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

Yamas and Niyamas – 10.27.14 (Brahmacharya – Walking w/the Divine)

As I sit here this morning, I look at my calendar.  It is full.  I feel like Captain Holt on the FOX comedy series “Brooklyn 99.”  I thrive off of optimization.

So yes, my application as a complete nerd is accepted.  The idea of efficiently running my life so that I experience every possible thing is fun.  I love the idea of having so many experiences and opportunities throughout my day.  My middle school classes can sometimes suffer from this because we try to do so many awesome things each and every day.  However, I’m constantly brought back by Brahmacharya.  I interpret it as “stop and smell the roses.”  If I rush in my personally and professional life, then I’ll miss the amazing moments created along the way.

One of my scholars (as we call our students at Allen Jay Prep) gave me an incredible reminder of this about two weeks ago.  The sixth grade Math content in Common Core asks teachers to cover a whole lot of concepts throughout the year.  We move at a pretty brisk pace.  Debora decided to remind me of Brahmacharya because the innocence of her mind naturally connects with an understanding of nonexcess.  She delights in the moments created in class.  As an educator and a yoga instructor, you never truly know what participants are experiencing and taking from the moments we aid and guide them through.  Debora gave me an incredible moment because she said I challenge her.  She said I ask her to struggle, I ask her to think deeply and I ask her to get upset, frustrated and sometimes even mad.  We roll a four gear system in my class.  Gear two asks scholars to actively think and use prior knowledge and instruction to problem solve.  Its hard.  Its pain-staking.  The reason behind it is that I don’t want to be the excess.  I don’t want to be a “sage on the stage.”  I want to provide just enough to spark wonder and inspiration.  And that inspiration needs to be intrinsic.  I want scholars to see the mystery in the moment of instruction and find their own interpretation.  Its fun.  

I need to continue to grow in adding this to my personal life.  I keep myself so busy that I sometimes miss the mystery.  I have mystery very organized and neatly packed.  Sometimes it needs to be random and free.

Walking with the Divine

When I didn’t know the day, or the time, or the temperature, an innate intelligence began to set the next thing in motion.  Without a schedule or a plan, being and doing blended until they felt the same.  There was no purpose, except for the pure delight of the moment.  God’s heartbeat.

I have read many self help books and have benefited greatly from them.  That said, I think mystery is what begins to shape-shift us into a deeper understanding of our humanity.  As we move deeper into the practice of “walking with God,” we will find that excess doesn’t own us quite as much as it used to.  When we get the real nourishment that divine mystery gives us, the pretend nourishment of excess becomes less and less interesting to us.

We don’t need to to be the center of attention and activity all the time.  I think it might surprise us to realize how much crazy activity we create in our days just so we can feel important.  We wear our busyness like a badge, like our busyness would somehow impress the rest of the world, or impress ourselves. 

Brahmacharya reminds us that we aren’t embodied in this form to feel dead but to feel alive.  We aren’t embodied to snuff out our vitality and passion through excess but to bring it to full expression.  “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele


We are all unique.  Although there are a number of physical similarities, you are you and I am I.  Popular culture and media would like for us to become enthralled with the uniqueness of a person.  The problem with celebrating that uniqueness is that popular culture and media ask that we become that person.  We don’t get to celebrate you.  And that just isn’t cool.

When I first started doing Yoga some six or so odd years ago, I feel into the same trap that a number of practitioners do.  The search for the perfect pose.  In a search for perfection, there are so many negative thoughts and emotions that arise.  When those are practiced, they become a part of us.  We lose our spark … and people notice.  

I did not take any time for myself after my Level 4 YogaFit training last weekend and I know my students could tell.  I allowed my love for accomplishments to catch up with me.  It was today during the Power Yoga class that I taught that I finally took a moment to reflect.  We took the mantra “So ham” (“I Am”) and added positive words between each repetition.  In the rush to continue my journey to my 200 hour cert, I almost allowed myself to steal from myself.  The journey is so much more important than the goal.  It was comforting to take a step back and reflect.  Digestion is fun :).

Stealing From Ourselves

In all the ways that we impose an outside image of ourselves onto ourselves, we are stealing from the unfolding of our own uniqueness.

All self-sabotage, lack of belief in ourselves, low self-esteem, judgments, criticisms, and demands for perfection are forms of self-abuse in which we destroy the very essence of our vitality.

We are captured in a culture where our very identity is tied up with our accomplishments.  In this rush to get to the next thing, we have left no time for ourselves to digest and assimilate our lives; this may be our biggest theft of all.  We need time to catch up with ourselves.  We need time to chew and ponder and allow the experiences of life to integrate within us.  We need time to rest and to reflect and to contemplate.

When we take no time for reflection or integration; we continue to move on to the next thing, full speed ahead.  Because we take no time to pause and allow experiences to become part of us, we do not get to keep the experiences, they are gone.

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



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