Books about yoga, Living with intention, Things my yoga teacher said, Yoga off the mat

Truth in yoga

Almost three years ago, I started taking yoga classes with my (now) mentor. On occasion she would speak of truth when closing the practice. Something along the lines of living truth. I was perplexed by this. What was this truth she spoke of? Was it some secret I was not privy to? Was it a Hindu concept? This particular class is at a Christian community health center, so I wondered, is this truth she mentions God? Jesus? Something about it made me uncomfortable, because generally I am a secular person. I have my own connection to the universe and spirituality, and kind of avoid the whole organized religion thing.

I think it took me a year to even talk to my teacher about yoga at all, and months beyond that before I gained the courage to ask, what is this truth you speak of? What if I don’t agree with it?

She recommended a book by Deborah Adele. I will forever be grateful that this was my introduction to the the ethics of yoga, known as the Yamas and Niyamas. Adele’s book is a perfect laymen’s guide… had I been pointed to Patanjali’s Sutras at that point, I may have run the other way.

One of the Yamas can be summarized as Truthfulness, as a code to live by. Adele explains this as being truthful in all affairs of life, but also to one’s self. Imagine living in such a way where we all could say and do as we wish, without judging each other or ourselves. To live our truth is to live fully. To work against our truth generates misconceptions and negative energy. And who wants either of those things?

This definition of truth is taking me a long time to embody. Years! It’s not like I walk around lying, it is more that I am (we all are!) so conditioned to act against our truth to maintain whatever reputation we believe we are supposed to have.

Example: as a parent of an elementary school aged child, I feel like I’m supposed to be up to my neck in PTA duties. But my truth is, I don’t wanna. I like showing up when I can, when there is an event that supports Dove, or the teachers, or the school… but do I want to organize that event? I could do it! But I don’t truly want to. Do I want to sell wrapping paper, or fundraiser for whatever this year’s “a-thon” is? Nope. I am being 100% honest with myself (and you!) here. So. The ethical thing to do is to NOT do these things. This is soooo far from what I used to think I should be doing. But now, living my truth, I know it is better for me and all those involved to decline these pressures and send twenty bucks directly to the PTA instead, for them to do as they see fit.

See what I’m getting at here? It’s ok to say no if you want to. It’s ok to wear sweatpants to Target if you want to. It’s ok to take a knee for anjaneasana if your body needs that. You do you! Be true. Live your truth. I know I’m trying.

Namaste.

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Pondering, Yoga off the mat

Flexibility, fostering growth

I was talking to a friend about her knee pain, suggesting she stretch because sometimes knee pain means tight hamstrings, quads, or even the hips, the back…

“A little every day is better than a lot one day. Build up to longer holds and deeper stretches…” quoting myself here.

It occurred to me this is a good mantra for most days. A little every day is better than too much. Don’t expect too much right away. Learn to pause, be still, take time, be now.

Living with intention

Lessons from Lithops and other plants

About two months ago, I decided to try my hand at succulents. I shopped around and added twenty plants to an online shopping cart, then got to work sketching where I would plant them. When I researched light requirements in-depth, I realized that the rocky succulent garden I had in mind would not work in front of the house, becuase these plants prefer Southern exposure.

As my garden progressed, I uncovered small hurdles… some plants need more nutrients, some less. Some are easily sunburned. Very few can handle winters here in zone 8a. My list of plants that could thrive here was getting shorter and shorter.

I deleted the online shopping cart and went to the local nursery. I let my kids each pick out a succulent, and my daughter picked a Lithops… a “living rock.” Sounds easy to care for, right?

After a few weeks in it’s new home, the plant started showing signs of ill health. The old me would have tried to revive it. More water, less water. More sun, less sun. The old me would have tried to do anything recover the plant, before tossing it into the compost heap for recycling.


But the now me, the me who accepts that I alone cannot do all the things, know all the things, and fix all the things, recognized that it was time to go to my community for guidance. I posted a photo of my sickly lithops, and immediately learned that it was, in fact, NOT a lithops, but a close relative called pleiospilos nelii. Not a living rock but a “split rock.” The extra leaves that we found appealing at the nursery are, in fact, a sign that the plant was in transition, and in fact I shouldn’t save them… they will feed the plant and shrivel. We had sunburned the plant by putting it in too strong sunlight, for too long, too soon. We had overwatered. We had made assumptions based on research, trusted the nursery would only sell a perfect plant, but we lacked the experience and patience to set the plant up properly.

We are not at our best acting solitarily, living in a vaccuum. Our plants, our selves, require not only sun and water, but patience, support and imput from those who have “been there,” acceptance of who and where we are, and time.

When I looked at this plant, I saw a plant that was dying. But people who have “been there” have assured me that if we re-pot the plant in the appropriate growing media, slowly acclimate it to it’s new home, and wait, the damage will “grow out,” the sunburned leaves will shrivel and nourish the plant, and new, healthy leaves with eventually grow.

Living with intention, meditation, Mothering

In Medias Res

I have not posted in a number of days. I have written, I have practiced yoga, but I have not given myself the space to sit down and write something that is complete. 

Today, I am giving myself permission to write and post in medias res, “into the middle of things.” It will never be the beginning or the end for me. I am a parent, I am trying to make all the things happen all the time. So it’s ok if things are always in progress and under construction. 

We’ve had illness in our home, fevers and chills and things of that sort. As The Mom it is me that administers the medication, makes the matzo ball soup, takes the temperatures, and washes the sheets. Especially when my husband is one of the fevered and fallen. 

Now things are looking up. My daughter is back at school, my husband is back at work, the toddler (although teething) actually slept last night. And today I went to te advanced yoga class, so I’m taking five minutes to write before I go retrieve the toddler from the nursery, and on we go. 

Notes on today’s practice: today I made a point to set my intention before we began our flow. I set my intention on willpower. It was a sweaty, fast-paced class and I am feeling clear. Essential oils used during savasana: Orange and sandalwood. 

I would like to report back on how the willpower intention carried through the day… I hope I get to do so, but if not, well, here we go… 

Books about yoga, Home yoga practice

To Tie the Strings of the Mind Together: Reading “The Heart of Yoga,” by T.K.V. Desikachar

As the calendar rolled into 2017, I got in my mind that I should start practicing yoga regularly at home. But what would that mean? What would a personal yoga practice look like?

I asked myself these questions because, after twelve years of taking yoga classes for exercise, off and on, I have come to realize that yoga is more than asanas. Asanas are the physical poses and breathing that typically come to mind when one hears the word “yoga.”

I asked my yoga-loving friends for book and/or website recommendations that would help me develop what I called a “home practice.” Most of the recommendations I received were centered on doing asana routines alone. I already have a number of books, videos, and apps to help me exercise. So I asked my yoga teacher for suggestions, and she had only one: to read the book The Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar, which I will from now on refer to as THOY when writing, for brevity.

My local library network did not have any copies, so I ordered from the behemoth online seller we all hate to love. At first blush, I thought maybe it was a mistake for me to read a book like THOY. It begins with an interview with T.K.V. Desikachar about his father, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. I am not going to lie. The first page or two were labor intensive, with many Indian names and phrases I am unfamiliar with. To be brutally honest, I did not care at all about the author or his father… in my head I kept thinking, “OK now let’s get to the HOW to develop a personal practice for ME.”

I stuck with it, because I could see that chapter one is titled Yoga: Concept and Meaning, and I just knew I had to get there. I’m so glad I didn’t put the book down, because there… on the first page of that chapter… I found what I was looking for. Desikachar writes:

“Many different interpretations of the word yoga have been handed down over the centuries. One of these is ‘to come together,’ ‘to unite.’ Another meaning of the word yoga is ‘to tie the strands of the mind together.'”

DING DING DING! This is what I was feeling at yoga classes recently… the meeting of my physical body and the intellectual or spiritual me, the “tying together” of these things. Desikachar continues:

“While ‘coming together’ gives us a physical interpretation of the word yoga, an example of tying the strands of the mind together is the directing of our thoughts toward the yoga sessions before we take on an actual practice. Once those mental strands come together to form an intention, we are ready to begin the physical work.”

YES! YES! YES! As I read the paragraph I felt purpose vibrate through me. This. THIS is what I am striving for, “to tie the strands of the mind together.” To spend time, each day, practicing yoga with intention and purpose. THOY makes it clear that yoga does not have to be asanas, it can simply be setting the mind on the intention of yoga… reading, meditating, drawing, asanas…

I now understand. There are at least 8 zillion ways to practice yoga. And what does a home practice look like for me?  It is different every day. I am learning. I guess that is why those who really “do” yoga call it practicing.