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Neptune Seminars Announced

nilambu initiates the Neptune Seminars this term with three offerings.

Neptune seminars are two hour workshops that allow time to go to the depths. Nothing beats the experience of simply doing yoga, and these workshops will provide you with the awareness and experiential knowledge of yoga’s benefits to address particular ails.

When afflicted with pain, the relief that can result from moving your own body confers an often elusive sense of control. You just need to know how to move and what to move, and I’ll even tell you why.

A work sheet with instructions is included for home use. Space is limited to 5 participants and the cost for each is $30.

Insomnia
Friday, February 4th 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Back Pain
Sunday, February 27th 4:00 pm – 6:00

Headaches
Saturday March 5th 10:00 am – Noon

Bringing Yoga To Life – Book Review

Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living by Donna Farhi

I can’t recommend this book enough. Donna Farhi is well versed in yogic literature and deftly draws on her knowledge in chapters such as Sloth, The Seasons of Practice, The Freedom of Discipline, and A Larger Life.

She’s very readable and peppers her writing with both classic and contemporary parables.

She also animates her text with cultural references. For example, she posits that the proper attitude towards the challenges of life is somewhere between the deadly earnestness epitomized by Mission Impossible and the silly, madcap approach of Get Smart.

Only very rarely does she veer into strange suggestions – such as when she recommends spontaneous impulsive movement while others look on and extrapolate the emotion emoted and interpret the meaning in a neutral manner. (My aversion to such instructions is animated by bad modern dance classes I endured in the 70s).

But luckily, these moments are few and far between in her otherwise intimate, courageous and intelligent text. My favorite chapter is the Riptide of Strong Emotions which I reread when I feel a swell.

Find Out More to Purchase

A Women’s Book of Yoga – Book Review

Women’s Book of Yoga by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden

This resource is newly available and invaluable. Sparrowe is a former editor of Yoga Journal and Walden is a long time Iyengar teacher; their experience and knowledge, generously conveyed, is this book’s best feature. There are others.

The picture quality clearly shows the poses, with attendant props. Even new yoginis can recreate the set ups and glean benefits. I also like how the chapters are organized.

Various body challenges are loosely categorized into different periods in a woman’s life. Chapters address subjects such as eating disorders, back pain, immune support and headaches. Each opens with a general discussion of basic biological and anatomically background to inform your personal practice and then a series of poses are proposed. A good index can direct you to a specific pose.

Tips offered very adequately address common problems. And one of the best restorative yoga gurus in the US Judith Hanson Lasater penned the foreword. (Judith Lasater trained me to teach restorative yoga)

Find Out More to Purchase

Is Yoga a Religion?

The short answer is no. But yoga is more than an athletic endeavor. While yoga practice is often distilled to a single limb of yoga – the asanas (or poses), the spiritual aspect of yoga is integral to the practice of yoga.

Much richness and reward is lost with an exclusive focus on the physical disciplines. However, even more so than the physical practice, the spiritual practice is very personal. As such, no teacher, yogi, or guru will instruct your beliefs. But hopefully, yoga will encourage you to examine and reflect on your spiritual life.

Donna Farhi describes this process well. She notes that yoga is not

a religion, although the practice of its central precepts inevitably draws each
individual to the direct experience of those truths on which religion
rests.
– Donna Farhi, Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit (New York: Henry Holt,
2000), p. 5.

What do the spiritual disciplines of yoga entail? Do they require conversion to Hinduism or Buddhism? No.

Certainly, you will learn more about both of these religious practices as yoga originated and grew along side each of them. Many find that a full yoga practice enhances their spiritual life whatever their upbringing or religious beliefs. In Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice Christie Turlington reveals how yoga renewed her commitment to her Catholic faith and drove her to learn more.

For myself, I found that my yoga practice very much added much to my own faith. With exposure to these other religious rituals I re-examined in my own faith for comparable practices and tenants. I learned the difference between meditation and prayer. I reacquainted myself with Christian mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi and Julian of Norwich. I compared the Ten Commandments and the Yamas and Niyamas and found they both respect the divinity in our selves and in each other.

This investigation goes on with study and participation in my local high church Episcopalian parish in DC, St. Paul’s, and in my enrollment in the Education for Ministry coursework at St. Albans.

An aside: the Washington National Cathedral is offering “Sacred Circles – A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality” on February 18th -19th and one of the morning session features a workshop of yoga and Christian prayer (specifically the prayer to St. Francis of Assisi) to “invoke the transformative presence of Christ for strength and humility, steadfastness and fluidity, openness and focus.” Check out the entire program here.

The contrasting encounters that accompanied my growing yoga practice very much echoed the loving, tolerant and generous religious education I enjoyed as a child. I learned much more about my faith because I was a Protestant learning in a Catholic school run by the Sisters of the Holy Child. At the age of nine, I was very scared and nervous about my new school. On my very first day, as we recited The Lord’s Prayer, I embarrassed myself as I continued beyond the end of the Catholic version of the prayer with the Protestant ending (the added doxology).

Thereafter, I consistently queried why things were and why beliefs differed. And in this way, my religious values were fortified by the constant distinctions against another faith structure. At the same time, I grew to deeply respect and value many aspects of the Catholic faith.

I’ve learned much about Buddhism with my yoga practice. The spiritual writings of Sharon Salzburg, Pema Chodron provoke and inspire me (Salzburg will be a featured speaker at the Cathedral’s Sacred Circles). Karen Armstrong, a former Holy Child nun, instructs me with her scholarship.

And, as before, I am often struck by the common precepts and practices. But just as when I was a child and young adult, this investigation inspires me to learn more about the spiritual life in my own tradition. With my replenished spiritual practice, my life is more fulfilled, and I consider this benefit amid the most rewarding of my yoga practice.

One final note: I was fascinated to learn the term “religion” enjoys a similar etymology as yoga. Derived from the Latin word, “religare,” religion means “to bind back” or to reunify. (Alistair Shearer, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (New York: Sacred Teachings, 1982), p. 24.)

Yoga is not a religion by itself. It is the science of religions, the
study of which will enable a sadhaka [a seeker, an aspirant] the better to
appreciate his own faith. –
B.K.S. Iyengar Light on Yoga (New York: Schocken Books, 1966), p. 39.

How To Achieve Contentment

Perfect happiness is attained through contentment – Yoga Sutras chapter ii; 42

Samtosha is the capacity to feel fulfilled with the life that one has and at peace with the stage of growth we are in currently. Put another way Samtosha is the ability to feel glad with whatever fate may bring. Samtosha (sometimes spelled Santosha) is one of the yoga niyamas and is the most challenging yogic observance for me.

For more on the niyamas and how they fit into the world of yoga click here.

I’d always dismissed the pursuit of happiness as a particularly perverted optimistic American aim indoctrinated by our Declaration of Independence. I considered the single minded pursuit of happiness selfish. Suffering ennobled. Suffering conferred status (suffering long work hours especially in DC). Suffering created artists. And a perfect happiness? Hard to conceive never mind achieve.

Contentment is where desire and opportunity meet without tension or conflict. How do they converge? First, you have to be honest with yourself about your wishes to recognize those desires suppressed and those needlessly elevated. Once you’ve evaluated what you deeply want, you can either refashion your desires to meet the opportunities available or search for new opportunities to meet entrenched desires. The common thread through this union of desire and opportunity is perspective. So this approach may strike you as mental gymnastics – simply shifting a point of view to promote happiness. And you’d be right. The niyamas are yoga for the mind.

Of course, much in life sucks and sucks absolutely. This exercise is not to belittle real frustrations, injustices and unfairness. Nor do I mean to suggest this shift is facile. Yoga is hard but, in my opinion obviously, worthwhile.

Michel de Montaigne wrote,

We must learn to endure what we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of contrary things, also of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only one kind, what would he have to say? He must know how to use them together and blend them. And so we must do with good and evil, which are onsubstantial with our life. Our existence is impossible without this mixture, and one element is no less necessary for it than the other. To try and kick against natural necessity is to imitate the folly of Ctesiphon, who undertook a kicking match with his mule.

– Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays of Montaigne. Trans. Donald M. Frame (Stamford: Stanford University Press, 1943) p. 835.

How do I avoid a kicking match with a mule? A fight sure to be lost?

Another yoga sutra aids me in the transformation of my outlook:

Tranquility of thought comes through the cultivation of friendship, compassion, joy and impartiality in spheres of pleasure or pain, virtue or vice.

– Yoga Sutras chapter i, 33

How does this really happen?

  • Cultivate a friendliness and joyfulness to your friends, family and strangers. A practice of joy creates joy.
  • Nurture deep empathy for those whose suffering is worse than our own. No one owns suffering to the exclusion of others.
  • Celebrate the fortune of others, truly and without qualification. Avoid recriminations based in envy or disdain.
  • Acknowledge others and their feelings, thoughts and needs. Act with integrity in light of that recognition.
  • Rejoice in the approval and admiration of those who love you. Show them your appreciation.
  • Release regrets. Liberate ill will. Delete old painful stories. Be impartial to those who harm you.
  • Detach from blame and fault. Towards others and towards ourselves.

What does espousing these attitudes (brahmavihara) do? In her translation of the sutras, Barbara Stoler Miller suggests that this cultivation requires

a radical change in [one’s] perceived relationship with other creatures on earth. These practices work to demolish the boundaries between oneself and others, and to break through the barriers that lock people into egoism. (page 39)

The premise and promise of these yoga sutras is that by relinquishing myself from the center, by giving up my hold on suffering, by yielding to reality, by reaching out to others. In those efforts, I will find peace. Where these unite, harmony and balance occurs in the mind and happiness ensues in the heart.

Yoga can help you be noble, artistic, esteemed as well as happy.

Free Classes Until Columbus Day!

Come and try out nilambu classes on any of the following days –

Monday, September 27th
6:30 – 7:15 pm

Tuesday, September 28th
10:00 – 11:15 am

Tuesday, September 28th
6:30 – 7:15 pm

Saturday, October 2nd
10:00 – 11:15 am

Monday, October 4th
6:30 – 7:15 pm

Tuesday, October 5th
6:30 – 7:15 pm

Classes are small enough to accommodate all levels so all are welcome any day. Just call 202-333-8854 or email info@nilambu.com to reserve a spot. Space is limited to 6 per class.

Also special introductory rate of $35 for an hour private session is available until October 5th.

nilambu Founder Quoted in UPI

I spoke with a business reporter about the popularity of yoga, and this appeared last month:

“For me, as a teacher, the biggest challenge is broadening the scope of
yoga for Americans, who tend to view yoga as simply a physical practice or as
calisthenics with an Eastern tinge,” said Cassandra Metzger, a Washington,
D.C.-based yoga instructor. “The popularity of yoga is a mixed blessing. On the
one hand, many are venturing in who would never before consider yoga. On the
other, many often have misconceptions about the broad basics of yoga — from the
approach, the benefits, the history to the fundamentals.”

Noting that the interest in yoga has “just exploded,” Metzger added
that teaching yoga requires a great deal of training.

“I practiced yoga for eight years before training to be a teacher. The
training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

To see the full text, click “Soon Everybody Will Be Twisting” (United Press International News; Published 8/7/2004)

Urban Yoga Retreat in Soho

Om Yoga coordinated with the Soho Grand for a fantastic fun weekend in New York City. Cyndi Lee’s vinyasa yoga style and Buddhist approach works wonders.

I know that personally and deeply. That’s why I studied for over nine months at Om Yoga to get my teaching certificate. I can’t recommend Om Yoga highly enough.

This weekend at the Soho grand is taught by OM yoga-NYC, directed by Cyndi Lee. Other Om Retreats around the country can be found here.

If you have time, you should check out the real thing at 826 Broadway (at 12th Street) on the 6th floor right above the another New York original, the Strand Bookstore, “18 miles of books.” Yeah, Om Yoga and the Strand is a heady nexus. Go there!

Details on the retreat in New York City can be found here. The retreat features plenty of outstanding yoga (restorative and some meditation too) as well as plenty of free time to enjoy the wonders of New York City.

NBC Nightly News’ Anne Thompson featured Om Yoga in a piece on the body-mind connection on Monday, September 20, 2004. To see the video clip, click here and then click on Using the mind to heal the body

Fall Class Sessions Announced

New nilambu class sessions run for 7 weeks from Saturday, October 16th to Monday, December 6th. No classes will be held the week of Thanksgiving from November 20th to November 27th. And there’ll be an extra long component of meditation to calm all our nerves on Tuesday, November 2nd!

Class levels: nilambu classes offers classes at various levels. The classes are small (6 clients maximum) to ensure personal attention and responsiveness. I am happy to consult to find your most suitable class.

Monday Evenings
6:30 to 7:45 pm
Quarter Moon
For those who are rising or receding in their practice.

Tuesday Mornings
10:00 to 11:15 am
Full Moon
For those who have never practiced yoga.

Tuesday Evenings
6:30 to 7:45 pm
Full Moon
For those who have never practiced yoga.

Provisional Class Offerings
(if enough interest; level determined by those who register)

Saturday Mornings
10:00 to 11:15 am

Sunday Afternoon
4:00 to 5:15 pm

Cost: The entire 7 weeks is available for $135.00 (cash or check please). Make up classes are available as are single classes are available but please confirm and call 202-333-8854 to reserve a space. First come, first serve but those signed up for the entire 7 week session are given space priority. Single class rate is $20.00. Free Introductory session should be arranged first to ensure smooth transition into the flow.

Free: All new clients are entitled to a free 45 minute private orientation session to review goals and concerns. Please contact me directly to schedule at
cass@nilambu.com.

Other services: Private and semi-private sessions are a great way to boost your practice or to hone in on a particular challenge. To encourage consistency, special private packages for groups or singles are available, just inquire. Gather some girlfriends and give nilambu a call to fashion a special class just for your group.