Being New Every Day

As I entered my 11th straight week of yoga this past Monday, I decided this week to switch my practice up. I began this 100 day journey 72 days ago to experience yoga not as part of my routine, but as the gift that it has been to me. I thought that maybe not getting up at 5 a.m. every weekday to practice might be a nice change of pace (and yes, not having to get out of bed at 5 every day was part of it too). Anyway, I have been going to practices at different times during the day this week to notice any changes in my mind and body. My hips and hams are more open at noon, but my mind is also a bit more cluttered, so it’s been nice to shift the energy around a bit.
And with this schedule switch, a funny thing happened to me today. I decided to try a new studio and went to a Dhyana yoga studio in Philly. I walked in and realized that I had actually been there before and totally forgotten about it. About 10 years ago when I was training diligently for a marathon (or few), some friends and I decided to try yoga to supplement our running. We signed up for a new student deal for 5 classes for 20 bucks or something like that. We never returned after 2 classes. I remember giggling every time the instructor said downward facing dog and laughing out loud every time he said to reach for your toes (see above re: marathon training). Yoga never landed with me. I was too intense, enjoyed working out too much, and chanting or whatever was never my thing. And then I completely forgot I ever set foot in a yoga studio for over 10 years ago. Then something happened a little over a year ago. I tried another yoga class, this time Baptiste style power yoga, and I was hooked. I have been practicing regularly for over a year now and not only is yoga part of my daily routine (literally, 72 days and going), but it’s a gift I give to myself every day. Some days I go for the physical benefits, some days for the spiritual and some days because at this point I can’t imagine myself not practicing every day. But what I realized today when I was in that studio I first practiced in over 10 years ago and vowed to never return, is that I’m new to yoga every day. Every day that I return to my mat and keep this commitment is a new day. Every day that I choose to return rather than run in the opposite direction is a new yoga practice for me. This may be the hundredth plus time I’ve practiced, but every single time I get on my mat, I learn something new, open up a little more, let something go I didn’t even know was there, or open my mind to a new possibility. So here’s to being new on my mat every day, regardless of what the count is.

Finding the true purpose of my yoga

So it’s day 40 and I can’t believe we’re almost halfway there.

The physical changes Im already seeing in my body blow me away. My always stubborn hamstrings are stretching more rapidly then they have even after several years of yoga; and I can do things I never expected (especially not in such a short amount of time). Last night I flipped from wild thing into Wheel Pose. Wha???

But, for me, this challenge has been a lifesaver for other reasons.  I have always been proud of the fact that I was raised by my father. My mother was toxic and uninterested, and after they divorced when I was only 4, she didn’t want the job.  Luckily for me (and my younger brother) my father volunteered. Many of you know that very unexpectedly, last September, just months past his 60th birthday my father passed away.  Its been 6 months, and most days I still cannot comprehend what this means.

Up until this, yoga to me was a fun thing I enjoyed doing.  I liked teaching it, I liked doing it, I liked having friends that would nerd out about it with me.  But since my dad died, its changed profoundly for me.  It’s become my sanctuary.  It’s not that hard to practice every day for me because I need it now. And not just the asanas. The meditation, the delving deeper; the savasana. It’s where I can find some quiet to remember my dad; to find some peace, to dedicate my practice to the man who started it all.

Why share this? Because I am so grateful to have had this 100 day challenge come along at a time in my life where I didn’t just want to do it; but I needed to do it.  So to all of you dedicating yourself to this; I say; Thank you.

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Yoga, Gratitude and the Lottery

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One of my heroes (and former colleague last summer) Seth Godin once told a story about the importance of being grateful. The story reminded me a lot of the Yama, Aparigraha, which is being grateful for what we have. The story went something like this.

There are more than 5 Billion people in the world. Now, imagine each one of them participates in a mandatory lottery. Imagine that printed on each ticket were the circumstances that would dictate the rest of each person’s life. And imagine these were the numbers on the ticket:

• Race
• Sex
• Birthplace
• Government
• Parent names, income and jobs
• IQ (normal distribution)
• Weight, height, hair color, etc.
• Personality traits
• Health risks

First, if you are reading this blog post online right now, it’s likely that you had a pretty good ticket.

Further, if you practice yoga at a studio here in the US, the same thing is probably true.

But if you think about the entire world, the probability of you drawing a “good” ticket would seem improbable. The chance of you being born in a city US, with an average IQ, normal income, good health, good parents is 1 in a billion. Let alone having internet, attending college and belonging to a yoga studio.

When you look at it this way, practicing gratitude becomes way more obvious. And while it isn’t something I’m always good at, it has proven me to be one of the most extraordinary ways of living a better life. Helping me to not just be content but also to be more generous to everyone around me.

So I am going to dedicate the next part of the 100 days to being grateful. And I hope a few others will join me. Let us spread gratitude for the generous ticket we’ve been offered. Let us be grateful for the time and space to practice yoga. And let our light shine so others can do the same.

Namaste!

Dedication and commitment

Tapas means “to burn.” It is one of the 5 niyamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
There are many words that describe the concept of tapas; fire, discipline, commitment and austerity to name a few. Through passion and commitment we create the fire that transforms us. The work of tapas is not about how advanced our asanas look, but how committed we are to our practice.

Why do I return to my mat day after day? To unwind, to get uncomfortable , to challenge my limits, and to learn to accept myself fully. Why do you?

In love and light,
नमस्ते

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PS/ Addendum to the article: After writing this blog, I napped some more, and rested some more, and then my best friend and favorite yogi partner ever came over to show me her sequence for the week, and I end up practicing a little bit anyways. It’s yoga– I can’t stay away ❤

This morning, I woke up feeling sick. I had plans to practice at Moksha in the morning with my partner before he went to work. Headache, stomach ache. Dizziness. Gratitude that today is my day off. Postponed plans to practice until 5:45 tonight under the masterful tutelage of the beautiful Anna C.

My journey with yoga, way back when we first met, was how yoga inspired me to listen to the needs of my own body. To hear what my body was saying, and instead of brushing it aside, engaging in a conversation with it. Asking it questions. Giving it time to formulate answers.

So how did I practice yoga today? In the sense of physical asana, I didn’t really. I didn’t go to a class. I didn’t leave the house. But it was nice to take my home practice in a way that really responded to the needs of my body. So important to the success of the rigorous asana practice is the rehabilitative yin, surrender of yoga. The mindset that I take on when I enter the studio or step on to my mat is one of conscious mindfulness. The mindset, I think more than the actual movements, defines my yoga experience for me.

Today was about mindset. What did my body want? To sit. To sleep. To count mala beads and the length of my inhales and exhales. To rest. To sit. To sleep. The recount the mala beads, for my fingers to make their way back to the guru bead again and again. My mind wanted to practice. The stubborn, goal-ridden part of my brain ridicules today as a failure. The intelligent part of my brain that is able to separate itself from my ego is all like, giiiiirl, please. Stay in bed. Today, this will be the yoga. Breath work, meditation and stillness are absolutely yoga.

I got out of bed long enough to step outside and feel the cold air snapping some sense back into my sleepy, foggy brain. Took this picture of a pose that helps me to feel grounded, stable, and expansive. Today, this pose speaks to me as a place where I can keep my head above my heart, where I can breathe freely and hugely into an open chest, where I can find playfulness through the motions of my upper body as it responds to its environment, and steadiness and stability through the lower body which roots itself firmly. Sweatpants-asana.

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