Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Getting present with your physicality

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Headstands are hard. Doing the standing splits is hard. Balancing our body weight on our big toe is hard. Twisting our spine into a pretzel is hard.

And yet, that’s not what scares us about doing yoga.

What scares us is the emotional posture of the practice. Because no matter what style of yoga we try, and no matter what type of teacher we have, the challenge is always the same:

Somebody is going to suggest a new way of operating that goes against our preconceived ideas.

Now that’s hard.

For me, it was becoming bodysmart, as my teacher called it. Fighting the urge to disappear down the rabbit hole of my mind and getting present with my physicality. Letting my thoughts come and go like weather patterns and listening to what my muscles and joints and bones were telling me.

Talk about a new way of operating.

It was a challenge. Still is a challenge, over eight years later. But there’s no doubt that it’s worth it. Because the payoff of having somebody question something you already put away in your tidy little mental drawers is, the whole house shakes. And that shock inspires you to attain heights greater than what you are accustomed to believing are possible.

What practice helps you get present with your physicality?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Begin with the truth and build on the firm foundation it provides

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Yoga is only practice.

The game we’re training for is life.

But the good news is, the postures provide us with an intuitive structure that helps us more effectively meet the requirements of living.

Our cardiovascular strength physically prepares us for the challenges we face later. Our flexibility mentally fortifies us against anything else difficult that might happen the rest of the day. Our breathing skills emotionally allow us to solve problems as quickly as they arrive.

It reminds me of an inspiring saying from the recovery movement.

Begin with the truth and build on the firm foundation it provides.

What has practicing yoga trained you for?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Waiting for class to end

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

In the kitchen, a watched pot never boils.

In yoga, a watched clock never ticks.

Ask anyone who practices regularly. It’s not another cliché. Yoga is a modern manifestation of the theory of relativity.

Whatever you are waiting for, it won’t happen while you are concentrating on it. Because you’re not being present. You’re not staying in the room. You’re just waiting for class to be over so you can home and eat your body weight in chicken wings.

Yoga is about being here now. And if you keep staring at the clock on the wall between every posture, it will feel like the longest class of your life.

But if you return to the breath, if you focus on what your body is trying to say to you, time will fly by like a wonderful dream.

What’s your biggest distraction during class?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

What kind of relationship do you have with your practice?

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

For me, hot yoga wasn’t love at first sight, it was impact at first sight.

By the time I returned home after my first class, the only thought running through my mind was:

Wow, that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. When’s the next class?

That’s how alive yoga made me feel. I slept the sleep of the just that night. Because this new practice wasn’t merely romanticism inside my head, it was real world application inside my body.

Kind of like dating. Instead of the usual infatuation, addiction and codependency that governed my past relationships, yoga was good old fashion healthy compatibility. Yoga and me were simply good fits for each other.

Which brings up an interesting question for every student.

What kind of relationship do you have with your practice?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Don’t go for broke in the first ten seconds of the posture

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Emerson famously said that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

However, we have to be careful not to become a victim of our own elation. Because everybody wants to come out of the gate with guns blazing. And the easiest thing to do is to enthusiastically plunge into a new project, only to realize that our ambition and intensity and ability aren’t sustainable over the long haul.

My instructor tells new students:

Don’t go for broke in the first ten seconds of the posture. You will literally burn out. One minute is longer than you think.

That’s the smart approach for executing almost anything. Relaxing into it. Pacing ourselves. Keeping our breathing consistent. And trusting the process to treat us well.

Without that mentality, we make ourselves vulnerable to exhaustion, frustration, even injury. Especially if we’re not honest with ourselves.

There’s a time and place to get carried away by our own enthusiasm. We should always reserve that right.

But life is a long arc game. And if we’re haphazard with our energy in the beginning, our aspirations will soon outpace our abilities.

How effective can you be in inspiring others if you’re lying on your back in your hospital bed with a stress related illness?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Make friends with your weaknesses

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

In hatha yoga, we perform a series of postures in which we balance on one foot at a time.

These poses are long and demanding, calling upon tremendous strength in the core and leg muscles, as well as help develop our concentration and determination.

But the unique advantage of doing postures that require balance is that they bring us up against our limitations in an immediate way. These poses tell us where we need to grow.

For example, my core has always been pretty weak. In the balancing pose dandayamana janushirasana, kicking my leg out and touching head to knee very rarely happens.

But that’s okay. Because the posture helps me make friends with my weakness. It reminds me to suck in my gut and keep the core engaged, that way my back muscles don’t cramp up.

And I’m grateful fro that struggle. It’s what helps me grow.

How are you using weakness is a potent purifier?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Grow in your willingness to try things

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Yoga, like most endeavors in life, is more of a gamble than a guarantee.

There is no way to know if we will enjoy the practice or even receive benefits from doing it.

But at the very least, we will grow in our willingness to try things. And the minute we insert the key of willingness in the lock, the latch of possibility springs open.

That’s a lesson we learn from the entrepreneurial world. We just start trying things, and once we find out what really works for us, we flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one. We spend less time philosophizing, and more time trying things and seeing where there’re going.

Yoga was never something I saw myself doing, until I tried it. And then it transformed my life in multiple ways.

And so, now the thought running through my head is, I wonder what else I might try.

Because you never know. There might be another a beautiful world waiting for me to step into it.

Are you giving yourself an excuse to not try things?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Safety and security are two different things

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My yoga teacher constantly reminds us:

If you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.

This isn’t yoga advice, this is life advice. Because no matter how unsafe the surrounding world is, when you thread your breath through every move you make, nobody can shatter the rock that is your foundation.

Prana, as it were, finds the form to impose on the chaos of the world. And those are the moments that equip you.

Your breath becomes your security. Even when the world around you feels unsafe.

When you get stuck waiting for permission to do what you really want to do, your lungs are your lifelines.

I urge you to take a breath, even if you don’t think you need one.

How’s your breathing?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Confronted with the invisible posture

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Krishnamurti once wrote that every waking moment is another invitation to let go of the image of how life should be.

We should embrace the moment as it actually is. Bowing to it, honoring its texture, shape and taste, even if it’s bitter. Taking what is given, receiving what life offers. Beginning with the raw material, the canvas of now.

It’s an apt message for any yoga practice. Because each time we return to the mat, we’re confronted with the invisible posture. The pose we never win awards for. It’s the attitude of unconditional kindness toward whatever we may be experiencing.

If our body doesn’t bend the way we expect it to, we let it go.

If the water isn’t as cold as we’d like, we let it go.

If the yoga room is super crowded and we don’t secure our usual spot right by the window where there’s a nice little breeze, we let it go.

If there’s a huge sweaty man bear of a fella practicing next to us whose flop sweat accidentally drips right into our water bottle, we let it go.

That’s our yoga for today. Focusing on the way life is, not the way it should be.

The key is not making a problem out of not always getting what we want. Not letting it become our nature to be always demanding things as we wish them to be.

And not putting ourselves above the current situation, as if this should not be happening to us.

Take what is given, receive what life offers. 

How well do you let go of the image of how life should be?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Go to the hot room and listen to your body

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

People who are great thinkers struggle with being in touch with their emotional life because their issues often get processed intellectually, and they bypass what they’re actually feeling.

They would rather know why they’re having an experience, rather than experience the experience itself.

They would rather step back from their feelings, analyze them and plan their reaction to them, rather than simply allowing those feelings exist.

But when you’re sitting in a hundred degree room for ninety minutes straight, with nothing to do but stare at your naked, sweaty body in the mirror, intellectualization isn’t an option.

It isn’t possible to gloss over your feelings and take the emotions out of the equation.

Trust me, I’ve tried. Yoga has a tendency to surface any and all emotions you’ve been storing inside your body for the last twenty four hours.

Whatever’s in there, is coming out.

And so, if I’m ever not sure I’m feeling about something, I just go to the hot room and listen to my body.

Because unlike my mind, I know it will never lie to me.

Remember, anything that helps us create a healthier relationship with our emotional reality is a good thing.

Are you treating your emotions as objects of contemplation, or opportunities to feel?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.