Archive for the ‘yoga mats’ Category

Step Out of Your Routine

“Step Out of Your Routine” is one of the affirmations beaming from my vision board.  And it’s fitting given the last couple of weeks has been nothing but routine, particularly my yoga practice while I was on the road.

Up until last Tuesday, I was on holiday travel for about 1.5 weeks.  In order to continue with my daily yoga practice, I had to settle for practicing on plushy carpet.  If you’re a yogi, you know carpet is not ideal particularly for a practice that is mostly standing & arm balancing poses that are best supported by a hard surface.

For the last 8+ years, I’ve fully known in advance of travel the carpet circumstances will exist.  I take my travel yoga mat anyway to DE, KY, LA and wherever else and just do my best.  Yet as I move through my vinyasa practice, trying to simply stay focused on my breath, there is always this underlying thought of “I wish I had a harder surface to practice on”.

So a few days before New Years Eve while in KY at my in-laws – don’t worry we spent 12/31 and beyond in New Orleans 🙂 – I unrolled my mat and  jumped into downward facing dog to kick off my morning practice.  Immediately my mind went right to chatting with the carpet.  Then something shifted.  Suddenly I realized that my practice that day/moment doesn’t have to be like it is at home.  At the same time, my vision board and the “step out of your routine” phrase popped into my head.

Again there was a shift.  I started to live my yoga in that moment.  Simply, I woke up to what could be possible in that moment if I just surrendered to my circumstances vs. resist (which I’ve been doing with the carpet for 8 years).  I started to explore down dog by playing with as many variations that my body & breath led me into.  I practiced Sun Salutations from sitting in dandasana.  Then I stretched fully on my back (horizontal tadasana as I’ll call it) and explored Sun Salutations from there.   I worked in the moment with what I was given rather than forcing my routine into the now.  The result of stepping out of my routine (in this case, dropping a mental fixation), I had an extremely creative and refreshing asana practice – physically, mentally and spiritually.

To conclude, I leave you with a quote I seem to keep stumbling upon:  You cannot do yoga.  Yoga is your natural state.  What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. – Sharon Gannon

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Yoga With Your Boots On

As a yoga teacher and student, I find Alan Nett’s work in San Francisco inspiring.  He’s teaching yoga to construction workers and other “blue-collar” types.  Known as Yoga With Your Boots On, Mr. Nett leads yoga classes allowing the participants to show up and stretch just as they are – with their boots, belts and whatever else they typically wear.

Many yogis might read this and say it’s not yoga with your shoes on.  Where’s your lululemon gear?  Where’s your yoga mat?   I say let people do whatever it is that’s going to get them on the mat.  The rest will follow.  Remember yoga isn’t just about unrolling a yoga mat and doing postures.  In fact asana (aka yoga postures) is a small fraction of yoga as we are reminded in Patanjali’s yoga sutras which only mentions asana only three times, roughly.

Most importantly, yoga is a journey.  How one begins doesn’t matter.  And if your boots help you find downward facing dog, by all means lace them up!

Be Playful

I often tell my students to treat the yoga mat like an adult playground.  The yoga mat is the one place where we can truly express ourselves.  It’s a safe environment to be creative, explorative and completely free.  If you can’t be playful in your yoga practice then more than likely you’re not playful in your life.

Self-expression (being you!) is about being playful.  And your yoga practice should be a means of true self-expression at the highest level.  No holding back!  Feeling free to express yourself on your yoga mat leads to opportunities to be creative in other areas of your life.  And when you’re creative, life is more fun, full of possibilities and simply just flows the way it should.

The next time you unroll your yoga mat (and every time thereafter), move with a sense of wonderment and curiosity.  What’s possible in the moment?  When you play, anything is?  When you stop playing, you stunt your growth and ultimately stunt your life.

Never stop exploring.  Be passionate about being curious.  Learn more about you – the unique, beautiful individual you are – by simply being playful.

Let It Be Messy

Respectfully, some of the most famous artists can be considered the messiest.  Think of abstract expressionists for example, such as Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns.  Their work can be looked at by some as sloppy yet it’s worth millions upon millions of dollars.  I love Jackson Pollock but he definitely doesn’t color inside the lines.

Patanjali describes yoga asana as being steady (sthira) and joyful (sukha).  He clearly doesn’t state yoga poses should be rigid and perfect.  Part of finding freedom, whether it’s on the yoga mat or painting on a blank canvas, is being our unique selves (no one is perfect) and letting go of rules (rigidity).

Next time you hit your yoga mat, be expressive in your practice.  Enter, explore and exit each asana with the sthira sukham asanam intention.  This intention enables us to balance effort with ease and fully be in the meditative aspect of the asana practice.   And it’s from this intention we discover that messy is okay and we each shine in our own way.

Each asana (yoga posture), as is life, is a process; they’re both masterpieces in progress.  There is always space to do better, be brighter and more at ease.  If you have to go outside the lines every now and then, do so with awareness.  If you make mistakes, learn from them rather than judge.  Do the best you can –even if it’s a little messy.  Be in it.  Be in the moment.  Be yourself.  Be okay with being a little messy.

Sweet Moments

Sweet moments in yoga are often those glimpses of silence within that invite joy, peace and/or lightness.  For me, they are the moments that bring a smile to my heart. This is what often brings us (at least me) back to the mat.

Though usually brief, sweet moments also happen repeatedly throughout our days even when we can’t make it to our yoga mat.  The first sip of morning coffee or hot tea.  Seeing a dear friend you haven’t seen in months.  Catching some time in the afternoon sun even though it might just be enough to get vitamin D. These moments create unexplainable sensations of being connected to our essence and purely being at ease with one’s self.

What brings a smile to your heart?  What lights up your face?  Whatever it is, find ways to bring more sweetness (sukha) into your life.  Then do more of it, even if it’s just a few minutes a day!  We only live once so why not make your life sweet vs. sour (dukha).

“Life is just a series of moments.  If you miss you the moments, you miss your life”  (Robin Sharma).

Frequency vs. Variety

Given I’m a full-time yoga teacher, I’m often asked by my yoga students “how often do you practice yoga?”  Sure I practice 5-6 days a week, which I know is a privilege.  Though it recently occurred to me the frequency/discipline of getting on my yoga mat regularly isn’t the only thing that matters.  The variety of learning from different teachers and playing with other yoga styles is what really will challenge and advance me.  In addition, the intention I bring to my practice is just as important as variety if not more so.

For four years, I’ve religiously gone to the same studio in D.C. and practiced with some of the best teachers in the area.  It’s been a convenient option and offered me a lot of growth during that time.  More recently, I realized the easy option isn’t the best option for me anymore.  In some ways my growth has been stunted.

Solution to my problem…I’ve challenged myself for almost two weeks not to go into my “home away from home” studio.  I’ve forced myself to explore other places and teachers.  I’ve spent more time in my home yoga space, learning from myself  —we are our own best teachers.  Throughout the last couple weeks my intention was to simply remain open to what ever came up.

As hard as this was at first, I realized that going to the same place everyday to practice (frequency) kind gave me “tunnel-vision”.  The discipline in mixing things up is giving me new strength and confidence —in my personal practice as well as my teaching —and a few “ah-ha” moments in my overall life.  Though I struggled with the change at first, it was one of the healthiest decisions/changes I’ve made for myself in a long time.

Lessons I was reminded over the last two weeks:  1) Easy is not always the best option.  2) If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.  3) Variety is the spice of life!

Use Your Senses

Often we forget to take advantage of the ability to fully see, hear, smell, taste and touch.  The five senses are truly gifts to be used and appreciated every moment, every day.

When you begin to connect with everything on a more sensory level, you’ll receive more out of life’s simple and extraordinary pleasures.  You’ll also be fully in the present experience as oppose to looking for what’s next.

For instance, during your next in-person conversation with a friend, look at them rather than beyond.  While eating your next meal, chew your food slowly and savor the flavor and smell.  Take a long walk outside and with each step feel your feet touch down with each step and open your ears to hear nature speak.  While washing the dishes, feel your hands supporting the effort.  Next time you’re on your yoga mat, explore how your senses support your practice.

By simply using what you have, you’ll wake up to the beauty that surrounds you.  That beauty is your life, which can only be fully experienced through the senses.