Guruji lives here

Guruji lives here

Guruji lives here

I remember the day in New York when I was in the led class with Guruji very clearly.  It was nearly 11 years ago. I had been practicing Ashtanga for a few years and I had recently come home from a business trip where I hurt my back and had to go to the ER to get my muscles to relax. I had an x-ray and was sent home with a prescription for Valium and Percocet. No diagnosis, just that my lumbar spine was pretty flat and what they did for me should relax the muscles that would not release. I was practicing in my hotel room and threw my back out when I mindlessly threw my legs up for headstand. It was very painful and I knew nothing of why this would happen or how to get back.  When I got back to my home studio I actually wrote my teacher and told him I was going to take some time off. Basically I was going to do restorative and spend my time, money and energy in restorative sessions with another master teacher.

I did not want to quit but I was in pain. My Ashtanga teacher at the time was pretty fixed on regular practice and that the practice can heal you. The way I understood what he told me was that my issues may be something with the emotional body and that I may be holding onto some past trauma. I was taught to trust in something bigger than myself and to respect the primary series.   I don’t think you can teach someone to have faith however my teacher who had a ton of faith in the practice, influenced me. He went onto explain to me that I needed to understand that it is a big practice and that I would have to ease back in slowly. This to me was not how I did things when I first started. I did not really know how to do things less than 100%. I had to learn and I continued.  Also practicing the led class in the city seemed like a big deal and although I was hesitant, I went.

Fast forward to today. As usual, I started my day in the Mysore room at AYM teaching. I dressed, but then I thought to myself, where is that shirt? Something was pulling me to find it. I dug around and found it. It’s a shirt that says, “Guruji lives here” across the chest.  Later in the day I was sitting in my car and saw Eagle’s post about Guruji and the dates. I did not know that today is the anniversary of Guruji’s passing and I looked down at my shirt and smiled.  Charles Secallus encouraged me to practice with Pattabhi in NYC those 11 years ago and I am forever grateful and feel blessed to have ventured on the path and to have had that opportunity to meet him. Since those days, I have met so many wonderful lineage holders of this tradition over the years and each one has left an impression on me that I carry in my heart. They say that all who practice this tradition carry Guruji in their heart. Practicing Ashtanga yoga is the tool that has helped me in the best and worst of times. Today I pause and am grateful to the practice, the way he taught it and all the seeds he planted who have turned into some pretty awesome teachers and lineage holders. Thank you Guruji for giving me my voice through all I have learned and continue to learn and a practice that will keep unfolding. Keep moving, keep breathing and do your practice. “Practice and all is coming”-Pattabhi Jois

What keeps you coming back to the mat?

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I have been thinking a lot about what keeps people coming back to the practice.   Truth be told, I have been thinking about why I continue to do so too.  What makes us continue with the things that we struggle with and how do we deal with the journey that is not always an easy one, be it mentally or physically.  I am reminded that this asana practice is a tool for me to stay balanced and let it be the hardest thing I do so that life off the mat is met with equanimity and joy.  When I looked for things to be easier, I was mistaken.  The effort keeps changing and the only limits are the self imposed limitations in my mind. Even with physical limitations practicing yoga is about settling the chitta and not how the asana turns out. The practice is our blueprint. I come back time and again to the dedication, determination, discipline and devotion that is required to us to have a long time journey with the Ashtanga practice which Sharath has spoken in conference time and again.  I also come back to the fact that I have faith in something bigger that myself and see the transformation effects of the practice in myself and others I teach.  There is trust and with trust there is love.  We need to take care of the temple.

I remember being at the juice bar and having conversations about this with people who have been exposed to the method, who say “oh yeah, I’ve done Ashtanga Yoga, but I do ______ now.”  (insert whatever you like here.) They wanted to know why I do it every day.  Instead of coming up with an explanation that would not be easily understood in a brief encounter, I said “It’s what I do.  I practice daily just like I brush my teeth.”  In reality I never understood why runners could run everyday without a big explanation but that I got on my mat and did my practice created a “WOW” effect only because it was a daily *sadhana.

*Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. It is the foundation of all spiritual endeavor. Sadhana is your personal, individual spiritual effort. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve the purpose of life.

There is certainly a honeymoon period with the practice that can be as little as a month to years.  So what happens after the honeymoon?  What happens when you feel something, a new sensation or even pain.  Do some people get bored and leave.  You blame it on the room, on the teachers who give too much attention or not enough.  I can seriously say that every day I learn something on the mat no matter where I am and no matter how much attention I get. It could be a simple shift in an emotion or thoughts that are easy to let go of or I can see what I am holding onto.    When people say that they don’t have time and have lots of excuses, my thoughts go to the fact that life somehow makes room for the practice if we want it to.

So herein lies the question to be answered in one or two sentences for inspiration. Please email to ashtangayogamontclair@gmail.com

What keeps you coming back to the mat? 

Yoga & Living a Balanced Life

I keep hearing Sharath in the back of my mind as he repeats “Yoga is 24/7”. What does that truly mean and how can we relate to this? We understand that we cannot only be good yogis on the mat and that we need to carry what we learn in yoga into our lives.  When we are happy all day and compassionate to others, does that cut it? Does that mean the yoga is working in our life? I suppose it certainly is a start.

I like being happy.  Who doesn’t ? It’s great to be in a good mood with everything going your way.    Unfortunately, happiness is a fleeting emotion and we recognize this. We take the good stuff with the challenges and disappointments. We understand that we would not be able to recognize happiness if not for sadness.   I thought about my weekend and plans that a friend was trying to make to reconnect.  I thought this would be so nice and then an hour later got another message that it was not going to work out.  It’s not like I feel nothing but I’m okay with letting it go and hoping for when it does work out.

I remember when I wanted 8 days in the week and I would be happy when (just insert any thought that pops in).  It was in the early days of practice when I was a full time working mother and a wife and took up a yoga practice.   Life was FULL which is only a nice was to say I was busy.  Being busy took me away from me however.  Being busy was just a mask to show how accomplished I was and how much I could take on. Always looking for purpose and recognition. One year I was a working mother with 4 year old twins and a new born and took up being the co-president of the preschool.  I loved the challenge and thrived on it.  I look back on this and say, “that lady was crazy”.  I forgive her as yoga did not find her yet.

Yoga ruined my life and saved me.  Yoga has taught me how to be a more balanced person.  It doesn’t matter when we come to the practice or when we find it but it will ruin the old version of you.  The version that you thought you were.  My version was the person that was run by their emotions.  I liked happy and an organized life.  When the sad and chaos struck or anything another other than happy it was not very pretty.  I see glimpses of this woman and then I come back to the lessons that yoga has been teaching me.  How to be the seer and how to let go.

Today I meditated with my dad.  Five minutes before we did some yoga poses and five minutes at the end of practice.  He had some pain so we had to go lightly on the poses and I figured he came to the studio to do some yoga so I turned to sitting and watching the breath.  We timed each meditation session and we did it!  I have to say that it was one of the best sessions yet.  He asked me again, why I do all this. All the yoga, everything yoga.  He sort of pokes fun at me and asks again why I need this.  I tell him it makes me a more balanced person. He nods and slowly he is understand or accepting.  In any event he keeps showing up on the mat and does what he can and even now the sitting quietly with the breath is not a big deal. He is seeing how this yoga can work in his life too at 77.  I’m really proud of him and all my students who put themselves out there every day to lead more balanced lives.

The quote from my Yogi Tea bag from today fits nicely, as always.

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Thanksgiving & Practice

I’m happy that Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to stop and be reminded to be thankful.   I can say that I am grateful and thankful, but to tell you the truth sometimes it’s just not the first thing you think about when things may not be going your way or, I’ll just say it, as expected.   It’s a process of letting go of the outcome and how you think it’s supposed to be. I’ve been taking action these days, preparing for positive things and setting the stage. That action that I’ve been taking feels like it’s got this cool ripple effect and it’s bringing about change and something very powerful.

I’m really impressed on how the practice is working in the lives of many people that have been coming to AYM. The beauty of fellowship and caring that I have seen and felt among the practitioners of all levels is impressive especially this week being Thanksgiving and holiday time.   Many of the practitioners seem to be in it together. They don’t know each other deeply . . . yet . . . but they are in it together. When you call it fellowship I sort of think that it’s so much more than that. The oneness that is experienced in the room of people breathing and practicing is more than fellowship. Each person feels a sense of gratitude for coming to the practice. They want to be there, they want to practice and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. I’m so grateful to have these students come and share their energy with others. I believe it’s that energy that is lifting some people up. We don’t know what is going on in each others lives for the most part but whatever each is doing, I am thankful that this practice has an enabling effect, has a grounding effect, gives confidence and has the ability to radiate out something powerful to ourselves and back out to each other and in our relationships.

It’s funny when you have love to share, you see more and more clearly, the love, compassion and kindness everywhere around you. What a great mirror!

P.S.  By the way I’m thankful for my three beautiful grown sons, my family-immediate and extended, my friends both old and new (meaning old in length of time, not age :)), my dogs who show me unconditional love and love me the most, my path that has led me to share the practice, my teachers C-Ray and Timji for some most recent discoveries and for this time getting to learn from Sharath and you know the list just goes on and on right now.

Namaste!

Anniversary of my birth

I feel loved today and for that I am so thankful and very blessed.  I have to say that I don’t have many expectations these days on the anniversary of my birth however today I was very happy, genuinely happy as to the direction of my life.  I get up pretty early and it’s a regular schedule but for some reason there is a spring in my step and I feel peaceful. I go to meet the vegetable delivery guy, Bob, and he blurts out “Happy Birthday”.  I’m a little stunned but I like it.   It’s a fun and easy exchange to start me on my day.

The studio is gearing up as always with Hillary setting the stage.  She rocks the intermediate series like no other and continues to try new things.  I enjoy watching her progress as well being inspired by her practice. She sets the pace every morning for sure.   The students at AYM totally inspire and amaze me.   After the chant they all blurt out a round of Happy Birthday!  Crazy but fun.  Ganesh is wearing a party hat and there is a sign on the board with the word LOVE in it and there are cards, gift bags and a new coffee mug.  And it’s just 6 am!

Every smile and exchange that I had today was so pleasant. I think when you are happy, open and receiving people feel it and something taps into them to make them feel good as well.  The yoga brings us all together in the rooms but seriously this is not an easy practice.  There are physical demands, mental demands and then there are those judgements you just have to leave at the door.   The self doubt, the comparisons and the questioning.  Oh yeah and don’t forget about FEAR.

Today was different and I felt different.  At I mentioned before, I felt peaceful but it was more of feeling at ease.  Learning not to rush, not to have the continual worry mind chatter and to stay in the present was the key for me today.   As I look back on the two sessions that I taught and the exchanges throughout the day I felt present.  As a teacher there are a lot of demands in the room.  Even if some of them are self imposed by yours truly they are there and this can cause stress.  But today I practiced yoga and for that I am grateful.  It was honest and there was a “union” or a coming together that I noticed in my actions and my mind and when I needed to, I paused.

I continue to trust that I am exactly were I am supposed to be and that everything happens for a reason.  The faith for some reason just keeps getting stronger and I finally feel wiser today.  Who knows about tomorrow but every day I step on the mat I step there with new eyes so that I can learn something new about the essence of myself.   Trying to let go, to drop the rope and to breathe.  I encourage people to do the same.

So we have heard the saying, ‘the Universe is testing me” and I guess I use this a lot.  Zach wrote on his card, “The Universe may be testing you but I think you are going to pass with flying colors”.  I am proud of the people around me, from my boys, my family – mom, dad, step mom, sis .  . . , to my students, my special apprentice, my old friends and new friends to the random people I come into contact with.  Thank you all for the beautiful thoughts, birthday posts, text messages, calls, birthday cards and sweet gifts.  The gift of your presence was all I needed and I got so much more.  Feeling overwhelmed but for the first time not crazy emotional and taking it all it as I need to.  I feel well FED for a wonderful year ahead.

Namaste all!

Deb

 

 

Hills and Valleys

The hills and valleys of the practice.  Do you know them?  Can you sort of feel where you are?  I remember when I was biking through the hills of Tuscany some time ago.   It was a really cool trip and I there were these rides that we would set out to do everyday.   We did not know the routes and they were different every day but you knew there would be hills to climb.  I don’t want to get into that here but I was thinking about Ashtanga and the journey it takes, those hills and then being in the valley or just going straight and riding along sort of enjoying the scenery.

This Ashtanga journey, or lets say ride for fun, is different for everyone and then again there is a lot that we all can relate to.  Right now for me practice is exciting.  I figured out how to breathe better (thank you netti pot) and I feel ready.  I feel ready to sort of see where it goes without expectation nor fear.  You see I have these spots in the practice that I would like to gloss over and those spots I come up every day and I am trying to figure out how to get the fearing out of it.  So attention to my breath and the asana that I am on, in other words, staying in the present, seems to be working for me.  Oh yes and being mindful of my drishi and for me I have to M.Y.O.B  This last thing is pretty helpful as well. These days I’m feeling an ease with the practice and a certain ease with the spots in the practice, those asanas, that I thought I could do without.  They are becoming my sweet spots in practice, they are becoming my friend.

I know the valley very well too and the times when you are tired and you can’t breathe any better and you can’t do any better and you just want to feel better and more at ease with it, with practice, with life even.  I’ve been frustrated, annoyed and angry with practice, with circumstances, with myself and others.  It is not easy.  It is not easy to stay with something and ride it out especially something that you could say I’ll do it tomorrow or maybe I just won’t even do this anymore and then the mind starts this justification process.  The mind is pretty powerful and will convince you that what you are thinking is right!  What’s is all for anyway? I am not going to go into the standard things we tell ourselves, that’s been written before and is nothing new.   What I love about this and practice is that you can relate this to other things happening on your life journey.

I see people in the valley and I see people at the top and all in between. Just like life we have to ride this out.  For me the answer is in getting on the mat and feel where you are, experience where you are and accept where you are, the circumstances . . . everything.  Acceptance is the key as without this you cannot move beyond anything and that’s when we get stuck.  So for now, know that for every uphill ride we make there is a downhill and go slowly on the downhill, pay attention and enjoy the ride for:

“Chi va piano va sano e va lontano” . . . (that’s italian for “one who goes slowly, goes healthy and surely over a long time” – anyway that’s my translation for it)

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing Ashtanga Yoga

I’ve been feeling very grateful these days and I am starting to feel what it may mean to fully embrace Ashtanga yoga.   For one thing it does not seem to be so easy, but surely this is worth every effort.  I raised my kids while I tiptoed on the path, diving in at times and then feeling that I could only do what I could do, pulling back just enough to make it right.  It was a delicate balance back then and this was before I knew about the layers I would start to peel away.  What would it mean to “embrace Ashtanga”?  To put it simply, it’s getting on the mat, doing your practice and letting go.  It means learning very day when you are on the mat and off the mat.  It means facing the difficulties in the practice in a way that this yoga is teaching me to do and then bringing it into your life.

These days I have become aware of what is possible with what I’ve got and to also find ways to change and grow.  Embracing Ashtanga is to be patient with oneself, to be persistent in what you want to do, not be be hard on yourself and to bring your best self to the mat every day.   It is a practice that does not lie to you and surely there are no shortcuts.    There is a community that is more like family these days and a built in oneness among practioners.

Today I came up against what I could do and what I wanted to do.  I worked very hard to stay in the present and stay with the breath.  I would like to skip those things that are difficult and cause me to stumble.  I also know that it is through the stumbling that I can continue to grow and continue to embrace the practice.  I love the poses and there are days when I love going to the edge.   It is that edge that can keep moving as you grow.  It just does not stay the same and for that I am grateful.  I faced something today in practice that is difficult to fully express into words.  I stayed with it, faced the mind stuff and have a sense of coming right up it.   I figure if I don’t go right up to it, I will never get through it and so I get to the edge, embrace the practice and its teachings and then life off the mat seems so much easier.    This  perhaps is the lesson.

 

 

Power of Positive Thought

It is interesting to me to think how far I have come in the process of thinking positively and trusting in the universe.   This is a practice in itself for sure and I thought this seems so simple but has to be shared.  In reflection on my life, I have had a lot of fear and mostly the fear that I have felt and that continues to rise it’s ugly head (I know that’s a judgment) would always go back to my inability to control a situation or disappointment in an outcome not going my way.  Mostly the fear and anger would come from not being able to control something or someone else.

Practice has been and continues to be a very useful tool for me.  My abilities to let go and let God are practiced daily on my yoga mat. Bringing this into my daily life is something else.  Here as well, it is interesting to see how far I have come.    Recently I wanted to escape one part of my life that I have been doing for some time and wanted to have someone tell me that this was no longer serving me.  Then it would be easy for me to justify this planned escape. But alas no one would go there, no one would back me up.  These thoughts were mine and mine alone and I would have to work through whatever I had to work through on my own.  My mind and me.  The mind is so powerful and will really convince you of anything either negative or positive that you want to set out to do.  The mind will tell you have you are happy, sad, angry, fearing and will convince you of your likes and dislikes.  It has a preconceived notion of what is good or bad for you and what you can or cannot do.  I’m taking about that monkey mind.  I remember when I first heard that term and did not really grasp how or what monkeys and the mind have in common.  I quickly figured it out and could picture what this terminology referred to and I started to experience this for sure.  I pictured my thoughts hopping like a money from topic to topic never finishing what it set out to figure out. I understood the power of mind and why I needed my yoga practice and why it is necessary to be quiet so you can figure things out.

Since no one would give me license on the planned escape I secretly wanted to orchestrate, I recently decided to change my attitude and this goes back to my original concept of the power of positive thought.  I practiced this from time to time for fun and sure enough if I thought negatively, then things just would be crappy and I would not feel at ease, feeling like I was swimming upstream or something.  Fighting the current so to speak.  With positive thoughts and positive energy around whatever I was doing or attempting to do, even if the outcome did not appear to produce, with positive thought I felt better and then I would figure that was the way of the universe and not something I could actually control.  This came at a very good time before me and my minds sabotaged any of the gifts and benefits I was receiving.  I thank my yoga practice, sitting in my attempt to meditate, reading and delving deeper so that I am able to hear, able to be present and able to swim with the current and trust, trust, trust . . . that I am right where I am supposed to be right now.