Monthly Archives: May 2012
So just a few quick thoughts about strength in your yoga practice. Lots of people think yoga is all about stretching. It’s not. It’s about finding strength within you and without, finding the strength to be flexible, both emotionally, physically and mentally. How is the possible, you ask? It’s really quite simple. Find the emotional courage, the mental hardiness and the physical health to be fully and completely present in every moment of your life. Sound hard? Yep. It’s a skill, just like a muscle you build in your body. So how do you do it? Here are 4 simple steps you can take towards this goal RIGHT NOW:
1. Daily practice. This brings CLARITY. If you don’t have one, get one. At first, it doesn’t matter so much what it is other than something that helps you clear your mind. My favorite methods for this are:
A. Morning pages: If you have ever heard of the Artist’s Way, you know of this practice. It’s three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every morning that helps you dump the garbage out of your brain, so you have space for everything else.
B. Gratitude Journal: When you focus on the positive, the negative stuff that isn’t real or need to be part of your world falls away. Really. When you can reframe your life into what is positive rather than focusing on the negative, your “mental muscle” for noticing the positive really improves and you start to notice the beauty more completely than the ugliness.When you are naturally more happy, this draws more happiness to you without effort.
C. Meditation: This is the super drug of the yoga world, in a really good way. When you meditate, you find yourself more able to deal with the slings and arrows of fortune and more importantly, make the changes that are important for you and your life. It takes courage to sit and be still, to take stock of how you live your life, as it is not always pleasant. (Nobody ever tells you that, but I think it’s important for you to know!) Nevertheless, the benefits quickly begin to outweigh the negatives, and meditation can become like your best friend. Always there for you, allowing you to be just as you are, in any one moment.
2. COMPASSION. This is essential, both for your path of personal growth and for your community. What does compassion really mean? I think the Dalai Lama always says it best: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Compassion for me means the unrelenting commitment to serving others and our community at the expense of our own egos. Our natural ego is a healthy thing, the thing that keeps us identifying with our bodies and keeping them healthy. When the ego gets out of control, as it often does in Western culture, we consider ourselves the most important thing all the time. This can lead to behaviors that are detrimental to not only the health of others, but also to your own emotional, physical or mental health.
Compassion is not always comfortable. In fact, a lot of times it can feel pretty darn uncomfortable. There is a level of intensity that is above the norm when we deal situations that call for compassion. Maybe you are talking to a difficult friend, who for the thousandth time, is complaining about her lack of satisfaction in life. Maybe you are seeing a destructive health pattern happen for the thousandth time in a relative that just won’t own up to the fact that their behavior is causing their suffering. Maybe you are dealing with someone so in pain or suffering in that moment that they literally just can’t process what is happening to them or help themselves. Maybe someone is just causing you pain. Compassion is a blend of patience, grace, love, awareness, vulnerability and strength. It takes the strong, compassionate friend to stick by someone in crisis, putting their needs first over your own. It also is compassionate to put your own needs over others, when the balance tips too far in the other direction. Just this practice can give you strength in many situations in your daily life.
3. Commitment. No one learns how to be strong overnight. When you figure out a practice you are going to commit to every day, make yourself a tracking system. Know, concretely, when you do it and when you don’t. Some easy suggestions for tracking your practice:
A. Write it down. When you figure out what you need to do, write it down. There is something about translating thoughts and feelings from the ether into the written page that can do one of two things: let you let go and crystallize where you want to go. Be as clear as possible with your goals and ideas!
B. Keep a calendar. Maybe it’s something about getting gold stars on my homework and chores chart when I was a kid, but it really helps me to see my commitments as I keep them visually. Something about being real and in front of me that helps a lot in bringing the habits of strength into more and more of a daily practice. Soon, what seemed extraordinary is now ordinary and part of my routine. This helps me quickly gain control of times when I am not successful, and reinforces the adage that “every day is a new opportunity for change.”
4. Accountability: We need people to witness our goals and to hold us accountable for change. If you make empty promises to the empty air – how has that ever got anybody anywhere? Give yourself the following:
A. Small goals. Give yourself something attainable that is not pie-in-the-sky. Don’t promise the moon, either. Pick something reasonable yet still challenging. One great exercise I learned from the Artist’s Way was Ten Tiny Changes. Write down ten tiny changes you can start practicing today that will help you towards your eventual and larger goal. It can be as simple as “I commit to not say this habitual phrase in conversation.” That small trigger you place in your consciousness can help you promote greater awareness in all situations, and even learn a little about what you habitually do that doesn’t serve you.
B. Community: Have someone to hold you accountable. Who is going to tell you when you miss the mark? Find someone you trust to tell you the truth about how you are doing, and create a container for them to do so in a loving and compassionate way. A weekly meeting or check-in at a designated day or time can help you reset the clock if you mess up, and also acknowledge your successes so you can rejoice in your progress.
If you can put all of these things together, they are a very powerful recipe for change. It can also bring you joy in your transformation when you blend in the element of compassion. The formula for change looks just like this:
CLARITY + COMPASSION + DEDICATION (Accountability + Commitment) = JOY & TRANSFORMATION.
Now get out there and give it a try! Come back and tell me how it goes – the community wants to know!
A new Yoga Quickie! This is a preview of my full 60 minute video, Freedom of the Heart: Upper Body Therapeutic Yoga. Enjoy!