Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Land of Not Enough

Have you ever felt like you lived in the "Land of Not Enough?"
I believe that people sometimes portray that message to us either on purpose or out of their own self importance. "Not enough this and not enough that...;" where you imagine that no matter how hard you try; you just never quite measure up. When I read this excerpt from Elephant Journal today, I thought, "Yes, I am enough."

"Today in yoga, standing splits came easier on the right side.
Today in yoga, I fell out of warrior-three… several times.
Today in yoga, I skipped vinyasas and went straight to downward-facing dog.
Today in yoga, I skipped vinyasas and took child’s pose.
Today in yoga, I modified downward-dog with dolphin, when my wrist hurt.
Today in yoga, I wiped sweat off the bridge of my nose, with my pants leg.
Today in yoga, my arms felt tired and strong at the same time.
Today in yoga, I kept breathing.
Today in yoga, I transitioned from warrior-three to half-moon.
Today in yoga, I chuckled when my teacher made a joke about the lunch samples at Trader Joe’s.
Today in yoga, I breathed deeply, smiled, and sweat profusely.
Today in yoga, I was challenged.
Today in yoga, I forgot about my worries for one hour.
Today in yoga, I made it to the mat.
Today in yoga, I did what I could… and it was enough."
Let that be....ENOUGH!
I think that is why I often feel complete on my mat. I set my intention to "be enough" just for that hour. Then, when all of the other messages come through that tear at your self-worth, I still hear that quiet whisper, "You are enough." Can you let go of what others say or do today, and just believe with me that God says, "You are enough. You are loved with an everlasting love. You belong to God. You are not finished yet. Nothing can separate you from His love." You matter. You are enough. 

He is Enough.  Be still and know.  Let that be enough.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In Loving Silence - Meditation Benefits

Every morning at Kripalu, we arrived to practice yoga at 6:20 because the Sadhana or class began at 6:30 a.m.  The room was totally silent, and the lights were low.  The weather in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts is cool, and we often dressed in layers because of it.  The moment we walked in the outer area, we removed our shoes, turned off our cell phones, and quietly placed our mats on the floor with any props necessary.  The teacher was usually already in place, meditating, and the whole area seemed filled with this beauty of peace.

The early morning classes were my favorite time.  Our teacher would guide us through our meditation, our breath practice, and start our movement phase.  There was this gentle hush throughout the room, and yet, it was friendly and compassionate.  After class was over at 8:00 a.m., I took a vow of silence and wore my badge "In Loving Silence" as I moved towards the breakfast area.  55 people were in this dim lit room plus the teacher and assistants, but we all were filled with the lovely after glow of yoga practice, pranayama, and meditation.

I brought my badge home and took out the "In Loving Silence" paper, placed it on the door of the studio. My hope was that our people would observe as they passed from the place of taking off their shoes, attending to their cards, signing in, and transition to the beauty of quiet in the early morning, mid-day, late afternoon, or evening practice.  Visiting and building a yoga community are an awesome part of Tranquility Yoga Studio in Owasso, but loud talking belong in the foyer area where we check in for the classes.

Yesterday, as our friends were coming to the noon class, one of our yoga people was in tears due to a recent loss, another was upset and needed a quiet place, so I told them about my experience and how yoga is different than gym classes of aerobics, kickboxing, and Pilates.  They were so kind and began to silence their voices, close the windows of their eyes, and come to a quiet, comfortable seat.  It was truly beautiful.  I thanked them after class for their kindness as some were suffering and needed the beauty of a meditative practice.

If you know me well, you realize immediately that I love to talk, to laugh, to make jokes, and to greet our friends.  That is why I stand at the door of the foyer to greet as they walk in, but when we come to the mat, I believe that the ambience of silence would be appropriate.  Then, after our Savasana, heading out to the foyer, and putting your shoes back on, the conversation restarts.  Many people enjoy visiting out in the parking area for long periods of time after class.  Some people leave quietly with tears in their eyes.   Others hurry out to make their next appointment.  Whichever way, the departure takes place is appropriate, but in the yoga room itself, the quiet is so precious.

My goal is to build a compassionate, kind, non-competitive yoga community here at Tranquility.  We have fellowship dinners in the summer and practices out on the yoga patio that encourage friendship and a sense of family.  Since I am an affectionate person, I love to share a hug or pat on the back with everyone who comes through our door.  People need this type of communication because we are too much into our crazy world of electronic devices, noise, and obligations which often add to the stress we feel each day.

So, come to class with us, practice yoga with our TY family, but please leave your shoes, your cell phones, your conversations in the yoga foyer and check-in place.  Begin to quiet your minds and come to a comfortable seat in the studio.  Breathe in peace; breathe out calm.  Smile. It's all good.  Meditation changed my life at Kripalu, and my hope is that it will change yours, too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Don't Sh....t On Yourself." (Oh, the last full day at Kripalu and the things I have learned.)

This is the last day of my first module of training at Kripalu Institute.  I have met so many wonderful people, have grown by leaps and bounds in my practice, learned more than I ever thought I could, and felt some important life moments were achieved here.
Here are my reflections:
  1. The first day I at Kripalu Institute I was mainly silent and became a people watcher.  I went to meditation classes, yoga practices, and our initial meeting.  I ate by myself.  I tried to get used to dorm living (it has been a long time since OSU).  I smiled a lot, but I kept to myself.
  2. The second day we were assigned to small groups of four (there are 55 of us in my module of training), and the ladies in my quad asked me to eat with them on the lawn for dinner.  I asked a lot of questions especially to the ones who had been here previously or were trained here for the 200 hr RYT.  But, I must admit, I made a poor judgment call; and in our conversation I voiced a critical remark about someone.
  3. "Sorry,"  "I apologize,"  "Please forgive,"... these words have been the long road of my life's journey.  That night during my prayers I felt the need to say something, make a verbal request for overlooking my bad remark to one of the precious ladies from Long Island, NY.
  4. The next morning after practice, I approached this lovely lady from NY.  I said, "Please forgive me.  I should not have said what I did."
  5. She looked me in the eye, and said, "Don't "should" on yourself."  However, not hearing her correctly, I thought she said, "Don't sh#t on yourself."  It really shocked me and my virgin-like Bible Belt ears.  I have found that the people of the northeastern United States don't mince words and the "f" bomb is used quite frequently as if they were asking for you to pass the salt.
  6. I thought all day and all night about what I thought she said.  First, it shocked me.  Then, it caused me to ponder and reflect.  I did a lot of quiet self-study; I thought about how I treat myself and allow others to treat me.
  7. Gandhi said, "I want the freedom  for the full expression of my personality."  Yes, I do, too!  In fact, for far too long, I have basically just asked for forgiveness for being "me."  I am emotionally intelligent, I discern well and read between the lines with good intention of seeing the hidden message, I have a thirst for learning and continue to be a life-long achiever.  I am physically fit; while back extensions are not my best, I continue to work on them, inversions, and I love, absolutely adore, arm balances and push-ups.  I have a 56 year old body, some wrinkles, red hair with some issues, fair skin, lots of freckles, and have made many mistakes in my life; but by golly, I really like myself.  I love what I do. I am tired of making excuses for not teaching elementary school any more because I am so passionate about teaching yoga and truly love it.  I get very attached to my friends, family, and the people I teach so when they go away, I grieve.  Thanks to the rude person who once commented, but "No, I do not need to take valium for that problem."
  8. You see, we all matter.  All of us.  Not just the ones who are popular, attractive, thin, athletic, successful, have money, or never err.  God loves us all the same.  He doesn't judge through Facebook glasses or according to what is the popular fad at the time. I believe God expects us to love generously, be humble, but I don't think He ever meant for me to continuously "@$#&" on myself.
  9. So, if you see me in the future, and I don't apologize, please remember.  This is my new learning curve, and I am going full force into what tomorrow holds.  Hang on, I promise it will be quite the ride.
  10. For all the people who have loved me, accepted me, treasured me, and respected me, thank you. Even when I couldn't give that to myself, you modeled it for me.  Thanks, Jay, for the time you told me, "Mom, stop apologizing."  Truth comes in many packages.  I am so thankful for those of you who have gone the extra mile to help me see the truth.  As my wonderful husband Brian would say, 

But, don't sh...t on yourself.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I love teaching.  In fact, I felt called to a be a teacher as a young girl at church camp.  There is this passion or flame in my soul to share knowledge, wisdom, and instruction with others, and I believe it is my dharma, God's path for my life.  As an elementary teacher, principal, or adjunct professor, I sensed it and lived it.  On the yoga mat, I feel as if I have come home to my place of harmony and peace as I begin a class.  No matter how many classes each week I teach, I study, I prepare, I memorize in my head how to present it with just the right frame for the students to receive.  It is my gift that comes from my soul and spirit, but it is acted out through my body.

Our teacher yesterday gave us her interpretation of teaching.  It resonated with my soul.  She called it the Seven Stages of Yoga Instruction.
  • Upadesha
  • Preparation of the instruction
  • Introduction to the class of the theme for the practice
  • Diksa
  • Initiation on the yoga mat, like the settling in for receiving
  • Meditation, breath practice, setting the intention for the class
  • Sadhana
  • The actual practice - moving with a meditative focus
  • Teacher assisting the students as she or he guides them through the movement phase 
  • Abhiseka
  • The purifying work of the chakras, vayus (apana, prana, samana, udana), and postures
  • Building heat through strength work and flexibility through lengthening the fascia lines
  • Seva
  • The offering of what the teacher is giving from their words, their actions, and their soul
  • It is the teacher's gift from study, preparation, and practicing on their own 
  • Purna Abhiseka
  • The celebration of the students receiving the teacher's gift of instruction
  • There is a catching of the theme of the class, the focus, the movement; some people never get it, and others take a while before they see it
Finally, the last stage of a yoga class is Mukti, which means "freedom."  It is the freedom that is like an afterglow of the yoga practice. Jason Crandall says, "Look at their faces after Savasana (Final Relaxation) to see if there was a change."

 May you receive my gift.
May you be happy and have the causes of happiness.
May you be healthy, body, mind, and spirit.
May you be safe, free from harm.
May you be at peace, rested, refreshed, and renewed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Journey on and Release the Destination; There Is None. We Are Building!

Yesterday, in class, one of my fellow students asked the teacher, "What do you think about death?" Our classroom became suddenly silent. This statement had become very real to my teacher due to his wife's recent passing.  He simply said, "I don't know."  There was more discussion about different belief systems, and I listened very intuitively and quietly.

I have thought about the whole scenario all night and this morning.  I feel very peaceful about death.  In my personal spiritual walk, I believe that there is a passing into a better, more excellent place.  I call it Heaven.  I know that once I arrive, all of my questions will be answered, and I will know as I have never known before. This life is a journey with no destination in sight.  I feel content knowing that I am journeying towards the Light, and that when I pass on, I will be happier, more complete, and see the face of my Savior.

Difficult yoga postures, problems sitting still in meditation, issues with quieting the mind, and problems dealing with stress, family relationships, work situations, ... are part of that journey.  My personal view is that we often fall, but we rise again to travel on towards the goal.  If I did not fall occasionally, make mistakes, have a disagreement, struggle in some form or fashion, I would not be moving; I would be stagnant.

When you build an arm balance, an inversion, a standing balance, a pose requiring strength or flexibility, you often do not succeed.  However, that is not a failure; it is a journey.  You do the preparatory work, you lay the foundation, you get back up, and you try again.  Falling is a part of the journey.  
Before I could do Handstand, I had to develop the upper body strength, learn how to engage my core musculature, and overcome my fear of falling over.  It took time and practice.  I had to build my Planks, my Dolphin pose, my Downward Facing Dog, my Bridge, and my back strength.  It did not come overnight, and I am journeying on by doing it over and over and over again.

 Poses are built from the ground up!  Like a giant pyramid!  We begin with the easier poses and progress.  It takes some falling, some continual persistence, and a whole lot of never giving up.  Here was my first Astavakrasana back in the fall of 2012.
The next photo is the one I did this May of 2014.  Notice the difference.
No blocks, head up, elbows straight back, chest up, legs closer together, and head up.

Hopefully, next year, I will be able to transition from this Eight Angle Pose to Eka Pada Koundinyasana, or maybe my Handstands, Adho Mukha Vrksasana, will be easier for me to get into or perhaps out in the middle of the room.  But, there are always "harder" poses.  

My point is this, "There is no destination in sight."  We just keep on keeping on.  We build strength, balance, and flexibility through yoga's continual practice, over and over and over again.  We build the ability to meditate with sitting still cultivating quiet.  We build pranayama through breathing in and out using various techniques for lung strength and elasticity.  We build relationships through happy times and sad times, making mistakes and finding forgiveness.  We build our ability to release stress through practice of letting go of our ego attachments. 

We are building.  We are on a journey.  We are releasing our fears, our anxieties, our failures, our past one breath at a time.  Or we are stagnating.  The choice is really ours.  One day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Choose life.  “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life..."  Deuteronomy 30:19

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"I Am the Sky, But I Don't Control the Weather."

If I am the sky, why can't I control the weather?  That's just it!  I am not in control.  In fact, it feels like a relief in the very depths of my heart.  The "letting go" and the "holding on" create weather.  When I let go of those feelings, emotions, monkey mindedness, my sky looks blue with a few puffy clouds as if you could see forever.  When I hold onto the thoughts of controlling, competing, comparing, and coveting, my weather becomes quite stormy, my sky becomes dark with angry, rolling thunderheads.

When I practice back bending postures in yoga, my sky does not look so blue and happy.  In fact, it can appear pretty stormy.  However, I have friends who find back bending to be simply lovely.  You can see my beautiful friend and co-teacher at Tranquility, Sheri, below.

Yesterday in class, we had to think of our most difficult pose and practice with a new friend.  My beautiful new friend Rhomdoul (from Cambodia) has the most elegant nature and the kindest heart.  She watched me without saying anything struggle and groan as I came up into wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana).  Rhomdoul was so sweet and smiled the whole way through my hard work of opening my chest, my thighs, and powering up with my arms.  Afterwards, we sat in silence.

First, I talked about how I struggle because I look like this...
But, I want to look like this...

When I finished telling her all about why it was so hard, how much I work on it, she simply smiled.  We had another moment of silence as we stared face to face.  Then, Rhomdoul said, "Your form is good, you are strong enough, you just are thinking too much.  Your mind is too busy!"

I am thinking too much.  
My mind is overly busy.
So, all this time, I thought it was my shoulders or my flexibility or my inability to bend back.  My weather was stormy, and I felt exhausted.  But, I learned a great lesson.  

I am the sky, and I cannot control the weather.  Acceptance and releasing the busy, busy mind will help me eventually find this pose.  I just have to let go of the suffering that I create for myself and release it.  It may happen someday, and then again, it may not.  But, in releasing the fixation on it, I may just find contentment, ease, and acceptance.  These qualities are far more important than the posture itself.

Let it go...let it go...let it go...whatever you are over-thinking today.  Breathe in; breathe out.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Who's Got the Time?

Are you stressed?  Do you sometimes have days where you don't drink enough water?  How are you sleeping?  What is your organic vegetables and fresh fruit intake look like?  Would you consider yourself - very active physically, somewhat, or have a sedentary lifestyle?  If you do exercise, compare your stretch time to your cardio time.  How is that working for you?

If you struggle with one or more of the above indicators, your myo-fascial lines will feel like and look like "GLUE."   Yes, you know the kind we used in elementary school -- pasty, white, and sticky.  Here is what is so interesting about this anatomical information.  It will affect everything you do.  Every move you make.  Every breath you breathe.  Every waking hour.  Even your sleep quality.

I know.  I have heard it so many times.  You don't have the time to exercise, do yoga, and stretch properly for the length of time it takes to create a difference.  John, in class yesterday, sarcastically said, "Who's Got the Time?"  I thought, "Who wants the discomfort, the repetitive stress injury, the achy joints (even synovial fluid has this same collagen that makes up your fascia), the aches, and the pains?"

If the fascia system does not motivate you to get on your mat, look how the rest of your body is affected by stress, too much work, too little exercise, too little sleep, too little water intake, and not eating right.

Even if I was not passionate about exercise and yoga, yesterday's anatomy class would have convinced me that we are intricately connected.  Without taking care of us, we are a clock ticking off the time for disaster. My friend, De, used to ask me when I was her principal, and she was one of my teachers, "Just give me the bottom line."

Here it is.  Make your living count by taking care of yourself.  You are not doing anyone any favors by neglecting your time on the mat.  Time spent in yoga practice is well worth it and should not be compromised.  If you make an appointment with your yoga class and it is important enough, you will show up.  After all, the hardest part is always going to be SHOWING UP!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Edge....What It Can Do for You!

Many people find the edge in arm balancing!
Other people find their edge in revolved standing postures.
Standing balances are often another edge that people find themselves in during yoga.

I found my "edge" yesterday.  
Believe it or not, it was in a lunge.  
(Now my friend, Mark Owens, would be so surprised because he thinks that I teach only lunges while he is in class.)
Frankly, I don't remember how many lunges (also called Warrior I here at Kripalu) we had done, I don't remember what time it was in the afternoon, but what I do remember is the voice that came up inside of my head.  It was not friendly.  It was not kind.  It was not very "yoga-like."  It sounded something like this...
You are not good.
You are not flexible.
You cannot balance.
You think you are a teacher.
You are too old.
You cannot do this pose.
Your knee hurts.
Your body aches.
You are a failure.
You are overweight.
You are embarrassing.
You are a curse.
These are things that have been said to me or that I have said to myself in the past.  Plus, a whole lot more.  We were doing chakra yoga, and bam!  I heard these things as if they were on loud speaker.
Then, all of a sudden.
A new voice appeared.
It said, "You are loved."
It kept going.
"You are worthy to be loved."
"You are just beginning to learn how much 
your worth really is."
"You are God's child."
I stopped the negative voices, kept my breath going, and started whispering to myself, "I am loved.  I am worthy of love.  I am God's child.  I can do this and not quit."

Peace began to flood my whole body.  Yes, I was very tired.  Getting up at 4, living in a dorm, no coffee, three intense yoga sessions or more (frankly, I lost count), and lots of meditation and instruction, I found my edge in a lunge.  Lunges are not hard for me on a regular basis.  But, it certainly was my tipping point, and all of the negative past came rushing in when I was at my edge. I know I can find it again today, and I know that there is a possibility that all the bad things I have ever thought or ever heard about myself, may return.  The good news is that I breathed through it and tuned my listening dial to what God has to say, and not what the negative voices accuse.

Have you found your "edge?"  If so, breathe and change the frequency of your listening dial.  God is speaking.  Are you listening?  When God speaks, they are words of peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday, August 9th, First Full Day of Classes - Learning How to Meditate More!

I like to meditate.  Now, I even enjoy it more!  Meditation, or the cultivation of stillness, has become something that I do frequently throughout the day.  Yesterday, at Kripalu, I learned that there are basically two types of seated meditation, Yanta, where your mind makes this loop, and Mantra meditation where you only focus on one word or phrase.

Mantra meditation is what I am accustomed to incorporating into my day.  I start off with an intention and create my word or phrase, "Peace in, calm out."  Often, I tap with my mantra, "Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby, Spirit of Truth."  I must admit that counting does not work for me.  My mind thinks, "One."  Then, it strays to One something, like one banana or one more thing to do.  "Two."  Two more people to call.  "Three."  Three is the number of my Jennifer, Jay, and Jeff.  As you can see, my mind is fascinated by numbers and their associations.  I do not find much stillness there because by "Five," I am off in running to finish my "to-do" list of five more things.  Mantras should be started at the intention and kept for the continued time.  In my class yesterday, I meditated on just one phrase for 60 minutes.  It was "I am" on the inhale.  "God's child" on the exhale.

The looping kind, Yanta, is probably more appropriate for my busy mindedness.  I start off with "I am here" then my mind loops over to all sorts of other directions and comes back home again to "I am here."  This type of meditation reminds me of a bee buzzing around a beautiful flower or a hummingbird headed back to the feeder.  Yesterday in my second class we used Yanta meditation, and I found it far less judgmental than before in meditation back home.  I didn't criticize myself for not being a good meditator.  Very simply, I watched the flight.  My thoughts always came back to my beginning, rested, and then often took off on another vein.  We practiced this for about 45 minutes, and I felt rested, relaxed, and at ease.  It was so simple, just be with your thoughts as an observer.  Perhaps, our teacher said, your mind has some unfinished business that can only be dealt with in this fashion, quietly, and without judgment.

Try both of them.  All you need is a comfortable position.  Turn off the distractions, outer sensations, sound and just "be."  The benefits are totally amazing.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Never Too Old or Too Young to Dream Big Dreams!

"Someone's got to dream the big dreams. Why shouldn't it be you?"
Jeanne K. Doss at the airport, yoga bag on one shoulder and backpack in the other hand.
"The world needs those gorgeous ideas brewing in your mind, or who else will make them happen? The world needs all of that passion that goes along with the burning desire in your heart to make things better and to fix what is wrong, or who else is going to do it? And, honey, all of those hard things you are learning, those lessons, those trials, ALL OF THEM, those are the things that will bring the wisdom and the experience that is so needed in the world. Because, if not YOU, who else will have it?

In case you are wondering...let me remind you that you're qualified, you're deserving, you have a 'right' to be the one with the huge dreams or the beautiful wisdom. YOU.

Get ready, sister. There are big things planned for you. Keep dreaming, keep fixing, keep helping, keep learning, keep sharing."
Brave Girls Club

I begin my training today at Kripalu Institute.  So many people have asked me why now or why the effort.  I must say that I have asked myself the same questions on why I feel compelled to hire 42 subs to teach for me while I am gone, where the money will come from, why the effort at 56 years old as an ERYT, and how can I be away from my best friend, Brian, for this time.  My only answer is a deep yearning inside my soul for more.  More knowledge, more practical experience, more hands on training, more yoga.

If you wonder if yoga is my passion, just ask; but, be prepared for a long discussion.  When I was on the plane ride from Chicago to Hartford, a nice young man (former college football player) told me he practiced yoga and how could I work the practice of yoga with its Eastern roots with my Christianity (I am guessing he saw my cross necklace).  Poor guy.  We talked all the way through the almost 2 hour flight.  He was practicing yoga once a week at his gym for 45 minutes in Dallas.  

Through the whole conversation of anatomy, breath practice, yoga poses, why or why not inversions, arm balancing (he had never heard of them) poses, and final relaxation (his teacher often shortened it to a few minutes or none at tall), I continued to tell him that yoga can make a profound difference in your life with consistency, the gift of time, and continual learning.  At the very end, as we were preparing to disembark to our various locations, he said, "I am under a lot of stress with my commission type of job, and my dad died at 53.  Do you think yoga can help me live longer?  I need to provide for my three young children (ages 1, 3, 5).  

I simply answered with a smile and said, "Yes, the best part of the physical exercise of yoga is to prepare you for the last five minutes (minimum) of Savasana (final relaxation) and meditation (five minutes daily or more)."  You can do this if you will add meditation and prayer to your life.

Just the yoga poses, exercise you with the intention of physical work to prepare you to sit.  Patanjali, Yoga Sutras and the Eight Limbed Path of Hatha Yoga, said one verse about asana, physical posture, "Sthira sukham asanam."  Steadiness, strength, ease, flexibility, in a comfortable seat (balance).  Our breath practice, our meditation, our concentration, our way of living (how we treat others and ourselves), our relationship with God, letting go of our senses to withdraw our attention, all contribute to our practice of yoga.  You cannot have one without aiming to include the others.  

It is my path, my way of drawing my crazy busy mind into a quiet place for rest and stillness.  Won't you come, too?  I believe it gives me the tools in my toolbox, so to speak, to be a better Christian and live out my faith in a whole hearted way.  Have I achieved this passion yet?  No, I have only just begun.
But I am on my way.  It is my dharma, my path.

Weight Lifting: The Why's, the What's, and How Much?

Dear Friends, Good Friday Morning!  Are you able to tell a difference yet? I am finding that my clothes fit better, my energy level i...