Yoga, Work, Love, and Breathing

I was blessed and honored to have a class tonight with not only a fellow Sivananda yoga teacher, but a truly lovely, kind, generous, compassionate human being. I feel the molecules in the air buzzing while at the same time feeling content and grounded.

Om. Sat Chit Ananda.

Sometimes I forget how soothing yoga is. Which brings me to my job. Work has been tense lately, and not just for me, but for my colleagues, too. Though I can’t control what is going on around me, I can check my own response and attitude toward my environment. The good thing about this stress is that it is giving me clarity on things I’d like to be, do, or have. I’ve been making a conscious effort to shift the strain at my job, and I think it is working – not only in terms of being calm, but in being more productive.

Here is what I do:

Rather than thinking bad thoughts about work on my way there, I “send my love before me.” I send loving thoughts ahead of me—I imagine love is like liquid light—flooding my office, getting into the cracks and crevices, the carpet, the computers, the equipment, the toilets—all of it—and I see it surrounding the people there. As my thoughts travel, I find that I love exactly where I am in thon the way home (c) 2014 holly troye moment and in space—my legs pushing my bike pedals, the air moving past me, the trees, the sky. Even if it lasts for 15 minutes in my imagination, my day is already better for it.

I set a timer for every 45 minutes to stop what I am doing to focus on my breath for at least three breaths (no matter how much of an “emergency”other people are experiencing —and believe me—I don’t work in a hospital so nothing is really that much of an emergency).

Review my dreams upon waking – rather than looking at my computer.

Get up early enough to write for at least five minutes every morning after meditating for 5 to 10 minutes. I review what I’ve written at least once a week.

Take at least one small (sometimes super tiny) action everyday that moves me toward changes I’d like to see in my life.

* * * * *

I am posting the article below for inspiration. It is written by Swami Sitaramananda and was posted on the Yoga Farm blog. Here’s the post (see it in full here):

29 Tips to Deal With Stress

Modern Life is full of stress and strains and demands on our system. Stress comes from the inability or difficulty to adapt due to habits, ego, attachments and fears. Stress can also be the result of not having enough Prana (energy) to cope with the demands or pressure. When we are stressed, we develop negative feelings and lose even more Prana. It can snowball into a big problem.

Here are a few tips to unblock energy and turn around the stress drain:

  1. Breathe consciously and rhythmically; inhale to the count of three, exhale to the count of three. This will synchronize your brain waves and your heart rhythm.
  2. Move calmly. Best is to regularly practice yoga postures or asanas which gently move the body, stretch the muscles and turn the mind inward to more awareness. Asanas performed consciously in the right sequence—with proper holding, concentration, breathing and relaxation—release blockages of energy and recharge you with new vitality.
  3. Resist spending too much effort, no matter what you are doing. Effort needs to be balanced with relaxation.
  4. Take time alone to find yourself. Constantly being in a network of relationships is very draining.
  5. Slow down. Be aware not to be trapped in the Maya (illusion) of your challenging situation.
  6. Do one thing at a time. This is the principle of Raja Yoga. Stress can come from too much happening at the same time, so slow down and focus on one thing at a time.
  7. Focus on a positive object such as the sun.
  8. Meditate to have the direct experience of the Self.
  9. Detach! Keep yourself calm and do not buy into the drama that the mind creates.
  10. See the big picture. Change your perspective.
  11. Connect with Nature. Take a walk; look at trees, the sky, flowers, stars or the moon.
  12. Remember your Immortal Self. Experience beingness and oneness.
  13. Use your senses to bring you back to positivity. For instance, listen to nice music, get a therapeutic massage, practice aromatherapy, contemplate beautiful images or taste delicate food.
  14. Be grateful. Count your blessings.
  15. Be content. Tell yourself, “I already have enough.”
  16. Surrender. What is happening may not be what you want, but it may be what you need. Know that everything happens for a reason.
  17. Acceptance. It is not my will; it is God’s will.
  18. Balance your energy by doing different activities than usual.
  19. Tell yourself. “This too shall pass.”
  20. Tell yourself, “God loves me no matter what.”
  21. Withdraw the attention within and cease comparing.
  22. Refrain from judging yourself and others.
  23. Tell yourself, “This is my opportunity to learn.
  24. Realize that you are only the witness of whatever is happening.
  25. Affirm to do the best you can and let go of the results, good or bad.
  26. Avoid extremes of love and hate.
  27. Come back to the present.
  28. Rest.
  29. Keep trust and faith.

For me – #30. Ride your bicycle – even if you are feeling lazy!

Thanks for reading!

Peace ~ Holly

yoga roots and asana

I’ve been thinking about my yoga roots lately, and came across this video of variations on the twelve basic asanas sequence through the Sivananda school of yoga. It looks like this was filmed at the ashram in Grass Valley, California.

Some of these variations are very advanced. I’m inspired!

Om shanti, shanti om.

sun burst (c) holly troy 2014

Born on a Thursday #59 – Making Maps as We Go

Happy summer everyone!! I hope you are all having adventures and enjoying each day as much as possible. 

I took some time off from teaching yoga for a bit, sometimes I need the space and time to digest what i have learned and, also, to decide what I am going to do next. I do love teaching, and for me, part of it is following the ebb and flow of my own ability for give and take, for growth, and for creativity. I really get into it.

I’ve recently begun teaching at Truly Fit, and I have to come up with a teacher bio. Searching my computer to piece together a little something, I came across this essay about yoga and this blog. I think I was going to post it on my “bio” or “about” page. I’m not sure when I wrote it, but I never posted it (it’s a little ambivalent). However, in keeping with social media’s “throw back Thursday” – I am posting it today. 

Here goes . . . 

For the longest time I’ve had my Yoga Bio up on this page – and for the longest time I feel like it doesn’t say who I am. Really, how could it?

Yeah, I teach yoga.  It’s totally hip.

Nowadays, being a yoga teacher could mean I am a bored housewife who decided what fun it would be to stay in shape while I teach my other bored housewife friends yoga. We could dish about the latest articles and outfits in Yoga Journal over chai lattes after class.

Or maybe I am a middle-aged divorcee who started taking yoga to keep myself grounded after my horrible break-up.

Maybe I am a tree-hugging granola-type who likes to spend time all day spacing out.

Maybe I like to wear spandex.

IMG_0823Yoga is hip. Maybe that’s good, maybe it isn’t. Some people will try yoga. Cool.

I really can’t stand yoga clichés.

The truth of the matter is, I do yoga because it feels good. I like being around other people who are feeling good, too.

When I trained to be a yoga teacher back in 1996, most people thought I was crazy. Live on an ashram for a month? Is a yoga farm like that Spinal Tap song Sex Farm? Chant? Meditate? What’s a sutra? Why do you wanna be a freak and bend like a pretzel?

Sivananda - 12 Basic Asanas
Sivananda – 12 Basic Asanas

Yoga training was hardcore. One week into it, even I feared (for a moment) I was being sucked into a cult. But, I stuck with it. I weakly held on to the fact in the back of my mind that I was in a band, and without a lead singer they couldn’t play gigs, so one of my band mates for certain would rescue me if I needed it. Mostly, though, I let go and allowed myself to be and to learn and to change.

I remember the night before yoga teacher graduation. I was in a group hug with four of my classmates. We declared that our time on the ashram was “the eternity that never was”.  That cosmic blip in the space of my life experience softened me (and still continues to soften me).

Since then, yoga has become very popular in the U.S.—and far more westernized than how I learned it at Sivananda. But then again, perhaps the whole world is a bit more westernized.

My life has shifted since I began practicing yoga, too. Sometimes I am not as steady with my practice as I’d like to be, but I do the best I can. Perhaps yoga helps me to settle my experiences in my body and consciousness.

My yoga bio is only a small part of the story. I put it on the site because I teach yoga.

But what is Sacred Folly blog about?

It’s about what I’m into—and I’m into a lot of things. I’ll post stuff about (and not limited to): yoga, spirituality, music (my own and other musicians), visual art (painting, photography, etching, artists), crafts, writing (essays, poetry, short-fiction, book reviews, other writers) sub-culture, counter-culture, perma-culture, DIY-culture, bicycling, Beauty (with a capital B), nutrition, medicinal herbs, magic, astrology, tarot, alternative healing, sustainability, mother earth, shards of memory, and dreams—stuff that makes me marvel at being alive.

Maybe I made this site to help myself navigate through what it means to be human.

Om shanti, shanti om.

Thanks for reading!

20 Notes on Lasting Happiness by Swami Sitaramananda (reblog)

Reposted from the Sivananda Yoga Farm blog.

1. When the mind is more focused, you are happier. When the mind is one-pointed, it doesn’t swing so much. If it doesn’t have many waves, then you are happy.

2. Objects appear to give you happiness because of the conditioning of your mind to like this and dislike that, but truly objects cannot bring you lasting happiness. All objects are external things, but happiness comes from within you; it is your true nature.

3. Happiness that is the result of habit is not free and unlimited, therefore it comes and goes.

4. The value of an object depends on your desire for it. The attainment of the desired object gives instant happiness, but this happiness is fleeting.

5. Desire is fantasy projected outward and onto an object. The desire cannot be satisfied, because satisfaction will only fan the desire for something else. Thus desire makes you unhappy.

6. The promise of happiness in fact is unhappiness, because it leads to discontent.

7. The satisfaction of a desire reveals the desireless-ever-fulfilled soul. So why not recognize the source of happiness and enjoy limitless happiness, instead of having glimpses of it from one desire to another – alternating with suffering, fear, and dissatisfaction.

8. There is no true happiness residing in the object. The happiness when the desired object is attained comes from the soul, not because the object is soulful, but because the desire for the object ceases to block the recognition of the pure bliss and happiness which is the soul ‘s nature.

9. Some objects can give you happiness more than others just because you are programmed to think so. Often you are programmed to think so before your birth, carried on from birth to birth. Therefore it is difficult to think that what you like or dislike is just a preprogrammed habit. You identify with it and you lose perspective.

IMG_195110. Likes and dislikes are before birth and are karmic patterns.

11. It is possible to see the true happiness of your own nature using your mind, you just have to make the mind calm and un-wavy (devoid of thoughts). When the mind is wavy, you can only see a distorted picture of what constitutes happiness, what constitutes yourself. Therefore, it is important to keep the mind calm and transparent – like a mirror or a calm lake–so you can see yourself.

12. The goal is not to do something and get somewhere, but to calm the mind so you can contemplate your true nature as happiness.

13. In a transcendental state of mind, you find bliss. In a one-pointedness state of mind, you find happiness. In a gathering state of mind, you find peace.

14. In a distracted state of mind, you feel unhappy and restless. In dull state of mind, you feel unhappy and lethargic.

15. Many temporary feelings of happiness lined up will not become the unlimited happiness that we are after. Adding many fleeting feelings of happiness together will not equal the one big happiness. Adding diamond happiness to furniture happiness to travel happiness to jobs happiness to husband happiness will not make the big happiness.

16. The big happiness is your own Self.

17. Unhappiness means failing to see the truth of happiness, because we are too busy seeing objects.

18. Using the same mind, trying again and again to find happiness in external objects is the trap of the mind which leads us to repeat the same patterns again and again.

19. You do yourself disfavor by satisfying the desires of the mind, because you become more unhappy as a result.

20. Work through your karmic patterns and your mind will find happiness independent from external objects.

What do you think? As a westerner, are Swami Sitaramananda’s points feasible? 

“Let’s Meditate”

For the rest of my life, I will remember Swami Swaroopananda starting out every lecture with his favorite phrase, “Let’s meditate.”

By the end of teacher’s training, I could drop into deep meditation within moments – seconds perhaps.

Swamiji talking about responsibility, dharma, and karma.

Universal Realities

Swami Swaroopananda discusses the different aspects of the Ultimate Reality.

Swamiji was one of my teachers during my yoga training. I am happy there are videos of him, these Q and A are great! I remember how blown away I was by his teaching.

“Einstein is the immortal Self . . . You are the immortal Self . . . just different realities.”

Om shanti.

nature of peace, nature of brahman, nature of the universe

“Love is the underlying reality of everything that exists.”

Gratitude for my teacher, Swami Swaroopananda. His vibe seems softer in this video than I remember from yoga teacher’s training—though he does say, “[the] yoga teacher’s training course, as it goes on, sometimes feels like a stormy ocean.” Perhaps it was the nature of the training, not the teacher . . .

“Ananda is not just bliss; ananda is also love.”



The Groovy Vibe of Oneness

This video was sent to me by sculptor Sandra Macintosh. I met her about two years ago—we sat and talked with one another as if we had known each other our whole lives. That connection was truly a timeless and beautiful experience.

We are one. Yogis have been saying it for thousands of years.

Right before I went to Sivananda for my teacher’s training, I read Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe, by Michio Kaku. In that book, Dr. Kaku discusses the string theory of the universe—what it boils down to is that everything in the entire universe, is made of vibrations. He described it very much like strings on a guitar—they vibrate, something (sound and more vibrations) is created. As a musician, I was fascinated. What kinds of vibes do we put out there, and how do they shape the world—even if they are only tiny ripples?

A week after reading Beyond Einstein, I was living on an ashram, learning about Vedantic philosophy and practicing meditation and breathing techniques that brought me to that state of “oneness” for hours every day. (Swami Swaroopananda, who was my main teacher, was a physicist before he became a swami—I appreciated his grounded perspective on philosophy). It was a mind-blowing time; my reality was definitely stretched!  Again, the question came up: What kinds of vibes do we put out there, and how do they shape the world—even if they are only tiny ripples?

We are One. Something to be reminded of and to ponder as we go into this next year.

How will you experience the ride?

Namaste Bill Hicks (and everything and everyone)

photo of Bill Hicks from Reckon: Personal Cargo.

Bringing Harmony to Chaos

Message I received yesterday from Swami Sitaramananda from the Sivananda Yoga Farm:

Bringing Harmony to Chaos

There is an intelligence in Nature which we need to tap into to understand how to bring Harmony to Chaos, Peace to Conflict, Forgiveness to Pain, Wisdom to Ignorance. This can be applied personally or collectively by following these guidelines:

—There is nothing outside of you that is not also inside. What you experience is what you are meant to be aware of for your own evolution of consciousness. All is One. In reality, there is no separation between you and me, of your real Self and the object of experience. In other words, turn your gaze within.

—Where there is a separate “I” and a “me and mine” in play, pay attention, it will bring chaos and suffering down the line.

— “The answer lies within.” Find the root cause of the suffering within. Delay the blaming.

—Recognize tamas: Tamas is the denial. Tamas is the force of nature and the subconscious mind to carry on with the habits, preconceived notions and impressions of the past. Tamas does not question them. It is the lack of awareness that the possibility of change is in one’s hands. It is the self pity and the victimhood, the anxieties and insomnias, the overdose of pain killers, and the root of addictive behaviors.

—Calm down the rajas: Rajas is the jumping to conclusion of the ego, the judgment and the biased interpretation without a larger picture, the reactive actions, the running away or the running towards, the fight and flight in stress mode, the anger and resentments, the defensive attacks, the wars and abuses.

—Often Tamas and Rajas are working together intimately. Ignorance, fear and denial fuel the angers and frustrations and veil the solution to the problem, projecting them onto some outside reasons or perceived aggressors.

—Sattwa is Light, purity, revelation. One need not do anything to find a solution, but just cease denial and fear (tamas) and cease reaction, impatience or control (rajas) and calm down through Yoga, breathing, relaxation, proper diet and meditation practices. Yoga practices and lifestyle improve sattwa.

—Endurance of the karmas, detachment from the battlefield, perseverance in duty, asking for guidance and advice from the wise, allow for solutions and understanding to be revealed through sattwa. To solve the conflict or problem, one needs to have faith in the cosmic evolution, the goodwill of the Divine to lead us to our ultimate good, that all is happening for the best, that the guiding hand of the divine mother is there to support us in our journey to realize the ultimate pure light (pure sattwa).

—Light destroys darkness just by its presence. Knowledge destroys ignorance. Revelations and insight pierce through veils to save us.