Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Yoga Class with Live Music!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be teaching a yoga class with live music at Sunrise Yoga Center in Ithaca, starting October 23rd. I'll be collaborating with my very talented friend and ONE LOVE band member Joe Smellow, who plays guitar, keyboards, flutes and pan pipes, didjeridoo, harmonica, percussion and more. Joe will be joined by different guest musicians, including my husband, Doug and other members of the ONE LOVE extended family. Their skillful and sensitive improvisation will allow a creative conversation to emerge between participants and musicians--an experience not to be missed!

This class, called BODY BLISS!, will offer an energizing yoga posture flow and and invitation for free-form movement as well. Class meets Sundays from 4:30-6 PM. All levels are welcome, some familiarity with basic yoga postures is recommended. 

We would like to give you an opportunity to try it out at no charge, so you are invited to attend a FREE INTRO CLASS on Sunday, October 23rd at 4:30 PM, at Sunrise Yoga Center

Note:  Participants should plan on arriving 5-10 minutes before class starts, and bring a water bottle and a mat (extra mats are provided for those who need them). Those who are new to Sunrise Yoga Center will need to fill out a liability release form.

Hope you can join us for this unique and uplifting exploration of movement, breath and sound!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Finding Your Edge

Last year I went to a yoga festival in California, and I spotted a young man with a T-shirt that had the following words printed on the front:


How true! When we are faced with discomfort, whether it be physical, emotional, or the myriad stresses and challenges that life brings, that’s where the growth happens. There’s a hidden gift in it, as we are shaken out of our habitual ways of thinking and acting, and we are called to stretch beyond what we thought was possible for ourselves.

I’m not speaking here of going WAY beyond the comfort zone, to the point where we are in excruciating pain, but rather to the place where we feel a little pull, a little heat, a little squirmy. It’s that place where we might want to run the other way, but if we stay right there, that’s where the jewel is shining. The end of the comfort zone is that place that calls us to pay attention, to wake up to what’s happening, and to respond with whatever is needed. And often what is needed is more presence, compassion, and perhaps some surrender, so that we move beyond the resistance or numbness to life.

In yoga, we have plenty of opportunities to practice this on the mat, as we explore the boundaries of our physical comfort zone.  It’s what is referred to as finding our “edge”—the place in a posture or stretch where we meet the limit of our flexibility or strength.  At the edge we feel increased sensation, more aliveness, more heat.  It’s the place where we are called to show up with deeper, more mindful breaths. In this practice, we don’t push ourselves over the edge to the point of pain.  If our shoulders tense up and we find ourselves grimacing, then we know we have gone too far (remember the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-violence!)

It doesn’t matter how deeply we can go into a posture. If we are meeting our edge and breathing into it, allowing the body and mind to soften, then we are getting just as much benefit out of the posture as the person on the next mat who looks like they are posing for the cover of Yoga Journal. It’s an internal inquiry, rather than an external goal.

In Kripalu yoga there is a model of mindful practice known as BRFWA, which is an acronym for Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow.  Anytime we are deepening into a posture and find that we’ve met our edge, we can work with BRFWA:

BREATHE: Reconnect with the sensations in the body through attention to inhalation and exhalation.  Engage deep 3-part yogic breaths, and if ujjayi (ocean breath) is part of your practice, engaging that pranayama helps encourage focus and presence.

RELAX:  Soften muscles, reduce any effort around mental activity. Open to energy moving through resistance in the body/mind.

FEEL:  focus awareness on the sensations, feelings, and thoughts flowing through the body/mind.  Avoid engaging in the story of these thoughts and feelings—simply experience them as energy passing through.

WATCH: Cultivate “witness consciousness” by observing your experience with  non-judgmental awareness and compassion.

ALLOW: Let your experience be just what it is, without any need to judge it, change it, or fix it. Energy integrates on its own.

The methodology of BRFWA allows us to sustain poses longer as we learn to ride the wave of sensation.  You may also notice that your edge shifts as you hold the pose and stay present with what arises, and the edge will also change from practice session to practice session, over time. The good news is that we are ever changing organisms, and that when we pay exquisite attention, every moment is new.

Once we become experienced at using the BRFWA methodology on the mat, we can take it into our lives, where there are countless opportunities to practice—in relationships, work, health, and more.  In this way, we can let life be our yoga, and when we come up against an edge, we can be grateful for this invitation to be fully alive.

Being Present

Breathe, relax and feel;
take time to slow down
the pace of life. Watch the
rise and fall of moods, the
birth and death of dreams.
Feelings and sensations seem
so real, yet they shift like
changing clouds, and flow
with the high tide out to sea
again. Allow it all to be, no
need to grasp or push away.
Present with each moment,
the whole of you, body, mind
and soul, opens to receive.

~Danna Faulds, from Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga

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