You, Me, and Seeds
By Laura Mills
One of my favorite ways to begin a class is to have students sit with feet planted on the mat, arms hugging around knees. It’s sort of a seated fetal position; I’ve actually heard this referred to as Seed Pose. I love this pose, and I love the analogy of a seed, for to me few images speak more loudly to what we bring to our mats every time we approach them.
If a seed could emote and communicate in a way we understood, I believe it would tell us of its fears as it’s placed in dark, cold ground. Yet that seed, small and dormant as it is, contains tremendous potential for growth and change, service and grace. Given water, a little warmth, and time, that seed will germinate; the embryo will emerge (While perhaps still fearful, imagine how exhilarated it feels now!) and thus continue its journey.
All of us begin each yoga practice with a little bit of fear, I think…. What poses will we do today? My hamstring is killing me. Will I EVER nail that headstand? I’m never going to get that project done. She still hasn’t called. How am I going to pay for that? Yet in spite of our fears all of us, like seeds, contain potential for growth, change, service, and grace. And time on the mat is always a journey. As we tune in to our breath and then link breath with movement, we travel deeper into the place where our outer shell falls away and the inner “us” emerges. Like any journey, it can be both frightening and exhilarating. Like any journey, it requires effort, maybe even some sweat, and most definitely patience.
Seeds likely have no inkling of, and definitely no control over, what awaits them once they break the surface. Neither do we truly know or have control over what awaits us as we step off our mats each time. But with our roots grounded and our senses turned to the light, hope drives us onward. Someday, we may even realize our potential and become whatever we are destined to be.
Mantra for March
By Laura Mills
Gloves, hats, and scarves in March? Maybe…but so late in March? With spring’s arrival, spring break approaching, and Passover and Easter right around the corner, the extra-frosty air and brutal wind seem quite out of place. Sure, we had a stretch of really mild weather back in December when we expected cold…now that the weather is “supposed” to be warming up, though, the cold just doesn’t seem to want to leave.
But yogis, take heart! 2013’s weather so far has much to teach us. The lingering cold invites us to continue our practice beyond our mats, as unexpected challenges like this lead us—if we’re open and accepting—into new ways of approaching life, into places where we need to return to our breath and revisit our intentions. We slow down, look inside ourselves, and observe what’s there at the present moment. Meanwhile, the spring kept at bay invites us to step up our practice of patience. Not the strained patience of a parent or teacher begging Mother Nature to ease up so the kids can play outside, but rather the patience of a seed just under the earth, frozen, dormant, waiting for the perfect moment. This is a patience that reaches deep beyond the choice of how to respond; it reaches into the realm of following nature’s cues, of letting nature lead. To the seed, when it’s time, it’s time.
Remember that, no matter how we perceive our weather and its changes, winter never just gives up and spring never just takes over from there. Instead, winter flows away, and spring flows in. Any given year—when it’s time, it’s time. The planet breathes and moves in a practice all its own; no matter how long it holds any pose, it always encourages us to join in.
SOFT ON THE OUTSIDE, STRONG ON THE INSIDE
February 11, 2011. Here on Day 2 of blogging about love for 21 days in 2011 I guess I should explain why I am embracing the Year of the Rabbit. I met someone. And when you meet someone you really want to spend time with in one place then the quiet concept of "Love is Patient" takes on a whole new meaning. My yoga on the mat has served to make me strong enough now so that I want to practice the Yoga of Home and Yoga of Relationship more than ever. To me after the hardest pose of being ourselves then the next hardest yoga pose is making a relationship with another human being that is calm and content. What the ancient yogis call Santosha. Not the New Years Eve fireworks crazy amped up experience but the gentle force of kindness. "Love is Kind" in action. I recently did a cyber interview for Xinalani Resort where I'll be leading a yoga retreat February 26-March 5th. Part of that interview is here:
Xinalani: How did the two of you meet?
Jacob: We met on a train in Italy...yes, it was one of those romantic things you read about in books, and yes, we get asked every trip about it. Perhaps that is one of the incentives for coming on one of our trips?
Silvia: The way Jacob tells the story makes everyone cry every single time. It was exactly as Rumi writes, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” In that moment of meeting I was returning from a Yoga Retreat in Tuscany where I had found much healing and growth. I had ever more fully let go of the barriers to loving myself. I was truly awake and more openhearted than ever before. And that is when Jacob found me.
Through this yogic practice I have been able to get stronger on the inside so I didn't feel like I had to maintain the walls and barriers up on the outside. As a result I got softer on the outside. In that softness love felt more welcomed. Although I hesitate I feel I should caution you a bit here: When you arrive at that place where you are willing to be open to grace and be more gentle outwardly you will get hurt. Some will take advantage of you. You might wonder so how many times has my heart been broken? Well, more than most. But would I trade this letting go of barriers to have it any other way? No I would not. Once you start the practice of yoga the process takes over and what you thought was important before evolves to a whole new level. You put your energy on creating and deepening the poses of your life and away from holding back or closing off. It is in that receptivity that the yoga of relationship love will find you as it did me. So today sweat off the old hardness, knock down the walls and welcome LOVE! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
*Join me on a yoga retreat www.alchemytours.com
DO OVER BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
Do Over By Laura Mills
Whether writing a yoga class or an essay, I never erase. Not that I don’t make mistakes, but when I do I scratch them out, content with the messier route in my urgency to shape what I feel is better work. People who glimpse my notes and journals don’t believe I make sense of them, littered as they are with scribbles and swirls. But somehow I do, moving forward after difficult moments to produce something that satisfies me.
I wish moving forward were that easy for me off-paper.
In eight months of teaching yoga, I’ve frequently finished a class feeling less-than-100%. Maybe the sequence didn’t flow as smoothly as I intended, maybe I left too little time for Savasana, maybe the music didn’t compliment the flow, maybe I philosophized too much. And immediately after such a class, I‘ve struggled not to say to my students, “No, wait! Come back! I can do better!” I want to try again, to produce a better version, and I want to do it right away—but of course, I can only hope the same students attend my next class and see me in what I vow will be better form.
I don’t believe this feeling is unique to new yoga teachers, but I do hope it occurs less frequently with time. I wonder how long I will teach before I rarely second-guess myself. I wonder how long I will teach before the chance is excellent that at the end of my next class I’ll be satisfied. For now, while I grapple with my confidence, I remind myself that when challenged on the mat we slow down, breathe and re-center. It's a familiar, easier-said-than-done practice, one that my own yoga teachers have taught me over and over and one that I now teach my students. Instead of pushing ahead in a hurry, we pause and tune back in, return to our natural rhythm, and then move forward refreshed. This lesson impacted me hugely when I first started practicing, a few years ago at a time when I was urgently—and unsuccessfully—attempting to push my way through the effects of a personal tragedy. Like so many yogis before me, the patience and self-care I met on the mat flowed into the rest of my life, and with time and practice, eventually I was able to gently start again and progress towards the future with a newly-centered spirit.
Now, in my role as yoga teacher, after any less-than-100% class I experience that same initial urgency. I want so badly to serve my students in the best way possible, to live up to the credentials I now possess. When I feel a class falls short, I want to go back and improve it immediately…but instead, like I do on the mat, I know I must remember to slow down and re-center, tapping into that patience and self-care that has served me so well in yoga practice and elsewhere.
I know I have everything I need to teach yoga well; I also know I judge myself more critically than anyone else ever could. As 2011 begins, I will work on tending my confidence and encouraging it to thrive. I will also remind myself with love that every yoga teacher, new or otherwise, experiences difficult moments now and then. Unlike in writing, we can’t erase those moments even if we want to—but if we slow down and re-center we can, at least in a way, scratch them out and make them not matter so much. Then we can move forward, refreshed, into our next class, onto a fresh page.
PATIENCE MAKES US FUNKY
NOVEMBER 19, 2010. Yoga has without a doubt made me more patient. Don't get me wrong sometimes it's still hard but for sure I'm better at it. What's changed? Well I don't want to feel that TUG-O-WAR with myself or with anyone else. Impatience doesn't feel good and yoga teaches the antidote to impatience is, yes you can guess, patience. Patience feels good. It feels like a return to center no matter the chaos or what other people do or don't do. It feels like compassion, peacefulness and a constant return to balance. When I am patient I feel like I can attempt anything and be my most funky self without attachment to the result. Yoga always teaches that detaching from the outcome through patience will bring peace of mind.
So rather than procrastinating what we really want to try we just do it accepting that the trying is the yummy fun part. Patience feels like unconditional love and acceptance. There are no ego issues when we are patient. You know what I mean, that feeling that if something doesn't happen right now in just the way we want it then it's not good enough. When Patient our minds stop playing the old games of pushing, pulling, creating anxiety, distrust, stress or simple heavy expectations.
Gosh if we could just take a lesson from the Moon. Do you know that that moon's trajectory follows the Sun's trajectory, only 6 months later; the full moon in winter comes as high as the Sun in the Summer. And it takes the Moon 18.6 YEARS TO FULFILL ONE COMPLETE ORBIT! I love this! If it takes the moon 18.6 years to complete 1 cycle well then in downward facing dog we really have 18.6 years to attempt it completely for one full time don't you think? If the moon requires 18.6 years to process its orbit then we can try anything new we want to and give ourselves 18.6 years to really refine it.
Yoga is NOT a quick fix. Yoga is like the cycle of the moon. It takes a long time, consistent practice and a whole lot of patience is developed while trying. So today through infinite patience may we all demonstrate unconditional love and excitement for life! Be your FUNKY Self! No need to pressure ourselves, give yourself at least 18.6 years on attempting any one thing. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
PS would love to work with you while on retreat through active life coaching and inspiration. Join me with Alchemy Tours visit my website at www.silviamordini.com
FULL MOON SALUTE: 18.6 YEARS TO REVEAL SELF
April 28, 2010 Today is a full moon! The moon as you know is a reflection of the sun. The moon's trajectory is very complicated. It follows the Sun's trajectory, only 6 months later; the full moon in winter comes as high as the Sun in the summer. And it takes the Moon 18.6 YEARS TO FULFILL ONE COMPLETE ORBIT!
Gosh if we were only so patient with ourselves.
We all have stuff hidden inside us. Who are we to think we are going to reveal this all in one yoga class or two or 10 or even 100. Heck the moon takes 18.6 years! But yet often we come to the mat as the quick fix. It's not going to work like that. Heed the words of Tantric scholar Christopher Tompkins, "Don't try to fix shit during yoga, just try to be with how you are now."
There is plenty of stuff to uncover by the time we start yoga. There is stuff of the past we need to heal and let go of, there are the future plans or goals we are afraid to actually speak out loud, there is actually being yourself as you are today. There is so much that I strongly encourage you to take your time. Allow what is embedded or hidden to be reflected as you feel comfortable doing. And believe me if you stay with this practice it will come out...it just takes time my friends. Quite frankly, let's all agree right now to give it 18.6 years at least.
Love and light, Silvia
THUS ENDS OUR HAMSTRING WEEK
MY PHILOSOPHY OF HAMSTRINGS & PATIENCE
Working with our hamstrings teaches us about patience. The hamstrings are layered with lots of tough connective tissue—the gristly fibers that help hold the muscles' structure together. So you can't rush or hurry the hamstrings into flexibility; they need time to change their length—time in the sense that longer stretches (90 to 120 seconds) seem most effective with connective tissue. And time in the sense that it can take months, if not years, for tight hamstrings to loosen their grip and become flexible. So take your time and relax, the goal is the process even more so than the end result.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
The hamstrings have two primary actions: (1) knee flexion (bending the knee) and (2) hip extension.
- When you're squatting, your hips are flexed; you bring them into extension when you stand upright, placing the thighbones in line with the torso.
- When you stand on your right leg in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III) and lift your left leg to hold it parallel to the floor, your left hamstrings are creating hip extension. When you lie on your stomach, bend your knees, and lift your feet so you can grab your ankles for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), the hamstrings are creating knee flexion. (The hamstrings also assist in rotational actions at the hip and knee.)
- To stretch your hamstrings, you need to keep your knee straight and flex your hip (in other words, fold the front of the thigh and the abdomen toward each other). One of yoga's classic hamstring stretches is Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), in which the knees are straight, the torso hangs down, and the abdomen eventually rests on the front of the thighs.
WHAT DOES THE QUAD DO?
- Contract your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs) in forward bends by simple actions like lifting your toes. If your hamstrings are tight, this is an excellent way to help them loosen up. The quads will stabilize your knees and hold them straight in forward bends. By contracting your quads, you'll be taking advantage of a kinesiological law called "reciprocal inhibition," in which your nervous system tells a muscle to let go of its contraction when the opposing muscle has work to do. In forward bends, contracting your quads facilitates the release of the hamstrings.
WHAT AND WHERE IS THE HAMSTRING MUSCLE?
- The hamstrings are the large group of three muscles that fill the back of the thigh.
- The hamstrings insert below the knee on the two lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula.
- Two of the muscles, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus, are in the medial (inner) section of the thigh. The third, the biceps femoris, is in the lateral (outer) portion of the back of the thigh.
- All three muscles originate on the ischial tuberosity—the bony protuberance at the bottom of the pelvis that is commonly called the sitting bone—and the biceps femoris has an additional attachment on the back of the femur, or thighbone.
SUGGESTED POSES TO RELEASE HAMSTRINGS:
- Both hips are externally rotated
- This is abduction of both hips
- This is outer spiral
- How to perform: Hold feet and press elbows into the lower leg while firmely pressing up wiht the legs, hold for a few breaths then release slowly and press kneeds down with elbows. Repeat this process then squeeze outer buttock muscles and press lower and upper leg together
SEATED FORWARD BEND (PASCHIMOTTANASANA)
- Internal rotation of both legs
- This is adduction of both legs
- This is inner spiral
- How to perform: place hands at a point on thighs with bent knees and push into it breath in and then exhale relax deeper into the pose with legs more straight, Repeat this process a little at a time.
- Why this works: this small amount of pressure to trigger muscle spindles that helps release
HALF SPLITS (ARDHA HANUMANASANA)
- Contract front psoas muscle to go deeper by titling pelvis
- To stabilize hips one psoas is moving one way the other is moving in opposite direction. Try to drag back knee to front leg, drag front heel backwards to feel this.
- Contract back leg buttock and front leg quad strongly.
- Apply shins in manually with brick under calf.
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
PATIENCE AND ANTIDOTE TO IMPATIENCE
I used the rain today as an example, that we can lose patience even with the rain! But if we get present we realize the rain is just water and has no agenda for or against us and even if it did we could still feel connected to whatever is happening whether things are going well or not. 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."
Patience really depends on feeling at home and relaxed in the middle of the tension or chaos, discovering each moment of experience is related to the previous one, each one contingent upon the last so peace is possible no matter what.
This basically means there is no reason to get mad at the rain or the pose or the person or difficult situation. The ugly is good. And to practice this is peace. So today remain patient with your breath and with time itself. Stay present to your life and you too will find a quiet serenity. Love and peace in all ways, 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
PATIENCE: DETACHING FROM THE OUTCOME
JUNE 25, 2009: TODAY'S MANTRA: DROP INTO THE MOMENT.
We often don't realize that the obstacles we place before us are not cement barriers, they aren't at all physical, what they are - are our thoughts and ideas. I read in Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert about her divorce that no one has died of splitting up the living room furniture. Yet, in our minds we can get so attached to having just one set outcome be the right way that we can become delusional and actually convince ourselves that will be the case. Can you imagine? I can.
Yoga teaches that detaching from the outcome through patience will bring peace of mind.
This to me is about unconditional love. This is the universal intelligence that embraces us on all sides. This intelligence is working with us. We simply have to allow it. Yoga helps us do this by unwinding our mind that can get all jammed up because of ego.
Love doesn't get overwhelmed by ego. Its the ego that says if this doesn't happen right now in just this one way then bad things will happen. We start to play mind games pushing, pulling, creating anxiety, distrust, stress. All of this is based in fear. Fear is the enemy of peace. Peace is LOVE.
Today through infinite patience may we demonstrate unconditional love for what the world is offering us right now and find peace! DROP INTO THE MOMENT. Love your life! Silvia
PATIENCE AND COURAGE: EFFORT & EASE
FEBRUARY 26TH, 2008:
FEARLESSNESS & MARSHMALLOWS
Yes, I brought marshmallows for everyone to make a point today. Why Because to me our hearts are like marshmallows, they are pretty resilient you know Yoga will help us be strong on the inside so we can be soft on the outside in making choices for ourselves. We can move beyond fear, which is the enemy of love, to a place of fearlessness. Especially if our greatest fear is failure we can realize through yoga that we will bounce back, if you squish the marshmallow it regains its form (it really does, try it). Use this practice to experiment with the 3 P s: persistence, patience and perseverance! So as Rascal Flats sings I hope the day comes easy and the moments pass slow and each road leads you to where you want to go and if you re faced with the choice and you have to choose I hope you choose the one that means the most to you. So be fearless in what you wish for, in setting an intention today...and as the song goes, MY WISH for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to. So take a chance, dream big, your heart is supple and will support you!
BIG LOVE, Silvia Today s Mantra: If I was not afraid I would .
Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending. ~Author Unknown