Ganesh – The Elephant God
No, we don’t worship statues. Just to be clear – yoga is not a religion. But it can be spiritual. It can be a lovely addition to your faith. It can make your faith stronger. Or, it can just be yoga. Yoga is a science, a way to seek enlightenment, liberation. The statues that you see in a yoga studio are the representations of the many faces of God. In the study of yoga, we draw on the many, many stories that, like parables, are there to teach us lessons. They give us examples. They give us hope. The stories are about good versus evil and the triumph of persistence, discipline, compassion and love. It does not matter if you are religious, spiritual or not.
Ganesh is the elephant headed deity. He is chubby, with a big belly. He represents love, compassion, the enjoyment of life and the removal of obstacles that stand in the way of our progress. He is usually depicted as a happy guy who likes sweets. Our happy elephant god is worshipped in the Hindu faith (which has many similarities to Christianity, believe it or not). He is consulted before every contract signed or marriage entered. He is the son of Shiva. The story goes that Shiva was off in battle, fighting the demons and had not seen his son in many moons. Paravati, Ganesh’s mother, was in the bath and Ganesh was guarding the bathhouse when Shiva returned. Ganesh did not recognize his father and Shiva did not recognize his son. When Ganesh would not admit Shiva to the bath, Shiva used his mighty sword to cut off Ganesh’s head. When Shiva saw Paravati distraught, he realized his mistake and vowed to replace Ganesh’s head with that of the next living thing. That happened to be an elephant. So our cute, playful Ganesh has the head of the elephant. The big ears represent his ability to hear our requests. His big belly represents his love of sweets, or that which is sweet in life. His trunk represents his ability to bestow the sweetness of life on us. In other words, to help us understand our desires and to help give treats to others. The symbolism goes on and on.
Next Friday, Feb. 28th at Yoga Madre we are having a workshop exploring deity’s and mantras. You can find more info at yogamadre.com if you would like to join us.
See you in class.
It never ceases to amaze me how resistance can effect our lives and accepting change can bring about peace. The simplest examples can help us learn big lessons. How many times in our lives have we resisted change only to finally, reluctantly, change and then wish we had done it years before? This is not to say that there are not things worth holding on to, but the ability to flow can make it all so much more peaceful. Resistance or “holding” does not flow with the law of nature. In fact energy or prana is always moving. We are always changing on a cellular level, we are always breathing, moving and thinking. So when we get stuck or hold on to ideas and things and thing that are no longer serving us it creates a block in the flow.
So how do we learn to be more accepting of change? How do we discern what we want to keep around? Well, first accepting that nothing is truly ours. Then we can learn to study our own behaviors. Observing our tendencies and our habits is the key. We start this process with the lessons our own movement can teach us. How long have we been stuck with those tight hamstrings? The older we get the more stuck we become. It is imperative that we keep moving and stay flexible. Every day on the yoga mat we breathe into the change and move the body to stay open and flexible.
This then translates to our minds. What thoughts are we hanging on to? Are these thoughts serving us? What about our feelings? Are they really productive for us or are they habitual? Once we notice, we can see the possibilities of change or seeing things in a new way. Once that happens the laws of nature can help us to become unstuck. And then it all comes back to the breath. We breathe in the fresh new thoughts and abilities and exhale the old. A sense of peace sets in that we are in the flow.
So, if you have been stuck, in a rut, or resistant to change, take some time to breathe. Move the body in new ways everyday. Be gentle and learn to go with the flow. And of course, get into a yoga class.
I will see you there!
Get Yourself Some Flowers!
For Valentines this year – I thought I would just say it again:
For most of us, loving ourselves seems to be the hardest. We love our children, spouses and our dogs and…
But what if we did a better job of loving ourselves? What would that even look like?
Here are a few points to help you get started:
Love where you have been in your life.
Love how you think.
Love how very powerful you are.
Love all your dreams.
Love all of your feelings.
Love your yoga practice (I had to throw that in).
Love all of your emotions.
And then go out and love others.
And love the planet.
The practice of yoga helps us see our own beauty. It helps us see the beauty in others. Just by doing the practice we get stronger and more aware of our bodies movement. We love our accomplishments and forgive our imperfections. Really, the practice of love starts at home, with us, inside. Then we have lots of love to give freely to everyone else.
See you in class.
When things get in the way
“I was practicing everyday. I felt great. Then I got a cold. 3 weeks later I made it back to class. It felt great. I was weaker, but got it back. Then we went on vacation, then it was the Holidays, then taxes, then…” well, you get the picture. There are a million reasons not to go to class today. “I have to help my sister. I have to go to a meeting at school. My son has a dentist appointment. Work is crazy right now. I feel too fat to go to yoga. I just haven’t had time.” -I hear this all the time!
This is the story of everyday life. The thing is – we feel so much better when we practice. Our lives start flowing better also. What about if there is a bigger tragedy or strife? What do we fall back on? It is then that we need the yoga more than ever. Our practice centers us, calms us focuses us, helps with our physical wellbeing, our spiritual wellbeing. In a nutshell: yoga helps us live a better life. Yoga is about finding happiness in our selves. What better way to face adversity than from a place of calm? With a better understanding of ourselves and how we process and overcome – we can be powerful creatures indeed.
When things are busy, not going great, stressful, and we have no time – that’s when we need to get on the mat even more!
But here’s the best part: yoga is always there for you. It doesn’t have to take up your whole day, you can do just a little bit today or you can just do a gentle class. Yoga welcomes you back home, to yourself, whenever you wish to be there.
See you in class.
Are we perfect yogis?
If we were the perfect yogis, we would get up before dawn to do our practice. It would be the same pattern everyday: get up at the same time, do a cleansing, an asana practice (postures), some breath work, kriya and japa meditation – all in our caves with no distractions. We would eat freshly prepared food made with love according to Ayurvedic principles and have a good long yoga nidra (yoga sleep). Enlightenment would be within reach, we would work so hard and the benefits would be clarity and inner peace. All our desires for greater good would be realized.
But alas, here we are in the real world, kids and pets climbing on us during meditation and a fast meal. We go off to school and work without the time for practice. Are we supposed to give up that precious time when the kids jump into our beds or intimacy with our partners in the early hours of the morning? The real world here doesn’t look like what the yogis in the caves are doing. Life in the ashram seems great, but what about my job?
Tantra is yoga for all of us – not just the kings or Brahmins. It is about the practices that we can all access. The meaning of tantra is to weave. It’s about weaving yoga into our everyday lives. Finding the practices that fit your life – that’s perfect yoga. It’s about more than just a class every once in a while. If we create our own personal discipline that helps us to live a happier and fuller life, then we are on the right track. My teacher says to wrap your life in your practice. Wrap your home and your family in your practice. Live it and enjoy all the benefits.
It starts by coming to class and soon, you will be looking for your own practice at home to live everyday and still get to come enjoy class with all the other yogis who are wrapping their lives in it as well. Before the crazy holidays sweep you away, make the commitment. Start the wonderful practice that allows you stability and comfort with in all the turmoil. Get grounded and clear – the Holidays will be lots more fun, trust me.
See you in class.
Why is yoga a spiritual practice and not just exercise?
Yoga was developed thousands of years ago. The ancients wanted to know why we are here and while we are here, how can we be happy? What they came up with back in the time of the oldest teachings, the Rig Veda, was that we are inherently happy. That is why we strive for happiness all the time. But through years (or lifetimes?) we have developed patterns, physical and mental attitudes, that block our way. The sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda come from these teachings and explain how if we are balanced, find out our own unique attributes and live in such a way that we are healthy, then we find the fountain of youth: physical health, mental health, emotional health and spiritual health. The path of self-knowledge IS the removal of suffering, and we can reach liberation (moksha).
The problem begins with the body. If we have any malady, that’s all we can focus on. “ouch! I stubbed my big toe.” Now all I can think about is that physical pain. Any injury or illness can become all-consuming. We focus everything around it and even learn to identify with our illnesses. The more focus something has, the more energy it has. It can grow this way. The practice of yoga is to optimize physical health so that we can find liberation. We need to remove the obstructive patterns. We need to develop a relationship to our bodies for maximum health. Our patterns will then become apparent and we can do something about them.
Yoga is not a religion. It enhances our religions and our relationship to ourselves.
See you in class.
Blowing in the Wind
They say that this weekend we will be blowing again. In Yoga and Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga) we say that the wind is Vata. Wind is good, it keeps things blowing or moving around. It keeps us dancing, talking, questioning. But when we get too much wind – we get spacey. The wind can make us ungrounded, unfocused and depressed. If we cannot concentrate – we cannot get anything done. Getting things done gives us a sense of self and accomplishment.
In today’s world everything is Vata! There are planes, trains, cars, cell phones and Twitter! Everything is moving too fast. Not to mention that as we age, well, we get a little drier in the skin and bones department. So while we want to keep moving, we need nurturing and grounding. We want to learn the secrets of living longer and feeling whole.
Your yoga practice can make a HUGE difference. A focus on the elements can bring greater balance. For example, the elements that balance wind would be Earth and Water. So bringing in the earth element can stabilize and ground you. The water element can hydrate and nourish you. A flow-y water like practice can counter that fast-paced wind but keep you moving and happy. Forward folds are a great way to bring in earth. Balancing with your gaze fixed on a spot on the floor can help too. What we want is calm and steady. So we flow a little and then stabilize. Easy right?
The idea is not to get rid of what we cannot change – the wind, but to balance and support what we can change – ourselves.
See you in class.
This morning in the studio many people were speaking about how much they love it.
It happens every day. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful space, such wonderful teachers and a fabulous community of practitioners. From those of us in gentle class to those of us in the advanced class, we are all coming together and our lives are better for it. See, it’s all about perspective.
In yoga we learn to change the prana or the energy. This has a huge beneficial outcome on the way we view the world. This is why we feel so good after we practice. We are balanced and focused. According to the great sage Patanjali, “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.” (definition from the Yoga Sutras in The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikchar) or in another translation: “Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception.” (Mukunda Stiles)
-Vascillating waves of perception, hmmmmm? So, what we are saying is that you can choose how you want to see the world, if you can get a hold of your thoughts and direct them. Thus, we can be happier. Wow, can prozac do that? Yoga is really the all –natural, anti-depressant. It teaches us not to identify with the thoughts that are dragging us down and causing us misery. But to choose the thoughts that are serving us. We can become our truest selves. The ones we were born to be, with talent, creativity, open hearts and ready to serve each other.
Sounds easier said than done? Well, it is by learning to consciously shape your breath and body that leads to this conscious shaping of thought. That’s why us yogis are smiling. That is what keeps us coming back every day. We long to see the beauty in the world, and as we deepen our practice the beauty begins to jump out at us more and more everyday.
Thank you to all our amazing family of yogis, for embracing a better way!
See you in class.
Never been to a yoga class?
Anyone can go to yoga. You do not need to be flexible. All ages are in the same room. But you want to pick the level that is right for you. Some of us need gentle yoga. We want to calm the mind, stretch out and get strong, yet with out the strain on the wrists and knees. Maybe our low backs are tricky and we just want to build strength with out aggravation there. Maybe we have had a health issue that keeps us from more vigorous exercise or even that we haven’t done any physical movement for a while and need to work in slowly. Gentle class is great for this. We learn to go inside and choose what is right for us.
Beginning class is for the student that wants to get moving. You get all the benefits of the gentle practice, but with even more strength. You learn alignment and how to do the poses. You learn breathing exercises to help you build stamina and tame the thoughts. Any class creates greater focus, but beginning is the place to start if you are in ok shape and want to get all the benefits of a yoga class. You can learn meditation and mantra.
All levels is for the student that knows a little bit of yoga and is ready for a bit more challenge – but the great thing is you get to work at your own level. Advanced and easier modifications are given. More challenging breath options and more of the ancient teachings work their way in.
You don’t generally have to make a reservation for class in our neighborhood. You can just show up a few minutes early to meet the teacher and tell them your specific needs. You don’t need to bring anything but yourself. Wear comfortable clothing. You’ll go barefoot. Most studios have mats to borrow or rent.
You just need to get there. The teacher takes care of the rest. If you have ever heard someone say “ I went to a yoga class, and it was too hot” or “ I went to yoga and everyone was doing all these crazy poses and I was lost” – then you need to come to Yoga Madre. It’s not too hot and it’s really friendly and accessible.
You will be so glad you did!
See you in class,
A Teacher’s Story
I can remember when I first began practicing yoga, it felt so natural. It felt like it was meant to be, I was in the right place. Like HOME. Even after practicing just a couple of months, it felt like I had been practicing for years. Attending a teacher training had actually crossed my mind back then but when I looked for programs, they were on the other side of town taking place while I was at work. And not to mention the part I was already working and 8-5 and attending night school from 6-10 most evenings. So, I settled in to develop a practice. Not only did my physical asana practice improve, but my spirit started to evolve. I began to loosen up and some of my anxiety was relieved. I started to have fun! Granted I was no stranger to spirituality or seeking that out, but I needed more –time to just be.
Upon 2 pregnancies, I continued to practice; right up until birth and then right after. My yoga gracefully carried me through all of these stages. I remember being impressed by the support from the yoga community. My Love for yoga continued to grow.
And yes, another natural step came next; a Teacher Training. This time it could be a reality! It was Yoga Madre’s program, taking place on the weekends. Right here in town. But what about the time? the money? the baby?! Somehow it worked out. I was so excited. And I can’t say I was frightened of any spiritual work and self study to be had–I was excited to go deeper. I was keen on the part about growing & moving forward; there’s going to be uncomfortable moments & stuff–fear, pain, judgement. It became my job to be fearless in this pursuit.
You ask what has come of this? Knowing myself better, getting in touch with my dreams, developing a sense of where my energy is going, sharing (teaching) what I love with others, and a regular meditation practice (something I’ve longed for). This an ongoing continuous journey filled with love, fear, joy, and countless opportunities to learn!
So, there. For those seeking to deepen their practice, get clear,and follow your dreams, we offer you our Teacher Training/Advanced Studies program. Next 200hr starting in November.
Namaste and Love,
Honored to be teaching yoga