mind-body

Can I?

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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

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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.

Getting ready to get ready

Celebrating indecision

yes-no.lowres.istockphotoWe had a brand-new student show up to the morning yoga class a few weeks ago. I asked him if he had any questions before we started.

He said, “I’m a beginner. I’ve seen the sign for a few months now, and finally decided to come.”

He said he and a colleague he works with talked it over and decided to give it a try. He came (and has been coming for a few weeks now). But she hasn’t come…yet.

It makes me wonder what makes some people ready, and others take longer to decide and to take action.

It takes courage to show up for something new. Courage, readiness — and a few other magic ingredients.

No one ever talks about the stages of making a decision to start something new. With so much pressure to “just do it, ” no one extols the virtues of indecision.

But I’m here to tell you are some! (Yep…I’m from that alien anti-just-do-it world of yes-no and stay-go.)

You’re undecided now, and what are you going to do? (yep, that’s how the song goes!)  Or, maybe you’re different…but I spend way more time getting ready to be ready than actually being ready.

I got real tired of the bad rap I was always giving myself for not being ready to go-for-it, bite-the-bullet, and make-stuff-happen.

But my frown turned upside down the day I finally decided to embrace my decidedly indecisive nature.  I felt a lot better, and that was enough for me.

Then I learned there is science to back me up on this.

I have found that trying something new is like that for me. If I change anything, I usually think about it for a long while before I actually do anything.

Change is never really an event. It’s more a process that unfolds over time.

And the indecision period where you are just contemplating doing something is often overlooked. But I think it’s the most important part. You’re undecided now, and what are you going to do?

I thought it was just me, but it turns out…

It turns out, some very smart people have done some research on this very topic, and given it a fancy scientific name: The Transtheoretical Model or TTM (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross)

Here are the stages of change:
Not ready (precontemplation – undecided)
Getting ready (contemplation – a little less undecided)
Ready (preparation – decided but not doing it yet)
Doing it! (action)

I think these stages are more for study and discussion purposes. I never ask myself if I am pre-contemplating or just contemplating something. I just know I’m either battling back and forth between yes and no.

I’m undecided. Or I’m decidedly going to do something.

Some of may be more complicated than this TTM theory allows for.  Like me.

I find myself often not-ready-but-hoping-to-soon-be-getting-ready-to-be-ready. Quite an interesting place to be. This is when I am not rebelling against the idea of taking action, but I am still examining the pros and cons. Yes-no. Stay-go.

(Click here for my favorite song on the subject: Undecided by Ella Fitzgerald. Now there’s a woman who knows that a little scat-singing and a jazz beat goes a long way toward celebrating even the indecision that hurts.)

“Hmmm…maybe I will create a special spot to put my keys when I walk in the front door so I don’t lose them,” I think.

The not-ready-rebellious me says,
No way. That would involve too much work. I would have to find the right spot. I would have to go shopping for a special hook or container or whatever to contain my keys. It would take too much time. It would cost too much money. It would have to match my decor…blah-de-blah.”

My not-ready but getting-ready self says,
“Well, I am tired of losing my keys in my house. It makes me late in the mornings. When I can’t find them I feel anxious. When I finally find them, I jump in my car and drive crazy to get where I’m going. It sure would feel better to start the day knowing where my keys are. Maybe I can find an inexpensive container for my keys.”

The early stages of contemplation are subtle, and maybe not even visible to anyone but me. I haven’t actually done anything about my key-losing problem – yet.

It brings me great comfort to think of my not-readiness as an important part of the change process.

Even if you are resistent, rebellious, umotivated or ambivalent, you could be closer to taking action than you realize.

From my experience, you can’t rush it. It happens when you are ready. (Or getting ready to think about being ready.)

Of course, you can surround yourself with positive support and reminders. You can create logs, schedules, or accountability partners. Things like these help some people. But usually not me.

I do better if I let myself off the hook, and give myself time to just think about what I might do once I’m ready.

Perhaps you’re like me…Just thinking about starting yoga (or flossing daily or eating your vegetables or having more fun…) is an important part of the process.

Namaste.

Leahsignature

‘Tis the season for comfort & joy

by Tedrah Smothers

Tedrah.headshotThe Christmas season is upon us and before we know it, our minds become filled with all the many things left to do before the big day.

With shopping, wrapping, socializing, cooking, and baking, our yoga practice can fall by the wayside.

We begin to feel like there isn’t time or we’re too exhausted  for even a little yoga practice.

But the truth is…
When we make time for practice, we discover we actually have more time.

Our minds slow down and we focus on what is important.
Our bodies become filled with energy and ease.
We can rest in ourselves and connect to our world in a way that feels calm and alert.
All that needs to be done, gets finished.

We feel joyful and we are actually able to enjoy the season.

Doing just a little yoga can ease feelings of anxiety about the holidays by bringing us home to our truest self.  This is the place where we find comfort, happiness and peace.

Here it is, direct from the yoga sutras:

When we slow down the to-do list in our minds, we are able to dwell in our own true splendor. (Sutra 1.2-3)

Now is the time for practice!

Here are some poses everyone can do:

Urdvha Prasarita Padasana: Legs up the wall
Ardha Uttanasana: Half forward bend with hands on the wall.
Bharadvajasana (sitting in chair): Simple Twist
Gomukasana (arms only):  shoulder stretch with or without a strap. any simple shoulder stretch will do. interlacing hands behind your back and stretching arms
Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog Pose
Supta Baddha Konasana: Reclining Bound Angle Pose

When you take time for yourself, you will have more time for others.
Make this holiday a happy one.

Treat your self this season, and join me for one (or more) of the holiday classes.
xo Tedrah

There is no such thing as “not flexible enough for yoga”

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 6.30.30 PMIf you can walk, you can do yoga.

And even if you can’t walk, you can do yoga.

I love this time of year because of all the holiday parties. My husband and I make the rounds to see friends and family, and an extended network of neighbors and acquaintances we’ve developed in our many years of living in Memphis.

There are some people that I see only at this time of year. It’s great to catch up and hear what people have been up to, and swap stories about the previous year.

Sometimes people want to talk about yoga.

There are several refrains that I commonly hear when I am out and about.

  • I wish I could do yoga but I’m not flexible at all.
  • I can’t even touch my toes.
  • I could never touch my toes.
  • My hands (or wrists) can’t bear weight so I can’t do yoga.
  • I went to a yoga class once and it was too hard.
  • Yoga is not enough of a workout for me. I like an intense workout where I sweat.
  • My doctor says I’m too flexible (or stiff or old or injured or blah blah blah) for yoga.
  • My mother told me I’d never have good posture.

None of these things have anything to do with your ability to do yoga.

If you want to practice yoga, you will find a way.

You will try teacher after teacher until you find the one who is the right fit for you.

When people talk to me about yoga when we are just hanging out, I take that to mean that they are interested in it.  Even when what they are saying is why they can’t do it.

If you have heard yourself (or a friend) saying any of the above, let’s talk.

Sometimes you have to overcome your “can’ts,” “nots,” and “never haves,” before you can find your “will, your “want to,” and your “must do.”

I’d love to help you find your way.

Email me.