Tag Archives: sharon denton

The Aging Body & Yoga, by Sharon Denton

IMG_2636The beauty about the aging body and the practice of yoga is that there is so much we gain through years of asana, pranayama and meditation that it provides a new way of being.  Not better, just different.  The markers of how we are progressing in our yoga practice are different then they were when we were younger.  It’s not about how far, how deep one can go in a pose.  We are not the same body, same person, nor do we have the same needs.  Our hormones, biochemical balance, relationships, family, work demands, the way you spend your time has changed and honoring these beautiful transitions in life will bring contentment and ease.  Ask yourself, why would I not allow my practice to receive these changes and help me navigate through them?   It’s not wise or practical to think things are not going to change.  Recognizing this and the ability to adapt constantly to meet your needs is the hallmark of a yogi.  As we age, we long for different things from our yoga mats then in the past.

 

Yes, we do gain body awareness and flexibility through maintaining a yoga practice, but more importantly what we gain is a deeper profound knowing.  It’s through the wisdom of life experience on our yoga mats, we learn to be less reactive, inter-perspective, happy and satisfied.  Allowing the knowledge gained along the journey to seep in, we become seasoned and wisdom is gained.

 

Ask yourself, “Is my practice working?”  We must become a partner in life, willing to surrender to the trappings of youth to gain insight of age.  Our practice of asana, pranayama and meditation creates a mental flexibility that we did not have in our younger years.  Over decades and decades of practice, we learn about our patterns, tendencies, resistances and attachments and through the practice we learn how to overcome these and not allow them to have power over us.  In other words, we know thyself.   As soon as we recognize the dysfunction or pattern, stepping out of it, is getting rid of the effect it has on us, just as slowing down is the same as waking up.

 

It’s when we allow ourselves to clearly see these emotional, mental and physical patterns, and step away from them and align with that which serves us, we are no longer at the mercy of these patterns.

 

In the yoga practice we experience the inner witness, aka the knower or observer.  This witness can see from all perspectives and empathize yet abide with his/her true nature.  The inner witness is not aloof or disconnected, yet is fully present to the this moment without being disturbed by it.  We begin to see every argument or stressful situation from every ones point of view.  There is no judging, there is only understanding, empathizing and compassion towards all, at the same time maintaining our authentic true nature.  Over time, less and less do we only see on our own ego-perspective.  In alignment with our true nature, we experience joy in all the blessings around and experiences life fully, moving towards it, not away from it.

 

There is a beautiful simple contentment in knowing that the goal of the yoga practice is to live in the radical presence of an open heart, to become more ‘pourous’ to the moment, vulnerable to the possibility of evolution and change and respond to the spontaneous needs in our lives.  If we just trust the practice it takes us to where we need to go.   Allow your practice to be unique to your needs and it will serve you well.

 

www.sharondenton.com

Yoga is for Everyone…

 

IMG_1498Yoga is for everyone and always has been; All who come to the practice are welcome. The young have come to yoga to develop their potential, the sick have come to yoga to heal and get a fresh perspective and spiritual seekers come to find freedom from the material world and discover peace at the feet of God.

With all the technological devices we have access to today, it is more important then ever for each of us to develop a practice that realigns us with our true nature. Finding a teacher that will meet you where you are at, addressing your personal needs will help you to maintain a life-long practice and make the changes you want in your life.

We learn through conscious movement to use our bodies efficiently and effectively. In doing so we discover an inner harmony, finding more ease in the physical body. Over time, with a dedicated and disciplined practice, we will develop new patterns that decrease physical stress, promote proper posture, freedom in movement, comfort in body an overall contentment leading towards complete wellness. In order for this to happen, it’s important to adapt our asana practice to meet our skeletal and muscular structure. To evolve without injury, it’s important to work with asanas that increase our own unique movement potential. Remain curious, keeping an investigative eye throughout our practice of asana, keeping the inspiration alive, learning and evolving.

In Book 2, Verse 46 of the Yoga Sutras it says that asana must be steady and comfortable. In other words, have attention without tension. Have ease and joy, remaining alert, present, yet relaxed. We do this through the breath for when the breath is at ease and steady our body and mind will follow. When we practice, do the work in the practice with full attention while at the same time providing a beautiful resting place for God in our hearts. The key to working with our personal constitution is by looking at the conditions of our current condition. This changes day to day, and adapting our practice, setting appropriate goals to meet our needs for the day to regain or remain in harmony. Working with a teacher that understands proper sequencing to meet the needs of the students in the class or better yet, one on one or in a small group, is essential to learning this art. We all carry stress, tightness, and for some, even over flexibility, which can all cause pain in the body. Addressing our personal adaptations to find our variation in the posture/s will help to heal, strengthen and create balance.

Join me at Core Fitness in Clearwater Beach every Monday and Wednesday at 12noon and every Friday 9:30-11am. Private and semi-private sessions available. www.sharondenton.com, 312.925.YOGA(9642)

Tips for Developing a Home Practice with Sharon Denton

 

IMG_6991Just because you cannot make it into the studio doesn’t mean you have to skip out on your practice. The tips below will help you establish a practice available to you at home.

• Create a special place in your home for practice. If you have a separate room, use this space, if not, create a special corner in a room that is free from distraction that has energy within it that will support your sacred space. Set up a personal alter, a small place on a bookshelf will work, and place things on it that inspire you. This can be a picture of Jesus, Pattabhi Jois, other teachers, or a mentor/s in your life. Use candles, incense, mala beads and any other items that will provide inspiration and that you have gratitude towards. If your practice space allows you to face East, great, if not don’t get bogged down with details.

• If all you have is 10 minutes, this is better then none. Do what you can in the time that you have. Make time for your practice. Schedule it into your life, like you do with other meetings and appointments. It’s better to do a little practice daily, then a three-hour session once a week. It’s best to create routine by doing your practice the same time daily. It doesn’t have to be at any particular time. It’s better to find something that works for you and to become consistent and disciplined to your practice. Make sure to practice non-attachment and take rest from your asana practice at least once a week to give your body time to rest.

• Turn off phones and any device that may cause distraction. Procrastination leads to thinking which is the opposite of the goal of yoga. All of your ‘to do list’ can wait. Get on your mat and just begin with your breath. Those days that you feel unmotivated to get on your mat, ask yourself to do just one Sun Salute mindfully and then, do another and notice how, once you quiet your mind you’ll become more receptive to your practice.

• Ask your self how you are feeling? Be open to changing up your practice to accommodate your needs. If your feeling exhausted, then a Restorative Yoga or Yoga Nidra will be very helpful in rebalancing your energy. Other days, you could follow the Ashtanga format, beginning with Sun Salutes, standing postures, seated postures, backbends and inversions. You could design a sequence that leads up to the posture that you struggle with, allowing yourself to be playful and spontaneous. Just get on your mat and see where it goes and allow ample time at the end for rest. When your alone practicing, this will give you opportunity to play with postures and experiment with new ways to get into, and out of postures.

• Develop a silent sitting practice, in other words, a meditation practice. If, five- minutes is all you can commit to, start there and allow your meditation to grow longer over time. Add a minute per week till you get up to 20-30 minutes per sitting. Theoretically, we do all these yoga postures to prepare our bodies for sitting still in comfort. Sit however is most comfortable for you, even if that means using a chair. Sit upright, with an elongated spine up to the crown of your head. If you have a pranayama practice, do this before, as this will help you to focus and set the internal environment for your meditation practice.

• Take time for intention setting, dedication of offering your efforts up to God, someone or something. Try not to be attached to the outcome of your practice.

A New Year and Dining Out

Your Guide to Eating Out IMG_6646

  • Order from the appetizer menu where portions are better sized for one serving.

 

  • Choose baked, broiled or grilled options instead of fried or breaded varieties.

 

  • Estimate your portions to track how much you are eating.  An ounce is about the size of 4 dice and 3 ounces of meat is similar to the size of a deck of cards.

 

  • Ask for dressings, sauces and toppings on the side and choose vinaigrette- based salad dressings over creamy ones.

 

  • Drink low or no calorie water, herbal tea or black coffee rather then soft drinks and alcoholic beverages… It’s easy to drink a lot of calories without realizing it.

 

  • Ask for your water with “no ice”.  This allows your digestion “fire” to not be put out.

 

  • Pack snacks for your day.  Examples are nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and yogurt. So, when you begin your meal out, you are in control to eat a meal in moderation and enjoy your company.

 

  • If you end up eating an unhealthy meal, make the rest of your meals healthy.

 

  • Share treats with others.  Often how much you are eating is a bigger problem then what you are eating.  Take time to enjoy a single portion so that it truly satisfies you.

 

  • Drink plenty of water. Often our hunger is due to dehydration.

www.sharondenton.com

Silent Sitting….aka Meditation

SD_127Meditation, also know as dhyana, one of the 8 limbs of yoga, is the practice of relaxed breath awareness.  Meditation lightens the emotional load, creating needed distance from gloomy thoughts allowing for emotional stability and an inner focus.

There are many misconceptions about meditation.  Meditation is not about not thinking at all, or stopping your thoughts. Rather, it’s identifying with the part of your mind that is doing the watching….the part of your mind that is observing everything that you say, everything you see, everything you do.  This part of the mind is the essential part of ourselves to begin to understand, as it is the part of the mind that will rescue us anytime we ask it to.  For example, any challenge that you are put into, if you bring your awareness back to the breath and come back to this place of observer then you will free yourself from any pain of suffering you may be experiencing.

During your silent sitting, just watch, and when thoughts do arise, as they will, just watch them come and go, come back to watching the breath.  You can sit any way you need to in order to have comfort in your seat.  That can be in a chair, on the floor, or on a prop like a cushion, yoga block or blanket.  Adjust your body to get as comfortable as you can, extending the spine in length.  Feel the roof of the mouth align over the diagram, over the pelvis and feel the sit bones press down into the earth as gravity is received, lightness is given upward.  This will allow for freedom along the channels in and along the spine.  I heard Amrit Desai say one time, that you “become an empty vessel for God to move in- purging, clearing, cleansing, and letting go.”

Just quieting the monkey mind is a spiritual act, in that we can start to glimpse deeper into our own true, loving, selfless natures.  The more glimpses we get, the more we can remember ‘that’ is who we are, ideally lessening our dramas, and ego games.

The most famous sutra that Master Patnjali wrote about is in his first book, verse two.  It says, ‘Chitta Vritti Nirodaha’, which explains the importance of learning to stop, to end (Nir) how the mind turns things around.  This verse is talking about the seeds within our minds that cause this constant churning of the mind.  The whole point is how do we stop our tendency to see things wrong all the time?  We make things what they are based on the seeds within our mind….the impressions that we have taken in, allow us to see what we are seeing, which may be different from other people or animals.  This knowledge that what we see is being projected from the seeds of our own mind, provides us a better understanding of why we label, judge, attach to something, etc.  Then we can purify and clear away any negative seeds thru visualization, and loving attention given to all of life thru kindness and compassion to ourselves and to everything.  There is a bigger picture to all of this, and when we connect to this dynamic understanding, the true gift of yoga is realized.  It takes some time for this to even make any sense at all….It’s all a part of the journey.  Go at it with steadiness and ease, and as Master Patabi Jois said “all is coming”.

The mind is often compared to a cup of dirty water. When it is shaken, the water is cloudy, but when it is still, the sand settles down to the bottom of the cup and the water is clear.  The practice of meditation is like letting the cup of water, your mind, be still.  Another way to look at it, is, to see the reflection of your thoughts, your mind, as a still picture of the reflection of the moon across the lakes surface.  As the Old Testament says, “As the sensual eyes close, the spiritual eyes open.”

Through the practice of meditation, one can begin to maintain a state of consciousness where feelings of being separate from the others, thoughts, and feelings, are removed and the oneness of all of life is known.  When you live from this perspective of peace, you can only create peace in your presence.

Namaste.

 

Sabbatical=Renewal

IMG_3636White Orchid Yoga teachers often take sabbatical—traveling to Mysore India to study with Sharath and other teachers—a chance to learn, and to renew. Teaching Mysore style classes is much more demanding on the teacher’s body then teaching led classes of any other style of yoga. For this reason Mysore teachers take breaks to continue their studies and give their body rest. For five weeks, beginning on Monday November 4th until December 6th, I will be taking a sabbatical from teaching Mysore. Since I’m unable to go to Mysore, India at this time, I will be taking my time off here in beautiful Florida. You will see me in the shala practicing alongside of you. Jade Skinner will cover for me on Mondays and Fridays; and Ally Ford will be teaching on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tuesday will be Open Practice. I will teach two classes during this time on the November Moon Days. Please join me on Sunday November 3rd and Sunday, November 17th at 9:30-11am for Lunar Flow. Practice, Practice, Practice…All is coming -Shri K. Pattabhi

Led Full Primary…..Why?

DSC_0099Once a Week… Vinyasa has become a popular name to describe many yoga classes, as the meaning of it is the ‘careful linking of the breath to our movement’. In Ashtanga Yoga, especially those of you who practice the traditional Mysore Method, vinyasa goes a step further by teaching the various number of linked breaths to movements it takes, to move through your practice. Because of the difficult nature of remembering and mastering the various vinyasa, weekly, guided-group classes are taught, in which all vinyasa are verbally counted and all students follow along accordingly. Every Mysore student should practice one led class each week. As one participates in a led Half or Full Primary, it’s important not to push past or take more postures, if you are not practicing all of these postures already. Listen to your body and move together as a group as the count is given. Take modifications as you need and practice up to the posture that you normally take in the Mysore Class. Once you reach you last asana, sit and observe the others in class and join back in at back-bending. By observing other students, whom have been practicing the Full Primary, you will learn so much. Traditionally, Mysore students take led practice on Friday or Sunday. Commit to taking a weekly led class and you will discover new ways to approach your daily practice.  Full Primary is held on Sunday’s at 9:30-11am. 

 

21 Day Challenge

images-921 Day Challenge

It typically takes twenty-one days for an individual to begin a new habit or discipline, or to break an old habit. This challenge is meant to inspire you to practice for at least twenty-one days within this month. By doing so, you will experience the many benefits of a disciplined practice.

Pantañjali’s Yoga Sutras, book 1, verse 14, says “sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkārāsevito ḍrḍha-bhūmiḥ” (“One becomes firmly established in practice only after attending to it for a long time, without interruption and with an attitude of devotion.”)
This sutra explains how the practice becomes firmly grounded when carried out for a long time without interruption and with earnest attention.

If you want something, you commit to it. Your practice must be steady, continuous, without gaps, without breaks. It must be done correctly with full attention, entire application of the mind, and with full faith. This establishes a firm foundation. Patience in your practice will allow your mind to be settled. You will uncover more clarity in what you do on and off your mat.

We need three qualities on this path: They are patience, devotion and faith. Guruji was fond of saying “dīrgha-kāla”. He would also add, “long time, you take practice”. This sutra lists several aspects, all of which must come together in order to develop a firm spiritual foundation.

dīrgha-kāla: prolonged period of time
nairantarya: uninterruptedly, continuously
satkāra: correct method, reverence
asvitaḥ: attended to, devoted, committed

There is often a tendency to start practice with enthusiasm and energy and then expect or desire immediate results. The pressures of everyday life get in the way and we succumb to human weaknesses. This is human nature; but we can approach the practice with a positive, disciplined demeanor and with an enthusiastic attitude to attend to the discoveries within. Changing the mind and the heart is one of the most difficult things we do. This commitment to the time we give to our personal practice must be given daily. Interruption is an obstacle that diminishes the motivation and the qualities we acquire. Engage in the practice with all of your being and offer up all that you receive.

A solid commitment to your practice will become the still, calm point in life’s storms.

Namaste, Sharon

 

Moon Days WHY?

IMG_5431The Ashtanga Yoga practice cultivates a wonderful awareness of our own bodies and of the rhythms of nature. Resting on the Moon Days is a way to honor one of nature’s most powerful cycles.  The human body is primarily composed of water (50% – 60% on average), the moon phases affect not only the tides of the oceans and seas, but the currents of our own bodies as well.

On the Full Moon, our energies are waxing to a peak, and it is easy to fall out of balance towards too much vigor.  The days preceding up to the Full Moon causes an increase in body fluids (internal tide), which generally increases our energy.  This is the time of the month for activity, but, also you will see tension, over anxious in ourselves and others.  It’s less promblematic to practice on the Full Moon then the New Moon.  Although with the excess energy present within ourselves, if practicing on a Full Moon, one must be very careful not to over do it and get injured.

On the New Moon, our energies are waning to their calmest, and we may find it difficult to rouse ourselves.  The new moon is also the time when we feel depleted and sometimes depressed and emotional.  It’s important not to do anything vigorous.  The days preceding up to the New Moon, our body fluids are decreased, causing more dryness in the joints and therefore a greater chance of injury.  The peak of the New Moon (Dark Moon) is the best time to start new ventures and setting goals/intentions.

Another reason to rest on the Moon Days is even simpler: Moon Days provide practitioners with rest. Mysore practice requires dedication and a lot of hard work, so it’s healthy to have a couple of free days every month when we sleep in, rest our bodies, and feel refreshed when we return to practice.

We likewise rest from Mysore practice on Saturdays, and women are encouraged to rest from classes on the first three days of their monthly cycle.  So, rest, your body and mind will be healthier for it.

 

Yoga and Religion

images-6Over the many years of practicing and teaching yoga, I have had this conversation with so many. I get asked “Does yoga go against my religion?”  I encourage you to surrender to the many gifts that yoga has to offer and then overtime you will experience for yourself the deepening of your relationship with God, due to your dedication to your yoga practice.   I truly believe that with a dedicated practice, establishing a firm foundation by having faith, patience and devotion, one may be healed. It’s through our daily practice that we begin to recognize the things that bind us. Attachments, addictions things that do not serve us, overtime, will be revealed. For me, and for many, this can only truly take place when one surrenders to God.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, an ancient text that is widely referred to in yoga classes today, clearly presents morale guide for yogis to follow and outlines the path towards enlightenment, union with the Divine. My personal practice has deepened my relationship with God, like no other opportunity in my life. My yoga practice gives me the daily opportunity to quiet my mind to look within to hear God’s wisdom and truth for my life. By surrendering to the practice, I have learned so many lessons that without faith in my higher power, I wouldn’t have continued with such dedication.

I have been practicing some kind of yoga since 1986. All of life’s trials and tribulations have scarred me in some way, even if I was unaware of how it may have hurt me. Energetically and or emotionally all our life’s experiences make an imprint in our being. It’s through this yoga that I was able to trust, to open to peel away the layers of emotional baggage and pain and allow myself to heal, in the process I have grown closer to God.

Students ask me about the chants and some of the texts that are referred to in yoga classes, and the simple answer is that these chants are to open us to the light within to help us clearly see the potential within that frees us from our mind and the constant monkey chatter that goes on. The texts are like manuals for life. What you may encounter along the way and how to move through and past. David Frawley says “Yoga should challenge our belief system in a positive way of creating more peace, understanding, discrimination, higher awareness and connecting us to a universal truth, rather then getting caught up in barriers and boundaries”.

Most importantly, yoga is for the individual. It’s about the practitioner and my responsibility as a yoga teacher is teaching tools that are useful for each student. The devotional aspect of the practice is essential and should chanting and reading from these yoga texts bring knowledge that can be applied to ones life to live a more fulfilled life with purpose, then I consider it useful in transformation. Intention is important as is prayer and including this in your practice will draw you closer to God. It’s because of my yoga practice that I’m receptive to hearing God and aligning with His will for my life.

God knows our heart…. There should be no fear. Remember we are created in the image of God, for the glory of God, and for the worship of God. I believe that practicing yoga is a spiritual discipline that will draw you closer to God, no matter what you faith may be. As Pattabhi Jois says, “There is only one drishti, that is God”.