Saturday, January 29, 2011

Does anyone know the meaning of yoga?

Have any of you been following the huge new (ish) movement to redefine yoga these days?  I'm seeing all sorts of folks changing it up at will and fighting for the privelige - and others hanging on to traditional systems like their lives depended on it.  Leave it to us Westerners to take something sacred and ancient and make it our own.  This is the one thing that perhaps we can all agree on if you start looking at all of the dissention about what "it" actually is.  Innovators innovate, that's for sure!

In my role as Yoga Therapist and founder of Yokibics Mindbody Fitness, I am currently being interviewed for an article on some of the new yoga fusion programs.  The writer wants my expert opinion on what's what. Oh boy. She has been re-contacing me to tweak this comment and that - and to tell you the truth I find I am actually delighted to enter the fray on such a broad and timely subject since I've been taken with reading much of the hubbub and controversy that arrives in my daily news feed.

Here's what I commented to the question "what is the meaning of yoga in a yoga-fusion class - and who qualifies and who doesn't?"

(cue up the theme from Jeopardy...)

OK -  my take on it is this - the good news is simply that the topic itself "the meaning of yoga" is so controversial it is sure to get a rise from readers - which brings attention to the subject of yoga at all.

If you haven't tuned into elephant journal (out of Boulder CO - birthplace of all things new age and hippie :) that's one place where you too can subscribe and see what their bloggers are constantly arguing about - some tongue in cheek, some just cheeky - in addressing who is right and who is wrong and who is full of the most hot air...and what a modern definition of yoga might be.  The conclusions are allllll over the place from hot-body-sexy-chick-never-say-ohm types, to Bikram and his tribe, to traditionalists who are surely moaning as I write.

Given that - for me - and I am certain of what "for me" is - the meaning of yoga would signify the essence of "to yoke the powers of body, mind and spirit."

If one or another of the parts to that three legged stool goes MIA in anyone's class, then perhaps it's time to find another definition.  "Asana" is one of the eight aspects of yoga and signifies the purely physical part of practice for example and nobody has to imagine it to be anything more or less - but the essence of yoga itself includes and addresses body-mind and spirit as part of the equation.

Another question was "how is meditation related to yoga?"

According to the ancient texts of Patanjali there are eight limbs (aspects) to the practice of yoga.  Like a tree, yoga embodies each of the eight limbs equally. Meditation ("Dhyana") is the aspect of yoga that invites the practitioner to witness the difference between their ego self and their essential self - and to be in contact with the essential self through observing and stilling the wandering mind. Wiki says " In Dhyana, the meditator is not conscious of the act of meditation (i.e. is not aware that s/he is meditating) but is only aware that s/he exists (consciousness of being), and aware of the object of meditation."

A practical example exists in my classes as we continually breathe through the presence of meaning in every action we create. We allow meditative moments to flow throughout our physical practice. Being brought to conscious awareness in this way allows the mind the actual experience of observing - and releasing - negative self-talk, comparative thinking, one-upmanship, imperfect body "stinkin' thnkin'" and all manner of upsetting mind filling junk. 

Just like a good teacher needs to correct someone who is butchering an exercise movement - hopefully so they don't kill someone, especially themselves! - so too will a good "yoga" teacher bring attention to the thought processes that don't belong through the discipline of a meditative mind.

Well, my interviewer is off to write what she writes - and I'm sure she's having a heck of a time putting it all together with what everyone else is coming up with besides. 

For more of My Take check out my new e-book 40 Simple Steps to The Eight Limbs of Yoga online.

Now I want to know - what do you think?


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Emotional Freedom for Everyone

My friend and fellow mystic writer Edie Weinstein just published an article in Wisdom magazine that features an interview with Dr. Judith Orloff on the topic "Emotional Freedom" and I realize more clearly every day how very significant this information has become - and will continue to become - for all of us as we evolve into the people we are growing up to be. 

I think you'll love Edie's interview (read it here) and the clear awareness that Judith Orloff has on the subject can only benefit your own deepening instincts about who you are and how you are becoming. 

I believe that emotional freedom - the sister topic of emotional genius - is the new frontier in human consciousness.  Daily we are gifted with new ways of knowing the body - and our investigation into the realm of the mind has fascinated us for eons whether through investigations of the unconscious, conscious or super conscious mind, the study of psychology and the intellect, or the delving fascination we have with psychic and intuitive abilities. But recognizing the source and purpose of emotions? In my experience we have misunderstood their role more completely than all of our misconceptions about body and mind put together.

Emotions are the gateway into how our energy circuits are running - a soul connector - and there isn't a bad one among them.  There is plenty of inappropriate or misguided response though (response-ability) that gives the emotion itself a bad name.

Here are a couple of examples from my work in the territory of the emotional genius...

Feeling angry?  That's a popular one to misunderstand. One might be coached to "get over it" or sided with by friends who are on your team with "yeah you're right! The rest of the world is against you/me/us!!"  But here is where anger is your guide and teacher. Where are your boundaries about the subject? Really.

Are you doing all you can to create clear words and a strong will in the area? Are you willing to make the changes you are being called to make in order to co-create a different outcome? So much easier to be "angry at the boss" than to get up and out and create a different life.  Yes, the answer to the presence of anger might be that drastic. 

No wonder we don't "understand."

Anger serves to tell us change is required.  Listen to it well.  Be honest with yourself.  Be honest with others.  Be willing to be the change you wish to see. 

The emotion of anger will always involve your will and your word.

What about grief? There is indeed great reason for the expression of it in the world - more than enough to go around.  Death itself has been built into the program of life. There  is no escaping the powerful appearance of grief in your life at one time or another. Yet like all emotions, grief is meant to ebb and flow. Deep sadness when caged is like sinking into the bottom of a well. It serves to bring us deeper and deeper into awareness of what we really value - and it holds the potential of letting go. A more authentic version of our former self becomes the gift.   

How many survivors of even the worlds worst atrocities have come out on the other side helping mankind in a way that only they could when fully embodied and fully charged?

Grief stimulates the 3rd chakra and is the harbinger of a more genuine you.

Fear? A natural request to place your faith wisely.
Pain? What insights are you being given?
Apathy? What get up and go is necessary for you to care about something greater than yourself?

How about the emotion of joy?? Ahhhh....

Joy is inherent in the system just like all the other emotions. It is not reserved only for the special few, yet joy too is meant to ebb and flow - to rise and fall - to sing it's song in your life - in every life! It doesn't do well if you try to hang onto it.  It was never meant to sit static like a crown jewel.  Joy arrives unbidden as a result of transforming the entirety of your emotional body into a functioning alive system - not despite it.

What practical key then can I leave with you? What wish for your success?
  • allow yourself to change outdated beliefs about how miserable things are.
  • stop brushing off your feelings as if they don't matter.  They do.
  • be willing to learn to identify what feelings you have
  • become able to develop good discernment about what choices are available to help you transform your emotions rather than stuffing them away.
  • become able to pause when a feeling arises and recognize it without judgement
  • validate validate validate yourself
  • be willing to let go
  • recognize the the joy you seek is already there
  • know that becoming an emotional genius is an inside job unrelated to circumstances outside your control.
  • be willing to be new. 
If you are a conscious journeyman into the subject, read Edie Weinsteins' interview, buy Judith Orloffs book Emotional Freedom or download one of my audio programs Fundamentals of Emotional Freedom or Meditations for Emotional Freedom to help guide you.  You can achieve more clarity, greater ease and a deeper connection to your own interior through the process of honoring your emotions than you might ever have imagined. 

We are all destined to become masters in this life. Whether or not we can achieve that destiny depends upon the clarity of our objective.  May you be blessed in yours.

Photo credit: Bob Alba
Exiting Mammoth Cave, Kentucky