Walk your Talk

 

photo

Today I have been challenged to walk my talk. In my life, as in all of ours I have many worlds. I am a mother, a wife, a Yoga Teacher and I also happen to be PTSA Co-President for my children’s school this year. I just opened our local newspaper to find a very personal attack on me from someone I do not know, who happens to be a man of faith, and who does not even live in our town.

My first instinct (as a human) was to want to defend myself. My heart began to beat furiously and my face flushed and then I began to breathe. I started to think about the other parts of me, the mother, the wife and mostly the Yoga teacher. See, ironically my theme for this week in my classes has been about Karma. Very simply, “How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours”. Karma is an amazing thing. We get to just worry about ourselves when we live Karmically. The Sage, Vashistasana summarized the deepest truth about karma by saying “There is no power on earth greater than the right action in the present moment” 

The law of Karma says that as long as we continue to take the right action in the present moment, that we do not need to personally be responsible for anyone else. The universe is always offering back to you whatever it is you put out there. So, for instance, should someone put negative energy out into the world, then that is exactly what they will receive back. It is not our responsibility to take care of anyone else’s Karma (to “get them back”).  The universe does it for us. All we need to do is have confidence and faith in our own actions. I take comfort with the knowledge that I do.

As a spiritual person I understand the power of positivity and truthfulness. I understand that offering information is all we can do and it is each our individual choice to accept the information or to not. I understand that through the breath and the movement both on the mat and off that I am living my positive karma each day. I feel only a sense of sadness for those who do not.

I know I have departed from my usual style this week in my post but I felt there was a clear opportunity to Walk my Talk. As I settled the mind, found my breath and realized that I knew what the right action was in this present moment, I sat at my computer. And these words came out. I feel such a sense of gratitude for the wisdom this practice provides and the opportunity to be an example of positive karmic living in ALL my worlds. Namaste.

What we have on and off our mats is More than Enough

enough

I caught a short video the other day that truly inspired me.  It shows a young man approaching a few different people who were eating at the airport.  He was cleanly dressed and spoke respectfully and asked if they could spare some food as he was hungry. No one felt they had enough to share. That was not surprising, but then they took their video crew out to the beach where several homeless men we sleeping. The filmmakers approached three different men and offered them some extra food and in one case, $10. Then they continued filming as the same young man from earlier in the video approached and asked if they had anything to spare.  In each case the homeless person shared what they had just been given. That was the inspiration. These people; who by anyone’s opinion had nothing;  believed they “Had more than Enough”.  The final quote of the video stated,  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

I asked my students to connect with the mantra; “Whatever I have is more than enough” on their mats last week.  In order to practice internalizing this mantra we explored a couple of poses in several different ways. We used both  Supta Padangustasana (reclined hand to toe posture) and Pigeon pose at the beginning on the floor, in the middle by balancing and then again at the end of practice. Often these poses are performed at the end of class, when the body is more open, but exploring them at the beginning as well helped us find acceptance of where we were, reminding ourselves that even if we had less available at the start that  “Whatever we had available on our mats was more than enough”

Then later as we found both poses again in our balancing series we noticed more was available but still potentially less than we were accustomed. Again we had to remind ourselves that  “Whatever I have is more than enough”  

Balancing can cultivate doubt, doubt in ourselves, doubt in our abilities and with that, a worry that we don’t have enough inside ourselves to share. Off the mat it is the same. The more doubt we have that we don’t HAVE ENOUGH or ARE NOT ENOUGH, the less we believe that we have “More than Enough” to share with others.

As we began to wind down our practice, we explored Pigeon again, this time the way we typically do…slowly and restoratively.  We noticed all that was available and how far we had come. I again reminded my students to release any self doubt they may have been holding onto, any feelings that they weren’t enough or didn’t have enough. And then as we transitioned again to Supta Padangustasana on our backs, we found an even deeper release.

I watched the students settle into Savasana, lighter and more accepting of themselves then when they arrived on their mats.  I reminded them that the capacity to give, to share, to be selfless, starts within. Once we know We have More than Enough both on the mat and off , we get to take it further. We have the chance to worry less about what we get, and Make A Life By What We Give. Namaste.

 

Live your Pura Vida

puravida

 

Two weeks ago I traveled to Costa Rica for the second time. I felt so blessed to be back in a country I fell in love with 12 months ago and I found a deeper appreciation not only for the natural beauty of the country but the wisdom and internal beauty of the people who live there.

There is a mantra that permeates the daily life of the Costa Rican people, Pura Vida. The direct translation in English is Pure Life but the essence of the saying is a reminder to live life truthfully, authentically, and be happy for what you have. They use this saying pervasively…it means hello, goodbye, thank you and your welcome and works as a constant reminder each day to be full of life, to find gratitude and to enjoy what each day brings.

This was my inspiration for my classes last week. As we began in Childs pose on the mat, I asked my students to begin their journey inside, to connect inward to the mantra, Pura Vida. As we started Cat/Cows and moved into Sun Salutations  all I asked was that they practice from their truth. I always teach my classes with offerings to do less or do more based on what works for each student, but this week was truly multiple choice yoga.  I offered many variations so students could practice creating the yoga practice that allowed them Pura Vida .

We slowly crafted our Asana practice, building and growing from a place inside us. It was an honor to watch all levels of students stop along the way and move mindfully as they tapped into Pura Vida for themselves. Some students stayed in Malasana (squat) while others worked in Bakasana (Crow pose) and even a few tried  Eka Pada Bakasana (one leg extended). However,  each student was where they needed to be to connect to Pura Vida and that energy could be felt the room.

Later as we moved into half Hanumanasana for the 5th time, some students chose to explore full Hanumanasana (pictured above) while others did not. There was no sense of judgment of themselves or others. It was a true expression of Pura Vida.

What we practice on the mat, in this case living from our truth;  from the inside (what is in our hearts) out instead of letting the outside world dictate;  comes with us off the mat. On one of our excursions our tour guide was providing information about the agriculture in Costa Rica and he shared a story that captured the essence of Pura Vida off the mat. He explained that for many years it has been known that Costa Rica produces the best coffee beans and therefore the best coffee. The Costa Rican people feel very comfortable with this truth; so much so that even though in recent years Nicaragua (their neighbor) has claimed that THEY have the best coffee, Costa Ricans do not feel the need to argue. He said, it’s okay, Let Nicaragua believe that, it’s not hurting anyone and we know the truth. They are comfortable enough with their truth that they are not concerned about what Nicaragua says. Pura Vida…living authentically from the inside; not worrying so much what the outside world says. What an amazing practice.

I repeated the mantra Pura Vida often through my classes last week, just as the Costa Rican people do. And just as it is for them, it served as a reminder to my students and myself to love this life, to cherish it and be grateful. On this trip I was reminded that I get to live my true authentic life every day when I get on my mat to practice or teach and what an incredible blessing that is.  I got the chance to further explore a magnificent country, the beautiful people who live there, and myself. Now, that is Pura Vida. Namaste.

 

Clear your Mind of Fullness and be Mindful

mindfulness

 

Summer is supposed to be carefree, fun and include a lot of lounging in the sun but that has not been my summer journey so far. One day last week I caught myself just as I was about to squeeze hand cream on my toothbrush. I stopped (thankfully), took a deep breath and realized My Mind was Too Full to be Mindful.

I took to my mat and moved through breath and Asana to clear some of the clutter. And as I prepared for my classes, my inspiration was very clear. Fullness in the Mind can take away our Mindfulness.

So Mindfulness is what we practiced on our mats. We began on our backs being mindful of the spine with Bridge pose and spinal twisting. Then we warmed up the abdominals slowly using the breath to keep our minds focused on the movements. Moving slowly through them allowed us to feel the strengthening more deeply, more intentionally.

As we began our familiar Sun Salutes, the chance was there to clear the mind a bit. Our bodies knew what was next and the Mind could rest. The physical movements in the opening sequences started to relieve some of the Fullness we store in the body as well. We opened the shoulders with arms clasped behind us and then used Dolphin pose to go deeper, as much of our stress and “Fullness” lives there. We began to work through the hamstrings with Parsvottonasana and Warrior 1 and 2 began to release “Fullness” from the thighs and gluts.

As the body began to release it’s “Fullness” then it became the Minds turn. Moving from Vrksasana (Tree) to Dancers pose asks quite a bit of the mind, to stay clear and focused as the body transitions.  When being truly mindful, often we need to slow down, create an intention as we move from one pose to the next. When we rush, sometimes we miss key steps in an effort to quickly  get to the “end”; like falling into a Standing Split from Warrior 3 instead of gracefully moving there.

Off the mat it is the same; the “end” for me was brushing my teeth but I almost missed a pretty key step that would have changed the result quite dramatically. Sometimes when our minds are so full we forget the destination completely;  we walk into a room with a purpose and then can’t remember why we came there to begin with… Our Minds are Too Full to be Mindful.

As I prepare my family for a much-needed summer vacation which will hopefully include some carefree sun worship and beautiful ocean water, I keep drawing myself back to a Mindful place. It is a constant practice to steady the mind with all the thoughts we have in our complicated lives. It  is also an opportunity and a gift to cultivate the practice of Mindfulness; To stop, take a breath, slow down and create an intention for what is next.

As I watched my students Mindfully create a Savasana that was restorative for them and lie still, lighter and freer of ” Fullness” than when they started on their mats,  it again became very clear to me that  With Intentional Moves On and Off the Mat the Fullness in the Mind will Subside and Mindfulness will Preside. Namaste

 

Grant Yourself the Gratitude

grateful

last week I had a moment where I realized that I had taken something for GRANTED that I literally could NOT imagine living without. It wasn’t intentional but it happened just the same. It is human nature to not always appreciate things until they are gone or changed in some way so I asked my students to connect to their gratitude last week on their mats.

We can spend our energy focusing on what isn’t available, what could be better…or we can use  our energy to cultivate a place of gratitude for all that is available on our mats and off. As we moved through our familiar Sun Salutations, I reminded the students that while it is easy to assume that a Downward Dog or a Chaturanga will always be available, that appreciating them each time in some small way helps remind us not to take these small but important movements for granted.

Then later as we explored more challenging transitions such as Cresent Warrior into Pashasana, we could find joy and appreciation for what was available…not take it for granted…. and also let go of judgment for what wasn’t.

It’s like the breath; We take for granted we will wake up each day and breathe. Yet, when we put our mind to our intentional breath and connect to each breath, it feels different…truer and deeper and we find gratitude. Like with the breath, it is impossible to be thankful for everything all the time, but practicing gratitude on our mats helps us Grant ourselves that Gratitude off the mat as well.

The things and people we hold most dearly are sometimes the things we pay the least mind to. Just like the breath, we take for granted that they will always be there for us. They are fixtures in our lives…until they aren’t in the same way. We can learn these lessons through loss or through gratitude. I choose Gratitude. Namaste.

On your Journey is the Joy

IMG_1470

I found my inspiration last week in a small package…my six year old Son. He was struggling with kindergarten ending and camp starting. All of those changes; transitions were a lot for him. I realized that the milestones…the big moments….like the last day of Kindergarten; are only important because of all the days leading up to it. In other words; the journey to get there. Just like on the mat, we may achieve a new edge but all the days of practice to get there is where the Joy comes from.

So I asked my students last week to practice living in the Joy of the Journey on their mats. We reminded ourselves as we carefully crafted an Asana sequence that it wasn’t about the final pose, instead it is about mindfully and presently enjoying the whole journey. The practice was in the graceful transition from pose to pose, that is where the Joy lives.

We practiced moving back and forth between poses…from Parsvokanasana to Trikonasana to keep reminding ourselves that it was the transition…not the end pose that offered the gifts.  As we moved from Warrior Three mindfully into Tree pose, I asked my students to breathe and smile and enjoy the graceful transition.  See,  once we let go of the destination, then it allowed us to be more free to enjoy the Journey to get there.

As I worked with my Son to find some comfort and grace (as graceful as a 6 year gets) in his transition, I began to connect with some of my own. With the new puppy and some other added responsibilities I have been finding it more challenging to breathe through my own transitions off the mat. I pledged to myself last week to find my breath and set my intention towards  graceful transitions without as much focus on the destination. I reminded myself that even though there is always more on that To-Do List and always another Pose on the mat we are all blessed to wake up each day with breath in our lungs and love in our hearts. That is the Journey and that is the Joy. Namaste.

 

 

 

 

It’s your Attitude, Not your Aptitude that determines your Altitude

stmartin3

 

As I have mentioned, we recently adopted a puppy. I was anxious and fearful leading up to her arrival and began to feel relief once she actually came.  Now, a few weeks into the journey,  I have been inspired by all that I have already gotten back from the experience. What you put in is what you get out as the saying goes.  I found this beautiful quote that partnered with this theme. “It’s your Attitude, not your Aptitude that determines your Altitude”  That became my inspiration for my classes last week.

I paired these together because there is an assumption that putting in the maximum all the time is going to get you the maximum return, not the case on our mats…or off for that matter. Rather, the inspiration comes both by committing (being in the moment) and by being true to what we need to receive and give that out.

As we began our practice last week, I asked my students to connect to what they wanted to get out of their practice that day. Perhaps they needed to be compassionate to their bodies and they would get that compassion back. By reminding themselves that it’s their attitude (perspective) not their aptitude (what poses they performed) that would offer them altitude (lightness and flight) on and off the mat, we set our Intention.

From Sun Salutations we moved into Parsvokonasana (Side Angle pose) and then Trikonasana (Triangle pose) and I asked them to draw the belly in and get taller..find their altitude;  not sink into the hips but instead cultivate lightness and space in the spine.

We also used the Bandhas to explore this idea of “What we put into our practice is what we will get out”. Both Mula Bandha (Pelvic floor) and  Uddiyana bandha (Abdominals) can add a deepness and lightness to the physical practice. We practiced Bakasana (Crow Pose) once without Uddiyana Bandha (nicknamed the flying bandha)  and then with the Bandhas engaged and we found our Altitude.

In Lizard we moved to Eka Pada Koundinyasana (arm balance) and then even tried to fly back to Chaturanga. This practice was about letting the Attitude lead us, not getting caught up in the Aptitude of it all, and then who knew…perhaps we would find Altitude.

As we slowed the practice with a long pigeon pose I came back to my puppy…the inspiration for the week. I shared that my daughter had to learn the same lesson we were practicing. In the first days with our puppy, my daughter was upset because she couldn’t understand why the puppy didn’t automatically love her. I explained that she needed to put the work in, to show our new family member that she loved her…not once for five minutes…but over time. And I assured her that if she was patient and loving and consistent, that she would get all of that back from this little furry creature. In Pigeon pose we offer the same to our hips, by showing them that we love them, patiently over time, we get that love back in the long run. We find lightness and altitude…we can fly.

That is what a Yoga practice teaches as well.  If we are patient and compassionate and loving of our bodies and ourselves, we will get all of that back in return. Our Attitude will dictate our Happiness, our Lightness and our Altitude way more than our Aptitude ever will. Namaste.