a matter of life or death!

this is the pose.

DSC_2614

warrior two.

one day–maybe five years ago–we were all in this pose. and something inside of me starting laughing. at myself. at the teacher. and at everyone around me.

here we were, a bunch of fully grown adults standing still like statues in some sort of superhero museum, taking it as seriously as if we were truly superheroes and if we didn’t bend our knees just so we would, in fact, fail to save the world from imminent destruction.

that was the day my whole view of yoga changed forever. the day that i woke up and realized that asana, while incredibly powerful, healing, and profound, is also sort of stupid.

there. i said it.

my whole life revolves around teaching this stuff and i love everything about it, but if i were an alien recently transplanted to planet earth, and dropped into a yoga class, i would probably let out a huge “wtf”…if my alien language capabilities allowed me that utterance.

after that revelation, it became very difficult to teach asana without a smile on my face and a laugh in my discourse.

some people take this stuff way too seriously. i used to, too. but now i look at my asana practice a bit differently.

now, it looks like this:

w2

listen, there are things in life that are truly worth furrowing your brow, hunkering down, and worrying about. like cancer, world hunger, terrorism…not like warrior two…or one or three or whatever other number you wish to insert here.

as far as i’m concerned, there is yin and yang energy to every endeavor in life. in asana, the yang is obvious. it’s the hard, intense work–both physical and mental–that goes into mastery. but there’s gotta be the yin, too. the part that relaxes somewhere, smiles, and is even willing to laugh…sometimes at yourself.

http://www.YOGAthletica.com

yoga for butterflies

it must be pretty comfortable to be a caterpillar. you get to wrap yourself up in a warm, soft cocoon and sleep for ages. pretty much my world’s greatest fantasy.

but then…there’s a choice.

you can stay cuddled in your comfy cocoon for the rest of your life until you die, or you can wake up and become a butterfly.

i don’t know about you, but i think butterflies are pretty damn cool. i vote butterfly. butterflies get to be all beautiful and surreal. they get to fly and flit and land on happy people’s noses.

and then, of course, they can also be eaten by birds, break a wing, or get trapped by an overzealous kid with an oxygen-deprived glass jar. yeah, being a butterfly has its downfalls, too.

butterfly meme

and, so, when faced with such a dilemma, it always helps to ask the age-old question: wwyd? what would yoga do?

the answer lies in the second niyama, santosa. contentment.

contentment can be a nuanced concept and should not be confused with complacency (the other “c” word that isn’t quite as kind).

santosa is the ability to accept and respect where you are in this life. you may not be as pretty, smart, strong, funny, successful, wealthy, or talented as you might hope and dream to be, but you are doing the best you can (damn it!) and that is as much as you or anyone else can expect. but…you still hope and dream. and you strive and stretch. and you experiment and explore because you know that with hard work and dedication (tapas!) you can be more and do more than anyone ever imagined.

you see, complacency is a nice way of saying lazy happiness. too comfortable to care. too tired to try. the complacent person is not a yogi/ni because s/he has given up on his or her dreams and full potential. the complacent one settles for mediocrity.

so while santosa/contentment is happy with how things are, it’s only because it knows that it is the best it can ever be. the yogi/ni is a person who gives 100%, 100% of the time. stand or fall, pass or fail, it doesn’t matter because the integrity is in the effort.

when it comes to asana, santosa changes the whole game.

with santosa, you accept there will be poses you can do and poses you can’t…yet. but you try them all.

with santosa plus tapas, you know there is a tremendous world of asanas out there. some of them will be easy and some hard, some invigorating and some downright frightening. but you try them all. and you never, ever give up.

slip into complacency and you stick with the same poses day in and day out because you know them, you love them, you’re good at them. but you never take a risk.

great things were never, ever achieved in this world by living in your comfort zone. all the excitement, all the challenge, all the risks, and all the incredible triumphs lie outside of your cocoon.

do you want to be good enough? or do you want to be great?

choose great. then break out of your cocoon, away from your complacency, grow some wings and fly. nothing will be impossible for you.

oh! my!! god!!!

we’ve all been there.

something terrible–or seemingly terrible–happens and we suddenly become very religious. we pray and pray to a god we only really talk to when something terrible (or seemingly terrible) happens. we promise him we will never sin again if he just fixes this one problem. we’ll give 100% of our income to charity and will never so much as ever think a mean or bad thought so long as we shall live.

and one of two things happens.

the problem is solved. and we exclaim “thank god!” and we go about our merry way. and 100% of our income doesn’t actually go to charity. and we think a lot of really mean and bad thoughts. and there are sins. but god couldn’t have possibly thought we were serious about all those things anyway, so who really cares? life is good.

or…

the problem isn’t solved. and we curse out god. how can god cause such terrible things to happen??? how can god allow cancer, war, murder, abuse, famine, earthquakes, floods, terrorism…and so on…and so on. that god! life is bad.

and then, life finds its equilibrium. for better or for worse. life does go on (until, of course, it doesn’t).

and we don’t spend too much time thanking god for the good and easy and normal times, because they are just good and easy and normal.

are we mindful yogis or are we reactive robots?

enter ishvara pranidhana. the last and most potent of the niyamas, ishvara pranidhana means complete submission to a higher power.

what does that mean for us in everyday life?

it means that if we submit to a higher power (and you can call that higher power what you want: god, jesus, buddha, krishna, muhammad…whatever…), we have to give that guy (or girl) full credit for everything that happens to us. the good, the bad, and the ugly. and the beautiful.

we can’t pick and choose what is god’s will and what isn’t.

yes, god is responsible for disasters and diseases. but also for sunsets, and sunrises, and flowers, and chocolate, and art, and babies, and love, and rainbows, and koala bears, and puppies, and yoga, not to mention oceans, and day spas, and good health, and happiness.

the good news about all that: when you hand it all–and i mean everything–over to a higher power, it makes it easier to accept that everything is going to work out in the end…and hopefully somewhere in the middle, too.

not to mention, if everything is done in the name of god, goodness and kindness will always prevail. mindfully dedicate this moment to a higher power and it’s unlikely you will use it for nefarious means.

think about it. and think about it often. get in the habit. at random moments stop yourself and dedicate that moment to god…see what happens.

oh…and don’t forget to say thank you to the big guy…because life is good.

there are no bad decisions…

when you look back upon your life, there’s a good chance that you can pick out the good decisions from the bad. breaking up with your abusive boyfriend, good. breaking up with the love of your life, bad. leaving a dead-end job, good. leaving a fabulous job for hopes of better, bad. jumping into your first yoga class, good. jumping off the roof into the pool, bad.

the list can go on forever and it seems so cut and dry.

well, i’m here to tell you that it’s all just maya. illusion.

there are no bad decisions–or good ones for that matter. there are only desirable or undesirable outcomes.

so, you left the love of your life at the altar. and nothing better ever came around. and you are now old and gray and single and never had kids. seems like a really bad decision.

but you can’t question fate.

what would have happened if you left the altar and in the parking lot there was a royal prince on a white steed and he pulled you onto the horse, rode you off into the sunset and you lived happily ever after? then what? would leaving the love of your life have been a good decision? just because the outcome was different?

and so you left the dead-end job. great! what if the company wound up being bought out by google and everyone in it became instant millionaires? would that have been a bad decision to leave? just because the outcome was different?

at any moment in time we make our decisions to the best of our ability. from the small ones (grande or venti) to the large (should i leave my home, my job, my friends, my life for a new lover in a far off land), they all have infinite reverberations on the outcome of the rest of our lives.

and while it may be easy to trace left a man, did or didn’t find a better one. or left a job, did or didn’t find a better one, that is a very simplistic view of fate.

because when you made that decision–any decision–every single moment of your life thereafter just changed.

when you jumped off the roof into the pool, broke your back and became paralyzed (i know someone this happened to), who knows…maybe it stopped you from running the boston marathon 20 years later and being killed by a terrorist bomb.

you see?

it’s all just illusion.

if you want to be a yogi/ni, practice acceptance. acceptance of your choices, and acceptance of the outcomes. for without the colors you paint on top of them, you never know what lies beneath.

because, cecil the lion.

warning. you may be personally offended by this blog post. sorry.

it’s actually time to get off your high lion, step back and truly examine the concept of ahimsa.

i have to admit, i have not seen the viral video of a dentist killing cecil the lion. because i’m already a vegan, i feel like i don’t have to watch that violence. i already drank the kool aid, i’m not thirsty anymore.

while i think the outrage over cecil is very well-deserved, i also think that on a broader level, it is a misguided double-standard that shows a modicum of sympathy in exchange for a whole lot of turn-the-other-cheek.

at the same time that people scream their outrage against cecil’s murder, they are proudly carrying their leather purses to match their leather belts and leather shoes.

they buy their pure-bred dogs from the breeder instead of a rescue…because who doesn’t know about the horrific abuses and living conditions that take place at a breeder’s???

they watch the circus, the rodeo, the horse races with glee.

they go on fishing trips, sometimes even hunting trips. somehow it is not an outrage that every day right here in america, people are killing deer, wolves, bison, boar, birds and, of course, fish just for fun.

where do we draw the line? a lion is regal, royal, seemingly invincible. the king of the jungle. simba. i mean, who doesn’t love simba?

but every other life?

are we to choose that a fish’s life is less valuable than a lion’s? that the safety of a deer in it’s own habitat is less important than that of a lion? that a little bird is nowhere near as significant as a lion?

don’t even get me started on the food thing…you can click here for that rant.

this reminds me of when i discuss brahmacharya with my teacher training students. the room is overrun with cognitive dissonance because the thought that yoga would proscribe celibacy runs desperately contrary to their beliefs…and pleasures. people get defensive and scramble for other meanings. (honestly, brahmacharya isn’t about suppressing your sexual urges, it’s about transcending them completely…different story, different work).

when it comes to the discussion of ahimsa (non-violence), however, everyone is always on the same page. it’s all rainbows and butterflies. we’re all on the ahimsa kumbaya bandwagon.

because, cecil the lion.

but now it’s time to think of cassie the cow, darius the deer, frankie the fish, bella the bird….

i do believe in spooks. i do. i do believe in spooks.

go ahead and laugh. i cried myself to sleep on saturday night. yeah…that’s not the funny part. i cried myself to sleep because i was afraid of a ghost.

see, i was staying at the notoriously haunted fort garry hotel in winnipeg and they put me in the room directly adjacent to the room directly above the notorious 202.

okay…so you can laugh now. but for whatever it’s worth, there is a shared door between 302 and my room, 304, so to any logical ghost, it might as well be the same room. ghosts don’t need doors anyway. and they don’t really care about ceilings.

and you’re probably wondering why i am putting this in my yoga blog.

in a word: spirit.

you say you don’t believe in ghosts? i say this…

do you believe in spirit?

do you believe that there is more to you than simple flesh and blood?

like your feelings and your personality and your individuality…do you believe those are just basic anatomy and physiology? just a brain and a heart to make you go and pow! there’s you in all your awesome you-ness?

isn’t the whole structure of yoga created in deference to the sacred triumvirate of mind, body and spirit? and so, yogi/ni, don’t you believe in spirit?

well…ghosts are spirits.

a spirit is separate from mind and body. mind and body are the ephemeral parts of our being. spirit is the eternal.

and so, yogi/ni, what do you think happens to the spirit after the body dies? i personally cannot believe that the beating of a heart has anything to do with the continuity of a spirit. and while i do believe in reincarnation big time (i really hope i come back as a lap dog to the queen), i also believe that sometimes spirits get stuck in between. why? who the hell (or heaven) knows? unfinished business, i guess.

as far as i’m concerned, the funny thing isn’t that i believe in ghosts, but just that i’m so deathly afraid of them. so much that i would stay up crying all night just in case one came to visit me in the haunted hotel. like what would happen if it did? if the chair started rocking, the closet door flung open, or even if the walls started bleeding? (my fear tears are welling up just thinking about it).

certainly, i would fly out of the room, screaming down the halls in my underwear. but what else would happen? nothing, i guess. i’m trying really hard to get that through my thick frightened skull.

now my only worry is whether the ghost followed me home to l.a….

someone call guinness!!!

well, i did it.

i just finished teaching the world’s smallest yoga teacher training in history.

three students (and me) in my little home yoga studio.

and. it. ROCKED!IMG_1022

while other trainings have 20, 30, 50…or more students, i had just three.

and everyone kept asking me how it was financially worthwhile…and why didn’t i just cancel…

the answer: it wasn’t financially worthwhile. but, man, was it worthwhile.

once the ego gets past the number (three…a very spiritually symbolic number, by the way), it finds a team of awesome, real-life, amazing human beings who are trusting me to teach them yoga. that’s huge.

not sure if you checked who’s teaching yoga teacher training these days, but it’s a pretty mind-blowing field. and these three chose me. wow.

and they each had a really compelling story, and an incredibly sweet energy, a real passion for yoga, and an honest to goodness desire to make a difference.

how do you say no to that? how do you cancel because the money, well, sucks?

you don’t.

and i didn’t know what it would be like to teach just three people. and would they think i’m a loser for having such a small group? would they even take me seriously?

well…these three superheroes didn’t just show up to the game, they knocked it out of the ballpark.

IMG_1023what does it mean to have a three-person training?

it means a hell of a lot of one-on-one attention.

it means a tremendous amount of actual teaching…because isn’t that what teacher training is all about?

it means we are a family, not just a million strangers (or cliques) stuffed into a room practicing asana.

it means we grew together…a lot.

it means all the hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t come really missed out.

not to worry…maybe next time, world.

meantime, see you in the record books…

http://www.YOGAthletica.com

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