On Practicing Responsibly at RBY

Yoga is meant to be challenging and designed for students to develop into. It’s only natural that some of any given sequence will feel inaccessible. It’s also natural to feel uncomfortable or even “down on ones’ self” when confronted with our own limits. But in yoga, we slowly learn to let go of negative self-talk and understand that our practice is our own and our development will come at our own pace.  Please approach this hour, and your practice in general, with a sense of adventure and joy!  The minute you do so, you will have taken a vital step towards being a more confident and resilient human being. You will need to feel your limits out carefully and modify or rest when necessary. But every week and every month will see both physical and mental/spiritual growth if you keep at it. When you find your limits strive to keep the mind calm even as the body struggles. And when your own inner wisdom tells you to, please take rest for a bit and then come back into it when you’re ready.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12 – 1.17

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12 – 1.17

1.12 The Changing States of Mind are stilled by practice and dispassion (detachment).
1.13 Practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind. 
1.14 Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time. 
1.15 Dispassion is the controlled consciousness of one who is without craving for sense objects.
1.16 Higher than renunciation is indifference to the gunas. This stems from perception of the soul (purusa).
1.17 Samadhi consists of the consecutive mental stages of absorption with physical awareness, absorption with subtle awareness, absorption with bliss and absorption with the sense of I-ness. 

As the great sage, Nisargadatta, has said, Spiritual Practice is will, asserted and reasserted. 

We find one thing; the breath, a mantra, connecting to the lower abdomen, a prayer or connection to the Divine – and we just keep coming back to it, doggedly returning despite the boredom or frustration or resistance or the feeling of being hands down the most ineffectual yoga practitioner in the last two thousand years.

As the great zen teacher, Shodo Harada Roshi, has said, practice is like filing a bucket one drop of water at a time. Every moment of awareness, every moment given to the breath, is a single drop in a bucket. Each moment that follows with awareness and care is another drop of water in the bucket. As long as we continue to give our full-hearted attention to the practice, the bucket will slowly, inexorably, begin to fill. But if we lose our awareness and fade out into thoughts or get pulled around by desires and fears or only give half of our attention to the present moment because we incorrectly assume that it is, after all, just there and obvious – no need to give it such importance – then the bucket will not only stop filling up, the water will very, very quickly drop back to the bottom. How many times have we been in meditation or asana practice, feeling our energy level and focus growing, sharpening, clarifying and then something pulls us away for a moment and when we come back to the present moment we can be surprised and discouraged at how difficult it is to get back into the practice. The momentum is lost and it takes time to slowly begin again and come back to a focused flow.

Giving our full attention to every breath, every moment, never assuming we know this moment and how it will unfold into the next. Every breath is new. Imagine that! How many thousands of breaths we take in a lifetime and not a single one is exactly the same! Yet, do we notice? Isn’t it true for most of us that each breath feels exactly the same as the next, even as we’re paying attention? This is what it means to take the present moment for granted, to be ignorant and blind, only half aware of the brilliance of this life, this moment we are participating in. So much of life is passing us by without us being aware. If we knew we were half asleep and with blinders on to boot, we would probably walk and observe much more carefully., give much more attention to everything realizing that a lot of information is passing is by. Slow down. Pay attention. It’s all slipping by so quickly. This intention, the will to keep coming back to the practice is phenomenally precious. It’s bringing us back to something concrete and real, away from a sleepy, half lived existence.

We slowly add one drop into the bucket after the other. That this process is difficult, seemingly impossible, is not a reason to stop. That emotions from boredom to fear to anger rise up and sweep us away from the practice is a matter of course. When we can, we come back to the moment and continue to practice. We  continue to assert this will, this desire to be present. We continue to fight against the ego’s wish to be content with the dull and the repetitive pattering of the mind. As Nisargadatta is pointing out to us, ultimately, it’s that very thing that wills to find freedom that is discovered to be freedom itself. This is when the bucket overflows.

As the bucket is filling up, giving our full attention to the majesty of every present moment – we find ourselves feeling better and better. The mind clarifies and sharpens. We’re more confident. Problems, both internal and external begin to resolve themselves, often spontaneously and without effort. We find ourselves slipping, naturally, here and there, in and out of samadhi just conducting the normal activities of our lives. In short, we begin to grow, to develop as human beings. We get excited and, perhaps naturally, assume we are now advanced practitioners. We’ve figured it all out, or close enough. We drop everything and become yoga and meditation teachers, start teaching others about this wonderful path. Now, this is all wonderful and fine but how many of us on this path realize that we’re only half way there? This rising energy, the confidence, the growth and realization of essence, the development of the mind and spirit, the samadhi – these are all symptoms of a practice that is only half full, maybe even very close to being totally full, but not of a mind that has come to overflowing. It can feel so good and so right that we stop practicing, we stop striving because we assume that we’ve ‘got it.’ This is sad and entirely too common in our modern spiritual culture.

The only remedy for this is to keep asserting and reasserting that will to practice. Just don’t stop.  A mind that is practicing is always starting over. A mind that is practicing is always coming from the place of a beginner. A true practitioner is always letting go of the past and reasserting the present. We are in a constant state of forgiveness. Constantly letting go. There is no such thing as an advanced practitioner, only people who carefully and humbly and whole heartedly give their all to this moment. All true practitioners share this in common. Those who claim to themselves or others to be advanced got lost somewhere along the way. Fortunately for all of us (and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t fallen into the trap a few hundred times?), all we need to find ourselves again is to just come back to this one breath and start filling that bucket, asserting and reasserting this will to freedom.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.3 & 1.4

1.3 When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature

1.4 Otherwise, at other times, the seer is absorbed in the changing states of the mind. 

Is meditation or yoga a means to an end, do we focus the mind in order to find this quiet, settled mind, or is it already an expression of that which is most true in us?  The shifting, changing states of mind are with us always, a hall of mirrors without end, accompanying us in every moment of every day. This quiet mind is here as well, holding up all our confusion without concern or effort. We are master magicians caught up in believing our own magic act, forgetting that it is our own slight of hand that has created this seeming reality.

In the beginning, it will be necessary to practice as if the asana or the breath was some magical tool capable of delivering us from ourselves. Almost by accident, we will find the mind settling and we will think that it was something given to us by the practice. We become inspired and our practice grows and these settled mind states continue to deepen. We start to find these states popping up in our day to day lives. When we get angry or stressed we find we’re less reactive and able to work better with the situation.

At some point we will begin to see that these moments of almost accidental spaciousness are pointing to something more than just us feeling good, something more than a magical elixir that delivers us from our stress and problems. We begin to sense that through our practice we’re coming into touch with ourselves at our deepest and most intimate level. Eventually, asana, breathwork or meditation will become an expression of that which we really are. We don’t practice in order to find center or connect. Practice is by it’s very nature centered and connected. We will find ourselves thinking, “Gosh, I’m most myself, i feel most at home, centered and confident, when i’m in meditation or in asana practice.”

What is it that sees? What is that thinks? What is that feels frustrated or stuck? What is that says, ‘I love this feeling of bliss, I never want it to end..?’They are all changing states of mind, the frustration, the bliss, the stuckness and the openness, but there’s something holding all this up. You.

In our asana practice, we don’t need to add anything more to it! No more ideas, or opinions or assumptions. If we do, then we’re back to being caught in the changing states of mind, caught up in self created illusion. What if we could just stay in bridge pose and give our full attention to it? Is the posture itself creating a sense of ease, or is it the mind that carefully and quietly pays attention to all the tiny details in the pose that allows us to settle and feel good? Please try to come to our poses in this way and experience it’s true wealth and joy. This is not advanced stuff. Anyone can do it. You don’t need to be flexible or to understand the postures or alignment or yogic philosophy. You are practicing you. You are practicing on yourself. All you need is to be aware and to have a body. You qualify 🙂 There is a quiet dignity in asana or meditation that comes from simply being with the practice. Please find this dignity so that you can inspire your own life and that of others.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.2

1.2 Yoga is the Stilling of the Changing States of the Mind.

Where can we find peace, a place of rest and repose? What does it mean to quiet the mind? Does it come about by some sort of external pressure applied, by force of will and thought – forcing thoughts and sensations to be pushed back into remission? Is the quiet mind imposed from without, manufactured through effort, or is it something intrinsic to to what we are?  We each need to go into our own practice, both a moment to moment practice of mindfulness, our meditation practice and our asana practice to discover this answer for ourselves.

What can we put our trust in, in this life? Is the quiet mind something we can put our trust in, to carry us through the difficulties and pains of a tumultuous life or will it run away the moment things get difficult? Is it a close friend that will never betray us or a fair weather friend that skips away the moment we stumble? We each need to go into our own practice, both a moment to moment practice of mindfulness, our meditation practice and our asana practice to discover this answer for ourselves.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.1

1.1 Now the Teachings of Yoga are Presented.

So begins the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in a fairly innocuous fashion. It’s easy to assume that Patanjali is simply saying, “So we begin.” Many scholars and practitioners have pointed out, though, that Patanjali was not one to waste time or mince words and this sutra is potentially also exhorting us to practice NOW; not later on or tomorrow or when we have time for a retreat. Every moment is fresh and an opportunity to focus on the breath, a mantra, being present or opening up an experience that we normally close down around.

There is no such thing as a repeatable moment in the realm of our subjective experience. If we’re not paying attention or giving life to this moment than, sure, every breath feels and seems exactly like the last. Our close friends are exactly as they were the day before. Our jobs are exactly as they were last year and will continue in like fashion through the years. Everything is taken for granted because it seems like everything is exactly as it was from before. But if we decide to practice right here and now, we get to transform the mundane and habitual into something new and undiscovered. We have no idea what the next moment will bring! But if we’re not paying attention, we’re sure not to find out. Likewise, if we do not give energy to our practice in this moment, we will not reap it’s benefits in the next. Practice is slow and steady and we can only feel it’s benefits by a slow and steady effort over time. If we start now, we will be sure to begin to experience the rewards down the line.

When we make the decision to practice right here and now you may feel resistance, a sense of futility, like trying to pull yourself out of bed at 4 in the morning. This is natural. The mind is happy in it’s habitual world, even if it’s not that exciting or meaningful. We need to make that tiny, gentle push to start and begin anew in each moment.

Mary’s Place Offerings

RBY is now offering a monthly donation to Mary’s Place, a women’s shelter in Seattle. Every month we collect specific items to give to the shelter. If you’d like to share, please bring them in to the office before class. Thanks!
This month our focus is on Hair Products, specifically ones designed for African hair. We’re looking for thick tooth combs, natural bristle brushes, oil based moisturizers, thick ponytail holders, and edge control. These items are easy to find at drug store and dollar stores. Also, ask your hair salon if they have any that they are willing to donate.

Deep Stretch

At Richmond Beach Yoga Studio, we are excited to be offering two new intensive stretching classes, Tuesday and Thursday at 8am. Like our Yin class, the Deep Stretch classes are designed primarily to work towards greater flexibility in the hips, hamstrings and lower back while developing a deep sense of root and energy in the mind. It differentiates from the Yin class in that one occasionally will see some classic Yang or standing poses thrown in, although they also will be held for longer than one might see in a typical hatha class.

Probably the greatest challenge these classes present to the student is not so much the intensity of the stretch in the pose, as all can easily be modified and pulled back from if needed, but the fact that there’s not a whole lot going on to keep the student occupied. There’s the pose, the breath and the sensations of the body often for up to two or three minutes. If there’s a lack of focus on the students part, what can be a fascinating meditation on the physical and energetic aspects of the body, can turn in something quite listless, uncomfortable and, dare I say it, boring. Boredom, in all things, but especially in yoga, can always be seen as a wall in our perception, a limit in our own personal horizon that can be overcome through a simple application of our attention to the matter at hand; the breath, the body, and our reactions to the pose. Seated meditation and Yin type yoga classes are perfect for working with this boundary. What lies behind boredom, when we pass through it – is the recognition of the steady pulse of our being and senses flowing through the present moment. What lies there is our own center, independent and clear of competing interests, a steady part of our being that’s not contingent on others or on entertainment of any sort to feel alive and meaningful. Sound to good to be true? Try it and see!

Teacher Training: Study Is a Source of Joy

In one of my favorite yoga books, Georg Feuerstein writes: “An ancient scripture, the Shata-Patha-Brahmana (, declares that, for serious students, study is a source of joy. It focuses the student’s mind and lets him or her sleep peacefully. It also yields to insight and the capacity to master life. What more could one ask for?” (“The Deeper Dimensions of Yoga” by Georg Feuerstein. Pg. 165)

Richmond Beach Yoga School offers one of the most challenging and stimulating teacher trainings in the Seattle area. In our training, you won’t skim the surface of things. You’ll go deep until you gain true understanding of several core yogic principles, which gives you a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. Email the studio for an interview to find out if our program is a fit for you.

Inspiration from Fellow Students

Last week, a participant in the Summer Challenge told me her back has never felt better. She has been coming to class every day since the summer solstice, and she is glowing!

Yesterday, a student reported after class: “I did things today that I didn’t know I could do!”

And also this week, a student told me she’d just had her “best class ever for her shoulder”.

Keep practicing, and your own breakthroughs are coming!







Magical Flutes at RBY: Torrey Talks About the Sound Bath

How was the last Sound Bath? Did you enjoy it?
The last Sound Bath was such a wonderful event! In the past, I have attended Sound Baths as a participant and love the meditative effects of the music. I really enjoy collaborating with Kate Towell and being able to offer this relaxing experience to others!

What instrument do you play?
For a Sound Bath, I play two beautiful Native American flutes. They are both made out of cedar which gives them their soft, yet haunting tone quality. One of the flutes is a single barrel end-blown flute, similar to a recorder. The other is a drone flute, meaning it has two barrels side by side. The drone side produces only one note while the other side plays multiple notes. This allows it to sound as though two flutes are playing at once! The timbre of these Native American flutes melds really well with the sounds of the Himalayan Singing Bowls played by Kate. It makes for a very enchanting hour of calming music for the Sound Bath.

What is your musical background?
I am also a classically-trained professional flutist. I have a thriving studio of private flute students, teach at Edmonds Community College, and regularly perform at weddings and other events in the area.

Will there be another Sound Bath soon?
Yes! We are thrilled that these Sound Baths are so popular! In order for everyone to have the best experience possible, we must limit the attendance. We schedule the Sound Baths to celebrate the shifts in seasons, so there is one this Sunday, June 21st for the Summer Solstice. The next one is already scheduled for September 20th, for the upcoming fall equinox. We recommend you sign up early as the Sound Baths tend to sell out!