Recently I took a trip and was delighted to find that changing my routine, reinvigorated my creativity and deepened my dedication to Yoga. I wasn't on a Yoga retreat, wasn't on a gorgeous beach with palm trees lulling me into samadhi. I was stuck in a cramped hotel room, with a view of DC's finest gray rooftops. That is to say that it wasn't the beauty that inspired me, it was changing my routine. I admit it. I'm a Netflix junkie. I watch movies as I make breakfast, then continue as I clean the dishes. My dishes have never been so clean. Being away led me into a new routine and I'm so grateful for it. Instead of constantly being bombarded by visuals, stories that were told to me and living vicariously through characters' lives, I found a stronger imagination. By fasting from stories, I dreamed deeper and remembered my dreams after I woke. One of them has turned into a really great science fiction story that I hope to expand on. It is with this newfound knowledge that I implore you to change up your routine. Turn off the constant input and let your mind find its own rhythm. I read somewhere that is what Tim Burton does. He doesn't even do email. (He has someone who does that for him-- which would be nice.) He wants his creativity to flow and not be stifled from outside sources. Maybe you can't get away and change your routine. Or maybe you just aren't ready yet to turn off the radio, Netflix, Twitter, emails. You could then make a retreat for yourself... Take a new class. You can join us for a Free Meditation class on Sundays in August 8 am to 8:30 am and stay for a Hatha class afterwards at the Yoga Loft in Freehold/Howell. (Message me if you want more information.) Or you might want to check out this free online class at UC Berkeley on the Science of Happiness. It starts Sept. 9 and if you audit it for no credit, it is free.
Been thinking a lot lately about Yoga. I've renewed my personal practice and enjoy an hour in the morning outside with the dog lying in the sun next to me. It is pure bliss. Connecting to nature, hearing the birds, smelling the grass as I curl up into cobra, I am in joy. As the sun shines through the trees onto my face, I am able to sit, just sit in meditation and soak in all that is right in the world, sending out thoughts of peace and healing to those at war, those in hospitals, those who are lonely, or unwell, and the animals, plants, oceans, etc. Being outside practicing Hatha has grounded my practice and I can't wait to get outside in the morning for my soaking in the sweetness and serenity.
Yet, at the same time, I'm worried about Yoga. I worry that those who could benefit most from a practice like Yoga are not going to find it because they might not understand that Yoga is not stretching and posturing. You know what I'm talking about? The incredible, almost impossible to the 99% of us-- side angle crow posture where the arms hold up the whole body but the legs are out to the side.
Okay, this is a pose I have accomplished once or twice, but not without laughing, sweating and feeling like a superhero for just a second, until I fall back into my mere mortal status. It is wonderfully brilliant if you can do this pose. So happy for you. I envy your arm and core strength, but I fear that there are many people out there that think they can not do Yoga because of the popularity of Yoga flow classes and advanced Hatha classes that focus on these challenging poses, yet do not teach that this "Yoga"-- this body-centered Asana centric Yoga is only one of the eight limbs of the real, whole Yoga.
Rev. Jaganath says that it like what happened to the bakers. When bread was born it was of course made from natural, healthy wheat ground into flour and bread was made. Then came the refined, bleached, processed flour that soon many bakers were baking with. Those who held onto the first recipes could no longer call their bread made with wheat, they had to call it "whole wheat" even though that's what it was before. That's what it had always been. But with the new wheat being made, the bakers had to reinvent a name for their bread and so "whole wheat" was born.
Although many Yogis I know are now gluten-free, the symbolism can be read into very easily. Our
modern American society, obsessed with looks and the body has filtered out what it wants to focus on most and forgets the rest of "Whole" Yoga. Yet, from what I see as a public school teacher and a compassionate human being-- I think it is the rest of the practices of Yoga that is most needed today. Yes it is true that we should continue to work on a strong core in order to stay healthy but what about the mind and spirit? Can we not get them healthy as well?
"Whole" Yoga is made up of:
Raja Yoga (the
Yoga of synthesis and the science of meditation and the mind. It is a
holistic approach founded on moral and ethical precepts)
Hatha Yoga (postures, techniques for breath control, deep relaxation, cleansing practices)
Bhakti Yoga (love and devotion to any form of God)
Jnana Yoga (study and self-analysis)
Japa Yoga (repetition of a mantra to clear, calm, and steady the mind
Karma Yoga (the path of selfless service.)
My wish for the upcoming year is for more people to realize that Yoga is more than strength of body, but strength of mind and spirit as well. I try to remind my students in my Hatha classes that the Hatha we are practicing is a moving meditation. Hatha Yoga was created 5,000 years ago for the sole purpose of helping us sit still in meditation. I get sad every time someone leaves my class early before Sivasana at the end of class, for that is why we do all the other asanas-- this is the whole purpose of the class-- the synthesis of all that we did, the way our body heals. As one of my teen students put it, "I always feel like I am flying, weightless, outside of my body. That's my favorite part."
So how do we help others understand that Yoga is for everybody. For every BODY? That Yoga as we know it in America is Hatha-- all of the movement oriented classes are under the umbrella of Hatha and that there is so much more to it.
If you are interested in learning more, please let me know. There are a few classes, meetups, gatherings that are specializing in "Whole Yoga." Many only learn these lessons if they take a Yoga teacher's training class, and I'm not even sure it is taught in all classes. I am saddened by this, as you can tell since you've made it this far in reading.
My wish is that everyone, no matter what religion, no matter what physical shape, no matter what mental or spiritual shape they are in-- could find a practice to help her/him come to stillness, come to joy and peace. There are probably hundreds of ways s/he could find this peace, but a practice like Yoga (or do we have to say, "Whole Yoga") is a proven, effective way for one to sustain find the peace and sustain it.
I have many friends who say that they tried Yoga but they couldn't sit still. They jog to clear their head, or garden or they take pilates. Wonderful I think to myself. That is great they found something that helps them. But what happens when they get injured and can't jog, take pilates, or it is winter and the plants are no longer there to garden? What happens to their peace? Ah, well-- Yoga (Whole Yoga) can go with you anywhere for you need nothing, except your own breath and a practice to guide you.
“The yogi is not one who sits down to practise breathing exercises,” he
wrote in his interpretation of the Gita. “He is one who looks upon all
with an equal eye, sees other creatures in himself.” That's one pose
that will truly reduce your stress. -- Sri Mahatma Gandhi
Time goes so quickly when enjoying the summer sun.
Backyard Yoga yesterday.
Peonies started to bloom and smell amazing.
Planning many videos and workshops for the summer with Yoga Girl.
New books on the horizon and continue to promote Swami Cat Says.
Do you know of a Yoga Studio or small bookstore that would enjoy a Swami Cat visit and book signing? Summer's the time! We travel!
Let us know-- so many ways to follow or contact Swami Cat. And please do. We love connecting with fans, students, fellow Yoga lovers.
Here at adventuresofyogagirlandswamicat.blogspot.com.
As always feel free to send us your questions about Yoga, life, love and pet issues.
We love to answer them in our best Yogic-Cat-centric way.
And most of all, have you seen our happiest Yoga video yet? Warning: you might want to push back from the computer a bit-- it will make you jump out of your seat and dance.
1. New home and litter box
2. Big backyard and new neighborhood to explore
3. Performing Swami Cat Yoga Workshops at camps, libraries and Yoga studios this summer
4. New video being edited by Yoga Girl as we speak
5. New friends
6. Inspiring other Yogis of the animal kingdom
7. Spring sunshine
8. A new way to connect to more Yogi friends-- Twitter!
9. "Best thing ever!" quote from Yoga Family Fun Day's Happy workshop with me (Swami Cat)
10. New Yoga and mediation room inspiring Yoga Girl's early morning meditation
Ah balance. Work, looking for houses, finding a Yoga studio for Yoga Life Society and preparing our home to be shown to renters. Phew, no wonder I keep forgetting little things.
Tomorrow I wake early and renew my vow to meditate every morning for 20 minutes.
In fact, I'm going to try at night if I don't make my morning sessions.
I have time tonight.
For inspiration, Guruji says to read about the masters of Yoga . I found this on Facebook today. Maybe you'll be inspired, yet Swami Satchidananda and Rev. Jaganath Carrera should be on that list and I told the person who posted it.
Also I used to take classes from Dharma Mittra back when I lived in NYC. I remember just starting his classes and he suggested everyone go up in crow pose and I laughed so hard, until I realized no one else was laughing. They just did what he said. I was in awe. Now I can do crow, but I remind my classes that laughing is healthy and that Yoga is a practice-- we need something to practice or it would be called a perfect.
Good night, friends. May you find a way to balance all that you do whether it is through Yoga or some other mindful practice. And let me know how it is going for you. Always good to gain strength from one another.