"Don't sweat the small stuff" is an all too familiar cliché that’s thrown around. Sounds great! Sign me up! But wait, here’s the fine print: Putting these five little words into action is exasperating when daily life consists of dozens of small things to fuss about. I consider myself a highly educated individual and understanding the idea of not “Sweating the small stuff” on an intellectual level is pretty simple; however, internalizing and actually living by these words is a whole other story.
The notion of kaivalya in yoga philosophy describes the effect of being in a continuous state of samadhi. Samadhi is only attainable by following the eight-limbs of yoga. “Kevala” translates as "to keep to oneself" so it is often described as isolation or an aloofness. When in a state of kaivalya, an individual becomes so keenly aware of the world around them that they begin to exist within it without being subject to it. Unaffected. There is no good outcome. There is no bad outcome. Things are as they are and the only controllable is the individual’s reaction to any given situation. This isn't to say that worldly circumstances cease to apply, only that wherever this individual may be, he or she ceases to become a victim of those circumstances. The material world is as it is. It has no other meaning beyond what we as humans ascribe to it. The material world is a social construction.
Thursday, 12 January 2012
I watched a mind blowing BBC Documentary the other night on The Man Who Los His Body. Ian, an Englishman woke up one morning and found himself unable to move. He was not paralyzed but he experienced nerve damage in the part of his brain responsible for proprioception. His sense of touch was gone completely, yet he was not paralyzed. Doctors were baffled. There was no diagnosis for this odd condition (only 10 cases reported in the world!) and doctors concluded that Ian would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Through tedious hours, weeks, months and years of rehabilitation Ian was able to bypass his own nervous system relying solely on his vision and his memory of movement. Eventually Ian was able to teach himself to sit up, stand and walk again. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Do you relish the hours, minutes and seconds leading up to yoga class or do you approach your yoga practice as another task to check off the "To-Do" list? So many of us, myself included, correlate our self-worth with how much we can get accomplished. The more tasks we check off our "To-Do" lists the more productive we feel as members of society and the more valuable we feel as individuals. The connection between what we accomplish and our perceived self-worth is totally arbitrary and artificially constructed by Western culture.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
As a movement professional I take verbal cues very seriously regardless of whether I am the one giving them or receiving them. The ability to articulate movement to a student is the difference between good instruction and great instruction. I had many ballet teachers in my career yet only two of them were able to articulate their instruction in such a way that I immediately understood what to do with my body to achieve the desired lines. The same clear, concise and most importantly individually tailored verbal cues are necessary to proper yoga instruction. Whether you are an advanced yogi or a beginner or whether you are a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet or a ballet enthusiast, everyone needs a fresh pair of eyes. I call this the "spinach in between your teeth effect." If you have a piece of spinach stuck in between your teeth, wouldn't you want someone to tell you about? If you had your skirt tucked into your underwear in public wouldn't you want to know about it? How about if you had a piece of soiled toilet paper stuck to your shoe at a trendy nightspot, wouldn't you want someone to tell you???
Wednesday, 05 October 2011
A Workshop For My Fellow Yogis...
GET GROUNDED: A Physical Journey Inward
JOIN ME FOR A DEEPLY REJUVINATING PRACTICE AT THE GRAND OPENING OF THE BEAUTIFUL
Date: Sunday, October 2nd 2011
Instructor: Susy Vishmid
Location: 27113 Indian Peak Road
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
(Shakti Sanctuary is a fine treasure hidden within a residential area so please be mindful of this as you enter and exit)
Suggested Donation: $15
I HOPE TO SEE ALL YOU LOCAL LOVLIES THERE!
Saturday, 24 September 2011
I recently saw a commercial on television in which a yoga instructor endorses Advil. I thought to myself, "wow, this is irony at its best!" Isn't yoga the "natural" painkiller? By participating in the commercial, yoga instructor Lacey Calvert deflates the value and the physical benefits of yoga. Many people turn to yoga precisely because they experience pain and because they believe yoga can help extinguish their physical discomfort. This commercial is just another cunning attempt by Big Pharma to shove another pill down our throats in an attempt to solve our problems. Instead of unnecessarily creating another bad habit and popping a pain pill, think about what caused your physical pain. Did you exhaust all possible options to alleviate the pain or are you simply choosing the easiest and most available option? Click here to view the ad.
Monday, 18 July 2011
*(Click "Watch on YouTube" if you click on this video and it doesn't start right away)
Whether he was aware of it or not, good ole’ George Costanza from NBC's hit sit-com Seinfeld seeminly understood what it meant to bring things into balance…at least it appears he understood. In episode 22 of the show’s fifth season, it hit me!!!! Geroge Costanza was practicing yoga without even realizing it. During the episode, George proclaims that as of this very moment he will do the exact opposite of every initial instinct he has ever had because these instincts never led George to accomplish his desired goals. Therefore, doing the exact opposite must be the right thing to do. DISCLAIMER*** George Costanza took his “yoga practice” to the extreme in this example. I’m not endorsing stringent adherence to George Costanza’s advice nor do I think that heeding to George’s Hollywood generated recommendation will suddenly usher you into an era of finally becoming that advanced yoga practitioner you always dreamt of becoming nor will it propel you into a state of enlightenment. But it's certainly an interesting modern world comparision (is 1994 still considered modern?) with respect to yoga philosophy. Watch the above clip—it’s hilarious.
Perhaps George Costanza was wiser than we gave him credit for becuase at least in this one episode George apprears to grasp the idea of pratipaksa bhavanam, an idea discussed in Sutra 33, Book II of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Let me try to summerize the idea of pratipaksa bhavanam in the most succinct way I can. Here goes... Because our thoughts give rise to our emotional state, when disturbed by a negative thought one should replace this thought with the opposite thought. Pratipaksa bhavanam is the discipline of first recognizing the negative thought pattern as counterproductive and then replacing that thought with the opposite (positive) thought. Practicing pratipaksa bhavanam allows one to cultivate the opposing attitude and in doing so, brings the psyche and the consciousness into a more balanced state. At the heart of the matter, this balanced and blissful state is precisely what yoga is all about. Mastery of physical asana is totally unnecessary in order to be successful at cultivating the opposing attitude and therefore achieving a balanced emotional state.
Wednesday, 01 June 2011
Intimidation, laziness, lack of time and a lack of understanding of yoga’s benefits often keep non-yogis from entering the studio. But a closer examination of these qualities will reveal that they don’t only affect you with respect to yoga but they most likely also affect more familiar areas of your life. Ever been afraid to start something new? Why? Is it fear of being judged? Ever skipped out on going for that walk, run or swim that you’ve been intending to use to jumpstart your fitness routine? These qualities become so intuitive that we perceive to be our identity; they become our samskaras. It is possible to peel away those mental and physical layers of ourselves that we aren’t so content with.
When I first started practicing yoga I approached my practice with the sole intention of mastering those crazy poses you see in magazines because I thought that’s what yoga is all about. The more I practiced physically, the more my practice evolved in an energetic and spiritual way. The more I mastered the physical aspect of yoga, the less concerned with it I became. Yes, I did master many of the advanced asanas, but it suddenly wasn’t so important to me anymore. It was something deeper and much more personal than that. My yoga practice is a channel through which I am able to establish a genuine relationship with myself. When I am dancing or writing or going about other daily activities I lose sight of me, myself and my intentions because I perform these activities for the sake of something or someone else. Yoga is a pallet cleanser. After a long hard day yoga can make me feel better and forget my day. In the morning when I often awake I feel sore and stiff, but after 20 minutes on my mat, I feel energized and physically malleable. Yoga is whatever you want it to be whenever you want it. Yoga, like an old friend, is a practice that’s always there for you when you need. Simply taking a moment to close your eyes and count your breath is an act of yoga.
When yoga becomes a daily part of your life and not necessarily just the physical aspect, you begin radiating the fulfillment you experience out into the world. Others will notice and you will have the desire on your own accord to go out into the world and share the gift of yoga with as many people as you can…and thus the circle of yoga continues.
Friday, 06 May 2011
"Worrying is like a rocking chair...it doesn't get you anywhere but it gives you something to do." --Anonymous
Friday, 18 March 2011
Public transportation issues aside, I made my way to Les Levanthal's 9am vinyasa class in the Castro. Nice! I mentally high-fived myself as I secured a spot in the front row of the studio. (duh, where else would I be) As the class begins Les implores us to say hello and "make friends" with our neighbor. Ok, no biggie, after all it’s yoga and we are all here to practice in a community. Makes sense to get to know your neighbor. But then, Les asked us to do the unthinkable...to pick up our mats and MOVE three spots so we are in a different area altogether! This experience was very confronting. I go out of my way to secure a spot that I feel comfortable in only to have to pick up all my crap and move it to another part of the room?! Unfathomable! My higher rational sensibility kicked in reminding me that this confronting experience was merely a metaphor for life, as all of yoga is; yet my immediate and intuitive reaction was unkind and spiteful. Why should I move my stuff? Why can't they move theirs? You see where I'm going with this...but when the guru speaks, the pupil obeys. If picking up my mat and a handful of other belongings was so distressful, no wonder I'm having such a hard time adjusting to life in a new city. A mini-revelation occurred. What happened to the openness I used to bring with me into yoga classes? Perhaps the openness that once used to ebb and flow got stuck. To quote Rumi: "Spirit is the art of getting what's stuck unstuck."
Raga, one of the five kleshas, is a concept in yoga philosophy that pertains to attachment. According to the Yoga Sutras, kleshas are the root of all suffering. We are all attached to certain possessions, people, beliefs and the like, even if they aren't necessarily healthy attachments; therefore, when we are forced to part with these things we suffer. No one likes change...at least initially. Why? Because it means you have to divorce yourself from the familiar. It's confrontations like the one I experienced in Les's class this morning that cause you to wake up and smell the neighbor next to you. If you successfully maintain your composure while doing so in a sweaty yoga class then I salute you.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
People speak of yoga as devotional, ritualistic, even disciplinary. People come to yoga for various reasons, some for physical and/or emotional healing, some for social reasons and some come just to mellow out. But they keep coming...why? My mind constantly draws parallels between ballet and yoga because these are the two things I know best in life. I will shamelessly call myself an expert in both fields. Historically ballets were enacted in the court of kings for their appeasement. Yoga too is a devotional practice but it doesn't strive to appease a higher authority...or does it? Is it possible to become addicted to the practice of yoga in the same way one becomes addicted to cigarettes? How many arm balances is too many? How many high intensity vinyasa classes in one week before the phrase "I think you have a problem" becomes appropriate? Four, five, six, seven...? Where do you draw the line between ritualistic and habit? We see the "yoga junkies" in classes (yea, you know who I'm talkin' about) every day, rain or shine (guilty as charged). Yoga first appealed to me because of its similarity to ballet in terms of the flow. I couldn't get enough but now that I returned to dancing professionally several years ago it's difficult to dedicate the same amount of physical devotion to both artistic practices. It's taking some time for me to accept that my yoga practice is morphing into something different than it was two years ago, even a year ago. The quality of my practice is slower and I find myself drawn to quieter and more restorative class styles.
Friday, 21 January 2011
It’s absurd how people can change moods so quickly in this city. I enter the yoga studio this morning already sensing an elevation in my mood. Is it the faint smell of incense and colorful plethora of eco-friendly yoga apparel that triggers a shift in mood? Or maybe it’s the hardwood floors, dim lighting and soft spoken voices? Whatever it is, I find a seat on a pillow cushion in the lobby and quietly observe the cheerful like-minded yogis gathering in anticipation of the previous class to conclude. I must’ve sat there for a good ten minutes, just watching, observing and feeling quite content. The juices in my brain swish around as if to coalesce into thoughts I entertain only momentarily. As though I were stringing together a pearl bracelet, my thoughts ebbed and flowed effortlessly into one another until this brilliant post arose: How can there be so many bitter assholes out there on the roads in Los Angeles proper at any given time and yet how can there be so many relaxed, friendly compassionate like-minded people under one roof at this one moment in time? The thought was so provoking that the elegant intricacy with which my thoughts were being strung together ceased immediately. Holy shit! Is this soft-faced older gentleman graciously smiling at me as he allows me to pass first into the yoga studio the same asshole I was honking at earlier on Main Street?! Oh man…guilt first, then embarrassment wash over me as I forcefully smile at this man and walk through the doors of the studio. Sometimes, it takes a moment to realize that those very pinheads who grind your gears out there on L.A.’s roads might end up flashing you a genuine smile within a temple of yoga near you.
Friday, 29 October 2010
Freudian psychology describes repressed memories as being stored deep within our subconscious….quite the avant-garde supposition for the late 19th-century. Would it be presumptuous of me to argue that the same thing can be said for movement patterns and the physical body? Eh, what the heck, it’s my blog and I’ll argue it regardless. Seriously though, how is it that our daily experiences manifest in our movement patterns and posture? If you look at most people, they walk with such a sense of urgency, plowing forward into the unknown with their heads barely clinging on to the rest of their bodies. Take a look at the person driving down the highway in the car next to you, or at your co-worker sitting at her computer tapping away at the keyboard. What do both of these people have in common? Most likely, their heads will be cocked forward pulling the cervical spine (neck) out of its natural alignment. Their shoulders will round forward giving them that slouchy look, Mom always warned you against and guess what she was right! I don’t care what type of post-modern world we live in, or how hipster you are, but slouching will never be en vogue.
How we move, especially when we are unaware of it, says more about who we are than our words often do. The human body is a perfect example of the form follows function principle. Think about that Debbie Downer friend of yours (everyone has one) and look at his posture. Is it less than perfect? Does he also round his shoulders forward? Or maybe his defense mechanism is crossing his arms in front of his chest to symbolically protect his “core” or “heart center,” which are both energetic body concepts. Sounds crazy, but there is actual data out there to show that our physical bodies are linked to our emotional or energetic bodies. “Emotional impact of our experiences are imprinted into our bodies, affecting the balance of our vital energy and the harmony (or disharmony) of our whole system,” says Sara Powers, a yoga instructor and author of Insight Yoga: Integrating Yin/Yang Yoga and Buddhist Meditation. Our bodies are emotional storage units and it looks like our buddy Mr. Downer lost the key to his.
The best way to bring yourself back to middle ground is to become aware of your behavior in any situation. These behaviors become samskaras (habits) that literally impose upon and live within our human containers. Yes, containers. The body is a container that remembers everything! No, you can’t go to the Container Store and buy another one. Sorry folks. But, here are a few tips on what you can do to retrieve your lost key.
YOGI TIDBIT TO TRY: Sit on your yoga mat with your legs crossed at the shins. Simply sit normally. Now, here’s where the yoga comes in. In your mind’s eye, locate both of your sitting bones (hint: one is to the left of your tailbone, one is to the right). Observe whether you sit towards the rear of your sits bones, causing the pelvis to tilt backwards and the shoulders to round forward. Perhaps you sit more towards the front of your sit bones, causing the pelvis to tilt forward straining the low back. Both examples reflect where you are, in time and space. Sitting towards the front of the sit bones symbolizes an anticipation of a future that is not yet here because you literally lurch your body forward into the unknown. The reverse is true for sitting towards the rear of the sit bones. This extreme is reflective of holding back or refusing to let go of the past. All you need to do is observe and become aware of whatever extreme best describes you.
Take A Look at Susy:
Thursday, 09 September 2010
Waaaaaaaa! So when did it become unfashionable to be late?! Isn’t this Los Angeles? Every girl deserves a get out of jail free card when it comes to glamming up and going out, but what’s the expiration date on that card? Then there’s that little inconvenience we all know and love…ummm yea, I’m talking about LA traffic. Ok, so maybe you see where I am going with this. I admit that occasionally I can be tardy, mmmmmm…..okay, okay, so maybe it’s starting to become more of a nasty habit. The nervous sweating, panic and heart palpitations are distinct symptoms of my tardy-syndrome and the frequency with which I experience these symptoms is increasing at an alarming rate. I even set my clocks 20 minutes ahead to mentally prep myself and give myself the appearance of more time. Perhaps I’ve been in denial for a little too long when it comes to my non-life threatening condition.
Last night I expressed my concern about my tardy-syndrome to my boyfriend, who by the way is never late. He immediately pointed out that setting my clocks 20 minutes fast was a bad idea and that if I actually had them set to the real time, my tardy-syndrome would go into remission. Later that night my boyfriend made crystal clear that he needed to be at work extra early and out the door by 7:45am. This means that instead of our usual 8am wake-up—which typically means 8:30am courtesy of Mr. Snooze Button, he needed to be up by 7am. So, guess what happens next….
I turn over and look at my alarm and it reads 7:18am! I realize that I either didn’t set it properly or hit the snooze button on accident. I shake my boyfriend awake and yell “Miiiiiike, get up! Get up! The alarm didn’t go off!” Mike scurries out of bed like a headless chicken and into the bathroom. Ok, so what’s the big deal? Since my clocks are fast doesn’t that mean it was really 7am? Yes, but that’s not the point I guess. While Mike did make it out of my apartment by 7:45am, he was not very happy with me. The air was thick with tension this morning and I felt like a bad puppy who pooped in the corner just waiting for its owner to find it.
I’ve been setting my clocks ahead for so long that I’ve created a samskara. In yoga philosophy, samskaras (link) are impressions or memories that result from past actions that have been repeated over and over again, i.e. habits. Initially I felt a pang of panic whenever I glanced at the clock, which was the whole point of my brilliant plan. These days I look at my clock and I’m fully aware of the fact that I have a 20-minute cushion, but therein lies my dilemma. I’ve done the complete opposite of what I set out to accomplish. I created a false sense of security.
The joke was on the Sooz and I learned an invaluable lesson. Step one in the Tardy-Anonymous Program is admitting my tardiness. I’m now hyperaware of my relationship with time. Turning the clocks ahead literally distorted my perception of real time creating a bad habit or a samskara. The only way to squash the samskara is to refine the opposing samskara, which means turning the clocks back and springing into real time.
Friday, 03 September 2010