Insider Journey -New Years Resolution

A day of resolution starts with purification. Awareness to connect to what is healthy and disconnect from what is not. How much of the path is already laid out and what can be manipulated with the mind? Desire leads to that which is changeable. Recognize unnecessary suffering. Draw old patterns out into the air and ignite them with intention. Empowerment to become.

Perception dims to where I see my reflection in others; Not in achievement but the struggles. Fear in Muladhara. Attachment in Svadisthana. Ego in Manipura. Separation and this season build upon the old framework. The false identities of Prakriti; that which is seen – constantly changing. Deep trenches of samskara trip me again.

This morning is a return to the dark where I barely sense that the pilot light is still on. Then it is about the willingness to commit. Again and again. Influence the direction of change starting with Self. There is no prescriptive pill to swallow with water. No bill. It requires determination in personal practice.

Internalize the vibration first in meditation. Heart passionately dances with each level of its being in Purusha; the seer – consciousness unchanging. Ask for an all access pass to the immovable reality; the source of all Light. This is the safe space where the energy used to resolve imbalance can now build the positive force within.

If the soul knows its purpose, who are the people planted that help to bring me to my higher self? My first partnership is with you. I want more of what you have, but this takes full surrender. Be still in seclusion with the resonance of love. The F word is faith.

Today, the journey backtracks to thoughts that form written words. Tomorrow it is a relationship with expansion.

“Love opens up the day, guides us on our way, illuminates the path we are to walk…” – Jai-Jagadeesh

Namaste New Year 2016,

Megan

Yogic Wisdom From The Hen House

We may see ourselves as the superior species but animals often teach us about our behavior – even chickens.  Consider the animal definition of the word brood: To sit upon eggs to be hatched. Brooding can create new life, or cause us to stay where we are to the point of endangering our health.

It is in a chicken’s biology (some breeds more than others) to sit on eggs with a goal of incubation. A broody hen occasionally decides to remove herself from the flock to a dark, secluded nest. She stops laying and only comes off the nest once or twice a day to eat and drink; the bare minimum for survival.  Her body can handle this abnormal routine for 21 days. But if the broodiness goes beyond the 21 days it takes to hatch an egg, the hen looses considerable weight, has bug problems from missing dust baths, the feathers get dull and fall out, and the comb loses its bright red color indicating serious health problems. And as far as their mood goes, even the friendliest hens get darn ornery! The problem is that a chicken may sit on eggs endlessly if they have not been fertilized.  And even when the eggs are removed from their nest, the longer she is left to brood, the less likely she will snap out of it.  My term for this is “hen hormone hell”. Rehabilitation requires that I forcefully remove Ms. Broody for her own well-being and put her in “broody jail” for approximately the same number of days she sat until the hormones are regulated and she can lay again.

Perhaps you have an interest in chickens to read this far.  But what does all this have to do with yoga? A consistent yoga practice develops mindfulness. When using the term brood in a people context it means to dwell on a subject or meditate with morbid persistence or to think deeply about something that makes one unhappy.  Unlike chickens who stop their daily routine to brood, we can unfortunately be going through the motions without even realizing we are continuing to agonize over something. The fifth of the Yamas (restraints) in the Yoga Sutras teaches us to recognize when there is a need to let go. The term for this is Aparigraha and is often translated as non-possessiveness or non-greed.  Nischala Devi takes a more practical understanding of the Yoga Sutras in her book “The Secret Power of Yoga”.  She suggests the Yamas are a reflection of our true nature and Aparigraha is the innate ability to recognizing our blessings in everything.  So I can choose to mope and fret or to be grateful for what I have… and practice more yoga!  The thing about yoga is that I can still be alone and it gets me off my nest at whatever level I can muster with asana or just mentally with meditation.

If you are an endocrine system affection-ado or want more scientific evidence showing how yoga rewires our broody brain, please read “Reducing Cellular Stress with Yoga”. In summary, cortisol levels, which is the steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, naturally go up in the morning when we need to get out of our nest and go down in the evening for sleep. Throughout the day, cortisol is meant to be our little helper when it comes to getting through short-term difficulties. When the stressful event is over, the adrenal glands need time to rest. But when we brood about the event, the adrenal glands miss their opportunity to rest; hormone hell.  Like my chickens, the longer I brood, the more difficult it is to rewire myself. There are also circumstances when brooding needs to be interrupted and I accept and appreciate help from my spiritual community.

Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the outer world in order to “hatch” into something greater. Solitude and stillness are ingredients in transformation. And when incubating emotions, honor and enter into the loneliness or whatever the feeling is, but don’t let it take you so far that re-entry is difficult. Like when the hen continues to sit in the nest without realizing that there isn’t even an egg under her anymore. Sometimes I’m like that hen; sitting in my thoughts even when the event is over; sulking about the loss of what I had or worrying about not getting what I want.  Or experiencing self-doubt. The reality is we are always going in and out of changes.  And the positive side of self-doubt is humility.

Peace to all chickens world-wide,
Megan

Yoga as Interval Training for the Body & Mind

Life requires interval training. Physically, interval training allows you to push yourself beyond your limits and increase endurance by combining blasts of energy with a recovery phase. Intensity is increased without burn out.  In yoga, we might practice interval training by releasing all the muscles in a child’s pose after a series of dynamic standing postures. Interval training works on the principle of adaptation – the body’s ability to adjust to increase or decrease in physical demands. Yoga is interval training for the body and mind. The adjustments we make are physical and mental. With repetition, an athlete can expend less energy doing the same movement. Likewise, poses become muscle memory the more we do them. But yoga also considers the fluctuations of the mind. For example, the more savasana (relaxation) we do, the more we live in a state of savasana.  Doesn’t this sound like a program for life?

Using the breath as the pacer, we challenge the body in postures, even to the point of creating stress.  When we are deep in the “blasting” phase of a difficult posture, our mind tends to react to the discomfort in habitual ways; negative self talk like “I can’t do this!” or anxious thoughts like “crap, I’m going to hurt myself!” or even feeling envious of someone else’s pose. The sanskrit term for these conditioned thoughts is samskaras. If we were to walk the exact same route through a muddy trail every day, eventually there would be a rut in the ground. Samskaras are impressions left in our subconscious mind when it continually takes the same path. What we don’t know (or more accurately aren’t aware of) can hurt…or help. When we perceive difficulty for ourselves or others, our unconscious thoughts tend to be vicious or virtuous. Put another way, like addictions, samskaras can be helpful or harmful. But typically they are not obvious in their outward appearance. They hide in repetitive thoughts and emotions.

In yoga, it is in our attempt to keep the breath steady and rhythmic that these patterns are uncovered. The power of the bursts and desire to push toward accomplishment, joy and success are entwined with periods of rest, low activity, and introspection. The breath is the built-in diagnostic tool; if the mind is aware of changes in the breath, we are present for the repetitive thought patterns during times of physical demand, and we can quiet them in the recovery phase. This interval training for the brain offers an opportunity to try a new route into the next  yoga pose and release any negative thought patterns. In between the blasts of energy and recovery phases, we see ourselves for who we are – never perfect, but always pushing beyond our limits without burning out.

“This being human is a guest house.  Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.  He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

– Rumi, The Guest House

How to Start a Daily Yoga Practice – with video

A question I am asked as a yoga teacher is how many days a week do I practice yoga.  Answer: every day.  But the next question should be what is a yoga practice?  What it should not be is a source of stress or guilt.  Rather, a daily practice should be whatever you have time for, considering what you need each day physically, mentally and spiritually. I often compare yoga to brushing teeth.  If you only have time to brush for one minute as opposed to the three minutes my kid’s orthodontist timer recommends, doesn’t that feel better than not brushing at all? Forming habits has little to do with duration and more to do with frequency.  And if the oral hygiene starts in the morning, you reap the benefits all day. Maybe later there will still be time for another opportunity to brush longer.

So find out what you need.  For me, a morning meditation is a must.  But the physical practice ranges from one and a half hours of strong standing postures outside listening to the birds (soon!) to a 20 minute restorative posture hibernating under the covers of my bed (Ohhh Winter – you test me.)  Years ago, while struggling with sleep deprivation from twins, anxiety and feeling I  “never had time for myself”, I  could not do lengthy meditations and a physical yoga practice. “One stop shopping” for body mind and spirit was required.  I created this short salutation to the words of a Tecumseh quote that is strategically placed on my bathroom mirror. While it is one thing to wake and read a positive statement of gratitude,  it is a stronger experience to embody it.

Disclaimer: this video was filmed in the afternoon after a 1 hour class.  Had it been in the morning, it would look like a different body – clothed in pajamas, groggy and stiff.  Not even a yoga teacher escapes the morning  fascia “fuzz”.

Habits Feed the Fire of Intention

As we journey to the end of 2013, the word intention is a hot button; a hot button that often goes lukewarm in the first 30 days.  But it doesn’t have to. In setting intentions, first there needs to be an awakening – accepting yourself as you are presently and knowing what it is you want to achieve.  Then you can keep the fire lit by transforming the habits that might hold us back; free up time and energy to manifest those dreams. If the word habit has a negative connotation, consider that your current ones need some reworking.  Yes, habits can be destructive, but they can also provide reinforcement for our intentions.  Though it takes some dedicated rewiring to keep the positive circuit flowing, good habits are more powerful than bad ones. If you are ready to ignite the flame and reflect on a few of your mental habits, ask yourself the following questions (written answers are best):

Are you ok with changing your routine?  And if so, how often do you do so?

Do you believe you have choices for healthier options? Are you willing to explore them?

How often are you engaged in your thoughts of the past and enslaved with judgement?

When are you preoccupied with thoughts of the future that strengthen the worry loop?

Do you feel guilty when your healthy habits pull you away from other’s needs?

What are your attachments?  What are your aversions? And how do they each influence habitual behavior?

What/who empowers you?

And finally, have you surrounded yourself with a whole team of defenders?  Denial, victim, cynicism, sarcasm, being highly critical, rigidity, withdrawal, being too nice, endless rationalizing, and self-deprecation just to name a few.

In the end, we have a conscious choice to repeatedly grab on to something to maintain a relationship with it or release.  Sometimes life brings pain.  There is no way around it. We forget to remember or just get lazy.  But if our good habits are more clever than the bad ones, they provide the transformative fire we need to get through the cold spells.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson