Category Archives: musings

meditations from the board – trusting the process

I love the idea of Meditations from the Mat – and how everything, every small little lesson or adjustment that we find on our yoga mats can have the power to transform not only our entire practice, but also our lives. I think, though, that too often we rely on yoga alone as our source of wisdom and inspiration, and while there is an endless fount of wisdom to be found by pursuing the path of yoga, really, the majority of this wisdom is something that is already living inside each of us, and yoga usually just has a more clear and concise way of bringing it out. The importance in realizing this is that, instead of learning and growing leaps and bounds for one hour ever day, or every other day, you can bring this meditative state, this eagerness for and openness to learning with you wherever you go, whenever you want. It’s always there, and as soon as you’re ready to get present in your body and tune into your clear, focused, and brilliant mind, you will be ready and able to be your own answer. A lot of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had in my life have come on a particularly long run, or really whenever I step foot onto my paddleboard – anytime I allow myself the time and space to get clear, and get grounded in my physical body, my mind often follows.

 It’s like that – any time you take away from the madness of daily life and really get off of your autopilot, out of your head, and into your body… that’s when the serious change starts to set in. We need something to bring us back into the now, so that the growth we’re slowly doing can start to solidify within us. This past weekend, I found the same beautiful experience on a surfboard. The second I finally became truly present out there in the waves, all of the abstract challenges I had been working through over the past few weeks were finally presented in a way that I could understand, approach, and overcome. Instead of a vague tangle of things I knew I needed to fix, I realized quickly that the challenges I had been facing in my personal life were also showing up so clearly in my time on my board. I was frustrated and annoyed, because I have been surfing for years and years, and yet, on this morning, still could not manage to really catch that perfect wave. I was riding some in, and getting a few good ones, but when it came to really getting on top of a wave, throwing myself into it, and riding it all the way… I was coming up way short. I was getting a lot of good, and no great. And I was very, very ready to blame it on a bad surf day, waves that weren’t ideal, anything but myself. However, when I took a moment to pause my blame game and really figure out the root of what was going on, it quickly became clear – I was getting into the tops of these waves, and instead of paddling hard to truly “catch” the wave, I would give the water a few quick swipes with my hand, and then immediately try to stand up, before I was even in the wave. For those of you who know nothing about surfing, bear with me for just a moment. I was trying to get to the next step of the process, without fully giving my effort to the step I was currently in. And, as a result, I almost always lost the wave, and ended up in a half-standing board limbo, and subsequently very wet and salty. Where all of the concept and information had been failing to process in my brain, this physical reality landed, and landed hard – all I had to do was really put myself fully into the process of catching the wave, before moving on to what I knew came afterwards. I needed to turn off my overanalyzing brain for just a second, and instead, be in the moment, and trust the process, focusing entirely on what is right here and right now. There’s so much truth and beauty in that realization – because we have a clear goal, a purpose, an idea of what our future should and will look like, we spend so much time and energy focusing on that future, instead of living in the present that will bring us to that future. We’re trying to stand up on boards that aren’t even in a wave, and that leaves us with no force or momentum, and if we keep it up, we’ll keep falling flat on our face. Instead, let’s focus on getting present, getting in our bodies, and learning to paddle before we try to stand.

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adventures off the mat: yoga & stress

it’s too easy to contain yoga to a yoga studio – this is what I do on my mat. This is how I breath on my mat. This is who I am, how I am, what I believe, on my mat. But there’s so, so much more – the asanas and the studio time are only the very surface of a yoga practice, and in a lot of modern yoga culture, there is not nearly enough focus given to yoga off the mat. To using your breathing, that gentle, powerful ujjai breath in your daily life, to bringing that flow and awareness to everything that you do. Recently, in an incredibly stressful situation, I recognized that everything is yoga. Everything can be yoga. If we can just bring that mindfulness, that awareness, that breath and that power to our every day lives, we can truly live a yoga practice. I can think of nothing more powerful. So, here are a few ways that I found to breath yoga into my stress, and to truly bring my practice to life.

1. First of all, recognize that, just like in your yoga practice, everything that is present in your world right now is a result of choice. Just like you have the choice, always, to skip a vinyasa, or to step out of a challenging pose, you also have the choice to remove yourself from whatever is causing you stress. No matter how persistently you would argue that, no, in this case, there really is no choice, yes – there is always choice. If work is what’s stressing you out, remember that YOU are choosing to make that deadline, or even to show up at all. Yes, that choice is resulting in the status of your employment… but recognize that staying employed is also your choice. It truly is all up to you – and how freeing is that? Just as you could arrive on your mat and simply spend the entire practice in savasana, so you can also chose to step away or be absent from any elements of your life. So, step one is to recognize each element as a choice, and take a moment to decide if it is truly a choice you want to be making. Remember that, like poses, some choices are hard, or even uncomfortable. But you make them, because you love yourself, you love your body, and you love the world. So, once you’ve decided to grow to fullness within those choices you make, you can move on to another element of yoga:

2. Your breathing. Maintaining that calm, steady, deep, and full breath is just as important in your daily life as it is in your yoga practice, and even more important in moments of high stress. So much anxiety and worry could be easily avoided if we just took an extra moment to focus on our breathing, to really balance that deep, full in-breath, and completely clear ourselves with an even, measured out-breath. It’s amazing, what space will open up in your life with no effort except to simply center yourself in your breathing. And just as you try to send breath to the areas of your body that are tense or hurting in a pose, send your breath to your stress. Breath in peace, balance, stillness, and certainty that you are enough. Breath out doubt, worry, uncertainty, exhaling them completely and resting in what remains – you.

3. Once your breathing is centered, turn your attention to your balance. This is a huge element of yoga, both on and off the mat, and while a large part of maintaining balance is breath, there is also so much strength and presence required in a balancing pose, and in a balanced life. Just as you can’t stay in a challenging balance if your mind is anywhere external to your practice, and you really can’t maintain that posture with integrity if you don’t have a fixed, strong focus, so it is with a balanced life. I find that, a lot of the times that I’m the most stressed, it’s simply because I’m actually very absent from what’s going on. I’m not grounded, not rooted, I’m simply letting my body and mind react negatively to vague, undefined stressors, instead of taking that moment to truly get rooted within myself, identify the exact nature of the situation, and focus my gaze with stillness and strength on fixing it. Get present, get focused, get balanced. It’s amazing how quickly and effectively you’ll be able to work towards a solution for your stress once you’re truly balanced.

4. Recognizing the flow is another crucial element to yoga, both in the asanas and in your life. It’s all flowing, fluidly and constantly. The Warrior series you’re in the middle of now, it won’t be here forever. Soon, you’ll be back bending or forward folding, maybe even arm balancing. You don’t know, and you can’t know… all that you can know is that it won’t last forever. No matter how long you’ve been holding chair, you know that it won’t be all that there is. Something came before this, and there is something following this. It is not permanent. So it is with whatever is going on in your life right now, be it good or bad. It’s not forever. And that’s incredible. If the Right Now is not your ideal, that’s okay – it’s all a part of a flow. Not everything will be Child’s Pose. But not everything will be handstand either.It’s a constant balance between the rest and the work, and it is in that flux that we find the true and deep beauty of life.

5. And finally, a crucial element of both yoga and life, please remember to take Savasana. Do as much as you can, give as much as you can, shine and be truly amazing. But rest. Recover. Come back to your breath, to your body, to the now. Remember that you don’t always have to find the solution this second. Give yourself some grace, and make space for yourself to rest. Just as there is a very definite space carved out at the end of a yoga practice for rest and breath, so there should be in your life. Make space for you, especially when you’re so stressed out that you can’t see straight. Doing more isn’t always the answer. Sometimes, your heart is crying out for a Savasana. Don’t be afraid to take it.

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on creating newness

One of the biggest challenges with anything constant in life is that, as much as we are always growing and building, we tend to forget the beauty and excitement of newness. This applies to anything – belongings, relationships, and yes, even yoga. I’ve found myself so very guilty of this – I’ll go to a class, and roll my eyes in the back of my head, because it’s the exact same sequence we did last time, or because, hot dang, I am just not in the mood for seventeen rounds of Sun Salutations. Instead of viewing my time on the mat as something new, a space within which to create and develop, I’m frustrated by what is similar and routine. I’m forgetting the very first yoga class I ever attended, where I had to look around every time the teacher spoke to see where the heck I was supposed to be bending and twisting, or the first down-dog I took, which probably would have been more appropriately named “uncomfortable camel.” I’m forgetting the sheer joy I found the first time that I correctly remembered the order of the poses in a Sun Salutation, and how secretly proud I was when I stuck my first side crow. Just because I have a slightly better handle on the poses now, it doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t still new, full of joy, exciting. Yoga, just like life, is exactly what you make of it, and is just as full of that blank, empty space for you to create, build, play, experiment, learn, and grow – constantly. Until the day you die, you are creating, and what you are creating is entirely your choice.

That being said, it’s truly a joy to hear the thoughts of someone who has just started a yoga practice, and to really get excited watching someone you care about experience the fresh new possibilities that come with really learning to live and understand yoga. I have been blessed enough to do that recently, as my dear friend Megan has just started coming to yoga in the past few weeks. It’s been so incredible to see her develop a love for her practice, to watch her in her fresh new wunderunders (!) as she embraces the joys of a Sun A… I’m convinced that there is nothing more wonderful than watching someone step into something that they truly love.

Fortunately for me, and the rest of you, in addition to being a yogi, Megan is also a blogger, and she wrote a really awesome post yesterday on her thoughts about beginning yoga – what led her to that point, and what she’s gleaned from it so far. Immediately after reading it, I asked her if it was something I could share on here – the post is thought-provoking, insightful, and the coolest collection of thoughts and lessons that she’s learned in developing a yoga practice. So, read her incredible post here, soak in the wisdom of trying something new, or as our company’s manifesto so beautifully puts it, “trying one thing a day that scares you,” and take the time, space, and intention to really start creating the life you crave.

Namaste, lovelies.

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on embracing more embracing.

when we think about trying to live in a more healthy way, our minds usually head towards thoughts of eating more vegetables, running more, hitting the gym, or even just being more mindful of our hydration levels. One thing that doesn’t usually find its way into that list, however, is taking more time to cuddle up with your sweetheart… but it should! In it’s own way, hugging a loved one can offer just as many benefits to your health as eating kale, and is probably just a little bit more widely enjoyed.

The main major benefit that hugging has to offer is that an extended hug (we’re talking a real hug here – 10 seconds or more of serious, committed hugging… it’s not that hard) raises the body’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that lowers our heart rate and cortisol (stress) levels. Fun fact, oxytocin is also the hormone released at childbirth, to make the process a little more bearable and make sure that the new mommas don’t already resent the tiny baby that is causing them so much pain! In addition to lowering your stress and heart rate, the oxytocin released in your body during a hug also works to promote bonding and increased trust with the person you’re hugging. Not surprisingly, studies show that women tend to reap greater oxytocin benefits from hugging than men do, and people who are in loving relationships tend to cultivate even higher levels of this magic hormone during a hug… but that doesn’t mean hugging is a relationship-exclusive thing! Hug everyone, because why not? Spread the love, bonding, and oxytocin.

Another magic hug hormone is dopamine, which most people are familiar with, as it is the same hormone that is targeted by so many addictive drugs. Known as the pleasure hormone, dopamine is released in the brain during a hug… so literally, go for hugs and not drugs! Additionally, holding a hug for an extended period of time can also raise seratonin levels, which causes an elevated mood and increased happiness.

Aside from helping to promote a more healthy lifestyle, giving more hugs can also supplement your already healthy lifestyle – hugging can actually help us recover from that extra-intense workout, since it helps relax the muscles and release tension, promotion extra blood flow to soft tissue, which accelerates your body’s recovery time. Good excuse for more sweaty hugs.The list goes on and on: it has anti-inflammatory properties, can promote skin hydration, and causes an increased white blood cells production, which helps fight off disease. But the main point is this: hugging is literally essential to your health. So today, instead of letting yourself get bogged down by all the things you’re not doing, run out and hug the first person you see. That will give you both all the healing you need.

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for a little more, check out: this, this, this, and this!

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the power of a pause

apparently, despite all of the crazy rushing and running around that we do, it has officially become cool to take breaks. Multitasking may be on its way out, and being present might just be the Next Big Thing. Poorna Bell from The Huffington Post gave us this beautiful article in which she talks about toning down, dialing out, and maybe even taking a full breath once in a while. The article poses the question “could the age of burnout be over?” and I for one sure hope so. Bell says that “people are beginning to take stock of their lives and take time out for themselves,” and our own Ruby Warrington, who wrote this article for our awesome blog, adds a nice touch to this idea by adding the idea of “being fully aware that I am not “supposed” to be anywhere but here right now.” 

It’s cool to be in the moment, guys.

It’s cool to breathe in. To breathe out. To smile. To put down the phone when you’re driving, and notice the trees. To stop taking constant stock of today’s to-dos, and instead kiss the person you woke up next to. To look the grocery bagger in the eyes, and see if they’re having a good day. It’s cool to connect. Cool to walk slowly, even though you have places to be. It’s cool to miss out on what you should be doing, and instead focus on what you truly need. It’s cool to be wearing yoga pants and eating popcorn, instead of wearing stilettos at a loud party (thank goodness…). It’s cool to actually stand up for what you want.

Maybe that means cancel an appointment to go take a yoga class. Maybe it means skipping a yoga class to go home and read a book. Maybe it means watching a movie in bed. Maybe it means turning off the tv and baking cookies. Maybe it means turning off your phone for the day, or maybe it means picking up the phone to call a friend. Whatever it looks like for you, it means being present.

It doesn’t mean be lazy – it means be present. Be active, because your heart was created to pump. Work hard, because you were given an awesome purpose in this life, and it’s your job to rock it. Do your best, because you can. But don’t stress over it. Don’t rush through life, so focused on pushing forward that you completely miss what’s happening now.

Breathe in deeply. Appreciate the moment. This, this moment, it’s all we have. It is now, here we are in now, and this is it. Neither the past nor the future have anything tangible to offer. Life is literally completely encompassed in this one moment.

Sufi literature compares the moment to a sword, dangerous when misused, but powerful and strong when understood and handled wisely. A lifetime of missed moments accumulates quickly, so stop wasting them, starting now. Just be here. That’s all you have to do. In the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Zen monk and meditation master, he focuses on the idea of this moment as the ultimate, on being here as being all that you need – you have arrived. He says that “as you breathe in, you practice arriving. You have arrived. Your destination is the here and now. In daily life, you are in the habit of running because you think happiness is impossible in the present,” but that instead of constantly running, trying to attain happiness, we need simply to breathe in and realize that we are here, we have arrived in happiness, in the moment, and this is where we are to constantly dwell.

So, here we are guys. This is it. Appreciate your lives, moment by moment, starting right now.

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the importance of self love

Love – the basis for all that we do, the very foundation of our lives on this planet. Continuously, we’re taught to love: to love others, to love the earth, to love our bodies, to love and love and love. But I don’t think that nearly enough focus is given to the idea of loving our selves – not as much the small aspects that make up our lives in the present moment, but instead the very core of our being, the essence of our identity. And yet, I believe that self love is one of the most essential practices that we can ever engage in, more helpful and healthy than any eating pattern, exercise plan, or even yoga practice. I’ve been coming, slowly but surely, to the realization that without a strong sense of self love, all else is absolutely meaningless. So what exactly does that mean? First of all, it means that ultimately, you put yourself first. But wait. That sounds so contrary to everything that we’ve ever been taught. From childhood, we’re taught the importance of sharing and caring, of being a friend, we’ve all had the Golden Rule embroidered into our brains… so where is the line drawn between self love and just plain selfishness? I so often find myself neglecting self love for fear of being selfish, or self-indulgent. And this is a fair thought – I believe that we as human beings are made to be here for each other, to care for each other, to interact with and love each other. But behind all of that community and love, there need to be individuals who first love and know themselves, and then, once they have achieved that point, they can start to love those around them. There is a quote on the inside of my bedroom door that says, “you cannot fill others until you are full,” and this is what I believe is the defining line between selfishness and self love. Self love is filling yourself, loving yourself, knowing and honoring you as a uniquely wonderful individual, and then turning around and giving to those in your sphere out of the excess of love for life that comes from loving who you are. Someone once told me to be sure to give “out of a place of abundance, not a place of emptiness.” Simple, but effective. You can’t give what you don’t have, and love is a key example of that. To truly have the space within yourself to love and give to others, you must first reach the space where you hold that much love for yourself.

So how to reach that level of self love? That is the journey that I’m currently on. But to share insights from my progress, I’ve discovered that before you can start to truly love yourself, you must learn yourself, really and fully know yourself. This is not a one-time venture, because we are so constantly changing, so setting aside time consistently to draw back into touch with who you are is crucial – you cannot truly love what you do not know. Take some time: go walk in the woods, or sit in the corner table of a coffee shop, light some candles, or go on a long train ride. Journal, draw, listen to music, sign up for a yoga class. Whatever it takes to get you to a space where you feel like you can release everything external to you and simply breathe in the essence of who you are.

Once you’ve begun to learn yourself, I’ve found that the next step towards self love is to move towards a place of honesty. And that honesty is reflected in several different forms: honesty with yourself, about who you are, what you like and don’t like, what you want, what you need, but also honesty with others, being up front with those around you about who you are and what you want. Both of these sound easy, but present a truly difficult practice. I became very conscious of this struggle tonight in yoga class – my practice was consistently punctuated by nagging twinges of stress as I remembered all of the social obligations that lay ahead of me after the class. It took me the full hour and a half to come to a place of honesty within myself to acknowledge the fact that what I really wanted, more than anything, was to come home, drink some dandelion tea in bed, and write. Not talk to anyone, or see anyone, or owe anything to anyone but myself. It had been a day that had left me with very little to give, but it was truly a challenge to come to a point where I could acknowledge and accept those feelings. The next step in the process of honesty was then to relay those feelings, and their importance, to others, and not apologize, but instead to own my needs. To contact those I was supposed to see, and simply explain that I needed a night to myself, and would see them another day. No apologies, no excuses, just honesty.

Finally, I think that a crucial aspect of self love is to be constantly striving to enjoy life. An old teacher of mine from high school had a sticker on her door that said “don’t postpone joy,” and that’s a phrase that I’ve been reflecting a lot on lately. Another way of saying it comes from the source of most of my nuggets of life wisdom, Albus Dumbledore, when he advises Harry that “it does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.” There is so much importance in setting goals, working towards achievements, looking with excitement towards the future, but it is crucial to remain present in the moment, to live and love each second as it passes by, to embrace full joy and enjoyment every single day. “Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.” I’m in the middle of a fantastic book called The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, and she made this point in her chapter about finances, called it “spending out.” She brought up the idea of hoarding away time, money, or objects to save them for another time. I think that we’re all guilty of this in one way or another, and a key element to self love is to stop hoarding, and to allow yourself to indulge in joy, because you deserve it. Buy a bar of dark chocolate, and drink some red wine with it, because you’re fantastic. Take that trip to Central America that you’ve been talking about for years, because you’ll always remember it. Don’t postpone joy. Live life, do it now, because there’s never a guarantee on tomorrow. Love yourself enough to allow for joy in ever day, in every moment.

Moving forward with this new year, I think that more self love, more honesty, and more enjoying the moment, are all such beautiful things to strive for. Set your goals based on a deep love for yourself. Sit down now, and carve out time throughout the year to truly get to know yourself – it’s never too late. Get in touch with what it is that you really want to be doing, and make a plan to do it. Don’t postpone joy. Honor your being enough to truly be honest, with yourself and with others, about who you are and what you want. Make changes. Live differently. Seek joy to the fullest, because that’s exactly what you deserve. Commit to loving yourself, because you are incredible, and owe it to the world to share that light that only you possess.

Namaste.

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