REJECT! FINDING OUT WHAT’S REALLY POSSIBLE

I love listening to TED talks. I especially love searching topics I’m pretty sure none of those dizzyingly fabulous, uniformly successful speakers have anything to say about. So the other day I caught myself searching “Failure.” A taboo subject in America in general, the land of the overnight and over-the- moon success story, the place where super models get spotted on street corners and anyone can get famous for doing nothing on reality TV.

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YOGA TEACHER TRAINING: FAQ

Students say/ask the darndest things! Here’s a brief sampling, with some suggestions for appropriate responses:

1. Why do we have to chant in Sanskrit?

A: Sanskrit was created by sages who believed that certain sounds generate “good vibrations” in the chanter. Specifically, they were fond of “s” and “sh” and “ay” and “ah” sounds, among others.

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Yoga Teacher Training: "Nevers!"

Most yoga teacher training courses are full of good advice on what to do in your classroom, but they can be a little short on the don’ts. Not sure why. Maybe teacher trainers are reluctant to preempt new teachers’ creativity by setting limits. Or maybe they’re embarrassed to admit the dumb things they’ve done and had to learn the hard way. In that spirit, I’m offering a list of things I hope I’ll never do again when teaching. I hope it spares all teachers and students going forward!

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THE OTHER 23 HOURS: STAND TALL

Hopefully in your yoga classes, you are learning something about how to move and carry your body in healthier ways. Good teachers give specific alignment instructions to guide you into your best form.

Thing is, many students don’t realize that they’re also supposed to be applying those postural cues the rest of the day. That’s the whole point of my Everyday (and Every Night) Yoga video series, which will help you to type, drive, and sleep with minimal damage to your body. Honestly, I see people walking down the sidewalks of New York, jogging by the side of the road, or strolling down the beach in such scary bad form that I want to yell out, “Please, Stop! You’re wrecking your body!”

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Injury Clinic: Knee Pain

NO MORE KNEE PAIN: 3 STEPS TO HEAL OR PREVENT FOR A LIFETIME!

Your knees are the most vulnerable joints in your body. They take all the wear and tear of moving, running, walking, standing when your hips and/or feet are not where they should be.  If your knees don’t “track” well, meaning they’re not well lined up over your ankles with your kneecaps pointing forward like the headlights on a car, you’re on your way to damaging the cartilage (meniscus) that pads the bones above and below your knee. And that stuff doesn’t repair. Not good!

The good news? 3 simple actions can make a

huge

difference in healing old injuries and preventing new ones. And you don’t need a yoga mat, special clothes, extra time—or surgery! So here goes:

1. WHAT TO DO:

First have a look at your knees in a full-length mirror with your joints “locked.” Do your knees bow in or out (narrower or wider than your ankles)? Do they rotate in or out? That’s your inborn pattern. Now, set your feet parallel, bend your knees, and track them right over your ankles, kneecaps straight ahead.

Then slowly straighten the knees

without locking

. Stand this way all the time. Yes, it’s hard!

WHY IT WORKS:

You are now using your muscles to support your knee joints and take the load off your cartilage—which, remember, doesn’t repair. One of my doorman had knee surgery at 40 from standing with locked joints on hard floors all day.

2. WHAT TO DO:

Practice standing barefoot, lifting and spreading all 10 toes. Press down through the balls of your big toes. Always.

WHY IT WORKS:

When you activate your feet you are engaging the muscles in your shins and calves. When worked evenly, these muscles draw the knees back into line.

3. WHAT TO DO:

Watch your feet as you walk downstairs. Do they turn out? If so, holding the railing for balance and train yourself to walk with your feet parallel. Do the same walking and running.

WHY IT WORKS:

When walking downstairs, we turn our feet out for balance, which misaligns the knees. Then our weight, increased by gravity, puts a tough load on the knees. And runners take note: each footfall running or jogging is

three times

your body weight. That’s a lot of weight pressing down on a crooked joint!

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 12

January 6   twelfth day

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
twelve drummers drumming


The twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed. Absolutely fitting, as we come to the finish line of our twelve-day sprint through theology, philosophy, and recovery. The Church fathers (doubtless while the Church mothers were tending the kids and the shop) itemized the Creed in 12 bullet points so that said kids and anyone new to the faith could remember them. Don’t think I want to list them here, but basically the Creed declares Jesus to be the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, and our rescuer and our protector.

This might be a good time to mention Step Eleven, which I forgot to bring up yesterday. It’s my favorite step, because it links recovery’s essentially dualist theology (God’s up there, you’re down here; God’s perfect, you’re far from it;
God can save you, you can’t save yourself) with one of nondualist Tantra’s main tenets: the Divine is always there/here, we just need to remember/recognize Him/Her/It:

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

In other words, the sun is always shining, just open the blinds!

gandhiStep Twelve follows up by asking us to carry the message to others and be a power of example in our own lives. Gandhi would feel right at home. Think your little words and deeds don’t matter? Remember that diminutive man who rocked a continent and an Empire.

As for drumming, turn to Shiva Nataraj (see Day 9), Godshiva drumas frenzied dancer. In his upper right hand he holds a drum, whose beat brings the world into being. A grown-up, Hindu, slightly deranged version of the Little Drummer Boy. Drums may be the one instrument that figures in every musical tradition worldwide. We all follow the upbeat, the downbeat, the beat of our own drums, our heartbeats.

As we close in on the Epiphany-the arrival of the three wise men at the manger-it’s time to step back from the story and ask:

How Awake am I?
What is my source, my light, my truth?
Which unwavering star guides me through the darkness?
How long and how far am I willing to travel?

You are every character in the story: the Virgin Mary, the humble wise men whose wisdom pales in the light of Christ’s simple insights, the baby Jesus, and God the Father. Even the Holy Spirit, if that counts as a “character.” You are Judas and the faithful apostles, Pontius Pilate and the Jews who became Christians and those who stayed their course. 

You are capable of great things and small, of awesome destructiveness and astounding creativity, of selfishness and generosity, of abysmal darkness and blinding light. The rest of your life has yet to be written. Let’s enter this new year and this new age where we began twelve days ago, with our sights on the Highest!

fireworks 

Hallelujah! 
Mazel tov!
Namaste!
Jai!
and
Amen.

The Twelve Days of Christmas --Day 11

11th day 

January 5   

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
eleven pipers piping



Well, if you can make “eleventh” fit the beat when you sing this out loud, you’ve got one over me. Eleven is an awkward, a prime number, and outlier, so I guess it’s no surprise that it also claims an extra syllable and muddles the rhythm.

The pipers are the eleven faithful Apostles, meaning the whole
gang ‘cept Judas Iskariot, best known for going down in infamy. 

apostles 
Question: How many can you name? Thought about Bartholomew or Thaddaeus lately? Thank God (or Jesus, or Allah, or Shiva) for Google, or I’d be well adrift on the seas of religious ignorance by now. So don’t be fooled, I’m looking this stuff up as I call it, having been raised in a household where the closest I ever got to church was an hour of silent Meeting at my Quaker school. For those of you who don’t know, Quakers eschewed the Bible and all scriptures, believing that God speaks directly to each of us. What a concept.

Anyway I just can’t find myself getting excited about eleven of anything. Didn’t even enjoy being eleven and was glad when it was over.

krishnaAs for pipers, we’ve got Orpheus,whose tunes tamed the wildest animals. We’ve got Krishna, who my friend Julie tells me is kind of a Hindu Christ, yet 
whose best known for seducing the gopis (see Day 8), and closer to home
dylan!
 we’ve got the Pied Piper, who led little children astray (or at least beyond the ken of their parents). Hell (oops!), let’s throw in Huck Finn and his harmonica, Bob Dylan as an Angry Young Man sucking the life out of his, windpipes and bagpipes and steampipes
and tobacco pipes, the longwinded and the full of hot air (my maternal grandfather being both, a dedicated pipe smoker and a windbag who loved to tug hard on my nose and call me Shnoogie).

 


The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 10




10th dayJanuary 4   




On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
ten lords a-leaping



The Ten are of course the Ten Commandments, the time-tested list of no-no’s held to be sacred to human society and human survival.

ten commandments Must be something about ten that instills conscience. Step Ten asks us to continuing taking a daily moral inventory of ourselves and when we are wrong to promptly admit it. In other words, don’t let stuff pile up or you’re doomed to relapse. Yoga has the ten yamas and niyamas, which similarly instruct us not to lie, cheat or steal, to remain pure (indeed, chaste), to study, and to surrender to the Highest.

T’would seem that all tens lead to Rome, or Jerusalem, or the ashram, or rehab.

But amid all this seriousness, the lords are leaping. Leaps of faith? Perhaps, but I’m not convinced. Maybe they’re in
cahoots with the Irish jiggers (see Day 8).

hanuman

I’ll segue here over to the Hindu myth of Hanuman (halfmonkey/half human in form, Divine in nature), who boldly leaps over the Ocean of Consciousness to reunite heartbroken Ram with his abducted wife Sita. Yogis the world round know Hanuman’s leap as the source, cause, and origin of one of the most feared asana: Hanumanasana, or the splits.


Yoga also says that ten forms of prana animate our being. The life force takes some interesting forms: moving up, moving down, moving all around, and causing such unconscious spasms as blinking and sneezing.

Tens in the vernacular have a pretty good rap: we’ve got
Perfect Ten
Base Ten
Ten to One
Tennis anyone?