I was out for my walk the other morning and saw two flags flying, the American flag on top and the Pride flag below. It made me smile and got me to thinking about kindness (another time I can explain the path my brain took on that rabbit hole). I have been saddened in recent years by what I feel is a general lack of human kindness in everyday human interactions. I believe it is because our lives are increasingly frenetic and over scheduled, work and family demands may seem overwhelming, and we rush through life forgetting to engage in simple and random acts of kindness.
I also believe that society has begun to accept a pattern of non-acceptance and lack of compassion in everyday actions. I am not suggesting that we head out every day singing kumbaya and engaging in false cheer. I am espousing adding a smile or a kind word into our daily activities, stopping to say hello to our elderly neighbor even if we are late for work, buy the person behind us in line at Starbucks a coffee, help the woman getting her challenged child or spouse into the car….I am also, at a deeper level, hoping that we can return to a time of civilized and respectful disagreement. I am going out onto a limb here to say that while I do not always agree with everyone that I love on matters impacting the world, I always try to find commonality through shared interests, build a rapport, and engage respectfully. So this week I am asking us all to take our yoga off the mat, practicing ahimsa as Desikachar defines it as “kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things”.
Our Practice – Opening Our Hearts To Kindness – Ustrasana - Camel Pose
As we practice kindness, we think about opening our heart. When our heart chakra is closed off, physical manifestations can be slouching and poor posture. As we practice heart openers, we open ourselves up to possibility and demonstrate that our heart is open to love and kindness.
Physical benefits of heart opening poses can be increased energy and reduced fatigue as well as increased spinal flexibility, strengthened back muscles and improved posture. It can create space in the chest/lungs and can increase breathing capacity. Camel also stretches the front of the body, particularly the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors, I modified instructions I found in a YogaInternational article to align with my learning and teaching:
Begin in a high kneeling position with your thighs parallel to each other and your hands on your lower back (fingers up or down). Tuck your toes under (later you can try with tops of the feet flat).
Lift up out of your belly and waist to lengthen your spine. As you move into the backbend, lead with your chest, and let your head follow (think rainbow versus leaning back). Try not to toss your head back but also avoid tucking your chin or not moving your head at all.
Initiate the backbend with your chest and move the back of your head back (not the crown) to keep length in the back of your neck. This could be enough, hold for several breaths.
If you want to take it a little further, you can reach one hand or both hands back towards your heels. Press your pelvis forward thinking about the rainbow image or back bending over a huge exercise ball as you lead with your chest and move the back of your head back to follow.
When you're ready to come up out of the pose, lead with your chest, pressing your hands at the lower back to support. Head comes up last.
Meditation on Kindness – Native American Parable
ONE EVENING, AN ELDERLY CHEROKEE BRAVE TOLD HIS GRANDSON ABOUT A BATTLE THAT GOES ON INSIDE PEOPLE. HE SAID "MY SON, THE BATTLE IS BETWEEN TWO 'WOLVES' INSIDE US ALL. ONE IS EVIL. IT IS ANGER, ENVY, JEALOUSY, SORROW, REGRET, GREED, ARROGANCE, SELF-PITY, GUILT, RESENTMENT, INFERIORITY, LIES, FALSE PRIDE, SUPERIORITY, AND EGO. THE OTHER IS GOOD. IT IS JOY, PEACE LOVE, HOPE SERENITY, HUMILITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE, EMPATHY, GENEROSITY, TRUTH, COMPASSION AND FAITH." THE GRANDSON THOUGH ABOUT IT FOR A MINUTE AND THEN ASKED HIS GRANDFATHER: "WHICH WOLF WINS?..." THE OLD CHEROKEE SIMPLY REPLIED, "THE ONE THAT YOU FEED"
Nurturing with Food – Iced Chai
For many, many years I did not drink coffee. Since returning from Italy in May where I drank quite a few “secret” cappuccinos (yes with dairy), I have started to have coffee, albeit, with oat milk. If delicious home-made caffeinated chai were available readily at coffee houses near me, I would gladly have that every time. Sadly, the chai most often served in this country is an over sweetened powdered version bearing no resemblance to what I learned to love in India. I do make it, however, and serve it both hot and cold. I am inspired to make a big batch this week; keep it in a glass pitcher in your fridge and mix it half and half with your milk of choice over ice, it is delicious!
See you on the mat!