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

 

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!

Threshold Moments

 

Lions and Roaring Rabbits! Oh My!

iyengarlionposebunnyLet’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 . . .  reallionpose copybunnyThe 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!

Need some fire in your life?

It is said that in the early practice of yoga, a prospective yoga student would appear at the home of his (and yes, back then, it was a “he”) yoga teacher with two sticks of firewood in hand.  The teacher would then meet the student and put him (yes, the students were also male) through a rigorous round of questioning and character assessment to see if the student had sufficient “adhikara,” preparedness or qualification, to take the demanding seat of the yoga student.  Only when the prospective student had met with the teacher’s satisfaction would the teacher then ceremonially accept the two sticks of firewood, which were symbolic of the burning of the impurities of body, mind, spirit, and ultimately of ego, that would take place in the agni, the fire of the yogic path, they would explore together.

Today, the process of “adhikara” or assuming the seat of the student often looks much different.  In the West, we practice yoga for a variety of reasons, and while we sometimes approach our practice with the zeal of the ancient student seeking out the teacher, sometimes it is all we can do to get everything in place to attend a class.  And yet, one thing that has not changed is that yoga is a practice that demands discipline and energy from us.  The Sanskrit word tapas describes this kind of firey energy and it is considered to be one of the essential components of yoga. It is reminiscent of the fire logs brought to the agni or yogic fire, symbolic of our intent, each time we practice, to bring the best of our energy for that day and moment, into our practice.  We work with this firey energy to “burn away” the dross – whether it’s the sluggishness of winter, an illness, something we want to let go of, exhaustion, an emotion from the day, a deeply held attitude or fear . . .  Each time we come to class, we are invited to come just as we are, leaving nothing out, and in our fullness, to take the seat of the student.  From this place, we find our tapas energy for that particular practice, ready to burn away what is not helpful or necessary, letting go of that which stops us from living in a way that is less than thriving.  What energy offering do you bring this week?

Hasya Yoga: The Yoga of “laughter wisdom”

Okay, so I was out at the Zakarison Farm last night.  For those of you who don’t know, my family has a beautiful, partially organic farm here on the Palouse, where my brother and sister-in-law do magic raising chickens, goats, lambs, mules, llamas (no camels, alas!), crops, and a bunch of stuff.  The farm is definitely a part of my yoga.  But more on that later.  The reason I bring this up now is that my wonderful nephew, Aaron, was back for a brief, birthday visit, and so we were having a fantastic dinner for him.  In addition to eating fantastic food (thank you, Sheryl), we basically just laughed and laughed.  Aaron is an amazing guy – incredibly thoughtful, and very funny.  I was once again reminded of just how good it feels to spend a night, laughing.

Sadly enough, for many of us, being an adult is no laughing matter.  We often lose our ability to laugh as we grow up.  I read a study recently that said that children laugh 300-400 times a day.  By the time we get to be adults, that number drops to 15 -20 times a day.  American adults laugh less than adults from some other countries.

Here’s some of the science behind laughter (for those of you that need that sort of thing). Laughter, even if it’s forced laughter, is good medicine for your body – increased dopamine and endorphins raise our pain threshold and reduce pain, a trigger in relaxation, an increase in our overall sense of well-being, reduction in stress hormones and measured depression.  People who engage in periods of forced or naturally evoked laughter say they feel happier and report feeling more creative, with an increased enjoyment of social interactions.

Another one of the things I love about my nephew, Aaron.  He and his long time buddy, Tim, have always been able to have a good belly laugh at those really bad jokes you find on Rocket pops – you know, the red, white, and blue popsicles?  I’ve always thought that, if we are able to be “self-entertaining units,” we will live wonderful lives, no matter how long our lives may be.

Look for more posts to make you laugh this week, and perhaps a few profound sayings about laughter . . .  In the meantime, here’s to finding some Hasya in your yoga this week.  Don’t take it too seriously – embody the light of spring!

What is your intention?

Now imagine being asked this four times a week by a rather intense East Indian gentleman/ yogi, who expected an answer. I was telling one of my yoga classes that my first yoga teacher liked to start us off in this manner.  Being a graduate student at the time, it was easy to fall into a passive sense of “I’m here because I’m supposed to be . . .” which did not fly at all with my teacher (this just got intense breathing and a fierce stare).   “But why are you HERE?  I mean really HERE?”  He would ask.  I was never sure if he meant in class, in divinity school, or on the planet.  I don’t think he was really quite sure, either . . . Or that the answer was any different, in Ravi’s mind.

The Sanskrit word is “samkalpa” a resolution or intention formed through an informed conversation between the body, mind, and heart, and we were expected to have one for most things in life, including yoga class.The yogic value of samkalpa begins with awareness, and as much acceptance as we are able to embrace, of where we are.  It is not unmindful of our current condition, in fact, it dwells in the “is-ness” of our body, mind, and spirit, and suggests that this is the beautiful path that we will have the joy of journeying on our way to our intention.  And it is, all, indeed, considered beautiful.  We step onto the mat, we set our intention, and we trust that we’ve got exactly what we need for that moment to go where we need to go.  That’s the journey of samkalpa.  So happy to share it with you!

I’m just saying . . .

It’s been that kind of a week.  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some of you a little bit better, you know me a bit more.  Some of you have had some pretty intense journeys this week involving illness, injury, death, loss, and change.  Others are anticipating partners coming to visit, taking a much needed break, finding some ease, coming back to yourself. Together, we create a kula, a community ready to help one another and celebrate, as the moment invites us.  There are some weeks when I’m very much in touch with what an honor it is to teach, to get to know you, to have our lives intertwine . . . this is one of them.  Namaste!

Ever Felt Broken?

Ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months . . . ) those times when it all seems a bit broken beyond repair, or at least breaking up?  I was in full tilt of that feeling, when I walked out our door and found this askew angel, wings broken off, after a mighty wind (we have them a lot around here).  Later, I was reading the insightful blog of Bridget Lyons, an Anusara yoga teacher in Driggs Idaho, who spoke of the Hindu goddess, Akhilandeshwairi.  Her name, translated from the Sanskrit, literally means “the goddess who is never not broken.”  Turns out that she rides around on a crocodile, a creature who kills its prey, not by merely clamping down with its mighty jaw, but by thrashing it around until it becomes dizzy to the point of senselessness (and then pulling into the water to drown).  Apparently, Akhilandeshwairi is a gal who knows how to ride the tides and storms of life.  Her place is one of reminding us that, many times, in some part of our lives or world, that’s the way it is, and the only way through it is . . . well, through it.  As Bridget writes:  “Akhilandeshwari’s reality is one of fragmentation.  She is like a prism, taking in white light and breaking it up into the beautiful color spectrum.  In doing so, she creates more beauty – out of the brokenness.  We are like Akhilandeshwari, and the ways in which we fragment are unique to each one of us.  Our fissures make us who we are.”  Sometimes, we need to look a little deeper, to find the beauty that bursts out of those broken places.

The Ingredients of a Hero . . .

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.