Day 40: Try Something New

Try something today that you know you cannot do, something new to you.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted my new thing to be today, but the book gave me an idea.  It suggested to learn to say Sanskrit words.  I have a list with me today, and my books, which I will be reviewing here-and-there throughout the day.  As I read my yoga books, I often find that I skip over some of the Sanskrit words because they’re too hard to pronounce, or I feel silly because I know I am pronouncing them wrong.  I think I might also use Google… there are some websites out there that will play a blurb of someone saying the word to you so you can learn its sound.

I look forward to this challenge today, despite how simple it might seem.  I am a learner by nature.  If I don’t know something, I ask someone who does or I look it up on the Internet.  I crave knowledge.  It feels weird for me still to be done with school… it was such a huge part of my identity.  It still is, really.  We never really stop being students… our school just changes is all.  The universe and myself are my teachers now.

The reading today continued to talk about moderation, or brahmacarya.  Gates says that this concept is often linked to courage.  That it takes courage to walk away from the downward spiral that the chaos of imbalance can cause in our lives.  In contrast, Gates examines fear to be the root cause of imbalance.  We fear that we are not perfect, and so we strive in one area over others because we think that this achievement will make us perfect and happy.  When that doesn’t happen, our pendulum swings in the other direction… for another imbalance.

I have to agree with the concept of courage playing a huge role in regaining balance in our lives.  Often times to find balance, we must pull back from activities and people.  This is not always an easy thing to do.  We fear that we might lose our jobs if we loosen our grip on it even just a little, or that we’ll wind up divorced because we are spending a smidgen of extra time alone, or that we’ll hurt someone’s feelings.  A lot of times, we choose  to remain stuck in our own unhappiness to make someone else happy… for fear of what might happen if we do change.

Damn right it takes courage to take a step outside of your downward spiral.  But you know what?  It’s so worth it.  I may have lost a friend in this process, but I have gained so much.  I have gained more calm and balance in my life.  I have more energy to devote to others, including myself.  I am learning to love me again… hell, I am learning who I am again.  I got a little lost back there.  Yes, this is hard work.  But the hardest work yields the greatest bounty.  Take that brave first step… it gets easier from there.

I have not yet done my yoga practice for the day, but I have a yummy shoulder stretch lined up.  In fact, the flow is entitled “Daily Shoulder Vitamins.”  It’s sounds great, doesn’t it?  I can’t wait to get home today, get in some good tension release off my shoulders, and enjoy my Friday night.

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Day 39: Anger Takes Many Forms

Count how many times today you feel frustrated, impatient, and irritated.  Anger resides under each of these other emotions.  The number of times you feel frustrated, impatient, and irritated today is the number of times you disconnected from yourself today.

I’m typing this over my lunch break at work today, so it’s only about 2:00pm here.  I felt impatient once today, frustrated once, and irritated once.  I am happy to see it was only three times today.  I know that probably seems like a lot to some people, but I can get frustrated and irritated pretty easily.  That’s no secret.  From walking this path that I am currently on, I have been learning to work through these emotions more.  I am starting to see them appearing less frequently as a result.  For that, I am so grateful and happy.

Today’s reading was an interesting one… one that I am still absorbing.  It was about prayer, and how wonderful prayer can be.  As I’ve talked about in prior posts, I was raised Roman Catholic.  I know how the pray like any good Catholic girl, but as I disconnected from the Catholic church, I disconnected from prayer.  I didn’t know what I really believed… if I believed in one God.

I struck me when Gates said, “If you don’t know who you are praying to, join the club— no one does, for sure.”  [Gates, Rolf; Kenison, Katrina (2010-10-27). Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga (p. 52). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]  I think that’s always been my problem, why bother praying if I don’t know who or what I am praying to?  What’s the point?  Who is hearing me?  What’s the point?

Through this journey, I am finding the universe to be such a powerful force.  Perhaps this is the “God” I am supposed to pray to?  Let my worries go, and let the universe work things out how they should be.  Like the old adage, “Let go, let God.”  Maybe this is something I will have to explore more as I walk through this journey.  I think it’s definitely something worth consider, and something I will ponder.

This morning, my husband joined me for some yoga.  We did a twenty-minute flow to strengthen the upper body.  WHOA!  It felt more like a core challenge!  High plank, low plank, side plank!  AH!  I can already feel the soreness in my upper body building.  It was challenging, but fun… my favorite combo!

I am also SUPER excited!  I got two new books in the mail yesterday… one yoga related, one health related.  I will be posting on these shortly, and am contemplating a separate page for book information.

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Days 37 & 38

Day 37:  Get into Downward Dog Pose and breathe into the places your body feels tight… and where your mind feels most cluttered.

My body was feeling super tight during Downward Dog Pose yesterday.  WOW!  I had so much tightness in my calves and hamstrings… I think even my ankles felt tight.  My mind was cluttered with all kinds of things from work.  Breathing into the stretches where I felt tightness did help to improve the overall flexibility in my legs.  In fact, later on in the evening, I straightened my legs higher in Boat Pose than I ever have before!  I felt like I de-cluttered my mind by focusing on my breathing throughout this asana.  This is the beauty of meditation!

Day 38:  Count your blessings today, and realize that your life really is perfect at it’s core.

There are days that I literally stop everything, look around, and feel overwhelmed with the feeling that things really are perfect.  I am so very grateful every day for my life, no matter how sucky it might seem that day.  I do try to take the time to take mental note of the things I am most thankful for daily.  Here are just three things from today:

  1. I get to laugh every day because the people I surround myself with are so fun and uplifting to be around.
  2. My health, even thought I feel crappy today I am still able to walk, talk, and care for myself.
  3. Spring.  Despite my allergies, I love the warm weather… the greenery… the flowers.  I thrive in this type of weather.  My heart feels happy.

The readings from Meditations from the Mat for yesterday and today have both dealt with the fourth yama, brahmacarya.  This is one that I have not really heard about, so I was excited to learn something totally new to me.  Brahmacarya literally translates to “walk with God.”  It has also come to mean “continence” and “chastity.”

Chastity.  The word evokes a certain meaning when we hear it… no sex.  Gates identifies this in the reading, citing a well-known yogi with one-hundred kids who was still living the guidelines of brahmacarya.  Gates suggests looking at the things in our lives, even sex, by asking these questions: Does it fill me with vigor?  Valor?  Knowledge?  Energy?  Or does it fill me with concern?  Anxiety?  Worry?

I think these are very important questions to ask.  Often times, we find ourselves engaged in activities or with certain people who drain the life out of us.  They cause us so much stress and fill our minds with negativity.  Brahmacarya is all about moderation and balance.  It’s not saying to be celibate in one part of our life or another.  It’s simply saying to not spend SO much time with those things with make us anxious and stressed.  The truth is, immoderation causes chaos in our lives.

Gates also talks about our relationship with food, and how we especially see moderation with food as “repression.”  I struggle with this a lot.  I am someone who has a lot of environmental sensitivities (allergies), which could be alleviated through nutrition.  I do so well with eliminating certain foods for a few days before I began to feel angry at myself that I am “depriving” myself of other foods, even though I know they cause stress on my body.  It’s so ridiculous, right?  I also struggled with food in that when I started to lose weight, it was so hard for me to break out of the cycle of restriction in terms of calories.  I counted everything in and everything out.  I finally was able to break that habit, but still kept conscientious about what I was eating and how much I was moving throughout my day.  I must have learned a thing or two because I have kept the weight off for about two years now!  Moderation really was the key for me there!  I need to get back to that moderation for my own health.  This will be my next struggle.

Finished up my detox series today!  It definitely aided in my digestion, and provoked me to drink more water than usual.  However, I don’t know that I feel different overall.  Maybe this is because I am struggling a lot with seasonal allergies right now, but I feel incredibly run down.  Perhaps I’ll try it again when Mother Nature is a little more kind.

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Day 33/34/35/36: Playing Catch-Up

Wow, so I have been missing for four whole days?!  I am sorry that I have not posted in four days, BUT I have been busy living life.  I think that takes precedence.  Anyway, let me update you on what I have been up to.

Here is a rundown of the lessons for the last four days:

  1. Find treasure in the most mundane moments.
  2. God is a practice, not just an idea.  Find God through poses and your breath.
  3. Envision yourself with a bigger heart, and give your generosity to others.  Give long-overdue forgiveness.
  4. When feeling irritated today, breathe deeply and let go of wanting to be right.  Be present in the moment instead.

I have still been working at going through my daily lessons.  Overall, I feel like the whole process is getting easier.  I am more comfortable with looking inward, with re-evaluating things on a deeper level.  I am also finding it easy to let go and accept things as they are… leaving it in the hands of the universe, if you will.

Today, I am working on letting go of wanting to be right.  It’s Monday and I woke up with my cranky pants on.  I have been working to focus on my breath when I begin to feel agitated and irritated by external forces.  It’s been helping me to calm down more, not get so worked up over something that really is so small.  I’m bringing myself back to the present more, too, since I am focusing my energy on my breath and not anger.

I can’t say that I am in the best of moods, though, or that I am having the best of days.  I am still feeling emotionally funky today, but I think it’s important to note that I am not unpacking and living in this emotion… I am not wallowing in it, feeding it so it grows into a monster.  Baby steps!

I have been loving the essays from Meditations from the Mat these last few days.  Gates has been writing about letting go a lot in this section of the book.  He give an interesting example of what awaits us when we finally do let go and put our trust in the workings of the universe through a story about beavers and salmon.  Silly, but it got the point across!

I think I enjoy reading his books so much because he gives a lot of personal anecdotes throughout the essays… I feel like this is someone who really does “get it”, not someone who just writes about it.  It gives me comfort to read his words, read about his experiences through his own spiritual journey, and know that this really can happen… I can experience this same happiness.

The last two days, the readings have focused on slowing down and being more grateful in every day life.  Gates talks about the importance of transitions between asanas during our practice, which is just an important in life off the mat.  This is so true… we are always focused on the next thing… the next task on the to-do list, the next job, the next relationship, the next meal.  Very often do we slow down and appreciate all there is between those steps.  I thought of it as noticing the blades of grass growing up between the stones of a garden path.  There’s stuff there… in between all the steps… and it’s beautiful stuff, but we rush past it and never notice.

Today’s reading resonated with me and why I chose to begin this spiritual journey.  Gates talks about a “profound emptiness” we all, at some point, feel… the longing to go “home”… to go back to better days, before you lost your youthful innocence.  I think this can really describe the aching in my soul that I was feeling, that unhappiness that I could not put a finger on the cause of.  Through our yoga practice we can learn to live with an open heart, to express gratitude.  Gates says that this movement toward the good is so innate in us, like an infant instinctively holds its breath underwater.  I feel like I finally am moving myself more toward “home.”

As for my yoga practice, I started a detox yoga series on MyYogaWorks on Friday.  I am enjoying just trying new types of flows, but I am really seeing some benefit to this series.  I can feel my muscles loosening through the various twists, and letting go of physical tension.  The instructor also urges you to view your exhalations as a vehicle for breathing out the negativity and toxic thoughts we might be having.  Also, it’s definitely helping my digestion… I’ll just leave it at that!  You can read more about some of the benefits of detox yoga here.

I am super excited for a new book to come tomorrow!  I am attending the Wanderlust 108 Festival later this year in NYC, and it came to my attention through emails that they are releasing a book tomorrow, May 12th!  It’s called, “Wanderlust: A Modern Yogi’s Guide to Discovering Your Best Self.”  I am so excited for the festival (it will be my first), and I cannot wait for this book.  I have high hopes that it will help me to continue my journey.  I’ll definitely be posting more about it when I get it tomorrow!

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Day 32: Be Adaptable, Not Just Flexible

The goal of today’s lesson is to learn to let your asana practice make you more adaptable to what life throws your way, rather than just yearning to become more physically flexible.

I woke up today with a body that’s hurting and revolting against me.  I felt like I physically couldn’t get out of bed, and so I stayed in bed until pretty much the last minute.  In a way, I regret not getting my practice in this morning.  In another way, I am happy that I got to spend some extra quality time with my husband this morning.  As I sit here and think about my day ahead, I am thinking that I will get my practice in this afternoon.  I am going to focus more on a flow that doesn’t involve so much of my lower body as my hip flexors are very sore today… like, it hurts to lift my foot from the gas to the brake kind of hurts.

I came to the conclusion while I was having this thought that this is what today’s lesson is about.  I’m adapting to what life is throwing at me.  I am sore and extra tired this morning, so I changed my schedule around for today.  My hip flexors are aggravated, so I am adjusting my practice to give them more of a rest.  I’m not tapping out today because of these setbacks, and neither should you.  What’s something you put off doing this morning?  Can you do it later?  Can you modify it?  What can you do to make sure it gets done today?  It doesn’t have to be complicated… just go with the flow.

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