Tuesday
Sep192017

Just Love

My 5 year old son and I were out for dinner and our server was a beautiful girl names Sarah. He leaned over and said "mom, I think I'm in love with Sarah." At the end of dinner he asked if she would like to be his girlfriend. This struck me. My son is not afraid of rejection, yet. He shares himself unaplogetically. He believes in love at first sight. He didn't care about her answer he just wanted her to know tha she was perfect to him. What happened to all of us? Why are we so scared of rejection or looking like a fool. Today tell a stranger they look beautiful or that you love their smile. Sprinkle kindness like snowfalkes on a powder day.

Monday
Sep112017

Slay yer dragons!

This practice when stripped of all it's Western flourishes such as music, essential oils and eye pillows is all about solitude. The ability to go inwards and see what lies on the periphery of our consciousness. GAH! Why would anyone ever want to do that? Because when we do, we see how much of our choices are driven by fear. How much of our lives we play it safe and cling to the illusion of security. To go into the psyche and slay our dragons (small self) allows us to emerge more clear, more present, more driven by passion.

Wednesday
Jul192017

First taste of the Asana Kitchen

My alarm goes off (Bruno Mars) at 645, 445 my time.  I say my morning prayer hop out of my top bunk and get myself organized for day one Mysore.  Yippee!

 The studio is old, painted pink, and blue and it's stifling hot.  David and his wife arrive looking slim with bright eyed.  They tell us to head in and begin practice. The stoke is high.

 I place my mat second row, in front of the window so if a cool breeze comes she'll kiss me. There are pictures of Patabhis, and gods and goddesses everywhere. I notice the floor boards beneath my mat are asymmetric and creaky. I decide to roll with it because "yoga is not suppose to be comfortable" πŸ™„After my second salute it appears it is raining in the room but no, that's sweat.  I DON'T SWEAT but I am sweating πŸ˜…..  For a moment I shudder and then remember to go in. The girl behind me is practicing third and has bizarre tattoos on her body, again I remind myself to go in.

 At the end of my second sun salute David has noticed me and I am not his favourite.  Erin don't do that, Erin elbows in, Erin relax, Erin why are you doing that.  I know I've come so far because in the past that might have upset me.

 During Pasana he seems supremely irritated at my tight rib cage that won't twist. All I can smell is my nasty deodorant that smells like cherrys πŸ’ why would anyone want to have armpits that smell like cherries. 

I manage to sneak through second without being noticed.  I snuggle my way into Shavasana thinking πŸ’­ "ok, that wasn't so bad" until I hear "Erin, drop backs. Now".  Gahhhh but I was in corpse pose David, you know, dying so i could be reborn???  I hop up like a dog who's owner says let's go for a walk.  My mat is like a slip and slide as I don't have a carpet like everyone else cause I don't sweat....  I'm too scared to say anything so I do as he says. He doesn't even watch.  I finished 5 and then bow out.

 I lie drenched in my sweat.  I drift between wake and sleep.  I ponder the point of this intense practice. A dear friend once commented that all the ashtangi's are a bit off.  He's right, they are, and so am I. The intensity junkies dig this practice cause it's creates a cessation of the chronic thinking, planning, judging.  It's just me, my cherry deodorant, and this meat suit I experience the world in. I've been told I have too much energy.  My practice is my ridiline, my Valium.  My practice is my doorway to peace.

 

 

 

 

Friday
Oct212016

Sthira Sukham Asanam Sutra 11.46

This yoga is profound work. It may appear from the outside looking in as though we are merely making shapes with our bodies and breathing heavily.  What happens on the mat, however is so much more than a physical exercise. Yoga is the practice of directing our attention into the present moment by means of our physical bodies. What happens on our mats extends beyond the boundaries of the studio; we learn to focus on experiential sensation and thus live in the here and now.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses this state of being on our mats. Sthira Sukkham Asanam: Sutra 11.46: effort without tension and ease without being dull. In yoga we attempt to find the balance between the two. That seems easy enough. However it isn’t just the effort and exertion on the mat; it is an underlying topic of yoga. Whether in relation to the asana practice or beyond the mat in our daily interactions, this juxtaposition plays a quiet hum in the back of our minds. Effort without tension and ease without being dull. 

I’d like to offer an example of this via the human body’s fascinating complexity, and how we can hopefully translate some of the concepts into our life both on and off the mat. 

Within our skeletal muscle system we have an anatomical pathway termed reciprocal inhibition. Without getting into all the different receptor and neuron types, this refers to an action that happens in skeletal muscle groups on opposing sides of a joint; for example, the hamstrings group and the quadriceps group. Through a series of neural pathways to and from the spinal cord, these muscles work with one another to relax or soften, as the opposing group is active or contracting. This prevents both groups of muscles from contracting simultaneously, which can cause injury, or at least inefficient movement. 

On the mat, a practitioner must activate their quadriceps at the front of the thighs in order to lengthen the hamstrings at the back of the thighs. To activate the quads we must straighten our legs completely. The natural reaction for people with tight hamstrings is to bend at the knee joint taking away the discomfort in the hamstrings and likewise not fully activating the quadriceps. If a student can place their sthira, their effort, in their quadriceps by lifting the knee caps and settling into discomfort, the hamstrings will start to open. To engage the quadriceps without tension or aggression is a fine line.  We must become keenly aware that we do not hyperextend the knee joint, or take the activity into our jaws or faces. To soften the hamstrings we must remain alert amongst the letting go.

 Off the mat, a prime example of Sthira Sukha in action is through conscious communication. Communication is a blend of sharing and receiving information. Similar to the inhibition loop above, the relationship between speaker and listener requires one to be active while the latter surrenders without being bored or vacant. When speaking, one must be clear, precise, and direct. The speaker must place their effort on the intention of the conversation. They must be aware that with too much force the listener will back away. One must be firm enough to make their point clear and yet spacious enough to keep the lines of communication open. A listener must be receptive, available and present. A listener must allow the words to land before responding or preparing their next statement. A listener must be at ease without being bored or planning their children’s meals for the day.

 

We often begin our yoga practice at the top of our mats in Samasthiti, (mountain pose), becoming available to the present moment. With each Adho Mukha Svanasana, (down dog) we have the opportunity to show up and be more present in our own skin. If a student is open, each practice offers another chance to become aware of how we are in the world. Learning where we need to place more effort and what areas need more ease. Perhaps one needs to place more effort in their feet during Dandasana (staff pose) or be more assertive off the mat. The relationship between our effort and our ease is exemplified in our asana but not limited to this.  Sthira Sukam is a relevant concept that every practitioner should be aware of, and search for opportunities to incorporate into their lives. Play with it. Try it on.  Listen more deeply.

Thursday
Apr142016

Victim of it or Advocate for it

One of my first memories is falling on cement and scraping my knee.  I recall my dad picking me up, taking me inside and getting to work on my injury.  He told me not to worry because he was a doctor (two years later when I found out he wasn't a doctor I was pretty upset).  He took out the shaving cream and put it all over my leg.  He then wiped the shaving cream off and put 20 bandaids on and around my wound.  Afterwards he gave me a big cup of Apple J and said "you should feel better in the morning". 

Did he put on a bit of a performance?  Maybe. 

Was it over the top?  Yes.  

Did it make me feel better? Heck yes.

Vinny had three options in the scenario.  He could have said "Suck it up butter cup", He could have cleaned the wound and put one bandaid on it (like most parents would have done), or he could have done what he did, take an unfortunate event and make it memorable and up lifting.

My dad Cal Hicks, Vinny Boberino, or skciH laC as he calls himself, is a healer.  He heals through humour and ridiculousness.  This man taught me everything I know about optimism and choosing happiness.


Life is going to toss you some curve balls.  Some in the form of job losses, injuries, sickness, heartache.  You have three choices.  You can suck it up and move on.  You can deal with the hurt, talk about it, morn the loss, grieve, then move on.  Or you can deal with the hurt and strive to be stronger, kinder, and more compassionate because of it.

Through my work, leading trainings and coaching people, I've witnessed the direct correlation between how one handles life's curve balls and how that impacts their optimism and selflessness.  To not deal with life altering situations leaves one hard, cold, and unavailable.  Brushing hurts under the rug can causes a dullness on the surface of ones life but a deep well of anger below.  You can mask the anger with your work, alcohol, drugs, tv, busyness but the anger will prevent you from serving.

If you deal with the situation, talk about it, be angry about it, grieve about it, and understand it has forever changed you.  You won't be defined by it, you will be different and more interesting because of it.  You will likely meet people that have had similar situations and you will bond over this.

If however, you decide to take the road less travelled, and become an advocate of your situation, this leads to a role of service in your community.  To be an advocate is to stand tall and proud of what you have been through.  An advocate shares their story and helps others see the sky behind the clouds.  

When my father chose to make my scraped knee a positive experience he taught me what it meant to serve another.  He taught me through his actions that I can positively impact another’s life simply by being light.

 In the wise words of Cal Hicks "Don't worry, I'm a doctor."