Over the last few years I have noticed how much I place my emphasis on breathing. Sounds pretty silly since breathing is what signifies that we are alive right? I talk about the breath in class, I talk about the breath with my kids and now I use it in my doula practice. My daughter even wrote me a poem for Mother's day last year in which one line reads, "Mom who thinks breath conquers all".
My favorite saying is: "We have limited number of breaths in this lifetime, so why not make them the longest breaths you possibly can". Our breath is the one thing that indicates change in our true being. We shorten our breath when we are cold or scared. We hold our breath when something is difficult or we are focusing. Sometime we don't even realize we are holding our breath until our yoga teacher tells us "Remember to breathe".
A cleansing breath cleanses the body of tension and lets go of anything that we are holding onto. While in Labor, a cleansing breath clears the slate so that a woman can put one contraction behind them and prepare for the one that is coming. In our everyday life, we often use a cleansing breath involuntarily. Taking a deep breath and letting out a sigh of relief, mostly because we didn't realize we were holding our breath while we were concentrating on something else.
We often forget that our yoga has three parts: asana, pranayama and meditation. Pranayama allows for space and is intertwined throughout all parts of the practice. When we are practicing asana, we we take breaths throughout the practice. When we meditate, we breathe methodically. The practice of pranayama is mindful and profound. In the article by Pema Chodron, "Waking Up to Your World", she shows us how taking three breaths throughout your day can add space and provide presence during your usual activities of the day.
Begin your practice of taking 3 breaths and notice the clarity you gain in that particular moment. As you continue to add the 3 breaths into more of your day, notice how this changes and affects your day. And remember to make those breaths the longest possible breaths that you possibly can......
So, what the heck is KIRTAN?? Regular students might have noticed that every few months there is a notice about something called kirtan. Or that some of the teachers, like me and Patrick pull up this thing called a harmoniun and chant/sing words in that sort of bizzare language called sanskrit. You might be wondering, "What's up with that??" While I often say that there is no real way that I can ever describe in words what kirtan truly is, I recently heard the best short explanation that I have ever heard - that kirtan is taking what is in your heart, and expressing it, fully, deeply, beautifully. 500 years ago or so, a man named Sri Chaitanya took the chanting that, up until then, was reserved only for certain learned scholars and holy men, and quite literally took it to the streets - to the people. These chants were all the names of the Divine, the Universal Spirit, - which means they were ways of saying, "Love, Peace, Bliss!!" We all know the power of music to influence our heart, our mind, and our moods - I mean who doesn't have that song that just makes them feel like singing in public places, or that tune that we go to when we feel like the world "done us wrong". Music is universal, it says things that cannot be expressed any other way, it gives wings to our emotions and thoughts. And so, when Sri Chaitanya (whose birthday will be celebrated all over the place the weekend of March 22-23) say, "Hey, Learned Guys, let's share these words with everyone", the kirtan "revolution" was born. He, and some of his friends took drums and bells, and literally danced and sang their way down the streets, and people who had long heard of such things were finally welcomed into this world where words of love were allowed to flow from their lips. They felt their hearts open as these words "danced on their tongues". It didn't matter if they could sing or not - any more than it matters that we don't care that we are not Adele when we are belting out tunes in the shower - it was the emotion, the feeling that counted. And because in this language they used called sanskrit, it is thought that the word or name for a thing, is the same as the thing itself, when they called out the names of love and peace, those things were actually appearing right there besides them. Like I said, I am not foolish to think that I can EVER fully explain what kirtan is, but this is my humble introduction to the notion of what a kirtan holds - the words, and the vibration, of the trues,t most deep and loving parts of our hearts - coming from hidden inside of us, to dancing on our tongues - and maybe, like Sri Chaitanya did, dancing in the streets (or at least in the safety of a yoga studio!) Julie teaches: Monday Bhakti Basic 6:30pm Friday Power Flow 5:00pm
"If you could pick one thing to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?"
These are all questions that I only ever asked myself in the privacy of my bedroom without any belief that the answers could become a reality. Then, I started crafting a Dharma statement; trying to figure out my purpose in this life. Using yoga, journaling, vision boarding, visualization, and LOTS of inspirational material, I was able to craft the following:
"My purpose in this life is to guide the awakening of the soul by using inspiring material; encouraging and allowing the growth and creativity of the Self in others."
I am young, so I have plenty of time to keep building upon this statement, but it has allowed me to decide what types of people I want in my life and the activities I want to be a part of. I have such varied interests and am proud of each one: acting, singing, yoga, painting, education, dancing. Should I limit myself to telling people that I am just one of those things? No! Of course not! I am finding ways to combine all of those interests and that starts with my dharma.
Once I crafted a Dharma statement, and started doing the work, so many doors opened for me! I made a scary decision of leaving an old job and starting a new one. I moved out of my mother's house. I was receiving calls from many theater companies because they heard of my work. I finished my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification and started my 500hr at Kripalu. I started my own LLC. I became an Equity Membership Candidate......and lots more that I can't even think of!
By no means do I have it all figured out, but I have a plan now. I am able to craft goals that are aligned with my dharma. Having a plan has provided me with the confidence that I need when opportunities arise. I'm feeling more fulfilled these days and all of this has made me so excited to see what else life has in store for me!
Sarah Anfora teaches Flow 1 Wednesdays at 9:30am and Bhakti Basic Sundays at 10:00am.