Monday, December 11, 2017

Hope

Hope shines bright and with great buoyancy in the darkest night. In the pitch black and in the silence, you hear truth and real comfort only when it is spoken to you so preciously. You recognize people and their merits and their spirit. You see clearly life, the values of it, and there is so much more I can say, but it wouldn't matter until you yourself were in a position that was similar. Perhaps life should be about preparing for your death, as we all learn to think and act as if death were not going to happen to us. But Bob Ross says that a dead tree is just as much a part of the landscape as a live tree, I am paraphrasing. What a lesson to have hit home when you want to be there for your growing son.

So for those with a diagnosis or a similarly pressing, grief-like, sad event in their life: What is hope? Is it brainwashing the self into thinking you're going to be alright despite some facts laid out before? Well for me, I do not like brainwashing, and I can feel when something is sincere - especially when there are in fact some facts that you can go and do further research on. You need to do this, if you have a medical (or other) issue. Research: Separate the false information and input from the real deal. I put out a question survey on a forum I belong to and I look for research and I ask the experts (a fellow told me there are two case studies) and even in a recent meeting, I get very, very few responses back because: we don't know. "Where there is no data, we are going to use our experts in different fields to share their experience," the expert female doctor (and reputable surgeon) explained to me. Now this was reassurance. Someone saying: We don't know. Looking back, I had been exposed to false reassurance: with the first GI doctor who told me I didn't didn't bother to biopsy the polyps he saw in a certain organ. He told me they were usually benign. In fact, there is fake news (unfortunately) and there is real news. There is the red pill and there is the blue pill. There is also the pill cam that you are needing to swallow with a monitor over top of your clothes most of the day. Cue instrumental music for the poem: Footprints.


Anyway, this woman who will work with me, she was the loveliest of surgeons I had ever met. She was so vibrant and mysterious, and she seemed to be shining as she looked at me, heard me, and spoke with me, a woman of experience and wisdom and youthful beauty. I was in a Tolkenien forest and had met a strange creature of divine skill. It is striking to feel the aura of a renowned female surgeon and woman who is inspiring all the way around, just upon meeting her. I went back a couple weeks later to meet my next doctor, one of the internists (internal medicine) that she and my previous surgeon recommended, and was wowza-ed by his expert and professional and thorough ways. I've met a lot of surgeons and doctors for my age, and I don't know that I have ever experienced so much in talking with a doctor the incredible balance they upheld between: a genuine, inter-relational, personal tone and a deeply concise, thorough, and knowledgeable way of speaking about medical histories, research, and outcomes. This balance is another important aspect of their expert professionalism.


These doctors at centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering are another level. This guy was impressive and took his time with me, felt the areas of my body of concern, even at the epidermal level.



He had all the most relevant reports of my medical history printed and stapled in his hands, the condensed version, and went through the stages of my medical journey with me, the surgeries, the scope results. He asked for those that were missing from the pile.

Moral for all: Be your own health advocate. Ask questions. Seek second opinions from experts if you need to. It is a matter of quality of life and of death. When you're walking that line, don't mess around. I hope for more excellent healthcare for everyone.

We can all be very thankful for places like Memorial Sloan Kettering and other excellent doctors and nurses who really stand out locally.

In the meantime, sort out those kleshas, and listen to your body too: what is it asking for? More movement, green, clean foods, vegetables, lemon, olive oil, no more boxed or canned food? Or quitting unhealthy habits? Be proactive. The self is not the body - but the body helps us get to know the self, and it definitely allows us to be around for those we love and who love us.

I'm thankful for the yogic tradition, which has helped me tremendously, cleaning out the spirit, the mind, and the body. Opening the heart to faith, trust, the divine source. Letting the breath and refocus within the practice sustain me through some very difficult days. Nights are hard when you are looking at two hard options.

Ionesco: "One must write for oneself, for it is in this only that one may reach others."

Eugene Ionesco, a French playwright of the 20th century, author of Rhinoceros and The Chairs, said that in this life we should prepare for death. Maybe that was the theatre for him. Seeking out the spiritual lesson in all this... Letting myself come to this. Preparing, learning, seeking my source and wisdom and love and letting go. Receiving hope and courage from truly awesome souls I have crossed paths with. I have a lot more hope now, thanks to expert doctors and I think that Ionesco had a good point - several.

"There are more dead people alive than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer" -- Ionesco

Read ancient wisdom texts. Love is what makes the world go round.
Namaste

Sunday, October 22, 2017

On Leonard Cohen and "Depression"



Leonard has a taste for irony and for the beyond.

From "It Seemed the Better Way" (2016):

I wonder what it was
I wonder what it meant
First he touched on love
Then he touched on death

Sounded like the truth
Seemed the better way

Sounded like the truth
But it's not the truth today

I better hold my tongue.
I better take my place.
Lift this glass of blood.
Try to say the grace.

-Leonard Cohen

The rare wit was ever-present with Leonard: Take for example when Fredrik Skavlan asks Leonard this question on the Norwegian-Swedish talk show (2007): "Do you think that dramatic changes in your life... do you think human beings do that out of free will or must it be forced upon us?"

Leonard responded: "Well, I think free will is exaggerated." The audience laughs.

He continues: "I think most of the time we are compelled to do the things we do, and I think that um - What was the question?"
"If a change has to be forced upon us," the interviewer says.
"I think it has to. It's clear that it is only catastrophe that encourages people to make a change."

"I became ordained as a monk." Asked why, Leonard responds: "I'd always studied with my old teacher who is going to be 100 in a couple of days. After I finished a particular tour, I felt very dislocated and had an appetite for some kind of structure, so I formalized my relationship with this teacher. If he'd have been a Professor of Physics at Heidelberg I would have learned German and studied Physics. He happened to be a zen monk, so in order to participate in his world I had to shave my head and put on robes - and I was very happy to do because it was clear to me from the beginning that he knew a lot more than I did. It's for that reason that I wanted to spend time with him."

"What kind of life did you live in there?" Skavlan asks.

"Well, I ended up as a cook," Leonard says - laughter from the audience.

The interviewer grapples with the fact that Leonard spent five years in a Zen monastery: "But could you go outside, could you see people, could you have a glass of red wine??"

Leonard responded, "I tried to introduce him to red wine, but he was devoted to sake - which is not quite the same kind of thing. He believed that raw fish and sake doth a dinner make."
But he adds: "He did eventually develop a taste for chicken soup that my mother taught me how to make, and some other Jewish dishes."

My photos (at the top) of Leonard in concert are my own, but they do not convey the feeling one has at the great occasion of the great poet there before you, kneeling on the stage, moving his mouth to form the words you have memorized and hear a voice held in a vault in your chest since you were an adolescent. 

The concert photos are from his show at Madison Square Garden in 2012. Seeing him at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 2009 is the more delightful memory. I remember tears dropping from my eyes, falling directly onto my cheeks, signifying for me the immediacy of his wonderful presence as he took his place on the stage - and he did so very humbly. On each side of my face, the tears skipped the normal "preambule" of rolling down. These tears were waiting for years for this moment. They were heavy and they surprised me as they fell with the weight of a crocodile. The tears fell simultaneously with his voice in a chamber of golds and reds at Caesar's Palace. I had no time to expect them or to conceive of their imminence. They bore witness to this deeply inspiring soul and voice.

Speaking on the power of language and rituals, Leonard reflects on the synagogue's influence over him: "I think I was touched as a child by the music and the kind of charged speech I heard in the synagogue, where everything is important. I always feel that the world was created through words – through speech in our tradition – and I've always seen the enormous light in charged speech and that's what I've tried to get to." He didn't set out to be a singer; he wanted to be a writer like those he admired: Fernando Garcia Lorca, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and W.B. Yeats.

Almost thirty years ago, I fell in love with him first via "Everybody Knows" - so arousing in terms of looking blank-faced at reality. I appreciated how Leonard's lyrics are the truest and most honest - and perhaps this is why his music is accused of being "depressing." However, as Douglas Hesselgrave points out in his Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker Review, some of Leonard's audiences may not have understood that "that if you write about a razor blade, it doesn't necessarily mean that you want to harm yourself." From my own perspective, even as an adolescent, I knew that this man's poetry was urging everyone to think differently, find meaning, laugh at the irony - as we defog our lenses.

In another interview (Los Angeles, 1990s), the topic was to be about his 5 years in Zen monastery, yet the interviewer steered the questions towards depression, and perhaps feeling put on the spot, Leonard graciously answers: "Yes, I feel like I'm coming out of the closet, but depression has certainly been an element that I've had to work with all through my life." As he is poked and prodded about "depression" and asked if he dealt with it with travel, drugs, and scotch, he delves deeper and speaks from his level: "What happened was that I understood that I had to deal with this question at the fundamental level of consciousness."
Leonard was given the name "Ordinary Silence" at the
Mount Baldy Zen Center

The interviewer attempts to connect Leonard's artistic success to depression and, perhaps because he picks up on her inability to relate, he elucidates the very real experience of depression, saying: "I think that's a popular notion - that it is exclusively suffering that produces good work or insightful work." He asserts: "I think good work is produced in spite of suffering, and as a victory over suffering."

The interviewer looks a bit perplexed and says, "That is an interesting concept: victory over suffering?" And Leonard very pensively says: "If the level of the degree of the intensity of anybody's distress or disorder is sufficiently high - I mean - you can't move. And for people who have experienced acute clinical depression - I mean - the problem is getting to the next moment. You know, the room tilts, you lose your balance, and you're incapable of coherent thought."

She asks, "Have you been that bad?"
"Yes, yea, I - I've been there," he says.

The irony is that his way of seeing has inspired thousands of souls, in countless ways, to hear the poetic side of life. Regarding singing, Leonard would say that that is another irony perhaps. He says that his son, Adam, is the real thing - he has a beautiful voice and perfect pitch - but of himself he says, "I kind of croaked my way through the enterprise."

Listen to a song he produced with his son, Adam Cohen, from just before he passed away last year:

"It seemed the Better Way" 
2016

And a longtime favorite:
"Take this Waltz"
1986



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Keli Lalita Makes Me Want to Learn More (as any good teacher does)

Keli Lalita Reddy, EYRT 500
On September 26, I met with Keli Lalita, a bhakta yogini who has been teaching yoga for over ten years. If you know Keli at all, you'll know that her name is very à propos, as it is a name for the Divine Feminine and means Beautifully playful. In addition to leading yoga practitioners in the deeply restorative practice of yin yoga, Keli is also training yoga teachers in the power of synchronicity of breath and movement, beautiful movement through mandalas, the breakdown and biomechanics of poses, and a repertoire of negativity-busting kriyas and mantras to teach trainees at Yoga Mandali in Saratoga Springs, NY. Keli is excited about the faculty team she teaches with, and appreciates how each faculty member brings a whole slew of talents and expertise to the program: Ann, Heather, Nini, and other special guests.

Guru Chants & Mantras
in the Tibetan Tradition
Besides designing teacher training programs, guiding practitioners into "juicy" poses, and leading yogis on retreats in Costa Rica or in India, Keli co-founded and owns a recording studio called Mantralogy (since 2008). In this way, Keli helps spread the joy and feels blessed to produce music from all over the world in the Bhakti tradition.  Bhakti music can be associated with kirtan, which is a moving practice of praising God, the divine, with song. Keli is excited to announce that Mantralogy recently released their first album in the Tibetan language, and it is called Guru Chants & Mantras (see Mantralogy's full listings).

This September, Mantralogy released a second (2nd) solo kirtan album with Adam Bauer called Wonderville. Adam Bauer has a particular sound to appreciate (if you don't know Adam Baeur or want to hear kirtan, you may click here to listen to his devotional voice). If you want a cool experience, you can join him in kirtan live at Yoga Mandali from time to time (follow their calendar or fb). 

Adam Bauer's second solo kirtan album
Adam Bauer's first album, Shyam Lila, includes deeply devotional songs to Krishna. His second album, Wonderville, is an East-West fusion that, à la différence de Shyam Lila, features mostly Shiva chants. This is exciting work to Keli – and there’s a Ganesh chant, Keli adds. The album was produced by Ben Leinbach, an award-winning producer, and Keli raves about how he is "a musical genius." She raves about how many instruments he plays and his work, saying Ben Leinbach is "probably the most famous producer of yoga music of all time – you just don’t know that you’re hearing his music all the time, but every chant you’ve heard, he probably has worked with those people."

Keli studied writing and literature at The New School in NYC and is the kind of person who never stops learning and deepening what she knows. She has been a reader for Edwin Bryant’s books, a brilliant scholar at Rutgers who translated the Yoga Sutras and recently published a book called Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana. Coincidentally, I had ordered the book the morning before I met with Keli at Professor Java café (vegan chocolate and tea - very good) - and it was fun to hear her talk about this book. Keli credits him as having taught her so much about the ancient texts. During training, I liked to hear Keli bring illumination to certain terms in Sanskrit as she discusses the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or the Bhagavad Gita. When I asked her this day if she knows Sanskrit very well, she responded: "I’m just starting to learn Sanskrit for real." And I don’t know if she is just being modest, but I can tell you she knows a fair amount, and sings some truly inspiring, beautiful kirtan in Sanskrit herself. Her voice was truly a beautifully playful startup to our early mornings at Yoga Mandali.

Keli Lalita leading kirtan at Kripalu

Keli was one of the first to introduce me to bhakti yoga, one of the greatest kinds of yoga. As I have been learning in reading Edwin Bryant’s book, bhakti yoga goes beyond just stilling the mind in order to find the peace of the Atman within, and opens up a devotional path and greater cause with yoga, as yoga means "union" and can be thought of as union with the divine. In bhakti yoga, you can meditate on God and find your practice leading to the contentment of loving Ishta Devata, that is, the God of your heart, in a more real and fulfilling way. In a personal regard, I can say that yoga has helped me connect to God, in a unique way, and to healing and to something greater, as I get in tune to my mind and body and appreciate how God has enabled me to live.

Regarding Adam Baeur’s two albums, one more of Krisha chants, and the other more of Shiva chants, I asked Keli about the difference between Krisha and Shiva chants, since I am unsure: “If you were talking to a beginner," I ask, "How would you describe the difference between someone who is more devoted to Krishna and someone who is more devoted to Shiva? Cuz in Hinduism, don’t they choose who they are devoted to?”


I was prepared for her response to be very elucidating, and as she answered, I remembered exactly why I liked training with her so much last year: "That’s a really good question," she replied. "I was at a Christian funeral yesterday, and I was talking with my stepmom who is Jewish (we are a Jewish family) and discussing how we kind of do the same things in the various religious traditions: At a funeral, you light a candle, you burn incense (for example, you burn frankincense in Catholic church and also in yin yoga), you have water, there’s some kind of song, and there’s some kind of food, and sometimes there’s dance. Those seem to be threaded throughout every religion. And so, if you were to see the people who were worshipping Lord Shiva, the average Shiva worshipper and the average Krishna worshipper would be really hard to tell apart because it’s about what’s really going on is in their heart. It’s not visible at an external level. So in the Hindu tradition there’s something called Ishta Devata, which means the God of your heart. So, if I were to see you with your son and a boy of the same age, they both look like little kids and you wouldn’t be treating them differently. You’d be feeding them both lunch or taking care of both of them, but obviously for you, your son is something different for you in your heart. So I think it is similar with those that are devoted to Shiva and to Krishna."

Little Krishnas: Celebrating Janmashtami in Vrindavan, India

She goes on with more interesting cultural examples, both from her travels to India and from the community in which she lives (in the Albany region): “You know in India you could say they wear different clothing. You can see the really extreme aesthetic Shivites carry tridents and cover their body with ashes. They are like, just your average Albany Hindu Temple Society guys – and everybody kind of hangs out together and no one minds. In fact, if you go to the Hindu temple here in Albany (you should go) there is every type of deity represented. They literally have every deity, including a very rare deity which is the child of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu when he assumes a female form called Mohini. If you go to this temple in Albany, all the way on the left there’s a hermaphroditic deity and there’s only a few of those peppered throughout the world. One of them is there."

Mohini distributing the Amrita to the Devas
"So there is a story where Shiva assumes the female form so he can enter the Rasa dance so they’re very connected. It’s utterly fascinating, I could think about it forever and still be fascinated. There’s even a recognized third gender that’s recognized. It should be recognized, because it exists. If you go to Vrindavan in Northern India, there are people that look like women but they are just much taller. They are men who take the form of a Gopi and that is one of the meditations actually. It’s a meditative path of taking the form of a woman, and they are called the Sahajas and they have an ashram. And if you go to Vrindavan with me, we’ll go to a temple called Gopeshwar Mahadev and there’s a statue of Shiva dressed as a Gopi. He basically wants to enjoy a pastime with Krishna and so he takes a female form to be in that intimate pastime with his beloved. So Shiva then protects the four corners of this Krishna town, so there are four Shiva temples in the four directions. So, these two are very closely connected."
Vrindavan
I was curious: “So city planning in India is very wrapped around religion?

Keli laughs melodiously in response, saying: "I think you would have a hard time calling it planning, but yes! Because there are temples everywhere. There are no plans. The plan is: Which place should we worship?!!"

As someone who has designed study abroad experiences for students as a professor, I hope to travel with Keli and help construct a beautiful voyage for a beautiful, in-depth yoga retreat in Italy next year. Together with other delightful souls, we could practice yoga by sea, Greek temples, and some good food. I don't believe we will have any problem looking around Rome, the Amalfi coast, or Sicily, and asking: "Which place should we worship?!!" In the meantime though, I may check out this Hindu temple in Albany. I don't want to miss out on an opportunity to experience diversity and to peer into and appreciate another culture and religion, set of values and self-expression.
Keli Lalita teaches yoga at Yoga Mandali, Saratoga, NY
and at Bodhi Holistic Yoga & Spa in Hudson, NY

Many thanks to Keli Lalita for the music, yoga, teachings, and light that she shares within the community. Thank you for always continuing to teach and inspire me. Namaste~








Monday, September 18, 2017

What do yoga & an Italian film have in common?

Yoga classes and Italian film as sacred ritual...


One of the most beautiful films of all time is a Sicilian film by un regista siciliano: Giuseppe Tornatore. It happens that it won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 1989, but that is not why it is to be loved.


If you want a touching story in the truest sense, with humor, wit, love in a romantic sense, a family sense, and a friendship in its purest sense, and if you would appreciate a musical score beautifully set to old black & white kissing scenes, then this is a film that you'd deeply enjoy. 


This film is Tornatore's own homage to the history of cinema - and to the history of a young boy (himself) and an entire nation falling in love with movies. 


Turn the volume up and listen to the graininess of the voices, the signature music of Ennio Morricone, and the jeers and laughs of the crowd at the cinema. Lots of drama happening in the Cinema Paradiso in small-town Sicilia: There is definitely a healthy mix of strong personalities, humor, and innocence - and in the film we see the first experiences, identifications with and reactions to films and the cinematic experience. Be sure to watch the cinematic version (not the extended director's cut released in 2002).


I still remember my father taking my mom and brother and I to see this film while we were in Montreal. The sounds and sights were so familiar though I hadn't yet traveled to Sicily to meet my family there. My dad told me I was seeing his homeland in this film, where he came from, and to pay attention. I still learn a lot about life (not just Sicily) every time. And so, each year & semester when I was French & Italian professor at EIU, I would find time outside of class to show this film to my students. They would be excited to see it from the way I talked about it. I don't think they - or I - were ever disappointed in it, as I would hear them rave about how cute the little boy Toto was for weeks. Our key word to describe this little boy: furbo.


Everyone got something real and deep from this film. That's why you may want to take me up on my suggestion - whenever you're looking for a meaningful film and a delight, whenever the moment is right for you, this is it. In this way, it is much like yoga: it brings you joy, a sense of life, a feeling of indescribable passion and adoration. There are sacred rituals and practices that can help us in life: help us to align with the guiding principles and fascinations, depths and poetry that is tucked within the human heart. And this film, like yoga, is one such ritual, at least for me and some other film lovers. I'd like to share both of these core-nurturing rituals with you. 



(And if you are interested then come to the Ballston Spa area near SPAC and find us at AAC Wellness, 402 Rowland Street, in the downstairs studio. Classes: Monday 9-10am, Wednesday 9-10am, Saturday 9:30-10:45am)


Imagine doing some cat/cow, butterfly, and seated forward folds while listening to an instrumental from the film in class that you will find to be so sweet.... 
once you have seen Cinema Paradiso


Come especially to the Yoga & Italian class Saturday morning at 9:30 and hear some of the bella lingua as I throw Italian phrases in class for you to laugh at and learn and as we listen to Amedeo Minghi, Vasco Rossi, Lucio Battisti, and Dean Martin.

Email domenloren@yahoo.com with any inquiries and follow AAC YOGA on facebook for latest notices!


Monday, August 28, 2017

Yoga Musings: Nature as Muse for our Practice

Happy Sunday! (From someone whose name means sunday!) Buona domenica!


Remember that when we get in a pose, our job is not to just let the weight hang there and stay in that pose. Our job is to lengthen. Let us keep in mind opposing forces: we are reaching through the heels, pressing palms into ground and pushing hips up up to the sky, that is how a downward facing dog can be thought of. Reaching, lengthening in opposite directions.

Think of how poses would feel if you were doing them on bumpy hard soil with lots of velvety green grass all beneath. What about a pose in sand - how does it feel? Challenging, energizing? Imagine hearing the ocean's force next to you and looking up into the blue, white-spattered sky as you reach your energy in all different spinal movements. Lifting, reaching, lengthening. Energizing your back, your core, all of the body.


Now, imagine challenging yourself further and doing a favorite pose on a paddle board. I did this, to my surprise, this past Thursday on an R&R break with my lifelong friend and pianist, Carol. We were up in Lake Placid, and the moment presented itself. Do I take it? Yes. And through placing my hands in front of me, looking down, and trying to root myself in my hands as I normally do, I realized it was not with the same effortlessness without the ground pushing back. Instead, the board moved beneath my hands, wobbling on its own. We take the ground for granted, as it allows us to do so much in our daily practice! And yet, the breath provides the balance and let me control the board. An older woman passing in her kayak complimented my practice, at first thinking it was Tai Chi. From her comment, I gathered that the energy and breath were more evident to her eye than the pose. And that is the point: it is not enough to "get in a pose." Rather, the pose serves the breath, as my teacher says.
Arm balancing on Mirror Lake, Lake Placid NY

Thank goodness that Lake Placid, NY is quite different from the fictional rendering of "Lake Placid" in the self-entitled film. I do not know that courage would have found me attempting to balance in any way on a board were there a huge alligator patiently letting my scent waft in its nostrils from his anxious perch.

Yoga is more than physical. It is a practice that may help us get out of ruts in life, weigh hard decisions more soundly, and carry on. Yoga helps us find balance, and finding time for yoga gives us quality time for the self. Let's not rush your life or mine, right? (We have enough of that in this fast-paced society and countless responsibilities). Stop and stay in a pose and breathe and see how you feel. Do it out in nature on a gorgeous day like today. You may get so addicted that you'll find yourself in the backyard in a snowsuit come frigid January. I think I might, since I never thought I'd be doing arm balancing on a paddle board in 59 degree weather on a lake (brrr - don't want to fall in!). But yoga has a way of taking us along our journey in a more in-tune, adventurous, "yes" kind of way.

As I have been preparing to work with a French major on a senior project, I am reminded of something: Gender itself does not map onto biology.

Have you ever wondered if you are more in touch with your masculine side or your feminine side? I think one side of mine has its own series of friends, and the other, a different set of confidants. They should make a mood ring of sorts, but super high tech and intuitive because it would be able to determine at each moment the percentage of feminine energy and the percentage of the masculine energy coursing through our mind, body, and decisions. It would read like a weather app, the dichotomy changing and shifting all the time, and from day to day.

Thank you, beautiful day and yoga, for bringing out my inner muse and inspiring me to write and share, and thank you for being a muse.

As I told my students, try yoga out in nature. See how it invigorates you, and lets you humbly connect with nature and the inner self, the inner breath matching the fresh air all around.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Beyond a Fixed Pose

Statue by Constantin Brancusi
Yoga is transforming pain into healing energy via movement and breath in the body.

Yoga: rooting the palms, the whole of each palm into the earth, like energy beams. Or the feet.

Yoga is pressing through the chest in a backbend, radiating your heart out in front of you. And it is letting the heart be higher than the mind in a forward fold.

Yoga is.... what you need it to be. It adapts to you.

For me, yoga is a buoy since last of life-saving surgeries in September (2016). By late October I found myself on the mat. Looking down at it quite intently.

Yoga is the lighting in any film. Surtout dans les vieux films noir et blanc.
La Fontaine de Narcisse by Constantin Brancusi

Yoga is trying to see more correctly, removing illusions, reconsidering perceptions - seeing ourselves compassionately as well. Illusions (maya) are plentiful, and yoga helps us go inward like a turtle to refocus, and come out with a more reflective path.

Yoga is bending over the mirror of self, looking into the pool of water that fills the fountain.

The breath reminds us of the constant rhythm of patience - the breath is in no hurry.
Statue by Constantin Brancusi
Listening, we feel the mechanisms of life at work in our body as we become still and as we experience sensations during (or following) kriyas and asanas. One has an aide-mémoire to return to for calming the mind. It intimates the plausibility of divine intelligence through the miraculous configuration of the body - which houses our life.

We need no reminder to breathe, to pump blood or lymph. A healing presence within allows, with time, wounds to close.
Observing the life-giving forces of nature helps us to respect, to appreciate, to silence the mind's thoughts. We can find ways - via asanas, the breath, stillness - to allow us to let go of what no longer serves us.

As my teacher Gopi would say as we came into another deep pose: Let go of what no longer serves you, and know that what you need is provided for. Those words are hard to forget, and very powerful.

Silvia Mangano with statue
by Constantin Brancusi


As Gopi would also say, We do not just get into a pose. We pranify the body through the pose. The pose serves the breath.

Love can be felt and more freely given through a regular yoga practice. It is a path, a means of unifying. It is a window to appreciating something of the magical, the mystical, the ancient wisdom, and the very real present. A day with yoga, is a lighter, brighter day: within, and thus all around.

It also offers helpful tips. Patanjali taught many years ago in the Yoga Sutras: By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness (Verse 33).

Here's to more friendliness, compassion, delight, and... disregard.
Namaste.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Call for New Classes!

Bhakti Yoga can be devotional, it can be self-love, and it is building compassion for others. 



Come challenge yourself as you flow through stretches and poses while connecting to the breath. 

We are currently taking requests for additional days & morning / afternoon slots. 

You can find us near SPAC in Saratoga Springs this Saturday morning 9-10:15am in our downstairs studio at AAC Wellness: 402 Rowland Street, Ballston Spa, NY.

The Spine, Central to Our Overall Health

Yoga is amazing for the spine. The poses along the sides of this post are excellent examples of positions that draw our attention to the spine. Optimizing each pose, we breathe through the crown of the head, and lengthen the spine. 

Focusing on the breath, allowing it to come in and fill up the chest, and then fill up the belly, naturally elongates the spine and helps us realign, and lengthen. Proper spinal alignment is the key to optimal health and wellness. Our posture in our daily life can change for the better with this cultivated awareness.





Alas, we do not often think about the spine, just like we may often not think of the breath. Yet getting in touch with each of these energy and life-supporting sources, is super beneficial. Yoga helps promote spinal health, and breath, and weaving together these integral awarenesses, we sit in our center, rooted, grounded, reaching. Poses like staff pose, sphinx pose, half moon pose, extended puppy pose, child's pose etc. are helpful.

As my teacher said, if you want to call something in the body THE CORE, it would actually be the spine. The core is not the abdomen; more central and "core" to our body would be the house and channel for our entire nervous system. The spine supports our nervous system and so many of our reactions through our sensory-somatic nervous system. The nervous system, which happens to reside in the spine, dictates our reactions to stimuli in our environment. Clearing our energy through our breath, bringing more purity and awareness to our actions in life, allowing for compassion for others, nourishing our forgivenesses, the yogic tradition helps us cleanse our system and the filter through which we perceive others.

I was kayaking today and was excited to see a large turtle swimming slowly near me on the water's surface. I was curious and watched, but as my vision focused I saw what was in fact a female duck - you know, the camouflage khaki colored companion of the more colorful mallard. It struck me as I realized that the turtle I was excited to see on surface of water was totally not a turtle and I thought: How many times do we think we perceive correctly but in fact do not? The remedy lies in un-coloring our lens: Looking past ignorance, I-ness, ego, attachments, and fears. As Patanjali writes, simply observing whether are thought patterns are colored or not is extremely helpful in balancing, stabilizing, or calming the mind to see if deeper meditation will come.

Part of being human and fallible is not always perceiving things correctly. That really isn't a turtle, that thing you thought you saw. For me, I have witnessed that misperceiving the intentions of others can cause avoidable stress, cares, and worry. What can cause incorrect perception, according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, are a) knowledge of self, b) ignorance, c) metaphoric thinking, d) deep sleep where the mind is lazy, and e) memories. As Paul wrote in an ancient, wisdom text, a letter to the Corinthians: "Now we see but a dim reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now i know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

What then is the anecdote to this foggy lens through we presently see? I will say that the thing I can do that most helps me be patient in perceiving and have lovingkindness for myself and for others, this is my yoga practice. Yoga is the stilling of the mind, the weaving together of our strands, and thus the wholeness we can find within. Through regular practice, and embracing all limbs of yoga (not just asanas) we can work on perceiving others - and ourselves - through a softer lens, one that is clearer, purified. As humans, we should c
onsider what we do with the mind, and thus avoid the painful effects of perceiving incorrectly.

We are in this world, but we are not of this world. In other words, we can look at matter in a completely different way, and have another perspective on it all.

And the 8 limbs of yoga are: