What is Yoga?

something3What is Yoga? A science? An art? A new exercise trend for people who want their bodies fit and flexible while humming an om or two and tuning in to cool music, inside and out, at least while on the mat?

Magic and myth meld Eastern philosophy and Western mind with subtle fibers, strands of light that connect us all.  Not even light but threads so fine that they can’t be seen with the naked eye that looks through the veil of reality.  And yet in some sense we have to become naked to see through the veil between the “I that I am” and the divine.  ( Om tat sam) A separation that happens time and time again sometimes getting tangled or caught as threads intertwine and bind in patterns of Samskara creating Karma.

In Indra’s net we are all held dear , each special and unique, not bound but supported. Yoga is both the weaving and the unweaving, suturing or sewing as the Sutras say. The Sutras give instructions to tell us how to be the weaver of our Dharma or destiny through Svadhyaya,  rather than caught in others or our own Kleshas, insisting on our Avidya, defedning our point of view to the death.  The Yoga Sutras, and practices point the way to Moksha, freedom,  like sign posts but the teachings are taught only if we learn to read between the lines.

Yoga is both the instructor and the instructions, the teacher and the teachings that speaks in and through the silence occasionally finding a voice. A voice that guides saying “Follow me I know the way,” or perhaps just says, “Look and see where you’re going rather than seeing though the lens of where you’ve been.”   Yoga develops our “I” sight, developing and showing us how to see and how to seed new karma as we practice pulling the weeds from our Garden of Eden: Blessing them for their teaching of hardiness we nurture the little shoots of new growth until they take root reaching down into the earth of our being stretching up to the stars and beyond to embrace, to touch and be touched by the eternal. Life returning again and again. Evolution and devolution till we reach the source that is as near as breath. The whisper of the soul breathing life into the life we live.

What is Yoga, I don’t know . Still Vichara , reflecting on it brings a smile to the heart… and a little song. https://soundcloud.com/shaktimusic-1/simple-but-not-easy-jane-03/s-PpnhR


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Take A breather: Practice

vilomaformPracticing yoga can be as simple as paying attention to your breath.  To release the tension and stress of living on the human scene, lay on your back with knees bent.   First just put your hands on your belly and observe your breath.  Remember, Atah Yoga Nushasanam… Now yoga begins, right where you are.  Note the transformation of breath and the effect of just stopping to be with it. Then once you’ve settled, inhale lift your arms in an arc until hands touch the floor over your head.  Exhale through same arc coming down.  To familiarize yourself with Ujjayi breath, which you may remember from previous posts we also call “Sussura del’anima – Whisper of the soul” breath, exhale softly opening your mouth like steam escaping with a HAAAA.  Feel the connection to this as though the navel moving back towards the spine is squeezing out the breath, and all the old stuff you want to let dissolve.  Once you’ve established the breath, continue recreating this Ujjayi breath.   Inhale and exhale through the nostrils with the breath moving to the back of the throat.  Establish a count and balance inhale and exhale.

Visualize an arcobaleno, a rainbow arc being traced by your fingertips and clear away the cobwebs of attachment to doing and just be.  That’s enough.  Just be. Pause for a moment after inhale, just be .  Pause for a moment after exhale, Kumbakha, Just be.  You may find a mantra effective.  One translation of SO HAM, the mantra of breath, is I am.  INhale SO, EXhale HAM.  Listen as the soul whispers, inhale “I” .  Exhale “AM” In the space between thoughts we may touch the infinity of being, atha yoganushasanam.  After that, what more is there to say.

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OMG, I lost my identity!

Okay, so not to blabber on and on about it or get too personal sharing out the more intimate details of my life,   I decided to share this bit because it was so much on the subject of how changing the way you view something can change everything.  A dear friend and Yoga Teacher Fred Miller used to say after the om, “Now, prepare to leave the real world and go back out into the world of illusion.”  Yesterday was about seeing differently from the same place: how your point of view changes the way you see things.  This morning I woke up in a panic from a dream where I was traveling and all the contents of my backpack disappeared; id, money etc.  In fact, I tried in that half wake state to change the end of the dream.  When I related it to my husband Ed, he said, “Means you don’t need any of that old stuff.”  That perspective changed everything!

asmitaI did this little image. Asmita is as we know the ego identifying itself as something separate and apart . We rely on our sense perceptions and create an identity that ceases to seem an illusion , but rather our reality.  I’ve written in the past about the “I am” without an adjective or noun.  Sometimes in our journey there comes a moment when we feel we have lost or fear losing all that we identify as self or important to self.  At that point it’s no joking matter. but rather can be a dark night of the soul.  But like every dream state, we awaken to a new light and often what seemed the worst possible scene can turn out to be a turning point that we can look back upon with gratitude, and even a smile at how attached we were to who we think we are.  It’s hard work getting to the soul of the matter but if we do it with a sense of humor, the light in our heart will continue to guide us to a place of being which is often quite different from who we thought we were or even wanted to be.  In Sanskrit,”Neti neti, not this not that.” In meditation the breath whispers, “So hum … I am….”My first meditation teacher Will Hoff used to remind us, “Just be, just be, just be.”

So, just for today I celebrate the “OMG I lost my identity” dream and wonder what’s next on the horizon or on the stage I call my life.  I’d love to hear about you on the road to ‘be yoga now’ or whatever path you’re walking.

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Same P.O.V.- different day.

It will come as a surprise to no one that  weather changes. maremosso Sometimes the seas are rough and days are gray, other times calm and sunny blue sea.                                                                                                                                      marecalma         I don’t take these changes personally though I admit they sometimes affect my state of mind.  I’m rather attached to a preference for this sunny day scene when I have a choice.                                                                                   solemare

Of course when it comes to the weather I don’t take it personally when the sun doesn’t shine. I accept the changes, not always happily but with the knowledge that things change.  I still have some work to do when it comes to the waves of my thoughts and the weather patterns of my mind.  Is it possible to observe them without taking their variability personally?  I wonder.

“Sutra 1.36 viśokā that which is devoid of worry and grief  ,  and/or jyotiṣmatī that which is filled by light; that which is accompanied by light. When a state of worrylessness and effulgence manifests directly from inside, it leads the mind to a state of concentration.” (Pandit Rajmani Tigunait – Yoga International May,2013)  Today there is a state of effulgence, the quality of being bright and sending out rays of light.  When that does not seem to be the case, where do we go?  Inside to the light which is eternal, the sun within referred to as Jathara Agni, ‘the fire that knows me.’

For today, calm seas and sun brighten the horizon. It’s a good day to reflect and to remember when storm clouds roll in.   Om.

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Thrival not survival… say yes to yoga today.

pathWalking the path of Yoga is about thriving, to be the best possible you not to be like or imitate but to learn from and emulate those we consider to be our teachers. It’s also of course as much about celebrating life on the journey as it is about arriving to the place of  Freedom, Moksha. There are many paths to enlightenment, freedom from the bondage of self,  and many schools which promise it though all too often with strings attached.  Leather_bucket_of_a_well I continue to struggle with the Brand Naming of yoga with membership and lineage toted out as validation of something special at the same time I acknowledge the value of following a particular teaching rather than trying to draw from too many wells, though along the journey we may have to draw from more than one.  My own experience is that the teacher comes in many forms and that the outer manifestation comes and goes or that we need to move on to find another well along the way.

Ultimately students have the same freedom, to come or go. I see this on a couple of levels personally. I miss students when they no longer come to class . I’m happy when some keep in touch and tell me how the yoga practice is helping them move towards “thrival”, a word I first heard from one of my teachers. Yoga is about thrival not just survival. Survival is at the first two chakra, Muladhara , coming into manifestation or embodiment and Svadishthana, the beginning of finding the I that I am, through ownership. Thrival begins at Manipura, where we find the city of Gems and the wealth of being who we really are. It expands in the heart center, Anahata, where we bring heaven and earth together in sharing. Clearing out a way for the imprisoned splendor to emerge to paraphrase Robert Browning’s Poem Parcellslus, from there we come to Visuddhi,,  Robert Browning’s poem Paracelsus. From there we come to Visuddhi, the power to manifest and Ajna the ability to see that which is unseen. Occasionally, rising to a new perspective Sahasrara , the Lotus with a Thousand petals though it seems to me that it is a difficult place to stay seated and not really up there but where we are seated in “Self”, which we know is the definition of Asana, not just a position but also a perspective.

I’ve studied with and learned from many teachers, choosing one in particular for a long period as a committment to Svyadyaya, self-study and walking the talk. ( I choose not to name names because of the nature of this exploration.) Ultimately it seems to me that attachment to any teacher, and a teacher’s attachment to any student and/ or student body needs to be looked at through the lens of Yoga . Abhyasa is defined as practice with a consistent effort to letting go of distractions and attachments in order to become established in Yoga, the deep and profound essence of being . Vairaya means Non-attachment. It often seems to me that the nature of being human is ‘attach thyself’ and in a certain sense some degree of attachment is part of the condition of being human. Our first attachment the umbilical cord is cut when we are born into this world. But love which is supposed to set us free often comes with strings attached. Sometimes, in my own experience I attach myself to the loved one or thing thinking he,she, it to be the source of happiness. This has been a source of suffering when the object of my love disappoints me, and who hasn’t been disappointed in love?

I can tell you that relationship is where we practice yoga. Or rather maybe we practice yoga in order to be able to form ‘re-elation ‘ rather than having the ‘ship’ founder on rough seas. Ultimately my yoga practice brings me back to basics. I’ve been doing yoga more than half of my life. Last count for almost 40 years. Eaks, yes I began when just a wee toddler. I know far less now than I did many years ago, in fact the more I practice the less I seem to know. I’m no Guru, the term originally for Hindu masters but which has become part of our vocabulary for “Big Cheese”, or expert. Recently the distinction was made to ask whether one is a yoga teacher, embodying principles, or a yoga instructor, teaching exercise. Instead, in sharing Yoga I think of myself as a guide, one who walks the path and is therefore able to share some principles and maybe shine some light so that others may find their own way or path.

I call Ujjayi breathing “sussura da l’anima”, whisper from the soul breath. The official definition of Ujjayi is victorious breath. If we get quiet enough to listen it is certainly a victory. A synonym for Guru is heavy or venerable and one who gives weight can also mean brings one into the present to accept the gift of Yoga. However, an antonym to Guru is amateur, one who does an art for the love of doing it rather than as a profession. We know that Yoga is the place where opposites meet. It is indeed a fine line to walk between being an amateur, which seems closer to being a yogi, and being a teacher, not to mention Guru, an expert. I’d rather be light-hearted, listen to the whisper of my soul and follow the guidance of a loving presence , I, being human, can definitely benefit from the guidance of a teacher. I certainly need communion with like-minded souls, sangha which can be found in a particular school or group of ‘followers’ of a particular tradition. Still, I find myself in a dilemma when asked or offered an opportunity to become certified in a certain school. I’ve been called certifiable in other parts of my life, meaning of course a little or more than a little crazy.

Off the beaten path was once what was associated with practicing yoga but as it has become a business, there is a certain element of being officially sanctioned. I was “certified” by Yoga Alliance back in the beginning because as they said, I’d been carrying my mat round for a long time already. I’ve the ERYT500_200x200.jpg symbol to put beside my name but I generally find that people are attracted by the person or maybe better yet the practice, more than credentials. Sometimes I’ve found myself walking, or running around off the ‘beat and path’, out of harmony with myself and others. This is a time to get silent and ask for guidance rather than stamp my feet and insist on my way. Inside me is a lost and found department. I’ve lost my way many times and found that others have shown me how to find a new  direction by example. I’ve also found that what I’ve lost, or given up and that includes being a success in this world, is not as important as what I’ve found in Yoga , laughter, love, light-heartedness, a journey or companion through the dark times, and a place or way to listen to the whisper of my soul which tells me to sing my song: loud and clear when the occasion warrants being heard and in harmony when it is more important that the chord not the individual note be expressed. heartbeatUltimately, if we listen to the beat of our own heart we may find that we each march to the beat of a different drummer but can walk together.

Back to Om-my-God… or Goddess . Sometimes we do a gesture we call separio, parting the curtains which separate the stage from the audience. Bringing hands together in front of the heart center we part the curtains to let the heart light shine before doing warrior pose and say  “Yes!” Ah, a new mantra… practice yoga to live in harmony and om yes to life and to thrive … May you say Yes to yoga today!

( Jane in addition to being a Yoga Guide, is also a singer songwriter. Some of her songs can be found at her website, www.beyoganow.com. See if you want to sing along .)

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My body is but an island…

“The world is an ocean of bliss, my body is but an island.”   Shankara  grado                      Yesterday my husband, Ed and I took a vacation day .  We put our bikes on the car to drive to Aquileia, now a small farming community but once a prominant Roman city at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of lagoons on the Natissa river.  From there we took bike path 12 km riding by farmlands, along a straight by a lagoon and across a bridge to Grado, once a port city for the Roman Empire then a fishing village where we locked our bikes, wrapped our jackets round our waists and slung our shoes over shoulders to walk along the sandy shore and in the water of the sea.  Grado is also called, L’sola del Sole, the sunny island, and it certainly lived up to that yesterday.  I’ve been doing a bit of ruminating of late, not the best companion to serenity and meditation.  Here I offered up all my concerns about who I am or more likely am I who I ought to be, to once again come to the glory of the present moment …  An island in a sea of bliss, kissed by the sun.  

Recently I had a discussion with a fellow yogi regarding the Sutra .  We were discussing the value of various translation.  I just recently reread The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar.  I’d read it many years ago but it took on new meaning as I now see how developing a personal practice has informed my life, supporting all the changes this life has presented and changing me from the inside out.  I was particularly struck by how relevant the Sutra now seem rather than some far off philosophy or scripture.  My friend said, well it seems that he has interpreted  them to apply to everyday life when they are meant to apply to the practice of meditation.  This seemed to me a strange thing and I said so.  I mean, isn’t the point of yoga that our lives become an expression of it and that meditation is best expressed when savoring the sweetness of its fruits in our life?

I think sometimes the separation between meditation and breathing the joy of the moment is like kumbaka, the silence in the pause between thoughts not separate at all.    Then in spite of all that we can see that is wrong in the world and all the places we see how we don’t live up to our highest aspirations , we can experience what Shankara in his wisdom discovered, “The world is an ocean of bliss, my body is but an island.”  Un’isola con il sole dentro… an island with the light of the sun within.  

We know the sun shines on saint and sinner alike.  In my case, I also know that I’m no saint! In practicing yoga in my life I seek to be a worthy seeker of the Self, whose inherent nature is the fullness of bliss: to wash away the delusions or Samskara the mind has built up which cloud my vision.  I also seek to shine, to be the ground where new flowers bloom as well and share both the sun, the fruit and the flower with fellow seekers.

Here is the second blooming of roses in our garden.  roseJust as the Autumn leaves are falling, these roses bloom a second time before fading away, a reminder of the eternal spring of life.  When I release my attachment to what ‘was’ or even ‘what might have been but never was’ , I begin to be free from the bondage of self.   Going once again going to Shankara’s wisdom, “Like the ether, I spread throughout the world; like the sun, I am marked by my shining; like the hills, I am everlasting and unmoved; I am like an ocean without shores.”

I think in this case the “I” could also be “Yoga” … Yoga is like an ocean without shores, that touches all who are present to be touched and that touches us in the unseen core of our being, bliss. Celebrate the moment. Let your sun shine to guide the way for you and others you encounter along the way… Then even on the cloudiest of day you will see the light and be light-hearted.  I bow to the light within you, Om  Namaste.


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Nidra… awake from unconsiousness

fallcolorsWe all know that there is a time for reaping and a time for sowing.  Right now observing nature reminds me that Yoga Nidra, as Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD says, is “Resting on the cloud of Yoga.”  Rest is essential for the rejuvenation process that is part of our nature and sleep alone is not sufficient.  Laying among the leaves feels like an embrace from Mother Earth.   Trust in the process, let all that is no longer necessary fall away .  The nature of life is change.  When all else fails do Yoga Nidra to remind yourself that your nature is eternal even if the body changes.  During your reflection there is a time for planting those new seeds, sankalpa , while letting go of the old.  Remember, we’re going into a time of darkness.  Respect the seasons and lay among the leaves covering yourself in the cloak of time to be reborn and to awaken from the unconsciousness which holds on to what is gone missing the value of the moment.  Often we are sleeping to our true nature rather than awake in relaxed trust where we ‘rest’ in the moment, in the breath, in the space, our hearts and mind one with the universe… Om tat sam.  Autumn , especially as the leaves fall IS a contemplative meditation.

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Sankalpa and planting seeds

ImageSeeds. Every seed has a miracle inside. When a seed planted is in fertile ground, given space time and necessary elements it sprouts and grows. This happens according to certain principles but still there remains the miracle that each seed knows what it’s meant to be. Not so for us. We often get confusing and conflicting messages , maybe even from the time we were embryos: While each cell knows what it’s function or purpose is, when we come out into the light and onto the earth we seem to lose our way.

There needs to be receptive ground for any seed to be fertilized and grow. That’s part of our Yoga practice. Noting what seeds we want to plant, preparing the terrain and then nurturing or observing even if what we observe is that we can’t see the growth. Seeds also need a period of dormancy before they’re ready to transform.  Sankalpa, our intentions or goals, are seeds. It takes more than a bit of patience and a dream for the future to plant seeds and nurture them to grow. In the garden of the mind we must do some tilling to sow new seeds. What we reap we sow. We hope that what we desire will grow but often see that it’s our fears that grow like weeds planting conflicting seeds, vikalpa, that take root and don’t allow the desired seed to grow.

To help my seed flower, I created a Mandala: flowermandala                                                          intersecting circles drawn with a compass which for me represent the inter-connectedness of the various parts of my life. What I love about this simple figure is that it starts with a bindu, a point in the center of a blank page. Then it takes form as the circles are drawn. But then, depending on what I color, different shapes or forms emerge. I like to do this exercise every once in a while as I plant new seeds.  Also, there’s something very satisfying somehow in coloring and seeing the form step by step appear starting from the bindu at it’s center.

It’s hard work and sometimes painful to cultivate and grow our sankalpa and weed out those vikalpas . We fear both not getting what we want, or need, and losing what we have. Even as we see again and again that clinging is a form of violence counter to the fundamental principle of yoga non violence, Ahimsa .  Sometimes we habitually cling to what we know, causing ourselves pain while seeking the pleasure of security of the known because we’re afraid to die to our current self.  At least I do.

The sutras, which come from the same root as suture to bind together , help us to see the connections between our thoughts action and experience as well as leading us step by step on a journey of transformation. I’m just a beginning student in the Sutra even though I’ve been doing yoga over 35 years. It’s nice to be a beginner and learning continues, yoga having prepared the ground from rocky soil where it was difficult for things to take root to more fertile ground.

The Klesha begin with avidya , ignorance . We identify with the form, asmita ,seeking pleasure, raga, and avoiding pain, dvesha . The false identification of self with form or body creates fear of death, abhinivesah. But, just as the caterpillar dies to it’s caterpillar self and becomes a butterfly , a seed must break open and in a certain sense die to live, to fulfill it’s Dharma or destiny. While it’s true that we practice acceptance we also have the option, or maybe even the necessity to change.   Life is change.  Growing, letting go, transforming and sometimes dying even as we live before the final moment of transition.  I know that I have at times felt a sense of resignation about my flaws, even pleasure in saying “Well, that’s just the way I am.”  I used to call it the “I’m syndrome.” Yoga practice is in part observation, in part examination ,  seeking the company of people who are seeking to know the light and the guidance of a teacher who has walked the path… and walks the way they talk…. Hopefully in a light-hearted though serious manner.

As Autumn is here ,  I start this ‘school year’.  I rejoice in the changing colors and the beauty of the falling leaves.janefall2  I cry a bit at the changing landscape of my face.  I am aware of habits I have, some of them seem good others less so. When I seek to create new awareness, I find  both a need to become conscious , to make a choice and to change what I can in my actions and to let go of results .  To plant some new seeds I have to also pull out the weeds. Have you ever noticed that they grow without any help? I practice svadyaya, self examination to see what it is I want to grow, which direction to take and what actions might lead me towards or away from realizing the sankalpa. Also to ask myself if it’s in alignment with Dharma, the purpose of my life.   The flowering of potential…flowers

We share in yoga, so I’m sharing with you that I’ve planted a sankalpa and without being specific as to what or how, I can already see how unseen forces are coming together to move me in directions I hadn’t thought to go. It’s all an adventure. I put up the mandala in our kitchen where it makes me smile and reminds me that to breathe life into my intentions takes action… and also willingness to play, to be curious as a child and vigilant yet playful as a maturing human.  While exploring new horizons every once in a while there is in current text lingo a sense of “omg!”…. At the wonder and beauty of the creative force .

Keep your sankalpa to yourself , it’s to be shared only with a trusted friend or teacher until you see it bloom, but if you do a mandala and want to share it please post it!

Recognize the beauty in all things and you become what you perceive .  Or to paraphrase an old song by Ray Stevens, “Everything … and everybody’s beautiful in their own way.”     Find your way to flower, you’re beautiful.    Om Namaste

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Om is where the heart is.

ImageThe first day I arrived at the Himalayan Institute I saw two beautiful caterpillars walking cross my path, one black with a vibrant red stripe, a holly bear caterpillar, the other silvery grey, shimmering in the morning sun. I don’t recall having ever seen caterpillars like these and I thought, they are not only beautiful when they transform into butterflies but also sensuously slithering, undulating along the way to their destiny.

The days are shortening and I am home in Trieste. I find that between jet lag and old ideas though I’m happy to be where I am there’s still a fair amount of wishing and wanting to be somebody… other than who I am. I feel once again like the caterpillar but now not so much longing to become a butterfly as to weave a cocoon to let the transformational cells within work to reveal the next form . I am inching my way along the road me towards what I hope is my Dharma, my life’s path, certainly guided along the path created by Karma, my actions and reactions. It continues to be a constant sorting out, weaving threads together while at the same time snipping off loose ends or strands that tie me to my past.

Neti neti, not this not that- No-Where is home till I’m at home inside myself.

The sutras say that with discernment we begin to distinguish what is real from what is unreal. In the changing tides of feelings this is a challenge. Feelings may not be facts but they certainly feel real. And reacting to the changing circumstances of one’s life with grace is not always , in my own experience graceful. I seem to flounder around with same ole same ole more than I’d like given the amount of time I’ve been practicing Yoga . I continue to see the Beginner’s mind in the enthusiasm to explore but also as though I keep walking the same ground. This can feel discouraging.

Once again I apply the principles of observation, witnessing the scene in the latest drama, or comedy… or soap opera that I call my life. Now maybe there’s a bit of the root of the problem there the My of life. “Oh my,” she cried in dismay, “here I am again, again.”  Well, recycling garbage may be a good thing but it does take energy and discernment not to get caught up in the muck.

“It’s a rainy day I cry, the sun will never shine again. A bright and sunny day I smile, now I feel content.” What’s wrong with this picture? People show up for class or call me for privates, I’m a good teacher. People disappear and I feel concern that I have somehow mistakenly not given them what they needed instead of holding fast to the principle that my job is to give people tools so that they no longer need me. In other words, making it all about ‘me’. Many years ago I learned that if I am not teaching from my ego I am happy to share with whoever is there or even to practice alone but the ego is a fragile thing needing, it seems constant care and attention so as not to feel diminished but also not to feed upon itself. And so with trust and a certain amount of trepidation I find that I am still on my own little wheel spinning tales.

We seek in Yoga, to diminish the power of Asmita, ego, and to expand our experience of that which is eternal? There is the promise ( sutra 1.16) , “Drgdarsana saktyoh 
ekatmata iva asmita” , When there is no longer false-identification , confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception, the ‘seeker’ will no longer be disturbed by the distracting and ever-changing influences within and around .” I wish I had more equanimity but recently I was taught other than , “This too shall pass,” that even Dukha, the suffering of change , is part of the divine. In other words to quote the Bard, “There is no good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Dukha, has the literal meaning of bad axel hole, so the wheel falters or doesn’t turn smoothly. It’s opposite is Sukha, which we’ve seen means sweet and can also be the sweetness of acceptance that as long as we are human we will continue to see through a veil rather than seeing the true self. My looking glass is still a bit cloudy and prone to showing false images or asking “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all.” In other words, old ideas and images die hard but when I stop looking for and start looking with , behind my eyes the light shines and I can see a new horizon and the promise of Yoga, “Freedom from the bonds of self.” The caterpillar cannot fly but it is a beautiful thing just as it is . When it is time to transform it does, and not a minute sooner. For now I’m back to the Second Sutra, Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodha, citta all that is mutable in human beings and 
vṛitti , thoughts rippling on the surface which distort the view of the depths of the still , tranquil sea of Nirodha,when one is no longer the sea or the waves or that which rides the waves but everything… and nothing. Turns out that the wooly bear is an Isabella Moth when it matures. So much for butterfly stories, but sprouting wings all the same.Image

Until I reach the state of Nirodha, I will practice compassion for my humanity and ride the waves of change with a certain “Yi ha, oh my oh my oh my….” till I get to “OM” and there to coin a variation on an old phrase, “Om is where the heart is.”

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Sweet, Firm delight in yoga


Yoga is a lamp lit from within the heart and soul of the person practicing. It is also passed along or shared teacher to student, yogi to yogi. Once lit, we can perceive what is shadow and what is real, dancing with the shadows into the light all with alertness and trust.   (Painting: Ed Pahr)                          

Patanjali sutra 2.46 Sthirasukhamasanam                                                                                    

Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation.                                   In all areas of our life, Sthira and Sukha, firmness with compassion or sweetness are good principles to apply… not just to buying fruit but to enjoying the fruits of yoga, pranayama and finding the sweet, firm stillness of meditation and being present for the gift of each and every moment.

Sthira is defined as steadiness ness and alertness. Sukha is relaxation or the sweetness when we release effort. Both are part of Yoga. One of the many definitions of Hatha Yoga is the yoga of force. We know that to move into any position, it is necessary to exert some effort. Some action must be taken. When we meet with obstacles it depends upon our state of perception as to whether we need to relax back , perhaps practice more or find another way or to exert a little extra effort to overcome. The last is generally more dangerous than the first because often when we meet our obstacles, they are both physical and mental often with an emotional component as well so we go to war with our selves. A primary principle of yoga is Ahimsa, non violence . Often we find that by standing still and observing the right action is revealed. Sometimes, it even allows the apparent obstacle to soften or yield so that we come into relationship other than adversarial with that part of ourselves. This is very sweet.

In teaching this principle I was reminded that succo in Italian is the juice of the fruit. It got me thinking that the fruit is best picked when it is still firm but not hard, when the flesh of the fruit yields a bit to the touch the fruit will be juicy and sweet. Just so in our yoga practice to get the Sukha, the sweetness of balance between effort and release. The word Sthira brings to mine stirare, to iron out the wrinkles . In a certain sense we must be firm yet gentle, have just the right amount of heat in order to stirare our wrinkles. Our joints tend to stiffen and creak when there’s not enough juice and muscles need to have the wrinkles, or kinks ironed out to lengthen and support as well as being able to either tense or relax as needed to move or be still and know that “I am…”   But still, not to take ones’s self too seriously, we had a good laugh because of my pronunciation when students asked me if I meant zucca, or pumpkin.  Well, I was talking about the light within and we do often scare ourselves with the faces we make or see and the masks we wear so maybe that’s another lesson for All Hallow’s Eve, we come in all shapes and sizes but all have a light within.


Posted in asana, meditation, YOGA | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments