Monthly Archives: December 2012

How to find Calm Amidst Holiday Chaos

The holidays and end of the calendar year are such a swirl of activity and high energy, it’s so easy to get caught up with the chaos around you. As a yoga teacher, I feel this everyday (especially this past week) and feel the shift of energy as we move through practice together.

One technique I use to ground in times of chaos is meditation. To a beginner or someone new to this concept, meditation can be intimidating. I usually do a guided meditation whenever I teach yin yoga and I advise my students that meditation doesn’t have to be elaborate or in a room full of pillows. It can happen anywhere or anytime for however long. It can be for 5 minutes in your day or longer. It can be in your living room or as you sit by the ocean. It’s just time for YOU.

To get started, come to a comfortable seated position. Meditation is an active process that helps to restore and revive you. Most liken the state of meditation to falling asleep, but it is really that stage just before you fall asleep. It is the active state of mind, choosing to let go of all else.

Your next step is to focus on nothing. Yes, nothing. For some, focusing on nothing and quieting the mind is a great way to start. If this doesn’t work for you and your mind is full of thoughts, focus on one thought.

Candlelight technique: A technique I offer my students in class is to focus on a candle. A sample of my guided meditation would go like this: “Focus on the flicker of the candle. Check out the pattern –is it a consistent flicker or does it change directions? Pace? As you gaze into the light of the candle, observe how all of the other thoughts drift away. The thoughts can still be there later when you feel ready to address them, but for now, allow yourself to be present. As you keep your attention on the candle, observe the rest of your body, your resulting breath, and what thoughts remain as you let the others melt away.” Most of the yin yoga classes I teach are candlelit, so this works really well. In the same regard, you can use this technique in the comfort of your home. Cozy up into a comfortable position near the fireplace or with a candle in front of you. Try it. =)

I mentioned earlier that meditation can be anywhere, anytime for however long. You can be sitting by the lake or ocean watching a boat travel across the horizon and it will bring you the same feeling as the candlelight technique. Your focus is on the observance yet your thoughts are active to quiet your mind. Afterwards, notice how you feel. I always feel refreshed; better equipped to deal with any challenges in my day. While meditation doesn’t make all of the problems go away, it usually gives me in the internal strength and clarity to address the same issues.

Meditate anywhere, anytime. For 5 minutes or for hours. Give yourself some time.

Be True: Letting Your True Self Be Seen

When I was in the midst of my yoga teacher training program, we were taught to understand that each of us could one day guide someone through their first experience of yoga — ever.

“It’s your responsibility,” Tom and Trisha Kelly of Soul of Yoga shared, “To create an experience that invites them in, so that they can continue to cultivate their own practice in their own ways. And, it’s also important to understand that there’s a difference between a yoga instructor and a yoga teacher.”

We all mused on that idea for a bit, chatting about how an instructor can effectively lead you through the physical asanas of yoga, while a teacher can impart a deeper kind of wisdom and exploration, one that encourages you to look inward for more of the answers that already exist within you. In essence, a teacher can guide you through the whole practice of yoga.

We learned that each student will naturally gravitate towards their own types of teachers, which is why Tom and Trisha invited us to discover our own unique voice when it comes to leading a class. They encouraged us to be as authentic as possible, to share from the heart more than the head. And, in order to graduate, every teacher-in-training was required to lead a sample 20-minute class. When it came time to do so, the diversity and range brought to the mat with everything from voice to music to movement were astounding, and it became readily apparent that each of us had come into our own.

I believe that you can truly only teach what you know. There’s a difference between sharing from experiences you’ve been through and the life lessons accumulated along the way to speaking about things that you’ve read and studied from afar. This is the hard part about being both a teacher and a student of life.

When it comes to yoga, students can become attached to their teachers, believing they can only feel a certain way due to the lessons imparted by this particular person. Or, students might place their teachers on a pedestal, thinking they’re these perfect beings who can escape mundane emotions and live in eternal bliss without ever being hurt again. As Spiritual Guider Carolyn Myss said, “Where does it say that when you embark on a spiritual path, that you’ll never again be hurt?”And, it’s almost disappointing when we find out that the people we look up to for guidance end up being just as human as the rest of us, because that means that we, in turn, have to deal with it, too.

While working through a mind-body program recently, I learned that there are no scriptural texts or teachings that show that any enlightened master did not suffer from feelings and emotions. Rather, they learned how to better channel that energy. Yet, in our modern world, the devotees of these enlightened beings can sometimes take teachings out of context, so that we start to misbelieve that we need to be perfect and pure and not be tainted in any way in order to be “on the path.” It was relieving to learn that actually, for us to even exist in physical form, there needs to be some sort of duality — lightness and dark, feminine and masculine, and onwards — otherwise if we lived in perfect bliss, this physical plane of matter would just not matter.

Besides, the most beautiful part about our existence is our vulnerability. Brene Brown, a prominent Social Research Professor, shared this idea in a TED Talk, how letting ourselves truly be seen is what connects us to one another so whole-heartedly. It’s scary and takes courage and bravery and living in the unknown, but when we allow ourselves to be complete in our imperfections and indecisions, and when we embrace everything as part of the perfect process that is the Universe unfolding, then we realize how interconnected we are in being these incredible divine creatures with this amazing human experience.

Every one of us is a teacher in our own right, just by living our lives according to our truths. We never know how a small gesture, a little sentence, a bear hug can change the direction of someone else’s life, be it stranger or friend. So be you. Be what you believe and what you have learned and what you are trying to unlearn, and go after your dreams to find what fills you up with light. Because as you do so, you help give everyone else around you permission to do the same.

Let’s all be brilliant, together.

Re-centering Yourself & Your Intentions for 2013

Two very special dates approaching as we reach the end of 2012~~ 12/12/12 and 12/21/12. 2012 is a very special year as it’s the last year in the Mayan Calendar. Also known, as the end of the year. Should we all freak out, stock up our food cabinets and prepare for chaos? Not quite. The end of the Mayan calendar is on 12/21/12. To me, and many others alike, that means it’s the end of the year as we know it. I believe that after the Mayan Calendar ends our universe will be in a new light. This special day on the 21 of December is also the winter solstice this year, the longest night of the year, and officially the start of winter. Coincidence? I doubt it.

December always marks the end of the year, the end of a sun cycle, and a time to close a chapter and start fresh. This entire year has been all about allowing yourself to create yourself as you are, with what feels good, with what you want. Energetically, it’s been about waking up and fulfilling your needs and desires, and to quit worrying about what other think about you, what you should be doing, and their opinions. This last month of the notorious 2012 year is a time to shed the last things that need to be left in the past. Maybe you’ve noticed personal things come full circle. I have. Family issued have resurfaced, I’ve had more closure with past events and people, I’ve stepped into my power, and I’ve learned to center myself with who I am, what I’m seeking, and what I want. It’s almost magical what happens when you can feel completely yourself and not care about the other people’s projections. So now December, is a time to check in. To acknowledge what things have surfaced and identify with yourself. The last few weeks of December should be spent fulfilling your truth and heart’s desire so you can begin to pave the way into the New Year, into your new light.

How to cope with the end of the year? You center yourself. You ground yourself into your own being and be who you. You allow other people’s beliefs and attitude to be as they are, and in conjunction, you keep being and doing as you do. You trust your light and your intuition and seek our people, things, and activities that make you happy. The final weeks of December and with these two powerful days of the year- 12/12/12 and 12/21/12 marks a time to reinvent yourself and be okay with leaving things and people behind that may no longer match up with who you are. It’s a time to be you fully and completely.

Center yourself this month. Take extra time on these magical days: 12/12/12 and 12/21/12 to consider your intentions and creating whatever you are seeking. I recommend finding YOU time on these special days, be conscious of what is happening around you, and align yourself with your desires. Take time to journal your thoughts and wishes. Spend time alone, mediating, and listening to that inner voice. Do some yoga. Instill peace. Breathe and center your thoughts, your visions, and your dreams to help pave the way into the future.



Our Ego: Break Up With It or Learn to Love it?

As yogis, we hear a lot about the ego. I was in a yoga class recently where the teacher suggested that the ego is like an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend; it tells you that you’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, tall enough, etc. etc. She enthusiastically declared that day as the day to break up with the ego! At that time, it sounded like a good idea. I started telling my negative self-talk and self-doubt to take a hike because of course, just like an ex-boyfriend, these messages no longer served me.

Then, a few days after that class, I came across a yoga blog that suggested learning to love the ego because, like it or not, it is part of who we are. Whether the ego’s messages beat you down or pump you up, breaking up with or ignoring those messages, does not allow you to pay homage to an important part of yourself. If we are a sum of our parts, don’t we need to love all the parts in order to love the whole?

I started to contemplate: Perhaps we don’t need to love the ego nor break up with it. Maybe what we ought to do is listen to what it is saying and dismantle it with our own inner knowing. Instead of acting in complete opposition to the ego or offering it open arms, try learning ways to deprive it of its negative energy and use it to empower and discover your self.

Yoga provides perfect tools for disarming the ego by encouraging introspection and a calmness in the body and the mind. When you are in this place of calm, there is a chance for uninterrupted reflection on the ego’s messages. You can note which messages resonate with you and use your insights to pave a path of self-discovery.