My student Mary came to me nearly in tears one day after class. She’d been working for years to get into a headstand, yet continually watched newer students lift up with ease before her. She asked, “What am I doing wrong?”
Since Mary had come into my yoga classes only the week before, I asked her if she was using her bandhas to help her attain headstand. “What’s a bandha?” she asked, looking puzzled.
When I first began practicing yoga in 1983, my teachers didn’t just tell me to breathe; they gave me explicit instructions on how to breathe, how to feel the sensations of breath, and how to become familiar with the muscles of respiration. When I began studying the Ashtanga style of yoga at age 22, I was introduced to ujayii pranayama, or the triumphant breath. It was a complete revelation to me.
My first job as a freelancer was a project from hell. My boss was a complete control freak. Everything I wrote he re-wrote 6 times. He insisted I go to client meetings in the next state, and then never shut up long enough for me to speak. He dallied on making decisions so long I had to work several weekends in a row to meet my deadlines. The kicker is, I knew when I was applying for the job that this guy was trouble. I had an undeniable pit in my stomach after the interview. When we were negotiating payment, I couldn’t sleep. But I listened to the voice that said “How will you pay your bills if you turn this down?” instead of the voice that said, “Run!”
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Holidays! Uggghhh. How do we navigate this season of so many mixed emotions? What is the key to our sanity when all is so chaotic?
From the ages 46 to 51, there have been some apocalyptic changes in my body. My hair is graying and receding; my arm is not quite long enough to read fine print; and my pants are not as loose… Yoga is definitely helping slow this inevitable aging process and I’m happy to say that it is a practice that will be taking me (and Colleen) all the way to the last breath.
“He who binds the breath, binds the mind.”
Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
We spend years in pranayama, the art of breath control, trying to free up the breath. It is slippery business. So many times we end up with a manipulated breath from concepts given to us by teachers, books, videos, and countless other influences. This manipulated breath often just covers up our habitual breath, which is a deeply ingrained breath pattern that has been imprinted off our ancestors.
Back in my college days I took a music listening course, thinking that it would be an enjoyable easy credit. Little did I know that I would be required to listen to hours of music not of my choice, and listen for structure and story, and then be tested on my analysis of the music. I am sad to say, I did not appreciate the course.