Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Survival Tip #1: Abyanga (Daily Sesame Oil Self-Massage with Warmed Oil)

Are you feeling cold and brittle as the temperature outside drops to -10??

Ayurveda to the rescue!  Ayurveda is the Indian approach to wellness and has much to offer in terms of self-care and balance.  Today in class I shared the practice of abyanga that I've been doing this week under guidance from my ayurvedic consultant, Kathryn Templeton in CT.  I also came across a letter from my sister-in-law, Carla Danly who is studying ayurveda and she says this about abyanga:
Performing abyanga (daily sesame oil self-massage with warmed oil) which is an ayurvedic treatment for vata imbalance (too much vata) [We are in the vata season from Nov-Feb and have a tendency to go out of balance in vata].  The idea is that vata's being sensitive to increased nervous energy in cold, windy weather [and can be soothed by applying warmed oil to the body to calm the central nervous system].   

[Kathy here: This is how you do it: warm up the bathroom, undress and use a dry-skin brush to brush the skin from the periphery to the heart brushing along the long bones.  Systematically brush the entire body, brushing clockwise on the belly.  This stimulates the skin to release toxins.  Then take warm sesame oil (I filled up the sink with hot water and put the sesame oil bottle in the water while I brushed), then apply the warm oil from the periphery to the core and rub the joints in circles vigorously.  Spend about 20 minutes on this self-massage and then run a warm shower or bath.  For the last 30 seconds (or in my case 5 seconds) of the shower, turn the water to cold and do a refreshing cold rinse.  Truly invigorating, but the deep penetrating warmth remains].

Carla goes on to say: The cumulative effects of this treatment over time is that the oil is initially absorbed by the skin, making it softer/smoother, then into the muscle tissue, making the muscles more supple (helps lots with yoga), then the oil is absorbed by the joints, improving the quality of the synovial fluid.  Ayurveda recognizes the knees as an area with nodules like lymph nodes which collect toxins for removal from the body so the knees are an area for concentration with the oil massage (one should also emphasize the lymph node of the neck and armpit).  The oil is also absorbed through the abdominal wall into the intestines where it improves digestion....  On particularly cold days I really appreciated the hot oil on the back of the neck, the ears and the lumbar and sacral areas of the back.  The whole business completely changed the nature of Michigan winter for me... (that and my #4 merino wool Patagonia long johns!)... I never found winter unpleasant at all, not physically, not emotionally.  
Kathy here again:  Give it a try; it's wonderful.  And for a little while at least, Radha Crawley is still here and she specializes in ayurvedic massage.  I'm going to get sirodhana hot oil massage (oil flows down to the third eye and it's supposed to be sublime) before she moves to Sedona, AZ.  We will miss her in so many ways.  She's also hosting a warm spa night on Friday which will be a total winter treat.

Blessings for warmth!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Starting Class on TIME in 2009 (and ending on time, too)

It is awesome that you are coming to yoga class and you are totally rocking to get yourself to class -- clearing the deck of all other obligations and making time for yourself. That is a BIG accomplishment and a credit to your commitment to being your best self.  The time you've protected for class is probably just about all you have for yoga and you need to me to end class on time so you can get back to your regularly scheduled LIFE.

Got it.

So, I've been strategizing about how to get class started and still accommodate the reality that this life-stuff holds us up sometimes.  Pretend class starts at least 5 minutes earlier than it is posted and come and get your coats off (these Wisconsin winter garments can take several minutes to de-layer) and roll out your mat and get situated.  Starting Tuesday, 1/13, as the class time chimes, I'll put a little sign on the outside of the door for any late arrivals and begin the centering.  This sign will ask late arrivals to wait outside until the centering is complete (generally 7-10 minutes) and then I'll come invite anyone who is waiting to please come in and jump into practice with us. 

If you arrive 'just' before the centering starts, I ask you to move quickly and set up a simple seat with two blankets so I can begin.  You can get more completely set-up with a mat and props after the centering.  My goal is to be doing warm-ups within 10 minutes of the start time.  The pay-off for all this will be that there's enough time to do all the poses I plan, time for savasana and there's still time for a 5-10 minute meditation.  After your asana practice and the integration time in savasana, you are primed to Sit and can easily slip into sublime, spacious stillness.  The great Swami Rama said, "Everyday, make time for silence, make time for silence, make time for silence." 

Let's hold the space together for class and milk it for all it's worth -- I'll arrive 15 minutes before and stay at least 15 minutes after class for questions and any one-on-one coaching you are interested in.  And I will teach for 90 minutes (105 on Wed night) straight through so that you can get the most out of the time you are protecting for your practice.  

Hari om and blessings on all our good intentions,

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year, Sva Dharma (Gem #1), Cleanse

Great turn out for class today -- it had all the energy of New Year's resolve kicking in big-time with 12 students packing out room 105 (including dear baby Cassidy).  I profoundly felt the momentum of resolution myself today and yesterday morning, the first Monday of the 2009.  I woke up at 4:00 a.m. (which I often do), but I actually got UP and went to practice.  Then after 2 hours I headed downstairs and decided then and there to begin Susan Barendregt's 3 week cleansing diet (for the 3rd time since April) which always brings me into mindful, conscious eating.  

BTW, Susan's starting an official "Cleanse Group" in 2 weeks and I'm going to offer a weekly cleanse yoga class as part of that, but more on that another time.  But if you feel inspired to break-through to some diet ah-ha's, I highly recommend signing up and learning more from Susan.  Plan on getting a lot of support and enjoying a tremendous momentum working with her and her weekly group teach-ins.

I've been thinking a lot about what to teach this session and what I'm really aspiring to share as a teacher -- as a guide.  Well, perhaps I should just share the hallmarks of what makes a class a Para Yoga class (this is copyrighted by Yogarupa Rod Stryker and I should note that I'm not an official purveyor of Para Yoga yet -- this year is my year to get certified), but as an 8-year student of this master teacher and an initiate in the tradition, I will try to offer something of his teachings, just not yet officially.  Anyway, today I chanted the full Para Yoga Invocation for Parashakti 3 times at the close of class, sequenced the class around twist energy with an activating (rajasic) focus to build inner light and fire and I talked about the first of the 6 Gems of Para Yoga (TM) which is Sva Dharma (Self Purpose -- Unique Soulful Expression in the World; Unique Destiny).  This Sva Dharma fits in so perfectly with the energy of resolve and the new year.

This session I'll transmit and teach this powerful mantra as a gateway to connect with the energy of the divine mother that guides us on our path to our unique destiny -- to Sva Dharma.  This is a central concept to this lineage of yoga that goes well beyond asana -- we are each unique expressions of light and divine energy and it is our duty to fully BE that expression.  We each are driven by a guiding force to fully individuate on a soul level and to have a clear vibration that is cultivated and shared in our lifetimes through our life's work.  Yoga is a masterful vehicle to help us achieve this goal by giving us techniques that cultivate prana (energy) and a means to direct it into manifest expression.  Anything that we can imagine, we can manifest.  It is this drive to BE that lines us up with the energy of the New Year, of possibility, of intention and resolve.

The goal of today's class was to raise our vibration (which we did right off by chanting A-U-M three times bringing the energy up the spine from root to crown through the central sushumna channel) and to cultivate inner light which we did through visualization of a flame at the navel center through a series of poses that concentrated energy at the solar plexus (especially utkatasana/chair/fierce and revolved triangle poses), leg raises (which fired up the abs--big wake-up call) and the closing twist.  All of this was powerfully supported by deeply cultivating a connection to breath and mindfulness by extending the inhale and exhale in balanced symmetry through sama vritti (equal waves) breath.  In the end, we integrated this energy in savasana and directed this consciously toward our personal intentions clarified in the centering.

We will go more deeply into all of this and learn a new 'gem' a week so that by the time I fly off to India, you'll have all 6.  And I promise, we will actually meditate in class -- I will start class on time in 2009 and stop talking and have you in savasana with 20 minutes to rest and come up for stillness.  That's a promise.

Hari Om.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter Session Starting: January 3 -February 11, 2009

Welcome to Tapestry Yoga.  I am eager to have a place on the web where I can write about the yoga I am teaching and offering in my new favorite place and new hometown, Viroqua, WI.  My yoga friend and colleague, Meg Abene Newlin got me started on this idea of blogging to stay connected with students with her blog (alignwithnature.blogspot.com).  So simple and easy to create and a perfect place to elaborate on themes and teachings from the classroom.  This is also a wonderful resource for posting class times, special events, announcements, and news.  

I began teaching classes in mid-October and have enjoyed teaching again after an 18-month break to move and get myself and my family settled here from Takoma Park, MD.  Three classes a week is a great opportunity to explore what resonates with students.  The "Fall Session" focused on the basics of yoga -- connecting every breath and movement to come into the present moment.  By letting breath lead the way into every pose, we become aware of the pulsing energy that is within us and around us.  Miraculously, connecting more to pulsation actually brings us into vibrant stillness and we move in life with greater clarity, equinimity and luminosity.  

This Winter Session, we'll cultivate our connection to inner light and fire as we move deeply into the heart of winter with very cold weather, short days and long nights.  We'll continue to focus on the foundations of asana, deepen our exploration of pranayama and move energy systematically to build internal fire to live vibrantly through the first months of this new year.  

The session ends somewhat randomly in mid-February to accommodate my upcoming trip of a lifetime:  A Pilgrimage to India with my grand-guru, Panditji to a magnificent shrine in the foothills of the Himalayas.  To learn more about this trip, you can check out: www.himalayaninstitute.org and click on the Kamakhya header on the main page.  There's much to write about this in future posts!  I will then resume teaching after I return very late on March 7th.

I look forward to writing often and elaborating on what I introduce in class.  I welcome you and your comments, thoughts and insights.  It is my clear intention to do this perfectly well, but to not be hampered by perfectionism.  The writing here will be "good enough" and will simply be a place for ideas in progress and reflections from my practice and study.  There's such a temptation in me for this to be a place where everything's flushed out and clear (and hopefully there will be moments), but it will be more easily done (and regularly written) if it's reflections in progress.  It occurs that this really is what 'blogging' is -- forgive me, but this whole concept is a new one to me -- and so I state the obvious -- blogs just ARE opinions and reflections.  

So, join me in stepping into 2009 -- linking this new blogging with the ancient lineage of the himalayan masters.  Yoga -- duality contrasted to non-duality.  It really is all one. 

Hari Om and Good Night.