do it with passion, or not at all: tapas.

Right after I announced that I was purchasing Westport Yoga KC one year ago, my student Ginny gave me this card. I taped it in the front of my lesson plan notebook; so I would see it every day.

Do it with passion, or not at all.

This just about covers the idea of tapas from our study of yoga philosophy. Tapas is a niyama, a personal consideration. We’ve already discussed the first two of the five niyamas: saucha (self-care) and santosha (contentment) in previous posts. Both saucha and santosha sound pleasant and gentle and a perhaps a slightly idealistic: character traits developed by spending my days lounging in daisy covered hillsides singing show-tunes with Olaf and Julie Andrews.

But tapas? Zest, zeal, curiosity, unrestrained passion and discipline? THAT, I can get behind. My eyes light up when the words “curiosity, challenge and exploration” are thrown into the game. I’m notorious for doing things with passion or not doing them at all. Go big or go home.

Like this yoga studio I decided to purchase, which was my home base for offering yoga teachings in my community and was also totally floundering financially when I stepped in. Or when I decided to compete in my first trail race and ended up running one at altitude in Salida, Colorado the day after climbing a 14er (and of course, sleeping in a van). If I’m going to do it: I’m going to do it really, really big, which lots of passion, zest, zeal and a spirit of curiosity. Tapas.

The spirit of tapas asks: What are you doing when you feel most fully alive? And then says: Go do it.

In yoga, we call it ‘living your dharma.’ Dharma doesn’t necessitate that your passion is your profession. (This can often lead to burn out; remember this story about caramel brownies?) Understanding dharma is understanding that we each have something significant to contribute to the larger macrocosm of the world; we each have the potential of living our fullness on an individual level. It’s finding the way to express our tapas, our curiosity, our unique talents and then doing it with passion.

“When you are thriving, when you are serving your highest purpose, you are, in fact serving the highest purpose of everything else.” -Rod Stryker

This month in my blog series we’ll discuss how tapas (zeal, exploration) and dharma (meaning, purpose) interrelate and how these concepts help you Follow Your Bliss.

Our jumping off point is Saturday April 7, 2018: “Follow Your Bliss” a Stay-Cation Yoga Retreat. Together we’ll delve into the ideas of dharma, tapas and personal fulfillment, learning how to use rituals, meditation and yoga to follow bliss and potential.

Registration includes: 5+ hours of yoga practice, healthy snacks, fresh-pressed juice, take-home exclusive essential oil blend for self-massage and a day of soul exploration.

Register online:Westport Yoga KC (spots are extremely limited and these retreats always sell out!)

Happy Passionate Living,

-lisa

the contents of my Soul: santosha

When I picture my Soul, I often picture it as a treasure box. As I move through my life, I collect trinkets to store in this treasure box for safe keeping. I’ve collected experiences of mountain-top serenity, phenomenal sunsets over the ocean, memories of juicy summer-ripe fruit shared with my grandmas, hilariously weird and awkward moments with my girlfriends, minutes of complete and utter bliss in meditation. I’ve also collected outbursts of anger, unjustified frustration directed toward the wrong (mostly innocent) person, days and days and days worth of worrying over future life and career choices.

Yoga philosophy tells me that every word, thought, action or impression I come in contact with is stored in my citta, which is the fancy Sanskrit name for ‘heart-mind-Soul consciousness’. (You can read more about it in this post.) I’m continually accumulating experiences to keep in my Soul treasure box, so what I want to know is: can I find contentment within the contents of my Soul?

Santosha, the personal practice of contentment, has to do with who I am, not what I have. (Remember how I need to stop buying jackets?)

This means I choose what I want the contents of my Soul to be. And you know what?

When I look inside my Soul Treasure Box, I want the contents to be bright and shiny and pure and free and full of love and light. I don’t want to carry around resentment toward the awful landlord who screamed his fool head off at me. Or unresolved grief over the loss of a dear friend. Or self-judgment over a job-half-well-done. These feelings are part of me being me (a human!) but they aren’t what I want to see when I open the contents of my Soul to examine them.

When learning santosha, reflect on these questions:

  • Do I feel contentment with the contents of my Soul?
  • What have I collected in my heart that makes me feel discontented?
  • What can I toss out in order to feel more contentment and fulfillment?

Happy Collecting,

-lisa

breathing through allergies.

My allergies are killing me.

Last Tuesday I woke up at 3:30 am gasping for breath. It seems I accidentally closed my mouth while I was sleeping (which wouldn’t be a problem if I could breathe through my nose like an ordinary human, but apparently it’s a death sentence for someone suffering from spring seasonal allergies.) During my yoga class last night, I not-so-sneakily-snuck out of the studio while everyone else was in savasana for dose of decongestant spray and peppermint oil… oh the joys of loving to play in dirt and take long walks in the Great Outdoors.

2013-05-07 12.47.31

the promise of all things allergen

I almost skipped my Mysore Ashtanga practice on Monday because my nose was completely stuffed.  Ujjayi breath in and out of my nose seemed impossible.  And it was, at first.  My initial downward facing dog felt like I had wrapped my face in a cotton pillow and plunged it underwater.  That great.  But something miraculous happened: by my first Sun Salutation B, I could breathe. I mean, really breathe into the opening of my throat and listen to the familiar sound of ocean wave that the ujjayi creates.  It was as if breathing deeply… helped me breathe deeply. (Novel, I know.)

Instead of feeling frustrated and fatigued, I felt relaxed and rejuvenated.  I could literally feel myself becoming happier and less anxious every time I inhaled.  I felt my spirit lift—I felt connected with my body, instead of feeling annoyed with it.

And it reminded me of this beautiful explanation of Breath from Max Strom’s book, A Life Worth Breathing:

“In our breath there is so much power to be harnessed, so much grace to be found. Many ancient languages associate breath and spirit, or breath and soul, as the same word. Spiritus comes from an old Latin word, meaning “to breathe” but also [meaning] “soul” or “spirit.” Another example is aloha which originally meant, “Breath of God” in ancient Hawaiian. So, when we say aloha to each other, it essentially means “I breathe God with you.” It seems … that human beings understand the act of breathing to be much more than mere physical survival, but as an intimate connection with the divine source, and that breath is actually associated with spiritual life.” – Max Strom

I often tell my students that if they ‘do nothing else but stand here and breathe, their practice is already a success.’  But I often wonder: do they really get it?  Do I really get it?  When I am powering myself into arm balances, am I looking for grace within my breath?  Or am I just using it for the power it provides my muscles?  Probably the latter.

When I take a deep breath after (waking up from) savasana (relaxation pose) do I remember that it is a Divine Gift?  Usually my first thought is to check the clock and see how many minutes I have to change clothes and get to my next class.  So… no, I’m probably ignoring that wake-up-inhale as “an intimate connection with the divine source.”
Fact: being unable to inhale through my super-stuffy nose reminds me that breathing is a gift.  (Trying to look on the bright side here.)  And with that gift, my Spirit is connected with every living creature in the past, present, and future.

If you too struggle with seasonal allergies, check out this article from Gaiam which gives advice on the best yoga poses to relieve allergies.  And if you are a science nerd, like I am, this article details the physiological details of respiratory allergic reactions.  And lastly… take a deep breath and cherish it like it is the only breath you will take today.  Cherish your Spirit.

Get on your mat, even if your allergies are killing you.

photo cred MAD

photo cred MAD

Aloha,
-lisa