Navigating the "Bad Spaces" in life

DUHKHA, a concept in yoga, literally means "bad space." It is the other half to the coin "SUKHA" or sweet space. It seems like life is always one of the other, doesn't it? A sign of progress in your yoga practice is that you shift from habitual, fear based patterns in your consciousness and in your nervous system/body when experiencing DUHKHA and begin seeing suffering as an opportunity for spiritual growth. 

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We all have hungry ghosts clawing at us, guiding us to do things we might regret or influencing our actions before we can really understand their repercussions. You, me, your mother, your brother, we are all a product of our environment and sometimes those places we come from are sweet and at other times they are sour. Culturally we have generated a reluctance to see our own darkness and certain reactions, emotions, mistakes, and imperfections are shamed and labeled as bad. Everyone you interact with usually has an agenda that comes from their own trauma based fear and this can make navigating social groups confusing and difficult. 

Yoga teaches us that while we aren't necessarily entitled to the fruit of our labor, we are entitled to the opportunity to work. The strangest aspect of KARMA is that the fruit doesn't always look like what we want it to and often the work isn't what we expect. If we aren't paying close attention to our lives, to the fluctuations of experiences + consciousness, to how we are habitually reacting when things seem to be going wrong in life, we might actually miss the work that is being asked of us. Be present to your lives my loves. Wake up to what you have right now, what is trying to be resolved within you. Be present to your reluctance or willingness to flow

Myself, I am waking up to layers of bias in myself that I have been committed to remove for a long time and with that, I am waking up to my desire to run from the conflict created by the repercussions of actions that I believe to be in alignment with my highest self. I am waking up with a desire to be graceful, to maintain safe boundaries, to be honest, to maintain my integrity. I am also waking up to a lot of fear based patterns. 

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I have learned through my practice that waking up is a very ordinary experience. We never really get to “evolve” out of suffering. Once we master the perfect headstand or can sit in meditation for over an hour at once without looking at the clock, pain doesn’t magically disappear. We don’t stop making mistakes and angels don’t pop out from behind every cloud to bless us with positive feelings all day. If anything we become more accountable and more responsible for our lives. We embody our highest self on a deeper level and that calls for more experiences that will encourage that growth. 

In the process of waking up to the full spectrum of life, mixed with both sweetness and pain, we also wake up to a still small voice reminding us to not let a bump in the road or a challenging avalanche of experience prevent us from stepping into the roles that have been opening before us. A challenge isn’t a closed door telling you to take a different route, it IS the door into a more evolved, kind, compassionate, and just person.

The signs of a fruitful practice aren’t in how good you look in your yoga pants or how vegan you can be. The true signs of fruit are when you remember to pray for kindness, when you remember that you do not have to react to everything that exposes itself to your senses. There is fruit when you open yourself to a new phase and you shift away from fear as you navigate the rocky or rolling terrain that you have asked to walk over.  

When I see myself retreating from learning the lessons that accompany suffering, I have a sweet, fierce voice in the back of my mind telling me that this can be both my unravelling and my upward spiral. We cannot move upwards without appearing to be moving backwards. This is a marker of a successful practice and a reminder that no matter how painful DUHKHA can be, there is sweetness within. 

Our practice, when diligent and focused, can give us a birds eye view of our life. It can help us shift how we perceive DUHKHA and it creates space to re-pattern our relationship to challenges we may encounter. According to yoga philosophy, fear is always at the root of our suffering (fear of pain, fear of the absence of pleasure, fear of endings, etc) but we learn through the practice that love can get louder.  With every meditation, with every commission of vulnerability, with every willingness to see our pain as an opportunity to get closer to oneness, soon, love will be the loudest. 

A MANTRA PRACTICE TO HELP YOUR HEART FEEL PROTECTED IN TIMES OF “DUHKHA"

If you are in a phase of feeling helpless, lost, oppressed, and like you want to give up on your dreams because of a set back whether huge or minor, call on the the Goddess DURGA. She is a representation of the divine feminine energy that is the great mother, the protector, and a fierce warrior of the heart. She is invincible aspect of shakti, divine feminine energy, and calling her fierceness into your life can support you in making the appropriate choices for how you navigate challenge as well as protecting the sacred whisper of intuition that can be hushed by the challengers, naysayers, manipulators, and the oppressors. She protects the goodness within you and is one of the most widely sought goddesses in India. 

To complete a simple Durga practice, write down on a piece of paper the outcome of working with her energy that you most desire whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical and what you need protection from. Put that paper in a safe space where you will most often speak her mantra. Then, sit for a few moments to quiet the mind, heart, and body, and begin to chant or sing her mantra (quietly or out loud) and listen to your body and her wisdom until the energy within you begins to shift. 

By chanting the healing Durga mantras, it is said that all the mental, physical, and economic problems of our life will be eliminated by the Goddess and she will protect us against all types of harm from the waves of suffering of others, as well as the waves of suffering of our biggest enemy, (ourselves) with compassion. 

If you want to dive deep, deep, try committing to this practice for 40 days and see how your life transforms! Chant every day until you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. For a more traditional practice, chant this mantra 108 times every day.

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THE MANTRA:

OM DUM DURGAYEI NAMAHA

  • OM: Sacred sound invoking all manifest universal energy

  • DUM: The seed sound of protection. This seed sound will invoke Durga as the protectress if fear is an issue and help you feel less afraid.

  • DURGAYEI: Salutations to Durga, the protectress, remover of fear, and bestower of power

  • NAMAHA: I bow to you

A DURGA PRAYER

Divine mother in the form of Durga, the great and fierce protectress, Protect me from the waves of the suffering of others, protect the crystal heart within me that holds the deepest desires of transformation for my soul, protect the path that I am walking. Adorn me with the power of compassion in the face of wrath, adorn me with the power to learn and grow from my suffering, the power to see all suffering as an opportunity to come closer to you.  Namaste. 

REFLECT

  • When you are in a space of DUHKHA what are the common patterns of tension in your body? Where are you storing that tension, in your neck? Jaw? Stomach? Calves?

  • How does your resistance to suffering manifest in your behavior to yourself and others? Do you go for the cupcake or cigarette? Do you indulge and then feel guilty? Do you retreat or do you lash out?

  • How do you respond to challenging situations? Do you see them as a road block to overcome or do you see them as a stopping point? Has this pattern served you?

  • Think of a time where something bad happened but turned out to be a blessing? Can you make a list of 5 of these occurrences?

  • If you are experiencing some phase of DUHKHA in your life now, try to shift your perspective? What is the lesson that if you are to learn, will make you a stronger person?

All The Hemispheres :: Hafiz

All The Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while. 

Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season

Onto the meadow and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.

Make a new watermark on your excitement

And love. 

Like a blooming night flower,

Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness

And giving

Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence

Lie beside an equator 

In your heart. 

Greet Yourself

In your thousand other forms

As you mount the hidden tide and travel

Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven

Are sitting around a fire

Chatting

While stitching themselves together

Into the Great Circle inside of 

You. 

:: Hafiz

Working with Health Concerns:: REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

While yoga can be used very effectively as a therapeutic intervention for major health concerns, it is important to work in the scope of your practice. Unless you are specifically trained in a yoga therapy teacher, which requires over 1000 hours of training in the yoga therapy field, using the words therapy or therapeutics is strictly prohibited. That being said, it is highly probable that you will have some student come into your class with a major health concern. Being able to offer specific suggestions as they relate to particular ailments can offer a layer of safety to your classroom and to a student's practice. It is always appropriate and highly ethical, if a student's ailment is beyond your scope of practice, to respectfully decline to work with a particular person or to refer them to a more capable and trained professional in the yoga or wellness field. Before diving into all of this information, we must also put lifestyle into perspective. Almost all of these issues, while they may have genetic factors, are also incredibly lifestyle related. In particular, we live in a sedentary culture and live sedentary lives. Even if you exercise 1 hour a day, every day, you still live a sedentary lifestyle, only “exercising” 4% of your day. Most of these issues include the factor of sedentarism and are considered to be affluent illnesses referring to the cultural paradigm of relying on convenience for food, travel, and entertainment that preclude them

 source:http://www.lunarnourishment.com/blog/2015/8/11/pre-menstruation-waning-moon-time

source:http://www.lunarnourishment.com/blog/2015/8/11/pre-menstruation-waning-moon-time

Dysmenorrhea or Endometriosis In general, depending on the intensity of a period, it is advised that a female bodied practitioner takes rest during the first 1-2 days of her cycle or during the heaviest bleeding times. Some say that inverted postures should never be performed as to emphasize the downward flow of blood but I personally suggest that each individual keep in tune with their body. Do understand the mechanism of bleeding as outlined below and factor that into the type and duration of movement that you engage in or that you tell your students to engage in. To begin to navigate around how we can use movement to soothe process of menstruation, first, we need to know what menstruation is. The uterus itself is composed of 5 layers. The 3 outermost layers are muscle, the 4th layer is called the endometrium, and the 5th layer is the stratum functionalism which is the part that sheds. Right before you get your period, blood vessels that go to the endometrium contract and shot of oxygen to the inner most lining. Essentially, your body withholds oxygen to the 5th layer, starves it, and kills it. This natural process is called ischemia, when things die from blood loss. In response to that death, the white blood cells are released to process and remove the now dying functional layer of the endometrium which is called desquamation. The white blood cells essentially chew this layer off, they secrete digestive enzymes that are breaking up the dead tissue. Naturally, there is overlap between functional blood vessels and the tissue wall so some of the digestive enzymes also get on the blood vessel that used to feed that layer, just beneath the dying lining and so you have blood vessels that lose a bit of their wall and are now freshly exposed resulting in blood & tissue loss. Dysmenorrhea is when your period doesn’t go so smoothly or when there is delayed repair. In a healthy body, the process where the body fixes the blood vessels lays down the new layer and initiates fresh growth is very fast. But when you have a lot of bleeding for a long period of time, then the repair process doesn't function the way it should. This process is determined by a  particular protein called Hypoxia Inducible Factor. The more that you produce, the faster you repaid and the less you bleed. One thing that’s interesting to note is that high blood sugar is interfering with the development and the function of HIF. 50% of women have a period that is functioning with the range of abnormal. The functional movement factor in this issue is not blood flow to this region just during the period, but blood flows all the time. Issues with menstruation aren't just a problem in itself, it is a symptom of poor blood flow through the pelvis. Because the uterus isn’t living in a vacuum. It lives in your body where everything is connected to everything else. So the whole body movements that encourage the appropriate movement of blood in the pelvic region, which could also be considered the movement of repair, involve the movement of the pelvis in general.

Top things to include in a period protocol, including homework:

-Squatting

-Pelvis list

-Calf stretch

-Pelvic tilt

-Hamstring & quad stretch and strengtheners

The Yoga Fast:: Tell the Universe What You Want, and Make Room For It

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Yoga is a way to release habitual tendencies and to weaken our physical, emotional, and psychological attachments. As I have said before: tell the universe what you want and then make room for it.

If you want to buy some new clothes but you have no room in your closet, you will have to get rid of the old to make way for the new. You regularly need to clean out your closet and make space in your life, in your heart, in your body, for what needs to come through.

One way that you can do this is by practicing asana. Every time you get on the mat and create space in the body, you shed layers of yourself, you release pent up emotion without ever having to revisit the trauma. Sometimes this is so subtle you experience a gradual change that leaves you waking up a few weeks after you start doing yoga feeling really good without being able to explain why. Other times there is a shock to the system and the grief you have been holding on to for months or years comes pouring out of you in a cathartic week long episode of release that is only understood after the fact.

The YOGA CLEANSE is a way to grasp onto the cathartic power of yoga and actively create positive change in our life (KRIYA YOGA).


GUIDELINES
Step 1: CUT IT OUT

For the first step, take something out of your life. It’s important that you choose something that you are strongly attached to. If you only drink coffee once a week, don’t choose to not drink coffee for a week. If you are strongly reliant on eating out, choose to eat at home for a week, cooking your own foods. If you eat too many desserts, cut out sugar.

Please note that this will take preparation on your part. If you are choosing to cut something out of your diet, be prepared with alternatives. Go grocery shopping the week before and have a plan for when life gets challenging.

Step 2: ADD IT IN

For the second step, you may choose to add something to your life. Perhaps you could start a dream journal for 7 days, or do a seven-day long yoga practice. If you have aspirations of being a writer, wake up in the morning and write 1000 words for 7 days. Perhaps you workout every day for a week (being mindful of proper resting technique). It’s important that for this option, you bring in something that you would like to cultivate on a regular basis.

If you know that you need better sleep, perhaps commit to a healthy sleep schedule (it’s only a week). If you are stressed, perhaps you do an online meditation every day or wake up and do a yoga practice every day.

TIME FRAME

I suggest observing these changes for about 10 days. A new moon is a great time to start a new project. 

TAKE NOTE

   •    Set yourself up for success. If you have never cooked vegetables in your life and you want to focus on your diet, be sure that you have all the recipes you will try on hand and all the necessary ingredients. The worst thing is being on a fast and being poorly prepared. That can cause the entire venture to backfire.

   •    Notice what sort of challenges you face while you go through the cleanse. Exercises like this are to help us release our attachment and to show ourselves what it is we need to see. You may experience very strange side effects like irritability. You may realize that there are certain things you don’t want in your life because by taking them out, you become calmer.

   •    Notice how you feel after the fast. You will be asked to write a reflection on your experience at the end of the cleanse week.

  

 

Teacher Highlight:: Kelly Watson

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Yoga is the Science of Self-Realization. This time-tested path found me when my body and mostly my mind needed healing and guidance. I believe that the world of yoga is so vast and full of so many transformative tools that anyone can become a practitioner of this great science and make it a way of life. As an instructor, I push my students to develop a “sadhana" or personal practice that keeps them in touch with their higher Self and in harmony with the cyclical rhythms of nature and life. My classes are full of passion; utilizing music, mantras, and mudras to convey very specific themes, relevant to the culture we live in. To teach is simply to learn twice as they say and so I am forever grateful to my own teachers Annie Okerlin, Alison Cramer, Kelly Morris, Barb Newborn and most importantly Tony Nenov for providing guidance on the path of yoga and always reminding me of the importance of practice and detachment. Namaste-
Kelly is the owner and founder of Sattva Yoga Seminole Heights and is a 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance. She completed her 230-hour yoga teacher training with Asheville Yoga Center in 2009 and has recently received her 500 Hour advanced teaching certification through Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in NYC. She has a background in dance, a degree in Fitness and Wellness from the University of Florida, a love of Ayurveda, and is slowly and steadily studying her way through the Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali sutra by sutra with the guidance of Tony Nenov and A. G. Mohan.

What led me to yoga?

A major dance injury in college sort of “forced” me into a yoga practice actually! As a dance minor in college at UF, Yoga postures were typically used in warm-ups, even within the choreography. I always despised them, haha! I had really tight hamstrings, and like zero upper body strength back then. Postures like Downward Facing Dog were a lot of work and uncomfortable in my body! After severely spraining my ankle and moving home to Tampa for an internship, I found Yogani in South Tampa and began practicing Bikram. I loved the mirror, the sweat, and being able to “do” the poses. My obsession with having a fit & thin body kept me coming back. It is very weird to reflect back on that mindset now, in 2017 about 10 years later. My purpose for practicing is almost completely to benefit my heart and mind now!

What does your personal practice look like?


My personal practice or Sadhana as it is referred to in Sanskrit is made up of 5 staples.

  1.  I open the windows. In my home, my yoga room, my studio, hotel, etc. Wherever I am practicing has to have a lot of light. If I lived in the mountains, I would almost always sit outside I think! But Florida heat isn’t the best for that!
  2.  I meditate. I try to sit daily. A few years ago I took a vow to sit every day that year. I believe it was 2015. That made all the difference. It became such a commitment that I got used to it, made space for it, began to CRAVE it. Can not imagine living my life and not meditating. It is probably the single most important thing that I do in my day.
  3. I chant. I began to incorporate chanting into my life about 6 years ago. It was weird at first, and now it brings me so much peace. I love mantra. I consider myself a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of the Heart. Chanting can be whatever you want it to be, serve any purpose. For me, it is an act of devotion to the divine.
  4.  I offer gratitude. To my teachers specifically. And then for my life. To practice yoga is a gift. To teach yoga is an even greater gift. I am in love with my life. Every day there is stress. I opened a yoga studio and even though I am living a life I love, things can feel overwhelming at times. Gratitude keeps me balanced, and HUMBLE. It keeps my heart soft.
  5.  I touch the ground. Out of respect for the Mother Earth and all she provides. Namaste.


Books I recommend:

1. The Path of Practice by Bri Maya Tiwari. This book changed my life, a couple of times! It taught me how to start to heal myself. And how to use rituals as a way to help honor my life and ancestors. It also taught me about the power of the MOON!

2. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, commentary by Aranya. This edition of the sutras has a bright yellow cover, and it is DENSE! But an essential resource for any serious practitioner of yoga. Changed my life, and continues to change my life.

3. The Journey Within by Radhanath Swami. A book about Bhakti that I am reading right now written by an American Swami. Founder of the Bhakti Center in NYC. Full of beautiful insights and stories. An inspiring read so far!

Notes on Sequencing

SEQUENCING YOGA EXPERIENCES In each classification of poses—warm-ups, standing poses, backbends, inversions, and so on— progress from simple, less strenuous poses to more complex, difficult and strenuous poses. A well sequenced session the practitioner is able to reach below the skin, the muscles, and the bones to the energetic and bliss body. The best way to learn to sequence, besides practicing the creation of well thought out yoga experiences, is to practice what you create and see if each pose contributes to the next posture.

 

In general, while you might see variations depending on stylization and tradition, the organization of a class or session begins with a meditation pose and warm ups and then progresses to poses that safely and effectively open up the shoulders and hips. The climax of the class is composed of poses that require the most strength, stamina, and flexibility. The latter part of the class contains cooling and quieting poses.

 

A good rule of thumb is to remember the concept of parinamavada and pratikryasana. When creating a class, consider the following: • Who are you sequencing for (age, lifestyle, illness)? • What is the weather like? • What is the season? • What is you students experience level? • How do you expect your students to feel emotionally, mentally, and physically? • How do YOU feel emotionally, mentally, and physically?

 

PRINCIPLES OF SEQUENCING

1. Move from simple to complex

2. Move into stillness

3. Cultivate energetic balance

4. Integrate the effects of actions

5. Cultivate sustainable self-transformation

 

GENERAL SEQUENCING TIPS • Standing poses are good preparation for forward bends and backbends • Downward dog is good prep for all poses and a good cool down after forward bends and backbends • Don’t alternate back and forth between forward bends and back bends • Don’t add heating poses after cooling poses • Remember that different categories of asana have a different effect on the body, the mind, and the emotions. The best way to learn these effects and sequence from them is to understand them in your own body

STUDENT INTERVIEW:: Jodi Ross

 

 

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Jodi Ross

'17 Summer Immersion Student

What lead you to yoga?

I have always been drawn to things that cultivate spirituality and connection with other living things. I was introduced to yoga at a young age growing up in Colorado, and at first, I used it as a practice to increase my strength and flexibility for dance. As I really dove into my practice, I realized that the aspect of stillness was one that was missing from my life and really craving. I found a huge connection in meditation and pranayama, or breathing, as things that I really needed in my life.

Why YTT?

I wanted to bring the things that I have experienced and learned to others. I just finished graduate school and am in a state of transition and needed something that I could really have to give me a sense of purpose this summer. The Summer Immersion YTT was the perfect option for me to have something meaningful and grounding in my life while everything else seems uncertain. I love that YTT is giving me the philosophical, anatomical, and practical foundations to deepen my own practice and develop the skills and knowledge to teach others.

What are your intentions?

My greatest intention right now is to cleanse my life of anything that is harmful to my physical, emotional, and mental well-being.