Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vinyasa Yoga Book Club - Lasater #3

As a yoga teacher I tend to say things like "let go of the judging mind" during class. Yet, as a yoga student, I question this very statement. "Why do we seek to rise above the judging mind?   How can one live without judgment?"!

When I posed this question to my husband (who also happens to be a lawyer) he suggested we start with a definition of terms:

  • Judgement is the arrival at a conclusion by observing and examining evidence from an external perspective or as a disinterested observer while
  • Discernment requires immersing yourself in the experience and allowing the conclusion to come to your through the experience.  

Indeed, Ms. Lasater tells us that “the power of discrimination helps us better understand the nature of reality”.  Judgement actually shields our ability to have a direct experience with reality - yet our ability to know the truth demands our direct experience with reality.  

Here’s an example.  Have you ever dumped out a gallon of milk because the expiration date had passed, but never actually tasted the milk to be sure?  Who wants to taste sour milk, right?  If you threw out the milk - you judged by examining external evidence that the milk had expired - yet you really didn’t know it was.  In order to discern the milk is expired, you gotta drink it.  Our fear of drinking sour milk - or rather our fear of pain - keeps up judging.  

The ancient yogis understood this dilemma and created an entire system to help overcome this fear.  The system included meditation, chanting, postures, eating habits, and so on.  

Yet in order to even begin any one of these practices to overcome fear and shed the judging mind, one must have faith that these tools can, indeed, work.  Without this faith, you’ll never practice enough to overcome this fear.  

Essentially yoga demands a huge leap of faith.

Once you discover faith, one must practice each method with what Patanjali describes as “a steady and comfortable seat.” Sthira-sukham asanam.  Yoga has evolved to mean many things to many people.  Without discerning for yourself, you won’t know which method you need today.  You must step into the fire and have your own direct experience with reality to find out.  

Once we are able to overcome the judging mind, does the whole world change? Nope.

It’s the same mind.  It’s the same universe.  It’s the same person with the same story.  All that changes from your steady practice is your perspective.  Doesn’t sounds so glamorous, eh?  

Well consider this, enlightenment itself is a radical change in perspective.  

Ms. Lasater further suggests that “with our willingness to have perspective, not only do we increase our ability to distinguish the important from the unimportant, we also increase our capacity for compassion toward ourselves and others.  By paying attention to how we lose perspective about the little things … we can create a a bit of opening our perspective to accommodate the more important things.”


A suggestion for practice:

Chanting is the most primitive form of music and is one tool used by yogis to change our perspective.  Music clearly can change one’s mood - with just a few notes a song can send you on an emotional ride into the past.  Music can lift you up or sink you down, bring tears or laughter.  Music is like medicine, and when applied skillfully has the potential to remove fear and help us find that enlightened perspective we all seek.

The Sanskrit language was created to resonate deeply within the human body.  Skillful mediators and practitioners of the day created Sanskrit as a medicinal language.  Chapter 4 offers one of my favorite threads from the Sutras - sthira-sukham asanam or “the posture should be steady and comfortable (or, as I like to say, joyful).” Yoga Sutra 2:46

Take a few moments to chant this thread or sutra - maybe for a minute or two.  Then pause and feel it’s effects on the mind and body.  When is it important for you in your life to strike this balance between effort and ease?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Vinyasa Yoga Book Club Lasater #2

Last week we looked at the idea that ananda, or bliss, while always available to us and indeed found at our essence, it takes work to clear our view - to remove the veil if you will, created by years of bad habits, misinformation or even personal circumstance, to experience andanda or bliss.

Patanjali - attributed with codifying the oral tradition of yoga into what is known as the Yoga Sutras or “threads”, tells us in the third sutra Tada drashtuh svarupe’vasthanum or “then the seer abides in its true nature.” 

Lasater provides a classic visual of sutra 3 - carving form stone.  She describes, “When carving the sculpture removes everything that is not the statue.  The art of revealing beauty lies in removing what conceals it.  So too, Patanjali tells us that wholeness exists within us. " 

Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essece, not self.

Many people come to yoga to relieve pain.  And while yoga can certainly help our aching backs and bolster our spirits, it cannot insulate us from the pain that life inevitable brings.   If yoga doesn’t relieve that sort of deep, existential pain - why do it?

Lasater explains,

“I have found that being in a state of yoga releives suffering specifically the suffering caused by being in separateion from my wholeness.”  In otherwords, “tada drashtu svarope’vasthanum.”

In order to stand in our true nature it takes - you guessed it - hard work, or discipline or abhyasa but also something else vairagya or detachment.  From what must we detach? Patajali names five afflictions of the human mind.  You may know them?  Ignorance, me-ness, attachment, aversion and the will to live.  Literally Avidya or ignorance means “actively being in a state of not seeing the true nature of reality.”  Abhyasa is not uninterest.  Actually its the opposite.  Uninterest is when you turn your back on life whereas to be detached is to stand in the middle of life’s frenzy and remain calm and peaceful.

From this perspective, spiritual seekng “is not what we do outwordly, but what we acknowledge inwardly. … we are not on a spiritual path, we are the spitirtual path.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

Vinyasa Yoga Book Club - Lasater #1

Today we eased into the Vinyasa Yoga Book Club idea, picking words of wisdom from the introduction and forward.  So for those of you who have yet to pick up your copy of Judith Lasater's "Living Your Yoga" won't be left in the dust.  And of course, if you don't plan on following along, still come.  Like any good book club, you don't have to read the book to have a great time.  Same rules apply at Eyes of the World Yoga Studio 8:15 AM every Saturday for the next couple of months.

With 21 chapters, we most likely won't speak to every one (that would take over six months!) but rather, plan to read two-to-three chapters per week - culminating in a book discussion during a Sunday evening in February (TBA). The book chapters are short, well-written gems on yoga philosophy and asana (postures) that will surely show up in your daily life off the yoga mat (and isn't that what we're here for?).

Georg Fuerstein, a must-know himself in the yoga community, insists in his first line of the book's forward that the goal of yoga is happiness (ananda), yet he closes his forward emphasizing bravery, courage and discipline to discover that happiness.

He writes, "the path toward yoga's lofty goal of Self-realization (atma-jnana) is not in the least glamorous. On the contrary, it is quite humbling. For we must constantly, bravely, and compassionately face our limitations in order to realize our unlimited potential as spiritual beings."
Is this a classic 'Catch 22'? Not really. Yoga itself relies on the concept of union of opposites to achieve opening, release and ultimately happiness. It suits this ancient practice that Fuerstein opens in this way - and so lays the groundwork for our inquiry.

Lasater in her introduction suggests that if we are to truly live yogicly we must consider every moment, every thought a pose. An opportunity to practice, which she defines as the "consistent willingness to open to life in all of its joy and pain." That our practice off the mat is an exercise in paying "attention to your whole life: your thoughts, your bodily sensations, and your speech and our actions. ... Each moment of your life is a moment of potential practice."

Beyond the physical fitness we may enjoy as a result of our yoga practice, we also learn to "respond to life less from patterns of defense and more from integrity." And in order to explore the potential yoga has to offer, we must at a minimum consider removing "layers of doubt, fear, and denial that keep you from experiencing connection with your own wholeness."

Consider preparing for next Saturday January 12th class by reading chapters 1 - 3. And if you don't get to it, still come! You'll get a summary and a good stretch.

May you discover ananda in this moment.

Friday, January 4, 2013

RI Company Paves New Road to Wellness

Contact: Jennifer Spaziano, Co-Owner, 401.684.1789,,

RI Company Paves New Road to Wellness
Rhode to Wellness launches RI Yoga and Pilates Passport 2013

Rhode Island Statewide Initiative ~ January 3rd, 2013: With a great influx of yoga and Pilates studios throughout the state, it’s daunting – and expensive – to decide where to start, or grow, your practice.  A Rhody-grown project, the Yoga and Pilates Passport, connects locals with hundreds of hours of yoga and Pilates at numerous studios statewide at an affordable price just in time for New Year’s resolutions.

“As a yoga teacher, what I’ve heard from students is that the hardest class to attend is the first one,” explains Jennifer Spaziano, co-founder of the Passport.  “And with so many different styles and levels, it’s confusing to know what’s best for that person.  Our mission is to reduce those barriers – time, money, confusion – and get people to take the first step.  Additionally, the Passport seeks to support the growing, yet fragile, wellness industry in the State.”

In a local coffee shop early last year, she described an idea to overcome these barriers while building camaraderie among local wellness businesses; to friend, yoga teacher and now co-founder of the Passport Jenn Thomas.

“What I saw was an opportunity to create a platform that supports an individual’s personal ‘Rhode to Wellness’”, Thomas said hinting to the parent company actually launching the Passport.  “The Passport inspires people to explore all that yoga and Pilates has to offer locally – even for the current student who may be stuck in rut and needs motivation to explore new styles and teachers.”

In addition to the vast benefits students will experience from practicing yoga and Pilates, Spaziano and Thomas have a vision to improve a studio’s financial sustainability through increased visibility.  Indeed, the two have launched a partnership with the Greater Providence YMCA and are offering the Passport at a discount to all Lifepsan employees through an internal wellness program.  They hope to expand their partnerships to employee wellness programs at local companies throughout Rhode Island.

“We’re also offering deep discounts to nonprofits serving our local community and bringing on local businesses as vendors, furthering the Passport’s reach and impact,” explains Thomas, who directly interfaces with the businesses offering the Passport to their employees and customers.  “We’re excited for people to embark on a new journey towards health and well being – be it their first step or the next step in a new direction.”

To support people in making this important decision, Rhode to Wellness is offering a 20% discount in January with coupon code A1780-12 at

Participating studios from across the state:

Santosha Yoga Studio & Holistic Center
14 Bartlett Ave. 2nd Floor
Cranston, RI 02905
Bellevue Barre
94 William Street
Newport RI 02842
High Street Yoga
44 High Street
Westerly RI 02891
North East Power Yoga
38 High Street
Westerly RI 02891
Ocean State Bikram Yoga
560 Mineral Spring Avenue #104
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Iyengar Yoga Source
200 Allens Ave. Suite 4A
Providence, RI 02906
Grace School of Yoga
35 Weaver Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Bristol Yoga Studio
676 Hope Street
Bristol, RI 02809
Focus Yoga
63 Cedar Avenue
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Eyes of the World Yoga
One Park Row
providence, RI 02903
Providence Power Yoga
51 Bassett Street
Providence, RI 02903
Yoga One Inc.
599 Waterman Avenue
East Providence, RI 02914
Breathing Time Yoga
541 Pawtucket Ave, 2nd floor
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Tenth Gate Center for Yoga and Meditation
Glen View
1046 East Main Road
Portsmouth, RI 02871
All That Matters
315 Main Street
Wakefield, RI 02879
The Heart Spot
700 Greenville Avenue
Johnston, RI 02919
One Yoga Center
142A Danielson Pike
Foster, RI 02825
Innerlight Center for Yoga & Meditation
Middletown Commons
850 Aquidneck Avenue
Middletown, RI 02842
Body Dynamics
1764 Mendon Road, Unit 5
Cumberland, RI 02864
Motion Center
111 Chestnut Street, Ground Floor
Providence, RI 02903
Jen McWalters Studio Pilates and Beyond
999 Main Street
Suite 111
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Bayside Family YMCA of Greater Providence
70 West St
Barrington RI 02806
Cranston YMCA of Greater Providence
1225 Park Ave
Cranston RI 02910
East Side/Mt Hope YMCA of Greater Providence
438 Hope St.
Providence RI 02906
Kent County YMCA of Greater Providence
900 Centerville Rd
Warwick RI 02886
Block Island, RI 02807
True Balance
71 Maple Ave
Barrington, RI
The Yoga Loft
16 Cutler Street
Warren, RI 0288
Newman YMCA of Greater Providence
472 Taunton Ave
Seekonk MA 02771
South County YMCA of Greater Providence
165 Broad Rock Rd
Peace Dale, RI 02883
West Bay Family YMCA of Greater Providence
7540 Post Rd
North Kingstown RI 02852
Jude Monteserrato
240 Columbia Street
Wakefield, RI 02879
Heart of Avondale
93 Watch Hill Road
Westerly, RI 02891
Elevation Studio & Cafe
72 West Side Rd
Block Island, RI
Time For You Yoga
2155 Diamond Hill Road
Cumberland, RI 02864
Simplify Yoga
1050 Tiogue Avenue
Coventry, RI 02816
545 Pawtucket Avenue (Carver Street Entrance)
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Pulse Newport
1 Casino Terrace #8
Newport, RI 02840

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