Swa-ha

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We awe at the power of the Earth’s elements: clouds, fire, rain, sun, thunder, lightning! This week’s lesson focused on SWA-HA! In Sanskrit, swa means self. This word is chanted when fire sacrifices are made. Our yoga practice can be a fiery, purifying, detoxifying experience.

The idea is to open to what your practice has to offer … to the purifying effects. Then line up, do your best, and “swaha” be done with it! Let go of the outcome, throw it in the fire. Let the practice wring out, burn off what you don’t need!

It’s ok if frustration surfaces. It’s a detoxifying practice, which mean “toxins”: things not so great in our bodies start to come out. And when they surface, it’s not necessarily pretty :), but they’re out!

I offered a visualization to students this week: Imagine a habit or tendency you want to shed. Picture it as a cloak that covers your body. Peel away the cloak. Drop it into the fire. Watch it dissolve in the flames. Repeat this visualization several times during practice until you feel an inward shift.

The yoga dove into twists and core work that were incorporated into many of the asanas . We started with a cat-cow variation in baddha konasana. Then into dog twist, sun salutations, building heat with standing poses, crow (with option into tripod), a playful dog pose of jumping outside ones hands for a great core blast, parsva konasana with a partner to deepen the opening in the ribs and chest, and then a deep plunge into side crow, with twist options along the way. Class concluded with pigeon, backbends, final twists on the ground & bicycle abs. May this practice support you on & off the mat!

Swaha, Lynn

Symmetry / Even Effort

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Like the snow leopard, who uses her tail for balance and directional guidance, we sought symmetry in our poses to find expansiveness and space and to counter all the little asymmetrical ways we move and ground.

Most yoga poses are asymmetrical. WE are asymmetrical in many ways such as our range of motion, our patterns of tension, our strength and our flexibility. So, energetically, how can the poses FEEL symmetrical? Our work was finding symmetry in our breath, the even weight & strength in both hands, both feet, both arms, both legs. I also asked students to notice where they put effort/focus too much or too little. Noticing where they over-extend or hold back.

The ideas was moving with a “sense of symmetry”. Even effort from the inside out ! A nuanced practice like this is helpful because it brings space and light and openness to your poses, but it also helps counter the ways we might strengthen more on our right leg, or lean more on our left leg, and habits like that can lead to little aches and pains and injuries along the way. Feeling for even effort in your poses can hopefully help alleviate some of that.

We did side bends, a variation of chair, pose medleys, dolphin with optional little hops, core work, and once warmed up, we focused on a few balancing poses for symmetry. Students were encouraged to find symmetry and then maybe add a slight variation to the pose and try to recreate symmetry. Yogis brought a beautiful energy and playfulness to their efforts. Thanks for joining me. Namaste, Lynn

Loving Kindness meditation

Metta meditation (loving kindness meditation) is a simple repetition of a few phrases, but oh…. so much more powerful!  We have been repeating a shortened version in class the last few weeks. Many yogis have responded positively and wanted to know more.

Metta meditation has been extensively studied, and its transformative power ranks it the most promising single practice of any explored.  As one author says, “I’d put all my money on this one!”

Research demonstrates the incredible power of the loving-kindness meditation:

* deepens social ties

* increases the ability to experience self-compassion

* increases the ability to express compassion

* increases ability to receive compassion from others

* it's empowering to direct well wishes to others 

Sustained practice of Metta over time has been shown to:

* decrease stress levels

* increase immune function

* decrease pain & anger

* may even slow aging: compassion meditators have longer telomeres (caps on each strand of DNA) allowing cells to survive longer

A 7 week course in Metta showed:  

* significant increase in participants daily experience of positive emotions and their sense of social belonging and connectedness. 

Metta meditation is a simple repetition of 4 phrases:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be free of suffering.

May you be at peace (filled with ease).

Be compassionate about your experience of compassion :)    If this meditation feels forced  or awkward in the beginning, that’s okay.  It’s important to remember that you don’t have to pretend to feel anything that isn’t genuine.  

To begin:

Sit on a blanket, sit against a wall, or lay over a blanket or block.

Begin by focusing on your breath.  When you notice your mind wandering, gently call it back.  Begin this meditation with yourself …. offer yourself the 4 line mantra (see above).  

As you breath in, say a single line of the mantra to yourself.  There is no need to pretend or try too hard.  Then say the next 3 lines.  

Second round:  now call to mind a loved one, perhaps someone who has shown a great deal of compassion & kindness to you.  Holding him or her in your awareness, offer the same wishes you offered to yourself. 

Third round:  now call to mind a neutral person, one of the hundreds you may pass each day.  No need to dig …. just the first one that comes to mind and offer up the same good wishes.  Breathing in and out, line by line, continue to expand and direct your experience of loving kindness.  

Fourth round: now call to mind a challenging person.  Maybe someone who hurt your feelings or with whom there  has been a struggle.  As best you can, offer this person the same mantra, breath by breath.  

Finally, let your awareness expand to embrace all beings everywhere.  Offer up the same mantra to this vast sea of life.

Please pass this along to anyone you think would benefit.  

From my heart to your heart, Lynn 

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Simple Joys

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This week we focused on simple joys. The practice was about letting yourself play, feeling into this “in breath” and this “out breath”, connecting with your strong body and your steady mind.

Students were invited to think of something they were grateful for. Regardless of anything that had been stewing in their mind, I asked them to try to move back to a place that is incredibly simple. Remembering to focus on very simple things in our lives relaxes us, opens us, grounds us, makes us feel happy. These things we can summon back when stress & worry take over. We let simple joys and playful shapes inform our “feel good” flow this week.

First, the breath. Students dropped into a slower, deeper pattern to their breath. Intention setting followed as students thought about how they wanted to take on their day, how they wanted to feel in their day. We warmed up with sun salutations. I encouraged students to notice what a simple joy felt like to them. Sometimes if might be a moment of rest or pause, other times adding some challenge to a pose. Eagle pose was added to surya namaskar B, as well as a playful trio of chair to boat pose, optional half boat pose. Yogis laughed and remembered the simple joy of not being too serious :)

Practice deepened into warrior poses, crouching tiger into a plank “core” flow, watery spider for the simple joy of releasing tightness in the hips & inner legs, more core with dolphin to forearm plank, onto standing splits into clasped warrior 3 into revolved half moon. Rest periods or vinyasa offered as transitions. Onward to pigeon and a few variations of ustrasana pose (camel).

With hearts wide open, yogis offered up prayers and blessings and asked for what they needed. These shapes are so intelligent and sophisticated but they also remind us that yoga is about more than these beautiful postures. Yoga brings us back to ourselves. It teaches us how to breathe again. It gifts us with a self-care, mindfulness practice. And it allows us to share this practice with each other. May you be happy; may you be peaceful; may you be free; may you have ease; may you be safe; may you be healthy. ~Lynn

Enjoyment

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Bliss, freedom, enjoyment … states unaffected by gain or loss. Maybe not what we experience most of the time :) It sounds wonderful. Can you believe it is possible? We practiced this last week in class.

So even if students came to class tired, frustrated, hyper, anxious or tight ….. I asked them, “Can you enjoy where you are?” “Can you enjoy yourself even if you fall out of a pose?” “Can you enjoy yourself even if you’re not good at a pose?”

Is there really a way to experience joy & freedom when things aren’t going your way? It seems worth trying, worth being in the conversation. The idea is: things can get messy & intense, yet inside of it all, can you somehow feel free? We let the practice open us up to this concept, this possibility.

Class started with 3 Oms as a way to consciously step into the practice together. Students practiced bellow breaths, strong standing poses such as parsva konasana with dwi hasta arms, a minute hold in dolphin, partner tree pose, strong balance work in dancer and warrior 3, pigeon, sky diver, Hanumanasana, janu sirsasana, a deep savasana & the loving kindness meditation to close. I playfully asked them to try to see if they could feel free and find pockets of enjoyment/bliss even in a strong moment of core or balance. Student showed great focus as they redirected the monkey mind back into the feeling body, back into the breath body and back into the present moment, remembering: Now is the time for yoga!

Namaste, Lynn