Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Here on the first full day of summer, I am excited to funnel this new season energy into something I’ve never done before – a free teleseminar! This topic is near and dear to my heart. Call in and join me on the line from wherever in the world you are.

Stop PMS and Menstrual Pain with Ayurveda:
How to Create Boundless Energy and Feel Great All Month Long 

Tuesday, June 26, 7 – 8:30pm CDT, (8pm EDT, 5pm PDT)
Click HERE to Register for Free Call-In Instructions

  • Do you feel exhausted, drained and miserable for several days each month?
  • Do you dread your period, knowing your pain or intense mood swings will disrupt any plans you’ve made?
  • Do you wish there were something other than drugs to help you?

According to the ancient holistic health system of Ayurveda, PMS is not “normal” or necessary, although it is certainly common. Too many women experience debilitating cramps, bloating, insomnia, anxiety, depression, constipation, diarrhea, migraines and acne – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

In this free teleseminar you will learn:

  • Four simple actions you can take during your next period to find relief
  • The #1 reason women feel pain during their cycle (it’ll surprise you!)
  • The hidden cost of continuing to live with this monthly disruption and pain
  • Three new habits to learn for truly lasting pain-free cycles
  • One key mindset shift that will change the way you relate to your period entirely

Are you ready to feel comfortable in your body all month long, with boundless energy and a more nourishing relationship with your cycle as a whole?

Then click HERE to register. Call-in instructions will be sent to you promptly. I hope to “see” you on the call!

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And I do mean hot!

Today is the full moon, so my June Full Moon Newsletter is now available. Topics include:

  • Key strategies to manage the heat of summer
  • The Venus transit across the sun (from our earth-bound perspective)
  • Details on my free teleseminar, “Stop PMS and Menstrual Pain: How to Create Boundless Energy and Feel Great All Month Long with Ayurveda,” on June 26.

Let me know what lights you up in this issue, and what other topics you want to learn about!

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Laxmi, the goddess of abundance and beauty

In February I enrolled in an online business mentoring program for yoga teachers designed around the many faces of the Divine Feminine. I had been looking for a “How to market your holistic health/yoga-like business” type of thing, something to inspire me and give me some tools – and as much as anything else, to give me some structure and hand-holding while I make some decisions. Every program I was finding, however, felt too slick, too much about “marketing” and not enough about “inspiring.” When I found this program, I realized of course the goddess herself is my perfect business guide.

Yoga here in the U.S. is practiced by an overwhelmingly female community. Something like 85-90% of yoga practitioners here are women, as are the majority of our yoga teachers. And yet, among the successful national teachers or high-visibility leaders in our yoga community, a much larger percentage are male. Interesting. The leader of the Divine Feminine mentoring program, Laura Cornell, speaks powerfully of her perception that many yoga teachers in the U.S. today actually feel quite disempowered. Although we are teaching methods to find freedom, empowerment and ease, many of us do not actually feel free, empowered and at ease, at least not in our businesses.

This is certainly true in my own circle – most of my yoga teacher/Ayurveda practitioner friends do not feel their businesses are thriving, or at least would not describe them as “abundant.” Many do not feel they are making enough money, or have taken on additional jobs in order to pay the bills. Many teach ten or more yoga classes per week and end up feeling burned out or drained. Hardly an inspiring example of empowerment. This contradiction has been in the back of my mind for years, and last month it came screeching to the front.

Our mentoring program is organized around the strengths of four particular goddesses as we explore business-building, sales, self-promotion and our personal power.  In the first unit, as we dove into identifying the types of students we most love to teach and the unique gifts we bring to that particular niche, we invoked Durga, the fierce, fearsome, poised warrior goddess. This particularly feminine form of conviction and service is embodied in the mother bear defending her cubs with unrelenting focus and passion. From Durga we can model impassioned commitment and the mobilization of our unique skills to serve our ideal students. (Saber-brandishing, anyone?)

As I listened to Laura speak in the first tele-class, a lightbulb went on over my head. I have been operating (unthinkingly) under the assumption that in order to build my business, I need to work harder, faster, MORE – a linear, rational, some might say masculine, model for expansion. This style of effort syncs up quite nicely with the Pitta strategy for progress that is my natural tendency (and periodic downfall!). I have been on the hunt for other models, models that recognize the cycles of Mother Nature, powered by fluid waves and circles. The path forward is actually rarely linear – sometimes it’s even a spiral, appearing to move backwards before spinning around the bend and catapulting ahead.

In the last week, as I’ve been inviting the goddess to hang out with me while I muse about my next steps, I have also felt a resurgence of acceptance – of myself, and of circumstances –  I am “already alright” just as I am right now, half-cooked, in the middle of everything. I don’t have to do more. In fact, as always, I must practice what I teach. Breathe. Rest. Go outside. Practice faith. It really is that simple. The presence of the Mother is divine guidance indeed.

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Last weekend, as part of my New Year’s retreat, I envisioned the year ahead of me and what I want it to hold. (As I wrote in my last post, I chose to conceptualize my new year’s vision setting as a quest for a one-word theme for the year. Read on to learn the word that rose to the top….) With the tumult of 2011 behind (or within) me, I am discovering that many aspects that I want to focus on in my life are already moving towards me. I am reminded of one of the lessons I took from mother India – the open, beckoning path is often the ideal one to follow.

Hatha yoga has been an important part of my life for over a decade, both as a personal practice and increasingly as a professional calling. Over the past two years, as I have been traveling and in transition geographically, I have been on a teaching hiatus. My personal practice has certainly evolved in that time, and I am eager to see how my teaching will change accordingly, for surely it will. While I have some premonitions, I suspect there will be some suprises ahead for me as my teaching habits collide with what’s been woken up in me over the past two years.

As I begin putting down roots again, I am thrilled to return to teaching. For those in the Austin area, you’ll be able to find me on Wednesday evenings at YogaYoga Westgate teaching Hatha Flow at 7:30pm. My first class was last week, and I am appreciating the expansive welcoming studio space and the kind people I am meeting there.

Beginning Jan. 26, I will be teaching a Gentle Meditative Yoga class at Soma Vida Wellness Center in East Austin on Thursday evenings at 6pm. Designed as a therapeutic foundational class, it will be welcoming for those new to yoga, as well as those healing from injury or illness. Soma Vida is a sweet home-like space filled with warmth, a place that invites practicing yoga as a deep restorative practice.

I am also now teaching a yoga class at a residential addiction treatment program as part of a fabulous non-profit organization called Community Yoga Austin. We bring yoga to Austinites who might not otherwise have access to this transformative practice. This coming Saturday morning at 8:45am, I will be teaching a free yoga class to raise awareness about Community Yoga Austin at the Lululemon store (6th and Lamar). Come join me for this community-building class and learn a bit about CYA and the work we do while sharing a practice together. Last week’s class with CYA teacher Geoff O’Meara was really beautiful – if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us!

In addition to teaching yoga again, I am excited to return to my mat this year as a yoga student. In the past few months, I have enjoyed meeting some of the many, many yoga teachers in Austin and exploring the wide variety of teaching styles. Yoga has always been a deeply grounding and joyful practice for me, reconnecting me to my sense of my inner light, that quiet calm place inside where I really DO know everything is going to be alright. Yoga fosters in me a sense of self-mastery, not physically but mentally – I feel less dragged around by my thoughts after practicing, more able to drop the stories running through my head and to sit quietly in that divine puddle of calm. Yoga frees up space for my highest self to rise naturally to the surface – less a sense of self-control than a sense of knowing that, regardless of my lack of control, I will be able to meet future circumstances with integrity and generosity. In the year ahead, I will cultivate and invite this sense through the word Sovereignty.

What word are you inviting in this year? Make it loud and concrete by sharing in the comments below – I am eager to hear your vision!

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One of my teachers, Dr. Claudia Welch, often quotes her guru who once advised her (when she was 7 years old, no less), “Keep good company. Good company makes a man great.” When I hear Dr. Welch repeat these words, I am always taken by the image of a wise old man (whose actual likeness I’ve never seen, so I invent) imparting these words to such a little girl – a girl who has held firmly to them and passed them along to other ready ears over her lifetime.

Recently I’ve been contemplating what exactly is good company? What qualifies someone (or something) as good company? To my mind, there are two categories: First are those with intrinsic goodness, those who embody integrity, kindness, honesty, respect. I think of this as empirical goodness, the definition of “good” that no one will dispute.

The second category I think of as situational or functional goodness, company who is “good FOR you” or good for a particular reason. These are the people who remind us of something valued or who inspire us to reach towards a worthy goal. They are good company because they serve a purpose for us. They help keep us on our chosen path in spite of distraction or temptation.

At the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh

Living in the quiet and peace of New Mexico for the past month, I have been reflecting on how much easier it is to maintain new routines when surrounded by a conducive environment. It’s easy to lose sight of your very good intentions or your rationale for doing certain practices when there is no mechanism to remind you of what you value. This fact is acknowledged in many spiritual traditions. Buddhists are guided to “take refuge” in the three gems: the Buddha, the dharma (the Buddha’s teaching), and the sangha (the community of fellow seekers). I love this idea, that we can actually find shelter and protection not only in the teacher and the teaching, exalted and lofty ideals at times, but also in the earthbound people like us who have chosen the same path – this is good company.

Having some unscheduled time has allowed me to delve into some books that have been on my list for a looooooong time.  One such volume is the hefty tome Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient text on the practice of yoga. I was excited to come upon a verse titled, “Causes of Success in Sadhana.” Sadhana means spiritual practice and here refers not only to the postures of yoga but the meditative practices designed to move us towards a deeper sense of connection or self-realization. As anyone who has tried to meditate will attest, it can be hard work, so I was (and remain) open for pointers.

The verse gives six qualities or actions that make a practice strong: “Enthusiasm, perseverance, discrimination, unshakeable faith, courage, and avoiding the company of common people are the (six causes) which bring success in yoga” (chapter 1, verse 16i). Now, the first five are certainly worthy pointers, but that sixth one caught my attention. Claudia’s guru echoed in my head – not only are we advised to seek good company but to avoid certain other company, here identified as “common” (a fascinating term to attempt to define), a related but different aim.

I have watched my tendency to be polite, or my desire not to rock the boat, lead me to withstand company that is not “good” – not wretched or malicious perhaps, but not like-minded or inspirational. Spending time with people who do not share our goals, be they spiritual goals, health-oriented, professional, or behavioral goals, can dissipate our focus. A “common” person encountered at the corner store is no doubt harmless, but what about those people who hold consistent places in our lives who, in our heart of hearts, we know are not helping us live the life we want to live? Avoiding their company may be easier said than done. While I like to think my dedication is enough to move me forward, after some encounters with bad company, I do flail around a bit before finding my sense of excitement and direction again. Company matters.

Promising "monsoon" clouds gather over Santa Fe

Last weekend, I attended a yoga therapy workshop taught by my aunt Patti at High Desert Yoga in Albuquerque. A gifted yoga therapist and physical therapist, she described the yoga therapist’s role as walking into the unknown, accompanying your clients in the exploration of their injuries or shadows. As an exercise, she led us to explore one of our own problem areas with a partner.

I’ve had an ankle injury of unknown origin for over a year. It makes itself heard whenever I point my left foot to its furthest limit, so I’ve been avoiding that movement for quite awhile now. In this exercise, we were asked to move gently towards that injured part – and suddenly for me, all kinds of fear arose. I feared pain, I feared making the problem worse, I feared facing my body’s “failure” to heal. To avoid these fears, I had effectively cut off from that dark spot altogether. Frankly, I had no idea what was going on in there.

My partner Jill was undaunted. She asked questions of me, encouraging me to examine the flavor of the sensations in my ankle, the different sensations just before the pain kicked in, as well as the emotions I was feeling. She suggested minor changes in my movements, my breath, my thoughts, not because she knew what the result would be, just to explore, to learn with me.

By exploring together, we discovered that pressing down through my pinky toe pad while pointing the foot diminished the pain and increased my sense of support through the ankle. My fear had led me to cut off completely from the experience of my ankle, and thus from information that might help me heal. Jill simply brought a flashlight and pointed it in directions I was scared to see. Good company, I discovered, is willing NOT to know and patient enough to simply hold my attention to the present experience.

So often, those of us who step into the title of “teacher” feel we have to spread the light of knowledge. Here, I benefited from what I now think of as “the light of no knowledge.” It’s the light of companionship.

While keeping good company makes an individual great, being good company may very well make the world around us great.

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We’re going to Rishikesh! We just found out yesterday, and we fly out tomorrow – for ten enormous days. We are beset with laundry and packing pandemonium, interspersed with incredulous laughter and open-mouthed amazement at our good fortune. Some fairy godmother must be in charge around here.

I mentioned in a recent post that Vaidyagrama’s parent organization is organizing a conference in Rishikesh next week, and here at the last minute they have bent over backwards to make it possible for us to join them. The conference is five days long, and we are going to arrive about three days early for some sightseeing and to help set up. We’ll get to participate in the conference sessions as well as help out behind the scenes as needed. As one of the doctors here put it, “It is a golden opportunity.” Dr. Ramdas will not be coming but has given us recommendations on which speakers to hear – “You’ll have to come back and explain it all to me,” he laughed. I had no expectation of getting to the north of India at all during these six months, and now, with hardly a moment’s notice we are off to dive into yet another community of Ayurvedic scholarship. There is an air of magic to it all.

What I know about Rishikesh could fit in a thimble – or a blog post, as the case may be. Located near the northern border of India in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is home to a number of ashrams with deep spiritual roots and history, a mecca for yoga and meditation. Rishikesh itself is only about 1500 feet in elevation – not too high but enough to require a different wardrobe than we have acquired here in the south with our 90 degree afternoons. In Rishikesh, the highs will be in the 70s and it will get down to the 50s at night. We’ll need to make an early shopping excursion to purchase warmer clothes.

We will be staying at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, which would be a tremendous experience in itself even if there wasn’t a pool of Ayurvedic inspiration swirling around us. The five day conference is jam-packed with lectures, yoga classes, and roundtable discussions, with about 350 attendees, mostly Indian students, scholars and practitioners. Aside from hearing Dr. Robert Svoboda’s last lecture before his retirement from public life, I am also looking forward to being with Mother Maya, previously known as Maya Tiwari. She has written several books on Ayurveda and women, a rare focus in this ancient science, and I am eager to feel her presence and hear what she has to share.

Even with all of that, the most thrilling thing to me is that I will get to see the Ganges River. Such a central focus of Indian devotion, considered an actual goddess incarnate, I am eager to stand next to the mighty Ganga as she throws herself down from her source in the Himalayas, flowing right in front of the ashram. There are nightly aarti ceremonies in which candles are floated down the river, spreading the light. I can scarcely wait.

I will not be taking my computer with me, so there will be silence from my direction for the next twelve days or so. I have been ruminating on the effect of remaining tied to the internet while I am here – holding on to the familiar through email and websites – and have been wondering what it would be like to take yet a further step away in mental space, so this time in Rishikesh is an unexpected opportunity to take a technology sabbatical. I will write again once I am back and have had a chance to digest a bit.

Here at Vaidyagrama, it was announced this morning that, in light of our eminent departure, tonight there will be a “cultural entertainment” party. All are invited – patients, students, and staff – and all are encouraged to perform in some way, such as singing a song that represents your home country’s culture. I plan to sing “Amazing Grace,” with thoughts of my late grandmother Naomi, as it was one of her favorite songs. The gathering will be a sweet send-off and an apt reflection of the grace that is so palpable here. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget it surrounds us all.

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