Yoga and Intention Reactivation

The dust and confetti of the holiday season has finally settled and perhaps you have gotten some traction on your intention for 2019.  Mine is/was to give up sugar for 40 days. However, the path of living into a new lifestyle is rarely a straight line. More often than not, affecting life changes is a much more messy process.

The seductive voice of comfort and convenience can creep in and derail our deeper knowing and higher aspirations.  In the words of the famed warrior, Arjuna, in the infamous yogic text the Bhagavad Gita:

The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna.
It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.

So how do we get a grip on our detracting desires and live into our higher aspirations? And more specifically, how can yoga help us with that?

On a physical level, yoga postures (and meditation) have been scientifically demonstrated to re-pattern the neural structures and pathways in the brain as well as correlate structures in the heart and gut, each of which has a unique intelligence.  

Yoga can unlock stuck psychological patterning on a neurological level – something like untangling a knotted ball of twine and rolling it back up again, neat and organized.

There are many stories of yogis who willfully embraced extreme disciplines to arrive at a transcendental boon.  Parvati ate nothing but leaves for years to win the hand of Lord Shiva, Arjuna vowed to avenge his fallen son before sundown or take his own life, Gandhi fasted and performed other acts of austerity to strengthen his resolve for an independent India.

Maybe you are not out to marry a god, make a mortal vow, or to topple an empire but you can move towards your higher-self.  This requires a willingness to trade in something of lower value for something of higher, yet unknown value.

Here are four simple suggestions to help you to reassemble any bygone resolutions for the new year or simple take up a new direction for your life.    

Choose Your Battles
What’s the one thing that you can embrace, or let go of, that is going to give you the greatest return on your effort?  If you try to make too many changes on many fronts you are far less likely to succeed. For me, that one thing was giving up sugar.  In part the benefit has come from not eating a toxic substance but the other part is that it has forced me to eat far less processed food.  Which in turn has led to much more emotional and energetic stability.

Practice skillful-means.  Be selective about what changes you want to make and find one simple act that can foster those changes.  Maybe you want to take the task in parts.

Make Incremental Changes
People can cook up an overinflated version of who they think they should be.  Book stores and libraries line their shelves with texts espousing the virtues of being a ‘Bad Ass’. And the latest seminar promises it all: wealth and glory.  Grandeur can often be a toxic mimic of our true place in the world and within ourselves. Perhaps authenticity is more powerful and real than boundless desire.

Sustainable change is much more gradual than sensational.  We see this in nature, the sun moves just slowly enough to be imperceptible; yet we know it is moving by watching the shadows slowly bend in its light.  All life lives in relationship to the sun.

On a psychological level the mind has many self protective mechanisms, many of them unconscious, that easily rebel when they perceive the unknown coming down the road.  Part of us wants to change while other parts stand ready to put on the breaks.  Transformation is less about conquest and more about patience and consistent effort.

Get Support
Another part of the great American mythology says that we must do everything by ourselves, to triumphantly brave adversity and arrive at our personal promised-land.  In fact, you are far more likely to be successful with the support of the tribe. Many people are not fully aware of the degree to which they are isolated and lack the perspective of outside eyes.

Is there someone who is close to you that you can confide in, and start to bridge your intention from your head and into the world.  Even social media could be a possible outlet for getting some collective support and accountability. Or better yet, get the support of a dedicated group of peers.  This could be colleagues at work or some circle that shares the values that you are trying to create for yourself.

Practice Yoga
Yoga has been proven, time and time again, to move the needle away from self-sabotaging behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.  Think of it as having a magic power. And if you water the seeds of this magic power regularly, it will grow. Whether we are trying to sleep better or give up drinking, yoga can help, particularly when given guidance from an expert teacher.

Of these four recommendations I would recommend the last one, practicing yoga, the most.  Followed by getting support. Practicing yoga in a committed circle of peers, under the guidance of a advanced teacher, will nurture your intentions in ways that you are currently not present to.  What’s more it will safely open the door into new realms of possibility.

Much of the year is yet to come and I invite you to gradually foster a more joyful version of yourself for your own benefit and for the benefit of those who surround you.

In Peace,
Derik

Ps,  Our Spring ‘19 Yoga Teacher Training starts on Feb. 12th.  You are invited to our Information Session on Tuesday the 15th of January from 6-8pm on 3250 E. Sixth Ave to find out more.

 

Yoga Helps You Hit Bottom

 

I remember taking a for-credit yoga class at my university in the early 90’s. We dissected the postures and every so often, the teacher would throw out a yogic pearl of wisdom. Somewhere about mid-quarter, I remember her saying “asana is a very small part of yoga practice –just the tip of the iceberg.”

It seemed strangely paradoxical: as we explored the postures, she diminished them at the same time? If the result of asana practice felt so wonderful and transformative, how could that be only a small fraction of what yoga was?

Eventually I took her statement to mean that asana was one among many different modalities that generated the effects of yoga practice. However, I was still using asana as the standard by which all ‘yogas’ were to be measured. Breathwork, meditation, and all other yogic modalities seemed secondary.

As the years went by and I continued to study, her statement stuck with me and began to take on a different meaning. Not only were there many methods for approaching yoga, but the the potential for experiencing yoga also deepened. All of the methods were in support of a much greater understanding about oneself and one’s relationship to all of life -the spirit of yoga is/was far greater than one’s ability to increase their bodily range of motion.

At its utmost expression, yoga is union of individualized consciousness with Universal Consciousness. That consciousness is the bottom of the iceberg that resides far below the surface of physical “reality”- even beyond mental, self-referential, preconceptions about our identity.

The postures are a means to much greater end. How exactly do the postures play into the journey of yoga will be the subject of our next blog. Namaste.

 

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda

Catch a glimpse into an experiment in progress by one of the Axis Yoga Teacher Training students.

The following posts describe how this student adopted some new habits and changed some old ones in an effort to finally deal with chronic allergies and asthma. With the help of Ayurveda and Yoga this student, like many others, discovers their own power to effect change and healing in all parts of the body.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Herbs

For my Ayurvedic experiment, I chose to attempt to alleviate something more physically immediate that was plaguing my existence: allergies. I have struggled with allergies, asthma, and eczema my whole life. I was always trying to figure out what was causing it but with very little effort into truly trying to understand the why’s and what’s of the cause and just hoping it would miraculously go away some day. I lived in Hawai’i when from ages 3-6 and I seemingly had no allergies there (except to cats). We moved to Florida right before my 7th birthday and that is where my struggles began. I would have frequent asthma attacks and needed to be hooked up to a nebulizer in order to breathe. It was miserable. I seemingly grew out of it but have noticed recently that perhaps I haven’t grown out of my asthma and allergies as much as I’d thought.

This experiment has led me to speculate that perhaps my asthma is allergic asthma. While my focus was not so much my asthma, the two are very much interrelated. I began taking the following herbs for Pitta and Kapha allergies: 8 shatavari; 1 guduchi; 1/4 shanka bhasma; 2 sitopaladi; 2 yasthi madhu (licorice); 2 turmeric; 2 coriander. I have been taking ~2 tsp once a day with warm water since March 20th. The first week was a little bit of a struggle, as I missed 3 days of taking it due to forgetfulness. I strongly dislike the feeling I get when I haven’t held up my end of a deal and told myself I need to figure out a way to prioritize it so that I don’t forget. I have found that taking the ~2tsp once a day during my morning routine is most effective for me.

At first the taste was not as bad as I was expecting. It reminded me of the end of a cereal box, where all of the grainy sugar and sweetness lies, except minus the sugar. It tasted slightly sweet, which I appreciated (as I gravitate towards such things), but swallowing was a little difficult. I could feel every grainy piece of the herbs I was taking. The first time I took it, I tried to just open my mouth, drop my head back, and dump the herbs on the back of my tongue to avoid any sensory displeasure. This technique backfired as I inhaled and simultaneously drew the herbs into my lungs and erupted into a coughing fit of regret and annoyance. I learned my lesson. It has now been 8 consecutive days that I have taken the herbs everyday without forgetting. I don’t feel that I have that much to report on in the way of results, but I can testify to the other doors that have been opened for me during this process.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Marijuana

As I mentioned before, I have been more able to discover more about my condition, what exacerbates it, and what I may do to calm it or control it. I am a huge proponent for the positive effects of using marijuana. As a CrossFit athlete, I put my body under intense bouts of stress. I lift heavy weights, and try to complete metabolic conditioning movements as fast as I can. Marijuana is something I have been using daily for several years (about 4 years) and it helps my recovery tremendously. I noticed that it also eased some of the anxiety and restlessness that came along with my college graduation. I have noticed that for the past several months, as my allergies have been acting up more, that metabolic exercise has been tremendously more difficult for me. I have so much phlegm and mucous that it literally makes it difficult to breathe. When I am in the middle of a workout and I have to stop because I can’t breathe and am approaching a moment of asthma panic, it is disheartening. It makes me feel that my inability to breathe is keeping me from reaching my goals and it feels unfair.

My Ayurvedic experiment is actually several different experiments all rolled into one. One overarching theme I have begun is to be more mindful in everything that I do. I have never been someone who has paid attention to anything that I wasn’t interested in or willfully trying to learn. I am a daydreamer and one of my biggest flaws is that I don’t listen (my moon is in Pisces if that helps a better picture for you. AKA – Space cadet here!). Being more mindful has been an uphill battle. It is really difficult to change something I didn’t even realize I was doing. This experiment has made me realize that as much as I love smoking marijuana for all the positive things it brings to my life, perhaps it is not serving me in the same way anymore. I have decided to take a two week break from smoking marijuana (as of April 2nd), which I may extend to a month or even longer if I discover that I don’t need it as much as I thought I did. I am really trying to pay attention to how that can serve me right now in alleviating my allergic asthma and allergy symptoms.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Sadhana

Another mini experiment that is all part of this broader experiment is changing my routine. For years, literally years, I have been truly wanting to change my morning routine, to not have my phone be the first thing I look at in the morning, to not lose 3 hours of the start of my day to Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to get up and practice yoga, start a meditation practice, read a book, do something that was going to enrich my life in my day to day. As part of my Ayurvedic experiment, I have also taken up tongue scraping, oil pulling, neti potting, and meditation on a daily basis. I realize that I am always so eager to experiment on my body in ways that I can control: food, allergy, hygiene, etc. These are all physical experiments that affect my perception of myself. What I realized is that I have been resisting making internal changes and putting forth the effort of doing things that seem hard or boring, which gave rise to my sadhana practice.
I began my sadhana practice on March 21st and have only lost one day to forgetfulness. Hearing that “no effort goes to waste” in our class presentation on meditation inspired me to always just try and to keep trying. I have been practicing sadhana every morning for 10 minutes as the last piece of my Ayurvedic morning routine. This morning I incorporated nadishodhana (my favorite of the 4 purifications) and increased my time to 15 minutes. I definitely felt the extra 5 minutes, but have seen positive changes from my daily practice.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Change

I have made strides in being the observer and the observed. I have discovered that the Axis Yoga Teacher Training program has given me the extra push and support I needed to make those changes. I have come leaps and bounds from where I was 5 years ago, spiritually, mentally, and physically. I have made strides on my own that have positively affected my relationship to myself and to others and have helped shaped a more free, connected, and positive view of the world around me. Axis has given me support to pursue those changes I have been waiting to make and given me a community to be accountable to in the most enriching way. I am so grateful for this experience and am excited to keep applying what I am learning for more growth and understanding for myself and those around me.

Ditching the Distractions

Yoga gives us time and space to hear ourselves, to feel our emotions, to connect to who we are apart from the distractions of our world. This isn’t always comfortable. Many times it’s easier to gloss over unwanted thoughts and feelings rather than to connect and process them. The following posts were written by an Axis Yoga Teacher Training student who decided to confront this discomfort in order to create change. As part of the YTT course, students experiment with chosen Yogic and Ayurvedic principles. With the instructors’ guidance, these experiments allow the students to feel first-hand the impact simple changes can have on daily life.

 

Ditching the Distractions: New Routine

I struggle with addressing my disliked emotions and energies. I associate words like “anger” and “anxious” with shame, and so I generally avoid recognizing those presences within my body and mind. I choose quick-fix, lazy distractions instead. Gently and kindly observing manifestations within and external is a new practice for me, one that I exercise with variability. I continue to desire for groundedness in this endeavor, and to conversely but just as fluidly, let go of the experiences. To quiet my mind and warm my heart, I decided to experiment with relaxing and soothing Ayurvedic methods before bedtime. I hypothesized that this nightly routine would help me to engage more honestly and compassionately with my surroundings and myself.

I chose the following as my evening routine: 1) light incense, 2) massage coconut oil into my feet, 3) meditate (keep the mind on the breath) for 15 minutes, and 4) drop lavender essential oil on my pillow. From the onset I took notes to outline my experiment and to tinker with the design. On night one I learned that meditation should follow massaging the coconut oil, versus the opposite order, so that my mind would be most quiet directly before I placed my head on my pillow. Night one also taught me that I should not look at my phone light directly before turning towards sleep; I used an app called Insight Timer to measure the minutes of my meditation, and I decided that I would close out of the app in the morning to avoid the irritation of the phone light prior to closing my eyes. I learned, as one of the Axis mentor’s had stated, that a little bit of oil goes a long way.

 

Ditching the Distractions: New Sensations

I experienced profound peace within the first couple of nights of experimentation. On night 2 of the experiment I had this crazy thought: that if I were to not wake up, things would be ok…it wasn’t that I didn’t want to wake up, I’d just be ok with not waking up, too. This thought occurred in the few moments after I had tucked myself into bed and before I fell peacefully asleep. I did, of course, wake up the next morning, joyful and well-rested and smelling lavender. But the warmth of that thought stopped me in my mental tracks throughout the following days, likely because of it’s supreme oppositeness to general thought patterns of my life, and specifically a grand fear surrounding the mystery of death. It was an interesting experience.

I practiced every night for the first 8 nights. I felt more aware of my disliked sensations throughout the day, and I chose to recognize their presence and breathe through them. I was more aware of liked sensations, too! I experienced lightness as I woke in the morning, and I felt gratitude for a calming night’s sleep. I found myself abiding in greater clarity.