Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Start talking to yourself… NICELY.

self-love-woman

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

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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.

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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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Hey! Hey! We’re the monkeys….

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I recall vividly the discussion with Peter Clifford last year in Bali about the one thing we practice yoga to relieve. Monkey Mind. We all suffer from the workings of our mind. A constant stream of thoughts that jump around inside of our heads like a hyper wild monkey. It is hungry and feeds off of the attachment to thoughts. With out awareness of this condition we  go through life latching on to whatever seemingly important thought enters our heads and then we instantly attract a gaggle of other jumping monkeys to join in. The thoughts will come regardless if you are aware of them or not, the trick is to let them go, only then the mind is tamed. The ultimate objective of yoga is to TAME the workings of the mental ‘chimpanzee’ through asana (postures), pranayama (breath), and dyana (meditation)… How appropriate it is for us that we are practicing the taming of mind surrounded by actual monkeys while behaving like the animals ourselves.

Don't feed the monkeys.

Don’t feed them. They will keep on coming.

Some days it is easy and I float through the day feeling Ommm-tastic and light.  Other days it isn’t so easy and after a few hours of class I feel exhausted from my over active mind. There is so much to think about these days… Getting married, moving “home” (wherever “home” might be)… what to DO with life… add infinitum.

Monkeys! Outside the classroom, with Veronica and I.

Monkeys! Outside the shala, with Veronica and I.

Monkeys inside the shala (normally unacceptable but they got in anyway) hahaaa.

Inside the shala (normally unacceptable but they got in anyway) hahaaa.

We literally spend 10 hours a day in our yoga shala. 10 hours! Some of it is sat directly on the concrete floor, some of the time we sit propped up in our castles built of bolsters, pillows and yoga blocks. We practice 3 hours of asana a day and have the occasional opportunity to “monkey” around with our postures. The majority of the time is spent listening to our incredible teachers, Baskar: yoga philosophy, Natwar: Anatomy and asana, and Roshon: an entertaining, heartfelt and spontaneous flow of anatomy and his personal philosophy combined. Each teacher has a unique style that we have come to love. For example, Baskar (philosophy) spends the hour of class time telling us fables or “short” stories that have a faint link to whatever sutra (from Patanjali’s famous Yoga Sutras) we are studying. Often the stories are hard to follow but we all hang on knowing that the punch line will be well worth it. He also has a repertoire of “jokes” that are hilarious (coming out of him)… he shares them at the end of class, time permitting… we LOVE them.

Roshan...

Roshan…

Natwar, our fabulous anatomy and asana teacher... shows us how its done...

Natwar, our fabulous anatomy and asana teacher… shows us how its done…

Monkey see, monkey do. Josh ;)

Monkey see, monkey do. Josh 😉

Baskar's lecture...

Baskar’s lecture…

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JOKE EXAMPLE: There were 3 ants walking along. The first ant said, “There are 2 ants walking behind me”. The second ant said “There is one ant walking behind me.” The third ant said, “There are three ants walking behind me”. Why did the third ant say this?

Answer: He was a baby ant! Intellectually unstable he was… there weren’t really three ants there… it was a crazy talking baby ant.

There are 10 of us from all around the world taking the YTT 300 together:  Hugh, Kristen, and myself (US), Veronica (Mexico), Ross (UK), Stine (New Zealand), Pricilla (Brazil), Naira (the UAE), Josh (Canada) and Chuu-I (Singapore). Then there is Faraaz, a young Indian man who joins us for our classes and has facilitated a number of his magical yoga nidra classes (yogic sleep). It’s a great group and the variety of personality types and styles of BEING have provided each one of us ample opportunity to grow. We help each other by simply being us…

Precious Naira.

Precious Naira.

Hugh, Stine, Ross, Kristen and I.

Hugh, Stine, Ross, Kristen and I.

Josh and Pricilla, "monkeying" around...

Josh and Pricilla, “monkeying” around…

The "gangsters" with Faraz, and Ross

The “gangsters”Pricilla and myself with Faraaz, and Ross

So far it has been a spectacular few weeks… as I write this we are sitting overlooking the Ganges River at Devraj Coffee Corner German Bakery. There are monkeys frolicking around the wires of the bridge and a few sluggish cows that have decided to take a wander across it, unaccompanied. Ross and I wonder what business they have waiting for them on the other side. Something interesting always happens while watching the Ganges… yesterday we saw a floating body, today we saw a dramatic bull fight on the bridge in which people had to jump out of the way to avoid being pummeled by the giant animals. Oh India. We sat down at the coffee shop next to a kind man named Jim, from Tampa bay Florida. He studied yoga at Sivananda Ashram here in the 70’s. A recovering human soul… he specializes in yogic therapy for people with addiction/mental health problems, we hit it off and had plenty of things to talk about. What a coincidence/blessing to sit down next to exactly the man I needed to talk to. We had a very moving conversation over looking the river and I had to say it was for sure a huge God moment.

Jim, Ross, and myself overlooking the Ganges.

Jim, Ross, and myself overlooking the Ganges.

Rishikesh, India.

Rishikesh, India.

Tomorrow it is back to class we go, heading into the final weeks of our India trip and also ending our year long global adventure. There will continue to be plenty of time for us to practice working with our monkey minds.  Just like when one gives a monkey a biscuit, it attracts more monkeys, the mind is the same, if you entertain one thought it invites others to follow. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that I have a choice about whether or not to keep feeding my monkey mind. It has taken a long time but gradually it is getting easier to ACTUALLY follow my breath rather then jump onto any engaging or seemingly important thought that enters my mind. When I make the conscious decision to follow my thoughts, I know I can expect more hungry monkeys. Today I decide whether or not to feed the monkeys. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but today there is a choice. Thank you yoga.

Ross teaching a class.

Ross teaching a class.

Stine and Ross listen to Roshan intently...

Stine and Ross listen to Roshan intently…

Kristen and Hugh study up...

Kristen and Hugh and Josh study up…

Monkey waiting for class to start...

A monkey waiting for class to start…