Witnessing Transformation

One of the great privileges of being a yoga teacher, is to witness transformation. In every class there is a shift – from distraction to attention, from separateness to unity, or from agitation to calm. One might observe this in a particular student, or in the group as whole, or in even in one’s self as a result of having held the group for the duration of the session.

Through yoga we have the capacity to reduce our suffering, and to realise our true potential. The practice allows us to see the ways in which we contribute to our physical, mental or emotional pain. But this awareness is just the beginning, and those who wish to let go of the habits that are holding them back must be prepared to take a long term approach. Sure, I have witnessed epiphanies, where a student suddenly becomes aware of an aspect of themselves that was previously hidden from view, but more often than not, personal transformation is a gradual process, built on many months or years of dedicated practice. This kind of change is not necessarily dramatic or exciting to observe, but as teacher, it is the kind that inspires me the most.

As a teacher of yoga, I am by definition also a student. The roles are not separate in my view, and from time to time, an opportunity comes along for us to come together as a community of learners. Recently, we were lucky to have such an opportunity in the form of a three day seminar on Prānāyāma (conscious breathing practices). ‘The Power of Yoga – Exploring Prānāyāma for Health & Vitality’, was presented by Kausthub Desikachar (principal teacher at the Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation – KHYF – in Chennai, India).

This seminar was well attended. I found myself in the company of a wide range of students, some of whom were relatively new to this form of classical yoga, while others were long-term practitioners, teachers or teacher trainees in the tradition of T. Krishnamacharya.

The teacher took us on a fascinating journey through the theory & practice of various Prānāyāma techniques. Classical yoga texts, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali formed the foundation of all the teachings, and yet the material was presented in a way that made it accessible to all of us, and applicable in our modern context. Such experiential processes allow the knowledge to reach beyond the mind, into the body and the heart, allowing each student to retain it in a way that resonates with them. Even though the practices seemed relatively simple, the experience was profound. The layering of āsana, prānāyāma, mantra and meditation led to moments of deep internalisation for many, even within the context of this large and diverse group.

The knowledge imparted during the prānāyāma seminar was indeed profound, but what truly inspired me was the ongoing transformation I observed in the teacher himself. Kausthub’s teaching is heartfelt. He speaks freely about his difficulties, and shows humility in acknowledging his teachers and mentors for having guided him through some dark times. I observed a deepening of wisdom and spiritual connection in Kausthub that I attribute to his own ongoing practice.

What became clear to me at this seminar is that we are a indeed a sangha, a growing community of learners. The word lineage is often used in this classical yoga context, but I see it more as a web of support that connects us. Sometimes our role is to support others in their process, and at other times we lean into that web and find the support we need. In this web, none of us can see from every angle, so we rely on each other for clarity and perspective.

Whether we label ourselves as students or teachers of yoga, we grow because of our commitment to the practice, and because of our honest interactions with each other. It is a privilege to be in sangha. To witness transformation in others is to be reminded of the real possibility that we ourselves can overcome our limitations and grow to fulfill our true potential.

Namaste.

Lynda Miers-Henneveld.

The Gift of Discipline

“True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline”

~ Mortimer J. Adler

According to Patanjali, the ultimate goal of yoga is freedom from suffering. Through the lens of our sadhana (yoga practice) we see ourselves, and the ways in which we contribute to our duhkham (suffering). And through the ongoing practice, we reduce negative patterns and build inner strength to face the obstacles and challenges that inevitably arise.

The sage advice from the Yoga Sutras is that this process of creating self awareness should be gradual. If we work step by step towards our goal, we won’t lose heart along the way, because we won’t bite off more than we can chew. Great intentions alone do not create real change in any realm, and so it is with our sadhana. It is the sum of all our small, positive actions that creates real and lasting change, gradually reducing our duhkham and creating the habit of self care.

To help us develop and deepen our sadhana, Patanjali prescribes kriya yoga – the yoga of action. This three step process consists of tapas, svadhyaya and ishvarapranidhana.

Tapas has many meanings: taking action, discipline, heat, or purification. As you can see, it implies some intensity. The action it refers to is an action that helps you to see your patterns, and reduce the harmful ones. Tapas requires intention, so that the action is not random.

Following our actions, we reflect, and we gauge the impact of what we have done. That is the process of svadhyaya – self awareness, seeing the ripples. Svadhyaya helps us to determine the usefulness of what we are doing, and gives us the opportunity to refine our actions.

But no matter how hard we try, and no matter how earnestly we practice, there are things we cannot control. Some days we may struggle to focus, or the body just isn’t willing. On such days we simply have to do the best we can, be kind to ourselves and trust that our intention will be enough. Other times, when things just seem to flow, we might get caught up in feelings of pride and accomplishment. On these occasions, we have to bow to the energy that supports us, offering gratitude for our healthy body, our focused mind, and our access to the practice. This attitude of surrender is the third aspect of kriya yoga – ishvarapranidhana.

Kriya yoga is a valuable tool in our personal sadhana. It reminds us to move at a pace that is conducive to ‘seeing’ ourselves in action. As a feedback loop these three aspects teach us that when we pause to notice the effects of our actions, we will find clarity, and form an understanding of the things we can and can’t control. This understanding informs our future actions. The cycle continues, and gradually takes us deeper into our inner terrain.

The yoga sutras form a road map to guide us on our yoga journey. The ultimate destination is freedom from suffering. Kriya yoga helps us to explore the landscape, and step forward each day with awareness.

Namaste.

~ Lynda Miers-Henneveld

Give a little – freedom on the inside

A wonderful opportunity has arisen for us to share the gifts of yoga with a group of people who might not normally have access to this life affirming practice. My friend and colleague, Adhyatma, has been teaching yoga to inmates at Rimutaka prison for quite some time. Along with several other generous teachers, she has been helping prisoners to discover a sense of connection and belonging through regular yoga classes. The feedback from the people who have attended the classes is wonderful! The insights they receive as a result of their practice gives them access to wholeness, and inner strength. Many of them go on to do their own practice, and some even teach what they learn to other inmates.

YEPT

 

A campaign is underway to raise funds for Yoga Education in Prisons. By donating to this Give-a-little cause, you can help to fund more classes, and to give much needed support to a group of teachers who do this work because they believe that yoga is for everyone. Many of the teachers have done this work voluntarily, without income, paying for their own transport costs.

 

The video on the Give-a-little page is great to watch. https://givealittle.co.nz/project/yogainprisons  It will give some insights into the benefits of the programme. If you are moved to donate, please make your own pledge there. Freed-om-yoga will be donating all your class fees for the week, and there is a jar in the lobby for those who would like to donate in the old fashioned way!

I hope you can give a little to this worthy cause.

Namaste.

Lynda.

 

 

 

 

Breath

Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.

~ John Lennon (1940 – 1980)

 

BREATH

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.IMG_7143
Breathing out, I know
As the in-breath grows deep,
The out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm.
Breathing out makes me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

the Sunday Nourish

This winter I will be offering a series of monthly mini retreats. These Sunday sessions will consist of an extended multi-layered yoga practice, followed by a nourishing lunch, prepared for us by some passionate local foodies! The class will begin at 10:00am, and lunch will follow at around 1:00pm.

Winter is a time of year when we naturally enjoy spending a bit more time indoors, and when we can often use some extra nourishment. The activities of summer and autumn may have left us feeling depleted, and as the weather changes, many of us find that we are more susceptible to colds and flu. We may also find that as the days shorten, our energy reserves run out. What better time to investigate some nourishing yoga practices which can help to soothe and repair the body, and bring a sense of optimism and joy to the heart and mind.

Yoga offers us a variety of ways to create well-being on all of our layers. Using appropriate asana, we can strengthen the physical body and support it in healing itself. Pranayama practices teach us to breathe well, so that we optimise our energy levels. Chanting and meditation practices can help us to connect to our deeper Self, which brings a sense of wholeness and connection.

A three hour class allows us time to explore these tools in a relaxed way. The classes will be limited to six participants, allowing for individual adaptation and support in the practices. The practices offered will be appropriate for all levels.

While we practice, Juno Miers, Ngawai Grant and India Bailey will prepare a delicious lunch for us, following basic Ayurvedic principles, which means that as well as being nourished, our digestive health will be supported.

I hope you will join us for the Sunday Nourish in June, July, August or September! The details are below. We look forward to your company.

Namaste.

 

the Sunday Nourish
Extended yoga class: 10:00am – 1:00pm.
Lunch: 1:10 – 2:00pm (times may vary slightly).

Dates: Sundays, June 21, July 12, August 16, and September 13, 2015.

Cost: $85 per person, per class, including lunch.

Bookings: visit ezybook and select the session of your choice.

Moving at the Pace of What Is Real

As we embark on another journey around the sun, we have an opportunity to reset our intentions. We can align our choices with our true values, before we get caught up once more in the expectations of others, or the demands we place on ourselves to measure up in some way. We can choose to sit quietly and check in with ourselves, to see what commitments of both time and energy will truly serve us, and those around us, in the year ahead.

To support this reflection, I offer you the following inspiration from The Book of Awakening – Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo.

At the Pace of What Is Real

“Like most people I know, I struggle with taking too much on, with doing too many things, with moving too fast, with overcommitting, with overplanning. I’ve learned that I must move, quite simply, at the pace of what is real. While this pace may vary, life always seems vacant and diminished when I accelerate beyond my capacity to feel what is before me.

It seems we run our lives like trains, speeding along a track laid down by others, going so fast that what we pass blurs on by. Then we say we’ve been there, done that. The truth is that blurring by something is not experiencing it.
So, no matter how many wonderful opportunities come my way, no matter the importance placed on these things by others who have my best interests at heart, I must somehow find a way to slow down the train that is me until what I pass by is again see-able, touchable, feel-able. Otherwise, I will pass by everything – can put it on my resume – but will have experienced and lived through nothing.”
* Consider three things you must do today.
* Carefully put down two.
* Immerse yourself in the one thing that is left.