In 2006, Rodney and I had the privilege of taking a few classes with Mr. Iyengar. When it came time for Headstand, I informed the yoga master that I didn’t do them — I have a seizure disorder that I always felt was aggravated by Headstands. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to stand on my head now! And I did. I stayed up, and only came down when he said it was time.
By then, the rest of the class had moved on to Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), and, trying to be a good student, I came down from Headstand and sat right up to join the rest of the class. That’s the point at which he slapped my back and said, “That is your problem, not Headstand: You transition too quickly and mindlessly. I am sure that you do this in your life as well. You never let anything settle in.” Wow, what an acute teaching for a chronic issue!
It is light in the darkest night. It brings people to their knees. It is symbolic and powerful, yet proof-less and criticized. It illuminates life and it wages war. It escapes some and captivates many. To some it is doctrine, to others it is fiction. It is faith.
Today’s definition of faith doesn’t have to relate to religion; it can be trust or belief in something without proof. But in today’s society, the invisible creates disbelief. People lack faith in all areas of their lives because they are looking for evidence. They are waiting for the ideal job, the perfect relationship and financial abundance. They are looking for something tangible — and as a result, they are still waiting. When the answer doesn’t fall into their laps they become cynical and they lose faith.
If this rings a bell, don’t worry. There are ways to find faith in your daily life.
In the last few weeks, I have had several clients and other acquaintances who have shared their discontent. Their challenges range from unsatisfying relationships to chaotic work environments to spiritual disconnection to complete exhaustion. As I listened to each person there was a similar question that kept running through my mind: “Is your container too small?”
I’m sure you can feel it — the change that’s in the air all around us.
It’s been a spectacular autumn so far, and I’ve been spending as much time as possible going on long hikes. Perhaps I should feel guilty about the chores I’m neglecting, but I cannot resist the spectacular display beckoning outside my window. The smell of cool, crisp air and sound of rustling leaves instantly put me in a good mood.
I have always felt the healing energy of nature, and lately I have connected even more deeply with the cycles of each beautiful and fleeting season. I used to dread the end of summer, but with age (and lots of yoga), I am now grateful to live in a place that has four distinct seasons. I embrace change — after all, it is inevitable.
Being in balance with our outer world brings more harmony to our inner world, both psychically and physically. As the colder weather sets in, we transform our habits as well as wardrobes and, hopefully, our home environment.
Here are a few easy ways to welcome the fall season in your home:
I took a lot of the summer off to rest and rejuvenate. It was a really powerful time for me and I used it to contemplate and reflect on many areas of my life. It is very interesting to me that when we slow down, the opportunity to witness our thoughts and behaviors amplifies.
One of the things that I noticed is that there are times when I will resist something or someone only to discover that the event or person is bringing me an amazing and unexpected gift. I paused and asked myself to explore the habit of resistance. It’s a habit I often see in my clients, so we work on dismantling the need to resist without reason. And then, here I am, watching the same behavior in myself. (We never really arrive, do we?!)
Childhood is full of frustrating moments. Nature has designed life in such a way as to guarantee that children will have their wishes denied many times a day. Kids are small, physically disadvantaged, in need of support that isn’t always available, and desirous of all sorts of things that their caretakers determine aren’t good for them.
As loving parents, we hate it when our children cry, and we’ll jump through hoops to keep their tears at bay. We buy them the toys they can’t live without, force their big sisters to play Barbies with them, or let them stay up late even though we know they’ll be tired the next day.
But when we intervene every time our children become frustrated — believing we’re doing so out of love and care — we prevent them from learning the lesson of adaptation.
What happens during the transitions between yoga poses — and the transitions in life? Whether you’re moving from one pose to the next or from one life event to the next (a relationship, a job, a city), yoga instructor Bo Forbes says that it is during these transitions that we often feel discomfort or a sense of uncertainty. However, transitions are also pregnant with potential for transformation and change, so we should strive to embrace them — or at least listen to what they are trying to tell us.
So the next time you unroll your yoga mat, try to slow down your practice and lengthen the time between your poses. Really listen to your body and mind during these shifts, because that’s often the space where you can begin to grow.
There is a quote that sums up my experience heretofore with yoga better than anything else I’ve ever read. I don’t know from whom or where the quote came, or I would totally give the person mega props and a huge, bear-like, electronic hug. The quote goes a little something like this:
“My yoga practice is no longer the battlefield of a long-waged self-improvement project by an overachieving person. It has become what I always hoped it would be — a place for love and acceptance.”
I think this quote embraces the yoga journey for many of us, because let’s be real here: How many of us started yoga because we wanted a thinner waist and perky yoga butt? How many of us, in the beginning, saw yoga as something we would conquer rather than embrace? How many of us saw someone in Crow Pose and said to ourselves, “I can do that shit.”
Over time, however, as we dove deeper into our practice — no doubt bumbling, grunting and falling along the way — our hardened layers begin to peel away, and we were left with the lingering feeling that yoga is something more than a way for us to gain strength, flexibility and balance. As we emerged from Savasana, time and time again, we began to realize that something else — something besides exercise — is going on here.
Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, and activist. Despite her deep awareness of the world’s environmental and social justice crises, she is filled with hope.
Hope, in this age of cynicism masquerading as science, is a scarce resource. We often treat it poorly — as if hope is the hallmark of New Age lunatics or wide-eyed children. As if it’s naïve. Passive. A longing … without any intention of rolling up its sleeves.
It’s particularly tough to be an optimistic environmentalist with such a steady accumulation of bad news: birds dropping from the sky from starvation because wetlands that served as avian drive-thrus during migration have been replaced with houses; renowned climate scientist James Hanson’s prediction of “game over” if the Tar Sands are developed; oil spills; nuclear meltdowns …
Shiva knows all this. Yet she’s hopeful.
With a world increasingly under environmental threat and corporations and lobbyists that peddle misinformation, hope isn’t a luxury. It’s all we have.
My latest spring bedroom update: A breath of fresh air!
Hurray, we made it! With the vernal equinox today, spring is finally here — and I’m in my element! I adore a big spring clean in every sense of the word … breathing fresh new life into everything from my bedroom to my outlook.
People have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years with cultural rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring. The early Egyptians oriented the Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox. While I can’t top that, I am quite happy to bid farewell to winter; I feel like one of the little buds on the trees aching for the sun! So I usher it in very consciously with my own spring equinox rituals …