How often do you Honour your Inner Warrior? How frequently do you take a step back and observe the courageous or brave acts that you perform each day?, if you are like me, maybe not often enough, so I hope this blog will help you to re-connect and honour that strength within YOU that allows you to reach farther, to get out of the comfort zone and to step strongly into the un-known, or the courage to overcome fear in life situations that come to us every day, perhaps a warrior in you have allowed you to develop the resilience that is needed when going through difficult life challenges… whatever it is in you, honour it! We certainly do not need to be in a battlefield to relate to the concept of “warrior”, and this blog certainly do not refer to any act of violence, but instead to the positive qualities that each of us hold.
Why do we find inspiration in a warrior? perhaps the mythical qualities of Strength, Courage or self-confidence come to mind, or the honour associated to acting with fairness and balance amid the fear that might arise during a “battle”.. We all have our individual stories and personal battles, and as you read this, perhaps you can bring one or many situations where your inner warrior came up.
For me, although I can relate to many aspects of the Warrior, one that comes as a challenge is to have the self confidence to not look for outside gratification or “approval”, but instead to walk in life confident in my abilities and my strengths, without accepting the limitations others impose on me, but seeking to improve from my mistakes, seeing failure as an unavoidable lesson that can bring so much knowledge.
I quote Carlos Castaneda: “The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average person. The average person seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average person is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”
There are a few yoga poses that truly inspire an individual, for me, Virabhadrasana / the warrior series is one of them, this pose requires stamina, strength and focus to perform it while being strongly grounded to the floor, looking up with a mixture of strength, balance and gratitude...The beauty of Yoga, is that some poses truly offer the Yogi an opportunity to take the practice out of the mat and translate it into the real world, Virabhadrasana is the one that I carry the most with me in my day to day life.
In class, as we prepare our bodies to perform the warrior series, you will be invited to set an intention around bringing your warrior off the mat.
So, go on, allow yourself to honour your inner warrior. You deserve it
There is a lot of talk around Core strength these days; I even dare to say that almost all fitness regimes include exercises that will build up strength in the abdominal muscles, so yes, the concept of “toning our abs” is certainly not new for us, this blog entry however will share what core strength means in the Yoga world, and how it can impact your class/practice.
Sthira Sukham Asanam
The ancient Yoga sutra’s from Patanjali indicate that Asana or posture should be stable & comfortable (Sthira Sukham Asanam), although many would argue the second point, let us focus on the first one: Stability.
Let us discuss two ways to bring stability to our practice:
1. Becoming aware of our limits. In other words, know when to stop before we go too far, knowing that we are not competing with anyone else in Yoga, and therefore we do not need to match the ability of the flexible guy next to me. Yoga is a personal Journey!
2. “Centering” the body through activating the abdominal muscles. Just think on how the core plays a critical role when doing a balance pose such as Tree pose or Natajarasana... Now think how a seated posture would benefit from a strong core…, one has to observe the difference it would made when doing a forward bend with a loose abdomen, vs. activating the core when performing the exact same posture, the student will suddenly realize that they are able to reach deeper, so go core!
A good yoga session will involve several postures that will slowly work the different abdominal muscles, which in the medium to long term will translate in other health benefits, such as a Good Posture, which will then translate in avoiding back problems, etc. so, if you keep it long enough, you WILL see benefits.
The first time I did a yoga session where I “engaged” the core during each Asana, I ended up exhausted with the temptation to drop the “abdomen work” so I could concentrate on other aspects such as “stretching” more… but slowly, a stronger core translated into a stronger/stable practice. I still have to keep reminding myself about this, so, I believe a mindful practice engaging the core requires patience, perseverance and a healthy dose of concentration as it is far too easy to forget about the abdomen and focus on reaching a toe, or reaching the floor on a given pose.
So, performing Asana with a loose abs will lead to some progress, but we will probably reach a limit, a strong core however, will give you the strength and the balance which is needed to perform postures with grace and stability, on top of giving the Yogi a good looking abs!, so, it is worth it! Enjoy :)
Let go … or get dragged (Zen Proverb)
I just finished the practice of the class that I have prepared to open the hips, making some last minute notes that will help me to guide safely and efficiently the students through a sequence designed to release tension in the hip muscles. I must admit that I stepped into the mat tense and tired, but after the session my hips feel lighter, and this feeling spreads throughout the rest of the body and I feel somehow energized.
The hip has many layers of muscles, so if we really want to open the hips effectively, we must have patience during the session to start stretching gently the outer muscles, so we can get into the deeper ones in a progressive and safe approach. As we invite patience to our practice, we can train ourselves to gently let to… not just the tension of the muscles, if we allow it, we can also train ourselves to let go the minor thoughts and episodes that can irritate us, progressing slowly to letting go the bigger and more impactful situations that we all face in life, becoming aware that some outcomes in life do not depend on us, and as such, we can either keep them inside us resulting in an accumulation of frustration, or we just gently and gracefully release them, so they don’t have power of us, so they don’t hurt us anymore, so we don’t get dragged with them.
Silence as a tool to go within
As a teacher, I need to find the right balance between giving the right instruction to guide students safely through the practice, and leave periods of silence where students can travel within, understanding the pose, feeling the subtle effects that the Asana can have in their bodies. Coming from a chatty Latin background, this is always a challenge for me, so I need to be mindful in providing a silence space for them to train themselves to let go.
"Let go … or get dragged" is a popular Zen proverb that comes to mind during this practice… of course, this quote has a far deeper meaning than the one discussed here, but it is a way to bring it to life. The article below explains the deeper meaning of the Taoist teaching for those who wish to read more.
http://zenjournal.tumblr.com/post/7316319321/let-go-or-be-dragged (THICH THIEN AN)
So, let us stretch and open those hips! Happy practice Yogis/Yoginis!
People often ask me why I have themes in most of my Yoga classes… the response is simple: because that is the way I lead my personal Yoga practice. I had the pleasure to learn from a brilliant Canadian Teacher in Mexico, some of her classes would include themes that helped me to make my Yoga practice more powerful and fun! More “focused”, although I only attended 5 of her classes, this made a strong impact in my yoga practice as It was exciting to link the beauty of yoga with an inspirational theme that would come from my heart. This way, the creativity and true expression of myself started to surface. As a Yoga teacher, my ultimate objective is to create a space for students to experience Yoga and to experience transformation, for me, the practice of a perfect Asana is secondary, however, the creation of a transformative place is primary. So, providing an intention might just help this transformation process, students can be receptive to the intention, or they can totally dismiss it, it is their choice.
Stand on your feet and step into your power
This week’s theme is “grounding and centering”, which can be linked to many beautiful and complex postures, but we do not need to make it hard on ourselves, let us start with Tadasana or mountain pose. Strong grounding through the soles of the feet that provides a strong foundation for the knees, thighs, spine, neck and head, opening the chest, elongating spine, holding the head high in an almost effortless proud beautiful balance. Stand on your feet, stand on your power!
What is breathing?
And let us not forget the breath, the all powerful breath that will anchor our thoughts and bring the mind to the present moment… Why Yoga teachers keep asking the students to inhale/exhale… keep breathing… because students do forget to breathe!, the class starts breathing deeply, beautiful, and as the Asanas progress in complexity, at some point there is entire silence in the studio, and I wonder, are you still breathing?, the moment I say this, deep inhales come through, as if really, the students were craving for some air, but somehow did not manage to get it before hearing the word “inhale…”.
Seriously, breathing exercises will compliment and offer a safe space for the Yoga practitioner who seeks to be in the present moment.
Professor Velupillai explains that “Yoga is not standing on your head, Yoga is standing on your own two feet having proper balance in life” , this cannot be more true for me.
Yoga teacher & Senior Scientist working full time with a major Multinational.