July 1st, 2014
As we celebrate our 14th season of teaching Yoga on the Beach I looked back into our vault of blogs for this month’s posting. This excerpt comes from a post from 2009, and 5 years later reflects the experience of YOTB to this day. Enjoy!
The Beginning – Yoga Defined
I was first exposed to outdoor Yoga classes in 2000 when Don and I began to winter in Key West, FL. What a treat we thought, yoga classes on a beach. It wasn’t long before I discovered the gift of outdoor classes, although at first I found only frustrations. “How can anyone relax with all this noise”, I heard my mind chattering away. I would get so frazzled with all of the life noises of a city beach, from cars, tour guides, walkers deep in their conversations, sirens, Harleys, even the more serene sounds of birds overhead would set me off. One day during Sivasana it began to rain and nothing happened except my mind chatter. “Why isn’t she saying anything?” “Why aren’t we getting up?” My mind was incredulous that here we were with rain coming down and no one was doing a thing. As quickly as it began the rain stopped, and I got the joke. The sense of unity began to permeate me. “I am part of this, and this is part of me,” is what my whole being began to remember. It is temporary. From then on I realized if I could find my center, a deep sense of peace with all that goes on in an outdoor class, I could find it all day long in real life! I am not apart, I am united.
The Path – Lessons along the way
One of the basic and more prevalent meanings of Yoga is to unite, while another definition is “Yoga is ecstasy.” The path of Yoga, for me, has been deeply carved by a connection to nature. I can find threads of that connection now in any class (indoors or outside) that I take or teach. It is alive in me, yet I find a whole network of connection when I am outdoors doing Yoga. It is a gift to be able to teach in the ever-changing environment of nature. One student recently chuckled and said, “Thank you for creating such a beautiful studio complete with a background that is in constant creation.” I laughed back and said, “No problem I have hired coworkers to stand and spin the backdrop for you.”
With trees surrounding our class I connect to the symbiotic relationship that unites us through the simple act of breathing. As each of us breathes in, we are in the receptive energy, breathing in the fresh oxygen right from the source. Then with each exhalation we give, consciously give, of our breath and the carbon dioxide back to the trees. It is reciprocity in action, yoga uniting man and nature. How ecstatic to experience this connection in the consciousness of mind and the physical moment at the same time. The direct connection with other living beings inspires “direct knowing”, and stimulates the meaning of “Yoga is ecstasy.”
To be witness to our own breath while breathing with the negative ions that are stimulated by each ocean wave uplifts us. To hear each wave as it ripples through us, unites us. To be inspired by the movement of dolphins swimming by, or the stillness of the trees, and the omnipresence of the wind awakens a state of ecstasy within. Ah, the wind how it does awaken so many things from, appreciation to frustration. Some days we are in great appreciation as the wind helps to keep us bug-free, while other days it can blow so hard that although there are no bugs, the sand begins to blast on our ankles. I have learned the lesson of non-attachment in many different ways, as every day is unique on so many levels.
Non-attachment, oh what a vast precept of Yoga. Nature offers such a fertile field to practice non-attachment, and encourages surrender. I share with my students the concept of surrender as “a conscious decision to go with something that is greater than you are.” Feeling the Earth directly underneath you in a pose and surrendering to that support can be profound. Feeling gravity drawing you into the Earth and learning to go with it, rather than resisting it awakens the understanding for many of surrender. We can quickly recognize the force of gravity as something much “greater” than we are, and then look for ways to ease into a pose using gravity. Uniting with a force that is greater than you are brings us back to the meaning of Yoga. There is a great sense of peace that comes when we are united in our consciousness in this way.
The first time I knew I was mastering this inner sense of peace, in a world that seemed so chaotic, was the morning a motorcycle with a loud set of mufflers drove by the platform and all I heard was AAAaaauuuuummmmmmmm. What a tickle went through me. I realized that all resistance to the sound had vanished and oneness was pervading. I felt the absence of Avidya, misapprehension, slipping away as I was not hearing the sound as something to reject (dvesa). What I heard was the Universal sound of Aum vibrating all around me. In the moment there was nothing else. Divine!
Samadhi – Realization
In studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras we come to the concept of Isvarapranidhana, surrendering to a higher power. Whatever name you may call this power, from the tradition or religion you may come from, teaching Yoga classes on beaches offers a direct experience with it. Nature offers us the opportunity to recognize beauty all around us, and we see the divine. The spirit that shines outside, as sunlight sparkles on the water, parting through clouds or dancing on leaves demands your awareness that something greater than you is at hand. And you remember that you are part of It.
Namaste – Takes one to know one
We open our eyes at the end of a class and we see such beauty. Through yoga we learn that our perception is guided by our experience and understanding. To be able to recognize beauty outside of ourselves it must exist within us. In seeing beauty surrounding us from the dance of light in tree branches, to the gliding of a bird overhead we are recognizing beauty from a place within us that knows beauty. It lives in us. In each class we honor the light that exists in us and in all things around us with Namaste. How delicious to embrace this sense of honoring through a connection with Nature’s expression of it. We are truly blessed in our yoga studio called Nature. Namaste.
Posted in Articles, Inspirations from Class, Spirit, Yoga Philosophy | 2 Comments »
June 1st, 2014
Each time you step onto your yoga mat is a wonderful moment to remind yourself that you are embarking on a practice of being present. For many we slip into our comfort with yoga, looking for the type of class we “like” (i.e. are good at, feel safe, know the routine), take from the same teacher, or practice in the same style only to ignore the habit we have gotten into. While those practices can make us feel good about ourselves temporarily, eventually we become disenchanted, restless, unsatisfied or just plain stuck.
Yoga gives us the time, space and reflection to see our personal habits that are blocking us from truly becoming unified and uncovering true bliss. Or shall I just say Yoga helps us to uncover our happiness. In Sanskrit we call these ruts Samskara (read more about Samskara with the link.) Rooted in Ego, Desire, Aversion and Fear (Avidya), Samskara’s ruts, like a train track, take us along a safe path with limited destinations. A Yoga practice gives us the opportunity to change tracks, or vehicles, even learn to fly!
So many students come from the Western mind that looks for the goal of how a pose “should be.” This style of practice neglects being present in the body and being aware of what one’s own body needs in the moment. Making the transition from a goal driven, mind centric practice to a being present, feeling and mind/heartful practice is a huge leap on the yoga path. Feel your mat (sand or paddleboard) and use it as a touchstone to remind you to awaken and rattle the mind cage while breathing into your body. Then begin your practice from what is available or happening in the present time. What feels tight, restricted, unavailable in your body, in your breath, in your mind is the starting point. Let each pose offered to you in a class be an opportunity to open, regenerate, move, or unleash something within you. Feel it!
In the beginning it can be very helpful to learn from one teacher, or use one style of yoga to become familiar with and understand the practice. Once you understand the nature of the practice, and begin to see your Samskaras (yes, there will be limitless potential there), expansion happens as you venture out again from the comfort of the familiar. Remember your first yoga class? Remember how unfamiliar it all seemed? Let your practice grow by reaching out into your community and discovering new ways to “rock your familiar.” After all yoga is a practice, with life being the event.
Practice on your “mat” how to stretch, center, expand, transition and open, then use that practice in life every time something shifts and changes. It is the practice that will help you to be present, see the shifts coming, breath with ease or dig deep into your strength to find your way gracefully through the transitions that life offers you.
Check out all the different yoga practices offered in your community or while you are on vacation, and enjoy exploring your yoga practice. Don’t look for what you like, but open up to what you can explore. If you always take a vinyasa class try out a restorative or yin class. If you always take a class indoors get outside and explore the unevenness of the Earth or flowing nature of water. When you don’t like a teacher or style of class you might want to take a moment to reflect on why not. What is it about who you are that is being challenged by that teacher or style? Maybe it is just what the doctor ordered up for you to expand in some new or very deep way.
Rattle the cage, then pop that lock. Open to liberation, then set yourself free! Aum, I AM, in all of that simplicity!
Posted in Articles, Inspirations from Class, yoga, Yoga Philosophy | No Comments »
May 30th, 2014
We have just kicked off our 13th summer season of Yoga on the Beach at New Seabury. As I sit here reminiscing and reflecting, I have a big fat smile on my face.
I remember the first phone call to the fitness director at the time, and his reticence as I asked about using the beach club deck for Yoga classes. He had a previous call from another instructor who apparently was quite demanding, and now here I was saying all we wanted was usage of the deck for 90 min each morning in the summer. Nothing else. He opened up to the idea, and away we went.
The first summer of 2002 was a quiet one for YOTB, as we began to get the word out and build confidence in our students. It was so delightful to teach June-Sept and watch the shifting nature of the beach surrounding us. From the swarms of swallows in both June and Sept, the blossoms of rosa rugosa turning to rosehips, a fox family running under the deck one morning to the shifting colors of the leaves and grasses we embraced our new studio. Each morning we never knew the conditions of the day, and the number of students who would show up, but we celebrated it all!
We closed for the season on Oct 5th that year and continued classes at our Cotuit location until we left in December for Key West. Summer lingered in our hearts until we could kick off season 2 on May 31, teaching 5 classes per week. Slowly the class size began to build, and each year we added classes. It was in 2004 when we began 2 evening classes per week and in 2005 we started 6 days per week, including 2 evening classes. The evening classes were often magical with the setting sun, or full moonrise but also challenging with the activities of beach fun or events happening at the same time. Remember the bingo caller and kids celebrations?
Don and I have enjoyed the classes that seemed like semi privates with only one or two students showing up, as well as the moments when 40 would show up for class. We feel privileged to meet each and every one of you, and to share the fullness of Yoga, as we know it with you. The practice of non-attachment is present each moment when you are out on a beach. Learning to flow with what is, when the tractor drives by or a bird screeches above is one of the gifts we celebrate and offer as a lesson.
This practice became a life experience 3 years ago when we were told that the beach deck would no longer be available to us. We looked at many options, we heard your suggestions and we moved out onto the beach. After all we are Yoga ON the Beach! For many that change was one that did not work for you, and we understand. For us, it was a gift as we could remain in New Seabury, continue to offer a Yoga practice based in acceptance for our students that is based outdoors, and we came to discover the joy and challenges of soft sand!
Then I reflect on our students, and so many emotions rise, shift and mingle. Some of you have been with us from the very beginning and we thank you for your commitment, support and friendship. Many of you come each year for your vacation and make YOTB part of your summer fun for one day, week or the whole season. We love seeing your face as you walk onto the deck and catch up with you. Equally we are delighted when you come once, try yoga for the first time and then return home to continue with yoga (we love hearing those stories.) We practice with you and your family, spouses, children, best friends, and neighbors, loving the sense of community that we have built over the years. Sadly, we say goodbye to some of you forever, and feel your presence in class as the light dances with the shadows.
Deep in my heart is a fullness, a sense of great unification for this amazing journey. Sharing our practice through our teaching is the gift that continues to inspire both Don and me. Learning from each of you, from nature and each moment are the blessings that reign down upon us. Thank you! We look forward to seeing you on the beach soon.
Posted in Cape Cod Secrets, Inspirations from Class | 2 Comments »
May 4th, 2014
Are you new to the concept of retreats? Or maybe you have tried one before but didn’t feel any benefit from it. In this time of overextending oneself, feeling stressed out and exhausted from the imbalanced nature of work with no play, retreats are becoming more popular as a counterbalance to our culturally stress driven lifestyle. Choosing to retreat begins as a mindful intention to step out of the daily life pattern you are in and spend time apart.
Vacations, for many, are just another time to overbook, feel stressed about getting everything in and not missing out! The hectic pace of the day-to-day life has crossed over into vacations, and you end up coming home as tired or more so then you did when you left.
Retreats are rising in popularity as they truly give you a time out and away!
When you retreat it is a time to get away, reflect, care for oneself, find quiet, stillness and well being. It is a time for solitude. We come to retreat from a place in our mind to find ease and distance to observe a situation, a sense of who we are or what other possibilities are available to us. This is called Pratipaksa.
Pratipaksa, like a retreat, is when we step out of a situation, allowing our mind to resolve any problem in unconscious awareness, while the mind is relaxing and enjoying another activity. It is a powerful practice that I often experience when I make the conscious decision in the middle of a situation to practice Pratipaksa. Many times I choose to go sailing or paddling when a situation comes up that I am stumbling with. I let go of the situation, and spend time enjoying Mother Earth and allowing my mind to relax into the spacious nature of sky and sea. When I am done I often find another viewpoint, or a resolution shows up at my doorstep.
Take a mini retreat in the course of each day. When you start to feel overwhelmed, find a way to empower that free flowing nature inside of you again. Just a few moments of easy breathing, or an hour of time away from the stresses of life can recharge you completely. If it doesn’t then it may be time for a longer retreat.
Look for a retreat that will take you away, give you space, take care of your well-being and support your healthy choices. If you must, call it a vacation with your friends and family, but deep down inside you know you are retreating, getting away and finding space to recharge your adrenals, clear your mind and nurture your soul.
The key to getting the fullness of a retreat is to let go of the things that stress you, from work to food, relationships or habits. Find time to be in nature, try something new, be still and find quiet. Above all allow yourself space and stillness.
I’ll see you there!
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March 5th, 2014
Yamas and Niyamas, have you heard of them?
There are 10 total, 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas. The Yamas are precepts that we can follow to help us relate and interact with the world, nature and all we share this planet with. The Niyamas help us to better know ourselves, care for ourselves and allow our “being nature” to be strong, balanced, and harmonious as we live in the world.
As difficult or easy as our practice can be on the mat, Yamas and Niyamas give us tools to fine tune who and how we are off the mat. Whether you have had a yoga practice for years or just beginning I encourage you to include the Yamas and Niyamas in your practice.
Begin by reading a bit about them. There are plenty of resources for studying starting with this article, googling, and books. Two of my favorites are The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Sri Swami Satchidananda) and How Yoga Works (Michael Roach and Christie Mc Nally). The first one is a translation and commentary of the sutras, while the later is a story that depicts the sutras. More importantly I encourage you to explore them as a daily practice.
Starting with the Yamas, you can begin by exploring what it means to be in the world as a non-harming, truthful, non-stealing, moderate, non-possessive being. Seem a bit overwhelming? Pick one and begin to shine some light onto how you move through your day (life) with awareness of that Yama. Let’s say you choose non-possessive (aparigraha), you may begin by noticing how attached you feel to people, situations, beliefs, things in your life. What would it feel like to let go? Look around you and what are you holding onto that you no longer need? Time to set it free. You may just find some freedom in doing it for yourself.
As you turn to the Niyamas you begin to self reflect, study who you truly are, cleansing all that you are complete with, finding deep contentment, and feeling the bliss of being connected to all that is greater than the simplicity of just you. Gently, so very gently the practice of Niyamas helps us to shed the layers of the ego body identity- how we see ourselves related to who we think we should be, or how we make others happy with our image.
Again take some time to explore each of the Niyamas individually. Take a day to reach deeply to explore contentment in your life. In the moments when you start to struggle turn your attention to those things that bring forth joy in your life. Read, reflect, study and express yourself through the Niyamas. You can also ask for some help from your local yoga instructor(s).
Each moment you have a choice or decision to make, take a moment to pause and reflect on how you can make it rooted in the Yamas and Niyamas. Remember you can only be as clear as you are now, and moving towards more clarity. It is a far leap (and can be self defeating) if you try to bite off more than you can chew with these empowering tools on the yoga path. Happy trails!
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