Omaha Yoga Path Post
We will be opening the Yoga Path this month beginning Monday, July 6. There’s a widespread sense that the extreme measures many areas took to severely reduce social contact have “flattened the curve,” and we are starting to see the daily count of cases and deaths fall. Presently in Nebraska and Douglas county this seems to be the case. The landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic seems to change everyday and week. Making a decision one day seems undermined by changing conditions the next. Along with this, people seem to have a spectrum of responses as to how they will conduct their social behavior from strict caution to cavalier indifference. Also what’s true for some of the communities hardest hit, may not necessarily be relevant for other communities. In any case, our cultural conversation is turning to how we can best relax shelter-in-place policies in a way to minimize the possible health risk.
It is interesting that this is often couched in the language of “a return to normal.” People are understandably tired of social distancing—the kind of life that we’ve been living in shutdown mode is difficult to sustain, economically, practically, and emotionally. But it’s not a given, that the end of sheltering in place means simply — a “return” to the way things were.
One of yoga’s central teachings is that everything changes. This material world of nature (prakṛti) is impermanent and always changing. We suffer when we remain attached to the way things were, and how we think they should be. So it is important for us as yoga practitioners to question our attachment to how we used to live our lives, our aversion to some of the things we may continue to have to do to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, and our fear of the unknown.
Another central tenet of yoga is non-harming (ahimsa). With this in mind, we should come to class with the intention to keep ourselves and others safe. Keeping this in mind when it comes to being in class, and leaving afterward will be a wonderful opportunity to truly practice mindfulness and compassion in our everyday lives. So with that in mind, here are:
Guidelines for Best Practices while at the Yoga Path for class
- Don’t come to class if you have any unusual symptoms or simply don’t feel well. The class will be offered simultaneous on Zoom, so you will still have the option to attend virtually.
- Take your temperature 1 or 2 hours before class. If it is elevated, don’t attend class. You can know your normal baseline temperature if you take it regularly. Normally, temperatures rise with activity and are often highest in the morning and lowest before bedtime. Any rise in temperature out of the ordinary may be a sign of body response to infection.
- Wear a mask to and from class which you can wear to your station. For the next few weeks while the outbreak seems on the verge of surging, I am asking all who come to class, wear a mask while in class. Designated practice stations will be marked for you to set up to help maintain a safe distance.
- Class size will be limited. Reserve a time slot and if you are not able to come to a class you have registered for please contact the teacher ASAP so someone else can perhaps take your spot.
- Keep social distance when entering and setting up. Please do not touch or go near anyone else in the class.
- The entrance to the studio has been rearranged for better flow, but if two people are already in the entryway, wait to come in or to go out.
- Bring your own mat. If you don’t have a mat, you may have a clean one from the Path, but take it home with you. That will become your mat. If you have 2 blankets, 2 blocks, and a strap bring them with you and take them home. Other props will be used on an as needed basis.
- Try not bring in water bottles to class unless you absolutely have to because of physical or medical requirements.
- You will be asked to clean the wall and ropes around your station after class. Disinfectant spray bottles and clean rags will be furnished. The floor will be mopped after every class.
- Hand-wash station will be available in the studio. Use it coming and going. If you need to use the bathroom downstairs, wash your hands before you close the door and prior to coming out of the bathroom to minimize exposure at the doorknob.
The air conditioning will be on, along with fans, and windows will be open to aid in circulation. After class we will be mopping the floor and cleaning high use areas. Put masks on prior to leaving the studio.
We know that the major risk of transmission is via respiratory droplets and aerosols, and that this risk is much higher if we are indoors with someone who is infected for an extended period of time. Maintaining a distance of 6 ft. helps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with these droplets. For this reason class times will be reduced to just over an hour.
Since the classes will be recorded on Zoom for virtual participation, there won’t be much movement by me while teaching and there will be no physical touching for correction.
There will be no tea at the end of class for now.
Please don’t feel pressured or obligated to come to the studio. All classes will continue to be on Zoom, so you can always attend virtually.
Again the main intent is to come together mindfully, but take care of one another at the same time. I am so grateful for all the support that has come from the Yoga Path community since our closing in March. This support has been a source of strength and joy for me in my own practice. I’ve missed you all more than I can communicate in this email. If we move cautiously and in the spirit of ahimsa, our collective practice will help stay peaceful and healthy.
Dear Yoga Path Community
Out of an abundance of caution and for the safety of the health of the Omaha community, the Yoga Path will stay closed for now in response to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Until a clear picture of the threat is presented, we must follow the advice of the communities currently fighting the outbreak, who warn that the time to act is early and not after the virus becomes widespread. We hope to reopen as soon as possible, once the virus is better understood and contained. We hope that in taking this measure, we are playing a role in slowing down the virus’s spread so that hospitals and medical personnel can better prepare to care for new cases.
This will be an opportunity for all of us to pause and practice safely at home. Given the wave of fear and anxiety pervasive today, we must continue to establish firm ground inside of ourselves. Through mediation, yoga, and compassionate presence, we build the inner resiliency and empathy to stay centered in this precarious time. Let us use our practice to nurture ourselves and those around us.
Actually the best thing that can happen in the coming weeks is nothing. That our caution will result in non-harming(ahimsa) for ourselves and our community
“To meditate is to go home to yourself. Then you know how to care of things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take of things happening around you.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Helpful tips: Boost your energy and immune system by protecting yourself by eating healthy, nutritious foods, get plenty of rest, practice your asanas, get outside in every weather, and laugh/smile at every opportunity.
Along with the rest of the world, we will continue monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it unfolds, at all levels. We are deeply committed to the safety and health of the Yoga Path community. Please be well and take care of one another.
Please feel free to contact us should you have questions or concerns.
Awakened Mind, Quiet Life
Sometimes we travel through our day on a kind of auto-pilot. Gliding to where we’re going, at times, forgetting what we are doing. Meanwhile our mind is in a cloud of ruminations about past regrets or future worries. Yet these states of mind are tumultuous, scattered, and dispersed. There is no quiet stability for us to listen.
This year for the Year-end immersion workshop, we will explore ways to practice Awakening the Mind with Mindful Yoga. And learn ways to offer ourselves the gift of a Quiet Life in midst of a noisy world. In doing so we will touch the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are in us and around us in every situation
“Then the soul is a lamp whose light is steady, for it burns in a shelter where no winds come.”
Bhagavad Gita Ch.VI.v.19
The Essence of Stillness
When we release our ideas, thoughts, and concepts, we
make space for our true mind. Our true mind is silent of all
words and all notions, and is so much vaster than limited
mental constructs. Only when the ocean is calm and quiet
can we see the moon reflected in it.
Silence is ultimately something that comes from the heart,
not from any set of conditions outside us. Living from a
place of silence doesn’t mean never talking, never
engaging or doing things; it simply means that we are not
disturbed inside; there isn’t constant internal chatter. If
we’re truly silent, then no matter what situation we find
ourselves in, we can enjoy the sweet spaciousness of
There are moments when we think we’re being silent
because all around us there’s no sound, but unless we
calm our mind, talking is still going on all the time inside
our head. That’s not true silence. The practice is learning
how to find silence in the midst of all the activities we do.
Try to change your way of thinking and your way of
looking. Sitting down to eat your lunch may be an
opportune time for you to offer yourself the sweetness of
silence. Even though others may be speaking, you have
the ability to disengage from habitual thinking and be very
silent inside. You can be in a crowded space, yet still enjoy
silence and even solitude.
from the book Silence, Thich Nhat Hanh p. 76
Theresa de Avila
Winter Is the Best Time
“Real solitude comes from a stable heart that does not get carried away by the pull of the crowd, nor by sorrows of the past, worries about the future, or excitement or stress about the present.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
While we practice conscious breathing, our thinking will slow down, and we can give ourselves a real rest. Most of the time, we think too much, and mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed, and peaceful. It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future. It enables us to be in touch with life, which is wonderful in the present moment.
Of course, thinking is important, but quite a lot of our thinking is useless. It is as if, in our head, each of us has a cassette tape that is always running, day and night. We think of this and we think of that, and it is difficult to stop. With a cassette, we can just press the stop button. But with our thinking, we do not have any button. We may think and worry so much that we cannot sleep. If we go to the doctor for some sleeping pills or tranquilizers, these may make the situation worse, because we do not really rest during that kind of sleep, and if we continue using these drugs, we may become addicted. We continue to live tensely, and we may have nightmares.
According to the method of conscious breathing, when we breathe in and out, we stop thinking, because saying “In” and “Out” is not thinking—
“In” and “Out” are only words to help us concentrate on our breathing. If we keep breathing in and out this way for a few minutes, we become quite refreshed. We recover ourselves, and we can encounter the beautiful things around us in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here. If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.
When we are in touch with the refreshing, peaceful, and healing elements within ourselves and around us, we learn how to cherish and protect these things and make them grow. These elements of peace are available to us anytime.
Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
“The mind is restless, impetuous, self-willed, hard to train: to master the mind seems as difficult as to master the mighty winds.”
Bhagavad Gita Ch.VI.v34
|This letter was written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on ChristmasEve, 1513. |
|I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.|
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
Yamas – Restraints
Satya – non-falsehood
Asteya – non-stealing
Brahmacharya – non-indulgence
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness
Niyama – Observances
Saucha – purity/cleaniness
Santosa – contentment
Tapas – discipline/heat
Svadhyaya – study/reflection
Isvara pranidhana – devotion to the lord(aspirations)
Asana – Posture
Pranayama – Breath Control
Pratyahara – Sense Control
Dharana – Awareness
Dhyana – Attention
Samadhi – Communion/Absorption/ Stillness
Here is a sheet displaying most of the common standing poses practiced in yoga. Working standing poses is one of the best ways to build and enhance your practice. When you can be stable and strong in these positions all other poses will be accessible to you.
Benefits of Mindfulness Practice & Meditation
by Shinzen Young
Increased Appreciation of Life
A person with high base-line attentiveness finds, in general, all life activities to be more fulfilling. Intrinsically pleasant experiences (food, music, sexuality, etc.) are vastly more intense and satisfying simply because one is more fully “in the moment.” Furthermore, ordinary, banal experiences (washing dishes, driving to work, social conversation, etc.) take on a quality of extraordinary vibrancy and fascination. Boredom becomes a thing of the past.
Dealing with pain from illness or injury becomes a major issue for most people sometime in their lives. Indeed for millions of chronic pain victims, it is the issue of every moment of their lives. When analgesics and medical treatment cannot mitigate the pain, what option is left? Must one be subject to meaningless, abject suffering? Absolutely not. It has been clinically demonstrated that in states of sufficiently high concentration, pain, even very acute pain, can be dissolved into a kind of moving energy. This greatly diminishes ones suffering in the moment.
More importantly, when one learns to experience pain in this way, one actually gets a sense of being empowered and even nurtured by it. Thus, meditation skills provide not merely a mode of pain management, but allow one to experience pain as deeply meaningful in the sense of contributing to personal growth and empowerment.
Emotional Pain, Compulsions and Addictions
What is true for physical pain is also true for emotional pain such as fear, grief, anger, jealousy, shame, etc.
Using mindfulness skills, one can clearly detect and discriminate the mental images, internal words and body sensations that constitute the negative emotion as they arise moment by moment. By “deconstructing” the emotion in this way, one becomes less caught up while at the same time allowing the emotion to flow without suppression.
The same skills can be applied to overcoming negative habits and compulsive behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, eating disorders and so forth, “staying with” the unwholesome urge until it weakens and passes.
Furthermore, the mindfulness itself produces a kind of “intrinsic high” which can replace the unhealthy high of substance and alcohol addiction.
Elevated Performance Levels
Any task is performed more effectively (and joyously!) if one is mindful and focused. These include:
1. More efficient studying for students
2. Increased ability in intellectual pursuits and problem solving
3. Acquisition of skills (languages, performing arts, fine arts, martial arts, etc.)
4. Sports – In sports, heightened attentiveness affects performance in two ways. First, the better you focus, the better your game. Some athletes occasionally spontaneously enter into unusually focused states. The locker room term for this is “being in the zone.” With systematic training in focusing skills, athletes can learn to consistently perform “in the zone.”
Second, focus and equanimity affects sports in the area of endurance. As explained above in the Physical Pain section, high focus imparts the ability to experience pain with reduced suffering. The ability to “break up” the subjective discomfort of fatigue leads to an increase in objective energy which could potentially give a winning edge. Acquiring such an edge through mental concentration represents an attractive alternative for the temptation to gain that edge through drugs.
5. Work – Japanese corporations have long recognized that focused workers are not only more effective, but are happier and more fulfilled because there is an intrinsic pleasure associated with any task done in a highly focused state, even seemingly boring and repetitive tasks. To this end, it is not unusual for big companies to send an entire section of workers to a Zen temple for a week of monastic training.
Effects on Health
1. States of high attentiveness and deep relaxation involve not only the mind but also affect the body and therefore impact one’s health. Brain alpha waves increase, skin conductivity decreases and the metabolism becomes more efficient.
2. Mindfulness helps people be more in contact with and hence more responsive to their bodies.
3. Heightened attentiveness also greatly increases the “high” associated with running and other forms of health-promoting exercises, thus making exercise easier and more appealing.
Improved Interpersonal Relationships At Work And Home
Mindfulness skills impact this arena in two ways. First, they allow one to be more “present” with people, more engaged and less drawn into fantasy and projection moment by moment. Second, they provide a tool to reduce the effects of negative emotions which often get in the way of successful interpersonal communication.
Catalyzing Inner Growth
Most people participate in some form of inner growth process. These include introspection, psychotherapy, body work, self-improvement and motivational seminars, yoga, tai chi, 12-step programs, prayer life, etc. In general all such personal growth processes are vastly more effective when done in a state of heightened mindfulness and equanimity. Attention skill is to personal growth as a catalyst is to a chemical reaction; it dramatically speeds up the rate of the process.
The recent assignment to notice the color blue wherever you see it, has been very interesting at the Yoga Path. It went well for the first week when many put a blue dot on their hand and wrist to be reminded to watch for it. We did this with permanent mark from a blue sharpie. I myself refreshed it daily with each class. Unfortunately the permanent marker was not so permanent, so it would soon wash off in a few days with frequent hand-washing. The blue could also transfer to you pillowcase and bed sheets, where it proved to be much more permanent than on human skin.
Nevertheless, the task of noticing blue yielded a few insights and some appreciation for this remarkable ability to see and distinguish the subtleties of color. But blue has mystery all it’s own. As the last Radiolab story revealed, blue is the last color the human consciousness notices. But Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost, examines our relationship to this color in life:
“The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.
For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”