“Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,
without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.
In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:
since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we will be.”
— Pablo Neruda
Yesterday, my friend Mac asked me to go to a partner yoga class (not to be confused with Acro Yoga) at the recently opened Priya Pilates on Hwy 89A here in West Sedona. I had never done a partner yoga class, so of course I had to try it.
The teachers of the partner yoga class were Marc Titus & Heather Driscoll.
The class started with Marc asking Mac and I to put our mats right next to each other. Then we began in Tadasana and began breathing, first normally and then with Ujjayi. It was so awesome to be that close to someone and feel how our breathing began to change naturally to match each others. Each inhale and exhale we took together. Mac and I have practiced yoga together for over 6 years so matching our breath wasn't new to us, but being so close was. It was a totally different experience.
We began by stretching and opening our hearts and lengthening our spine together. Marc asked us to send prana to parts in our body that needed it and to even send it to my neighbors body. This was such a nice thought. During this section I have to admit that being this close to Mac was kind of funny and we couldn't stop laughing. We've never touched hands before, let alone knees, elbows, forearms, backs (other than when helping each other with minor adjustments in our own personal practice). If you went to this class with a loved one it could be considered romantic and sensual, so if you have a date, bring them along... You'll definitely be happy about it :) Or! Come alone, because there are other benefits as well. While I was practicing with Mac, I felt grateful that he was trying to be a mountain for me in Warrior III or a big Oak tree for me in tree pose. I felt appreciation when my friend said he was sending prana and strength to me in my lunge or when he was consciously careful while leaning on me in seated forward fold. It's nice to openly send that kind of love and care to each other. So if you come alone, I believe you will leave knowing that your partner sent you love, prana and grace as well. It's a nice feeling.
After the opening sequence with Marc, Heather took over and led us through vinyasa. Side by side vinyasa is just amazing. Each inhale and exhale moved Mac and I together into plank, cobra, downward dog, warrior. With eyes closed we somehow managed to move in unison without knocking each other in the face lol. This part was my favorite. I love vinyasa and I was surprised to see how much heat I was creating in my body after just a couple of vinyasas. I really enjoyed this part. Heather is trained in guiding you seamlessly from one pose to another. I recall though that her yoga language is a little different than mine, meaning we call Warrior I different things in English and this confused me once or twice, however her knowledge of the yoga Sanskrit terms are flawless. If you are new to yoga, she is definitely capable of helping you with adjustments in order to be in the pose.
Side Note: Don't worry... the heat/sweat that we built during this section did not get exchanged with each other. It was during this time that we did not use each others bodies for support, etc. So, when we moved on to balancing poses, we had an opportunity to cool down.
Next: Balancing poses. HAHA.... It was so funny to try to hold tree while holding each others elbows. This was a lighthearted moment in the class. If Mac happened to move to the right some, I did. If he fell, I did too. We finally figured out if we focused our drishti on something other than each others bodies then we could hold the pose. When I found my balance, Mac did too and our breathing began to unite again. Very cool. At one point we had our backs to each other and Heather said to feel how the back of our hearts touched and how it was all together one heart in the world (something like that)... union, yoga... It was so inspiring.
Last: Seated Folds, Deeper Stretches & Savasana: This winding down section involved deeper stretches and forward folds. I love it when a teacher touches me to adjust my position or deepen my stretch — it is the equivalent of a free massage from a trained professional in my opinion. So, having Mac firmly pressing down on my quadriceps while gently pressing on my back while I went into seated forward fold was just heaven. With each exhale he added a little more weight on my back and soon I was in the deepest seated forward fold in my life (other than this one time I totally fell asleep in seated forward fold and woke up with my head on my knee / long story lol).
While in Savasana, Marc played a wooden flute and led us deeper into our resting pose. It was a nice finish. After the class we casually played around with inversions and I learned a new assist that helped me go from headstand to dolphin. I had never done that before and I truly enjoyed it. I can't stop doing it on my own now.
In conclusion: It was the first time Marc Titus & Heather Driscoll had taught this class and I believe they did a wonderful job. They seem very knowledgeable in the world of yoga anatomy, energy, adjustments, and prana. The class was held in a beautiful studio and was candlelit, which made the whole experience even more personal for me. (I explain this at the very end of this blog post). They are going to host the class every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. I hope to see you there next Wednesday! In summary, this partner yoga class was so much fun and I highly recommend it to any and everyone no matter how long you've practiced yoga. If you go, share your thoughts with me here! I'm curious what you think as well.
Yoga pose examples during the assisted section of the Partner Yoga Class at Priya Pilates
Power in Balance
Yoga of the Sun & the Moon
With Marc Titus & Heather Driscoll
Explore the joy of partner yoga. Come to the mat to open your heart in union and love. Enhance flexibility, strength and consciousness together to create balance and harmony in all relations. Bring a date, partner or friend.
Is Partner Yoga Beneficial to My Meditative State?
Yoga is a spiritual practice. The "goal" of yoga is to “achieve union with your essence” through a combination of physical and metaphysical means, including postures (asanas), breathing exercises and meditation. Traditionally, yoga is taught one-on-one, takes years to master and has nothing to do with improving the definition of your shoulder muscles. It also emphasizes emotional detachment, which I admit was difficult for me to achieve in partner yoga.
Being so close to another person while practicing was a little distracting, but having the candle light versus bright lights, seemed to bring the essence of the practice to my center. It added something to this practice. Also, Marc's deep love and gratitude towards prana and energy radiates from him and so being in any other partner yoga class that would (I assume) typically be very distracting, somehow, still remained a spiritual practice, although on a different level than I am accustomed in my own personal practice.
I am going to continue to go to the partner yoga class on Wednesdays and I realize that I probably will not reach the same level of meditation that I am used to in my own practice, but I am okay with that. Partner yoga is almost a foolproof way of getting people to lighten up, and somehow it kept me out of my mind. It makes people interact. Through practicing partner yoga, we experience a deepening trust in ourselves and others, and realize that by working in a partnership, we manifest more than we ever could alone. I am grateful for that. Namaste'.
As 2012 comes to a close, some of us celebrate the good that has entered our lives and reconcile that which has brought sadness, insecurity, or anger. This kind of emotional (vichara), or self-reflection, is a powerful way of releasing the past and making space for new life to flourish. I often celebrate the New Year by making a list of my intentions for the year to come—writing down what I want for myself, using affirmative language, and—of course—making it all sound yogically kosher: "In the year to come, I'll serve my students with joy. I'll experience abundance in my spiritual, emotional, and material life. I'll live within my heart and center and respond through love." Stuff like that. This year I intend on spending more time consciously recollecting my words and actions of the previous year... Something that's not always easy, but I find that it is exactly what I need sometimes.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that Vichara/Self-Reflection is a way of clearing the underbrush out of our inner field. When we make up our mind to look clearly at our own unconscious actions, or the inner murk that can hide our less savory motives, we dissolve a lot of the sludge that we carry around in our heart. The miracle of (Vichara), or self-reflection is that it creates a current of self-awareness that can bring transformation all by itself. The process of recalling a charged event, bringing it to consciousness, feeling remorse if appropriate, and then letting it go is the precursor to letting go of the negativity and self-judgment embedded in the memories of actions we might regret.
Looking at ourselves honestly is not easy for most of us. Often it's downright uncomfortable. Our habits of self-justification, blame, and denial often are deeply rooted. Some of us have a hard time admitting our successes. Most of us have an even harder time admitting our mistakes. One reason for this is that we identify so closely with our usual way of doing things that we don't believe that we can change. Sometimes we don't want to! However, the more you get in the habit of looking back at your day, week, or month and clearing your discomfort, the more automatic it becomes.
And so this morning I spent time rearranging my alter and my inner-self to reflect my new focus and intention for the upcoming year - Gratitude and Self-Healing. The essence of an altar is to honor Divine energies, express gratitude, give offerings and ask for blessings and protection. My last alter was focused on opening my heart and so it had pictures of people I hoped to forgive or send love and compassion and peace towards... My new alter includes a picture of my grandparents and of my love, Mike. Other little things are here and there. A mala that I gave to my Grandma about a year before she died. Flowers and a rose quartz mala that Mike gave me. Crystals, incense, and pictures of deities that create a loving feeling in my heart... A quote that moves me, which I posted in the last blog entry, but you can read it hereif you like.
While I was adding a few finishing touches on my new space, I became just a little bit sad... The idea of purposely spending time meditating on my own self-healing and continued gratitude for everything, well it's a little bit intimidating... And then this song came on my iPod (Into your arms - Ashana). Perfect timing. I closed my eyes, naturally fell into a meditative position, my left hand went into Gyan Mudra, while my right hand rested on my heart... and I surrendered... to myself, to my past, to the future. I sent love to my past, present, and future self and to everyone I love... Despite having a following moment of slightly wet lashes, it has been a good day... This new alter seems to create a feeling of peace and harmony with the way my life is at this moment... I feel more gratitude for the people in my life, the memories I have, whether good or bad; the experiences I've endured or thrived in... So today, I adjusted my alter, spent about 25 minutes in seated meditation, practiced Anusara Yoga and then went running/frolicking with my dog Gracie. I feel really whole and happy today. I hope you do too.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.
~ Carl Sandburg
"When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life."
- Eckhart Tolle
This morning when practicing, I had a moment when I realized the difference between doing and being in each posture.
Through the years, I have practiced and flowed through the same sequence with minor changes here or there depending on the part of my body that needed love.... and even though the sequence remains essentially the same each time I practice it, the richness lies in finding newness and presence everyday in a pose I do every single time my feet touch the mat.
Some days it is a struggle. Other days everything seems to flow with ease and effortlessness.
Yesterday I went downstairs to my yoga room and laid my mat out and then just stood there thinking about how I had not practiced yoga in four days and that my body was probably going to be stiff and not as limber as it usually is (not really a good way to start a practice = with self loathing, disappointment etc). As I was flowing through my sequence I became aware that I was annoyed with my body and with myself for losing balance in my life... I even punished myself with words internally: "Four days Ashley! You're not a good yogi... etc".
The lack of flexibility in my back while in Bhujangasana (Cobra) annoyed me. Chaturanga annoyed me because my arms felt weak. When I attempted to "float" back to the front of my mat to be in Ardha Uttanasana, I literally slammed my feet down instead of lightly placing them between my hands. Ugh, the frustration! When I went into my first Uttanasana (Forward Fold) I was unable to touch my head to my knees because my hamstrings were too tight. All these things bothered me. I was aware they bothered me, but it seemed that becoming aware of it wasn't enough to make my feelings change immediately. At least not yet.
Over time I felt my hips loosen up. My head touched my knees, my shoulders gave way and my heart opened up and I became aware that my body was returning to me. I held Bakasana (Crane Pose). It felt good and I smiled.... but the battle with my ego did not end there. I started flying through my asanas... focusing on the future, on Savasana. On being done with this practice. On being able to say to myself, "Good job, you practiced, you did it". I was quickly going through poses, my teeth were tightly shut, I was not breathing properly, I was subconsciously just trying to be done. One hour later and many attempts to come back to center or be kind to myself resulted in me simply ceasing to practice. I stopped. I just stopped and I stood there and I thought to myself, "What's up with you? What do you want?" So I lied down on my mat, closed my eyes, and I did not move or think for 20 minutes. And it felt good... and after 20 minutes I sat up and decided that I would just stay here all day until I forgave myself for being so silly one hour earlier.
After Savasana I picked up my yoga notebook and my copy of the Yoga Sutra's. I have had this kind of practice before in my life and with a little research I found the following lesson:
Practice and Non-Attachment
Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).
I felt so much better after reading that. I let go of my attachment to what I thought my body should feel like and what my practice should look like. Some days it's a struggle. Other days everything seems to flow with ease and effortlessness. Accepting that this particular practice wasn't like others before it, and being with whatever has changed, gave me an experience on the mat that I can utilize in my daily life. I am grateful for that.
After giving in to my body and lying down in Savasana, I found total satisfaction with scaling back, and becoming less concerned with how far I've come, and more into how deep I can go. It's never ending. Instead of spreading myself thin, I found unlimited abundance with simply being where I am.
"It's the same sequence, but everyday is different."
This mornings practice was different, just as I knew it would be. I found joy in my breath and in my body. I felt happiness that I was sore, that my hamstrings were even tighter than they were yesterday. It can be easy to get caught up in the accomplishment of postures, like I did yesterday with Bakasana and when I thought to myself that I would feel better if I could just say to myself that I did the whole practice, however with that, there is little experience with Grace. With being in the pose and the joy that I can even be in the pose, as I am.... Merely Doing a practice lacks the presence and reward of Being in the practice; of simply being.
Balancing the effort of my practice with non-doing becomes a subtle practice in and of itself.
"It's the same sequence, but everyday is different."
Now, this morning, I've come to a point where I've listened to my inner voice, and pressed on a bit further, knowing that nothing has been lost, and nothing is really gained by doing so. All is already available, and always has been.
It's so cool how our teachers in all their forms: a book, yourself, an asana... Have a way of subtly teaching us these vast and important lessons. You know what I mean? :)
Look at all of these cherry tomatoes that Mike and I harvested from our garden today! Feeling so nourished xo
Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it.
Do you want happiness, a quiet mind,
a certainty of purpose,
and a sense of worth and beauty
that transcends the world?
Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed,
a gentleness that can never be hurt,
a deep abiding comfort,
and a rest so perfect it can never be upset?
All this forgiveness offers you.
~A Course in Miracles
Somehow, in the last couple days, I got caught up in focusing on what has been lacking in my life... instead of focusing on the great blessings that have been bestowed on me. I guess it is something we can all get sucked into from time to time.
I feel awkward writing about something so personal... especially since I just had a wonderful time of yoga in the park... but I feel this need to express myself some and the lessons that I learned today.
It started when my sweetheart started frowning more often than not and when we both became stressed about a lack of funds. He recently came across a quote on his daughters yoga page that broke his heart, again...
To quote his daughter, "After almost two years of college I took a semester off to receive my second 200hr training in Kundalini Yoga through 7 Centers Yoga Arts. This training brought an amazing level of peace to my life, that at the time was very chaotic. My father left our family, essentially leaving us emotionally and financially high and dry you could say."
This hurts us both because it's so not true, which leads me to question perspective and reality.
Mark Twain said, “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” I hope this is not true in this case.
My sweethearts ex-wife requested a divorce over 6 years ago and since then he's provided for them all in every way... for the very Kundalini training and all yoga trainings that his daughter has taken and that she quotes as a savior during this time, and for her and her brothers college, all their cars, the roof over their heads. All their bills. Computers. Insurance. Medical expenses. Car repairs. You name it. And his heart has been open and never once closed off to his children... So... he's been hurt. I've been hurt. We've both worked so hard to keep them afloat as well as ourselves... it just hurts. We both keep hoping that this isn't the case anymore... that her perspective has changed, but she's given him no reason to think otherwise...
*Sigh... so here I am. Becoming aware of this sorry and pitiful state within myself. It has been important for me to continually remind myself of all that I have to be grateful for...
Anaïs Nin (1903 - 1977) said, "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
I learned this quote from a guide when I was a young girl... after experiencing many traumatic events.... it made me realize I no longer wanted to feel broken or empty or abandoned or alone, because I truly wasn't.
So maybe, his daughter is just so wrapped up in the feelings of loss for him in her home that she feels bereft of everything else (emotional and financial support) in general? Even though that's not reality.
In practice I have been sending energy to the core central axis of the body.... starting from the bandhas, reaching up through the heart center and extending through the top of the head... continually finding a grounding sensation with the earth. It can be a magical experience... then the periphery seem to line up in a dynamic way. Connecting to prana... feeling subtle energy... I find it one of the most fascinating parts when it comes to the practice of yoga... the sensitivity we can tap into... feeling the grace that surrounds us... its beautiful... its powerful... and I'm sending peace her way. Om, shanti shanti shanti... Peace. Peace. Peace.
“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.”
― Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley