Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga Link Round-Up August 1, 2014

I’ve been collecting links for a while, so here’s a link round-up!

  • Mother and 4-Year-Old Daughter Take Impressive Pictures Of Their Yoga Poses: I linked this in a¬†recent post about practicing yoga with YB, but I just can’t get over this. It makes me a little teary, actually. I love these photos: I love the joyful looks on their faces, I love the little girl’s obvious commitment to each pose, I love their matching pants. I would love to do a photo shoot like this with my YB someday, but clearly I need to step up my game because there are some arm balances here that I just can’t pull off. ūüôā
  • A Selection from the Hammer Museum at UCLA’s Contemporary Collection: Katie Grinnan’s Mirage: To create this fascinating sculpture, Grinnan “cast multiple molds of her body executing a sun salutation”. I find the piece exhilarating, exciting, and also a little creepy.
  • The Strength-Building Yoga Pose That Tons of People Do Wrong: Related to sun salutations, I love this informative video from superstar yogini Kathryn Budig on how to chaturanga properly without hurting yourself.
  • Bending the Rules to Offer Yoga With a Beer Chaser: My father-in-law sent me the link to this NYT article about yoga classes in breweries, offering a beer tasting after class. While I love both yoga and craft beer, I’m really not sure how I feel about this. I find that yoga, like running or dancing or working out, makes me feel fresh and healthy and connected to my body; afterwards I typically want a glass of water, a banana, a salad, a smoothie. I just don’t feel like beer would taste¬†right after a yoga practice – but believe me, I’d try it! And I think it’s fantastic that classes like this are leading people to yoga and helping them build a practice that can extend beyond the brewery.
  • Yoga Every Damn Day: My husband sent me the link to this piece about how, when we’re dealing with other issues in our lives and can’t make it to the yoga mat, we’re still practicing yoga every damn day. I don’t know Angela Arnett but I admire her strength and calm in this piece.
  • Pope Francis Reveals Secrets of Happiness: Can I tell you how much I love Pope Francis? He seems to be so full of kindness and peace, focused on loving and helping and supporting people. Everything he lists here is also discussed by Matthieu Ricard, former scientist and Buddhist monk, in his book Happiness, and seems to be in agreement with everything I’ve ever heard or read from the Dalai Lama, including the concepts discussed in The Art of Happiness. When the Catholic Pope and the Dalai Lama¬†agree about how you should live your life, I feel like there’s something right happening.
  • And finally, for your giggle for the day:¬†Men in Yoga Pants.

Glennon Melton’s Beautiful Heart June 28, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:06 pm
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I recently read a couple of absolutely beautiful blog posts and wanted to share them with you:

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On

I Love Gay People and I Love Christians. I Choose All.

These two posts by Glennon Melton made me so happy. I wish that all Christians had an attitude like hers. This is the sort of Christianity that I talk about and wish for here on the yoga blog, and the sort of loving kindness and openness that I think the yogic scriptures advocate. ¬†A lot of people are saying nasty things about gay people in the name of Christianity, especially this week in light of the recent SCOTUS rulings, instead of remembering that Jesus said to love everyone.¬†Thank you, Mrs. Melton, for sharing your heart with us, and thank you for being a voice of Christian love and acceptance. I’m not a Christian, but I’d be proud to be your friend.


Links: a minister responds to a “concerned Christian neighbor” about interfaith dialogue June 6, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:29 pm
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I love this open letter from the¬†pastor of Fairview Community Church describing the reasons behind a planned interfaith dialogue between her church’s community and a Wiccan. I love Rev.¬†Halverson’s desire to learn from our differences and to find the places where our faiths intersect, and I love that she responded to the concerned neighbor who wrote to her in such a public and affirming way. I love it when I get to say “Hooray for Christianity!”


WWJD May 2, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:28 pm
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I was looking through my list of things I want to post about someday, and I came across the following link: Just Because You Love Jesus Doesn’t Mean You Have to Disrespect the Buddha, Dishonor Muhammad or Disregard Moses. Brian McLaren wrote that article to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, but it’s just as valuable today – perhaps even more so, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. I’ve seen a lot of hateful press about Muslims recently, stories with strongly worded headlines above photos of wounded people. It’s propaganda, and it saddens me. After the bombing, the city of Boston came together in pride and strength, and the rest of the US sent our support and love. Now a few weeks later, that community feeling has degenerated into hatred for those who follow the same faith as the bombers. After a wound or a scare like this, it can be painfully difficult to be open-hearted, but Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna alike would call us to that challenge. I hope to see more articles like McLaren’s that make us think about what Jesus truly would do and say if he were here today and inspire us to be gentler and kinder.




Damsel, Arise February 12, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Here at the yoga blog, I’ve often written in the past about the intersections of yoga with Christianity, and I’ve shared my opinion that yoga and Christianity are very compatible, because most of the things that Jesus says line up really nicely with most of the things that Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras, or Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita. And I’ve shared my inability to understand the individuals of the Christian “religious right”, who say that God hates certain kinds of people, or who act hatefully towards certain groups. In my opinion, it’s more important to do the things that Jesus told us to do, like loving our neighbors and being kind, and I have trouble understanding how people who say they are Christian can act in ways that seem to be such a blatant contradiction of what Jesus actually said and how he himself acted.

And the other day, I read this article, Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church. And I was filled with hope. This person who genuinely wants to do good in the world, and who thought she was doing good, was still able to have an open mind, to engage in discussion on religious issues, to reconsider her actions and to change her life. I found the article, and Megan’s journey, to be incredibly inspiring, and I thank her deeply for sharing her story.


yoga in the schools December 18, 2012

I heard on the radio yesterday morning that parents of schoolchildren in California are preparing to sue their school district over a new program of yoga classes in the elementary schools. I looked it up and, while I’m not sure why this was showing up on my radio now, it is in fact true: ABC News and HuffPost reported on it back in October.

Considering that this is a yoga blog, my opinion on yoga in schools is probably obvious, but I’m trying to look at this issue from the perspective of the parents in question. I know how I feel about, say, including the words “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance. I think that it forces a religious question into something that’s not a religious subject, because many people are patriotic and proud of their country without identifying that country with a deity. And I think inserting those words into the pledge of allegiance could serve to make children who are in the non-Christian minority uncomfortable and uncertain, and could lead to bullying if that non-Christian child is singled out for not saying those two words. I don’t think you should force any set of religious beliefs on anyone, and I think doing so can be particularly hurtful when children are involved.

So now to apply those principles to something I do believe children should be taught. I can sympathize with parents who want to ensure that religious beliefs aren’t being taught in a public school, because teaching religion to a child is the parents’ job. I wouldn’t want my child being taught beliefs that I don’t share. And gym class and fitness are important for children, but why does it have to be¬†religious stretching?!

You don’t have to pray to Krishna to get value out of a yoga practice. The physical benefits of yoga are myriad, and new studies are published all the time describing the benefits of yoga for, say, heart disease. For this reason alone one would expect parents to welcome a school yoga program in a nation where lack of physical activity and lack of healthy food choices are making obesity and¬†poor health an epidemic among our children. Beyond the physical, yoga also has proven mental benefits. Yoga includes techniques that help the practitioner achieve a calm, focused mind, the advantages of which seem obvious for schoolchildren learning study skills and test taking, and that’s before you even get to the benefits of yoga for conditions like ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and depression.

When talking about a yoga program in schools,¬†it’s hard to state a definite opinion, because we’re talking about an entire curriculum taught across several grade levels for 30 minutes twice a week (versus the addition of two words like in my example above). Without having any direct experience of the program, I would imagine that the yogis who created it would have anticipated a negative response from some parents and proactively removed any Sanskrit and any reference to spirituality, focusing specifically on yoga for fitness. That’s what I would imagine, anyway. I’ve read only a bit about the Tudor Joneses, but I would not imagine them to be so blinded by their love of yoga and desire to share it that they would create a program that would fail on this front. The principal and school board as well would hopefully not have accepted the money if they’d had any thought of the program being contested (but then, principals and school boards have to find money wherever they can). Overall I want to believe that the program they’ve adopted has been sufficiently de-Hindued so as to be acceptable to a mainstream audience.

Yoga is a truly multifaceted system. You can use it to advance your spiritual practice, or you can do physical postures for years without ever knowing that there’s an eightfold path. There’s no true parallel within Christianity – you could say that praying the rosary calms and focuses the mind, but the rosary in essence is still a prayer and always will be, because that is its purpose. Yoga is not a prayer, although some people use it that way. It is a systematic and holistic approach to personal health and wellness, which can include spirituality, but does not have to.

I would hope that, before pressing forward in a legal battle, the the parents in this school district will learn more. Review the full program plan, attend and observe some classes. It is foolish to judge something you haven’t taken the time to understand. That’s what I hope I will do someday if an issue arises at my child’s school that worries me.

Coincidentally, a friend who lives in another state sent me a photo the other day of her five-year-old son practicing yoga. He’d learned it in school. He was doing a mean triangle pose and was obviously having a great time.


First Hindu Congresswoman in the US November 9, 2012

Filed under: bhagavad gita,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Among the many interesting victories in this week’s election, Democrat Tulsi Gabbard’s win in Hawaii caught my attention. Gabbard will be the first Hindu-American to serve in Congress, and she’ll take her oath in January on the Bhagavad Gita. How awesome is that?

Huffington Post reported on Ms. Gabbard last week – their article describes her background more fully. HuffPo also quotes some of the senseless hate that’s been strewn against non-Christian politicians, from Gabbard’s opponent in the race, Republican¬†Kawika Crowley, as well as the American Family Association and the ever-evil Rick Santorum, who according to HuffPo stated that equality was a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept that “doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions.” Which is completely erroneous, by the way. I’d venture that Eastern religions are actually far more egalitarian than some forms of Christianity, many of which have that whole “I’m saved and you’re not” thing going on. Anyway, I think it’s fantastic that Gabbard is following her Hindu values (and, I’m guessing, what she perceives as her karma yoga duty) by serving her country.

Hawaii also elected Japan-born Mazie Hirono, who was previously one of the first Buddhists to serve in Congress, and will now become the first Asian-American woman in the Senate. Rock on, Hawaii.


Veg Link: Five Religious Approaches to Thinking about Meat Eating August 23, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 5:12 pm
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Ever since that terrific radio program with Matthew Sanford a few months ago, I’ve been following NPR’s On Being series on Facebook. Earlier this week they posted this piece on the ethics of eating meat: Five Religious Approaches to Thinking About Meat Eating.

Because I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and because I do a lot of thinking about the intersections of Christianity and Eastern religious practice, I found the five approaches described here very interesting. I hadn’t realized that most religious traditions begin with a vegan worldview. I also found the discussion of compassion to be compelling, since ahimsa, or nonviolence, was at the heart of my conversion to a vegetarian diet. However, all of the approaches given here may come in handy in future conversations about why being a vegetarian is right for me.


Today’s quote: My religion is kindness. May 10, 2012

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

– H.H. the Dalai Lama

In all of the political and social hubbub going on in the US right now surrounding the issue of gay marriage, one of my friends shared this lovely quote from the Dalai Lama. It’s such a wonderful thought that warms my heart.

Last fall I had what was a big revelation for me: for yogis and for Buddhists, religion, spirituality, and faith is a personal issue. Christians have it on good authority that they should preach to others – Jesus specifically said to go out and spread the good news, after all – but in Eastern religions, there’s no such mandate. Yogis and Buddhists, in an ideal world, just go about their business, conducting their lives according to their own beliefs and without any imperative to share their faith, although they may if they wish, if they’re approached by someone who genuinely wants to know. I love this concept, that belief is a personal matter. Think about any conversation or argument. We get so focused on making our point, making the other person see things our way. When we remove that desire to win the argument, then that frees us up to behave differently. When we don’t have to convince the other person, we have more freedom to see things from the other person’s perspective. We can act more kindly. It’s a quieter sort of faith system: you don’t have to prove the strength of your conviction to anyone but you.

I think much of what’s wrong with my country right now can be traced back to a need to proselytize. There’s a difference between sharing your ideas and telling someone about your beliefs, and forcing someone into following your beliefs. Many people get hung up on the idea of converting others, enforcing their own values, winning an imaginary war. But what’s the point of that if you hurt other people in the process?

I think Jesus’s phrasing is interesting because with news, even good news, you can take it or leave it; you can allow it to affect your life, or, like a story about a puppy rescued from a well, you can think, That’s nice and move on. Jesus just said to spread the news, he didn’t say to impose it. The counterargument to that would be, I think, that in other places in the Bible Jesus says that he’s here to make a new covenant, to which my response would be, first of all, show me the spot where Jesus says who can marry whom, and secondly, wasn’t his big new commandment about loving others? Don’t you think Jesus would be on board with the Dalai Lama’s statement here? Jesus certainly acted as though his religion was kindness. I wish that concept, the way Jesus behaved, was valued and acted upon more often in some Christian communities.

Can you imagine if we all loved our neighbor unconditionally and treated others as we would want to be treated, the way Jesus told us to do? Can you imagine what would happen if we all decided that our religion was kindness?


Reading Yoga Journal March 27, 2012

At the end of my teacher training (and beginning of my pregnancy), I started to get a little burned out on my yoga reading, so I have a pile of Yoga Journal back issues sitting around that I’ve been trying to work my way through. I recently read the December 2011 issue and was pleased to find some articles related to things I’ve been blogging about here lately, so I thought I’d share.

The first thing that really caught my attention was a short article about teaching yoga to Deaf students, since that’s a topic I’d never really thought about, but a Deaf person could walk into my yoga class anytime. There are some simple things a yoga teacher can do to make a class more accessible for a Deaf student, like making eye contact, demonstrating poses, and using touch to guide. These are easy things to do that wouldn’t disrupt my usual teaching rhythm at all but that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, so I was grateful that this article broadened my awareness. Definitely tore that one out for future reference, and in the future I’d be really interested to learn more – the DeafYoga Foundation offers trainings and presentations on how to make simple adjustments that really help Deaf students, and I’d love to attend one.

There was an article on Chair Pose that I really appreciated, since Chair is one that I struggle with a bit (see the comments here and my write-up from last year here). They describe the alignment bit by bit – getting the top half of the body aligned correctly, then getting the lower half aligned, and then putting the two together for the full pose, which is an interesting bit of yoga dissection. I can see myself coming back to this article for reference later, since they give some good tips.

This issue of YJ also includes a moon salutation sequence as an alternate to sun salutations, which I found really interesting. I haven’t tried it yet, and it could end up being a little flowy for me, but it’s definitely something I want to try. I’ll keep you posted!

I was also really interested in the article on yoga and religion. Regular readers will recall that this is an issue I’ve done some serious thinking about here on the yoga blog. I really appreciated that YJ put together a panel to discuss this. After reading the article, I went back to the March 2012 issue that I’d read a few weeks earlier, and there were several letters from readers about this article, some of whom really liked it. One reader noted that the article might have had more depth if the panel had included some actual religious leaders (priests, nuns, rabbis), rather than just yogis, which was an interesting point. I was glad, though, that Brooke Boon, the founder of Holy Yoga, a Christian ministry group, was included on the panel. I’m really interested in the intersections of yoga with personal faith, and the article gave me some new perspectives and talking points. I wish YJ made its back issues available online.