Practice Self Forgiveness

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Photo by Michael Tutaan, Boracay, Philippines

The great irony, perhaps, of diving deeper into this physical practice is how metaphysical it becomes, the more advanced the posture, the more subtle the mind and the heart. How, for example, taking one’s leg behind the head is less about the openness of hips, the ability to internally rotate the leg while lifting the center and, with it, the back–though all fundamentally a part of the process–than it is about cultivating patience and perseverance.

Once in a while, I ask myself, what have I learned? What is new, especially when there are no new postures to investigate or obsess about? It has been two years, almost, since I’ve studied with my teacher in Mysore and my practice seems to be greatly about establishing a steady rhythm, building strength and getting comfortable. Some days are tougher than others, I must admit, developing strength seems to have come with loosing a certain amount of bendiness. And establishing a life in one place, as I have done this year in Egypt, comes with an entirely different set of challenges that sometimes get in the way of the smooth flow of practice.

For me, I think one of the greatest lessons of cozying up to the intermediate series these last two years is learning to forgive myself.  I may have not overcome my own expectations, they creep up on me still while on the mat (not to mention off the mat!), but it’s never so hard as before. Mostly, because I’m not as hard on myself as I was before. Often, I find myself humorously observing the struggles, the days I ate pasta and how that feels in titthibhāsana, the days I can’t get a good grip on the mat in karandavāsana and fall, the days I get on the mat late and I’m so tired that I’m practically crawling through the practice. It’s all ok, I can’t always be my best physically though I can still put my best effort forward based on the conditions that I am given and that I allow myself.

We cause so much undue suffering with unforgiving thoughts: why can’t I do it, what’s wrong with me, why am I not good enough? Such fluctuations of the mind are debilitating, they stall us, not just mentally but physically too, they keep us from moving forward. And thus the relationship between the mind and the body continues. So, instead, let’s be kind to ourselves, let’s be sweet and also honest. Be honorable, admit when it’s hard but do not harden because of it. Forgiveness in itself is a deep and fulfilling practice.

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Mysore Zamalek, October Schedule

October MYSORE ZAMALEK Schedule

We are super excited to be publishing our second month’s schedule. Consistency is key in practice, and the same goes for teaching. And the synergy between teacher and student is grounded in the commitment we have to the practice.

Community will build in any kind of yoga class, but the potential for community in a Mysore Program, where practitioners are regularly studying in the same space, is huge. We hope that students can come to Mysore Zamalek @ Nūn Center and find a kind of home, this is a place where we can grow, sweat out our issues, seek peace, and cultivate health.

If you are interested in joining our Mysore program located here at Nūn Center (4 Shafiq Mansour, Zamalek), please message me at mysorezamalek@gmail.com or book through we@nuncenter.com.

Present Practice

Ah…to be present–easier said than done.

How often are we pulled into future projections, expectations? On the flip side, how often do we hold on to old feelings, stories? How many of us are haunted by memories?
How much do we actually live in the presentness of our lives–in all of its wonder, joy, messiness and complexities?

A couple of weeks ago, I was embroiled in a decision-making process that had me  mulling over numbers and future scenarios, as well as past difficulties–all really good tools in terms of making well-informed choices. But I was distracted and confused by it all. In the end, however, it took settling into the present moment, weighing my own feelings about the things I actually know and experience to get to an answer that I could really sit with: that I am happy where I am and that I am little pressed to change that. It seemed so simple, just at that moment.

I am often baffled by my own mind, how it is pulled so easily in so many directions. Once again, practice is an amazing antidote for this. We get on that mat. We do our thing. Our focus and attention may wander here and there, but eventually they are pulled back into our center, and slowly over time we are training ourselves to experience THAT exact breath, THAT exact movement, to stop looking at others or beyond our current practice or our current posture, to trust that change will come when it’s time. When we start to live this experience of being present on our mat, we start to repair the damage of a world that cajoles us into seeking out some future happiness. That’s not to say we aren’t allowed to direct our energy, or even want things for ourselves–its about cultivating that harmony with simply being.

This, I feel, is also what Pattabhi Jois has so famously imparted on us: “Practice, practice, all is coming.” Again, easier said than done. Yet, they key is in the doing. Just practice–the strength, the flexibility, the āsana will all come, but also, perhaps most importantly, this appreciation for the present moment, whatever it looks like.

 

 

 

Practice of Pieces 

 

 

 

Should you come to a “mysore” self-practice class with me for the first time, I’ll most likely ask you to close your eyes and breathe. First, with your ordinary breath. And from there, we start to extend each inhale and exhale, sipping the air from our nostrils until we create a soft sound, which slowly heats the body. We’ll probably do a few sun salutations, maybe some standing postures, but the real lesson on that first day is breathing. It is the most basic unit of learning in the traditional ashtanga method.

Over time, we introduce other units: the engagement of our core muscles or energy locks called bandha. vinyasa or movement-breath, and various postures that condition and open the body differently. On a more subtle level, there are lessons in focus and awareness, effort and conservation of energy, dedication, devotion and self-love–all these units are actually inexhaustible, we return to them over and over, each time more in-depth. Slowly but surely the lessons expand over time.

When we start, it’s a little like learning something in pieces and it’s hard to see the big picture. Many get impatient or frustrated that they can’t see where it’s all going. People get bored of the pace, or angry at the level of concentration we often ask from beginners, or afraid of the level of commitment we ask from all students.

I ask new students to commit for the month, recommending them to practice the 5 teaching days, at the barest minimum 3. And here, in Egypt, I’ve actually seen people physically recoil at my suggestion as if I were some yoga sadist. Yes, I do know life is hard here, that Cairo traffic is ridiculous, that a morning practice is counterflow the nocturnal rhythms of the city. I totally understand. And yet…

I also know that people want to be healthier, they want to have better habits, they want to be more flexible and strong, they want to have peace and focus. So I ask anyway, daring aversion to such structure because I know that this is a formula for change that really works. For those who practice regularly, the pieces come together relatively quickly, and the yoga practice becomes wholesome, full and giving.

As I approach March and another month of teaching here in Cairo, the questions I want to ask from new and old students are the following: Are you willing to show up for yourself on a regular basis? Are you willing to breathe and move, everyday learning something new about the practice and maybe about yourself, everyday recognizing that you are this amazing creature that can get stronger and more flexible not just in the body but in the mind and heart too? Are you willing to stand before the difficulties so that we can piece the practice together?

 

Regular Teaching continues here at Nūn Center:
Mysore Mornings is Sunday to Thursday, 7-10:30am.
Evenings are Monday & Wednesday, 8-9:30pm.

We have some special programs at the start of this month at Nūn:
Full Led Primary
Friday, March 4, 9-10:30pm

Ashtanga Yoga: Tool For Change
Saturday, March 4, 11am-1pm

Inner Dance, Sound and Movement Meditation
Saturday, March 4, 6-8pm

 

Fall-ing: Change with the Seasons

 

 

I love autumn, despite how unfortunately little I’ve experienced it, growing up in tropical Philippines and one-season wonder Los Angeles. I love the crispness in the cool air. I love seeing the leaves changing color. And then there’s this stirring, seeing the world before you change, how nature simply knows that soon it will be time to shed its old self, it accepts and celebrates this in a quiet show of subtle but tremendous beauty.

When I’ve been lucky enough to catch fall over these years of travel, I just fall in love with it (sorry, I could not help the pun!).  I was in Arashiyama, Kyoto last weekend with a girlfriend and we both found ourselves jumping excitedly as we saw the bold reds, oranges and yellows of the mountainside, which had been, not that long ago, a pretty uniform green.

Autumn arrives here in Japan during a difficult week for both of my home countries. New regimes are stepping in to the highest seats of power and with them rhetoric and promises (some might call: threats) that is difficult to stomach and dangerous towards minorities. I have feel sad as a woman and as a first-generation immigrant, I worry for the safety and well-being of friends and family, particularly in post-election America.

The changing trees, however, remind me that transformation is always at work. There will always be shifts. Summer is not forever, winter will most definitely come, and, when all seems lost, spring will soon follow. Everything in its good time.

I don’t know how the world will change–though, I don’t plan on sitting idly and watching it all just happen.

But when I see the autumn leaves, I’m excited by it because it reminds me of something essential about myself. There will always be this time, this time of letting go, and that somehow this way I move forward. This is when I regroup, I look at my stores, knowing that energy is precious and limited and that its my duty to find where it is best served.

Our yoga practice likewise has its own seasons. Sometimes not quite in the same order, but sometimes very similar. The autumnal flow of practice is a pretty dramatic time, change is visible and tangible with the inescapable the feeling that we are at the end of something. We celebrate. Or mourn. There’s a great show before we huddle in for our deep internal winters, emerging when it’s time for spring.

As I process the changing world around me, I return to the lessons on the mat, looking for equilibrium by standing on my own two feet, by breathing deeply through the feelings of separation and fear, by examining my expectations for a world that appears to be going in a different direction. I am asking myself how do I balance a need for calm and collected thoughfulness while acknowledging that my participation is needed in the world I want to live in. I don’t exactly know how, but I do feel that I’m equipped with a way to do it.

One thing is for sure–and has always been a certainty–the world is changing and, like it or not, we will change with it.