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Born between 1310 and 1325, Shamseddin Mohammad was a Persian poet known by his pen name, Hafiz or Hafez. Some claim that this name was given to him because he had memorized the Quran in 14 ways. Persian-speaking households have the poetry of Hafiz in their homes and many of them have memorized his poems and use the verses as proverbs. He was the most loved and influential poet of the century. Even today, he is regarded as one of the seven literary wonders. Emerson said about Hafiz that ‘’Hafiz is a poet for poets’. He had such a huge impact on the literary world that even Sherlock Holmes quotes his verse.
Poetry style and Inspiration
Hafiz’s style was lyrical or ghazal which is a style used to express ecstasy in mystical love poems. In his poems, he expressed faith, religious hypocrisy and spiritual romanticism. After his death, a lot of stories were made about his life. It is said that he learned the Quran by listening to his father recite it. Later, at a very young age, he also memorized the work of Saadi, who was his inspiration, Farid, Rumi and Nizami.
A tradition narrates that he used to work at a bakery, while he was under the mentorship of Hajji Zayn al-attar who was his Sufi master. At the bakery, he saw Shak-e-Nabat; a beautiful and wealthy woman. It is said that some of Hafiz’s poems are addressed to her. William Jones translated his work from Persian to English in 1771 and this inspired many Western writers like Goethe, Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Such great is his influence that Iran celebrated October 12th as Hafiz Day.
Hafiz in today’s World
Today, Iranian and Afghani music is inspired by his poems. Still, translators and interpreters are not certain about the meaning of his poetry. While some say it is lyrical, others find mysticism in it. Wheeler Thackston explains this by saying that the poet ‘’ sang a rare blend of human and mystic love so balanced… that it is impossible to separate one from the other’’. Today, many people find solace in his words and get memorized by the depth of these verses and how they can resonate so closely with his poetry. All the Hemispheres is a beautiful poem by Hafiz, translated into English by Daniel Ladinsky.
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
From: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
The biggest thing to remember is the yoga room is many people’s sanctuary, so be mindful of how you enter, move through and leave the space. Think of the yoga starting as you enter the yoga studio. So much of this practice is about cultivating awareness.
Some questions to ponder as you land–what’s the quality of my mind like right now? How’s my body feeling? How am I affecting the people and physical space around me? How is it affecting me?
I created this list because I’ve been having discussions about yoga room etiquette so much lately, I thought I might as well write them all down. There’s many more to add to the list but here are a few to consider…….
Yoga Class Etiquette
Show up early. Nothing worse than running to yoga. Aim to be at the studio 15 minutes early so you can take your time signing in, putting your mat down, getting water and putting your stuff away. If you’re new to a studio, aim to be there 25 minutes early so you fill out all the paper work.
We’re all late sometimes. If this is the case and you’re able to enter the room, look around. If everyone is sitting in meditation, then just sit by the door and wait until students go into downward dog/first movement before you enter the space. It is very disruptive to move around the room as the teacher is centering the class.
My general rule for public classes is: show up early and stay until the end. If that’s not possible, then do home practice.
Leave all your belongings out of the room if you can. This is a major part of the practice—separating yourself from all your “stuff”. Enter the studio with just the clothes on your back, water bottle and yoga mat. If the studio has experienced theft, bring your stuff in, leave it in a corner or in the cubbies provided. Try to minimize how much clutter you have around you. Less stuff, less distraction.
Keep your voice down in the yoga room, especially if there’s quiet music or no music playing. This means the teacher is creating a quiet space for people to reflect and transition from the day. No one wants to listen to your conversation. If you’re having a catch up with your yoga buddy, go out into the tea room. If you enter the studio and loud music is playing, all bets are off. 🙂
Keep your cell phone out of the yoga room. If you have emails/texts to finish before class, sit in the tea room or change room and finish. When you walk into the yoga room, you want to leave the material world behind. Take this opportunity to connect to your internal landscape, letting the to do lists and such to fade into the background. This is one of the reasons we don’t wear shoes in the yoga shala/room, leave the outside world outside. If you’re on call, let the teacher know and sit by the door. Have the pager/phone on vibrate.
Try not to walk on other people’s mats.
If you’re new to yoga or this specific class, sit somewhere in the middle. You’ll be able to see examples of what the teacher is instructing all around you.
If you’re working with injuries or enjoy doing more “advanced” variations, go into the back row so you don’t confuse the newer students with your modifications/variations. Please don’t sit in the front row, it distracts everyone.
Take good care of yourself. If there’s anything being offered that doesn’t work for your body, then do something similar or rest in child’s pose. Remember that you don’t have to everything. A large part of the practice is listening to your body.
Be aware of how you affect the space—
-do a quick scent check before you come into class. If you can smell yourself, take care of it (wash or add another layer of deodorant). If you’re wearing strong perfume or oils, wash it off. Most studios are scent free. As you sweat, you “scent” becomes stronger and your neighbors will get whiff of it.
-If you’ve practicing Ujjayi for 6 months or more, it should only be audible to yourself and not your neighbor. Contain your energy.
-Especially in busy classes, keep your movements within the parameters of your mat.
-If you’re new to inversions (handstand, headstand, forearm stand and shoulder stand) and the teacher is offering an opportunity to kick up in the center of the room, don’t fling your legs in the air. I can’t tell you how many students have been kicked by a neighbor. Stay in control of your limbs. I would recommend practicing at home or after class when there’s lots of room around you.
If you didn’t like the class, instead of telling the teacher all the reasons why you didn’t appreciate their class, don’t come back. There are plenty of teachers. Ask the front desk for recommendations, let them know what kind of class you’re looking for—they’re usually very knowledgeable. That being said, if you felt unsafe in the class for any reason, please go directly to a manager and share your experience with them. Our number one job as teachers is to create safe space and if that was not done, then please help hold the teacher accountable.
If you need to leave early, tell the teacher prior and have your mat by the door. Ask your teacher when the appropriate time to leave is so as to create the least amount of disruption.
If lying down in savasana makes you uncomfortable, then sit in meditation or forward fold. As best as you can, minimize your movements during this time so others can enjoy their rest.
The biggest thing to remember is the yoga room is many people’s sanctuary, treat it that way.
“I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)
But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.
Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…”
Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.
Curiosity is therefore a lot easier to reach at at times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower, easier to manage.
The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity. It doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?
For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.
Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I was recently listening to an interview on On Being with Elizabeth Gilbert and this idea of passion versus curiosity came up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it. Curiosity is process orientated, it keeps you present in such a conscious way where passion takes over the experience. I think of when I have felt passion, either when watching performance art, eating delicious food, being intimate with my lover…the world as I know it falls away and all that is left is what I’m focusing on. Now, I’m not against passion but as Gilbert said so eloquently, it can be a tall order. When passion arises, I allow it to take over however I try not to seek it. As we have learned on the spiritual path, seeking passion or any very strong emotion creates suffering in some way shape or form if it is not attained or maintained.
A more manageable quest is can I stay curious about life, love, the practice, myself? This is a way for me to stay engaged in the world versus being complacent or at the mercy of the situation.
A few definitions of curious: eager to learn or know, inquisitive.
I was listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates recently and he said something that struck me. He said “Be clear about what you know and what you don’t know”. To add to that, then go seeking what you want to know. The idea that the process of learning/seeking is a scavenger hunt resonated with me, that you have to stay engaged throughout the whole process. Read the clues, connect the dots and move to the next clue.
By doing so, you’ll one day, as Rilke puts it simply, “you’ll live your way to the answers”.
Nowadays, we have made our lives so complicated and so busy with everything that we do. Social media takes a toll on your mental health but most people fail to see it until it is too late. It is not only social media that is increasing stress. Everyone has to go so many things in life, with family and friends. This is what makes the stress really soar. In times like these, yoga is the best gift that you can give your body. Many people are not completely aware of how important yoga is for their wellness. I can assure you that anyone who does yoga is well-equipped to deal with stress, whether it is physical or emotional.
Yoga to the Rescue
If you have been stressed lately, yoga can rescue you from this state as it lowers stress and helps in fighting off anxiety. For example, the Bridge Pose has a huge effect on your state of mind. It might be difficult for some people in the beginning but once you manage to do it, you can benefit almost all parts of your body. This pose stretches your legs and back. Along with that, it also helps in reducing anxiety and fatigue. If you have insomnia, you could try doing this before going to bed and it will restore your sleep cycle.
The corpse pose is the easiest to do as you just have to lie down and breathe deeply for a few minutes. You might wonder what simply lying there could do for me. Well, I can assure you that this pose will help you relax like nothing else. It relaxes your nervous system and slows down breathing. As a result, you feel relaxed and rested. The Extended Triangle pose is another effective pose for stress-relief. Moreover, it stretches your whole body so any physical stress is also relieved. One of the hidden benefits of this pose is that it improves digestion. It may also play a role in reducing anxiety. If you want to benefit your whole body, you can try the Legs up the Wall pose. This pose sends fluids to all parts of the body, especially the back and neck. With the blood circulation restored, your body will function better and be more active. The drainage of lymphatic fluid also gets better with these yoga poses.
Playlist for Yoga
I have named this playlist Sayulita after the beautiful town in Mexico. The town is known for its boutiques, bars and Pacific surf. If you like the whole vibe, you would love this playlist too. If you are a teacher, play this playlist and your students will definitely enjoy the whole boho-chic vibe. It is important for yogis to remember that yoga should relax you. You do not have to be uptight or aim for perfection and every song in this playlist is an embodiment of that.
Here’s a new playlist. I hope you enjoy.
You can also follow me on Spotify for yoga playlists.
As the seasons change, we take the opportunity to asses where we are at present and reflect on what’s inspiring us. We take the time to get quiet, through asana, mantra and meditation so that we can connect to our inner knowing and listen to what is needed to feed our spirits.
Last night Carolyn Anne Budgell and I led one of our favorite events, Define. Design. Direct.
Through our own practices and discussion, Carolyn and I created this workshop. Last night was the fourth time we have shared it with our community. Each time, we are blown away with the openness and vulnerability our kula brings to the course. Each time we are inspired to go deeper. We continue to refine the offering.
In my own practice, Saraswati has been showing up strongly this season. Saraswati represents wisdom, knowledge, she is the muse of creation. Last night we chanted her mantra to invoke our own wisdom, to call upon our inner knowing.
OM AIM HRIM SARASWATYAI NAMAHA
Om, I bow to the flowing one whose essence is wisdom.
We call upon Saraswati for insight, deeper meditation, intuition, answers to questions both intellectual and practical.
Two quotes I didn’t end up sharing last night but was inspired by, I share here.
“Often when we are courting inspiration, we’ll ask the question, then try to figure out the answer mentally. There’s nothing wrong with thinking something through–it’s in fact crucial. To receive insight, you also have to go past the thinking mind, especially the inner critical voices in the mind. You have to get quiet enough, focused enough, and patient enough to discern the voice of inspiration or intuition.” –Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti
“The English word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspire, which means to breathe. In Greek and Kabbalistic traditions inspiration was described as breathing in God who is breathing life into us.”–Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti
May this seasonal transition be a time to slow down and reflect on what you’d like to call in.