The story of Vacistasana.

The story of Vacistasana.

The story of Vacistasana is a story about a Great Sage, a sacred cow, and magical powers. But it’s ultimately about the journey from darkness to light. There was no sacred cow that gave the Great Sage Magical powers.
The power is within you! You just have to do your practice. Be consistent! Be patient! Train your mind to focus! Keep waking up. Everyday, wake up a little more. And a little more. You can do anything you focus your mind on. Some people might think you have a secret, a sacred cow, or are lucky, or have magical powers. But you know your power comes from your practice, from your dedication and hard work. The power is inside you. It’s inside all of us. You just have to learn how to access it! And then you can do anything.

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Remember "It's just the mind."

Remember "It's just the mind."

Last night my mind was very heavy. I was working on a technical problem with my computer and the cloud and on the phone with a support specialist. It was a long day too. I was getting tired and feeling overwhelmed with the situation. We kept trouble shooting the problem and couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
I could feel myself getting frustrated. I could feel the emotions coming up. I tried not to get attached to them. It was hard. I was agitated.
One of the things that helped me shift my perspective was remembering one day a few years ago, coming up the elevator to the Dharma Yoga Center during one of my trainings with my teacher, Dharma Mittra. I asked Dharma how he was doing and he surprised me when he said that his mind was very heavy that day and very sad. There was a pause and then he shrugged and laughed and said, “but it’s just the mind” and gave me a knowing look, and I understood a little better the concept we talk a lot about in yoga of shifting our perspective.
I always remembered that morning. And it helped a lot last night. I could feel myself getting caught up in my thoughts and the anger and frustration I was feeling. I kept telling myself — it’s just the mind. Let it go. It’s not you. It’s just the mind.
I went to bed and slept well last night and woke up feeling very light and energized. I remember thinking that It was so silly that my mind was so upset and agitated last night. And even sillier that I was getting agitated and upset too.
The mind is always going to be on the roller coaster. But it doesn’t mean that you have to be too. You’re not the thoughts. You’re not the emotions. You are the space between the thoughts. You are the witness of body and mind activities.

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It's all unfolding perfectly.

It's all unfolding perfectly.

Our last day of practice together at Kula Yoga this past weekend! Shiva Yoga® Maha Sadhana — honoring our teachers and celebrating our practice. Lots of partner yoga! What a fun afternoon and way to end a long weekend of practice together. Everybody was tired and sore and still brought such a positive attitude and still practiced really hard. So grateful to this group! I find I rarely am feeling “perfect” when I get on my mat. Something is always sore and I’m often tired. Yoga has taught me to show up anyway and do my best. You can move from darkness to light. It’s just a choice. The conditions will never be perfect. Just show up anyway and do your best and don’t worry about the results. Just breathe into whatever comes your way. And have faith that it’s all unfolding perfectly.

 

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The Camel Pose.

The Camel Pose.

Backbending Workshop! The Camel Pose is a great intermediate backbend. Once your hands can slide down to the soles of your feet, you are definitely ready for the first stage of the Full King Pigeon. Don’t forget to hug your inner thighs in and push them back while you are pushing your hips forward. Engage your core while you push your heart up and try to extend your spine. And make sure not to strain your neck. The cervical spine has lots of flexibility and a huge range of motion. Think about how imbalance leads to more imbalance. We want to stabilize areas that are vulnerable and open areas where there isn’t a lot of movement or full range of motion. 

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Copy the teacher.

Copy the teacher.

“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.” — Dharma Mittra

My teacher — Sri Dharma Mittra, always talks about how we learn by copying the teacher. I love listening to him talk about when he would sit for meditation and say to himself, “I am Yogi Gupta, I am Yoga Gupta, I am Yogi Gupta.”

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Practicing and Presenting Everyday...

Practicing and Presenting Everyday...

We have been doing a lot of practice teaching this past month.

When I did my first teacher training — we only taught one pose at the very end of the training. I felt so unprepared to teach a class when the training was over. It was a great training program — but I thought we would have benefitted from a lot more practice teaching.

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What is your practice bringing to the surface for you?

What is your practice bringing to the surface for you?

Fire Ceremony and Cleansing Ritual during my Shiva Yoga 200hr RYT Teacher Training Program last month. What are you ready to let go of and release? What are you ready to leave behind? What are you holding onto? What is holding you back? What are you ready to burn in the fire?

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If you never try and fail, you will never find success!

If you never try and fail, you will never find success!

Once you have mastered balancing on your head in the Bound Head Balance and the Tripod Head Balance -- it can be fun to practice transitioning between these poses and other more advanced Head Balance variations. I learned so much about the Head Balance Poses from my teacher Sri Dharma Mittra. Dharma is a master at transitioning between Head Balances when he’s upside down and even balancing on the head with no hands. I’m not very good at these transitions yet but I find them a lot of fun. Some days I can balance on my head with no hands for a second or two and some days I can’t really find the balance at all. Always remember to have fun and keep your practice light. Be playful! I think we fall and fail at things we try 1000 times before we find the balance and find success. But if we never try and never fail we never find success. It doesn’t matter what your poses look like. It matters if you try. Get out of your comfort zone. Put forth your best effort. Let go of your expectations and let go of the results. Just show up and do the work. This is Karma Yoga. If you fall, don’t worry, no one is watching and no one really cares, except maybe you, and only if you are identifying with your ego.

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Tripod Head Balance.

Tripod Head Balance.

The Tripod Head Balance is an excellent intermediate Head Balance Pose. The Easy Tripod, with the knees on the back of the upper arms, is a great pose to teach you to let go of the wall and find balance in the middle of the room. My teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra, often jokes that Elephants and Dogs can do the Easy Tripod. Lol. The Tripod Head Balance is more challenging than the Bound Head Balance. There’s more weight on the head. It’s harder to find the actions in the arms and the shoulders that will protect the neck. This Head Balance Pose is also less stable than the Bound Head Balance. The Tripod can be used as another Viparita Karani Mudra, just like the Bound Head Balance. We can also transition from the Tripod Head Balance into Arm Balance Poses. Transitioning into Arm Balances from the Tripod Head Balance is much more challenging than coming into these poses from the ground. Once you master the transitions from the Tripod Head Balance you can practice transitioning from your Handstand.

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When the wall becomes a "crutch"!

When the wall becomes a "crutch"!

We did a lot of handstand practice in my recent Shiva Yoga 200hr RYT Teacher Training program in Wenling. One of my first teachers always talked about the wall being such a crutch for people working on their inversions. If you constantly practice kicking up into a handstand and using the wall to catch your balance, you start to lay down this pattern in your mind. Even when you are strong enough and don’t need the wall, it is often really hard to break the pattern in your mind and let go of the “crutch” of using the wall.


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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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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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Arm Balancing Exploration

Arm Balancing Exploration

Yogis!  If you missed my arm balancing exploration workshop yesterday here's a couple simple general things that we covered.

Sequencing -- The arm balances are advanced warm up poses.  They are closely related to the standing warm up poses.  Take a look at arm balances you are working on in class.  Each one contains the actions of the plank pose and the low plank.  Look at what is going on at the hips, in the pelvic girdle.  Does the arm balance look like a triangle married with the plank or low plank? Does it look like the single pigeon married with the plank or low plank?  The standing warm up poses produce tapas, helping us to train the mind to concentrate, and also help us to warm the body up for the deeper practices.  When you are an advanced student the arm balances do the same thing for you.

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What is Samadhi?

What is Samadhi?

Yogis!  What is Samadhi?  What is this deepest state of meditation?  It starts with concentration.  Concentration on one object.  Hold your focus on that one object.  You don't choose to meditate.  Meditation happens.  Meditation is sustained concentration.  The longer you hold your focus on your object of concentration, the more your mind will try to distract you.  A tremendous battle is going on inside you when you choose to concentrate on one object.  It's you against your mind.  You want to concentrate and your mind wants to distract you.  Hold your focus.  It's going to get intense.  Let it get intense.  Let the fire build.  Go towards the fire.  Surrender into the fire.  Don't fight with yourself.  Surrender.  This is what leads you to meditation.  

Concentration is sometimes described as looking at a very close up picture of water being poured into a bucket.  It doesn't actually flow in continuous stream.  When you look closely you see the individual drops of water.  This is like when we are concentrating on an object.  The individual thought is repeating over and over again.  The same thought.  It's like if I am concentrating on a candle flame, my mind is registering the thought "candle flame" and then immediately the next thought is "candle flame" and then the next thought is "candle flame".  Over and over again.  Candle flame, candle flame, candle flame, candle flame...etc.  This is concentration, these thoughts are the individual drops of water.  When your concentration becomes meditation it is often described as a steady stream.  Now it's like you are pouring oil into the bucket instead of water.  Even if you looked at a very close up picture of the oil it wouldn't be separated like the individual drops of water.  There's no individual drops of oil.  The oil pours in one steady stream.  Candle flame, candle flame, candle flame becomes

"Caaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnndddddddlllllllllffffffllllllaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmeeeeeee".  

When you are able to hold your concentration long enough that it turns into meditation and then you continue to bring the opposites together, concentrating on your object and surrendering towards that object, you eventually lose a sense of yourself and reach a state where there is no separation between subject and object, no separation between you and your object of concentration.  There's no thought of concentrating on the candle flame.  There's no awareness of yourself and the candle flame.  There's only the candle flame.  This is Samadhi.  The deepest state of meditation.  You've merged with the object of concentration.  There's no ego, no mind, no thoughts, no body, no outer world.  There's just the object and pure awareness of the object.  Think about that.  In Samadhi you lose your sense of your ego.  The mind is quiet.  There's no you.  In Samadhi there's an instant realization, though, that there is something beyond the body, mind, thoughts and ego.  You're not there.  But YOU are there.  The pure consciousness part of YOU is there.  There's the object and your awareness.  That's it.  Self realization.  The realization that in the stillness I'm still here, witnessing, experiencing the stillness.  It's like there's no phone anymore.  Just the signal.  You're not the phone.  You're the signal.  

Samadhi is often described as the container that is pouring the oil just tipped over and fell into the bucket.  Subject and object merge.  You become the candle flame.  

Now, what happens after Samadhi?  What's that famous quote:  "So, you've reached enlightenment.  Now, it's time to go do the laundry." Well, you come out of it but you're different.  You found yourself.  No matter how much you get distracted and caught up in the noise now, you know you always have a way back in.  And the process starts all over again.  You practice taking the journey again and again until you realize you can be taking the journey every moment.  You ARE taking the journey every moment.  Samadhi is really the journey to Samadhi.  Over and over again.  It's the journey, NOT the destination.  The journey is WHO YOU ARE.  The journey you are on is who you are!  

We contract.  We expand.  Inhale and exhale.  Over and over again.  Concentrate, water becomes oil, go into the fire, fall into the bucket, lose yourself.  Reconnect.  Now, find yourself and do it all over again.  Take the journey!  

And don't forget to go do the laundry! :) 

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