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“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” ~~ Michael Jordan

Well, it’s that time of year again. That time when many people set New Year’s resolutions. And let’s face it, many people never reach their goals.

According to Statistic Brain, 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and only 8% are successful in achieving those resolutions. (http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/) So why set resolutions, if so many people never succeed in achieving them? Well, Statistic Brain also noted that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

If you’re going to be successful in achieving your goals, you’ve got to be prepared for the fact that there WILL be roadblocks. I mean, think about it…if it were easy, we wouldn’t need to be setting goals in the first place, right? We’d already be where we want to be. The quote above from Michael Jordan says it so wonderfully…don’t turn around and give up…figure out how to climb it (he’s talking about the obstacle), go through it, or work around it.

Since this is a yoga blog, let’s talk about our goals as they relate to yoga. Do you have any for this coming year? If you’re not sure, think about it for a bit…and pick just one thing to focus on for now. One thing I’ve learned is that if I pick too many things I want to accomplish, I accomplish exactly NONE of them. I get too overwhelmed when I have to think about too many things, because when those obstacles hit, I can only tackle one at a time. And then before I know it, I’ve let go of all the other things and I feel like a total failure.

For me, my goal this year is to continue working on improving my health. I’ve seen some great strides in this over the past year, but I know I can do better. So I need to adjust and refine my yoga practice even more. Stress has been horrible for me and sets off my symptoms like I could never believe, and the more restorative and meditative styles of yoga are what helps me the most in terms of stress management. Yin Yoga, Deep Stretch, Restorative…these are the classes I need to be taking. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough types of these classes at the studios near me that fit my schedule. So this means I’m going to have to figure out how to do this type of yoga on my own. And I am HORRIBLE at doing my own thing…I would much rather someone else be telling me what to do. So here is how I plan to tackle this goal, so that I can actually achieve it. It’s critical for my entire well-being, so I MUST be successful…I simply won’t accept failure on this one.

  1. Stop Trying So Hard. The first thing I’m going to do is stop trying so much. Many times, when we try to control every step of the way, we sabotage ourselves. Have you ever noticed that when you “let it go” and stop worrying so much, it simply happens organically? Try it…you’ll see what I mean.
  2. Be Creative. As Michael Jordan said in the quote above, figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it. So be creative when those obstacles hit, and see what you can come up with to tackle it and watch that obstacle crumble.
  3. Meditate. Every. Day. This is a hard one for me, but I’ve been working on this alot over the past year. I seem to get in grooves where I am very good about meditating every day, and then I will get busy and forget to do my meditation. Before I know it, I’m wondering why I am so damn grumpy and snappy with everyone…then I realize it’s because I’ve been slack on meditating like I should. Even just 5 minutes is beneficial, so my plan is to pick a consistent time and stick to it. My guess is that before bed will work best for me, but we’ll see. I’ll adjust if I need to.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid. Working towards a goal can be scary, especially as the obstacles start coming. But don’t let fear get the best of you. Acknowledge it, accept it, then let it go and keep pushing towards your goal. If your goal truly means that much to you, if it is truly for the betterment of yourself, it’s worth it. Don’t forget that.
  5. Set Your Intentions. Your intention is the plan for how you’ll achieve your main goal. So when you’re thinking about this, do so with no distractions so that you can focus and pick the plan that makes the most sense.  For me, I will search out the styles of classes I’m looking for at several local studios around me, and will plan on attending any that fit my schedule…I’ll put them on my calendar so I have no excuse to miss them. For the days when I can’t attend a live class, I have found several audio podcasts that should work…the challenge will be figuring out where in my house I can do these without interruption. 🙂
  6. Find Gratitude and Grace. Every situation we’re presented with is for a reason, in my opinion. There are no accidents. So whenever obstacles hit, no matter how bad they may seem, do your best to handle them with grace and gratitude. What did you learn from each one? Focus on that…focus on how each one made you THAT much better!

Good luck with this…I know that personally, I always do better when I am working on goals with other people. So if any of you out there in blog land want to join me, helping to keep each other accountable, I would LOVE that! Your goal doesn’t have to be the same as mine…just pick one thing in yoga that you want to work on this coming year, and let’s check in with each other every week to see how we’re doing. Any takers?

Namaste,

Melanie

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“Keep Calm and Yoga On!” ~~ Casey Deal


keepcalm

So lately, I’ve been much better at handling my stress. My husband, were he to actually peruse and read my blog, would probably disagree. He says I stress about EVERYTHING. And he is right to some degree. But really, I can tell a difference in my ability to handle stressful things lately and I have to give huge props to yoga for my achievements.

A few times these past several weeks, I’ve been hit with some stressful stuff at work and in my personal life. And though I definitely felt the all too familiar panic attack symptoms begin to set in, I noticed I was able to mentally kick things in to high gear and FOCUS, take a DEEP BREATH, and ASSESS THE SITUATION.

When I am able to do that, I usually see (like, 99.9% of the time) that it’s really not that bad. And I can even tend to find SOMETHING positive from it, even if it’s something small.

My youngest daughter noticed the magnet I have on my car, which says, “Keep Calm, Carry On”. She thought that was the cat’s meow, let me tell ya! I don’t know why, but she just kept saying it over and over, and would give me a big smile when she said it. Then yesterday, she drew the above picture for me. I had told her how much I love the flowers she’s been dreaming up lately in her art, and I asked if she could draw me a cool flower…and out came the above pic.

First, I was drawn in to the beauty of the flower…I really love the detail and the colors she decided to use. But then I noticed that she weaved in that quote from my car magnet, but changed it to how she felt it would suit ME. When I saw it, I got big ol’ smile on my face! It was perfect…just what I needed. So I took a picture of it and stored it on my phone, so that I can look at it whenever I need a reminder of what yoga does for me. And then I took the original picture and stuck it right on the wall in my cube at work, so that when the stress hits me at work, I can use it as a reminder to CALM DOWN, take a DEEP BREATH, and ASSESS THE SITUATION.

Do you use yoga to help you with your stress? I’d be curious to know how you use it. What style of yoga works the best for you when you are stressed? Do you use breathing exercises? Meditation? Chanting?

I notice I’ve been using a combination of meditation, breathing and restorative yoga when I am super stressed. That seems to really do wonders at helping to calm down the “panicky heart” sensation I usually get when the stress hits hard. But I would love to know what works for the rest of you out there…let me know…let’s share!

Namaste,

Melanie

“You are perfect just as you are, and you could use a little improvement.” —Shunryu Suzuki

perfectly_imperfect
(Photo Courtesy of http://www.deviantart.com/art/Perfectly-Imperfect-Day-77-297171517)

Sometimes, I am really surprised and amazed at how the stars seem to align. How I always seem to receive the messages I’m meant to receive at just the right time. Maybe it’s the books and magazines I’m reading, or the Podcasts I’m following, but I’ve been hearing so much lately about HAPPINESS. It seems that many throughout the health and wellness industry are doing a lot of research around the subject of happiness, and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t be happier (no pun intended). It seems that more and more emphasis is being placed on helping people understand what happiness is and how to find it. I think this is critical, as what I hear on the news regularly is that there are WAY too many people who just don’t know what happiness is.

Think about it. So many stories about kids being bullied for a variety of reasons, who then go to sometimes drastic extremes in order to be accepted, because they think THAT would make them happy. How many of those stories have a happy ending? Many of these kids end up committing suicide because it just gets worse, or they end up getting themselves into a situation that has dire consequences. I heard such a sad story on a Podcast this morning about a teen who is so desperate to “fix her body” so that she “can be happy”…but the personal trainer she went to couldn’t understand at all why she thought her body needed to be fixed. She was strong, healthy, had great muscle tone, and was in a good weight range. But for some reason unknown, she desperately felt there was more to be done…more she could do to become “perfect”. The trainer, at a loss for what it was she was truly looking for, could only say he thought she was already right where she should be, and the girl left in tears because he couldn’t “help” her. So sad!

What’s my point, you may be asking? My intent is certainly not to bring you down, but to lift you up.

Hey, I am no saint when it comes to building myself up. I constantly catch myself picking on the way I look (“I wish my hair was straight.”, “Why can’t I be skinnier?”), putting myself down (“I’m not smart enough to do this or that.”, “I let people walk all over me.”), and comparing myself to others (“I’m not as good of a yoga teacher as HER.”, “I wish I had her body.”). And every time I do those things, I put myself into such a downward spiral, it’s ridiculous. When I realize I’m doing it, I try my best to reverse it, but it takes a lot longer to build something up than it does to tear it down.

One of the reasons I love yoga so much is because it’s been a wonderful tool for me in building myself back up. As I’ve gone through teacher trainings or been a student over the years, these are the messages that I constantly latch on to:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Don’t judge yourself.
  • No expectations.
  • This is not a competition.
  • No matter where you are, if you’re listening to your body and your breath, you’re in the perfect pose.
  • Yoga is a journey, not a destination.
  • It’s OK to take a break.
  • Let the pose help you find your inner smile.

Whenever I teach a class, I try to make sure my students understand these messages, as they are truly what yoga is all about, in my opinion. It makes me so sad when I see students pushing themselves into options without listening to their bodies, just because they think that’s what they need to do in order to get that “yoga body” they’ve been dreaming about. To me, getting a great body shouldn’t be the reason you get on the mat. It might be a nice “side effect”, but get on the mat because of how it makes you FEEL. You should walk off your mat, EACH AND EVERY TIME, feeling good about what you just did. If you notice you’re walking off the mat counting up your calorie burn or whether or not your muscles are “sore enough”, then take a moment to check in with what you’re really doing to yourself when you make that what it’s all about.

I love the quote above by Shunryu Suzuki. You really are perfect just as you are. God made you YOU for a reason, after all. Your uniqueness is beautiful and perfect. I don’t know the context in which Suzuki said or wrote these words, but here’s what it means to me:

We all could use a little improvement, because none of us realize that we’re already perfect just as we are. We are perfectly IMPERFECT.

There is no definition of the perfect person. Well, you can Google it, and I’m sure many results will come back. But guess what? They will ALL say something different from one another! Each of us truly is unique inside and out, so how can there possibly be a universal definition for the perfect person? If there were, then wouldn’t there be only ONE person who is perfect? So, the improvement we must work towards is realizing that we are already inherently perfect. We just need to dig in and discover who we are and work with what we’ve been graced with. When we can realize this, THAT is when we find true happiness.

“Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people.” ~~ Michael W. Smith

Lately, I feel different. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I am definitely different. Maybe it’s a culmination of everything I’ve been through these past two years with my health, but something has definitely changed within me. It’s affected every aspect of me, and it’s a bit scary…though I kind of like it at the same time.

These past few months, I’ve been slowly letting go of things which do not serve me. Things that are potentially keeping me from getting my health back on track because they bring more stress to my life. Unfortunately, this has meant giving up several things that mean so much to me, most especially teaching regular yoga classes.

This has been the toughest decision I’ve had to make in a LONG time. I’ve been teaching yoga classes regularly since 2002. That’s 11 years! It’s how most people know me, to be honest. It’s who I am!

But over these past few months, it’s been difficult for me to to teach. Some of it stems from simply not feeling well. Various side effects from my medical treatment have made it difficult for my body to move in the ways it needs to, even just to demo a pose.

But some of the difficulty is also coming from my state of mind, to be honest.  Because I am so consumed with my own “stuff”, I feel like I haven’t been able to provide my students with the time and attention they need and deserve. No one has complained to me about it, and for all I know, no one but me sees anything different in the way I’ve been teaching. But I definitely feel like I’ve been on autopilot for quite some time, and I’ve finally reached a point where I feel drained completely. Like I have nothing left to give. And if I can’t “fill up my cup”, so to speak, I’m no good to anyone, don’t you agree?

It’s only been a few days, but I’ve already noticed that I am starting to feel physically better. I think I am even starting to notice a transformation in my life in other ways. For example, when asked what I want for Christmas, for the first time ever I honestly don’t really want anything. I mean, I could certainly name some things that would be nice, but I honestly would rather not get any gifts that cost money. I’d much rather use the money for someone else who really needs it. When I start to think about what I really want, all I can think about is simplicity, family and good health. That’s it. That’s all I want. Then…then, I will be able to truly serve others in the way I am meant to.

Namaste,

Melanie

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