surrendering into a pose.

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Autumn leaves in Kansas City, Missouri

“Oh Autumn leaf, be still and yield

When the wind wants to take you away.

Do not resist, be a player in the game.

Surrender to the dancing changes.

Let yourself be broken, seized

And blown to your next home.”

– H. Hesse

‘Surrendering’ is one of the most elusive aspects of a yoga asana practice.  Teachers always say things like “Follow your breath… surrender to the pose” or “Let go of the tension in your hips…let yourself surrender”.  And I think: ‘Sure. Good idea. I’m breathing, and I’m trying to surrender to this pose, but my right hip is frozen like cement.  And also screaming so loudly that dogs are barking down the street”.  

I’d been working on the mother of all hip-openers: Eka Pada Sirsasna (also known as Good-Lord-why-is-her-leg-behind-her-head?-pose) diligently for almost one year, coaxing my right hip open after years of running and dancing related injuries.  So many days I struggled to find the discipline to practice. So many mornings I wanted to cozy up on my couch and read books or hang out in my kitchen and bake treats.  And so many mornings, I glanced at my ‘Resolve’ frame (where I write my monthly Resolutions, check it out here) and reluctantly dragged myself out the door and into the practice room.  And every day was different.  Sometimes my hips felt supple and sometimes I felt like the Tin Man. Sometimes I found myself dreading the Ashtanga Second Series postures of One-Leg-Behind-the-Head (there are a few of them…) and frustration crept in.  I added a few wrinkles to my forehead trying to yank those ankles behind my neck. (Lame. I’m too young for anything but smile-wrinkles!)

The left leg?  Easy.  The right leg?  A joke.  On an especially balmy day I kept my right leg behind my head for 4 postures in a row (ha! breakthrough! success!) and then the next day I could barely walk, let alone practice asana with ease.  This is lame, I thought. and I gave up.

Literally.  Gave Up.  I watched a few online yoga videos, looked at some Instagram photos of my friends with their legs behind their head, decided that wasn’t going to be me for a decade…and gave up. I stopped being attached to the results.  Basically, I stopped trying to achieve and I started doing yoga.

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i learned this! summer goal accomplished!

Finally, I experienced a breakthrough in July.  It worked!  It stayed!  I was so excited that I’d learned this new pose and met my summer goal that I shared it on social media.

And then I went on a epic journey to Peru (Peru travel-asana pictures can be found here) and I came home and jumped on my mat, feeling rested and excited, and… my hips were frozen in place.  My ego took a huge hit.  Then, slowly, patiently, my ankles tucked behind my head.  On a good day I would be able to find the full expression of this pose, at the expense of my shoulder and poor little neck.  Not yoga.  Just ego and effort, apparently.

So again, I gave up.  I began to surrender.  I read this poem by Herman Hesse and decided I could yield to the changing winds and the energy of the moment, adopting the philosophy of the autumn leaves now adorning my front porch.

“Oh Autumn leaf, be still and yield

When the wind wants to take you away.

Do not resist, be a player in the game.

Surrender to the dancing changes.

Let yourself be broken, seized

And blown to your next home.”

– H. Hesse

 

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yeah, that’s the left leg… but you get the idea

And, unsurprisingly, surrendering worked.  Letting go of my attachment to the result of my practice (which is the phrase from the Bhagavad Gita that I’ve been teaching in my classes recently) actually worked.  Surrendering is possible when my face is soft, my ego is checked, and my body is concentrating on breathing rather than moving.  (Practice what you preach, right?)

I mean, it’s not perfect, and I’ll probably be confronted with the same lesson again in a few months. But it’s getting there.

Most importantly, I learned to surrender: I realized I was gripping my perception of ‘success’ so tightly that my muscles could never surrender and let go.  It’s a humbling question to ask yourself:

What can you surrender?

sugar-free pumpkin power bars (vegan! gluten-free! deliciousrecipe!)

sugar-free pumpkin power bars: recipe

It’s autumn again!  Time for everything cozy and pumpkin flavored.  Last fall I was really into vegan/gluten free baking (see this recipe for vegan pumpkin bread) and THIS year, I’m totally into sugar-free baked goods.   Pumpkin flavored baked goods are my favorite, I honestly can’t get enough.  After a few fun attempts (read: crumbly failures) at making my own power bars, I’ve finally perfected this recipe.  Cut them into small squares– you will want to eat a dozen.  :)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 1/2 can Pumpkin (about 120 g)
  • 1 C Almond Flour
  • 1 C Oat Flour
  • 1/4 C ground flax seed mixed with 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 C Raw Rolled Oats
  • 1/8 C Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Golden Raisins
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sugar free AND gluten free AND full of protein.

 

Procedure

Grease 9 x13 inch baking pan with grapeseed oil. Set aside.

Peel ripe banana and mush with a fork (or use a food processor.)  In a large bowl.

Stir in all ingredients, adding the rolled oats last.  You may need to adjust the quantity of oats according to how dry or moist your batter is.  Batter should be thick, easily turned over with a rubber scraper.

Using a rubber scraper or wax paper on your hand, press batter into baking pan.  Thick or thin– that’s up to you.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes.  (I don’t pre-heat my oven because I try to save energy and electricity.  You can read about this in my April Aparigraha Challenge: Save your Energy.)  Cut into small squares.  Yield: approx 24. Enjoy!

Make them this weekend and enjoy with your morning tea!  They are a great ‘pick me up’ on your way out the door to your evening yoga class.

Enjoy!

-lisa

FALL in Love.

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I found this sign, tucked inside the window display of a possibly-abandoned storefront, and simply had to take a picture.  Lately, I’ve noticed negative images, graffiti and advertisements scattered around town… and coupled with the change in daylight patterns and loss of summer, it’s been a little disheartening.  However, this sign, reminded me to Fall in Love today.  And every time I see it, I smile.  It’s great advice for the new season.

If, like me, you need a little pick-me-up today, you’ll enjoy this poem from my good friend Meister Eckhart who has a grand view of the Universe as being permanently In Love.

Always Kissing

They are always kissing, they can’t control themselves.

It is not possible that any creature can have greater instincts and perceptions than the mature human mind.

God ripened me.  So I see it is true: all objects in existence are wildly in love.

-m. eckhart

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What are you going to fall in love with today?  One year, my aim was to find something NEW to love every day.  One day, it was the copy machine in the teacher’s lounge.  (That must have been a bad day.)  One day it was my new coffee mug.  Another day it was a hug from a friend.  It didn’t have to be a life-changing event or a life-saving item, I just wanted to recognize that, even in times of turmoil or stress, all objects in existence were wildly in love.  My list looked ridiculous, but I did practice finding love in the innocuous.  And I practiced falling in love with life.

What are you going to fall in love with today?

Happy Falling.

-lisa