The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Salt of the Path

Assignment at the bottom of this page

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about teaching at the Yoga Path, is the community that has formed around it. People of various backgrounds show up for different reasons to take a yoga class. There is usually a tumult of chatter while students set out mats and gather props. When someone shows up for the first time, I don’t worry much about trying to make them comfortable, because I know veteran students will welcome them, show them how to set up, and make them feel at home. Sometimes I worry about the introverts (this practice seems to draw the introverts) who possibly might be overwhelmed by the overtures, thus pulling them away from their comfortable nest of anonymity. Yet this welcoming, inviting atmosphere prevails through the entire class and is consistent in every class.

While I was fortunate to come from such an environment in my training with Margaret Hahn at the Omaha Yoga School, this is not, to my experience, typical of most yoga schools. Usually in other spaces, one is consigned to the space of your mat. Those who know one another huddle up at the beginning of class and head out after for chai and tea. I don’t mean to sound critical of other schools, but the culture at the Path is something altogether unique.

We never set out to create this atmosphere. In fact if I had tried to do it, when starting the Path, I wouldn’t have had the foggiest notion of how to begin. Or to even have envisioned what it could look like. Yet somehow it evolved into a community beyond all expectations. Maybe it’s the narrow confined hallway of a studio where we practice. Maybe it’s the tea we share after the asanā practice to discuss some aspect of yogic philosophy. Maybe it’s because many students are literally family members who bring other friends and family to this practice.

In Buddhism there is the word sangha. The easy translation is community, but this doesn’t quite capture the essence of the term. Thich Nhat Hanh describes a sangha as a community of friends practicing the dharma (teachings) together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. But also I’ve slowly learned that collectively we augment our practice in a way that we could never do alone.

Another way to look at it come from the New Testament, Matthew 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” In this passage, Jesus describes his followers as salt. Food needs salt in order to be tasty. Life needs flavor to foster understanding, compassion and harmony. That’s why we come together in community.

ASSIGNMENT: In this time of distancing, where we need to be physically apart, I’ve enclosed this video. It reminds me of the Yoga Path sangha. Your assignment is to take six minutes and watch it, and know that you are part of this community.

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, ,

Shamatā / Stopping

One of you emailed to ask if there could be a discussion about shamatā, the first wing of meditation. Shamatā as you all recall from the Winter session was practice of stopping, pausing.

Given the current situation in our world right now, this practice seems almost to have been enforced upon us. Some of us have stopped going to work, our kids are out of school, we’ve stopped going to movies, shopping, and going out to eat.

You could literally stop what you are doing, set it down for now and let yourself just be, rather than do. But it was also giving yourself space and time to just realize what is happening in the present moment. You don’t even have to stop what you are doing, you just allow your perception to shift to notice what you are doing. Instead of doing a thing, you let yourself notice this thing you are doing. This morning I was making breakfast when I “stopped” long enough, just for a moment to realize I was making breakfast. I didn’t stop what I was doing, I just noticed for a moment, there was this act of making breakfast. And that I was the actor.

It is not usually a big deal to “stop” in this way. Some might say I do it all the time. But actually most of the time we stop to do something else or to think about something else, or to remember something we forgot or need to do. We do deliberately stop, pause to see what is occurring right now. When we do though, the texture of the experience changes. Usually not dramatically, but subtly.

You could even call it sublime. You take a breath, see the activity in a less frenetic way. There is less possessiveness to the outcome of the action along with a feeling of spaciousness, sometimes even wonder. All just from “stopping” shamatā.

“When we learn to stop and be truly alive in the present moment, we are in touch with what’s going on within and around us” Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, ,

How are Sun Salutations going?

“Asana, one of yoga’s most significant “tools,” help the sincere student develop physically and spiritually. The ancient sages believed that if you put your whole heart into your practice, you become master of circumstances and time.” BKS Iyengar

You knew I was going to ask. Now that classes are suspended, I can’t bug you in person before each class as to how’s it going with your 108 sun salutations? But now that we’re all distancing ourselves and settling into the new normal that is our life, the practice of yoga is now available in new ways. Surya Namaskara is the ideal entrance into a daily practice.

For those of you unfamiliar to the Yoga Path history, every March students and teachers at the Path commit to do 108 sun salutations for the month. The shared endeavor has been nicknamed “March Madness.” Some students talk about this event as early as the beginning of the year. Others avoid the subject with a quiet dread and contempt. Some rebel at the idea of keeping score, while the more analytic types, map out their plan to complete the goal on or before deadline.

I don’t remember how this tradition even got started, but was surprised and gratified to discover that, for some, they actually took their practice home. We created a card to track our progress with 108 squares. Some would even come to class earlier than usual to knock off a few before class started. One of my students reported that she would do a couple of them every evening, during the commercials while watching the news.

First completed card 2020

Some resist this regimenting of yoga with all their might. Some just don’t like the sequence. But whatever gets people practicing on their own, to me, is a good thing.

I usually encourage students to use surya namaskara as a starting point for practicing. Don’t worry about the amount you do, but how it feels while doing them. Sometimes the first couple don’t seem very worthwhile, like the beginning of run, but let yourself settle into the flow of the sequence. Or just start with a salutation, but leave it behind if the body needs to do other asanas.

Here is a sheet to see how we practice surya namaskara at the Yoga Path. However, as my teacher Margaret Hahn use to say, “the sun salutation is like potato salad. Everyone has their own recipe.: Just Google surya namaskara / sun salutations to get a couple of thousand variations on a theme. Below is pictured the Iyengar version from the Preliminary Course book.

Just practice it for yourself and for the others in your life. It can do nothing but good! You still have 10 days to go.

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized, Virtual Yoga, , , , ,

De-stressing pose

YOU CAN USE YOUR asana practice as a tool to de-stress physically, physiologically, and psychologically, body, mind, and spirit. Creating a position that allows for deep. deliberate diaphragmatic breathing will calm and relax the autonomic nervous system. The reclining twist shown in this picture will provide relief to agitated adrenal glands, the source of much of the stress hormones in the body.

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Jathara Parivartanasana

Lay on your back with you arms straight out from the shoulders. Palms up or down depending on what feels most grounded. Tuck you knees and drop you legs to the right. If it’s hard on the low back, tuck the knees more and/or leave you feet on the floor when going to the side. As you twist to the right, bring your attention to your left mid-band along the bottom of you rib cage. Find the spot above you left kidney where you feel the physical movement of you breath. Relax and hold this from 2 – 5 minute, working with your breath and body. Don’t twist the neck. Gaze up and yes maybe even close your eyes. When you come out, bring up one leg at a time. Do the other side.

Repeat as often as you want. But if you find yourself agitated before doing this, do some active standing poses to get you warmed up and your heart going. (Maybe even some sun saluttations). This gentle twist floods the adrenals–located on top of the kidney–with nourishment and opens them to the breath.

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, , , , ,

Tea on the Brain

Been a long time since making an entry in this category — tea, but I always marvel at the relationship of tea in Buddhism, Yoga, and meditation. Now here is a neurological explain for human predilection for Camellia sinensis.

Filed under: Tea, , , , ,

Sitting Spaces

Students at the Yoga Path have been invited to share images of the meditation space in their homes. Here are some of the initial entries.

“One of the most important ways you can transform your home space is to make a place to sit. Creating a peaceful sitting area can transform your whole house. This also an important way to support your meditation practice. If we sit in the same place each day, it takes us less and less time to remember to stop and return to our breath. Here, in this place, our bodies and minds can help each other relax”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Stories, , , ,

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