The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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34 Reasons I Love Yoga (for my 34th Birthday)

Last year at this time I post 33 Reasons I Love Yoga, since today is my 34th I thought I’d add one more. Here is the list again +1:

Tom's Thumb, Arizona

Tom’s Thumb, Arizona

34 Reasons I Love Yoga

  1. Yoga keeps me honest
  2. Yoga clears my head in the morning –the best and fastest way I know to get those sleepies out of my eyes
  3. Yoga keeps me limber and flexible (body and mind)
  4. Yoga makes me less cranky (yes, my husband has on occasion asked the question on particular grumpy days, “Did you do your yoga this morning?”)

    chilly tree, Lake Tahoe, NV

    chilly tree, Lake Tahoe, NV

  5. Yoga makes me eat healthier
  6. Yoga strengthens my core
  7. Yoga strengthens my arms
  8. Yoga makes me laugh
  9. Yoga keeps me humble
  10. Yoga helps me release negative emotions, like sadness and anger
  11. Yoga helps me forgive
  12. Yoga calms my worries
  13. Yoga’s always got my back (It is always a Plan B in tough situations, even when it should be Plan A)
  14. Yoga never judges me
  15. I have met some wonderful souls through yoga

    Picture 091

    a hiking buddy and me treein’ it up at the Grand Canyon

  16. Yoga opens my mind to its more creative places
  17. Yoga makes me a more patient person
  18. Yoga makes me a better speech therapist
  19. Yoga makes me a better lover
  20. Yoga gives my lungs and body endurance when I’m doing non-yoga things like hiking big mountains
  21. Yoga taught me mantra. Mantra helps me get through really tough physical challenges or really scary times
  22. Yoga gives me commitment

    DSCN2824

    Poplar Stream Falls, on our wedding day

  23. Yoga made me a teacher
  24. Yoga helped me conquer loneliness
  25. Yoga took me to a place inside myself I’d never been
  26. Yoga keeps life light
  27. Yoga is fun
  28. Yoga is versatile (I truly believe there is a style out there for everyone)
  29. I get to wear comfy pants while doing it
  30. I don’t have to wear any pants while doing it
  31. I can take yoga anywhere with me
  32. Yoga helped me get through grad school
  33. Yoga gave me the idea for this blog
  34. Yoga waits for me

 

Did I miss anything? Why do you love yoga?

If you enjoyed this post, as a birthday present to me, will you share it with someone?

Namaste!


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My Evolving Practice

As those of you who are regular readers have probably noticed, I’ve been a less frequent blogger over this past year and I’d like to try to explain why. After my knee surgery, I stopped doing yoga as I recovered. This was unexpected, as I often like to tell people that anyone can do yoga, no matter what the physical (or mental/emotional) limitations are. I still believe this to be true, but I now also see that it is a bit more complicated than that.

While my body weaned off pain medications (not a very long process), and then my physical body, along with the other 9 bodies, slowly recovered (a much longer process than I ever realized), I found that my yoga practice just did not fit into the current space my life was in. This did slowly change as I started to add a few poses to my day. But I still found that Kundalini yoga was still not a style I was interested in accessing.

After knee surgery, which may or may not be related, I began to process some emotions, and began a journey into my emotional state, through therapy that was intense and exhausting. While I still think Kundalini yoga can be a wonderful tool to process through emotions, for some reason it was not right for me at the time. I really needed a gentle approach to life. I continued a sporadic and almost luxurious hatha practice, in which I indulged my body in doing only the poses that felt right for it, without pushing myself. My knee was still healing, so many of the vigorous Kundalini poses, as well as many hatha poses still did not feel right, or I was incapable of doing them. I swan dove into sun salutations, and my practice mainly revolved around that, and the occasional silent meditation when I could muster it, for a long time.

I continued to take a break from teaching, because, since I am only certified in Kundalini, I felt I wasn’t qualified to teach the yoga I was practicing, and couldn’t honestly teach a yoga that I was not practicing.

This past month I decided to give Kundalini a try again. It was no coincidence that emotionally and spiritually I had finally come out of a place of turmoil and was now feeling strong again. I felt that I now had the space (and courage) in my life to begin to dabble back into Kundalini. I’ve been trying a few of my favorite kriyas, which are different for me now, with my new knee and less in-shape body, but also feel good in a new way. I have been especially drawn to the heart opening kriyas. I feel that New Lungs and Circulation is going to be an important one for me in the coming year. This vigorous (but not impossible) kriya works on opening the heart chakra, cleansing the lungs, and freeing up emotions, which seems to fit well with the space I’m in now.

letting go of shouldMy practice is a lot less rigid than it was before. I am only doing Kundalini probably every other morning, or less, and still indulge in those feel-good hatha sessions with some silent meditation on many mornings. Some mornings I don’t do yoga at all, but instead go for a run or a swim, or read or write.

This rhythm of practicing less yoga isn’t new, what is new (at least since I’d gotten more serious about my practice,post-yoga teacher training) is that I let my body dictate where my practice will take me. I listen to how I’m feeling that day, rather than to my mind telling me how I should be practicing. I do not feel guilt for not practicing enough, or not practicing in a specific way, or style, or certain routine.

This holds true for other aspects of my life as well. In other aspects of my life I feel like I am finally saying yes to what my heart and soul want to do, and no to how I think I should behave. It makes sense that my yoga practice is following suit.

In the coming months I will be taking an exciting new journey* that has nothing to do with yoga, but I’m sure that yoga will be a part of it. I have definitely learned through this last year (as I have discovered in other periods of my life as well) that yoga is always there for me. Even if I’m not physically practicing, I am still living the lessons I’ve learned on the mat, and my physical practice is always there quietly waiting for me, just as my mat quietly waits in its corner to be unfurled.

Yoga is not a part of who I am. It is a thing that I do. I think that is something I let go of this year. I had a lot wrapped up in the idea of myself as a yoga practitioner, yogi, yoga teacher. But yoga is not really a part of one’s identity. When I was able to drop that, I was able to drop the “shoulds” I had begun to insert into my practice and, with them, the guilt I felt if I wasn’t living up to what I thought I should be as a yoga practitioner or teacher.

Yoga is a tool that I use to support me in my soul’s journey through this life. I am not yoga. There is no practice I should be doing. There is only what I need to be doing.

As always,

In light and love,

Catie

*My husband and I have decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, and continue on living in the Pacific Northwest upon finishing and see where it takes us!

DSCN2789 DSCN2824 Because I promised some wedding pictures too long ago, and because today is our six month anniversary!


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About the Difference between Pleasure & Satisfaction

Here is an idea that I’ve been batting around in my head for a few days and thought it would make an appropriate New Year’s post.

It occurred to me the other day during an act that should be very pleasurable but has lately been only satisfying, that there is a distinct difference between the two and that my life could use a little more of the former.

I have a lot of satisfaction in my life lately –I’m working on a lot of different projects, making progress on them, I have big to-do lists that I get done, accomplishments I continue to accrue –these things are all very satisfying to me, but are they pleasurable? Am I getting pleasure out of them? And, what is the difference?

I would say there is a big difference, yet it is a subtle one. It is a difference you probably can’t see on the outside, an internal one. Although maybe if you observed two people in the same activity you could tell which one is having a pleasurable experience and which one just a satisfying one.

The dictionary defines pleasure thus:

Plea-sure: n. 1. Feeling of being pleased; 2. Delight, joy; 3. Choice; wish

Although the third definition is a different meaning than what I am describing (as in “What is your pleasure?”), for me, I think it is key to the first two. You have a choice about it.

Satisfaction is defined as:

Sat-is-fac-tion: n. 1. Act of satisfying or state of being satisfied; 2. That which satisfies; 3. Opportunity to avenge a wrong or insult; 4. Payment of discharge as of an obligation

Let’s leave #3 out of it, but I like the use of obligation in #4. That gets at the difference I’m talking about.

Satsifaction is an act; pleasure is a feeling. Satisfaction is linked to obligation; pleasure is linked to choice, wish, even.

Obviously there are many cut and dry things in life that give pleasure and it’s great to add those things if they are missing –hanging out with friends, eating an extravagant meal, reading a really good book, making love. But what if you could add more pleasure to the everyday things in life? After all, we don’t live in ancient Greece; we do have responsibilities in our lives.

But I think this can be done. I think there can be a balance between pleasurefinding pleasure in the little things and satisfaction and I think you can have them both.

Take a simple task like watering houseplants. This is a chore I need to do, an obligation I have, since I decided I want to have houseplants. If not on my written to-do list, it is at least on my weekly mental list. I get satisfaction from checking off this task on the list. I have accomplished something that contributes to me having a nice home. But often there is no pleasure in this task. I get it done as quickly as possible and move on to something else before I’ve even given it a fully formed thought. Or maybe I’m even doing something else while watering them, like talking on the phone or watching TV.

I’ve completely overlooked the opportunity for pleasure in that task. I’ve missed noticing the new pink-purple blossom of the African violet, missed savoring the last coral-colored petals of the geranium’s flower, the new growth on the snake grass. I missed the simple opportunity to admire the lushness of green in my home, even if nothing had been new or changing.

And what is at the heart of the matter of pleasure? Of course, something I find myself writing about often here, as if I need a continual reminder in new forms that spark my consciousness in new ways –a slowing down, a conscious effort to be available for the present moment. A choice.

One must choose the present moment. For that is where the pleasure can be found, always accessed to you. But it’s the getting there, the remembering again and again, and then again to choose it.

So my New Year’s wish to you all is that you will remember to find the pleasure in life’s little moments, and then chose to follow them amongst (and not inspite of) the day’s obligations. This daily practice will get us through whatever challenges (and satisfactions) the new year may bring.

Here’s to a blessed and beautiful 2015!

In light and love,

Catie


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Yoga Book Review — Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses

Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses, by Claire Dederer (2011), is a memoir of a mother and wife, but also of a yoga practitioner (she doesn’t like the term “yogi”), in which she weaves in threads of yogic wisdom she’s gleaned from her teachers over the years.

Yoga Book Review

She also scatters bits of the history of modern yoga throughout the book, yet it never gets bogged down by these facts. The book moves at a fast pace through her present life as a mother of two young children, and wife of a writer. She sprinkles bits of her own history in as well, and the book suddenly turns into an exploration into the modern woman and her ideas on marriage and family life. This was a happy surprise for me as a reader. Reading this book in the days leading up to my own wedding, I was giving a lot of thought to this topic.

Dederer, came to yoga, as many of us do, a skeptic, but looking for a cure for something. (For her, it was anxiety and tremulous nerves.) What she found was not that, yet so much more than that. Dederer offers us her experience of yoga, not from the perspective of a guru or teacher, but a humble practitioner, which creates a really refreshing and honest perspective. In her easy-going and humorous style, I found myself laughing with her, remembering some of my own thoughts and judgments while attending my first yoga class. She doesn’t pretend to be holier-than-thou, openly admitting to the things we all do in a yoga class –looking around to see what everyone else is doing, comparing ourselves, judging, longing, wanting.

These stories are all cleverly organized into chapters revolving around a specific yoga pose that further moves along the theme and/or narrative. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether a yogi or not (in fact, maybe especially not). I love a good memoir that lets me peek into the intimate details of someone else’s life journey, while enticing me to probe into my own. This book does that for me.

I’d like to end with this lovely little nugget Dederer discovers while attempting wheel pose:

It was easy to think of yoga as a cure, a program, a teleology. You were going to end up somewhere really great if you just stuck with it. I often thought about what yoga would give me: yoga butt, open hamstrings, equilibrium, a calm mind, that mysterious yoga glow…The idea was, you got better, looser, stronger while you were at yoga, and then you exported that excellence to the rest of life…What if, as [Boulder yoga teacher Katharine] Seidel said, we just enjoyed the way our bodies and minds were when we were at yoga, and stopped freighting it with expectations? What if the whole point of yoga wasn’t getting ready for the future, but was instead finding whatever pleasure we could in the present?

What do you think? What is the purpose of yoga for you?

Sidenote: Some of you may have noticed my infrequency in posts as of late. I have to admit, my focus has been elsewhere lately. You can find some of my other projects at my other blog, Creating, Cate’s Way. And for the month of November I will be participating in NaNoWriMo again, so you may not see much of me then either. But I hope to return to a more consistent posting schedule after the holidays. Hope you are all well. I have enjoyed hearing from some of you and about your own yoga journeys. Namaste.


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Iyengar Leaves This World for the Next

I don’t have a lot to say tonight, but I wanted to at least share something.

B. K. S. Iyengar passed on today.

In looking for a quote to share by Iyengar from one of his books, I came across this passage that I hadn’t remembered underlining in The Tree of Yoga that comforted me:

Death is unimportant to a yogi; he does not mind when he is going to die. What happens after death is immaterial to him. He is only concerned with life –with how he can use his life for the betterment of humanity. Having undergone various types of pain in his life and having acquired a certain mastery over pain, he develops compassion to help society and maintains himself in purity and holiness. The yogi has no interest beyond that.

Iyengar lived this. May we all strive to do the same.

B. K. S. Iyengar was a powerful bright light in the yoga community and will be missed. I, among millions of other Westerns, owe my yoga practice to him. I hope we, as a community, can continue to carry the light in his absence.

This is a lovely personal account by a yogi who happened to be blessed with right timing to attend his funeral rites

NY Times obituary

Namaste.

 

(P.S. This is a quick post tonight, but I will return soon with more. The wedding was wonderful and I am looking forward to share with you)


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Summer Lovin’

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a lovely lady’s slipper I found in my backyard

Hello Beautiful Readers,

This is just a quick note to explain some of the busy-ness I alluded to in my last post. I’m getting married this summer! The date is fast approaching and I’m starting to feel the pressure of juggling ten too many things on my to-do list.

So I will be taking the rest of the summer off from blogging. Since, I’m guessing, after the wedding I will be needing some time to pick up life where we left off pre-wedding, and to enjoy the beginning of married life.

Hope you all have a fantastic summer! Keep up with your practice, and enjoy that sunshine :)

I will see you again in the fall, (if I can stay away that long ;) ) I’m sure with lots of new stories to share!

2014-05-31 11.44.43

feelin’ the love, the strawberry-heart punch my friend made me for my wedding shower

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a butterfly and some chives enjoying the summer breeze


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The Meditation Practice that’s Working for Me Now

As my life seems to be getting more and more complicated lately, I have had a strong need to simplify my yoga and meditation practice.

For some reason Kundalini Yoga has felt too complicated. I can’t quite explain why, and I feel this is probably a temporary state, but it’s where I am. I’ve moved back to the basic hatha poses and sequences I started my practice with.

My meditation time too has simplified. I was having trouble picking from one of the many many Kundalini meditations, not having anything in particular I want to work on right now, other than the meditation practice itself. I have been drawn to simple silent meditation. Even chant and mantra has felt like too much.

So I sit.

I sit in silence.

An outward silence anyway.

I long for the simplicity of silence from within.

But the thoughts come.

I try to ignore them.

More thoughts come.

I’ve employed one simple technique to stop the thoughts before they carry me away. This is a practice I first read about in the book A Gradual Awakening, by Stephen Levine. Recently I have gone deeper with it and found it the most effective way to stop my thoughts, dead in their tracks.

I simply call them something. I give them a label and it appears this stops any momentum they were beginning to pick up. It’s like throwing a wet blanket over that thought.

I get quite specific with these labels, and this was the new difference for me. Before, all of my thoughts got one of four labels –planning, thinking, judging, remembering. But I discovered I could be more specific. Some planning thoughts are near-future planning, far-future planning, work planning. Many are rehearsing, where I’m lead into an entire imaginary conversation with myself. Much of my “thinking” is analyzing, processing, longing, wishing, wanting. A lot of times, putting the label on it allows me to see how silly, or pointless, or useless the thought is for this present moment.

Then there are thoughts that don’t hold much power over me in and of themselves, but the emotion attached to them does. Most of these thoughts are remembering. The emotions attached range from guilt, to sadness, to anger, to joy. Labeling the emotion lets me see it clearly for what it is. Once named, the emotion can just sit there with me, without holding on to me. I can go back into the silence, and it can join me or leave me there. I’m still sitting meditating, with or without the emotion.

I can go back into the silence for another moment, until another thought tries to take it over again.

Some thoughts are distractions from my environment –noticing bodily sensations, feeling, hearing.

Sometimes I actually find myself spending too much time thinking of the label, so, as silly as it sounds that thought gets one, “labeling.”

Silence lies within the spaces between all these thoughts. Putting a quick label on the thought suspends it. The more I do it, that little label pushes the thoughts back, creating slightly bigger and bigger spaces each time.

And this is what I want to get at. The goal of my meditation right now is simply the practice of it. The experience of those moments, split seconds sometimes, of meditation that is pure meditation and my mind does quiet.

This morning I sat zoning out a bit before I began my practice, watching the trees and grass outside. The sun was on the other side of the house, and it was a partly cloudy morning. I watched as, in a moment, everything became brighter and brighter, more vibrant shades of green and blue. The whole world changed as the cloud moved from the sun. It illuminated everything. Then just as suddenly, another cloud came back over it, and the colors dimmed again.

thoughts in meditation

the world under clouds

soul in meditation

sunshine illuminating everything

Meditation is like that for me. My thoughts are the clouds that muddy the moment. I can still see everything clearly, but nothing is illuminated. Then the clouds part for brief moments, and the sun, soul, God-particle, whatever you want to call it, illuminates everything and I can see what is really there.

Labeling those thought clouds seem to push them through the sky of my mind, letting that soul-sun shine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste,

Catie

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