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YOGA NEWS YOGA NEWS YOGA NEWS HOLIDAYS 2006
Dear Students, Friends, and Colleagues,
Thursday, December 22 marks the Winter Solstice, the root of all modern winter holidays in the West, including Christmas and Hanukkah. Rituals around the shortest, and hence darkest, day of the year stretch back at least as far as Stonehenge and intensify as you get closer to the North Pole—the Scandinavian festivals of lights—where the days get really short.
The early rituals reflected anxiety that the light (warmth, heat!) would never return. Later, as cultures found ways to measure and mark the sun’s movements across the sky, they celebrated the certainty that the light would return in a predictable way. If December 22 is the shortest day, then beginning on that day and moving forward to June 22, the days get longer. Hence, the joy at turning this annual celestial corner.
Solstice rituals also reveal the resilience of the human spirit, that sometimes elusive inner light: the (often unconscious) faith that gets us out of bed and moving every morning, no matter how bleak things can seem in the outer world. I think that’s really what the whole Christ story is about: that deep goodness, humility, and perseverance can prevail in the most unpromising circumstances. The Buddha. Saint Francis (who, I believe, was confined for several years in a cell too small to stand up in). Gandhi. Mandela.
Yoga tells us that the light of the spirit cannot be snuffed out. Spirit, is strong; spirit is power. I got a local hit of this a few weeks ago. Things were not going my way. I even hosted a personal “People Suck Week” (spent mostly in my apartment, of course, screening calls). Yes, I’ve been dating again. And if that plain of human error doesn’t make you tremble, you’ve been married too long to remember what it’s like out there. So, things weren’t going my way on the amorous front, and then they started to run amok elsewhere. As if it were all connected, which it probably is.
What was different in this round of letdowns, however, was my response. I had some perspective. At moments I even found it funny, in that reckless, “Well, can’t get much worse than this!” way. “PS Week” actually turned out to be rich with lovely human encounters I could never have consciously orchestrated. I wasn’t devastated. I wasn’t even miserable. I found I could be let down, even deeply disappointed, and still have a good day, or a good hour, or a good moment.
Spirit is strong, and my spirit has grown stronger with years of yoga practice. Like those annoying people (most recently, Tibetan monks and those who study their brainwaves) who are always telling you, “If you only meditated . . . ,” I’m here to tell you that if you only stuck with your yoga practice, got to the mat on a daily basis, you too would grow brighter from the inside out. If eyes truly are windows into the soul, look no further than a yogi’s eyes for a glimpse of the radiance within. Yogis sparkle. They twinkle, just like Christmas lights!
HOW AND WHY
I don’t really know why yoga works, though yoga books and scriptures going way back before the birth of Christ offer wide-ranging psycho-physical explanations. I have devoted my life and my work to sharing how it works, which I experience on a daily basis. “Do your practice, and all is coming,” Ashtanga Yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois likes to say, and I think he’s right. I like the shape of this pronouncement, with the “do” right up front, and the “results” trailing way behind. True yogis don’t do yoga with a specific outcome in mind. (By the way, every time I’ve tried that, I’ve failed. You can’t flirt with Shakti, and you certainly can’t seduce her. You can only join in her dance.) At least for Tantric yogis, the practice is the result, there’s nothing beyond or outside the daily experience of aligning yourself with the larger Spirit.
When you do so, you will notice that gradually your thoughts, your words, and your actions bear more weight. You have a greater impact on the world around you. You gain power. Marianne Williamson once wrote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
So whatever your “yoga” consists of, whatever your daily, or not-quite-daily practice is, I invite you to be ruthless, to be dogged, to do what it takes to stay with it. It is possible to be steady and firm without becoming rigid or fanatical. Beware of dissipation and distractions—and if you live in New York City, someone or something is always ready to distract you, to pull you off course. You owe this to yourself, and you can’t serve others until you have tended your own garden.
When the world seems dark outside—or inside--remember that Shri (another name for the life force) is abundant. Even on the longest night, Shri lies latent like the seeds that burrow into the winter earth to gestate. You may have to dig deep to find her, or to find her as you, in your form, under all the layers and crusts of armor we each build around her, but she’s there.
The power is there. When you put value on your life, when you choose certain activities over others because you believe in the good, Shri is there, because Shri believes that some thoughts, words, and deeds support life better than others. Above all, Shri is beneficent—good-making or good-doing—and yoga is about coming into alignment with what is good, with what is true, no matter what.
It may take a leap of faith, in this veil of tears, to believe that deep goodness rules. But then, life is one prolonged leap of faith. I think of the poet Ezra Pound, writing from an open-air cage in an Italian prison camp, as madness closed in on him:
Tho my errors and wrecks lie about me . . . .
. . . . it coheres all right
‘TIS THE SEASON
I’ll be on another walkabout from December 15 through ‘til January 1. On December 16, I’m delighted to be teaching for one of my former teacher trainees, Allison Terracio. A true force of nature, in the year since completing her teacher training, Allison left her job at the Bank of New York, moved to Louisville, KY, and opened two yoga studios (www.infinitebliss.org). How’s that for Shri? Allison will also be assisting me during my Costa Rica retreat for the second year running, because four hands are always better than two!
Closer to home, several of generations of my former teacher trainees are now teaching public classes and subbing for other teachers at yoga studios and health clubs in the greater New York area. They are all highly trained(!) in the Anusara method and ready to guide you to your bliss!
December 21-22 I’ll also be teaching master classes in San Jose, Costa Rica, where my friend Mariella Cruz is single-handedly carrying the Anusara torch in Central America. These Solstice classes are open to the public, should your holiday travels take you South of the Border (www.ashtangayogacostarica.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Finally, I’ll ring in the New Year out by the sea, at One Ocean Yoga in Bridgehampton. I’ll be leading my Sunday morning class on New Year’s Eve, and on New Year’s Day, John Seelye and I will offer a special hail-2007 practice. Bring your resolutions!
COSTA RICA IS COMING . . .
Remember, the deadline for discounts on my annual Costa Rica getaway is January 1 (take $100 off your own spot, or $100 each if you sign up with a friend). Please note: I’m offering these discounts to my existing students and their friends only, as a “Thank You!” for another great year. With last week’s cold snap, I’ve received lots of queries about the retreat, and people are signing up, so don’t delay!
THE NEW YEAR
Come January 2, I’ll be back in the city, with some changes and additions to my public class schedule:
My Tuesday class at Shri Yoga will now be: 2:30-4:00 Open Level
Please note: Due to my travel schedule, I may be offline for long spells during the holidays. If you would like to reach me quickly, and/or want to register for the Costa Rica retreat discount, please call me on my cell (917)975-8009.
Best to you and yours during the coming festivities!
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