How to take your Yoga off your mat

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

The lessons we learn on our yoga mats are far more than a routine set of physical postures and breathing techniques. These lessons teach us: about ourselves, how to treat ourselves, how to respond in new ways to that which confronts us, and how to be more present. In effect, these lessons teach us how to live our lives. All that we learn on the mat in yoga class can be infiltrated into every corner of our lives, thereby opening ourselves up to increased health and happiness on a day-to-day basis.

Here are a few ways to live your yoga off your mat:

  • Embrace self-acceptance
  • Just be – observe the beauty in all things
  • Stop struggling and practice acceptance – accept each moment as it is
  • Keep moving through it and remember it will pass
  • Wherever you go offer the gift of a smile, compliment, or encouraging word
  • Accept everything you receive with gratitude
  • Where possible be of service to others…
  • …but not at a disservice to yourself
  • Express your unique talents and share them with others
  • Practice responsible decision making, contemplating (and owning) the consequences of your choices
  • Eat consciously
  • Enjoy every moment that life has to offer (and let go of the outcome)
  • Let go of the need to control – become content with uncertainty, be open to possibilities, and cultivate curiosity
  • Be realistic about the time you have available and rather do less with more zest
  • Know that you’re allowed to say “no” – look after yourself first
  • Practice patience with yourself and others
  • Practice love and kindness to yourself and others
  • Say it with love
  • If you need it, ask for help
  • When you’re struggling to balance, put one foot down
  • Practice courage
  • Remember to breathe
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Breath: the elixir of life

September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Breath is life, offering every cell of our bodies the very elixir it needs, not only to survive, but to thrive. More than that, breath immediately reflects the life we are living. If we can deepen our awareness of that breath and begin to read its messages, we give ourselves the opportunity to create a healthier, happier life.

This was highlighted for me recently during two consecutive yoga practices. Day one’s practice was a tough session, but no matter the effort I exerted, my breath remained slow, steady, fluid, and relaxed – this was a stress-free and relaxed non-working day. The following day’s yoga yielded a totally different breathing pattern: rapid and shallow. No surprises that this was the beginning of the day on a Monday morning, a day I was off to do work I wasn’t particularly enthused about; this was a day my stress levels had raised.

How quickly and noticeably that (considerably low-level) mental stress had affected my physical body. Our ever-helpful bodies, unfortunately, do not respond along a spectrum, but rather have an all or nothing approach to stress, as if all stress was the equivalent to that of being chased by a tiger. The trouble is, our tiger is no longer a tiger but a queue at the supermarket, or an early morning, or a traffic jam, or a deadline. The body’s response to stress, however, places immense stress on the body.

So, back to our elixir of life, the breath: not only can it give us the signals to indicate where we’re at mentally, but it also becomes the tool with which we can help undo some of that mental reaction. There is nothing more calming, no better sedative than that very breath you breathe. A few minutes of deep, full, mindful belly breathing is just what the doctor should be ordering to trick the mind back into a state of no worry. Pause, deep breath into the belly, slowly exhale and allow relaxation to become you.

Making Time

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We live in a society where time is transformed into a very tangible, living thing – we can “borrow time”, “steal time”, “lose time”, and even “save time”. If we are able to in fact manipulate time in all these many and varied ways, we must also be able to, indeed, “make time.”

I am currently discovering how to “make time” in my own life for the things that are important to me. This is a learning process or, rather, an “unlearning” of the examples that were set for me by my parents, my teachers, my colleagues, and the very society I live in. I have been taught inadvertently that those very things that fill me up should be placed last on my “to-do” list, with responsibilities and attending to the needs of others listed as priorities. Is it any wonder, then, that I frequently find myself feeling unsatisfied and, what I like to call, “soul tired”?

The reality is, the items at the end of the “to-do” list seldom get ticked off. My solution: I am playing around with the order of my daily “to-dos”, placing some of the activities that leave me feeling great (physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually) at the start of the day – this way, not only do I have the satisfaction of getting them done (at last), but I have the added bonus of feeling fulfilled from the get go.

Something else I’ve started is setting a metaphorical timer on my list items of so-called responsibility ensuring I don’t reach the end of my day only to find that these tasks have swallowed up my time and my energy.

I am enjoying uncovering the malleability of time, learning to sculpt my days into shapes that best honour my personal needs, allowing me to “make time” for that which fuels and recharges me, and therefore leaves me better able to help those around me, and find success in my responsibilities.

The arrogance of ignorance

May 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

There is a certain amount of smug arrogance that often rears its ugly head as a result of ignorance.  It is a shame that I should discover this to be the case within the walls of my employ.

I work on a part-time basis as a contract Remedial massage therapist for a massage clinic that is part of a multidisciplinary health centre.  I also teach yoga within the local community, and, might I add, a very small community.  My yoga students appear to reap many benefits from my classes, and seem to have a fondness for me (whew!).  Perhaps the passion I have for this ancient science is contagious after all.

One of my students had recently taken some time off to rehabilitate an acute on chronic knee injury – she was seeing a physiotherapist at the health centre I work at to help her along with this process.  On her return, she said to me “those physios should really come to one of your classes, they know nothing.”  Turns out the attending physio was quite blatant about dismissing yoga, and possibly even tried to pin the injury flare up on my classes.

As I mentioned, I also work as a Remedial massage therapist, therefore my understanding of body mechanics, musculoskeletal anatomy and physiology, and the mechanics of injury are incredibly thorough.  I bring all of this knowledge with me into every yoga class I teach – I do not want to clients seeing me in my massage room because of something I am responsible for.  Additionally yoga is a science, a five thousand plus year old science, and when taught right is taught with precision and involves fine-tuning the balance between the different elements of a body to recreate homeostasis.

Injury in yoga happens for two main reasons: students do not tune into their own limitations and push themselves well beyond their physical boundaries in an unsafe manner; the classes are being taught by teachers with insufficient training that do not fully understand (a) the necessity of both strengthening and stretching in equal amounts and (b) the importance of executing correct postural alignment in each posture.  These are both major themes in all my classes.

I should add that the same physiotherapists run Pilates classes within the clinic, classes they have not trained to teach.  When Joseph Pilates designed his programme for his own physical rehabilitation, what do they think he based it on?  Yoga, of course.  At that point yoga was the only official practice that offered core training in the truest sense of the word.  How then can you knock the taking of yoga classes to your patients.

To add insult to the injury, the yoga classes the patient has been taking are those of a fellow health practitioner, one that has detailed in writing the health benefits (from a medical point of view) and my personal teaching practices and philosophies.  How insulting to be made aware of just how high the pedestal that they see themselves standing upon next to you actually is.  How arrogant to turn around and put down something that, in reality, they know nothing about.    Makes me wonder of their ideas of what I do in my clinic room… I suppose to them I am just a rubber.  I pity that ignorance, and am reminded to not let my own influence me in such a negative way.

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