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“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...

Everything Will Be Alright

She approaches me after class. Tells me she’s in law school. She and her peers are suffering from P.T.S.D. she says. From life. She’s responding to a comment I made in class. I consider it pure luck that I have a positive position on the life we share at the moment. Things need to break. The shit storm of happenstance and wrong actions that are instigating an onslaught of information on disaster is also precipitating a wellspring of solutions. That is a wellspring of love. That is the breath we choose. The human condition shifts with awareness and it changes with our reactions. I see many hopeful reactions despite the barrage of sorrowful scenarios. We are looking for ways out. We are wielding sledgehammers. We are scraping peeling paint. As radical politicians move the conversation from the usual banter, awareness grows. As spokesmen, leaders and newscasters inform people on pollution, poverty and violence against each other and the planet, quiet numbers choose to make things better in small and large ways. It’s a life of small steps. We just step faster now. Diverse paths are rapidly emerging. Some of us will be sacrificed no doubt. It was never easy to be aware. But it would be less glorious to not be. To blame nature’s weather or planets for our discomfort is shortsighted as well. Instability is nature itself. The perfect day will not last no matter how we pray for that. Welcome to your place in the world. To smash and break it until it is right for you without harming any creature is artful. Perhaps that’s why the...

Music and the Bomb Shelter of Your Heart

  Thanks to my failed relationship to all things virtual connection, I had lost much of my cherished music in a wrong attempt to switch I-tunes to my new computer. In the resulting fit of pique I had foregone music in class for the better part of a year and turned to my left brain teaching mode but I need music tonight so I plug this vintage I-pod in knowing that what will or will not play is a mystery.   I’ve got a play list running that had been shot full of holes in the firestorm. Tonight I’m checking this out to see if something destroyed has been impossibly recently resuscitated by my I.T. guy. I’ve desperately missed conducting movement to music which was lost in tandem by my crapped out hip and my crapped out I-pod. The students trickle in. I decide to let untested music ride as class begins.   As we settle down it’s apparent that the song playing is a bit intense. The list is called Alternative. It was arranged to tear your salty heart from a bomb shelter and restore it honey dripping to an emerald cave.   “Hello friends. I’m running a questionable play list which is an interesting choice right here as I don’t remember what’s on it and I don’t know most of you. Music is personal. Something here might urge you to run screaming from the room. I want you to do this (hand raised) if a song makes you nuts and I will cut it off. If you agree, we’ll continue this experiment together. I hope it serves...

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....

Yoga and the Domino Effect: Inquiry and Experience #4

  Your body and mind communicate by an unspoken language. You begin class standing at attention when I suggest you lift the skirts of your inner thighs.   Your skin shifts upward like an arrow shot from ankle holsters. Your bones react and pull toward earth. Your breath migrates to the fullest reaches of your ribs; all of them. Inner thighs do not have skirts. Your mind has translated this to something else. Bravo. ~Your belly, receptive to the upward pull of the thighs moves in and up. ~Your calves, receptive to the upward pull of the thighs draw down. ~The heels root. ~The thighs rise. ~The buttocks descend. ~The chest lifts.   If the pose is set in motion correctly, the rest falls in to place. Who will begin the dialogue for the body to follow before you know the first word? The approach offered stealthily does not overwhelm the student. It is most effective when both delicate and deliberate. That is the catalyst to poetry in motion.   Your guide is the teacher who directs you with the first word. And allows the ones that follow to be uniquely your...