Shakti Rising Yoga

"You are a dissident bodhisattva joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of divine love that are packed inside every moment." ~Rob Brezsny

Year of the Niyamas

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What the heck! I am staring down the last two months of 2010 and beginning to take stock of how this year’s trip around the sun has unfolded.  And here I am. The mind bus (what fancy name can we give it? Cerebral Trailways, Monkey Mind Coach Lines…sure whatever) has dropped me off on the front stoop of my oh so neglected site/blog thingy.

Last post: January.  Well, it’s clear where I haven’t been this year.  Ready, set, roll. I do believe I hear an old tape begin to play. (Internal dialogue ensues: “Oh wait, do I even have a tape player? Why, yes, buried under the crate of coat hangers in the storage shed. ” Ahhh…Monkey Mind Coach Lines it is! )

The hiss and crackle of a poorly recorded, yet somehow lasting (karmically embedded?) tune begins it’s first notes. At first unrecognizable, but then in a moment, the melodramatic whiney violin takes it’s cue. Oh right, that’s the self-depricating tune called “The Bagillion Ghosts of Things You’re NOT Doing Will Haunt You Tonight.” Hadn’t I eighty-sixed THAT one back in February?!

Well, yes, I had and the story goes like this. A long standing cold virus interspersed with a psoas injury that took over a month to heal kept me from any vigorous asana practice, as well as way too many days of powder skiing, for close to two months. At first the type A yogini in me became highly critical of this lack of practice and then I recalled a teaching which one of  my teachers, Rod Stryker, had unveiled for me back in November 2009.  In one of his workshops, he spoke about dedicating to a practice that first created a stable container in which to expand from….a biodegradable, eco-friendly container of course. Explained further, what I basically understood him to say is that sometimes a heated asana practice, while yes, we know, can feel oh so good, has the potential to add fuel to the fire of any pre-existing instability and create restlessness and overstimulation, be it in the mind, body or spirit. (To learn more about Stryker’s method, Parayoga, click here.)

Well, I was certainly not in a place of balance, so instead of berating my almost non-existent physical practice, I chose to dive deeply into the one of the other 7 limbs of this thing we call yoga. 2010 already had revealed a window into generative possibility and great transformation early on, so focusing on what you “ought do”, the Niyamas, rather than what one “ought not do”, the Yamas, seemed the obvious choice of practice for cultivating this stable container.

The Niyamas are about how we treat ourselves-our disciplines, our spiritual practices and observances.( If you want to read more specifically about the Niyamas click here for a short, sweet, contemporary explanation I found in )

For the past year, I had been teaching yoga to women in substance abuse rehab groups and had touted, in more conceptual terms, the lessons of the Niyamas as coping skills for their recovery process. Again, what better time to really, I mean REALLY, in a raw, compassionately uncomfortable, let’s-get-intimate-and-cozy-with-our-shadow kind of way, take a look at my personal trek through the hills and valleys of consciousness. Awww crap. 108 Sun Salutations with a psoas injury was starting to sound like a walk in the park next to this endeavor.  But, I was reminded of a reframing exercise that both enticed and repulsed me which Rob Brezsny, author of one of my bibles, Pronoia: Is the Antidote for Paranoia, had offered up which instructed, “Go to the ugliest or most forlorn place you know — a drugstore parking lot, the front porch of a crack house, a toxic waste dump, or the place that symbolizes your secret shame — and build a shrine devoted to beauty, truth, and love.”

Ok, fine. Sign me up. I have my helmet on.

Fast forward: November 2010.  Taking y’all through the sticky, crusty juiciness of this transmutative practice is not my intention in all these ramblings.  This is just reflective musing on the ways in which we can, very humanly, pound our fists and stomp our feet  in resistance to our current situation. (Ummm…. Now look what’s on the bottom of my shoe.) However, we can then realize we are being given an opportunity to reframe our perspective, choose to create acceptance of each moment as a perfect moment and then set intentions and practice and manifest those intentions.  This practice is an embodiment of the 3 A’s of Anusara: Attitude, Alignment and Action. For more info on the 3 A’s click here to check out my friend Kimberly’s blog.

For the record, I hope this does not come off  sounding like some easy or enjoyable woo woo hippie jenk process. Yes, jenk is a word even though Microsoft Word deems is red linable.  (You can read all the fun and some slightly, um, graphic, definitions at  As my philosophy teacher, Douglas Brooks, so gracefully puts it: This process can feel like being given the “Divine Bitch Slap.” It can be some of the most challenging work in life–to make our practice one of embracing intense self-reflection. However, as the challenging month of October this year taught me in such a “hurts so good” kind of way, the beauty is wherever we choose to see it.

So how are my remaining 38 days of 2010 going to unfold?

I’ve been back on the mat and I feel a gentleness in my relationship with myself here. I hear the old tapes, catch myself thinking about listening to them, but then I mostly just laugh, giving gratitude for all the tough love they’ve given me. But the truth is, it seems, our lessons will continue to manifest for us over and over in a variety of amorphous ways that allow us opportunity to be the ultimate shapeshifters of our consciousness.

My friend Terry, pointed out to me the other day that I really do want to know the future. All the time. I suppose if we’re being all authentic and honestly self-reflective here, yes, Surrender to the unknown is a a tough one for me. For a lot of us I suspect.

See, there I am with the crystal ball. You see I am not holding it.

That seems to be the way the story goes, hmmmmm. Trust… All those Niyamas distill down to this one thing for me. On and off the mat.

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