Oh, my dears. Things feel heavy
in our city right now. When I feel
overwhelmed with alarm and sorrow
standing in my kitchen, listening to reports
of a school shooting, and news of a
reunification area in Green Hills,
my stomach drops. I am every parent
standing in that parking lot desperately
wanting my hands on my child.
That state of feeling the grief
of every waiting or mourning parent
as though it is your own grief
is the discovery of the soft spot
of bodhichitta. This Sanskrit word
means noble or awakened heart.
Pema Chodron teaches:
"We awaken this bodhichitta
when we can no longer shield ourselves
from the vulnerability of our condition,
from the basic fragility of existence."
Recognizing our kinship with all beings
enables our hearts to break open
rather than retreat to protect
or distract ourselves from pervasive fear.
If I can find the courage to do that,
The heartwork of tonglen
is what I know to do.
Breathe in the pain of others,
sending out wishes that they will be free
of that pain and fear.
I'm using my breath and heart
to cycle and transmute,
sending out peace, calm, and safety.
I know I can't fix anything.
But this, this heartfelt intention outwards,
this I can do. And my own spirit becomes
a bit less fraught and helpless.
It is never separation or denial that heals.
Only open handed, open hearted compassion.
It's a way we can take
our yoga into the world
and to heal our own hearts.
We'll find the company of each other
on the yoga mat this week.
photo: Joshua Earle
As a happy, admittedly private introvert,
I've never been one to surround myself
with scores of friends. I know it's
important to build such connections,
but I'm happy as a clam alone.
I have only a small posse
of brilliant souls I hold close.
Imagine my surprise to recently
stumble upon a new friend
who lights me up with all sorts
of mutual understandings.
It makes me consider anew
the possibility of all sorts
of fantastic people
out there I haven't met yet.
(She says as she locks the front door
and burrows into her private reading nook.)
Still. . . . consider this, dear yogis.
source: The Upside by Twill
Reach out to a friend this week.
For your own sake and for theirs.
Love lights us all up.
Let's find each other
on the yoga mat.
Standing on one leg has powerful consequences.
Yes, it can be used as a test for longevity.
Yes, it builds strength in hips, legs, and ankles.
Yes, it helps to improve your balance.
Did you know standing on one leg
improves bone strength and density?
I want wickedly strong bones,
now and in my wise crone future,
where I plan to still be rockin' it
on the yoga mat.
Bone density and bone strength
are improved by stress to the bones.
Brisk, fierce walking can get us towards
the mechanical load (1.22 times body weight)
that builds bone strength
According to Sakamoto in a study published
in the journal Clinical Calcium,
standing on one leg increases the weight load
on the femoral head by a factor of 2.75!
Imagine yourself in tree pose.
Feel that standing leg rooted to the ground?
Feel that strong standing hip
where the head of your long femur
is snug in the hip socket?
You've got it.
Standing on one foot for one minute
can effect bone density
equivalent to 53 min of walking.
And there is more than just tree pose
in your future, my friend.
We'll be tending to bone strength
on the mat this week.
translation by Stephen Mitchell
Oh, my dears, to reside at the center
of the circle ceding control.
For me, this is an aspiration
and one that is rising to the fore
more and more in my life.
It feels like such a sacrifice
to release my deep desires
for the world, my own health,
the fate of my loved ones
rather than allow things
to simply be as they are.
Oh, Taunia, Taunia.
(slow bemused head shake)
As if you alone could
make it otherwise?
Try it on.
See if things don't feel
a bit less fraught.
In my experience, it takes practice.
But when allowed,
even if sustained momentarily,
can feel like
the most freeing exhale ever.
We'll find our exhales
on the yoga mat this week.
Twelfth century Christian philosophers
Hugh of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor
wrote that humans are gifted three sets of eyes:
the eye of the flesh, eye of reason, and the
third eye of intuition and true understanding.
Modern Christian philosopher Richard Rohr
describes the third eye as "knowing something
simply by being calmly present to it
- no processing needed."
In yogic philosophy, too, the third eye point,
ajna, is understood to represent
the highest plane of awareness.
One thing I love about yoga,
is all the ritualistic movement that
becomes imbued with meaning.
Every time I take my soft prayer hands
to lightly touch the third eye point
between my brows, I'm reminded to
trust my inner knowing, to fall into
the deep wisdom of Spirit that surrounds
and infuses all creatures.
We'll practice connecting
with the third eye point
this week on the yoga mat.
swan in Lake Junaluska fog taken by our own journalist/yogi Nancy Kruh
The Swan by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)
This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.
And to die, which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on and cling to every day,
is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows joyfully under
and after him, wave after wave,
while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,
is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown,
more like a king, further and further on.
I hope to embody this sort of grace
when I leave this world. Each savasana
at the end of a yoga practice can be
a tiny practice of this sort of surrender.
But imagine finding this sort of flow,
grace, and regal stillness while I'm alive.
Now, that would be something.
Each initial seated posture at the start
of a new yoga practice is
an opportunity to craft this.
Neck long, seat steady, visage soft.
Practicing beginnings and endings.
In life and on the yoga mat.
See you there this week.
cistus tea brewing in my kitchen on a chilly afternoon
The 49% increase in reported COVID cases
over the last two weeks in Davidson County
inspires me to share some prevention wisdom.
This comes from our own brilliant
yogi and medical educator Maggie Tarpley
This recently published study reports upon
the medicinal value of tea drinking in managing COVID:
"Based on the review and network pharmacology,
different teas are able to prevent and treat COVID-19
and its sequelae through multiple pathways."
This is a bit of a wonky read but fascinating.
Green, black, yellow, white, and oolong teas are analyzed.
If you, like me, don't drink caffeinated beverages,
there are an abundance of herbal antiviral teas
that will do the trick, such as wild, organic Cistus incanus,
which I've been drinking almost daily the past three years.
The earth offers us healing in so many ways.
Warm tea in February is a particularly sweet
companion to your practice of self care.
So, is yoga.
I'll meet you on the mat this week.
"Discipline provides a constancy
which is independent of
what kind of day
you had yesterday
and what kind of day
you anticipate today."
― Jon Kabat-Zinn>
There is something to be said for constancy.
When your body and your nervous system
are able to rely on you,
they will return the favor.
Consistent care and attentiveness
may be the key to all relationships,
it certainly is for your own longevity.
When you take to your yoga mat
even when you don't feel like it,
it has a cumulative effect
. . . on your life in general.
Show up for yourself, yogi.
With your tribe through the ether.
With strangers in a studio.
By yourself in your living room.
Any way you like.
You won't regret it.
I'll be looking for you
on the yoga mat this week.
photo by Taichi Nakumura
mid-full body ocean breath in Siesta Key
Spinal surgeon Ken Hansraj is amazed by
how the simple act of full body breath impacts
the health of the spinal column.
He explains that when we inhale and fill the belly,
the lungs expand downwards .
When we exhale and the belly empties
moving towards the spine, the lungs snug up rising.
Not only are we oxygenating the body in this process,
we are stirring the nerves in the spinal channel.
Deep belly breathing works to massage the spinal nerves.
This is essential for a healthy, happy back.
Fluid subtle movement of our spinal fluid increases
the metabolic capacity of the brain,
spinal cord, and nerve roots.
Talk about brilliant design.
In our yoga practice,
we move our spines in all directions.
Flexion, extension, spiraling
-always with the breath.
It's powerful stuff not only for present well-being
but for long term spinal health.
We'll tease it apart a little this week.
Join me on the yoga mat
Georgia O'Keeffe (1933) by Alfred Stieglitz
Refine my ambition into honest goals.
Quiet my mind when it is already certain
that nothing could possibly be different.
And rekindle a tenderness in my uncertain heart
for my own small moments of courage
for you’ve given me nothing to do
but what’s mine to be done.
Wow. I need this. Often.
I would do well to acknowledge
my small moments of courage.
There are some!
And better still to realize
I don't have to do everything well.
Simply recognizing what is mine to do
is the work of a lifetime it seems.
Stepping on the yoga mat is
a wonderful time to practice this.
Am I there to slay every asana?
Thank goodness, no.
Am I there to do my best work
with supreme stilled focus?
Gosh, maybe on a good day.
Often, my mat is where I go to fall apart.
Just be. See what relief my body can bring
to my too busy mind or troubled heart.
That little rectangle is a magical place
of allowance in my life.
I hope it becomes that for you too.
I'll look for you on the mat this week, friend.