Finding Savasana in Daily Life Written by: Heather Ivany

Finding Savasana in Daily Life

Written by: Heather Ivany

Each time we roll out the mat and move our bodies the sublime understanding is that our mat is like a mirror. How we perform on the mat is how we perform in life. If we are hard on ourself in poses chances are we have high expectations of others and of ourself in life. If we want to take strides in a certain direction, it starts with the behavior we lay out on the mat and hopefully spills into our behavior off the mat. This is why yoga is referred to as a ‘practice’. It is meant to be a preparation for our real life experience.

When we experience yoga in the form of asana (postures) the layout reads like written paragraph and has three separate phases. First there is the opening (breath work and warm-up) the body is next (sequence and asana) and the third is the conclusion (savasana). The incorporation of all three phases often is what gives us the euphoria we experience upon completion of our yoga practice.

So if our practice is meant to spill into our daily living why is our euphoria a fleeting affair rather than an oasis we have throughout our day? The obvious answer may be that real life includes much more than just our individual self and there are many more balls being juggled than the steps to triangle pose. This is a very valuable response. Yet perhaps there is also deeper underlying layer that we continuously overlook in our busyness of daily life. If we were to examine our daily activities we may see that we take less time in our introduction, we focus primarily on the body, and almost always eliminate savasana, the conclusion and most important part.

Take for example a scheduled meeting. If we arrive 5-10 minutes late we’re frazzled. We lack the time to set up how we would like, to pause and think about what needs to be discussed and to simply adjust to the space we have walked into. However we do manage to ‘pull it off’ and cover the topics needed and have a general sense of accomplishment. This is the body. The meeting finishes and often one of two things happens next. We either are so tightly scheduled that we rush off to the next appointment or we convince ourself that we can squeeze one final little task in before we need to be somewhere else. There is no reflection…no savasana.

What this creates is a constant snowball of either the mind, body or spirit trying to play ‘catch up’ with the rest of the body. The end result is that we lack presence and awareness. If this sounds familiar and perhaps a cyclical tendency that you would like to adjust, perhaps begin by taking your yoga practice off the mat. In other words, spend time completing each paragraph that makes up the different chapters of your book of life.

Here are 3 Steps to Find Savasana in Daily Life:

1. Introduction: Breath deep. Absorb your surroundings and attune to your space. When making a meal gather the needed ingredients, set the oven temperature, and pull out the pots and pans.

2. Body: Be present for the body of your task. This is your center. If you are driving watch the road, if it is a meeting look people in the eye and actually listen. If it is a meal soak up the flavors and aromas and take the time to set the table and gather your loved ones to eat. Most importantly do not squeeze another task in! Leave time in your activity so that you can…

3. Take savasana. Reflect for a moment or two on what you just did. Was it rewarding?, Were your needs met? Was your relationship fulfilling, etc. It may mean sitting in your car for a few minutes before turning on the engine and driving off. It could be hugging someone you love and watching them walk away. Savoring your meal by actually tasting your food.

It seems small and simple but it contains the potential to bring purity (or Saucha) into the everyday and at the end of it all isn’t that why we love our yoga?

Magic Written by: Sam Lloyd

Magic

Written by: Sam Lloyd

 

I am paraphrasing Prashant: when you get too caught up in the technique of the pose, you can miss what the pose has to tell you.

Prashant is the son of BKS Iyengar. He and his sister, Geeta, were brought into the duty of teaching Iyengar Yoga. The third generation is being groomed – namely through granddaughter Abhijata.

Prashant is the theorist. Geeta the technician. And Abby is finding her way.

Geeta gets you into poses more deeply than you knew you could. Prashant wants you to find where the pose takes you, not where you take the pose. At least that’s my interpretation of the teaching this time.

That being said- it’s still not the free form-do what feels good-rainbow and puppies yoga that can give the illusion of changing the world. This is traditional yoga that expects you to change yourself.  Or at least to take responsibility for your self and your actions. Blaming the ‘universe’, or the situation is not an option here. “Is it not your duty to find out…” Geeta

I’m finding out a lot of things here…

That depression is sometimes necessary to create the desire/environment to do what’s necessary to take the steps to finally change the things that are stopping you from…

That empathy, compassion and sympathy are different and although the situation may be the same, where I’m at in the moment determines my response.

That every time I come here there’s a different button that gets pushed. Which is not a big deal in itself. Even buttonless people get pushed in India. It’s the place for it and why it’s so powerful spiritually. It’s certainly not because it’s clean, quiet and organized the way we think things should be when we’re doing deep inner work.

That when a button gets pushed, I become righteous. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on releasing. In the sense that self-righteousness makes me right and the other person/ situation wrong. Period. Full stop.

Righteous is like getting caught up in the technique of the pose. It doesn’t allow me to learn anything. I can miss the point, the magic, or as Cynthia would say, the essence of what that particular situation has to teach me.

And although I’ve come here for the third time to fulfill a requirement for teaching Iyengar Yoga – to learn more about it, the one thing that’s the same on this trip to India is that I’m learning more about myself than any of the poses.

I can learn how to do a better pose, but if in that I learn nothing about myself, I’ve missed something. That if I get too caught up in the technique of my life, I can miss the magic in the moment.

Balancing Tension and Relaxation Written by: Heather Ivany

Balancing Tension and Relaxation

Written by: Heather Ivany

 

 

The season of fall offers an invitation for us to balance the polarities between tension and relaxation. When leaves begin to turn, gardens are harvested and temperatures begin to drop we are reminded on a daily basis that nothing is permanent, everything is fleeting. For some we lean into the seasonal wave and passionately thrive off change. The unknown brings us inspiration as the next corner is potent with opportunity waiting to be explored. For others we resist the seasonal shift and cling to summer like the last leaf on a bare tree. Change creates friction. It is a reminder of things lost, moments ended and time that we can never get back.

The practice of yoga offers an alternative to leaning way out on the pendulum of rigidity or chaos and alternatively supports the steady current. In a more expanded view, yoga asana occurs not just on the yoga mat or meditation cushion, but is the foundation from which we act in daily life. So how does a physical posture lead to a change in mindset? Let us explore the quote from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “Sthira sukham asanam- the posture is steady and comfortable.

Sthira speaks not only of challenge, strength, endurance and fortitude but also vigilance, the ability to be pay attention, to be present. It is the opposite of agitation and refers to both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind. Sukha translates as pleasurable, joyful, agreeable, easy, comfortable, happy, prosperous, relaxed. Here we bring in the principles non-violence and self acceptance. We nurture ourselves by doing something that feels good. The actual translation of asana is seat or camp, and can refer to a way of sitting, a hatha yoga posture, a place or a situation.

As a teacher of yoga I witness many postures either being over amplified or under supported. Those who are over achievers and ‘type A’ personalities require a cueing to soften the tension, release the striving and look for how they can create space and expansion within their bodies. Those who enter into a posture half heartedly or lacking energy need reminders to stay present and focused. To contain through their centre core and befriend the contracting muscular energy. When the opposition is played out in a present, mindful and conscious body it will begin to layer deeply on a cellular level. In other words we begin to reprogram our habitual thought patterns. Overtime our physical commitment to not serving the ego will begin to affect our emotions and mindset.

An individual who is a ‘type A’ can often times ‘perform’ asanas to the point where the facial expressions are showing signs of discomfort and the body is shaking because it is taken too extremely to it’s edge. When this person begins to back off a little it creates physical space as well as mental space to ask themselves “am I happy in this posture?” This may lead to further exploration of whether or not they are able to have fun and be spontaneous in regular life. Once the door of expansion is opened the lens in which they see themselves begins to change. Overtime the rigidity and tension is no longer sought out. Instead they begin to seek ‘the steady and comfortable space.’

An individual who lacks motivation can often times be fidgety, apathetic and bored. The challenge here is to seek challenge. Look for ways to physically recruit muscular energy to the point that focus and presence is a must. Containment will most likely lead to irritability and rebellion initially. Yet that discomfort if sustained may lead to questions such as “why do I always want to leave?” “What is it that I don’t want to look at?” Physical commitment is the practice but leads to the potential by-product of emotional and relationship commitment. These people may find their “steady and comfortable space.’

Yoga does not impose form upon us, but allows us to discover our Self through form. In life, asana firmly settles us because of these two complementary qualities: firmness in directing our actions and softness in expressing them.

Heather Ivany

Authentic Living in a Life of Service written by: Lindsey Park

Authentic Living in a Life of Service

written by: Lindsey Park

 

 

 

Travelling and spending 3 months on my own induced a contemplation of my life, my vision, my goals, and my purpose. With inquisition, curiosity, and willingness I enter into a more true and honest phase of this living experience and ask myself the difficult yet important questions. Am I on the right path? Was this journey truly a time for world and self-exploration or was I running away from something? What is my next step in life? Or do I even take a step at all? With all of these questions, and the witnessing of the amazing and sometimes devastating stories of the world, the truth began to quickly boil over, spilling out over the boundaries of my physical form and into the surrounding universe.

And what I discovered is this.

The words Satya Seva are incredibly powerful when paired together, and emit such an extreme amount of potency that when initially realized I was unsure if I could fully represent their meaning. But then I thought, isn’t this what life is all about anyway? Being authentic and true to who we are while being of service to the people and the world around us? I believe that this is simply the baseline of being a human who chooses to live with reverence and grace, such honorable qualities that we should all strive to embody. And how does this apply to my life?

In truth, I’m not your typical modern day yoga teacher, I don’t have instagram, and my use of social media is minimal at best. I don’t feel compelled to take pose-y yoga pictures in cool locations around the world, and can’t help but feel ego-led when posting anything about my life on Facebook. But I have invited onto my path this responsibility to pass on the teachings, that I have spent the last 12 years of my life studying, in aspiration of helping others to live to their highest potential. I have also discovered that I love to write, and my hopes is that I continue to inspire myself with my words so I can extend my heart and my message beyond the buttons of my keyboard. With these two outlets I envision a new aspect in which I can offer my services and fulfill my dharma. But is there something even more expansive?

Before I left Canada, I heard a really loud voice demanding me to pay attention, but in the midst of travel plans and other commitments, I ignored it. Once abroad, I vehemently met face to face with what my intuition was trying to inform me of previously, and it became pretty clear that I needed to shift my focus to something of a broader scale. Blinded slightly by the confines of my little yoga world inside Edmonton, I didn’t realize how the teachings are so needed in other corners of the globe. While away I had the opportunity to become involved with some organizations that would really benefit from a yoga program, and I aspire to expand my offerings outside the walls of central Alberta to give back hope to those who have lost it.

Beside this grand dream of spreading the teachings of yoga throughout the world, I am also happy to be home and am humbled by the warm welcome I received from everyone in the yoga community. I am back teaching full time at a few studios around the city, and am working on some future offerings that are totally new and different then anything I have ever done before. Even though I miss travelling and often wish I could leave again tomorrow, it is strikingly apparent that this life is just one big amazing trip!

With immense gratitude and love,

Lindsey

This Moment is all You Have: Written by: Alice Hong 

This Moment is all You Have:

Written by: Alice Hong 

“This Fall is flying by! Where has this year gone?” ~90% of the population

Ok, I made that quote and statistic up. However, have you noticed yourself or others saying, “Wow, time is flying by! Or “it’s already November?”

Our concept of time is fascinating. Sometimes, it seems to fly by, and at others, drag on. At times we wish for time to stand still, and at others, count down the moments for something to end (plank pose, for me!). This is what happens when we live in the past or the future.

Time appears to be moving at a faster pace because we’re running backward into the past and forwards into the future, hundreds of thousands of times a day. Exhausting!

By cultivating a deeper capacity to be present, your concept of time can start to dissolve into one that has less grip on your being. You’ve experienced this before; Remember when you were a kid playing outside and totally lost track of time? Or when you see something astonishingly beautiful in nature? Or in savasana? Once in awhile, a moment feels timeless…because it is.

In these timeless moments, we get so absorbed into Presence that the busy time travelling faculty of the mind, the part that’s keeping track of everything, comes to stillness and rests in the here and now.

The present moment is eternal.

Check it out: Take a breath…Right now you are in this moment…breathe…and now, here is another moment…. breathe…and this moment….and this one…all you ever have is the moment. Past and future don’t really exist, they are only perceived memories and projections. Only the present moment exists, and the moment ceases to end. As Eckhart Tolles says:

“When you say “yes” to the “isness” of life, when you accept this moment as it is, you can feel a sense of spaciousness within you that is deeply peaceful.

Inspiration Where Does it Come From? Written by Alice Hong

Inspiration Where Does it Come From?

Written by Alice Hong

We’ve all had moments of feeling inspired. Some of us feel it when travelling to new lands, others in creating a beautiful meal or seeing a masterful piece of art. It can be the “aha!” moment of solving a tough problem, or finally “getting” an arm balance we’ve found challenging for a long time. The majesty of the mountains the clarity of the lake may take our breath away. We may meet someone who shares a story of overcoming great hardship who awakens a heartfelt emotion within ourselves. At one time or another, we’ve all experienced this joie de vivre, this essence of feeling awake, alive and motivated.

Yet it is natural in our lives to have both moments of inspiration and struggle. At times we feel lit up, and other times we’re banging our heads against a wall. One of the areas I see this in my own life is in my profession of teaching yoga. Some people think that being a yoga teacher means living a life that is always joyful and easy. However, I can attest that this is not always the case. There are times when it takes everything in me to get up in front of a room and I stumble over my words. At other times it feels effortless, words are spoken through me rather than from me and I am present, compassionate and loving. Even in my own practice, I have moments of feeling embodied and my whole being is at ease. Other times, I’m fighting against myself, easily distracted and disconnected.

What is the difference between the two situations? Why is it that sometimes we feel enlivened and in the flow, and other times, frustrated or apathetic? It doesn’t seem that inspiration can be manufactured or purchased and we certainly can’t make it happen when we want it to. In fact, the more we “try” to be inspired, the more frustrating a task can feel. So where does inspiration come from and how can we as yogis invite more of this life-giving spark of energy into our lives?

1.2 Yogas citta vritti nirodaha: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations and modifications of the mind.

1.3 Tada drastu svarupe vasthanam: Then the Seer abides in his/her true nature

As often the case, the answer lies in our own selves and revealed through our practices. The tools of yoga and meditation work with stilling the chatter of the mind so that the seer – you – abides in your True Nature. The sages, mystics and masters have known and shared for millennia that our True Nature is one of limitless joy, creativity and bliss. These qualities of inspiration are not something that we get from outside of us, it is what we are made up of. Our ability to create from unlimited Source potential is innate in our very being.

When we’re not connected with our own source, it can be tough to be inspired. Try being creative when the mind is cluttered with a massive to do list or bogged down by worries and anxieties. When the mind is full and busy, there is little room to feel spacious, creative, joyful and inspired. Great geniuses like Albert Einstein and Salvador Dali knew this and both had meditation practices to the access inspiration and creativity. Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it.” The nature of the mind is to re-create what it already knows. It looks for patterns based on what has kept us safe in the past in order to navigate and predict the future. This is quite stifling for new ideas to emerge and for us to feel enthused about life!

With yoga practices, we bring the thinking mind to stillness so that we can experience something more than what it is already programmed to do. In asana, we give the mind something to focus on such as breath or sensation so that it anchors itself into the present moment. Meditation is an invitation to become deeply still so we are not distracted by our thoughts that toss us around in the past and future. The past is only made up of your memories. The future contains only what your mind is able to conceive of. Through practices of presence, the waves of the mind come to stillness and we can drop below the surface and into a vast ocean that contains limitless potential, creativity and grace. Here, inspiration can feel as if a powerful impulse moves through you like an overflowing well from within.

The next time you feel uninspired, pause whatever you’re doing and take a few conscious breaths. Open your eyes to nature. Become aware of your surroundings. Let go of your thinking mind and let in the great mystery and beauty of the moment. This shifts your awareness from your limited sense of self to rediscover what is beneath it all. When we allow this to happen fully and surrender to the moment, we will let go into something much more than what we imagine ourselves to be and awaken to the endless river of grace and potential that flows within.

 

Relating Empathy to our Own Inner Sensitivity: Written by: Heather Ivany

Relating Empathy to our Own Inner Sensitivity:

Written by: Heather Ivany

 

Often the feelings of compassion, empathy and vulnerability are labeled as soft or even meek. If we pause and think about it there is a tremendous amount of strength that needs to be conjured up in order to be truly honest, open and vulnerable. That’s why I love this expression….The POWER of Empathy. There is a sensitive place within us that houses the feelings of compassion and empathy. It grows from having walked miles in your own shoes….not someone else’s. It’s the byproduct of cleaning up your inner systems so all of life grows brighter. When we can feel connection and wholeness within ourself this is how we foster compassion and empathy for others. So why then do we close up and separate from wholeness? Here is one little piece of our amazing little puzzle of self.

Our bodies contain an element of primitive and instinctual energy forces; most easily understood as our ‘flight or fight’ centres. It is our basic instinct to find food shelter and safety. For most of us in North America these basic primitive needs are taken care of. The threat of physical danger and safety is no longer a daily concern. Logically we would think that these energy centres if unused would simply close up and get forgotten. But Einstein’s law states that: energy can not be created nor destroyed only transferred.

Our primal energy gets transmuted from a physical survival to a psychological survival. Where as in the past we were just like the deer running and hiding when we heard a physical threat, now when we hear a threat we still run and hide…but on the inside. We close down in an attempt to protect ourselves. It is a protective defence we have been implementing since we were small and has been playing out in our behaviours and patterns for most of our lives. Sounds alright from an initial understanding. Nothing wrong with protecting ourself from feeling pain or hurt yet here’s the flip side of that coin.

When we shut down and close off we have no filters from good vs bad. It all shuts down. Our ability to be sensitive towards ourself and feel empathetic towards others diminishes. Our protected areas becomes weaker and eventually there is no ability to grow because there is no space for freedom and movement. The energy centres when stagnant, are less receptive to what is coming in. We end up feeding our fears, insecurities and destructive patterns. When we operate from such a dense level it is challenging to get out of our own story let alone hold space for anyone else.

The strange thing is our society is totally ok with this. We have the means to band-aid our inner challenges and we perceive this behaviour as acceptable. Think of how often we get anxious over what other people think of us. How bent out of shape we become if our material possessions get damaged or stolen, or how inwardly stressed we become if we can’t control our environment. If our physical body were this fragile we would label ourselves as sick. Yet on a psychological plane it’s socially acceptable. In fact we adore those who “have it together” or who are “highly disciplined”. But this process of inner protection merely masks what is hard to face within ourselves.

There comes a point in spiritual growth where we understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free. Because you are scared you lock yourself in your house and pull down the shades. Yet now it’s dark and you miss the sunshine. We cannot be protected and free at the same time. It’s impossible. So now we have the choice of every moment of everyday. Will this experience this moment in time teach me to choose contraction or expansion? Will I choose the light or the dark? If you choose light you’ll reach a point of no return. The possibilities for expansion and connection are infinite. The spirit snipers will still be out there, the pain of life is still experienced. Yet now you learn to gather the tools to move the energy through you rather than trapping it in and closing down. Eventually you shine a light on the understanding of the power of being compassionate, empathetic and sensitive.

Grounding & Transitions: By Alice Hong

Grounding & Transitions:

By Alice Hong

Wow, big transitions this Fall. If you feel like this Autumn is rockin’ your world, you are not alone. We’ve had two big eclipses this month and the energy is potent for releasing old karmic patterns…you know, that old stuff that keeps on showing up in your life again and again.

When my world gets spun around like this, I am reminded of how important, how essential, it is to have a practice of presence. Whether it’s asana, meditation, movement or a simple moment to close your eyes and soften your skin, it’s a time to tune in, notice and feel what is just beneath the surface…or bubbling over the surface! It’s an opportunity to be in transition without being completely swept away because when we are able to witness our experience, we can remember that we are not the swirl of emotions. Then we come from a place of response vs. reaction.

Being in transition and sitting in the unknown can be uncomfortable. The mind wants to make decisions and choices, just to get out of the discomfort. So practice remaining present without trying to predict the future. Or knowing where you are going. Sit with uncertainty even, a pregnant pause, rather than making decisions from a place of fear or habit.

Fear-Less Written by: Heather Ivany

Fear-Less

Written by: Heather Ivany

 

What creates fear? It could be anything from a raised voice, risk of financial insecurity, physical pain, emotional hurt, even a simple conversation can send someone into a tailspin of anxiety or panic. We strive to overcome our fears, to convince ourselves that the fear is no longer there and many times we are unaware that we have a fear until a life event wakes the dormant issue. Fears can turn inwards and manifest into guilt or shame or project onto others through anger and frustration. Yet for all of their bad press here is the flip side.

Our fears strive to protect us. The intention is one of safekeeping and self preservation. Rather than negate or criticize our fears, we instead should give them the respect that they deserve. While our fears prevent us from living full lives, they unconsciously strive to ensure that we don’t repeat painful experiences from our past. Our mind creates a memory of every experience we have and downloads it into our programming. When we find ourselves in a situation where our fears are being triggered it is because in the past this similar situation caused us pain, or someone told us it was harmful, and therefore the mind/body will do whatever it can to ensure that a) we are safe and b) the experience doesn’t repeat itself. In comes the worry, doubt, physical inertia and in extreme cases panic and debilitation. When we forget or don’t address our fears we carry them forward to be resolved at a later date. Our fears when unresolved create limiting beliefs. Limiting thoughts make us rigid in the mind which creates rigidity in the body. Presence and mindfulness create an assortment of options available and remind us there are many choices before us. Choice allows us to integrate and live in the alignment of oneness and essential self. So how do we work with our fears rather than battle against or deny them?

Our ability to recognize the signs when fear begins or is triggered plays a pivotal role in our response to the situation. Where do we feel it physically; a knot in the stomach, dry mouth, light headedness. Perhaps it is a certain situation, a place, a group of people or an individual that triggers us. Or maybe it is certain words that makes us defensive as a result of criticism, or not having our needs listened too. The recognition of our response affords us the responsibility of our actions in order to improve relationship with ourselves and others. Over time when we continuously choose an alternative behaviour we actually begin to hard-wire the mind into a different program than the one we’ve being playing over and over when faced with fears. We actually change on a cellular level and the time it takes for this change to transpire depends on our commitment and how deeply seeded those patterns are. It’s become almost comical how often I continue to do the same response when I am consciously aware of my patterning and am committed to choosing otherwise. Being easy on yourself is a must in this process.

Once we’ve shone the light on what our fears are and how they show up the next step is present moment awareness. This is where choice lies. When we become present by feeling sensations in the body, deepening and slowing the breath, listening and really seeing, the mind and the body begin to expand.
Fear constricts, present moment expands. When we choose to be expansive alternative choices will present themselves. Our bodies exist in the now. Our minds have a tendency to stray to the past and the future. By experiencing a moment for itself you stop time. When you are in the NOW this is where the shift happens.

Below is a grounding technique to use in times of fear:

The warrior II pose (see photo), or Virabhadrasana II, builds core strength and balance. At the same time, you work on facing and mastering your fears. It’s a very powerful, even aggressive stance that says, “Bring it on, world! I am not afraid!” Keep your core strong, eyes ahead and chin up, ready to take on any fear you have and take action anyway. You will notice that while the energy “zaps” outward from the outstretched arms, your chest remains open. This vulnerability is actually a sign of courage. It allows you to allow yourself to connect with others (a closed heart space closes you off from relationships, abundance and great life experiences you would otherwise fear to try.

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