I recently wrote this as a handout for one of my specialty classes and I thought it was a great blog post. It first got posted to the Shanti Yogi blog, click here to read the full article.
“The known formula for happiness is: Commitment will give you character. That will give you dignity. That will give you divinity. That will give you grace. That will give you the power to sacrifice. Then you'll feel achieved, and you'll be happy.” - Yogi Bhajan
Commitment is a word that brings up a lot of emotions and thoughts for me. I love the idea of being committed to my well-being, in my relationships, friendships, to a daily yoga practice, to my values, etc. Some yogis approach their daily practice in a very intuitive way; show up and just see what happens. I personally love this approach, it feels like it is answering to what the body and mind needs in that particular moment by tuning into yourself. Then there are other traditions that stick to the same sequence or meditation for a certain amount of days or perhaps you stick to the same sequence for years! Personally one of the styles I practice is Kundalini Yoga and this tradition commits to 40, 90, 120, and 1000 day sadhanas. We do this to start to instil life promoting habits and to get rid of habits that no longer serve us, we build character by learning to commit and show up. This idea of doing the exact same thing every day stirs up major resistant inside me because I love variety and feel that the body needs it. BUT, I do see the value in sticking to the same practice or meditation for certain amounts of time, this is where the work happens. It is not always comfortable or fun but it does make us confront the parts of ourselves that we don't always want to face.
“One part of sadhana should stay constant long enough for you to master, or at least experience, the changes evoked by a single technique. Each kriya and mantra has its individual effects, although they all elevate you toward a cosmic consciousness. Learn to value the pricelessness of one kriya, and all others will be understood in a clearer light.” –Yogi Bhajan
How have I dealt with this seemingly contradictory way of practicing? Well, it just so ends up i`ve decided to combine the two so that I get the benefits of both!
Here are 5 ways that I set myself up to succeed to my commitments:
1 - Keep the part of your practice that remains the same short anywhere from 5 - 30 minutes. If you have a busy day you can still fit in 5 minutes! On the days where you have more time, you can make that portion longer or you can do other things that would help bring balance on that particular day.
2 - If you are just starting to incorporate commitment to your practice pick something that feels achievable, something that doesn't feel too far out of reach. This will set you up for success and the more you succeed and create the habit of showing up, the easier it gets.
3 - If at all possible, try to do your practice at the same time every day. This doesn`t always happen with me, most days I do practice in the morning but some days I do practice in the afternoon. I know that if I wait until bedtime I will not do it! I always make sure to get my practice in before 7pm.
4 - Have compassion for yourself, if you miss a day, so what! Start over and don`t be too concerned about how ''well'' you are doing whatever you`ve committed to. If you are getting down on yourself because your mind is all over the place or because your hamstrings are tight it takes away from the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation. Just show up and do your best on any given day without any judgement or need to have a particular outcome. Do it for the journey and not the end result.
5 - Know that every commitment you pick you will learn from. If you end up not finishing your specific amount of days, then that is an experience, if you achieve your commitment but didn`t enjoy it, that is an experience, if you loved every moment of it, then that is an experience. You will learn more about yourself through the process.
''Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.'' -Bhagavad Gita
Thai Yoga Bodywork sometimes known as "assisted hatha" or "lazy man's yoga" is the perfect combination of yoga and massage. It is performed clothed on a comfortable floor mat and lasts from 60-90 minutes. The practitioner moves you through a series of passive yoga postures and gentle stretches while thumbing along the body's energy lines and pressure points. All you need to do is breathe and relax! The treatment helps relax muscles and the mind, and brings on physical, emotional and energetic balance. As experienced in yoga, you also get the benefits of increased lymph and blood circulation which gives the immune system a boost, balances the endocrine system, and release toxins from the body. Thai Yoga Bodywork is a deeply calming experience that helps the recipient sink deeply into relaxation, where the body can rest, repair, and replenish.
As we move through our day to day lives over certain periods of time we pick up on recurring themes or patterns for ourselves. Lately the one that has been showing up for me is fear! It has show up while on nature adventures, on my yoga mat, in my work life, and in my personal life.
"What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.''
This quote reminds me that fear is not something to escape from or to push away; the more we look at it, understand it, and continue to work through what scares us, the more we grow. Things that once scared us will no longer have that grip on us. Fear is a by-product of being human, it is a survival mechanism. When we are out of our comfort zone fears will arise, the goal is not to eradicate fear but to befriend our fears and see what power they hold over us - the more we face our fears the more they will loose their grip on us and the more we will be empowered. If we let our fears win all the time, they stop us from living and trying new things. The more we do things that scare us and overcome those fears the bigger our lives and experiences get. It takes courage to be comfortable with being uncomfortable! The quality of life it brings on is priceless.
Here I am at Mount Sagamook working with my fear of heights, it is definitely still there but I continue to test myself to make my comfort zone bigger.
Photo Credit: Ben Phillips
Finally!!! I made it out for my first snowshoe of the season. It was so peaceful in the woods. I love hanging out with the trees, looking at animal tracks, the cool air on my face, feeling my heart rate elevate as I move through the snow. Going outside during the winter is one of my tools to remain healthy and balanced during the season. It's all too easy to decide to hibernate, only get outside when necessary, and just stay indoors the rest of the time. When I do this I feel myself become lethargic, get cabin fever, and get the winter blues. Even if I don't feel like it, I know that I will never regret a walk in a local nature park or an afternoon snow shoeing in the country. Winter used to be a difficult time for me, I experienced SAD and have had to really stay on top of my daily routine to stay healthy. Vitamins, herbs, exercise, outdoor time, adequate sleep, yoga & meditation are all key components to my winter health. It has been a trial and error process to figure out what works for me during different seasons. As the years go by and I become more aware of myself and the cycles of nature; the principles of Ayurveda have helped me refine my routines to help promote well being all year round.
"We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives."
This fall i`m excited to be sharing two 6 week programs about the basics, one on Hatha/Vinyasa Yoga and the other on Kundalini Yoga. The foundation is the most important part of a building, from there we can build up with confidence that the base will support the rest of the structure. With a firm foundation and understanding of the basics of yoga we set ourselves up for a lifetime of strong stable practice. When we take the time to learn the basics and to embody them, they can follow us throughout life and become our firm foundation so that we may show up fully on our mat and also in our day to day life.
~Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head.~
- Swami Satchidananda
If you're interested in learning the basics of yoga or coming back to the basics then these programs might be exactly what your looking for!
Local yoga teacher in training and blogger Turquoise Compass approached me about doing an interview on my yoga journey. I was so happy to share more about myself with her and readers. It has been such an amazing path so far filled with growth, growing pains, surprises, opportunities, letting go, and just enjoying the ride. I thought I would share it with you so you can also get to know me and my journey a bit more :)
''Life is a Journey, not a destination.''
I often think about the Serenity Prayer and how these are truly words to live by.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We've certainly had our share of snow in our neck of the woods, and we cannot change that. But, we can change our attitude toward it and winter in general. Instead of longing for warmer summer days we can appreciate what winter has to offer; winter activities! When I stay indoors and don't take advantage of the snow and beautiful landscape it creates, I get depressed and miserable but when i'm outside connecting with nature and breathing fresh air it makes winter so much more fun. This past weekend we built a snow quinzee, it was a lot of work but rewarding. With the amount of snow we have might as well use it to create a winter sanctuary.