Combat the effects of stress, strain & speed of living

One way to steady your mind

If you peek into a yoga class, you’ll see people doing yoga postures — something along the lines of stretching and exercising.

You know that practicing yoga postures can improve your health. But, what you may not know is this:

There are some yoga practices that don’t involve “posing.” These are mind-focusing activities.

Next time your mind gets ruffled with the stress, strain and speed of life, here is something to try:

Think of something that is elevating…something that you consider positive…something you feel drawn toward — an object. If you’re a visual person, choose a picture or another tangible thing to look at. If you are more drawn to sound, play a song, hum a chant or repeat a positive word (any sound or word you repeat can be a mantra).

A student in today’s class said she recently found some steadiness of mind on facebook – of all places!

She noticed herself lingering over her facebook friend’s posting of landscape photos. She said even the sunlight shining in the picture affected her. She felt her breath deepen and had a moment of what she called, “ahhhhhh.” She stayed with it, and her mind shifted from stress to a focused, quieter place.

Ways to try this:
Find something inspiring or meaningful. (Or try it with any object you can conjure up and see what happens….you never know what might help you shift your focus to a more positive place)

If the first object you choose doesn’t help, try a different one.

Any object you find motivating can serve as a tool for concentration as long as it works to quiet the static in your mind.

The path of practice is open to anyone and everyone, regardless of circumstances.

Inside job

 

 

“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”
-BKS Iyengar

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to describe yoga. Especially to new people who are asking questions about yoga. What is yoga? Will it help me lose weight? What do you do in a class? Why do you spend so much time teaching/studying/practicing?

When I first started thinking about how to describe yoga to people, my  purpose was to come up with ways to “market” yoga and Iyengar Yoga. I wanted to help people find us, come to class, and introduce them to our practice.

I think about marketing sometimes. As a studio we depend on having students. Without students, there is no studio. And it is no secret that the practicalities of paying the rent, keeping the lights on, utilities and so forth are important considerations.

It is in the “marketing” of yoga where I get stuck. It’s hard to describe Iyengar Yoga to those who have not experienced it for themselves.

Of course, I could quote the benefits of yoga:
relieve stress!
gain strength!
heal from injuries & chronic conditions.

I can cite articles with the scientific research backed by statistics on percentages of people who have achieved relief from pain and calmed their anxiety.

The usual attention-grabbing advertising words do not work here.

But there are benefits other than the surface ones. These are hard to describe.
Common advertising language has no words to describe yoga practice. Sure, the physical benefits attract people, but those who continue to practice over a period of months and years do so because the yoga gives them more than a healthy body.

Those who stick with it find something deeper. I could say “rich, deep, and profound.”

Even these descriptions fall far short of describing what yoga brings. Yoga is the ability to quiet the mind. It helps us provide a deeper experience of who we are — and we turn inward.

After 20 years of practice,  I am just now starting  to crave a deeper connection to myself…

Wanting to shift my attention inward. Wanting to focus less on the externals.

I have not always been interested in this.

It can be scary to go to an unfamiliar place. And spending time with myself and my ever-wandering mind has never souned appealing.

What will I find there? Maybe nothing. Maybe something  I’d rather not see. Or maybe I can catch a glimpse of a new, less external (what am i wearing? how can I be fit?) way of living.

Inner connection has never been on my to-do list. Until now. And I can see that is a process — it comes in stages.

My first stage toward change has been to wish I wanted to.
And in the case of big changes, I am only capable of being willing to want to change.
These stages can last a very very long time before any real work happens.

I find myself in the middle of it now. Maybe you do too.

It helps to hear what others have to say on the subject.

Here’s what John O’Donohue, the Irish poet/philosopher says:

“The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness.” – O’Donohue

“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – Iyengar

Easter & Camo

camo.eggWe’ll be enjoying Spring — and hope you will too!

I can hardly wait to spend Sunday with a bunch of my favorite adults and two little kids.

As the CEH (chief-egg-hidder) for our family’s annual tradition, I am ratcheting up this year’s egg hunt.

What could be more fun than watching the kids scavenge for these camouflage plastic Easter eggs? (Look a little closer at photo to the right…and you’ll see how they blend in.)

These camo Easter eggs will inspire hours of family fun at our house!

Can’t you just see adorable smarty-pants tykes and tots beating the bushes (& shrubs, trees, grass, stones) in search of their loot?

I say make them work for their jelly beans!

I haven’t been completely lost to the dark side. There will be a list of where each egg is hidden to make sure no candy will be lost to the elements.

And…of course there will be glittery pink plastic eggs aplenty for those hungry little hands to crack open. We can’t have the wee ones wailing and weeping on Easter!

It must be known that there will be no quick candy fixes around here. Scavenging the yard in the quest for little chocolate bunnies is a rite of passage for all girls and boys.

After each basket is ravaged and examined for the tiniest of eggs, I’ll carry them up to the attic and bring them down again next year — that is, if I can find them.
Leahsignature

Can I?

fustkeeptrying.final

The “Can I?” question comes up in yoga class a lot.
You are introduced to a new pose – one that challenges you. It looks interesting but you aren’t sure if you can do it. The teacher says “Let’s do it, but you aren’t so sure.”

“Can I do it?” you ask.

The answer is usually one of 4 things:
Yes.
No.
Maybe.
I don’t know.

The problem with asking “Can I?” is that it implies that there is a simple answer.

But a quest for personal growth & change can bring more questions than it does answers.

While “can I” can be an important thing to consider, there is another question that has given me more fulfillment in my practice. That question is:

How can I?”

This shift in thinking comes straight out of my Iyengar Yoga learnings over the years.

It acknowledges I am looking toward change/growth.

It reminds me that I am not just “going for it” or “giving up.” I am seeking to improve.

The “can I” question makes things seem too pat. And they are not.

BKS Iyengar’s work illustrates that there is always a how.

In the howwe are encouraged to be curious and interested about our challenges. We are asked to challenge our judgements about what is possible. We can shift beyond judgement about what we can and cannot do. We get creative about what we might try now.

This kind of exploration leads to small steps toward what we are looking at. And any small step toward something put in front of us is one step closer than before.

Small steps add up to big changes.

Changes over time will lead to transformation.

This is precisely why I choose to study/practice Iyengar Yoga.

Yoga teaches us to go beyond the resignation of “I can’t.” Yoga moves us past “I can,” as we are asked to improve ourselves rather than maintain our status quo.

How can I grow at a pace that feels right for me at this time?
How can I work hard and let go of the outcome?
How can I keep moving forward when things seem to be at a standstill?
How can I keep from sliding backward into complacency?
How can I create more time to do the things I really want to do?

HOOOOOOWWWW?

Creativity is required. The possibilities are endless.

I have found that these questions are a never-ending process that always takes me to a better place. Contemplating just one of these questions leaves me feeling stronger, positive, and more content.

I love that Iyengar Yoga practice moves me to a fresh perspective and a new part of life to explore

Luck will cost you

…but you’ll find faith on the sale rack at Target

faith.luck.target.final

My recent shopping trip took me on an unexpected turn toward the existential.

 

It’s not every day one sees luck and faith available for purchase — and with faith on clearance.

 

The iphone in my pocket begged to take a picture. I would have loved sending it to Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter). And the right hashtag (#Targetfunny or #faithluckonsale) to underscore the experience.

 

But there were errands to run, and I thought maybe I’d circle back to the idea later on.

 

And just like any yoga nerd, I felt it lingering in the back of my mind.

 

Why couldn’t I just be contented with having a good laugh about it with my husband?

 

Because I have to create meaning out of the mundane, and often where this is none. That’s just how I roll.

 

Still, who wouldn’t be captivated?

I found the holy grail of a happy life – in the aisles of the East Memphis Target!

Clearly some sales executive higher-up deemed luck to be a little more valuable than faith. The powers-that-be slashed a few prices — and voila — the value of faith declined by 50%.

I knew the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras had something to say about this and wondered if he’d also thrown in any ideas about luck.

So I looked it up.

I found some talk of faith. And very little on luck.

The word “faith” can be a loaded word for many. It can be seen as something religious or spiritual or even out-dated. It brings up early childhood experiences in incense-filled cathedrals and Jesus’ “faith of a mustard seed” speech.

Substituting the word “trust” has been a good alternative for me. 

Trust can be something like a seed that develops little by little. BKS Iyengar says that trust comes with experience. He describes faith as “felt trust” and says that it is instinctive. And then develops with effort and reflecting on one’s own experience.

There have been times when I’ve found it hard to have trust or faith — even in my yoga practice.

But I still do it. (Yes, and sometimes even just think about doing it).

I see results. I understand faith through my experience. Over time, I am able to believe that yoga can be of help. And that makes faith worth something to me.

As for luck, I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve been at the right place at just the right time too often to doubt my good luck.

Luck can provide valuable resources. But I’ve found that, unlike faith or trust, there are very few actions I can take to create more luck.

Except maybe shop at Target, and be willing to pay full price.