Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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Get Connected

As of this week, Beth and I have completed three consecutive weekends of teacher training, two week’s worth of written homework, partner assignments, and reading, not to mention keeping up with our (very) demanding jobs, personal lives and responsibilities (and a blog). Needless to say, it has been a puzzle to make it all work. Even though this was our first full week/end without teacher training, I quickly discovered that I had plenty on the calendar to keep me busy.

Following the weekend’s illuminating lessons on lower body anatomy, pranayama, arm balances, and Ayurveda, we got together with our group members, Courtney and Bronwen, and our mentor, Jen, on Monday night. This small gathering provided an opportunity to express questions and concerns, as well as to practice teaching. We took turns guiding one another through a sequence of poses and then received feedback from our mentor. Although we are all seasoned yoga practitioners, we are still learning what it means to actively teach rather than participate.

On Tuesday evening, I met up with my high school bestie, Caroline, her sister, Sue, and her future sister-in-law, Marcela to try on bridesmaid dresses. After strutting around the showroom in all different shades of chiffon, we each made our final selections and the bride approved!

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Say Yes to the Dress – The Bridesmaid Edition

Succumbing to exhaustion after five days of non-stop action, I reluctantly decided to take Wednesday night “off.” I practiced Pranayama, caught up on some reading and a little television, cooked myself dinner, and put myself to bed early.

With the week finally rounding to a close, I made my monthly trip up to The Bronx Charter School for Children, where I recently became a member of the board of trustees. On the way home from our meeting, I was chit-chatting with another board member about it being Valentine’s Day. A salon owner and stylist, she mentioned that V-Day can be an emotional day for women, especially those who do not have a partner.

The conversation made me think of a V-Day piece I read the previous night (during me time), reminding readers that romantic love, while wonderful, is not enough to sustain us as individuals. Furthermore, when we project expectations that an intimate relationship, partner, or marriage will be enough to complete us or make us happy, we are bound to find disappointment.

That is to say – Valentine’s Day isn’t exclusively about romantic love, it’s also about being connected. And connectedness can take shape in a multitude of ways, whether it’s through family, friendship, being of service to your community, joining with like-minded individuals for an academic, philosophical, or physical pursuit, taking part in a celebration, or simply taking a night to care for your glorious self.

And if you didn’t get it done this Valentine’s Day, fear not! Tomorrow is just as good a day as any to get connected – and I guarantee the restaurants will be less crowded.

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Riding The Wave of Breath

During our third weekend of teacher training, our knowledgeable teacher, Stacey, introduced us to Pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga. Stacey is very passionate about Pranayama, and was excited to share her knowledge with the class.

Many people do not realize that Yoga is composed of eight “limbs,” each a practice unto itself. Asana (the physical poses) is the third limb. Pranayama, the formal art of controlling the breath, is known as the fourth limb, and that which connects the physical body with the more unseen and mystical realms. Therefore, Pranayama may also be known as the breath of life. If practiced correctly, Pranayama is an art to control the mind by learning to control the breath, and to control the breath by controlling the mind.

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Stacey characterized this complex breathing practice as akin to “playing with magic”. It certainly sounded like magic when it was explained that Pranayama techniques can both relieve stress and improve one’s overall physical health, while forging a deeper connection with one’s higher self or soul.

One of the books we are reading as part of our training is called Yoga and The Quest for the True Self, by Stephen Cope. In the book, Cope discusses the benefits and magic of Pranayama:

“Inhibition of full abdominal-diaphragmatic breath immediately cuts us off from feelings. But it also cuts us off from prana and deeply depletes the life force in the body. An increased reliance on chest breathing to supply the body’s oxygen requirements produces chronic muscle tension in the chest and abdomen, but that’s only the beginning. It also increases cardio-pulmonary stress, increases blood sugar and lactate levels, increases our perception of pain, decreases oxygen to the heart and brain, inhibits transfer of oxygen from hemoglobin to tissues, and increases our sense of fatigue.”

By learning how to breathe properly, we would further tune into our bodies, look at feeling through the breath, and cultivate powerful breathing techniques that we could use throughout our lives.

In the chapter called Riding the Wave of Breath, Cope explains a technique to help manage feelings that may arise through Pranayama (and, trust me, they can be vast). His technique called “riding the wave” has five parts: “Breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow.” This is Cope’s way to help others become witness to the wisdom of Pranayama.

Ali and I have both begun a daily Pranayama practice, and, as part of our homework for the next two weeks, will be recording a few observations after each practice.

With the technique of “riding the wave” and our lessons from class over the weekend, I feel prepared to begin my own exploration. Can I surrender to the freedom that comes with being present and to simply allow the process to happen without understanding every aspect of it? I am excited to find out.

“This kind of surrender requires a willingness to be changed. It involves, too, a willingness to trust life, to keep the focus of our awareness on energy in motion instead of on trying to understand what is happening. Prana is intelligent, after all.” – Stephen Cope on “riding the wave of breath”