Sunday, April 03, 2011

Pranayama, Chi, Breath

Pranayama, Chi, breath, all names for the life giving force. I often remind my students that life begins with a breath and ends with a breath. Think about that the next time you effortlessly take a breath. We don't think about the breath because it is so natural for most of us.

Yesterday I observed one of our four legged family members take his last breath and his soul leave his body. I was reminded again that our bodies, while of colossal importance, are only temporary "houses" for our souls. When you witness death, it is sad but also peaceful, especially if someone or something has been suffering. We had a wonderful life with our dog, Dizzy, and I don't regret letting him go even though we are grieving his loss.

I hope that the human race will progress to the point that we can allow each other a dignified death when the time comes, rather than when a hospital or doctor determines we are ready.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Before each of my classes, I put a lot of thought and preparation into what I plan to teach, and seldom do I teach what I've planned. It all depends on who shows up. It's a great way to practice pratyahara, non-attachment. It took me several years to learn to go with the flow, in other words, teach to who shows up and what their needs are. Another bonus is that I practice the sequence anyway, so I get a good workout. I selected the literal meaning from the link above. I highly recommend reading the full article to see how pratyhara applies in your life.

Pratyahara means literally "control of ahara," or "gaining mastery over external influences." "Ahara means "food," or "anything we take into ourselves from the outside." Prati is a preposition meaning "against" or "away."                               — Swami Shivananda

Monday, January 24, 2011

Showing Up!

Teachers never know how information given to students will be received. So, you can only imagine my delight when I received a call last night from my new student who came to class yesterday, and she was calling to tell me about some of the positive changes she experienced throughout the day yesterday. Her voice even sounded more confident just eight hours later, and I'm off the charts happy for her. I think she is recognizing that RA is a condition and not a life sentence!

As my favorite teacher once told me, "showing up" is the beginning of healing. Since the day we had a talk about showing up, I've discovered how many positive ways it applies in my life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I had a wonderful class today filled with teaching and learning opportunities.  I had 18 students and the range of experience was from brand new students, pregnant women, non-Iyengar teachers, and continuing students. One of the new students was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and is in a lot of pain. I remembered when I was first diagnosed with RA: the feeling of pain, fear, isolation, and hopelessness. As I reflect on my own experience, I am filled with compassion for this new student, and for everyone who suffers with chronic pain. It is hard to understand chronic pain unless you've lived with it, and certainly not something I would want anybody to understand because that would mean they live with chronic pain. I have found some good tips on a web site called The New Way RA.

I am full of gratitude for the career path that I have chosen because I know how much it has helped me live a happy, productive life, and I look forward to working with my new student to help her find some ways to manage her pain.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Santosa or Contentment

Our focus in class today was on santosa. As I read the description from Light on Yoga, the sentence that resonated with the class the most was, "There is contentment and tranquility when the flame of the spirit does not waver in the wind of desire." During our practice, we discovered what contentment in class is: asana, presence, breath, etc.

The final pose we did before savasana today was niralamba sarvangasana, unsupported whole body pose. I had each student look at the other students to decide if they needed more or less support for the shoulders. After looking at each others upper bodies, we determined that some needed more support and some less, based on the curvature in the neck. If there was less curve in the neck, more support was required. One student pointed out that it seemed it should be the opposite: if there was a natural healthy curve in the neck, then more support should be used to fill the space so the neck wouldn't flatten. It reminded me how important the explanation for sarvangasana is, and I must make it clear to students that we balance on the shoulders and not the cervical vertebrae. Therefore, students who tend to balance on the cervical vertebrae need more support because they are unable to draw the spine in enough to balance on the shoulders. I continue to learn from my students in every class and am grateful to them for their thoughtful questions.