* Yoga and Happiness

I am excited to join Kyle Williams tomorrow at Awaken in Media to begin teaching our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program.  One of the first questions we will be exploringom symbol is “What is Yoga?” I’ve read many interpretations that have arisen from the original text in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

My favorite interpretation comes from Georg Feuerstein. He has such knowledge of the original texts and philosophy of Yoga and is skillful in bringing yoga from a very different time and culture, and making it meaningful for us today.

“The complex five thousand year old tradition of yoga is about a very simple thing: happiness (ananda). Yoga tells us that in order to realize lasting happiness, we must discover our true spiritual nature. This requires that we commit ourselves to nothing less that self transformation and self transcendence. For although our true nature, or spiritual Self, is always the same, it tends to be obscured by our conventional thoughts, emotions and patterns of behavior. The yoga tradition compares this circumstance to the brightly shining sun, which is ever radiant but periodically hidden from our view by drifting dark clouds.

Yoga Val

Yoga helps us to remove all obstructing (mental) clouds, so that we may come to enjoy the sunshine within. It is an extensive program of reeducation though which we learn, step by step, to live in the light of our true nature. Only when we have truly found ourselves will we be able to live in peace, harmony and happiness in the world. This is what is sometimes called the sacred life….

For many people, practicing yoga means to do yoga postures once or twice a week or even every day. Although this approach can yield many benefits, such as better health and greater vitality, the real power of yoga is unleashed only when we engage in yoga as a way of life, twenty four hours a day. Yoga is universal and applicable in all situations. It is first and foremost a mental or inner discipline. Even the postures (asana) have a spiritual purpose and must be practiced with full awareness. Every single yoga technique is a tool for discovering the abiding happiness of the ultimate Self or Spirit.” 

My gratitude goes to my teachers Nicole and Joe at East Eagle Yoga; to my current teachers at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; my Sangha community of fellow teachers and yogis; and to Kyle for being my partner in the continued growth and evolution of our path of yoga and service to support the well being of others.

Namaste

* A Yoga Haiku

This is dedicated to all my beautiful yoga peeps.

with love,

Val <3
Yoga from the inside out

A being centered

in melodies gentle flow

breaks open my heart

~~~

A being open

to life energy within

lets her soul soar free

~~~

A being in awe

of  the fullness of Presence

brings light and lightness to all

~~~

* Breathing to Let Go

letting go

Every inhale brings in new life, nourishment and energy.

Every exhale is a release and letting go.

Our breath reflects the ebb and flow of life itself.

This quote stood out for me today:

“Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”

When you find yourself tense, overwhelmed or feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Take a moment and connect with your breath.

Do you notice that there is a slight pause at the end on the inhale as you hold onto the air? This holding on creates more tension in our body and it feels so good to release some of it in this simple exercise:

Take a nice big inhale and then sigh on the exhale. Really focus on the noise you can make when you breath out! Make it loud and long. The biggest and best sigh in the world.

Next, If this feels good, bring your shoulders up to your ears on your inhale and then release them down your back on the exhale.

You may want to bring in some shoulder rolls now. Inhale raising your shoulder up and then exhale releasing forwards. (3 times) Then inhale raising them up and exhale releasing them backwards (3 times).

The weight of the world is being lifted off your shoulders. As you practice this can you feel the burden releasing?

…and breathe <3

 

* Your Breath is How you Live your Life

Do you know how are you breathing right now?

Take a moment and simply notice your breath. Perhaps place your hand on your navel and the other above your heart.  Notice the movement as you inhale and exhale.

breath awareness

We breathe in and we breathe out. And for the most part we take it completely for granted.
Until something happens such as asthma, a cold, allergies or worse. When we notice it is difficult to breathe we appreciate it so much more.

How we breathe is not only a reflection of the health of our lungs, but also a reflection on how we live our life.

Did you know that our breath is connected to our emotional state?

When we feel:

Panic – It is short, fast, shallow breaths. Trying to get more air in by speeding up.

Anxious – It is shallow breaths seeking more reassuring air.

Tense – We hold onto the inhaled air, pausing at the top of the inhale before we let it be released, sometimes with a sigh.

Anger – It is long forced inhales and exhales. Fueling the flames like a bellows.

Calm – It is slow and steady breaths becoming shallower with relaxation.

Happy – It is long inhalations and long exhalations. Slowing it all down.

Did you also know we can change our emotional state by changing our breath? We can bring mindful awareness to our breath and create the emotional state that we seek.

Practitioners of Meditation and Yoga have done this for millennia – using awareness of the breath to come into the present moment, and bring about a more relaxed and centered state of being.

Science shows that when we slow the breath it signals to the brain and the parasympathetic nervous system that everything is well. No need to be on guard … its okay to relax and restore your natural balance.

So if we want to alleviate stress and become calm, slowing the breath works!

Try counting between 4 to 6 in your mind for each inhale and exhale. It can really make a difference. Why not set aside a few minutes and try it for yourself. It may feel awkward and take some practice but your body, mind and emotions will thank you for it.

Bringing awareness to our breathing is such a valuable guide to how we live our lives in that moment. With awareness of this comes choice. Please click here to explore more about your breath.

If you want to live your life fully then practice breathing fully.

Namaste

* Dealing with Stress and my Inner Teenager

waves of lifeOn Tuesday I had a stressful day. A dip in the highs and lows of life day. It wasn’t surprising. I had some concerning news that took the wind out of my sails, and I developed a pressure cooker of a sinus headache. I was in a trough. I know how my mind and body are connected. My body tells me quite clearly when I have to pay attention to what is happening around me and what I am feeling. The message is clear –  take care of my well being. Pause. Connect to my Self.

In hindsight it is easy to catch, but at the time it may take a bit longer to realize that we are under stress. In this particular occasion it became very clear as I went through emails and started to read updates from fellow bloggers. As I painfully squinted at the screen. I was no longer present, but my inner judge was! “What do they want? … Why bother me with this?… How stupid! How superficial!… They are so self centered!… Don’t they get it?… This is trivial! Who has time for frivolity? Pl-ease get to the point.”

My thinking revealed that Val was not present or in balance. My defensive inner teenager had been Teenage bratunleashed.

Everyone was dumb. They didn’t get it. They didn’t see how much pain I was in. They took advantage of me. They tried to control me. All the unmet needs from the past were right there demanding attention.

Our inner teenager  is challenging and requires some kindness and understanding. Its in pain – emotionally and often physically. It has so many unmet needs and is trying to figure out how to get them met as they move from childhood into independence.  It is our ego at the height of all of its immature defensive glory.

One part of me was determined to be miserable and show the world (?) that I had every right to be. Thankfully the part of me who has learned to be a compassionate observer knew that it was time to unplug. NOW!

You are stressed. Take care of yourself  and find your middle ground. Be gentle and kind. Let things be as they are.

Stones surrounded by rushing waterIt was easier after I had taken half a Sinutab and put on my favorite restorative yoga music. I embraced everything that was coming up. I noticed resistance. I breathed and didn’t push. I found my middle ground and was able to stay there. Healing tears fell softly. I meditated and lost track of time. My husband came and went and let me be. He knows better than me sometimes <3

I began to feel better and went to watch tv to distract myself … and found I had no appetite for it at all. ZERO. I wanted to stay in solitude. I journaled instead.

The old habits of distractions, shopping, cleaning, entertainment, drinking and eating had lost their pull in that moment. By being fully present and knowing how to ride the wave and find my middle ground helped me center myself.

So I honored the request to be alone and put my teenager to bed early. I woke up as a headache free and stress free adult once more. Ready to approach the day with a sense of curiosity.

Thank you to the makers of Sinutab, yoga and meditation, journaling, my husband and friends who support and nourish me, and to those of you who read this today!

May we all find our middle ground in the waves of life.

<3 Namaste <3

 

* Yoga is Timeless

As I look forward to teaching tomorrow morning, I recalled an inspiring quote from Michael Stone. This is the yoga practice that I feel most connected to and am drawn to share with others.

being still in nature

“Yoga is timeless. This does not mean it is eternal or ephemeral, but simply available, always in each unfolding moment, when we settle into the essence of who we are. 

The great questions of life and death are settled in the stillness of the mind and the direct actions of a self unfettered by itself.

River GangesA seeming paradox at first, the yoga practitioner is nothing other that the vast range of the universe…. The essence of the body is discovered to be nothing other than the great rivers of the earth, the vast sky, and the winds of the breath.

 

We practice in whatever conditions we find courageous yoga poseourselves: depressed, flowing, polluted, clear, transparent, slow or thick as mud.”

Michael Stone from “The Inner Tradition of Yoga”

Namaste

* She Let Go

Val Boyko:

If you haven’t come across this poem yet that Geena shared … check it out at Yoga With Maheshwari. She shares a personal story of letting go in the moment.

May we all find our way to letting go.

Namaste

Originally posted on Yoga With Maheshwari:

I read this poem by Rev Safire Rose on Elephant Journal and found it quite beautiful and thought I’d share it:

She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and…

View original 195 more words

* When the Mind is Calm

I’m inspired by these wise words from Swami Rama today.

keep calm

“When the mind is calm, it does not create a wall between you and the Reality, and you can see the Reality face to face.
That is called God. God is the center of power, life, light and love.”

Swami Rama

Whether we call it God, the Divine, Source, Enlightened Presence, Atman, Consciousness, the Universe … it is our inner guide. Meditation is the doorway to the realization of this Reality.

* MMM Moments

I was thinking about the little rituals and moments that I have during my days that bring me back into the present moment. We don’t need to go on retreat or drive to a studio for group meditation or yoga. Although it is really beneficial to have a formal daily practice, it can be difficult to schedule in at times.

Having something to keep you on track can be very helpful.

It only takes a moment to come into the present.

mindful ladybug

… There you are :)

When we create rituals we bring more awareness into our days. When we are observers of ourselves we can step back and see possibilities, let go of what isn’t working for us, and make more conscious choices and decisions.

Pausing for a moment to connect with our inner being can make a huge difference to how our day unfolds.

Here are some daily rituals that remind me to check in with myself. I call these moments Mini Mindful Moments. MMM’s.
(Apologies to those that thought I was about to announce the next generation of M&M’s)

MMM’s

♥ As I wake up I notice my breathing. I take several deep breaths and allow myself 5 or more minutes to be right here before the need to get up. I ask: What can I look forward to in this day?

♥ Washing my hands with tender care using an aromatic foaming soap.

♥ Choosing specific music that signals meditation time. Its like Pavlov’s dogs … It takes me right there in an instant!

♥ Using the Chakra time mediation app on my smart phone. It goes off at 8 am and 1pm. An easy reminder to pause and breathe. Coming into the present moment.

♥ Listening to my own 2 minute mini meditation:

♥ I also ask myself these questions during the day:

Am I present?

Is my heart open or am I in my head?

What’s alive in me?

Do I need to take time for myself – a sacred pause?

 ♥ Using sticky notesQuestions to become present

Being conscious in the moment is freeing!

What MMM’s do you have that support you in being mindful and staying present during your day?

* Inspiration – Feeling Miserable

winding roads in ItalyOne day on vacation in Italy things didn’t go as planned.

It wasn’t the morning of the flat tire … or any of the other days of missed turnings. It wasn’t ordering the wrong item on the menu. It was the day I started to feel sick at all the bends in the road. Literally queazy and sick. Trying to navigate while on a roller coaster will do that!

I blamed the roads, the driver, and the need for map reading as the GPS was in some other part of the country with the same name! This blanket of negativity started to wrap itself around me. I felt miserable. I stepped into the self righteousness that comes with being put upon and I embraced it. In doing so I became a miserable person and a miserable passenger to be sure.

On reflection, I can see things so clearly. Here are my insights from this experience.

Life energy, essence or source is always within us and around us.

Yet sometimes we feel miserable and think that life sucks.

It is our thinking that makes it so.

When we feel  hurt, we go into our head and more thoughts take over.

Our hearts become guarded as we lose touch with our own essence and sense of Presence.

We cannot fully connect to ourselves .. or others.

There is interference in the force.

Our life energy is blocked.

We become defensive, judgmental, withdrawn and irritable.

There is no grace or gratitude in this place, because we know – by this pain and sacrifice –  that we are right!

Our heart closes more as our thinking ego casts blame and seeks retribution, and to find any way to end this endless  perceived agony of  discomfort!

We feel miserable and don’t stop to understand. We try to figure it out in our heads but get tangled up in a web of thoughts and further judgments.

And then in a quiet moment we are able to step back …. and  we know.

We know that this is of our own creation.

This is the time to come into the present moment. Step back.  And plug in to our deeper self and inner wisdom.

Let the life energy flow.

Feel what needs to be felt and hear what needs to be heard.

Be with it.

Letting go so we can open our hearts once more.

For me, I got out my yoga mat. Sat in meditation, focusing on my breathing and feeling my sitz bones grounding me. Spine tall. Heart open. Breathing slowly.

The thinking slows. The body relaxes. The witness takes over from “me”.

Then moving into child’s pose until my body feels the same grounding and sense of connection too.

Slowing moving with grace and gratitude in full realization of the highs and lows of this life.

Letting the life energy flow.

We lose touch with our Selves and don’t know it until we realize we feel miserable.  The real lesson for me is to be mindful enough to recognize this as it emerges.

Val x

* Inspiration – Life, Nature and Spirituality

spirituality

“What if our religion was each other

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the  Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water, the rivers lakes and ocean.

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being”

Ganga White

 

Mindful being

No dogma required

Spiritual connectivity

Freedom

Found in the place I call our Middle Ground

Namaste

* Inspiration – Teaching Ourselves

lotus bud

Teach Yourself

“No one is ever really taught by another

each of us has to teach himself.

The external teacher offers only the suggestion,

which arouses the internal teacher,

who helps us to understand things.”

                            Swami Vivekananda

From “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

How will you access your inner wisdom today?

What will you learn from your internal teacher?

Be curious and have fun!

Namaste

 

* Life is Like … Yoga

Val at Awaken YogaIn my years of practicing and teaching yoga I have found it to be a wonderful metaphor for life. Some of you may be saying “What took you so long to write about it!?” I admit I’m surprised too… :)

When practicing yoga I have learned so much about myself,  life and living fully. My practice takes me to my Middle Ground. It centers me, rejuvenates, nourishes and makes me feel alive and connected to my Self.

  • Like life, in yoga we tune in to our mind, body and soul connection
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to find the balance between holding tight and letting go
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to accept ourselves just the way we are
  • Like life, in yoga we  understand the difference between strength and courage
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to face our challenges in the present moment
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to soften into resistance and be more flexible
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to breathe deeply to release tension and to feel fully alive
  • Like life, in yoga we realize that bending over backwards doesn’t always serve us! …
  • And yes, like life, yoga doesn’t have to be taken so seriously!

Namaste

* Listen to Your Body – its Listening to You

The words we choose in our thinking, our speech and our writing, have an impact on how we feel and our ability to heal.

words

Have you ever noticed how a word can bring up a certain feeling inside of you? A sensation, a thought or an emotion?

Choosing a word that connects with your heart and soul can be not only uplifting, but also brings physical well being.

If you have a few moments, let’s explore.

Take your time as you connect to each of the words below. Go slowly. You can say them out loud:

Love
Tender
Soothing
Joy
Cuddle
Grateful
Smile
Gentle
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there a warmth, softening, a feeling of tenderness or love perhaps? How is your breathing? Are you smiling? (me too!) Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseNow take a deep breath and take the same time connecting to each of these words:
Irritated
Ugly
Mean
Wrong
Frustrated
Cruel
Unfair
Bad
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there tension or constriction or heaviness perhaps? How is your breathing? Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseIn general when it is a word associate with lack, dis-ease, suffering or violence, our body responds by becoming tense, our breath shallows and there is resistance. In western medicine when there is resistance in our body it leads to inflammation, and increases our level of stress. These are both proven factors for disease.

I believe in western medicine, but I also believe that when there is constriction and tension our life energy contracts as well and a part of inner state becomes blocked. This impacts our emotional and physical wellness.

In yoga, when the life energy (prana) is blocked it can be released with postures, breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. In Chinese medicine these blockages in Chi can be released through acupuncture.

pause and listen to your body

No matter what we believe in our minds, our body has its own kind of intelligence.

Listen to your body’s wisdom.

Be mindful of your thoughts and your words. Your body is always listening!