Outer Ability & Inner Peace

OUTER ABILITY ≠ INNER PEACE

This morning … & I mean MORNING … I guest taught for Caitlin’s Morning Stretch class at The Yoga Garden. The class is working on Bird of Paradise variations … at 6:15 in the morning … whaaaattt?!

 

Here’s where my ego enters … binding poses are not my strength. My shoulders don’t move that way, & yet my pitta personality wants to use (abuse?) my flexibility in other areas to push into the pose … to the point where I risk injury. But hey, I share yoga practices  with the local community … I’m “supposed” to be able to do poses …

 

So I’m looking up preparatory poses & variations with straps. BTW, here’s a VIDEO I found that helped me find support with a strap:

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I shared these variations with the class this morning & we played around a bit. I felt  good about the sequence overall … yet I can’t say I felt very comfortable with my sharing of Bird of Paradise pose, honestly, because it exposes my weaknesses & blind spots.

 

What I DO appreciate is observing my fellow practitioners experiment in their own bodies, & work with the variation that best suited them at the time — whether it be Tree Pose, Bird of Paradise at the wall, a forward fold with the bind, or Bird of Paradise with a strap. If you’d walked into class this morning, you would have seen every person doing something different — & it was ALL good. Why?

 

“Ahimsa” came to my mind when considering this pose & what happened in class this morning. One of the 5 “yamas” (part of the 8 limbs of Yoga), ahimsa loosely translates into non-harming. Ahimsa includes avoiding harm of the environment, fellow humans & animals … AND avoiding harm to yourSELF.

 

Jason Crandell states again & again that the yoga practices can be confusing, challenging, even uncomfortable … but yoga shouldn’t hurt. So often people (including myself) come to a yoga class & crank themselves into poses — or even worse, a “teacher” cranks them into a pose, calling it “the full expression of the pose” (vomit) — & end up doing harm.

 

The people in class this morning showed me ahimsa at work, without even mentioning the concept. Each was doing his/her pose, they all looked different from the outside, & they weren’t willing to risk their inner peace for a pre-determined outer shape of the body. Non-harming.

 

On my Instagram today I came across the “Outer Ability ≠ Inner Peace” Accessible Yoga t-shirt. The message applied perfectly to my experience today — each of us is responsible for our inner peace, & our inner peace has nothing to do with our ability to make shapes with our bodies. The yoga poses have an important place in the Yoga system — yet they are always in service to the higher goal of Self-Realization & going off the mat with an inner peace that drives us to make the world a better place for all. I’m so thankful to you Mike, Lisa, Bonnie & Larry for teaching me today.

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Learn, Share, Kinship

This weekend I took the opportunity for some continuing education. The BYS Yoga Collective hosted a Chair Yoga Training in Pittsburgh. From yoga teachers to therapists to social workers and medical staff, a diverse array of souls gathered to widen the definition of what it means to practice yoga.

A chair yoga practice can benefit those with mobility limitations, recovering from a recent surgery or injury, or simply interested in a gentle practice without having to get on the floor. In addition, a chair yoga practice can provide those of us who sit in class or at work most of our day with a quick movement/stress relief break.

We discussed and practiced poses, breathwork and mudras (hand gestures) to calm, energize, focus, strengthen and/ or soothe the entire body and mind. I’m so grateful to our instructor, Alison, and all of the BYS staff for their welcoming hearts and wisdom.

On a break, I planned to walk down to Starbucks for a tea. Instead, Beehive Coffee called to me from across the street (I enjoy Starbucks, yet when there’s a local coffee shoppe I’m all in).

The young woman with the beautiful blue highlights in her hair greeted me, and I asked her what she recommends … “the beehive honey mocha, of course.” Done.

As she crafted my coffee drink and I listened to the live music coming from the back of the cafe, I noticed handmade knit items for sale at the counter. This one stuck out to me … I picked it up and out it back 3 times … “You don’t need another scarf, Erica” … “Does it bring you joy?” … An absolute YES.

The young woman at the counter making my drink is the knitting artist. Her smile from ear-to-ear when I raved over her work made my impulse buy all worth it. A leap in both our hearts. We saw each other, and gave each other back to ourselves — kinship, as Father Greg Boyle says.

May you learn something new to add life to your work in the world this week. And may you find a spark of joy in someone, notice, and swap that joy in kinship with each other on your paths.

See you on the mat, Erica

Speaking of the New Moon (2/4/19)

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“A new moon teaches gradualness
and deliberation and how one gives birth
to oneself slowly. Patience with small details
makes perfect a large work, like the universe.”
Rumi
Reminder: There is more to my life than increasing its speed.
“Anyone who knows me, should learn to know me again;
For I am like the Moon,
you will see me with new face everyday.”
Rumi
Reminder: It’s my job to show up authentically, not play a part that pleases others.
“All great beginnings start in the dark, when the moon greets you to a new day at midnight.”
Shannon L. Alder
Reminder: It’s ok to hibernate. In fact, for my growth it’s required.
“The reappearance of the crescent moon after the new moon; the return of the Sun after a total eclipse, the rising of the Sun in the morning after its troublesome absence at night were noted by people around the world; these phenomena spoke to our ancestors of the possibility of surviving death. Up there in the skies was also a metaphor of immortality.”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Reminder: Some days my light will have seemed to go out … yet there is hope. My light is within … at times hidden, yet ever-present and ever-eager to return to do its work in the world.
“. . . God is too busy making the sun come up and go down and watching so the moon floats just right in the sky to be concerned with color . . . only man wants always God should be there to condemn this one and save that one. Always it is man who wants to make heaven and hell. God is too busy training the bees to make honey and every morning opening up all the new flowers for business.”
Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
Reminder: Be about my business. Tend my own garden. There is such beauty to witness … to call forth … to share … as to fill lifetimes.
What does the new moon remind you?
See you on the mat soon, E

To Begin … Again and Again

It’s been my privilege to share space & practice with 12 amazing women during the Beginner’s Series at The Yoga Garden. We’re in week 4 of a 6-week series … I truly believe when more people practice yoga (not just postures, but all of it) the world becomes kinder, more compassionate, and more just for all.

Join me for the next series: March Beginner’s Series

Here are a few pics from today:

Cacao Energy Bites ❤
Reflection on Week 3 – Sun Salutations
Student Wisdom
Building Community of Practice

See you on your mat soon, Erica

Does the World Need Another Yoga Teacher?

“The world does not need another yoga teacher.”

Ouch.

This statement was the beginning of an Instagram post by one of my favorite teachers, Yogarupa Rod Stryker. I thought, wait a second! But … but … but …

The post goes on. Here’s a snippet:

However, the world desperately needs, true, authentic yoga practitioners — whether you teach or note, the right kind of practice will bring more patience, insight, kindness and wisdom into this world.

And so it is.

I have the privilege of sharing yoga with a group of amazing, unique, strong, dedicated women in a beginner’s series at The Yoga Garden. We’re into week 2 of a 6-week series, and Yogarupa’s words come at the perfect time — for me, for our group and in our world today.

I believe the more people who are on their mats, their meditation cushions, or simply being present with their BREATH (life force) … the better our world becomes. Who doesn’t want to be part of THAT?!

So my goal is to encourage more people to START … or keep up with … or even DEEPEN their yoga practice. Do I need to be a yoga teacher? No. But I need to practice my yoga in daily life with authenticity, with the knowledge that I will bumble through it most days, and knowing that MY practice brings more patience, insight, kindness and wisdom in the world.

Anyone can practice Yoga — there are eight aspects of Yoga outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, only ONE of which is the physical poses. The other just-as-important aspects of yoga include: daily living principles (restraints & observances), breathwork, drawing the senses inward, meditation, concentration, and higher consciousness. (Any Sanskrit scholars & senior teachers out there, forgive my roughness in translations!)

I encourage those of you just beginning a yoga practice to choose just ONE place to start, and go for it. If you have a yoga practice in one area of the eight aspects … maybe consider branching out in 2019. Deepen your practice.

Wherever you are on your yoga path, remember Yogarupa’s closing words from his Instagram post:

If Yoga is going to lift this world, it’s going to need real practitioners to keep the torch of Yoga lit for the generations to come.

YOUR PRACTICE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Thank you for making the world a better place, and let us continue to widen the circle of compassion, kindness, insight and wisdom.

Build Up Your Resilience for the Holidays

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The holidays are upon us, & research shows that (whether you’re feeling excited about the season or not-so-much) our collective stress levels rise during this time of year. Hmm, could that be why so many of us find ourselves with a cold, flu, or deep fatigue in January? Our bodies get so taxed that we have little left …

 

Here’s where a regular wellness practice can support you. Of course I love yoga 🙂 — from the physical practice to relaxation to meditation to lifestyle. I came to yoga depleted from many years of stress (internal & external), & have found that the practices are re-building my inner resilience over time — 10 years & counting.

 

The truth is, this time of year we tend to let go of the very practices that fill our proverbial cups physically, mentally, & spiritually … in the name of busy-ness, family obligations, or the “shoulds” of the holiday season. And we run ourselves down … & down … & down … BAD NEWS.

 

THE GOOD NEWS: Awareness can bring freedom. Are you letting go of your practices … viewing them as a luxury or an “if I have time?” STOP RIGHT THERE!

 

I invite you (& myself too) to take a moment — go ahead, have a seat — take a deep, smooth in-breath & out-breath — & remember. RE-member why you started your wellness practices in the first place. How do you FEEL when you’re doing good for your body, mind & spirit? Yes, remember that.

 

The intention of ANY yoga practice is to build steadiness & ease (sthira & sukha, from the Yoga Sutras). Your yoga is meant to REPLENISH you, & in no way deplete you. Yoga is not a “workout.” Yoga is a “working in” — working back to your big S Self, who you truly are. According to Yoga, that Self is a luminous, whole being. A spark of the Divine. How cool is that.

 

Commit to your practices this holiday season. Roll out your mat for a ___-minute practice before that family gathering. Sit in meditation before that stressful plane trip. Do what brings you back to YOU, fills your cup — BEFORE the stress/excitement/busy/go-go-go. Build your inner resilience, not only for you, but so you can go out & be a light to others in their holiday do-ings. Our Yoga can change the world.

 

*One more week of classes at The Ave in 2018! Join in — check out the schedule HERE. No classes Dec. 24th – Jan. 4th. Classes resume Jan. 7th, 2019!! (can you even believe it?!)

Build a Longer Table …

Here’s the intro to my December email update. Want to get on my email list? Once-monthly updates, no spam! Email “SUBSCRIBE” to erica.seaverengel@gmail.com. And welcome aboard!
You’ve heard the phrase or seen it on social media:
“When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.” The consistent practice of yoga (whether it be postures, breath awareness, meditation, or living consciously), over time, renders us with more than we need. What do we do with the stability, the ease, the [insert yours here] benefits of our practices? Here’s what the Yoga Sutra, a foundational text of the “big Y” Yoga, states in Sutra 1.33:Infusing the mind with friendliness, compassion, cheerfulness, and uninvolved observation in relation to those living a happy, miserable, virtuous, and non-virtuous life respectively, results in reclaiming a pristine state of mind.

In short, over time, our yoga practices support us to build a longer mental & emotional table. We welcome not only those we care about or who make us feel good, but also those who get under our skin, who are on a different path, or who create misery for themselves. Not to say we erase our personal boundaries of protection — it may be appropriate to sit someone at the veeeeeerrrrrryyyy end of our proverbial table for our personal safety & mental stability. Rather, we are able to meet others with equanimity of mind, allowing neither their joy/misery, success/challenges, or ups/downs affect our own happiness or ability to serve.

Your yoga practice matters beyond your mat.

Thank you for building longer tables with me. It’s been 6 months since we began our yoga community at The Ave, and almost that long at The Yoga Garden, & our St. Peter’s Lutheran yoga classes have been going for almost 2 years! Every time I see your soul walk through the door, it makes my day.

I hope you’ll check out my teaching schedule, & if you know someone who’d like to join our yoga “table,” please share this post and/or invite them to class. Namaste.

There’s Always Room for One More …

I was struck by this scene before class this morning:

My heart is full … to be able to share yoga with our community.

I hope, if you are new to me (welcome!), that you know there’s always room for one more! We scooch the mats over, we divvy up blankets/blocks, we make space … sacred space … for you to explore yoga in your body, mind, spirit on this day at this time.

Thank you for showing up on your mat … in your home or in a group setting … when you show up for yourself, you show up for the world around you. And we need more of that.

Hope to see your jacket join our coat rack soon.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me: erica.seaverengel@gmail.com.