Being in Relationship with Earth

 

Yoga is all about relationships –not positions. I’ve said that in class –but what does it mean? Postures are the shapes we put our bodies in to experience oneness. That could be a definition of Asana!

What I mean by that specifically is that our asana/meditation/pranayama/mantra/mudra/service practices are about creating relationships: with Self, the Earth, and other beings around us. We do not exist in a vacuum –what we do, and how we do it matter! 

The way we are on the Earth matters. Check it out: next time you find yourself just standing around (in line; waiting for something else…) notice yourself on the earth. Notice: are your knees locked? Can you feel your feet and the relationship between you and the Earth? When I am in relationship I am not alone.

When you stand on the Earth, you have choices –you can be in active relationship –feeling the sensation of yield: your body grounding down into the earth — if you keep your knees a little soft, and actively but gently press in to your feet, you may find yourself swaying a little from side to side or in a spiral… there is a rebound of buoyant energy that comes from the Earth back up to the crown of your head –notice it. 

Or … you can be propped or collapsed: your knees are locked –there is a sinking feeling and you can’t feel the soles of your feet –there is a dullness and lack of connection to Earth. Maybe there is a checking out at the level of the mind. This is how most of us are on the earth when we’re not paying attention. Look around at people next time you’re out and about –standing in line, notice how people stand –head forward, knees locked –usually but not always, looking at a phone… we are chronically disconnected from the Earth in this place.

The good news is, it’s totally possible to re-orient yourself! Stand in tadasana –hands softly by your sides; your thumbs face forward, palms at the sides, not facing forward. Close your eyes and take a breath in.

Tadasana means mountain posture –see if you can soften your knees and push down through your shin bones into your feet as you actively straighten your knees and find an inner spiral through your legs, into the deep belly and lower front ribs, and trace it all the way along the front of your body to the crown of your head. Find stability. Now lock your knees and let your weight drop. Notice the difference!

When we are in relationship with Earth –we feel an exchange of energy –we feel the forces of apana grounding us, and prana providing us with buoyancy. It’s active! In fact, we’re never completely still. There is always a movement of Prana/life energy. We suspend it at the top and bottom of each breath for a moment –but then the flow of breath and Prana continue over and over.

In fact –we’re always in relationship with Earth –but sometimes we forget and allow ourselves to check out and prop. I believe it’s this unconscious “checking out” that causes us to feel separate. When we lose our active relationship to Earth –we literally lose our sense of connection to everything else. This contributes to patterns/samskaras that live in the depths of our unconscious, that keep us stuck in suffering and perceived isolation. 

So being in relationship –whether to Earth, or to others or our Selves –is something that takes practice! Bringing our awareness back to our literal stance on the Earth. Notice how when you’re standing in relationship, you feel everything a little more lit up! Your navel gently draws towards your spine as you breathe –providing you with support –maybe you feel the natural gentle inner spiral of your legs and pelvic halves. You can sense and feel Prana moving. Your head floats over your shoulders and there is a sense of buoyancy to your physical structure! There is effortless effort. 

Collapse and prop are ways that we check out of the body-mind. One could argue that our chronic collapse and prop have created a world out of balance: the Earth is literally screaming at us to get back into relationship. When we are in relationship, we understand that what we do and say, and how we are with each other, how we treat the Earth, what/how we choose to consume –all matter! 

In our posture practice, we find an opportunity to come back into relationship with Earth and Self. We’re not putting ourselves into positions when we take a given asana –we are creating shapes that allow us to be in relationship: there is a give and take. We receive and we give back.

Check it out –play with it off the mat! It all starts with noticing!!

Hari Aum!

Karen  Miscal Bannon

www.kmbyoga.com

 

 


You Can be BOTH

 

Here in California we’ve been facing some of the worst wildfires in the history of our state. There are MULTIPLE devastating fires burning all at once (send prayers to all those affected).

All of this came on the tail-end of a weeklong heatwave of temperatures between 100-111 degrees. And let us not forget that is all while we’re in the midst of a global pandemic!

Being outdoors had been a saving grace in the midst of spending nearly 100% of our time at home for the past 5 months. But between the heat and smoke, outdoors has been one of the last places you want to be.

Earlier this week, we splurged on our favorite sandwiches for takeout lunch (if you’re in Sac, GO to Juno’s!). When I went to pick them up I was greeted by the lovely Amy, who is always running the front of the house.

Amy is a salt-of-the-earth person. Her kindness is consistent. As I walked in, I could feel her smile even though I haven’t actually seen it in over 5 months. It’s always hidden by a colorful (and probably hand sewn) mask that she’s wearing.

I asked her how she’s been hanging in there and watched the corners of her eyes tire as she let out a deep sigh before answering. She explained that everyday she makes it a point to count her blessings & recognize what’s good. On the other hand, though, she feels tired and sad. And that it seems kind of weird to be grateful AND sad.

“It’s okay to be both!”, I exclaimed, not fully grasping the important lesson for myself in that statement.

It can be so easy to believe that if we’re grateful, we shouldn’t be sad. Or that when we’re feeling sad, we can’t still be grateful too.

We try to stuff ourselves into these “emotion boxes” and totally forget that we are multi-faceted beings. It’s easy to want to label certain emotions good and other ones bad. We question how we could be feeling two things that we thought were so different.

Yoga teaches about the union of perceived opposites, though. It affirms that the other end of the spectrum is still a part of the same spectrum.

We’re living in strange times, my friends. Now, more than ever, kindness is needed and that work starts within.

Be kind to yourself and the various feelings that you feel, sometimes ALL at the same time.

You can be grateful and sad. You can be BOTH.

 

Tristina Kennedy

www.rtwyoga.com

 


On Santosha in Yoga Practice

 

Santosha in Sanskrit means a few different things, but one of them is the idea of acceptance or contentment with what is. It’s not indifference. It is a state realized when we deeply enquire into the nature of what is happening, recognizing that there is suffering, it is real. Yet, we can also know that down deep, no matter what, through whatever trials, we’re also going to be ok. This is the state of Santosha. A sense of abiding in bliss. 

By the way, bliss has nothing to do with feeling good! Ananda is about being able to abide in the state of being where the fluctuations of life don’t knock you down so easily. Where we know we are strong and capable of doing the hard work. 

And we build resilience through practice! 

Santosha is the second of the Niyama, or inner practices, in Patanjali’s Classical Yoga Sutras. All systems of Yoga include these “limbs” or elements and sequences of learning to practice. They can differ in what order they emphasize, but essentially what all Yoga systems agree on is that there is a systematic way of finding freedom, and there is a progression that we can follow.

Patanjali’s Yoga philosophy begins with the ideas of Yama and Niyama- moral behavior and observances, and Santosha is the second inner observance. These are principles that we learn to embody through our physical practices.

Many if not most of us come to yoga these days via the Asana path –which is perfect, as we learn the principles of Yoga first in our bodies. Yoga is at its core an experiential science, and in our asana practice, we use the experience of the body to affect the mind and vice versa. 

We learn to control our breath and to differentiate between pain and discomfort. We learn to contain Prana, or life-force energy, within the physical structure of the body, — we can feel this! 

Try this: Take a simple pose you “dislike” –or one you find takes all your concentration and you find hard, or where you want to check out… and see if you can bring yourself into a version of it (maybe you need supports) that allows you to stay and breathe steadily for a while. Like at least a minute (maybe don’t choose handstand!)

We use the body and the breath to teach the mind to be still. Discomfort we can breathe through, pain we cannot! Once we teach ourselves that we are capable of sitting with discomfort, we can start to accept exactly where we are in any given moment, whether it’s in an asana or not. 

As you see from the asana example, acceptance of what is (I’m doing the pose for 2 min) doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t act (I figure out a version of the pose that I can hold and breathe and maybe move more deeply into it). Even inaction is action.

Patanjali also states that future suffering can be avoided, (heyam duhkham anagatam); thus, you can choose an option that doesn’t cause you pain or suffering, but might just be uncomfortable. And Breathe. And remember –the pose ends eventually!

Santosha could be described as taking the path that causes the least amount of suffering, while acknowledging that it might entail some discomfort. Ananda or abiding in bliss — is the reality —we just have to remind ourselves of it –over and over –and this is practice.

Thank you for listening!! Hari Aum!

 

Karen

www.kmbyoga.com


ROCK THE VOTE!!

National Voter Registration Day is 9/22/20

It’s never too early to exercise your Constitutional right to register.  

Voters need to register or update their registration if 

  • they have moved since the last election
  • turned 18 
  • became a citizen
  • changed their name. 

The changes to voting procedures in response to COVID-19 make it crucial that voters register or update their registrations well in advance of Election Day. Only voters that are registered in advance may be able to take advantage of options such as mail-in voting or early in person voting.

California Voter Registration Deadlines:

California counties which have adopted the California Voter’s Choice Act use a vote-by-mail system for all elections, meaning that every registered voter is sent a ballot in the mail 29 days (10/5/20) before Election Day. As of 2020, these counties include:

El Dorado

Sacramento

In 2016, over 65 million citizens were unable to vote because they were not  registered. In a 2020 one study found more than one in four eligible voters (27%) reported not being registered because they didn’t know how, they kept forgetting, they didn’t have time, were too busy, or they recently moved. Among unregistered voters ages 18-24, this number was even higher: 42%.1.  If you, your friends or family members fall in this age group please pass the below information on to them.  

With recent Post Office challenges, please register early so you don’t miss the mailing date for your ballot this year.  Check your voter registration status at https://registertovote.ca.gov/

Our country and democracy are stronger when we all vote.


When in doubt, offer chocolate!!!

 

My hometown of Sacramento CA feels pretty safe by comparison to other cities. However, there are times when things can get wild and tumultuous out on the streets.

A few days ago, Tristina and I heard some violent screaming coming from the front side of our apartment complex. We walked outside and witnessed a large, imposing man wearing American flag overalls. He was fiercely yelling at another person on the street.

His attire was funny, but the situation was serious. Some people ran out to see what was happening, but quickly retreated back into their homes. It was intense to say the least.

My first instinct was to focus on my breath. I felt compelled to do something, but it was a situation that could turn dangerous. To not appear as a threat, I felt like I needed to extend an offering. What do most people like when they are upset?

Then it came to me…CHOCOLATE!

I ran inside our apartment to grab some chocolate, but at first glance it didn’t appear that we had any. I kept redirecting my awareness back to my breath to stay focused and composed.

After pushing things aside in my kitchen cupboard, I found a bag of cacao nibs. Good enough! I ran back outside, and the following is how the interaction went down (since I didn’t get his name, we will just call him Flag Overalls).

Me: Hi, my name is Michael. I am sorry to interrupt. Would you like some chocolate?

(an intense stare down ensues, while the person he was screaming left the scene) 

Flag Overalls: Yeah, I will take some chocolate.

(I hand him the cacao nibs and he throws them into his mouth) 

Me: These are actually cacao nibs. It says here on the package that it is a plant based superfood!

Flag Overalls: Is that right?

Me: That’s right! So, how are you feeling sir?

Flag Overalls: Not good bro. I lost my job. I have been homeless for five months now. Nobody will hire me. I don’t have any skills.

Me: I am so sorry brother. That sounds really tough.

Flag Overalls: That’s right, it is really tough. It has placed a lot of pressure on me and on our relationship (the person he was screaming at).

Me: It seems like that would place a lot of pressure on anyone. Stay strong.

Flag Overalls: Thanks man, I got to go make things right.

Me: Much love man.

Flag Overalls completely changed his voice. He became calm and was able to articulate his inner experience. Our interaction seemed to help him without escalating the situation.

My biggest take away from this interaction is that a scary situation can turn into a heart-opening experience in a matter of minutes. Attention to the breath and approaching other human beings with compassion can produce powerful results. Make every interaction you have an offering, even if you don’t have cacao nibs. 😊

 

Michael Fong.


 

Confronting the Wasp

 

I have always been afraid of wasps. When I was about 9 years old, I saw my little sister alone out in the distance on a big patch of lawn. She looked oddly frozen with her arm extended far away from her body and her head down facing the grass. Confused, I walked up to see to that a wasp had landed on her hand! She stood there crying, with a clenched fist, and screamed for help.

I was scared. I wanted to run. Instead, I stayed put and told her to remain calm. Apparently, my sister’s phobia of wasps matched my own. I told her that on the count of 3 I would swat the wasp off of her hand. Still crying, she agreed with strong trepidation. I began to count, “1, 2, 3!!!”. I swiftly brushed the wasp away and then we both ran like hell.

In this story, the wasp represents fear. Fear can be paralyzing or it can provide the opportunity for us to rise up into a state of courage. Being courageous in tense or even terrifying moments doesn’t mean you will have an absence of fear. It just means that you tip the scales in favor of being brave.

We can also gain more courage by finding what is meaningful. The meaningful connection and love for my little sister gave me the courage to overcome my fear of the wasp. Courage comes from the root word cor, which means heart in Latin. WHEN YOU LIVE WITH COURAGE, YOU LIVE FROM YOUR HEART.

Stay courageous my friends!

Michael Fong.


 

New Regulations force suspension of IN STUDIO Classes.

So as per California and Sacramento County requirements, we are suspending In STUDIO classes and going back to VIRTUAL Live streaming of classes only for a while.

However we will be announcing outside classes very shortly! In the meantime we have great classes for you to enjoy at home!

Our website is being changed to reflect the new regulations, but please put up with the inconsistencies while everything has been gone through!

We hope you are healthy and safe and continuing to take really good care of yourself and others.

We can’t think of a more important time to remain flexible and there’s just no better way than practicing yoga to accomplish this. We are here, ready, and committed to serving you.

Namaste

The Leap Yoga Team


 

Treat Your Mind Like An Infant

 

 

Meditation can be a really tough practice. One of the big challenges is the unrelenting judgment of your critical mind. It can feel disheartening when you lose concentration or get distracted by the discomfort of being still. You might overly criticize yourself to the point where you want to quit.

Here is a helpful tip: try treating your mind like an infant learning to walk. Your mind can be wobbly and fragile just like a baby trying to take their first steps. Patience and loving encouragement are absolutely necessary.

Be kind to yourself, especially when you are learning a new skill. You would not get angry at a baby if they lose their balance when walking. In the same way, it is not helpful to get upset when your mind loses concentration in your meditation.

This compassionate approach to your mind applies to more than just your meditation practice. Observing and treating yourself with great care creates a life with more compassion and limits the propensity to cause harm.

Let go of self-judgement and acknowledge your intrinsic value. Your input affects your output. If you are inputting love and care for yourself, you will have a greater capacity to share this with others.

Practice loving attention in your meditation and then notice how you treat yourself and others throughout the rest of your day. It can change the entire landscape on how you view the world.

Michael Fong


 

Fear and Kindness

 

 

Dear friends,

 

A few weeks ago, my teacher asked me to do something.  If it had been for her, I would have said yes, of course, anything. But no, this was for me.  And I immediately said no.  But then I stewed on her words and much to my chagrin, she has never asked me to do anything that did not cause fear and end in personal growth.  And everytime she has asked, I have immediately said, no thank you and then went through the process.

 

Ok, this is minor.  But what it brought up was how fear and the anxiety around that fear can cause us to retreat, to shy away, and to get that sick feeling at the pit of our stomachs.  And I think in these unknown and untried times, we are all experiencing a fear of sorts on different levels. So we go through the what if’s, and we worry about the unknown outcomes that may or may not happen.  And we all do it, it is natural.

 

Recognizing fear.  Where do we feel it?  How do we internalize it? How do we name it?  Or is it too big and murky to be named?  Fear is real;  don’t dismiss or discount its importance to you. Others can say it is irrational, but that doesn’t make it less important to you.

 

Looking inside.  As we dig a little deeper, you may find this unease living inside perhaps causing disquiet, sleeplessness and even pain.  Consider meeting these feelings with kindness.  And if that doesn’t help, be kinder. Nurture, console, and delve more deeply into those feelings.  There are many ways you can do this:  long walks, meditation or meditative activities, getting out in nature, talking with a friend or, perhaps, a little yin yoga.

 

Why yin?  Yin is deep, dark, centered, rich, earthy and ultimately healing. I have been struck now, more than ever, that this is the practice for these times around us.  When the panic sets in, when the unrest and unease are pervasive, how do we find healing.  How do we nourish and nurture ourselves so that we can bring a bit more peace to others in a world where people are seeking ease.  It is now that we need to slow, we need to feel more fully, we need to spend more time healing from the inside.  So that when we emerge from our practice, we are a bit more settled and comforted;  a bit more nurtured.  Does the pain leave? No, but the suffering is less and is slowly replaced bit by bit with kindness, tenderness and grace.

 

Please join me on the mat as we face our fears hand in hand, with kindness, comfort and open hearts.

 

Love,

 

Molly

 

 


Leap, Yoga, Grief and Love

 

At Leap we believe in the power of community and that yoga has the power to heal. Practicing yoga in community can enhance the power of intention exponentially. Our practice gives us the ability to come back to ourselves over and over again. When we become still we can align with the place inside that is intelligent, wise, and centered. We can correctly identify what we are feeling and use our wisdom to determine the next right step. There is great power in this process. There is great power in love.

I recommend this short read from LightOmega. For me it’s spot on. This helped me to identify that the feeling underneath the confusion, anger, sadness and frustration is grief. Understanding this has been helpful to me and maybe this article will feel helpful to you in determining what your next right steps might be.

“Dr. King understood this principle. He understood how grief can be linked with love whereas violent retribution cannot. It can only be linked with further violence. He understood that grief, if it involved only a feeling of helplessness, was not enough. But grief connected with a burning desire to prevent suffering and to create change, grief in the presence of love could change the world.”

LightOmega Article: https://lightomega.org/…/death-george-floyd-and-healing-po…/

We want you to know that we are here for you. We continue to teach yoga as a service because these timeless practices help us to evolve and have blessed humanity for thousands of years.

We invite you to continue practicing with us as often as possible as we continue to offer Leap Live VIRTUAL classes led by your dedicated Leap teachers. Our classes are rooted in tradition and are designed to help you tune into your own intelligence for answers, cultivate inner strength, grace, and compassion.

Om namo Bhagavate. Om namo namah. May the Supreme One that we are all part of ignite this fire of love and commitment within us.

Namaste,

Stacy, Butch, Michēal, Cindi and Marco