Interview in YogaCity

I recently had a nice conversation with Kathleen Kraft at YogaCity. See an excerpt below and check out the whole interview here.


KK: Who has been a major influence on your life, your work?

EJ: As much as yoga changed, or perhaps even saved, my life, I’m inclined to give equal credit to psychoanalysis for enriching it. So, in that sense, my analyst has been a profound influence. In the same way that sitting around thinking about triangle pose would offer very limited benefit compared to actually practicing trikonasana, so too sitting and thinking about my problems and anxieties is not nearly as helpful as speaking them aloud to another person. Of course, one doesn’t necessarily need a therapist to process the mystery of their own existence, but I do think there is something important about putting thoughts into words that are heard and felt by someone else... Let’s talk.

Mindful Emailing

Image from rewireme.com

Image from rewireme.com

I was interviewed for this piece on mindful communication.

Mindfulness practices such as meditation help develop skills of doing and thinking about what we want, when we want, instead of responding to the beeps of digital devices that make us feel we should be available at all times. “Giving ourselves permission to be unavailable, to connect only when it is healthy and appropriate for us, is becoming more and more important,” says Jones.

Check out the whole thing here.

The Benefits of Meditation

Image from rewireme.com

Image from rewireme.com

I was recently interviewed for this article on the benefits of meditation:

There are many physiological benefits to meditation and science is illuminating more reasons to sit in meditation. Edward Jones, a New York-based yoga teacher and psychoanalyst-in-training says, “the main benefit is the way it helps us become aware of our feeling states, which is a fairly simple concept. If we know how we’re feeling, we have a better chance of understanding why we feel that way. If we understand why, we then have the chance to take better care of ourselves.” Meditation can help us slow down, sit still and tune in to what’s going on in our mind and in our heart with a sense of curiosity and patience.

Check out the full article here.

Yoga Connections at the Rubin Museum of Art

One of Steve McCurry's photographs from the current exhibit. I will be discussing a different piece.

I'm honored to be participating in the Yoga Connections program at the Rubin Museum of Art. Every month, a yoga teacher is invited to choose a piece of art work from a current exhibit to frame a discussion of yoga practice and philosophy. My presentation on December 9th at 6pm will include some thoughts on the intersection of yoga philosophy, Buddhism, and psychology via a beautiful photograph by Steve McCurry.

From the Rubin's site:

Discover the connections between yoga and the traditions expressed in Himalayan art.
Yoga is a system of philosophy and practice that seeks to help people align their body and mind in order to transform their experience. One translation of yoga is “yoke,” the tool used to connect an ox to a plough. Like yoga, the art objects in our collection, intended for ritual purposes as well as aesthetic ones, seek to link the worldly and the transcendent.
In December’s program Now Yoga New York teacher Edward Jones, who is trained in alignment-based vinyasa yoga, will discuss the intersection of yoga philosophy, Buddhism, and psychology.

About the Speaker
Edward Jones attended his first yoga class in 2001 and he was immediately hooked. In 2005 he completed Om Yoga Teacher Training with Jennifer Brilliant and began teaching at Om the same month. An interest in dealing with anxiety and depression led him to become certified in restorative yoga. As he then deepened his interest in Buddhist studies, he became a trained meditation teacher. After Om Yoga Center closed in 2012, he joined fellow Om faculty in founding Now Yoga New York.
Jones is currently training as a modern psychoanalyst at the New York Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is energized by the intersection of yoga philosophy, Buddhism, and psychology and seeks to draw from these three deep and potent sources for the benefit of his students and clients.

Celebrating Anniversaries at The Shala

There is a very nice article on yogacity.com featuring the owners and directors of The Shala. I've taught there for the past three years as one of the founders and directors of Now:Yoga and feel honored to call it my yoga home base. On the occasion of The Shala's 13th anniversary (and Now's 3rd) the article highlights the studio's beginnings and their philosophy. It also includes a few quotes from me on what's been going on for Now. Since my contribution was understandably edited for length, I thought I would include it in its entirety here. It was helpful to me to have the chance to articulate some thoughts about Now's approach to yoga. Enjoy.

YogaCity: How has Now:Yoga evolved since you moved across the street after OM closed?

Edward Jones: I think one of the things we all loved about OM was that the teaching felt very authentic in the sense that everyone was teaching the truth of their own practice. I always had the feeling there that my teachers were sharing something very personal that they had learned through deep exploration. So I think that spirit has persisted at Now. But what that also means is that every class becomes a reflection of the particular teacher leading it. It’s a question we have contemplated and debated quite a bit: what is the Now “style” of yoga? So many of the little details that add up to a particular style arise out of physical choices—the breath count, the specific sequence of surya namaskar, this pose always has this alignment, etc. But I think Now’s style arises very consciously from a sense of mental and emotional investigation—how does the pose feel when you approach it in this way vs. that? What happens in your mind when you lose your balance in ardha chandrasana? What have you learned about yourself in this class? This emphasis on attention and svadyaya is what unites Now’s teachers, and of course it informs our teacher training program as well. We just completed our first program here in NYC and my hope for all of our graduates is that they feel confident in their ability to communicate the language of yoga to anyone they encounter, no matter the level of physical ability or stage in life. Yoga can and should be completely inclusive, and our orientation at Now is to make the practice an open exploration.

YC: How have the past 3 years been for you. What do you love about The Shala?

EJ: I had practiced at The Shala a few times before we were invited into their space, and I always loved the warmth and lack of pretension I felt walking through the door. Aside from a handful of images on the walls and a stunning marble reclining Buddha, the shala is a beautifully blank canvas upon which to create your practice. The front room is so expansive and airy, and the back room is such an intimate, warm space—we sometimes call it the “jewel box”—it really is an ideal environment to spend some time getting to know yourself. Kristin and Barbara have been so generous and supportive of Now as we continue to settle in and grow. And I think generosity and support are really the two qualities that make The Shala special—the openness that Kristin and Barbara bring to how they conduct their business is so refreshing. I feel like they are game for anything that serves our community. I can’t overstate their big-heartedness and warmth.

YC: What’re you guys doing to celebrate Now’s third birthday?

EJ: We’re looking forward to a great party. Chanting is not a big part of the Now practice aside from an om or three at the beginning and end of class, so the kirtan will be a fun way to branch out a bit and embrace The Shala’s community and merge our voices together. I also love the idea of everyone, teachers and students, getting the chance to socialize. We spend so much time together moving and breathing, but very often don’t even know the name of that person we see across the room day after day. The friendships I’ve made through yoga are some of the best and strongest in my life, so I always welcome an opportunity to foster more community.

YC: What’s next for Now:Yoga? 

EJ: Our most recent teacher training was such a great experience, so we’re very excited about our next round beginning in September (nowyogany.com or facebook.com/nowyoga). And an advanced 300 hour TT is in the works too! We also have plans to start up an email newsletter, including some video clips—little tips and practices—that have been fun to record. Frank has been going to Japan a couple of times a year to teach. And Joe and I have been involved in Awakened Life School of Yoga’s teacher trainings in Costa Rica and Bali (recharge-retreats.com), including one beginning on June 27th! The amazing Margi Young (downtowndog.com) will be in town for a bit over the Summer and she and I will do a Farm-to-Yoga day retreat (farmtoyoga.com) on August 8th. Joe has been writing great articles on anatomy that you can find at joemilleryoga.com. And I’ve been contributing articles on breathing to Real Simple Magazine, including this past April and a couple of upcoming issues. I’ve also got a website, wheelandaxle.net.

On lightbulbs and the word "should"

There's an old joke that asks:

"How many therapists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

"Just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change."

I'm not sure the same joke could be adapted for yoga teachers, but I hope it could. I want to guide my yoga students to a deeper understanding of how they want to change, open to the possibility that the only thing that needs to change is their point of view. One of the ideas that unites psychoanalysis and the yoga practice in my mind is a commitment to exploring the individual just as they are, without a fixed idea of how they should be. This is an important distinction because there are many external forces at work telling us all the ways we should be. These powerful messages coming from advertising and culture and social pressure are constantly shaping how we see ourselves. Of course, all of the signals telling us to be thinner, richer, stronger, more giving, more patient, less gullible, resonate because we feel these things lacking in ourselves.

It is a basic principle of advertising that to sell a product you would do well to create a feeling in the consumer that they are lacking something, and that your product can fill that need and make them whole again. This subtle form of aggression, telling someone that they are not good enough as they are, may be acceptable or even expected in advertising, but is incompatible with the kind of open exploration we undertake in yoga or in analysis. The essential questions in both models are "How are you feeling?" "What do you want?" and "How can you go about getting it?" These are deceptively challenging questions to answer because we do not always know how we are feeling or what we really want. It is much easier to identify how we should feel--after all, we're constantly being told to feel differently. Both the yoga mat and the therapists office are two places where we can focus less on how we should be feeling and put more attention on how we are feeling.

Returning to the premise of the old joke, the lightbulb comes to the therapist (or the yoga teacher) wanting to change. The therapist does not wander around telling lightbulbs that they're burnt out or that they should really be 100 watts instead of 60. This is not his job. If it was, then we would end up dependent rather than independent, As Irene Dowd put it in her classic Taking Root to Fly: Articles on Functional Anatomy, "...the work of a teacher is to give students the tools of knowledge and skills to help themselves change their own patterns of movement. The good teacher gives the student the ability to be self-responsible."

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog. I'm excited to have a space in which to share ideas, articles, and links related to yoga practice, meditation, Buddhism, and psychology. I'll also take the opportunity to tell you about upcoming workshops, retreats, teacher trainings, and other events that I'm excited about. Ideally this will be a sort of stream of consciousness, or even better, an open-ended conversation, so please let me know if there is anything you would like to talk about. Thanks for reading.

-Edward