Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Needs Versus Wants in Yoga

So why do we feel the need to be so goal oriented in yoga classes and what is with the craziness attached to being able to grab our toes?  Perhaps it is our misunderstanding of needs versus wants that is to blame.  
Need versus want is the very same in your yoga class as it is with any relationship or situation off your mat. You may want to conquer that physical yoga pose in the same way that you want that person in your life to love you a certain way, but these wants are not the same as needs. In a yoga class you need to breathe. You need to build heat. You need to learn how to use your bandhas (energy locks). You certainly need to stay present. --You do not need to wear Lululemon clothing!  You do not need to look perfect in your poses!  You do not need to weigh 90lbs to practice!
Often, making the clarification between what is needed versus wanted can pose a serious challenge. In a relationship, being unable to differentiate between the two concepts can lead to confrontation over things that should be inconsequential. My mom would call this “choosing your battles.” The important thing is to understand what you need from the relationship while not getting caught up in the small stuff that could derail you from that main need.  In your practice it is the same.  When we start to compare our practice to others or become overly involved in our appearance or expectations, then we begin to get derailed from the experience of the practice.
This concept of want is really derived from what is called Asmita (ego) in yoga. Asmita is one of the 5 Kleshas (afflictions) to happiness. Many say that the other four Kleshas (Avidya-ignorance, Raja-attachment, Dvesha-repulsion, Abhinivesha-fear of loss or clinging to one's life) are all derived from Asmita. Asmita may cloud what you need as wants get in the way.  

In Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend pose) we can look at this idea a little more closely.  Folding over extended legs and reaching the heart towards the lower legs with the hands towards the feet we find ourselves in this pose.  You may want to grab your feet and pull yourself down because something inside insists that you can and will reach your feet.  That is the want, but the need would be to feel your way into the pose; embracing the 5 breaths of internal massaging to the abdominal organs, focusing on muscle releases during exhalations and finding contentment in the practice and the experience.
While it is ok to have both needs and wants as far as your practice or anything else in your life goes, it is important to acknowledge that the wants are not necessary to feel the deepest connections in your relationships or your practice. Committing to a daily practice may help with regards to staying true to present needs.  When the practice is daily we are less likely to place such high expectations for physical outcomes. Often this the time we let go of these ego-attached desires and begin to see progress in the physical practice.
Yoga in itself means to yoke or unite the mind and body. Each time you approach your mat or life circumstances many things may be different: material stature, relationships, your physicality and energy may all be different, but as the saying goes: “where ever you go, there you are.” Understanding how to differentiate between needs and wants and being able to deduct the ego from many of these experiences will help you to progress through your practice without getting hung up on the small stuff and it will do the same for your relationships in life as well...


Monday, February 13, 2012

Better Sex With Yoga

Double Bound Angle Pose
Sure we’ve all heard the news on Sting and his tantric yoga “sexploits” and let us not forget the acro-yoga type contraptions of Tommy Lee and Pamela, but what are the true benefits of yoga in the bedroom?
1)     Strength - Standing postures, standing balance and arm balance postures build strength in the body to better hold your partner up in the shower, against a wall, or anywhere else your imagination and spontaneity take you.
Try the following postures at home to build up strength:
*Warrior 2
*Standing Leg Extension
*Crow Pose

2)     Flexibility - Explore new twists on the standard missionary position with greater flexibility. The increased flexibility you develop through yoga can expand your bedroom repertoire to include swinging your feet over your head, back bending off a chair, in the front seat of the car, and dipping into the Kama Sutra for more ideas! Not to mention the sense of confidence you’ll feel knowing you can get your legs behind your partner’s neck as well as your own.
Try the following postures to lengthen your hamstrings, open your hips and bend over backwards for better sex:

*Seated Spread Fold
*Head to Knee 
*Upward Bow with or without chair- think Russell Brand in “Forgetting Sara Marshall.”
3)     Mula Bandha - Extend the length of your orgasm, create a tighter fit and prolong your erection using this energy lock located at the perineum and anal sphincter.  Much like doing Kegel work, the Mula Bandha is used to engage, protect and deepen work by the pelvis.
How to engage your mula bandha: In a flowing yoga class, such as Vinyasa, you would move through the class with this lock engaged at about 50% of what you are capable which helps to stabilize the pelvic bowl.  
Try to control peeing mid-stream by employing your Mula Bandha. Lifting the pelvic floor functions to stop and start the flow in a manner similar to Kegels.  These same muscles and lift for women are used when squeezing the penis or anything else once inside the vagina. For women, engaging these muscles while thrusting or rotating will help to add more friction and stimulation to the clitoris. 
For men, engaging the Mula Bandha will hold back the need to ejaculate right away (without thoughts of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day).  It will also keep the mood in the right place.  
Position to work this Bandha in: Down Dog

Additional exercises you can do to strengthen the Mula Bandha anywhere include the following:  Counting Bandha builders.  Start by working with your breath and engaging your Bandha to the count of three, then release to the count of three.  Next step, breathe and try four and four.  For each new breath try adding increments of one until you are able to build up to a count of 10 and 10.  Then put all that hard work into action!
4)     Bonding - through shared experience.  Take classes together, build up a sweat and focus on your form to build confidence in each other’s bodies and in your relationship.  Sharing your experiences post class creates a connection on a deeper level, as does mutual participation in healthy and new activities.
Try: taking a class together and hold hands during Savasana (deep relaxation).

5)     Intimacy - through partner yoga!  Partner yoga is a way to experience yoga with hands on each other.  Each pose maintains contact with some body part.  In each posture partners can support and appreciate the connection between one another and in some of these postures work with better eye contact as well.
Double Triangle Pose

Try:  Partner Boat
Double Triangle
Double bound angle (diamond) (kisses, hugs and whispers of naughty little nothings are welcome here)
Partner Boat Pose

The old adage remains true; the couple that plays together stays together.  Spice things up and step out of your routine by making a yoga date, hitting a class or the bedroom floor. Keep your plans open to see where the mood takes you.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Planting Seeds of Intention and Watching Them Grow

Taking a yoga class without an intention is much like getting into a car without having a destination.  Instead of reaching the destination by the end of the journey, you may end exactly where you started.  At the beginning of the class a teacher may plant a seed of intention or offer that you set your own personal intention for the class.  Much in the way of a topical meditation or concept meant to root you in the now and give a focus for mental work; intentions are not long term goals like achieving a particular pose or losing weight.  Instead they might deal with anger, dharana (concentration) or letting go.  These are clear and simple concepts which you can immediately relate to and apply to body, breath or mind.
Once the seed is planted allow it to grow.  Admittedly, this becomes slightly easier once physical asanas (poses) do not occupy all of your thoughts while practicing. It is essential even at the novice level and especially when maintaing a home practice that an intention be established.
So how do you grow the seeds once they are planted?  By bringing the intention back from time to time.  When you find your self in down dog during class this is a great time to revisit your intention.  These continued revisits or stops along the journey should help you to find a deeper root to the present and sometimes allow you to let go of mental baggage or resolve a conflict that may have been deep inside of you.  Meditation can be challenging sometimes; intention in a flowing class is much like a moving meditation allowing you to pick it up and put it down.  This is often why so many yogis & yoginis flock to physical styles of Yoga.  It becomes much easier to focus on the physical right here and right now.  The body speaks to you, and if you aren’t listening, it will yell at you.  Intentions allow us to listen to the body, breath and mind with enhanced hearing.
As I begin my journey blogging I set my intention to focus on Tapas (not the Spanish food).  
Tapas in Yoga denotes self discipline; committing to oneself and then working to maintain that commitment.
The easiest way to look at this yogic concept is to look at your own practice.  Is it daily?  Consistent?  Something you look forward to?  When you approach your mat are you energetic or expectant?  Believe it or not if you are able to simply step on your mat each day it is very unlikely that you will feel compelled to skip the practice entirely.  
So my Tapas will begin to incorporate more than my daily practice and teachings.  I now work towards a commitment to myself to write daily, explore topical meditation in writing and to share these thoughts with you.