Vernal Equinox Yoga and Snowshoe Meditation Retreat in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

The word yoga has the same root as yoke, meaning the yoking together of polar opposites as two sides of the same thing. Holding both extremes and the continuum between, balanced at the center.

The vernal, or spring, equinox, balanced precisely between the Winter and Summer Solstices, is typically the turning point weather wise as we begin to experience the effects of the shifting, as daylight becomes equal to nighttime and the still and silent winter woods are being balanced by the warmth and awakening of spring melt.

Come experience the extremes simultaneously on this pinnacle day, balanced right at the center. The winter woodlands opening up with a celebration of the sounds and signs of spring.

http://deniseporterkemp.com/events–snowshoe.html

Lunge Vinyasa Sequence

This closed hip/warrior one sequence helps strengthen and warm up the legs and joints to prepare for sports and physical activity, especially snowsports like skiing and snowboarding. Enjoy!
For more information, visit me at The Mountain Club on Loon for classes or retreats, or contact me for in person or online on Skype or FaceTime group or individual private instruction, including consultation to develop and maintain your own home practice, with optional customized photographic, written, video and audio reference.

http://www.deniseporterkemp.com

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

asymmetrical adaptation

Something that I have noticed experientially through my own yoga practice and in working with others is that our bodies are not symmetrical, and we benefit from working with each side of the body uniquely as well as a part of the whole organism.  I often do slightly distinct sequences on each side in my own practice and when working with others individually, adding in extra poses to help prepare one side for a pose that is difficult on that side, or holding some postures longer on a tighter side and others longer on a weaker side.  Finding approximate balance within the realities of an asymmetrical body by working with each side from where it is coming from.

While teaching group yoga classes though, I have been taught and have found it is functional to do the same sequences on both sides, and hold each side the same amount of time.  As teachers, we are offering a general potential template to fit a wide variety of students, and while we can offer suggestions on placement and alignment, and variations we have seen be useful for others, and assists that accentuate the possibilities of the posture, it is ultimately up to each student to experiment with the template and find what fits the uniqueness of their bodies.  In class I often suggest exploring in each posture to discover what is useful from the internal experience of your own body, rather than trying to fit your body into a preconceived idea of what the posture is meant to look like from the outside.

This is one place where individual instruction and personal practice can really be useful, both on its own and as a compliment to group practice.  Without the pressure of keeping up with the class, you can take the time to listen and respond to the cues of your body, exploring what is useful in that moment.  Being willing to notice what isn’t useful too, even if that is in conflict from what you think you want… This point is an essential ingredient to keep from ignoring what you don’t want to see, and only taking in what you like.

All of this can be done in a class setting too, yet an individualized practice allows the sequencing and timing to cater specifically to your own eccentricities.  And practicing on your own can help facilitate discernment through the yogic principle of svadhyaya, or self study, of when we are listening and responding to subtle cues versus pushing our own will, by noticing the intention behind the action, and its result.

All of which helps train our minds and our intuition to notice and adapt in other areas of our lives as well.   Then in the moment, in yoga class or anywhere, you can take in what is being offered generally to the whole and mindfully experiment with how it uniquely applies to you – and in terms of asana, or yoga postures, to each side of your body…

The way to balance, adaptation, depends on where you are coming from…

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… 🙂

 

 

Practical Tantra: Intro to the Rasas and Anuttara – Tasting the Emotions: Working with Desire

Tantric practices often work with emotions or situations that tend to be overwhelming, helping us to gain the stability to be awake and present in the experience without getting lost in it.  Every experience and emotion has something to teach us, and when we can stay aware in it, we are more likely to learn the lesson sooner, without having to repeat the lesson as many times to begin to receive the teaching.

One of my teachers, Parvathi Nanda Nath Saraswati, offers the practices of the rasas, or tastes, as a way to practice being able to taste the experience of different emotions in a liberated state, so that when we encounter these emotions in real time, we have experience with being able to go through them without blocking them or getting stuck in them.  We can recall the liberated qualities evoked in the meditation right in the moment when we need it, when these emotions come up in our day to day lives.  The meditations are also really potent when struggling with one of these emotions, to breathe in the liberated qualities while sitting or lying down to help re-balance ourselves.

From this standpoint, there is no inherent good or bad per se, yet different qualities can be in a liberated or obstructed form.  When aspects of ourselves are obstructed, we can become aware of this and try to set up the conditions so that they can shift to a more liberated state.

One meditation that is particularly useful for me is for dealing with desire.  This can be desire for anything that you really want, where you, and maybe even those around you, are suffering because of your attachment to the desire.  Whether you are able to fulfill it currently or not.

Starting with the anuttara pranayam, a breathing exercise where you don’t actively breathe the breath, yet let the breath breathe you automatically.  Which is interesting in itself – it can be challenging to pay attention to the breath – or anything – without controlling it.  I have come to experience it as that the action is getting out of the way of the flow of the breath and letting it breathe me deeply.  Like I am removing the dams from the tidal river of the breath and allowing it to flow in and out at will.  You may still be controlling it some.  Just do your best.  To do as little as possible.  And remove the resistance.  At least part of the experiential metaphor here that you are not the do-er of your actions, allowing things to come to you.  Setting up the conditions to be open and ready, and then just receive.  Paying attention all the while.

Each emotion has different qualities that evoke the taste of that emotion in a liberated state.  For desire, they are trust, detachment and respect as a form of adoration.  Just let that sit with you for a moment.

Desire can be grasping, trusting you will be ok.  Whether you get it or not.  That how things play out is how they play out and that you will be able to work with it much better if you don’t fight the inevitable but work with what you are given.  Not giving up, but utilizing what is in front of you instead of wishing it was different.  Desire as the inspiration, some detachment from the results.  Or perhaps non-attachment – not numbing yourself to the desire yet moving back from the drama a little bit to get some perspective.  I experience it like I am coming back into myself, back into my body, after losing my grounding by grasping outside of myself.   As Parvathi has suggested, moving forward to toward the desire, moving back away from the object of desire.

And respect as a form of adoration.  Key.  We adore what we desire, except of course when we hate it when it eludes us.   Respecting that which we desire, rather than dishonoring or even abusing it by grasping for it to fulfill our wants or perceived needs.  Even if we think we trying to be nice, forcing something is not respect.  When we can trust and let go of our attachment to the object of desire, perhaps we can respect it.  Adoration through respect.  This can really shift things for me.

You can just think these qualities, or let them breathe in and out of you on the anuttara breath.  If you are in a state of desire, let the qualities come in see what that feels like.  If you are experimenting with the meditation, you can flash the memory of the sensation of desire to feel it for a moment, without getting to caught up in the story around it, just feeling the sensation.  The experiential metaphor is this – you allow these qualities to come into you on the in-breath, they mix with your own trust, detachment and respect as a form of adoration, and then they pour out of you on the exhalation and mix with the collective trust, detachment and respect of the universe around you, and then the collective pours back into you, mixes with you…  With each breath the collective become stronger.  You don’t have to fight for it, grasp for it, what you need to liberate desire will come to you if you let it.  When you are open to receive it.

Try it.  It can be pretty profound.  You can do it while sitting or lying down, in yoga postures, driving your car, anywhere really.  If there are different qualities that come to you that are useful, experiment with them too.  These practices are not static, they evolve through us.  Paying attention to what is really useful, we find what works for us.

Practicing in a special defined ceremony of meditation or yoga can help instill the liberated qualities of desire inside of you so when it consumes you in the moment you will maybe remember to stay steady and have some tools to navigate the intensity.  Maybe.  Or maybe you just watch yourself be consumed and learn to do better next time.  We learn as we go, trying to get burnt by our grasping as little as possible along the way.

There are other rasas to play with, I’ll add more later.

Love

waking up centered meditation

Take a few deep breaths, letting your belly expand on the inhale.  Bring your mind into a relaxed focus on your lower abdomen, as if your belly is filling with a warmth, or a light.  If you can, do this with your eyes closed for a few moments to be able to really turn inward into the sensation.  Once you get acclimated to the practice, you can do it anytime, eyes open or closed, with active deep breath or letting the breath breathe you automatically

Feel as if a warm river of sensation is moving down your legs into your feet, filling your body with the warmth, or the light, as if your body is coming back into color.  All the way down into the arches of your feet and each toe, a continuous river of warmth, of sensation, of aliveness, from your belly to your feet.  Your belly like a spring of warm water, the sensation flowing all the way up into your heart, take a few deep breaths swirling it here, and then bring the awareness up in to your face.  Softening the eye muscles, softening the jaw, allowing a very slight smile to come to the corners of the mouth.  Not as pretense, yet to relax the face.  Buddha smile.  Awareness like a warmth, a light, bathing your brain.  Awareness flowing like a warm river from the belly both into the feet and the head at the same time.  Some of the sensation flowing from your belly up into the heart pouring out through the shoulders and down the arms, through the pulse points of your inner elbows, of your wrists, and out into the sensitive palms of your hands and into each finger.  Relaxed focus grounded at the belly and lower back, the pulse of your breath expanding and contracting softly, a continuous stream of awareness flowing out into the soles of the feet, the center of your chest, the palms of the hands, the back of the neck, into the cheekbones and your eyes, the crown of the head.  Grounded at the center, whole body awake and alive with sensation.

If your eyes are closed, allow them to open on an inhale, playing with staying grounded in your body, especially with the relaxed focus at the lower abdomen, and looking out.  Rather than leaping out as you look out, staying grounded in yourself while aware of what is around you.  The lateral eye muscles, at the corners of your eyes, slightly drawing back into your face.  Mona Lisa smile.  Of inner knowing.  The sensation of looking out yet drawing back in.  As if the sight is coming forward to you.  Breath at the belly and heart.

Play with this when you first wake up in the morning while still lying in bed to awaken in every cell of your body, especially if you are still sleepy.  When you are starting or ending meditation or yoga, or any activity where it helps to be really alive and present in your body.  Play with this all of the time, when you remember.  When you feel scattered or off, ungrounded, whether from being uncomfortable and overwhelmed or when you’re feeling really, really good and starting to spin out.   Come back into yourself.  Experience it from the center.  And when you get off balance, just come back.  Over and over again.

Love.