Sprinter

 

The other day on Facebook I read a post that said New England is now experiencing a new season called Sprinter.  Ugh, as I write this on April 19th there is snow and freezing rain falling outside my window.  Sprinter is not about running a short but fast race, it is winter conditions even though the calendar says we are technically in springtime.

Sprinter, makes my mind start to churn, and churn, and churn. Last month in my yoga class we talked about cultivating the opposite to calm your churning mind.  Students asked why and how do they cultivate the opposite.  Sprinter gives us the opportunity to practice cultivating the opposite.

Before you can cultivate the opposite you must identify what you are feeling in the first place.  So how does hearing the word sprinter  or looking out the window on April 19th and seeing snow make YOU feel?  Not your spouse, kids, friends or coworkers but you what are you feeling right now? Sit with that for a moment, experience and identify the feeling and emotion that arises.

If you are a skier you might be joyful, ski season is extended for you! Your mind is not churning.  If you are like me and want to work in your garden or get outside for walks and to enjoy sunshine and warm weather the feeling might not be so joyful.  Your mind might be churning.  Now sit with the churning, feel it, recognize the emotion and name it.  Until you name it you can not cultivate the opposite.  Once you name it and recognize it you can begin to cultivate or contemplate the opposite.

That opposite is also very individualized.  Lets look at some examples, sprinter might make you feel sad, angry, frustrated or worried just to name a few.  Now you have to decide what is the opposite for YOU.  The opposite of sad could be happy, blissful, joy, contentment so many choices, that you must identify for yourself.

Once you have identified the opposite can you cultivate it?  How my students ask? To start to cultivate the opposite you can begin by contemplating the opposite.  How do you feel when you are happy or joyful? Focus on that feeling, bring that opposite emotion to the forefront of your thoughts and choose to feel that instead of letting your negative emotions set your mind a churning.  You may even have to fake it till you make it a few times, but each time you choose to cultivate the opposite you are training your mind so that it is not always churning and leading you into negative thoughts and emotions.  You are training your mind to let yourself choose how you want to feel! Don’t let sprinter get you down, after all spring temperatures will eventually arrive, now how does that make you feel?

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Modifications of the Mind

One of the most famous text on yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the text Patanjali explains what yoga is.  In  Sutra 1.2 he says:

“Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah”

I.K. Taimni translates this as:

“Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind” 1

Your first question might be what are modifications of the mind?  We just don’t speak like that today.  Modifications of the mind is the chatter that at least for me is constantly going on subtly in the background of my mind.  Citta-vrtti is the sanskrit for these modifications and it always strikes me as the word itself almost sounds like chatter.

The modifications and chatter in your mind takes me back to 8 track tapes.  In the 70’s you could buy an album on an 8 track tape to play in your car.  In what now looking back was a rather large player that attached to your car radio.  We didn’t have car stereos back then and certainly couldn’t carry a whole collection of music on one little tiny I-pod. I guess I’m really showing my age.

This sutra reminds me of 8 tracks because in most peoples minds there is usually several streams of thought (tracks) going on at any one moment.  Fewer streams since I started yoga but always more than one.  Stop for a moment, close your eyes and notice the thoughts in your mind.  How many different tracks do you have?

Everyone has constant thoughts going through their head.  Yoga helps you stop the modifications of the mind, stop the chatter, stop the chitta-vrtti’s.  This is why yoga helps you calm and quiet the mind.  This for me is why yoga is so helpful in easing stress and anxiety.  If the thoughts going through your head are of constant worry and fear what will that do to your body?  To your mind?  Yoga’s tools of poses, breathing practices and meditation can be used to help you calm the chatter.

Practicing yoga helped me go from 8 tracks of thoughts to one or two at a time.  So don’t let the chatter exhaust you, don’t let your thoughts turn you into a hamster on a wheel constantly replaying things over and over in your head.  Take a yoga or meditation class and start to still the modifications in your mind.  See how much better you feel!

  1. The Science of Yoga I.K.Taimni p.6

More Signs of Spring

I was looking at my blog site and noticed that last April I had written a blog called signs of spring, with a photo of my daffodils poking up from the ground.  The date was April 7, 2015 it was a long hard winter in Boston last year.  Flash forward to today February 25, 2016 and those same daffodils are already poking up from the ground!  What a difference a year makes.

This winter has seen temperatures fluctuate from -9 to 56 degrees in the space of 3 days.  The weather man mentioned that we have had an equivalent amount of precipitation but rain this year instead of snow.  Letting out a sigh of relief, I look forward to more and more frequent warm days like today.

Sitting in my sunny dining room and writing this blog I feel an overwhelming sense of contentment and bliss.  The sun is warm on my face, NPR is on in the background and I am writing a blog post all things I enjoy.

Yoga says as you immerse yourself in your yoga practice you will open deeper and deeper into consciousness. As you become more and more immersed in your yogic state the structure of your mind changes it becomes more porous things don’t stick to you the way they used to.  You are not as dependent on external situations to create your happiness. You don’t need to prop up your state of being with externally pleasurable events.

The weather man says that tonight the temperature will drop, tomorrow is back to cold, cold winter. My  mind is more porous then it was a year ago, that forecast doesn’t stick to me, doesn’t bring me down, doesn’t change my state. Today I am enjoying the present moment, the warmth and sunshine, I am content and blissful.Tomorrow hopefully I will stay in my yogic state, in that present moment content and blissful.

Complaints turned into Gratitude

My daughter recently shared on Facebook with me a list of things that normally would be complaints and how these things can be looked at as things really we should be grateful for.

The list is:

  1. Early wake-ups = Children to love
  2. House to clean = Safe place to live
  3. Laundry = Clean clothes to wear
  4. Dishes to wash = Food to eat
  5. Crumbs under the table = Family meals
  6. Grocery shopping = $ to provide for us
  7. Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
  8. Lots of noise = People in my life
  9. Endless questions about homework = Children’s brains growing
  10. Sore and tired in bed = I’m still alive

At holidays we often will list the many blessings in our lives, and like many yogis I do a gratitude practice to acknowledge all the wonderful gifts that are present in my life.  What I loved about this list is it takes some of the things we grumble about doing and makes us realize again how lucky we are compared to most people in the world.

A real lesson for me is number 7 toilets to clean, and realizing how many people in the world do not have indoor plumbing.  Convenience aside the health risks that come with poor sanitary conditions associated with no indoor plumbing will make me think about cleaning my toilets in a whole new way.

A yoga practice really helps you to shift your attitude about many things.  As you release the tensions in your spine and your muscles become more open this also effects your mind.  Your mind can become more flexible making it easier to shift from grumpy to grateful.

When you approach these mundane tasks from a place of gratitude, they are no longer a chore.  When you do these tasks from a place of gratitude they are no longer done with a feeling of resentment, but from a place of joy. Lets be honest dishes and laundry need to be done, and a clean bathroom is more sanitary.  So the next time you feel resentful or are grumbling about your less pleasant mundane tasks find that place of gratitude and joy that is ever present inside you, remember all you have to be thankful for and see if you attitude shifts and these chores will get finished in no time.

Slow Down Outside and Inside

The other day I read an interesting blog on Facebook written by a Slow Flow Vinyasa teacher about slowing down his practice and his teaching.  He commented that part of slowing down was due to the aging process and he needed to slow down his practice to accommodate his body.  What he found out though was that as he slowed down he became more aware of the changes on the inside.  This is exactly what the slower pace and longer holding of poses that Svaroopa(r) Yoga provides you with.

Every Svaroopa(R) Yoga class and practice begins with Shavasana during which the teacher takes you through a guided awareness.  When teaching I start the guided awareness at your toes and work my way up to your head.  Scanning through each part of the body and asking you to become aware of and notice each part both outside and inside.  Always working our way from the outside to the inside.

The purpose of this is to bring your awareness inside so you can be aware of what is happening inside your body, not just the external changes that you can see.  As you practice longer and take the practice deeper you can feel the muscles softening and the bones of your spine lengthening.  To do this you have to become aware of the inside.

The best thing about Svaroopa(r) Yoga is that you will get these changes either way.  Whether it is your first class and you are just following the instructions not really sure what is happening or you are a deeper student with the ability to track these changes on the outside and inside.

 

picture courtesy of Svaroopa(R) Vidya Ashram

Empty Nester and Not Loving It!

This fall my youngest left for college.  It is a new phase of life, a new stage.  How did this happen? It seems like just a moment ago I was holding each of my 3 children in my arms as newborn babies.  in that instant I was filled with so much joy, love and happiness and now already the last is leaving the nest.

So my nest won’t officially be empty for 4 more weeks when my oldest son leaves for Thailand to go and teach there for a year.  It seems so very far away and almost incomprehensible that we won’t see him for almost a year.  My second son is back at college for his Junior year, and my youngest is having a great start to her Freshman year in college. I am so proud of each of them and happy to see them moving forward in their lives, this is exactly what my husband and I want for them! So why is it tinged with sadness for us and most other parents?

I find for me there are several reasons. First, while yes I am still their mother there is a change in that identity.  I am not needed to mother them every day.  Unlike when they were younger they don’t need me to drive them around, make them a snack or tuck them in at night. I am still their mother, but like a cousin once removed, I now mother from a distance.

Some of the sadness comes from missing the daily communications. My house is so quiet, no more noisy dinners as we hear about everyone’s day, no more friends dropping by filling the house with noise and laughter. No longer can I hug them when I notice they are having a tough day.  Communications are planned, first texting “are you available to Skype at 8?”, then waiting till 8 o’clock and hoping the technology will work for us.

What does yoga have to say about this?  Yoga says that your attachment to an identity causes pain, the feeling of loss of the identity of mother causes pain. Even though I am still their long distance Mom, it is a loss, a change in that identity, it can and should be mourned. Yoga says your happiness should be independent from the events that are happening around you.  I can’t let my happiness be dependent on my children being home, this would not be healthy for them or me. They are doing what they should be doing, what we have encouraged and prepared them to do. they are moving on growing, learning and becoming beautiful independent young men and women that my husband and I are incredibly proud of. The way they are stepping into their new stages of life with grace inspires me to do the same.

More Confessions from an NPR Junkie.

On April 15th when I was listening to NPR and thinking about tax day,  I heard that it was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, it was also the 2 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Then this weekend was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I could hardly believe that 20 years has gone by. Sadness comes over me each time I am reminded of these terrible events.

So sitting here writing this on a grey and gloomy Patriots Day in Massachusetts thinking about this years marathoners, I can’t help thinking about these horrific events, and how sad it is that 70 years after the revelation of the genocide of the holocaust that the human race still commits such violent acts against one another.

Yoga says that Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the 5 laws of life.  These are 5 practices to help us live a better life, and reach enlightenment.  Practicing non-violence helps us to live as a better person, but there is more to non-violence then not physically harming someone.  Most of us are not going out and committing acts of terrorism.  So how do we cultivate non-violence in our lives.

The practice of Ahimsa to me is similar to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or  “love your neighbor as yourself”.  If we treated everyone as we want to be treated the world just might become a better place to live in. We can practice Ahimsa towards others, so if you don’t want to be gossiped about don’t gossip, don’t want to be bullied or made fun of don’t bully others. We can practice Ahimsa towards ourselves, take a good look at how you speak to yourself. If we spoke to others like we talk to ourselves we wouldn’t have many friends. These are just a few ways we may be behaving violently without thinking of it as violence.

I maybe naive,these historic events are such major acts of violence how can they be changed by my individual shift in behavior and attitude. I say that we have to try, as individuals this is something we can do to help change the world. In yoga we call this a practice, I also like to think of it as cultivating non-violence. Your practice is like a garden it needs to be tended, watered, fertilized, weeded and finally harvested.  You won’t be able to change all of your thoughts and actions overnight it takes time just like growing your garden.  So start cultivating, big changes happen by small acts of individual people.

Signs of Spring

Friday strolling down my driveway after a morning walk I noticed that all of the snow had melted around the base of one of the trees in my front garden.  There just poking up from the ground were the tips of daffodils rising up from their long winter sleep.  Letting out a whoop of joy my mood lifted instantaneously.  Seeing this tiny first sign of spring brought me so much joy.

Fast forward to Saturday morning waking up to snow showers coming down from a cold, steely grey sky.  Oh the depths a mood so easily lifted can just as easily crash down.  This brought me up short and made me think “is my yogic state so shallow”?

Yoga says that your joy or happiness should not be dependent on what is happening on the outside, the burst of spring or return of winter, but is always there arising from within.  In Svaroopa® yoga we cultivate this yogic state in our practice and particularly with a guided awareness during Shavasana when the teacher guides you through a body scan so you can bring your awareness into your body to notice your state outside and inside.

You will often hear yogi’s refer to this yogic state as being detached, but that sounds like you don’t care.  What yoga is really saying is that this yogic state you’ve cultivated is not attached to or influenced by external events.  That you or I can be as joyful during the Saturday snow flurries as we are seeing the daffodils and other signs of spring.

It isn’t easy, it is a practice.  This is why we refer to it as cultivating a yogic state.  Some external events or people push you out of your yogic state more easily than others.  So I am giving myself a break here, it has been a long, cold, snowy winter and this time the snow pulled me down. I hope to better maintain that yogic state the next time.  Actually like everyone else I am hoping that was the last of the snow flurries for this winter that gives me all spring and summer to deepen my yogic state!