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“I’m letting go of everything I once was…I’m all in, I’m all in…” ~~ by Toby Mac

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we need to focus on our journey in yoga, not the destination. Easier said than done for many of us, wouldn’t you agree?

If you’ve been trying to focus in your practice on the mat (or off the mat, for that matter) and have been having some trouble, remember this…it takes practice and repetition. But it also takes you making the CHOICE to do what needs to be done. You can practice your yoga poses over and over, and gain a lot of experience in the process. But until you make the choice — the decision that you are going to succeed — it’s just alot of MOVEMENT. There’s a shift that happens in your mind when you finally decide to let go and give it your all. Instead of thinking about trying to MAYBE make something happen, you think about how you WILL make it happen, no matter what.

When you give your all, it’s amazing how much easier the path becomes. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like such a chore anymore, and you stop questioning yourself so much. When you’ve given all of your heart to something, it’s easier to take on challenges that arise and persevere, because all of you is invested.

Many of us start by doing this on our yoga mats. We may make a conscious decision to do whatever it takes to reduce our stress, relax more, loosen up tight body parts, strengthen weak parts. Those are all good things to start with, for sure. For me, it started back in 1999 with the decision that I needed to get on the mat to reduce stresss and sciatic nerve pain, because nothing else seemed to be working. It was torture for me the first few classes, because I had such a hard time focusing my mind on the task at hand, and I was constantly frustrating myself with my lack of flexibility compared to the other students in the room with me.

But I was in it for the long haul. I had made the decision to go all in so that I could move forward in my life in such a way that made me happy and healthy. Pretty soon, I stopped looking around at everyone else in class and just focused on my teacher’s instructions. I turned my attention to my breath, noticing how it gravitated towards my tight and/or weak spots and worked at opening me up. Noticing how once I started doing that, it became easier to focus on what I was doing in the moment, instead of all the things that were stressing me out in my life.

It wasn’t long before I saw this spilling over into my life off the mat. All of a sudden, I noticed I was able to look within myself more honestly, and there were some things I didn’t like. The fact that I always tend to avoid conflict, and that I am always bending over backwards to make sure everyone around me is happy, regardless of my own feelings. The fact that I shut down when things get tough.

Now remember from up above that in yoga, we focus on the journey, right? Well, for me, I’m still on my journey. It has not been easy for me to make the changes I need to make. I definitely have more work to do, because self doubt constantly makes its way in. But as of late, I have recommitted to letting go of what I once was…I’m all in, so to speak. I’m saying to myself that I am worth doing whatever it takes to make my life the best it can be. On the mat and off.

What about you? Will you join me on this journey? Will you take an honest look at your life and decide where changes need to be made, and then commit to doing whatever it takes to make the changes a reality? If you do, who knows what will happen? I can promise you this: no matter how things end up, you will know that if you were truly invested with your whole heart, then the result is what was meant for you. And how can that be bad?

Namaste,

Melanie

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“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.” ~~ Lee Iacocca

I just had to write this extra blog for the week, because today was a very challenging day for me. As many of you know, I teach a weekly Power Yoga class. For all you teachers out there, you know that TEACHING is very different from PRACTICING. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to do a complete Power Yoga practice of my own, due to the medical issues I’ve been dealing with. My practice as of late has been more of a Yin practice, as well as some breathing and meditation work. That is, when I actually have the energy to do anything at all. I’ve been trying to force myself to cycle or run three times a week, but I can’t remember the last time I had the energy to do more than two days in a given week. It’s been very frustrating.

Today, since I am working from home, I decided to use my lunch hour to do a 60-minute Power Yoga practice. I wanted to make sure to get in a good practice, since I am about to be in a car for at least 4 hours as we make our way to Atlanta for the Thanksgiving holiday.

All I can say is, “Holy Crap!” After the third Chaturanga, I knew I was in for quite the challenge. As I made my way to my fourth Chaturanga, I had to modify because my arms felt like jello. I can’t believe how weak I’ve become! And my balance? Forget it…it’s always been bad, but now it doesn’t even exist, apparently. My phone rang about 45 minutes in, and I gratefully took the call, my muscles shaking all the while.

As I sit here and think about it, I could do one of two things: 1) Get really angry, or 2) Deal with where I am at and start anew. I am choosing to go with option #2. If I choose option #1 (the anger route), what’s that gonna get me? Nothing but more anger, and more than likely, I will completely give up and resort to the old, couch potato version of myself from years ago. Uh-uh! Ain’t gonna happen!

So, I am going to take my lumps like a big girl and start over. Accept where my body is right now, and modify as I need to so that I can build my practice back to where it used to be before I started having all these medical issues. I can choose to take this as a blow to my ego or as an opportunity to grow. I choose the latter.

So here is to the start of starting over, so to speak. If you know me at all, then you know that I am very stubborn and I hate to give up on something. SO…I will get on my mat EVERY SINGLE DAY, even if it’s just for a few rounds of Sun Salutations. I vow to myself to spend at least 30 minutes per day on my mat. It’s the least I can do for my body, my mind, and my spirit.

As the Little Engine once said, “I think, I think I can, I think I can…I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could…”

Namaste,

Melanie

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” ~~ Greg Anderson

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are here, isn’t it? This year has gone by SO fast for me, and so much has happened! I’ve been reading lots of blogs and articles these past few weeks, and not surprisingly, the majority of them have been focusing on gratitude. Why not? After all, it is the season of Thanksgiving, so it’s a perfect topic to explore.

Since so many others are doing such a fine job of covering the art of gratitude, I decided I would take a different approach for my weekly focus. I decided to focus on the bird poses, particularly Eagle pose (Garudasana).

Why bird poses, you ask? Well, with the turkey being such a prominent part of Thanksgiving, it got me thinking. Alas, there is no such thing as Turkey Pose in yoga, but there are SO MANY other bird poses. Besides Eagle, there is Crow (sometimes called Crane), Heron, Pigeon, Bird of Paradise, Peacock…and each of these has many variations that can be done to make your practice as challenging as you like.

Bird poses are great because they help you learn the art of focusing. They are so challenging that if you lose your focus, even for a second, it’s easy to topple over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve landed on my face when working on Crow. 🙂

So often, we get caught up in the whirlwind of life, trying to multitask ourselves to death…that’s stressful, don’t you think? Seriously. How often do you really get the opportunity to focus completely on what you are doing while you’re in the moment of doing it? How often do you look back on what you’ve done and actually remember the details? If you ask me about the things I did last week, I could probably list them off for you. But if you ask me for the details, I don’t know that I could give them to you.

When we experience life, we need to seriously take the time to enjoy the journey. I love the quote above by Greg Anderson, because it reminds us to focus on the journey, not the destination. In other words, take the time to experience EVERYTHING given to you. Notice the smells, the people you interact with, the emotions within you and around you. Wholly involve yourself in all the things you do, so that you are actually DOING them and not just shuffling along.

I am working on this myself. I actually spent some time this past weekend really trying to work on my focus. I’ve got two daughters, and it’s become very apparent to me this past year how quickly time goes by. My teenager is a junior in high school, and it won’t be long before she’ll be off at college. My youngest is in 4th grade, and she’s such a social butterfly that when we’re home, she’s always outside with her friends. When they’re grown up and no longer living at home, I want their memories (and mine) to be ones that we’ll cherish. I want to be able to recall not just that we went to this place or that place, but the things we did, the foods we ate, the smells in the air. I want to absorb every possible detail to the point that it becomes part of what defines me.  

So this week in class, we’ll be incorporating bird poses. I chose Eagle as the main one because it’s great at strengthening your legs, improving your balance, and stretching the shoulders and hips. There are also quite a lot of cool variations with Eagle, so I thought we could have some fun playing with some of them. Here are some of the variations we’ll be working with:

  1. From the standard Eagle pose, you can bend at the waist, taking elbows to the outside of the knee (folding in half).
  2. From the standard Eagle pose, bring hands into a prayer position. If your left leg is on top, take right elbow to outside of left thigh, and twist to the left as you would in Chair pose. Repeat on other side.
  3. Repeat #2, but continue to floor to come into a Side Crow variation with Eagle legs. Jump back from here to Chaturanga if you wish.
  4. Eagle Crunches. Lie on your back with Eagle legs (Eagle arms, too, if you can). Bring elbows to knees on an exhale, and then come back to start on an inhale. Do this for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Eagle Twists. This is done lying down. Your arms are in “T” position, and you have Eagle legs. If left leg is on top, then twist is to the right. Repeat other side. I love this one…it’s so wonderful for stretching the IT Band!

I know there are other Eagle variations out there…what variations do you love? Please share them here…I love learning new things!

Namaste,

Melanie

“This one step – choosing a goal and sticking to it – changes everything.” – Scott Reed

This week is strange in that I won’t be teaching any yoga classes. I’ve got a conference for work that will have me out of town and unable to teach, which totally makes me sad. I love teaching, even though I’m only teaching one regular yoga class a week at the moment. I will miss my students, even though it’s just one class that I am missing.

However, just because I’m not teaching a class doesn’t mean there isn’t a focus for the week. This week, I’d like for you to think about setting some new goals for your yoga practice. Some of you who have been doing yoga for quite some time may find that you’re in a sort of rut in some area of your practice. Or maybe you just want to venture on to the next phase of your journey. If you’re newer to yoga, maybe your goal is to simply make it through a Chaturanga without having to lower your knees to the floor, or to be able to focus your mind without all the chatter getting in the way.

Some of you out there have multiple goals. That’s not a bad thing…I know I am certainly one of those people. However, setting too many goals could set you up for failure and frustration, especially when unexpected things get in the way. So my challenge to you for this week is to pick just one goal to focus on. Set a time limit for when you’d like to achieve that goal. And then stick to it. Do whatever it takes to ensure you’re doing everything you can do to make it happen.

You’ll be surprised at how much focusing on just one thing can make all the difference in the world. You should notice less stress when the focus is on only one thing instead of multiple things. Setting a deadline gives you something tangible to aim for, and should help you better formulate the steps you’ll need to take to achieve the goal. And finally, following those steps and seeing success as you complete each one will fill you with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Maybe your goal will be simple, maybe it will be more challenging. It doesn’t have to be a yoga pose that you’re working towards. Try to find the one thing that you feel has been lacking in your practice and resolve to make it better. For me, it’s my breathing. I’ve been more stressed lately, and I’m noticing that I’m more short of breath and not sleeping as well as I need to be. So my goal for this week is to incorporate breathing exercises back into my daily practice. I’d been so good with short daily meditations, but have let that slip these past few months…I’m definintely feeling the repercussions of not meditating on a regular basis anymore.

I’d love to hear what your goals are, so please feel free to comment here and share, or you can message me privately. Sometimes, when you share your goal with someone else, it helps to “set it in stone”, keeping you accountable for making it happen. So share with me, and see what wonderful things you can achieve for yourself!

Namaste,

Melanie

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“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” ~~ Al Neuharth

Pincha Mayurasana(I got this pic from here)

You know, sometimes, we just need to go upside down. Seriously. It is said that if you spend a little bit of time upside every day, it’s one of the best things you can possibly do for yourself. Why? Well, for one thing, going upside has been shown to provide many health benefits, such as helping to regulate the endocrine system, boosting immunity, improving sleep, and calming the mind. And if your world feels crazy and chaotic, yoga theory says you can shift your perspective by turning things upside down (i.e., your body). Since life doesn’t always provide a right-side-up perspective, sometimes it’s a good idea to give our bodies that same perspective.

It can be scary at first, but there are a variety of inversions available for all bodies. Any pose that gets your heart or feet above your head is an inversion, so be creative. If you’re a seasoned yogi, maybe you regularly incorporate inversions such as Handstand or Headstand into your practice. If not, surely you’ve hung your head off the side of a bed or a couch at least once, right?

This week, we’ll be incorporating Pincha Mayurasana (also called Forearm Balance and Feathered Peacock Pose). Pincha Mayurasana is a challenging pose, and it requires strength, balance, awareness and patience. Many of us will be starting at the wall, doing a modified variation that will allow us to see face any fear of falling we may have. This pose doesn’t put any pressure on the head (like Headstand does), but it still provides all the benefits of being upside down. This pose is excellent practice for focusing our attention and focusing on our breath…both of which we should do whenever things get crazy outside of yoga class as well.

If you can’t make it to class this week, here’s a great link with detailed instructions, contraindications, beginner tips, and variations.

Personally, Pincha Mayurasana is one of my favorite inversions to do. Whenever I do this pose, I feel so strong! Once I kick up into it, I notice how strong my arms, shoulders, back and abdominals are…they are what keeps me up! I still need a wall, as I am not great yet with kicking up without using too much force. But once my legs are up, I am finally able to move both legs away from the wall and truly use the strength and balance of my body to keep myself up and steady. I certainly hope to get to a point soon where I can control my kicks so I don’t need that wall to help me anymore.

If you’re new to this pose (or any inversion, for that matter), expect to fall a few times while you’re learning. It takes time to get to know your body from the upside-down perspective. When you persevere in trying to achieve a variation of this pose that’s meant for YOUR body, eventually you’ll get there.

Make the choice to look at fear straight in the face, to stay present, and to go into the intensity of life.

Namaste,

Melanie

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