The Urban Yoga Den

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WelcomeOmDC Guest Blog, Pt. 2 – Off the Mat Into the World March 4, 2011

Still on the fence re: attending Off the Mat, Into the World ™: Yoga, Purpose and Action Weeklong Intensive in DC next week?  Here is Pt. 2 of my guest blog for WelcomeOmDC, illustrating that if you give yourself the gift of the Intensive, OTM will continue to give back to you – so you can continue giving back to the world – sustainably.  Thanks for reading!  OM Shanti.

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Take Your Practice Off The Mat

(Part 2 of 2)

Yoga teacher Holly Meyers is a DC ambassador for Off the Mat Into the World ® (OTM), a nonprofit that uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.

OTM’s 5-day “Yoga, Purpose & Action” Intensive – coming to DC March 10-14 – guides participants through a deep, transformational process of self-inquiry and skill building facilitated by yoga, visioning, lecture and group process. There are still a few slots left for this amazing journey.  Visit www.flowyogacenter.com to register.

This is Part 2 of Holly’s blog about OTM.

I hear there are about 10 spots left in the Off the Mat Into the World ® Intensive here in DC.  If you’re still wondering whether this training is for you, please consider…

I never imagined, after participating in “Yoga, Purpose & Action” at New York’s Omega Institute last June, how much inspiration and support I would continue to receive from the OTM team – plus, from their regional ambassadors around the world.

When I arrived at the OTM Intensive last June, I had a pretty clear idea of my “purpose” – to establish an organization that decreases violence in families and among youth, by passing on the healing tools of yoga and related practices.  Today, as teens and young adults in my urban neighborhood murder each other in the streets, and as families in the suburban neighborhoods of my childhood hide their troubles behind closed doors, I remain committed to this cause.

To start this organization, I will need help.  I will need collateral.  I will need collaborators.  I will need community support.  Through ongoing involvement with and mentoring from OTM, I am learning what it takes to develop this help.  I am getting some practice in all of these areas.

Participants in the OTM Intensive may continue working with the organization as “ambassadors” in their local regions by coordinating Yoga in Action (YIA) events.  YIA is the grassroots initiative that brings the Off the Mat experience to the local level (vs. the internationally-focused Global Seva Challenge – more below).

For example, last fall, I lead the Yoga in Action DC campaign on Facebook.  OTM introduced this fund/awareness raising initiative worldwide and asked local ambassadors to help spread the word.  For me, the campaign was a small effort (compared to the fund-raisers and events that more experienced OTM ambassadors held); at the same time, it helped me continue to come out of my shell and incubate the OTM presence here in DC.  Until that activity, I felt a little shy about reaching out to Washington-area Karma Yogis.  I’d been practicing yoga in the city since 1993, but only started to feel linked-in after my teacher training in 2008 (to no fault of the community; just my own self-doubt).  Coordinating the YIA-DC campaign pushed me to seek and connect with fellow yogis who are devoted to service.  It also forced me to embrace Facebook!  As friends point out, I went from 0 to 60 in no time on the social network!  I now love connecting with and being inspired by yoga and other mindful pals around the world.

There are infinite ideas, inspiration and motivation out there.

When OTM announced their DC Intensive, I offered to lead a “bridge event” that would raise awareness about the style of OTM trainings.  “Chill Time with Yoga in Action” was held last December at Past Tense Studio in Mt. Pleasant.  In the two-hour class, participants built an altar, shared about their service-related jobs, family roles and community activities, then practiced yoga collaboratively.  This community-building class will continue at Past Tense quarterly, so additional Karma Yogis can join the circle for rejuvenation in their lives and sustainability in their work.  The best part was – I didn’t have to invent the concept.  OTM leaders and ambassadors helped me shape the Intensive elements to meet the needs of DC’s active Seva community.

Collaboration is a huge part of OTM and YIA work.

In fact, I am looking forward to meeting potential Yoga in Action co-facilitators at the March “Yoga, Purpose and Action” Intensive!  All three of the DC yoginis who attended the Omega training last year moved away from the area soon after, sadly.  My next hope for YIA activity is to lead the 7-Week Small Group curriculum, which unites a finite group for a journey of peer-supported self-inquiry, collaborative exercise, and yoga practice (of course!), leading to a unique Karma Yoga project for our DC community.  OTM’s vision is to seed these YIA small groups of change among local communities, to inspire collaboration and connection among yoga activists.

I have been deeply inspired seeing the amount of noble service work accomplished by YIA facilitators and other relationships that have bloomed out of the Intensives.  Last year, past OTM Intensive participants cheered-on each others fund-raising efforts for OTM’s Global Seva Challenge.  And as the emotional stories from that recent South Africa Seva journey currently saturate the walls of Facebook, this year’s fund-raising Challenge for a 2012 Haiti project is in full swing.  Here is another way that OTM’s mentorship can support my own vision to start an organization – by participating in the Global Seva Challenge, I would get great fund raising experience!  Not sure if I’ll take the plunge this year…

More will be revealed.

Since the Omega training, regular conference calls with Off the Mat Into the World mentors – including Hala Khouri, Claire Williams, Kerri Kelly and Davian Den Otter (all of whom you will meet next week at the DC Intensive) – have infused me with creativity and confidence.  Off the Mat Into the World is committed to investing in their Intensive participants’ leadership growth – as regional OTM ambassadors, and, toward their own visions and purpose.  Hearing the experiences of others who participated in the 5-day Intensive around the world has been immensely fortifying – for my YIA work, my yoga teaching, and, my life.

We all support each other as brothers and sisters who experienced the intensely deep journey of self-inquiry, connecting to our purpose and each other, and activating into the world.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.

You can learn more about OTM’s Yoga in Action initiative, the Global Seva Challenge and future “Yoga, Purpose & Action” trainings here: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/index.php

http://www.welcomeomdc.com/2011/03/03/take-your-practice-off-the-mat-part-2/

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Spiritual Activism November 3, 2010

“I don’t want to talk anything political, and will stick just to music and other art forms. There are instant super stars and they also fade away very quickly. What is it that gives the staying power? It is when you can communicate…to your listeners and touch their soul.” – Ravi Shankar

This past Saturday, you could hear a pin drop in my 200+ resident apartment building.  My entire neighborhood was as hushed as during a blizzard.  The “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” was in full throttle down the hill.  I was home, doing this and that.  My Facebook status read, “I am not at the rally.”  Two people “liked” it.

Today – on Election Day, three days after the Comedy Central rally and during a thick period of “activist” invitations via Facebook and e-mail – I am preparing my “Yoga Update” e-newsletter, wrapping up our September/October “Yoga In Action” class focus.

I’ll be frank – the term “yoga activism” is not my personal fave for describing how I might take my practice off the mat and into the world.  Born in DC in 1965 and having grown up here, the word “activism” reminds me of raised fists, raised voices and raised conflict.  I understand that folks want their values, their yearning for change and their messages to be seen and heard on a wide scale; yet I tried that “raising” in my college days and it just didn’t feel right.

Thanks goodness for yoga.  Through its “Karma Yoga,” “Seva” and “selfless service” teachings I have discovered my most comfortable and therefore effective venue for what I (and countless others) call “spiritual activism.”  What distinguishes it from “yoga activism?”

In recent years, many yoga organizations and practitioners have stretched Karma Yoga (or Seva) to a level of “activism,” offering trainings, organizing groups and sponsoring events that raise awareness about causes, purpose and service.  Over this time, I have observed four distinct ways that “yoga activism” manifests.

  1. Some yogis believe in their responsibility to participate in traditional activism (protests, rallies, petitions, campaigns, etc.) to carry messages;
  2. Some share their yoga with at-risk populations, having experienced their own transformation from the practice, and wanting to pass along those tools for change;
  3. Others see the yoga practice itself as a form of values-based activism – in other words, living a spiritual life is the activism.
  4. And others devote themselves to all of the above.

To me, anyone with sincere intentions to carry a message, inspire change and share values through their own attitudes and actions is a spiritual activist.  For me, #3 above is the most natural way for me to express my yoga in action.  In that spirit, I also do a fair amount of #2-like work.

Yoga’s ancient book of Sutras generously offers a design for living where my personal choices can be productive, useful and helpful.  The only thing I have to “raise” is my consciousness.  In this subtle venue, I can indeed be “seen” and “heard” – perhaps not by massive crowds, politicians and media, but definitely seen and heard.

Recently, the barrage of well-intended e-mails and Facebook campaigns, the swarm of do-good organization canvassers on every DC street corner and the excitement-driven pressure to “sign-on” started to feel as assaulting as uninvited telemarketer calls to me.  So I invite you to please let me know if I ever seem pushy or invasive about the things that inspire me.

I earnestly applaud yoga activists for expanding yoga’s purpose and reach.  Most of the time, I feel accepting of their way, my way, all ways.  I may not always hit the mark, but my intentions to live spiritually are strong and in-check.  Some may think I have my head in the sand; I think I have my head atop my neck, hovering above my heart center.

OM Shanti,

Shanti,

Shanti.

Peace,

Peace,

Peace.

 

Focus Wrap Up: Yoga In Action October 28, 2010

To wind up our September/October class focus of “Yoga In Action,” we are expressing appreciation for noble acts of service through Pranayama and Asana.

Whether your service occurs within your family, your workplace, your community or otherwise, please take some time to breath deeply into your beautiful, generous heart center and celebrate your efforts.  Lift your heart to the sky in Chair Pose, Crescent Lunge, Cobra and Bow in gratitude for the service of others.

Whether you held the door open for your neighbor, were patient with an anxious child, rescued a pet, volunteered to teach a yoga class or fortified an at-risk population through your grant writing – I encourage you to now inhale self-appreciation, and on your exhale (ahhhhh) simply rest.

Back in September, we began our exploration of Yoga In Action by practicing self-care.  We acknowledged that self-care often includes asking to be cared for.  We drew upon the infinite resources of the earth beneath and air around us to enhance our yoga practice – and our daily well-being.  We opened our minds to the concepts of forgiveness (of self), acceptance (of self) and surrender (to other).

In October, we identified the tangibles from yoga practice that fortify our service off the mat in the form of Karma Yoga. We took the balanced calm of Pranayama, the supportive foundation of standing poses, the motivating wisdom of the Yama and Niyama and more to our challenges, our opportunities and our efforts to be there for others in Seva (selfless service).

Now it’s time to celebrate, appreciate and recognize your deep intentions over the past two months!  To close our classes, we offer gratitude to those who have been of service to us, as well.  And as we close our Bi-Monthly Yoga In Action focus, I offer gratitude to those who intend take their yoga off the mat and into the world however possible – even by simply sharing your glowing smile at the end of your yoga class!

Be gentle with yourselves, take good care, identify your resources and offer all of this to others.

I leave you with a Hebrew prayer for those who serve humanity, below.  May you continue to serve sustainably.  OM Shanti.

May the one whose spirit is with us in every righteous deed, be with all who work for the good of humanity and bear the burdens of others, and who give bread to the hungry, who clothe the naked, and take the friendless into their homes.  May the work of their hands endure, and may the seed they sow bring abundant harvest. – Mah Tovu prayers for Shabbat morning

 

Focus: Yoga In Action – Surrender October 20, 2010

I like the peace in the backseat, I don’t have to drive, I don’t have to speak, I can watch the country side, I can fall asleep.  I’ve been learning to drive my whole life. – Arcade Fire, “In the Backseat”

A few weeks ago, I completely unplugged for five days – no phone, no internet, no meetings.  No to-do list.  Whatever came up, I did it.

I walked down the street without a phone attached to the side of my head.  I met people’s faces.  I noticed the gum on the sidewalks.  I heard children’s delight and sorrows.  I spent a lot of time in solitude.  I cleaned, I gleaned, I cooked.  I meditated, journaled, slept, cried…then meditated, journaled, slept and cried some more.  At long last – the time to genuinely take care of myself.  Haha – I’d spent all of September encouraging self-care in our yoga classes, and there I was, stuffing emotions and exhausted!

What surfaced during this “purification retreat” was a strong priority to re-cultivate trust and love.  I am, deep down, a loving and trusting person.  I admire human beings, am in awe of humanity and adore people in general.  But since this past summer’s emotional betrayal, I have struggled to feel comfortable and secure in relationships – even long-standing connections.  Despite teaching many yoga classes and showing up for commitments over recent weeks, I have found myself sinking into fear and isolation.

So I am forcing myself to reach out and reconnect.

Asking for help is not always easy.  For most of my life I was a self-reliant, “that’s OK, I can do it myself” gal. Hence the Arcade Fire quote above.  I was always in the driver’s seat, making things happen.  Never in the back seat, enjoying the ride. Only over the past 8 years or so have I been able to comfortably surrender to being helped by others…to letting someone else drive.

I must actively surrender to feeling vulnerable, taking risks and accepting others’ care.  I am lucky and grateful to be part of spiritual fellowships and social groups that encourage honesty and outreach.  In addition, I can practice being cared for through specific yoga exercises, such as borrowing support and energy from the elements of earth and air.

During the last weeks of September, our classes explored just that.  First we grounded into earth energy.  Figuratively inhaling through our feet to the crown of our heads, then exhaling back down through the soles, we rooted ourselves into the infinite stability, balance and foundation of the ground beneath us.  Aside from our typical, Integral Yoga influenced set, we added standing and balancing poses such as Triangle Pose, Warrior 2 and Warrior 3 to truly reinforce the earth’s strong and ever-present support.

Next we drew upon the infinite air around us by oxygenating deeply. We energized our classic IY set by inserting Pranayama practices throughout.  For example, during our Sun Salutations, we started with the rapid, naval-pumping Kapaalabhaati breath in Mountain Pose, then flowed through the 1st half of our movements with deep, three-part Deergha Swaasam breathing; in Cobra, we paused for more Kapaalabhaati; then we completed the 2nd half of the flow with Deergha Swaasam.  We also turned up the heat in our floor poses by adding Kapaalabhaati to Downward Facing Boat and Upward Boat.

For me, being fortified by these natural resources represents being cared for by something or someone outside of ourselves.  I surrender to being helped – and generously, that support is there for me.

If all other yoga intentions fail, the one practice that always comes through for me is surrendering control with every exhale during Poschimotanaasana.  There is something about incorporating mindful Deergha Swaasam during this seated forward fold that proves profoundly effective every time.  Each inhale is an opportunity to infuse myself with a positive intention.  With every exhale, I let go physically and emotionally, curling inward in the upper body and sinking inward with my mind.  Using long, thoroughly emptying exhales, I symbolically surrender obstacles and dissolve distractions.

If I learned anything from my own classes in September, it’s that sometimes self-care means allowing something or someone else to care for me.  If I truly yearn to take my yoga into action and bring my healthiest and strongest self off the mat and into the world, I have to get out of the driver’s seat.

Turning it over and surrendering control might be the only way to rebuild trust and love.

OM Shanti.

P.S.  BTW, during my “retreat,” I also went to the Nationals’ final three home games.  If you’re wondering what baseball has to do with Yoga In Action…well first of all, because I love baseball so much, these three nights were acts of self-care!  Most importantly – I think I reached some kind of Samadhi when I witnessed the Phillies clinch the National League East title on the 2nd night!  I’ve only seen that happen on TV, and it was thrilling!  I was completely blown away by the energy and although a true Nats fan, I felt a one-ness with the 1,000’s of Phillies followers there.  Awesome!

 

Focus: Yoga In Action – Forgiveness October 14, 2010

I started writing this post during our 1st month of the Yoga In Action class theme.  During September, we explored self care as an avenue toward selfless service.

The anniversary of 9/11 was looming when I started this post.  On the 10th, I’d flown back to DC from Nashville, where I spent Rosh Hashanah with my dad.  Each year, observing the Jewish High Holy Days launches an earnest exploration of forgiveness and reconciliation.  So the visit to TN was good but intense.  Coming home from the airport, I drove past an outdoor Ramadan break-fast.  All women, seated at a super-long banquet table, eating and smiling and festive.  Beautiful.  10 days later, on Yom Kippur, I would be observing a similar ritual.

The next morning, 9/11, I drove past the Pentagon on the way to teach a class in Virginia.  I was unexpectedly shaken.  Although a friend died as a result of the New York attacks, I’m never sure how the anniversary will affect me from year to year.  This year I cried in front of my class while talking about Sutra 1.33 (the Four Locks & Keys) and how this practice can lead toward forgiveness.

The Sutras teach that the goal of yoga is to clear disturbances from the mind.  Sutra 1.33 suggests practicing compassion to the unhappy, friendliness toward the happy, delight toward the virtuous and compassionate detachment from the non-virtuous. Not just essential for our own peace of mind, these practices help us see all beings as fallible and worthy of love.

I’ve written and shared about the four locks and four keys before.  Almost always, I center my thoughts on how we can use these tools toward others who disturb us.  For the sake of our Yoga In Action focus – particularly in prioritizing self care – can we offer ourselves that compassion, friendliness, delight and compassionate detachment? Can we forgive ourselves when unhappiness grips the day, and/or when we have acted less than virtuous?  Can we delight in our virtues and befriend our happiness?  Can we see ourselves as worthy of love?

Let’s try.

During this year’s High Holy Day process, I meditated and reflected on both forgiveness and self-forgiveness.  The wisdom of aphorism 1.33 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is helping me have compassion toward myself and detach from my honest human condition and mistakes – so that I may focus on the positive, and when necessary, make authentic, non-guilt-filled amends and work toward reconciliation.  This is Yoga In Action.

This timely juxtaposition of the Jewish New Year, Ramadan and 9/11 gave me the opportunity to consider yoga’s ideological wisdom as part of my High Holy Day reflections.  By including forgiveness and self-forgiveness in my New Year intentions, I am committed to self care and therefore able to offer my peace of mind outward, in service to others.

OM Shanti.

 

Focus: Yoga In Action – Guest Blog

CandaceHollyOTMedit(June2010)After the recent DC Global Mala, the local arm of Anahata International – Anahata Grace – asked me to write about my experience at the Off The Mat Into The World leadership intensive at the Omega Institute last June. Check out the guest blog below.

Learn more about Anahata at anahatainternational.org.  Thanks to Caitlin and Alexis for the invitation to share how yoga transforms me, so I might be of service in this world.

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YOGA IN ACTION: OFF THE MAT INTO THE WORLD

“Trauma is a fact of life.  So is resilience.”  – Hala Khouri, Off The Mat Into The World Co-Creator

In 1993, I was emotionally, physically and spiritually bottoming out – again.  In my 28 years of life, I’d experienced enough unaddressed trauma to leave me without possibility for healing or growth.  I’d “lost my way,” my life was a mess and I felt empty inside.

A friend suggested yoga, and I’ve been “on the mat” ever since.

At first, my practice was selfish.  Yoga’s initial “ahhh” brought immense relief and I started to feel better.  Then came the intense transformation from being guided by teachers who embraced and passed on yoga’s comprehensive design for living.  Self-examination and change are not always gentle processes.  Surrendering, I fell back into the arms of supportive yogis and others devoted to healing.  Years down the line, teachers started to suggest carrying the benefits of yoga into the world.  Having gained so much from this precious practice, I knew I wanted to give back however possible.  The seeds of Seva (selfless service) were planted.

Today, I try to take yoga off the mat and into my everyday world, every day of my life.

Coming from a background of trauma, I must practice yoga and other community-based activities that encourage self-inquiry and spiritual living.  This is my responsibility to the world around me.  Because without these regular activities, I would be heading right back to that 1993 bottom.  I would be stuck in old stories, limits and pain.  So, I practice.  And I aim to offer my healthiest self to those around me.  At times, the facts of my past can be tough to admit.  Who wants to expose her/his dark side?  Through admitting these realities, however, have I found infinite tools for addressing them.  Sharing truthfully, identifying my patterns, gaining counsel, and passing on these solutions all bring a profound shift from darkness to light.

This is the kind of honesty, self-inquiry, community and action that Off The Mat Into The World (OTM) encourages, facilitates and supports.  In addition to their global fund-raising and youth empowerment initiatives, OTM co-creators Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling lead a 5-day workshop “Intensive” – a yoga-based transformational process that yields a sustainable, reinforced and proactive life purpose.

During OTM’s Intensive last June, I met 40 amazing yogis, teachers and “activists” (i.e. cause-inspired, nonprofit and social workers) devoted to looking at themselves in order to serve others.

To begin our week together, we practiced deep self-inquiry through Chakra Vinyasa sequences, Yoga Nidra, Somatic Therapy exercises, group sharing and more.  We learned how to hold space for, listen to and support each other.  We discovered that after unearthing what breaks our heart, exploring trauma triggers, exposing false beliefs and identifying chronic pain, we could strengthen and align our healthy selves with a true Seva purpose vs. being triggered by others’ traumas.

Mid-week, we moved from self- to other-focus with discussion and practice of collaboration, consensus process, non-violent communication and power models (i.e. inclusion, shared power and empowerment vs. having power over or being under power).  In our assumptions exercise we honestly exposed limited perceptions of each other; and in our “Circle of Truth,” we humbly learned how to expand our understanding of all.

To wrap up the workshop, OTM staff Kerri Kelly and Claire Williams introduced the Yoga In Action initiatives, focusing on activating our newly fortified purpose and mission statements within our local yoga communities.  I felt lucky to live in the amazingly proactive city of DC, where “yoga activism” is energized and thriving.

For me personally, three moments from the Intensive stand out:

  • An emotional breakthrough during Seane’s Chakra Asana practice liberated me from years of paralyzing resentment, and enabled me to forgive and move on in a major area of my life.
  • In Suzanne’s “What Breaks Your Heart” sharing circle, I discovered my inner resources (Pranayama and eye contact) for speaking my truth (“What breaks my heart is the pain of the child who knows no other way than pain.”) from a place of clarity and conviction instead of imbalanced emotion.
  • And the moment Hala said, “Imagine going through challenges without suffering,” I exhaled profoundly, knowing that I never had to “bottom out” again – nor did I have to “burn out” from my Seva efforts.

Most importantly, I created a list of 13 goals toward widening my yoga-in-action circle in DC and beyond.  The list included a range of intentions, such as “Be a yogi,” “Keep up with self-care and connection,” “Continue consistently developing your blog,” and “Plug in with those already doing this work in DC, i.e. Anahata Grace.”  As of today, I have completed or am active in 10 out of 13 of those intentions.

I have not done this alone.  OTM continues to invest in my development as a yoga teacher, community organizer and Seva devotee through periodic conference calls with my Intensive teammates and other OTM community leaders.  They have empowered me as a OTM ambassador, and I have started to incubate their Yoga In Action initiatives here in DC.

I look forward to seeing everyone at this weekend’s Global Mala in DC, and talking more about how DC yogis, teachers and activists can tap into Off The Mat Into The World’s resources for sustainable Seva work in our city.  Look for me at the Past Tense Studio booth!

Yoga teacher, musician and writer Holly Meyers blogs about living yoga in everyday life, promotes yoga events and shares yoga tips-n-tools at UrbanYogaDen.wordpress.com.  As an Off The Mat Into The World ambassador, she is currently leading the Yoga In Action DC Facebook campaign.

 

Focus: Why Yoga? – Giving Back August 24, 2010

“When we are in pain, we become self-centered and myopic.  When we heal, we become more empathetic, self-less, and sympathetic to the pain and welfare of others.  It is our gift to others to heal ourselves.”  – Max Strom, writer and yoga instructor

The Bi-Monthly Focus in our yoga classes has been “WHY YOGA?” We spent July and August pondering why we come to the mat.  Since July was my birthday month, I reflected about how yoga has carried me through so many life challenges and celebrations since starting my practice in 1993.  And these days, how it allows me to give back to the world that has supported me along the way.

So tell me…why do you practice yoga?

Max’s quote (above) definitely describes my story – nearly two decades ago, pain brought me to yoga; and today, healing allows me to be of service to others.

At the same time, I don’t believe that pain is the only path that can lead a yogi toward a deeply generous practice.  In fact, I hope and pray that healthy and happy people flock to yoga for their own personal reasons.  And I believe that these fortunate people can be of great service when they bring their yoga off their mats and into their worlds.

Because no matter what brought us to yoga in the first place, or, what brings us to return over and over – if we are indeed practicing yoga’s Eight Limbs, and healing ourselves for the sake of reaching Samadhi (what I would describe as a oneness with all), we will inevitably be of service to those around us, in small and great ways.

For example, practicing any of the Yama or Niyama can make us so conscientious that we become more aware of the human condition.  Practicing Pranayama can make our immune system so strong that we are able to show up for work through the flu season.  Practicing Dharana can make us so calm that we end up practicing Ahimsa in the gnarliest of traffic!

What propels me to practice the Eight Limbs of yoga?  Personally, if I’m only practicing some of those limbs, my motives will be self-centered.  That’s just me.  Some people can just practice Asana and find it in their hearts to think of others.  Me?  If I’m just practicing Asana, I’m only thinking about what’s in it for me – my strong arms, my perfect alignment, my awesome balance.

The other day in Caroline Weaver’s Strong Hold Level 2 class, I felt like a million bucks.  Typically, I feel very physically challenged.  The difference?  Caroline asked us to set an intention for our practice.  I silently repeated my usual pre-class prayer, “I dedicate this class to you, my teacher, and to all of my teachers.”  Then Caroline up-ed the ante – she asked us to deepen our intention until something was at stake, basically.  Immediately I heard myself say,  “This is not for me, this is for You, this is for all.” I swear, this was the first thing that popped into my mind; and I repeated it through the entire set.  Despite the fact that Level 2 poses typically kick my butt, I had an easeful practice, full of light, smiles and even giggles at times.  I was propelled by the thought of helping others.

Above all, my motive must be gratitude. Gratitude for all that yoga has given me.  For this I feel a responsibility to share those gifts with others.

Call it Seva, call it Karma Yoga, call Yoga/Spiritual/Conscious Activism, or simply call it Giving Back.

So, for this final week of “WHY YOGA?” – our July/August Bi-Monthly Focus – we are exploring the evolution from self-centered motivations toward other-centric reasons.  How can we be of service by keeping ourselves well through and using the tools of yoga?  This will segue into our September/October Focus of “Yoga In Action” – a campaign that I’m leading for Off The Mat Into The World (www.offthematintotheworld.org) here in DC.  More later…

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.