Kimi Marin Yoga

Honor limitations. Transcend Boundaries.

Archive for the tag “breathe”

Bend, Balance, Breathe: A Little Life Ditty

In December, I found myself in life’s equivalent of half-pigeon, a pose that is not only physically intense but requires mental stamina to stay present. Life had put me in an uncomfortable, and unfamiliar, place and all I could do was breathe and stay with the moment. I told this to a girlfriend and she said that pose for her is virasana, or hero’s pose. It occurred to me that life is made up of different yoga poses, or rather, the lessons learned from particular poses. Just like dogs have been bred to highlight particular traits or abilities for specific jobs, asanas bend our bodies and affect our minds in different ways to pin point the varieties of life’s particularities: backbends are energizing, heart and hip openers are emotional. In class, we also are reminded that yoga is a practice. But what  are we practicing?

A teacher used to say that what we do on the mat is indicative of what we do off the mat. Or as a girlfriend of mine says “where you are, there you is” – meaning we do not change who we are and what our tendencies are just because we have changed our clothes, moved to a new location, found a new partner, or stepped on our mat. How we react on the mat is how we react off the mat. If your tendency is to avoid conflict, on the mat you may daydream or leave poses as soon as the emotions, tensions, and body trembles begin. How many times in utkatasana, chair pose, or in a twisted crescent lunge do you tap fingers, twitch your face or scrunch your shoulders wishing the teacher would move on to the next pose?

When you are on the mat and you find yourself thinking about how you hate the pose you are in, can’t stand the teacher talking, or wondering when it will all end, you are reinforcing negative thoughts in your day to day life – not just the 60-90 minutes you are on your mat. Working to stay present, working to be mindful and move with integrity, are skills you are strengthening for times off the mat. As we all know, life is hard. We have relationships start and end, bosses and demanding deadlines, familial responsibilities, and the unexpected events that knock us off our paths. In yoga poses, especially the ones that require us to become focused and aware of the triad of mind, breath and body, we are learning to live in every moment. We are learning to revel in the joys and breathe through the sorrows.

When you are moving into a difficult pose and the person next to you makes it look simple and elegant, instead of comparing yourself or competing against them, find santosha, contentment, with what the pose looks like in your body. Finding contentment on the mat, you are practicing contentment off the mat; experiencing, accepting and honoring your limits and your edge.  When you are in a pose for awhile –sometimes 10 breaths, sometimes 3 minutes—“stuff” arises: thoughts, feelings, repressed memories, nausea, etc. When we let the emotions arise, when we put ego to the side, attempt to conquer our distractions – even practice a little svadhyaya (self-study), we notice the tools we use to distract ourselves: day dream, fidget, negative thoughts. When we settle into the pose and breathe, when we remove distractions and sit with who we are, the fundamental core of our being, we learn to be present, be still, and then we learn our own strength, our own power in the uncertainty that is certain in Life.

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Do You Mind? If Not, What Do You Miss?

Right now I am absorbed in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace Is Every Step. The book is full of quick anecdotes, stories and meditations (no more than 2 pages) that invite the reader to tune into their breath and become aware of their own body, mind, and how they interact with the people and environment around them. I find that each entry has a perfect place for every day. I try not to read more than 3 passages a day…and often, needing to process the the words a bit deeper, I reread what I read the day before.

A few posts back I mentioned that I am a fast eater. I am working on this and recently told my husband that I felt we needed to eat at the table. We have a habit of making dinner, putting out television trays and watching a movie while we eat — not fully processing the food, not talking to each other, detaching from not only our own mind and body, and also separating from each other. Because of this tendency (and my obvious over-awareness of my mindless, speed eating) I was drawn to the passage “Eating Mindfully.”

In “Eating Mindfully,” Nhat Hanh discusses the importance of sitting to eat without distraction; being mindful of not only your food but also those who you share this meal with. I began to think, by turning on the TV, by distracting ourselves with outside stimulation, rather than sitting at a table, face-to-face, sharing a meal, what is it that my husband and I avoiding? Are we avoiding each other? Are our lives so hectic that we escape to the artificial world rather than tuning into ourselves and each other?  I am not afraid that my  marriage is failing nor do I feel that we are in a bad place. I just wonder what aspects of our relationship are we not nourishing because we tune each other out just as we tune out the food we eat, the air breath, and refuse to let our minds settle on our breath. On a larger scale, how does this behavior translate into relationships I have with friends, families, students and acquaintances? As I ponder these question in my own life, I ask YOU: How does your behavior affect both you and others? What do you miss by mindlessly distracting yourself from being completely present?

Earth Day

On April 22, 1970 Earth Day officially began. Although I know we should be honoring the earth everyday, and I think a lot of people do. It is like Valentine’s Day — we all know we should be showing love and compssion everyday but sometimes we need a little nudge and reminder.  And I love that our Mother Earth has at least one day for her — we got mother’s day for our biological mom. My mother has a background in Biology, the step-father who raised me was a marine biologist. Together they instilled in me a reverence for nature and an awareness of our natural environment. Because of my extreme fondness of Earth and nature it surprises me that my earliest memory of Earth Day is when I was a teenager.   I grew up in Los Angeles, an urban environment surrounded by lush nature — the National Angeles Forest, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Mountains, various canyons and in-between pockets of natural habitat. On this particular Earth Day, there were booths set up in the arroyo and there I was in my youth, blue tie-dye shirt, Birkenstock sandles, and my highschool sweetheart by my side — it was a blissful day to see so many people gathered to honor our mother.

Today as the awareness of our Earth, the depletion of resources, and the pollution of water, becomes more widespread, the need for Earth Day, the nudge towards preservation, becomes more apparent. All year long we all contribute in our way: recycling, buying local, bringing bags to the store, not buying plastic but using bulk, etc. And like other “holidays” we go out out of our way to do something to celebrate and I ask, what are you going to do different today to honor the planet you live on? This Earth that gives you food, shelter, clothes and life. One of the best things you can do is rest and in that process allow mother nature to rest and regenerate.  Restore energy back to you and to nature by unplugging from technology for a few hours, take a long walk and breath in the spring blossoms, clean your home and donate unwanted items, garden — even if that means planting one bulb in one pot, read from natural light near the window. There are many things that can be done from donating hours to planting a tree or drawing in the sand with your kids.  What will you choose to do? Whatever you do, enjoy it and smile radiantly at everyone around you.

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