steellotus asked: Kiam, if I recall correctly you're a yoga instructor? I have been doing yoga for a little over a year now and am getting better & seeing tremendous progress, however, my hips seem to be static. I have a hard time with twist and turns because my hips are always a bit tight. I stretch and am flexible, but it seems as if I cannot move deeper because of my hips. Anything I can do to loosen them more-- I need them to budge!
yes! I would recommend doing restorative poses that open the hips passively. this is going to take time and devotion to open the hips and allow more movement. to begin, try taking more time in pigeon pose to really fall deeply into the posture, something like 3-5 minutes on each side. the key is resting while opening the hips, because the connections in the hip bones and musculature there are very tight, and you basically have to soothe them gently into gaining more mobility.
another one is supta bada konasana, basically the “butterfly” stretch, using a belt/strap. here’s how to do it:
place the pads of the feet together, and place the belt underneath the feet (on the little toe sides). wrap the belt over the ankles and over the legs on both sides, and then connected in the back, near the sacrum. tighten the belt to bring the feet closer to your base - this should feel challenging but not painful. then slowly lie back into savasana with the feet together and hips open like so, releasing into the posture for 5-10 minutes. Try to enjoy this pose, it’s very relaxing!
Good luck! Let me know how it goes!
Kiam Marcelo Junio, 2012
Written by my good friend and fellow Mt. Madonna Yoga Teacher Training alumni, Andrea Macdonald from Vancouver.
The article does a great job discussing privilege, savior complexes, post-colonialist attitudes, and predatory gentrification. The writer also presents a different vision for service of others through Yoga.
“As an inherent part of the colonial project, Europeans categorized themselves as the “civilized” and Indigenous peoples as the “savages,” the underlying assumption being that as savages, “Indians” were at the bottom of human development. From this institutionalized bias a complex set of images, terminology, policies and legislation has set Aboriginal peoples apart, both geographically (on reserves and residential schools), and as inferior peoples. In the larger society such assumptions are perpetuated through the media and the marketplace, through Hollywood, comics, ads and tourist sites. Such racism is deeply institutionalized to the point that it is the norm in White North American society (emphasis added).”
Whenever newcomers set up shop in a neighbourhood that is experiencing gentrification,especially when we are trying to do good work,it is important that we are mindful of the realities of the neighbourhood which we now “call home”. In fact, it is all too common that predatory condo developers shroud their intentions in language similar to service – language like “renewal” and ”revitalization”.Harsha Waliaexplains:
“In cities like Vancouver that purport to be progressive, the violence of gentrification is masked behind [an] ideological discourse aimed at giving it an air of reasonableness. First is “urban renewal.” This presumes that the downtrodden ghetto will be uplifted and revitalized through social entrepreneurship and trickle-down investment… (emphasis added)”.
Read the full article (or have your computer read it to you like I did)!
Love and energy must continue in motion.
Many desire change only to be still. We want things to shift for ourselves and others in a way that only perpetuates our self-image.
I see now how much more satisfying it is to love and let it go, knowing that love will continue to change and move in new, organic, and heartfelt directions, affecting so many others.
(Top 4 images on Google Search for “Bindi”)
A bindi (Hindi: बिंदी, from Sanskrit bindu, meaning “a drop, small particle, dot”) is a forehead decoration worn in South Asia(particularly India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mauritius). and Southeast Asia. Traditionally it is a dot of red color applied in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of a sign or piece of jewelry worn at this location.
In modern times, bindis are worn by women of many religious dispositions in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and is not restricted to Hindus. Many Muslim women in Bangladesh and Pakistan wear the bindi as part of makeup.
- From Vedic times, the bindi was created as a means to worship one’s intellect. Therefore it was used by both men and women. The worship of intellect was in order to use it to ensure our thoughts, speech, actions, habits and ultimately our character becomes pure. A strong intellect can help one to make noble decisions in life, be able to stand up to challenges in life with courage, and recognize and welcome good thoughts in life. The belief was that on this a strong individual, a strong family and strong society can be formed.
- In meditation, this very spot between the eyebrows (Bhrumadhya) is where one focuses his/her sight, so that it helps concentration. Most images of Buddha or Hindu divinities in meditative pose with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between eyebrows (other spot being the tip of the nose – naasikagra).
Bindis are worn throughout South Asia, specifically India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, by women, men, girls and boys, and no longer signify age, marital status, religious background or ethnic affiliation. The bindi has become a decorative item and is no longer restricted in colour or shape.  Self-adhesive bindis (also known as sticker bindis) are available, usually made of felt or thin metal and adhesive on the other side. These are simple to apply, disposable substitutes for older tilak bindis. Sticker bindis come in many colors, designs, materials, and sizes. Some are decorated with sequins, glass beads, or rhinestones.
Bindis are not always red, nor always a dot, nor always worn by women. They are called kumkum or bindi, or tilak (“mark”) when worn by men. Usually Hindu women, priests, monks and worshipers wear it. Men wear it on auspicious occasions such as Puja (ritual worship), or marriage, or Aarti (waving of lights), on festive occasions such as on Raksha-bandhan, Bhaai-duj, Karvaa Chauth or Paadwaa or Dasshera, or while embarking on, or upon return from a voyage or a campaign. It is also worn by Jains and Buddhists (even in China).
Yoga on the beach. Happy OMdependence Day. (Taken with Instagram)
okay, i’m obsessed with yoga.
Okay, I’m obsessed with pointing out the inanity of people parading around unaware of the social inequalities surrounding them and their own status of privilege and how they continue to perpetuate colonialist ideals by flaunting their (most often) white bodies in yoga postures in disadvantaged locales to the blurred faces of poor, uncultured, or exotic local residents as a display of appropriation and subjugation of culture and abuse of power.
My fellow yoga bitches, please don’t be dumb. Please.
Last weekend, I took two workshops with Anton Mackey, a talented gymnast-turned-yoga teacher. The focus of the first was “Arm balances and lifts,” and the second “Handstands.” I signed up hoping that Anton would give us all his knowledge, and in no time, we would all be floating on our palms, slicing the air with our legs in perfect posture. I crouched there on my mat, preparing for a variation on Bakasana (Crane/Crow), a pose I’ve only recently learned to execute (for about two seconds). As I placed my knees into my armpits, they immediately slid with the sweat – we were in a heated room, after all. I kept trying to balance by shifting my weight forward, sure that I would fall flat on my face. I looked around and saw people floating, gliding through the poses and taking advanced variations; appearing truly like the cranes we were imitating. I feared I would fall. I feared that I was not good enough to be taking this workshop. I feared that I was a sham as a yoga practitioner, much less a teacher. However, Anton kept encouraging us to try, and try, and try again. “Do not be afraid to fall,” he would say. “The floor is not that far.” True, very true indeed, since the floor was about half an inch off my face as I kept slipping. “Pull the knees in from your core, hollow out the lower back,” he instructed. I kept attempting to the point of near-frustration. I know I have a lot of Pitta (fire+water element) in me, and this was only aggravating and pushing me farther towards combustion. And then I stopped. I sat and rolled my shoulders back, relaxed my neck one way, then the other. I breathed slowly and deeply. Then, I tried again. I still did not get the posture, but this time, I was at least much more mindful of my movements. I told myself, this is where I am right now, and this is perfect. Nothing, no one else, outside of my mat matters. I am exactly where I need to be. Towards the end of class, Anton gave us the analogy of a baby who must first learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, before he or she can run (or do handstands). I am still new to this. I have been practicing for only two years, and I have my whole lifetime to learn, to improve. I do not need to rush to become the next best thing since split mung beans. I just have to trust in my intention to practice to the best of my ability, and enjoy the exploration. Isn’t that what life is, after all? A journey to be explored? Too often we rush ourselves and forget the most basic of all actions, to simply breathe. And to connect with the ground, which, luckily, is never too far.
Last weekend, I took two workshops with Anton Mackey, a talented gymnast-turned-yoga teacher. The focus of the first was “Arm balances and lifts,” and the second “Handstands.” I signed up hoping that Anton would give us all his knowledge, and in no time, we would all be floating on our palms, slicing the air with our legs in perfect posture.
I crouched there on my mat, preparing for a variation on Bakasana (Crane/Crow), a pose I’ve only recently learned to execute (for about two seconds). As I placed my knees into my armpits, they immediately slid with the sweat – we were in a heated room, after all. I kept trying to balance by shifting my weight forward, sure that I would fall flat on my face. I looked around and saw people floating, gliding through the poses and taking advanced variations; appearing truly like the cranes we were imitating. I feared I would fall. I feared that I was not good enough to be taking this workshop. I feared that I was a sham as a yoga practitioner, much less a teacher.
However, Anton kept encouraging us to try, and try, and try again. “Do not be afraid to fall,” he would say. “The floor is not that far.” True, very true indeed, since the floor was about half an inch off my face as I kept slipping. “Pull the knees in from your core, hollow out the lower back,” he instructed. I kept attempting to the point of near-frustration. I know I have a lot of Pitta (fire+water element) in me, and this was only aggravating and pushing me farther towards combustion.
And then I stopped. I sat and rolled my shoulders back, relaxed my neck one way, then the other. I breathed slowly and deeply. Then, I tried again. I still did not get the posture, but this time, I was at least much more mindful of my movements. I told myself, this is where I am right now, and this is perfect. Nothing, no one else, outside of my mat matters. I am exactly where I need to be.
Towards the end of class, Anton gave us the analogy of a baby who must first learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, before he or she can run (or do handstands). I am still new to this. I have been practicing for only two years, and I have my whole lifetime to learn, to improve. I do not need to rush to become the next best thing since split mung beans. I just have to trust in my intention to practice to the best of my ability, and enjoy the exploration. Isn’t that what life is, after all? A journey to be explored? Too often we rush ourselves and forget the most basic of all actions, to simply breathe. And to connect with the ground, which, luckily, is never too far.
Of all the things we are afraid of, the most prominent, it seems is the fear of change itself. We seem to be hard-wired to prefer pattern over spontaneity. A lack of change means security, safety, assurance that things will go on as they have. We are only willing to change if doing so would be less painful than staying in the current situation. This is why we stay in jobs we hate, because it still beats being out in the streets. We would rather suffer a little, thinking, perhaps it builds character.
I’ve always embraced change. I enjoy trying new things and taking risk. I like life-changing events and momentous decisions. Perhaps it stems from my upbringing. From a young age, I moved around so frequently that by the age of 10 I had already lived in 7 different households, and spoke 3 languages.. As you see, there are benefits and drawbacks to being raised this way. On one hand, I had a wealth of experiences and met many different people. On the other hand, it was difficult to form lasting relationships. This has carried on to my adult life, aided by the fact that I worked for the US Navy, and also moved frequently.
This past summer, I experienced many life changes. I left the military, traveled through Central America and Mexico and went to yoga teacher training. I’ve also since moved to Chicago to begin art school. I feel as if I’ve wiped my life clean, and began again at the base with yoga, meditation, and the quest for self-realization through art.
I’ve given up all the comforts and security of the military life - a steady paycheck, free healthcare and dental, travel opportunities. And for what? A nebulous career as an artist and a yoga teacher, hustling my way through the world. Why did I do it? Because I was afraid to stay in any longer. I was afraid that I would never realize my potential by remaining in the military. And as wonderful as it was feeling secure in my job, I always felt as if I had no autonomy, as if my life belonged to someone else. And so it wasn’t the fear of change that gripped me, but rather the opposite. The fear of pattern, of no change.
A friend once told me, “I wish I was as brave as you.” This friend had been on many tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. She has seen many horrors in her life and has persevered with a happy constitution intact. She is a badass in my eyes. And yet she called me brave. Humbled by this, I told her that I didn’t see myself as being brave, but rather doing whatever is necessary for me to find my happiness. I believe that this should not take courage, but be borne of pure necessity to realize yourself. Because when it comes down to it, this is my biggest fear: that I’ll never know myself and what I’m capable of doing.
I’m currently reading The Art of Non-Comformity by Chris Guillebeau. It’s a fascinating read, full of great ideas and concepts I think about much too often. At times, it almost feels as if I’m reading my own journal. One of the chapters in the book is the importance of conquering fear.
We all have fears and insecurities, and I believe they are there for a reason. In yogic philosophy, they are called “samskaras” or past imprints that we carry, such as bad habits or thought patterns. Like these samskaras, fear manifests to be challenged or reinforced. During my yoga teacher training at Mt. Madonna Center, I learned to deal with whatever emotions or memories that sprung up. They come to the surface of the mind and we have to realize that we wield the power to do with them what we desire.
When a thought of insecurity enters the mind we can do one of two things. The first option is to say “Yes, that is true, I am a very bad/ugly/fat/uninteresting person. This reinforces the negative samskara to be able to repeat more often. The ego likes pattern, after all. Unfortunately, it does not discriminate between “good self-image” thoughts, and destructive ones. All it wants is reaffirmation of its existence and emotional power.
The other course of action to take is to obliterate this samskara. Rather than give in to the negative mindset, it’s important to change one’s frame of mind to a more positive, strong mindset. When it applies to fear, one must try to conquer it. This is the same basis under which people “cure” themselves of their phobias, by confronting their fears slowly and repeatedly.
Guillebeau writes, “fear begins with an undefined worry, a voice in the back of your head that says you’re not good enough, you won’t succeed with anything big or significatnt, and you might as well give up and stop trying to stand out.” What do we do when we hear this voice? Rather than following or agreeing with these thoughts, instead tell yourself, “NO, I will not stand for this. I am more than this. I am better than this. I can do this.”
(stay tuned for more on “Fear”)
My time on Mt. Madonna has brought me face to face with my ego. These past few days, I’ve made it my goal to dissociate myself from this personality, see myself as separate.
But the task is not to eradicate the ego, but rather, to learn and observe it, so that everything done is for a greater good, and not simply to reinforce preconceptions.
I’ve lived my life alongside this individual self - who craves love and affection, who sings at the top of his lungs, and who fiercely guards the heart.
My ego is highly protective, ready at the gates to bark at anyone trying to sneak in. He raises walls and sends arrows spinning in the air.
He wakes me in the morning, often with a song. Jumping and chanting, he burns through thoughts like smoke, billowing out the window.
At breakfast, he smashes a piñata as I make myself coffee. I watch him greedily devouring candied memories and plans. He leaves the wrappers on the floor.
My ego loves his reflection and if he doesn’t look his best, blames it on dirty mirrors.
When we go to the beach, he stays by the shore, jumping into waves, but afraid of getting swept away into the sea. No amount of convincing can get him to dive deeper to see the fish. But he is curious when I bring him shells and seaweed.
At night he sleeps, nestled by my chest, softly snoring. He often hogs the blankets.
There are no cool kids.
we are simply here
baring our selves, our bruised pasts and egos
our blind futures
we drink tea
and break down a pose into innumerably variable steps
We pour water down our nostrils to quiet our overactive minds
just long enough, perhaps
to get a glimpse of a flame
the whisper of an ancient note lying just
under the whistling
of our own constricted breaths
We are all here
of the same vital
energy, this Prána
the cells within our bodies
that blows the grass
and tells the trees to reach higher
The same energy
as the sun’s rays
sweeping away morning mountain mists
the same energy
that spins the heavens in unfathomably eternal rotations
We are all here
the same shared moment
the same intent
the same breath.
Greetings from Mt. Madonna Center. Today starts our second week in Yoga teacher training. The past week has been especially intense for everybody. On top of the philosophy-heavy curriculum, we practice Pranayama (breathing techniques), and Meditation for about an hour every morning, 1.5 hrs of Asana (yoga postures), and another 3-hr Asana workshop in the afternoon. Working with our bodies in such a fashion appears to stimulate the release a lot of stored memories. Many of my classmates have had intense emotional releases in the past week, and I have felt very vulnerable as well. A lot of old wounds have reopened, harkening back to childhood memories and past trauma.
For me, one of these prominent subjects that gripped my mind last week was the concept of “cool kids.” As children and teenagers, we are drawn to other classmates who seem to “have it all,” or carry an aura of “coolness.” We then cultivate both a respect for these people, and an opposing “inferiority complex” for ourselves. We think they’re so cool, and we are not.
As I’ve gotten older, a lot of these prejudices have fallen away. That kid might have the coolest new kicks, but… something something something. We begin to slowly realize no one is perfect. And that we are all cool in our own way. And there’s no need to envy anyone for what they have.
Easier said than done, of course. Last week, I found myself lonely and out of place. I had many questions about the existence of human suffering, on a cosmic level, and a much more personal one. I had no answers, and when I asked, was turned away, to move inward. More than once I considered leaving.
I stuck around, of course; those who know me well know I don’t give up easily. And big questions always get my gears going. I began to talk and share with my classmates. I meditated on the present moment. I thought of the infinite ways that I am fortunate. Then on Friday night, after class, we had a wicked dance party.
Writing has also helped me to process these thoughts. Yesterday, I felt compelled to share my writing with my classmates, after hearing others share their intense emotional output. I know that a lot of us have been going through the same thing - emotional turmoil, a sense of displacement, home-sickness, apprehension about the future, etc. We are all experiencing many of the same symptoms of such an intensive and spiritual curriculum. And there is no shame in admitting this now, only solidarity. Without our normal support systems of friends and family, we students only have each other.
So here’s to another 2.5 weeks of looking inward, finding the truth that lies within. And dance parties.