Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Leggo My Egg-O

egomaniac-sun

You may remember the “Leggo My Egg-O” commercials from the 80’s, featuring America’s favorite breakfast… Waffles. Today I ask the Gods above to help ME “Leggo My Egg-O” meaning…”Let Go of My EGO”.  

Why?

My ego is my monkey mind.  The leading factor in all that causes suffering (duhkha). My ego is often confused about who I am and what/how/why I am!? It causes pain, distress, or a feeling of dissatisfaction, superiority or inferiority. Yoga is all about getting out of monkey mind and into our true selves (atman).  It is about discovering our true nature and the meaning of humility by letting go of the ego.

Some of you may be familiar with this image out of every Freshman year psychology book:

EGO

The ego is such a SMALL part of what we are and yet it takes up such a large part of the way we think and act… the solution to getting right sized? Don’t ever over-estimate or underestimate yourself.  For many people living in today’s world, filled with illusion (maya), there is a fine line between being an ego maniac and an insecure wreck. It is so necessary to find the sweet spot. The place where we are right sized.

Yoga master Nischala Joy Devi brings it back to the very beginning of Patanjali’s yoga sutra….

Book I. Samadhi Pada: 
Union with the Divine Self

Chapter 1.

Humble Beginnings

Sutra 1.1 With Humility (an open heart and mind), we Embrace the
Sacred Study of Yoga.

This simple beginning holds many truths. Often this very first sutra is read quickly or even disregarded, which is unfortunate since this sutra is placed first to set the tone. It is here to remind us that our study and spiritual path benefit most when they are paved generously with humility.

With Humility (an open heart and mind), we Embrace the Sacred Study of Yoga.    

                                      open heart

I felt a need to write on this topic because I recently had an interesting experience with my very own EGO. (Not that we don’t have them every day ;)… )

I  taught a large power class to a group that didn’t know me. As it was advertised as a strong class I decided I would use my Ashtanga teacher training skills, from Hatha Yoga Mysore at Varkala beach, for the first time. Before teaching this class I was well aware I had never actually taught the series to a group outside of the training… plus the class at hand was an older group of students, thus I was nervous. Teaching the Ashtanga series 1 to a group that had never done it before was ambitious… maybe too ambitious?  I didn’t know…My head was all caught up in what they would think of me. I didn’t want to sound flashy or arrogant, and yet I definitly didn’t want to seem insecure. Ego. Ego. Ego. After sitting quietly and getting centered, I started to get out of my ego and see the truth.

I knew they could do it. I knew I could teach it. I remembered that I know what I know for a reason and I am a yoga teacher to be of service. To HELP others. To share my love of the practice from my heart. So the solution to my ego is simple. Be myself…  No bigger, no smaller. No pretending or pretense. SHARE my HEART and be LOVING. JUST TEACH!  This small prayer got me back to my core and the class rocked.

A testament to the power of Leggo-ing your Egg-O?  I walked into the studio feeling nervous and inadiquit, I sought out my inner core and thus left behind my monkey mind. I was able to tap in to my inner reserves and teach a magnificent class. After finishing a few students approached me to thank me for the class and to compliment me. I was humble enough to say “thank you.” I walked out of the same room feeling invigorated and content. Grateful for opportunities to learn, and my ever expanding understanding of self.

What if I hadn’t been complimented and the class wasn’t good? How would I have felt then? Georg Feuerstein states it well:

We can easily discover whether we are truly content and happy when we lose our job, have a marriage break up, or have a good friend suddenly turn against us (or get poor feedback on an art project/yoga class?). In the case of a great yoga master, these events will not cause as much as a ripple in the mind.

Perhaps thats another lesson awaiting me for another time? Did I feel content because of the praise or because of my own teaching and channeling of my inner-self? I believe that the reason we as a species ever feel satisfied in that professional way is because we EXPRESS our true selves. While I was teaching that class I was “in the zone” declaring appropriate cues with confidence, care, and love. It felt amazing to me because I was un-aware of my mind. We all know that feeling don’t we? When you get lost in computer editing, painting, writing, what ever it is for your own soul… you lose yourself (ego) in the process, look at the clock and wonder where the time went. We express our core spirit when we leggo the eggo and let it shine ;).   And what an AMAZING feeling it is.

I’m well aware there are many gaps in my reasoning and many ways to get out of Ego and into the core…What do you think? How do you do it? 😉

Mahesh during the Ashtanga teacher training....

Mahesh during the Ashtanga teacher training….

lego-my-eggo

—NISCHALA JOY DEVI, author of The Healing Path of Yoga and The Secret Power of Yoga, is an internationally renowned and masterful teacher reflecting the compassionate heart perspective in spirituality and scripture.

—Georg Feurstein, author of many many amazing yoga books. This excerpt is from The Deeper Dimension of Yoga. He is amazing… see:

http://taozitreeyoga.com/2013/01/22/17-commandments-for-yoga-teachers-and-everyone-else/


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Start talking to yourself… NICELY.

self-love-woman

Action Step: Talk to yourself, very very nicely, ridiculously so…

talk-to-yourself

For today, try being that crazy person that talks to themselves.  You should say things like, “Gee wiz! I look lovely today!” and “Wow, I am just so happy and nice!” “I feel so healthy and joyous and free!”Be dramatic… Fake it. I know that no one is going to say these things to them selves and instantly feel it, but give it a try. I guarantee there will be a micro-shift somewhere in your being by a few simple nice words to yourself.

Peter Clifford, my amazing guru that I had the opportunity to study with in Bali at Santosha’s Yoga Teacher Training, would consistently say that we must speak to our bodies positively and tell them what we want. He claimed that this energy will change our cells at an intrinsic level. This is something I think about all the time. Our negative thoughts? The body hears them and responds in kind. Our positive thoughts have more power and our bodies follow suit. If we say we are happy, the body begins to believe it and make changes to correspond with the thought.

WHY!?  Ahimsa, non-violence. Time to stop trash talking yourself and treat yourself like the goddess, god that your are (no you are not a god but a part of you is!) Ahimsa is the first Yama of Patanjalis 8 limb path found in the yoga sutras.

 Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras nearly 2000 years ago. He isn’t the author as such but he compiled the ancient traditions of his fellow brothers into a format that everyone could use. It is from these sutras that modern day yogic philosophy has branched. To get right to the point, the 8 fold path, or Ashtanga yoga, it is the means by which a person takes steps to reach Nirvana, or Samadhi. * Note that this Ashtanga is different then the Vinyassa Flow Ashtanga started by Patabi Jois within the last 60 years.

The first step towards mastering the mind is to master the Yamas. The Yamas are all about mastering ones social conduct. Many believe this to be first limb because as Socrates so vigilantly believed, we are all social beings and as such we must behave according to human law in order to live harmoniously.  Thus the yamas are a guide to what principles should be obeyed in public in order to begin the journey toward liberation from the mind.

Socrates.

Socrates.

The Yamas are broken down into 5 parts.

Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharia, Aparigraha. More to come on them later.

Ahimsa, non-violence is a key guiding principle in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This is where the vegetarianism in these religions comes from. Don’t hurt other living beings. Period. I have also been taught that it means, don’t hurt yourself, as you are ALSO a living being.

I believe that people most often hurt themselves by the negative talk. It has become such a sneaky soft voice that perhaps you don’t notice it, but if it’s there… it’s time to try something different. We will gently push the negative voice out by speaking to ourselves in a positive way. Drama. Like I said, I know this isn’t easy. So first, we will make a list of the things we like about ourselves, or that we know others like in us.

 I am a beautiful young woman.

I am soft spoken and wonderful.

I am aging so gracefully and beautifully.

I am a fantastic cook.

I love my family deeply.

I have amazing daughters who love me very much.

I have a job where I can help people everyday.

I strive to learn more.

I am going deeper spiritually.

I look fabulous in these jeans.

I am a careful and alert driver.

I am a creative and artistic soul.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Get a pen and paper and make the list. Make the list as long as you can. The statements should be positive affirmations about who you are or who you want to be. This list is your first attempt at being nice to yourself. Throughout the day… simply continue to speak kindly to yourself. Give yourself a hug occasionally. Again, in the end of all this life business, it’s all about you learning to love yourself. If anything I have learned so far is that often, we have to pretend we are who we want to be before we actually become that person. It’s ok. The age old saying goes, “Fake it till you make it.” So fake it up, have fun with it. Be cheesy and if you have the heart, attempt to be genuine and authentic. You gorgeous, happy, sweet, loving, creative, magical, being you.


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Ghee Magic.

Peace, peace, peace…

Waking up every morning at 5 am, in complete darkness, to the sounds of chanting and the soft glow of candle light, one can’t help but feeling magic. I stumble into the kitchen with my eyes half-open to make some tea (a.k.a ….breakfast) before heading down to the yoga shala. We all head out the door, one by one, and down the street we go, the energy of the morning beginning to stir. As we make our walk to class, it’s dark. There can however be seen the occasional person, bare foot and dis-shoveled, meandering around with a long stick, perhaps accompanied by one of the many stray dogs. Not a walk I’d like to make alone. We walk past a large temple on the right. Through the gate and the large temple door the altar can be seen, a giant statue of Ganesha lit up by the hundreds of ghee lit candles. Ghee, a variation of butter, is used for EVERYTHING. I’ll explain more later. We continue the walk down the now familiar street and after passing the dead bat hanging from the telephone wire and the random cowboy sign on the side of the road; we make a sharp right down an ally and toward the yoga shala. Once making it in the gate and up the stairs we enter the world of chanting, meditation and asana. After we chant and connect to our breath we are launched abruptly into an hour and 45 min long inhale-in exhale-out moving mediation. Loads of vinyasas, chaturangas, forward folds, back bends, standing postures, balancing postures, inversions and more… all before 8 AM.

After the series is finished with a well deserved shavasana (resting pose), I begin my prenatal course. I’m trying to learn as much as I can from this wonderful school as possible.  Our teachers are amazing. Mahesh, the Mysore born Ashtanga teacher is a total character. Amazing man. Ellie, the beautiful Colombian wife of Mahesh is the primary teacher for the pre-natal course and she is a walking yoga dictionary. We constantly bombard her with questions all day long and she always answers with attention and care, if she doesn’t know the answer she politely says she will get back to us, and she does. Once we finish our morning lessons we all head back to the house for a cold shower (MAYBE a hot shower out of a bucket if I boil a pot on the stove first) and to prepare lunch.

Our large lovely kitchen.

There are 7 of us living in the house and we have created a very cute family style cooking routine where every day a “team” will cook for every one. This way we aren’t all cooking everyday and we get to sample a number of different things. We have a big beautiful home, which no one was expecting, and a large black and white checkered kitchen.  There are plenty of little “friends” living in the kitchen which may take some getting used to for some. Keep in mind all the windows are open constantly (save for the protective bars) but there is plenty of space for the outside critters to join in the fun inside. A lovely girl, Ali, who is essentially my unknown sister from Beijing (same graduating class of 2004, same American princess background, and lived in Beijing for 5 years, just like me) she had an interesting experience in the kitchen when she woke up the morning after a rain storm, went into the kitchen to make some tea and felt burning on her feet, she looked down to find ants all over her lower limbs… yikes. They had probably come in to take care of all the fairy bugs who had come in to hide from the rain… Bugs, birds, bats, SPIDERS (We had a large one named BORUS, living in our bathroom for a few days) are simply to be expected. Not a big deal… just takes some getting used to. In a way our little friends add to our lovely household environment.  So far all of the food that all of us budding adults have managed to muster up has been amazing. When it was Ross and I’s turn to cook we attempted Mexican. It was YUMMY. Loaded with substitutions (yogurt for the sour cream, paneer for the cheese, and of course…no meat). We have also had pumpkin-lentil soup, palak paneer ( spinach and cheese), loads of marsalas, grated salads, fruit, and lassies (a yogurt drink).

Yummy Indian food…

Borus the spider…

In the afternoon we head back to the shala for more lectures, some pranayama and meditation. All of the classes have been wonderful and there has been enough information shared to write volumes. Perhaps I’ll attempt later. In this blog however I’d like to highlight the magical household ingredient that I have learned about since coming to India. Ghee.

Our yoga home…

What is Ghee? It is essentially the Indian version of butter, it is butter actually. They just make it more “aryuvedic” and healthy by boiling it and skimming off the top solid bits and then the remaining clear liquid is the purified butter or Ghee. Nearly 2 weeks have passed since arriving at the yoga school here in Varkala. I have heard, “just use ghee” at least two dozen times. Stiff joints? Put ghee on it. To much fire in the body? Use some ghee. Perfect yogi drink? Mix ghee together with milk and tadaa! Done. Skin problems? Rub ghee on it. Burning sensation in your hands? Rub them together with ghee. Food need to be a little more delicious? Add some ghee. On and on and on it goes. I love it. It floods every kitchen with the smell of butter. It lines the shop walls in plenty of different brands and jars. It seems to be the miracle worker here. It makes me happy because every one loves butter, at least I do 😉 The other day when we had a meandering drunk homeless man came around the house and was hanging on our shutters (a bit scary) part of me wondered if perhaps ghee could have helped us out of the jam? Instead Sonali, the beautiful  Indian women who is studying with us attempted to “shoo” him away with a broom while Ross encouraged us to pretend he wasn’t there. Imagining that if we pretended we couldn’t see him he would go away. This was incredibly awkward as we were all bustling around cleaning up after lunch and he was hanging onto the window bars right outside the dining room window looking in with curiosity. A very interesting India moment indeed.

To the train station…

Another unforgettable moment was when last week when we took a train to the Southern tip of the country to see where 3 bodies of water meet. the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Mannar and the Indian Ocean. We took a pretty sketchy ferry packed with people out to a beautiful temple on a small island. While visiting there we had a “dance off” Ali “dropped it like it was hot” and we truly (perhaps inappropriately 😉 ) entertained the locals with our laughter. We felt like little celebrities getting our photos taken with all the kids. It was a good reprieve from the days filled with yoga.

Beautiful little girl 😉

Liz, myself, and Ali my Beijing friend 😉

The temple.

Master Mahesh and his coconut.

There have been so many amazing things happening here. Yesterday we started even earlier and made it to the beach as the sun was coming up for some beach yoga. It was wonderful, a bit of a circus with the dogs and the fisherman hee-ing and haa-ing, but it was special to be out there enjoying daily life with the locals. Its Sunday now, exactly 2 weeks after we arrived in Varkala. I just found out last night that my Grandpa died. Crazy because he came to me in my dream last night. I woke up this morning knowing he was gone and he had passed quietly in his sleep. He was 95. Not a total shocker, but yet another excuse/opportunity to reflect on the deeper aspects of my yoga practice. Of course I’m sad, if any one asks whats wrong, I bet the recommendation will be to “just apply ghee” to my heart.

Ross showing off in Peacock…

Mahesh and his magic assists….

Beach yoga…

If you can focus here… you can focus anywhere…

My love.

Happy on the train… adventure to who knows where…