Practice Lovingkindness

metta meditation purple(photo: www.buddhistdoor.com)

The Buddhist practice of Metta Meditation translates into the meditation for lovingkindness.  The full practice usually consists of at least 30 minutes of blissful mindfulness, but during the hustle and bustle of this time of year, we may only have a few minutes to find our center.  Please take 10 minutes out of your day to remember the reason for the season with the audio below, and expand lovingkindness out into the world around you.  There are many variations of the authentic practice, you may choose the following variation – whatever resonates with you!

May all beings be happy,
May all beings be safe and protected from all harm,
May all beings be well,
May all beings live their lives with a sense of ease.

Please see full site for audio meditation!

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Gratitude Journal: A Very Personal Thank You

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Photo: Me, Brittney & Doreen ‘Cooking in the Raw’

I would like to take this opportunity to honor two of our longest-standing teachers, friends and mentors at Yoga Garden – Brittney Powell and Doreen Baum.  Their dedication to their personal practice and teaching the Holy Science of Yoga has helped make the Garden the  sanctuary it is today.

Brittney has been a staple at the Garden since the beginning, and was our first official teacher, other that David and myself!  I met Brittney many years ago when she was just starting her yogic journey.  At the time I was leading class at our teacher’s school, and Brittney showed up for my class regularly each week.  What a young beauty to have been so blessed to find her path that early in life.  I remember her tapas in building herself up to a solid headstand.  She worked so hard, yet kept the yogini mentality of equilibrium, focus, devotion and with integrity.  All though I do not get to see her on a regular basis, I know Brittney’s presence at the Garden is a strong one.  She is the epitome of grace in action.  She is a great reflection of why we show up, every day, and dedicate ourselves to something greater than ourselves by truly living our yoga. Thank you, Brittney, for being such a integral and ongoing part of Yoga Garden and its community and such an inspiration to others.  You are a true blessing, a golden treasure and a beloved teacher.  Om Shanti.

Though no longer in N.C. and a regular face ‘at’ the studio, Doreen is still with us heart and soul.  You will find sprinkles of her spirit throughout the Garden, from our lovely logo to her teacher training that shines through many of our instructors.  From the inception of Yoga Garden, Doreen stepped in and stepped up, dedicating countless hours and endless energy and enthusiasm to the upkeep and organization of our studio and staff.  She helped keep me on the right business track; not an easy task – and kept the Garden moving forward.  Anyone who has had the honor of being in her class or simply in her presence understands immediately her love for and deep knowledge of the yogic postures, philosophy, and lifestyle.  Everywhere I go in the studio, office and even the hallway, I see a reflection of Doreen, and it warms my heart.  Thank you, Doreen, for your selfless service, keen insights and knowledge, and sacred spirit.  Om Shanti.

Who has been an inspiration to you?  How can you make them aware of the most subtle ways in which they have touched your life?

 

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Yoga Mats 101 & Cleaning Tips

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My Mat of Choice – One of the most common initial questions I get from students is which yoga mat is best.  Well, it is really up to the practitioner, and sometimes you have to spend some time with a new mat in order to get a feel for whether it is going to work for you for the long-term.  The Black Mat that adorns the front of our studio, and which has been my staple mat for many years, is about 10 years old!  When I first purchased this mat, Manduka only carried two types – the infamous Black Mat (that only came in… black) and their Travel Mat.  Things have changed, color choices have increased and different materials are used these days, but I am still an avid lover of my original mat.  I think at the time I paid about $60 for the mat, which now retails at $100, but has paid for itself over and over again.  The Black Mat is quite weighty and you can get a workout just by carrying it around.  Sometimes I think I opened the Garden just so I would have a permanent place to park my Manduka!  (JK!)  Now I know this mat has not satisfied 100% of its users, however, if you decide to invest in any mat, be sure to give it some time to patina under your use.  If a mat tends to be ‘slippery’, try setting it out in the sun for a few hours.  The more you use it, the less sliding should happen.  And be sure to adhere to the specific cleaning instructions.  I know mat-attachment happens, but remember the practice of aprigraha (non-attachment).  I purposefully do not travel with my own mat.  I either use the blanket that lives in the trunk of my car, or I use a borrowed mat from the studio I’m visiting.  One of my favorite introductory mats is the Wai Lana – it always makes me smile and helps me connect with my inner-beginner.  P.S.  My Manduka does not make my Eka Pada Rajakapotasana and metta meditation any better than they are on my Wai Lana.  The point is to have the same experience whether you are on a wool blanket or practicing directly on the soil of Gaia.

I love spending a fall afternoon in my outdoor apothecary mixing and matching essential oil blends, skincare delights and my newest concoction of our Lavender Mat Cleaning Spray!  Including fresh lavender as well as tea tree and witch hazel for their antiseptic and cleansing properties, leaving both a feeling of relaxation and renewal.  Make a check mark on your saucha (cleanliness) niyama (moral observance) list by giving your mat a little lavender love.  $8 at Altar Your Space, Yoga Garden.

Mat Morsel:  After washing your yoga mat, roll it tightly in a couple of bath towels to squeeze out the excess water, then hang under the sun to help maintain it’s freshness and stickiness!

Tender Tip:  Tender knees or elbows?  Cut a slice of an old mat and place it horizontally on your regular yoga mat in order to provide an extra layer of padding for those sensitive areas.

Do you have a favorite yoga mat or prop?  Please share below!

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Taking the Next Step

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Many of us get to the point in our yoga practice where we feel a bit stagnant.  We have been practicing for months or even years.  We know there’s more to it than just the physical postures because we’ve felt it.  We may not be able to put our finger on it, but we’ve felt it in our body, we’ve felt it in our minds, and we’ve felt it in our hearts.  We have reached a point in our practice where simply going to our daily or weekly yoga class just isn’t enough.  We know there is a deeper meaning to lotus posture.  What more does that word mean that the teacher used in class today?   Bandhas – I’ve been practicing for years and just heard that word for the first time today!  How can I obtain that knowledge?  What next?

When I enrolled in my first teacher training course over a decade ago, I had absolutely NO intention on teaching.  I had two babies at the time, was a stay-at-home mom, and didn’t really revel in the idea of getting up in front of a group of people and speaking, much less teaching.  At the time, I was taking yoga class from two different teachers across town from each other.  About two years into my practice, and the day I found out that these two instructors graduated from the same teacher training, I took that as a sign.  I quickly registered for my first Maha Sadhana with Chandra Om and enrolled in her teacher training program the next day.  I was home.

If you have reached a point in your practice where even though the classroom setting feeds your body and mind, you know there are deeper meanings to the postures, breathwork and meditations that you would like to delve deeper into, maybe it is time to consider a teacher training program.  I’ve never been big on ‘labels’, and I know the words ‘teacher training’ can be intimidating, but in all of the teacher trainings and advanced teacher trainings I’ve attended and taught, anywhere between 30%-50% of the enrollees attended teacher training in order to simply go deeper into their own personal practice.  I will say that some of the best teachers I’ve had the honor to train came into teacher training just as uneasy as I originally was at the idea of teaching and only looked at their training as an enrichment to their own personal practice.  We all know those teachers who have their own dedicated personal practice in comparison to those who just want to teach for the label of ‘yoga teacher’.

So whether you want to teach in the future, or if you are simply ready to begin to excavate the True Self through The Holy Science of Yoga in your personal, spiritual practice, consider joining me and our advanced guest instructors for the next 8 months for what we’ve mindfully labeled the Live Your Yoga & Teacher Training.  (Registration deadline for the Live Your Yoga 2015 program is December 1, 2014.)

A special thanks and dedication to the teachers of whose trainings I have had the honor to attend:  Chandra Om, HarDarshan & HarBhajan Kaur Khalsa, Judith Lasater, Stephanie Keach, and Lucy Cimini.

If you want to learn a thing, read that; if you want to know a thing, write that; if you want to master a thing, teach that. -Yogi Bhajan

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Overcoming Obstacles in Asana

professionalpix 110Pinchamayurasana – Feathered Peacock Pose.  Such a lovely sounding posture to have created such a block in my psyche when I first saw this pose being demonstrated by my teacher.  You’ve got to be kidding, right?  That’s not really a posture actually obtainable without decades of practice, is it?  “Don’t try, just do”, was the response my teacher offered… well, not in those exact words, but that’s what I heard.  So I did (try)… and did (try)… and, two years later, I DID!  But it wasn’t until after one of those moments when I totally surrendered to the notion that this posture didn’t make me any more or less of a yogi than anyone else around me.  Surrender.  Knowing that I am not this body, I am not this mind.  And allow the Divine to do its magick.

But getting up in the pose was just the first step.  As you may know, when learning inversions we will many times be close to a wall for physical (and mental) support.  Being in Pinchamayurasana ‘at the wall’ was just the beginning.  Just as is always the case in learning asana, there is always another variation or deeper position to move into from the original.

So then it became time to trust the universe, if you will, and venture out into the middle of the room without the comfort of knowing the wall was going to be there to catch me.  Part of the process of getting around the fear of falling out of the pose was… falling out of the pose.  So that became an integral part of moving through that fear.  We were instructed to come up into this vertical position and actually fall over into a variation of a backbend.  So I did it, and I lived!  Of course part of being led by a qualified teacher is that they know when you are strong enough and ready to venture this far outside of your comfort zone, and I trusted my teacher enough to give it a go.  It wasn’t long before I was able to trust myself enough to find that surrender once again and obtain my goal-asana.  I must have been a bat in a former life because I love to be upside down, and to this day ‘pincha’ is of the most comfortable, pleasant poses in my personal practice. We went through this process again a few months later as she led me through standing dropbacks into a backbend, which, once again with her guidance, I was able to do for the first time… at age 40!

Don’t try, just do.  Or try and try again… then try some more.  Practice makes perfect.  Practice perfection.

Know that I’m not just talking about the ‘perfect’ Warrior II or the ‘perfect’ meditation.  Perfection is infusing your every day – action, word and thought – with intention to reach union with God/Divinity/Great Spirit.  Sometimes this happens on our yoga mat, sometimes it happens in the kitchen making breakfast for our family, sometimes it happens behind our office desk,  in front of the art easel or playing with our children.  But it entails zeal in practice, that burning desire to commune with the Divinity within each and every moment of each and every day.

And remember:  Practice becomes firmly grounded when attended to for a long duration, without interruption and with complete devotion.  (Yoga Sutra 1:14)

hOMework:  Is there a goal in which obstacles to achieving them seem to keep popping up for you?  What kind of practice can you put into play, everyday, that will help you (maybe even by falling first) move past the fear of ‘failing’?  Don’t know where to start?  Think baby steps – is there an affirmation, mantra, prayer, or even a poem that will inspire you or get you in the right mindset to move forward?  What step will you take today?

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