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Journal Post

This weekend some of you may consider practicing 108 Sun Salutations to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox or to support the Global Mala Project, but have you ever stopped to think why it must be repeated 108 times? What's so significant about the number 108? Well...a lot of things!
108 is a sacred number found in many different religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, to name a few.  The malas we use when reciting mantra contain 108 beads, much like the Catholic rosary.  We practice 108 Sun Salutations at the Spring and Fall equinox to mark the changing of the seasons. The number 108 is all around us, all of the time.
No sooner than I heard the words "you already know" then I realized that becoming a yoga teacher would change my life forever. A light bulb immediately went off during my training and the sheer power of this statement resonated so deeply with me that I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When I am faced with the fluctuations of life, the anxieties of the unknown, and the temperance of ambitions, I stop to breathe and listen, and remind myself that "I already know."
Stepping on to your mat for the first time can be a daunting experience. The excitement of trying something new, moving your body in ways you've never imagined, and stretching your limits can be exhilarating, if not overwhelming. The same can be said for more practiced students, who with time and experience may feel ready to push beyond their limits, but end up feeling frustrated when they cannot "go beyond."  That being said, whether you're brand new or you've been practicing for many years now, following are a few tips to keep in mind whenever you come to your mat.
See only love-a very simple, yet powerful statement. It is easy to see love when we are peaceful and happy. When we are filled with joy, it is natural to open our hearts and express our love to the world.  Love can come very easily, but can also challenge us as well.
Often we fall prey to these challenges and allow ourselves to become angry, frustrated and confused by others.  Whether there's an angry caller on the line, a co-worker is not cooperating, or a loved one is placing blame, in instances like these, we must see only love.
Happiness is, and always will be, a beautiful and unique human desire.  Yogi Bhajan stated that it is "our birthright to be happy" and H.H. Dalai Lama has artfully taught us what it means to be happy.  With every breath we take, every intention we make, happiness is the source that drives us.
Happiness can be so many things and what might make one person happy, could absolutely bore the next. It can be as simple as smile or as complex as a long-standing completed project.  Just like life, happiness is what you make it. I say, you must participate in order to understand what true happiness really is.
I have no shame admitting that I tend to get a little carried away every now and then. Let's be honest, I wouldn't be the Capricious Yogi if I didn't!  In fact, with all the recent transition and activity swirling around me, it's a wonder that I'm not floating amongst the clouds for eternity. I've been up and down and all around. Without yoga and a grounding practice, I can only imagine how much more off kilter I'd be. Grounding. It's that feeling of stepping on my mat, finding my seat, connecting all four corners of my feet that ultimately rejuvenates me. It's the moments when I can take off my shoes and walk barefoot or feel the warm sand between my toes.
Our life is short, yet a real sense of time eludes us. It is more common to get hooked on the world of sensory pleasure than to live a spiritual life. E-bay, appointments and shopping consume the grasping mind. Television seems calmer than silence. Pain and loss are more addictive than gratitude and joy.
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.
This year's political season in the U.S. highlights some of the most monumental achievements and pitfalls of the past century and inspires a renewal of the dream of peace, hope and change. Yet in such an atmosphere we must also ask ourselves where the realization of such broad specturm dreams is to be found if these ideals are really to be more than just a dream after all is said and done. We know now that the ultimate resolution of the seemingly eternal problems of humanity is not to be found in a battle between nations fought with weapons of mass destruction, nor in a war of words among politicians, nor in the battle of the sexes. So where and to whom do we turn to answer the most difficult questions of our lives?
How you think, feel and act influences the kind of interactions you have in the world. While there might not always be an easy causal relationship between thought, action and experience, if you dig deep enough the connection is almost always evident. There is an ancient Zen parable that tells of a young monk-in-training who searches the world for a true master and a peaceful place, but finds only angry, unhappy people everywhere he goes. After roaming through many towns the young aspirant meets a Zen teacher in disguise who asks the traveler what he has experienced during his journey.
From Top Chef to Judge Judy's Courtroom Theater to the Tragedy of Tosca drama sells. At its best drama entertains, teaches and makes people laugh. At its worst it brings out division, hurtfulness and hatred. Yet human beings are somewhat enthralled with the ups and downs of their own emotions. You might even venture to say that we are addicted to them. It is all too easy to get dragged down into the habit pattern of the mind's sometimes sordid past when emotions flare and all too hard to choose the higher, more peaceful ground above. There is truth to the notion that our inner world is a kind of jungle in need of healing.
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.
Have you ever walked into a string of extremely unfortunate events? Imagine that your partner leaves you for a younger, prettier, wealthier, funnier version of yourself the moment you feel deeply insecure about your body. Then the government slams you with $4,000 of extra taxes to paid right after you quit your job. And in your yoga practice you injure your hamstring right after your shoulder finally started to get back into shape. There are often weeks, months or even years that may have you wondering what the Divine plan for your life is really all about anyway.
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.
It's easy to seem peaceful in the quiet cave of your own mind. It's much harder to face the test of integrating your learning with your life. No matter how peacefully you might leave your daily meditation or yoga practice, there is nothing like a seemingly callous or thoughtless comment from a friend to trigger the stickiest habitual patterns.
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.
Have you every noticed how noisy we all are? In the last twenty years, we have invented and now need iPods, iPhones, CDs, portable DVD players, louder motorcycles, super jet engines, walkie-talkies, reality TV shows, music videos and Starbucks.
Silence is like a dirty word in the modern vocabulary. When you sit with another person there is an almost irresistible urge to speak. Sometimes you converse about important subjects and sometimes you just talk. This meaningless, friendly chit-chat about light-hearted matters is a kind of social sport. Imagine the awkwardness of a first date where you sit together without this lively banter--a boring disaster.
If you're looking for a sense of ease, grace and effortlessness in your practice, the key lies in finding a sense of spaciousness in your mind. There is a way to practice and to be with your body to create the kind of neurological and structural foundations for a complete sense of openness. There is a way to literally get more flexible without collapsing the core stabilizing patterns of the body. In this way you may learn to practice all types of yoga with an inner awareness that has relaxation as its basis.
Confrontation is a grey zone on the spiritual path. Should you fight your way out of a defeatist victim-mentality? Or should you take a few breathes to ventilate your hostility before taking your inner rage out on your fellow freeway drivers? When is it appropriate to stick up for yourself & when is it time to quietly wait out the storm?
Emotional vulnerability seems to snowball at all the most inappropriate moments. When you're feeling down the most insignificant comment can send you deeper into the darkness. On days when you feel torn open by life, your heart is raw, exposed, and injured. In this space everything hurts. Is it just chance and coincidence that dishes up misery for no reason or is there some hidden cosmic force that answers to a pecking order higher than your melancholic feelings?
When we begin practicing yoga the deepest part of our consciousness asks for clarity, awakening and truth. What is sometimes the first step in taking positive steps towards the peace that we all yearn for is a recognition of exactly how deeply we are entrenched within our ways of warfare. Yoga for example can sometimes be riddled with fierce competition. You might find yourself competing with a new yoga practitioner in your daily class who is naturally very flexible. Or you might find yourself competing with yourself and comparing your body in a negative light with the way it was last year, last week or yesterday. Yet still you might be competing with your friends and peers.
There is a point in every marathon where no runner quits and there is another point where the majority drop out. The quitting point is painstakingly close to the finish line and, when measured in terms of percentage points, sits at approximately the last five percent of the race. The drop outs' hurdle is the last stretch of the race where the end remains hidden from view. It is here where athletes have been working for a long time that all the major mental and physical obstacles set in. Doubt, anxiety, disbelief, exhaustion, dehydration, hunger, the feeling of no end in sight and physiological stress compromise rational thought and convince many to throw in the towel.
Do you ever find yourself holding on so tightly to a desired outcome that you are a filled with anxiety, tension or blind ambition? Have you ever wanted to do a yoga posture so badly so that you are literally obsessing about it and can talk of almost nothing else? This is perhaps the definition of unhealthy attachment at its core. Yet at the same time the driven mind directed at a task at hand is one of the most powerful tools we have to change our lives. So the question then becomes not how to rid ourselves of our desires or our drive but instead how to train our mind to work towards our desires without the unnecessary tension of attachment.
I meet lots of yoga students who want to practice more often but just can't find the time. When I ask if they practice at home the answer is almost always, "No." Starting a home practice isn't really as daunting as you might think. One of the most important benefits is that you can do it when it fits your schedule. Below are some thoughts for how to get started.
While in Mysore last year, Evan and I had the great pleasure of attending this event at the gates of the Mysore Palace. This year, tapas yoga shala will particiapte as one of 114 events in 34 countries worldwide. Here's just a bit of info on this spectacular organization:
* Odanadi Seva Trust is a pioneering anti-trafficking organization based in Mysore, South India, working for the rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of t...rafficked women and children.
* Today Odanadi runs two residential rehabilitation centres in Mysore, housing up to 85 women and young people at any one time.
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.
Many of us have made new year's resolutions regarding personal qualities that we would like to cultivate in the year ahead.  We can relate this practice of intention-setting to the yogic concept of svadhyaya, often translated as self-study.   Honest, intimate self-reflection is seen as integral to almost any spiritual path.  But yoga asks: can we engage in this process without taking ourselves too seriously?
In these last few days it has felt as though spring is just around the corner.  The snow that has been lingering for several weeks is starting to melt, exposing fertile soils to the encouraging sun.  Because it has been a gradual warming rather than a sudden rise in temperature, the streams and rivers are not strained beyond their capacity, and flooding has been kept to a minimum.
The days are steadily growing longer and warmer, and the      nights are gradually losing their chill.  Coming out of a long,  cold winter, many of us are finding our energy levels rising  and our calendars growing busier.  It seems that every week  there is a different festival or other opportunity to get outside  and enjoy the spring breezes and birdsong.  There are so  many exciting events and projects happening that it can be a  challenge to find enough energy for it all.
The February issue of Yoga Journal includes an article by John Schumacher.
Regular readers of the magazine look forward to the monthly Home Practice feature for fully illustrated sequences of ten poses. This month's sequence is designed to build the strength and flexibility needed for arm balances, such as Bakasana (Crane Pose). Each pose is photographed, with John's precise descriptions guiding readers through the work in each asana.
A couple of newsletters back I wrote about how the Unity Woods logo came into being and what my thinking was in creating it, and the significance of the various components. As there wasn't space then to talk about the three words that appear at the points of the triangle, I said I would do so in subsequent newsletters. In the last newsletter, I discussed the relevance of the first of the three words: health. Now we come to the second: serenity.
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."
Join Kate Hallahan, E-RYT for a lecture on yoga for women's health. Issues such as depression, anxiety, PMS, menstrual discomfort, and menopause will be addressed. This lecture is directed towards yoga teachers, or for yoga students with their own home practice. [audio:http://www.ihanuman.com/media/audio/kate_hallahan/Kate_Womens_Yoga_Lecture.mp3]
Paying attention to alignment in your yoga postures can be confusing.  Lift this, drop that; lengthen here, shorten there; soften one side and strengthen the other one.  And, in the meantime: don't forget to breathe. For many students, looking more closely at alignment can be intimidating. Alleviate that stress by breaking the postures up into sets with alignment points in common.   For example, in standing postures, we can say that we are either focusing on squaring the hips or on opening them.  Although this is somewhat of an oversimplification, it can help students that are newer to alignment principles get a handle on where to start.
"Sharon
"Love with our whole hearts, even if there is no guarantee."  - Brené Brown.
  ,"If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher."
Sometimes the hardest part is just showing up.
At the end of many of my yoga classes, I remind my students to bow their head in honor of themselves for the, sometimes, Herculean effort of just showing up to class. It's so easy to get derailed. You know, we all have those "best laid plans."
Back in my office monkey life I remember dreading late afternoon phone calls because they were usually about last-minute-have-to-be-done-first-thing-tomorrow projects. And of course our servers only ever crashed at 6pm. On Friday. These days, I'm amazed that I get myself and my toddler out of the house at all, much less on time.
Last week, Southern Baptist Minister Albert Mohler made headlines when he charged that yoga is incompatible with the Christian faith.  At first my reaction was, perhaps, predictably cynical.  Being from the South, I'm not surprised that a literalist view of the Bible would preclude the teachings of yoga.
After reading his full essay, I think there's definitely food for thought for anyone practicing yoga and especially for anyone teaching yoga. The question is:  do you know what you're doing and why you're doing it when you step onto your mat?
 

28 Day Meditation Challenge
Anyone up for joining me for a challenge?   How about a month-long meditation challenge?  I'll go easy on you, we'll pick the shortest month of the year.
There is an aspect of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga practice called tristana. Like "yoga" it is both a practice and the state achieved through the repetition of that practice. I'm hoping to get up a few blogs that will look at tristanafrom a few viewpoints, all of which have emerged organically from practice and teaching. First of all, though, let's lay the groundwork with some definitions and background.
Sunday, February 3, 11 am-1 pm
On World Yoga Day, yoga teachers and schools around the world will donate their time and space to a two hour yoga session devoted to human rights in China through Amnesty International. Georgetown Yoga is proud to support this cause - we will be offering a 2-hour led Ashtanga Primary Series class (minimum donation $5). This extended length Ashtanga practice allows for more detailed instruction. An excellent class for those students looking to transition from our Beginning Ashtanga drop-in classes to our Ashtanga Primary Series classes! No sign up is necessary, all you have to do is show up. Space is limited so come early - doors open at 10:30am.
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga has an obvious, linear progression. As you master a posture, you add another posture. The difficulty of postures steadily increases, as does the challenge to your endurance. Adding postures, making the practice longer and smoother, being able to accomplish more and more difficult postures: these are all signs of progress.  
Question: Enlightenment, or being at one with the universal mind, must be very different than the concept of omniscience, or knowing everything about everything. Could you elaborate on the distinction? Or do you believe that one who is enlightened would also be omniscient?
Mondays: 7:30-8:30
Big Vanilla All levels A nice and gentle wake up practice
Tuesdays:
Hi all!
We had a beautiful class Saturday. Fine yogis moving in and out of 'one legged dogs', working against the wall and some even kicking up towards handstand- it was a wonderful experience. It took lot's of courage and strength and was very inspiring!
The weather, being particularly unstable, warm then cold, steady then windy and still dark, is a sure sign that change is all around. When we practice handstands we mimic that change. And when we pay attention to our practice we see how we are affected by change. Do you welcome the opportunity with creative vision or do you dig in and try and remain stable and steady. Just good information to have.
My journey of yoga is one of Gratitude; for the insights, healing, blessings, and the complete transformation of my life. I cherish every moment, every breath, all the experiences it has taken to get here.
I found my first yoga class at a church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where yoga was anything but mainstream. I was unhealthy, worked in a casino, smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day, ate a terrible diet and wore a hard brace on my neck due to an accident. Yoga was a last resort. I was willing to try anything to get out of the pain - even yoga. If I also found flexibility and stress relief, I would take it but I was skeptical. BUT, I wasn't turning off my pager or my phone! The teacher smiled and handed me a yoga mat.
Of all the virtues involved in the science of yoga, there is none higher than ahimsa. Ahimsa is the golden thread that runs through all Yoga practice and is the foundation on which all Yogis build the Divine life. Practice of Ahimsa develops pure, unconditional and universal love. The one message of all saints and sages is the message of love. Ahimsa is the highest of all traits found in the mind, speech and actions of all perfected souls. There is only one religion—the religion of love, of peace. There is only one message—the message of unconditional and universal love. Ahimsa is the supreme duty of a Yogi. If you are established in Ahimsa, you have attained all virtues. All virtues spring forth from Ahimsa.
All branches of yoga are in essence very similar. They are each suited for various temperaments. Their goal is the same, Self-realization. The inner silence of God communion is the goal of all the various paths. When identity with God is achieved, all distinctions cease. The Forms of Yoga

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