Since I can't speak for others, I would like to share a little bit of my thoughts on this topic.
If I were looking for a good workout, I would go to the gym. It's easier, and it's cheaper, unless you need to belong to the deluxe kind. Or unless you are the type to look for the Groupon, Living Social, Lululemon and by-donation deals to keep you going for a long time.
If I were looking to relax or to be pampered, I would get a massage or do a spa. Or see a feel-good movie or enjoy a glass of wine with a friend. In this case, however, yoga might be cheaper.
If I were looking to get limber, I'd get on the floor and stretch in the comfort of my own home. It's free.
If I were looking for validation, assignments, a way to understand why things in my life are not going the way I hoped, I might see a therapist or join a self-improvement program.
If I am looking to find a discipline that will help me put myself as the point of reference, see clearly and from a broader lens, know what I want (as distinguished from what others expect of me), see others in their best light, strengthen my ability to respond to what calls at me daily rather than being pulled to my bed for another nap, and give me the courage to become bigger than I currently am...
...then I practice yoga. And when I am looking for a fast acting one, I practice Kundalini Yoga. As regularly as I brush my teeth.
Yoga is mental, physical and spiritual hygiene, and when I don't treat it as such, my mouth gets really gross...
Yoga is not for the weak. But it is often used as a soft-addiction or temporary fix.
"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." --Audre Lorde
[Repost from September 18, 2014]
We all do it. We screw up. And this morning, I totally blew it!
I did not show up for class this morning. I can’t imagine who ever woke up early and waited in the parking lot for me to arrive until such time that you decided that I was a no show. My sincere apologies! I am embarrassed.
To the early risers who showed up this morning, please email me at email@example.com to receive two free classes: next Thursday and the Thursday after as well as as much Yogi Tea as you can consume (and take a thermos with you!).
With much love,
[Repost from May 12, 2014]
Congratulations to the folks in Chicago for getting through this incredible winter– evidently, we experienced the “coldest four months ever [in Chicago]“!
Perhaps that’s why I can’t believe how warm it is today. On some level, I thought the cold was here to stay. Not really, but on some level…
Chicago winters are not the favorite amongst many; people move out of this great city often because they want something milder, kinder, and less volatile. On the flip-side, Chicago summers are super fantastic! The slight hint of summer here causes residents to want to celebrate and go carefree; to shed the layers (on many levels) and be outside as much as possible, soak up the sunlight, barbeque outside, run, play tennis, go for walks, have an outdoor party and stay away from the gym unless it’s raining, or unless the heat gets unbearable.
In fact, some of the obstacles that we believed would never disappear back in February seem to vanish just like that. Why?
Because we feel great!
The sunlight (the magnificent light outside of us) has awakened us and given us new energy. A caged & beaten lion free at last! We feel expanded, like we can breathe. We feel healthier maybe because we aren’t shivering, and maybe because we crave things other than food, beer and Netflix.
Life is a celebration. And Chicago summers are definite celebrations!
But instead of expending all of your pent up energy woo-hoo-ing outwards, I challenge you to take some of that fresh energy and newfound strength to get back on your horse named Discipline and build up that reservoir necessary to get through the other months that can feel so isolating and challenging.
With deep reserves, winter can be embraced as a time to go inward and tap into the magnificent light and strength that is within us, to guide us through our day, rather that a time to just somehow make it by the skin of our teeth. It can be a time when the Closing Sun that we sing after every kundalini yoga class works its blessings on a much higher level than they might serve otherwise.
This can be a time to forge lasting relationships with community and with Self, and to strengthen the practice. Celebrate these wonderful months AND nourish yourself to be sustainable and constant. Chicago weather is volatile, yes. But we don’t have to be.
[Repost from May 5, 2014]
Thank you to all who joined us on Saturday, May 3 for UYC's Grand Opening Event, and to everyone that had a hand in making the space what it is:
The participation and generosity that came from our community was totally unexpected and touched our hearts beyond words. Urban Yoga Chicago is truly a space built out of community, from the flowers and plants (Nancy Mattei) to the glasses, bowls, dishes, utensils (Denise Babicz) and gorgeous wood cutting boards (Jenilyn Francis), to the text messages of well wishes from those who could not make it (you know who you are), to UYC tees (Reuven Gitter) to the string of lights and the labor of love put into making the upstairs loft space as beautiful as it is (Jeff Stitely) to the incredible paint job on the walls of the Tratakum Cove (Laurel W and Madie D), and to the hands that labeled all the spice jars and folded all of the brochures from 10 pm to midnight of opening day with her 4 month old beside her (Irene Rojas)... thank you!
Amanda Wultz opened with one hour of the Miracle Mantra Meditation. In all the years that I have practiced meditation, this was the fastest, most impactful one-hour meditation I had ever experienced. Was it the new space? Was it Amanda? Was it the company? Was it the Miracle Mantra? Does it matter?
Jodh Kaur then led an 11 minute gong session, going between two gongs (a 24" and a Neptune gong) that arrived on loan, and with love, by Surinderjeet Kaur.
Laura Briscoe led us in one of our favorite community activities-- vegetarian cook together. It included kitcherie by Matt Lavoie and Laura Keil and Solstice Soup by Adam Braun. Sait Kinay made his famous grilled eggplant "salsa". Mary Waldon brought over a delicious home-made gluten free bread, and Robbie Bogard a divine dish of homemade chocolate pudding (vegan!). Robbie also made a satisfying quinoa salad which I think everyone asked for the recipe. Our talented graphics designer, Jeff Lacdan poured his labor of love into the root vegetable salad, and Jeff Stitely into his delicious citrus salad-- that dressing is a keeper (and so is Jeff)!
After a wonderful meal, Jeff Stitely led us in a perfect-for-after-a full-meal-and-to-ease-into-self-expression drum circle. What an experience! We are hoping that Jeff will lead this again and again.
Then I led our 2nd 11-minute gong session with our 34" Paiste house gong. Good time for it to let us know it needed some strengthening of the screws before our triple gong bath to come...
GuruNischan led the yoga kriya, "Renew Your Nervous System and Build Stamina." If you aren't familiar with this one-- keep coming to class! It's bound to come up again. It's intense pranayam with moving mudras to open you up and expand your capacity, followed by wild dancing to bhangra music.
Good news-- we learned we could fit many more people in the upstairs space than we originally thought!
The layout was a 31-minute triple gong bath played by me, Surinderjeet and Jodh Kaur. The feedback was that it felt like one unified gong, out of this world, and "how did we do that"; we must have practiced for hours... we'll take it!
Then back downstairs for a surprise treat: dark chocolate covered organic strawberries hand-picked and dipped by Irene Rojas! Yes, we had flourless chocolate and chocolate mousse, but they had to bow down to the hand-dipped strawberries, hands down the winner. Then a light dinner of left-overs and a fresh serving of lentil salad compliments of Arshiya Khan.
What, don't you have dessert first at your house?
Our spice cabinet:
Rip Van Winkle is a story of a man who was loved by his town but tormented by a nagging wife who was thoroughly displeased with his laziness-- lazy enough that his home & farm went to shambles. He went up to the mountains to get away from his wife on day, drank with men and fell asleep, only to wake up much older. His dog is gone, his wife is dead, and he doesn't recognize anyone in town. The world had changed.
We live the way we breathe.
When we surrender our breath to the stressors of life, which is what we do when we don't think about it (we engage in automatic or involuntary breathing vs. the practice of voluntary breath control, or pranayam), we become Rip Van Winkle. We wake up one day to find that so much time has past, and we don't know where it all went. Sound familiar? There are different levels. We might hardly recognize our surroundings. And we might hardly know ourselves.
Breathe the way you want to live: Full. Complete. With Intention. At times relaxed. At times with power.
Take classes in pranayam. Expand the Pranic Body.
I found a good description of Pranic Body here, where the author writes, "Eighth Body, The Pranic: Controls the breath and takes in prana, the life-force energy of the universe. When the Pranic Body is working, you are fearless and fully alive. Your pranic energy heals others. Challenge: Tendency to be fearful, exhibit defensive behavior when weak, or to feel sluggish and fatigued."
Don't be Rip.
How cool would it be to have clarity on something, just like that?
We actually have access to it.
I am not talking about answers to how to build a rocket ship. There are actually things that require some education. But much of the decisions we make in life doesn't. What it requires is a little bit of inward attention & trust in ourselves (yeah, that's a big one).
Wisdom doesn't take mulling over or sleeping on. Truth doesn't require listing out the pros and cons. It doesn't require thinking about what someone else will think. It requires a split second of turning your attention inward and listening to what your body tells you. After that split second, your head jumps in and does its thing. It will give you all the reasons why that guy or gal really is the one, and why you really shouldn't stick with that program or project, even though you've put so much of your resources into it already. Or, it may tell you that you should in fact stick to it because you did put so much into it already.
The question is, did you catch that initial split second moment of truth? Didja?
How does one stretch that split second of access to 10 seconds or even forever? How does one strengthen and amplify the inner voice?
Like working out, that muscle builds with practice. Even if you don't listen to it, acknowledge it. Say, "I hear you, Self, and I know you are right, but I am going the other way right now." It doesn't do as well a job, but it's something. To get there faster, just listen to it. And depending on your particular mind constitution, focusing on certain limbs of yoga practice (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, etc) will offer a powerful framework to hone your efforts and accelerate the process.
We hope you enjoy this partial tutorial & meditation given by Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa to Urban Yoga Chicago's Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Class 2013-14.
On AUM (aka OM) as written by Karen L. Hudson on About.com:
Om and Aum are the same thing; it's just written two different ways. Think of "Om" as the phonetic spelling and "Aum" as the actual spelling. The sound of "Aum" - the slow, calming chant many associate with the word, is the sound that was made when all of creation came into existence. The essence of the universe and all creation, wrapped up in one unimaginable and indescribable aggregate (for lack of a better term), is known as Brahman. The "Om" represents the four divine states of Brahman - metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity). Brahman is actually a core belief system in both Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which use Om regularly in their daily life. (Feel free to research further on this with the links below - it's quite fascinating.)
What I love about yoga practice is that - if we let it - we can take the tools we use (and cultivate) on the mat and take it off the mat to make life flow better for us.
For this piece, I will assume that many of you are familiar enough with kundalini yoga to know that each exercise (asana) is timed.
Let me tell you how that timer has become a very good friend to me.
Most of us understand that we can spend from 30 minutes to 3 hours to 3 days (or weeks!) cleaning out our closet. And some of you may also know that one can edit a piece of writing forever. At some point, one has to decide where that point of diminishing return is and stop there. That's where that timer comes along handy: Set it and go. Stop when it rings.
What's so great about it?
It allows us to do what you might have heard in class: set it and forget it.
We set our drishti, mudra and asana where it needs to be, then we forget it and turn our focus to our breath, or mantra, for a given amount of time. During that time, we tune out the monkey mind and tune in to the moment, staying fully present to our inner world- the sensations that come up on all levels. We observe and we push through using the best tool(s) we have: our breath and/ or mantra.
It allows us to stay very present with what we are doing the moment we start our timer. We don't have to keep looking at the clock to see how much time we (don't) have and what else needs to be done. We don't have to multi-task. We simply dedicate that window of time to the task at hand. Just as we would pace our squats differently if we knew we had to do them for 1 minute or for 7, we pace ourselves accordingly based on what we set our timer for.
This allows us to be present, which allows us to be more effective, make less mistakes, enjoy what we are doing, experience the clarity & benefits of a one-track mind, and more likely complete something. It also enables us to pace ourselves, stop, and touch the other things that need our FULL attention.
It is much more nourishing.
And you may see that time becomes more generous.
Please remember: seeking it, and wanting to seek it, are two different things. They separate the doers from the dreamers, as they say. And more possibly (and fairly), they separate the ready from the not-yets. I believe that everyone is Michelangelo’s Statue of David not yet chiseled into its complete form. Some of us are more in the form of a block of cement hardly begun while others are further along. But the truest essence is there waiting in all of us to emerge into its fullness.
Excellence requires us to do something that can be very hard to do: Get over ourselves.
It requires being still enough to hear our Truth.
It requires being courageous enough to acknowledge and act on our Truth.
It requires being disciplined enough to stay on course, especially when we don’t feel like it.
It requires understanding which mind we are coming from (negative, positive or neutral) to know if the “necessary” adjustments we wish to take are response-able or reactive.
It requires being strong enough to know who to reach out to (and who not to) to support us in our process. It begs the question: am I looking for elevation or validation?
In answering that question, it requires observing ourselves: am I asking the right questions and receiving guidance, or am I busy telling my story and trying to enroll others in it?
It requires loving ourselves enough -as an action word- to stay connected with community.
Kundalini Yoga & Meditation is a challenging practice. Why? Because it prepares us to be still enough, courageous enough, disciplined enough, understanding (through clarity), strong enough, observant enough and loving enough.
What makes Kundalini Yoga unique to other yoga practices is that it reaches beyond access to calm & relaxation and into the resiliency of moving back and forth from restful to active states (parasympathetic to sympathetic) without feeling fried. This practice trains our mind & body to be able to respond to the constant shifts between calm and irritability that we face daily in our lives. It helps us to choose excellence* over validation.
Here is a meditation to help you reach excellence. This pranayam meditation teaches concentration and endurance. Please take this practice slowly and build up to maximum time as you build the capacity to practice it in full integrity. In the question of quality vs quantity, let quality lead your practice. This meditation is known to conquer normal depression and discouragement. It builds tremendous strength into the nervous system.
Kundalini Yoga Quotes:
“I’d never felt anything like it; it was just an opening of energy and a feeling of such liberation.” -Marika Bethel, owner, Glowing House