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

the urban yoga soundtrack

home practice. what could be more ideal? nothing but you and the silence of your surroundings. no being subjected to the endless chatter of some talky teacher. no being distracted by the sweaty, smelly masses around you. just you, your mat, and your practice.

or, if you’re me…jackhammers. just me, my mat, my practice and big, loud jackhammers…right outside my window. for three months straight.

to some, that might sound like hell. to me…well, it also sounded like hell. but it also taught me a hell of a lot.

here’s the thing: it’s really easy to practice when things are quiet and serene. it’s easy to practice to the sounds of tibetan singing bowls by the soft light of a candle. but practicing to the urban soundtrack of jackhammers and exploding concrete every day….that’s not just asana. that’s real life.

when you are jumping into a handstand and your whole building suddenly jolts as its foundation is blown to smithereens…that’s real life.

when you are meditating to the sounds of large condo chunks being tossed into an unforgiving metal dumpster…that’s real life.

when you lie down in savasana and it sounds like world war three…that’s real life. (and it’s like getting a little massage from a cheap vibrating hotel bed, too….not that i would know).

you want to know what i discovered in those three months? that life is noisy…and messy…and sometimes jolting…and it’s unpredictable and unpleasant and it can also be downright offensive.

but you can’t escape that shit (pardon my french). it’s gonna hit the fan and it’s gonna spray your way.

so what are you going to do?

run away to the bahamas? hell, no.

life, folks. live it. sometimes it’s awesome. sometimes it sucks. but noise is noise. the external noise is way less disturbing than the internal stuff, after all. maybe learning to handstand with jackhammers is just what the guru ordered.

keep calm and asana on.

#yoga #soundtrack. Pump up the volume. #UrbanYogi #yogainthecity #jackhammer #innerpeace #kickasana

A video posted by Shana Meyerson (@yogathletica) on

how losing control brings control

i have this one student who gives me what she calls “bonus animal noises” when she feels like she is losing control of a pose. as in, she thinks she’s about to fall out of a handstand and then monkey-like sounds emit from her mouth. that’s the first sign of impending doom.

then there is the slow-motion moment before the fall, where i can see her balance about to falter and then…

she doesn’t fall.

in fact, she often comes out of these semi-frantic moments with more control than she may have in her typical, no-freak-out attempts.

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one way to maintain control…

why? because losing control brings control.

the way i see it, a lot of people get very complacent (read: lazy) in their practice and they don’t put in their full intention or focus when it’s really needed. let’s use the example of handstands…because you know how i love handstands.

many people attempt handstands with a wink and a nod. meaning, it sort of looks like they are trying on the outside, but on the inside they’re actually scared to death of handstanding and simply wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they actually nailed it one day.

and then one day…

instead of the usual half-hearted hop that takes them all of nowhere, they accidentally kick up hard enough to get somewhere. and that’s scary. and that’s where the fun begins. because the whole reason they hate handstands is not the handstands at all. it’s the deathly fear of falling.

so, when they get up, the fear sets in and they will do anything in their power not to fall. out come all the stops. the hands press, they look up, they do all the things that prevent them from falling and they do it with all of their might. and, as a result, they don’t fall.

odd…but it seems it was the very act of losing control that brought them control in the first place.

moral of the story: don’t be afraid to lose control every once in a while. that’s where the magic begins.

the greedy giver

aparigraha. non-greed. one of the basic precepts (yamas) of yoga. part of the moral code for living.

on the surface, this is an easy one. don’t take what you don’t need, and give what you can.

right?

well, right-ish.

nothing in yoga (or life) is quite that simple.

any basically good human being knows that it’s a generally selfless act to give to others. whether you are offering charity or buying your friend dinner or even just giving of your limited free time, giving is good.

but here’s the problem: in order for one to be able to give, another must be willing to receive. and if we are all just givers, eventually no one will be able to give at all.

i call this the conundrum of the greedy giver.

there are some people who just want to give and give and give.

first they lend you money for a new home, then they break their back helping you move in, and then they give you the shirt off their broken back.

in return, they’ll accept…nothing. you can’t take them to dinner (they’ll secretly pay when you go to the restroom), you can’t make them dinner (you just moved in, they’ll say, you have enough on your plate), and when you buy them a thank you gift, they somehow convince you to take it back as it will look better on your own table/in your own wardrobe/next to your own bed.

and after a while it feels bad to receive from them.

if you want to practice true aparigraha, you need to learn to be both generous in your giving and gracious in your receiving.

the flipside is the greedy giver who also gives and gives and gives and only wants one thing in return: your lifeblood.

they lend you money for a new home and you hear about it for the rest of your life…well after the loan has been paid back, the debt has been paid off, and probably hell has already frozen over.

they help you move in and then every time they need help with anything until they are 103, you’ll be the first to know about it.

they give you the shirt off their back and you’ll never hear the end about how they’ve been unable to keep themselves warm since that one day they gave away their shirt.

giving is good. greed is bad. but greedy giving…that’s a whole new level of low.

so, practice your aparigraha. give, receive, be gracious. repeat.

you don’t need a yin practice.

so, i was working with a student–coincidentally named yin–and she was pontificating the value of a yin practice. her exact words (to the best of my recollection): “i really should start a yin practice, huh?”

honestly, my response: no.

let me preface this by saying these are my thoughts while i am still (relatively) young and invincible. my thoughts may change as i get older and wiser.

but to the best of my current wisdom, here’s what i truly believe…IE8N3792

first of all, i believe there are tremendous and irrefutable benefits to a very yang-y practice. it teaches you patience and perseverance. it tests your equanimity and challenges you on a physical, mental and often spiritual level. it makes you stronger.

however…even in a super-yang practice–think long holds, tricky balances, and cirque du soleil contortions–the yin is built in.

i think the real question isn’t whether you need to engage in a separate yin practice, to better access your feminine side (yes, men, you too)…but whether you have the ability to integrate the yin into your everyday practice. so, it’s not yin this day and yang the other, but the whole yin-yang all the live-long day.

you see, no matter how physically trying your practice, within every pose there should be the yin element. that’s what most people are missing. it’s so obvious where the yang comes in. just push and push and push, right? (wrong)

but where is the yin when struggling through a handstand? where is it when your leg feels like it will break off if you spend one more nanosecond in half moon?

the answer is two-fold.

first and foremost, the yin is in your mind. your body may be struggling at its edges, but your mind is like a cool pond on a warm summer day. a sea of tranquility. asana. stillness. a quiet seat.

second: there is a physical element of yin, too, of course. within every pose, there is the force, the effort…and then there is the release, the relenting. it may not always be so obvious. you may have to search for it. but your job as a practitioner is to find the softness in every pose. to discover what in your body doesn’t have work so hard to create the pose. to find the unnecessary tension and let it go.

one comment i hear over and over again–particularly in arm balance and inversion workshops is: “you make it look so easy.”

and i do.

but not because i’m this superhero rockstar yoga goddess.

i make it look easy, because i work hard (yang) to ease into every pose (yin).

i work with patience (yin) and intelligence (yang) to create fluidity and, dare i say it, even grace (though i am far from the most graceful yogini alive…).

in my estimable opinion, mastery of a yang-based practice means that you have found the energetic efficiency and economy of movement which allows you to work (hard!) on any pose or transition with the least amount of effort necessary while still maintaining the integrity of the practice.

that’s a mouthful.

let me try that again. what is the least amount of effort you need to put into a pose (without getting lazy) and still face up to the full challenge that it presents? that is the yin.

and then, of course, there’s always savasana…yin yin yin yin yin…

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