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Sustaining Our Intentions

by Jenni Antonicic

 

January is here, and with it high hopes and noble aspirations! We all have habits that we recognize as causing us and others suffering, as well as habits we know interfere with our deepest desires. A desire to learn, grow and change for the better is at the heart of our Yogic program, but the details, ah the details present impediments pretty quick. By anticipating those moments when our energy will fail, and distractions or setbacks threaten to set us off track, we can be ready with skillful means to sustain the project of taking our next step.  One of the first sets of skills we need to cultivate as we try to make any positive shift in our life is self-awareness, coupled with kindness and compassion. Paying attention to our habitual thoughts and feelings and how they manifest in our bodies and through our behaviors is a prerequisite to consciously changing those habits to net positive results in our lives. Kindness and compassion enable us to meet negative energy ruts with positive energy choices.

Great harm comes from our un-examined conditioning.  I do believe that people rarely move through the world trying to do harm, nonetheless we all do a great deal of it.  We don’t realize the extent to which our actions are overly protective or needlessly self-serving.  We don’t realize the extent to which fear and the more “empowered-feeling” emotion of anger generate our actions.  Mostly we don’t realize the quotidian nature of passing our suffering on to others.  Our egos minimize the offense we give and maximize the offense we take.  Most often we are completely oblivious. I have been humbled several times recently by the realization that I hurt or irritated someone and had no idea at all at the time.  Avoid the tendency to think someone else is “overly sensitive” – that is our own egos using righteousness to protect us from shame, which only leads to a further spiral downward. Examine it all closely.  Humility and a sense of humor are very useful with this work.

What happens when we try to be more persistently self-aware?  For most people trying any skill, at the beginning it is tiresome and may even feel impossible.  Exhaustion indicates too much effort, giving up far too little.  “Effortless effort” is the excellence-in-action of yoga. (Spiritual teacher Adyashanti talks about effortless effort in this link). Frustration is normal. Keep acting with principled intention and expect that there will be mistakes or oversights. Our practice is to return again and again to the task.  This is a mature attitude towards meditation, study, or a difficult project of any sort – anything we apply our energy towards in terms of long-game results.  There will be setbacks or the pace may not be what we hoped for.  At this point we dig in a little, have faith, and reapply energy in a calm, grounded way.  We must update our strategies as our understanding deepens and get better at apologizing if we’ve not been kind.  Chagrin is par for the course.

Self-forgiveness is the key to dealing with the ways we disappoint ourselves, and that is one of the greatest internal difficulties we face. Tara Brach has written and spoken extensively on this. Regardless of the magnitude of the mistake, if it wasn’t hard to forgive, it wouldn’t really be necessary. The “easy to forgive” infractions haven’t really caused offense. They are the “difficult” or “impossible to forgive” offenses that poison us. We need to forgive things that seem unforgiveable.  Grasp the radical nature of the spiritual path!  Only in the heart are such paradoxes resolved. It’s likely we’ll need to keep revisiting the same experiences and reactions repeatedly with new resources each time to digest something thoroughly.  All things have their own time-line. Any impatience with ourselves while we work through the process is actually more subtle violence to ourselves, as Jeff Foster has recorded.  Resiliency comes with practice, faith in our highest intentions, and compassion for all beings, most especially ourselves.

 

Ditch the Resolution and Set Your Sankalpa

by Danielle Dickinson

 

A sankalpa can be thought of as a heartfelt desire or as a specific intention that both stem from a place of inner wisdom and aim to bring us towards our highest self.  If you’ve ever heard your yoga teacher ask you to set a sankalpa at the beginning of class (Yoga Nidra is a practice where it’s traditionally done each time), they are referring to a vow that you resolve to set for yourself- something that is deeply personal and comes from a place of loving intention.  When we think of new years resolutions, we often think of some big change.  Sometimes these new years goals are ego driven with superficial reasons behind them.  A sankalpa is formed by our heart-mind and is void of judgment.  So, we can distinguish a sankalpa from a resolution because with a sankalpa practice there is a recognition that we already have inside of us that which we are seeking.  We look beyond the what and the how by also seeking out the why behind our intention.  This provides us with insight into our own selves- who we are and who we want to be at our deepest core.

A sankalpa should be made in the affirmative.  And when reciting our sankalpa, we should use be using the present tense.  As Richard Miller, PhD, a psychologist, author, and yogic scholar explains, “A sankalpa isn’t a petition or a prayer.  It is a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment.”  Instead of saying something like, “I will loose weight” or, “I will get in shape,” you might say something like, “I have respect for my body and I treat it well with nutritious food and healthy exercise.”  Instead of saying, “I will start a yoga and meditation practice,” you could say, “I am healing my body and nourishing my mind.”  More simply, if your intention is to be more loving, instead of saying “I will be more loving,” you’d recite to yourself, “I am loving.”

Void of ego, a sankalpa can take us towards our greatest potential.  In the words of spiritual teacher and author, Sally Kempton, “When you make a true sankalpa, you call on the power of your personal will, and align your personal will with the cosmic will.”  Because new years resolutions often have goals that stem from a place of ego, see if you can look to an affirming sankalpa instead.  Let your heartfelt desires direct your dharma (living your true purpose).  A new year doesn’t have to mean the need for a ‘new you,’ but it can encourage the wisdom to look within and foresee a better and attainable version of the same, wonderful you that was always there.

 

Yoga is Balance: Sthira & Sukha On & Off the Mat


Yoga is balance. A fine and tricky balance, to say the least.  But if attained, this balance can provide both calming and grounding energy in addition to giving way to enlightening inspiration and positive change.  In order to get to this sought-after neutral place, one must play with the delicate dance of opposites… hard and soft, dark and light, rough and smooth.  How can we navigate our way to this sweet nectar in the middle where bliss lives?  How can we find our own sense of peace and calm amidst the the back and forth see-saw of lows and highs that is life?  In a word… yoga.

One of the greatest gifts we receive from our yoga practice is that irreplaceable feeling of pure bliss that we are afforded after practice.  And in practice, what we are truly doing is balancing out effort and ease, the well-known yoga concept of sthira and sukha.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he gives us the following aphorism (from sutra 2.46): “sthira-sukham asanam.”  This sutra is most commonly translated as “asana (postures) should be stable {sthira} and comfortable {sukha}.  Being established in a good place- that is, getting grounded, finding proper alignment, diligent focus, engaging the right muscles, and harnessing energy correctly coupled with maintaining a healthy prana (breath/life force) is what this sutra is all about.


We aren’t looking to feel exhausted after a yoga class… in fact, many teachers would argue we’re doing something wrong if we feel this degree of depletion after practice. Instead, we should feel alive yet relaxed at the same time.  We should be practicing in a way that regenerates our energy, not in a way that depletes it.   To achieve this, we ought to be checking in with our breathing often (is prana moving freely?) and we can also do a post class check to see how we are feeling as a whole (are we feeling balanced?).  In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar, we are looking to find and maintain sthira, “alertness without tension” while also finding and maintaining sukha, “relaxation without dullness.”

Hard to both attain and maintain, balance is really the key to one’s yoga practice and if we’re
thinking about yoga in it’s entirety, this translates to balance being the key to living blissfully.  Sure, we need to find both steadiness and ease in downward dog and warrior II, but we also need this delicate balance of embodying enthusiasm and liveliness while at the same time staying focused and keeping our feet firmly planted in our everyday lives.  This is where the yoga practice becomes a life practice.  Striving for that sweet nectar in the middle will bring us toward our perfect happy medium… our own personal bliss.  That nectar of bliss only becomes attainable to us when we are living a life in balance, a life of yoga.

“Why Sadness is Unprofessional… And Why That’s Total Bullshit.” Some Good Advice from David Romanelli

Yoga teacher and author of the best selling book Happy is the New Healthy, David Romanelli recently wrote a post that was too good not to share.  You can find more of these touching and inspiring real life stories shared by Dave from his own experiences of traveling the world and meeting all kinds of different people on his website.

“WHY SADNESS IS UNPROFESSIONAL (and by the way, THAT IS TOTAL BULLSHIT)…

Indigenous people believe that your medicine is not something you take but something you give, your great offering that makes your world better.

Last week I had the amazing experience of sitting with 1000 years of wisdom in 60 very special minutes. 

I had lunch with a group of ladies who met in college…in the 1940’s. They joined the same sorority, and have continued to meet every month…for the past 70 years. Now they are in their 90’s. 11 people in their 90s is equal to about 1000 years of life experience.

These ladies have been there for each as they got married, raised families, became empty nesters, celebrated grandchildren, became widows, got old, and now some are on breathing machines and in wheelchairs. And through it all, they have stuck together.

The immense wisdom in this room was different. It wasn’t a wisdom based on accolades and resumes and fame. It was a wisdom based on reality.

Each of these ladies had amazing stories of success and love. And each of them had tragic stories of loss and pain. Maybe it was just me, but I perceived happiness and sadness sitting side by side at this lunch.

In our modern culture, there is rarely a seat at the table for sadness. It’s something we endure in private, maybe on the couch of a psychologist, or in some bursting out of tears in your yoga class.

Psychology researcher Joseph Forgas found that people in a sad mood had better judgement and memory, were more motivated, and more generous than the happier control group. Periodic feelings of sadness widen our circle of concern.

Now look. I wrote a book called Happy is the New Healthy. I’m all about happiness and I’m not saying it’s any fun to mope around and drag people down with you. But funny stories and pretty pictures of sunsets can only get you so far.

The more I have listened to the elders, the more I realize the pure and lasting happiness can only come from finding the courage to share your sadness and in turn, inspire others to share theirs.

These ladies went through some terribly hard times, but they went through them TOGETHER.

There’s a lady named Deena Metzger who talks about how In the old days, the Chiefs, Medicine people, Shamans, and Elders called Councils. They looked for solutions to their problems by aligning themselves with the ancestors, the natural world and their wisdom traditions.

Sitting around the table with these elder ladies, I felt a sense of what these “Councils” must have been like.

Everyone at the table took a turn sharing what’s been happening in their life. And everyone else listened.

It is that giving and taking, going around the circle, face to face, heart to heart, that struck me as something missing from my world.

So let me ask you…

What have you been stuffing away, deep inside, that seems impossible to address because it would be impolite or unprofessional or just cause a mess that nobody wants to clean up?

Instead, we see our shrink and take our pills and do our yoga and keep it stuffed away.

Remember, your medicine is not something you take but something you give.

What a unique gift…to give your sadness, and give another permission and space… to give theirs.”

Fall into Autumn with Grace and Ease

 

          The 2016 fall equinox took place on Thursday, September 22 and while it’s been a gentle yfab-lobby-flowertransition into the cooler season so far, the end of summer reminds us that life is full of change.  From long days full of sunlight and warmth to darker, chillier mornings and earlier sunsets, the inevitable change from summer to fall can be one that we tend to resist.  Although autumn is generally a welcomed season and one that brings along with it a slew of joyfulness (pretty leaves, chunky sweaters, fall boots, pumpkin everything, Halloween and warm beverages just to name a few), we might still catch ourselves clinging to summer’s past.   Consciously opening up to the seasonal changes ahead can allow us to open up to any other changes that might also be occurring in our lives externally or even shifts that may be occuring deep within us, internally.

The excess of light energy
from summer is becoming balanced with the dark energy of autumn and we, too can wind down to match the rhythm of the changing seasons.  Not only do we experience impermanence in mother nature, but impermanence is also the nature of the human condition.  Because change is the only constant, it would serve us best to remain unattached to the things we love even when it feels so natural to cling to them.  The transition from summer to fall is a special opportunity for us to tune in to the changes that might be happening deep within us in addition to the more obvious changes that are taking place around us.

Faith in Peace

Maybe this has happened to you. Your Yoga teacher is cueing something really hard WI sunset 2– an arm balance, inversion, big back bend or one of those ‘put your foot behind your something’ asanas -something definitely out of your usual range of motion or strength. The teacher says that maybe instead of actually accomplishing the pose today, you get yourself going in that direction, close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the pose. Maybe you think it is a joke, and a dark one. Yeah, right! Isn’t that the same as failing, or just denying the fact that you’re not able to do something? What good is it to just visualize yourself?   And yet, I am often that teacher. I assure students, for example, in attempting a handstand, that if they do not believe they will go upside down today, they assuredly will not.   What we believe matters sooooo much in terms of what we can accomplish. I was thinking about the other night as I listened to Sakyong Mipham, the leader of Shambhala in a lecture titled “Making Peace Possible: The Shared Wisdom of the Human Heart.”

The Sakyong answered the question “Is peace possible?” by saying we needed to focus on the word “possibility.” As he addressed a crowd of about 400 people of varied faiths and backgrounds, the Sakyong repeatedly spoke with compassion to us as individuals who were certainly interested, if not deeply involved, in peace programs in local and global communities. Despite “preaching to the choir,” he acknowledged the challenge to stay faithful to a vision of deep human connection independent of commodity transfer, and gentle loving-kindness in the face of systemic violence and injustice. Citing his own Tibetan roots, he reminded us of his father’s response to violence and oppression in his homeland.   Instead of becoming bitter, vengeful or angry, he instead confirmed our shared humanity and greater need for powerful love.   He took his message of compassion and justice outward to form an international organization based on mindfulness, meditation and active peace-making. It is easy to lose momentum, to become apathetic and view the world’s problems as too big and too complex. We are coming up against something outside our usual range of motion and strength. The pose feels insurmountable. We sometimes bury ourselves in distractions or the temporary dulling of our senses, or lose our faith entirely in the shared wisdom of our hearts.  But this leads to us feeling like we are dying of thirst, sometimes for something we can’t even name.

He compared this challenge of keeping faith to the challenge we might face during meditation. The practice is to return again and again to the focus of attention. If we repeatedly notice that our mind shifts, and repeatedly allow it to resettle onto the object of meditation (the breath, mantra, feeling, etc.) then it is a good practice. Speaking of Yoga asana, he says the intention is to come up against resistance and respond with breath and mindfulness — over and over. He suggested that very inflexible people might have a better chance experiencing Yoga, because they have more opportunities to come up to an impediment against movement and respond skillfully. The super strong and flexible in this scheme do not get as much “practice.” Weylon Lewis, the founder of Elephant Journal reminds us we should value our meditation practice even when we feel it “goes badly,” just as in our physical practice sometimes we feel we are losing ground or strength or flexibility or our sense of balance and ease of breath. The point of meditation, of asana, of challenges in our world, is to simply keep showing up and practicing. The first part of that “showing up” is believing that our visions and our deepest, highest intentions are indeed possible. Point your heart in the right direction, and keep practicing. The answer is “YES!”

Bryan Kest’s Powerful Approach to Being More Gentle

Bryan Kest is the founder of Original Power Yoga, a unique style of physical yoga that he developed over the course of his yoga training, which started at an early age.  After taking up the practice of yoga at the age of 14, Kest soon discovered the profound physical and mental benefits derived from an authentic and dedicated yoga practice.  One of the most interesting, and perhaps encouraging, things I’ve learned about Bryan Kest is that even as a power yoga teacher, where classes are physically challenging and often times to his dismay, competitive Kest himself believes that yoga is not a physical practice.  He says that we can certainly make yoga a physical practice, but that’s not what’s important.  Kest is on a quest to bring more gentleness into the practice of yoga.

I showed up to Bryan Kest’s workshop at Moksha Yoga in Chicago on a late September night in 2013 without ever having met the man or experiencing one of his classes.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear this western yogi talk about the lack of importance on the physical aspects of yoga.  Power yoga should mean powerfully meditative, Bryan told us.  That made complete sense to me.  As a yoga teacher who tries to convey this very message to her students, it was comforting to hear a popular, western teacher talk about how yoga is not about what you can do physically but about how you can train yourself to be mentally.  Kest explains that all of the physical stuff we do in any given hatha yoga class is just a warm up for the mind to get quiet.  The goal of yoga is not to look better naked or to be able to twist ourselves into a pretzel.  The goal of yoga is enlightenment.  We have to approach this ancient practice gently but with a strong mind set, Kest urges.  We have to pay attention.

So often we go about our lives mindlessly, without paying attention to the things we say, do and think.  Our minds wander every second we are not present.  Science has proven that getting too caught up in our minds can destroy our health.  Research shows that 88% of diseases in the body are psychosomatic.  Holistic health expert, Deepak Chopra explains that, “Inner silence promotes clarity of mind; it makes us value the inner world.  It trains us to go inside to the source of peace and inspiration when we are faced with problems and challenges.”  Kest fortifies this notion by reminding us that yoga is not about how strong and flexible we can be but how calm and peaceful we can remain.

While, yoga is not about competition, comparison or vanity these characteristics might be found in many western yoga studios today.  You mightl find people practicing yoga to try to change something about themselves.  And here is where Kest makes a very clear and powerful statement:  “Yoga doesn’t want to change you.”  He explains that yoga doesn’t care what you look like or how much money you make.  Yoga doesn’t think you’re fat or ugly.  Yoga accepts you, exactly the way you are.  This is the beauty of yoga.  It’s so simple.  And yet, many of us have made it into something so complicated.

After about an hour and a half of discussion we moved into the physical portion of the workshop.  Bryan Kest is a power yoga teacher and is known for leading challenging and physically demanding practices.  So here I was, ready to bust out all kinds of difficult arm balances, inversions and contortions but instead, what I got was straight-forward and simple poses.  And with that, I also got a hell of a workout.  My body dripped with sweat as I held plank for what seemed like minutes at a time.  My arms trembled as I rested in downward dog and my legs quivered from long held chair poses and lunges.  Kest joked that he should change the name of his studio in Santa Monica from Power Yoga to Grandma’s Yoga because there was nothing he had us do in class that our Grandmas couldn’t at least attempt.  He presented hard sequences and a physically demanding practice but the poses were not complex nor did they require immense flexibility or range of motion to execute.

I also really appreciated the way that Kest brought a sense of gentleness into his teaching.  He delivered the class sequence in a clear yet permissive way.  Kest teaches as though everything he is asking you to do is totally optional, and he makes you believe that opting out of a pose or variation in no way makes you “less.”  In fact, he calls this way of tuning in to your body one of the smartest and most important things we can do to stay safe and healthy while practicing asana (physical yoga poses).  Kest allows everyone a chance to attempt each pose, but only if they want to.  He constantly reminds the class that he is offering suggestions and not commands.  This brought me back to one of my favorite yoga teachers from Arizona, Maredith Schroeder, who would always give the instruction for a challenging pose followed by the comforting reminder, “and that is not a command.”  This is the kind of yoga teaching that has always spoken to me so perhaps that’s why I try to teach my classes with the same permissive tone.

I find Kest’s style of teaching very similar to my own as he encourages students to “do it, if it feels good” and to “don’t do it, if it doesn’t feel good.”  Physical pain has a purpose and that purpose is to signal us that something is not right.  In a society that tells us to ignore pain and push past our limits, so many westerners have this mentality that stopping or backing off is a sign of weakness, when really it’s a sign of intelligence.  Kest would say things like, “If you’re strong enough, put your knee down.”  He’s attributing strength to integrity instead of physical prowess.  As Kest so beautifully explains, if we are measuring our progress by our physical prowess, then we have no choice but to digress.

By the end of our 2 hour sweat session, Kest had us sit quietly in meditation for 10 minutes before taking final rest in Savasana.  He called everything up until this point “our warm up.”  Now was the time for the real yoga.  Now was the time to integrate body, mind and spirit.  Now was the time to get our minds to quiet down, to turn off our judgments, to let go of comparisons and to be free from attachments.  As I sat in the stillness of that room, surrounded by 75 others who had made their way onto their mats just as I had, a quiet inner peace took over my entire being.  I thought to myself, this is yoga.

What it all comes down to, according to Kest, is self-love.  We don’t need to push further.  We don’t need to touch our fingers to our toes or jam our head to our knee in yoga poses.  What we need is to cultivate awareness and have the intelligence to recognize what we are feeling.  If you get to a point in a pose and you feel something, that’s it.  You have arrived at your destination.  And that might look very different from the point at which your neighbor on the mat next to you has arrived.  Maybe their hands are flat on the floor as they fold over their legs, but as long as they are experiencing a feeling that isn’t too much or too little, then that’s where they are supposed to be.

We have a tendency, in western society to over-do things.  Kest warns us that the harder you are on something, the faster you will wear it out.  You can apply this logic to everything from marriage to cars to your own body.  So, what we need is less aggressiveness and more gentleness.  And in order to be gentle, Kest explains, we have to pay attention.  When we are paying attention, we are fully present.  When we are fully present, we can turn off the thoughts, turn off the judgments and turn off the vanity.  When we are fully present we can recognize the qualities of mind that harm us, and we can take action to stop feeding those harmful qualities.

I came to Bryan Kest’s workshop that night to learn more about Power Yoga and the man behind the brand.  What I got was a guided realization that the true teacher is within, that the truth behind physical practice is the quest for inner peace and that the key to being more powerful is to approach things more gently.

Fear of Falling

Finnish CartwheelI once wrote a piece called “Ladders to Where?” about an experience hiking in Australia. The hike involved climbing a ladder up a rock outcropping overlooking a breathtaking expanse of forest. It also involved gusting winds that made the climb very frightening. I compared the courage it took to climb that ladder to my earliest memories of learning to balance in ardha chandrasana, half moon pose. Indeed, the skills that I learned in that pose helped me to get up the ladder to enjoy the amazing view and divine experience at the top.

I was remembering that episode recently when I fell down. Actually, I fell down dozens of times – purposefully! I attended a workshop on falling out of inversions and arm balances with Nolan Lee, a Chicago yoga teacher, martial arts enthusiast and chiropractic physician.

Nolan started the session by asking us if we were afraid of falling, and then why. We were afraid of getting hurt, but we also had fears of being embarrassed, of calling attention to ourselves, and even of being hurt long term in ways that would negatively impact our lives, our jobs, our families, and so on. Our minds can dig in, exaggerate, defend and rationalize our aversions in ways that make our thinking appear to be conscious, chosen, and wise. Really, we are just scared and usually without need. He suggested that once we got used to falling, skillful in our falling, skillful in rolling out of a fall, then the greater risk was in not challenging ourselves to do new things. So we practiced falling with skill. We started practicing while we were sitting down. This looked a little silly. We felt a little silly. We began to have fun and laugh. Our bodies loosened up, and so did our minds.

Next, we fell from a low squat, and then from standing. Over the two hour period, we fell sideways, forwards, backwards, from our crow poses, from handstands, from headstands, and from fledgling entries into these. True we got a little bruised and, for a couple days, I felt a bit jostled. But there was no blood shed, concussions, broken bones, nothing strained. Even our egos stayed intact. We started to feel pretty pleased with ourselves and left on a definite high note.
It’s true I am a little bolder now about going upside down and do start my inversions farther from the wall but I think the workshop offered greater insight than that.

Our fear about falling from an upside down hand balance becomes habitualized and manifests as a fear of falling from a squat eight inches off the floor. Our terror of falling off a cliff becomes fear about climbing a ladder in a state park. Our worry both of being stalked and rejected prevents us from casual conversation with strangers. Our dread of embarrassing ourselves (note, even TO OURSELVES) as we learn and practice a new skill prevents us from trying new things. Our disinclination to experience anything not familiar and pleasing gets in the way of finding new pleasures. Our fear of being adrift impedes our willingness to reach out. Our fear of loss becomes a fear to love. Abhinivesa is the last of the yogic klesas, the five hindrances or obstacles to enlightened living. It is translated both as the fear of death and at the same time the fear of life, for these are intertwined.

Foolhardiness is not celebrated here, nor is fearlessness given real credence. We are wired to avoid danger and stick closely to routine and safety so that we can survive and procreate. Our evolution did not favor happiness, but our evolved consciousness entails the potential for liberation. Our journey involves hazards and hurts, some of them avoidable and some of them not. Courage is cultivating awareness and steadiness in the midst of fearful situations so we can respond skillfully, dodge the danger, roll out of the fall with enough velocity and forward trajectory to land safely, ready for the next moment.

Shed Your Labels

By Danielle Dickinson

let go of labelsShedding our labels is no small task. As humans, we can be very prone to labeling ourselves and this can have a powerfully limiting effect on us. I often hear students label themselves as “inflexible,” “weak” or “incapable” in some way, shape or form. These adjectives most likely came from a comparison with others. Yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, tells us that this type of comparison causes us to become externally referential in that we make sense of ourselves by referring to outer standards. Constant comparison with outer standards leads to feelings of inadequacy and can even discourage beginning yoga students from coming back to class because they believe they don’t fit the standard for who is supposed to be in a yoga class.

I always remind my students, and will gladly shout it from the rooftops, that there is NO standard for yoga. There is not an adjective you can label yourself with that gives you an easy out for yoga class. Yoga does not discriminate. The beauty of yoga is that this practice meets us exactly where we are in the moment… even if that means we show up with short hamstrings, small biceps and a belly that sticks out a little farther than the person on the mat next to us in class. Theodore Roosevelt urged us not to go down this road in life. As he once profoundly stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Not comparing ourselves to others takes effort and restraint to avoid. My recommendation when a tendency to label comes up, is to first think: it’s ok. Don’t judge yourself for the mere fact that a negative thought is entering your mind… you are human after all and comparing and labeling are natural human tendencies. Once you have successfully avoided self-judgment, say to yourself, this is what’s going on with me today and I will honor that. Thoughts are not permanent and they do not define us. Just as we can change or eliminate a thought so can we change and eliminate a label that we may have created for ourselves. Non-attachment is a huge part of the yoga practice and shedding our labels requires us to detach from them.

As Aadil says, “Defining ourselves in terms of external references is a dead end because it means ignoring the desires of the soul.” So, drop your labels, embrace where you are in the present moment and recognize the beauty that lies both without and more importantly, within you.

 

Danielle Dickinson is a yoga teacher, TRE facilitator, animal lover, sun worshiper, laugh loYFAB Logo Tank (1)ver and studio owner.  You can catch both her yoga classes and private TRE services at Yoga For All Beings in Chicago.  www.yogaforallbeings.com