If you are used to doing Yoga asana in a group setting, it’s a common pitfall to compare your progress with the people around you. But there is no end goal in Yoga asana. No matter how long you have practiced, there are always new steps and levels to reach. If you are focused on trying to get your hips as open as the next person or do sun salutations with the most flair, you’re not honoring your personal journey. Progression in asana is something that comes over time and with dedication. Rushing into the full expression of a pose runs counter to the teachings of Yoga.
Recently I have been looking back to February 2016, when I found myself on my mat in the bright, spacious yoga room at Hale Pule’s Yoga teacher training. In that expansive month-long opportunity, I learned to look ahead.
Landing with a thump in my plank pose, I hear Myra say, “Look ahead.” “Look ahead when you jump back.” Later when I jumped forward to meet myself at the top of the mat, I noticed how I clung to the image of my feet, following them compulsively to meet my hands, as if they might not be there if I didn't strain my neck to ensure they were moving.
By Myra Lewin
It’s September, and about midway through the month marked the transition to vata season. Even here in Hawai’i, I can feel the warmth of the summer pulling away as the days become just a bit shorter. Where you live, the first frost might already be on the ground.
This time of year is when nature begins to turn inward, a natural response to balance the moving quality of vata. It makes sense that you also want to follow suit. You may find yourself wanting to stay in a bit more and focus on taking care of yourself. You may be inspired to pull out your roasting dish to bake pumpkin until it is tender and delicious. Follow your inner wisdom to relax and welcome nourishment.
It is profoundly healing to allow your body to just be.
Tadasana, or mountain pose, is often overlooked. But its stillness builds strength that is unlike anything that comes from movement. Rather than rushing through it, come to the front of your mat, pause and notice how powerful it feels to stand tall like a mountain.
Tadasana forms the foundation for all the other poses. When you set up this pose properly, you’ll understand how your muscles and bones are designed to function. Bring intention to tadasana regularly and you won’t question what hip-width distance is, or what it means to have your head directly above your shoulders -- you’ll just know what your natural design is by feeling it.
It’s no fun to practice Yoga out of habit. Each time you unroll your mat is an opportunity to find freshness and joy. When you find yourself in a rut, give birth to a new experience with a fun pose like garbhapindasana, or embryo in the womb pose.
Garbhapindasana is great for bringing in a childlike sense of joy. As you rock back and forth around your mat (one time for each month of gestation), you can't help but smile, let go and enjoy the twists and turns of life. As you come out of the pose and into kukutasana, or rooster pose, you are reborn into a new experience of yourself.
Yoga asana is a powerful form of exercise. When you practice in a sattvic, or balanced, manner, it works the muscles of the body, mind and spirit. Yoga asana awakens and lightens all parts of being, which is what makes it the perfect form of exercise for pitta dosha.
Pitta likes challenge, but when it is out of balance, this zest for life can turn to competition and pushing oneself beyond capable limits. Daily asana practice, a wonderful companion to a pitta-balancing diet and lifestyle, provides space to exercise pitta’s mental and physical strength in a harmonious way.
By Myra Lewin
I am blessed to live on a beautiful and abundant farm. My goal is to grow most of the food we eat, and some weeks we come close to that. However, one of the lessons that I learn daily from Durga Farms is vairagya, or non-attachment.
We plant seeds and give them all the right opportunities to thrive. But then nature throws us a curveball in its ever changing way. A blazing streak of heat in the summer, too much rain or an insect that enjoys our vegetables as much as we do. If I were to become attached to the idea that farming (or life) should be perfect or always go the way I think, I would not last very long as a farmer. Instead, I use the opportunity to support our farmer friends at the market.
Our Yoga teacher trainings have a mix of students at many levels of practice. Some people have been practicing for decades. Others, just a few months. You might think that the students who have put in more time would be the ones who go the farthest in asana, but that is not necessarily true. Sometimes, those who have been practicing the longest have been pushing themselves beyond their body’s limits. Or they have been practicing out of habit, leading to stagnation. These students need to walk back to their true starting points to build a solid foundation. Sometimes that point is farther back than expected.
I have been practicing pranayama and meditation for a few years. In the beginning, I would find space for practice beside my bed or in the middle of our living room while the house was still asleep. When we moved, I found space in our spare room in the basement. I was excited to designate a space for my practice. The practice itself was relatively new to me, not very comfortable, like the space itself (being in the basement), but I continued. I continued because I enjoyed my days more when I did practice. Naturally, I also tried to find a way to share it with my family. One idea was that I would hold Yoga classes on Saturdays. My son, quite young at the time, would peek around while in meditation (I knew this only because I was peeking at him myself).
In the end, the organized family sessions did not find their way into our daily routine. I realized that it was challenging enough for me to stay consistent with my own practice without organizing others to do the same. Deep down I knew it was changing me even if I could not put my finger on as to how. And, every once in awhile, my daughter would find me and join, simply intrigued.
Your Yoga asana practice doesn’t have to be complex to have an impact. Some of the most powerful poses are the ones that challenge your body and mind in the simplest ways.
Utkatasana, or chair pose, is one of these. It may look easy, but the simplicity of this pose is its true power. This pose engages muscles from your feet through your arms, all the while allowing you to practice mastering your mind. As you hold still for 15 to 20 breaths, you calm the mind’s desire to move, the urge to walk away from the challenge, or the chatter that tells you that you should be doing a pose that is more flamboyant. Who knew that the process of sitting down could make you so strong?