Dispensing Compassion & Ahimsa

ahimsa

In yoga, ahimsa or non-judgement, refers to the state of living in loving kindness toward all beings including ourselves. But sometimes it is the hardest thing to do. Let’s be real. Showing or giving compassion in every situation- particularly conflict- can be hard or frankly annoying. Like why should I? Today, I was walking my two pups through the cemetery. They can be pretty feisty and excitable. An older couple was passing by with their larger dog, and my dogs were tugging to get to their dog. I smiled and said, “sorry” just because I didn’t want to bother them, and instead of a smile back, a “no problem,” they literally let out a big sigh and eye roll of complete annoyance and bothersome towards me because apparently it was the end of the word that my dogs excited theirs.

Let’s face it extending compassion in every situation — particularly conflict — can be hard. My dog example was clearly not one of conflict, but to use another example, why give love to the guy who cut you off in line when you don’t owe him anything? Why? Because you owe it to yourself to find the love and beauty everywhere.

Take note of the image above. Winnie the Pooh author, A.A. Milne once said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. You never know who’s going to come into your life and present you the opportunity to find love. In fact, sometimes the universe sends us challenging people and situations for just that reason.

The next time someone really gets under your skin, rather than building up toxic emotion asking “why me”, ask yourself, “How can I extend compassion here? What am I supposed to offer? What am I supposed to learn? I wish that couple walking their dog read this. A simple smile over an eye roll would have made everyones day better.

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“When we get too caught up in the business of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” ― Jack Kornfield

After taking a fall down the stairs leaving a yoga class yesterday morning, today I spend the day on the couch resting my sprained ankle. I have 2 dogs staring at me wondering, “Why is she home?” Maybe this was a wake up call.

Not only my body being forced to rest, so is my mind. Of course, it is thinking of a million things I can accomplish via emails, but truly, it does not need to work right now, it probably needs to slow down. But who wants to slow down? A couple of hours rest feels like an eternity to me. But this is the problem and it is probably the cause of my fall. I was talking a mile a minute after class, about who knows what, thinking about where I was going next, all while reviewing yoga sequences in my brain. Just like everyone else..constantly going, going and going. Is it all too much? Because we are programmed to think there is always more to do, more to think about..and we keep jamming it all in until…something wakes us up.

All of the noise going on in my brain caused me to lose focus, and stumble down. Now, I am very out of my comfort zone and this is truly testing my patience, as I do not like to relax (: But the more we do, the faster we go, and the more we multitask, are we actually accomplishing anything other than detachment from ourselves and others?

So this minor incident is forcing me to stop, relax, calm down, and appreciate what is at least for a couple days. It’s a well needed time to reconnect with myself, and I will view the day as such, returning to my routine hopefully with clarity and new perspective.

Painted caution on road to slow down

And I Used To Ask Myself, “Who Practices Yoga at 6:00 am?!”

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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

morning yoga blog

Hey Yogi’s! Where Did Our Manner’s Go? The Declination of Yoga Studio Etiquette

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.

BUT… LATELY…

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.

yoga-etiquette

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.

Namsate,

Andrea

LIFEBLOOD TAKES D.C.

My favorite city. My alma mater hometown. Yoga in the nation’s capital. As my Guru..aka “teacher” puts it…. a “Soft Intensity”…the masculinity of the monuments, the hardness of the buildings; the fluidity of the body. The moon. The stars. A perfect balance and a perfect couple days to spend my husband Randy’s birthday. Margaritas included. Obvi.

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