Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's been a while!

As some of you may have noticed, I have taken a short hiatus from blogging. This was due in part by an extremely office job/yoga schedule, but I am going to try to post more often, for the tens or even dozens of people who may read this from time to time.

"Real love is only possible whe you see everything as yourself." -Sri Swami Satchitananda

Delving in to the Sutras a bit, Sutra 1.24 says: "The Divine Conscioness is self-effulgent like the sun". So, if the Divine is always in our hearts, why do we need to call it forth at all? The reason is that many of us became stuck and stagnant, having closed off our heart, from ourselves and eachother. So, as we are able to open up the hearth through practice, our Divine self is revealed. The true miracle here is that if we are able to open our hearts like this, overcoming self-doubt or self-judgement will happen naturally, over a course of time.

And down the road in the future, those once-intense feelings of self doubt will simply begin to become more comfortable in your own skin. This is an amazing transformation. Over time, you will feel grounded, at peace, and able to deal with any wobbles life may through at you. As I'm fond of saying in class, life is never going to stop throwing wobbles, some big, some small, but what we can learn to do on and off the mat is to stay very calm, tap into our inner resources of our inner-balance and equinimity, and BREATHE! .......knowing that wobbles, intensity, and firey feelings in the muscles are not a hinderence to your practice, but a gift, not only serving to strenghten you physically, but also mentally.

Sutra 11.7: "Excessive fondness for fleeting pleasures (Raga) causes longing."
Sutra 11.8: "Excessive avoidance of unpleasant experiences (Dvesa) causes pain."
Don't let these sutras put you off. All they are saying has been said many times before by very wise people - "Everything is fine in moderation." In yoga, we try to figure out how to walk the middle path. Being an Ashtangi or yoga practitioner should not create more stress, tension, and self-comparison to yourself and others. If this is where you're at, take a nice deep breath and remember that things are always impermanent & will shift for you.

I know it's incredibly hard to drop judgement sometimes, but like everyhing else it's a learned skill. Finding a little detatchment from our ego-dramas does not me we devalue ourselves or our emotions. Instead, it means we are doing more to help them, but not feeding more negative energy into the system. Over time, we can learn to be far more compassionate towards others, including ourselves (meaing ourselves as individuals, as well as the entire human race).

Ashtanga yoga is a highly individualized learning process for each individial person, and it's important to remember that, when you're feeling frustrated, those feelings will pass. I promise. Please always: Work compassionately with your body, always being gentle instead of forceful. If you ever want to talk about frustrations, or any other topic, you can find me at the studio, email me at, or give me a call at 734.846.4366. I am always very happy and honored to chat and assist, so please don't hesitate to get in touch. Namaste, everyone, and have a safe and happy up-coming Halloween!!
Blessings to all beings. -L

Sutra 11.15 "Intuitive wisdom empowers us to expand beyond the constantly changing natural world ("the seen") to the abode of the Divine Spirit (The Seer).

"When we are able to know the self, all else is known." - Bhagavad-Gita

Monday, October 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter - if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental, and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the True Self."

-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruij)

"There is no need to be overwhelmed by the many dimensions of astanga; just come in and take from it what you want."

Friday, October 17, 2008


After a long wait we can finally say the move is now here! Starting Monday, October 20th all classes will be held at the new A2yoga location; 2030 Commerce blvd.

Directions starting at the old A2yoga building to the new one are:
1. Start out going SOUTHEAST on W. STADIUM BLVD toward the football stadium
3. Stay STRAIGHT to go onto COMMERCE BLVD.
4. End at 2030 Commerce Blvd

The studio will be on your right hand side.

As a notice to everyone: We are technically not allowed to park in the large parking lot right in front of the studio. That lot belongs to the post office, and all people parked there are at risk of being towed. There are however plenty of parking spots in front of the building and at the side, as well as up and down commerce blvd, in front of the apartments. So please note if you do choose to park in the post office parking lot you do it at your own risk.

Hope to see you there soon!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quotes of the Day, and some commentary

Before you've practiced, the theory is useless. After you've practiced, the theory is obvious.
-David Williams, Ashtanga teacher

This calm steadiness of the senses is called yoga. [Then] one should become watchful, because yoga comes and goes. -Katha Upanishad

...that's right, our yoga fluctuates, just like everything else in this universe. So if fluctuation is to be expected, then it is no problem. The only problem arises when you are not able to simply observe this fluctuation. Do not give in to the society-encouraged temptation to judge yourself. You are not "good" or "bad" as a result of your practice. And your practice itself is not "good" or "bad" at any time. It simply is what it is. It may be waxing, it may be waning, it may feel contsistant for the time being, but our most important lesson is in learning to drop judgement and the ego. One of the first places we can try to do this is with our practice itself. If you find there is a part of yourself that can't stop judging, that's ok. It's a habit that's hard to break, & as I said, we don't get much encouragement from society. Try your best to accept the judgemental part of you without judging it! Sound like a paradox? It's not. As humans, we are more like a small city than a single individual. We all have many different aspects to us, some even hidden to us at times. What we want is for the Non-judgmental Observer to be in charge of this boisterous city, rather than leaving the Ego and the Judging Mind in control. Be aware that the Ego and the Judging Mind will probably not like this shift in power. They will complain. Learn to recognize their voices so you can respond with compassionate meditation, rather than Ego-based actions & thoughts. Over time, as you learn to reside with the Non-judgmental Observer at the helm, you will be able to deal gently and compassionately with anything that arises.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Yoga Abs

Yesterday I posted a nice long post about yoga and the abdominal muscles, and it started to get a little too long & unwieldy. So here's the second Yoga Abs installment; scroll down a bit if you missed the first.

I said we'd talk about rotations in regards to the abs. Rotational asanas like Revolved Triangle or Revolved Side Angle engage the internal and external obliques, which are key muscles for developing a strong abdominal wall. The obliques also stabilize your spine when you rotate the trunk and pelvis. For example, when you kick a ball, the obliques rotate your pelvis. When you throw a ball, the obliques pull your shoulder around. These muscles also stabilize your vertebrae to maintain spinal alignment when you lift heavy weights. Our center of gravity lies just below the navel.

The transversus abdominus also plays an important role in maintaining a toned abdominal wall. You engage this muscle when coughing, sneezing, or exhaling forcibly. Unlike the other three abdominal muscles, the transversus doesn't move your spine. We use it a lot when working with the breath. To really get a sense of contracting this muscle, try this: Rest your hands on your thighs. Take a deep inhale, then exhale completely while contracting your abdomen up & in to expel the last bit of air from your lungs. Then, without drawing in any new air, begin counting out loud: "One, two"...etc. You will feel your transversus cinching around your waist tightly, like a drawstring. Before the lack of oxygen becomes uncomfortable, relax your belly and gently draw the breath in again. The transversus is what we use to maintain Uddiyana Bandha (your "Flying Up" Abdominal Energy Lock).

Breathing with the belly - If you breathe mostly by using the rib cage muscles, without using the diaphragm's power, you're limiting your breath. And if your abdominal muscles don't release, your diaphragm can't descend fully. That's why yogis balance abdominal strength with flexibility. Remember that deep, diaphragmatic breathing does not mean pushing your belly out deliberately. Full belly breathing just requires a naturally alternating engagement and release. To make sure you are practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing, first engage the abdomen in a complete exhalation, then allow your lungs to fill up naturally, relax the abdomen, but try not to push it outward. Observe the flow from the lungs to the belly, back and forth. Lay on your back in Savasana (Relaxation or Corpse Pose), breathe slowly and deliberately, feeling the strength of your inner core as your obliques and deep transversus muscles compress, expelling the air from your lungs completely. Then take joy in the flow of oxygen & prana that fills your chest as these muscles release, creating space for prana to flow into your heart center like water flowing into an ocean. Observe without criticism. Imagine your abdominal cavity as the container of your deepest wisdom, and feel the energy at your navel radiating outward throughout your body. Breathe.

Stretching out those abdominal muscles after working them is important. Backbends such as Supported Bridge or Up Bow are helpful, as are poses such as Up Dog and any other asanas that lengthen the front of the body. If you feel too much tightness or any pinching in the lower back, this is due to the low back being used as a hinge, instead of distributing the arch evenly througout the spine. So remember, the low back is not a hinge! And keep the butt muscles engaged to protect it.

In many healing and mystical traditions, the belly is seen as an important center of energy and consciousness. Tantra yoga sometimes depicts the navel as the home of rajas, or solar energy. In Tantric practice, the yogi stirs up rajas in the belly by using the breath, helping to create a "divine body" filled with prana. This is partly why Indian gods are often shown with large bellies. In Tai Chi, the lower abdomen is designated as a reservoir of energy. If you're not into esoterics, consider the research of Michael Gershon, M.D. "You have more nerve cells in the gut than you do in the combined remainder of the peripheral nervous system," Gershon says. Gershon is the chair of the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and he says he's sure that our thoughts and emotions are influenced by our gut. Gershon came to this fascinating conclusion through his research on serotonin, an important brain chemical many of us know of in relation to mood stability. It turns out it also plays a role in the bowel. Operating independently from the brain, a giant nervous system that Gershon calls the "second brain" works silently in the abdomen. Gershon explains that this belly-brain, scientifically known as the enteric nervous system, doesn't "think" in the cognitive sense—but it continually affects our thinking. "If there isn't smoothness and bliss going up to the brain in the head from the one in the gut, the brain in the head can't function," Gershon says. So if we keep our tension, unhappiness, nervousness, etc. trapped in the belly, or if we don't make peace with our belly as it is, we are interfering with our own ability to feel mentally at peace.

Throughout practice, we'll continue to strengthen the abs while keeping them supple, and more importantly, really understand which muscles we're working with internally. Focusing on the belly during practice is a great gage of how things are going. Is there room for the breath? Are you able to maintain Uddiyana Bandha? Keep observing without judging. As you tap into this power center over time, it will vastly expand both your mental and physical practice.

Quote of the Day

"Some say the glass is half empty.
I say who gave you a glass in the first place? Is it not a gift?"
-Seth Bernard