Tag: yoga

running

Running Around the Block: The Small Choices that Change Your Life

For over two decades, I self-identified as a runner. No matter the weather, my emotional state, my schedule, I fit a run into my day. On average I was running 6-8 miles a day. Sometime around graduate school, also known as my thirties, I discovered power yoga. Running, which was causing knee problems anyway, left my life. I still think about running and every once in a while I lace up my shoes and go for a run. Always, I love the sound of my feet hitting the earth, the way sweat beads up, my rhythmic breathing and then something happens. Either my knees start to hurt or I start to hurt because I went too far too fast. I get discouraged because I can no longer run like I used to. No matter if it has been a decade since I ran regularly. And then I put my shoes away for the next few months.

This is how most people attempt life. Many people jump into a sport, a profession, a class, a hobby with all the best intentions but unable to see results soon enough, fast enough, they give up. I am guilty of this. Are you?

“What you do ON the mat, you do OFF the mat.”

In yoga, there is a saying “what you do on the mat, you do off the mat.” If you daydream, distract yourself, fidget, tense up, berate yourself, judge others, compare yourself to others, push too hard, leave for the bathroom during an uncomfortable pose, you are distracting yourself in your day-to-day life. As a result you are not experiencing your life at the optimal frequency. To live at your optimal frequency is to raise your level of energy. People who have low energy are less likely to have the drive to forge meaningful relationships, engage their partners mentally/emotionally/sexually, are less likely to take care of their bodies, and work consistently to make their dreams a reality. Why? Because manifesting desire into reality takes conscious work. It takes obsession, it takes a constant drive, it takes shutting the door on toxic people and naysayers. To turn your vision into reality takes persistence, dedication, an unstoppable confidence, and the hardest thing of all: overcoming your own doubts and limiting beliefs. We all have them.

Recently, I started running 10 minutes a day. Only 10 minutes! But I do it every day. When I don’t want to run, I remind myself I am only running around the block. I CAN run for 10 minutes. I don’t feel any pressure. I put on my shoes, run around the block, come home. I feel great! Maybe I will increase my time and my mileage. Maybe I won’t. That doesn’t concern me. What does, is that I am doing it.

Your Everyday Actions

Everyday rituals create your life. Do you choose to watch TV instead of read that book or work on that book you have been wanting to write? Do you roll over in bed or do you get up and meditate? Your choices make your life. You do not need to make big changes or big actions to make a difference in the quality of your life. Start doing the little actions towards your big dreams and I promise, your energy will change. You will feel empowered, alive, motivated, and good. This may not happen right away. Stick with it and it will.

As in Handstand, As in Life

One_hand_handstandThe other day I was in a yoga class. We were to get a partner for inversion work. I have always wanted to do an inversion and, as long as I can remember, I have always been afraid of them. Several years ago, learning yoga asana I decided I would finally master them. After months of dedicated discipline, I became proficient in sirasana, or headstead. I am off/on with my pincha mayurasana (forearm stand) and my adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) still completely alludes me. But I try a handstand almost every day – with a wall. I am getting a lot better and know it is time for me to move away from the wall but that scares me. Like mashed potatoes, the wall is so comforting.

Well…in this particular yoga class the teacher asked us to pair up and assist each other in our inversions. In essence this student was to be my wall. I was to lift up into handstand and trust that a stranger would support me. I had been practicing handstands a lot lately and was becoming more confident with my ability to control my kick up. With the best intentions to conquer my fear and take my learning to a new level I went for it. My partner made an observation: I go up strong, wobble, and immediately come down.

Go Up Strong. Then Wobble.

I digested this information: I go up strong and then wobble. I wobble and I come down. Tried it. Too scary. Can’t do it. Done. I felt like this summed up my entire learning and growing process. I go in to a situation strong and confidant, hit a moment of uncertainty, get scared, and come back to my starting place. What would happen if I embraced the unknown?

In everything we do there will always be the place where we don’t know what is next. A limbo state in which we teeter and must  learn to find our balance in a new, and sometimes seemingly precarious, way. We may even fall.  Often falling is an inevitable part of finding your balance. When you fall you have learned new information – where you need to slow down, how you need to engage, etc. I can’t help but think trying and falling is better than return to back to the same starting place.

Transformation Begins in the Discomfort

It is important to get familiar with discomfort. Transformation begins in the realm of discomfort. Putting ourselves out into the world, into unfamiliar situations, only helps us grow. Everything is always changing. There is a continuous process of creation, growth, and dissolution. When you move into this cycle, there is a natural and rhythm and flow you will experience. This does not mean your life is easy but rather you are able to ride the ebbs and flows recognizing your strengths and the gifts acquired by every situation propelling you forward on your path. You will move with an  innate sense of confidence that will radiate into all that you do.

When you fight this inevitable cycle of change you expend unnecessary energy in a direction you have no real desire to go often leaving you feel exhausted, low self-esteem, jealous of others’ success, despondent feelings, and an overall sense that you are not living up to your true potential. This is also a cycle that will feed itself: you know you can do better, get motivated, take a step forward, meet resistance, step back, make excuses, and have more doubt about yourself. To avoid this downward spiral that will leave you burnt-out or worse stagnant, you must be willing to go into the unknown, let yourself wobble, trust unexpected opportunities, and find your balance in new situations.

I still cannot do a handstand. It still terrifies me. Yet, I am trying them in the middle of my hallway more. I am moving away from the wall to get familiar with the air around my legs. I am taking my focus to my fingers, to my arms, to me core, to my legs. I am re-engaging with all parts of me – not only feeding the fear. I am lifting up and, someday soon, I will balance on my own.  Where are you willing to lift up?

Cultivating Shakti: How to Awaken Your Inner Power

Shakti at BeachThis morning, I opened my meditation by chanting to the Goddess Tapasvini, a form of the goddess Parvati who is also known as Uma, Gauri, and Jagadamba. When I first dived into the world of Hindu mythology I became overwhelmed with all the different names, different forms, and conflicting stories of the deities. If I wasn’t so in love with the deities and craving more I’d probably have given up on my learning. Falling in love with deities is like falling in love with any person – there are countless aspects to a single person and it can take a lifetime to know all the intimate intricacies of a person and even then, they will still surprise you. As there are countless parts to a single individual, all goddesses are an embodiment of Shakti. 

Shakti means “power” and is the activating force of the universe. Shakti is the power of thought, the ability to manifest, and the object manifested. Shakti, both your breath and the ability to breathe, is referred to as the feminine energy of the universe and all forms of Goddess are representations of her. Although, the goddesses represent Shakti this does not exclude the men from the energetic power of Shakti.  The masculine and the feminine energies of the universe reside in each of us – this is evident in the equal exchange of your inhale and exhale, the necessity of the sun and the moon, and the left and right sides of your brain and body.

When we understand Shakti and recognize the animating force around us, new doorways of living open for us.  One of the most concise steps to connect with Shakti is found in the yoga sutras, a foundation of yoga philosophy. Yoga sutra 1.20 outlines five-fold path to Self-Realization: 1) Sraddha: conviction or faith in your path, 2) Virya: making vigorous action that you are going in the right direction of your path, 3) Smriti: pause to reflect on your path and still the mind, 4) Samadhi: all-consuming focus, and 5) Prajna: discernment or clear understanding.

This five-fold system of awakening is to help you cultivate the life you want:

  • Sraddha: What do you want? Shakti is the power behind thought. Before you go on your path, it is imperative you become clear about what you want for yourself. Then have the faith to believe that this is your path and yes! How you dedicate your heart, is how you live your life. Having faith in yourself something means going against the current of what is expected of you. You will know if you are going the right direction by feelings of wellness, ease, love, and excitement.
  • Virya: Vigorous action in the right direction. This is all Shakti. What actions step are you taking on your path? Do you speak your truth? Do your actions compromise or support your health, your well-being, and your growth?
  • Smriti: Pause, refection, and stilling the mind. This key step is about going within and connecting with the intuitive voice that is Shakti. On your path, you will face obstacles. Some will be external rejections and roadblocks; others will be internal hurdles such as fear, lethargy, laziness, and distractions. This is the time to pause and recommit to your path. Are you making the best choices for you? Are you really living the life you want? Do you spend your day giving into fear or moving forward with confidence? How would you feel if you quit now? How would you feel if you kept moving forward? To really hear Shakti respond to your questions, meditate on your questions and be still to hear the answers. Because Shakti is an activating energy the answers can arise in a multitude of ways: you may hear the answers as words, feel the answers as sensations in your body, or receive signs from the natural world.
  • Samadhi: Complete focus. This is the complete focus on your path and being committed to your path by making the choices that foster your growth. For example: Are you up late watching TV or going to sleep so you can get up early and meditate? When you arrive at this step all your thoughts are in the direction of your path and distractions are removed. As a result, you are clear and calm in your intentions and actions.
  • Prajna: Discriminating wisdom. This is the clear understanding of the tools you have and the path you are walking. This is often when we seek help or counsel from someone else in the process of advancing our growth. Because we are advancing our growth, most of us return back to step one, committing ourselves to our new path, our new direction.

Shakti, the energy current which always moves through and around us, are the words we use, the philosophy we read, and the actions we take. The five attitudes of the yoga path are tangible ways to connect with Shakti and create the life you want for yourself. Remember, Shakti is always available to tune into and utilize for your own betterment.