Labor Land

Hello lovely readers!

I’m so inconsistent with writing this blog that every time I do make it here, I feel I have to address the issue. But whatever, you know, I mean, this is my hobby blog and writing is a hobby, an activity I enjoy doing, so at this point, it’s best to remove the pressure of this platform to be anything more than what it is. And anyway, I’m so grateful for all you 1,466 readers who are currently signed up here, yes I am, believe!

Now that I’ve worked that out for myself, I just want to say, “Hiiiiieeee!” I hope you are all well and enjoying yourselves. Spring time in Finland decided not to come this year, so I’ve been feeling a bit cheated, what to say of all those who soldiered through the full Finnish winter. Due to the timing of my pregnancy, we didn’t go to Mysore this past March since I would’ve been too far along in my final trimester for non-emergency air travel on the return flight. So, you know, one month less in Asia, yes, I guess on some level, the struggle has been real for me as well, lol…

Last fall I ambitiously set out to write a blog post a week and by October or so, that fell by the wayside, like a lone, abandoned mitten. At the start of the new year, I sat down with myself and did some serious reflection on what constitutes as a realistic amount of posts I can write for the upcoming year. I mulled over a monthly post and it pinched too tightly. I tried on once every three months for size and there was a bit more breathing room, but even then, the March month came and went and I was already behind on my lenient deadline. Still, I figure four blog posts in one calendar year, heck, even I can manage that.

But then…

I wondered if turning my blog into a vlog would mean a more consistent presence on my part? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to give it a try. And since I’ve been receiving some feedback and requests about yoga/pregnancy/motherhood from you good yoginis and yogis, well, mostly yoginis in this case, over the months, I figured I’d start by turning it over to you:

Comment below, send a message on my Ai Mami facebook page or email me with your questions/comments on what you’d like me to speak about when it comes to yoga, travelling as a yogi family, pregnancy, birth, motherhood, juicing, yoga pants, body image, self-care, mental well-being, entrepreneurship, life in Finland, race and identity, parenting, black women in comedy, food and diet, podcasts…you know all the subjects near and dear to my heart, with as much or as little levity and/or gravitas as the subject requires. The idea here is to have warm, supportive, real talk about life.

It might take some time to pull up a decent enough video, but it’ll be more motivating to have a specific task to work towards, especially when the social pressure is on a bit.

So lovelies, in case you didn’t know, I’m due to give birth in about ten days. Thank you to everyone who has been reaching out and sending messages of love and care. I haven’t had a chance to respond to all of them yet, as my mind, body and soul have already set sail to Labor Land, or the place where women go to retrieve the souls of their babies and bring them down to earth, but I just want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you.

I can’t wait to here from you with your questions, comments and requests.

Om and so much ❤

 

Reflections of an ageing Ashtangi

The following post was written by my mother, Celia Nyamweru. Enjoy!

Ashtanga yoga is a family affair for me – I started practicing after my daughter, Wambui, began to share her life with the highly respected Ashtanga yoga teacher Petri Räisänen. In January 2011 they invited my husband and me to join them at Petri’s retreat on Koh Mak island in southern Thailand. I celebrated my sixty-ninth birthday the following July, when I was at my second retreat, the one run by Petri and his long-time friend and business partner, Juha Javanainen, in Houtskar, south-west Finland. Since then I have attended these retreats every year, usually for two or three weeks.  2016 was the seventh year of my retreats – and incidentally of my seventy-fourth birthday. As I’ve got older and stiffer, I have seen Wambui gain in skill and confidence, both as a practitioner of yoga and as a teacher. She and Petri are now the parents of a 2.5 year old son, Sesam – but I will come back to that later!

The way I have come to understand Ashtanga yoga, your chosen teacher is a very important person in one’s practice, the person to whom one turns for advice and by whom one is given permission to attempt new asanas. I consider Petri to be my instructor, but I only actually practice with him twice a year, during the Koh Mak and Houtskar retreats. During these retreats he makes time available for personal consultations, as well as running group sessions where he addresses people’s questions and demonstrates particular asanas. As his mother-in-law, I feel that I should keep a low profile in these sessions. I try to be very scrupulous about not bothering him with yoga-related questions when we are together at meal times or sharing family time during the retreats. I am a retired university professor and I know how exhausting it can be to run workshops and field trips when one is constantly bombarded with student questions! I am lucky to be able to turn to Wambui for questions about my practice as well – including reminding me of the Sanskrit names of some of the asanas!

During the months between the retreats, I practice at home. I try to practice five or even six times a week, most weeks, and I think this frequent practice is essential as one ages. We are all of us getting older – but obviously there is a difference between ageing from twenty-nine to thirty-four, and ageing from sixty-nine to seventy-four! As I practice, I am constantly aware of my body and how it is changing. I think I have a naturally flexible body, but my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired. It took me about three to four years to get my legs into full lotus, and I am still working on it! But I find that much easier than Bhujapidasana and Kukkutasana, which remain distant goals.

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Balance is said to be a challenge as one gets older, and I look with envy at other people’s perfect Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, though in fact it is the transitions within this asana that I find most difficult; once my leg is out in front or to the side, I can usually remain fairly steady. And in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, I find I can usually bind if I do so once my head is down, though I cannot bend forward with my hand already binding! In the transition from Kurmasana to Suptakurmasana, I find it almost impossible to bring my feet together, however hard I wriggle them. It is much easier for me to get out of Kurmasana and then go into Suptakurmasana as a new asana. I mention these details to show how I am constantly making concessions and taking small short cuts, which I assume will increase as the years pass. Petri and Wambui are very tolerant and understanding about this!

At the same time there has been progress; there are some asanas that I consider as the benchmarks or hurdles that I use to monitor my efforts. Marichyasana D is one of them (I’m sure I am not the only person who feels this!) I cheat a bit with this one, since I am much stiffer on the first side when one is twisting to the right. My first right hand twist I do with my left foot on the floor; twisting left I can put my right foot on my thigh, first time round. Then I turn back to the right hand twist again and this time put my left foot on my thigh – and I can usually bind, however inelegantly! Another benchmark is Sirsana, which I have been working on very incrementally for the whole seven years. I still need the reassurance of the wall in front of me as I go into the pose, and I still need to go up with bent legs rather than straight legs. But most of the time I do not need to actually feel my feet on the wall before I straighten my legs fully, and I am slowly trying to bring my straight legs slowly down to the floor as I come out of the pose.

Last July Petri suddenly gave me a few second series asanas, which came as a surprise and an added challenge. I had no time to read up on them or to watch anyone else doing them – I was on the mat and following his directions before I realized what was happening! Luckily I was able to consult with Wambui later and also refer to his Nadi Sodhana book for a sense of what I should be aiming at. I don’t think my Achilles tendons will ever allow me to proceed very far with Pasasana, but I am excited to be making tiny improvements in my balance in Bakasana. I take the precaution to put two cushions in front of me in case I plop forward onto my nose, as has happened several times.

Being retired means that I don’t have to rush anywhere after my practice – but during the retreats I find that family life makes some demands on my practice, especially in Houtskar. Juggling a busy professional schedule with care for their son Sesam is a huge challenge for Petri and Wambui, and over the last three years I have been able to make a modest contribution to this. At Houtskar Petri usually goes for his own practice soon after 4 a.m., and I would start my practice as early as possible (before the first group session that begins at 5 a.m.) so that I can be finished before 7 a.m. This allows me time for a quick shower before I take over watching Sesam from Wambui so that she can teach her class; we still have to make sure that each of us has time for breakfast! Later in the day things are slightly less hectic, but I have spent many hours walking with Sesam; first with him in a baby carrier, later in a stroller and most recently keeping him company while he plays in a sand pit.

As I get older, I worry more about injury. So far I have avoided serious injuries, though at times I notice bruises on my upper thighs, probably due to the pressure from Marichyasana B and D! I am extremely cautious with my legs, in particular my knees, moving very slowly in and out of the standing asanas. And when doing some of the seated asanas like Janu Sirsana, I give my knees a kiss now and then to thank them for being there for me! Yoga has made me extremely aware of my body and how it continues to change. I think that the main challenge over the last seven years is that I now find it harder to practice in the early morning as I wake up stiff and sore after the night’s sleep. I broke my left arm in 1999 and my right pelvis in 2009, and the residual stiffness from those injuries is increasingly making itself felt. By mid-afternoon I am warmer and more flexible, though I still find I practice extremely slowly. One of the challenges of doing Mysore practice in a group is the sight of younger people going through their practice so fast – I know one is supposed to keep one’s dhristi in all the appropriate points, but one can’t help noticing some things!

Being part of a group during the twice-yearly retreats means that other people also notice me! Over the years I have built up a group of ‘yoga friends’ from several European countries whom I meet at retreats, and many of them have given me tremendous encouragement about how my practice has developed. They notice improvements that I may not be aware of, since I feel I am always practicing at the limit of my ability. And last summer I also learned something unexpected from one of them; it seems that Petri has been using me as a source of inspiration for older people with remarks like this: “Celia started doing yoga aged 68 and look where she is now; no reason why you can’t do this at the age of 55.” I was a little surprised to find myself used as a role model in this way, but I have to think of it as a compliment! I am sure yoga will continue to be an important part of my own life, of my family life, and a help to me as I negotiate the challenges of living in an ageing body.

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Ashtangi Mami Wata

Ok, let’s jump right into it, shall we friends? I promised to talk this week about how I turned melancholy into something more uplifting right? I like to think that melancholy is my expression of creativity in its potential seed form and in order to transform it into something good and satisfying, I owe it to my inherent creative self to manifest it be doing something creative.

Brene Brown said it so well on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Big Magic, “Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world and without it, I am not okay…and without having access to everyone else’s, we are not okay. There is no such thing as non-creative people, there are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t and unused creativity is not benign…it metastasises into resentment, grief, heartbreak. People sit on that creativity, or they deny it, and it festers. ” 

We’re all creative beings but somehow along the way, we’ve been taught to ignore and forget this in the work of surviving this serious life and tattered world. I’m encouraging that you, for the sake of us all, tap into your creativity, be it in cooking a nice meal or writing, singing, dancing, painting, making music…whatever your creative spirit finds expression and realisation in. It doesn’t have to become your full-time paying work. You don’t even have to show it to anyone for curation and display and posterity. You can keep it fully private and personal and do it for nothing but the reward of having made or done something. One sculptor makes these sculptures only to throw them into a river. Think of the Tibetan Buddhist process of sand painting these beautiful and intricate mandalas. Tibetan monks spend hours upon days upon weeks to create, and then dismantle these mandalas upon completion, as a symbol  of the transitory nature of material life.

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t feel you are particularly ‘good’ or ‘skilled’ at what you like to do. Most of us I would say carry wounds of shame from childhood surrounding our creative attempts, when you were told by someone, for example, not to quit your day job because your voice sucks. Especially for us African children growing up in the 80s and 90s, where creativity was routinely dismissed and mocked, which is like, so crazy to me as we have creativity through from our veins; where creative work was not considered to be work at all; where nonlinear thinking was not considered to be thinking at all. We have a lot of work to do to unlearn these false beliefs. That’s why I’m so happy to have someone like Lupita Nyong’o’s success story as it helps shift the narrative into more inclusive, tolerant, open-minded territory.

However, I’ll go far and wager that we can all unearth a painful memory, from childhood especially, when our creativity was shut down in harsh judgment. And this moment was so strong in its shame that the impression basically changed the way we thought about ourselves forever more. Think of a man who loved drawing more than anything else in a his life, how he found safety in it in what was essentially a traumatic upbringing. One day, as his mother was putting up one of his drawings on the fridge, his father said, “Look, we don’t want him to be a faggot artist.”* Now think how that was the last picture he ever drew until at 50, about 40 years later, he started drawing again. “Like in Big Magic, when you’re taking on creativity, you are taking on soul work. This is not about what we do, it’s about who we are”**

*Brene Brown; Big Magic Podcast; Season 1, Episode 12 ; **Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

So please, for the sake of us all, don’t just watch and consume from the sidelines. Release the shackles of what you’ve (mis)understood and internalised yourself to be at an early age. Explore, enjoy and satiate your creative instincts either for yourself alone or to be shared and displayed, as I truly believe that much of life’s maladies can be solved or at least understood and come to terms with by using up our inherent creative energies.

Anyway, as I was marinating on the type of way feelings I wrote about last week,  I turned on the radio (Basso) and went to church for a moment. The djs on the show Radio Ouagodougou were killing it and that music felt like the sweetest balm for my parched spirit. Here’s the link to the song which spoke to the marrow of my soul at that moment. You can listen to it while you scroll through the photo shoot which has literally been an idea aching to become a reality for a good long while.

It seems like autumn is my ode to Mami Wata, the water spirit venerated in West, Central and Southern Africa and in the African diaspora in the Americas. This year, I managed to get the spectacular Bianca to join me for some nature deity celebration and black girl yoga consciousness raising (the quasi-Nordic edition). It is an offering, my narrative to show that there we are everywhere, spinning straw into gold. Black women, lift each other up and rejoice in the truth that when one black woman wins we all win. Black girl, lose yourself and find yourself again and create yourself and love yourself. Love her tenderly and fiercely, without shame and miserliness. Love her without permission. Love her without restriction. Love her completely and fully and whole-heartedly.

black-onyx-mala

unspecified

Earth mala: Black onyx: a powerful protection stone; absorbs and transforms negative energy, and helps to prevent the drain of personal energy; aids the development of emotional and physical strength and stamina, especially when support is needed during times of stress, confusion or grief; fosters wise decision-making. Use Black Onyx to encourage happiness and good fortune; useful in healing old wounds or past life issues; wonderful for meditation and dreaming, recommended to use a secondary grounding stone in combination with the Onyx.

Earth mala: Labradorite: enhances the mental and intuitive abilities of clairvoyance, telepathy, prophecy; assists in communication with higher guides and spirits; provides an ease in moving between the worlds, and permits a safe and grounded return to the present; brings out the best in people, making work life more congenial; courtesy and full attention to the customer; tempers the negative side of our personality, the traits and actions that rob our energy and may produce depression or shame; helps develop the hands’ sensitivity, making it useful for physiotherapists and all who use the power of touch to heal.

fire-mala

fire-mala

Fire mala: Agate: promotes inner stability, composure, and maturity. Its warm, protective properties encourage security and self-confidence; great crystal to use during pregnancy; also helps new mothers avoid the “baby blues”; Coral: calming; alleviates depression; changes adverse mental and emotional situations, such as nightmares, anger and fear, into more beneficial conditions, including intelligence and bravery; Garnet: energising and regenerative; boosts the energy of an entire system; stabilising; brings order to chaos whether internal or external; root chakra stone, excellent for manifestation; used to ground one’s dreams in reality, bringing abundance, prosperity, and realization of those dreams

water-mala

Water mala and bracelets: Aventurite: stone of luck and chance; said to increase perception and creative insight; creates good opportunities; has a stabilizing effect on the emotions and is excellent for teenagers; used to aid near-sightedness; enhances the immune system. Amazonite (markers and on one bracelet): mint green to aqua green stone said to be of truth, honor, communication, integrity, hope, and trust; said to enhance intuition, psychic powers, creativity, intellect, and psychic ability; often associated with the throat chakra, and as such, said to be beneficial to communication.

air-mala

vashistasana-variation

Air mala: Rose Quartz with Snow Quartz marker: Rose Quartz is a rose pink variety of Quartz; stone of universal love; restores trust and harmony in relationships, encouraging unconditional love; purifies and opens the heart at all levels to promote love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of peace. Snow Quartz: stone that brings good fortune; calming and soothing; helpful for meditation; has all the properties of clear quartz to a gentler degree; can be considered a very yin, feminine type of quartz.

Alright lovies, this was my tale of transformation. Join me on instagram @ashtangimami as I’ll soon be starting my version of #blackgirlyogamagic. I’ll be featuring a song a day by a black songstress linked with bits of yoga in the hopes that it inspires more of my brothers and sisters to take up the practice of yoga; which, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the science and art of this spiritual knowledge, is the most radical and truest form of self-love and self-care I’ve ever known. Stay safe, stay hungry, stay woke.

me-and-b

images om and 2000px-Heart_corazón

Bianca, sublime model and t-shirt designer at Kauppatori: @biancatmm

Eva, the perennial talent behind Heart of Joy mala beads: @eevaruotsalainen

Lars, photographer extraordinaire: @larskastilan and larskastilan.com

My first #InstaYoga Challenge

Yes, yes y’all. I took the plunge and participated in a 10-day Instagram yoga challenge. I know, I know, the yoga world is already full of people posting all kinds of yoga poses on social media, do we really need to see another?

I’ll leave you to decide on how you wish to answer that, but truth be told, it was fun to feel like part of a yoga community again! Okay, so it was virtual, but hey, as a full-time mama getting her yoga asana self- practice in at home whenever it works with baby’s nap time, things can feel a bit isolating from time to time. I long to be able to practice in a full shala, Mysore-style, riding the energy wave of several dozen Ashtangis next to me, but that might take awhile. So until then, this challenge was a stand-in, and it was totally fun to feel connected to a wider group of all the folks who participated in this yoga challenge.

As a child, standing on my hands felt like pure, giddy joy. As an adult, I find all sorts of thoughts racing through my head when it comes to inversions. These all stem from fear, self-doubt and self-limiting ideas like,” I am not   ___________ enough” or  ” I am too ____________.” My motivation behind posting these pictures was not primarily to show off and say, ” Oh, look what I can do.” (Having said that though, I wouldn’t necessarily discount a natural and healthy sense of accomplishment either). Anyway, my main reason for posting these pictures is that I wish to cultivate a bit of that wholesome joie de vivre, instill some of it in the midst of all this adult responsibility while challenging myself to engage with stuff which my inner critic forbids me to consider juuuust might be possible. While trying new things with my body (carefully and within reason, always) I hope to create this same sense of adventure and possibility in my mind, if only just for the fun of it. PLUS, I gotta tell ‘ya, nothing gets rid of mama burnout quicker and ‘free-er’ than placing all your weight into your hands and kicking your legs up in the air! Talk about a radical shift in perspective! 🙂

Just in case you aren’t on Instagram, you can check out some of the pictures on my facebook page. (While you’re there, you can go ahead and ‘like’ my page, if you haven’t done so already) 😉 Finally, thanks to my hubby hubs for being the photographer on this project.

And so, my challenge for all you yoga mamas out there: will you join me for the next yoga challenge? If so, follow me on Instagram (@ashtangimami) and I will tag you in the next challenge I join.

Stay blessed lovelies and celebrate life (upside down)! Om ❤

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Rebelle Society and the Ashtangi Mami

So, during my teaching gig at Mysore Yoga Copenhagen last autumn, I met and befriended Tanya Lee Markul, co-founder and editor of Rebelle Society. It turns out that we have a lot in common: both American expats living in Scandinavia, both first-time mothers of little lads, both artsy, creative yoginis…

As a fan of Rebelle Society, when Tanya asked if I was interested in writing for them, I was intrigued! Tanya also very graciously gave me some pointers on how to expand my writing style to fit the Rebelle audience. So here it is: my attempt at writing my birth story more creatively… expressively…rebelliously!

While you’re at it, check out Tanya’s website and get your copy of The Best of Rebelle Society). US-based readers can also check out her article on self-acceptance and love (go Girl!) for Mantra: Yoga and Health. It has Erykah Badu on the cover…what’s not to like?!

erykah and mantra

Tanya dear, I thank you! Here’s to more ‘creatively maladjusted’ #rebelle #rebellesociety #MamaMagic contributions together.

*images courtesy of mantramag and espacescomprises

Black & White make Zebra Stripes: An afro yogini’s journey to the yoga mat.

I recently came across a blog post entitled Yoga IS for black women. We’re just not showing up, and I thought, “How very true!” As a practitioner and teacher of Ashtanga yoga, I am well aware of the underrepresentation of people of color in yoga. And much like Larissa Postell, the author of the post, I too, am familiar with being the only brown-skinned-afro-puffy-yogini on the mat. Maybe one out of two, at best.

Let me be clear on one thing though. I am a Kenyan-American living in Finland, so the demographic context is rather different than, say, Washington D.C. However, irrespective of this, when I lived in Chicago, I remember attending the free community clases on Sunday afternoons at Moksha Yoga Studio and I was still pretty much the only nonwhite in the class. That never kept me away though. Being a graduate student on a monthly stipend, the thing which did limit my yoga practice (before Ashtanga yoga and the discipline of a solo home practice) where the monthly studio fees!

I do think it’s safe to say that yoga has been marketed to a predominantly white, educated, upper-middle class audience. Nothing wrong with that at all. No matter how yoga is marketed, and to whom, the fact of the matter remains that yoga works. On a fundamental level, yoga is a practical and philosophical system which promotes Self-awareness. Needless to say, this goes far deeper than anything skin color, nationality, gender and age can touch upon. Yoga literally IS for everyone. Or can be. If you make up your mind that, yes, this truly is of benefit.

I was always one of the only students of color in middle and high school. It didn’t matter that my mother is an English woman, kids asked if I was adopted anyway (I’m not). At that time, in my social environment, one could only be black or white, not black and white. Thanks to my background, I have always been surrounded by both black and white family members and therefore, apart from being called on to represent an entire race of people in class discussions, I feel equally comfortable around large groups of white people and large groups of black people. I do wonder though what it would take to attract more people of color to yoga. Postell claims that most black women wish to focus on weight loss rather than wellness, and many feel that ‘stretching’ won’t help with losing weight; furthermore, there seems to be a general misunderstanding when it comes to yoga and religion, that there is a conflict of interest between the two. The last pattern had to do with white representation and the marketing of yoga. How black women don’t go to yoga since they are not represented, and how they are not represented since they don’t go.

When I came into my own as an Ashtangi, I was living in the United Arab Emirates, far away from the United States and its ubiquitous racial context. When I started with Ashtanga, I couldn’t have cared less if the teacher and my fellow students were green with purple dots. I had reached a time in my life when I needed yoga with all my heart. So when my first teachers, a lovely Canadian couple, spoke of living a life with more peace, happiness, clarity and self-acceptance, I clung to the practice like a lifebuoy, with the desperation of a person drowning. Because I was drowning, in my own heavy, dark, confused mind. On my own, I didn’t know how to navigate myself through life and the world. Yoga showed me how, and when something shows you how to transform yourself and your life entirely, then placing the racial dichotomy into a radically different context is a piece of cake; not to mention the argument of religious dogma, as to why folks cannot practice yoga and attend church or pray five times a day. But I’ll save that for another day!

My first Ashtanga yoga teachers, Jeff and Harmony. Forever grateful for introducing me to the practice! 

Wambui, Jeff, Harmony

Getting the hang of lotus pose while balancing on a Royal Enfield in Mysore, India…

Wambui with bike 1 Stay blessed and dare to change. Om!

Yoga. Sangha. Tampere. Oh My!

My favorite months to be in Helsinki are in May and August. It’s best to be out in a nature, preferably by the sea and a smoke sauna, at summer’s zenith. But May is like the fresh dawn of summer and August, its utterly pleasant dusk. The sun still lingering on in the capital…

May in Finland means three things for me: the Helsinki African Film Festival (HAFF), Eddie Stern’s workshop and Petri’s workshop in Tampere. It would also mean the World Village Festival, but, alas, since it always falls on the same weekend as Tampere, until we defy space and time, one does have to pick and choose where to be.

I’ll talk more about the cultural festivals going on around town in my Helsinki Happiness series a bit later on. But for now, let me turn my attention to yoga and the coming together of our sangha.

It is always such a joyful gathering when Eddie rolls into town. It was his fourth year in a row, and while I didn’t make it to practice in the mornings, Sesam and I did attend his afternoon lectures and a yoga therapy class, as well as join in the puja (a ritual of worship) and chanting sessions. It was especially lovely to hear the story of how Eddie learned to do puja, which basically involved a lot of self-study, deep passion and an interest in the task at hand. It was also a nice moment when he dubbed Sesam with a new name, “DJ Sesam…just you wait!” Yes! 🙂

The thing I appreciate and relate to most with Eddie as a teacher is his ability to think laterally (as I do) and to make connections, often between seemingly disparate subjects, while still remaining so deeply rooted and devoted to his Guru, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois. All the information that he gathers, be it from physics, the latest research on brain development, or from the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, he ties back into yogic philosophy and the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.

Here is an example. (*Please note: This is my interpretation of Eddie’s lectures. I have quoted and paraphrased him as best I could without changing any of the original content. Any mistakes are mine alone).

In order to cultivate long-lasting yogic traits, phrases like self-directed biological transformational and self-directed neuro – plasticity start with, as I have understood it, the daily practice of yoga. And in the case of Ashtanga yoga, starting with the method of tristana– posture (asana), sound breathing and gazing points (drishti)- one can change how one lives and behaves by stilling the mind and bringing our senses into better control. We can then observe that we make better choices (food and diet, for a start). Thereby, creating healthier habits (good sleep routines and a stable lifestyle), which leads to happier, more productive behavior and, eventually, towards a more peaceful character.

Sounds good, right? I mean, if we are to be perfectly honest with ourselves, who wouldn’t want all those things? Besides, where’s the harm in striving for these positive, uplifting qualities while trying to navigate through the Drama and spectacle of life. The drama of procreation; the drama of sustenance; the drama of expression. What to mention of the inevitability of death and the mysteriousness beyond?

A question Eddie posed was, “What is the role of fear in our lives?” As in, fear as a motivator. When we start from our collective negative bias, a bias needed for survival back in our hunter-gatherer days, we can see that fear was indeed an essential motivator (Better run from that hungry- looking creature with the big, sharp teeth or else it will eat me!). Today, for most of us,  basic physical survival in our immediate environment isn’t quite as urgent as this. However, we still learn faster, and sometimes better, from the negative (think about putting your hand on a hot stove) and the media heavily fuels this perspective, with such sentiments like If it bleeds, it readsWhile we see that it can be useful to learn from the negative in some circumstances, the trouble with the negative bias lies when we become habituated to it and we seek it out, thinking that our negative thoughts are right, the truth, the way things are. We become attached to the dark, shadow stuff, seeking it out and perpetuating our defeatist tendencies. Our self-sabotage. Or that of others.

With the practice of yoga and self-directed biological transformation, we can move toward a positive bias, which is not the same as projecting our good wishes and fantasies into the future. A positive bias means operating from a more present baseline. Being able to soak in simple goodness as it happens, without trying to make it last, without trying to relive it once it’s passed, without trying to bottle it up for later. It also means (and this is more difficult) being able to hold your center when things are not so pleasant; to behaviour, situations and circumstances you want away from you as quickly as possible. A positive bias can help us respond appropriately, in any given situation, with task-oriented competence instead of over-confidence.

It feels like we are working towards encrypting our genes so that they can continue on at a happier place, operating from a positive bias; rather than simply remaining programmed for survival alone, passing the same ‘stuff’ down the lineage, without refinement. Basically, it means trying not to keep repeating the same mistakes, as history has shown we are wont to do.

Eddie also recommended a short video called Power of Ten, a micro-macro perspective of the universe made in 1977. It’s great! I remember watching it in science class in high school and thinking it was pretty far out. I discovered a similar clip here (with Morgan Freeman’s resonant voice narrating) and here (with epic soundtrack appropriate for matters of cosmic scale). Choose accordingly.

I like the description one of the videos gave on quarks: may, theoretically, consist of “vibrating pieces of string.” My conclusion is that on the most micro and macro of levels (and everything in between), IT is all vibrating bits of information. IT is all trying to ingest, process, use and relate to other bits of information. IT is all trying to learn, communicate and convey something. Again, let’s choose accordingly to what information we ingest and use since WE are IT. Whatever IT may be. Okay, now I’ve totally confused myself. This wave (of consciousness) is going back into the ocean (of consciousness).

Once we bid Eddie a safe trip back to NYC, we left for Tampere.The highlight of the trip this year was discovering Minetti Jäätelö. Thank you, Mr.Minetti, for coming to Tampere in the 1920s and bringing this truly spectacular Italian gelato and sorbet with you. It was perfect for the remarkably hot weather we had before Finland resumed its familiar chilly, melancholic mist.

We also discovered Tampere’s marvelous stock of vintage and antique shops and flea markets. Not to mention that Seinäruusu wallpaper shop stocks the ever delightful and whimsical 1940sesque Dutch design label Pip Studio!

Finally, it’s always such a pleasure to spend time with the Tampere Astanga jooga jengi. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to give a few adjustments to some of you!

Here are the photo highlights from the month of May…

Lots of shoes outside the shala indicates something good is going on inside!

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 Juha sets up for an afternoon lecture

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Petri doing what he does

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The thought wizard casts out the net of knowledge 

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Eddie and DJ Sesam rockin’ the same hairstyle 🙂

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Ganesh Puja: the traditional worship of Sri Ganesha to invoke blessings at the beginning of an endeavor and to remove any obstacles we might encounter.

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Mangala Arati: the auspicious waving of the light

Eddie holding up the light

Sesam listens attentively to Daddy

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It’s nice to be able to bring Sesam to the yoga school and keep learning

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Two old friends by the sea

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And new friendships being made…Thanks Eddie. See you next year!

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*Bonus pic! Julian graduated from Yläaste on the last day of May, 2014.

Congratulations Julian! Me ollaan ylpeitä susta! 

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Stay blessed and enjoy the life you live! Om! ❤