The Podcast that Makes Me a Better Person

I'm headed to Miami where I’ll spend my birthday with two former Buena Onda teachers, Jess Weiss and Nichole Patxot (and my mom and Emily) to begin a tour around the Southeast before we head to Colorado and then California.

 I’m not anticipating full contemplation days during the trip, but I will continue to listen to Tara Brach. I have recommended Tara Brach to all my friends and family, and she’s on our influencer list for Buena Onda Yoga. She’s an evolutionary psychologist who started her adult life living in a yoga and meditation community and now is a meditation and mindfulness teacher. I love the way she refers to evolution and biology to explain human tendencies that we often believe we are alone in having. She reminds us that repeatedly succumbing to our fears or being selfish (for example) is natural because of how we are wired, but that we are also wired to be able to overcome those tendencies.

 When I hear the opening music of the Tara Brach podcast I exhale a little deeper. She has several talks in spanish on her site and recently released some meditations as well. Whatever language you listen in, I really encourage you to check her out. She weaves in funny stories and anecdotes as well as meditations to practice her techniques within each talk. The shorter separate meditations focus on bodily sensation, like really great guided savasanas.

 Some of my favorite episodes are Vulnerability, Intimacy and Spiritual Awakening parts 1&2, and Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable. I love to listen to her talks while doing yoga, and I keep a notebook nearby. Both parts of Happiness is Possible are particularly practical and enlightening. Listening to Tara Brach is seriously a gift to yourself.

On Balance, Movement And Panic

When I write these I pretend only my friends are reading these (might be true) because then I don’t feel like they need to be meaningful. When I try and make them meaningful they seem to be cheesy or obvious or repetitive. And, they get long

I’ve been encouraged to make them shorter, which is hard.

Last Monday I ventured out of my normally solo Contemplation Day realm because the sun was warm and the house was cold. I rode my bike to the park and planned to pedal around as slowly as possible letting the light and heat permeate me. I happened to come upon a group of people doing circus arts and taking turns on a slack line. A friend and yoga student, Rodrigo, has been inviting me to try slack lining with him, saying it’s a great compliment to yoga. As I was watching them from afar, Rodrigo rode up behind me and said, “Hey what are you doing here?” and then “Come on!” and off he went to join them. I did not want to go, my introspection and silence are so precious. But how could I not?

The line was too high for beginners so they suggested I just sit in the middle and try lifting both feet. No one seemed to be watching me but now and then someone would offer a suggestion - “always keep your eyes focused on the end of the line,” or, “put your arms up like this, elbows just above your shoulders, let them be loose.” They weren’t talking much amongst themselves either as they practiced juggling or tossing a spinning mandala kind of fabric in the air. But when they did speak they mostly said, “Don’t think, just feel it. You can’t do it by thinking, you have to let your body go.”

Later, one of the jugglers suggested I try standing on the line, while he sat in the middle to lower and stabilize it a bit. He was very relaxed and kind and as I began he said, “Even though it seems unbelievable, if you flutter your fingers like this it will discharge the vibration of the line.” I had my arms up in the sort of overhead cup shape they had suggested before, but the line was vibrating side to side like crazy, making me hold my breath and feel panicky. Guess what - when I fluttered my fingers it worked! I mostly forgot to do it, and also mostly forgot to breathe. But when I breathed, focused on the end of the line, and fluttered my fingers I could step up and move my free foot forward and back.

When my helper congratulated me and said I should probably take a rest I said, “But I never felt like I had my balance.” He replied, “No, you never will, but if you just keep moving and don’t panic you won’t fall off.” I’ll take that advice and run with it……

Reflections on Men's Week

A Yoga Journal survey says that of the 20.4 million people doing yoga in the United States, 18% are men. Our classes here usually reflect that but last week was different. From May 15-May 22 we invited men free to all classes. It is hard to go into a situation where one is the minority and will be expected to do unfamiliar things! But you came, and we love it!

There are lots of reasons that yoga is more popular among women, including the way it’s marketed, but I think it also has to do with what culture values out loud and with monetary rewards. If you spend even a few moments glancing at charts listing masculine and feminine characteristics you’ll see that masculine is described as active, analytical, and competitive. Society applauds those qualities in both men and women, and even yoga can be practiced in a way that utilizes them.

But yoga also encourages us to focus on our breath and our sensations and learn to be still. It can open the space for the discovery and development of the feminine qualities of feeling, receptivity, and softness that are inherent capacities of both men and women.

It seems to me that for decades women have been developing our masculine qualities and now we are moving into a time when all of us are recognizing a need to have access to both sets of traits. Changing our posture does change our felt sense of ourselves, paying attention to the breath does calm our nervous system, and being more aware of bodily sensation does help us perceive more than what our minds habitually think about.

We all deserve a rest from our minds, we all could use a break, we all feel better when we are a little more soft and flexible. The structures and belief systems we uphold to help us achieve what we want to and block what we don’t are useful. They are most useful when they are not rigid but are instead permeable and resilient.

Please continue to share this space with us guys, we all need to be both strong and resilient. We want you to be refreshed and recharged and relaxed. We want your energy and we appreciate what you bring into the room. We need to encounter each other with openness so that we can learn from each other and create new ways of cooperating and taking care of the planet. We all need all of us. That’s what yoga actually means after all: unity.

Normal Abnormalities

Friday night some of the teachers and I went to see a documentary called All the Rage: Saved by Sarno. We were invited by the film’s makers who have been contacting health and wellness workers here in BA to get us out for their international premier at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival.

The film was made over 12 years, and packs in a lot of ideas and information. It’s partly an homage to Dr John Sarno, one of the first medical doctors to treat chronic pain by addressing emotional factors. The title, All the Rage, refers to studies that show that people of lower socio-economic standing are more likely to experience chronic pain, and Dr Sarno suggests that they are furious with the way society has been constructed to treat them.

My biggest take away was the idea of “normal abnormalities.” Sarno’s examination process begins in the physical realm so he can rule out actual injury such as torn ligaments or fractures. At one point a patient brings him an x-ray to illustrate a previous diagnosis, and Sarno responds that it shows a “normal abnormality. Then the film explains many studies showing that such abnormalities are not directly correlated with pain, and that often people experience pain without any such accompanying abnormalities. Sarno says that unrecognized emotions cause muscular tension resulting in pain which goes away when the emotions are acknowledged.

I once went to a chiropractor about a cervical vertebra I thought protruded too much. Honestly I just didn’t like the way it looked. I was required to bring a full spinal X-ray and then at my first exam he showed me all sorts of problems throughout the length of my spine, including several subluxated (misaligned) vertebrae. He said I would need months of treatment. None of my subluxations had caused me pain or hindered my movement in any way I’m aware of. I didn’t continue treatment.

None of us is a model human figure of textbook-aligned bones, fully mobile joints, optimally flexible and strong muscles attached to stable and perfectly proportioned tendons and ligaments. And what we don’t know doesn’t necessarily hurt us.

What if we didn’t have an ideal in mind to compare ourselves to, and instead we experienced symptoms as signals that prompt us to change our behaviors? What if we think the same way about our mental and emotional health? How would we talk about our symptoms if there were no agreed upon labels for our conditions?

We Are Making a Podcast

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for almost 9 years and somehow have the huge wonderful pleasure of being part of a vibrant music scene. What I remember learning in school is that Latin America provided beef and wheat. I vaguely knew that there had been advanced cultures here before Europeans arrived, but really all of our world history was focused on Europe. I was not left to feel that Latin America gave the world art or philosophy (or music)  of note.

“Western” has somehow become a milder synonym for civilized, whatever that means, and does not include Latin America even though we’re the ones sharing a hemisphere. “Westerners” look East for spiritual guidance and ways to connect to self or something larger. While I love yoga and spent all of my 20’s living in yoga communities, I think we should also do some looking down. Like down at the ground beneath our feet. The cultures native to the Americas have much to offer the modern world, especially in terms of our relationship to plants, the earth, and other beings. I’ve experienced openness and fluidity between modern thinking and ancient wisdom in Latin America. People generally value human interaction even when it means decreased efficiency. Indigenous cultures still influence people’s ideas and expectations about success and well being. Many musicians are using traditional music as inspiration to create delightful audible journeys that offer a delicious sense of place.

I’m working on a podcast that will be a place for my friends and our larger community (from the Americas, and beyond) to share practices and perspectives so that hopefully we all get a fuller sense of each other, and so that our combined knowledge and heart energy helps us create better ways to care for each other and the planet.

We come into the present moment through our senses. What’s so great about the present moment? It’s the only moment where we have any choice or control or way to direct our lives. It’s where we get to experience all the juicy stuff. Our bodies are what allow tasting, smelling, seeing, listening, and our bodies can move! Moving is a great way to quiet the incessant mind activity that often blocks perception and sensation. Aside from yoga music is what most moves me.

I want the podcast to be a place for those musicians to share space with wellness workers. I hope for it to open up conversation between people approaching life as an artistic experiment in cooperation with something larger than ourselves. I want it go give my northern friends a taste of what’s going on here. I want you all to share music and how you care for your bodies, these vessels that allow us to experience Life.

We’ve already recorded our first episode with an interview and as yet unreleased track from Kaleema. We will launch the podcasts once our new website is active so look for them starting in June.

Teacher Q&A: Norma Iov and How Yoga Changed Her Relationship to Her Environment
norma iov.jpeg

We are getting to know our diverse and international group of individuals in the Buena Onda Yoga community. Already having introduced Christine, Jess and Amie, we switch our focus towards Norma.

Just a heads up -  because Norma is Argentine we decided to give you both the Spanish and English edition. Maybe you`re even learning Spanish and find this as a nice challenge!

Q. How long have you been practicing yoga?
A. Mi primera práctica de yoga fué a mis 18 años (hoy tengo 52), sin tener idea de qué se trataba, mi mamá practicaba y aún continúa, probé una clase y me encantó.
Siempre me quedó esa sensación de paz, aún habiendo movido "todo" mi cuerpo.
Seguí practicando con intervalos, hasta que finalmente en 2009 hice el profesorado.
Luego en 2012 hice Yogaterapia, y sigo perfeccionándome participando en talleres y tomando clases con otros profesores.

I first started practicing yoga at the age of 18 (today I am 52), without having much idea what it was. But my mom practiced , and still does, which inspired me to try a class. And I loved it.
Despite being a very physical practice, it has always given me a feeling of peace. I continued practicing yoga on and off, until I finally became an instructor in 2009. I also studied yoga therapy in 2012, and continuously work on self improvement by participating in workshops and taking classes with other teachers.

Q. What did yoga change for you?
La práctica de yoga me cambió mi modo de vida. Mi modo de ver, de sentir/me, de comunicarme y relacionarme con mi entorno. Gracias a la práctica del equilibrio.

The practice of yoga has changed my way of living. My way of seeing, feeling, communicating and relating to my environment. Thanks to the practice of balance.

Q. Why BOY?
Conocí BOY como alumna, me interesaba la práctica de yoga con profesoras extranjeras, para poder practicar el idioma Inglés que lo estudié muchos años de chica, pero lo puse poco en práctica.
Las clases de Vinyasa me encantaron. Recuerdo en ese momento tomé clases con Frances Ren.
Luego me ofrecieron dar clases y aquí estoy los lunes dando la clase en Español, o Spanglish, como me gusta decirlo, para quienes quieran practicar español.

I found BOY as a student. I was interested in practicing yoga with foreign teachers, to practice speaking the English language I had studied for years but hardly ever practiced.
I loved the Vinyasa classes. I remember at that time I took classes with Frances Ren.
I got the offer to teach, and here I am every Monday giving the Spanish class, or Spanglish, as I like to say, for those who want to practice Spanish.

Q.  A thing or two you appreciate about Buenos Aires / Argentina?
. Como Argentina, me cuesta verla con ojos extranjeros. Por eso siempre digo que "me siento extranjera" dando las clases en BOY... jaja! Pero volviendo a la pregunta, Buenos Aires / Argentina tiene algo especial, una movida cultural, nocturna, y de bares acogedores, que me parece que nos diferencia del resto.
Somos expresivos y muy temperamentales, supongo que debido la mezcla de la inmigración de Italianos y Españoles, nos dejaron ese cocktail explosivo y muy característico, principalmente en los porteños. Y por supuesto el mate!

Being Argentine I find it hard to see it with foreign eyes. That's why I always say that "I feel foreign" giving classes for BOY haha. But going back to the question, Buenos Aires / Argentina has something special - a cultural movement, the nightlife and friendly pubs, which I think differentiates the city from others.
We are expressive and very temperamental, I suppose due to the mixture of immigration of Italians and Spanish whom left us this explosive and very characteristic cocktail, mainly in the porteños. And of course the Mate!

Q. What motivates you?
Las cosas simples, mis afectos (familia, amigos, mascotas) la naturaleza, y su cuidado. Disfruto de mi devenir día a día, tratando de mejorar mi forma de ser.
Disfruto de mi trabajo como diseñador gráfico, como profesor de yoga y tocando música.

The simple things, nature, my loved ones (family, friends, pets) and their well being. I enjoy my own becoming day by day, trying to improve my way of being.
I enjoy my work as a graphic designer, as a yoga teacher and making music.

Meghan LewisComment
Starting to Accept Technology in Life

I experienced life before answering machines! I loved them (and caller ID) because they increased our ability to decide whether to be interrupted. From there on out though, our whole culture seemed to shift to create and embrace technologies that make us increasingly available to each other all the time. I am a people pleaser. Technologies that show when messages are read cause me mini paralyzation attacks. I feel like I must answer but I also slightly resent being expected to.

I have not previously allowed reminders, alerts, or notifications on my desktop and have them disabled on my phone. My experience of them is about the same as my experience of advertisements, they feel intrusive and distracting. If I’m in the space to respond to messages I’ll check them myself. Lately though, the BOY team made an editorial calendar and I decided to accept some reminders and notifications because I recognize that their purpose is to help me reach my own goals. Today while I was choosing what music to listen to while repotting plants and cleaning the floors, a little alarm clock icon slid onto my screen telling me I need to deliver a blog tomorrow.

It’s been about 2 months since our team coordinated calendars and this is the first time I’ve seen a reminder and found a stopping point in my day to do what the reminder tells me I ought to. I’m trying to organize my schedule so that I choose when to do my projects and tasks. But, I’m also trying to be flexible and not vilify technology (I tend to do that in lots of way). So when a little icon reminds me of a deadline I’m unprepared for it’s in my own best interest to just change course and get it done.

How do you interact with notifications, reminders, alerts, messages, and alarms from your various devices? Do you have personal rules around them? Do you communicate your rules to people close to you? Do you ask for your loved ones to respond to their reminders in any certain way while you are together? How do you best take advantage of them to help you stay organized?

As I said, I tend to vilify technology in my mind. I recommend this On Being episode featuring Anil Dash because he gives lots of examples as to how communication technology and the internet can be harnessed for good.

Link to podcast episode with Anil Dash.

Hushed Moments from Rilke`s Book of Hours

In the honor of World Poetry Day yesterday, March 21, we want to share a poem from Rilke`s `Book Of Hours` translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy.

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Meghan LewisrilkeComment