YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.10.15 (Svadhyaya – Projections)

I began my public education career as a middle grades science teacher almost twelve years ago.  I started with vis-a-vis wet erase markers and an overhead projector.

Now that I’ve dated myself a bit, there is no difference in the technological advances of today.  Classrooms have become equipped with Promethean ActivBoards or SMART Boards (and other competitor variations).  The concept remains the same.  The content that is on the transparency or in the computer is projected from one place to another.  Participants study the material and prepare for an assessment of some sort.  What is in is sent out, what is sent out is taken in.

Let’s apply this concept to ourselves.  What is in is sent out.  Svadhyaya asks us to take time to self-study, self-reflect.  Math, science, language arts, social studies and school in general is relatively straight forward in what is inside.  We can open a textbook and have a pretty idea the content that is inside.  We are quite the amazing variable.  We can look at each other and make inferences about the past, the present and the future.  However, we will never know a complete story.  We will never know each other completely.

What is in is sent out.  Therefore, we are asked to look inward and see our content, our character.  If we see hate and anger and bitterness in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  If we see love and beauty and joy in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  The projections that we see in our world cannot come from the outside in.  They come from the inside out.  Before we move quickly to judge the actions of the world around us, let’s first ask … what is inside us?

Svadhyaya – Projections

Do this experiment now:  without thinking, quickly write down the first five things that come to your mind that describe the world as you see it.

Every comment that you have used to describe the world will tell you more about yourself than about the world.  Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape.  The world is your autobiography.

The world and others simply reflect back to us what we are seeing, not what is there.  It is as if wherever we look, there are only mirrors that show us pictures of ourselves.

“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.”

The world changes to fit the story you are telling.

As you begin to steadfastly pay attention to what you are saying to yourself about the moment, the other person, yourself, and life, you will get clues about the “boxes” you have wrapped yourself in that create you own little universe.  All of these utterances are projections of the parts of yourself you love, don’t love, can see, don’t want to see, or accept or can’t yet accept.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele (BUY IT!!!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.03.15 (Svadhyaya – Self Study)

We enter into the month of March continuing our study of the Yamas and Niyamas.  Svadhyaya, or self-study, asks us to look inside.  Self-reflection and self-study can be difficult to swallow.  We may find ourselves drifting back into the past and filled with regrets spiraling down into depression.  We may find ourselves looking to far forward into the future and becoming filled with anticipation that takes off into anxiety.  So let’s take a look inside our box …

The analogy of a box allows us the safety of the interior and the unknown of the exterior.  Our physical bodies are represented by the box.  My physical body has many forms.  I am a hockey player.  I am a guitar player.  I am a teacher.  I am a triathlete.  I am a friend.  And I have so many more roles in life.  Our bodies are quite sturdy and capable of withstanding a decent amount of what life can throw at it.  Our box may be kicked, punched, yelled at, screamed at, defaced or covered with graffiti.  The world can see the damage done to the exterior.  The world cannot see our interior.

The safety of the interior can initially seem like a prison.  I am guilty of becoming trapped in my own thoughts and becoming stagnant in my life.  It was not until I became comfortable with what was on the interior of my box that I began to smile more, give more and love more.  As we look deeper into our box, a place where no one but ourselves can dwell, we must become comfortable with what we find.  Do we love ourselves?  Even when the world attempts to destroy us, what beauty is inside the box?

No one will ever truly see the inside of our box.  A family member, friend, loved one, spouse … we will share some of what is inside, but the lid will never be fully open.  We are the only person with knowledge of its contents.  As we take a moment to look in our box, do the contents make us smile?  make us laugh?  make us fall in love with ourselves?

Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

The yogis teach that we, as human beings, are packaged much like this diamond ring.  We are, at the core, divine consciousness.  Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in “boxes” of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems.  These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.  All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are.  We think we are the boxes we are wrapped in and forget that we are really the Divine “holding” inside.  We can find clues about our boxes by watching our projections, by the process of tracing our reactions back to a belief, and by courageously looking at life as it is.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

Tuesdays @ Triad Fitness/Thomasville YMCA – 8.19.14 (Satya – Need to Belong vs Need to Grow)

How do you decide between these two concepts?  The need to belong and the need to grow both pull at us.  Where is the line?  

For me, I struggle with how much time I give to my job (middle school math/science teacher), my hobbies (ice hockey, triathlete, USTA tennis, cycling, guitar playing, movies, etc) and my personal life (friends, family and other relationships).  Where is the line among all of this that allows me to feel fulfilled in belonging and growth?  

There are several instances in my life where I feel completely fine with belonging.  I love belonging to my family, a fun group of guys and gals on a hockey or tennis team, and belong to an amazing preparatory school for middle grades students.  The hard part for me is to discern whether or not those areas of my life are providing me an environment to grow or not.

The truth of freedom carries the price of guilt.”  That line really stood out with me during my reading and during our time of meditation.  In an earlier post, we looked at being nice versus being real.  Satya is no joke.  Being truthful with yourself and with those around you is extremely difficult because its filled with guilt.  I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings at my own expense.  That may be a character flaw, but it is the logic that I tend to go with.  But there is “freedom” through a choice to grow over belong.  I still continue to think deeper on this subject.  What are your thoughts?

The Need to Belong vs. the Need to Grow

Mantra – I accept that truth rarely asks the easier choice.

As long as we stay within the approval of the group, we experience the innocence of belonging.  However, we begin to grow in directions beyond the group, we experience guilt in regards to the group.  The truth of our freedom carries the price of guilt.

All these groups have rules and belief systems, some written, some silently understood, that must be followed for us to be part of the group.  These rules and belief systems are necessary, they are what shape the group and give the group its identity.  As long as these rules don’t conflict with our inner longing to grow more and more into our full self, there is no problem.  However, when a conflict arises between the need to belong and the need to grow, we have to make a choice.  We must either sacrifice a part of ourselves to maintain our belonging, or we must risk the approval and support of the group by growing.

I often hear people say, “I just don’t know what to do.”  I think more often than not, we do know what to do; the cost of our realness just seems too high at the time.

Truth rarely seems to ask the easier choice of us.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele


Yoga Mindset July Workshop – 7.20.14 (Worry and Support)

After a great day of training with Stacy Smith from AFAA, Kelle Yokeley (Owner of Yoga Mindset) and I lead a workshop from 1pm-5pm yesterday.  The workshop focused on helping these fantastic yogis become a little more prepared for leading a class by practicing sequence que-ing, common verbal, proximity and hands-on adjustments, along with building a positive and safe environment for their students.  It was truly a wonderful afternoon :).  I was honored to teach the Master Class to start the workshop.  I was drawn to a meditation regarding worry and support.  I do my best to enter each class with the mindset that I will support my students.  Kelle and I provided that support to these four awesome yogis and I can’t wait to see them extend it to others!  You can find that meditation below.  Feel free to leave your thoughts below.  Thanks for reading!

Violence to Others
  “We can’t save people, or fix them.  All we can do is model, and that points the finger back at us.”

  When we try to take someone out of their challenge or suffering, we take them out of the environment that offers them a rich learning experience.  We are in a sense, cutting them off from the power of growing stronger, more competent, and more compassionate.
  We need to trust suffering and trust challenges and trust mistakes; they are what refine us when we don’t run from them.  There is nothing to fix or save in another; there is only the gift of listening.  People need a safe place to “hear themselves.”
  Worry is another way violence gets masked as caring.  Worry is a lack of faith in the other and cannot exist simultaneously with love.  Worry says I don’t trust you to do your life right.  Worry comes from a place of arrogance that I know better what should be happening in your life.
  Whereas support meets the other person on equal playing ground with equal ability and is able to sit with more awe and respect than answers.
  When we can truly love and accept all of our self, compassion begins to blossom in our hearts, and we begin to see others with different eyes.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

Tuesdays @ TFC/YMCA – 7.8.14 (Ahimsa – Courage)

In our Tuesday classes, we studied the 7 Chakras leading up to July.  As I continue to learn more and more about the philosophy behind yoga, it has brought my classes to learning about the yamas and niyamas.  As we take the month of July to learn more about Ahimsa (Nonviolence), please feel free to comment below and continue to discussion :).  Enjoy!

Finding our Courage
Mantra – I have courage.

All around the world, children’s innocence is destroyed by abuse and horror.  If we look closely, we can trace all of these acts of greed, control and insecurity back to their root: fear.  Fear creates violence.

The first kind of fear is instinctual and built in us for survival.  The second kind of fear is fear of the unfamiliar.  The unfamiliar can become an abundant place for our exploration once we realize this fear lives only in our imagination.  It is only our minds that have created the turmoil in our gut and kept us hostage to the possibility of our own lives.

Seeking out people and experiences we would normally avoid provides a fertile place to learn new things about ourselves and about life.  Even those we might call enemies have much to teach us.  As we walk into our fears with both people and experiences, we will find that our sense of self has grown.  Thus, to create a life and a world free of violence is first and foremost to find our own courage.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to be afraid without being paralyzed.  Courage is found by facing our fears – the small ones, the big ones, the embarrassing ones, and the scary ones.  To live the fullness that our own life is inviting us into, we often have to let ourselves be afraid and do it anyway.  If we keep ourselves safe, how will our courage grow?

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele



Flow w/Fred – 6.26.14 (YFD – Svadhyaya)

Pouring the Foundation – Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara-Pranidhana

In the world of Yoga today, in addition to chanting, there are self-help books, workshops, and a wide variety of Yoga therapies – literally hundreds of ways to know the self.  The way I know best is right on my Yoga mat – through self-observation.  As your practice begins to burn away the impurities, the obstacles to your freedom, you begin to cultivate a listening – to your body, to your mind, to your emotions.  You can cultivate this listening by observing your breath and the sensations in your body as you practice.  This takes intention and attention.  It is easy to practice Yoga as though it were exercise, moving from posture to posture, with little awareness of the sensations in your body or your feeling state.  This is unconscious Yoga, and though you will feel good afterward and will receive many physiological and psychological benefits from your practice, you run the risk of energetically reinforcing old patterns and habits of mind.

When you practice Yoga with awareness of the sensations in your body, your thoughts, and your feelings, you will grow in self-awareness.  And as you grow in self-awareness, you begin to have glimpses of what it means to feel utterly and wholly connected, how your small self is not separate from the Absolute, the Self of the universe.  When you become awake, there will still be pain in your life.  Pain is inevitable, but you will no longer suffer more as a result of your pain.  You will remember that beneath the temporary separation you may be feeling, you are whole.

BOOK – “Yoga for Depression” by Amy Weintrab

Monday Movements – 6.23.14 (YogaFit Level 2 – Mountain 2/3)

“I have found that when the sense of wonder leaves me, when everything becomes dull and ordinary, it is because I have kept too fast a pace for too long. I have pushed past my own boundaries and now I am out of balance. It is time to rest. When I am rested, nothing is dull and ordinary; everything glows with mystery. Whether I take it easy for a day or escape into the woods by myself, it is hard to give this rest to myself. There are a million and one reasons why I can’t. My ego likes to feel important, and it doesn’t when I am resting. My ego also doesn’t like the idea that life can go on without me, even if it is only for a few hours; I like to be where the action is. Besides, in this culture of constant activity, there is always so much that needs to be done.
I am hungry to tame the stimulation and pull back the indulgences. And I am hungry to do nothing and let that be more than enough. Resting rejuvenates my sense of mystery. In this simple act, I find my eyes are shifted to wonder and my heart spontaneously bursts with songs of gratitude.” BOOK – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

Flow w/Fred – 6.19.14 (YFD – Tapas)

Pouring the Foundation – Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara-Pranidhana

Union in action is daily life lived in a clear and conscious way.  Union in action rests on a sturdy tripod of willful practice (tapas), self-observation (svadhyaya) and surrender (ishvara-pranidhana).

First, we practice.  The very act of stepping onto your mat is an act of tapas – willful practice.  With disciplined practice, we light an inner fire that burns away our impurities.  “Tapas” refers to both the willful practices (also called austerities) and the purifying inner fire that the practices produce.  The foundation is set  as you build that purifying inner fire that begins recovery.

One of the hardest lessons to learn in life is when to let go – of a relationship, a dream, a fantasy, even a depression.  Yet once we learn that we can’t control people, things, and emotions, when we surrender to reality as it is, we are happier.

TAPAS is primarily the process of getting rid of something undesirable in our system – from chronic subliminal muscle contraction, to toxicity in the colon, to deep-rooted emotions and behaviors.  With each session on your mat, you are building the strength to break through old patterns and past conditioning.  With each session, you are strengthening your vital energy, or prana.

BOOK – “Yoga for Depression” by Amy Weintrab