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Journal Post

When I first began teaching yoga in 1981, yoga wasn't exactly entrenched in the mainstream as it is now. I had been meditating for four years and doing asana out of a book daily. There was never a thought about becoming a yoga teacher, as I had four children, ages 7-14, and it was all I could do to stay afloat and meet my commitments as an Air Force wife and mother. My daily meditation practice helped more than anything else to keep me on a fairly even keel during those challenging days.
As we see and feel the changes that take place in our body/mind from coming to yoga class each week, there's often a gradual stirring to begin to practice on our own. Our yoga evolves beyond a class we look forward to once or twice a week, and into a regular home practice in which the benefits of our yoga only multiply. It's actually in a home practice that we discover the nuances of the Principles of Alignment, and begin to feel what we need more or less of. Both I and my fellow teachers are very often asked: how might I go about developing a well-rounded practice that fits into my already busy life?
As the yoga boom continues to grow and new studios pop up everywhere, the question arises of how to offer classes in order to appeal to both new and experienced students. Yoga studios usually choose one of two options for class registration. One option is class cards, where the student pays for a specific number of classes over a certain time period. This is often seen as most convenient for the student, as they can go to any class on the schedule without committing to any specific class.
I write this from the vantage point of 37,000 feet above our earth, looking both up at the bluest of blue skies and down at cloud patterns of marshmallow fluff, and am seized with a sense of gratitude for the supreme beauty of our planet, and all that is in my life since I embarked on a spiritual path over 30 years ago.
When and how can you get your students to commit to one practice- and should you even try?
Walk down the street and witness the shapes and sizes of pedestrians, the colors and makes of passing cars, and the dazzling array of merchandise in shop windows. Abundance bombards us from every angle.
This smorgasbord of options also seeps into yoga. Ashtanga, Anusara, Bikram, Iyengar, Sivananda - the list goes on.
At a certain point you need to make some important decisions. Just as you determined whether of not you would be a vegetarian, how you would earn a living, or in what neighborhood you'd live, must you also settle on one style of yoga?
A yoga posture demonstrated by a master level practitioner is often the epitome of grace and ease. Yet when the novice student attempts to mirror these same movements the degree of difficulty is immediately evident. The real test of a yoga practitioner comes when the path ahead is laid out clearly and the student choose whether to commits to each step of the journey regardless of difficulty.
If you believe everything you read online, hear on the radio or see on TV, then you're probably convinced that we really are headed straight down the proverbial toilet bowl. But think again. Nothing you read, hear or see is absolutely true. News, although an attempt an objectivity, is nevertheless an account given by a person, just as history is a story told by the survivors. Many pioneering thinkers and coaches suggest taking a "news fast" for a week to ten days as part of a mental detoxification program.
The spark of interest in yoga often ignites an inner obsession that infiltrates every aspect of your life. At first yoga is life and you cannot get enough of it. Yoga reconnects you to long forgotten inner realms and you somehow fall in love with yoga. Yet if your yoga practice evolves into a daily, lifelong relationship it is almost inevitable that at some moment you will get bored with it. The insatiable hunger for as much yoga as possible will shift and change to a space where you will be absolutely full of it. This period of lackluster levels of initiative often comes ironically as a result of your full immersion in the yoga world.
Yoga inspires us, moves us beyond our normal boundaries, and asks us to dedicate ourselves in new ways. Even if you are just beginning your yoga experience, you already know the unmistakable peace left in your body after an amazing session. If you are lucky enough to have a regular yoga practice already, then you have committed yourself on at least some level to the path of personal discovery.
In every yoga class, you renew your commitment to be present with ourselves. When you choose to create the time and space to practice yoga, you powerfully create the life that you want. Each breathe reaffirms your unwavering dedication to your own evolution.
For many of us, summer is a time that brings back pleasant memories of the carefree days of our youth.  These were the times before we had to take responsibility for attending to the details, such as paying the bills on time, that keep the utilities turned on and life flowing smoothly.
NAMASTE,
It's such a cliché to remark on the speedy passage of time. Nonetheless, I have to trot out the "how time flies" line to comment on the arrival this year of Unity Woods' 30th anniversary. To tell you the truth, things are tumbling by so fast and there so much going on that I might have missed noticing it altogether had I not been prompted by the ubiquitous accolades to local (and national) media star, Diane Rehm, on her 30th anniversary. That's when I said to myself, "Hey, Unity Woods has been around for 30 years, too."
Many of us complain about how hard it is to start doing daily meditation or yoga, or to quit smoking or lying or biting our nails or masturbating or any number of things connected to "turning over a new leaf." We may make solemn resolutions, but within a short time we often find everything is back to the way it was. Then we gradually become cynical and conclude that we may as well give up; that "we'll never change."
Vow practice is more formal than making verbal resolutions. Most of us at Human Kindness Foundation work with vow practice and we have found it extremely helpful for making real and lasting changes.
Transcribed & edited from a talk given by Bo Lozoff in Costa Mesa CA, in March, 2006
In September I read a seminal book that I found transforming: Waking the Global Heart by Anodea Judith. I could hardly put it down! It spoke to me at a deep spiritual level and validated many ideas that I've been contemplating. We've chosen it for discussion at our next book club meeting on February 12 and I will be presenting a short overview of the book. If this resonates with you, please join us!
We are in challenging times with the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression, 2 wars, international terrorism, and global climate change. People are worried about their finances, keeping their jobs and homes, and the bleaker future that may face their children and grandchildren. Research has shown that stress is a major risk factor in just about every disease and physical condition. One of the most intelligent choices you can make in these stressful times is to invest in your most precious resource: your health and well-being. Making that investment through yoga benefits all aspects of your being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
I recently attended the Anusara Certified Teachers Gathering in Denver, CO. A group of 150 certified teachers came together for 5 days of inspiring practices led by Anusara founder John Friend and transformational presentations by Paul Muller, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Tantric philosophy. One of the major emphases in Anusara is to take our yoga off the mat and into the world, so that we are living our philosophy that we are all part of One Big Spirit. To that end, John invited the Karma Krew to come to our gathering. Karma Krew is a yoga-inspired non-profit organization created by two like-hearted yoga teachers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Most students report that they come to yoga because of strees; and certainly yoga can bring relief. However, yoga offers many more benefits in addition to relaxation, such as flexibility, strength, increased circulation to organs and glands (often resulting in enhanced health), better sleep, improved digestion, and a quieter and more centered mind. Over several years, this practice can add up to the true essence of yoga: living life with a joyful spirit and a peaceful mind in a relaxed and healthy body. Although these benefits are tremendous (and I have found as I get older they are truly priceless!), they cannot occur if students don't come to class.
Believe me, I get it - what we hear about the dreadful price that yoga has paid for coming West. The apparent absence of its spiritual element in classes, teacher certifications that take a weekend to procure, peculiar fusions with fill-in-the-blank-fad-exercise regimens, yoga pose competitions, overemphasis on the physical elements of the practice, the ubiquitous growth of yoga accessories, yada yada yada. Yoga Incorporated. I get it, I promise.
Credit: Lululemon Athletica Love is in the air this month. And if it's not, we need to ask ourselves, 'Why not?" There have been many a February in my life where I did not have a significant other and often felt lacking and inferior in the days leading up to Valentine's Day. What I discovered is that sense of lack was usually due to missing self love. I had not learned to love myself, so how could I expect to someone else to love me?
I had so much fun with my 30 days of gratitude that I am commencing on another project, 90 days of yoga!�Â�  2011 marks the tenth year of my serious studies as a yoga student. And I will take back the seat of the teacher in the Spring of 2011! I finished my teacher training in 2004 and immediately began teaching. It was something I absolutely loved! But then we started iHanuman which took up a tremendous amount of time and energy and I could feel my energy for teaching begin to wane. I also had some personal healing to attend to.
Two weeks of gratitude and how do I feel? In a word, Grateful. It has had a profound impact on my overall state of mind. It is like when you go to your mat on those weeks where it feels like going to your mat is the only thing going well. You are just so thankful for your practice or the respite from a busy day. My morning page commitment has been like this. It puts me in a good mood immediately because I know I am eventually going to be grateful. I have also been able to use this practice to help some of my friends who are having a difficult day. I recommend focusing on what is good and precious in their lives instead of the impermanent situation in which they have found themselves.
Last night I listened to an interview and meditation with Susan Piver. And it made me grateful for people who are walking a peaceful path. This is not necessarily the path of least resistance, but a commitment to listen to your own truth while being compassionate to another's. In Buddhism, All Life Is Suffering. But I have been working with one of the Yoga Sutras that was introduced to me by Judith Lasater and was repeated this past weekend in John Schumacher's workshop.
The second day of Judith's workshop was equally as informative as the first. The sutra study for the workshop was from Pada II v.16, "Heyam dukham anagatam" or "The suffering that is to come is to be avoided." It is a fascinating concept because everything we do in life is to put our anxiety at rest. We constantly try to control our circumstances to appease our anxiety and avoid suffering.
A Guru is a person whose very presence imparts truth and awakening in the disciple. When I traveled to Mysore for the first time at the age of 22 I asked Sri K. Pattabhi Jois where I could find the illusive state of inner peace that all yoga practice seeks to instill. Known as Guruji to his students, he said "You take it practice many years, then Shantih is coming... no problem" and my heart opened to the grace of his teaching. It is my great fortune to consider this amazing man my teacher and I attribute the depth of my personal practice and teaching to the light that Guruji's fire ignited within me.
My thanks to our conference co-coordinators and my dear friends, Patricia Walden and Linda DiCarlo, for their tireless efforts and their deep devotion that made this conference possible. Thanks also to all you workers and volunteers, in front of and behind the scenes for your invaluable and essential assistance. And, of course, thanks to all of you attendees for being here. Without you there wouldn't be any conference.
Spring DahliaSpring is on the way! Breathing deeply feels like the right thing to do. Continuing to stay centered from the internal reflection of winter and beginning to feel the expansion of spring as the days stay lighter longer and the sun feels a little bit warmer each day. Spring is a great time to cleanse the body with natural herbs, teas and water and a great time to renew your commitment to your regular daily practice.
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918. From the Iyengar Association fo the United States:
You are invited to join the Iyengar Community in the United States in our grandest, most glorious celebration ever! A MALA FOR THE GURU
This Mala, or garland, is our offering
of love and affection, respect and memory
in honor of the 90th Birthday
of Sri B.K.S. Iyengar, our beloved Guruji.
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