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Bi-Monthly Focus: July/August – Why Yoga? August 10, 2010

Filed under: Chakra,Health,Kundalini Yoga,Wellness,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 3:03 am
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In the Spring of 1993 I attended my first yoga class. I was living in New Orleans and hitting an emotional bottom.  Nothing in life made sense anymore.  Someone suggested yoga.

I arrived at a candlelit basement and felt a little scared.  It was dark and I didn’t know anyone.  But I surrendered to the experience, which I can barely recall.  What do I remember?  Crying. Whatever that lady told us to do, it struck an emotional chord and I melted into a puddle on her basement floor.  I knew something inside of me was shifting.  After class, I left with my head down, spoke to no one, and never returned.

Later that same month, some musician friends from DC came through town to play a concert.  That evening, I spent most of my time chatting with the bass player about – of all things – yoga.  I told him about my first experience and he related to the emotional release.  Knowing I would be moving back to DC soon, he suggested I attend the Kundalini Yoga studio near Dupont Circle.  He sensed that I was craving change (he was right), and knew that this practice would bring it.

Boy did it!

The psychological transformation from working with the Chakras was immense. Chakras are, simply, energy centers along the spine.  One of my fave resources for basic Chakra info is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra).  For in-depth details about each energy center’s qualities, imbalances, potential and healing, Anodea Judith’s “Eastern Body, Western Mind” is beyond compare (http://www.amazon.com/Eastern-Body-Western-Mind-Psychology/dp/1587612259).  In short, there are seven primary centers, which start near the tailbone, rise through the heart, and extend to the crown of the head.  Kundalini is energy that rests in the root chakra (tailbone).  The intention of the related yoga practice is to encourage the Kundalini upward along the spine, thus distributing and balancing the energy among all of the Chakras.

Hence the rapid transformation.  Suffice it to say – with the lifestyle I was living in New Orleans, my lower Chakras and their related elements (i.e. digestion, sexuality, creativity, security, relationships, identity) were out of wack. When I returned to DC and started the Kundalini practice, my emotions continued to churn – lots more crying – awakening a more realistic attitude and outlook toward life.  I cultivated a regular yoga practice at the Ashram and started hanging out with fellow students.  Our teacher would go eat huge bowls of spaghetti with us after class.  He was a humble man who used to say, “I’m just a recovering junkie passing on what was taught to me.”  By 1995 I was experiencing fewer depressive phases; I was exploring a healthier lifestyle all around; and, I started teaching beginners – passing on what was so generously shared with me.

This was the beginning of my yoga journey.

For our July and August class focus, we are pondering the question, “Why Yoga?” What brings us to the mat on any given day, after a hiatus, or at all?  My reason #1 for “Why Yoga?” – I needed to feel better, I needed to change, and I needed support. Practicing yoga in community was the answer.

Today it is exactly the same.  With the life troubles described in my previous “Life on Life’s Terms” post, I still need yoga as a refuge at times.  Last week I attended Caroline Millet’s class at Past Tense – it was challenging and nurturing…and exactly what I needed.  A little push with a lot of care.  While we were in Downward Facing Dog, Caroline invited us to “find something new in the pose.”  Hilariously, the words “I love you, yoga!” popped into my mind!

I am so grateful for yoga.  It saved my life in 1993 and continues to enliven my existence today. Even through the toughest of times – even when I forget that solutions exist – I can teach or take a class and feel completely different afterward.  What a gift.

Reason #2 for “Why Yoga?”  Physical healing from major injuries. More next time…

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace.

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Life on Life’s Terms August 8, 2010

I am stretching here.

And I don’t mean stretching my body.  I am stretching to find a yogic approach to what I want to share this evening, after months without blogging or sending Yoga Updates to my mailing list or reaching out much at all, really.

Somewhere around March I started falling behind on my writing and outreach.  Thankfully May and June’s Eight Limbs class focus seemed to herd my wandering thoughts and I made it through a 2nd update about Asana & Pranayama.  Then, my motivation dropped off the face of the earth.  “Things” started happening.

Since the Spring I (in no particular order):

  • Started a job
  • Left that job
  • Attended the Off The Mat Into The World intensive and leadership training with Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling
  • Visited the ER with chest pains (all is OK now)
  • Felt an earthquake for the first time ever (amazing)
  • Taught percussion and yoga to grades Pre-K through 6 at the Levine School of Music’s six-week summer camp
  • Battled a two-week respiratory infection (summer camp is germy!)
  • Taught up to 23 classes per week, including studio shifts, sub opps, youth classes, private clients and the University of Maryland football team (Go Terps! – my alma mater)
  • Celebrated my 45th birthday with a beautiful community of children, yogis, musicians and dear ones
  • Learned of a horrible deception in my romantic partnership
  • Tried my hardest – one day at a time – to stay in that relationship
  • Ended that relationship

Life has pitched a number of serious curve balls in the midst of a beautifully bountiful time and I am wiped out.   But I’ve been “holding it together.”  I remember once when I was feeling low, a friend scolded, “You should read your own blog!”  Tonight, as I read back through my Spring entries, I don’t recognize the deeply motivated, connected and inspired Holly.  She’s been getting through the days, weeks, months by flinging herself into teaching.

It could be worse.

Thankfully, last week, I started experiencing complete dissociation.  The reason I’m grateful is that I needed the wake up call.  The stress of my relationship issues had become so huge that I would get through half a yoga class and not remember teaching.  I would get through a day of summer camp and need a nap.  The break-up was essential.  This past Saturday was the day.

It’s hard to describe how lost I feel.  The shock of the deception, the nature of the lie, the weeks of earnestly exploring whether I could stay in the relationship and now the loss of that relationship have left me profoundly exhausted.  Now that the relationship is over, I crave rejuvenation.  I’m yearning to be taken care of, to join a synagogue, to sleep for endless hours, to hibernate, and so on – a wide range of reactions.

And now that summer camp is over, I need to look for more work!  Plus, I owe you some blogs.  I have about a thousand drafts, about Yoga & Baseball, about Yoga & Football, about the final four of the Eight Limbs, about my Uncle Bill’s yoga-esque devotion to service, about so many things.

I realize that this post is a bit rambling and more journal-like than usual.  Primarily, I wanted to get honest.  And let you know where I’ve been.  I’m not teaching anything here; I don’t have a Sutra to quote, a Limb to cite or a Chakra to work.  If anything, I’d like to be taught how I can rehabilitate from this painfully debilitating time.  Let’s see which teachings reveal themselves.

That’s it for now.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace.

P.S. – Duh, it’s hitting me that one of the primary teaching in all of this is how that 8-day Off The Mat Into The World training seasoned me to trudge through this break-up discernment phase and then seek nurturing once the split was behind me…among other things, I’m sure.

 

Chakra Chant March 21, 2010

As part of our Bi-Monthly Focus of TRANSITION & BALANCE, we’ve been closing classes with a chakra balancing meditation I learned from Corrine Champigny who teaches the blissful Svaroopa Yoga sessions at Nashville’s Yoga Source studio.  http://www.yogasource.info/index.php

We have seven energy centers, aka chakras, along our spine, from the tail bone to the crown of the head.  Each has its own function, significance, symbolism.  Typically, we burn up a lot of energy exercising the basic functions near the lower three chakras (eating, digesting, eliminating, being sexual, reproducing, and so on) while our higher chakras (from the devotional heart center to the pure consciousness of the crown) are a bit underutilized.

Similar to the practice of Kundalini yoga, this meditation intends to raise the energy from the base of the spine and evenly distribute it along all seven energy centers.

To practice this chant, we sit in a meditative pose and – starting with the root chakra and continuing through the crown – we focus our awareness on each energy center while chanting its corresponding seed mantra.  Each seed mantra sounds like “OM” (the crown chakra mantra), with an additional sound at the beginning of the syllable.  Complete instructions are below and posted on the Tips-n-Tools page.

To flesh out the very brief descriptions of and associations for each chakra below, I really like Wikipedia’s Chakra entries.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakras

As with all of the Tips-n-Tools I share in this blog, I only intend to share the practices and resources that have helped me in one way or another – practices that teachers have generously passed on.  I hope you find something useful!

OM Shanti.

CHAKRA CHANT

  1. Settle – Sit in a comfortable seated pose, lower body grounded, spine long, heart open.
  2. Breathe – Inhale into the belly, fill the ribs, and then breathe up to the collar-bone.  Exhale and release from the collar bone, ribs and belly.  Continue this deep three-part breathing throught the nostrils until the mind and body relax.
  3. 1st Chakra – Bring the awareness to the base of the spine, the point of rootedness and the area of elimination.  The seed mantra for this chakra is “L-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “LOM.”
  4. 2nd Chakra – Shift the awareness to the base of the spine, toward the front of the body, near the reproductive organs.  The seed mantra for this chakra is “V-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “VOM.”
  5. 3rd Chakra – Move the awareness to the belly, the area of digestion.  The seed mantra here is “R-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “ROM.”
  6. 4th Chakra – Raise the awareness to the heart center, our area of love and devotion.  The seed mantra is “Y-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “YOM.”
  7. 5th Chakra – Lift the awarness to the base of the throat, our center of communication.  The seed mantra is “H-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “HOM.”
  8. 6th Chakra – Focus the awareness on the “Third Eye,” the area between the brows, our center of intuition.  The seed mantra is “SH-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “SHOM.”
  9. 7th Chakra – Rest the awareness on the crown of the head, our center of pure consciousness.  The seed mantra is “OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “OM.”
  10. Sit silently for a little while and enjoy the raising vibrations.
 

Turn, Turn, Turn March 18, 2010

To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn). – Ecclesiastes (& Pete Seeger)

Seasonal changes are intense and the coming of Spring can seem like a major upheaval.  Spring forces our slumbering seeds to sprout and can leave us feeling off-balance – particularly after an unusually snow-blanketed Winter.

For some, the transition from Winter to Spring feels more like “churn, churn, churn.”

A number of years ago an acupuncturist explained that I get irritable due to the shift from Winter’s laid back water element to Spring’s pushy wood element.  I took to carrying a piece of tree bark in my pocket as a touchstone reminder to chill out during moments of annoyance.

Thanks to many teachers along the way, today I have more than a piece of bark in my tool box.

BI-MONTHLY FOCUS: MARCH/APRIL – TRANSITION & BALANCE

Over the next two months, we’ll explore Asana and related practices for embracing the process of transition, and for cultivating balance during times of change.  Take a moment to reflect on the shifts in your life – either current, upcoming or from recent weeks.  They might be small adjustments; they might be expected plans; or they might have been unexpected opportunities for growth.

Over these eight weeks, I invite students to cultivate an everyday awareness of responses and reactions to these shifts.  If you find yourself easefully accepting these shifts, hooray!  If you find yourself losing your balance, perhaps yoga can offer some tools – not only for dealing with change, but for transforming because of it.  For example – what if you focused on the process rather than the end result?  What if you found something that helps you stay balanced?  What if you tapped inner resources to deal with and even transform from these challenges?

To start, we’ll work on Asana, Pranayama and the Chakras – practicing balances, using the breath to transition between and grow within all poses, and, chanting through each energy center.  In April, we’ll learn how to maintain emotional balance with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – because Raja Yoga and the eight limbs offer so much more than physical tools.

Thank goodness!

“SPRING AHEAD” WORKSHOP

Spring is here!  I’ll be teaching a special Equinox workshop this Saturday, March 20th, 5:30-7:30pm at Past Tense Yoga Studio in Mt. Pleasant, DC.  Support your transition from hibernation to germination with: journaling about change, reactions to change and tools for change; Spring Salutation Asana (movement); Yoga Nidra (guided deep relaxation and journeying); Pranayama (balancing breathing exercises); guided Meditation; and, to raise the Equinox energy, Kirtan with lots of percussion instruments to shake, rattle and roll!  Bring a cup/mug for water/tea and a journal.  To receive a discounted rate, register in advance from the Events page at www.pasttensestudio.com (Note: Equinox will be at exactly 5:32pm – I think we’ll start the session by trying our most challenging balancing pose!)

And if you’re not in DC, or not in an area where Spring occurs in March, I hope you will find something in these March and April entries to enhance stability and balance through any transitional time.

OM Shanti.  Peace.

(PS – Coming soon, posts about Baseball & Yoga, Chakra Chanting and more.)

 

I Know in My Heart… February 24, 2010

Let’s wrap up our January/February class focus of HEART.  We’ve physically exercised the heart-areas of the body and conceptually explored the heart chakra. Through anatomical focus on the neck, collar-bone, ribs and shoulder blades, we’ve felt the physical relationships among body parts.  Through concepts such as “the heart’s desire,” “following the heart,” and “love,” we’ve embraced what lies deep within our souls.  For more details, ideas and experiences regarding this Bi-Monthly Focus, please see my other January and February posts.

This week, as we wax toward a full moon on February 28th – and the final class of our HEART focus – I invite students to ponder passions, purpose and partnerships by affirming what they know in their hearts.

As the moon grows, so can our heart’s wisdom.  This fourth chakra is our first energy center of conscious decision making, beyond karmic destiny.  So below is a meditation adapted from one of my fave teaching resources, Body and Soul Magazine.  Through this simple exercise of finishing a motivational sentence, we can address any questions, crossroads or confusions in our lives.  We’ll be practicing a brief version of this meditation in classes this week, culminating under Sunday’s full moon.

I hope to see you!  Heart-felt thanks to all for our rich and fulfilling January and February classes.

OM Shanti.

MEDITATION ON THE WISDOM OF THE HEART

(instructions for this meditation are archived on the Tips-n-Tools page)

Center

  • Begin by thinking of a crossroad, decision, confusion or question in your current life.  Without criticism or judgment, simply reflect on the situation.
  • Settle into a meditative position – whatever seated pose is comfortable for you.
  • Close the eyes.  Witness the breath as it is at the moment; notice the state of the mind; and observe the qualities of the body.  No need to change a thing – simple witness, notice, observe.
  • Begin to shape the breath into deep, three-part inhale and exhale.  Inhale into the belly, ribs, then collar-bone.  Exhale from the collar-bone, ribs, then belly.  Breath only through the nostrils.
  • Allow the mind to rest on the breath.  You might listen to the sound of the breath, or mentally follow the path of the breath, or note how the body moves with the breath.
  • Become aware of the growing ease in the body as you continue this deep, three-part breathing.
  • Continuing the breathing, as you fill the ribs, expand them forward, sideways and backward, filling the lungs like a big barrel of air.  Allow your exhales to become longer than the inhales, seeping slowly out of the nose, thoroughly emptying of air.

Enhance Heart Chakra Awareness

  • Maintaining focus on the ribs and lungs, deepen the awareness into the heart chakra.  Imagine the heart chakra expanding forward, sideways and backward – as well as above and below the body.
  • Once you sense the expansion of the heart, bring to mind your crossroad, decision, confusion or question.  Let the mind rest neutrally on the situation.

Explore Your Wisdom

  • On your next inhale, silently begin the sentence, “I know in my heart…”
  • On the exhale – without extra thought or over-analyzing – finish the sentence with your natural, immediate response, silently or aloud.
  • Depending on your situation, some examples might be, “I know in my heart…I am in love.”  Or, “I know in my heart…this career is no longer right for me.”  And perhaps, “I know in my heart…I am afraid to try new things.”
  • Remain focused on the heart center and continue the deep, three-part breathing.  With each inhale, repeat, “I know in my heart…”  And with each long, slow, thorough exhale, finish the sentence.
  • Repeat the process 10 times.  You might find the same statement arising; you might state a different response each time.

Close and Journal

  • After your 10th repetition, return to normal breathing.  Allow the mind to return to neutral, perhaps resting on the natural flow of your breath.
  • Slowly open the eyes.  Jot down whatever you remember about your exercise – including how your breath, mind and body felt; how some of your sentences ended; and any additional thoughts.
  • Consider this wisdom as you address your situation in the coming days…
 

Consider Love February 21, 2010

Filed under: Anahata,Chakra,heart,love,Spirituality,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 11:23 pm
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Love is not a feeling; it’s an ability. – Marty to Dan in “Dan in Real Life”

Am I able to love?

More importantly – am I able to post a blog about love in a timely fashion?  Hehe.  I intended to write about love on Valentine’s Day, before teaching my evening yoga class last Sunday, February 14th.  So, I’m a week late.  Still, I’ve spent this week pondering love – in classes, in meditation, with my new boyfriend, in counsel with my gal pals.  And it’s come to this:

Consider love.  All forms of love.  Love for people, love for activities such as work or service, love for interests such as hobbies or practices, love for material things, love for self.  And perhaps, love for something beyond all of these forms.

If I think about these many manifestations of love, then without a doubt, I know that I am able.  What comes to mind? My love for my nephew Dustin, for teaching yoga, for watching baseball, for great chocolate, for my imperfect humanness, for nature.  That’s a lot of love.  And it all comes from the same place; its core is the same.  The impulse of devotion, ease of acceptance, excitement for passions, softness of compassion, vibration of connection.

It’s all love; it all comes from the heart.  Qualities of the Heart Chakra (aka Anahata) include devotion, passion, yearning and fulfillment.  So as I teach the final weeks of our Bi-Monthly Focus, I am inviting students to “exercise” the heart by allowing each movement, breath, meditation and intention to be filled with love – whether they are focusing on people, activities, interests, things, self or a higher power.  Or all of this.

And indeed, I believe we will see that love is our inherent ability.

Thanks so much, EVERYONE (students, teachers, friends, spirits, and on and on and on) for making January and February an amazing exercise of the heart.  I dream up these Bi-Monthly Focus ideas for my students, supposedly; this time around, I received so many gifts and so much transformation from our practice together.  I am so grateful.

OM Shanti.

 

Where Was I In January? February 12, 2010

Aside from visiting my dad in Nashvegas for his 82nd birthday and diving into a search for full-time Communications work, I spent the month teaching and training.

TEACHING

To complement their intense season-end meets, I lead yoga classes for the Catholic University swim team (Go Cardinals!).  Cultivating “The Zone” by following yogic principles, we concentrated on flexibility, mobility, breath work and deep concentration – once again inspired by John Douillard’s book “Body, Mind and Sport.”  Not only did I adore working with this great group of talented athletes and newbie yogis – I just loved being “Coach Holly!”

And, returning to my original dream of teaching yoga to baseball players, I’ve had the honor of guiding pre-Spring-Training yoga sessions for Mike Sheridan, first baseman with the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league system.  Aside from cultivating “The Zone,” we are focusing on hip/shoulder mobility for enhanced hitting power and infield performance.

TRAINING

I traveled to beautiful New Hope, PA for a weekend “Chakra Flow” workshop with Seane Corn, international instructor, founder of Off the Mat Into the World and overall yoga bad-a** (excuse my French, but she’s quite powerful).  It’s hard to describe how deeply transformational this workshop was.  Because Seane is rigorously honest and tells it like it is, I felt validated about being a yoga instructor who comes from hardship (some of you know that I didn’t get into yoga 16 years ago in order to be a spiritual person; I got into yoga because people strongly suggested it for addressing emotional pain).  During her targeted Vinyasa sets, I experienced a powerful shift in my 1st three chakras (ends up I was still storing some serious unresolved grief).  And Seane’s focus on yoga as an avenue for being of service in the world resounded deeply (see the “My Heart’s Desire” blog for more about my nonprofit idea).

In fact, I will hopefully participate in the Off the Mat Leadership Training at Omega Institute this June, pending scholarship support.  Learn more about OTM here: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org and about Seane’s personal yoga journey here: http://www.soundstrue.com/podcast/transcripts/seane-corn.html (Thanks to Jean Marie for this awesome link!)