Taking YTT 200 with an injury

Eight years ago, I injured my left knee. I can’t recall what exactly I was doing but I’m certain it was nothing important or strenuous. I felt a sharp pain every time I landed my foot on the floor of whenever I bent my left knee. It felt like someone was driving a thin metal-cold knife right under the knee bone. But a few months passed and my knee was back to normal.

Two years ago, the same thing happened. On a random day, I bent down from a standing position into a squat to pick up some things on the floor, and the same sharp pain came back. I couldn’t bend my knee without feeling the invisible thin knife slicing through the joint. And this time, my entire knee began to swell. Climbing a flight of stairs was a struggle. Lifting heavy luggage was a struggle.

By this second bout of injury, I was already active in my Yoga practice. But the injury made it excruciating to do simple poses like chair pose. And after every practice, my knee would swell and I had to take a few days rest so it could partially (no fully) recover.

Unlike the first time, the pain had no plans of leaving me. Three, four months had passed and the trauma on my left knee remained. My movements had severely been limited.

When I attended Yoga classes, I couldn’t perform any asana that involved kneeling or the lotus position. Doing cat and cow and then moving into a low lunge was a NIGHTMARE.

My knee was stiff but its insides felt so tender. Whenever I pushed my knee beyond its limit, at the end of the class I always got the feeling that my lower leg was about to fall off – like when you lift the drumstick off a whole roasted chicken, and the cartilage and skin begin to tear. All you need is to pull it towards you and the chicken leg comes right off.

And my Yoga teachers gave different pieces of advice like strengthen my thigh and avoid placing weight on my left leg. They also suggested Pilates to help strengthen my leg.

But, rather than strengthening my left leg, I developed uneven legs. I could barely stand on my left leg without support or without the pain searing through. So, I would place most of my weight on my right leg to compensate — my right leg basically became more macho than my left leg.

When I visited the rheumatologist, he said I had early onset osteoarthritis. Because of two prior injuries, my knee has decided to have an accelerated “wear and tear.” He also told me there was nothing I could do about it other than to ensure I didn’t add to the progression. I wasn’t supposed to do any running, jumping and mountain climbing.

I was only 29 then and I had an old person knee problem. I was horrified. And one of my biggest fears in that moment was that my knee condition would require me to take a step back from doing Yoga.

But instead of slowing down, I decided this was a push towards the right direction. I took the diagnosis as a sign that I needed to find a place and time where someone would teach me, specifically and properly, how I could continue with my Yoga practice without my knee holding me back. I wanted to find a way to excel in my practice despite having a chronically injured body part.

That was when I decided to take the Yoga Teacher Training 200 course.

I had apprehensions; I was afraid my knee would act up and I would have to give up the course half way. Giving up the course was not a practical option for me since I was flying all the way from Philippines.

But lo and behold, our batch is in our last week of training and I am still in one piece. My left leg has gained strength over three weeks, which was possible because of three key aspects in the training:

  • Daily asanas that were heavy on technique (which were really challenging on certain days but beneficial every step of the way)
  • Knowledge of the muscular and joint system (I understood which thigh muscles to pull so that I could relieve the left knee of stress, pain and overextension)
  • Awareness of the fact that Yoga can really be used for therapy.

An injury will come in different shapes and forms. It might be inevitable, especially as our physical bodies get older. But it should not stop you. Instead, it should inspire you to want to get better. An injury does not mean you have to stop Yoga; rather, it means you need to take a new approach to your practice. It might also mean the current way you treat your body is not proper or optimal, and that you need to seriously make a change; and giving more attention and taking on an educated approach to your Yoga practice is a great way to start.

4/4

What has YTT done to me?

I didn’t want to wait till the end of my course to write this post. Tomorrow marks the last week of my YTT training. Yes, time does fly.

In the previous week, I started to reflect increasingly on myself and the training. Did I gain anything from the course? If yes, what did I gain? Did I improve?

I shared with some of my classmates that I feel that our class has a very strong energy, that not only binds us together, but also motivates us to work together to improve. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. With this energy, together with the focus of the training, the relentless ‘sweet revenge’ teachings by the teachers, I saw myself improving the most with the 3 weeks, compared to my years of yoga practice. I learn something new everyday, which is good for my aging brain!

In the last 3 weeks, I am even busier compared to when I was working. After the daily class, I have to run the family errands and then come back home to do the daily homework and reading. But it was fulfilling. My body may be tired but my mind is not.

In this coming week, we will focus on completing our assessments to attain the certification and we will then go on our separate paths. Some of us will return to our previous routines, some of us will start nervously on our first teaching classes and some of us will continue to explore and think of what we should do next.

It is a great way to start the new year. I will miss dearly the energy that the class has brought to me. Thank you to my teachers and classmates in the full time Jan 2019 YTT Tirisula batch !

Yoga for Dancers

In class, dancers have to worry about a million things at once. The choreography, technique, alignment, expression, musicality not to mention the ever-present mirror reminding you of any insecurities they might have about their appearance. Yoga asanas let you step away from all that and just focus on the movement.

In Hatha yoga, the slow and steady progression of the class makes picking up the movement a piece of cake for dancers, so you can focus on engaging the correct muscles and lengthening in the stretches. Dancers don’t have time in technique class to go back to basics and just feel their muscles working. Taking a lower level class can be boring, and taking a class at your technical level doesn’t leave you with enough freedom between movements to explore the body. In yoga, the placement of each individual toe and weight distribution is emphasized. Moving slowly and deliberately lets you place your limbs into correct alignment with precision.

In Ashtanga vinyasa, the repetitive nature of every class provides a controlled benchmark for improvement. Dancers are so self-critical, but by executing the same sequence of postures every session, the increase in strength and flexibility is clear. 

Vinyasa yoga can help work on an often neglected part of dancer’s training, upper body strength. The repetitive chatarangas and arm balances are sure to tone up your arms for an improved port de bras. 

1) Working Turned in 

Additionally, stretching and strengthening in a turned in position is important for balancing the body. We over use our rotator muscles and need to let our body reset and strengthen with turned in exercises. Less prone to injury, because in long sustained poses no muscles will be jerked around risking muscle tears. 

2) Back Muscles

Yoga can improve your arabesque! Back strength for movements in derriere or arabesques is often lacking in dancers. With yoga, poses such as urdvu dhanurasana, bhujangasana (cobra) and salabhasana (locust) directly work with strengthening and stretching the lower and upper back muscles. Try performing a backbend sequence and notice how your back extensions feel lighter!

3) Body Awareness

Furthermore, most yoga classes don’t have mirrors. So many dancers learn to grow dependent on mirrors as a visual benchmark for how they are performing. With yoga, there’s no mirrors, no talking, no musicality. Just you, your body and your mind. Reteach your body to feel movements intuitively instead of relying on the mirror for affirmations of good alignment. This can help you increase your body awareness. 

4) Breath.

A dancer cannot reach her fullest potential until she finds how to link her breath to movement. Breath at the right times can enhance releases and sustained movements. Sharp exhales can emphasize sharp and angular movements. In yoga, breath and movement is so intricately linked it can help dancers train their breathing to coordinate with movement. The yoga principle of exhaling to expand movement and inhales to contract movement can be applied in dance to take your artistry to the next level.

So dancers, give yoga a try!

Why you need both physical and mental alignment in an asana

What does it mean to be “connect” to an asana? It’s tough to imagine what connecting to a pose feels like when you can’t even come into the pose.

For example, for most of my early days in the YTT 200 program, I struggled with lifting my hips up over my shoulders and wrists to do a reasonably acceptable handstand against the wall. The teachers always said we had to “enjoy the point of weightlessness” or “find comfort in the pose.” Feeling comfort might be easier if the pose involved reaching my toes or twisting my torso; I could simply reach or twist as far as my body would allow and then melt into the pose. But for inversions like handstand, you could end up injuring yourself if you thought of “melting” into a pose. Inversions require strength and control, two things I am not naturally endowed with. I also thought there was no way my two little palms could support my body weight. I imagined tipping over and landing on my back (hard!) or hitting the wall with my head.

What happens when there is no connection?

Easy. You suffer in the asana. And you find yourself counting down the minutes until a pose, sequence, or class is over. You end up hating the experience or loathing yourself. For some people, they fall back to old thinking, old ways of doing things and straining the body, or worse, they give up entirely on the pose and say, “it’s not for me.” For some, they react with self-violence, disrespecting the boundaries of their body, pushing it in unhealthy ways, and punishing themselves for it.

It’s critical to acknowledge that a huge part of this kind of suffering in a Yoga practice is due to misalignment. According to Ray Long in his book ‘The Key Muscles of Yoga’:

“By aligning the direction of the force of gravity along the major axis of the bones, we can access this strength in Yoga postures.”

And alignment can only be achieved with proper technique. With technique, you reap strength, balance and elongation.

Alignment reduces the struggle in a pose, which is important, as struggling in an asana can leave you mentally frustrated and conflicted. As human beings, it’s not unusual to have a scattered mind filled with conflicting thoughts. We typically have pre-conceived ideas, expectations and biases that, if not met, can contribute to feelings of uncertainty and fear, and lack of confidence.

In Long’s book, he writes: “Yoga postures approach effortlessness when we align the long axis of the bones with the direction of gravity.” A key word here is effortless. Another key word that master yogi trainers have said is weightless.

Be effortless and weightless, not mindless.

An essential goal in Yoga is to develop a simple mind. By simple, we mean uncomplicated, unperturbed, clear, integrated, and, essentially, aligned. Simply, other than knowing the physical technique and alignment, a third component of doing asanas effectively is mental alignment. To connect to a pose, you need concentration and mental fearlessness, which can come if you chip away at your preconceived notions. You can only do that through consistent, mindful practice that leads to improvement of technique.

In physical and mental alignment, there is strength, balance, flexibility and elongation; there is also mastery of the mind. Only in this state can you fully observe your progress and begin to enjoy coming into and being in a challenging pose. With both physical and mental alignment, you achieve a elevated type of homeostasis where you can fully grounded in a pose.

Does the YTT suit me?

When I first applied for the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), my objectives were to deepen my practice and determine if I am cut out to be a yoga instructor. I also wanted to see if I am serious about becoming one.

The YTT in Tirisula not only focuses on posture practice but also anatomy and yoga philosophy. There are many things to read up, remember and apply. It is not easy. The last time that I studied so intensively was probably more than 20 years ago when I was still in school.

I am about 75% through the course and I understand why it is essential to combine anatomy and yoga philosophy with posture practice. As we begin drafting our lessons plans and teaching our classmates, I can now see why having a basic understanding of the anatomy and philosophy is important – It makes us more aware of other dynamics in a class and look out for things that may be affecting our students.

It makes me realise that it takes a lot to be a yoga instructor, not just by merely achieving those postures. It takes years, not 4 weeks. It takes experience to learn and improve.

How do I feel about becoming one? Yeah, I am still staying on my course to become one 🙂


6 Master Yogi Quotes to Inspire Your Practice

In one of our lectures in the YTT 200, we were asked what our favorite quote was. There are hundreds of quotes by famous people to choose from, but when someone asks you point blank and out of the blue which quote you live by, the answer may not come easily. Picking a quote – the quote – that should define what you stand for prompts you to reflect at the very least, or make you feel vulnerable at the most.

But throughout our lectures in the program, our teachers have showered us with insight and wisdom – a few we can barely pronounce but all we can truly apply in our lives.

For this post, I’ve put together six (6) of the key insights from our Master Yogis that I think are worthy of being enclosed in quotation marks:

1. “Do what your body wants you to do, not what your mind wants you to do.” The decision should happen on its own. The body is instinctive and has a natural ability to achieve physical homeostasis. The body is able to discern what is good or bad for it and we have to be in tune with what the body needs and what it rejects, rather than allowing the mind to dictate what the body wants and needs. For example, our body only becomes hungry when we need added nourishment. Craving for unhealthy food is a psychological announcement that is formed in the mind.

2. “There is comfort in consistency.” Maintaining a daily Yoga practice is difficult for most people because you need time, discipline and persistence. But we can push through the discomfort until we are able to ride smoothly through the consistency of a daily routine, which stabilizes your mood and provides you a reservoir of energy to push yourself to do more in other aspects of a Yogic life. So, having at least five regular poses that you do daily can be a big help to regulate your mood, establish consistency, and strengthen your connection with each asana.

3. “Establish a pattern of completion. Whatever you do, finish it; don’t leave it hanging.” Completing something no matter how challenging and no matter your mood relates to the previous insight. However, this one is more on reaching your destination no matter the hurdles and distractions. I think this also links to our habit of complaining and sour-graping. When we complain and have bouts of sour grapes, we place ourselves in a state of constant pain jealousy. We build the hurdles ourselves. We also steal ourselves away from what we need to do (relates to asteya, meaning non-stealing). Without completion, there is no consistency. Without consistency, there can be no relief, growth and vitality.

4. “Find a connection with pose; don’t be a slave to it. Being a slave to something is a form of suffering.” Our masters keep saying that we must enjoy the pose. It can be difficult to hear this, especially when you are struggling to hit the right spot for a certain asana. For example, you might still have a wobbly headstand or you can’t bind in Marichyasana C and D. The frustration can get to you and ruin your mood. But if you can control and manage your mood in relation to a pose, or to any another subject/object, you do not suffer. You can let go anytime. Only then can you be a master of your own mind.

5. “Where there is desire, there is also fear.” The fear can come from thinking that we are unable to achieve the desire or that we are capable but are unworthy of attaining it. The fear could also come from knowing that once we achieve our desire, we would have to move on to another desire, challenge, dream, and, basically, any object that becomes the destination of our life – and changing this destination might require us to redefine who we are and what we represent, which can be confusing and taxing. But Yoga is less about achieving desires and more being recognizing our desires and our human tendency to fall prey to these desires and suffer in the process. As we get older, it also becomes apparent that as individuals, we have basic desires that evolve and mature. However, these desires are basically the same ones that have driven us all our lives. And if we don’t recognize the fear we attached with out basic, individual desire, the fear will also evolve and mature, bringing us further from achieving our desires.

6. “A weakness is a strength, but at the time you labeled it as a ‘weakness’ was actually an inappropriate application of a strength.” Someone’s weakness could be another person’s strength. We can also take this lesson to mean that our abilities and limitations have a proper application; we just need to be able to discern opportunities to apply them in different situations. In addition, we also learned from the YTT 200 that appearing weak and imperfect could be a strength in a Yoga instructor. Students, especially beginners, feel intimated by a muscular and perfectly shaped teacher who does elaborate poses. Instead of listening and trying, all they can take away is how far the gap is between where they stand and how far the teacher has gone. In this scenario, both the student and the teacher fail.

These are just six of the many powerful lessons I picked up from our Yoga teacher training. Certainly, there will be more as we approach the end of our training program, and as we go off into our individual Yogi journeys. But these six quotes are a good starting point to define our ongoing practice and bring us closer to the quote that would define and direct us.

Touch-Phobia

We live in a touch-phobic society. When we are in the elevator, everyone squeezes their limbs tightly within their own impenetrable personal bubble. In the train, eye contact is avoided while everyone is crammed into a tiny car. Accidental grazes and bumps only lead to hostile stares and awkward adjustments. 

We weren’t always like this. If you observe young children, you’ll see that they are very touchy both with each other and their surroundings. The early stages of life are when our comfort level with physical contact and physical closeness is developing. Parents establish deeper connections with their children through affectionate touches. Children find support and comfort in the embraces of their parents. But as children grow older, societal, familial and cultural pressures discourage touch.

Human touch is necessary for mental and physical well-being. Our skin is the largest sensory receptor on our body. Human beings crave physical contact, but in the modern world and westernized society, the prevalence of physical touch has lessened. Cultural and lifestyle shifts have caused smaller family sizes, higher media consumption and non-physical activities in metropolitan areas around the world. Though mankind is more interconnected than ever, this fast-paced technologically advanced culture has made humans more physically isolated. 

The no-touch culture is ingrained in us from a young age, many schools now operate a strict ‘no touch’ policy in fear of pedophilia. As we grow up, many of us satisfy our need for touch through rough interactions with friends such as wrestling play and sports. Generally, fear of touch is greater between men. Touch is often perceived as a feminine gesture, conflicting with societal ideals of masculinity. Casual touches between men and women can sometimes be interpreted as unwarranted sexual advances.

In general, adults are less dependent on touch, but as we age we are likely to feel alone and vulnerable. Therapy animals have become common in care homes for this very reason. There is also a rising demand of massage therapists, physio therapists, and even professional cuddlers. 

It is a shame that touch is so discouraged because the benefits of physical interaction can improve both mental and physical health. Physical touch activates the brain’s orbit-frontal cortex, which is linked with feelings of reward and compassion and can trigger a release of oxytocin. Regular hugs can lower a person’s heart rate and blood pressure in the long term. Affectionate platonic touch has been shown to strengthen the immune system, decrease stress and reduce anxiety. 

How can physical touch benefit our yoga teaching? 

The most practical reason for having a hands-on approach to teaching is that for kinesthetic learners, physical adjustment can be more easily understood than any verbal cue. The most important thing to remember when incorporating more physical touch in your life is to do so naturally without making others feel unsafe or awkward. With touch, less is more. A light tap to remind a student to use that part of the body is more effective than forcibly manipulating. When adjusting use firm hand movements to adjust specific body parts. Physical contact, when held for too long or in the wrong places, can be perceived as creepy or threatening. Light stroking movements or fluttery fingers can be misinterpreted by the student or be considered too uncomfortable. Generally the upper back, shoulders and hands are the only acceptable places to touch between casual acquaintances.

Incorporating hand gestures and touch into teaching can help you establish a deeper connection with your students. Even fleeting contact with a stranger can have a measurable effect, such as a brief touch on your hand when returning a library card or receipt. Research has shown that even seemingly insignificant touches between waitresses and customers can yield bigger tips. Incorporating handshakes, high-fives or a pat on the back are good non-verbal ways to communicate support and cooperation. 

Using physical adjustments can also help your students feel more relaxed and at ease, and in turn, keep them coming back to your classes. When you stimulate the pressure receptors in the skin in a safe context, the body will lower stress hormones. All in all, incorporating more human touch into our lives can not only benefit our teaching practice but our overall quality of life as well. Try making an effort to connect with those around you not just while you are teaching!

Foundation

The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation. ~Carl Jung, CW 12, Para 32

Foundation

I thought I had one. I thought I could persevere through challenges. I thought I needed to keep working harder on goal setting. I thought I just needed to do something every damn day. I thought stop thinking about doing handstands and start doing them, every damn day. I thought I needed to make my intentions for real, real farmer stick-to-it-iveness. Damn it.

I thought, a lot.

And the more I thought, the more frustrating I became. To myself. I had lived through the magical life changing effects of yoga on many friends. I judged, I’ll admit it. The life change often came with a cushy ride in a luxury car and a lot of time on one’s hands to attend a high profile teacher or a class where the mythical guru of solipsism herself, Gwyneth once attended back in say, 2014. The requisite tattoo on a lithe inner wrist. We know what tattoo, because we know the narrative. And everyone seemed to be ok with this reality, non-realistic reality, whereby every single person was having the same life-altering experience. Meh, I thought, it’s a glitch in the matrix.

I had been indoctrinated at a Catholic high school on the ease with which cults could mind control young people into giving up their entire lives for a single guru who speaks as a god like figure. Cultists would have mind and body pushed to their limits so it would be easier to convince them to give up their lives and money to the cult. The irony is not lost on me that it was a Catholic priest teaching Cult 101. But I was enthralled with how easily the methodology of cult think worked. It works in corporations, countries, universities (go Badgers!), relationships, and most places people congregate.

Well I was guaranteed to not fall for these tricksters! I’m a free thinker. Sign the dotted line, my eyes are scanning for an exit sign. I felt like a short Liam Neeson, a doomsday prepper of sorts. And yoga wasn’t going to take me that easily. And certainly not modern yoga with the fancy pants with strange holes that pucker the skin into funny ellipses and all the soft voices radiating no fear that terrorism is going to spread and our polar axis will suddenly switch. So, I made a conscious decision. Confront my stereotypes. But really, confront my fear.

What am I afraid of? Who was this boogy–bhagwan shree rashneeshyogi! Well, I don’t know. I’ve never seen “IT”. I signed up for the complete mystery course of 200 hours of YTT, allowing myself full-immersion therapy. Living life dangerously! Unprepared, unknowledgeable, unskilled.

I had one goal in mind. Be open to the possibilities. That was it. I have a long and rather tedious physical history involving professional dance, triathlons, marathons, Olympic lifting, functional training. Basically, most areas of fitness with the exception of yoga. As an ex-dancer I figured I could gain back that muscle memory rather quickly. Then our YTT began, currently, we are halfway through our class journey. By day three, the air felt different. By day four, I think I felt invisible energy glowing around me. By day five, exhaustion was confused with elation.

Oh my goodness! It was happening! And I’m not talking about increased flexibility, although I did feel a bit of that too. I may just give my entire life savings to Tirisula! Ok, ok, I’m not going to drink spiked Kool-Aid, but I felt something I never felt before. Oneness. I could feel my fatigue. Something I would normally deny to myself while I forced myself into some set of actions which would domino into more actions I would not truly want to do. Synchronicity. My mind was mellow. My thoughts were now mere watercolors, stains. I found that moment of a sadhana (spiritual practice) speaking to me, moving me, nominating ME for ME.

When I was tired, I laid down. I could breathe. Finally, I could feel the effects of the pranayama breathing. My thoughts began to bend into less cluttered thinking. My mind was no longer on Fitbit mode, “better drink water, you’re only at 3 glasses”. Literally, the water within me was flowing with a current outside of me and leading me to intuitive actions that had escaped me because I had been using the FORCE of my thoughts to dominate even simple physical body functions. (Raise your hand real high if you need to earn a pee break!) This waste of energy was similar to using an entire electrical city grid just to make your morning alarm go off. My mind was no longer using constant FORCE to lug one leg in front of the other. Suddenly, I felt what power means. Power, like gravity pulls things down. Power, that water will flow down a river. Power, that mountains cast shadows which move throughout the day. Power, of an apple seed which will grow and fight through soil to rise.

I was most moved by philosophies we learned our second week. “Do things that are progressive for you”. What a novel idea. Do not express intent, express the positive thoughts without the intent. I feel strong. When I do yoga, I feel my breath and that feels good. Versus my FORCEful self-talk; I WILL feel great when I clean my office today. Every breath creates a pattern. This pattern connects to your brains thoughts. Be interested in what you can do, no need to pinpoint why.

My thoughts thought they thought of everything. Obviously not.

Set An Intention

We know that the mask of the unconscious is not rigid—it reflects the face we turn towards it. Hostility lends it a threatening aspect, friendliness softens its features. ~Carl Jung, CW 12, Para 29

Set An Intention. Easier said than done.

This is especially true during the highly anticipated month of January. We plan, we dream, we sign up for gym memberships we know we will never use! It is kicked off with lofty and truly innocent do-gooder intentions of weight-loss, kindness, and career success. However, year after year, January dolefully ends with the shameful quixotic morning-after feeling of self-imposed amnesia to all the dreams now broken. We crawl to our cubicle hoping no one sees our Venti coffee after two weeks of braggart level confidence, “Some people do ‘Dry January’, I’m doing coffee-less January!”. Our intention seemed so simple. We speak inside our head, ‘A child could do it. But why couldn’t I?”

And thus begins our minds ability to rationalize any number of excuses and reasons as to the answer of WHY? We have been trained through media, family, socializing, nationality, race, and religion to believe that our mind is linear. That in order to have followed through on our January intention we would gain success and reach our goal by following a very circumspect ambition and taking well known routes to our finality of accomplishment. Unwittingly, our dedication will be fraught with failure after failure. How is this so?

Our clarity to answer the WHY; why the failure, why is a linear path not a path to success, why can’t I succeed in my wishful earnest goals, is answered at the beginning of our path.

Many sadhakas (spiritual practitioners) will start their sadhanas (spiritual practice) with subconscious and conscious preconceptions about what a follower on a path of sadhanas is all about. The reality, pain, and difficulty in starting this path are contradictory to our highly-held preconceived ideas about this practice. The typical struggle begins with how the sadhaka reconciles the irritable shocks and unexpected realities on this path. Most often, around mid-January, we see the neophytes backtrack to their former existence. The judgement along the path causes deep primal wounds to reappear, the sadhaka feels gullible to this pain and misery and although it slows one down, it is a necessary limp to overcome. We can find comfort in the many who have lost muster and belief in the sadhanas and the realm it opened to their hearts. The sheer power of spiritual life can make one feel ill. Only through intensely following through on the sadhanas and through this initial disappointment can one progress. Set your intention and find a practice that supports this.

The sadhanas can be any simple daily spiritual practice. Be prepared to dive into your sadhanas by letting go of your pre-conceived judgements and linear thinking. Allow it to free form into whatever it shows you. Only an openness is necessary to begin this journey of intention. You can keep your judgement but it must be carried on the shoulders of wanting to learn more and adjusting yourself to the practice and not the other way around. Soon your sadhana will enhance your everyday life to infinite possibilities.

A true tyaga (renunciation) of your former way of thinking and of the ego’s needs and desires will be necessary to stay on the path. Our mind is Maya and at every turn it will shapeshift reality into an illusion. We cannot decipher it’s intention, nor it’s abilities. But it will seek to enter your path where you once saw clearly, you will become blind.

Be aware. Sadhana for the path of self-realization is an opportunity at every moment in life and time should not be squandered by postponing this urgent duty. Start a regular and systematic sadhana in your life.

Sadhanas can be:

–a mantra

–chanting

–reading sacred scripture

–yoga asanas

–meditation

–pranayama

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will release responsibility by naming it fate. The subconscious is where our experiences, beliefs and memories are stored. Self-knowledge, the understanding of our thoughts and behaviors and their influence on our lives, will make the unconscious conscious.

Overcoming Inversions

Overcoming Inversions

Inversions. Depending on who you are this word might incite fear, calm your nerves or somewhere on that spectrum. For me, just by hearing the word inversion my hearts beats a little faster. 

I have always been afraid of being upside down. You might be thinking, hmm that is an oddly specific fear. So let me step back a little and give you some background on why I possess this deeply rooted fear. It all started with a basketball. 

When I was nine, I was playing basketball in the neighborhood with my brother when it landed on my head. Now thinking back, I’m sure being hit by a basketball is quite a tame experience. I doubt if any of you got hit by a basketball today would be traumatized by the ordeal. But here I am, a nine-year-old me who from that day on became deeply afraid of anything falling on my head. 

Keep in mind here, I was an active kid. I did dance, gymnastics (which yes, included many cartwheels, back handsprings and inversions of all kinds) and all sorts of other activities. Kids don’t have a preconceived notion of what is to come, so learning how to flip and hold myself upside down came as naturally to me as every other motor skill. But fast-forward a couple years, and the fear started to kick in. 

This brings me back to the past week at my yoga teacher training course. Since picking yoga a couple years ago to supplement my dance training, I have noticed a myriad of benefits. Many poses came naturally to me due to my dance training, and I gained strength in my arms and upper body — areas normally neglected by dancers. But the one thing I dreaded towards the end of every session was sirasana (yes the dreaded headstand). What was once a fairly standard warmup in my toddlers gymnastics class had grown into a demon of its own.

Every yoga instructor and dance teacher I’ve had has told me that getting into inversions was only as hard as it is to get over your fear of being upside down. Okay easier said than done. I was the one who couldn’t even get her legs up the wall in a yoga class. But I’m telling you, in just the first week of the course, I overcame my fear of inversions. The teachers at the yoga teachers training course were right. The most valuable piece of advice that helped me finally jump over that mental hurdle was to not fear falling. Satya advised us that after a few times falling, we would learn that falling isn’t so scary after all. She was right, with this new mindset, I went home and practiced my headstands on my bedroom wall and the thought of losing balance out of an inversion didn’t scare me anymore. 

So for all of you out there struggling to get up into your headstand, I hope this little story gave you an ounce of motivation to keep trying, and if not I hope you were at least mildly entertained by my ramblings.