Life lessons on the yogic path by Jennifer Mattson, guest blogger “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything.” —Woody Allen Nobody likes to fail. But whether it’s falling out of a headstand in yoga class, or trying a new recipe that ends up in the garbage, failure is inevitable—and it’s how we learn. We [...]
by Laura Didyk Travel and I do not have the best relationship. I love point A. And I love the experience of point B. I’m just not that fond of the trip from one to the other. A large part of the conflict is rooted in my lifelong susceptibility to motion sickness. On a bad [...]
Susan Abbattista, guest blogger This is a story about two women, a rebel, and a raisin. The first woman, an accomplished writer and arts aficionado, is quite lovely. She has the kind of rare beauty that inadvertently draws attention from men and women alike. Woman One moves through life with grace and ease, frequently hosting [...]
The other day at the end of a vinyasa yoga class I did my usual thing of plopping down and gearing up for Savasana with no blanket or sweater to get warm and cozy. Being in a large, chilly room, I sensed that I might need extra warmth but paid no mind. The teacher, Andrew, prompted us to “Take this time to allow the hard work to land, and nurture your self in resting pose.” Upon hitting the deck and doing my utmost to actually get comfortable—doing a brief body scan to relax myself—I lay there wondering why my need to be self-sufficient had, yet again, left me bare-skinned and frigid, trying to relax my shivering bones into Corpse pose.
Being somewhat small in stature, and a good-natured vata/pitta, my tendency is to be high energy and cold most of the time. Andrew started to walk around the room, his soothing voice gently guiding the group into a restful state, and asked anyone who might want a blanket to raise their hand. I pondered his offer and observed myself as I refused to raise my hand, even though I was chilly and unable to settle comfortably into Savasana.
Dirt · y [adj.] Appearing as if soiled; dark-colored; dingy; murky.
Pu · ri · fied [verb] 1. To rid of impurities; cleanse. 2. To rid of foreign of objectionable elements. 3. To free from sin, guilt, or other defilement.
Mud surrounded the house where I grew up in a small village in Singapore. I spent many hours walking, playing, and daydreaming along dirt roads. My mom used to make me wash my hands and feet before I could eat or sleep and often yelled when I got myself dirty again. So at a young age, I began to form a judgment about being dirty and clean. Later, in my adult life, that judgment transformed into an invisible quest to be pure, to be good, and to be rid of stains in character.
I was always fascinated with martial arts. Growing up with two brothers and three other cousin-brothers, I watched a lot of kung fu films from Hong Kong where heros and heroines flew through the trees, defeating villains and restoring justice. I loved seeing how the body could quickly assume delicate yet powerful postures and defy gravity with leaps and somersaults. I especially admired the power and beauty that the women possessed. It seemed as though their diligent practices purified their characters—from weakness and doubt to strength and confidence.
When I was 14, I stumbled across a book filled with yoga poses. Fascinated by how flexible the people in the pictures looked, I began imitating them. Fusing martial arts and yoga, I improvised movement flows to demonstrate the sharpness and flexibility of my body. Through the flow, I would relive the feelings that I had when I watched kung fu movies—a sense of accomplishment, transformation, and purification.
I’m beside myself with worry.
I can see my mother standing at the kitchen sink in our childhood house, her hands immersed in soapsuds, proclaiming this. It was a phrase she used a lot when I was young. How confusing to my childhood brain! There she was, standing in front of me, clearly only one mother, not two. How could she be—beside herself?
I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot these days, which, according to the Dictionary of Word Origins by Jordan Almond, was used “because the ancients believed that soul and body could part and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself”.”
Living yoga off the mat seems to be the ultimate coming together of self—the unity, the yoking of body, mind, and spirit—the antithesis of being “beside one’s self.” My mother was speaking her 1950s understanding of how to cope with stress and with feelings. Hers is the model that I learned, the model that today brings me suffering. As 2012 unfolds, I am committed to practicing the ancient and ultimately relevant model of unity consciousness, a powerful and effective way to cope with life. As I come into awareness of what is, as I relax around it, transformation occurs.