potent, lasting change vs. spiritual consumption

Irene Auma in an Upward Bow variation in Nairobi.

Irene Auma in an Upward Bow variation in Nairobi.

 

FOR CREATIVE CALM & CLARITY,

I JUST NEED THE WISDOM OF *ONE* POSE

 

You know this: the more you read about self-care, personal growth & spiritual practice, without actually using the tools, the hungrier you become. Most Western & "modern" people are like this, hungry ghosts, that feel they must purchase & consume the "basics" to make life feel right: plastic  garbage bins for every bathroom, kitchen gadgets, regular haircuts, mass-produced clothing, a new car every few years. Or maybe it is accolades: degrees, awards, trophies, mentions, likes, & general reputation. There's an unconscious image we keep, fed by the media, of what it means to be a grown-up, & it's a little different for all of us. If we are seekers, then it's about being evolved, transformed, or enlightened. We are measuring peace, along with mastery of yoga asanas & meditation minutes logged. We are measuring green smoothies, happy children, wholesome romance. Generally we see ourselves as falling short, or close, but still dependent on purchases. 

So it's easy to become personal growth junkies. We love to consume answers, instead of grounding inward, anchoring to our own experience. We take in massive amounts of books, teachers, audios & videos. But there's so much of it, now, & our brains are overfull. We also have much shorter attention spans. We lose the information as fast as we take it in! 

DON'T TAKE IN SO MUCH.

This is why we offer simple, sweet, easy & accessible tools. I've had a personal yoga practice since I was a teenager, & it tends to be fast + dance-like, because I was *once* a dancer. You would think that I always seek out the next-level work out. >Sometimes< I do, I need that. But for creative calm & clarity, I just need the wisdom of *one* pose.

This week, for me, it's about heart-opening. I need to open my heart to new possibilities for myself. To the everyday efforts, goodness & suffering of those who surround me. To receive the love & contribution that pours out of my friends & family.  I need to open my heart to strengthen my heart. So that I can see the great*fullness of this beautiful life, & be neutral to the rollercoasters that are not my own. So that I can choose the ones I ride. So that I can choose when to get off. A heart-opening pose, one that has me open + lift my chest to the sky, allows me to process the stagnant emotions that no longer want to sit in my muscle tissue. It helps to prepare my womb, to hold whatever new projects & possibilities I am wanting to grow. It's purifying.

EVERY POSE IS PURIFYING.

So let yourself indulge in just one pose each week - even if you have a full practice. Let your body tell you which pose has the most *bliss* in it. And live with it for the week. Let it work it's magic.

xx, Maya

 


October 11 is the United Nations-designated International Day of the Girl. Women around the world still battle issues of gender inequality and subjugation. According to the UN, empowering women and making an investment in girls helps to break cycle of discrimination and violence by promoting effective enjoyment of their human rights. Many grassroots organizations like theAfrica Yoga Project and the Studio Samuel Foundation are already spearheading this movement, providing education, health and fitness, to progress opportunities for girls that they might not have had otherwise. Below is a body of work by renowned yoga photographer Robert Sturman, showcasing women around the world celebrating bodies, freedom, and movement.

For me, a work of art that evokes the feeling that there is something right in this world, is a successful work of art. And, when that occurs, I will sit back for a few minutes and appreciate it, and then begin pursuit of the next one. Here are 21 yoga images from around the world that inspire artistic wonder, but also commemorate the importance of equality for women and girls, everywhere. – Robert Sturman

In Kuala Lumpur, Ninie Ahmad, a Malaysian yoga teacher, demonstrated Scale Pose (Tolasana. “Malaysia banned yoga for Muslims, [who constitute] 60 percent of its population, in 2008. The ban [was] lifted shortly [after] but yoga studio operators are warned not to include chanting and meditation in its classes,” she said. “I am Malaysian and I am Muslim. And I do yoga. And I pray. I see God in all of his creation—with my head covered or not, in my clothes revealing or not. My religion teaches love, respect and kindness hence yoga is in every religion, at least in mine.”

In Kuala Lumpur, Ninie Ahmad, a Malaysian yoga teacher, demonstrated Scale Pose (Tolasana.
“Malaysia banned yoga for Muslims, [who constitute] 60 percent of its population, in 2008. The ban [was] lifted shortly [after] but yoga studio operators are warned not to include chanting and meditation in its classes,” she said. “I am Malaysian and I am Muslim. And I do yoga. And I pray. I see God in all of his creation—with my head covered or not, in my clothes revealing or not. My religion teaches love, respect and kindness hence yoga is in every religion, at least in mine.”

Yoga in the village near Nairobi. Irene Auma of the AYP in Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana).

Yoga in the village near Nairobi. Irene Auma of the AYP in Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana).

A warrior of peace—United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Cassandra—photographed on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Peaceful Warrior pose.

A warrior of peace—United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Cassandra—photographed on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Peaceful Warrior pose.

Victoria Akerstrom in an Upward Bow variation in London.

Victoria Akerstrom in an Upward Bow variation in London.

Amy Armstrong in Upward Bow with her daughter, Sophie, in Bow Pose, on Venice Beach.

Amy Armstrong in Upward Bow with her daughter, Sophie, in Bow Pose, on Venice Beach.

This woman’s drawing brought tears to my eyes. There weren’t enough mats or space for all 70 of the HIV positive women prisoners to practice in the yoga class provided by Africa Yoga Projectin Nairobi, that day. So instead, paper and paints were distributed by an organization calledHarambee Arts, to the women who were not able to participate in the class.

This woman’s drawing brought tears to my eyes. There weren’t enough mats or space for all 70 of the HIV positive women prisoners to practice in the yoga class provided by Africa Yoga Projectin Nairobi, that day. So instead, paper and paints were distributed by an organization calledHarambee Arts, to the women who were not able to participate in the class.

“Seashore home-schooling” in the North Atlantic. Mary Vernal in a Dancer’s Pose, supporting her daughter’s handstand.

“Seashore home-schooling” in the North Atlantic. Mary Vernal in a Dancer’s Pose, supporting her daughter’s handstand.

Another children’s yoga class in Nairobi led by the Africa Yoga Project.

Another children’s yoga class in Nairobi led by the Africa Yoga Project.

Sophie Wolfer joyfully expressed Tree Pose (Vrksasana) in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Sophie Wolfer joyfully expressed Tree Pose (Vrksasana) in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Cancer survivor Yulady Saluti is a true warrior. I have watched her go through chemo, raise six children, and cultivate a beautiful partnership with her husband, Gerald. In the 26 surgeries she’s had over the years to treat breast cancer and a colon rectal condition, I’ve watched her deal with physical pain that most of us cannot even comprehend. In Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), this was one of the first images we ever created together.

Cancer survivor Yulady Saluti is a true warrior. I have watched her go through chemo, raise six children, and cultivate a beautiful partnership with her husband, Gerald. In the 26 surgeries she’s had over the years to treat breast cancer and a colon rectal condition, I’ve watched her deal with physical pain that most of us cannot even comprehend. In Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), this was one of the first images we ever created together.

Little Isa on her way to school in Manhattan, in a confident Tree Pose.

Little Isa on her way to school in Manhattan, in a confident Tree Pose.

Briohny Kate-Smyth in a full expression of Dancer’s Pose in Kho Samui, Thailand.

Briohny Kate-Smyth in a full expression of Dancer’s Pose in Kho Samui, Thailand.

In any given moment, there is the presence of pain and joy. Here, a yoga class at Mama Fatuma Goodwill Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya

In any given moment, there is the presence of pain and joy. Here, a yoga class at Mama Fatuma Goodwill Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya

The secret ingredient beyond all the technical things one can learn in a book, is that two people trust and like each other—that is the nectar of collaborative creation and it is when the magic happens. Then there is the miracle of the photograph—the connection is here to stay. Pictured on the San Francisco Bay in Lotus (Padmasana), Jody Greene.

The secret ingredient beyond all the technical things one can learn in a book, is that two people trust and like each other—that is the nectar of collaborative creation and it is when the magic happens. Then there is the miracle of the photograph—the connection is here to stay.
Pictured on the San Francisco Bay in Lotus (Padmasana), Jody Greene.

Eleven-year-old, Grace, in Upward Bow (Urdhva Dhanurasana) at Swamis Reef in Encinitas, Calif. Grace and her yogi-mom Kira founded KiraGrace clothing.

Eleven-year-old, Grace, in Upward Bow (Urdhva Dhanurasana) at Swamis Reef in Encinitas, Calif.
Grace and her yogi-mom Kira founded KiraGrace clothing.

Three generations of yogis. In the middle, Briohny Kate-Smyth in a Handstand, pictured with her daughter, Taylor in Dancer’s Pose and her mom, Pam in Peaceful Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana), somewhere off the coast of Vietnam. 

Three generations of yogis. In the middle, Briohny Kate-Smyth in a Handstand, pictured with her daughter, Taylor in Dancer’s Pose and her mom, Pam in Peaceful Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana), somewhere off the coast of Vietnam. 

In Nairobi, Irene Auma in a Side Plank (Vasisthasana).

In Nairobi, Irene Auma in a Side Plank (Vasisthasana).

A dedicated yoga practitioner himself, Sturman‘s work has increasingly focused on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asana. His portraits, whether set in the lively streets of Manhattan, the expansiveness of Malibu’s beaches and canyons, the timeless elegance of Walden’s New England, or the bleakness of San Quentin Prison, remind us that there is beauty everywhere. In Sturman’s own words “I often think of Rumi: ‘I can’t stop pointing to the beauty.’ That feels right to me.”