Friday, May 29, 2009

Balance in Motion

Designed for speed, the cheetah moves with the perfect balance of muscular and organic energy. Recognized as the fastest land animal, nature has endowed the cheetah with large nostrils. lungs, liver, heart and adrenals to handle top speeds. Its bones are light and vertical collar bones help to lengthen its stride. Its spine works as a spring for the powerful back legs to stretch out almost horizontal to the ground when at top speed. The cheetah has been recorded at speeds up to 71 mph. The cheetah knows this speed is its edge and maintains it only for 200 - 300 yards. Its powerful intention to kill its prey for survival helps fuel this incredible speed.

When we tune into nature and tune into our own unique nature as human beings we can maximize our power and potential. If we create a strong intention we can achieve amazing feats. Yoga can help us learn how to balance muscular and organic energy. We have the innate knowledge of how to move, how to stand, how to rest and how to eat. But when we live out of balance, dictated too much by pressures of our jobs or desires to attain more wealth or prestige, we temporarily restrict our potential to live with optimal freedom and enjoyment.

We are all part of nature with similar needs. When we listen and respect the wisdom of our body and move with balance and integrity, we can reach our full potential and feel true enjoyment in our daily lives. So be inspired by the beauty and power of the cheetah. Take a moment to close your eyes and picture the cheetah energy in your body. Feel its supple spine alive with movement and length. Feel the strength in its hind legs and the stretch of its stride. A cheetah is connected to its own power. It does not doubt or second-guess itself. It moves with complete assurance and grace. Connect with the energy of the cheetah and find the freedom that comes from the balance of power and expansion.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Living in LaLa Land

Our perceptions are shaped by the two sides of our brains that are separate and very different. They communicate with each other and are connected by the corpus callosum. One side is typically more dominate than the other. Each hemisphere thinks and cares about different things.

The right hemisphere is all about this present moment and thinks in pictures. Our senses are experienced from this side of our brain. It tells us that we are energy beings connected to the energy all around us. The right brain gives us the feeling that in this moment we are perfect, whole and beautiful.

The left hemisphere thinks methodically about the past and the future. It is designed to take the enormous collage of the present moment and find the details. It thinks in language. It tells us what we need to do to function. It connects our internal world to the external world but reminds us of the separation of these two worlds. It gives us the concept of "I am".

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke in the left side of her brain and was able to experience complete right side brain domination for short periods of time during her stroke. Life began to slow down. Her perception had changed from normal reality to becoming a witness of herself having experiences. Every step was very rigid and very deliberate - there was no fluidity. She could not define the boundaries of her body - she could only detect the energy of everything being connected. When the left hemisphere of her brain was silent, she became captivated by the magnificence surrounding her. She felt one with all the energy that was beautiful. There was a sense of euphoria at releasing years of emotional baggage in a split second. She felt like she was living in LaLa Land.

Then the left side of the brain would kick in and tell her that she was in danger - there was a problem and she needed help. When she tried to use the phone to call for help she realized she could not read, talk or hear language correctly.

Jill went back and forth between LaLa Land and realizing she needed help desperately. She was finally able to call for help after much difficulty. At one point she felt a moment of possible transition. She felt her spirit surrender as she said good-bye with a feeling of peace.

Waking up later in the hospital, Jill felt enormous and expansive as she realized she was still alive. She felt like she had found Nirvana when she fully experienced the right side of her brain. The realization that she had a choice to experience this peaceful place had a profound impact on her. She felt it was her mission to share this with the world and wrote a book titled "A Stroke of Insight".

Both sides of our brains are necessary to live a healthy productive life. Which side of your brain do you tend to hang out in more often? Do you feel ruled by goals, to-do lists and planning your future? Do you feel oblivious to what is going on around you because you are so blissed-out that you never get anything done? Or do you feel a balance between feeling peaceful and connected while still being able to function in society?

Yoga is a practice of balance. We need muscular energy to create a strong foundation. We need the softness of organic energy to experience the freedom of letting go to expand with intention. Playing the edges of being too contracted with muscular energy and too expansive and soft to keep our balance is how we find our center. This is how we experience the joy and ease of the two opposites working together. Be aware that you have this place of total peacefulness within yourself. You have the choice to experience this place of connection and the power of the present moment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Be or Not To Be Connected?

The mind-body connection is very powerful and often overlooked in our society. We get caught up in our heads: thinking and planning, running from one activity to the next, figuring out what we want and solving problems that arise.

It is easy to forget about our body or not to listen to our body. When we push it beyond its limits, we get injured. This injury can be instantaneous or it can insidiously develop over an extended period of time without our knowledge until one day the pain is all too obvious.

The neck physically connects our head to our body. Isn't it interesting that so many people have chronic neck tension and pain? This pain is a result of a mind-body disconnect. We ignore our physical discomforts until we gradually do not even notice them. We ignore the signals our bodies are sending. We learn to live with our pain. We are not willing to take the time to feel the mind-body connection. Changing habits takes intention and awareness.

Typically the physical cause of neck pain is that our head is not in proper alignment with our body. When the head is extended forward of the spine, there is tension created from overuse of the muscles to hold the head in place. Even the natural curve of the neck can become distorted. This misalignment happens from how we sit, stand and walk and even how we think.

What causes us to lead with our head and forget our heart connection? When we live in our heads, we live in the past or the future. To be fully involved in the present, to be fully aware, requires us to align our minds and body. When our head is extended forward we are literally leading with our head. When the head is in line with the spine, our head and heart are in physical alignment. This helps bring us into the present moment.

Yoga literally means union. Yoga connects the mind, body and spirit. Moving with the breath, bringing the body back into alignment and relaxing the mind creates an environment where healing can occur. Balancing a connection to the core with expansion and freedom relieves stress and tension in the body. When your body and mind are connected, life just gets easier. When your body is out of alignment it will become tense to protect itself. When the body is in alignment, it will relax and become more fluid.

Take at least a few moments each day to be grateful for this gift of life. Close your eyes and inhale deeply feeling the power of the breath create an inner fullness. Listen to the song of the birds, feel the sunshine on your face or the freshness of a gentle rain. Aligning with nature and believing in the power of each individual moment, brings softness and fluidity into our lives. Feel your mind and body in balance. Choose to be connected.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pieces of the Puzzle

Life is like a puzzle in many ways. As we move through life we find bits and pieces of the puzzle along our path. Some of the pieces fit together easily. Other pieces seem unconnected. And sometimes we may find ourselves looking for a missing piece.

At times we may feel clear about the "big picture" but at other times we may wonder what life is really about. Why are we here? What is our unique mission or gift that we have to give?

Puzzles give a picture of the final form but there can be hundreds of little pieces that need to fit together or many, many ways of working the pieces into the final form. Working on the puzzle can be frustrating, challenging and rewarding.

Have you ever found a piece of a puzzle that almost fit but not quite; yet because it seemed so close you kept trying to get it to fit over and over? Maybe you repeat a pattern or behavior in life because it seems to fit the situation but the results are never really satisfying. This is when we need to take a break and come back with a fresh perspective. Try letting go of the idea of making something fit that does not quite work.

What about the times when you are looking for that special piece of the puzzle but no matter how hard you try you cannot seem to find it. The harder you look the more elusive and frustrating it becomes. Again, this is the moment to step back and take a break. Sometimes when we get away from what we are over-focused on, we may come back and find it easily just because we are more relaxed.

When practicing yoga you may often gain new insights about a pose that is challenging or even about a pose you have been doing for a long time. It is like new pieces of the puzzle are always being discovered or sometimes the old pieces finally fit into place. Even some of the most basic things like muscular energy may take on a whole new dimension when you rediscover them in a way that makes a difficult pose easier.

When you feel a deeper connection to your core and a fuller outward expansion, the puzzle is closer to completion. Perhaps in life the puzzle will never be really complete. There will always be something new to discover and learn. The pieces may come together in new unexpected ways. The puzzle may keep morphing and expanding. But if we keep appreciating each piece of the puzzle, each moment when the pieces fit together and more of the picture or shape is revealed, life will continue to expand beyond our wildest expectations.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Starting as a tiny pearl-like egg, the butterfly goes through various transitions before spreading its wings and finding the freedom of flight. From the egg, the butterfly-to-be transitions to a caterpillar with a voracious appetite shedding its skin multiple times during this rapid growth phase.

Eventually the caterpillar goes into hibernation as a pupa, a cocoon-like stage. Here the caterpillar tissues are broken down and the adult butterfly structures are formed. This pupa stage has a dull grey lifeless shape.

Finally this pupa transitions to the graceful butterfly that dances with lightness from flower to flower. The wings of the butterfly appear fragile but they are strong enough to carry the butterflies many miles. The short span of the butterfly's life is a microcosmic example of the many transitions we will experience through life.

Transitions are a passage from one state to another. They can be beautiful, difficult, transformative and/or scary. When we are mindful of the transitions we can flow more easily between the different states. Without this awareness, our new situation may seem difficult and even overwhelming.

Being sensitive to the transitions between poses in our yoga practice is an important part of our practice. When these transitions are done with grace and intention, we bring a fullness and vitality to our practice that otherwise would be lacking. More injuries occur coming out of yoga poses than at any other point of the practice. Instead of injury you can create a beautiful dance, a kind of poetry-in-motion, with the awareness of the transitions.

We can learn many lessons by being conscious of the seemingly unimportant moments. Living in the moment makes the transitions easier and smoother. Although some transitions in our life can be difficult, if we are willing to engage fully in the macrocosm of life, we can ease the pain of these transitions. Life continues to unfold with all its twists and turns, surprises and gifts, while its meaning reveals itself through the journey. Isaac Asimov states: "Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It is the transition that is troublesome."