Archive | Recommendations

Losing Your New Year Resolve?

Do you feel like you are losing your new year resolve? Are you wondering about your “overriding purpose for being here?”

This article – Inspired Intention – by Kelly McGonigal is the best I have ever read that shows how yoga philosophy and ideas can inform our choices and our resolve. She teaches yoga, meditation and psychology at Stanford University and I’ve long appreciated her for her book Yoga for Pain Relief. She is making constructive contributions to the field of yoga and pain and the body/mind connection, and I very much hope one day to meet her.

She starts the article with a definition (a mind after my own heart!) —-

A sankalpa is a statement that does this for us. Stryker explains that kalpa means vow, or “the rule to be followed above all other rules.” San , he says, refers to a connection with the highest truth. Sankalpa, then, is a vow and commitment we make to support our highest truth. “By definition, a sankalpa should honor the deeper meaning of our life. A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma—our overriding purpose for being here.” The sankalpa becomes a statement you can call upon to remind you of your true nature and guide your choices.

She goes on to explain how sankalpa or resolve can take two forms – a goal/intention or a heartfelt desire. (that adjective is important). Then she describes how you uncover your heartfelt desire and goals, how best to state them, how to plant and nourish the seed and finally concludes with quoting Rod Stryker –

According to Rod Stryker, this apparent contradiction is the essence of both sankalpa practice and nondual teachings. “It all goes back to this idea that each of us is both being and becoming. There’s the part of us, para atman, that is transcendent, inherently one, and doesn’t need anything. We also have a jiva atman, that part of us that comes into life with a purpose and a destiny and is always becoming.” Stryker explains that to fulfill your dharma, you must find a way to integrate these two seemingly opposite aspects of being. “It’s vital for happiness that you walk both paths simultaneously. Direct your energy with intention, but be mindful that your nature is unchanged whether you achieve your goals or not. Live as contentedly as possible in between the goal and realizing the goal.”

The essay is long and full of content, but trust me, it’s worth the click over. Or you can listen to or download an hour long public radio interview with her here on the subject.

Wah! Discusses Her Creative Process

This is awesome. Wah! discusses her creative process, how she took on the dark energy she felt during a concert and respected it by incorporating a blues scale, respecting how tough life can be.

And she then turned that into an offering of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles – and brought it up into a happier place. Singing the life force, prana into the body in order to honor and draw in Pranava, the holder of the life force (another word for Om, or God)

Her new album is out on February 7th. Enjoy this informative 5 minute video:

Leslie Kaminoff Addresses NY Times Piece

I love this guy – Leslie Kaminoff. Very knowledgable and funny. I met him in May at the Yoga Journal conference in New York City. I hope to study more with him. He runs The Breathing Project and also written a great book on Yoga Anatomy and teaching anatomy to yoga students through his Yoga Anatomy web site.

Here’s a video – his “2 Cents About How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.”

“In Our Brokenness, We Are Unlimited.”

I loved Julie Peter’s piece on the Equinox video, and I love this essay – Why lying broken on the Bedroom Floor Is A Good Idea – even more.

Her main point is that at that moment – you really are in the present moment.

In pieces, in a pile on the floor, with no idea how to go forward, your expectations of the future are meaningless. Your stories about the past do not apply. You are in flux, you are changing, you are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how you want to put yourself back together.

Now that’s spin a good lawyer could be proud of, but that characterization doesn’t make it any less true. Mental gymnastics (or yoga twists) that help pry you off the floor and get you to get up and get up and get up again and keep you going – well, that better than still lying there, no?

This is a favorite Japanese proverb – “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” At times, that is my mantra. To me, failure is only when we choose not to stand up or get up. Zen Habits is another favorite web site of mine and here’s one on how to Flip Your Karma: 8 Trick to Turn the Bad into Awesome. Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits, quotes that proverb.

But if you’re flipping out on your bedroom floor, think of Akhilandeshavari, suggests Julie Peter’s. She is the “never not broken goddess” and she rides a crocodile (which represents fear). Akhilandeshavari doesn’t reject fear and doesn’t let fear control her – she rides on it and dips into the waves. I love that. It’s takes courage to let the fear in never mind face it. Akhilandeshavari has no limitations. She is described as being like a fractured diamond and thereby she embodies a more diverse beauty.

We are made more beautiful by our brokenness that lets the cracks of light in.

I found her story (both Julie’s and Akhilandeshavari’s) both insightful and resonating. And next time I am on the floor of my bedroom broken I will think of her, riding a crocodile like a warrior princess. Thanks Julie, awesome piece.

Another Response to NYT’s Wreckage

Here’s another one – Yoga Need Not Wreck Your Body written by Irin Carmom over at The subtitle made me laugh out loud – “An incendiary New York Times magazine excerpt doesn’t tell the whole story” Incendiary indeed!

Here a taste, and she makes a very good point about teachers:

The biggest elisions were implied but never emphasized: the importance of good teaching and the wild divergence of practices under the umbrella of American yoga. Based on having practiced with (at least) dozens of different yoga teachers over the years around New York and occasionally globally, I’d argue those are the most important factors of all.

The worst teachers preen in the front of the room and pretend they’re alone. Slightly below them in my estimation are the ones who expect all bodies to be created the same. The ones who shouted at me to simply shove down my heels during downward dog in defiance of tight calves and hamstrings never got the chance to do so again. It took me longer to realize that the teachers who enthusiastically encouraged me to move deeper into existing flexibility – say, a deep lower-back arch theoretically ideal for upward facing dog, a hip turnout that made baddha kanasa effortless – were hurtling me toward injury. The ones who urged modifications to not exacerbate imbalances, or to change emphasis to strength over flexibility, were offering a more sensible path.

In other words, all bodies aren’t shaped the same way, nor do we use them uniformly, so why would we expect the same remedies and actions to work on all of them?

That’s one reason I’m deeply skeptical of practices like Bikram, which are the same sequence over and over again.

Great Response “How the NYT Can Wreck Yoga” !

This is the best response to the William Broad article Yoga Can Wreck Your Body I’ve read – How the NYT Can Wreck Yoga by Rick Bartz.

Broad is a ‘senior science writer at The Times’, and though his article is heavy on anecdote and slim on science, I agree that the increasing occurrences of injuries in yoga should not be discounted or taken lightly. Still, the temptation to argue Broad’s article paragraph by paragraph is hard to resist: for example, yoga teacher Glenn Black’s repeated, incorrect use of the word ‘ego‘, or the need to go back to the 1970′s to find examples of strokes caused by yoga. The case of the college student who kneeled on his toes for hours ‘praying for world peace’, causing nerve damage, begs the questions: what was he more influenced by; yoga, or Christian penitence? And does one need to inflict suffering on oneself in order to bring about peace? The teachings of Yoga would claim just the opposite.

There are a couple of obvious reasons why there are so many injuries in yoga (which we must acknowledge do on occasion occur, as they do in every physical activity). The nature of the injuries and the way that one responds to an injury also varies greatly. However, Broad did not address this issue, he addressed the most sensationalistic aspects of injury, and this is what I wish to respond to.

Read the whole response. Later he states his concern about “the lack of balance in a report of genuine importance—risk of injury while practicing yoga.”

Me too. Maybe context and more balance will come from others over the next few weeks.

Affectionate Awareness

Sounds True is not only a great publisher but Tami Simon does these unbelievable great and meaty interviews with some of her authors and thinkers and writers.

The other week she interview Jon Kabat-Zinn, which you can listen to here or download from iTunes.

Here are some of my favorite passages….

I love this way of looking at “failure”

you can’t imitate anybody else. You have to find your own way, and life being the teacher will show you every time you get caught, every time you get hung up, every time you get attached. All of the things that we most think might be failures are actually just lessons—just the way, I think, Thomas Edison said, after his thousandth try resulted in the light bulb, but [he had] 999 failures, he said, “Those weren’t failures at all. I had 999 ways of knowing how not to make a light bulb.” And so, in that sense, that again is a kind of generous way of looking at it.

Regarding brain research on the effects of meditation:

all this brain research that’s coming out that’s showing not only changes in the activity of the very important regions of the brain that have to do with learning, that have to do with memory, that have to do with executive function and decision-making and emotion regulation. [They’re] not only finding changes in activation of various regions of the brain and the direction of what you might call great cognitive control or greater executive functioning and great emotional intelligence, but they are actually now seeing structural changes in many of these regions of both the neo-cortex and limbic system—the emotional domain of the brain.

So in eight weeks, in MBSR, they’re seeing thickening in various regions of the hippocampus and certain regions of the insula and the neocortex, and then the thinning of the amygdala. If these results turn out to be true, it is really demonstrating (and the irony is that it’s through meditation research) that the human brain is really an organ of experience and it responds to experience by changing its own structure. And its structure is the most complex structure in the known universe, and consists of over a hundred billion neurons, and neurons are only half the population of the human brain. [Those] hundred billion neurons [have] so many connections that, for our purposes, the number of synaptic connections is infinite.

And another, regarding “affectionate attention”:

Mindfulness is—you know, the way I define it operationally, is “the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” And the “non-judgmentally” is the real kicker, because we have judgments and ideas and opinion about just about everything. But that’s where the affectionate attending comes in. It’s not some kind of cold clinical perspective [where] we’re taking on things as you would if you were just thinking about things. It’s actually experiencing a sense of being in relationship to everything that is being experienced because the reality is all relational.

I mean, you can’t touch without being touched, and by extension, all the senses are in some way relational. If you don’t think that when you see that you’re being seen by the world—well, you may not feel that way if you’re living in New York City where everybody averts eye contact. But if you tried to spend the night in the rainforest in the Amazon, say, you’ll have the feeling that you’re being seen, not just that you’re seeing. That you’re being heard, that you’re not just hearing. And you’re being smelled and it’s not just you smelling. And you could very well be being tasted, too, by small creatures, as well as potentially [be] lunch for big creatures.