Yoga isn’t one size fits all

“Yoga: Yoking, uniting, joining, contacting, union, association, connection, deep meditation, concentration, contemplation on supreme union of body, mind and soul, union with God.”

From Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar

When one speaks of yoga, what usually comes to mind? A room filled with women, partially dressed, contorting their bodies into different positions all the while looking flawless and maintaining that ‘it’s all good Om attitude’. Is that not how the media and the general pop culture chooses to depict this practice? That scenario may be the case in some studios, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I would venture to say the majority of studios and the majority of people who practice yoga don’t fit into that cookie cutter image of “yoga”. The majority of people who I have experienced practicing yoga are real people, with real stories, real challenges, who aren’t flawless. Like every other human being most yogis come with rough edges needing to be smoothed out. Just because one practices yoga or even instructs yoga, doesn’t mean they have it all figured out and that the work is complete. Everyone is on a journey doing the best they can with what they have and some choose to practice yoga to assist in that process. That doesn’t make one better than one who doesn’t practice yoga or even better than one who hasn’t practiced yoga for as long as someone else or in the same tradition or in the same manner as someone else.

This practice, which we deem to be called Yoga isn’t a one size fits all. Everyone comes to the practice for differing reasons and with differing needs to be addressed. We are all different, but the same in the vein we all practice yoga. Key word: PRACTICE. Some days we get it and some days we need improvement, but we continue onward and hopefully upward. Whether we fit the “image” of yoga or even the image of whatever “should” we place on ourselves or society places on us, there is always a home in yoga. Yoga is that place of connection, uniting, and contacting amongst the many variations of the definition. The first connection to be with oneself, than hopefully with others in a positive way.

In a world where we are continually judged, compared to, not good enough, forced to be different than we truly are, can we find a refuge in the practice of yoga? In the practice of accepting where we are, honoring that and challenging ourselves to improve, can we find that solace? Can we find that comfort knowing that by going to a studio (hopefully IYCD) we can connect to other individuals making the same effort in their journey wherever they are on their path?

But in reality does that happen? Even within the yoga world at times there seems to be this disconnect, this unfriendliness this I’m better than you attitude. Why is that? Shouldn’t the practice of yoga help the transformation on all levels, not just the physical body? When it all comes down, Yogis are people too. As we reflect on the reasons we personally step to the mat, may we reminded that this sacred practice is meant to transform all parts of us: body, mind and spirit. As we face challenges in the outside world and sometimes even in the yoga world let us continue to embody and strive to aim for the higher goals of yoga.   On our way down to touch our toes let us humble our minds to our hearts remembering we are all unique and we are all drawn to the practice to better ourselves in what ever way that presents. As we balance on our heads let us find balance in the way we perceive ourselves and the way we perceive and treat others.   As Mr. Iyengar says in light on Life, “A Spiritual man with his knowledge and wisdom perceives the differences of age and intelligence between himself and others, but he never loses sight of the fact that the inner being is identical. Even though the man possesses an inner knowledge of such depth and subtlety that he visibly lives in a state of exalted wisdom, he also visibly lives with his feet planted firmly on the ground. He is practical and deals with people and their problems as and where they are.”

dandelion-1346727_960_720So whatever the reason we step to the mat let us set the intention to represent the true aspect of yoga: Yoking, uniting, joining, contacting, union, association, connection, deep meditation, concentration, contemplation on supreme union of body, mind and soul, union with God.   Let us be true to ourselves in whatever way we present so that we may accept and have compassion for others in whatever way they present, whether in the yoga world or else where. May this practice of Yoga shape us in a manner to be flexible in our bodies, as well as in our mind and emotions so we may unite the many aspects of our own inner being to be more united with the many aspects of others.

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Etiquette for Yoga Classes

Here are some basic tips for etiquette in attending yoga classes.

Arrival and Greeting

  • Habitual tardiness is disrespectful to students and teachers.
  • Exceptions to occur rarely.  When that is the case, enter the room when there is a break in the classroom process, e.g. after the chant and before the first instructions or while students are setting up for a pose (not while the teacher is talking).  This disruption may make it hard for students to hear the teacher.

Props

  • Prop collection occurs at the beginning of class to meet individual needs.  If you need an additional prop, take it from the prop shelf (not another student).
  • Set-ups may vary according to individual needs/injuries.
  • Straps are stored unbuckled, knot free and hanging on hooks.
  • Blankets are stored fringe side back with like blankets together.
  • Blocks are stored on the short end and snug to the back of the shelf.
  • Teachers will tell you how to manage props during class.  Follow their instructions for prop use/set-up because they have specific plans.

Cell Phones

  • Cell phones are completely off before class (or set on vibrate–no ringtones)
  • Important and/or expected phone calls can be addressed:
    • Inform the teacher before class
    • Sit near the door, set phone to vibrate and place it on your mat
    • Answer phone outside room, walk toward lobby before talking extensively

Comments During Class

  • Questions regarding instructions are welcome.  Don’t repeat.
  • Humor is always welcome.
  • Injuries should be discussed with the teacher before class begins or when the teacher addresses injuries at the beginning of class–speak clearly and briefly.
  • Personal life events/stories are best left for before/after class.
  • Yoga questions only.  If you misunderstood an instruction, observe what other students are doing before asking for the teacher to repeat.
  • Multiple questions may signal you need to choose a different class level.
  • A few minutes of silence at the conclusion of class is expected before stirring or talking because most students are very focused and movement/talk is disturbing during this brief time.

Clothing

  • Wear appropriate clothing that allows free movement such as footless tights, t-shirts, shorts, men/women’s athletic tops.  No socks or shoes.
  • No body odor or scents.
  • Have clean body, hands and feet.

Honor your teacher, respect other students.  Have empathy.  Practice compassion.

 

List compiled by Kate Hebert

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Yoga Retreats, Transformations and Community

 

You may have wondered if it’s really worth the time, money and effort to attend a weeklong yoga retreat. If you know the teacher, or they are highly recommended, then the answer is definitely! You will learn so much about your body by doing so many classes in a relatively short period of time.

You will go deeper through the lairs of the physical body, subtle body, emotional body, and even deeper into the spiritual body. You will be able to heal nagging injuries or problem areas of your body. You will relax like never before. You will process your emotions and move on from old issues. And If you allow yourself the time to process the affects that yoga will have on you, you will be transformed.

You will understand the philosophy of yoga on a new level. You will understand the words of the texts of yoga with new depth. You will have the knowledge of the bigger picture of the Universe around you and within you. This experience is difficult to describe, and perhaps this is the most interesting part of the process of yoga. It has to be experienced first hand.

Than there is the sense of community you feel with the other students. You know you’re all changing and growing together. Sure you can talk about it, but it’s the experience that you feel on the inside, and knowing that the other people are transforming on the inside as well that is beyond words. You know everyone has that spark of divine life inside and you can all relate on some level. That you are really One. That’s why we say Namaste!

 

Written by Gary Reitze Iyengar Yoga instructor

You can find him here at IYCD Saturday and Sunday 8-10am

 

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Integrity means One

Excerpt from BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life pages 58-59

“If we ever find ourselves apart from or superior to others, purer or more elevated by yoga, we can be sure that we are becalmed or even drifting back into a state of ignorance. It was Ramanuja, the saint and philosopher, who, more than nine hundred years ago, exposed the Brahminical misconception that we can be “above” others. On the contrary, practice and purity of this life place us “among” not above. Just as we have discussed inner integration within our own bodies, this naturally leads to integration with all other life. Integrity means one. One is the number that can go into all other numbers. The fully sensitive and sensible being becomes not a “somebody” but the common denominator of humanity. This takes place only when the intelligence of the head is transformed by the humility and the wisdom of the heart and compassion is kindled.

If there is an end, then there is no God. Creation by God never ends, so creation of your movements never ceases.   The moment you say, “I have got it,” you have lost everything you had. As soon as something comes, you have to go one step further. Then there is evolution. The moment you say, “I am satisfied with that,” that means stagnation has come. That is the end of your learning; you have closed the windows of your intellect. So let me do what I cannot do, not what I can do. You have always to do a little bit more than you think you can, in quality and in quantity. This is what leads ultimately to beauty and greatness.

As you take great pains to learn, continue with devotion in what you have learned. Learning is very difficult, but it is twice as difficult to keep the ground gained. Soldiers say that it is easier to win a battle than to occupy the territory conquered. While I continually try to improve my practice, I do my best and am contented with what I am able to attain. Even as the body ages and is able to do less, there are subtleties that reveal themselves, which would be invisible to younger or more athletic bodies. You have to create love and affection for your body, for what it can do for you. Love must be incarnated in the smallest pore of the skin, the smallest cell of the body, to make them intelligent so they can collaborate with all the other ones, in the big republic of the body.

This love must radiate from you to others. Practitioners of the asanas alone often forget that yoga is for cultivating the head and heart. Patanjali talked about friendliness, compassion, gladness, and joy. Friendliness and grace are two qualities that are essential for the yoga student. In yoga class, students often look so serious and so separated from one another. Where is the friendliness? Where is the compassion? Where is the gladness? Where is the joy? Without these, we have not achieved the true yoga of Patanjali.” BKS Iyengar

 

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Seated and Supine

You may have noticed a recently-added class at IYCD called “seated and supine” and wondered what it is.  In her Tuesday 8:30 a.m. class — and to a lesser degree in her Wednesday noon and Thursday 4:15 p.m. classes —   instructor Juliet Sherwood follows a methodology developed by one of her instructors, Brazilian yoga teacher Francisco Kaiut.  Classes consist of subtle movements that work toward easing the body’s aging process. It is an approach to yoga that specializes in treating injuries, chronic pain, stiffness and hyper flexibility. It is a deeply therapeutic form of yoga that works for every body.  A varied series of mostly supine and seated yoga poses are held from between three to five minutes, interspersed with relaxation and simple walking.  Yoga positions are used as a system of levers that allow students to put pressure where it is needed and remove the pressure where it needs to be removed, all within a passive body.

After years of study and practice as a chiropractor, Kaiut concluded that the majority of low back, knee, hip, shoulder and neck pain stems from the hips. Our western lifestyle, where we sit for hours at a computer and behind the wheel of a car, causes pain and blockage within our bodies. He found that these conditions can best be addressed by having students sit or lie on the floor. The floor and gravity act with bodies at rest, neutralizing all the stress and tension of having to be balanced while standing. Students gradually improve the balance and comfort that leads to a sense of all around well-being — and in performing more traditional yoga poses as well as continued engagement in all physical activity.

Juliet 3

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Perfection

 

“Let the goal be to reach Perfection, but be content with a little progress toward perfection everyday.” B.K.S. Iyengar

How many times have you practiced the same asana over and over, but have yet to perfect the pose? Will perfection ever be reached in yoga or in life for that matter? But is it worth it to keep going and keep trying to do the best you can?

Life offers us a series of experiences in which some motivate us to grow and others ignite a feeling of defeat and retreat. But no matter what has happened, we greet a new day as we greet the mat, with another opportunity to try again. No matter what happened yesterday whether it was full of pleasure or pain, the present moment only feeds itself. The motivation can only grow if we choose to keep it alive just as the pain can only grow if we choose to keep it alive. What is watered will grow, what is practiced will be increased.

The practice of asana allows one to study them self and observe tendencies. The tendency to push too hard, to not push enough, to keep going until the goal is reached, to give up before attainment, to relax into the moment or to be so goal orientated to not notice the process at all. Who you are in your practice is who you are off the mat. Let us use the practice of asana to better the postures in a way where our practice of this thing called life can attain benefit as well.

B.K.S. Iyengar states, “If we are loyal to the path we are on, our lives will get better, and the light of distant perfection will come to illuminate our journeys.” He also states, “When a gardener plants an apple seed, does he expect the apples to appear at once? Of course not. The gardener waters the seed, watches it each day, and feels happy seeing growth. Treat the body in the same way. We water our asana and pranayama practice with love and joy seeing the small progress. While we know what the goal is, we do not focus on enlightenment. We know that when our practice is ripe, illumination comes. Patience allied with disciplined practices brings the required will power.”

As we continue our practice, growth is bound to come with dedication. The ever-eluding goal of perfection may never be reached but the progress made in the attempt should be valued and celebrated. Step by step goals are reached and improvement is made. Celebrate the growth no matter how little it may be and be content with the process itself on the long road towards perfection.

 

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Transitions

Someone once told me that life is the continual practice of learning to let go. As time passes and life experiences change and mold the perception I have, I agree more and more with that statement.

Sometimes the level of letting go varies. We learn to let go of smaller things such as a plan made that must change last moment, a pose we can no longer do, an argument or kink in connection between relations, up to more challenging things of learning to let go of things such as a job that has ended, the idea of health when finding out about a life threatening illness or even a loved one who has passed on.

All of these life experiences have an effect on us whether small or grand, but the practice of letting go stays the same. We must learn to move on and carry through life. Sometimes the tests of life can strengthen us and other times they seem to bring us down, but the degree to which one can let go can influence the time it takes one to bounce back.

When we learn to let go, we allow ourselves to stay in the present moment. Whether we are learning to let go of expectations, assumptions, failures, hurtful experiences, or even pleasurable experiences, it all comes back to learning to let go. Life is ever flowing and ever changing and when one holds to a concept, a belief, a particular way of doing, we invite stagnation to enter.

Learning to let go allows ourselves to be free from the past and from the future we are constantly trying to get to. When we hold onto something that is no longer there or something that never existed (such as a desire, or belief) we participate in Avidya (ignorance or lack of wisdom or understanding), which Patanjali states is the root cause of suffering. As the sutras teach, this life is temporary and believing things to be permanent is ignorance. Everything must change; it is the nature of all Life. Nothing stays the same and being able to flow with the rising tides is a practice as much as it is an art.

We often think of yoga as an asana practice, but what if the flexibility of our mind and heart is more important than the flexibility of our body? The practice of letting go cultivates awareness of the impermanent nature of everything, therefore allowing us to practice non-attachment.

Let us allow ourselves to open to new possibilities and to know that by holding onto things, and not letting go, our hands are not open to receive new things and experiences life has to offer. To every end there is a beginning. To every pose there is a repose.   May we be flexible in our practice and in our minds to realize the times we need to let go and learn to be okay with things just as they are.

childs pose

 

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