This is Bliss - Winter 2012

As we come to the end of another year, and I finish up my ninth year of teaching yoga and running Yoga Bliss, I find myself thinking about what practicing and teaching yoga mean to me. Some of the things I've been reflecting on are the beauty and synchronicity of the body and the breath; how the practice encourages us to not only go inward and honor ourselves, but to adapt the practice to meet our needs; how grateful I am for the practice and its ability to soothe my soul and get me out of my head and ultimately out of my own way; how I love our yoga community, and the variety and range of personalities of people coming together to practice; how the practice can teach us whatever it is we need to learn and how it helps us to get in touch with the best parts of ourselves. And while I value all of these things immensely, one of the things that I value most is the fact that it is a practice - how great is that? Just by calling it a practice and framing it in that way allows me to keep coming back to my mat day after day, year after year, and playing with the poses and figuring out how the teachings can be a more integral part of my life. Looking at it through that lens gives me permission to not know, to explore, to be uncertain, to try and even fail and try again. And all I have to do is simply unroll my mat and sit and breathe and move. But the rub is that I, we, have to show up regularly on the mat to sit and breathe and move.

 

The sutras (12 & 14) remind us that all the mental chatter and distractions can be quieted by practice and that our practice becomes firmly grounded when we do it consistently for a long time and with attention and earnestness. Maintaining our physical, mental and spiritual well-being does take a lot of dedication and commitment, but I know it's worth it when I notice myself breathe more fully and consciously, and feel my brow unfurrow or the knot in my stomach loosen, and my heart soften and open. And, I know it's worth it when I see my students walking out of class more slowly and easily, with softer eyes and released shoulders, seemingly lighter and more at peace.

 

All of the above keeps me coming back to the mat, and I promise that I will keep showing up and practicing and exploring and learning. And I would encourage you to do the same and to ask yourself, during this time of reflection, what the practice means to you - what do you value about it? And honor and act on those discoveries.

QUOTE

 

Make your inner growth your top priority and everything else will follow. Living Your Yoga: No one has any "extra" time. Even so, set aside time today: meditate for five minutes, practice three asana, and lie in Savasana (Basic Relaxation Pose) for twenty minutes. With this foundation, you will change the world. From A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater.

 

BEST PRACTICES

  

Create a practice session out of your favorite poses. Pick your three favorite poses and practice them every day. Be realistic about how much time you can actually spend on your practice each day. If you don't have a ton of time on a particular day, do one pose on each side. If you have more time, do all three several times on each side. Feel free to play around with the order you practice them in and really notice the effects they have on you. Make sure you sit or lie down after them for one to five minutes so you can absorb your practice.

   

WORDS OF WISDOM

 

If I avoid practicing, then everyday things do not have the meaning I want them to have. If I avoid the everyday things, then practice does not have the sweetness it could have. Living Your Yoga: No matter how demanding your commitments are, find a few minutes to stretch, breathe, and sit quietly today. No excuses. From A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater.

   

MEDITATION IDEAS

 

I think the key with committing to any kind of meditation or yoga practice is be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to it and to start out doing it for a short amount of time so that you can do it every day. It's better to do two to three minutes every day than 20 minutes one day a month.

 
  • Find a comfortable seat. Make sure you are sitting on a yoga block, blanket or a chair so your spine can be easily lengthened.
  • Find the rhythm of your breath. Don't change it, just discover and watch it.
  • As you inhale, circle your arms out to the sides and up to a prayer above your head.
  • As you exhale, draw the prayer of your hands into your heart center.
  • Repeat this several times up to five minutes.
  • Let this gentle moving meditation help to quiet and focus the mind and get you tuned into your breath and your heart space. It can also be a nice easy release for your shoulders and arms.
  •  
   

To access more meditation ideas, check out www.yogajournal.com  

STUDENT OF THE SEASON

 

this is...Teri Moore!

 

When did you first start practicing yoga?
It was the late 80's early 90's when I was in a post-doctoral fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

 

What prompted you to start practicing?
A friend in the same lab introduced me-- seemed like a great stress relief from the highly intensive research we were doing.

 

What keeps you coming back to the yoga practice?
It is the one thing that that keeps me centered and allows me to breathe!

 

What do you value most about the yoga practice?
Its ability to take me away from myself or at least my external self.

 

How often do you practice yoga each week?
2-3 times with one of them being in the class.

 

Do you practice any other forms of exercise (like pilates, running, aerobics, swimming...) - or something else that you find is a great compliment to your yoga practice (like meditation, tai chi etc.)? Have you noticed any aspects of your yoga practice making their way into these other forms of exercise?
In my ideal week I try to do the stationary bike 2 times/week, go to our downstairs gym and do the elliptical, a few machines on the circuit and some free weights and sit ups 2 times/week. On the weekend when we go back to Princeton I do our Treadclimber machine usually both Saturday and Sunday. And of course there is the yoga. Now this is the ideal week and I don't always hit my ideal especially if traveling or if deadlines (for grants and papers) are too demanding. I also walk a great deal to and from work from 124th to Mt. Sinai at 98th. I probably don't let yoga directly in at those times as that is when I listen to This American Life, Radio Lab, and Fresh Air podcasts!

 

How has having a yoga practice helped you on a physical level? How about on a "mental or emotional" level?
I would have to say that the flexibility that it maintains is fantastic and everyone should do Yoga just for that. Mentally and emotionally it is very calming and promotes tolerance and acceptance of others. Personally it also helps me be accepting of me and my flaws.

 

Has your yoga practice on the mat impacted your life off the mat - if so, how?
The biggest impact off the mat is the acceptance thing - not just of other people but of other situations that I personally cannot change, like the weather, the subway, the traffic, the lines everywhere. My husband is not so accepting of all of the above, and I find myself telling him to "just breathe" and sometimes he even listens!

 

Do you have a favorite part of the practice? If so, what and why?
Well I could say of course Savasana, which is really great - but what I really like is to get into the flow of the repetitive sequences and get my breathing to harmonize with the flow and go a little deeper with each round.

 

Is there anything about the practice that challenges you? And if so, how do you "work" through or with that?
The poses that require upper body strength are the most challenging; hand stand, head stand, crow, even the bow. I just can't seem to gain in strength and I do find that frustrating.

 

What does it mean to you to "deepen" your practice?
To deepen, I would like to do it more often and longer when on my own and also add in a meditation component.

 

Is there any one thing that you have learned about yourself through the practice that you didn't really know about yourself?
I think I am a lot more tolerant than I thought I was and can be a very patient person.

 

What do you look forward to in terms of the practice, where you've been going with it, where you hope it might lead you...?
I look forward to keep coming to it and to class. Yoga is the one thing that I do exclusively for myself. I would like to lead my husband to it, where hopefully he would like it also. and let him get more harmony within himself.

 

POSE OF THE SEASON

 

Supported Halasana (Supported Plow Pose)

 

This has become a favorite restorative pose for me. It provides a supported way to invert, turns my attention inward ,and quiets my mind. Plus with the position of the bolster underneath my kidney area it is a great stress reliever as the kidneys and adrenal glands can be easily affected by stress.

 

(If you have low back or neck issues, are pregnant or on your menstrual cycle, have high blood pressure, or have glaucoma or retinal issues this pose may not be for you. As with any physical/exercise program you should always consult your doctor before trying a new practice.)

 
  • Lie on your back. Breathe in, and as you breathe out engage your hip flexors in the front of your groins and your abdominals and draw your knees up toward your nose.
  • Continue rolling up and back toward your shoulders until you can slide a bolster or three rolled up blankets that make a bolster underneath you.
  • Position the bolster/rolled blankets crosswise underneath you so that is supports your lowest kidney, your low back and the top of your pelvis.
  • Alternately, you can lie on your back with your knees bent and on an inhale lift just your hips off the ground, and then slide the bolster or rolled blankets underneath you. From here, lift your legs up to the sky.
  • Your legs should be up in the sky and hopefully feel like they can just float there effortlessly. If your legs get tired or tingly, try bending them, placing a pillow or bolster behind your bent knees, resting your calves.
  • Place your arms either alongside your body or alongside your ears - whatever feels comfortable and restful.
  • Stay here, breathing easily and steadily for three to 10 minutes.

Go Deeper

  • Relax your throat, tongue and jaw.
  • Let your eyes soften back into their sockets.
  • Allow your legs to float and hang in the air.
  • Feel your back body opening and releasing.
  • Notice where you feel your breath. Can you let the breath flow in and out effortlessly?
  • Can you let your inner world and outer world quiet a bit more?
  • What else can you let go of or find ease with?

Thank you so much for reading the Winter issue of this is bliss - I'm most grateful!  Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or comments.  And certainly feel free to pass this along to anyone else you think might enjoy reading it.  If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please email and let me know.

 

Peace, Love, and BLISS!
  Beth

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