Balance ~ embodying your magnificence and embracing your humility in the same breath… #bemagnificent #stayhumble
Yoga is filled with openers – heart openers, shoulder openers, hip openers– it also teaches us to approach things with an open mind, an open heart (there’s that heart thing again) and an open perspective. In that same spirit, we are heading into 2022 focused on another type of opening – keeping our eyes and ears wide open – observing and listening to everything around and within us – waking up to the world, shaking off days blending into one another, taking the opportunity to be amazed, awed and inspired by everything around us. We say this without an ounce of Polyanna sentiment – if we are truly walking the world with eyes wide open we will see all that is beautiful and all that is ugly and will be the better for seeing both.
When you walk the world with your eyes and ears wide open you’ll find that the world opens up to you. The most valuable lessons aren’t necessarily the ones you pick up from the places you go looking for them – the mat, class, workshops, lectures, webinars – they are the ones that are right in front of your eyes, sometimes hidden in plain sight. It’s with that in mind that we’re re-committing to putting on our “seeing eyes” and “listening ears,” to intently and intensely seeing and listening to all the world offers us – what inspires us, what frightens us, what motivates us, what disgusts us and what awes us – to remaining open to it all and in that way, opening from the inside out.
Don’t be fooled, NOT is a four-letter word. All too often we negate all our power, all our goodness, heck, all our *greatness* with NOT. That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done – that’s why we practice and put in the time – but it’s time to drop the NOT and celebrate and revel in all that you are- all of your gifts, all that imperfect and perfect in you, all that makes you uniquely you! You are so much more than enough, friend, start living that truth! Namaste!
Music can be a great accompaniment to your practice. Just as we link one pose to another, linking songs together in a playlist can energize, focus and inspire us. Sharing one of our more recent playlists, epiphany, with two tracks having that same name – Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’ Epiphany appears in the Disney/Pixar movie Soul, which was an epiphany all its own, as was Taylor Swift dropping two indie albums this year – epiphany appears on Folklore, the first of those two albums, which was on repeat for a good part of our back half of 2020. This playlist is a bit of a celebration of other epiphanies – when you realize yoga, just as life, is rooted in the breath, Julianna Barwick’s The Harbinger begins the same way, full complete breaths, her song both starts and ends this playlist. Eddie Vedder’s “acoustic at home” version of Just Breathe was actually the first track we dropped into this playlist, everything else built around it. While an epiphany is often associated with lightness and the divine, we have Miya Folick covering Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” (check out her song Thingamajig which is where we first heard her) immediately followed by Death Cab for Cutie covering TLC’s “Waterfalls” – alas we could not work TLC into this playlist, maybe an acoustic No Scrubs has a home on a future playlist… Other choices reinforce the times invoked by Vedder’s “acoustic at home” version of his song – Feels Like Home by Caamp, Lost by Local Natives and in Blue Skies Noah And The Whale write a song for anyone with a broken heart, for anyone who can’t get out of bed. A great need, wanting for, loss and holding onto others fill Superposition by Young the Giant and Wiseblood by Zola Jesus. We seek Redemption with Nathaniel Rateliff – just set me free – and we find ourselves Here Now with Wild Child before the aforementioned epiphanies. Harbinger has been a savasana mainstay for us for years and with a harbinger being the sign of something to come, we remain hopeful that this song foreshadows all things positive. Namaste.
We’ve written about Spring before but perhaps never before has the message of renewal and rebirth seemed so relevant as so many of us emerge from our Covid induced winter that actually roots back to last spring. From self quarantining to self medicating, self studying and soul searching, for many it’s become more about self sustaining than self soaring. Days blended, many of us woke up while others buried their heads and wherever you found yourself on that spectrum it seemed to suck up so much of our energy to do – getting involved, staying on the sidelines, trying to understand both sides and to be on the right one, checkin in or trying to check out. So here we are, one year after “shutting down” and it couldn’t be any more appropriate that it aligns with the start of Spring.
While we’re not all the way back – and as big fans of Satya/truth/non-lying, one of the niyamas/non-restraints Patanjali calls out in the Yoga Sutras, we aren’t under any false pretense or illusion that the path ahead is anything but a long one – we also recognize that we need to wake up from our long sumber-hibernation and muster up the energy to be out in the world, in whatever way we are most comfortable with.
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes, “we loiter in winter while it is already Spring.” It’s time to spring ahead, friends, to get outside– on a physical level, to get to the outdoors – there is so much out there to inspire and awe us if we get outside with eyes wide open- on a mental level, to get outside of patterns that may have been set over the past year, years, decades, a lifetime. When we can break out of patterns, get outside of our comfort zone, get outside of everything we know – or think we know, get outside of whatever expectation we’ve set for ourselves and others, we are no longer loitering in winter, we are truly living in the now of Spring.
While we’ve shared the wildly inspiring, ecstatic and love filled words of Sufi poet Hafiz for years, who would have thought how incredibly relevant and fitting the words from this 14th century master’s poem With That Moon Language would be in the face mask wearing world we live in today. First, Hafiz taps into a universal human truth, at least for us, the desire to be loved – Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.” – which for many of us has only been intensified by a zoom filled world with less human contact and opportunity to seek out and/or satisfy our need to be loved. And while Hafiz accurately states we don’t say “Love Me” out loud – whether it’s for fear of someone calling the cops or perhaps the greater fear that our love won’t be returned back – we often say “Love me” without words, we say it with a smile. We put on our “love me” smile when we pass people on the street, go to our local coffee shop, restaurant, gas station, store, getting rung up at the supermarket – and if you’re like us, you love getting that “I do love you” smile back in return. And then last year and the emergence of the facemask changed everything – don’t get us wrong, we see the merits of wearing a facemask on a cold winter day and while we’ve developed a profound/puzzling appreciation for facemask fashion, it has completely robbed us of that smile we have become so reliant on to tell folks “love me”, to satisfy that great pull in us to connect.
And then Hafiz drops this on us—
Why not become the one who lives with full moon in each eye, that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
Whether Hafiz meant it literally or not, his words are just the right ones for these times— at the most basic level by making eye contact we acknowledge and recognize another person, by holding their gaze we can convey so much more— understanding, gratitude, empathy and of course, love. Even with a facemask on, our eyes show when we’re smiling.
So next time you’re rockin’ your favorite facemask and have the good fortune to be in the presence of other humans, what’s it going to be, will you be the one to to live with a full moon in each eye, to say what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
We are our own harshest critic. Self-judgement, self-criticism and self-doubt only offer words of discouragement – they are not our friends warning us about the risks of stepping out into the world, about showing the world who we are, they do not have our best interests at heart. They come from a “less than” place and in turn strive to make us feel “less than”, to diminish all that is beautiful, unique, interesting, quirky and imperfectly perfect about us. There is nothing wrong with you – we repeat – there is NOTHING wrong with you – don’t let you self (the small one) tell your Self anything different, rock star!
Glennon Doyle Quote and picture pulled from Mantra Wellness magazine – mantramag.com – we dig that mag!
Savasana, corpse/final resting pose, is a reminder that our practice, all the “work” we bring onto the mat, is rounded out with rest. Savasana is all about surrender – letting your body become, well, corpse-like, melting into and fully supported by the earth beneath you. And while it is also a time to surrender thoughts and activity in our mind, rather than checking out, it’s an invitation to check in. Savasana is not a pose that comes after our practice, it is an essential part of our practice – more than just a time to rest and restore, it’s a time where we fully absorb and integrate everything that came before it – in the asana (posture) practice we often use the phrase “muscle memory” – savasana is where those memories become deeply embedded, where things “sink in”. With winter on the way, you can think of our practice as making a hearty soup– we start with water or broth and uncooked vegetables (step onto our mat, sit and center), apply heat to bring things to a boil and then let things simmer and continue to soften (the entirety of our asanas with ujjayi breath) – when everything has sufficiently softened we remove the pot from heat and let it sit covered for a period of time. This has the dual effect of letting things cool down and for flavors to more fully develop – which is exactly what we welcome with the practice of Savasana.
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
While Savasana isn’t an invitation to go to sleep – though if that does happen it may just be telling you that you are in need of more sleep – in the spirit of it being “corpse pose” it is an invitation to “die” – to let go of everything that came before it, for closure – and in the same way, we emerge from Savasana “reborn” – refreshed, open, ready to experience and explore the world. Savasana is a constant reminder to balance out everything we do, our get up and go, with some lie down and let go – who would think we could get so much something from doing nothing? Namaste.
Start by lying on your back. If you are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy lie on your left side to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava vein.
Take the time to set yourself for surrender – note any discomfort and make adjustments – for example, take the pose with bent knees or use a bolster or blocks under your legs for lower back pain, a blanket under your head, widen your arms away from your body so the backs of your hands can lay flat. Discomfort can also take the form of being cold – a second layer or blanket may be something you consider if this proves a distraction.
Even after you are comfortable, it’s always helpful to take a scan of the body from feet to top crown of head to see where you may have physical resistance or aren’t letting go.
In a similar vein, if you find yourself restless at the start you can let your head roll from side to side, decreasing the amount of roll until it eventually finds center. If you find yourself distracted and wandering, you can bring yourself back to the moment by focusing on your now “natural” inhales and exhales or even a mantra. You can do that same to bring yourself back if you are nodding off.
Give yourself all the time you need in Savasana – it’s recommended you give yourself at least 5 minutes and feel free to take 5, 10 or more based on how long you practiced prior and what you need.
To come out of Savasana, you can start by letting your breath become more full, wiggle your fingers and toes to reawaken your body, bend your knees and bring your feet flat onto the earth, extend your arms overhead and roll off to your right side, making a pillow out of your right biceps. You can find several explanations for rolling to the right, it’s often said that it has a calming effect, which is desired if you plan to sit in meditation, or that the heart sits on the left side and therefore lying on the right keeps it free of pressure.
Once you have adjusted on your right side, bring yourself up to sit. You can press your left hand into the earth to do this, letting your head be the last thing to come up.
Find a comfortable cross legged seat in whatever variation you please. Whether you choose to continue with meditation or are bringing your practice to a close, give yourself a few breaths to take in the moment and seal in your practice.
While 2020 has been anything but easy– as opposed to all those really, really easy years– we can still take a moment and be grateful for something, in fact many things, every single day. While Thanksgiving is one day a year, giving thanks and gratitude does not need to be relegated to a single day, there’s plenty of thanks to be giving right now.
Leading with an attitude of gratitude can be deeply transformational–we find ourselves grateful for the things we have rather than resentful for the things we haven’t; and when we’re thankful and truly appreciative of the things we have, perhaps we find we really have everything we need – be it material or emotional. Similarly, while we can be hugely thankful for our successes, and who doesn’t want to succeed– an attitude of gratitude let’s us appreciate all our small victories, the process, and in the face of our failures- hopefully brilliant ones! – the lessons to be learned from them. We do not say this lightly – an attitude of gratitude requires fortitude and resilience – not having, not succeeding or at least shaking a perception of there being an absence or less than takes work, practice, patience and a little bit, rather a lot a bit of love. An attitude of gratitude means leading with our hearts and letting our heads follow, every day.
Yoga off the Mat – Grateful Texting – This November we decided to put grateful every day into practice – we created a family group text and for each day of the month we each added something we are grateful for to the thread – we certainly had all the “givens” – family, friends, health, roof over our heads but as the days went on we surprised ourselves with gratitude for setbacks and failures we learn from, cold mornings that wake you up, chai, live people at yoga, comfort food, veterans, Fridays and strangely, Mondays, you get the idea. Recently picked up this same practice with a friend that’s been struggling – we just text something we’re grateful for each day – doesn’t have to be grand our profound, just getting the words down make it real enough and good enough. So maybe for once we can say “Get on that phone!” With gratitude – your friends at Yoga Life
There is no denying that 2020 has had more than its fair share of tricks, least of which are the days, weeks and months blending together. That said, it’s had it’s share of treats, too– armed with new perspective we are appreciating the little things and doing a lot less sweating the small stuff. And while that doesn’t mean there isn’t big stuff, and that we’re not sweating it, we are finding ourselves more grateful, more adaptable and ultimately more resilient. No trick to these treats, just waking up each day and trying to be our best Self, taking nothing and no one for granted and working on our smiles, yes, our smiles – especially under our facemasks! Namaste!