Friday, January 29, 2010

The pull of the full moon

We are literally pulled by the power of the full moon. Plants experience a growth spurt at this time. Just as the tides of the oceans are highest at the full moon, our bodies, that are approximately 60% water, respond to the energy of the moon in ways that we may or may not notice.

In Asheville, where I live, the past two full moons have coincided with the most beautiful snow storms in decades. Is this a coincidence? The full moon, although covered by the cloudy sky, together with the brilliant snow create a luminescence that is magical. Sounds are muffled, the whole landscape is covered with a layer of softness, and there is a feeling of warmth despite the cold.

The full moon is thought of as energetic and emotional. But just as everything contains its opposite, the full moon has a sense of serenity as well. The landscape is illuminated in a way that can never be duplicated by the sun. There is an aura of mystery with the light shed by the moon.

At a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment. The moon is on the opposite side of the earth showing us only the sunlit part of the moon. This brilliance is really reflected light. It is the nearly perfect alignment that creates this powerful luminosity.

Perfecting our alignment with nature brings us closer to our true self. As you practice yoga bring the power of the full moon into your practice. The end of the inhalation corresponds with the full moon energy. Feel that expansiveness of the breath. Use that to enhance your practice.

Just as the light of the moon is a reflection of the more powerful sun, we are a reflection of the Universal energy that resides within us and all around us. The full moon comes and goes. The clearness of our reflection of the Divine comes and goes as well. When that reflection is clear and full, we feel energized and relaxed.

Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water and two-thirds of our body is water. We can see the effect of the pull of the moon on the tides. During the full moon more babies are born than any other time of the month. The pull of the moon enhances energy. Let the full moon remind you of your full inner brilliance and power to align with the Divine.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inner Awareness

Deep inside each of us is a quiet, calm center. For many of us, it lies buried like a forgotten treasure. Instead we seek the treasures on the outside that may or may not be attainable.

Our senses pull us in many directions. Interesting sights, sounds, smells, tactile objects and savory palettes are difficult to ignore. We often live in chaos amid these distractions. We become unaware of who we really are, what we really want and what we truly need.

Life in the 21st century is spent in front of computers, in front of TVs, on cell phones, driving in cars and eating fast food. We are so far from our center, it is like we are in outer space.

Essentially we are out of balance. What can we do to find time to relax and go inward? To come into balance we need to find time to slow down. Take time to enjoy nature. Spend time contemplating a flower. Look deeply into a friend's eyes. Listen to your body. If it is telling you to stop or slow down, don't ignore those messages.

Yoga can bring us into balance unless we treat yoga as some form of competition with ourselves or others. If we practice with awareness and sensitivity, every time on the mat can bring inner awareness. Just focusing on the breath quiets the mind. When our mind is quiet, we can listen to our body. We can feel the peace of our calm center. We can learn to let go of self-criticism.

Bring the lessons from yoga off your mat and into your life. This is the real purpose of yoga - becoming aware of our inner nature. Notice your habits, your posture, your internal chatter. Does it serve you well? Or do you keep repeating the same negative patterns mindlessly? Move with intention and open new pathways creating positive habits.

The calm center within is full of mystery and beauty that is familiar and safe. We can know ourselves but there is always more to discover. Believe in your divine right to feel peace and contentment. We can't always escape the chaos, but we can make it a habit to visit our inner sanctuary.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The foundation comes first. A strong and well-laid foundation is the best investment you can make when building a house. A foundation needs to be level, the cement needs to be dried properly and there must be good drainage. A house built on a solid foundation can withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and other tests of nature. But if the foundation is poorly built that same house could easily fall. The goal of the foundation is to keep the house from shifting and moving.

In nature, roots are the foundations of the tiniest plants and the tallest trees. They bring nourishment to all parts of the plant promoting growth and stability. The roots keep the tree steady, but unlike the foundations of the house, they allow movement in the branches and even the trunk. If trees did not move with the wind, they would break and fall. Roots are stable but also very adaptable even growing around rocks to establish support for the tree.

In yoga we have many different foundations, all of which are equally important. Any part of our body that touches the ground is a foundation - our feet, hands, knees, sitbones, hips, shoulders and back of our head. Each part is important individually but our core brings all these parts together. So the energy from our feet, hands, etc. draws into the core and then extends back out from the core in a symbiotic relationship.

The relationships of our feet to our hips, our hips to our shoulders, and our shoulders to our head are key to the integrity of the pose. The evenness and rooting of our foundation allows us to relax our necks, face, mind, and attitude when we practice. Think of rooting as an organic extension of energy - its power extends beyond our material body. As living creatures, we want our foundation to support movement with grace and ease.

Not only is the foundation a physical support, it is also the underlying principle or idea upon which something is developed. In yoga we set an intention at the beginning of our practice to inspire and support the practice. The breath is foundational as well. Everything begins with the breath. It is our ultimate foundation.

Although the foundation is not always visible, it is vital to survival. Attention to the foundation is the key to stability, strength and freedom. It is what will support us in good times and bad times. Build a strong foundation, align with a higher power, and the magnitude of what you can support may surprise you.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The concept of balance

The truth is balance. However the opposite of truth, which is unbalance, may not be a lie.
Susan Sontag

Balance occurs when opposites come together in harmony. Yin and yang, darkness and light, hot and cold all balance each other. When we are out of balance life feels difficult, but it flows with ease when we are in balance.

Perfect balance is not a lasting condition. It comes and goes. Effort and awareness are needed to find balance, but when we find it there is a sense of timelessness as if we are suspended in space. There is an equilibrium that is self-sustainable for an instant or longer but eventually we come out of that state and the process of coming into balance begins again.

Finding balance is not the same for everyone. For example, some people spend too much time working, so they need to relax more to come into balance. Others spend too much time playing or daydreaming and they need to be more disciplined and focused to come into balance.

Yoga helps us bring awareness to our state of balance or imbalance. The poses bring our bodies into positions that are not part of our daily lives. There are many types of balance in yoga. Physically we need to find the balance between contracting and lengthening our muscles. Some muscles need stronger engagement while other muscles need to relax. Our mind and body need to be in balance so we do not over think the poses or carelessly practice. The way we align our bodies makes balance easier or more difficult. Ultimately it is the balance between our individual efforts and surrender that brings us to the core of yoga - inner peace. The physical poses are really just a vehicle for the journey.

While achieving balance may be a goal, unbalance is just as important. We learn from being out of balance and testing the edges. We have to find what is too much, to know which direction to move toward. Balance happens when trying ceases. We are in the moment and the moment is perfect.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Word for the Year

Do you control your mind or does your mind control you? Unconsciously our minds are constantly chattering. If left undirected they can keep repeating the same negative, self-limiting thoughts. But we can also choose to direct our thoughts in a positive way.

People typically choose resolutions for the New Year. Resolutions often don't work because they feel like something we should do. An example of a resolution would be to lose 10 pounds. This implies that we are not acceptable as we are, so we need to lose weight. Because it feels like a command rather than a voluntary action, we often end up abandoning our resolutions or unconsciously even resisting them.

By consciously choosing a word that inspires us, we can replace negative chatter with an empowering theme. The New Year is a great time to choose a word for the coming year. Be patient with the process. A word may magically appear in an instant. Or it may take days before a word comes that truly resonates with you. However it happens you will feel a sense of excitement and connection with the word when you find the word that is right for you.

You could choose a pair of words that work together. For example the words "trust" and "acceptance" teach us a lot as a pair. We can trust that things will work out but we can also accept whatever happens knowing that we do not have full control.

A great way of letting go of our patterned self-talk is to focus on our word or pair of words. Breathe in the feeling of that word. We can do this in our yoga practice. Use the breath and the embodiment of your word to power and inspire your poses. When your mind is focused in yoga the effect makes your whole body more relaxed and more powerful. This is the union of opposites. Most people would think that being relaxed and powerful would not be possible at the same time, but they actually support each other.

Write down your word. Place it where you will see it often. Come back to it daily. Observe how the concept that comes with your word can help give you more control of your mind. Think of this word as guiding your intention to be more fully who you are at your deepest core. Once we place an intention it sets a whole stream of events in motion. A bigger power is drawn to help us. Our "word" does not imply instant transformation. It can teach us awareness of our habits, blocks and gifts. Be mindful and be open to the journey as it unfolds.