Pottstown’s High Street Yoga; Room to Stretch, Quiet to Reflect

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Blogger Camella Nair

When I started blogging I had no idea where it would lead me and the connections I would make. I started blogging quite simply as a marketing tool. I thought it would be a great way to communicate with current students and get the word out about Yoga in my small town. My journey with blogging has been something entirely different. I’ve connected with other yoga teachers and enthusiasts all over the United States, Canada and even South Africa. My blog is linked to Teach Street, an online community that brings teachers and learners together. They’ve launched a guest blogger program and I am so happy to have been acquainted with Camella Nair. Camella teaches Yoga and Meditation and runs several Yoga retreats each year. She is currently writing a pre/postnatal yoga certification program. She’s published two books Aqua Kriya Yoga and Prenatal Kriva Yoga and has a CD called Aum Hatha Sadhana that is available on CD Baby and was published in Elephant Journal.

I hope you enjoy her words of wisdom as much as I do.

Yes, we can practice yoga any time, any place, anywhere! As much as I love teaching yoga on the mat and in the swimming pool, I seem to be in demand in the Kitchen.

Let me elucidate. My mother is an excellent cook. Pastries especially, like her mother.(both have cold hands) Me and my sisters seem to have incarnated into a family that puts together food in a pleasing and nourishing way. What then is this yoga in the kitchen?

I live in a yoga community that has a communal kitchen where tenants can volunteer of their time and talents a few nights each month and cook a wholesome veggie meal. We have a lovely lady who organizes the calendar each month and buys the food for us. All we have to do is show up and cook. It takes precious time of course and as I have so many things on my 'to-do' list, sometimes the realization that, 'tonight is my night', comes as lead weight on my already burdened stack of 'things to do.', like teaching asana, writing books, studying, doing ayurvedic body massage,etc.

I can almost hear my inner voice screaming,” When are you going to just be still and take a break?" If I am honest I think of yoga asana most of the time with the same sense of dread. I know the effort it takes to begin the practice and as I often tell my students,” You are here and you could be cleaning the toilet, or clipping the cats nails." It is hard to get onto the mat sometimes and practice asana when the mind would much rather keep wandering aimlessly from one thought to another or giggle at the ease at which we think that cleaning the toilet or clipping the cats nails is more important than doing our asana practice at all. So I think the reticence that I have to cooking is just my mind playing tricks on me. Why? Because once I have begun to peel and chop and steam and bake, I realize that my mind is focused and serene and I am in a state of utter contentment.

Discovering a Labyrinth in my Own Backyard By Guest Blogger Anne Crew

Imagine discovering a labyrinth literally in your own backyard?

Last week I received a text message from a friend and yoga student telling me about her experience discovering a labyrinth at the Shenkel Church in North Coventry. Walking the labyrinth was powerful for her and she agreed to chronicle the experience.

The Shenkel Church is around the corner from where I live but I hadn’t heard about the labyrinth either. I asked a friend that is a member of the church and learned that the labyrinth was built by young church member as a project for his Eagle Scout badge. His uncle Pete Wanner of Wanner Landscaping helped him with the project. I had the opportunity to walk the labyrinth this morning and met Anne after my meditation. Please read about her experience below.

This morning, I finally took the time to walk behind our home to a meditation labyrinth. Yes, I know… meditation labyrinth in North Coventry? But yes! It was built as an Eagle Scout project by a parishioner of the church behind my home in a peaceful field. It is a simple design, nothing elaborate. But should a meditation location reflect anything but simplicity? So after my morning run, I decided my cool down could take place on my way there.

As I reached the garden, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have read about labyrinths throughout history. I have walked them in gardens. I never received anything deep inside me, but they have intrigued me. At the arbor entrance to the labyrinth, there was a laminated sheet. It discussed the labyrinth and its history. It covered the connection through religions and cultures. It discussed how you enter with one mindset. Walking slowly and focused you come to the center, pause and reflect. Then you exit, often with a different outlook as you walk the same path. The sheet also mentioned how when you walk, you seem to come closer to the center but then are diverted outward not reaching the center but needing to walk more to reach your center. This can reflect our personal journeys as we work through problems, ideas, dreams, fears. And finally, it asked the person entering to stop, reflect and prepare for their journey before passing through the gate. It wasn’t a “skip right around and find what you’re looking for” statement. It made me realize I was responsible for the depth I found this morning and in any meditation activities I partake in.

At the gate, I stopped and found another stack of laminated cards. They each listed a mindful statement. I read through each until I came to one that reflected what I needed this morning. I realized there was no need to read forward. I took the time. I thought about each word. Then, I stepped inside. Slowly, I concentrated on the thought. I let the thought move with me, with each step, with each breath. I let it evolve and change as it seemed to have its own process. I took each step carefully, as slow or as quick as it naturally came. I didn’t try to control it. I tried to live within it. I enjoyed the trees with their falling leaves. I noticed the darkness of the gravel below my feet. I gazed at the sunlight and the clouds beyond. I felt the cold of the morning air. I lived each moment as deeply as I could and I concentrated on the journey I was on. Yes, I let things enter which broke my meditation. But I “forgave” myself and moved forward. When I reached the center, there was a peace pole inscribed in many different languages. There were two benches to sit on but they were covered in the morning dew. All the same, I felt the desire to stand. To feel connected to the ground, the earth, this space. I paused and began my journey outward. Different thoughts entered and left; Different feelings on my way out. No desire to escape the moment, yet a desire to begin my day… my week… begin from here. It was a lightened feeling. Not so much joyous or excited or energized, but present. I left the labyrinth excited to be able to come back to this space and to do this again. Not to do it better, just to do it again however that day dictates.

I had no idea how long I spent in the labyrinth. I don’t think I want to know nor do I need to know. All I needed was to walk on. To stay centered. To take steps whether they are in a labyrinth or on the street, but to live present in those steps. I can’t guarantee the same experience if you walk a labyrinth. I can’t even guarantee the same experience when I should go back. I know my mediation efforts haven’t always prospered but this helped me focus. It set me in a direction I hope I can find again.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Five Tibetan Rites

Shortly after I finished my Yoga teacher training I stumbled onto this book

Guiding Yoga’s Light; Yoga Lessons for Yoga Teachers by Nancy Gerstein. This is where I discovered the Five Tibetan Rites.

The Five Tibetans
are a series of exercises that are said to hold the key to lasting youth, health and vitality because they keep the chakras spinning and balanced. Chakras are energy centers located along the spinal column. They are said to regulate prana or life force.

The Five Tibetans Include:

Leg Lifts

I like to finish in Child’s Pose or Savasana.

It is suggested to begin with 5 repetitions of each posture a day for the first week and to increase by 2 every week until your each the full 21 repetitions. It takes about 20 minutes to perform the full 21 repetitions of each of these postures

I am usually drawn to the Five Tibetans in February when I’m beginning to get the winter blues. I begin with 5 repetitions and work my way up. I do the Tibetans in the morning before my kids are up. It only takes 5 minutes initially and by the time I get up to the higher repetitions my body doesn’t need it and I move on. I usually stop before 21.

I ordered a new Yoga DVD this week with Anna Brett. A small part of her video is on my local On Demand channel and I’ve been able to experience a portion of the Kundalini Beginners and Beyond Series. To my surprise she has a segment on the Matrix (menu) for the Five Tibetans. She starts with 21 repetitions and does a different sequence. I enjoyed her version and feel energized today.

Check out the video and the print version and integrated the Five Tibetans as part of your home yoga practice.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Metta Meditation

I begin each yoga class with everyone lying on the floor breathing, centering and grounding. Most days we breathe and occasionally I read a poem, passage or a guided meditation. Today I was drawn to the following Metta Meditation. There are many variations to the practice. This is the one I read. After class a student asked me to post the meditation on my blog because it touched her.

May I be happy.
May I be peaceful.
May I be safe from harm.
May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May I experience ease and well-being in body, mind and spirit.
May I be free from suffering.
May I hold myself with softness and care.

The practice of Metta Meditation translates to ‘loving kindness meditation’ It opens the heart to oneself, to others and to all of life. It develops tranquility and concentration and provides a way to work with anger and fear. Metta is practiced silently repeating the passage above; sending thoughts of loving-kindness to self. The meditation goes on to send thoughts to a loved one, then on to an acquaintance, a stranger, someone you are in conflict with and to all beings. Today we began with self and it is a powerful message. I came across this poem by Rumi and I think it defines the meaning of Metta.

A pearl goes up for auction
No one has enough,
so the pearl buys itself
-- Rumi