Yoga Ruins Your Life. . .

Puja at Hanuman Festival 2014

I have many teachers.  Teachers who have inspired my practice and life.  Not every one of them knows how they have influenced me or even my name.

Not every teacher has taught me asanas.  Some of my teachers even come in the form of my child or my dog.  But I am touched by each one just the same.

One such teacher is Richard Freeman.  He does not know me by name.  Although there was this one time he did point me out as an example of someone NOT doing what he instructed (so embarrassing – I must have been awe-struck)!

That's me in the light blue at my first Hanuman Festival workshop with Richard Freeman.  Photo by the amazingly talented Jim Campbell
That’s me in the light blue at my first Hanuman Festival workshop with Richard Freeman. Photo by the amazingly talented Jim Campbell.  To see Jim’s work visit OmLightPhotography.

I have been blessed to practice with Richard Freeman over several years at                 Hanuman Festival and respect deeply his teachings and sense of humor.

Below is a beautifully made video by Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop in which he eloquently and effortlessly describes how yoga grabs hold and ruins your life.

Yoga Ruins Your Life. . .


One last thing. . . many of us are blessed to have the ability to travel to festivals and study with well known teachers. However many of us can barely afford the price of keeping up with a consistent studio practice, much less leave our jobs, children, and other responsibilities to explore our practice. I have been in both situations in my life. Yoga can and should be accessible to everyone. Remember, Yoga Doesn’t Give A Shit! Many of the most inspiring and most studied teachers are available on services like YogaGlo or MyYoga and you can find local teachers in your area through apps and sites like MindBodyConnect and YogaTrail Keep Practicing!

Closet Full, Nothing to Wear? Give Your Clothes Away. . . A Modern Yogi Challenge

Yoga Pants
An Abundance of Yoga Pants

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there – standing in front of our collection of clothes and muttering to ourselves that we have nothing to wear.  This is definitely a first world problem, but a problem none-the-less that we can make a little fun of, right?  I mean seriously, it isn’t that we have nothing to wear, it is that we have too much to wear!

Many of us don’t realize that amassing more than we need often leads to feelings of not enough.  To put it simply, the more we have (beyond what is necessary for survival), often, the more we crave.  Feelings of discontent and lack are not uncommon when trying to find an outfit.  If we really think about it, it is a ridiculous state of mind.  So what can we do when we are faced with abundance, yet still feel discontent? Patanjali advises in the 8-limb path of yoga to practice the 5 codes of restraints called Yamas.

Aparigraha (Sanskrit: अपरिग्रहा), the fifth restraint, is the concept of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness.  Aparigraha is the practice of only taking what is truly necessary and no more.  Parigrah is Sanskrit for ‘to amass or crave’, the prefix of A translates to ‘non-‘.

We can explore Aparigraha in two ways; through our outer and inner worlds.  Outwardly, it encourages a simpler way of life and non-hoarding.  If we look through the lens of our inner-world, our minds, it is encouraging non-attachment and non-craving with the goal of creating inner-peace and contentment.

So, how can we practice Aparigraha in our modern lives?

First, recognize and have a sense of humor.  I just counted and will admit to amassing at least 20 pairs of yoga pants.  Do I still stand in front of my closet and mutter that I don’t have anything to wear – yes! Do I still crave more? Yes.  Am I ridiculous? Absolutely.  But, I choose to have a sense of humor about my hoarding habits.  I can recognize my tendency to justify this collection by listing the numerous classes I teach and times I practice heated yoga per week.  But really, I just get sick of my clothes and love having the variety.  There was a time when I was practicing the same amount of yoga with only two pairs of pants, that I would diligently wash out each evening in preparation for the next practice.  That worked too. I recognize that when I stand in front of my closet bursting at its seams, that much of what hangs there is more than I need and often ignored due to lack of quality, ill-fit or simply being tired of the item.

Second, get rid of everything!  Just kidding.  Get rid of everything that isn’t necessary, well-fitting or loved.  Living your yoga in the modern world doesn’t mean we have to give up having anything extra, frivolous or unneccessary, but it should be something that you love and will use.  So yes, you can have a great piece in your wardrobe that you only wear occasionally, simply honor its place in your closet.  Living your yoga isn’t about giving up everything you love, however being weighed down by more than you need can create more discontent than we realize.

Recently, I found this great strategy for downsizing your closet, by creating a capsule wardrobe. It is a great way to have a little fun practicing Aparigraha.  For myself, it helped me realize how much I already have, lessened my desire for more and created simplicity in my life.  I have started to apply the technique to other spaces in my home that weigh me down mentally. . .next stop?  The home office. . . ugh!

Home Office Paperwork
Sorting Through Home Office Paperwork

Keep Practicing!

My Granola Obsession. . .

Granola
Gluten Free Granola http://www.SamanthaEiblingYoga.com

 

My family and I cannot get enough of this granola.  A good friend brought this over in bar form for my birthday last year and we’ve been making and eating it ever since!  This recipe comes from The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen.  This recipe is a solid base from which to work.  Initially, it seems like a lot of ingredients, and I recommend buying ingredients from the bulk section of your local grocers to stock as pantry items and to decrease costs; swap out nuts or seeds as your budget allows.

 

Prepare. . .

Line a 9″ x 13″ baking sheet or pan with foil, allow for some to come up the sides, spray or lightly oil the top of the foil.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees

 

You will need. . .

1/3 cup Maple Syrup

1/4 cup packed Brown Sugar

1/4 tsp Salt

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl and then whisk in the oil.

 

In a second bowl. . . mix

2 cups Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats*

*(for bars process/blend 1/2 cup of these oats into a flour in a blender/grinder and mix into the wet ingredients). Do not use quick oats as they don’t work well in this recipe.

1/2 cup roughly chopped Pecans

1/2 cup Pepitos (Pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup raw Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Once the dry ingredients are mixed together, stir them into the wet ingredients until completely coated.

 

Press the ingredients into the prepared pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 35-45 minutes, rotate halfway through.  Watch carefully to ensure you don’t over brown the granola.  The edges should be browned when the granola is done, top golden.  If you processed the oats into the wet ingredients and wish to make bars, let the pan cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack, then cut into the desired size bars.  Let cool about an hour, then lift out of pan and carefully cut and separate.  If you want granola, simply crumble and add in any dried fruit or chocolate desired.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

 

And We Have Lift Off. . . Finding Flight in Mayurasana: Peacock Pose!

Mayurasana-SEY

 

Finding a sense of balance often means tapping into our deeper selves and beginning to move from our true center. Few poses in our asana practice illustrate this idea better than Mayurasana, Peacock Pose.

Initially, Mayurasana seems like a feat of impossible strength, after all, we are essentially creating a flying plank pose with just our hands and arms as the foundation. It only takes a couple of attempts though to realize it is much more.  This pose requires patience, perseverance, an ability to soften, a willingness to fall, and a sense of humor.

As with most things in life, if we try to muscle our way in, use brut strength and push ourselves too far – we wind up flat on our faces! Mayurasana teaches us to soften our bellies so we might access our deeper core muscles, and to leverage our upper and lower bodies against gravity using finess rather than force.

Once we transfer our focus to our true center, energy can radiate differently. In addition to the balance we learn to strike between strength and grace, Mayurasana shifts the attention of our breath from the front line of our bodies to the back lines. We are suddenly very aware that the compression of our upper arms into our bellies and diaphragm, requires us to shift our breaths focus to the back sides of our lungs. We learn that we are capable of expanding the backs of our rib cages and can tap into using the full capacity of our lungs.

 

What needs to be open? 

Shoulders, wrist and mind!

What needs to be strengthened or active? 

Legs, glutes, arms, deeper core muscles, sense of humor!

Some Helpful Prep poses:

Plank, Chaturanga – mid pushup,  shoulder openers ie Eagle – Garudasana, wrist openers, Firefly – Titibasana, Rabbit – Sasangasana, Double Wind Removing Pose – Pavanamuktasana

Variations:

Hamsasana – Dove Pose : fingers pointing forward

Padma Mayurasana – Peacock Pose with Lotus Legs

Uttana Padma Mayurasana – Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose: essentially shoulder stand with lotus legs

Pincha Mayurasana – Forearm Stand


Let’s Play:

1. come to hands and knees

2. reverse fingers so they point towards knees

3. open wrists by finding subtle movement back and forth

4. bend elbows and work to the soft part of the belly below the navel

5. relax the superficial belly muscles and soften them around the bent elbows (elbows will slide off against overly engaged abdominal muscles and can cause more discomfort)

6. option to press the big toes together as leverage and tilt forward (knees may still be down)

Mayurasana Variation2-SEY

or

7. lengthen legs out into a plank pose (toes still on ground)

Mayurasana Mid Plank Prep

8. stay here and breathe

or

9. continue to tilt into upper body, activating leg and glute muscles, breathing steadily, try to work weight forward until toes leave the earth (play with placing forehead on the ground and finding a teeter-totter effect, this can help find your center of gravity)

Mayurasana-SEY

10. another option is to enter through low lunge (as you might when flowing postures) – in low lunge, reverse the wrists and bend the elbows toward belly, activate both legs engaging inner thigh muscles and pelvic floor, lean into elbows and step the forward leg back – this controlled momentum can help move the energy forward (similar to entering Koundinyasana or Hurdlers Pose from a 3-legged Down Dog in a flow)

Mayurasana Lunge Prep

Cultivate your sense of play!  Remember to have patience!

The Mind is Our Servant Not Our Master

Ideally, the mind is our servant not our master.  So, we must practice the art of anticipating the mind.  We live within this mind; it is the framework in which we shape and shade all our actions and beliefs.  Meditation reshapes the tendencies of the mind and opens a field of awareness that allows us to channel the upset and create with confidence, courage and love.

– Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, PhD