Thursday, September 14, 2017

Burning Enthusiasm

Tapas often translates as discipline, however literally it means to burn. It evokes a sense of fiery discipline we can envision as burning enthusiasm. This  niyama refers to the focused and disciplined use of energy to actively pursue the aim of yoga; realization of the inner light of awareness. Tapas creates a flame which sustains and illuminates. With focused and disciplined enthusiasm we burn off physical, mental and emotional impurities that keep our inner light from shining bright. 

Our story; I practice with enthusiasm. 

Tapas is a tool for transformation. Because tapas has such a fiery connotation, it conjures an image of a hot, difficult yoga practice. Yet we don't want to burn out in the process of awakening! Perhaps it's the self-discipline to set aside a time to simply practice regularly. Then again, it could be the focus required to stay with the breath and see what arises in a long held posture. And we all know it takes focus and discipline to refine our negative thoughts, words, and habits both on and off the mat. 

As we move through life, we come to realize that any positive change or transformation we wish to make, requires a certain amount of consistent sustained energy...burning enthusiasm. From a yogic perspective, this is the practice of tapas!

We chose a yin yoga practice as our physical focus this month. In a typical yin class the postures are generally held for 3 to 5 minutes. It takes focus and discipline to stay in a pose for any length of time, as the mind and the body often complain! Yet when we practice with enthusiasm we can overcome outward discomforts and connect with something deeper within. Here are a couple of postures to try, if you are new to yin yoga begin with a 1 minute hold and add time as your enthusiasm for the practice begins to burn. 

Bridge Pose; Begin lying on your back, bend knees and bring feet close to the body hip width apart, arms alongside the body, palms facing the floor, inhale to prepare and exhale as you lift the hips and arch the back keeping the knees parrallel, the weight of the body is on the shoulders and the feet, hold the pose and breathe freely, exhale and release the pose by rolling the spine down slowly as you pull the belly in. 

Sphinx Pose; Begin lying on the belly legs stretched out hip-width apart. Arms are bent, elbows under your shoulders, forearms on the floor and parallel, middle fingers forward. Inhale and press your forearms into the floor lifting the head and chest. Press the pelvis into the floor and engage the legs, lengthening the spine. Gently pull the shoulders back, lifting the heart. Let your face and eyes soften, drawn the chin in. Hold for several breaths. To release, exhale as you lower to the floor, bring the arms alongside the body and turn your head to the side and rest. 

Mahalo, we serve. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Divine Devotion

We like to add an element of playfulness to our practice with our Sassy Seniors. This month we used doggie finger puppets as parts of our centering, as we sang along to "How much is that doggie in the window?" These seniors with memory issue often remember songs from back in the day!
Dogs can be remarkably devoted to those who care for them, which led us to consider Ishvara Pranidhana, divine devotion. Our story; I am devoted. 
Devoting yourself to something larger than your self can transform your yoga practice and your life. A major component of yoga is study of the self, however if we are only internalizing we run the risk of becoming egocentric. Ishvara pranidhana is an ideal counterpount; we study the divine within ourselves, the divine within all beings, and the Divine source within all things.
Devotion implies trust,  being open to the divine plan, how and where life takes you. Such devotion gives rise to grace. Devotion is an attitude that you carry with you, that you live your life with. Seeing the divine in all, being open, and gracious. 
Ishvara Pranidhana is one of 5 niyamas in the Yoga Sutras and is considered the zenith of the niyamas. It encourages us to live with wholehearted devotion to all of Divine creation, to see the light in every person, animal and inanimate object. Some may choose to practice Ishvara Pranidhana through daily prayer or meditation. By stilling the body and the mind we can connect with the Divine and open to grace. One can also practice by simply pausing to feel grateful. By sprinkling life with devotion, each and every moment can be transformed.  
It has been said that we live in an age in which all humanity has fallen away from grace. Ishvara Pranidhana initiates a shift of perspective that helps us receive grace, the grace of being alive. Because it connects us to the divine source it shifts our perspective from our narrow individual concerns. Awakening a devotion to the Divine source of life opens us to the divine in every moment, no matter what happens. 

Mahalo, we serve.