Yoga is More Than Exercise

Yoga is more than exercise; it is a way of life. A way of being.

Yoga is a spiritual path, not to be confused with religion. Modern yoga has emerged in the west primarily as a physical practice, an exercise.  However, the physical part of yoga is only one branch in Yoga Sutras of Patajanli: The Eight-limbs of Yoga (see illustration below). The Yoga Sutras were compiled prior to 400 CE, so it is an ancient body of work. The branch related to the physical practice is called Asana, later extended to Hatha Yoga. It never ceases to amaze me that the template for living well transcends time. It applies to everybody regardless of the race, religion, century, level of education etc.

Today in the West there are many styles of yoga under the Asana/Hatha umbrella. There is Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Slow Flow, Restorative Yoga and Athletic Yoga to mention a few. However, in the yoga lineage (see illustration) Ashtanga, Vinyasas and later in the twentieth century Iyengar, create the foundation from which modern yoga emerged.

As an instructor when I started teaching yoga, I intentionally  focused on the physical practice. I wanted to make yoga accessible to many, who may be turned off by the spiritual sides of yoga. Interestingly, even just practicing the Asanas, opened spiritual doors for many of my students. When we start quieting the mind, concentrating on our physical body and focusing on our breathe, a journey inward occurs. It is only the beginning.

As a teacher, students sense the spiritually in my classes. It is because yoga is a spiritual practice for me. Every day I try to be conscious of my spiritual values. I practice and study  different areas of the eight limbs. They are a great guide for one’s spiritual development. As my work evolves and my studies deepen, I hope to bring more of these teachings to my students.  We can all use positive guides on our journey.

Namaste ~Grace

February-The Month of Love-ing Kindness

This is the month to recognize and show love. It should be a 365-day-a-year practice! Nevertheless, it’s beautiful that we have a day that puts love on the calendar. One of my favorite “love” practices, is Metta Meditation.  Metta Meditation comes from the Buddhist philosophy. It is the conscious practice of sending loving kindness. It’s a simple meditation, however it is profound.

The first person you send loving kindness to is yourself. You cannot give to others, what you do not have for yourself. Your ability to love, is only as deep as the love you have for yourself.  It is intricately connected.

The second is a good friend. That’s easy to do. Friends are the family we choose. It feels wonderful to send loving kindness their way. It’s easy to send love to people you care about.  It’s like sending them a special gift they will never know they’re getting.

Third is a neutral person. It could be someone you frequently see at the check out in the supermarket,  perhaps your mailman or maybe a neighbor you don’t really know. It feels good sending loving kindness to someone simply because they exist, and are a part of creation.

The fourth is a difficult person. This one is more challenging. Our tendency is to shut down when it comes to difficult people. Some people are not easy to like or love. They try our patience and sometimes make our life miserable. Sending them loving-kindness helps them and it also helps us.

The fifth is all sentient beings. This is one of my favorites. It allows us to expand our awareness far and wide, with good will for everyone. It’s one of the things I love about Buddhist philosophy. It is not just about the improvement of one or a few, it is about rising everyone. We are only as good as our weakness link.

Take ten minutes a day, sit comfortably and go through the list using the simple metta- meditation script below. Repeat four more times, replacing “I” with the names on the list 1 through 5.

May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be free of suffering
May I live in peace
May my life be blessed with ease

This simple practice has many benefits, the best ones are developing inner happiness and peace. It’s a beautiful practice that can be practice by everyone, regardless of your religious beliefs. Sending good intentions helps rise the positive energy of ourselves and our world.

Letting Go: A New Year’s Resolution

This month’s blog is dedicated to Colleen Collins, a former student who recently passed. Her passing was sudden and without much ado. Colleen was not the easiest personality to get along with, honestly, which personality is? We all struggle with our own idiosyncrasies.

Colleen inspired me. She wanted her journey to be sacred, and was aware of her shortcomings, reminding me that even when we are aware, it is nevertheless hard to manage and navigate. Frankly, it’s a daily struggle.

She didn’t give up, but she was learning to let go.  Letting go is the hardest part of the journey. I am going to use her inspiration to practice letting go this year. I am letting go of things, thoughts and habits that no longer serve my life’s  goal:  to be my best self (notice I didn’t say ‘perfect self’).  This year, I want to let go, embrace my humanity, and grow spiritually. In order to give the world the best of ourselves, we must first learn to let go.

Back in 2013, Colleen gave me this poem (below) She Let Go. It is no coincidence I saved it in my journal, to share with you today. Thank you Colleen for your inspiration. May the sun and the moon shine with you, forevermore.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go. She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. Let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on it. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all the memories that held her back. She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read the daily horoscope.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter a word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

The Essence of Giving

The Essence of Giving

Giving is not an unusual topic this time of year. Every single advertisement is about giving, as we all work on our gift lists, scurrying around to find the right gifts. However, the real  giving has little to do with buying  gifts.  As I delve deeper into the spiritual aspect of my life, I realize that giving is a profound state of being.

We are in a constant state of giving. We give to our family, our friends, our work, our neighbors, our community and our country. The most important thing we give comes from our Self.  We give our love, our attention, our compassion, our kindness, our time, our listening, our understanding, our help, our commitment and our labor. We give without being asked or feeling obliged. There is no special holiday that deserves these gifts, there is no hubbub or big celebrations.   

It’s the time you took to create the meal for your family,  the time you took to listen to someone who was needed to be heard. It is the time you pitched in to help clean up the local pond or work at the food pantry. It is the time you drove your friend to her doctor’s appointment or the time you gave someone a big hug. It is the time you called your friend just to see how they were doing, and the time you cared for your sick spouse. This is the essence of giving.

Giving are all of those actions that comes from your heart, even the seemingly insignificant ones. The main principle in true giving is that you expect nothing in return. NOTHING.  It is not “well I did this for her so…..” or “I let him use my stuff so…” or “how can she after I did…”  True giving expects nothing in return…ever.  It is not a tit for tat, there is no running tab or score keeping.  True giving is altruistic. True giving is selfless, whether you get credit or you are thanked, or get anything in return. True giving is a spiritual path. It is the path of knowing you are serving a greater purpose.  You are serving life itself.     

This holiday season give from the heart, put love into all of the things you do, without expectations.  Do it because it helps preserve the sanctity of life. It helps make the world a better place and it costs nothing. 

Namaste, <3 Grace*