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“Change is in the air, as old patterns fall away and new energies are emerging. Consciously release what needs to be released, and welcome with a full embrace the newness you’ve prayed for and so richly deserve.” ~~ Marianne Williamson

change
Photo Courtesy of http://lilypadandalycat.blogspot.com/2012/06/change-is-in-air.html

Change. It means different things to different people. Some of us fear it, some of us crave it, and some of us could care less. It is now the Spring season in many parts of the world, and many people use this time of year to make changes in their lives…the term “Spring Cleaning” came from somewhere, didn’t it?

This past year has been a big one in terms of change for me, all across the board. Things changed for me at my full-time job in several big ways, my health ebbed and flowed over the months as I worked with doctors to try and figure out what was wrong with me, my yoga practice changed to include more restorative practices, I began meditating regularly, my daughter got her driver’s license (Yikes!), my parents moved to be closer to me (Yay!). There are other things, but you get the point. For me, all of these things were BIG things in my life. Some of these changes were scary, some were amazing…and I had to figure out how to deal with each of them as they hit me, so that I could maintain some sort of balance and sanity in my life.

You see, I am typically a creature of habit. I like knowing what’s coming next. I like having a schedule. I am SO not spontaneous! And I know that I drive my husband completely nuts (and probably quite a few others) when I keep nagging and asking, “What’s the deal? I need to know the plan ASAP so I can schedule everything. Let’s make a decision already!”

With some of the things I dealt with, I had no choice but to go with the flow and see what happened. Gosh, that just about killed me in a few instances, as you may know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time. But I did what I had to do, and came out on the other side in one piece. Some of the changes I made to more effectively deal with everything have ended up being exactly what I needed. Some of the changes…well, I’m still waiting to see how they manifest themselves. But I am no longer afraid. I am actually kind of excited to see what happens, and it feels pretty cool to have that change in my attitude!

You may be going through changes yourself. Small changes, big changes, bad changes, good changes (Dr. Seuss, anyone?)…it doesn’t matter. Change is change. How do you deal with it? Does it freak you out like it does me? I’m getting better at it though, with a little practice.

Yesterday, I went to a yoga class at a studio I’d never been to before. I was invited by a friend, and I am SO glad I decided to go. This class was based on the Universal style of yoga, which I’d never tried before. You know, I’ve been practicing yoga since 1999, and there were some poses and breathing exercises we did yesterday that I’d NEVER done before. Like Sundial Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana), for example. Some people also refer to this pose as Compass Pose (Check out http://poseofthemonth.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/parivrtta-surya-yantrasana-compass-or-sundial-pose/ if you want to know more about this pose). I’ve seen pictures of this pose, but I’ve never been to a class where it’s been taught. Never. But I tried and achieved some feeble variation of the pose, and it felt really good to try something new. And at the end of class, having tried so many new things, I felt GOOD. I felt RELAXED. I felt like I’d grown just a LITTLE. That’s what it’s all about, in my opinion.

So if you’re like me and tend to avoid change, try to let go of that fear, just for this week. Welcome something new into your life, even if it’s something small, just to see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

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“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” ~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Have you ever thought about your signature? I’m not talking about how you sign your name on documents. I’m talking about what it is that defines you. What others remember about you after you’ve been introduced into their lives. It’s what you leave behind.

Many of us are working towards being our signature self. It’s can be quite a struggle for some of us, as it’s not always easy to close the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Some of us don’t even fully know who we want to be…we just know we aren’t quite there yet. So the task is to figure out what it is that will bring true happiness to our lives, that place where there is a healthy balance to all the pieces and parts of our lives.

I’ve been working on this for my own self quite a bit this year. It’s been interesting to witness how the process of discovering what I really want out of life has ebbed and flowed over these past few months. There have been days where everything just seems totally dialed in, and then there are days where I feel like a big ball of confusion and frustration. It seems like on the days where I am not totally honest with my thoughts and feelings — those days when I veer towards things/people that aren’t truly and authentically meant for me — those are the days when I notice I get really down and frustrated. Sometimes I guess I just want something so badly to be the thing I need, I don’t see the truth surrounding it, letting me know it’s not the best thing for ME. Maybe for someone else. Just not for me.

It’s been no easy task to pay such close attention to my thoughts and feelings, I won’t lie. I have always been quick in my responses to things, and very emotionally attached to everything in my life. I hate giving up on something, even if it’s something that may not be good for me, because I used to think it meant I was a failure.

But over these past few months, I’ve noticed that it’s getting easier and easier to make decisions — the right decisions — because I am actually taking the time more and more to pay attention to the signals. When I pay attention to my breath, my thoughts, and my body’s physical reactions to situations, I’m able to make more rational and solid decisions. I’m able to more fully define who I want to be, and then put in place a plan as to how to get there.

As I said above, this hasn’t been easy for me. But it’s important to me. It’s important for me to know who I want to be, and then to be that person. And then for others to see me in the same way. 100% of the time. I’m slowly getting there, and am enjoying the process, even though it isn’t always a smooth one.

What about you? Have you already figured out who you want to be? If so, are you there yet? Are you living as that person 100% of the time? Don’t beat yourself up if, like me, you’re still a work in progress or haven’t even begun to think about this yet. Many times, life gets in the way and doesn’t give us a chance to do this kind of self analysis often enough. Just start now, wherever you are, and go from there. It’s never too late to be the YOU that you were meant to be.

This week’s blog is a question for all of you out there, students and teachers alike. What are your thoughts about transitioning to a Tripod Headstand from Crow Pose (Bakasana)? As a teacher, would you teach this to your students? As a student, would you even do this?

My personal opinion is that most yogis should not be doing this. To transition from Crow Pose to Tripod Headstand requires a ton of core strength, and you need to ensure you aren’t putting too much weight on your cervical spine. I’m not saying that it’s not possible. I’m just saying that from my own observations, most people in my classes shouldn’t be doing this. Transitioning from Tripod Headstand to Crow, in my opinion, would be the safer thing to do. Take a look at the pictures below and see if you agree.

CrowPose
Crow Pose (Photo courtesy of Fitsugar.com)

TripodHeadstand
Tripod Headstand (Photo courtesy of Fitsugar.com)

If you are of the mindset that it’s OK to transition from Crow to Tripod Headstand, I want to hear from you. If you’re a teacher, how would you teach this to your students and ensure they transition from one to the other safely? If moving from Crow to Tripod Headstand is already part of your practice, how do you feel after, both emotionally and physically?

Thanks in advance for indulging me this week. I’ve heard differing opinions about this over the years, and it was brought up in a conversation I was part of today, so it got me curious all over again.

Namaste,

Melanie

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” ~~ Colin Powell

Over this past year, there have been so many articles revolving around yoga injuries. The one that most of you have probably heard about is “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), which was published last August in the New York Times.

As a yoga teacher and student, these types of articles really get to me. They give yoga an undeserved bad rap, and I believe they turn many people away from the practice of yoga unnecessarily. Can yoga cause injury? Sure it can. But there are a variety of reasons why, one of which is letting your ego get in the way.

When we let our ambition get in the way, it can be easy to ignore the signs that we’re overdoing something. Some of us decide to achieve a particular pose, and then we do everything possible to make it happen, even if we end up hurting ourselves in the process.

I know I sometimes sound like a broken recorder to my students, but I stress how important it is in each and every class to pay attention to your body, mind and breath during your practice. If your mind is all over the place and you’re unable to focus on what you’re doing, then that’s a sign you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing at that particular time. If you’re holding your breath or gasping for air, that’s a sign as well. And so is pain, numbness or tingling in the body. Is ignoring these signs worth it?

Ego is defined as the Self. Too much ego equates to being conceited. Too little equates to a lack of self-esteem. In yoga, it’s essential to find that balance with our ego, that point where we feel like we’re progressing and advancing in our practice, but at the correct pace.

The correct pace for you may be completely different than the one for the person on the next mat. This is why it’s so important not to compare yourself to the others in class. You have no idea if the people around you are there for the same reasons as you, what their practice is like outside of class, or what their physical limitations may be. When you box yourself in to achieving a pose by a particular date, having to look a specific way in a pose, or having to hold a pose for a particular amount of time, then you run the risk of injuring yourself if you ignore the signs that you’re overdoing it.

As a teacher, I hope I am properly encouraging all of my students to listen to these signs and pay attention. Your yoga practice should be something you can do for the rest of your life. It’s supposed to help you, not harm you. It is an experience that can change each time we get on the mat. This is why I begin each class with a few minutes of stillness…time in which we can focus on clearing the mind of all the “stuff” that gets in the way of being present, and to get in touch with how our breath is flowing and how our bodies are feeling.

As a student, it used to be hard for me at times to follow my own advice. When I would look around the room and notice that I seemed to be the ONLY one having trouble with a pose, I would think to myself, “Why can’t I do that?”, or “No one will want me to teach them when they realize I can’t even do that pose myself.” I was letting my ego get in the way — quite frequently I might add. Several times, I considered not teaching anymore because of the sheer number of poses my own body simply can’t do.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to let go of that mentality over the past year. I now realize that whatever my body is able to do is what it is supposed to be doing. I joked around in class last week about being able to do Lolasana (Pendant Pose), and how I was going to eventually be able to do this pose. I hope my students realized the true meaning of what I was saying. I definitely WILL be able to achieve Lolasana someday. It just may not be the “picture perfect” version that you see in all the yoga magazines. But it will be the perfect version for my body, whatever that ends up being.

So, whether you’re one of my students or not, make sure you listen to your mind, body and breath every single time you get on mat. Check your ego at the door, and step into the present moment. Let it be a journey, not a destination…see where your practice takes you.

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