self-improvement

Ashtanga forever

This article is just too important not to post in multiple locations. I am becoming more and more convinced that my ashtanga practice is essential as I grow older. It’s not just for youngsters, it’s not a fad practice. Check this out…

Where I found it, with nice pictures:

http://ashtangapictureproject.com/teacher-started-ashtanga-fifties-now-authorized/

And the original source on FB:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/stair-calhoun/ashtanga-yoga-its-not-just-for-the-young-by-karen-cairns-kpjayi-authorized/657201010995139

 

 

 

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little things (matter!)

i’m training. that’s really all to report. training, training, training. there’s a certain relief (and release) that comes in the back of your brain when you figure out that, you don’t know how, you don’t know why, but whatever you’re doing is working. all you need to do is to keep showing up and it will all work out ok. ‘work out’ being the key method to working it all out.

how do i know?

  1. i stopped wearing insoles in my pk shoes. the mornings after jams when i put my feet on the floor and take those first steps- it doesn’t hurt anymore! ah, sweet bliss!
  2. my landings are quieter. usually.
  3. i have so much more confidence moving around the environment. it’s all starting to fall into place.
  4. i’m practicing more frequently, but getting fewer and fewer scrapes and bruises. radular!
  5. i realized a few jam sessions ago that i actually am strong enough in the shoulders to get over those walls- no need to stop and curse and switch gears before moving on. there are a few other technical difficulties, but i can’t blame weak shoulders anymore so will have to find another excuse.
  6. i can get one of my legs behind my head again (eka pada sirsasana to the yogis). yiHAH!

Here’s an appropriate yogi quote for you: ‘Before you’ve practiced, the theory is useless. After you’ve practiced, the theory is obvious.’ -David Williams

keep practicing. it will all work itself out eventually.

the 10 things i wish i had known before opening a yoga studio

today, Ekam Yoga closes its (current) doors (temporarily) for ‘renovations’. it was a fun 2 years, but i’m ready for a cleaner, better-maintained, cheaper, homier space and a more consolidated, minimalist lifestyle. the insane running around of the last 2 years is finally at an end (whew!). i can now look forward to 1 june, when Ekam will begin a new phase in Parkhurst.

i opened Ekam Yoga in March of 2010. i had these beautiful fantasies of introducing johannesburg to the joys of traditional ashtanga vinyasa yoga. i had practiced in Mysore and NYC and those places were always packed! i thought, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; the traditional ashtanga practice and teaching method is beautiful, practical, and it works. people here are going to love it!

looking back on the last 2 years, here’s the reality:

1. everyone that you need to get your studio up and running is ‘un-yogic‘. the shortlist: landlords, contractors, builders, financial advisors, interior decorators, branding agents, your own family, etc. it’s business as usual, and no one knows (or cares) what ‘yogic’ means. it’s ok. remember: you’re yogic and you understand the nature of karma.

2. your practice will disintegrate, rebuild itself, disappear, become transparent, rise, fall, and spin in circles. just like everything else in the world. you will then come to realize that you’re always practicing. and that is a priceless learning experience.

3. your practice will take new forms, for example: cup washing, mat cleaning, snack sourcing, flower arranging, website updating, email answering, budget balancing, etc. each new form reveals itself through a love of the practice.

4. you will have over 600 followers on FaceBook, but no one will show up at 6am in the dead of winter. on the up-side, you can use that time to practice! or go back to bed.

5. that person with the 2, 3 or 12 friends who can’t wait to experience your studio? they’ll never pitch. it’s the same with those who said they were coming to your workshop, your retreat, your class on saturday, etc. and then there are those that call to ask you if it’s ok to come to class (‘sure!’) and they’ll see you tomorrow am (‘bright and early!’). i’m sorry to break it to you: they’re just teasing. but there will be lots of nice surprises that walk into your studio too!

6. you will teach more private yoga classes than you thought possible, and your students will love you for it!

7. you won’t make as much money as you thought with those famous yoga teachers who pass through town. but they will draw numbers and gain recognition for your studio. they’re a lot of extra work, but they’re worth it.

8. if you stick with it, keeping true to your vision, you’ll lose friends, but you’ll make friends too. be grateful for both.

9. it will be a rough ride for a while, and you may not make it. but,

10. you will never, ever regret it.

every practice is beautiful

i’m still high from an amazing jam i had two saturdays ago. after a week of rest from strength and conditioning i felt like i was floating that day. there’s nothing like a nice float through things you once thought were impossible to encourage you to dig deeper. but then i saw the video. yes, the video footage of my so-called floating. and there i was, mentally, back at square 1.

there are a lot of parkour and free-running videos out there- most of them are not very good. people are quick to film themselves doing something they think is awesome, but they forget to add the awesome. i’ve been on a mission lately trying to find those few and far between videos of traceurs/euses that really get to the essence of beautiful movement and combine it with the art of photography and video. so i’ll save you from wasting 2 minutes of your life watching me until i’ve created something worth watching. you’re welcome. but if you’re willing to waste a few minutes of your life on worthwhile parkour/videography, here are a few links:

i’m thankful that the yoga community isn’t about posting videos of awesome yoga tricks. oh wait, they are. for the most part yoga videos have stayed instructional or inspirational rather than being promotional. ok nevermind, upon review, it really is mostly about self-promotion. recently i told a friend that if i ever said i was making a yoga video or writing a book about yoga to please, please stop me. i’m going to leave inspiration to the masters.

so how did it happen that my practice that saturday felt amazing but looked like crap? because every practice is beautiful. and this is my message for today- your practice is beautiful whether you were flying through the air with the greatest of ease or crumpled on your mat in a pile of blood, sweat and tears. any practice that is a true expression of your current state is beautiful. all those bodily fluids are just as much a part of you as the wind in your hair. and however good or bad you feel while you’re practicing, if you can live in that moment, you have found your moment of truth.

beginners claim to me that their practice looks terrible, that they’re not as good as [that person on the mat next to them], that they will never be able to jump through to sitting, they will never be able to get that bind. when i watch a practitioner, when i see the evidence of passion, frustration, exultation, or pure doggedness, i see a person whose practice is real, grounded in truth, and who is experiencing transformation on a molecular level. and that is a beautiful thing. sometimes, one of my jobs as a yoga teacher is to refocus the practitioner’s awareness from the actual, physical practice to what is going on deep inside and to help the practitioner transcend both the ‘good’ practices and ‘bad’.

i’ve never seen myself practicing yoga, but i feel amazing when i do it- that’s real. i’ve reached the point where my yoga practice is fulfilling whether i’m lying in snot on my mat or flowing from one chaturanga to the next (sometimes both are happening at the same time). so for my parkour practice, i’m resolving to take the perceived difference between how it feels and how it looks, and transcend it. i know i’m getting stronger and more agile, and sometimes i really do feel like i’m floating. so i’m going to avert my eyes from the video evidence and keep my mind on the practice itself and its transformative effect on both my physical form and my mental self-doubt. and someday i will make that video worth watching.

Goal Setting Part 4: FAILURE is inevitable

hate to break it to you, but it is. failure is part of life, like the non-existence of santa. i probably won’t ever have a  6-pack no matter how many sit-ups i do, or how many months i don’t drink.

we’re a week into the new year and already i can bet you rands to onion rings that 99% of the world’s population has already defaulted on 50% of their new year’s resolutions. i myself had to finish the last 3 beers in the fridge before i could start my unwritten ‘no alcohol until 1 may, unless i’m out at a restaurant with friends’ resolution (see that big loop-hole? that goal has failure written all over it.). and my friend can’t start training with me until monday, because, well, that’s the day when she starts new training programs. so, what do you do when you fail?

first, it’s not a failure! remember when i mentioned that you shouldn’t be able to attain 50% of  your well-written SMART goals? in the end it’s not about the goal- it’s about the journey to the goal, the process of defining what you really want, how you’re going to get it, and why it’s important to you. the goal-setting process is really just self-awareness, self-discovery and self-mastery all wrapped up in a clever disguise. so rather than beating yourself up because you didn’t climb kilimanjaro or get a puppy this year (2 goals i wrote down for 2012), take a step back and reassess.

did i go about it in the right way? like my ‘6-pack in 6 months’ goal it was not well-defined and poorly planned. i didn’t clearly articulate what i wanted and i wasn’t able to do what was required to attain it. the take home message: get better at breaking down the goal into easily identifiable, doable tasks. get better at knowing what you’re capable of and what you’re willing to sacrifice. self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

did i really want this?  i looked at my goals from last year and read the bit about the puppy and wondered: who wrote that? my life has changed so much in the last year, it would have been totally inappropriate to add a puppy to the mix. so the goal has been marked undone (no gold star, sad face) and i don’t feel any sense of failure around it. take home message: things change, in retrospect- not all goals are appropriate, cut your losses, move on. self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

i only made if half-way. only half-way? awesome! rather than dwell on the half that you didn’t achieve, look at how you got as far as you did. what were your incentives? how did you motivate yourself? what was the difference between what you accomplished and what you didn’t? could you have gone about it in a different, more efficient way? self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

you know how we always say ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’? goal setting is a winnowing process that separates what we’d like to have from what we really desire and need. and it gives us the knowledge to identify these things more readily when they arrive in your life unannounced and unwritten. who’d have thought that my 2010 goals to reduce my ‘stuff’ and live a more minimalist lifestyle would only resolve after i was laid off in july of this year. it was ironic to look back and see that written goals like ‘downsize my truck’ and ‘clean out my closets’ happened when i was faced with a much larger, more pressing, unwritten challenge of ‘GET A JOB NOW!’ and ‘FIND A SMALLER PLACE TO LIVE!’

past failures made me more capable and adaptable, and more readily able to recognize opportunities to make necessary sacrifices to do what needs to be done. when i look back on all my years of goal setting, i don’t remember what i didn’t accomplish, i only know i’m where i am today because of what i did. and it’s a good place to be.