Making a Resolution VS Broadcasting Your Intention

Reaching for Open Skies and High Peaks

Broadcast Your 2015 Intention

As some of you may know, I gave up making resolutions a few years back because I found the process to be ineffective and even disempowering.  Think about it… when we make resolutions like

  • I’m going to lose X pounds
  • I will exercise 3x week
  • I will eat healthier foods
  • I will quit smoking…

what are our thoughts and statements focusing on?

Answer:  The “bad” thing that we feel guilty about doing or the “good” thing that we feel guilty about NOT doing!  While the intention behind each of these resolutions is an empowering one, the ESSENCE of the resolution is quite the opposite.  How often have you heard (and perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself) people say that they made a resolution but didn’t stick with it?  I’d like to suggest that it’s difficult to stick to something that reminds us of how “bad” we are, or of what is lacking in our lives… it’s simply a downer!

So this year, this idea of “broadcasting my intention” came to me while I was reflecting on my year.  First of all, it’s about creating an intention of purpose (called sankalpa in yoga terms)  for the new year and then choosing language to describe your intention in a way that FEELS empowering and captures the ESSENCE of the intention.

For example, the intention behind all of those previous resolutions was one of better health.  The more empowering language to use to describe this intention could be:

  • I feel strong, flexible and comfortable in my body!
  • I make the best food and fitness choices for my personal well-being!
  • I am committed to feeling good about myself- mind, body and spirit!

Often, I will write down a bunch of words and phrases that come to mind and then sit with them to see which combination of words really represents the essence of what I am after.  It’s also a great way to get clarity on what it is that you really want to experience in the New Year and also create a shift in your persepective so that you view it in a “feel good” way.

My intention for 2015 is to fully experience FREEDOM… financial freedom, creative freedom, freedom from old beliefs and patterns of behavior, freedom to choose exactly what delights my soul and nothing less!  And as I went through my list of phrases that described this essence, I started picturing a tower that was broadcasting these mental and emotional energies (our thoughts and emotions have a frequency, a vibration; thus, they are forms of energy!) out into the Universe… I was broadcasting my intention! 🙂

WOW… did that feel powerful to me!  It helped me to really connect with my sankalpa so that I actually felt it in my body.  And the idea that I was sending it out to be received by the Universe also felt very powerful.  So each morning, I work with this same visualization and I broadcast my intention… In fact, sometimes I do it multiple times throughout the day.  In doing so, I play a powerful and active role in setting the stage for each day and for the entire year.  And as I go through each day, I am more likely to make choices and decisions that align with my New Year Intention.

I invite you to experience and have fun with this process in 2015!  And if you do give it try, I’d LOVE to hear your feedback so comment here by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” link at the top or shoot me an email.  What will YOU be broadcasting out to the world this year?!!  🙂

Stop and Smell the Pine!

Here’s your friendly reminder to allow yourself to fully ENJOY the experiences of this season and NOT get caught up in the “holiday hub bub”.

The energy of the season can be full of distraction and overwhelm.  I find that the key to staying present and focused amidst this chaotic and sometimes challenging time is to PAUSE and BREATHE!  I do these “Daily Breathers” several times throughout the day as needed.

Every time I notice my mind wandering and being pummeled by way too many thoughts, I simply…

  • become aware and stop what I’m doing (or thinking of)
  • close my eyes (if my environment allows it) or focus on a specific point/object (if I cannot close my eyes at that time) and
  • take 3 DEEP, SOOTHING BREATHS.

As I’m taking these breaths, I make a point to really FEEL the breath moving in and out of my body.  This very basic, simple exercise of mindful breathing is very grounding and will bring you calm and greater focus.  Like anything, the more “Daily Breathers” you take the easier it gets and the more effective they become!

And in case you need a helping hand with this I’m sharing with you a 4-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation audio for you to follow:

Mindful Breathing Meditation

Some of you may have received this meditation from me before, but I’m re-posting it as it’s short and sweet and does the trick.  You can even save the link in your Favorites on your web browser to use it regularly!

During this time of year, it can be easy to forget our most basic yet powerful tool:  our BREATH!

Make good use of it so that as you are getting presents…. you’re also getting present! 🙂

HAPPY HOLIDAYS… AND ENJOY!

 

Remake Yourself…

As human beings, our greatness lays not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.   ~Mahatma Ghandi

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What a thought-provoking and powerful statement!  I think it’s especially applicable in today’s world where so much change and so many challenges are presenting themselves.

It can feel overwhelming sometimes when we are bombarded by so much negativity and tragedy in our (so-called) news, politics, and current events.  Even if you want to help bring about a positive change, you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin??!!”

Exactly where Ghandi has directed us… with ourselves!  Instead of getting bogged down and worrying about things outside of us that are beyond our control… if we focus our intentions on how we can help ourselves feel healthier and think better… we can each as individuals make a positive impact not only on our own beings… but on our families, communities and our world!

The only things we have complete control over are our own thoughts, intentions and actions.  If we each commit to improving and elevating our own well-being — that is how we feel physically, how we think and how we interact with others  — we initiate our own little ripple effect.  When you start feeling better in your body, thinking with more clarity and calm, managing your emotions and stress with ease… you indirectly affect others by example and energetic interaction.

We’ve all experienced something of what I’m describing before… If you’re in a room full of people and someone who is carrying a lot of negativity walks in, everyone feels it.  It drags everyone else down as well.  But if someone who is uplifting comes into the room, it elevates everyone in the room.

Now imagine if you are working to feel the best that you can each day… Your positive ripple effect collides with my ripple effect which collides with someone else’s… get the picture?!  And soon… the similar positive energies converge to effect larger and larger populations over longer periods of time… this is how movements are started!

If you are tired of feeling like a victim or a bystander… if you want to be a participant in something positive, then I challenge you to commit to yourself and your own well-being!!!  If necessary, start with small simple steps that only require 10 – 15 minutes every day.  For example:

–        take a walk outdoors

–        read something inspirational or educational

–        spend time by yourself to journal or reflect

–        take multiple “Daily Breathers” (just pause from what you are doing and take 3- 5 deep, slow breaths)!

The key is to take some action for YOURSELF every day! And if you are ready to learn even more powerful self-care techniques or just need some support and motivation, come talk to me… I would love the opportunity to help you!

Here’s to remaking ourselves…

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To learn more about yoga self-care and personal wellness programs, visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com… download chapters of my complimentary E-Book on the Home page, check out my 3-Part “Yoga Essentials” DVD set from the Shop or simply contact me.

It’s Time to Take Charge!

Let’s talk healthcare…. But not healthcare as you hear about it in our media and politics (in my opinion, that debate is about medical care, NOT true healthcare!)  I’ll begin by asking you a simple question:  Do you feel “in charge” of your health?

I ask this, because I find more and more people have the impression that something or someone outside of themselves (a medical doctor, a surgeon, a therapist, etc.) is going to “fix them”.  We as a society have relinquished our responsibility for our own health.

Being a massage therapist as well as yoga instructor/coach, I frequently hear clients say things like “I want you to fix my back” or “Can you fix my neck?”  To these type of questions, I usually reply, “I don’t fix anything…. YOU do your own healing.  I’m here to facilitate and support you in that process.”  That’s what all healthcare and medical care professionals are here to do.

And don’t misunderstand me… when I speak of us healing ourselves, I’m not talking about some “voodoo”.  I am talking about each individual taking responsibility to take the committed actions necessary to be healthy.   And depending on what you are dealing with, that may require having surgery or some specific treatment.  However, how healthy we get or feel goes beyond a surgery or treatment – these are things that come after–the-fact.  I’m speaking more about healing and taking care of ourselves in a preventative way.

I guess my point is that we must take back our power when it comes to how we feel – feeling and BEING healthy in mind, body and spirit comes from our own committed effort to feel GREAT each and every day.  It comes from inside of us when we choose to take daily actions to

  • eat well through nutritious foods
  • move well through physical activity that suits our bodies and
  • think well by keeping an empowered mindset.

Unfortunately, many of us lack the proper knowledge to do one or more of these things.  In my own experience, I felt I wasn’t eating well enough despite the fact that most people would consider my diet to be a healthful one.  I have been learning more and more about the kinds of foods that work best for me – that I can best digest and give me the most energy.  So I’m re-training my body to eat differently.

Similarly, many of us lack the knowledge of how to “move” in ways that suit us best and “think” in ways that are empowering.  Now in these areas, I do have some knowledge and experience! 🙂  Yoga has so many practical techniques to offer us when it comes to learning how to “move well” and “think well”.

To that end, I’ve developed a new workshop called The “ABC”s of Yoga Self-Care.  In this workshop, my intent is to not only teach yoga techniques but to advise on how to practically apply them to our daily lives.  In doing so, we begin to create better habits of moving well and thinking well… we begin to take daily actions to feel good in body and mind… and we begin to reclaim our power for creating our own good health.

So if you answered my question at the beginning with anything but a resounding “YES”… I invite you to contact me and learn more about how to TAKE CHARGE of YOUR HEALTH!

Pausing, Breathing… and Reflecting on a Modern Yogi

As we headed into October last weekend, I found myself wondering (as I do at the beginning of each month) what to write about in this month’s newsletter; however, nothing was coming to me.  When that happens, my first instinct is to get anxious about getting something out – “I’ve got to get something out there… everyone else already has their newsletters/blog posts out this month?!”  That’s one of MY samskara – a conditioned pattern of thought and/or action based on my past experiences – that I am continually working to re-program.   Luckily, the yogi in me recognizes this pretty quickly, and so I PAUSE… and then I BREATHE deeply… several times… and I realize the futility of my anxiousness.  So I let it go.

I then wait until I stumble upon some words of wisdom or thought-provoking topic that I feel compelled to share rather than simply writing something for the sake of a “deadline”.  Well yesterday morning, I found that inspirational spark…

I was reading an article in the November Yoga Journal called “Stay Connected” which discussed how leaders in the Tech industry marry their love for technology and yoga to balance their lives (I recommend the article, especially if you are a ‘techy’.)  There was a mention of the late Steve Jobs in this article and suddenly an old memory came to me regarding him.

While his technological brilliance is well known, some may not be aware of the wisdom and light he also shared throughout his life.  I myself only recently learned that he was a self-proclaimed Buddhist who had visited India in the seventies looking for spiritual enlightenment.  And the more I learn about him, I feel he was in his own way, a modern-day yogi.

I have my own story about how Steve Jobs inspired me…  As most of you know, I worked in the corporate world for over 15 years prior to my quitting in the summer of 2006.  While deep down in my heart, I knew this leap of faith – relinquishing the comfort and security of a steady job to pursue my passion to teach yoga and provide healing massage therapy – was the right thing to do, I certainly had bouts of fear and doubt!

A few months after I had quit my job, a friend of mine emailed me a copy of the 2005 Stanford commencement speech given by Steve Jobs.  WOW… I was blown away.  I felt as if Steve was talking directly to me!  I remember now how it had inspired me to hear his words of validation and wisdom, which so closely resembled many of the lessons I’d learned throughout my yoga training & education.

Things like:

–       Relinquishing attachment to material results (vairagya)

–       Finding your truth (dharma) and taking action toward it regardless of others thoughts

–       Trusting your Intuition, your “heart-mind” (citta)

–       Self-Surrender

… just to name a few.

So below, I share a video of that speech with you in hopes that you too are inspired as I was 5 years ago and have been once again today.

Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University

Stuck in a Rut?!

Stuck in a Rut?! (Recording)

I recently read an online Yoga Journal article that I feel inspired to share with you.  For me, this article is timely and inspirational because it validates my focus to a more therapeutic form of yoga services.

Allow me to give you the ‘short and sweet’ of it… entitled “Change for Good”, the article explains that we, as human beings, have specific energy patterns (called samskaras in yoga) that manifest as habitual tendencies.  Often, these habits are disempowering and even destructive.  While the author of the article speaks specifically to samskaras as being of a mental or emotional nature, I would suggest that they also manifest as physical patterns as well.  Let me give you some examples to better explain….

Physical:

–       How do you hold your posture: do you tend to lean forward or round your shoulders?

–       Do you have certain common movements or actions you habitually do without even realizing it?  Like always crossing your legs a certain way, tilting your head to one side, or crinkling your forehead when you’re thinking?

Emotional:

–       Do you get defensive when in conversation with specific people?

–       Do you get fearful or discouraged by specific situations and circumstances?

Mental:

–       Are you able to stay focused on one train of thought without getting derailed by other thoughts?

–       Do you make assumptions about your abilities or what you are capable of?  For example when faced with a new challenge, do you automatically think, “I can’t do this” before you even consider what’s involved?

–       Do you have a tendency to procrastinate?

Now if you found yourself relating to any of these examples, you are not alone.  We ALL have our own physical, mental and emotional tendencies!  They are part of the human condition.  Our samskaras have developed over years of experiencing repeated actions, movements, circumstances and thought processes.

Over time, they become our “modus operandi” or blueprint for how we live our lives.  In the article, the author uses the metaphor of “mental grooves, like the rivulets in sand that let water run in certain patterns.”  This offers a great visualization to further understand samskaras.

Imagine your mind as soft, unprinted sand.  As you go through your life experiences and you act or move in a particular way, or think and react in a certain manner to similar situations, grooves are being carved into this sand.

Each time you repeat these actions and thoughts, those grooves get deeper.  As time passes, these grooves become deeply engrained in your mental foundation.  And you “fall into” them whenever those same or similar conditions and circumstances present themselves.

Thus physical, mental and emotional habits are formed and unfortunately, many of these internal patterns can feel very disempowering – like we repeatedly make the same mistakes or perhaps continue to injure our selves in the same area.  Certainly, I am simplifying to illustrate the nature of samskaras, but this is the essence of how they work.

The good news however, is that we CAN change them.  Just as a wave can wipe away the markings in the sand, we too can clear our old grooves.  We have the ability to re-draw the lines of our blueprints and create new empowering habits.  And when we work toward shifting these patterns, we embark on a journey to truly transform our well-being.

This is EXACTLY the crux of yoga.  All the poses, breathing exercises, mantras, visualizations and meditations that we do are tools… tools to help us retrain our bodies to respond and act with more ease and comfort.  Tools to help us re-pattern our thoughts and emotions so we feel internally clam, clear and “uncluttered”.  This combination of retraining our bodies and re-patterning our minds is what allows us to transform our health to …what I like to call… an “elevated state of being-ness”.

And this is EXACTLY the mission of the Therapeutic Yoga program that I have been developing for the past several months.  It offers a systematic structure that supports you in your daily effort to retrain the body and re-pattern the mind to be healthier and more empowered.

So I encourage you to read the full article (http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/1719 ), and if it inspires you to want to take charge of your health, give me call… I would love to share more on how the Therapeutic Yoga Program can transform how you feel – in mind, body and spirit!  OR better yet… come see me this weekend (Aug 13/14th) for one of my 3 Therapeutic Yoga workshops and get a live experience of how powerful this practice can be.

Here’s to creating new empowering grooves…  Be Well and ENJOY ~ Sheetal

Got Tension?

Maybe the better question to ask is “Who DOESN’T have tension?!”  For the majority of us, experiencing a certain level of mental and physical tension has become commonplace.

In this context, tension can be defined as:

1.  A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each other

2.  Mental or emotional strain; stress

Thus we can experience tension physically when parts of our bodies feel strained or opposed.  When we have repetitive or “stuck” thoughts and feelings, we also experience mental and/or emotional tension.

Yoga is an excellent way to address all forms of tension.  Through a consistent yoga practice, we not only train our minds and bodies to release the tensions, but we also attempt to discover their sources.

How does yoga teach us this?  In my therapeutic yoga approach, there are 4 key components to relieving the body and mind of stress and tension:

1.    Awareness

2.    Breathing

3.    Patience

4.    Surrender

It all begins with awareness!  Many of you who have taken my workshops/classes before know that this is the first thing I always teach.  Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of the tensions we hold because we’ve gotten so used to them!

For example, do you find yourself crinkling your forehead when you think?  Does squeezing the muscles of your forehead somehow make you think more clearly?  NOT!

How about when the temperature in the room suddenly drops… Do you find yourself shrugging and lifting your shoulders?  Does this action bring you warmth?  NO!

And most of the time we aren’t even aware when we do these things because we are so conditioned to them.  So first of all, we must become aware… we must observe our minds and bodies and ask ourselves, “Where are our holding patterns?”  It is this type of introspective observation that can also help us to “undo” our conditioned responses.

Once we become aware of the areas we hold our tensions, we begin to breathe into those areas.  I know what you’re thinking, “Sheetal, how the heck do I breathe into a part of my body?”

Its actually quite simple… just imagine it!  As you stay aware of your area of tension, imagine your breath flowing into that area… slowly and gently soothing the area and causing the tension to dissipate.  This is a simple form of visualization that can be surprisingly powerful.

The 3rd key, which for many people is the most difficult, is to be patient with yourself!  Only when we give ourselves the patient time to feel supported and safe will our bodies respond.  It’s like wanting to come to a gradual stop while driving a car, but we keep giving it gas.  If we don’t let the foot off the pedal how can we expect the car to naturally slow down?!

Similarly, we must take the time to stop “fueling” our bodies and minds and instead let them come to a gradual halt where they can then unwind or do whatever needs to happen.

Finally, the last key is to surrender.  Just allow yourself to let go.  Sometimes, even when practicing first 3 keys we fail to completely release certain tensions because we are unwilling to give them up.  I know it sounds strange but it goes back to the idea of our minds and bodies being conditioned to respond in certain ways.

“Muscle memory” may sometimes be so engrained into our beings…. or certain thought patterns may be so woven into our psyches that we must willingly and conscientiously surrender them in order to truly release the tension we hold.

And while all of this may seen logical or at least easy enough to understand, it’s the “doing” that is the tricky part!  Like anything, these techniques to releasing tension take practice.  But, believe me, they are well worth the effort.  In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say that the Keys to Releasing Tension are the also keys to proactively staying healthy!

So I invite you to join me in June to learn AND practice these techniques.  Check the Calendar for dates/times/locations in Eastern PA.  And at the end of the workshop when I ask you “Got Tension?”…. you may just be surprised by your answer!

I’ll take some Yin with that Yang Please!

Most of us would recognize the above symbol to represent the Chinese Taoist concept of Yin/Yang.  In Taoist philosophy, as well as Chinese medicine, these terms are used to describe all aspects of our world.

Yin and Yang are relative descriptors that beautifully depict how complimentary opposites co-exist in nature to create perfect balance.

To give you an idea of their meaning, each can be characterized as follows:

Yin                               Yang

Hidden                          Exposed

Dark                             Light

Cold                              Hot

Moon                             Sun

Still                               Moving

Downward                     Upward

Calm                             Excited

Female                             Male

In the yoga tradition, the Sanskrit word hatha (as in Hatha Yoga), is defined as sun (“ha”) and moon (“tha”).  The principles and practice of Hatha Yoga is one that aims to bring balance to the opposing aspects of our being – lunar and solar, female and male and yes…. yin and yang.

I am fascinated by how these ancient philosophies are analogous in their approach to life.  As I continue to study these concepts of Yin and Yang, it becomes more and more evident to me that our current day lifestyles are greatly skewed toward Yang.

In my opinion, most of us could all use some more Yin experiences to balance out the plethora of Yang activities in our lives!  Take a moment and think about your daily activities…. would you describe most of your activities to be more Yin-like or Yang-like?  Technically, these are relative terms that should be used in a specific context… so I ask you to allow me some leeway to make a point.

My intention is to have you develop a “feel” for your daily life.  How many activities excite your emotions versus calm your nerves?  How many feel hectic and rushed versus patient and slow?  How many are active and result-focused rather than passive and experience-oriented?

I think the majority of people now-a-days would say that their scale tips to the Yang side a bit more!  So how do we bring more balance into our lives when everything around us – the societal energy around us – pushes us to be more Yang-like?

First, we must begin to identify and recognize what types of things may be tipping our scales – and of course, this will be different to everyone based on their own unique set of circumstances.

Then, allow me to suggest some “baby steps” for introducing more Yin-like experiences each day:

1.    Take yourself out off the “Noise” for 15-30 minutes each day.  Whatever your environment – the workplace or home – find a way to remove yourself for a brief time.  Take a quiet walk at lunch (now that spring is approaching!), take a power-nap (and DON’T feel guilty about it!), or even have lunch by yourself and enjoy the time alone.

2.    Simply eat during meals.  Instead of watching the TV, reading, surfing the web or texting while your eating, just EAT!  Really be present with your food – savor it and see if you can identify its flavors.  You’ll not only enjoy your food more, but you’ll become more aware of how much you are eating and when you are really full.

3.    “Get off the Grid” at a certain time each day.  We don’t need to be connected to the world (at least in a technology context!) 24/7.  Stay away from your computer and turn off your cell phones at a certain time each day.

4.    Take “Breathing Breaks”.  When you feel things speeding up with the potential to get “crazy”, pause and take 5-10 deep breaths.  You can even set an alert on your cell phone or computer (during your designated grid time of course 🙂 ) to remind you about these breaks.  It may sound silly… but whatever works!

5.    Incorporate more passive forms of physical activity into your workouts.  Balance the vigorous aerobic and strengthening routines with passive, focused stretching.  Or add experience-oriented practices like qi-gong, tai chi, or hatha, yin and therapeutic yoga approaches to your athletic regimen.  Giving equal time to these passive practices will actually improve your more active workouts.

Of course, these are just some simple, general suggestions and you may find many others that are more suitable to your specific situation.  And certainly, I am not suggesting that Yin experiences are better or more desirable than Yang experiences.  We need both… but we need both in equal proportions.

My point is to have you notice how the Yin and Yang forces are at play in your life…. Do they feel as if they co-exist harmoniously feeding one-another?  Or do they feel “out of whack” with one dominating over the other?  And then ask yourself if you couldn’t use a little Yin with that Yang?  🙂

The AHA Principles – Honoring the Body

When we begin practicing yoga, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of doing the picture- perfect pose. Our competitive minds make us think that if we don’t bend far enough, or aren’t able to touch our toes, or look a certain way in our poses it’s just not good enough.  But yoga is NOT a competitive sport!  And a picture-perfect pose is not the end-goal (if you happen to achieve that along the way, then it’s just an added bonus.)

In the previous blog post, we spoke about having full awareness while doing yoga poses.  By using our breath to stay in the present moment we can really discover a lot about ourselves.  However, this awareness does us little good if we then choose to ignore the signals our bodies provide.  Thus, the next step is to HONOR this information.

I always instruct students to really pay attention to their first point of resistance in each pose – I like to call this “the edge”.  Once we find “the edge”, we just hold, breathe and observe.  What are our bodies telling us at this point?   If the body is saying “this hurts!” or “I don’t feel balanced/steady”, then we should back off a bit, make adjustments and/or add support to the part of the body requiring it.

Using accessories to support the body is a great way to not only experience a pose but also allow the mind to be present in each pose.  For example, imagine we are on our hands and knees doing the Cat-Cow movement – in Cat-Cow, we flex and extend our spines while grounding through our hands and knees (for more information on doing Cat-Cow, please visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com and download the FREE chapters of our yoga guide).

For many of us, the wrists may begin to feel pressure in this pose since we are supporting a good amount of our weight on our hands.  We can easily support our wrists to alleviate any pressure.  But if we choose to “tough it out” and ignore the message our wrists are conveying …

  1. We could potentially hurt ourselves
  2. We will feel discouraged and may not want to stick to our practice
  3. Our minds will be occupied by the thoughts of our sore wrists instead of being present with the movement of the spine and our breathing.

By bringing support under our wrists to alleviate the pressure, we would eliminate the distraction of discomfort and be able to stay present with the pose to gain its full benefit.

The moral of the story… HONOR your body!  Don’t resist or dismiss the sensations that come up.  Our egos may say “tough it out”, or “I bent further yesterday, why can’t I do the same today?”  The tendency is to follow the ego, to compare and to push further despite what we feel.

We think of ourselves as weak if we “give in” to our sensations of discomfort or pain. But nothing is farther from the truth. Being honest and honoring where we are at this time takes courage!  Giving in to our egos only keeps us in pain and prevents us from truly enjoying the benefits of our practice.  The idea is to challenge the body, not to punish it!

So let’s put those egos aside and instead HONOR our bodies wherever they may be in this moment.  Then, not only can we gain great benefit from our yoga practice, but we can truly enjoy it!

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Check out this video clip on “Honoring the Body” from Anyone Can Do YOGA’s Yoga Essentials-Fundamentals DVD.  For more information about the DVD or to purchase, visit the Anyone Can do YOGA Shop.

The AHA Principles – Awareness

Do you sometimes feel as if you’re going through your daily activities like a robot… just going through the motions as if you are on “auto-pilot”.  I know I find myself sometimes falling into this mode when I am driving a well-known route – I don’t even have to think about it, I just drive and somehow after about 15 minutes, I’m at my destination!

And that’s just one common example.  It is easy to become a creature of habit – to go through our actions without being fully present.  But how enjoyable is that?  How rewarding is that? How enriching is that?

Throughout the past 20+ years, one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from my yoga practice is the ability to experience “AHA” moments.  Moments of self-discovery where…

  • I am fully “A”ware of myself and my surroundings
  • I “H”onor where I am in the moment
  • I have complete “A”cceptance without judgment.

When this happens, it feels like… “AHA!” 🙂

These are such important concepts that before I ever teach a single yoga pose to my students, I first discuss the principles of “AHA” – Awareness, Honor, and Acceptance.

Let’s begin with the first “A” in  “AHA”… Awareness.  We spoke before about going through our actions as if on “auto-pilot” – mind and body feeling disconnected rather than on the same plane of consciousness.  Why is this?  Two key reasons:

  1. We find it all too easy to get distracted by our thoughts of past and future and
  2. We allow ourselves to act from memory or habit because it’s easier to do so.

And as we allow ourselves to be distracted (going from one thought to the next, wasting vital mental energy) and as we continue to rely on habitual actions, we reinforce this viscous cycle that makes it even harder to stay in the present and leaves us feeling mentally & energetically drained.

Also in the process, we potentially miss out on experiencing and enjoying things due to this lack of awareness.  When I’ve driven to my destination on “auto-pilot”, I’m sure there have been plenty of beautiful vistas or interesting places I may have missed seeing along the way!

How do we break this cycle?  First and foremost, we must recognize what we’re doing.  Identification is the first step to addressing any issue/condition.

Then what?  It’s simple – just BREATHE!  The quickest, easiest and most effective way to bring the mind back to the present moment is to take some nice deep breaths, bringing your attention to your breath.  Our breath is extremely powerful in it’s ability to bridge the gap between the mind and the body.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking… “I can take a deep breath and that will help me return to the present, but a few minutes later, I’m lost in my thoughts again!”

The final component to really being present is the willingness to “let go”.  As you take your deep breaths, be willing to surrender those thoughts that bind you.  This idea of detachment or letting go is perhaps the most challenging to most people.  We feel that if we “hold on” to our thoughts that somehow we can control them; however in actuality, when we hold on to our thoughts (and even emotions), they end up controlling us!

When we practice yoga, we are continually practicing Awareness.  Each time we do a pose, we pay attention to how we move our bodies, we observe the sensations in the active and passive muscles, we work with our breathing to maintain this presence of mind and we surrender whatever comes up that does not serve us in that moment.

And just like anything else, the more we practice the easier it gets! This on-going process becomes the underlying norm rather than the active effort.

Now I’m not suggesting that once you practice yoga, you’ll NEVER be distracted by your thoughts… after all, we are human. 🙂  However, you will definitely find it easier to stay focused or bring yourself back into the present moment when you do feel distracted.

And as you progress in your regular yoga practice, your Awareness is honed and heightened to deeper levels of your physical and energetic being – it truly becomes a wonderful journey of self-discovery.

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Check out this clip on Awareness from Anyone Can Do YOGA‘s Yoga Essentials-Fundamentals DVD and for more information visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com:

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