Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confessions of a yoga teacher

Let me begin by saying that I am not only a yoga teacher but also a yoga student. I try to take at least 2 classes a week. I'm also a student in an advanced yoga teacher training program. I spend just as much time in the role of student as I do in the role of teacher.

I understand how much you love your teacher. I love my teachers too. I know how disappointing it is when you daydream all day about getting to your favorite class only to find a substitute teacher. Confession#1: The fact that I'm subbing the class means that I am not getting to practice with my favorite teacher either. Therefore, I am just as disappointed as you so let's just suck it up and make the best of it.  Oh..and there's no need to tell the sub that you prefer the regular teacher. The sub already knows.

We've all been in yoga classes where one student is doing something totally different then everyone else. Even though we're trying to practice pratyhara (turning the senses inward) we can't help but notice what pose they are doing and wonder why. Confession#2: It's just as distracting to the teacher as it is to the other students when someone doesn't follow the instructions. It makes it difficult for the teacher to insure everyone's safety when her/his attention is divided.  If you want to do your own practice - stay home and practice.  If you come to a group class be prepared to practice along with the group.

I admit that I too have felt euphoric when after a really challenging sequence we release into child's pose or a forward fold. I understand the feeling that results in moans of pleasure. Confessions#3: Although it's nice to know that the students are enjoying the practice it's really not necessary to be so vocal. Try to remember that there are others in the room who are enjoying the moments of silence between the poses.

I took a yoga class once at a local studio. The environment was high energy. There was a lot talking and joking around on the part of the teacher and students. There were discussions happening during the practice. This was quite a different experience than I'm used to. Perhaps it's the fact that I spend most of my day talking to people  that when I step on the mat I want a more internal experience. I personally did not enjoy the external distraction of conversation in the midst of what should be (in my humble opinion) an internal practice. Confession#4: I know that everyone has a story to tell but please wait till after class to share your stories or revelations. It's hard enough to balance the flow of the class with instructions and adjustments.

About a year ago I took a class at a new yoga studio. I was surprised that the owner/teacher was so young. How could someone so young own a yoga studio?  I'm always searching for a guru and I am ashamed to admit that I didn't think she had much to offer because she seemed so young. That was until the class began. She may be young but she has done a lot of study in the field of Ayurveda. A lot more study that I have. When I opened my mind and heart I actually learned quite a bit. Confession#5: Even if you don't feel like the teacher has anything of value to teach you keep an open mind and open heart and you may actually learn something. Maybe you might learn that your ego is what is preventing you from learning something really important. 

What I'm about to say may fall into the category of TMI (too much information) but here it goes. I too sometimes have a "wardrobe malfunction". Sometimes my bra isn't the right bra for class or my shirt doesn't fit right and I find myself spending most of the class trying not to fall out of my shirt. Confession#6: Being on the yoga mat does not make you invisible to rest of the class. If you must adjust yourself please be discreet. Oh....I am aware that there are some naked yoga classes being offered in New York but if you're in my class clothing is not optional. Please keep your shirt on during class.

Okay..... now that I have confessed....I ask your forgiveness if I've offended you in anyway and I'll say 108 mantras to Shiva as penance.  Om Namah Shivaya.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Once upon a time.......

I heard a story once that went something like this:


Once there was a monk who lived in a beautiful, serene ashram. The environment was quiet and peaceful and perfect for meditation. One day the monk found a little kitten and decided he wanted to keep her. He needed to get a cow so that he would have milk to feed the little cat. Then he needed someone to take care of the cow so he brought in a man to tend to the cow. The man got lonely and wanted a wife. The wife wanted a child. The child grew up and wanted a motorcycle. The next thing you know the ashram was anything but quiet and peaceful.

The moral of the story was if want to meditate don't get a cat......

I was reminded of this story today. I made sure not to waste time. I wanted to meditate in the quiet of the early morning before the household began to stir. No such luck.

Of course, the moral of the story is not as simple as not getting a cat.  In my humble opinion it's a metaphor for not following your thoughts.

When you start meditation you may have a little thought. "did I remember to turn off the iron?" If we just let the thought come and let the thought go we can come back to meditation. If, however, we have the thought "did I remember to turn off the iron?" and we allow the thought to carry us to the next thought. "I always forget to turn off the iron". Now we need a cow to feed the cat. "I should just start ironing at night". Then the cow herder is needed. "I should just buy clothes that don't need to be ironed". And a wife. "I wonder what kind of fabric doesn't require ironing". And a child. "I think I got a new catalog in the mail yesterday" And finally, the motorcycle. "Maybe I should order some new clothes"...... And the meditation is lost.

So.... the moral of the story...... If you want to meditate don't get a cat. aka: Don't let the thought carry you away or meditation will be impossible.  The moral of my story? Get up a half hour earlier.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Durga Ma!

I've been swimming in the energy of the Divine Mother for the last week.  What do you think that energy is like?  What's the first thing you think about when you think of the Mother?  I'm sure it's different for everyone depending on the type of relationship you had with your mother.  If we are to believe what we learn in yoga-land that every experience we are having is the perfect experience for our spiritual evolution that we must believe that even the difficult mother/child relationship is perfect too.

As a mother I can say from personal experience that I wear many hats in this role.  So does our Divine Mother.   The mother provides exactly what is required.  Like it or not, sometimes what is required is not necessarily what we want.  Ultimately, though, we know that everything She does is out of love.  Unconditional Love is the grace of the Divine Mother for sure.

When we think of that unconditional love of the Mother the imagine that comes to mind is a sweet, soft, warm, nurturing being.  In her embrace there is security.  On the flip side of that there is a fierce warrior.  The protector.  Standing guard always to protect her children.  It's not usually the imagine that comes to mind when we think of the Mother but it's certainly there.   I have felt it myself.

It's surprising to me when that fierce nature rises up to protect! I have no doubt in my mind that I would be prepared for battle if one of children were in danger.  It's this fierce, protective energy that is represented by the Hindu Goddess, Durga.   She keeps showing up in my life.  This sense of needing to protect extends out to others too, not just my children.   That's the interesting part for me.  What is that all about? 

Strange thing about Love is that it not only gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling but also fierce, strong need to protect.  Can you have one without the other?  Seems like two sides of the same coin to me. 

My oldest daughter will be 21 years old tomorrow so I've been a mother for a long time.  Over the last 21 years I have learned a lot and also met a lot of other moms.  Some moms do everything for their children. They are 10 years old and they still cut the kid's food for them. They are 12 years old and the mom is still picking out their clothes. They are 16years old and they are still doing homework with the kid.  

My feeling is that our job as mother is not only to love and nurture our children but also to teach.  To teach them to stand on their own two feet.  I am very proud of my daughter.  I have no doubt in my mind that she is prepared to stand on her own two feet.  There's also no doubt in my mind that even at 21 years old, if needed, I would invoke that Durga energy and become a fierce warrior to protect her. 

Sometimes I hear stories of mothers that do extraordinary things like lifting a car or fighting some wild animal or some other dangerous thing to protect their child.  That may seem extraordinary, unless you are a mother and then you realize that we all that the capacity to do extraordinary things.  It's just that we haven't been called to do such extreme things but have do doubt that Durga Ma is always ready for battle.  

I heard a story of Durga once.......She is known as the warrior that provides protection for you until you are strong enough to fight for yourself.   Hum.....sounds like a mother doesn't it?  We protect our children until they are strong enough to protect themselves.  

One final thought.....Just like Spider man who used his "spidy-senses" to detect when someone needed help, a mother too has a "sixth sense" that detects when protection is needed.  Trusting our intuition is key.  Teaching our children to trust their intuition is even more important.  

Om Dum Durgayai Namah!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Om Namah Shivaya!

"What is it that by knowing all is known?"  That's the question of the day.  The first thought that comes to mind for me is:  The Self.    I'm not talking about the self as in the personality of Mirella.  I'm talking about
the Self as in the essence of me that never changes aka: the Atman.  When we know the Self intimately and understand our relationship to the Divine we understand everything else.  At least that's what the Upanishads tell us.

I was reminded this morning of a sympathy card I read once.  It talked about God as the master weaver.  I was thinking about this in that we have such a limited perspective of things.  Imagine that our lives are but a single thread in a great big tapestry.  Do you think that the single thread that is Mirella or Joe or Jane has any idea what the big picture is or what their part is in the grand scheme of things?  Maybe not, but for sure if one thread is missing from the tapestry it would be noticed. 

Make no mistake that the dark threads which represent the difficult times in our lives are equally as important as the gold threads which represent the moments of pure joy.  It certainly is a challenge to remember that when we are weaving the dark threads but have no fear.... The master weaver is looking over the creation of the tapestry and he knows where the dark threads are needed. 

I am trying to take comfort in the fact that even though I can't see the big picture the thread that is my life in this moment is necessary.  It's hard to understand that at times.  It's almost like when you look at the under side of a tapestry we can't see the beauty of it.  Ultimately, my hope is that once I merge back into that pure consciousness which is the Divine then I will be seeing the creation from a higher perspective and then I'll be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the work.

But of course, this too is only from the perspective of one single thread.  Perhaps the perspective from your thread is a bit different but equally important.

Om Namah Shivaya!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Note to self: Learn quickly or be prepared to repeat!!

"I am burning a lot of karma in this lifetime and I'm telling you right now if I don't achieve enlightenment I'm going to be really MAD!!!" Yes, folks...that was the beginning of yet another mental temper tantrum.  Of course, it was all down hill from there!

"Why the hell do I have to deal with so much crap?!"  "I'm trying to be a good person, why doesn't God give me a break?!"  "Are you kidding me? Do I have to go through this lesson again?!"  "What the hell is it about me that seems to attract the most challenging people on the planet into my life?!"  (By this point, I thought the top of my head was going to blow off)

Time to hit the pause button.  Playing the victim, even in my own mind, will not serve me.  Feeling sorry for myself, will not serve me.  Those memories that I re-hash about all the people who did me wrong, they no longer serve me.  This mental drama that's playing only depletes me of vital energy that I need for spiritual practice.   Every challenge is an opportunity to practice yoga.  This challenge is no different.

Shiva Das reminded us of the story of the Ramayana.  He told us about how Rama had to face challenge after challenge in his life and how he always choose to do what was in the best interest of all.  He did always what was for the greater good not just for himself but for everyone.  Choosing always the highest thought. 

Well, I have to admit that I was not thinking the highest thought during my temper tantrum.  When I find myself being strangled by negative thoughts I try to remember gratitude.  No matter what troubles I'm dealing with they are nothing compared to the troubles that some people have to deal with. 

And so I remember gratitude: 

* Today I am grateful for this moment of quiet
* Today I am grateful that my family is healthy
* Today I am grateful for my yoga community
* Today I am grateful that I remembered......
* Today I am grateful for the strength I have to carry the load I have been given
* Today I am grateful for the challenges that give me the opportunity to practice yoga

Temper tantrums are inevitable......How long they last and how we deal with them is totally our choice.  Remember Rama....Choose the higher thought.  Make decisions that are for the greater good of all.

If the temper tantrum persists and all else fails you can try this ancient yogic secret for reducing pitta:

step one:      get a big bucket
step two:      fill it with ice water
step three:    stick your head in it
step four:      soak head for 10 minutes or until the temper tantrum passes..... 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inspiration on a coffee mug!

"Just when the caterpillar thought it was the end of the world he turned into a butterfly"

This quote and a conversation with my teacher last night reminded me that no matter the depth of my despair somehow I am always lifted up.   Somehow when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope, miraculously the rope gets a little longer.  When I've spend my last penny there's always just a few more that seem to appear out of no where.  The message:  We will always have what we need.... Maybe not always what we want but certainly what we need. 

I'm not going to lie.  I didn't always believe this.  Whenever I heard anyone say things like "the Universe always provides" I would cringe.  The cynic in me would  point out all the things that were lacking in my life.  But somehow, whenever I found myself truly needing something, whatever that something is, it appears. 

How does that happen?  Is there really a God watching over us or is it that the things we needed were there all along but we just didn't see what was right in front of us? Is it really just a matter of faith?  If I believe that I'll have everything I need will I?   How exactly does that work I wonder? 

A few years ago I read a book called The Secret.  The idea offered in this book was that if you want something bad enough then the Universe will of course provide it.  It suggested if you want a new car you just have to visualize yourself driving that new car and voila! You will get the new car.  Did I mention that I'm a cynic?  So I set out to experiment with this idea.  I tried to visualize myself as a millionaire......that didn't work.  I tried to visualize myself looking like a super model......that didn't work.   I wanted to take the 200 hour yoga teacher training.  I offered it up to the Universe.  "If I'm meant to become a yoga teacher then the money will appear"  The money appeared.   If I knew it was that easy I'd have asked for more.  I try again.... I want to be a millionaire.....NOTHING.  

A couple of years later, I still wasn't a millionaire but I really really wanted to take the 500 hour advanced yoga teacher training.  Yoohoo....Universe.... What do you know?  A job offer appeared, teaching at a local yoga studio.   At the end of each month I had exactly the amount I needed to pay the monthly tuition.  Not a dollar more but exactly what I needed.  The training was over and so was the job. 

I've given up asking to be a millionaire or a super model. The universe obviously doesn't feel that I need those things.  I am, however, content in the knowledge that I'll always have what I need.
I slept really well last night.  Was it the asana practice? Or was it because just when I started to worry that it was the end of world I remembered that I have all that I need? Either way.... Om Namah Shivaya!