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Have you ever stopped to consider how wonderful it is to have limitations? Think about it…would life be fun if everything you do comes easily to you the very first time? Some people would probably say yes, but I think that answer would be given without REALLY thinking about it. I think limitations are something everyone should experience along the journey of their lives. I think limitations help us grow in ways we never would if everything just came naturally and was 100% perfect.

A couple of weeks ago, the center where I go for my Lyme treatment reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in leading a yoga class there on Monday evenings. The owner explained that I could have a variety of students, as many have physical limitations due to whatever they might be coming to the center to be treated for, and asked if I would be OK with a pretty varied population. I was told they had blocks, chairs, blankets, straps, bolsters…you name it and they were prepared. I didn’t even have to think about it. I instantly said “YES! Of course! I would be honored!”

Some yoga teachers might not be quite so excited to teach a class of this sort. It’s a challenge to prepare a class that ANY type of student can participate in. And if you’re a vinyasa junkie, then a class of this sort might be very awkward, because it probably won’t have much of a “flow” to it.

But I am a person with physical limitations. Ever since I got sick, my body just can’t do what it used to do…I’ve got many posts throughout my blog about my frustration and struggle with finding my new practice. For a long time, I hesitated to teach because I felt like no one would want to take class with a teacher who couldn’t even do the poses herself. But through trial and error, I have figured out what I can do, what I can’t do, how to modify out the wazoo…I think I am a much better teacher because of my limitations.

You may be wondering how limitations in a yoga practice can make a better teacher. The perception out there in the world is that a yoga teacher should be an expert at practicing yoga postures. And yes…I agree with that thought to an extent. But I suggest rephrasing that to “a yoga teacher should be an expert at teaching yoga postures.” Allow me to explain.

Most of the general population has limitations while practicing yoga. Maybe it’s as simple as tight hips or hamstrings, or you have difficulty sitting still. Or maybe your limitations come from an injury or illness.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well, aren’t these BAD things? Isn’t it bad to be so tight, or to be ill? Don’t we want yoga to fix these things???”

OK…it’s true that yoga may help you get more flexible or recover from an injury more quickly. But it certainly won’t happen overnight. Which means…

You’ve got to learn to accept yourself as you are, in the moment. Limitations encourage you to stick with that learning; otherwise, you’ll never find the understanding you need to move past it. 

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As a teacher, my limitations have helped me empathize with my students, allowing me to modify a practice to fit their needs. Because I have restrictions, I understand why certain poses are challenging or risky for certain populations. And because I understand, I have compassion for those who are struggling…I’ve been there, and I am STILL there on many occasions. I have completely changed the way I teach because of my limitations…and I feel it’s for the better. I admit that maybe I don’t teach a kick-ass Power Yoga class anymore and pack the room like I used to. But that’s OK. As a person with limitations, when I was trying to find classes that my body could actually do without causing more issues, there weren’t many out there. I found a couple, but they were not offered regularly (like, maybe once a month), or they were offered at odd times of the day because these types of classes don’t usually pack ’em in and generate lots of revenue.

I get it. I truly do. I’m just glad I’m being given this opportunity because I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned and encourage anyone struggling to never give up. Work with what you’ve got and use it as an opportunity to learn what you’re truly capable of.

If you can approach your practice in this way, no matter how big or small your limitations might be, it connects you to the concept in yoga known as santosha, which translates to “contentment”. It’s not easy being content with where we are right now, when we’re constantly bombarded with social media posts and images that make everyone else seem so perfect.

Discovering what you’re capable of may help you find happiness and acceptance for wherever you’re at, regardless of what might limit you.

Do you embrace your limitations? I’d love it if you could share your thoughts in the comments as to how you do it. We can all learn from each other!

Namaste,

Melanie

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“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~~ Howard Zinn

Happy February, everyone! I sure hope the start to your 2017 has been filled with positivity and happiness. Unfortunately, if you’re one of my readers here in the United States, I fear that many of you may be having a bit of trouble with positivity and happiness right now. I’m not going to go into politics…Goodness knows we’re getting bombarded by that everywhere right now. But what I will be talking about here in this post…well, I just hope that it does at least a little bit to lift your spirits if you’re feeling a bit out of sorts.

Throughout the month of January, I found myself getting all out of sorts with a variety of things. I had a lot of different things going on with my full-time job, with Toastmasters, with my family, with my yoga classes. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when I say that it was one of those phases where I’d committed to WAY too many things. I think we’ve all found ourselves in this situation at some point in our lives, am I right?

Well, there I was, completely stressed out over trying to do too many things, and feeling like I was being pulled in all sorts of directions at once. I noticed that I was more short-tempered. My sleep was impacted. I was cursing over every little thing. My Lyme symptoms started to flare up. I felt like a HUGE failure! Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to provide the self-care I needed to keep things in check.

If this had only gone on for a day or two, things would have been just fine. But here I am, five weeks in, and things are still feeling out of control. I do see an end in sight, but some damage has been done, emotional and physical, that needs to be addressed.

Thankfully, this last weekend, I had the opportunity to get away for a weekend workshop on Restorative Yoga. It was held at a beautiful yoga studio in Mount Airy, NC called Sacred Space. It was just what I needed!

I was fortunate that my friend, Lidia, was able to join me. She lives in my area, so we drove there together and rented a nice room at a super cute B&B called Heart & Soul. When we checked in, we were in awe of how gorgeous this place was! We were within walking distance to the yoga studio, so we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and walk over.

For those of you who don’t know, Mount Airy is the town that Andy Griffith’s town of Mayberry was modeled after. We enjoyed looking at all the stores, and we were even treated to an old-timey police car driving by us. Already, I was smiling, which I sorely needed at that moment.

The workshop was small, with only seven of us in attendance. When I took my first Restorative Training, there were over 30 people. Don’t get me wrong…that was a great training. But I’ve always preferred the smaller trainings, where you can really get to know each other and walk away feeling you’ve made at least one true friend for life.

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(Me and Lidia, after training on Sunday)

By spending so much time on the mat in a gentle and restorative practice, I was able to sit with my thoughts, really dig in to what’s going on with me, and show myself a little compassion. By spending some quality time making an effort to begin and grow friendships, I feel I was able to walk away being able to show compassion for others a little more effectively. It’s amazing how, when you really stop to think about it, we are all part of a web of people who love US, and who WE love. This web is growing all the time, as long as you take that time to allow compassion in.

So to my friends who read this blog, and to my readers who I may never have met in person: If all the things going on in the world right now seem to be too much to bear, show yourself some compassion. Find the time to make time for YOU, incorporating any self-care rituals that rejuvenate and empower you. Find a way to reconnect with old friends, do something that will allow you to make some new friends, tell your best friends and family how life wouldn’t be the same without them. Be there for them, showing them compassion as they may be working through tough times, too.

Tap in to this compassion, rooting yourself to the present. You might find it’s just what you need to reset and recharge.

Namaste,

Melanie

“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.” ~~ Rick Warren

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(Photo Courtesy of DeviantArt)

It’s funny how life works sometimes, isn’t it? Things will seem to be going swell, and then out of nowhere, you get hit with something and it feels like a big ol’ punch in the gut. If you aren’t careful, it can knock you down, struggling to get back up again. Usually, we think of BIG things hitting us, like a divorce or someone we’re close to dying. But it amazes me how sometimes, even “small” things can knock someone out for the count (at least, I notice this with myself…anyone else out there have this same experience on occasion?).

So these past few weeks, I’ve been really focusing on incorporating more positive energy into my life. I’ve created daily challenges for my friends on Facebook (which I am doing right along with them), and some of them are designed to help with bringing in more positivity. Also, I was challenged by a friend to post three positive things each day for a total of seven days, and then name three different people each day to do the same. So by the end of the seven days, I will have challenged 21 of my friends to do what I am lovingly referring to as the “7-Day Positivity Challenge”. Pretty cool, don’t you think? I definitely do.

But let me be completely honest. This morning, I was questioning how cool this little challenge actually was. I had one of those days yesterday where I was hit with a couple of things that most would consider to be “small” things. And they WERE small things, but it didn’t feel small to me at the time. Maybe if I’d been hit with them individually on different days, I would have reacted differently. Who knows! All I know is that by 5:00 p.m. yesterday, I’d hit my breaking point.

The one thing that kept me from totally losing my mind was knowing I was going to meet my daughter at a yoga class after work. I walked out to my car, all excited, and then BAM! The parking garage was PACKED! It took me 20 minutes to get out of the garage, and then once I was out, the traffic on the main road was just CRAZY! This set off a full-blown panic attack. I mean, I totally NEEDED to get to yoga, and now I was wondering if I’d ever make it on time. So I closed my eyes (I was at a dead stop in traffic anyway, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt), took several deep breaths (OK, more like 151 deep breaths), and said a prayer. I asked God to please let me get there as quickly as I could, so I wouldn’t miss the class. I also asked him to keep me from panicking to the point that I’d have to pull over…after all, there was nothing I could do to make the situation better, so me freaking out was doing no one any good.

Well, I made it to class. I walked in right as class was starting, so once I changed clothes and claimed my spot, I really only missed the first 5 minutes. So I relaxed a bit…until we did our first chest opening pose. This was an EASY pose! Simply clasping the hands behind your back from a Mountain Pose and then folding forward while keeping the hands clasped behind you. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even clasp my hands from a standing position. WTH! I used to be able to do this ALL THE TIME! All through the class, every chest opening pose we did, I couldn’t do. It felt like I just had this web of steel across my shoulders, chest and upper back, which was limiting me from stretching any of those areas. As class went on, I got more frustrated with myself, and by the time we reached Savasana, I was struggling to keep the tears back.

The whole way home, I just let it out. I can’t remember the last time I had a really hard cry like that. When I got home, I was exhausted, so I took a shower and just went to bed. I didn’t have the energy for anything else but sleep.

That brings me to this morning. When I woke up, I thought about everything that happened yesterday. I thought about why I went into that tailspin of despair over such small things. Then I thought, “Oh God! I’ve got to post THREE positive things for today! How in the world am I going to DO that???”

Well, it got me to thinking. Maybe that’s why this whole “post three positive things each day for seven days” thing got started in the first place. I mean, it’s EASY to come up with positive things the first day or two…we’ve got the standard positive things to say about our families and friends and health, etc., etc. But as you go, you have to dig a little deeper each day for those positive things, and to me, these are the most meaningful. Because these are the ones we really have to THINK about. Get it?

This morning, I finally got it. And it was nice. I was able to come up with three positive things, despite still being in a rather crappy mood. And doing so made me feel a little bit better and a little more positive.

There are going to be days, for ALL of us, that are challenging. That’s life, right? I love the quote from Rick Warren above…he’s totally right. We can’t just magically be positive. It’s a process, and it takes time. We’re always going to have ups and downs, so we have to appreciate the journey and discover who we are along the way. When you find yourself down for the count, it’s how you choose to react to the situation that will eventually define who you are and how people see you.

So…what will YOU do when you get sucker-punched by life? Me? I will strive to look for the positive things, even if it’s hard to do…they are there. All I have to do is open my eyes and see them.

Namaste,

Melanie

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