* 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!

* The Secret of Eternal Youth

“Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.

It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees.

It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions.

It is freshness of the deep springs of life.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.

People grow old only by deserting their ideals.

Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

                                                   ~ Swami Bua

This is one of my favorite quotes found in “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

Kitty Cohen throws first pitch

Kitty Cohen, age 101 throws the first pitch at the Blue Jays game

Kitty Cohen is a great example of this isn’t she? …  When I saw her on the t.v. she was having so much fun and milking every moment of being in the spotlight. What a fan! What enthusiasm for life! :)

* Being out of Integrity

I used to think that when I was out of integrity I was not walking my own talk and my thoughts were not in alignment with my beliefs and values.
That when my thinking and actions weren’t aligned, I was letting myself down in some away, and not honoring my best self.

And then I woke up recently and experienced it differently… light bulb moment

The signs of being out of integrity were the same. For me, its an icky uncomfortable feeling in my gut. I’ve come to recognize this as my unconscious letting me know that something isn’t right. There is something to discover within.

When this feeling happens I ask myself two questions and then tune in for an answer.

1. Am I feeling fearful? ….I didn’t defect any fear. There were no anxious thoughts or worries.

2. Am I out of integrity?…. and I couldn’t see anything “wrong”. I wasn’t letting myself down by being out of alignment with my thoughts and actions. Usually there’s something that comes up –  like avoiding exercise, over eating, trying to get out of a commitment I regretted having made, or feeling bad because I was snippy with someone when I was focused elsewhere. This time it made no sense whatsoever. But there was no “bad” deed or self denial to be dug up and exposed.

So what was going on?

I decided to set aside time to be with myself for mindful yoga and meditation. I moved gently and then simply sat. Being fully present and open to see what would show up.

meditation

As I did, I felt a gentle wave of warm loving energy and a softening around my heart. A small voice without words seemed to say “Ah here you are. I’ve missed you.”

The well intentioned judge left the building and was replaced by pure loving kindness. I gave it space to be and to grow. It moved through my very being. Enfolding me and nurturing my spirit.

Then I saw that this is what had been missing. I had been sick with vertigo and not practicing yoga or meditation.

I had spent my time sleeping and healing. But I had not come home to myself in this way…. finding my Middle Ground.

My realization is this:

Before I would judge myself as in some way as being “wrong”, and then I would make it “right” by changing how I was behaving or thinking. My judge is well intentioned, but sees things as right or wrong and can be very critical.

When we let go of the judge, a loving connection with ourselves can seed itself and grow. Harmony is found again and everything is aligned once more with life and the world.

Now I know that when I am out of integrity then I am not being kind to myself.

It’s not about changing my thinking and actions, its about opening my heart and connecting to my Self.

Aaaahhh …  now this feels awesome :)

Namaste

* A Different Kind of Kite

I love this metaphor for seeing our breath as the string of our kite.

girl flying kite

“The mind is like a kite, flying here and there,

and the breath is like the string of the kite, generally bringing the mind back into the present moment.

The breath brings the mind, which is all over the place, back to its source, a natural state of peacefulness and joy.”

Ravi Shankar

* My Yoga Story

People come to yoga for many reasons. In my experience, some people are wanting to be more flexible and strong in their bodies, yoga treewhile others are looking to calm their minds and  find an inner connection with themselves.  Yoga practice brings together mind body and spirit … and allows each individual to grow, heal and strengthen in their own way.

My story about how I came to yoga is a bit different, and I wanted to share it with you…

When I began my training to become a coach in 2002, we did a lot of self exploration about our strengths, values and needs, and what makes each of us unique.  I also had a mentor coach to support me in my skill building and growth. Its a time for getting real and personal transformation!

One day we did a class on Integrity. We looked at what it meant to us and how we could bring that to our coaching….. As I sat back in the chair with my headphones on, I reached for a cigarette and lit up.

quit smokingI felt such a wave of guilt and disappointment in myself for being a smoker.

How could I coach others to be their best while I was feeling so uncomfortable about being a smoker. I realized I was out of integrity.

And I was also scared about giving up my habit. Cigarettes had been a friend and a support for me for so many years. Could I really go it alone? What if I failed miserably (again) and couldn’t give them up? Wasn’t it better to be healthy in other parts of my life to balance out the toxicity of smoking? I was trying to do a deal with myself and it wasn’t working…. That icky feeling in my gut was still there.

I was out of integrity and I had to do something if I wanted to face myself and my potential clients. So I told my mentor coach and set a date – March 27th 2002. We put together a coaching plan with the steps that I would take. Each step was something that I felt I could do. … and I did :)

Part of my smoke free plan was to start doing yoga. My mentor  said it would calm my mind so that I didn’t get as agitated during the change of habit and the physical withdrawal. I hadn’t ever considered yoga ….but  I went along to a yoga studio near me……. and I found that it wasn’t as weird or woo woo as I had anticipated. The people were very friendly and made me feel welcome.

I discovered two things that day that would change my life … and my life span!

The first thing I discovered was that my body enjoyed being stretched. The poses felt a bit awkward, but there was a definite opening and flexing that felt good.Yoga Val on beach

The second thing I discovered was how I loved to breathe! Smoking cigarettes had been a way, not only to get a nicotine fix, but also to let me breath fully. Smoking relaxed me. Each big inhale and exhale released the tension. I felt immediately calm as I took a big draw in and then exhaled out.

It was pretty amazing to me that in yoga I could feel the same calming effects without poisoning myself!!

Yoga became a part of my life and cigarettes became a part of my past.

Now I teach yoga to people at all stages of life and share my love of breathing, stretching, focusing, accepting and letting go….

There is no judgment in yoga, just acceptance of where you are and being your best to live life fully…. and breathe fully.

If you have experienced something other than this, then please look for an other teacher!

Namaste

 

 

* Happiness is Like …

In Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation and interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, he says that we attach ourselves to pleasure because we expect happiness from it, forgetting that happiness is already in us as the true Self.

Musk deerHe continues: “Happiness seems to be the basic need of everything in this world, yet rarely does anyone find it. Why?
Because happiness is like the musk deer.

The ancient scriptures have a fable about this animal, which has a scented spot above its forehead that gives off a musk fragrance. This deer runs here and there in search of the scent, not knowing the scent comes from its own forehead.
Just like that, happiness is already in us.

Wherever we go we reflect our happiness onto people and things.
Close-up of young daughter looking into dad's eyes.
When we see a smiling face and feel happy, it is because the smiling face reflects our happiness.
Just as a pure clean mirror reflects our face beautifully, certain our clean faces reflect our happiness. Then we say ‘She gives me happiness’.

In other faces , our happiness reflect a distorted way and we say ‘I don’t like this person.’
Its absolute nonsense. No one can give us happiness or unhappiness, but can only reflect or distort our own inner happiness.”

Yoga teaches us to come into the present moment and connect with our inner happiness and true Self.

Namaste