When Living through History…Mind your Mind

When Living through History…Mind your Mind

What do you do when you know you’re living through History? 

It’s hard to know. Look busy! History in the past seems to be important, interesting events that shaped our world. History in the present seems to be (at best) the unwelcome disruption of “normal” life for some unknown period of time. When will this History be over so we can get back to what we were doing? I had some projects going, and I definitely miss eating out.

Wisdom traditions tell us that there is a common arc to all events and experiences. If we pull back far enough, we see a kind of rhythm. Gain and loss. Rise and fall. Ebb and flow. The flux of fortune, culture, and all other systems. This is the law of nature, with a grace and majesty beyond (and behind!) any and all of our human affairs. 

These traditions also tell us about the power of our immediate, raw experiences. The play of light. The smell of grass. The feel of smiling. These too, these building blocks of our conscious experience, betray the mystery flowing beneath the surface of every moment, regardless of whether that moment is, on its surface, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. 

And beneath and beyond both of these approaches (two different flavors of mindfulness) is the power of the human mind: your mind. Its endless ability to scale and scope, to frame and reframe, allows us to hold these different interpretations, nested inside one another. We can understand that a tree is branches, roots, and leaves, but it is also a singular, indivisible whole, but it is also an impenetrable mystery. 

For me, living through History, I find myself exploring these other ways of looking and understanding. Often my default mind is cramped, anxious, and irritable. But when I dial into granular mindfulness of moment-by-moment awareness…Spring is springing, the air is warm, and the Earth is green. Fear of the future can be countered by scaling out to see that no one really knows what will happen next, or what it will mean, and that events don’t have meaning except that which we give them. 

So, when living through History…mind your mind. Embrace it’s range and potential. Keep it tidy, fit, and nimble. It is a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master. 

 

Rhythm, Routine, and Ritual

Rhythm, Routine, and Ritual

One insight in yoga is the recognition that pattern and repetition are foundational to our nature. And they are neither good nor bad, but simply one of our most basic psychological building blocks. Yoga understands that patterns can come to rule us, but they can also set us free. 

Most of us are feeling the power of losing our patterns right now. We lean on these structures of routine and schedule without understanding just how much they contribute to our well-being and productivity. What’s more, patterns are how we make meaning out of our lives. Context cues, setting, timing, and location all contribute to the sense of purpose that moves us from one task or part of the day to another. There is a better term for this: ritual. We live in a web of rituals – work, recreation, family, and otherwise. 

Classical yoga is especially concerned with negative patterns that limit us, called samskaras. And here is the real wisdom – yoga recognizes that patterns are not optional. To fix negative patterns we can’t simply do away with patterns altogether. The solution to a bad diet is not to stop eating. Yoga understands that structures of routine are among our greatest tools because action, setting, and intention make meaning, and meaning is what sustains us.

Yoga gifts us many plug-and-play rituals – the sun salutation, mantras, pranayama exercises – and also gifts us the building blocks of ritual itself: action, setting, and intention. When you find yourself adrift these days, try making a new ritual, giving yourself a new structure. Take a walk at 4. Listen to the birds at 7. Reach out to a friend at 11. Accomplish something at 2. Find a way to give back at 6. Choose the meaning you want, take action, and give it a few days to sink in. Gift yourself a new ritual to make the meaning that sustains you.

 

Bend, Don’t Break

Bend, Don’t Break

Resilience is the quality of development through adversity. How timely.

We all know deeply that this is possible and can rattle off any number of idioms expressing it: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” “That builds character!” And – for the 2020 wellness scene – “We grow through what we go through.”

We all possess the capacity for resilience. It is a potentiality in each mind that only needs the right conditions to arise. The yoga tradition has known since time immemorial about development through adversity and harnesses it through ascetic practices – vigils, fasts, meditation, kriya and asana and more. In modern day practice we choose to hold difficult postures for long breaths or commit to an hour in a hot room. 

It is one thing to have a vague sense of resilience; it is quite another to make it a conscious project. If Resilience Level 1 is knowing the sayings about resilience and supporting friends through difficulty, Level 2 is waking up within our own (natural) struggles with adversity to wonder “What can I learn from this?” Often we will fall back into reaction again and again, only to rise once more to see this broader perspective and open to it the best we can. 

With practice, we get better. We see the opportunity within disappointment. We learn to zig and zag. We accept what is and make the most of it, knowing it makes us better. We innovate, evolve, and integrate. We may even someday find ourselves at Level 3, wondering when we will be tested next, ready for the chance. Like the monks of some eastern sects we may even someday give gratitude for adversity. 

We can cultivate this perspective with the tools we already have. In the midst of dealing with the crisis, take a deep yoga breath, feel your feet on the floor, and wonder “Where will this challenge take me?”

8 Tips for Self Practice

8 Tips for Self Practice

Establishing an at-home yoga practice was one of the best things I’ve done to both enhance my overall well-being and refine my yoga practice.  It wasn’t, however, easy. I remember trying everything I could think of and ending up in a crying heap, beating my hands on my mat asking why I couldn’t get myself to do this thing I wanted so badly.  Because it’s hard, that’s why. You know what they say though, the things that are most difficult to change are those that end up being the most rewarding, and that has been absolutely true. 

I can’t point to any one thing that made the difference, other than my willingness to try,  fail and try again, over and over and over. I slowly found the right combination of circumstances, mustered up the will and it started to click.  I used John Scott’s Ashtanga Yoga book and learned one pose at a time, adding a new pose each week. My practices started out in very short durations (10 minutes), and I used many of the tips included below to support my efforts. Finally, finally it worked.  It is now my favorite part of my yoga practice. The freedom to move according to the needs of my body and mind and the time alone are powerful self-care tools.  

If you are ready to create a home practice, try these tips below.  Remember it’s always ok to “fail”. Persistence is key and be willing to try different combinations (time of day, sequences, environments) until you find what will work for you right now.  Good luck! The work you put in now will come back to you I’m sure!

8 Tips for Self-Practice

1.Starting with something small, like “I’ll just do sun salutations.” is a great way to get yourself onto your mat. Be gentle with yourself when you are tired and allow time for more effort when you feel well. 

2. When possible, let your practice space be away from the bustle of the house.  Leave your phone on silent and keep a notebook near you to write down any to-do’s that come to mind.

3. Stick with it!  Consistency is far more valuable than anything you achieve on a single day.  Aim for regular practice that builds over time. 

4. When sacred space is not available, accept and enjoy what is. Commit to moving and breathing and being fully part of your surroundings. 

5. Set up your space in advance.  Layout your mat or any props you will need, even clothes. Try to create a space you will be drawn to and enjoying being in.  Open windows, listen to music and surround yourself with decor that’s comforting and enjoyable

6. Know that change can be difficult.  Obstacles like limited space/time and distracting tasks will present themselves  and can be dealt with as they arise. When things seem challenging, know there’s an opportunity there for great change if you apply effort. 

7. Routine is your friend. Having a consistent time and place you practice is useful for getting started and keeping you going. A consistent set of asana that your body easily falls into will limit the need to make decisions on the fly.

8. Reward yourself!  Keep track of the days you get on your mat and practice.  Any amount counts! Set small goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.  You might have a favorite cup of tea when you finish or keep a practice journal noting your accomplishment.

Yin Yoga: What to Expect

Yin Yoga: What to Expect

By Becky Nakashima Brooke

My Path to Yin Yoga

Before I was introduced to yin style yoga, I was used to attending faster-paced classes. I found my first experience with yin yoga to be challenging. As we held the poses for an extended amount of time it was difficult for me to quiet my mind. I fell in love with the new challenges that this style of yoga presented and quickly decided that I wanted to learn how to share yoga with others.

After completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I began to realized that my skills and intuition were telling me to focus on yin yoga and the energy healing practice of Reiki. This led me to Josh Summers School of Yin Yoga to strengthen and grow my knowledge of Yin. Josh’s dedication to the art of Yin Yoga and teaching style really spoke to me. I am in the process of earning my 300 hour yin teacher training certification and have become a Usui Holy Fire Reiki III Master/Teacher, and Thai Bodywork Practitioner.

What to expect in a Yin & Reiki Class at Tapas Yoga

My class is a unique way to support and nurture the whole body and mind. The calming, restorative nature of yin is a great counterpart to the more vigorous “yang” classes in your practice.

In my Yin Yoga & Reiki classes, you will flow through the poses slowly, always looking to find your edge. Your edge is the place in a pose where you can settle in and be still. The poses are held anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes to nourish the bones, joints, fascia, and connective tissues. It also allows time to become aware and release stored emotions that can manifest as pain or blockages throughout the body. While you are in your pose you are encouraged to take time to meditate.

The quiet and safe space at Tapas Hot Yoga cultivates a place for your mind and body to connect. As you hold your pose, calm your breath, and meditate, I offer each student Reiki. Reiki is an energy healing technique to assist in healing, releasing emotional blockages, and may even help you relax more into the pose.

Key Yin Yoga benefits:

  • Nourish and strengthen the bones, joints, fascia, and connective tissues
  • Relieve stress and anxiety
  • Improve circulation
  • Cultivate mindfulness and meditation
  • Provide balance to our fast paced yoga practice
  • Improves flexibility

Interested in trying Yin at Tapas? Sign up for class here!

Thursdays 9:15 – 10:30 a.m. 

Fridays 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Sundays 7:00 – 8:15 p.m.

 

Benefits In the Simple Postures

Benefits In the Simple Postures

My teacher, Matthew Sweeney, said something during our last course in Bali that struck me. He said that research is empirically validating what yogis have known all along: yoga postures are good for health and well-being. Then, he said the thing that has stuck with me:

“Research has shown too that the benefits are in the simple postures. Doing advanced postures brings no more benefit and in fact, brings increased risk.”

This was a new perspective, if not new information. And yet, many practitioners – myself included – are drawn to complex (“advanced”) postures.

This makes it clear to me that we practice yoga postures for many reasons. Health is one, but there are benefits that complex postures (this being relative to each person – essentially meaning “challenging” in this context) can deliver, for those who choose to practice them.

Humans can be described as “anti-fragile” – a system that becomes stronger, not weaker, under stress. Challenge is necessary for growth and even maintenance and stability.

There is an elegance, art, and aesthetic component to practicing yoga postures. We express ourselves creatively, as both the artist and the medium.

Finally, there is an awareness and an analytical piece: complex postures are typically complicated and intricate. Indeed, the risk is greater – and therefore the awareness may need to be greater, the precision greater, and the depth of understanding of how to express the posture with your own body greater. Challenge can be a lens that magnifies, clarifies, and brings into focus complexities we would otherwise never comprehend.

Needless to say, simple and advanced postures are not mutually exclusive. Understanding our motivations and benefits gives us the leverage to tailor even the mental perspective with which we approach our yoga practice. The choice is yours.