yoga Chattanooga

Darkness & Light

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If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

~Mother Theresa

I don’t know what to say.  For all of the writing, contemplating, feeling and thinking I do, I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the conversation right now.  Usually writing for me is like starting a lawnmower. It takes a couple of cranks, but once it’s started it is a strong engine with a message as a propellent.  What do you do when your job is to have an opinion and you can’t seem to lift yourself out of the struggle between darkness and trying to feel the light, call the light, be a light yourself.  The simple things seem insurmountably challenging right now. The only things coming easily and with desire are meditating and longing. I am walking around a fog, probably because of my allergies and all of the medication that I am taking to manage them.  I have a full calendar, money is tight, but little blessings come through all the time, as they always do. I feel like I am on the precipice of shift, and I doubt that feeling as I have felt it for so long. Perhaps I am unable to see the shifts in myself.  Like watching your kids grow day after day, it’s hard to see the immensity of the progress until someone who hasn’t seen them in a while remarks on the change. Maybe I’m not really on the threshold of anything, and that is a story I tell myself as a comfort to the continued challenge.

The state of the world is degrading at such a rapid pace, it’s difficult to keep up.  The huge steps backward are rattling the cage of rage and self reflection inside of me, yet in so many ways I feel helpless to change or fight.

This morning I was thinking about Brene Brown’s work, and her new Netflix series that’s getting lots of comment.  She teaches vulnerability, connection, love and belonging. And God, isn’t that what we all want, even the hardened and fearful.  The hatred is simply fueled by disconnection and the frustration about our inability to remedy it, until hatred becomes the common ground that creates a connection and sense of belonging.  Why she doesn’t ever seem to talk about is how to show up open, vulnerable, honest and deeply courageous and NOT be received. That is the state of the world right now. We can do all that we possibly can to show up in our vulnerability, but we cannot at any level, expect to be received with open arms.  Not in our intimate relationships, not in our families, not in our workplaces, or in political venues, not in a restaurant or at the gas station. We, the courageous and willing, who are trying everyday to keep our hearts open and our words honest, we who are doing the work of self reflection, accountability, ownership, we who are “daring greatly” are still standing alone.  Outside of belonging, outside of understanding. In this time when the world is organizing around our divisions, the ones who work with honest vulnerability and work to cultivate understanding are the ones on the OUTSIDE. But, Krishna never promised that doing your duty would feel good. He simply said to stand up and fight.

I wake everyday with a sadness in my heart.  An understanding that to move through the world right now, I have to close myself off to loving. I have to turn away from the overwhelming desire for connection and understanding, keep my head down and my mouth closed.  That my longing to connect, hear, love and understand is the very yearning that will keep me isolated. That my desire to reveal the places of connection rather than anchor in to division IS the very thing that will exile me from any group, relationship, or alliance.  Right now, we are in a time of Ayoga (def.: unconnected with, separation, disjunction, impropriety, incongruity, non-application or mis-application of remedy). We are finding our common ground through our divisions and definitions. We are choosing to turn away from opportunities to bridge the gap of our differences in favor of defining ourselves by them.

I know in my heart that this turning is necessary, but it feels impossible to bear at times.  I am even witnessing this in “YOGA.” We are defining and aligning our allegiances to this style or that studio, we are dividing our opinions, our loyalties.  In yoga, we are no longer seeking Union, and instead we are another expression of the power of devisiveness. Our “yoga teachers” are graduating with low self confidence, desire to be the perfect, terror of making mistakes, and demand for validation and approval.  Even those who are “studying Yoga” seem lost in the mire of delusion. The real practice of Yoga is meant to return us to ourselves.  The real practice of Yoga is not simply to unite the Mind, Body, and Spirit.  They have never been divided, really. The real practice of Yoga is to reunite who you think you are with who you REALLY are. But try telling that to a recent YTT grad who is nervous and unsure about teaching, try telling that to the Yoga teacher who can’t pay their rent, or the student who just wants to move fast enough to make their mind stop for a few minutes. Try finding your Self in the tornado of calamity that defines our lives in these times.  It’s next to impossible to tease out the self created identity from the one that is pure and unchanging. It’s gut wrenching and conflictual to try and understand the current state of things as anything other than disaster and apocalyptic.

How do we find “peace” and “balance” in a divided world? Well, maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe we are looking for the wrong solutions to what we are experiencing. Instead, what if the re-Union of ourselves with our Self actually requires us to feel, first hand, the pain of division. The time for ignoring and numbing, dividing and judging is quickly coming to an end for better or for worse, so like a snowball rolling downhill, it is picking up all of our illusions and slamming them into our faces with break-neck force.  

The real Yoga will begin when we stop trying to make everything “good, peaceful, and balanced” again, and start FEELING the state of chaos and terror that we find ourselves in.  When we stop trying to ignore our heartache, our loneliness, our pain, and truly start feeling it. Then, we can build a bridge to others who are suffering, regardless of the cause of their suffering.  If you truly know your own pain, then and only then, can you hold the pain of others in a space of compassion and love. Our dysfunction is the result of trying to function in a system that no longer works. We are plummeting headlong into our own destruction ONLY because we are so vehemently committed to turning away from it or fixing it.

And maybe I’m totally wrong.  Perhaps I know nothing. Like I said, I don’t feel equipped to contribute to the conversation right now, because I too am struggling. I feel afraid that my struggle will reduce my authority as a teacher, as a business owner, as a lover, a parent and friend. My inability to “turn it all around” with some asana or pranayama might be viewed as a failure of this system.  But maybe that is exactly the point, maybe all I am supposed to do is share that I too feel afraid, feel alone, feel overwhelmed. I too feel deep sadness and despair. That I also long to be understood, and feel like screaming at the top of my lungs in rage and frustration. I too am working hard to meet the demands of life, and find it an impossible race to win at the moment. For me, it seems that there are no answers that will lead us to healing, and we are left only with the opportunity to question our di-ease.  So I will go now and sit, as I do everyday. I will spend time in silence, for as long as my hectic day will allow. I will turn my attention inward, to my breath, to the ache in my chest, to the constriction in my throat and the tears welling up behind my eyelids. I will request of myself surrender. I will allow myself to feel into these sensations, to be guided into deeper understanding of my own suffering, and I will mutter a prayer, “may I understand my own pain so that I can more fully accept and understand the pain of others.”

I will not pray to be liberated from this suffering, as I truly believe that what we are supposed to be learning is encased within it. I will not pray for the liberation of others, as the lessons we are being shown right now are universal and essential for us to grow beyond them.  But I will call in the vibrancy of the light, and request that it fill me, revitalize me, help me to keep moving forward into this dark night.



How We Are Different

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Hey Yogis,

Sometimes writing a blog post is hard.  I want to say something meaningful and impactful.  I want to offer something that is worth taking the time to read, and though my mind and intellect constantly churn ideas, capturing one to bring to you is sometimes like trying to catch the wind on paper. So, this month I’ve been thinking a lot about where we started. Vira Bhava Yoga was born out of a desire to revolutionize our study of Yoga to be relevant, modern, and most importantly applicable to the lives we desire to live without watering down the enormous power of the spiritual roots and practices that make up this immensely powerful life path.

We didn’t want to teach yoga as fitness, we wanted to teach yoga as a path to embodying our innate power and potential.  We didn’t want to teach a script, we wanted to teach yogis to PRACTICE and share the insights they discovered in the process.  We didn’t want yogis to all sound the same, we wanted yogis that were cultivating their own unique voice through experience. We didn’t want to strive for perfection in anything, we wanted to create a safe space for everyone to be right where they were in their practice and their lives, and know that where you are is OK.  After participating in the Yoga industry for over a decade, we knew back then that we wanted to do it differently, and we were guided by our hearts through countless mistakes and redirections to find the path that was uniquely ours, and to this day, this is the path we continue to walk and to refine.  Each experience, each interaction, each training helps us to understand ourselves and the needs and desires of our students more and more.

We are, and will always be a work in progress.  We are learning our lessons moment to moment, making adjustments, refining our processes, adapting our procedures.  Vira Bhava Yoga is not a static system. We DON’T have all the answers, and we don’t have it all figured out, but we DO feel great about what we’ve discovered and we LOVE sharing it with people who are ready.  We hold fast to our own foundational principles of catalyzing Authentic Yogi Warriors, by continuously challenging ourselves to WAKE UP in our lives.  To be in alignment with our deepest truths, we will move toward discomfort in our lives and our practice.  These discomforts are the source of friction for sure, but this friction lights the fire that burns away our confusion, that catalyzes our determination, our will, and courage.  

We know that Yoga can sometimes feel like another goal to achieve, another thing on the ever growing list of things.  We want Vira Bhava Yoga to feel like a homecoming rather than a striving.  We want to encapsulate the truth that one of my teachers, Angelea Farmer, shared so eloquently, “Yoga isn’t something you do, it is WHO YOU ARE.”  We want to come back to the place where Yoga feels like arriving home rather than working to succeed.  And, we want to teach how to share that experience with others. The striving to achieve levels of excellence in our Yoga practice can often leave us feeling disconnected or isolated.  These feelings become enhanced when the common yoga vernacular speaks of the oneness, the love, the connection that we desire to feel, yet at the end of our classes we feel guarded and alone. Maybe through our practice we get a glimpse of something more, but no one can seem to explain what we saw or how to get back there.  At Vira Bhava Yoga, we walk beside you on the path.  We know that Yoga is a solo journey, but we cannot do it alone, so we work to bring the personal back into the universal.  Making our etheric experiences tangible, giving them voice, and sharing them with others.

It’s been almost 8 years since Vira Bhava Yoga went from a dream to reality, and we are still dreaming it into being.  We are committed to the work we do, and we are so very excited to share it with you. And we want to know about YOU. What are your feelings about Yoga, your connections, your challenges?  What do you want out of your Yoga practice, and how can we work with you to make these desires accessible? Our evolution is guided by you. We want to listen and stay connected. We want to grow with you in your yoga journey.  If you haven’t checked out one of our programs yet, take a few minutes of your day to explore this practice (link), and check out one of our upcoming workshops or Trainings in your area.

Vira Bhava Yoga is not just for Yoga Teachers, we are a company committed to practicing our LIVES as YOGA.  If you want to explore these possibilities yourself, then join us. There is still space in our upcoming programs in ATL, our advanced studies program beginning in NOVEMBER and our intro level program starting in January 2019.  We also have only a few spots left for our Advanced Studies Program in Sacramento, CA starting in January 2019. We also have opportunities to join the Vira Bhava Yoga family by running programs in your area. Contact us directly for more details.

Finally, you can join our Director in Costa Rica in April 2019 for an exploration of Deep Ecology and Wellness with Yogatrade.com.

Blessings,

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You Are Your Dharma

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Who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s the point?  The three timeless questions that Yoga seeks to answer.  When you understand the concept of Dharma, these answers no longer seem elusive or etheric, but are concrete and quite simple. The concept of Dharma teaches that alignment with universal principles in a way that is unique to the individual’s expression is essential to harmony.  Though the term is often translated as “rule, law, or requirement,” it is actually much more diverse and expansive than this. The root of the word Dharma is “dhr” which means “to hold, maintain, or keep.” The idea is that it is our individual Dharma (known as Sva Dharma) that allows us to maintain our relationship with Universal Principles, (known as Sanatana Dharma). The more we are aware of our individual relationship with universal principles, the more we are motivated to maintain or keep this relationship fruitful.

In yoga, we often refer to Dharma as Purpose, but that is a bit of an oversimplification of the idea. Imagine a blueprint for a home.  The entire house is sketched out as measurements, scale, design and function; that is the Universal Dharma. Now, overlay onto that the unique and beautiful expressions of each room, and that’s individual Dharma. Each room within the house is essential and foundational to the home as a whole, and the expression of each room with all its textiles, furniture, unique color schemes, fabrics, and even little quirks, that’s how you express your Dharma. Each individual has a unique contribution to make to the universal whole, and according to Dharma, our unique contribution is essential to the form, function, and beauty of the whole, no room could ever be non essential in the house of Dharma.

So,  who are you? You are an essential individual part of the whole.  Why are you here? To express your individual nature and fulfill your purpose as the room of you in the universal house. What’s the point? YOU ARE.  Your dharma is not your profession, your family, your success or failure, though all of these things are the ways through which your dharma is expressed in the world.  You are YOU, and though many of us try very hard to deny the truth of who we are, we can never escape the burning whisper of truth murmuring deep inside us. The lila or divine play of the universe is the ease or effort with which we align with our Dharma.  The Bhagavad Gita teaches that it’s better to do your own dharma poorly than it is to do another’s perfectly.  The effort of aligning with our dharma comes from the denial of our own truth. We may be a master pretender, but as long as we deny that rumbling truth inside, life will never provide us with the freedom that we seek.

The teaching of Dharma is simple.  You do you. Seek to live as yourself as fully and completely as possible.  In your marriage, in your profession, in your friendships, in your successes, and in your failures, honor the unique ways that your truth resonates in it all.  In doing so, you will find greater ease in honoring the truth of others, and this my friends, is the perfect recipe for harmony in our communities, corporations, and even governments.  Because, you see, we need all of the rooms, all of the varied and unique expressions, aesthetics, and even the messes. The whole isn’t whole if anything is excluded. YOU are crucial, indispensable, and beautiful. You are necessary.  So what is YOUR dharma? Only you can know the secret whispers of your deepest yearnings.  Only you can know the contributions you make, the actions you take to support the whole, to maintain the relationship with that which is bigger than you.  No one can tell you what your dharma is, though they may try. YOU are the only one who can know that truth. If you are seeking to know yourself more sincerely and do you more than the time is NOW. Vira Bhava Yoga Teacher Trainings offer the time, community, and support for you to value yourself, to dive deeply into your curiosities, and to  to further your embodiment and cultivate a discerning ear join us for a 200, 300, or 500 hour training in a town near you.