Discipline (March 2018 Newsletter)

If you read last month's newsletter, you will remember that yoga is not about the physical practice of going to a class and working out physically. There are all-encompassing changes in the yoga practitioner who is open to allowing the subtle work to play out through all body/mind and emotional systems. But REGULARITY is key. If you only show up now and again, it remains just fitness training.

Show up whether you want to or not, whether you are in the mood to work out or not, whether you are happy or sad, whether your friend's coming or not. Execute that intention to be there. Be there! Expect nothing once you are there. Be like putty - soft and malleable. It is the one time where you don't have to think, or make a decision, or succeed or display anything to anyone.

What does one need to get to this point of childlike simplicity? Discipline! It is simply doing, being without expectation of reward or gain or success. Doing the practice regularly and without question, over and over and over yet again. Once you break the cycle of regularity you take several steps back in the mental confidence and strength you had developed through the self imposed discipline. Called Tapas (meaning heat, self-discipline, spiritual austerity or effort) in yoga, discipline is necessary in life, which is full of choices, contradictions and apparently arbitrary outcomes.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, Chapter 2, Aphorism 43, says: 'Kaya indriya siddhih ashuddhi kshayat tapasah' which means, 'Self-discipline destroys imperfection and purifies the body and the senses.'

Keep your gaze fixed on the prize of peace and tranquility through discipline. It doesn't happen in a day, in a month or a year. It is a lifetime's practice, making both life and death both easy and expected.



Well-Being: Talking about the weather (March 2018 Newsletter)

'Oh no! It's raining again.' 

Or it's too cold or too hot; too bright or too dark. It's rare when the weather is just perfect for each of us. It's not something we can control or change, but we can change our attitude and how we react to the changing weather each day. Just because the weather is not pleasant doesn't mean we can stay in bed and ignore it. We get up, get dressed and head out the door. Or we don't even open the front door. Instead we go out to the garage, get in the car and drive off with the heating or air-conditioning controlling our immediate environment. Sometimes we don't really need to experience the weather at all, but we still complain. Let's stop making 'weather' the topic of inane conversation, and let's start experiencing nature and each day in the raw. (How are you interpreting that last sentence? It's up to you!) Make it a point to step outside each day walking on your own two feet. There's something amazing in all kinds of weather and the power and grandeur of nature that stirs something deep inside. Let's start to wake up the sleeping soul within.

Yoga! Is it a religion? (February 2018 Newsletter)

Approximately one in ten people practices yoga in the USA today. They are not necessarily practicing regularly and often do a workout that is offered at their gym club or community center. It is simply an hour of exercise. No more, no less.

Many of the practitioners as they start to practice regularly notice some subtle changes in their psyche and physique. They are calmer, more resilient following times of stress and grief, and body muscles start to become lean and long. Many illnesses appear to disappear! Surprising qualities of intuition and synchrony start to happen. To many students of this art deeper questions of life and death, beginning and ending, and whereto/wherefrom start to arise, often based on suggestions from their instructors. It is a good thing.

Is Yoga a religion? Originally, yes. Many thousands of years ago. But what is religion? Hinduism, on which yoga is based, is not really a religion in the Western sense of the word. It is not an 'ism', since it is not theistic, therefore there is no identifiable one or many God/Gods. The thousands of 'Gods' in Hinduism simply try to make comprehensible to our little minds the awesome Energy that is 'Godness'. These are the thousands of qualities of Goodness/Godness that cannot be portrayed in one Being or non-Being. Hinduism is monistic, or everything/all is one/everything... I am the bird, I am the sea, I am the tree! I am everything, everything is me.

Does this conflict with your religion or lack of it? It shouldn't, and if you can step outside of any biases you may come to class with, you will see for yourself yoga's deep and powerful impact on your life and being. It is a secular practice, but on the other hand, it can enrich your own faith.

The other important aspect of yoga is discipline, but more on that next month. Meanwhile, be disciplined enough to schedule your classes for the entire month and show up without question.



NewsletterChris Johnson
Well-Being: Hara Hachi Bu (February 2018 Newsletter)

I don't watch much TV, and it's mostly news when I do. But it appears that on the one hand, the TV commercials are constantly promoting the worst of foods by displaying them as healthy, energy-creating, aesthetic, and ultimately seeming to be homemade - the true test of good food. Nothing wrong in that!

On the other hand, many of the other commercials are about meds, some to settle the stomach enough to enjoy the good life, the best life - full of community and fun. Nothing wrong with that either.  However, many of these sicknesses are often of self generated. Guess how? It's due to the food that is being presented as picture perfect but is not belly perfect.

Be discerning... what looks good is deceptive. Those luscious doughnuts will come back to haunt you tomorrow with a rock hard stomach, fatigue, constipation and much worse in the long term.

Eat right and eat less: The residents of Okinawa in Japan are very healthy with unusually low BMI (body mass index), and often live active lives well over 100 years of age. They practice what is known as 'Hara hachi bun me' or 'hara hachi bu' which suggests that you should eat till you are 8/10 full. The idea is that you don't eat till you have a feeling of fullness. The connection between the two is thought to be the delay in the stomach stretch receptors that help signal fullness or satiety. The result of not practicing hara hachi bun me is a constant stretching of the stomach which in turn increases the amount of food needed to feel full.

Think hara hachi bun me, for every meal. 'Doggie bag' a quarter of your meal before you start eating, when you eat out. AND drink lots of water. Pop/soda may appear to satisfy your thirst but it doesn't really do so, and you need more, since it has all those additives to make it delicious and addictive. Who wants those?

NewsletterChris Johnson
To YOU! Create a year of peace and happiness! (January 2018 Newsletter)

We are always told that life is hard work. But simply working hard becomes relentless and reward-less. New Year Resolutions often just add to this senseless treadmill. Do you have the same resolutions as last year and the year before, but expect different and better results now?  If you didn't succeed last year, what makes you think you will  this year?

Even if there is only one resolution you are making this year, reconsider! You don't need to add anything more to your stressed mind and busy life. 'Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.' -Confucius. We are always in a state of urgently completing one task after another. Often these urgent tasks are mindless and not important. At the end of each day, there is still so much more left to do and then tomorrow has its own to-do list. Isn't that what we did all last year? Somehow with the start of a new year, we expect life to become better by working harder, looking skinnier and better, and having more, so we will be happy and at peace with ourselves. Instead try making the goal your starting point. Know that you have enough! Know that you look good (with a better more balanced diet and lots of fresh water, you WILL shed the pounds and feel/look better). "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Know what you really love to do and do it, even if in monetary terms it earns you less. Find the happiness and peace that is inherent within you by connecting to the Universal Energy. This is the Energy that moves you, breathes you and animates everything around you. Connect with IT! Go slow! Go steady! You will succeed.

Happiness and Peace are already within each one of us. Practice regularly, and through perseverance learn to steady the mind. How simple it can be. How easy to succeed.



NewsletterChris Johnson
Well-Being: Commitment (January 2018 Newsletter)

Wellness is hard work. But it should not be senseless hard work, just imitating the latest trends. Try instead to focus on the focus. Where is the mind at each step of the workout? To create an obedient mind focus on what your body is doing. How is it affecting your body and mind? How do you breathe - before, during and after workouts? Yoga is meditation in movement. Instead of the workout, focus on the work within. For this silence to occur in the mind, for the silence to break the stress patterns in your life commit to a regular, simple yoga practice this year.
If you would like to set not a resolution, but a long-term realizable goal, YWB would like to help. We have several tools to help you on your path. in the coming weeks, we'll be handing out notebooks along with tips on how to use journaling to record and promote your progress. We've extended our auto-pay discount of 25%/month for one more month to make a long-term committed yoga practice more affordable for you (see below). If you would like more one-on-one help, sipra offers private sadhana appointments to help with setting and achieving your goals. Reiki Energy Healing appointments are also available throughout the year.

NewsletterChris Johnson
Joy (December 2017 Newsletter)

Many traditional celebrations take place at this time of year, and as they come closer they dredge up mixed feelings, some often intense. This season brings on sudden, overwhelming tidal waves of emotions that we bury somewhere in our deepest recesses through the year. We feel we cannot face the world getting ready to celebrate, and need to turn inwards into ourselves for just a bit. Let those emotions surface, and celebrate the gladness and the sadness with little ceremonies of hello and goodbye, sending fall leaves full of thoughts sailing down the river, or down the neighborhood creek. Make little prayer flags, hang them up in the breeze, and let your thoughts go flying in the wind. Burn incense, candles and healing herbs.

And then turn outwards: Be like a child seeing everything for the first time. Turn your thoughts away from yourself to everything that IS around you. 

"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." (Rumi) Turn your thoughts outwards making it your mission today and everyday to focus beyond this little individual ego that constantly needs indulgence and pulls you into a joyless sinkhole of worry. Joy is in everything and it is free of worry. Joy is that subtle sense where the breath is suddenly free and you KNOW you can fly and touch the heavens. This gladness within ourselves touches everything outside ourselves, and suddenly we are spreading that feeling. Go out into nature everyday no matter how busy or cold. Feel joy. Do charity works, smile at everyone, greet everyone. Spread joy!

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." Rabindranath Tagore

Joy this month and all through the year. Step out joyously and lightly. Fly!



NewsletterChris Johnson
Well-Being: Hairy Stuff (November 2017 Newsletter)

Our hair is affected by fall and winter weather, as it turns cold and dry. This causes it both to turn brittle and break easily, or fall out. Just as we nourish our skin with richer, oilier emollients through winter, we need to give hair some TLC as well. It is best to wash it less than we do in summer, and keep it well conditioned and moisturized. Between shampoos simply use a conditioner on your hair - a simple coconut oil conditioner is the best for your hair. Just moisten hair and rub a dime to nickel size amount into the scalp. Leave on a few minutes and wash off. If you have a half hour to spare, try rubbing in a cupful of coconut milk letting it penetrate for 30 minutes and then shampoo as usual. Use a light spray of nourishing Moroccan Argan oil to prevent frizzy hair and to keep it supple before drying as usual, using medium setting on your hair dryer.

For distressed hair, nails and skin try 500 mg of black current oil or evening primrose oil twice a day. They both work but it takes almost two months to see results. The benefit comes from an unusual fatty acid they contain known as GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) that the body has to get through the diet. There are no long term adverse effects to the use of either of these oils and they also help with inflammatory problems such as arthritis and many kinds of auto-immune diseases.

Diet has a lot to do with how the hair behaves and looks. Keep your diet balanced and eat well and on a regular schedule. It will help to eat a little more fat now than you do in summer in the form of nuts, and good unsaturated oils. Especially rich in good Omega Fatty Acids for vegetarians is ground flax seed added to any of your dishes. In moderation add some cheese and butter, yogurt and milk that is not fat free. If you eat eggs and fish, it's a good thing for your hair. If you don't, all kinds of fresh vegetables, greens, nuts and beans will provide the essential vitamins and proteins you need to have well moisturized, beautiful, soft and silky hair, skin and nails throughout the year.

NewsletterChris Johnson
What is Meditation? (November 2017 Newsletter)

What is meditation?
How is meditating beneficial?
How long does meditation last?
How do you meditate?
What is the best time to meditate?
Where are the best places to meditate?"

These are questions that a high school student emailed me and wants to use for a high-school article she is writing on meditation. These are not questions that can be answered in a few short sentences. Meditation is not a science. It is not based on facts to be analyzed, criticized and discussed. That has largely been the problem with its practice in the West where everything worth learning, comprehending and mastering is a science able to withstand a variety of testing. Standardizing results of the outcome must always be measurable and similar, if not identical. How else can you judge or justify the accuracy of the discipline? But meditation is not a science. Each of us is unique, and the ways in which we meditate and the effect we experience is quite different for each of us. 

"The things that trouble our spirits are within us already. In meditation, we must face them, accept them, and set them aside one by one." ~Christopher L. Bennett. This is the first step in meditation practice - dharana in Sanskrit, is the focused thought on one object in the mind, or physically in front of us. Practiced daily, it may take a lifetime. But meditation - dhyana, is something much more. "Meditation should not be regarded as a learning process. It should be regarded as an experiencing process. You should not try to learn from meditation but try to feel it. Meditation is an act of non-duality. The technique you are using should not be separate from you; it is you, you are the technique. Meditator and meditation are one. There is no relationship involved." ~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Meditation is often undertaken by most earnest students to reduce stress, because they have been advised that it does so effectively. This is only a side effect of meditation. If one has never felt a longing to connect with an Energy/Entity mightier than oneself, to have that become a driving force of one's existence and direction, meditation is just another means to find a way to relax. There is nothing wrong with that, but that's not why meditation was traditionally practiced.

Austrian scholar and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, suggests what meditation is:  "When we raise ourselves through meditation to what unites us with the spirit, we quicken something within us that is eternal and unlimited by birth and death. Once we have experienced this eternal part in us, we can no longer doubt its existence. Meditation is thus the way to knowing and beholding the eternal, indestructible, essential center of our being."

There really is nothing to learn about ways to practice focus. It is more about doing it. It is an intuitive practice, an ability to connect with the deep silent space within each of us and to just rest there, till our busy thoughts start to slow down and dissipate. Many different techniques have been practiced over the ages, and one of these will surely work for you. Daily practice is the key: several times a day for just a few minutes, without busying yourself with other activities or people, practicing at the same time daily, and using the same location. Whether you sit, stand, walk or lie down, it doesn't matter, they all work.

Most of us practice 'dharana' or mental focus, rather than 'dhyana' or meditationwhich is beyond thought - it is the extended gap between any two thoughts. Try it - just watching the space and the light that fills your gaze as you close your eyes.

Check out our meditation workshops at YWB every month on the second Sunday of the month.



NewsletterChris Johnson
Well-Being: You can nail it! (October 2017 Newsletter)

Daily changes in the physical body tell us much about our physical well-being and health. Changes happen over time and indicate changes to the internal 'landscape' through aging, sickness and lack or excess of essential nutrients and the like. At the same time these symptoms and telltale signs are precursors of disease and imbalance.

Have you noticed how the look of finger and toe nails change from time to time, and then revert back to their normal state? According to Ayurveda, the traditional Indian science of good health, they are telling you that your health may be at risk, and you can take early steps to reverse the condition.

Nails with a purple tint may suggest a lack of oxygen. It can be the result of a chronic lack of oxygen in the respiratory system such as in bronchitis, asthma or emphysema.

Nails with vertical ridges (could be almost imperceptible to obvious) indicate poor digestion and the fact that the body is not absorbing all the nutrients it needs. Some possible factors could be GI tract issues, toxins in the system, and poor diet.

Nails with horizontal line(s).  Usually a single break could appear across the nail. According to Ayurveda this reflects a fairly serious health issue that occurred when that part of the nail was growing. Poor metabolism, an infection, and underactive thyroids are some of the possibilities. Several break lines across the nails show an underlying imbalance, which should be treated.

Unusually large and small moons of the nail. Ideally, the moon or lunula, should be largest at the base of the thumb, and successively get smaller at the base of the other nails. Very small or missing moon indicate digestive problems usually related to the body's ability to absorb and convert the food to nutrients to keep the body healthy and growing. Very large moons on the nails show too much 'agni', (literally 'fire') which refer to the digestive acids, juices that cook the food for digestion by the body. Neither shows great digestion.

Pale nails could indicate low red blood cells or an anemic condition, or some autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. Usually pale nails go with fatigue, weakness and poor blood circulation. A simple start would be to add a variety of green and colorful vegetables to your diet, as well as iron and good quality vitamin supplements.  

NewsletterChris Johnson