Category Archives: Mindfulness

What Should Yoga Look Like? A Contemplation…

What should or does yoga look like?

Well, this is an interesting question I have battled within myself for the last 12 years…

I know that human beings have an intense desire to belong or fit in, which starts with our first 3 chakras:

Our first chakra, known as the root chakra or Muladhara Chakra,  tells us that we belong OR should have a sense of belonging to our tribe: AKA our family, neighborhoods and geographical locations.

Our second chakra, the sacral chakra or Svadistana Chakra says: seek partnerships, and learn how to honor one another!

And finally our third chakra, the Solar Plexus Chakra says: BE AN INDIVIDUAL, HAVE CONFIDENCE, SELF ACCEPTANCE, SELF ESTEEM AND VITALITY! it shouts it at us! You know the old butterfly feeling in your belly? That is all third chakra.

But sometimes we drown out the third chakra and say, NO! It is more important that I fit in and that is where I will find self-acceptance, in the power of the group, or tribe that I belong too….do you remember high school?? Most likely you did foolish things to sacrifice your individuality then.

Well today, that doesn’t work. When we don’t understand personal power, we give it away to the power of the group. Our group could be family, our ethnic tribe of neighbors and friends, it can be our classmates, or for yoga practitioners today, belonging to a certain studio or “type” of yoga.

It is a good feeling to be supported by the group, but it is also a safe feeling that sometimes holds us back from exploring our true nature.

We might get lost in translation and think: I cannot do my yoga practice without my friends, without my studio, without my mat in this exact spot each week, without my sexy yoga cloths, without my favorite yoga mat… Luckily, I never put constraints on my practice in this way, but I have seen it happen to others, especially when they are afraid to leave the studio nest and go exploring what’s out there. My teacher trainees are assigned the “task” of going to other studios and venturing outside the box.

I was always at ease exploring and doing my asana practice at home and trying other studios and so forth, but found not every studio is friendly or ready to open their arms to you. Lack of warmth and acceptance I find is a theme of many studios today. The biggest compliment my students and clients give us at my studio is: I feel like I am at home.

I am not trying to “I” you to death, but to just build bridges in your reasoning to how you choose to make your choices. Apply this to any place in your life and you will see where you are drawn to being in the tribe and being yourself.

This brings me to my whole big contemplation for this entry:

So what, pray tell, is the yoga body supposed to look like then? What do Westerners think yoga looks like?

When I started to discover yoga, the covers of Yoga Journal still had our modern masters gracing the covers, and now there are a few too many dancer/models shining on the glossy cover page at you, shouting: You must look and bend like me! Really they are not saying that, they just get paid to do their job as the cover model, but you make that conclusion whenever you see the media…

Each day, I get several phone calls from people wanting to try yoga for the first time. Many of them when they call tell me how out of shape or in shape they are because they are worried about being able to do it at all, or they don’t want to be put in too easy of a class. I hear fear of a beginner, or I am too beginner. I don’t hear people say, I want to increase the level of my inner understanding….

I hear, “I am very in shape, I exercise regularly, I am not flexible, I am out of shape, I want to lose weight, I go to the gym everyday…” You hear the shame and the pride as people explain who they think they are to me on the phone by how they look physically.  I am not judging them, I am just observing our behavior as a whole, and here is what they are all trying to tell me:

I am afraid YOU will judge me by how I look in a class.

YIKES!

Well with all the spanx, lycra, and leggings this industry has promoted itself to be, I can understand the fashion, body complex. Well, let me correct you all on your observations of yoga, IT AINT ABOUT WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE ON THE OUTSIDE.

Yoga IS what your inner body reflects. The inner body must be toned, purified, and healthy in order to: practice asanas, breath properly, engage in practices of the mind and concentration, and to be able to tune into your inner being to be able to connect to the universe, god, spirit, whatever you want to call it..or for the yogi’s Ishvara Pranidana.

Yes, yoga is about finding a closeness to god!

WHAT??? Religion?

Nope, that is called spirituality my friends. Being at one with each other. Practicing love, compassion, forgiveness, radiance, openness, truthfulness, cleanliness and so forth.

You will find this as the root to many of the yogic scriptures and texts. The next time you walk into a studio, and see women and men in tight clothing, people with socially accepted bodies, people with socially unaccepted bodies, hot studios, cold studios, naked yoga, dog and me yoga, or whatever fad is in that week, let me remind you what yoga IS: a path of dis-joining or letting go of the untrue self to seek only the truth and find the true self or ATMAN.

Didn’t sign up for that? Well, most of us don’t at first. I know when I began I was seeking change, to understand myself more, to understand more about chakras, yoga history, to be able to perform certain asanas, and delve onto a deeper spiritual path. I didn’t know what vinyasa yoga was at the time, only a nice hatha practice with poses like triangle, warriors, baddha konasana and so forth.

I knew I felt great after. I knew I felt things stirring in my 20 year body and under the surface that felt more important than fitting my ass into a pair of tight yoga pants, even though my ego wanted that too because I was being propaganda’d that all the time. I remember a teacher a lot of people respected for many reasons (maybe her knowledge, maybe her body, maybe her ability in asanas) telling me I was fat in her own way once, and I remember thinking I felt sad that she needed so much healing if my weight bothered her…but true yoga helped condition me to not take it personally.

We made it that way. We made it worshipped for the body to look a certain way. So how can I be blown away by such shallow a comment? I wasn’t! People are people, this is their beliefs, but the important thing is, I didn’t believe her!

I don’t do this to fit in, if anything, this industry has set me apart from a lot of people… but that is a part of the practice, the coming apart, and then the coming together.

So where is this conversation with myself coming from?

Mostly the desire to have my body to look a certain way, and it brought my inner working material, also known as my stuff, up. I know it would make my life easier in some regards, to have a more socially accepted body, but that is not a yoga body. There is no such thing. A yoga body is a self-accepted body.

I have come very far in my physical practice, now it is time to come far in my mental practice. It is time for me to: accept the body I have, engage my thought around self-love and acceptance, and to seek the body I want with love and health being the goal…and still do all those bad ass asanas that keep me strong. I am good with that, and real with that.

Joyful January: Really applying what you learned in 2015!

Last year, if you followed my blog, you might have noticed a trend: connecting to good self-awareness, love, self-love, healing, forgiveness, compassion and personal power.

As I turn the page on another year, these things really are in my energy and consciousness all the time, and I am practicing my next step on my yogic journey which is a deeper understanding of inner wisdom.

I really hope to understand how to do the following: communicate my truth without hurting or unkindness, honor myself and my own boundaries, let not taking things personally be taken to a higher level, and to always do my best.

In the background are these powers: it is none of my business what others think of me, patience is my word of the year all across the board including within myself, and to let others own their stuff, and not try to take ownership all the time of what I could have done differently, I do that enough, it is time to rest and just be me for a change.

As for my word of the year: PATIENCE is connected to everything I tried for last year. It is a commitment to change, a more loving and kinder heart, a cleaner mind, and a more peaceful way of living.

Making up a fresh planner, putting up a new calendar and making my new year intentions journal, I realized a big part of that was keeping those around me who love and support me, my health, my business, my lifestyle, and my family a priority. That those who need to fade out or leave the circle can do so with my blessing and my internal understanding that I am whole as a person no matter who surrounds me and they can be too.

I am not in this life just for me and my own needs.

I really believe that we all live on this earth, connected to one another, and to keep my thoughts clear of the mind clutter and thoughts that don’t serve me or them. If unkindness and selfishness is going to be a part of someone’s palette when they think of me, it is none of my business, especially if they do not come forth and speak to me about it.

Venting can be a problem, especially if it is viciously done and not just to organize your thoughts. It is one thing, as sometimes just getting the words out can help, or writing them down, but if you do not speak your truth to those involved, then how will anything change? Snarky, snotty comments only hurt and offend. Anger usually can give way to healing, but only if the pressure of it can subside a little before a conversation has been had. Working through things is just as it sounds, WORK!

Try this as a rule of thumb: if someone were to overhear you vent, or say what you thought of them without them knowing you were around, how would you or they feel about that? Never say anything out loud you don’t intend to have repeated…

I am a better person this year already.

I wake up each day practicing what I think and speak about to my students. I am not just one of the hokey people saying, “Like totally send them love, for sure!” Valley girl style, you know, and we don’t even mean it or do it. That does nothing for me. I do send people that are unkind to me love, and it is real and honest, they need it as does the world. I do talk myself through conversations that are important in my head and on paper before I have them. I don’t speak casually as I used to, to friends, family or students, in a need to check myself on not wasting energy on poorly executed words or stories. I do try to be patient even when I feel my energy is about to lose its hold.

I am not perfect. That was never the goal. The goal is to be a kind, loving, good, impeccable with their word, always doing their best person. But here is the deal. The package that it comes in is me. I am honest, direct, bold at times, guarded at times, sarcastic some of the time, and usually on the side of happy and joyous a lot of the time. That does not make me a bitch, a bad friend, a poor listener, intimidating, or unkind, as I have been told I am and I had started to believe. Those are beliefs that do not honor me.

I understand myself and my goals now.

I know I am a good person, mother, friend, colleague, teacher and as are some of the people who say bad things about others. The thing is, this year, above all, I am OK with me being me. Are you?

Self-Reflection exercise:

What are the things YOU do not like about yourself?
What are the things OTHERS say to you or behind your back that they don’t like that you have come to know about?
Do you want to change those things or part of those things?
ARE YOU OK WITH YOU?
Can you love yourself everyday no matter what?
What is your word of the year?
What can you do or let go of to get yourself aligned and living that word?

Keeping Promises to Yourself

Keeping Promises to Yourself - Self Care, Self Love, Balance

Don Miguel Ruiz says that one of his four agreements is to be impeccable with your word.

I value his pillars for living so much, and this morning I realized I had breached this a bit. Not with others as much as with myself. Each day I wake up hoping to get an early start, have a moment to sit with my thoughts, do my asana or exercise, have a cup of tea with the sunrise, start my day with some juice from our new juicer and so forth… as my list of personal requests builds, so do my excuses

My excuses are real, of course; I need sleep, my little woke in the middle of the night (that’s a big one), I have too much housework to do, got to get the kids ready for their day or our weekend events… but as my tension builds and my patience lessens, I see that I am losing my grip on my yogic lifestyle.

It was an amazing close to the summer. Moving back to my home after a healthy reconciliation with my husband, setting up house, unpacking, travelling for a week to Maine, many birthdays, anniversary and wedding and then 2-3 weeks of us getting colds and sinus issues… here I am a long time between blogs.

Time gets away from us…

I have had a lot to think about. Fall is my deep creative and reflective time. I love to immerse myself in reading, organizing, writing, and holiday preparation. I liven up the yoga shop with new items and freshen up the playlist for my classes. I also like solitude in my yoga room or bathtub to dig into my shadows.

This year was quite a year. Many friends left my circle, many kinds of relationships blossomed or came to an end, and there were a lot of firsts for my toddlers in their learning world. I can say I did take it all in. I needed it. I needed that time to reflect. I always push to get to the next thing. This time, I just enjoyed it. I spent a lot of time with my kids and with myself, making a lot of good habits… that for the last 2 months I breached.

I am ready to get back to it, and dedicate that time to myself again. I dedicate that chunk of time in the morning to myself so I am happier, healthier and more compassionate to myself and others now.

So just today I got up at 4:30am…yes 4:30… I got up, saw the clock, snuggled back in and decided I wanted more me time than sleep. So I took my time.

I made my cup of hot water and lemon, filled my big mason jar with fresh water, checked my emails and put a time limit of 1 hour on that. Once I reached an hour, it was down to my yoga room for some candlelight yoga, a simple 30 minute practice of just what I needed: hips, twists, and an inversion. Back upstairs from some writing and an important call to my mom, and there is was, 2.5 hours to myself. It flew by, but I am feeling so much better already.

I promised myself each morning to have a cup of tea with some reading that will collect dust if I don’t sit down and take a look at it, while my kids eat breakfast or before anyone gets up. That is important to me as fall is so short… so for October I am making my list. It is simple and obtainable.

What will you do?

Are you keeping the promises you made to yourself?

Jenn’s fabulous morning rise routine:

  • Rise at 5:00 am
  • Take my time waking up. 10 minutes for me is a long time
  • 30-60 minutes of yoga or cardio
  • Outdoor meditation as often as weather permits, 15 minutes
  • Hot shower or bath before the kids are up so I can take my time with that ritual in peace and not in a hurry
  • Healthy start to the day with juice, smoothie or whole grain porridge of some kind (will have to make double batches so it’s easy to just grab and not make a sound!)
  • Switch from having hot water and lemon or tea outside or in with a magazine of choice 20 minutes

Daily & Weekly Goals

  • Drink lots of water
  • Exercise daily, even for 15 minutes
  • Get outside as much as possible
  • Reduce sugar when holidays kick in, enjoy nature’s candy of fruit instead
  • Eat less but more flavorful foods, like currys, adding fresh herbs
  • Spend lots of time with the kids and husband
  • Try new recipes!

Tips for you:

Try my recipe for curry
Try my detox soup
Try my neck and shoulder routine!

 

Love Conquers All

Love Conquers All

I wrote a few weeks ago about my broken heart, and finding my way through one of the hardest times in my life.

Well, I know what I had to go through. I know I needed all of that to get HERE.

Here is now a wonderful place to be. It is full of uncertainty at times, as I begin to slowly crawl out of a large hole I dug for myself in my relationship.

But, as my footing becomes more stable, and I get better at finding the right leverage on a rocky wall that I at one time thought was keeping me safe, I no longer need it… so I let it crumble as I make my way out into the light.

Here is what happened:

My husband wanted to give up.  At one point so did I earlier this year. THEN it hit me. I don’t want to give up on us, I want to give up on the MESS! WHAT AM I DOING??

I am going to lose everything, my home, my spouse, my family. I was broken already, but could I stand to be more broken? So I did some deep work. Meditated daily on it all, let my stuff come up, let the tears flow, the heartache come, the pain of loss. But there was still hope…so much of it. I couldn’t explain it but I knew my time was running out. Something had to break down. It did. I DID!

I reached out, broke down, and it all flowed out of me. My stuff, my words, my loss, my heartache, my past, my cycle that I needed to remove myself from.

I spoke, I wrote, I sent ALL of my heart out, put myself on the most vulnerable edge I could so I could prove to myself that I knew what I wanted. I know my soul could be whole on my own with a lot of healing, but my soul truly loves this man, and this life, so what the hell am I waiting for.

Relationships are such great teachers and they do not work without FORGIVENESS, LOVE and COMPASSION. They do not work with expectations and projections of shoulds and coulds.

WE HAVE TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN EACH OTHER. We have to listen.

I know who my spouse is. I know better than anyone other than him, I know I love him deeper than I have loved anyone, and I know I got lost to anger, resentment, and hurt. I DIDN’T WANT TO FEEL THOSE THINGS ANYMORE!

Knowing I wanted no regrets, I put it all out there. And I could not be happier. We have a lot to figure out, but the thing is the figuring. It is not to be perfect now; perfection is never a goal. Our relationship legs are a little shaky, like getting off a boat after a major storm. But we are both grateful for the sun again, the light, and the calm waters.

I know I choose love. I always have, not sure how I missed that and decided to choose all the hurt instead, but now it is so clear: I choose love, I choose my husband, I choose my children, and I choose this truth of our life. And I am so grateful – to god, to my friends who went through all of this with me, my family who loves us no matter how crazy the storm was. I am grateful for life. Thank you.

And to my beautiful husband, I am so grateful to you.

Inner Work Meditation

Here is the meditation I did to get me to my big breakthrough. I did this for about 7 days, whenever I could get a quiet moment to reflect.

  • Sometimes I sat, sometimes I lied down in fetal position to get inside deep.
  • I took many deep breaths with sighs out the mouth.
  • I turned off my hurt and anger, and tuned into what I was really feeling so hurt and angry about.
  • I would say to myself, “I feel….”
  • I would then say, “I know I need to let go of….”
  • I revisited my past experiences of hurtful conversations with my spouse and turned off all anger in both directions, and just listened to what he was really saying. I told myself I would not feel hurt or take it personally – I just listened.
  • Once I gathered that information up, I found the realization of truth in what he was saying, and I saw I was not listening, I was not responding to him, I was responding to my emotions and I was layering on the hurt and resentment.
  • I sent love and lots of light to us both to heal, and prayed every day for the support to change and to allow him to hear me when I was ready to talk.
  • I had 0 expectations of him wanting to resolve. I left that up to the universe. I knew the course of my life would shift one way or the other and practiced acceptance.

May this find you some healing. Dig deep and be well.