Tag Archive: heart oriented posturing language

Signs Around Town (Excerpt)

When we do a yoga pose, it is an act of creation; asana is in its own way a dance form. Every time we practice, it is our choice whether to make a pose a full and deep expression of our embodiment or just a routine physical workout no matter how many times we have done it before.

So too, everything we do is in some sense a creative act. How we choose to express ourselves and what we make of our day–no matter that it is the same commute and work we may have done for years–is up to our own creative intention. What did you create today?

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


“Meeting for Discernment for Peace,” Bhavana, and Heart-Oriented Posturing Language

On the Friends Meeting of Washington list serve this week, there has been a fair amount of email exchanged about an upcoming “meeting for discernment for peace.”  Very roughly described, a meeting for discernment begins with a period of silent worship in which those present settle into the silence and surrender thought to allow the light of spirit to illuminate a specific subject of contemplation.  The subject of the meeting serves to enlighten both the individuals participating and to further both the business and spiritual state of the meeting as a whole.

As I read the emails and invited myself to contemplate the questions offered for the meeting (I will not be able to attend because I had previously committed to volunteer work), it led me to think not only about the topic under discernment, but about how similar it seems to me to the yoga practice of bhavana and how bhavana supports the Anusara teaching method of “heart-oriented posturing language.”

When we practice bhavana ,we invite the fullness of consciousness to illuminate ever deeper levels of understanding of particular teachings from the yoga texts or similar ideas.  It is similar to meditation in that we don’t try to think our way through the concept, but rest with it.  Bhavana  differs from meditation exactly because it is focused on the deepening of a particular concept rather than simply going into the space of meditation as an end in itself.

Although a meeting for discernment is practiced as a form of collective worship rather than an individual practice, it is much like bhavana, and I brought the Quaker method of resting in the light to reveal deeper insight regarding a concept when I first starting teaching Anusara yoga with its emphasis on having a class theme and using heart-oriented language to invite myself and students to experience a heart quality through asana practice.

The queries for contemplation at the meeting for discernment for peace, include the following:

What does it mean to “live in the virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of all war?”
How am I deepening my understanding of peace?
How am I living into this understanding?
How do I support others in following peace?
What can be most powerful about our practice on the mat is bringing what we learn in relationship to our body, mind, and emotions in attempting and achieving poses, off the mat.   As I will be doing myself this week in my own practice in support of my friends who will be attending the meeting for discernment, I invite you, as you are practicing at home after reading this, to observe with love, spaciousness, and humor how you react to certain classes of poses, efforts you make, moves you are able to do or not do with ease.  Where are you in conflict with yourself?  What are you doing to deepen your understanding of how to be at peace with your strengths and shortcomings?  How are you taking the observations on the mat into your daily life?  How do you and how can you better use what you learn to support others, to eliminate the causes of war, and to foster peace?

Should I Be In Alignment or Should I Relax Completely? (and Namah Shivayah)

For the first few years I was teaching, one season a year, I would have as my overall session theme the Anusara invocation (for the words written out, click on “invocation” in the menu bar above).  In so doing, I invited myself and others to contemplate at the heart level the meaning of each word, of why we were making the invocation, of how the invocation might inform not only our practice, but how we bring our practice off the mat and into our daily lives.  Each time I chant the invocation–and it has been hundreds of times now over the years I have been studying, practicing, and teaching Anusara yoga–I seek to invoke into my practice the deepest qualities of the heart that it represents.

Over the winter break, when I was preparing for this session, the invocation called to me.  I decided it was time to make it as a specific offering again.  Last week and this week, including in the restorative workshop offered at Willow Street Yoga last Saturday, I have been exploring namah shivayah from the first line.  Namah–which has the same verbal origins at the English word “name”–means to bow, to honor, to name.  It forms the basis of the greeting namaste–with the light in me, I bow to the light in you.  Sivayah here is our siva nature.  It is variously the light within, auspiciousness, spirit, divine nature, elemental goodness.

When I was practicing in preparation for teaching the week’s classes and the restorative workshop and contemplating (practicing bhavana on) namah shivayah, I thought about a question I often get when I teach restoratives:  “should I be maintaining the alignment principles or should I be relaxing completely?”  When I get the question phrased this way, I look the student straight in the eye and respond, “yes.”  I get a quizzical look; how could the answer be “yes” to an “either or” question?  The answer is “yes” because in each pose, we are seeking to embody the fullest expression of namah shivayah. Taking the time to make sure to be in alignment when setting up for a pose, moving into a pose, reaching the pinnacle of a pose, and then moving out of or dissolving a pose, is out of loving respect for your body and the energy that courses through your body.  We seek to be fully in alignment in all stages of each pose, not only to minimize the likelihood of being in pain or getting or aggravating an injury and to increase the likelihood of healing any existing injuries and expanding our capacity to feel free in our bodies, but also out of a profound respect and honor for the self, the teachings, and the practice.

Sometimes people think that focusing on getting the alignment just right is fussy or rigid and the antithesis of relaxation.  In the case of restoratives especially, everyone coming to the practice wants to be at peace and feel free of effort.  In the hunger to get to a place of relaxation, some hurry into the pose without honoring the alignment.  Oftentimes, it is the hurry to relax and the loss of attention to the details of alignment (of both the mind-body and the props) that leads to pain or discomfort in a pose that is meant to be held for a long time, as are restoratives.  When a student tells me that they are in pain in a particular posture, I invite the student to back off, set up the pose again, and far more often than not, all discomfort disappears, and the student is able to move into a blissful place.  The student then experiences for herself how much the alignment enables the surrender to the exquisite opening to siva and the blissful attributes of siva (satcitananda).

One of the reasons I find restoratives to be such a powerful practice is because they require such focused attention on alignment to enable full relaxation.  As such, they are a great way to understand the need for the perfect and simultaneous balance of effort (tapas) and surrender (ishvara pranadhana).  So the answer is “yes;” the answer is “nama shivayah.”  In everything we do, in every aspect of our practice on and off the mat, we want to be consciously in alignment.  We want to use all the knowledge that has been imparted by our teachers and experienced in our own practice as a way of honoring and naming and helping to enable an unceasing, simultaneous, and full surrender to our own siva nature.


“Inspiration Cards”

I adore having a library and will rarely say no to a philosophy text or a book about anatomy, therapeutics, or yoga methodology.  I am less interested in “self help” types of books or gadgets.  Every once and a while though, I come across something that truly supports my practice and my teaching.  When I first went to Inner Harmony to study with John Friend in mid-2003, there was an altar in the corner of the practice room, just at the entrance.  On the altar was a set of cards (a little smaller than 2″x2″).  Each card had a word in English, the devanagari, and the sanskrit of the word transliterated into our alphabet.  Following the lead of others who had been to Inner Harmony for previous retreats, at the beginning of the day, I would select a card and think about how the word on the card might inform my practice and intention.

At that time, I was first starting to use Anusara’s “heart-oriented posturing language,” using a theme for class that was designed to lead the students into a deeper place in their hearts through their asana practice, and I found that the cards were an excellent source of inspiration.

Even though I first bought the cards in 2003 to serve as a basic class preparation aid, I have continued to use them regularly for my own practice and contemplation.  Often, the word that appears resonates with something that is of immediate concern.  The day after Becky (my beloved cat who lived to be 21) left her body last year, I went to the set of cards, which I’d not used in a couple of months.  The card that I selected at random (like picking a card from a deck when someone is showing you card tricks) was moksha — liberation, and in classic yoga, literally liberation from the body.  I was moved to tears.

This summer, with myself and my students, we have been working on manifesting intention.  As I’ve blogged about previously, I invited us to think about an intention.  Whether an intention is something basic with the body or mind or something more universal, whenever we seek to manifest an intention, ultimately it is because we want to be more blissful, more open, and more at peace with ourselves and others.  The question becomes how do we use our practice both to discover an intention and to seek to make it manifest.  To help me with the contemplation of this question, I have gone again to the cards as a source of inspiration.  This week, the card that turned itself up was racanatmakata — creativity.  “Perfect,” I thought, when I saw the word.  Creativity is a human reflection of the wild, pulsing, diverse and ever-extraordinary dance of all being.  When we open to our creative impulse to allow things to unfold, we can witness the fullest range of possibilities and the variety of paths to manifestation.