This is for all of my students who have been loving and asking for a video of the slow flow range of motion sequence I have been teaching in class…. Please note that the last part of the sequence is backwards (meaning I did it on the same side) so you can see the movements. Just make sure to do the same thing on both sides! This flow is about having fun and feeling sensuous and fluid in your body. Even if you cant follow the flow or the flexibility is out of your range of motion- don’t worry….keep moving your body, following your breath and above all, honoring, respecting and loving what your amazing body allows you to do!
So today I was looking around for a quote or a picture to post on facebook regarding the theme of my class tonight, and I was astounded at what I saw, or rather I didn’t see. I started feeling like a person you see in the movies who breaks their head above water after almost drowning and starts to frantically look for their friend, pushing water and weeds aside screaming their friends name. In this case I wasn’t looking for a friend, I was looking for an idea- and so desperate at first and then heartbroken that I couldn’t find it. The theme of my class tonight is “Strength”. It seems so easy- this idea of strength. Indeed, strength is just the opposite of weakness- bigger, tougher,full of stamina, unable to be defeated, “I will never let them (or life) defeat me”, strength. This is certainly what we as a world at large perceive strength as- and there are millions of quotes that echo that. We are being fed the message of what being a strong person in this world is from the time we are born- so that by the time we are young adults we are so mired down in the idea of what strength is, and how to be strong, we have forgotten what it means to be alive. We are so scared to let ourselves or anyone else see our potential weaknesses we let that fear dictate our lives and we become comfortable in that fear, and call it strength.
This has been a hard year for many people I love. I have watched people struggle with more pain and loss than seems bearable. I would watch them move forward with a brave smile on their face, talking about how what they were dealing with was not so bad, catching themselves and apologizing when they had a moment that broke through and they sat in their pain, they held their fear, they mourned and softened. In those moments I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see what real strength was: authenticity, softness, fear, questioning, anger and above all compassion. In those moments when people sat with all of these spaces, allowed them to be and move through them freely felt as strong as anything I have ever seen. In the moments when someone would ask me to hold them in my arms and they would weep and scream and acknowledge that life didnt feel fair, and that it sucked and they were terrified, I saw fierce soul warriors, that made me catch my breath in awe. These amazing people have such compassion for themselves that they honor the moments when they need to fall on their knees and weep- they are so strong that they invited me in to be with them in that warrior state. They always would rise up and get onto their feet and be okay. Strength is not about never breaking down, not backing down, or never admitting defeat. It is compassion and a deep acceptance of what it means to be human. Diamonds are hard, but they are not strong….in order to be strong, something must be pliable and supple. Our definition of strong is often very much like the idea of a diamond and with enough downward pressure it will be crushed. It takes a strong warrior to know when to kneel down, rather than to scream with anger and puff out their chest with pride. In the moments I have watched the people I love move through spaces when they thought they were at their weakest, I have been moved beyond belief by their strength. Indeed, I know that I am feeling very brave, strong and compassionate when I allow myself and others to see my soft underbelly.
It has been in my asana practice that I have been able to work through my fear, my “pseudo strength”. I have had countless injuries that came from being a “strong yogini”- holding postures for too long, pushing my body into unsafe spaces. I have lacked the compassion and strength and been too paralyzed by the fear of judgement to take a step back, push into child’s pose, or take the less advanced variation. I would never let my body or a posture defeat me. Only with injury after injury did I start to understand that I feel at my strongest when I am compassionate with myself. Sometimes that means crazy vinyasa sequences and over the top postures, but more often than not it means pushing into child’s pose, finding beauty in the simplest of asana, sitting and listening to my breath. I have learned compassion in watching people who think they are at their weakest and not knowing that in these moments they seemed stronger than anything I have ever seen. So lets allow our idea of strength to shift and soften. Let’s have enough compassion for ourselves and strength to weep in someone’s arms. “In separation lies the world’s greatest misery, in compassion the world’s true strength” -Buddha
So I was looking at some old writing and I came upon this and thought I would share again…. It always helps to be reminded that no act of love is ever too small. Any act of love is the greatest act in the world.
SEVA- why can’t can’t live without it, and can never give too much of it
What is SEVA? Super Enthusiastic Vegetarian Aviators? Stop Endless Verbiage Altogether? Sunrise Encounters Visiting Australia? Though those do seem like wonderful and completely fun possibilities SEVA is nothing so complicated…
Seva is… love in action.
Seva is…. the spiritual practice of selfless service.
To assign a dictionary definition here it is:
“Seva, a Sanskrit word, springs from two forms of yoga, Karma Yoga which is yoga of action and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of worship inspired by divine love. Seva is one of the simplest and yet most profound and life changing ways that we can put our spiritual knowledge into action. Seva is asking “How may I serve you?” Or ask “Can I help you?” Another way of doing service is to roll up your sleeves and help where you notice that you are needed.”
Service- love that word…. used to seem so powerless to me when I was younger (to get a little bit better picture of what younger me was- think pissed off, black wearing, Bikini Kill listenen’ to WOMAN…cause girl is so pejorative, thank you very much). But now with a few more miles under the hood- the word Service seems so powerful. To be able to serve people, to give of myself just because I love….woah that is some radical stuff. We have been given the gift of being able to serve, help, reach out.
SEVA doesn’t have to be these crazy, grandiose acts of love and devotion…”Did you hear about Angela? She sold everything she owns to pay for 12 orphans to have shoes for their entire life and is now living in Mozambique, digging wells for villagers with her bare hands because she used all of her money to buy orphans shoes and doesn’t even have enough money to buy a shovel.” Seva can be small acts…Picking up someone’s child from school when they can’t, paying that extra dollar for the person in front in line of you who doesn’t quite have enough to cover their bill, helping someone with a heavy load of bags at the grocery store. Those bigger acts are great too….starting a non for profit, volunteering on a weekly basis at a soup kitchen, taking a hot meal to your elderly neighbor every day…but all these acts are all the same in that they come from LOVE. They come from a place of devotion to the world you live in. So SEVA doesn’t ask to be huge….as a matter of fact we all practice SEVA every day in small powerful ways. Ultimately we will all arrive to the same place as we are all on the path of love. Some people just choose to take a thousand small steps on their way there…and some people just two or three big ones. All just as important, all acts of devotion, all humble moments of service.
Remembering that yoga is not just asana……
So if my body and I had a Facebook relationship status, it probably would have said “It’s complicated.” Looking back on my 40 year relationship with my body, I realized that my body has pretty much been everything that you could ever ask for as one part of a relationship, and I have been…well, the abusive mate. My body has been starved, ridiculed, yelled at, insulted, shamed, overworked, poisoned and ignored. Through it all for the most part, my body has stood there through thick and thin (literally), taking the abuse and then at then end of the day stepping up to the plate and doing what it was supposed to do. My body has made two children, hiked mountains, rolled down hills and painted paintings. It has eaten and made wonderful meals, had amazing sex, sung songs and laughed until it peed a little bit. It has cried, hurt, shivered with cold, sweated in heat. It has been bruised, bashed, scraped and battered. It has raised its hand in anger and embraced with love. It has always been there and done for the most part what I asked of it. Sure, I have been graced with the flu or the errant sinus infection here and there, but for the most part considering the wear and tear I have put it through, it has delivered.
So why for so long, have I been the abusive, unappreciative, partner in this relationship? THAT is a good question….and one that I didn’t know even needed to be asked until just recently. I didn’t know that I needed to question this because I truly felt that this is just what we as human beings did….we waged war with our bodies. Ok, I know that sounds a little dramatic but when you think about it, that’s what we do when we are always looking to shape, change, mold and morph the bodies we have. I did this sometimes in very obvious ways (I got down to 98 lbs in college), and sometimes subtle ways (I would finally be happy when I could put my face on my shins in standing forward fold- pushing my back into a space that was not healthy for me). As I grew older the obvious sabotage I could identify ;we all know that a woman 5’7” should not weigh 98 lbs. It was the deep, ingrained, subversive body abuse I couldn’t see. Not only could I not see it, I actually encouraged the ideas and thoughts that captain that ship of self-doubt. We are living in a world where we know we are being fed unattainable ideas such as the airbrushed 12 year old model. We struggle and rail against these images. I wonder however, what is more toxic? The 12-year-old airbrushed model, or the new more subversive, woman power idea of “YOU CAN HAVE IT IF YOU WORK HARD ENOUGH!!!!”. What is the IT, in this equation? We are too smart to buy into the IT of the unattainable….so I think the IT in question here is the idea of “BE WHO YOU ARE, BUT JUST BE THE BEST YOU, YOU CAN BE!” Ok, so what is wrong with that message? EVERYTHING. If we are being told that our own inner awesomeness is just a moment, kale chip, forward fold, meditation, smoothie away- we are still being told that WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH JUST THE WAY WE ARE. These things do NOT make us better, they do not make us happier, they do not make us anything (except maybe a tad bit more regular:). The messages we hear and buy into continue in this vein are just as toxic….Here is just a sampling: “Your Imperfections are what make you perfect.” -Steven Monaco “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly”-Sam Keen. “Perfect is boring, its your imperfections that make you beautiful.” -Unknown So wait, what are we being told? That you can be a great you if you work a little harder, or even better yet, its all the things that aren’t so great about you in the context of defined beauty that make you great. Okay here’s the thing. THATS BULLSHIT. Yup, B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. The truth is, that these ideas are still asking us to accept the fact that we are still not there (even though thank goodness we could be there if we just worked hard enough) OR because there is a preconceived idea of beauty and perfection that we can never live up to we should just try to redefine that idea but still use the same paradigms for beauty that we have always used. Here’s what I think….I think I am tired of hearing what I could be. That somehow even with my body I am still only a version of what we all believe to be beautiful because I am redefining it (while still holding on tightly to the idea of traditional beauty.). Here’s what I KNOW. I am beautiful right NOW. I am perfect, imperfect, SHIT who CARES because that is an outmoded system. I am ME. My body does great things. I love my breasts that nursed children. I love my legs that have wrapped around my lovers bodies. I love my arms that have held the people I love close to me. I love my body NOW. I don’t love my body because I am accepting my perfect imperfections (gag). I don’t love my body because amazing untapped potential lies inside of me. I love my body because my body IS perfect because it is MINE. It has stuck with me for forty years. It has loved me without conditions beyond measure. Its time for me to love it back, the way it has loved me.
When we love something, we take care of it. It’s natural, its easy. We love our children, we love our family. We take care of them because that’s what you do when you love something…..there is no second thought. We look at our children or pets, friends, or family and see freckles and arms and legs and wrinkles and big bottoms and we love them because that is THEM. We need to do that now for ourselves. Look at ourselves and LOVE ourselves and our bodies NOW. We love our people now not for their “perfect imperfections”, but because they are perfect because they are THEM. Your body has served you for your entire life. It has loved you, patiently waiting, taking abuse, holding you up, keeping you safe. It is time for us to LOVE our bodies back. EVERY body is perfect. Every BODY is perfect. Every body is PERFECT!!!!!! If we LOVE and accept our bodies NOW, all the other stuff falls in line, because you cherish what you love. You nurture what you love. We do that for everyone else. Its time we do it for ourselves.
This is my body manifesto- my love story. I would not have been able to write this without all of you. It is seeing all of you practicing in your bodies, in your skin, and having flashes of that love. Man oh man, I have to say it is pretty fucking awesome. You all shine like the sun…and are beautiful beyond measure.