Continuum

A definition of yoga could be the continuum that spans and contains both extremes simultaneously, balancing at the center. The equal and opposite polarities complementing and defining each other rather than canceling each other out.

We experience this with physical hatha yoga asana…finding the place where the pairs of opposites come into balance ~ left and right, front and back, grounding down to find leverage to lift up with ease, expanding out from and holding strength at the center, strength and flexibility, inhale and exhale…each pair two sides of the same thing. In this balance, the posture becomes self supporting and active effort can relax. And as the yoga sutras and other teachings suggest, when we bring ourselves into this balance, spontaneous presence, effortless awareness, a meditative state, pure consciousness, a deep underlying silence, spaciousness, insight, arises.

The events of my life often embody this principle, equal and opposite extremes balancing each other. Either side alone feels almost overwhelming, yet together they make a balance that brings insight. Perhaps this is life, and sometimes it is more obvious than others.

These pinnacle times, like physical yoga, give us the experience of the potential of this balance. All sides of the spectrum, simultaneous, defining rather than canceling each other out.

We are the synthesis, the balance that holds all extremes.

yoga photos 284

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Yoga Awareness Meditation Retreat in The White Mountains

Yoga Awareness Meditation Retreat in The White Mountains

~ flow yoga as experiential metaphor to bring meditative awareness into the rest of our lives ~

In this one day retreat we will experiment with yoga postures and breath as awareness meditation, cultivating an increased ability to sustain presence and center ourselves at will. Developing this skill consciously together in practice will help us recall this quality of awareness when we most want to, or need to, be present in the rest of our lives.
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Starting with a short hike and meditation along the Pemigewasset River, we will then retreat to the sanctuary of The Mountain Club on Loon to integrate our meditative awareness into an indoor yoga asana practice. After lunch we will ride the gondola to the summit of Loon to practice in the forests of the White Mountains.
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This class is accessible to students of all levels. Simple postures will be offered for newer students to hold and develop awareness, while more experienced practitioners will be guided into more complex postures to refine their skill and attention once the simpler postures become easy. We will experiment to find our own unique expression of the potential of each pose.
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Bring clothing for yoga and a mat, layers appropriate for the weather outside, a towel and swimwear, and footwear suitable for light hiking. In case of inclement weather, we will utilize The Mountain Club as much as necessary and go outside as weather allows. Lunch is available at area restaurants, including The Mountain Club, or you are welcome to pack your own.
Please arrive well fed, enough to sustain you until lunch time.
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Make it a weekend retreat with spa services and discount room rates through The Mountain Club,
or with private instruction or a Thai yoga session with Denise.
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Denise practices in nature as much as possible, accessing a playfulness and deep awareness that she brings to her classes. In addition to teaching at the Mountain Club on Loon, she is the seasonal yoga instructor for the Loon Mountain Snowsports School and The Saint Anselm Cross Country Running Team. She leads yoga and meditation at The Plymouth House, a residential retreat center for drug and alcohol recovery, which has helped develop her teachings into a practical life skill that helps free us from dependence and confusion, awakening our potential through awareness and centering. She also brings yoga to festivals and events throughout New England and along the east coast. Her style derives from many traditions of movement and meditation and adapts to fit the specifics of her clientele. Denise is also available for personal and group private yoga classes and Thai yoga sessions.

Saturday August 10, 2013
9am – 5pm
The Mountain Club on Loon
Lincoln, New Hampshire
$80 – includes lift ticket

For more information or to register call 603 568 5977
or visit http://awarenessretreat813.brownpapertickets.com

deniseporterkemp.com

poise

“Always move with a sense of unhurried grace”
– Parvathi, paraphrased

I remember this in times like these
when I am running around busily taking care of things…
breathing steady to find the calm and grace
in the midst of the movement
without having to break my stride.

Coming to Attention

Notice sometime when you are engaged in an activity that holds your attention. How you don’t have to try so hard to concentrate, it just happens. Spontaneous focus, effortless attention. Recognize what that feels like.

Then play with purposely focusing your attention while doing simple everyday things that are not so inherently interesting. Recalling the sense of ease you experienced when the focus happened spontaneously on its own.

Notice when you get distracted, and shift your mind back. No big deal. You might have to do it over and over again. Rather than fighting your mind, play with it. Keep coming back to what you are doing. Sharpening your mind with the focus, and letting your mind rest in attention.

Not to block out all of your thoughts, or that thinking or contemplation isn’t ever useful. Yet slowing down the momentum of your compulsive habitual thoughts and developing the capacity to pay attention at will. Not only when attention arises organically, whenever you want it, or need it.

By practicing this in less charged situations you give yourself experience so that when you find yourself in more difficult scenarios where you need to stay aware and important moments when you want to be present, you have developed an increased ability to do so by choice.

Scratching the Itch

I used to get really annoyed when people would suggest sitting completely still and not scratching an itch that came up during meditation. And even more annoyed when I would try and do it. I find great peace in stillness, and I found I could sit much more comfortably in silence for longer periods of time if I adjusted my seat occasionally and scratched itches when they came up. Then I was not so distracted and aggravated by my discomfort. And could just get on with the peace.

And I like this metaphorically as well…why stay stuck in something that is not working when you have the capacity to easily fix it? Plus, I know of numerous stories of people who messed up their knees and legs by forcing themselves to stay in seated meditation for too long in positions not suited to their body. Sometimes it even set off a bit of a panic in my body. I felt trapped if I couldn’t move.

I saw this discipline as an archaic tradition that I didn’t want to carry on. In theory sure. We can sit through what is uncomfortable. I get that. But in practice not so much. It is too dangerous. Could set people off or injure them. I like to view myself as part of the evolution of the practices, helping translate and adapt them to make them practical to our lives today. And I tend to see too much strictness as a block, enforcing an absolute paradigm on subjective experiences.

And yet, once I had convinced myself that I could move anytime I wanted too, that no one was forcing me to not scratch the itch, that I had the choice…I began to play with not scratching it. Breathing through the discomfort and experiencing the sensation of the itch blossoming across my body.

Sometimes I focus right on the itch as the center of my awareness, in its full blown intensity. Meeting it. Sometimes I utilize the breath as the center of my awareness, a tether that keeps me calm as I experience the cycle of the itch. Often it gets more intense before it starts to dissipate. Sometimes it is excruciating. Sometimes I find myself inadvertently scratching the itch or moving my position before I even realize what I am doing. Other times I catch myself right before I unconsciously scratch, and pause the momentum. Some itches come on really slow and I feel them as if they are coming from far away. Experiencing the itch as it crests and as it passes.

And sometimes I just choose to scratch the itch. Without too much judgement that one choice is better, just noticing the experience and the results. Sometimes scratching the itch brings relief, for a while at least, and sometimes it just sets off every other itch that wants scratching. Each time is a little different. Through time and paying attention I become more adept at discerning when a pain is a signal that I need to adjust to protect myself and when it is just a passing discomfort. And I get better at listening, and more creative at adapting. Cross-legged on the ground is not the only way to meditate.

It’s true, I can always just scratch the itch. If I can reach it. Yet in life I can’t always so easily fix what is uncomfortable. Or worse. And I began to experience how sitting through the itch, by not moving my body right away if my legs get achy or my back gets tired, that I am cultivating the capacity to stay steady and go through uncomfortable stuff when it comes up inside me, in the moment, in the rest of my life. Without having to react. And without having to block it either.

And not just in theory. The practicality of sitting through the itch. Yes, it passes. And also practicing how to go through it while it is still happening.

For if I have to scratch the itch to be alright, I am not free either.  And if I have to feel “peaceful” to be truly at peace in any circumstance, I stay a slave chasing my own comfort. Which is not always possible to maintain.

Its not that I can’t scratch the itch, but maybe I don’t have to.

Which is pretty empowering.

I like the metaphor, and the experience, of this too.

The Space Between

There is nothing that I need right now.
Appreciating this. I know it won’t last.

Something will wear out and need replacing.
I will become hungry, or tired.
An inspiration will arrise that warrants being followed.
Sometimes I thrive on the chase.
Sometimes it runs me ragged.
And then that will pass too.

In this moment, I rest in balance.
The still point, the space between the desires.
The tide of my breath pulses through me.
Recognizing. Gratitude for this.

The sun slips behind the mountain.
Ah. Here it comes.
And I am off and running again…

simple warm-up sun salutation

Appropriate for beginner to advanced…
Sun salutations, the foundation of vinyasa flow yoga – basically, placing your attention with intention on moving the body in rhythm with the breath – focus the mind on what’s happening while its happening, helping us notice the subtleties of actions and their results, as well as warm up the joints and muscles to prepare before or reset between longer held postures. Sun salutations are a useful way to begin a practice, and can be great as a short stand alone practice anytime.
I came up with this sun salutation at first for people who couldn’t or didn’t want to do a downward dog, or before coming into a first downward dog in a yoga practice. At this point I utilize this sequence myself before my own practice most of the time and begin most classes with it for everyone.
If it is too much pressure in the legs, or anywhere, to come into child’s pose you don’t have to bring the hips all the way to the feet, and if it is tender in your back you could go back and forth between upward and downward facing cat on the hands and knees instead of bringing the belly to the ground for upward facing dog. If your knees are tweaky this may aggravate them, yet if you feel alright to try it, putting a towel for extra cushion under the knees can help and go really slowly through the transitions. And if you want to add a downward dog, one fits nicely between the upward dog and the forward bend at the end. If you have any questions, let me know, and enjoy!
With props to my videographer Philip O’Sullivan and his iPod touch 5… 🙂