This weekend, driving home to visit my family in Ann Arbor, MI, I listened to a podcast that really resonated with me. It was an episode of Invisibilia, an NPR podcast about human behavior — what goes on behind the scenes that drive us to do what we do. In yoga, it is similar to looking inward during our practice. This episode was called The Personality Myth, and they asked this question: is there really such thing as personality? That is, are there enduring qualities of a person that remain unchanged for life?
I won’t give away the details of the episode, but the example they used in their story moved and compelled me. It changed the way I think about people. Instead of thinking that people are tethered to their personality, i.e. “Well that’s just who they are,” I see great potential once we recognize just how much we are able to change and grow. Yes, we are born with a set of physical limitations, with mental and emotional foundations based on our genes and cultural upbringing. But that doesn’t mean we are stuck with certain personality traits for life.
The key to change? Understanding yourself! Meditation is a great way to understand your samskaras, or thought patterns. By taking time to look within, you can begin to untangle these “traits” and recognize parts of you that aren’t really part of you at all, but perhaps a reaction or a defense to your past experiences or what you’ve been taught. Then, freedom is yours! Create an intention, or sankalpa, to try something new. YOU get to choose who you want to be! How cool is that? 😎
image credit: Kristen Uroda for NPR
Why do I teach yoga?
I teach yoga because it is my dharma, my purpose. That is, it brings my whole being — my True Self — bliss! Not bliss in the newlywed, just-got-promoted, everything-feels-perfect sense, though there are moments of that too. It’s bliss in my soul. Content, at home. It feels like, “this is what I’m here for.”
When I see the transmission of yoga through me to my students, I smile inside. When they challenge themselves by listening to their breath and their body, I feel joy. When they’re able to let go of their ego, and simply be, I know I’ve done something good.
I want to stress — bliss is not perfection. It’s not the thrill of a roller coaster. It includes times of struggle, can-I-make-a-living? (Not yet.) It includes boredom, a lack of inspiration. (How can I teach today? Nothing moves me!) But it also includes gratitude for those struggles and those feelings, because it’s all part of the journey. And every time I teach another class, or try something new in my practice, or see my old practice through new eyes, it feels like home.
Happy International Yoga Day!
How cool! Wolfram|Alpha, a curated search engine, compiles and displays overviews of 216 yoga asanas — at the curious yogi’s fingertips! Info includes an illustration of the pose, muscles stretched/strengthened, joints used, modifications, as well as contraindications (who should not do this pose) and props used.
The basic instructions will get you into the pose, but go to a qualified instructor to properly explore the actions (stretching, reaching, drawing in, pressing down) of each pose — and to find out how to use the props listed! The database won’t replace going to a yoga class, but I love the idea of compiling an asana database for yogis that want to go deeper into their physical understanding of each pose. More info here.
On Saturday night, my yoga teacher training tribe met for our closing circle: a celebration of the last 9 months of learning, sharing, and growing together. We are the inaugural graduating class — pioneers of the first teacher training program at Living Yoga Center. We came from different backgrounds: law, accounting, academia, business, massage therapy. We grew up in different generations, traveled to different places. Yet somehow, we created a deep love for each other.
We all spoke about what we learned in the last year, how this program has changed our lives, in large ways and small. We wrote down an intention for our knowledge going forward on blank index cards, then set the cards on fire one by one to let go of the intention and trust that the universe will reveal each step as we go. My favorite part of our closing circle, however, was this: the comfortable silence we shared as we sat down in the living room of our teacher’s house, on benches, plush armchairs, rolling office chairs, on the floor, and ate food brought by all.
My second favorite moment was this:
Lauren Matsumoto of Brooklyn, NY created this series titled “Flora & Fauna”, an entwinement of flowers, birds, and everyday man-made objects.
This series stuck out to me because now that I’ve finished my yoga teacher training program, I’ve been feeling bits of trepidation and excitement as I ponder what comes next. How will I intertwine what I’ve learned into my practice and my classes? How will I continue to grow and follow my dharma (purpose), and connect with students and teachers along the way?
Yoga means union. Joining together the nature, spirit, soul that we were born in with the objects that we created to find a balance. To become fully present in this world, that we were created by and that we create in. To be!
Image credit: Lauren Matsumoto