You Have Enough

Believe, for just this one moment, that what you have in life right now is enough.

It’s enough.

For this moment.

You want more? Change it one step at a time. Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.

Until then, bask in the fullness of the damned moment.

Now enjoy the rest of your day and hug someone you love!

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Stability Starts with Cleaning Your Roots

If you feel stuck in a pattern, welcome to humanity. We all get stuck in ruts.

Did you grow up watching your parents struggle to make ends meet? Did you grow up afraid to ask for things in fear you’d be told no? Were you told to stick by family no matter what, even if they are abusive or if “sticking by” turns into enabling? Did you have a family where someone or something would be stable for a while, but then suddenly the rug would get pulled out from under you and chaos would reign for some time? (Like an alcoholic parent that would go back and forth through sobriety, or a caretaker that would get themselves in trouble and lose their source of income suddenly)? Were you often warned (with the best intentions) not to get “too” comfortable because life could change suddenly?

One can be too stable, or stuck in a rut or pattern. Being unable to find a constant sense of security can be a pattern in which we get stuck, too! Much of this has to do with our beliefs about how we “should be”. We struggle with our right to be here, to be comfortable, to be safe.

Much of this causes anxiety, because we tend to believe that if we get A, we will be better. If B happens, we’ll be happy. When C comes to fruition, I’ll be stable. This type of thinking keeps us relying on things outside of ourselves for security.

You must find a way to ground through yourself. How can you do this? Take your current situation. Appreciate what life affords you at this present moment. Then, put energy into what you want more of – is it truly necessary to be happy? It’s probably not, but now check to see if deep down you really believe you DESERVE it. What is preventing you from getting a promotion, changing careers, making more money, living in a better home, having healthy relationships?

Only you know these answers. But generally, if we don’t genuinely feel like we deserve something, we create a barrier between ourselves and its acquisition.

You have to clean your roots and see where your mindset may have gotten stuck in your childhood. Think about your influences. What patterns did your parents and caregivers get stuck in over and over again? What would you have suggested to them to change the patterns? How would you have encouraged them? How would you have felt if they broke out and found success in their life’s goals? Maybe your influences were very successful, but you never saw how hard they had to work to get there so you assumed it was luck.

In any case, this is all about the root chakra, which affects and is affected by the nerve plexus around the tailbone, the legs, knees, feet, and hips.

Keep reading for more articles on how to clear out habits that no longer serve you.

Your Body is Not a Machine

When you come to the mat and your body won’t cooperate, remember these three things:

1) Your body can only relax as much as your mind

2) Your body can only do what it can do that day, that moment and in that pose

3) Your body does not deserve harsh criticism for its limitations

Set the tone for your next practice by:

1) Having no expectations

2) Dedicate your practice to the concept of “ease” and “non-judgment of self”

3) When the mind wanders, bring it back to the breath

Happy mat journeys!

Liberate Yourself From Labels

The first step starts with yoga – free yourself from the idea that you can be either “good” or “bad” at yoga. There is no such thing. What you bring to the mat is what you are. It’s called a yoga practice, from your first class to your ten thousandth.

Secondly, liberate yourself from any idea regarding the amount of or types of poses you can do. If sukhasana, or easy pose, was the only pose you ever did and you remained mindful of the breath, you are neither “better” or “worse” than the yogi throwing their leg behind their head.

Third, give yourself room both in your poses and your daily life to be free of self-judgment. When the urge to criticize yourself arises, make sure that you can breathe. Then, be sure to ease tension in the body (common areas are face, shoulders, and hips/low back). Let the action, pose, or moment stay in the past and focus on now. From moment to moment, focus on anything happening that can keep you in the moment – the best default is the breath, as that should never stop.

If you need to go back to re-evaluate the past moment, do so later after giving yourself some distance. It’s the same concept as coming back to a mathematical problem, term paper, or disagreement with a partner after some time away so as to approach the solution with a fresh mind.

This is my version of tapas + ahimsa, or the disciplined use of energy to engage in non-violence, in this case towards the self. You only have so much prana, or life force, to use each day – utilize it to focus on the now, and to use a clear mind to help solve problems in the past. In the meantime, being too harsh on yourself will cloud your ability to treat yourself fairly and to give yourself room to breathe.

Action With Intention

We go through the motions a lot. How many things in a day do you perform mindlessly? Is there anything you enjoy doing that you perform mechanically? This includes cooking, sewing, yoga, rock climbing, swimming, playing with your kids – any activity that brings you joy. How often do you actually stop to appreciate the moment?

This is part of why we practice mindfulness in yoga. Connecting with the breath and scanning the body for sensation is just a part of practicing being in the moment. At the end of a practice, time a moment to appreciate that you showed up for class (whether it be at home or in a studio setting). Then, be grateful for what your body did – don’t take for granted even the ability to relax in child’s pose. No pose, even the most challenging ones, is worth doing if you can’t be in the moment, breathing, and harmonious with your body.

Notice the after effects of your practice. Do you sleep better that evening? Do you feel nicer, less afraid of connecting with others, more focused and attentive? Of course there are days you’ll be sore, and sometimes the soreness will indicate that you overdid something or need to modify in the future. Again, is it possible to be grateful that you can feel that soreness? Some people can’t practice yoga, either due to lack of confidence, money, or physical barriers.

In the beginning of practice, find an intention. If your teacher doesn’t offer one or give you a specified time to do so, find time in your breathing to search for something to focus on during the practice. Maybe you dedicate your practice to someone who could use some positive vibes. Perhaps you just want to “get through” the class without feeling stressed. Maybe you want to deepen your breathing, or practice positive thoughts when your mind starts to criticize.

Take this idea off your mat. Spend time with people and tell them how much you enjoy your time together. Bake those cookies with a smile and a song. Sew that blanket and send love to the person you’re sewing it for (even if it’s for yourself)! Find moments to simply enjoy life – no matter what the task.

How To Get on Your Mat When You’re Feeling “Meh”

Make your home yoga practice special. Otherwise, you’ll be more likely to talk yourself out of it when you’re on the fence. We’ve all been there. Here are some things that help me with my practice, which is a 90% home-based practice and has been for over three years. It has required some creativity for me to stay this disciplined.

1) Practice in a clean space – When I had a rug in my living room, I vacuumed before every practice. Now, I sweep the floor meticulously and sometimes I even wipe the floor clean with a paper towel dipped in a water and vinegar mixture. You want to create a space where locust pose doesn’t result in a study in pet hair and dirt trapped in your rug. Also, as you work to cleanse your body and mind during your practice, it only makes sense that the space around you emulate that state.

2) Practice in an uncluttered space – You know what really irks me? When I have to move props around in order to get into a particular pose, like fallen warrior or pigeon. I also dislike touching things when I’m in a supine pose, especially savasana. In a yoga studio, sometimes you need to keep your props close due to lack of space. At home, I can keep it within arm’s reach but I take care not to leave props so close that I knock them down or touch them when I’m transitioning poses.

3) Make it smell lovely – Burn incense, light candles, melt wax, throw a Scentsy nearby, bake a pie – whatever triggers your sense of smell to relax or focus is great. A familiar smell, or a scent you release every time you do yoga, will create a sensory reaction. So if you don’t know whether you want to roll out your mat, burn the incense first and it will create a desire to practice similar to that of a Pavlovian response. This particular point has REALLY helped me during lazy times.

4) Create lighting appropriate to the mood of your practice – This one is simple; low light for relaxation and more light for an invigorating practice. Or, you might happen to desire the opposite lighting for the practice you’re planning on that day – whatever you need, do it. I find creating a lighting mood different from that of just sitting around on the computer/watching Netflix/reading helps set the tone for yoga.

5) Change up your style of yoga – Try a different style of yoga, a different teacher, or go against the grain of your normal practice. If you tend to lean towards a vigorous practice, try something a little more mindful or slow. If you shy away from intermediate or advanced videos, give it a go and do what you can. Challenging yourself to calm down or shake things up when you tend to do the opposite is a great way to learn more about what you NEED in a yoga practice. Very often the yoga we want to do should be balanced with yoga we need to do once in a while. If nothing else, something different can spark that curiosity in our brain we didn’t know was there and lead us down a new path.

6) Do less time than you originally committed to – You planned on a whole 90 minutes of yoga today including meditation and pranayama for a half hour later in the evening, on top of dinner and work and playing with your dogs and – but you just don’t think you can focus on anything, even yoga, for that long. Cut the time down in half or even a little less, and commit to a practice that is only a fraction of what you planned. It’s better than doing nothing, and very often after you get going, you’ll crave more afterwards.

7) Bring your favorite drink or treat to the mat – I bring a big mug of chai (more like a soup bowl) with me to the mat in the mornings. I sip on it when I feel like it, because I can pause my practice/video and resume when I damned well please. Take some chocolate pieces with you, or goji berries, or a handful of nuts, or something you really enjoy should you feel the need for something to nosh on during the practice. It’s one of the many advantages you get being at home!

Remember, a home practice should be special. Inserting aspects to the practice you cannot do or have no control over at a studio is the key to overcoming the “Rolling Out Your Mat” blues. Happy Breathing!

Who’s a yogi?

Anyone who breathes is a yogi. Actually, I’d like to expand that – anyone who breathes or has breathed mindfully is a yogi. It is possible to never stand on a mat balancing on one foot and still be a yogi. In fact, asana done mechanically and without attention to breath is just gymnastics. I think we’ve all experienced that in class – mind wandering to a past event in downward dog, focus wavering in tree pose, holding our breath during plank – it happens, even to long-time practitioners. That’s why it’s called a practice, not a perfect.

Spend one minute focusing on an object in front of you with your eyes about half-closed. This promotes soft muscles in the face. Make sure the jaw is loose, the teeth and lips are not pressed together, and your forehead isn’t crinkled. Or, close your eyes and do the same scan of your facial muscles, neck, and shoulders. Relax.

Whether the eyes are open or not, listen to the sounds of your breath. Feel the expansion of your lungs on your inhale, and the shrinking of them on your exhale. Before you know it, a minute or even more has passed.

One minute a day; try it.

Why Yoga?

To put it simply, yoga puts you in touch with your body. If you are in touch with your body, you become more aware of your mind. Become more aware of the mind and you gain access to the depths of your heart. From there, you expand to connect with those close to you, and soon there is no barrier between you and all living creatures.