Stay In the Center

unknown

It always surprises me how each season, each month, each next shift in our yearly calendar comes with it’s highs and lows. We innately anticipate the to-do lists of November and December, June planning as we prepare for vacations and kids’ activities, the awakening of spring with yard work and house cleaning. These shifts are part of our world, our life and we can’t help but to be guided by them and feel assurance that life is proceeding as normal. The problem is when we get so caught up in what’s coming next and what’s going on around us that we miss experiencing the moments all together.

I’m prompted to write this blog post at the close of September because frankly I’m glad September is over. A month often associated with fresh starts (which is true), renewed vision, and reestablished routine, it also comes with it’s fair share of racing to comply rather than rolling with those lazy summer days. As a mom to five kids, I’m not ashamed to say that when August comes to a close I’m joyfully purchasing school supplies at Target. I’m ready for routine and I believe my kids are too. But this September, sheer craziness. What happened? I happened. I failed to show up grounded and present. Life went on as normal, soccer practices and nightly homework seeped back into our world, but I lost my grip and allowed the tidal wave of to-dos to run my life and spill over into overly short-responses to friends and those I love the most. It was only upon reflection that I was able to assess my short-comings. In the moment, life was running the show and the script was a train-wreck.

There’s a well-known quote written by Lao Tzu, “Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course.” What a perfect image for one to hold onto. A picture of strength amidst life’s demands encouraging one to mindfully root down and be present. Yoga brings us to this place and as a teacher to 35 classes per month, it is rare that I bring myself to the mat, to re-set and remind myself how important it is to be grounded especially when my children rely heavily on my sense of peace and assurance. They are little energy absorbers. They know, they feel, and others do too.

Use Yoga and your practice as a safe haven of quiet, allowing your body to connect with what it is you need at that very moment. Allow yourself to be placed perfectly in the center of that circle and create a vision in your mind of standing tall, unmoved, allowing NOTHING to rock the strength you have created that comes with your personal faith and mindful awareness. The next time you find yourself in Tadasana or Standing Mountain Pose, hold onto this vision and feeling of power. Life will always continue (chaotically sometimes) but it’s how we respond to it that matter’s most. Refuse to be fueled by stress and worry. It produces nothing but more negative. Stay rooted, stay confidant, and trust the process. Somehow all things work together for good even when it’s hard to see the final outcome. You don’t need to predict the outcome or organize the storm around you. Your energy, your calm, your strength will quiet the mayhem. The key is to be open to it.

Blessings,

Sarah

Choose to Accept

 

 

Unknown

The choices one makes and the consequences involved are one of the earliest lessons we humans learn, and we continue to learn through all stages of life. Is there really anyone who has mastered foreseeing the outcomes of both good and bad decisions? Clearly not, because we have ALL screwed up with the false idea that a bad decision might end up being okay. What drives the bad decision is the deeper root of the question. Often, we don’t peel back those layers until we come out the other end, dust ourselves off, shake our head in embarrassment, and ultimately gain a deeper understanding of our true self. We spend lots of energy analyzing, comparing, retracing our steps, and talking to o

ur friends about what should have happened. But really, why are we exerting so much energy toward shame and regret?  Why can’t we choose to simply accept the mistakes of the past as water under the bridge, decide not to make them again, and move on? This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga as we have come to realize it is a tool to begin to understand the whole self. The self as an emotional individual in addition to the physical self, plus a connection to a higher source and that which represents your Faith. Yoga’s entire philosophy rests on drawing awareness to this three part system.  We must accept where we are as physical beings, embracing our current emotional state, and believing firmly in our Faith that one could begin the process of understanding.

The word “acceptance” seems to carry a negative connotation, weighed down with grief as used in the following phrases, “I accept that he doesn’t love me anymore,”  “I accept that a family relationship will always be strained,” or “ I accept that I’m not in the job that I love.” Each one of these phrases is heavy, a hard tug on the joy of life we all saw ourselves living years ago when we had the carefree, quickly-abled body of a 10 year old. Yes, acceptance can be hard and tired, but it can also be incredibly liberating and freeing! “I accept the undeserved and unconditional love of my life partner; my friends; my God.”

How does this all tie in to the choices we make? It’s simple. Choose to accept that which YOU think will serve you well in the long run. Decisions are difficult, especially when they involve the emotional side of things and this doesn’t just apply to the overly-feeling response of the female, because males have a healthy dose of this as well. You as an emotional being have a choice to make. And you as a spiritual being also has a choice to make. Combine these two parts together on your mat with the physical self serving as as a vessel or filter toward change. Notice during your practice the insights that are discovered. They float by quickly, sometimes too quickly and they can be hard to grasp. But here’s the key: keep returning to the mat! Those fleeting insights will come back, the answer will come, and the choices will be easier to make. As far as the past choices you have made, good or bad, simply accept them. Yes, a lot of them are heavy and a lot of them still cause pain, but you will be amazed how quickly they can be transposed to strength and beauty not only in your life, but also in the lives of others. To be completely honest, it’s the bad decisions I’ve made that have deepened my Faith, strengthened my character, and gave me a body slam to the ground for a real-life wake up call. Don’t ignore the bad ones; they hold great value. The good choices we accept easily—no big shakes—but they too can cause damage if we become too self congratulatory and forget our capacity for screwing up!

Bottom line: Accept where you are right now. At this very moment. The good, the bad, the ugly, the shameful, it’s all a part of the process. Make it a choice, an active choice to listen while you are on your mat and do not judge. Understand that humans make mistakes, but they are only mistakes if we allow them to be. He will love you again because he did once, that relationship will mend, just keep pouring into it, and that job you don’t like right now might simply be the perfect stepping stone for your dream position. It’s a one day at a time thing, it’s a Life thing and the mat can help you get there.

Peace,

Sarah

The “You” On The Mat

IMG_2158

 

What is it that brings us back to the mat? What are we searching for or hoping to feel? Or is it simply an outlet for and the conditioning of the physical self? Many would suggest that yoga is primarily physical. Though the physical benefits are many when it comes to your practice, it’s the expansive self-revealing aspect that goes deepest.

I tell my students all the time that yoga involves peeling back the layers of doubt, fear, judgement, and question in order to reveal truth and understanding of your true and authentic self.  This idea isn’t meant to sound esoteric or philosophical. It’s meant to challenge your practice on a deeper and soul searching level.

When confronted with something difficult our nature as humans is the “fight or flight” response. It’s how we are designed. Often, myself included, we will opt for the easy way out. I tuck my true self away, wearing the smile and plodding through the motions of to-do lists, relationship problems, and the mundane and exhausting tasks of life with five children. It’s not hard for me to admit this, nor is it shameful because it’s what most of us revert to anyway. However, my mat and my practice is where I face all these things at once. Is it emotional at times? Yes. Does is stir up past hurts? Of course. Do I want to hide? Sometimes. But the beautiful part of it all is that I crave this time and it’s the time that restores and heals.  It forces us as humans and takes hold of our selfish nature in order to teach us to breath moment to moment. On my mat I’m me, wholly and completely. Every flaw, every beauty, every sad or happy thought. My mat holds my space and that’s all I really crave.

These moments on the mat have presented fantastic ideas because I was open to receiving them.  In fact, years ago, while resting deeply in a restorative child’s pose following a tough Vinyasa Flow, I had a vision. At the time, without a thought of becoming a yoga teacher, I found myself day-dreaming and creating a studio space in my mind that would serve the family. This vision was fleeting, but it was there and I didn’t necessarily relate it to myself and any particular calling. Besides, as I mentioned, becoming a yoga teacher someday wasn’t even in the plan of my life. But despite this, for some reason, that practice opened something up in me and for a stranger reason I held onto it. It revealed my true and authentic self without me having to look for it. That’s the thing about yoga—it’s a mystery. Yet, at the same time it’s not. We’re the ones who complicate things with our over-thinking and self doubt. What if we just approached these realizations during our practice like a child would? Excited about our new idea or discovery! Sharing it with those around us immediately after Savasana. And the whole process is kind of fun as we wait in expectation of what is about to be revealed to us. Not always is it fantastical and freeing. Often it’s hard and encourages us to face that one “thing” head on. And that’s a good thing! You see, yoga is about being real and putting aside the shame that so often is attached with being human.  What if we remove shame from the equation and just accept that we are who we are in this day, in this moment, in this breath. We are not always proud of the person we are at the time; our thoughts can take on a life of their own and even lead one’s mind down destructive paths. So rather than hiding behind that guilty secret or thought life, simply face it. Embrace it, allow it to challenge you and learn how to ride with it and understand that eventually you will come out stronger on the other end.

If you allow it, your practice will hold you, the ALL of who you are. It will accept you in a judgement-free zone where you can be the beautiful, flawed, and wonderful person that you are. There is no fully arriving in yoga or nothing that marks us as the gold standard student or teacher. We are spiritual beings living in a sinful, fallen world simply trying to do good and be good to one another. Use your time on the mat as a sacred moment of connection with self. Recognize the stuff that trips you up and breath through it as you mentally release what does not serve you. In turn, embrace the positives, the blessings, the good (as there is much) that has made your life so rich. Combine this energetic bundle of emotion and experience and understand that it’s your life right now. Live in the now, moment to moment and understand that nothing is an accident. With all paths crossed, relationships crafted and experiences lived, fully create an intention for YOU to be used in this world. Don’t underestimate the power of who you are and what we can all learn from you.

See you on the mat!

Sarah

 

 

Yoga and Children: The Perfect Combo

                                                  index.jpg

Our children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, incessant lessons, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We usually don’t think of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. The bustling pace of our children’s lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—and usually not for the better.

-Marsha Wenig, http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/210

                                                       images.jpg

Have you ever watched a child play without them knowing you were watching? Something interesting happens…you begin to see who they really are without the inhibitions of having to perform, manipulate or compete with a specific standard expected of them. Their delightful little minds give way to such creative stories and you realize as I have so many times in my parenting that my children may have come from me physically, but there are so many elements of them that are nothing like me. When I watch them in the quiet moments, I  admire and even feel slightly jealous of the freedom they display with thought and creativity. How does this idea relate to yoga? A child’s body was naturally designed for this holistic practice simply because they are that much closer to “letting-go” and just being who they are more than most of us adults. I have rarely experienced a child doing yoga who isn’t smiling and anxiously awaiting where the journey of our “yoga story” will take us next. They are moving, sharing their creative thoughts, exercising, balancing  their central nervous system, learning to focus, learning to breath, and the list goes on! After I completed a short yoga session with my two girls (ages 9 and 7), I asked the seven year old what she thought of yoga. She came really close to me, her eyes as big as saucers, and whispered the word, “Joy”. My eyes filled with tears as my heart melted at the sincerity of this word. It does bring joy in the same way it brings confidence and security in our faith. It is sometimes children who teach us, and it’s up to us whether or not to receive it.  Embrace your personal practice as a child would. Full of joy and expectation, learning and fun. Don’t take yoga too serious, it’s a practice, and there is absolutely no perfect. Explore your inner child and see where the adventure on your mat takes you!