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Aug

30

Contemplations of Late Summer and Early Fall

By Francoise Netter

I recently got to spend a few days visiting a friend who had rented a condo for a month in Frisco, Colorado. Even though I live in Boulder, Colorado, I often forget the majesty of these Rocky Mountains. As I walked along the lake, biked along the rushing, effulgent waters of creek beds and hiked amidst forests of quaking aspens and pine trees, I was literally transported into a calm and flow that I had not felt in Ages and was reminded about why I moved here.

In Yoga, we often end our sessions with the Sanskrit chant, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”. Shanti in English means Peace. For all too many reasons, I had become consumed with the worries and bustle of my daily life and lost sight of this essential element. Like the “mores” I spoke about in my last article which keep us in a constant state of grasping and striving without satisfaction, I had let the struggles of my life overshadow my knowledge of Shanti.

We in America, tend to spend so much money on vacations and if we’re lucky, create a few days or weeks of respite, but then we go back to our daily “grinds” and seem to lose touch with that vacation state of mind. Yoga teaches us to integrate Shanti into our daily consciousness. Peace, flow, ease and contentment, all of the feelings I experienced in Frisco are what the Yogis embody. For me, nature and beauty remind me of the goal of Yoga and to nurture that state as I become more adept at integrating that peaceful consciousness into my daily life amidst the challenges that arise as well as the vacation moments.

 

As summer comes to an end and we move into fall, with the changing of the leaves and the cooling temperatures, let us integrate Shanti and a “vacation mind” into our work and daily lives. Envision a moment that has brought you peace this summer and begin each day with that memory and then commit to integrate Shanti into every day. With practice and commitment, your life may begin to look and feel more like the vacation you’ve always dreamed about.

Om Shanti,
Françoise

 

May

30

Reflections on Sex And The City 2 as Actualizing Your Yoga

By Francoise Netter

After a much-anticipated wait, I finally saw Sex And The City 2 last night. I am a Sex And The City aficionado and follower. Although I did not start watching until after the show ended on HBO and was on my local channel as reruns, I saw every episode at least 5 times and loved the first movie. OK, for those of you following my blog and column, Actualizing Your Yoga, you may wonder what this article has to do with Yoga or spirituality. Let me explain.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story line of Sex And The City, it is about the lives of 4 thirty-fifty something women living in NYC and the very real and sometimes not so real dramas that these women go through. It started as a story line of 4 modern single women and then follows and documents how their lives transform over a 12-year period of time to the present.

In Sex And The City 2, we encounter these women at the peak of their lives. All of them, to a large part, are living their dream lives. Carrie is married to Mr. Big, the love of her life, is a successful author and is living in a dream apartment in NYC with all the amenities anyone could hope for. Charlotte has the husband and two children she has pined for all of her life. Miranda is a successful attorney and has a great home life and Samantha is as successful, beautiful, sexy and happily single as ever.

Although, Sex And The City 2, in my opinion, unlike its predecessors, was filled with unnecessary subterfuge and fillers, it nonetheless, addresses an ageless theme that we humans have been dealing with forever: the subject of “more”. The Yogis base much of this conundrum on their science and philosophy. Although all 4 ladies seemingly have everything they ever wanted, they are either unhappy, bored, frustrated or plainly defiant. Most of us still live under the assumption that if we are able to fulfill our deepest desires, we will be happy. Even New Age proselytizers coach us on how to manifest our desires and create our reality through focusing our thoughts and minds.

Yet, the Yogis remind us that our minds are constantly changing like monkeys jumping from limb to limb searching for the next best banana. Just like monkeys, no matter what we receive, achieve or accumulate we (our minds) always want “more”.  It does not seem to matter whether we are materialistic or spiritually focused; without attentiveness towards this tendency, we all can fall victim to the” more “ syndrome, thereby circumventing satisfaction and ultimate contentment.

The Yogis tell us chasing things external to ourselves will never fully satisfy us and that our human nature will always want “more”. So what are we to do besides to want nothing?

Interestingly, if not subtly, the girls in Sex And The City 2 personally begin to address this very issue. They speak truthfully, adjust their attitudes and embrace an attitude of gratitude. If we are aware of this tendency that we can never be fully satisfied with outer conditions, we can still create goals and take action while remembering to mind our tendency to want “more” and like anything unruly and repetitive in our lives, reign it in and readjust our attitudes.

So, as you embrace your next steps in life and goals to create your dreams and desires, remember to stay connected to the journey rather then the end result. There will always be “more” so as the Yogis say, enjoy the now.

In peaceful pursuit,
Françoise

Mar

29

Yoga For Spring Renewal

By Francoise Netter

The following article was originally published in my column, “Actualizing Your Yoga” in 2010. I hope you enjoy it. – FEN

Yoga For Spring Renewal

by Françoise Netter

Hello and welcome again! In the last column, I asked you to reflect on your inner story—your beliefs, attitudes and thoughts and to choose one mask of limitation that you will commit to removing this year.

As the calendar moves forward towards spring, it is a perfect time to actively plant the seeds of awareness honed during the winter months. Spring, in most traditions, has always signified renewal and a time to enact the intentions of the New Year. In Yoga there is a branch called Tantra—it is often associated in the West as the “Yoga of sex”, but in ancient traditions it more accurately symbolized the power of rituals.

Last night, I partook in the festivities of Shivaratri. Shivaratri is a holiday dedicated to celebrating the principles of Shiva who is associated with all aspects of the divine, much like Yahweh in the religions of the West. There were many sacred rituals performed to invoke an experience of inner silence, bliss and awakening to the larger principles of life within us and for the world.

Remembering and celebrating sacred rituals helps us to pause in transition times and to use them to live more purposely and consciously. Most of us today are so busy trying to make ends meet, keep up with technology and our familial and life-style duties that there is barely even time for sleep. Most of us are in desperate need of balance and renewal. Rituals can help remind us to pause, breathe, relax and restore our energies and goals.

Every New Year in January, I host a fire ritual where I invite a group of people to let go of the shackles of the past and invoke the new. I use meditation, visualization, writing, sage and rose pedals as well as other sacred tools. What became clear to me this year is that we must ground these tools and rituals into our daily lives. In other words, if you pray or meditate those prayers and inner silences must be integrated into your daily life. More than ever, we must act more consciously and aware every moment of every day.

Practicing Hatha Yoga is one way to ground this awareness. This month I am going to suggest that you practice Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar as a deliberate reminder of renewal and living consciously. The Sun Salutation is a series of twelve postures performed in sequence and accompanied by the breath. Made up of both forward and back bending poses, the sequence creates a perfect balance of strength and flexibility and adds a component of stamina because of the continuous flow of movement. Salutation to the Sun was developed and incorporated into Hatha Yoga in the last one hundred years. The form of Sun Salutation varies according to the style of Yoga practiced. I am including a diagram of the classical Sun Salutation. If you are new to Yoga, start slowly and pause between each series. Eventually build up to 12 repetitions and remember to change legs in the lunge after every series (first bringing the right leg back, etc).  Start in Tadasana and then follow the series remembering to inhale and exhale in each pose. If you are unfamiliar with the poses, email me and I can suggest a book, class or other way to specifically instruct and guide you.

Sun Salutation--Surya Namaskar

Let this practice be the springboard for your renewal and to integrating it into your daily life. I look forward to your questions, comments and e-mails.

“I welcome you with all my heart.”

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2010, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Françoise E. Netter, M. A., President of Body/Mind Dynamics has been a teacher and conference presenter in the field of yoga, stress management, creativity development, dance, and dance therapy, for over thirty years throughout the world. She has taught at major universities, authored a book and a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program and has been featured on television, radio, CD and video and in magazine and newspaper articles including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Françoise is available for private consultations and coaching as well as Keynote presentations and events and has ongoing classes, training programs, workshops and special retreats and travel workshops. Contact her at: www.bodyminddynamics.org, fenetter@yahoo.com or 303-960-6000.

Feb

15

New Intentions For 2010

By Francoise Netter

The following article was originally published in my column, “Actualizing Your Yoga” in 2010. I hope you enjoy it. – FEN

New Intentions For 2010

by Françoise Netter

Hello and Happy New Year! Have you incorporated the meanings of Dharma and Namaste in your life? Have you been practicing the Complete Breath? Have you been able to let go and stay contented even while faced with life’s challenges? For those of you new to this column, I invite you to email me for back-issues of the column or the magazine itself.

2010!! What a perfect time to set new intentions and dig deeper into your Yoga practice physically, mentally and spiritually. What I love most about Yoga is that it embraces every aspect of life. We, in West, often define Yoga simply as a physical activity, like Pilates, but I hope that as you read this column you are seeing the greater significance of Yoga and the many facets with which it can expand your understanding and improve the quality of your life.

In the last column, I explored the meaning of Dharma. For those of you who were unable to secure a copy of Circles of Seven Magazine, I’m going to incorporate portions of the last column and expand upon it.

Every so often I am able to watch the Oprah Show while working out. Yesterday, she dedicated her one-hour show to the story of a little girl diagnosed with Child Schizophrenia. At first, I didn’t understand why Oprah would spend an entire hour on this subject but then while she was interviewing this child’s parents on Skype, I “got” it.

It was clear from the story that the child’s parents made huge sacrifices in order to keep this child alive. Sacrifices that most of us would not only balk at but, but simply give up on. Ironically, this little girl’s father almost did just that, trying to end his life, but reversed his actions at the last minute while contemplating the thoughts that he could not abandon his family no matter how challenging his life and the situation was. On some level, these parents realized that no matter how difficult, this was their Dharma.

The term, Dharma, refers to our highest soul’s purpose and to making a difference in the world with right action. Many of us in the Western World think Dharma has to do with an exclusive purpose that may include fame and fortune. But I believe, those fulfilling their highest purpose are often doing the most simple and sometimes difficult tasks. Someone in a janitorial position could be fulfilling his or her Dharma more effectively then a wealthy celebrity who is world famous.

Close your eyes, take three complete breaths and reflect on the circumstances of your life right now. Without using the economy, your age or anything else in the external world as an excuse, imagine what you have always felt was your life’s mission or purpose. Then open your eyes and write both of these down– what your life looks like now and what you’ve always dreamed of doing. Remember that your Dharma may be like a seed hidden in the circumstances of your life right now or you may be oceans away from what is true for you. In either case it is important to not only be aligned with your Dharma, but to be contented with your life whether it appears easy or difficult, fun or tedious.

I remember when I was in India many years ago, my Yoga Master said; “The food you put in your body is very important, but even more important is the food you put in your mind.” Our attitude and thoughts about our circumstances are even more important then the circumstances themselves. Because, just like the father in Oprah’s show demonstrated, once we change our thoughts and perception, everything outwardly aligns itself. His child did not magically recover from Schizophrenia, but he embraced his responsibilities with a different attitude that helped him deal with his life in a renewed way.

As we begin a new year, many of the circumstances in our lives may not change overnight, but if we begin to question and change our attitudes, thoughts and “the food we put in our minds”, we can actualize the outer changes that more closely reflect our dreams and visions of our Dharma. The Yogis were masters largely because they understood that mastery begins with the inner journey.

2009, for me, was a year filled with many seemingly outer hassles and challenges. As I reflected on this year, I realized there were themes, stories and patterns from my past that needed overhauling and re-designing within myself in order to enact the changes I want to create outwardly in 2010.

I remember a talk my Yoga Master gave over 25 years ago in Oakland, California. Each word was artfully descriptive allowing the theme of the talk to remain etched in my mind to this day. Basically, he illuminated the idea that many of us wear unconscious masks that camouflage our true selves. These masks include the limitations we place on ourselves both consciously and unconsciously. As we begin 2010, I invite you to deeply reflect on your inner story—your beliefs, attitudes and thoughts. Journal about this without editing your language and choose one mask of limitation that you will commit to removing this year.

Even though the circumstances of your life may seem distant from what you imagined as your highest purpose, by changing your attitude and dealing with what is in front of you with joy and surrender, those very circumstances may transform into your wildest dreams and true Dharma.

As we invoke the commencement of a New Year, let us begin to incorporate the meanings of Dharma into our thoughts and actions. Wherever you may find yourself in life, let Yoga begin to permeate and soothe the rough edges you encounter and transform them into ease and greatness.

“I welcome you with all my heart.”

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2009, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Françoise E. Netter, M. A., President of Body/Mind Dynamics has been a teacher and conference presenter in the field of yoga, stress management, creativity development, dance, and dance therapy, for over thirty years throughout the world. She has taught at major universities, authored a book and a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program and has been featured on television, radio, CD and video and in magazine and newspaper articles including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Françoise is available for private consultations and coaching as well as Keynote presentations and events and has ongoing classes, training programs, workshops and special retreats and travel workshops. Contact her at: www.bodyminddynamics.org, fenetter@yahoo.com or 303.960.6000.

Jan

14

Staying Contented in the Face of Challenges

By Francoise Netter

The following article was originally published in my column, “Actualizing Your Yoga” in 2009. I hope you enjoy it. – FEN

Staying Contented in the Face of Challenges

by Françoise Netter

Welcome again. In the last column, we spoke about Hatha Yoga. Did you take time to explore the benefits of a physical practice? Although I promised to explore the subjects of meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques), I also want to share an experience I had recently which encapsulates for me the real meaning of “actualizing one’s yoga”.

Throughout our lives all of us will experience numerous challenging circumstances. While what might bring one person to “his or her knees” might not faze someone else, the point is, we all are tested individually. I remember spending time with an architect in Arizona who had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and during one stirring conversation he shared, “Françoise, no matter what our race, outer privileges or financial state, we will all experience a certain amount of suffering while alive, there is no exception.” I remember pondering that statement from both a yogic point of view as well as from a Western perspective.

By most standards, I had a difficult childhood both emotionally as well as physically and became self-supporting at the age of 16. Luckily, my difficulties turned me inward to explore states of consciousness that would give me the peace and control that didn’t seem to be there in my external circumstances. But I, too, was sometimes seduced by the external world and wondered what if I had everything I wanted? You know, the relationship, money, fame, etc? Wouldn’t life be more sheltered then? Wouldn’t that shield me from some of the pain?

We see examples of people seeking that kind of shelter everyday and everywhere, especially with the inundation of Reality TV. But does it really bring the deeper solace, I believe, we all are seeking? Can it prevent the experiences of fear, loss and hurt?

I recently had the “opportunity” to be audited by the IRS. It wasn’t so much about me, as it was about my tax accountant who was the “project”, but I became the focus of their investigation. For me, it was not only the time, energy and money to sort through records and piles of receipts for something that I did not even cause, but it also brought up every fear and “victim” consciousness feeling I had stored in my subconscious. What do we do when we are faced with those things that we are either afraid of or that we just don’t enjoy doing? That we seemingly don’t have any control over?

As I sit writing this column, my cat, Bhakti, sits on my lap purring. She reminds me of that simple state of bliss and I am always amazed at her unconditional ability to forgive. She may hear a sound that frightens her or jump instinctively at an object, but she always seems to return to this contented state. It is this state of inner contentment that the Yogis summon us towards. When I teach my seminars, individuals always ask me for techniques to reduce the stress in their lives. It seems now, more then ever, that we are all being called upon to access an equanimity that is not dependant on our ever-changing world. The stability we all sought externally just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. So, what can we do?

It is in the practice of Yoga that we gain greater control over our body, emotions and mind. The practice gradually supports us in daily living and prepares us for those times when we need it most.

Pranayama (breathing techniques) is one of the most important practices in all forms of Yoga. It revitalizes the body, steadies the emotions and creates greater clarity of the mind. By practicing pranayama,, the Yogi gains control over the nervous system by bringing more oxygen to the blood and brain and thereby obtaining gradual mastery over the life force and the mind. We achieve this mastery through breathing practices which progressively deepen, balance and harmonize the breath. What is interesting to note is that the nervous system, which is divided into the autonomic nervous system and the central nervous system, coordinates the functions of all the other systems in the body. It is through pranayama that breathing, which is for the most part involuntary, is brought into conscious control. In many languages the words for breath and spirit are the same. Awareness of our breathing gives life to the postures and builds a bridge between the body, mind and spirit. To the Yogi, body, breath, nerves, mind and the universe are all connected.

Since your state of mind is reflected in the way you breathe, it follows that by controlling the breath, you can learn to control your state of mind. By regulating your breath, you are not only increasing your intake of oxygen, but also preparing yourself for the practice of concentration, meditation and control of the will.

This month, I’m going to ask you to practice “the complete breath” which engages all five lobes of the lungs and extends the breath into long, deep and wide patterns while pausing between the inhalation and exhalation. In traditional Yogic breathing, we inhale 1 count for every 2 counts of exhalation and 4 counts of retention of the breath. But, I believe the complete breath prepares us for more complex and advanced breathing techniques. Along with breathing, I am going to ask you to practice Savasana (deep relaxation). Savasana is said to be one of the most difficult poses to master. In this asana we learn how to create a profound state of relaxation while remaining aware and attentive. To enter this state, we practice letting go. First we release the effort of the physical poses and then we let go of our physical, emotional and mental tensions. This letting go allows us to release some of the trappings of the mind, and even for a moment, with what and who we identify so that we can move into the part of our Self that is beyond our problems and limitations. While still awake, we allow ourselves to rest completely. Ultimately, this pose is about learning to be in this state all the time so that we can let unimportant things and difficulties be released and live life more fully, vitally and in a state of greater mental and physical freedom. By practicing Savasana we also prepare our mind and body for meditation.

You can practice the complete breath and Savasana on your own or you can contact me and I can send you a CD with instructions and guided breathing and relaxation exercises.

In the next column, we will talk about meditation and expand on the topics of this column.

Until then, I welcome your comments and questions and invite you to practice letting go and staying contented even in the face of challenges.

“I welcome you with all my heart.”

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2009, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Françoise E. Netter, M. A., President of Body/Mind Dynamics has been a teacher and conference presenter in the field of yoga, stress management, creativity development, dance, and dance therapy, for over thirty years throughout the world. She has taught at major universities, authored a book and a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program and has been featured on television, radio, CD and video and in magazine and newspaper articles including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Françoise is available for private consultations and coaching as well as Keynote presentations and events and has ongoing classes, training programs, workshops and special retreats and travel workshops. Contact her at: www.bodymnddynamics.org, fenetter@yahoo.com or 303.960.6000.