Another triangle pose, another sun salutation, another day of yoga, sounds like drudgery to the outsider. So are we all changing to the next fitness fad? No way! There is never boredom in the ritual because the nuances are forever different and the exquisite flavor keeps being more refined, delicate and delightful.
Stability and steadiness in your physical body and in your life can seem elusive. There’s either too much going on or not enough. That’s where yoga comes in.
“Yoga is meant to be a full practice, one that encompasses all aspects of one’s life,” says Mark Van Buren, a yoga and meditation instructor in River Edge, New Jersey and author of Be Your Sh*tty Self: An Honest Approach to a More Peaceful Life. “We can use the fullness of our practice to live a balanced, liberated life.”
As any trend, person, ideology, etc. mounts in popularity, it can easily diverge from its original state.
Perhaps this is simply a flexibility that allows for such expansion and appeal to a broader audience. Perhaps it is an imminent fall from grace that occurs once the subject is spread too thin. Yoga today is a $27 billion dollar industry. This is big business and a number that reflects its quick rise in popularity.
One of the main goals of a regular yoga practice is to be able to reach Samadhi, a state of deep concentration and meditation resulting in union with a greater reality … a greater universal consciousness. When we are in Savasana, we are working toward this state, feeling the benefits of our asana practice, resting our bodies in order to open up to our breath and release all of the tension and thoughts running through our minds — coming to a place of blissful nothingness.
A yoga teacher’s suggestion to invert has the power to illicit a range of emotions from students: bewilderment, fear, anxiety, aversion, rejection, excitement, butterflies — you fill in the blank.
Purposely turning ourselves upside-down is contrary to our physical nature, and yet the benefits of upending ourselves are many. Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from any unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is simply another way to shake things up, step out of a rut.
I first met Elena Brower this October when we both presented at the Ojai Yoga Crib, although we’d been acquainted through email for about a year prior. Elena walked into the faculty dinner and seemed to carry a piece of the sun in her essence.
Now I know that might sound a bit “woo-woo,” and if you’ve been reading my blog for the past five years, you know that I am a straight shooter and tend to refrain from sharing heavy doses of mystical or esoteric phenomenon with my readers. But I tell you, I can also recognize a galvanizer when I see one, and I was immediately drawn to Elena’s intense stare, clarity of tone and poetic spirit. She’s awesome! And I am happy to now call her my friend.
So when I found out she was about to publish her very first book Art of Attention, a yoga workbook designed to inspire your yoga practice, contemplation and creativity, which she wrote with co-author Erica Jago, I wanted to have a heart-to-heart interview: teacher-to-teacher, innovator-to-innovator and woman-to-woman. Here is the result of that conversation:
Practice yoga with Chrissy Carter’s Chaturanga Vinyasa Flow video on GaiamTV.com.
It is impossible to know hope until one has experienced hopelessness — that feeling of suffocating permanence, as if you will be forever trapped in your present situation. In a place of hopelessness, all feels irrevocably lost. We harden and brace ourselves for permanent pain in the same way that we gather and store reserves in preparation for a long, hard winter. It’s as if the shutters have been closed and all the lights turned off. Lost in the darkness, we succumb to avidya (ignorance), the belief that our finite experience is all-pervasive and interminable. Helpless, hapless and hopeless, it is impossible to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, and we start to lose sight of the big picture.
But in these times, hope can be a light in the darkness, filtering through the slats in the shutters, shifting the shadows in our dark room from ominous to promising. Suddenly and against all odds, we can find compassion for ourselves in the face of suffering.
Are you crazy busy? Is there hardly a moment to catch a breath? Is your significance tied to how much you work and how much you accomplish?
We must retrain ourselves to be, not just to do; to live, not just work. It can take time and awareness to rewire yourself, but it’s not an impossible task — and you can make a significant headway with 15-30 minutes of daily yoga practice.
by Jennifer Fugo
At the ripe ol’ age of 20, I wandered into my first yoga class at the Equinox gym on 19th and Broadway in New York City.
I was attending college nearby and two roommates convinced me to go with them. Although I can barely recall the teacher and the actual class, I do remember how my body felt the next day. I had sore muscles in places that I’d didn’t even know I had muscles! Aside from a more peaceful sense of being, I loved that I could finally connect with my physical body in a way I’d not known since being an avid swimmer in grade school.
Although some people may measure the ‘greatness’ of a yoga class by the amount of sweat pouring from their body or the number of times they can leap into a handstand, I have found the value of a class far exceeds these physical feats. The deeper ‘pearls’ of wisdom to be gained from yoga are available to all practitioners — not just the superhuman ones!
This fall, Elena Brower was one of 19 yoga instructors asked to teach at the 2011 International Ojai Yoga Crib in Ojai, California (along with fellow Gaiam blogger Jill Miller). In this photo essay, Elena shares her experience at this life-affirming event.