Category Archives: tantra

Spreading Through the Bones – Active Hands and Feet

I blog occasionally for Yoga In The Heights, the studio where I teach in Jersey City Heights. Here’s a post on a topic I am most passionate about, active hands and feet!

Yoga in the Heights

by Lola Rephann

Energetically, the hands and feet are the foundation in most yoga poses. In all the standing poses, our feet are the foundation. In inversions like handstand or arm balances like bakasana (crow), the hands are the foundation. And then there are some poses, such as downward dog, where both hands and feet are on the ground. Think of the foundation of a home. If a home is built on saggy foundation, the entire edifice sags. A strong foundation can survive hurricanes, floods, and all kinds of challenges!

Something I have noticed as a yoga teacher is that students often stop their asanas at the ankle or wrist. Why does this happen, and what experience is lost when students do not engage the muscles, bones, and energy to the very periphery of their bodies?

I would argue that missing out on the hands and feet, which only amount…

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Deepen Your Back Bending Practice Safely – a workshop at Reflections Yoga, NYC

yoga back bends safely

Deepen Your Back Bending Practice Safely, a workshop at Reflections Yoga on Saturday, August 8 from 2-4pm

The intermediate back bends of yoga, like Wheel Pose (urdhva dhanurasana) are some of the earliest “more advanced” poses students meet on their yoga journey. Getting into wheel is often seen as an important turning point in a student’s life. But, in yoga as in life, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Being able to get into progressively deeper back bends like wheel does not necessarily mean the student is connected to the process the pose represents. It’s possible to just force your way into the pose, and then grunt, struggle, and push while in it. This is not the spirit of yoga. Yoga is not about pushing, trying hard, or forcing. Yoga teaches us to listen to when our bodies are ready to enter poses, and the way we hone our listening is by progressing from smaller to deeper back bends. Forrest Yoga sequences are designed to warm up and open the body one layer at a time in a progressive fashion.

Something I’ve noticed from taking yoga classes around the world is that wheel pose is often offered at the end of a yoga practice with little warm up specific to the pose. A well sequenced yoga practice focuses on poses that lead to an apex, and prepare the body to blossom into that final pose. The point of the apex is not to “do it” but to take the journey towards it and listen to the body and the breath on the way. If there is an obstacle, be it breath or fear or tightness in the body, we work where we are. The obstacle is not something to move around, ignore, or push through but a teacher who is saying “stay here and work on this lesson a little bit longer. When you are ready, you will get the next lesson.”

Back bends teach me patience, deep listening, breath, and acceptance of where I am. They also teach me that sometimes practice appears not to move forward, and that this is when I need to sharpen my attention even more, because there is a deeper lesson. On Saturday, August 8th, I’m holding a workshop on safely deepening your yoga back bending practice. I hope you will join me.

DEEPEN YOUR BACK BENDING PRACTICE SAFELY: A two-hour workshop on back-bending safely leading to more advanced back bends including wheel, wheel drop backs, and viparita dandasana. Good for intermediate students beginning to explore wheel or those with an existing intermediate back bend practice ready to go to the next level. You will learn how the spine moves into extension (back bending), how to prepare the body for deeper back bends, how to warm down from back bending, common misalignment and habits, and some tips on sequencing for back bending in a home practice. Saturday August 8th from 2-4pm at Reflections Yoga, NYC. Register via reflectionsyoga.com, $35 advance, $40 day of.

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Drinking, Shame And Not Beating Yourself Up

Since my Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training I have been sober. My clean date is June 1. Like this writer, I came to the realization that I had no “off switch,” that once I began drinking, even if it was “innocently” out with friends at dinner or at an art gallery opening or a day at the beach, the only thing that would stop me from drinking was passing out, throwing up, or running out of money.

My journey, from wine lover to sober and happy...

I generally write about how good life is as a non-drinker, how much happier and brighter the world appears now that I’m not looking at it through a fogged up lens. I’m incredibly passionate about living a clean existence – more so because I can still recall (with great clarity) the polar opposite: the hangovers, the awful sense of shame on particular mornings, and the secrecy, the double life I seemed to be leading sometimes. I especially remember the kernel of dread that I’d wake up with, a knot of fear in my stomach that I desperately wanted rid of but which routinely took days or even weeks to leave me.

bed

I often read on Soberistas (frequently on Monday mornings) blogs that describe feelings of shame. The people who write them have typically picked up a drink over the weekend, truly believing that they will be able to stop after…

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Spiral

Happened to find this in the stream of blogs I follow and thought it was worth sharing here. Not only does this spiral happen within our current incarnation, but I also believe our rebirths follow the same incarnational spiral.

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“Grabbing the Cat”

grab the catLast night in the New Moon Shakti Circle at Bija Yoga, we discussed “Goddess Archetypes.” Our facilitator Lisa Kazmer had printed out several pages of pictures we’d uploaded to the Facebook invite for the night, grouped by theme or archetype. We had a page for mother goddesses (Gaia, Oshun, Mother Mary), a page for warrior/chaos/transformation goddesses (Kali, Oya), a page for lunar goddesses, a page for the triple goddess/crone, and so on. We looked at the photos and explored our reactions to each, wrote down keywords or phrases that came up as we discussed each archetype, and talked about how we related to each (or didn’t), and what energy we felt we needed more (or less) of in our lives.

The title of this blog came about in our discussion of the warrior/chaos/destruction/transformation goddesses, namely Kali and Oya. One of the participants (and a friend of mine, and fellow yoga teacher) relayed a funny story about how the intense energy of warrior goddesses can sometimes have unintended consequences.

I’ll her refer to her by her first initial. A., with her trademark awesome sense of humor, told us how her intense energy can sometimes be overwhelming. She “grabs the cat.”

“Whenever I go to my brother’s house, I look for the cat. I just love that cat. But it always tries to get away from me. Maybe it’s because I grab it…and then pet it real hard.” We were all cracking up at the image of this poor cat, being overwhelmed at being grabbed at with A.’s strong desire to show love.

This is a real thing, tho! How many times, in your enthusiasm, have you ever knocked something over, tripped over something, or even hurt someone because you just HAD TO show them how you felt? That’s the energy of Kali or Oya, coming in like a hurricane force and literally tearing sh*t up.

How often have you tried to “grab the cat” in your yoga practice? We weren’t really talking about yoga, per se, but we were mostly yoga teachers in circle last night, so my mind went to how many times I have “grabbed the cat” in my practice and ended up hurting myself. Injury is one of my teachers in the infinite lesson of getting softer, but it’s a lesson I keep repeating as my practice and my awareness gets more subtle.

As above, so below. So when we see our habits and tendencies in our yoga practice, it’s very likely these tendencies come about in our off-the-mat lives too. This is one of the ways to use Goddess archetype work in your yoga practice (and in your off-the-mat life). Where could you use a little more Moon Goddess energy and just receive and reflect? How about the wisdom of the crone or the nurturing energy of the Earth Goddesses?

As women, we have all these energies within us. Some of us are naturally more Kali and others naturally more Gaia. Working with the archetypes helps us identify these primal energy patterns within ourselves and others, and in our life’s unfolding story.

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Crazy Wisdom: Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa Explored On Film

This weekend, I saw Crazy Wisdom, a documentary about Tibetan lama/Western guru Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa was and is considered a “bad boy” of Buddhism, a reincarnated lama from Tibet who spread Buddhism’s wisdom to the West in his own, inimitable style.

A smoker, a heavy drinker, and a man known for having intimate relations with many of his students, Chogyam Trungpa was not the stereotypical image of a guru. He was known for having “crazy wisdom,” the kind of insight that could be seen as being entirely, totally free or entirely, totally crazy. And what is the difference, really? So long as one can exist in society, there is room for our eccentricity, our total humanness.

Loved by his followers for being totally, completely human and having no apologies about it, Chogyam Trungpa taught by example. He challenged accepted memes and spoke wisdom in such a way that it forced people to think for themselves. One of his most famous books also contains one of his (still) most controversial ideas: that those on the spiritual path may be reinforcing the ego instead of dismantling it if they become too enamored of their spiritual knowledge or pursuits (I’m referring to Spiritual Materialism, one of Trungpa’s most important books).

Crazy Wisdom has lots of great archival footage of Trungpa as well as of the Vermont meditation center that later became the first building of the growing Shambala spiritual community. There’s some footage of Tibet and Trungpa’s travels around the world, and at the end of the film, Trungpa’s cremation ceremony is shown.

This documentary sheds some light on Trungpa’s life and personality, although there is still a sense of “who was this man?” at the end of the film. And that’s probably just as he would have wanted it.

More on Trungpa from the Shambala website: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/chogyam-trungpa.php

Crazy Wisdom Trailer – NEW from Matthew Mecer on Vimeo.

Check out Crazy Wisdom through Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Ruben Museum of Art in NYC.

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Tantra as path of self-awareness

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