Unnata Teacher Wisdom

Yoga articles and wisdom from Unnata Yoga course leaders and senior teachers.

Pick Up the Pace

Sometimes life throws something onto your path that makes you slow down or even stop altogether. You might welcome the pause when it’s an extended vacation or a sabbatical, but at other times, it might not be your intention to stop. Maybe you get sidetracked by an illness or a global pandemic. Whether you wanted to slow down or not, there usually comes a time when it’s necessary to pick up the pace again.

How can you pick up the pace after a pause, without lots of effort and stress?

When you move at a fast pace, you can get so much done in a short amount of time. When you move slowly, it takes longer to complete the same task. So you may feel like you never have enough time to accomplish everything, and the stress mounts. Many of us slowed down significantly during the pandemic, either because of illness or loss of work or social activities. Perhaps you’re struggling a bit to ramp back up to the pace of your life before the pandemic.

Don’t feel guilty if you’re struggling a bit with this.

During the times I’ve been away, and then returned to New York City, I’ve often wished there was some sort of “on ramp” to gradually get me back into the fast flow New York is so famous for. Well, there isn’t an on-ramp. But I have both yoga tools and aerial applications that help me manage bumpy transitions.

Let me share some yoga tools to help you ease back into your normal tempo.

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Intention-asana: How I teach Aerial Yoga differently than Aerial Acrobatics

Lately I’ve been fielding more and more questions about the difference between aerial silks (circus) and aerial yoga. For anyone who’s taken both types of well-taught classes the differences are usually pretty obvious, but it can sometimes be confusing for new students.

I teach both aerial yoga and aerial circus (in different classes). As a yoga instructor I am constantly thinking about intentions. “Why am I doing this pose?” As an aerial instructor I am constantly thinking about progressions. “How am I doing this skill?” Of course, there is definitely going to be some overlap in these two types of classes and these two questions, but there are many important differences as well.

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How to Get Your Pre-Covid Mojo Back

7 Tips for Emotional, Mental, and Social Recovery

Last night I caught up with a friend I used to dance contact-improv with in Minneapolis. I initially felt guilty that I let a few days go by before responding and that when I did finally return his message, I didn’t call. Rather, I left six awkward 1-minute voice notes via Facebook. Although this was someone I used to physically touch and laugh with on a regular basis, I couldn’t bring myself to have a live conversation; it felt like an impossible task. My guilt subsided when he replied with the admission he’d been almost 100% alone the entire year and also was feeling shy. He shared stories of how he looked away and disengaged when people tried to talk to him in the grocery store, and how he recoiled when he was eventually touched physically by a friend. He said it took an incredible presence of mind to override his nervous system’s new negative response to friendliness and connection.

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The Metaphor of a Mountain

Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

I grew up in Colorado. My dad was an avid rock climber, mountaineer, and outdoor enthusiast. He was even a rock climbing instructor with the Colorado Mountain Club, which tells you a little something about his athleticism. Needless to say, we spent many weekends of my childhood camping and hiking in Colorado’s numerous state and national parks, surrounded by the Rocky mountains. Nature is a way for all of us to tap into our spirit. Many people crave the sound of crashing waves at a beach. For me, the thin air at the top of a mountain is what gives me the most spiritual joy.

Climbing a mountain takes effort and requires risk. But once you reach the top, your view is expansive and seemingly unlimited. At the peak you have more space around you, as the Earth bows down from under your feet. Up there you have a clearer perspective: not only do you gain a 360 degree view around the horizon, but also a nearly 360 degree view longitudinally as well. With all that open space around your body, you can see for miles and feel totally free.

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EMPTY YOUR CUP

I sat down many times this month, trying to write some words of wisdom or creative musings for the Unnata Yoga blog, but each time I faced a blank page, nothing arose. My husband quipped, “Sounds very yogic.” Perhaps. But also not very helpful when trying to produce an article of inspiration!

Was my empty mind a sign of extreme contentment? Or was it simply a lack of motivation?

A Zen proverb states you must “empty your cup in order to be filled.” If your mind is already full of knowledge, you won’t be receptive to learning. This isn’t to say you can only learn if you have no knowledge at all. It’s about your attitude toward learning. If you believe you already understand all there is to know on a topic, you won’t listen or be receptive to additional lessons. The lessons will have “no room to live” in your mind.

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At a Crossroads

We all have felt immense and unusual stresses over the past year. And, it’s no surprise most of us feel we are in the middle of a work or life transition as a result. We are at a “crossroads,” in a way. Whenever we arrive at a crossroads, no matter how smooth or rough the path we’ve been traveling, we are presented with a choice to change course. And so the difficult question arises, “Should I stay on this course? Or, should I move in a different direction?”

Obstacles will always exist on the path to self-realization. But really, all endeavors we pursue, spiritual or otherwise, will require effort to overcome difficult challenges. And so, how do we discern when we simply need to keep plowing forward on the same path to get through the challenge, or when the obstacle is so great we must change directions instead, and maneuver around the challenge?

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RESPECT

Rubin’s vase: Do you see a vase, or two faces?

You’ve probably heard the famous song, “Respect,” written by Otis Redding, and powerfully sung by Aretha Franklin. It’s an anthem to anyone who has felt wronged, and needs words of empowerment to regain confidence and courage.

If you’ve ever been in that emotional place of feeling small and stripped of power, you’ll recognize how uncomfortable it is! How can you find shanti, or inner peace, instead?

There could be as many possible paths of forward action as there are ways to practice Hatha Yoga asanas. And I believe you will find the best way forward to create inner peace for you! However, the root of the action will be the same for everybody. At the heart of the discomfort, we must recognize the concept of Maya, which is the illusory world that our minds perceive to be reality. To Yogis, everything we perceive is Maya.

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Hurdle Over Your Hurdles: A Study of Yoga Sutra 1.14

English is a language with a lot of words. Some even say it has the largest vocabulary, though it’s hard to measure. But in the end, there’s no “competitive linguistics” or trophy for the language with the most words. More on this later!

Because English has so many words, it makes sense that it hosts many homonyms (same word, different meanings) and homophones (same sound, different words with different meanings).

I’ve recently been contemplating one such homonym/homophone: HURDLE/HURDLE/HURTLE, and exploring these words in relationship to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.14.

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The Lightness of Being, Yoga & Scuba Diving

My personal scuba diving journey began 12 years ago. I clearly remember the day I first dove underwater. It was a lovely sunny day, we were out on a boat and two girls were doing their very first discovery dive. One gave up and decided that she was not going to do the dive. I still don’t know what got into me, but I knew it was the right time to take the plunge. I have observed many times how to put on the equipment and I knew how to use it, but for some reason I had delayed actually doing it myself.

Breathing in scuba….ground rule number one: don’t hold your breath…it takes you up & it’s dangerous.

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If At First…

IFATFRST
That was the license plate on the car in front of us. My mind instantly read it as, “I Fat First.” I was puzzled why anyone would want that advertised on their car! Then I realized it was supposed to be, “If at First…” an abbreviation of the well known proverb circulating since the 1800s1, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

After a bit of a laugh at my mistake, the saying got my mental wheels turning.

The phrase “if at first…” was originally published in a teacher’s manual, then used in a song written by Edward Hickson2. The aphorism eventually became so popular that it was applied to a range of activities beyond schoolwork.

Here is a verse from Edward Hickson’s song:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed–
Try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try again.
Then your courage should appear;
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear,
Try again.

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