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Ep. 80 Memory As The Precious Gift of Meaning: A 90 min Level 2-3 Yoga Class

30 May
Mom and Dad love the baby

Remembering our little gift :)

I don’t think that I can truly convey how moved I was when I heard Dr. Dienstag relay his experiences leading a creative writing course for people who had been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s. What gripped my heart was the importance of the patients physically writing down memories and as they left the class, gifting the physical memories to the teacher, as the majority of those folks would forget those memories the next time that they came to class.

That absolutely hit me.

They entrusted their memories. They gave them away, never to have them back.

Remember and Celebrate

I had never viewed memory as something alive and tangible. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about memories as ‘gifts.’ As I thought about this concept I realized that when I remember something from my childhood or come across a scent I hadn’t smelled in a long time, or find an article of clothing I haven’t worn in a long time, it is like receiving a gift. Those memories are gifts I get to open every time I encounter them. They always serve to remind me of what I give value to in my life.

One answer that emerged from the Lifelines group is that we should surround people who are forgetting with acts of remembering. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are in danger of forgetting that they can still remember, as are those of us who work with people with Alzheimer’s. – Dr. Dienstag

Something affected me about this sentence. Yes, it is about folks that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but did you catch the last little bit of that quote:

as are those of us that work with people with Alzheimer’s.

To me that means everyone.

Then it becomes about something completely different.

How about you? Are you in danger of forgetting that you can still remember? Are you surrounding yourself with acts of remembering?

This episode’s online yoga class is a Level 2-3 class.

The yoga class is a journey of imprinting your mat with those memories. Writing your desires, your deepest wishes, your meaningful longings with your body, NOW. May we acknowledge and gift them NOW, as the blessing of memory is just that, a blessing.

The class itself is more energetically paced than usual. The first half of the class involves lots of standing poses and vinyasas. It is also accompanied by yours truly chatting up a storm (imagine that!) ;)  I was deeply inspired by the subject matter. My energy grounds as the class goes on, as the quiet grows.

Something else to note about the class: I ran out of batteries for my H2 Zoom recorder during savasana, so you will have to bring yourself out of the pose on your own! :D

Dr. Dienstag’s article is a fantastic read . If you are interested in listening to the entire interview with Dr Dienstag you may check it out here.

This class was recorded at BYS Yoga Studio in Pittsburgh on May 13, 2010

Remember to listen to the podcast to get the 15% off coupon code for Prancing Leopard Organics my magical sponsors ;) and go shopping!

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The Sequence of Yoga Poses for this online yoga class:

Downward Facing Dog/Eka Pada Downward Facing Dog/ Spiderman Lunge

downward facing dogone legged downward facing dog with hips squaredstraight legged lunge

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Uttanasana/Ardha Uttanasana

uttanasanaardha uttanasana

Surya Namaskar C Variation (without vinyasa)

urdhva hastasana transition into uttanasana uttanasana ardha uttanasanaLunge with bent leg downward facing dogLunge with bent leg uttanasana ardha uttanasanatransition into uttanasanaurdhva hastasanatadasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Vinyasa

plank pose chattarunga dandasana cobradownward facing dog

Parsvakonasana/Virabhidrasana II

Parvakonasana with forearm on thighparsvakonasana prepParsvakonasanawarrior II

AMS

Plank

Chattarunga (hold)

chattarunga dandasana

Bhujangasana

cobra

Side Angle Pose/Warrior II

Parvakonasana with forearm on thighparsvakonasana prepParsvakonasanawarrior II

Vinyasa

plank pose chattarunga dandasana cobradownward facing dog

Trikonasana/Triangle with side angle arm

trikonasana

Uttanasana

Utkatasana

Uttanasana

Vinyasana

plank pose chattarunga dandasana cobradownward facing dog

Virabhidrasana I (with arms interlaced behind the head)

AMS

Warrior I (with arms interlaced behind the head)

Vkrsasana

Garundasana

Eagle arms in Tadasana/Uttanasana with Garundasana arms

Baby Dancer

Uttanasana

Pigeon

Pigeon Prep

Ekapadarajakapotasana prep with thigh stretch

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana with a thigh stretch

Downward Facing Dog on tip toes/Plank on tip toes/Upward Facing Dog/Downward Facing Dog

chattarunga dandasana on tops of the feet

Uttanasana vinyasa to Tadasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana with or without blocks at the wall x 3

urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-stage-1-medium.JPG urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-misaligned-stage-1-medium.JPG urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-stage-2-medium.JPG urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-misaligned-stage-3-medium.JPG urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-stage-3-medium.JPG urdhva-dhanurasana-with-blocks-stage-4-medium.JPG

Knees to Chest

apanasana

Supine Twist

Balasana

Downward Facing Dog

Uttanasana

Tadasana

Savasana

How To Deal With Negative Criticism – YoGeek Advice

23 May

Elsie Escobar at Anusara Therapeutics Pittsburgh Yoga Workshop

Handling Negative Criticism

It’s not easy to get criticism. I think it’s a little better received when it’s quiet and in private, by someone you love.

Wait, I take that back.

I know when the closest people to me give me some constructive criticism I tend to bite their heads off, not by my words but by my, um, shall we say, attitude? Yes, I admit it. I have a hard time listening to it, although to my credit I have gotten a *tiny* little bit better ;)

Looking straight into the eyes of my own shortcomings is no simple task. I had the opportunity to look straight into these mighty eyes (again) a couple of days ago…more on this later on in the article. ;)

It’s even harder when the criticism is public for everyone to read! OMGoodness gracious!

When I started podcasting in 2006 I was so fired up, I could barely contain myself. As soon as I had all my gear together I so wanted to get my first yoga class up on my feed immediately! I was so proud of all my work. I immersed myself in podcasting, asked questions as necessary and got myself going all by myself. I told all my yoga students I had a podcast, and sent them all over to subscribe. I was in heaven.

Until the next day. I went over to my iTunes page and lo and behold I had a review of my podcast.

It was scathingly critical.

Of course, it was 1 star.

I was devastated and mortified. My primary fear was of others seeing this. It was the only review in iTunes and it ripped me apart. I allowed that review to make me feel horrible about myself and it really shook my confidence as a teacher. I could not let go of the negative comment. I felt the negative words and harsh criticism for quite a while. I felt them when I closed my eyes. I felt them when I taught. I felt them when I meditated. The negative words consumed me.

I finally was able to let go of their power over me. How you ask? ;)

Almost 4 years later…

The Strength of Softening

When we get criticized the first thing that happens is that we get rigid, hard and dense: It’s a survival/defense mechanism. When criticism cuts to the core, it literally does that, cuts to the core = cor= heart.

The layer that gets rigid and hard is our outer layer. We do our best to tighten it all up, but while we’re doing that we are allowing our most valuable part to stay unprotected. Our inner layer, our essence, our desire, our love, that which we value, stays unprotected. We send all of our resources away from the source. In doing so we become less sensitive, and even dry, like desiccated barren terrain that crumbles from strong and pointed pressure.

What’s curious about our inner being and our ability to navigate through criticism, is that the softer, more receptive and expansive we are, the steadier and more unwavering our Heart becomes. As we soften and our sensitivity increases, it is much easier to connect to our own goodness, our innate wisdom, and our own courage. We are more able to discern whether the criticism coming at us is something worth recognizing in order to refine our worldly expression or, it’s something that holds no value to us. All of our resources are gathering around the Heart, allowing it to expand brightly, strong and unyielding.

The Courage of Listening

That whole softening thing is really just the first step to mold ourselves into the best that we can be. The next step is all about listening. Listening with every part of yourself. We listen with our ears, our eyes, our bodies, our gut, our root, our head, our breath and our heart. We listen. We don’t speak. We remain quiet.

That remaining quiet part is the hardest part for me.

“But..”

“But…”

“BUT….”

I guarantee that if I stay quiet longer than my need to express, I will receive a deeper sense of recognition and understanding.

We listen so that we may align with the Highest. We listen so that we can recognize what serves us, and in serving us, serving all those around us. It is in this listening that we can begin to courageously choose to act in ways which will more efficiently communicate and deliver the best of ourselves, in truth, without making ourselves less than, nor more than we are, but fully as we are.

I use the word courage because that is what’s needed, an unbounded desire and discipline for continual self-affirmation, regardless of the situation. We see the beauty, we see the goodness, we see the steadiness. Now we move into action.

Sustaining Action

Sustaining courage is something that I’m always cultivating. When the situation is immediate, I can muster it up pretty quick ;) but as time goes on and the outward immediacy of the situation has subsided, my courage slowly dissolves.

I am content in staying right were I am.

At least that is my ‘comfort’ zone.

In order to truly evolve and transform there MUST be action: action which is grounded in the best of ourselves. Action that takes responsibility to refine, to grow and expand from our remembrance that we are the stuff that stars are made of – all the time. It is our duty to step in and engage even when it becomes uncomfortable and gosh darnit, really hard.

We have to follow through with our actions, taking responsibility for ourselves, always.

Criticism + Discerning Doing = Opportunity To Shine

I said that I had to look into the mighty eyes of my own shortcomings just a couple of days ago. I happened to go into iTunes again to check on my reviews. I do like to read the reviews. It helps me to feel connected to you guys as the online yoga kula, and it also informs me whether or not the podcast is effective and it’s being received in the way that I intended.

This is what I found.

Well, that was not exactly what I was hoping to find.

I was surprised upon reading the words that I was not affected by them in the same way that I was when I first started podcasting. I read this person’s experience and recognized a lot of what she said to be true. I was able to stay soft and abiding to my heart. I was able to fully listen, and not defend myself. I am able to do something about it.

I see everything she spoke about as an opportunity for me to be a better teacher.

I absolutely talk way too much when I teach. I believe that I’m getting better at it, but I have a lot further to go. Quiet holds within it, a deep power for a teacher. I remember when Ross Rayburn gave me the note to pause in between sentences and to say less, because it has more of an impact. He told me to distill my words so that the students ‘get it’ clearly. This is a challenge for me, and an art form that I absolutely aspire to cultivate.

I also don’t give students enough time to experience their own quiet. I crave it when I practice. I must grow the quiet within myself when I teach also, not just when I practice.

Now, I’m not so sure what in the world she was talking about butt crack in spanish business… I suppose I did say that, and I totally forgot. Kind of embarrassing!

When it comes to my ‘energy’ within class and the way that I use my voice and what not…I believe that is something of a preference. I get very excited when I teach and there are times when I look around the room and folks need a little pick me up ;) I teach to what I see, and to who is in the class. As long as I’m tuned into my physical students and choose the best way to serve them, in that class, I’ve done my job. I do crack myself up. I do. You can ask any person that’s close to me. I also do make tons of noises…All the time. That’s just me :D

A podcast and so many other people practicing along side at their own time, that’s a whole other ballgame. My intention is to put out classes that are fun, uplifting, encouraging, and that keep my students safe. This comes from the best of myself. Once the are offered,  I have no control of how they are received.

The Power of “Thank You”

I’m very grateful for this review. It was a great reminder that there’s always more and that what I do is important. It was also a sweet opportunity to see that I am steadier in my heart. I am getting better at discerning and staying sensitive to enhance who I am so that I may serve better.

How do you ‘deal’ with criticism?

Do you have tools that you use?

Why not share them with the kula?

xoxoxoxxo

NOTE TO SELF: Must replace first episode of Elsie’s Yoga Class: Live and Unplugged Podcast…

PS:

So how about joining my goofy discerning self to truly be quiet, listen and breathe?

What Does It Mean To Step Into The Heart?

20 May

love in a baby's eyesI’ve just launched this new eCourse. I’ll be telling you more about the why behind it in an upcoming post, suffice it to say that it became necessary for me to do it.

It’s focuses on one of the clearest and most tangible manifestations of the Divine within us: the breath.

Breathe freely and connect

If we wanted to force ourselves to stop breathing by holding our breath, we just couldn’t do it. There would come a point when we would again ‘be breathed.’ As powerful as this force is within us it’s also easily manipulated by those around us and greatly influenced by our physical and emotional habits.

I’d like to share with you the following article that I wrote for Elephant Journal just a little while back. I re-read it and I realized that within this article is the primary reason why our breathing patterns are so easily influenced by outside forces

I’ve been mentoring a brand spanking new yoga teacher. She’s been practicing yoga for four years and teaching for one. Today she asked me some pretty powerful questions: Do you believe in God? How do you teach yoga to students that don’t believe in God. Talk about having to earn my mentoring badge!

When stepping into this sort of conversation whether it be one on one, or in a classroom setting you have to get clear about who you are, and by that I mean, what do you value? What has meaning to you? What is your Truth?

I do believe in God. I do believe in a Supreme intelligence. I do believe in the Divine. I do believe that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. I do believe in Love.

Do all those phrases/definitions equal ‘God’?

Perhaps.

When I began to practice yoga I had a very one dimensional experience of God. I’m a Latin American cradle Catholic and as such my primary experience with spirit and prayer revolved around Sunday Mass and fervent prayers to the Trinity, the Holy Family, Angels and Saints primarily invoked when my life had slightly gone awry.

Although I went to mass on Sundays and had a pretty strong commitment to prayer and a deep fascination with studying Mystics and Saints, my spiritual life was split: a time for study and prayer and the rest of my life ;) At the time my experience of faith in my every day life was satisfactory, although upon looking back, detached and a bit stale.

It was in yoga classes that I began to hear the phrase “the Divine”. I was a bit shocked by it, as these were sacred words being spoken in mundane situations, at least from my perspective. The Divine, divinity, concocted to me something grand and untouchable that you only really talk about or hear about in church. My experience of the term was very individual and not at all inclusive, and I sorta liked it that way.

As my passion for asana classes grew and my teachers mentioned the Divine (mind you not all teachers mention the Divine), I simply let the word slide away, choosing to not commit attention to this ‘lay’ definition, and maintained a separation between the earthly experience of my body and the realm of the spirit and/or soul. I simply kept showing up to class and my teachers kept offering up teachings which invited me to go deeper. This going deeper was not about asana, although at first that was the only thing that I could do, but about finally choosing to cultivate the Divine in the every day. This undertaking was risky. It required sensitivity, softness, openness and most of all courage, the courage to step inside my own heart, my own Divine heart. This journey as much as it was sweet, and calming was also just as agitating, as the stakes had now gone up. I now had chosen to see the Sacred in the ordinary, thus making each and every one of my choices ever more meaningful. This also meant that not only would I have to take responsibility and be accountable for my faith and my honest participation within Catholicism but also studying, asking questions and cultivating a more meaningful conversation within my Self and God. This included a clear recognition of the purity of my body, breath, words, thoughts, and actions as the embodiment of Auspiciousness.

It was in this discovery that I recognized that my job was to aspire to my own deepest experience. I saw the gift of my life as a blessing, not a problem to be solved. I began to see God, Spirit, Goodness all around me, particularly as it was manifested in the quietness of my heart sprinkled throughout the day. In asana classes I uncovered the tools necessary to begin to fertilize the seeds of Grace that were always present within. My narrow and sterile vision of spirituality, prayer, and the Divine had distilled itself so much within my heart that it had become rich and tasty and thus I was able to see it reflected all around me. The more meaning I brought to my every day life, the more sacred I made the every day, the closer I felt to God, the world and those around me.

I shared with the sweet young teacher, you may not want to define the Divine as God. You may not want to bring any aspect of your spiritual religious life to an asana class, and that’s perfectly fine. What I do offer to you is for you to continue to deepen and refine the questions. You, deepen the conversation with yourself and grow your experiences on the mat, off the mat and within your own individual religious/spiritual practices. How can your yoga help you evolve to a better place and enrich your life and that of those around you? How can your yoga help you to be a better human being?

That is the Divine.

Like I mention in the article, it’s not easy to step into the Heart – and stay there. It’s not easy to pause, be quiet, truly listen…and attune…to your breath. Even though it may not be easy, it certainly is the simplest and most efficient way to enhance and revitalize your health.

If you are ready to do it, I’d like to invite you to join me so we can get started together.

Reclaim Your Health. Start By Breathing!

Not At The 2010 Anusara Advanced Intensive In LA? 3 Ways to Align with The Kula

4 Mar

In my dreams I had planned on going to the 2010 Anusara ™ Advanced Intensive in LA. The last time that I was able to gather with the kula was in February 2008 for this same event. During that Intensive I intuited that I was pregnant, and I was, 3 weeks pregnant to be exact. It has been the blessing of my daughter and new family (plus all sorts of other *cough-finances* logistics) that has kept me from traveling. The reality of my life now is that I simply cannot fly across the country to study. I can barely make it to a public yoga class in town!

And gosh darn it, it’s crazy frustrating.

I cannot say that I was not disappointed that I was unable to attend the Advanced Intensive. I also cannot say that I didn’t have feelings of jealousy and *gulp* guilt, yep, I said it, guilt, for not being able to make it. I felt within me that I had let myself down and John down. I know that there are plenty of members of the kula that travel with their babies and family and I seriously wonder “how in God’s name are they able to do that?”. These feelings of jealousy and guilt are unfounded, I know that, and of course this was an opportunity to be a ‘grown up’ and embody the teachings and so I hunkered down, looked at myself square in the Heart and addressed these feelings. And lo and behold, sweetness flowed.

3 Ways to be Anusara when Away from the Kula

Adhikara (studentship) ★ I can step wholeheartedly into my studies *again*, all my past teacher training notes, the Anusara ™ Teacher Manual, handouts that John has passed out during past workshops, etc. I have a lot of inspiration and teachings. It’s just easier to step into all of that when you have hundreds of like hearted and like minded folks blasting off energy to each other! ;) Part of this studying is also observing the expression of the kula via social media. There are plenty of teeny bits of wisdom being tweeted and Facebooked and blogged and Twitpicd. In fact a hashtag has been created just for the Intensive #AdvLa and #AdvINT :D

Honor ★ I can honor my kula, all my teachers that have inspired me in this path, especially John by teaching in a way that reflects the clarity and authenticity of my heart and the larger vision. I can choose to continue to always do my best and be my best in any and all circumstances. I may not be able to see my teacher face to face. I may not be able to even contact him in a way that shows him who I am as a teacher. I can continue to cultivate goodness and authenticity and enhance life. I hope that this energy may travel through time and space and perhaps tap my teacher on his shoulder :)  The rest of this week’s classes will be in honor of the beautiful gathering happening in the West Coast right now!

Open To Grace ★ Being the 1st principle of Anusara Yoga ™ I say this all the time. This teaching has shifted and changed for me since I began my studies 9 years ago. Now it’s about letting go of expectations, and especially any limitations that I place on myself in a different way. It’s all about softening to feel me, as a mother and the yoga that is my daily life with my daughter. I am not *just* me. I am my family as much as I am myself. Before I choose to act, before I ‘make plans’ I must soften and align with the Divine energy that is now embodied clearly in my family. If I soften I can see the abundance, if I harden and choose in disconnection, I will be disappointed and will cultivate dis-ease in my Heart. I will continue to work toward studying with John again as soon as I can, but at the same time I must stay open and ebb and flow with the currents of embodied Grace of my family.

I do believe that my longing to be near the kula and study with my teacher is not an isolated feeling that only I have. I think that there may be quite a few of you that feel the same way that I do. In what ways do you, that are unable to travel and connect with your teachers or teachings, take action with respect to this issue? In what way are you shifting yourself to make your actions exemplary?

Please share!!! Add light and it will help us all become brighter :D

PS
These 3 things are not something you do only when the Advanced Intensive is going on ;) *duh* But we are certainly forced to bring more meaning and more value to them when we feel disconnected ;)

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