Most yoga practices have a strong focus on the breath. The breath is a tool that creates heat, releases tension, calms the nervous system and helps provide a meditative focus. But how about using it as a means of practicing santosha? Santosha loosely translates as contentment or gratitude. Taking time everyday to express gratitude will, in my opinion, contribute as much to your overall state of health and happiness as any physical yoga practice.
There are an infinite number of things that we can feel grateful for. Feeling grateful for the breath we breathe is a nice one because it is such a focal point of our practice already, but also because it points to the fact that “all things are connected” which is the heart and soul of the state of mind called yoga. It is also the heart and soul of environmentalism. When David Suzuki writes in his book The Sacred Balance, “Every breath is a sacrament, an essential ritual” it is clear that environmentalists and yogis are on the same path.
Realizing the history of oxygen is a great way to turn every breath one takes into a sacrament. In primordial earth 4.6 billion years ago, there was no oxygen necessary for life as we know it today. Instead earth’s atmosphere was much like Mars’ atmosphere was today, 95-98 per cent carbon dioxide. As the earth cooled geological activity increased and gases were released by volcanoes. These gases known as greenhouse gases behaved like the glass of a greenhouse keeping heat in the earth’s atmosphere.
The theory is that the heat of the earth at one point got as high as 85-110 degrees Celsius. When volcanic activity stopped, the earth cooled and as a result the condensation-rain-evaporation cycle that thankfully continues today was established. Eventually oceans were formed.
2.5 billion years ago primitive microorganisms evolved a process of capturing energy from the sun called we all know as photosynthesis. To crudely describe this process, plants use carbon dioxide, water and light as a form of usable energy. In this remarkable process, six molecules of carbon dioxide are transformed into sugar and six molecules are released as oxygen as a byproduct. And what a byproduct! If it were not for this amazing process of plants converting carbon dioxide into sugar and releasing oxygen, the opportunities for life as we know it would never have been created.
When plants invaded the land the diversity of and numbers of living things blossomed. Herbivores evolved to feed on plants. Carnivores and omnivores fed on them. And the beat of the dance of life increased. So with each breath; each time our lungs capture some of the atmosphere around us and feeds this oxygen to our to our blood cells, let’s feel grateful for the how intimately connected we are to all things around us. The sun, trees and plants, the rain, the water cycle, beings that have lived here before us.
Take a little time every yoga practice and be mindful of how intimately connected we are to all things around us. We just can not spend enough of our day contemplating how lucky we are to be able to play a small part of this divine dance of life. Every Breath truly is a sacrament.
Re-posted in honor of the upcoming release of Earth. Body. Yoga on November 23!!!
Posted On: November 19, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Recently an editor at the Yoga Journal asked me this question.
The most meaningful gift anyone gave me was six hundred dollars worth of $20 bills wrapped in an elastic.
I always ran my classes in Vancouver on the honor system in an old run down church that had been converted into the Kitsilano Neihborhood House. While I was off doing mat valet or talking to people at the front of the room sat a stack of money and class cards people were supposed to punch. All the time I would be asked, “Don’t you know people are ripping you off?”
“I know, but if people aren’t paying for the yoga class they are missing the first two limbs and this is the bigger lesson than any pose I can teach.”
One day after class a student came up to me with that neatly bundled $600 and said, “I’ve been coming for the last few years without paying because I didn’t have a job, but I just got one so here you go.”
We hugged and I felt right there the joy we are capable of when are actions are in line with the trust we aspire to.
Posted On: October 9, 2013 | 7 Comments »
By Bliss Army
Our Blissology family is back for Session 2 of the Blissology YTT in Tofino and feeling full of love, joy and good vibrations! This time around the students were buzzing with confidence and excitement as they reunited to exchange stories and laughs about their time off over the break. As assistants, we watched in awe, observing this reunion and marveling that only just over a week ago, these souls had never met! And yet, we knew it was possible and authentic, because we experienced a similar coming together during our training this past May in Bali.
We often get caught up in excuses for why we may not connect with others and why we might have a challenging time relating or being open. We find ways to blame our living environment—our workplace, home space, city, town or even our country for not being conducive to love and belonging. Bali and Canada could not be more different as countries, climates, infrastructure, culture and language and yet deep, meaningful connections have been made again.
Here in Tofino, we notice how after session 1, there was a shared willingness to support each other, a desire to collaborate and connect. Some of the students offered assistance with transportation, while others offered couches to crash on. There were invitations for adventures like whale watching and surfing, while others forged study groups, committed to practicing yoga together, or simply chilled out, relaxing in a hot bath or making time for solo nature appreciation. Whatever they did, worked, as our group of fledgling Blissologists reunited recharged, refreshed and so happy to greet each other once again. We asked some of the students if they had felt a shift over the break as a result of Session 1. Many shared that they felt their actions were more aligned and attuned with their life mission – it’s as though this increased awareness has become a conscious guide for kindness! As one student mentioned “after Session 1, I felt like a switch to my authentic self turned on and now I just don’t want to ever shut if off“.
And that is a huge part of what draws us Blissology. The ability to learn how to connect to and articulate our authentic self, to feel the power of speaking our life mission, our truth; and knowing that we’re surrounded by like minded individuals who will support us in our journey of realizing it, with love and non-judgement. That this is essential to growing community.
There are currently five of us here from the Bali training and we are collaborating on projects, supporting new Blissologists, camping, bear spotting, sharing meals and making new memories. We’ll tune you in for more blissings…
As the Beach Boys sing ‘Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a happenin’‘
Namaste & ALOHA,
Jess & Ashleigh
Posted On: September 26, 2013 | No Comments »
By Bliss Army
Guest Post written by Jess & Ashleigh
Last week thirty individuals stepped outside their day-to-day lives to participate in a 200-hour Blissology Yoga Teacher Training course in one of the most magical places on Earth – Tofino, British Columbia.
Some did so with the intention to create new habits and routines; others, to seek space, clarity and serenity; most, to fall in love with yoga again and grow in ways that will allow them to teach others how to do the same; and all, with the desire to build relationships and community, connect with nature, and feel happier in mind and body – the foundation of the Blissology lifestyle.
Have you ever tried to cook something from your grandmother’s old cookbook? It requires many ingredients; energy, time, commitment, planning, strategy, love, trust and patience. Choosing to manifest a new journey, path or adventure in life can be just like that. You feel both the excitement of the New as well as your old fears and nerves.
If you’re helping and not in the throes of the newness of this experience, you can observe the unfolding. Compassion and humor are essential. You watch the group, this swarm of individuals begin to squirm outside of their comfort zone and begin navigating their way through what initially seems like uncharted water. For some, you notice, this feeling is all too familiar, as it is exactly how they respond and react in life with sensations of bobbing around without direction or purpose, all the while, feeling anxious and tense. Yet soon something begins to shift and you notice a deeper sense of self/ selves emerging within the group.
Blissology Yoga believes that every individual has a unique reason for being alive on the planet –we call this our life mission. We study and practice deeply as a group to foster confidence and ease so that we can fully embody our passions, follow our bliss and align our life mission in our teaching, your own practice and in your life. Why bob around, when you can surf?
As we begin learning and connecting with one another throughout the early days of the training, we start to explore the mindset of sustainability in our body and the planet. We learn how to adapt and to care for ourselves, to identify the best principles of alignment to avoid wearing out our joints and to balance our culturally competitive, overzealous mindset with our ability to be sensualists.
It’s simple yet deep. As Eoin says, “often the way we treat ourselves in yoga class is the way we treat one another. ” Our work, as students of Blissology and of life, is to cultivate an equal flow of drive and kindness. Somatically, to listen to bodily feedback and slow down in order to reach the still place inside. This continues Eoin’s “the ultimate sustainability”.
How do we find this? Through our connection to the wild places, through our connection to Nature and through rituals of hugs, laughter, yoga flow, gratitude, dancing, nature appreciation moments, prayer, and great conversation in beautiful spaces. One of the big reasons why we’re here on this wild, west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada, a world away from a crowded city.
With session 1 complete, our heads and hearts are full of new learning, love, and joy. The sun shines amidst rain clouds and YTT students are ready to add more spice and flavour to the newest recipe they have been concocting!
Stay tuned for more blissings, coming by very soon.
Namaste + ALOHA.
Jess & Ashleigh
Posted On: September 20, 2013 | 4 Comments »
I think about this question all the time. Even though I view Blissology more as a style of life than a style of yoga, I had to answer this question for a media interview as part of the exciting Zambhala Yoga Festival in Goa, India I am teaching at with others like Janet Stone and Duncan Wong. I actually teach in India every year and I know when people there see all the new styles of “western” yoga popping up, they must question why, as I am sure many of you do. Here is the interviewers question and my answer. Chime in with your responses. Would love to hear it as this is a big topic for 21st Century Yogis.
QUESTION: Every other person seems to be inventing his own style of yoga – both in India and abroad? Why is it that yoga inspires so many experiments? As a yoga student myself and a hardened fan of Ashtanga vinyasa, I fear it will dilute the spirit of yoga? How would you counter this charge?
ANSWER: I agree with you. The number of yoga systems popping up around the world is mind-boggling. It took me a long time to get clear about the path I was on. I can’t tell you how long I wrestled with the question, “does the world really need another yoga system.”
Here’s how the process went for me to get clear. It started with the fact that the yoga I enjoyed practicing evolved. I have roots in Ashtanga yoga and so much respect for the practice. As time progressed, I wanted to bring in aspects of what I had studied in body-mind psychotherapy, in tai-chi, in kinesiology and so on. I wanted to awaken people’s intuition and philosophically, I just wanted to turn the vinyasa yoga practice into a seamless ritual that connects people to Nature and their communities.
So there I was. In one sense all yoga is so similar, but in another sense what I was teaching was very unique and particular to what I enjoyed practicing and what I felt like the world needed. It didn’t fit neatly into any pre-existing box. But to not have a name for it was hard. It’s like not having a name for yourself and every time people want to refer to you they have to say, “hey you, the guy who is 5’9” with the blue eyes and brown hair.” It is much easier to call myself “Eoin.”
So with a little reluctance in 2000 I started calling what I taught “Power Yoga + Blissology” and now I just call it Blissology. I actually don’t even use the term yoga.
I acknowledge that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. Where would modern yoga be without the lineage of Krishnamacharya passing his wisdom on to Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and Desikachar? Where would my yoga be without them? I owe them so much.
I’d love to point out though that what each of these great men did though was really the same process we are talking about; they molded the practice to suit what was true in their hearts and vision. Each one of them came up with a very distinct approach to the practice not so long ago. So the concept of an unchanging “pure” form of yoga coming from antiquity without adaptation isn’t true in reality.