Open your heart

by Suzanne L. Beenackers

The belt says Boy Toy. Madonna did marry, within 2 years after this picture was taken. To Sean Penn. It didn’t work out.

I don’t do weddings. Maybe it’s the lack of spontaneity, the lack of excitement, or the fact that marriage leads up to pregnancies, family life and mortgages; three things that I have no particular interest in. Naturally (this is a euphemism for unfortunately) I can’t refuse all invitations and once in a while I muster all my socially acceptable behavior for the weddings of those with whom I  share a common gene pool with or the rare wedding-happy girl to belong to my closest, closest friends. But even at the weddings of my next of kin I feel like the bad fairy at Sleeping Beauty’s crib; afraid to cast an evil spell. By accident of course.

To make matters worse I haven’t had anything that would pass as “a normal relationship” in eight years, nor do I have any intention, desire or tendency to find me one of those. And yet, ever since I stopped having normal relationships, my life has been shockingly abundant with something I can only call one thing:
LOVE

First, I stayed with my ex Mark. We were so good together that we made excellent roommates. Our final two years, living together as friends, were the icing on the separation cake.
When I moved out I found my BFF Marieke. We celebrate our 5 year anniversary this week. We have not invited anybody :-)
I have since also intensified bonds with my good friend Martijn, Maartje and the other Marieke.
I also love my mother, Madonna, my felines Max and Willem.
And quite a few others! Some even start with a different letter.

I am without a love relationship, yet life has never been more abundant.
After being in an exclusive love relationship I fully appreciate the freedom of being alone and love my next of kin and the handful of friends I would even go to weddings for.

So no matter where you’re life is at, whether you’re going through divorce, single, settled, or still considering to tie the knot with Sean Penn – let it never be an excuse not to love.

***

These are February’s Yoga schedules:

Open Your Heart (sticky men schedule)

(Dutch)
De Complete Yoga Gids : Ontspanning pagina 42-57

Love what is (audio meditation/ Savasana)

Madonna Grammy’s 2014 singing Open Your Heart wedding ceremony of same sex and transgender couples

Legs up the Wall Pose

Lying Butterfly pose with props.

Savasana music

Messy January

Ah! I knew yoga wasn’t the answer.

by Suzanne L. Beenackers

This was January, as I clearly saw it before me, through a fog of wine, Christmas feasting and other perks of the Holiday season:
- I would move into my new studio, refurbishing it completely before classes started.
- I would work on My Secret Projects daily.
- I would write a Yoga Blog in the first week, the same way I had been doing every month for over a year.
- 2014′s classes would sell out swiftly
- I would do yoga every day, keeping me free from any physical ailments and providing mental clarity.

And this is January how it actually went:
- my cosey new studio is still in need of weekends of painting, has a window leaking buckets of water and is without an official renting contract. And the landlord fell ill, so it would be would extremely insensitive of me to press things.
- I didn’t invest even a minute in my projects since first day of teaching.
- Trimmed down the idea of blogging ahead about what was to be taught that month, to a more organic approach debriefing at the end of the month what had been taught.
- cancelled more classes than ever in my career
- fell ill with food poisening and am currently worried to tears because of an ill cat.
In fact the only thing that I did do, was yoga. Every day. Not counting the two days I was vom-  eh not feeling well.

And although I will keep doing yoga ( I’m on a 100 day Challenge), I would recommend you to  just throw back the lemons and demand chocolate :-)

So here is everything we did this month! Including all the topics that were brought up by you.

(Dutch)
De Complete Yoga Gids : Grote Schoonmaak & Reinigende Detox
De Complete Yoga Gids – Hormoonyoga
Dinah Rodrigues - Hormoonyoga

Offering Heart Chant (the long relaxation song)

Twist and Detox (standing poses)

You Tube Fitness with Zuzka Light

Oil Pulling Nederlands English
I prefer coconut oil (and to make it liquid warming it a little) and only doing it for 5 minutes

Ashtavakrasana (the ultimate “Selfie” pose)

 

Helse juf, Hemelse Havermout en Hoofd-knie

door Suzanne L. Beenackers

Oh, ja, dat ben ik.

Ik Twitter graag dat ik geen yoga doe. Ook Facebook ik met liefde zakken friet, slapeloze Sinterklaasnachten, maandagse middagdutjes, drank en jonge mannen (dit laatste is dan voor een selectieve lijst, mijn deelneming als je hierop staat). Yoga vermeld ik als unieke gebeurtenis op mijn tijdlijn, mijn dagelijkse havermout laat ik onbenoemd, en als ik date boven de 30 staat er ergens “heel netjes dus”. Dit laatste zichtbaar voor allen, in de vurige hoop dat wie dit niet kan waarderen mij dan ontvriendt. Een slimme cursiste vroeg echter een keer door. En na een beetje doorfantaseren bleek dat ik als bankier iedere ochtend om 6 uur een yoga selfie zou posten. Als  hoogleraar zou ik in de playboy zou staan. En als fotomodel zou ik een relatie beginnen met Noam Chomsky. Ik waai tegen alle winden in. Dit verklaart ook waarom ooms en tantes mij vaak verontwaardigd herinneren aan die keer dat ik iets aan de schandpaal heb genageld (nooit iemand hè! ik ben humanist), of met een links extremistische opmerking een feestje heb opgevrolijkt. Zoiets werkt nog jaren door. En feitelijk zou ik mij daar natuurlijk voor moeten schamen, maar helaas dat lukt mij niet.

Rijst wellicht de vraag: is dit wel yoga? En laat ik nu voor één keer boven mijzelf uitstijgen en een antwoord geven wat niet iedereen direct tegen de haren instrijkt. Ja. Het is yoga. Om te beginnen is “yoga” nogal een vaag begrip. Feitelijk wordt met het woord yoga alles geduid wat een spiritueel pad is. Spiritueel betekent niet bovenaards maar bewust. Alle vormen van yoga (je kunt mandela’s tekenen, mantra’s zingen, goden aanbidden, boeken bestuderen, yoga oefeningen doen) werken met je bewustzijn. Alles in het leven wat je bewust doet (bij de Tantra filosofie heet dit Shiva, het mannelijke principe), brengt het bewustzijn in het moment/ in je lichaam/ in je handeling (in de wereld, dit wordt Shakti genoemd, het vrouwelijke principe). Dus zolang je bewust tegen de stroom in gaat, is het yoga. En wie er aanstoot aan neemt, die gaat aan zelfreflectie doen (svadhyaya, een heel mooi yogisch pad!) en die leert wat hij/zij dan zelf denkt over dingen als friet eten in bed op weekdagen met te jonge mannen, of iets in die trant. Volgens Tantra, en in het bijzonder de recalcitrante Tantra of The Left Hand (zo genoemd door de mensen van The Right Hand, de nette lichting), is er geen goed of kwaad. Beoefenaars van Tantra of the Left Hand doen hun practice op de crematievelden, drinken bloed uit schedels, en offeren dieren. Maar ze doen het bewust.

Met mijn eigenaardige persoonlijkheid is het nog een wonder dat ik toch met plezier de opleiding tot hatha yogadocent heb gedaan. Misschien omdat ze daar bij de Saswitha Stichting voor Yoga en Wijsbegeerte omheen gaan; daar mag je zijn wie je bent. Je leert in vier jaar yogales geven, en je leert jezelf beter kennen. Ik zal nooit vergeten dat het jaarlijkse theorie examen altijd eindigde met de vraag: “Wie bent u?” Waarbij ik mij nooit uitgenodigd voelde erover na te denken, maar altijd preventief dichtklapte bij het idee dat ik dat dan aan hun moest vertellen. Al met al had ik er dus maar eens per jaar last van.

De Saswitha manier van lesgeven waardeer ik nog steeds. Je kunt haar bekijken in een 23 minuten durende instructie  van Yogi van het Jaar Diana Plenckers, de directeur van de Saswitha Stichting. En ik deel het recept van Ayurvedische havermout “pap”, wat ik ook van haar leerde in de smakelijke module Ayurveda. Itt gewone havermout wordt deze geroosterd en zit er kardemom in. Dat is wel wat anders dan lauwe brei die half Nederland tegenwoordig s ochtends eet.

De Ayurvedische havermout combineert ook uitstekend met een halve chocoladeletter. Mits het fair trade is uiteraard.

Ayurvedische havermout pap
met een banaan

Rooster havermout een paar minuten in een koekenpan.
Voeg pompoenpitten, zonnebloempitten en sesamzaad toe.
Al vrij snel ontstaat een onhoudbare situatie waarbij de pitten in het rond vliegen.
Voeg nu een eetlepel kokosolie toe. Dit is hard wit spul, smelt supersnel.
Nu doorroosteren totdat het er een beetje cruesli- achtig uitziet.
Kneus 2 kardemom-peultjes en haal de zwarte kleverige zaadjes eruit.
Als de zaadjes al lichtbruin zijn, weggooien, die hebben minder smaak.
Je kunt nu de zaadjes vijzelen, maar ik verwerk ze gewoon zo.
Gooi de kardemomzaden, een handje rozijnen en flink wat water bij de havermout, alles moet onderstaan, roeren zodat de havermout zich vol kan zuigen.
Hou op laag pitje tot het water is opgenomen.
Snijd een banaan (deze heb ik zelf verzonnen, is niet Ayurvedisch) in stukjes, leg op bodem van een kom.
De havermout van vuur afhalen en erover doen.
Zeer riant bestrooien met  kaneel.
Eet smakelijk! 

Know your classics


by Suzanne L. Beenackers

Basic Instinct 1992

Classic : An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.

Luxurious white or gold to camel. Those were the colours that Sharon Stone wore in Basic Instinct. I was 20, and her appearance on-screen sparked a desire for winter-white wool, a need for a silver cigarette case, and I kept my hair up and blonde ever since.  Basic Instinct was the first time I saw classic clothing: a timeless style that makes you more beautiful. “Would Catherine Tramell wear this?” – became a guideline for clothes shopping. In 2001 I discovered the movie Tomb Raider and added: “Would Lara Croft save the world in this?” Still unicoloured, close-fitting outfits, but with motorcycle boots and she fired guns instead of cigarettes.

In yoga too, there are a few series, or schools of yoga, that you can call “classic”. For power yoga that would be the Ashtanga Primary Series and for Hatha Yoga it is the Sivananda sequence.

Ashtanga was developed by Pattabhi Jois (word of advice: don’t buy the story of the ancient yoga scripture written on banana leaves)  and counts as the first series that is completely in flow. The transitions between the poses are as important as the poses itself. It starts with Sun Salutations, and then progresses to standing poses, seated, and inversions. There are few backbends, with the exception of upward facing dog which is done about 354 times. You can find the ashtanga salutations here and a 45 minute ashtanga sequence here.

The Sivananda sequence starts with pranayama, then moves to sun salutations, inversions, forward bends, backbends, twists, balance poses and then standing poses. The order (inversions first, standing poses last) is completely the opposite to almost any other school of yoga, and has to do with doing the most important poses first, and also practising the highest chakra’s first. You can find an extensive schedule here, Sivananda Sun Salutations here, and here the basic 12 poses. These poses are also numbered in the bigger schedule.

Vertigo 1958

Celebrity teacher retreats. New studios around town. The most eco-friendly mat or the latest yoga apparel. Keeping up with yoga could be a daytime job, and in ten years the pants will be worndown, the mat is used by the dog and the iconic teacher will have fallen from grace (not calling names here!). But a classic yoga routine could inspire you decades from now.

Basic Instinct’s cool platinum blonde in white was not invented by director Paul Verhoeven. It is one of the many references to Vertigo from Alfred Hitchcock. Had Paul Verhoeven been distracted by contemporary art, instead of relying on his classics, Catherine Tremell would have been played by Cindy Crawford, wearing a green and hot pink leotard. And I don’t know what the yoga version of that would be, but I do know that I don’t want to shop for that. Not even if I would save the world with it.

Back to school

by Suzanne L. Beenackers 

Harry and Ron predict fog in Divination Class

“Broaden your minds, my dears, and allow your eyes to see past the mundane!”
— Sybill Trelawney to a Divination class

It started weeks before you received your schedule and books or saw your classmates again, when the department store cleared out a whole floor and stacked it with school stationary. September was a reason to buy a new diary, binders and paper. MTV was playing Dire Straits, UB40 or Phil Collins from five different corners of the School Campus, as the floor was redubbed. More reason for headache –  they had turned off the lights and hammered the customers down with stroboscopic lighting instead. Yet the start of the new school year held more magic than Christmas, birthday and Sinterklaas altogether.

9397585-serene-blue-yoga-mat-wrapped-with-blue-ribbon-placed-with-open-book-fitness-study-and-yoga-are-giftsThe start of the new year was a time when you realized you were going to learn and grow, and that around Christmas you would get your first report card with grades. And there would be those horrible classes. I say “classes” but it could say “teachers” or “fellow students”.  Every school has a Malfoy or Dolores Umbridge and every student has to waste time in Divination. Which is, as we know, such an inaccurate branch of magic.

It’s September, the start of your first trimester. How will you spend it, what will you learn? What courses are you going to take? What schedule are you going to give yourself? Create a schedule where you can grow. Take on assignments that will challenge you. Raise the bar. Learn. Lose. Win. Fail. And get back up again.

Buy a mat, diary or wand. Sign up for a course, write a book, organize an event. Set up your desk with pen and paper and dust your books off and set time aside to study them.

The last four months of the year are ahead of you.

How much are you going to grow?

“Tell me one last thing”,” said Harry. “”Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?””
““Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?””  
—  Albus Dumbledore

Yoga Schedules for Harry Potter and other serious students:
I Chakra Yoga Morning (will get you all geared up for Transfiguration and Arithmancy)
II Chakra Yoga Night  (provides relaxation for eyes after orb staring)
III The Daily Six (great after heavy duty broom flying and other work-outs)

Je suis l’art

Madonna making creative use of the hand dryer in Desperately Seeking Susan

by Suzanne L. Beenackers

About a year ago my best friend (world citizen, vegetarian, good-natured) slept over in the guest bed in the living. In the morning she stayed in bed, my cats hung-out on her belly, and I did my yoga practice. After half an hour of yoga to the moans, groans and sexually explicit lyrics of Erotica by Madonna, I asked her if this did not lower her opinion of me. “You do yoga in ashrams where bare shoulders are considered a felony. I may not live up to your expectations of a yoga teacher.”
But she answered that I had developed a personal practice, and that all that is authentic, is good.

For the past seven months I’ve posted home yoga schedules here, and used those exercises for my classes. But what is authentically your yoga? Can you overcome any yoga dogmas you may have picked up, and create a practice that is you?

You can read all about the origins of yoga poses here. This will show you that there is no such thing as a prescribed authentic series of yoga poses. There are no books written on banana leaves, or oral traditions of physical yoga, transferred from teacher to student over the centuries. Your definition of how to do yoga, is as legit as that of any Indian Swami or Western Yoga Teacher.

Yoga tends to favor practitioners who work through their asana with military precision. Committing to the same set-up, rhythm or even the same asanas every day. People who use a rigid, pre-described practice (like Madonna) can get amazing results. Madonna is an extremely disciplined professional who reigns every aspect of her life. But it is not the authentic practice for everyone.

A good example of a free creative practice is Meghan Currie. You can view her time-laps yoga videos (compressing two hours into 9 minutes!) on her You Tube Channel, giving you an idea of how you can practice.  She also made a very cute video of her and a friend making honey cacao masks, and a video where she cuts her own hair.

Although Madonna and Meghan Currie are completely different, they are both true to themselves, and have made their life into a work of art.

From your work, to your yoga, to what you put on your face or how you dry your armpits; let it all be an expression of you.

First things first

by Suzanne L. Beenackers

It’s July! We’re practicing poses that are related to Gods, Sages and mythical creatures after who yoga poses are named. Here’s the schedule for July No sticky dolls, it’s ALL PHOTOS! Took me nearly two days to get it right, but that’s okay, because it’s my dharma. And if you want to know what what Dharma is (aside from that supercute yogateacher from Dharma and Greg), read this month’s post below and find your own Dharma.

Sources Yoga Schedule:
Heroes Saints and Sages (pdf, with poses)
Downward dogs and Warriors (book)

***
Blogpost July: Dharma (first things first)

“It is the dharma of the fire to burn.
It is the dharma of water to seek the deepest point.
It is the dharma of the bird to fly.”
Peter Marchand in lecture on Dharma (video) 

When I was taking my yoga education, not everybody developed a personal yoga practice. Much to my annoyance, I insist on adding. I’m pretty sure some received their diploma without even knowing what the word Sadhana meant, since it seemed to be of little importance. Our curriculum focused on turning us into good teachers, and in retrospect I agree: a daily yoga practice is of little importance to that. There are teachers who are a joy to be with, who only playfully unroll their mat on Friday night, and celebrate it after with a half a bottle of wine. And teachers who practice fiercely two hours before sunrise, yet can not even teach a dog how to bark. One may even conclude that yoga does not only have little influence on your ability as a teacher, but also offers no guarantee for any spiritual development or growth of your overall happiness. There are many enlightened, happy people, who get that way without yoga, or other spiritual practices.

One of the explanations why spiritual practice may fail to lead to happiness is connected to Dharma:  your path, your duty, that which you were sent here to do. These can be the obvious responsibilities, such as taking care of your children and of your income. But also involves taking care of your own body, developing your talents and to do the work here on earth that only you can do. Different dharma’s can be conflicting. As a rule: favour the dharma/ responsibility closes to you. First save your backyard, then the rainforest. And there is a clear order between dharma and spiritual practice. Spiritual practices, usually referred to as Sadhana, come after dharma. If 10 minutes of meditation makes you a better parent, then fine. But before you dedicate an hour a day to it, make sure this does not interfere with your other duties. Dharma comes before Sadhana.

I ll never forget how one afternoon I felt a little down, and wondered how to change my mood, in order to teach a good class at night. I wanted to do yoga (because I thought it would help) but just couldn’t make myself. I kept staring at the dishes, and my living. Coffee mugs, dirty plates, papers, books….. 24 hour of neglect and my house looked like there were three students living here. Male ones. All that was missing were half empty pizza boxes. So instead of yoga, I started clearing out the living and doing the dishes and felt reborn. “Wow! It’s that easy!” I thought. “Much more effective than yoga!”

And that’s the truth.

No spiritual practice will be even half as fulfilling as doing your Dharma, doing what you must do. You can even celebrate with some yoga and have a glass of wine after.

Real Yoga Cures

by Suzanne Beenackers

Harish Johari Ayurveda

When Harish Johari came to the West, his advice to the sick failed to heal them. It took him a while to figure out that Westerners were not so much a different species, but lacked the solid foundation of a daily rhythm.  People were jumping out of bed, skipping breakfast and morning prayers, rushing to work, and completely stressing themselves out. His Ayurveda was working on fine tuning, when in reality the whole foundation for a healthy life was missing. Alarmed by his findings, he changed his approach, and became a succesful healer.

At this moment, the same is happening with yoga. Yoga is a sought after means to relax, to destress and to heal, when the truth is, that yoga is about fine tuning. As long as you stick with your rushed lifestyle, yoga is just occupying space at your to-do list. If you need a cure, before turning to yoga, a doctor, or a psychiatrist, look at the pillars of your life: your daily rhythm and your daily diet. Meditation, yoga and pills, may or may not come after.

Yoga and Daily Rhythm video lecture by Peter Marchand

Yoga and Ayurveda video lecture by Peter Marchand

Yoga for June are all the exercises from the book Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles.

1. January Strong and January Relax (from book Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles)
2. Real Yoga sequence (May 2013, from book Tillie Mia)
3. June Strong and June Relax (from book Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles)

All three schedules together contain nearly all asanas and breathing exercises from the book.

Keep it Yoga

by Suzanne L. Beenackers

For May I designed (click to get the schedule)
1. a home sequence Real Yoga
based on my first yoga book, which I borrowed from my mother.
2. a Fitness Routine
based on the latest book I bought with the militant title Yoga Fights Flab.

My First Yoga BookYoga is different from bench pressing  20 kilos, running half a marathon or  even from pilates. This is something most of us will agree on. But what about doing an extra push up in your Sun Salutations? Or two or three? What if you hold Chair Pose or work through all four Warrior poses to firm your thighs? Is that still yoga? It is a thin line between yoga and fitness, and one that I ve crossed more than once. With unsatisfactory results.

My Latest yoga BookBefore getting into the do’s and probably-not-a-good-idea’s, let me first clear up something about Yoga (capital Y): it is not what you think. Assuming you think it’s an ancient system leading to Enlightenment.
The word “yoga” is very old, and used in a way others talk about God or Oneness or The Way. Doing Yoga Old School would mean meditating in your cave on top of a snowy mountain. You would not work, nor have children, Wifi or a vagina.
That rules most of us out.
So this leaves us with Yoga As We Know It: Hatha Yoga, the yoga of the body. The oldest text on this type of yoga is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which includes seated poses, and inversions. Standing poses can be dated back to beginning 20th century, late 19 century at best. The Origins of Yoga by Mark Singleton, explains how yoga was derived at the beginning of the 20th century during an environment of Indian neo-nationalism and infused with doses of European gymnastics, bodybuilding and the Christian agendas of the YMCA. 

Ergo: the question what is or isn’t yoga is as arbitrary as discussing the correct  chronological order of Star Wars.

So if history doesn’t explain the difference, then who can?
Answer: You!
Does it feel like God? Like The Way? Does it feel like Oneness? Then you’re doing yoga!
Or does it feel like you’re making up for eating too much calories and preparing for your bikini?
Personally, I don’t mind doing fitness, and love doing yoga, but  I’ve more than once made the mistake of mixing the two, using yoga as after-fitness stretching or a vigorous  yoga practice to tone and slim. Bad idea. Always dropped out.

For me, yoga is best practiced just for the sheer joy of doing it, without looking or hoping for any results. Sans push ups, abdominal strengtheners, long plank poses or other “gymnastics”.  And fitness is best practiced with the tv on, my dumbbells ready, and a timer to clock me twelve minutes.

May’s schedules are one yoga schedule and one fitness schedule.

Because yoga is bliss, God, yoga is love. But fitting into your bikini is lovely too.

Up for a challenge

Zuzka Yoga

by Suzanne Beenackers

A long time ago I practiced yoga daily, ate whatever looked comforting, and used my calendar for dental appointments and birthday parties. In a hobbit like fashion I sauntered through life, I never had any adventures nor did anything out of the ordinary. And then, inspired by a phenomenon known as The Yoga Challenge, where you commit to a daily practice for a certain period of time, I designed my first Challenge:
The Goddess Challenge. It was a yoga challenge, but with the reward that I promised myself I would have turned into a Yogic Goddess (read: a supermodel with extra ordinary powers) if I practiced yoga twice a day, for 30 minutes, for one month. I pulled it off and was very pleased with the result, although I still weighed the same, could not detect any newly acquired psychic powers. My headstand did become quite impressive.

Ever since then I’ve been on several yoga challenges, a zero alcohol challenge, a sleep challenge (with a lot of sleep, not little!), a finish-that-project-challenge, a clean-basement-challenge, a challenge to only wear really tiny underpants, and two challenges which I can not share here because that would be inappropriate. I also clock how long it takes me to write this blogpost, how many effective hours I make in a day, what I eat, what I weigh, and beat my personal best at how many minutes it takes me to do the dishes. I’m like the Mindfulness movement inverted. I would make spirituality a competitive sport if I only knew how.

This may be a good time to refer to the photo: it’s Zuzka Light. A You Tube fitness instructor and she’s releasing a yoga dvd  this month where she is making yoga challenging. And although I don’t particularly like bootcampy yoga, I look forward to it.

Yoga in April

This month I encourage you to look for a challenge. Look for something that suits your needs: if you’re tired do a sleep challenge. If you feel depleted, keep your computer off after work hours. Challenges that require you to do things, create new habits and patterns, are more inspiring than the challenges that ask you to refrain from something.

For yoga videos you can have a look at Yoga Journal’s Willpower Challenge – a 28 day program that includes a yogavideo at the beginning of every week. You can sign up for free and receive emails daily.  You can already check their yoga videos if you click week 1 week 2 week 3 week 4.
The videos are easy to follow, and about 20 minutes long.
In class I’ll be teaching from the four sequences of the Yoga Journal Willpower Challenge.

It took me 53 minutes to write this blogpost, I haven’t done the dishes, and postponed both yoga and fitness to an undefined timeslot somewhere in the evening where all my chores were done and my house was clean. My cats would be well fed and encouragingly purring on the couch when I was blissfully doing my yoga. What a pity that moment never occured…. How can I work this into a challenge?