Where I am

I have fallen out of love with the yoga industry … and I’ve even fallen out of love with the lineage aspect and some other parts of ashtanga yoga.

All is not lost though, I have decided ….

A big part of yoga is our mind stuff, how we handle our thoughts. Let’s get back to this.

The way yoga is being taught today does not represent what the yoga texts say the real benefits of establishing a yoga practice are.  Our mind.  Our nervous system.

All the physicality can be good — if its not overdone, but there is so much deeper than just the physical.  

I am not impressed with the yoga masters, many are not faring well health wise, and have been lured into the fame and little bit of power that being in front of people can sometimes do.  They are not seeing the true benefits of a real yoga practice. 

Many stories are rampant about how the yoga masters abused their “power”.  I’m not impressed.  It’s not what I want.

While I appreciate the years of yoga study and what some of the yoga founders like Pattabhi Jois contributed to the yoga community and study of yoga  — somewhere along the line they missed the point … or all the stories of sexual abuse in yoga settings would not be so rampant.

Obviously all this asana is not working.

The last chapter of the yoga sutras talks about the siddhis or powers that come from a consistent yoga practice.  Patanjali states that these powers are actually there to trip up the ‘not true at heart’ — so those that do go on to the higher states of consciousness do not abuse it.  

In Ayurveda they have a term called dhanurveda which means the “knowledge of the bow”.  It refers a mental or ‘inner demon fighting’ training a vedic warrior goes through before they would go to battle.  The removal of the inner demons would bring inner peace, calm, intuition, and “right action”.  Right action means operating at such a high state of conscious awareness that you are able to take action that is the highest good for everyone involved or effected —without biasing toward yourself.

I think more yoga “gurus” should go through this training! 

Sadly most of our yoga gurus got tripped at this stage as they got sucked into the money, power, sex, admiration, etc. that being a yoga master got them.

Time to get back to what all this making an asana of yourself is all about.  But we are not getting taught these aspects through most yogas today or even yoga lineages.  

Yoga today has become about what form you practice, who’s alignment ideas are best, who has the authority in that form, and what you can perform as a marker of how good you are.  

And honestly lineage means nothing more than bloodline. 

Our Mind and Our Nervous Systems

The real “meat” of yoga is working with our mind and nervous systems.  Our mind has more power than we know … What are you thinking?

Yoga is really about mind control!  Learning to use your mind to not put stress in your body and to help direct your thoughts and therefore your energies toward healing, regenerating, digesting, peace, community, and friendliness …

With bio feedback devices scientists can now follow what happens in the body  when we think of a certain area of our body — our body increases blood flow, white blood cells, lymph flow, neuron flow etc to that area!   I LOVE THIS.
Truly the ancient yogis were right when they said “prana follows thought.”

And Albert Einstein’s “Spooky Action at a Distance”  from the 1930s!- He noticed thinking about something changes the way it behaves — then he could not explain it but new science is now emerging that does prove our thoughts effect matter.  The bridge between thought and matter is through the biophotons (little particles of light that are in us).  I am going to talk more about this in the next couple weeks.

And on the other side of that we also have proof of the “Issues being in the tissues”.  The science is there, “THE ISSUES ARE IN THE TISSUES” 

Dr. Pert discovered the role certain neuropeptides play in carrying the emotional chemicals that get released when we feel emotions.  These chemicals attach to receptors in our cells blocking the flow of information and hormones into the cells.  Literally our old traumatic events alter the flow of information in our bodies.

(Our cells have receptors that work like a lock and key allowing information and other nutrients/hormones etc. in and out of the cell.  When these are blocked literally information in and out of the cell telling it how to behave is also blocked.)

Emotions are generated by what we think.  And as you can see what we think generates molecules of chemical emotions that circulate in our bloodstream looking for a receptor to bind onto.  What you think truly becomes imbedded in your physical body.  

These neuropeptides can be released through deep breathing exercises 🙂  DEEP BREATHING … not twisting into some intense posture trying to wring it out of yourself.

Ref.  Book Molecules of Emotion” by Candace Pert  

Your mind and emotions are just as important to your overall health as keeping your physical body healthy.This has been overlooked in the yoga industry. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions — they effect your body

  • There are two books along this line I can recommend if you to investigate more;
    • “You can heal your life” by Loiuse Hays
    • “Your Body is telling you LOVE YOURSELF” by Lise Bourbeau

Let’s not forget the mental aspect of this practice.  Mentally we need a practice to help us understand the meanderings of the mind and to realize — your mind, it plays tricks on you, “don’t believe everything you think!”.  We need a philosophy that helps us deal with our thoughts and emotions so we can relate with others clearly.  

And to think positively.

And on our nervous systems, I have written and spoke a lot about our nervous systems over the last year, and I will be speaking and writing more about it this year.  I will summarize it to say we want to be aware when we are setting off our stress response — if we do this repeatedly we are breaking down the body and setting the stage for disease to creep in.  Stress releases a flow chemical hormones into our bloodstream that set off a cascade of undesirable events.  If you pay attention you will start to feel these effects in your body ~ and if you catch it in time, YOU CAN STOP IT just by changing your mind 🙂

Ashtanga Yoga – The baby and the bathwater

Ashtanga yoga has served me well over the years, now that I am done overdoing all the fun asanas that my body was able to do for awhile … I am getting back to the real purpose of all this asana, I want to preserve and teach what I have experienced to be the good side of yoga — aka the baby.

Lets talk about the baby 🙂

#1 = Community! – #1 most important aspect of what I found through ashtanga was community.  The yogis in Maui that started practicing together almost 40 years ago are still there!  They are all still friends, they do some type of modified practice — you will rarely ever see one of the old time ashtangis’ following a series, doing a whole series, taking very many vinyasas or even caring about the tricks of the practice.  Refreshing.

And in my own yoga studio I noticed there was something about the practice that drew us together, even in little ol’ central PA we had a thriving yoga community.

Socially we need community, family, friends to thrive.  The best marker for longevity is not lack of smoking, a good diet, exercising, or even avoiding environmental toxins  — Those with the strongest sense of community and having good relations with family and friends, and having a meaning in purpose in their life live the longest.  They have been termed the “Wellderly”.  I like that term, well and elder.

#2 – Establishing a daily practice of some type.  While ashtanga can take this overboard by pushing a 6 day per week, too long practice that is not appropriate for a lot of people, it has helped many people establish a daily practice where they take a moment to connect with breath and bandhas, movement and sweating.  Very beneficial in our life.

#3 – The detox effect, speaking of sweating – Detoxing is more important than it has ever been.  Ashtanga yoga, in my opinion, is one of the most attentive types of yoga to this fact.  Primary series especially helps us work with our organs of detoxification keeping them healthy and strong.

#4 – Being aware of your thoughts … while ashtanga tries to give us tools to control the mind with drishti, bandhas, and breath … it does tend to get lost in performance and worrying about who can do what and if you can bind or not.  blah blah blah.  Please let all that go!  If you pay attention to vinyasa (moving your body in rhythm with your breath), mind your drishti, and listen to the sound of your breath you have nice tools for mind control.  More ashtangis should put more effort to those elements and less to the physical.

#5 – Tension release … Life just creates tension, yoga releases that tension and helps our body relax, digest, let go of stress.  This helps us live with a little more clarity and understanding.

#6 – Nervous system Balancing … again in ashtanga this gets lost.  One of the big important elements of a yoga practice is learning how to not set off your stress alarms … being parasympathetic dominant.  When we are operating in our parasympathetic nervous system we are healthier and we “see the bigger picture” easier, allowing us to respond with more love and acceptance to those around us.  Also when we are not stressed we heal, digest, regenerate … none of that will happen if you push yourself in an intense practice or are worrying about getting a bind or dropping back.

The healthiest people are those who live simply and have a strong community.   WE CAN GET ALL THIS THROUGH YOGA.

The Bathwater?

Authority and Lineage — People giving bad advice that suits the studio or the lineage better than the student.  Examples?

  • Practicing the same thing 6 days per week
  • Long and hard practices 6 days per week (ideally practices should be about an hour at the most)
  • “Rules” about being able to bind, or catch your heels, before you can move on in a series, or being told you have to do a posture that is problematic for you — very injurious for most people. Talk about giving your power away. Just don’t.  Hows that saying go … Just say NO!  Don’t be afraid to look individual in your yoga pose. 
    • Being held back in a series because you can’t perform an asana to someone’s liking is very demeaning, it is the teacher trying to take power away from the student (and really you pay for that???)
  • Viewing the series as a “magic bullet” or combination lock …. I’m sorry David Williams your combination lock theory no longer holds any water for me — perhaps if it was rephrased to ‘using the framework of the series to find your own combination that unlocks your health and wellbeing’ — that suits better.  Everyone is different and individualizing the practice is important.  The series are healthiest used as loose frameworks.  

Don’t give away your power!  Trust in your own intuition.

Other issues with ashtanga that are not so healthy:

  • Doing too many vinyasas.  The benefit of the practice is not in the chaturangas, updogs, and downdogs.
  • Being told you have to do practice 6 days per week or you aren’t doing ashtanga yoga.
  • Not getting enough variety in your practices (overuse injuries abound all over the yoga industry).
  • Being taught the same practice whether you are male or female, have a job and a family or not, young or old … different phases of our life require different practices. 

The points I am making here are spoke about with more detail in the article from my blog; Ashtanga Yoga ideally and a little science. 

I am here to tell you as a teacher I honor my student, and their unique bodies, and what is going on in their lives, and where they are now.  I then take the intelligence of the system and apply it to the person.   I am here as a yoga teacher to honor you ~ not to push a particular system of yoga on you ~ but to help you figure out the best yoga practice for you in this period of your life.

So where am I with all this in my own practice?

I practice “ashtanga” 4 days per week and do weight lifting and walking/biking/hiking the other 2 days.  As I was healing myself from overuse injuries I had fun exploring again with movement and exercise “off my mat” — though I did always keep some asana and meditation as part of my exercise.  Now that my body has healed … I am drawn back to my mat for most of my daily practices even when I give myself permission to go outside and play instead …

I do practice outside frequently.

I do half series but don’t really truly follow any series — no more full series or overtraining.  One hour is as long as any of my practice ever are.

I truly follow my breath, I don’t worry about binds or performance, I don’t do 3rd series anymore — though I do cherry pick it and play with my favorite postures ;), my practice changes everyday / every time … I skip postures, I have NO DESIRE to ever put my leg behind my head again, and I won’t.

I want to help you establish an individualized breathing practice.  Ashtanga yoga as a LOOSE framework does help us with this.  While I love and respect my teacher of many many years, I am no longer going to follow advice or a lineage if it does not feel right in my gut.  I respect my teachers’ opinion, and will consider if it is right for me or whomever I am working with, but it is not a rule.  There are no rules.

This is your practice, and the type of yoga you choose is a guide map, not a bible.

We are all different and we all need something slightly different — and even inside that, we need different practices for different days.  Stressed out today?  Breathe it out.  Grieving?  Nurture yourself.  Bad nights sleep?  Save time for an extra long rest pose.  Feel good today?  Go for a more energetic practice.  Upset with someone?  Imagine a good scenario.

The Real Stuff

In the following weeks I am digging into the mind stuff and its effects!  I’m excited about this next step in my yoga — I’m calling it Mind Stuff – The Next Frontier in your yoga practice.  

In using the power of your mind in your yoga practice and learning how your thoughts affect your body, start to pay attention to your “back talk” ~ meaning the dialog that is running in your back mind as you move throughout your day.  

Part of the work of yoga is to teach us to pay attention to our mind and its thoughts, and direct them in a positive, productive direction.  Most of us beat ourselves up with our mind talk and think very negatively about situations around us.  Now that we know negative back talk slowly eats away at our health its time to catch yourself with your thoughts and paint positive pictures in your mind.  

See your body healing, regenerating thoughts.  See the YOU that is really in there.  When you find yourself worrying about something, your best option is to dream up the the best possible scenario in your mind of how it can turn out.

If you worry about the negative results of something challenging …. you are giving those results more power to manifest.

Pay attention to your back thoughts!  What are you telling yourself?

Photo accidentally taken by Alexis Misiti 😉

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