Category Archives: Meditation

New Class Thursdays in the Valley!

beawesomeBy popular demand (not really but it sounds good!) I’m now teaching Thursday mornings at The Yogi Tree in Toluca Lake. Join me each week at 10:30 am for kundalini yoga and gong so you can de-stress and reset your nervous system. For my full teaching schedule, look to the left or click here, and for the full class schedule at The Yogi Tree, check out their website.

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What happens in vagus does NOT stay in vagus

The Vagus Nerve branchesYou may have never even heard of this busy little messenger, but your vagus nerve is working full time. Its influence is shaping your perception constantly. Recent research has uncovered specific opportunities to capitalize on its mechanism, as this article explains in Psychology Today.

“Stimulation of the vagus nerve might be able to speed up the process by which people with PTSD can learn to reassociate a non-threatening stimuli which triggers anxiety with a neutral and non-traumatic experience.”

And guess which ancient yoga practice has a long-standing relationship with this fascinating feedback loop? That’s right…kundalini yoga! Get to know your vagus nerve! See you in class.

Perfectly Imperfect

Sunrise

Sadhana sunrise over Pasadena, Calif.

I’ve been doing this kundalini yoga thing a while now — about 10 years.

As a result of my studies, I’ve finished a bunch of 40-day sadhanas, a few 90 and 120, and I even have a lifetime sadhana that Guru Singh, my teacher and mentor, gave me about four years ago. (Sadhana, you may remember, means “daily spiritual practice.”) I impress the hell out of myself with these things. Seriously, it’s no easy feat committing to this practice at this level.

But let me declare at the top of my lungs (via newsletter, blog, Facebook and town square) that I screw it up, fail, suck at it, whine about it and generally do a crappy job very often.

There. Cat is out of the bag. I have blown it again and again. I get back up and fall flat on my face — and get back up again. And fall. But my most recent example of “sadhana failure” turned into a profound insight about the nature of my perception.

I’m in the homestretch of a 40-day Aquarian sadhana, which is a group yoga and meditation practice done between 4 and 7 a.m. each day.  In the second week of that commitment, I made the decision to practice at home one morning. I was feeling pretty lousy, really depleted from all the running around the city at 4 a.m. to join others on yoga mats in what I used to refer to as “closing time” but I now call the amrit vela. So given my fatigue I thought it might be wise to adjust things — a sensible and compassionate choice I would have recommended to any of my students.

Yet the entire morning afterward, I heard an obnoxious voice nagging away: that didn’t count, you’re a faker, a liar, a cheat, just forget it, you blew it, you bailed on your 40-day. I posted those thoughts as a status update on Facebook — confessing about my “sub-standard” showing that morning and my feelings of disappointment in myself and finishing off with a rather anemic (and, yes, defensive) “But it still counts!”  Then an amazing thing happened.

I received comment after comment from friends, fellow yogis and students embracing my choice and telling me not to be so critical. Of course it counts, they wrote. Whatever I perceived lacking in my sadhana that morning, the bottom line was that I showed up for my commitment.  My perception of it was just that: an opinion, and an unforgiving one at that.

The unanimous urging of these people to be more accepting made me realize how harshly I was treating myself.  I really had not been aware that I was being so judgmental — my clever, determined Inner Commentator had me believing I was simply making an honest assessment of my practice.

It has taken a lot of work —  a lot of sadhana —  to come to a place where I can give myself any kind of credit instead of punishing myself when I’m not perfect. It will take a lot more effort to develop and maintain the compassionate consciousness I felt after getting that validation from others. I know that my vicious internal critic is not going to shut up and go away permanently. But with awareness I can choose to believe something else about myself, something more complex and realistic and loving.

There is a phrase that applies here called “perfectly imperfect.”  That’s me. Thank God. I am a perfectly imperfect student, teacher, yogi and human being. I’m doing the best I can each day and it is enough. It is more than enough. When I am able to experience that self-acceptance — that my so-called mistakes, limits and failures are a beautiful and rich part of being human — I’m able to feel compassion and kindness toward the humanness of other beings, too.

What a relief.

You Can Leave Your Hat On

raylan10I practice yoga and meditation every day, which allows me to be calm, healthy and happy. Meanwhile, my favorite TV show is Justified, which is a violent Elmore Leonard-style crime drama set in the hills of Kentucky and known for its vigilante hero U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens as well as its pathologically vicious villains.

I’m sharing these few details to make the point that as humans we are a complex matrix of characteristics and tendencies. I, like you, wear many, many hats. Some of them do not appear compatible but each reflect a genuine facet of the total “me.” We choose which “hat” to wear at any given moment based on whatever is necessary to fulfill our role at that time — parent, child, employee, boss, friend, volunteer, teacher or student, to name only a few.

But what happens when those lines get fuzzy, as they inevitably do?…READ MORE

Overmeditated

forgotkeysIs it possible to do too much yoga and meditation? Apparently so since last week I did not realize I left my keys dangling from my open mailbox in the lobby until I reached my front door on the second floor!

God only knows what parts of my life and belongings I’ve strewn across LA. But you know what? I don’t even care. Because this oversight happened after returning from my weekly class at the cancer support center. I was preoccupied thinking about a new student who came that evening.

She was very young, probably under 30, with a tumor (and a port) in her chest, diagnosed six weeks ago. She’d had her first chemo treatment and she was trying so hard…READ MORE

Yoga Stoned

The Time Is NowI’m blessed to be immersed in numerous intensive yoga studies for the next six weeks, including a phenomenal advanced teacher training this weekend at Yoga West Los Angeles. All that yoga has me in a somewhat spacey, happy place that I often refer to as “yoga stoned.”

I don’t know if I made up that phrase, or if it was my friend and fellow yogi Zoe Ruiz — or if she or I heard it somewhere else entirely. I do know the term frequently applies and I use it often!…READ MORE

Waaaaaah!

Meditation is not about being blissed out 100 percent of the time.

Case in point: yesterday in my training, I had some really nasty stuff come up during one of the sets we did. I don’t even understand it. It was just pure yuck. I don’t know what caused it or why it showed itself in that moment. It collided with some other stuff and I ended up having what amounts to a spiritual temper tantrum that lasted the rest of the day.

NO! I will NOT be this evolved! NO! NO! NO!

But this morning I started laughing about it some, which means it’s shifting. And THAT’S the point. Get it up. Get it out. Get on with it…that sooner or later makes way for some bliss. I’m not feeling it yet so I’m still having this spiritual sh*t fit. But I’ve been at this long enough to know that if I just stick with it and let it all happen, it will eventually move through and I’ll find myself more at ease. Keep up and you will be kept up, says Yogi Bhajan.

That’s why I bother.

(I guess if I tweeted, I might do #keepinitreal)

Pay Attention

firebreathing1If you’re reading Yoga Bits today it means you survived Black Friday and the kick-off of the Season of Insanity, so let’s just consider that the week’s miracle.

Things seem to get quite sticky this time of year. There are people I have met who really do enjoy the holidays but I would have to say that, sadly, they are the minority. The holidays for many people are consistently an emotional minefield and the 2012 season is no exception.

The good news is that within the sea of chaotic pressure swirling in and around you, you have a life preserver that is always available to you — always (if it’s not, it means you are physically dead). This omnipresent tool is your breath…Read more

Yoga Bits — Prayer, Schmayer

Sat Siri KaurDoes prayer really work? You know what? I don’t freakin’ know. I think it does but maybe you disagree.

This week’s Yoga Bits newsletter contemplates the power of prayer and meditation to heal ourselves and others.

Yoga Bits — What Yoga Is Not

Hide and Go SeekYoga’s surge in popularity has given rise to various opinions about what yoga really “is.”

My goal is not to try to “meditate out” of my human condition. I have absolutely no interest in walking around in some fake blissed-out state pretending nothing bothers me because I have such a strong practice…

Read more in this week’s Yoga Bits.