October 12, 2010
I think it is true to say that yoga is a process of recognizing our illusions and shedding them for clarity. In the last week I have had a couple of disillusionments.
One of them was startling information found in an article in the November issue of Yoga Journal, "Yoga's Greater Truth" by Mark Singleton (page 66). If you thought that the yoga we practice is an ancient tradition, think again. Mark Singleton has researched the origins of yoga for years and has found that the asanas we practice have a much more recent and less exotic birth than hundreds or thousands of years B.C. in India. It may be true that the "yoga" that was introduced into our culture in the early 20th century actually had Scandinavian roots that were only a century old! Yup. But the delivery system that brought this to the U.S. was Indian with a hint of Hindu.
From the World English Dictionary:
syncretize or syncretise (ˈsɪŋkrɪˌtaɪz)—
vb - to combine or attempt to combine the characteristic teachings, beliefs, or practices of (differing systems of religion or philosophy)
The world is smaller than we may think and syncretism is a term that describes the melding of practices from different cultures, an inevitability in a shrinking world. Singleton says that in the 19th century a Scandinavian system of exercise which included asanas and bandhas precisely as we know them, but with different names, spread throughout Europe and to India. By the 1920's "Primitive Gymnastics" and "Swedish Gymnastics" were the most popular forms of exercise in India. Here they picked up a Hindu flavor. It all starts to make sense.
When I read through the ancient Indian texts that I was told were the foundation of yoga, I found little, if any mention of postures. It's all about the mind, consciousness, and attaining samadhi - enlightenment. Even the early pioneers who brought "yoga" to America, denounced asana and hatha yoga. India's caste system categorized yogins and fakirs as low-caste, performing extreme postures for money.
As a beginning yoga instructor I desired to be a "good" teacher, which to me meant teaching an "authentic" yoga. For years I thought that I was being true to yoga's ancient origins by studying and adhering to the wisdom of the originators of the art and science of yoga that originated in India and was spoken in Sanskrit. I placed value on using the classic Sanskrit names of poses. I gave credit to what I thought was the lineage of the yoga I taught. I followed the outline of the Eight Limbs of Yoga attributed to Patanjali.
If, in fact, Singleton's research is correct, I may be more connected to yoga through my Danish heritage than through my study of the Yoga Sutra or Vedic Scriptures. With this new insight I instantly realized that all teachings transform with every new human being who passes them on. It may be humanly impossible to maintain a pure concept as we share it with others after it has been dipped in our own mind first. There might be a benefit in that. I had been leaning toward a prejudice against any teacher who aimed to put their own personal imprint on a teaching, thinking that it was tainting the original concept. But maybe there is no untainted concept or system or practice. How can we avoid being ourselves? Isn't it our uniqueness added to the accumulation of mankind that helps us all to grow?
I have my own theory. I think that the knowledge of postures, breathing, body control techniques, and conscious relaxation, have always been available to anyone. And there have been people all over the world, throughout time, who have experimented with their bodies, breaths and minds to achieve something that felt good and right. If no one had passed the knowledge down to us today, we could start from scratch and discover it again for ourselves. That is precisely what we need to do every time we return to the mat.
But I'm not done yet. There was another disillusionment this week. I have been taught that for the sake of safely working the body that joints and ligaments are not to be stressed or challenged during asana practice. There is a style of yoga, Chinese yoga, that has evolved into a system we Americans now call Yin Yoga, another example of syncretism. In a nutshell, Yin Yoga is a practice of poses held for longer periods (4 minutes or more) with the muscles relaxed so that ligaments and other connective tissues may stretch. Blasphemy, some might say, if caught up in doctrine.
Here is a practice designed to do exactly what some people have said we should purposefully avoid to prevent injury. Our TriYoga-inspired practice at the Yoga Loft already has some Yin Yoga elements, while the active flowing portions (kriyas) could be called Yang Yoga. But there are clearly situations where I have been taught and passed on to my students, that certain muscles at certain times in certain postures should be contracted to protect joints.
What's a yogini to do? Try it out, I say. Which is what I'm doing. I'm studying some DVD's, taking some classes, and attending a workshop in November on "Insight Yoga", the syncretism of Yin Yoga and Buddhist Insight Meditation. I intend to keep my mind open and free from everything I've been told before. So if you notice some changes in our practice, you'll know why.
October 5, 2010
Columbia County Natural
There's a new organic food purchasing co-op serving South Columbia County. It has recently become an official non-profit organization named Columbia County Natural. Board members have been elected and they are getting very organized. More than two dozen people are already ordering organic produce weekly. Members can mark what they want on an online spreadsheet by Monday night then pick up their produce on Thursday at a location in either Columbia City or Scappoose.
Produce is not all that's available. The group has wholesale accounts with Bob's Red Mill, Frontier, Azure, Thundering Hooves, and is working on attaining others so that members will have access to all types of organically grown and raised products.
There are nominal fees to join and to buy your produce bins. A Web site is being developed and I will post a link here as soon as it is ready. In the meantime, there will be membership forms at the Yoga Loft.
September 27, 2010
Pomp and Circumstance
Imagine the tune of pomp and circumstance playing in the background as I announce that I have completed my course in feng shui and am now a certified feng shui practitioner! I engaged in this study mainly to satisfy my own curiosity about the art of feng shui so I could apply it to my own life. Now that I have a new set of skills, I am looking forward to sharing what I've learned with others. My main interest at this point is having fun with it and gaining experience, so my rates will be very reasonable! More information can be found here.
September 16, 2010
Honor the Snot
Yes, that sounds kind of gross, but it's the final word in a discussion we (yoga students and I) had this morning before we began our morning yoga class. It started out with a question about certain yoga postures that would be contraindicated for a person undergoing chemotherapy because of bone problems. There was a recent report about this that I hadn't read, but it reminded me of strange side effects I've heard about from antibiotics, such as Cipro. Even months after a person has taken Cipro it can cause spontaneous rupture of tendons, particularly the Achilles tendon.
That seemed so farfetched to me at first, but then I thought about how two parts of the body can be connected in obscure ways. Another one is the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. It's been documented. It makes you wonder how the gums are connected to the heart? How is an antibiotic connected to the integrity of a tendon?
I don't have the answer for you here, but our conversation continued toward the common cold. According to one source, the best thing you can do for a cold is take a non-aspirin pain and fever reducer, such as Ibuprofen, and an antihistamine like Benadryl. Another point of view is that these are only symptom masking medications. It was pointed out that the symptoms of a cold are not the sickness itself, but the body's soothing and healing response to the infection ~ runny nose producing mucous to sooth inflammation caused by the virus, elevated body temperature to enhance the functioning of the immune system.
I mentioned a technique I learned from a homeopathic doctor many years ago. At the very first sign of a cold, when you feel that slight muscle achiness in the neck and upper back, a dryness in the throat, and chills start to shiver through the body, get yourself into a hot bathtub and take a room thermometer and an oral thermometer with you. The intention is to induce a fever by soaking in water up to 106 degrees, if you can stand it.
This is an intense experience that weakens you and can cause dizziness. I would not do this if I were alone in the house. You don't want to pass out in the tub and drown! That would be a bad way to get over a cold. When I've done this I always make sure someone is nearby and knows what I'm trying to do.
Then you stay in the tub for awhile. While you're soaking you take your temperature and watch the fever come on. I think the highest I was ever able to induce was 101.9. It's like a yoga practice, paying attention to the body and knowing your limits. When you reach your tolerance for the heat you need to get out. You feel like a dishrag.
When you get out of the tub, you wrap yourself from head to toe in towels or a long hooded robe. The head needs to be covered, especially if the hair is wet. You don't want to lose the body heat through the head. Next you get straight into bed, lie flat on your back, (savasana) covering yourself with heavy blankets and sweat it out as long as you can.
This is the same kind of treatment that is offered in many spas where they have hot mineral springs. I had this kind of treatment once at Carson Hot Springs near Stevenson, Washington. When you get out of their hot mineral water baths, you lie on a cot and an attendant comes and wraps you like a mummy. They ask if you want a tight or loose wrap. I chose medium, and I'm glad. There's a sense of being in a straightjacket. Fortunately I got the cot at the end of a row which was right next to an open window. The slight breeze saved me from feeling like I needed to call for someone to set me free! The air cooling the sweat on my upper lip was just enough relief for me to endure the full 30 minutes, or however long it was.
I have taken this hot bath, induced fever treatment many times. If I do it at the earliest sign of feeling unwell, it has completely staved off the sickness. (I usually start dosing myself with vitamin C every hour, too). Sometimes it didn't prevent it entirely, but I ended up with minor sniffles, rather than a full blown cold. And I must say that this process is not necessarily good for everybody. Some people feel horrible when they get too hot. That feeling of being "wrung out" like a dishrag is a good one for me.
When sickness starts to come on we are meant to feel it and pay attention, to ask ourselves what has disrupted the balance and harmony that we experience as good health. It is a time to reflect on, not to ignore and suppress, what's going on in our life as a whole.
Fall is approaching. The seasonal change around the equinox is always a time of flux when our homeostasis can easily be offset. Pay attention to the changes in the weather, the dropping temperature, decreasing daylight, foliage on trees starting to change color and separate from the branch. Our bodies know this change is happening and changes are occurring within, because we are connected to the world in so many ways, most of which we don't even realize.
And so the bottom line of our yoga class discussion: If you should find yourself the recipient of the common cold, "Honor the snot." All that mucous is your body trying to help you out. It's not the sickness itself.
September 10, 2010
What is Yoga?
Found this description of yoga. http://www.kdham.com/yoga.html. It's so clear and concise, I thought you might like to read it.
July 3, 2010
An Independent Mind
My granddaughter Molly is 13. She loves to read and loves history. She brought me two books that she adamantly encouraged me to read ~ Fever 1793 and Chains both by Laurie Halse Anderson. They are historical novels written for young adults. I love an easy read. Some of my favorite books have been written for teens. During my recent two-week break from teaching I found time to read both of these very good books.
Fever 1793 tells of a teen aged girl's experiences during an epidemic of yellow fever that occurred in Philadelphia that year. Unlike Molly I never was a big history fan, especially as a child. So until a couple of weeks ago I had no knowledge that there ever was such an epidemic.
Chains takes place in New York City in 1776 and is told by a slave girl. Ignorant of all but the most basic facts of the Revolutionary War, I had never thought about how this war affected the slaves or what life was like 234 years ago in New York City, a city I knew well as a teenager.
These books are still lingering in my mind as we approach the July 4th holiday this year. And today, as I sat on my couch folding laundry and trying to crochet socks, I had the TV turned on to the History Channel which ran a series on the Revolutionary War. Normally I would have surfed right over this show, but this afternoon I was curious to learn more about the American Revolution.
I did learn more. I learned a lot of facts about the war, the generals, the soldiers, the battles, the congress, the economy, the European involvement and how it all dragged on for 13 years. All the patterns seemed unfortunately familiar and current.
As a schoolgirl I didn't think the murder that takes place in warfare was justifiable. That was one of the reasons I disliked studying history. As an adult I'm still holding firm to that position. I don't buy the argument that war is a valid way to make change. I don't agree that when we perceive an enemy, whether it be another human, a plant, an animal, a virus, or a belief, that the way to protect ourselves is to defeat the other through destruction.
Listening to this TV show, it bothered me to hear how some historians justified the tragic losses and suffering of the Revolution, claiming the result of those atrocities is supposedly the freedom we have today. Of course they were airing the show for the Fourth of July weekend and it was designed to entertain, educate and instill patriotism. What's more satisfying than to be on the winning side, to feel pride and superiority? Right? No, no, no, I say.
We are taught, conditioned and programmed to believe that our value is dependent on achievement and success to attain a superiority over others. This leads to the question, "Am I good enough?" If you have ever asked yourself this question, (I wonder who hasn't), then you are suffering from a belief in inequality.
Equality is one of the founding principles of our country. But the early American founders knew that they were failing to achieve this. They ignored the issue of slavery in the Constitution because they feared that to do so would result in economic collapse.
After over two centuries of American history which includes many continuing battles over civil rights, equality is still our unfinished business. It is our unrealized freedom that we fear to give ourselves because when we do, we have to give it to everyone else as well.
I ask the yogi in you to catch yourself asking that question, "Am I good enough?" Instead, recognize yourself as neither better than, nor less than anyone else. Always do your best and cherish your uniqueness. This is the making of an independent mind and an internal revolution.
May 4, 2010
It's all Yoga
One weekend in April I went to Seattle for a workshop in QiGong. The only reason I signed up for these classes was the encouragement of my Feng Shui teacher, who sponsored Master Li Jun Feng's Seattle engagement. I felt sort of obligated to go.
I had no idea what it would be like ~ it was fantastic! I was so surprised to fall in love with something new. There were two full days of learning body movements designed to move Qi (Chi, Prana, Vital Energy) in a way that awakens the heart to experience everything with love and joy, and also to benefit physical health.
Master Li teaches many forms of QiGong, but the two forms he taught at the workshop I attended are both simple enough that one can teach them to others without needing any special teacher training. I can't wait to gain enough proficiency myself so that I can teach them to you in some of my yoga classes.
Yoga and QiGong are body arts with the same intention, just from different cultures. I think you'll like them, but you'll just have to let me know. It will probably be at least another month before I feel comfortable enough to begin introducing some of the movements. One of the forms only takes about 8 minutes to do, so it's a very convenient practice to learn. I've been doing it every day. It really helps to work out the early morning stiffness!
If you read my last entry below, "student seeking guinea pig", I'm still in need of a client for my final feng shui project. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks. (Found someone for my project. 6/2/10)
April 20, 2010
Student seeking Guinea Pig
I've been assigned my final project toward my Feng Shui Certification and I'm looking for someone to practice on again. This time it must be an office space or small business of someone I don't already know.
If you're reading this I probably already know you, but maybe you know someone who would be feng shui friendly, who would allow me to probe a little into their life and work space. There is no charge, but it works best if someone is willing to try implementing some changes, which might incur some costs, then writing a feedback letter a couple of weeks later to report on any effects. If you have any suggestions please email me. Thanks!
March 27, 2010
A Timeless Oracle
I practice Yoga for body, mind and spirit. Hatha yoga promotes the welfare of my body. Hatha Yoga has led me to Kriya Yoga Meditation, which I practice for the welfare of my mind and spirit. Also for the welfare of my mind and spirit I seek counsel from the I Ching. However I Ching came to me long before yoga and meditation.
I was first introduced to I Ching (pronounced eee ching) by someone I didn't even know, a friend of a friend whose house I visited once for about half an hour, almost 40 years ago. He suggested I ask the I Ching if the baby I was carrying was going to be a boy or a girl. This was long before ultrasounds were commonplace. It was a frivolous use of the oracle, but I had no idea what it was all about, so agreed to give it a try.
I was instructed to throw 3 pennies, six times. Then I was told which hexagram I had received, handed a book and told to read the corresponding text. I was blown away. I saw nothing about the gender of a baby. Instead I saw my deepest, heartfelt problems being described in a nutshell! How did it know? Shortly afterward I went to Powell's Books and purchased my first copy of the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of I Ching.
The I Ching is an ancient text from China. It is an oracle. I've also heard it called a "fractal time map," though I'm not certain what that means. However, I think the I Ching is more than I can imagine. Its basis is a series of eight trigrams, patterns formed by creating various combinations of solid lines and broken lines in stacks of three. These trigrams surrounding the circular Yin/Yang symbol create a form called the BaGua, meaning eight houses. Each trigram has a meaning and can be combined with another trigram to form a hexagram. There are 64 combinations, each with a new meaning. Each of the 6 lines within a hexagram can be further interpreted.
The I Ching has never failed to show me the truth. When I am unable to see clearly into a situation, the I Ching lays it out on the page for me. There have been times when it has prevented me from acting impulsively, and times when it has given me the courage to do something I've been afraid to do.
About twenty years ago I discovered some books written by Carol Anthony on interpreting I Ching, I Ching philosophy, and I Ching meditations. These books amazed me. Carol Anthony clearly was devoting intense study into the oracle and had come up with an understanding and interpretation of the hexagrams far more relevant than the older translations provided. Later she teamed up with Hanna Moog, and together they wrote I Ching, Oracle of the Cosmic Way. This is a breakthrough edition of I Ching. It outlines processes by which we can begin to deprogram the mind of mistaken beliefs (ego) that taint our perception. These methods are healing meditations.
I would like to plan an I Ching workshop with the main objective being to assist others in correctly forming a hexagram, using their method called "rtcm" for understanding its meaning, and going through any deprogramming process that may be indicated. I'll have a sign-up sheet at The Yoga Loft when I return for Spring Session. You could also email me, if you're interested in attending. When I see how much interest there is, we can plan a date.
No previous experience is necessary, but I suggest you purchase your own copy of the Anthony/Moog I Ching and read the introduction. It's usually available at New Renaissance Bookstore, also through Amazon, or the Web site linked above. Soft cover is $29.99.
February 28, 2010
Food for Thought
"Joy doesn't exist in the world, it exists in us." ~ Benjamin Franklin
February 14, 2010
Happy Valentine's Day
January 18, 2010
Muddling through Marriage
I've got another book to recommend. It's Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert, the continuation of her story that began in Eat, Pray, Love.
Even if I were not particularly interested in the topic of this book ~marriage~ I think I would still be entranced by Gilbert's captivating style of writing and her willingness to bare her inner feelings, while telling an interesting personal story. But I am interested in the topic of marriage, having enjoyed and endured one for over 42 years, and having observed the unions of close family members come and go, some with great heartache and trauma involved.
Though not a sociologist, psychologist, or even a qualified expert on marriage, Gilbert has explored the subject thoroughly enough to settle her own issues with it. I found much enlightening information on the history of the marriage institution that challenged my beliefs and made me think about where they came from. I found insights into my own relationship and those I have been privy to.
I appreciate anything that challenges me to look at my assumptions and beliefs so that I may discard those that are based on fallacy. This book sheds a light on that. It will be added to the library at the Yoga Loft.
January 10, 2010
A Fascinating Journey
I've just finished reading Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. I couldn't put this book down. Greg Mortenson's journey in life has taken him to Pakistan and Afghanistan to help the most remote, impoverished communities to build schools for their daughters. The book was just released December 1, 2009 and it tells of events as recent as October 2009.
I found this true-life story compelling. I avoid listening to reports of events in this war-torn part of the world on the nightly news because of the emphasis on the political and military approach to problems there. For me, reading both of these books has been a way to learn about life in central Asia from a simply human view point. So much more can be accomplished when we learn the customs of other cultures and treat each other with respect.
The book has been added to the Yoga Loft library and is available to be borrowed. I highly recommend it and am curious to hear others' thoughts about it.