The Power of Yoga: 6 Lessons that Led Me to Love

yoga

For years I’ve had a love – hate relationship with yoga.

It’s such a beautiful practice and I love the expression of it that I see from others. Yet, I hate the struggle it presents for me because of my limited flexibility.

I realize yoga is about so much more than stretching and flexibility. It is truly a spiritual practice.

This has been one of the most challenging years for me. Every area of my life has shifted and I’ve been forced completely outside of my comfort zone.

Recently, I finally decided to stop resisting the changes and began to embrace them.

That mindset has followed me to the mat.  I’ve been incorporating yoga into my lifestyle for the past few weeks.

I started out practicing once or twice a week because my body was so tense and I felt like I needed it.

Now, my yoga practice is aligning with my life. I’m experiencing a tremendous transformation in my life, and the same thing is happening on the mat.

I increased my practice to daily sessions and I’m amazed by my progress.

Obviously, my flexibility has improved. But here are some of the lessons I’m learning on the mat and in life.

  1. Be present and enjoy the moment. When I take the time to be fully present in the poses I’m not focused on the time. I bask in every sensation my body experiences. It reminds me that I’m alive.
  2. Be grateful. My body is functioning and moving and serving me in ways that I don’t take notice of often enough. I no longer take that for granted.
  3. Don’t be judgmental. I have spent most of my life being critical of myself and my body, especially this past year as I’ve gained some weight. But as I feel the changes happening in my body, and I become more flexible with every practice, I feel so grateful.  How dare I judge something that is working so hard for me. My body is a temple. It should be cherished. No amount of weight gain or weight loss will ever change that. My body is uniquely mine. Therefore, it is perfect!
  4. I’m enough. Whatever I bring to the mat on any given day is enough. Sometimes I can do more. Some days I’m capable of less. But whatever I have in me on any given day is enough.
  5. Know your limitations. My yoga practice – as is my life – is uniquely my own. I’m not competing with the person next to me or the instructor on the video. I have limitations. I can take a break if I need to or modify my poses. That’s perfectly ok.
  6. Be consistent. You get out of it what you put into it. Everyday that I practice I get a little stronger, and little more flexible. It doesn’t even matter how much time I put in each day, I just have to show up and do the work.

It amazes me how the challenges I’m working through in my personal life mirror those I’m working through on the mat. That revelation has been a tremendous aha moment for me.

These new insights are my inspiration to get to the mat everyday. I don’t have to fear or dread my practice anymore because I’m not going to get there and feel like I’m inadequate. I’m more than enough and I have just as much a right to be there as anybody else.

Now I get it. That’s why I didn’t want to practice yoga. I believed that because I couldn’t execute the poses perfectly I shouldn’t be there. I felt insecure.

It’s heartbreaking to realize that’s how I’ve felt in my life for so long.

But now I know better. And it’s empowering!  Neither life or yoga is about perfection.

As is the case in my life, I have learned in yoga that all I need to do is just show up! The rest will work itself out.

From here on out, I no longer have a love – hate relationship with yoga. It’s ALL LOVE!

Love for the practice and love for myself because now I can clearly see that my struggle was never about yoga anyway, it was all about me.

Namaste!

Namaste Everyday

Whether its in my personal or professional life I’m someone who is very goal oriented. I seem to thrive on having a goal. It’s how I keep myself inspired to keep moving forward. If I don’t have something I’m working towards I tend to feel stagnant.

Typically, my goals are motivated by a desire to improve in a particular facet of my life. More often than not my desire comes from an internal place. That is certainly the case with my latest endeavor.

namaste

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing a yoga challenge. It evolved from a place of feeling disconnected. Ironically, this feeling emerged while I was training for my triathlon. I was getting a lot of physical activity and was motivated by that. But, I’m a firm believer that the mind, body, and spirit must be aligned for me to have a shot at real happiness. I was getting my physical body in shape. Unfortunately, my mind and spirit weren’t invited to the party.

Yoga is something I’m fascinated with because I firmly believe in all of its benefits. My issue is that I’m so inflexible I tend to shy away from it. I don’t like how uncomfortable I tend to feel while doing it, so I avoid it. When in actuality it’s the thing I need to be doing so I can improve my flexibility. It’s like the saying goes, real change happens outside your comfort zone.

As I’ve learned from my friend Ryan – a yoga instructor- yoga is a gentle practice. So, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. You should go as far as you can in a yoga pose, as long as it feels good.  Ryan was featured in a past blog. Please check out the Namaste Everyday video to hear more of her views and to preview her class.

Here’s how my challenge works. I committed to do yoga every day for  at least 10 minutes for 21 days. Since I’ve gotten past week one, I’ve increased my duration. I’m also including daily meditation.

My intention for this challenge is to get to a place of peace by learning to be in the moment. For weeks I’ve been distracted with life and the things that have not been going the way I want them to go. I need to surrender a few things. I believe this challenge will help me do that. One of the things I have always enjoyed about yoga is it forces me to be in the moment. When you’re focusing on your poses/stretches you can’t think about anything else.

The other thing I want to transpire out of this challenge is to be able to incorporate more yoga into my life and workouts. I figure after 21 days of doing it everyday it will become a habit.

Here are a few benefits I’m already experiencing:

1. My flexibility is improving. Several areas of my body that are really tight are beginning to loosen up, especially my lower back.

2. I’m gaining a tremendous appreciation for my body. We require so much of our bodies every day. Yoga makes me appreciate all that it does and is capable of doing.

3. It’s helping me to stress less and let things go. I’m learning that things will always work out. I don’t have to try to control anything or anybody. In fact, at any given moment of my day I can start it again. If my day starts to go downhill, it doesn’t have to continue to do so. I can stop it and begin again.  I don’t quite get how this awesome practice can do that for me, but somehow it does.

As I’m approaching the final week of my challenge I want to go further spiritually. A friend recently shared a very personal spiritual experience she had while doing yoga. It made me envious. I would love to have a similar encounter. Regardless of whether or not I’m able to have what she had, I want to go deeper. This process has the potential to be life changing, so I don’t want to settle for less.

I’ve been asked by several people what kind of challenge I’m doing. I’ve sort of created my own by researching yoga instructors on YouTube. I choose a different session every day. However, when I initially started researching a 21-day challenge I found one that seems pretty simple. It’s through Yoga Journal. They have a plan for the beginner and intermediate levels. Once you subscribe on their website, they will send you an email every day with a link to a different practice.

I’ve shared with you my experience with yoga. Now, I’d love to hear about yours. Have you tried yoga? If so, how did it benefit you?

Why It’s IMPERATIVE You Operate in Your Gift!

When you let your light shine, and operate your gifts with passion and a spirit of excellence, you give others permission to do the same.

I think I’ve heard Oprah make a similar statement on several occasions. I’ve always believed it to be true, but this past weekend I saw it come to life.  I was on location recording an upcoming episode of my You Tube show – SHE ROCKS. This episode will focus on the benefits of yoga. I was at a yoga class of my friend Ryan, who recently became a certified yoga instructor.

Namaste Everyday

As I was recording her class I was able to see her operate in a capacity in which I’d never seen. Initially, she was a little nervous to teach in front of the camera. That’s normal and I expected that. But when she got over the cameras being present, she really began to operate in her gift. I could see that she is good at what she does and she really enjoys it. Her joy really became apparent as she began to work with each student individually.

Well, after the class I interviewed her. As she answered my questions it was even more evident to me that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing. She exuded a confidence and knowledge about yoga that I found inspiring.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I’m a certified group fitness instructor. However, I haven’t done a lot of teaching this year. I kind of set it aside, and wasn’t sure I’d do it again anytime soon. I mentioned to her that I used to teach group fitness. When she asked me why I wasn’t doing it anymore, I couldn’t really pin point it. All I know is I left her class inspired to teach again. At my core, I’m a teacher anyway, so everything I do is about teaching. But her spirit of excellence made me want to teach fitness classes.

The next day I stumbled upon an upcoming instructor training for a new fitness workout. It’s being offered this weekend. It immediately grabbed my attention and I knew I had to sign up for my certification. I found this class in a magazine I’ve had for weeks. I have browsed through it several times, but I only just saw this ad this week. It felt like divine intervention.

I know without doubt, if I had not recorded this show on yoga, and observed Ryan operate in her gift, I wouldn’t have even considered getting certified in a new fitness trend. At least not right now.

So, I encourage you to always operate in your gift with passion and excellence. If you don’t know what your passion is, you need to find it. There is somebody out there who needs you to, who is depending on it. Remember, operating in your gift gives others permission to do the same.

Question: What would you do differently if you knew someone else’s life depended on you operating in your gift?

By the way, if you want to find out more about Ryan’s class, check out this link to her yoga class. You can also follow her on Instagram at http://instagram.com/namasteveryday.

3 Surprising Reasons You Should Try Meditation

The older I get the more I realize that life’s greatest joys come from the simplest of things. Some of my most pleasurable experiences come from spending time with good friends, hiking up Kennesaw Mountain, and the most surprising for me – meditation.

meditation in bus suit

When it comes to meditation most people see it as a way to reduce stress.  Well, that’s a benefit of meditation, but that’s not what it’s all about. I like Deepak Chopra’s definition of meditation best.  He says the real purpose of meditation is actually to tune in, not to get away from it all, but to get in touch with it all. Not to just de-stress, but to find that peace within, the peace that spiritual traditions talk about that passes all understanding. So, meditation is a way to get in the space between your thoughts. You have a thought here, a thought here, and there’s little space between every thought”.

Until I read that definition I could not articulate what it is that draws me back to meditation again and again.  Meditation has a way of bringing you into the moment and into a place of acceptance. It allows you to accept whatever is happening in your life. You see it for what it is – just a moment in time that will eventually pass. It gives you a knowing that not only will everything be alright, but that it’s already alright.

For many people the practice of meditation is intimidating. They see it as complicated. Actually, it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require a lot of time. Even as little as 15 minutes a day will benefit you. You don’t have to be a guru to do it, and you don‘t have to do it perfectly. I know for me if I have a hard time stilling myself and all kinds of random thoughts enter my mind I feel like I failed. What I’ve learned is it’s okay for thoughts to enter your mind. Meditation is not about trying to rid your mind of thoughts. Instead, we just acknowledge the thoughts that come up and then allow them to pass through.

So, now that you know you don’t have to be perfect and it’s not difficult to do, here are some reasons why I think you should consider the practice of meditation:

  1. It teaches you to be present. Most of us lead extremely busy lives and we spend so much time focusing on the next thing on our “to do” list that we miss a lot of the moments that matter. Meditation allows you to savor the NOW.
  2. It improves your health. Studies show that meditation reduces stress, which is one of the leading causes of multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and obesity.  Meditation also increases immunity and improves emotional balance.
  3. You reap the benefits even if it doesn’t feel like it. At the foundation of meditation is the pursuit of a deeper spiritual connection. The term Namaste, which is usually associated with yoga and meditation, means –“the spirit in me honors the spirit in you.” Therefore, some of the things that may happen to you without you realizing it are more compassion towards others, less judgment, and an indescribable, unexplainable peace.

Now all you have to do is give it a try. It’s a small investment that will yield a tremendous return.

What are your thoughts about meditation? Are you willing to give it a try?