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Deepening Practice

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Send us your stories on Deepeing One’s Practice.  What deepens your practice?  What is your practice?

Recently I found myself in an early morning outdoor yoga class high on the shoulder of a mountain in a remote corner of southern Utah. Our classroom was a meadow in the shade of a stand of aspen trees. As a longtime student of literature, I was captivated from the day I began practicing yoga by the metaphors that are woven into the instructions for each asana. We are continually enjoined by our teachers to root our feet into the earth, to lift our gaze to the sky, to feel our bodies sway as we stand in tree pose, or to hear ujjayi breath as the sound of the ocean. In this particular outdoor practice, I was struck by the passage from the metaphoric to the literal: as I attempted to root all four corners of my feet into the earth, I felt not only the energetic stability of the ground, but also its unevenness, the unfamiliar bumps under my toes and arches that prompted me to accommodate my feet to the earth in new ways. As I sought my balance in vrikshasana, I fastened my eyes on a tree in the middle distance, a single spruce anchored tenaciously to a rocky canyon wall. As I lifted my eyes to the sky, I saw the crystalline blue through a shadowed mosaic of leaves. A local dog joined us partway through the class, occasionally stretching luxuriously from head to tail in a canine version of downward facing dog, rolling over onto her back with paws in the air for savasana. Our teacher decided that because the July Utah sun was already so strong, it would be prudent for us to practice moon salutes instead of sun salutations, a reminder of the many ways that the fierce summer heat of this land prompts us to modify our yoga and our lives. Practicing yoga in the open air returns us to the literal roots of this ancient practice, evoking how the forms of yoga mimic the natural shapes of the world around us, whether through the geometry of form or through vegetable and animal figures. Read the rest of this entry

Evolving Yoga

Yoga has a meant a number of different things to me over the years. It evolves with each distinct moment in my life taking shape in the way that is needed at that time. These days I have most of my profound yoga moments with my two-year-old son Izzy. Our journey began when Izzy was a curious one-year-old who started copying me while I practiced in my living room.  He would try to figure out how to make his body move in specific ways but the only pose that stuck was downward facing dog. I think he likes this pose because he can see the world through his legs upside down. I can tell that he enjoys this pose by the giggling that ensues every time we do the pose together. The only time I thought he would shelve his relationship with yoga was when he misjudged his floor to leg ratio and whacked his head on the hardwood. His first yoga injury ended with him in tears and the kids yoga cards thrown into the fireplace.

The next time yoga played a role with Izzy was during the summer while driving two hours to my in-laws’ cottage. Anyone who has a one and a half year old knows that driving trips at this stage can be tortuous. The adult in the front passenger seat ends up riding backwards while feeding, entertaining, or just picking up toys or pacifiers that fall down behind the seat. The difficulty with one particular drive was that I was alone with Izzy since my husband had to stay in the city to work. The drive began earnestly enough with a few requests for snacks which I had carefully placed within reaching distance to toss back to him at his request. Then we moved to music which lasted for the first few bars of each song before Izzy got bored and increasingly antsy. Then I just sang for him for a while. This was its own cruel version of entertainment. Read the rest of this entry

The Whale

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The Whale… Remember the front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, about a female humpback whale who had
become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was
weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to
struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope
wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her
mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for
help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently
around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.
And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude. I pass this on to you, in the same spirit.

Thanks Gregg Braden for this story.

Fall…

Spring is traditionally treated as the time for new beginnings but to me, fall feels like a time to start. To restart? This is the season where the metaphorical and literal fruits of our harvest come in. Taking stock and stockpiling, we are grateful.

Our schools open their doors and our minds open to ideas available once again for us, taking our seat in a long line of the us before now, to ponder and discuss. Friends, mentors and colleagues are back in our day to day lives. Continuity of shared exploration brings possibilities for deep work to begin.

We return from our travels – enriched, rejuvenated, grateful for the comforts of our own nests. Old skin is shed. New appreciation for what we have, for what we have built, develops out of contrasts we discovered in the worlds of those we visited. Having taken ourselves out of our comfort zones, we re-engage with our perennial questions with insight kindled from the fires of unfamiliar experiences. Read the rest of this entry

My yoga practice deepens…

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My yoga practice deepens every time I connect to my awareness of yoga living in my body as I am going through my day. When I pay attention to my breath as I sit in the car in traffic, I deepen my practice. When I sit on my front porch after a long day and close my eyes to focus my attention to the present moment, I deepen my practice. When I really listen to those around me and open my heart to connections and community, I deepen my practice. When I relate to my son from a place of openness and receptivity, I deepen my practice. When I catch myself thinking in ways that are judgmental and critical towards myself and others, I deepen my practice. When I come to class and practice asana on my mat with my community, I deepen my practice. When I give love to others more freely, I deepen my practice. When I trust the idea that there is a larger universal force that guides me and protects me, I deepen my yoga practice.

~ Elisse Peltz, Peer Mentor