Archive | General Yoga Info

Calling All Dudes to Yoga

I love this piece 5 Reasons Why Dudes Should Do Yoga over at one of my favorite web sites –

I won’t spoil the piece and give you all 5 reasons here (4 and 5 aren’t relatable to me, but then I’m not a dude).

But here is the opening:

I’m not your typical yoga person. In fact, I don’t even come close to fitting the profile of a yoga person. First of all, I’m a dude. I’m tall (6’7″ to be exact). Yes, is the answer to your next question: I played basketball. I played for four years in college at Columbia, in New York City. I also was president of my fraternity.

Please click over to read the rest. Really. Especially if you’re a tall-ex-wall-street-trading-fraternity-boy-jock

What are the Yoga Sutras?

Sutra literally means, “thread,” and each sutra contains a thread of a thought. A sutra is an aphoristic statement or a work containing such statements.

The Yoga Sutras is the source text of classical yoga. These 195 aphorisms serve as a concise guide for the philosophy and practice of yoga. Patanjali compiled them over two thousand years ago. Although often considered the author of the yoga sutras, historians generally believe that he assembled and recorded the oral tradition of yoga.

The Yoga Sutras are divided into four chapters:

  • 1st chapter on ecstasy samadhi-pada
    Addresses the theory of Yoga is called the chapter on ecstasy
    51 aphorisms.
  • 3rd chapter on the powers vibhuti-pada
    Sets forth the internal rigor and ability a yogi acquires
    55 aphorisms.
  • 2nd chapter on the path sadhana-pada
    Introduces the practices of Yoga for the novice
    55 aphorisms.
  • 4th chapter on liberation kaivalya-pada
    Delineates the freedom and peace gained from Yoga
    34 aphorisms.2

2Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition (Prescott: Hohm Press, 1998), p. 216.

Get Rid of Your Yoga Mat?

So suggested a Style Section piece in today’s New York Times.

“The ecstasy of yoga can’t be contained by a mat,” said Dana Flynn, a director of Laughing Lotus, a yoga studio in New York and San Francisco.

Others talk about how the mat is just another symbol of what a commodity yoga has become.

I don’t know. I’m for the mat. My mat. And a set aside space. It’s not just symbolic.

What do you think? Mat or no mat?

The “Citation Salutation”

Did you see this? In Cambridge, Massachusetts city officials printed up notices for parking violations that feature yoga poses. Seriously. I’m not sure how effective such images are to calm and mitigate raises in blood pressure, but I do find it amusing and an interesting idea.

You can read the Boston Herald’s coverage about the new practice here.

Yoga’s Anti-Lifestyle Trend

Front page of the New York Times Style section today in “Yoga’s New Wave” offers a healthy counterpoint to some of the silliness that, to my mind, detracts from yoga. The most interesting aspect to me is that the yogi features was a former disciple of Bikram – who seems to enjoy being at the pinnacle of yoga silliness and monstrous, egomaniacal behavior.

Money quote:

A second revelation occurred in class when he was struggling to keep his body in a difficult position. “I was sweating, my muscles shaking, in triangle pose, and Bikram was talking about how fast he was as a boy in Calcutta. How he could catch this dog.” The situation was almost more than Mr. Gumucio could bear. “In my mind,” he recalled, “I was thinking ‘What is wrong with you. Stop this stupid story!’ ”

Laughing! “Stop this stupid story!”

Read the piece in full here.

Yoga=Mindful Eating=Healthier Weight

Regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, and that in turn causes people to be less likely to be overweight, finds a new medical study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

What seems particularly interesting is that it’s yoga – not just any exercise – that provides this associated benefit.

The researchers found that people who ate mindfully—those were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full—weighed less than those who ate mindlessly, who ate when not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression. The researchers also found a strong association between yoga practice and mindful eating but found no association between other types of physical activity, such as walking or running, and mindful eating.

The key too is that the practice of yoga has to be regular. To the study, that appears to translate to more than one hour a week, a pretty low threshold, it seems to me.

The study measured:

  • disinhibition – eating even when full;
  • awareness – being aware of how food looks, tastes and smells;
  • external cues – eating in response to environmental cues, such as advertising;
  • emotional response – eating in response to sadness or stress; and
  • distraction – focusing on other things while eating.

You can read more here.

Yoga as an Olympic Sport?

Apparently if Bikram has his way.

Neal Pollack, Slate, offers a dispatch Top Yogi from the 6th International Yoga Competition. He remarks – “Yoga has done more for my physical and mental well-being than anything else I’ve tried.”

I steeled myself to bear witness to some sort of whacked-out yoga circus, and that’s more or less what I got. But a lot of yoga culture feels weird and circuslike to me anyway, so I would have felt disappointed if it had ended up being otherwise.

Well if you’re exposure to yoga is Bikram, it is wierd and circuslike and whacked out. It’s also not yoga:

At the center of the weekend, wearing flashy suits and various fedoras, stood
Bikram Choudhury, the animating force behind the competitive yoga circuit. Here’s a man who’s copyrighted his style of yoga (26 postures, repeated twice, in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), sends cease-and-desist letters to those who dare flout the copyright, and, in interviews, summarily dismisses all other forms of American yoga while also bragging about his love for McDonald’s and his large fleet of self-restored Rolls-Royces. He once famously told Business 2.0 magazine that his yoga was the “only yoga.” When asked why, he said it was because he has “balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me.” Not surprisingly, other yoga circles view him and his particular craft with everything from mildly dismissive amusement to a disdain coming close to disgust.

That sums up Mr. Bikram – but that’s not why he disgusts me. Rather it’s because he is popularizing only one very small part of yoga. Yoga has 8 limbs, or parts; the poses (asanas) are ONE part. One/eighth.

Regardless of the size of his balls, his pea brain can’t apprehend. His ego is simply a symptom of his misunderstanding of all of yoga’s component parts. If he understood yoga, his humility wouldn’t enable him to say
in a recent interview said that prop-heavy Iyengar yoga studios look like “a Santa Monica sex shop.”

With out any sense of irony, Mary Jarvis, a San Francisco-based yoga-studio owner who was one of Bikram’s first U.S. students, states:

“The more advanced a yoga posture is, the more humble the yogi should be,” she said. “If somebody’s really arrogant, I won’t train them. They can have a great posture on stage and be a total asshole.”

SO funny!

Mad Men’s Jon Hamm Contemplates Yoga

well, well, well – from TV Guide, an interview with Jon Hamm, and HE brings up yoga. I knew I loved him!

TV Guide: How do you get camera-ready for Mad Men’s sex scenes?
Hamm: I try to stay in shape. I am not a gym guy; it bores me to tears. So I play tennis and hike in the hills with the dog. I don’t think I have the temperament for yoga. Is there competitive yoga? Then maybe I’d be into it.

Typical alpha male!

Yogis Set Intentions For Lasting Change (Part 2)

Early this week, a dear old friend was in town and we got a chance to meet. We’re both in our early 40s and discussed the humility of realizing how little we have directed in our lives.

Though no one controls outcomes, there are aspects of our life experience we can command. We can hone our approach, manage expectations, set intentions.

Back in January, nilambu notes set forth the yogic approach to setting intentions. Rather than make resolutions and focus on the results (the scale, your marital status, achieving lotus pose), yogis set intentions and concentrate on the steps that make up the process of change.

While we can’t control results, we can direct our approach and our behavior.

This nilambu notes outlines how to do that, how to integrate your intentions into lasting change and new habits.

So what do you do?

There is another term in yoga – samskara. Samskara is an ingrained pattern or “grooves” of thought OR behavior. These ruts are changed by creating new ones.

And that’s where the three niyamas – burning enthusiasm, self-study and devotion to a higher power – come in. (See the last nilambu notes).

And they do so in four distinct steps, that you cycle through over and over: S.A.S.A. which stands for see, accept, set, act.

You need to see clearly what is – what are your ruts, samskaras? What are your ingrained patterns of thought or habit?

An accurate perception of your limits, your unhelpful habits, your distractions is the entry point to change (and you’ll re-evaluate your perception along the way).

Nothing will change if you don’t see clearly. At this stage, others can help provide loving perspective. Turn a flashlight on in your life. See what is really going on in those dark corners so you can dust them up.

How do we do this? Using burning enthusiasm (tapas), we study ourselves ( svadhyaya). That may mean keeping a food diary or examining your schedule to see where you allot your time. This self study reveals your patterns, your values and can help you see clearly what is. You do this again and again as you evaluate and reassess, and nimbly readjust your behavior. Self-study can help you see unconscious habits that could sabotage your intentions.

With devotion to a higher power (ishvara pranidhana), we humbly accept what is, what we don’t control.

So, for example, we admit we don’t really as eat as well as we think, we have a serious illness with no cure, we are beyond our breaking point with stress, the mother/father of our children doesn’t want to be married any more. Further, we accept what we cannot change the outcome.

Some realities are mutable; some are not. When we accept the things we can not change, that yielding can allow us to relax. It can lift a tremendous burden. We can stop fighting.

A yoga teacher of mine told me you can have pain without suffering. What she meant was that we can’t always control the pain, physical or emotional, but we don’t have to suffer if we are able to adapt our response to the pain.

Admittedly, sometimes that may be easier to do than others. But by yielding to what is, to what we can’t control, that acceptance can alter the experience. And in doing so, you may actually change the dynamic of your situation, your nervous system will ease and may even improve your vitality and ability to deal with illness, or divorce or grief.

So this is the interesting thing: sometimes things, situations, reality will change as a result of accepting what is. That shift in perception, that letting go, can confer a freedom that will in fact improve whatever situation was resisted, struggled with or burdensome.

You set an intention. Make a promise to yourself and remind yourself over and over of that intention. Plan, with specificity, a course of action that will support your intentions. You can do that for each intention and one intention may have several supportive steps.

Some examples are:

  • Practice yoga 20 minutes every day.
  • Keep a food diary
  • Wind down your day by 10 pm by creating a night time ritual.
  • Eat without the television on.
  • Meditate 5 minutes.
  • Speak to your partner lovingly, and if necessary with a therapist to navigate communication and prevent harm.
  • Hug your spouse and hold them for a full minute every day.

Try to visualize and imagine yourself doing what you promised yourself. Schedule activities into your routine. Put up reminders around your home or in your car.

Not giving up helps too, which brings us to action….

You act. You take a step. A small step, again and again.

Don’t visualize the goal; visualize the step, the action.

Don’t give up. Keep getting up. If you get knocked down, get up and get up and get up. Another said you might have to keep at it “a billion times.” No matter how weary you are, keep going, keep trying.

Burning enthusiasm (tapas) works at this stage as well. Sometimes you can only get up with discipline or with burning enthusiasm for the intention because the short term result seems so undesirable.

This stage is crucial; no question it can be easier to stay on the floor and not get up. It is easy to stay in the old patterns and habits and ruts (samskara).

If your actions are not in line with your intention, with out judgment or self-laceration, see that clearly through your self-study and adjust your course. Be willing to adjust your course. And don’t give up.

To sum up:

See (clearly) – using self study and discipline
Accept (reality) – using humility
Set (intentions, sankalpas) – using much specificity, planning, visualization, and imagery
Act (over and over) – using discipline and that burning enthusiasm

S.A.S.A. You go through this cycle over and over – See, accept, set, act.

Finally, be gentle with yourself. And you’ll be able to create new habits (samskaras), new grooves for your life, better actions and possibly a new outcome.

Oh yes, and according to a British study, yogis (men) do better if they are specific while yoginis (women) more often succeed if they share their intentions. So be specific and share! (depending on your gender)

And The New York Times earlier this month published a piece on changing your habits that echoes many of these themes. One of those quoted noted, “you cannot have innovation unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”