Going Yinward

by Alana Kessler

 

It was 2010. I was in Nicaragua with my friend, Janine, celebrating my 30th birthday. Being a yoga practitioner for over a decade, and relatively new Ashtangi of a little over a year, I was diligent about my early morning practice. The routine was this: We would get coffee delivered to the door, drink it leisurely on the balcony, watch the waves, and then practice.

I remember breaking my drishti and watching Janine with curiosity. While I was jumping back and jumping through, she was holding postures for minutes at a time in what appeared to be mini-naps. I judged it. It was a challenge to wrap my mind around this being a practice that supports the seriousness and attention that I identified my practice with.

Cut to five years later: I found myself in San Francisco eyeball deep in a 10-day Yin Yoga Intensive and Buddhist psychology training with Sarah Powers, and loving every second of it.  How did I end up here, you ask? You see, somewhere along the way the yang element of Ashtanga Yoga opened me up to a deeper layer of interest. I began to listen to meditation teachers’ talks while doing my Mysore practice at home. I got quieter. I took notice of when I was pushing too hard. I asked myself if my motivations and actions were aligned with my higher intention. Did I even know what that was?

What happened was magical. I refined my attention to attune to deep physical and emotional injuries and unmet needs that were asking for some tenderness. I knew I needed something complementary to my current practice. Something slower, a practice where I could explore, engage, and enliven both the nature of my physical body but also my heart.  

Years of “doing” had left me somewhat spiritually and physically exhausted, and Yin Yoga was the perfect medicine to restore and renew my resources. The long-held postures allowed a certain freedom to ask questions and wait for answers. They provided a composition through which I applied my breath and awareness in a new way and experienced the unfolding and uncovering of deeply held injuries of the body and the spirit. I began to heal them. I found a new world within the stillness that was so energizing it propelled me into new levels of creativity, courage, and compassion. My Ashtanga practice got stronger and softer at the same time, as did my approach to life in general.

So here I am now, eight years later, and I am so grateful for the circumstances that illuminated my path towards this practice. To share it with this community is a privilege, and I am honored by the opportunity.  

With love,

Alana

Autumn Breathe-Ins

 

Two back-to-school breathe-ins: September 29 in Fort GreeneOctober 27 in Union Square

With Annie Piper, Paul Weinfeld & Leslie Erin Roth.

 

Meditation

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….in countries like India or Burma or Tibet, where meditation practice is more widespread, practitioners are counseled to look for qualities like kindness and compassion as the metrics of whether their practice is proving effective or not. And, as I was taught in each of those places, look not towards your formal period of practice — your retreat experience, or the time you might put into meditation each day, however long or short — look to your everyday life to see signs of the possible efficacy of the practice: How are you with yourself when you’ve made a mistake? How attentive are you when meeting a stranger? How rigidly do you categorize people, and then cease to pay attention to them altogether? How might you be creating an “other” that you then discount or disdain?

Read more from Sharon Salzberg’s weekly post on On Being.

http://onbeing.org/blog/exploring-lovingkindness-in-the-lab-and-in-the-heart/7778

Oprah Winfrey interview with Thich Nhat Hanh

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Thich Nhat Hanh has been a Buddhist monk for more than 60 years, as well as a teacher, writer, and vocal opponent of war – a stance that left him exiled from his native Vietnam for four decades. Now the man Martin Luther King Jr. called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” reflects on the beauty of the present moment, being grateful for every breath, and the freedom and happiness to be found in a simple cup of tea. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ9UtuWfs3U

for full interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PCXeHNL3s8