Water World

Have you ever practiced the physical difference in the qualities of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space?

Baron Baptiste talks about The Principles of True North Alignment in his Power Yoga practice. These principles are fundamental cues for speaking to our physical alignment, as well as – or in conjunction with – the alignment of our physical, mental and spiritual worlds.

I’ve always felt like quite a grounded individual. I move from my base, I make decisions with my gut and my sense of the spiritual has always been bedded down with a heavy cloak of reasoning and logic. Call me a typical Virgoan – if that’s your thing – but if I had any more earth in my being I’d probably start growing roots and plant myself. I love being close to the ground, this is when I feel the most free, my most authentic. Being a relatively short person most of my life, you’d think I’d be craving length and flight.

And you’d be right. I’ve discovered my body’s own true intelligence. And guess what: it already knows what is best for it.

Throughout this yoga teacher training I seem to have unlocked one of the big reasons why I thrive so much on the kinaesthetic experience of life. In yoga asana we talk about grounding down through our base in order to create space and freedom in our spine. In yogic meditation we speak to sitting in concentration, with focus in order to release our spirit from the burden of the mind. In a spiritual practice we might focus on finding support and stability in our life, to allow our hearts to open to the possibility of the divine.

sthira sukham asanam

– Sutra 2.46: The posture (asanam) for yoga meditation should be steady (sthira), stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable (sukham).

My default is sthira. I’m really good at that. So good, in fact, that I’m also exceptional at inaction. However, through this training I have realised that finding sukham and freedom within this is something my body, and my mind, craves. Possibly one of the biggest shifts in my physical practice has been in exploring a sense of fluidity, a water-like quality. I am now that student who appears like they can’t sit still in class. I’m often adjusting and moving in and out of the edge of my postures because it feels good. It also means that when I do find steadiness, stability and stillness, something lands much more authentically. I actually arrive in the posture, in the moment.

Water in it’s natural state always finds the path of least resistance. It’s not confrontational. It abides by it’s own natural laws, without question, without doubt. It just is. And yet, it is determined to go somewhere, to keep a constant forward motion, to arrive somewhere new. Even upon arriving, it immediately lets that go and keeps on in its relentless quest for something more, something beyond.

Consider this…

You are not that which gives rise to what the body can do. You are not the body, yet it has it’s own intelligence. What comes with this idea is the dread of death, illness and time-wasting. But this is not the case: you are that which is behind your body.

The body needs maintenance and a lot of attention. It gives you a location. But we do not start and end with it. It has its own destiny – it is our vehicle to ride to our own true destiny.

Many people believe that they are trapped in the torture of the ‘cage’ that they are housed in. But if you look at a child, this idea is absent. Children are fluid by nature. They don’t get in the way of themselves. However, what comes with this fluidity is their openness: they are highly impressionable. Tensions that arise in an adult may have been born out of hereditary conditioning. Consider that in later life, you will be moving just as your parents do in their later life. I was relieved to hear my own mother say to me a couple of days ago after struggling bravely through her very first yoga class, ‘You girls (my sister and I) are so much more supple than I ever was at your age’. But this does not mean that either of us escaped playing that mirror game of physical and mental tension with our parents.

Through yoga, we are attempting to lift the veils of maya so that we can see our true selves. While some view maya as meaning that nothing is real, and turn this into a cold-hearted intellectual practice, others view the illusion of maya as being shakti, the creative force of the universe – a divine mist in front of our eyes that obscures our vision of the truth. 

Sutra 1.12 These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.

Sutra 1.13 Of these two, effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.

Sutra 1.15 The consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving for objects seen or heard is non-attachment.

Sutra 1.3 The the Seer (self) abides in His/Her own nature.

As adults, therefore we need to come back to that child-like source of fluidity, and for some of us – certainly, me being one of them – yoga is that access point. The promise of yoga is freedom, is Being-ness, is our plug in to our natural state. It allows us to undo these tensions or habits – those that actually don’t even belong to us! – so that we live in our story, not one that we have adopted.  

This is your body, your mind, your life. Here and now.

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Now or Nowhere

vulnerable

adjective

  1. 1.

    exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

    “we were in a vulnerable position”
    synonyms: in danger, in peril, in jeopardy, at risk, endangered, unsafe,unprotected, ill-protected, unguarded;

    open to attack, attackable,assailable, exposed, wide open;
    undefended, unshielded, unfortified,unarmed, without arms, without weapons, defenceless, easily hurt/wounded/damaged, powerless, helpless;
    rare pregnable,impuissant, resistless
    “they evacuated children from the most vulnerable cities”
    exposed to, open to, wide open to, liable to, prone to, prey to,susceptible to, subject to, not above, in danger of, at risk of, at the mercy of, an easy target for, easily affected by;
    in the firing line;
    rare susceptive of
    “he is extremely sensible and less vulnerable to criticism than most”
    antonyms: well protected, invulnerable, resilient, immune to, above

Right. So this is just a little overwhelming.

In case you missed my Love Life post earlier this week, I’m on a vulnerability quest at the moment. But it’s proving to be a very tricky business to navigate. I think I found a starting point but now I need a road map. I need someone to throw me a freaking bone – or ten. Luckily, Baron Baptiste has stepped out a series of universal principles for stepping up to the edge in his book, Journey into Power. So in trying to get my head around them – and in locating where I left my courage to look out over the precipice – I’ve tried to summarise the main points here.

The Eight Universal Principles for Stepping Up to the Edge

Principle 1: We Are Either Now Here or Nowhere

All life happens in the present moment. All we really have is the moment that is right here, right now, in front of us. Any moment that happened in the past is a memory and any moment that will happen in the future is a fantasy. Memories and fantasies can be very nice, but they lead us nowhere except into the past, which no longer exists, or the future, which doesn’t exist yet. The past and the future are not places. They are, essentially, nowhere.

Principle 2: Be in the Now and You’ll Know How

20140416-061245.jpgWhen you tune into the present moment, you rein your focus back in from the distractions happening around you. When you make this directional shift from paying outward attention to paying inward attention, you can really hear what your body is telling you.

When you are in the now, a world of options opens up to you. You already have the answer to ‘how’ within you; our bodies are encoded with this innate knowledge. They key to accessing it is by coming into the moment. Each time you think you don’t know ‘how’ is a clue that you aren’t willing to trust your intuitions – use this question as a tip-off that it’s time to tune in and trust the light of your inner knowing.

Principle 3: Growth Is the Most Important Thing There Is

We have two choices: we grow, or we die. It’s that simple. Growth is forward movement; anything else is stagnation or, worse, regression. I would even go so far as to say that growth is the answer to the age-old question of the meaning of life. It’s the whole point of our journey: to grow and evolve so we can remove all the parts of ourselves that keep us from living in the light, living from our essence, living as our authentic selves.

Maybe you can’t initially touch your toes in a forward bend, or perhaps your upper body is not strong enough to sustain you in Chaturanga. When you hit that edge, you are faced with the choice to either move through or flee. The choice is always yours. But…

You can only grow beyond where you are if you accept where you are in the first place.

Principle 4: Exceed Yourself to Find Your Exceeding Self

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. It’s that simple.

Principle 5: In Order to Heal, You Need to Feel

The irony of spiritual growth is that instead of being some miraculous experience, it feels a lot more like going to pieces. We spend our entire lives stuffing down emotional and physical injuries, but these wounds don’t really disappear. Cellular memory is a powerful thing, and deep within all of us is a record of every feeling we tried to suppress, every emotional scar we keep buried, every physical ailment we thought was healed. To truly heal from the inside out, this psychic debris must be brought to the surface so it can be released.

Principle 6: Think Less, Be More

You can psych yourself in or out of anything, not to mention think a pose to death. Analysis paralysis is the ego’s way of keeping you rooted in your intellect rather than in your spirit. But when you drop your brain, you actually give your body and soul a chance to chine.

Aerodynamically, a bumblebee should not be able to fly. But bumblebees don’t know that, so they just do it. They open their wings and take off, oblivious to the fact that their round little bodies weren’t designed for flight. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all like bumblebees, unaffected by beliefs in our limitations?

Principle 7: We Are the Sum Total of Our Reactions

We don’t really have experiences in life. What we have are reactions to experiences. Things don’t happen to us. Things happen in and of themselves, and what we do is react to them. Built into our hardwiring as humans is the fight-or-flight response, which we needed way back in the cavemen era to keep us safe. But there is a third option, which is neither to fight nor flee, and that is to just stay and breathe. Working your edge teaches you to rise above the stress you feel and move into equanimity. When you do that, you are operating from your centre, from cause rather than effect.

Principle 8: Don’t Try Hard, Try Easy

When you find that you are straining, whether in a yoga pose or in life, you’re probably trying too hard. Your ego is in it, and you are driven by an ambition that ultimately creates imbalance and suffering. That is the point when you should ask yourself: Where am I holding on? Am I holding on to tension, or to my ideal of what I am ‘supposed to’ be doing? Where can I let go more? Where can I struggle less? Where can I just surrender?

Baron Baptiste: Best of

For over 20 years, Baron Baptiste has been an inspirational teacher, author, and leader in the realm of transformation. Assuming his family’s mantle of health, yoga, and spiritual education, Baron brings a fire and passion to his teaching, creating a fundamental shift in how people perceive themselves and what’s possible in their lives. From his own true-life hardships, transformations and contributions Baron delivers a methodology that creates transformation in body and soul for people across the planet.

According to Yoga Journal Magazine: “If there were a royal family of American yoga, Baron Baptiste would certainly be a prince.”

– Visit Baron’s website for more.

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As we become gentler with ourselves, it is natural for us to have a deeper compassion for others and to live with true grace. – Baron Baptiste

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Teacher Training Immersion Week, Lumi Power Yoga, London, March 2014:

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Whatever you give positive or negative attention to, you will energize, for better or worse. Attention begets energy. – Baron Baptiste

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Day 3 YTT: Equanimity

When we come out of our head stuff – the mental systems and thought patterns that say we can’t or won’t – we suddenly realize the ways we are limiting ourselves. Just for the moment, forget what you believe you can’t do. The on-the-mat truth is that very often our body is stronger and more flexible than our faith.

– Baron Baptiste on Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana A (Standing Leg Raise, Front) from Journey into Power

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Day 2 YTT: Vitality

Today I woke to an unintended but inspired flashback to my graduating year of high school. As I wandered, bleary-eyed into the kitchen, my muscles pained from the day before, my housemate greeted me with Baz Luhrmann’s 1999 hit ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen‘. Take a moment. Listen.

1999 was a good year. And yes, I was making myself my acidic morning coffee (I’m a Melbournian at heart, what can I say?). But rest assured I followed it up with my newest ritual of my alkalising hot lemon water chaser.
Everybody’s free…to feel good!

A baby chick develops the strength and vigor it needs to survive in the world by the very act I pecking, pushing, and twisting it’s way out of its protective shell. If you broke the shell open for the baby chick, it would not survive, because it did not go through it’s own process of struggle and freedom. Remember, the prize is in the process!

– Baron Baptiste on Parivrtta Alanasana (Revolving Crescent Lunge) from Journey into Power

Day 1 YTT: Awakening

As we launch into our teacher training immersion week, I have quickly realised that blogging every day is a tough ask!

However, while I sit and ponder (and let’s face it, with a giant shovel try to calmly cram the sequences into my brain), rather than the alignment descriptions or the building blocks that I know I need to learn, it is the Spiritual Focus that Baron writes about that awakens something in me and pulls me in to his yoga world.

So with that in mind, I thought it important to document the ones that force me to pay attention. They may just be the road map to my own journey in all of this.

Resenting our present condition can cause us to try to “grab the bull by the horns” and struggle to get to success quickly. But just being in the present moment and playing your own edge is enough and allows you to grow naturally. It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare: The tortoise took slow and steady steps, and he achieved his goal before the pushy and fast-footed hare.

– Baron Baptiste on Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) from Journey into Power