I'm on a path to open more space up in my life!! As someone with an extremely busy schedule I am coming to value my space (both literally and figuratively) even more. The space of time between teaching classes which is often filled with a train or car ride, time in a bookshop, or time to to myself is something I've come to really value. I moved into a new space over four months ago and my husband and I realized just how much STUFF we filled into our one bedroom space once we moved. In fact the movers commented that they were surprised we fit that much into our small apartment. This was even after a week of really purging things that we decided we didn't need to take with us. I would never consider myself a hoarder or a protector or material things. In fact I feel blessed that as I've gotten older my attachment to "things" has faded significantly. But it was still extremely challenging and uncomfortable to get rid of things. Things I hadn't used in months or even years. I sat with that discomfort and now I can't even tell you the items we got rid of, I have no recollection of them.
In our new place we have a lot more space. It feels weird to have all of this space actually. I've noticed the urge build up inside of me to fill the space in different ways. Maybe another chair here would be great, maybe another picture here, maybe something more decorative here. Each time I'm able to resist this as I come into my light filled space and feel this delicious sense of peace seeing ALL of the space that is available to me. I have room for my home yoga practice (my own inversion wall), my altar (my sacred space), a kitchen table to sit and have dinner, and so much more. I find myself more protective of this space and what I fill it up with. I have found myself wanting to fill the space and almost purchasing something, and I have this moment when I'm now able to stop and ask if it fills the home with some kind of value or meaning. Most of the time it doesn't and so the urge passes and I move on.
My personal space (i.e, my schedule and time) is the same. I'm guessing yours is too. The busier I become the more I notice the importance of how I'm using the time open in my schedule. What are we filling into that space in our lives? What does that chunk of time we put onto our google calendars really mean? Personally I'm stripping away anything that doesn't have meaning anymore. I'm taking stock of my "stuff" and am ready to make space for things of meaning to come into my life. If I have two hours in between classes what am I doing? Am I aimlessly walking around the city or am I sitting in a coffee shop feeding my soul with a good podcast, reading a good play, or using the studio to practice?
How are we opening up and using our space?
It's UNCOMFORTABLE to open up that space. I hated moving. I hated throwing things away. It felt really really uncomfortable. But I did it. We all go through those uncomfortable sensations when we are releasing and letting go of things to make space. Old relationships, friendships that no longer feel right, bad habits, etc. On our mat we are always seeking to make space. Have you ever noticed the postures where you wiggle and hate being still in are often the ones where you need more space in your body? We move because we are uncomfortable. We are making space in our bodies and it sometimes feels really weird. I personally feel this in malasana (squat), pigeon, and any wide legged forward fold. The hips and hamstrings for me historically have been tight. There a lot of old junk in those muscles that I'm holding onto. When I am in malasana I immediately want to get out. The beautiful thing is that if we can breathe through the discomfort we start realize the "stuff" we are holding onto that we need to let go of. When we let go of it, space suddenly opens. Does my jaw need to be involved? Do I really need to grip my fingers? Can I just give over to opening up this space, even though it's uncomfortable? Yes. On the other side of this we will find immense space. Within that space is possibility. Just like George says in Sunday in the Park with George..."White. A blank page or canvas?"
This week on the mat we will be exploring opening up space within our asana practice. As we gaze inward can we ask ourselves..."what am I holding onto?" We can ask this on and off the mat...
WHAT AM I HOLDING ONTO THAT I CAN LET GO OF?
Please join me! I'd love to see you there.
I took a much needed full week off last week. Hands down this is one of the best things I've done for myself in quite a while. I haven't had a solid week off in over a year. While I have two vacations planned this summer I knew I needed to take a week to myself to go and visit my family in Ohio. The last trip I made was literally for one day at Christmastime. It was way too short. I needed to drop my anchor in the place where I come from, the place where I often feel I can truly just find some solid rest. Seeing my family was something I knew would feed my soul.
An interesting thing happened to me while driving with my dogs on the 7 1/2 hour car ride-my mind drifted to all things of the past. I knew on this trip I would be visiting my old college stomping grounds to see one of my best friends and her new family...immediately my mind went back to the time we spent together in college. It was as if I had found the switch in my brain to time travel. I was feeling all of the sensations that I had once felt as I remembered the summer between sophomore and junior year, one I would consider to be the best summers of my life. Those memories flooded my soul and felt just like they had happened yesterday. I found myself laughing, crying, questioning, and grieving for the past. This ended up being the theme for most of my trip, this vivid journey into the past.
It was perspective that I so badly needed. I use to travel into the past and feel some resentment, anger, loss, and even had the sense of "I'm better than that person I used to be." On this trip I found myself really resting on the past, for the first time being able to see how the past served me and made me who I am. I saw my former 22 year old self, and for the first time was able to thank him for his experiences, forgive him for the things I wish he would have done differently, and still recognize that without him I wouldn't be where I am now. A large part of me (more of this is in my book that I'm writing) felt I had lost that carefree 21/22 year old me...and as I drove through my old college campus and teared up, I realized that I was happy because he was finally starting to come back into my life in new and exciting ways. I was able to see the bridge from my past into my current life. I could see the connections, and how it all started to piece together. What a relief to me, and what a sweet way to rest. It was that delicious moment of pause that I have longed for.
We often yearn for our past because we feel that a part of ourselves was lost. As we get older and become more "responsible" we start to forget to have a sense of play and fun in our lives. We lose the mystery that comes along in life. That play and mystery is very present in our younger selves. I was always grieving for that 22 year old who didn't care what tomorrow brought, who didn't have a 10 year plan, who rode with the wind and felt free, who didn't sulk over every artistic and creative choice. I kept seeing myself in my present life as someone who was too careful, planned too much (though hates it), who needed to have a solid black and white answer for all questions, who needed to have one career path (how can you be a yoga teacher and an artist??), and mostly someone who needed to put the weight of the world on his shoulders and work so hard otherwise it didn't matter. In the past year there has been much transformation in my life. One of the organic things that has really happened to me is the bridge from the past me to present me has started to really take shape. I am finding myself being more spontaneous, being less black and white, finding more vigor in being my authentic self, and mostly finding that I am letting go of the idea of a "final" picture (it doesn't exist). How did all of this realization come to me in a week?
I RESTED. I didn't sleep long 10 hour nights of sleep like I imagined I would as I left for Ohio. I felt so exhausted that I was just imagining myself lingering in a deep sleep with no alarm for hours. In fact I was surprised when I awakened early every day and had energy. But I made the conscious choice to truly REST for a week...which meant listening to myself, not answering any emails that could wait, disconnecting from my phone for hours at a time, not practicing yoga every day, giving myself permission to eat what I wanted to eat without worry, taking naps, spending time with those I love, and sitting on my ass and watching tv. It was because of that vacating from my normal life that I was able to step away, get perspective, and see where things truly were in my life. Of course we don't want to just wait until we have a vacation to rest, this is something we need to put into our every day lives. Most of us don't do that and that's how we're becoming fatigued, ill, and burned out.
On our yoga mat we have this wonderful opportunity to escape from our lives and have this "rest." This is why so many of us come to our mats every day. It's a way for us to drown out the noise from our lives and find some active rest. It's also an incredible way to rest on the past, to see that bridge from where we were to where we are now and to connect the dots. When we move through the physical practice we are able to transcend our daily responsibilities and connect to our higher selves.
Do you remember the first time you came to your mat? Do you remember the curiosity you had for the postures when you started practicing? Do you remember leaving that first class feeling that delicious sense of accomplishment? Maybe you're at a season in your practice where your practice is feeling less and less like a rest and more like a chore. How can we connect the bridge from the past to the present for you? Can you find some excitement in how your body feels when you spiral your heart to the sky in triangle, after you've sat at a desk for 9 hours? Can you feel the joy in maybe going a little more into a new edge in your forward folds?
This week I want us to connect the bridge from our past to our present...to use the practice as an active place of rest from our day to day life. I want us to take the pressure off of ourselves to have the perfect asana, and instead to focus on the feelings and the sensations that rise up in our bodies. Those feeling and sensations, like the ones I felt as I traveled back in time, are our guides. Those feelings and sensations bring us into that state of rest from our lives, liberating us from all that weighs us down in our day to day. I want to also encourage us to consider making a practice of finding ways to rest in our daily lives off the mat. I'm holding myself accountable listing these ideas here, as well as offering them as suggestions for you to find rest:
1. Stop looking at your phone when you wake up in the morning. (I'm buying a real alarm clock today instead of relying on my phone). I'm tired of opening my phone first thing and getting inundated with chaos first thing in the morning.
2. Set specific times to check your email and social media. You'll have more purpose to your browsing if you know you have limited amounts of time. Most of those emails don't need a response right away, they can wait.
3. Give yourself at least an hour of downtime every day, no matter how busy you are. Let yourself sit in front of the tv and watch your favorite show, get lost in a book, take a long hot bath, take a long walk (without your phone), or cook your favorite meal.
4. Give yourself a break from your yoga practice. Yes I know this is a surprise. Most of us want to practice every single day. I find one day a week off from any kind of physical activity be it yoga or working out is GOOD for the mind, body, and spirit. I often come back into my practice MUCH stronger after some rest.
5. Prepare your stuff for your day the night before. You can stay in bed a little longer if you know that everything is ready and waiting for you.
6. Make your bed. Every. Day. Coming home to a made bed that is made will give you a delightful sensation as you crawl into it at night to go to sleep.
7. Meditate. Even if just for five to fifteen minutes a day. Do it, it will change the trajectory of your day and life.
Let's connect this week on the mat! I'd love to see you there.
With love and always....NAMASTE-
I was practicing recently in with a teacher I've never practiced with. The class was going very well until there was a shift into a posture with an alignment cue and an assist that felt dangerous to me. In fact I heard this voice in my head say "don't do it." I was the student, so I had to obey my teacher...this was the crazy motivating thought in my mind. As a teacher I always encourage my students to modify their practice to their needs, even if they don't agree with me. So here I was in this situation ignoring my own advice I give to my students. So I allowed a very dangerous hands on assist to happen to me all because I didn't want to make the teacher feel bad by saying "no thank you, I'm fine." What proceeded later was a few days of pain in my lower back from twisting and putting myself into a position I shouldn't have been in. You see my inner voice, or inner teacher as I will call it, told me this wasn't something I should do. I ignored it. We ignore our greatest teacher, OURSELVES, all the time. If we could just listen more intently to that inner guide we will be guided gracefully into our own Independence on and off the mat.
Trusting in your inner teacher isn't an easy thing, it's a practice. We doubt that inner voice because we doubt ourselves. We constantly doubt our own ability to make decisions for ourselves because we fear we are going to make the wrong choices. We have been encouraged all of our lives to make wise choices because if we don't there will be consequences. Sadly for many of us this has led us to being scared to make our own choices, so we rely on others to tell us what to do. We rely on people who we deem worthy to make those decisions for us. But we are our own best judge of experience after making choices. Our inner voice is leaning us towards our highest best and good, always. Had I listened to that inner teacher I wouldn't have spent three days in pain trying to undo a really bad hands on assist. This is in all areas of life...if we listened to our inner teacher we wouldn't get into debt in the first place, we wouldn't lie, we wouldn't over-extend ourselves, we wouldn't need someone to tell us what the perfect way to eat is, and the list goes on and on. That inner teacher is present at all times, some call it intuition and others call it their inner guidance.
On the mat we have opportunity to cultivate a dialogue with our inner teacher through the observation of our mind chatter. Throughout the challenging postures (and yes even Warrior 2 after all these years can STILL be challenging) we encounter dialogue in our minds. Most of us are so buried in it that we aren't aware that it's happening in our practice, but once we start to tune into the mind and separate ourselves from the chatter, we begin to carve a path for the inner teacher. I was in a challenging asana the other evening during a class and I noticed my mind was going crazy: "you're not strong enough for this! You're not flexible enough! You're going to fall...." were all thoughts that I observed. Beneath that was this still small voice saying "be calm, slow down, take it one step at a time and keep your focus. You don't have to reach the fullest expression of this asana today." That is my greatest teacher speaking to me throughout the practice. The more I come to the mat, the more I am now able to listen to that inner voice and trust it.
Yogis, if something doesn't feel right to you on the mat, don't do it. Listen to your inner guide. If you're tired and need to rest, listen to the guide. Start to peel away the layers of the mind chatter to carve the path for your greatest teacher...YOU. Can we begin to invite this teacher not only onto our mats but into our daily lives? YES. Meditate, pray, journal, or even do a rain dance to clear the cobs webs away in your mind from whatever you're seeking divine guidance on. Clear the path and your life will be charged with independence. Independence from the mind chatter, others, society, and anything else that weighs heavily on you.
This week as we celebrate Independence Day in the United States, I am celebrating my own independence and free will by committing to paving the path for my inner teacher. Honoring our inner teacher this week will be our intention as we mindfully move through a challenging asana practice. Join me on the mat! The schedule is a little more limited this week due to the holiday. I will also be taking a much needed week of vacation starting on Sunday to spend time with my family.
Love and Light to you all!