This past week we learned three more poses: Revolved Half Moon, Plank/Chaturanga, and Side Plank. I made note cares for them here if you'd like a copy.
On Friday we were able to practice most of the poses we've learned so far and teach them to each other. It was super fun and the time went by really fast! I loved it although the room was really hot and I was sweating and so tired by the end of it.
I missed Saturday, because it was my anniversary weekend, but we were supposed to present a yama or niyama that we were given (see my previous post if you have no idea what these are), and then talk about how it relates to us and how yoga either enhances or doesn't mesh with our spiritual or religious beliefs. I am sad I missed everyone's presentations but they were taped for me and I can't wait to listen to them and learn more about my classmates.
My niyama was Brahmacharya and I am presenting it tomorrow instead. I pasted my write up here, for you to read, and also my thoughts on yoga/spirituality, in case you are interested. Enjoy!
When I first saw my Yama, brahmacharya, and not knowing much about it, I wondered why Heidi would give the pregnant person the celibacy one. Ha. Then, when I remembered that it was more than just celibacy, and could actually apply to being faithful in marriage, I STILL wondered why Heidi would give it to me because I am the girl that cheated on every boyfriend I ever had up until I was exclusively dating my husband 12 years ago (and when I met him, I had a boyfriend that I was with for 4 years). Ha!
But brahmacharya, as we learned, really has to do with living in moderation, balance and having “chase conduct” – and it actually is perfect for this libra soul of mine. I often find myself as the balancer, not only in my own life, but in the lives of others. Maybe that is why I became a teacher, to give others some balance, organization and moderation.
However, I am definitely not moderate and mindful in all things. I am also the person that piles a lot on my plate, all at once (and sometimes without meaning to!) and then I stress and worry the whole time, even though it always works out and everything finds its way back to being balanced. A balance within the craziness. Definitely energy depleting like Nichala Joy Devi says in her book.
I think I do this because things for me, in my life, come easy and quickly – and I have a lot of energy but DO require a lot of sleep to maintain all of it. Things are mostly simple for me, and I always get tasks done quickly, so I tend to not really freak out when I pile too much on. Until I am I in the thick of it! But, I know I can do it (and if I don’t do it, I will be bored or would have just found something else to do to fill my time anyway). I think I like to live in the whirlwind of being busy, even though I also like to complain about it. Definitely not moderation but kind of balance amidst the crazy. I deplete my energy but then fill it back up again, things are imbalanced and then become balanced. It’s a crazy ride.
Nichala Joy Devi, in The Secret Power of Yoga, says that in your younger years this yama should be practiced as celibacy (this is the Brahmacharya phase), a time to explore how and where you want to direct your energy. A time to find focus. Well, up to 25 my focus was boyfriends and school, even though I managed to live with 8 people in a tiny apartment and still graduate from college in 4 years. Perseverance and balance – knowing when to sit down and do work and when to party it up. Moderation definitely because I have never been a big drinker or partier. Hey, the more I think about this yama, the more I see that it really does fit me!
The next phase in life Devi mentions is the phase I am in now (called Ghrihasta) – exploring the gifts of the world, in a loving relationship and using all the tools I’ve learned. Well I still feel like I know nothing but someone I make it all work – being a mom is like that. I have a loving, supportive husband and family, obviously, and it does take balance and moderation to keep our family functioning, work 40 hours a week, come here and do the million other things I’ve signed up to do. You have to set aside a time for this, a time for that and a time for you – moderation and balance.
I am looking forward to the last two stages in life, Vanaprasta and Sannyasa, and that’s why I work so hard now. I can’t wait for more leisure time, dedication to my spiritual practice (which in my case is yoga) and then the letting go. I am all set to retire when I’m 50 and it’s why I refuse to take a year off of work to raise my kiddos because one day, I will get to teach yoga all day/week long and spend my time focusing on me, even though I am also enjoying this time with my family. A balance.
I am definitely excessive in some parts of my life as well, and this is something that brahmacharya can help me with. Being pregnant and doing yoga has been tough for me, even tougher than the first time, because I hate having to back off of poses I know I can do and I know that I’m good at. It’s such a bummer, but it is time for me to slow down and take care of myself and my babe, even if I don’t want to. I am also excessive in organization and time management, I am not very good at “going with the flow” or dealing with change when it comes along. It’s hard for me to let go, that’s why I am looking forward to that last phase of my life, it will finally be good for me! J
I would love to apply this yama in my life in the form of activities that I commit myself to, or our family to, and buying things I really don’t need. I think that moderation in our life, in the form of not doing so much and being so many places every single day we are free would help my sanity and some of my energy. I think that when this baby comes it will definitely teach me to slow down and that I can’t do it all, even if I want to. Just like in my asana practice, I just can’t do it all, and I am learning that every single day. I would like to find balance in my life where I feel like I spend enough time with my family, enough time for me, and then enough time with others so I am not feeling guilty if I do say no to something once in a while. I also like to buy things I probably don’t need, mostly for Lemon (my daughter) and moderation is always useful in that respect. I would love to do the Konmari method at my house but don’t have the time, I feel like I want to live a simple life in moderation (not having excess things) but it’s so hard with kids/toys/junk. Does someone want to come do it for me?! The worst part is that you have to pull everything off your shelves and do it all at once – who the heck has a day (and probably all night) for that in a 1700 square foot home?!
Teaching brahmacharya in an asana practice to beginner students would be easy. At the beginning of class I would say that I will give you steps in poses, levels, to move on and I will say “if you are moving on” to them if they’d like to give the next step a try. But, I would tell them that this yama of brahmacharya means moderation and that they should only be aware of their own body, on the space of their own mat, and not what anyone else is doing in class. They should do what is best for them, what feels good for them and what is on their comfort level, and not go too far in a pose during class just because someone else might be. This is moderation, brahmacharya, this is staying balanced within. Just a blurb mentioned at the beginning of class, about being a beginner, finding your own practice and pace and how yoga is a practice, along with this yama of moderation and to honor yourself and where you are at today, in your body and on your mat.
Then, in my closing, I may say something like:
Think about this yama in your daily life: Brahmacharya. The practice of living a well-balanced life, being moderate and mindful in all things. As you are laying here, on your mat in Shavasana, think of one aspect of your life that would benefit from being moderate, mindful and balanced, and then how you may tweak this part of your life so that you are are aware of this aspect, more mindful of it. Then, after class tonight, go home and think about this part of your life and envision what you thought about tonight, about how you would change it, and start putting that into motion. Start with just one thing, keep it simple, and change it.
And then I would give them an example from my life so that they knew what I was talking about and how to apply it to their lives.
Then I would say (as Devi says):
Slowly begin to move through all the areas in your life until moderation is the norm.
I think a great pose to practice moderation is a standing or kneeling backbend. Kneeling would be perfect for beginners, like camel prep, with their hands on their lower back and arching back. Our tendency is to go too far, do too much, drop down in our heads, overstretch our necks – but practicing this pose with balance and moderation, we could focus on the lift from our hearts (always a struggle for me), keeping our head up and angled instead of back, and organically rooting down to rise up. A good message in itself – root down in your life to rise up. Find balance and do things in moderation, to keep some of that life force, energy inside of you, instead of depleting it.
My personal and religious beliefs:
I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school until I was 9 years old and moved from a small town in Oregon to Scottsdale. It was a HUGE change for me and I spent years being mad at my parents, and not understanding the public school kids around me. I even heard a story once, in a sermon, that reminded me of my yama that I was given – brahmacharya. The priest held up a paper heart and then started ripping off pieces. He said that the heart was our virginity and the ripped off pieces were every time we had sex with someone (for reals!) and then what do we have left when we finally meet the person we are going to marry – nothing. That image stuck with me and made me think of my yama, not in the form of sex of course, but in that if you deplete your energy in all of these other places, you’ve got nothing left.
As I got older, I realized that conventional religion wasn’t for me and I started to be more spiritual and put my faith in a higher being, not necessarily God but a “being of light.” I read a book called Life After Life where Dr. Moody (yes, really his name) studied people who had near death experiences and whether they were religious or not, not a single one mentioned “God” but they all mentioned meeting a being of light. From that moment on, that was what I prayed to and imagined in my head. I went through confirmation, for my mother, and then stopped going to church.
In his book, the people also described a series of things that happened to all of them when they died (loud noise, pictures flashing and so on) and it just made sense to me, this is it, this is the truth. The mentioned how our minds open up and your spirit leaves your body and you can actually float above someone and know what they are thinking, like you gain this other level of your brain that you don’t normally use. Pretty neat, read the book!
Then, I started doing yoga. I started at school, with a teacher friend (the one I dedicated this journey to, Ginni) and then did it on my own. The chanting, researching the words, the sound of OM, it just all meshed with my beliefs. It came together as part of my spirituality and was also a practice where I trusted myself and what I was doing in my life. My mat and the room I went to every week (at Desert Song!) became my safe place, my spiritual place – where I could focus on me, my life and everyone in it. It was the closest thing that I’d come to that matched my beliefs and so it just made sense to me for it to become my spiritual practice, as well as my physical practice. It seemed to go together, for me.
I’ve written about this subject many times on my blog, alittleblueberry.com, and have a whole section titled “Yoga & Spirituality.” This practice and this student were there for me as I struggled to get pregnant, experienced a loss, during pregnancy, after pregnancy to build my body and mind back up again, for my family so that I could bond with my newborn (and now toddler) and now for me, to pursue my dreams of becoming a Desert Song yoga teacher. This practice means so much to me, it’s hard to put it into words, but it definitely has enhanced my beliefs.
When we did our first visualization in this training and were told to focus on God, I instead saw my being of light. I visualized it as my Nani, my grandma, and then when we were told to surround that image with all of the people we love it was all of my friends and family, lifting me up and supporting me in this journey. It was magical and I will never forget that moment. Just like Cheryl said, our lives are a funnel and everything we’ve done have led us to this very moment, sitting right here in this room together. There are no coincidences and I definitely believe in destiny, everything in my life has led me here, even pregnant, at 37. Ha! J