Yin & Yang

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A few days ago, I chatted with an acquaintance about yoga. She had taken a class or two in the past and was excited about learning more. However, when she went to the class, she felt out of place. Disoriented. Out of sorts. She wasn’t familiar with the Sanskrit names for poses or even the “regular” names.

I could relate. Two weeks ago, I decided to check out a kickboxing studio in my town, CKO Kickboxing. While I love practicing yoga, I was also feeling a bit blah with my practice. I view yoga as my spiritual practice, not as exercise. It’s definitely challenging for sure, but my body was calling for a workout.  I decided to check out a class. The first class is free and I also had a coupon for a pair of free gloves so I had nothing to lose except a lot of sweat.

It helped that I know the owner, Tara. Her daughter had taken one of my kids yoga series. I got there early and she gave me an orientation. Upper cuts, jabs, round house kicks….. It was all greek to me.

As class began, I truly felt out of my element. I found the combinations hard!  Side note: when I came home, I told my husband, a purple belt in karate,  how I found it challenging to remember the sequences. He kindly informed me the correct term was combination. In yoga, we call it a sequence.

Nevertheless, I loved it. I loved the sweat. I loved the fact that I was challenging my body and my mind with something new. I realized that it had been a very long time since I tried something new. While I do try new exercise classes here and there, this class was truly out of my comfort zone.

I also think this is a great yang to my yin yoga practice.

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Calling All Angels

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I purchased a deck of The Original Angel Cards a few months ago. I have them in a pretty bowl and use them during my Reiki sessions. I usually ask my client to think of a question and then pull out a card. Sometimes I feel compelled to pull out a card for them. The more I play with these cards, the more amazed I am at the accuracy of the cards chosen. Here are a few examples:

1) My client chose the card Obedience; he could see how it related to his question. Later on that same day, as I was getting ready to take my dog to dog training, I decided to pull out a card. I pulled out Obedience. There are 72 cards and I always shuffle very, very well before pulling a card.

2) While I waited for a Reiki client to arrive, I picked out the card Peace. When I put the card back in the bowl, I felt compelled to leave it right on top. My client arrived, we chatted and she got on the table. When I asked her what was her intention for the session, she said “Peace. I just want Peace.” I told her I had just chosen that card a few minutes earlier and showed her the card.

3) The next day, my Reiki client’s intention for the session was Peace. I shared the story and we both got a kick out of it.

4) I had a client who was attending a wedding the next day. We chatted about the wedding, the traveling and all her plans. I decided to pull out a card and chose Commitment. We both laughed. During her session, I heard various messages. One word that kept on repeating was Healing, Healing, Healing. I could not get the word out of my head. After the session, I shared with her the messages, especially the word Healing.

As she listened to me, she began shuffling the Angel cards. One card jumped out of the bowl. It was Healing. We both gasped. It was very, very weird.

5) Yesterday my Reiki client chose the card Forgiveness. She was confused and said it didn’t answer her question. However, she said she’s been working on a spiritual project that was all about forgiveness. This morning I gave a long distance Reiki session. I pulled a card before the session and after the session. Forgiveness was one of the two words. This was after my daughters had shuffled the cards and picked out their cards. I also shuffled the cards as I always do.

My cynical side says that these are all just coincidences. That none of this means anything. Yet another part of me thinks that while I am not a mathematician, it is a bit odd. Of course there are times when I pick a card or my client picks a card that doesn’t seem to tie into the question whatsoever. And then my mind tells me that I can make any word fit. Yet, in the examples I shared, there seems to be something else going on.

What do you think?

 

Karunamayi Part III: Another Unexpected Gift

karunamayi

I was introduced to Karunamayi, a living Saint from India, about two years ago. My meditation teacher was the one who told me about her. After my first darshan, or blessing, with her I became vegetarian. All desire to eat meat or fish was totally lifted from me. When I asked her a blessing, becoming a vegetarian was not on my list! I don’t know why this happened. All I can say is that ever since that day over two years, I have had a few bites of fish and none of meat or chicken.

When I received my second darshan last year, my husband joked and asked if I would become vegan. Nothing of the sort happened. I did cry for no apparent reason, which had happened the previous year. But aside from that, I didn’t feel anything drastic had happened or changed for me.

This year, I had family from Spain visiting me. I was not able to attend the darshan but the opportunity to participate in a half day meditation workshop opened up. One of my friends was curious about meeting her and decided to join me. As we drove there bright and early, we told each other that we didn’t have any expectations. We declared that we were fully open to experience and whatever would happen that day. We were so full of shit. Of course we had expectations!

The workshop started one hour later than what was on the website. We didn’t receive any instruction on how to meditate. We spent maybe 90 minutes in her presence which included one hour with our eyes closed meditating. Darshan wasn’t part of the program. We left disappointed.

However, the next morning I realized that I had, indeed, been given an unexpected gift. During the workshop, we practiced yoga. It was a special sequence that Amma developed. When we practiced it, I felt something. I don’t know what it was, but it was something. I did have an internal debate before purchasing the book, Yoga Is Union. The Yoga of Amma Sri Karunamayi. The book contained the sequence and also a lot more information. I have never been able to maintain a home yoga practice, despite a 300 hour Yoga Alliance certification and other workshops that I have taken focused on developing a home practice.

Shockingly enough to me, I have been practicing the sequence nearly every day. Even more shockingly, I have had the desire to teach the sequence to friends. I taught to two friends last week and will be teaching it again this week. I don’t think they have had the same experience with it as I have but they told me they have enjoyed it.

I’ve begun to read the book. The author Darin Somma, who was the one who led the practice at the workshop, writes “Everyone I have the fortune of sharing this practice with has told how profound their experience is, even yoga teachers with more than 60 years of experience have told me that Amma’s teachings revolutionized their practice!” I don’t know if my practice is revolutionized. I will keep you posted 🙂

 

Reiki & Manifesting

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When I decided to take a break this summer from teaching yoga to kids, I knew that I was going to have more time to devote to giving Reiki sessions. I love giving Reiki. If you have never heard of Reiki, I have a more formal definition of it on my blog but the short definition is that it’s a form of energy healing. When I give Reiki sessions (that’s a photo of my table), my main intention is that the person enters a meditative, calm state. When the body is relaxed, healing in whatever shape, can take place. The interesting thing is that healing often begins as soon as the person makes the appointment with me. Also, before I begin the session, I spend time talking with the person and often times, “things” come out. The person starts making connections with what is going on in their lives. Many times my clients will tell me that by talking with me and then receiving Reiki, they often have an “aha” moment.

The thought about spending my summer serving Reiki made me very excited and happy. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it happen. On the new moon, I wrote that I would like to give 1-2 Reiki sessions each week. I realized that I should tell my clients that my schedule was going to be more open. The thought also occurred to me to let them know that I was offering a summer discount. I love receiving discounts and I assumed they would enjoy that as well. I also reminded them that I offer a Friend Referral discount and that I offer long distance sessions. Even though I couldn’t wait to hit Send, I kept a draft in my gmail for about a week. I waited until I felt inspired to send it out. I don’t know what was creating that feeling but I’ve long learned to trust my gut.

After I sent the email, I wondered if there was anything I could do. The answer was no. I realized that if I was meant to give Reiki sessions, then people would come to me. At that point, I had done everything I felt inspired to do and the rest was up to the Universe.

I guess the Universe did want me to give sessions because I have been giving them! Last week I gave 3 sessions. Yesterday I realized that I didn’t have any appointments scheduled for the coming week. It’s July 4th week so I didn’t give it much thought. Today someone texted me to see if I was free on Wednesday morning for a session. I’m learning not to worry.

Maybe I’m just lucky? Maybe it is the Universe’s doing? Karma? Regardless of the reason, I’m thankful to be doing something that I love. And I’m so thankful and appreciative that my clients are enjoying this work.

It Never Goes Away

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I was fortunate to be one of 16,000 yogis who participated in yesterday’s Summer Solstice in Times Square. It was great fun. I grew up in the Bronx. I still remember when Times Square was filled with prostitutes outside the nude peep shows with my mom holding my hand and dragging me along. Times have really changed. And yet in some ways they haven’t.

I practiced behind a mother and daughter. The daughter appeared to be in her 20s. She may have been a yoga teacher or just had a regular practice. I couldn’t help but notice every time she adjusted her mother or looked at her form. It was so sweet. It made me wonder if my Mom would have practiced with me. Would I have dragged her to take a class with me?

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I see mother and daughter yogis all the time. When I was at Kripalu, I saw a few. Once, a mother and daughter took my class. During savasana, final relaxation pose, I walked around doing soothing adjustments. My heart stopped when I came to them. They were holding hands. The mom was crying. I cried too.

I thought about my Mom and sent her loving thoughts. I will never stop missing her. But I returned to the present moment and continued my practice.

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dancer in times square

 

 

 

 

Yoga Makes Me Happy

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Over the years, I’ve read or heard people’s stories on how yoga changed their life. Yogis have shared how yoga helped them through a divorce or recover from an eating disorder or through another addiction. I often felt envious of these stories, as crazy as that sounds. I never felt that yoga impacted me in such a dramatic way. Yes, practicing yoga made me feel happier and I often felt better after practicing but I couldn’t relate a huge shift due to practicing yoga. 

In class this morning, my teacher shared how one of her daughters got injured and how she handled the situation very calmly. She said she was able to be so calm because of yoga. It made me think, yet again, if there was anything that I could attribute to yoga other than my defined shoulders (my teacher commented on the muscle tone in my shoulders but honestly, I just have wide shoulders).

As I practiced, I realized that while I could not, at this time, come up with something big and dramatic, yoga has positively affected my life in subtle and not so subtle ways:

1) I am a much happier person (usually) after I practice.

2) Yoga introduced me to India. And some pretty amazing yoga teachers. And the Yoga Sutras and the Gita. And Sanskrit. And Hindu gods and goddesses such as Ganesha and Kali. Jai! And the positive effects lululemon wunder unders. Hell, even my husband, is thrilled with that discovery.

3) Practicing yoga in a group setting, whether it is at one of my local studios or in Times Square during the Summer Solstice (I am so very excited to participate again on Friday) or during a jam packed class at the Yoga Journal Conference, makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than me, a community, a sangha, even if I never see these people again.

4) Yoga has taught me about santosha, aka, contentment. I do my best to incorporate ahimsa, the act of non-violence through my thoughts, words and deeds in my life. I try to cultivate the practice of non-attachment (and it’s hard. Really, really hard). Learning about karma, spending hours discussing karma during my yoga teacher training, changed the way I viewed life. Karma makes sense to me (most of the time). Yoga has provided me some guidelines, or the yamas and niyamas, as a way to live a happier life. I grew up believing in the 10 Commandments but the yamas and niyamas just feel different to me. 

5) Yoga has also aided in my self realization. Despite my attempts to practice non-attachment, I am attached to certain “spots” in a yoga class, mainly being towards the back and against the wall. I often force myself to be in the front but still against the wall. I need to slowly work myself to practice sandwiched between other students (gasp). My mind often wanders during yoga class. I compare myself to others. Yoga has made it clear to me that I have tight hamstrings but strong shoulders and I can get into crow. 

Yoga has probably affected me in more ways than I even realize. Does it even matter, though? Yoga makes me feel good. It helps keep me calm and sane. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Namaste.

Flash Mob Meditation

ritameditate

This afternoon, my friend Rita organized a flash mob meditation scene in the middle of downtown South Orange. Last week I wrote how I have recommitted to my meditation practice. I have meditated every morning for 20 minutes. I have been able to get a second 20 minute meditation in a handful of times. Today was one of those afternoons.

I will admit I thought it was going to be challenging to mediate in public. And I was right! I had to let go of the outside sounds. I heard people walking by. I heard cars honking. I heard the construction workers with jackhammers a few feet away from us. I heard people approaching Rita and asking her what was going on. However, there were also moments when I was deep in meditation only to “come out” when a very loud noise awoke me.

As the minutes passed, these outside sounds became quiet. In fact, the sounds helped me go deeper in mediation. It’s “easy” to meditate in my quiet room on my cushion in front of my altar. Meditating outside in the midst of a busy afternoon is an entirely different experience.

Thank you Rita for creating this experience for myself and the other meditators. It was amazing to see people meditating for the first time in their lives.