Oh those pesky Edges ….

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In yoga the phrases “find your edge” or “play with your edges” have been prominent for many years. But I haven’t ever really liked that way of teaching, at least not to my tribe. Finding one’s edge or playing with your edges always feels a little bit like playing with fire… closer (warm)…Closer (warmer)… CLOSer (getting hot)… CLOSER annnnnd you get burned!

Most people don’t know what the hell the edge means, let alone how to find it or play with it. And so they topple over that edge everyone else seems to know about. And they get hurt or frustrated. Playing the edge seems hard or harsh and it’s quite the balancing act if you think about it. And again us average Joes and Janes aren’t very good at walking a tight rope.

And I do know what teachers mean when they say those things, they want their students to grow in their practice, by pushing their personal limits. I get it… I want my students to grow and to expand too, but how about we talk about it in a different way. Think of that growth in a different way.

Let’s start by looking at other words we can use to convey the same message… these are words I use all the time to encourage growth while maintaining the concept of Sukha…. Effortless work.

Explore

I really want you to explore what you’re doing. Be Magellan, go somewhere you’ve never been. The mat is the perfect and safe place launch a personal expedition. From the security of your mat you can explore your body, look for ways to strengthen yourself, seek out new ways to release tension from the body and sift through the negative things your mind tells you about your body  to find ways to accept it for the amazing vessel it truly is.

Erode

From your mat your body can flow with your breath like a river, gently, slowly eroding away the borders of your personal riverbanks. As the erosion takes place the old is washed away revealing new life underneath. And your tension and stiffness are gently released revealing fresh new energy.

Expand

From the safety of your mat you can expand your horizons. You can approach a pose in a new way. You can spiral outward slowly expanding the territory of your own awareness, the awareness of your body but also the awareness of yourself. From your center you can reach outward through the action of expansion to create new boundaries.

Boundaries (my favorite)

Instead of edges think of boundaries, because a boundary can change, edges seem to be stationary, they are always there. But a boundary can shift and change as you change, as your practice changes. Over time you slowly build up strength to hold a pose longer and gently over time you increase your physical flexibility. But it’s within the boundaries of our minds that we can find the most change. As we ‘explore’ our boundaries our minds discover patience, as we ‘erode’ away the old energy we may find those old negative thoughts have less of a hold on us. As we ‘expand’ our practice we expand our heart and minds to see things in a new way.

Yoga is the perfect compass, and from the mat it can take us so many new and wonderful places.

Go explore your mat and let me know what you find there, tell me where it takes you.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Cheryl

Seva

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“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

 

Sacrifice

The Many S’s of Yoga

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Sacrifice

Sometimes to pursue a dream or just to move forward with our lives we have to make sacrifices. Just the act of growing up is a sacrifice; we have to sacrifice the freedom that childhood offers to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Yoga is like. You practice and you change. You breathe and you change. You meditate and change. Yoga produces changes in our lives, in our bodies and in our minds. It transforms us and helps us lift the veil around our spirit. These changes, this transformation requires some sacrifice, you may sacrifice time spent with family so you can go to class. You may lose friends who don’t understand what you’re doing or why. But you do sacrifice something to transform from where you are to where you want to be, to live your best life.

Yoga transformations are amazing but sometimes require difficult sacrifices.

 

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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

Swinging on a pendulum

So the question is Does God actually have a hand in the direction life goes? Not just the life or death stuff but the everyday stuff, or is everything in life a flip of the coin, chance?

This seems to be how people view life, as only one or the other. Either God has a hand in everything single thing going on in every single life or that everything is happenstance.

Either way you have no control over your life…..If you believe that a power higher than yourself makes all the decisions, bends you, twists you, challenges you, denies you, gives and takes, well then some outside force is controlling your life. Or perhaps you believe that everything in your life is a game of chance, a roll of the dice, there again, you’ve given your power away.

Here’s the problem with living your life at those edges, it’s too easy. It’s easy to say “Well God will take care of that” and so you sit back and wait……do nothing.  It’s also easy to say “Well that was just bad luck, maybe it will get better with time” and so you wait, for the next roll of the dice…..and you do nothing.

When the fact is Life happens on a sliding scale….with a pendulum like motion. Life is fluid; always changing and we have to understand that we have control over all of our circumstances. But when we begin to view the pendulum like motion that life is, we realize that we have choices and that we can step up and make the changes in our lives that will benefits us and ultimately give us control over our own lives.

Make no mistake I believe in a power higher than myself, God, and I believe that power does contribute to my life in many forms. But I believe that we are given the power to choose and that what you believe influences your decisions and prayer and meditation have the power to changes us. I have the power of choice.

But I also believe in chance, sometimes it’s just bad luck; that guy pulls out in front of you causing a crash…a blown out tire…getting fired….a divorce. It’s how we respond to that roll of the dice that matters. How do we deal with life when life has spiraled out of our control?

Life happens on a spectrum, an ever swinging pendulum and sometimes God takes over completely, but never for long and sometimes the happenstance of life forces us to make a different choice.

Always living at one edge of the pendulum, at the far ends of the spectrum, diminishes your life, keeps it small. Remember that life happens all along the spectrum and that it takes a lot of courage to grab hold and swing with that pendulum. Life happens all along the spectrum and it’s not the end points or the length that’s important but that you keep swinging.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

pendulum of life

 

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