I left Brooklyn and arrived in Vancouver yesterday, to teach
a weekend Core Strength Immersion. In five days, I'll fly to Toronto for the
I'm not a fan of being away from home for long periods of
time, but the smell of freshly cut grass (lawns! How quaint!), the view of the
Vancouver mountains, the cherry blossoms,and the fireplace in my hotel room
have almost made up for it.
No matter where I travel, the students meeting me on the mat
all have one thing in common: they're trying to make a change. Whether it's
learning something new, improving their strength and flexibility, accessing
more of their inherent centeredness or a combination of these, no one I've met
shows up to a yoga intensive with a burning desire to stay exactly the same.
After all--shift happens. We're all in constant state of
flux, from our cells and thoughts, to our outer environments and
relationships. Your experience is
as transient as a hobo on a country railcar. The question is--in what direction
do you want that train to roll?
If you allow life, and the external opinions, requests, and
demands of others take you where it wants to go, you'll spend a lifetime
getting steamrolled from the outside. Enough of that, and your heart will feel
as flat as a pancake. If you want to fill your mind, body and spirit with the
goodness of inspiration and transformation, you've got to do one thing for
Get to work. Remember: intention without action is just a
beautiful pipe dream.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers clue about how to
change things according to your intentions. It begins with ishvara pranidhana.
This word literally means "love of God," but like so many other concepts in the
yoga teachings, it has alternate meanings. Ishvara pranidhana can also mean "to
take your highest action." Have you noticed that in any moment when you're
called to make a choice --Do I go to yoga class or skip it? Should I yell at my
partner or take a time out? Should I take the job I hate for more money or the
one I love for less?--there is usually one that will serve your highest good,
and one that will, well...not so much?
When you take action that helps you express who you most
want to be in the present, it will keep you on the road toward goals you want
to reach later. I'm certain of this, because it's taken me from a dysfunctional
practice and stressful life to inner strength and outer abundance. It will work
for you too--but you have to work it.
Yoga is not a spectator sport. It asks for your full and
unflinching participation. It can be scary, constantly facing down the unknown,
but if you can go there--whether by hugging your thighs more in that Crow Pose,
taking a deep breath when you want to say something hurtful, or choosing the
high road in a situation where your habits and fears conspire to make the low
one an attractive option--all your hard work will absolutely pay off.
In fact, the beauty of yoga is that it pays its dividends
instantly, with a rush of prana, or empowerment, and the personal satisfaction
of becoming more of yourself in the moments that you focus, intend...and try. This is the offer of Kriya Yoga, the yoga of action,
and it's something that we can practice both on and off our mats.
After some ginger-green tea (instead of my old nemesis:
coffee!), I'm off to teach this afternoon with a group of teachers, most of
whom I've never met. I will take my own advice, and instead of holding back,
I'll fully share from my spirit, which is always a vulnerable process. I'll let
you know what happened in my next post!
Core Question: What
actions can you take, this week, to start making your intentions a reality?
What has held you back before this?
Core Pose: Earth to Sky Triangle
Here's a pose I use to teach my students the power of
conscious action as they build Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). It can help you
access deeper core strength and maintain a safe stretching point by building
the posture from the ground up:
Step 1: Come into a Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose)
and place your bottom fingertips beside the outer foot. (Beginners: Bring your
forearm on your knee.) Draw your navel in and up towards your chest as you
lengthen the tailbone. Now lift your free arm to the sky.
Wrap your top arm around your back in a half bind, and press
the hand into your back ribs or palm into the thigh. Roll your top shoulder
open, then look down to stretch the neck and shoulder.
Step 2: Keep everything you've created, but begin to move
your front hip crease back and ground into the big toe mound to straighten your
leg (Beginners: Place the bottom hand on the thigh, shin, or ankle). If you lose your core connection, bend
the knee slightly and play the edge of integration and expression here.
Step 3: Unfurl your top, bound arm into full Triangle Pose.
Now you've removed the obstacles (tight shoulders, compressed hip joints, a
stiff neck) to your pose, let the freedom of your energy move through your
entire body with each breath.