In an ideal world we would always feel happy, at peace and in touch with our own personal power – that is our true nature after all. We were never meant to feel persistently restless, lost, unhappy and/or disempowered and while we might find this hard to believe – we do have within us all the tools and mechanisms to achieve a general underlying state of power, peace and happiness.
Yes – we will experience trials and tribulations – but the trust is that these are tossed in to the mix of life – not take away peace, power or happiness but to strengthen our connection to these elements within us. So even when things are so wrong – they’re just there to bring us closer to being and feeling – so right!
Through my practice and study of yoga, my connection with the peace, power and happiness within me has come to life and strengthened significantly. The practice in itself has gradually opened my eyes and body to my true essence, of love and peace and wisdom and being immersed with the practice and the philosophy has helped me see things from a different perspective…making the not-too-bright sides of life, seem a lot brighter. What is reality but our perception, though, right? When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change (Wayne Dyer).
It as taught me the power of the present moment. We lose touch with reality because we become disconnected from NOW. We live on the basis of what if’s and if only’s and rarely stop to take in the beauty, significance and essence of the present moment. Anxiety is almost always based on something that’s been and gone or something that is anticipated (i.e. still to come – maybe/maybe not/who knows?). Happiness, power and peace don’t coincide with anxiety. They just don’t go together and unfortunately looking at the state of the nation and the world – anxiety – at this stage – is winning.
I have explore my relationship to change and growth. We fear change and base our opinions and decisions on what other will think of us or how we will be perceived. We have become imprisoned by the need to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and the even stronger need to go against the natural ebb and flow of life by trying to control everything (and each other) to be predictable.Here are my favourite quotes on the practice, peace, power and happiness that keep me going when things don’t make a whole lot of sense and I can make no rhyme or reason from the curve balls coming my way:
As a parting thought – this might just encapsulate all of the above:
- The Promise of the Practice: Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know, As the in-breath grows deep, The out-breath grows slow. Breathing in makes me calm. Breathing out makes me ease. With the in-breath, I smile. With the out-breath, I release. Breathing in, there is only the present moment. Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
- A lot of exercise is mindless: you can have music or the radio on and not be aware. But if you’re aware in anything you do – and it doesn’t have to be yoga – it changes you. Being present changes you ~ Mariel Hemingway
- You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state of being. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting you natural state ~ Shannon Gannon
- Yoga practice is like life. Each circumstance in which we find ourselves, is like a posture. Some poses are hard to hold and others are pleasant. It is how we hold the pose that determines whether or not we will grow or suffer. And whether or not we listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit.
- Things aren’t always as they seem (to you): Life lives, life dies. Life laughs, life cries. Life gives up and life tries. But life looks different through everyone’s eyes.”
- The willingness to shift perspective – to hold dexterity of perspective, comes from within your body. There must be an opening in your body to lead to an opening in your mind. This is the promise of the practice ~ Elena Brower
- Peace from within: Ego says; ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘find your peace, and then everything will fall into place”
- It’s easy to get lost in endless speculation. So today, release the need to know why things happen as they do. Instead, ask for the insight to recognize what you’re meant to learn ~ Caroline Myss
- Looking behind I am filled with gratitude; looking forward I am filled with vision; looking upwards I am filled with strength, looking within I discover peace ~ Quero Apache Prayer
- Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
- Being Happy: Spend one minute today to walk outside – look up at the sky and contemplate how amazing life really is.
- Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body – George Carlin
- Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose ~ C.S Lewis
- Happiness is not a state to arrive at but a manner of travelling ~ Margaret Lee Runbeck
- Be happy for no reason – like a child. If you’re happy for a reason you’re in trouble – because that reason can be taken from you ~ Deepak Chopra
- The reason people find it so hard to be happy, is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be ~ Marcel Pagnol
- Power and Purpose: Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. Pivot or persevere.
- Being of power is about enabling you to live as that expanded you. The self-actualised you. The you that you know deep down is within ~ Baron Baptiste
- When you are inspired by some great purpose or extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. ~ Patanjal
- You were born with wings – why prefer to crawl through life ~ Rumi
- Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston Churchill
- When you no longer need approval from others like the air that you breathe, The possibilities in life are endless. What an interesting little prison we build from the bricks of other people’s opinion ~ Jacob Nordby
- Embrace Change: If we don’t change we don’t grow. If we don’t grow – we aren’t really living ~ Gail Sheehy
- Everything in life is temporary. So when thing are good – enjoy it, because it wont last forever and when things are bad…don’t worry because it won’t last forever.
- There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on ~ Zayn Malik
Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Think of only the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the achievements of the future. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others…or yourself. Have faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
- Practice yoga – it always comes back to your practice. More problems in your mind and body are solved by simply practicing yoga, than any other means – including thinking, fretting, losing sleep and (low and behold) therapy. Albert Einstein said: we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created it. Your mind got you into the mess you’re in in the first place. Use your practice to get out of your head and into your body begin to tap the wisdom that rests in there.
- Be kind – to yourself and to others. Start with yourself and practice this every day. It’s a most unnatural thing to practice kindness compassion and care to ourselves – yet it kind of is a prerequisite to offer the sincere kind of care kindness and compassion to those around you.
- Listen to your body – in how you practice yoga, in how you eat, in every day situations. Your body will give you warning signals to let you know when you go too far, when what you’re eating isn’t what it needs (and will cause your death a few years down the line) and way before any situation gets beyond your control. If we can learn to tap into the signals from our bodies we can make better choices for ourselves. We can become proactive rather than reactive and save ourselves so much physical and emotional pain. Even in stressful encounters with other people. Your body will warn you when you are beginning to spin outside of your comfort zone (your centre as we yogis refer to it) and it will bring you back if you allow it. No more saying things you don’t mean and regretting it later. Hotheadedness – be gone!
- Eat consciously – no need to be a vegetarian as such but care about what you eat…and who you eat….and how you eat it. Be aware not only of how what you eat serves you and your body, physically, mentally and spiritually, but also how it impacts the environment. Enjoy what goes into your mouth, savour the taste and be grateful for the energy and nutrition it provides. Feel blessed by how the earth nourishes and supports you. Support organic farming for the sake of your body, the farmers, the animals and your earth. Which leads onto the next point…
- Care for the world – it’s inhabitants and the environment. You don’t have to be a green peace hippie – but brownie points if you are. Recognise the concept of ‘We are all connected’ and let that bring home to you the need for us all to look after each other and what we leave behind. It might not always feel that you can do much to save a starving child in Ethiopia and sure enough – the ignorance is bliss excuse works a charm for most. But you’re better than that and so is each starving child, each sea animal that dies due to pollution and every cow in a cage, abused and mistreated to provide to mass producers. The world is ours and you’re not as far away from it all as you think. Get on board. Take responsibility. Be kind.
- Don’t follow the rules – they aren’t real – or true and they don’t serve us. Who made the rules anyway? You are vast and brilliant and you are free. More so than we ever really allow ourselves to imagine. When you find yourself thinking ‘I should’ immediately interject and ask instead ‘says who?’. The lives we have created for ourselves by society’s rules which were devised to make us all more ‘predictable and controllable’ aren’t making us as happy as we should be. We are more depressed and less healthy than any generation that came before us. The more we fit into boxes the further we move away from our true nature of vastness and brilliance. Don’t succumb to ‘the rules’. Be who you really are and love every minute of it. See how the world will love you back!
- Exercise choice – choice in how you expend energy, choice in your responses and choice in how you approach the new beginnings available to you in every single day.
- Approach life with an attitude of gratitude – see the lesson in every moment and in every person and be grateful that they came to teach you what you needed to learn. Every situation or person – however unpleasant painful or wonderful, came to give you something to integrate into your being, to learn from and to allow you to become free of the bondage of your mind and everything that doesn’t serve you.
- Heart over matter – because that’s where your true power lies. Not in your mind like we have all allowed our minds to lead us to believe for so long. Keep coming back to stillness and finding that place of wisdom, love and peace inside you, and you will never again want for anything. The love and care of the Divine isn’t out there – it’s right here within you. You really never ever need anything more than connecting with that part of your being. And when you do that all of the above commandments effectively fall away because you are in your most natural most perfect state of being.
- On your journey to living the Ten Commandments be a caring and considerate studio yogi – don’t get protective of your space in the studio, don’t sweat on someone else’s mat. Don’t turn up late and don’t leave during savasana. Consider your neighbour in your supine twists when space is limited. Don’t judge people who don’t do yoga – they’re way behind you on the journey ? and say Namaste back to your teacher at the end of class. It’s just how it’s done. In the studio the teacher makes the rules ?
Yoga is not a religion and these 10 commandments are not meant to attempt to replace or override the commandments, rules or regulations of any religious faith. (is there an emoticon for tongue in cheek?)
Read more: http://mype.co.za/new/the-ten-commandments-of-a-yogi/29580/2013/09#ixzz3dLc9wuel
Appreciate the downtimes!
Engaging with and appreciating both the ebb and flow of the cycles of life is crucial to really get the value and meaning of it all. Tara Sophia Mohr says it beautifully in 'The Rhythm'. (From her book: Your Other Names):
In any creative feat
(By which i mean your work, your art, your life)
There will be downtimes.
Or so it seems.
Just as the earth is busy before the harvest
and a baby grows before its birth
there is no silence in you
There is no time of nothingness.
during the quiet times
when the idea flow is hushed and hard to find
you trusted (and yes i mean trusted)
that the well was filling, the waters moving?
What if you trusted
that for the rest of eternity,
without prodding, without self-discipline,
without getting over being yourself,
you would be gifted every ounce of productivity you need?
What would leave you? What would open?
And what if during the quiet times you ate great meals
and leaned back to smile at the stars,
and saw them there, as they always are
There are seasons and harvest,
Is only a fraction of them.
There is the rhythm that made everything.
The next time you stand in the kitchen, leaning,
the next time a moment of silence catches you there,
hear it, that rhythm, and let it place a stone in your spine.
Let it bring you some place beautiful
It’s a privilege to be pregnant. It is one of the greatest gifts the Universe bestows on us and it’s only fair for us to take this responsibility and blessing seriously. In an honest attempt to create the perfect home inside us for 9 months, we can often border on becoming quite obsessed with the ever growing list of do’s and don’t’s.
Without wanting to add to the confusion, I wanted to let momas- and aspiring momas-to-be know that one of the most beautiful and useful things you can do while pregnant (and while trying to get pregnant) is yoga. All you need to do is google benefits of yoga to come up with endless lists of amazing things that yoga does for your health in body and mind. The benefits of pregnancy yoga is just as well recorded and I will summarise them for you here – I know how many other ‘what-to-expect’ type reads there are out there – so let’s keep this simple!
- Know Your Body: I feel I bang on about this in every article I ever write about yoga. It’s just that it is so significant. The way that yoga teaches you to connect to your body is even more valuable during pregnancy. With so much information on what is good and what’s not, it’s hard to know what would work for you. The reality is that every single body is different and the wisdom that exists inside you is more valuable to you than any expert opinion. When you know your body and are tuned in to the signs your body gives you – you will know exactly what works for you and what doesn’t. Yoga helps you build that connection. Don’t underestimate the value of your inner voice and wisdom. Tap into it to give your baby the best nourishment and care during pregnancy.
- Get Stronger, Flexible and Better Balanced: We know yoga makes us stronger, more flexible and balanced, and just think about how important that is during pregnancy. Not only are you carrying so much extra weight as the time passes during the pregnancy, but things get extra tight and restricted as your body changes to prepare for birth. You become more wobbly and off balance, leaving you feeling quite out of sorts and like your body is no longer your own. A yoga practice will make you strong for carrying baby during and after pregnancy. It will help you be aware of the tight spots and help you open it up, and with postures like tree pose and half moon, you will find your new centre of gravity, leaving you feel solid and grounded for the duration of these amazing months.
- Get Open and Loose for Childbirth: Being strong for childbirth is a huge bonus but in the months running up to your big day, your practice can work specifically to open your hips, helping in pushing and the actual delivery of your baby. Women who practice yoga find child birth easier – it could be as simple as that.
- Abolish Lower Back pain: As you core weakens during pregnancy the lower back takes a lot more strain, resulting in lower back pain being a common issue during pregnancy. The sciatic nerve is often irritated during pregnancy as well which can be very uncomfortable and even painful. Yoga postures designed to stretch out the lower back helps to release tension, alleviate compression in the spine and again – just frees things up so you feel open, spacious and free in your own body. Not the type of sensations women generally report feeling while pregnant is it? Well with yoga, it’s a reality…you can still feel damn good while pregnant!
- Bonding with Baby: Pregnancy classes often have a meditative aspect to them allowing you time to bond with your baby. You will do so by becoming still, focusing on your baby, connecting to your feelings about the pregnancy, aspirations for your child going forward and the type of parent you want to be. One would think this is all we think about while pregnant but life doesn’t stop just because we have a heart beating inside us. It’s essential to take the time out to contemplate your emotions in relation to the baby and communicate them while baby is still inside you. There is now ample research to show babies pick up on moma’s state of mind while they’re in the uterus. Give your baby a flying start by connecting to him/her this early on already.
- Support in Numbers: Being pregnant, especially for the first time, is associated with many fears and anxieties, which momas-to-be need to find a way to channel. Being in a group with other expectant mothers provides much needed, release as it offers you the opportunity to share fears, get advice and support and be completely understood right here – right now. Your sister or mother or aunty’s experience many moons ago will always be different to yours. With the best of intentions from all of those who love you, sometimes its nice to be around people who are in exactly the same place as you right now. In a non-judgmental and openly kind and sharing environment such as that created in pregnancy yoga classes, you will not be left to feel like you’re on your own in this.
- Take a Breath….and sigh it out…:
Breathing exercises in yoga have many benefits for our momas-to-be, least of all calming the nervous system. By regulating your breath you can calm your entire body down in seconds whenever you need to. You can stop yourself in those moments of irrational fears, or emotional turmoil which is so common in pregnancy – and it can probably help you save relationships with partners and family members who are around you at the time. Breath management is also invaluable in pain control during child birth – or whenever you need it really!
- Relax Relax Relax: Every time you come to yoga you will stop and guide yourself into a beautiful state of relaxation. Purposefully relaxing your body in this way is essential in a busy daily life – and especially important during pregnancy. Not even when we sleep do we let go of tension and with baby being so tuned in and dependent on you being happy, relaxed and soft, it is so important to take time for this part of the yoga practice. Having the noise in your head turned down – even if just for a while – is so valuable. Being completely relaxed and free from all the demands of the world out there helps you to be fully present for yourself and for your baby. When you connect to the present like that, amazing things happen in your soul and your levels of well-being soar inexplicably. Guaranteed.
- Rest on Demand: Needing to learn to relax whenever you can is excellent practice for when baby will grace you with his/her presence. ‘Nap when baby naps’ is one of the most common and most valuable pieces of advice given to new momas and in yoga you will be practicing to do this. In fact – this will probably be the part of practice you will look forward to most because we all need it so much. Savasana is that space – when you become so still, yet aware. You rise from that feeling rejuvenated energized and ready to … get pregnant again!
- Encourage Confidence: Pregnancy and parenthood is an exciting but scary time. How good a parent will you be, will you have enough money to meet the demands of a new baby and will you ever have your body back again? Yoga has an amazing way to bring you back to what really matters. It brings you to here and now and you begin to recognize more and more, that you are on a journey. No amount of worrying about the journey will solve the problems along the way. It will however rob you of your peace, your freedom and the joy in the journey. These kinds of wisdoms that will be shared by your yoga teacher will often be exactly what you need, to get perspective and calm your raging mind. Because yoga builds confidence and strength in your body, it transfers to your mind. An open expansive body, leads to an open and expansive mind. We all need a confidence boost at the best of times. Yoga will give you that when you need it most.
Here is an idea for how to structure you prenatal Yoga Practice:
Gratitude: for the stage of pregnancy, the baby and the beautiful belly that goes with it
Surrender: to the process of pregnancy, the changes in your body and the impact on your mind and rest of your life. Coming to terms with and being at ease with what is ,will free you.
Love: Learning to love yourself and your body will better equip you to love your baby and your partner. Connect back to your feelings, assume responsibility for those feelings and leave your practice, a more balanced loving person.
There are many things you can do to make your pregnancy more meaningful and enjoyable and set you up for childbirth and child rearing. There is something for everyone and I trust that taking up prenatal yoga will be something that will transform your experience wherever you’re at.
As we enter the last week of January, 93% of people who have made new years resolutions would have abandoned them. In fact – most of the 93% would have abandoned their resolutions after just one week. It has me wondering if some of us still even remember what our resolutions were.
There is an inexhaustible pile of literature out there about how to set better, more realistic and achievable new years resolutions and this article is not one of them. While I believe its good to want to change things in your life for the better – setting resolutions or setting goals and failing – isn’t very good for your sense of self-worth and belief in holding that belief that you are able to achieve anything you want.
I have not set resolutions for a number of years and it got me thinking about what it is that is different in my life now, compared to five or ten years ago when I bought special notepads and books to write resolutions in – and track them over time? The short answer to that is – I became a yogi.
Adopting a new lifestyle as opposed to adding on bits and pieces to a poorly coordinated and incoherent way of life proved much easier, much more meaningful and undoubtedly, sustainable.
The main areas in which people set new years resolutions are money and success/work; family life, weight control, health and wellness, achievement in activities/hobbies, improving quality of life, feeling better…living better. Looking at this list, the thought of adding tasks in some or each of these areas seem arduous and even impossible. Especially adding that on to a life that is already unforgiving in its demands on time and energy. No wonder we set ourselves up to fail.
In my case a lifestyle change set me free of always failing at adding bits and pieces to an already full and cluttered life. My lifestyle change involved adopting the life of a yogi. It became all my new years resolutions rolled into one sweet package. It made me achieve all those resolutions I, with the best of intentions failed at, and made me forgive myself for the areas in which I would struggle. Nobody’s perfect. I didn’t have to throw the ones I didn’t ‘master’ out, because there is so much room for error and forgiveness, and much less room for judgment. So I work my way through as part of my lifestyle and nothing hangs on me achieving or letting go of anything in the first week or three of January.So here are my reasons for saying Yoga beats new years resolutions any day – and it will for just about everyone out there.
- Yoga is a lifestyle: Its not just physical exercise. If you let it, it will ease up on the rigidity you feel you need to employ when approaching life and ‘the way things should be’. It is forgiving, and kind. It allows for a different way of being – rather than an attempt at just doing things differently. A change in lifestyle means you own what you do, rather than try to make lots of new (or old habits) fit into a lifestyle to which it perhaps might not be suited.
- Yoga addresses your health needs in a very unique and effective way: Yoga will ease pain and bring newfound health and vitality to your body in ways you didn’t imagine before or during your first class, sweating through a downward facing dog. The physical aspect of yoga alone will do that. The more subtle elements in yoga will make you aware of your body in a way that may seem foreign to you reading this now. You will begin to know your body for what it is and what it needs. You will begin to value your body, respect it and treat it in the way it deserves to be treated. Your health becomes something you care to know about – not something your doctor sorts out during times of dis-ease. You own your body. Its been there from the start and will be till the end. You can’t say that about many other things in life. Yoga teaches you to love your body. What follows is simply beautiful.
- Yoga is better for you on a physical level than going to the gym: Imbalance in your body brings imbalance in your mind. Illness and disease are ultimately due to imbalances – physically, mentally, spiritually. Going to the gym isn’t a bad thing in itself – but it doesn’t ultimately give you the foundation for balance that you need. How many people go to the gym and quit after a little while? How many people hurt themselves doing strength training in the gym? How many people have ruined their health as a result of not knowing when to push and when to stop in training of their bodies? How many people feel bad about their bodies when hanging out in the ‘gym culture’? Yoga gives you all the elements of a solid and strong workout without taking away the balance your perfect body needs in terms of flexibility to counter strength, relaxation to counter the high adrenaline, knowledge and understanding and respect of your body to counter the perfect body image you chase in the gym culture. And on a vanity note – Yoga makes your body look great – toned, lean, strong, healthy. Oh yes.
- Yoga compliments every other sport you will ever do: Adopting a yoga lifestyle doesn’t mean you stop doing the sports you love. It does mea though, that you enhance your ability to achieve in sports, and limits your potential for injury. Sport is such a wonderful way to stay active, stay connected to people and possibly even with nature if the sport is played outdoors. Many of us practice sports for all those reasons and some practice for achievement, which in itself – also – is great on many levels. Wanting to achieve is fabulous – hurting yourself to get there – not so much. Doing yoga though – will again provide a foundation from which to safely expand your physical and mental boundaries. From a place of self-awareness and respect and care for your body, it is much harder to push through and hurt yourself. If achievement is important why cut playing the short, through injury?
- Yoga improves your family life: An interesting line of feedback from students who practice yoga at Heal. Love. Yoga has been their improved family relationships. This is as a result of them feeling much calmer and much more in control of themselves, their responses to stress and their time. Yoga is powerful like that. The concept of choosing how we respond to discomfort in our bodies quickly transcend the four walls of the studio into real life, and the result is a change in what matters most – how we treat and interact with the ones we love the most. Yoga calms the nervous system. This means a calmer, more in touch and real you.
- Yoga improves your work life: For the same reasons that it impacts on your family life, it does your work life. Coming to realize that worrying takes your peace away rather than your problems, and that nothing is ever really under your control, is freeing to say the least. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about what happens and shrug your shoulders at responsibility. Not at all. It means the opposite – it means very proactively dealing with what you can, without paralyzing yourself worrying about what hasn’t happened yet and may never materialize. It means choosing how best to spend time acting on your responsibilities to make it worthwhile. Investing energy wisely rather than wasting it… exhaustion, burnout, sick leave = wasted energy.
- Yoga helps you to see yourself differently: Much/most/all of our dissatisfaction with life, stem from how we see ourselves: how hard we judge ourselves and how little compassion and care we apply when interacting with ourselves. This naturally transcends to how we see and interact with the world. Through yoga you begin to explore the wonder of you; all that you are capable of when you didn’t even know to try. It teaches respect and admiration for what you are, what you are made of, what you do and mean to the world and why you being authentic and real is important to what happens to the world around you. You matter.
- Yoga helps you to experience and see the world differently: Yoga is very much a philosophy of connectedness. We are all connected. Understanding this concept and acting on it translates into a world where you treat people, animals, the environment the way you want to be treated – with care, awareness, and sensitivity. You begin to see the ripple effect your actions can have on things way, way far away from you and begin to take responsibility for yourself and for the world around you. We are all here for a reason – a purpose. You will only begin to realize that purpose once you can realize that you are part of this world and it is part of you. There is no separation ultimately other than the separation that you create in your mind. It is this self-invented separation that causes most of the pain, conflict and heartache in the world today.
It was a tall order to say yoga will incorporate and encompass all of the new years resolutions you could probably ever have…but there you have it. This is on the basis of my own personal experience and I would be very interested to hear your thoughts!Namaste
Do yourself a favour this year and don’t allow 2014 to just roll into 2015. Take a few minutes or even better, a few hours, to look back and reflect. You have one life. Make it count. You’re worth it.
Take stock of 2014 without beating yourself up about what you did or didn’t do. Simply use the reflections in 2014 as a platform to set yourself up to be your absolute best – again – in 2015.
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself at the close of 2014 to set you up for a happy, balanced and contented 2015:1. Where in my life have I not been authentic in 2014?
The most exhausting and unsatisfying thing you will ever do is to live a life trying to be someone that you’re not. It requires constant effort, only to deliver some second or third rate version of the wonderful self that you truly are. When you begin to live an authentic life – things start to flow with ease. You’re being real and that requires little effort. There are often situations or people in which or around whom we feel particularly out of sorts and as if we really need to pretend to be someone we’re not. Can you identify these people or situations and do something about it? You most likely can’t change those people or situations – but you can change your response to them.
Being aware of ‘danger zones’ in which you lose yourself easily is the first step to changing your response and becoming more authentic.2. If I were to be my most authentic self in 2015 – who would I be/what would I do/ how would I describe myself
It becomes much easier to be authentic when you really know who you are. I’m not referring to your name and surname – I mean who you really, truly are – when the names and labels, pretenses and masks are stripped away. Ask yourself what it is about these people and situations that take you off centre? How would you feel and how would you behave if you were being true to your real self? Are these situations or people perhaps conflicting with your value system, do they make you feel insecure and small, and if so why? Go on a journey to explore your true self that so often remains in hiding. Begin to love who you really are out of hiding. This is the best version of you that you could ever possibly offer – so embrace ‘you’. Take time to describe yourself – and love what you come up with.3. How did or didn’t I move in the direction I intended to in 2014?
Start by focusing on just two areas in your life. One where you made significant progress and the other where perhaps things really didn’t go as planned. Were you pursuing a direction that was true to your authentic self, or were you trying to achieve something you thought you ‘should’ based on others’ opinions or expectations? What were the things that stopped you from making progress? See if you can exercise compassion and kindness to yourself when evaluating your direction in 2013. Be as understanding about perceived ‘failures’ as you would if your best friend, partner or child were talking about what they didn’t achieve – and give as much praise and encouragement as you would that same person for the progress he/she made. Remember – the reflection is only there to be a platform from where to move forward in 2014. Its not an excuse to judge yourself or be hard on yourself. Credit is due to you for even getting to a stage of reflection. Most never do – so good on YOU!4. Where am I going in 2015?
Pick one – maybe two – areas in your life and decide what direction you want to pursue in that area in 2014. For example you might be thinking along the lines of self-development and moving towards a more consistent life living your true authentic self, prioritising that which truly matters or taking time to look after yourself the way in which you deserve to. You might be thinking of your career or family relationships. Think also about how you would measure progress in pursuing this ‘direction’. What would ‘success’ look like?5. What was it that I really needed in 2014 and did/didn’t get?
Knowing what you need is very powerful because it allows you to go out (or inside) and get it. So many of us pursue things – sometimes things that aren’t good for us – because we try to fill ‘an unidentified gap’ with whatever we can find. Once you know however what it is that you truly honestly need – it becomes a more meaningful exercise to explore how to fill that gap and doing it in such a way that leaves you feeling content.
So in this question begin to explore the moments that left you feeling you needed absolutely nothing more? When and where and with whom did you feel most empty? No blame to people or places either – just you being honest about where there were gaps that weren’t really filled. What did that look and feel like and what did you do that worked or didn’t work? When you felt wonderful – what was that about? Spend time pulling apart those contented moments. You want MORE of that going forward. KNOW what that is about.6. What do I need most in 2015 – to be happy, content, on track?
Where did you feel you felt least satisfied or content? From exploring the previous question what can you identify as most important for you to seek and find to have your deeper needs met in 2014? This is your exercise so if your answer here is chocolate – then good for you – I can relate. It may also be that you find energy and strength when you give to yourself more – you are better able to care for others. I.e. when you care for yourself by taking time out when you need it, putting yourself in situations where you feel cared for (nature, immersed in a hobbie etc), and pampered.7. What do I need to leave behind in 2014?
Most of us carry a heavier load than we need to. We carry things we can’t do anything about anymore, that weigh us down but somehow we hang on for dear life. This may relate to bad experiences, or feelings of guilt, anger resentment, either towards others or towards ourselves. It just simply is not worth it. These feelings and emotions wear you down physically and emotionally. They make you sick. What are they? Let them go. However you need to do that – write it down and burn the paper, call people up and apologise. Whatever it is, just do it…let it go.8. Letting go is hard to do – how do I build in regular check ins into 2015 to make sure I am not weighed down unnecessarily by carrying things I don’t need.
Holding on to negative emotions is such a common phenomenon and before you know it months or years have gone by and you’re still harbouring these negative feelings. Build in a regular practice of evaluating and letting go. You need to make time to become still and present and notice what is happening for you. Take time for this – meditate, do yoga – whatever it takes. Mindless activity such as cycling and/or running – not thinking about anything – won’t do the trick here. You want something that very much brings you into the present moment and has you very aware of yourself, your body, your emotions and what is going on for you. It’s worth doing this for your own well-being, peace, health and happiness.9. Looking back – what was my purpose in 2014?
If there was one reason for you to be around in 2014 – what was it? Give yourself credit for that.10. What is my true purpose in 2015?
You’re here for a reason. Don’t just live aimlessly. What you have to offer is unique and massively important.
Good luck and Namaste till 2015!
Read more: http://mype.co.za/new/10-questions-to-ask-yourself-at-the-end-of-the-year/32167/2013/12#ixzz3dLcmQAkd
Practicing Yoga in a conscious and present way is a great way to learn more about yourself and how you interact with and respond to life in general. These lessons aren’t always clear as day but when we begin to let go of the preconceived ideas of what we should be doing or look like in a yoga class and just become very aware of ourselves, our bodies and our response to the practice– as its happening in real time – we begin to be able to draw some parallels with how we respond in life outside of the studio.
One of the very interesting lessons yoga has brought home to me is the way in which I expend energy. Noticing where energy is concentrated or stuck, and then being able and willing to move it around is one of the privileges of the yoga practice – and one of the privileges of being human and exercising choice. The choice comes after awareness of what is actually happening in our bodies and in our lives and so practicing being truly present for ourselves is of crucial importance.
Take for example a high lunge where we’re normally blasting energy through the front leg, carrying all the weight of our bodies and just hanging in there hoping it will be over soon. We tense up holding on to the position, trying to balance and not fall to the side for fear of a domino effect of yogis toppling all over each other (see how worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet takes you out of the present moment?). In this posture there are quite a few other parts of the body to shift awareness and focus to in order to alleviate the tension, i.e. the concentration of energy in that front leg. Moving the energy around will mean your front leg won’t fatigue as quickly and the posture can be held for a much longer period of time – giving you even more of the benefit. Let me illustrate: while in your high lunge, shift your focus to the back leg – pushing the back heel away from you and straightening out the back leg puts strength into that leg that anchors you down and assists in the balancing element of the posture. This in turn means a huge relief in the front leg. Tucking the tailbone down and lifting your belly takes a lot of weight out of the front leg as your upper body now uses its own energy to hold itself up and ‘be light’ rather than bearing more weight onto the legs. Firing up the arms and blasting energy through both hands, also shifts energy away from the legs and helps to give your upper body the feather quality of being light and easy to hold up. Softening your face frees up some energy to expend in more useful places rather than just being wasted on something that makes no difference to the pose whatsoever….to just name a few.
So what does this teach us about our responses in real life?
We all have situations in our lives where we feel our attention or energy is being drawn to certain aspects and pulled away from others. We need a daily reminder that nothing is drawn, nothing is taken, nothing is given – everything is a choice that we make. In the high lunge you place your energy in the front leg and hope it will be over soon…and if the situation lasts the front leg gets into trouble – just as you do, when situations you are ‘drawn’ to don’t resolve and you exercise no choice of withdrawing energy or finding ways of supporting yourself in these situations. Someone grates you, wrongs you, angers you and so your energy is focused on this particular situation/person. The focus of energy is a magnet for more energy meaning that a situation (often negative or difficult) becomes all consuming. Losing sight of the ability to choose whether to invest further in this energy, or to withdraw, move it around, diffuse its intensity – results in lots of dissatisfaction, internal civil wars and general draining of vital energy. This in essence is completely unnecessary and could be prevented if we were able to be very present for ourselves at all times – always choosing, consciously, mindfully, how we will expend energy, and how we can conserve it. If we can consciously be aware of the energy sappers – and taking charge!
Allowing a concentration of negative energy such as anger or resentment to build up usually leads to some chronic pain, illness or form of depletion – as we all well know. In that sense, redistributing energy and rebalancing attention from our obsessions with things that don’t necessarily serve us, is an act of healing towards ourselves and our bodies. We can also help our bodies last much longer by shifting the energy around, making it lighter, not being so obsessed and focused on one single way of looking at or doing something. Part of this is letting go of the need to manage all qualities of our experience as well as different opinions for different people. Recognising that some of what we want to control is not in fact OURS actually frees up your body and mind of so much unnecessary tension. Someone comes at us and we get so stuck in that place where it hurts that we fail to see any options – least of all letting go of what we can’t control – and taking charge of our response to that which is not ours.
Learning to move energy around in this way, getting unstuck in places where it hurts, places where we hold on to beliefs and ideas that really serves no one including ourselves, is a way of also starting to live more compassionately towards the world. Sharing compassion will result in receiving compassion and hey – what do you know – the world becomes a kinder place. Big change starts with the change in you so don’t underestimate the power and magnitude of this stuff.
So for the benefit of all of us in your world and outside, entertain the possibility of welcoming back into your heart the people you have tossed out, called names, written off. You don’t have to see them or even be with them, but as an option, instead of holding them so far away, release some of that energy you’re using to do so, for your own healing.
When you have hate in your body for anyone, remember that that hate lives in your body…not theirs.
On Friday we had the baby and family expo at Kings Court Mall and there I was promoting pregnancy yoga. I had some of my yoga mats on display and someone who claimed to do yoga came up to enquire about the price of the mats. The mats sell for R500. A lady, quite indignantly, asked why the mat was ‘so expensive’. In short: the mat is much cheaper than what you would pay in shops or online and there are a number of reasons why it’s a wonderful yoga mat, but when I got to the part that one of the great things about the mat was that it was bio-degradable, she frowned and interrupted me – ‘why would anyone care if it was bio-degradable?’ she asked. Stunned at her ignorance and/or sheer stupidity, I could only reply: ‘Generally, yogis care about the environment’.
Her comment left me a little angry. Yes, angry is a strong emotion, but that’s me – no half measures. Upon closer inspection of my own response, I realized that – as always, my anger was just sadness earlier down the line. I ultimately felt sad about this woman’s clear indifference to the environment. Our Mother Earth that has always and continues to hold us all, provides for us all, selflessly, without asking for much in return – other than perhaps not killing her as quickly as we are currently doing. When did this woman stop caring? Did she ever care? And this shallow, narrow, indifferent and ignorant outlook – how many people in this country and in this world hold it?
When did so many of us stop caring?
Why does it not matter to us that our landfills are filling up and overflowing with products that will never decompose into something useful? Why is recycling so low on the agenda? Why is it okay that our country is full of rubbish everywhere and even when we put the rubbish in dedicated spots – why don’t we care that non-biodegradable waste impact on our environment in such a disturbing and serious way? Why don’t we care about our land, our country: this place on earth that we call home? If we don’t know the impact of our lives and rubbish on the environment – why don’t we care enough to find out?
This got me thinking further and to be honest, I got increasingly sad. I realized how many overweight and obese people I saw at the event on Friday, and how many really, really fat people I see every day, walking around PE. I ask myself the same question – when did we/they/fat people stop caring?
You didn’t wake up one day and realize – ‘oh geez, I’m 20 kg’s overweight! Who the hell visited overnight and handed me this nasty surprise? ‘There are no fairytale figures such as Father Christmas or the Tooth fairy who come and make you fat. You bring it on yourself, systematically, over time. At some point you stopped caring about yourself enough to stop and think – what am I doing to my perfect, miracle body? The fact that people stop caring about themselves is such a profoundly sad state of affairs and there are many, many reasons why this happens. I, of course, have sympathy for all those reasons. But let’s keep it real here – bottom line: When did we stop caring enough to look after ourselves?
How do you honestly and truly care and respect your body and then at the same time stuff it full of sh*t which ultimately has you the size of a house, miserable, sick, clammy and out of breath? (The same goes for smoking, excessive drinking, purposeful starvation, being in unhappy relationships, hating our jobs.)
Then I think about how people manage their weight and their attempts at weight loss. Even when people think they care enough to DO something about what has happened to their bodies, they don’t care about how they address it. The number of fad diets people follow, pills they take and other ways in which they just break the body down rather than build it up to deal with the damage that’s already there, is enormous! People starve themselves, clog up their livers and kidneys with toxins through medication, eat ‘food’ one molecule away from being plastic because it says ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ and they do not care one dime how it impacts their body. People who exploit fat people by selling diet pills, books, and weight loss programmes that serves no-one other than themselves, make me feel nauseous. When did they stop caring about other people? How do you respect yourself if that’s the business you’re in?
As a nation we pride ourselves on many wonderful things about our country – and rightfully so. I am also very disturbed by how many people pride themselves on how much meat they eat, how much beer they can drink and how they drive so well when they’re drunk.
No one says you have to be vegetarian to be healthy but I only need to mention Dr Atkins for us all to realize how a diet consisting of predominantly meat, is bad for you, your health, your heart, your weight and just about every organ in your body. Eat meat if you enjoy it. Care enough for your body to understand the proportions you need in relation to your lifestyle, your blood group, and knowing what your body can and can’t handle.
The same goes for beer and alcohol. No one says you should never drink but looking at the beer bellies around town – really? Something to be proud of or something to hang our heads in shame about?
Driving drunk doesn’t even warrant a further word. Never mind seizing to care – when did you start hating yourself and every other person around you – those you know and those you don’t – that you not only think driving drunk is funny, but boasting about how well you do it is acceptable in any way shape or form.
When did we stop caring about ourselves and about each other?
In which era did we leave our self-respect behind?
I realized while pondering this, that because we have become so disconnected from ourselves: our true spiritual nature, we struggle to love and respect who and what we really are. We see ourselves on a superficial level – not acknowledging or realizing what a privilege life is, what a miracle we are, how vast and brilliant we were created. We stopped caring about ourselves and so we stopped caring for others and for the world we live in.
I am grateful to yoga for many things and this has to be one of the most fundamental and useful lessons I have ever learnt through the practice: Honour your body, honour yourself, acknowledging your connectedness to others, the environment and the world at large. This might sound so foreign and hippie-ish….but I would much rather associate with that way of thinking, honour my body, love my life, respect the earth and everything that dwells on it and care about whether my mat is bio-degradable or not – than live a life of ultimate ignorance, ill health, and disconnectedness from everyone and everything.
Step away from this mentality. Starting with yourself – begin to care again.
The most rewarding part of teaching yoga is the amazing responses I get from students after practice. Day in and day out people come through the door – from different backgrounds and with different sources of stress – but they all have one thing in common: through a regular yoga practice they come to realise that you achieve much more when you move with ease, than when you’re all forceful about what you think you need to achieve.
As always with yoga – the lessons on the mat are so relevant to your life out there. Seeing the journeys people go on during their practice really is like seeing their entire lives unfold symbolically. People often come to say that after even a single session of yoga or a month of yoga classes, they have learnt more patience with others (because they learnt to be patient with themselves when they saw how restricted their body was), they have become more relaxed and able to stay calm during stressful periods (because they learnt to use their breath to calm their nervous system), their back feels great and they have loads more energy (because they have learnt to move with ease in the practice instead of force – depleting all energy and tensing up the entire back). The list goes on and on. Most importantly for here and now though – learning the ability to move with ease. Finding ease in a posture and finding ease in the way in which you engage with the world on a day-to-day basis is quite simply one of the most valuable lessons and skills you will ever learn.
Many of my students have fallen out of postures (and some to the ground) laughing, when I – while they are hanging mid air in some obscure balancing pose – reminded or rather, urged them to ‘find the ease in the pose’. It seems such a foreign concept to ‘find ease’ when you are trying so very, very hard to just get into, and hold on to this obscure position. It seems foreign because it is. There is no ease with forcing, no ease in trying too hard and no ease in trying to reach just an end goal with no consideration of what the journey is about. Too many scenarios like this, where we force and push and disregard our ability to achieve whatever we want with grace and ease, and we end up a stress ball, tense and restricted with much less capacity to do all the amazing things we are capable of doing. Finding the ease on the other hand leaves you with tons more energy to expand, achieve more than you expected, and perhaps (shock horror) even enjoy it while you’re at it. Some of my students have found that place – that moment when you just let go in a posture – even when it is tough. They have had the precious moment of staying ‘sweet’, breathing and letting go of the unnecessary tension – and truly seeing what their body is capable of when you let go and let it move. Afterwards these students sat in awe of their bodies, and the dramatic difference moving with ‘ease’ brought to the depth with which they were able to expand in the pose.
The ways in which yoga will help you move with ease and achieve more:
Yoga teaches you to be much more aware of and tuned in to your body and the tension that it holds for you every day. We live in a day and age where tension is the norm. Ease (relaxation/softness) has become something we work on and seek to find through classes such as yoga. We might be relaxing in front of the TV or chilling out at home – even when we are sleeping, the tension still sits in our muscles – day in and day out. The result – you and me functioning with tension, effort, a feeling of having to force, try, just see it through, just keep going, shouldering on. This isn’t moving with ease. This is not how we function to our full potential. Recognizing tension in your body will give you the opportunity to purposefully dissolve it – let it go. Perhaps you will learn to do this firstly in a yoga class and then perhaps in your daily life – in difficult encounters at work, in relationships with loved ones. Being able to let unnecessary tension go will free you up to be yourself. Tension isn’t who you are – it’s something the way we live added and it’s not always the most attractive addition. Notice it. Dissolve it. Move with ease.
Moving and responding to how you feel
I always tell my students that your yoga practice is your time – your time to do what makes you feel good. We practice yoga because it makes us feel damn good, remember? I always encourage checking in with the body – how are you feeling – aches, pains, fatigue? Respond to it. Accept that it is there and do what your body needs you to do. It won’t always mean backing off and it won’t always mean working harder. You need to learn to know what your body needs and respond to it in a caring and considerate way. How often do we feel like we live our lives to keep other people happy? How often do we feel we need to suppress resentment for not being able to do what we need, or what feels good for us. We have been conditioned to think that disregarding ourselves and just living for others is GOOD. It’s not. Living with a disregard for what you need will lead to you running on empty. Being empty will make it much more difficult to give to anyone around you. Disregarding your own needs will lead to anger and resentment. Anger and resentment sits as tension in your body and unaddressed tension and unaddressed emotions lead to very serious illness. Learning to listen to your body and fulfilling your own needs is crucial to keep it easy, keep yourself and everyone around you happy, nourished and fulfilled. Not just that – it’s essential to keep you healthy but more on that topic another time.
Learn to soften yourself
Awareness is pointless unless you learn what to do when you gain the awareness. Found the tension – now what to do with it? Yoga will teach you to soften yourself, firstly with your breath – before you’ve even started moving, and practicing to soften yourself when you are engaged in various postures of different degrees of difficulty.
Stress and tension exist. It is there and it is part of life. Practicing ease through your yoga practice is a way to learn to let that tension move in, through and out of your body without debilitating/limiting you. It’s to teach you not to get stuck on tension. It’s to show you that once you noticed the tension as a form of energy – you can move that energy around, dissolve it, reduce the acuteness of it, and return to your natural state – which is ease.
So through sometimes very difficult postures you begin to see that even in this really challenging ‘situation’ coming back to a place of ease helps to access this posture – or enjoy it, or live through it without any major trauma!
Just like you go further in a posture with ease, you achieve more in life when you approach it with ease. Can you soften the tension today and begin to see how much more fulfilling a life without force can be? Take a few deep breaths – repeat all day. You’re softer already ?
I have in my years of practicing yoga shifted in my reasons for doing so. It started out as a physical thing, where I was convinced that hot bikram yoga will transform my body so that even I could love it. It has evolved and now my philosophy around practicing yoga is simple: practice yoga because it feels damn good. Sometimes you know why it feels just so great– and other times you can’t explain it. Who cares?! Does everything have to be worded and boxed? No. It really doesn’t…and shouldn’t.
Many people decide to practice yoga because a particular style or school of yoga really gives them what they need! Some yogis and teachers REALLY believe that their own style is the best to follow – which is great – it obviously makes them feel damn good and I for one will not argue with that.
They might enjoy the structure and safety in an Iyengar Yoga practice – where precision in alignment, timing and sequencing is everything. Others love the Ashtanga Series for the fact that it requires tremendous strength and power to get through. Not to mention the arm definition its bound to give you! Vinyasa flow is the most hip form of yoga in the West, with postures flowing into each other, much like a dance – with every class being different to any other, as it is often just the creative energy of the teacher which governs what is included on any given day. Hot yoga became another craze and still make people feel fantastic and others sick – every damn day!
Ultimately the styles are based on Hatha Yoga – that yoga developed in India centuries ago – the same yoga that builds strength, flexibility and balance. Also the same yoga that improves your bone density, joint flexibility, sorts out spinal issues, strengthens your immune system and dramatically reduces your stress levels.
All the yoga styles are great. They all get you there – in different ways. Go with the one that makes you feel damn good.
Many people take to yoga as part of a spiritual journey – seeking a connection with The Higher Source. Yoga often strengthens people’s relationship with God, which is part of what makes the practice so special…for some. As many choose to avoid yoga because it’s perceived to be in conflict with or seen to be a religion on its own. The questions live on: Does practicing yoga mean I subscribe to Hinduism or Buddhism? Is it a religion or isn’t it? No and no. Just like practicing Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Aikido doesn’t mean you subscribe to Buddhism, practicing yoga doesn’t make you Hindu – or a sorcerer or witch or anything. Yoga is non-sectarian, promoting health and harmonious living. A little like feeling damn good! Yoga is such a personal experience so whether you do it with a spiritual end goal in mind, or only to correct your spine – it’s all good.
Some people take to yoga because it’s the cool, fashionable thing to do. Everyone does it – A through to C list celebrities and sport personalities/teams have all taken to the mat to get in line with the ‘trend’ that brings so many benefits. So they ended up staying – because it feels so damn good! Yoga is transformative – and it will stay that way – long after it stops being cool. If ‘cool’ is your reason it’s a good enough reason. Get into it and experience all the amazing benefits of being so damn cool.
In the ongoing war against being fat – many take to yoga with the aim of losing weight. Like with any weight-loss regime a balanced diet (first and foremost) combined with some form of exercise give the best results. The value of yoga in this quest comes back to the connection and relationship that is being built with your own body. On the yoga journey your body begins to be your teacher – showing you where to go shove your ‘perceived’ limitations. Your body – through the practice – helps you become stronger in and for yourself, it teaches you to trust in yourself and have confidence in what you can do. Your body shows you that you are more than just what’s in your mind or what is reflected on a scale. It is in this looking at yourself as if you’re someone you actually love, care for and admire that the shift begins to hit the fan. You become protective of what you give your mean miracle machine of a body. You nurture and nourish instead of stuff and abuse. You do this because you choose to and want to – not because you are restraining yourself out of fear of gaining pounds (and everything that is associated with being ‘fat’).
Loving and accepting your body, as it is today, is probably the biggest shift you will ever make in any weight-loss or self-development programme or journey– and once that happens who knows what the scales will do next?
Not that it matters of course – all that matters is that you feel damn good!