and vairagya would seem to be opposites: Practice requires the exercise of the will, while nonattachment seems more a matter of surrender. But in fact they are complementary parts of yoga, each requiring the other for its full expression.
Abhyasa is usually translated as "practice," but some have translated it as "determined effort," or what I am choosing to call "discipline." Unfortunately, there are few words as off-putting to most of us as "discipline." It brings back memories of being told to sit on that piano stool for 30 minutes and practice no matter what. Or in our minds we may have connected discipline with punishment. But the kind of disciplined effort Patanjali means by abhyasa is very different from the sense of force and even violence people associate with the word "discipline."
To me, discipline is not something that I force upon myself. It is something that I cultivate and which arises in me as a result of two things: my clarity of intention and my commitment.
To have clarity of intention requires that I take the time to examine and understand what my yoga practice is all about. Is it about stretching my hamstrings or about transforming my life? Do I use my practice to have a healthier and more attractive body, or to develop the awareness necessary so that my thoughts no longer run my life? Maybe I want both. After all, having a healthy body is not an unworthy goal. But in any case, it's important that we become as clear as possible, to the point of being able to write down what we want from our yoga practice. Over time, of course, this can change. When I started doing yoga, I thought I wasn't interested in "all that spiritual stuff." I thought I was doing yoga only to help cure my arthritis. But from my first class I felt deeply drawn to the whole of the teachings of yoga.
To lessen your resistance to practice, spend some time with this question of clarity. For just a few moments before you step onto the mat, ask yourself what your yoga practice is about today. Let your first focus be on clarity, not action. Whether your answer leads you to choose a physically challenging practice or a restful one, you will be more present with it if you are acting from a place of clarity. When you practice from clarity, you diminish the time you spend caught up in doubt and questioning. With your energy more focused, I predict you will enjoy your practice more-and thus, over time your resistance will decrease.
While clarity is one of the necessary ingredients for abhyasa, a second equally necessary ingredient is commitment. Patanjali states in verse 13 that persevering practice-what I am calling discipline-is the effort to stabilize the state in which the mind's fluctuations are most often restricted.
These days, it seems many people are confused about the concept of commitment. For instance, I sometimes overhear people say that they would make the commitment of marriage if they knew how it was going to turn out. But that suggests they do not really understand what commitment means. In fact, if you know the outcome of an action in advance, it does not require that much commitment. What makes your commitment to practice is the fact that you don't know for certain how it will turn out, yet you still choose it as the best course of action.
Yoga is a practice not only of action but also of observation and faith. When we observe our resistance to practice and then choose to act anyway, our practice becomes an expression of our faith in yoga-a faith that comes from both our past experience and trust that our practice will sustain us as we jump into the unknown.
And so I practice without knowing how it will all turn out. Clearly, along with clarity and faith, my commitment requires some will and effort. As Patanjali says in verse 14, establishing a firm foundation in practice requires sustained exertion over time. Commitment to practicing means I practice if it is easy for me, and I practice if it is hard for me. If I am bored, I practice; if I am enthusiastic, I practice; if I am at home, I practice; if I am on vacation, I practice. There is a saying in Buddhism: If it is hot, be a hot Buddha. If it is cold, be a cold Buddha. This is the consistency and determination in practice that Patanjali means when he speaks of abhyasa. In the beginning, this sustained exertion may be an act of will, an act of ego. But as we continue, the practice itself creates a momentum that propels us through the difficult moments of fear and boredom.
This consistency of commitment is evidenced by the willingness to get on the mat and be present for whatever comes up in your practice right now. Practice is not simply about achieving a particular physical or emotional goal. In fact, when you exercise your clarity, commitment, and faithâ€”when you choose to practiceâ€”you have already reached many of the goals of yoga.
But to truly achieve the kind of commitment and constancy that Patanjali calls abhyasa, we have to exercise the second activity he mentions in verse 12: vairagya, or nonattachment. Patanjali describes vairagya as the state in which one no longer thirsts for either earthly objects or spiritual attainments. Vairagya can also be thought of as release, surrender, and letting go. But just blindly letting go is not vairagya. Rather, the first constituent of this practice must be the wisdom of discrimination.
I learned this lesson very clearly one day on the streetcar. Fresh from teaching, feeling high and thinking myself full of compassion, I boarded the streetcar for the ride home. I felt full of love and grace and beamed at everyone around me. Suddenly, a very drunken man staggered down the aisle, leaned over me with a leering smile, and breathed alcohol into my face. This had never happened to me before or since. Maybe I was not as full of love and compassion as I thought; full of judgments, I recoiled and turned away. I learned that I was not as open and loving as I imagined-and also that perhaps the streetcar was not the best place to have "all my chakras hanging open." The universe had just given me a little lesson about discrimination.
The practice of discrimination leads to the next part of vairagya: understanding the difference between acknowledgment and acceptance. Many years ago, I somehow concluded that to practice letting go was to accept everything exactly as it is. I now have a different perspective. I have learned that there are certain things I will never accept: child abuse, torture, racism, willful environmental damage, the inhumane treatment of animals, to name a few. However, if I am going to practiceâ€”and liveâ€”with clarity, I must acknowledge that these things exist and not live in a state of denial.
Paradoxically, when I live with the deep acknowledgment of what is, then and only then can I live in clarity. Once I am living in clarity, I can choose my actions and let go of the fruits of my labors, becoming deliciously lost in the process of acting from compassion. If I just accept things as they are, I may never choose to alleviate my suffering or the suffering of others. This so-called acceptance is really complacency disguised as spiritual practice.
I have heard this called "idiot compassion." It means offering forgiveness and acceptance with no discrimination. Failing to hold the thief accountable for his crime is not proper application of vairagya; we can have compassion for his suffering and still require that he spend time in jail. Our compassion is only real and valuable when it will serve to reduce suffering. When we let go of our beliefs of how the world should be and instead acknowledge the world as it actually is, we can then work from a heart of compassion to alleviate suffering and to serve others (and ourselves) in the highest sense possible.
Only through discerning and acknowledging what is can we exert the determined effort of abhyasa in a way that does not resort to force or even violence against ourselves and others. When I am lying in bed, resisting practice, instead of blaming myself for my reluctance, I can marshal both vairagya and abhyasa. As I lie there, I can clarify my intention and refocus my commitment; I can acknowledge my state of resistance without accepting it; finally, I can choose to let go of attachment to the outcome of my practice session.
I can also let go of my doubts, fears, insecurities, and struggle, and let go into my clarity, strength, determination, and faith in the process of yoga. And I can remind myself that no path through life can be free of difficulty. Rather than trying to avoid difficulty, I can choose which challenge I want: the challenge of change and its growth or the challenge of remaining where I already am. Would I rather face the difficulties that might arise in my practice or the difficulties of remaining in resistance and living without the positive effects of my practice?
If I bring all this to mind, I am likely to get out of bed, step onto the mat, and enjoy my practiceâ€”and I'll be that much less likely to feel resistance when I wake up tomorrow.
Judith Hanson Lasater is the author of Relax and Renew (Rodmell Press, 1995) and Living Your Yoga (Rodmell Press, 2000). For more information on her teaching and workshop schedule, visit www.judithlasater.com.
This site is about the study and practice of yoga. Since my personal practice primarily focuses on Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, there is bound to be a lot of focus on this type of yoga practice. Still, over the years I have realized the vastness and beauty of other kinds of practice - the precision and beauty of Iyengar method, the fierceness of Forrest yoga, the phenomenal force of Tripsichore yoga, the healing, soothing softness of restorative practice and so on and so forth. Or the blazing love of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Some people who see yoga as purely a physical practice shun the kind of practice Bhakti yogis do. And the truth is that Bhakti is what it all boils down to. Why we practice and why we breathe. It should all be devotion. If your practice is purely physical, it might be a nice start but a good headstand is not neccessarely good yoga. A good headstand is not neccessarely yoga at all. It is about much more than a toned triceps. It is my firm belief that no one way is the only way. Some fresh ashtangis will look down on other forms of hatha practice, as Ashtanga is a "strong" practice. The truth is that you can put strength in any practice. And you can have a weak and floppy Ashtanga practice if you practice without breath and focus. And you can have a strong, vigorous Yin yoga practice if your whole being is in it. That`s what I love about yoga practice. It really will tell you where you`re at, on every level. The thing about many of us is that we have no idea about where we`re at and we live caught up in our mundane, delusional everyday spin cycle. If this is the case, your practice will tell you this, if you`re willing to listen. So, this site is for all the yogis, it is for me and it is for those who are curios about yoga. It is for anyone.
Since I live in Oslo, Norway, I will try to hold anyone who is interested updated on yogic goings on in Oslo and in Norway. Still, I have decided to do the site in English so that it will be accessible for more people. So, whoever you are - enjoy! Namaste.