Time to Practice the Wisdom of Maia

We find ourselves in a pause moment, offering us the possibility of reprioritizing, rebalancing, as we are forced to slow down. I want to be Maia when I grow up-how about you?

This is a beautiful tribute to a life lived in balance.  Maia Helles was 95 years old at the time this was filmed. She was a former Russian ballet dancer who lived a yogini life in many ways.  Take some time to find balance by watching this 4 1/2 minute video . . . You can spare the time, and it’s beauty for the spirit!

My friend Maia from julia warr on Vimeo.

 

 

Dance like No One is Watching … because no one IS watching

Except for possibly your cat … and you are probably either terrifying or boring the cat! You could even wear your fried chicken costume (thanks Jen, costumer extraordinaire!). Who would know?

In this time of social distancing and sheltering in place, we are all changing our habits. Some of us never dreamed of wanting a home practice… but here we go, whether we wanted it or not. It is a forced pause, in the midst of a boatload of uncertainty, anxiety for many, and a lot of grieving… for our routines and habits we miss, and for the big things-those who are ill with this virus, those who have lost someone or wish they were waiting by a bedside (but are not allowed to in these tough times).
In yoga practice, we have a “checklist” for our wellbeing called the koshas. Koshas are a yogic description of the layers of being a healthy human in all stages and life situations. Let’s take a tour:

 

How am I doing? The Five KOSHAS

  • Anamaya: the “food body” or physical layer. Am I eating well? Am I getting enough sleep? Do I have an exercise plan in place? Am I listening to my body? Set up an exercise plan and use the online classes to help. Maybe you are a “yoga person” or a “Nia person” or a pickle ball person … time to try something new!
  • Pranamaya:  the “breath body” and the “energy body.” On a basic level, how is my energy and am I breathing intentionally everyday? Our breath is one of the most immediate tools we have into our nervous system. Whether we use “box breath,” ujayii breath, alternative nostril breathing, breath focused meditation, take some intentional time to breathe each day (I will post some breathing practices on the Aloft FB site to help). Do some 3 part breathing focused on really using the diaphragm.
  • Manomaya:  The mental/emotional body. How am I doing? Tune into thoughts and emotions, to see what is going on. We can use  Yoga Nidra and mindfulness practices to enhance mental awareness of what is occurring in the physical body – “turning the awareness back on again.” We can use breath and meditation tools to stay in the present moment, yoga postures for reducing stress and releasing trauma – psoas stretching, heart opening. Again practices on the FB page, hopefully some video content on this blog soon!
  • Vijnamaya:  cultivating the “watcher” or “witnessing” part of the mind, perhaps learning to value this aspect of self – this often gets devalued and shut off in tough times, but being able to take a look at the stream of thoughts and emotions, rather than deeply diving into the “thread” of a thought, can be really valuable now. Notice the emotion/thought, but also notice when we begin creating a story out of that kernel of emotion or thought-our brains thrive on solving problems and exploring scenarios that are actually not happening right now. Let’s stay in the present moment -it is enough.
  • Anandamaya-what brings a true sense of joy, fulfillment, and meaning into life? This can seem like a tough one, but it is so important. I suggest going small and immediate, prioritizing created moments of joy. For me, dancing is key. Dancing always gives me a spark of joy. What is it for you?   We need to cultivate this like a precious flower right now.
  • In this system, this layer of Anandamaya kosha also allows us to connect beyond our self to our individualized experience to a greater whole, however we understand that-to God, spirit, to the natural world, to others, to the sacred … we all have our own beautiful sense of this. And we need that spark of connection now. Where do we cultivate this, and how?

I hope this little kosha check in helps a bit. I have a homework assignment. Make 5 cards (any size-you can use an old cereal box! Find an old magazine or 2, and find random words and images that express what is happening (or what you WANT to happen) in each of the 5 koshas. You can also add in words, doodles … just fill the card. Don’t overthink it, just give it a try. Then, if you are up for it, share it with me and let me know if I can share in the blog. Let’s stay deeply in touch, with ourselves and one another! Sending healing love, Kristine

 

Yes … everything IS disrupted!

D7E6D164-E340-4536-82EB-7202C4213520Hi there friends … This image of Ellie on her birthday makes me so happy … thought I’d share it with you-we miss you Ellie, and hope you are well!  I am missing ALL of you as we all social distance and stay healthy! As you all know, the studio is closed, as is everything in the sta0te , so we can keep our distance. I am recording classes from a bedroom in our house, as well as just silly content to keep your spirits up.  There will be multiple classes on the Aloft FB page.

I know that some of you do not use FaceBook, so I  am looking at alternative platforms for classes. All of them will require you to download an app. So if you are not on FB, want classes on line, and have an app preference (such as Zoom), let me know. I think we will “test drive “ a zoom class later today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will add regular content to the website (yes-a big change!) so we can stay connected. Okay I am signing off to go teach our regular Wed a.m. Nia class on FB Live. Stay warm on this snowy Palouse day and give yourself a hug for me! Kristine

Opening Up and Letting Go

Cill

By Cil Richards

Cil Richards is a professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.  She has a committed meditation practice and teaches and leads a weekly meditation group at Aloft Studios.    Here, she shares thoughts about meditation and shares why she meditates.

In this politically charged election year I have been thinking a lot about views and how much trouble they can cause.

View plays such a big role in what we believe, what we think about, and what we experience. It’s easy to say that we should drop our deeply held views and assumptions but that won’t make it happen. Fortunately meditation practice is a means to help us see those deeply held views and their effect.

When we meditate do we really open up to what is there or do we make assumptions about what we are experiencing? “I’m tense, I’m sad, I’m not good at concentrating. I’d be able to meditate if I wasn’t so hot.” Persistent investigation reveals the holes in these assumptions about experience. Anyone who has sat and watched their mind knows that it’s a madhouse in there. Thoughts and moods come and go like crazy. Things are constantly changing. And although sometimes that can be a little disconcerting, it’s a good thing. The fact of change means there is opportunity, possibility. I’m not sad, or angry, or hot. Those states come and go. Further investigation can reveal under what conditions these states arise and the patterns of behavior that play out over and over. For example, when I am stressed I often find that there is also some craving or aversion present. By looking closely we begin to see that we often fabricate our own reality based on views. Accompanying views are associations and memories that the mind uses to solidify and manufacture a way of viewing experience.

A helpful analogy from the physical world is a rainbow. We have all seen rainbows. No one would argue that they don’t exist, but we have all discovered that you can’t catch a rainbow, can’t touch it, and there is, alas, no pot of gold to be had. But what is a rainbow really? Is it a thing? Isn’t it really a process? One that happens when certain conditions are present? The recipe for a rainbow includes sun, rain, and an observer (you or me). Take away any one of these three and you don’t have a rainbow. The rainbow observed depends on where the observer is. That is, no two people ever see the ‘same’ rainbow. There is no ‘true’ rainbow. The rainbow ‘exists’ in relation to the sun, the rain, and the observer. Viewpoint matters.

We all hold some mental model of how the world works. Most often, when confronted with information that violates that worldview we ignore it or deny it. By doing so we miss an opportunity to learn. Through meditation if we really look at what’s really happening we see many things that challenge our worldview. If we can loosen our grip on our views and allow a new way of seeing then the possibility of transformative learning or insight arises. Letting go of views and allowing for different ways of seeing and views is an important part of meditation practice.

In my own practice through the years I have let go of and loosened many of my views. This has not been easy since as a professor I have certainly suffered from the ‘know it all’ disease. However, letting go of knowing how it is and seeing how it really is has really opened up my mind and practice.

Curiosity of Movement

 

By Chris Dopke
(Join Chris for  “Asleep/Awake-Aware” on Thursdays at 11:00, a healing movement class in the style of movement of Moshe Feldenkrais)
Ever since l learned to do backbends and headstands when my mom enrolled me in acrobatics at age 7, I’ve been curious about movement. However, looking back, I see that for many years through my experiences in gymnastics, cheerleading, diving- it was always about my ability to see and mimic movement and not at all about what does it actually feel like to move myself.
In 1995 I started taking yoga from a teacher in Eugene and marveled that every class was an opportunity to discover something new about my body and how I moved. I did notice that when I took from different instructors I did not get the same level of new information. Ten years into my studies with Deborah I finally said to myself, maybe I’m learning so much in her classes because she’s also a Feldenkrais teacher. Aha moment, you might say!
In 2006 I began the four year Feldenkrais teacher training in Bend OR and learned to think about movement and flexibility and effort and the body’s intelligence in a whole new way. I found I am a creature of habit and the lessons were giving me options I had never considered before. I am endlessly curious about  all the patterns and habits in my use of self, and now I enjoy teaching these lessons of discovery to others.

The Joy of Less Expectation: Musings on meditation by Carolea Webb

I consider myself to be a reasonably serious meditator.  I’ve taken the time to look deeply at my mind, with varying degrees of intensity, for going on twenty years now.  I’m still no kind of expert, but I have noticed a few significant changes for the better. One big difference is that I find meditating to be less effort and more fun.

I was thinking about that as I drove home today after meditating with Kristine Zakarison and two other friends this afternoon, and I thought it might be a good subject for her blog.

One reason I have more fun meditating now is that I’m no longer imposing so many expectations on what I should experience.  In the early days, I expected that by watching my breath and being aware of my thoughts I should be able to make the thoughts go away, or at least reduce them enough to produce a calm state of mind. If I didn’t manage that I gave myself a mental scolding. “Bad meditator!” I said. “Bad!”

I also thought I should never fall asleep, squirm on my cushion or fantasize about food.  (Honestly, I remember a week-long retreat when I couldn’t seem to quit visualizing bell peppers. Go figure.) I had a long list of things I could do wrong.

Over the years, I have let that go (at least to a large degree).  Each morning I approach my meditation with curiosity.  “What will my meditation be like today?” I ask myself. “Will I relax into the joy of pure consciousness or will I feel like I’m half crazy?”  It’s fun to see what turns up!  I simply try to perceive what is present without identifying with it.  All kinds of mental phenomena (or the lack of it) comes and goes.

I didn’t tell myself to quit having expectations and judgments.  It just happened naturally over time.  And, here’s what was surprising to me: the less I tried to force a sense of well-being into my meditations, the more it arose naturally on its own.  I had made friends with the experience!  Now, whether I struggle to stay awake, fight an urge to plan my grocery list, come up with a brilliant insight, acknowledge some worry, or sit in blessed awareness of the present moment, I consider it a privilege to live the adventure.

On Slowing Down, Being Mindful, and Truly Seeing — By Marji Neill

I love to share words from others about why you value your practice, and how you manifest your practice in your daily life.  I share some words Marji Neill shared with me, along with an image of where Marji meets herself/her spirit:

“Hi Kristine,

It was great being with you in class today!   I’ve missed seeing everyone.   I had to chuckle when you were talking about being mindful, slowing down, and making eye contact.  Lots of thoughts came to my mind.   I do not have many natural talents [editorial note from KZ:  this is not true!], but for whatever reason, complete strangers have always opened up to me.  My girls noticed this when they were young and it is something that drives my husband nuts.   When we are out, and I speak with total strangers, he will often ask, “Do you KNOW that person?”   Growing up with an “always be busy, busy, busy” mentality, I tend to walk briskly, but I like to smile and greet anyone I see.  This has led to a ton of “little while friends” and fun conversations.  Also, it seems like my guardian angel or spirit guide (or whatever energy is helping me through life on earth), likes to draw my attention to wildlife at just the right moment, and it’s been a fun part of my life.    Lately I’ve noticed I’m not walking as fast.  It made me wonder if I was holding back to not irritate my cranky knee (chronic), or if I am just getting older.   But, you gave me hope that maybe I am finally understanding that if I zoom through life with my head down, I will miss a lot.   After all, I want to know how that wild turkey family with seeming limited good sense, is doing!”

Sept 29, 2015

Why Do I Dance Nia?

Nia has an active, international, online community.  I was struck by this recent post by Irit Orr.  Those of us choose Nia do so for many different reasons.  We love the community aspect of dancing together, we use it as our form of fitness, we dance beause it’s fun, in dancing, we experience joy and express ourselves. Here, Irit shares her reasons.

“Thanks for moving to heal – NIA.  This method helps me move forward during hard and sad days. It embraces me gently and helps me move on with harmony and respect to the situation. On easy flowing days this movement helps me reach heights, reach depths, and reach new dimensions. I fell in love with moving to heal. I exercise couple of times a week, and can’t wait to the next teacher training course with Debbie Rosas.”

Who Practices Yoga and Nia . . . People Like You!

We are college students, retired types, professors, moms, dads, men, women, professionals, able-bodied and living with disabilities, pre-teens and teens . . . We are young(ish) and old(er) . . . We are a whole lot of different types of people, and we get together to engage our bodies, minds, and spirits through exercise, stretch, yoga, and dance.  Mostly, we are an open community that welcomes you to come and try a class and find a fit.  We laugh together, and we also enjoy the practice and discipline that yoga and Nia bring into our lives.  We support one another and we take things at our level.  Our teachers make it a priority to help you find you body’s way in yoga and Nia.  We have a variety of classes . . . Why not give it a try?

COME DANCE!

Come dance with your friends!  Experience the freedom and joy that is Nia.  Strengthen your body, work out your mind, exercise your creativity, engage your spirit, have fun!  Let your inner dancer come out to play!

Mondays at 8:30 a.m. or 1/2 Nia and 1/2  yoga on Mondays at 4:30
Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesdays at 8:30 or 4:30
Fridays at 8:30

Nia is dance designed for EveryBody, from “newbie” to dance enthusiast.  It’s a great whole body workout, and the music is fantastic!