I miss yoga. But I just really really don’t want to start at Square One. By Cindy Zackney

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Several students have come back to Kava recently, after a lengthy absence, saying they are getting the New Year’s resolution started now. That kind of discipline is really admirable! But I know for many of us it’s hard to imagine starting a yoga practice all over again when you know you’ll be at Square One.

Listen – you might be surprised that I have been at Square One many many times in my practice. I think sometimes Yoga students build up in their minds that we yoga teachers a) know how to do every posture (nope!), b) practice every day (we wish!) and/or c) have dedicated our lives to the practice and therefore always make getting on the yoga mat our first priority (also, no). Over the 25-ish years that I have been practicing yoga, my Square One do-overs have been caused by injuries, life events and just plain-old bad priorities.

I, like many of you, have been injured. When you have an injuries, you learn to slow down. The crazy arm balance that I had recently achieved was certainly not possible while recovering from a shoulder injury. When my dad died of cancer 5 years ago, that shook up my reality and my daily routines tremendously. Do you think that I was getting on my yoga mat all the time while he wasted away from bone cancer? Nope. I was barely able to eat, do laundry, teach or run my business. And there were those years in my 20’s and 30’s when I worked in the corporate world when my priorities often didn’t feel like my own. Business trips, conferences, client meetings, work projects. I got caught up in that other world and took my eye off the ball.

This up-and-down stuff in life is NORMAL. Yoga practice is not a linear progression. We don’t start on Day One, then progress and improve and improve and improve and then BOOM! one day you are DONE. Doesn’t work like that. Even people who practice every day – their progression slips back and moves forward in fits and spurts.

If you’re contemplating coming back in January to start a New Year’s resolution, I say “No time like the present.” When you do return, I encourage you to embody compassion for your body, humility, and a sense of humor. And realize that while you might be thinking everyone in the room is better or more consistent than you, remember we ALL have many Square One moments over a lifetime.

Yes. We really do want to know about your injuries. Again.

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“Are there any injuries or physical conditions I need to know about?”

Hear this question from your Kava Yoga teacher? Sometimes what we hear in response is ……………………crickets……………………

We have our suspicions why we hear crickets. Here are the reasons we think students don’t tell us about their injuries. Do you fall into any of these categories? Would you add any other reason to this list?

1. “I’ve mentioned my injury to a few teachers in a few classes so I feel like I’m being repetitive or annoying by saying it again and again.”

Nope! You are not being annoying – and repetitive in this case is a GOOD thing! We don’t always remember injuries our students have and we see quite a few people throughout a week. Always good to repeat them and don’t feel embarrassed…which leads me to…

2. “I’m a little shy and don’t want to discuss my issue in front of 10 other people.”

Totally understandable! But wave to the teacher and ask them to come over to you so we can discuss it more privately. We are totally used to that and it’s not weird to us at all. Like if a woman is newly pregnant and doesn’t want to announce it to the world, we get that. But TELL US ANYWAY because pregnancy (and many other physical conditions) require us to make modifications for you so you don’t hurt yourself or cause complications.

3. “This shoulder/knee/back/ankle/wrist thing is something I’m used to dealing with for years. I don’t mention it in class because I know how to manage it and modify my practice.”

Great! We know there are a lot of cases like this. However we might be able to a) offer a new suggestion you haven’t tried, b) be planning to give you a physical adjustment that could aggravate that injury and we don’t want to do that, c) might be planning to focus the entire class on that area of the body and it might be super annoying for you to modify the whole class without help. So mention it ANYWAY so we can work with you to make the class as enjoyable as possible!

This is when the real practice of Yoga begins by Cindy Zackney

fun-partner-boat-pose-bamYoga means Union. The teachings acknowledge and embrace the dark and the light. As teachers of yoga we are asked to uphold the values of nonviolence, compassion, humility and truth, as well as many other yamas and niyamas about self-regulation and behavior toward others. If you are angry and can’t hear that right now, I understand. But know that Kava Yoga has never been nor will it ever be a place for political divisiveness. Whether you are celebrating or grieving, an activist who wants to fight or a quiet being who just wants to feel part of a community. You have a safe place here to practice your yoga. I have seen and this morning continue to witness how this election season has caused great separation between people. I rely on my spiritual foundation, which is Yoga and Buddhism. And as yogis, we do not teach separation, we teach Union. So this week I encourage you to get on your mat, get grounded, centered and find your breath. If you are struggling to figure out how to feel or what to do, the best answer I can give you is what I ALWAYS say, and what I turned to myself: MEDITATE! Your best guidance will come when you get quiet and listen to your Higher Consciousness.  See you on the mat!

Meditation is like waiting for your dog to calm its ass down. By Cindy Zackney

dog-waiting-at-door-headerYou stand at the threshold of a door with your (real or imagined) dog. Your dog knows you are waiting at the door because its time for a walk! He is SUPER excited to take a walk. He is full of energy, jumping around, yelping gleefully. He’s so hyper that he isn’t focused on anything but getting out that door and exploring every single smell, sight and sound out there. This happens every single time you collect the leash, get your shoes on and head for the door.

So you are standing at the threshold, waiting for your dog to calm down. If you get more animated, mimicking his actions, he will just get MORE excited. If you calm yourself, take some deep breaths, stand still and wait, your dog will calm down (it might take a while. Be patient).

YOUR MIND IS THAT DOG.

In classes this week I have been using this analogy for students to focus on during savasana (final meditation at the end of a yoga class) Then the other day, it occurred to me that the “new age” eastern meditation teacher I picked this up from and Cesar Milan (aka “The Dog Whisperer”) say the exact same thing.

I’m a huge believer in Cesar’s methods for communicating with dogs (I don’t believe it’s dog “training.” I think it’s about getting humans to understand that dogs are dogs and that we can learn to communicate better if we understand their dog culture better.) If you know Cesar’s “way,” one of his primary lessons for us humans is that we need to manifest calm, assertive energy. We are in control. We are the Pack Leader. The dog is a pack animal who needs a leader. They need the human to assert control and set the example so they can follow. Otherwise, the dog will run amok, doing whatever it wants in an uncontrollable whirlwind of dysfunction.

SO, back to the meditation analogy. Your mind is the dog. Your Soul, your Higher Self, your Heart Center, whatever you’d like to call it, is the human in this dog walk scenario. The mind should be submissive to the Soul. The mind should follow the instructions of the Soul. If you allow your mind to take over, you will have chaos, constant movement, an inability to focus, jumping around and non-stop gibberish. And perhaps poop on the bedroom floor, a few chewed up shoes, an over-turned garbage can and crap everywhere.

Cesar says that dogs need to be in a calm, submissive state before they are rewarded with anything. Walk, food, toy, affection, a jump up on the couch. Anything. And here’s the trick: your dog will not be in a calm, submissive state until you are in a calm, assertive state.

It’s the EXACT SAME THING when you are trying to meditate. Your mind, left to run amok, will follow thoughts, make plans, remember conversations and daydream. It will try to solve all of your problems, your family’s problems and your work projects. It will try to balance your checking account, create a menu for dinner and on and on and on. That is, if you LET IT.

But You are in charge. That’s You with a capital Y. Your Soul, Your Intuition, Your Heart is supposed to be in charge. You are the human, standing at the threshold of the door, waiting for the dog to calm its ass down. When the dog pulls on the leash, trying to lead you out the door, you say calmly and assertively, “Heel” and the dog heels. Similarly, when you have a thought during meditation, you say “Breathe” and you bring your awareness back to your breath. When you mind is focused on your breath, it calms its ass down.

When you get that hierarchy of who’s in control, your mind will quiet down and your Heart will sing. And you will hear it finally! That’s your meditation practice.