Each month, My Better Day newsletter contains tips for your yoga practice, yoga quotes to bring yoga off the mat and into your life, affirmations to brighten your day and motivate, and more! It is my wish for your well-being that I send this newsletter to help make your day a Better Day!
In this issue: Yoga quote, Practice yoga pose, Meditation on the go, Chakrascope, Hand Mudra, Featured Card Deck and Quote, Healthy News, Featured Recipe, Favorite Yoga Music / DVD, Happenings at Better Day Yoga LLC, Final Relaxation Quote.
Founder, Better Day Yoga LLC
Last month I talked about graduating from a second 200-hour yoga teacher-training program. Two weeks later I completed a four-day yoga therapy II training toward a 300-hour yoga therapy certification I am pursuing through YogaFit®. We had master yoga classes daily, sometimes twice daily. One of the instructors, Kristy Manuel, held us in poses much longer than I was used to, and then drew our attention to our resistance. She asked us to connect with our resistance to holding a pose suggesting we convert the energy of that resistance to stay with the pose. After my initial gut-reaction to curse under my breath, I found that it really intrigued me.
We are all so used to avoiding anything uncomfortable whenever possible, arent we? We live in a society of quick-fixes so weve trained our minds to believe avoiding the uncomfortable is not only easy to do but also desirable. Have you ever stopped to consider how many feelings, situations, etc. that we habitually define as uncomfortable? As I analyzed the resistance I felt, I realized I couldnt even say that it was necessarily uncomfortable to continue holding the pose past my usual time so much as it was different than the norm. It was a change. Ah, theres the rubchange. We dont like change.
I dont mind change. I just dont want to be there when it happens.~ Detective Adrian Monk character from Monk TV series.
There is a famous yogi, Pantajali, who lived somewhere between 200 BC and 450 CE, and wrote a classical text on the eight-step path to yoga called the Yoga Sutras. (Theres a whole lot more available on the Yoga path than just the physical postures!) Within the Sutras, were Classic Yoga “do’s” (Niyamas) and Yoga “don’ts” (Yamas)sort of like the yogic version of the Ten Commandments:
Yamas: Wise Characteristics Niyamas: Codes for Soulful Living
Compassion for all living things Purity (cleanliness/orderliness)
Commitment to truth Contentment
Not stealing (belief in abundance) Disciplined awareness
Merging with the Divine/Energy management Self-Study
Not grasping/No greed Dedication to God/Devotion
The Sanskrit word for disciplined awareness is Tapas. In addition to discipline, tapas is defined as heat and perseverance. It is what is required for change to happen. If you have a habit you want to change or create, youll need discipline to do it.
Kristys lesson was an excellent way to drive home the meaning of tapas or discipline. Discipline can mean sticking with your asana (physical postures) practice and choosing to practice regularly or it can also mean allowing the holds within a pose to be a bit longer than is comfortable to facilitate change. It could also mean that you might attempt a pose you dont personally enjoy and notice the feelings in your body as you explore the reasons you dont enjoy it.
Now Im getting into the self-study Niyama. Be curious about you. This could apply to any situation or activity. Exploring the reasons you do or dont enjoy any activity will go a long way toward helping you either stick with it or eliminate it from your lifeyou get to choose how you apply discipline.
I often invite my students to be curious about their bodies and whats going on within their bodies. For example, your inner dialogue could be:
Why is one side tighter than the other? Is that why I dont enjoy this pose? Maybe you can hold that side a smidgen longer to enable your body to stretch more on the tight side. Notice if you tend to stand leaning to one side more than the other during your day or use only one side when you pick up and hold items, or open doors. You could catch yourself during your day and consciously correct the imbalance. Do you know which side of your body is tighter than the other and where that tightness sits in your body? You dont have to be actively doing a Hatha yoga practice to be paying attention to whats going on in your bodybe it physical or emotional.
“Listen to the whispers and you won’t have to hear the screams.” ~ Cherokee Proverb
Recognizing that you dislike a situation or are uncomfortable in your life and then analyzing why you label it that way can be an interesting exercise. For example, we sometimes use fear as a label we might apply to a situation when perhaps its partly exhilaration for performing the unknown. Notice how labeling a situation youre afraid of as exhilaration changes the whole scenario in your mind? Mind games? Perhaps, but isnt it important to monitor your self-talk to be on your side?
“The loudest and most influential voice you hear is your own inner voice, your self critic. It can work for you or against you, depending on the messages you allow.”~Keith Harrell
Perhaps we could remove some of the resistance we feel if we apply the fun factor and decide to have fun with whatever we are having difficulty with. Many times the situation is serious only because youve defined it that way. You are more in tune with your real self when you take time to laugh and play. Lightening up will give you a new perspective and allow less pushing and more enjoying. Remember its not the situation thats bugging you; its how you react to it. See what happens when you decide what youre feeling just needs some comic relief.
(Check out the Practice Yoga Pose below for a reminder of just what happens when not being able to stay in a pose evokes our inner child and makes us laugh. Noticing the attempts to hold the pose really tunes you into whats going on in your body and where the balance effort is needed–intuitively. I promise itll make you giggle as you wiggle! You just may enjoy the journey of the pose and find that the destination isnt necessarily what its all aboutAnother Kristy sentiment I enjoyed analyzing very much.)
How about you? Have you ever completed a tough project and realized that the final euphoria was less than the joy of getting there? Kind of like these are the good ole daysrecognize the contentment and joy you are having as you are having it. This not so little practice could eliminate your habit to procrastinate starting the next tough project. I contend that its the very toughness of the project that brought the contentmentsatisfaction of a job well done.
Ah! Theres another NiyamaContentment. Recognize that contentment is within you all along, and not in the outer achievement or attainment of things. Contentment is a natural state. You intuitively know you have all you need to feel content emotionally and spiritually just as you intuitively know how to move to stay in balance in the yoga pose.
As I dwelled upon staying with the resistance within my own yoga practice during the training, I realized Im so used to telling my students to stay within their own pain-free range of motion that I may be guilty of encouraging this avoidance of resistancethis avoidance of the uncomfortable. I often tell my yoga students that if you feel a sensation, its good. Its when that sensation crescendos* that you need to pull back.
*Yes, I know crescendos refers to volume and intensity of sound, but to me it also relays the message Im trying to deliver to my students. HeckIll bet your body wishes it could make a sound before it goes beyond its limit! So its become what I like to call a Sandyism in class. Oooshkaoo as in roomis another one. I thought it was a made-up exclamation to be used in place of other less pleasant words. Come to find out Ushka means meat-filled dumpling in Ukrainian which just adds to the fun of using it. Its especially gratifying to say after youve held a pose for a long time. Try it sometime. Just humor me.
We dont want a building sensation. We do want a sensation that we are, in fact, doing something for our bodies. If you felt no sensation, you wouldnt be in class, right? Staying with what is uncomfortable sometimes has its benefits, and not just in your Hatha yoga practice.
Realize Your Inner Diamond
Diamonds are forever. Maybe so, but did you know that diamonds come from coal? Under pressure, an unromantic lump of black coal transforms into the crystalline strength of a sparkling diamond. Just as heat and pressure turns a piece of coal into a multi-faceted gemstone of prized value, so the pressures in your own life can allow your unrealized potential to become successes. It takes some time and challenge, but it is so worth the effort to realize your inner diamond.
Life is not always peaceful and calm. Yet, the very difficulties and heartaches that test your inner grit can ultimately create a purity and strength of spirit. As you keep up and go through the pain, whether its physical, emotional or mental, you put the pressure on the lumps of coal that are your doubts and insecurities and chisel out the brilliant diamond that is your true being. The result?Priceless! http://www.yogamint.com/_webapp_3918902/The_Pressure_is_On
If everything in our life was exactly as we wanted it to be, it would be pretty darned boring, wouldnt it? Its the obstacles in the path, both mental and physical, that encourage our growth. They give us something to strive for. Perhaps thats why they refer to it as growing pains. Its through the discomfort that we learn.
Discomfort journeys with us through life and we learn ~ Kristy Manuel.
Think about this for a moment: Wouldnt it be terrible if you were never uncomfortable again? Think winning the lottery and retiring early is the ticket to longevity? Think again:
In 1921, Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University began a long-term study of 1,528 twelve year old American children. The goal of this project was to study their lives and habits until they died. Recently, Howard Friedman, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California Riverside and Leslie Martin, Professor of Psychology at La Sierra University in Riverside, California analyzed the data from this 90 year old study and published their conclusions in a book titled The Longevity Project.
One of the more fascinating things they found was that the people who lived the longest were not the ones who were the happiest or the most laid back, but the ones who were the most engaged in pursuing their goals. The authors concluded the idea that working too hard can shorten your life is a myth. What they found instead was that, The people who worked the hardest lived the longest. Janice Lloyd from USA Today reviewed the book and came up with this prescription for longevity: Work hard (at something you enjoy). Dont retire early. http://reminders.rossreck.com/?p=521
If moving beyond your habitual comfort zone has been difficult for you either physically or emotionallyall is not lost. Your willpower is like a muscle. How cool is that?
Your willpower muscle can be fatigued so it cant perform indefinitely, which means you need to pick and choose your priority tasks to get the greatest bang for your willpower buck. If youve had a stressful day at work, youre more likely not to want to exercise when you get home, for exampleno newsflash there! So perhaps change your workout routine to morning, before work; or add some form of motivation to exercise after work, like meeting a friend at yoga class!
Studies also show if you constantly put forth willpower toward a given goal, it will be easier and easier to do so the next time. In addition to that, if you take care of yourself by getting the right amount of sleep and nutrition as well as work on positive emotions, youll fatigue your willpower muscle less easily. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/200902/self-regulation-failure-part-2-willpower-is-muscle
So being curious about your resistance, but not giving in to that resistance, will build your willpower muscle as it trains your mind. This sentiment is similar to one a famous yogi expressed in his book, The Art of Joyful Living by Swami Rama. (He was one of the first yogis to allow himself to be studied by Western scientists. In the 1960s he allowed himself to be examined by scientists at the Menninger Clinic who studied his ability to voluntarily control bodily processessuch as heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, etc.that are normally considered to be non-voluntaryautonomic). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Rama
In his book, he talks about transforming our habit patterns. I mentioned earlier that its becoming a habit for most of us simply to avoid the uncomfortable, but is this a habit we really want to keep? He suggests that when we train ourselves physically, that trains our mind as well; and vice versaa common sentiment expressed on the benefits of yoga.
Learn to focus on the mat, and youll learn to focus off the mat. Learn to use the energy of resistance on the mat to stay in the pose, and youll learn to use the energy of resistance in life to work through seeming problems. Shine the light of curiosity on any resistance you feel physically, mentally, or emotionally and watch what happens to the resistance. It may not totally go away, but in trying to define it, you just may find it weakens.
If you are awake, but you remain in bed, it is because there is a coloring of tamas, laziness or inertia, in your personality. Your mind will say, Oh, its Sunday, I dont have to work, let me stay in bed. Thats a bad way of training yourself; its a bad way of teaching your mind. Regardless of whether its Sunday or Monday, you should get up. Otherwise, you are wasting time and energy, and at the same time you are forming a bad habit that affects you on both the physical and mental levels. Training the physical habits in this way has a direct result in training the mind.
This is an important secret of life: if you remain idle without doing something useful, your mind thinks scattered and random thoughts, and wastes its energy. https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/YI/article.aspx?id=4018
We cannot improve the caliber of the human being, but we can guide it. When we guide ourselves and are not at the mercy of subconscious habits then we become master of the self. But overcoming old habits and starting new ones requires strong nerves and willpower. ~ Gurudarshan Khalsa, Kundalini Blessings Meditations for the Aquarian Age.
All Im saying is if you are curious about just what the resistance is and where its coming from, perhaps it will go away when you shine your light of attention on it. The capacity to understand what makes up your personality develops your willpower.
This is exactly what happened to me as I held the poses longer in the recent training. By the end of the four-day training, I was enjoying the long holds and looked forward to the exhilaration of going beyond my usual resistance to what I know knew was a habit to avoid being uncomfortable. It was fun being more challenged than I normally challenge myself.
Yes, I felt the muscles the next few days, but it wasnt a pain of misuse. It was the pain of a muscle who went beyond its habitual comfort zonewhich is part of the goal if I want to grow. If I were always comfortable, my body would never get stronger. It would plateau. There would be no change. Did I drop out of a pose before the others at times? Of course I did. Only you know where your edge is.
I suspect weve all become so used to avoiding anything uncomfortable that we challenge ourselves less and less. How about you? Do you think you could raise the bar on challenging yourself? Are you trying to omit all feelings from your life that arent pleasant?
To build character, do something for no other reason than its difficulty. ~ William James
Remember, Yoga practice is like an obstacle race: many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities. We all have that strength, but we dont seem to know it. We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities. In fact, that is the natural law: If a river just flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength in the form of tremendous electrical power. ~ Swami Satchidananda
How are your habits affecting your goals? We can become too used to what is usual and miss what is important. ~ Judith Lasater.
We all have goals about where we want to be in five years, ten years, twenty years, etc. If you want to be active and happy emotionally, mentally and physically throughout your life, what do you need to be doing now? If you want to pursue your lifes dreams, what do you need to start doing now? If you want to be able to take long walks and play with your grandchildren, what do you need to start doing now?
Look at your resistance to starting those things and shine your attention to just what it is you are resisting. We can resist success as much as failure because sometimes deep down we are afraid of both. Try to understand the reasons you resist starting to work on your goals. How is your ability to totally commit to your goals related to the resistance you feel? First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst. ~ Dale Carnegie.
Dont live your life on autopilot. If you want tomorrow to be different from today, youll need to take yourself off autopilot and make different decisions today than the ones you made yesterday. ~ Unknown author.
If you desire a glorious future, transform the present. ~ Pantanjali
So long as we are on automatic, we are propelled by our own habit patterns, and this merely reproduces our state of unenlightenment. The moment we introduce mindfulness, however, we can control undesirable thoughts, motivations, emotions, and actions and activate their positive counterparts. ~ Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Gems, A Treasury of Practical and Spiritual Wisdom from Ancient and Modern Masters.
I am a firm believer that all change is good. It literally means you are alive! Looking at your habits and deciding if its time for a change is something we should all do regularly. How about you? Are you afraid of change? Perhaps analyzing your habits makes you uncomfortable? Theres that word uncomfortable again! Invite change into your life physically, mentally, and emotionally. Get curious about any resistance to change. Is it a habit? Try something new. You just may find out you like it better than what youve been doing.
We limit the expression of God in our lives when we simply exist, rather than when we exist in a way that allows for the biggest expression of the Infinite that is possible for us at the time. Ask yourself where am I living small? Allow yourself to contemplate what living large would look like in those areas of your life. Source: Science of Mind, July 12 daily reading.
Heres where I add the common sense rule. If youre trying to change something that cannot be changed, like make yourself small-boned when you are big-boned, or you want to change someone else for example, you are just inviting trouble. Drilling down to the whys of your habits and your resistance doesnt mean you are not taking care of yourself. On the contrary, it means you are getting to know you so well that you know exactly what you need when you need it.
Remember the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Accept all is as it is supposed to be although you have the power to change it. You get to decide. How can I change it? If its something that cannot be changed, you still have the power to change it from resistance to acceptance. Accept things you cannot change without resistance.
So yes I am challenging you to reassess what you consider comfortable and decide if its something you habitually strive for. Theres nothing wrong with comfort and theres nothing wrong with habits as long as you are aware of why you are doing what you are doing. Once you really, really know the whys, you may decide you want to change it. Its about getting to know you and how you tick. Analyze your habits and decide if you like them.
Habits you may not be aware of:
Take a look at the words that you use when you share your day with your friends and loved ones. Are you using positive words and focusing on positive experiences? This leads to the following bullet.
Even if you feel victimized, try not to speak about it negatively. The next time you want to talk about a situation that bothers you, remember that No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt. Its up to you to decide how you react to a situation. Try it for a week. Speak only of yourself as being stronger than you think you are. Watch the magic happen. Youll begin to feel empowered, I promise.
This is where I started todays musing. I consider myself in pretty good shape. When I realized I was dropping out of poses much sooner than I was really capable of, I have to say I was actually a bit embarrassed. I wouldnt have described myself as a slacker! Keep the common sense rule in mind that I mentioned earlier. If working out longer or harder means youll be in sincere pain of misuse later, DONT do it! But if it means youll feel your muscles a bit more and perhaps gain a newly improved physique in the process, why not?
I read once that if you make it a habit to break down regularlybe it crying, pouting, sulking, or any other such thingyou are bleeding your power. Youre creating a habit where your first reaction will be to fall apart. Sometimes releasing anxiety is helpful and therapeutic. Im not talking about the sighs of release I recommend when holding pigeon pose (a great hip-opener that helps release the emotions stored there), or going for a walk to blow off some steam. Im talking about feeling beat before youve even tried because its your habit to break down first. Dont bleed your power.
It took me a long time to learn this one. I remember getting an inkling of it years ago when I went off the road during a snow storm and immediately started to cry. Only a few seconds into the crying I realized that crying wasnt going to get me any closer to being out of the ditch! I actually giggled to myself when I saw how silly the crying was and proceeded to get my shovel out of the trunk. Catch yourself the next time you start to break down out of habit. Dont bleed your power. Keep your power within you.
How about the habit of not completing the task before us (or staying in a pose for any length of time) because society has trained us to do too many things at once, moving from one task to the next so quickly we may not even realize we havent completed the task we started. I call it There goes a bird! syndrome. Analyze who is driving you to move so quickly. I sometimes find myself speeding more than I should even though Im not late for where Im going. Is this you? Is this healthy?
You are exactly where you are supposed to be right now regardless of past habits. Sometimes those habits needed to be there to protect you for awhile. Thats okay. Now is the time to touch your powerto shine your light of curiosity onto your habits and decide if you want to keep them or not.
It doesnt matter where they came from. What matters is you get to decide where theyre going.