Refining Perception

by Erin Ipjian

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Above all else, I think yoga is a collection of techniques designed to help us see with greater clarity. Breath and movement are excellent tools in yoga’s toolbox, but perhaps an even more direct method to ease the suffering our minds create is meditation.

I do my very best to start every morning like this - quiet, before anyone else in the house wakes up and before I let any of the outside world in. I don’t believe meditation is an escape from life. Bad things will still happen: illness, difficult conversations and situations, but if we can catch quiet times every day, I think we can gain greater control over how we perceive those inevitable challenges. It’s a never-ending practice and it helps to have a teacher to help you start, restart, or support your meditation practice.

This month, join experienced meditation teachers and practitioners Polly and Chuck as they kick off our four week meditation series at Evolution Yoga. Explore mindfulness awareness and mantra meditation techniques in a supportive group setting. Sign up at evolutionyogaglenview.com so we can save you a seat. ❤️

Happy International Day of Yoga!

by Erin Ipjian

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People have been moving, breathing, sitting in stillness, and observing - in other words, practicing yoga - for thousands of years. How lucky am I that I happen to be one of those who discovered this beautiful practice and - even better - have been able to make it my life’s work?

On today, the International Day of Yoga, here are the top 4 lessons that I continue to learn from my daily practice and aim to bake into every class I teach:

1. You are not your body. Move your body, challenge it, explore, but please don’t ever forget - you are not your body. Don’t use this practice to sculpt, flatten, or reshape. Use it as a celebration of the incredible gift you have been given. Move as a way to root out dysfunction when possible, to build resilience, and to fully embody the precious container through which you experience this life. Your body is a gift. Treat it accordingly.

2. You are not your mind. This lesson is trickier than #1. Here’s why. Your mind is the lens through which you view and interpret the world. It will misperceive, misunderstand, and compare. It is capable of incredible creativity and innovation. It is also capable of overriding the truth and fueling destruction, as history constantly reminds us. Don’t believe everything you think. In fact, examine everything you think. Hold it up to the light of discernment. Spend time in silence, notice how your mind moves and the unconscious patterns it continually returns to.

3. Know that you are connected to everyone and everything around you. In short, their pain is your pain. Their joy is your joy. Life is not about getting ahead. It’s about fully connecting to who you are, for real, at your core, and sharing that with the world and everyone around you. Be vulnerable and honest and seek connection with those who do the same.

4. Keep practicing. It’s really easy to not make time for #1 and #2. We all get busy. It’s also really easy to forget #3. This practice only works if we continually return to it. You are never done learning. You are never done practicing. You are never done evolving. There is always a greater understanding to uncover.

Happy International Day of Yoga, dear yogis. See you on the mat.

Yoga & Movement

by Erin Ipjian

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Much of modern yoga practice centers on movement. Attentive movement focuses our mind, soothes our nervous system, and is vital to living well. It’s the perfect entry point to the practice of yoga.

But, here’s the thing - ultimately yoga is not about movement. It’s not about sticking the pose. The pose is a tool, not a goal.

I think of yoga asana as a method of recalibrating the body and reigniting our awareness so that we can more effectively sit still with ourselves. The real beauty of this practice is that it provides us with a method to quiet the incessant chatter in our minds. It guides us towards the vast openness that lies underneath. That is what I hope to share with my students. And it is what keeps me coming back to this practice day after day.

Yoga for Clarity

by Erin Ipjian

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All of the techniques of yoga - movement, breath, meditation - are really designed with one goal in mind: to free ourselves from the ways in which we fail to see clearly.
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The om symbol itself is a beautiful and succinct visual representation of our states of consciousness and the veil that obscures our perception.
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The premise is something like this: many of us live in illusion, misunderstanding who we are, misidentifying ourselves with the little “I.” We think too small. We unconsciously move through the world from a place of separateness, filtering each moment through a mind jumbled with old ways of thinking picked up along the course of our lives.

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Yoga, on the other hand, gives us the tools to break free, to see ourselves and those around us for who we truly are without judgment, and to move forward in our lives with newfound clarity. All that is required is our dedication to the practice. See you on the mat, Evolution yogis. ❤️
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my teaching schedule:
Tuesday’s 9:30-10:45am / mixed levels
Thursday’s 9:30-10:45am / mixed levels
Sunday 12:00-1:00pm / intro to yoga
(all at @evolutionyogaglenview )

Yoga & Grief

by Erin Ipjian

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This week has been tough. My lovely grandmother passed away on Thursday at the age of 96. She was amazing. Right up until a few months ago, when a cascade of events began that ultimately led to her passing, she lived independently. With the help of her children, she lived on her own, cooked and prepared her own meals. She was engaged with the world, stayed on top of current events, and never stopped learning. She read books on her kindle until she couldn’t see the text anymore. She spent most of her time with or talking about her beloved family.
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She, along with my late grandfather, was a major part of the village that raised me. On days when my parents both worked, they would pick me up from school and bring me home or to any activity I had that day, often ice skating lessons. On days I had skating, she and my grandfather would watch from behind the glass and he’d comment on my “triple lindies” (not the technical term :)) She always supported me, through all sorts of career and life transitions.
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She lived through a lot - immigrating to the US from Northern Ireland when she was 6, losing her mom when she was 11, the Great Depression, World War Two, and the untimely deaths of two of her grandchildren. All these experiences made her who she was - incredibly resilient and completely in love with being with her family.
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I feel so fortunate that she was a part of my daughters’ lives. She would sit with them for hours, totally invested in whatever fantasy world or game they had conjured up that day. My oldest daughter loved to talk with her about her childhood home in Ireland, how - as a little girl - she would pick buttercups to give to her mom, wash her doll’s clothes in the brook by her home, and help her mother churn butter to sell in town.
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So, for right now, my practice is to make space for my grief and try to do the same for my girls. It sits like a dull ache at the center of my chest. And then there are moments where an understanding emerges — that my grandmother’s life and her relationship with me and my daughters was a gift. And part of what makes that gift so precious is that it can’t last forever, at least in a physical sense. ❤️

Letting Go

by Erin Ipjian

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One of our responsibilities as yogis is to continually scan the stories and mental patterns (samskaras) that shape the lens through which we perceive the world. .
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Unless we live in a cave, it’s nearly impossible to move through life without picking up a collection of viewpoints and conditioning. By adulthood, our lens of perception (citta), can become quite muddied. Some of us spend our entire lives never examining these patterns, only making them stronger by continually revisiting them.
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Yoga, on the other hand, challenges us to disrupt our patterns, to discern whether our mental loops are true or useful, and to let go of the ones that do not serve us.
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And though it may seem easier to not do the work, the benefit of remaining dedicated to our practice is huge. Over time, we begin to shed our samskaras. We become more adept at meeting the world with greater clarity, authenticity, and openness. This is where life starts to get really good. We begin to effortlessly create and express what we were meant to share with the world. We become steady and sure of ourselves. We get out of our own way. We fulfill our dharma. .
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This is what drives us to return, again and again, to our mats. Thank you, as always, for doing the work and choosing to practice with us, Evolution yogis. We’ll see you in class.

Finding Balance

by Erin Ipjian

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Each time we come to the mat, yoga invites us to engage in an exploration of opposing forces. A well-crafted practice will draw us to center - the place where we are neither too far in one direction or the other. One of yoga's most commonly explored pairings is that of steady, persistent effort (abhyasa) on the one hand, and non-attachment to the end-result (vairagya) on the other. 

Steady, persistent effort, without the pairing of non-attachment, sends us into an endless cycle of seeking more and more, where nothing is ever enough. Complete non-attachment, devoid of effort, on the other hand, leads to inertia. Finding the balance between these two is challenging to say the least, and that's exactly why yoga is a lifelong endeavor.

So, here's to endeavoring to strike the perfect balance -- coming back to the mat, again and again, engaging in this beautiful practice, softening into acceptance, and noticing how the balance plays out beyond the mat.