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What a year it is has been! On SO many levels. I have so much to write about and yet so much is still percolating. One item that I do want to mention is that this year marks the 20th year since I started practicing Iyengar Yoga! I lucked into a 5 day workshop during my travels in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A friend recommended the course as I had already been practicing yoga on my own, with books and classes at the Y in college. Even though no one else signed up for the Intermediate course that week, the teacher taught me privately for 5 hours per day! It was such an incredible gift!
We just passed through the first New Moon of the New Year. New Moons are always potent times to set intentions, but particularly the first New Moon of the New Year. This past year felt particularly destabilizing and I have absolutely cherished my yoga practice, as it keeps me steady, clear and grounded in the present. I pay fairly close attention to what is going on around me, but as a yoga practitioner, one of the disciplines of the practice is to not get pulled into the drama - the ups and downs of everyday human existence.
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali talks about effortless effort - "Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached." - Light on the Yoga Sutras, BKS Iyengar Perfection is connected to the metal element present at the end of this season - the need to be perfect, valuing oneself, the need to have shiny material possessions and conversely, the exact opposite - not valuing oneself or not believing oneself worthy of respect. It is something well worth examining as we close out this year.
Dear Friends, As we mentioned last month, we are in the season of the Lungs and Large Intestine. It is the time of year to whittle, to hone, and to refine. These are two of our organs of letting go. I am finding time this week to reflect on what I was able to accomplish this year and letting go of what's left. It is a time of resetting and putting things to rest.
"Grief, expressed out loud, whether in or out of character, unchoreographed and honest, for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.” - Martin Prectel
I have to admit, I was dragging my feet on sharing a monthly newsletter, which we have done monthly since we launched over a dozen years ago! It happens sometimes, writer's block sets in, and in my experience, I just have to push through it. To be honest to some degree, I have not felt much like sharing on social media at all since the pandemic started. Mostly, because everything feels so uncomfortable, unusual & unsettled during this time.
As we have talked about in previous articles, summer is represented by the Fire element which is our passion, joy, creativity and the quality of our relationships. This period of time of social distancing makes some of these aspects of summer challenging but we must keep these important qualities at the forefront during these fleeting months. For example, now is a great time to dig deeply into connecting or reconnecting with what brings you joy; to discover or rediscover some areas of life about which you are truly passionate.
We are reconciling what we have collectively witnessed with regards to racism and injustice in our society. We stand with our brothers & sisters of color in solidarity and will continue to educate ourselves and foster work that helps tear down the walls of inequality in our communities. Yoga is a gift to humanity that helps us dissolve ignorance and brings us closer to uncovering the fact that we all come from the same Divine source. We are all one race - the human race - and these horrific events have the potential to wake us up and bring us together in collective action.
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We are all feeling the pain of being apart right now, even though many of us are blessed with the ability to teach and participate in our classes online. It is a very different world and it looks like it has the potential to remain in this evolved state into the foreseeable future. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do not think we are going back to where we were. The yoga studio where I teach has already decided that we will be online at least through the end of August. It is certainly unsettling AND it is giving us an opportunity to change, to innovate, and to get out of a rut.
We are so lucky to have our yoga practice particularly during times of change. One of the ways we remain grounded is by adherence to the Yamas and Niyamas, one of which is Svadhyaya or self study but also includes the study of spiritual texts. I recently began re-reading the Bhagavad Gita during a particularly tumultuous time with my family. The first chapter of the book introduces us to the protagonist, Arjuna, who must go into battle with his family.
Finally, in February, we welcome the return of the light with Candlemas on Feb 1 - the midway point between the Winter Solstice & the Spring Equinox. You may have noticed an increase in energy as the days become lighter and lighter. Hopefully, you have spent some time in reflection and are starting to feel the call to begin to plant seeds to grow your vision for the New Year. And it's ok to move slowly, like the Groundhog, and return to your Winter's nest for a few more weeks.
We hope you survived the New Years Celebrations relatively unscathed? So what have you learned? Not just from the holidays but from the lessons of the past year. Wintertime, the essential time of annual hibernation, is upon us and despite how our LED-powered world removes the enforcement of winter rest, we really are better served to heed her call.
Happy Solstice! We approach the end of this year (and Decade!) and the shortest day of the year. We then begin our return to the light from now until the Summer Solstice. For now, we rest in the stillness that the dark nights bring. Now is the time to turn inward, to rest, recover and recuperate. We will be turning the lights down low through the end of the year to spend time with friends and family to restore ourselves from a challenging year. While we are resting, the elves in our download store will be working overtime to offer you all a gift for the end of the year! Now through the end of this decade, we offer you 20% off all classes in our store!
Can we finally begin to breathe a sigh of relief? July was unbearably hot. August invites a cooling down period or at least tells us there is an end in sight! We kept visions of cool ponds, pools, rivers and oceans everywhere we went. In southwestern Virginia, we were lucky to receive plenty of rain in the spring and early summer, but now everything is dry and hot!
Wow Friends! We are almost halfway through the year and there is so much to celebrate! The summer solstice is right around the corner and with it the peak growth and full blooms of all of our hard work this year. The first official day of summer is also the day that the United Nations chose to celebrate International Yoga Day! There are events happening globally. It is an opportune time to be with your community to celebrate the gifts of yoga and share those benefits with others.
As we discussed last month, Spring not only brings with it the ability to plan and organize, as the time of year of Liver/Gallbladder Energy. But now is the time to lighten the load on these organs by consuming more of the fresh green (and sour) foods that are in season. One of the best things about these foods being in season, is that they can also be foraged and free. As long as you have access to an organic wild meadow, you can find dandelion greens, chickweed and violets everywhere you look!
Happy Spring! This is always an exciting time of year. After a long winter's rest the spring flowers are beginning to bud and bloom. There is so much potential! Spring brings with it the energy of Wood in Traditional Chinese Medicine. We see this in the energy of the green shoots sprouting out of the ground. If used wisely, Liver energy is perfect for envisioning, planning and organizing. We till the ground and plant the seeds for the fruits that will come later in the year.
While we spent January in introspection and reflection, February brought a welcome lightness as we passed through the midway point from the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox. We also recognized the Lunar New Year and I found myself getting even more excited about the New Year and the possibility of things to come. It can be challenging to stay grounded in the present moment as we contemplate the potential of the coming spring.
Dear Friends, Last month, we emphasized staying centered and grounded within as we transition through the darkest time of year. We are on the other side of the winter solstice, but wintertime encourages us to remain reflective and drawn in, not to overextend ourselves as our energies are different at this time of year. Continue to take advantage of the shorter days and longer nights. Go to bed early and encourage deep rest during the remaining few weeks of winter.
Dear Friends, We hope you took advantage of our call to restart or reinvigorate your pranayama practice this Autumn. It is a subtle and yet profound cleansing process we can engage in. This season is the time to cleanse the lungs and large intestine. This is not the time to live it up and binge on food, drink and stimulation as many of us are encouraged to do during the holidays.
We are saddened to lose one of the world's most influential yoga teachers. Geeta Iyengar, the daughter of BKS Iyengar, passed away at 74, just after celebrating her father's 100th birth anniversary. Geeta has been a guru to many serious students of yoga; guiding us with her expertise in the practice of yoga for women. Her books Yoga a Gem for Women, Yoga for Motherhood as well as the Preliminary Course and the Intermediate Course are textbooks for students and teachers along with her father's collection of books. Geeta was the ultimate disciple, who was dedicated to her father and guru, BKS Iyengar, guided by the teachings of Yoga.
It has been a little while since you have received an email from us. If we are being totally honest, this past year was a particularly challenging one on a number of different levels, personal and professional. I remember reading and sharing about last year being the Year of the Fire Rooster, in Chinese Astrology. What I read, indicated that Rooster years are about doing the constant disciplined day to day work. I certainly found this to be true this last year. It was a year of keeping my nose to the ground, putting one foot in front of the other and doing the work. Have any of you found this to be true?
Even though it is almost 90 degrees where I live in central Virginia, we have now officially transitioned into early Fall. If you cannot yet feel it in the temperature, you can see it in the colors of everything around you. What was lush and green a few weeks ago has started to turn yellow. Aptly, this is the color of this time of year, the color of the stomach and spleen meridians, our digestive organs, the Earth Element.
Does this heat make it feel as if the summer could go on forever? As we start the month of August, we are entering into the late summer period, the fifth season, recognized in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. BUT before we get ahead of ourselves, I wanted to share some final insights from the end of the summer season. As we mentioned last month, the element associated with summer is fire, which shows up in the external environment, but internally as well.
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"In his search he discovers the three noble ways of word (jnana), work (karma), and worship (bhakti), which teach him that his inner light is the only guide leading to mastery over his own life.” - BKS Iyengar, Light on Pranayama
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"The Three Months of Fall are called the period of tranquility of one's conduct... The mysterious powers of Fall create dryness in Heaven and they create metal upon the Earth."At the end of October and for some of us not until November, we transitioned from the late summer energy of early Fall into the true Fall Energy of Metal or the quality most closely associated with the Ayurvedic element of Air. Air and Metal energies concern mental and spiritual activities, including the workings of the mind, the intellect and communication.
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Happy Autumn, Dear One!
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Are we finally on the downswing from the peak of a very firey and fiesty summer heat wave? As tensions and frustrations flair, we are truly called upon to utilize our yoga practice to cool us down. Two of the primary ways you choose to counterbalance the heat depend on your personal temperament. You can sit calmly and quietly, practicing slow deep breathing or pranayamas specific to cooling you down, like Sitali (sheet - ah - lee) pranayama or practice a quieting asana practice focused on forward bends and other cooling poses. The alternative is to get active, move and raise your internal heat .
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