New Beginnings….

Top and leggings by Inner Fire (www.myinnerfire.com)

Time to write a new blog; moving on and letting go of what needs to be let go of…

About eight weeks ago, we lost everything that we had, financially speaking. Yes, from one day to the next we were broke. My partner was close to a nervous breakdown, trying to make sense of what just happened to us.

Everyone knows being a stock market trader is not easy. Society tends to judge you as a criminal, robbing society from our common wealth. Well, everyone is different and we human beings can change if we see the necessity to do so. My partner certainly did and he was open to accepting change. Amazing, once you hit the rock bottom you become so awake and aware of what is happening in your life and what has gone sideways. 

Eight weeks ago, I was teaching yoga 12times a week in Bali but a couple of blips in our Internet connection here and there made us lose all our savings.

New beginnings… That was our only option and we had no other choice than to look forward and try to cope with our situation. 

Now, we live in Dubai and both of us have gone back to a ‘normal’ office job – doing what I love! I’m working for YogaLife Middle East magazine, while continuing to teach Yoga a couple of times a week at local shalas. It couldn’t have been more perfect and every day I am grateful for this change. Both of us found jobs we like and have started building everything from scratch, without any regrets. Only staying positive every day and doing our practice. 

Breathing in love – breathing out loss and despair. 

Inhaling change – exhaling worries and fear.

Inhaling hope – exhaling delusion.

Of course, we still come across challenges and are trying to pay the bills… Sometimes even in the ‘Yoga Business World’ you come across very non-Yogic behaviour. 

Given our financial situation, I also took a part-time managing role in a popular studio here in Dubai. However, after a week’s hard work of trying to keep both my full time job at YogaLife as well as the part-time job at the studio job alive, I realised I had to let go of one. Unfortunately, the owner of the studio believed that my working hours were only training hours. So, I should not be paid for them, even though an agreement with a probation period of three months had been signed. After her finding excuses after excuses, I was happy to receive a ‘little gesture’ from her side. This was a great lesson for me. You will still come across the so-called Yogis, who believe they have changed after their Yoga Teacher Training, but still forget their Yamas and Niyamas (ethical guiding principles in Yoga) very easily. We were in need of this money and tried to reason with the owner, but humans tend to forget their human side…. not able to let go of greed. The only thing we can do is to let go of ‘what no longer serves us’. So I did.

Nonetheless, everything happened for a reason… CHANGE.

What happened in the past weeks have been a dream come true in many other ways. For me personally this recent journey has been an extraordinary experience. 

Along with all the good and bad on the job front, I got the opportunity to help organise the UN International Yoga Day event here in Dubai. We invited my dear teachers A.G. Mohan with family, and Maryam Ovissi. What a wonderful experience it was to partake in guiding apractice for 17.000 people next to my great teachers Nitya Mohan and Maryam!

For my partner these weeks have been an awakening, and a fresh ‘breath of air’,with a beautiful outlook on life and all the avenues you can create.

You will be amazed what life has to offer when you trust the universe (Ishvara Pranidhana) and practice your Yoga ‘off the mat’. One door closes and the next opens, and you always come back on your path and travel your journey. 

Every one of us has a deep desire for happiness. But what we tend to believe is that our happiness is connected with a euphoric feeling and fun experience influenced by external factors such as wealth and success, instead of just a state of a steady mind with contentment and peace, no matter what happens around you… Even if your own world falls apart.  

You peel off all these layers of roles and conditioning you have inherited and lived with, until you discover your real light shining so bright without undergoing rollercoaster rides with euphoric highs and depressing lows. 

We can find this light within ourselves with the help of our breath and Yoga practice.

Everything that happened was meant to be. Meeting A.G. Mohan was just meant to be; reminding ourselves of the purpose of our Yoga practice: Calming our minds and minding our minds. 

A.G. Mohan and his son Dr. Ganesh Mohan beautifully summarised this in their latest book Yoga Reminder: Lightened Reflections.

Yes! We have lost everything, but we have gained so much more and we are steady on our journey to our real self.

OM NAMAHA

The Art of Letting Go.....

copyright © Azure Yoga

How many times in our lives have we felt like letting go is the hardest thing that we have ever done. We, human beings get so attached to humans, things, concepts, ideals, principles, routines, lifestyles, plans etc... and every time we experience change it feels as our world is shaken and collapsing and we are not able to comprehend what just happened to us..

Just a couple of months ago I experienced something similar… Many times in my life I had to move countries due to circumstances and situations, which did not leave me a choice sometimes. Yet again, I left my home that I built up for a year and finally, I felt settled and at peace. But sometimes our life takes us out of our comfort zone and we need to leave again. Honestly, this time moving felt easier. It would not be without the help of my daily Yoga practice and what we have been taught in our Yoga Teacher Training. I am very grateful to have teachers that have empowered us with tools to take our practice ‘off our mats’ and try to apply the Yoga philosophy such as the Yamas and Niyamas to our daily ethical guiding principles.

Kriya Yoga being one of the major tools that can help us to peel off our layers of conditioning imposed by our society and ourselves with the help of disciplining our mind and willing to change, surrender to what the universe brings to us…

The act of letting go with the help of Kriya Yoga in form of Tapas, self-discipline and choosing growth, Svadhyaya, self- study inviting us to get to know our real self, and Ishvara Pranidhana, surrendering to the universe and paying attention to what life is asking of us. Allowing ourselves to change consciously with our circumstances.

As water changes its flow with obstacles being in its way. Flexible, yet balanced and stable. Yet, changes also ask us to give time to grieve and die a bit more to regain strength for life as we experience it in our own Yoga practice ‘on the mat’. We start to warm up reaching the climax of the wave, releasing and dying with each Savasana at the end of our practice to let go and release what no longer serves us. We can try to apply exactly the same in our lives, while finding our equilibrium so that the fluctuations of our minds and lives balance out to find peace in letting go and willing to change. Our body changes every second. Our cells change constantly, and wouldn’t it be easier for us not to fight these changes and just accept. Change takes us out of our comfort zone. Opening our eyes to change and trying to break our vicious cycle of fighting it, could help us fight our vicious cycle in our conditioning. How we see change helps empowering ourselves to be our best self without the veils that hide our beautiful inner light, which each of us carry.

Controlling everything, the opposite of letting go, is exhausting and won’t necessary make the situation better. Trusting that the path is right and that everything happens for a reason.

If it is meant to be, it is meant to be..

Pade Pade …Step by step letting go.

Alertness and Relaxation - Off the mat

This weekend I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, who made a very interesting observation when reading my last story ‘practice self care and be a warrior of light’ on YOGI TIMES.

He has just recently started practicing Yoga and he started reading a lot on it. We discussed the notion of practicing Yoga ‘on the mat’ and he felt it was overrated ‘being on the mat’. Why does the mat get so much importance?...A notion of being depending on the mat…

I remember in our Yoga teacher training our BelovedYoga teachers gave us homework: to practice our Sun Salutations without a mat just on the floor at home and note down what we experienced.

And yes, I realized that we get so attached to our mats, the comfort of not slipping and feeling a strong foundation to practice on. When I felt the carpet or floor under my feet and hands, I was aware that I was alert and had to engage my core more to form a stable foundation, the stihra, for the easiness and sweetness of the asanas (poses), the sukha in the Sun Salutations.

As stated in Pantañjali Yoga Sūtras  2.46 ‘sthirasukhanmāsanam’ , translated ‘Āsana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation’(T.K.V. Desikachar).

Like a balancing act with everything in life, an equilibrium between strength/alertness and comfort/ease. In life many things can happen that challenges our strength and flexibility and we need to adapt. Like walking on ice and feeling your feet loosing their grip instead of staying in your knees and trying to slide on the ice. The same in life… once we get too attached to our taken for granted stability, it will be harder for us to adapt.

What about if we felt the stability, the strength within ourselves to practice Yoga ‘on the mat’, also ‘off the mat’? Because within ourselves lies the true strength that we human beings all embody and tend to forget. Our true self has been conditioned by our society to rely on certain set of behaviors and ways of thinking. We alone can form our strength to act and walk through life with easiness and happiness without external factors, which change and constantly tend to influence us on a daily basis. Our strength is within all of us and we can use it to practice Yoga ‘off the mat’ with easiness and clarity without struggle and more listening to our own teacher.

However, we do sometimes in life need some support from outside, from family and friends to build our foundation in life and ’walk our path’.

Like a beginner taking his/her first Yoga class and would need the support from the mat (and the guidance of a teacher) in order to build strength and build his/her foundation for the future Yoga practice.

The same principle ‘sthirasukhanmāsanam’ (Pantañjali, Yoga Sūtras 2.46) can be adopted in life.

Confessions…

I feel the guilt inside of myself as I know I have neglected my body… the sanity of my mind and the deepness of my soul….How can I get out of this vicious circle? Get on your mat and stop self-pitying yourself and start loving yourself!

I have indulged in excessive dramas in my life, became a ‘drama queen’ and hence connected always with people, who have fuelled the dramas and have brought out the worst in me.. As an addiction always returning and not being able to cure myself from treating myself without any respect and dignity.. The side of myself, which is hidden deep inside of me and comes out when I cannot bear the weight on my shoulders and burn out… the need to burst after endlessly pleasing everyone and afraid of being judged and frowned upon..not being good enough and being accepted.

I am sure that many of you know what I am speaking of.. We do things sometimes we are definitely not particularly proud of and it takes even longer to be forgiven, but not forgotten and surely it will take longer to forgive yourself…

Yoga has helped me in the past year to let go of guilt, which was more a manifestation of my ego, growing even bigger with every sale I completed, more money I earned and the more successful I became…and the fear to be endlessly judged as a ‘bad’ person and a failure.. One day you realize that this is not ‘it’. Life should be more than that!

I let go of a non-functional marriage, of a family that loved their prejudices and high judgments first before being humane and accepting me… and a career, which didn’t serve me as a ’being’ rather another nice item on my CV…

Finally I freed myself from unwise decisions I have made without listening to my heart, my inner voice… It was painful and lonely from time to time… But I grew stronger and started standing on my ‘four corners of my feet’… every day on my mat and saluting the sun to let my light shine bright and sharing this light with every fellow yogi…. Ahimsa = non-violence, not only towards others, but also towards yourself and finding the compassion and kindness for yourself… without having to struggle, be punished and judged upon..

Loving yourself..

The hardest thing I have ever learned with the help of Yoga. Because we have been taught to be strong and showing no weakness as it can be used against us…

Try it out! Start on your mat and ‘handle yourself with care’! Not pushing, not competing… just loving and accepting yourself :) Be a warrior of light!

Namaste! 

© Gregory Bonin de Pissarro e MacJames Virabhadrasana III - Warrior III

© Gregory Bonin de Pissarro e MacJames

Virabhadrasana III - Warrior III

Asanas.... aesthetics vs your own individual Yoga

After a lot of thinking I finally decided to fill the Azure Yoga Gallery with images... Yet again, I feel the great importance to emphasise that images of fancy yoga poses is not why we practice Yoga ;-) hint hint... Maybe we have started out this way and fell in love with the aesthetics of Yoga poses without understanding the meaning of each asana (defined as 'pose', literally meaning 'sitting down' in Sanskrit) and it's benefits.

One of our teachers, Jafar Alexander just recently reminded me how we can define Vinyasa Yoga... 'a symphony of energies through the flow of breath connected with movements'.. Each component has a meaning and when connected together we flow through the practice... Each pose with our breath works with energies... 

So each of us has a different asana adapted to our own unique breath, body, mind and real self.... Yoga is more than about poses.... And you will notice with your daily practice that your body feels differently every single day... Not only your body but also your mind...You will feel stronger yet flexible to face each days' challenges... healthier with a calm mind..

Practice, feel it and think about it!;-)

© Gregory Bonin de Pissarro e MacJames Eka Pada Rajakopatasana (Mermaid Pose)

© Gregory Bonin de Pissarro e MacJames

Eka Pada Rajakopatasana (Mermaid Pose)

From doing to being!

'The point is that asana is infinite, underlining a practice that is about process rather than attainment of some preconceived perfect form.'- Mark Stephens

 

 

Yoga... living and working..

Our own journeys on the path of Yoga as a student and teacher

Coming from a business background and trying maybe to escape the money oriented part of pure capitalism, I am  somehow surprised, how I can see the same patterns in the Yoga industry as we’ve experienced or even still experience now so many times before in our lives….

Honestly speaking I am tired of hearing people owing other people, especially as Yogi or even a Yoga teacher. Yes, gratitude is important and acting upon in it is essential to understand the essence of the Yoga teachings. Yet again, expectations and lack of communication and understanding for each other is poisonous and can destroy once valuable relationships.

As a Yoga teacher, we come across fellow teachers, who claim students as their 'property'… Understandable they feel they have invested all this energy in their student and potentially felt like him or her being their little ‘pet project’… Similar to new Yoga teachers starting their work with help of their teachers and mentors…. Once disagreement arises and the communication is poor, we come across massive misunderstandings that create confusion, frustration and even negative vibes… Now, what to do? Well, let’s look at this, we practice Yoga to come closer to ourselves, gain freedom within ourselves and thus externally, to live a healthier lifestyle, to find our own spiritual path, to feel closer to the divine, to alleviate stress or calm our minds and so forth on… Everyone has their own reasons to practice their Yoga… And everyone has his or her individual needs… So, of course not every teacher will be ‘suitable’ for every student to guide him or her through their individual journey of Yoga. In my opinion Yoga is a very personal practice and sometimes teachers ‘click’ with the students and vice versa, we share the same path… This means, we as Yoga teachers cannot own students and claim them for ourselves, for example getting upset when they attend classes and workshops in the neighboring studio and not come back to your studio.. However, how often do we feel compelled to blame it on the next-door studio owner and say ‘You took my students away!’…. This is a very difficult situation to be in and the student should not feel this confusion. He or she should just follow their path and own experience in Yoga.. For the studio owners, it would be time to open your hearts and accept the concept of abundance. Yes, I understand we are here to also make a living, so called meets to an end… But as I understood right in our training, we are also here to spread our teachings of Yoga and start with ourselves to live our teachings and be better persons. Everyone of us, no matter student or teacher, we are on our own Yoga journey and sometimes we share the path and sometimes we don't.. It is ok...

I am great believer that we don’t own anyone including ‘our students’, my teachers have taught me that we are fellow Yoga practitioners and we respect the freedom? So, we come across the painful experience to let go and try to practice Ishvara Pranidhana (non-attachment, surrendering) part of the Niyamas and the Eight Limbed Path of the Yoga Sutra that we as teachers learned in our trainings. We should try not to forget what we have learned, and reignite our light inside ourselves, and come back to the roots on why we have chosen this path…. Gratitude is very important! This means showing respect for each other and our decisions we have made in business or private life without any expectations.  In our relationships with our loved ones, business partners, teachers or mentors.. I am very grateful that I have great teachers, who have helped me to understand Yoga and practice it every day ‘on the mat’ and ‘off the mat’. Letting go of our expectations, a lesson learned throughout our lifetime…

'If it is meant to be, it is meant to be...'

 

Reflection On My Personal Journey Of Teaching Yoga

In the past two months I have learned a lot about myself, life, family and I am still continuing to discover more about myself during the continuous journey of teaching.

Firstly, I understand now even more that being a Yoga teacher is being a student for your lifetime. This journey so far has helped me to let go of my past and move on….Stop punishing me and let go of my guilt and my ego quieting down..

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. We all have our own truths and yoga takes us through such an individual journey, unlike anything else I have experienced so far in my life. In Classical Ballet I was taught to be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ dancer, to have a ‘suitable’ or ‘non-suitable’ body structure and to do the poses ‘correctly’ or ‘incorrectly’, everything is about aesthetics and superficiality and to survive the competition. I was part of a structural system that dictated me to do as I was told and not listen to my body, love my talent and feel it.

Eventually, my body screamed so loud and I had no other choice and give up my dancing career to not have a hip replacement by the age of 35.

Then I started Yoga with home DVDs. After a while with hatha classes, Bikram and later on Ashtanga and now Vinyasa. I thought I was listening to my body..…

Two months ago I realized I wasn’t. I was pushing my body to the edge and sought again after a structured system, which made me feel not allowing me any freedom to question, whether it felt good for my body or even, whether I was injuring it, fighting with myself on the mat.

I have always a been good in improvising when I used to dance and had a creative spirit and Vinyasa Yoga helps me to enhance this creativity. For me music and movement in form of asanas, help me to quieting my mind and focus on my breathing. Don’t get me wrong I still love other yoga styles and practice them, but more mindfully without pushing my limits any more.

I learned that Yoga is not all about the physical part of asanas. Through our course and discussion on the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, I was able to understand what in my life has repeated itself numerous times. Situations I ‘ve been in that have always made me feel uncomfortable, intimidated and even bullied at times. I gained my voice to speak my ‘truth’ through this course, my teachers and my fellow yoga practitioners. All my life I was chasing a career and money. I didn’t listen to my heart. Something always didn’t feel ‘quite right’. And this time I changed my path in my life consciously without trying to worry what the future will bring.

This is for me a major milestone as I have always been too scared neither to ‘open up my mouth’ and speak my truth nor to change my professional path to something that I love practicing every day without feeling that it is my duty.

Through this course I also restarted my own daily home practice, which doesn’t make me too depended on set yoga class times. I can organize my life the way, how I like to schedule my day and enjoy yoga on a daily basis.

Teaching fellow yoga practitioners is so rewarding and I love bringing them closer to themselves through yoga. It’s for me like giving us a piece of freedom, openness, compassion and peace in our minds. Mind you, teaching isn't always easy, as I can tell we need to be vigilant and hold on to our freedom and openness. Sometimes we become complacent and think we know everything, happiness will constantly prevail within ourselves without guarding our mind and consciously listening and being aware of our breath. But we don’t! We constantly learn and learn each moment and day. We have no time to not be vigilant or aware of our mind, our kleshas (afflictions: ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, clinging to live), taking over in moments that aren’t that easy to handle. It is like a cloud slowly covering us and before we even realise what is happening, we see ourselves in darkness and in the same old thinking pattern: worry and despair. However, now I notice when I sink into the negative thinking patterns and feel vulnerable. The past tend to catch to up with us. The worry of the future starts to cloud our better judgment. That’s where our asanas, pranayama and dhyana helps us to be aware and recondition our thinking. Discernment is another great factor that we've been taught. I love this word ‘discernment’ as nothing in life is ‘black or white’. Every one of us speaks their own truth, and we are here to communicate our truths and question them. We can help each other. Be compassionate and just ‘be’. We always ‘do’. And finally I just want to’ be ‘ me. Take our practice off the mat in our lives.

I have been in many yoga classes, where you’ve been told: that this is the way how we teach yoga…. just breath through it (especially in times of physical discomfort or even pain), this is the way how it is…. Without ever giving us a reason why it is this way.. And I never questioned it! I love the fact that we've been taught to question things and to try to find out, why we do certain things in a specific manner. We've been always told, why we did specific things in class. Maybe we will gain better understanding after we ask why or most likely the other person will start asking why and tries to find the answers. This gives me even more so a reason to listen to our fellow yoga practitioners and learn from each other and empower us to have a voice. Empowerment is such an important concept and we tend to forget that we don’t need to make others dependent on us and vice versa we don’t need to depend on others. I have no intentions to force my specific yoga style upon a fellow yogi and tell this person what is correct or incorrect. Every body is different and we should worship our bodies as our temples.  Ahimsa (non-violence) is for me my close companion in everything I do. I have focused on Ahimsa as I haven’t taken care of myself for a long time.

Since then I try to be as mindful as possible in my own practice and when I teach. I try to understand how my body and our fellow yogi’s body function. Not everyone has the same anatomical, muscular and bone structure and therefore I like to continuously learn how Yoga is so accessible for everyone.  It is very important for that we teach yoga in a safe way so that we can avoid injuries as much as possible. We cannot control how our fellow yogis use their bodies, but we can try to create a safe haven within our class. We, ourselves are our own worst enemies and that’s why Ahimsa helped me to stop pushing myself to the limit, accept how my mind and/or body felt like in this particular moment, accept my surroundings and try to work within myself, as we can’t change others unless we reflect exactly what we would like to welcome in our lives. The ‘mirror effect’ another so important subject..

This whole teaching journey teaches me daily how to live my life and I am very happy that we had great teachers, who have guided us through this journey. Thank you for empowering us and not make us depending on you and teaching us to empower our fellow yogis.  Every class I open and close with ‘Namaste Namaha’ I imagine our circle and it warms my heart!