Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Summer Schedule- updated

Mondays and Wednesdays:
9:05 am Warrior with Shri, 6 pm Warrior with Shri

Tuesdays and Thursdays:
6 am Sunrise Warrior with Shri, 9:05 am Peaceful with Pam, 5:30 pm Peaceful with Shri

9:05 am Mixed Level with Tru, 5:30 pm Warrior with Ken

8 am Warrior with Shri, 9:45 am Peaceful with Shri
9 am Warrior with Sherri, 11 am Peaceful with Sherri

The first Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm is Long, Slow and Deep practice with Shri

Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:15 pm is now a Workshop Series with Sherri:
You may pay for 6 weeks in advance and get one week free: $100
or drop in per class for $10
(This class is now a workshop series, so it is now paid for separately from monthly unlimited and from Bliss class packages)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Heaving Bosom

....She was hot and sweaty, moving sensuously, her eyes radiated with a melting tenderness, the experience of love was expanding in her heart, her breath became audible with the rise and fall of her chest.......

Is this an excerpt from a romance novel or a Yoga practice? This is the experience of dynamic breathing in a Yoga practice.
I once saw Yogi Amrit Desai perform an asana sequence and, although the sequence was not of particularly advanced postures, I was completely mesmerized watching him. He was creating magic on his mat and the observers in the room simply could not look away. I have seen Yogis practice very advanced sequences and not create the same magic, in fact, I have seen advanced sequences performed with a distinct dullness. Over the years, I came to an understanding that what separates practitioners who create magic and dull practitioners is the quality of their breath and therefore their ability to bend and manipulate prana shakti. Dynamic breathing patterns create dynamic prana on the mat. For the most part, this means absolutely conscious breathing of long duration and the breathing pattern is made longer by the use of auxiliary muscles of breathing in the core and in the upper chest. I have also been mesmerized by watching gifted dancers and gymnasts. There is something about the rise and fall of the chest created through powerful breathing that is enchanting and fascinating to the eye. It is the same state of passion that creates the heaving chest in Yogis, dancers and even lovers. The bending of prana shakti through manipulated breath creates magic and if one is able to create magic on the mat, we are also able to create that same magic in life.
This week, I had the absolute pleasure of going to White Oak with a group of dancers from the MFA program at JU. We practiced a little energy bending with heaving bosom breath while moving through vinyasas in the amazing Michail Baryshnikov dance studio. The photo is of me feeding Rick the giraffe some leaves. White Oak is a hidden gem here on the first coast- it was created to be a sanctuary and retreat for humans and endangered animals. The Clintons went there during the Lewinsky scandal, Al Gore went there after he lost (won) the election and international conferences have been held there with diplomats from all over the world participating. White Oak is an amazing animal preserve protecting and breeding endangered species like rhinos, cheetahs and giraffes. The trust also promotes the arts and artists in transition. Check out White Oak at

Pray for More Problems

"Pray for More Problems."

When we encounter difficulty in life, it makes us thirsty for inner work, the search for answers inside, when the answers in the outside world are insufficient. Inner work, like meditation, is highly efficient problem solving methodology.
Einstein said the Theory of Relativity came to him in a meditative state. When I tell students that answers come in meditation, I am not being poetic. I mean this literally. Ask for help, guidance and answers in each meditation.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

"Mind your own business."
This is Sri Brahmananda Saraswati's (SBS) favorite mantra. Joseph Campbell did not say follow someone else's bliss (or drama), he said follow your own bliss. The path of following one's bliss, or dharma, is not easy. You don't have time to mind other people's business, your plate is full.

The path of following your bliss has been widely misunderstood to mean the path of moving away from pain and moving toward pleasure. This is not the case at all. Following bliss means to discover what is yours to do right now, dharma, and then to stay on point until that mission is accomplished, no matter how arduous that path might be. Early civil rights workers told the racists that opposed them- you may threaten our children, burn down our homes, beat us, even kill us, but we are not going away. This is following bliss.

Do not yield to weakness, it does not suit you.
Krishna to Arjuna, in the Bhagavad Gita

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zen and the Art of Air Conditioning Repair

We just had to replace the AC unit at the shala. The bad news is that I had not counted on such a big repair bill this month, but the good news is that the repair crew found out that the system before was not working properly because of faulty duct work. So the new system works better than ever! We should be able to keep it cooler in the Summer and warmer in the Winter more efficiently. The crew foreman told me "keeping a building cool is not just about putting cool air in, it is also about taking the warm air out". Aha! I had a light bulb moment! Yoga teaches the same principle. We not only work to bring in fresh Prana, ideas, wisdom and healing energy, but we also work to release old patterns, habitual responses, negative habits and toxins.

Our work on the mat with asanas and pranayama is the warm air going out- we build up fire in the belly and get body fluids moving to release that which no longer serves us. The meditation at the end of practice is the cool air moving in- we consciously relax body and mind and a deep peace settles in and nourishes the living matrix. Stress out- peace in, stress out- peace in. Over time, the scales begin to tip and we find that peace is the predominant feeling. We begin to feel good most of the time. Most importantly, we begin to recognize when we are out of balance and choose not to act from a state of imbalance. We have tools and techniques to bring us back to our new default state.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
With this statement, in the vibrational language of Sanskrit, the Yogi cultivates and imparts Peace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Summer Schedule

New Summer Schedule Effective July 19, 2010:

Monday and Wednesday: 9:05 am Warrior with Shri, 6 pm Warrior with Shri
Tuesday and Thursday: 6 am Warrior with Shri, 9:05 am Peaceful with Pam, 5:30 pm Peaceful with Shri
Friday: 9:05 am Mixed Level Flow with Pam, 5:30 pm Warrior with Ken
Saturday: 8 am Warrior with Shri, 9:45 am Peaceful with Rachel
Sunday: 9 am Warrior with Sherri, 11 am Peaceful with Sherri

First Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm is Long, Slow and Deep Practice with Shri
Meditation with Stan each Tuesday at 7:15 pm Downstairs

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Path of the Bow and Arrow

I am in Miami. Just finished a workshop on the Baghavad Gita with Manorama, a Sanskrit scholar who has a Sanskrit studies college in New York. (Pronounced MaNORama or Ma) The Gita, or Song of the Lord, is a Yogic Upanishad, meaning those teachings which one receives while being close to the teacher, so the teachings are meant to be imparted orally. I chanted the poetic verses of the Gita for 7 hours today and fostered a new relationship with the text. I have to admit that previously the Gita was not a favorite Yogic road map for me, which was part of the reason that I signed up for this workshop. The beauty of a vibrational language like Sanskrit is that the sounds encourage union and cultivate Oneness. And the meaning of the words is contained in the sound vibration of the words. When we chant Sanskrit, we know the meaning in our hearts and in our bellies. Sound, Shabda, comes from Space, Akash, and the more subtle the element, the more powerful it is. Space is the most subtle of the elements, so working with sound is a potent endeavor. The 51 sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet correspond to and heal the 51 petals of the lotuses of the Chakras, the energy vortexes in the body.
I leave Miami tomorrow morning.......I had forgotten the beauty of Coral Gables, the international flavor of Miami and the vividness of the tropical sky. Thank you Prana Yoga Miami, my gracious workshop facilitator and hostess.
Back to teaching at Bliss Monday morning at 9 am. Our theme this week is inspired by Arjuna, the main player in the Gita- we will be working with The Path of the Bow and Arrow- Awakening the Warrior.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Yoga Schedule remains the same for the 4th of July holiday weekend!

Sunday: 9 am Warrior Flow with Tru
11 am Peaceful Flow with Sherri
5 pm Long Slow and Deep with Ken
Monday: 9 am Warrior Flow with Shri
4:30 pm Mixed Level Flow with Erica
6 pm Warrior Flow with Shri

Balancing the Forces in Pose

I took a workshop once with a heart surgeon/ Yoga teacher who had the good fortune to find himself sitting on a plane next to Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. He thought deeply about formulating a proper question to Mr. Iyengar, not wanting to waste this golden opportunity. His question was "What is most important when practicing asana?" Iyengar's response was to balance all of the forces available to us in asana. If the hand is lifted toward the ceiling in a pose, for example, then part of us is working to open the hand, part of us working to close the hand into a fist, part of us is working to splay the fingers and part of us is working to glue all the fingers together. In perfect balance, none of these forces overpower any of the others. Gravity is a strong force to be reckoned with in poses. In a standing tree for example, the force of gravity is pressing down on the practitioner and the balanced effort is to create an equal and opposite lift from the foot up through the crown of the head. The same is true for the inversion, shoulderstand, but because we are upside down, the balanced effort is to create an equal and opposite line of energy from the shoulders, up through the instep of each foot, toward the ceiling. This concept works well with the idea of Resistance Stretching- the way most modern world class athletes now cultivate flexibility. Resistance stretching is where part of our effort is to actually prevent the stretch- more balancing of the forces- and the muscle or group of muscles are contracted as we stretch them. This way of stretching, as opposed to passive stretching, is now the preferred method because it reduces the possibility of injury through overstretching and it strengthens and stretches simultaneously. There is still a place for passive stretching in Yoga practice (Yin style), I just prefer to sprinkle it in judiciously for safety. We will be exploring resistance stretching all this week in the studio.
Another physiological concept that is important to work with here as well is the balancing of forces in joints. Some of us have the ability to take a joint beyond 90 degrees- the hyper extension of a joint. There is disagreement in the Yoga world and the medical world about whether this is even a problem, but having suffered physical problems from both hyper extension of knees and elbows, I do see it as a problem and as a structural form that can be therapeutically corrected. When we hyper extend the elbow joint and put the bottom of the humerus bone in a different alignment, the top of that bone, that connects with the shoulder joint, will also be in a different alignment. Hyper extension of elbows often sets us up for shoulder injuries in the same way that hyper extension of knees throws the pelvis out of optimal alignment and can set us up for back problems. At the very least, hyper extension of elbows produces weak and/or flabby triceps (underside of upper arm) and hyper extension of knees produces weak and/or flabby quads (fronts of the thighs). If one is working on handstand, then strong triceps are a prerequisite in order to be able to bear the entire body weight on straight arms and strong quads are necessary in order to perform the donkey kick that lifts the legs into the handstand. If you are able to hyper extend, find some reason to get excited about changing the pattern.
As the mind thinks, so the body becomes.....this is a two way street. Often we find, that by changing a structural pattern in the body, that change is also created in the mind. Knees are associated with foundations in life, fear, security and prosperity issues- standing where we don't want to stand- and arms about the balance of giving and receiving. Arms are an extension of the heart- are we putting our heart out there and into it? Arms develop from the voice box of a fetus- arms are our voice in postures and in the world.
The balancing of the forces in the asana reminds us of balance in the larger sense for practice. We balance strength and flexibility, in breath and out breath, right side and left side, steadiness with comfort, relaxation with appropriate effort, structure with creativity, outer focus with inner focus and gross practices and subtle practices. In life, we strive to balance giving and receiving, doing and nondoing, work and play and material world growth and expansion with spiritual growth and expansion.