Let’s take another look at a fun posture, good for opening us up for spring. “The Roaring Lion Posture (whose original Indian name is Simhasana) in Yoga is suitable for people of all ages and types (including old and weak) because it is relatively easy to perform. The posture is sometimes referred to as Bhairavasana . . . The posture gets its name because the face of the person performing it resembles the face of a Roaring Lion (Simha Mudra or Lion Face Gesture) because of the open mouth and extended tongue.” Kind of fun to combine lion pose with some spring bunnies . . . Everyone is doing it!
I live in a place that is filled with Sri, the sanskrit word for beauty. This area is known as the “Palouse.” My family has now lived here for four generations, and I’m a part of a group of women who lovingly know ourselves as the “Daughters of the Palouse” (our self-proclaimed acronym is “D.O.P.e S.”). My love of this small corner of the world pulled me out of a forward-advancing career in Cambridge, MA, and back to the hills and fields where I have grown up and that I love. For me, my yoga practice is not only good physical exercise, but it is also a spiritual practice that allows this sense of connection to deepen. Because of yoga, I am regularly pulled off of my mat and into community. I find that my yoga practice feels “complete,” not when I get into a perfect asana, but when I find that I am able to fully integrate the lessons that I learn on the mat into the actions that I take in my community and world to make it a better place. So working toward preservation of our local eco-system, understanding food security, participating in developing more sustainable solutions to growing issues of homelessness in our community . . . These are all a part of my practice. The mat is my “launching pad,” as well as one part of my home base.
As you can see in the photo, we are now in the season of harvest around the Palouse. The native people of our area recognized this time as a separate season — the time of gathering in and taking stock, a time in which abundance was celebrated and shared, rather than horded. I feel this same need in my yoga practice. Harvest yoga is a season to take stock of the wisdom of our bodies and celebrate that abundance — however it looks — rather than focus on how we may perceive ourselves to be lacking. And then, out of that sense of abundance and spaciousness, we take it beyond ourselves and into our lives and communities. Where does your yoga lead you in the world? More about being a Palouse yoga gal, though all the seasons, to come . . .
How do you “hug into” the center of things so that you can then open your heart? As Bridget Lyons reminded many of us last week when she visited Nourish Yoga to teach, these are two concepts that are fundamental to yoga and life. We “hug in” to our mid-line — on a physical plane, we hug our body into the center to create stability and balance. In our lives, we “hug in” around those core beliefs, values, a sense of self that we know to be true or right for us. With this firm center, this central axis, we are able to “melt our heart,” to soften in the center. Again, in yoga, this allows for a freedom and flexibility that allows us to do some new things, explore new asanas that may not have been accessible to us before. On a life level, “melting our heart” opens us to new ways of thinking and being that may be what we need in our lives at this moment. Sometimes, these two actions of “hugging in” and “melting” seem at odds with one another, but they actually complement and support each other — they are somewhat like dance partners in this life journey we take. This little Buddah image is from my friend Suzanne at Living in the Garden. It strikes me as a moment of hugging in around that which is beautiful and precious, so that we can offer our hearts to that which matters. Here’s to seeking out those moments!
We’ve probably all seen it, even walked it – the dirt road with the well-worn grooves. The road traveled the same way by the same set of tires or pair of feet so many times that another path no longer seems possible. When the dirt road is our life and the grooves are our habits, so well-worn into our daily living that they seem inseparable from our being, they are called “samskaras” in Sanskrit. Samskara refers to all of the ways in which our mind has become habituated – positive and negative – to think in particular patterns and follow regular courses of thought, causing us to act and react in certain ways, often without thinking. Yoga practice seeks to do two things. The first is to recognize old samskara that might be limiting our lives or our growth, and to create and replace it with healthy samskara. The second is to use our asana practice to “shake it up” a bit – to carry out a practice that is not always determined by our habit, but one that helps us to clear out our mind and become less bound by “the same old, same old.” The idea is that when we are able to recognize habits within our movement and our bodies and become less bound by them, this practice, eventually, helps us to let go of the habits, ways of thinking, judgments, old stories, that keep us bound in unproductive ways in our lives.
Consider taking a new path today. See anything new?
In yoga and Nia, we’ve been focusing on the core — that grounded center of the body, source of our sense of personal power and firey energy — and how that translates into the ways in which we claim and exercise our power in the world. A hero claims personal power and then uses it with great wisdom and courage. We (perhaps especially women) sometimes have an uneasy relationship with personal power. We are quick to give it away, and uncomfortable claiming it as our own.
Claiming our center, our core, our power, isn’t easy. I’m reminded of someone who came up to me after class, face glowing, and said “Wow . . . how did you get me to do that?” I responded by saying “YOU did it . . . all I did was provide the safe container, and the community around you provided the energy that helped give you the courage to go for it!”
On of my yoga teachers, Tiffany Wood, who has been in Moscow at Nourish Yoga teaching this week, spoke last night during class of the “Guru principle.” My take away from that class is that the guru isn’t a person, but rather that which opens your heart to its full potential. It is anything that teaches your entire being, even for a moment, how to sing. The guru connects the heart and the center — the true self and the source of power — and thus mentors the hero. As Tiffany said, your guru might be a blue yoga block, which when hugged tightly to your body, teaches it to open in a new way.
The guru and the hero are both, ultimately, inside of us, inviting us to know ourselves as we are, nudging us toward who we are becoming. Thanks to my teachers and to my students for being gurus and heroes this week.