A Compilation of commentaries from newsletters sent to students during the moon month
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Putting It All in Place
Sunday is a workday for me. Two days of my week are dedicated entirely to creating content, planning classes and workshops, marketing and visioning – to building a scaffolding for the life that I want to be creating. A workday, but it’s the day I get to flex my entrepreneurial muscles and work towards my own personal vision. I had plans of everything that I would get done. I work up early to get started, and when I woke, I knew – I just knew – that the time had come to rearrange the furniture. Distraction or meaningful digression? I didn’t know. But I knew I needed to do it. And so I did. I spent the day sweeping away the dust which had accumulated under the desk and reflecting on the feng shui of it all. Not deliberately forcing the placement of objects in the magical feng shui areas but noting the call of my heart to place an object here, or there, or to carefully dust off a beloved memento. When I realized how late in the day it had gotten and how many things still needed
to be put in their place, I began to chastise myself about how I had “wasted” my time. But then my eyes took rest on a yet to be placed object, and I recalled my planned subject matter for the month. Vinyasa. While Vinyasa is a term commonly used to refer to a general kind of flowing with breath in the yoga practice, the word itself breaks down into vi and nyasa. Nyasa I understand this to mean placing something, and the vi confers a sacred intentionality. To place even a tiny object, like a thought or a wish intentionally is a very very big deal. Mostly I understand this on the basis of my practice. Not the how, but what was reveealed through practice embedded in spacious understanding. This month we invoke into our practice a little energy of the elements of conscious co-creation revealed in vinyasa practice.
I was first introduced to this concept at the Jivamukti Yoga School, where Vinyasa is brought together with Sutra III.52 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra to form the basis of a philosophy of vinyasa sequencing.
क्षणतत्क्रमयोः संयमात् विवेकजंज्ञानम् ॥५२॥
kṣaṇa-tat-kramayoḥ saṁyamāt vivekajaṁ-jñānam ॥53॥ Swami Vivekananada
PYS III.53 Through samyama on a particle of time and that which proceeds and succeeds it comes discrimination.
(Translation by Swami Vivekananda –>>)
This sutra is carefully placed at the end of the third pada, or foot, or maybe even step of Patanjali’s technical manual on yoga. By the time we are this deep into the practice, we have entered the realms of mysticism. The experiences encountered are multidimensional and beyond language. But discernment is all about choice, and so the process of practicing this very deliberately, the movement into a conscious placement, the awareness of where we were and where we are going leads us to a place of clarity about how we are moving forward in life. As always, the yoga illuminates an experience on and off the mat. It brings us to a place where “going with the flow” and deliberate action are united, yielding conscious intentional movement. It brings us to a place a conscious creation in conjunction with the power and love of our wisdom selves. And that is a very powerful position in which to find ourselves. Which brings me back to rearranging the furniture. Sometimes, when I’m following
that luminous inner guidance, I am guided to do the most illogical things, but as I move forward with and in alignment with that higher guidance, like today, I find myself in some miraculous place that I could never have arrived at with my intellect, both eternally and in the physical realm. As we moved through the chaos of the past 18 months or so, I took a thousand conscious steps forward with guidance and this is where I landed. I was so busy that I couldn’t adjust my environment to how my life was changing, and now, as I look around my little studio, I realize that it’s now the perfect set up to support where I am now, as I conscious craft where I am going, and I’m looking forward to the inevitable surprises contained in the perfect placements. What will emerge in this newly reshaped environment I am living in?
Where Vinyasa Begins – Intention
A long time ago when I began to practice yoga vinyasa, one day during practice this thought arose ….this must have something to do with surfing…that riding of the waves of breath and movement. I sensed, that there was some common element physically. I found out soon there after that the first “landing” of yoga vinyasa in America was in the surfing communities of Hawaii and California. The connection between the two disciplines, I felt, must have been mula bandha. Mula bandha is a physical lift of the pelvic floor which allows one to balance while moving. Esoterically mula bandha is associated with the practice of inner alignment, to direct one’s energy towards the highest possible levels of mystical consciousness. It is a practice which leads to tremendous clarity. We don’t need to go into deep resonance with the sacred to know this, if you’ve even done a few rounds of sun salutation, you know that clarity emerges quickly with such a practice. While there is a physical component of mula bandha, the activation of it on the level of consciousness is achieved only through intention. The physical activation of the pelvic floor wakes the energy up. The direction of our focus will determine where the energy goes. There is no right or wrong about the directing of energy, but I think it’s good to know that our results will very much be determined by the direction of the energy. In true vinyasa fashion this idea is circular, our intention . will determine our focus which will determine the direction of the energy which will then create a result which will influence our intention and so forth. The most important moment In our yoga practice is the moment we override inertia and consciously go about choosing a direction.
In the classical schools the only intention considered potent enough to activate the bandha was desire to know God. The aspirant would begin each practice bowing down to God and the Guru who represented God in form. In America this intention became softened somewhat to offering the good of our practice to others, a classic Buddhist practice. The energetic result is the same because the energy is directed towards something beyond our personal needs. It’s uplifted. In recent years in America the practice of intention has shifted again, now to honoring ourselves and good self care. Good self care is essential to a yoga practice, but as an intention it can keep you anchored in what you need, rather than your most illumined potential. Following Patanjali’s formula we know that what we focus on grows. We don’t want our needs to grow. The heart of the yoga practice is to transcend our needs and fulfill our potential (hence the complex landscape of renunciation practices which have historically defined the practice). Deprivation is undesirable and not effective. But to direct our intention higher than our needs is to up-level our capacity for living. But even this requires some conscious consideration. We need to be aware of what we are intending.
To offer oneself as a vehicle for the divine may result in a role where you are the deliverer of blessings hard truths. An important, but not always fun role. An intention to serve may yield gracious and elegant opportunities to serve others, but you may have to deal with constraints on your self expression or ability to make decisions. To intend to know true compassion may inspire you to give away your last dollar. To intend to align with the most magnificent and expanded vision of your divine sacred infused snowflake self (no two are alike you know) well….that may lead you on your own magnificent divine journey which may include being compassionate in your own unique snowflake way. It’s nothing we need to fear. The point is to be awake and clear in the creative opportunity that Vinyasa presents. Vinyasa, broken down into it’s parts is to place on purpose. To place a purposeful intention at the beginning of our practice and then to consciously observe our ability to focus as the moments arise and fall in the practice is to take ownership of the power of asana in a whole new way. Intending a practice is frequently invoked in yoga class, which is good. Then it is up to us to discern the best way to use that opportunity.
What to Say About Vinyasa Om
This is the second time this year I felt called to teach about vinyasa, and both times when I went to write, words eluded me. As this month unfurls practicing, contemplating and teaching vinyasa I come to a place where silence feels best. Vinyasa, after all, in body or spirit is an experience. But, it’s my job to teach and if the only communication which occurs in teaching and learning is silent, so be it. But there is a place for speaking about breath, movement, intention, purposeful placement and continuous focus on the past, present and future. So we know, somehow this is not just about our bodies. If we are spacious enough in our practice through our practice we come to know that our placement in this moment in the spectrum of time is no accident, and through our conscious intention we can influence where we land in the days to come. An intention for kindness, for generosity, for clarity and peace, cooperation and good relating can do wonders in transforming our life experience. Today we’ll just experience, continuity of moment by moment movement through past, present and future on our mats.