Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seeds of intention: how does your garden grow?

by Adrienne White, 300 hour yoga teacher training student

When I was about 10 years old, I used to quietly slip out of the house in the pitch black of night and lie in the field next to our house. It was amazing to lie there, gazing up at the night sky, just thinking, and counting the shooting stars. There was no fear of the night. It was a feeling of complete freedom. I have another memory from this time of that same field. I would jump on the back of my slightly crazy horse - no saddle or bridle, just us. I could feel her power as she went into a full gallop around the field until she decided to stop. I was fearless. We were like one, completely wild and free. 

Somewhere along the way, I started to live my life more from a place of fear, managing the down side of life. So many of us worry: I'm not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough. It's a culture of fear, and the advertisers love to use that to sell us the next magic pill for "happiness". Then there is the granddaddy fear of them all: the fear of death. It turns out there is a fate worth than death, and that is not living the one life you have now. 

If our first week of yoga teacher training was spent cleansing and creating a fertile soil to grow new things, our second week was about planting seeds of intention and watching them grow. Without intention, how will you know what kind of fruit you will get?  If you don't consciously point your arrow, how will you hit your target?  As Gabriel Halpern, one of my favorite yoga teachers back home in Chicago, says of karma: you will never get an apple if you plant a tomato seed.

So how do we move forward into the empty space of a new path when there is fear of the unknown? Part of it is simple faith that life is not random. If you believe that life is only random and chaotic, you will operate in that space. If you believe in beauty and mystery, that will be your truth. Where you point you mind, the energy goes. In short, what will you do to plant and grow your apple, so you can taste the sweet fruit?

It's key to get to know yourself deeply, honestly, so you can find your true purpose and your reason to live. What do you burn for? This past week on Gili Meno, we spent time and practice studying the chakras and the koshas (energy fields in the body), which provide road maps to look at our more subtle energy, and as a way to get to know ourselves - our strengths and our challenges. We can then work from the more gross layers (the physical) to the subtle energies of Purusha, or our Divine essence, where all is possible.

We can understand where our fears are rooted in the body. We can understand that identifying with only our physical self keeps us weighed down, mired in a culture that places so much value on how we look, thinking we somehow lessen in value as our body and face age. We can begin to move towards our subtle energy body, where we are limitless. With pranayama, meditation, and when living our purpose, this "body" will never grow old. 

The topic of fear has come up quite a bit in the group this week. It's important to face these fears as we build more shakti (energy) in longer and more complex pranayama and meditations, so this strong new energy doesn't fuel these fears, but instead fuels our seeds of intention. We luxuriated in a much needed Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep), where in a deep state of relaxation, we were asked to exchange a memory of fear with a memory of something beautiful. We are pointing our thoughts where we want the energy to go, and literally changing our minds. 

Thinking about all this, I realized I've been fearful for much of the last 40 years -  afraid of angering adults as a child, of not being pretty/liked/smart enough as a teen, fear of "failure" as an adult, and yes, that nagging fear that as the outer shell softens and wrinkles, I am somehow less worthy. I'm setting a new intention to point my mind to Purusha, pure consciousness, where we discover there is no separation between ourselves and that which is most beautiful. Because we are that consciousness. 

Awareness is the first step to planting new seeds of intention. Lovely for us that in yoga, we have our energetic maps and our teachers to help guide the way. We focus our attention unwaveringly on where we want to go, and let go of the things that do not serve that intention. 

Prana is our bow.
Karma is our arrow. 
Purusha is our target.  

May our aim to be true. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Glimpses of Gili Meno

by Susan Holmes, 300 hour yoga teacher training student

A few months before the Zuna Yoga 300 Hour Yoga Teacher training in Gili Meno, I couldn't wait to read each new Zuna blog to discover a little more information about the unknown place I was soon to be headed, and to flame a connection with the exciting experience on which I was soon to embark. I found myself feeling like part of the Zuna Tribe before I came face to face with any of the beautiful souls I've since met.  Now more than a week into my own training in Gili Meno, I have the chance to connect and share with yogis soon to be in the Zuna Yoga teacher training or considering this training. I am grateful.

yoga teacher training baliWith the wonderful yogis I'm blessed to share this experience with, our training began with a blood moon, and each night it ends by looking into the sky to see stars so bright that I'm sure I could grab them if I just reached a bit more. Yes, I know that I am forever connected to these souls and this place.

Our teachers - Katherine, Everett, and their assistants - have
created an opening for all of us to find our spaciousness and authenticity. maoMeno and Gili Meno support us in this endeavor. In our early morning meditation, which begins before sunrise, the sound of the waves breaking along the shore coaxes breath deeper, and the melody of a thousand birds leaves no doubt to the auspiciousness of each new day. Gaining great insight into our asana practice and pranayama energizes us to become sponges for each day's lectures and meditations. Everett's knowledge of yoga, both traditional and modern, and his ability to share it with clarity and joy makes every day move by too quickly.

yoga teacher training baliEach day, with each new layer of understanding unveiled, Gili Meno also supports the space and clarity we've discovered.  My husband and partner in this adventure, Greg and I walk through town and see the beautiful simplicity (not to say there isn't a lot of hard work to be done for the people on this island) and an easy and pure kindness surrounds the island.  On Saturday, the men were playing a ballgame outside, and the kids came skipping back from the beach with their rafts or riding on the back of their brother's bike. A pure enjoyment of this lovely paradise.  For me, the people and the island invite what is possible to reveal itself with even greater depth.

The clutter in my head has emptied allowing space for wisdom, sharing and laughter. It's all possible!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dispelling the darkness

by Adrienne White, 300 hour yoga teacher training student

It was a very auspicious beginning to my 300 hour yoga teacher training here on the beautiful island of Gili Meno: a school of about 50 dolphins on the boat crossing from Bali, a full moon (plus lunar eclipse) on first night of training, and beautiful island to call my home. Shortly thereafter, it seemed that the theme of our first week turned somewhat darker: or more precisely, to what lurks in the darkness. 

In a literal sense, darkness came in the form of the two day complete power outage we experienced over the entire island. No WiFi, and nothing to illuminate the shadows except the soft glow of candlelight, and the blazingly bright stars and moon above.

House gecko
In the darkness, the creatures and critters begin to emerge. And not just the ones who crawl on the island or across my bedroom floor. True, there are plenty of those: multiple varieties of (large) spiders, scorpions, lizards, and my house gecko, who I hear crawling and calling from my bedroom walls. We also have beautiful butterflies and birds, amazing sea creatures, and an endless supply of mosquitoes. We need plenty of bug repellent to fend off those pesky insects in our lovely open air yoga shala from the moment we start our 5:45am practice until we finish our final meditation at about 7pm. 

The mosquitoes make a wonderful metaphor for the other creatures we are facing this week. We’ve also been stirring up and swatting at the creatures that live deep in the tissues of our bodies and in the recesses of our souls. Everything that has ever happened to us in life is stored in there, and it needs to be cleansed before we can begin the journey to meet our higher selves.

Afternoon practice
Our teacher, Everett, is quite skilled and methodical with the use of asana (physical) practice to achieve this stirring of the demons. We have spent the majority of our nearly three hour morning practices doing LOTS of long holds in our postures to cleanse and purify our bodies. This is necessary, vital even, to get to know the literal, physical, and mental toxins we have built up and stored there over the years. He has supplied us with powerful practices of pranayama (breath work) and meditation to face these creatures with grace, courage, awareness, and I dare say even love.

It hasn’t always been easy, but the good stuff in life rarely is. We are climbing toward what Everett refers to as the “promised land”- a reunion with our true, highest, and most authentic self, and we need to clear, or sometimes make friends with the demons so they don’t get in our way.

We will continue in this next week to climb the ladder to meet this higher self as we begin longer seated meditations and more complicated pranayamas. Imagine sitting with one pointed focus for 60 or 90 minutes, breathing deeply and clearing the mind of the noise that distracts us from this authentic self. This is why I came here. This is the good stuff. This is the yoga.  

I want that meeting with Buddhi (my highest self), so the ladder I will continue to climb, one rung at a time, to find my true purpose and my most authentic self.

On our first day, we were given the challenge to “empty our cup” and become a beginner again. I have poured it all out this week - let go of what I thought I knew and surrendered to the (sometimes literally) painful process of cleansing and learning something new. After over 20 years of practicing yoga, I learned how to breathe anew.

Sunshine after the rain
I’m looking forward to filling my cup back up in the next few weeks with something different - hopefully something more realized, more conscious, and perhaps more beautiful. As I continue to refill my cup and polish my souI, I will also keep in mind the wise words of Lao Tzu that hang in our outdoor dining room where we share our meals: "Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.  Keep sharpening your knife and it will dull."

Fitting then, that our first day off - filled with sea turtles, relaxation, and fun with new found friends - seemed to be nearly mosquito free.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Be your own student

by Sammy Garrett, Zuna Yoga 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate

Less than a week after the completion of our 200 hour yoga teacher training on Gili Meno, two Zuna classmates and I took part in instructed yoga classes. This was the very first experience of a group led class post teacher training. It was definitely an eye opening experience to go from what we had learned with Zuna Yoga to what was being taught out there in the ‘real world’. Up until this point, I could not fathom that in an a few short weeks, we could know more than many yoga teachers around the world. I put my doubts to the test and I’m glad I did. 

Sammy on Gili Meno
As Zuna Yogis, we walked away from the experience of a led yoga class with pride in our stride and a sense of confidence we didn’t have before. I now knew that by practicing what I preach, I was equipped to teach. Grabbing the bull by the horns in my usual fashion, that’s exactly what I did. Fortunately, following the yoga teacher training, I had planned a week’s break in a secluded coastal village on the west coast of Bali. I approached the reception staff to advise them I was a yoga teacher and would be more than happy to offer free classes to the guests during my stay. As you can imagine, they were thrilled at the idea and gave me ample space and promotion to get the ball rolling. Sure, it was daunting, but there’s no time like the present, and I was adamant to make the most of my newfound self-belief.

Bali yoga shala
I had three guests turn up to my very first class, all of whom had varying abilities. I had prepared the sequence and practiced in advance to make sure the recipe was just right. Thankfully, it was a small group, and I was able to tailor certain postures for each individual, offering variations. The whole experience was a huge learning curve, one I’m grateful for. Afterwards, I had positive feedback from a woman who had been practicing yoga on and off for a number of years. The Udan Vayu meditation was also a highlight.  Afterwards, I was on cloud nine. I did it -- I took the plunge! It definitely wasn’t perfect and there is plenty of room to grow, something which I am excited about. My favorite thing about this journey is that it’s never ending. The beauty of yoga is that it never remains stagnant, there is always discovery and development. 

On the path to Yoga
Will it ever be the same being a yoga student again? Probably not. With the knowledge acquired during my training with Zuna Yoga, a completely different awareness is applied during practice. The fine line between being a student and being a teacher is entirely altered post training. I know now that there is no going back. I have the Zuna tools in my belt for a reason and these tools are far too good not to share! I’m sure the Zuna Yogi’s out there agree that our tool belts are more than adequately operational to live fully and powerfully through yoga. Although I have left the paradise of maoMeno, I continue to follow the white coconuts and my heart on the path of Yoga. Bringing with me confidence and trust in my own abilities. From here on out, I will be placing importance on my own personal practice. As I evolve as a teacher, I look forward to sharing my learnings with the world.