I came across this interview article this morning featuring NFL player Mike Adams, safety for the Indianapolis Colts. He makes many comments that are spot on with what I have heard when working with athletes. Many players are simply misinformed about what yoga is or what it can do for them. They have an image in their head thats its about being flexible as a prerequisite, or they have had an experience in college at a vigorous hot yoga class which was just way to stressful on their already stressed bodies and never returned. Athletes want to excel at all that they do; so it is hard for them to not want to be good at something. Once an athlete can give him or herself permission to not view yoga as their sport, then they will reap the benefits and enjoy a nice time out on their mat. Yes, yoga will undoubtedly increase an athletes flexibility, mobility, and core strength; but even more impactful to an athlete is the metal focus and clarity he or she will gain.
I haven’t written on this blog in quite some time, but this evening before leaving for dinner, I sit here at my computer enjoying this gentle, sweet breeze coming through my kitchen window. I have had many conversations over the past few months with students new and old about and with myself around the very deep question that is, “Who Am I? “What is my Identity?” This has been swirling in my head for a long time now. I want to be transparent, but don’t want to bore you. I question myself every day about the direction of my life. I am in my thirties..I went to college and graduate school, I had a great career going for years in financial services–because that was what I was supposed to be!…a business person, like my successful father! Did I fail? I’ve had my fair share of personal issues, haven’t we all? Although I always did good in my jobs, I never liked them, but who really does? I never felt inside that I was good at what I did…I started to be really unhappy and very unhealthy…over time I made a decision to leave a career and teach yoga full time. Wow…what was my identity now? Going from making very nice money about to buy a new house, to basically volunteering, making enough money to buy my coffee and pay the parking ticket I got while teaching class. Married to my best friend, yet we have no children..what is my identity? Some days I wake up angry at myself at my current identity, wishing just stuck with traditional career path, had 2 kids, like many of my other friends. But MOST days–Most days, I wake up and I wish it no other way…i am FULL of gratitude for the people I have met through yoga and for the doors that have opened for me and the opportunities that I have been given…but most importantly I am thankful for the peace within that this change has brought me, and the health it has given me. This is my identity…at this moment…and I will embrace it.
I have learned from my wonderful teachers and through the practice of yoga (and I will clarify teachers, are friends, family, yes yoga teachers, mentors, etc.) I try to make an effort, albeit, hard, to understand that my life, our lives–are magnificent works in progress. That each and everyone of us has the ability to shape our own life purpose, or Dharma. When I heard a teacher say so simply, “Your identity is a fluid, not a solid…that you are constantly changing, always in flux, and that is OK….it was so nice to hear. It was so–calming. We are the result of many, many, many, years of moving, flowing, really smart evolution. This life we live is a process..and we need to trust that with each passing moment we are becoming the person that we yearn to be and the person that the world needs us to be. If we can spend some time out of our day figuring out what we can do to make the world a better place and then put it into action…well then we will continue to positively shape our identity.
And lets embrace Santosha, and contentment, and roll with the ebb and flow which is life itself.
So much love is expressed on Valentines Day, right!! Just scrolling through your social media feeds, you see pictures of flowers, candy, date night outfit selfies, fine wine, and kids valentine cards, #bestboyfriendever #luckiestgirlever all so sweet. It feels good right? But then its the day after, and the next, and the next. The over saturated sweetness subsides, BUT can we allow love in, everyday, always?
Can we dust off our hearts, and start to open the space of our body that sometimes feels so closed down? Can we start by slowly erasing, the “I’m not good enough” record that runs our lives, our jobs and work and our relationships? Can we make this a habit to do more often, kinda like a little self-check in. Heart maintenance?
That feeling that we are all searching for at work, in our relationships, and in our life, however is self-love. Unfortunately, people spend most of their time thinking someone or something else can give them what only they can give themselves. To be truly fulfilled in life and relationships, you have to find the love within you and give it to yourself. No other person, material possession or accomplishment can do it. It’s up to you.
Especially when it comes to relationships, self-love is essential. One of the best gifts you can give to the people around you is to love yourself in a genuine way. You know the saying “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.
When I first started practicing yoga 10 years ago, I remember checking the Bikram Yoga Dupont Circle class schedule and seeing a 6:00 am class listed. What? Really? Who were these people? It was hard enough to do all 26 poses at 6:00 pm nevermind 6:00 am. Who were these early risers? It seemed so very mysterious to me. I remember asking the teacher if it was a big class. She said yes, and only students who have been practicing for 2 months were allowed to enroll to ensure the class moves efficiently and ends on time. Yikes!
Needless to say, I never tried it.
About a year and a half ago I forced myself to take a 5:45 am class at a nearby vinyasa hot yoga studio. It started to become quite a challenge to leave work with enough time to make the 6:00 pm. Several times, I showed up too late and missed class. Most times, I ran in like a tornado, threw my mat down and practiced with a full face of work makeup..ugh. I figured, this may be the only time that will work for me with my job, so I might as well give it a try.
Well, I tried and I hated it. My body and brain was sleeping. Why wasn’t I in bed? When I was done, i felt more groggy. I had a headache all day. It was all a blur. I was happy I was done, but do I dare try this class again?
Well, I tried it again and I didn’t hate it. I kind of liked it. I felt groggy at the start but I felt so accomplished at the end. I went to work feeling happy. My physical practice was done for the day. I could go home tonight and relax have some wine, eat at a normal hour and do some chores.
But–like most of us the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and you realize you decided last night you were going to yoga. You even signed in online! Then there comes that pivotal moment when you wonder, “Should I go back to sleep or get my butt out of bed and go?” Ugh. I hate when that internal debate starts to happen.
But If you get up and go you kick serious ass. Congrats. Not only are you awake at 5 am, your soon to be on a freaking yoga mat. That is amazing. And if it’s hot yoga. Beyond amazing.
Now that I am a yoga teacher I am teaching at 6 a.m! How things have changed. Everyone is sleepy…but everyone is pleasant. You notice that the 6:00 am students are regular students. These students are very committed to their practice and their schedule. This is their time to practice and a community of early risers is formed. These are the mysterious people I once wondered about 10 years ago. I like these people!
Besides being a convenient time to practice for some, there are so many amazing reasons to practice yoga first thing in the morning, even if you have all day to take a class.
Benefit # 1 – Early yoga will reduce or eliminate your need for caffeine.
Yoga breathing will stimulate your body and mind. All that fresh oxygen will wake up your brain like a jolt of caffeine. Also, this energy boost from deep breathing will last all day, not just a couple hours like caffeine. You will become energized and clear. Sometimes you wake up feeling groggy, but that’s because there is literally “fuzz” in your brain fascia from your sleep. Yoga breathing will clear the fuzz away and you will have clarity and be ready to face your day brighter and more alive. I no longer want coffee before I teach at 6:00 am. My craving is gone.
Benefit # 2- You’re DONE all before you go to work!
Your days are so busy, and your time is valuable. It’s tough to fit in a yoga class during the middle of the day, and by the evening you may have unexpected plans, or you may be too tired. You know, life happens. So doing your practice first thing in the morning is a relief. You take the pressure off your self during the day and get to focus on your work, family, friends, eating, and life. You can also remember how great you were for making the choice to get up and treat yourself to yoga. Honor your dedication.
Benefit # 3- You will be more calm all day.
Taking yoga early in the morning will set the tone for your whole day. It will calm and center you before you have to step out into the chaos of life. You will be ready for any situation that comes your way. That traffic jam? No worries, you did yoga. You remember your breath. You’re reminded of your early morning intention that you set. In yoga, you remember to practice kindness, compassion and love. Others can feel your heart. The days dramas will seem small in comparison.
Benefit # 4 – You will look younger.
The stretching in yoga makes your body tighter, lighter, and brighter. It raises serotonin levels, endorphins and other feel good chemicals and that will all show up in the glow of your skin. Studies show people who practice yoga can actually slow down the aging of the heart, liver and kidneys. All of your insides will reflect on the outside. You eyes will be brighter. Your skin will have a glow. Your body will feel taller and longer.
Benefit # 5 – You can eat more that day.
Yoga helps speed up your metabolism which means that you can eat more and burn calories faster. When you practice yoga early in the day you improve your digestion and food will burn up faster, and more nutrients will move through your body. When you have enough nutrients moving through efficiently, then your body metabolizes fats and carbs faster and your insides will be running at tip top speed, so you can have that second bowl of oatmeal and don’t sweat it! I never ever used to eat breakfast, but when I practice or teach in the early am, I am starving. I let my body have what it needs now, and I love it.
So set your alarm for 5 a.m. and get your butt up. See for yourself and say no to snooze.
You can join me on:
Tues-Powerflow Livingston, NJ @ 6:00 am
Wed- Nirvana Wellness, Wayne NJ @ 545 am
Thur- Nirvana Wellness, Montville NJ @ 545 am
Yesterday I participated in a 3 hour workshop with David Regelin, named “Physical Origami.” Honestly, I have been so busy that I didn’t research anything about the teacher or the course, which is so unlike me…I research everything I spend time on. I didn’t know what to expect.
Yet, as I drove to the workshop, all that came to mind was 3 hours of “tricks”..uber fancy arm balances, eka pada bakasana, and handstands, which to be quite honest, I wasn’t interested in. So much for having an open mind. I was setting expectations already. He had quite the presence as he walked into the room. Tall, dark, handsome, tattooed and cool…yea we were totally doing handstands, right..?
We never did a handstand.
We did Bakasana (aka Crow) once.
Instead, it was the complete antithesis of a fancy trick workshop. It was no nonsense and no fluff. It was honestly what I was hoping for and have been trying to learn more of and in my opinion what most teachers need more of. Rather than guide us through fancy sequencing he led us through the Primary series of Ashtanga Yoga, which he joking said, “he created.” He gave incredible instruction and explanation of the alignment of fundamental postures, the breath, and the differences in body types. He explained and demonstrated on students the shapes that will be made in a certain pose in someone who is older and less flexible vs. a super flexible 20 year old female. No one way is right. I truly began to see the body as an instrument and a vessel. I more clearly understood why I wasn’t finding ease in some poses. Why certain body parts fit in certain spaces. Like puzzle pieces. Like origami.
He made us breathe. And breathe. And breathe. We counted our breaths to the beat of some really eerie,yet cool drum loop he played on his iPhone. The mirrors were so steamed up…after 2 rounds of surya namaskar a no one could see themselves for the rest of the workshop. It was awesome. It was so interesting to me how we are all on auto pilot when it comes to our practice. Although David was counting the breaths when he said “inhale lift the heels,” most people hopped forward, rather than waiting for the “exhale bend the knees,” followed by the “inhale hop forward look up” “exhale fold.
The breaths were stretched out…the way they were meant to be.
Inhale..1,2,3. Exhale 1,2,3…(breath #1)….Inhale…1,2,3. Exhale 1,2,3.. ( breath #2)…you get the point.
5 breaths in Down Dog, now seemed like forever, but forever in a good way. It was hypnotizing. Even driving in my car today I listened to my breath and felt the sense of space it was creating within me. It calmed me as I was quite anxious at the time.
When I thought about my teaching, although I was trained to always count 5 breaths, I rarely do. Sometimes, I feel rushed for time, or feel the class may be bored. Other times I want to get the students warmer so why not revert to giving a one breath breath cue and a hop forward? They will surely get warm, but ya know what else will get them warm??? Deep full Ujayi. So why not stop and breathe? David reminded me that myself nor my students will never get into the pattern of hearing the breath, moving with the breath, and stretching out the breath…the most important part of the practice. This will now change my teaching.
It was everything I want to continue to learn about. He taught such simple yet fascinating things.
“Look at your hands and your feet in Down Dog. Is there equal the amount of space on both edges of the mat? If not, it means your hips and shoulders are misaligned in the next move you do.”
When I came home I was exhausted and this morning my ribs are sore. I did some research and read some articles on him. I like this guy. He’s different.
Although this is my first experience with this teacher, I agree with what his website says wholeheartedly.
“David’s practice is designed to give us the tools, techniques, and blueprints necessary to develop a potent and sustainable practice that transcends yoga trends and brands, and teaches us how to participate in our own well-being.”
I will definitely be taking some of his NYC classes(:
Holidays are both amazing and exhausting. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Feelings of nostalgia warm the heart. Holiday songs take you back to when you were a child, they never get old, and they still make us smile.
Yes, the hustle and bustle of the giving season may take a toll on us, long lines at the mall, trying so hard to get your kid a toy that sold out in August (now paying 500 on ebay for it) can be draining…
But even worse can be the days leading up to the holidays.
Anxious, stressful, and even dreadful thoughts start to flood our minds about the impending Christmas Eve family dinner, and Christmas Day festivities. But why? It’s Christmas time? What questions am I going to be asked this year? Typically, it’s “How is your job going”? “What else are you planning to do with your career? “What are your goals?” Maybe the question of “When are you going to have kids?” Most of the time it’s just small talk. Questions people feel they are obliged to ask you whether they care or not.
But instead of going into the family gathering or holiday party with what you are going to answer people, and then just enjoy your time and not getting annoyed by it. Instead, we start to question ourselves and our place in life. We are hard ourselves. We may feel a bit sorry for ourselves. All before we have even been asked ANYTHING!
You wonder why you feel like you have so much ground to cover. Right? We begin to feel like we should be at a different place in our lives. Your 30 years old and your doing what?
Probably because we are raised in a society that is results-based, materialistic, and at times not at all concerned with the reality of one’s soul. Whenever I would be introduced to people one of my first questions on my mind was Where do you work? But now, I ask questions more like “What do you like doing? What’s happening in your world currently? Are you enjoying yourself these days? Why, because people are people. Not machines. People feel good when you ask them how they are feeling as a person. Not what there job is. Try it.
But sometimes answering these standard questions during the holidays never result in simple answers. Add a couple cocktails into the mix and you may find yourself venting, and trying to find answers to questions that are completely stressing you out. A question about your job, can end up turning into talk about your 401k and other investments, that you have no clue about making you feel even worse about where you are in life. Questions about your relationship, or why you are not in a relationship can wreak just as much havoc.
Relax. Your OK.
Where you are today, is exactly where you need to be.
So I will add a little yoga to add in here to make sense of this all and try to help.
There is a book called the Yoga Sutras which is kinda like a blueprint for ethical living. In the Yoga Sutras, eight limbs are described as a way of living a yogic path. The second of these eight limbs are the five Niyamas, or the observances of a spiritual life. On that list? Santosha Niyama, or contentment. Our willingness to be present with whatever life brings.
Contentment is the difference between one who is constantly searching and one who is consistently there.
You need to understand that contentment does not rely on questions. Contentment relies on presence and responsibility. Contentment is gratitude, the ability to believe that things could be worse and things are getting better at the same time. Contentment is going to your Christmas party and answering the exterior questions with interior truth.
Start to challenge your contentment. I will be. Looking for new opportunities, meeting new people, learning how to adjust to my daily schedule, achieving rest and balance. A laundry list, for sure. But may I be grateful and content, filled with the Niyama of what is. May all beings be unburdened, unbound, and forever present in all things. For that is Santosha. That is peace and prosperity. That is what is.
Yes, I have checked a text message during a yoga class. Yes, I left early once during svasana and yes, I showed up several minutes late to teach a class. Yes, it was rude and I won’t let it happen again.
I am SO amazed at the lack of etiquette people display when they come to yoga class. I say this from both a teacher and student perspective.
I started practicing Bikram yoga 10 years ago. It was the only yoga I practiced. I learned the rules of the studio faster than you can say kappulbhati.
I missed several classes because I was 3 minutes late, usually stuck in traffic or something. I would show up and the door was locked. What? You can’t come into class 2 minutes late? The door is locked?
But that’s how they roll. I was so bummed to miss class. On the days that I got there on time (: I took my shoes off, put my belongings in the cubby and I entered the room without a sound. l laid down on my back in svasana with all 30 other practitioners.
No one was doing there own “pre-practice.” No one was practicing danurasana, or natarajasana.
No extra clothing, keys or cellphones were lying on the sides of people mats. It looked clean.
It was FREE FROM DISTRACTION.
My water bottle was strategically placed on the upper right hand corner above my mat as thats where we were instructed to place it.
I was silent. We were all silent. The only one who spoke was the teacher. For 90 loooong minutes. You heard your own breath. You heard your neighbors breath. It was hypnotizing. Yes there were some smiles and giggles when the teacher would make a joke, but overall it was a very focused, quiet environment.
Oh, there are 2 water breaks. No, seriously. You take water when you are instructed to.
I looked up to my Bikram teachers. I was amazed by their grace and knowledge. Of course I had my favorites, but I respected all of them, even if I didn’t like there style or personality. I would NEVER let it show on my face that I was dissapointed.
After class, I thanked the teacher for class. I thanked all teachers. Every-time.
After years of Bikram, I decided to try this thing called vinyasa yoga and try this pose called Down Dog lol. I was hesitant because I was so in love with the rigidness of the Bikram practice. The class always was consistent and I could easily gauge my progress in the asanas as the same 26 poses were repeated in the same order, every class, and I found it hard to think about going to a yoga class where the teacher had a music playlist, and made up her own sequences.
I LOVED THE RESPECT EVERYONE HAD FOR EACH OTHER, THE TEACHER, AND THE STUDIO.
So I tried vinyasa, it was different and I soon was hooked. I remember treating the vinyasa studio I practiced at the same as I did in Bikram. I listened to my teachers. I didn’t do my “own thing” I wanted to learn. I was quiet and I asked questions and thanked my teachers after class.
BUT alot of people did not act this way.
Before the start of class, there was so much chatter in the room, that I questioned whether or not I should bother lying in svasana. I would get really stressed out and upset by this, seriously. I didn’t come here to overhear about the restaurant you ate at or your kids soccer game. I also had trouble just tuning it out.
Cell phones, keys and sweatshirts were on the floor.
High school girls showed up 10 minutes late and plopped their mats down in the FRONT OF THE ROOM.
I noticed students who got too “hot” or maybe “tired” get up and walk out of the room and come back 5 minutes later.
I didn’t get it. There were studio rules posted on the front door. Did anyone care? Did the teacher care?
I rarely heard people thank the teacher and my biggest pet peeve were the people in the class that decided that they were going to modify everything the teacher taught, jumping around, arm balancing, etc…which I found to be very distracting.
As a teacher, I have found one of the most disrespectful things that happens during class, is when a student tries to instruct their neighbor how to get into the pose differently than how the teacher is.
Or even better, when a student “corrects a teacher.” Yes, this happens.
Why have a teacher? Let’s just make class one big free for all. A big ole’ romper room of yogi’s teaching yogi’s and let’s scissor kick our legs up into handstand against mirrors and walls.
Listen, I know this is the real world. We aren’t in India and yoga studios are not ashrams, but c’mon people.
How do you possibly expect to calm your mind and decompress, when your phone is ringing, when your mat space is covered and basically covering your neighbors mat with your car keys, a sweatshirt, a Gatorade and coconut water and lip gloss ( yes I’ve seen lip gloss)?
People carve our 75 minutes of their day for their practice. The packed 6:00 pm class on Tuesday may be the only class they can get to all week. Respect that. Respect each other. Respect your teacher who prepared for your class and who spent more money on gas to get to class to teach you than he/she is getting paid. Respect him/her for being there to share their passion and joy of the practice with you. Respect your studio and let it be your sanctuary. Our lives are hectic enough. Give yourself and others the true gift of yoga with no distractions when you practice.
Oh, and take a Bikram class. It’s a bit of a well needed wake up call for all of us.
It takes on an average 5 attempts for a cigarette smoker before they succeed at quitting smoking.
Don’t get me wrong. I will be no hypocrite here, acting as though I’m some clean living, clean eating yogi, who never got “hooked” to anything unhealthy, because that would be inauthentic and frankly… annoying.
I had my first cigarette my freshaman year of college. Did I like it? Nope. I tried it over Thanksgiving break after a night out on Thanksgiving Eve after many alcoholic drinks. So, what did I do? I went and bought my first pack of Parliment Lights, and brought them back to college with me. LOL. I didn’t like it though? Go figure.
I know my preppy friends thought I was weird. “Why does she have cigarettes.. all of a sudden?” I mean, my friends partied and drank beer but cigarettes were off-limits. For some reason, they had no interest, so why did I? I thought it was cool. Edgy. Plus, I always strayed from the pack. That was me. It gave me a reason to go out on the stoop and socialize with the “bad kids” and the “outcasts” that the non-smokers probably would never speak too.
Oh, and it curbed my appetite. BINGO!
I became quite fond of the Parliment throughout college, smoking continuously during the day, making it a habit, and a way to lose weight. I couldn’t have a drink without instantly wanting to smoke. It was gross. I smelled. Dressed up blonde college girl walks into the bar reeking like leather, tobacco, Orbitz gum and a fruity Bath & Body Works spray. Gag.
8 years later, the smoking went on and off. I used it as a stress reliever when I hated my job. I even used the excuse “I was stressed” even when I wasn’t to make it seem OK to have one. I still linked smoking to drinking. They went hand in hand.
At the same time I still kept running…I ran half marathons, marathons, trail races and was doing yoga. What an oxymoron, or simply put A MORON.
How many of us are like this? We try to live healthy lifestyles but we are counterproductive by inhaling tobacco and chemicals slowly killing our bodies and killing those around us. Lighting up after an invigorating run, or a yoga class focusing on cleansing the body and creating space in our lungs through various breathing techniques. It’s pretty damn common.
8.5 months ago. I quit.
I was tired of being disgusted looking at cigarette butts on my back deck, and more so, I was tired of hiding the fact that I was a social smoker, I was ashamed. It didn’t make me feel good, my skin was horrible and my running was weak. Gone were the days that this was “cool.” I was mortified when someone would see my going into my work bag and they would get a glimpse of that blue and white carton. OMG.
So I didn’t quit cold turkey. I used my yoga.
Yes, I had been doing yoga for years, but now something different was happening.
Something switched in my mind one day during a yoga class and I now share this with my students. Many of us come to yoga quite honestly to get a workout, a good sweat, and some alone time. We want to learn a little bit of knowledge, not much, and get a sprinkling of spirituality, maybe an easy to relate to anecdotal story, a one minute Svasana, and then book it out of class, shower and have a glass of wine.
Sounds bout right?
So what switched?
I started to stray away from the mindset that I needed to do everything perfect on the mat. I realized, I WAS NOT PERFECT, I smoked, I drank, I had my highs and my lows…so why continue to try do everything perfect in yoga, the perfect poses, the most vinyasas…constantly gripping and grinding through my practice, and not letting my body just be?
What I am trying to say is that I starting viewing yoga from a more healthy perspective. I started coming to the mat viewing my body as a machine. I used the time on my mat to realign my self, refuel my body through my breath, and refuel my soul. I realized that in time the poses will come, and that this is a journey and to be easy on my self on and off of the mat.
Cigarettes were not fueling my body. Cigarettes were not easy on my body.
The yoga started to work. My time on my mat, brought my mind back to that place of health and even 60 minutes of practice, that healthy perspective carried with me until the next time I practiced again.
I know this is easier said then done, but yoga provided me with the balance I needed. My body was… finally… after 10 years, operating the way it was meant to. My metabolism regulated, my hunger was back, and the cravings, mental and physical slowly diminished.
Through the asanas and poses, your body moves in ways that release chemicals, i.e., serotonin the stuff that makes us happy, into our brains ( the same thing those cigarettes do). All that focus on the core in the postures, that dreaded Navasana, aka Boat pose, gets that serotonin pumping…it’s produced in the gut as well as the brain. All those twists your doing in class are compressing organs in the sides of the body, and as your release the compression from your twists all the metabolic waste and toxins that were hiding in there are released. This aids in digestion and detoxification.
Yoga works in strange ways. People are brought to their mats for different reasons and in time, transformation will happen.
So isn’t it worth a shot. Yoga may switch something in your brain too! I feel better than ever. Don’t give up. You can do anything your put your mind to.
Whatever it takes. Check out this awesome video below:
To be completely honest, sorry Mary & Carolyn, I was going to bail a couple days leading up to my 10 year… gulp…college reunion. Everyday there was another email from someone in my group who was no longer coming. Man, safety in numbers..now it was down to 3!
One of my closest friends is pregnant, and didn’t want to basically be stuck in bars all day with drunk people. I don’t blame her. How horrible would that be. My other friend lives in Atlanta, and couldn’t come, and one had to work. Ugh.
I wasn’t friends with most people who were going, so why bother and I hate awkward conversations and talking about work and I am bad with remembering names too. But my 3 girlfriends were going…and I love spending time with them, so what the heck, although I hate the drive, and I knew the drive home was going to SUCK…which it did (4 hours driving with an extreme hangover). My expectations were pretty low based on my college experience. Catholic University is a good school, but the facilities were fair at best, the food sucked, and the gym aka hallway had one stationary bike and a rowing machine. Pathetic. They wanted 60 bucks for the homecoming tent party, I was baffled by that as I could not imagine what they would be serving us? I had visions of chicken skewers and chardonnay.
I already know which of my former classmates spent their postgraduate years in advanced degree programs at impressive schools, those who moved to the west coast, etc, who works on wall street, etc. I’ve seen photographs of college friends homes, nights out, endless albums of wedding receptions and babies.
Should we blame or thank Facebook for this? The social networking tool first became available to my class several years after we graduated from college. We did have that application called MYspace…towards the end of our senior year…it was cutting edge!
We all know how Facebook has become our gateway for reconnecting with childhood friends, vetting future employees and connecting with potential love interests, not to mention checking on former rivals, spouses, siblings and old fizzled out flames.
But it’s also deflated some of the mystery of returning to collegiate stomping grounds and seeking out random people you were roommates with, that you knew from the sports team you were on, and that weird girl in the dining hall who was always was getting multiple full cups of frozen yogurt, because you know, it was “fat-free.”
Facebook absolutely helps you stay current with not only close friends but with third-level aquiantences and it does give people an opportunity to stay connected with their college.
So as much as I was on the verge of opting out of my college reunion, it was Facebook that got be excited in the couple of days leading up. Sending messages back and forth with people you haven’t seen in 10 years, and it feeling completely normal, as thought you saw them yesterday, was comforting in a way, nostalgic, and exciting.
Long story short, I had the best weekend ever. It completely exceeded my expectations, and although my group of friends were the biggest group of partiers at the largest Catholic university in the US, I have to say it was money well spent ( thanks mom and dad). Catholic University produced quality people, nurses, teachers, engineers, architects, who are all doing very well for themselves.
But most importantly, coming back and reuniting after 10 years of different life experiences, from jobs, no jobs, kids, no kids, marriage, no marriage, travel, deaths, advanced degrees and hardships, we come back with the same qualities that brought us together 10 years ago, people with good values, ethics, compassion, positivity, humor and zest for life. Oh, and it’s so comforting to know that everyone still has the same zest for beer, wine, sugary drinks and debauchery. It’s funny remembering this weekends conversations and them being so ridiculously different than the ones you had with that person 10 years ago. I discussed the benefits of a gluten free diet with someone who was on the school football team back in the day. So weird.
One of the fondest memories of my summer was receiving a gift from one of my yoga students, Nancy Nolan. This gift was a book entitled, “The Other Side of Chaos,” by Margret Silf.
Nancy was a beginner to yoga. She was in her late forties, a little windblown, and came to her first class carrying what appeared to be a camping mat, that you would put under your sleeping bag for cushioning. I gave her a mat (: She had a huge smile. She came to my first “yoga on the beach” class after seeing it advertised in the local paper. It was a dreary, rainy Thursday morning. She explained to me she had many shoulder operations and was very inflexible. She also made it clear that she was overweight…with a chuckle of course.
She also stated…
“This is the first day of the rest of my life.”
I saw your advertisement, and I said to myself, “If not now, when?”
I smiled, and felt an instant connection to this woman. How courageous of her. Now…I knew I needed to make sure I taught her modifications for the poses, and be mindful of her injuries, and make sure she enjoys this! I felt a little pressure, I won’t lie (:.
Nancy came to many classes this summer and she improved drastically. She brought me such joy. Even on the days she didn’t practice, she would stop by the class and say hi to me on her morning beach strolls. She even encouraged her son Shane, a high school junior, to take class as a way to stretch his muscles before the fall sports season. He was as kind as his mother. If she saw me struggling with bringing all my mats up to my car from the beach, somehow she appeared out of nowhere to help me on days she didn’t even take the class!!! Where did she come from!
I didn’t give it too much thought, but I sensed something unusual, special, and spiritual when I encountered her.
One morning she said to me after class, you are here for a reason. I just want you to know that. She said, “I believe that people come into other people’s lives at certain times, if only for a day, a month, or a year, to teach them something that their life needs.
This rang a bell, as I remembered during my yoga teacher training, my teacher, April Martucci, of Fire Dragon Yoga, sharing a definition of what a “soul mate” was. It was a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. It went like this:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
I think Nancy must have read this quote somewhere…she must have???
We talked for a bit more and she asked me why I decided to come spend the summer at the beach and teach yoga and what else I do when I am home. I shared with her my background and that for 10 years I worked in financial services in NYC and NJ, I studied psychology and have a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. I said life threw me a curveball to say the least so there has been some changes and I am taking time to reevaluate, be positive, healthy, and yes, teach yoga. She met my father earlier that day who shared with Nancy that he had just retired from his job as CFO of a major medical company.
She shared with me that she was an Investment Banker for a long time in NYC. That was all she knew for 20 years but she hated it. She didn’t go into details but she said she no longer works in that industry to take a risk and explore working in alternative healing practices. “Can I give you Reiiki this summer? She said with a smile. “Of course,” I replied graciously.
The next morning. She handed me the book, “The Other Side of Chaos.” Inside she wrote, Thank you for yoga, Nancy.
She said, “Please read it, I think you will enjoy it.”
That evening, I opened the book up while on the porch of our beach house. It was a Christian publication, which made me go hmm…for a couple reasons, but I put those thoughts aside and began to read.
It was all about going through life transitions. There was a chapter called ‘Will You Save Your Life or Spend It?’ It was amazing.
Bottom line is, we all encounter transitions in our lives from satisfying work to sudden unemployment. From a happy marriage to a hurtful divorce. From caring for your kids to caring for an aging parent, right?
These are just a few of the countless ways that life hurls us into the chaos of change, where our certainties are shaken and maybe you may even your faith declines. The book Nancy gave me made me ask myself what if we saw the chaos—the “mess”—of our lives not as something to fear or run away from but as something to be embraced?
I knew why she gave me this. I needed to be reminded of these lessons. She came into my life for a reason.
Once a stranger, now my summer soul mate.
So I will share one last thing with you–ultimately, we all need to learn to trust that when life is breaking down we need to see our messes not as something to be rescued from, but as something that will help us break through to a place where all things will be new and better.
I am happy that it was through the practice of yoga that Nancy and I were brought together.
“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where all the fruit is.”
This is a great quote but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean we need to take a BIG leap over that gaping hole of fear and doubt we are faced with; but rather, why not think of it as meaning to take a STEP BACK, check in and re-evaluate? Listen, it’s not always easy to pull in the reigns and it’s totally not always easy to put on the brakes in life. But how can you make sure you are going in the right direction to meet your goals and aspirations if you don’t chill out for just a second and assess them?
Let’s ask ourselves, “Why don’t we slow down to check in? Why? Because it’s rough and frankly annoying! Most of us are of the mentality that if we stop, even for something important, we’ll lose that hard-earned momentum! But in reality the opposite holds true.
We need to take a pause and do the ground work that will lead you in a more clearly defined direction. Don’t worry. You will still have that momentum but it will be a momentum that is not only fast and furious…but most importantly SUSTAINABLE.
If you can’t ask yourself what your goals are and what direction you are headed for a minute ,perhaps it’s time to slow things down. Check your bearings. It may be the perfect time to test the integrity of the foundation upon which you are building your life. Maybe?
There is a quote by Steven Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that I came across years ago at my job which said “Let us not get so busy climbing the ladder of success only to look up and realize, it was leaning against the wrong wall!”
Makes sense right?
Don’t be afraid to go out on that limb. To tip toe out to that scary place. Look at that cute goat in the above photo. I can’t say for sure, but Mr. Goat may very well be taking a pause to observe where he is at in life. He may decide that by following his herd he is not following what his goal in life is. Maybe he wants to be the leader of the herd and he is not. Mr. Goat needs to re-evaluate! He may be looking inward and seeing he needs to change something in order to reach his goals.
So bottom line. Take that second and check in with your internal GPS. If it is programmed to go North and your heart wants you to be headed South….reset it.
We do this living thing only once, friends. Let’s all do our best to make sure we’re consciously headed in the right direction.
Image taken from: http://moxieme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/goats.jpg
Quite often, when an athlete decides to incorporate yoga, they just show up to the most convenient class for them, which can actually do more harm then good depending on where they are in their training.
If you are an athlete, you most likely have a yearly training schedule for your sport, or a schedule of your athletic season. With this probably includes, an off-season period, a building period, and a competitive or peak period. Your yoga practice should be a complement to your training, not a deterrent.
It is KEY, to keep an inverse relationship between the intensity of your training and the intensity of your yoga. Simply put, if you are in training camp for football, in the dead of summer, you should not be going to vigorous HOT YOGA classes…your body needs REST. Your yoga, if you choose to practice should be very restorative and calming. Think…gentle stretches, legs up the wall, low to the ground poses. Why? Because you are working so hard, your body needs to balance itself out and the nervous system needs to reset and relax.
OFF-SEASON– Your training will be light. You will be focusing on building strength and correcting any imbalances in your body. You may use yoga to help you come back from an injury). During the off-season your yoga can focus more on strength and building your range of motion.
MID-SEASON– As your training, practices, workouts, intensify, you will want to maintain flexibility through yoga. Your yoga should focus on stretching vs. strengthening. Core strength poses are always a good idea, they remain an exception. Focus on your areas of tightness, current, or from the past, whether it be shoulders, chest, upper back, or hips. Be mindful that your yoga is enhancing your recovery. Mellow is better.
IN-SEASON/ COMPETITIVE SEASON-This is time to SLOW DOWN your yoga. A little goes a long way. Do not over do it. As an athlete this is your time to FOCUS. That needs to be your FOCUS. Gentle and Restorative is the way to go. Simple breathing exercises and brief meditation work wonder for the competitive athletes ability to focus and center themselves.
Thumbs up on choosing to begin or deepen your yoga practice as an athlete! Yoga will enhance your performance as an athlete and will make you a better, happier person! Your teammates, coaches, friends and family will thank you! By practicing yoga, you will develop whole body strength, increase flexibility, balance, mental focus, and awareness of your breath. You will become more intimate with your own body, recognizing your limits, and at times passing them. This is key!
The next few blog posts in my Yoga for Athletes section will focus on some key guidelines when it comes to practicing. Hope you find this information useful. I will discuss appropriate levels of practice during your training cycles/seasons, recommended equipment, basic alignment principles, and breathing.