Acceptance

There is no denying the transformational power of yoga practice. People often start yoga looking to change their lives or change something about themselves. They come to yoga looking to lose weight, get stronger, improve balance, or feel better about their bodies. Some begin yoga looking to reduce stress, get more relaxed, or quiet their minds.

It isn’t often that someone starts out with yoga looking to stay exactly the same as they are.

But as much as yoga is about change and transformation, yoga is also about cultivating acceptance, or santosha.

Santosha is a combination word in Sanskrit, derived from Saṃ and Tosha. Sam means “completely”, “altogether” or “entirely”, and Tosha, “contentment”, “satisfaction”, “acceptance”, “being comfortable”. Combined, the word Santosha means “completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable”.
Accepting reality and seeing things as they really are does not mean stopping or giving up. Rather, it means accepting how we actually are and how we feel each day in a gentle and loving manner and moving forward from there. Sounds great, but how can we begin to cultivate this?
A  great place to begin is to cultivate acceptance each time you step onto the mat. For example, one day you might come to your mat feeling great. Your practice feels amazing, you are able to keep your attention on the breath and flow seamlessly through your practice. Another day you might have a completely different experience. You may be working with an injury or other physical limitation that prevents you from doing the classic expression of a posture. You might be grouchy or tired or sore. Maybe you have a lot going on in your mind or something stressful is happening in your life. When we practice acceptance, we acknowledge the body that we stepped onto the mat with today and how we are feeling. And then we proceed with the practice.
Sometimes, students start yoga and are frustrated that their bodies aren’t able to do things they think they should. At Yoga in ME, many of our students are ages 50+. The majority of the participants in our Free Yoga for Veterans class are Vietnam or Korean War veterans. Many of these individuals have been athletes or very physically active in the past and are frustrated that their bodies won’t do just as they could 5 or 10 or 40 years ago
Our bodies are not the same as they were 20 years ago any more than they are the same that they were yesterday or last week. The body, the breath, and the mind change all the time. These changes are normal and expected!
Practicing santosha does not mean giving up on the practice or the possibility of transformation. And it doesn’t mean getting nothing out of the physical postures. It means accepting that the practice is different each time.  Whether you have some limitations, or are in a bad mood,  you keep practicing. Accepting that each time finding that place between “nothing” and “hurting” is going to be a little different.

If you are continuously running negative stories through your mind, it might not seem possible to bring acceptance and contentment into all aspects of you life.

But practicing acceptance each time you are on your mat, can help develop the skills you need to bring this quality of contentment into the rest of your life. With time and practice, you will begin to distinguish between the stories you tell and the reality in front of you. Once you can do this,  you can begin to create distance between your story and who you truly are. 

And, as you begin to discern the difference between your story and what is actually going on in front of you, you will make the space to live in the moment, to accept what comes, and to create a brand new story about yourself—one that reflects your highest self, rather than a habitual or outdated yarn.

That is when santosha becomes possible.

8 Reasons Why our Teacher Training is Ranked in the top 5% Nationally

This fall, we are honored to be offering – for the 3rd time – The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We feel beyond grateful to have this highly ranked extraordinary program right here in our small town in southern Maine.

You might not realize it, but besides being a wonderful teacher and inspirational human being, our director, Beryl Bender Birch, is an international yoga super star. She is one of the first people to popularize yoga in the United States.

But that, in itself, would not be enough to rank The Hard & The Soft as a Yoga Alliance® 5-star Rated Accredited Training School.

Here are eight reasons this yoga teacher training course,  when compared to hundreds of other programs, is consistently rated in the top 5%.

 

  1. The students. Our programs attract top quality students and genuine, bright, compassionate human beings from all over the world. We consistently hear from our trainees and graduates that “this is the best group of people I have ever been a part of – I look forward to the training weekends because it feels like I am coming home.”
  2. The Sangha (community). Students meet and are supported by like-minded practitioners and forge lifetime friendships.
  3. The faculty. Unlike many other programs, our teachers have all been practicing and teaching for many years. Most are Certified Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and nationally renowned specialists in a wide variety of fields and yoga applications. Students would need to combine several different professional trainings in order to duplicate the comprehensive quality of our single program.
  4. The practice. There are many ways to teach yoga and many ways to practice. Every weekend includes study and practice in asana, pranayama, and meditation, in order to help students find and define their unique path. The foundation and primary focus of our asana study for the 200 hour training is a brilliant vinyasa sequence of postures called Present Power. It can be as challenging or as accommodating as desired. Every student is certified to teach this power vinyasa system, plus more moderate styles of the practice that are capable of being amended for all limitation and disability, as well as beginning forms of pranayama and meditation.
  5. The depth of training. Because all our faculty have actually been studying yoga and practicing all its aspects – asana, pranayama, meditation, service – for so many years, we can offer insight into the deeper dimensions of yoga that, frequently, the staff of other trainings does not have the experience to provide.
  6. The emphasis on service. Through our affiliation with The Give Back Yoga Foundation, we prepare our graduates for a career in yoga service and help them to take their practice out into the world and be the change they want to create.
  7. The Individualized Yoga Plan (IYP).  Every student develops an Individualized Yoga Plan with help from faculty and the director of the studio where they are training. This provides students with a way to identify their dharma and pursue a path into the specialized field of their choice.
  8. The Director.  American yoga pioneer Beryl Bender Birch, is the founder/director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. As a best-selling author, (Power Yoga, Beyond Power Yoga, Yoga for Warriors) and teacher, Beryl has been teaching yoga and meditation internationally for over 40 years and is a longtime faculty member at Kripalu and Omega Institute. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in English and Philosophy, and began the study of meditation in 1971 with her teacher, Jain monk Munishree Chitrabhanu. She traveled to India in 1974 to further her studies and started practice of the ashtanga vinyasa asana system with her teacher, Norman Allen, in 1979. She continued to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from 1987 through 1993. Her book Power Yoga (1995), an accessible form of the ashtanga asana practice, sold nearly 300,000 copies and was primarily responsible for introducing yoga to the athletic community. She, more than most, walks her talk…and is one of the brightest, most down to earth, knowledgeable, accessible, funny, and joyful people you will ever meet. One of her gifts is making authentic and therapeutic forms of asana accessible to all. Everyone on faculty has trained with her for decades and is at least a 1000-hour graduate of her school, The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. Beryl’s vision trickles down from the top and infuses the program, the faculty, the community, and the students.
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Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

I was recently listening to a podcast and this is the question that took root in my thoughts long after it had ended.  Funny, but I didn’t think of myself as judgmental.  I made observations.  I’d think, “She shouldn’t have done that.” Observation, right?   I’d think, “He’s squandering his money.”  Observation, right?  I’d think, “She’s so needy.  Well, she is!”  Observation, right? Then, why did the question attached itself to me unless I needed to make a shift in my thinking.  I genuinely did not want to be the judge!

So, I asked myself, “Who do I want to be?”  It’s a bit of a daunting question.  But three attributes came to mind without hesitation – I wanted to be kind; I wanted to be compassionate; and I wanted to be grateful.  So, where to begin?  The niyamas say, “pay attention…watch yourself…become self-aware.”  Svadhyaya (or self-study) creates the space that allows you to observe your own behavior and initiate appropriate changes. Isvara Pranidhana says it will provide what I need when I need it.  Armed with a team like this, how could I miss?

“Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind. “

I started by trying to monitor my thoughts – I was on the lookout for judgments.  When I recognized one, I acknowledged it and then reminded myself of who I wanted to be – kindness, compassion and gratitude.  This exercise paralleled my experiences with meditation.  A quiet mind is interrupted by random thoughts.  The meditator acknowledges the thought, thanks it for coming, and sends it on its way.  Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind.  Similarly, I acknowledged the judgment, appreciated that I recognized it and reminded myself that I was choosing kindness, compassion and gratitude.

How’s it going, you ask?  Am I ready to retire my flowing robes and gavel? Not yet.  I’d say I am a work in progress. The baby steps I have made were predicated upon a desire to find the balance between vigilantly being on the lookout for judgments (hard) and not beating myself up when they do occur (soft).  Over time I expect the judgments to diminish and kindness, compassion, and gratitude to expand because where the mind goes, prana goes!

 

Who do you want to be when you’re not a judge?

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Yamas and Niyamas integrating into Modern Life

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

Yamas – Restraints

Y: yes to difficult emotions, sensations, and resistance – that generates from
whatever happens in my direct experience.

A: awareness of my present moment and accepting what is as it comes my way.

M: morning meditation on a daily basis for acknowledgement, allowance, and
acceptance of what life holds for me.

A: asana – exploring into my further owning and acceptance of the postures and embracing their expansiveness as well as accepting my body’s limitations in practice.

S: silence as a gift for my body, mind, and spirit – enabling me to listen more
carefully and understand my pathway.

&

Niyamas – Observances

N: no control is letting go, letting be, accepting what is and being present to what is now.

I: introspection and listening to what is within me and how I relate it to what
surrounds me – externally.

Y: yoga sutras are integrated into my daily life as best that I am able given what the Universe provides me.
A: attention to the present moment to by choosing to let go of the past and not worry about the future.

M: mindful breath develops stability and deep rest for my body, mind, and spirit.

A: appreciation and gratitude for all that I have in my life – continuing to
appreciate all and keep myself opening to receiving.

S: smiles and laughter to relax the body, open the mind, and lighten the spirit.

 

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Recovery and the Yamas and Niyamas

From time to time we will be posting the monthly essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program. This is one student’s essay from Month Four of this 8 month program.


Growing up in an alcoholic/dysfunctional home is a gift that lasts a lifetime. A child in this type of home is always on full alert. For me life was like playing a series of games: charades, hide and seek, risk and monopoly all played with changing rules greed, cheating and lying. Children who grow up in these homes experience PTSD. One expert describes the symptoms as worse than others because the “enemy” is someone you love and have to live with and rely for nurturing and development. I swore I would not be like my parents and have spent over a decade in therapy and 12 step programs. Yoga has helped tremendously to connect the dots of my recovery and solidify the need to observe the yamas and niyamas in order to heal.

Growing up with all the opposite of the yamas caused me to develop character defenses. I was taught to lie to cover up for what was going on in the house, stolen items were constantly being brought in from job sites, and getting ahead of others regardless of their feelings was our way of life. We were a team, we had a code, we had each other’s backs. We learned to stuff our feelings down and we usually did with food while Dad drank, and we walked on eggshells and hoped it was not an angry and violent night. It has taken many years to relearn and begin to heal the wounds from childhood.

I began observing the yamas and niyamas without knowing. I sought self-help through books and workshops, studied the Bible and loved to exercise and burn off my pent up emotions. When I began yoga, I felt like I came home. What I did not realize is that I did, I came home to a divine presence inside myself. My recent practice and study has helped me understand that my internal desires have always been to live the yamas. In working to rid myself of the character defects I developed I have been working toward a nonviolent, truthful and compassionate life. Understanding them on a new level gives me more peace with my decision. I still struggle with my past and find pain in watching my family continue these traits but I am learning to just breath and get back on the mat.

 

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