Practice Your Yoga Like No One is Watching

Heart Chakra Opening YogaHave you ever experienced the most beautiful, rock steady tree pose (Vrkasana) or headstand at home only to feel like you’re trying to balance during an earthquake during class?

Many yoga students experience “stage fright” (for lack of a better term) in which the ego takes over and begins to place worth on whether or not we can hold a pose longer or deeper than someone else, or even get into the pose at all.   Our ego loves competition,  and often times it’s only with ourselves.

At home, we feel as if we’re in a safe judgement-free environment and we have the freedom to try anything without consequence or embarrassment if we “don’t do it right.”  But, there really is no” right,” and that safe place that we feel we have at home is actually always with us; within us. Continue reading

Snuggle the Struggle and Be Free

child hugging herselfWhen I first began to practice yoga and meditate, I assumed that I would immediately realize a stress-free blissful existence in which my problems and struggles would no longer exist.  I’ll let you in on a secret, that didn’t happen.

What I learned from teacher after teacher was that yoga was about the present moment, and letting go.  But even that turned into a struggle as I felt some type of resistance to being still.  I felt frustrated that thoughts and feelings other than bliss snuck into my zen space.  I thought that my job as a good yogi was to push those ‘bad’ thoughts and emotions out and only have happy thoughts.  Wrong again.  What I was doing was creating a deeper resistance and suffering. Continue reading

Yoga with Intent by the Supermoon

There are a few schools of thought on whether or not to practice yoga during the full moon and what kind of yoga to practice during different phases of the moon.  So, in honor of tonight’s Supermoon, the largest of the year, I thought I’d provide some insight.

We know that the sea level of earth’s oceans rise and fall twice a day — high & low tide — due to the gravitational forces exerted by the sun and the moon.   The full moon occurs when it is directly opposite the sun, with the earth in between. During a full moon, tides are high.  During a Supermoon in which the moon is at it’s perigee (closest to the earth), tides will be exceptionally high — including the tides within ourselves.

We are the Tide

The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water.  So, as water makes up such a large portion of our being, it’s no surprise we’re affected by the moon’s gravitational pull as forces of nature.  Legends have existed for centuries about the moon’s effect on human behavior in stories of werewolves and ‘luna’ tics, but if you observe the synergy between the lunar cycle of the moon to the cycle of breath, you’ll better understand the universal symbiosis as something that can be harnessed, and not as something that “happens to us”.

The full, bright moon beams with energy and life, just as your fullest inhalation.  Alive with prana, you are in sync.   And just as the beginning of an exhale brings release and purification, so does the waning moon.   Continue reading

Light a fire under your asana & transform

fireball

Photo Credit: Amarha58 Flickr

Fire is transformative.  As a bolt of lightning, it has the power to turn sand into glass.  As the sun, it has the power to bring life through it’s warmth, and illuminate the darkness with its light.  As passion, and dedication to yoga practice, fire has the power to transform the body, mind and soul.

In Sanskrit the root of the word tapas is “tap”, meaning to heat, burn, purify.  In yoga, Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or observances of self-control, in the Yoga Sutras that refers to an austerity or strict discipline of practice.  Tapas is the burning zeal in practice that comes from the desire to purify the body and seek spiritual enlightenment.  A desire to transform. Continue reading

40 Sun Salutations to Celebrate 40 Years

Sun SalutationI woke up this morning with 39 years on this planet in my rearview mirror, and I feel more alive, more centered within myself than I ever have. So, I decided to celebrate my 40th year with 40 sun salutations. Twenty Surya Namaskar A in the morning to honor the years that have brought me to this grounded place, and twenty in the evening to embrace the years to come with open arms and grace.

I look back at the past few decades (really, I can say decades) of my adult life, with humor and reflection. In my twenties, my goal was to finish college, get a good job, and move out of my parents’ house. In my thirties, my goal was to buy a house and establish some roots. In my forties, my goal is to have no goal. Not to be a total slacker, but to embrace the process of life for the journey itself and not be so concerned about the end result of the “achieving.”

Continue reading

Sometimes, you just have a crap week

woman with an umbrellaOn a scale of one to un-fun, this week has been less than bright and sunny.   Between the ebb and flow of stress at work and dear friends experiencing loss and disappointment, this has not been the kind of week you celebrate.  Or, is it?

I’ve talked before about gratitude, and the stark reminders the universe often sends our way to be grateful for what we have.   This week was one of those reminders.   Several friends experienced the loss of loved ones unexpectedly, and another saw a dream slip away.  It made the horrible situation that I was dealing with at work seem quite trivial in comparison.  Yet, for all of us, the emotional pain was quite real.

How we cope with disappointment, loss and unexpected stress is a good indicator of whether or not we understand what it means to experience joy — even when current circumstances are extremely unpleasant.    Many people want to run away from pain, because, well, it’s pain.  It’s not fun or enjoyable.   I used to run away from pain with a glass of wine, or a daily dose of whatever the anti-depressant was for the moment, but the pain was still there.    I just chose to ignore it, not face it.   That shifted when I dedicated myself to finding joy.  My path happened to be through yoga.  Even so, everyone still has moments when we want to bury our head in the sand and pretend the day or week never happened.

This week, I’ve witnessed true beauty in seeing friends face their pain head on, sit with it, acknowledge it, and move through it.   And, in an attempt to continue to live the path I’ve chosen, and out of deference to my friends who are facing their loss with grace, I too resisted the temptation to succumb to the darkness of apathy and resistance.    Despite all the good in their lives, there are people everyday who are suffering.   And, yet, as trite and Pollyanna as it may seem, there is something good that can come of the suffering if you’re willing to open your eyes.

Sometimes in life, the greatest joy is only accessible after experiencing the deepest grief.   Today, April 21st, 2012.  There are two funerals, two heartaches and much loss.  And, there is also new life.   There are three babies turning one today.   There’s a baby on her way here in two weeks, and new love is finding it’s way.  Even less romantically poetic, we are here.  We are breathing, living, reading, blogging, loving, grieving, supporting, thriving, being.

Today is also a new moon.  A time for rebirth, renewal and starting over.  Set an intention today to be grateful that you are here, that you are loved, and remember why you get up every day and who is important to you.  Appreciate little things like no bills in the mailbox, a smile from a stranger or the sun peeking out of the clouds.    It WILL illuminate the darkness.

This post is for my beautiful friends Pam, Katie, Rob, Antonio, Nancy and Collette and everyone else who had just a crap week.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

There’s no escaping the manuscript behind my brow…

woman with furrowed browBehind my brow, there’s a virtual manuscript that my mind starts to read and attach to when I’m “trying” to be still.  Sometimes during those few minutes before sleep when I’m laying down with my eyes closed or when I’m sitting in silence to meditate, there’s a full editorial meeting involving checklists, drama, and fictitious scenarios at work that my mind plays out.   It loves the activity, the intrigue, the thought movement.   My brain can flip through the pages with vigor.

Sometimes the manuscript turns into a full fledged movie, and my brain gets sucked in like a kid in front of a television.  Even as this is happening, I’m observing like a producer, and another voice sneaks in the back door and says, “hey we should be meditating here.”

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with mind-made movies that inevitably result in anxiety, worry, fear, or guilt.    As life is an ever evolving work in progress, I still experience this now and again.  If I’m not careful to bring my awareness back to my breath, back to the moment, I can go down a “Watership Down” sized rabbit hole that leaves me exhausted with a headache.  I have the subtle crease in my brow from years of furrowing to show for it.

What’s a yogini to do?  Accept and surrender.  Accept with open arms who you are, mental checklists and all, and listen.  Surrender to the present moment without expectation or interpretation, and sit with the feelings that you’re experiencing.  Without closing your eyes, scrunching your brow and trying to disappear and avoid the feelings and activity, be with it.   Skip the Xanax, skip the escape and surrender.

If thoughts come in, imagine that they are clouds floating in and out of your mind independent of you.  You are not your thoughts.  You are not the manuscript.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

 

Photo credit: Basket Case Stock

I’d rather be in Dogvasana

smyrna ga dog in savasana yogaEvery morning as I’m wrapping up my asana practice and head into final relaxation, a four-legged canine creeper slinks into my yoga room, and coils herself up beside me in “dogvasana.”    I started this regular 5:00 am routine last year, and both of my dogs often help participate in “Doga” while I’m moving through my Vinyasa.

No matter where they are in the house, they’re attracted to the energy that begins to flow during my practice.  They’ll often settle around my mat very quietly, and take a nap or just sit blissfully with their eyes half-closed.  At first, I would try to shoo them away.  This was my very serious spiritual morning routine, after all.  But, I started to notice how peaceful and serene we all get when I’m moving from Trikonasana (triangle) to Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose) or relaxing in supported bridge.  Everyone’s energy is alive and calm, and we’re happy. Continue reading

Distraction, a necessary…Squirrel!

squirrel photo bomb

I think sometimes, many yogis (myself included) get caught up in having the perfect practice, the perfect pose, the perfect meditation, the perfectly blissful existence.  But, let’s face it, that’s not reality.  And, as I mentioned in a previous post,  … Continue reading