615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

“Yoga in America”

My chapter published in the book of the same name titled Yoga in America in 2006 reprinted here for students of yoga     A support group                                                                      The joy of community and the awareness of one’s singular peculiarities The first solitary foray into the wilderness The awakening of a budding teen The first trip to a foreign land The promise of peace A step toward the truth The struggle to be creative and the fight to be competitive The running of the bulls What your friend did to lose weight The sweetness of Satchidananda and the sternness of Iyengar Competitive, corporate, and consumer driven Clothes, gear, and music A traveling circus of superstars The video on the television set of the Kansas farm wife. The workout of the suburban housewife and the Hollywood star An option on the fitness menu at The Golden Door Spa A small class at the community center Offered in rehab and at the local church The silence of meditation and the hip hop on the Dee jay’s playlist Recognized as” Hot” Forever considered cool A rapt audience The innocence of the unsophisticated offering obeisance to the cloth The condemned tenement on New York’s lower East side transformed into a multi-million dollar Mecca An ingredient tossed into aerobics and strength training classes An escape from stress A chance to improve Where East meets West Used to be patchouli and now it’s nag champa Disguised by different titles Confused with enlightenment A step toward enlightenment The memory of the first kiss and the practice of the last breath An open marriage with secret resentments Where groovy...

Namaste, Sincerely

  Before you take those hands to your heart……   Namaste is the yoga student’s salutation that allows our similarity below the surface. We feel beneath our skin and say we recognize you beneath yours. Here we share DNA that makes us kin. It is a gesture of respect.   There is benevolence to that greeting that tames the mind from critical thought and soothes the ego from needing to show. It makes the instant significant. It is momentarily unifying.   Collective moments become a manner of thinking unless the greeter becomes careless and speaks without thinking, without authenticity. Then habit overcomes intention. Ironically, habit like this is the veil of illusory behavior that yoga aims and claims to conquer if the doer is sincere.   Namaste offered in sincerity is yoga’s domain. It cannot abide the popularity of the offhand “love ya” which has merit as it is a spoken offer of love however lightly or fleeting. As yoga’s greeter, Namaste might better be delivered as Sincerely,...

Beginner Yoga Class:Introductory Notes

  Why practice yoga?   We come into a world of endless possibilities like instruments without instructions. Our mechanisms are so advanced that it takes years to know how to implement them and a lifetime to refine them. Yoga is the instruction.   In yoga we begin with the body to organize ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. The first task is to get to know ourselves.   The body is the material we start with. It is touchable and concrete and we can identify with it. This is where we have the maximum opportunity for self examination.   The modern system of yoga is described in a text written about 18 centuries ago. It’s known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In the simplest explanation it is a guide to self inquiry that results in liberation from distractions and a sense of freedom from the tedium of a restless mind. It is entirely self serving. Older systems of yoga speak to service in a different light. When the student is steady in the foundation of yoga she may find a purpose and skill in service.   The student is given guidelines to behavior. When these guidelines are applied to the physical practice of postures, the student can experience how the concepts of disallowing harm, arrogance, greediness, jealousy and gluttony feel in the body. Then the student has the choice to adjust his/her attitude toward herself in the posture. The body becomes a vehicle for reflection.   Beyond the body, these restraints not only free the student from a guilty conscience but lead to equanimity. This allows for emotional space....

God, War and Warrior II

  In his opening lecture on the Yoga Sutras, Edwin Bryant PhD, Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University, discredited the idea of a devotional aspect to the text postulated by an attending teacher. He declared that the totality of the Sutras is a call to meditation and an invitation to renunciation rather than advice to dedicate oneself to anything outside oneself. He had begun by stating that one cannot study yoga philosophy too often as the significance of the content changes with perceptions based in life experience. This teacher took comfort she said, in the idea of channeling disturbances of the mind into devotion or bhakti. Bryant shut the notion down going so far as to say that the text including the eight limbs was simply dedicated to eliminating distraction from self involvement which seems an erudite view.   When the teacher cited a verse of the Bhagavad Gita to press her point Bryant made it clear that the Gita was not to be confused with the message of the Sutras. The Gita advocates duty and devotion to something outside oneself which is a direct departure from the attitude of isolation described in the Sutras.   Gita’s shadow danced when I set the class for Warrior II the next day.   God and War is a curious pairing without context. In the framework of modern and not so modern conflicts it’s business as usual and the business places God in awkward positions depending on whose God it is or on which side God stands. God and war in the Gita? I leave it to others to interpret as they...

Yoga Like Water

  It exploded from comets To begin as the oceans, And borders of seas,   Becoming the vapor, the clouds and the rain, And one with the earth,   Becoming the rivers, the lakes, and the streams, To become most of me, I breathed it out to become part of you.   Altered, transformed, shifted, ripened In time and beings, Its sparkle drew my searching eye and quenched a thirsty palette.   Is there a broken line in the lineage? Does this drop contain the residue of the first drop? Some has been burnt away for sure but most remains.   Like water, this yoga: To know it with intellect is a lively chase for a living art from an ancient time. Not my favorite game, but one I’ll play when the players arouse, Uninterrupted on more peaceful days I’ll stand in sensation.   This yoga like water whose chemistry would not matter if the proof was  my health, Would bear further examination should it rouse suspicion.   I was curious and explored something apart from me, Until it was no longer apart but a part.              ...