Val’s Yoga Story

This is a re-post about what brought me to yoga. If you haven’t heard this story, you may be surprised!

People come to yoga for many reasons. In my experience, some people are wanting to be more flexible and strong in their bodies, while 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. It was 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.

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.

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 take deep breaths. 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 have 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

 

 

Self Questioning

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“To have the courage to

Question one’s certainties, is

True courage.”

~ The Lost Writings of Wu Hsin translated by Roy Melvyn

Sit with this a while and see what comes up for you…

Bringing our awareness to the beliefs that we hold, and usually take for granted, is the first step in our personal growth and spiritual self inquiry. When we look inwards and question our thinking and assumptions, it opens up new perspectives and gives us the opportunity to learn about what has been unknown…. or what may never be discoverable in this life.

This venture into the unknown is a courageous path because the ego-mind will be alert for any conflicting views or threats to its long held position. The ego holds on to those beliefs that have become our certainties about life. It can keep us rigid, stubborn, critical and damning, or simply safe and stuck.

The choice is ours. To embrace the new or hold on to our certainties.

To those on the path of Yoga teacher training, take courage as you embrace what is beyond belief.

Namaste

 

Ego in Yoga

This is a re-post  especially for those on the spiritual path of yoga.


hydra

“Ego can take many different forms and shapes. It is like the hydra. You cut off one head and another head replaces it. You cut off that head and see a third head and a fourth head ad infinitum.

This is because in the manifest dimension, ego identity is the root of life, and if the ego identity is lost, then life as we know it no longer exists.

It exists as light; life becomes light.”

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

I enjoy reading the different metaphors explaining the complexity of our ego, and can relate to the idea of a hydra. Our ego will do everything in its power to survive – especially adapting and changing shape.

The ego is very clever. It will allow one version of our body-mind to die and create a better version that fits in with either (1) how it wants to be seen in the world or (2) what is perceives is needed to stay alive in its physical body.

In my experience with others on a spiritual path, the newer version of ego is likely to be a more evolved version of the previous one. It may show up as being kinder person, a more patient parent, a wiser leader, a humble follower, a beacon of sanity in a world judged as mad…

These are still roles that the ego plays. Less damaging perhaps, yet still ego driven.

Recognizing the hydra heads of the ego is the gateway to le

The answer however is not to keep cutting its heads off. After all this would be an ego motivated act!

Instead embrace ego for what it is. A part of our very human nature that clings to life. It is neither good nor bad. It simply is.

Then we can wake up and realize we really are the divine light beyond ego and our human form.

Namaste

Understanding Violence

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent.

Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind.
When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence.

So a person who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
In yoga we honor the practice of ahimsa, or non violence. There is also the understanding that we are all connected and are not separate beings. It is the persona or ego that keeps us separate and fearful. The path of yoga is to awaken to our interconnectedness and to see ourselves in others.
May we all continue to plant seeds that bring us together instead of tearing us apart.

Listen to Your Body – its Listening to You

The words we choose in our thinking, our speech and our writing, impact on how we feel and our overall well being.

abstract board game bundle business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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 associated 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 ill health.

I believe in western medicine, and I also believe in 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 Qi 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.

How Yoga Heals

This is a re-post for those of you who are interested in exploring yoga for your health and wellbeing.

oooOOooo

yoga for wellbeing

Thanks to Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way for sparking some yoga inspiration!

I take a therapeutic approach to my Yoga teaching; focusing on body awareness, mindfulness and the breath. To me its more than a physical work out.

I love this quote from Georg Feuerstein taken from Yoga Gems:
“Beginners on the yogic path would do well to understand correctly what Yoga is all about and to then approach it accordingly.
There is a humorous saying in Yoga circles that Yoga has been reduced to the practice of postures, and that postures have been reduced to stretching, and that stretching has been reduced to lengthening the hamstrings. Authentic Yoga is always a spiritual discipline, even when the focus is on the body, as it is in Hatha Yoga.”

The intention of Yoga is the quieten the mind and connect with our inner spirit, consciousness or higher power. Read more about it on my Yoga page.

In his book “Yoga as Medicine” Dr Timothy McCall shares 40 ways that Yoga (Poses, Breathing and Meditation) heals:

  1. Increases flexibility
  2. Strengthen muscles
  3. Improves balance
  4. Improves immune function
  5. Improves posture
  6. Improves lung function
  7. Leads to slower and deeper breathing
  8. Discourages mouth breathing
  9. Increases oxygenation of the tissues
  10. Improves joint health
  11. Nourishes intervertebral discs
  12. Improves return of venous blood
  13. Increases circulation of lymph
  14. Improves circulation of the feet
  15. Improves proprioception (awareness of body in space)
  16. Increases control of bodily functions
  17. Strengthens bones
  18. Conditions the cardiovascular system
  19. Promotes weight loss
  20. Relaxes the nervous system and reduces anxiety
  21. Improves the function of the nervous system
  22. Improves brain function
  23. Activates the left prefrontal cortex
  24. Changes neurotransmitter levels
  25. Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  26. Lowers blood sugar
  27. Lowers blood pressure
  28. Improves levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
  29. Thins the blood
  30. Improves bowel function
  31. Releases unconscious muscle gripping
  32. Uses imagery to effect change in the body
  33. Relieves pain
  34. Lowers need for medication
  35. Fosters healthier relationships
  36. Improves psychological health and mood
  37. Leads to healthier habits
  38. Fosters spiritual growth
  39. Elicits the placebo effect
  40. Encourages involvement in your own healing

This list still wows me!

If you are young – there is every reason in the world to start now. Do it!

If you are in Mid life – it isn’t too late. I started yoga in my 40’s and it changed my life. This is where I find my middle ground every day.
Find a studio and a teacher that you can relate to and feel supported by. A word of caution here. Not every Yoga offered in classes is the same. Unless you are an athlete, avoid Vinyasa or Power Yoga.

Even if you are elderly and have a number of health and physical issues, finding an experienced trained teacher with a therapeutic approach can lead to a more active and healthy life… and a sense of peace and wellbeing.

yoga heals

So many people try Yoga in gyms these days. Please be careful as the focus is usually on having a physical workout. In my experience the instructors may not be as experienced, there is less personal attention and less time for relaxation and mindfulness.

For me, Yoga is about balance, alignment and inner peace. Finding balance and peace in our lives and alignment of our mind body and spirit… on and off the mat.

Namaste

Inner Alignment

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We live in a self absorbed society where everything seems to be directed to feeding the insatiable and bored little “me”.

When we start finding our Middle Ground, we get in touch with our inner being and experience what is happening in the moment. This inner world includes our thoughts, beliefs, needs, feelings and knowing what really matters to us – our values.

We become observers of ourselves.

We come nurturers of our inner being instead of critics.

Life becomes more satisfying just as it is. There is less need for stimulation, excitement and acquiring of things to prove to ourselves, entertain us, show others, or to keep boredom at bay.

This shift can happen in a moment or over a space of time … and is available to all of us.

Through yoga, I learned that this feeling of centered contentment was when my mind, body and spirit are aligned and in harmony.

I call this place of inner alignment the Middle Ground.

Thank you for joining me here 💛