Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some days are like that, even in Australia!

It's Wednesday night, 11:35pm. I've written and deleted 3 posts. I probably should just go to bed and put this day behind me. But here we go, last attempt.

Have you ever read that kids book called "Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day"? If you haven't read it, read it. You'll appreciate it. I think of that story whenever I have a day like I did today.

What yoga tools can I use today when everything I did wasn't good enough and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't please anyone? Um.... This is a tough one.

Should I try to remember that everything is perfect? -- I don't know. maybe that would help.

How about remembering that this too shall pass? -- Getting closer.

Okay, I got it. Remember the movie The Lion King? That scene when the monkey hits Simba over the head with his walking stick. Simba says "hey! why did you do that!"
The monkey replies "What does it matter? it's in the past" --

Tomorrow this day will be in the past and none of this crap I've been obsessing over all day will matter. Each day is a new day. Thank God for that! Yoga teaches us to let go of the past and stay present in the moment. Our natural tendency is to dwell on the past or project forward into the future. Neither of which are accurate. The past is only a memory, colored by our emotions and past impressions. The future is just a dream. The present is all the really matters - and yes it's perfect. It's exactly what it's suppose to be - even when we don't see the perfection. Remember the only breath that counts is the breath you're taking right now. So go ahead take a few deep breaths with me. I'm Feeling better already!

Gayatri mantra sadhana - Day#6: During this morning's practice my mind was much calmer than yesterday. I felt a familiar sensation at the space between my eye brows. I "saw" in my mind's eye a familiar circle of purple. For a little while, I'm not sure how long, I was lost in that purple color.

What I noticed the rest of the day was that I felt like I was on speed. I was racing all day. My mind was racing, my heart was racing. It's nearly midnight and I've been up since 5am. Not sure if I'm experiencing some affect of the mantra or if I'm having a pitta imbalance. Maybe it's just a plan old bad day.

Note to self: Look up a mantra to use to help me get back to center and back to a state a calm --- Don't worry. I'll share that with you in the next post.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day5- Gayatri mantra sadhana

I'd love to tell you that I've had some profound spiritual awakening or felt "kundalini rising" but that would be a total lie. Lying would be
not following the ethical code set down for us by Patanjali in the yoga sutras. Therefore, I'm going to tell you like it is.

This morning I felt like I was meditating in a cage with a bunch of those crazy little monkeys you see in the zoo. You know the ones, they are the ones jumping around, yelling and screaming, rattling their cages to get your attention. Today, they were rattling my cage!

I start off in a comfortable seated posture, I take a few release breaths, close my eyes and begin the mantra. So far so good. It isn't long before I notice a strange sound.

my mind says " Oh, maybe that's the nada yoga sounds I've been reading about".
(It wasn't. It was the sound of the laptop on the table".
I go back to the mantra.....
then my mind says "OMG! did I give my boss the right information yesterday. You know he'll freak out if it wasn't"
I go back to the mantra......
my mind says " I must be almost done 1 mala. I've been at it for a long time. I should look" (Not even close!)
I go back to the mantra......
my mind then says "Why are you using this mantra to the sun? Don't you remember that
Ed said the sun is too strong in all my houses according to my astrological chart."
(Oh, my mind is so clever.... I almost fell for that one.
I go back to the mantra...... Om Bhur Bhuva......

And so it went. It took longer than 20 minutes today. When I completed the 108 repetitions I noticed that my mind was still repeating the mantra. "Oh great! I thought now that I'm done my mind decides to cooperate!"

Although my crazy monkey mind tried it's best to distract me from my goal I completed 1 mala. That's all that matters. I remind myself that each time I complete 1 mala I am strengthening my will. Eknath Easwaran says that our greatest tool in the practice of meditation is our will. He also says our greatest enemy in the practice of meditation is our will.

I didn't reach enlightenment today, I didn't have a spiritual awakening. What I experienced today was a practice in strengthening my will. I also experienced a real connection with the concept of witness consciousness. I was really aware of my mind trying to distract me.

Perhaps I'll need a few more life times to reach this state called enlightenment but at least I have a road map now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Life is a puzzle

My family and I have been doing puzzles. We started when we were snowed in and we've completed several really big puzzles together. I set up a folding table in the living room for the puzzle we're working on. I dare you to walk past it and not try to find at least one piece. Then when you find one you get so excited that you decide to look for just one more. Before you know it.... you're hooked.

This current puzzle is impossible. All the pieces look exactly the same. As I was looking at the pieces trying to find just one piece that fits my mind started wandering. I was thinking about how impossible it is to look at one piece and know what the whole picture will look like. Sort of like life. It's impossible to know the whole picture of our lives by looking at just one piece. I think about this sometimes when I'm struggling to understand why things happen. Why we have to struggle so much. Why people have to suffer. I try to remember, when I'm struggling with a difficult situation, that we are looking at things from a very limited perspective. We aren't seeing the whole picture.

One of the benefits of working on these puzzles is practicing being one-pointed.
You can't work on it and get lost in your thoughts. I've been noticing just how scattered my mind has been over the last week. That could explain why I haven't been able to get the frame of the puzzle done. That's usually the easy part.

When I can't find a particular piece I think "Oh damn! there's something wrong with this puzzle, maybe a piece is missing!". That's never the case. The piece is always there I just need to focus my mind and I'll find the piece.

Sound familiar? In the midst of a struggle we think "Oh Damn! Something is wrong and I'll never figure out the solution. I don't know what to do!". That too is never the case. When we focus our mind with prayer or meditation the answers are always there.

There are messages and lessons for us all around. When are minds are clear we can see these messages. We can see the grace of Divine guidance that is always there. When we can't see it - It's still there. We just can't see the finished puzzle because all the pieces aren't together yet.

Day #3 - Gayatri mantra Sadhana
Observation: It was 9:30pm before I found time for sadhana but I did it. I don't usually meditate before bed as I find that it sometimes keeps me up. Anyway, I didn't have any trouble sleeping but I had some very vivid dreams. So vivid that today there were moments when I had to think twice about whether or not what I was thinking was the dream or real life. I find it interesting that the dream was still so vivid in my mind so many hours after waking. It's not the first time this has happened so I'm not sure it's a result of the mantra or just my crazy mind still racing even during sleep.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day #2 - Gayatri mantra sadhana

My family just went out for a little while and my ears are ringing!! Have you experienced this? There is so much noise and commotion that when you do find yourself in silence you can still hear the residual noise in your mind?

It's the same with mantra meditation. At first you repeat the mantra out loud, then silently to yourself and then you "hear" the mantra in your mind.

When my mind is racing out of control, like it is right now, I chant mantras. Lately the Gayatri mantra is what I've been "hearing" in my mind. The night before last I was reading a book my teacher gave me. The chapter was about doing a Gayatri mantra sadhana (spiritual practice).

**The Gayatri mantra can be found in a previous post titled The power of Nature**

Noticing the synchronicity of things and acknowledging that the universe provides for us exactly what we need, I have begun a Gayatri mantra sadhana. I will be doing 1mala (108 repetitions) of this powerful mantra each day for the next 30 days.

I'm sure there are rules about sharing your meditation experiences but as I've mentioned before, I'm not your typical yogini. My intention behind sharing this experience with you is two-fold. First, I'm hoping to encourage you to begin a sadhana of your own. Secondly, it will encourage me to follow through.

Here's the rules:

1 mala (108 repetitions) of the Gayatri mantra every day.
If I miss a day..... the 30 days begins all over again.
I will give a brief report at the end of each blog of my experience

Yesterday was Day 1 - Observation: Need more time. It takes about 20 minutes or so for 1 mala but then I wanted to sit for a longer meditation afterwards.

Let's hope I find some quiet time today for sadhana. If not, I'm afraid the top of my head might blow off!!

Note: I'm teaching a workshop on Yoga Sadhana: Developing a spiritual practice on April 8th at Yoga on Main. ( -- All-levels are welcome!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My crazy life

Today was a crazy busy day. I had to get my daughter to school by 7:30am - so a teacher could help her with a project - that's what she told me anyway. Rush to work after that. I work in a very busy insurance agency with some very stressed out co-workers. I rush to pick up my son, race home to make dinner, do homework, clean up the dishes so that I can race to teach a yoga class. Funny isn't it, the thought of rushing to a yoga class.

Once I get there, walking into the studio feels like walking into an embrace. I love that space. It feels like home. I admire the new carpets and the freshly painted walls as I walk around and light the candles, put on some beautiful music. Sam Rosetto's Lotus Tatoo was my choice tonight. After a crazy, busy day the sweet sounds of this beautiful CD was just what I needed to get into the "yoga zone".

I'm thinking now of my friend yoga Lu. During our teacher training together whenever we had to practice teach each other her feedback to me was always that I'm too serious when I teach. It's like I'm in the "yoga zone" she said. LOL! It does sometimes feel like that for me when I'm teaching. Like I'm in a zone where there's an energy that is flowing through me that sometimes feels like it's not even me doing the teaching. I find that the class flows much better when I get out of my own way. I guess maybe she's right it is the Yoga Zone.

I'm getting off track here. Sorry. After setting up the room I go upstairs. The cheerful yellow walls make me smile. I love the new arrangement of things. It feels so welcoming and warm. I light the oil lamp and incense in front of Ganesha.

Om Gum Ganapataya Namaha! This is how I begin all my classes. With a little prayer to Ganesha, the Lord of Obstacles. I pray that the wisdom flows through me to the students who show up for my classes. I acknowledge that the wisdom is so much bigger than me and that I need to open myself up to receive it if I ever hope to be able to share it with others.

As I waited for students to arrive, I sat in meditation. All day, in the midst of my crazy life I felt this longing for that quiet space. For the stillness of meditation. As I walked to my car tonight I breathed in the cool night air. Feeling at peace, feeling blessed that through the practice of meditation I was able to leave the craziness behind me. My prayer tonight is that you too find some peace and stillness. Om Gum Ganapataya Namaha!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Help! My mind has been hi-jacked by a drunken monkey!

Have you ever listened to children talking to each other? I mean really listened to the things they say; their conversations. It's really quite entertaining. The other thing I find entertaining is listening to people excitedly talking about T.V. shows they watch.

I've spend most of the day today in this space of observation. In addition to observing others around me I've also been observing the random thoughts in my own mind and watching how these thoughts affect my mood. I watched my mind take a small random thought and toss it around in my mind until I had created an entire "soap opera" in my head. Someone saying something in passing, which they probably don't remember once it leaves their lips, my mind has obsessed over it. "What did she mean by that?" "Did I do something to offend her without even noticing?" "Should I ask her to clarify?" on and on......

Do you ever just observe your thought process? Try it. It's really entertaining. I don't know why people even bother to watch TV when there is so much to watch in our own minds. Sometimes there's a drama, sometimes a circus, and other times there might be a comedy going on. It's reality TV right here in our minds!!

I often wonder what the thought process is when I hear people say "I don't have time to meditate (or read, do yoga, etc.)". These are usually the same people who can tell you every detail of every TV show on the night before.

I challenge you to turn off the TV and watch the "show" that's going on in your mind. Notice how your thoughts affect your breathing, how they affect your emotions.
Once you start to notice how your thoughts affect your emotional state think about the things you're watching on TV or the Movies you watch. Consider for a moment how those impressions affect your state of mind and the state of your emotions.

Once you've experienced this you can begin to grasp the concept that YOU ARE NOT YOUR MIND. The yogis ask "If you can watch your mind than tell me who's doing the thinking and who's doing the waching?" Once your realize that you are not your mind, you realize that you have the option to change your mind, change your thoughts. You don't have to stay in that state of anger or sadness if you don't want to.

How do we change our thoughts? For me, it's mantra meditation and yoga. Sometimes seated meditation is too challenging when the mind is running at 100mph. That's when Yoga can help. When my mind has been hi-jacked by that "drunken monkey" I like to do a vigorous asana practice before I meditate. It's a very effective tool for stilling the mind.

If you're interested in learning more about how to develop your own personal sadhana (spiritual practice), come join me at Yoga On Main, April 8th at 6:30pm. Details can be found at

Please feel free to email me with comments, questions, feedback.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The power of Nature

Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo devasya Dhimahi
D'yo Yona Prachodhyat.

translation: Earth, Mid-heaven, Heaven! Let us meditate on that most excellent light of Divine sun, That it may illuminate our minds.

I've been teaching a Sunday morning yoga class at Seva Retreat now since November.
Since I start there I've been thinking about teaching outside. The grounds of the facility are beautiful. Well, today was the day! We dragged our mats and blankets outside and set ourselves up on the lawn over looking the pond.

With our feet feeling the support of the earth beneath us - (literally), we swept our arms up over our heads as we look up at beautiful blue sky and feel the warmth of Surya, we began our Sun Salutations. The sound of the birds serenading us while we practiced was the most lovely music ever! We ended our practice with meditation.

One of the students mentioned how powerful meditating outside was for her. I totally agree. The closer to nature we are the closer to OUR true nature we are.

Our true nature, the Atman, is always in a state of peace. It's always there, in the lotus of our heart. The earth is always there beneath us, offering us support, the sun is always there offering it's warmth. Are we connected to that? How do we connect with that support, love, and peace when our circumstances make it difficult for us to feel those things? Meditation..... Meditation outside in nature - even better.

Whenever I go on vacation, which is rare these days, one of the first things I do is scope out a spot for myself (usually outside) where I can go for meditation.

If you are not a meditator yet, don't worry, you too can feel the love, support, and peace the universe has to offer. One simply technique that can be practiced by anyone and anywhere is watching your breath. Sit outside with your eyes closed for a few minutes, then bring your awareness to your breath, notice your breath. Don't try to change it or judge it, just notice it. Pay attention to it. When a thought comes to your mind, gently bring your mind back to your breath. If you find that the breath isn't enough to keep your mind focused, try memorizing an inspirational passage or pray. Keep breathing deeply and recite the passage or prayer internally, slowly. A thought comes into your mind, begin the passage/prayer again. Give it a try.

Breath in the warm, healing energy of the sun......
Breath out and share that energy with those around you!

Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
D'Yo yona prachodhyat

Friday, March 19, 2010

How to deal with difficult people - lesson 1

I was chatting with a fellow meditator once, about a year or so after we both started meditating regularly. "Why is it that since I've been meditating I'm finding myself more annoyed by people? Shouldn't meditating make me more tolerant and more patient?" She asks. I too was finding it challenging to deal with difficult people. That was a long time ago but I was reminded of this conversation today.

I spend the last 3 days attending Shiva Das' morning yoga retreat. I spent the mornings in the most wonderful, supportive, nurturing environment and the afternoons enjoying the sunshine, reading, spending time with my children. Today, I returned, reluctantly, to my normal routine of work and chores and well, stress. I found myself thinking about that conversation from long ago. "Why am I feeling annoyed by people and their drama?" "I'm a yogini damn it! shouldn't I not be affected by the negativity?"

All these years later I have come to the realization that it's not about not being affected by the negativity and dramas of daily life but that when I am affected, I have the "tools" to handle it. The first step is to acknowledge the fact that we have a choice. Do we want to engage in the negativity or do we want to stay centered and calm. Centered and calm, of course, how we do that is the same way we center and calm ourselves at the beginning of our yoga practice. We connect with our breath.

Perhaps the reason we feel like we're more annoyed by difficult people is because we have experienced what it feels like to transcend that negativity. Sort of like not realizing how dark it is in the room until you turn on the light. Does that make sense? Once we experience that state of inner-peace even for a moment we wonder why anyone would choose to be in any other state. (Be careful here not to judge or feel superior to the other person. Don't let the ego take over!)

No matter what is going around us we can maintain our sense of peace when we remember our true nature is Divine. ( OH NO! I almost started giving you yoga babble, sorry about that). Here's some practical advise: Listen to the sound of your breath, hear SO on the inhale, HAM on the exhale. This simply technique works wonders! Imagine for a moment that you are engaged in a heated discussion with someone, your spouse, your boss, co-workers, anyone. Using the SO HAM mantra for even just a few minutes will bring you to a state of peace so that you can respond to the other person rather than reacting from emotions. The emotions are not accurate, ever. They are colored by past impressions. The only way to see the situation accurately is by looking at it from a calm and centered place, your heart. SO HAM, SO HAM, --- it's the sound the breath naturally makes, all you have to do is listen. Simple! Inner Peace is just a few breaths away!

Not everyone has found their way to yoga yet so until that "100th monkey" finds his way to yoga I guess we'll need to find a way to handle the negativity that will inevitably find it's way into our lives. SO HAM, SO HAM, SO HAM........

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vishuddi Chakra

Do you remember that feeling of being self-conscious that you had in high school?
For me it was especially present during 9th grade swim class. Oh! I remember feeling like I'd rather stick a fork in my eye than to put on a bathing suite in front of my peers! I had a flash back of that feeling today during yoga class.

The theme for this morning's class was the Vishuddi Chakra (the throat). I knew that the dreaded Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) would be part of the practice. Shoulderstand increases the blood supply to the throat, head and brain and it opens us up to new ideas. All great reasons to practice this asana, I know, but I hate it. There, I admit it, I hate shoulderstand! My body just isn't made for shoulderstand.
Today we used the wall to gently move into shoulderstand which I do prefer but I couldn't help feeling self-conscious about the fact that I just can't do this asana.
How can I call myself a yoga teacher when I can't even do Shoulderstand?!

Here's where we can apply some yoga "tool" from our tool box for life. Remember that we're practicing contentment this week. Samtosha. So I was content to keep my feet against the wall as I practice lifting my buttocks and hips off the floor, keeping my hands at my lower back. Still getting the benefits of inversion without the stress and discomfort of the full pose.

This chakra is about communication, self-expression, and creativity. Today's practice got me thinking about how much my self-consciousness has blocked the way of self-expression, creativity and most especially communication. How often have you held back for fear of how others would react?

I believe it's important to acknowledge what we're feeling, in this case, self-consciousness, but it's equally important not to let the feeling keep us from moving forward. Move into your heart for moment and if it feels right in your heart - take the leap and express yourself today. Write, draw, paint, SING! Oh, by the way, kirtan (devotional chanting) is an excellent way to remove any blockages from the Vishuddi chakra. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA!

I'd love to hear your stories of how you expressed yourself today. Feel free to post your comments.

While you are expressing your self, remember Ahimsa (non-harming) Speak your truth but only if it isn't harmful to someone else!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"Everything is perfect" my beloved teacher is always telling me. My mind is saying "Perfect? maybe in yogaland but not here in the real world where I live!"
But I love and trust my teacher and I know he wouldn't steer me wrong so let's take a journey here and explore this idea of "everything is perfect". Where I have seen perfection is in the synchronicity of life. Yesterday I sat outside to read. Here is the first thing I read:

"Thou art divine. Live up to it. Feel and realize thy divine nature. Thou art the master of your destiny. do not be discouraged when sorrows, difficulties and tribulations manifest in the daily battle of life. Draw up courage and spiritual strength from within. There is a vast inexhaustible magazine of power and knowledge within. Learn the ways to tap the source. Dive deep within. Sink down. Plunge in the sacred waters of Immortality. You will be quite refreshed, renovated and vivified when you go to the divine source and realize: I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF"

Pretty powerful stuff. If we are truly divine how could we not be perfect? Is it possible to believe in a higher power at work, call it God or the Universe or whatever, and not believe that everything is perfect?

I struggle daily with the idea that I know how things are suppose to be and when they aren't that way I perceive them as not perfect. Interesting..... Arrogant really, for me to think that I know better than God how things are suppose to be. Because ultimately isn't that what I'm thinking when I think that things should be anything other than what they are??

I read this book once called "Seeing with the eyes of love". It's an awesome book that I would highly recommend. In this book the author talks about how when our car breaks down we take it the mechanic, he fixes it, we pay the bill and drive off. Trusting that the mechanic has fixed the problem. But most of us have a hard time trusting in the grace of the Divine. "All I ask is that you have as much trust in God as you do your mechanic" suggests the author.

Simply because things aren't the way we think they should be doesn't mean they aren't perfect. That's the yoga lesson for today.

As a yoga teacher, having been trained by incredibly wonderful teachers I struggle with my need for perfection. My need to live up to their standards. In my mind it's a way for me to honor the beautiful teachings that I've learned but perhaps my striving for perfection is blocking the way for the flow of Divine Grace. We are all unique and therefore how the Divine grace manifests through us is unique. It's not our job to judge what that looks like we just need to clear the way for it to flow.
Clearing the way means letting go of our ideas of what things are suppose to be so that we can see the beauty in what is.

Open your hearts today and allow the grace of the Divine to flow freely. Don't judge whether it's the way it's suppose to be just open to it. Trust. You are experiencing exactly what you are suppose to experience. How do we that? Because that's what you ARE experiencing.

My mind still continues to struggle with this concept of "everything is perfect" but my heart knows it to be true. Another good reason to stay out of my head and stay in my heart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Bhavana for this Blog

I often start my day by setting an intention for myself. As I mentioned in the previous post, this week it's about practicing contentment. The beauty of setting an intention is that the universe graciously provides us with opportunities to practice. (Try to remember this - this is key) When we are faced with challenges we need to look at those challenges as the universe giving us opportunities to practice yoga. Real yoga, the yoga that happens when you step off the mat. That's what I hope to share with this blog, how to apply what you learn on the mat to your life off the mat.

It's so easy to practice contentment while your practicing yoga with your favorite teacher. Who doesn't feel contentment there? It's another thing practicing contentment when you have 4 people pulling you in 4 different directions. What yogic "tools" can we use in that situation to practice contentment? Well, think about Vrksasana (tree pose). How do you find balance? Grounding in Tadasana (mountain pose) first, find a focal point, keep the breath flowing. Same principles apply to a challenging situation. First, grounding yourself by breathing deeply. Then find the focal point maybe a mantra to help center yourself. Now you're ready to take on whatever challenge you face.

I remember hearing a talk given by a meditation teacher named, Eknath Easwaran. He tells the story of being invited to a students home for dinner. After dinner they went into the student's study which was filled with books on meditation. Easwaran says to the student "You must spend a lot of time in meditation". The student, replies "I don't have time for meditation because this is what I do, I read books on meditation". "Surely you have read all these books" he says to the teacher. "I haven't time to read books because I'm busy meditating" the teacher replies.

It's not enough to read yogic philosophy and be able to do the perfect asana (yoga postures). We need to practice yoga everywhere, all the time, "sincerely, systematically, and with sustained enthusiasm"! One of my teachers, Ed Zadlo talks about filling your "tool" box with different yogic/mediation techniques that way you'll have just the right tool for whatever you are faced with. I'm trying to learn which tool to use in different situations.

I'll be sharing with you my experiences in the hope that what I learn will be helpful to other yogis and yoginis struggling to live their yoga. For now, I am going to practice contentment by sitting on the porch with my book and enjoy the energy of Surya (sun).


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Samtosha = Contentment

This week's bhavana (intention) is Samtosha, contentment. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says "By contentment, supreme joy is gained". Swami Satchidananda's translation goes on to say "Contentment means just to be as we are without going to outside things for our happiness. Means neither to like nor dislike."

Contentment means accepting what is without judgements, without disappointments. Simply accepting. It's so incredibly difficult for someone like me, who is always expecting things to be "the way they are suppose to be". Whenever there is an expectation there is almost always disappointment. I've learned that in order to truly experience Samtosha you need to trust. Trust in the Divine. Without trust in the Divine, Samtosha is impossible.

I set this intention as my bhavana for my yoga class today. I was expecting several people for class. The weather was awful this morning and as I was driving to class a tree had fallen and blocked my way into the studio. I had to detour and eventually made my way there. Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was daylight savings time change but only one person showed up for class. We chatted a while and then decided to go and get a some chai. After trying a couple of different places without success, I think, Ganesha (the Lord of obstacles) is having fun with me today! So I invite her to my house. We had some chai, chatted and discovered that we had some connections that we didn't realize before. So the point of this story is that rather than feeling disappointment that I didn't have the students I was expecting I remembered my bhavana, Contentment and I trusted in the grace of the Divine. The result was I enjoyed the company of a wonderful new friend! In other words, "supreme joy was gained".