The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Turning, Churning & Balance September 21, 2014

“Life is to challenge you with its ups and downs. Ride over them without losing your balance.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda

What a beautiful week of teaching at my fave neighborhood studios, Embrace (Adams Morgan, DC) and Past Tense (Mt. Pleasant, DC), beginning last Saturday and wrapping up this morning. Students are so darn devoted to yoga practice! I am honored to share what’s been passed to me, and share the experience of GROWTH…which has been our September yoga class focus. Thank you, yogis, for putting your minds, bodies, inhales, exhales, senses and hearts into our time together.

Hopefully our efforts will pay off during this coming week of intense energy all around us. (And I will admit, for the sake of brevity, this is a very watered-down AutumnLeaves(Oct11)version of true astrologer’s wise accounts of what’s coming.) Tomorrow at 10:19pm EST, the Autumn Equinox occurs, signifying not only the turning of the seasons, but simultaneously, equilibrium. According to most calendars, we observe the arrival of Fall on Tuesday, which also leads into the Libra New Moon, peaking early Wednesday morning at 2:14am EST – and happens to coincide with the Sun in Libra. This combo not only signifies the New Moon’s typical opportunity for rejuvenation and fresh starts, but also, the presence of Libra’s scales, which can be tipped or balanced. Add to this, people of the Jewish faith will observe Rosh Hashanah – the New Year – at sunset on Wednesday, beginning a 10-day period of moral inventory, exchanges of forgiveness and atonement. (Author’s note, 9/22/14: Holy cr#*, how could I have forgotten Navratri, the 9-day Hindu holiday that falls within the same dates as the Jewish High Holy Days? Navratri, the celebration of the Divine Mother during the sacred shift of seasons? Navratri! Jai!)

Even if you are not Jewish, don’t believe in astrology and aren’t attentive to the change of seasons – people around us will be observing and affected by these events. With the energies of deep reflection, inevitable transition and new beginnings abounding, we can tap into the energies of balance and equilibrium for our benefit – and ultimately, for everyone’s.

In today’s morning classes, we worked very slowly…very deliberately…through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chakras (earth/origins, water/connections and fire/identity). In my experience, during times of turning and churning, it has served me quite well to focus on these three foundational energy centers before moving into the “open heart” that yogis love to explore in classes. Who wouldn’t want an open heart? From my teachers, I have learned that a healthy, aware, “open” heart requires the support of a healthy base below.

As I prepare to travel back to Nashville for the 1st time since this past Spring’s phase of challenge and churning, I’m grateful to have spent this week sharing yoga’s powerful practices for balance, harmony, insight and heartfelt living. Thank you.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Season, Happy New Moon, Happy New Year. OM Shanti.

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Diwali’s Balance of Darkness with Light November 13, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,mental health,Spirituality — Holly Meyers @ 11:06 pm
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“What is important for a movie?  Both – light to make it; darkness to show it.  The minute you learn to respect and see both sides of the coin as equally good, you can enjoy both.  It is only a matter of understanding and acceptance.  Let us have that light of understanding.  Accept things as they are.  Then, life is worth living.  The world becomes a heaven on earth for you.”
– Swami Satchidananda

In less than one hour, I’ll teach my annual Diwali-themed yoga class.  This Indian holiday is commonly known as the “Festival of Lights,” signifying the triumph of light over darkness.  Ancient history tells of a number of battles across the nation ending, with great victories over evil forces.  To welcome home the heroic warriors on the dark eve of a New Moon, villagers lit their paths with glowing oil lamps.

Hence the ongoing tradition of celebrating this particular New Moon with lamps, fireworks and other uplifting festivities.

For me, Diwali reminds me of the necessity of both darkness and light.

I used to be very, very scared of the “dark.”  The moment a hint of sadness or lowness or depression showed up, I was in action – figuratively lighting my oil lamps to brighten things up.  These days, I have found a strength in welcoming times of darkness, struggle, challenge.  Not that I like to dwell there for long – I can appreciate a rough patch and at the same time know that I must do some reflection and practice to shed light on its lesson.

So there is a balance.  Darkness and light must exist.

As for battles – I will admit that sometime my greatest battle is with myself.  Although I have come to be at peace during most of my dark times, there are still situations where my fears can get the best of me.  They can lead me into poor choices, rash decisions, intense self-protection.  But less and less.  Thankfully.

So today, my greatest victory is not when I “win a battle,” but when I surrender my fears and allow the battle to dissolve.

What are your battles?  Which have you “won?”  Celebrate them tonight!  And which have you surrendered from?  Celebrate them, too.  Recognize your victories.  If you are currently in a dark time, have hope for the triumph of light.

‘Tis the season of shortening days.  Autumn calls us to enjoy the comfort of candles, fires, warmth.  To cultivate our own light.  This very natural, womb-like, growing darkness can be an invitation to experience a balance of darkness with light, of light with darkness.  Enjoy.

Happy Diwali.

OM Shanti.

 

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.)

 

Irish Yoga Music

Indeed.

I typically stick to devotional music for yoga classes.  But yesterday afternoon I was pinched by my mother’s ancestors.  So, in the spirit of St. Patrick, I fused spiritual roots and mixed yoga with Irish rock.  Thanks to one of our students for requesting the set list.

During warm-up:

  • Damien Rice – Dogs (“The girl that does yoga…”)

During Surya Namaskaram & Vinyasa:

  • Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
  • Van Morrison – Sweet Thing
  • U2 – Beautiful Day
  • Eddie Reader – I Felt A Soul Move Through Me
  • Swell Season (from the film ONCE) – Falling Slowly

During Integral Yoga floor poses:

  • Hothouse Flowers – The Older We Get
  • Interference (from the film ONCE) – Gold
  • Waterboys – When Ye Go Away
  • Damien Rice – Older Chests
  • Swell Season (from the film ONCE) – Once

During deep relaxation:

  • U2 – Grace

And post-class:

  • Waterboys – When Will We Be Married & Jimmy Hickey’s Waltz

‘Twas a lovely class last night, lassies (and our one lad, Patrick…appropriately).  Thanks for spending St. Patrick’s Day in a yoga studio!  OM Shanti.

(PS – Intro to our March/April class focus of TRANSITION & BALANCE, as well as related bloggings on BASEBALL & YOGA coming soon!)