Are You Practicing Yoga On Your Mat Or Just Doing Yoga Exercise?

Are You Practicing Yoga On Your Mat Or Just Doing Yoga Exercise?

I was talking today before my event about the difference between practicing yoga and doing yoga exercise...  

There's nothing wrong with a class that is simply a yoga exercise class but it's very different than a yoga class.  The goal of yoga is to quiet the mind.  In stillness, we have the opportunity to experience the deepest aspect of who we are.  Yoga is really answering the question: Who am I?  

So, if the goal is to quiet the mind?  How do we do that?  How do you quiet your mind?

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Breathe into it

Breathe into it

Really fun class this morning at Westlake Village Equinox!  Change your relationship to your Self and your relationship to everything else changes.  This is why yoga has such a profound impact on your life.  Your yoga mat is the microcosm.  What if instead of fighting with the pose you breathed into it?  What if instead of fighting through your life you breathed into it?  It was good to see you this morning, everyone!  Namaste.

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Why do I get on my mat every morning?

Why do I get on my mat every morning?

Early morning practice this morning!  Up before the sunrise.  Got to watch the sun come up on my walk to the studio to teach class after I was finished.  Really nice practice.  It's very peaceful here.  These are some of my favorite moments.  On my mat, alone, quiet, moving with my breath, stretching, opening up, finding balance, finding peace.  And then savoring the feeling after I'm finished.  Coming back into the world, awake, alive, aware, present, right here, right now.  Why do I get on my mat every morning?  Because it helps me to be right here and right now.  Grateful for this beautiful start to this day!  Thank you, Cabo San Lucas, for the beautiful sunrise this morning. Namaste.

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Shine the Light on Yourself

Shine the Light on Yourself

When we are identifying with the ego we often judge others very harshly.  We place expectations on people.  We hold the world up to a very high standard and we punish those who don't meet that standard.  The irony is that, when we are doing this, we often don't hold ourselves up to the same standard.  When we identify with the ego, we want everyone else to change, and the world to change around us.  We don't want to change ourselves at all, yet, often, we are the ones who need to change the most. When we are filled with judgment of others, we aren't really very far along on our path.  Shine the light on yourself.  Change yourself and your relationship to the world.  If you find yourself judging and criticizing other people, know that this is not helping you on your journey.  You're not only NOT helping the people you are judging, who would benefit far more from your compassion and kindness, but you aren't helping YOURSELF either.

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The Light In Me Recognizes The Light In You

The Light In Me Recognizes The Light In You

I'm staying in this Airbnb apartment, here, in Shanghai.  There is this sweet, little, old lady, who lives in the building.  Her daughter, or granddaughter, has been taking her out for a walk each day, and I've been running into them. They both give me such a nice smile when they see me.  When I practice my limited Chinese, and say things like, "Nihao" (hello), the old lady lights up, and grins from ear to ear.  These little moments of connection have really made each day so special.  So simple to just have an open heart and smile at a stranger and say hello.  Each day, when I leave from these exchanges I am grinning from ear to ear too.  The three of us have had a beautiful moment of connection.  It's the "namaste" connection.  The light in me recognizes the light in you, and it's the same.  Life is so beautiful.  So many incredible and meaningful moments. Grateful for each one!  Namaste.

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We Are Each Born Owing Three Debts

We Are Each Born Owing Three Debts

Another beautiful day in our Shiva Yoga training!  Today is our last day of the first week.  It's been busy.  Long days, with barely time to eat and rest.  At the end of the day, I feel very satisfied and fulfilled, though.  I love sharing these teachings.  It is our responsibility to share what we are learning with others.  That way everyone can benefit from the teachings.  There's a story I shared with my students, that my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, told during my training with him--

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Be Grateful For The Things That Are Working In Your Life!

Be Grateful For The Things That Are Working In Your Life!

So often we complain about things that aren't working in our lives.  It is so important to be grateful for the things that are working in your life too.  

I was picking up some things at the grocery store tonight.  One of the things I grabbed was a piece of garlic bread.  They had individual sized pieces of garlic bread!  I was so excited.  Individual pieces of garlic bread!  Incredible.  You don't understand.  They didn't used to do this and I asked them to make these individual pieces of garlic bread for me a few weeks ago.  I have to explain this to you.  A few weeks ago, I had asked the people at the bakery to please make some smaller pieces of garlic bread.  I was always disappointed when I was shopping, finding only giant, family sized, pieces of garlic bread, when I just wanted a small piece, to heat up for myself.  So, they started to cut some of the garlic bread into smaller pieces and began to offer this as well.  It was such a small thing but it made me so happy.  So, I started to add a small piece of garlic bread to some of my meals over the last two weeks.  Perfect.  Just enough for me to add to my meal without having to throw any away.  Perfect!

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Go deeper!

Go deeper!

I was talking last night in class about the need to contemplate the knowledge you are learning…

Go deeper.  There is always more you can learn about something.  

It’s through deeper concentration on an object that MORE is revealed.  This process of concentration, meditation, and Samadhi can be applied to anything.  You have to sit with something.  You have to dig deeper.  There’s MORE there.  You just can’t see it yet.  You have to do your practice, over and over again, and you have to be curious, open, and receptive.  The ego loves to have us believe that we’ve got it, we’ve figured it all out, there’s no more to learn.  The mind says, "I’m bored.  What’s next?  Give me something else.  Give me something harder.  What’s next?"  There is NO NEXT.  This is it!  Right here.  Right now.  And you haven’t come close to figuring this out yet.  You’re ready to move on already?  You’re barely scratching the surface of this place.  There is no place to go.  And if you are constantly thinking about the destination, and what is coming next, you aren’t really right here and right now.  Pay attention!

Your practice can be as hard or as easy as you make it.  Move slower.  Move like you are moving through water.  Reach.  Stretch.  Contract.  Open and close.  Follow the breath.  Inhale and exhale.  Slow it down.  Slow down.  Get more juice out of the orange!  Have you really figured out that pose?  Really?  Are you really present right now?  Look at each pose like you are looking at them for the very first time.  Approach your practice like you haven’t got it all figured out.  Slow down. Breathe deeply.  Take your time.  Experience everything you can.  Breathe into each moment.  Feel your body.  Feel how amazing it is to move your body, to stretch, to feel your muscles contracting.  

Your practice will keep getting more subtle and more refined but you have to keep practicing. The minute you buy into the idea that you’ve got it all figured out is the minute you stop learning and growing.  There is nowhere to go!  It’s all happening right here.  Right now your life is happening, while you are thinking about something else.

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The Lotus Flower

The Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is often described as a flower with a thousand petals and is associated with the Sahasrara Chakra, the 7th Chakra, the chakra that is floating above the crown of the head.

The lotus is a symbol of purity of the body, speech, and mind.  While rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom, on long stalks, as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. 

The lotus is symbolic of detachment, as drops of water easily slide off its petals.

Like the Om, the lotus represents the entire world and all of creation, and also it represents letting go of the world, and that which is beyond creation. 

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Focus on what matters

Focus on what matters

Yoga has taught me to hold my focus on what matters. There will always be distractions. There will always be people and things that cross your path that are challenging. Stay focused. Concentrate on what matters. There is so much noise. Don't get caught up in the noise. People who are connected to the most superficial aspects of themselves, and who are living a small life, will sometimes try to drag you down too. Don't let them!  Rise up and fly high.  Don't let anyone make you feel less than you are. This is your time to shine!  Let yourself shine so brightly that you help others to see the light. This is your time! 

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Breathe Into This Moment!

Breathe Into This Moment!

Good morning!  It's a beautiful day.  So grateful for this day.  So grateful for this moment.  I offer my heart up and I bow down to say thank you.  How are you going to spend your day today? What incredible things are you going to see and experience?  Breathe into this moment.  Live it fully and then let it go and move on.  It's when we are not really living that we have trouble letting things go.  It's when you aren't breathing into your moments that you find yourself caught up in your head, longing for something that has passed, and anxious about a future that has yet to come.  The past and the future only exist in your mind.  There is only right here and right now. This moment.  Be here now.  This is it.  This is your life.  Right now.  Have a beautiful day! Namaste.

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Let Go of Your Expectations! Just Chop Wood and Carry Water.

Let Go of Your Expectations!  Just Chop Wood and Carry Water.

I suggested to two of my students this morning that I thought they might be ready for a more advanced variation of the pose they were doing. These two students both come to class regularly and are always working hard in their practice. And they are both making a lot of progress too. They just keep showing up and doing the work.  Neither one is that concerned about the results of their practice.  They are living examples of that old saying:  Just chop wood and carry water.

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Be Courageous! Stand Your Ground. Be a Warrior!

Be Courageous!  Stand Your Ground.  Be a Warrior!

Yoga philosophy speaks a lot about courage...

This courage is not about doing an advanced asana. It's about standing your ground. Can you get out of your comfort zone and go into the fire? And can you stay there? Can you stand your ground? Can you breathe into the discomfort? Can you be vulnerable? Can you stay open in the middle of adversity?

When your fears bubble to the surface, when your stuff comes up and challenges you, are you getting tossed and turned, and thrown around?

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Be a Good Partner.

Be a Good Partner.

My teacher, Dharma, usually does at least one or two partner poses in his classes. I've tried to add in a little more partner yoga into my classes since I started practicing with Dharma.

Partner yoga is a great way to connect with others. You learn to help support your partner and you learn how to let someone else support you. Every relationship requires this dynamic. Sometimes you are leading and driving the car, and sometimes you are going along for the ride.

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Slow Down. Find Stillness. Turn Inward.

Slow Down.  Find Stillness.  Turn Inward.

You’re on your motorcycle. You’re flying along. You’ve got no lights, though. You can’t see where you’re going. And, you’ve got not brakes. You can’t slow down and you can’t stop.

You’re flying down the mountain on a winding path and it’s starting to get dark. You’ve got no lights. You’ve got no brakes. You can’t slow down.

Up ahead, on the path, is a yogi. He’s slowly walking down the mountain. He’s got a light. He’s using his light to see where he’s going. He hears this commotion coming down the path behind him. He stops walking, turns, and sees you, out of control, flying down the mountain, on your motorcycle.

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The Journey is into the Fire and Through the Fire!

The Journey is into the Fire and Through the Fire!

The journey is into the fire, and through the fire.

Yoga is not about rainbows and unicorns! It's supposed to be challenging. It involves looking at darkness and the darker parts of ourselves on our journey towards the light. You can't by-pass this work. This work is your yoga practice!

Take your journey into the fire and look at yourself. It's going to get hot. It's going to get uncomfortable. It's supposed to be uncomfortable!

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