Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to the circus!

All day yesterday I couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to learn how to juggle.  Once I learn how to juggle, I can then run away and join the circus.  I tried being a clown in high school - that didn't work out.
I'm afraid of wild animals so lion taming isn't a good option.  I'm a control freak who needs to keep my feet on the ground so the tight rope act is out..... Juggling, I had decided, was my only option.

But wait...... I'm already living in a circus.   I'm part of the freak show.  You see that box that appears to be empty?  That's me.... the invisible woman.  At least that's what it feels like some days.  No matter how much I do or how hard I work, no one seems to notice.

Oh, don't roll your eyes!  this blog is not about me feeling sorry for myself! This is friendly reminder that "our emotions are just reflexes of our minds".  This is what I'm telling myself today.  Whatever I'm feeling - good or bad does not define who I am.  Right now, I feel like the invisible woman.  Who knows, tomorrow I may feel like wonder woman - either way,  It's not who I am.  I am not my emotions.  Neither are you.

Meditation teacher, Eknath Easwaran, says that our negative emotions are a mechanical problem.  You just have to get under the hood and make a little adjustment.  This morning I definitely needed a tune up.  I knew just where to go.  To the meditation cushion of course!  Where else?

If you remember, today begins the 9 day worship of the Devi, the Goddess aka: The Divine Mother.  Fitting since I'm feeling like maybe I'm not doing such a good job in my role as a mother.  Life in general is a balancing act, much like juggling. Add in the job of being a mom and now we're juggling flaming swords. Sometimes we drop the ball and rest come tumbling after.  It's temporary.  We pick up the balls and start again.  While you are enjoying the juggling act, remember that even the juggler gets tired sometimes.

I saw a sign on a billboard recently that said  "We want to be humble but we're afraid no one will notice".  I want to explain to my children why I sometimes "drop the ball".  I want to explain to them all that goes on "behind the scenes" so to speak. Then I remember that one day, when they are the jugglers, they will know for themselves the difficutly of the juggling act.

While I'm remembering that I am not my emotions, I must also remember that the same is true for everyone else too.  Everyone gets angry, sad, or frustrated at times.  That's the nature of being human.  I try not to take it personal.  I try to see the person behind the emotions.  I just hope that others see ME behind my emotions.

It's recommended that before you take a long road trip that you take your car in for a tune up.  You check the tires, fill the tank, do whatever else you're suppose to do to cars. Then you can enjoy the road trip.  Before we join the circus we need to learn how to juggle.  Before I begin my day of juggling, I do my sadhana (spiritual practice).  I can then enjoy the circus a little easier.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Navaratri - another adventure in yoga-land

I learned recently that there is a prayer that you are suppose to say before you do a puja.  A puja is a form of ceremonial worship of which there are many.  The prayer is basically giving the Divine a heads up that you have no idea what the heck you're doing but that your intentions are good.   I need to learn this prayer because I am about to embark on another adventure to Yoga-land.

Thank God for facebook or I would have missed this opportunity to celebrate Navaratri.  This is the "Nine days of Devi worship".   Honouring the Divine Mother in all her various forms.  I used to roll my eyes when I heard about these rituals honoring the feminine.  I wonder why?  But yesterday when I read Shambhavi's facebook post about the upcoming Navaratri I knew I needed to do my own worship of the Divine Mother.  I wonder why? 

I don't know anything about it really so I don't have much to share at this point.  The nine days begins on September 28th which is also the full moon.  That gives me 3 days to figure out what the heck I'm suppose to do.  As with any ritual, there are specific things you're suppose to do but I'm not sure yet what exactly they are.  I'm hoping that my heartfelt prayer for forgiveness if I screw it up is sufficient.

This morning I opened a book to some random page and read that when Vishuddha chakra (the throat chakra) is open we trust our own inner voice.  We follow our own inner guidance.   That's what I'm going to do.  Even if I don't know all the rules, I trust that Divine Mother will guide me as I go along.

The mission for today? 

*  Figure out what I can use as a ghee lamp. 
*  Probably need to make more ghee - 9 days is a long time.
*  Buy a clay pot and barley seeds??  (where the heck do you buy barley seeds?)
*  Read about the 9 forms of Durga
*  Learn the mantras - well, at least read them
*  Google:  prayer before puja
*  Stop obsessing!!!

Anyone want to join me on this adventure??

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vishuddha chakra strikes again!

My intention was to talk about the wonderful experience I had during last week-end's advanced yoga teacher training. I wanted to tell you how happy I was to be participating. How a lovely lady kindly gave me a little butterfly shaped bottle that contained water from the Ganges for my alter.


I wanted to talk about how the 5 elements of ether,air, fire, water and earth are represented in our yoga practice. I wanted to tell you how "Healing happens in stillness". I wanted to tell you that I've decided to be a perpetual student because I love, love being in that circle of learning!

But, instead......

I find myself once again digging a little deeper within myself and discovering old patterns which I thought had already been changed. Once again, I'm doing the work of self inquiry. It feels almost like doing the laundry. As soon as you think you're done - another pile of dirty, stinky clothes shows up at your feet. If you look closely you'll notice that it's the same pile that keeps coming back over and over. "Didn't I just wash this yesterday?"

I know I know but sometimes I forget
and when I remember then I know

I remembered again the importance of a spiritual community. I remembered again how blessed I am to have found a sacred space where I can do the work of uncovering the old patterns. I remembered again the power of the yoga practice. I remembered that the physical practice of yoga most definitely has an energetic effect on the mind.

I'll spare you the details of my pile of dirty laundry, but the revelation today came when I heard the reminder that our words can cut like a sword. I know the once the words are out they can never be taken back. I know how powerful our words are and how they can have a long lasting effect on people. Even now, whenever I am reading out loud I can't help but hesitate and think of the little blond haired boy in the 3rd grade who made fun of me for saying the wrong word. We don't really know exactly how what we say will effect others therefore, we must be mindful of what and how we say things.

I believe the key on this journey of self-inquiry is that you step back from the emotions and simply observe the patterns. When we step back from the emotions we can see more clearly the work that needs to be done to change our samskaric patterns. (is samskaric a real word?) Only from the perspective of the witness can we see what is real, in my humble opinion.

I'd like to share one last thing..... When I am faced with a conflict in which I need to speak my mind I must first ask myself: "Is what I am about to say the truth? Is it kind? and is it helpful?" I'm thinking I should have this inked onto my arm so I'll always remember to ask myself these questions. Those words were not my own. They were shared by a fellow yogi. I would also add this question to the list, "what is my motivation for what I am about to say?"
And so the journey to my true nature continues....... Om Namah Shivaya!

Friday, September 16, 2011

And so another yoga adventure begins........

I feel like a little kid getting ready for the first day of school. Last night I packed my "school bag".  I have a cool new notebook and new pens and I even bought a highlighter! Tonight begins the 500 hour advanced yoga teacher training. I completed the program a couple of years ago so this time around instead of being nervous, I'm excited!!

During the couple of years since I completed the training I have continued to read about and study the relationship between yoga and Ayurveda. I have tried to incorporate what I've learned in my daily life. Both in how I care for myself and in how I offer the yoga classes that I teach. It's been a fascinating experiment. What I'm looking forward to most is diving a bit deeper into the material now that I have a little bit of direct experience.

When I had my first child, I was nervous and unsure of myself. I worried constantly about everything. With my second, I was a little less nervous and worried a little less. When Jake came along I was a bit older, bit more confident. I had learned meditation by then so when the worry started I knew how to help stop the obsessive thoughts - at least for a little while.  The more comfortable I beame in my role as mom the more I enjoyed the process. 

When I completed the 200 hour yoga teacher training I had the same thoughts I had when the nurse handed me my first born. "Is this lady crazy? what the heck do I know about taking care of a baby?!" At the end of the training my thought was "Is this guy crazy? what the heck do I know about leading a yoga class?!" Since then I have made mistakes, I've stumbled and continue to do so on occassion.  The difference, as with raising my kids, is that I now feel a bit more confident, a little less nervous.  I've learned a lot about myself and about the process of yoga.  I have learned to rely on my yoga practice when the obsessive thoughts begin.  I've learned to view each new challenge as an opportunity to learn something.  The more comfortable I become in my role as a yoga student/teacher the more I'm enjoying the process.



Perhaps the most important thing I've learned over the last few years is recognizing my natural tendency to have unrealistic expectations. This has proven, time and time again, to be my down fall. This morning as I sat in front of my alter I made a conscious decision to approach the training without any expectations.
Since it is my natural tendency, my mind automatically goes there but I'm choosing to "shelf" those thoughts temporarily.

I do believe that the Divine knows what's best for me. I trust that I will learn and experience exactly what I'm meant to learn and experience. All I have to do is open up for Grace to flow. I'm thinking about the story I read once: A student was bugging the teacher for knowledge. The teacher asks the student to pour some tea into his cup and not to stop until he says so. The cup quickly over flows. The teacher tells his student "you are like this cup, whatever knowledge I give you will spill over unless you learn to empty your cup."

For me, letting go of my expectations is emptying my cup. Even when my crazy pitta mind is telling me that my expectations are perfectly reasonable. When I'm freaking out about the fact that things are not what I expected, there's no room for me to appreciate things for what they are.  Believe it or not, sometimes they turn out better - different AND better.  Who would have thought?!  Maybe the more comfortable I become with letting go of my expectations the more I'll enjoy the process. 

Here's a great quote my friend Dana shared:
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose
 one thought over another" ~ William James

Monday, September 12, 2011

Did you get the message??

There I am, sitting next to Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda's guru.  "I heard you calling me in my mind!!" I tell him.   He's holding my hands and looking me right in my eyes.  What does this great saint say to me??
"Finally!!  I've been sending you subtle messages and you haven't been listening!!".   No.... I wasn't hallucinating.  This really happened..... in a dream.  Now, all I have to do is figure out what the heck is the message. 

I guess it was about a month ago, maybe a little longer, I was googling "Sanskrit word for faith".  What I got was one of the rare photos of Sri Yukteswar.   I tried to google it since then to get the photo but it never came up again.  Weird right?

Around the same time, a kid from my neighborhood was sitting at my dinning room  table asking me to teach him how to open his chakras.  Again, weird right?  How many 14year old boys do you know who even know what the chakras are let alone, asking their friend's mom how to open them.  I was busy so I gave him a book and sent him on his way.  He hasn't mentioned it again.

For the past week or so I've been feeling so scattered, and frazzled.  I can't sleep, can't concentrate.  Can't seem to get my act together at all.  I've sat down to write a blog about 100 times but the thoughts and words are just jumbled up and I can't seem to express what's in my heart and mind in a clear way.  Not just on the blog but in my daily interactions with people.   I find my throat tighten and the lump is back.  But I still wasn't getting it.

The bhavana for yesterday morning's yoga class was suppose to be about grounding since I've been feeling so totally ungrounded.  But there was a request.  One of the lovely ladies in the class shared a story about a friend who lost his life rescuing people from the burning tower during the attacks of 9/11.   Her request was that we work on the throat chakra.  She said she wanted to honor his courage. I'm not sure how I did but I offered what came to me.  Weird.... I hadn't really associate the throat chakra, Vishuddhi, with courage before.  I suppose it does take courage to express yourself.  I haven't been able to find my courage lately.

Last night, I subbed a yoga class.  One of the students, after class, asked me for some suggestions to work on the throat chakra.  I offered her a few poses, suggested chanting, and journaling.  Using journaling as a way to help her find her voice, so to speak.  But I still wasn't getting it.

Walking back to my car after class I notice the full moon.  It was so bright and beautiful.  "Oh, that explains a lot"  I  think to myself.  The full moon and PMS, known as the "moon cycle" in yoga-land, means my emotions are out of control.   That explains the sleepless nights, the crazy dreams, the trouble meditating.  I figured it all out......... Not quite.

This morning, as I was coming out of meditation I got it!  I finally got it. Vishuddha!  That's where the work needs to be done.  I need to clear this blockage in my throat chakra!  I thought I had already worked this out.  I guess a yogi's work is never done. 

Sri Yukteswar, sir?  Is that the message I've been missing?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yoga Sutras challenge day# 8: Tapas - Austerity/discipline.

Yoga Sutras challenge day# 8: Tapas - Austerity/discipline.  The best definition I've heard was "intentional self-discipline".  Timing couldn't be better with this Niyama because I have been anything but disciplined lately. 

I love September.  The kids go back to school, the weather gets a bit cooler, we get back to a more structured routine.  The challenge this September is that I have 3 children going to 3 different schools all at 3 different times.  Why is that a challenge for me?  Well, my 5:30am morning sadhana is now being disturbed.

A new routine is required.  I need to be disciplined about it.  I can't let this new change in schedule be an excuse not to do sadhana.  (It so easily can be a excuse) I could always get up at 5am.  OMG!  5am in the winter? When it's cold and dark?  I'm not sure about that.  

There are lots of changes and lots of obstacles that are always being thrown our way.  How we deal with the challenges is what's important.  Do we give up? No!  We figure it out.  We  change.  (Yes, I said it - we change)  Here's where I think my role as a mom has helped me be a better yogi.  As a mom we learn that the best laid out plans or the best planned schedules are those that leave room for the unexpected.  We learn to adapt to challenges and obstacles.   We also learn a lot about the importance of discipline. 

Moms know that children need structure/discipline.  If we want them to get up happy in the morning we need to get them to bed at a reasonable time.   Same is true for yogis, if we want to be sure that we get up early for sadhana - we go to bed at a reasonable time.

If we want our children to be strong enough for gym class or have the energy for the big basketball game, we make sure that they eat healthy foods and not junk food.  Same is true for yogis, when we eat healthy foods, we have the energy for the yoga practice.

We know that children do best when they have a routine in place. Same is true for yogis. When our practice has a clear routine,  asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana,then dhyana or meditation,
happens more easily.

Moms also learn to adapt.  We know that kids need to go to bed early on school nights but sometimes those extra few minutes of cuddle time is more important.  Discipline needs to have a bit of flexibility.  Think about your knee joint in Triangle pose.  If you lock out your joint you risk injury.  A bit of softness in the joint makes the asana more enjoyable. It's the same with everything, I think.  I like to practice at 5:30am but maybe I need to move it to 5:00am so that it will be more enjoyable and less disrupted. Maybe some days it will be at 5am and others it will be 5:30am.  The discipline is to make sure to practice daily and as close to a regular time as possible.

The discipline for me is not being too soft that I allow my yoga practice fall by the waste side now that an obstacles has been put in my way.  So in the spirit of Tapas - intentional self-discipline, I am re-affirming my commitment to daily spiritual practice (sadhana).

Maybe a mantras to my pal, Ganesha, would be helpful.  Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles.

"Om Gam Ganapataye Namah" "Om Gam Ganapataye Namah" "Om Gam Ganapataye Namah"