Yoga and Mindfulness Practices in the world

Posted in Yoga in the World at 12:20 pm by tracichildress

Yoga & mindfulness in schools & therapy is the focus of this article; very interesting: http://bit.ly/bBYnyp http://bit.ly/bSne7h

Omega is hosting another retreat on mindfulness and yoga in schools: Mindfulness and Education Conference for K-12 grades. The year with Jon Kabitt Zinn, and Dan Siegel  and other very exciting teachers.

Also, in West Philadelphia, I am excited to annouce that my partner and I are starting a school that will integrate mindfulness and yoga into the curriculum: The Children’s Community School.


Karma Kitchen

Posted in Yoga in the World at 4:37 pm by tracichildress

Karma Kitchen is (from thier website) “run by volunteers, their meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them.” Check it out; they have a blog with stories from their guests too: http://www.karmakitchen.org/story.php


Practice is personal; Practice is shared

Posted in Personal Practice, Yoga in the World at 6:57 pm by tracichildress

In moving towards samadhi, we move towards a union that is neither human nor not human, but is larger than that. We seek to connect ourselves to something that has always been there but that we have not been able to see or touch. We do this in hatha yoga practice by learning to understand it in our bodies. Our bodies are not separate from coming to understand, they are central. And at the same time, they are bodies: flesh and bone and holding place for our lived experiences in the world. The yogic path is very physical, very human, and indeed deeply indebted to the personalities and cultural nuances that inform the relationships between teacher, student, and training institutions.

My practice and its place in my life has been a consistent unfolding and in-folding. It has been like breath, something that moves in and out, alternately expanding and contracting, expanding and contracting. Like breath, which transforms in subtle ways the air of which it is made, this practice has been subtly shifting my body, my life, my way of being in the world for some time now. It is somehow simultaneously new and yet not new, my own and unavoidably not really mine at all.

I can frame this poetic exploration in terms of practice itself. There is that which we take in as practitioners: the inhalation, so to speak, which can include the texts written about the practice, the technique developed sometime and passed along, the methodology created by a man in India, the teaching of our teachers, the books we turn to learn about it. Then there is the exhalation, the letting go, the giving back, the discovery, which includes the personal experience of yoga unfolding as we practice alone, the act of teaching what we know to friends or students, the development of a methodology, the refinement of an approach to postures.

We are transformed by and dependant on both parts of this practicing. Like breathing, like inhalation and exhalation, they involve the same essence, somehow. Inhalation and exhalation involve air: It is the same air that travels in and out of the body, only it is not. It has traveled through a body, through a system and then is released back into the air. It comes from and returns to its own essence, though it has been through something, which has changed it. It is inherently transformative, though admittedly subtle. In Hinduism, our breathing, our connecting to and with that air is called the ajapa-mantra, or the unconscious repetitive prayer (So’Ham, Ham’So). We inhale (he/it/she am I) and we exhale, (I am he/she/ it). By just showing up and breathing, we connect to something bigger than we are, bigger than our breath. We connect to it, take it in, and then let it go. We cannot hold it; we can only participate in it as it moves through us.

I often experience my practice this way. There is the inhaling (the training, the classes, the technique) and the exhalation (what I do with what I take in on my mat, in my body, as I practice, and then as I teach). Both are powerful and vital, but they are different. And for me, there is an inevitable tension in the relationship. There is a large unknowable mystical presence, like air that moves in and out of us, that I move with in my practice and there is also the practice that exists outside of me and around me. Because of this dancing, I must move, as well, with the stories, the believes, the opinions about that unknowable, expansive presence, about that air that we are breathing which exist in the practice, its history, its teachers, and its community of practitioners. It is in this space that I have found the most struggle with my practice. Within this chorography, I have encountered movements and rhythms (to extend this metaphor further), which seem somewhat out of line or not quite right for my body and its movement in the dancing. I have felt that some of the choices for music don’t quite feel in line with what I feel when I feel that thing that we imagine this practice is all about.

It seems to be that this thing, which one might call god, love, universe, prana, or something else, is larger than the stories that we tell about it, yet that it is shaped in my body mind heart by my experience of both the mystical, transformative indefinable element of the practice and simultaneously by the stories, personalities, and the other bodies on the dance floor with it. Perhaps this is not unlike breath, which we somehow inevitably share just by breathing. As a practitioner, I come to this place of tension again and again and wonder how to interact with it, how to learn from, how to relate with it.

I like working with the image or metaphor of breath, because everyone breathes and, I think, recognizes that strange intangible yet tangible way that breath is personal, mobile, fluid, and shared. My practice is like that too—I see the form, read/experience the instructions, the geometry, the steps, but I must try it on, become it in order to transform, or even to understand it. And if Freire is right, and I think that he is, when he writes, “I say that reading is not just to walk on the words, and it is not over the words either. Reading is re-writing what we are reading,” then by practicing, I, too, change the practice. The practice cannot be tied down or defined, because every breath alters it.