Bad Mentor

I have been thinking of a fun, ongoing theme like a story arc I will use over several months or even a year or more. A few thoughts; My Vegan Year 2017, What Happened When I Quit Watching the News 2017, Teaching Yoga: A Traveler’s Log and finally, The Art of Resignation: How to Quit Your Job with Style in Five Easy Years.

Perhaps it was the renewal for this blog that just came and went through PayPal like a zephyr. My posts have been random with the same being said for readership. The problem with online media is the sheer volume of competition, the noise level and degree of content that it is easy to feel peripheral and inconsequential.

There is another element to this, too. I have not been sharing posts on my social media. I have become curious about what I might write if I were not writing to my yoga students or the community in which I work and teach.

Everyday I think about quitting my teaching post at the yoga studio. When I arrive at the studio I think – this is it, I’ll resign tonight. I don’t have another class in me, I’m not really doing anything, I ought to just try something else. I hear they’re hiring at Navy Federal. The problem with studio classes is the sheer volume of competition, the noise level and degree of content that it is easy to feel peripheral and inconsequential.

I do not feel this way while I am teaching. I feel the complete opposite, actually, like confidence and grace is like vapor that descends from the ceiling and coils through the twisting limbs and into the soft hair-lined nostrils as breath and renewal. While the class is in session the background noise fades and I am able to interact with the beings and energetic bodies of the humans on their mats.

I began teaching yoga five years ago. When I launched myself into this “career” I believed there would come a day in which I woke up, taught yoga and lived my life. My reality is that everyday I try to wake up and live a life that is interspersed with yoga classes that I teach  between other jobs I work.

Someone suggested to me that to be taken seriously as a teacher I ought to quit my job at the restaurant. Though this person has probably put me and that conversation out of their head, I remember it when I am burned out from my schedule and discouraged by the business. I think, Well if I had quit my job I’d be doing better now. 

In reality, if I had quit my job I’d be good and pissed right now, possibly swinging from a pole that is not part of a fitness and personal development curriculum to pay for yoga workshops in Atlanta. I’d split my income between prayer shawls and glitter thongs for roll call on the main stage. Let me tell you something else – I wouldn’t be any less of a yogi for it, either.

When I was young and wanted to write for a living there was always someone who would say, “If you really want to be a writer you should go to New York, that’s where all the writers are.” I consider these two pieces of advice,Quit your job and move to New York, equally inane and ridiculous.

I have found a bridge between professional burnout and a viable career in a saturated fitness trend. I study Kali Natha Yoga in Atlanta and have begun teaching it at the studio in Pensacola. Between teaching a class and waiting in the parking lot to see if anyone is going to show up, there is this practice.

Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, it is the dance of prayer. The instructor practices with the group on his or her mat under the premise that we are all in the practice together with the instructor serving as a guide but also a participant. It’s a devotional practice wherein we might go from an intense standing series to chanting to Lord Hanuman, the monkey general and lord of devotion. One moment the class is practicing fire breath and then the next flowing so sweetly from one pose to another we are like little leaves riding the surface of a river.

I have no intention of quitting any of the several jobs I have so that I can prove to anyone that I am worthy of teaching yoga. I have learned that worthiness can be a tool of the ego used to sabotage the most well intended folks. I believe that teaching yoga is a Grace that is palpable once we get around the business side of it and the busy-ness side of it. For this I am a questionable mentor to future yoga teachers. If asked, I would say, do not try to teach for a living, teach for transformation. Teach yoga to make an effort on behalf of the good, teach yoga to reach yourself. Guide classes to light your path and follow someone who knows what in the hell they’re doing. Once you start you can’t stop, though it might not go like you intend. Teaching yoga is like casting spells, it can turn on you in sweet and unexpected ways. The outcome is unpredictable and possibly better than anticipated . I would not have said this five years ago.

My teaching schedule will change again in the new year, though I am not sure in what direction the changes will take place. Perhaps I will add classes or maybe I will shift my schedule around so that I have more time to edit the second draft of my novel. Didn’t I mention that I still plan on a writing career? And I plan on doing it without ever even visiting New York, though with the right book deal I might actually quit my day job.

Breaking Mala

merry mala 013

Last year I went to Durga Puja, an annual celebration in honor of the Divine Mother, which is celebrated around the world. I was in Kashi Florida with my Swami and friends and we danced around the Ganga with torches, ate marvelous food and generally had a most excellent time.

The previous February I’d made a mala of ebony and skulls. This is when I learned how to make malas. I knew exactly what I wanted in a prayer bead design and I couldn’t find it. I could find ebony malas and there were an abundance of skull malas but nothing that was exactly right. I took it upon myself to learn how to make prayer beads and it was such a gift that I wasn’t able to find exactly what I wanted because now I am a mala wallah.

It is this same mala I have around my neck on Sunday afternoon following Durga Puja, after more delicious food prepared by a certain Swami Rudra Das, when I am packing my things for the return trip home. When I pack for a yoga weekend I am not messing around with a light duffel and make-up bag, not when sequins are called for on Saturday night. I have plenty to track down and stuff into my large suitcase, which I manage well.

Etsy Mala and Halloween 016 Upon appraising the scene I see that I’ve got most everything together. I lean down to retrieve my yoga mat bag and in the leaning over my mala explodes. Now you might say, “Prana Devi, come on now. Malas don’t just explode…” and wag your finger at me like you’ve caught me in a lie.

I say this to you; malas most certainly do explode. Also, sometimes they’ll slide off your neck like a lazy snake and hit the floor. That could happen too. But on this occasion I mean this thing blew off my neck and scattered across the floor like it didn’t want to leave the property when I drove off in my Dodge. I had black ebony beads caught in my hair that I shook out like victory. Skull beads fell out of the hollow of my collar-bone into my yoga mat bag. It was pandemonium and very exciting!

I scoop up what I can find. I place the  sad tassel on the bed with the remainder of the beads and wander off in search of a plastic baggy. A very nice lady is in the kitchen. She looks up to see me tap dancing in the doorway. I explain my situation.

She clucks at me while she finds the bag. She is sorry for me that my mala has broken, she says.

But no! I tell her it’s my understanding that when a mala breaks it is a most auspicious event. I liken it to getting enough coins in a Super Mario game and getting to level up, energetically perhaps, but it’s a good sign. Perhaps whatever the theme of your sadhana (practice) has been while working with that mala has come to fruition or there is new or stronger energy coming in to support the practice in a different way (when I got home I emailed Swami just in case).

I am not the one to ask about specifics of how this works exactly, but it is grand news, if not a little sad that my favorite mala broke.

The lady is excited at this news, too, as she says she always looked at a broken mala as an inconvenience at best. Well now you know. She kindly agreed to place any errant beads left behind in a prayer room in the house, which pleases me greatly.

When I got home I placed the beads in a glass bowl so they may rest. I had another mala to work with and I didn’t know what I was going to do with the broken one. I even thought of making it into something else by using pieces of it for a necklace or bracelet. Then one day I walked by the bowl and beads and felt this urge to re-string them NOW!

So I did. I have a working mala made of ebony beads and skulls that I’m going to take with me to Durga Puja again this year. I’ll dance around the Ganga with torchlight reflecting on the water and I’ll eat delicious prasad when the night concludes.

I was inspired to write this post because breaking is part of a malas job. It holds energy and then lets it go. It’s a tool of transformation if used with that intention. When I make a mala for myself, a friend or to sell in my shop it is with the greatest care for the finished design and the components while I work with them. I focus on crafting meditation tools that are able to stand up to long use, however, they are not meant to last forever.

I am adding a restringing option to my Etsy shop so that folks who have broken malas littering their altar drawer or kitchen window (sunlight is an excellent way of cleansing stones) can see their malas back up and running. If you would like them made into bracelets or another commemorative piece of jewelry we can talk about that too.

If you have purchased a mala from me and it breaks within 60 days of receipt I will restring it for you at no charge and guarantee it for another 60 days following its repair. If your mala breaks after the 60 days the fee will apply to restringing your mala.

Bonus! Care and feeding of your mala:

Please keep it dry to the best of your ability as wetting the cord, whether hemp or silk, will weaken and stretch it over time. Malas are typically worn as a necklace. Wearing your mala wrapped around your wrist for extended periods of time weakens the material. I love to sometimes wear my mala around my wrist for special classes with my Teacher and this is fine. Just be aware that it can cause strain. It is also nice to have a mala bag or box for the storage and transport of your mala. It depends on your preferences.

I am also a fan of sleeping with my mala. I like to place it near my bed or tucked under my pillow. Sleeping with your mala around your neck can be hazardous to yourself and your mala, especially if you are a busy sleeper. Keep that in mind and perhaps make or buy a little satchel in which to stow your mala beneath your pillow. Sweet dreams!

Your mala loves sunlight and moonlight (gemstones have their own preference). Cleanse your mala in the sun or beneath the silvery moon periodically. Repetition of holy names helps keep your mala clear as does taking it to darshan and kirtans 🙂 Have your mala blessed by a holy person if you can; if no holy person is available may I suggest having your cat sneeze on it.

Message me with questions. Is there anything I forgot on mala care? How do you take care of your mala?

shiva moon

Slow Flow Is Not Old Lady Yoga

First, let me say that there is an eighty something year old woman who comes to my yoga class and she consistently makes the young and the nubile look weathered and worn, such is the grace of her practice. So “Old Lady” yoga by definition is a little bad ass which makes this blog title a misnomer.

When I began taking yoga classes I don’t think there was even that much of a class description on the schedule; it was Yoga at whatever time with whomever teaching. There was no distinction between newbie yoga and advanced burn your ass up flow, so in a way I was spoiled with the simplicity.

Slow Flow is a staple class description here in small town Florida. There is a little bit of a stigma attached to slow flow, namely that it is easy. It is the yoga class one chooses when they don’t want to work too hard or put forth too much effort.

Back before yoga teacher training was a flicker on the event horizon of my life, I went to Slow Flow weekly. I thought it was Just Yoga. The class had all the stuff one thinks of yoga class as having; opening and chant, sit, breathe, warm-up, sun salutation, standing poses, twisting poses, balance and back-bends, forward folds and inversions though not in that particular order. Things wrapped up with a nice relaxation period and some meditation. That’s a hell of a lot of stuff happening in an hour and a half. It was anything but easy.

I inherited two Slow Flow classes which I now teach at Uru Yoga and Beyond. Since Uru opened its doors and a whole new world of Yoga practitioners crossed its threshold let me tell you something, people act like slow flow yoga is the easy yoga. They act like it’s the yoga you go to when you’re recovering from an injury or sickness or childbirth.

This, my friends, is not the case.

I teach my Slow Flow classes the way I learned to practice, and then teach, yoga. We sit, breathe, warm-up and flow. What distinguishes these classes from what is typically considered an “advanced” or “strong” class is the pace at which the class moves. Hence, the slow flow.

The transitions between poses are given the same amount of importance as the postures themselves. Students spend more time in the postures, deepening their experience of the pose in relation to their own body and breath. This style of practice builds a strong body and a steady mind, neither of which is easily won.

Because it grows tiresome trying to change students’ ideas of what a Slow Flow class is, I have renamed my classes on the schedule. The new class title is Vital Yoga: The Principal Practices.

Here’s the clip from the class schedule –

“Vital means both “absolutely necessary, important and essential” but it also means to be vibrant and full of energy.

The Principal Practices of Yoga is predominately a flow yoga open to seasoned yogis as well as practitioners with minimal practice experience, as postures may be modified for challenging sequences. Flow practices emphasize the unity of breath, movement and intention which leads to increased physical strength, flexibility and mental acuity. In addition to the flowing class style, anatomy and postural alignment instruction is offered.

The classes are designed to strengthen and enhance flexibility of the body through movement and postures. Practices designed to bring stability to the mind through breath work, meditation and mindfulness are also included in the practice session. This hour and a half yoga practice is balanced to support the yoga student in their pursuit of health, wellness, strength and serenity.”

There is nothing necessarily easy about pursuing health, wellness, strength and serenity. However, it is vitally important to do so.

While I’m doing up-dates and all, my Monday 6 pm class is now Kali Natha Yoga so we can practice it together twice a week now. The main difference between the Saturday and Monday class is that on the weekend we will work with the same sequence for a month whereas on Monday the offerings will vary week to week. I love this style of yoga like no other.

The class description from the website says, “Like the dance of Shiva and Shakti keeping the Universe in perfect equilibrium, a balanced and consistent yoga practice balances body, mind and spirit. Kali Natha Yoga brings the exotic and essential elements of yoga to all levels of experience so practitioners can safely and effectively deepen their yoga practice.

Kali Natha Yoga is a series of flowing yoga movements. It is suitable for students of all levels and abilities. The instructor will guide you through movement accompanied by breath techniques. Together, these practices enhance your energy system, energize you, calm the nervous system and leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated on all levels. Founded by Ma Jaya at Kashi Ashram, Kali Natha yoga allows the student to feel Yoga’s deep essence and meaning.

At the end of the practice, you will feel a deep quiet as you restore in final relaxation. Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, a prayer in motion and the unspoken poetry of the soul. Prana Devi cannot wait to practice with you.”

I used information from the Kashi website to make sure I represented Kali Natha yoga well on my own teaching schedule. I love the language used to express the practice but really, you’ve got to experience it for yourself. I hope you can join me.

Lastly, for those of you who have been taking my Slow Flow and suddenly see a new description, don’t worry. Nothing is changing in the actual class, just the language used to describe it so people who might benefit won’t stay away just because they equate slow with infirm. Yoga is unity and effort for the good. Most importantly, Yoga is for everyone.

See you on the mat. xo

 

 

Tonic of Longevity and Enlightenment

The first time I met my Teacher I was at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Fort Walton Beach, where she visits to teach once a year. The room was full of folks, from professional yogis to curious visitors and everyone in between. I was in yoga teacher training and felt nervous and excited just to be there.

During meditation class she drinks from a large mug filled with some steaming substance. There is also a tall cup with water in it. Among the many things I’m intrigued by, I’m really curious about whatever is in that mug.

I imagine the concoction of herbs and exotica cooked for days over a blazing fire so seers can peer between the veils. I imagine blue flames licking the sides of a copper cauldron while this tonic is transformed into its magical brew. I wonder what color the rose petals floating on the drink’s surface might be. I want to know what special drink that is, made for Swamis only. Where in the world do these teas come from and how are they measured and prepared, no doubt in secret, prior to meditation class?

After a couple of years studying with Swami I still wonder what delicious brew is in the cup every time she teaches meditation class. By this time I’ve made friends with other students from the ashram. There are a few with whom I feel comfortable enough to ask my silly questions.

I’m at breakfast after class on a Sunday morning in Greyton Beach. It’s interesting for me to be anywhere having breakfast since this is not my optimal time of day. But here we are, friends with a Teacher in common dining at the crack of dawn (eleven thirty or so).

While asking about the seasonal detox that was coming up, I lean forward with a little conspiratorial whisper and I ask, “What’s Swami drinking from that mug?”

“Hot water.” My friend’s pretty eyes sparkle when she says it, because she knows… She knows as well as I do that I’d cooked up something outrageous and secret because maybe at one time she did too.

“Hot water?” I ask, sitting back in my chair. No secrets of the universe flying across this table at Another Broken Egg.

“Yeah. Hot water.”

She goes on the explain it’s called Ushnodaka, pronounced not unlike it’s spelled, and is often used in Aryuveda as a therapy for dehydration, vata derangement and the various imbalances a human can experience. Aryuveda is a sister science in the yoga tradition that deals with balancing the human condition on all levels using food and lifestyle as affirmative therapies.

Since this conversation over eggs and toast I have participated in 5 detoxes with Swami and every time I am amazed at how wonderful the simple act of hydration makes me feel. Ushnodaka is a primary component in the 10 Yoga Detox and today is the 10 day of the Winter 2016 detox. I’ve been drinking hot water like crazy all week. I look and feel like an 80’s supermodel – ready to trounce around on the beach in my Body Glove one piece at a moment’s notice. Hydration can do that.

Recently I read an article where a woman decided to drink a gallon of water a day for 30 days to see what would happen. Curiosity is such a powerful tool on the road to self-healing and well-being! She takes a picture on day one and then one per week for four weeks. The side by side photos between day one and day thirty speak for themselves.

She looks like she’s been to the plastic surgeon, like she got a chemical peel without the rashy red skin that can sometimes follow. There seems to be some sort of filler in her wrinkles and like the crepey skin under her eyes got scraped off and replaced. The surface of her face has a more even skin tone and her eyes, which showed the greatest transformation, are sparkling and bright.

I saw this article just before the Winter detox began, at a time when I’d neglected my efforts at daily hydration. I redoubled my efforts knowing that during the cleanse water (both room temperature and hot) is emphasized.

That initial curiosity about Swami’s tonic she drinks while she teaches returns to my mind. I remember how caught up I was in its contents, so intrigued by what exotic and top secret tonic of longevity and enlightenment she is drinking.

Water, available to everyone and so simply vital to our existence. As this ten day detox concludes I’m going to try to maintain this wonderful level of hydration I am enjoying right now, where my joints move smoothly and my skin looks fine. If you’d care to join me in my efforts, I’d love to know how it works for you.

To visit the article to which I refer, please visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2480491/How-drinking-litres-water-day-took-years-face.html

 

 

 

 

Same Scaries

Habits are a powerful force in human behavior. Eastern literature and scripture talk about them at length and even give them their own name; samskara. This is a word for the things we do habitually. Think about the way you drive to work. If there’s construction and you have to take an alternative route it feels weird.

Samskaras can be so deeply ingrained that we’re not even aware of them. Most often, in fact, we’re not. Samskaras are likened to grooves dug by the repeated track of a wooden wheel. The longer the wheel drives the same course, the harder it is to leave the marked path and take a new way.

As an example, lets say I decide on Sunday night that I’m going to start my day with a large helping of warm water on Monday. I know, I know, this sounds way too exciting for most of you out there, but stay with me. I’m a devoted coffee drinker, and I’m not even talking about replacing the coffee, simple drinking some regular ‘ole water before I drink the coffee – you know, just to get a jump on hydration.

I am very brave the night before anything. If I’m gonna do something tomorrow, I’ll eat lightening and crap thunder! The day of the event is a little bit different, things change and the shift feels weird.

Staying with our example of yours truly drinking a large cup of warm water while the coffee brews, let me tell you how that really goes.

The alarm goes off at the ungodly hour of noon thirty, or somewhere around there. I am torn between two worlds when this happens. Oh, the cool sweet space of my sheets and stuffed animals, the wonderment of the turning fan and the crinkling sound of pages from the open paperback rustling from the breeze. The softly turning long bodies of cats draped over me, the sleep mask that blocks the light from my Scooby-Doo light night. Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream!

The alarm going off is just out of reach. Drat. I pull myself from sanctuary and pile hair on my head, secured with a black clip. The cats and I stumble over each other; them to get to the food bowl, me to get to the coffee pot.

I flip the switch and hear the gurgle of the first spurt of water get sucked into whatever mechanism is in there that both heats the water and turns it into something palatable, like coffee. I just stand there, cracked and burning waiting for the coffee to brew. Sure, there’s that cup I set out the night before near the electric kettle so I can drink my serving of water. This would be the perfect time to throw back that start to a well hydrated day – but no. I wait, and though I feel the nag of my best intentions, I simply wait, and growl.

So there we have it. I fall right back into the same groove I’ve been grooving since I was two. I don’t give it a second thought.

Something I give a second and third thought to is language. Lately I have noticed the way I speak and the samskara of habitual usage. Verbal ticks change from generation to generation. The fill in the silence catch phrases are vastly different today from what they were in the eighties.

Need examples?

Um (“um….A Scooby-Doo night light?”)

Like (“like….I don’t know”)

Yay (don’t know what to say? say “yay!” it works)

Amazing (you ate at the Taste of India buffet and then took a hot yoga class? Amazing.)

Most of the examples that come to mind for me are words that are used when a reply is expected and I don’t know what to say. That’s not to say the use of amazing, literally and like aren’t also valid. Something can literally be like the most amazing thing you have ever seen. I have seen it. So this isn’t a treatise against use of these words.

I have noticed my proclivity to use these words in place of paying attention. Ah! The grooves and habits of personal interaction. I’m guilty of listening to someone and watching my mind disengage. Attention will slip to the right and out the side door. I’ll see myself thinking of that time my mom and I drove to south Florida for Thanksgiving and how much fun we had, even though it was way too warm and felt strange to be away from my sisters for a major holiday. Not that I’m always prone to wandering attention, but when I do it’s amazing.

I’ll suddenly lock eyes with the person I’m supposed to be listening to and pray my eyes have not betrayed me. They are looking at me for a response. Oh hell! They’re done saying what they were gonna say and now I’m supposed to say something back.

My thought process is outrageous. I smile slyly and reply, “Amazing.” They are pleased. It seems whatever they were talking about was the culmination of amazing, and I hit the nail on the head.

Amazing is my go to.

I don’t know when I discovered this. Maybe when working on a story and I saw it appear too much in the dialogue. Right there in black and white. Amazing.

I wonder what other grooves there are in my communication skills, but decide to start small. I recall a passage from The Eleven Karmic Spaces, a book by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Guru, Teacher and Guide in Kali Natha Yoga – when she talks about changing one thing.

I love this teaching and appreciate it so much because it takes the pressure off to change everything all at once. That’s how I go about things, you know. I’ll identify one small thing (like the need to drink more water) and decide in one grand sweeping gesture I am going to change everything all at the same time (I will drink more water, write a best seller and buy a summer home in Atlanta – tomorrow).

Luckily, application of Yoga’s teachings are infinitely more simple than that. Just change one thing. Changing just the one thing is refreshing, simple and attainable. From this shift, awareness will grow, supporting more growth.

What have I decided to do with my revelations?

I’m going to replace amazing with something even more amazing – er, with a synonym.

Synonyms for amazing include astonishing, astounding, surprising, stunning (I like this one) staggering, stupefying (also a good one) incredible (reminds me of the circus) extraordinary, sensational and stupendous. I like unbelievable, too, but it wouldn’t always fit. In an effort to simply override a verbal tick I want to keep it simple.

I go with stupendous.

I figure when I’m about to say amazing, awareness will kick in and I’ll pause as my mind re-calibrates. Amazing will get kicked out, stupendous will go in its place and in the space between these two words awareness will grow. The cart can change directions, after all, proving we aren’t at the mercy of patterns. This, my friend, is Stupendous.

November Scarab

beetle

The symbolism of the scarab represents renewal, forward momentum and the cycles of regeneration. These beetles roll balls of dung that become their food and home. Interestingly, these little guys and gals will roll their dung into a ball following a straight line no matter the obstacles set before them. They are creatures whose very livelihood is dependent on fierce determination.

Sometimes I feel like every turn is up hill and I’m not doing a very good job with my ball. These instances are rare but can come upon me like a sudden summer thunderstorm. During these times I will sit in front of my meditation table with a cat or two near my side and we’ll try to talk about things. We’ll vision board and mind map and do pranayama together; mine sort of a deep wailing technique and theirs a quiet purr of discomfiture.

Eventually my eyes alight on the black spine of a journal with Ganesha on the cover. It was an impulse purchase my mom made at T J Maxx a few years ago. She saw it and thought of me. Thanks Mom!

Sometimes a journal will be special to me because it is a gift from a parent or a beloved friend. I don’t have the heart to jam it full of maudlin thoughts or melodramatic dialogue on my less enlightened days. So I assign these journals special tasks. A green journal my dad gave me for my birthday goes with me to see Swami. I write mantras and meditations and teachings that are especially meaningful to me.

This Ganesha journal my mom gave me became a gratitude journal. At some point in the evening I’ll write things I’m really grateful for. I try not to repeat the same things too often; God totally knows I’m grateful for my nephews, nieces and the cats. It’s good to stretch gratitude to include more nouns.

Keeping a gratitude journal is a cool and effective practice for getting a person out of the dumps because of neural plasticity, a theory that states that whatever the mind is asked to recall will cause a chain reaction of seeking out more of the same from its daily environment. So if at the end of the day I make a list of things for which I am grateful, then during the next day in anticipation of that practice my mind will scan the environment for things to add to the list.

As the mind starts looking for a reason to say thank you, gratitude grows. When we spend more energy being thankful for our lives we expend less energy in despair, or at least begin to see light breaking through those dark clouds.That’s why when I can’t seem to pick myself up from whatever storm of malcontent my mind has whipped up I’ll dust off the ‘ole gratitude journal practice again.

Because Thanksgiving is upon us this month, I thought it’d be interesting to dedicate the month to this practice. We’ll be like little dung beetles adeptly rolling up great big balls of poop, but instead of poop we’ll be increasing our gratitude day by day, line by line; it’ll nourish and house our hearts.

Here is a magnificent scarab with a giant ball of poop. He’s been working hard.

scarab

In addition to discussing gratitude in yoga class this month, I’m going to talk about a mantra my Teacher introduced during the seasonal detox I participate in at Kashi Atlanta, where I study.

Om Hrim Namo Bhagavati Maheshwari Annapurnee Swaha

Swami said in the daily email, “In the Sanskrit language ‘anna’ means food and ‘purna’ means full or complete. This is a nurturing mantra invoking the healing essence of the divine mother to create health, fullness, satiation and satisfaction. I like to think of the words going into the ghee and sending all that healing, mothering energy into my body.”

For many people I know, when asked to gather ’round and give thanks there is a challenge to reconcile their path with the expectations surrounding a traditional Thanksgiving prayer. It’s nice, when mingling with family and friends of different faiths, to have something sweet and simple to offer when asked to say Grace. This mantra is a beautiful example of that.

In honor of gratitude and our ability to move mountains with our fine determined Selves, this month on Saturdays at 2 pm the Kali Natha yoga class at Uru Yoga and Beyond we will practice The Grateful Monkey asana series. This series is devoted to Hanuman, the monkey general from the Ramayana who embodies the path of Bhakti (love and devotion) and service.

In Rama’s story, Hanuman flies to a far off mountain range to find the medicinal herb to revive Rama’s brother who has taken ill on the battlefield. Hanuman cannot recognize the exact herb that is needed and in his haste, lifts the entire mountain to take to the physicians so they can gather the healing herbs themselves. Rama’s brother is saved, the demon defeated and the queen restored.

The Grateful Monkey asana series teaches the Yogi to move the body in gratitude, so that every interaction is an offering and every gesture is a mudra of Thanksgiving. I look forward to practicing together. Please visit URUYOGA.COM for schedule up-dates and class descriptions.

Hanuman mountain

List Maker

Sometimes I’ll make a to-do list to cut mental tension. I’ll use the list like a slippery wet rope handle I can wrap ’round my wrist for a short time before climbing the rest of the way up the water slide steps. Because my spine felt shortened by some imagined weight, I decide to make a list of simple silly words written one above the other…

buy cat food

practice yoga

make lentils

dust meditation table.

Everything on this list will probably get done sooner rather than later whether they are on the list or not. I think this is sort of the point; they take attention away from what ought to be on the list, or worse, what I don’t know should be on the list.

Working smarter, not harder should be on the list. I’ve been meaning to put my two weeks in at the restaurant where I work on the weekend for the last five years. Also, become a better business woman. Buy new socks. The unlisted items are a nebulous gathering of unspoken ideas playing peek-a-boo between sheets on my mind’s clothesline.

I had a particularly harrowing work weekend. I didn’t even work very hard, which bothers me in spite of that whole work smarter not harder item that ought to be on the list, but ain’t. This particular night at work creates a crossroads where some decisions need to be made and I don’t even know where to start.

So I made a list….

write a poem

brush the cat

read the poem to the cat

make coffee

practice yoga.

The list made me tired, because of what was behind it. The unspoken list that’s born from wild longing is spooky and real. This weariness made my spine feel shorter from the imagined weight of it all. The spine, my spine! The home of scintillating light and presence felt compressed. Yoga practice should help. Good thing it’s on the list.

Without putting down a mat or clipping up my hair, I just sorta lower to the floor like I’m bowing to a queen and don’t know really when to stop. At the bottom of the bow I crumple and envision myself the old woman who lived in a shoe. I hope, listlessly, that it is a very nice shoe.

Not sure where this new crumpling style of yoga is taking me, it doesn’t take long to realize my body is making its way very naturally to corpse pose. I’m not being funny, that’s a real thing and usually at the end of a yoga practice. Seems that’s where I’m starting.

Savasana, the posture of the corpse. I feel myself stretching out on my back with the sensation of the jute rug bristling comfortably against my skin. I tuck my shoulder blades beneath me like tired wings folding against aching muscles. My feet roll away from each other and my jaw becomes slack, just as I often cue students to at the end of each yoga class; there’s nothing left to be done but to lay there and play dead.

Sometimes I cue people to let the idea of their bodies completely drop away. Instead of seeing themselves on the mat, imagine all they can see of themselves with their mind’s eye is a horizontal streak of light on the mat. Just see that aquamarine white shot of lightening stretched out and pulsating in the space of the physical spine. When I remember this I see it in myself; light reclining against light.

high frequency 1

Stretched out as I am, one of the cats comes over to check on me. She settles near my head as I watch the ceiling. I feel restful and my skeleton starts to elongate some. The pressure is off. I see that streak of light in the middle of my body. I think of Shiva, wild sweet Lord of Yoga, who when nothing else could be done lay down at the feet of Mother Kali.

My to-do list dissolves. My spine feels taller, like a Yogi’s ought to.

Holiday