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Sustaining Our Intentions

by Jenni Antonicic

 

January is here, and with it high hopes and noble aspirations! We all have habits that we recognize as causing us and others suffering, as well as habits we know interfere with our deepest desires. A desire to learn, grow and change for the better is at the heart of our Yogic program, but the details, ah the details present impediments pretty quick. By anticipating those moments when our energy will fail, and distractions or setbacks threaten to set us off track, we can be ready with skillful means to sustain the project of taking our next step.  One of the first sets of skills we need to cultivate as we try to make any positive shift in our life is self-awareness, coupled with kindness and compassion. Paying attention to our habitual thoughts and feelings and how they manifest in our bodies and through our behaviors is a prerequisite to consciously changing those habits to net positive results in our lives. Kindness and compassion enable us to meet negative energy ruts with positive energy choices.

Great harm comes from our un-examined conditioning.  I do believe that people rarely move through the world trying to do harm, nonetheless we all do a great deal of it.  We don’t realize the extent to which our actions are overly protective or needlessly self-serving.  We don’t realize the extent to which fear and the more “empowered-feeling” emotion of anger generate our actions.  Mostly we don’t realize the quotidian nature of passing our suffering on to others.  Our egos minimize the offense we give and maximize the offense we take.  Most often we are completely oblivious. I have been humbled several times recently by the realization that I hurt or irritated someone and had no idea at all at the time.  Avoid the tendency to think someone else is “overly sensitive” – that is our own egos using righteousness to protect us from shame, which only leads to a further spiral downward. Examine it all closely.  Humility and a sense of humor are very useful with this work.

What happens when we try to be more persistently self-aware?  For most people trying any skill, at the beginning it is tiresome and may even feel impossible.  Exhaustion indicates too much effort, giving up far too little.  “Effortless effort” is the excellence-in-action of yoga. (Spiritual teacher Adyashanti talks about effortless effort in this link). Frustration is normal. Keep acting with principled intention and expect that there will be mistakes or oversights. Our practice is to return again and again to the task.  This is a mature attitude towards meditation, study, or a difficult project of any sort – anything we apply our energy towards in terms of long-game results.  There will be setbacks or the pace may not be what we hoped for.  At this point we dig in a little, have faith, and reapply energy in a calm, grounded way.  We must update our strategies as our understanding deepens and get better at apologizing if we’ve not been kind.  Chagrin is par for the course.

Self-forgiveness is the key to dealing with the ways we disappoint ourselves, and that is one of the greatest internal difficulties we face. Tara Brach has written and spoken extensively on this. Regardless of the magnitude of the mistake, if it wasn’t hard to forgive, it wouldn’t really be necessary. The “easy to forgive” infractions haven’t really caused offense. They are the “difficult” or “impossible to forgive” offenses that poison us. We need to forgive things that seem unforgiveable.  Grasp the radical nature of the spiritual path!  Only in the heart are such paradoxes resolved. It’s likely we’ll need to keep revisiting the same experiences and reactions repeatedly with new resources each time to digest something thoroughly.  All things have their own time-line. Any impatience with ourselves while we work through the process is actually more subtle violence to ourselves, as Jeff Foster has recorded.  Resiliency comes with practice, faith in our highest intentions, and compassion for all beings, most especially ourselves.

 

Ditch the Resolution and Set Your Sankalpa

by Danielle Dickinson

 

A sankalpa can be thought of as a heartfelt desire or as a specific intention that both stem from a place of inner wisdom and aim to bring us towards our highest self.  If you’ve ever heard your yoga teacher ask you to set a sankalpa at the beginning of class (Yoga Nidra is a practice where it’s traditionally done each time), they are referring to a vow that you resolve to set for yourself- something that is deeply personal and comes from a place of loving intention.  When we think of new years resolutions, we often think of some big change.  Sometimes these new years goals are ego driven with superficial reasons behind them.  A sankalpa is formed by our heart-mind and is void of judgment.  So, we can distinguish a sankalpa from a resolution because with a sankalpa practice there is a recognition that we already have inside of us that which we are seeking.  We look beyond the what and the how by also seeking out the why behind our intention.  This provides us with insight into our own selves- who we are and who we want to be at our deepest core.

A sankalpa should be made in the affirmative.  And when reciting our sankalpa, we should use be using the present tense.  As Richard Miller, PhD, a psychologist, author, and yogic scholar explains, “A sankalpa isn’t a petition or a prayer.  It is a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment.”  Instead of saying something like, “I will loose weight” or, “I will get in shape,” you might say something like, “I have respect for my body and I treat it well with nutritious food and healthy exercise.”  Instead of saying, “I will start a yoga and meditation practice,” you could say, “I am healing my body and nourishing my mind.”  More simply, if your intention is to be more loving, instead of saying “I will be more loving,” you’d recite to yourself, “I am loving.”

Void of ego, a sankalpa can take us towards our greatest potential.  In the words of spiritual teacher and author, Sally Kempton, “When you make a true sankalpa, you call on the power of your personal will, and align your personal will with the cosmic will.”  Because new years resolutions often have goals that stem from a place of ego, see if you can look to an affirming sankalpa instead.  Let your heartfelt desires direct your dharma (living your true purpose).  A new year doesn’t have to mean the need for a ‘new you,’ but it can encourage the wisdom to look within and foresee a better and attainable version of the same, wonderful you that was always there.

 

Wild Thing vs Flip Dog: What’s the Difference Between These Two Poses?

A common question I get from yoga students is about Wild Thing vs Flip Dog… what is the difference between these two poses?  Let’s first start with their commonalities.  Both of these postures are backbends, where the spine is in extension, but the degree of backbend (usually) differs in each of these poses.  Both poses are also balances where the individual is baring weight on just one hand (with both feet on the earth).  The shape of the legs and feet, however, is quite different in each of these poses, including each pose’s variation that might follow its initial expression.  In wild thing, the legs and feet are asymmetrical while in filp dog, they are symmetrical. 

In this black and white collage, you can see in the first two photos of wild thing pose (the 1st being the initial expression with the right leg leg bent and the 2nd being the expression with the right leg straight).  The toes, while of course pointing in the same direction as the knees, are pointing in different directions with respect to right and left feet.  And the left foot is (usually) not completely flat onto the ground but rather pressing firmly into the pinky side knife edge of the foot.  The reason the feet are doing different things has to do with what the legs are doing. In both the 1st and 2nd photos of wild thing, the front leg (pictured here as left leg) is rotated externally in the hip and the back leg (pictured here as right leg) is internally rotated in the hips.

 For flip dog, the legs are symmetrical and the thighs are internally rotated.  If you look at the 3rd and 4th photos in the collage of flip dog and wheel pose, you will see the toes point in the same direction on both sets of right and left feet- in other words, the feet are parallel to each other and the legs are doing the same thing on right and left sides (seen in above photos of flip dog and wheel, respectively).

To help you understand these postures a little better, consider the starting positions for each. For Wild Thing, you’ll {typically} start in side plank where your hips are about in line with your shoulders (see photo on the left).

For Flip Dog, you’ll {typically} start in downward facing dog where your hips are well above the height of your shoulders (see photo on the right).  And in the final expression of each respective posture, the hips are at different degrees of height. You’ll notice (and hopefully feel in your own body) how the hips are lifted higher in flip dog than in wild thing.

Here is the initial expression of the wild thing, where the leg that moved up and over (landing off of the mat) stays bent with the leg in about a 90 degree angle.  And, like mentioned earlier, t’s good to note that on the stationary foot (on the mat), the big toe side is usually lifted, with the pinky side edge of the foot firmly pressing into the mat (which you cannot see very well in the photo here).

Here, you can see a photo of the flip dog pose… which is really like a one armed wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana).  The leg that came off of the mat is similar to that of the same leg in wild thing… it’s the stationary leg that has changed shapes.  In flip dog, the leg on the mat adjusts to bend at a 90 degree angle making both legs parallel to each other.

A variation of the wild thing is where the leg off of the mat straightens completely like in this photo here.  To find this variation, you will start in the initial expression of wild thing and then adjust the pose in order to straighten the leg off of the mat.

A variation of the flip dog is where the arm that initially extends overhead plants next to the

grounded hand at a distance of about shoulder width apart (and the grounded hand has to first adjust to face the opposite direction… towards the feet) and this expression becomes wheel pose.  It should be noted that not only is wheel is an advanced pose that requires a lot of opening and warm up in various areas of the body to move into it safely, but the transition from flip dog into wheel is particularly tricky and should be taught and practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher if trying this out for the first time (or few).  In each of these poses, we want to find continual lift in our heart space and firm grounding though hand(s) and feet while maintaining a constant flow of prana (think smooth and steady breathing) and slow transitions in and out of poses.  I also recommend engaging mula bandha in these poses (including while transitioning in and out of them).

It is always a good idea to address specific asana related questions directly to your teacher in person so that you can be certain of proper alignment and staying safe in your practice.  Come see us for class at Yoga For All Beings to learn more about the wonderful world of asana and so much more that the yoga practice has to offer.  Our current class schedule can be viewed here.

Yoga is Balance: Sthira & Sukha On & Off the Mat


Yoga is balance. A fine and tricky balance, to say the least.  But if attained, this balance can provide both calming and grounding energy in addition to giving way to enlightening inspiration and positive change.  In order to get to this sought-after neutral place, one must play with the delicate dance of opposites… hard and soft, dark and light, rough and smooth.  How can we navigate our way to this sweet nectar in the middle where bliss lives?  How can we find our own sense of peace and calm amidst the the back and forth see-saw of lows and highs that is life?  In a word… yoga.

One of the greatest gifts we receive from our yoga practice is that irreplaceable feeling of pure bliss that we are afforded after practice.  And in practice, what we are truly doing is balancing out effort and ease, the well-known yoga concept of sthira and sukha.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he gives us the following aphorism (from sutra 2.46): “sthira-sukham asanam.”  This sutra is most commonly translated as “asana (postures) should be stable {sthira} and comfortable {sukha}.  Being established in a good place- that is, getting grounded, finding proper alignment, diligent focus, engaging the right muscles, and harnessing energy correctly coupled with maintaining a healthy prana (breath/life force) is what this sutra is all about.


We aren’t looking to feel exhausted after a yoga class… in fact, many teachers would argue we’re doing something wrong if we feel this degree of depletion after practice. Instead, we should feel alive yet relaxed at the same time.  We should be practicing in a way that regenerates our energy, not in a way that depletes it.   To achieve this, we ought to be checking in with our breathing often (is prana moving freely?) and we can also do a post class check to see how we are feeling as a whole (are we feeling balanced?).  In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar, we are looking to find and maintain sthira, “alertness without tension” while also finding and maintaining sukha, “relaxation without dullness.”

Hard to both attain and maintain, balance is really the key to one’s yoga practice and if we’re
thinking about yoga in it’s entirety, this translates to balance being the key to living blissfully.  Sure, we need to find both steadiness and ease in downward dog and warrior II, but we also need this delicate balance of embodying enthusiasm and liveliness while at the same time staying focused and keeping our feet firmly planted in our everyday lives.  This is where the yoga practice becomes a life practice.  Striving for that sweet nectar in the middle will bring us toward our perfect happy medium… our own personal bliss.  That nectar of bliss only becomes attainable to us when we are living a life in balance, a life of yoga.

“Why Sadness is Unprofessional… And Why That’s Total Bullshit.” Some Good Advice from David Romanelli

Yoga teacher and author of the best selling book Happy is the New Healthy, David Romanelli recently wrote a post that was too good not to share.  You can find more of these touching and inspiring real life stories shared by Dave from his own experiences of traveling the world and meeting all kinds of different people on his website.

“WHY SADNESS IS UNPROFESSIONAL (and by the way, THAT IS TOTAL BULLSHIT)…

Indigenous people believe that your medicine is not something you take but something you give, your great offering that makes your world better.

Last week I had the amazing experience of sitting with 1000 years of wisdom in 60 very special minutes. 

I had lunch with a group of ladies who met in college…in the 1940’s. They joined the same sorority, and have continued to meet every month…for the past 70 years. Now they are in their 90’s. 11 people in their 90s is equal to about 1000 years of life experience.

These ladies have been there for each as they got married, raised families, became empty nesters, celebrated grandchildren, became widows, got old, and now some are on breathing machines and in wheelchairs. And through it all, they have stuck together.

The immense wisdom in this room was different. It wasn’t a wisdom based on accolades and resumes and fame. It was a wisdom based on reality.

Each of these ladies had amazing stories of success and love. And each of them had tragic stories of loss and pain. Maybe it was just me, but I perceived happiness and sadness sitting side by side at this lunch.

In our modern culture, there is rarely a seat at the table for sadness. It’s something we endure in private, maybe on the couch of a psychologist, or in some bursting out of tears in your yoga class.

Psychology researcher Joseph Forgas found that people in a sad mood had better judgement and memory, were more motivated, and more generous than the happier control group. Periodic feelings of sadness widen our circle of concern.

Now look. I wrote a book called Happy is the New Healthy. I’m all about happiness and I’m not saying it’s any fun to mope around and drag people down with you. But funny stories and pretty pictures of sunsets can only get you so far.

The more I have listened to the elders, the more I realize the pure and lasting happiness can only come from finding the courage to share your sadness and in turn, inspire others to share theirs.

These ladies went through some terribly hard times, but they went through them TOGETHER.

There’s a lady named Deena Metzger who talks about how In the old days, the Chiefs, Medicine people, Shamans, and Elders called Councils. They looked for solutions to their problems by aligning themselves with the ancestors, the natural world and their wisdom traditions.

Sitting around the table with these elder ladies, I felt a sense of what these “Councils” must have been like.

Everyone at the table took a turn sharing what’s been happening in their life. And everyone else listened.

It is that giving and taking, going around the circle, face to face, heart to heart, that struck me as something missing from my world.

So let me ask you…

What have you been stuffing away, deep inside, that seems impossible to address because it would be impolite or unprofessional or just cause a mess that nobody wants to clean up?

Instead, we see our shrink and take our pills and do our yoga and keep it stuffed away.

Remember, your medicine is not something you take but something you give.

What a unique gift…to give your sadness, and give another permission and space… to give theirs.”

Teacher Feature: Kim Manning

Meet out latest Yoga For All Beings Teacher Feature, Kim Manning!  Learn a few fun facts about Kim in her own words below. 532922_1491745961106413_3165589499097439955_n

  • Manatees are my absolute favorite animal because they are so calm, gentle and kind. I’ve adopted three!
  • In high school and college I wanted to pursue a career in music journalism or radio broadcasting, interning at music magazines and radio stations. When I realized I didn’t like to write objectively about new music, I decided discovering and collecting music would just be a personal hobby. My favorite artists today include Murder by Death, Incubus, LCD Soundsystem and Run the Jewels.
  • Last year was the first time I had ever been to a national park (Olympic National Park– which is soo beautiful!), and it’s now my ultimate goal to visit every national park in the country.
  • I am addicted to coffee. Beyond the caffeine, I just LOVE the taste and I love trying new blends. My current Chicago favorite is Dark Matter.

 

Kim teaches at Yoga For All Beings:

Tuesdays  12-1pm  All Levels Vinyasa

Wednesdays  8-9am  Rise & Shine Vinyasa

Thursdays  4:30-5:30pm  All Levels Vinyasa (changes to 4:45-5:45pm starting Dec 8th)

Read Kim’s full biography:

Like most, Kim came to yoga for its physical benefits. Having tried a few asanas at home as 14718626_1797640403850299_5570490732178967479_nrecommended by a friend, she felt soreness in muscles she didn’t know existed. During her senior year of college at Columbia in Chicago, she took an Intro to Yoga course and fell madly in love with the depth of the practice. On a whim after leaving an exhausting job, she began her 200-hour teacher training and never looked back.
While the physical benefits are still a major component of what keeps her coming to her mat, the chance to connect, unwind and constantly learn are just as motivating. Kim aims to keep her classes light-hearted, challenging and relaxing. She hopes to help her students build confidence while building muscle, sweat a little bit and leave classes feeling refreshed and well-connected.

Fall into Autumn with Grace and Ease

 

          The 2016 fall equinox took place on Thursday, September 22 and while it’s been a gentle yfab-lobby-flowertransition into the cooler season so far, the end of summer reminds us that life is full of change.  From long days full of sunlight and warmth to darker, chillier mornings and earlier sunsets, the inevitable change from summer to fall can be one that we tend to resist.  Although autumn is generally a welcomed season and one that brings along with it a slew of joyfulness (pretty leaves, chunky sweaters, fall boots, pumpkin everything, Halloween and warm beverages just to name a few), we might still catch ourselves clinging to summer’s past.   Consciously opening up to the seasonal changes ahead can allow us to open up to any other changes that might also be occurring in our lives externally or even shifts that may be occuring deep within us, internally.

The excess of light energy
from summer is becoming balanced with the dark energy of autumn and we, too can wind down to match the rhythm of the changing seasons.  Not only do we experience impermanence in mother nature, but impermanence is also the nature of the human condition.  Because change is the only constant, it would serve us best to remain unattached to the things we love even when it feels so natural to cling to them.  The transition from summer to fall is a special opportunity for us to tune in to the changes that might be happening deep within us in addition to the more obvious changes that are taking place around us.

Five Questions for Fantastic Yoga Teachers

From Yoga Chicago Magazine’s Five Questions for Fantastic Yoga Teachers, read on about Danielle Dickinson, owner of Yoga For All Beings in Chicago, IL.

1. Describe your teaching style in five words. Strong. Gentle. Thoughtful. Permissive. Balanced.  DanielleDickinson-Lake Mich Twist

2. How has yoga changed your life?Yoga saved my life. It has offered me a way to change my negative patterns and live a healthier and happier life.

3. What is the philosophy you try to instill in your students? I try to encourage students to be gentle with themselves. I encourage them to accept the challenges of yoga and of life head on, with a sense of ease and with a strong but gentle approach. When we can maintain peace in the most chaotic moments, that’s when the yoga practice really comes in handy.

4. What was one of your most profound moments in teaching? Unscrunched faces. Unclenched jaws. Relaxed shoulders. Unclutched guts. Unsqueezed fists. Seeing students let go, release or be gentle with themselves. It’s so easy to be hard or to stay hardened. It’s a lot more difficult to maintain softness in hard circumstances or to easy up when life is gripping tight. This sense of softness is something I find profound and inspiring, especially when I see if from a student that is fighting hard to maintain that sense of ease.

5. What do you see influencing or affecting yoga teachers and students in the next five years? It seems like the veil is being lifted from the confusion surrounding what yoga is or isn’t. The wider the practice spreads and the more attainable it becomes, the less we have of the notions that yoga is something reserved for a limited demographic. Yoga is becoming more down to earth, relatable, adaptable, and accessible to all kinds of folks, due in part to the educated and mindful yoga teachers. More accessible yoga means more yoga, in general. And more yoga, to me, means more peace in the world.

An Interview with LocalVore

Five Questions with Yoga For All Beings

On the third floor of an unassuming building in West Town, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a place full of natural light, exposed brick walls, soothing herbal tea, and yoga mats. Yoga For All Beings is an independent yoga studio that welcomes students at any point in their yoga journey to take a class, have some tea, and maybe find a little enlightenment. Owner Danielle Dickinson shared a little more about it with us.

1. What’s your favorite thing about owning your own studio?

Helping others is the best part about owning my own yoga studio. The benefits someone might reap buddah sage legih kunkelfrom the yoga practice are endless, and I continue to be amazed by the progress I see in students with dedicated practice over time. I’ve seen students get stronger and do things they didn’t think they could. I’ve also seen students be humbled by things they thought were easy, but turned out to be quite hard. I’ve seen students break down (emotional release is so brave and healthy), and I’ve also seen students break through… stereotypes, old habits, and negative mindsets. I’ve seen students heal their bodies with careful and attentive practice, and I’ve seen students mend broken hearts with the self-love and compassion that yoga begs of us. I’ve had students literally tell me that my yoga studio (but really it’s just the yoga!) has saved their life. Each time a student shares their heart-felt gratitude for the practice and what it’s done for them, I am encouraged to continue the challenging path of being a yoga studio owner in the city of Chicago… because I know that this business is doing so much good for the people.

2. How did it feel the first time you did a handstand?

Really scary! I’ve always loved the feeling of going upside down, and so the idea of being inverted was not an intimidating one. But getting my body up into handstand gracefully and staying there for more than a half second definitely took some time. The scary part came when I stopped practicing at the wall (not so scary when you have some sturdy dry wall behind you) and started practicing it in the middle of the room (no inanimate object to catch you if you fall out). But the first time I did a handstand in the middle of the room, even though it was probably only for a split second, felt really exhilarating. More importantly and even more satisfying than finally making progress in a difficult pose is when I’m able to do a challenging pose, like handstand, while still maintaining a calm mindset, a steady breath, and an ego that remains in check. Because ultimately, yoga, for me, is not about the physical feats but about the mental peace.

3. Share an unexpected way in which yoga has changed your life.

The first time I connected with yoga on a deeper level was in 2005. Dealing with depression and beet-fq-yoga-for-all-beings-localvore-today-3anger for the majority of my life, I found myself in a downward spiral of darkness and yoga found me at the bottom of this lonely hole. Over the years, yoga has shed light on how I can live my life to keep myself out of this darkness. Initially, yoga was all about getting me to that peaceful state. I went to yoga to feel better mentally, but to my surprise, it also made me feel better physically. Any time my mental state is a mess, it will inevitably show up in my body as some sort of pain or tension. So, practicing yoga not only got my mind right but made my body feel better as well. The community aspect of yoga was also a highlight for me. Even though yoga is a very private, personal and individual practice, doing it in a community setting is so powerful and inspiring. In yoga, it’s all about positive vibes and letting go of anything that doesn’t serve us. Although we show up to our mats for different reasons, we are also there for the same collective reason: to feel better. Just being in a room full of yogis gets the positive energy swirling. For me, yoga is like going to therapy, church, and the gym all in one. And, the way I see it, yoga saved my life.

4. What’s the one thing you want students to take away from class?

There are so many different reasons one might practice yoga: stress release, flexibility, strength, mental clarity, physical injury, addiction, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, grief, and trauma. And so, when I look around the room in class, I’m aware that there are not only a variety of unique bodies in the room (with their own capabilities, limitations and needs) but there are also a variety of intentions in the room as each person brings their own special purpose to the practice. So, while there is so much one could derive from the yoga practice, ultimately I want students to take away exactly what they needed from the practice that day.

5. Smoothies? French fries? What keeps you fueled for yoga?

When it comes to food, I don’t like to discriminate and I’m not too picky. I love smoothies and I love D Wild Thing YFABFrench fries! But as far as being optimally fueled for yoga goes, my best bet (for energy and feeling good) is usually whole, organic foods.

Keep up with all things Localvore in Chicago on The Daily Beet.

Routine vs. Wonder

“Yoga practice is like life. Each circumstance in which we find ourselves is like aDSC01851 pose. Some poses are hard to hold, others are pleasant. It is how we hold the pose that determines whether or not we will suffer or grow, and whether or not we will listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit.” Darren Main

In our asana practice, just as in life, we are guided through a sequence of poses that range from familiar and “easy” to novel and “difficult” or even sometimes “impossible” (at least in the moment). It may not seem obvious at first, but everywhere along this spectrum we encounter both challenge and possibility.

In an “easy” pose like bharmanasana (table pose), we risk being too casual, of dropping our experience down to the level of routine.   Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said “routine is resistance to wonder.” It denies our connection to bliss and the Divine, and instead fetters us to suffering. Here we are on hands and knees. When can we move, to do something? Hands anywhere, anyway, knees assymetrically arranged, feet forgotten somewhere back behind us, our gaze and mind shifting forward or wandering elsewhere to something shinier and seemingly more significant. Our body squirms and fidgets independent of the rhythm of breath. Rolf Gates often reminds us that the pose is just what we are doing, Yoga is a particular way of being in the pose. How can we use a simple pose like this to express Yoga?  Each pose can be approached in three parts – our breath, our gaze or drishti, and of course the physical form.  The physical form begins in our foundation – wherever our body meets and draws energy from the earth. In bharmanasana we need to establish and stay connected to a slow, deep and steady breath; to set our gaze down and forward; and be mindful as we carefully organize hands, knees and feet and then spine. If we do all these things skillfully, attentive to whatever arises with a gentle inward smile, we experience a union with all that is sacred and miraculous in the present moment.

At the other end of the spectrum, we may be led towards an asana or through a transition that is beyond our current ability, for many possible reasons.   Sometimes we grimace or resist, give it a chagrined effort, or even launch ourselves heedlessly with excessive effort and insufficient skill. Maybe we look around, compare ourselves to others and feel separated from a universe conspiring against us. We are self-critical regarding our failure or outwardly critical of our circumstances. We long to get away from this moment (aversion, dvesa) to another moment (craving, raga) that will be better. However, if instead we are immersed in our breath practice, set our gaze until our face can be soft, our heart tranquil, and then start working the physical form from the foundation – what a different experience! We set our body on the earth carefully and work from there physically and energetically until we find a balanced expression of the asana.

Whether or not we contort ourselves or levitate, our pose is perfect for NOW. The pose might be bharmanasana (table) or bakasana (crane). The pose might be standing in line at the grocery store or being with a loved one in the midst of trauma. Yoga is how we want to be, regardless of what we do. We let go of the drama of the ego, and bask in the wisdom of the spirit. In this way we connect to what is sacred, recognize the omnipresent miracle and fill ourselves with wonder!