yoga

The best reason to meditate ever...

I have been exploring the world of meditation now for ten years but only just recently did a dear friend of mine send me this explanation of why it is so essential. It actually gave me goosebumps- never has something resonated so deeply with me! After reading this, my meditation practice has taken on an entirely new vigilance. I genuinely hope that it does for you what it did for me <3

~Meditation, Why Bother?~

"Meditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible. 

It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? 

Why bother? Simple. Because you are human. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away. 

You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back--usually when you least expect it. 

All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life. There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. 

You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meed somehow and look OK from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you, you keep those to yourself. You are a mess. And you know it. But you hide it beautifully.

Meanwhile, way down under all that you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then. 

You get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. and for a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. 

The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, "OK, now I've made it; now I will be happy". But then that fades, too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory. That and a vague awareness that something is wrong.

So what is wrong with you? Are you a freak? No. You are just human. And you suffer from the same malady that infects every human being. It is a monster inside all of us, and it has many arms: Chronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others, including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness. Many, many arms. 

None of us is entirely free from it. We may deny it. We try to suppress it. We build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting ourselves from it with goals and projects and status. 

But it never goes away. It is a constant undercurrent in every thought and every perception; a little wordless voice at the back of the head saying, "Not good enough yet. Got to have more. Got to make it better. Got to be better." It is a monster, a monster that manifests everywhere in subtle forms.

Life seems to be a perpetual struggle, some enormous effort against staggering odds. And what is our solution to all this dissatisfaction? We get stuck in the ' If only' syndrome. If only I had more money, then I would be happy. 

If only I can find somebody who really loves me, if only I can lose 20 pounds, if only I had a color TV, Jacuzzi, and curly hair, and on and on forever. 

So where does all this junk come from and more important, what can we do about it? It comes from the conditions of our own minds. It is deep, subtle and pervasive set of mental habits, a Gordian knot which we have built up bit by bit and we can unravel just the same way, one piece at a time. 

The essence of our experience is change. Change is incessant. Moment by moment life flows by and it is never the same. A thought springs up in you head and half a second later, it is gone. In comes another one, and that is gone too. 

People come into your life and they leave again. Friends go, relatives die. Your fortunes go up and they go down. Sometimes you win and just as often you lose. It is incessant: change, change, change. No two moments ever the same.

There is not a thing wrong with this. It is the nature of the universe. But human culture has taught you some odd responses to this endless flowing. We categorize experiences. We try to stick each perception, every mental change in this endless flow into one of three mental pigeon holes. 

It is good, or it is bad, or it is neutral. Then, according to which box we stick it in, we perceive with a set of fixed habitual mental responses. If a particular perception has been labeled 'good', then we try to freeze time right there. 

We grab onto that particular thought, we fondle it, we hold it, we try to keep it from escaping. When that does not work, we go all out in an effort to repeat the experience which caused that thought. Let us call this mental habit 'grasping'.

Over on the other side of the mind lies the box labeled 'bad'. When we perceive something 'bad', we try to push it away. We try to deny it, reject it, get rid of it any way we can. We fight against our own experience. We run from pieces of ourselves. Let us call this mental habit 'rejecting'. 

Between these two reactions lies the neutral box. Here we place the experiences which are neither good nor bad. They are tepid, neutral, uninteresting and boring. We pack experience away in the neutral box so that we can ignore it and thus return your attention to where the action is, namely our endless round of desire and aversion. 

This category of experience gets robbed of its fair share of our attention. Let us call this mental habit 'ignoring'. The direct result of all this lunacy is a perpetual treadmill race to nowhere, endlessly pounding after pleasure, endlessly fleeing from pain, endlessly ignoring 90 percent of our experience. Than wondering why life tastes so flat. In the final analysis, it's a system that does not work.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? Luckily it's not; not at all. It only sounds bleak when you view it from the level of ordinary mental perspective, the very level at which the treadmill mechanism operates. 

Down under that level lies another whole perspective, a completely different way to look at the universe. It is a level of functioning where the mind does not try to freeze time, where we do not grasp onto our experience as it flows by, where we do not try to block things out and ignore them. 

It is a level of experience beyond good and bad, beyond pleasure and pain. It is a lovely way to perceive the world, and it is a learnable skill. It is not easy, but is learnable.

You can't ever get everything you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of this endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn to not want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them. 

This does not mean that you lie down on the road and invite everybody to walk all over you. It means that you continue to live a very normal-looking life, but live from a whole new viewpoint. You do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessive, compulsive drivenness of your own desires. 

You want something, but you don't need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don't need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental culture is very difficult. It takes years. But trying to control everything is impossible, and the difficult is preferable to the impossible.

You can't make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes flow naturally. You don't have to force or struggle or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. You just change. It is automatic. 

But arriving at the initial insight is quite a task. You've got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, judgement or resistance of any kind. You've got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being.

You've got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals. And you've got to see all of that clearly and as a unit, a single gestalt of interrelationship.

It sounds complex, but it often occurs in a single instant. Mental culture through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness...

Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and jealousy, things that keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. It brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight.

Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant you can be. The greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be.

You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher. You are ready to forgive and forget. You feel love towards others because you understand them. And you understand others because you have understood yourself. 

You have looked deeply inside and seen self illusion and your own human failings. You have seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love. When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic. 

An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love…"

~Henepola Gunaratana Mahathera
Mindfulness in Plain English

Introducing Yoga Teacher Prep!

Yoga Teacher Prep

An Intentional Resource Hub for Future Yoga Teachers

The last few months I've been collecting data (so official sounding, right?) to launch a website to support future yoga teachers.  This past year heralded some big changes in my teaching, namely the development of my skills as a teacher of teachers.  Through the studio I've taught at since inception here in Kelowna, Oranj Fitness, I've begun co-leading yoga teacher training programs.  Not gonna lie, I was super nervous to start this venture and had all the classic concerns like, Am I good enough?  Will they like me?  Do I have enough to offer?  Nevertheless, the first training went swimmingly and I am now on the second.

With these teacher trainings came a slew of concerns front the students involved (ironically, their concerns were similar to mine: Am I good enough?  Is teacher training right for me?).  A lightbulb went off and Yoga Teacher Prep was born.  Nowhere online could I find resources for people about to embark on a yoga teacher training program.  So I made one.  Now let me be clear; this baby is brand new, a butt-load of work, and still evolving.  But this project lights me up and I am stoked to share the resources I've found and developed.

At the moment, we're in the middle of our #108YTT Tips for future yoga teachers.  Instead of watching Narcos on Netflix (and oh how this pains me so), I've been contacting dozens of rockstar yoga teachers (literally over 100 now) to ask them for their top tips for students thinking about taking their YTT.  All kinds of yoga celebrities and international teacher training gurus have gotten back to me and we are now on week two of sharing these tips on our website and social media feeds.

So thank you for listening, I mean reading.  And thank you for the support with this new venture.  And can I ask you a favour?  If you know anyone thinking of doing their yoga teacher training, or anyone who has signed up to do one in the future, can you please share this with them?  Thank you again.

Cheers and Namaste,

l.e. martini

Fish Pose (Matsyasana): The best posture to relieve athsma and chest congestion

So it's the dead of winter and like so many other people at this time of year, you're sick.  Runny nose, congested lungs, sore throat, and hoarse cough…ugh.  Should you still be practicing yoga?  The answer is ABSOLUTELY.  Should you be practicing yoga at a studio?  Well it depends...

For the sake of everyone at the studio, please stay away if you are contagious!  Keep sipping your hot tea at home with your wad of Kleenex and get better before you come back to class.  If you're not contagious, well, it depends.  If you're sneezy and you've still got a cough, please be mindful of being potentially disruptive to the students and the teacher in the class.  That being said, if you're only a little bit sick and you cough maybe only a few times per hour, than getting out of your house and taking some yoga time in at a studio could be exactly what you need.

Here's a tip: If you've got a bit of a cough still, it's most likely to come up for you when you lie down in Savasana (corpse pose at the end of a yoga class).  Sometimes just sitting upright can prevent this tickly throat cough and your teacher will be grateful you're trying to be quiet!

If you're too sick or you just simply can't make it to the studio, here's a great posture to try at home to help clear up any congestion!

In the advanced version of the posture, bring your palms together in front of your body and lift the legs.

In the advanced version of the posture, bring your palms together in front of your body and lift the legs.

Matsyasana or Fish Pose

Lie on your back and walk your arms underneath your body keeping the arms straight and palms facing down.  The tips of your thumbs should touch.  Now flex your feet, engage your legs, and press into your elbows to lift your chest into the air and roll to the top of your head.  If you have a lot of flexibility in your spine, you can lift your head right off the floor.  Imagine someone has a fishing line attached to your sternum and is pulling you straight up towards the ceiling.  Hold for 5 breaths and use the support of your elbows to slowly lower yourself back down.

Enjoy the freedom of breathing fully into your chest!

Cheers and Namaste,

l.e. martini 

Computer Yoga

Holy Dina I am suffering with a western world issue.  The switch from PC to Mac this past week has been the most challenging yoga practice for me.  And yes, it really was a yoga practice.  No yoga pose has taught to be this patient, to breathe through this much discomfort, or to overcome this much self-judgement!

After a few days of procrastinating (i.e. refusing to return emails because of an excuse I call "the holidays", ignoring Facebook questions, pretending the yoga retreat to-do list doesn't exist, etc.) my good ol' PC bit it in a slow and agonizing death of random powering-down episodes and refusal to download anything.  Left in a panic, I frantically ran out and purchased a snazzy new MacBook Air this morning.  10 hours later I haven't even figured out how to choose my Home Page.  

Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for geeks everywhere.  The amount of time I could save if I was somewhat technologically savvy is mind-blowing to me.  Nevertheless, if yoga has taught me anything it is to work hard, plug on, and surrender the results.  I am going to let go of the guilt of not getting off the couch for an entire day because sometimes, when put into perspective, these problems are not as big as they may seem at the time.  

There are elephants stepping on land mines in Asia.  NOW THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM.

After a long day of doing what feels like nothing, a few movements brought to us from the tradition of yoga will make everything better.  Here are the best yogic ways to release the tension (both physical and mental) from your body after spending a ridiculous amount of time in front of a computer.  You're welcome.

1)  Take 10 deep breaths.  When you inhale, think "in".  When you exhale, think "out".  

2)  Stretch your wrists.  Find your wrists' full range of motion.  This prevents carpal tunnel.

IMG_0490.jpg
IMG_0489.jpg
IMG_0488.jpg

3) Roll your neck in a circle.  This is safe to do so long as your spine is straight, chest is lifted, and you create a long distance relationship between your shoulders and your ears.

4) Roll you shoulders forward and then roll your shoulders back.  Take note of any cracks and crunches.

5) Now get away from the computer and do some cardio.  I should probably follow my own advice...

Namaste and Rock On,

l.e. martini

Best Savasana Songs

Ever had the most blissed-out relaxation at the end of a yoga class?

 In the western world, where our Type A culture is always on the go, it can be difficult to find stillness of mind.  Yoga has taught us that contorting our bodies among strangers, breathing in new rhythms, and following the guidance of a new age hippie instructor can perhaps, just perhaps, give us the opportunity to glimpse a fleeting moment of meditative deliciousness.  My teaching experience has taught me that one of the best ways to facilitate a blissed-out savasana is through music.

 Here are my top 3 savasana songs:

donna de lory.jpg
wah.jpg
deva.jpg

He Ma Durga by Donna De Lory is a song that evokes devotion, compassion, and yearning. A beautiful melody that will inevitably get stuck in your head for the rest of your day:)  Random fact:  Donna De Lory was once a back-up singer for Madonna.

Akasha Ma by Wah.  The most meditative of the savasana songs.  Get lost in a yogic trance listening to Wah's ethereal sounds.

Om Namo Bhagavate by Deva Premal.  The meaning of this song is "Thy Will Be Done" or "Surrender the Results".  Both of which are powerful and appropriate for the end of a yoga practice.  The song is hauntingly beautiful and the mantra also happens to be the most commonly associated with the Kripalu lineage.

May your savasanas be blissful always,

l.e. martini