Waiting for Baby: Birth Preparation and Practicing Patience

In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu poses this question…
“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”

In the land of on-demand everything; meals, rides, movies and even dating apps, you may ask, how can we slow down and turn on the patience switch for an easeful birth experience? For many couples the need for patience started pre-conception with fertility challenges and then is required again in the first trimester with often all-day sickness. Through these periods of patience and suffering we experience gratitude, but often again around 35-38 weeks that little monster called impatience rears its head again, creating anxiety, stress and often doubts that make us question whether or not something is wrong.

In prenatal yoga, as well as birth prep classes we learn tools to work with discomfort, whether they be contractions or just indigestion. We also learn to step back and let go of judgments, thoughts of limitation and just notice what is happening right now in the present. Through mindfulness meditation, and by intentionally bringing awareness to postures, we start to see where we are holding back, holding on, or preventing the opening that might be needed to welcome this new life into our arms.

We are all aware that our birth experience may not go as we had planned–and I’m grateful for the resources available in the hospital when an emergency arises or medical intervention becomes the best option to reduce suffering. We always hope that our babies are able to come to this planet in their own time, without prodding and provoking, unless there is a real medical concern. Sometimes interventions like Pitocin, the epidural and C-sections seem like the best option to numb the discomfort of labor and the waiting because our mind says “run from pain, cling to pleasure. A common theme in my classes is Impermanence, knowing that everything changes, including the pain of labor and once you allow yourself to be in a place you might want to bolt from, you learn that its possible to stay a little longer without defeat…maybe even feel encouraged!

 Next time you want to push away that thought or sensation, see what happens if you stay still and wait–until the mud settles–and trust that you will be guided so that the right action arises by itself.

To learn more join Elika for her upcoming ‘Prep for Birth‘ workshop on Saturday, April 18th. Register HERE.

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Rod Stryker's Tantra Shakti Training

Mind Fish +  Prana Fish

by Kameko Shibata

To be honest, I have few words to describe the Tantra Shakti Master Teacher Training with Rod Stryker. (Mostly because I’m still floating in spinal bliss and mantras keep ringing in my ears).

The best I can come up with is: life changing. There isn’t one thing to pinpoint, there are many. First of all, its an honor to study with a teacher who himself has a teacher and is connected to a lineage. He is also a down to earth, normal guy.  In the west we experience yoga as asana based and often made up by various teachers. There is nothing wrong with “making things up”, and many teacher are excellent at making up styles, brands, etc., but there is something deeply grounded and sacred in teachings and lineage that have thousands of years of history. When you study in India, you feel the connection to nature, history, cosmology and the whole universe. When you study with Rod Stryker that same connection emanates through his teachings.

Rod Stryker is the founder of ParaYoga and his lineage, sri vidya, is tantra based. Like most, I wasn’t sure what tantra even was. In the US people thinks it’s about sex (that’s one tiny branch of one style!). I learned that tantra is about the cultivation of power – the power of shakti, the feminine energy of the world. Shakti is manifested through the cultivation of prana, or prana shakti. Yoga on the other hand,  as seen in the Yoga Sutras, is a mind based practice. It basically says “learn to understand and balance the mind, and then meditative states arise.” Tantra says “learn to understand and move prana shakti, and the mind will follow.”  In this training we cultivated prana through powerful meditations, visualizations, pranayama, asana and mantra (the most important tool in ParaYoga).  The asana isn’t too challenging or too frequent, but deep. For asana Rod draws on the vinyasa krama system of Krishnamacharya, where breath and sound is linked with dynamic movement. I align and draw on that system having also studied at the Krishnamacharya Mandiram.

I left this training with two simply profound take-aways:

  • He used the metaphor of the mind and energy (prana) as two fish always swimming after each other, chasing each other around.  Through tantra ones learn to cultivate the energy (prana) through the yogic practices and the mind will follow. This was revolutionary because most of the time we are so worried about our minds and alignment in asana, we forget to trust that we just need to move the breath, body, energy and the mind will follow!

  • Tantra aims to weave the mundane and the spiritual together into the tapestry of life. It’s so easy for our practice to be a sacred beautiful ritual and the rest of life to feel like a drag. Beginning to weave the elements of practice, the movement of breath, and the belief that all is sacred into our daily lives, we can live a much more fulfilling life even when we’re not on the mat. I’ve been really working on seeing everything as a sacred ritual, and low and behold it makes chores less annoying! Bottom line: who cares if you can put your foot behind your head if you’re mean to your kids afterwards?

I am so grateful to leave this training feeling inspired to teach the way I want too! When I came back from India I knew I needed to teach the practice of chanting om and moving, which most of you have done if you’ve been in my class. I was nervous- because its different. Teaching bandhas, philosophy, mantra, chanting and pranayama in a world of pop music power yoga is scarey. Sometimes I wonder if students really crave just a fun workout…. But I believe what most of us truly crave is authenticity.That’s what I appreciate about Rod Stryker, his authenticity. Both pop power vinyasa and this deeper style can be done authentically, if you have a teacher who is practicing, connected and inspired!

Catch you on the mat.  Hari om!
For more inspiration, free recipes, and events  visit Kameko’s website: www.kamekoarts.com

 

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20

Rod Stryker’s Tantra Shakti Training

Mind Fish +  Prana Fish

by Kameko Shibata

To be honest, I have few words to describe the Tantra Shakti Master Teacher Training with Rod Stryker. (Mostly because I’m still floating in spinal bliss and mantras keep ringing in my ears).

The best I can come up with is: life changing. There isn’t one thing to pinpoint, there are many. First of all, its an honor to study with a teacher who himself has a teacher and is connected to a lineage. He is also a down to earth, normal guy.  In the west we experience yoga as asana based and often made up by various teachers. There is nothing wrong with “making things up”, and many teacher are excellent at making up styles, brands, etc., but there is something deeply grounded and sacred in teachings and lineage that have thousands of years of history. When you study in India, you feel the connection to nature, history, cosmology and the whole universe. When you study with Rod Stryker that same connection emanates through his teachings.

Rod Stryker is the founder of ParaYoga and his lineage, sri vidya, is tantra based. Like most, I wasn’t sure what tantra even was. In the US people thinks it’s about sex (that’s one tiny branch of one style!). I learned that tantra is about the cultivation of power – the power of shakti, the feminine energy of the world. Shakti is manifested through the cultivation of prana, or prana shakti. Yoga on the other hand,  as seen in the Yoga Sutras, is a mind based practice. It basically says “learn to understand and balance the mind, and then meditative states arise.” Tantra says “learn to understand and move prana shakti, and the mind will follow.”  In this training we cultivated prana through powerful meditations, visualizations, pranayama, asana and mantra (the most important tool in ParaYoga).  The asana isn’t too challenging or too frequent, but deep. For asana Rod draws on the vinyasa krama system of Krishnamacharya, where breath and sound is linked with dynamic movement. I align and draw on that system having also studied at the Krishnamacharya Mandiram.

I left this training with two simply profound take-aways:

  • He used the metaphor of the mind and energy (prana) as two fish always swimming after each other, chasing each other around.  Through tantra ones learn to cultivate the energy (prana) through the yogic practices and the mind will follow. This was revolutionary because most of the time we are so worried about our minds and alignment in asana, we forget to trust that we just need to move the breath, body, energy and the mind will follow!

  • Tantra aims to weave the mundane and the spiritual together into the tapestry of life. It’s so easy for our practice to be a sacred beautiful ritual and the rest of life to feel like a drag. Beginning to weave the elements of practice, the movement of breath, and the belief that all is sacred into our daily lives, we can live a much more fulfilling life even when we’re not on the mat. I’ve been really working on seeing everything as a sacred ritual, and low and behold it makes chores less annoying! Bottom line: who cares if you can put your foot behind your head if you’re mean to your kids afterwards?

I am so grateful to leave this training feeling inspired to teach the way I want too! When I came back from India I knew I needed to teach the practice of chanting om and moving, which most of you have done if you’ve been in my class. I was nervous- because its different. Teaching bandhas, philosophy, mantra, chanting and pranayama in a world of pop music power yoga is scarey. Sometimes I wonder if students really crave just a fun workout…. But I believe what most of us truly crave is authenticity.That’s what I appreciate about Rod Stryker, his authenticity. Both pop power vinyasa and this deeper style can be done authentically, if you have a teacher who is practicing, connected and inspired!

Catch you on the mat.  Hari om!
For more inspiration, free recipes, and events  visit Kameko’s website: www.kamekoarts.com

 

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Come on Patanjali, did you really mean that about the body?

by Gretchen Mehlhoff

Alright, It’s true that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali contain a deep and vast understanding of existence, consciousness and truth; however, it is still a system of thought put down into words and concretized into form by a human hand (or human hands, we are not sure if Patanjali was one man or many). “it is not known exactly when Sri Patanjali lived, or even if he was a single person rather than several persons using the same title. Estimates of the date of the Sutras range from 5000 B.C. to 300 A.D.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Swami Satchidananda, Kindle Edition Location 120).

So, next question: Divine omniscience or a whole lot of really deep wisdom and understanding? Maybe they are the same thing. In his foreword to Light on the Yoga Sutras, Godfrey Devereaux’s first line refers to the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the “bible” of yoga. In the following introduction, Iyengar says of Patanjali:  “if God is considered the seed of all knowledge (sarvajna bijan), Patanjali is all knower, all wise (sarvajnan), of all knowledge.”

It’s possible to both embrace and question every system of thought, every philosophy and every “word of god” with the heart of both a seeker and a scientist. It seems more difficult to question ideas held to be “divine omniscience.” However, there seems more natural room for thoughtful inquiry and questioning if those ideas are accepted as deep insights of wisdom pointing to the absolute truth but still containing the residue of cultural and historical contexts. In this way, the word becomes living, the word finds a place to take root in the fertile ground of our actual lives, it gains a soulful context.

Now, on to one example of a “questionable” sutra. Keep in mind that by questioning the sutras, I don’t mean to throw any of them out entirely.  By questioning, I mean to work with them, to extract the wisdom and the medicine needed to heal each particular individual as well as to heal each society and culture. Alright, here’s an easy one, the controversial Sutra II.40. I’ve had a bone to pick with this sutra for quite some time. Until I began writing this, I had no idea this one was so infamous.

II.40 “From purification arises disgust for one’s own body and for contact with other bodies.” – Swami Satchidananda.

No doubt, this is considered the most precise translation of this sutra. The glaring problem with this interpretation lies in the word jugupsa, whichliterally means disgust. From the context of the broad society that we call America, we are gravely dis-embodied people with strong echoes of puritanical loathing and condemnation of the body rippling through our collective psyche. This repressed anti-body ethos manifests in many ways: objectification of women, sexual abuse, sexual scandals, frigidity, infidelity, amplified violent and aggressive behavior, spiritual bypassing (trying to escape through spirituality to avoid the sticky, often painful worldly relative truth), workaholism, obesity, eating disorders, a disconnection from our food, our water and our land… you get the idea. Part of our healing as Americans involves inhabiting our bodies in a loving way that re-connects our consciousness to our place in the whole complex system that each one of us is a part of. So, for a contemporary American yoga practitioner, emphasizing, encouraging and valuing bodily disgust presents numerous dangers; in short, it’s just plain harmful.

II.40 “Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with others for self-gratification.” – B.K.S. Iyengar.

This interpretation also presents problems such as aversion and escaping, (i.e. practitioners suspended in the ether of lofty spiritual ideals that keep the spiritual truth and the worldly truth separated). Self-gratification is defined (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary) as “the act of pleasing oneself or of satisfying one’s desires.” Maybe, according to Patanjali, we should only have sex for pro-creation and never solely for pleasure and loving union with our chosen mortal beloved? Come on. There are healthy desires, desires that do not cause suffering. The desire to love and grow with a partner seems both earthy and “spiritual”; as does the desire to rejoice in our bodies within the boundaries of relationships that do not dissipate our energy (however you define, redefine and refine those relationships). For many of us, it takes time and mistakes in order to separate out unhealthy from healthy desires when it comes to attraction and creating a healthy partnership. Maybe this translation could be re-written “Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with others which will dissipate our energy.” Allow people the space to make some “mistakes” and to learn from experience, you know, the same kind of “mistakes” that Siddhartha (the guy who became the Buddha) made. As much as these saints and enlightened teachers would like to spare us their falls, personal experience is often the best teacher, possibly really the only one. Most of us still have to live their mistakes and use their path to help find our way out.

II.40 “From cleanliness arises protection for one’s own body and non-contamination by others.” – Gregor Maehl.

I’d say he’s on the right track. But still, I think it could end at this: “From cleanliness arises protection for one’s own body. [period!]” With the understanding that contact with certain activities and individuals compromises the health and wellbeing of our bodies. Most importantly, we can learn to feel our way around our activities and the people that surround us, cultivating clear body-based somatic discernment to choose right-action. We don’t have to get all stuck in our heads thinking about it too much. Do we need to freak out and create vigilant practitioners on the lookout for “contaminated” others? I don’t think so. Not so helpful.

II.40 “Through purity [he gains] distance towards his own limbs [and also] [the desire for] non-contamination by others.” – Georg Feuerstein.

This is so close to Maehl’s translation. But again, the emphasis on “distance” from our bodies, on maintaining a certain “on-guardedness” with our bodies, brings up the same problems mentioned in the previous translation. Moreover, for the countless people working to overcome trauma in their lives and learning to let go of “victim” and/or “survivor” identities, this idea of needing to be “guarded” with their body sends the message that they need to remain “on-guard”, which for these individuals usually manifests as a hyper-vigilance. It’s true that both our own behavior and other people can harm us. Through cultivating loving kindness towards our body, we learn to not choose those things. We can develop the ability to choose by listening to the natural intelligence held in the body, the sensations that we call gut instincts and intuition.

So, here’s my non-translation, or rather my adaptation of this controversial sutra. Personally, I would ditch the part about cleanliness as well.

Through the letting go of actions and attachments that dissipate one’s energy, one develops loving care for the body as a vessel.” – Gretchen Mehlhoff.

Coming ‘round full circle with all this: We don’t actually know who Patanjali was. Many consider “him” to be “all-knowing”. Regardless of whether or not Patanjali is indeed “all-knowing”, how do we get to the perennial truth that is often buried beneath layers of out-dated or inapplicable historical and/or social contexts? I suggest that we can begin to do this through identifying where we need to heal and grow as individuals and societies, and, in turn, interpreting the sutras just like we are concocting a medicinal elixir; create an understanding of the sutra that contains just what we need to promote the necessary healing and growth. This way, we become the “jungle physician.” Different people might actually need to interpret the same sutra differently to find their medicine. And- in one, two or 20 years- the same person may need to redefine their understanding again to foster their continued (as Iyengar would say) “involution.”

Wisdom isn’t given to us by anyone, not even Patanjali; we have to earn it. We have to take the teachings we are working with into our hearts, turn them over and over inside, let some of it go and add a bit to it, re-work and collaborate. It’s alchemy.

Read more from Gretchen: freethoughtsgm.wordpress.com

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