Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My life as a yoga student

What did you do last week-end?  I spent the entire week-end in yoga-land!  It was our "advanced" yoga teacher training week-end.  Although I missed spending time with my family I have to admit that I totally, completely loved being immersed in yoga talk. 

The training is about the integration of Yoga and Ayurveda.  Ayurveda being the science of life.  It's the science of self-care.  (disclaimer:  I'm not an expert in Ayurveda or anything else for that matter - I'm just talking about what I've come to understand for myself and how it applies in my daily life)  The basic principals of Ayurveda are the 5 elements and how they are manifested in our body and mind and also in the environment and even the foods that we eat.   Ayurveda uses the terms Vata, Pitta, Kapha to describe the elements.  
ether & air =  Vata
fire & water = Pitta
water & earth = Kapha

I suppose I should mention that we have a natural constitution that we were born as based on which elements are more predominate. For example, the elements of water and earth are most predominate in my physical  body but I also experience a lot of fire.  That means that my natural constitution or my "Prikriti" is Kapha/Pitta.  When one or more of the elements increases or decreases I experience an imbalance.   When that happens, I can recognize it and do something about it to bring myself back into a state of balance. 

Like increases like and opposites cure

We're learning in the training how to determine a person's Prikriti or natural constitution, to determine their current state or Vikriti and if they are not the same, what recommendations can we offer to bring them back to their Prikriti.   One of the tools we learned (and I use this word loosely) is reading pulse.  I've been "reading" my pulse and recording what I notice since the week-end.  I'm never going to be able to read a pulse and tell the person what's going on with their liver or the state of their digestion but I would like to be able to confirm their constitution.  This is going to take some practice.  Did I mention how sore my wrist is from trying to find kapha??

The other topic of the week-end was talking about the difference between a yogic diet and an Ayurvedic diet.  They are quite different as it turns out.  We talked about the effect of food on our constitution.
Contrary to what we've been told about food, there is not a "one size fits all" diet.  This is another reason why determining constitution is important.  Based on your constitution, you can make the best choices to keep you healthy and in balance.  Knowing when you are out of balance, you can adjust or alter your diet to bring you back to a state of well-being.   Fascinating stuff!!

Probably the most important thing I learned last week-end was that living a yogic/ayurvedic lifestyle has powerful results.  I learned this by observing my teacher.  He has been walking the walk for 50+ years.  He was able to sit cross legged for hours while the rest of us had to keep adjusting our positions for comfort.
He demonstrated a rather vigorous asana/exercise routine for us.  I couldn't help watching him and thinking about a man I work with who is about the same age.  My co-worker has difficulty walking up the stairs or even getting up out of his chair.  If I had any doubt about the benefits of being a yogi, watching my teacher this week-end removed those doubts. 

The first time I took this training I had this crazy idea. I was going to learn all this stuff so that I could work with yoga students privately.  I was going to be able to tell people how they could reach an optimal state of peace and well-being.  What I've come to realize is that I need to be in a state of optimal peace and well-being myself before I can even consider working with others.  Meeting for class once a month  gives me an opportunity to absorb the material and put it into practice for myself.  I learn best by doing. Having a month to DO before trying to learn more material is going to be very helpful in learning to get myself to that optimal state of peace and well-being.
Like increases like, opposites cure

So until my next visit to yoga-land I'll keep reading my pulse and trying to figure out the energetic effects of my food.  It's cold and wet outside today.  What are you having for lunch?  I think I'll have soup.  It will balance out the cold.

If you're interested in learning more about Ayurveda or Yoga check out:

Monday, October 10, 2011

State of Confusion......

Okay,  Now I know I'm crazy!! I've got a Barry Manilow song stuck in my head.  What's even worse is that the only words I remember are "I feel sad when you're sad.... I feel glad when you're glad".... Holy Hell!  Barry Manilow? Really?  Shouldn't I be hearing the Gayatri mantra or something? Is the Universe trying to tell me something? What yoga lesson does Barry Manilow have to teach me?

Years ago, when I first started meditating, I remember telling my teacher that all I wanted to achieve from the meditation practice was a sense of equanimity.  10 years later, I still find myself searching for this sense of equanimity.   There's a passage in the Upanishads which I can't remember exactly but the image I have in my head is this:   There's 2 birds sitting in the tree of life, eating the fruit - sometimes it's sour and sometimes it's sweet.  One bird avoids the sour and searches for the sweet fruit while the other just eats whichever without being effected by whether it's sweet or sour.  Can you guess which bird I am?  Which represents you?  I want to be the other bird..... the one who is steady in his true nature knowing that whether the fruit is sweet or sour doesn't matter.  How do I achieve this state of equanimity when  "I'm sad when you're sad....."

Wikipedia's definition of empathy:  Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion.

I'm confused here.  Is it empathy I am experiencing or am I just allowing external circumstances to effect my state of mind?  Do I allow other people's moods to effect how I'm feeling??  Why do I feel guilty when I'm happy and you're sad??  Why do I allow my happiness to disappear into the ethers when you are angry?  That's just craziness! But does that mean I'm lacking empathy if I'm happy while you're sad??

Think about this for a minute, you find yourself, momentarily, in that elusive state we call equanimity.  Maybe even feeling..... dare I say it?.... Content.  But  there is so much discontent around you.  Others around you are sad/angry, etc.... how do we feel empathy and  maintain equanimity at the same time? (I'm imagining  a yogi sitting in lotus pose with her fingers in her ears and eyes shut tight saying.... lalalalalalala..... I don't hear you...... ) That's obviously not the answer.  We can't ignore other people's feelings just because we don't want them to spoil our bliss. But how do you practice empathy and still be content? How do practice empathy and  not take on other people's negative energy and make it our own?

What confuses me even more is that in yoga land we learn that we are not separate from one another but that we are all one.  However, I feel like in order to maintain equanimity I must separate your emotions from my own.   Somehow that doesn't sound right either because then am I lacking empathy?   OH HELL!!  I'm giving myself a headache!! 

The best I can do right now is share the advice my teacher gave me: "Stop thinking! Meditate!"  Let's see if I can replace  Barry Manilow's  "I feel sad when you're sad......" with  Om Namah Shivaya!