Culture Corner

Ruminations for On and Off the Mat

While practicing yoga improves our lives, yoga in and of itself is not a self-improvement program. Its positive impacts are undeniable: releasing unnecessary attachments, learning discipline, becoming aware of our bodies, calming our minds, exploring our thoughts and feelings. These are just a few ways yoga transforms our lives. But let’s not forget our Yoga Culture mantra, which ends, “You were perfect all along, now you see it.” It’s not...

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On September 25, 2010, Yoga Culture held our grand opening. Nine years later, we’re continuing to bloom and grow. One of the symbols of a ninth anniversary is the willow tree. This tree is an apropos symbol for us. It represents the strength and flexibility we’ve built over the last 9 years. The willow tree’s branches twist and bend while maintaining strength and resisting breakage. This makes the tree resilient to changes in its environment...

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Do you have the patience to wait til your mud has settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself? - Lao Tzu

Slow and steady wins the race. Or does it? In this dot com era, it seems the hare triumphs. We learn that patience is a virtue. But why? What is the purpose of walking like a tortoise while the hares dart by us? Is this “patience is a virtue” statement a way for those in power to...

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Yoga invites you to take time to spend with yourself. Pause here. Be in this moment. Notice your feelings, your physical sensations, your thoughts. In this time, yoga asks you to pause for mindfulness.

We show up to the studio. As we get on our mats we try to release external distractions and look inward. We practice the poses, studying our bodies. We notice our habits and tendencies. We take in the philosophy. And yet – even as we...

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With the state of affairs in the world as it is, I feel the need to do something. But what? I was discussing this topic with my thoughtful cousin over the weekend. She looked to me for inspiration. “You’re all zen,” she said, “What do you do?” “What?” I exclaimed, “I’m not!” Most of the time I feel like a cold mess (I’m always cold). She pointed out that I do yoga, I meditate, I try to follow philosophies and principles that help me...

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Resilience is a term I don’t hear or speak often in yoga class. The more common terms are contentment, non-harming, loving-kindness, non-greed. But resilience, not so much. Why is that? In one sense of the word, people seek to be resilient. It’s is one of the main reasons people start a yoga practice. They want to become more pliable to stave off injury and reduce the aches and pains of everyday life. I don’t hear people mention the other...

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could stop your mind from racing? Information pours into our minds constantly, creating a mental whirlwind. There are times when it really is maddening. What is the remedy? Yoga as defined by the Yoga Sutras is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. This stilling of is achieved by mastering the 8 limbs of yoga. You may not be able to still the whirling completely without devoting your life to doing so. But...

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If yoga were taught at a university, would it fall under the humanities or the sciences? Perhaps that would depend on the focus of this yoga major. An academic study of yoga history, ideology and philosophy would fall under humanities. A scholarly study of the biomechanics of yoga’s physical practice would fall under the sciences. Perhaps it would be classified as physical education, but that would negate the humanities and science aspects....

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As humans, we have an innate desire to connect with other humans. And yet, it seems that personal interaction is on the decline in our society. Though social media and texting have the benefits of connecting us to people far away, our personal interactions with each other are dwindling. So naturally, we look for opportunities to come face to face with other people. Yoga provides a space and a practice and a conversation topic within which we...

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Awareness is the force through which yoga creates transformation. Discipline of work is required to be present so that awareness can arise. In his book Light on Life, BKS Iyengar speaks of the power of awareness and the power of energy joining forces to, “create lightning that banishes darkness.” The darkness he refers to is avidya - unknowing or ignorance. I don’t often think of awareness being a power, but now that I think about it, it...

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Do you practice yoga to find freedom? I mean, on any level. What from? My original reasons for starting yoga were anxiety and curiosity. Realizing how fun yoga is, how kind it is and how good I felt after practicing, I wanted more. Eventually I tunneled deeper into my practice by joining a teacher training. It was then that I realized I was seeking freedom. Ten years after doing that first training, I’ve found so much; and I appreciate every...

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When you walked into a yoga studio for the first time, you might have been looking for stress relief. Another student might have wanted the ability to touch his toes. But even in that first class, you and your new practice buddy probably heard from inside yourself whisperings of ideas that went way beyond stress and toe-touching. Though you two had different goals, these rumblings of a life of awareness, lovingkindness, non-harm and...

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Don’t you just love that feeling you get during yoga class? That slipping away of stress, the calm pouring in. “How do you get that feeling outside of class?,” is a question I get sometimes. Ay, there’s the rub. There’s such a sense of peace at the end of a class, but it can seem that the moment you walk out the door, the stress comes jumping jack flashing back. So how do you welcome in that sense of peace without removing yourself from the...

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Some years ago, I decided to stop using the phrase, “if you’re comfortable,” in my teaching - as in, “if you’re comfortable, take your hands off the floor and raise your arms to the sky.” But sometimes it slips out and I smile. Comfortable? If I wanted to be comfortable, wouldn’t I be sitting on my couch right now? Is anyone comfortable in a lunge? I understand the use of that phrase, though. When a teacher uses it, she’s saying, “if you’re...

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I had the great experience of teaching absolute beginners this week. Since this class was outside the studio at a local non-profit, there were no experienced students to lead the way in manner of working. This means I had the chance to introduce the unexpected approach we take to exercise when we practice yoga. When asked by a student if we should stretch until we feel pain, my answer involved an explanation of the concept of ahimsa,...

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Life is made up of everyday moments and actions. We’re not that different from other animals - we gather food, take care of the kids and the nest, groom, eat and sleep. If we’re lucky enough to develop awareness of the present moments, we end up finding joy in them. This is mindfulness. We yogis have a head start in this department because we’ve been developing awareness since the day we started practicing. So what if you want to develop this...

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What if you practice yoga but you’re not happy all the time? Yoga purports great happiness if you follow its guidelines. But what if that’s difficult for you? What if it’s hard to see that we’re all one, to notice your prana mingling with that of others, to sprout love, to experience unending bliss? Well, you probably won’t be happy all the time. But, through recognizing yoga’s long journeys and developing santosha, you may light a spark of...

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When I was young, I thought I was unique. I thought no one saw the world quite like I did. It’s true that everyone is unique - you are the only you that ever was. But feeling different on a basic, primitive level isolates you - makes you feel like you don’t fit in - perhaps that you never will. The feeling of being unique has a necessary counterpart - the recognition that, on a basic level, we’re all the same. Our natural tendency is to...

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Working with intentions is one way to deal with afflictions that are causing you suffering. One of my reasons for coming to yoga was to let go of anxiety. I was riddled with it. It affected my every move. I loved when the teacher offered for us to set an intention at the beginning of class. This intention was a little secret I could say to myself and visit during class, imagining the anxiety floating away. Now, it’s one thing to have an...

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I have a habit of wanting to have all my ducks in a row before I take a step. If I picture myself in a certain place in the future, I want to map out the path to that point. Each image of each step is formed and then lies in my brain, waiting to be accomplished. Every decision is made before I begin. But this level of planning doesn’t make much sense. There’s nothing wrong with planning, but sometimes what we find along the way ends up being...

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Yogis are adventurous. I love that about them. It takes a sense of adventure to launch a yoga practice in the first place. Do you remember walking into a yoga studio for the first time, not knowing what was going on behind those walls (will there be a tribe of bendy people surrounding tight little me)? As intimidating as it was, you took off your shoes and rolled out your mat and let the teacher lead you on the journey. At that point, each...

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On Saturday, March 9 we celebrated the graduation of 8 yogis from our 2018 Winter Teacher Training. Throughout the program they demonstrated their grace, knowledge but also willingness to learn, stamina (those weekend-long yoga sessions are challenging!) and kindness. We are so proud of them!

They also showed that they are a ton of fun, as Teacher Trainee Todd illustrates in the video he made featuring the graduates:

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In yoga, one of the first things you learn is how to stand. You learn to feel your feet on the ground, your body weight evenly distributed over the outer 'corners' of the feet, the length of the legs, the breadth of the back body. I attended a workshop years ago with Patricia Walden, who taught that we do a pose - getting ourselves into the shape of it and working the alignment - then we take a moment to receive the pose before coming out of...

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Asana breaks down the barriers and lets the divine inside come out. When I first began yoga, I loved the freedom I felt at the end of class. I walked out of the studio feeling lighter and looser - a happiness inducing experience, for sure. As I continued to practice, I saw tension lessen, little by little. I showed up for class more flexible than the last time. Then over years of practice, I came to see major change - the disappearance of...

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“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” - George Orwell

One of our yamas from the Yoga Sutras is satya, or truth. For the longest time, I thought I always told the truth. But it turns out I wasn't being honest with myself all the time. And from that I realized I wasn't being honest with others all the time. I was sweet and polite. I didn't speak up for myself; and I vented about people when I got home....

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I have a problem of getting caught up in work and obligations and forgetting to feed my soul. Though I played a lot as a child, I was also a competitive gymnast, which is a bit like having a job at a young age, along with your schoolwork. Like most people, I placed less and less importance on play and fun as a I grew into an adult. And now that I've been an adult for a long time, I'm further and further away from those days where emphasis was...

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In yoga we dissolve away what hinders us from thriving. In asana, we let go of tightness, tension, weakness. We build flexibility, freedom and strength. I came to yoga with curiosity for the practice and for a way to deal with injury and anxiety. I took classes here and there, but the type of yoga I had found didn't help with my injury, so I stopped practicing. Eventually I wound my way back, with that curiosity leading me. When I think back...

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There are all kinds of love. We know this deep down, but on Valentine's Day we think of giving and receiving jewelry, chocolate and flowers to and from our romantic partners. What if Valentine's Day was about love for your pets, for your kids, for your parents and grandparents, for your friends and even for strangers? What if it was a day to greet people with a smile and spread your love? I used to think Valentine's Day had to be about...

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'Loving-kindness' is a term I hear all the time in the yoga/meditation/wellness world. The goal is to have loving-kindness towards others but also to ourselves. As much as I understand the idea of loving-kindness - of being kind to others - I don't fully understand its meaning. It's as though its scope is too big for me to comprehend. It's not tangible enough. Pema Chodron talks about loving-kindness as unconditional friendliness. This term I...

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"When you are a light to yourself, you are a light to the world. Because the world is you and you are the world." - J. Krishnamurti

We have a tendency to label ourselves. From a young age, we're taught to compare ourselves to others. Growing up, I thought I had to be smart, interesting, a good athlete, different, a standout. Through yoga, I've come to realize that I'm like everyone else. And I've come to realize that that's beautiful....

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