losing the game

oh, wow. i’m blogging about instagram again.

the beast.

it seems that instagram holds the whole yoga world captive in its far-reaching facebook-y tentacles. as hard as i have tried, it seems i have been fighting an uphill war of attrition.

i keep my eye on other people i know with skyrocketing numbers of followers.

when i ask their secret, they invariably reply “well, some people buy their followers. but, of course, i didn’t. i’m just saying…”

how odd that their profiles are filled with users all with just one photo of a flower or a car (sometimes the same one as the other followers) from russia or the middle east. of course i am not suggesting that they are buying their followers. what upstanding “yogi” would do that?

right.

have we become that desperate for admiration and validation? wait! don’t answer that.

how can i compare to the girl who’s description simply states that she is on the path to deeper enlightenment and her whole feed is of back-side yoga poses in buttless bikinis? me in my tee shirts and handstands?

answer: i can’t.

i mean, it is disconcerting that in the past week, i have had a net loss of 17 followers. that after receiving 56 new followers. (in case you hate math, that means 73 unfollows). but who’s counting?

oh, never mind! those aren’t followers. those are follow-unfollowers. people who (either with or without a bot) like and then unlike you in order to draw your attention and hope you will follow them back.

which is why i stopped following “followers” a long time ago and only follow people who i know, love, and/or interact with in a two-way fashion on a regular basis.

this instagram game is so manipulative, so phony and, yes, so un-yogic. beyond the simple egotistical gratification of a like or a follow is the unfortunate reality that likes translate into students and followers translate into fuller workshops. but, alas, it’s a game you have to play to stay viable these days.

or at least semi-viable, when all you have is a few thousands (earned) followers instead of 50,000 or 100,000 purchased (oh! i said it!) ones.

so, here i sit. refusing to buy my followers, get naked, or follow-unfollow. is it costing me street cred and business? yes. but it’s saving my integrity.

https://www.instagram.com/yogathletica/

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the satya superpower

if you have ever read the yoga sutras of patanjali, you may be a bit cynical about some of its claims. for example, you may not actually believe that through the practice of perfect meditation and mindfulness you can make yourself invisible (3:21), read minds (3:19), or levitate (3:39). (then again, you might…and i would love to see the levitation photo, by the way).

but there is one yoga superpower that i find very fascinating. it’s the power of satya, truth.

the concept of satya is pretty simple. tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

so, what’s so super about that?

well, if you always speak and act from a place of honesty, then truth will be your only reality. which means, in turn, that everything you say will happen will, in fact, happen.

cultivate a life of pure integrity and you can create anything you want to simply by stating it is so.

one little catch, 100% honesty isn’t 99.9% and you have to have the deepest, most unbreakable faith in yourself and truth. but superpowers are worth working for…honestly.

it’s not what you think…really.

Let’s talk about svadhyaya, shall we?

Svadhyaya is the fourth of the niyamas (which are the second anga of the ashtanga) and certainly the most misunderstood. Literally translated: self-study.

People bandy this word about in very fancy ways. On Facebook, on instagram, in blog posts. Very profound. They go on and on about deep, deep stuff…about looking inwards and observing themselves. About self-awareness, self-improvement, self-analysis, self…self…self…self…self. You name the word that comes next. They just talk about self.

Which is precisely what svadhyaya is not about.

In fact, svadhyaya is actually about study of scripture. About texts that bring you closer to God, to the Divine. It can be any text, whether Vedic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu…the god isn’t defined. Only the dedication to the study is.

How this concept has gotten so widely misinterpreted is anyone’s guess. Most likely because the people who are mistaken never read past the words “svadhyaya means self-study” to find out what that really means.

I mean, it makes sense that in our Western World, people would assume it means psychoanalysis. We live in a very ego-centric society. In fact, there is a good chance these people are discussing the concept in the first place as proof that they know a long Sanskrit word and can talk about it like any normal person can talk about Starbucks coffee or the price of gas. Ah…ego.

Keep in mind that all of yoga revolves around the concept of releasing the ego. So, why would the fourth of five niyamas (observations, which ascend from the base to the spiritual) be to exercise the ego? Answer: it wouldn’t.

The irony is not missed on the fact that so many people are posting about svadhyaya as the caption to a photo of themselves doing some sexy pose in a bikini.

Lucky for everyone, the real answer lies in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali…and if you pick it up, that’s svadhyaya.

http://www.YOGAthletica.com

your strongest muscle

2017 was, well, crappy. Let’s not mince words. Among other things, I spent the entire second half of the year with excruciating tendinitis in both elbows (golfer’s AND tennis elbow in each)…and knees…and in my right biceps. Add to that two bad shoulders (that I have lived with for over a decade) and a neck that wasn’t too happy about any of it.

I spent most of December in Israel and besides a few handstands each day (bending my arms hurt…straight felt good) and a few workshops I taught mid-trip, I took the time off to rest my injuries, thinking it would all be better by the time I returned to LA.

It all hurt so badly, I couldn’t even sleep comfortably at night.

When I got home on Christmas, I jumped right back, eagerly on my mat. And the pain was so extraordinary, it actually made me nauseated. Oh…and I could do basically nothing.

Seriously, I thought my career was over.

The next few weeks were massively challenging—both physically and emotionally—for me as I struggled to imagine life without yoga.

I called all the best sports doctors and no one could see me for months.

Three weeks later, after little to no progress and right before my teacher training intensive was set to begin, I decided never mind. I was just going to get better.

Period.

And the days leading up to the training were extraordinary. The things that were impossible (and I mean IMPOSSIBLE) on Christmas, I willed possible.

Handstand to Gandha Bherundasana (which I have done thousands of times before and couldn’t even begin to approach after my return). It’s back.

As are urdhva dhanurasana chakrasana, funky pincha to eka panda koundinyasana and a slew of other things that came flooding back while I seriously thought they were gone forever.

Something in me just said it had to be that way. And it was.

No matter how strong you are, never doubt your strongest muscle…your mind. It can do astounding things!

the yogi in my trash room

there’s a yogi in my trash room. ask patanjali. he’ll tell you all about it.

in the astanga of the yoga sutras, there are eight limbs. the first two are yama and niyama…the code of conduct for living. and the culmination of the niyamas is ishvara pranidhana, submission to a higher power. the final limb of the astanga is samadhi, bliss or being at one with the divine.

basically, while we in the west tend to think of yoga as being gymnastics and contortions, in the beginning, it was actually a true, deep and meaningful way of life. not just waxing philosophical on instagram to the tune of look-how-cute-i-am-upside-down-in-my-bikini.

it all starts with just being a good person. like, don’t steal or lie or be greedy. you know, the usual stuff. and after a lifetime of integrity, maybe–just maybe–you can be at one with the divine.

the key is to just hand it over to god (that’s all). i mean hand it all over. your life, your love, your successes, your failures, your joys, your sadnesses, your…well, your everything. accept your lot and be happy with it. know that you are blessed.

and, now, let me introduce you to mario.

mario is the guy who cleans the building that i live in. he used to be a collegiate track coach, college educated, before moving to america. now he cleans our trash room.

and he does it with a huge smile. always.

this guy. i tell you.

i’ve seen him sick as a dog. i’ve seen his car break down when he can’t afford to fix it. i saw him lose his wife. i’ve seen his work taper off, sometimes to the tiniest trickle.

his response: praise jesus.

now, i happen to be jewish, so jesus isn’t my personal dude. but to see mario’s unbroken, unwavering faith is something to behold.

if i am sad, he tells me jesus will fix everything. if i am happy, he thanks jesus. if i am traveling, he says jesus will watch over me. and if i’m busy wallowing in pettiness while he struggles in ways i’ve never had to experience, he consoles me…with jesus.

mario has arrived.

nothing gets him down. nothing breaks his faith. he knows everything will be okay. and he knows it already is.

what would it take for you (read: me) to find that level of samadhi? where there is no separation between you and god (whatever you like to call him)? only love. only happiness. only joy.

well, i’m not giving up on my handstands any time soon–or instagram–but i am looking a lot deeper than my bandhas and further than my mat to find my yoga.

i will make you sing!

i consider myself a pretty competent human being. i can at least sort of do everything i set out and try to do.

that was until i tried making a singing bowl sing. 😆

thinking this would be another fabulous skill to add to my vast repertoire (think yoga, eating and sleeping), i got this gorgeous tibetan singing bowl from shanti bowl to decidedly mixed results.

let me start by saying that i was motivated to master this panchaloha beauty because of the healing effects it is said to have, not the least of which are calming the nervous system, bolstering the immune system, reducing stress, mitigating pain, fighting depression (🙌) and, of course, balancing the chakras. you know what it’s like when your chakras are all out of whack and you just feeling like whacking a singing bowl will solve all your problems? like that.

as shantibowl.com explains: “in ayurvedic medicine, illness is caused by disharmony within the body. because matter is energy that vibrates at different rates, the structure of matter can be changed by altering the rate of vibration. the body and mind are healthy when they vibrate in harmony.”

makes sense to me.

okay…so i practiced daily for months. pretty much the best i could do was hit the thing like a bell and rub it with a stick as the “ding” quickly faded into nothingness. in the process, i recruited friends, family and students to try their hands at it. then i felt better about my abject failure.

and i tried more.

all of this practice and recruiting culminated in the following practice session with three of my (gorgeous and phenomenal) nephews:

if nothing else, the effort of playing the bowl makes you focus…and smile.

and if you can make the thing sing, it’s like epiphany! it feels good on a visceral level as the vibrations literally synchronize your left and right brains, emitting alpha and theta brain waves that help to induce deep meditative states, increase intuitive receptivity, and stimulate creativity.

see? it stimulated me to write this blog…it works!

a few tips from an absolute novice (but getting better every day!):

  1. very important, rest the bowl in the palm of your hand without gripping. grippy fingers stop vibration.
  2. hold the bowl away from your body, so it’s as floaty in the air as possible.
  3. move your arm as you move the mallet (aka, “the stick”), instead of just rolling your wrist.
  4. don’t move too fast…slower will mitigate the ringy, hitting-the-bowly sound.
  5. be patient.
  6. enjoy! ❤️

 

no will power at all

when it comes to food, i have no will power.

what can i say? the only thing i like better than food is eating food.

no self-restraint.

funny thing is, people always tell me, “wow! you’re a vegan? you have incredible will power.”

they don’t get it.

let me be perfectly clear…i am a very, very strict vegan. i never make an exception. ever. not for real italian pizza heaped with cheese, not for birthday or wedding cake, not for cold, luscious ice cream on a hot summer’s day.

but none of that takes will power or self-restraint.

for me, not eating animals or animal products is little more than someone else not eating cars or couches.

to me, animals and animal products are not food. so, it’s pretty plain and simple. i don’t eat them.

ahimsa dictates that we always show kindness to all living beings. lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu…right?

animals are for loving, admiring, honoring and treating with respect, not for eating.

veganism is more than a diet. it’s a lifestyle decision. it’s a consciousness and a moral pathway. it’s view of life.

so, next time you refrain from chewing on your computer, think of me and vegans all over the world who also have pretty easy decisions what to eat or not to eat.

meantime, please excuse me while i eat this entire box of vegan cookies🍪🍪🍪