Delicious Soulful Self-love

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.delicious-soulful-self-love.jpgrumi self love

Advertisements

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.

“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

A Season of Santosha

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.

2013_11_Snow-Sunrise-Wallpaper-Desktop

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.

Observe what you have and be satisfied with it.

Merry Christmas,

Andrea

photo-30

Live Life With A Tough Skin & A Tender Heart

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

Kick Butt…Cigarette Butts…Through Yoga…My Story

cigarette-ban

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.

Class-1284

Whatever it takes. Check out this awesome video below:

Namaste,

Andrea