Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu— May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.Read More
MindBodyBrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Foundation and Yoga Pedagogy students, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current students, Megan Doughty, about a recent yoga class with TaraMarie Perri.
In architectural drawings, a centerline is indicated by a dash/dot line that extends out of an intersecting C and L. This symbol has always been one of my favorite drawing symbols because it’s clever (the C and L intersect each other at their own centerlines making it a code that can be read even by those who don’t know its meaning) and it’s exceptionally simple but able to convey a great deal of information and organize an entire building. The centerline symbol is used at every scale, from locating alignment of massive structures that literally hold the building up, to indicating the smallest of details such as where to drill an ⅛” hole inside a wall cabinet.
I spend a lot of time extending dash/dot lines through columns, 2x4s, and hinges, but have never thought about superimposing this symbolic guideline over my body, mind, and yoga practice—that is until Marissa’s class on mindfulness and centerlines at Steps. As we began class and were encouraged to be mindful of finding and engaging with our various whole body centerlines by rocking and bending from side to side, front to back, and head to toe, I started to envision drawing that dash/dot line through myself at each of these axes. With the progression of the practice and frequent reminders to bring mindfulness to our centerlines in a variety of ways—through our breath, through the use of props, through external and internal rotation, through activation of the inner thighs, through extensions of the limbs, through the ground—I found myself drawing all over my body in all different directions. There were lines extending through my shoulder blades, out my fingers, across my eyes, up my legs, and through my joints.
As I was mentally marking up my body from the large scale spine and pelvis to the small scale joints of my toes and centers of my ears, I realized that being mindful of these various centerlines allows us to organize and align our bodies so that they can be structural systems of support at any scale, much like buildings. For me, the centerlines became guidelines for balance and strength throughout asana, flow sequences, and transitions. They became reminders to fully work through postures by thinking of their expressions on every level, from their foundations down to the smallest of details; they became points of reference from which I could safely depart in exploration, because I knew where to return to for grounding and stability.
Thinking about my body as a drawing sent me back to Yoga Anatomy, and sure enough, Kaminoff and Matthews do at times annotate their drawings with centerlines, axes, and points of gravity. They also begin their discussion of the spine and its evolution by talking about how as organisms increased in complexity, they developed spinal structures and skeletal systems out of a need for “central organization and guidance” and out of a need for “a structure that allows for free movement but is stable enough to offer protection."
As class began to slow down, Marissa emphasized the importance of mindfulness not only in our yoga practice but also in our everyday lives. She encouraged us to take the time in our days or weeks to practice mindfulness, because much like a muscle, mindfulness must be used and stretched in order for it to get stronger. Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure how to do that yet. I understood it when applied to a familiar and practical concept in class, but mindfulness is relatively new to me and I often find it difficult, uncomfortable, and tiring. It’s reassuring, however, to think of it as an evolving process, and that much like (as Kaminoff and Matthews point out) spines evolved in our species in order to provide organization, guidance, structure, protection, stability, and freedom of movement, mindfulness must also evolve inside us in order to provide that same organization, guidance, structure, protection, stability, and freedom of movement for the mind—especially as our lives and the world around us get more and more complex. And if centerlines can be used as guidelines to locate these concepts in the physical body, I imagine they can be used as guidelines for our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives.
Since Marissa’s class, I have been thinking a lot about where to draw my dash/dot lines in my personal life in order to give myself datums that are always with me, no matter where I am, so that when I stray too far from my center and lose my balance, I can use mindfulness to return to those centerlines and once again find organization, stability, and support.
Photo by Flickr user
The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer; dance teacher; and yoga teacher, certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms, including that of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY through Plus One. She is continually intrigued by and appreciative of the power of mind/body practices, and is grateful for the chance to share her musings on MindBodyBrew’s digital platform.
In beginning to pack up my home a few weeks ago, I came across Jean Tinder’s Creator Cards on a bookshelf, a deck of cards my mom had gifted me with years prior. Inspired by the thought that every human being is innately divine and serves as the creator of his or her own reality and experience, the Creator Cards are designed to help the bearer move towards clarity, discovering answers that reveal one’s Truth and can lead to choices that match the reality of such truths. Each day I’ve turned over another card and considered its message, as well as its corresponding, longer passage, and each day I’ve been mesmerized by the serendipitous relevance of the day’s reflections to my reality in that moment.
Earlier this week, my card read, ‘What would you choose if there were no rules inside you?' And so I began to really think, how do we control ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our expressions of ourselves? How many of those regulated choices are unconsciously made, rooted in previous conventions that were set by other people or current or outdated belief systems? The card’s passage suggested that there is another way for us to live--that instead of relegating ourselves to living an unconscious life, we can choose again, and again, and again, consciously.
Curious about what ‘rules’ I may recognize and what ‘rules’ may not live so close to the surface of my consciousness, I attempted to make a list of ‘rules’ I have lived by and still largely live by. I found myself able to identify quite a few, some of which originated in childhood and others that arrived later in my life. Some were tinged with negativity, others with promise. And while it certainly was interesting to configure such a list, I soon found myself finding an alternate route into the exercise--I became much more intrigued by the consideration of what comfort zones and ‘rules’ I feel I currently am breaking out of. As I continue to ponder it all, this other entryway into the realm of rules and freedom seems to be lending itself to a more truthful and rich deciphering of how I have been and how and what I am becoming, consciously.
What are rules anyway? They would seem to be nothing more than invisible barriers that we set for ourselves, out of consideration for our moral, spiritual, and social values. I in no way mean to demean the setting of boundaries, for it can be within and from such clearly delineated lines that we grow. But as more years pass and I delve deeper into my yoga practice, the world seems to grow grayer each day, and amidst that gray emerges an opportunity to dissolve such barriers that bind us and to replace those obstructions with a more porous substance that makes space for tolerance and openness.
There’s such beauty in our ceaseless evolutions as human beings. That evolution is pronounced so vividly for many of us who practice yoga, on and off the mat. I believe too that growth unquestionably can be highlighted and prompted through artistic practices as well. Movement and contemplative practices alike draw out facets of ourselves that are present but less visible, and in learning of these diverse bits of ourselves, we learn how alike we all are; we recognize the ways others’ vulnerabilities are set beside their strengths, and in seeing such contrast in one being, we begin to realize the spectrum of a whole self. Yoga particularly has encouraged me to become more open--to see others, to really listen to them, and to interact on a visceral level based in the truths that showcase themselves. Only with such sensitivity to others’ ways and energy can we act from a more tolerant place and be lucky enough to witness others’ warring strengths and weaknesses.
This summer I have been blessed to be part of a community that is filled with ambitious and fearless men and women. The choices they make on stage and off have driven me to make bolder choices and actions daily; inspired by the way they move through life, I’ve endeavored to let hope guide me, which has, in turn, eclipsed the immense bursts of fear that can overwhelm my path. The courageousness I’ve witnessed in them has showcased how powerful the momentum and motivation of making daring choices that are right for you can be; while challenges often still arise, one truly can become bolstered by such progress.
In her MindBodyBrew Monday Mantra post entitled ‘Desire’, Brianna Goodman wrote:
[O]ften when we view the uncontrollable not as antagonists, but as welcomed events of our grander life story, we discover that our narrowed focus was actually not the ideal—that it prevented us from experiencing all that was at our disposal. A one-track mind is unable to recognize that what it thinks it wants might be nothing like what it actually needs. It seeks a reality that does not exist, a reality that tears our focus away from the reality we should be focusing on: the one that we’re living right now.
To live in the here and now requires, I believe, an incessant acceptance of permeable principles. If we are to meet our inevitably evolving selves, we must then recognize that our world’s ‘rules’ will change, and with that, hopefully, will come a broadening of our knowledge and acceptance of all that surrounds us. This is not to say that we should be doormats or that we should not hold opinions of our own, but is it not possible to affirm our common existence, to remove the feeling of separation and distance between our heart and another’s--as Oprah and Deepak Chopra note in their latest 21-Day Meditation Experience--in order to let abundance flow? Why must we limit ourselves with rules that no longer serve us? Why must we set rules in the first place? If we do set them for ourselves, what purpose do they hold, and how can they be established in such a way that allows for them to be revised in the future?
As human beings, we rise and we fall. We are vulnerable, exposed to natural and man-made aspects of our world that can support us and, likewise, can tear us down. Lately I have realized that in so many ways throughout my life I have lived from a place of fear. Such a way of life is exhausting and not nearly as productive as I’d imagined it could be. While pain is rarely a chosen lane, I am curious about how our lives can change if we choose to live with more abandon. Vulnerability will be ever-present. Uncertainty may reign. But if we choose to live a safe life, cozy inside the walls of our ‘rules’, is there really room for us to make our unique marks on this world? Mustn’t we break out of such barriers in order to learn who we are at our most primal states and from there, cast ourselves out into this unpredictable world we live in to live the fullest lives possible?
Another of my cards this week added a juicy turn to my ‘rules’ card. It read:
You cannot make a mistake, you cannot choose wrong. Every experience is simply another step along your path…when you see the divine imperfection in every choice and in every moment, you are truly free to create your world.
I love the sense of ownership in that passage--the way in which it places our lives in our hands. Yes, there always will be obstacles that jump into our paths that we did not plan for or do not suit our overarching life schemes, but perhaps in recognizing the accountability that we innately possess, we can take greater hold of our daily choices and build our lives to be much more full and fulfilling. And while it would be wonderful to come across less bumps in our life roads, there’s something in the grit, in the exposed edges that exist outside of our ruled realms, that presents colors and flavors that only wrong turns and missteps could create. So here’s to messiness, in your life and mine.
- Liz Beres
Summer. When I think of this season, words like freedom, play, and adventure emerge in my mind. Vivid memories crop up too – of long afternoons at the beach, enveloped by a sound score of crashing waves, giggles, and screams; of countless scoops of ice cream melting in my mouth, so satisfying especially on the hottest of days; of grass squishing underfoot as I run through sprinklers in my backyard…there’s something so timeless about summer’s long days and warm nights. Most of my oldest memories exist in the summer months of my childhood. I still largely operate on a school-year schedule, so when summer rolls around I inevitably look for opportunities to play, to mix up my daily routine in an effort to recharge and revel in summer’s fun.
Our yoga community at The Perri Institute for Mind and Body is drawing playfulness into our class offerings all summer long. Spies and mysteries abound, and cheaper classes, as well as pop-up classes across the city in unexpected sites, are keeping our students on their toes.
And why not shift our typical patterns during the summer months? Ever since college, I have endeavored to travel and reenergize my studies over the course of the summer. The ways I’ve met such intentions were sometimes more extensive – traveling to and through Europe to engage in various dance workshops, meeting artists with shared interests yet completely different backgrounds and modes of living and art-making. Other times such goals have been met more simply – attempting to learn a few words of German or a few chords on a guitar (even if it all was forgotten soon after). Regardless of the mode of play, I find such beauty in the way that free time and fresh experiences can infuse us with newfound enthusiasm and simultaneously inform us with hindsight. Have you ever been away from home, even for a weekend, and suddenly sensed this clarity arising in your mind or heart regarding something that has been milling about within you for weeks or even months? When it feels as if your intuition has been ignited and that answer you have been desperately trying to grab hold of falls into your lap in a most organic and unexpected way?
While this summer has brought relief to me after an exhausting year, certain situations and outcomes have reminded me, or perhaps encouraged me to use my free time not to grasp for answers that tell of my future but instead, to use what freedom I have to explore and reconnect, so that I can meet what unfolds rather than force what I think I want into being. My boyfriend introduced me to a catchy tune recently that speaks to the journey of discovery at its close. The last minute and a half of Jason Mraz’s "Song For A Friend" swells from a quieter instrumental interlude to a full, vigorous choral setting that repeats, over and over:
Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You've got to find out for yourself whether or not you're truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.
As I read those lines and listen to them set to music, I’m reminded that each of us bears the responsibility of surveying the state of our soul as the days and years pass by if we are to delve deeper and deeper into the essence of who we are and what we can be for the world around us. The ways that we examine and shake matters up will inevitably differ, as each of us operates on inimitable wavelengths, but no matter what our mode, we ultimately guide our growth. For me, traveling and delving into learning spark an evaluation of where I have been and where I am living presently; assessments like these often can instigate a repatterning of habits we’ve developed that no longer serve us. And yet I believe that between our considerations and our actions there lies a subtle interplay on the part of the universe in relation to our circumstances. It’s as if there’s this middleman – the Universe – that emerges after we shake things up and guides us back to the path of control and routine with a touch or punch of intuition, depending on how he presents himself. We do initiate growth on behalf of ourselves, but at the same time, I can’t help but give credit to the mysterious, spy ways of the Universe that move me down surprising paths when I remain open enough to see, listen, and feel its advice.
If you were to consider your parking spot on the road of your life right now, what are those matters that seem like they could use some shaking up? How will you find or create space to climb to the top of your life’s mountain to survey your body, mind, spirit, and surroundings?
As the heat bears down on us and the smell of barbecues permeates the air, let us toast to summer’s offering of play. Through diversion may we gain even more of an understanding as to where we are and a stronger intuition as to where we must go and what we must do from here.
- Liz Beres
"Through discipline comes freedom." - Aristotle
How might you employ precision, direction, details, and discipline as you connect to your work, your relationships, your body and/or your mind? What freedoms can arise from such efforts?
Do the words "discipline" and "freedom", often viewed as opposites, take on different meanings for you when viewed as potential companions instead?
- TaraMarie Perri