Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yoda was a yogi

"Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try."  Yoda was definitely a yogi - this is great advice for pranayama.

Other insights from the past 30 days include previous glimpses but are useful reminders to myself. These should be mantras for my pranayama practise:
  • Do not overthink! The brain is not the mind is not the breath.
  • You do not ‘do’ pranayama. Pranayama does you.
Over the last month, more than 50 hours of yoga during the Spring Sadhana, the weekend intensive, and the pranayama workshop, have helped me feel parts of my body become stronger, more flexible and accessible. 
“After the perfection of asana comes the cessation of the movements of inspiration and expiration called pranayama,” says Patanjali in his sutras.  
Despite my best efforts I don’t think I will ever reach perfection, on this planet, in this lifetime.
Still, it was fitting to end the sadhana with a pranayama clinic, including some practical tips to incorporate into every day. I learned a neat blanket roll to help me during pranayama when lying down (kind of an inverted ionic column shape)... I also especially appreciated that we finished with a seated posture to reinforce that mindful breaths can be taken anywhere, anytime.
By concentration on the breath, the mind and body can focus on the present. Virtually every meditation technique, whether Buddhist, yogic or Western, uses breath in some way. The breath is a natural focal point for the mind; no external point is necessary. No matter what situation is at hand, one can center one’s mind in the present by focusing on the movement of the breath. Like an ever-present guru, the breath reminds us of the here-and-now.
Judith Lassiter, What is Pranayama

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A little romance...

Again, by coincidence, my book clubs and personal reading have clumped around a common theme this month.


A four letter word, after all. And so many trillions of words spoken, sung and written on the subject.

What is love = more than a billion definitions on a google search.

The novels were all very different from each other but tell stories where the central characters overcome obstacles to win love, lose love and somehow gain it back. 

Come to think of it, in all four of these books people are redeemed or saved by love. They grow, they become heroic, they become less self-centered. They are motivated to act for the good of their beloved even when it causes them loss or pain.

Romantic love is all about the self, whereas true love (and its becoming), is more about the 'other' or the greater good. Instinct vs. spirituality. These books have varying measures of both kinds of love.

Longbourn,  Jo Baker
Historical fiction (BPYC Book club)
What a great premise to tell the story of parallel lives. The servants to Jane Austin's famous Bennet family must deal with the dirty details that go unmentioned in Pride and Prejudice. The mud on petticoats, the slop in chamberpots, lascivious lords, wars, bastards, hidden heirs.  Although Sarah and James are the main romantic storyline, the book mentions other marriages and affairs that helped keep the plot engaging.

Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson
Fantasy/tragedy (Book Babes)
A porn star and cocaine addict drives his car off a cliff and suffers horrible injuries that put him in the burn hospital, where he meets the mysterious Marianne Engel. She's a regular patient in the psychiatric ward who is also a sculptor. She also tells him stories of their part lives together. The meet repeatedly over centuries, across continents. The love stories, and the main story, involve incredible suffering, unrequited love and loss. The ending is not a happy one. Or is it?

Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips
Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Hermes and others all share a dilapidated house in London. Their powers on the wane because people don't believe in them anymore. The dysfunctional 'family' cross paths with two mortals, Alice and Neil, as their love story unfolds. Neil goes to Hades and back to win his love. And they all live happily after.  The movie based on the book was released in 2013 with a star-studded cast to underwhelming reviews.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
Popular fiction
This romantic comedy will likely make a wonderful film. The lead character, Don Tillman, somehow stays endearing despite being ignorant of the effects his actions have on others. The fact he suffers a mild form of Asperger's syndrome and remains unaware of it may be part of the reason readers are quick to forgive. Although he might not show his love in typical ways, Don does grow into becoming his better self. I can see why this became one of Bill Gate's favourite novels.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Sadhana - 2015

Back in the yoga studio for 30 straight early mornings to welcome in the spring.

We have been doing a lot of poses to help open the chest and lift the heart. It lifts my spirits and energizes me, doing many of these poses. Others are a bit more challenging.

This sadhana I added a bit of a booster by including an intensive - an extra workshop Friday to Sunday.  I jokingly said to someone that I wanted to know what the intensive would be before I signed up - if we were going to focus on twists I would take a pass. I signed up, and yes, well, twists it is. Which includes my nemisis, parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle). Also Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose). And seated twists. Twist, twist, twist and twist again.

Let's twist again, like we did last sadhana. ha ha ha. 

Eye on the clock. After the first hour and a half it felt like the class should be finished, because that is the length of time of the daily morning practise. How much longer? Well, two and a half hours to go. Might as well forget about the time. What is it about twists anyway? Why don't I like them? Do they not like me? O just be quiet and do. Marlene is saying, "Don't twist with your spine, twist with your para-spinals...  start the twist from the lower outer hip." So I pay attention, and the twists seem to become more accessible. Still, I leave feeling exhausted.

The next day's session is filled with poses I like. The strong inversions. Back bends. Pranayama. The work I have done the day before is helping me move more freely. My shoulders are actually listening to me when I ask them to roll back, or to relax, or to be firm. I leave feeling exhilarated. Refreshed.

When friends ask about the kind of yoga I do I explain about the concentration Iyengar brings to alignment. You think so hard about your outer foot or right shoulder you don't have time to listen to the chatter of your monkey mind. You try to cast your mind-fullness to places it doesn't normally travel. And when the practise is going well it seems your mind is cooperating to reach all the parts of your body. And when it is going really, really well, your mind seem to spread beyond its limits, to something beyond.

Serotonin? Neuroplasticity? All this, and something more.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cèilidh Ukulele

Seven ukulele players took to the stage at Friday's Open Mic St. Patrick's Day party. Cheryl, Laura, Barb, Laura, Rob, Don... and me, strummin' my red uke in my green Hawaiian shirt.

BPYC was packed. Probably 30 different people got up to perform that night. Our group was up just after the washboard band and before the Irish sing-along. When we played the third song, Sail Away, most of the musicians came up 'on stage' with us, and there were almost as many people playing as there were in the audience.

I've never played an instrument in front of a crowd before, and it was exhilarating, although I admit I kept my eyes on the music and stood far from the mic. We didn't sound half-bad, thanks to some of the more experienced players and audience participation on the vocals.

Making music with a group vs. listening or leaving it up to other people to entertain has a whole different feel. That night seemed the perfect time, place and community for enjoying the experience. We may also have inspired some people there to go out and pick up ukuleles of their own. Perfect instruments for the boat... small and portable. It could be a very musical summer on the lake!

Knowing we were committed to play that night kept me motivated to practice a little bit every day, and I'd like to keep up the habit. I read somewhere that 15 minutes daily is probably better than two hours once a week. I think I can commit to 15 minutes.

Maybe I can add this one to my repertoire: