“The Art of Stillness”

This book was one of the recommended books at the Invitational by Judith H. Lasater, PhD/Yoga Teacher/PT and this quote from the last page resonates with me this week. Don’t get me wrong, we need to exercise, move, dance all those but somewhere during the day and night … take a moment (75-90 minutes yoga class would be ideal:).

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.  In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.

And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

You can go on vacation to Paris or Hawaii or New Orleans three months from now ( I wish !), and you’ll have a tremendous time, I’m sure.

But if you wan to come back feeling new – alive and full of fresh hope and in love with the world – I think the place to visit may be NOWHERE.”

– Pico Iyer

I wish I wrote the above because it’s my sentiment exactly & Pico Iyer says it so well. Sitting still is not meant literal of course (while Zen at a monastery is certainly a training) but he means that we can all weave in a moment of reflection, repose, a conscious time-out – that moment of PAUSE even during the movements. Our self-worth is not measured by how busy we are.  Rather, by paying attention, our mind clears up and our body is more in tune with our inner wisdom  – all of which yoga teaches us so well.

And this is the sentiment because I am breathless running around in flurry of self imposed activities trying to pack to get off to Asia this week.  Yes, I am going Somewhere … bearing gifts, with baggage and all.  Things to do list piling up and anxieties over not getting them done mounting every minute. Still I am proud of myself that I retained my yoga practice and even slipped into Knee Workshop and … most memorable yoga class on a Memorial holiday (Yoga Therapeutics by Harry’s LAST CLASS – tears and laughter as he bids goodbye to start his new chapter …) so now going into a tailspin as the week restarts but somehow amidst the juggling, there’s that PAUSE where the debris settle to the bottom of the swirling well and only the distilled essence can be bottled. How to pause?

Stop.  What’s the worst that can happen?  What is most essential to this life I live? There are those who depend on you, yes, but … what do they treasure in you?

***

Deep Breath.

Invite the stillness; the tranquility to approach all those things on the list with

serenity and grace.  Is that even possible.

To make the impossible possible is my intention this full moon week

by living my yoga – We can even “stretch” time … Namaste.

Stress Test

How do you invite your deep regenerative breath?  How do you invite that breath of Joy? How do you cultivate equanimity when there’s mixed bag of various emotions that does not serve you to make positive choices?

If it’s a heartfelt invitation, it’s got to come from the … Heart – Recalling the lovely tea  –  a beautiful tea gathering to celebrate many things but mainly host’s partner regaining his health enough to travel to some exotic land to bring back all these delicacies …to share … rose petals on the honeyed rim of tea cups; specially aromatic tea both herbal and black  … Seems like only couple of months ago, he was hospitalized fighting for his life BUT today, after the proper care, he is a picture of glowing health surrounded by loving family.  Bad things happen; good things happen; sometimes it seems like series of bad things and there’s darkness BUT … not losing faith that better days will come again. Let’s be heart-strong than head-strong when we engage in self-care.

I can think of handful of people in the 30-60 range in the last few years – all seemingly vibrant people with similar scary life changing moments of failings.  Usually dehydrated and during a run or some unsuitable workout or … striving too much with little regularity.  Just listen to your breath and notice your breath pattern. Let that inform you.

This is not to scare anyone to say one should become sedentary and never be “out of breath” or not challenge ourselves – no, quite the opposite, we need to exercise to strengthen and work up a light sweat (perspiration is a wonderful way to detox our pores and flush out our overall system – just drink alkaline water infused with electrolytes and eat mineral rich foods) on regular basis and investing the time and effort in the kind of exercise that’s wise; that’s suitable for the condition that day, that time.  Hard workout is fun; we love the endorphins released especially for those who cannot sit still.  Intensity works for some. But not for others.  Or not during certain days and times of the day …

Essential to always round out the exercise and balance with an off-set, what’s called a more “YIN”, cool down, stretches and mindfulness; to really bring down the heart rate into the state of OMMMMM.  It’s been shown scientifically that practice of Pranayama (breath awareness/control/regulation) is one powerful tool to improve cardiac function, de-fog and increase clarity, reverse negative mindset to transport us to that sparkled place of distilled consciousness, quieting the fluctuations and agitations of the mind …as yoga is defined by Patanjali in Yoga Sutras, a bible for every serious yoga student.  It affects our nervous system and our heart health, ultimately creating new neural pathways, improving our neuroplasticity.  Its’ not an anecdotal but an evidence based practice is what I came to learn.  Feel better; feel lighter. Find bliss:) For real.

Therapeutically, it is THE practice of healing the heart in a pill-less form we all have in our inner medicine cabinet  – the CALM, the BALANCE, we can cultivate with training – so there’s the interval pumping up to a spiked HR and then, settling back down, slowing down the heart rate, the pulse and … lowering the blood pressure so there’s less stagnation – both for the blood flowing through our arteries and veins as well as the fluids flowing in our lymphatic system.  To reconnect with that deliciously juicy deep state of knowing.  Also I would observe and heed and HONOR the life transitions and not live in denials – at mid-life there’s that rumored, what some seem to call “midlife crisis” – that realization that the days are numbered and one wants to relive youth by sometimes going to the extreme… I think, though, there’s another peaceful path – by pre-midlife -30/40, it’s time for better self-care: maybe there’s heart palpitations, vertigo, extreme fatigue, panic attacks from anxiety, just plain anxieties or maybe PTDS having undergone some trauma … it’s not that uncommon and we can be open about it  – some form of manifestations we are grateful to witness  … because we will take care to look into it rather than ignore:  perhaps a stress test with EKG could ascertain one’s heart health … Yet some, being in a rat race, cannot take the time out or choosing not to take time out in favor of pseudo-self-care.  We thank our body when it acts up – let’s heed those messages and consult the medical profession if not for anything but for peace of mind. It’s really a waste of time to lament how one used to be able to do this or that – putting on years is not about one loss after another but rather, one ray of hope and one gem of wisdom after another.

So yes, I practice vinyasa flow as an exercise for the most part but … gravitate to the more spiritual quieter gentler yoga practice that helps one (me:) to really tune in and listen to (my) one’s body … better. And this sets the tone for the rest of the day or evening … or give you a mid-day break to re-center so we/I can be responsive but not reactive; kind not annoyed or irritated – when we are patient with ourselves, we can be patient with others too.  Many of us are so connected outwardly and care so much about the external affairs but forget to connect with our own deep inner yearnings and desires.  In this over revved world, we need to get the internal affairs in order. There’s no need to ignore or suppress the inner needs that manifests in variety of ways.  It’s up to us to have some self-awareness; to allow the stream of consciousness to be really that – streams that flow and flourish.  Not to live in fear but to live consciously this NOW.

I don’t have any answers but as a student of Yoga Therapy, I do recall my Heart Health Module in my Yoga Therapy training … Key ideas I can share through yoga are on:

Heart Rate Variability – HRV relates to ANS – our nervous system – NS Balance

Rest – Exercise Balance: Yin/Yang Balance relates to the above … Moderate exercise, stretching and restoration … remember, Yang exercise mostly to strengthen – muscles strengthen with dynamic repetitive motions; fascia/connective tissues and joints heal and rejuvenate with longer gentle but increasing deeper stretch and holds. 

Stress Management: is critical to keep those healthy vital signs in check, including ideal weight gain/loss and maintenance.  

Late Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama

Who is this doctor?  Not a medical doctor but doctor of philosophy and a Shinto priest in Japan who passed away at age 89 couple of years ago … One of his books is a required teacher training text reading for Yin Yoga style founder (there’s also few others who founded this similar style), Paul Grilley who was Sarah Power’s teacher.  They are currently both considered the senior teachers in this style of yoga – and both Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers learned from Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama  … I always loved Insight Yoga teachings and Paul Grilley’s anatomy videos.  It’s a shift in perspective they invite into your yoga practice.

So one of the readings recommended to enroll in Paul Grilley’s teacher training is Awakening the Chakras and Emanipation by Dr. Motoyama … BUT it’s just not available on Amazon or elsewhere.  So the search led me to the above alternative book by the same author and eyes popping … it’s just not affordable at over $200 list price, and that, used paperback !!!

SOOOO I just realized I can get the books originally written in Japanese – so check the Japanese publication market and just read them in Japanese ! YES … how convenient. So the search confirmed, they have these books in Japan at an affordable price:)  So happy to find these books in original texts and cannot wait to read all about:  Chakras, Kundalini Yoga and meditation.  I can even fly over to Tokyo to pick them up – along with some learning to be had from my mother, a greatest healer of all by demonstrating with each breath she takes, how to recover from life’s tough lessons and obstacles.

“Secrets of Yoga” ?

“Awakening Chakras & Consciousness” ?

And as I was chasing after his books, I found this gem of a blog – here – I love reading her blog – LOVE her recipes YUMMY and if I lived in her community, for sure, I would be at her yoga class !  In fact, does she have the book I am searching for, lol:) And she’d definitely be on my potluck list ! A great chef is a gift.  Great food enlivens our prana and leads to recovery of a sunken heart.