Seva

s of yoga

“Seva”(pronounced Say-va) is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service, work done without any thoughts of getting anything in return. Seva, in many spiritual traditions is believed to help someone’s spiritual growth and to also support your community or your tribe.

We all have the capacity for selfless service, to give without expecting to get, to help without thanks, to serve without reward. Ram Dass famously stated that “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.

You don’t have to be a great sage, monk, priest or nun to practice seva, we can all practice seva in many ways throughout our daily lives. We can all spare a few minutes to pick up trash we see as we are walking through our neighborhoods or in the woods. If you have more time you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or help start a group that reads to children in hospitals. You can walk dogs at your local shelter or you can buy coffee for the guy standing behind you at Starbucks.

It’s important to note that true service doesn’t try to convert or save a soul; it simply serves for no reason other than lifting someone up.

That’s intention and I think seva is more about intention then it is about the act itself. If seva is to be a righteous action then the intention behind that action must come from the heart.

The intention of seva isn’t about getting something in return,

It’s about you taking action that benefits someone else.

 

Think for a minute what the world would be like if we all thought that way.

It’s important to know that since yoga is about balance, there needs to be balance in our actions, in our seva. We don’t want to donate so much money that we can’t feed our family and we don’t want to give so much of our time that we become exhausted. One of my teachers Ma Jaya taught that we need to fill our cup up first, and let it over flow. The overflow is what we have to give, to share. It’s not a new concept, they didn’t make it up, the idea that you need to care for yourself first has been taught for countless generations. But somehow we’ve managed to get it in our heads, women especially, that we need to take care of everyone else first and we come last. But when you live that way you are depleting yourself and then you won’t have anything to give others. How does that serve anyone?

But if we can learn to live our lives with purpose……. on purpose…… if we move through our days deliberately and we are caring for ourselves, then we have the resources to serve wherever we want and to serve those that need us.

So with no strings attached, try to do random acts of kindness that come from your heart.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

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To Prop or not to Prop

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Hi so watch the really short video, by a damn good teacher and then read my take on it and then leave me a comment……

https://www.facebook.com/taylorhuntayc/videos

Ok, so for the most part I like this guy. He’s an awesome yoga teacher, in that he actually teaches not just shouts out poses and expects the student to do them……But…. then he does this video and now I’m disappointed……

Jeezzee….I thought we were past this….the yoga shaming……the ‘oh, do you have to use a prop? Well it’s too bad you can’t do real yoga, bless your heart’  crap……(So I added the “bless your heart” but I live in the south) .

I get where he’s coming from and for the most part I agree, the postures are not the practice, they are one part and only one part of a rich, complex spiritual practice. But no single style of practice (western practice anyway) has done more to exclude most people than Ashtanga. Maybe not deliberately, but by only showing only the fancy postures (thank you Instagram & every yoga magazine…ever…) like crane and forearm balances…the jump back, pike into a handstand and float through to titibasana stuff, you know the yoga fluff. That kind of power practice has disenfranchised a lot of people. You rarely see an Ashtanga yogi in Instagram, just doing pranayama……

And the average person sees that and of course they think they can’t do it. And so they never….ever… get on a mat. They don’t try because they aren’t shown the years of work someone did to get ‘there’. (wherever the hell ‘there’ is )

Please know and understand I started my practice many years ago with Ashtanga and I deeply respect Pattabhi Jois and all he did to bring yoga out of the shadows. But as I grew as a teacher and as a student I knew that some (most) students, myself included, needed a different practice and so I was drawn to Iyengar yoga by its precision, by its application and use of props thereby allowing all to practice…..everyone. Iyengar didn’t use props because he wanted perfection in the pose; he used props to give everyone a means by which to practice. Without blocks, blankets, chair and other props most people would never be able to practice yoga….to live yoga.

And I do understand what he’s saying, that maybe using props can take away your learning something from the pose, from taking the pose deeper, that it takes away from you exploring the practice of yoga asana. And I personally don’t use a lot of props but I also don’t do 3rd series, hell I don’t do most of 2nd series anymore. But when I do I use props they don’t limit my practice…If my practice is limited (and it does get that way sometimes) then it’s ME that is the problem not the blocks, blankets or wall. My practice is eclectic, very eclectic. Somedays it’s Iyengar, and I work on specific poses and the alignment and other days it’s very Ashtanga, lots of Sun Salutations and movement. Most days, if I’m being honest it’s a mix, a blend of both. I think, those styles play very well together. And why shouldn’t they, they have the same ancestry. Krishnamacharya. Both Jois and Iyengar studied under the great yoga master Krishnamacharya.

Most people come to Ashtanga in their 20’s or 30’s and their bodies can adapt to the changes quickly, more quickly than say someone who begins practicing yoga in their 50’s. So what’s a middle aged person with no upper body strength or no core understanding let alone strength, supposed to do? Suffer? Push through the pain of the practice and hope they don’t get hurt in the process? Come on!?

He’s also saying that if you do use props that your practice isn’t meditative. Tell that to everyone whose yoga practice includes restorative yoga, a practice that heavily relies on props, and is deeply meditative. And if the practice is just meditative then why do the postures at all. You could just sit in sukhasana and breath. That’s yoga, that’s meditation.

What he is stating is that he assumes that everyone  using props are doing so because they want to somehow deepen just the physical aspects of the pose. To open hips (to use his example). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Props just help to bring the pose to where you are, in that moment. And if you do want to deepen the pose, so what?

Props help you get into a pose and help you get the pose into the body, so that you can be strong, steady and stress free while practicing. Ahem, Patanjali states in the yoga sutra 2.46 that yoga asana should be sthira sukham asanam – that asana should be Steady and Comfortable.

Yes of course yoga is an internal practice. No one is saying it’s not. But does NOT using props make you more spiritual? More enlightened?…. Yea, I didn’t think so.

Look if using a prop allows you to practice yoga without struggling (Sukha) and gives you a sense of steadiness in the pose (Stirha) then use those tools. A block is a tool, just like the breath, bandhas and dristi are tools.

And come on, all asana practice should be meditative, whether it be Astanga, Iyengar, Kundalini or any other yoga practice, it should be meditative and there should be a strong focus on the breath work as well.  And lets not forget there are 7 other limbs of yoga we should be studying along with Asana.

I have seen how yoga can transform someone’s life and I have lived that transformation as well. Just remember that whatever you practice, it’s your practice. Use props….don’t use props….I do not care. It’s about your choice, but don’t let someone’s idea of yoga, their dogma, take that choice from you. As long as you are on your mat, as long as you are giving all you have to your time on the mat and as long as you are always exploring why you’re on the mat, exploring the breath and the intention, that’s what I care about. Because then you can begin to take yoga off the mat…..and taking yoga off the mat and into your life, well, that’s where the big changes can happen.

Yoga is a practice of exploring who we are, where we are going and how we choose to get there. It is a practice of the breath, the heart, the mind, the body and ultimately the spirit.

Use whatever tools you need to strengthen your body, relax your mind and enrich your spirit so that you can transform your life.

Om Shanti

 

Cheryl

Are Private Clients needy?

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I have a private client that was attending an event downtown recently and she was seated at a table with a local yoga teacher. During their conversation my client mentioned she did yoga but had a private teacher. The person she was talking to said she did not take private clients because private clients were ‘just too needy’……. Hummmm well my knee jerk reaction is “what a jerk!” but that’s not very Yogi like is it. So I thought about it for a minute and I know that each of us has our talents and the gifts we were born with. And I’ guessing that her gift is something other than working with private clients. It does take a specific skill set to be successful at working one on one.

But I think it’s her perception of private clients as being needy that I took the most exception too. It is way off base……They aren’t needy but they are in need. They need the specialized training that a private yoga teacher has. If you had a heart problem you wouldn’t go to a General Practice Doctor you’d go to a Cardiologist. If you need help with your teeth you see a dentist. If you are training for an Iron Man event you don’t go to your local gym and hire just any Trainer you hire someone who specializes in coaching athletes.

And the people who go to a dentist, cardiologist or hire a coach aren’t considered needy. But they do have a need.

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And just as not all yoga teachers are gifted as private teachers, private yoga isn’t for every student. Most of you will never have that ‘need’. But don’t assume that because someone is hiring a private yoga teacher that they are needy and just want a lot of attention. All of my clients have very specific needs, such as pain reduction, mobility issues, illness or injury recovery to getting ready for a marathon or Iron Man (and many others). But whatever your reason it should be looked at as part of your self-care regime. Just like getting a massage, seeing a chiropractor or having your teeth cleaned it’s all part of what you do to keep yourself health and well.

You keep doing what you need to do to be healthy and well!

 

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Often times we don’t see it coming. The big event or the one little word that starts us on that roller coaster ride that shakes us, bounces us around and with twists and turns it brings us back to the beginning. It seems that we are trapped  on that merry-go-round of emotions for most of our lives.

These moments or events can cause us to doubt ourselves, to create drama on the inside that doesn’t exist anywhere else. And most of the time its a big fat nothing that causes that shift in our perception, that brings up the old manifestations of negative self-worth. Some rigid idea that we aren’t good enough that we don’t matter as much as someone else. That our dreams are foolish or insignificant. And then we turn that nonsense outward, flinging poo at other people.

Don’t we know who we are. Don’t we know are significance, our value. When we practice Yoga & live by the basic principles yoga can teach us to respond in a manner that is compassionate, that requires Love to dampen that fire of doubt.

The practice of Ahimsa is a kind of self-love that is a cool rain on a sticky August day, it calms and soothes and then we can embrace our dreams and with love and peace we can ignore the outside triggers and we can surrender these old patterns of behavior to the universe, and allow things to happen as they should. No resistance, no misunderstanding.  You learn to recognize that other people are not the ones who doubt, who question, who don’t understand those thoughts are within us. With a consistent yoga practise we become flexible enough to move out-of-the-way of  the slings and arrows of someone else’s discontent, of our own discontent and then we begin to understand our divinity

Quotes About Moving On 0173-175 (Spiritual Quotes) (1).

Om Shanti

C

Your Passion for Life or “What I learned at 14,000 feet”

“Don’t worry about what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

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This year I received one of the best Christmas presents that I have ever gotten, my Hubby bought me a gift certificate to Chattanooga Skydiving, Yep an opportunity to Skydive…to jump out of a plane, at 14,000 feet. Oh let me tell you I have always wanted to do it..always! It’s is just one of those things I kept putting off, usually for very practical reason, every time I would get an extra $200 I would think of a bill I should pay or debt I could pay down, or one of the kids (or me) needed tires. So, on the back burner it went, along with the tattoos I have always wanted and that cruise I have never taken. But my wonderful Daughter in law got the same gift certificate from my son, so off we went the day after Christmas and holy crap it was amazing. The anticipation of the event might have been the best part, or the flight up to 14,000 ft or the thrill of exiting a plane at that altitude doing 70 mph, or maybe it was the 60 sec of free fall, or the view as you slowly descend after pulling the ripcord…oh the view! It took my breath away. Ok I don’t know what the best part was, but I can tell you it was the best thing I did in 2014.
It thrilled me, it messed up my hair, and it put a smile on my face that I still can’t get rid of…..
But what it really did was remind me that I am alive. Really alive.
And sometimes we need that reminder. We get caught up in the mundane, the ordinary, the routines of life and we forget to live (with a capital ‘L‘). Too many years of doing that and you forget your passion, your purpose and the reasons why you love life.
So how do you revive your passion, what do you need to do to get your groove back? Well you don’t have to jump from moving plane, (but seriously you should try it)
Here are a few tips to jump (get it, jump…..) start your passion,
Slow down
When we slow down, we are able hear our inner dialogue. Slowing down might mean do yoga, taking a long walk in nature or practicing mediation. It might also mean stopping everything so you can do the one thing you have always wanted to do. Yes even free-falling at 100 mph can be a kind of slowing down.
Change your story
You know the one you tell yourself, about who you are or think you are. If we can understand our self-limiting stories, the ones that foster a negative idea about ourselves, then we can begin to eliminate them by writing new ones. Tell yourself the good things about you and when you do that from a place of confidence you can start to map out strategies for living your best life.
Cultivate that confidence
If we are continually telling ourselves we can’t, then we will never believe we can. There is always a chance you may fail, but if you don’t have the confidence to try you will never know.
Own your uniqueness
Viva la Difference! We are all here for a reason and we are all unique, we have talents, and wisdom born from our struggles, strength and skills we have learned. We all have something to offer.
Look for the patterns
Recognizing the recurring themes in our lives helps us to create a pattern for us to either follow or change. What themes or lessons seem to constantly surface in your life? What are you drawn to again and again? What areas of life seem to be full of discomfort and pain? What areas are full of joy and light?
Write
Don’t worry about writing something for someone else to read, just get your thoughts and ideas on paper. Write without an agenda, write without editing and write without judgments. You might be surprised what comes out & up. You just might find yourself writing about the next chapter in your life.
Do something fun  (like jump out of a plane)
Too often we get wrapped up in the to-do lists instead of what is most important. What do you love to do? What makes you smile? If money were limitless, what would you be doing today?
Do it now
It’s easy to tell ourselves that’s we’ll ‘do that ‘ when we have more experience, more money, or more time, but the truth is, that will never happen. Life is short, do put off till tomorrow what you can do today. I’m not saying break the bank or go into debt to live your passion, but perhaps you can identify & start saving so you can do it soon.
De-clutter your life
All the “stuff” in our lives overwhelms us and paralyzes us from taking action. We have no idea where to start or what to do first. So quite often, we do nothing. And thus everything stays the same. Clearing the clutter of your life is important work. It forces you to take an honest look at yourself and your life to see how you have strayed from the path of becoming the person you want to be.
An abundance of things and unnecessary physical clutter drains us of energy we could put toward living a creative, passionate life. Instead of constantly reorganizing things, cleaning and repairing we could be experiencing and creating something that is deeply fulfilling, fun, and important.
… Oh in case you were thinking ‘she just said that about skydiving to make a point well here is the video to prove I did it!!  And yes it was cold… hence the earmuffs and about 4 layers of clothing.

 

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Happy New Year…Almost 2015

So while the new year still looms ahead, and the old year begins to slip silently into the past, Lets try an experiment.Think back to last January; what were your hopes, plans, goals, resolutions….nay perhaps you set sankalpas? Now fast forward through the year…..How did you do? Don’t stress It’s not a contest just a question. Now look to the future, and see if you can set your sights on 2015. What do you have in mind for the upcoming year? What do you hope is in store for you in 2015? Now lets talk briefly about the difference between a New Years Resolution and a Sankalpa……

There is an old expression ‘If wishes were horses than beggars would ride‘.

Well ‘wishing’, ‘wanting’, desiring change or making empty promises to ourselves in the form of resolutions rarely creates lasting change. What does create those changes you want or need is your intention (sankalpa) behind those wants & wishes.

A resolution is a promise we make ourselves, an action with firm determination; you resolve to make a change….Someday, next week, tomorrow, but soon. Sounds pretty good, right, but then why doesn’t it work. Because It’s a decision based on what we think we need to fix within us (which means we have already judged ourselves as broken) added with the pressure to make it happen (no good diamond was ever created from the pressure put upon an already broken rock). And of course if we don’t accomplish what we set out to do, we feel like failures and that sets in motion the feelings of guilt and unworthiness. It’s a vicious cycle.  Resolutions don’t support what we really want or need, instead it focuses on the outcome and forgets the experience entirely.
Sankalpa (Intention) on the other hand is a physical manifestation of that energy that is the commitment and intent for change. Sankalpa requires us to get to know ourselves better, to truly understand why we do what we do and why we want and/or need this change. This then becomes the intention behind the resolve.

So this year do something different, throw away the resolutions and start a new tradition of setting an Sankalpa.

Just a few of my ‘intentions’ for the upcoming year.

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~c~

“Desire grows by what it feeds on.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Chronicles of Avonlea

What is death or ‘What If Oprah asked you’

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No one knows what death is or what happens when we die

It is the great unknown. We … can’t … know.

But I think it is an opportunity, another opportunity to process

The ultimate process

We are all processing~ digesting. Especially those of us that are seeking, we the willing learners.

The Souls seekers digest and process everything or so we think.

But the life we live is filled with so much fear and busy-ness, and unless we actually sit in stillness, sit in and with Presence, that we can’t process everything.

And so comes Death, the ultimate stillness, the only real opportunity to sit with Presence and in the presence of God and process….everything.

From our first Breath to our last Breath,  Everything….

Everything we have learned, everything we have taught, everything we have heard, seen, touched, Loved, Feared. All without the constricts of our fear based suffering, without our judgment, without feeling the need to fix or change it but to simply process.

Death is the opportunity to truly process everything in the presence of Love.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

This Gym Rat’s opinion

Its time people. Its time to lay to rest the myths of the “gym rat Yoga teacher”

This is one of my favorite misconceptions about yoga, that a Gym Rat’s yoga isn’t real yoga..

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Let’s look at the myths themselves…..

Myth #1  If you teach yoga in a gym you must not be certified or you’re not qualified to teach yoga……. I have been in the fitness industry for almost 30 years (15 teaching yoga) and I have always worked where certifications were mandatory whether you are teaching jazzercise, Tabata, Zumba or Yoga. If you go to a gym and ask about the qualifications of all its instructors and if they can’t say where their Zumba instructor or Yoga teacher are certified through go somewhere else. And let me also say that there are some teachers in Yoga studio settings that are terrible teachers, some good some bad. Location doesn’t have anything to do with ability.

Myth #2… If you teach yoga in a gym you must not be teaching ‘real’ yoga….What the hell?! Seriously what is ‘real yoga’? What does that even mean? Are we talking about the philosophy of yoga? The full 8 limbs as presented by Pantajoli? Is real yoga an asana class where everyone can stand on their hands? What is real yoga? When you can answer that question I will tell you how it relates to what I teach.

Myth #3… If you teach in a gym you are a ‘gym rat’ and gym rats couldn’t possibly understand the depths of what yoga is or can be and you probably only teach the poses so it’s ‘just’ an exercise class. …And to that I say ‘So what!!? So Fucking what!….Asana (one of the 8 limbs of Yoga) is exercise, physical exercise & is probably the best possible exercise for your body….. As well as your mind and spirit.

OK so why am I making a big deal about this now, well I was watching Super Soul Sunday (I Love that show) and Oprah was interviewing Ali McGraw (Love Story) and Oprah asked her how she started her day and Ms McGraw was talking about her cat (or was it a dog?), getting up early and reading and then she mentioned that she did yoga every day and not the hot powerful yoga but her practice was about meditation, the asana to her was meditation prep. It was a lovely conversation…until……. She said she tries to take classes when she can and that where she lives there are wonderful teachers “who have been studying for years not like the gym rat who just decided to do yoga”.  Yep she said it, on national TV, on the Oprah show, Damn. And that’s where she lost me. Actually she kinda pissed me off.

So what really makes a good yoga teacher?

Is it someone who has been studying at the feet of great yogis for decades? Maybe, it is certainly a good start. But being good at studying doesn’t mean you are good at teaching.

Is it someone who has been practicing yoga for many many years, of course it doesn’t hurt to have a long held practice of your own. But a good teacher doesn’t teach what they ‘do’ they teach what is ‘needed’ by the students in front of them. My personal practice often times looks very different from my classes.

I have known some wonderful yoga teachers over the years and some have only been teaching a short time & some for decades. Some teach in Yoga studios & some in gyms. Some teach in church basements or in community centers.

The location doesn’t matter, but the journey does.

A good yoga teacher takes you on a journey of understanding, of body awareness, of slowing down the mind while strengthening the body. A journey of self-discovery that may begin with the body but also uplifts the spirit.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

So here is the link to the full interview, ’cause it was a good show and I enjoyed watching it until she misspoke about us gym rats.

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http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Full-Episode-Ali-MacGraw-Video

What is meditation to you?

A dear friend is just beginning her Yoga journey and she asked a question about meditation. She wondered if listening to music could be meditation. It’s a great question. Don’t we all wondered at the beginning of our journey how the hell we are ever going to be able to ‘sit here’ in meditation. The mind wanders away, off to ‘God knows where’ and you can actually feel your eyes looking around (even with closed eye lids) and you desperately want to tap your fingers or wiggle your toes, it’s all you can think about! OK maybe that was me, but you get my point. Meditation is hard! But I also believe that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Meditation comes in many forms.

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We always picture it as a guru sitting in lotus, fingers in a mudra, being completely still and totally quiet – Well that’s one way.

Dance (asana practice) is meditative, singing (mantra), breathing (pranayama), walking a labyrinth. All can have meditation like results – You have to ask yourself “what is meditation”. Meditation is the practice of ‘stilling’ the mind, allowing the mind a deep, quiet space where nothing distracts us. Meditation is about relaxing, but relaxing so that you can hear what is being said; To you, from within you. Pretty powerful stuff.

Swami Rama says….” In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When you meditate, you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or on the events taking place around you. Meditation requires an inner state that is still and one-pointed so that the mind becomes silent. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens.”……. I believe that we can be ‘doing’ and still be in a meditative practice. If we are singing, dancing, ect ect and that is our single focus, the only focus of our mind, is it not then an inward focus? Are we not fully engaged and alert to that one thing we are doing, not focused on the outside world? Well then that is a kind of meditation. And in our world we find it very difficult to completely quiet the mind, at least when we are beginning a meditation practice. So these other ways to practice meditation are a good beginning, the beginning of learning to cultivate stillness.

What is meditation to you?

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Om Shanti

 

Cheryl