so much love, so much gratitude

And so I’m basically living out of a couple bags, a suitcase, and my car.  And I’m oh-so-grateful for my lil gas-efficient car.  I currently live in Phoenix and commute to work in Tucson at YogaOasis Tuesdays and some weekends for workshops.  I massage some still in Tucson also.  One thing these adventures help me realize is how much I love what I do, and what lengths I am willing to go to continue doing them.
I moved from Tucson to Phoenix to attend PIHMA, or Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture.  The semester is underway and I’m excited to be exercising my brain, rather than just my body!  (Although that’s still a huge priority.)
This past weekend passed with much warmth in my heart. Amidst the Women’s March and the Trump protests, we practiced cultivating the quality of presence in a three-hour flow-based workshop.  At the beginning, we recited The St. Francis Prayer, a central and centering piece of the 2-day workshop.  _JTB6694The following day I offered an intermediate/advanced Led-Practice-Style Workshop.  We explored a variety of fun transitions and played with exciting poses that aren’t seen in typical hour-long flow classes, like handstands, forearm stands, deep backbends, and fancy arm-balances.  We also spent plenty of time to thoroughly open our hips.  I aimed to make it a well-rounded practice.  Periodic giggles, and lightheartedness accompanied our sequence.  I’m honored and grateful to the students who attended, and to my dear friend who lets me stay in her beautiful home. After a stop at the Co-Op on 4th Avenue, I headed back to Phoenix to be ready for school the following day.
Phoenix offers plenty of yoga studios to explore.  There are a lot of fun flow classes.  Like, today I went to a 9am class at Moksha, called “Vinyasa flow.”  On Saturday morning before heading off to Tucson, I played at a 9am “Max Flow” at Sutra Yoga.  I’m digging the flow these days because it’s fun, challenging and efficient, but I definitely acknowledge and appreciate all of the alignment training I have received over the years and that I still currently practice.  A strong flow is really only strong and beneficial with mindful alignment.  Or, perhaps maybe you don’t need to practice alignment … yyyyyet… but when you get injured, you’ll wish you’d been practicing alignment.  😉  Ha ha… Getting injured is usually the best reminder to align.  It’s a big flashing neon sign from the body, saying, “hey, this is where you’ve been neglecting me, not paying attention.”  Super helpful…  Thanks body.
“Ekagrata,” my next scheduled workshop has been rescheduled from the first weekend of February to the last weekend in March.  For more information check out:  http://www.yogaoasis.com/weekend-intensive-with-stephani.html.
So much love, so much gratitude.

_/\_

integrity is integral to yoga… the path

(forewarning… i dork out with words and I think they are so cool)

integrity (according to Mac’s dictionary):

1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness:  he is known to be a man of integrity.

2. The state of being whole and undivided:  upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

-the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction: the structural integrity of the novel.

-internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data: integrity checking.

ORIGIN: late Middle English (sense 2): from French integrite or Latin integritas, from integer ‘intact’ (see integer).  Compare with ENTIRETY, INTEGRAL, and INTEGRATE.

Another source (www.yourdictionary.com):  “Integrity is the following of moral or ethical principles.”

According to Mr. BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga, yoga means to “yoke.” Synonyms for “yoke:” join, bond, link, unite, connection, bond…. hmmm sounds like integrate…and to bring together into a whole or entirety…

To me yoga and integrity seem to be closely related, not only in philosophical terms or spiritual practices, but in their literal definitions….(integrity means being whole, or undivided)(integrity means being unified, sound)(def: integral:necessary to make a whole complete.)  The definition of integrity seems to be the definition of yoga.  To be a yogi is to cultivate integrity. Synonyms for: uprightness, honor, honesty… sincerity.  (or another source: Webster’s New World Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus II: 1. moral or ethical strength: character, honesty, fiber, principle, see ‘strong’. 2. the quality of being honest: honesty, honor, honorableness, incorruptibility, upstandingness, see honest. 3. the condition of being free from defects or flaws: durability, firmness, solidity, soundness, stability, strength, wholeness, see better. 4. the state of being entirely whole: completeness, entirety, oneness, totality, wholeness, see part.)

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras,  yoga is comprised of an eight-fold path.  Two of which–Yama and Niyama– involve morals, ethics, principles of behavior and discipline.  I’ve also heard it said, Yoga is the practice and the goal, or the journey and the destination, the end result and the means to achieve it.  Therefore to walk the path of yoga is to commit to a life of self-study and refinement based on that observation for the betterment of all.  Integrity is integral to yoga, and yet it’s a fruit of the practice.  One does not have to be strong or flexible to practice asana, but receives these blessings through committed practice.  Meditation does not require a calm mind, but bestows this blessing on one who perseveres through good times and bad to the discipline required.  Integrity is a virtue one gains along the path of yoga, through the temptations to deviate from one’s high aim, through persevering to achieve an ideal despite feelings of hopelessness and despair, through staying true to yourself even when no one around you is doing what you do.  It takes cultivating, repetition, commitment.  Theoretically, the more you practice something, the easier it gets.  But another perspective is that the more you travel the path, the harder the challenges and the higher the stakes.

The Anusara Teacher Training Manual says the following about ethical guidelines for Teachers, “As yoga teachers, we are a leading example to our students.  We have a responsibility to them, to our teachers, and to ourselves to behave in a moral and ethical manner and to maintain a high degree of personal integrity.”

… Where am i going with this?… Discussing how yoga is integrity and integrity is yoga.  Clearly….(or not) bbbbbbbbut… what about imperfectly perfect, right?  In Sanskrit the word purna is perfection in the sense of wholeness, fullness, and embracing all that is as perfect, as it’s just as it should be, not impeccable, not flawless, but perfect- flaws and all…and we are all traveling the path, right? … and in tantra anything goes right?  “Our problems are the path,” says Geshe Potowa.  The key question is, however, are we engaging with our problems so we may grow and evolve for the better, or are we justifying them, manipulating others to hide from them, and or ignoring them through various distractions?  To view ‘Perfect’ as ‘Fullness’ embraces the good and bad of one’s past and honors the essence of goodness within, but does not serve to excuse poor behavior.  (And may we must always practice forgiveness and compassion.)

Yoga, and really life, calls to responsibility for oneself as an expression of the Divine, to honor what is felt and to discern the sometimes fine and imperceptable line of what is right and what is wrong.  And sometimes we fail… and we fail big and loud. (My music teacher in elementary school told us if we were going to mess up, do it loudly and confidently as if we meant to do it.  Ha!  like it is our solo or something.  Once in a yoga class the lovely Jordan Kirk shared a quote about failing marvelously or magnificently or something.  Further, another teacher, Noah Maze, jokes about how you just make it look graceful, like it is all part of a sequence, and then he demos some silly and elaborate sequence of falling out of one pose and skillfully making it look as though he’s just moving into another pose….lol…) Then there’s just WAYYYYYYYYYYY out of alignment…  John Friend speaks about being in alignment with a bigger energy and when one is in that flow good things happen.  So one way to know you are out of alignment is when a bunch of seeming bad things occur, like a torn hamstring, for example, or an angry partner, say, or other various occurrences, like people saying weird things about you and not wanting to be associated with you…

One of the books I delight in these days discusses karma.  In it Geshe Michael Roach essentially says if someone is doing something you don’t like, rather than reacting out of instinct, look for the same karmic seeds you’ve previously planted and choose to stop planting them. For example, if someone acts with poor integrity, look to when you’ve done the same or similar behavior and cease it’s repetition…  stop the cycle.  The same principle applies with regard to complaining, gossip, or anything.  This is a novel and beautiful perspective I aim to incorporate more and more into my life.

Coming back to the whole talking the talk and walking the walk… er is it walking the talk… (guh).  We create our own reality.  So despite what another does, we choose how to respond to it, and how to perceive them, and whether to let it go.  This whole entry is all rather vague i imagine, but I hope that by my generalizing, I don’t give into silly useless gossip, and then you can apply it to your life where it’s most fitting, and that’s the whole point of my blog, is to be of service to you.  I hope this serves you in some way.  Anusara teaches to to look for Shri in any situation–to look to what is beautiful, auspicious, life-enhancing and ultimately good.  Well, how much do I really believe in this concept?  Surely enough to talk about it, to reference it in classes and in my blog, but when it really matters, in the tangled, confused, and emotional situation, can I see the good then?  In all people concerned?  I’m happy to say I see the good often.  I’ve even been accused of doing so to my detriment, with a stubbornness–I suppose that is what is at stake–me.  The deeper consideration here (and truly in every circumstance) is am I listening to my heart?  Am I sacrificing my gut feelings and intuitive guidance?

With humility, forgiveness, awe, and a child-like enthusiasm bee-bopping in my heart I process and proceed.  Thank you.

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