Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dormant energy

How can something so tiny and insignificant be so powerful? In the spring, when poison ivy is barely visible, it is still very potent. Its oil, called urushiol, is concentrated in the vine, stem and roots of the plant. So when it appears to be dead or dormant, it has powerful potential. It is said to still be active for five years even after the plant is dead.

Kundalini is a dormant energy that lies coiled at the base of our spine and is envisioned as a coiled serpent. This is the natural energy of the Self that is present in every being as the universal consciousness. Our individual minds can cloak this natural energy from pure expression.

Too much exposure too quickly to dormant energy can cause harm. In the case of poison ivy handling the stem or root even before the leaves come out can cause an incredibly painful rash. Without the leaves it is often difficult to identify the poison ivy. If you lightly brush against the poison ivy leaves, many people will not have a reaction at all or the reaction will likely be less severe.

If Kundalini energy is awakened too quickly before an individual is fully prepared, it can also cause devastating effects. People who are not prepared through regular spiritual practice often experience strong body pain and mental instability. It can be very scary experiencing entities that are not physical and not understood.

For the individual who has a strong meditation practice and has a grounded spirituality, kundalini can rise more slowly and be a powerfully positive experience. That person can feel more of the oneness of Universal energy and love. They can feel their consciousness expanding infinitely. Their full potential is manifested in a balanced way with grounding energy as well as expanding energy.

Yoga has this potential to waken parts of our bodies in new and powerful ways. However if we practice yoga coming from our egos and push our bodies beyond their current capacity, we can become injured. If we use yoga poses just for physical skills, we leave some of the dormant energy untapped. But if we practice yoga mindfully and with a pure intention and balanced energy, we begin a magical journey that leads to a deeper understanding of our bodies and who we are at our deepest core.

There is dormant energy and dormant potential all around us and within us. We need to appreciate and respect the power of this energy. When we are respectful and aware of nature, we can avoid some of the negative potential power such as the virulent oils of the poison ivy plant. When we practice a sport building our skills gradually, we will know our limits and respect them leading to more enjoyment and less injury. Anything we engage in or practice from a balanced place, can allow us to experience a gradual unfolding of our full potential with equanimity and peace.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Awakening

Spring is a kind of wake up call in nature bringing new growth, new life, and warmer weather. It is a transitional period between the coldest months and the warmest months. The sun crossing the equator signals the beginning of spring.

Weather is often erratic in spring as the seasons shift from cold to warm. Severe weather results from the warm air masses from the lower latitudes colliding with the cold air still pushing from the polar regions. Rivers often flood from ice melt and intense thunderstorms, tornadoes are formed and winds can be exceptionally high.

Humans react to this change of seasons with spring fever characterized by excitement, energy spurts, romantic desires and an air of restlessness. We have an internal body clock that responds to the longer days - having more natural light in our lives. Melatonin, inducing sleep, is decreased while serotonin, causing a sense of elation, increases.

The majority of people tend to spend more time outdoors as the weather becomes warmer so people connect more socially. In big cities like New York City, street performers are out in full force bringing a creative energy that is infectious. Just as the flowers begin to open, bears come out of hibernation and birds return from migration, we tend to feel more alive and full of energy with the advent of spring.

Everyone knows the feeling of the perfect spring day. The sun feels warm but the air has a cool refreshing feeling. It is a balance between hot and cold - the transition between winter and summer.

Align your yoga practice with the energy of spring. Open your chest more fully and allow your poses to expand with the expanding daylight. Feel the growth of new discovery in your poses. Find the balance between the effort of muscular energy and the relaxation of expansive energy. Really feel and be aware of the transitions between poses. Just as the light of spring has a soft quality, be gentle with yourself as you experience this renewed awakening.

The equal length of day and night gives birth to spring. For a moment light and dark are balanced. Then the days become increasingly longer until they peak at the summer solstice. As we come out of the winter darkness from a place of restfulness, we come into the season of light with the spirit of awakening. Nature is infinite in her creativity. We are part of nature and share that gift. Let spring be a wake up call for you to blossom into your full potential.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Go Slowly

People in countries driven by technology tend to move at mach nine speed. Cars, airplanes, cell phones, computers and internet access allow us to move fast from place to place, process large amounts of information with amazing speed and communicate long distances no matter what we are doing.

But what is the true cost of the ease and speed at which we move? Do we become desensitized to the less obvious details that only become noticeable when we take time to slow down? Do we lose touch with our inner feelings and emotions? Are we missing some of the most important things in life without even realizing it?

In rural Nepal where there are no cars, computers or cell phones, people bid farewell by saying, "Go slowly". They do not have the resources that can make things happen fast. People often carry heavy loads on their backs making it difficult to go quickly. Footing can be difficult on the rocky trails and many Nepalis walk barefoot or in minimal footwear. But this cultivates a sense of patience and awareness of each step that is very different from our lifestyles. Their physical lifestyle is more difficult than ours, but their level of stress is much lower.

Although many Nepalis do not have the resources to move with speed, we do have the choice to slow down and "smell the roses". It may not feel like it because there are often so many pressures, so many responsibilities, so many opportunities. But so often we kid ourselves with how important our "to do" list is. The fact is stress causes many physical, emotional and mental problems.

If we practice yoga with a sense of impatience going from pose to pose just to keep moving quickly, we miss out on many of the benefits that are available through yoga. Moving too quickly can make us insensitive. We may never learn how to bring our bodies into optimal alignment. It is possible to injure ourselves by going too far in a pose when our bodies are not ready for it. On the other hand we may never experience how deep we can go in a pose when we are ready.

Instead of trying to do everything as quickly as possible and piling up a list of accomplishments, take time to savor the smile of a stranger, the song of a bird, the smell of the fresh rain. Slow down enough to think about what is really important amid all of the chaos. Set your priorities on spending time on the things that bring you the most joy instead of the most money or fame. It is the small things, easily overlooked, that often bring us our deepest peace and serenity.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Change of Attitude

"I skied with 100 percent heart — I didn't hold anything back. ... It's just awesome. There's nothing else to say."
Bode Miller

Bode Miller was controversial, the bad boy of skiing. He was into partying and making shocking comments to the media. He had won two silver medals in the Salt Lake Olympics but that was disappointing because he was expected to win golds.

At the Turin Olympics Bode Miller had a poor attitude. “In ’06, I didn’t really necessarily want to be there for a number of reasons … but, you know, I also didn’t want to not be there. So I was incredibly conflicted,” he said. He isolated himself from his teammates and was sarcastic and belligerent. This showed in his skiing. Although he raced hard and was favored to win, he came away without any medals.

For the 2010 Olympics Bode had a change of attitude. Instead of being there half-heartedly, he came back with a strong intention and the right motivation. "When I came back, I came back specifically for this but with the intent to try to find what I was looking for, and I think I did find that," Miller said.

His skiing was brilliant! Although he had
a bum left knee and an aching right ankle. he won the gold medal in the super-combined event. This was a downhill run in the morning with a slalom run in the afternoon. "To have that come back and be inspired at this Games, I appreciate it a lot more now than I did then — how unusual it is, how unique it is to find that kind of energy to go above and beyond what you could normally achieve on your own because you're a part of something else. That was really cool. It was exactly what I needed," said Bode. He always said it was never about winning medals but rather about the skiing his hardest, skiing aggressively. and skiing his best. He loved discovering something new about his skiing technique.

Having an attitude of doing our best and putting our heart into our practice will help us reap the most benefits from yoga. If we start our practice not really wanting to be on the mat, it will reflect in our poses. If we do not put our heart and focus into each breath we miss the potential of feeling complete and getting exactly what we need. Taking the time to set our intention and center our mind and body with our breath at the beginning of practice is the equivalent of a top athlete preparing for his/her winning performance.

It all comes down to attitude. Do we believe in ourselves? What is our motivation? Is the process and journey, regardless of the outcome, worth our efforts? If we follow our hearts and commit to whatever endeavor we begin, we will find ourselves in the process. It will feel like winning the gold.