By Laura Mills
I recently heard about the passing of a person in his mid-50s. It happened at home; as far as I know, he hadn’t been sick and hadn’t shown signs of trouble before one night his heart just stopped beating. The grief, the shock, the inexplicable emotions of his family and friends, I can only imagine….
We all know that the circumstances of life often defy explanation. We can plan, schedule, and prepare; we can visit our doctors or healers on a regular basis, eat all organic, and never touch alcohol or caffeine; we can bathe in hand sanitizer, run twenty miles a day, and use chemical-free cleaners at home. But in the end, of course, we don’t know. We never know; at some point, no matter what, life WILL take us by surprise and—perhaps, for some of us, quite literally—leave us breathless.
If it’s not already part of your practice, discern what really matters to you today, and embrace it. Then do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Especially as Valentine’s Day approaches…what better time to start gifting yourself with a sincere appreciation of the value of your unique and precious life? And remember: even along the timeline of this one chance we’ve got, it’s never too late to try again. Start now.
Password: Effort Ease
By Laura Mills
Technology-loving friends chuckle at my techno-phobia. I present a classic case: I understand next to nothing about finer online search strategies and the fancy ins-and-outs of social networking. I longingly remember my box of cherished cassette tapes whenever I attempt to download a new song. As time has passed I’ve found myself farther behind, and I’ve struggled with balancing adaptation to technology with acceptance of my jitters. On one hand I want to keep up with the world, but on the other I’m frustrated that as soon I acclimate to one technological marvel a new, more advanced one appears. (As I type this, my computer is downloading automatic updates and my security software is scanning. Yikes!)
Happily, though, I find encouragement in the yogic idea of combining effort with ease. On our mats as well as off, we are called to find the point at which we have strength and softness, the place at which we can strive as well as let go. The gurus teach us to breathe through sensations until we reach our edge, but then we relax and open to the reality of what exists for us in the pose—or, off our mats, the reality of what exists for us in the circumstance. Easier said than done, I know, but we learn from our yoga practices with time. And with time, just like in our yoga practices, we travel deeper.
We already know the way.
SURRENDER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
April 2, 2011. Count how many times you’ve set an expectation in the last 24 hours? About the weather, your job, your partner, your children, your family? And then compare that to how many times the reality matched your expectation.
How did that make you feel?
When we have decided in advance how someone else is going to act or how a situation is going to be we open ourselves up to suffering when the reality doesn’t match our expectation. In yogic philosophy this attachment to expectation is a root cause of human suffering.
Focused inward another name for expectation is Self-Judgment. This critical prism of judging ourselves in advance of the outcome and again with the result only brings more disappointment.
We would do well to heed the advice of Eckhart Tolle in the Power of Now who writes, “When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. The realm of Being, which has been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, and an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace, there is great joy. And within that joy, there is love.” This practice on and off the mat helps us to see clearly without making happiness dependent upon our expectations. This acceptance for sure brings about inner peace, joy and love.
So that no matter what the world presents we know we can manage remaining quiet and centered at our center. "Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can't argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer." (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth)
Who goes on to write “To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad. It seems almost paradoxical, yet when your inner dependency on form is gone, the general conditions of your life, the outer forms, tend to improve greatly.” Try it for a week or even a day where you surrender your heavy expectations of yourself and others and live with less resistance to this isness of now and then decide if its worth going back to again living with the burden of expectation for even a day longer. Love yourself, love your day, love your ilfe, Silvia
TODAY’S SWEET PLAYLIST
Gobinday Mukunday, Spirit Voyage Artists
In Another Time, Sade
Miss Teardrops, Felix Laband
Allah Hoo, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Yara Seeli Seeli, Lata Mangeshkar
Express Yourself, Mocean Worker, Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street
Mr Big Stuff, Jean Knight
In The Colors, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
Blind to You, Collie Buddz
Jet Lag, Joss Stone
Butterflyz, Alicia Keys
In A Sentimental Mood, Nancy Wilson with Hank Jones
Shavasana/Deep Relaxation, Shiva Rea
ACCEPTING TO BE INSTEAD OF MAKING A TO DO LIST
MARCH 19, 2011: This time of year as we transition from Winter to Spring our To Do Lists seem overstuffed. While we have more ways to make our lives easier through technology we insist on overwhelming ourselves on purpose by engineering these massive lists of stuff “we have to do” this Spring.
So today I invite you to create a TO BE list.
Say to yourself “how am I going TO BE no matter what gets done, or the outcome of this situation.”
When we focus on a TO BE List it is giving ourselves permission to do the hardest pose of all which is TO BE YOURSELF. And I can promise you that being yourself is the most important decision anyone can make. There is a serious paradigm shift that must take place especially if you’ve been used to trying to be who everyone else wants you to be. And as a result you will temporarily disappoint some people. Especially if you have been consumed on making your To Be Lists to prove your self-worth to other people.
To me the motivation for moving away from To Do Lists towards To Be is that it returns us to place where we can make peace with ourselves. That space of radical self-acceptance that demonstrates unconditional self-love. We are all a work in progress but that awareness of letting ourselves be who we are is vital to positive mental, emotional and spiritual health. Eckhart Tolle in the book A New Earth says it like this on page 184: "Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can't argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer."
This is isness of now is where we allow ourselves to surrender into being: no fighting, no resisting, no arguments. I can tell you during times of challenge the mat was the only place I felt like I could BE myself. And I mean my real self. And where I felt safe to laugh or cry or both at the same time. And the more we accept ourselves in this state of beingness the more we know how to accept others being themselves. It is a straightforward spiritual law. You cannot offer to others what you don’t practice for yourself. If you don’t have peace you can’t make peace, if you don’t love yourself you can’t really love someone else, if you don’t fully accept how amazing you are, you WILL NEVER accept others, if you don't know how To Be you won't allow others To Be either.
So today practice making a To Be List. And the first thing on that to be list is BE YOU! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
PS If you need time off to help your To Be List then come on retreat with Alchemy Tours. Allow us to support you unconditionally. It will transform your life! www.alchemytours.com
TRUST AND SURRENDER AS SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY
March 11, 2011. There is this spiritual alchemy where we move beyond wanting life to be different and begin to feel the surrender that allows what is being offered. We practice ishvara pranidhana as we trust the universal intelligence that hugs us from all directions to know what it's doing. And once we find this trust we begin to believe that beauty and goodness are within us flowing nonstop and there is no reason to stop this flow for its natural current is to align with the current of grace that is everywhere outside us.
Beauty becomes our way of life. Happiness becomes our natural spiritual alchemy when we practice ishvara pranidhana.
You see when we come to the mat we are like the Alchemist in his laboratory mixing ingredients. For us as yogis our laboratory is our mat and the ingredents are our bodies, our poses, our breath, our thoughts and the mixing it all together creates a result every time. For me the hardest practice is wanting to rewrite the past instead of just letting it go. I waste time wishing things had been different which pulls me out of the present. And when we are not living in the present there is No trust for other people or the universal energies that support us. This really messes with my people relationships and so I come to the mat to get beyond this.
"Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past."
Can we practice our life in a way that if something doesn’t work out the way you want it to we don’t fall apart? Can you endeavor to life your best life without attachment to the outcome but instead a trust for what is? Or as Judith Lasater puts it, “The best practice is that that asks us to believe without proof of the future, without confirmation that the outcome will be what we want it to be. It just is, it is a state of being. A place of being present and allowing the next thing to unfold. Yoga teaches us that place of not knowing.”
This is the idea that we can practice experiencing each moment not needing it to be different but to trust what is unfolding and enjoying it fully in that state of trusting a greater energy, Ishvara Pranidhana. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
Join me on a yoga retreat www.alchemytours.com stay connected on facebook friend ME!
SNOWBOARDING AND YOGA BY KENDRA CHARTS GUEST BLOGGER
SEPTEMBER 13, 2010. As I sit here sweating and itching discovering new mosquito bites by the minute, I cannot help but slip away to the idea of the snow. Don't be fooled - I adore the summer. But something about the winter, the glittering snow on the trees, sitting in warm hot springs on a cold night, the mountain peaks, and snowboarding with friends pulls at my heartstrings.
I love snowboarding equally as much as I love yoga (and that is a whole lotta love). This is my story of snowboarding, a practice that is now one of my greatest forms of meditation and prayer. A friend of mine likes to say, "Snowboarding is my prayer and the mountains are my chapel". This I wholeheartedly agree with. This has not always been the case, not even close. Just like when you first tried handstand perhaps you were extremely afraid to go upside down, couldn't get your legs up or just all over the place and toppled over in a big pile. I was like that when it came to snowboarding. Years ago, I decided to go with my brother and his friends to Upper Michigan to learn to board-I figured I was with a bunch of guys with no fear who knew what they were doing. They would help me out and it would be awesome. Wrong! The first time I did not get it at all. I'd go an inch and then crash, go another inch and then crash again and best of all my brother's friend (on accident) hit me in the head with the snowboard edge which resulted in a lovely gash on my forehead to bring home as my souvenir (I still have the scar - ask me about it and I'll be glad to show you).
Do not be deterred by this story. With practice I was finally able to link turns. And the feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced. It changed my perspective and I was hooked. It was not until I truly made the commitment, relaxed, slowed down, checked my ego at the chair lift that II was able to connect with the board and surf the mountains. Or in yoga terms that I was able to do that handstand with grace, ease and control. Believe me I have put my whole heart and soul into this love of mine but not until I surrendered did I find the pure joy of this meditation. Frederick Lenz in his book Snowboarding to Nirvana puts it like this: "When you snowboard...your thoughts stop and you rise above time. You enter into a timeless dimension where you experience great joy. When you rise above ego, you experience the pure joy and ecstasy of the web of life."
I have many other stories like the first time I learned to board but I have even more stories of the true awesomeness snowboarding allows. I've come a long way since that first day. I've lived the dream in Aspen, CO; I've competed; I've trained; I've done ski patrol on a snowboard; I've traveled the world; I've taught; I've visualized; I've taken gnarly falls and gotten back up again; I've ridden backcountry; I've connected with mountains; I’ve driven for hours all night long to be able to ride; I’ve ridden powder and ice and the list goes on and on. But above all, the mountains and the board continue to teach and humble me, and it’s with great respect for both that I write this.
Yoga has truly enhanced my snowboarding and life as it yokes my mind, body and spirit. How you may be wondering? Yoga conditions your body to be strong and flexible allowing better form and technique so you can ski or board with grace and flow with the mountain rather than resist and attack it. It can be scary out on the snow covered mountains when you are first learning or if you’re a veteran when you are pushing the edge. The breathing techniques you learn in yoga allow you to relax the muscles and mind when you face a situation where you need to be calm. And one of my personal favorites, yoga lessens the risk of injury and quickens your recovery time. This means you can get out on the mountain day after day feeling good each time. So as I sit here on this hot summer day I am quietly preparing full of excitement for the snowboarding season that lies ahead.
Keep exploring and living your dreams,
If you have always wanted to learn to snowboard or ski or already know from experience what I am talking about please consider these amazing adventure Yoga and Snowboarding retreats with Silvia, Jacob and myself. We’ll combine yoga, hot springs and boarding/skiing in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, December 9 - 12, 2010 or Banff, Canada, February 23 - 27, 2011. Visit www.alchemytours.com for more information. And if you can’t wait until then please join me for the pre-season Yoga for Snowboarding and Skiing workshop at Total Body Yoga, October 24, 2010. You may contact me at email@example.com.
WHEREVER YOU GO THERE YOU ARE
"Whilst on a lonely beach in Tasmania, three days hike away from any form of civilization, alone,Brent Morton had an epiphany: “No matter where I travel, however far away I get from civilization, how high of mountains I climb, one thing always remains the same: Me.” This began a 180 degree shift from exploring the physical world to a deep systematic journey into the inner world, which has continued intensively to the present day." - Brent Morton
AUGUST 8TH, 2010. These are the words of a lovely teacher I have just met. It speaks to so much of what I hope this practice brings to light for you sooner rather than later. However, the difficult part of exploring the inner world and taking this inward journey of self-exploration is making time. And when we are in our day to day world of grocery shopping, laundry, working, oil changes it's hard to make that time. Yes, it is hard. So for me the catalyst for inner change has often come as a result of traveling somewhere (maybe not as far as Tasmania!) but someplace where I could feel time as BIG. And in that space, the changes in my outer world would almost force me, encourage me to go inside. So here I am writing this from far away as each day I have my ecology of mind refreshed and look at ME. No excuses, nothing more to do but see who I am and why I am.
The longer my days, the more I find myself wanting to help others to do this too. To facilitate inner healing and self knowledge by traveling away from the old paradigms even if for just 4 days or a week. Join me in Tuscany October 24-30 or Moab November 4-7 or Pagosa Springs or Hawaii in December. Love yourself, Know thyself.
Peace out, Silvia (Facebook Alchemy Tours or visit www.silviamordini.com)
THE JOY OF BEING A STUDENT OF YOGA
"Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new." -- OG MANDINO
AUGUST 3RD, 2010 This practice of yoga has taught me above all else how to be a better Student of Life. No matter how you might judge me as a "yoga teacher" or "life coach" I can honestly say that my best skill set is of being an amazing student.
I AM TEACHABLE.
I never for a moment assume I know too much. Actually ever year of this practice I learn more and realize how little I actually understand. My time on the mat reminds me to stay thirsty for knowledge. It inspires me to get off my mat and apply this "TEACHABILITY" off the mat. And I do. Of course not without some lifted eye brows and sometimes harsh criticism from some folks.
I take great honor in saying every year I take time off from teaching and go to study with my teachers. I sit in the SEAT OF THE STUDENT an open vessel soaking in the open hearted wisdom of my teacher. This last week has been an amazing experience studying Vinyasa Yoga with a great teacher of yoga and life.
I have been inspired, and challenged and prodded and supported in new ways. I want to say thank you first to all those that would judge me for making time for myself to be a student. You too have been some of my greatest teachers. For without your friction I would not have had to dig deep to still do what I knew was best for me. And to all my students, friends, clients who have kindly supported me every year to keep learning I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my root chakra when it would get shaken and I'd wonder should I make time for me or not?
There are wisdom teachers everywhere and as Students of Life the point is to be open to seeing the teachings that surround us every day of our lives both formally and informally. Sometimes our most difficult teachers are our best teachers. And that's ok: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. It's all good.
And finally what I hope everyone learns no matter your opinion is to step outside your comfort zone and KEEP LEARNING. Do not atrophy. REMAIN TEACHABLE.
Teachabiilty and being lovable are intimately linked as sweethearts.
May you all find the courage to expand your knowledge! With compassion and peace to you all, Silvia
PS - Join me for my certified yoga teacher training program starting October 15th, 2010 at total body yoga
WHAT COMES NEXT? OPENING TO GRACE & SURRENDER
Monday May 17, 2010, SO WHAT COMES NEXT? I am so inspired by life, my students, my friends to bring the best yoga ever this week! I thought we'd dedicate this week to The Power of Grace and how we can tap into our own inner strength to face the unknown of life. Marianne Williamson says: "When we surrender to (Grace) we surrender to something bigger than ourselves - to a universe that knows what it is doing."
The key words I’m meditating on this week are:
This idea of Opening to Grace is a term often associated with yoga practice. It is a way of living life with an open-hearted attitude of infinite possibility and universal support. A way of seeing the world as being on our side and not against us. I especially like this expression of "Opening to Grace" from Marianne Williamson's book, "A Return to Love".
"To open to Grace is to ask that only loving, helpful thoughts remain in our minds, and all the rest be let go". When we surrender to (Grace) we surrender to something bigger than ourselves - to a universe that knows what it is doing. When we stop trying to control events they fall into a natural order, an order that works. We're at rest while a power much greater than our own takes over, and it does a much better job than we could have done. We learn to trust the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives".
So you see this is a yogic paradox, to open and let go all at the same time. But it makes sense, we have to create space for what comes next but none of us knows exactly what that is. We are for sure co-creating with the universe but even with our hand on the tiller going along in our little boat we don’t know what the current of grace has in store for us. It requires a great deal of our own best strength to commit to participating in our lives with both feet in and simply believe that that in if we wake up the dream will be our reality. Or in the words of Krishna Das, “Grace wakes us up when we are asleep, brings light to where there is darkness and removes obstacles from our path”. us up when we are asleep, brings light to where there is darkness and removes obstacles from our path”. Join me and take that next step into your best life ever! Love yourself, love your day, love your life, Silvia
PARADOX OF YOGA 4/13/10
April 13, 2010: Yoga is funny in that it is a great paradox. We feel this in the physical sense in the juncture point of the waistline where pelvic loop and kidney loops originate. Both draw back the side bodies but the the energy splits up. The pelvic loop draws waist back and DOWN and kidney loop draws the waist back and UP. Yoga helps us to explore how to live with what the world is offering us and receive it gracefully while at the same time figuring out how to turn what is being offered into an empowered experience. But this isn't the cliché of lemons into lemonade which is just plain annoying isn't it?
Nope this is about staying centered within ourselves to a place of great depth and tranquility and remain steady no matter what life has served you today - when you most want to shut down, to remain open hearted by holding onto to that calm center. And at the same time this is in no way apathetic. We are meant to action our lives and keep evolving towards greater and greater happiness.
So we have to create an alignment between our desires and aspirations and what's really possible for us today, in this moment. If what we want and what we do and what we think are out of alignment then suffering ensues. This life of ours is asking that we learn how to hold and release and reach and expand all at the same time.
Today, how are you doing? Can you live with what the world is offering you? Peace in all ways, Silvia
SLOW DOWN FIND THE FLOW: THE ANTIDOTE TO IMPATIENCE
FEBRUARY 9, 2009: I love that it snowed all day today! It means that every single person in Chicagoland is practicing YOGA! I couldn’t be happier about that. Everywhere I went I saw folks SLOW DOWN and PAY ATTENTION. When we have nature asking us to practice patience we should listen.
So today my theme is Patience. From yogic teachings this means that we find equanimity towards all objects, situations or things - be they joyful or sorrowful or easy or hard, snowy or rainy. When we find our yoga we enter a state of calmness and clarity that reflects perfect presence within the chaos or tension, even a snowy day. It is that feeling where we are in sync with what is going on and don’t feel compelled to fight the situation.
Joan Baez said, “you can only decide how you are going to live.”
So when we are faced with the snow, we are reminded to slow down and be mindful. It is actually then that we realize the snow is just water and has no agenda for or against us. Yoga teaches us that the ANTIDOTE to impatience is "going with the flow". To be in sync with the way things are happening remembering that whatever the present situation we know "it will change." Snow is water, water is flow and it will eventually melt and move onto a different form.
If you need more patience instead of fighting or getting mad at the snow just slow down, keep breathing and enjoy. The time you spend in your car then becomes an oasis from the chaos of life instead of a prison. Make this the best Winter EVER! And remember, “love is patient, love is kind.” Love to you all, Silvia
FIND YOUR CENTER KEEP YOUR CENTER
Let go of it all. Just remain in the center
Watching, and then forget you are there.”
-Baba Hari Dass
I’ve been meditating on what it means to be “centered” and as much as I often think about this in terms of finding one’s center for me its become more a matter of keeping to my center. When I first started yoga I didn’t quite know what it meant to be centered quite frankly I hadn’t ever even thought about it. I just got on the treadmill of life and just kept pushing myself to achieve and move on from stage one to stage two, excellence in High School, transferred into excellence in College and then trying to keep this going in the corporate world as well. I was just going going going, almost like I was running around center but never pausing long enough to really be there. Asleep or working a million hours per week (or playing hard) were the only two speeds I knew.
Then through yoga and quiet time of self observation (svadhaya) on the mat I started “To Know Thyself” as Socrates put it.
It started as all spiritual practice does, not looking for answers but simply trying to ask better questions. So I ask you take 3 minutes write down what does CENTERED mean to you? To me it means balance, peace, happiness, a oneness with others instead of a tug of war, compassion, patience and most of all BEING PRESENT.
It is that “isness” of now that Echkart Tolle writes of in A New Earth. Or in the Yoga Sutras the hope for all beings to find and hold happiness knowing this is only possible in the moment. So meditate on the words of Jack Kerouac:
Not with thoughts of your mind, but in the believing
sweetness of your heart, you snap the link and open the
golden door and disappear into the bright room, the
Everlasting ecstasy, eternal Now.”
Take time on the mat to be here now, to find and hold onto your center that place of sweetness where we feel the sacredness of living in oneness, one family, one heart, one love, one soul all in the light of center. Hold fast my friends and keep making those sensitive adjustments to keep returning to center moment by moment. Love you all! Silvia
TRUST IN YOUR LIFE AND THE UNKNOWN
- If you knew what was going to happen to your life would you trust it to be the right thing for you?
- If you know what’s good for you do you take that action or avoid it
If someone told you this is exactly what will take place in your life even then would have so much fundamental trust in the goodness of life and the desire of the universe to work on your behalf that you’d ride the ride? Or if some of the stuff wasn’t what you had envisioned for your life would you rebel towards it? Because the thing is either you TRUST the universe and see all as good that will unfold in your life or you see it as an enemy not trusting spirit. These are mutually exclusive.
And it’s ok right not as you think about this to say I don’t know if I trust in the good. Trust is so much about the future and those things we don’t know. All we can do is try and open our minds and hearts to the potential for life to evolve in the direction of happiness. To believe that the universe really is working on our behalf (even if it doesn’t make sense). Mahatma Gandhi said it like this, “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it.” So just trying and making an effort is TRUST (no matter the outcome).
So if you take the second question, if you know what’s good for your life why do we so often look the other way? Why do we avoid the TRUTH? I mean it’s ok to go through the vetting process and get others opinions but ultimately we have to TRUST our own truth of what we know to be the way. Shakespeare said, “Learning to trust ourselves is a worthy practice, the practice of authenticity. This is the work of aligning the standards we have for ourselves with our deepest passions and dreams. It’s the work of making promises to ourselves and keeping them. It’s the work of creating and discovering the kind of resources that can and will support our success. It’s the work of knowing who we are without judgment.” We have to look inside, we can’t approach our lives from the outside. As Rumi says, “Knock and you shall find you have been inside all the time." I just wish it was easier to look inwards when we’re so good at the external stuff.
Ultimately trust is about LOVE. Dr Joyce Brothers says the best proof of Love is trust. Yeah I see that, feel that, live that. Life wants us to love more but loving more means first we must trust more. The tough part is that there is no guarantee that we won’t get hurt (well actually of course we will). But we must trust that as Cheryl Richardson writes in Unmistakable Touch of Grace, “Every event we experience and every person we meet has intentionally been put in our path to help raise our level of consciousness. When we awaken to this fundamental truth, life becomes a true adventure, a spiritual adventure. The failed relationship that left you broken hearted is no longer a source of bitterness and pain. Instead it’s seen as a blessing in disguise, a gift that makes you stronger, more conscious, and ultimately, more alive.” No matter what you relationship with trust today, let’s strengthen the love and peace in our hearts. Let’s start with making love a new way of life, so that we may live in love and trust the unfolding of the rest of our lives. Be love, Silvia
PRECISION AND GENTLENESS FOR BACK PAIN
JULY 18TH, 2009: Good morning! So today I passed out a handout with the suggested foot alignment for all standing poses. We started by really talking about the detail and precision as well as precise modifications for all fundamental standing poses like Pyramid, Lunge, Warrior B, Triangle pose and Wide Standing Pose. With that said I wanted to make the point that if we only emphasize technical precision we can get overly self-critical, perfectionistic and even downright militant. The yoga practice can be used in an unhealthy way becoming way too constrictive and goal-oriented. So as we focus on the elegant principles of alignment we also emphasize gentleness. Otherwise the yoga can be a means to create more stress in our already stressful lives.
Our physical focus today was the psychological triggers of back pain. In the book The Mind Body Connection by Dr John Sarno he argues the cause of back pain is usually entirely psychological. He says back muscles go into spasm and cause pain because of mental tension and that if you can get to the root cause of the tension the pain will disappear. With yoga we can heal back pain by calming down our overactive stress response system. The greatest tool we have to do this is the breath which is why we link breath with movement leading to muscle relaxation and mental quiet. A personal favorite breathing mantra to practice in and out of class is this:
Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in
Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I calm my mind.
Practicing slow deep breaths triggers the "relaxation response" the antidote to flight or flight response. The focus on all three parts of the lungs (especially deep abdominal focus on exhalations) helps bring in more oxygen. And the wave like undulation of deep inhales and exhales gently massage the spinal column which brings nutrients to our spinal disks.
The poses we practice today were specific to stretch all major muscle groups around the hip joints including adductors, quads, rotators, and hamstrings. What happens is that when our Hip rotators are tight they hold the pelvis too much and the force of movement transfers up to the low back putting strain from there on up the spine. It hurts! We held poses working on precision but then we also put a simple routine together you could practice at home for 5 minutes per day at a one breath per movement ratio, letting go of perfection. This way we improved overall circulation that brings nutrients to the intervertebral disks while removing toxins. The thing is that disks don't have an independent blood supply therefore they depend on movement of the surrounding structure to aid in the delivery of nutrients. Movement causes the disks to be compressed which squeezes out stale disk fluid and then to expand bringing in fresh supply. Judith Lasater says, “In the majority of cases back pain can be prevented. The majority have to do with how we use our bodies." We don’t hurt anymore!
Altogether we used this practice to learn how to manage addressing our mental and physical tensions so we could find stillness and gentleness by the end. The whole class intended to help us get to the final pose of Savasana where in the words of Eckhart Tolle in his power Practicing the Power of Now we experienced a feeling of letting go. I hope you find this background on healing back pain helpful and healing. Love the day! Silvia
When you surrender to what is
and so become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.
Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you,
An unfathomable sense of peace.
And within that peace, there is great joy.
And within that joy, there is love.
DHARMA: DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
MARCH 18TH, 2009: We sat in Vajrasana, rubbed our hands together like to two sticks of wood to create friction/heat and then cupped our eyes. We used this as an opporturnity to open our eyes and look at our hands which acted as a mirror. Asking ourselves in our outward reflection what did we see? Who is the person staring back at us? Then we closed our eyes in the warmth of our hands and turned our gaze inwards to view the inner reflection and ask what is our purpose? Who are we?
And this means it is something more than the role we play at work, the labels we wear like son, daughter, partner, parent. As a human creatures who are you? As Stephen Covey writes, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” So as a human being what is your Lifes Purpose or Dharma?
For its more than what job title we have on our business card or the label people know us by. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the
For that’s the practice knowing our Dharma and contributing in a positive way to the world. So we partnered in handstand tonight to help us experience this directly. We also used a variety of flowing poses to help us face our fears such as balance poses and hip openers. Because that is the harder practice to keep coming back to our purpose and living our Dharma not just for one day, or one week or even one year but forever, in spite of the fear we sometimes face.
Best said is motivational speaker Earl Nightingale who says, “Don’t let fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” So go inside, see your dreams, believe me when I tell you that you already have all the time, money and energy you need to make these dreams a reality and shine out your Dharma to the world! Love to all, Peace to All, Courage to all! Silvia
QUESTIONS ARE COMPLICATED - ANSWERS ARE SIMPLE
JULY 30TH, 2008: It never ceases to amaze me how good we all are (and I mean gold medal good) at making the questions of life super complicated. The good news is that regardless of how complex we make the questions, the answers are simple. So I pulled together a simple list of 5 of these answers based on my lifetime of yogic readings and experience to share with you.
The teachings of yoga include a view called parinamavada, the idea that constant change is an inherent part of life. Therefore, to proceed skillfully with any action, we must first assess where we are starting from today; we can’t assume we are quite the same person we were yesterday. Emerson says it like this, “There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid.”
In life, change is constant. Things are always beginning, dissolving, dying. And we are usually most aware of life’s ever-changing nature in the gut-wrenching moments…loss, death, heartbreak. In a nutshell we can respond to change in 2 ways.
- One response is to race against time in an effort to accomplish as much as possible. When you realize “life is short” and no marriage, no person, nothing lasts forever, you want to squeeze it all in. This response is fun and exhilarating but ultimately can wear you out. “Time--when pursued like a bandit--will behave like one. Always remaining one county or one room ahead of you…slipping out the back door just as you’re banging thru the lobby with your newest search warrant.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)
- The yogis prescribe another approach to best ride life’s ever-charging flow. By learning to relax, surrender, and let go, you realize that stillness is a magnet for contentment. As the German author Frank Kafka said, “..be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
2. IT’S OK TO ADMIT WE DON'T KNOW
In reality, we DON’T KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT. Just like there are poses in this practice we don’t understand, can’t yet do, may never be able to do or if we can perform have no idea why or how…
· When we practice Yoga we are really acknowledging that we are on the ROAD OF LIFE. The path unfolds in this moment and in every moment while we are alive. And we don’t know what comes next.
· This means in part, even at most crucial times, acknowledging that we really have NO IDEA WHERE WE ARE GOING OR EVEN WHERE THE PATH LIES.
· We are not meant to understand why all things happen, we may never understand. All we can do is keep flowing forward…
3. BE PRESENT
"We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow."
What’s so important about being in the moment? Yoga teaches us that the present moment is the source of healing, love, inspiration, passion, creativity. In fact, the purest form of strength is that which is found in the present moment. The yogis call this power of presence shakti. But to reap these benefits, one can’t just have fleeting moments of presence. We have to stay long enough in the present moment that we can really soak in its cleansing, healing, loving energy.
4. LIVE FULLY NOW
“You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.” ~Ruth E. Renkl
Steve Ross, LA Yogi and Author puts it like this: "You are always already happy. The reason you don't experience it is that it's covered up by layers of suppressed emotions and negative thoughts. Shift your attention and your inherent happiness flashes forth."
5. GET ALONG – SEEK HARMONY
A human being consists of 75 trillion cells each with a very specific task necessary to sustain one's life. Scientists and doctors are likening the 75 trillion cells to musicians in a giant symphony. The conscious human being could never possibly conduct this symphony, but the conscious human being is absolutely responsible for providing a harmonious environment in which the symphony can play without interruption. The paradigm for health is already shifting. We can see it moving its priority from "fit body" to "open heart." The truly great workout of the future will not be "How far can I run" but "How best can I serve?"
My favorite advice is from Sri Swami Satchidananda
"Whatever you do, let it be a perfect act. What is a perfect act? It harms nobody, it brings at least some benefit to somebody. If you have control, you can use anything and everything to achieve some good purpose. Keep that in mind as your goal. Whatever you think, whatever you say or do, ask yourself: 'Will it harm anybody?' The answer should be, 'Absolutely no.' The next point is, 'Will it at least benefit somebody.' The answer should be 'Yes.' If it is not benefiting anybody, it is a waste. So, no harm to anybody, at least some benefit to somebody."