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I’m sure many of you are familiar with the “Life Is Good” brand, right? They sell clothing, coffee mugs, blankets — you name it, and they probably sell it. On every single item they sell, there is either a saying or some scenario from our lives to remind us that the simple things are all we need. For example, one of their shirts that I have is of a yogi in Lotus Pose with a big ol’ smile — and it always reminds me how happy yoga makes me feel….here’s a snapshot of the image on my shirt:

Doing yoga certainly reminds me that life is good. Even when my body can’t get into particular poses, I still feel good. Seeing what my body CAN do, breathing in unison with my movements, and noticing how my mind instantly calms down — well, what could possibly be bad about any of that, right?

There may be certain poses you do that remind you of all the good things in life. I know that for me, when I practice Sun Salutations, I always feel happy for some reason. Especially when I do the Chaturanga. When I remember back to when I first started practicing yoga, I think about how I couldn’t even do one Chaturanga. I always had to modify, and my arms would shake like crazy. But I kept at it, and within a few months, my arms weren’t shaking quite so much. And within a few more months, I was able to do them without having to put my knees down. And now I can do them one-legged, to the side, and a few other variations. Chaturanga makes me feel strong and free!

So do you have a specific pose (or poses) that make you feel that everything is as it should be in the world? If so, I’d love to hear about them, and why they make you feel this way. Let’s share all the good things there are with each other!

Namaste,

Melanie

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“Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.” ~~ Rumi

If you’ve been to one of my yoga classes, then you’ve probably heard me say that yoga is the union of the breath, the body and the mind. I say it alot, so for those of you who have been students of mine for some time, you’re probably sick of hearing me say it so much. I say it to remind you that yoga is more than just stepping on your mat and getting in a good workout or stretch. The first step in yoga is to recognize the distinct connection of the mind, body and breath. When we can do that, we bring balance that we can take to other parts of our daily lives. And when we can take our practice OFF the mat, wow! You won’t believe what an impact you’ll see to your life.

Many of you out there came to yoga because you wanted to get in a good workout, or you wanted to stretch out tight muscles. I’ve had several of you over the years come to me and tell me about the moment when you realized that the benefits of yoga went well beyond its physical advantages. Some of you have told me how it’s helped you with stress and anxiety. Some of you have told me that it’s helped you sleep better and focus on your tasks more efficiently.

There are hundreds of ways that yoga helps people, and it’s different for each one of us, depending on our individual needs. And those needs can change over the years, so the trick is to constantly be tuned in to yourself, paying attention to how your mind, body and breath react throughout each of your yoga practices.

I have definitely noticed how my practice has changed over the years. When I first began practicing in 1999, a Vinyasa or Power style of yoga was what worked for. The hard, physical work was what I needed to relieve my stress and anxiety. And since I had little time for exercise, I was able to get in my workout all at the same time. I tried more meditative styles and absolutely hated them…I had so much trouble focusing and slowing down, I’d end up more stressed after class than I was before I walked in.

These days, my practice is completely different. I still love the active work that I get from a Power or Vinyasa class. However, just over a year ago, I noticed that sometimes, I’d leave class really frustrated and even more stressed than I was when I walked in the door. I couldn’t figure out why, and that only frustrated me more.

One day, I decided to stick around after the Power Yoga class and take the Deep Stretch class. I’d just run a lot of miles the day before (I was training for a half-marathon), and my lower body felt really tight from it, so I thought the Deep Stretch class would be good to check out.

I’ll be honest. That first class, I spent the majority of the time saying REALLY bad words in my head. In this class, we were holding poses for 3 minutes each, and it felt like torture to me, since I was used to constant movement and flow. But after class, I felt SO relaxed. And for the first time in a long time, I felt more open through my hips and shoulders. And that night, I slept so soundly!

So I went back. The second time, I still said some bad words, but not as many as before. By the fourth time, I wasn’t saying any more bad words. Instead, I found myself really focusing on how my mind instantly started becoming more chaotic whenever I tapped in to a particularly tight area. And when I noticed that chaos, I would instinctively deepen my breath in an attempt to calm my mind.

I’ve learned so much about myself since I’ve changed up my practice. I’ve learned that certain situations stress me out in different ways. Depending on how I’m stressing, sometimes I need that more powerful and active style, while I need the more relaxing and meditative styles at other times. I’ve learned how to read my body, mind and breath well enough to know what style I need and when. No longer do I plan out my own personal practice. Instead, I tap in to my inner self and see what’s up — then, I figure out what it is that I need on that particular day. It really helps.

Not to say that I am wonderful and always do what I’m supposed to. I’m still working on making sure I’m honoring myself and doing what it is that I truly need to do. On the days I don’t listen to my inner Melanie (I affectionately refer to her as “Maxine”…long story as to the origin of that name), I definitely notice that I walk away more stressed, and usually very grumpy. On the days when I listen, that’s when I feel pure and utter bliss. It’s all about being present, so that I can find the balance I so desperately need and deserve.

What about you? Have you reached a point in your practice where you’ve been able to find your balance? That point where you can feel how your body, mind and breath work together to bring you peace and tranquility? Don’t worry if you’re not there yet. It takes practice. But I promise you that if you keep practicing and are patient with yourself, it’ll come. And when it does, the rewards are beyond your wildest dreams!

Namaste,

Melanie

Vogue and Self are putting out the message of yoginis as buff and perfect.  If you start doing yoga for those reasons, fine.  Most people get
beyond that and see that it’s much, much more.” ~~ Patricia Walden

I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and I sincerely apologize. It’s been really busy for me all around, and I just totally and completely had no time to think of anything brilliant or interesting to write about. Please forgive me…I promise to be better from now on.

This week, I am curious to know something. What is it that brings you to the mat to practice yoga? When you have days where your energy is tapped, or your emotions are all over the place, what makes you hop on the mat, over and over again?

For me, it’s the way yoga makes me focus. I have so much trouble focusing, especially when I am stressed (which seems like ALL the time!). No matter what I am going through, and no matter how stressed I am, I am always able to focus on my breath, my body and my mind when I’m on my mat. It’s amazing how during that time, all my cares just don’t seem to matter. And then I realize…they DON’T matter. At the end of the day, my worries don’t define me, and all I can do is the best I can do. Right? Right! Being on my mat makes me remember that. Amazingly, I am able to take that with me off the mat, at least for a little while.

So what about you? I’d love to know the reasons you all find a way to get on your mats, no matter what. Some of you may not be able to answer this question right now, and that’s OK. Maybe reading this post, and the responses I hope to get, will provide that reason you’ve been looking for. Think of this as a potential source of inspiration. 🙂

I look forward to reading your comments, and I most especially look forward to practicing with each and every one of you in some way.

Namaste,

Melanie

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