New Classes Launching and Finding Progress in your Practice

In an absolute windfall of awesomeness, I have been picked up by another yoga studio, and have brand new classes at all three that I am working with!

On my home page, all details will be listed, but in short, I have the following in September:

Mondays at 10 am, Yoga Basics at Willow Glen Yoga

Tuesdays at 7 pm, Vinyasa for All at Downtown Yoga Shala

Wednesdays at 10:45, Full-Figured Yoga at Almaden Yoga (a 4 week series beginning 9/14)

Thursdays at 6:30 am, a refreshing dose of Vinyasa at Willow Glen Yoga

What luck, right?!?  I hope to see some (oh, heck, all of you!) there sometime.  If you have questions, please email me.

On to weightier matters, recently I read Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White, and honestly, I think it may be one of my most favorite reads ever, and definitely at the top of the list for yoga and mind/body books in general.  One of the many quotes in this work that I liked follows.

Advancing in yoga is more related to refining than to attaining.  If you want to know if you are advancing in yoga, ask yourself these questions: Am I gaining greater understanding of my body?  Am I learning how to heal myself?  Am I learning subtler and different ways of using the poses and how each asana affects the body to produce different results…Am I beginning to get some control of my own autonomic nervous system and some of the unconscious processes of the body?  Am I less rigid in my beliefs and less fixed in particular systems and structures?  Am I alive and awake in my practice, constantly questioning and willing to vacate my position–figuratively and actually?  Am I questioning, not only of others but of myself?  Is my mind becoming more open, compassionate, more peaceful?  (White, Ganga Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen your Practice Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2007)

One person may not feel all of these shifts all in one go, but you might get a taste of them.  Often, we focus so much on the “progress” of the asana, which, let’s face it–it’s a clear measurement, but we forget all the intangible benefits of yoga.

When I was a much, much, younger woman, I came out of a very bad relationship.  It was all the dysfunction, without any of the “fun” in it.  Having come out of a chaotic home life, into a relationship with a very unpredictable man for the formative years of my adulthood 5 of them!), I craved stability of any stripe.  The man and I separated, and consequently, I was easy pickings for a very strict religious sect in which I attempted to live “by the rules” for the next 5 years of my life.  Eventually, this led to a real disconnect for me that was absolutely shattering.  When I picked up the pieces again of my life, I made this my litmus test for religion and philosophy: does it make me kinder?  If it doesn’t make me a kinder person, it is not the place for me.

Look through that list above, and honestly, if you love yoga, read the whole book.  It isn’t a hard read at all.  But, is your practice making you kinder?  Is it making you more open?  Compassionate?  Self-aware?  Peaceful?  Are you coming to greater self-knowledge?  Are you sensitive to your flesh and subtle bodies?

It’s a great thing to burst through into a new asana.  It really is.  But, it isn’t the only measure of progress.  Drop a line in the comments to let me know how yoga has affected you.

The Thief

When I was a younger yoga practitioner, first starting out, I constantly measured my progress and what I thought I “should” do by looking at the people around me.  “Oh, that person has their head on the floor.  Why isn’t my head on the floor?  I should be able to do that.  I am younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.”  Or, “I’ll never be able to do that, because that person is younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.”  As a result, I was really missing out on the depths of the practice.  The last couple of years, I practiced Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga.  If you aren’t familiar with that, well, here’s how it works.  You go into the studio.  The instructor isn’t instructing the group as a whole, but working through the room, offering individual guidance and instruction to each student.  While there is a led version of the class where you are learning corporately, the Mysore practice is individual as opposed to led.  You learn the sequence from the teacher, and you start when you get there with whatever poses that you’ve been given by the teacher, from the series, while the teacher gives the benefit of instruction as needed.  For more on Mysore Ashtanga, visit this website.  Each person starts with a series of Surya Namaskar A & B, and then moves into the held asanas (poses). When you do see someone, they are rarely in the same pose as you, so there isn’t anything to compare against.  That really cuts the opportunity for chatter.  Also, you tend to practice with the same rough group most mornings, and then you know how hard everyone is working.  So, when your buddy manages to break through to something new, it is thrilling.  A victory for one is a victory for all of you.  Also, it becomes evident that everyone has a struggle.  Everyone.  Some folks can’t open their side bodies so well (in poses like triangle), or some struggle in headstand.  (Well, most struggle in headstand.  Although I was just in a vinyasa class where this one guy held it for minutes, and seemed like he could have stayed there all day).

You can’t predict how someone’s yoga practice is going to go by how they look.  People will surprise you every time.  You also can’t judge what you will be able to do by how you look.  If you continue the practice, you will surprise yourself with what you can do.

Yoga is about finding union between your body, mind and spirit.  Your body, mind and spirit.  The breath links it all together.  If you are looking over at someone else, thinking of your shortcomings, or theirs, or taking pride in doing something that someone else can’t do, you are robbing yourself of the benefits of yoga.

Recently, I was in a gentle yoga class with Kyczy Hawk, who is an amazingly knowledgable, intuitive teacher, with a sense of humor that makes me bark out loud with laughter.  She is funny and wise.  During class, she said, “Comparison is the stealer of joy.  Stop comparing and enjoy yourself.”  While that is something I do know, it’s always good to have a reminder, and it has stuck with me all week, so I think I must have needed to remember it.

Expanding that concept outward, where is comparison your Achilles’ Heel?  Do you compare your house, car, kids, job, talents against someone else?  Let me know in the comments if you plan on taking action somewhere in your life.  And today, when I look at my old red couch with all the smushed cushions, I won’t think of my friends who are impeccable housekeepers with showroom ready furniture.  Oops…I already did.  I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else.