Bernie Clark: The Influence of Mythology in Yoga

bernie clark

The roots of yoga are firmly established in philosophy and myth. Yoga, as we know it today, is vastly different from the origins of the practice. Yoga is meditation, and the method has evolved to accommodate contemporary life, focusing on the asana postures to move the body and encourage physical health. In honoring yoga’s artistry, we need the influence of myth and philosophy to create a well-rounded practice and approach to reality. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras explain the theory and approach to the practice of yoga through philosophy, and The Bhagavad Gita—a beloved text among yogis—shares the popular myth of Arjuna and Krishna to illustrate the concept of fate, devotion, non-harming, and other themes contemplated in the practice of yoga. 

Mythology is a powerful tool of evolution. Through others’ stories, we learn how to accept, integrate, and interact with others. Myth demonstrates a way to live and be in the world; our stories create communities, ecosystems, and the economy. 

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing the West Coast yin yoga teacher and author of From the Gita to the Grail, Bernie Clark, to talk about the influence of mythology in yoga, the mystery of quantum physics, and how to access a yin mind to balance the yang energy of Western society. 

“When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement. With yin yoga, we work with long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. That’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.” – Bernie Clark. 

Check out the movie mentioned in the podcast: The God Particle.

You can watch or listen to the full episode or read the highlights below.

Introducing Bernie Clark

If you could choose any era to be born in, what period would you choose, and why?

BCProbably the 22nd or the 23rd century, about a hundred years from now. I’m really curious to see what’s going to be happening then. If we’ve calmed down global warming or developed new forms of energy? I’m going to die before all that happens. I would like to see that. 

What’s your superpower? 

BCI remember reading Herman Hesse when I was a teenager, and in his book Siddartha, the superpower of Siddartha stuck with me. It was the ability to just sit, despite whatever happens around you, to be able to sit and be present and know that this too will pass. That’s the superpower I always tried to work on, just being able to sit and be with what’s happening. 

bernie clark blog

How did you come to yoga?

BCI  took up meditation in my early twenties to deal with stress in the business world. I was not in the high-tech industry selling, and the stress was just getting to me; and I asked my manager’s manager what he did to deal with stress, and he said he meditated.

I dove into Zen meditation when I was about twenty-two, and it wasn’t until twenty years later that I was looking for a Sanga to sit. I found a place that just opened up in Vancouver, and the owner at the time she kept saying, I should try yoga. I didn’t want to try yoga. I was just there for the Zen. I was only there for the meditation three times a week, but she convinced me by saying the magic words, she said, yoga will help your golf game. I thought, well, if it’s going to help my golf game, yeah. I’ll try it. And so I tried it, and she was right. It did help my golf game. 

I realized the point of yoga is to meditate. And so I’ve been doing yoga since my twenties. It wasn’t until my early forties that I added the asana, the physical part, to help my meditation part. So I guess I got into yoga over 40 years ago. But the asana is, I’ve been only doing those for just over 20 years. 

How do you define yin yoga, and what is a yin mindset?

BCOur culture is full of Yangsters, is what I like to say; we are very driven. If you think of New Year’s resolutions, it’s always to change something, and that’s a very yang energy. A yin mindset is more receptive and accepting, whereas the yang mindset is more controlled and directed.

The Ashtanga practice was my favorite, but I needed to balance, or I would have burned out. By the time I hit 50, I was stronger, but it was unrequited. I needed to find a balance. 

I came across yin yoga through the teachings of Sarah Powers. And through Sarah, I met Paul Grilley, and I just fell in love with what they offered. At first, I hated it because it was hard, but it was simple, and I realized I needed to balance my yang activities with more yin activities. Like everything in life, you need balance. 

The difference between yang and yin yoga is for you to think of muscles versus fascia. Muscles are active; I have to make an effort to contract the muscles. Fascia is kind of springy like your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Fascial things are elastic, they stretch a little bit, and then they snap back.

You don’t have to will your Achilles tendon to retract. We have active movements. Then we have passive movements, things that we just allow to happen. We’re targeting these more passive tissues, the fascia, the ligaments, and the joint capsules with yin yoga.

When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. You should never exercise joint capsules or stretch ligaments. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement.

We don’t apply the same movement in yin yoga as we do in a yang practice; with yin, we work with a long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. They don’t take them out every twenty minutes and put it back in again, that’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.

For our deeper connective tissues, we need a different form of exercise or load or stress. Our health needs both. You need to work the muscles you need that active, rhythmic yang movement. And when you work the deeper tissues, you need the long-held static stresses by tractioning those tissues through yin yoga.

New class

In My Own Ocean

Gentle, fluid, and slow-moving, this Hatha class lengthens the body and creates space through rhythmic flows and moving meditation. This class provides plenty of modifications to accommodate yogis of all levels and yogi mamas in their third trimester. Side waist lengthening, hamstring and inner thigh opening, and gentle twists create space and support the low back. 

What are your key components of physical health? 

BCIn my realization, there are three components to physical health. 

  1. Strength, you need to work on the strength. I’ve found when I first started doing power yoga; I couldn’t believe how hard it was. I remember getting a video of Rod Striker. It was a power yoga thing, and it kicked my ass. It was so hard, but after a year of doing Ashtanga Yoga, I went back, and I tried that video again. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I found that through practice, I was getting stronger and stronger. But the strength plateaus because I could work with my body weight; that’s all you do in yoga. Today I also swing kettlebells and do other things to enhance my strength. 
  2. Endurance, there’s only so much the heart rate can go up in the yoga practice; it doesn’t provide high-intensity interval training. I will run sprints, or I’ll do stair climbing to get the heart going. 
  3. Mobility, I do a yin practice to keep the joints and everything very mobile. 

Is there a correlation between physics and the mystical? 

BC I always wanted to know why and how we do the things we do. I love studying mythology. I love studying comparative religions. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, very much influenced me; he influenced me a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and how it works. I also want to know how the universe works. 

There’s my interest in physics. I love to build the bridges between East and West because we have certain experiences in the East. You cannot deny an experience. It’s an anecdote, it’s a fact, and somehow we have to describe the scientific models for the maps. If you will, they have to accommodate these experiences. Some of the experiences don’t fit on our maps. It doesn’t mean that the experiences are wrong. That means the maps have to be improved.

I’m always looking at ways to explain what people in the East experienced with our current Western maps. In the West, we invoke things like quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance that Einstein hated. Einstein spent the rest of his life trying to disprove quantum mechanics. This is one of the most robust findings of physics, this entanglement in the action at a distance. What we know is that it works in a certain way. We don’t understand how it can possibly work that way, but we know it works that way. 

The other side of the coin is a lot of new-age wellness. People have taken the buzzwords from quantum physics and misappropriated them and applied them in ways that quantum physicists have admitted that they don’t understand. Richard Freeman was one of the most brilliant minds in the world, and he didn’t understand it. 

There are things we can’t explain, like dark matter. We have no idea what that is or dark energy. So there’s a lot of God particles still out there. Things we don’t know. Only 5% of the universe is unknown to us, which is crazy. A small percent of the universe is just what we know as electrons, protons, neutrons. The rest of it we don’t know yet.

What are the components of mythology? 

BCJoseph Campbell said that there are four main functions of myth.

  1. The cosmological function explains why we are here, how we came to be, and all cultures that exist. 
  2. There’s the sociological function that serves to put you in your place in society. You are born to do a certain thing; that’s your Dharma. 
  3. Then you have your psychological function. This is going to describe how you deal with the arc of aging. The stories that you do when you’re a child, what you do when you become a teenager, a young adult. How to raise a family, what you do in your grandparent, going to the forest, becoming a guru, all that’s described by their cultures, myths, and how you relate to your life.
  4. And then the biggest, most important thing, is the mystical. What’s it all about? Why are we here? 

Let’s Come Together: Confronting Illusion of the Mind

confronting illusions of the mind

You choose to shine with the light of your own divinity.
Or you hide it with the shadows you create in your own mind. 

– SWAMI NIRMALANANDA –


I was in attendance for Clara’s 300-hour YTT with 13 individuals who travelled from various locations across Canada. We were together for 12-hours a day dissecting the movement, ethics, language, and philosophy of all things related to the art of yoga. Given the global response to COVID-19 through social distancing, I felt our group was safe in our own little globe, totally removed and impervious to the sweeping illness many countries face. I was under the illusion that everything was under control despite the statistics posted on the World Health Organization website. 

On day five of our experience together, Clara made the decision to postpone the training as we watched studios across the city shut-down for the foreseeable future. I felt angry, lostt, and irritated by her decision. Hours later, when I’d arrived home and decompressed, I came to terms with my state of illusion and how I’d dissociated from current affairs. In an effort to be present and avoid the amassing fear, I ignored the signals and mounting state of tension expressed around the room and the world. I fabricated a safe space in an attempt to distance myself from the unknown circumstances we’re dealing with internationally. 

Our imagination is a wonderful tool to assist personal transformation and alchemize our experiences as we bring meaning to the roles we play in the world. Ilusion is akin to the imagined realm through the deception of the senses, therefore allowing the formation of opinions based on misinformation. The two play a synonymous role in developing higher states of awareness and consciousness as the brain evolves in how it takes in, processes, and redistributes information. The human species is unique in our ability to analyse, interpret, and believe in real and imagined surroundings, as well as our personal and shared narratives. The capacity for self-reflection sets us apart from other species. It is vital, especially now, to make space to meditate, reflect, and be with the feelings that arise to develop an honest perspective and connect to the truth. Our truth is felt and comes from within, it cannot be rationalized. Our mind is pervasive in creating stories that serve personal biases (thank you, ego!)  so we must make space for self-reflection to discover illusion and sift out the truth. How we create and/or mistake the fictional from the real is a pivotal step in our evolution as individuals and as a collective. When we understand how illusion and imagination are present in our lives and how story creates separation, we may come to a higher level of consciousness as we connect to universal truths. 

Want to connect to the community and continue your practice? Clara’s online apps launched this week so you login and watch on Android, MACs, PCs, streaming media boxes such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon fire TV.

Illusion and the Powers of the Mind

In Indian philosophy illusion is known as maya. The earliest mention of maya is in Vedic texts from the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE where maya is depicted as an extraordinary power or wisdom. Maya has since evolved as a spiritual concept that alludes to the idea that something exists but is not what it seems. Maya is the understanding of reality as a concept that is constantly in flux, cycling through change, and constantly being made. Maya presents us with a deception in what we think we know about the world and reveals how limited our perception truly is. Because the world is always changing and evolving, we can’t know all there is to know in any given moment. Our understanding of reality based on our limited perception is inherently flawed. 

Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.
– Hendrick Vroom

Maya is a filter that colours all experiences and provides a lens to see the world based on our conditioning, cultural upbringing, social context, traumas and experiences. We may approach situations with a specific story in mind that clouds and confuses our ability to see what is really going on. Our ego has all sorts of tactics to keep us in varying states of maya to protect us from feelings we don’t want to feel, such as sadness, loss, humiliation, and vulnerability. For example, if I’ve been betrayed by a friend in the past, this may cause me to perceive all new attempts in friendship from others with a shade of paranoia and suspicion to protect myself from being hurt again. Continuing to replay the same stories within our lives binds us to a wheel of suffering and keeps us in a state of avidya, ignorance. When we acknowledge our limited capacity to understand and control our surroundings we might create more awareness and acceptance of maya and how illusion works within our own lives.

confronting illusions of the mind

The schools of Vedanta and Classical philosophy are based off the Vedas, a collection of sacred texts of India. They believe that maya is an expression of avidya (ignorance). To come to a more robust understanding of the Self and the world, one must work to realize and remove ignorance. This practice would require an understanding of both explicit and implicit truths, (implicit being the truths we may not immediately perceive or understand), and observing the self in terms of recognizing god or the divine within. The Vedanta and Yoga schools share how the veil of ignorance and illusion is lifted when the practitioner understands Brahman (the divine) and sees their freedom as inseparable from the nature of the Atman (the soul). 

Our true nature is aligned with the divine and connected to all beings in the universe. Our separation from others and our own inner divinity is an expression of maya when we view and identify with our ego-selves as our true nature. Ultimately, we are all incarnate expressions of the divine connected through the Atman. Humans develop constructs to depict varied states of subjective experience which express principles and laws at work. Maya is an expression of this duality contained in our ego-selves and our true Self (Atman). The ego may create stories of separation and keep us from the larger truths of the world if we become focused on power, money, and other forms of labelling that may shade our perception. Maya conceals our true nature through appearances and keeps us separate from discovering the divine within us and all around us. 

Just as when the dirt is removed, the real substance is made manifest; just as when the darkness of the night is dispelled, the objects that were shrouded by the darkness are clearly seen, when ignorance [Maya] is dispelled, truth is realized.
–  Vashistha

It’s important in every situation to reflect upon what we know as well as take into account what we may not know/see/understand before we form an opinion. This level of observation takes practice and patience to cultivate. It requires an openness and flexibility of the mind to see things for what they are without our own layers of suffering and storytelling. Our emotions tend to colour events with varying shades of truths and untruths. Waiting until an emotion has subsided to reflect on a situation may give a little more space to see events with less bias and blame. It is a powerful skill to develop the consciousness and control to see illusion present in our reality and the ways it tricks the senses into perceiving untruths as real. 

Working with the Crown Chakra

The neocortex, also known as our higher mind, is the centerpiece for our imagination, empathy, impartial judgement, conscious thought, and language. Whenever we access our higher mind, we act with more care toward others and move beyond petty biases. We have the ability to approach people and situations with a little more creativity and compassion and a little less comparison and jugement. We may approach situations through the lens of our imagination and see the potential and possibility contained in every moment. We can develop more presence and patience as a result. Leaning into our imagination can help us perceive the duality we live in and fully encompass the varied states of beauty and suffering. Our imagination may give us access to see the stories we create in and all those we meet as characters to teach us a moral lesson. When we create fiction and recognize the mind in establishing roles and projections, we might begin to understand and witness how the mind may embellish and twist events in real life.

To access the higher mind, a practice of meditation, deep breathing, and yoga may assist in creating more awareness and tapping into your imagination, empathy, and conscious thought. One method used in yoga to tap into the higher mind is chakra meditation. Chakras are intersections of nadis/energy lines that run through the body. Yogis focus on the seven that run up our spinal column. When we meditate and unblock the chakras, we can release blockages and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. The Vedas are the first place that mention the chakras somewhere between 1500-300 BCE. The Vedas is the first piece of Indian literature that mentioned the chakras system somewhere between 1500 and 300 BCE. There are seven chakras from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head that correspond to specific organs and influence the physical, emotional, and psychological states of the person. When we work with and unblock the chakras, we may release more energy and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. 

 

Connect to Your HIgher Mind in this Crown Chakra Flow with Clara

The chakra is the centre of our spiritual connection to our higher selves, others, and the divinity of the universe, and the crown chakra is known as Sahaswara in Sanskrit and the thousand petal lotus. When we are connected to our seventh chakra it is said we can see the interconnectedness to all beings. We recognize Brahman (the divine) in ourselves and all those around us. A blocked seventh chakra may result in a feeling of loneliness and disconnect when we disconnect, we are unable to see how limitless and expansive the universe is. Meditation and breathwork may assist in cultivating pure awareness and harnessing the energy of the seventh chakra. 

Breathe to Unite Body with Mind

Yoga, equally through physical practice and application of philosophy, strengthens the body and mind simultaneously to bring one into their higher mind where compassion resides. From Patanjali’s Sutras, the Eight Limbs of Yoga are an accessible guide to live with more discipline and awareness of self. I previously discussed two of the Eight Limbs with the Yamas and Niyamas and how they provide a framework to live ethically within the inner and outer worlds. The next two limbs are asana and pranayama, the physical practice of yoga and breathing techniques. 

Asanas are the physical postures of yoga, meant to purge the body of toxins for long lasting health. Initially asana was used to prepare the body for  meditation, assisting the practitioner in sitting in a calm and effortless manner. The practice of asana brings awareness to the body through repetition and proper alignment of each pose. Asana creates a sense of balance and wellness in uniting the body with the breath, and supporting healthy functioning of the organs, muscles, and glands, proper circulation, elimination, and detoxification. As one pursues the asana with dedication and focus, pranayama and meditation are accessible. The body is the temple, the gateway to realizing how we feel and our sense impressions. 

Develop The Power of Prana with Clara

Pranayama is breath regulation and expansion and the life force that we carry. Practice of pranayama will help to clear the mind of any distraction as one prepares for meditation. Our breath is our primary contact with the world, giving us life and energy. We may discover our ability to equally calm and invigorate ourselves just by manipulating our breath. Our breath may be conscious or unconscious, and as we practice, we may develop more awareness of how our breath affects our body, mood, and mental states.

Seeing Our Stories as Stories and Not Ourselves

One of the greatest lessons the practice of yoga has given me is the ability to be with the truth that arises when I sit with myself. Illusion and the imagined have distinct roles to play as we navigate the world and experience life’s lessons. As I evolve and come to a greater understanding of just how vast the universe is and how small our part is in the great chain of being, I see how maya affects our mental constructs. My ego keep me bound to limited narratives where my expectations, assumptions, and emotions conceal the truth. But when I make the space to be with my breath, my bodies, and really listen to what arises, I discover a higher mind where non-judgement and compassion allow me to connect to all beings.

Do not lose heart,
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

NEW THIS WEEK:
Grace You Move Me

All the Hemispheres

Vinyasa Yoga Class Quote

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
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving

Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

Hafiz-

From: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Rest, it’s important

Clara Roberts Oss in vinyasa yoga pose
“The longer we live, the more experiences we accumulate. Some are pleasing, some are relatively neutral, and others are unpleasantly stressful. Left unresolved, all negative stressful experiences remain stored indefinitely in our unconscious. The various feelings, memories, and sensations related to unpleasant stress have a negative impact on your mind and how it relates to the world–and also affect your health and physical well-being…The good news is that your brain is elastic. When it experiences enough of an interruption between stress cycles, brain function returns to a state that supports well-being. This is where relaxation comes in. An ever-expanding body of research is showing the vital role of relaxation.”
–Rod Stryker, The Four Desires
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I invite you to take time in the next few days and lie down and rest your body and mind. For those of us who like to be guided, head over to my profile for a link to my Third Eye Meditation. It’s a 20 minuted guided meditation I recommend listening to while lying down. Let me know what you think.
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What do you choose today?

Vinyasa yoga pose
“Strengthen your mind and refuse to carry the burden of mental and moral weakness acquired in past years; burn them in the fires of your present divine resolutions and right activities. By this constructive attitude you will attain freedom.”
–Paramahansa Yogananada
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The greatest lesson this practice has taught me is that I have a CHOICE. Do I want to continue to be angry–at the world, my mother, the people I was working with etc? Do I want to continue telling myself the same story of who I was/am? For a while, the answer was YES. Back in 1998 I was angry, self righteous, and hard core (insert trend of the moment). Then I started going to yoga regularly and I started to change. I started offering these toxic thoughts to my practice, sweating my prayers with 70 other people every day before heading to the restaurant I was working at. Slowly the anger started to dissolve and a quiet contentment started to surface.
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We don’t have much control of the world around us but we have a CHOICE on what we do with our feelings, our action and thoughts.
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What do you choose today?

The goal is the technique

Clara Roberts Oss yoga retreats
“Meditation…is simply the creation of space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. We provide space through the simple discipline of doing nothing. The basic practice is to be present, right here. The goal is also the technique. Precisely being in this moment, neither suppressing nor wildly letting go, but being precisely aware of what you are.”
-Chogyam Trungpa
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So much of mindful practices are about creating space in our minds and bodies so that we can truly see ourselves. When I have sat for extended periods of time, I have been able to observe my defense mechanisms, the narratives I have created that may or may not be true and how much of my experience is perception.
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Acceptance of all aspects of myself has been one of the hardest pills to swallow HOWEVER when I am able to do it (because it’s a minute to minute decision), I am able to practice forgiveness with myself and others with more ease.
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May I continue to see mySelf,
May I continue to accept and even love ALL aspects of myself,
May I forgive myself and others,
May I learn from my mistakes and make a conscious effort to create change.

Yoga Class Etiquette

Vinyasa yoga teacher training

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.

Passion vs Curiosity

“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.

Small steps.

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”.

Learn more about our vinyasa flow yoga, online yoga classes, or try out the 30 day yoga challenge.

Define. Design. Direct. September 2017

define design direct

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.

Hari Aum.

There is a blossoming

abstract flower

There are certain times in your life when you might feel like you are not able to blossom into something. You see everyone around you doing things and becoming something. You think to yourself, what am I not doing? What are they doing that I cannot see? There is a time and a place for everyone. When you look at the examples from the past, you see that there were people who moved far away from the rest of the world to find themselves. However, you do not have to move far away from the world to find yourself. You have everything around you. There is no need to isolate yourself to find yourself. You can do that, sitting in your room or in your office. The first step to doing so is to look for reasons to fall in love with yourself and your abilities.

Blossom into Something

Your aim in life is not just to be present here. You want to do things, succeed at things you do and use your abilities. Everyone has a fear of failure because of the thought instilled in our heads that failure means the end. Failure does not mean that it is the end. You can always blossom into something, when the time is right for you. What you need to do is to find yourself and your abilities. Even though what someone else is doing might seem interesting or fruit-bearing but it might not be your calling.

Look at the universe around you. Look at the people and the different elements of nature. You will find your calling somewhere in these things. Learn to love yourself. Do not forget yourself when you are busy looking for things to love in the whole universe. Include yourself in the list of things that you love. Once you find reasons to love yourself and you set on a journey to explore your inner self, you will be able to blossom. Just like flowers blossom in spring, you can blossom into a new person or better version of yourself at any time of your life.

Wise words for Those who want to Blossom

“This perception that consciousness is the universe allows us to be both infinite and present to all the little details of life. That is, totally immersed in reality. We do not need to move into a cave or a monastery, because we already contain all that we are looking for outside of ourselves. This is truly the meaning of practice: to enter into this creative dynamic where we let go completely in relation to the guilt of being, of doing, of doing too little, of succeeding or failing, of not being this or that, of having certain abilities and not others. We see little by little that all of these abilities and all these limits are illusory in relation to our absolute essence, our original nature. Once we consider the whole of our functioning with love, there is a blossoming.”

–Daniel Odier, Yoga Spandakarika