Tag Archives: Yoga Nidra

Dealbreaker

fvfIn recent asana and iRest® Yoga Nidra classes I have been very focused on the role that our core beliefs play in the paths our lives travel down and how we show up in our own lives and the world around us. In my quest to awaken students to their greatest potential through the examination of sensation and emotion en route to acknowledging what they believe to be true about themselves, I have been emphasizing how what we believe to be true will become true in each of our own lives, as truth is subjective. What we believe will become, as I wrote in The Examined Life. Our beliefs inform and set the level of our self-esteem, and if you really think about it, we do everything at the level of our self-esteem. We hang out with people who treat us at the level of our self-esteem, we marry at that same level, and we eat and sleep (if and when we’re doing it) at that same level as well. As my teacher Seane Corn mentioned to us in the vinyasa training I took with 60 other students a few weeks ago, “How you are with anything is how you are with everything.”

I was up late last night reading The Anatomy of the Spirit, a book penned by medical intuitive author, teacher and doctor Caroline Myss, and one concept stayed with me after I put the book down and started to fall asleep. As she states in the chapter The Second Chakra, “…our internal conflict between faith and fear is often buried underneath the survival issues that dominate our thoughts: Can I earn a living? Can I find a partner? Can I take care of myself?”

In the mentoring I do with clients and students, in the individual iRest® Yoga Nidra Dyad sessions I do and in the counseling I offer to friends and family members when they need someone to help keep them propped up and motivated, I have found myself coming to the same realization over and over again: people are either paralyzingly terrified that things will inevitably go awry and they will suffer, or they believe that everything will always work out, regardless of the ups and downs along the way. Both my father and I share the core belief that things will always be ok, and that belief has served us well, and continues to do so. When I work with imagery in individual session with clients, that imagery, in 9 out of 10 cases, always comes down to the same thing: there is a mass of light and a mass of dark, literally an entity of dark blackness and one of illuminated whiteness. Those that are truly suffering believe that the darkness is stronger than the light. The rest believe that the light is stronger. What you believe will become. We are either living under the weight of heavy darkness threatening our ease and well-bring, or we are channeling light. We are either reacting to every possible threat and marker that has the potential to reinforce our fears or we are keeping our gaze lifted, hurtling over small bumps in the road instead of stopping and quaking in fear at each individual potential obstacle.

The survival issues that are referred to in The Anatomy of the Spirit are at the heart of every single one of our core beliefs. If our foundation is one of faith, believing on a heart, soul and gut level that there are forces greater than us at work and that every single thing that happens to and around us in this life is intentionally being brought to us as a messenger to learn from or to teach to others, then there is light. We live in it and it keeps us going, especially in moments of darkness that have the potential to bring us to our knees. If our foundation is one of fear, living our daily lives looking over our shoulders with apprehension as to what might not go according to plan and take away whatever happiness we have, then we are literally living hell on earth, constantly getting beaten down by the fear that we are not capable enough and don’t have what it takes to survive in the world today. It’s the difference between feeling self-worth and feeling worthless. It’s the difference between being able to handle whatever life brings to our doorstep with discriminative wisdom and faith that we will land on our feet, closer to light, even if the moment itself feels dark, versus walking around with the shadow fear of not being good or capable enough and believing that we’re cursed and constantly being threatened by that curse.

What do you believe, at the core of your being? Do you believe that everything happens as it should to bring us closer to discovering who and what we are? Do you believe that we are meant to learn, and in some instances, teach from the moments that we come face to face with, that also have the potential to stop us dead in our tracks? Or do you believe that life is just a series of events that are meant to be suffered through, and only the strongest of the strong emerge? Is everything random and some of us get more of the dark than we should have to deal with, or will every moment bring us where we need to go, even if it’s not where we would have chosen to?

On a fundamental level, do you have more faith than fear, or vice versa? And how is that answer dictating every single second of your life?

 

 

 

Dreamweaver

DreamscapeWhat do you think dreams are made of?

When you dream, you dream about things that you typically do, think or are aware of. Generally speaking, that’s the nature of dreams. Logic and methodical story lines go out the window, and your imagination conjures up the images and impressions that create your dreams. When you wake up, no matter how vivid the dream may have been, you are able to identify and classify the events that you observed as a dream, and you let them go, even the ones that need a little more shaking off.

During your average day, you navigate all kinds of scenarios that, while more vivid because you have all your senses at your disposal, in many ways can be observed as you observe your dreams. The difference between our waking life and sleeping life is that we allow what happens in our waking life to affect us in profoundly different ways than the events that we experience while sleeping.

So…question for you: what would happen if we approached the events of our waking life as if we were observing a dream? There’s a meditation technique called Dream Yoga that requires tremendous discipline, study and isolation to prepare the practitioner to observe the illusion of his/her dream while in it. Much like Awareness in the iRest Yoga Nidra practice, Dream Yoga requires the practitioner to reside in the realm of the witnessing energy that animates each one of our bodies, allowing witnessing to be able to identify dreams as dreams and not reality.

I’m a huge fan of doing this while I’m awake. How does this serve me, you may ask? Firstly, it helps me acknowledge and identify the illusory and transient nature of our daily lives, keeping me from becoming too engrossed in the temporariness of the typical daily dramas. Secondly, it helps me cultivate and hone a clear, levelheaded perception so that I don’t get too emotionally involved and let those emotions spur me into making ill-thought out decisions whose outcomes are sure to be less than ideal. It helps me make deliberate, meaningful choices for a life more aligned with who and where I want to be in the world, allowing me to keep doing what I do and serve through my time and efforts. It in no way insinuates that I sit by passively as life happens around me, but rather allows me to be an active participant with a cool-headed and practical space of witnessing that is informed by wisdom and not ego.

So…how hard would it be for you to apply a “Dream Yoga”-like approach to the rest of your day? How illuminating would it be to see the events that are waiting for you from a healthy distance, where you don’t get dragged down to the depths of hell by things that typically piss you off, and you don’t lose your sense of grounding and focus when things go so well that you start to believe that you somehow deserve or are entitled to it?

I’d like you to try it out and please report back with your experiences and findings.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

Yoga City Break in Berlin, Germany AND Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia

As you all know by now, I put a lot of planning and effort into organizing the City Breaks and Retreats that I give annually, and so it won’t come as a surprise to any of you to find out that 2014’s journeys are already planned! I figured I’d give you all as much time to plan and budget as possible, and so here we go!

2014 will see us make our way over to Berlin, Germany from May 3-10, 2014. I chose Berlin because it completely dazzled me when I was there for the first time in September 2012. When I went initially, I was expecting a cold city whose history was going to be hushed up and buried under soviet-looking architecture. I was wrong (once again). Berlin is currently the cultural center of Europe – arts, music, architecture, shopping, restaurants, theater; it’s got everything. And instead of pretending that history never happened, Berlin has monuments, museums and countless installations throughout the city that speak of and to its history. The museums in the city are world-famous, the vibe is young and vibrant, and the energy in the air is palpable. I rarely go back to the same city so soon after visiting, but I know how hard it was for me to leave it at the end of my stay there, and so I’m bringing the next group of traveling yogis to see for themselves.

We will start our day with one 90-minute yoga class held in the Kreuzberg Jivamukti studio (a 10-minute walk from the hotel), and will have the rest of the day to explore Berlin. We will be centrally located in the city, a perfect spot to weave our way outward into the brilliance of this bustling metropolis.

Later in the year, I will be bringing a group just outside of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia for a full-on retreat from November 1-10, 2014. We will be staying at a hotel surrounded by rice terraces, and will have a 90-minute morning asana class and a 60-minute evening iRest® Yoga Nidra class daily. Nestled in the tropical lushness of Bali, this event will bring movement, breath, intention and awareness back to the forefront as we delve deeper into our practice in this spiritual epicentre.

For more information or to register, check out my website at http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html. I hope that you can make it to one or both of these inspiring locations with us!

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Tales From Out West

I’m in Calgary this week and thought I’d get down some of my thoughts…I came here to not only visit my brother and his wife and kids (one of which I’m meeting for the first time since his birth on Christmas Day), but to bring my Introduction to Hindu & Yogic Mythology workshop to a beautiful yoga studio here, Bodhi Tree Yoga. I was initially also planning on flying from here to Saskatoon to give the workshop there, but the studio there was having trouble getting people to sign up, so we’ve postponed it for the time being. What I would have considered to be a failure a few years ago by not having the workshop happen I immediately recognized as an indication that I am where I’m supposed to be, here in Calgary.

I haven’t seen my brother and his family for almost a year. They used to live 2 blocks from my place in Montreal, but then moved out here as my brother got a job offer he couldn’t refuse. Seeing them leave was a very emotional moment for me, and being away from them for this long simply became unacceptable. I decided to investigate and see if I could incorporate a visit to their adopted city with an opportunity to meet a local yoga community and bring my teachings to them. After being referred to them, I started corresponding with the studio management and I was given the opportunity to come here to teach. I remember when I knew it was all going to work out – I took a moment to thank whatever higher power was working through me for allowing this all to unfold so naturally, and the preparation stage was (obviously) only the beginning.

I got here Monday evening and was met by my brother, who is one of the people who knows me the best. As kids we were inseparable, and I remember taking on somewhat of a parental role with him, assuming responsibility for him and watching over him for years and years. To arrive here and see the life he’s built for himself has resulted in bursts of incredible pride and admiration for him, as he’s one of the greatest guys I know, one with a head for business and a heart for meditation. He drove me back to his house from the airport, and I have since spent as much time as possible with him, his wife, and their three gorgeous kids. These children are absolutely everything. Hyper-intelligent, intuitive, emotive, affectionate, obstinate, beautiful…but most of all, humbling. I see my own childhood in the actions, reactions, and thought processes of these kids. More importantly, I see my relationship as children with my own two brothers in the dynamic between these three beings of light. Suffice it to say that this time is sacred.

As if all that weren’t enough to make me feel grateful and connected to this life, I decided to go pay a visit to the yoga studio where I’d be giving the workshop, so yesterday I went to take the 4pm Nidra Flow class with Anita Athavale. The class was comprised of a soft warm-up and vinyasa, followed by some stretches. The class ended with a session of Yoga Nidra, which I have been practicing on and off for the last 14 years, and which always feels like a return to the source for me. Like the asana practice, it doesn’t matter where I do it, it always feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I have no idea how long the guided meditation was, but when I came out of it, I felt like I had rested for a full night. It amazes me every single time how effective the practice is, and Anita was incredible – obviously knowledgable and incredibly personable. I floated out of the class and back to my brother’s house, and continued on with my week of rediscovering my family.

The workshop itself was everything I hoped it would be: a coming together of like-minded people sharing the common goal of aspiring to new heights of spirituality. We not only delved into the myths and all their colourful characters, but we applied the essence of the myths to our own lives and then to the asana practice itself. I found myself doing what I do in my daily life, but this time immersed in a different yoga community, one that welcomed me into its fold with warmth and generosity. I got to meet wonderful people, and am so grateful to have found myself having connected with an entirely new group in a different environment. I really am grateful for being able to travel the globe and meet people who reflect back to me everything I believe the world and its inhabitants to be.

My week here is almost over, and as much as I don’t want to tear myself away from my family, I’m blessed to be looking forward to getting back to my weekly classes and mentoring students. I’d say that things are going exactly how they’re meant to, and in keeping with what I’ve learned so far this year, I’m staying focused on what is…what’s directly in front of me in any given moment, while keeping my heart, mind, and energy open to whatever comes next (can we all say “Istanbul” together?).

Peace to you all…

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Full Circle

My yoga practice started in 1999 when I found my guru living directly across the street from me. Joan Ruvinsky introduced me to my first yoga classes, which incorporated everything from inspirational discussions at the start of class to the most illuminating of approaches to the practice, including Body Sensing and Yoga Nidra. What really resounded with me were the Yoga Nidra sessions where we would lie down in Savasana after making ourselves as comfortable as possible with pillows, bolsters and blankets, and then allow our bodies to fall asleep while our minds stayed alert and focused on the teacher’s voice as she guided us through a meditation. Yoga Nidra is often defined as “yogic sleep”, and the whole exercise consists of letting the body relax and let go while conditioning the mind to not do the same. Every Yoga Nidra experience I have ever had has felt like an awakening, a realization of something I had always suspected was true, but had never encountered. Joan first introduced me to the experience, and her classes were beacons of peace for me when things were volatile in my life, and she gave me the yogic platform from which I have bounded off of in search of all things yoga.

That search led me to train in, practice, and teach different, more physical types of yoga, but my roots lie in yoga as less of a physical practice and more of a spiritual and sensory experience. After my yoga retreat in Croatia was over this past September, I came across a session-based Yoga Nidra class led by Montreal-based yoga teacher Kelly McGrath and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Bringing my studies back to where I started felt like a natural progression for me, and once I had registered for the class, I then registered for the Yoga Nidra Level 1 Training at the Kripalu Center so I could learn how to bring that sense of peace and connection that I had felt during classes to others.

At my first class with Kelly, she asked those of us in attendance to take a moment and write down why we were there that evening – what we hoped to gain, what our intention was. That question and the reasons for asking it ended up following me around for the next few weeks. I really became fascinated with the concept of asking myself what my intention was during any given moment during my day…why I felt inclined to speak to certain people, why I wanted to practice yoga, why I was eating whatever I found myself eating. It all came to a head when I got into bed one night early because I was exhausted from the previous few days and subsequently spent the next 30 minutes thinking and analyzing and essentially doing everything except falling sleep. When I realized that I wasn’t getting to sleep any earlier than I had intended to, I stopped the whirling of thoughts in my mind by asking myself, “Why did I got to bed early?” The answer was immediate, “Because I need to rest”…and it served to stop the whirling of mental activity until I was sleeping within minutes.

When we take a moment to examine why we do what we do, the benefits are many: we immediately bring ourselves into the present moment. We break the cycle of spending all our mental time in the past or future, going over what has already happened or trying to foresee what will, and we find ourselves where we are, with full awareness and connection to our immediate environment. We also end up with a measurable goal: if I can find the presence of mind to ask myself why I’m in bed early and I can come up with the answer telling me I need to rest, then I can start moving towards that rest. That goal immediately becomes a priority and everything else, all the mindless chatter, falls into the background. Basically, we start living more consciously and aware when we ask ourselves why.

I urge you to put this to the test: apply the “why” to whatever you’re doing right now. And then bring it to the next thing you end up doing. And keep going. It could potentially change who you are and how you see yourself. Or, at the very least, you may just end up falling asleep earlier this evening. Either way, it’s time well spent.

I’ll continue my studies in Yoga Nidra and continue to report my experiences here. Until then, I urge you to check out the Yoga Nidra Workshop that Kelly is giving this Sunday afternoon, November 25th, from 1pm-4pm at United Yoga Montreal. If you go, let me know how it went – I’ll be missing it unfortunately, but I can guarantee that you’ll be blown away by it 🙂