Thursday, October 2, 2014

Experience Yoga From The Inside

Picture by Ryan McGuireExperience Yoga From The Inside. 

For Yoga is learning how to learn, the key skill you need to transform your life. When you learn the ABC’s of Yoga, you move from stressed out to going with the flow. Learning to flow through movements, breathing, and meditation is the key to managing stress.

Start wherever you are, walking, standing, sitting, lying down, or moving along in a vehicle. Come awake by noticing the activity in your body. Make a conscious movement or take a conscious pose and hold it. Whether moving or still, notice.

Use the word “grace” to warm up for activity, breathing, and meditation. 

G is for grounded, noticing how your position relies on gravity and thinking about your relationship to mother earth. 

R is for relax, moving your attention to gently releasing the muscles of your face and relaxing your shoulders. 

A is for aware, becoming aware of your eyes and color, ears and sound, nose and scent, tongue and taste, body and touch, and finally mind and thinking. Notice what is in front and behind you, to the left and right, above and below. 

C is for centered, so sway from left to right, forward and back, coming to the perfect balanced position. 

And E is for energized, reaching arms out (except if you’re driving) as widely as you can and stretching your hands open. The winds of grace are always blowing, we only need to raise the sails of practice to receive their energy.

After consciously moving, breathe. Notice how you breathe as you bring consciousness to the breath. Open the lower abdomen, filling your lungs from the hips to the ribs, then filling the center, expanding the ribcage. Finally, open the upper chest as you bring in the last ounce of air. Pause and then slowly exhale, letting the passage of the air to the outside bring awareness to the lungs coming together. At the end of the centering breath, pause. Then repeat three times. Finally, let your breath return naturally after the last pause.

After activity and breathing comes centering. To center yourself in your experience, bring your attention and focus within. Soften your gaze, look downward, or if safe for you, close the eyes. When thoughts of the past arise, notice them and let them fall away. When you think about the future, let it be. As you bring your attention into the present moment, notice any sensation in your body. Focus your attention there and then let it go. As thoughts come up, let them pass by, neither pushing nor pulling, but just noticing them as they arise and pass by.

Paying attention in this way, you begin to give your interior person the attention and respect you deserve. As you notice and exercise the self, you begin the process of self mastery. Once begun, your inner experience of Yoga can grow through the ABC’s to a more vital, balanced, and healthy practice. 

Thus you realize the key skill for transformation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TLS, ITP, and the Yogas

Written after attending a class whose purpose is to impart the skills of mindfulness (as a proven method of stress management) to youth in schools.

In a Church in downtown Oakland, a group of
40 educators and students stand 
and begin an

action: swinging arms and hips in the simplest twist from side to side.

Following directions from our class leader, BK Bidyut Bose, 
we make a "puff" to each side, 

breathing consciously as we move.

After ten rotations, we "relax and release" looking down at the floor or closing our eyes.

Then we check our 

centering, rocking forward and back.

The effect is measurable and immediate, with a large majority of the class moving to a calmer, less anxious, more focused state of body and mind.

In those moments, we learned a skill -- a set of behaviors, often using tools, 
that delivers an outcome. Like cooking or shooting hoops, this series of 
action-breathing-centering (ABCs) has results. 

Of all the skills we can learn, some are life skills -- those that support and advance our growth, like healthy eating. Transformative life skills are those that, when practiced consistently over the long term, can change our lives for the better. BK Bose teaches only Transformative Life Skills, TLS for short.

TLS is a curriculum.

In 48 lessons, the exercises of moving meditation, rhythmic breathing, and silent centering convey the basics of the skill of mindfulness, also known as concentration. And when a student gains skill in concentration, it has been shown to have an immense positive effect on learning ability.

When transformative life skills, the ABC's of moving, breath, and stillness, are
incorporated into everyday life along with practices designed to improve health
and connectedness (vigorous exercise, conscious eating, compassionate action),
the transformative skills can become integrated into a daily practice. Such an
integrated daily practice, especially when it supports a code of ethics designed
to refrain from harming others, shapes the body and mind, strengthening the
heart and releasing the sacred imagination.

This lifestyle has been called integral transformative practice, and the term, when capitalized (ITP for short), is an object of study and mastery for people who want to lead a fuller life.

TLS and ITP fall into a class of practice, in the broadest sense, that might be
called called "the Yogas"-- not just the repetition of poses and striving for
physical mastery in the flow, but a complete folding of mindfulness into life.

To be a Yoga, a set of practices would need to meet certain criteria: 
  • incorporate a flow of movement, practiced regularly with benefit to physical well-being
  • attend to breath and notice the relationship between breathing patterns and emotional state or mood
  • bring mental focus to bear upon consciously experiencing each and every moment
  • completely, dwelling less in thoughts of past or plans for future than in the here and now connect to self and then to others in a dynamic process of deepening life
  • skills and wisdom