June 13th, 2012

The Value Of (Dis)Connection

By Eka Ekong

It happened again. While teaching and circulating around the room, I saw the blue afterglow reflecting off the floor. One of my students was texting. I walked over and in a very stern, yet graceful way told them that this was not allowed. I felt like a parent catching a child with a dirty magazine. The response, rather than being apologetic, was indignant. For a moment, I thought a Jedi mind trick was being played on me: “Oh, excuse me, it’s my fault. Please text away. We'll just be over here, practicing yoga...” I quickly came back to reality.

I’m noticing this is not a one-time occurrence. I’ve seen it while in yoga classes as teacher and student, as people walk around the city, faces buried in their phones, bumping into objects like bats, or even two people at dinner, their eyes locked on what’s in their hands rather than each other.

We are becoming more present in our relationship with technology rather than the present moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate technology, and enjoy it (as I type away on my i-whatever). I owned an Atari, and typed what seemed like endless jargon in grade school ( Messages were taken via answering machines, and if you were a hipster of those days, you had a beeper AND a car phone the size of your forearm.

I graduated from flip phone to smart phone, PC to Mac. I geek out on TED talks and software upgrades. I tweet, I Facebook... However, there is a time and a place for everything. While I enjoy chocolate in my peanut butter, I don't like texting in my yoga class. Perhaps I’m old school (and not in that Will Ferrell/Luke Wilson kind of way).

There is something to be said for taking time to be completely unavailable to the outside world, and wholeheartedly available to your Self. When we take a break from external technology we can really get down to knowing what makes us tick. We can learn our patterns, our reactions, and the truth of our own soul.

I know being with Self can be scary. There aren’t any status updates, witty hashtags or foursquare check-ins. It can seem like a solo expedition into unknown terrain that you think you have packed inadequately for. You might feel like you're missing out on something in these moments of quiet and self-exploration. In actuality, we’re missing out on the greatest gifts if we don’t. There is a treasure within our hearts that doesn’t require validation from our job, our relationships, our belongings, amount of “likes” or re-tweets. A light beyond all sorrow and insecurity. We need to take a timeout to drop into this deeper understanding. As we drop out to drop back in, we become more aware of our divine nature and cultivate more presence in every situation.

If you think about it, when we were born, most of our mothers were hooked up to a computer. When we pass (although I wish it otherwise), many of us will be hooked up to a computer.

Savor each breath in between, whether it’s on your mat or off. Look up when you’re outside, basking in the greatest science of all, Nature. Treasure each precious moment you spend with your loved ones. Take none of it for granted.

Unplug to tap into your inner wisdom and the Now. This is true connection and far better than any text or app.

My Manduka helps me practice being present.

What does your Manduka help you practice?

May 30th, 2012

Ask And You Shall..

By Eka Ekong

I remember as a child, when I would ask for something, my parents would reply, “What’s the magic word?” I learned early on the beauty in graciousness and the possibilities created by a simple question. Now many moons (and “pleases”) later, I have learned the magic in words, but wonder how many of us are reluctant to ask the question.

They say, “Ask and you shall receive”. Sometimes it might sound like wishing on a star, but if you don’t ask you’ll never know.

It’s not just in seeking an answer to a question (or for me then as child, my favorite sugary cereal), asking applies to manifesting our hopes and dreams, inviting someone to go for a walk, or even requesting help in a yoga class.

Sometimes we are afraid to ask, as we fear the answer we might receive. In making the request, support finds its way to you. It may not come always as you expect it (or when you want it to), but trust and know that it will. Put forth your intention and lovingly hold space for the magic to happen.

My Manduka helps me practice allowing.
What does your Manduka help you practice?

Practice On.

May 16th, 2012

There And Back Again

by Eka Ekong

It’s 1998 for me. I know you’re looking at your calendar scratching your head. Yes, technically it is 2012, but sometimes we have to go backwards to move forward.

In the last 8 months, I’ve lost a parent and a grandparent, and have traveled the world to teach yoga. Though I had received an uppercut to the heart, I felt the need to keep moving, teaching, and exploring the frontiers outside of myself. I’ve been living the life of my dreams while enduring my worst nightmare. Now that I have finally been able to be still for more than 2 weeks in the same place (there really is no place like home), grief came rushing in like a tidal wave. I was swept up in the undertow, and left gasping for breath.

Humbly, I consider myself a dedicated yogi. I can quote the Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. I’ve studied the requisite books (and then some). I’m initiated into a lineage, and have a consistent meditation practice. What a lot of these books don’t tell you is that loss and sadness are isolating. Just as being a yogi can be. People speak in platitudes and clichés, ignore you all together (keeping a safe, emotional distance), or think that because you are a yogi, you must have it all figured out (if they only knew). In this big, beautiful yoga world you will find many a great article on how to open your heart chakra or perfect your inversions, but not much guidance on what to do when your heart is breaking.

I did the only thing I thought I could do, I withdrew. I went into my cave, ignoring my work, my loved ones, my life. My sadness and regrets weighing heavy on my heart, I cried for what felt like a lifetime. I contemplated quitting teaching and moving away. I felt frozen like Arjuna on the battlefield in his chariot. Do I run, or do I stay and fight?

Rather than being swallowed by it, I decided to sit with my shadow, exploring my inner landscape like a new world. The difference now was I couldn’t hop on an airplane to escape. I had to face my past. I had to love myself - warts and all.

Eventually, I unrolled my Manduka. Not solely in my home, as I had been already doing daily, but taking group classes around the city. Just as Arjuna had Krishna, I had my practice (and some really amazing and patient people in my life). Slowly I’ve been coming back into the world, embracing asana like I did in the early years on my mat. I’m remembering the passion I had for my teaching and my work (Yes, Manduka ambassadors, I am back).

I had to face what was behind and within me to begin to move onwards on my path. Sometimes, I still feel the pull to retreat into my cave, but it's walls aren’t as suffocating as before. I know that I will fumble and stumble as I navigate this new terrain, but in meeting my darkness, I am remembering my light once again.

My Manduka helps me practice hope. What does your Manduka help you practice?

May 23rd, 2011

Tuning Our Response - Ability

By Kia Miller

Are we so caught up in to-do lists that we have lost the ability to respond to life with spontaneity and presence? I teach yoga and talk to people all day long about taking pauses and time out of time. However, this remains one of the most elusive things in our culture, which is addicted to HAVING and DOING. In fact we value Having and Doing more than simply Being. When was the last time you congratulated your friend for doing nothing? Or took some time with absolutely no agenda? If you did take time, how kind was your thinking process, did you judge yourself and feel lazy?

It is easy to get caught in the cycle of acting from our sense of responsibility rather than purely responding to what the moment brings. Our lives become a laundry list of things to do, to the point where we move onto automatic pilot. Life gets juicy and exciting when we realize that being responsible is not some task to perform or an obligation to be met. To me the ability to respond is to be free to love and serve in each situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful.

On this day I encourage you to take a pause. Pause before speaking, before acting, or even pausing between your inhale and exhale. Do not take a moment for granted. Show up and meet the moment in the spirit of being of service with love.